It's amazing how non-Ironman you can feel after completing an Ironman. Immediately after the race I got sick and stayed sick for a good ten days. I couldn't bring my self to do any substantial running or biking for two weeks or so. I did some light swimming and weights and have been taking it easy. I even forced myself to sleep in on a couple Saturdays and have pancakes with the kids almost like a normal person. It's been nice to run for complete pleasure, and ride the bike with no agenda.
The number one question I get now is whether or not I'm a "one and done" Ironman or will I do another one. The answer is I really think I will continue doing triathlons including the Ironman distance indefinitely. However, I have no time frame on when that will fit into the family calender again. Some people tell me, if you're going to do another one, you should do that one in Hawaii.... well yeah, that'd be nice. Just so everyone understands, you have to qualify to go to the World Championships in Kona, and that's not easy. There are a few lottery slots randomly given to age groupers, but they are like getting struck by lightning. So it could take decades to reach that level of competition doing this as a hobby, but hey, I'm in no hurry. I have a lot of time to trim before that's even a remote possibility. For instance, it'd be nice if I could run faster than a 6 hour marathon.
To that end, it's time to sign up for the next event that I would consider a "peak" race. I can proudly say my wife and I will be doing our first event together and will be running the Chosen Marathon for Adoption in October. I'll be running the full and she'll be running the half. We're excited! This is a significant event to be a part of because the proceeds go to families raising money to adopt orphans, which is pretty much awesome! I believe this is the third year for this event and it's growing each year. Oh yeah, if you're particularly fast and gifted, the race is also a Boston qualifier.
So I get to focus a bit more on running, which is the bane of my triathlon game, and support a family that will give an orphan a family. And I get to carb load with my wife... what a deal! We sincerely hope to see you out there.
The following is a recap of Ironman Texas, for the benefit of those ever wanting to complete this race, and for those who believe that anything is possible in life. Overall, this was an awesome race, including the course, the support, volunteers, the venue and organization. Anyone who says otherwise, has probably done a dozen IM's and is therefore nit-picking. As a first timer, I enjoyed almost everything about the race.
The days leading up to the race, I was hydrating like crazy. The day before I probably drank like 10 bottles of Electrolytes. After doing an easy swim at 8am, I got on the bike and rode easy for about 20 minutes. After that I did about a 20 minute run, just enough to break a sweat get the legs turning over. The rest of the day was spent resting, and not using my legs. I ate only pretty dull food, loaded carbs and avoided anything spicy or greasy. Went to bed about 9:45 (I think) My body clock is more or less set to go to bed at 9:45 and wake up at 4am. So I woke up at 3:30am with no problem. Everything was set out, all I had to do was gather my bags, start drinking, eat a clif bar and head to the transition area. Once there, filled the bottles on my bike, double checked all my gear bags and special needs bags, kept drinking, and that was it. It was time to walk to the swim start(about a mile away) and keep drinking.
Swim 2.4 miles
We had to tread water for 25 minutes before the gun actually went off to start the race. People freak when I tell them this, but honestly I don't even remember treading water. I just know I tried to get in the spot I felt comfortable and floated there in anticipation of the gun going off. It was a mass swim start, and getting battered was pretty much unavoidable. I took one major hit on the right eye as I was taking a breath right when a guy was down stroking with his left hand. Luckily, the goggles stayed put. This course is very narrow, especially the last several hundred meters where everyone bottle necks down a canal to the finish. So you don't ever get spread out where you feel like you can stop worrying about others around you. I did see pretty much every act of buffoonery during the swim, including but not limited to, swimming in the exact wrong direction, backstroking with reckless abandon and whacking everyone in their path, and forgetting to bring goggles with them into the water.
It's a contact sport
I wasn't very relaxed for a while, but that's to be expected when you go into an open water race without any previous work in the open water, at least this year. You should always try your best to do a few open water swims before a race, but it didn't happen for me. I went to the practice swim, friday morning the day before the race and got a feel for the course and the temperature of the water. One of the things that always flies out the window at the start of a race for me is breathing every third stroke to both sides like I do in training. I for some reason default to breathing every stroke, to the right. It takes several hundred yards to start breathing normal, but in this race I eventually got comfortable enough to breath where ever I needed to, mainly where ever the sun wasn't. I know looking at my time, my swim took ages. Luckily, I was at least prepared to be in the water as long as I was, and the distance was not a problem. As with each of the other disciplines, the main concern I had preparing for the Ironman distance was just that, going the distance. So, some day I'll be a fast swimmer, but this day, the mission was get out of the water feeling good. Check.
