Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Thanksgiving Miracle

I conducted an interesting science experiment over the holiday weekend.  The title of my thesis was: “What happens when you attempt to run a mere two hours after gorging yourself with a Thanksgiving meal?”  Following the annual feast, I had hoped to spend the afternoon intermittingly falling asleep in a comfy chair and watching football – you know, normal Thanksgiving activities.  However, as I settled in, it soon became apparent that my two kids and four nieces had a commanding majority vote, which resulted in a Disney movie being popped into the DVD player.  Hmm.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an occasional Disney movie as much as the next guy.  But this one just wasn’t doin it for me… in fact, I can’t even remember what it was.  So, being the triathlete that I am and now knowing my kids would be fixated on the tube for the next 90 minutes, my mind turned to getting a workout in.  But… was it too soon?  I mean, I could still taste the blueberry pie I’d downed, and I probably had some smeared on my face somewhere.  Undeterred, I tossed on my running stuff and headed out the door.  To my surprise, I felt good in the first mile or so.  As time passed, however, I realized there’s a reason you never read the following in a race report:

“I was staying on top of my nutrition and feeling great.  I grabbed a fistful of stuffing at the aid station and chased it with a cup of gravy.  This gave me the boost I needed.  I took a slab of turkey every 30 min with a slice of pie on the hour.  It was getting hot out, so I had the volunteers spray me down with whipped cream.  It was delicious and refreshing.”  

With each step I could feel my stomach getting more and more angry, like a sleeping warthog you continue to poke.  Just as I felt I was on the verge of displaying my enormous meal all over the street, a Thanksgiving miracle happened.  My stomach settled down, and I was able to finish off the run with a smile.  I must say, this flew in the face of my hypothesis.  In conclusion, I’d say doable, yet highly discouraged.  Please proceed with caution.

this is not my family

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ironman St. George Race Report - Race Day

Around 4:00 my alarms broke into song, welcoming the arrival of the big day.  I took a “wake-up” shower, ate my peanut butter bagel, powerbar and banana, grabbed my stuff, and was out the door.  I parked close to T2 and made my way towards the busses, meeting two guys from England and Argentina along the way.  Amazing how international Ironman has become.  The British guy mentioned he chose St. George because of its reputation for being such a challenging course (in hindsight I'd say he got what he came for).  The 30 min, pitch-black drive to Sand Hollow Reservoir seemed to take forever, but an oasis of bright lights finally appeared on the horizon.  I was of course a little nervous, but way more excited as I got ready in transition.  

The forecast called for lower than average temperatures and light winds.  Perfect.  Russell and I chatted with our families before slowly heading towards the water like a herd of sea lions being led to the slaughter.

perfect conditions

The water felt great… a little cool, but not cold, and smooth as butter.  I positioned myself towards the right and treaded water, feeling relatively calm but ready to rock.  Finally, the gun went off.  This was it!  We headed out towards the first red turn buoy, and I was surprised by how little contact there was.  Sure, there was a little jostling, but I’d experienced much worse. 

In other races I pretty much redline the swim, but with this being my first Ironman I had decided to take a notch off the intensity.  I was comfortable and feeling great.  In what felt like no time I hit the first turn buoy and made a left.  My immediate next thought was “what the hell?!?”  What had felt like water skiing conditions only moments before had turned to big, rolling waves pushing us to the right.  Was this some kind of Ironman trick?  I prefer breathing to my left, but after a few mouthfuls of water I switched to my right.  This stretch until the next turn buoy was short, and it didn’t take long to realize we’d have to turn directly into the teeth of these waves for 1.5 miles or so.  I made the turn and was immediately blown backwards.

