Fat Slow Triathlete

Guidance for the Back of the Pack

We All Start Somewhere – My Triathlon Primer

A Triathlon PrimerI have been asked recently how I got started in triathlon, and more importantly, how would I recommend others getting started in this sport. I have written numerous times about what led me to this sport, and my issues with each discipline as the last 4 seasons have unfolded, but it occurred to me that I have never put it all together in one post. I’ll attempt to do so with this one.

Let me start out by saying, emphatically, that I am NOT a coach not do I have any degrees in nutrition or physical performance. I have a Masters in Public Administration and an MBA, along with a BA in Psychology and a certification in Six Sigma (green belt) and Lean Design. Everything I write about is taken from my personal first hand knowledge and experience. If your experience or knowledge differs from mine, more power to you. Go with God. As you all know I come from a perspective of someone who had cancer, was over 300 pounds at one point, and deals with psoriatic arthritis. I am not in this to “win races” and I more than likely will never see a podium, and I am OK with that, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the same way.I don’t even consider triathlons “races” any more. A friend stated recently that he only calls them his “events” because the only person he is competing against is himself. I am trying to adopt that mind-set.

The first thing I would tell you is to read … everything. Magazines, Nutrition Books, first hand accounts like those of Macca and Wellington. anything. Ingest everything about the sport. The promptly forget everything you read. These are meant for elite levels and professionals. They will have little to no bearing on how you will train, how you will eat, or how you will race. Keep in mind that many of these athletes, especially the pro’s, are paid by companies to promote their products and gear. Have you ever actually seen a pro triathlete drink chocolate milk after a race? Didn’t think so. While the advice they write about is inspiring, they have the time and the paychecks to do the type of training they talk about. It has nothing to do with you. Move on.

The Swim

Swimming, by FAR, is the discipline that causes the most anxiety, with veterans and especially newbies. Most triathletes do not come from the swimming discipline, though there are some, and you will find that the best swimmers are not those winning the events. Swimming also comprises only 2% of the total event (in most distances), so it often takes the back seat to biking and running.

This is a mistake.

While being a good swimmer will rarely put you on the podium, what it will do is set the tone for the race. Learning to swim efficiently is key to a good race, and learning to deal with the inevitable panic attack is even more important. A good swim, not necessarily a fast swim, will let you enter T1 with a clear head and not have to spend 3:00 of your precious time trying to get your hard clear.

My training advice in swimming is to forget about the drills. One armed drills, closed fist, etc. will help you become a better and more efficient swimmer but you, as a beginner, need to swim … just swim. Use a race snorkel of you need to get your breathing down (they are legal in races and I used one my first full season), but concentrate your efforts on being comfortable swimming, especially open water (though never go into open water alone). Practice panic attacks. Learn how to get yourself through them. Have your partner grab you and pull you. It will serve you better than all the 100m kick drills combined.

All that being said, the race is always different from practice. Pre-race jitters will take their toll on you at some point, especially in the beginning, so breathe deep and try to stay calm and relaxed. When the race starts, count 30 seconds and then go into the water (if able to depending on the start methods), stay to the outside away from the fray. There will be bumping. People will grab you. Just move away and race your race.

The Bike

The bike is the largest portion of the triathlon. You will be on your bike for HOURS in long course races, so anything you do regarding training should be geared toward that. Forget about speed. Speed will come. Your focus should be on getting your ass used to being on that seat for 4-5 hours. Period.

The other focus is to train like your race. If you are racing Chattanooga, for example, find hills and climb, climb, climb. If you’re race Florida in Panama City, find long flats, get into aero position and go long and fast. If it is possible try to ride the actual course (easy if you only race close to home). Those of us in Florida have trouble finding hills, but contrary to popular belief, Florida is not flat all over. I would challenge anyone to ride Clermont, for instance, and still claim that.

