Tuesday, June 28, 2011

IM CDA - It's all about FINISHING the journey!

The Ironman race morning began early as I didn't sleep well as usual, however this time it was different I wasn't worried about my own race, but instead I was worried about everyone finishing.  I know all that goes into the journey to become an IM, so I didn't want anyone to experience the empty feeling of not reaching the white line in the road mile 140.6.  I was having crazy dreams all night which some I won't share, however one of them was so real it almost happen which involved the always humorous Kim Dotson and her awesome pink cowboy hat she wore at the finish.  I dreamed Kim was running down the finish line with cowboy hat blinking and rope in hand ready to dance and celebrate in style which is almost exactly what she did as they said, "Kim Dotson #654 YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

This picture above represents the beginning of one of the most memorable days of my life when I felt proud of who I was and ability to inspire others to make their dream a reality!

One of the many pre-race pictures as Jay, Kimberly and I just got body marked by Team Blazers Debbie Jahn and Jerry Gray!  It was so awesome to see so many club members volunteering and giving back to the sport we all love to participate in.  The volunteers are a key piece to the IM race day experience!

 This is my pre-race IM cookie that Melissa Salazar made for me.  It was great to see Max & Melissa and all the other Team Blazers out on there all day long providing a ton of encouragement to all of us.  I was so looking forward to eating this cookie after the race and it was delicious!


These pictures represent the swim start which is always crazy in every IM. This day was par for the course.  I had to swim through some guys that should have been in the back the first 100 yds, although after that I was in a nice pack and felt great!  Once I reached the first turn buoy I noticed I had missed the lead group and I was caught in small pack of 4 swimmers that unfortunately took a wrong turn as the 2nd turn buoy was actually farther out than the first.  (Reminder lesson: make sure you sight as the group probably swam 50 yd off course) 

As I came around for the first loop my watch read 28:10 which I was happy with especially enlight of my detour.  The only problem was that my hands had gone completely numb and although I tried to shake out my arms and clap my hands I couldn't feel anything.  The 2nd loop I felt like I was moving my arms and going no where fast.  I did manage to stay with a group and draft, although I really started to feel dizzy and disoriented as I approached the beach in time of 1:01 which was slower than I planned but today was all about the finish!

When I exited the water my hands were so numb I couldn't get my arms out of my wetsuit, so thank goodness Team Blazers John Martinek and David Lund were there to help me out.

 This picture represents the true feeling within Team Blaze where everyone supports everyone and on this day John & Mason both helped me to regain my sense of focus.  I spent the next 22 minute in the warming tent which I should have stayed longer but I wanted to see some of the speedy Team Blazers on the bike.

As I got on my bike I was still cold, but in good spirit as I saw my wife Tristin's awesome sign in the background.  It was such great feeling to be getting on my bike to do another IM and I had forgot all the amazing support you recieve!

The 112 mile bike ride was totally different than any of my previous 3 IM races.  This time my total focus was on making sure every Team Blaze athlete made it to the run.  So I pedaled easy for the first 40 miles as most of the 32 club members past me.  It was awesome the see the excitement on their faces!  When I reached mile 40 it was what I thought was short pee break pit stop, however it turned it an hour long break.  I soon found myslef talking to some of the volunteers I knew, encouraging Team Blaze members, helping the volunteers to rack bikes and I also went pee 3X so obviously I was hydrated.  I asked the medical volunteers if they could check to see if Kim, Karen, Brandi and Norma made it out of the swim, however they wouldn't help me. Instead they told me about all the people that got pulled out of the swim due to hypothermia which didn't help the situation. Finally after about 40-50', I saw Kim, Karen & Brandi.  Then right as I was about to ride away as my watch read 1hr of waiting I saw Norma!  I was so relieved they were all still in the race and their dreams would become reality!

As we rode the 2nd loop we traded positions at different times, although I was trying not to ride too close to them as they needed to ride their pace.  It was fun as Kim blazed past other tired riders on the downhills with me in toe I would yell , "on your left" as I was worried someone would wreck into her.  When we reached mile 90  I tried to encourage all of them as in my mind I thought the bike cut off was 5pm when it was really  5:30p.  So, rode the last 20 miles fast as I wanted to make sure I made the bike cut off.  My total bike time was 8 hr14 min (actually ride time of 6:05 which isn't bad for 6.5 weeks of training) and now I waited hoping they would all make the cut off.

After my 30 min. T2 pit stop Norma and I headed out on the run.  The sun was shining and I was excited to finish this journey.  I knew Norma was really fit and we could probably run 10:45 pace.  We actually did run 10:45 pace, however like any IM sometimes things are out your control and unfortunately Norma experienced serious GI issues.  She was absolutely as tough as nails out there as I'll save everyone the details other than to say she went to the Honey Bucket at least 15X. 

