Swim Streak Part 2, How it ends

Day 48, the Swim Streak comes to a close, one last swim, in a new state, and not in a new pool. Day 48 is open water, the Gulf of Mexico. Christian is crewing by jet-ski as I do the final swim, 2 miles out, 1.1 miles back, for 5k total. Tomorrow is my 5 year clean date, 5k for 5 years. George, Christian, and I thought this would be a great way to wrap up my Swim Streak.  It is time to move on.
Why did we come to Destin, FL to swim 5k?  Once the Swim Streak started, we had to find a way for it to end, and this came to mind, it was not planned.  How awesome!  In July of 2008, I walked in the same water with the intentions of ending my life. At the time, my life was in a total state of chaos. We are going to the exact spot. The troubles and turmoil that come with dealing an addict had reached a boiling point for everyone trying their best to keep me from complete self-destruction. Bounty hunters, bookies, bosses, landlords, girls, family members, were all in looking for me. They wanted answers. I thought going away for a week would allow things to blow over and people would move on. As I have said, the judge, and the bounty hunters, will not stop looking for you, you are their job. So going away for a week was not an option anymore, I wanted to go away forever. To swim so far out, that I could not return back to shore. Done with it, forever.

Why on that day? People found out who I was with, and contacted her. I will never forget the look on her face when she was on the phone. I was simply enjoying the pool. When she made eye contact, my gut went in knots, I knew that she was hearing, the whole run of it. The hornet’s nest of a life I was leading. If you have ever been in a situation when you know you are about to be undressed personally and have no answers for the questions, that twisting of your stomach up to your chest. It is physically unbearable. I wonder if anyone noticed the white lips and tense shoulders take me over in the pool?

In my heart, I love helping others reach goals, or just trying to be better. That is why earlier that year, in March of 2008, I decided to coach baseball, two teams. Now here I am, warrants for my arrest, no gas money for my car, floating bad checks from bank to bank, making make-shift 20 dollar bills (yea, counterfeiting), moving from house to house (at this time I was in a weekly hotel….ask for room 237…Christ almighty), multiple relationships, and I “love to help others.” Wouldn’t you want your 11 year old taking advice from me? This is why addiction is so baffling. The job I was doing with the 2 teams was far above anything the park had seen. Every night I was there. Practice, helping with the fields, games, hanging out, any fund raising challenge they put out in-front of our teams, we did it and did it well. When I was at the park, I didn’t have to think about the problems I had. The guy’s name was Jeff, and I remember cleaning up late one night, he was thanking me for my support and passion. I really had a chance to ask for help at that moment. He was a great guy and I am sure he would taken action.  Pride will rip you to pieces.

This park was not located in the best of areas and many of the kids came from broken homes. I had to wait regularly with kids long after practice was over, for their half-drunk parent to pick them up. I mean come on! I had a cooler of Bud Lights in my car, I wanted to get started. This is why this does not end well.
Shortly after the game of the season…where our team, The Bad News Bears, beat the reigning park champs in a late night nail biter.  After the game police didn’t much care about my efforts to be a hero to little Ahmad. Once they had me, they hauled me off in cuffs. People were baffled, what just happened?? This trip to the slammer was 30 days, 2 different counties. Needless to say, I was humiliated. That shame you build doesn’t just go away, not when you continue to medicate yourself with drugs and alcohol. Once I was released, I tried to tell myself enough was enough, but it wasn’t. Several arrests later, a DUI, and eventually getting caught with Scheduled 4 & 5 Narcotics, in early 2009.  Now that was close to the tipping point, but not yet! I had to get a 2 more months of insane behavior before I would finally surrender to my demons.
Let’s go back to Destin, July 2008. After the shame of the baseball park incident, and the build-up of a living hell, and finally having the curtains ripped of my act, I drank and took some pills. No luck, I still felt guilty. More drinks, more crying, nope, not working.  After sitting alone with my own thoughts, a wave of confidence came to me, at 2am. I took towards the beach, with a cigarette, and my beer. Ha! Nice, smoke’em if you got’em, you dumbass. I took my Rainbow flip-flops off, and I loved those things, and went right for the water. I was not stopping. Walked in, then started to stroke, strangely, I remember thinking, “this is nice”, and started to make my way out into the Gulf.
Most of us have seen the drunk guy get in the ocean in the late night. We laugh, we call him a dumbass. Then he runs ashore in his cut-off jean shorts, with horrible signs of sunburn. He might even push his girlfriend in with him. Since we have seen it, we tend not to get too involved or even worry. The two guys that were watching me may have thought this at first. They probably watched me as I paddled out deeper and deeper into the Gulf, calling me a dumbass, or something in a similar fashion. I was not coming back to the beach, and I didn’t have jean shorts on. I often wonder what that conversation was between those two guys. For me, I wouldn’t call anyone either, not at first. I guess you just don’t think that someone is going to keep swimming out. Then the light went off for them, I was not in a state of sanity. I disappeared into the night. You know, I have never met those guys, all I know is they called 911, the Destin Police and Coast Guard, they yanked me out. They said it was close to 2 miles. This had nothing to do with my swimming prowess, but only the tide and current of the Gulf. Now here I am, in handcuffs, back on the beach, and they are talking to me about the Baker Act
How does life get to this point? Where you don’t even find yourself worthy of the air you breathe. I was sick, very sick. For me, drinking was a way to let loose at first, but then, I used at a tool to mask what was really going on. Looking at yourself in the mirror is tough as is, but when the junk is stacked up so high in your head you try to take yourself out, you dread the mirror. So you look with beer goggles. I think that is why I kept on for 6 more months after I was pulled out of the drink.
I have never mentioned her, but I will now. I was dating someone off and on during this entire 8 year decent into living hell. Sure, we would have times when we didn’t, even a couple of years, but Kelly always knew that I was a broken soul. Facing DUI convictions on top of each other, and felony counts of narcotic possession, prison was going to be my next stop. Inside, I wanted that. No more dealing with decisions and the problems. Kelly re-entered my life at a time when I needed her most, but didn’t really know that until now. My final days of drinking and drugs were in true blowout fashion. I was at the bottom. She told me about this “lunch meeting” down the street from where I lived. I had no car, or driver’s license, she took me and dropped me off. The meeting is an hour, and since it was a lunch meeting people were eating and talking, before it actually started. These were people in suits and ties, dressed for work, or some for a workout. They all had smiles, real smiles. I hadn’t had one of those in years. I didn’t fully surrender that meeting (grab a white chip), but I did shortly after. On March 20th, 2009, I surrendered. I didn’t beat addiction, and I won’t, ever. It is far greater than I will ever be, but I did say, ok, I’m really tired, tell me what to do. Show me how to live.
After a few meetings, and picking up a few days, that soon turned into a few months, then a year, and now 5 years of seeking a better way to live each day. Kelly is in San Francisco, surely she is doing well, and I have not spoken to her in almost 4 years. That is for all the right reasons. She saw me pick up that one year chip. I know she is proud of me, I am proud of her for taking the challenge of a new life in a new city. Sure, I stumble and have moments of weakness. There are times when I have “emotional relapses” which are times when my behavior would lead to a drink. I just have to catch it, and say I am sorry.

Now, by the time this is published, I will be in the Gulf of Mexico, with Christian on the jet-ski, watching closely.  Saying good-bye to old behaviors, grateful for friends that teach me new ones. I want to be better in this 5th year of recovery.

The Swim Streak has taught me so much about commitment and about doing what you have to do.  It also has shown me if you share your goals, the ones that truly love you will bend over backwards to make sure you reach them.

Thank you to all my support.  Everyone who has given me some hope in the Sobriety Streak. 5 years worth.  I love this life.

Matthew 9:2 “Take heart, son; your sins have been forgiven”

 

Swim Streak, Part 1

Why the Swim Streak? Does it deserve a capital “S”? I don’t know, but George will tell me, and I need that in my life. Why would I need that? Simple, because in so many years of decision making, without consulting, or listening to others, I seem to fall short. That is what this whole “Lab” thing is about, getting the right people in place to help create the lifestyle that will make me happy, be a productive member of society, and teach me to help others.

Today was 46 days straight of swimming at least 1.2 miles, or more. The total yardage eclipsed 130,000 yards, or 73 miles. This has included:

4 states, 11 pools, 12 different people in the lane, and 4 watched (pictures !)

Today, Drew Marlar, whom I never met, pulled a 1st class move and bowed out of the lane that he normally shares with Pro Triathlete Haley Chura. This is something that should not go unnoticed, in today’s “Me first world”. Stand up move Drew. It was also a 1st class move by Haley to invite me to share the lane. Not a bad way to spend your 46th day of swimming. Haley is the Top Pro Female Triathlete in the swimming discipline. Last October she inked her name in the books by being the 1st out of the water during the Ironman World Championships, on the 35th anniversary of the Ironman. She is a local athlete, Georgia Bulldog, and she is a positive influence in the community. What an experience today was. For me, after reflecting, this was a top moment in my life. I love being around people who are trying to work on their craft. The pursuit of excellence does leave you missing out on things, but I bet Haley would not take that moment in Kona away for some reruns of a reality TV show. She was quick out of the pool, and on the stretch bands building more strength. So Lab.

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Swim with Haley

This whole adventure was not premeditated; it actually evolved over a few conversations with several people in reference to the Ironman Swim. People, in general, will rely on strengths, neglect weaknesses, or try to over correct weakness, and let their strength slip. It is a balancing act we are playing in life. Endurance sports is no different. That is why I have a good Coach, George Darden. He can protect me from doing either of these and take on the sport of triathlon with a balanced approach, improving both my strengths and weaknesses, in a sensible manner. This puts my goals within reach. That is also why I have an Advisory Board for life in general. These people help for every situation. Addressing my weakness, and pointing out my strength and then we make decisions based on our assessment. Here is a weakness….hot chicks. Christ. Still looking for the solution on this one. I am doing good! I promise!

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Swim with George

Commitment to the challenge; what does that mean for the Swim Streak? Well, in general , swimming, let’s say, 2000m or 2200 yards, every day. This is not straight swimming, and there are days when I do much more (average is 2800 per day). Once we, George & Christian, set this goal, we decided “1.2 miles, no less” because it can be switched up with drills and different workouts to keep me healthy in the shoulders, and allow for me to do other workouts without leaving me spent. We also decided how and when we would stop. This is important, a sense of closure and achievement.  The pool time is on average 50 minutes per day. Pool time, 50 minutes, but getting there, getting in, changing out, and getting back basically turns this into a 1:45 per day commitment.

