20 May 2018


IM Chattanooga 2014 hat and the man-van
I don’t write many blog posts these days because I don’t think people want to take the time to read something longer than a paragraph. I was inspired to ‘go long’ today. 

Some people look at me as if I’m Superman because I’ve done 10 Ironmans over the past 8 years. As an Ironman we often get to a point where we THINK we’re superhuman because of how much work we’ve put in and what we’ve accomplished. Well, this brings to mind the song by Five For Fighting's song, Superman (It's Not Easy) with the lyrics: “I’m only a man in a phony red sheet. It’s not easy…”.

Saturday afternoon I struggled to get out the door to do my training. I had a long run plus some strength training to do. Unfortunately my GI system wasn’t working too well and that sapped me of some energy. And even though I’ve got 2 Ironman races on the calendar this fall, motivation was lagging. Finally I decided to just do strength training – bathroom very handy, easy to stop early and go home. Made it all the way through - small victory.

Sunday morning started the same way. I wanted to ride 60 miles but GI wasn’t great. After an hour of going through the motion to prepare to ride (bathroom, eat, drink, bathroom, gather nutrition, etc.) I opted for making up Saturday’s long run instead. I’d be closer to home if I felt like crap and maybe I could push my long ride off until Monday. 

Still pessimistic, I walked and jogged for a few minutes of warm up. Started feeling pretty good and my “system” wasn’t arguing with me. Within a mile the pessimism turned around to resolve to get it done and enjoy it. Motivation swelled and I had a pretty perfect run. 13 miles of satisfaction.

It’s not always easy to get out the door (and there are certain times you shouldn’t), but if you at least START, you never know what will happen. Give yourself a chance. Take advantage of the opportunity and GET OUT THERE! Who knows? Things may turn out better than you think!

And you don’t need to be Superman or Wonder Woman to do it.

10 December 2017

Ironman Arizona Race Report 2017 (Part 4) - 3 Weeks On and 2018 Race Plan

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since Ironman Arizona but to me it seems like so much longer. Here’s where I’m at with things. Feel free not to read if you’re sick of hearing/reading about this.

I’ve thought about IMAZ off and on since the race. I look at the medal and at 4th place and at the splits and times and think about the 2 minutes I thoughtlessly gave to the course that would have put me in 3rd. And I think how and where I came up short. IMAZ was a humbling experience. I’d done the race 6 times and while I trained and prepped to perform well again this year, I was surprisingly
UNprepared for the things that didn’t go as planned (windy bike ride, back pain, nutrition not great, feeling fine and more often feeling bad on the run). This isn’t how I see myself - I have thought that I usually am good about adapting, adjusting, and taking in stride whatever comes. As I think about it, I have hit breaking points during a few races that took me more time than I’d like to get over before pushing ahead. Hmm… well that’s not how I see myself.

For this race I learned that it's a good idea to ‘coach’ my support crew on what I need to hear and how I want it said. This was my 10th Ironman so at this point the goal for me is not “just” to finish. If Linda hadn’t told me what my status was during the final 8K of the marathon, and told me with urgency, enthusiasm, and forcefulness, I wouldn’t have worked nearly as hard as I did to give it my all. She and my other support crew made a huge difference at important moments. I needed them to push through. 

It is surprising to me that I let go of my goals the way I did. But that has made me hungry for a redo. And so, while I told myself for half the race that I’d NEVER do it again, I went and signed up for 2018. To make things ridiculous I’m also racing Ironman Chattanooga six weeks before Arizona. I have a vision of how I’ll go about this double but it is unknown territory for me. It excites me and makes me a little scared – now THAT’S motivating!  http://online.ccfa.org/goto/skipslade

My physical and mental recovery from IMAZ has been faster than I can remember. I could be back into full-on training by now but since this is my down time/off season, I’m trying to be smart and not jump back in too quickly. I know I’ll run out of enthusiasm and feel that self-defeating burnout by the summer if I don’t honor the need for some unstructured, optional working out now. It is hard not to want to get going right now because I think I know what I want to do and need to work on to hit my goals for next year. Patience is what’s needed.

