Because this is an experimental, n=1 adventure, I spend a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, etc. In and amongst that learning, I’ve been hearing a lot of encouragement to have a Coronary Artery Calcium test performed. CAC. I hadn’t heard of this test before now, but I set about researching it.
The test is known as the coronary artery calcium (CAC) test. It is performed by taking an ultrafast computerized tomogram (CT) scan of your chest. … The CAC test measures the amount of calcium that has built up along the inner wall of the coronary arteries in your heart.
Have I learned a truckload! There is an entire documentaryabout this diagnostic test. I’m not one for conspiracy theory, but if I ever were to lean into one, this might be it. This test reveals the single most relevant factor in your likelihood for a heart attack. (Here. Here. And here.) It’s cheap, non-invasive, painless, and quick. Most insurance doesn’t cover it. Mine didn’t. Eliott’s didn’t – and his is Medicare. Eyeroll level infinity.
This test reveals whether you have blockages in your coronary arteries: both plaque – soft and squishy, and calcium – older and harder deposits. The vessels that are scanned in this test are the vessels that supply the heart, which means if you are to have a heart attack due to insufficiency here, the heart itself begins to collapse, earning this type of heart attack the nickname Widowmaker.
The higher your calcium score, thus the more your arteries are blocked, the greater risk you are at of having a cardiac event.
I found a facility in my town who will perform the test without a referral. Very cheaply. Make an appointment, pay your $50, lie in the CT tube 5 minutes, come back in 2 days for your results.
I am proud and delighted to report our scores.
None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Keep in mind my diet is loaded with saturated fats – butter, fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and coconut oil. Eliott’s score was a 15, and he’ll be 69 next Friday. Here’s the interpretation:
I think what this means is that we are much more likely to be hit by a dump truck while we’re out on the rural roads riding our bikes than we are to have heart attacks. Wahwah.
Next tests we want to do are a series of blood work – cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. We’ll post here as we journey through our experiment.
Before you even ask, at the end of this post is a link dump to some of the research supporting a periodic, extended fast for cancer prevention. Read these at your leisure – I tried to supply a mix of scientific papers with more accessible articles and interviews.
In August of 2018, when the honey and I first began to discover the benefits of fasting (IF: intermittent fasting, EF: extended fasting, TRE: time-restricted eating, ADF: alternate day fasting), we embarked on a 7-day fast. We opted to include coffee with butter/cream and coconut oil, and bone broth. We have since learned that the protein in the bone broth might diminish the effect of fasting, and of course the calories in the coffee prevented it from being a true, zero-calorie fast.
Another year has rolled by, and we have just completed what we now see as our annual 7-day fast. We mixed in some water only days with coffee-with-cream days.
Since this post is already link-heavy, I will simply describe what our experience was like, and will leave our regular fasting schedule, and the science behind it, for another day.
Day 1 – We fast regularly one day per week. In the fasting universe, this is referenced by how many hours are spent fasting.. For example, our usual pattern is one 42-hour fast per week. That means dinner on a Monday around 6, fasting on Tuesday, and eating again on Wednesday, midday. So today is no different than what we’ve been doing for over a year. Are we hungry? Comes and goes. We stay busy, stay hydrated, and think about what we’d like to break our fast with.
Day 2 – A good day at Freethought Farm. We stayed busy with tasks and didn’t feel too much hunger. I had a lovely walk on the Greenway with a bestie who is also a faster, so we enjoyed talking about what we’re each learning about fasting and nutrition. We had electrolytes and an abundance of water.
Day 3 – This seems to be the day for most fasters that it gets a little easier, and that is true for us too. Hunger comes in waves, so we drink a little water, go for a walk, make a phone call, etc, and the sensation passes. It’s not cumulative – we don’t feel hungrier and hungrier and hungrier.
Day 4 – If you research intermittent fasting at all, an important component of every plan includes consuming electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium. We have both a homemade recipe, and commercial drops we use in water. Especially when you add in outdoor exercise in the heat, replacing electrolytes is absolutely critical.
