Breathless

 

No…this isn’t the newest romantic installment from Nicholas Sparks.  You won’t find this post full of descriptions of some long lost love, or a daring and dashing guy sweeping some young girl off her feet.  Nope.  This is a real-life story.  A description of breathtaking beauty and a couple of runs that left me completely and utterly breathless.

Last month, my family and I took a vacation to Glacier National Park in western Montana.  In a word, this trip was AWESOME!

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We saw some of the most majestic mountains that one can dream of.  The Going-to-the-Sun road from West Glacier up to Logan Pass is perhaps the most scenic road in the entire country.  This 50-mile road transects Glacier National park, and goes up and over the Continental Divide.  The sights of big mountains and glacierly carved valleys is awe-inspiring.

We enjoyed a week of being outdoors and trying activities that really took us all out of our comfort zone.  We learned how to skip rocks.  We went horseback riding.  We went white water rafting.  We challenged ourselves on a high-ropes course.  We went zip lining.  We hiked to, and touched, a glacier.  We saw tons of wildlife – including Grizzly bears, a black bear, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, things that could have passed for meercats (I think they were ground squirrels), and a giant rodent called a marmant.  We snacked on wild huckleberries and strawberries.  We went to a rodeo (and were BY FAR the preppiest people there).  We slept with windows open.  We tried some of the most amazing local craft beers (Moose Drool, anyone?).

And we sucked wind.

See, my family and I live at sea-level.  My house is literally 20 minutes from the Atlantic ocean.  Whitefish, MT – the town where we stayed – is at 4500 feet elevation.  Our hikes in the National Park took us close to 10,000 feet elevation (up inclines that seemed vertical).  Air at this altitude is thin.  Especially when you’re used to thick-as-mollasses, humid and salty air where I come from.  I found that I was winded at even the slightest level of exertion…like climbing a flight of steps.  Imagine what my lungs felt like on a 5.5-mile hike up to Grinnell Glacier that gained about 1600 feet – with the majority of that gain in the last two miles.

Perhaps nothing, however, impacted me quite as significantly as going for a run.  Way back in ancient history, I used to love running on hills.  I grew up in a moderately hilly part of North Carolina,  My high-school cross country days were in the piedmont area of North Carolina – over some of the most ancient hills in North America.  I went to college in the mountains of North Carolina and did a lot of cycling and running on mountains.   I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway frequently.  I would climb miles-long mountains.  I became a fan of switchbacks and quite rapid descents.

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Today, I live in a place where the terrain is as flat as your kitchen floor.  Hills are man-made in my town.  A typical net elevation gain on a long bike ride might be 100 feet, give or take.  I’m just no longer used to running up and down.

So during vacation, I went on a couple of short runs (one was 3 miles; the other 4), but afterwards I felt as if I’d run a marathon.  My legs were trashed.  My lungs seared.  I recalled quite quickly how easy it is to go really, really fast running down a hill, and how painful it is to even crawl up a moderate hill.

One of my runs had a half-mile climb at maybe 9% grade.  For me, it was my death march.  My pulse quickly approached 180.  My breathing became one with Darth Vader’s rattled asthma.  I just could. Not.  Breathe.

Despite the lack of oxygen, both of my runs were totally enjoyable.  People in cars were friendly – each waving and smiling (probably thinking I was an idiot).  I found a nice trail on my second run.  I rounded a corner and came literally face to face with a deer.  He stood his ground and didn’t move until I was about 10 feet from him.  I saw beautiful mountain flowers and streams.

All-in-all, the whole experience was absolutely beautiful, fun, and breathtaking.

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Listed below are some hyperlinks for information about some of the things we did and where we stayed.  If you are considering taking a family trip to the western part of the US, I’d STRONGLY recommend that you consider Montana and Glacier National Park.  I know that Yellowstone & Yosemite get a lot of “press”, and are often very, very crowded.  We found that Glacier was not crowded, that the people were amazing, and the sights incredible.  This particular vacation is amoung one of our top three all-time vacations.

