Training for Naught

Over the weekend, WTC canceled their Ironman Lake Tahoe race do to poor air quality resulting from a huge brush fire in the general proximity of the race venue.

I can totally relate to how bad the environment must have been in the Lake Tahoe area.  Living in Florida, brush fires are a reality of my life. Each spring, various fires pop up all over the state, but most notably in the northeast part of the state where I live. The smoke and ash that lingers in the air is heavy, reeks and makes breathing supremely difficult. It’s often as if you’re living in the middle of a campfire.

Smoke from a nearby wildfire in 2011 caused a haze to hang over the Jacksonville area (picture courtesy news4jax.com)

Smoke from a nearby wildfire in 2011 caused a haze to hang over the Jacksonville area (picture courtesy news4jax.com)

 

Canceling the race was the correct thing to do.

Imagine what those athletes likely felt when they heard the news.

They had poured literally hundreds of hours into training.  Many of them had pushed their bodies to the brink and back.  For lots of folks, I’m sure that this was their bucket list event – their chance to become an “Ironman”.   I can empathize with those athletes.  I know how hard folks work for a big event like this.

And then suddenly to not be able to do the event.

Wow.  Heartbreaking.

Of course, I get that not doing a race isn’t the end of the world.  There are far bigger fish to fry.  I feel for those that have lost their house as a result of the fire.  There are so many other social and societal issues that folks face each and every day.  This was just a race.

And yet, I’m sure that the sense of let down was huge for lots of these athletes.  While I suspect that most (if not all) of the athletes impacted can rationalize the decision and realize that canceling the event was the correct thing to do, it’s much more difficult to rationalize emotions.

Surely the thought of having the proverbial rug ripped out from right under your feet had to be disappointing for the athletes, but I cannot fathom what it would be like to race even an hour – let alone up to 17 hours – in conditions like what existed on Sunday.

It would be easy to reflect and rejoice on the fitness gained, the mettle tested, and the experiences gained throughout the time that these athletes trained for their race.  Those would be moral victories.  For lots of athletes, the reality could be that this was their one chance.  Their soon-to-be huge accomplishment.  I feel for them.

Ironman has not yet announced how they will handle those athletes.  I don’t know if they will get a refund, an entry deferral, or simply nothing.  Here’s to hoping that WTC takes care of those athletes and that they have another chance to do their race.

And….here’s to hoping that the lingering effects of not being able to swim, bike, and run this past weekend are able to quickly disseminate like smoke on a windy day.

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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!

 

 

#TBT: A Dear John Letter to Ironman

Throwback Thursday is an internet phenom right now.  It’s fun to look back at pictures from days gone by.  Seems like a fun concept to apply to blog posts, too.  

Back in November 2011, I wrote the following blog post, and it turned out to be one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written.  It’s been read more than 600 times (from my blog alone), shared on Facebook, Twitter & re-posting on other blogs more than 100 times.  I received more emails and feedback on this post than almost any other post.  So…I guess the sentiment expressed below struck a chord with folks.

Given the popularity of this post, I thought I’d post it up again for you to enjoy…

Dear Ironman,

You and I, we have a history.

I’ve sweated and swam, biked miles upon miles, and ran like Forrest Gump. All in an effort to overcome the races you’ve lain in front of me. Not just once, but several times.

Orlando. Panama City Beach. Louisville. They are familiar territory. A few good memories have come from my pursuits there. More of them have been ho-hum.

Once I was pleased to hear Mike Reilly proclaim that I was an “Ironman”.

But I’m over you.

It’s not you…..it’s all me.

I’m tired of swimming with two thousand friends. I don’t like drafting when I’m supposed to be racing. I don’t like feeling like a customer.

Triathlon isn’t about those things. At least for me, it’s not. Triathlon is about the challenge. Feeling like you belong at a race – regardless of whether you’re the first finisher or the last. I like spectacle and boisterous finish lines as much as the next guy, and while you’re good at that, others are equally good – if not better – at it than you are. I want to feel valued as an athlete. Part of the family. Cared about. Loved.

And you, well, you don’t do that anymore for me.

I’m just a tick mark on your headboard. Another zero on the balance sheet. Another person to sell logo’d merchandise to for too high a price.

We’re done. I know you’ll find others. People will constantly clamor for the “notoriety” that comes from doing one of your races. Good for them.

I’m in this for something more now. Good riddance.

I’ve got a new sweetheart. She may be a little younger than you, but she’s better in oh so many ways. Her name even sounds cooler……Revolution3. Change. New. She’s all that.

So we’re breaking up. Have a nice life.

Ironman and the Secret Access Club

The Internet is burning. And, no, it’s not about Miley Cyrus’ twerking at last week’s Video Music Awards.

Some of the more well-known triathlon communities are up in arms over what they perceive as a slight by the World Triathlon Corporation with how registration for a new iron-distance race happened.

Here’s the backstory: MDot announced a new race location in Chattanooga, TN a few weeks back. They opened registration online earlier this week (I think it was Wednesday) at 12 noon ET. About three minutes later, according to the CEO of WTC, general entry to the race sold out. Subsequent to all that happening, news came out that Active.com, the online vendor WTC uses to process their registrations, went down during the heavy registration traffic, potentially leaving hundreds (or more) of potential registrants in a perpetual “hold” status. Later on, word came out that WTC opened pre-registration for the event to members of certain triathlon clubs, both in the immediate vicinity of the race, as well as nationally.

So what’s the fuss? Another Ironman race sold out quickly. It seems to happen all the time; why should this particular race be any different?

It turns out that some folks are upset that WTC offered preregistration to clubs. Moreover, WTC apparently had instructed the clubs that they offered this capability to not openly advertise or broadcast that this was being done. According to some, this is bad mojo and poor form. WTC, people said, was being deceptive, elitest, and driving a wedge into their potential customer base. People couldn’t believe that WTC had the audacity to pull a stunt like this. There must be some conspiracy or collusion between WTC and key triathlon clubs to corner the market on race slots! Other folks claimed that there must have been an agreement between Active and WTC to “pull the plug” on the servers once the race sold out so as to shut out some athletes.

I’m not sure I agree.

Let’s not kid ourselves…the race was most likely going to sell out. There would be people who would not be able to register for the race because it would sell out before they could get through the system. MDot’s CEO claimed in a post on Slowtwitch that by offering preregistration slots to clubs, they were working to drive the growth of triathlon through clubs. Okay, maybe that’s the truth. Perhaps it isn’t. I have no idea.

To me, this all boils down to market economics, and ultimately, how a firm manages supply and demand. Right now, MDot is enjoying a period of super-high demand. This is really clear given the fact that virtually all of their races sell out quickly. Many “bucket listers” want nothing more than to cross off the list that they did an “Ironman”. So long as that is a prevailing attitude, we’ll continue to see WTC’s races sell out. All MDot did by opening preregistration to clubs was offer an enticement to a targeted, captive group. It isn’t a bad business play, at the end of the day.

And for those that think WTC colluded to pull the plug, well I can’t see that as being true either. There’s some amount of negative publicity that WTC received from both the Active snafu and the whole preregistration for clubs thing. I can’t imagine that any company focused on building brand would purposefully set themselves up for negative publicity. Well, maybe getting negative publicity would be a good ploy for an on-your-knees, about to crumble company, but I don’t recall ever learning anything about that back in B-school.

At the end of the day, what happened is that a race company announced a new race, opened registration, and some people got in while some people didn’t.

I suspect that most of the people complaining about all of this just happen to fall in the later category, and not the former.