Day 5 – Now we’re beginning to think about what we’ll eat to break the fast. We have a list of things we get hungry for (sometimes that helps when you get a little obsess-y thinking about food). It also helps for us to review the books and blogs I have posted below, and to visit a couple of Facebook pages we follow for inspirational stories from other people who incorporate the keto and IF lifestyle.
Day 6 – Almost there. Our sleep has improved, as have the other markers we measure daily – blood pressure, ketones, weight, mood, energy, performance, focus. We measure this whether we’re fasting or not, so it gives us the opportunity to compare. We have continued our regular workout schedule (6x week), and have recorded our results for those as well.
Day 7 – We made it! We don’t plan to do this again until next year. We are excited about breaking our fast, we both feel mildly euphoric (unless that’s an oxymoron), and looking forward to eating!
Breaking the Fast: We began with a small salad, then progressed to a medium rare ribeye with roasted broccoli and every bite was better than the one before. We’re glad not to do it again for another year, but we like what the exercise of extended fasting does for our appetite, our patience, our enjoyment of food, and potentially, our long-term health.
Unlike CR, fasting induces changes associated with cellular protection to actually protect against weight loss initially and increases protection from oxidative stress. Fasting results in a more significant drop in insulin levels, as well as an increase in insulin sensitivity in a shorter amount of time compared to CR. Given that insulin levels play a role in cancer risk, these differences are potentially clinically important.
All cancers can be linked to impaired mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. It’s not a nuclear genetic disease. It’s a mitochondrial metabolic disease… therapeutic ketosis can enhance mitochondrial function for some conditions, and can kill tumor cells.
If I were ever diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I would do would be to begin fasting immediately; my hope would be to slow down the progress of the cancer during the time it took to develop a more conventional treatment strategy for my cancer. I would also do my best to try to convince my cancer doctor to read Thomas Seyfried’s book in the hope my cancer doctor might get some good ideas for improving the treatment strategy.
This is a link to the paper itself, and I didn’t want to pull a quote from the research, but here is part of the abstract:
The therapeutic potential of fasting would be even greater if it also increased the death of cancer cells. Here, we tested this possibility by studying the effect of fasting on cancer cell survival in the presence or absence of chemotherapeutic agents.
Apoptosis, which is also known as “programmed cell death”, is when cells commit suicide. It sounds kind of macabre, but it’s essential for good health. The cells of the body are like cars. When they get too old to be repaired they need to be destroyed to make way for healthy new cells – up to 70 billion every day. Not all cars need to be scrapped, though. Sometimes you can replace the parts, and this is where autophagy kicks in. The word derives from the Greek ‘auto’ (self) and ‘phagein’ (to eat), so literally means ‘to eat oneself.’ It’s when a cell doesn’t die, but replaces the worn out ‘sub-cellular’ parts with new ones. Autophagy is a form of cleansing: the process of breaking down and recycling cellular components when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain them. Once all the broken-down parts have been cleansed, new tissues and cells are built to replace the old ones. So, our bodies are in a constant state of renewal, but when these processes are hijacked, unwanted cellular bits build up and diseases such as cancer occur. Increased levels of glucose, insulin and proteins all turn off autophagy, and it doesn’t take much. Even as little as three grams of the amino acid leucine can stop it. But fasting turns these cleaning mechanisms on.
“It may be that by always being exposed to so much food, we are no longer taking advantage of natural protective systems which allow the body to kill cancer cells,” Longo said. “But by undergoing a fasting-mimicking diet, you are able to let the body use sophisticated mechanisms able to identify and destroy the bad but not good cells in a natural way.”
Whereas chronic CR provides both beneficial and detrimental effects as well as major compliance challenges, periodic fasting (PF), fasting-mimicking diets (FMDs), and dietary restriction (DR) without a reduction in calories are emerging as interventions with the potential to be widely used to prevent and treat cancer.
Next post: We both had the Coronary Artery Calcium scan, which might be the most important indicator for heart health. Stay tuned for our results!