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Swim with Anh

Since this began, I have had some close calls, some scrambling, and friends that go out of their way to make sure I “get my swim in”. Obviously, these people are In the Lab. Hearing your friends say, “Well, WE have to get your swim in, so what about that?” My people are just as committed to this as I am. That is rare. The thing I have learned through Ironman, tell the ones you love what makes you happy, or your goals, if they stick around unconditionally, then you have a true friend. The ones that question you, or start poking holes, and finding reasons for you not to peruse it, are the ones likely to say, “ahh, it is just a swim, missing one is not the end of the world” – Don’t poke fucking holes in my goals, or you are out. Having a structured conversation with your Coach, or Advisory Board, before you set a goal is highly recommend. Saying something like, “I am going to run 10 miles a day and bike 20, and all of you can kiss my ass”, as training for an Ironman might lead to some hole poking. Basically, before I committed to this, people I trust were on board.

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Swim with my Brother

Triathlon swimming has several folds to it. One, you typically train in a pool, but you race in open water. Two, most of the workouts are broken up into 100-500 yard or meter sets, but you race and “swim continuously”. Three, during that swim, there is a level of physicality to it that can break concentration, or even give you a few dings and dents in the water. Your lane partners in a pool don’t elbow you in the eye socket, or push you down in the small of your back. So, the training can really be nothing like the race. However, most, if not all triathletes spend time in the pool. Having a bad swim to start your race can lead to an actual collapse in your race day execution. Not always, but if you make some poor choices, or get in a mental warfare, that bike ride will tax you big time. Now you are looking at a run that could be a walk. That is why I cannot have this mentality of “just get me through the swim” or else I will never reach my goal of both the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships.

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In The Lab

Being competitive on the swim, and holding my own, means stronger bike and run splits for the race. This is about 80% of the reasoning behind the Swim Streak. I need to get some volume in and love swimming. I believe your brain cannot do two things at once, it is not possible. Here is how I learned this. In recovery, I had to make a list of the people I resented. After sharing that list, I had to call someone, or share with someone, 3x per day, on what I loved about the person I resented. I had to find the good, I could not bluff. So, after a few days, the resentment would start to fade, and I found ways to let them go, and love them no matter what, now my brain loved, not resented. The real benefit was I found I was happier and slept better. Resenting someone takes a lot of time and energy. I was a prisoner of my own thoughts early in my recovery. Maybe you are dealing with something like that. Here is the quickest way to get me out of a room, or conversation…start bad mouthing an organization, or political figure (no matter the party …cause I have no affiliate, and the USA finds me unsuited to vote as a convicted felon….damn drugs). Having hatred and sharing that with others in a group, is a pure energy taker, you are not adding to my life. At least that is my 2 cents. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “wow that guy is so smart…..he hates our congressman better than anyone I know…put him on the Christmas list, let’s have him over all the time” For me, loving takes less energy and time than resenting. The other thing I have learned, if I don’t like what is happening, I can leave the room and find a quiet place. That has changed me.

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Swim with Holly

As for swimming, I do not resent it, or even dislike it, but, I did not carry an aggressive stance on being better, or even shooting for a Top 15% type goal. How un-Lab like. I had to create a way for my brain to say, “I am going to love this and get better” and the Swim Streak is doing that. Each swim has a purpose, and I make sure I fulfill that purpose. When I am done, I feel accomplished, and I love how that feels. This doesn’t mean I am going to start eating raw onions in my oatmeal, because I do not like onions and I want to one day like them. Swimming is part of my overall goal with triathlon, it cannot go without attention, but once the Swim Streak ends, and it will, going to 3 days a week, maybe a 4th on occasion, will feel like I am adding time to my week! How about that. “Love raw onion” is not written on my door as a goal, but the Ironman World Championships you can find on that door.

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Haley, 1st out of the water, Ironman World Championships

This process is has broken me down, built me up, had highs and lows, but overall, I am going to be better in life. As a Coach, when people bring up their goals, we talk about things that might have to be set aside, or be given up, in order to reach that goal. Knowing what needs to be done is one side of the coin, being willing to give up parts of your life is the other. This could be reverse of what some think, but I believe to reach a goal, you don’t make things more complicated, you simplify. The Swim Streak has eliminated certain aspects of my life, including human interaction. I am fine with that. It also has taught me that I can budget time to do anything I set my mind to. How important is that lesson?

Sunny Swim!

Sunny Swim!

For now, I will keep swimming, and learning. Thanks to everyone who took in a lap, counted, took a picture, and supports the goals I set.  Life is really good. Thank you.

2013 IMCdA

The Ironman distance triathlon started over a conversation during an award ceremony for a 5 person, relay running race, in Honolulu HI. The participants were mostly made up of running club members, and some from the Waikiki Swim Club. An article in Sports Illustrated had named a Belgium cyclist that had the highest “oxygen uptake” measured, thus, making cyclists the “fittest endurance athletes”. A Navy Commander disagreed and thought the only way to test the theory was to combine a long distance swim, bike, and run. On the island of Honolulu, there was Wiikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 mi./3.86 km), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 mi./185.07 km; originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.219 mi./42.195 km). By shaving 3 miles off the bike, you could start at the swim finish, end where the marathon typically began. The winner of this, would be called an Iron Man. 15 men started, 12 finished, and Gordon Haller won. However, the man that was leading, John Dunbar, his support crew ran out of water and replaced it with beer….kind of ironic from my eyes. He still finished 2nd. I wouldn’t suggest this method. This was in 1978 and the winning time was 11:46:58.

As usual, it has taken me a while to put all my thoughts down. For other reasons, I wanted to wait for other things to unfold in my life and what happened afterward, as in the rest of the year. They say doing an Ironman changes you, so, I wanted to see how it would change me, if at all.

At the end of June, I participated and completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It has been my experience, that if I wait, collect thoughts, and process the entire undertaking of a race, it is easier to give a little more perspective. Rather than, I got here, did this, this happened, I swam, then ate, went to bed, woke up and raced. After all, the race is the shortest part of the mission. Even in an Ironman. I learned more from the training, adaptation of the lifestyle, and what happens in life after you cross the finish line. For this race, it went from one side of the spectrum, to the other, weekly, or even daily.

2013 IMCDA

2013 IMCDA

How did this happen? How did I sign up for an Ironman? I say it, “you are a product of your environment.” If you want to get a synopsis of a person, check out their closest friends. If those folks are chess players and coin collectors, then you are probably looking at a chess player that collects coins. You can scroll through previous posts and see that my closest friends had signed up for IM Lake Placid and IM Louisville and then Christian started with his, “you know you got this” and “it is perfect you for son” stuff. The final push over the edge was from a Team In Training teammate, Mark Healy, a few words at a swim practice that humbled me….”you are great athlete, and we’d love to have you on the Team, Adam”

Team In Training

At this time, I had not even done a ½ Iron distance race. I had a triathlon bike for less than 60 days. Why not….the paperwork was signed, registration was done. Not only was I committed to the Ironman, but also IronTeam (Team in Training). Only recently had this become my environment. In an earlier life, I was trapped in addiction and thought there was no way out. Even then, I was a product of my environment, things like, court dates, upset friends and family, eviction notices, and bail bondsman on speed dial.

Normally, a triathlete starts in one of the three sports and finds themselves buying either goggles and running shoes, or goggles and a bike, or on occasion, running shoes and a bike. Can you follow that? I was a runner, so I fell into the goggles and bike group.

dirtyspoketrailrun

The last post was a recap of the Boston Marathon and the explanation of how and why I found a George Darden (who can now claim he specializes in coaching Triathletes that are spastic and mental cases and he has me to thank for that.) After the Boston Marathon, the attention could really be turned to IM CdA from a training perspective. The indecision of racing Boston, or pacing Chrissy, was now out of play. She got her PR, had a great race and CdA was now in sight. Being a part of Chrissy’s requalification was just as rewarding. After this, we were a tad over 2 months away. Leading up to CdA, there were a lot of outside factors that played into the training block. Come to find out, this is Ironman. Not anything special. The outside factors, that’s life, these are things you deal with, but now you have days where you are training 6+ hours. Not including drive time and general preparation. This magnifies those life situations, especially when you’re set on aggressive goals. I say this for several reasons. Some go through the workout, or even the weekly training with a social aspect, or even just to get in shape. The mental side of that can be different, but still something that requires dedication and lots of time. Something like that would allow for less pressure on an individual. It is incredible to go through the process. Some of the key workouts on my calendar required good mental attention. Otherwise, the workout was compromised. The Lab was created with the intention of having good energy and little to no interference. Intentions and reality are two different words for a reason. Reality is what you HAVE to deal with and intentions are what you’d LIKE to deal with.

In The Lab

In The Lab

The general training schedule from GWD looked like this (mid to high volume)
Monday:
 Swim 3000-4000 yards – Run 6-8 miles
Tuesday:
 Structured Trainer Session (My Bike, Indoors, Stationary)
Wednesday
 Swim w/Team In Training 3000-4000 yards – Run 8-10 miles
Thursday
 2-3hr Outdoor Bike
Friday:
 Swim 3000-4000 yards – Run 6-8 miles
Saturday:
 100 miles biking (or more) with a short run after every other week
Sunday
 3 hours on the bike with a run, or a long run 12-18 miles

Truth be told, I love the volume. As a person, this is how I express myself, through the love of endurance training. I’ve found that in these volume blocks you peel back layers of yourself, dig in deep to test the character you’ve developed over years. You will even build more as you train. I used to think this was done over happy hour and late nights at a bar, chasing women, and in general, being foolish. I found out that is where I jeopardized the very thing I am seeking, a better life.

When I look back at the first Team in Training GTS, I didn’t have a bike. I was scared to death. That was end of May (2012) last year. The love from Coaches, Darren, Natalie, and Chris really was something that propelled me to take charge of my passion for triathlon. All three had a watchful eye on my swim, bike, and run and each week, passing advice, sharing experiences, and guiding me to the next step of getting to my goals. How lucky of me? To fall into such good people, that really want to see others do well. So much so that they give time freely, the most selfless thing you can give. Thank you Darren, Natalie, and Chris, what a great way to start my path to becoming an Ironman, I can never repay you. I have stayed in close contact with Natalie and Darren, now both are close friends that I love with all my heart. Darren posted a marathon time of 3:14 & change the day before CDA. We spent Friday’s on the track together for many weeks. I would ride the bike next to him while he did his scheduled mile repeats. I loved doing that. Once Christian shared the news that Darren did well, and has a shot at Boston registration, I got that lump in my throat. Darren is a good man, I am really happy for him. He worked tirelessly to run that race. Doing well in CdA was important to me, for them. They deserve a payoff of seeing growth in a person, physically and mentally. If they could have the same feelings that I have had when I heard about Darren, or witness Chrissy and Christian do well, that feeling is a true reward.

