2018 was big. It was a huge step up in every aspect of my young triathlon career. Huge improvements in training. Upgrades in equipment. Bigger races. Better outcomes. Better nutrition. I learned a ton.
Let’s break it down.
Early 2018 started with a new piece of equipment. I got myself a trainer for my bike. Specifically a Wahoo Kicker Snap. With the new addition, I rearranged a corner of my basement to actually ride it. I started my pain cave.
As you can see it’s a terrible picture. Which is fittingly appropriate because its a terrible exercise area. Old, too hot, no aesthetics, cramped, but I have to admit that I love it. It fits me and who I want to be as a person. No flash, just grit, just put in the work.
This improvement allowed me to start putting in the miles that I need to someday complete an Ironman. In early 2018, while the weather was poor I rode, I rode so, so much. I rode more in the first 4 months of 2018 than I did in all of 2017. It was amazing. I made huge gains in fitness, speed, and technique and just kept going mile after mile.
Even though I put the work in down in a dungeon, that doesn’t mean that I am completely adverse to cool design and things looking good. The second big project was the construction of an office. I needed a place to study, hold my books, and show off my bike that I love. It all came together near the end of the winter.
My bike now has a home.
A few months later the weather starts to get better and I am doing more outside. Running and biking. At this point, I thought I had everything I needed for the race season. I just needed to work on my fitness and strength.
Then I got hit with a smooth piece of marketing. They got me good.
As a member of USA Triathlon, they send me deals and other resources pretty often. I get email and regular mail showing me all the cool new things in the triathlon world. One day I will admit, I was sold. There was a sweet new aero helmet that was offered on such a discount that I couldn’t afford not to buy it. So I did. The best part was the color. I wanted something that not a lot of other people had so that if I ever have any fans at a race they will be able to pick me out a mile away. Here is what came in the mail…
Engineered for riding fast and far. Perfect for my future Ironman. It is comfortable, easy to put on in transition, and the integrated shield is much better than wearing my sunglasses.
So, now it’s spring. At this point, I am just riding and running and swimming a bit too. Just trying to get faster and increase my endurance. The first race planned is an Olympic race in early June. I did the race at the sprint distance last year. It is held at Island Lake State Park. It is one of my favorite locations. The course is awesome and the atmosphere is great.
My time was 2:36:05. I was honestly a little disappointed. I thought I could have done better. But it was the first race and it was early on in the season. My swim was good. I was happy with that. My run was average and I hadn’t put in a ton of miles at this point in the year so I was satisfied. The real disappointment was the bike. I had been on the trainer for months but I didn’t seem to be any faster than last year. I didn’t know what was up. Now I had time to evaluate and think about what was going on and figure it out.
Other than that one part about the bike the rest of the race was fantastic, especially my race buddy. One of my sisters raced that day too. It was her first triathlon. She was in the Mini Sprint heat. I don’t know how much she trained leading up to the race but she finished.
I think she liked it and hopefully, she bumps up the distance in 2019 if she does it again.
Now, my first race was done. It is finally summer, the days are long and the best part is how early the sun comes up in the morning. I started doing my long runs before work and I loved it. No one to bother me. No traffic. I would go out and back so I could force myself to get the mileage up because it is easy to just run one more mile out, but then you always have to come back.
I was now running about as much as I had ever run in my life. It was amazing but so hard. I am not a runner. No one has ever called me a runner. It is my hardest discipline, but I put a lot of effort into it because its where I think I can make the most progress.
The next race I did was the Jon Logan Tri. Also one of my favorites because of the great venue. The whole race is in a housing development with no riding or running on main roads. And there are a TON of people who do it. The water is clear and warm. It is just all around fun.
The only downside is that the longest distance available is a sprint distance. I wanted to do only Olympic or longer from 2018 on, but this one is so fun I throw it in. At this point in the season, I am in full training mode for a 70.3 race in late August. I didn’t adjust anything to prepare for this race I just used it as a speed workout day.
The race was fun as I thought it was going to be. When I finished I felt that I had performed OK. I lowered my time from last year by over 2 minutes. I was pretty satisfied with that. After I grabbed a banana and water I sat around for a bit to catch my breath and waited for transition to open.
When it did I packed up my gear and rode to the car. After I got home I showered, rested a bit more and mostly got over the race I thought about checking the race results for fun. I wanted to compare my time from last year.
Now, like I said before I am not a runner, well truthfully I am not any sort of distance athlete. I am NOT fast, I know that and I accept it. I am only competing against my previous self. So, when I checked the results I was shocked that I won my age group. I couldn’t believe it.
After each race, they give out some sort of medal to everyone. Mine sit in a pile on a shelf in a storage closet. Which is where I put this one too. However, with an age group win, I was going to receive a nice handmade wooden trophy. But, like I said, I packed up and left as soon as I could. So, I am not in possession of the trophy. Which is ok, I don’t do it for the trophies (because I don’t normally win them) I do it for the journey to become good enough to finish and be better than I was before.
Ok, 2 races done for the year and now its time to focus on the main event in August. The Michigan Titanium, half ironman distance. But first, a bonus race!
I was asked to be a swimmer on a relay. My father in law was doing a fundraiser for the church and was going to be the bike leg for a triathlon. He had a runner and I was going to take care of the swimming. It was great. I only had one thing to worry about and I was going to swim as fast as I could without conserving anything. Give it all I had.
