In my racing career, time was a big deal. How long did my swim take? How much time did I have before the bike cutoff? When do I need to take my next nutrition? Five minutes run, two minutes walk. Just how long does it take to run 50 miles? And when you have as much as 18 hours to consider those times, TIMING doesn't seem like a huge ordeal.
In speed skating, time has much less impact. Races start when they start. And when a race takes 3-4 minutes to complete, there isn't a lot of need to consider the times. In fact, a watch is more a danger than a training aid in speed skating.
Timing, however, is remarkably important. From the very start of the race, avoiding false starts, to properly timing a pass, to a well timed eagle hawk at the finish line, timing is vitally important on the rink.
Anyone who has watched an Olympic short track speed skating relay can start to understand the need for timing. It is something we work on in practice, and it is something that becomes very clear when it isn't a focus. The result of bad timing on speed skates is quickly apparent as skaters hit the floor.
Our team has been very fortunate to have a coach who understands the importance of basic skills, from "low and slow" drills to improve form to half-speed relay exchanges to work on timing, the benefits are always there, if sometimes difficult for some to see. We might want to "go fast, turn left" all the time, but timing is everything.
When I first started skating the Skate City Speed Team, I used my Riedell quad speed skates. For those of you who aren't avid skaters, "quad" translates to "roller skates." In this case, they are roller skates designed for racing. But not against inline speed skates.
As it became obvious my kids were going to continue participating with the team, we quickly got our own inline speed skates. In my case, it was a pair of Vanilla Hero boots. Slightly better than entry level, I figured they would do well for a slow, old guy. For multiple reasons, that didn't prove to be the case. In addition to being a poor match for the needs of my feet, it eventually came to light that the carbon fiber of one boot was cracked, and that created all kinds of problems.
After we found out the boot was bad, the team coach loaned me a pair of Edge R boots. I truly loved those boots with one minor issue. They were a size 9 1/2, which isn't an issue unless your foot happens to be a 10 1/2. I used those for several months until I was able to pick up my next new boot.
That boot was a Bont Enduro. Again, the goal was to get a reasonable boot at a reasonable price. This boot was acceptable if not as good as the loaner boots. I'll say that quality trumped size in that case. The Bont boot quickly passed out of my hands as I broke an arm and my son "borrowed" them.
That situation led to a discussion with a teammate who realized he had a pair of Kaiser Custom boots that he picked up cheap to use for outdoor skating. They didn't work for his needs, and he offered them to me at a very reasonable price, and I figured if they didn't work, I could pass them along for the same low price. I've been using them for most of the past year, and WON'T be passing them along to anyone. My son was told he can't even try them on, just to avoid another case of him wanting to "borrow" them.
You'll note that Kaiser Custom is the only boot maker I linked. That's by design. And says something.
Now, I understand that boots are an individual thing, but I can't say enough about the boots I have. And these were custom made for another person. The fit and comfort of my boots make the other boots seem like instruments of torture.
Whether a result of years of running or just age, my feet were not fans of the other boots I've used. I have a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome, which is the same as carpal tunnel syndrome, but in my feet. Simply put, as I run or bike or skate, my feet tend to go numb. With all of the other boots I've used the longest I could stand to keep boots on was 15-20 minutes. I've consistently spent 2-3 hours in my Kaiser skates with no issues. And that, to me, is remarkable.
Obviously, custom boots are in a league of their own cost wise. I certainly wouldn't be in these boots if I had to pay full price. But I truly love these boots, and can see myself trying to find a way to get a pair of boots custom fit to my feet in the future. Well, distant future. If Al Kaiser is still making them at that time.
If you ever have an opportunity to try a pair out, I strongly recommend at least testing them out. If a pair falls out of the sky and lands in your lap, consider yourself lucky. I know I do.
No, I'm not talking about football...
"You're fighting the edge, Tom." It's something I've heard from our speed skating coach from about the moment I put on inline speed skates. It's something drills and other instruction failed to correct.
True to form, it was the first thing that was pointed out in a drill during our second workout of the new season. I'm stepping flat, fighting the edge, losing power. As we discussed it, I pointed out that I could try moving my frame further in. That simple comment led to an instant and significant change.
Looking at my setup, the coach was concerned that my left (inside) frame was almost entirely under my big toe. "Try moving it to the other side, under your pinky toe," was his suggestion. That led to several minutes of me pointing out how counterintuitive that is. I already feel like I'm going to fall over, and I couldn't imagine moving the frame IN. But if there is one thing I try to do, it's set a good example for the younger skaters.
That means listening to the coach. So I pulled the wheels and shifted my frame from under my big to under my smallest toe. A total move of perhaps an inch. Certain it was going to make things much worse, I headed back onto the floor to try out the new setup.
The lesson? Keep on listening to the coach. There's a reason he's a national champion and I'm an entry level skater. In a matter of minutes, a years long struggle was resolved. A one inch shift in the frame and I was no longer fighting the edge. Suddenly, my skates went right to the proper edge with ease. Yeah, there was the "Man, am I stupid" feeling, too.
