Monday, July 28, 2014

Changes Along the Journey

Life makes for changes.  MS definitely makes for changes.

Running at this point generally makes me a bit nauseous.  I am hopeful that starting gabapentine will help reduce this effect that the brainstem lesion from December of last year recede and possibly enable running to resume.  However at this point, running no longer holds enjoyment for me.  It just makes me feel sick.

Thinking upon this, and trying to consider that a change of direction looms (though I have no idea where that direction will take me), I have decided that a change in blog names must coincide.  I am hopeful that this change will actually bring more people "into the game" by taking on a more inclusive attitude.

With that in mind, the blog formerly known as MultiSport vs Multiple Sclerosis, shall now be known as "MY Sport vs Multiple Sclerosis".  Because it really doesn't matter what your sport is - just get out there and do something.  Something is FAR better than nothing.

Thank you to all my supporters through the years and especially most recently.  In just a short time, we've already raised more than $2000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in our fight against MS.  There's still time to donate.  The 2-day, 150 mile ride is this coming weekend, though!

Feel free to pass this link along!

In the meantime:  get out there and be active!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Working Link!

It came to my attention that the link on the blog didn't function as intended (part of the address got omitted from the hyperlink).

Here is a working link!  Thank you all so much for your kindness and support.  Already donations today are at $600 (started yesterday at $250).  Let's keep it up!  We can break $1000.  And still the 50% matched contribution stands.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Short Notice, Next Adventure

Quick post (because time is short!):  

Saturday, August 2nd, I will ride 100 miles along with many folks raising funds (some who also have MS) for the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.  They use the funds for research as well as patient support.  Helping those with limited income get the treatment they need but cannot afford.

Sunday, August 3rd, I'll get back on my bike and ride another 50 miles.  That's 150 miles in 2 days.  Please help support the cause.  I hope to raise $1000, and have kick-started things by contributing the first 25% of that.  I will also do a 50% match to all donations up to $1000 out of my own pocket.

I cannot thank you all enough for your support along this road.  More posts are coming, but it has been a very difficult summer with the heat affecting my newest issues far far more than any others.  Possibly facing the end of running in the summer has not encouraged me.  But directing my energy and efforts into what is possible (cycling, in this case) has gotten me back off the couch, and hopefully inspire you to do the same!

Donations can be made here:

You all are my inspiration.  Thank you for helping to keep me out there fighting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Pictures are In!!

So the pictures are finally in.  Sorry they took so long to post.
A look back over T1
Thank you Mom and Dad!!!!
Looking a bit windy, just 15minutes into the ride
A look towards the Fire Mountains en route to El Golfo
The salt flats near El Golfo - on a beautiful winding road with 50 cyclists in view ahead
The same winding road - second only to the climb to Mirador Del Rio as my favorite of the race.
A really cool outcropping just out of El Golfo - still on that cool road.
 Greeting at the start of the climb to the Fire Mountains - Timanfaya Man
Lava Lava, Everywhere! 
  A look back from the top of the climb to the Fire Mountains - a long straight climb
By a fan at the same spot
Typical view over the center of the island.  Volcanoes everywhere, clouds always in the distance but rarely overhead.   Not a tree in sight (still).
Coming into Tequise.  Coffee ahead! 
My Barista.  Thank you so much!
Not a tree to be found on route to Famara
The Famara Cliffs becoming visible! 
 The calm before the climb to Mirador del Haria
Looking back to where I took the photo above (center in the distance)
Entering Los Valles - we will climb up the valley. 
The clouds definitively end as the climbing definitively begins
THE descent of the day, coming down off Mirador de Haria.  Note the building in the center
Standing at that building, looking up at 2 switchbacks, and down the next.  One more to go after that.
Climbing out of Haria - all the buildings on the island were white
My personal photographers en route to Mirador Del Rio
From the van on one side of the climb to Mirador del Rio (on the rock-wall lined, 1.5-lane road)
Out the van the other way to Mirador Del Rio on the road of IM Lanzarote
Yes, it really is an amazing road from atop 1000+ft cliffs
Looking the other way off the cliffs...
Last picture of the camera:  A big flag, pretty much straight out.  Yup - it was windy.
But finally, after some fighting, the end is in sight. 
Thank you for following!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The (Mostly) Sweetness of Success

