IMLT – Race Report Part 1 – Prologue

I HAD a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I RACED in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached both of those goals. I am now officially an Ironman, and we raised $11,052! The winners of our last fundraising activity will be notified soon.

For the next few blog posts, I’ll be giving the race report for the inaugural edition of Ironman Lake Tahoe. Today is the Prologue, and will be followed by the Swim, Bike, Run, and Epilogue posts over the next several days. Patience, grasshopper.

Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013 – Race Report Part 1 – Prologue

On June 18, 2012, registration opened up for the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe to be held on September 22, 2013, over 15 months before the race, and just a few days after the race was publicly announced. At this point I had a solid handful of sprint/Olympic distance triathlons, but only one long-distance race, a solid top-10 showing at the Napa Valley Vintage (half-iron distance) Triathlon, under my belt. My confidence was high thanks to that solid performance and having just earned yet another podium placement in a sprint triathlon, this time for the local Redondo Beach Triathlon. But the thought of stepping up to the full 140.6 scared me. Bigtime.

I wanted to take the leap. Blindly. Lauren and I discussed the time commitment and sacrifice it would take for me to do this race, and she responded with, “Do what you gotta do.” So, when registration opened up at 9am PDT on that June morning well over a year ago I immediately logged in, swallowed really hard, exhaled even harder, and plunked down my $700 registration fee. Alright. 15 months to get myself psyched up for this. I’m glad I didn’t waffle on this decision as the race sold out in just a few hours and I would have missed out. All 2,700 race openings. Gone in a flash. No going back now.

In the interim there were other races, starting with the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage (so much fun!) and Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens (another strong long-distance showing) up in Washington that July. But as the 1-year mark leading up to the race approached I felt a desire to make a big splash with my first Ironman…

I’d been wanting to dedicate my races toward fundraising causes for a while, but hadn’t really discovered the proper mechanisms or medium to get the proper attention and long-term goals in place… so on the morning of September 22, 2012, I hatched a plan in my head and started this blog with the very first entry, which was followed about a week later with The Plan. This formed the basis for my next full year. Find creative ways to raise $10,000 for a group of causes that had meaning to me, take the time to build up the fundraising message and experiment with different methods, and use that year to grow as a person. All while getting ready for this giant beast of a race.

Over the course of this year we had some fundraising challenges that worked well… and others that failed pretty miserably. There were some great periods of training for Ironman Lake Tahoe and other races over the past year… and there were some not-so-great periods of training. I had some really good races (Hermosa ‘Day at the Beach’ Triathlon, Rock ‘n Roll Pasadena 13.1, Ragnar Northwest Passage 2013, Redondo Beach Triathlon)… and some not-so-good (Napa Valley Marathon). But, ultimately, the march toward the big race and the big fundraising challenge were always there.

At some point I had realized my naivety surrounding Lake Tahoe. I hadn’t realized when I signed up that it was well over a mile in altitude. That was going to be difficult! I had grand plans to spend several training weekends over the summer up in Big Bear to get used to the altitude; I even went so far as to consider renting an apartment to get in the requisite time in the thin air. Of course, circumstances took over and the best I could do was get in a couple of training rides high up on the Angeles Crest Highway, climbing as high as about 6,600 feet. Close enough, right?

No. Not close enough. When the time came to finally book lodging for the race it became abundantly clear that getting to Lake Tahoe early enough to get over the altitude alone would be insufficient, I would need an extra few days to really get used to the altitude. Some people were heading up several weeks or more in advance of the race; I could only really justify 6 days before the race due to work commitments and our special needs pets. In particular, I needed enough time to become comfortable swimming in the thin air.

We arrived at Lake Tahoe on the Monday before the race, bought a ton of groceries for the week, and checked in to our really cool condo. Two stories, nice sized bedrooms and a bathroom on each floor, plus a spiral staircase that took you up to a bonus loft with a couple of smaller beds. Excellent! That would work perfectly as Papa Jeff and Suzanne were going to join us later in the week, and Kris and Robin would be coming up on race day. Lauren and I had both planned on getting some work done while we acclimated. Unfortunately, the only real downside to the condo was the pitiful DSL connection – there was barely enough bandwidth to download the main page at Amazon.com. Lauren found ways to soldier on; I was pretty much forced to take the week as vacation days.