This picture represents a small snap shot of how the Team Blaze spirit was on full display with 32 atheltes started and 32 finishing!  Norma and I are starting out and Bill was completing his first loop!

Many people would have quit, however Norma kept pressing on until about mile 21 when we discussed the fact we had 2hrs to go 5 miles so lets just walk. 

We were actually walking at 15 min. pace, although I have a new respect for those after dark finisher as it got cold!! 

Norma and I  finishing at 16:01!  She recieved an award for 4th in her age group!  It was a tough day for the older athletes as 12 women in her age group started and only 6 finished. What an amazing journey we've had together over the last 5 yrs! She's a  model of consistency in training and has reaped the benefits by qualifying for the Boston Marathon, 70.3 World Championship and now she's an Ironman! She's an amazing person, athlete and friend.  She once again taught me that through consistent training, belief in yourself and perserverance to keep going even in through VERY difficult circumstances with severe GI & stomach issues you CAN finish the jounrey.  I'm so proud Norma and all the athletes that I get the opportunity to coach.

This picture is pretty funny and another perk to finishing after dark!  They give you a whole pizza!  This pizza really wasn't very good, but I was so hungery as I've never done anything that long before.  My previous IM races were in the 10:25-11 hr range, so I was going on some serious borrowed time.  In addition, I really only trained 6.5 weeks for this IM, which I totally don't recommend as it's still 140.6 miles.
Another great picture of my awesome wife Tristin and her huge IM sign! 

My 4th Ironman and my journey back to full health is probably one of the biggest highlights of my life to date.  Words can't express how truly blessed I feel to have the opportunity to do what I love to do again and share the gifts I've been given with others.  Each one of these Team Blaze members have inspired and taught me about the most important aspect of any IM which is enjoying and most importantly finishing the journey!

I have a whole new appreciation for those athletes finishing after dark.  Yes it's still 140.6 miles, however it's a completely different experience when you go from chasing 10 hrs to trying to make the cut off times.  I learned from this group of people that finish after 15 hrs that they seem to really appreciate the race, encourage instead of yell at each other on the course and actually thank the people that make the IM possible which are the thousands of AWESOME volunteers. 

When you finish after dark you get treated like a rock start!  It also gets really cold and dark along the lake once the sun goes down.  They hand out shiny beads, glow sticks and warm chicken broth!  As I ran down Sherman Ave with Kim in front of Norma & I my heart was filled with unbelievable amounts of joy!  I felt like I was floating to the white line at mile 140.6 and slowed Norma down at the finish to truly savor the moment!  The crowd was so loud I felt like we had just won the IM, which we had won because we proved anything is possible!  I know that when I had heart surgery I never really thought I would ever do IM again and certainly not 6.5 months later, although again anything is possible if you tell yourself you CAN!

IM is so much more than swim, bike, & run.  The family/friend support, volunteers and teammates are so key to making this special journey complete.  I'm so grateful to have shared this experience with the athletes I coach.  Ultimately it truly is all about about FINISHING the journey!

My finish video can be seen through link below by forwarding to 9:35-10:35.


Thanks for reading, supporting and inspiring me to be a better person!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

24 hrs to IM CDA 2011

The anticipation for IM CDA has been building as +30 athletes in Team Blaze Spokane Triathlon Club finish their finally preparation for the big day.  We all met up yesterday at the swim start for some last minute discussion and tips about the swim.  The water was choppy which I'm hoping won't be the case on Sunday, it was cold initially which it will be on Sunday and everyone is ready to ROCK!  These amazing individuals have trained some of them for years to get to this point in the IM journey.  Some couldn't swim just a few years ago, some didn't really know how to ride a bike and most only dreamed they could one day do the IM after like me watching it on TV.

The IM CDA dinner was inspirational as usual with one athlete competing in his 121st IM!  An 18yr old kid racing with broken hand/great sense of humor, 7 athletes over 70 yrs old racing, athletes that have lost weight, cancer survivors, athletes living with MS, and athletes like Phil Sandifur & I that have had major heart surgery.  The motto for IM which is "Anything is Possible" was on full display. 

I hope my story has both inspired other to move foward in life through challenges and learn to never give up! 
Recently in an interview I was asked, what this IM means to me and if it meant more now?  Without hesitation my answer was "YES", I'm not chasing 10 hrs anymore, I'm out there truly enjoying the journey and appreciating my health, my 2nd chance to live my life and hopefully positively impact the lives of others.

Thank you to KHQ & IM for allowing me to share my story.