Nutrition is also important during this phase, as you will be, like I said, on the bike a long time. I personally cannot handle solid food while training long and hard. My stomach cannot handle it. When you are in full training mode the blood in your body is being routed to your muscles, leaving very little, if any, available for such little things like digestion. Ever hear triathletes, and especially runners, complain about GI issues while training. Now you know why. But everyone is different. I cannot handle sugar so I don’t eat it. I would argue your body really doesn’t need sugar (especially those downing multiple packets of Gel during a sprint race or a 5K), but I recognize some think they need it so I will leave it at that. I have resorted to Coke during a grueling session where I bonked, and it does work, but once you start throwing sugar in your body you have to keep feeding it. It’s like a fire. If you want a fire to burned fast and hot you throw pine needles on it, and you keep throwing pine needles on it to keep it going. If you want the fire to burn not as hot, but last a long time, you throw on a log. If you just MUST have carbs, try a product like UCAN in your water bottle. It’s a super starch (a lot like corn starch) that gives you the bump you need but doesn’t spike your insulin, so doesn’t affect you like the sugar does. Not the best tasting stuff in the world (flavor it with sports drink) but I have found it works and works well. Plus Meb likes it so it HAS to be good right??

And one last thing … learn how to change a flat … the back tire too.

The Run

By reading my blog, I am going to assume that most of you are heavy, or at least used to be heavy, so you will all know this one simple truth: the run hurts more than any other discipline. Light people look at me like I have three heads when I say this to them. The LOVE the run. The run to them is the best part of the triathlon. But for the heavy triathlete, the run can be deflating, and painful. My most recent race was a good example. I killed the swim, did well on the bike, but because I hammered my hardest on the bike the run was done. My HR was pegged in Zone 5 and would not come down until mile 1.5. In a sprint, where the run is only 3.1 miles, the race that looked promising was one of my slowest.

The thing is this, the run is an evil that must be done, and must be practiced, but nothing ravages the body like running … even if you’re a little rubber person. It jams the feet, ankles, and knees, all of which is multiplied 10 fold if you’re over weight, and the kicker is this; nothing will make you lose weight faster than running. The trick is finding the method that works for you and sticking with it. I have found from trial and many errors that pushing through a run when feeling pain is not the right way to go. I have also been accused of not pushing hard enough on my runs, and there is some truth to that. I have a fear of injury, because I know an injury in running will affect everything else, so I plan ahead a run/walk pace and I stick to it, even if I feel I can push harder (until the very end, of course. Once I see the finish line I move as fast as I can).

So that’s my view on getting started. Let me leave you, though, with a few of my extra thoughts:

  • Focusing on your weakness in training is fine, but where people (myself included) go wrong is that they don’t adjust the rest of their training to met the new need. If you do 2 hours of swimming, 5 hours of running, and 7 hours of biking a week for a total of 14 hours, and decide that your swimming needs work so you add another 2 hours, now your total training is 16. Your body can only handle so much stress and will become overworked. Focusing on one discipline is fine, but adjust accordingly.
  • Race … as much as you can afford to. Training is fine but nothing prepares you better than actually racing.
  • Find easier races to start. If you’re in Florida a great sprint triathlon to try is in Crystal River (400m/15miles/3miles). The course is flat and fast. For more of a challenge in the sprint category try Clermont Summer Series (400m/10miles/3.1miles). The hills will get ya!! As far as a 70.3 I would recommend Augusta if you can get to it, just because the swim is current aided, or the HITS series in Ocala or Naples. I have also heard good things about REV3, but have not done one so cannot comment form a personal perspective.

I hope this post was helpful. As I stated in the beginning, it is only my point of view. I am certain there will be disagreements (especially about the sugar thing … people seem to really get upset about that for some reason) but I have found, as a Fat Slow Triathlete, these things seem to hold true. Please share your thoughts (as long as they are constructive).

Race Report: Central Florida Triathlon Series #2

CFTS2The Central Florida Triathlon Series is a group of four races held through the summer in Clermont, Florida by Sommer Sports. One of the few places in Florida where there are some serious climbs (and home to the highest peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, which thankfully is not part of this race course), the sprint and super sprints triathlon, along with a 5k, are challenging for both the new triathlete and the seasoned.