We're early in the season, and I'm early in the process of rehabbing on skates. I'm very interested in seeing how big an impact this simple one inch move has on that process. Something tells me that getting this issue out of the way will be huge.
Time trials, here I come...
More than a decade ago, a group of kids challenged me to participate in a triathlon. Little did they know at the time, but they were starting me down a very long and very strange path. A path that I am still following in one way or another, today.
Their spur of the moment challenge led me to complete that first triathlon, and continue on to complete many other races, including the inaugural Ironman Louisville in 2007. Their challenge pushed me to start a youth triathlon club that continues to train and race, today. They led me to become an ultramarathoner completing multiple 40 and 50 mile solo races.
Their challenge also allowed me to discover arthritis of the feet, as well as learn about tarsal tunnel syndrome (think carpal tunnel syndrome, but in the feet). Foot issues led me to become a barefoot runner, and barefoot running led to a broken bone that effectively sidelined my running career.
In time, the same children who witnessed me racing the 2007 Ironman Louisville would lead me to the next stage in my athletic career. As they developed a love of skating, then skating fast, they became interested in The Skate City Speed Team. And, of course, as they needed someone to take them to practice, I soon joined the team, first on "quads" (what us old folks call roller skates), then on inline speed skates.
I have had my ups and downs in this sport, as well. Speed skating is less stressful on the feet, but broken bones from OFF the rink have slowed me down in the past 12 months. With a new season starting, and my first opportunity to skate in many months, it seems a good time to jump start the blog and get things back on track.
Even if it's a short track with lots of people going fast and turning left.
As promised, I haven't vanished into another seemingly endless "sabattical" from posting. Actually, quite the contrary. I've been actively training and working on getting back into shape.
I've been posting my Training Peaks logs for daily workouts on my Facebook account. That provides some amount of accountability and tracking.
In the past 28 days I've logged 4 hours 40 minutes in the pool, completing nearly 11K yards. Pokey, but progress. That's in addition to the 9 hours spent covering 56 miles running. Since that was over the holidays, during which I managed to actually lose another quarter pound, I'm happy with it.
All totaled, I'm down about 15 pounds since I got back at it, and have another 7-10 pounds to go. That will get me into the proper weight range for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon and whatever I decide to pursue for the summer.
If you DO follow me on Facebook, you might find the post on my main page regarding my New Years' resolution. For each like on that post, I will be completing one mile of swimming, 47 miles of biking, and 11 miles of running. Basically, for every 24 likes, I will complete training equal to 10 Ironman races. So far, I have nine likes. That's 9 miles swimming, 423 miles on the bike, and 100 miles running. Let me know if you think that isn't enough.
Finally, the new Saucony Omni running shoes have been almost perfect. They have addressed both the tarsal tunnel (numbness) and stress issues. There were some minor knee issues, but some gait correction and strength exercises have helped with that.
So things are moving along nicely. All I need to do, now, is get the trainer set back up in the basement, and I'll be back to training in all three disciplines.
One sure sign that I was away from this blog far too long is when the site host sent me a note welcoming back. Scary.
True to my last post, I've been participating in the Runners' World Running Streak, missing only Thanksgiving because of being sick. That's an extra dollar to the Imagine No Malaria. Along the way, I've been testing out my new Saucony Omni running shoes. They've been significantly better than the Asics Gel Kayanos I lived in for the better part of a decade. With runs varying between one and seven miles, I've had far less significant issues with my toes going numb. To the point of manageable.
I even found my way back to the pool. Imagine my surprise to see it was still there and still full of water. That first swim hurt far more than the first run, and I'll ease back into swimming to minimize the likelihood I wind up with more bronchitis.
Weebly suggested I do things like make a photo album or play with fonts. Love to, only I don't see anything straightforward allowing me to do that. Live and learn, I guess.
But just keep posting, or Weebly will believe you died.
An alternative title could be "Heavy Lifting" as I try to get a wide variety of things back off the ground. Things like this blog, my endurance career, my butt off the couch...
Let's start with the excuses so we can get them out of the way. After breaking my foot a bit over a year ago, I was diagnosed with tarsal tunnel syndrome. Basically carpal tunnel syndrome, but in my foot. The impact of running leads to inflammation of the nerve sheath in my foot and my toes go numb.
Outside of surgery, the most effective solution I've found to this issue is barefoot running. Only that has led to the issues with stress on the arch of my foot, likely related back to the original fracture.
Blah, blah, blah, excuses, excuses. With the injuries, I allowed other parts of life to get in the way and presto, I'm not too far off of where I was when this whole journey started.
An out-of-shape former sailor...
A couple things have occurred, recently, to provide the sort of swift kick to the head needed to jar things loose.
First, the 2012 Runner's World Holiday Running Streak and former schoolmate Greg Henneman (aka Perseverance Runner) throw down the challenge to run at least one mile each day from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Add in the incentive of charity giving with "penalties" for missed days and you have a strong motivator to run.
All of that got me thinking back to a discussion I had on the phone with Scott Rigsby. Yes, that Scott Rigsby. He and I were discussing an idea I had about raising funds for a friend who lost his leg to illness. I had grand plans to run a triple marathon as a way to raise funds to help that friend purchase a running leg.