Short story:  I finished.  I had more fun than any other Ironman I've ever done.  I also posted the slowest time ever for an IM.  And I'm ok with that.  I stopped for coffee on the bike (really).  I took an entire roll - 37 -  pictures on the bike with a disposable film camera that I'm having trouble getting developed (welcome to the digital age).  I will post more pictures of the race when I have them.  I did get a few already from other sources, though.

The longer version goes something like this:

Race morning came.  I won't say dawned, as we actually started swimming before dawn arrived.  I went through the usual routine (homemade oatmeal, coffee - strong coffee - and filling water bottles).  Gave Mom a hug and said thanks for coming (Dad wasn't awake yet), and headed off into the dark for the 3/4-mile walk to the transition site.  A steady stream of fellow competitors headed in the same direction - eerily quiet except for the distinct boom boom boom of the disco where folks were still at it all night long.  That and the intoxicated folks ambling back to their hotels.  But the athletes quietly marched towards their day. 

I wore my pre-race shirt from Athletes Lounge.  Today, "Lounge" distinctly performed as a verb rather than a noun.  The perfect thought headed into this athlete's day.

 Bike all prepped for the day, transition bags all set (all handed in the prior day).  I pumped my tires up, and headed off to use the port-o-john one last time before donning the wetsuit and handing in  my pre/post race bag.  Off to the water for the first time.  I normally like to get into the water pre-IM week, but this time I really didn't care.  It would be the temperature it would be, and it would be fine.  I waited in the corrals with the other 2000 entrants, nervously chatting in numerous languages.  I somehow managed to mingle in with a bunch of Irish (lots of them here), and was able to converse a bit.  Nerves all around me, but none inside me.  Perhaps some silver linings to participating, rather than racing, do exist!

My parents, who had flown all the way to watch, needed some estimate of my times so as to know when to be looking for me and/or worrying about me.  I really had no idea, but guessed a 70-70minute swim , 6-7hour bike, and 4-4.5 hour run (10min, 1-2hrs, and 50-80 minutes slower than normal, respectively)

Finally we're released, and I amble into the water.  I had reminded myself it would be a rough swim as my estimated swim time frame put me squarely in the busiest time in transition of an IM outside of  Kona.  Not much done other than maintaining position and avoiding drinking the ocean around the first of two laps, but right on target time-wise.  The second lap had far fewer elbows, and while I would pass constantly that lap, I also stopped a few times to look around the bay at the volcanoes / hills that encircle the town of Playa del Carmen.  The view from the water is always so different than from the land.  But lingering wasn't an option as I a set of flailing arms and thrashing legs usually reminded me that there were 1000 people behind me all coming at me and wouldn't expect to find someone sight-seeing.  With about 800m to go, I noticed I was getting tired - similar to how a normal IM would feel.  Not exhausted in the swim, but ready to be done with it.  5 swims appears to be just enough swimming across 3 months to finish (not race, but finish) an IM swim for me.  With a wetsuit, in buoyant ocean water, anyway.

I did find one silver lining to the MS!  The recent tongue tingling and lip numbness I've experienced meant that for the first time ever swimming in salt water, I didn't notice any alteration in the sensation of my tongue and lips.  Small perk, but life revolves around sliver linings sometimes.

Out of the water in 73 minutes.

