S#!^ Happens

This post began as a ‘Life gets in the way’ post, but really…when it’s all said and done

…S#!^ Happens is more appropriate 🙂

…if you don’t ‘get’ our picture today right away, click on it for a bigger version…being a recent first-time grandfather I found it hysterically funny for some reason 🙂

On my way to my 6th Ironman in as many years, at the tender age of 58, in mid-August my wife developed health issues that created an instant need for followup, doctors visits, more tests, doctors visits out-of-town, more opinions, ultimately surgery, and now aftermath.

No joy in Mudville.

As it turns out mid-August is also the beginning of the ramp-up to the Ironman distance for Ironman Florida on November 3 …12-13 weeks out…turning ‘fast’ into ‘far, the workout time commitment rises into the 15-20 hour a week level for 10 weeks, before tapering down for the race itself.

Not this year.

The good news was that I had the ‘fast’ part in place 🙂 … on May 7, I hit an all-time high FTP of 280 Watts on the bike…”strongest test ever…nice” was my final log comment…and very strong rides in June and July as I started to extend the distance out.  My vDOT run speed was the same as last year, and was looking forward to dropping that last 10 pounds into race weight and pick up even more speed on lighter feet.  My swim…well…my first swim of consequence wasn’t until July, so knew that there was work to do there.

…I knew that with a faster bike, and solid run, and swim within 5’ish minutes of last year, that I _should_  be faster than last year, and a new PR (under 12:33), and _could_ flirt with that 12 hour Ironman that I had in the back of my head last year.

Well that was the plan anyway…at the beginning of August…

My kids will tell you that I have a lot of favorite expressions…all dad’s do…the one that comes into play here is:

‘we all have the same 24 hours in a day…how we decide to spend them defines who we are’

My wife’s health issues immediately added a time overhead that wasn’t in the schedule…of course, when I say that…it was a decision that I made.  The immediate impact was that my days became instantly and incredibly cramped…as I added in the time to go with my wife to the conga-line of doctors appointments and tests…while maintaining a work schedule…and the ramp-up in Ironman training time…30 hours a day didn’t fit into 24.

…and then the extra stress…and lack of sleep…and my wife rolling back into perimenopause as the supplementary hormones were cutoff…can you say ‘hot flashes’ and ‘mood swings’ and …

No joy in Mudville…for anyone.

So something has to give when faced with only so many hours in a day, and too many hours of ‘stuff’ to squeeze into them.

So it was the training.

I didn’t come to that immediately.  As my weeks cramped up, I tried to keep all the plates spinning in the air…to see how it would all shake out…to go as deep as I could with the training, although I knew early on that it wasn’t going to happen this year…it just takes a bit to get it into your head…and heart…and then finally pull it back.

As I pressed to get the workouts in, the first thing that I noticed was that I was coming up flat…I just couldn’t hit the numbers…power…speed…muscles were just not responding as they had only weeks before.

…and then just getting them in…the additional time with my wife just meant missed workouts…or shortened and _squeezed_ into impossibly tight time slots

Funny how the body adjusts to things…I wrote a lot last year about stress, and how I found that it had a negative impact on my workouts…like my body treated ‘outside’ stress the same as training stress, and that I needed to adjust accordingly…sure thing…I felt like I was overtrained even though the exercise numbers were rather benign…the ‘total’ stress however was putting me over the top.

…and of course, the Ironman thing is just for fun…when it’s all said and done…it’s just for fun…

…so it got squeezed out of the schedule as I worked to regain my center…

Now…I still did get in a couple of 6+ hour bike rides…nice…long runs at 2:30-3:00…nice…and long swims of 1:30 and 1:40…very nice…so for the mere mortal Ironman, enough to show up and finish, and get a finishers medal and hat and t-shirt…and join that exclusive club of a micro-percentile of athlete’s that have completed an Ironman…totally thrilling…I still remember the first time that I crossed that finish line…unbelievable…tears still in my eyes as I write this.

…but this would have been my 6th…no longer just to finish…but to exceed what I’ve done…but not this year.

