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.
After two sick kids wiped out several days of training, I hit the track for a mid-week sort of long run this morning. After pounding out a quick (slow) 10K, I decided to do a bit of strength training in the form of plyometrics.
Now, I'm well aware of the benefits of plyometrics. And I want those benefits. But does it have to be so painful? Really, I did four laps, totalling just under a half-mile. Each lap consisted of two sets of 20 steps of plyometrics. The first four sets were deep knee lunges. The second four sets were bounding.
Now, I can barely walk. Honestly. What is that all about?
The worst part was the final sets of the deep knee lunges. It became a lesson in pushing myself past the "WHY-O-WHY am I doing this? Certainly a 10K run is enough!"
Of course, that's what I find myself saying every time I work on strength training. I really have to stop reading the articles that tout the benefits of strength training and call out those who try to logic their way out of doing it.
Then I could go about my training, happily ignoring strength training.
But Noooooo. I love to read. Even old Triathlete Magazine articles. So, I do the plyometrics and wonder why.
I so better see benefits when I run the marathon in May.
Spend enough time swimming at a given pool and you will inevitably hear the very undesirable, "We're sorry, the pool is closed because of contamination." And we all know the most common type of "contamination."
Normally, this is something experienced later in the day, typically during or right after the pool has been swarmed by young kids. It isn't something expected at 5 a.m. on a Thursday. And yet...
I walked into the pool, this morning, to see a rather large number of people hanging out in and around the hot tub. Jerry, a frequent running partner, shook his head at me and said the pool was closed. Somebody found a dreaded "floater" that would require testing and cleanup.
I walked back into the locker room, drying off, thinking about how to salvage the morning. The pool was my real goal as I've been dealing with some minor knee pain after a Tuesday night roller blading adventure with a bunch of eighth graders. It seems I don't bend or bounce as much as in the past, but the concrete has remained exactly as solid as always.
Still, with the pool closed, running was about the only option, so I hit the track for a few lactate threshhold intervals. If you can't run for distance, run for effect. Thirty-five minutes later, I was back in the locker room changing so I could spend a few minutes in the hot tub.
Imagine my surprise when I walked onto the pool deck and saw a couple ladies aqua jogging in the pool. Jokingly, I asked if it was, in fact, a Baby Ruth bar they found in the pool.
"No," came the reply, "But the chlorine levels were high enough that they didn't have to keep the pool shut."
I headed to the hot tub, figuring that would explain why I always feel like my skin is literally sloughing off after I get out of the water. Just how much chlorine DOES it take to be able to open the pool less than 30 minutes after finding leftover from the previous night floating around the water?
Well, I finally got back into the gym after last week's awesome swim workout. You know, the one where I managed to swim with the dolphins. The one were I also managed to get a good amount of water into my ear.
Yeah, that one.
By Tuesday, I couldn't really hear in that ear, and I had to sleep with a towel on my pillow because of fluid leaking out. By Thursday I was trying to get the rest of the water out of the ear, and dealing with a rather severe case of something in my chest. Might be bronchitis. Could be a chest cold because of the water in my ear. Or it could be that stupid mucus dude from the cough and cold commercial (you know who I mean, even if I don't). Regardless, the coughing was bad enough to wake me up throughout the night.
For a week.
Today, I decided that a bit of exercise might help. So, I headed back to the scene of the crime. I got in a 1500 yard workout AND maintained an average pace under two minutes per 100 yards. Nothing amazing, but great for me. And the chlorine seemed to do it's trick on my sinuses, clearing them out pretty well.
Side note: Unlike many people I know, chlorine doesn't make things a complete wreck in my nose. My sinuses are a wreck most of the time, anyway. Swimming, even in chlorinated pools, makes things better for me. Sorry Nancy and John. It just does.
The cough is still there, and It will probably take another week to get the water out of my ear. At least it's not blood, anymore.
I've decided that it will now take broken bones to keep me away from training. The coughs, colds, and sinus garbage is getting old. So, no more. I'll just keep hitting the pool. And making sure my ear plugs are sealed.
