Category Archives: Recollections and Musings

Going out with a bang

Hi everyone,

It’s now 3 weeks after Lake Placid and I thought it would be fitting to finish my blog with an entry after the Luray tri, as it was with that race that the blog began a year ago.

It can be a long process recovering from an ironman, but it seems to be going pretty well for me. I had trouble walking for about three days, but from then on the recovery has been pretty fast. I resumed training slowly a week after the race and the last few days I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt. However, feeling incredible and actually performing well are two things, so I was interested to see how my performance went in Luray.

luray

Getting ready for the race start with Ben

Being a sprint triathlon I went out really hard as I began the one loop swim of Lake Arrowhead. About 100 yards in I could see there were not many people in front of me, which is something I’m not really used to in open water swims. I found someone to draft off and settled in for the next couple of hundred metres, but then I could feel them fade so I surged out on my own. When I reached the beach I was shocked to see nobody ahead of me!

I was in fact in third position – the first two guys were so far ahead of me I couldn’t even see them, but I had just completed the swim of my life! At Luray last year I was very much a middle of the pack swimmer and it felt great to know all those hours in the pool have paid off. I was gasping for breath a little, but maintained my form as I made a quick transition and got onto the bike course.

Once on the bike I quickly caught sight of second place and looked to take some time off them on the first hill. I powered up, but right as I neared the top my bike ruined the serenity of the Blue Ridge foot hills with a deafening pop. I had burst my rear inner tube! With less than a mile of the bike course completed I retired from the race.

I was frustrated to say the least, but that’s triathlon and I have found you simply cannot beat Murphy’s Law sometimes. I’ve managed to post finishing times for only 50% of the triathlons I’ve entered this year! However, I feel incredibly lucky as on inspection of my tube it would appear it was simply a burst seam, probably caused by age. This could have happened at any time and yet I managed to get in all 112 miles of the Lake Placid course before it did. Less than a mile of outdoor cycling later and there it goes – maybe on this occasion I did get the better of Murphy!

So now I guess it’s a question of what’s next for me. I still have no desire to do anything as crazy as an ironman again anytime soon. Right now I’m leaning towards focusing on running again and focusing on middle distance. While I love triathlon, it involves a lot of preparation for each race, very early mornings and the added risk factor of your bike letting you down. With running races you just rock up 30 minutes before the race, collect your race packet and off you go for a few minutes. Anything that involves more sleep seems like a much better option when you’ve got a little guy to take care of!

Nevertheless, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to compete at Lake Placid and complete an ironman. It was a lot of hard work to train for, but it was an incredibly satisfying experience I’ll always be able to look back on fondly.

I was also glad to do my bit, however small, for hyperemesis gravidarum research. I’d like to thank everyone who donated for their generosity. Altogether we raised $1540, which goes an incredibly long way with the HER Foundation. The HER Foundation has very few overheads (e.g. it does not have a paid staff) and really makes every donation go a long way, so if you are ever looking to give to charity in the future I’d strongly encourage you to keep them in mind.

Of course, raising money was only part of the cause and I really wanted to help get the word out about HG and its effect on families. Please take the next opportunity you get to educate someone you know on HG (with the recent royal birth you have an excellent ice breaker!) So many expectant mothers are suffering from this debilitating illness and have no idea what it is – let’ do them all a big favour and help spread the word so they can get the treatment they need.

I’ve had fun writing the blog, so thanks for reading along and for your words of encouragement along the way!

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Sehenandoah’s Pride

Brynn, Benjamin and I are now in Lake Placid and less than 24 hours from the start of the ironman! It was a long trip up but worth it just to see the town, which is one of the nicest towns I’ve seen in America. The mountain air is very refreshing and it’s just picture perfect.

To say I’m a little nervous wouldn’t be inaccurate, but I’m confident the training I have under my belt will put me in good stead to reach the finish line. My cycling has traditionally been my triathlon weakness and with the cycle leg at Lake Placid being notoriously hard I knew I had to do something to get some extra power and endurance in my legs. I found that little something on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

The Skyline Drive was built during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal, which was an initiative to help America’s unemployment problems with big infrastructure projects. It travels for 100 miles through some of Virginia’s steepest mountains, providing some of the most spectacular views you’re ever likely to see on the east coast of America – and exhausting many an avid cyclists legs.

On the first of my three rides along the Skyline I was hooked within about five minutes. The road has 71 roadside lookouts and traffic is never heavy. Furthermore, the people driving through the park are there to enjoy it and are generally unaggressive towards bikes – a rarity in this part of the world. My only complaint was I didn’t see any of the black bears that the park is famous for on my ride.

