Ironman Santa Rosa Race Review

Ironman Santa Rosa

My phone alarm jolted me out of unconsciousness. It was race day. Strangely, I woke up feeling at peace. I had been training for almost a year for Ironman Santa Rosa. My first full Ironman. Still dark for a few hours, I turned on the lights and changed into my triathlon suit that had covered my frame through three Half Ironmans and a handful of shorter races. The race day checklist stared back at me from the breakfast table of my grandparents’ house. First on the list were affirmations. Stay grateful, let go of negativity, find steadiness in success and failures. Then I sipped my Green Shake, chocked full of vitamins.

I filled my water bottles and loaded the gear in my pack. My Iron-sherpa, Chris, started the truck. We were off. The drive to Lake Sonoma passed uneventfully as we talked over the steady pulse of my race day playlist.

Maybe I knew that today was more than just a race. Ironman Santa Rosa was a day to celebrate the journey of transformation that started five years ago when I started to face my PTSD head on in full sobriety; this triathlon was an opportunity for me to give thanks for my growth in Mind, Body, and Spirit. Or maybe my meditations and deep stretches had calmed me. Perhaps my body was also ready for the race, having gone through the race day morning rituals many times before. I reminded myself to let go of the outcome and simply be in the moment for each stroke, pedal, and stride. Like Mark Allen said, “transcend the numbers”.  After all, whatever my finishing time, it would be a personal best.

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The Biggest Race of My Life

Until Chaps connected with the right hook, I thought I was well-prepared for the interview.

 

Lindsey Schmidt from Ironman’s PR firm reached out a few months ago to say they heard my story. Ironman wanted to get me on a cool, new veteran podcast to talk about why I race. It would be a chance to talk about the Marines on my jersey that keep me moving towards the finish line. I agreed to do the interview.  I wrote an eBook  about the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Finally, a chance to talk to a larger audience about a great way to deal with PTSD!

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The interview started out great (listen to it here). We talked about how I went into the Marine Corps, ditched the band and joined the infantry, and shipped out to Iraq. He asked me what house-to-house fighting was like in Fallujah. Chaps was there in 2007 and has walked the streets of the former Baath Party hub. And of course, we chatted about how triathlon has helped me deal with the demons of PTSD and turn it into something positive. So Chaps throws the verbal jab and I take the bait.

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The Patriot Racer Log #1

I caught up with Mike Mendoza, The Patriot Racer, last week as he recapped his performance at Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene.

The Patriot Racer Log #1

So first of all, how hot was it? I remember a couple years back the Coeur d’Alene full Ironman topping off at around 106º.

It was  92º, so a little on the hot side. But definitely not that bad, thank God.

How was it overall?

It was a good race overall.The bike was good, swim was good. I kept a 7:49 pace on the run, so not extremely fast. I’m still nursing my calf (from a strain a few weeks earlier).

What helps you when you have to run slower? How do you deal with it? Keeping that big picture in mind.

It’s tough, because running too slow you can injure yourself -but running too fast you can burn out. Im doing about 70%. The calf pain could come out of nowhere, like it did in Raleigh, so I know not to push it too hard even if I feel good in the moment. And I know that I’ve been able to keep pace with the other runners and catch them after a few miles when they’ve burned out. Continue reading

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5 Bad Fitness Habits I Learned in the Marine Corps.

One needs an ample supply of mental toughness to hack it in the Marine Corps. From day one of boot camp, the emphasis on physical fitness and the tolerance of misery is made clear. There is no getting around it. Weak-bodied young men are turned into PT studs, or at the very least lose their baby fat.  They learn the beauty of the pull-up bar, crunches, and a three-mile run.

Or Copy Code:

Ahhh, the memories…

 

 

At the end of my all-inclusive stay at MCRD San Diego, I lost 30 pounds and could hoist my pale body above the pull-up bar for double-digit reps. Like everyone else, I learned to push past doubts and the mental limits my mind had created for what I could and could not do. Ironman’s phrase of “Anything is Possible” became a mantra even before I knew what a triathlon was.

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Ironman Training- Month 5

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

 

I knew it was bad when it got to me in the pool.

