Friday, December 12, 2008

Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix) – The Prodigy

In this picture, I’m somewhere in the middle of all those thrashing arms and legs of 2100+ crazy people. It seems that everyone told me I was insane, too, for wanting to do this to myself, and I realized how right they were when the race started. I don’t remember how many times I got elbowed, kicked or slapped. I do recall getting hit on my ear so hard it rang – and immediately thought, ‘Wow, it’s like a Charles Dickens-type novel where the kid gets his ears boxed. Or is it cuffed? Maybe boxed.’ Hey, you got to keep yourself entertained somehow, right?

Anyhow, I’m swimming along, feeling a little cold, but not too bad, trying to remember to keep slightly kicking to keep my legs at the surface of the water to minimize drag, but not too much that my legs are wore out before the rest of the day.

Then, about a half-mile in, I cramp. My left calf just charley-horsed up, right after somebody makes contact with my left leg and I move my foot ever so slightly out of its normal position. I can’t exactly stop to stretch the cramp out – there are too many people around me for me to just hold up traffic. So I just keep trying to swim, while at the same time, doing anything I can think of to get rid of the cramp. I never felt so uncoordinated in my life – it’s like I was trying to pat my head and rub my belly… and jump rope at the same time.

It must have kept me preoccupied, because before I know it, I am at the turnaround for the swim back to transition. Actually, I was about 50 yards past the turn…a kayak came up to me to tell me that I was missing the turn and going off course. So I corrected my direction, and started swimming back. Right about that time I started smelling what seemed to be horse manure. I didn’t know why.

I knew that the bike course took us past a landfill on the Maricopa Indian Reservation, and I knew that the “lake/river” we were swimming in wasn’t otherwise open for swimming, so it made me wonder why the water would smell so bad. I quickly tried to put it out of my head, since I didn’t really want to think that I was swimming in effluent.

The swim back seemed to take forever. I knew I was swimming with the current, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Every time I kept looking up to see how far I had to go, it seemed like I hadn’t gone anywhere. After what seemed like an eternity, I started to see the bridge that marked about 500 yards to go and I put on some more speed. I made the turn to swim to the water exit, and put on a little more speed, just so I could navigate all the openings where folks weren’t swimming.

There wasn’t a ramp – just steps to climb out of the water. I put my hand up for the volunteer to help me out of the water, and immediately BOTH calves cramped up. I just about fell back into the water. I could barley climb the steps, and every step I took was pain. My calves hurt so bad, I could barely walk to get my wetsuit taken off. They had me sit down to peel the suit off, and when I angled my feet for the legs of the suit to slide off, the cramps got even worse. I could barely walk to the transition area, let alone run. As I walked to get my bike gear, I dropped my swim goggles. I turned around to get them, but the guy behind me scooped them up, handed them to me, and continued to jog to the transition. One of the cheering fans shouted, “That’s good karma!” I can only assume she meant for him, because I certainly didn’t have it.

I did manage to see the time clock when I got out of the water – 76 minutes – and was extremely pleased with the time. I had hoped to be around 80 minutes, and was happy to see the cramps didn’t slow me down much on the swim, especially since it was the first (and shortest) leg of the day. But the transition to bike took me a long time – 12 minutes, because I could barely get my bike gear on, and because it hurt so bad to move around.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Take It Off – The Donnas

Sunday morning at 4 AM was when the alarm was supposed to go off. Of course, I wake up about 5 minutes before. I shave, get dressed, eat some oatmeal and a peanut-butter-banana sandwich, grab my nutrition needs for the race, and head downstairs for the taxi (I had to drop my bike off the day before).

It was a swarm of people. 2100+ competitors plus the 3000 or so volunteers swamped the area. Not to mention all of the family and friends there to cheer their athletes on or help them get ready.

It wasn’t terribly cold, but with a breeze, it was cold enough to hold off as long as possible stripping down to my swimwear. I waited to put on the wetsuit until the last possible minute – which was about an hour before race start, since I still had to wait in a ridiculous line for the portajohns.

The pros race started at 6:50, ours started at 7, so at 6:30 they started herding us to the waters edge. Like lemmings, we jumped off the pier, and into the water, since we actually had to swim to the start of the swim portion. I know, weird.