To review, I’m shooting for an Iron-distance race in 2019 or 2020. This summer’s goals are a sprint race or two, and an Olympic distance (double the sprint length). And I’m planning to do it as a keto-fed, fat-burning, intermittent-fasting machine.
My workouts are built around the progressive training that incorporates all 3 sports. If you Google Triathlon Training, you’ll find dozens of plans, and there are trainers everywhere who are capable of taking you to that level.
I’ve trained for and participated in 3 Iron-distance races, each time with a little different training schedule. This time I’m building my own. Keep in mind I’m not competitive, which just means that my goal is to finish, and suffer as little as possible, not to establish any records or win any awards. (Although this is funny – I’ve won my division in this race before because no one else was in my category!)
Here’s what my training looks like:
Every week, on Sunday, I plan my workouts (and food) for the week. I have to work around the weather (bike rides), the lap lanes at the pool, my work schedule, social events, etc. And I have to stay flexible when life happens and scuttle the whole week and start over sometimes.
With a tweak in length/distances from week to week, this is what I schedule each week (blog posts to come about each session):
Two 45-minute full body strength training exercises
One tabata sprinting session
One bike ride
One swim session
One brick (2-sport workout like swim/bike or bike/run) or one long bike ride or run
One rest day
You can see that there are days when I have to have 2 workouts to fit them in to the week: strength training and swim in one day, sprints and walk/run in one day, for example.
Right now, these workouts are little more than 30-minute sessions each. As I build, some will become longer (although some, like the strength training, will stay 30-45 minute sessions).
Additionally, these are simplifications of what I’m actually doing in the workout. If I were to drill down, for example, in the 30-minute swim sessions, it would reveal that I’m working on form, sprinting, technique, breathing, etc. Then I’ll add open-water swims to the basic schedule. I’ll write posts further detailing each of these as I go.
There’s the overview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have equal parts structure and flexibility: without both, I’d never get the workouts done. The least worrisome part is what occurs within the workout time – getting there is more than half the battle.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more news about Iron Training 4.0!
Those days that have so much meaning, so much joy.
Today was one of those days.
I’ve blogged about racing with my kids. (Amy,Sam). I’ve tried to express what it means to me to have the children take an interest in what I do, to the point of training for, and competing in an endurance event.
Today was the icing.
Today I completed a triathlon relay with my honey and my grandson.
I recently blogged about a race that my grandson attended and cheered me on, and expressed an interest in joining me. We found a race that worked with our schedule.
Today was that day.
Most triathlons allow for a relay team to participate in the 3 sports: Swimming, Cycling, and Running.
The Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon is a popular, long-standing race in the Tennessee area. While Chattanooga is relatively close to Murfreesboro, it made more sense for us to go a day ahead, stay in a hotel, and be ready for the 4:30am wake-up alarm.
We divvied up the legs like this: Gammy on the swim, Eliott on the bike, and Aden as anchorman on the run. It’s a Sprint distance, so not too taxing.
Before I can get to the 4:30am wakeup call, we need to review a little race prep.
This race, however, was relatively chill. Short, fast, no pressure. Me in the water (400-yd swim), Eliott on the bike (14m), and Aden bringing us home (3m).
But it was the first opportunity for us to participate together, as a team, in a relay.
So off we head to Chattanooga.
First stop, Team check-in.
We get bibs, bike numbers, swim cap, the usual. Weather threatened a bit, but didn’t muck up the whole affair. We stayed in a sexy hotel, The Chattanoogan, in a beautiful room that was comfortable and convenient.
Eliott and I implemented a 42-hour fast beginning with dinner Friday night, and ending at lunch on race day. All kinds of posts to come about that.
Our resident 14-year-old opted to fuel his race a little differently:
Here’s his choice for night-prior dinner – bacon double cheeseburger, french fries, and Mountain Dew. You can see my and Eliott’s lemon, salt, and water shots.
Then to an early bedtime, with this snackage happening in the bed next to ours:
Allow me to describe:
a couple of ziplocks of the prior’s day Krispy Kreme donuts
peanut M & Ms
his greasy bag of leftover burger and french fries from 5 Guys
Frito Honey BBQ corn chips
Hershey’s kisses from the desk check-in bowl
Digestion of steel. Whatever.
