Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Part Three: Ironman Canada . . . don't be such a spaz

Quick recap folks (necessitated by the writers strike forced hiatus. Unions.): Swim 1:19, Bike 6:22, 2x5min naked guy reunion. All aboard the Asics express, (Asics, refers to the brand of running shoes I was wearing. Express, refers to the fact that I was going to be running rather than walking, which is an expedited form of locomotion by comparison) the train is about to leave the building (fine, I will stop using that patronizing tone).

I was ecstatic to be off the bike. I felt pretty good at this point of the race, it was nice finally being on my feet and I was excited to be heading out for quick and easy 26.2 miles. Heading down the beachfront amidst all my adoring fans was highly enjoyable. All those people were there for me right? It was hot, but I was smiling, running light and fast. In hindsight it was probably a little too fast. My intention was to run the marathon portion of this never ending day with a negative split (second half of the run faster than the first people, we're never going to get through all of this material if I have to keep catching you up). I was running an 8:20 minute mile, with a relatively low heart rate, well, low relative to that of someone going into cardiac arrest via ventricular tachycardia, of course, but you knew that. I found myself fighting to bring my pace closer to 9:00 in order to stick to my game plan, but every time I glanced at my watch, 8:30, 8:20, 8:25? "Don't worry, that won't last long" whispered the legs to the brain, followed by a hollow evil laugh.

I headed out of town, the sun beating down on my shoulders, gladly accepting cold sponges offered by the IRON Army which I placed strategically in body cooling positions. No, not there. At mile 10 I was still feeling quite good. And then; the HILL of DEATH. My name, not theirs. When I drove the run route a few days earlier, this hill didn't seem so daunting. After 9 or 10 hours of perpetual forward motion this hill resembled, with striking similarity, Mt. Everest. I started to walk. My ego was obviously mad at me for walking so it wouldn't accept a comfortable walking pace, instead I was forced to speed walk with giant steps to the summit of my Everest. The first transition step from walk to run at the summit was met with a violent hamstring spasm, as was the second. This brought me to a sudden and frightening stop. How the hell am I supposed to finish the last 16 miles if I can't walk without a paralyzing hamstring spasm? Nothing I did brought relief and although my 3 mile pace prior to that moment was around 26 minutes, this next 3 miles took an agonizing 55 minutes. Tiny little shuffle steps seemed to be the only way I could avoid the excruciating hamstring spasms. The ancillary benefit? I looked like a speed walker, which is tremendously cool. With ice packed in my tri-shorts from my butt to my knees, I persevered.

Coming back up the Hill of Death wasn't nearly as bad. The ascent was significantly more gradual and I had a goal: catch the only man that was running up it. Not surprisingly, everyone around us was walking. For fear of a repeat offense by my hamstrings I had to keep running. I stared at the back of this man's tri-shirt and reeled him in. With each step, I got closer and closer. Eager for conversation, if only as a deterrent from the building overall body pain, I asked this mystery man a couple of questions when we were finally shoulder to shoulder. His name is Jim, he's VC from Edmonton, Alberta (Canada; a.k.a the country above the US) and this was his second Ironman Canada. Jim and I ran together for the remaining 12 miles or so. Or 20km, eh?

As time passed, we kept our pace. I continued alternating water and Gatorade each aid station while packing ice in the back of my shorts as my hamstrings grew sorer and sorer. We reached mile 15 where my wife, family and friends were enjoying a constant procession of athletes displaying various degrees of discomfort. Jim and I were met with signs of encouragement and playful poking, the distraction was a welcome one. As we continued on, Jim and I passed a man around mile 20 suffering from what can be aptly as projectile vomiting syndrome. He claimed that he was OK and content running porta-john to porta-john. Between the heat, and the sheer volume of miles we all put in, the increasing frequency of ambulances was not a huge surprise. My intestinal discomfort started around mile 20.5, sympathy pains for our fallen comrade I suppose. The thought of swallowing anymore Gatorade, cola, gels, pretzels or even water at this point kept me on the verge of a stomach emptying display.

