The Re-Bucket List

 

Back in 2008, I decided to cross off a some of my bucket list items.  First, I wanted to run a marathon.  Secondly, I wanted to do an Ironman.  And so I did.

My first marathon was along the Atlantic shore here in Jacksonville as part of the “26.2 with Donna – the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer”.  That particular race (which still runs every February) was a fantastic initial marathon.  Pancake flat.  A couple of miles on the beach.  Great crowd support.  Amazing women and men who had beat (or were in the process of beating) breast cancer.  My finishing time was not great (and really isn’t important)…but I was successful in crossing that item off my list.  Incidentally, back in 2010, I did a “Ten Questions With…” interview with Donna Deegan – the founder of the race.  Click HERE to read that interview.

JPS

On the run course at IMFL in 2009

Following that marathon experience, I signed up to race Ironman Kentucky, in Louisville.  I was severely underprepared for that race.  I tried to train without a real plan.  I didn’t think that the hills would be all that rough.  I didn’t devote as much time as I should have to training.  As a result, the race was a disaster!

I got into the swim expecting to have some downstream current.  There wasn’t any.  I sort of freaked out mid-swim and ended up having to do some backstroke and breaststroke.  I finished the swim in close to 1:40 and then headed out on the bike.  So….in case you were wondering….Louisville is NOT FLAT.  I was seemingly going up or down the entire time.  I tried to take my time and pace myself, but by the end of the bike, I was completely gassed.  I started out on the run and very quickly determined that that leg of the race would be a combination of running and walking.  By the time I got through 13 miles, it was more walking than anything.  I made it through 18 miles and got pulled off the course.

Upon returning to the transition area – completely devastated about my performance – I called home to speak with my wife.  Believe it or not, she had already signed me up for Ironman Florida – in just about six weeks’ time!  She really wanted me to cross off that bucket list item!

And so, in November 2009, I toed the line in Panama City Beach for IMFL.  The swim was much better than in Louisville – even despite the Gulf being seriously choppy.  The bike was great – much more along the lines of what I was accustomed to.  I did a modified Galloway approach on the run – running 3 or 5 minutes and then walking 1.  And best of all, I finished!  The time was not great (15 hours and change), but…..I FINISHED!

Cross that baby off the list!

Except that baby is back on my list again.

See, for the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking about doing an iron distance race again.  Sometimes when I’m in a rough spot on a run, I call up a mental picture of crossing the finish line at IMFL or remember that feeling of accomplishment.  But, I’ve held off on actually doing another race.

Things started to get serious last year – my friend and I were talking about doing a full.  It was on his bucket list, after all.  Plus, he wanted to do one before he turned 50, and time was running out.

We had our eyes set on doing Beach to Battleship in November 2016.  This Wilmington, NC, race had developed a fantastic reputation for being a super-high quality independent iron distance race.  The price point was much lower than Ironman, the swim was current aided (and crazy fast), and the rest of the terrain was similar to northeast Florida.  Plus, the November timing was perfect.

And then, B2B decided to sell out to Ironman.  While I certainly am open to racing an Ironman event, to me it was difficult to reconcile spending $300 or so more on race entry fees for substantially the same race – just because of a name change.

Enter Rev3 Triathlon and their race at Cedar Point!

Cedar Point

See, I’ve been on the Rev3 age group team for a bunch of years, but have never raced at Cedar Point.  Honestly, I’m not sure why – other than the fact that Sandusky, OH, is about 17 weeks away by car and not super-easy to fly to, either.  I do love roller coasters, though, and by all accounts the course is quite similar to what I’m used to.

So….Rev3 Cedar Point is now on my 2016 bucket list!  The race is September 11th this year, and I’ll be ready to race.

And this time, it’s not just about completing the distance and crossing off a bucket list item.  This time, instead of “Complete an Ironman”, the bucket list item is “Race Rev3 Cedar Point”.  There’s a real, tangible difference there.

 

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Turning an Ironman into ULTRA Steel

UltramanFlorida

 

In the world of triathlon, most people think that the pinnacle distance of the sport is the iron distance race:  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.

