Monday, September 22, 2014

On Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday is a classic movie where Al Pachino delivers a great inspirational speech about fighting for victory and moving on in life and about living about not giving up and that every inch of forward progress matters.

I don't know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble.  Inch by inch play by play till we're finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.  We can climb out of hell.  One inch, at a time.......On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.  We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.  Cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.......I'll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.  And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.  The six inches in front of your face.

This past Sunday I participated in the Oktoberfest Tri.  It was a 2 week build up to a race like no other I had participated in and not in the good sense.  To say I have been busy would be an understatement.  It is budget season at work and our first round was due.  Having a new staff under me put a larger than normal amount of work on my plate to get it done and turn it into our corporate office by the deadline.  During this time, I missed 4 days of training.  4 days of biking that I will never get back again.  As I look towards IM Fortaleza, I know my greatest chance for improving my time from IM Boulder will be on the bike.  Missing those 4 days in two weeks less than 50 days out is certainly not going to help me.   I also met up with some friends from my past.
I had a visit from Belial ~ The Demon of Guilt.  He first made an appearance in Demons~Page 2.  He reminded me that I am letting myself down by not training.  That I can rationalize, be busy with work  , look out at the cold and snow all I want and I can complain that I am too tired, too hungry, it's too dark, too anything to train and I can skip it.  I can crawl up in a ball and go under the covers and hide.  Hide from my responsibilities of getting my ass ready and in shape for Fortaleza.  As I miss each training opportunity to make myself better, I hear him in my mind on how I am letting myself, my family & friends, my coach down.  Doesn't matter that you've completed 2 IM's in 8 months.  Right now you are not training as you are supposed to and you are letting everyone down.  I hear his cackle ringing in my ears as he mocks me, "Two weeks is like a lifetime, you'll never get those training days back, you are failing".  It has been great having Belial hang around the last few weeks.  A week after he arrived a second visitor came knocking on my door......
It was Cortisol ~ The Demon of Stress.  He hadn't been around since What am I doing?  Cortisol paired up with Belial as the guilt of missing training fueled stress.  The thought of missing training made me think and believe I am out of shape and getting pudgy.  That I might need a B Cup for my Bro,  to notch another hole in my belt and to let out my pants.  After all I did miss 4 training sessions in two weeks and 9 since Boulder IM 8 weeks ago.  How am I ever gonna manage to cross the finish line? (Yes, sarcasm)  The Stress Demon has been present quite regularly never wanting to really leave me alone.  My eating, training,  sleeping, recovery, stretching habits have all gone arry.  Headaches have been pretty regular where typically in my life they are non existent.  Yesterday, I even forced myself to take 2 aspirins, which rarely ever occurs.  To end the week my Exec. Admin Asst approached me and said she was worried that I may burn out.  Me burn out?!?!?!  I never thought such a thing was possible till I heard her words ringing in my ears.

Lately, dare I say, in my head, I feel like I am moving around like a rickety "old Man".  My neck hasn't stopped hurting for months. (At least it stopped cracking.)  My hip has felt out of whack, My leg muscles feel tight, my lower back aches just trying to straighten up.  Heading into Steamboat Sprint Tri 5 weeks ago I felt fast and spry.  My spirit was light and I was jovial.  A huge contrast to waking up this past Sunday morning to head to the Union Reservoir and the Oktoberfest Tri.  The pieces just didn't fit into place on Sunday like most race mornings for me.  I was in a decent mood but not carefree like most race days.  There was the gloom or heavy feeling hanging in the air that nothing can/will go right.  I had forgotten to get my race packet earlier in the week.   I had to now get it race morning, where there will be a late fee charge.  I saw Kenny and Sasha as we entered the expo area as well as the loooong lines.  I asked them if they would be kind enough to take my bike into the transition area as I was fearful I would get a horrible spot since I first had to wait on the packet pick up line.  I was psyched they did and I got on line.  Well, after about 10  minutes of the slow moving line I looked up to realize I was actually on the porta potty line and not the packet pick up line.  Yep, this is how my day is going to be I thought.  Off this line and onto another.  I get my race number and head into the TA.  After a few rounds of walking up and down rows of bikes I finally spot where they racked Bella.  I set up my transition area and head off to wait on another line to get body marked and then I go on another line to get my racing chip.   Finally done with the last line of the day well am I?  Nope, I can't get my racing chip because my bib was by my bike and I needed it on me.  So off the line and get my bib and back on the line.  And so the morning goes.  And I think to myself....
....please Lord don't let me come in last place.               

