Dec 25, 2008
I hope that the book will serve as motivation and as a comprehensive resource, especially for age-groupers and those middle-aged corporate executives that I have worked with from around the globe in my consulting and CEO advisory work.
Like me, they focus valiantly and selflessly on their careers, their families, their clients. When the weekend comes, they want to break loose, have a few beers, watch the game. They decide to hire others to mow the lawn, wash the cars, paint the house. Why not? They can afford it; they’ve certainly earned it.
But little by little, just like me, they become more and more sedentary and the weight just continues to accumulate, usually right around our mid-section. Look around any public venue such as an airport or any mall and you’ll see that most men my age have a big belly hanging over their belt. Yep, that was me to be sure, but I finally took control, took my life back, and now have my health, pride and renewed self-esteem as a bona fide Ironman!
I have never been happier. It was a lot of work, a lot of struggle and plenty of pain. There were sacrifices and missed events. There were costs. Heavy costs. But in the end, I’m glad I made the sacrifices and paid my dues.
The book: Seat 2A to Ironman is the story of how I accomplished this life-changing transition and who helped me along the way. But more than my story of struggle and ultimate triumph, this is also a how-to guide filled with lessons on business, on life, on relationships, on health and ultimately, on how to finish an Ironman Triathlon.
I did it, and you can too!
I'm self-publishing the book in order to share all that I've learned in this process. I will print a small quantity and if you'd like me to put you on the list, please send me an email at: John@IronAmbition.com.
I went for my first post-Ironman run about two weeks ago. This was a deliberately-slow run over my Cal State Long Beach 5-mile loop, a course I know well. To force myself to go very slow, I brought our Border Terrier, Billy The Kid, along for the run; this was a first for both of us.
About 3 miles into this very easy, very slow jog, all of a sudden, BOTH "IT Bands" adjacent to my knees began to painfully rub on the outside of the knee joint. I could not run at all. I was wobbling from side to side and could barely walk.
This happened to both knees literally within minutes of each other. The only other time I had serious IT Band issues was during the full Ironman race. We traced this problem back to incorrect seat height following the frantic rush to replace my bike following the accident where I was hit by a car.
But for both knees to go out at the same time, that is really perplexing and I simply cannot explain it. I'm stumped!
My coach, David Warden, has me now seeing a Physical Therapist and that is going quite well. I am excited about the exercises and the stretching and am hopeful that this treatment may lead to solutions with the myofacial pain syndrome/trigger point in my left upper trapezoid and also with my deep hip socket pain as well as the IT Bands. Only one session so far.
I found a new Podiatrist to check on my theory that perhaps one leg is shorter than the other. Why else would all of my problems and injuries consistently be on my left side? Also, it was the left IT band that went haywire on the bike, and that made perfect sense! If my left leg was shorter than the right, then it would be forced by the bike's crank arm to travel further on the downstroke, stretching that IT band more and more with each successive pedal rotation.
The Podiatrist performed several tests and measurements to conclude that the left side of my body is in fact shorter by about 3/8ths of an inch. But note that I said the left side of my "body" is shorter..not just the left leg. It seems that I am extremely taught/tight in terms of inflexibility. I may also have some vertebrae that need to be popped back in alignment in my upper back. All of these issues may be in collusion to be causing these problems. A small shim was placed into the bottom of my left shoe. I find it very uncomfortable but am going to give it two weeks and see if I notice any changes. It is very painful on the left heel, as if all my weight is bearing on that one heel. Is the pad too thick? Hummmm. Perhaps they have over-adjusted.
The Podiatrist also cut the "cap" or top layer of skin off of my one-month old toe surgery as the surface of the wound had formed a very tough "pudding skin" but there was no healing going on inside that gaping hole, so he opened the wound all over again! There are days when I honestly think that I'd like them to hack off the offending appendage just to relieve the constant throbbing and the limping.
Limping, by the way, causes all kinds of additional problems: it's the law of unintended consequences. I place more weight on my right side and the outside of the right foot in order to relieve the constant pain on the left foot. Now it seems that the right foot has three cracked metatarsals or acutely strained tendons.
The foot has 26 bones, 107 ligaments and 32 muscles and tendons It is an extremely delicate piece of equipment. Limping or favoring one side over the other is just asking for trouble.
I also made my first visit to a Urologist to check things out. No more hemmrohoids (whew!) which I believe were caused by so much time in the saddle on those long weekend rides. Everything checked out perfectly, so that is one area that is doing fine.
Finally, and stop here if you are queazy...
The last of my toenails have either fallen off or I have yanked them out. It sounds absolutely horrible and shocking, but the truth of the matter is that the toenails are FAR FAR more painful to leave in, than when they are removed. Sure it hurts at first, but once the entire nail is removed and the skin heals-over, there is nothing to cause any pain.
My toenails have had serious problems since the Bulldog 50K Ultramarathon run in the Malibu mountains. Ever since then, my nails have been black and blue from banging the front of my shoes on the steep downhill portions of the three-loop, 31-mile run. Then, running the marathon portion of the Ironman last month was the final straw, and most of the nails are now all removed.
But I am relieved and happy to say that there is no pain whatsoever in those toes, except for the gaping hole from the plantar wart removal procedure.
The hip is not as painful, the trapezoid gives me daily reminders but is tolerable, and the IT Bands do not hurt at all when I am just walking around.
The real test of the IT Bands will be doing some easy 2 - 4 mile runs with my son Connor, over the Holidays.
Consistently training for the Ironman was the hardest thing I every did, and completing the Ironman has been not only a highlight of my life, but quite likely, my greatest physical accomplishment. Just tonight, I finally removed my race-day wrist band and put it in a box for my wife. I'm giving it to her to recognize her vital role in my achievement.
But now what? Where do I go from here?
Well I have my sights set on a few major goals:
1. Ultraman Canada in 2009.
2. A couple of 50 mile runs
3. The Western States 100 Mile Ultramarathon
4. The Badwater 135 mile Ultramarathon
The goals must always be harder and bigger. As hard as this is going to be for so many to understand....after all this work and struggle, the Ironman event no longer holds enough excitment for me to stay motivated. Been there. Done that. What's next?
When one only enters these events "to finish" then the allure, excitement and draw of the event quickly fades. It was never my objective to place high in the rankings, although I certainly would like to place higher in my future races, and I know that I can.
I am drawn more toward the Ultra endurance events. Long, slow distances; that's where I'm most comfortable versus the raw speed. Don't get me wrong, I would love to be quick, but I've come to understand that I may be better suited for endurance events than the shorter, faster races.
Nov 26, 2008
It's a very long day to cover 140.6 miles, and if one rejects their race plan, loses focus and discipline, it can spell disaster. I was now experienced enough from two prior Ironman events this year to know that I must stick to my race plan, and I am glad that I did, because disaster struck on the swim, the bike AND the run!
Despite the problems, I still had a terrific event (again, finishing was my goal, not racing!), and finished within 2 minutes of my projected time, breaking 14 hours with a total race time of 13 hours, 58 minutes.
It's just so interesting how this race works though. In the swim, I finished in the bottom 40% of my age group; in the bike I was WAY back, finishing in the bottom 10% of my age group, and in the run, I finished in the bottom 40%. Overall, I finished in the bottom 25%; essentially 75% of all participants finished in front of me. I crossed the line in front of 600 other entrants, but behind 1,585 Ironmen.
And for the entire year, I completed three Ironman events in 2008. Two of these events were the Half Ironman, which is known as the "Ironman 70.3"
While the 70.3 is exactly half the distance in each of the segments, it is still fully-sanctioned by the Ironman organization. However, there's lots of controversy as to whether or not one is a "REAL" Ironman if they complete an Ironman-sanctioned 70.3. Those of us who have finished the "half" would certainly like the Ironman distinction, but most athletes agree that you have to complete the real deal, the FULL Ironman, to earn that coveted distinction.
As I have written about in prior entries, I have always believed that one is really not worthy of the Ironman distinction until they have completed the full 140.6 mile event; I know that many people would disagree with me.
But my final word on all of this is that when you cross the finish line in the 70.3 event, they announce your name, but they do NOT say, "You are an Ironman." They only way you'll hear that is if you cross the finish line at the fully sanctioned 140.6 mile Ironman event.
So while my wife, my business partner Kevin, and many others have urged me to stop at the half Ironman, I would not have ever felt worthy of the title until I had completed the full event as it was originally run the very first time on the island of Oahu in 1978.