The second story and the loft at the condo open up to the main floor - this place was really quite cute! We loved it here!

The second story and the loft at the condo open up to the main floor – this place was really quite cute! We loved it here!

Over the next several days I spent some time swimming in the condo pool and in the lake, taking short rides and runs on the roads along the lake, acclimating to the altitude, getting comfortable with the temperature change, and just trying to not get sick/injured/killed by a bear.

As race day approached we all eagerly watched the weather apps on our phones. The forecasts grew more bleak as the week advanced. A storm was forecast to blow through on Saturday, the day before the race, with rain and wind gusts of up to 50mph. Race day itself was forecast to be bitter, bitter cold. Race preparations quickly shifted from normal race preparations to finding ways to deal with the cold temperatures, and adjusting the bike setup to handle any lingering wind concerns.

Race check-in began on Thursday. We headed down to Ironman Village that was built in the parking lot at Squaw Valley. There was a lot of excitement in the air and the process was over quickly. My race participant bracelet was on my wrist, all of my race materials picked up, Ironman t-shirts and souvenirs purchased, and the booths all visited.

Papa Jeff and Suzanne arrived on Friday mere minutes after I was returning from my last taper run – a quick 4-miler meant to shake the legs out a bit. We made a quick return trip to Ironman Village so I could look for a long-sleeve cycling jersey and other cold weather gear (no luck, everybody else beat me to it). On the way back we decided to take a quick tour of the bike course – the part that was open at the time – and then headed back to the condo. This was my first visit to Brockway Pass; at first I wasn’t intimidated as it was a long but gradual climb, until we turned the corner and it kicked up even higher. All the way to 7,200 feet above sea level. Yeah, that was going to be “fun”! What goes up, however, must come down… and the following descent back to the lake was going to be FUN! It would all balance out on race day, I was certain.

The mandatory racers’ meeting was held that night, so Lauren and I headed back once more to Ironman Village. Unfortunately, Lauren couldn’t get in to the meeting, so she made new friends and met up with a former colleague (whose husband was also in the race). The meeting was nothing too terribly special – the only real new information was sharing the hours that the closed portion of the course would be available for preview (it is a closed, gated community). 3 to 5 on Saturday. Check.

Saturday morning was simple: focus on eating, drinking, and getting ready for the race. I finished dialing in the modified raceday setup on the bike, took a quick test ride, packed my bags for transition, and then headed out to drop them all off at the appropriate locations. First, the Run Gear bag at T2 in Squaw Valley. As we arrived, the storm started rolling in. High winds forced the exhibitors to close down, and we made our stay there as brief as possible, making one quick stroll to check out the run course and finish line areas. I took a quick tour of the changing tent, the T2 in/out points, and verified the process for the bikes (at this race we just needed to pass the bike off to a volunteer instead of racking them ourselves. Awesome!). We then got out of there ASAP as the winds were REALLY starting to kick up and the rain was beginning to pelt down.

The finishing chute of the race. I was hoping to be crossing this line in a wee bit over 24 hours from this moment...

The finishing chute of the race. I was hoping to be crossing this line in a wee bit over 24 hours from this moment…

A while later we arrived at Kings Beach to drop off the bike and Bike Gear bag at T1. Just as the winds and rain reached their peak. The winds were so strong that they literally picked up my bike like a kite – I was glad that I put the 42mm front wheel on instead of the 90mm wheel, otherwise that bike might have just flown away and never been found. I racked the bike in the appropriate location, just as the wind and rains seemed to find yet another level, and headed over to drop off my Bike Gear bag. Good news: at T2, the gear bags were on tables inside a tent. Bad news: at T1, the gear bags were uncovered and set on the ground. The rules required that the Bike Gear bags be present and accounted for in the proper location in T1 on Saturday. They rules also stated that we could add/remove anything from those bags the morning of the race. So… since I didn’t want my clothing and gear to become wet and frozen overnight, I took them all out, put a rock in my bag, and set it in the appropriate location. I would refill the bag before the race with my dry, warm gear. Crisis averted.