That said, for the next 6-10 weeks I intend to do mostly shorter workouts. Swim, bike, and run will focus more on technique and on higher intensity stuff, building gradually of course. This is similar to what I intend to have many of my athletes do who have developed a large endurance base over the years. I’m unhappy with how my swim has slowed and I attribute that to declining technique and to fewer pool swims. I know age is a factor for ME because I’m a ‘mature’ swimmer because of my long time in the sport but I can still put up a fight to regain some of that lost speed.

I intend to mix in some work on the rowing machine just for variety, since my races are pretty far off. I’ll also have a strong early season focus on strength training. This comes after a visit to my knowledgeable and experienced expert, Diane Buchta, last week. This past year I did the least amount of strength training I’ve done in 9 years and I think it showed on both the bike and run in Arizona.

So that is where I’m headed. I’ve swum twice, rowed twice, run and biked once each, and done strength training this week. Most has been pretty short but next week I'll start getting in what I would call real workouts.

That’s the update. I could easily just write this for myself or just think about it without sharing but I often share this stuff in case it can help you understand your own efforts, give you ideas for your training, or normalize what you might be thinking or feeling. I don’t have all the answers. Obviously I have my own weaknesses and places where I fall short. Racing 10 Ironmans has peeled away hidden, or maybe intentionally buried, weaknesses that I need to work on. I just don’t think it would be honest to paint a rosy picture of perfection when that's not reality. Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

28 November 2017

Ironman Arizona Race Report 2017 (part 3) - In My Head

People have asked me what I think about while I’m out there. What goes through my head? Are you afraid? Do you wanna quit? I thought I’d give a snapshot of honestly what’s going on, unvarnished but certainly incomplete – 12 hours would be a lot to write about. Sorry so long – feel free not to read. My thoughts are in quotation marks and italics.

“Do I have everything? Where the entrance to get into transition?” I incorrectly tell my Sherpa Mom where to go and wait. But there’s Maria Elena to save the day and get here. I go through my checklist of things to do at my bike. Help another athlete, pass the pump off to Mom, and take care of everything else on the list. I head towards the Special Needs drop-off and see the portapotty line. “That line isn’t bad – I’m going NOW!” After finding a tree to wrap my resistence cords around for a warm up I focus on getting 4 sets of 20-25 pulls in so my lats will be ready. “They’re starting to get sore and tired. Time to rest and then the next set.” Then “Oh, look at those people in the warm changing tent putting on wetsuits.” I join them.

I stand in line for the swim. “Should I move up? Am I seeded about right?” The national anthem is sung. “10-12 minutes until age groupers start. I want to start pouring water down my wetsuit ‘cause I gotta pee. Ooo, that’s cool water. Pour some more. Is my cap on right? How are my goggles? Is the right eye in the right position?” It’s been leaking every time I’ve swum lately. “Almost go-time. This is it – time to execute. Line is moving. What stairs will I go down? Go!”

“Here we go!” I move through the opening and down the stairs and jump into the water. “Swim! Is that an open spot? Avoid those swinging arms and kicking feet. Find a clear spot. Stay to the right for a shorter swim.” I plan to swim closer to the buoys as I move down the course due to the course contour. “Where am I? Am I off course? Why is this person repeatedly swimming into me. THEY must be swimming crooked… or is it me? Nope, there’s the buoy. Oops, I swallowed some gross water. Am I going too hard? Relax your kick. No cramps. Keep it going.”

“Red turn buoy is next. Am I lined up for the turn? How many people are around me?” I decide to cut close to the turn buoy. I pass under the Rural Rd bridge and look up to see if anyone is up there watching. “Damnit, swallowed a little more water. Why are those swimmers so far over to the right? Am I taking the wrong line?” I decide I’m not and continue to stick fairly close to the buoys. “How’s my pace? I’m breathing fine. Is that a kayak or the buoy? There’s the Mill St bridge! Stay calm - it’s farther away that it seems. Final turn buoy! Where’s the stairs? I can’t see the stairs [repeat multiple times].” Mentally I’m rehearsing what I’m going to do to get the wetsuit off. “Getting close. Find your spot. There. That stair looks uncrowded.” I start to think about the volunteers and wanting to give them an even distribution of swimmers. I scold myself, “Just PICK one!”