Onto T1 - folks have wondered what the hell took me 18 minutes.  For one thing, I didn't see any purpose in running this time other than not getting run over. I could stay to the side, though, so that wasn't an issue.  For the first time ever, I changed completely - dried off, and put on a cycling kit rather than just racing the whole thing in the same clothes.  Today I was all about comfort. I put on cycling gloves.  Lots and lots of sunscreen (the stuff they used was amazing - it stayed on the entire ride!  Maybe I just wasn't sweating enough...).  Stopped to use the port-o-pottie, and took a picture of two of the swim exit.  slowly jogged to the bike, and off I went (that's me in the red - crowded exit of T1).


I stopped fairly immediately when I saw my parents 1k into the bike.  My Dad instantly wanted to know what I needed.  I just calmly took my camera out, and took a photo.  I hope it turned out.  I think everyone at that point realized I really meant to just have fun today as nearly all around in the crowd laughed and cheered quite loudly.

About 5k into the bike, it became obvious it that the winds had found the island.  I think maybe they tried to reshape it a bit that day.  Oh well - I wasn't racing.  It just meant I would be slower.  Of course, that's the attitude to take when you are racing, as well.  The winds fall into the category of "things I cannot control and thus won't expend frustrating energy on".  Ordinarily I would simply alter my wattage target a bit and go.  Today, I kept my wattage target, which was a complete guess anyway, and kept going.  I would rest on the down hills rather than race them, and besides - I was going to stop to take pictures. 

Which I did.  As I said, 37 of them.  Including photos of the guy who brought me coffee (though I didn't think of taking the picture of the coffee until it was gone) - a British guy named Paul.  I had a few Irish guys recommend places I should take pictures as they had seen me stopping a few times.  I did  feel bad on occasion, in particular on the climbs, as I would stop and take a picture, then remount and slide right past those who seemed to be working rather hard.  Maybe they were just in their zone.  Maybe they were in their misery.  It didn't matter to me - I was having a great time.

The windy descent I had previously had significant concern about was not nearly as bad as expected.  It was fun, even.  The straight descent right after it, however, was terrifying with huge, gusty cross-winds while going 40mph.  Glad I left the disc wheel at home.

Onto the final big climb to Mirador del Rio - the defining road of Ironman Lanzarote with the 1500ft Famara Cliffs down to the ocean, overlooking an island just across the way - I was riding close to a support vehicle.  I handed them my camera and had them take a few pictures of me.  I REALLY hope those came out - it was stunning up there.  After gathering my camera back, I zipped away passing folks again, still not feeling guilty.

Mostly tailwind then for a while, a climb right back into a headwind, then a cross-wind descent on terrible road surface, a quick jaunt through the vineyards (yes, they grow grape vines in the middle of the lava fields!), and it's back to town on a final twisty descent.  Not feeling like I'd just ridden 112 miles, and wishing there was more riding to do.  The one thing I wasn't looking forward to was the run, as I felt the most unprepared  for that event, especially with it being last.

Bike split 6:29 (with 12minutes lost to stoppage time for pictures and coffee).

I later learned that it was widely reported to be the windiest day ever at Lanzarote - one of the windiest IM events in the world.  Maybe it was a good day to have been just participating, as they didn't bother me at all.  Another silver lining.

T2 was uneventful, but again I took my time.  Changed completely again.  Running shorts and a running jersey.  Not overly concerned about how long it would take.  Though I think the combined 30' in transition might have cost me first American.  :)

The run.  To my surprise, I had a good time.  Chatted with yet another Irish guy for a while (who is also a physiotherapist) before he left me behind at an aid station.  I walked a table or two of most aid stations simply to be sure I got the hydration and nutrition I needed.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting.  The sun did become rather hot by mid afternoon.  Highs for the day were in the upper 70's.  Not terrible, but not cold, either.  The run consisted of 3 out-and-backs.  The first two were longer 16km (10 mile) past the airport, and the last 10km (6.2mi) was along the same route but with a closer turn-around.  The winds were nasty going out to the airport, and pushed you along coming home.  The tailwinds also permitted significant heat to build-up, as you didn't get the cooling effect nearly as much. 