The next morning brings a 4:30am alarm to get down to the race site.
Gammy has the first leg, so this means a pretty brisk 6:45a jump into the Tennessee River.
This is a sprint triathlon – the shortest 3-sport race you can participate in. And short it was.
6 and one-half minutes later, I’m out of the water.
Then it’s time to put the timing anklet on our bike leg racer.
After a blistering 14 miles, we have one more exchange to go.
Our anchorman, grandson Aden, 14, takes off out of the chute, and reappears before 9am:
Who in the HELL is doing this hideous camera work?
Anyhoo, a fabulous day out on the circuit with my honey and my grand.
And if you wonder if we ever indulge and eat anything besides meat and vegetables, the answer is yes.
All in all, a wonderful day. What a joy and an honor and a privilege to get to watch this boy experience the delight that is triathlon.
What is keto? I can’t begin to blog about my training without beginning with nutrition.
I know I’m going to bungle this, but I’ve always believed if you can’t clearly articulate a basic understanding of The Thing*, you don’t have a full understanding of it. So here goes my extreme layperson version:
When we eat food, our bodies begins a series of chain reactions to process the food that goes into our stomach. One of those reactions is to deal with the rise in our blood sugar (blood glucose) that occurs when we eat certain foods. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar a lot, protein raises it a little, and fat raises it almost not at all. Our meals and snacks are usually a combination of all 3 of those macronutrients, and acids and enzymes go to work breaking down the food during digestion.
Our bodies carefully monitor the sugar that is in our blood, and it has some choices about how to maintain the level it wants. Our pancreas secretes insulin, which directs the body to put a certain amount of the glucose into our muscle cells, and when those are replenished, the rest gets stored in the liver and fat cells for later use.
A keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet that results in lower insulin levels. A consistent reduction in carbohydrates results in your body going into a metabolic state known as ketosis. This means that the body burns fat instead of glucose, because a) there’s limited glucose to burn, b) there’s plenty of fat available, and c) the fat storage hormone insulin is low enough for our bodies to access the fat in all of our jiggly fat cells. The fat we burn can come from what’s on our plate or what’s on our body.
The fewer carbs that we eat, the more consistently we can reduce our insulin response, and the more we become fat-burners instead of glucose burners.
This is far too simplistic an explanation to describe the many components, down to the cellular level, that are active in our organic, self-replicating bodies.
We humans have the ability to burn sugar or fat. As long as we restrict the sugars/carbs going in, our body is forced to seek sources of energy elsewhere. Not only does this give us a steady stream of energy (even lean folks have enough body fat to fuel for hours), we don’t experience crazy hunger surges. We can only store so much glucose in our blood and in our muscles, and once that’s depleted, and insulin is low, the body resorts to burning fat for energy.
There are some great analogies that help us picture what is happening when we are fat-burners instead of sugar burners.
There’s another illustration that describes switching from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner is similar to reworking a mechanical engine to burn a different type of fuel.
I’ve also read another comparing burning sugar to burning twigs and leaves, and burning fat is a big log on a nicely-banked bed of coals.
At some point all of these analogies collapse, as analogies do, but you get the general idea, and maybe one of these would be helpful.
I think my explanation was a little messy and wordy. You would be much better served hitting up a few good Google search links to get a more comprehensive understanding of ketosis and the ketogenic diet. Both of the following are awesome, but heavy on the science:
I’ll post more extensively soon about what I specifically eat, but it’s pretty simple: meat, fat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and low-carb vegetables.
I don’t want to finish without adding this little thought: I’ve been working on understanding nutrition science for years. I’ve experimented with paleo, primal, and all the buzzwords in this category. It’s taken me a while to get it all dialed in, and I’m still tweaking and learning.
I’ll also write a post soon about what I would suggest if you are just starting out, because this way of eating (WOE) is so drastically different than the standard American diet (SAD), I think it would be overwhelming to jump from SAD to keto.
I’ll repeat my disclaimer here that I fully embrace that there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat. This is what has been working for me and my body and my training.