Darren and I as support IM Augusta 2013

Talking w/Darren

Now that I was with IronTeam, I had new coaches, but with the same selfless principal of sacrificing so much for the betterment of others still applied to Coach King and Coach Mary. Now, with 25+ athletes to manage, regular full-time jobs, and family, they still managed to get each of us individual attention. I struggle with a lot of today’s standards in society, things are dehumanizing quickly. People go through life staring at a telephone, or finding their values from reality TV. I am not perfect, but I love human interaction. I can make it an entire car ride with someone without losing myself in a telephone screen. I just love people. No matter what, I’ll find a way to love you. It is far less taxing to love someone than to resent or hold grudges. Coach Mary and Coach King were excellent reminders that this still exists. Imagine the humility it takes to Coach IronTeam. Now take that and double it, because Rich Heidal was on our Team.

Rich and I met briefly on a bike ride months before IronTeam was put together. We were both training for Augusta ½ Ironman and hooked up for a few miles accidently on the Cartersville routes. We talked a bit about his new job and his life here in Atlanta. He seemed like a good guy and I can’t remember who dropped who, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. (Since I can’t remember). After discovering that Rich was on IronTeam, I was happy to see him. Rich is the picture of positive energy. He loves the spotlight too, but in a good way. Not the way that I would want it. The relationship with Rich during the season, and still today, was more of a brotherly type. We had squabbles that were short lived. Now that I have had time to reflect, it is healthy for both of us. There was a time when I seriously considered backing out of IM CdA. It was before I met up with personal adviser, Coach GWD. I was completely embattled with indecision. The energy that surrounded me was filled inconsistency and I was really unsure of the idea. Our weather was a major factor. Yes, the weather. The Spring of 2013, one of the coldest, rain soaked, you will ever see in Georgia. For all intense purposes, The Lab was being flooded. Bad news for me, this would be the start of some things that eventually take a toll afterwards. Storms of a mental capacity, the worst kind, but the kind I learn from. I’d really like to thank Rich for our phone calls, and his encouragement to do what was best for me. He also played a significant role in my fund raising efforts. I was a charity case myself at times. If backing out would have happened, I don’t know where I would be right now. It would have been a different path. No George, no IronTeam, probably living with some regrets that would take time to heal. Thanks Rich, I love you like a brother.

Once I decided to move forward, having George became an instrumental part of the training. We talked about a goal time for our finish, but I think he knew that the goal in my mind was a tad aggressive for a 1st timer with less than a year of volume on the bike. I’d ask a lot, “Do you think this is possible?” His response was always reassuring, but sometimes you can tell by the delivery of a message that the person on the other end might have doubts. That is fine. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I never thought George doubted me, I just think he is smart and has experience. It was more like preparation for what was likely to happen. If George understands my lofty goals, he will do his best to position me for success. We will work together to build a plan that makes sense long term. Trusting him is easy. The man dropped a 9:30 at Ironman Wisconsin, beating out pros while doing so. Read HERE about that. Now he has a shot at his goal in Kona. This will be his 2nd trip, with over a year to prepare. Yikes. I was lucky enough to see this happen in person. The way G goes about his business puts 1st class, back in coach. He’s polished, always thinking before speaking, or writing. We are alike in some ways, but different in many others. Our differences are specifically why I want him in my life, they are my weaknesses. Hopefully the coaching relationship buds into a long term friendship. I respect George, I want to emulate his approach to triathlon and life. He is the true definition of humble. However, one day, I will get a reaction from my off the cuff comments, or at least a shift in body language. The man does not budge. Drives me crazy.

As the June approached, my fitness levels were really getting specific to the distance of an Ironman. Basically, 75 miles on the bike was the precursor for the last 30, when I started to dig in for more. Swimming was starting to show improvement. Ironteam had a 2300m continuous swim earlier in the season. That day, I really didn’t have it, but I am glad. I was one of the last few people out of the water. After that, I vowed to rework my approach to the swim. Slowing down, to speed up, or at least stay consistent. My form falling to pieces was becoming too regular. If I am citing failure aloud to people I trust, that usually follows with “that will never happen again if I can help it”. That spurned a methodical approach, rather than more yards, or more yards, faster. Several weeks later, we did an Iron-Distance swim, 3800m, where I was quietly in the top 1/3 out of the water. That is part of peeling back layers. You find out what you can do if you put your heart into it. I parlayed that into a 1st place finish at the Clemson Open Water Swim Meet at the 3k distance, in my age group. Although, I think they had ribbons left…..Hey, I will take it. The running side of my training had its challenges. At the time, and currently, I am dealing with some sort of mystery with my right leg. I prefer to take the approach of keeping my physical issues closer to the vest. Someone always will have it worse. Listening to folks go on about nagging tweaks, or dings, during Ironman training is kind of like listening to a painter complain about paint on his clothes. No shit, you are a painter. If you don’t like it, become a carpenter.

GWD Finished IMWI

GWD Finished IMWI

As the race drew near, I had some decisions to make about the weeks leading up. My family takes a yearly trip to the beach and since I have been clean, I’ve yet to be able to make it. That has been frustrating to me, but the timing with work travel hasn’t matched. Now this year, it was IM CdA. It was already certain that I had to be in Denver the week of, for work, so a beach trip just seemed like too much. I went to GWD about this and we both agreed that it was just too much to jam in 8 days before a 140.6 mile endurance race. If you knew my family, spending any substantial amount of time makes an Ironman a short workout. I’d have to pass on it again this year.
The family aspect of endurance sports is unique for all of us. I do find as I meet more people in the lifestyle, that some have the same thoughts as I do, “Why doesn’t my family want to see me race?” “Why don’t they care?” “Why do they think a 10k is a marathon, when I have told them 37x the difference?”. There are so many ways to look at this, but really, the only one common response I get is, “You are not doing this for them.” That part is what I am unsure of. The years of torture, the “bail me out” phone calls, the theft, the unpredictable, downright scary behavior. Don’t I owe them something positive to enjoy? Seeing me finish a few races might change the past, right? Nope. It doesn’t. They still have questions, there has to be a lack of trust floating around. 4.5 years is not enough time for my dad and mom to forget the sleepless nights for 8 years. What I need to focus on is consistent behavior. The fact they see me happy in triathlon is probably a dream come true to them. I am their son, regardless of a finishing time, or regardless of the distance. They don’t care, and they don’t have to, they just want me sober and happy. I have to remember that as I approach each race. They never gave up, that is enough. Thanks Mom, Dad, Tracy, Paul, and Scott, I love you guys so much, and my 3 nephews, growing into young boys and men. I am not around as much as I probably should be, but I am always thinking of you. Your pictures are up in The Lab, so you are on my mind. You help me get through the toughest weeks, and toughest weeks would be tougher without your support.

My Nephew

My Nephew

As the IronTeam started to arrive into CdA on Wednesday and Thursday, my plan was to land in Spokane on late Thursday night, stay there, then make the move to CdA first thing Friday morning. While waiting in Denver for my flight to Spokane, low and behold, one of my teammates was in the same restaurant! Once I sat with MK, I really felt like the race weekend was upon us. Both MK and I had started out with some inefficiency in our swimming, but progressed leading up to the race. We had dinner together, me, her, and her partner. We were happy, but you could probably feel some nervous energy. What was really nice, MK was meeting a group of friends from Texas and they had a rental car that I could squeeze into. Now, I could actually get to CdA Thursday night, and wake up in race weekend mode I was really appreciative of that gesture. All my travel was knocked out by Thursday.
Leading up to the race I did a lot of thinking. From what I have read, it is really good to think back on some key workouts that went well. Like the Iron-distance swim I had completed, but the one I think I held onto was an 8hr bike ride without stopping. A good friend of mine, Jason, was willing to help me by crewing in a car. A cooler packed with gels, bananas, water, and Ironman Perform, with some Clif Bars. What was in that cooler is important. We believe in a practice like you race mentality. George had advised me that I should go with only one aero bottle for the race. Remove the bottle cages completely. Right away I understood why. Spend money on the bike, the aero helmet, the carbon everything, for what reason….to be as light as possible, and as efficient against the air as you could be. So, loading down your bike with 5 full bottles of fluids really just takes it all away. Seriously, weigh them sometime. It is heavy. Knowing Perform was on the course, Jason and I proceeded to take off and go on a handoff system, just like the aid stations on the course. We talked a little, but mostly I was head down, and pedaling. I would toss a bottle, grab a bottle. Seamless exchanges and I was staying right around 19.5 mph on over 6 hours. We finally ended the day, never stopped, or unclipped. 7:52 – 151 miles, 7,000 ft of climb, non-stop. I did an 8 min cool down in the parking lot…. How about that? Not even a hot spot or a bathroom break. While my endurance career is short lived, I do feel like some things are definitely in my favor. One, I can do this shit all day and love it. Two, my stomach is pretty susceptible to the gels and endurance drinks. (must have been all those beers & pills) Three, I think I have some pretty tough skin. As I write this, I am cringing. Next race will probably end with me in blisters, puking all over my bike. I do believe that the “practice like you race mentality” is overlooked by so many on folks when they review the outcome of their nutrition plan. Folks, take a better look, at least once.

Friday leading up the race, Christian, Sarah, and Chrissy would all arrive as my support, or race sherpas, as they are called. I had already done some riding, checked in, and really just taking it all in. That is not in my nature either. I like to go about it with a business-like approach. That doesn’t mean I am not having fun, it is just the way I prefer to take on the adventure. One of the things I like to say, “It’s a business trip, I am all business”. You can gaff your race by not paying attention the last few 48 hours or so. On your feet, eating poorly, not sleeping well, or just not planning properly. Why would I want to risk the very thing I came to do, race my best. When I say taking it in, I mean a little bit of reflecting on my path to where I was. It set in a few times, it was emotional.

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Best. Support. Ever.