  • Glacier National Park – National Park Service:  This is the official NPS website for Glacier.  Tons of information and photos here about the park, how the Going-to-the-Sun road was established, weather, animals you’d see, etc.  This is a must-visit website!
  • Whitefish Mountain Resort:  We rented a two-bedroom condo at this resort.  The condo was perfect – king bed in one bedroom, the 2nd bedroom had a queen bed and two twin-bunks.  Perfect for our family of five.  The resort has tons of summer activities – this is where we did the high-ropes course, zip lined, and did one of our hikes.  We also went on an “alpine slide” – which is basically like a luge course on a skateboard.  You can also mountain bike on the mountain (we didn’t).  And – if you go to the mountain anytime after October, expect to ski (both alpine and x-country).  The folks at the resort said that Whitefish is one of the top ten ski destinations in America – we aren’t skiers, so I can’t vouch for that.
  • Horseback riding in Glacier:  We used Swan Mountain Outfitters, and went out of the Lake McDonald Corral.  These folks were awesome.  The horses were well taken care of and certainly knew their way around a trail.  We went on a two-hour ride (which actually became almost a three-hour ride because, well, horses don’t wear watches, and the ride lasts as long as they want it to).
  • Whitewater Rafting:  We went on a half-day float with Glacier Raft Company in the town of West Glacier.  We floated the Middle Fork of the Flathead River – the rapids were mostly graded category 2 and 3.  Our guide was excellent, and the ride was amazing!
  • If you’re a fan of craft beer, there are lots of options – both in local draugh houses and available for purchase in stores.  I really liked options from Big Sky Brewing (Moose Drool and Trout Slayer were my favorites), but I also really liked the Nut Brown and Sawtooth offerings from Bitter Root Brewing.  We also dined at a couple of brew-pubs, but for the life of me I can’t remember which ones they were.  One was in Columbia Falls, MT and I think the other was in Hungry Horse.  It could have been in Whitefish.  I’m just not sure.  Either way – the beer in Montana is GREAT!  And – by the way, Big Sky Brewing is a sponsor of professional triathlete Linsey Corbin.  If that’s not enough of a reason to drink it, I don’t know what is!  Unfortunately, for those of us east of the Mississippi River, you’re not likely to find many of the Montana brews.  Word is that they aren’t pasteurized, hence they aren’t shipped that far.  Too bad.
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A Terrorist’s Impact on Endurance Events

Exactly seven days ago we were struck by a horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.  The deaths and injuries were horrific and full of gore, as we all know.  By week’s end the terrorists were dead or apprehended, bringing one chapter of the event to a close.  Certainly the story will have more and more chapters for those who were impacted directly or indirectly.  Bodies will heal.  People will cope with the stress and mental trauma.  Perhaps law enforcement will find out what motivated the attack.

In some regard, life will begin to return to normal.  (That could be a blog post in and of itself…whether or how we could return to normal after a horrific and tragic event like last Monday’s.)  Our sport, on the other hand, while physically the same – we’ll still swim, bike and run – likely will change in many ways both large and small.

Imagine the life of a race director now, post-Boston.  While I’m sure that RD’s already had a multitude of considerations at play, now they need to worry so many more things.  Among their concerns could be having to worry about having cameras on the course (or at least if buildings along the course have cameras).  Do they need to have hazmat teams available?  Should patrons and spectators in finish line areas be expected to go through security screening?  How do you contain an entire course (upwards of 140 miles) such that a would-be terrorist can’t harm an athlete?  Can you even contain a full course?  Should RD’s employ undercover police officers to monitor race expos?  What degree of background checking of volunteers should the race organization do?  How can they guard against food-borne terrorism? 

Any person with even scant imagination could dream up untold scenarios where athletes in endurance events could be at risk.  Frankly, all the potential concerns are a little overwhelming to me.  I’m glad that is not my day-job.  Truth be told, I’m even more appreciative of the hard work that race directors and race companies do now that I’m beginning to think about all of this stuff.

Here’s my perspective.  I really hope that endurance events don’t change.  Certainly RD’s and race companies owe us a duty to make sure that we’re safe…and that hasn’t changed just because of Boston.  I hope that just because of last week that race experiences don’t pale.  I hope that Rev3 continues to have a great finish line experience.  I hope thousands of spectators line up along marathon routes.  I hope people continue to flock to places like New York, London, Kona, Los Angeles, Cedar Point and Boston so that they can compete in big marquis events.  I also hope that athletes and spectators alike continue to go to races in Greensboro, Boise, Fort Wayne, Knoxville or Jacksonville. 

Surely there are some things that will change as a result of Boston.  Perhaps there will be tightened security.  Maybe there will be bomb-sniffing dogs or more surveillance cameras.  There could even be armed competitors (think air marshalls in aero :-)).  Lord knows, registration costs could go up.  But so what?  You and I – we’ll continue to do events.  We will keep running.  Biking.  Going to triathlons.  Marathons.  And if we’re lucky, more and more people will also.  In fact, I predict that demand for the 2014 Boston marathon will be higher than ever.  Perhaps all marathons will be like that.