not-so perfect conditions

The waves were nasty, with what by all accounts were 4-5 foot swells, and getting worse by the minute.  The white caps caused by the ~40 mph winds added to the degree of difficulty, spraying so hard in your face it felt like it was pouring rain.  I switched to breaststroke and tried to assess the situation, as braver people than me attempted to plow ahead.  They weren’t going anywhere, and I wondered for a moment if it was physically possible to defeat Mother Nature at this game.  It was all just so, unbelievable... like a weird dream.  In fact, was I dreaming?  Everyone was quickly getting scattered, but I turned to the guy closest to me and yelled “this is crazy!!!”  He concurred.  Ok, not a dream.  I quickly learned that if there was an answer, breaststroke was not it.  With my face pointing directly at the onslaught, I was swallowing water and at the mercy of the waves.  I forged ahead the best I could swimming normal, and after a few minutes what was initially terrifying suddenly struck me as being really funny.  Probably just a defense mechanism of some kind kicking in, but it made all the difference from that point forward.  In fact, at times I was literally laughing in the water, and it really calmed me down.  I stayed with this mentality and trudged along, attempting to stay on course by sighting the big rock formation I knew we’d have to eventually turn around.  Many people later reported stories involving boats, kayaks, people clinging to buoys, etc.  Strangely, I never saw a single yellow buoy that was supposed to line the path, nor did I see any boats, kayaks, or even many other swimmers.  Thankfully we had that island, but even something that big was hazy at best.  As I approached the island I noticed what appeared to be two beached sea lions catching their breath on a small rock formation jutting out of the water.  I climbed up as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of the last turn buoy.

“This is crazy!!!”   I once again astutely observed

(Sea Lion 1) “This is insane!!  What’s our time at??”

I looked at my watch and yelled “1:18!!”

“Oh that’s not so bad!”  Sea Lion 1 yelled back

“Where do we turn?!?” 

Even on that rock it wasn’t easy to find the buoy, partially because it wasn't where we were looking.  The wind had blown it out of position and it was nestled up against the island, getting thrashed in the waves.

“Let’s go!!”  I yelled.

(Sea Lion 2, looking defeated) “you guys go ahead, I need another minute”

What was that?!?

Before jumping back in I looked around.  Once again, I don’t remember seeing any boats, buoys, or swimmers… I just remember how fast the water was moving and the howl of the wind.  It was surreal.  I jumped back in and was ready to finish this beast off.  I was getting cold and was ready to be done.  I made my way to the boat ramp and saw my family.  “Where did that come from?!?”  I yelled.  I looked at my watch as I jogged through transition.  1:45.  Wow.

T1 was relatively uneventful, despite the changing tent looking like a war room.  I waved to my family, hopped on my bike and was off.  The stretch from Sand Hollow to the main road was slow, and I cursed at Mother Nature for treating us this way.  So disrespectful.  My friend and Triple Threat team member Jackie Muterspaugh yelled out at me as I made the first turn, and I hoped the winds would die down.  The next 10 miles or so were really fun.  My plan was to ride conservatively, implementing the JRA “just ride along” strategy for the first 50 miles or so.  I chatted with other competitors, and we all enjoyed a reprieve from the wind as we came through town.  The right turn onto the old highway was a turn for the worse, however, as we were once again exposed to the elements.  The next 25 miles or so were incredibly tough.  Battling hills + wind + trying to ride conservatively = barely moving.  A guy went by and exclaimed “that was literally the slowest 40 miles of my life.”  As I rode passed the Gunlock reservoir I noticed big waves and white caps on it as well.  Somewhere around this time I overheard some guys talking about the mile 66 bike cut-off.  I hadn’t even considered that I’d be up against a cut-off, and didn’t pay much attention to the details from the Ironman dinner or in the race guide.  That said, I thought I remembered it being around 1:00, and after doing some math in my head I had a few minutes of panic.  This is not how this day was supposed to go.  I decided that I simply wouldn’t stop if they tried to make me.  I might miss some silly intermediate cut-off, but I knew I could finish in time, whether or not I was an official finisher.  We made the almost 180 degree turn at the base of “The Wall,” and now could finally enjoy a tailwind.  This infamous, long, nasty climb felt amazingly easy with the wind at our backs.  Nervous now about the cut-off, I hammered down highway 18, touching 50 mph on the descents. 