Saturday night was the Team In Training dinner for the athletes, coaches, and our support teams. We had partnered with the LA Chapter on this race, I was able to meet some people that I had correspondence with leading up to the big weekend. Just as I had thought, all of them 1st class. Big hugs and positive comments filled the room. The LA Chapter along with the Georgia Chapter raised close to $500,000 for cancer research. All while training, holding a job, and most with a family life. Not bad for a “spare time” passion. To this day I remain in contact with a lot of the LA folks. It is a So Cal – Atlanta love. After dinner, some acknowledgements, some stories of cancer survivors. In attendance a young lady whom had beaten cancer was racing, Anabel Capalbo, from the LA Chapter and that was really inspiring. Shutting things down and getting back to the hotel room was all that was left. The night before the race is coming to a close….all that is left is hours before we get into Lake Coeur d’Alene for the start of an Ironman. Time to go to bed, one night before I go for Iron.

Sleepless nights. I have had many of them. While my life was spiraling out of control from 2002-2009 it really would be hard to tell you the true insanity of the lifestyle. If you had to take an average, in my calculations, it was an arrest every 4 months during that time stretch. Cobb County alone had me in custody 15 times. I want to be clear, never once did I lay my hands on another person, or do anything violent. Although, drinking and driving is equally as selfish, and I am guilty of it….the court records can prove it. How arrogant? Many of the law enforcement officers in the area knew me, and always had the same things to say, “Come on Heiser, we know your car, and we know you do not have a valid driver’s license, stop driving, please.” It was blatant disregard of the law, or truly insanity.
When you go to a friend’s house and knock on the door, it is done in a certain fashion. A polite knock, just loud enough to get the attention of the homeowner, they open, greet you, and offer a welcome. Now, when a bounty hunter, or an officer with a warrant is knocking, it is done in a totally different manner. These are the kind that give you sleepless nights, when you know one is coming, but just not when. Maybe not tonight, I would think, but definitely coming soon. After all, when you skip out on bond, they don’t take that lightly. These knocks were not limited to my door, but carried on to my family’s door, my friend’s door, and even my office. Turns out, the police will look for you. They don’t sweep things under the rug, even if it was a simple insurance violation where I failed to go to court.
Many people like to ask how, or why, I got to this point. Let me tell you, fear. Fear that isn’t surface level. Fear that is buried so deep that it cripples you into a lifestyle you just cannot manage, or makes you miserable, daily. Fear that controls you to a point you cannot take action. Not even that first step, it just seems insurmountable. You make excuses, or justify it with what you think is a valid answer. Imagine just telling someone, “I am really scared, and I am just in fear of this change. Would you help me take the first step?” The ego gets in the way of that statement, and then, you cannot get help from those that love you most. So, that is how I spent years in turmoil, I was fucking scared. My happiness was at a sacrifice, only because I would not take the hands of people trying to help me. This goes right along with one of the greatest accounts of dealing with addiction, a book written by David Sheff titled, A Beautiful Boy, named after a John Lennon song. There is a line in the song that hits home when it comes to dealing with fear, “before you cross the street, take my hand.” I just love that. I need hands when crossing certain streets, and I take them, every time. I learned the hard way. So many people, so many hands held. That is how I stayed alive and made it out of despair. Now I am happy and hopefully taking some hands myself. Life is just better that way, never alone.

Race morning in triathlon is much different than a road or trail race. You have tires to pump, nutrition to set up, wetsuits, warm up swims, body marking, transition bags, and a few other things to check off the list. Not to mention, your own pressure gauge. What I have found out is that in triathlon I seemed to be a bit more relaxed than a running race. Long course triathlon is much about staying at a certain level of exertion all day, steady. George is an excellent advisor and coach. His knowledge and experience has been a big factor in my growth as an endurance athlete. He says “Ironman is like a really long workout, you should never really be redlining it at any point.” I get that, it helped me stay relaxed prior to the race. Having GWD in my corner has given me the opportunity to excel in the sport much quicker than if I were on my own. I took his hand! I let him help me…..most of the time.

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Before Swim Start

The conditions for the day were looking to be really favorable, another blessing.  The water temps in Lake Coeur d’Alene were a few degrees up from the previous year…a crisp 61 degrees. As for the air temperature, it was going to be the high 70s.  Ironman race day has so many uncontrollable variables that you have to consider.  Weather is probably the biggest thing athletes start watching.  Never have I taken a 10 day forecast so seriously.  Weather conditions over a 10+ hour day (some guys finish faster..GWD!) can make things really uncomfortable, no matter your fitness level race day.  It is one of the lures of the sport.  For example, Ironman St. George was reduced to a half iron distance because the conditions were so difficult two years ago.  Now, the people who competed the last year it was a full hear, “wow you did St. George…damn” and they rarely get a, “what was your finishing time” they are already at badass level, no matter what.  Recently, Ironman Lake Tahoe turned out to be below freezing with iced over bikes in transition, and ice patches on the run course….again, badass, just to have done it. Overall, IMCdA was what most anyone would want on race day, as far as the climate.

Body Marking

Body Marking

All the support from Ironteam, my friends, and my coach, were what helped slip into the water that morning. The love and laughter, with some crying, made the 5 months of dedicated training such a learning experience, in life, not just triathlon.

Swim: 1:14:30 – 133 AG & 863 Overall

The swim turned out to be much better than expected. Our expectations were around a 1:17ish. The last lap on the last straight away, I had some cramps in my leg and had to roll over a few times. The other takeaway was to keep swimming no matter what. Looking up to “see” was a rookie move and I didn’t trust myself. Overall, I was really happy, even when I came out of the water and stumbled around from the disorientation. If I were to hit up Dynamo Swim Club in Atlanta on a regular basis, I could be a better swimmer. Fear keeps me from doing that. I do not want to be in Lane 1. Brent Pease has offered his hand so many times….I need to take it, and cross the street. I wish he would just pick me up and force me to go to the swim club.

Out of the water

Out of the water

T-1: 8:22

My hands were cold to the bone from the swim and tough to get my gear on. George warned me of this, and I could have been better. Thanks to the volunteer who helped me get my bike shoes on and arm warmers. The volunteers in IM are 1st class people.

Bike: 5:38:11 – 68 AG & 348 Overall

Getting on the bike was time to start managing the nutrition plan, comfort level, and most importantly the “exertion level”. There is a phrase in triathlon that is used, “going too hard on the bike.” This is a dangerous term, and might be one of the hardest things to avoid if you are a hard charger. Coming off a taper, adrenaline, and general racing, combine that….and you can “go too hard on the bike.” The bike course was a two loop figure 8 type course, with one loop being ½ the distance of the other. It was mainly on the highway with the middle section going through the town. Some great views on the ride, and I had a blast. I may have gone a little too hard on the bike, but I honestly do not think so. Up to IMCDA I had done 2 70.3, and on each, it wasn’t my style to crush the bike. Running is my strong suit, and I want to play that hand. If I look at the training, and the consistent pace I was at, I think the bike split was well within what I should have done. Two fairly large, long, climbs may have been something that took from my running legs. I might have done more bricks after climbing type rides.

Bike Course

Bike Course

T-2: 4:59

Coming into transition I felt pretty good. I found my run bag, and went into the tent to change shoes and get moving. On the later part of the bike ride I was able to relieve myself (pee) without any problems. What I did notice, as soon as I peed one time, it was an open invitation to pee over and over….opening the flood gates I guess. So leaving transition I decided to hit the pit stop one time and go again. My first IM and I had over 13 minutes in transition; this would be something to work on.

Run: 4:10:40 – 60 AG & 304 Overall

This is the part of the race you really can’t understand until you actually go through the entire 26.2 miles. After the 2.4 miles swim, and 112 miles on the bike. Wow, as a runner, and a 3:10 marathoner, I had no idea how much the Ironman run is more mental than physical. This is Ironman. Really mixed feelings about the way the run unfolded. In reflection, I might have not come into the race as fresh as I could have, maybe a bit too hard on some of the bikes and runs leading up to IMCdA. This is something a lot of endurance athletes must learn on their own. Easy days are just as important as hard days. That might have been something I brought into the race, or, I might have “gone too hard on the bike.” Either way, it is something I will look closely at for Ironman Wisconsin 2014. George and I recapped and discussed it, and it is sorta like getting in trouble as a kid. You know what you did, just move on and be better next time. No crying over spilt milk. Strava is the devil by the way.

My legs seized up pretty badly after 9 miles, and even with Christian and Chrissy out on the course doing their absolute best to encourage me and help me go, I just could not make the muscles fire for more than 4-5 minutes at a time. To have my friends out there on bikes was really special. Of course we even had a few laughs at my expense. I knew it was killing them to see me struggle. In all our races, neither Christian nor Chrissy had seen me battle like this. I am forever grateful for all their help out there. It might have been a 4:40 without them. So, I had the Ironman shuffle thing going on, and I am proud to have that badge. I can go back and look at splits, and point out when I walked, or had bathroom breaks….but it is Ironman. Everyone is dealing with that element of the race. I think the only way to understand it is to endure it. The run owned me. I will get another shot at it.

Run, 1st 6 Miles

Run, 1st 6 Miles

Crossing the finish line in 11:16:42, was a bit off my hopeful finishing time, but I am still really pleased with the overall day. The real goal is to qualify for the World Championships before I am 40. This would be a step in that direction. It is going to be a process, a process that will take focus for several years. Ironman Coeur d’Alene was on June 23rd, 2013 and I committed to triathlon exactly one year prior to the day by taking the plunge and buying a bike. This goal, and this process was how the birth of “The Lab” came about. For 365 days under my belt, IMCdA was a great start to our mission.

Finished

Finished

Soon after Ironman CdA, some things happened in my life that I am not too proud of, and things that don’t belong in The Lab. Fear helped drive those actions and events. Again, fear is present when you do not have faith. In my next post, I am going to recap my life after IMCDA, and how leaving my recovery unattended can cause slip ups and emotional pain.

Ironman CdA Countdown, The Boston Marathon, April 2013, New Coach

2 days, or just short of 48 hours.  Either way, I can’t stop the clock now(and I never could).  Can anyone get me two more peak weeks of training? I really love the long hours and toughing out the schedule.  Nothing in my world suits me better than a challenge.  I think that is why it took so long for me to finally surrender to drinking and drugs.  It was a challenge sleeping in your car and office, pretending to be someone who had their life in order.  Glad that challenge is over and I know now that asking for help when I need it, saves a lot of time!

Road to Ironman CdA, Boston Marathon, April 2013

After San Juan, I had to regroup.