For anyone who hasn't checked, they DO still have water in the pool at the local YMCA. I checked, this morning. It's been so long since I did a swim workout there was the distinct possibility the water had all evaporated.
No. Really. It's been that long.
My last swim was the 1.2 miles of the High Cliff Half-Ironman. In June. Seriously.
I decided if I was going to keep calling myself a triathlete, I should probably start doing some swimming. It might also be time to pull the bike down off the ceiling of the garage and throw it on the trainer. To be fair, I have ridden since the half-Ironman. Honestly.
There are some out there who take a bit of time off, say 14-16 months, after a race before they get back in the pool. After an extended break, they get back in the pool and find their pace has slowed by a few seconds, all the way back to 1:30-1:35 per 100 yards. Getting back into the pool is like getting back onto a bike. No big deal.
For me, getting back into the pool is more like falling off the bike. I can do it, but it's not pretty.
Today was little different. I kept it easy and only did 1500 yards, including 500 yards of fin drills focused on improving my core rotation. I figure if I'm essentially starting over, now might be a good time to work on bilateral breathing.
I'm sure I'll be feeling the results of the workout tomorrow. Or tonight. Or after lunch. Okay, I'm feeling it, now, and will surely hate myself later. Or now.
It's okay, though. My body survived the first winter learning to swim, and I'm way ahead of THAT particular disaster. January is when I will dig out the training plan I used for Ironman (from the awesome Coach Mike Ricci). Coach Mike routinely pointed out that I'm a runner and I can hold my own on the bike. My weakness is the swim, so that's what he focused on when putting together the training plan.
Well, little has changed. Even undertrained I can put down 50 miles in a single run. The bike will fall into place once I decide to get back on it. But the swim...
So, for the next several months, that's what I'll be working on improving. And when spring gets here, I'll work on it some more. I'll continue to work on it during the summer. And, hopefully, when September gets here, I'll be ready to swim 2.4 miles as part of mIronman, my self-supported 140.6 mile event.
Stick around. Once again, there is the very real possibility I'll drown myself between now and April.
It seems everything has been going in fits and starts, lately. Training has been on again, off again as I deal with schedules, weather, colds, and holiday demands. Blogging has been following the same pattern.
Two things come to mind. First, I just need to get serious about everything. Second, I need something major to keep me focused. Having an Ironman on the horizon is probably the best thing that could happen, but that's pretty much out for the next year. For 2010, mIronman will have to cover that for me.
For the near term, training for the Green Bay Marathon will start January 9. That will give me something concrete to work toward, and something to blog about, as well.
I'll also be thinking about a 50-miler in 2010. That will most likely be the Fall 50, so I can keep the training going in the right direction, next year. I won't be throwing a ultra distance race into May like I did, last year. That was a mistake that plagued me all year. I'll follow a known successful plan of marathon, half-iron distance triathlon, iron distance triathlon, then ultra marathon.
And 2010 will see me putting focus back on keeping everyone up to date through the blog. 2009 will just have to go down as "The Year That Wasn't Quite..."
You can call me the Iron Courier. Delivery under three (hours) or it's free. Some background and details, perhaps?
Much like other days of the week, Sundays at our house have a bit of a routine. One key part of that routine involves my kids asking to go to their grandpa's house after church. I typically tell them to ask their grandfather. He typically tells them to check with their dad. Yes, it's a vicious circle. It makes them laugh.
Yesterday was all boys. My daughter went to church with my wife, leaving three generations of males from the Pol family to fend for themselves. Of course, my son wanted to go for lunch at grandpa's.
It worked out well as it gave him the opportunity to read a story to grandpa as part of homework. We ate lunch, watched the first half of the Packer game, and, according to my dad, did all the other things men can't do in mixed company (mostly associated with bodily functions, you know how guys can be).
At half-time, we hurried out the door so we could get home before the second half started. And, of course, left my son's homework packet sitting on my dad's table. He noticed it and called, just as I was pulling into the driveway at my house.