The FULL IRONMAN has always been a 2.4 mile swim (which is the exact length of the Honolulu rough water swim and how they arrived at that distance for the event), a 112 mile bike segment (which is the exact length of a full loop around the island of Oahu) and a full 26.2 mile marathon.
Anything less than that, and you are not an Ironman.
And no, if you complete a half-Ironman, I really don't think you qualify for half of an Ironman tattoo. Sound silly? Well this is a big issue with a lot of people who complete a 70.3!
Training for the full Ironman is exponentially more work than just training for the 70.3. It is 3 - 4 times more complicated and difficult and time consuming. Those who have trained for and completed the full Ironman know the difference. You cannot just read about it in a book to understand it; you really need to live it. You need to understand the discipline, the sacrifice, the struggle, the enormous number of training hours this endeavor takes.
Completing the 70.3 does not make one an Ironman. And as a finisher of two half-Ironman evetnt as well as a full Ironman, I now understand the difference.
I now understand why my completion of the Hono/Kona 70.3 in May and the Vineman/Sonoma 70.3 in July were great achievements, but certainly not Full Ironman efforts. To understand the difference, one needs to complete the full 140.6 event.
About 5:05am race day morning, in the pitch dark of pre-dawn, Kelvin somehow found us.
Kelvin had driven all the way out to Tempe, about 6 - 7 hours, and was there to support me for the entire race day. He arrived at the venue around 4:50am and never left the area until after he had personally packed my gear into my car and saw that my family and I were settled and ready to go, somewhere around 10:00pm post-race.
He was there at every turn of the entire event, from getting me set-up race morning, to the moment I exited the swim to all the turns in the bike race and the run.
He was even there at the finish line and had arranged to have Connor run the last 200 yards with me. He also put some motivational messages for me up on the electronic board so that every time I ran by, it triggered a message to stay focused, keep at it, stay motivated. Those little electronic messages were important at miles 7, 16 and 23 of the marathon!
How do you thank a friend like that? Words cannot express the gratitude.
Kelvin and I go way back to the mid-90s, when as an executive of the Franklin Quest Organization, he helped me organize a very large organization, dozens of projects and lots of ideas that I didn't really know what to do with. He was so successful at getting me organized and dramatically more effective, that I did everything I could to lure him away from Franklin and come to work for me. He finally relented and those were some of the greatest and most productive years of my banking career.
Today, Kelvin is back at his former company, now called the Franklin-Covey Organization, and he is one of their most successful professionals, maintaining accounts, selling new ones and ensuring that executives have every possible tool and technique available to be their most effective while focusing on what matters most.
During our years together as Kelvin was pursuing an advanced degree at night, he served an internship with the Ironman organization; this was in the late 90s and at that time I didn't quite understand what he was doing with his weekends and at those crazy events. I thought those Ironmen were super-human and frankly, on the lunatic fringe. How anyone could ever do one of those events was beyond comprehension. Kelvin was the very first person to introduce me to Ironman, probably just over 10 years ago.
I have Kelvin to thank. Some would say, to blame. But not me! I loved the journey to this point.
I only wish that others could know the very deep sense of satisfaction and pride that comes when you have a true friend like Kelvin Shields.
Thank you Kelvin. 140.6 times. Thank you!
These are a few of my favorite photos. They reflect absolute panic and raw fear. I see myself in these photos and I remember exactly how I felt...Scared out of my wits!!
I was scared and nervous and anxious all at once. Just like you might feel before you step onto a stage with 100s in the audience, or perhaps how one might feel if upon returning home from a great New Years Eve party, they see flashing red lights at a mandatory checkpoint! The fear, the adrenaline, the anxiety...that's what it felt like and that's what these photos reflect.
Sure I knew that I had done everything I could have done to prepare, but I really did not feel like jumping in that freezing water on that very cold morning.
These shots really capture the deep thought and concern that was racing through my head right before the race. These photos reflect more about what I was feeling, and fearing, more than anything I could ever write.
Here are some photos to give you a sense of the enormous scale of this event.
The bikes stretch out for as far as one can see and the bags are lined up in huge rows according to one's race number.
To my bewilderment and pleasant surprise, they had the most wonderful looking french fries that I have ever seen!
The best part was that they had these marvelous chunks or flakes of sea salt all over them! I loaded up a giant platter of fries and was shocked that nobody tried to stop me for taking so many!
I offered this platter to everyone and while they had a sample, they thought that the fries were far too salty for their taste. This just goes to show that my nutrition strategy must have somehow been off, as my body was clearly screaming for additional electrolytes and salt.
And I was more than happy to oblige with what I believe were the world's best tasting french fries!
It was totally dark, but out of nowhere, my great friend Kelvin Shields shows up to surprise us. Having Kelvin there was fantastic because he knows the ropes of Ironman.
Kelvin once served an internship with Ironman organization during the late – 90s and he knows how these things operate. Having him there was exactly like having a best man at a wedding. He took care of all the details so that I could focus on getting ready and getting focused. I cannot overstate how important it is to have someone like that to assist on race morning. I never would have understood the importance of this without Kelvin there, but let me assure you, if you ever want to attempt this endeavor, do yourself a huge favor and have someone assist you in these early morning hours.
Kelvin arrived at the venue even before I did. He used that time to scout-out the drop off points and more importantly, to learn the lay of the land for number markings and other early morning, pre-race essentials.
It was VERY cold in the morning and people were shivering. It was incomprehensible that in just about an hour or so, I would be in that freezing water fighting it out with over 2,000 other very nervous athletes for 2.4 miles.
Kelvin helped me with the wetsuit to make sure that we used a lot of Body Glide lubricant in the back of the neck where it can rub your skin raw due to turning your head to breathe on every other stroke.
My plan was to be the LAST person to jump into the water. The reason for this is that as 2,200 other athletes all jumped it, it would force us toward the middle of the lake, and my plan was to be on the far inside lane. In order to do that, I thought I should enter last. Then I would swim the 200 yards or so up to the starting line.
Despite my detailed plan, I did not count on the fact that so many people would actually force me to the very end of the pack. What that means is that once the cannon went off, I still had to swim nearly 200 yards just to get to the starting line! Whoops! That was not a good idea after all.
The swim was a mess. It was extremely hard to make any kind of forward progress with so many people clawing and scratching and bumping. For the first 5 – 12 minutes, many of us were barely just treading water waiting for the pack to open up and give us enough room to actually stretch our entire body out lengthwise so that we could actually swim.
I can keep a really good, straight line due to the fact that I have spent a year now in my Endless pool practicing swimming with my eyes closed to see if I can hold a line. Regrettably, most people cannot swim a line, so what happens is that I will be going straight, and then out of no where I would get T-Boned by someone swimming wildly off course. At one point, I got so tired of this that I started swimming with my head out of the water looking for open lanes to swim into.
That’s when disaster struck. At about the 1.75 mile point, I got T-boned, lifted my head to find an opening and immediately started a very quick and aggressive stroke at a very fast pace. That’s when my right leg cramped up severely from the combination of very cold water and the rapid acceleration.
The cramp was extremely painful and could not be controlled. I had no option but to stop and immediately grab that calf muscle. It was seizing up rapidly and then caused another cramp in my arch. I could not move; I was totally immobilized and people were swimming all over me. I tried to swim with the left leg only and then that leg cramped at the same time. I started to sink but the buoyancy of my full wetsuit prevented me from going completely under.
Here is the picture: I needed both hands to grab the cramping muscles that were seizing and causing unbearable pain, but as I grabbed the muscles, I would sink because I could not use my legs at all since they were all cramped-up. If I took my hands off the muscles to try and paddle and keep myself afloat, the muscles would immediately seize-up again!
Any movement of the legs would re-trigger the cramping.
I finally got to the point where I just sort of dragged my legs behind me, motionless. And finally in about 3 - 4 minutes, I was able to get the pain to subside. As a side note, the pain was so bad and the cramping so intense, that three days post race, I am still walking with a limp due 100% to a cramp in the left calf muscle. It is actually a pulled muscle that has microscopic rips and tears just from that aggressive and uncontrollable cramping!