On the second ride, however, I more than made up for it with three bear sightings. The first one I head a russle in the trees by the road and turned my head to see the top of a bears head, which wasn’t much but enough to get me excited. The second two made it seem pretty lame though as I got to see a mother and its cub walking off down a fire trial beside the road. When I first saw the mother I thought it must have been a baby, but then when I saw the baby I realized just how small black bears actually are. I have to admit I was a little scared of seeing one up until that point, but the truth is they are almost completely harmless.

Don’t get me wrong – black bears are wild animals and are both fast and strong. However, they are also very timid and the ones in Shenandoah are very used to seeing people. Provided you don’t do anything silly like chase them around or steal their babies chances are they will ignore you (there hasn’t been a bear attack in Shenandoah in 30 years).

That final ride ended as a 100 mile 7 hour epic that involved over 3000 metres of climbing (that’s higher than Australia’s tallest mountain and about a third the height of Everest). If I can get through that I know I can beat the mountains in the Adirondacks by Lake Placid.

On my third ride I was also lucky to see another three bears. One of them was a younger one that crossed the road about 30 metres in front of me and paused briefly to check me out. It was a really magical experience and more than made up for any fatigue I felt at the end of the day.

With the big day almost here I’d encourage you all to dig deep for the HER Foundation, who are really benefitting from the generous donations that have been made so far. If you’d like to make things interesting why not pledge a donation based on my performance in Lake Placid? You might consider donating a certain amount for every mile I complete or for every minute under 17 hours (the cut off time) in which I complete the course. Whether it’s a lot or a little, every donation makes a big difference and is truly appreciated.

Murphy’s Law

Hi everyone,

My apologies for dropping off the radar. The past two months have been incredibly busy and full of hurdles trying to keep me away from my goal of finishing Ironman Lake Placid, but I have been doing my best to keep my mileage up to a level that will get me through the race. It has really tested my resilience, but with just two weeks to go I am feeling confident that I will be able to complete the distance (but no guarantees on how fast!)

The 50 hour work week has become the norm for me and Benjamin recently broke his first tooth, which resulted in a number of sleepless nights. However, these things are just small change compared to the week from hell Brynn and I experienced in Philadelphia.

I had planned just one big city triathlon this year and Philadelphia was going to be it. It’s a very popular Olympic distance course that has resulted in many athletes posting personal records. It seemed like the perfect tune up race in the weeks leading up to Lake Placid.

The trip did not begin well with the typically sub 3 hour trip taking well over 5 hours. We had planned on collecting my race packet and visiting a children’s museum on the Friday, but with the epic delays we cancelled all plans for the first day and were happy to just arrive at our hotel.

The next morning we headed down to West Fairmont Park to collect my race packet from the expo and visit the Please Touch Museum. We parked the car and had a very enjoyable visit in the museum, which I can highly recommend to anyone with kids under 10 years old. Benjamin had a blast just looking at all the colours and being able to push little carts around, but there is so much more there he will appreciate in a couple of years that I’d like to go back (if I ever feel up to a voluntary trip to Philadelphia again).

Touching stuff at the Please Touch Museum

Touching stuff at the Please Touch Museum

However, the weekend went terribly wrong as soon as we left the museum and got back to the car. Some $^%*head had smashed in two of the windows to steal Benjamin’s diaper bag (which contained… diapers!) and Brynn’s purse that had been concealed under a blanked in the trunk.

We walked away from the area immediately and Brynn called 911, who told her they would call back in a few minutes. When we didn’t hear anything for a while Brynn called back and was told that they had no reason to call her back and that there was nothing they could do so we should just deal with it. Thanks 911!

We then found a policeman in the park working as a guard for the triathlon who called in our problem after a bit of persuasion. His colleague was then able to inspect the car and write a police report. My initial plan from there was to get a taxi for Brynn and Benjamin and drive the car back myself back to the hotel. Brynn then called the taxi company, but they refused to come out because we could provide a cross street, but no building number (being a park there are no building numbers!) So I had to clean up some of the broken glass with my bare hands (which was a little painful) so we could all get in and drive back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel I called my insurer and got the most stupid person I’ve ever spoke to in my life. When I got off the phone Brynn thought it must have been an overseas call center because of the way I had to speak really slow and spell many words (including b-a-g), but alas it was just someone who must never have seen the inside of a school. After I told the operator that the car had been broken into and the windows smashed, she asked me if there had been any vandalism.