I held off until after the pros started, and with about 6 minutes to go, I jumped in…and just about jumped back out of the water – it was cold! Official temp was 63 degrees. Only a few of us didn’t have full-length wetsuits – I had one that I borrowed from my friend/colleague Todd that was sleeveless. I wore a swim cap under my race swim cap, and still my forehead hurt like I was in the winter winds of Michigan without a hat. I swam up to the start area, which kind of warmed me up enough to tolerate treading water until the cannon went off.

Then it was a mass of humanity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Troublemaker - Weezer

The original Ironman, held every year in Hawaii, has become the championship event. Every year at races around the world, people attempt to qualify for the Kona event, in both full- and half-distance races. That’s how Ironman Arizona came to be. So that’s where I went, since it was the last race of the year, and believe me, I would need all year to prepare for it.

Unfortunately, on September 19, 2 months before the race, I was riding my bike to a swim workout and got hit in a roundabout by a car from behind. It wrecked my wheel, my shorts, my helmet – and me. Luckily, I escaped with minor injuries, though my right shoulder hurt no matter how I moved it for a solid 4 days. I was skinned up on my knees, right hip, left palm, right elbow, and in a variety of other places. The lady that hit me thought she passed me before the roundabout, but she did not. She further failed to pay attention to the road in front of her when she exited out of the roundabout to clip my wheel with her front bumper.

At first, I thought the damage was minor, and got the lady’s name and number in case something came up. I didn’t call the cops because I hadn’t been hit by a car before…and I was probably still a bit dazed and thankful the injuries were very minor.

I wobbled away from the accident and went to the bike store, where they told me the wheel needed to be sent out for repair – it needed a whole new rim, and only the manufacturer could make the repair. In the meantime, for me to keep training, I would need to buy a new rear wheel. They also told me it was very important to go file a police report, especially if I wanted to have her insurance pay for the wheel repair. So after getting a ride home, I filed an accident report and tried to call the lady to get her insurance information.

Here’s where it takes a bad turn. After a delay of a few days, the lady’s husband calls me and after hearing my story of the accident, wouldn’t give me his insurance. Incorrectly, he thought since the damage (I was only asking for them to pay for the cost of the rear wheel; I would replace the helmet and shorts out of my own pocket) was less than their insurance deductible, they would have to pay it out of pocket. (I’ve since learned that isn’t true, deductibles apply only to your own damage, in this case, their deductible only counted in repairing their front bumper.) Anyway, he told me he would talk it over with his wife (wouldn’t he have done that already?) and get back to me.

After a week-plus, I had a feeling they weren’t going to be helping me out. So I had to call them again, and let them know that since I didn’t have their insurance information, if they didn’t want to pay for the wheel, I did have the option of small claims court – though if I had to go that far, it would have to be for the cost of the repair, the temporary wheel, the helmet, and the shorts.

So the husband (Did I mention that he is a partner in one of the biggest law firms here in Kansas City? No? Well, he is. And his specialty seems to be finance and tax law) calls me back almost immediately (amazing) and tells me that his wife feels she did nothing wrong, that I was the one at fault, and that they wouldn’t be doing anything to help me out. He told me to go ahead and file a suit. So, still not having their insurance information, I do. A couple days later, I get a call from her. She’s going to counter-sue me for the damage to her front bumper, and tells Lisa that I hit her with my bike (despite that it was my back wheel and her front bumper as we were traveling around the roundabout in the same direction) and that I was “illegally passing on the right” and rode across the flow of traffic at a roundabout exit. But, if I dropped it, she wouldn’t file. I told her I’d rather let the judge decide who was at fault – I know my rights as a bicyclist are the same as a motor vehicle, and her “pass” was anything but in a safe and prudent manner, especially so close to a roundabout. We went through the entrance to the roundabout at the same time – I VIVIDLY recall thinking that I was glad she didn’t take the first turnout because I would have been smeared all over the side of her car.

A few days after that, I get the summons letter. A day after that, we started getting contacted by two TV shows – Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown, wanting us to come onto their shows!

By now, it’s a week from Ironman Day. So let’s get back to the action of the triathlon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring

Think about how far you go in a car on a 2-hour drive. Now, think about how that would feel if you had to swim, bike, and run that entire distance instead of riding in a car. Yep, it’s far. 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and when that’s done, a full marathon – 26.2 miles of running. There’s a reason it’s considered the ultimate one-day individual endurance event. And if it were easy, it wouldn’t be called an Ironman. Few people ever undertake it. And even fewer achieve it.

Full-blown recap

Over the next few days, I will post my entire recap of the ironman. Here we go!