People will be concerned about safety, but at the end of the day we will not allow ourselves to become paralyzed in fear.  We will run for those hurt or killed in Boston.  We’ll continue to have completing an iron-distance race on our bucket list.  New athletes will do their “couch to 5k” plans. 

And that is a GREAT thing!

One Mile At A Time

It’s been a tough year for me so far from a running perspective. 

I’ve literally only run three times all year due to a pretty nasty bout of plantar fasciitis.  About three weeks ago, I visited a local podiatrist for an evaluation, and was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia.  He took x-rays, did an ultrasound of my heel, felt around (causing me a lot of pain) and then gave me a cortisone shot (causing me even more pain).  I was advised to be fairly aggressive with stretching, icing, and some exercises.  I’ve been a good patient, and followed this protocol almost perfectly (shocking, I know).

Yesterday, I went back to the podiatrist for a follow-up appointment and got some really good news.  I am able to start running again!

Of course, I can’t run far.  Or frequently.  But I can run!

“HE CAN RUN!  HE CAN RUN!  HE CAN RUN” (invoking a phrase from Disney’s Peter Pan…”He can fly! He can fly! He can fly!”)

And so, tonight, I’ll run.  One mile.  Slowly.  It’ll be a run, nevertheless.  Hopefully it won’t hurt too much – either during or after.  Frankly, I’m a little nervous about it.  I don’t want to make the injury worse – and I sure as heck don’t want to suffer the pain again.  I’m also really, really excited.  I’ve been WANTING to run.  That is the absolute worst thing – to really want to do something, but not be allowed to do it.

If you haven’t entered the TriMadness March Madness triathlon contest & giveaway yet – DO SO NOW!  The contest is open for a few more days, and you can rack up lots of entries for very little effort.  Click the logo below!

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Goals. Not Resolutions. Version 2.0

So….Happy New Year, y’all.  I know that I’m a little late to the party in saying that, but it still applies, right?  It is, after all, a new year.  Plus, this is my first post of the year.  In my mind, it’s still kosher to say Happy New Year.  In fact, seeing as how yesterday was Epiphany, I suppose I could still say Merry Christmas and get away with it. 🙂

Regardless, it’s a new year now, and like so many others I’ve put my mind to thinking about what I’d like to accomplish this year.  Certainly you’ve done similar things.  Over the past month, I’ve assembled my team at work and we’ve come up with a very aggressive list of items we’d like to accomplish during the year.  It seems that my appetite for planning multisport activities is equally as robust.  The only difference, though, is that when it comes to multisport, I typically overshoot on my goals.  Another way of saying that is that I put my stretch goals way, way, way out there.  And then I do a spectacular job of not meeting those stretch goals.

Take 2012, for example.  In this post, I laid out some very tangible goals.  I thought that I had done a really good job of laying out targets.  They were measurable.  Attainable. Potentially realistic.  Time bound.  I followed my B-school teachings and set S.M.A.R.T. goals.  So, how’d I do against those goals?

TriMadness’ 2012 Multisport Goals:

  • Obtain a new personal best for an Olympic Distance tri.  Current PR is 3:00.  Target is 2:45.xx  Nope.  Didn’t race an Oly in 2012.
  • Obtain a new personal best for a half-iron distance tri.  Current PR is 6:37.  Target is 5:50.xx  Nope.  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy cruising by and stirring up the waves (hence canceling the swim at Rev3 Florida), my only half-iron race became a long-course duathlon. 
  • Run a sub-8:00 mile.  In training.  In a race.  Doesn’t matter where.  Just do it prior to year-end.  Check! (Almost).  I ran a 8:05 mile in a run over the summer.  Felt amazing.  Haven’t repeated it since, even though I’ve been close.
  • Break 2:00 in a half-marathon.  Target race is the Outback Distance Classic on Thanksgiving day – but would certainly take it in a half-iron tri, too :-)Nope.  Didn’t happen at Rev3 FL, and I didn’t run any other half marathons in 2012.  Save this goal for 2013.
  • Swim 50 * 50 before 4/1.  Check.
  • Swim 75 * 75 before 6/1.  Check
  • Swim 100 * 100 before 9/1.  Nope.  Not even close.
  • Swim at least 250,000 yards in 2012.  Got about half-way.  107,640 yards.  Need to be more diligent about swimming.  BUT, the silver lining here is that I got in more yards in 2012 than in 2009 when I competed in not one, but two Ironman races.
  • Bike at least 1600 miles in 2012.  Again – about half way.  835.5 miles.
  • Run at least 750 miles in 2012.  Woefully short.  399.14 miles.

