Athlete Guide

Quest For Kona

Do I Want a Kona Slot?

So… IRONMAN recently advertised a casting call for their new TV series, IRONMAN Quest For Kona.   As of my last race (IMNC) I was not interested in training so hard that I might qualify for a Kona slot. Things have changed.

Fun and Fitness Still Trump Performance

After hearing Kona stories from several friends and watching so many videos on that race, I’ve decided that I can do that too.   I’m not a type A personality.  I don’t believe that the end justifies the means. However, this is how I will continue to grow and push my self to extraordinary limits.  If, at some point, it becomes unfun, I will scale back and reevaluate.

Quest For Kona 2017?

My philosophy on life is not about immediate gratification.  This Kona quest may take several years (until I age up enough that I’m the only one in my age group!).

  1. My swim is certainly good enough for a Kona slot.  Too bad I can’t get to Kona on just my swim.
  2. The bike skills need a bit of work.  I’m about an hour and a half behind the professionals and about 50 minutes or so behind my age group peers.  I weigh a lot for the amount of power I generate. There will definitely be some serious bike training going on in the LG household.
  3. Can I do an IRONMAN race without the run?  Actually, I did do Ironman Wisconsin without the run:  I walked!  I can’t tell you how bad my run is.   Maybe I need to work with someone on this.   Running will be the biggest challenge for me, but I can do it.  If I can make it up the Westernport Wall in the Savageman triathlon, I can do ANYTHING.
  4. Transition?  No problem.  Always near the top of the race for both T1 and T2.  In fact, I’m going to take it easy in T2 from now on, so I can rest up a bit for the marathon.

Back to that IRONMAN TV series:  here’s my video application.  I probably won’t get picked, but I do like the video.  I hope you do too.

 

The Race That Wasn’t

Less Than A Year

It wasn’t even a full year ago that Ironman announced its purchase of the independent race, Beach2Battleship.   And now, after one go at it, the race has been discontinued.   I will miss it.  Mostly I’ll miss the 112 mile single loop bike ride.

However, I don’t feel the anger that many have expressed on Facebook and I don’t view WTC, the IRONMAN company, as an evil monster.  WTC and its founders were instrumental in developing our sport and building it to what it is today.   It grew from a $3 million dollar investment to a $650 million dollar business deal last year when it was purchased by the Chinese conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group.  So today, it is faceless and an easy target for animus.  But they’re not to blame.

So Who’s To Blame?

No one.

Who’s to blame for evolution? Who’s to blame for the color blue? Who’s to blame for puppies and kittens?  Those questions hardly make sense, right?  That’s because no one is to “blame” for the loss of our race.   We are all in this together.

  • For the same reason that athletes complain about the IRONMAN race price tag, WTC seeks to make a profit.
  • Because athletes choose IRONMAN races over independent races, WTC acquires independent races.
  • When athletes want a race experience, WTC focuses on delivering a race experience.

WTC is a business and can only exist if it has customers.  It has many.

The solution is simple, but not easy.  Competition will drive WTC to either change or wither.  I don’t want to see it wither, but change may be a good thing.  If you doubt that, look at Microsoft.  They are a completely different company since the competition arrived (Linux, Google, opensource, etc).  And WTC is a teeny tiny fraction of what Microsoft is/was.

Race companies have to find new, innovative ways to deliver the race experience.  That’s really what it’s all about: an experience.   Otherwise, we can just swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles and run 26.2 miles on any day of our choosing in any location of our choosing.

The Race That Wasn’t

Ironman North Carolina did happen on October 22, 2016.  However, the bike course was shortened from 112 to 56 miles due to the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew.  The race was an “IRONMAN”, but it was not 140.6 miles.  I’m fine with that.  In fact, the race was a wonderful experience for me.  I loved having it in my part of the world.

I wanted so badly to show off to the IRONMAN world how great our bike course is, but didn’t get the chance.  Now that the race has been discontinued, I will have to be satisfied riding the course for training and taking video selfies with the chicken at mile 67.

I’ll mourn the loss for another day and then be back on the computer to build my 2017 race schedule.

My Commitment to the Sport

I’ve decided that I want to do another ultra distance triathlon within the next year.  Maybe it will be an IRONMAN or maybe it will be a HITS race.

To keep me motivated, I am going to wear my Ironman North Carolina wrist band until the next event.  It is a constant reminder that I love this sport and I want to improve my performance.  But it’s really more than that.