Benjamin didn't let the events of the weekend get him down... maybe I could learn something

Benjamin didn’t let the events of the weekend get him down… maybe I could learn something

From there I called up every “emergency” auto glass shop in Philadelphia to discover none of them are actually open on the weekend. Apparently “emergency” means they can fix things within a week, which wasn’t a whole lot of use to us.

I wasn’t keen on driving all the way back to Virginia with a baby in the car and two broken windows, but after exhausting all other options we made the decision at about 10pm that night that that was exactly what we were going to do. I had held out hope of competing in the triathlon until about that point, but we were all so exhausted it really seemed like the only viable option.

philly3

Brynn’s creativity made the trip home a little less serious

Benjamin’s teething was at an all time high that night, but somehow I managed to sleep through the majority of it. Brynn took one for the team and got up every time so I’d be fresh for the big drive and didn’t manage to get one wink of sleep. At the first break of light we were up and packing and soon we were back on the road to greener pastures. Other than a major storm that ripped the cardboard off one of the windows, the drive home was pretty uneventful.

Sometimes everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

I really don’t ever want to see Philadelphia again in my life, but ironically I am on an Amtrak train heading there right now as I type. This time it will be for business rather than “pleasure”, as I’ll be attending a work related conference there.

The Magical Mystical Bromelain

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Ours was certainly fun with Benjamin, although he is obviously still a bit young to know what’s going on. He was a good sport though and even had his photo taken on Santa’s knee.

ben_santa

Posing with the big man

As my culinary contribution to the evening feast I decided to make one of my favourite All-American dishes from the south – pineapple cheese casserole. As I figured we would be consuming plenty of other trans fats and sugars, I thought I would tweak the recipe and make it a little healthier. Besides, if I could get it to a healthy enough point there’s no reason we couldn’t make pineapple cheese casserole a weekly staple!

I used less sugar in the recipe and used a mixture of crackers with crushed almonds and cashews for the crust, both of which I think were sound decisions. I also substituted canned pineapple for a fresh pineapple and juiced the core of the pineapple rather than use off-the-shelf pineapple juice. The result? It was absolutely disgusting! The casserole came out completely bitter and I couldn’t even finish what I had served up on my plate.

I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I had tasted the pineapple before making the casserole and it was fine. I had also tasted the juice I made from the core and while it wasn’t particularly sweet it should not have created a bitter taste in the end result. Or could it? The engineer in me went into overdrive and I set about some research.

Ananas

Pineapple fact of the day – once a pineapple is picked it will not ripen any further

It didn’t take me long to discover fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is destroyed by the processes used in commercial canning and juicing. This enzyme is very unique in that it can break down proteins and as such is often used in commercial meat tenderisers. While the enzyme is contained in the whole pineapple it is particularly concentrated in the core. So when I combined the pineapple chunks and the juiced core with cheese, which is very high in protein, I was brewing up a chemical reaction that would tarnish my already lacking reputation as a master chef (at least I didn’t blow up the kitchen this time!)

However, I couldn’t stop my research there. If bromelain could destroy one of my favourite recipes what else could it do? Well quite a lot as it would turn out:

Digestion: Given it’s ability to break down protein, bromelain can be used as a natural digestive aid.

Anti-inflammatory: Bromelain appears to also be effective outside the digestive system in reducing inflammation and swelling. In fact, a lot of research has been done on bromelain as an anti-inflammatory in Germany and it is now the 13th most popular herbal supplement there.

Sinus Relief: Some studies have shown bromelain to be effective for treating sinusitis. In Germany, it is now commonly used after sinus operations for this reason as well as its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cancer: Still very much early stages, but a recent animal study showed that bromelain was able to stop tumorous growth without causing healthy cells to die. If it can be developed, bromelain may prove to be the basis of a cancer treatment program as effective as chemo-therapy, but without side-effects that come with such an aggressive treatment.

On face value it seems like bromelain is a miracle substance and so my next thought was what it could do for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I could not find any information on this, but I did come across some posts online from women who said that fresh pineapple had done wonders for their morning sickness. So if any HG sufferers have had any experiences with eating fresh pineapple or fresh pineapple juice (note that canned pineapple and commercial pineapple juice do not contain bromelain) I would really like to hear more about it. (A word of warning to anyone who is going through HG now though – because of its acidity pineapple is extremely painful to bring up. Also, the affects of bromelain on pregnant mothers is completely unknown).

Now that I am about to return to running with a potentially suspect knee, finding out about a natural anti-inflammatory has me very excited. But even if it doesn’t work, it’s a great excuse for drinking more fresh pineapple juice!