The next problem with the swim was that the water was so incredibly cold that the two swim caps that I was wearing were not enough. I had “brain freeze” for about 20 minutes and the pain was like a migraine headache. I thought my race was over at this point. I literally thought I should just swim to the side and get out. I lifted my head to see how much further and was totally demoralized when I saw how far away that bridge was! But I just kept thinking about an emergency Imitrex pill I had stashed away in one of my special needs bags...or was it my bike jersey? If I could just make it to either one of those, I might be OK.
When I got to the end of the swim I had to climb up about 15 steps of a ladder/walkway out of the concrete channel. My legs immediately seized up from the cramping, but after about 20 seconds of light stretching, I was OK to walk.
The great news is that once I got into the changing tent, the heat from all those bodies actually made my headache go away literally within one minute. I was going to be OK!
My transition time in the changing tent was much longer than my worst case scenario, and at the time, I could not have cared less. I was just out of the water and I was thankful just to be alive. As a side note, the night after the race I slept very poorly with bad dreams that I was drowning in the swim. It was really that close with all that cramping.
So 15 minutes in Transition and I was out on the bike.
The bike was pretty easy for me because we had a plan to avoid anything that might trigger a hip reaction. The hip problem was something that had been a long-recurring issue for the past 15 months and our biggest concern in planning for the race. We did not want to do anything that might trigger a problem, so we dialed-back my average watts to be far lower than anything I had ever done in training. Basically, I could do that ride as an easy afternoon joy ride, and that is exactly how I treated it.
I didn't care if people passed me and I didn't ever try to catch anyone. I just stuck to my plan. I was a little off my wattage numbers and perhaps could have gone faster, but I just did not want to risk it. My average HR for the bike was only about 122, which is very low.
Then at about 70 miles into the bike, I had another tough issue happen. I started to feel some tension and some aching on the left knee at the Iliotibial Band (The IT Band). The IT band is a ribbon-like band that extends from the outside of the thigh over the hip and knee, and is connected again just below the knee. The band helps to stabilize the outside of the knee during exercise and it moves from behind the femur to the front as you bend your knee in walking, climbing stairs, cycling, etc. The continual rubbing of the band over the outside of the knee area can cause the area to become inflamed and causes shooting pain.
This is an injury of which I am quite familiar. At the first sign of this trouble, I literally said to myself, “John this is going to be really ugly.”
You see, the only way to relieve IT pain is to immediately stop what you are doing. There is no other way. And the more you do once the pain starts, the worse it gets because every cycle rotation of the pedals and every step or stride in running only makes it WORSE. At that point I knew for certain that the pain and inflammation would only get worse throughout the day.
If I had completed an Ironman prior to this event, then this would have been the signal to immediately stop and drop out of the race; most do when this happens. But I did not to consider that option today; I may not finish before the deadline, but I wasn't ever going to quit.
So I did the only thing I could do with a goal of finishing; I dialed-back my power/watts to the minimal level that would still help me maintain about a 15 mph average which would give me about a 7-hour bike split and still leave me with at least 8 hours to walk the marathon.
I struggled through the bike and finished in just over 7 hours. The run was next and is usually a strong event for me. I enjoy running. It’s simple, pure and often just relaxing.
But not today.
I changed into my running clothes, put on my Garmin 305 GPS watch and attached my Nathan hydration belt that was pre-loaded with 4 hours worth of CarboPro 1200. I was off.
The race plan was to do 9:30 miles for the first six miles and no faster, no matter what. Regrettably, I was having a really tough time just with the 9:30 miles. And with every single stride the IT band was rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. It was getting worse by the minute.
Finally the pain became unbearable and the band had swollen to the point where it was causing my knee to lock-up and click. The swollen band was interfering with the free movement of the knee joint. I had to improvise. I needed ice to try and reduce the swelling, but there was no way to hold it onto the knee!
Just the day before, I purchased some compression socks at the vendor expo. These go over the calf muscles and are very tight. The theory behind compression socks is that they cause constriction which forces blood into the area to provide more oxygen to aid the muscle and to carry away waste products such as lactic acid. But since I wanted to wear my own socks for the run, I purchased a modified compression garment that just covers from the ankle to the bottom of the knee. These compression garments have been proven for decades in hospitals for post-op recovery and now are leading edge technology for endurance sports. I purchased the garments from 2XU.
I suddenly got the idea to pull the compression garment up over my knee! That would give me some support of that area! Not the intended use for the product, but improvisation was what I needed at this point. And it did work a little, but I was getting the feeling that it was just pressing the IT band even harder onto the outside of the knee, perhaps even making the situation worse!
Then I decided to take off the other compression sock and put them both onto the same knee, one right on top of the other. Then when I arrived at the aid stations every mile or so, I had them load ice right in-between the two compression garments!! They were so tight that they easily held the ice in place, and since the ice was sandwiched in the garments, I could just leave it there without concern for frostbite or other damage from direct contact with the skin.
The ice inside of the compression garment worked incredibly well and saved my race!!
There was no possible way that I could continue with my strong run as we had so carefully planned, but at least I could significantly reduce the IT band pain and hopefully get close to finishing before the deadline.
Other than the IT band issue, I really had no other problems on the run. Certainly under other conditions I would have run significantly faster, but I was happy just to be moving.
It got dark quickly and soon it was pitch black. Even though I was shuffling along, I was still passing hundreds of people during the run portion of this event; most of them were walking at that point.
When I was passing the walkers I felt sorry for some who were really very ill and suffering from severe GI problems. Some of these people were world class athletes, and most were in way better physical condition than me, but they were just having a horrible day. One poor chap in particular was thin as a rail and an obvious champion. He’d speed by me, then pull over to the side and throw up, then speed by me again, only to pop out of a Porta Toilet and this went on for 15 miles! He was in such agony, but he finished, and I was proud that he finished in front of me because he earned every bit of that. He was a real champion, a winner, a hero.
But there were others who I passed that were just walking and enjoying themselves, just chatting away. They knew that they’d finish sometime that day if they just kept walking. I did not have as much respect for that group as the guys who were really suffering but somehow finding the drive, the pure grit, to continue.
I said to myself, “You will never learn what you are truly made of by walking.” And that’s true. I could have limped in by walking, but I would not have learned as much about my drive and my ability to endure pain and my resourcefulness to improvise.
The last 10 – 13 miles I had tears streaming down my face from the pain of the IT band, but I was not going to walk it in the whole way. I certainly did walk though. I walked through the aid stations for water, pretzels and ice. LOTS of ice for my knee. The ice was enough to get the swelling down so that the knee would not lock up and that’s what I needed to finish.
From about mile 10 – mile 22, things were really a blur. I cannot believe that I was out on the run course for a full 5 hours. I really cannot even begin to comprehend how I did that. There’s no ego here, no heroics. I really don’t know what happened or how I did it. I did not black out or anything like that. I do remember the aid stations and certain aspects of the course, but I have no idea how I was able to go the distance. I feel like someone picked my up at mile 10 and then just dropped me off at mile 22!
Once I saw the mile 22 marker, I knew I would finish. My home course is a five mile loop around Cal State Long Beach. I can do that loop in my sleep, after a large dinner, after a couple of beers, basically anything. So when I saw that I only had five miles to go, I was very happy and I think that raw emotion got me through the balance of that race.
Then when I came down the finish chute, my son Connor jumped out and ran beside me. I kept telling him, “Connor, you cannot run beside me and pace me, I will get DQ’d!!” I literally pushed him away and told him to get out of the chute, I will get into trouble and they won’t let me qualify! But then I remembered that an athlete can have one family member under the age of 18 run along side of them at the finish.
What I didn’t know was that my great friend, Kelvin Shields, had made arrangements for Connor to run alongside me and that Connor had the approval and the markings to allow him to do so.
But despite my urgings to get out of the chute, Connor stayed right there with me the entire 200 yards or so and I am SO HAPPY that he did! I would have ALWAYS regretted it, if he had pulled out!
I suppose that I did not have my full wits about me when I kept telling him not to pace me. With only 200 yards to go, I don’t think anyone would have said that this was an unfair advantage, but at that time, nearly 14 hours into my race, apparently my thinking may not have been crystal clear.
As I finished I heard the announcer say what I had been planning and silently saying to myself on the toughest workout days over the last 15 months, “John Callos....YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”
WOW, that was fantastic!!
I collapsed into the arms of two volunteers who draped a Space Blanket over my shoulders, gave me a finisher’s medal and a T-shirt that I will proudly display at some point.
