Friday, June 14, 2013


Life is funny. Or at least if you're not laughing enough, you're not doing it right. So I've been doing this training thing for a few months now, along with working my first full time job, along with 2 part time jobs and, you know, occasionally trying to have a social life. It's crazy to think that 4 months have already gone by, and I've seen so much change.

For one, I dropped 10 pounds since training. This has been a bitter-sweet situation. When I was larger this would have been an amazing feeling, but part of me is disappointed because I know some of that weight loss is muscle. I have only had one person say to me that they "feel my pain, knowing how hard I had worked to put the muscle mass on" and now I can barely do two ten-lb weights on the end of the bar to do a chest press. Because I did that this week, and I was sore for 4 days. I feel like I'm that Toby Keith song: 'I ain't as good as I once was'. But after I get past the idea of muscle loss and think about the gain, I am proud of my endurance levels. Which for anyone who isn't familiar with it, endurance sports are a whole other animal, which is why you can't do heave weight training and do long distance running/biking/ of those situations where you can have the cake, but you can't eat it. Actually that's a bad example, there's no way someone could put cake in front of me and expect me not to eat it. That's rule number 1!

But aside from the fitness gains and losses I also noticed a change in my personal demeanor. I have learned more about myself, my boundaries, how to push them, and balance. Recently I was out on a bike ride and took a pretty bad spill. Enough so that my knee hurt for days and days! The week I got back from Madison I went out for a long run on the Wednesday. I was shooting for 14 miles but at 11 I had to stop completely and walk home because of how much it hurt. I'm not sure what was more annoying, having to walk for three miles and how slow it felt, or the fact that I knew I wouldn't be running for a little while. The coach lady pulled me back from runs and I may be Ironman crazy, but not crazy enough to disregard her directions. But it wasn't easy. My mind was telling me that I should be doing more, I would have to make up for the loss of running fitness. Uhg fitness loss, would I have to rebuild a running base? Really though Sam? You've been running for years now and you think that would all disappear in a week and a half?

Ok maybe that was a bit much but I was stressed and sad. The week was not kind to me and I couldn't "just go for a run" to work it out. I had a huge test coming up, one that would determine my ability to get the job I wanted, that I had been putting off for months and months. And as if that wasn't enough, I was moving the very next day. Talk about a rush to the finish. My triatha-life was not mixing well with my "real" life.

But I learned a few really good lessons last week. The first being that life happens and the second being that life goes on, but as you live it. Within the context of my situation, I found myself missing some workouts and forcing myself to sit for a few hours to do math problems. It was harder than a track workout (which if you haven't caught on I compare most difficult things to track workouts because I loath them!) But it was well worth it, because 152 minutes and 50 questions later and I had the passing results I needed. I had been trying to pass this test for a long while now, so the exhilaration and excitement that filled me up was just as great as finishing my first marathon.

But the excitement was quickly overcome when I started throwing my life into boxes and garbage bags. My friends came in to help me move all of it to my new place. I was looking forward to the new apartment, more space and a change. Because lord knows I needed a change. But I also needed to compromise my bike ride that day. That was a tough one to swallow but I had no choice. It only because easier when I just accepted it. And life went on.

The next day I started to unpack my life and my triatha-life. One of the first things I did was tape up my bib wall. That made it feel more like home :) But after 3 hours of unpacking and cleaning I needed a break. I didn't have all  my bike stuff unpacked so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to try a run. It had been well over a week and I had been rehabilitating with ice, stretching, and strength training, why not? My legs were all too ready to run! I got out 5 miles and felt great. Better not chance it though, I would still need to go back the distance I came, so I turned around. By the time I finished I only had a little pain, nothing sharp or shooting but I was quick to ice it.