IMNC wrist band
IMNC wrist band
  • It reminds me that I am not alone in my passion.
  • It reminds me that I can not be successful without the help of others (in any aspect of life).
  • It humbles me that I have done something so few others dare to attempt.
  • It shows me that gratitude for all I have and for all those around me is necessary to feel like a champion.
  • And it’s blue.  I like blue.

What Does It Feel Like To Be An IRONMAN?

Looking Back at Joyful Pain

As I write this, it has been 27 hours since I crossed the finish line at Ironman North Carolina.   Although my mind is ready to move on to the next big thing, my body is reliving the pain of the race.

That’s what it feels like to be an Ironman.

  • It’s the nervousness of waiting for the swim start, then getting pummeled by hundreds of swimmers and trying to fend off nausea caused by drinking too much salt water.
  • It’s the relief of climbing out of the water to be greeted by friendly volunteers  and the adrenaline rush of racing a quarter of a mile to my bike.
  • It’s the fear of riding the bike over a metal drawbridge and the excitement of having done it without incident.
  • It’s the arrogance of yelling at the head wind to “BRING IT ON”
  • It’s the excitement of seeing that special person on the sidelines at mile 38.
  • It’s the horror of seeing an ambulance on the bike course and a fellow athlete who is face down on the pavement.
  • It’s the sadness of thinking how hard that athlete worked to get to this race to have it end so horribly.
  • It’s cheering with the spectators at the entrance to T2.
  • It’s the pain of the muscle cramps that won’t allow the legs to function and the blisters: those nasty blisters.
  • It’s the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers.
  • It’s the companionship of hundreds of others who are suffering too.
  • It’s that feeling of renewed energy at the head of the finish chute.
  • It’s the satisfaction of crossing the finish line with a good friend.
  • It’s an overwhelming emotional catharsis as the events of the day are retold among friends and family.

That is what it feels like to be an Ironman.

Ironman NC - It feels good to see friends along the way
Guillermo runs with LG on Front St. during IMNC

What Makes an Ironman Part II

The world looks a bit different now.

I Feel Better About This

In my last post, I talked about IRONMAN North Carolina and the altered bike course.   All us athletes were expecting to compete on a 112 mile bike course.  Because of Hurricane Matthew, the bike course had to be reduced to 49 miles.  Actually, the race company was able to find another six miles to add to the course.  Based on my estimates, I think the total may be close to the 56 miles they claim.

Social networks lit up with many comments starting or ending with the phrase, ” … it’s not an Ironman… ”

In that post, I was not very happy, but kept an open mind as to the value of the race experience.  I feel much better today after picking up my packet and racking my bike.

The start of another great race
The start of another great race

Consider All The Parts

The lesson here is that a 112 mile bike during the race is only a part of the whole experience.  There are so many other parts to consider:

  1. The swim
  2. The run
  3. The volunteers
  4. The spectators
  5. The other athletes
  6. The finish line energy
  7. The starting line nerves
  8. The warm chicken broth on a cold run
  9. The high five from the kid along the finish chute
  10. The months of preparation
  11. The hard workouts that hurt
  12. The group rides that I’ll never forget
  13. The group breakfasts after long runs
  14. The group happy hours after evening swims

If any of this matters to you, then you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did.

The Question

So is it an Ironman?  That depends on you.

Literally and technically, it is an Ironman, because it is an event produced by WTC who can put the Ironman brand on whatever they want.

But the distinction of “IRONMAN” goes only to those who complete an Ironman race.  If you prepared for it and you completed it, you are an Ironman.  Therefore, tomorrow’s race with the altered bike course will make me an Ironman.  To me, the race is the ceremony that concludes months of hard work.

To others, the altered bike course may be a complete deal breaker.  Maybe they race only for the distinction of being called an Ironman under the condition that the full 140.6 miles are recorded in a database for the world to see.  For them, I truly hope they find a resolution, even if it may not be at Ironman North Carolina this year.

To the purists, whomever they are, no one is an Ironman unless they complete Ironman Hawaii (World Championship).

Conclusion

You have to make your own conclusion.

If I cross that finish line tomorrow and feel like an Ironman, then there’s nothing you can do to convince me that I’m not.  And I’m pretty sure I’ll feel the Ironman love.  But that’s no different than any other race for me.

By The Way

At yesterday’s athlete briefing, we were told that we would receive a coupon for $150 off of one out of a selection of the 2017 Ironman races.  I probably won’t need it to be a happy customer, but I might use it.  We’ll see.

What Makes An Ironman?

I’m numb now.  When I first heard the news, it felt like a punch to my stomach. And then I thought about what makes an Ironman.