“When the pain to stay the same is finally greater than the pain to change, you’ll change” – Christian Dodder

That is when I found George Darden and reached out to him for advice on IM CdA.  How did I find George?  After I have registered for a race, I start doing some homework, or, being a little bit of a stalker. By looking at the Top 10 finishers from the previous year in my age group, I can start to make assumptions.  If I can see where they live, and previous races, and their patterns, then I can gauge (lightly) what I need to do for my workload to meet my goal time.  Those that are close to me, know, that this theory isn’t too far off.  Several of my races I have put the times and placement really close.  If I see that guys that train in flat regions are finishing high, then I can count on having a good race, with Atlanta hills and heat playing into the cards.  We have the advantage.  Poconos and Boston are perfect examples.   Or, if the finisher is from out west and has deep finishes in other races, I have to be weary of it. Altitude training wins out. (I can’t believe I am sharing my secrets)

GWD (George Washington Darden, doesn’t that sound presidential?) was a Top 10 finisher, actually, a Top 2 finisher in our AG at Ironman CdA in 2012. He had the fastest bike/run split, and the marathon time of 2:59, Overall a 9:45 (sicko)  Low and behold, he lives in Atlanta too.  No fear in reaching out to GWD.  He is a teacher, PhD, triathlete, I read his blog, and I knew he’d be a good guy.  When I reached out, I asked some simple questions, but wanted to sit with him in person.  So he kindly obliged to do that.  We met at Starbucks and I agreed to listen, not to talk.  To ask questions, take advice, and follow instructions.  For some, this can be the biggest challenge in advancement.  How could I possibly have anything to offer GWD in the world of triathlon on an initial meeting?  Progress in life, for me, is based on who I surround myself with.  I choose these people too.  You are in The Lab for a reason.  We are on a mission, together.  GWD fit in perfectly.  He is calculated in his training, record keeping of his training log at his fingertips.  He would tell me specifically about training rides, or runs in the build-up to IM CdA.  This tells me that he is not going out for pops on a regular basis, and being a gifted athlete is a small portion of his success.  He is a worker, grinder, and goal oriented.  He’s Lab, dude. Perfect!

After our meeting, I go back to my desk, and a few emails start to trickle in from G already.  From my experience, he might have felt that feeling inside, the kind that says, “I can help someone reach a goal”, and it felt good.  Information on nutritionist, massage therapy, course layout, and century rides in the local area.  This was the end of March, I had yet to ride my bike more than 80 miles, and he jumped on that right away.  Something told me to ask G to be my coach.  This way it was an agreement that would be mutually beneficial, and I wouldn’t mind digging into his brain more often.  In perfect G fashion, he sent a very detailed email on how things would go.  I will get into the training schedule and methodology later.  What did change right away was my diet.  The weight I had gained and raced with in San Juan was something he addressed right away.  He brought up something that I stuck with me.  Eating like an elite athlete, or treating my body like a Kona qualifier.  It is different than having aspirations of a good time.

Pedaling for hours, digging deep on a track session, or racking up 100s in the pool are all going to build you up for a race. How are you treating the insides?  While training for Augusta, we had a dietician on our team that works for a hospital.  She focuses on nutrition, and knew what I was eating.  Openly I asked for some advice, she gave me the same instructions that GWD did, however, I wasn’t ready to completely listen.  Took some, left some out, and that is not a reflection of how I normally treat advice. My mistake, clearly, it resurfaced and now has been addressed.  Eating clean and all the other fad diets out there is not what I would say this is.  It is attention to what my body needs, at a given time, not what my body wants.  This has paid off tremendously.  I am lighter, faster, stronger, and overall, a better athlete.  Not easy at all!

Alas, onto the first task as Coach & Athlete, the Boston Marathon.  This is where I might have made some poor judgment in my schedule.  I worked my ass off to get to Boston and now I was faced with a dilemma, a very painful one.  With April being the center of CdA training, it would be tough to give Boston a 100% effort.  If I did, the muscle damage and recovery would eat into the bike and run sessions for quite some time.  This was agonizing to me.  Chrissy watched me wrestle with the thoughts for months.  I could see it coming after San Juan, and I knew the right move.  I changed my mind 10x on the idea of going for a time that would qualify me for next year.  I had the fitness to make it interesting.

Boston is the pinnacle of distance running for so many runners around the world.  The jacket, all of us know that jacket, at a race when we are warming up, or at an expo.  We look with curiosity, with respect, and know that person has raced hallowed grounds.  We nudge are friends and say, “I would love one of those”.  I was a nudger for a while.  I made qualifying for the Boston Marathon my life, it was something I would not be denied.  Eventually, in my second marathon, I posted a BQ in May of 2012.  I had some real support in order to reach this goal, and I want to thank anyone who stood by me and pushed me to keep my eye on Hopkinton and the 26.2 miles to Copley Square.

With GWD calling the shots, it was decided that Boston would be a training run.  I still get sick to my stomach about that blunder in the schedule, and that’s OK.  Now, I have something to put on board, get back to Boston.  Chrissy was also racing Boston, and she worked hard to get there too.  It was hard for her to show excitement and live out the process of prerace conversation.  She knew that it was a sensitive subject.  However, she gained a pacer out of the whole situation. I was able to take this gaff, and turn it into helping her trying to requalify and possibly PR.  With relatively no taper for me, we set out to run our 1st Boston Marathon.  Our weekend was full, a Red Sox game, the expo, a short run, then Marathon Monday, as they call it in Boston.  The people of Boston support the runners like nothing I have ever seen before.  Complete love for us.  Welcoming you to the city and it’s a reminder why you worked your ass off to get here.  All of the runners are so interesting.  We met people from all over the world, each just as excited to be in Boston as we were.  This was making things much better.  I could enjoy the atmosphere without the pressure to press myself for the marathon.

The organizers of the Boston Marathon have it down like no other running race.  Everything is easy for the athlete.  For many, the Boston Marathon is a reward and you definitely feel that way onsite.  Race morning we head out to the Boston Common to catch the buses to Hopkinton.  Chrissy booked a hotel right at the finish, in Copley Square, so it was a short walk for us.  I guess the people I run with know how to travel.  Good for me.  As we wait to load the bus, we are meeting people and making conversation, and they have meaning.  Each runner has a tale of how they made it, or how many times they have ran the course.  You are in a club as a Boston Marathon qualifier, a special one.  As each minute goes by on this trip, I see why it is a club.  It makes me want to work hard for Kona, even then, in Boston, I think of the Hawaii sun on my back as I bike through the lava fields.  That is a club too, I am sure of it.

Getting to Hopkinton is quite the drive.  It takes a while and chatter fills the big Twinkie. Once we reach the athlete village, staged at school, it is clear how special this run will be.  Folks have set up blankets, chairs (the veterans), and the energy of the village nervous, but calm.  Free breakfast food tables, port-a-potty lines, and multi-layered runners made up the grounds.  Time went by a little slow at first, but once they started calling waves, it became real.  The start of the marathon is not typical.  You leave the school and make a long walk through the small town with gates keeping you on the street.  The walk is long enough that they have another parking lot to make a last minute pit stop to relieve the nervousness out of your bladder, we took that chance too.  Finally we reach the corrals.  With little time to spare, we rush to our designated spot, then it seemed like the gun went off.  It did.  The running of the 117th Boston Marathon, wow, that is redemption.   From a life of chaos, self-deception, jails, bounty hunters, financial desperation, and overall unmanageability, to the start of the Boston Marathon that’s something I am proud of.

GWD gave us a great picture of how to run this marathon.  He said, “it is like the Peachtree, except stretched out.”  If you are not from Atlanta, the Peachtree Road Race is on July 4th, a 10k.  Some 50,000 runners and the first 2.8 miles are downhill.  With the energy, and lots of novice runners, you can catch yourself going out way too quick.  The two hills you face mid run can burn you up for the finish, which has a decline in elevation.  Good news for Chrissy, my PR 10k, Peachtree Rd Race.   The Boston course is known to be tough on people for its terrain.  You can get caught going too fast in the first 13 miles. (decline in elevation)  Between miles 17 and 21 you face the Newton hills, which after your quads are tender, can take you off of your race pace.  Just that little hint helped us execute our typical race strategy, a negative split marathon.  For Chicago, we had a back half that was 4 minutes faster, and several races with strong finishes.  We were ready.

During the race, I could tell Chrissy was not feeling 100%.  Her stride was not as light as usual, and it was clear that the triathlon training had taken a toll on her, even with the taper.  Going through the first few small towns into Wellesley, the halfway mark, I could see that we had work ahead of us.  My job is to get all the fluids at aid stations, pace, and to keep her calm.  Mile 23 is when we go here, not a minute before.  We normally have very light conversation, or just a few questions from me with brief answers from her.  Not on this day, she was quiet. I was having a ball.  At this pace, I could enjoy it, high-five, even stole several kisses in Wellesley.  That is part of the tradition when you run to Boston, so, I had to.  What I thought was an opportunity lost, had become something I really took in and appreciated.  Going into the hills of Newton, Chrissy was laboring.  We were still on schedule for a PR, or around a 3:27 finish.  While going through these hills, I managed to pull off her shoulder a bit.  The crowds in this area are electric.  For me, I think that stretch is in the race, the Newton Hills, is why I have to go back.  You are just about to make the final push for Boston, that is the last hurdle.  The people of Boston understand the marathon and how to push you past that point in the course.   As I pulled ahead, by accident, I heard a voice with a shrill.  Chrissy was yelling at me, “Get back here”.  If I never hear that sound again, life will be just fine.  Now it was clear, she was out of her comfort zone.  The last 5 miles were now up in the air.

After clearing the hills (I think I high-fived every kid in Newton) we started to head to Kenmore Square and Fenway Park.  I forced Chrissy to dig deep here, not to pick up pace, but to hold it.  A marathon PR in Boston, I knew what that would mean to her.  Who knows what she was thinking.   I’d like to know in her words, what she was thinking as we closed in on Fenway.  I just kept handing fluids and giving encouragement.   We passed Fenway and the game was running later than expected.  Normally, the 11am start of the game, and the 10am start of the marathon, puts the fans from the game right outside at this point.  The perfect storm for a marathon finish, drunk Red Sox fans yelling at runners. (Get goin ya skinny mothher f*&k#r!) Another reason to my list for returning to Boston, tipsy Red Sox fans.  Now we were within inside of 2.5 miles left.  Pushing the pace was necessary to ensure the PR.  We did that.  Chrissy has something inside of her that is really special.  She can handle discomfort well.  Especially when she knew 3:26 was in play.  Now I was pushing.  We made our way under the Commonwealth Ave bridge, and the legendary last two turns awaited us.  I get emotional just thinking about it, I love the marathon so much.  Right on Hereford, and then, a left on Boylston, and  the .2 is all that is left.  Many people say it is the fastest marathon you will ever run, not time elapsed, but in a way you don’t want it to end.  I agree.  I didn’t want this to end.  The run barely took a toll on me, and I was heaven.  The streets lined with cheering spectators and that famous finish line right in front of us.  As we closed in, I had already mentioned we were getting her PR.  She picked it up a tad.  We crossed in 3:26 and some change.  Well done Chrissy.  You were uncomfortable, you found success, again.  I am proud of you.

