Thursday, September 26, 2013

Yes I do shave my legs... SO?

Its race week.  so many of my friends are packing up and getting ready to head for Augusta, GA to compete in the Ironman 70.3 there on Sunday.  Everyone has different ways of getting ready.  Maybe a lucky hat, or jersey.  Some go get a new jersey for every race, not wanting to have photos taken in the same jersey as the previous race.  Heaven forbid, if you show up and someone is wearing the same exact Zoot jersey or race suit as you, how embarrassing!  From special nutrition, to pre-race meals, to lucky bracelets, whatever it takes to go 70.3 miles as fast as you can go.

Then comes the age old question for cyclists and and triathletes alike.  To shave or not to shave.  No, I'm not talking about my face.  Yes I know hockey players love to grow their "playoff beards" and not shave until they lose.  I'm talking about the legs.  I used to make fun of guys who shaved their legs.  The first time I saw real cyclists wearing spandex with smooth legs, I laughed and said I would never, ever do that.  Guess what, I do both now.

Yes, I shaved my legs for Augusta as I have for many races and long rides.  I was stretching in the gym weeks back and noticed two ladies talking about my legs.  They felt bad when I noticed, but one asked, are your legs shaved?  When I said yes, they both somewhat giggled.  Actually so did I.  One then said it makes your calves look really big.  I wasn't so sure how to take that.  My calves were once referred to as "baby dinosaur legs"  by my massage therapist Lisa, who also said, if we were flying through the Andes, with a rugby team, I was the one she wanted to sit near, how comforting.

The first time I shaved my leg it was a partial, basically I was taping my lower leg, and ripping the tape off hurt something fierce with my hairy lower extremities.  Then the poll question.  I put out on Facebook, to all my athlete friends, should I shave my legs for Ironman FL, 70.3 in Haines City.  Oh I got quite the responses, and it was funny, which was what I had intended.  The overwhelming margin, 47 - 5 in favor of shaving with several smart remarks.  And thus, a new race tradition was born.

Do I feel more aerodynamic, no, not really.  I'm certainly not fast enough for that to make a difference.  It does help getting the wet suit on and off.  One thing I did find, when I did have a bike crash early this summer during a training ride. Cleaning the cuts and road rash, was a lot easier, and those cuts healed way quicker then my arm and elbow where there was still hair.  No I didn't shave my arms, what am I a freak?

As I pack my gear bag for Augusta, GA, I have to smile.  I know I've come a long way since the first time I organized for a race. I had a great track workout, this week.  I feel strong enough and mentally ready.  I also feel like a little kid, waiting to wake up and go on that trip my parents promised so long ago.  I tired on the wet suit this morning.  I've made my gear list, checked it twice, and off for a few last minutes errands and get ready and pack the car.  

Oh yeah, legs shaved... check.  AUGUSTA OR BUST!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Melee of the Mind

I know its been a while since I last blogged.  I just haven't been able to put thought to paper, or keyboard in this case.  I know I have not been my jovial self this year, and my blog posts aren't as funny as they used to be.  I'll work on it I promise.

Ironman Florida, is now less than eight weeks away.  My body is obviously tired, but my mind seems to be racing.  As I have said before, there have been several "Oh $#!+ moments.

As the month of September rolled in, my mind seemed to explode in a staggering amount of emotion, and anxiety accompanied by doubt.  All of a sudden, Ironman FL, wasn't some distant race, we're registered for, but right there in front of us!  You can count the long rides and runs left.  Looking at the training plan and seeing 80, 100 or more miles to ride is rather intimidating.  Then the runs go from the normal, to quasi insane as they get deeper into double digits.  Even the shorter workouts have a sense of urgency and intensity not felt before.

The great Yogi Bera once said:  "Ninety percent of this game is half mental".  Of course he was referring to baseball, but the quote applies to triathlon and Ironman even more!  Your mind has to tell your body to do something it doesn't want to do, and get the muscles to fire and comply.  If your mind isn't clear it becomes very very difficult.

Mom & Dad Sept 4, 1965
As I said, September has been a bit overwhelming for me.  Remembering, what would have been my parents 48th anniversary hit me in a way I had not anticipated.  I just couldn't get out of my own way that day, or that week.

Sleep was hard to come by, as I just could not shut my brain off.  Waking up and walking downstairs seemed to summon all the old aches and pains, and a few new ones too.  Sure I completed my workouts, my spin classes, my rides and my runs, but my heart was heavy, and so too my legs.

Then this morning, September 11th, made all of us stop and remember.  As most Americans, I recall exactly where I was, and what I was doing that morning.  I was safe in Sarasota, FL, but watching a building fall that I had gone into every day for years was surreal.  I remember feeling complete panic when I wasn't sure if my cousin was in that building that day.  It wasn't until the next morning, I would know for certain that everyone in my family was home and safe.  Then feeling shades of guilt as I knew so many people's families were not.

These anxious moments have caused the "melee of my mind" these past two weeks.  What keeps me moving one leg in front of the other, is the great people I have around me.  My family, my father who is an incredible source of strength, my brother, my insane but wonderful sisters are always there for me even though I know they want to kill me at times.  They think I'm insane too, and well, I guess they are right to a degree.