Run up to volunteers, hand off my goggles, get help with wetsuit top over my head and taking shoulder straps off. I leave the legs on, get the goggles and top, and start jogging to grab the bag and hit the tent. The volunteer yells out my number - 1019. “I’m in the 2nd row of bags. There’s mine. Pick it up.” I beat the volunteer. Changing tent is noisy, busy, warm, and frantic. Find a chair and start changing. Volunteer offers help. Run through what I’ve planned: “Quickly dry arms, chest, and stomach. Pull on arm warmers.” I hear guy next to me ask volunteer if he can find a towel. “Here, I’m done with mine. Socks and shoes on. Grab nutrition. I don’t need that HotShot bottle. Walk and jog out of the tent to the bike. Shake and drink my drink. 9th rack – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The sign …1011.” Volunteer going down row with me for my bike. “I’ve got it.” Actually I don’t have it as I reach for the wrong one. ‘Here it is’, she says. She pushes my bike, I finish my drink and trade her my empty bottle for the bike and run out well past the mount line and 4 other riders, do a running mount, and am off.

“Uh oh, it’s windy already. Settle into a steady pedal. Temp is warm, better than usual. How long should I leave my arm sleeves on? I’m getting rid of the paper bag at the first aid station. What’s wrong with my HR strap? AGAIN?! SH&%! It has a new battery. 86 – 87 – 86 – 89… why’s it not reading heart rate? Pull strap away from chest – come on, get working. Nope, no change. Wait!... the 2nd number displayed is CADENCE, not HR! Haha! Idiot! I’m in Zone 2. Keep it steady. Am I going too hard? Uphill AND into the wind? Come on – this is slower than expected. Hope the wind pushes me downhill at the turnaround. Pass that guy; keep the pace so he can drop back without slowing. There’s a group of 4 riders. Just watch them, don’t pass, wait. Patience! Save yourself. Cheat! That guy is just a wheel suck. Hey!” I yell. I let them move ahead but later I am close to them again and decide to pass. “Keep pressing, get some clearance, get ahead. Don’t kill yourself – long way left to go. Ah, the turnaround. Come on wind – wow, hitting 33 already. Back to Tempe.”

“Nice Star Wars aid station… Princess Leia – nice buns. The end is FAR – best sign so far! Another sign – Y’all are MF-ers! – Ironman Finishers! [M is an M-dot] – THAT’S the best sign!”

“I need water at next aid station. Slow down, smooth handoff. Squeeze it into frame reservoir; last chance trash can; toss. Don’t hit anyone; don’t get the volunteers wet. Thank you!” I yell. “Mental checklist: relax shoulders, tuck head, stretch neck and shoulders, nutrition, full pedal strokes, aero, how hard am I going?”

“End of 1st loop – YES! Love this noise coming into 2nd loop. Hmm, back not feeling great. Starting to hurt in aero. Sit up and get relief, then back to aero.” I shift around, changing positions, trying for relief. No solutions seem to last for more than a few seconds. “Gotta pee. Stop at turnaround. Maybe kill 2 things at once. Nope, back pain relief was good for about 2 minutes. I won’t make it if I don’t sit up. This isn’t gonna be good for my time!” I ride upright for the rest of the bike. Every time I test aero position it begins to hurt within 2 minutes. "This sucks; my worst IMAZ ride yet. This is my last one." I continue to take in nutrition, probably getting 1500 cal in, a little short of plan. “Come on, do what you can. Almost finished – what a relief! Open shoes. Pull feet out and place on top. Cruise down to the dismount line, smiling at spectators. Slow bike, get off, hand off bike, grab bike computer.”