So overall, not too bad I suppose.  2012 was a busy, busy year for me at work and with family stuff.  And frankly, in terms of pecking order – those two things come first for me.  I’ll gladly sacrifice a run or ride (or even a race or two – which happened in 2012) to do family related things.  It’s about doing the right thing and having the right priorities.

All that being said, and knowing what’s in store for 2013, I’ve again gone through the S.M.A.R.T. process for goal setting.  I’m carrying over a few goals from last year.  I am also adding a few race-specific goals that I’d like to accomplish as well.

So without further ado, here are:

TriMadness’ 2013 Multisport Goals:

  • Obtain a new personal best for an Olympic Distance tri.  Current PR is 3:00.  Target is 2:45.xx  (Carried over from 2012)
  • Obtain a new personal best for a half-iron distance tri.  Current PR is 6:37.  Target is 5:50.xx  (Carried over from 2012)
  • Obtain a new personal best for a full-iron distance tri (at Rev3 Cedar Point).  Current PR is molasses slow 15:17.  I’d really like to knock off 2 hours on that.
  • Swim 100 yards in 1:30 or faster on a consistent basis.  That would be a huge accomplishment for me, as it would take about a :10 drop to get there.
  • Break 2:00 in a half-marathon. 
  • Swim 100 * 100 before the end of the year.   
  • Swim at least 200,000 yards in 2013. 
  • Bike at least 1500 miles in 2013. 
  • Run at least 750 miles in 2013.

So.  There you have it.  It’s on paper (again), so I have to do it, right?

Happy training!

What’s Your Motivation?

We all have some reason that we participate in endurance sports.  We Tri for a reason.  As unique as each of us are, so too are the things that compel us to swim, bike and run.

For some, triathlon is a way to get into shape and lose weight.  Others pursue triathlon as a bucket list.  Or a right of passion.  Some people seek to prove something to themselves.  Surely there are those that tri so they can gain what they perceive as admiration or glory from others.  And you know what?  All of these reasons are truly spectacular reasons for doing multisport.

Earlier this week, I read a blog post written by Meredith – otherwise known on the web as Swim Bike Mom.  In her post, Meredith covers a lot of territory (including how she got a triathlon hickey) – but for me, the real meat of her post is close to the end where she talks about what motivated her to sign up to race Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2013.  She lays out six reasons that are part of her motivation to “go long”. 

Meredith is motivated to tri.  I am motivated to do tri.  You’re motivated to swimbikerun.  Something or someone got your juices flowing. 

Why do I do triathlon?  Surely not because I’m going to win races.  Heck, I’m more likely to be a last place finisher than a first place finisher.  I started doing triathlon because I had a friend who did them, and I wanted to be more like him in some regards I suppose.  Plus, I had a cycling and running background, so it seemed like a natural progression.  But now, for me, triathlon is no longer about losing weight or winning races or crossing off things on my bucket list. I think my main motivation now is that triathlon in general is my great escape.

When I’m running or swimming or biking I literally check out.  It’s the one time in my day where I am free from my work.  I don’t take my blackberry with me, so I’m not constantly checking emails.  It’s my time to daydream.  To think about what is going on in my life.  To pray. 

See, I don’t have a great cause.  I’m not triathloning (is that even a word) to lose weight – although I need to lose some.  I’ve gone the distance all the way to iron, so I’m no longer trying to prove to myself that I am capable of doing the distance.  I am not raising money for charity with each of my races.

I just ENJOY this hobby of ours.  I like how I feel once I get out of the pool.  For some sadistic reason, I love it when I have DOMS the day after a hard workout.  Perhaps like most of us, I like the way I look (or at least see myself looking) when I’m in shape.  Like many other hobbies – golf, needlepoint, cooking, roller-coaster riding – triathloning is something that I look forward to.  Something that I think about frequently.  Something that I wish I could do more of.  This enjoyment, coupled with the fact that I use swimbikerun as a method to unplug, motivates me to continue to participate in this sport.

So…what about you?  What’s your motivation?  Why do you Tri?