We then headed back to the condo to get Papa Jeff and Suzanne so we could tour the first major climb on the bike course that was only available for viewing between 3 and 5 that day. The rain and wind were finally letting up along the lakeshore, so we were feeling pretty good that the worst was behind us. We drove to the gates of the community as part of a long caravan, and proceeded to wind our way through the forest roads (Papa Jeff was particularly concerned about the wooden car bridges over some ravines – they could be slick on race day and he was worried about me crashing on them. He needn’t be worried about me crashing on those bridges… there were other hazards on the course that would prove more deadly later…). The rains had returned as we traveled farther away from the lake, and the roads twisted a bit. Some went downhill. But most went up. And up. And up some more. About 1,000 feet of climbing. And then the rain turned into a light snow. There was one final part of the road that was closed (I’ll describe it later in the bike section of my report) heading up to the Ritz Carlton, so we had to backtrack, go back up the road, and loop through the remaining portion of the course. As we neared the Ritz the snow began to intensify; it was nearly a blizzard up there. Between freakout moments looking at the snow (SNOW!) we noticed that the last closed section of the course took you up to the peak of the hill, with a twisting, downhill descent from the Ritz down to the base of Brockway Pass. This descent wasn’t going to be a great one for recovery and coasting as it twisted and turned enough to require the attention of the rider. Not a downhill to be taken lightly.

We cruised back up and over Brockway Pass (another ~1,000 foot climb), took one last gander at the long, fast downhill that followed, and made it back to the condo for dinner, an Advil PM, and an early bedtime for me.

Race morning! I was up at about 3:30am and taking down Nespresso capsules like they were merely water instead of shots of double espresso. Anybody who races knows what was going on there… and it worked. Breakfast consisted of a breakfast sandwich, banana, and a giant bowl of chicken noodle soup. Breakfast of champions! Some last minute gear prep… and we headed out the door into the dark morning toward the swim start. It was dark and cold. As it was only 5am, it would get colder before the sunrise. On the drive to the race start that new Katy Perry song ‘Roar’ came on the radio (why we had it on a station that would play that song, I don’t know)… and I knew at that moment I wouldn’t be able to shake it:

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Crap. Katy Perry motivated me. On a pitch black, bitter cold morning. Fracking Katy Perry.

And then we arrived at the race start.

The story continues in the next blog post: IMLT – Race Report Part 2 – Swim

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The Day After

I HAD a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I RACED in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached both of those goals – currently at $11,052 raised! You can help us wind down this fundraising effort by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! PLUS, you might just win a really cool prize! What!? Prize, you ask!? Up through Monday, Sept. 23, at 11:59pm we have our last fundraising push taking place! Details can be found right here.

The Day After

I’ll work on a thorough race report over the next day or two – so many things happened in the hours leading up to the big event and during the 140.6 miles of the race… so very many things. And I need to capture it all before it fades away (too many knocks to the head recently!)

We’re on our way back from the thin air right now. Destination: the comforts of sea level at home in Redondo Beach. As Lauren drives home, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all so very much for the overwhelming support (I’m still sorting through all the messages!). I am incredibly humbled by and extremely thankful for all the positive, congratulatory, well-wishing, encouraging notes.

I am also EXTREMELY thankful and appreciative for you all pushing us not just past the $10,000 fundraising mark… but all the way up to $11,000. Yes, over $11,000 was raised for some truly fantastic organizations. The standing ovation goes out to y’all for that!

So, the race is over. I am tired. Also quite sore, mostly from the crash, but the race gave me more than just a few aches and pains, too. Don’t worry, I’ll write all about it very soon…

Notice the changes to my standard blog post header? Kind of nice to write about the goals in the past tense… and I honestly have no clue what’s next. But you can rest assured that there will be something else to follow. Any suggestions?