And, also of course, it needed to be turned in, today. That left me with the challenge of juggling the rest of the Packer game, a 12-mile training run, dinner, and returning to my dad's house to get the folder.
Enter MapMyRun. While watching the second half of the game, I mapped out the route I would take to my dad's house, if I were running. Nine miles, one way. A bit much when the plan called for a 12-miler.
Of course, that doesn't consider either the Ironman or the insanity factor. As the Packer game wound down, I changed into my running gear and headed out the door. I told my wife I'd be back in three hours, or the delivery would be free.
Eighteen miles (about four of which were not much fun) and 2:50 later, I walked back in the door, a sweaty pack on my back. Thank goodness for the plastic sleeves they use to send the books/signature sheets home.
Iron Courier Service. You call, we deliver. And who needs the bike?
With the economy and events of the past year, planning races for next year is becoming a challenge. Though luckier than many, the economy has stretched our family budget pretty tight. I made it through the year with my job, but made several adjustments to my payroll deductions due to cuts at work. They stopped all matching contributions to our 401(k), so I upped what I was contributing. Which meant less take home pay.
Then, we had the Great Bathroom Fiasco of 2009. With tile walls collapsing faster than Wall Street, we spent far more than planned on repairs. Add the skylight to that, and we blew the budget. Obviously, that will have an impact on race spending in the coming year.
That poses quite a dilemma. How do I race without spending tons of money. Two thoughts come to mind. First, I can try to bandit a bunch of races. I'm not fond of that approach for a couple reasons. It doesn't really work for triathlons. And I really only feel okay with it when I'm pacing a first time marathoner in a race I didn't plan on running.
My second thought is to be my own race director for the season. I do plan on running the Green Bay Marathon in May. That will be a PR attempt. After that, I'm thinking I'll put together my own events.
The pinnacle of that will be a self-supported Iron distance triathlon. In the past, I've considered trying to do an indoor Ironman at the YMCA, the Y-ronman. Now, I'm thinking of the mIronman (say "My Ironman" really fast). I can do the swim in Lake Winnebago (point to point), bike around the lake (and then some) to my house, and take off on a 26.2 mile loop, ending back at the house (or somewhere cooler).
And if I'm running the event, myself, is there something to be said for "rounding" the distances, and doing a 3-mile swim, 150 mile bike, and 50K run? Crazy? Double tough? Idiotic?
After that, I'm thinking about how to put together a solo 50-miler or 100K.
Is it bad when every song you hear on the oldies station during a 20 minute drive is from your time in high school? That happened to, um, a friend.
Oh yeah, I managed to get out running the last two days. I'm still fighting the tail end of that upper respiratory infection, but the worst is over, and I'm not dealing with constant coughing.
Another week has gone by, and the training volume remains at essentially zero. I'm fighting off the remnants of the upper respiratory infection that's been plaguing everyone in the family except my wife, who might have dodged this bullet. Fortunately, if my son is the gauge, I should be getting to the end of this, as he has been cough free for about a week, now.
The last two nights have been interesting as I've woke up from a dead sleep as my body attempts to cough my lungs up. With two small kids in the house, it's not uncommon for coughing to wake me up. It's just not usually ME doing the coughing. I'll take it as a good sign, though, as it is hopefully a sign that my body is clearing the crud and I'm on the road to recovery.
The down time has given me time to reflect on some things, and I've come to the conclusion that I need another Ironman. I don't know where and I don't know how, but I need to get myself into another full distance triathlon.
I think it has something to do with the motivation of the unknown. I know I can run a marathon. I know I can complete a half-Ironman. I know I can run 50 miles in one shot.
There are two things that are unknowns. How I would perform in a second Ironman and my ability to complete a 100 mile ultramarathon. And I kind of promised my wife that I wouldn't tackle a 100-miler.
For the next six months, pursuit of a marathon PR in May will provide the stress needed for growth. After that...???
For now, though, I need to get some new lungs. The pair I have are all coughed out. Then, I need to get back on the road, again. Again.
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.