With bike computer in hand I run 2 steps and then slow to a mummified, stiff walk. Back and legs are wasted. “They handed me my bag, yay! There’s an empty space. I’ll sit.” Can’t speak coherently to volunteer who offers to help. Still, he gets my shoes and socks ready. “There’s some kids at the water jug. Can you fill this bottle?” They do. I decide not to change socks and not use Aquaphor. “Keep moving, race belt on, grab your nutrition. Thanks for filling my bottle! Portapottie pee. Back thru tent and onto the run. Start watch, drink nutrition, take caffeine; can't believe I forgot it for the 2nd ½ of the bike!”

“Walk, jog, legs a bit off. Walk, run, walk, run. It’s warm, not hot. Ice in hat.” Each mile changes – one feels bad, the next one feels good. Then a mediocre one and so on. Calories and hydration working as planned and grab some Red Bull. “Heart rate is good. What’s my pace. Let's see… math calculation. Why do I keep missing my split?”

2nd loop. “Posture. Hands up - lead with elbows. Keep looking for form. I feel lousy. Those 2 miles weren’t very good. Nutrition… blah! Ice in hat. Grab pretzels. Gross! Spit them out. Try cola next. Okay, it’s cola and water and ice in the hat – that’s it. It’s time to just survive this. I feel bad. I suck. I’m NEVER doing this again. Just finish.” I throw up on the side of the path. Someone says now you’ll feel better! “I don’t feel good… you’re wrong,” I think.

"Should I shift to 'survival mode'? My bike was so slow, what's the point?" My support team overrides my ‘survival mode’, yelling at me with encouragement. I press on and feel better for 2-3 miles. “What am I doing? Just keep going. You don’t know what will happen.” It’s getting to be dusk. My support team yells at me on the far side of the river. Linda tells me something about being ½ mile behind 3rd place and ½ mile ahead of 5th. With a few miles left I keep digging. I cut back on how long I walk through aid stations. I keep running with Linda’s words ringing in my head. “Okay, I want to stay ahead of 5th. He’s chasing me. Keep pushing. Love this pain. Don’t let them down. It hurts!” I push relentlessly to the end. “Choose the shortest distance. The whole road is open. I don’t care that no one else is off to the right side. Shorter is better.” Periodically during the final miles, when pain is heavy, I chant: “I love Linda”, timing words with foot strikes.

Final turn up the hill to Rio Salado and the finishing chute. “Flag. Maybe I shouldn’t get it. Don’t want to waste even seconds. I’ll skip it this time and save it for the podium if I get there.” Still, I tell a woman who’s running even with me to make sure she stays ahead of me so I don’t ruin her finish picture with the flag, just in case. “Nope, there it is. Genna and Maria Elena. Perfect handoff. Yes! Run! Run! Run hard to the end” with Team Challenge flag flying.

Dry heaves and delirious, 2 volunteers are holding me up, very concerned. I get them to walk me to the railing where Linda is waiting. We hug and cry and say words. They tell her they’re taking me to the medical tent. “Oh my! Tough final miles! Did it!”

Got within 2 minutes of 3rd place and 5th place didn’t gain on me. It was a lot of pain and a lot of determination to overcome, which made it all worth it in my mind. It would NEVER have happened without Linda telling me that information with excitement and forcefulness and reminding me that I’m there to leave it all out there on the course.

25 November 2017

Ironman Arizona Race Report 2017 (part 2)

Feel free not to read!
When you finish a race you have certain views/impressions of how it went. If you take another serious look a few days later, after you’ve been able to reflect on it, tell people about it, and even talk to other racers or at least read their reports, you can sometimes gain a different, more valuable perspective. Your understanding of things may change or you may remember something important that was lost in the afterhours, or aftermath, of your race. Here’s mine – some new, some the same.

