Richard Nelson

Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page


In Ironman, training on 2007 September 25 Tuesday at 23:49:00

Besides being the name for a rather odd animal, sloth is the old English word for being, well, slow.

And I am slow. I finally analysed my training logs from what I now call “last” year, by which I mean the year leading up Ironman Wisconsin on September 9. To do the bike leg in 7:30 requires an average speed of 14.9 mi/h. In not one of my on-the-road-rides last year did I achieve that as an average. An under-the-cutoff ride was probably never possible. And after this morning’s painful trainer work-out I can see that speed, the antonym to sloth, must be my goal.


Committed—or is it commitable?

In Ironman on 2007 September 25 Tuesday at 23:44:00

This afternoon finally got its act together, and I was able to exercise my privilege to register for next year’s Ironman Wisconsin, on September 7, 2008. I managed to get much of my client billing done, but otherwise I just couldn’t focus. All I could think about was a race almost fifty weeks away!

The predictable let-down

In Ironman, training on 2007 September 23 Sunday at 13:54:00

The week after my incomplete Ironman I was excited, urging Coach Steve to load me up, eager to get out and work out.

But then I kept blowing off my work-outs. Perhaps it was my blood donation, but I just didn’t feel like working out. On Friday, the triathlon e-mail list I belong to had a thread on Genevieve Jeanson. At the end of a post I tacked a note, “Still in a kind of let-down or something post-Ironman.” In response, an experienced Ironman wrote:

Hey Richard – welcome to the world of post-Ironman blues. Whether you won, never start, finish or PR, we all have the same feelings afterwards. Give it a few more weeks – you’ll come around. You worked non-stop for the last 6, 9, 12 months toward one goal and now that goal is no longer there… I pretty much define myself by my goals & associated workouts. Needless to say, I’ve been defining myself as Huge Slug for the last few weeks, but am starting to get the itch to get back in the saddle (literally).

Did you sign up for IM WI again next year? What about a more short-term goal (not necessarily a triathlon) – have you got some of those that you can focus on??

Since Friday, I’ve embraced let-down-ness. I just ran some errands yesterday, lay in bed, and caught up on my reading. Today has started similarly.

Tomorrow is an important day. Tomorrow I sign up for Ironman Wisconsin 2008. I’m getting a bit excited just typing this! That will be the end of my off season, I expect.

Photo “Melancholy” copied from

Finally, the loss

In Uncategorized on 2007 September 19 Wednesday at 23:31:00

My most poignant loss are the Specialized Arc glasses I’m wearing in the picture below. I’ve had them for about a year and a half and really liked them. I think I put them down on the table at State Street Brats, but the bartender told me the day after the race no one had turned them in. I’m not surprised. By contrast, I was astonished that someone turned them in when I left them on a table at the Steelhead Brewery in Irvine.

These two incidents point out that these very-lightweight glasses are not good casual glasses: too darn easy to forget about.

I’m not certain yet if I’ll replace them. They’re expensive (a suggested retail price of 230 USD), and I do have an old pair of Oakley M Frame Pro’s, albeit without the photochromatic lenses I liked so much.

Analysis and looking forward

In Ironman on 2007 September 19 Wednesday at 22:40:00

I’ve done some thinking about the Ironman and moving forward:

This year:

1. My cracked rib limited my ærobic work.

2. That meant I was doing the bike course’s many hills with my muscles.

For next year:

3. I need to bring my time budget down. My budget for into T2 was 9:45; if the race official had let me continue, I would’ve been more than an hour past that. If my budget had been, say, 9:00 (swim 1:45 + T1 0:15 + bike 7:00) I might have made it even with the cracked rib.

4. I need to get stronger for that course. Even with my 9:45 time budget and a cracked rib, I might have made it if the hills hadn’t trashed my legs so badly. On two hills of the 2nd loop (Old Sauk Pass and Midtown) I had to walk for a few minutes because my quads were cramping.

That means:

5. I need to improved my swim technique. Just that should take a lot of time off the top of my swim.

6. I need more bike training, especially in the Oak Ridges Moraine (which is very like the IM Wisconsin bike course).

7. I think I need more strength training.

At least, that’s what I think.

Lessons learned from Ironman Wisconsin 2007

In Ironman, lessons learned on 2007 September 19 Wednesday at 22:10:00

In the ten days since the Ironman, I’ve been thinking about what lessons I’ve learned. This is a little different from looking forward, another post I’ll do soon. This is about things I did, or didn’t, do that turned out good or ill. So here’s a cut at what these lessons were.

First, what did we do that turned out right?