We don’t have many pictures from this day, or weekend.  That’s fine by me.  I have pictures, thousands of them, in my head, where they will never get lost.  Boston, I will be back.  For now, I have an Ironman to race.

Ironman CdA Countdown, San Juan Ironman 70.3

3 full days to go.  In Denver for a work assignment that could not be avoided.  Truth be told, I would have rather not made this trip.  Most of my Team in Training IronTeam friends are arriving today in Coeur d’Alene.  They’ll have time to get settled in and relax before racing Sunday.  I will leave Denver late tonight, fly to Spokane and stay there one night.  Friday, get up early, and head to CdA.  So I will have 2 full days to prepare.  Should be just fine.

Road to Ironman CdA,  Ironman San Juan 70.3 March 2013

Looking at my schedule in hind sight, it wasn’t my best planning ever.  I’ll tell you why, I made a few decisions without closely talking them out with other folks.  We will get into that later.  It is what it is.  San Juan would be my 2nd Ironman 70.3.  The first was Augusta 70.3, back in September of 2012.  For my first long course bid, just 5 months into the sport, I did well (4:44).  You can see the race report HERE. After Augusta, I spent most of my time working with Chrissy on her goals. Then moved into the Miami bid with Christian, and this would be my first triathlon since then.

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PR for Chrissy
Atlanta 1/2 Marathon 1:36

Another key factor in selecting San Juan was the fact is was three days before my 4 year clean date.   Normally, I race the Publix Half in Atlanta with some of my endurance crew and we celebrate my new life and the race.  To add to the fold was IronTeam had our “Epic Weekend” planned as well, in Clermont, FL.  This was going to be a weekend of professional instruction in all 3 discipline, plus 3 days of tough workouts, and everything else taken care of.  This is something I would typically be all over.  Like I said, tough to choose from, but in the end, San Juan was where my heart was!  I had not raced for myself in almost 6 months!  Not only was I going to race San Juan, but Chrissy was too.  This would be her 1st Ironman race, and 1st long course bid.  Of course, Christian and Sarah were all over this as support and friends.  Ironman, Puerto Rico, friends, sounds like the right way to look at 4 years clean.

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Publix 1/2
My image was used for marketing

The training plan for San Juan was not really a plan.  No coach, no guidance from Team, just a mock-up of what we were doing for Augusta on a weekly basis.  I think Chrissy appreciated the help, and needed the guidance, but probably preferred more of a structure. The task of getting her comfortable in the water, up to speed on the bike, and keeping her run in order…..all while trying to build up my speed and endurance was tough.  Probably too much for a guy 7 months into triathlon, what the hell did I know?  When we first started the San Juan training block, in December, I had a bit of a SNAFU.  My brand new Trek Speed Concept flew off the back of Chrissy’s whip onto the interstate.  Needless to say, Speed Concepts are great, but not built to tumble around at 65 MPH on concrete.  Adios.  Buying one bike is a big commitment, but another so soon….yikes.  Overall, the situation was heartbreaking, but all I could do was laugh, and get a new bike.  No way was I going to go to long without something that makes me so happy.  “This is not the bike lane”

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RIP

Winter training for triathlon, wow.  I had no idea I was such a sissy when it came to cold hands and feet.  Running is just fine, but the bike?  No matter how much you spend on winter gear, you still get cold and it is uncomfortable.  It made it not so fun.  Atlanta had an odd start to the year, with lots of rain and colder temps.  Things were still coming along.  With some improvements in the swim and bike, I was thinking 4:45, or maybe 4:40 in San Juan.  Augusta is considered a fast course with the swim and run, being on the easier side.  With a little more time under my belt, I thought I could still squeak into the Top 10 of my AG with a 4:45ish finish.  I had seen some improvements on the bike and thought I could make up time there and have a strong run.  As the race drew closer, travel arrangements started to become real.  Shipping bikes, gear, hotel, food, and all the essentials for triathlon, this is an undertaking.  A special, very special thank you to Christian and Sarah, they took the brunt of this work.  Leaving a day early with our bikes boxed, to make sure we could relax and just race.  Like I said, we are tight.  Sarah still to this day likes to poke at us for the pain in the ass that was.  TSA, toting the boxes, getting the bikes put together and overall a cluster.  I’ll probably never go that route again unless I absolutely have to.  We used TriBike Transport for the return.  They could have charged us $800 per bike.  We were paying.

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Bike Pump!

Once we arrived in San Juan, again, Christian put us 400 yards from the transition and the finish. Huge in triathlon!  So much stuff to tote around and it made life so much easier.  The weather was obviously warmer than we were experiencing in Atlanta.  Again, red flag.  It wasn’t warm, it was hot and the sun was beating.  If I am used to warm temps, I actually race well in them.  In the Poconos, the temps reached the 80s and I posted a 3:09 marathon.  I could see that the heat punished several folks that day. After a practice swim, and a short cruise on the bike, with a 3 mile “shake-out” run, all we had left was racing.  Chrissy was much calmer than I would expect for a newbie to long course racing.  I would say the Ironman series, with the pro field being so stacked, you’d think nerves would kick in.  The women’s field had several World Champs, and other Ironman winners.  I was in awe of the field this race.

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Cave, Rinny, Corbin

Race morning we head to the swim start.  Christian had rented bikes to scoot around and watch the race.  They are doing the same for IMCdA.  It is really helpful to have your friends out there on a bike to cheer you on, and laugh a bit when you are getting your ass kicked.  The swim start was an AG wave start, Chrissy went in first. That is when the nerves finally hit home, and we knew the swim was not her favorite.   Shortly after, I was up next.  My execution of an Ironman swim is to stay relaxed, no matter what.  If they want to go by, let them.  After going hard in my 1st ever triathlon swim, that was a lesson learned.  I came out of the water absolutely toast.  The San Juan swim was in a bay, but after about 2000 yards, you went under a bridge and you were swimming into the oncoming waves from the ocean.  You could feel it too.  I stayed relaxed, finished with good form, and posted a swim of 37:45 (56th AG).  Basically 10 minutes behind Augusta.  Chrissy, not too bad, 47:08 and her goal was less than 50.

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Swim Start

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San Juan Swim

The bike in San Juan is flat, and it is a lollipop.  Out was ok, but once you got a little more inland, you could fly.  The first two timed splits for me were 24mph & 22mph, and no this was not on the plan.  I got caught up in the mix, and probably went out too fast.  Maybe?  The lollipop portion had some showers, it rained off and on for about an hour.  Thankfully, it backed me off my pace.  At about 30 miles or so, I went by Chrissy.  I could not believe it took that long to catch up.  She was doing great!  What was funny, she was smiling and pedaling away.  So happy.  I love endurance racing.  Seeing her was a reminder why I do.  Once you headed back to transition, near the coast, a reality set in.  The head/crosswind off the ocean slammed into us.  I had not experienced anything like this at home.  It basically stood me up on the bike.  I made a poor decision here.  Charging into the wind, trying to hold the pace, it was like a vacuum was taking the juice right out of me.  That last 18 miles was a monster for me.  Once I reached transition, I knew, the run was going to be a matter of hanging in there, not passing folks for that Top 10 bid.  I finished the bike in 2:31:20 (22.2mph)(28th AG) Chrissy had a great bike split.  This was her 1st Ironman, tough conditions, 3:04:42 (18.19 mph).

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Biking into T2

The run.  Wow.  The San Juan run is a beast if it were a 13.1 on its own.  The first 2 miles are uphill gradually, and by now, we were in mid 80s for the temp.  I saw Christian and Sarah right out of the gate.  That was uplifting. The fans in San Juan were great.  They didn’t speak English, but they were cheering loudly near the transition.  The first two splits on the run, 6:19, 7:24….not under control here.  Too fast.  I paid for that dearly too.  At about mile 3 there is a hill, a steep hill, that I still have nightmares about today.  Most people didn’t even consider.  They just walked.  The first loop, I think I shuffled/jogged.  Christian was at the top of the hill snapping photos, cruel.  You were able to go back down another hill shortly after, but I would have preferred to roll down it, not run.  The course took us out to an old San Juan fort, running on concrete with a stone wall about 100 ft high on our shoulders.  The ocean next to us too, the made for a perfect reflecting pool for the sun….damn it was beating on me.  This was a 2 loop run, so I was looking at doing it all again too.  I would say the first loop was done around a 7:25 pace.  I knew in order to hang onto that, it was going to be an effort for the ages.  Well, it wasn’t.  San Juan was humbling me, paying itself off from the wind on the bike, and the hills that I did not prepare for.  I walked.  3x. Before I walked, I was running next to a guy for a long time.  He had a 35 on his calf.  He was in my AG, and I was hanging on for dear life.  Eventually, we parted ways….well he parted ways.  I stayed back.  Again, I saw Chrissy on the run. She was having a ball.  Smiling and loving it.  What the hell is wrong with her, I was thinking.  This was suffering in my book.  Looking at my Garmin in the last few miles, I know that 5hrs in coming into play.  No way I was saying.  I wanted a sub 5 at least.  Down the chute I went, and I made it. A 1:43:26 run split, and a 4:59:58 finish.  Never a doubt.  16th in my AG.  I managed to gain on men in my age group for each split, so I am happy with that.  Chrissy was still out on the course, and we waited for her to come over that last bridge…damn thing was steep too.  She posted a 1:51:51 run on a very difficult day.  I was proud of her, but not surprised.  5:50:49 (13th AG).