3 miles to go. The crowds were growing, the excitement was building, the end was drawing near and I still felt like sh*t. One foot in front of the other. We rounded a corner heading down towards one of the final turns. Behind the huge crowd of people lining the street, the grandstand was visible, and over the cheering you could hear the announcer, Steve King, congratulating the finishers. My emotions were in turmoil. Attempting to stifle the river of emotion building inside me with a huge smile on my face and exhilaration coursing through my veins, I relented.

As we rounded the final corner, I could see the finish line. My head begged my legs to go faster, but my legs vigorously objected.

The blue carpet lined finishers chute, emblazoned with the Ironman trademark was incredibly inviting. There were people excitedly cheering the finishers as they labored across the line with one final attempt at a controlled stride. Each spectator in the crowd willing each athlete under the giant digital clock threshold. I heard voices yelling my name, but I could see no faces, my focus was narrowed, I wanted desperately to cross that finish line.

I crossed the line, beaming ear to ear, with my hands raised in personal victory. I was overjoyed to have my wonderful wife Christi find me in the finisher's chute. Christi made that moment even more special. I couldn't have done any of this without her.

After a thousand hours of training, 3300 miles to get here, and spending the last 12.5 hours swimming, biking and running, I had just finished the Ironman!

Eric Barber . . . YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! Feels pretty good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Part Two: Ironman Canada, BEWARE . . . of pee

This portion of the race took a dreadfully long time. 6 hours and 22 minutes in fact. I will attempt to explain each passing second with as much detail as I can so that it will take you as long to read about my bike portion as it did for me to complete it. It's only fair.

Quick recap: I just finished a 2.4 mile swim. It took me 1hr 19min, not blazing fast, but not dead last. I stumbled, I was stripped, I navigated though the naked-dude mosh pit, I was lathered down (ahem, much quicker than Superman), I was cheered (thanks Bean!) and off on my bike I went. (I think that described the start of my race day even better than Part One).

The first 20-30 minutes of the bike is meant to be spent calming down from the swim, settling your heart rate and ingesting some much needed H2O. It's hard to do when you are being passed by 290lbs behemoths and women who may very well triple your age. Ironman is not a race of egos. Repeat: Ironman is not a race of egos. Right. Moving on.

There are two things you need to know about the bike portion of Ironman Canada. It is far and it is hard. Two other things; there will be times when you are having a lot of fun and there will be times when you would prefer to have rusty barbed wire stabbed into your eye balls, repeatedly. And two more things yet; unless you are in first place, or very very last place you will likely get urine and snot sprayed on you at some point during your adventure. Some of you laugh and the others need an explanation. Have you ever consumed copious amounts of fluid and held in your pee for 6 hrs? Probably not. Have you ever thought; "Hey, I really, really have to pee, but man I just can't bring myself to get off my bike?" Ecually unlikely. Exclusive EB Race Tip #1: If you see the guy in front of you slow his cadence down and he is not eating, drinking or stopping to take a photo, get the hell out of the way, he's gonna pee. I now know the real reason there is a no drafting rule in Ironman. In defense of the locomotive pee-er's, if a race is defined as steady or rapid onward movement: wouldn't it then be counterproductive to slowdown, not to mention stop?

As I mentioned, the bike leg consists of two 'big' climbs and 7 rolling hills in between. The first climb is Richter Pass, a 400-500m (1200ft-ish) climb with the perfect degree of incline, if you're a sadist. Interesting historical fact #1: In some ancient circles, 'sadist' and 'Ironman triathlete' are synonymous. Where was I? Oh yes, the climb. Actually, I want to discuss the descent, but first I must say how great it is to see spectators lining the road up Richter Pass. It's a logistics nightmare getting out there, with all the detours and road closures. Thank you for your support! As I reached the summit I was extraordinarily excited for the subsequent descent. I love to go fast. I have reached 49.9mph heading down Sugarloaf Mountain and it was as exhilarating as it was alarming. I was looking forward to surpassing that personal record on race day. Not so fast. (ha, ha). Once the wind in my ears reached a decibel level that necessitated a look at my speed, I glanced down: 45.5mph. What happened next was arguably the most terrifying moment I have ever experienced on two wheels. Just before I reached 50mph, my front wheel started to wobble, it was subtle at first but with each rotation the wobble grew more violent. Within a couple of seconds, my wheel was out of control. I was sure I was going to hit the pavement going 50mph. Outlook: not good. Lucky for me, I was able to slow my bike to pre-wobble speeds before I was forced to claim a gold medal in the Road Rash olympics. Once I pulled my heart out of my throat I was able to continue. As you can probably imagine, I stayed below 45mph on each descent that followed.

