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.

Soooooooo.

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.
 
 
Picture
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.
 
 
Picture
When my old Timex Ironman 150 lap watch lost its faceplate, I bought a new one.  When the battery on the second one died, I replaced it.  It then shorted out the first time I jumped in the pool.  Apparently I didn't do a good job on the seal.

When the second one blew up, I went back to the old one.  After all, it was just the pretty blue plate that was missing.  The watch worked great.  I used it for quite some time until the clasp that holds the strap down broke.  I figured it was time for a new one.

I started doing some research and found that Timex moved to a new style, the "Tap" watch shown above.  The face is touch sensitive, meaning you can start the chronograph and advance laps simply by tapping the screen.

Picture
Reading about the watch, I was impressed.  First, the numbers are huge compared to other watches.  Second, not having to search for the lap button offers an advantage.  Finally, it was the only 150 lap watch I could find.

Then I got to the reviews.  While the design and layout got very strong reviews, the tap technology got a big thumbs down.  The biggest objection I read about centered on the watch "randomly" lapping out during swims.  One person said they went for a 2000 yard straight swim and wound up with 87 "laps" at the end of the workout (without ever actually tapping the screen).

That concerned me.

Then again, I had a quandary.  I was having no luck finding a suitable 150-lap watch.  So, I decided to give it a go.  I bought the watch from a local retailer with a very good return policy and headed home.

I have to say that I do love most aspects of the watch.  The large display is outstanding.  The interval timer is set up so you can establish a variety of different "alerts," including workout intensity (warm up, slow, medium, fast, cool down).  All in all, it has several improvements over past models.

Then we get to the "tap" technology.  Unfortunately, Timex gets an epic fail on this feature.  There is no way they can convince me they fully tested this function prior to release.  Even at the hardest "tap" setting (there are three, Lite, Medium, and Hard), the watch "taps" in a variety of situations.

Swimming is when it is most noticeable.  In this morning's 2000 yard workout, I should have had 39 (40?) laps, counting rest intervals.  Instead, I had 88 laps, the majority of which were unintended.

Initially, I believed the extra "laps" were the result of water slapping the face of the watch.  It took me only one hour of wearing the watch in a real situation to understand that is not the case.

The extra laps are actually the result of the back of the watch "tapping" against the wrist.  I discovered this wearing the watch to time runners at camp.  Just moving my wrist to point at something often resulted in the watch lapping out.  After experiencing that several times, I took the watch off and simply tapped the back plate.

Imagine my surprise when the watch advanced laps.

Apparently, whatever drives the "tap" technology works on both the face and the back of the watch.  The sensitivity settings do help, but the force of my wrist bone pushing against the back is more than enough to count as a "tap."

The only work around I have found is to start the watch, then shift modes back to the regular watch function.  Effective for a 100-mile bike ride.  Useless for a swim workout involving 30 or 40 intervals.

In all, I think Timex totally dropped the ball on this one.  Not only did they completely fail to test the watch prior to shipping it, they seem to have stopped production on 150-lap watches WITHOUT the tap technology.

Sad, as every other watch I've checked out falls well short of any of the past Timex Ironman watches I have owned.  I bought this one based on customer loyalty.  It will go back, and I only hope the store can find something that will be a suitable replacement.

 
 
What's that they say about the road to hell?

Last week was a pretty tough week, but I did manage to get some solid training completed, and I feel pretty good about the numbers.  Since posting my "accountability" picture a week ago, here is how things shake out:

1500 yd swim and 5K run on Wednesday
One yard mowed on Thursday (I called it 30 minutes walking)
80 mile bike on Saturday
Another yard mowed on Sunday (You're welcome, Dad)
10 mile run, this morning

Not perfect, but that discussion leaves out the time spent cleaning out my basement which suffered some water damage on Wednesday, courtesy of some odd circumstances involving two inches of rain in an hour, overflowing gutters, and water running down a wall.