Juicing up

Hi everyone,

Well it’s been about a month since I hurt my knee now and it’s still giving me problems. With Thanksgiving this past week I decided to take a few days off and hope that it help the recovery process. With all these interruptions to my training I am desperately looking around for ways to get back my edge which led me to a decision this week – it’s time to get on the juice.

Well come on… it’s not like I’m the only one doing it. I’m just leveling the playing field out a bit. Besides, with Lance Armstrong and other big name athletes involved in the practice I’m in good company. You think it’s unethical? Really?! But if it makes me a better athlete it’s healthy, right?

Oh, wait you think I’m…! NO!!! What gave you that idea?! I’m not injecting myself with a cocktail of drugs – I’m making cocktails out of fresh fruit!

In the wee hours about a week ago while I was looking after Baby Benjamin I came across a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It follows an Australian guy named Joe who goes on a 60 day juice fast in an effort to get on top of his health problems. The transformation is amazing. Along the way he meets an American named Phil, a truck driver who is morbidly obese. He too goes on a similar fast and gets his life back in order. It’s a very well made documentary and highly inspirational. I can highly recommend it.

Although I like to think I’m not fat, sick or nearly dead, I do struggle to eat the very healthiest of foods at times, so the film motivated me to try juicing, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never got around to. So off I went to GNC to buy my first $40 juicing machine and the supermarket to buy a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables (you know, the healthy looking stuff down the end we sometimes forget about). It’s been a huge success.

My juicer

The model of juicer I bought

Firstly, there is something immensely satisfying about taking a big solid carrot, putting it in a machine and getting a liquid at the other end. Secondly, whoever would have thought carrot juice could taste so good! The stuff is downright delicious! Thirdly, even if you find something that doesn’t taste that good, you just mask it with something else (No not a diuretic Lance!) and you get all the nutritious benefits without having to suffer through all those nasty things we never wanted to eat when we were kids. I think the thing I am most excited about is making juices for Ben when he’s bigger. Refusing to eat your cauliflower? Fine, try this fresh apple juice laced with a little something extra!

It’s been fun to experiment with different fruits and find what works. This is what I’ve discovered so far:

  • Carrots: Wonderful! Who would have thought such a sweet delicious juice would come out if that big ugly orange thing!
  • Cantaloupe (Rock Melon): After making this one I’m surprised it’s not sold commercially, it produces so much juice and it tastes fantastic.
  • Strawberries: Great, but it takes a few to get a decent amount of juice.
  • Bananas: Delicious, but it produces too little juice in my style of juicer to be worthwhile.
  • Raspberries: Don’t really work. Very hard to extract any juice and it’s more tart than you would expect.
  • Celery: Produces a lot of juice, but it’s an acquired taste. I prefer to mix a little bit with something else.
  • Oranges, apples, pineapple: Great, as you would expect.

Results depend on the style of juicer however and my $40 juicer is definitely not the gold standard. What I would love to have is a vitamix blender, which you can use to make juices, smoothies, soups and even ice cream! I saw one demonstrated last year at a food and wine festival I went to with some friends and I became a convert. I’m going to have to prove to myself that I will get the use out of it before I make that investment though, those things aren’t cheap!

So the next time someone asks the answer is yes, I am juicing. And I’m not afraid to admit it.

My First Half Iron… Man (Part 2)

(continued from previous week)

The day of reckoning approached fast as I continued to train for the Rhode Island 70.3. Although Brynn continued to improve it soon became apparent that she would not be able to join me on the trip up as spending any more than 15 minutes in the car would start to make her nauseus. As such I packed the car for one (two if you include my bike, which is treated like a baby) and headed up the Atlantic coast once I had finished with work on the Friday evening.

I spent a night in New Jersey, just outside of New York City and got up early on Saturday morning to continue the trip. I needed to get to Providence by around lunch time in order to go through the usual ordeals that accompany a big race. First I had to get to the downtown convention centre to collect my race packet and listen to the race briefing. I also found some cool T-shirts are the Ironman store – one for myself that reads “Irondad” (they must have known I was coming!), one for Brynn with “Ironmate” and one for Benjamin that says “When I grow up I want to be an Ironman” (I promise not to make Ben do an Ironman – at least not until he’s three).

After the race expo I had to drive 15 minutes north of the city to the race start to rack my bike. It was a grey and misty afternoon, so I was careful to cover my bike up with plastic bags so that it didn’t cop too much rain overnight. I had a look at Olney pond where the swim was to take place bright and early the next morning and then headed back downtown to have a look around and get some rest.