As is normal with smaller races, pre-race packet pickup is pretty limited (Friday from 12-6 … not really doable if coming from out-of-town like we do), so we end up having to get there early enough to get the race gear, get marked, get into transition, and get to the water for a warm up. If you have read this blog for any length of time you know that being rushed like that on race morning is not a good thing for me. Luckily though the race is very well-managed and any anxiety I had getting there in the morning was quickly alleviated. We parked at 6 AM, got our packets (only two numbers .. the bib and the bike sticker), got our bikes and gear, got marked, and set up transition with 45 minutes to spare before race start. I never felt rushed, which was a good thing.

I have to share that I witnessed a “Dbag Triathlete” moment while setting up. A guy behind me, who was obviously new, was setting up his area and his wife brought him a water bottle that he probably forgot in the car. A guy in his row, a good five feet from him, said to her “are you racing today?”, and when she said “No, I am just bring him a bottle” he thumbed toward the exit and said “then get out of transition”. Now, he is technically correct, but there was NO ONE in the row other than the two of them. She wasn’t in the way. Luckily a USAT Official happened to be walking by when it happened and walked over to him and said “although you are correct it is not your job to enforce the rules. If you have a problem find an official and we will handle it.” He said “Sorry … just a pet peeve of mine” and the official walked away. No, me being me, I looked at him and said, “if she was in the way you had a point, but there’s no cause to be a dick in a race like this, man”. He just looked at me and then went back to setting up his gear. Maybe I am more intimidating than I give myself credit for? LOL

We headed to the water for a warm up. Lake swims can be either nice or … not nice (see “Lake Eva” for an example of a “black lake”). Lake Minneola is clean, a perfect temperature, and was so comfortable that I could have stayed there all day. The warm up swim (about 200 yards or so) went well and I felt ready to race. The only thing negative I can say, and not just about the swim but the race in general, is that it attracts a lot of new triathletes who are not aware of rules, and even though there are USAT officials everywhere the rules do not seem to be enforced. In the warmup this showed when the announcer was calling everyone in from the water so that the Super Sprint could start on time (7:15) people were actually heading OUT into the water. Of course these were people wearing the USA uniforms, so maybe they are so good that rules don’t apply to them? The other ways it shows is people wearing headsets and listening to music on the bike and on the run.

So … on to the race …

The Swim and T1
The good thing about a sprint is the swim is short (440 yards). The bad thing about a sprint is that the swim is short so you don’t feel the need to train very hard for it. Bad idea. Not that the swim is hard, but the speed surely suffered. In the pool I can do 400 meters in about 8:00. My race time here was 11:15. Usually race times are slower than pool times, but I am usually within a minute, so this was a big difference. No panics though, and I handled the jostling (much more than I ever experienced in any 70.3 I have ever done … chalk it up to the large number of new people) and maneuvered through the large number of back strokers pretty easily. As I said, the water is beautiful. The exit is a small uphill run in sand and then about a .3 mile job to T1, which I thought I got through pretty quickly but my time was very bad (over 5:00). I realized it was slow because of the run to and then out of transition. I don’t run in transition. Maybe I should start.

The Bike and T2
The bike … oh my God the bike.

I have done San Antonio hills, but these were a whole new beast. You get hit with two back to back right from the start. My heart rate shot to 160 and stayed there for most of the ride. After the initial climbs it flattens to rollers for the middle part but the last 4 miles were the toughest I had ever done. The first climb is a short one with about an 11% grade. After you get up that one you make a right and there is another longer climb at around an 8% grade. But at that point you’re almost done … almost. Then you see the monster. About .5 miles at 10%. The good thing was I got up all of them and actually PASSED people going up (along with a number of people walking them). I also know that I would never have gotten up them with the old crankset (Standard with a 12-25 cassette). This was my first race with the Compact Crank and 11-28 cassette and I was thanking God I had them. The bad thing is my legs were toasted and felt that immediately when dismounting. My quads were quivering as I made my way to my spot and got ready for the run. T2 was a little faster than T1, but was still over 5:00 due to having to sit to get my shoes on because I couldn’t stand on one leg. I normally walk the first half mile of the run so I thought I’d be ok eventually. I was mistaken.