After the first 16k, I was still having a good time:

The run did begin to take it's toll, though.  At about 15 miles, I grew more and more concerned about my right knee as it really began to hurt behind the knee cap.  Then I remembered I was a PT.  I could figure something out.  So I thought for a kilometer or so (I have to admit, my PT thinking cap had been left behind in the States), and recalled that I hadn't run this far since Kona, and that my muscles were undoubtedly tightening up.  I stopped and stretched hamstrings, calves, and quads, and poof!   Pain gone.  For a while, at least.  I'd have to stop once more with about 8k to go to stretch again, but this time it was a quick decision with a quick result.

I found myself using all the mental tricks I could think of as the race entered it's final 10k to keep going.  I did end up stopping at my parents with 9km to go for my typical moment of self-pity, unsure I going further was really in my best interests or not.  Quite clearly (internally, at least), I no longer found myself having much fun.  Just pain and discomfort - just about everywhere.  But I knew that sub 12hrs was possible (my one loose time goal for the day) if I could keep running.  That thought kept me going.  But the race face (literally) had found it's way to me, despite my goal for the day.  I suppose that's the nature of an Ironman.  Not an easy feat, regardless of your preparation.  At some point it catches up with you.

Run time 3:40.  I still have no idea where that came from.  My friends remind me that I've been at this a long time, and have a huge base, let alone mental reserves to tap into.  Perhaps they are right.  I certainly don't recommend my recent training plan for anyone looking to finish an Ironman.  But I have to admit, it is nice to be able to say - without a doubt - that I can finish an Ironman any day of the year.  Even the hardest one on the circuit, on possibly the hardest day it's seen.

It makes the rewards all that much the sweeter.
Final time: 11:52.  Goal achieved.  The most fun I've ever had racing IM. 
Thanks for reading.
Good night, and good off season.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Exit Plan A, Enter Plan B

Tip #6:  Always have a plan B (and C, and D), and criteria to switch between them.  While this normally applies to nutrition and or pacing.  Realize also, that moving from Plan A to Plan B (whatever form they may take) should also have criteria to possibly enable you to get back to plan A.  That really can happen.

In my case, this has nothing to do with nutrition or pacing.

Ironman will not allow me to take my iPhone with me on the race course.  Use of the GoPro camera that my father brought out for me to put on my bike is also dubious, but I'll find out more today.  Sadly, this means I will be unable to provide a photo gallery of my race.  I can understand the need to deny racers earphones (riding with earphones on suggests the pursuit of a Darwin Award, if you ask me), but a camera?

Well, further consideration this morning brought me the understanding that having "participants" stop to take pictures along the way would potentially cause issues for actual racers.  I remind myself that I hope to be in the mix with the some of the top female and the older male age groupers.  And beyond that, many (if not most) of those who don't find themselves in the top of their age group will be racing themselves.  

Ultimately, that waits for us all - participant and racer alike.  2.4miles of swimming, 112 very difficult miles of cycling (the hardest of the world-wide Ironman circuit), and 26.2 miles of oceanside
running - all in the sun and the wind - will do that to a person.  It would not only be irresponsible, but reprehensible of me to interfere in their race - regardless of my own "ambitions" for the day.

So.  Enter Plan B:  I am now looking to win my division.  No, not the M40-44 age group, but the LV-LI division ("Low Volume - Low Intensity").  Yes, I just made that up.  I suspect the competition will be anything but fierce - if for no other reason than "competing" will blow anyone in the division up before the end of the day. 

I am inspired once again.  Go Team Turtle!

Hope to see you on the other side.