Finally, and most importantly, THANK YOU, THANK YOU,THANK YOU,THANK YOU! You all played a huge role in making this past 365 days a smashing success.

Posted in Race Week, Recap, The Journey | Leave a comment

0 days: Race Day IMLT

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached that goal – currently at $10,927 raised! You can help us push well beyond the target by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! PLUS, you might just win a really cool prize! What!? Prize, you ask!? Up through Monday, Sept. 23, at 11:59pm we have our last fundraising push taking place! Details can be found right here.

Race Day – Ironman Lake Tahoe

Yesterday I answered some questions that I’ve regularly received over the last several days, weeks, and months.

Now today is the day. At around 6:50-ish in the morning I’ll be jumping into the water of Lake Tahoe to swim 2.4 miles. Then I’ll ride my bike 112 miles, up and over two mountain passes… twice each. And then follow that up with a 26.2 mile run – a marathon.

That is an Ironman. What makes this particular race in Lake Tahoe special is the altitude – the swim starts at 6,200 feet, with climbs as high as 7,200 feet on the bike (twice). With about 6,000 feet of climbing on the bike.

All of that was intimidating enough. And then the weather hit. In the past 24 hours we’ve seen 50+ mph winds driving sheets of pelting, cold rain. 4-foot swells in the lake. Temperatures that never left the 40’s. And SNOW pouring down on parts of the bike course.

At the start of the race, air temperatures are forecast to be at or below freezing. Lake temperatures are plummeting due to the rain and bitter cold air.

Yet the show will go on.

I have about 11,000 great fundraised reasons to go forward with this (there is still time to increase this total! Donate here and maybe win a prize!). To buckle up my big boy pants and tackle the cold. The brutal course. The harsh conditions. The roads littered with debris thanks to the driving wind and rain of yesterday.

But 2,500 athletes will still step up to the line. Walk across the freezing cold sand into the lake. And do our best to hear our own version of these words somewhere in the 17 hours that follow:

Jeffrey Oram from Redondo Beach, California. YOU are an IRONMAN.

And to every single one of you that has given me encouragement. That donated to the Tri-ing for a Challenge cause. That is sending out positive energy into the world this day for a safe, successful race for all competitors.

THANK YOU!

Lauren and others will be posting updates and pictures on Facebook (tagging me) throughout the day. You can also follow live race coverage for Ironman Lake Tahoe at this link. Or just go straight to the Ironman website and follow the links. There are also Ironman tracker apps for your mobile devices that do the trick nicely. I am bib #2051.

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1 day: The race is nigh

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached that goal – currently at $10,927 raised! You can help us push well beyond the target by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! PLUS, you might just win a really cool prize! What!? Prize, you ask!? Up through Monday, Sept. 23, at 11:59pm we have our last fundraising push taking place! Details can be found right here.

The Race is Nigh

You’ve seen the posts for the past 364 days. You fundraised like maniacs and pushed us past the $10,000 goal. (Don’t forget, there is one last fundraising push going on right now. Check it out!)

I’m not going to dwell on the past year… yet. Now I look forward to tomorrow and take care of some other business items.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the race and other stuff lately, so this post is an FAQ of sorts. So, here we go:

Q: What is this race, and where is it?
A: Ironman Lake Tahoe – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run – all in one lovely day at an altitude as low as 6,200 feet, and as high as about 7,200 feet.

Q: When is the race?
A: Sunday, Sept. 22. I’ll be entering the water somewhere between 6:40am and 7am (PDT). The race officially closes at midnight (17 hours later), but I’m hoping to be done well before then…

Q: Umm… WHY!?
A: So many reasons I can’t count. I’ll just give you the big ones right now. 1) I love triathlon. 2) I thrive on a good challenge. 3) It is a supreme opportunity to get attention for fantastic charities that could really use our support.

Q: How many Ironman races have you done?
A: This is the first full-length (140.6 miles) that I’ve done… and boy did I pick a tough one! I’ve done a few half Ironman races (70.3 miles) over the past year and a half, and have done fairly well… so this seemed like a natural progression.

