Blog Archives November, 2009

Weekend Warrior Report-Ironman Arizona

Ironman Arizona-Pre Race and the Swim

I’m a big proponent of a good night’s sleep the night before the Ironman.

I am not a big proponent of lying in a pool of my own sweat, nose running, unable to sleep for two hours.

After swimming in Tempe Town Lake Thursday and Friday I’d noticed some nasal congestion, but mostly when I got up. It was serious enough that I was considering skipping the Saturday swim. But the need to get that open water feel and also weather the cold one more time trumped worries about the bacteria in the lake.

Unable to sleep, sweating, nose plugged
I would have liked to had that decision back.

I did get about three hours of solid sleep.

I was up by 4:45 am. I ran for ten minutes with Steve Surprise, ate breakfast- two bananas and some coffee, plus a few handfuls of Fruit Loops, then Steve and I took the shuttle from the hotel to the race. It was dark and a lot colder than when I did the race in April.

Steve and I stayed together for a while, then he went his way and I went to the bathroom. This gave me a chance to catch up on some decent music, read a few tweets, and an article about Apple bringing flash to the iPhone, get body marked. Then it was back to the bathroom, with time to drink a Red Bull, down a Gu, and get my wetsuit on.

Being on the small side it’s easy for me to worm my way through a crowd, squeeze under railings, and get to the water. But when I got to the canal wall, my desire to get in the water was minimal. They were encouraging us to do just that, jump in, get it over with, as we’d have to do it anyway. But I knew every minute in the water would only make the swim harder.

Finally, I jumped in around 6:50, and started swimming to the start. The water was every bit as cold as I’d remembered and my hands and feet immediately started to suffer. I tried getting up on the wall of the canal but that didn’t help.

Eric had told us to get to the middle if possible, but I couldn’t. I was on the outside with no way in because we were all treading water and even out near the wall, just a few rows back from the buoy, I was having trouble finding somewhere to tread water where no one would kick me.

I don’t get it. Why do people in the water think it’s okay to kick you. Sure, everyone is trying to do the same thing, but I wasn’t kicking anyone…

That’s just how it is. Finally, the mayor of Tempe gave a few inspirational words- the guy is part comedian, part motivational speaker. Then we had the national anthem.

Then the cannon went off.

All the people still standing on the wall jumped in and we all started swimming.

At first, it was not bad. I was finding water with my numbing hands and feet. For the the first three minutes I was swimming mostly head down, not having too much trouble.

Then it got to be too tight, too close. I was unable to keep my head down without risking being constantly kicked. As soon as I get my head up like that, my breathing goes south and I start hyperventilating, which makes it impossible for me to get my head down, which…

Eric Hodska, my coach, had said if you were having trouble to just go stand on the wall.

This saved my race. I swam over to the wall. I climbed up on it, adjusted my googles and walked a little bit. Hey, it’s a race. Keep moving forward, right ?

About fifteen seconds later, I jumped back in. I had clear water. I started to swim and had no problems until the turn-around.

Meanwhile, my feet were getting really numb. My calves were twinging because my achilles tendons were completely contracted. I was worried. I worked my ankles and toes as much as possible but I knew my calves were in danger of massive cramps..

Because of the shape of the course and the fact that I was on the outside of the pack, some buoys were close and some were far away. I kept trying to work inside but the same two or three guys kept getting in my way or hitting me every time I tried to make a move.

The swim out to the far buoy in a one loop swim is forever.

Finally, I got there. People were cheering when they hit the turn around. This really pissed me off. Stop cheering and keep swimming. The people who swim at my ability in the Ironman seem to always slow down and gather themselves at the buoy, which makes this the most dangerous part of the course and also pisses me off. Why can’t they just keep swimming. The increased congestion leads to a lot of unnecessary contact and-

Sure enough, I got knocked around and my right calf cramped. It exploded in pain. I kept swimming. What else could I do.

It was a terrible cramp, lasting about three minutes. Then finally it eased. An unbelievable sense of calm like I have never felt in an ironman swim came over me when the cramp eased. I have literally never been so at ease during a swim.

Then the calf cramped again.

I also felt a series of twinges in the left calf. I fought to stay clear of anyone and it passed.

The swim back was a confusing mix. I was just yards away from some buoys, I was at fifty yards away from others. There were people everywhere, although I seemed to be keeping pace with a group.

We finally went under the bridges and then around the last buoy.

The swim in from the last buoy was epic- long, difficult, confusing. I seemed to be on everyone’s right.

Then suddenly I was on the stairs, hauling myself out. I could not walk, I could only limp. I had to take my wetsuit off standing up. The volunteers didn’t like this but if I’d laid down and they’d pulled on the leg of my wetsuit the calf would have erupted.

I stumbled on wet feet to the bike to run bags. No one could find mine so I did it myself, then I changed outside the tent where it was light and I could see what I was doing. I slipped my cycling jersey (the pockets loaded with food and electrolytes) on, put on my helmet and sunglasses but forgot my gloves.

I was angry and upset and wasn’t sure if I wanted to scream or cry. Another 1:20 + swim. Frozen feet. A seriously injured leg. I’d been here before.