My training family too is just an awesome group!  I can't tell you the satisfaction that comes when Jamie tells me she "hates me" at least once a workout!  Her new line lately:  "How did I let you talk me into this"?  Whether we are running together, riding together we are a family that is there for each other.  I say in the A-Train credo, that "we learn from each other, and we pick each other up when we are down...sometimes literally" has been so true this year.  You guys have picked me up, and picked me up off the ground literally!

Of course who's been with me through all of this, when most would have run away, is Kari.  She's been there through my moments of doubt and pain.  She's picked me up and been there.  She's been a medic, a masseuse, and a reasonably good sport about training at 5:00 am.  Oh sure she has called me a few choice names and has said "I hate you" almost as much as Jamie, but she has been there.

They say when you get to mile 18 of the marathon portion of Ironman, you need a reason to finish, because its no longer about what your body has left.  Well I have several reasons, and they will be with me on the course, with me in spirit, or waiting at the finish line.

In the "melee of what's left of my mind" I can't help but hear Diana Nyad's words over and over again, "We should never, ever give up..."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The moment(s) of clarity!

It happens, some might call it an "AH HA" moment, or then again maybe "OH  $#|+!" is more appropriate. But then there is also a moment of clarity.  A moment or moments when things fall into place in your mind, and your body just responds.

This past weekend was such a time.  A time where I felt all of the above emotions.  I woke up before 5:00 am Saturday, and my mind went to my training plan.  Yes, it was definitely an "OH $#|+!" moment.  The remaining 15 weeks of the training plan before Ironman Florida gets intense.  The distances get longer and longer, and phrases like:  "race pace"; "negative split"; "tempo"; "hard effort" all populate the spreadsheet.  Doubts started to creep in, various aches and pains surfaced as I was climbing out of bed.

Saturday morning driving to Clearwater Beach for what was to be my longest run in quite a while, I was thinking.  Probably thinking too much.  I was thinking about all of the miles on my training plan yet to be run.  All the miles to ride on my bike and the thousands of meters to swim.

We got out of the car, and said good morning to the gang.  It was still dark, changed shoes, grabbed some water, and got ready to run.  I was worried, but determined to give it my best.  As everyone started to run, the group broke up into various paces.  I hung back and enjoyed some friendly conversation. The power of the pack is truly something.  The miles started clicking off.  We stopped for water near the bottom of the bridge, grab some Gatorade and kept going.  More miles clicked by, but about 9.5 miles in the conversations seemed to end.  I was breathing heavy and talking became superfluous. Things started to hurt, but I felt good!  We made the turn to head for the last bridge, and by mile 11 my calf was hurting and going up the bridge for the first time I had walk a bit.  But I felt really good!

12 1/2 miles total, this was a great run, with great friends.

Sunday was another awesome training day.  We set out to log some miles in the saddle.  Now, riding 60, 70 or more miles can get a bit monotonous at times.  Not when you're riding with Holly Tripp's crew, let me just say that.  Our 63 mile sojourn was a bit of an adventure ride.  We set out from State Road 54 on the Suncoast Trail as we do so often topped off our water bottles 21 miles later at Anderson Snow Park.  Some turned around at this point but the majority carried on.  After riding off the Suncoast Trail and into the western portion of San Antonio we found ourselves at the Neon Cowboy for a photo opp.

Then the adventure began.  Just south of State Road 52 we had to climb a fence (Pay no attention to the no trespassing sign).  Yes, I said climb.  As you can see from the photo we handed our bikes over to each other climbed and helped everyone over. We had a few hundred yards of some rough riding. But we did it and no one got a flat, and no one saw any snakes, always a plus.  As you know, I love riding, but even the most seasoned riders find it to be a bit of a pain in the a$$ at times.  About mile 47 of 63, the Iron Goof says:  "I feel great except for my a$$"  It turned out to be a great ride and 63 miles went by quite quickly.

Yes, the entire weekend of training was just what I needed.  My mind firmly wrapped around the task at hand of training and staying on plan!  My body seemed to cooperate and although my left calf muscle has been barking a bit, all systems are go.

Less than fifteen weeks to go 'till Ironman. Here we come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Nerves of Iron?

Once again, its been a few weeks and I haven't posted anything.  Well, I haven't had much to say, I'm sure you haven't missed me much.  Training takes a lot out of you.  Physically of course, waking up at 5:00am or earlier is not easy.   I actually found myself secretly hoping Sunday I would wake at 4:45 am to a torrential downpour, so I could email the crew, and say:  "Hey, bad weather, today's run is canceled" but it was not to be.  The sky was relatively clear, the radar maps were absent any red yellow or white over the area we were to be running, so off we went!

More than the physical toll, its the mental toll of training.  It can be quite difficult to stay focused 7 days a week no matter how determined you are.  I find myself watching videos and YouTube clips of past Kona races, or one of my favorite movies, "Miracle" about the 1980 USA Hockey team that beat the Soviet team and probably the best team in the world at that time.  (Sorry if I spoiled the movie for you).

Nerves... nerves can be a good thing.  Sometimes being nervous makes us perform better, but they can also hurt us.  Two weeks ago, most of you know I was in a nasty bike wreck while training.  Now, I am a fairly good bike handler and I don't get nervous in the pack.  I've been riding for years, and go out of my way to teach and protect our newbie riders in our small but courageous peloton.  The accident wasn't my fault, but that doesn't matter when you are lying on the ground and looking up at your friends, not sure what hurts most.  The looks on the faces of my closest friends, were scary.  Jamie and Kat got to me first, I just motioned that I was OK and to check on the other guy.  When Brad got to me, I could tell he was shaken up too, so I just looked at him and said, "Dude, how's my bike?"  He shook his head as if to say:  "You f@#$%^ lunatic".  Lying on the ground on the Suncoast Trail, a few people stopped to help, or just see if there was anything they could do.  Funny thing I knew them, I'm sure you're not surprised.

