Ironman Training- Month 4

This is the fourth installment of a yearlong training journey towards my first full Ironman triathlon. To start at the beginning, click here.

 

Ironman Training Month 4

November started off in a powerful way. My son was born on November 3rd, healthy and well. After the hospital stay, my wife and I brought him home and began the juggling act of raising two kids. Needless to say, there was not much training for the first week after his birth. I did my best to prepare food, run errands, and wrangle my three-year-old daughter. I spent lots of time at the park so my wife could rest and attend to the newborn. In the first two weeks I snuck in a couple bike rides and swim, but with minimal sleep, rest and recovery were priority number one. Some days, keeping my eyes open just to push my daughter on the swing was a major victory.

Seeing my newborn son for the first time in the hospital. He is grabbing my finger.

By Thanksgiving, I was back to swimming, biking, and running per the training plan laid out by Coach Nick Carling. I ran my MAF test in just over 30 minutes with 9:56, 9:58, and 10:18 splits. Relief set in that my fitness had not totally disappeared and I had even improved from last month’s MAF test.

 

Brace Yourselves, Winter is Coming

With winter approaching and Daylight savings time shortening the hours of sunlight, I sweated out most rides on the indoor trainer. One challenge I faced was being able to “let go” and accept that I would not complete all of my prescribed training sessions. At the same time, I made sure not to swing to the other end of the spectrum and justify sitting around when I had the time to train and ample sleep the night before. So goes the balancing act of parenthood and Ironman training. Since I work 10 hour days, I plan ahead to make sure my workouts fit into the day. To streamline my mornings I usually lay out workout clothes and gear the night before.

 

Even though I could not put in the training hours, my daughter was a big help with nutrition. She is at the age where she wants to help out, so I recruited her to help make my green smoothies.

 

Making a green smoothie with my daughter during Ironman Training- Month 4

My daughter loves to help make healthy smoothies.

 

My favorite swim was a Thanksgiving Day workout with the Walnut Creek Masters. We had the options of what we chose to “eat” on the menu, choosing different sets of freestyle and non-freestyle strokes. All said and done, it totaled about 4,200 meters.

My two kids in their Thanksgiving outfits.

 

The Big Picture

Whenever I felt frustrated by the setbacks or stalls in fitness and training, I reminded myself of the bigger picture: I train and race to improve myself as a person and triathlon is only part of that equation. It’s easy for me to get this confused and expect the rest of my life to conveniently fit around my training. Frustration and resentment build when people and events don’t align with my triathlon life, so the reality check and shift in perspective keeps me grounded. I think a lot of age-groupers feel this from time to time, expecting the results that the professionals get, forgetting the pros don’t have a full-time day job or other serious commitments outside of sport. And like all endurance races, it is a journey of consistent effort and not a sprint.

 

Upwards and onwards.

 

 

<— Back to Month 3

Forward to Month 5  —>

 

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Lucky’s Lake Swim

Lucky’s Lake Swim Review


“We provide all alligators for free. There is no extra or hidden charge” boasts the Lucky’s Lake Swim website.

 

After reading that I knew my casual google search for open water swimming in Orlando had struck gold. My family and I were on vacation and I hoped to get some training in during my time in Florida.

Glassy conditions for Lucky's Lake Swim

Not only are the alligators provided, but Lucky’s Lake Swim is a totally free event happening daily. In a world of $1000 entry fees for  Ironman triathlons, I figured there had to be a catch. Who would open up his own home and let strangers come each day for a 1k swim in the warm Florida lake waters? As it turns out, Dr. “Lucky” Meisenheimer would. Besides creating a swim with a cult following, Lucky has quite the resumé. One needs only to glance at Dr. Meisenheimer’s wiki page to discover the man who is the cross-section of medical doctor, author, former collegiate swimmer, actor, yo-yo enthusiast, family man, and foot-in-mouth-swim record holder. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

 

Am I in the right place?