Here is a look at the bike profile after the ocean swim.  Metric, so elevation in meteres (top line = 600m, or about 1850ft); distance in km (180km = 112 miles)

But it is beautiful (near the summit of Mirador del Rio):

Finally, youtube link to the descent (from someone else):

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ironman on the (sub-) Minimalist Plan. AKA: Tips Surviving Your First Ironman - or Just Maybe Your Best Ever

Ironman Lanzarote happens this Saturday, May 17th on the beautiful, barren island of the same name (without the IM part, of course) off the coast of Africa.  This race has found a home on my bucket list of Ironman races since the late 1990's.  Arguably the toughest bike course on the Ironman circuit, with lots of climbing (>7500ft), breathtaking views, twisting descents, and little shelter from the Trade Winds typically out of the NE.  Flying in I thought I had landed on some combination of the moon and Mars.  

From a postcard I'm sending home to the family:

This race will mark the first event I'll start with the simple goal of finishing since I started my first Ironman back in 1995 up in New Hampshire.  And that's tip #1:

Tip #1:  Singular Goal = Finish  -  This means no time goals.  None.  Nada (as they say around here).  Just finish, and then you'll have not only a PR (personal record), but also a much better idea of what it takes to finish, and where you can begin to shave off time for your next one.

Getting ready for this Ironman, my training has been... lackluster.  I have followed a slow trajectory out of fitness since Kona last fall.  Complicated by two MS attacks - one in December, my neurologist and I have decided now, and one just a couple weeks ago.  I can already hear (and have heard) the voices of those who know me saying that it's all hogwash and I'm going to "crush it."  Well, something will be crushed on Saturday.  

I'm a numbers guy.  I'll lay out some numbers for comparison, and I think there will be general agreement that the prep equates to less-than-minimalist training, particularly from this minimalist training specialist:

In the 3 months of "hard training" - taper excluded - leading up to Ironman New Zealand last year (perhaps my greatest Ironman performance ever):
Total hours = 131 (10.9hrs/wk)
Total swim = 21.5hrs (~76k yards)
Total bike = 77.3hrs (~1660 miles)
Total run = 31.8hrs (290 miles)

Leading up to Kona (a solid race, but less-than hoped):
Total hours = 176.5 (14.7hrs/wk)
Total swim = 29hrs (~101.5k  yards)
Total bike = 113hrs (~2430 miles)
Total run = 34.5rs (302 miles)

Leading up to Lanzarote (survival mode):
Total hours = 77 (6.4hrs/wk)
Total swim = 5.8hrs (~20.5k yards)
Total bike = 55hrs (~1000 miles)
Total run = 15hrs (134 miles)

My long bike = 72mi, my long run 9.4 getting ready for this weekend.

Which brings us to the next tip:

Tip #2: Homework is done.  Hay is in the barn.  What will be will be.  No going back now.  However you'd like to phrase it, the end result remains:  whatever your training has been - too much, or too little, or just right, it's done.  No more second guessing.  No more wishing for something different.  Move your head into the present.  Be here.  Be now.

One of my favorite pre-race memories comes from Ironman Florida in 2005.  I had only weeks before crashed, broken my bike, torn the rotator cuff in my shoulder, and killed the squirrell in the process.  My expectations for that race dropped through the floor.  I was in possibly the best shape of my life to that point (and maybe ever), but hadn't a clue as to whether I would even survive the swim, let alone the rest of the race.  That morning, looking around the beach before the start, I found a calmness in my mind that I never thought possible before any race - big or little.  I could see the emotions on everyone else's face (which simultaneously made inspired me and made me chuckle now and then) - the hope, the fear, the focus.  I followed Tip #2, and decided to just give it what I could (it was not my 10th IM, so I could skip past Tip #1).

I set my PR of 9:10.  Which brings us to Tip #3:

Tip #3: While nothing satisfies like surpassing expectations, nothing stings worse than not meeting them.  Setting expectations appropriately can stump even the best athletes.  Survival goals are easy:  see tip #1.  Beyond that, things get complicated.  You need three, in my opinion, for every race:  a realistic goal, a challenging goal, and a satisfactory goal.  Set the satisfactory goal to what will ultimately have you look back on the race and not consider it a failure.  Realistic revolves around what, on an average day, an good (not great) performance would be given your training.  The challenging goal is the creme de la creme.  If achieved, you'd be as happy as the cow jumping over the moon.  But realize that if you don't, it was a reach to begin with.  A goal that may or may not happen this time around.  That's what the other 2 goals are for.  To leave you satisfied, if not happy.  And if all goes just right, eccstatic.  But rarely disappointed.