Nok, Nok.  Who is there??  It's me......
...Nok "The Drowning Demon"Demons~Page 1  I, at times, have been scared shitless of Nok during this process of learning how to swim.  I have started each race with him in mind over the last year and I prepared myself how to deal with him and not allow him to get me.  Then there was the Boulder Sprint, I tried to start in the middle of the pack with Ken and bailed out after about 50 meters of getting hammered, kicked, punched and frustrated.  I haven't tried that again since.  Today I did make my way towards the front of the swim group.  I usually like to go to the side away from everyone but today I couldn't.  I was trapped and we didn't even start the race yet.  I looked left and right and there was no where to go.  I didn't want to start at the back of the pack.  This is a sprint.  I truly felt stuck, in more ways then just this one.  The horn sounded, I started my garmin and I was off.  I was sandwiched.  Caught between the mass of people on my right and a rather large guy on my left.  Keep swimming, keep kicking, keep moving.  I heard Coach EK in my head about the story of people that stop when they panic and people crash and swim right over them.  A few races ago that would have been me, but not on this Sunday.  I was not in my comfort zone.  I felt my heart rate go through the roof.  I was not in my zen zone.  I had no pattern to my breathing, to my stroke, my kick.  I was just trying to find some space to move.  Before I realized it I was past the 1st buoy and rounding the second.  How could that be possible??  I keep feeling people touching my feet.  Not like Susan at Rally Sport touching my feet in the pool but an I am gonna swim over your ass and drown you if you don't get outta my way touching my feet.  Keep moving, don't stop.  I hear you EK, I'm not stopping!!

Finally, my breath slowed down and my stroke had some sort of rhythm to it and I tried, really tried to swim straight.  Long strokes, extend, follow through, don't lift your head on the breath, elbow high, dolphin kick and so a billion things I have heard Jonathon and Eric say to me in the pool kept playing over like a broken but comforting record.  Before I knew it, I was preparing myself mentally and physically for the "what's next"  Getting out of the water, I had no clue if I had a good or bad swim.  It felt ok time wise but like crap mentally.  "Don't go too fast out of the gate on your bike." You have a tendency to do that on your bike and run" Coach EK says to me a few minutes before the start.  We set my power goal earlier in the week and I was riding about 7 watts less then that to start.  Trying to heed his words and not go to hard at the start.  I  then realize I screwed my Garmin watch up and had paused it rather then putting myself through transition and start the bike leg.  I promise, One day I will get this watch 100% perfect in a race but not on this Sunday.  I mess with it a bit and get it set straight.  Then realize I haven't had any fuel.  Going up hill, not the time to do that right now as I peddle and watch the scores of people passing me.  I try to stay true to my watts and just ride my race.  I hit a flat and so starts my calculated nutrition as I don't want to intake anything on the run and feel I may need to catch up a little as I hadn't ingested anything to this point.  My mind wanders to the deadening feeling I have in my leg and I shift around to loosen up and I keep my eye on my power.  I realize I am starting to catch and pass a few folks that took off like a rocket and flew by me.  Though I am still getting passed far more than I am I am reciprocating.  Then Belial comes to mind and my missed bike rides over the weeks.   Cortisol pops by to remind me I am out of shape and should be disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen.  
And I think Lord on this Sunday please oh please don't let me be last in my age group.  
I enter the transition area off the bike 2 watts higher than I had planned and feel pretty good even though it felt like everyone was faster than me.  I can't find my bike rack.  I walked the space but it was not the normal racks that I was used to and could not find where I needed to put Bella and grab my running stuff.  I am going back and forth on the aisle and I hear spectators chuckling at me.  Yeah, keep laughing at me jerky.  I am annoyed because any decent work I may have done on the bike I feel is now completely lost.  I finally find the rack and realize that I did not see it because someone else bike was in my spot and somebody else threw their wet suit over my running shoes.  So it looked a little different then what I was anticipating and how I left it.  (Thanks Kenny)   I am off on the run.  I know exactly where I want to be on the run and I hear "Don't go too fast out of the gate on your bike." You have a tendency to do that on your bike and run"  I think about Kansas 70.3 and how I felt great the first few miles, faster than I should have been and my knees fell apart on a downhill.  I settle in but dang, my lower back is as stiff as can be and I watch my time drop from being too fast to being below my desired race pace.  A few minutes later my neck and lats and shoulder start to feel tight.  My right side has taken a vacation and not allowing me to perform as planned.  Now I am in try to fix it mode and figure out why I hurt and feel soo stiff.  Charles while running by mentions that I have no arm swing and look stiff.  Yep, I do and it feels that way.  Ok first section is up hill perhaps I can make some of the time up on the downhill return trip.  I hit the half way point and I try to pick up the pace.  I am losing real estate and if there is a time to pick it up it needs to be now.    At this point I am 30 seconds slower per mile than I expected to be and with every person that passes me I look at their calf to see their age group and wonder how much further am I falling behind.  I round the final turn and have made up significant time.  In the 5K I bettered each split by about 20 seconds.  On the final straight away, I even gave thought to not doing my finishing move, but I couldn't allow a bad race to interfere with tradition, even though I was sour on the race so.....Wings Up....I'm taking flight and Flying to the Finish.  I cross the finish, I hear Dana call my name and see Bill moments later and we pause for a 303 Tri picture.