·      Get a bike fit. I was uncomfortable a lot during the ride. I’ve had some bike issues over the months and I think things were out of adjustment. My back hurt enough that I was out of aero position for at least ½ of the ride. Usually it’s aero 95%. Sit bones also hurt, which is unusual for me after doing this for 10 years.
·      Solve/prevent the back issue with whatever manipulations, strength training, and consistent work is required.
·      Strengthen the hip abductors and adductors with functional movements.
·      Strengthen neck and upper back to maintain longer aero position. (More planks and other movements on the Swiss Ball.) Improve flexibility. (Wall Angels; https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/4-exercises-to-improve-your-aero-position)
·      Seek ways to UNcomplicate things during the race. I generally do that but things evolve and change from year to year.
·      Follow thru on my transition plan. I neglected to read my ‘cue card’ and so I left some nutrition behind and didn’t apply chafe-preventing chamois crème.
·      Rehearse transitions with everything I’ll be using.
·      Get back to the NON-STOP long rides.
·      “Harden Up” - add even more and/or longer ‘race intensity’ efforts during final 8 weeks of training, especially during latter parts of long rides and runs. It’s better preparation for race day, physically AND mentally.
·      Return to some shorter, higher intensity, rides and runs in the early season
·      Recommit to consistent strength training.
·      Add in some rowing machine work to switch things up during the offseason.
·      Work hard on swim stroke technique, especially during the early part of year. I am a slower swimmer these days and part of that could be technique related.
·      Tell my support crew and friends what I think I want them to say to me on the run. “Looking good” from a stranger is fine but not from a close supporter. Do you want to know times, splits, numbers, current place, etc.? Are there things they can remind me of that I forget, like form or technique cues, or goal for the next mile, or nutrition status? Give them my phrases or my “Why” that I need to be reminded of. Tell them to remind me!
·      Have a checklist for exactly what to do once I arrive in transition on race morning.
·      Use the “paper bag under the race top” trick if weather is cold to start the bike.

·      Interact with random spectators and thank volunteers – be grateful.
  So I've signed up for TWO Ironman races in 2018: Ironman Chattanooga on September 30 and Ironman Arizona 6 weeks later and to do them as part of Team Challenge. Would you consider donating to help find cures for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis? http://online.ccfa.org/goto/skipslade
      Chattanooga will be my "A" race but I'm hoping to hold onto fitness and be able to have a good race in Arizona on minimal training. It will be a new and interesting challenge.

Ironman Arizona Race Report (part 1)

My 10th Ironman & 7th in Arizona is history. Here’s my shorter than usual race report (still TWO pages long!) Feel free not to read. (Note: pictures are on Facebook)

Prerace went as planned. Actually carried a checklist with me to make sure I didn’t forget anything & to be efficient (e.g. bike nutrition, Garmin on bike, tires pumped, add stuff to bike and run gear bags, drop special needs bike bag). I used the resistance bands to warm up, allowing me to not feel the dreaded achiness I get in my lats when I start cold. Also put the wetsuit on in the warm changing tent.

The swim went smoothly & as planned. Water temp was 67° so didn’t use the hood. I seeded myself slightly too far back - I’m sure I passed a couple dozen swimmers, with just a few passing me (that I saw). I took it very steady & moderate from the start. The course was narrower than in the past & easier to swim straight as a result. Many have complained that the swim was long and mismeasured but I didn’t even use my Garmin for it. No cramps during the swim or even as I got out, gratefully being lifted up the stairs by volunteers. Swim 1:02:30, 2nd in age group, right on goal time.

Transition went better than expected… at 1st. Got help with the wetsuit & got into the warm changing tent. Put on the usual stuff, plus disposable arm warmers & a paper grocery bag to line the front of my tri top until I was warm (my idea – worked great!) Despite having a written list of what I wanted to jam into my pockets, I left my caffeine source in the gear bag. That probably cost me 5-10 min. on the ride in the end. Drank down my drink of UCAN and BeetElite, plus amino acids as I came out of the tent, got the bike, & mounted well-PAST the mount line. T1 - 9min2sec, 2 min over goal - slow.