I drove to Lake Cane, entering Lucky’s lakefront property around 6:00 am and parked beneath an outdoor basketball hoop. A regular to the pre-dawn ritual greeted me, “You swimming today?” Al Johnson,  a Vietnam Vet, took me down to the dock and got me the orange clip-on float buoy, required for all newbies, including “Michael freaking Phelps” as the website states. He traded my signed waiver for a green swim cap and we set our gear on the dock. Al noticed my outsized military tattoos and told me he had served with the 173rd in Vietnam. Apparently, I’m not the only veteran-turned-endurance-junkie out there. Al and a pair of former Air Force F-16 pilots were regulars.

Lucky's Lake Swim fake alligator

It’s a little more convicing in the dark

 

It was then that I noticed a hungry gator just a few inches deep staring up at me. “It’s not real!” Al chided me after glancing my open jaw. Good to know.

 

Floaties are provided for Lucky's Lake Swim

Floaties are provided for Lucky’s Lake Swim

 

Dark Waters

The swim starts at 6:30 on weekdays, so it would not be light until halfway through.  The other regulars showed up, some with wetsuits because it was likely the coldest swim of the year. In central Florida, this means 63º, which felt like a bath tub compared to the San Francisco Bay. And to boot, the water was a full 20º warmer than the air temperature that morning! A novel experience for a west-coaster like me.

When it finally reached half past six we all paddled out and began our lake crossing, keeping left of the buoys. Of course I wasn’t thinking about gators biting my legs, or arms, or neck. Nope. Quickly those thoughts disappeared as I settled into the familiar rythm of stroke and breath. The silence of early morning complimented the still, dark waters of Lake Cane. The only sounds were my breathing and the splash of my hands entering the water. Soon enough I touched my feet to the soft banks on the opposite side of the lake. Halfway there.

Lucky's Lake Swim sunrise

During the trip back a sunrise slowly peaked over mossy oak trees and simplified the sighting back to Lucky’s dock. A thick mist hung over the Lake Cane’s surface, catching the orange rays of the dawn.  Twenty-seven minutes after I had jumped in, my hands reached the dock and feet found purchase on the shore. My first crossing was complete!

Lucky's Lake Swim dock signs

 

Hanging Out

The air temp. was still in the 40’s. Warm up back in the truck with the heater on, I figured, until I heard someone call out to me “you gotta try the hot tub!”  A quick rinse and then into the tub. Heaven. I chatted with a few of the other regulars who were happy to hear about my swims in the Pacific. They were used to the out-of-towners and glad to hear about my first time here in Lake Cane. They told me about the duck who sometimes made the crossing with them and a Jack Rusell terrier who also completed multiple swims. Why not?

Lucky's Lake Swim hot tub

Fully reheated, I stepped out and was promptly handed the first-timer’s goodie bag. It included a bumper sticker, patch, and log sheet to track all my future crossings. Swimmers are given various caps and shirts after milestone crossings (25, 50, 100, etc.).

Lucky's Lake Swim swim cap, bumper sticker, and patch

 

Lucky himself took me to sign the wall and was nice enough to snap a picture with me, talking about how it all came together back in 1989 when he first organized the group swims. Eventually, it grew from him and a couple friends to dozens of people a day and sometimes 200 plus swimmers on summer weekends. Crowds like that sound like great training for an Ironman mass swim start, but I was grateful for the relative solitude my group of seven afforded me that morning.

Lucky's Lake Swim photo with Dr. Lucky Meisenheimer

The photo on the right is none other than Gwen Jorgenson, who swam here in September ’16.

Lucky's Lake Swim wall signing

…and it’s official!

I always enjoy the feeling of starting my day with a good swim, especially in open water. But more than the exercise, the feeling of community and shared experience made Lucky’s Lake Swim special. Not only was there a tight-knit group of regulars, but they extended that welcome to me, a tourist. When it comes down to it, the shared experience is what makes this special.

The walk to Lucky's Lake Swim

 

Driving back from Lake Cane, I smiled. Only 24 more crossings until I earned that white swim cap!

 

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Ironman Training- Month 3

Finding the Groove

Month 3 of training using the Maffetone Method is complete. I found my rhythm and it feels good. Waking up early enough for swims, hitting those lunchtime runs and getting on the bike are routine. I don’t have any more races for the season so no speed work, no intervals, just good old fashion aerobic training. Coach Nick Carling decided that the next few months should be dedicated to building my aerobic base.

 

Bike in front of garage

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