My back is sore, my shoulder is tight, my hip hurts a bit and I ran pretty slowly.  Not feeling that great at this moment but I am surrounded by some great people.  Coach EK takes 1st in his age group.  Kenny takes 1st in his age group.  Elizabeth takes 1st in her age group.  Dana & Bill take 2nd in the mixed relay.  These folks are not great because they did so well today.  They just all happen to be quality people that performed well on this Sunday and I am proud of them all.  I finally make my way to the race results to see where I landed in the pile and there in front of my eyes I notice that I had just raced my fastest sprint tri race of my short career.  I literally felt like shit and raced 3 minutes faster than I did in Steamboat when I was on the podium in 2nd place.  It just goes to show you that On Any Given Sunday during triathlon season anything is possible. I hear Coach EK in my head, race with what you have nothing more. nothing less.  Today, I did just that.   I had the 10th fastest swim time of my age group and the slowest run time.  In the middle of the pack on the bike.  Pretty damn funny to me.  The weeks leading up to the race were pretty bad, prerace felt off, the race itself felt like crap and yet I had just ran my personal best.......  I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.  

I hope I will always make the decision to live and to experience life and when I want nothing more than to crawl into that ball and stay under those covers that I am able to pick myself up and take it one inch, one step at a time.  After the race, I decided not to do my training ride as scheduled.  My back stiffened up pretty good, my hip hurt even more and my head was pounding.  But during that time, I decided to rededicate myself to my training and my goal of IM Fortaleza.  I will go back to a proper eating schedule, I will add a 30 minute run to life daily, I will make an appointment with Heather my miracle worker and have her lay her hands and needles and electric stim on my body to hurt and heal it sooo good.  I spent the rest of the day with Jess, hobbling through an art festival, eating momos and Tofu Aloo out on our favorite patio, catching a movie and sharing in a traditional post race bloody mary. 
What a great fall Sunday!

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Coach or No Coach.... is that the question?

When I was about 7 and started playing football I realized that I was not as big as the other kids but that didn't mean a thing to me.  As I continued to get older and grow it was noticeably not at the rate as the other kids and it wasn't long before I was the smallest kid on the football field.  I was slightly disappointed.  Not because I was littler than the rest but because my professional football career came to a screeching halt.  I realized that I would never make it to the big show as a player.  My dreams and thoughts then changed to ...."How else can I make there?"  Maybe I could be a team physician or better yet a COACH."
In college I went on to study Sports Medicine took all the Physical Education requirements of Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Nutrition, Conditioning and Fitness...yadda yadda yadda.  I went on to own a business that specialized in coaching athletes and certify Coaches.  I ran Development Camps, Coached at all levels from High School to University to Men's & Women's Leagues.  I became certified in all sorts of training modalities.  I was a personal trainer and taught everything from yoga to spin to strength conditioning to cardio kick to step aerobics with seasoned hardened athletes to  those lovely blue hair ladies in my aqua aerobics classes.
I have been a Director or a Ski & Snowboard School and I also taught Rock Climbing for a time.  So you might say I know a thing or two about coaching athletes.