1. We stayed in a good hotel. We didn’t “find” it; I reserved late, ’way too late, and the Ironman Wisconsin Web site found us the Staybridge Suites Hotel Madison East, which is a Six Continents/Holiday Inn brand I wasn’t familiar with. The property is an undistinguished box at the corner of City View Drive and High Crossing Boulevard. On paper, it looked ’way too far out of town, but it was a great hotel, really. We were so delighted, we happily booked there again for next year.

2. Do the one-day drive, i.e., through Chicago. On our last trip, we took two days and drove via Sault Ste Marie. Although the one-day drive is long—thirteen hours, even with minimal stops—there’s none of the hassle of checking into a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast, and it is quite doable with two drivers—and it makes us feel better about the time we take from work and our cats for the Ironman.

3. Stay five days and six nights. We drove to Madison on the Wednesday after Labour Day, and drove home the Tuesday after the race. It worked out very nicely, as follows.

4. Pick up my packet about an hour after pick-up opens on Thursday. When I went, 11 a.m. local time on Thursday, the line-up was short. The volunteer told me it was quite busy just an hour earlier. Going at 11 on Thursday meant that I got my kit early, but it didn’t take very long.

5. Spend the Friday before the race obsessing about my bags, and getting things I’m missing. You drop off your bike and the two transition bags the day before the race. Feeling I have a full day to lay out the contents of all my bags, and then to run around getting the handful of things I was missing, worked out really well.

6. Bring our own coffee for the in-room coffeemaker. I’m an early riser, especially when I’m in the Central Time Zone, and it was nice having a decent cup of coffee at 4 a.m. on race morning.

Second, what did we not do that I now wish we had?

7. On Saturday, don’t check in my bike and transition bags until I’ve done my “race prep” work-outs. I don’t think I was as sharp as I could’ve been. (Alternately, I could bring my road bike as well as my tri bike, but that seems like a lot of trouble.)

8. Do all work-outs Coach Steve sets, including the swims.

9. Bring our own food for lunch and dinner. The hotel’s complementary breakfast was perfectly adequate, and it was nice to discover Panera Bread, but my comfortable food would’ve helped me out in the pre-race days.

10. Use a big backpack for my morning stuff. It would’ve made hauling all that stuff around (wetsuit etc.) a lot easier!

11. Look at the picture accompanying this post. The lesson here is that when I see the race photographer, look like an Ironman participant! Don’t give the oh-I’m-about-to-have-my-picture-taken grin!

Down a pint

In Uncategorized on 2007 September 19 Wednesday at 18:25:00

I gave blood yesterday, for the first time since I started out on the Road of Iron. I thought, with this being the interval between Ironman Wisconsin ’07 and the road to IM Wisconsin ’08, that it’d be a good time to give. I’ve given maybe fifty times in the last thirty years, I have O-negative blood (which makes me a universal donor), and, well, I feel guilty if I don’t give.

I walked up to Canadian Blood Services’ Toronto headquarters (pictured) at College and Elizabeth streets, about a mile from my office. (Interestingly—or maybe not—this handsome building was the site of the Hospital for Sick Children for sixty years.) Even before I saw the phlebotomist, I was asked to make my next appointment. I went through the usual embarrassing questions (“Have you ever had sex with a man? Have you ever paid for sex with money or drugs?”) and was soon in the donation chair. It took only four minutes to give my 500 cm³—very close to a U.S. pint.

They insist that you not just march out, which is what I always want to do. Instead, some ancient volunteer plies you with juice and cookies. I took the minimum: a Tetra Pak of apple juice. As I walked down Elizabeth Street I felt the usual light-headedness I get from sweet juices, and promised myself I’d bring a protein bar next time. Thus, I could be seen to eat, but it’d be something tolerable.

But will there be a next time? I walked the mile to work without incident, even picking up granddaughter Andrea’s bike (an Aquila Tri Kids, very sweet) from the Urbane Cyclist. (There’s a bit of irony here as the folks at “Urbane” are the sworn enemies of Aquila Cycles’ owners, the guys at Racer Sportif, which claims to be “the leading racing bike store in Toronto”.)

Later that afternoon I walked the mile from my office to pick up my Odyssey from the garage, again with nothing negative, except, maybe, I felt a bit tired. After we declared a supper emergency and had our “emergency food” and the inevitable cereal-as-dessert, I had the energy to clean the catboxes and the frig and gather the dry garbage from around the house. (Today is garbage day on our street.)

But this morning, well: up, as usual, at 4:30, a refreshing mug of coffee, breakfast (more cereal!), into my bike clothes, my bike loaded up for my 7:00 swim group—I bounded upstairs with M.’s wake-up waffles and coffee—and found myself breathless and even just a tad sick-dizzy. At 6:40 I decided I wasn’t going anywhere, and so changed into my Lululemon warm-ups and sent a working-from-home e-mail. It’s taken to mid-afternoon to feel normal.