Somewhere during this stretch I learned that the cut-off was later than I had remembered, and I calculated that barring a flat I should be ok.  I stopped for my special needs bag and grabbed my Hammer Perpetuem refills, but waited to fill up until I knew I was in the clear.  I approached the mile 66 checkpoint with ~15 min to spare, stopping just short of the timing mat upon seeing my wife Lindsay.  She had been out waiting for me a long time, while being sick, so the least I could do was stop and thank her for the support.  I refilled my Speedfil as we briefly chatted, and was soon on my way, crossing the timing mat and living to ride another loop.  I was cautiously optimistic at this point, knowing I had some reserves in the tank and feeling some euphoria from having made the cut-off.  I braced myself for the hills, and focused on taking just one climb at a time.  The wind had dropped ever so slightly, and I wasn’t complaining.  It was still steady, but the absence of white caps on Gunlock reservoir was a good sign.  Climbing The Wall the second time was a lot tougher, but eventually I hit highway 18 again and was in the homestretch.  It was a laughably slow time, but at least I had negative split the thing and made it in time.  8:05.  Brutal.

I took my time in T2, giving myself a minute to sit down and slather myself in sunscreen.  I emerged from the changing tent, saw my fam, and let out a primal yell.  “Let’s do this!!”   I was pumped.  Despite very limited run training in the months leading up due to a calf injury, I was confident I’d finish in time.  After all, running is my strength, and I set out hoping to run a ~4hr marathon.  After so long on the bike, it felt great to be on my feet and also feel the camaraderie of the runners around me.  I felt relatively good on the first loop, but my pace was slower than I had hoped.  At mile 8 I had to briefly walk, which wasn’t a great sign of things to come.  I eventually had to succumb to walking some of the inclines and running flats/declines. 


Despite having stuck to my nutrition plan throughout the day, at about the half-way point I felt extremely weak.  I got in some extra calories, hoping for a magic cure from the aid stations.  My parents and siblings, unable to catch me during the bike, made up for it by being seemingly everywhere on the run.  Their encouragement helped a ton as I grinded out some painful miles.  My lack of run training was manifesting itself, but I was determined to "run" as much as possible.  I ran/walked the last several miles with a guy named Micah from Denver.  We had run the first loop or so together as well, so it was a fitting end.

The pain I felt was magically erased in the last quarter mile by the raucous finish line atmosphere.  It had been an incredibly long day, but one I’ll never forget.  Run 5:37.  Ouch.

Overall 15:47

I later learned that Ironman St. George 2012 had the highest DNF % (did not finish) in Ironman history at 30%...  almost 1 out of 3.  Hundreds of people had to get rescued from the water, but thankfully everyone was ok.  Hundreds more fell victim to the bike.  Due in part to the difficulty of the course and St. George’s propensity for tough conditions, the race distance has been changed to a half-Ironman (70.3) beginning in 2013.  However, the legacy and the legend of Ironman St. George will forever live!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ironman St. George Race Report: Pre-Race

I wrote this race report from Ironman St. George a while ago but thought I'd post to the Triple Threat blog... I'll break it down into two pieces to cut down on the length.

The week of Ironman my wife and two kids were sick.  Like puking sick.  In fact, I think it was Monday night that I was scrubbing beans and rice out of our carpet at 1:00 in the morning thinking “this was NOT in my training plan.”   Besides that all-too-close of an encounter, I tried to keep some distance, and washed my hands an average of 972 times a day.  I used my usual checklist in packing/preparing for a race, which made the process less stressful than it could have been.  I got my bike, Francesca, back from her tune-up and placed her in the back seat with care.   Man she looked good.  I hit the road Thursday, and really enjoyed the drive down.  There was no turning back now.