In 2011 I decided to run in my first marathon.  Without any real track or running specific coaching background, I immersed myself in the field and coached myself to multiple marathon and half marathon finishes.  I sought out training groups and coaches from time to time but it never really clicked or felt quite right. I continued to work with myself and the knowldege I had and the training readings I would get from Runner World and continually bettered my times each race and became a stronger runner.
Crossing the finish line in my 1st Marathon

In 2013 I decided to jump into the world of triathlons and Ironman Racing.  I had never really swam before.  Except the doggie paddle and hadn't a clue about riding a TT bike.  Once I entered into Cozumel Ironman I began researching all about training for an IM.  I watched tons of You Tube videos on swimming and read every from the couch to an Ironman in 6 months kind of articles and books.  I wasn't sure if I was going to get a specialized triathlon coach or not.  I'm not the kind of guy that hires a coach.  That is for the serious athlete.  I'm, well, I am just me.  Will a coach want to take me on?  I am not trying to win an age group or make it to Kona.  Am I going to get stuck in a groups of fellow smoes like myself and just run around the reservoir for hours like I have seen while out on my own runs?  How and what I am I going to do?  So I decide to take a masters swim class at my gym.  Surely they will be able to teach me how to do this.  I go a few minute early to the class because I want to speak with the instructor to inform them that I am a brand spanking new and I was not sure how advanced the Masters Class was.  After his initial shock of me just jumping into an IM in under 6 months without knowing how to swim or ride a TT bike and being made fun of for wearing board shorts to my first day of swim the very next thing I was asked....."Are you going to hire a Coach?"  "Yes",  I said not really knowing where this would take me as only 10 minutes earlier I hadn't a clue.  "That's very smart and probably the best decision you can make.  Do you have any candidates in mind to interview?" Huh, me interview for a coach??  I guess that is a great idea and suggestion.  "Well, I have a few leads I say".  "OK, well I can suggest a few if you'd like"  Most definitely is my reply and I get a list of 3 or 4 local coaches. And off I go interviewing.  I do some more research and dwindle it down to about 6 names that seem like might work for me.  Finding a coach in Boulder is certainly not a difficult thing to do.  Around every corner is someone lurking to make a few extra bucks and saying they are a coach.  This was a weird process for me as I felt that I hadn't a clue as to what I was looking for in a coach.  It can but doesn't have to be a daunting task.  Some of the folks I interviewed laughed at me and didn't have the time for a newbie like me as they looked down their noses at this guy who's #1 Goal was not qualifying for Kona.  I understood what they stood for and hold no angst about them.   I knew virtually nothing about triathlons and nothing about 2 of the 3 disciplines about it.  But I know people and I know what I like and dislike and I refused to be intimidated by a process.  
Timber Point Elementary School & My Kindergarten Class
Would a kindergartner not go to Elementary School because they don't know the alphabet yet? Heck no.....and I was not going to not hire a coach because I was afrad to make a fool out of myself because I didn't know much about the sport.  I continued interviewing and I narrowed it down to two candidates.  Both of whom were recommended to me.  Both who didn't seem to care if desired to come in first or just cross the finish line, both who seemed to understand that I have an absolutely crazy work schedule and both who just seemed to care that I got out of it what I wanted no matter the level and would work with me to get there. Both who I thought would make a great coach for me.  They both had different training methods so I chose the one that seemed like it was more fitting to what I was currently aligned with.
My Coach ~ Eric Kenney w EK Endurance
I narrowed the choice down to one and have not regretted a minute of it.  Well, maybe sometimes, particularly during those COLD December early morning swims.  Deciding to hire a coach,  besides my beautiful Bella Nera Cannondale Slice was the best decision I could have made for myself and the wisest choice on how to spend my money.  I often hear folks say, "I can't afford a coach"  I get it, seems maybe like a luxury, but I wonder and think, you can't afford not to have a coach.  People will spend thousands dollars to get a faster bike.  Spend hundreds on an aero helmet or a streamline wet suit.  Those are cool and all but a coach can cost less than that bike and hlmet an wet suit and get you a much faster overall time.  Besides it is tough to race if you are injured and a good coach will help you get where you want to go injury free.  It felt like I had some naggin injury every other week while marathon racing and I am now on my way to a 3rd Ironman in a year without any "real or substantial" injury.  I know I could not have done that 