Thanks for reading.
*This works with financial investments, studying for the Bar Exam, defending your non-evidenced beliefs, and explaining your politics. 😉
This blog has served me through the years as a place to sort out my thoughts, express my feelings, absorb my rage, share my positions, and relate my experiences. I initially created it to write about endurance training, then it wandered into life on the farm, then religion, politics, the intersection of religion and politics, and now this entry circles back to endurance training.
I’ma do it again.
For those readers who haven’t followed this blog, I completed an Iron-distance race in 2010, the year I turned 50. It was wonderful and gratifying and difficult, and now I want to do it again.
Training for an ultra-distance race requires a progressive, linear plan that includes nutrition, running, swimming, cycling, recovery, research, and race planning, among other things. It’s my plan to compete in an Iron-distance race in either 2020 or 2021, which means my path to completion begins now.
Back to my opening sentence.
Conventional thinking holds that training for a race such as this is best promoted by the standard nutritional dogma of high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat. Science teaches us that the human body can burn different types of fuel, glucose/fructose or fat. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is one in which carbohydrates are abundant, ubiquitous, and inexpensive. Looking at high-performance through that lens, it’s reasonable to deduct that, since we do burn glucose, and a lot of fuel is required for endurance performance, one should consume volumes of this macronutrient in the form of carbohydrates, up to and including during the endurance event itself.
Here are 3 of the first-page Google results to “nutrition for ironman training”.
Load 1/3 your plate with complex carbs.Energy is essential for an endurance athlete, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates—like potatoes, rice, and whole-grain pastas and cereals—replenish glycogen and stimulate insulin production.
Your body also needs a lot of carbohydrates to support training and recovery. Your carb needs can easily increase from 5 grams per kilogram per day to 8-plus grams when training jumps from an hour to two or more hours a day (a jump from 350 to 580 grams of carbs per day for a 160-pound athlete, and from 275 to 430 grams of carbs per day for a 120-pound athlete).
Most of the calories in your diet should come from carbs — 55 to 60 percent. That’s because carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy, especially when working out for a long period of time. Getting enough carbs also spares protein, so you don’t burn muscle when training. For proper fueling, most of your carbs should come from complex sources, such as whole-grain bread and cereals, beans, pasta and potatoes.
I’m not terribly keen on conventional wisdom. It lulled me into accepting religious dogma for years. It betrayed me as a young adult into believing debt was a “financial tool”, which would serve me well as I matured. And nutritionally, IMO, it has kept millions of Americans (including me at one point) unhealthy, overweight, and unhappy.
So I’m not relying on conventional wisdom this time. I’m using my own research. I’m using my own data. And I’m using my own body.
I will write about that which I am an expert: Me.
This biohacking, experimental, n=1 journey upon which I’m embarking will be based on loads of personal data: blood glucose and ketone testing, sleep patterns, fasting schedule, stress management, weight, training stats, mood, activity, workouts, nutrition choices, bio-feedback, and sensations.
At the present moment, I’m describing myself as a fat-fueled, high-fat, low-carb, moderate-to-high protein, intermittent-fasting human being. I seek to be in ketosis most of the time, which simply means being in a fat-burning mode rather than a sugar-burning mode. I’ll use the shorthand “keto” often to describe this state.
I won’t insult the scientists, researchers, and doctors by trying to lay out all the science-y stuff myself; I’ll post several resources that I have used to reach my current conclusions about nutrition (critical word “current” – science is ongoing, as is my learning). Nutrition science is not my field, it’s not my formal education, and at best I could only give a layperson’s interpretation of the incredibly complicated process of nutrition.
It’s my intent to have this blog be the journal of the journey. I commit to both honesty and transparency in relating my progress. My general plan is to compete in a Sprint triathlon or two and an intermediate triathlon this summer (2019), continue training through the winter, then compete in a Half-Iron, then a Full Iron in 2020, with wiggle room to delay til 2021 if beset by injury or illness or life circumstances. This will be in addition to various road- and cycle- races that catch my fancy and fit my schedule.