My wife, coach, son and Kelvin were quick to arrive. I was a bit light headed and sort of just collapsed to the ground with weakness. The weakness was the emotion leaving my body, not a musculature soreness or tiredness. It was the amazing release and realization that I had accomplished the toughest goal that I had ever set out to achieve. It was the realization that I had actually completed this race.
It is still hard to believe.
Several years ago I saw the Ironman in Kona and literally thought that those people were super-humans. That there was no possible way whatsoever that I could ever conceive of doing anything like that. Ever. No way.
But I was so inspired by the event that I entered a community triathlon that nearly killed me! I was literally the LAST person out of the water on the swim and I couldn’t walk for three days following the 3- mile run! I look back at that now and marvel at the transformation.
There was a heavy price to pay. A heavy toll. And while I have not yet been asked whether it was worth it or not, I think that it was.
Not for the actual bragging rights, which of course are substantial, but more so for what I have learned about myself and what I have become in this process.
It has been said that the fourth event of Ironman Triathlon is Nutrition and Hydration. If you don’t get those right, your first three events (Swim, run, bike) may not matter at all.
The Ironman triathlon for a mid-packer, is going to take anywhere from 12 - 17 hours. During that amount of time, one burns far more calories than they can replace with food or liquids. One also sweats and loses not only vital fluids, but also vital nutrients and electrolytes. Without a systematic way to replace fluids and calories, in the right quantities, the right timing, and the right types, one is setting themselves up for a potential disaster, including life-threatening reactions.
I have been practicing and honing my nutrition and hydration techniques for the good part of a year. While I moan and gripe about the amount of time it takes to prepare everything for my long rides and runs, it’s vital that I pay close attention to these matters.
I have been very fortunate and have generally avoided any kind of GI distress in workouts and races. This is due not to great genetics or a solid gut, but rather, to using precise measurements and quantities of the world’s best proven endurance-formula products.
My unabashed preference is the line of products from SportQuest in San Diego, Ca. You can find them at www.SportQuestDirect.com or www.CarboPro.com
I’m not going to get into all the science, but please understand that you can’t just go out on the road for 12 – 17 hours and plan on drinking water and eating a few snacks; that is literally a recipe for disaster.
Working with a scientist at SportQuest, they developed a formal training and racing protocol for me that was based on my age, weight, rough BMI and other factors that influenced their recommendations for hourly calorie intake/absorption as well as electrolyte replacements. I followed their protocol to the tee, and had zero problems of any kind. It was absolutely perfect.
About 4 -5 days prior to the race, I began a carbo-loading protocol that included their Carbo Pro powder product. In the morning and evening I took 2 scoops of Carbo Pro in a glass of water. It is tasteless and not sweet at all; just perfect. This quantity is the theoretical carbohydrate equivalent of two pounds of potatoes, per day.
The morning of the race, I got up at 2:00am and had two PowerBars and washed them down with a Carbo Pro drink. Then I got up at 4:00am and had another 2 scoops of CarboPro along with the capsules I will detail below.
During every hour of the bike and the run, I took a product called CarboPro 1200 which contains 1,200 calories of carbohydrate in a 16-ounce bottle. I took 300 calories each hour by marking the correct amount of product on the outside of my bike water bottle for each hour. That way, I could just sip the product until I reached the hour-marker on the side of the bottle. Of course, I still drank LOTS of water, about 30 ounces per hour because we were racing in the desert heat. The water was supplied at aid stations about every 10 miles. So I started with one water bottle on my bike of 22 ounces and one water bottle filled with CarboPro 1200, which was enough for about 6 hours. I supplemented my nutritional needs with several bananas and a half a bag of salted nuts. That was it for the seven hour bike segment.
But for every hour on the bike, I also had a supplement strategy as follows:
I had prepared 3 small plastic bottles (from Fuel Belt) of nutritional supplements I would need. (By the way, I applied a small piece of medical tape along the inside edge of each bottle to ensure a much tighter fit than normal, otherwise the bottle caps would pop off and all the supplements would fall out. Since they all look the same, there would be no way to tell them apart, and that would have been a real problem!).
OK, so every hour, on the hour, I took the following:
- 2 Caps of V02 Max
- 3 Caps of Recover Amino Power (Glutamine, and Amino Acids)
- 3 Caps of Thermolyte (Essential salts and Electrolytes)
- Every third hour, or whenever I felt the need, I would also take 1 or 2 Motivator Caps which are similar to a caffeine tablet, but actually more like a couple of Red Bulls in caplet form.
That’s at least 8 caps every hour on a seven hour ride (Over 60 caps on the bike when you include the Motivator caps) and another 45 caps on the run. That’s over 100 Capsules for the day!
The CarboPro 1200 is a very unique product. It is very thick and syrup-like and basically a pure carbohydrate. But it is not too sweet. I would gulp about a mouthful every 15 minutes or so and quickly follow that with the water. When it came time to take the 8 – 10 capsules per hour, I would use the CarboPro to coat them in the syrup-like liquid to help get them down.
Now to take all those capsules and not get mixed up about what I did, or did not take, I developed a technique worth sharing. I had three separate bottles in my bike jersey. I labeled each bottle with the contents and how many caps I was to take each hour. I put all three bottles in the back of my jersey pocket, then would take out one bottle at a time, take the prescribed number of caps, then transfer that bottle to the opposite pocket (I have three pockets in the jersey). So one by one, I would transfer the bottles from the left to right, and vice versa.
This may sound a bit over done, or over thought-out, but trust me, when you are hot and tired, you may not be thinking as clearly and so to avoid any potential confusion, I followed this hour on the hour, and pocket transfer process and it worked perfectly.
I also took Pepcid AC and two Mucinex tablets during the race. The Mucinex are critical because they help me to avoid coughing and they keep the windpipe and throat clear of mucous, which can really be a big problem for me, especially with the thick syrupy products.
I avoided Gatorade completely because it makes me cough. It is just too sweet for me and whenever I get the urge to take a bit of Gatorade, I always regret it. The only liquids I accepted on the bike were pure, ice cold water and the CarboPro 1200. That’s it.
On the run, I kept the same strategy. While offered all kinds of things to eat and drink, I rejected them all, knowing that I had the right strategy. However, toward the end of the run and when it got colder and pitch dark at night, I did accept some warm chicken broth by the cupful. The only other thing that I added that was not part of the program, was that I did accept some stick pretzels by the Dixie cupful.
I rejected all fruits (oranges, grapes, etc.), all GUs, all PowerBars, all Cookies, literally everything. I stuck to my pre-race nutrition strategy (except for the sole diversion of chicken broth and some pretzels). In hindsight, this tells me that I needed to be taking even MORE of the Thermolyte capsules because I was not replacing the salt fast enough and that’s why my body was craving those salty items!
In the end, I am absolutely delighted with my nutrition and hydration results. I would give myself an A+ for this plan, although the real credit goes to the scientists at SportQuest / Carbo Pro. In my book, they are simply the world’s best at what they do. Period.
Is one a loser for entering a race just to finish? Should one go full-tilt and “do their best” or should they play it safe “just to finish”?
This question plagues me constantly.
Those who are not intimately familiar with Ironman have no idea about what a “good time” would be, and frankly, don’t care about the final time. All they want to know is “Did you finish?”
I have rarely been asked about my finish time for any of my events.
My coach has great confidence in me. Based on all of his science, technology, spreadsheets and experience, he is very confident I can achieve a time that to me, seems wholly unobtainable. But as Napoleon Hill is credited with saying, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
I do believe that is true, but with this caveat to be added……with proper training, hydration, nutrition, rest, coaching, race discipline to stay within proper HR zones, and baring any unforeseen mechanical issues with the bike, heat-related health issues, hyponatremia issues, dehydration issues, repetitive-motion injuries, and frankly, just freak accidents that can happen at literally ANY point in the race.
Yep. These accidents and unanticipated problems can hit you in literally every part of the race. In the swim, the water can be so cold that your muscles cramp up, in some cases causing extreme pain. One can also get kicked in the head, scratched in the opening turmoil, get their mask pulled off, step on coral or a sharp rock or glass and lacerate their foot before they take even a single stroke!