Yes I rode in a race the next day, but had to DNF, as my back just tightened up too much to continue after the bike.  I trained the following weekend, but still not 100 percent physically.  This past Saturday, we set out on the Suncoast Trail once again.  We had a great group, and the usual suspects were there and the weather seemed cooperative.  I did find myself a little gun-shy in the pack.  Sure I jumped up to the front, and slid all the way back checking on everyone as I always do.  I did everything I'm supposed to do, but I have to admit the nerves were just a little frayed.  Its not a bad thing, being 110% alert is important when riding in a pace line.  I had a few moments where I reached for the brakes a little too quickly, I didn't ride quite as tight as I normally do.  I was thinking, and yes my mind wandered a few times to the feeling of flying over the handlebars and bouncing off the asphalt.

If I needed anything else to worry about, sure let's add some real nasty weather to this ride.  Thunder lightning, steady downpour, sure why not, we can handle this.  Our fifty-six mile ride took a lot longer than we anticipated.  We stopped to help a fellow cyclist who was stranded without a tube or repair kit.  (OK that is not smart, but I digress) The last eleven miles, something clicked, I was ready to hit hard again.  My back felt good, the weather dried a bit and the crew was ready for action.  We picked up the pace, I just wanted to get back to the car!  As we passed the site of the accident, I have to admit I felt a strange chill, but it was game on.  I got the front at that point, and I was determined to take us home.  I was never so glad as to see that damn parking lot.

When I got to my car, I looked at my phone.  I guess Kari, expected us back a lot earlier too, and with the rain she was worried.  My phone had a few texts, the last one simply said:  "call me".  I wasn't the only one who had some nerves that day.  She's been my medic, my massage therapist, my sherpa, my biggest support.  Have I said how terrific she is?  She's pretty tough too, she has to be to deal with me.  We'll be racing Augusta 70.3 together.  That will prove to be interesting, aside from my own race nerves I will have a few extra that day racing with her, and not being able to see or know where she is.

Nerves of IRON, oh yeah!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Don't think... just run!

REASONS... We all have them.  We have them when we sign up for a race.  We have them when we wake up before dawn to swim, bike, run or just hit the gym.  We have them when we miss a workout too.  Oh, we have reasons, some are better than others.  Some make sense, some are legitimate and some are B*||$%{#!

I looked at my training plan last night and this morning, and just thought to myself, there's no way I can get it all in today.  Work, training, work, training.  I'm lucky that some of my work IS training.  But I just can't, I don't have the time to get it all in today.  Then I agreed to teach extra spin class.  Don't look, don't think about it, just take it one workout at a time, and we'll see what happens.

Oh yeah, spin class number one, with the South Tampa crowd.  I had an hour to kill between class and a scheduled meeting.  Who needs lunch, let's get in the pool.  One mile, no pull buoy, no kick board, no watch, just swim.  Time for a quick shower then on to a meeting.

Time flies, all of a sudden its 6:00 pm and time to go back to the gym for spin class number two.  The regulars are there, its always good to see some friendly faces.  Class is done, and I'm drenched in sweat.  I'm tired, I'm hungry, my calf hurts.  My mind is coming up with the reasons, or excuses.  I'll run tomorrow.  Its getting late, right.  A few keystrokes on the gym computer, I am so ready to go home I have my car keys in my hand but I can't do it, I can't leave.  There's no valid reason not to run.  Back into the locker room, change into some running gear.  Just start running, don't think, just run.  No iPod just run, don't look at the watch just run.  Its a familiar route, I've run it more times than I know.  The afternoon thundershowers have cooled things down, but its also rather steamy out, who cares, just run.

Four and half miles went by in no time at all.  I did it, I completed everything on my training plan for the day, plus a little more, when I really started the day thinking there's no way I could.  I am sore, I'm hungry, but I feel great.  I know for a fact had I skipped that run, I would have been on the couch angry at myself, and stressing over when I was going to make it up.  Never has an ice bath, protein drink and handful of Advil, been so welcomed.

I know there will be days when I don't complete everything on plan for the day, but it will be for a good reason not a conjured up one.  Until next time my friends, don't think, just run!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Twenty-four weeks of training.  That's where I'm at.  Twenty-four weeks, of pain, suffering, blood sweat and tears.  YEAH BAABY (Insert Mike Myers Voice over)

Its funny how different the perceptions are. The conversation often goes something like:  So you're training for what, an Ironman.  How many miles is that?  After you explain the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run, you usually get some very interesting responses.  Some say, that's amazing.  Some say, well I could do the bike part, even though they haven't ridden a real bike in years.  I've heard, wow, so I guess it takes a lot of training to get to that.  My favorite response... in one way shape or form is:  "That's just  #@~%^&* NUTS!

What people do not understand, that this really is not a hobby, its a lifestyle. This past Saturday, on our morning ride, I was told by three women, "I hate you"  all before 10:00 am. I must be doing something right!