Tuesday and Thursday will be swims, with another run and bike on Wednesday.  Saturday will be the last big workout prior to attempting my self-supported Ironman on September 5th.  I'll try to tackle a 5000 yard swim followed by about 110 miles on the bike and a short run-off.

Somewhere along the line I have to use some new tools at my disposal to create a new header for the site and use some real tools to finish stripping and refinishing a bookcase.  Just for giggles, I'll use my spare time to learn a new song on the guitar.  After all, if you're going to do it, why not overdo it.
 
 
It's a good thing this is a blog and not a business letter.  Because I'm about to break a key rule and cover several topics in one post.  If you get lost, don't worry.  I promise to try and be less erratic on the next post.  Of course, note the political way in which I put that.  "Try and be less erratic."
Picture
Okay, first to the promised photo and training details.  The photo at the left is about as embarrassing a picture as I'm willing to post.  This is where I'm at, now.  I've gained about 20 pounds, thrown the 34" pants into the closet, and hope I don't have to break the 38" pants back out.  In a word, I failed to get the calorie intake under control when I had to back off on training.  So, it's time to ramp the training up while getting the diet back where it should be.

The good news is that my fitness remains high.  Since taking a month off after laying my bike down, I've managed an 82-mile bike and a 2.5 mile swim.  Neither was as easy as perhaps I'd like them to be, but both were completed with relatively few issues.  (Getting lost doesn't count, as it was on the bike.  If I get lost in the pool, I'll let you know.)

Training time should be easier to come by in the coming weeks.  The youth in the Brigade Triathlon Club completed their first race on Sunday, August 8th.  All three were first time triathletes, and all provided one or more surprises during the day.  We were concerned they might never get into the water as there was thunder and lightning as close as 35 minutes before the start, but a short delay under clearing skies allowed them to race.

With the race completed, the time dedicated to coaching will now go to training.

Finally, I once again witnessed the strong sense of community that thrives in triathletes.  I only wish those who look on endurance athletes as a disruption to their schedule could have been at the park.

Shortly after all three of the kids showed up, I heard an announcement that the race staff needed a helmet for a racer who had forgotten his.  With three kids racing, I had every possible piece of gear with me, including two helmets that weren't needed.  I ran over to the announcer and handed the guy my helmet, only asking that he drop it off at the finish when he was done.  I didn't worry about his name or bib number.  To be honest, I didn't even think about it.

After the race, I was heading to my car when I remembered the helmet.  I stopped by the announcer at the finish line, and there it was.  I picked it up and a handmade envelope fell out of it.  Inside was $5 and a note thanking me for the use of the helmet.  It was signed, "The happy triathlete."  He asked that I grab myself a drink by way of thanks.

It was fitting, as I was getting hungry by that time.  I picked up some pretzels and a Gatorade and had a bit left over.  It worked out pretty well.

Driving home, I thought about it.  Imagine a community where someone can reasonably expect that a request for gear will be answered.  Imagine a community where people hearing such a request will actively try to help.  And imagine a community where people are so truly grateful for that help that they go out of their way to express their thanks.

That's the way I see the triathlon community.  Countless times I've witness people assist others in ways big and small.  It's great to watch.  And it's great to be part of it.
 
 
Okay, it feels like I'm stuck in the mud.  Instead of moving forward, I'm sliding backward.  So, it's accountability time.  Here's how that's going to work.

Tomorrow, I will post a horribly embarrassing "in between" picture.  Why "in between" you ask?  Well, it's not really a "before" picture because that would have been years ago, and I haven't slid THAT far back.  But it's definitely not the "after" picture.  If anything, my pictures from Ironman Louisville would have been the after picture.

Those with weak stomachs and those with a desire to keep their eyeballs might want to avoid looking at the picture.

Once the "in between" picture is posted, I will start posting honest to goodness training goals and updates.  I will also continue to embarrass myself once a week with additional "in-between" pictures.  I will do what it takes to get back into the shape I want to be in, and properly document the journey, this time.

And somewhere along the line, I'm going to find the means to enter another Ironman.  Just don't tell my wife.