The rollers following Richter Pass, known to Ironman Canada athletes as the the 7 bitches, take a compounding toll on your legs. Each climb saps a little more energy and by the time I reached the final climb up to Yellow Lake I was definitely ready to get off my bike. I wasn't thrilled that I had a marathon to run, but being off of the painfully tiny seat was a pleasant thought. After reaching the peak of Yellow Lake, a long winding descent into town followed.

Once back at transition I gleefully handed over my bike to one of the proud members of the 5000 strong IRON ARMY, Ironman Canada's volunteers (the best in the world). I found my T2 bag (bike-to-run folks, try to keep up) and off to the change tent I went. After the, thankfully uneventful, naked guy reunion tour I was off on the run course. 26.2 miles to go. . .

To be continued . . . (I see a pattern developing here)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Part One: Ironman Canada; I did it for the tattoo . . .

Disclaimer: I have a penchant for explaining things with a degree of meticulousness only found in CSI forensics reports. For this reason, I have opted to create two parts, maybe even three, to fully describe the culmination of my Ironman journey. It's my blog, don't judge me.

(Insert 'movie trailer guy' voice here:) One man will overcome adversity to achieve his ultimate dream. He will undergo a test of human endurance, a daunting 140 mile trial of mental and intestinal fortitude, one that may ultimately lead to his untimely demise, all for one thing . . . the M-dot tattoo.

(Normal voice now) You may think that I am joking, but I, like tens of thousands before me have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to earn the right to pay for that M-dot tattoo. And yes, the ridiculousness of it stems entirely from one simple fact, the M-dot, this so-called badge of honor, is a corporate logo. Let's face it, no one has taken a long road trip in their '86 Ford Taurus through a little rain and over a couple of rolling hills only to get the FORD emblem tattooed on their calf. Maybe the tattoo would be warranted if it was a treacherous road trip, with dangerous river crossings, steep off-road mountain climbs and a sand dune expedition. But it would have to be done in an hardcore vehicle, something like an army-issue Hummer. On second thought, that particular tattoo might give people the wrong idea.

Before I venture into the mindless drivel that I usually bore you with, I would like to express my eternal gratitude to my glowing pregnant wife and hands-down winner of this years World's Greatest Spouse award for her unrelenting love and support. I wouldn't have made it to the start line of this race without you Christi, let alone the finish. You are the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart (which is huge, by the way).

A special thanks also goes out to my family and friends who supported me along this journey. It has been a long year and I want you to know that I appreciate all of you.

Now, about that nonsense. After two weeks, I am starting to resemble a normal human being again. The hair on my body is starting to grow back, my appetite is no longer that of a woolly mammoth (scientific fact #1: The assumption can be made that the woolly mammoth had a large appetite, on account of their mammoth size, ha), and I don't need to sleep 23hrs a day. Other than that, I am as insane as I was 2 weeks ago. Fortunately, this period of no training has allowed a certain degree of self-reflection to occur. Now about that race.

Ironman day started at 4am. The race morning rituals commenced, first there was the anti-rain dance, then the ritual lighting of a lavender and rose incense candle, then the rodent sacrifice, of course. Without these, all my races would be a mess. Christi, her brother Justin, our kind driver for the morning, and I made our way down to the Ironman start line. The air was a little thicker this morning. Perhaps it was the weight of the healthy respect for the distance we were about to endeavor or maybe it was the looming threat of OgoPogo; Okanogan lake's fabled creature that has developed a taste for triathletes.