There’s no denying that the iron distance can be a beast.  I know from personal experience.  Having finished an Ironman, though, gives me confidence that I could likely do another one day (and with this year being the fifth anniversary of me crossing that bucket list item off, I’d love to do an anniversary version again).  Frankly, however, for many athletes, the concept of doing an iron-distance race is daunting.  Heck, for some people, even toeing the line for any triathlon is daunting.

Ultraman races are the extreme distance for extreme triathletes.

Wrap your head around this:  6.2 mile (10 km) open water swim, followed by 261.4 miles (420.6 km) of cycling and then 52.4 miles (84.3 km) of running.

Yeah.  You read that right.  320 total miles (515 km) of multi-sport madness.  Ultraman Florida was held this past weekend; 34 athletes participated.

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to comprehend even one component of that event.  The first person out of the water this weekend took 2 hours 22 minutes.  The last competitor pulled himself out of the lake in 5 hours 9 minutes.  What the hell does one think about while they swim for 4 hours or more?  For comparison sake the guy who was first out of the water would have averaged about 1:15 per 100 in a SCY pool!  I can’t even do that at my peak conditioning for any length of time – even one 100!  Cycling 261 miles?  Seriously?  I have a hard enough time riding 261 miles IN A CAR – forget pedaling that far.  Then, after all that, go and run not one, but a DOUBLE marathon.  All in the same weekend.  Yeah.  Right.

It’s pretty much unequivocal that the nut-jobs who tackled this distance are freaks.  I mean, come-on.  How many people would voluntarily submit themselves to this soul-crushing, toe-blistering, delirium-inducing event?

The answer, in short, is a few hardy, superbly conditioned athletes.  Ultraman isn’t about a race, so much, but about the ultimate cathartic event.  The community that is built at these events is apparently second to none.  The guys and girls who even attempt this kind of race are pure rockstars.  The creme de la creme.  The epitome of uber-athletes.

Carbon turns iron into steel.  Pure grit and a love of endurance sports turns an Ironman into an Ultraman.

My sincere congratulations to all who participated in Ultraman Florida this past weekend.  A special shout-out goes to Susan Haag, my Team Rev3 Tri teammate.  She was one of just six women who raced.  She is pure bad-ass.  And hilarious.  She literally danced across the finish line!

 

 

From Entertaining to Disturbing

I was asked yesterday what was the most entertaining or disturbing thing I’ve seen at a race.  That question really spurred a few vivid memories of races gone by – and the things, both amusing and some revolting, sprang to mind.

Events that we compete in tend to be a cornucopia of sights, smells and tastes.  And trust me, over the years I have seen some doozies!

Take, for example, those triathletes that run out of transition without their shoes – only to turn around and run back in to get them.  I’ve seen that happen at least three times.  What about the triathletes that put on their helmet backwards in transition.  I’ve actually done that before, even though I didn’t leave transition with the helmet on backwards.  I’ve seen people singing to themselves on the run, people skipping, and people bent so far over at the waist that it was amazing they were still (somewhat) vertical.  I’ve witnessed athletes sounding like a motorboat due to flatulence with every step.

I’ll never forget the lady at a local race here in Jacksonville that tied a helium-filled balloon to her handlebars so she could find her bike in transition.  Novel idea, I suppose.  I can only imagine if she were to leave transition with the balloon still tied to her bike, trailing her like a balloon follows a four-year old at the circus.  The same lady was equipped with a 5-gallon bucket of water so she could wash her feet of after the run up the beach following the swim leg.

I’ve seen crazy costumes at races.  I’ve run with a pink-clad Spiderman, been whipped by spectators dressed in S&M outfits, and accosted by a guy in a hot dog costume.  I’ve run by people literally tailgating – cooking out and drinking beers.  During a few marathons, I’ve seen people partaking in mimosas while they watched runners pass.

I have seen pictures, as you may have as well, of an athlete who was so focused on finishing his Ironman race that he defecated on himself and ran I don’t know how many miles with his…um…poop running down his legs.  While getting a Kona spot is a big deal, I frankly can’t imagine what a poopy run would be like.  For the runner or for the runners/spectators near him!

We’ve all likely witnessed our share of vomiting athletes.  Maybe we’ve done it ourselves.  While I haven’t thrown up at a race, one time I did blow a snot rocket right into some other guys face (on accident, of course).