The Run
I think most of my issues with the run could be linked to the climbing on the bike. My heart rate was at 160 and would not come down. I grabbed two cups of ice right out of T2 and dumped one down my back and nursed the other, but every time I started to run my legs would not cooperate. On one section you have to go down hill and my legs actually buckled. That was a new feeling. So I decided to just walk as fast I could until I felt like I could run. This didn’t happen until mile 1.56. About that time Jennifer caught up to me (she started 10:00 after I did so had made that up with half the run to go.) and I started feeling like I could go. I started slow at first, ran a minute then walked 2, and eventually by the last mile started doing my normal run/walk split of 1:30 – 2:00. The pace on the first mile was over 20:00, the second around 18:00, but the third mile was firmly in the 15:00 range, which is my normal area.

Being my first race since March I was just trying to beat 2 hours, and finished in 2:03:00. I know I can improve on this for the next one in August, and my weaknesses are the normal weaknesses I have always had, so no new epiphany this day. Need more work in the hills (though I have improved) and need MUCH more work on the running, which is an ongoing saga in my life. It was a good experience. If you are in the Central Florida area you really should check this race out.

The FST Visits Premier Physical Fitness

ppt-logo2In case you are new to this blog, let me start this post by saying this:

I am a physical mess …

I wasn’t always like this. There was a time where I was a football player, a soccer player, a weight lifter, and ran track.

There was a time when I was a fit Navy guy who did PT as if it was nothing.

Cancer and years of inactivity took care of that, and even though I started to right the ship a few years ago, the years have taken it’s toll. Getting back into shape as a young man is tough enough, but trying to regain some semblance of fitness when you’re a 50 year old man is quite a bit harder.

I try …. Lord knows I am trying … but even with the miles of biking and running, and the laps upon laps of swimming, dealing with the soreness and old muscles, coupled with the pain of psoriatic arthritis is becoming harder. But I am not willing to throw in the towel yet, but I know I have to figure out what is going on, so when I was contacted by Dylan regarding the opportunity to come to Premier Physical Fitness and have Dr. Eric Schweitzer put me through the paces I jumped at the chance.

Even though I was given this free visit, my opinions here are my own.

Once entering the office Dylan met me and gave me a quick walk through of the facility. I was comfortable very quickly. It has very modern equipment and is very clean and organized. What is important to me when visiting a doctor’s office, or any office, is that you don’t feel like one of many, that they make you feel important and they know you. That is what draws me to me personal doctor, Michael Heim in Tampa, and it is what drew me away from Dr. Stephen Parks in Brandon, someone who I went to for over 5 years and never met once (I always saw a PA). Even something as small as having my name printed on the sign in sheet made me feel like they knew I was coming and were waiting for me to get there. It might be silly or small to some, but to me the little touches like that are important.

Premier Physical Therapy 1Dr. Schweitzer came to the waiting room and greeted me, and led me back into the main treatment area. He asked me the usual questions in these visits (“What do you hope to gain”) but my experience from that point on was nothing usual or normal, at least in my experience. I explained to him my history of cancer, weight gain, and my issue with PsA and the pains and aches I have been feeling. He then proceeded to put me through some exercises to determine what issues I had.

These ranged from decent (i.e. my running form was pretty good … thank you Chi Running) to notPremier Physical Therapy 2 so decent (my balance is way off and ankle flexibility is tight). As you can see from the pictures, I rotate my body to compensate for some of these issues, which is eye opening to see it on pictures and video. That was another great part of the process, they took pictures and video of everything we did, so afterwards we sat and reviewed it piece by piece. I could see how my body was compensating for each weakness. This did not happen during other therapy experiences, and it made a difference.

I would highly recommend anyone in the Tampa-St. Pete area with issues visit Dr.’s Schweitzer and Chorlog at Premier Physical Therapy. They offer running services, yoga, and are an Ironman partner.

Tell them the Fat Slow Triathlete sent you!