We love comparing training plans, and teaming up to conquer those long miles on the bike or run.  We compare everything, from bicycle tires to anti-chafing remedies.  We stare at our computers or phones to see what our friends are doing when they are racing.  We can feel their anguish and pain when we see their splits coming in slower than expected.  We cheer from afar when we see they've finished no matter what their time is!

We have to remember to not sweat the small stuff.  We are truly lucky to be doing this together.  I was running last night, and saw a little girl on her pink bike, with her pink helmet, just riding around the neighborhood.  It had rained really hard earlier that afternoon and there were lots of puddles.  I watched her riding slowly and making sure she went through all of the puddles splashing away.  She had the biggest smile on her face.  Remember, at least once a week, leave the Garmin home.  Just run, run for the sheer pleasure of running.  Ride through that puddle or run through that sprinkler.  Let the little kid inside come out to play!

Embrace the pain of training, embrace the anguish on the race course when we get passed.  Cross that finish line and all is forgotten.  If something happens and we don't cross that line, learn from the experience, and push on!

I'm doing my best to stay within my training plan and not do more, or go faster even though at times I know I can.  Twenty-four weeks is a long time and a lot can go wrong, but I am only going to focus on the positive.  Oh sure, I may rant from time to time, and you will certainly hear me say something hurts somewhere, but I will do my best to remain positive and upbeat.  If you ever feel I'm being negative, please call me out on it, right here.  Tell me to lighten up, help me reframe my thoughts.  That's the power of the pack!  I'll do the same for you.

Remember let the little kid inside come out to play!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recharge the batteries

There's nothing quite like a weekend out of town, to help you recharge.  It doesn't have to be far away.  Just some good times with some good friends. Oh yeah, some beer and tequila won't hurt either.

Ft Myers Beach, not too far away, but just right for what we needed.  Of course once we got to our destination, our gracious hosts Dave & Tina immediately showed us the stocked outdoor fridge.  My first beer was opened and gone before the car was unloaded.  Maybe my first two beers. You see where this is going.

Big Hickory Island, Bonita Beach
Most days, I set an alarm and wake somewhere between 4:30am and 5:30am. So what a treat NOT to set an alarm. Sleeping till 7:10am is "sleeping in".   After breakfast we were ready to take on the day, and the boat and the beach and the Florida sun!  Again, the first beers of the day were cracked open somewhere around 10:30am. Hey, "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere"  An awesome time watching the dolphins chase fish and play alongside the boat.  We got to talk to the locals along a small barrier island near Bonita Beach.

There was sun, fun, beers, drinks and great company to be had! Somewhere I lost count, or maybe I never started counting quite how many drinks I had, but it didn't matter.  After a fantastic grouper sandwich and fish tacos, it was back to the house, to lounge in the pool for a bit before deciding where to eat yet again.  

I had nothing to do with it
We laughed, we ate, we drank, we laughed some more.  From sun-up to sun-down it was simply a great day.  The evening was capped off with a walk along the beach late night.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday came, again no alarm clock was set, but we were ready to go.  We had talked about running, and got going.  It was Kari's first run in over a month. Twenty minute rehab rub, easy pace, just get out there and feel the Florida sun and humidity.  Actually felt really good!

"Pete's Time Out"
Breakfast, then some more time to explore Fort Myers beach, the pier, the Dairy Queen.  Somewhere along the line I guess, I was put into time out.  You can see me at Pete's Time Out!  I must go back there again.  A big shout out and thank you to our hosts Dave & Tina who own the Dairy Queen on Ft Myers Beach.  If you happen to be there, stop in indulge a bit, and say hi!

The perfect getaway, to get ready for a long season of training.  It must have worked.  Monday, I had some technical difficulties with my alarm clock, but woke at 5:00am ready to teach my spin class!  I even think I had a smile on my face at the gym.

My Ironman training plan begins in earnest Monday May 20th, for what will be 24 weeks of intense, soul-searching, gut wrenching, push my body to its limit, training and racing.  

The batteries are recharged, IRONMAN, here I come!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Crew: Let's talk about "The Goof"

Making a toast to one of your close friends, its like being asked to have conjugal relations with the Queen, sure its a great honor, but what do you say?  Now that I have your attention, you can tell the approach I will take for this one.  But seriously, would you expect anything less when talking about someone who calls himself the "Iron Goof".

If you don't know, let me introduce to you, Brad "Iron Goof" Minus.

"The Iron Goof" at Gasparilla
Brad and I met two years ago as we were getting ready for St Anthony's.  We fast became friends, and have trained together most weekends for two plus years now.  We've had good races, so-so races, and each have had our challenging races.

During Ironman Florida 2011, I couldn't come up to Panama City to cheer and volunteer as planned.  But let me tell you I was glued to my tablet and my laptop, all day checking his splits.  I even saw him come out of the water on the live video feed.    I remember Nick and I watching his splits on the bike, and we knew he was have a challenging day in the wind.  Anne was calling and texting me with visual updates, and let me know he was off the bike.  He had plenty of time to finish the marathon portion of the event.  On the run, I could tell he had come to play, and the first few splits he looked strong.  But then the technology gods were angered, and we didn't get an update for a long time.  Was Brad, walking, injured or just hurting.  We didn't know, and let me tell you, my heart was beating as if I was out on the course with him.  I couldn't get hold of Anne, her phone was dead.  All we could do was wait.  I had the live feed of the finish line on my laptop, looking for a handful of people.  Still no split time on Brad.  I was worried, I knew how hard he had worked to get there, and and we were willing him to the finish.