I strolled around the downtown area for a short while and took in the local vibe of providence. In a nutshell the place is pretty dead, but they’ve done a nice job of modernizing the main canal – for those in search of a romantic (and expensive) evening you can take a gonola ride (complete with stripe-shirted gondoliers!).  My walk took me around to second transition area of the race, where I would be dumping my bike the next day and getting into my running shoes for the final 13.1 miles. However, I was a little surprised to see that there were bags of gear all lined up in the area – I had heard at the race expo that we were to drop off this gear at the race start tomorrow. I asked one of the organizers there and he told me that I was supposed to check my gear in here by 5pm. Whipping out my phone I checked the clock – 4:55pm. Fortunately my hotel was just down the road so I was able to run back and quickly grab my stuff. Just goes to show that silly things can lead to not finishing a half Ironman!

The world famous gondolas of Providence!

I slept surprisingly well for a night before a big race and woke up to my alarm at 4:20 the next morning. I threw on my race gear and made my way down to the shuttle bus. Once we arrived at the race start I had about an hour to get my transition area finalized before the start of my race. I made sure the gears on my bike were shifting nicely, dusted my shoes with baby powder (helps keep them dry after the swim), attached them to the pedals, taped some energy gu to the frame of the bike and went through my typical pre-race ritual. Before I knew it it we were on the beach of the pond and read for the race start.

My wave left about 45 minutes after the first wave and I quickly found my rhythm in the middle of the pack. As we approached the first buoy we passed somebody from the wave in front. They had left five minutes before us so I couldn’t help but think to myself that this guy was in for a long day! Continuing along the course, which was a long single 1.2 mile (1.9km) loop, I managed to pass quite a few people in the waves ahead. I’m certain I would have been passed by a few people in the wave behind me, but I didn’t notice any which is usually a good sign that you’re swimming well. I emerged from the water in just over 38 minutes and felt strong as I ran into the transition area.

Emerging from the swim leg and running to T1

Out on the bike course I felt good and thought to myself that I should have no trouble getting through this. As the five mile mark approached I started to hit some small rolling hills and at one stage shifted to the lowest gear on my cassette. My gears were making some really weird noises so I decided to shift up a gear and muscle through the hill a little more. It seemed fine until I went for the low gear again and heard a similar noise. Once again I just shifted up and didn’t think much of it.

I got through another five miles of the course and then spotted a bigger hill up ahead. I had been warned that this was a hilly course, so I was not phased by it and just started to prepare myself by lowering gears as I approached it. Once again the strange noise returned as a shifted into the lowest gear. Then suddenly my chain seemed to just slip off and I had no power. Hastily I unclipped my shoes from the pedals, called my bike something I will not repeat and dragged it off the road to start repairing it. Only then did I realise the derailleur (the part that controls gear selection) had snapped clean off the bike. I was screwed!

Shortly before the fiasco

After working frivolously for a while the course mechanic found me and helped me get the bike into single speed, by removing some chain links. This meant I would have to ride the rest of the course in one gear. I’d already wasted about 45 minutes, so there was no chance of a good finish time remaining, but being my first half Ironman I really just wanted to finish the race. I mounted the bike and began pedalling again, but before I had gone even 300 metres my chain had slipped off. I tried stopped and slipped it back on only for the same thing to happen again. Things continued like this for a while and I soon realised the best means of propulsion was the use my bike like a scooter, with one leg dangling off the side to power me along the road.

It was far from the fastest or most efficient way to get around and it must have looked pretty stupid. The fact that the hills kept getting steeper didn’t help and I had to dismount and run my bike up the hill. As I did I had back of the pack triathletes giving me words of encouragement, telling me to get back on the bike, I could make it up the hill. It felt pathetic.

Eventually I hit the first aid station at the 15 mile mark and reality started to set it. Scooting over the next 40 miles was not only going to be exhausting, it probably wasn’t going to get me to the transition area before the cut off time. I stopped and asked the volunteers at the station how far ahead of the “sag wagon” I was. It took them about 10 minutes to tell me that they didn’t know and by that time I’d accepted fate and decided to drop out of the race. I waited around and got a ride back into Providence with one of the race officials, had a wee Guiness and prepared myself for a very long drive back to Virginia the next day.

Providence showed me just how unpredictable the sport of triathlon is and taught me not to take any race for granted. All it takes is one small mechanical failure and even some of the world’s best triathletes can be beaten by some of the worst.  I’m hoping that I’ve had enough bad luck with the half iron distance to last me a while now, hopefully with some good luck I’ll be able to post a successful result next week at Chesapeakeman!