Buckle ups, buttercups. Here we go.
Thanks for reading.
Suggested resources – These are just a few of my favorites. There are scads of resources currently for the keto lifestyle. I’ll add specific topic links as I write about them.
(If you shop at Amazon, and don’t have a dedicated non-profit that will receive a small contribution as you shop, please consider Recovering from Religion. Click here to set up your Amazon Smile account.)
The Complete Guide to Fasting: Jason Fung, MD
The Big Fat Surprise: Nina Teicholz
Eat Rich, Live Long: Ivor Cummins and Jeffrey Gerber, MD
Protein Power: Micheal Eades, MD and Mary Dan Eades, MD
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Gary Taubes
The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD and Stephen D. Finney, MD, Phd
Today was the Mach Tenn – a sprint triathlon in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been away from triathlon racing for a while, and this one is a great way to jump back in. I’ve done this race a half-dozen times over the last 10 or 12 years, and it’s always a good time.
Triathlon is always the same 3 sports: swimming, cycling, running, but there’s a great variance in the distances. Everyone knows the big guy: Iron-distance, which is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 on the bike, and a full 26.2 marathon running. Sprint distance is a little mini-version of all that.
Today’s race was 0.6 mile in the lake, 14m on the bike, and a 4-miler to close. It was fun and fast, but what made this race special, and different from all the others was my support crew.
Team Gammy consisted of my ever-patient and most-supportive honey, Eliott, and my no-longer-a-child-yet-not-quite-a-man grandson Aden.
They helped me practice my transitions the week leading up to the race (tri-talk for the frantic moments between events in a race when one drops wetsuit/goggles/swimcap and dons bike shoes/helmet/sunglasses and so forth, while the race timer casually clicks away the seconds).
They loaded the car with all the flotsam and jetsam necessary for triathlon.
They got up pre-dawn so we could drive to the race, check-in, lay out the gear, and talk through our strategy.
They watched for me at every turn, took pictures, shouted my checklist, and cheered me on from beginning to end.
And they celebrated with me as I crossed the finish line, marking my return to triathlon for the next couple of years.
Showing all the restraint I could muster, I didn’t register Aden when I realized he would be in town during this race. He’s an athlete, and has mastered all 3 of these sports. He’s been riding his bike on our annual cross-Iowa family bike ride for years, riding every mile (428) in 2018. We even ran a 5k together when he was 8 years old. One of the things I learned as a parent is that children have to find their own way to their interests; our job is to expose them to as many opportunities as possible.
Just as my evil scheme planned, he has expressed an interest in participating in a race with me. I’ll be looking for a sprint-distance we can do together. My children have raced with me in the past (Amy and Sam), and those moments have been life-highlights. To now share the joy of racing with my grand marks a new point on the spectrum of gratitude and humility.
Watch for more race reports to come. I’ve enjoyed my hiatus from racing and blogging, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my return to both.
It’s a tale of hard work, frustration, more hard work, and incredible achievement.
I know the wearer of bib number 596, and it’s a pleasure to tell this story.
About 2 years ago, son Sam said to me that he wanted to do an Ironman* with me “before I got too old”. Ouch, but yes, I’d love to. We set about searching for a race, and even though we had to defer our registration for a year due to my law school studies, we found ourselves in Sandusky, Ohio on Friday, September 11, ready to swim, ride, and run.
*”Ironman” is a trademarked word, owned by the Ironman corporation. Most of you know the history before you even check out this link. There are many organizations that stage Ironman-distance races, but the word is trademarked so organizers have tried to be creative with what to call their events: Ultra Distance, Full Distance, etc, but outside of the racing community, Ironman is what sticks and is most recognizable. This race was called Challenge Cedar Point, and the distance we raced is the Full, but I’ll use the word Ironman occasionally for clarity.