I walked away for a second, but could hear the announcer say:   "Brad Minus, from Tampa, Brad, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN"  I remember feeling as if for a moment I was there!

Brad, never brags about his Ironman accomplishment.  I tell him he needs to more.  Brad is certainly very passionate, especially about running.  Just ask him a question, but make sure you have time for the answer.  I outweigh him by 40 - 50 pounds, but I can still take him on the bike, but not on the run, not even close.  He has that competitive spirit when we run.  Even on my best days, when I'm feeling good, he just has an extra gear that I can't match.

Brad will always be there to help a friend.  On more than one occasion, Brad has been there for me.  When my mother was in the TGH Emergency Room all day and into the night, Brad was there.  When she was in hospice, and we were there day and night, Brad brought food for my entire family one afternoon.

If I had to describe Brad in one sentence:  "Brad will do anything for a friend!"

IRONMAN Florida is fast approaching.  I can't wait to be at the finish line with him and Jamie.  Like I said before, who gets there first, doesn't matter.

Brad "Iron Goof" Minus, Jamie: AKA "The Whiner"
and Me, Big Pete   REV3 70.3, Oct 2012

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Ying and Yang of race day

St Anthony's Triathlon, the big event here in the Tampa Bay area.  Thousands of participants, an awesome PRO field, and even Mr, "DWTS" & chocolate milk, Hines Ward was there.

I knew, I wasn't in "race shape" but was peer pressured into doing this race anyway.  I can hear my mother's voice in my head right now, "So if all your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to do it too?" Well, maybe not jump off a bridge, but Olympic Distance Triathlon, sure, what the hell!  Oops, sorry mom.

Now the twenty four hours or so before race start were interesting to say the least.  Saturday morning, Kari treated me like a star athlete.  She cooked an amazing breakfast, which we ate on the patio.  It was an awesome start to the day.  Have I mentioned how wonderful she is?  Another cup of coffee, then off to get with my crew, check out the expo, get in the water for a practice swim.  I packed the bike on my car, she kissed me goodbye  and said "don't forget sunscreen, looks like you're going to need it."   Insert music of impending doom.  (DUM da duh dum, DUMMMMMM, yes pun intended)

I parked my car at the Northshore pool, and was so excited to get with everyone, I jumped on my bike, grabbed a drawstring bag, with my goggles.  Yes you guessed, left the sunscreen in the car.  I found Brad, Nick and Scott jogging towards swim start so I spun around and rode along side them.  We stripped our shirts off climbed down the stairs and into the water.  This was just to get the feel for water, and stretch out.  The water temp felt great, and although a little choppy no big deal, ok turnaround and back to the stairs.  The metal stairs.  On practice, day no one is there to grab you by the arms and help you up, and a swell kind of grabbed me and I smashed my foot (big toe took the brunt of the blow)  and so it begins.  We went back to the expo, watched the pro press conference which was fun.  We checked our bikes into transition and Brad "Iron Goof" gave me the coolest gift, an A-Train tank top that said "Coach Pete"  Then Brad said, "Dude, you need to get out of the sun"  Yes, my shoulders, and neck were toasted.  This should be fun.  Let's see, what else could go wrong, well I'll spare you the details, but I didn't feel well, barely slept, and couldn't eat.  4:00am, this should be fun.

Pete, Nick, Brad Pre-Swim Start
We get to the race site, about 5:30am and can see the trees bending and the water is moving violently.  Oh yeah, this is great.  But, I'm with my friends.  You were expecting a race report, so here it is in a nutshell:   I had a slow swim, a slow bike, and an abysmal run.  Yes it was a lousy race, but, I was out there and it was a great day.

I lost a water bottle out on the bike course, so I ran short of fluids.  My plan was to pick up one more bottle carry it with me out of T-2, drink it and toss it.  But, I came out of T-2 and didn't feel too bad, I knew I didn't have much left, but thought for sure 10 minute miles were doable.  I saw Kari and her niece Katie, who was holding a sign telling me to RUN FASTER.  Some high fives along the way and the energy is flowing.  I hit the grassy area, and that's when the left calf decided it didn't want to play anymore.  Grab a tree, toe raises, stretch... come on.  Ok let's run!  this went on for 5.2 of the 6.2 mile run.  But I love being out there, the words of encouragement, the slaps on the ass, (Thanks Cheryl) Beth, Jaye, Kimberly, Sean, Jon and everyone out on the run course who encouraged me, thank you!  Megan caught me with about a mile and half to go, yes I was walking, actually limping, but she stayed with me and shared the last of her nutrition.  With less than a mile to go, I decided that's it, I don't care anymore, let's bring it in as hard as I can.  I'll spare you the finish photo, it wasn't pretty.

Thank you Kari
What makes it all worthwhile is the finish line and who is there for you.    I cannot believe how many people I heard screaming my name in the finish chute.  Seeing so many awesome friends is the greatest feeling. More importantly its having someone with you from start to finish.  You know that special someone who woke up at 4am to hold your stuff, to cheer you on and be there at the finish line.

