Monday, January 28, 2013


January is a weird month.  It's like the moment before you put pen to paper on a test.  It's a month where life doesn't seem to be experienced, but rather anticipated.  January 2013 is even more that way for me than usual.  On December 7th I interviewed for the Physician Assistant program at University of Nebraska Medical Center here in Omaha.  I apparently didn't make it into the "don't let that person think for even a moment that we don't want them" group.  I'm more in the "well, let's see who comes to our other interviews before we give this person a slot" group.

That decision will certainly make a difference as to what I'm doing in August - and might change what I'm doing as early as March (depending on whether I decide to apply again next year).  It's stressful to say the least.  I've made a lot of sacrifices over the last few years to try to be a PA.  Of course I understand that it doesn't matter how hard I've worked if they find 50 people who they think will fit better with their program.

Yesterday I finally sat down and planned my next nine months of training.  The funny thing is that my training even seems to have an added level of uncertainty to it this year.  My "A" race is in September and I won't even know if I've qualified for the race until early June.  Last year I decided that I wanted to shoot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2013.  I qualified last year from Kansas 70.3, but it is the same weekend as Wisconsin - so I couldn't do it. 

I assume that I'm going to be faster - on the swim alone I could drop 10 minutes.  I have a new bike (see below) which is a story unto itself.  And I think that with some more quality workouts I can even do a little better on my run.

However, there might be more competition this year.  At least one other 70.3 IM event in this area of the country has been cancelled - which means there might be more people trying to qualify at Kansas.  So, I could be it's possible that in mid-June I might be scrambling to find an early-mid September 70.3 worth doing.

I already had been planning on doing the Omaha Triathlon this year - but it will be even more intriguing than I had thought.  It's going to be a Midwest regional championship for USAT age-groupers.  That means that anybody from Iowa, Minnesota, ND, SD, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, or Wisconsin who wants to make it to Nationals has to get in the top 33% of their age-group in this race.  Nationals are in Milwaukee - which is only 8 hours from Omaha - which would be my "B" race.  Which, yes, means that I have to qualify for both my "A" and "B" races. 

As for my training plan - it's going to be similar to last year - five 4-week periods (13-20 hours per week) with two weeks "easy" at the end.  That makes 22 weeks - which will start April 8th and end September 9th.  Until April I'll be training 8-11 hours per week - mostly easy pace.  I'll fill out the year with a few other road races that will mostly be workouts.  Of course my schedule is up in the air as well - I'm applying for several jobs - some of which are 12 hour shifts at hospitals.  Obviously that could alter my training quite a bit.

Here is my planned race schedule:

"No Frills" Race Series - 5 milers on 2/9 & 2/23 - Tempo pace workouts.

"No Frills" Race Series - 5 miler on 3/9 & 10 miler on 3/23 - Probably Tempo workouts.

Begin 22 week plan
4/28 Drake Relays 10k - Tempo/VO2 workout

5/5 Lincoln Half-Marathon - Intensity will depend on how I'm feeling
5/19 Papillion Half-Marathon - Tempo workout
Memorial Day TBD

6/9 Kansas 70.3
6/16 Papillion duathlon?

7/4 4th of July Race?
7/14 Papillion Mayor's Triathlon?
7/21 Omaha Triathlon
7/27 Bix 7 as workout?

8/10 USAT Age-group Nationals Milwaukee, WI?

9/8 70.3 World Championships Las Vegas, NV?

Lot's of question marks - but I guess that's what January (especially 2013) is about.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Crying for a Dream - Review of 2012

Another year comes to an end.  It's pretty amazing that 2013 will be my 6th year writing this blog.  I haven't always been very consistent (my high number of posts was 77 in 2009 and only 12 in 2011) - but I still enjoy writing about my experiences in endurance sports.  I sometimes struggle with whether writing a blog - or even racing in general - isn't just a sad way of saying "hey, look at me!"  But I get enough comments from people who seem to enjoy reading the blog that it seems worthwhile continuing.  I also just enjoy the process of writing - just like endurance sports it can be a great portal of self discovery.