I found the will to run to my bike, then run out of transition with it. While people started trying to mount their bikes standing still, on an uphill, an inch over the mount line, I ran. And ran. More than 100 yards, out onto the street. Then I mounted near the turn and started pedaling. Neither foot was clipped in but I didn’t care.

I was on my way.

Behind where I needed to be. Sore. Cold.

And my nose was running…

None of that mattered now. Now I could ride.

This Weekend Warrior Report is contributed by Alan MacDougal
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Weekend Warrior Report

How cold is too cold, or Tempe Town Lake equals Brrr….

I look back now on my last ride in Connecticut, a three hour misery-fest in 50 degrees and rain and suddenly, it seems like great training for the Ironman Arizona…


Yes, that’s right. With the water now officially at 63- and I’m betting on 62 on race day, there’s no question the water is cold. And it’s not a cold, but just a little for the first five minutes. It’s just plain clod. And that’s something as an athlete that you have to be willing to deal with on race day.

The water is not going to magically get warmer. Your hands and feet are going to get cold. Two swim caps might be a good idea. But you can’t get in and try to take it easy either. It’s not like a training ride on the bike where it’s cold so you keep the pace mellow. You have to go as hard as you can and keep your head down.

That’s the one thing I’m really going to have to work on- keeping my head down. With the cold, my calves will want to cramp, but with the muscles tight, lifting my head up and arching my back is the best way to make that happen. No, it’s all about keeping my head down, staying focused on moving buoy to buoy and not letting the fact that the water is cold and murky make me unhappy.

It’s not the swim I’d like to have.

But it is the swim I’m going to have. So I’ll take it, and like every Ironman one of the happiest moments will be when I get out of the water and the swim is over…

This Weekend Warrior Report is contributed by Alan MacDougal
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Weekend Warrior Report

Arizona in November

At 7 AM this morning, two days before race day, the temperature is 48 degrees.

By any standard, this is cold for the start of the race. Add that the temperature of the water is only 64 degrees and you start to wonder what your thinking was that you were going to be racing in the heat.

I don’t like cold water. I did Muskoka one year- June in Ontario. The stated water temperature was 54 degrees and this was, if canadians are capable of such things, a lie. I was disoriented when I exited the water.

This is nowhere near that bad, but swimming without a wetsuit yesterday, I wasn’t too happy.

Of course, the truth is there will be ‘heat’, which is to say that it will get up into the mid-to-upper seventies during the bike and the run. And with the stronger sun here, it will get hot. I certainly was sweating in the middle of the day while I was standing around waiting for my bike, which TriBike Transport did a great job getting here.

Overall the village was very well organized and if everyone had not wanted to check in at the athlete registration at 10AM yesterday, which is no fault of the venue, things would have been perfect.

But the four hours I spent at the village waiting for one thing or another did make it clear- it will be hot. Just not in the water or at the beginning of the bike…

PS- the race does not climb that hill. It’s just a cool hill. Maybe I’d place better if we did climb it

This Weekend Warrior Report is contributed by Alan MacDougal
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Extreme Kellie: Rock Climbing

It’s 50 feet up, but it feels like 500 feet!!!

I went rock climbing outdoors for the first time and let me tell you… no part of it was easy!  From hiking up a tough trail in Golden…

To picking the perfect day….

And finding the perfect rock wall to climb…

I was scared to pull my entire body weight straight up the side of this huge rock and try to make it to the top! 

Denver Adventures has certified guides who essentially walk you through the whole experience in a safe way.  We had a blast talking about the sport and working with each other on the climb. 

They provided all the gear and hooked me up to the lines that are attached to anchors already set in the rock.  One step at a time, I tried to use the “80/20 rule”… use 80% legs and 20% arms to pull myself up. 

Remember, my photographer has to follow me (with ALL that heavy gear!) to get the great shots.  It was tough for Peter, too!

I made it all the way to the top!  What an adrenaline rush and an accomplishment to stand that high up and look down from where I started.  All the people and trees and cars seemed like ants from way up there!  If you’ve ever had the inclination to do this… I highly recommend it and I’d do it all over again. 

I may see you out there!

Watch our full story in the coming weeks on The Deuce at 7pm!  

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Extreme Kellie: Parkour!

Have you ever seen those guys jumping off of buildings and swinging from railings like Spiderman?  Then you’ve probably heard of a popular sport called Parkour.

The official definition from the American Parkour website says, “Parkour is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.”  It’s a lot like gymnastics, martial arts, break dancing, track and field, and rock climbing wrapped into one.  Basically, the goal is train your body to be better than it was the day before.

I met with the owners of Apex Movement in Denver… it’s a gym based around learning Parkour moves.  They have climbing walls, pads, balance bars, vaults, you name it!  Ryan Ford told me that they train people using ”baby steps” and you basically work your way up to overcome huge obstacles.

Just to see the kinds of things they can do was amazing!  Running, jumping, climbing, flipping out of windows… unreal!  It takes serious physical endurance, flexibility and a positive mind set.

I started out on the ground level, doing basic moves like balancing and jumping over hurdles.

I admit, when I looked at the video I looked pretty ridiculous, but I think over time I could really get the hang of it.  And the best part, it was a great work out!

Watch our full story (and their super cool moves) Thursday night at 7pm on The Deuce!

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