Yes, I had a lousy race, but I had a great day!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The A-Train Crew: The Whiner

I told you I was going to start introducing you to the A-Train crew.  I thought it only fitting to start off with someone who's been around from the beginning.  Someone who has been on the podium more than once.  Someone we affectionately call the WHINER!  Now we had another whiner on the team, but her nickname is Hollywood, but I digress.
Jamie holding Yvonne Van Vlerken
up after her win at Ironman FL 2012

Without further adieu, JAMIE BREIBART, aka:  The Whiner

Jamie and I began training together during the summer of 2011, getting ready for the Nations TRI in Washington, DC.  We started with our Team In Training "buddy runs" on Thursday evenings at Bayshore.  It was a great crew of people.  We've always talked about how close you become training together, and yes, Jamie and I had all sorts of conversations, during those long bike rides, or runs.

A workout isn't complete unless she tells me she hates me at least once.  We've ridden in the rain, and cold, we've run in the blistering heat.  We've logged a lot of pre-dawn miles together.

Jamie Hanging with Lance the night before
Ironman FL 70.3 2012
You can always spot Jamie during a race, donning her Auburn hat.  She always appreciates a loud "WAR EAGLE" as she's running!  During Nation's Tri in 2011, I was running opposite the course from the finish line out trying to catch up to all of my crew.  One of the first spotted was Jamie.  She was giving it everything she had, despite some serious blisters.  I crossed her path, and asked how she was, her reply:  "I feel like $#`%!"  I slapped her on the butt and told her to keep going.  She kept running, and she always does.

At REV3 70.3, last year in Venice, FL, she tried to pick me up on the run.  I had busted out the bike leg, and had nothing left for the run.  (I know, real rookie mistake) I was cramping badly, when she caught me.  Now she turned into the coach,  I managed to stay with her a mile or so, but just couldn't hold on.  I crossed her on the run a couple more times, and found my legs after mile 5.  Exchanging high-fives on the 2 loop out and back course, was just what I needed to maintain a reasonable pace for the second part of the 13.1 miles.

We've been through alot together.  We've seen each other at our best and our worst, whether its training, racing or in our personal lives.  I cannot wait to meet her at the finish line at Ironman, Florida. Who get's there first, won't matter as long as we get there.
The Three Amigos at REV 3 Venice, FL 2012
Brad "Iron Goof" Minus, Jamie "The Whiner" Breibart, Pete

Stay tuned:  Next week, we'll talk about, "The Iron Goof"

Friday, April 5, 2013

Two Hundred, Ten!

Two hundred, ten! Two hundred ten days, until IRONMAN Florida in Panama City, FL.  If you are registered for it too, I bet that got your heart pumping.

Focus, focus.  I know I have been lacking in focus in my training lately.  My good friend Brad, the "Iron Goof" said the same thing in his blog.  Brad, was shocked I hadn't signed up for St Anthony's Triathlon at the end of the month.  So he and Nick dialed up the pressure, and guess what, I'm in.  I know it won't be a PR, but that's not the point.  I knew that if I hadn't signed up, I'd be on the sidelines and very grumpy about it come race day.

The fact is I need to get into a race, just to know I still got it.  Please be kind, especially if you see me on the side during the run heaving up my lungs.  I do give you the right to slap me on the ass if you pass me and I'm walking!

So here I go, kicking off the race season with St Anthony's Triathlon in St Petersburg, FL.  It is a great race, and looking forward to hanging out with everyone, and seeing a really stacked field of professionals.

That's right, when your training feels a little flat, sign up for a race that's three weeks away!  BRILLIANT!  Let's see, what are some other good ideas, oh yes, sign up for a Half Ironman!  Sure, did that too!  Ironman Augusta 70.3 in September, here I come.

What every athlete needs, is passion, drive and some real supportive friends!  I have all of the above.  This season things are a little different.  I'm racing with a purpose and for a cause.

No number of miles I ride or run, will lessen pain of losing my mother.  I can however try to help other people, in her memory, and that is what I am doing.  I am training and racing and raising money for "Little Things for Cancer" and "Miles 4 Hope".  Both organizations helping families that are fighting cancer and brain tumors.

Ironman is a test of strength and determination! Well let me tell you a little something about my mom.  No one was stronger or more determined than her.  She was always there, for everyone in the family, aunts, uncles, cousins no matter what.  She was there, organizing what needed to be done and getting it done herself.  She would move an entire house of furniture around while Dad was at work even with a reluctant young helper, that might have pouted.  She was Harriet Nelson, June Cleaver and Wonder Woman all rolled into one.

In her last days she taught us all one final lesson.  That is just how precious life is, and how you fight with your last ounce of strength for it.  You fight for every breath, you fight for your family with all your heart no matter what, right down to the end.  I will be thinking of her throughout every mile of the 140.6 miles on that day in November.

Please help me get to the start line, and I will do my best to get to the finish line!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bringing back the FEELING

I know, I have been remiss in my blogging.  See, you didn't even notice did you.  But something happened to bring back the "feeling".  You know what feeling, that competitive, let's do this feeling!  Even the feeling that makes me want to write about it.

Saturday was the HITS series 70.3 race in Ocala.  Walking into the race site, and seeing transition, I just got that familiar feeling.  The "let's do this" feeling!  I wasn't racing, but love being around it.  You can feel the energy in the area.  We got there, on Friday, for packet pick up, and the pre-race meeting. We met up with our friends, and checked out the grounds.  The tension is building.