All this has taught me life is about living and truly following your passion, so tomorrow I wish everyone especially my teammates and athletes I coach all the best in follow their passion and seeing their dreams become reality!  You're all racing as individuals, yet you'll stand strong through the challenges of IM and support each other to the finish!  Be steady, patient and positive on your journey to the white line in the road!  Remember you're stronger the you think you are and you can do more than you think you can! 

Make your day truly special as it's not about the finish time it's all about the journey to the finish!  Enjoy the journey my friends! 

Lastly, this picture of my awesome wife Tristin says it all.  She spent most of the day creating this amazing Ironman sign in support of all the Team Blaze athletes participating in IM. She's always so giving and supportive.  When I think of how to describe an ideal friend, spouse and partner I would say someone just like my wife.  She's the glue that positively impacts so many lives and makes me want to be a better father, husband and friend.  I love you babe and don't worry about me on Sunday as I too will become an IM for the 4th time!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Twas the week before Ironman

Twas the the week before Ironman and all through house not creature was stirring not even our two hyper dogs Scooby and Barkley.  Ok, I'll spare everyone the rest.  I had someone ask me recently why or how could I even imagine doing my 4th IM only 6.5 months after heart surgery?  Is that even possible?  I responded, "yes, it's possible and I wouldn't want to live any other way."  I know this lady is still probably shaking her head thinking this guy needs brain surgery not heart surgery I think they made a mistake. 

In all seriousness though, anyone that knows me realizes I've always been driven and super competitve (marriage & fatherhood has helped me tone it down), although I'm always up for a challenge.  So, May 12th I signed up for a big challenge which was to complete the IM only 6.5 months after heart surgery with 6.5 weeks of training.  Good thing I know how to swim!  I feel it is through these challenges in life that we truly learn about ourselves.  As IM CDA is only one week away I'm excited about the opportunity to be free to live my life on my terms and use my god given gifts to inspire others to want more from their lives too. 

During an interview recently with KHQ,  I was asked why are you doing this again and what does it mean to you?  I replied, "because I feel it's my 2nd chance and I'm blessed to be able to give back to others by hopefully inspiring someone that is facing a life challenge to NEVER give up as anything is possible!"  The ability to do IM in my mind means I'm free and healthy again because as a funny friend once told me, "god has a plan for all of us".  This question also prompted an emotional response as I honestly never thought I would be able to swim, bike and run about year ago when they first told me my heart wasn't working any more. Now that was a tough day, yet here I am IM CDA racer #1359 ready to take on the challenge. Yes, I expect IM day will tough and emotional, yet hopefully I'll be able to inspire others to live life to the fullest too. 

Father & Son Triathlon
This journey to IM has been like no other as I've learned so much about the fact that as we give we truly shall receive through trying to be a good father, husband, friend and coach.  I feel truly blessed to have the ability to help other people to guide their lives in a positive direction.  My son continues to teach me patience and make me proud of all I learned from my parents about caring about people and taking the time to experience life together.  My wife has taught me that the glass can always be half full and it's ok to not be first as long as you try your best.  My friends have taught me that years and miles can't take away the bond of true friendship.  Lastly, the amazing athletes I coach have inspired me to want to get back my fitness and share my gifts with others.

Recently we had out annual IM pre-race dinner at our house, we were fortunate to have two professional IM triathlon champions Hillary Biscay & Maik Twelsiek attend and generously shared their stories, tips, and pose for many photos.   Hillary has completed 48 IM races around the world and Maik orginally from Germany had the fastest bike split in Kona last year with amazing 4:26!  These two truly represent all that is good about the sport of triathlon where pro athletes are just regular people with extrodinary physical gifts and passion for life.  Pro triathletes don't make a ton of money, but they get to live out the child like passion every day by swimming, biking, running and traveling the world!  Thank you Jim Kozak with CycleMetrix http://www.cyclemetrix.com/.

Reece (5yrs) & I at the finish!
On Father's Day I got chance to complete a kids triathlon with my little buddy and we had blast!  Reece as most of probably can imagine has been around triathlon and has attended workouts, races since he was a baby, so when he heard he could do another race he was super excited.  He completed the 25 yard swim with his life jacket although he did put his face in the water, biked +1 mile, ran 1/3 mile and most importantly he finished with smile on his face.  During the race he even tossed out a little train trash talk that made me laugh when he passed two kids on the bike and said to himself,  "they can't catch me slow coach".  (I had to remind him it was just a race against himself) After we finished he immediately ask me if he could get a snack and then he won a Cars slip and slide! 

I believe that if want something in life you should go for it as the one of the many things I've learned is that life is both short and unpredicatable.  Thank you to all my family, friends and athletes I coach coach for inspiring me to be a better person.  I feel blessed to have my 2nd chance to truly enjoy the journey!