My first Half Iron… Man (Part 1)

Hi everyone,

Before I get stuck into this week’s post, just a quick note for the technophobes out there. If you’d like to receive each post on this site as an email you can do so by clicking on the follow button, which is located in the bottom right hand corner of the window (or sometimes it’s top left). Also, if you’d like to contribute any comments on any of the posts you can do so by clicking the comments link at the end of the post you wish to comment on.

So I took two days off from training this week after the Nation’s Tri and my batteries are definitely feeling more charged. I’ve now got my eyes on my last triathlon of the year, which is the Chesapeake Skipjack “roughly half iron” distance triathlon (1.2 mi (1.9km) swim, 64 mi (102km) bike, 10 mi (16km) run). This will be my first race of such distance and it should give me a lot of insight into how much fitter I’ll need to be to finish Ironman Lake Placid.

Actually, that last sentence isn’t quite true. Not the part about it testing my fitness, but the bit about it being my first time. Earlier this year I attempted a half iron distance race… but it ended up being more of a saga than a success. It all started back in Sydney at approximately 12:05am on 1st of January this year.

It was, as you may have deduced, the first minutes of New Years Day and Brynn and I were watching the fireworks display across Sydney Harbour. The subject of New Years Resolutions came about and I quickly blurted out “I am going to do an Olympic Triathlon!”.

After a good night’s sleep I reflected on my statement and felt a little disappointed. An Olympic Triathlon? It was something I was already planning on doing anyway. Plus I was already swimming, running and cycling fairly regularly and knew I wouldn’t have many troubles just completing the distance without a set time in mind. I’ve always been one to set lofty goals and it was a habit I was trying to break, but I just felt like I had gone from one extreme to another (for the record I still think beating Usain Bolt is a realistic goal, but maybe not this season).

A couple of months later we found ourselves in America and I started signing up for races. When I discovered that a new Half Ironman event was being held less than an hour away at the National Harbor I couldn’t help myself and signed up for it and increased my training volume. The triathlon gods didn’t seem to be on my side however as Brynn began to get sicker and sicker, meaning we were spending more and more time at the hospital.

Brynn was unable to eat and struggled to hold down water, which led to her spending much of the early parts of her pregnancy in and out of the ER. Her obstetrician was completely useless and just kept telling her to eat crackers or toast and suck it all up. This was all while Brynn was drastically losing weight. We began looking around for another obstetrician, but had great trouble finding one that would take us because our health insurance was refusing the cover the pregnancy. Even though we were willing to pay for all medical treatment upfront out of our own pockets, most would not take us for administrative reasons.

It turns out that all individual health insurance policies have a six month pregnancy waiver. If you are planning on having a child as we were (and you’ve been living in a country where you don’t even need to buy insurance), you are just supposed to pay an extra premium on your insurance and cross your legs for six months. This was contrary to what the insurance salesperson had told me, who explained that the first six months of expenses would not be covered, but the delivery would be because it would be well into the policy. Fortunately, the policy was still supposed to cover pregnancy complications.

However, to further complicate things the health insurance company decided after several hospital visits that the pregnancy itself was a pre-existing condition and did not want to cover any of the costs of Brynn’s condition. This would have spelt financial disaster for us, which was the last thing we really needing in our lives at the time. Where they got this idea I’m still not sure, it certainly wasn’t from science! Thankfully Brynn had had numerous ultrasounds that all proved that conception took place after the policy start date.

Eventually we did find an exceptional obstetrician and after a ten day stay at hospital and the installation of a PICC line Brynn had turned the corner. There were still a few more hurdles along the way (the PICC line becoming infected was certainly not the least of them), but things were moving in the right direction.  I was able to increase my training mileage once again and before I knew it I was back on track for the Half Ironman.

Well at least until the race got cancelled.

I was in shock. Obviously this race just wasn’t meant to be. As a sweetener the WTC (owners of the Ironman trademark) offered me discounted entry into some of their other Half Ironman events. One was in Boise, Idaho. Another was in Canada. The closest race was in fact Providence, Rhode Island – a mere 9 hours away.

I toyed with the idea for a couple of weeks, but had trouble convincing myself travelling up to Providence was a good idea. Brynn being the amazing wife that she is knew that I was disappointed at the cancellation of the National Harbor event and encouraged me to make the trip. She was continuing to show a lot of improvement and had finally stopped losing weight – it was possible she might even be able to make the trip up to Providence. And so it was that I found myself on the entry list. The race was in July so I had no time to lose. I definitely didn’t have the mileage under my belt that I would have liked, but I felt that I was in good enough shape to get through the distance in a credible time.