What a great weekend. Could I ask for more? Passing the test I put on my "Goals for the year" list, moving to a new apartment and being able to spin out 10 miles on my sore knee. Now granted all of these "life events" were not a part of the training plan, but they happened. And I rolled with the resistance. And life was good because of it :)

Miles in Madison: Part Two

5:45am: alarm goes off and I grab my shoes, a sweatshirt and my glasses before heading down to the lobby for some coffee and oatmeal. We were heading out to ride at 7am this morning but only because it was unanimously decided by the group that our ride would be fueled by Lazy Jane's scones. But knowing my appetite and that I would be doing 84 miles, I was going to need food before then. My partner was still sore, stiff and asleep when I went back up to grab my stuff around 6:30, so he hung back and this time it was the 4 of us on our way back out.

I was really excited for the ride. I had been on the trail, I knew what to expect and the best part: I knew how to use my gears! Our "short trip" to the bakery actually took us into the city, only to go back out to the course. But it was worth it! We passed Lake Monona and the helix that I would be running up and down into transition. It was really exciting to think that in a few short months I would be back here to do an Ironman! :)

But back to the scones.....mouth watering! I actually ended up getting three of them because they were too good not to take back. I had a chocolate-butterscotch one for breakfast and I swear it made my mouth water! Back to the gas station that we started at yesterday and I was ready to go! I had a fire in my belly, which was probably somewhat related to the calorie base I had built, but also the motivation to take on this ride again.....twice!

I told myself I wasn't going to scream this time around going down the hills, and I would try to peddle down (because I refused to increase the speed I was traveling at any more than I was already going!). Jeff rode with me today, and he would amp me up: "Ok we're gonna take out this hill". Peddle up it and let out a loud "WAHOOOO!" all the way down! And we kept a pretty good pace going. At one point we were holding about 24 miles an hour. I felt proud :)

After one loop we stopped back at the gas station to meet up with Steph and Stacey. Jeff decided to head back to the hotel, so the three of us hit the pavement for round two. Steph let me lead the way for the majority of the way so that when I come back without her I would know the way. We had a great ride and I got some experience with drafting. It was terrifying at first, being that close up on Steph's back tired, but in those really windy straights, it was quite helpful. at about mile 77 we had to stop, Stacey's tube popped and I was all too energetic to change it! Jeff taught me months ago how to change a tire and I have had all too many experiences with it since then because of the crapiness that is the lake path. Steph and Stacey had a field day and made sure to document the moment :)

Once we were all tuned up it started to drizzle. We picked up the pace a bit and finished the last of the 84 miles. Pulling into that gas station felt great! I was so proud of myself and I felt like i gained a new sense of self out on that trail. I had more confidence in my biking and now I knew the loop. IMOO was that much less intimidating. The evening was filled with good food and some friends, but it was short lived, since I was exhausted and we had one more day of biking to go!

Or so we thought. Monday morning we woke up to rainy, wet roads. Not good biking conditions. So as Kris and I sat in the lounge, savoring the last of the Lazy Jane's scones, the group decided that today would be a run day and then breakfast of course! Back into the capital we went to hit the path alone the lake. We didn't get more than maybe a mile before both Jeff and I had to call it quits. His back had been acting up and my knee was still sore since the fall a week before. Better safe than sorry, and better sitting in a warm coffee shop than running in the rain :) After Steph and Stacey finished, the 5 of us went to breakfast. It was kind of the parting of the pack, enjoying a last meal together, talking about how great the weekend was because when we got back to the hotel we'd have about an hour to clear out.

So we packed up our stuff and headed out. I fully intend on going back, at least one more time before the race. But Madison was real. I gained a lot of strength, mentally and physically that weekend and I am all too excited to head back. Until then, later days Mad-Town.

Miles in Madison: Part One

"I eat hills for breakfast, lunch and nom nom nom!" The words that came out of my mouth the second day around of riding in Madison. It took nearly 120 plus miles between the two days for me to come to this level of confidence, but it was one of the best experiences I have had throughout my training. And after a few flats and frowns, I desperately needed a good bike weekend.