2012 was a big year for me for obvious reasons.  The simple icon of a circle levitating above a torso/block M that has been on every running watch I've owned since I was 13 became something real.  Running has always included a hint of mystery for me - kind of like the "vision quests" common in Native American tribes.  That same year I got my first Ironman watch I also ran a half-marathon.  The Lakota might end their vision quests on top of a mountain - I ended mine in the back of my parents' min-van in the fetal position.  Yes, I wasn't feeling very good - but I had accomplished something pretty cool.

In some ways not much has changed in the 21 years since that day.  I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin out of the same basic curiosity that led me to register for the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run in 1991. 

2012 didn't start out that great.  I actually took an entire month off of running because I was having a relapse of an injury that had been bugging me since August 2010.  In late January I went to my first real swimming clinic and in February started thinking about my goals for Wisconsin.  In April I went to the Drake Relays where I ran a "controlled" half marathon.  At the end of May I ran the famous Bolder Boulder 10k.

Although I didn't write about it there was a very important moment for me at the beginning of May.  I had my first comfortable open water swim.  Before that day I always had major anxiety when swimming in the open water - especially when I was around other people.  There was a thought progression that was ingrained in my brain.  1) "Wow, I'm terrified - but all these other people look like they were born to do this.  Why am I out here risking my life?  I have no idea what I'm doing.  This is not going to go well." 2) "Oh - I guess people are going in the water now.  I'd like to go in slowly - but CRAP they are just getting in and starting to swim!  I guess I better get going!" 3)  Step 3 was crucial.  I'd put my face in the water and be so freaked out that I would forget to breathe.  I'd start swimming actually pretty strongly - but that would end quickly when I'd start to hyperventilate because I forgot to breathe out for the first 25 yards.  4)  By now I would be at the very back of the group and fading fast.  I'd be hyperventilating so bad that I couldn't keep my head under water - which would lead to my body being at a poor angle - which would slow me down even more.  On a Saturday swim with the local Team Nebraska Triathlon group - that thought progression finally went away for good.

In June came my first triathlon of the year - Kansas 70.3.   Now, given that I just wrote about how I was now "comfortable" in the water you might expect that this translated into "faster" in the water.  Well - you would be wrong.  I'm going to give myself some bonus points because of the conditions.  It was warm and windy - so, no wetsuits and 2-3 foot waves.  It was so bad that one woman panicked on her way out to the starting buoy.  The lifeguard (still in a t-shirt because he didn't think he'd have to save somebody before the start) had to come out and pull her back to dry land.

"Comfortable" for me on that day in June meant starting way to the outside and staying there.  So, I got no draft and I swam more than I needed to - and my stroke was still pretty poor.  But my bike and run went really well - especially given the conditions.  I ended up 4th in my age group which was good enough to make the 70.3 World Championship, which unfortunately I couldn't compete in because it was the same day as Wisconsin.  Overall, the race gave me a lot of confidence that my training plan was going well - at least I was in shape.  And it helped to convince me that I needed a coach for swimming - which would end up being one of the best decisions I made all year.

In June I also went out to Wisconsin for a training session on the IM course.  The organizers were great - as were the other participants.  It was another confidence builder for the IM.  I had a much better sense what I was in for - especially on the bike course.

In July I had some more strong training - including a strong running week at the Great Lakes Relay - where our team won.  In August I had my last race before IMWI - an Olympic distance race in Omaha.  My swim was still a little slow - mostly I think because I didn't stay in the pack.  But the bike and run still felt good. 

In September it was finally here - my first Ironman.  There's really nothing more for me to say about that day that I haven't already written.  It really was one of my most fun days as an athlete.  The weather was perfect, the organization was perfect, and the spectators/volunteers were perfect.

I finished off my year with a couple of great local races - the Corporate Cup 10k and the Market to Market Relay.  Most likely I'll look back at 2012 as one of my best years as an endurance athlete.  I challenged myself with something way outside my comfort zone and ended up being pretty successful.  Thanks to everybody who made that possible!

Of course 2013 is already here - and although I'm currently a little pudgy around the middle I've got some big plans for the year.  I'm going to focus on the 70.3 distance.  I'm signed up again for Kansas in June - where I hope I can qualify again for the World Championships and compete there in September in Las Vegas for the first time.