I have no doubts that I could easily glide through the Ironman this year…make it a great training day…I’m paid up…my number is waiting for me…just strap on the wetsuit and have a relaxed day, enjoying my fitness and the folks around me…

…but in the face of other priorities over the coming weeks, it’s just not doing it for me this year

In years past I’ve gone down a week ahead of time…enjoyed swimming in the Gulf…some great dinners out during the week with similarly twisted endurance athlete’s…hosting my party on Thursday for my tri-buddy and tri-bunnie 🙂 friends, and anyone that they know, at the same condo that I’ve used the last 5 years, with pool table in the living room and wraparound ocean views…and then race it and party the day after…brings a smile.

It took me a while to reconcile not doing the race this year…twisted emotions about it.  Ultimately it comes down to a few things.  Primary is that as we sit here 14 days out, there’s still some ‘stuff’ that my wife…we…have to deal with…decisions to be made, all of which run over the date 2 weekends from now…right with that is that I’m not in the training position that I wanted to be for this year…’finish’ …sure… somewhere between 13-13:30…probably…under 12:33…not likely…at 12:00…no.

So I’m left with the ‘why?’ question, that I just don’t have a good answer for.

Last year my 5th Ironman was my best at 12:33…by 24 minutes…very nice.  The _huge_ part of that was my daughter deciding to do the race with me in 2011…her 2nd…my 5th.  That fact alone _totally_ invigorated me…we started this blog…I posted 245 articles…almost 1 a day for year…and produced the race of my life…unbelievable still…

…I still remember my first marathon in 1998…a ‘bucket list’ goal accomplished of maybe-someday-I’ll-be-able-to-complete-a-marathon…which I did in 5:12…I still have the certificate on my wall…in my 2011 Ironman, I completed the marathon portion in 4:47 after warming up with a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on the bike…very nice 🙂

So I’m left thinking that ‘I need a new drug’ … I may come back to Ironman…maybe not…I’ve had a lot of ‘drugs’ along the way in my life…sort of interesting as I reflect back…good stuff for another post 🙂

…to all my friends and family and coaches that have been by my side, both in races and supporting with such enthusiasm…may there always be wings beneath your feet 🙂

…and a special thanks to Coach Gale who got me to the start line for my first Ironman, and through the finish line in my 5th…my enduring thanks always



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7 Responses to S#!^ Happens

  1. Anne Boone says:

    Life happens, doesn’t it? (so does shit…love the funny photo!)
    Being a 29 year survivor myself, I’m betting that Carolyn will be OK. Sorry about the menopausal stuff, though. You men have no idea…
    Since I’m signing up for IMFL 2013 I hope you decide to do it, too. I got in online in 2010…you just have to be quick! Maybe you need a year off, anyway.
    Best to you and your family,


  2. Gale Bernhardt says:

    Hey Steve ~

    Makes me feel great to have helped you through all of those adventurous Ironman outings. The emotions that you pour into this post is why I have coached so many years. Just helping people get what they want in a small or big way is so satisfying.

    Many athletes have taken a break for one reason or another. Whether you come back to IMFL, another IM or a totally new adventure is TBD. I have no doubt that you won’t be sitting around in a lounge chair with your feet kicked up for hours a day when you have a chance to swim, bike, run or do something else that makes you feel alive.

    Dinner is a MUST ~


    • Dad says:

      Gale, my looming challenge is to keep from becoming a ‘dough boy’, so at least focusing on keeping an average 1,000 calorie burn a day…ends up at about 9-10 hours a week of biking and running…some of it just spinning on the stationary bike in my office while on the phone just to get it in…thanks for the notes about duathlon and Team USA…veeeery interesting 🙂

      • Gale Bernhardt says:

        For calories burning you can also consider a stand-up desk and/or a treadmill desk set-up. I found one treadmill at Interbike – http://www.LifeSpanFitness.com. I spent a good amount of time talking to the engineer about the system. Considering one myself.

        Team USA is a cool experience.

  3. Rich Ritchings says:

    Steve: Life happens to all of us. I have known you for a long time & I know how determined you can be when you decide to do something. I have enjoyed your posts & our conversations regarding training & many other things. I.m sure you will put the same dedication into the challenge of doing everything possible to restore Carolyn to full health. My best regards to Ironman & Ironwife.

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