I got in, checked in, and felt the palpable, pre-race buzz in the air.  Since I had a few options, I then had to decide once and for all where to stay.   My grandparents are among the many "snowbirds" known to frequent the St. George area, meaning they have a home there to escape to when Old Man Winter rears his ugly head.  I had planned on my buddy Russell staying with me, but his parents made the trip out from the east coast and he’d be staying with them.  So this left me with a choice: stay by myself and risk something tragic happening like sleeping in on race day, stay with my in-laws in the same house as my cute but sick kids, or stay with my parents/siblings, who I envisioned would be burning the midnight oil playing Yahtzee.  You know, that game where you shake 50 dice in a cup for every turn?  Needless to say, I decided to be anti-social.  I met up with Russell, our buddy Chris, and a co-worker of theirs for the pre-race dinner, which many people complained about but I thought was pretty good.  Russell and I made stupid jokes like “what would the reaction be if they had Denny’s cater the dinner” and overall had a great time.

Friday I took a dip in Sand Hollow, almost directly across from the race swim start, while my wife, kids, and father-in-law hung out at a little beach area.  Russell mentioned that the water had been a bit choppy earlier in the day, but by the time I got in it was perfect.  So peaceful.  I played with my kids for a while, letting them push me in off the wooden harbor and holding Shae just above the water before biking the few minutes back to transition.  I generally try to avoid messing with my tires the morning of a race, so I pumped them up and left Francesca in her stable ready to roll.  However, as I drove back, Russell called me, saying he was back at transition and Ironman officials were advising people to let some air out due to tires exploding in the heat.  I reluctantly obliged.  

Friday afternoon my parents, sister, brother and their spouses arrived, and we went downtown to watch my son and a sea of hundreds of other green-shirt wearing Ironkids grind out a 200 meter run.  He was a game-time decision, but like Jordan in the ’97 Finals, he gutted it out.  I didn’t say he looked happy.  I then opted for a spaghetti dinner with the fam, where we had some good laughs and talked about the course, logistics, etc.  As we split for the night, I could feel the adrenaline already coursing through my veins.  I got back to my crib, set 3 alarms, and tried to unwind by watching some of a Lakers/Nuggets playoff game.  I could tell that trying to sleep right away would be a futile endeavor.  I climbed into bed around 9:30 and slept more than I thought I would, but still pretty restless.  Gametime was just hours away.

Ironman St. George Race Report: Race Day

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Pain Cave

Along with planking, the Twilight series, and Justin Bieber, the concept of a “man cave” seems to have grown in popularity over the last few years.  While I’m a bit dumbfounded by most of that list, I totally get having a food and beverage-stocked, comfortable oasis with a massive plasma screen for watching sports.  I get that.  I’m jealous of these guys.  My football-watching experience this year consists of clearing enough toys off the carpet to create a space close enough to the tv to see the score and who’s playing.  The couch is much more comfortable, but you run the risk of people calling you squints after a while.  Not ideal.  All that said, while a man cave would be nice, I don’t think I’d trade it for the lovely “pain cave” that my wife and I have crafted with care in our storage room.  I can picture many of you nodding in approval right now, but for the uninformed and/or our lucky warm-weather friends, the pain cave is a little nook of your house, often in a basement, laundry room, or other dingy establishment, in which you train during the winter.  It is also at times used to describe a more figurative place, describing the zone one enters during a tough training session or race.  In both cases, it is to the triathlete what hibernation is to the grizzly, although in place of sleeping and snoring you sweat and suffer.  It’s great!  While until recently the weather was  quite pleasant in our neck of the woods, I've officially made the switch from the streets to the cave, primarily due to shorter days.  Although I miss biking outdoors, It's been fun to hop back on the old kurt kinetic and catch up on a few shows (my current fav is Revolution, by the way).

Below are the three keys to “setting the mood” in your pain cave:

1) You must have the proper set-up to watch something entertaining while you ride.  This is a no-brainer, and cannot be stressed enough.  The goal is to gain fitness, not lose sanity.  Whether it’s seasons of shows, sports, Spinervals dvds, or even the Twilight series, this is a must.