Friday morning and afternoon couldn't have dragged any more. I was eager to hit the road, pick up my partner and get up to Madison. Everything was set: my rented Jeep Liberty was all packed up...with probably more stuff and junk than I would need but I have yet to figure out how to pack lightly. So you can probably only imagine the excitement I felt when school got out. It's like Alice Cooper's 'School's Out' was playing on repeat in my head. Getting up to Gurnee I fought through traffic, and go figure Kris wasn't all the way packed when I got there but I was grateful for the break out of the car, knowing full well that we would be back in it for at least another hour. And being the nice guy that he was, we pulled a quick Chinese-fire drill part of the way there so I could put my feet up, on the dash board of course, and relax.

Finally we got to Madison. And of course we pulled into the wrong hotel! There are so many of them in the same area, with damn near the same name. So we pulled over to the next parking lot, checked in, carried up a carts worth of stuff plus two tri bikes and got settled. Of course I felt the need to unpack EVERYTHING I brought, I have a tendency to make myself at home wherever I go. Steph and Jeff weren't going to be in for a few hours still so Kris and I ventured out to a local tri store and then out to dinner. By the time everyone did get into the hotel it was close to 11 and we had planned to meet at 7:30 in the lobby the next morning.

This was less of a problem for me and more for Kris. Haha poor guy. Somehow though our whole group of 6 people made it down to the lobby around 7:30.....ish...and out the door to hit the IMOO trail! We started at a BP gas station, went over some rules of the road (which was actually super helpful!) and then went on our way.

The ride itself was about 42 miles from where we left. I knew I could do the mileage, it was the hills, the "three bitches" as they call them, that I was worried about. The first 20 miles were slow for me because I was learning how to use my gears. I must have dropped my chain 3 or 4 times trying to figure out how to switch from the big ring to the small one, when the best time to do that is and "oh crap we're climbing and there goes my chain". I was starting to feel defeated, but Steph was amazing. She hung back with me and we tried to work through it. Eventually I got it, but as that eventually hit we found ourselves in the area of the loop with a lot of rollers.

That rush you get when you ride a roller coaster for the first time, that drop in your stomach and the exhilaration you feel is the best way to explain going down that first huge hill. But just like riding a roller coaster I screamed my head off! I think I scared the heck out of Steph. After I got done zooooooming down the hill, screaming Steph laughed a little and I told her "I feel like I'm on a roller coaster that I have to control and that's terrifying." This happened a few more times along the way.

We hit the first bitch and I was anticipating her wrath. Half way up it leveled out and I swapped my gears out. Bad move Sam. Not long after I did that I started to have to climb again. Hot damn that was hard! We all met up at the top after the climb. I have to do that twice!? Plus two more. Oh fuuuuuu......Coming up to the second big hill I didn't know it was a bitch until I got dine climbing and Steph congratulated me on getting up it. I felt doooped! But that passed soon after when I realized there was only one more to go. And we had already completed about three-fourths of the ride. Think positive!

At least for this one I had a heads up. And I dug down deep, pushed hard and trekked my way up. I'd say despite being tired, that hill probably went the best. A quick ride back into town, which actually was the part of the ride I was most nervous during--I hate riding with cars, people are so unreliable! But it was quick and painless and we were back on home base at the gas station. One loop was sufficient enough for all of us the first day, but Steph, Stacey and I ended up going out to one of the community pools to put in some sweet sets before dinner while the guys went to brat fest. Who's the better triathletes? haha

We all met up for dinner and I STUFFED my face! I ordered a veggie burrito and in an attempt to be funny, Jeff told me I should get brisket with it. I agreed, not knowing that this was actually meat, and Jeff stopped the waitress from writing down the order and told me I wouldn't want it since it was meat. Hardy-har-har! After eating we all shuffled back to the hotel and snuggled into our rooms, we had 84 miles to take on the next morning!