If you're not doing anything this coming Sunday I encourage you to come to IM CDA and support the 32 Team Blaze Spokane Triathlon Club http://www.teamblazespokane.com/ members participating! 

Thanks everyone! I plan to truly enjoy this IM! I feel this video represents all that this journey means to me. Remember when you feel you can't go another step remember you CAN!


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

11 days to Ironman CDA!

As my 4th Ironman race approaches and I now have my race (#1359) I'm probably more excited about this IM than any other!  This journey to IM and the white line in road has been completely different than the others due to my heart surgery.  I've had probably the most challenging year of my life, yet I feel fortunate as I've grown and learned from my experience.  I feel so blessed to be healthy again and able to participate again!  It feels like a 2nd chance and I'm truly greatful for the opportunity to further share my passion for fitness and coaching gift with others. 

One day after heart surgery. Wow, they really messed up my already big lips!
It took me along time to look at this picture as I was honestly scared I'd never be able to do all that I love to do again.  I've had a long road to IM CDA 2011, which involved heart surgery only 6.5 months ago.  As some of know I was told I would/should never swim, bike and run again back in July, which as you can imagine was not something I was willing to except.  Being active and challenging myself has always been a huge part of my life.  So, when my heart surgeon and cardiologist explained that replacing my mitral valve would allow me to be free to exercise again I felt a huge relief, although as with anything in life, there was no guarantee. 

My son Reece & I (3 days post surgery)
About 1.5 weeks after surgery I thought I was feeling better so I decided to walk/jog Turkey Trot with my son Reece, which went OK except I was in a world on pain for the week following.  It was another good lesson in patience, which is something I've always struggle with.  After that I spent the next 10 weeks not able to do much and the highlights of my days involved seeing my family, coaching/talking with athletes and walking to get the mail.  

By the end of January, I had passed all the follow up tests and I was told I could get back to light physical activity.  So,  I began by going to the pool.  I got in and soon realized I couldn't really use my right arm as I had been protecting it for months as this is where they made the incisions to do my surgery.  Tristin stood over the end of the pool worried that I going to sink as I swam about 500yds mostly with my left arm.  I remember thinking and telling her, "wow, I've got a long way to go."  She responded in her usually glass half full way and replied, "you now have as much time as you need."  She and Reece (my son) were definitely my rocks that pulled me through the dark days. 

I soon started to use the elliptical trainer/bike as I began with 15 min. and worked my way up from there.  I joined other Team Blaze athletes for Sunday groups runs and although I had lost all fitness I didn't forget how to run.  It was just great to be out there with everyone again.  All the athletes I coach truly inspired me more than they realize to want to get my fitness back!

In April, we went to Hawaii and it was an amazing trip training with our friends/teammates and showing them the place we love!  We spent a week on Oahu, which began with a practice triathlon with our old club Team Jet Hawaii  http://www.teamjethawaii.com/.  I was really excited to get out there and try to race again, however I learned another valuable lesson about patience during the practice triathlon.  I felt great swimming, solid on the bike and then I ran about 1.5 miles only to feel really dizzy with my heart rate way too high.  This really shook me mentally as I felt good, so why couldn't I just go out and race like before.  Probably because I had just had heart surgery 4 month before, so I spent the next few days just appreciating being able to workout with the athletes training for IM CDA.  Again Tristin, reminded me to be patient and enjoy being free to exercise.

It was during this week in Hawaii that I started thinking, "wouldn't it be cool if I could do IM CDA again this year?" I kept these thoughts to myself as I knew everyone would say, "you're crazy, wait until next year etc."
So, after wrestling in my mind with the idea and continuing to exercise I finally brought the idea up with my wife.  I didn't really know how she would respond as anyone that has done IM knows it's a huge family commitment and if you don't have support from family you shouldn't take on the journey.  She somewhat surprised me when she said, "you can do it, IF you take it easy." 

Now the question was could I do the IM and take it easy?  I felt confident that I could it as I had learned to be patient, so on May 12th I decide to sign up!  The only problem was I only had 6.5 weeks to train, however I had tons of motivation and no illusions of trying to go 10hrs.  My training has been great and I'm in much better shape than I was in April!

This journey to IM has been all about supporting others that have truly inspired and encouraged me through my recovery.  It's also about proving to myself and others to never give up!  As they say in IM, "anything is possible".

As I look forward with 10 days to go I feel calm and excited to be able to challenge myself and inspire others to realize life should be lived without limits.  If you want something and you're willing to put in the training, you can do it!

I look forward to joining/supporting the athletes I coach and fellow Team Blaze Spokane Triathlon Club members in their IM journey to the white line in the road.  Remember you're stronger than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can!  Enjoy the journey!

Thank you Tristin and Reece for supporting me!.

Thanks for reading