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. 

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