After the unmemorable announcements preceding the swim, 2800 seal skin triathletes set off on their 2.4 mile aquatic adventure. The swim start at Ironman can be aptly described as a couple thousand overgrown piranhas racing towards a feast with complete and utter disregard for each other. In this semi-controlled chaos you are lucky if you come out with a couple of bruises, a goggle lens full of water and bloody scratch marks on your legs. Surprisingly, at one point in the swim I actually felt comfortable, 'hey, this isn't so bad' I remember thinking to myself. That is when the phoenix rose from the ashes and unleashed her fury on a few hundred fish-like triathletes trying to round the first corner. As I was being pushed from all sides, kicked in the face, and all but dragged under the water I saw two dead men on the bottom of the lake. More about that later . . . The swim was fairly uneventful but needless to say, I was glad when I grabbed a handful of sand after 1hr 19min of swimming. What? More about the dead guys you say? Alright then. Brace yourselves, this could get grim. As a safety precaution, Ironman officials enlist the assistance of frogmen; SCUBA divers that are placed strategically in areas of high risk to mitigate the potential of, uh, death. Those two dead men I saw were frogmen. I thought I was hallucinating, but when one of them saw my eyes bug out of my head, he smiled and sent a friendly wave in my direction. That may have been a hallucination too.

Out of the water, on my left, Christi's parents, Mary & Joe, standing in knee deep water cheering me on. I managed a smile and a wave while I drunkenly stumbled my way into the transition area. As I crossed the SWIM OUT threshold, I was faced with a childhood playground scene. There were 70 gray shirts playing an odd, I mean Stanley Kubrick odd, game of Red Rover. While attempting to find the weakest and most feeble of the group I decided to make a run for it, but instead of running through, I fell to the grass directly in front of the 'Rovers' and offered my feet as a symbol of my truce. Instead of holding me captive, they stripped my wetsuit and allowed me to continue with what little dignity I had remaining. I picked up my swim to gear bag and off to the change tent I wandered.

Picture this, 1500 naked men simultaneously bending over to put on their bike shorts in front of you. Now picture this, me, trying to walk past these men with the precision of a mine-field technician. Good times.

I made it through the naked guy change tent mine-field without losing an appendage. Now, with my bike shoes & helmet I awkwardly made my way to the sunscreen girls. There were two people in front of me, one very large, very hairy man, and one very tall, very muscular, very not-hairy young man (scientific fact #2: Biting contrast of each other, if you didn't notice from the descriptions. You're welcome). The sunscreen girls greased up Mr. Sasquatch with expedited precision. One sunscreen girl on the legs, the other on the arms, shoulders, neck and ears. Off Sasquatch lumbered. As the girls moved on to Adonis, inspirational music started playing, an angelic glow appeared and time slowed. Two other sunscreen girls seemingly appeared out of no where and Brad Pitt's stunt double was being greased down with the attention to detail you would give a newborn baby prior to their first day at the beach. As the 5 minutes ticked slowly by and the girls eventually all but ran out of sunscreen the young man jumped on his trusty steed and rode into the sunset. My turn. Without going into too much detail, I was on my bike 12 seconds later. Ouch.

To be continued. . . (gripping place to end isn't it?)

Friday, August 21, 2009

I taken over this blog. That's right hostile takeover of the infamous Fatman to Ironman blog! Correct I said infamous not famous. I'm pretty sure it's just me, Eric and his mom that read this blog and I have been jealous of it for quite sometime. Eric with his witty comments and hilarious tone that you just can't help but laugh out loud at. Well I can write pretty good...well I can think about things and from what I've seen that's all you need for a hostile takeover of a blog. Oh by the way if you didn't know already, and of course you do because your likely Eric or his mother, this is Christi "champion" Barber Eric's beautiful and pregnant wife.

I have watched Eric train for this Ironman for the last year and I thought I would share from an outside perspective the journey I have seen the ruggedly handsome Eric begin and will ultimately finish next Sunday. It began with the inspiration of actually attending the Ironman last year. He knew he wanted to do it, but just seeing all of those athletes spread throughout Penticton showing off their drive, determination and sheer toughness cemented something inside Eric. He knew he was an Ironman. Toughness is something that seems to appeal to Eric; rage music with yelling and screaming, skull and cross bones, tattoos, that whole scene (that's right ladies he dresses as good as a gay guy, but has the inner rage of a angry 17 year old kid). Luckily for me, he has channelled that tough guy image into something productive, the ultimate test of toughness in triathlon and sport for that matter, the Ironman. He will be accepted as an athlete for life after this, proving himself to the athletic world and to anyone who ever doubted he could do something.