A Race Director’s Decision

Because of Hurricane Matthew, the Ironman North Carolina (B2B) bike course was reduced from 112 miles to 49 miles.  Many of the roads on the original bike course are either still under water, damaged or needed by county vehicles for recovery efforts.    There was simply no way that the race could use those roads.

At this point, I can only speculate on why the race director made the decisions she did. And I admit it:  my speculations are biased because I know the race director and I’ve worked for her.  However, I’m also an athlete in this race, so I think I have a pretty good perspective on this.

The Facts

I don’t know exact details, but some facts are apparent

  1.  Several roads on the bike course are closed to vehicle traffic as of 10/19  (the race is on 10/22).
  2. The race requires support from participating counties in the form of law enforcement, permitting, and planning.
  3. County and state agencies have the power to grant and deny special use permits.

(A bit obvious, right?)  That’s not much information, but those are the facts that won’t be changed before the start of the race.

The Options

Given those facts, the race organizers have a few options:

  1. Cancel the race
  2. Postpone the race
  3. Modify the bike course

How the race company handles customer service is a totally different matter.  I’ll address that later.

The Decision

I don’t know why the race was neither postponed nor canceled.  I’m sure it has to do with economics and finances, as well as other factors.  However, I think I can speak to the reason the bike course is only 49 miles long.  It comes down to two words: GOVERNMENT APPROVAL.

I was not involved in any of these decision processes, but I know the bike course directors and the race director and I am 100% confident that they explored every possible detour in the area to get 112 miles.   I’m sure that even the contingency routes have been flooded and are off limits.  I have had discussions in the past with them about loop courses, contingencies, obtaining permits and rerouting bikes.  If you look at a map of the area, you will see that there are many roads that could be used.  In fact, I have ridden the vast majority of those roads on training rides.  However, what the map won’t show is just how difficult it is to obtain permission to use those roads.

Some possible reasons that permits will not be issued for the alternate plans.  Keep in mind that I don’t agree with all of them, but I think these are some of the reasons:

  1. Two way bike traffic on a two lane US highway is too dangerous.
  2. Every U-turn or left turn on a major highway causes a delay in traffic and increases the chance of an accident.
  3. Each intersection will require law enforcement to monitor and control vehicle traffic.  It’s possible that the number of law enforcement officers required on an alternate route would be cost prohibitive or too high for the counties to supply.
  4. Vehicle traffic is too high on many of the proposed alternate routes to allow a safe race.

I’m sure there are other reasons.  I do believe that if 112 miles were as important to the community as it is to us athletes, our permitting agencies would make sure that we had 112 miles to ride.

Is This An “IRONMAN” Course?

Ironman is a brand.  It is owned by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC).  So whatever or whomever they want to call an “Ironman” is an Ironman.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, is it?

  • I trained for a 140.6 mile multisport race.
  • I probably won’t feel like an Ironman after this race, but I won’t know until I cross that finish line.
  • I certainly can’t compare my results of this race with my previous Ironman races.
  • The results of this race will be biased toward good runners more so than other Ironman branded races.
  • Will there be a midnight finish line?

To me, Ironman embodies much more than a brand.  It means more than 140.6 miles.  My finish time hardly matters.  To me, Ironman is an experience that involves the distance, the challenge, the aid stations, the finish line, the doubt, the pain, the nerves: all of it.  I paid over $700 for that experience and I don’t know if I will get it, because the 140.6 is part of it.  But if I cross that line at the end of the new, short course and I feel like an Ironman, then I don’t care what anyone else thinks: I am an Ironman.

I don’t blame the bike course directors, because they made some very difficult decisions.  And I don’t blame WTC… yet.  It depends on how they handle the situation.

What Can WTC Do?

What WTC does about all this is the big question.  They have to be very careful because the Ironman brand must be kept in tact for WTC to be successful.

  1. They could change their minds about the race and cancel it all together.  That would be devastating for the athletes who want to continue with the race and for the community that is counting on the economic boost.  And if they do that, then what about the money we paid to participate.  I don’t think they are legally entitled to refund anything in the event of a natural disaster but they should offer something as compensation.
  2. They keep the short bike course and offer a percentage refund.
  3. What about giving athletes an option to either participate with the short bike course OR take entry in a different race in the near future?

I obviously don’t know if they will do any of that, but I do hope they seriously consider making “it right” for all of us.

Perhaps they have insurance for these kinds of things.

 

Final Winner?

You Didn’t Lose. You’re the Final Winner!