2) Motivational stuff – our cave is filled with race posters, medals, course maps, goals printed out, etc.  As much as possible, you wanna be able to walk in your cave and be like “let’s do this!!”

3) Ok, I could only think of two.

Below is a pic of our cave... If you've got one of your own,  send us a pic!  We’d love to see your winter dwellings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The “Bare” Necessities

A wise bear once counseled me to “look for the bare necessities.  The simple bare necessities.  Forget about your heart rate monitor and your Garmin.  Yeah man!”

Yesterday I inadvertently put this counsel into practice, and I must say it was exhilarating.  I try to get in 5-6 miles over my “lunch break” on Tues and Thurs, but due to a conflict, I found myself facing two options for a Plan B:  1) go at 7:30 or so, once my two kiddos are either in bed or very close to it (like a good rooster, they are early to bed, early to rise), or 2) head out a little earlier than usual to enjoy a reasonably nice day before the forecasted storm came in.

I thought it over and decided to go with the latter, looking on Google maps to plan out a nice route.  I was in a pretty lousy mood from work, so this run would be just what the doctor ordered.  I was pretty sure I had tossed my running stuff in the car before work, just in case my lunch conflict cleared up.  To my dismay, however, upon arriving at my car it was clear that I hadn’t.  My running shoes were still there from Tuesday’s run, but I had nothing else.  “Well there goes that,” I thought.  Then a light bulb went off.  “What do I really need to run?”  I rummaged through my trunk and found an old pair of basketball shorts, probably in severe need of a washing, but they would serve their purpose.  I rummaged a little more, looking for socks, a shirt, etc, but came up empty.  I pondered my lack of options, then in a flash, proudly hiked up my black work socks, pulled off my shirt, and darted out the door, holding the key to my trusty ’95 Accord in hand.  Did I really need to know my average heart rate or the exact time/distance I’d go?  As Gabe from "The Office" once said, my delts are blasted.  Should I conceal them from the world?!?  No!  I decided then and there that I only really “need” two things before setting out for a run:

1)      Running shoes
2)      Something to cover my loins.  A “loincloth,” if you will

I set off with an extra bounce in my step and a goofy grin on my face.  I’d found a road I’d never run on before that looked fun on the map… it followed a canal and was aptly named “Canal Road.”  It was awesome.  It wasn’t really that warm out, and I’m sure I looked like a weirdo to the passing cars and jacket-wearing people walking their dogs, but who cares?  I just ran for the fun of it, going out of my way to stomp through fallen leaves like a 6-year old, and not caring how fast/far I was going.  It was a good reminder that sometimes it’s best to just run for the joy of running.  I think Baloo was on to something!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Hi there.  I'm a founder and team member of Triple Threat Triathlon (, a triathlon site / coaching services / soon-to-be apparel company that's centered around an on-line team.  I'm originally from Indiana, but after two years in France, two in Italy, and six in Wisconsin, I now live in Salt Lake City with my wife and two kids.  I got into triathlon in 2003 and have been hooked ever since.  I've completed around 50 tris, and stumbled my way through my first Ironman earlier this year.  I'm not elite by any means, but really love the process of training and improving, the friendships I've made in the sport, and the excitement of racing.  Like many of you, my family is the most important thing to me, and I do my best to juggle my training around family time and working a "9 to 5."  As one of the only members of Triple Threat capable of forming words into sentences, (jk jk as the kids say) I’ve been tasked with spearheading this blog.  There will be contributions from others down the road, but by and large I regret to inform you that you’ll be hearing from me.  We hope that you find a good mix of attempts at humor, race reports, practical advice, etc.  If you crack a smile even once, learn one little thing, or feel inspired in any way, then this blog will have served its purpose.

In addition to following the blog, check out our site to learn about joining the team.  We'd love to have you on board!