After he was all hopped up on endorphins from hearing "You are an Ironman" ten thousand times at the finish of the race it was time to get home and let reality set in. He put in hours in the pool, spent a lot of time running in the Florida heat and went out for what seemed like days on the bike. Actually I don't think the reality of the Ironman hit Eric at all until about 4 hours ago. Right before I sent him away on the plane. He looked nervous and excited, that stunned looked. You know when you hear some really big news but your not sure you get it? He had the same look when I told him I was pregnant. I think it's the 'wow this is really happening' look. Truthfully I was kind of glad he had that look, before that I wasn't sure he understood the enormity of this race he was about to take on, but he did.

So now back to the reason I hijacked this blog in the first place. Besides the fact that writing your thoughts out online has some strangely therapeutic attributes, I wanted Eric to know that he's going to be great. I've watched how much time and energy he has put into this race and I just can't wait for it to come to fruition. It's going to be great. When I watched the Ironman last year I wondered what made those people so happy to cross the line? I knew it was hard, but the feeling was more than that. I now know that what I was feeling was not only the individual's accomplishment of crossing the line but the energy and love of all those watching who really understood what it took for their loved ones to become Ironmen. I can barely wait to see the love of my life have all of his hard work and effort be rewarded as he accomplishes one of his life goals. Eric Barber -You are an Ironman! I love you more than ever.

Boo-ya blog completed(I always thought that was a funny way to end a blog).

Monday, July 27, 2009

HEADLINE: Weston Triathlete Conquers Sugarloaf Mountain

I can see the headlines now; Fuzzy Foreigner Conquers the Highest Peak in Florida. Broadcast companies across all media will pick up the story. It will be minute 1 of my infamous, lucky 15. I will be the star of the television, the Internet's golden boy and radio's most talked about athlete. People will begin to forget the likes of Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps. Michael who? Exactly. They will then learn that this monumental occasion, this pinnacle of my existence, this huge feat, was a 308ft mole hill. Sugarloaf Mountain; a mountainous misnomer. In this world of hyperbole, my instant celebrity will abruptly end, the endorsement offers will cease and I will no longer be a mainstay on Good Morning America, the Today Show or Regis & Kelly. Children around the word will take my poster of their walls, the shirts with my face & intellectually stimulating yet humorous quotes will be burned, my statues in Ottawa, Washington and London will fall. Quite frankly, the world will stop spinning.

Needless to say, I will not be sending the press release about my last training session in Clermont, FL. The hills of Clermont committed a quad destructing assault on my legs, but man was it fun. There is something to be said about the rolling hills of central Florida and Clermont's Horrible Hundred. My only concern was the constant looming threat of the Deliverance banjo.

I set out Saturday afternoon to tackle the Horrible Hundred, a 100 mile (really!?!) ride through the hills of Clermont. This was an overly grand ambition for two reasons; 1. I have been nursing a low back injury for about 2 weeks now. That's right, 6 weeks from Ironman Canada, with over a year invested in training and preparation, I hurt myself lifting weights. Poor little me. 2. It is called the Horrible Hundred for a reason. It's freakin' hilly. There is not a single flat spot in the whole of Clermont or Lake County for that matter. In fact, I think if you looked close enough you would notice the water running out of the lakes down into the towns below. Seriously, go look, I'll wait.

Sadly, the horrible hundred turned into a 4-degrees-less-than-horrible-65. It was a very long, very hot 65. Amidst the leg spasms, the dehydration, and the pain you feel after 4hrs on the bike I had a great deal of fun. Hill climbing is an extremely painful experience, between the lactic acid build up, your legs burning, your lungs being on fire, and the fact that you are only traveling 8mph, it's tough. It is all worth it though; reaching the top elicits a powerful feeling of personal achievement. A couple of times, when reaching the peak, I let out a ferocious roar of victory. That's perfectly normal, right?

Here's to going 49.5mph. . . Cheers!