However, nature had arrived as well. Rain, high winds, cold temperatures had wreaked havoc on well-laid plans of race officials. Of the weekend’s festivities, all but the half and full iron triathlons on Sunday were cancelled. Additionally, the swim had to relocated. The race is staged at Cedar Point, a roller-coaster-based amusement park on a small spit of land which creates a bay to the south. The swim was originally scheduled for Lake Erie, but at 2pm on Saturday, this is what Lake Erie looked like:
So the swim was to take place in the small bay to the south, with high hopes that no additional weather would affect the 7am start time on Sunday.
There is not much more exciting than the check-in/swagbag/chip timer/expo area of a full iron triathlon on the day before a big race. Athletes arriving from all directions, family and support getting signs prepared, volunteers helpful and smiling, vendors selling the latest and greatest in equipment, nutrition, clothing, and training aids. Our support crew of Eliott, Amy, and Jess helped us get checked in, wristbanded, and ID’d.
Mandatory racers’ meeting at 1pm on Saturday, with body-marking, race instructions, and any Q & A from the crowd. Race officials warned that winds were sure to be a challenge all throughout the 17-hour event.
Unsurprisingly, the night before a race is a difficult night to get a good night’s sleep: nerves, minds racing with last-minute prep, pre-dawn wakeup call, hotel bed. Race community advice is to get a good night’s sleep on the night BEFORE the night before.
4am alarm, awake and trying to hydrate, consume calories, and yes, poop. (The things you didn’t know [and would rather not] about endurance races.) Because of the high winds the day before, bike and bag check-in had to also occur before sunrise.
Finally, into the wetsuits and over to the ramp.
This race had a time-trial start, which meant 2 swimmers every 3-4 seconds. Sam and I lined up, listened to the national anthem, and then it was time.
Ours was a 2-loop swim around the marina and into the bay. Inside the protected marina the swim was delightful, but the bay was choppy on the first loop, and horrible on the 2nd. As soon as all the full-distance swimmers were out, and before the half-distance swimmers were in, race officials changed the course to stay in the marina and out of the bay.
Sam was out in just under 2 hours, and I was out in just over 2. Those are relatively slow times in our divisions, but the swim was not our strength, and we both opted to play it safe instead of fast. This race had “wetsuit strippers”, which is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. As swimmers exit the water, 2 volunteers assist with wetsuit removal – unzip the back, pull down from upper body, gently set the racer on her rump, off comes the suit, and then those 2 volunteers pull you right back up to standing – about a 4-second operation.
Run the half-mile in a wet swimsuit in the cold and the wind, pick up transition bag, run into changing tent, change clothes, grab a snack, apply butt butter liberally, hop on the bike, wave to support crew, and off you go.
Here’s a chance to learn some new racing lingo. The bike route was a lollipop – head out from transition, do a loop from the tip of stem of the lollipop, then an identical second loop, then back to transition on the stem. (It’s on page 30 of this race brief if you’re really interested.) The scenery was beautiful and the terrain was nice, gentle rollers – just the kind of route you’d like on a 112-mile bike ride. Except for the winds. Here’s the official race recap from Challenge:
When the swim was moved to the marina, the start became a time trial start so athletes could never really know how they placed until later in the day. Athletes faced consistent winds of 15 to 20 knots and gusts up to 25 knots on the bike course. A look of relief was on the face of most competitors as they came off the bike.
Those winds proved to be my undoing in this race. I can average about 16 mph on the bike, depending upon terrain and winds. This race was USAT sanctioned (USA Triathlon), so there are time limits in place for each leg of the event. The swim had a limit of 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike had a 5:30pm course close, and the run had to be completed by 12:05am.
Our heroic support crew found a little cafe out on the route with an outside deck and planted themselves there to see us on both loops. It was at around mile 50 (mile 88 on the second go), and they were able to catch us as we pedaled by.
At 4:30, I was at mile 92. I had been working the mental math in my head for miles, trying to figure if there was any way I could make up the time. The tail-end charlie support vehicle was behind me (not the first time I’ve been the race sweeper), and I stopped and chatted with them. My options, as they explained it, were: go ahead and ride in and they would escort me and allow me to finish even though the course would close at 5:30 (which means no intersection support – no volunteers or LEO stopping traffic so you could blow through without stopping), which would mean I couldn’t begin the run portion OR allow them to take me in so I could cross the chip mat in time to begin the run. I opted for a hybrid – I wanted to pedal as far as I could and still make it to the cutoff. I got to mile 98, and didn’t want to cut it any closer. I crossed the chip mat just under the deadline and headed into transition. If you’re keeping track, this makes me 1 for 3 for ironman attempts. Ask me sometime if I’m going to try another one…
In the meantime, Sam had made it in and back out to start the run around 4:00.