Q: How is the fundraising going?
A: As of the time I submit this blog post, $10,927 has been raised by a whole cadre of supremely generous folks, and the assistance of a whole crew of diligent, dedicated fundraisers. There is one last fundraising push going on right now, with an opportunity to score a really cool prize! Check it out!

Q: How can we follow you on race day?
A: The best way is at the live race coverage page for Ironman Lake Tahoe at this link. Or just go straight to the Ironman website and follow the links. There are also Ironman tracker apps for your mobile devices that do the trick nicely. I am bib #2051.

Q: How fast do you expect to finish?
A: This is a tough one to answer, so I’ll walk you through the rationale in my head and establish fast and realistic targets for each piece:
* Swim (2.4 miles). My fastest swim in a 70.3 (1.2 mile swim) was at Lake Stevens in 2012 in 0:34:24 – that would translate into roughly 1:10:00 if I could maintain that pace. At St George earlier this year, though, I did the swim in really cold water at 3,000-ish feet of altitude in 0:40:33 – translating roughly into a 1:21:00 swim. So, at sea level my target time would be between 1:10:00 and 1:20:00; at altitude, however, I’ll back off a bit. Fast target: 1:20:00. Realistic target: 1:30:00
* Bike (112 miles). I’ll use Lake Stevens 70.3 (2:37:03) and St George (2:52:26) as reference points (56 mile bike rides) again. I am in better cycling shape than I was for either of these races, and might be able to crank out under 5 hours (about 22.5mph) on a flattish, sea level course. But IM Lake Tahoe is at a higher altitude, will start off at temperatures near freezing, and has more climbs (but some wicked long, fast descents). Fast target: 5:30:00 (20.4mph). Realistic target: 6:30:00 (17.2mph)
* Run (26.2 miles). I am in much better running shape than I was for those comparison races, so I’ll base this on my past marathon experiences. I am on form right now to run a marathon at a 6:30 to 6:45/mile pace – somewhere in the 2:50:00 to 3:00:00 range. My long training runs that I’ve been keeping dialed back have been in the 7:00/mile range (about 3:03:00). The altitude, plus having a long swim and ride in front, will have its toll… but I’ve been running well off the bike lately. A wide variation of possible results here. Fast target: 3:00:00 (just under 7:00/mile). Realistic target: 3:50:00 (8:00/mile).
* Transitions (T1 & T2). These will vary depending on the particular setup of each race, but are usually less than 2 minutes. With the cold temps I will be changing the routine. A lot. Dry clothes at T1, plus layers that I will remove on the course. T2 will be mostly unchanged from the norm. Fast target: 5 minute T1 and 2 minute T2 = 7 minutes. Realistic target: 8 minute T1 and 3 minute T2 = 11 minutes.
*** Add this all up to get… Fast target: 9:58:00 (let’s call it 10 hours). Realistic target: 12:01:00 (let’s call it 12 hours). So, yeah, somewhere around 11 hours, with a +/- 1 hour margin of error. (But, frankly, finishing is the only goal that counts here, right!?)

Q: What will you be wearing on race day?
A: My goal is to stay warm early, cool in the middle of the day, keep the muscles from fatiguing, and be as visible as possible to spectators and traffic. I think these clothes on the run should accomplish that:

What I'll look like on the run. Mission Athletecare arm coolers, 2XU calf compression sleeves, my Louis Garneau kit, and some bright Saucony headgear and Kinvaras.

What I’ll look like on the run. Mission Athletecare arm coolers, 2XU calf compression sleeves, my Louis Garneau kit, and some bright Saucony headgear and Kinvaras.