To be continued…

Back to the Beginning

Hi everyone,

Another hard week of training for me this week as I prepare for my last two races of 2012 this month. The sun has been going down a lot earlier this week and summer is definitely coming to an end so I’m going to have to adapt my training to fit in with that. I went for a 28km run on Wednesday evening and it was pitch black by 8pm, so I had to run the last 40 minutes or so in the pitch black (not a good idea in the land of the second ammendment!) It did push me to run a lot faster though and I felt surprisingly good after doing that kind of a distance at a decent pace. Nevertheless there’ll be no more evening long runs for me for another 9 months.

Brynn and Benjamin are keeping well. Ben is getting a lot stronger and you can really see some of his kicks and punches from the outside now. I’ll have to keep myself in pretty good shape so that he doesn’t get any ideas about kicking and punching me when he’s a teenager! We’ve got another doctor’s appointment this week to check in on the little guy and see what he’s up to.

This week I’ll be taking it a little easier as I have a race next weekend in Washington DC called the Nation’s Tri. It’s actually the regional championships for the mid-atlantic region and a very flat fast course, so I’d like to have a good hit out there and see what kind of time I’m capable of. I even splurged on a wetsuit rental to help float me out of the Potomac in the best time possible.

The course is actually very similar to the first triathlon I ever did – the DC triathlon – back in 2010. Even though it took me another 18 months to actually enter another triathlon I knew I was hooked when that race was over.

I entered the DC triathlon just after completing my first marathon (see last week’s post). I wanted to take a few weeks off running so I was doing a lot of cross training at the gym when one of the people working there told me about a triathlon that was coming up. It seemed to fit in with my training plans so I thought why not?

I started my preparation with a swim in an endless pool (like a water treadmill) at the gym. I did about twenty strokes flat out and then looked for the emergency stop button as I gasped and gagged in exhaustion. Of course there is no emergency stop button so the current just sent me straight into the back wall of the pool. I repeated that a few times and then concluded I really needed to get lessons.

I ended up finding a stroke class at a local rec centre and began swimming there twice per week. I was being taught by an overweight Lebanese man who barely spoke English, but he did an amazing job with me over the next few weeks. On week one I was able to swim 100 metres, but it was literally water torture. My teacher taught me to relax my arm on recovery (he once said “you need to swim like a handicap”, the joys of ESL!) so that I was only using half as much energy and slowly but surely I was able to swim 200m and then 400m. Soon I was able to swim 1000m, which was longer than the 800m required for the race. I was ready.

At the same time I started cycling more to build myself up to what seemed at the time to be a ‘long’ 20km. I thought about buying a used road bike, but I couldn’t really justify the expense, so I just got some “road tyres” for my steel mountain bike. That made it immensely faster, but not exactly greased lightning. And before I knew it the big day had arrived.

The worst part of the race was definitely the early start, I think Brynn and I left the house at about 4:30am. We were still engaged at the time, so when she was willing to drag herself out of bed to watch me swim, bike and run around in circles I knew I’d made the right decision when I’d popped the question just a few months earlier. We waited around for a while and before long my wave was ready to start.

I’d half expected to drift right to the back of the pack when the siren sounded, but I surprised myself as I found a comfortable position in the middle of the pack. We rounded the bouys and it seemed like the swim was over in no time, I even past some of the swimmers in the wave in front of me!

In transition I got dressed in my running gear of singlet, shoes and socks (no fancy triathlon clothing for this one) and grabbed my hulk of a mountain bike. After lugging it across the mount line I swung my leg over my bike and began grinding the pedals. It was at about this stage that the majority of swimmers I passed in the wave ahead flew by me on their expensive triathlon bikes, but I figured I’d get them later on the run. I got passed by well over a hundred people on the bike, but truth be told I was surprised that I was able to keep up with the pace pretty well – I even managed to pass a couple of people on non-Bonzo the Clown bikes. Still, it was by far my weakest leg of the day.

I was a little unsure of how I would go on the run as I had barely put any preparation into it. Once I got out on the course and started passing people though I just couldn’t slow down. Coming from a sprinting background I was used to going out hard and getting passed at the end in longer races, but all the fast runners were already far ahead by the time I started the leg so I only had to compete with the middle of the pack runners. Anyone who knows me knows how ridiculously competitive I am. It doesn’t matter whether I’m running 100m, sitting an exam or playing tag with a three year old, I just have to win (Yep, I’m going to be that Dad and Benjamin is going to hate it!) My dog Timmy is the same way and we have had some epic battles over the years from racing up the driveway to tug-of-wars with rope chews. Anyway, when I started passing these 60 year olds who had killed me on the bike leg my ego just went into overdrive and I started running that race like it was an Olympic final. I made up a lot of time and wound up finishing about ten minutes behind the winner of my age group.