Tip #4: Control the Controllables. Own your race.  You can control your effort, your form, your attitude (mostly) and your nutrition (mostly).  That's about it.  The weather (favorable or otherwise) rests out of your hands.  So is a flat tire.  Your competitor's ability both to go fast(er than you) and possibly to cheat, likewise, rest out of your control.  Typically when you start to focus on the uncontrollables, you find your attitude going south as well ("damn wind" "he's drafting!" "damn pothole").  Take a deep breath, and refocus inward, to the controllables.  First the attitude, then the nutrition (often a source of bad attitudes), and finally to form and your effort.  Then repeat the process.  And again.  And again.  The good news is, you have all day to practice over and over!

Two final thoughts regarding general race attitude come to mind before I get into some small points about each sport.  In 1998 (or was it '99?) when I ran the Boston Marathon for the one and only time, I carried a disposable camera in my FuelBelt holster.  It fit perfectly.  In my photo album I have a nearly complete record of that day - from boarding the bus to get to the starline all the way to Kenmore Square, where I sadly ran out of film.   I took photos of folks I knew watching the race, crazy stuff along the way (really?  some guy set up a treadmill alongside the course?!?).  

Tip #5: Have some fun - at least now and then.  It doesn't need to be all an effort.  Smile with the thought of "fake it 'till you make it"  Your smile just might become genuine.  Personally, I'm going to take my iPhone with me to take pictures along the race course - there's at least one perk to "just finishing!"  Particularly of my parents, who have become world-travellers along side me this past year to watch all 3 IM I'll have done.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Ok - last few things in this epic blog entry.  In survival mode, a few sport specific tips come to mind for my race this weekend:

SWIM - start on the outside of the first turn. I won't get crushed (as much) by the crowd as we all inevitably try to hit the corner.
          - get out a little harder than I expect to go, so that I can draft off those feet that will be going the speed I want to go.  If I find myself swimming next to someone going the same speed, and I'm not drafting, let them get ahead (I'm in survival mode, right?) and draft.  Lots of energy saved there.  I'll need it later.

BIKE:  PATIENCE.  Much more than ever before.  Going to be a long day in the saddle going very easy.
          - lap button on each climb to track power for each climb.  Not above 200-210W ideally (by way of comparison, I averaged between ~230 W for the entire race in New Zealand and 220W in Kona)
          - bring biggest cassette I've got to spin (that's a 12-28) as much as possible
          - if betwen gears (i.e.,  rpm too slow in the 16, too fast in the 17), go with the higher rpm to save muscle glycogen.
          - consider serious headwinds when climbing (i.e., aerobars at 6mph)  More than a net 12mph headwind, aero position faster (or less energy).  That means going 6mph into an 20mph headwind I've got a net 14mph headwind.
          - after all hard climbs, when grinding inevitable, consciously get cadence back up to mid 90's
          - on descents: rubber-side down
          - on descents: get up to speed as usual, but then be ok with coasting to save energy
          - LOOK AROUND
          - take pictures

RUN:  PATIENCE and mental prep to suffer at least as much as any Ironman I've raced before
           - primary concerns = feet (not calloused as usual from running) and hips (stabilizing muscle endurance)
           -  if running is possible, even a slow is minute(s) faster than walking
           - smile
           - take pictures

Constant reminder: 17hrs to finish.  

Surely that's possible.

Should you desire you can follow my progress at under live race coverage.  

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Good night, and good luck as the moon rises.  Hope to be the cow come Saturday.