In the bike, mechanical issues can sideline you quite quickly. Flat tires are to be expected and planned for. But just this past year at the world championships in Kona, the reining champion Chris McCormack was sidelined for the entire race after he broke a shifting cable on his extremely aero triathlon bike. The cable was routed internally, that is, within the frame so as to minimize wind drag. When something like this breaks, one needs special tools, even under the best of conditions. Even the guys from the van with all the tools said that it would take them at least 20 – 30 minutes to fix. At that point, his race was over. But one can also break a chain or have any number of mechanical issues or crashes.
Finally, in the run, one can trip on an elevated gap in a sidewalk. Trust me, after a long day on the bike, one tends to lose a bit of concentration, and one small misjudgment, or turning a gaze to an excited spectator, and one could find themselves face-first in the concrete. Running also brings out all of the real GI problems from the day. These are the worst and you just feel so terrible for these people. At this point in the race, most of us mid-packers are not competing, we are just hanging on to finish. And you really feel terrible when you see someone just coming apart at the seams with vomiting, diarrhea and horrendous gas and stomach cramps. This is a horrible way to end your day, especially if it hits you early in the run and you still have 20+ miles to run/walk/crawl.
All these potential problems swirl through my mind in the week prior to the event.
As an Eagle Scout, I am always prepared…for anything. So my mind races with every conceivable potential problem I might experience and then with possible solutions. It’s tough to rest or sit still.
And all this planning (actually…worrying) has caused a horrible GI problem that has forced me to stick close to home. And this is a terrible cycle, because the more I am at home, the more time I have to sit and think and plan. This only creates more stress and worry, leading to more GI problems.
The worry and jitters are likely caused by an intense desire to finish. To have come this far, gone through so much, all the money, all the training, all the doctor’s visits, all the weekends away from family on 6 – 8 hour workouts, and then to come home with a DNF (Did not finish)? I could not bear that. To me, I would feel ashamed and very embarrassed.
I know logically, that a certain number of participants will always DNF and it will have absolutely nothing to do with their preparedness, fitness or planning. Their DNF will be due to situations totally beyond their control. So no matter how much I plan, there is a chance that I could be one of the DNFs.
My strategy is to finish at all costs. Under all circumstances and regardless of the pain or setbacks. There will be no turning back. There will be no sitting down to rest. I will continue under all hardships until I cross that line or am ejected from the race due to not meeting a time cutoff or due to medical problems.
What this strategy means is that I will be participating at the lowest possible risk. I will “under-perform” by design, keeping my watts, HR and pace below the levels that I normally achieve in training. Not because I am a quitter and don’t want to test myself, but because I will never quit under any circumstances. And by participating at a lever where we minimize the risk of a bonk, a blow-up or other stress related issue, I am substantially reducing the chances of a problem that could possible lead to a DNF.
So the plan is set and I must have the discipline to stick to it. That means, don’t worry when people pass me, and at all times, I must fight the normal temptation to speed up and catch that guy right in front of me.
But even with the plan firmly in place and my coach totally on board to support me and to yell out to me to “slow down and stick to our plan” if he finds that my splits are too fast, I am still nervous.
It’s not until I have created an extremely detailed packing list of everything I will need, and packed everything, checking it 3 – 4 times to double check everything, that I begin to relax.
Knowing that everything is packed, all the gear is labeled and put in separate pouches and categories based on each event, I am finally able to rest.
Nov 25, 2008
A great, candid shot of my world famous coach, David Warden and me only seconds after the finish. He got me through this and helped me accomplish one of the toughest goals I have ever attempted in my life.
Well I finally achieved my goal of completing a FULL IRONMAN!! I was joined at the finish line with my wife, my son, Connor, my great friend Kelvin Shields and of course, David Warden.
Throughout the day, I was supported at every turaround by my great friend Kelvin Shileds who surprised me by driving all the way out to Tempe to be there. I was also grateful to have my world famous coach, David Warden to keep me focused on our carefully structured plan designed to finish "standing up and with a smile on my face."
Soon, I will post a photo log and hopefully find a way to upload a video of the finish where Connor jumped through the line to run the last 200 yards or so with me.
I will detail the race and the week leading up to the race, along with a lot of photos, in just a few days.
The highlight of the day was hearing the announcer say,
"John Callos.......YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
I really couldn't believe it.
All these months as documented on IronAmbition, and it all came to an end in just 13 hours and 58 minutes. Sounds like a long day, but it really only felt like a 3-hour workout.
One little tidbit though: At mile #2 of the run, I was thinking, "What? over 24 more miles to go? No way!" But before I really knew it, I had somehow progressed to mile 22 and only had less than 5 miles to go. At that point, I knew that I would be an Ironman that night.
Nov 20, 2008
Well I am leaving for Tempe in about ten minutes, the culmination of about 15 months of training and focus.
There is too much to say right now. But in future posts I will go into great detail about:
Pre-Race Jitters and Anxiety
Packing and Contingency Planning
Nutrition and Hydration Strategy
The Connundrum and risk-reward of "Racing vs. Finishing"
In summary, I am still extremely anxious and cannot explain exactly why.
I am however, confident and prepared, knowing full-well that I have put the time and miles in, and I know I will pass this test and complete the race.
A lot more to say about all of this, but that will have to wait for about a week.
Thanks for all of the support along the way.
The rest is up to me.
Remarkably, exactly to the day, I have met my goal of dropping below 160. That's quite a difference from my high point of morbid obesity at 212 pounds (well, that's when I stopped weighing myself). So clearly, I have lost at least 50 pounds from my high point.
It's been quite a journey, but well worth it in the long run.
Oct 28, 2008
This is a fun picture of the the new frame and fork. I was able to salvage the wheels, PowerTap computer hub with the wireless wattage meter and other bits and pieces.
As I mentioned in my prior post about having no ill-will or hard feelings about the person who hit me, she and her family have turned out to be very fine, caring people with the utmost in character and integrity.
The girl’s father called me the next day and was clearly concerned about my physical condition. He took the time to care, and I appreciated his kind gesture.
It was important to me that he knew that I thought that I was OK and that he should not have any concern about any sort of trumped-up fake injuries, attorneys, neck problems or anything of the sort. Accidents happen, this was clearly an accident and I was not about to play any games or further traumatize this girl or her family.
Sure I am sore and bruised up; so be it. I am delighted and excited to be alive and doing fine. This is great news!! There is no need to get litigious or settle a score. I will not be part of the problem; I want to be part of the solution by demonstrating that we can forgive and forget, that we can be neighborly and all get along, even when there is an accident.
The family very quickly understood that my dreams of Ironman glory were at risk and that I had to get my bike repaired immediately because the race is only three weeks away!
I am so happy to report that they graciously paid to have the bike repaired and that I should be back on the road again by the weekend. The damages were substantial, but much of the bike could still be salvaged. I am happy (and relieved) to report that the Zipp 606 wheel set and the Wireless PowerTap 2.4 Power Meter will be OK (that could have been another $3,500 on top of everything else!).
It was very important to me that the driver not be punished or severely reprimanded or scolded. I really did feel very badly for her. She is a very nice, sweet young lady and I really would hate for this to damage her record or cause her any trouble.
I am just so grateful and happy that there were no severe injuries, that I will be back on my training schedule within a couple of days and that if I had to get hit, at least I was lucky enough to deal with a family that understood the importance of my dream and that I needed them to resolve this issue quickly so that I could get back on the road as quickly as possible.
So to the young lady I say:
“Please do not feel badly at all. I forgive you completely and am not mad, upset or angry with you in any way.”
To her father and family I say:
“Thank you for getting me back on the road quickly and for understanding the importance for me to complete this Ironman journey with the least amount of interruption.”
To all cyclists out there I say:
“Even when you are totally alert, accidents can and will happen. ALWAYS wear a helmet and ALWAYS carry ROAD ID (www.RoadID.com)”
I was traveling about 16 mph and was broadsided or "T-Boned" by a very young lady making a left hand turn into a side street. She tried to merge between oncoming traffic and was so focused on the traffic that she did not see me coming in the bike lane.
It was a complete accident and I am not upset with her nor harbor any ill-feelings toward her. Accidents happen and I am just thankful and elated to be alive. Period.
I was just minding my own business and clearly in the bike lane. But there was nothing I could do; there was not even time to try and brake. The moment I saw the car was the exact same moment I saw my bike get pulled under her bumper. There was zero time to react.
I hit the hood of the PT Cruiser, rolled off and according to witnesses, rolled side over side 15 - 20 times, shoulder to shoulder, somehow settling face-down on my stomach on the sidewalk. Remarkably, my Oakley Radar sunglasses were still attached! The one thing I remember was this uncontrollable rolling and rolling.