Bike 112 miles
This was my favorite leg of the race. My bike computer decided not to work today, but I was prepared for that as it worked only when it wanted to during my training as well. Since I didn't care what my speed was, it was not a big deal. My concerns were with cadence, and fluid intake. I knew with no big climbs to speak of, I wouldn't have worry about my heart rate too much. So it was all about, 90+ rpms and drink, drink, drink! I didn't care if I went 10 miles per hour as long as I didn't get dehydrated or burn my legs out. This was a beautiful bike course! Rolling hills through the Sam Houston National Forest, tall trees, smooth roads. If I lived anywhere near this place, I'd be out there every Saturday. The wind was with us for the first 50 miles or so, then you started looping back to town and the wind was not in our favor. Luckily, it was not a strong wind this day, so I was still able to enjoy the ride back. I'm quite aware my average speed was pretty weak, but as you'll see the common theme here is to be able to go the distance and finish the race. So I had etched in my head for the entire bike ride, DON'T PUSH, 90RPMs, DRINK, DON'T PUSH, 90RPMs, DRINK. So I took absolutely zero risks. Zero. Of course when you stop at 2 aid stations, 1 special needs stop, and take a bathroom stop, that doesn't do much for your average speed either.
Since I had basically been in the water for 2 hours I had to start with drinking and gels immediately after getting on the bike. Between my Perpetuem, Clif Shot Bloks (margarita flavor with 3x sodium), and salt pills, had over 631mg of sodium, and 350 calories per hour on the bike. Got reloaded with my Perpetuem from the special needs station at about mile 60. Also, sipped water from my aero bottle periodically, not sure how much water I drank because I kept topping it off with cold bottles from the aid stations.
Towards the end of 112 miles
All in all, I got off the bike after 7 hours, and felt fine. My legs were a bit tight, but nothing I hadn't felt training in the hill country around San Antonio.
Run 26.2 miles
I went into the race with a plan. It was prioritized this way:
#1 Finish Race
#2 Finish Race
#3 If #'s 1 and 2 were absolutely taken care of then shoot for under 14 hours.
So, although many people dropped out and had to be carted off due to heat exhaustion, I did not struggle with the heat for the bike portion of this race. I succeeded in staying hydrated, as evidenced by a bathroom stop at about mile 80 of the bike. The part where my above stated priorities came into play was how I had to approach the marathon. To start the run, I actually felt as good as I could have ever hoped. I planned on walking out of transition and assess how I felt, HR, legs, ambient temperature, and so on. I did all that and really felt like I could run the whole thing. So the first loop (8+ miles), I had a normal pace and only really walked through the aid stations. After that is when my legs started feeling pretty tight.
The start of 26.2 miles
And eventually most of my body was really tight and fatigued. Everything from my quads, to shoulders, to my core were going in and out of tightness to full on cramping. This is where #1 and #2 on the priority list came in. If I felt anything, I walked. If I felt sick I walked until it went away. I was not going to let anything keep me from crossing that line. I saw a guy drop out because he couldn't get his legs to move, and I was not going to get to that point. The scariest point for me was right around mile 13 where I was mentally celebrating being halfway. I came to a point on the course where it's a concrete bridge that crosses the water. I started feeling very light headed. The bridge started moving up and down like it was riding a wave. I slowed to a walk and said to the guy next to me, "Please tell me this bridge is moving". He said, "No, dude, you're on your own on that one." So I walked to the next aid stations and took in some electrolytes and a gel. That didn't happen again, but it scared me. The next 13 miles would be a grueling combination of running, then walking, eating, drinking, running and so on. The biggest challenge was definitely the mental challenge of taking so long to tick off miles when you train so hard to be able to run and finish strong. But when finishing is of the utmost importance, and you've never done this distance before, you just don't know your limits. I'm no stranger to muscle cramps, but I AM a stranger to them at mile 130 of 140.6 mile race, so I just had to err on the side of caution. When you consider that of the 2700+ that started the race about 700 people did not finish. So I may second guess some decisions I made, but I did finish the race.