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Great View, Tough Course

Reflecting on San Juan, I am proud of that time, but I really think I could have done some things differently.  I overshot on my goal time for one.  The other, I didn’t prepare like a champion.  I prepared like a guy who was trying to do too much.  I didn’t have a training schedule, and more importantly, I was overweight, for me.  As I type this, I hang my head.  The Lab is all about the details around the workout.  The rest, the food, the mental preparation, and making sure I practice exactly how I am going to race. Eating pizza and burritos, with Girl Scout cookies as a backer, is just poor choices.  I weighed 153 for Augusta, and 162 for San Juan.  The temps in San Juan were hotter, and conditions were tougher.  You can look at pictures and see the difference.  It isn’t just the weight the matters, it is the fuel for the workout that is crucial.  Fueled by Thin Mints?  Fueled by Stuffed Crust?  I knew better.

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Augusta vs San Juan

How this was pointed out though was through a new found friend and Coach.  George Darden.  This is when living in The Lab pays off.  Finding George, and that is exactly what I did, recruit, and find him, would change the way I look at the sport of triathlon.  I needed it too. I’ll always have San Juan in my head.  I would like to go back and take revenge on that course.  However, CdA is what I need to be looking at right now.

You can follow the race live on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/146705268855624/

My closest friends will be posting as I take on the 140.6 in CdA.  Join the fun.

Ironman CdA Countdown, ING Miami Marathon

Less than 5 days. Hard to comprehend that is all that is left until my entire body is in Lake Coeur d’Alene, for the start of an Ironman. Looking back at all of 2012, and all that was accomplished, striving for more didn’t even seem possible. Over the next few days, I plan to recap the start of 2013. After all, we are ½ way through the year. The next few days leading up to CdA will be a time to reflect.

1st Ironman

Road to Ironman CdA – Miami Marathon, January 2013 2013 started well. The first day, pouring rain, and the Resolution Run 10k. Plan, pace Chrissy to a PR to start the year right. It was a downpour all morning, and the later start, 11ish, means you have time to look out the window and let the thoughts bang around in your head…”ah, forget it” – Whatever, not with us, we went and got the job done. A new PR. (Not easy, grinder for her).

Next on the calendar was the ING Miami Marathon in late January. Christian and I had been working together on a regular basis, running 3x a week together in order to build his fitness for a shot at a 3:30 marathon, his PR. Our approach was a little different, taking a page from the Chicago plan that Chrissy used to cut 17 minutes off her marathon PR and get a BQ. It is a high intensity approach, low mileage. Cross training to build endurance on off days. The running workouts, I would run next to him, and help with the idea of a negative split on each run, a pacer’s job. We were hitting goal times. The track sessions were always right on pace, never an issue. Every set was on the money. The Thursday tempo runs were on target as well. A few were close, but we hit the goal pace. The Sunday long runs were always the questionable point in the training block. Meeting the planned time was always down to the wire. The plan would have you build long runs closer and closer to your goal race pace. This was really puzzling me. We’d always start fresh, easy pace, and build speed in the last few miles. Running next to Chrissy for months allowed me to become aware of the ins & and outs of pacing. It just seemed a little tougher with Christian. His goal was my goal, I lived it and it meant a lot to me to see him reach that number. Wrapping up the training block, a trip to Tucson AZ would not allow me to run next to my best friend for his last long run. Chrissy stepped in, and they crushed the 10 mile run on the last Sunday before the marathon. When I saw the splits, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Perfect execution to a run. We were on our way to a PR.

Getting back from Tucson, we prepared, planned, and made out way to Miami. First thing, Miami is hot, no matter when you are there. January is still 80s after the sun crests the coast. We had been training in cooler weather, red flag right away. Some say it takes 7-10 runs to get accustom to warmer temps. For me, these trips we take are fun, but they are also business in a sense. Endurance goals reached by my friends are far more valuable to me than any goal of my own. I love seeing their joy at the finish line. The sense of accomplishment. Someone suggested to me this is how I express my love for them. How much I care. One key memory is the Atlanta 13.1 in October of 2011. Christian popped off a 1:38 for a PR. We were training for California Int’l Marathon that December, my 1st. He was showing me the pages in his books on the marathon. He did a great job too; I ran a 3:13 for my 1st 26.2. He was so happy that October morning, 1:38 was a great time. We shared that PR with our tight knit group. We are a team.

1:38 PR Atlanta 13.1

Back to ING Miami. Leading up to the race we remained comfortable, and enjoyed our posh hotel that was 400 yards from the finish….this is Christian’s style. Make it easy, and I am down. Traveling for work, AP to AP, training, and overall life can be tiring. Why not treat ourselves for race weekend. Christian’s newly found love, and unbelievably willing to participate, girlfriend made the trip down to south Florida. No pressure, right? New lady, lets attempt a PR in a marathon. Sarah is completely supportive of our endurance endeavors, in fact, she recently started her own. Completing the Rock’n Roll Country Music 13.1! Congrats Sarah! Now she has 2 more on the books for later this year. A product of your environment, I always say.

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Sarah Post RnR Nash, Rainy!

Heading to the start, everything was as usual, corrals, pictures, darkness, smiles, kisses, and all that awaits you at the starting line of a marathon. These are great things to send you off on something that will most likely teach you more about yourself than any Runners World article. The marathon is one of the greatest achievements for individuals. I truly believe that. A few moments go by, and we are off. The Miami Marathon has one thing I would say separates itself from other marathons I have been around, South American folks, particularly women……for some folks that might put it above Big Sur, or Boston. Anyway.

The race starts and we are off, the first few miles are on the bypass to head to South Beach, where you can see all the cruise ships docked. A few minor hills, but nothing to fret about this early in our race. Soon we make our way into South Beach. Seeing some of the folks who had late nights confused as to why they can’t get their cars out of a garage was a common sight. Pleading with the police to let them try. We shared a few laughs about it, but stayed on task. By this time we were around mile 5 or 6. Seeing those folks looking tired and bewildered from a long night of drinking at a club was a stark reminder of what life was like for me. I was never a night club guy, but what difference does it make? I was a late night guy, still missing valuable experiences like the one I was in that morning. Once we got to mile 9, a bridge, Christian started to fall off my right shoulder and his stride was changing. I dropped the pace, checked the gauges, and we were not going too fast, it was on schedule. Something was off. Mile 9 is plenty early to regroup, and make the time up in the later miles. We slowed down, crested the bridge, and picked up pace for about 5-6 minutes. Then it fell back off, even less of a pace than the original pause. I started asking a few questions, not so much concerned with the answers, but listening, at first, to the sound of his words as they came out. Was he struggling to talk? Are we out of conversation pace so early? Then I tuned in for the answers to these questions. There was obvious discomfort. Followed by an apology from Christian. Huh? This is a friend who has been the absolute rock in The Lab. Hell, he help create it. Never telling me I couldn’t, or I shouldn’t. Unwavering support of all my choices, which are all made with guidance, mostly from him. To see my best friend struggle was painful for me. I was powerless. Refusing to fold our cards, I kept offering different ways we can still manage to meet our goal time. We crossed the 13.1 mark around 1:48, so we still had time to negative split the race and get this done. 3:30 was the goal, but anything under 3:34 was a PR, still within reach, and I do not go down with ease. However, the pace by mile 16 was a jog, and even a walk at times. It was clear that things were really comfortable for my friend. At that point, the motivational comments, or even the attempt to keep him jogging were not what he needed. Laughing was probably the best thing we could do from here in, it just became a nice way to spend time with each other, and build our character as men. Did it ever. The marathon humbled yet another person.

Miami Marathon

Post ING Miami

Does a marathon PR define your efforts in training? I don’t think so. Does a failed attempt at a marathon PR define you as a person? Not at all. What defines you as a person is the willingness to put that goal down on paper and go for it. To show up, try, and we did that, together. Endurance sports for a single guy, with a no children, and the financial ability to give it a lot of attention is one thing. How about a guy who has children, spent 9 years of his life building a business that employs 15 people and cranks out revenue to support everyone comfortably? This puts food on people’s plates, and a roof over their head. Christian is responsible for that too. If he didn’t pay close attention to it, others are at risk. From what I have heard, employees are like children, sometimes even tougher to raise. He built something of value, that someone else wanted. Recently he sold Escrow Associates in good standings and not as a bail out. Keep in mind, our economic picture over that last 4 years have been less than Picaso like. More like color by numbers for preschoolers. Even in these tough times, he made it work, successfully. That is a notch on the belt and something most Americans dream of doing.

Team in Training is now a big part in my life. I love it. The introduction came from Christian, who participates with the board, and making time to build a corporate branch to build awareness for LLS. His unwavering pursuit to make us a better as people is unmatched. Since our reconnection, my life has been something to remember, rather than days that just pass without purpose. Many people say, “If I can make a difference in one person’s life, then my time on Earth was well served.” Christian, you have lived a hundred lives by this standard. The moral standard you set, the honest life you live, you are making a difference. This weekend, Christian and Sarah will make the trip to Coeur d’Alene to support me in this 140.6 mile character builder. Without a doubt, he has made it possible for me to take on this challenge. Calls, encouragement, willingness to listen, and understanding the swings that you undergo in training, and in life. He will be a significant reason to try and make it to the finish.

Recently, we took a trip to the lake and he used a John Boat to help correct my shortcoming in sighting. We worked at it and he provided feedback that will help my swim this weekend. Both of us will probably remember that day at the lake forever. At least I will. It was Christian that started me in this direction, who taught me about Boston, who helped me understand that our success is never found in a comfort zone. That exploring ourselves through change might be the best way to find out who we really can be.

I don’t have many close friends. BBQs and social events slide by me while I am on the bike, in the pool, or running. That is ok by me. It is ok by my friends too. They ask every time, but know it is either a nap, or another workout that awaits me. I’ll eventually see them, and what we talk about has concrete value. Things that are on our minds. Things that matter to us. A true friendship. Thanking Christian 1,000x could never be enough. The Boston Qualifier we ran in May of 2011, well that was a thank you. Next up, an Ironman. We get uncomfortable again. For entire day. After the race, we will sit, recap and plan for the next step in the goal setting world. Until then, we rest, stay humble and respect the distance.

For Christian, after IM CdA, we make another go at it, the New York City Marathon. This will be his 10th, and one he has always wanted to finish.  I can’t wait to do the workouts, and make the trip to NYC to watch my friend.

Fall of 2012, Life Changer

California International Marathon, December 2011, just a shade over 13 months ago from today and January 18th 2009, 4 years ago from today. Two separate days, two separate events, but equally important to whom I am trying to be on January 18th, 2013.