Now if you have never done a 70.3 or "Half-Iron" distance, it can be daunting, getting to the start line.  The hours and hours of training, fighting illness, and injury, it takes a toll, on the body and the mind.  Doubts creep in.  In almost all 70.3 training plans, you never do all three distances on the same day.  In other words, you haven't done it all yet, and guess what, its kind of scary, especially if you have been fighting injuries.

As a coach with Team In Training, getting ready for the Nation's Tri, I remember feeling incredible anxiety race weekend.  I got to ask Dave Scott, about coaching versus racing.  He basically said the same thing, that it was harder watching and coaching than racing.  Watching my team of athletes get ready, my heart raced.  I helped them stretch, taped their knees and ankles, gave them all a pep talk, and watched them head for the starting areas.  It was a very tense three hours of racing and watching.

Saturday was different.  One, this was a 70.3 and not an Olympic distance race. Two, I wasn't the coach.  I was the boyfriend, the Sherpa and photographer.  (for the record I'm a terrible photographer)  Yes, this was different.  Oh sure, I could give her some technical advice, and a few tips and try to be her coach, but my heart was pounding as we frantically got her into her wet-suit in the pouring rain.  A kiss for good luck, and I watched her walk into the dark, 65 degree water.  I watched the mass of bodies start swimming, and there's no differentiating who's who anymore.  Now, the hard part, wait!  I pegged her swim time, and when she got out, I was allowed to help her get out of her wet-suit.  I snap a few photos of her in transition, much to her chagrin, another quick pep talk, a kiss, and send her on her way on the 56 mile bike ride.  Time to WAIT, again.

I've been on those 56 mile bike legs.  Alone with your bike and the asphalt.  A lot can happen, and its a long time on the bike.  Valerie and I are waiting, trying to figure out when our friends will be in off the bike.  I turn the car's heater on and trying to dry my soaking wet clothes, and we talk and snack on whatever I have in the car.

13.1 Miles to go... NO PROBLEM
The riders are coming back into transition and we are looking for our friends.  We see Margie come back in and Val takes off to chase her down on the run.  When I see Kari pulling up, I finally start to breathe again.  She's well within the cut offs, and has plenty of time to finish.  Another few transition photos and she's off on the final leg her 70.3 mile adventure.  I see her and Megan, catch up to each other, and they are now going to make sure they finish this together!

Mile 7, Kari tells, me:  "It hurts!"  I look at her, and see real pain on her face, but I also see a look of shear determination.  She's doing it!

Its awesome seeing athletes like this.  Pushing themselves beyond what they thought were their limits.

Dave, Mike, Rob, Kari, Margie
The finish line is a sacred place.  Being there watching everyone cross it you can't help but be excited.  I'm proud to have been there with everyone.

Words cannot describe how I felt seeing Kari come across that line. I'm especially grateful to her for letting me be a part her big day.

Oh yes I have got that feeling, and I am SO ready to get back into race shape!

Wearing an ice pack but also a finishers medal!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Emotions, the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

I promised this blog was about emotions and not about training.  At times I've crossed back and forth and discussed the emotions created by training.  Today, forget training.  My training has gone to hell these past few weeks.  Now I know most normal people would consider working out 6 or 7 days a week, as working out to excess, but that’s NOT us.  We don’t work out, we train, and my training just hasn't been all that focused lately. 

There is nothing that prepares you.  No matter how much you think you are, you just cannot prepare yourself.  My Mom as many of you know was a Brain Tumor survivor.  Reading about the type of tumor she had, all of the books said, the average life expectancy after a successful surgery was 5 years maybe 10.  The fact that she survived over 22 years is truly a blessing.  Mom saw her children grow up, get married.  She saw the birth of a grandson.  She was surrounded by love, through sickness and in health until the day she died.

I want to reference a newsletter I wrote back in September. 
My mom never saw any of my races.  She, like many others thought I was a little crazy for all that exercise.  She loved to remind me I was getting “older” all the time.  She did get a chance to read that newsletter, and said thank you to me.

As a family we all had different points in time where we came to the realization that Mom, wasn't going to get better this time.  That was difficult because she always did.  Neurosurgery at NYU Medical Center, radiation therapy, back surgery, rehabilitation facilities, she always came home, and was always so strong for all of us. 
Someone very close to me said we were lucky as a family to have each other in this crisis.  I really had to contemplate that.  I certainly did not feel lucky to be sitting watching my mother fight for every breath.  But the more I thought about it, I realized how correct she was.  We've always been a tight family, but my two sisters and my brother and I have never been closer than these last few months.  We had a running stream of group text messages to keep each other informed as to what was going on.  Some of it was quite nonsensical.  We talked or sent text messages all day and into the early hours of the morning, that is, when we weren't in the same room, sharing stale coffee or pillows on the couch in Mom’s room.  We ate cookies and M&M’s and whatever comfort food we could find.

Friends brought us food at all hours of the day or night.  A homemade batch of cookies late one night didn't last too long, Dad and I wiped them out.  We laughed at how we looked, after a night of sleeping on the floor, or couch or curled up in a chair.  We cried together, and we laughed together sometimes simultaneously.  One by one we said goodbye to her, each of us in our own way and time.  