I just lay on my stomach for a long time trying to process what had happened. I did not want to move anything and instead, did sort of a mental checklist on every part of my body before I decided to try and move. I did not feel any pain at that moment and that really worried me.
Had I severed my spinal column? Was I paralyzed? I was too scared at the moment to try and move. I didn’t want to know.
So many people were gathered around and asking me so many questions at the same time that it was hard to process anything.
People kept scouring the street bringing me pieces of my bike and piling them up next to me; I do remember that part. I also remember people asking me, "Who is David? Who is David?"
Apparently, I kept saying that David will see the workout data and I have to finish the workout, this is the most important workout of the year and my last major brick workout prior to the full Ironman. David, of course, is none other than the world-famous David Warden, my triathlon coach who took me on as a charity case about a year ago. (Check him out at www.tri-talk.com, listen to his Podcasts on iTunes and look for his upcoming book. He is quite literally, the world's leading expert.)
I was at about mile 90 of my ride when I was struck at about 3:35 pm. The day called for 112 miles or 6.5 hours on the bike, whichever came first, then an additional run for 1.5 hours.
The scene was surreal. About 50 spectators, an ambulance, police cars, a fire truck, paramedics and the Harbor Patrol. That’s a lot of tax payer dollars at work!
The great news, in fact, the miraculous news, is that I barely have a scratch. There are hardly any external signs on my body that I was hit by a car at that speed.
It was a cold, foggy morning in Carpinteria and as I set out from our beach house, I decided to wear three, yes THREE, long sleeve shirts, a full set of fingered gloves and also my bike gloves. All these extra layers were 100% responsible for saving my arms, hands, back and elbows from certain road rash. The outer bike jersey was really ripped up, but it took the brunt of the asphalt abrasions. The other layers prevented any abrasion at all to my skin. It really was miraculous. And lucky. Sort of like wearing two pairs of socks for long runs in order to avoid blisters; those extra layers really make all the difference.
Fortunately, my feet sprang out of the toe clips pretty fast, as the car smashed the bike right out from under me and I was immediately released; the toe clips did their job and I have no twisted ankles or broken bones in the lower legs, ankles or feet. In fact, I barely have a scratch on the lower legs despite being thrown, hitting the hood and rolling about 20 - 30 feet. Just amazing!
To be clear, as I was told the story by the eyewitnesses, I more “rolled” than was actually thrown. Rolled off the hood, rolled down the street, etc.
My bike helmet stayed on and my head was not hurt, but my neck is really sore and very stiff today and my shoulders ache from taking the brunt of all the rolling. It has now been about two days since the accident.
The first-responders were the witnesses and they were fantastic, they included a male nurse and a middle-aged man who saw the whole thing happen right in front of him as he and his friends were in the car waiting to make a right hand turn. He was shocked that I was alive and breathing and he took great care of me. I wish I had his name to thank him personally. He kept me calm and was upbeat.
I’m not too proud to readily admit that I was a bit scared. I really did not want to know how bad the injuries were. I just wanted to lay there for a few minutes and process this all mentally before I took any physical action to check for injuries.
The bike was really trashed. Bits and pieces of carbon and my PowerTap power meter, broke off. The brake/shifter combo is thrashed and my Zipp 606 high profile carbon rims may be cracked. My Look Carbon-Titanium pedals were ground down from the bike sliding and bouncing on the asphalt and my rear derailleur was severely bent. Most disappointing, however, was the Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL2 Carbon frame, which took a direct hit, broadside and got smashed by the car.
I did not want to accept any medical attention for fear of the costs. I know it sounds stupid at this point, and I do have medical insurance, but about 18 months ago my wife needed to use emergency treatment when she contracted West Nile from an infected mosquito and hardly anything was covered. Despite all of our insurance coverage, I was paying for all kinds of additional "non-covered" tests, procedures, drugs, etc. for months and months! It even got to the point that they threatened to ding my credit over a dispute over the ambulance charges which were obviously and so clearly over-inflated. All these additional bills kept showing up out of nowhere. Doctors I never heard of, never met, never knew were involved were sending us bills. It seems that all the extra tests that the hospital ordered were not covered and I had to pay for all of those as well. The ambulance ride, everything. So I was not going to go through that again!! I tried to stand up (it took two attempts, as I was still a bit wobbly) and I was able to answer the basic questions that the paramedics ask to see if one might have a concussion. They let me go ahead and refuse the ambulance and I thanked them for that!
That does say something about our insurance system, doesn't it?! Guy takes a direct hit by a car but does not want to be checked out, even though he has insurance, all due to a bad experience with constant bills from a recent event where hardly anything is covered at all. But that's another issue and my good friends at The Regence Group, a BlueCross and BlueShield health care company with excellent leadership, is working hard to change. Regence is committed to change our national health care system to give us all more choice and power in directing our health care. They are the real deal and I have every confidence in their ability to change the way we all access health care. Look them up online at www.Regence.com.
Back to the story...
A fellow triathlete who had witnessed the accident begun re-assembling what was left of my bike and putting things back in order so we could see what was going on. He was very concerned that I should not ride the bike, as he was certain that the carbon frame was cracked from the direct hit of the car and going under the bumper. But nonetheless, he did a great job reassembling things and I am very grateful. I was very worried about the bike. (All told, I think there is $10 - $12K tied up in that machine!) The wheel set was crunched and bent, but by releasing the brake calipers, he was able to get the rims to spin just enough to miss the brake pads and to get the bike back on the road.
While I was struggling to figure out what exactly had happened and was still face down on the ground, someone saw the chain on the back of my neck and reached into my shirt to grab my “Road ID” dog tags and called my business partner, who then called my wife. She tried to call, but I never knew it because my cell phone was crunched and fell apart in the accident! But some guys put it back together for me while they were gathering up all my stuff from the street, and the first call was from my wife.
I will never forget her first words.....
"I'm coming to pick you up. It's OVER!!!"
I didn’t know exactly what “It’s OVER!” meant. Today’s ride? My training? This whole Ironman dream? Biking on the streets? Whatever it meant, I could tell that she was pretty damn serious and more than just a little upset.
I said, "I am fine, and even though my bike is ruined, I have to try and finish the workout! Don't come! I will see you in about 45 minutes, but I have to try and finish the workout. This is the most important workout of the year."
I had a funny feeling that my wife was coming up and that she'd track me down, so I had to plan a quick exit.
I thanked everyone profusely because I was so genuinely happy to be alive; crazy as it seems, I was smiling broadly, just so genuinely happy that I was not seriously injured, or worse.
I tried to act manly and tough for some reason, sort of like I had an obligation to live up to the Ironman name and reputation of pushing through the pain; ignoring pain. I had a standard to keep and was representing all Ironmen worldwide. I can’t explain it, but I would think that other Ironmen might understand.
I grabbed three Tylenol from a stranger, downed them quickly with my energy drink and took off VERY slowly in the opposite direction of home; the wheels were wobbly and the gears could not shift due to the broken derailleur and the jammed/bent brake/shifter lever, but I was going to try and finish my workout. This could happen in the Ironman event, I could get banged up in a bike accident during the event and I would still have to find a way to finish, so this would just be another test!
Time must have been going in very slow motion (plus I couldn’t shift gears!), but before I knew it, my wife and son had driven all the way up to Santa Barbara from Carpinteria and found me limping down the road.
She drove her new Range Rover right next to me and told me to put the bike in the back of car; I wouldn't do it, but I did stop to talk to her and thank her for caring. I told her the story of what had happened and that I was not injured, but she thought I might have internal injuries or a head injury.
She couldn’t understand why I was so excited and happy, but just to be alive and be OK from that accident made me very grateful and energetic! I smiled broadly for a photo that she could send to my business partner to tell him that I was OK.
She followed behind me, which of course ANY man will tell you is all at once: embarrassing (ever had your Mother follow you home on your bike as a kid!!), exciting (to try and beat her home with only one gear and half a brake), and endearing (to know that someone actually cares).
As soon as I arrived home, I started making my plans for the 1.5 hour run. I changed my clothes and got into the running gear, fueled up, grabbed my water bottles and was off.
The run was quite difficult as I now had a new fear of cars that I have never had before. Soon it got dark and I was very worried about cars. I am sure that the fear will pass at some point.