Train Like a Triathlete

Train Like aTriathlete!!Training is a touchy subject to bring up with people I am finding out, especially those that have been doing it a long time. People get set in their ways, and long distance runners and cyclists become married to the training methods that got them to where they are, and no amount of data or studies will sway them. It’s a lot like nutrition. There are tons of studies out there showing that carb loading (the act of stuffing your face with pasta the night before long run) has no benefit and actually can cause you to run slower, yet you still see Runners World magazine and coaches telling people to do it. The other practice is Gu’s. The best analogy I ever heard about the practice of using gels or gu’s during a race is the log/pine needle story. If you want to burn hot for a long period of time you use a log (or fat), because you only need one. If you build a fire using pine needles (sugar) you have to keep throwing pine needles on the fire to keep it burning.

I can hear the crickets …

So in training the disconnect happens when you talk to “runners” or “cyclists”. They have built themselves to the point where they can run a marathon, or do Furnace Creek, and most have gotten there by doing long mileage in training. And that works when all you are is a runner or cyclist. As a triathlete this is the road to injury. There’s an old joke that goes around the triathlete world (and probably why they are looked at with disdain by other sports) where if someone runs a marathon the reply is “that’s cute … how long was the bike before that?”. Likewise, if they bike 100 miles the reply is “now go run a marathon”.

As “douchey” as that sounds, there is some truth to it. Where I went wrong for years, and where a lot of triathletes go wrong, is we try to train as a runner, a cyclist, and a swimmer instead of training like a triathlete. This is where the runner or cyclist missteps as well when they tell us to “train for the mileage” like they do. What they fail to realize, for the most part, is that while they are running 20 miles as a workout, that’s ALL they are doing. A triathlete also has to find time for a long bike and a long swim.

I will say this to runners all the time when they question my mileage. “You need to train for the marathon portion or you won’t make it”, they say. “No,” I reply. “I need to train to run a marathon after bike 112 miles”.

Crickets again …

All of my injuries, including the most recent one that cost me Chattanooga, have been due to me not heeding my own advice and trying to train as long and as hard as I can. This has resulted in fatigue (not tiredness … there’s a difference), Achilles strains, and inflammation flare up’s. I thought that by gutting through the pain I was feeling it would get better, but instead it got worse. It’s not at the point where I can’t race though, in fact I have a Sprint on Saturday, but I know that an Ironman would probably put me down for months and I wasn’t willing to risk that.

I read a lot, and I make sure to read opposing view’s as much as I can so that when I make a decision it’s not coming from a single-minded view (an example the folks in Washington should try once in a while), and what I have been reading recently is “Time Crunched Triathlete”. The longest run he has in his plan for a 70.3 race is 90 minutes. The longest bike? 2 hours 30 minutes. His plan is based a lot on intervals, so although you are training shorter time frames, you are pushing pretty hard th whole time. You can also look into Jonathan Bailor who also advocates for shorter exercise times at higher intensity. One of his workouts revolves around the bike on a trainer set to the hardest gear (measured in you having to stand and push to get it to move), doing a minute, then resting 2, 5 times. That’s it. I tried that once last year and thought my legs were noodles afterwards. There is merit to this plan I think.

I know a lot of people reading this are not going to agree. Hell, even Jennifer argues with me about this. She feels she needs to run the full mileage to mentally prepare her, as does Mary, and to some extent Kate (though she cuts off her long run at 18 miles). But the thing is, mentally does not equal fitness. It’s two different things, and personally if I can get the fitness with less time, I want that.

Flame On!!

Moving Forward

IMG_0379The Fat Slow Triathlete team is still moving forward. We have started the process of moving the website to a self hosted instance in the hopes of driving traffic and becoming more of resource for people that need help making the first step toward health and fitness. It is our hope that by seeing how we have made changes in our own health and fitness it will motivate others to follow suit. As we have always stated on these pages, it is not about what shape you are in now, or how slow you might be, the important thing is to get off the couch and start moving.

Though we will strive to meet the information and motivation needs of our readers and followers that does not mean the website will move away from the day to day musings of our members. Although at times we tend to go off on subjects not directly related to triathlon, or running, or any of the disciplines, it has been told to us that these help as much as the information we provide on training and nutrition. That’s a good thing.

Additionally, we will keep the Fat Slow Triathlete name even though we have started to pursue other sports, like marathons, ultra running, and who knows what else is on the horizon. The important thing to us is that we show that anyone can do these things no matter where they start from.