Q: What about the bike?
A: I’ve dithered around a bit with the wheel, fuel, hydration, and flat repair options for a while. I’ve settled on the disc rear and Reynolds Assault 42mm (both tubular) wheels due to the climbs and potential crosswinds. Fuel is GU taped to the headtube, Honey Stinger waffles in the bento box. Hydration is Skratch Labs (flavor TBD on race morning – I brought many options) in a TorHans Aero 30 bottle up front (filled with warm Skratch – race morning temps will be around freezing), TorHans VR aero bottle on the downtube, and regular bottles mounted on the seat tube and under my saddle. Flat repair is a canister of Hutchinson Fast Air taped to the stem. Here is what that looks like:

The Rocket Bike with a modified race day setup suited to altitude, course conditions, and all the climbs.

The Rocket Bike with a modified race day setup suited to altitude, course conditions, and all the climbs.

Q: Do you have any traditions or superstitions?
A: The biggest is that I let my hair grow out before a big race and have the cathartic “race day haircut” in the week leading up to the race. Because of the cold temperatures of this race (forecast high between 55 to 60, low between 30 and 34, depending on the information source), I opted to keep the ‘fro this time.

Q: How is Theo doing? He’s been stuck in that cone for a long, long time.
A: He’s doing better every day. I’m hoping to get that cone off his head soon, as his eye is making big strides. He is struggling a bit with the dry mountain air and altitude, but is soldiering on like a brave trooper. He is enjoying the crisp, cool air, though:

If he's sleeping, that means he's found a comfortable spot and is happy. At this moment he is quite pleased.

If he’s sleeping, that means he’s found a comfortable spot and is happy. At this moment he is quite pleased.

Q: Anything I can do to help?
A: Absolutely. Donate to a good cause (I have some options here for you to choose from). Cheer from wherever you are – for me and all my fellow participants. Say something nice to somebody for no reason at all. The more goodness that is floating about in the air on race day, the better.

Posted in Gear, Ironman, Race Week, The Journey | Leave a comment

4 days: Fundraising Finale!

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached that goal – currently at $10,007 raised! You can help us push beyond the target by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! And TODAY we roll out the final fundraising push!

Fundraising Finale!

A few weeks ago we reached the $10,000 goal! The results so far:

  • St Jude Children’s Research Hospital: $2,880
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): $1,815
  • LIVESTRONG Foundation: $1,440
  • Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA): $1,237
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western WA and AK: $890
  • HerShe Group: $765
  • American Cancer Society: $685
  • American Heart Association: $295

Grand Total (so far): $10,007!

So many of you have been so amazingly generous with your donations, your time and energy spreading the word, attending and organizing fundraisers, and your ceaseless encouragement!

But… there are still 4 days left! As satisfying as it is to reach the finish line of the goal you set out for yourself, you always strive to do even better! So, here it is… the final fundraising push!

Starting right NOW and until the day after the race (through 11:59pm on Monday night September 23), I’m going to ask you to dig in just a wee bit more. Every little bit honestly helps each of these fantastic causes!

The top 2 individual contributors over this period toward our charities on the TFAC Crowdrise page will earn a bonus reward as a thank you gift!

The top individual fundraiser (any of you that join one of the teams on the TFAC Crowdrise page and get people to donate through your fundraising activity) will also earn yourself the same reward!

So… what is this reward, you ask?

The Thank You Reward!

You all remember my superfriend Suzanne and her motivational/inspirational/awesome story, right? If not, go check it out here. Yeah, she’s one of those people I get to blame for nudging me toward this silly little Ironman thing…

Well, Suzanne’s special guy friend, Michael, is on a 365 day challenge of his own right now: of beautiful daily photos! Suzanne and Michael have offered up a print from his 365 day project – any photo of your choice from his wicked awesome collection – to the 3 winners! Go check out the photos here…  they are simply stunning! Here are a couple of recent samples from his collection (all images © Michael Guio):

Michael Guio – Day 256

Michael Guio – Day 209

Michael Guio – Day 155

So… if this Tri-ing for a Challenge march toward the race or the fundraising efforts have motivated, inspired, entertained, or otherwise intrigued you over the past 361 days, please consider making a small donation toward a worthy charity on our Crowdrise page. You might score a fantastic new piece of original art! Or cajole your friends, family, and colleagues into donating through your fundraising effort on our Crowdrise page (if you want to set up an account to do this, follow the instructions on the Fundraising page by following this link) and you could also be the proud owner of a piece of photographic awesomeness!