Drank Ironman Proform provided by the aid stations, and kept up with my own Clif Shot Bloks, and salt pills.
The finish chute, a glorious sight
So, if you've never done an endurance event, you have no idea how big a deal support, encouragement, and just the presence of people is. This run course was lined with the most amazing people. The downtown area of The Woodlands was absolutely electric! There's at least a mile stretch of the loop that has so many people it feels like they are literally on top of you. There's a tunnel you run through that had people on both sides at arms length away. People were ballistic, kids were begging for high fives, and complete strangers were reading your name off your race number and screaming it like they were your best friends, unbelievable! The aid stations were basically dance parties that made you want to stick around and show off your moves. It seemed to me that the volunteers were having the time of their lives. Of course, there were signs everywhere, and some made me laugh out loud.
Top Signs I saw:
I see crazy people
HTFU You are NOT almost there!
Naked cheerleaders next mile
You can quit and no one will care, but you will always know.
Toenails are overrated
Welcome to Ironman, you are now broke :-\
Marathon = Ironman speak for "cool down"
Run fast! Your family wants to go to Hawaii!
Running Faster = Beer Sooner
Your feet hurt because you're kicking butt!
I learned so much during this race, but I must say that most of the learning takes place in the preparation and training. It's all about the journey, as you may have heard other IM finishers say. It truly is ALL about the journey. When you come down the finish chute, you almost don't want it to end. I walked as slow as I possibly could for the last 20 feet after finding Rosey and they boys in the crowd and giving them a kiss. I knew this was going to be a moment that I would never, ever forget. I knew that a very small percentage of people on the planet would ever have the desire, ability, resources, or support system to reach the finish line at an Ironman. When you cross that line, you join a fraternity of a unique group of people. Yes, it's a group of people that achieved a high level of fitness, but more than that, it's a group that agree that pushing yourself well passed what you ever thought possible is a worthwhile thing to do in life. You prove to yourself that with enough focus, drive and determination there is absolutely nothing you can't accomplish. Nothing is impossible. The word "can't" is no longer in your vocabulary. It's never too hot anymore. It's never too early anymore. It's never too difficult anymore. I wasted my twenties saying these things. It's too hard. I like food. I hate running. I don't have time. Luckily, God is merciful. He forgave me for wasting my life, talents, resources, and my body. He renewed my spirit. He gave me a passion, and just like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, I feel his pleasure when I swim, bike, and run. That is why I don't think I will never stop trying to inspire others to redeem what was lost with years wasted being lazy, unhealthy, and unusable.
On this journey, there's been many ups and downs. There were times when almost insurmountable obstacles came about. Life's attacks on this pursuit came from every angle. If you embark on a journey like this whether it be a triathlon or starting a business, or whatever, you will get hit from all sides. Be prepared to be pushed to the brink of collapse. Just remember that as long as what FILLS you up is stronger than what PRESSES in, collapse is impossible. 1 John 4:4 ..."greater is HE who is in you, than he that is in the world."
Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me on this journey. A big thank you to those who made the trip to The Woodlands and cheered like crazy European soccer hooligans! I will remember that forever.
So, here's to you embarking on your own "Ironman" journey. The cool thing is, your "Ironman" can be whatever it needs to be for you. Remember the power doesn't come in reaching the goal, it comes in SETTING the goal and the REASON for setting it. I firmly believe that the moment you set the goal, and truly believe in the reason behind it, it's yours. The finish line is just a formality.
Just a quick post to let people see some of the stuff that goes into one of these gigs. Planning and packing is a big deal for an Ironman. You have to get all your nutrition and bottles and pills squared away and placed in the correct gear bags. It adds to the stress of the event, because just having a memory lapse which normally wouldn't be a big deal, can ruin your day.
There's a bag for everything, and certain things go in each bag, and each bag is turned into a certain station. Some think it's just swim, bike, run. But it's actually swim, bike, run, nutrition, planning, and don't forget swiping (debit card!).
The banquet and "mandatory" athlete meeting. Pretty cool experience, at least for a first timer like me. Veterans don't seem to enjoy as much.
The morning swim practice. Here's your chance to get in the water where you'll actually start the race and get a feel for the course, siting, points of reference and get an easy swim in. Short and sweet. The water is about 80 degrees, so no real shock when you jump in.