I checked my journal and training log from the time of my last donation, and don’t have anything negative recorded there. I do wonder if I should keep my Nov. 13 appointment to give another pint.

In other news, Coach Steve and I had a lengthy and productive chat yesterday. We discussed my goals and our approaches to it, especially in the near and medium term. I think I can cut 15 minutes off my swim time—he seems to think I can cut 30 to 40 off! He’s also hopeful, aggressive, or deluded about how much time I can cut off my bike; when I said 7:30 was a plausible target, he said closer to 7:00. So my goal seems to be something like a 15:30 at Ironman Wisconsin, which would be awesome—really.

We agreed to get together for what I’m calling a technical review, that is, a review of my technique, on Sept. 29. We’ll go over my cycling technique on his trainer, do some running, and then go to the Mississauga Y to swim and do some weights. Should be—interesting!

My Ironman Wisconsin

In Ironman, swimming on 2007 September 10 Monday at 11:49:00

To put it shortly, I was pulled from the bike course 9½ miles from the finish at 5:15 p.m. local time. There was nothing grossly wrong—the cracked rib I suffered four weeks ago just prevented me from being highly ærobic—that slowed me down on the flats, and meant I had to power up the hills (of which, for those not familiar with the course, there are many), so my legs were trashed by the second loop.

The swim went according to plan. I know the triathletes who read this will find a 2:05 swim risible (there were only 29 swimmers behind me, I think), but I couldn’t swim in November ’05, and had not swum in open water until June of this year, so I’m very pleased to have had a pleasant easy swim. My technique, of course, is terrible, but that just gives me something (of many!) to work on for next year.

I left the water in great shape, shook Rob Beuthling’s hand, and had a good transition—no dawdling, and no hurry, just kept moving—though somehow it took 16 minutes.

I cycled down the helix and got out on the course. It was pretty clear early on that something was wrong. I hadn’t done any hilly cycling since I’d cracked my rib, and the constraint it puts on deep breathing was a real problem—hills became weight-lifting exercises, and I’m a pretty heavy weight. 🙂

Anyway, it was a long day on the bike; by the halfway point I knew I’d miss the cut-off, but I wanted to finish the bike even if I was going to be marked a DNF. The official who took me off disagreed; I knew I could’ve just taken off my chip and bib and continued as a civilian, but I was, basically, in a good mood and didn’t feel like arguing. The other 4 competitors and I in the van had a good chat, and shared a couple of beers(!) on the drive back to Monona Terrace.

UPDATE: Here’s a screen shot of my official results:

After rendezvousing with my family (the only real frustration of the day!), we walked to State Street Brats for (what else?) brats and beer, and watched the run competitors come in. I was more than a little envious, of course, but content with my fate. I’d known that my rib was going to be a problem, and it really points to what I need to do.

I trained for this race from pretty much a standing start in late June ’06. Now I have another 12 months, and what I expect will be a bunch of shorter triathlons, in which to chop chunks of time off the swimming and cycling, and to get even stronger and fitter. I had trouble fitting in all the work-outs Coach Steve wanted me to, but I was getting better and better at it. Another year to “learn to train”. I am very much looking forward to getting back to training!

Thanks to everyone—the Tri-Deads, my family with their e-mails and phone calls of support, and my friends and other supporters.

Liz, my daughter, gave me bottomless emotional support, even from her three-month exile in Canada’s Yukon Territory—and spent only two days in Toronto before driving to Madison to be with me!

Mona, my SO, put up with my ceasing to be a full member of our household as I trained—and is supportive of my doing more next year!

Coach Kelvin Landolt taught me to swim, an accomplishment of which I am proudest at age 53.

Coach Steve Bentley brought me to the start line of an Ironman with confidence.

And my friend and colleague John Boguslawski talked me into the whole thing in the first place!

Wisconsin Ironman bike route

In cycling, Ironman on 2007 September 9 Sunday at 23:21:00

The loop is done twice.

What is the Wisconsin Ironman?

In Ironman on 2007 September 2 Sunday at 01:00:00

I’m stealing the description from the Ironman Web site. It says that the University of Wisconsin is a party university:

That’s funny, I thought of them rather as the Cement Canoe champions of North America. First you swim in Lake Monona, which is too small to be more than slightly choppy…

Go on a large, two-loop bike race through the green fields of Wisconsin…

Finally, there’s the run…

If you survive that, there’s Beer at the Finish! Or we’ll go to State Street Brats.