Some $$ to great causes… and fantastic artwork. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Posted in American Heart Association, ASPCA, Challenge, Fundraisers, HerShe Group, Ironman, LIVESTRONG, Race Week, Ronald McDonald House, Sarcoma Foundation of America, St Jude Children's Research Hospital | Leave a comment

5 days: Butterflies at altitude

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached that goal – currently at $10,007! You can help us push beyond the target by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! Plus, there is one last little fundraising push left between now and race day… and that is being rolled out tomorrow!

Butterflies at Altitude

The past 360 days of staring at the stats for Ironman Lake Tahoe have been daunting.

  • The swim (2.4 miles) is at 6,250 feet of altitude. Swimming at sea level is difficult enough… but in thin air it is ridiculously difficult to keep your breath. Unless you have gills, then you’re just fine.
  • The bike course (112 miles) starts at 6,250 feet, has some nice rollers, then spikes up to 7,228 feet with a couple of lung-searing, steep climbs… and then you repeat the course all over again. 5,240 feet of total climbing. A solid day on the bike alone… but nightmarish considering you still have to follow this with a…
  • Marathon (26.2 miles). Starting altitude: 6,200 feet. Fortunately, the pundits call this leg the “easiest” on this course as it is a double-out-and-back on the running/cycling trail without a lot of vertical component (about 600 feet total climbing). Yeah… “easy” running 26.2 miles, at well over a mile in altitude, after you’ve already done the other legs.

I trained with all of this in mind. I put in the miles in the pool and on the roads. Got in some gnarly climbing bike rides at altitude. Been running like a maniac and knocking out some wicked fast splits. I felt ready for this when we drove up to Lake Tahoe on Monday of this week.

Theo is keeping us company this week... and, yes, he's had the cone for 6 weeks, with at least another week to go... but he's healing! This picture is of him trying to find a way in to a Starbucks nearing Tahoe as I was waiting for our beverages... handsome guy!

Theo is keeping us company this week and was our co-pilot on the drive… and, yes, he’s had the cone for 6 weeks, with at least another week to go… but he’s healing! This picture is of him trying to find a way in to a Starbucks as we were nearing Tahoe while I was waiting for our beverages… handsome guy!

And then we got here. The altitude nearly knocked me on my ass. Lightheaded. Weak. I couldn’t jog up the stairs in the condo without getting winded.

The condo is super-duper cute! I really enjoy it here (I wish the broadband were faster, but it all can't be perfect). Notice the stairs... lots of steep stairs. Humbling on Day 1. Easy on Day 2.

The condo is super-duper cute! I really enjoy it here (I wish the broadband were faster, but it all can’t be perfect). Notice the stairs… lots of steep stairs. Humbling on Day 1. Easy on Day 2.

That is when I saw the butterflies. Not real ones… Race day butterflies. Maybe they were spots from altitude sickness? Who knows.

Regardless, the question had set in: “How the bloody hell was I going to deal with this altitude on Sunday?”

Good news… this isn’t my first time at altitude. We used to have annual project conferences in Aspen years ago at 8,000 feet in altitude. I would run & bike up there… and knew a few things from those experiences. Day 1 sucked. Royally. But, for me, things got much better on Day 2, and even better each day that followed.

So, this morning I marched on down to the pool in the condominium complex we’re staying at (they have a nice 25 meter pool) after a morning work teleconference with the intention of getting in a short swim. A mile later I was done… and felt confident that the altitude could now be dealt with. The butterflies at altitude have subsided. I took a short nap, and then knocked out a fast 17 mile ride (in serious head and crosswinds) to dial in the bike and the legs. More to follow this week as the taper continues… but, needless to say, I’m feeling really good about my training right now. And I’m ready to rock this race!