Scott brought me back to earth. He pointed out that me running 80 miles wouldn't make that guy go run. If my friend were truly married to the idea of running, he'd be doing everything he could to get and stay fit, then pounding down doors to get sponsors. If unable to run, he'd be swimming. He'd be using his good leg to pedal a bike. He wouldn't be looking for ways to make everything "perfect" THEN start running.
It was that last bit that struck me recently. I have lingering injuries. Injuries that are likely to be chronic reminders that I'm getting old. Injuries that make running a challenge. And Scott Rigsby lost both legs and went on to complete Ironman.
It makes my worries about numb toes and bit underwhelming.
I'm going to run every day between now and New Years, or pay an extra dollar to charity for the failure. In January, I'm going to get my feet wet, again, by swimming every day of the month. And I'm going to keep running while I do it. Once open, I'm going to register for a series of races designed to force me to remain active, or at least pay a heavy price for failing to do so.
I don't promise to take this site back to "every day" posting. I will, however, try to post weekly summaries of the workouts and get the rest of the site back into some semblance of sanity.
It's amazing how big an impact life can have on training. A third child. A busy schedule. A busted up foot. And months of no training.
Fortunately, I wasn't raised to make excuses. I trained for and completed an Ironman with two children. I've always had a bush schedule. I've dealt with injuries. It took a while, but I hit that point of absolutely HAVING to get back at it. And back at it hard.
It's ironic that last Saturday I made the decision that training had to once again become a priority in my life. Because on Monday I was on the phone to discuss options for helping a friend who had a leg amputated after some medical challenges. Who do you call when you need to discuss training by amputees?
Scott Rigsby, of course.
I had the opportunity to meet Scott at a meeting of the Fox Cities Triathlon Club. I was able to contact him and then get together on the phone. One point that Scott stressed repeatedly was that MY excitement about getting my friend running didn't matter. MY plans were nearly irrelevant. If the lifestyle wasn't there, nothing I did would last.
Basically, if physical fitness wasn't already a priority, simply finding a way to get a running leg wouldn't suddenly make it a priority. "What is he doing, now," was the recurring question. That led me back to myself.
I have a new baby. So why not ride on the trainer?
I have a busy schedule. So why not combine training with other events?
I have a banged up foot. So why not get into the pool, where the foot doesn't matter?
That was the decision I made, Saturday. My kids are asleep at 4:30 in the morning. My schedule is usually pretty open. And I don't have to worry about a sore foot when swimming.
September is going to have one focus. Swim. Every day possible. And even a few of those that aren't possible.
In 30 days, we'll figure out where to go from there.
I don't really know where DC Rainmaker comes up with all of the things he gives away. Then again, I would bet that's a minor detail for most of his readers. What matters is that he DOES come up with all the things he gives away.
For months, he's been "specializing" in Garmin GPS watches, primarily the 310XT. Well, today he changed tunes. His latest giveaway is a new Ironman GPS Global Trainer from Timex. If you're not familiar with the latest training tool from Timex, you can check out the full report here. I've looked at the watch in the stores, and I checked out the review, and would really love to get my hands on this watch to test it out.
If you're like me, Rainmaker is giving people a chance to win one. It's as simple as posting a comment on his blog post about the giveaway. You can get up to three entries, and all the methods are listed on his post.
Since I'd really love to win the watch, feel free to ignore this post and go on about your business. We don't really need more people throwing their names into the mix.
An Ironman is a difficult thing. It doesn't matter whether it's an IM branded event run by the World Triathlon Corporation, an official "iron distance" event run by another outfit, or a self-supported event done alone or with friends.
They are all 140.6 miles. And they are all challenging.
So, here I am, less than 48 hours away from tackling my own "Ironman." I've done the distance before, but that was fully supported. And after a summer of better and more dedicated training.
I do, however, have one thing going for me, this weekend. I don't have to do this. While that may seem strange to others, I find it more difficult to give up on something when it's entirely my own choice. Even though an official race has the specter of a "lost" entry fee, this event is all about personal achievement. And I mean completely.
There won't be thousands of people cheering at the start. Maybe a half dozen, instead.
There won't be thousands of people cheering at the end of the swim. Perhaps a handful.
There won't be throngs lining the bike course. Only the sag vehicles will know why we're out there.
There won't be people cheering and ringing cowbells during the marathon. But my kids will be there cheering at the half-way point.
And there won't be a party with thousands of people cheering participants to the finish line, or anyone announcing "You are an Ironman" over loudspeakers. Most likely, there will be the same handful of people that followed us through the entire day.
But there will be the satisfaction of knowing that we ARE made of iron. And that we did it on our own.
And at the end of the day, regardless of how far we make it, we'll know that we all saved well more than $750 in the process.
Still, it's nervous business staring down the barrel of an Ironman race. No matter the reason, the event, or the cost, it's still going to require that we go 140.6 miles in 17 hours. And that, my friends, calls for a gut check.
Just who is this Iron Pol?
A former out of shape sailor, who became a marathoner, then a triathlete, Ironman, and ultramarathoner. Now, life has pushed me into short track speed skating. More important than the titles is the lifestyle, and sharing it with others.