In January 2009 I was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance (RX meds not meant for me) and suspended license.  This was a few short months after a DUI arrest as well. Of course it was not my 1st DUI, come on; I never do things once and stop.  That still wasn’t enough to drive me into recovery; I had 2 more months on living mayhem. On March 20th 2009, I finally surrendered to my uncontrollable love for drugs and alcohol. Since then, I remain clean, one day at a time.  Tight friendships and endurance sports play a part in my rehabilitation.

Marathonfoto?

Marathonfoto?

CIM was my 1st marathon, or endurance event, that was of any real significant distance.  A few ½ marathons under my belt, two under 1:30, and a smattering of 10ks reflected my running resume.  Since that day in December of 2011 I have completed several events. 13 months….

3 Marathons: CIM (3:13) Poconos Run for the Red (Boston Qualified) Chicago Marathon, (Paced CBleezy, Boston Qualified)

4 ½ Marathons: 2 are very special, my nephew’s 1st, and pacing Bleezy to shatter her PR, 1:36

1 Olympic Triathlon: My first tri, July 2012 – got my teeth kicked in, unprepared.

1 ½ Ironman – Augusta IM – 4:44, best planned and executed race of my career

Runners World Hat Trick: 5k, 10k, ½ Marathon in 2 days. 19:36, 41:22, 1:31:40

My boy Scott Motaka

My boy Scott Motaka, Runners World Festival

These events and times really do not mean all that much to me, it is just what I do.  What really made this stretch so special started in August.  It is when I started giving back to some really special people in my life.  Earlier in the year, through a co-worker, I was introduced to Chrissy Blasidell (@cblaisdell, CBleezy, Bleezy).  People in the office know that much of my time is spent running or training for a race.  I am always looking to grow our group of athletes, I was told that Jamie and Chrissy ran often and had similar lifestyles.  Sure, why not, we should get them in the mix.  We met shortly after I had punched my ticket to the 2013 Boston Marathon in May, so Chrissy and I started to talk about her wanting to earn a spot in Boston herself. I am a sucker for someone trying to stretch themselves on any front.

After Chrissy’s annual July 4th post Peachtree Road Race brunch, we started talking more seriously about Boston and posting a sub 3:35 marathon.  She had already registered for the Chicago Marathon in October.  I could tell Chrissy was ambitious, a planner, and to me, a winner.  A successful career with CNN and Red Bull and a few marathons under her belt told me she was willing.  Here is the fun part about this process. Chrissy is not naturally inclined to change her strategy and approach to reaching the goals she has set.  More like, “Hey schmuck, who are you to coach me up and give me advice.” With some truth, I was less than 8 months from my 1st marathon myself.  The real program was simply a pace car program.  I was in the heat of training for Augusta IM and I suggested that I pace her (run next to her to ensure her timing) training runs.  Why not, it would be good for me too, more miles, and someone to take them in with.  Of course, I was preaching too.  Lab this, Lab that, sacrifices, eliminate any distractions, and more importantly, write it down and put it on your mirror.  The goals were originally sub 3:35 right?  After talking and getting her to understand that training for a 3:35 didn’t leave room for error, we should really train for a sub 3:30 and see what happens. This move is something I would tell anyone. If you want a certain time for a race, make your training program for the “5 minutes faster” schedule.

Peachtree Road Race

Peachtree Road Race

The thing about coaching, or working with someone, is you have to want what they want, just as badly.  If you don’t, I don’t think you’ll give them the best shot at reaching the goal.  After several runs and seeing the grit and guts of this chick, I wanted it, really bad.  We meshed my Augusta training and her Chicago training into the some of the best mornings of our lives.  Hours of training with another person will expose you in ways that are wonderful.  It is raw, unconditional, and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to share themselves in this way. Thinking back on some of our runs, things were said when we weren’t even talking.  Just feet hitting the pavement would tell me how Chrissy felt that day.  I loved it.  A few times, she had to find her groove after 3 miles, other days, the minute we set out, I knew she’d blow the target away.

The best part, actively learning about myself too.  Often our runs would follow intense sessions on the bike the night before, or I would hit the track with Bleezy in the AM and repeat that process in the PM for my training program. Speed work 2X, 10 hours apart.  Focused, I am telling you.  There were people on the outside telling me I was over training, or not to do this.  Rest for me, is not the same for others.  The process of icing, eating right, compression gear, naps, good night’s sleep, meditation, yoga, and overall complete discipline of my temple, my body.  More importantly, I was smiling and it came from the inside.  One word, LAB. I was rested enough. Listen to your body.

Icing after Poconos

Icing after Poconos

There was a crossroads in this relationship.  It was a conversation we both know very well.  Bleezy was focused on Chicago for sure.  However, she is a good timer and the fellas dig her.  It was a Saturday, I had done an open water swim that morning, brick repeats of bike and run, and that evening paced my nephew in his 1st ½ marathon, 1:52….not bad for a 15 year old.  The next day, Bleezy was scheduled for a long run.  I reached out to her to set the schedule, probably 9pm.  She was out at a concert.  This was when someone from the outside looking in can help.  Bleezy’s effort to convince me that her carrots and flat bread, or whatever the hell she had, was going to make her feel just fine for the long run in the morning, fell completely short.  It was time to lay it on the line.  “Bleezy, this will not cut it.  I can’t want this more than you do. Late nights before a long run, do not equal the Boston Marathon.” – Something like that.  She immediately understood.  A defining moment, I believe, in the process.  Into a cab she went and headed home. This what a Boston takes, it’s nothing but a dream if you don’t make it your goal. Goals reached, they have tales of sacrifice and discipline in their wake. Why do you think people say it is hard?  After that night, Boston was not her dream, it was her goal, a mission. Every mile meant something.  Every call, text message, meal, and conversation (lots of these) all dedicated to the Chicago Marathon and even some talks about my 1st Ironman event.  Did you know people can converse hours over what we were going to wear on race day?  Look good, feel good, race better.

Bleezy's Mirror

Bleezy’s Mirror

At this point, we kicked the idea of me actually coming to Chicago to pace her.  Why not?  Our running was like a fine tuned melody from a great musician. Stride for stride we would go, negative split it seemed on every run.  Chrissy owned the plan, never missing a workout. Travel, work, and any hurdle she overcame.  Again, the goal, the mission, a winner, I felt it.  I would tell her this and mention it to several people, “I just feel it, something special for Augusta, for Chicago” goosebumps hit me all time.  These were some of the best days of my life.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  My friendships are limited, but the ones I have, incredible. Chicago, TeamCbleezy, we were coming.  She was one of the limited, I love her. We respected each other, keeping things above board at all times.  Training was training, that is what we did. We didn’t distract ourselves with each other, or bring romance into a perfectly painted picture.  Plane ticket bought, I’m in. What to wear on race day, undecided.

The schedule for our races fit, but not for the faint of heart.  Augusta 70.3, September 30th, Chicago Marathon, October 7th. One week apart.  How could I miss that moment in Chicago?  No way. I’d figure it out.

As September wrapped up, I was in great condition mentally and physically. Race day came, with the help of my coaches, goals were reached and my first Ironman event was a success. 6 days now until something that was far more important, Chicago.  Fear was present, but it didn’t distract me from keeping Chrissy in a good place, I had faith. “I just felt it, something special” Our last run, Thursday before the race, was a 3 miler on a trail, overlooking a river.  Normally we run in the mornings, on that day, we didn’t.  To a setting sun, and all those days behind us we went out and ran 3 miles at a 7:14 pace. She was glowing. I knew right then why this person came into my life.  She allows me to express myself naturally.  Chrissy had opened up to me about losing her brother to cancer. I understand why she is who she is. Nothing is better.  She gave me a chance to know her far beyond that 3 mile run.  Our friendship was steadfast; it was honest to the core.  Chicago, I could not wait.  I wanted Boston for Chrissy just as badly as she did.

Last Training Run, 3 miles

Last Training Run, 3 miles

One of the core principles of The Lab, don’t leave things for chance.  Bleezy had a few friends running Chicago as well.  They had dinner reservations on Saturday night.  Eating food that you didn’t prepare yourself, or haven’t tried several times before a long run, that is chance.  My plan, make food yourself, bring it, eat it Saturday night, and Sunday before the race.  Sounds militant, but it worked for two of my key races, Poconos & Augusta.  I don’t even think it took much effort to sway her to believe this.  Not too long after the conversation, she messaged me, “not doing the dinner”. Chrissy trusted me, she was all in.  Food packed and prepared by her was the plan.

Race day was here, it was perfect conditions for running a marathon.  “I just felt it. Something special was going to happen.” It wasn’t just a feeling though.  I saw the transformation of her body, her tempo, her attitude, and how much dedication she put into the training.  I was in awe of it.  Something I couldn’t imagine not being a part of.  I can replay a lot of the training runs in my head. We did an 11 miler in pouring down rain, it was torrential. Damn, we killed that run. It was just business. Running smoothly. By the time the starting gun went off, there was never a doubt in my mind. We were prepared, we were having fun, this was our life, it’s what we do.  That’s all.

26.2 miles later, 3:28, a Boston Qualifier, and a new PR by over 17 minutes.

Goal Complete

Goal Complete

Since that day, the commitment to give back to the sport has grown.  Chrissy and I have worked together to shave time off her 10k and ½ marathon.  She now has PRs in all her events in the last 4 months. 5k, 10k, ½ and full marathon.  It feels good to see it.  What is even better, she has repositioned into a triathlete.  With a 2013 Schedule that should be really fun.  In March, we race Ironman Puerto Rico, then the Boston Marathon in April.  After that, she is solo for Ironman Lake Stevens and full Ironman Wisconsin, early September.  If you are sitting around contemplating a race, or getting in shape, or starting a new lifestyle, you read this and take action.  She does.

New Goals

New Goals

Going back to the Ironman Augusta, then the following week in Chicago, I really was a happy person from the inside.  Just 2 weeks after Chicago I went and gutted out the Runners World Festival Hat Trick and ran three tough races on tired legs.  The ½ marathon was my best performance under the “I just want to quit” mindset.  I am proud of that race and the result.  It tells me that I am mentally tough, and I don’t want to quit.

All this and what is next?  Well, over the last 3 months, I have been working with my best friend, Christian (@cdodder), in an effort to break 3:30 in the ING Miami Marathon next week.  We are doing the race together.  I am the pace car.  I can’t ever repay Christian, not even with the Boston Marathon he wants in the next 2 years.  Christian got me into endurance sports and revived our friendship after I left people out to dry during addiction. For that, I am forever grateful.  How could I ever repay someone for a life they gave me?

Christian & I, River Run

Christian & I, River Run