I was tired from the 106 mile bike ride and ended up walking and jogging. I was also very hungry. I stopped by a liquor store and bought a bag of chips, some peanut crackers, a bag of salted peanuts, a 5-hour energy shot and a PowerAde. I ate all this while I was running down the road, pulling items one by one from the plastic grocery bag.
I completed the run in total darkness by following the white line on the side of the road.
It was a long day. A lucky day to be sure. I am very grateful that I was not seriously injured and I am happy that I completed the entire workout despite the hurdles and challenges of the day.
If I can finish this workout despite the events of the day, I know that I can complete the full Tempe Ironman Triathlon on November 23, 2008!
Oct 23, 2008
We've changed the training load in terms of intensity and speed, and now I am completely off of the Cervelo P3C Time Trial bike altogether. All my rides will remain on the Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL with my Zipp 606 wheelset. A great ride to be sure, but certainly lacking in the aerodynamic advantages I would gain on the TT bike!
So the intensity of the hip pain has resided, but I am left with a daily, low grade ache that is more or less constant. Funny thing is that it does not seem to hurt too badly on the runs, but certainly flares up on the long bike rides.
We have now resorted to the Cortisone steroid shots that go deep into the hip socket; that is about the longest needle that can be used to make an injection into the human body according to my pain management doctor. I have not been brave enough to watch him make the injection or to even look at the needle...apparently it is shocking, but I don't want to know for sure!
I have not experienced tremendous relief so far from the Cortisone shot. That's pretty disappointing. But I am on a daily regimen of Celebrex and and long lasting pain killer called Ultram. The two, in combination are providing some relief, although I do believe I was responding a bit more favorably to the Mobic.
The only way to stop this pain altogether is to stop working out, which is not a viable option at this point. I have trained for nearly a year and I do not intend to stop just one-month prior to the start of the full Tempe Ironman!
This weekend I have what my coach calls, "The most important workout of the year." I will ride my bike from our beach house in Carpinteria, down the California coast to our full time residence in Long Beach, about 115 miles by bike. Then the moment I arrive, I am to immediately change into my running gear and go out for about 1.5 - 2 hours at the run pace I intend to use during the full Ironman.
This will take me almost all the daylight hours to complete this one workout. But after this workout, I will have nearly peaked and will then start on my formal taper which should bring me to the full Ironman in top form.
Oct 20, 2008
He’d run about 20 seconds, then walk for a minute or longer.
I slowed down so I could observe him. I noticed he was an exceptionally-large man and he was really having a tough time. I on the other hand, was feeling great and effortlessly keeping about an 8:30 pace.
I turned off my iPod and ran up beside him to encourage him. “Good morning! How ya doing?”
He could barely respond because he was so out of breath. I slowed to a jog and said, “I’ve been there man. I give you all the credit in the world. I know it seems tough right now, but soon, you’ll be running the entire time and you’ll drop a lot of weight. I’ve already lost close to 50 pounds.”
I explained that the Galloway running method suggests that for Newbies, a run-walk protocol is just fine and if done properly, can provide nearly the same aerobic benefit as running the entire time, but with a much reduced chance of injury. (see: www.JeffGalloway.com)
His reaction was fantastic. He was just so appreciative that someone would stop to encourage him. He had been pretty embarrassed to get out there and often had been the victim of rude and hurtful comments by passersby. But he kept at it.
He was extremely grateful that an “athlete” would stop to encourage him. While I still do not consider myself an athlete, I started to think about this a bit more on the balance of my 14 mile run that morning.
To this brave guy, I looked slim. To him, I was running at break-neck speed. To him, completing a couple of half Ironman events and a 50K Ultra marathon would be inconceivable and unobtainable dreams.
They were for me, and at my heaviest, I was still maybe 75 pounds lighter than he was that morning.
If he sticks with it, he can achieve these milestones as well. Plus, his self-confidence and feelings of self-worth will skyrocket!
I’ve since made it a point to encourage anyone who is struggling or obviously new to sport and fitness. The heavier, the bigger, the older…the better.
I really have to hand it to some of these people. They are absolutely huge, yet they are out there doing something. They are trying. They are working hard. Sometimes I see guys well over 300 pounds on beach cruiser bikes struggling on the riverbed trail. An hour or two later, on my return trip, I will see them again, still at it. Still pushing hard.
These guys really deserve the encouragement and they get both that, and my ultimate respect. Frankly, I think I have a really soft place in my heart for these guys, because I WAS one of those guys. I can totally relate.
I cannot relate as well to the finely-tuned, 8% body fat athlete who has always been active and fit. I certainly respect their discipline and all the inevitable pain to maintain that level of fitness. But these finely-tuned athletes have absolutely no idea about being fat.
They don’t understand the humiliation, the ribs and barbs and hurtful comments, the embarrassment when your belly bounces around as you jog, the way your pectorals actually bounce around like female breasts, the huge “spare tire” that encircles your entire waist line.
Friends, these are humiliating issues that big people deal with everytime they step out of the house and try to do something about it. I don’t care if they are walking, riding a beach cruiser, or at the gym doing yoga, spin or weights. It is still embarrassing and humiliating.
For them to receive a positive comment and encouragement from someone who embodies everything they are hoping to achieve can mean the world to them. To get encouragement from a honed and finely-tuned athlete can keep them on a high for days.
I say that no workout is so important that I cannot slow down for just 30 seconds, ask them how they are doing, tell them how much I respect what they are doing and to offer encouragement because I’ve been there, I personally know how tough this part of the process can be and that I know that they will be successful if they are patient and disciplined.
If you are an athlete, take the time to encourage those who are working hard and struggling to get in shape and improve their fitness. I think this just makes the world a little bit better place for all of us.
Sep 24, 2008
Muscle soreness while training is common and by itself, is really not a big issue. Usually, sore muscles are caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers. The soreness typically goes away within three days.
But when muscles remain sore for weeks or even months, and the pain is centered in a particular spot, or a "knot" you very well may have a Trigger Point problem. Trigger points are typically found in muscles, tendons and ligaments. Technically, the doctors call this "myofascial pain syndrome."
These are very sore, long lasting aches and sometimes produce sharp electrical-type pains that are often caused by trauma, repetitive strain or pushing beyond any reasonable norm.
I have had a consistent problem in my upper back, in the Trapezoid area. My Trigger Point always flares-up when I do long bike rides, and 100% of the time when I am in the aero position on the Time Trial bike.
Essentially, it is an acutely knotted mass of muscle strands in a very specific spot. The muscle is in a constant and palpable contraction (shortening of the muscle) that will not release and thus results in a taut band and a hard fibrous nodule, lump, or knot. No amount or rubbing or massaging or pressure or anything else will relieve the pain.
Aggressive, deep tissue massage will tend to break up the knot a bit, but typically, there is also a lot of bruising that goes along with the deep tissue massage. Plus, the relief is at best, only temporary and never complete.
I have tried literally every recognized cure for this problem, including:
- sports massage
- deep tissue massage
- heat packs
- electrical stimulation
- prescription pain killers
- physical therapy
- electro-magnetic therapy
- weight training
- Lidocaine patches
- Cortisone injections
- Lidocaine injections
- and finally, rest.
Of all these, only one thing worked...rest.
However, since rest is not an option while training for an Ironman, I have been working with a pain management specialist. No oral pain killers or anti-inflammatories have helped whatsoever. So now we are to the point of "wet needling."
The goal is to deactivate the contracted muscle. One option is to paralyze the muscle with Botox, and this would normally be a viable option. However, since my Trigger Point is located in the upper back and shoulder region, I could lose the ability to fully control my shoulder due to the temporary paralysis of the muscle. Odds are low that this would happen, but due to the risk, they don't want to go that route. Instead, we are now trying a wet needling procedure.
Wet needling involves the injection of a mixture of Steroids, Lidocaine and Cortisone directly into the muscle knot. A significant amount of care is taken to precisely identify the muscle strand, and once so identified, a shot of the mixture is injected right into that fiber. Then they move up the fiber ever so slightly and inject the fiber in another spot, and another, and so on.
What they are looking for is for the muscle to start twitching or firing. Once they physically observe the muscle twitching then they know that it is beginning to release from its contracted state.
Today, I went in for this wet needling process. As the four or five injections were made, I could feel the muscle "release" and the doctor was pretty excited when he saw the muscle firing and twitching which was the visual cue he needed to confirm that this process was working.