Feel free to send us feedback at fatslowtriathlete@gmail.com. We welcome all constructive input.

We have also re-entered the fundraising arena with Team in Training for a couple of events upcoming. The first is the Space Coast Triathlon later this year. Team in Training does great work in cancer research and we are proud to help them in this quest. If you are able to donate please go HERE and give what you can. No amount is too small or too great.

As we make these you may notice the site content and design changing. This is part of the growing and learning process on our side. If you have input or ideas, once again please send them.

Too Hard Too Often

Untitled design (5)Most of you that follow the blog or the podcast, and especially all of you Facebook and Twitter followers, know that Chattanooga is now off the table. I thought that I could train through the medical issues but it is not getting better and now to the point that I was making it worse with the additional training levels. I was holding out to have a miracle happen and wake up one day and everything would be fine, but just not to be, so better to pull the plug now and get a transfer to a 70.3. We requested Austin in October and both got in, so now another 30 days for training, a different venue to get familiar with, and figuring out the best way to get there. All races have their problems I guess.

This in NO way means that racing and training will stop. In addition to Austin we have races 2,3, and 4 of the Central Florida Series in Clermont through the summer, REV 3 Venice and Space Coast Half Marathon (with Team in Training) in November, Mount Dora Half Marathon in December, Disney Marathon (with Team in Training) in January, and Badwater Cape Fear in March.

I think my racing calendar is actually MORE now.


So anyway, it was a hard decision, and I am going to feel like crap on September 28th I know, but will have fun stalking Beth, Mary, Stacey, etc. still going up there. I wish there was a way to make the trip anyway to be able to cheer for everyone as they give their first 140.6 mile races a shot.

It is inevitable that I try to figure out what I did wrong. I know the reason for the aches and pains, but let’s be honest, there are others that have my issues and do the races, so I obviously have to figure out how to work through this.

I want to say one thing. This is not due to any lack of effort on my part. I know most won’t say that to me, but I know there are some reading this that think exactly that. My training plan was solid and I was doing my best to put in the miles. I was on track as well, with the exception of running, and that proved to be my ultimate undoing. Running has always been a problem for me since starting triathlon. My weight contributes to this, but with the arthritis issue and the inflammation problems, running seem to trigger these the next day. On my short little group runs on Monday and Thursday with St. Pete Running Company I can feel my feet and ankles starting to ache on the drive home. And that’s only a three-mile run. I cannot imagine what they would feel like after 26.2 (not to mention the 122 mile bike beforehand). I thought, foolishly, that pushing myself a bit more would help, but this actually made it worse and led to the decision to pull from the race.

And yes, I know Ironman Austin is still a 70.3 mile jaunt, but I think I can run 13.1 miles. Probably slowly, but I can do that, and I KNOW I can ride 56 and swim 1.2, so it made sense. Jennifer agreed with my assessment and transferred her entry as well, which I really appreciate so I don’t have to go alone. Another plus is friends I have made through the blog and podcast are also doing that race so I get to meet up with a few of them. It’s always good to know someone.

So, once more, my training plan is altered to the 70.3 miles distance. 115 days to go, which is plenty of time. The hills are not as bad in Austin but there are still some 11-13% climbs in there, so there will be many 40-50 loops in San Antonio and Clermont (along with the Clermont races). I bit the bullet on my road bike and switched out my crankset to a compact and switched the cassette from a 12-25 to a 11-28 which should help me a bit in the climbing. If anyone has any advice on traveling and bike shipping let me know.

And …. onward

Challenge Accepted! – Road Report from Atlantic City

My co-host on Ironman: Year One has finally decided to write a blog post and it’s a good recap of Challenge Atlantic City. Perfect companion piece to this weeks podcast episode.

Endurance Training and the 300 Pound Man

EnduranceThe issue keeps coming up about how you can lose weight while training for an endurance race like an Ironman and is it even possible? When we put the podcast out to everyone to send in topics and potential questions, this one issue has been brought up a number of times, so it is obviously something that weighs (ha ha) on many minds. Especially us “BoP’ers”.

When I broach the topic with other athletes or podcast guests I get the normal response.