Making up for lost time in the run leg of the DC Tri

After the race I felt great (unlike my marathon) and had some questions I knew I would have to answer. How fast could I go with a real bike? What would happen if I trained for more than a few months? But most importantly, why don’t my legs hurt and why do I feel so great? As a runner I was always having to be careful with my back and my knees, but with all the cross-training I was doing suddenly I found I was hardly ever at the chiropractor. Everything just seemed to be in better balance and it felt great. Although it took me a long time to actually sign up for another triathlon I incorporated a lot of what I’d learned into my training and had a lot fewer injuries.

Let’s see if I still feel that way after Lake Placid!

A Week in the Life of an Ironman Wannabe

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned on the last post Brynn and I were going to see her doctor this week for a pregnancy check up. Baby Benjamin is in great health and it looks like he is no longer breached – which is great news because the last thing Brynn needs is another pregnancy complication!

For this week’s post I thought I would provide some insight into the training that I’m doing. It’s still 11 months until Ironman Lake Placid, but it takes a long time to build the endurance needed for that kind of an event, so you really can’t start too early. A huge thanks to Brynn for supporting me with all these training sessions!

Saturday 18th July: Race at Luray (1.5km swim / 41km bike / 10km run)

Sunday 19th July: Ran 19km (12 mi) at an easy pace with the Roadrunners (See Garmin Map)

Monday 20th July: Rest (was planning on cycling, but a storm hit just before I left)

Tuesday 21st July: Swam with triathlon group for 1 hour, Cycled for 62km (39 mi)

Wednesday 22nd July: Ran 6km (See Garmin Map – was planning on 26km, but got caught in a storm)

Thursday 23rd July: Swam with triathlon group for 1 hour, Ran 26.2km (16 mi) (See Garmin Map)

Friday 24th July: 20km (12 mi) easy cycle (See Garmin Map)

Saturday 25th July: Cycled 112km (70 mi) (See Garmin Map)

A lot of people follow a training plan when preparing for Ironman. I think there’s a lot to be said for that approach, but after this week I’m glad that I’m not doing it. Life and the weather are always changing my training plans and I think it’s very important to be able to remain flexible. Rather than have a strict plan at the moment I’m trying to maintain consistency and increase my long run by 10% each week.

My main focus of the three legs is shifting to running because I’m planning on doing the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October. I entered the Marine Corps Marathon the same day that we found out Bejamin’s due date and lo and behold – they are both October 28! Since Ben is above average weight for his age chances are he will come early, but if he doesn’t I will just have to stay flexible and change plans.

I’ve run two marathons to date and at the end of each one I have come close to swearing off running for the rest of my life. In the first one – the National Marathon 2010 in Washington DC, I’d found the first 32km (20 mi) of the marathon easy and just began to increase the pace, but then suddenly it felt like I ran straight into an invisible wall. I just wanted to lay down and cry myself to sleep. I think the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the pain that Brynn went through with HG were on those last few miles of the course. I kept saying to myself “You can walk the next 100 metres but then you’ve got to run the rest of the way”, but then I’d end up walking again a few hundred metres later.

I noticed there was a girl in a similar situation, except I saw her cutting corners – at one point she took a shortcut that took about 800 metres off her run. I was enraged that anyone could have so little respect for this distance that was just about killing me that I set it as my goal to beat her to the line (yeah, that’ll show her!). I managed to pass her on the final bridge and did my best to pull off a sprint and cross the finish line in style. Looking back at the photos it was anything but stylish, but I did manage to cross the line. I gave Brynn a big sweaty hug and then sat down on the ground and just could not get my body to stand up. I obviously wasn’t looking well because I was dragged off to the medical tent and had an IV stuck in my arm.

My one time on an IV – just after finishing the National Marathon in 2010

Surprisingly I felt great 15 minutes later and was already thinking about my next marathon. If there was ever a moment that I could have been diagnosed as completely insane I think that was probably it. I learnt a lot from that race however and I know those lessons will serve me well at Lake Placid. They’re going to have to if I’m going to run a marathon on a hilly course after swimming and cycling for about 7 or 8 hours! Let’s see if I can do it without needing another IV.