I read a tweet today.  ( I still can’t get over a message being called a tweet).  It said something to the effect of:

The final winner at Kona 2016
The final winner at Kona 2016

The last person to cross the finish line is still a winner?

Damn right she was.  This phrase, “Final Winner”, is not some touchy feely way to make a person feel good because we feel bad for them.  That phrase embodies so much of what I love about triathlon.

  • No matter how prepared she felt, she toed the start line.
  • No matter her finish time, she finished something that only a minute portion of the population has even attempted.
  • No matter how bad of a day she thought she had, she finished.
  • For every mile that her subconscience and her body begged her to stop and rest, she kept going.
  • She inspired hundreds of spectators that were there to see her cross the line: the finish line.

So I solute you, Jennifer Tait of Great Britain.  You won more than most people will ever dream of winning.

Report Card – Nautica Malibu Triathlon

On September 18, 2016 I participated in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.  The race was relatively short with an 800 meter swim, 18 mile bike and 4 mile run.  The race company, MESP of Agoura Hills California, claimed there were over 5000 participants.  I believe it.

This is my report card.

Malibu Triathlon art.
Malibu Triathlon art.

Two Parts

I look at each triathlon in two parts: the race and the event.  The race is that part that consists of swimming, T1, biking, T2, and running.  It’s the personal goal stuff.  I’ve already written about that in a previous blog post so I don’t need to do that here.  malibu_tri__mg_3316The other part is the event.  That is the part that embodies everything associated with the race like the venue, the race staff, the marketing, etc.  This post is my brief report, mostly about the event.

 

I give the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon a B grade and here’s why…

The Venue

I don’t know that the organizers could have selected a better venue in the region.  If the bike course had followed one of the canyon malibu_tri_mg_3465roads into the mountains, that may have been better, but the difficulty level would put off many people.  I like loop courses, but given the location was between mountains and ocean, a loop course would have been either too long or too difficult to manage.  Overall, I like this venue: clear ocean water, rolling hill bike and mostly flat run.

The Race Staff

malibu_tri__mg_3319The race staff that I spoke with were attentive and helpful which is very important for both first time athletes that are nervous and race veterans who might have high expectations.

The Charity

Over one million dollars was raised for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  I can’t say enough good things about that!

The Award Ceremony(ies)

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Tom Bergeron announces the celebrity winners.

The award ceremony was strange to me.  It gave me the impression that there were two classes of athletes: celebrities and everyone else. There were only two or three participants  I would call celebrities. I recognized two names: Zack Efron and Dave Zabriskie.  John Crier and David Duchovny, who have participated several times in the past, weren’t even there.  Or if they were, I neither saw nor heard about them.

Oops!  I almost forgot.  Tom Bergeron hosted the celebrity awards.

To be honest, it doesn’t even matter to me.  I just didn’t like that the whole event pandered to the “celebrities.”  I’m sure they did this because the celebrities can generate big donations.  But their pandering was at the expense of recognizing the “other” athletes.  This is one of the reasons I didn’t give the Nautica Malibu Triathlon an A.

The Promotions. There Were Promotions?

The other reason I didn’t give the race an A is that all the promotion was blatantly about the charity partner, the sponsors or the race itself.  Several months ago, I received an email from the race organizers asking for my triathlon story.  I’m sure they did this for all registered participants and I’m sure that out of 5000 or so participants, I was not the only one to respond.  This is usually done so they can highlight a few age-groupers who have overcome big obstacles to get to the starting line (weight loss, cancer, car accident, etc).  I never heard a word about any of these stories.

Another promotional piece that went into hiding was the video contest.  Registered participants were asked to submit funny, triathlon related short videos to be judged.  The winners were to have their videos shown on the big screen above the transition area.  Again, not a word was mentioned about that.  I even inquired about the contest soon after I crossed the finish line and no one knew anything about it, but I was given an email address for a follow up inquiry.  I emailed MESP, the race production company, several hours after the race and I am waiting for a response.

Overall

As I look back on the whole experience, I am so glad that I participated.  My race felt like it was one of my best yet and I was able to get out of the water without help from a lifeguard! (see my other post for an explanation).

Would I recommend this race to any of my friends?  Certainly.  But I would preface the recommendation with a warning about the celebrity culture which, in my mind, does not belong in a sport that prides itself on giving equal access to all participants.  Let me be clear:  This is Hollywood’s playground, so I can accept that.  I just don’t have to like it.

Would I do this race again?  Maybe.  I did enjoy it, but 2500 miles is a long way to travel for a race.

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