I look back at over the course of the last year and my triathlon training and competition of two Ironman races.  And in every race and more than a few training session, I hear my coach's voice inside my head.
Coach Eric and I before my 1st triathlon
From quick one liners.....
"push it but don't burn yourself out and then give it all at the finish line."
 "Finish strong, be tired at the end and don't hold back" 
"Run as flawless as a race as you could and run a race, not do a workout." 
"Don't be distracted. Be the distraction"
"Don't stop moving, keep moving"
"slow is smooth and smooth is fast".
"the bike is the only part of the race you can still move forward without doing anything and coast and catch you breath.  Though I am not saying you have to coast if you don't need to, then keep peddling" 

To race Day Strategies......
"hill coming out of the park, don't power up it and burn yourself out at the start."
."Now at the end of the bike it is a sharp turn with rubber mats and it is easy to get caught and stuck and wipe out"
"Dump water on your head in this area as the day will definitely be heating up by the time you get to the run section and there will be 3 water stations"

To setting the game plan.....
Swim: steady and long in the swim
Ride: steady!  like you did in the TT loop is pretty good. bike pedal around 170 watts. coast when you can on down hills etc.  
Run: find your rhythm in the first mile then try and run faster each mile to the finish! 

To settling pre race jitters and doubts....
There was the time I was standing in FREEZING cold water before a race, wondering why I was not in my bed back at home...Coach Eric must have caught my body language as I step foot into the water as soon thereafter he was by my side.  "Marty, this race is not about time or distance.  You swim 5 times longer than this in training.  This race is about how you as a racer handle the elements and what gets thrown your way and how you handle that adversity.  That is what this race in the cold is about.  Can you turn it off and still race or will the elements get the better of you?"  I think to myself...the elements almost already won while I was still in my nice warm sheets until I texted you. "Cozumel will be hot and humid and will potentially have some nasty cross winds.  You will have to contend with them."  

To trying to prepare me mentaly & physically for what was to come....
This past week my coach had a training session in the pool where he put 4 people in my lane and then hopped in the pool himself.  He was grabbing my feet.  Ripped my goggles off of my face.  Pushing and pulling on me all wile I was trying to swim laps.  I laugh now when I type these words but I so truly appreciate him trying to recreate for me what I may expereince and to mentally prepare me for whatever may come my way.  From....

To Hydration...
"Never pass up an opportunity to fill up on water"  Definitely saved Esra, Susan and I one hot July day on  along bike ride.

Take 2 bottles of water at each aide station, put one in your jersey immediately, grab another and refill your aero bar waterbottle dump the rest over your head, legs ad down your back....along with Purchase those wings if you can it'll help you cool yourself down and provide UV protection.  Were two Boulder IM Race Day Saviours.

I can go on and write 20 pages of words and stories and notes and antidotes from my coach and the experiences I've had with him over the last year.  Many of which saved my ass out on long rides, in races and in my head.

Do I agree with everything my coach says?  Nah.  Do I drive him crazy at times with my newbie questions and 11pm texts?  Probably......ok yes.   Coach Eric gives me a kick in the behind when needed and tells me I've done a solid job when I deserve it.

My team of fellow triathletes w EK Endurance Coaching
The best, smartest and single most impactful decision I've made when jumping into the world of triathlons was to hire a coach.  Would I have finished my first,  IM in Cozumel without hiring a coach?  I'd like to think so.  Would I have had a much more difficult time?  Most definitely.  Would I have continued in the sport and have had as much enjoyment in what I am doing right now?  This, I am not as sure.  My triathlon journey at times has been painful, scary and unsettling.   I could only imagine how much worse it would have / could have been if I didn't have a coach to guide me.  But that is not the case, I am loving and enjoying each and every step of this journey largely due to the mentor that I have and for that I will be forever thankful.
Crossing the finish one of my last races.