“It depends”

Oh … well that makes sense. Thanks! Very hepful!!

I am joking of course … it really depends on the type of workouts you do. To make a few points.

One thing that endurance athletes always forsake is weight training. In all fairness, though, it is not usually because we don’t like lifting weights, actually the majority of us do like it, but more that we just don’t have the time to add this into our weekly training. I personally love lifting weights, but I back off when real specific training because of the time and of the fear of over training legs/arms/back and not being able to fully train what counts on race day.

Is this wrong thinking? Perhaps so. The opinions vary across coaches and online sources. Go into Slowtwitch and mention weight training and you’ll be drummed out of the room, but go to Beginner Triathlete and you’ll find another whole way of thinking. Ask one coach and they are against weight training during the season and relegates it to the off season only, but then another builds a 9 month plan that allows for three weight training days a week. As a newbie, where does one turn?

I personally believe that your time should be spent on your weaknesses. If you are a strong swimmer and a weak runner, then your time is probably not best spent in the pool three days a week for a race that is down river, as Chattanooga is. Rather, you should be spending most of the time you have running.

But again, if you’re throwing in weight training, where do you find the time?

Like this …

Long Slow Distance vs. High Intensity Interval Training
I started reading and listening to Jonathan Bailor at The Smarter Science of Slim. He advocates reducing the number of LSD (long slow distance) training to once per week and filling the middle of the week with short, intense, “in and out” sessions. If you are doing this, for example, as fast 30 minute swim you have time to throw in a fast free weight session that is muscle specific to your training.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is new to me, but it is something I have been both interested in and have been asked about by others. Since my run is an issue, it is something I am very eager to try. I wanted to set up a workout after work at the University of Tampa track. It should prove interesting … both in seeing how it affects my LSD sessions but also how ridiculous I am going to look sprinting down a track.

I am planning a series of blog posts centered around the “myths of training”. I have become interested in these because I am finding that the majority of training plans you can find out there, either from books or from coaches, contradict each other, and are more often than not centered around the elite to high performing athlete and not the 250 pound guy whose body cannot take 8-10 mile runs 5 days in a row. A current book I am reading, “The Well Built Triathlete” by Mark Dixon, comments on a numbers of myths he has found while training elite level athletes for triathlon and a number of them rang true. I will be sharing some of these in this blog over the next week or so, plus adding in my own experiences and opinion. I am sure that the elite levels of you that read this blog (not sure how many there are, but it’s possible) will not agree with some of them (for example, the LSD method of training is considered outdated even in Dixon’s book), but it should provide a good insight into “training heavy”.  If you have a few “myths” or common practices you are told that you find don’t work well for you, drop me a line.

Finding Iron John

IronJohnI was asked an interesting question today by a former co-worker who has since moved on to greener pastures and left me to rot in this vapid government job …

Wait … where was I?

Oh yeah … he read my recent post where I was trying to answer the question “Why Ironman?” His question was simple, but one of those questions that burrow into my head like a Ceti Eel.

“John”, he asked. “Do you expect to be different after finishing the Ironman?”

Um …


But will I really be different? Will finishing a race like that change me somehow? And if so, why? The Navy changed me, but was it because of the Navy or because I was 17 when I went in and 27 when I left? Is the Ironman a life event akin to the Iowa explosion in 1989? Or failed marriages? Is it an accomplishment so grand that it alters your life trajectory forever??

I doubt it …

But I want it to be … and there lies the question …

Why do I want it to be life changing? If I want to change, to become something else, or a better version of what I am, why do I need an Ironman on my resume to get it?

The reality is that after I cross the finish line I will be the same person I am now, and I need to be OK with that. For certain there are better people in this world than me, but for certain there are worse. There is no race that is going to truly alter who I am as a person. Jennifer put it to me this way over the weekend … that I give an inordinate amount of credence to what I think others see me as, especially in my work life. I am one that believes that good work, education, and experience should be what moves you up, but increasingly I have found that this is not the case, and in most instances it is the exact opposite, so I need to stop worrying about the opinions of people who do not share the values I have cultivated in 50+ years. What others think should not matter, because I know who I am. I should never make a decision only designed to move myself up when it is the wrong decision. It’s not me. And I should be OK with that. These people, when I return on October 1st, won’t care that I just completed 140.6 miles. They will not look at me any different from how they look at me now. And I cannot expect them to.