So, I'm off to bed and waking up very early. Transition opens at 4:30am. Finishing touches on bike set-up, get special needs bags turned in then get in the water. Thanks for following this journey and for the kind words. Every bit of support will be thought of and used as fuel for tomorrow. God bless, and good night.
My race # is 1206 if you want to follow online at Ironman.com
Once you get to this point, there is no use thinking about anything. The only thinking that's productive is just running through your check lists and your race plan. Everything from here on out must be scripted for the most part. My focus for this week and these couple of days before the race is to just run through what I need to take, what I'm going to do, and when. The plan's been made, now to follow it through.
The pitfall would be to start wondering if I did enough. Wondering if I should have used the services of a coach. Should I have trained differently, harder, shorter, more frequent, less frequent... It's not a very useful line of thinking. When you find yourself standing on the threshold of a big milestone in your life, my advice would be to trust in your preparation, have confidence in your ability to adapt and endure, and give it all you've got.
For me a race plan is basically a complete blueprint of the intensity with which I will do each leg of the race, the nutrition I'll take in, when I'll take it and a few options for when things don't go as planned. Nothing goes perfectly in life so the idea is to have a plan with flexibility built into it.
Tapering is weird, you have free time you're not used to having. You have quite a bit of pent up energy, and of course some nerves. For those who aren't familiar with the concept, here's the keys to tapering:
1. The longer the race, the longer the taper. In my case, two weeks.
2. Gradually reducing the volume of training to allow the body do be fresh and fully recovered for the race.
3. Intensity. Some say keep everything nice and easy during the taper. I think shorter workouts, but higher intensity will keep the muscles and mind firing and geared for the race. You don't want to go hard or long enough to result in soreness, that's for sure. And you of course want to avoid injury.
4. Keep healthy. It's seems common that people get sick during a taper. When you back off the volume of training it's possible your immune system leaves you susceptible to whatever bugs maybe going around.
5. Sleep. Always important, and definitely during the taper. The night before the race is tough because you'll have 3 alarms set for 4am and you probably won't be able to sleep much because of nerves and the fear of over sleeping. No worries. It's the "night before the night before" that's important.
6. Don't change things. Not a time to start trying new foods, clothes, etc. Use common sense.
Take it, use what you want, add your own sauce. Enjoying the ride is the main thing.
May 1st back in the day was a European holiday which had been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations called "May Day". (wikipedia)
Or: A "mayday" situation is one in which a vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Examples of "grave and imminent danger" in which a mayday call would be appropriate include fire, explosion or sinking.
Why do I feel more like the latter than the former? Yeah, no raucous celebration going on here, it's more of a, "oh Lord, it's May 1st..."
Hopefully no fire, explosions, or sinking in my future. But, have you ever committed to something where you eventually thought you may have bitten off more than you could chew? You just want to hit the eject button or call for help. I highly recommend putting yourself in those situations. You'll find out some interesting things about yourself. You'll find out some interesting things about the people around you too.
There is definitely an imminent threat on the horizon, but I intend to hit it head on.
What is there on your horizon that you know is coming? Are you subconsciously making arrangements to avoid it somehow and not actually face it or deal with it? Is there a goal you set, and the deadline is looming? Are you just going to kind of forget about it and hope no one asks about it? If you have this tendency, the only person that can stop it is the one in the mirror. Be a quitter one more time. Quit quitting.
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
- William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)
The above photo is me on Easter Sunday, 2009. 274 pounds was the last weight I saw before I stopped weighing myself sometime before this was taken. That afternoon we played softball as is tradition for the Perez family on Easter. That was when I did something crazy and tried to move like three steps to catch a fly ball and something popped in my hip. It felt like the ball that fits into that socket thingy had decided to remove itself from said socket and light itself on fire and blow itself up jihad style. My body was like, "what are you doing playing a sport, don't you know you're 900 years old?" But wait, I was only 30.