During those weeks my emotions ran the complete spectrum.  Some good, some bad, some ugly.  I felt anger, despair, even rage.  However the overwhelming emotion was love.  Love of my family and the love of my closest friends.  I can't tell you how important those phone calls or text messages were to me.  Those meals together, the food you prepared or brought up to me and my family.  To everyone that walked my dogs or helped in one way or another, I can never say thank you enough.

Time marches on.  Its time to live, time to love. Oh yeah, time to train.  Ironman Florida is eight months away.  I knew Mom wasn't going to be able to come to Panama City for the race, but I did think I was going to be able to show her my finisher's medal and photographs.  I'm not going to be cliche and say I am racing for her, but I will be thinking of her during those long lonely miles on race day.  I will be thinking how hard she fought for every breath she took.

Eight months, you know where to find me, I'll be in the gym, or in the pool, maybe running along Bayshore.  I'll be on my bike logging hundreds of miles on the Suncoast Trail, or slowly climbing Church Road or Frazee Hill.  I look forward to every one of those long bike rides and to all of those long slow runs before dawn.  Most importantly, I look forward to being with you, my closest friends.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"A lonely impulse of delight"

Taken from William Butler Yeats' poem:  An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, our protagonist puts his life in balance, realizing everything he has done has brought him to this moment in his life as he is about to lay down his life!  Racing the longer distances can also be "A lonely impulse of delight."

Maybe it seems rather frivolous to compare this to a race, but there is definitely some solid basis for doing so.  Once you get to the Half-Iron distance, training takes on a new meaning.  Finishing, is a driving force, no matter what the clock says.  Racing that distance, can be very lonely at times. Sure there are other competitors all around you, but it is still lonely out there.  When you are on your bike, there are parts of the course its just you, your bike, the road and your thoughts.  Those thoughts can either propel you forward, or bring you crashing down.  The same can be said on the run, except at that point those thoughts are more like:  "Why am I doing this?" The fact of the matter, you better have a reason.

I remember during Ironman FL 70.3 last year, I remember a very lonely stretch.  As most of you know, I'm a cyclist first, and being on my bike is usually my happy place.  When I need a mental break, I usually jump on my bike and just go.  Its only this past year, that I will also lace up the running shoes and just start running in those times.  During that race, I felt okay on the bike.  I do recall a section of the course I was alone.  Going through some personal issues, my mind wandered on that bike ride.  It wasn't pretty, I wasn't concentrating, I wasn't paying attention to my nutrition, and my ride and body began to suffer.  

It was around mile 30 I heard a friendly voice.  It was Brad, the "Iron Goof".  Now part of me was pissed off he caught up to me, but the other part was never so happy to ride with a friend for a while.  I know USAT rules, we couldn't draft or ride next to each other, but we stayed within ear shot for quite a while.  I found my legs, and then around mile 40 or 42 I took off.  I knew Brad would catch me on the run, since I would be walking most of the half marathon (Doctors orders).

There were several dark times on the run course.  But I treasured my friends on that run, or shall I say walk.  I walked close to 10 of the 13.1 miles that day.  As my friends and fellow A-Trainers passed me on the course, I got a firm slap on the ass from everyone.  I managed to run a few miles even when it seemed the lights were going out and I was clearly suffering from the heat.  Doing a three loop run course is not ideal, but at least you get to see friends.  At mile eight I was done, and I mean done!  I was so close to running into the finish shoot and just call it quits.  Then a huge surprise, I heard someone shouting to me.  It was my brother.  I didn't know he and my sister and her husband had come.  I gave him a huge hug, and told him, I have four miles to go, I'll be back!  I managed to run some of that four miles.  At the finish line I was greeted by my brother, sister and my A-train family!

That day was a turning point for me.  I came to grips with my personal circumstances.  I didn't feel alone, and from there on out I felt like ME again.

Everything we do in training is designed to prepare us for those dark times.  As Craig Alexander said, "everyone has the dark times, and the dark times are coming."  When your body says stop, what do you have left in the tank.  What drives you to the finish?  Maybe we think about where we have been, and what we have done.  Maybe, "Its a lonely impulse of delight." 

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Day, New Year!

Its just a day, however we put so much emphasis on it. We anticipate it, we celebrate it, we share traditions with each other, and create new ones.  We make resolutions, of what we want to do in the coming year. We lament the outgoing year, and pray for things to get better.

As athletes, we break out the new calendar, and immediately we start plugging races in.  We say things like, this will be my B or C race, or maybe "I wasn't planning on doing that one, but if everyone else is, I'll do it."   We plan our vacations around which races we're going to compete in, or make them destination races.   People just don't get it, when we say things like this. Oh sure they say they admire us, but let's face it, they think we are crazy. They haven't figured out this is NOT a hobby, this is a way of life.  It really is who we are, not what we do.

My race calendar will be fairly simple this year.  Well, simple is definitely a misnomer.  It will be a limited race schedule, with Ironman FL the main focus in November.  I've vowed, during training or any of the other races, if I feel PAIN like I did during Rock-N-Roll in St Petersburg last year, I will DNF, and walk off the course or just shut it down.  Please remind me of that if you are running with me.

2012 was somewhat of a tumultuous year for me personally.  But it has also been part of an incredible journey.  I have made so many new friends this past year.  Some friendships that have been renewed or have taken on new meaning.  I have nothing but the highest hopes for 2013!

The journey continues, and it will not end in Panama City.