Of course, we’ve seen our share of disturbing images at races.  Images that haunt us or bring back bad memories.  Crash victims, full of road rash and blood.  Cracked helmets.  Broken bones.  I once rode with a guy who did an endo and landed square on his face.  He broke his jaw and lost several teeth.  It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen a rider at a criterium suffer a compound fracture of his femur.

The fact of the matter, though, is that every race has some element of hilarity and some element of disgustingness or disturbingness.  It’s a matter of perspective.  Do you notice the amusing things and tend to not “see” the other stuff, or do you focus on the grime, slime, and vomit?  As a people watcher, I’m drawn to all of it.  I observe, make mental notes, and either smile or say a prayer.  The comforting thing for me is that as a back-of-the-pack athlete, I’m often on a course so long that I get to see lots of things!

What about you?  What are some of the things that you’ve seen at races?  What are your lasting memories?

Triathlon Trainer B-I-N-G-O

#TrainerBingo

So my Team Rev3 mate Jamie Bull has got to be a genius.  No, seriously!  The dude has mad skills in so many things – he’s a social media expert, lives in Boston (so he’s wicked cool already), has an awesome pup, likes good beer, and is one of the funnier guys I’ve come across.

I guess living in the cold northeast does funny things to one’s brain, because Jamie came out with a really funny idea the other day:  #TrainerBingo!

This is much like buzzword bingo – you know, the game you play when you’re in some corporate town hall or at a seminar and hear words/phrases like synergy, out of the box, deckware, win-win, payback, innovation, stakeholder, benchmark, runway, except this game is all about triathlon.  And more specifically, the crazy crap that some of us post on social media while we’re spending hours on the trainer watching Breaking Bad.  Or Barney.  Or whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, Jamie came up with a great grid for #TrainerBingo – check out the card over on his blog.  In fact, do more than just check it out – go over there and DOWNLOAD it!  And the next time you’re toiling away on your trainer, why not play along.  The thing is that filling out your card won’t be all that difficult either!

Here’s the catch – if you play #TrainerBingo, you need to play it up on social media too!  Call it out and hashtag it.  “I just saw someone post a picture of their sweaty calf! #TrainerBingo”.  The goals here are to have some fun, get our training on, and make fun of all of us crazy type A triathletes.  Let’s see if we can’t get #TrainerBingo trending on Twitter!

Have fun, and good luck.  Anyone seen a recent sweaty picture of someone’s face hunched over their aerobars recently?  I’ve got that space open on my #TrainerBingo card!

#TBT – Old School Tri Products

Keeping with the trend of Throwback Thursdays, we’re going way back into the TriMadness vault for this post – and we’re going even farther back in the time machine for what this post is actually even about!

Today’s #TBT post comes from August 2011, and is all about Old School triathlon products!

Rewind to 1989.  I was in the midst of college, and home in Chapel Hill for the summer.  I needed a good summer job, and I was a cyclist – so where did I go?  Naturally, I went to the local bike shop to get a job.  Of course, it wasn’t any plain janebike shop.  I went to work for Performance Bike Shop.  Yep – the mail order bike shop that you may be familar with.  Only, I didn’t work that summer in the mail-order part of the business, I worked in the brick & mortar retail store in the next town over – Carrboro, NC.

Basically, during my time at PBS, I was counter help in the retail store.  I did some minor repairs and built more than a few bikes, but by and large, I was the equivalent of the dude at Abercrombie working the counter selling jerseys, shorts, etc.

In the late 80’s, triathlon was still a new, fringe sport.  And yet, we sold a TON of triathlon related stuff back then.  To share with you just how far we’ve come in terms of triathlon gear, I thought it worthwhile to pull some photos of some of the stuff we sold back in the day…

Enjoy!

This is one of the earlier aero bars – the Profile Aerobar

This is one of the original Profile aerobars, and note the vibrant neon yellow coloring!  This was a highly popular aero bar back in the day.  Notice the lack of shifter placement – most shifters were still on the down tube at this point.

Nike Sock Racer.  The ORIGINAL minimalist racing flat!

Why buy a solid-core disc wheel when you could buy a vinyl wheel cover that you add on to your wheel.  The material was similar to lots of the window shades you can purchase for your car windows.  Cheap speed!

Bolle shades.  Hardly anything better (except the original Oakley Blades).

Why DRINK your electrolytes when you can just CHEW them?!