Three hours later, the spot is still sore, not from the shots, but probably from the excessively-hard rubbing and pressure that I have been constantly applying to this spot over the past few days trying to relieve this knot.
Hopefully in a few days, we will know for sure if this has worked.
It has been said that over 90% of all those training for an Ironman incur at least one injury that requires over a week of recovery. But the whole idea of completing an Ironman is to test one's resolve.
There are very few opportunities in modern life where one can literally test the ultimate limit of one's physical and mental boundaries.
Look at any Ironman event and you'll see athletes who've pushed themselves to the point of collapse, exhaustion, dehydration and even passing out.
In the months leading up to the Ironman event, injuries first start as minor inconveniences. A subtle twitch, a funny feeling, a stiff muscle, an ache that wasn't there before. These are the first signs.
Rarely does one just run down the road and then all of the sudden...SNAP....something rips or tears or breaks. It's far more likely that we will experience an odd sensation, a soreness or a muscle fibre that just sort of seems out of place, is twitching strangely or is aching.
So what to do when this occurs?
The first thing we should do is to slow down. Check it out. Try to figure out what is going on. Massage it a little, walk a little, etc.
But there is a big difference between what we "should do" and what we often end up doing. It's the difference between being smart and being stubborn.
I know I should slow down and figure out what is going on when these things hit. But more often than not, I catch myself saying:
"You want to be an Ironman? Then start acting like an Ironman and pick up the pace. Tough it out. Be strong. Are you going to quit during your Ironman debut like you are quitting right now?"
Tough thoughts to be sure and this stubborness often gets me to ignore the first signs of trouble. To be smart, to ultimately go the full distance, we must pay attention to the very first signs of trouble.
Before we ever get a blister, we always get a "hot spot." This is a hot sensation where the skin is rubbing. We can take a couple of minutes and deal with it right away, or if we are bull-headed, we ignore it, and then pay the price for the next 7 - 10 days as the raw, oozing blister just festers and is re-aggravated with each successive workout!
This is bull-headed and stubborn. Like my brilliant coach, David Warden, tells me, "Keep your eye on the prize."
But the prize is not finishing the workout in record time or toughing it out through an obvious early warning signal, just to "prove" that I have what it takes. The prize is finishing the full Ironman race.
What good does it do to finish the workout at record pace if you must spend the next 3 - 5 days limping around and recovering?
I need to adjust my perspective.
Being an Ironman is not just about being tough and stubborn. An Ironman must also be smart.
Smart about pacing, about nutrition, about rest, about balance.
And smart about paying attention and taking appropriate action at the early warning signs that an injury may be looming.
Sep 20, 2008
My wife started this magnetic support system in my Ironman kitchen (yep, our full prep kitchen has been converted and is now set up entirely for powders, potions, GU, gels, nutritional supplements, shake makers, Gatorade G2, etc. The kitchen also has a dishwasher customized to handle all the plastic bike bottles and hydration systems so that none of the caps slip through the grates and get melted in the drying cycle! Of course, the most important part of the kitchen is the Nespresso machine which I absolutely swear by, love and am the world's biggest proponent...they are brilliantly designed and absolutely trouble free for the perfect Espresso with no hassle whatsoever. http://www.nespresso.com/)
The magnetic sign was important because every day I walk by the back prep kitchen on the way to and from the garage, I would see those words of encouragement. My wife had found and arranged those letters to get that sign started and I could feel her support every day.
The importance of a support network cannot be overstated.
The pursuit of the Ironman dream can take an incredible toll not just on the athlete, but also on his or her family, friends and work associates.
I often think of this pursuit as a very selfish endeavor. The time commitment away from one's family is enormous.
Five to Eight-hour workouts on the weekends are now the norm. Plus the time to prepare the bike, nutrition, the actual plan of where I am going, then to upload all the power data, HR data, etc. can take an additional 1 - 2 hours.
Naturally, once the data is input, the research and analytical side kicks-in and I want to study how I did, if I am improving, etc.
My wife has fluctuated from being: amazed, amused, accepting, supportive and understanding. Connor has been terrific and it feels great to have a 15-year old son who is so proud that his Dad is accomplishing these endurance events. There have been many, many times when I have just been way too tired for various workouts, only to have my wife rib me, pressure me or use some kind of reverse-psychology to get me out the door.
Sometimes she'll say, "Yeah, don't work out. You don't need to. You know you are ready." Which of course is effective sarcasm that gets me out the door pronto! Other times she'll say, "Go on. Come on, just get out there and get going." Somehow, she can read me well enough to know which buttons to push.
Connor saved me the night before my first 70.3 in Hawaii. I will never forget it.
I was up at 3:00am pacing the hotel room. I was most worried about the swim. Connor just sensed that I was worried and he got up and came to me and gave me a huge hug (he's now taller than me!) and he said, "Don't worry Dad. You've got this. You've got it!"
Having my son support me like that was priceless.
Another support mechanism is my coach, David Warden. David is one of the world's leading experts on the science behind Triathlon and the world's most effective training methods. He only works with seven people, so I am extremely lucky and grateful to have him on my team! There is this subtle self-created pressure that I do not want to let David down, and I do not want to report that I did not complete all my workouts as scheduled. Knowing that David reviews every workout and all my power and HR data, is enough to get out the door on some days.
My business partner Kevin has been incredibly supportive. I am either arriving late or leaving early, especially during daylight savings time. The extra work often falls onto him, and he never complains. He is also the voice of reason when I tell him how close I was to coming to blows with a crazy driver or a wheel sucker.
When pursuing the Ironman dream, many people must pull together to support you, especially if you are married, have a family or are working full time. The time to get everything done has to come at the expense of something. It's as simple as that. Where do you find an extra 15 - 20 hours a week? You surely cannot cut back on your sleep, as when you are working out this much, you must have the sleep for your body to repair and rebuild.
The time for these workouts comes at the expense of relationships, work, keeping up the house, other hobbies, television or other past times, etc. In my case, the time has come from work, from the elimination of essentially all TV, and in keeping up on things in general.
The pursuit requires one to be exceptionally-well organized and to have systems in place to ensure that things don't start slipping through the cracks, because believe me, they will if you are not careful! That's where your support network can really come in and help.
This pursuit can stress work, family and outside friendships. If your critical relationships are not solid and in good standing prior to starting your Ironman training, I would suggest that you really shore-up those relationships and have a candid discussion about the toll your training will likely take on others.
- You will be going to bed a lot earlier (I go to bed at 9:00pm; it used to be midnight).
- You will be cranky and possibly short-tempered, especially during your long weeks.
- If you have a short temper before you start this endeavor, it could be magnified by your training.
- You will be sore a lot of the time. You will likely complain about it. At first you will get sympathy, but that won't last long. Too much complaining can begin to grate on people.
- You will likely be going to see the doctor more frequently, and usually to some sort of specialist. I have been to see doctors more in the past 12-months than in the past 20 years combined. (Broken ankle, hip problems that required four visits to an orthopeadic surgeon for x-rays an MRI and evaluations totally over $7,000, knee problems that required thousands of dollars of additional x-rays and evaluations, hernia, IT band problems, knotted up trigger points called 'myofascial pain syndrome' in my upper trapezoid area from the crouched aero position on my TT bike, black toenails, toenails falling off, massively-huge and very deep blisters, a year-long plantar wart problem that required Podiatrist action, plantar fasciitis, hemorrhoids (from bike?), pre-cancerous growths from sun exposure, etc)
- You will be tired and may not be as fun to be around at times.
- You will be pre-occupied and not always "present" or able to give your full and complete attention to your spouse, children, work associates and friends.
- You will definitely be spending a lot of money on equipment, a coach, bikes, travel, race fees, nutritional supplements, bike repairs, race uniforms, books, power meters, HR monitors, body fat scale, GPS watch, an Endless Pool perhaps!, gym fees, association dues, equipment bags, wetsuit, aero helmet, road helmet, custom bike fitting (a must!), race day souvenirs and the list goes on and on. When you spend this much money, one can't really get on a spouse about their spending habits...even if they already have 137 pairs of shoes!
- The list goes on...
So I find that support is very important. Sure I could still finish the full IM without this support because I am just so determined to do so. But I know for an absolute fact that I will finish healthier, faster and happier, knowing that I have so many people who love me and who are pulling for me and have supported me throughout this incredible journey!