The conditions on the bike made for a VERY long day with fairly strong winds blowing. It blew early & continued throughout. Headwinds, crosswinds, tailwinds – it was a constant presence. Otherwise it was sunny, comfortable, mild, & dry. By the end of the 1st of 3 loops my lower back was hurting. I made it back out to the ½ way point & decided to stop at the aid station portapotty in the hope of relieving the pain while taking care of a nearly full bladder. 1st time I’ve ever stopped on the bike. Back relief didn’t last & I ended up riding nearly the remaining 56 miles OUT of aero, even into the wind. Saw our screaming spectathletes at the “hot corner” 3 times. Best signs out there: “The End Is Far” and “Y’all are MF-ers… Ironman Finishers” with the ‘M’ being an “Mdot” Ironman symbol/logo. 5:50:08, 5th fasted split in age group, full 20 minutes slower than goal due to wind & the wrong kind of pain/discomfort.

T2 had some more good help in the change tent. Came out walking, drinking, & gathering my wits. T2 - 5min39sec, including a pee stop, on goal.

Walked, ran, walked, & ran the 1st mile. From there it was a rollercoaster of good miles and miles of struggle, including a bathroom stop for a #2 & another stop to pee. Splits were all over the place as was how I was feeling. I was reminded that you should NEVER make a rigid decision about what you’re going to do while you’re feeling badly or struggling. Things change – be open to take advantage when you STOP struggling! Threw up once, struggled with nutrition (ShotBloks, gels, pretzels – blah!), and at mile 14 was starting to switch to survival mode as goal time was way out of reach. Then the spectathletes were there to yell at me and kick my butt. A few miles later they were there again on the other side of the river. Linda gave me my current age group place, yelled at me to get going, and had the choice words I needed to push through the last 8 miles of discomfort to finish stronger than I thought I could. To cap it off, Genna and Maria Elena handed the Team Challenge flag off to me before I came down the chute. It was the perfect pass! I was full of joy to fly the orange flag & finish with nothing left in the tank. 4:55:30 split, :30 off of goal time, 7th age group.

Post-race, also something new: I was nearly incapacitated after the finish line and the catchers literally caught me and held me upright. They took me straight to the medical tent without the usual picture taking. Linda and Mom were along the fence so I got the volunteer to detour over so I could kiss & hug & cry with Linda. In med tent they had me lie down, checked my info, took BP (slightly high normal for me 118/85), gave me Zofran to calm down the puking, & then gave a highly prized IV fluid bag for rehydration. This was an amazing way to get my fluids back, especially after doing an Ironman & not having a colon as part of my GI tract.

I am extremely grateful to those who journeyed out to Tempe to watch the race, volunteered, and/or cheered me on. I’ve thanked them in a different post & in person but I hope they understand how appreciative I am! I’m also thankful to those who whiled away part of their Sunday following me from afar. Thank you!

I have to say I spent ½ of the bike & most of the run thinking I would NEVER do this race again. Things were not going smoothly and when you race ONCE all year it’s like putting all your eggs in 1 basket. If you do 1 race you have nothing else to look back on to say, “Well THAT race sucked but at least this other race was pretty good.” It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re in the thick of it, feeling miserable, & wanting to quit (if it weren’t for y’all watching). Now, after an awards ceremony & a bit over 24 hours post-race, I’m already starting to look towards the next 1. Arizona may not be on the (race) calendar but Ironman Chattanooga is. That may be the only race for 2018 but if I can incorporate the lessons of this year’s IMAZ to my future training, who knows what the possibilities are.

Performance & Outcome:
4th place of 67 men 60-64 (107 signed up) – goal was top 5
415th of 1557 men
508th of 2,236 overall – more than 10% didn’t finish
12:02:47 finishing time, over 30 min slower than my best, about 50 min off goal
Process & Experiential:
Succeeded in maybe ½ of race execution plans. Experiential goals were mostly reached, especially finishing with nothing left in the tank.

This doesn’t end here!