One of my super fast running friends, Maureen, is concerned that I've fallen off the taper (you get the joke, right!? Fallen... off the... tapir... ???). No worries. It may seem like a pretty intense taper, but we're on a 140.6 here. The tapir, err.. taper, is still pretty big... and I will still feel fresh, as this really is backing off on the volume!

One of my super fast running friends, Maureen, is concerned that I’ve fallen off the taper (you get the joke, right!? Fallen… off the… tapir… ???). No worries. It may seem like a pretty intense taper, but we’re doing a 140.6 here. The tapir, err.. taper, is still pretty big… and I will still feel fresh, as this really is backing off on the volume!

Posted in Race Week, The Journey, Training Check-In | 1 Comment

10 days: My handsome conehead

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached that goal – currently at $10,007! You can help us push beyond the target by chipping in a few bucks to one of our deserving charities here! Plus, there is one last little fundraising push left between now and race day… stay tuned!

My Handsome Conehead

Most of you know that I absolutely dote on my awesome puppy friend, Theo. This is how he usually looks:

Theo is one handsome, smiling, lounging type of dude.

Theo is one handsome, smiling, lounging type of dude.

But for the past 5 weeks he has looked more like this:

Theo really knows how to rock the cone, even with an ailing eye. That smile shows you can never really break his spirits.

Theo really knows how to rock the cone, even with an ailing eye. That smile shows you can never really break his spirits.

He’s been battling an eye ulcer for a while. We noticed something looked kind of wonky with his right eye after he and I returned to SoCal from my annual summertime sojourn home to the Pacific NW in July. We monitored it for about a week… and it wasn’t getting any better. It was just a little puffy, nothing that got us too terribly excited. (Note: his eye looks puffier now due to the eye drop treatments)

When we arrived at the vet they immediately recognized the issue: corneal ulcer. He probably scratched his eye fiddling around in the backyard, or playing with Nicky and Gabby… who knows… so we started him on a course of antibiotic eye drops. A week passed with very little progress, so we added in another drop in the hopes it would help.

During week 2 of The Cone Phase we had an incident… on the very morning we were set to fly out to Chicago (with an added trip to Cleveland) to celebrate our 10th anniversary and Lauren’s parent’s 50th, I accidentally cut Theo while snipping a mat of his fur out from the cone. So, we rushed him down to the vet to have staples installed. I felt HORRIBLE… because I cut my bestest bestie, and then right after we get home from the emergency vet visit we had to leave him behind at home doped up on pains meds (his auntie Alicia wouldn’t be there for another several hours) while we caught our flight. I was one worried pet papa… but it all worked out fine in the end. He cut healed up nicely, the staples were removed two weeks ago.

Weeks 2 and 3 of the treatment still showed little signs of progress… so we kicked the antibiotic eye drops up a notch in the hopes something stronger would work. During weeks 4 and 5 it appeared as though he was making improvements… but we aren’t the experts.

His check-in trip to the vet today confirmed it: his eye is mending nicely. Finally! He still needs two more weeks of the cone – he is used to it by now… but it is wearing on us. He knows how to use the cone to his advantage. If he wants our attention, a quick knock of the cone to the back of our legs. If he wants to stop somewhere during a walk, he’ll purposely lodge the edge of the cone somewhere. Diabolical mastermind, that handsome puppy guy.

Theo is resting after his visit to the vet today - he is getting better!

Theo is resting after his visit to the vet today – he is getting better!

We’ll be taking him up to Lake Tahoe with us for race week. Partially to keep an eye on him, partially because I want my puppy guy to be there when I’m done with that whole Ironman business – I will be physically and emotionally sapped, so I will need all the core members of the support team there (Theo, Papa Jeff, Suzanne, and Lauren). He is going to love it, as forecasts are calling for nighttime temperatures to dip down around freezing! He FINALLY gets to put that thick coat of his to good use!

And, hopefully, his checkup after we get back will free him of the cone! That should bring a smile to his face!

Theo is sure one happy guy... though when I get too stressed out he gets a bit bummed out... he has been bummed out lately.

And I know you’re familiar with this look on his face! I can’t wait to see him smiling like this again… without the cone on his head!

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