Well, the rest is history. Just kidding, I guess I should tell the remarkable thing that happened following this day of over eating, over exerting(sort of), and under impressing my kin folk. You see I've always been taught that Easter was a celebration of life, new beginnings, and grace. You probably know that if Easter didn't happen it's game over for those who believe Christ to be the Savior of the world. So, often times around Easter is when I've set goals for my life. I guess I get a sense of renewal, or a do-over mentality when I think of the grace of God around this holiday. That particular Easter in 2009, I went out on a limb for the first time and decided I was going to run a half marathon. I then got real crazy and told people this. The even weirder thing, that blown hip that I talked about above... still bothers me TO THIS DAY. That's right. I set a goal with every reason to give up the very first day, but didn't give up! The first few weeks of jogging (very short distances) not only were a nightmare because of my weight but because I felt like I had a shotgun wound where my leg joins my torso. Yeah, I looked ridiculous. Believe this, 7 months later on November 15th, 2009 when the San Antonio Rock N Roll Marathon took place, my hip pain still made my participation a game time decision. Even as I ticked off mile after mile, I prayed the whole time that my hip wouldn't flare up.
I know what you're thinking, I should go get that checked out. Well, I did. They tell me it's chronic inflammation, and to stay off of it. Well that reminded me of that scene in Happy Gilmore when Happy gets hit by a car during a golf tournament (its Adam Sandler, you'd have to see it to get it). The doctor runs over to check him out and tells him his day is done, and Happy lashes back, "To h*ll with that, I gotta play golf!" And the bewildered doctor says, "sure, go ahead, what do I know? I'm just a doctor." Yeah, that's pretty much what I did. Stay off of it? I gotta run a half marathon this year! And so, I still have "chronic hip inflammation". Give it a rest? I gotta do an Ironman this year!
So here's to celebrating the free gift of God! After the cross, after the resurrection, everything changed my friends. We all got a do-over. The old things have passed away, new things have come! Look outside at the creation around you. The flowers, the green grass. Spring feels more like a new year than January 1 does. Set some new goals this Easter. New year's resolutions are good, but aren't they based out of our own insecurities and discontentment? Set an Easter resolution, let it be based out of gratitude. New things have come!
Here's me two weeks before Easter, two years later.
The number one question I get these days by far is: "How's training going?" Therefore, it's clear that I am not doing a good job of blogging and letting people know what's going on. Well, a lot. As in, work, t-ball, baseball, honey-dos (neglecting), and oh yeah... training.
The past month I have been hindered with knee pain that pretty much kept me from doing anything powerful on the bike. Oddly, it didn't bother me while running thank goodness. So, unfortunately I had to curtail all hill work and power interval training on the bike for a while and it seemed to help. As of this weekend, I was able to power up hills without the nauseating pain from the previous month. Let's hope that doesn't rear it's head again. Aside from that, it will be nice when I get my Saturdays back. Many, many hours spent cycling. Many.
Running is coming along steadily, getting the long ones (up to 20 miles) in and recovering from them well. Also, getting to the track to do some speed work. This seems silly to me. I mean, yes I'm a slow runner and need to increase my capacity to sustain higher speeds but truth be known - if it's over 90 degrees on May 19th, I might be crawling home let alone worrying about my min/mile pace! Nonetheless, to the track I go to work on the VO2 max, and try not to lose my cookies in the process.
Swimming is... well... swimming. Something I have to do because I decided I wanted to take on triathlons. It's probably the biggest barrier to people entering the sport and I'm not the biggest fan of swimming myself. If you'd told me two years ago (when I had never swam a full lap before in my life) that I would be routinely swimming 4000 yards at the gym before my kids wake up, I would have said you ate a lot of paint chips as a kid. Someone asked me the other day who was swimming next to me, "Man, how many laps are you doing?" I did the math real quick and said, "180". With his eyes all big he said, "Man, that's some serious s*$*# right there!" Indeed it is random guy at the pool... indeed it is.
So as I see the days ticking off the calender with relentless consistency, I get that pit in my stomach. The feeling that I'm not going to be ready. When I think of that feeling you get when you get off the bike and put on your running shoes and start trotting out of transition, my head literally gets hot. I hope these feelings are normal. I guess it's just like anything else in life that your mind knows will be difficult and painful. Even just visualizing moments of that day trigger real physical reactions. Everything in your body reacts with the fight or flight tendencies. I guess months and months of training is just so that in that moment... you decide to fight.
Just messing around with some footage from a long training ride, 70ish miles, in about 37 degrees, top speed was about 39 mph, burned about 4600 calories. Sorry about the quality, didn't come out in youtube very clear.
The part where you hear the wind noise, was cruising along at about 28 mph. Felt really good after this ride, and had very little soreness. Cadence was not great but improving (shooting for 90rpm or above). Had trouble keeping the fluid intake up with it being so cold.