Because at this point I was a DNF (more race lingo – Did Not Finish – hateful, hateful words), I chose not to head out on the marathon, and planned to hop on when Sam came to the turnaround and do the second half of the race with him. There was some confusion about the turnaround point, however, and I missed that. Instead, I started out on the route backwards – meeting finishers as they were coming in until I reached Sam. It was dark and he was a tired boy when I found him, but he was still running.
Bib #596 crossed the finish line somewhere around 10pm – 15 hours, 1 minute, and 16 seconds after he went into the water. The 16 seconds may have come from the PUSHUPS HE DID AT THE FINISH LINE before he crossed. Cheering, applauding, laughing, one step across the chip mat, and then Sam Jordan is an Ironman.
The expression “blood, sweat, and tears” is often used to describe what goes into an accomplishment like this. The triathlon version is “blisters, sweat, tears, and time”. If you happen to see ole number 596, let him know what you think of his achievement. And for the mushy part, to have participated with Sam as he reached this goal goes into my book as one of the highlights of my life. I am so proud of this kid, for a multitude of reasons that go beyond this 140.6 miles. Thank you, Sammy, from the bottom of my mother’s heart.
I know I haven’t blogged enough when I am tempted to title the post as “An Update”, but there could be no more boring a post title than that, and I refuse.
I’m in my fourth and final year of law school. This year’s subjects are Wills and Trusts, Remedies, and California Community Property. Our schedule is a little different this year: these 3 classes finish in September, and Sept-Dec we have Capstone, which is a course intended to prepare us for the Performance Test, which is a portion of the Bar Exam. Then in December I begin my Bar Review course, and take the Bar in February.
Exactly one year from today will be the Sunday evening before Bar Exam week. The test is 3 days, Tues/Wed/Thurs consisting of 6 essays, 200 multiple choice questions, and 2 Performance Tests. Just describing it is enough stimulation for now, and I’ll post more about it in the future, but after this week’s applicants take it, my countdown begins.
That’s enough about school, except to say that I still love everything about it. I say with no disclaimer that I am going to miss it. I’ve loved gaining the knowledge, studying the cases, and sharing with my classmates. Here’s my post of when I announced I was attending – see if you detect any less excitement now than when I began.
And in other news, last year, darling son Sam, who is also an endurance athlete said to me ever-so-sweetly: “Mom, I want to do an Ironman with you before you are too old.” Without even the faintest tinge of humor.
In what turned out to be a much, much bigger commitment that I imagined in my wildest dreams, I once made a promise to my children that whatever they would ask or allow me to do with them, I would do. It was based on my belief that you meet your children where they are if you want to be close to them. This promise has taken me to the top of black diamond ski runs, down rapids in a kayak, to art museums in New York City, to road trips across America.
So, on September 7, 2014, Sam and I will be competing in the Rev 3 Cedarpoint Triathlon in Sandusky, Ohio. Just to refresh: It’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. I started training in January in Tennessee; Sam’s doing his training in Colorado.
Distance training involves a progressive program of adding longer/more often/more intense workouts over time. Over the months leading to September I plan to do several shorter triathlons. There’s one in Tullahoma in June, a great race in Chattanooga in July, and I’m looking for a half-Iron for August. I’ve done a couple of half-marathons since the new year, with a couple more coming up. I’ve got some 5, 10, and 15ks mixed in as well, and then triathlon season starts this spring.
Watch for race previews, race debriefs, and pics of the adventure. Suggest a race if you know of a good one. And you’re welcome to come to Ohio in September – the race is held at Cedar Point Amusement park, which is where my team support will be as Sammy and I are out on the course!