(yes, downhill)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ironman 70.3 Florida : In Restrospect

Sunday May 17th, 4am. Beep, beep, beep, beep . . . I don't think my iteration of the ear piercing alarm does it justice, but alas, I was awake. My excitement almost overcame the fact that my eyes were still glued shut. I usually sleep well in hotels, but this measly 4hour interlude was the exception. I managed to slide my rag doll body into my tri gear and start in on my very precise pre-race nutrition. Some may laugh, others will need an explanation, but my pre-race nutrition consists of a two Clif bars and alternating sips from a big bottle of neon yellow Gatorade & my SIGG water bottle. Today would prove to be a big step for me towards becoming the Fat Man to Ironman I intend to be. Out the door 7 minutes later than planned and 3 minutes earlier than my race-day usual. Off we went. Outlook: good.

By the time Christi and I reach the race site I am one part excited and 2 parts nervous. Of course, I maintain my calm cool exterior, but on the inside I am a fragile mess. The transition area was teeming with athletes, some quiet, with intense internal focus, others with big eyes darting left and right trying to take it all in. Although I would like to think otherwise, I was definitely more the latter than the former. After setting up my transition area with my mother's OCD tendencies shining through, off to the swim start I mosey.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of my age group I ended up in the second of two waves. I don't know why they would ever split up 167 adrenaline infused testosterone junkies into two groups but they did. I suppose it made for a little less 'clan of bull sharks feasting on a school of wounded yellowtail' swim start. I slowly crept down toward the water with a little apprehension for the water temp. This being a lake swim, my mind drifts to my childhood in Canada where the lakes, even in the middle of summer, never really feel warmer than ice water. To my utter surprise, the lake felt like a warm bath. Uhhh, creepy.

Although the swim was uneventful I did manage to cast water into my mouth just often enough to induce a three stroke burp count. Not distracting at all. Well at least this gave me a timer for sighting. I had also developed a swimming skills set that can aptly be characterized as bullet dodging or public drunkenness: no rhythm, a little wiggly & all over the place, reminiscent of my failed break dancing career.

The shore could not come quickly enough. Funny though, one of the last thoughts I had was to get my swim cap off quickly so not to suffer a similar fate as my last race. No, the swim cap did not cause some sort of huge time wasting issue, but my photo coming out of the water did look ridiculous. Not this time, pal. As soon as my head broke the crest of the water, off that neon green cap came. Cameras?

Scouting out the transition area on Saturday proved to be highly beneficial. I quickly found the red rocket, threw on my helmet, shoes, and race belt and off I went. A short hobble/run with the bike later, I was on two wheels and moving quickly.

I pledged not to repeat the quad assault I put my legs through on the bike during the Miami International Triathlon, so I held back a bit. Ensuring that I did not slow below 20mph but also ensuring I did not expend so much effort that I couldn't put one foot in front of the other for the impending 13.1. 30 miles into the bike is a turn around point, 180 degrees and off the other way you go. As I approached the turnaround, people were yelling, screaming and feverishly waving their arms as if to protest my advancement. I slowed, only to look down to my right and see a fellow triathlete covered in blood. This ghastly sight made me realize how risky 20+mph speeds can be. The man managed to speak through his crimson cloak to the 4 people tending to him. The medical team was on its way. I hadn't made it a 1/4 mile out of the turn before the flashing lights and sirens had reached him.

The rest of the bike proved anti-climactic. About 1 mile out from the T2 (bike to run transition, folks, try to keep up) I said to the guy beside me, half jokingly "now comes the fun part, right?" to which he replied dryly, "there's a fun part?" Well played sir, well played.

Transitioning from biking to running is an surreal feeling. I always feel like an action hero at the climax of a summer blockbuster. Explosions all around me, endless excitement and most importantly; me in slow motion! regardless of my pace or effort, I feel slow. This race was no exception. Because the race route took all 2667 of us on 3, 4mile loops, I planned to take it easy on loop 1, pick it up on loop 2 and bring it home on loop 3. Well, even the best intentions are fraught with disappointment. My plan was foiled by the evil being we all know as THE SUN. It was freakin hot. I managed through a 2 mile adductor spasm, I battled through the repeated change from asphalt to grass and back, I even toughed out the severe chaffing under my arms, but I could not defeat the sun. After the first 4 miles I was forced to drain ice cold sponges over my head, neck and chest and pour ice water everywhere else in order to continue. Every single mile from 5 on, I utilized the aid station to the best of my ability. First, two or three sponges, one for my head, one for my back, and one for my chest. Next, drink a cup of Gatorade, then a cup of water. From there I would take two ice water cups and pour one over my head which always resulted in a sharp gasp for air, and repeat. I found this technique would sustain a relatively 'cooler' body temp for about 1 mile.