(If you were hoping for a simple training update with no real life stress, you should probably skip this post)

 

My bike and American Flag during Ironman Training- Month 5

 

Training and Real Life Collide

The stress of life and everything that wasn’t Ironman got to me. I mean, really got to me. December was packed with the usual obligations of Christmas shopping and holiday parties to plan or attend, but this year there was much more on my plate. Studying for my clinical licensure test filled my free time. Someone close to me had been the victim of a horrible crime I could do nothing to stop. My daughter, though really loving her new baby brother, was distraught that her mom could not pick her up or carry her because she was healing from her C-section still. Our family unit was trying to find homeostasis again. Continue reading

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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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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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Ironman Training- Month 2

My September training was a bit of an overlap with my last race of the season and the annual open-water swim I coordinate. Unlike Month 1, the second month was a little busier.

Overlap

Santa Cruz 70.3 was on the 11th of the month, so workouts were planned accordingly to give me a buildup, taper, and recovery from the race. I came down with a minor cold a week before the race and eased off training more than my taper called for.  Listening to my body paid off. The race went well and even more of a plus was that recovery did not take as long as in previous 70.3 races. I was satisfied to finish in under 6 hours and seeing the race as practice for a full Ironman in terms of pacing and strategy added a fun element to the day.

Running into the water for the swim start at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz

 

Off the Couch

While I didn’t hit all my prescribed workouts, I stayed consistent with the three disciplines after the race. This alone was a major step for me. I tend to anchor myself on a couch for a month after a big race and binge on junk food. Breaking that pattern with some light workouts boosted my confidence considerably. I’ve noticed that many times there is a fine line between staying active and going completely dormant because “I earned it” after a big race.

 

Training schedule for Ironman Training- Month 2

More yellow and red than I would prefer, but I listened to my body and made the right choice.

 

Life Events

The two other major events in the month were the Alcatraz swim and a trip to Boston to see my good friend from the Marine Corps get married. Fitting my training into that trip back east took a little creativity, but was very doable. I had a 6-hour layover in Los Angeles, which I used to get my “run” in by walking the terminal and carry my luggage up and down stairs for an hour. Staying active in Boston was easy. The city offers plenty of things to see and I could walk to most of them. It also helped that the hotel had a pool and stationary bikes for some quality morning sessions.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to have a long run and see neighborhoods usually missed by tourists. The early fall weather of New England was optimal for running with the low temperatures helping to keep the heart rate down.

All in all, I made an effort to get my training in and didn’t get down on myself when the schedule didn’t fit into my life.  When I couldn’t fit in the exact workout, I just made sure to spend a lot of time on my feet walking.

 

So far, so good.

<—Back to Month 1

Forward to Month 3 —>

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Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Review

Standing on the pier awaiting the swim start for Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz

 

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was my third middle-distance triathlon. In contrast to the first two, I did not feel an excessive amount of pre-race jitters. The lack of fear coming into the race was a welcome change. I felt confident I would finish and  had no attachment to any finish time. Okay, I wanted to finish in under 6 hours, but it wouldn’t be a heartbreaker if it took longer. After all, I race for fun. I race to celebrate being alive and honor other people I care about. It was also the first triathlon training strictly with the Maffetone Method.

Up until a week before the race, Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was simply another triathlon. Sure, I cared about it, but I did not raise funds for any charities like my previous race in Oceanside. That all changed when my coworker, Dave, shared some heavy news with me. His wife, Sarah, just found out she had cancer. Both of them were understandably devastated by the news, but as a testament to their strength in the middle of uncertainty, they were not hiding from this. Dave and Sarah were sharing the news with others, partly as a way to have some choice in the matter. How do you react when someone shares this with you? I certainly didn’t know. Continue reading

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SuperSEAL Triathlon Review

San Diego is a special place for me. My first memory is playing on the beach with kelp  near the Del Coronado hotel. I transformed from a doughy boy into a Marine at the recruit depot in the fall of 2001. Now with family living down here I have enjoyed the occasional visit paired with a quick tri in the morning.  SuperSEAL was a great chance to see how my training was coming along for Ironman California 70.3 next month.

 

The SuperSEAL Course

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SuperSEAL was a bit longer than the last Olympic distance triathlon I raced. The 1 mile swim was much closer to the Half-Iron distance and the 40k bike a decent length to see how my indoor trainer sessions (thanks to El Niño rains) had prepared me. The 10k run was standard length with the first leg on a dirt trail. Racing in San Diego usually affords great scenery, but Coronado’s Silver Strand tops them all.

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