So do I expect to be a different person? No. What I expected was to be seen different by others. I wanted somehow for others to see me how I see myself. But here’s the thing that is starting to become more and more clear as I move through the training and races … if the people don’t see me now the way I am, then these people are not going to change their opinion based on this accomplishment … and these people really don’t matter. The people in my life that truly matter already see me as I am.

Why Ironman, John??

questionA couple of months ago, after a brief rant on this blog and again on the podcast concerning my medical issues and my fear of a DNF or a DNS in Chattanooga, I received a message from my friend and inner voice Tara Newman (outstanding blog she writes with her husband John  can be found HERE). Within everything she said to me there was one question that has stuck in my head ever since.

“Why Ironman, John?”

I was not able to answer the question. If she could have seen my face when I read it she would have seen a wide-eyed, panic-stricken expression. I didn’t have an answer, and I knew that “because” was not going to be acceptable. The question has stuck with me ever since.

I could answer the easy way, saying “it’s a challenge”, or because “it’s there” … but none of those are true. As many people here know, I wear my heart on my sleeve. Not much that enters my brain stays there. I have low tolerance for fake people, fake feelings, fake anything, and my bullshit acceptance is about a .15. My sister refers to it as Mental Bulimia. I say whatever I think, regardless of who I might offend, because I don’t consider that. It’s the Sheldon Cooper Syndrome. If you watch the Big Bang Theory you know who Sheldon Cooper is (or Shelley if you’re his MeeMaw). He is extremely intelligent, but lacks a filter when it comes to saying what he thinks. People forgive him this because they know he means nothing by it personally. I am not quite as bad as Sheldon, because I don’t go out of my way to offend or to upset people. This doesn’t happen much in real life I am finding out.

I am an analyst. I am a numbers guy. I am a Virgo (if you put stock in such things). I see things in black and white. I don’t see gray areas in the majority of things. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. So when I see something that I feel is wrong, or misguided, or disingenuous, I feel an inner urge to point it out. I abhor sacred cows, or people who have never gotten out of the high school mentality of being one of the “cool kids” so they never disagree with anything that other “cool kids” say. Where some reading these posts, or missives, miss my point is that it is never personal with me unless I specifically use a name, which I have done a number of times when I felt it was warranted. This happens when I comment on food a lot because I will see something and use it as an example, but most fail to disconnect from the fact that I am not meaning it as an attack on them personally.

Oh well … that’s their issue … not mine.

But I always feel that people who always see the gray areas ride the fence too much. Why is it wrong for me to take a stand on one side or the other? I always look at both sides when an issue comes up and I decided which side I am on … is this a weakness, or as someone pointed out “a hard way to live life”? I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s harder to live life always worrying about what others think of something I believe in. I have been accused of being a fence rider because I am registered as an Independent, but the way I see it is this … I don’t want to be held to a specific party agenda when it comes to issues. I look at both sides and I decide regardless of party who will get my vote, and when I make a decision I stand by it.

The problem with that is I constantly get phone calls from both parties during election years … which make me wonder how they know I voted for a specific party since it is supposed to be anonymous … but I digress.

So when it comes to an Ironman race and putting myself through the training and pain for the privilege of 140.6 miles of grueling effort … I guess it is because it is a decision … no gray area.

“You want to be a triathlete John? Do the Ironman”. I’ve done all the other distances multiple times so it was the natural progression.

“You’ve run a marathon John? Great … now run an ultra!” Badwater: Cape Fear in March 2015.

“That’s done? What’s next?? How about the Ride Across Iowa?” The RAGBRAI XLIII in July 2015. That’s the ticket!

I still don’t know how to answer Tara’s question. Is it as simple as “I don’t do the gray areas”? Either I am IN or I am OUT? I am still not sure. Is it as I spoke about on the show that I have had so much failure in my life that I need to be successful at something … anything … before my time is up?


Probably more to that than even I care to admit

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