As for my game plan, easy first four miles: average of 7:30minute mile. Next 4 miles, 8:30minute mile. Last 4 miles, 8:50 minute mile. So much for 'bringing it home'. The second casualty of the day was a man who on my first loop appeared to be in yoga's child's pose, stretching. When asked if he was OK? He replied with a casual "oh yeah". On my second loop, that "oh yeah" had turned into a lying face up in the bushes "oh no". As with casualty numero uno, there were 4 people tending to him. By the third and final loop he was enjoying an IV cocktail with the requisite oxygen mask chaser.

Coming down the chute of the Ironman Florida 70.3 brought a feeling of relief coupled with feeling of apprehension. 5 hours and 33 minutes for a half-Ironman (politically correct or not, that is what this race is and represented to me) means absolutely no less than 11.5hrs for Ironman Canada at my current fitness level. That makes for a pretty long day. Anyone know of a substance that can enhance your performance in athletic endeavors? No? I can't believe in this world there isn't a pill or a shot or something that you can take to make you a better athlete. Nothing? Really? Come on? Oh well. I guess I will just have to become a faster swimmer . . . and cyclist . . . and runner. Seems easy enough.

After the race, the food, the water, the massage and the stretch, I took the liberty of collapsing under a tree in the grass. My body, totally exhausted, was splayed out like a chalk outline at a police crime scene. With cool grass, the light breeze and the treachery of the race behind me . . I let out a deep breath, my eyes grew heavy and I dozed off into a peaceful sleep. . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ironman Florida 70.3 aka Orlando Half-Ironman aka Eric's Untimely Demise

As I sit here, I wonder if I can accurately describe the degree of unpreparedness I feel for the frenetic 70.3 miles looming in the not too distant future. Have you ever sat for an exam that you conveniently forgot was scheduled for that day? Have you stood in front of a couple hundred people to deliver a speech that you haven't practiced? Have you stepped into the ring with a prize fighter without jumping rope and unleashing a couple of combos on a heavy bag? As the metaphors for my unpreparedness become weaker and weaker I hope you get the idea.

Last night I received my "Athlete Guide" for Ironman Florida 70.3. The arrival stimulated the epiphany-esque realization that I am woefully unprepared for this event. The race occurs in and around Walt Disney World Resort. The swim, more specifically, begins in the magical fresh water Bay Lake at Walt Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Fresh water represents a couple of things to me: one, no buoyancy whatsoever. . . uh-oh. The thought of 1.2 miles of dragging my lead filled legs around a lake annoys me more than anything. It used to frighten me, but the thought acts like a gnat setting up a drum store in my psyche, obtrusive and obnoxious. A couple of months ago I would have been apprehensive, a little scared and I likely would work twice as hard to make sure I reached horizontal on the swim. Not this time. Nope, just annoyed. What was I saying? Oh yes, fresh water also represents this: At least I don't have to swallow 16 gallons of salt water while I swim. Should be a little less irritating to the stomach, I hope.

Okay, enough about the swim. There must be some hope for the bike portion. I think I may have mentioned previously that South Florida is flat. The only 'hill training' I get is pushing a big gear into the wind. Exactly. After taking a look at the bike course elevation profile I looked down at my skinny little legs and unloaded a sigh. There are approximately 5000 'little' hills along the 56 mile course. No worries though, the largest climb is a measly 211ft. I haven't climbed 200 ft of stairs in the past year let alone trained for 5000 ascents in a couple of hours. I am not in trouble at all. Totally prepared. Awesome.

Ahhh, the run. A sense of peace falls over me when I think of the run. I can always come back on the run. This is my foundation, my strongest sport of the three, my fall back, if you will. Except, I have run only twice in the last two weeks. One of those times was from the house to the car in the rain. Does that count? 13.1 miles on the Asics express after 56 miles on the bike? When is this race again? 3 weeks you say? 21 days?

Do you think they'll push it back?