It went well and I got to experience a challenge I had not had to deal with before. It’s always nice to come across something unexpected to learn so that I can overcome issues better in the future.
The swim course was pretty much out and back. 800 meters I think. I went out hard and got to the turn buoy fast. When I got around it and looked for the beach to start calculating my sighting for the trip back and I found that I was looking right at the sun. I could not see the beach or even the next course buoy.
So, I just started going after people in front of me hoping they were swimming straight. I do not like relying on others for that because they most likely are going off course as well. What else could I do?
I zig-zagged my way back to shore and sprinted to transition to pass off the timing chip. It was nice to be done so quickly and the team aspect was fun. There was a lot of cheering and hype that doesn’t normally come in to play. I liked it.
Now there are no more distractions. There is nothing in the way between me and the longest race of my career at the end of August. I trained hard and put in the miles.
But I did need to learn something new, nutrition. For a sprint or Olympic race, it is pretty easy to just line up and go for it. A nutrition plan doesn’t really come in to play. However, for a 70.3 I needed to have a plan. So, I spent a lot of nights researching and reading. I found some supplements that I thought would work and just went for it.
I didn’t really have a chance to test anything out before the race which was a little scary but I was using this race as the test. The test to see if I could really do an Ironman.
The race was the Michigan Titanium. They made me check in a day before the race and sit for a race meeting, no exceptions for half and full distance racers. There was a big expo to go along with it and it was fun. I had never been to one and it opened my eyes to all the gear and technology that I didn’t know about.
But I don’t need that stuff. Fancy gear never beats hard work and miles.
However, I did get a cool running hat to keep my head from getting burnt when I am in the sun. The perks of losing my hair.
Finally, it is race day. Dark and cold-ish when I was setting up my transition spot. Completely packed with bikes. There had to be a few thousand people in the race. By far the largest I have ever competed in. I was excited.
When I was all set up and in my wetsuit, I walked down to the start line. The full distance athletes were going off first because of how long it takes for them to finish. I got to watch them do their first lap of the swim and then it was time for my heat.
My mom got one last picture before it was go time.
Then I was off. The swim went great and I was back into transition pretty fast. I did take a bit more time than usual getting changed. I was going to be on the bike for a long time and I wanted to be sure everything was going right.
The bike leg was also good. I nailed my nutrition plan exactly as I planned and didn’t have any issues. It was actually the furthest I had ridden in a single session ever. It wasn’t hard as I thought it would be.
My legs were a tiny bit wobbly when I got off but manageable.
Transition 2 was much faster. Running shoes, hat, sunglasses and I took off. I was happy with it.
Now, it was run time. A half marathon. This too was going to be the furthest I have ever run in one session. But I thought it couldn’t be that bad right? WRONG!
I went out at a pretty decent pace. Something I thought I could hold for at least 75% the race. I found out about 3 miles in that I was incorrect. My pace slowed but I eventually did find a rhythm that I held for quite a while, albeit much slower.
The run leg was 2 laps, so I got to wave to my parents at the turnaround. They later told me in not so many words that I looked like hell. I felt like it too. It’s disheartening to be so close to the finish line just to turn back and go the other way, but I did.
The last 5 miles were terrible. I was exhausted. I was slow. My body wanted me to stop, or at least walk. I had to just plow through. Just take the next step.
I had a goal of finishing under 6 hours. For the last 5k I kept a close eye on my watch and I was pushing it, it was going to be close. I needed to speed up to make it. I tried to go faster but it was not easy. The good news is the last half mile was all downhill. I kicked as hard as I could, turned the corner to the finish and wobbled across. My watch said 6:03 and some seconds. I didn’t make it.
But I did make it across and I was pretty happy to be done. I had never been so exhausted in my life it was great, but I couldn’t even imagine ever running another race at that point.
When that race was over I didn’t swim, bike, or run for more than 4 weeks. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. But eventually, I slowly started getting back into the rhythm. Then I made the big decision. I signed up for Ironman Lousiville. Registered, paid the money, done. I’m in. It’s scary.
Now I am thinking what do I do? I don’t know how to train or run this race. My first thought was the most basic. I need to increase my endurance and put in many, many miles running and biking.
I had to make an addition to my pain cave. I needed a treadmill. I found a nice craigslist special from some people who were moving and I picked it up super cheap. The good news is the machine isn’t super cheap. It is really nice and I love it.
I truly can’t believe that I am saying I love running, on a treadmill no less but I found that I do. But I am still not fast.
My bike is no longer lonely, but it is still a cave. So, this is where I will be spending my time for the next 10 months until Ironman.
Its been quite a year for my triathlon career, but The Friday Rally isn’t going to be a triathlon site.
It is going to be about becoming better. Becoming our best selves through the tools of the physical world. Reading, learning, exercising, developing relationships, working hard, being better than we were yesterday.
For my health and fitness, I choose triathlon but for someone else, it could be weightlifting, yoga, mountain biking, or basketball. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you are trying to be better every day.
The future of this site is going to be about becoming the best we possibly can in the areas that are most important in our lives.
We are going to talk about it all. What works, what doesn’t, the successes, and even the failures. The failures are the most important element to success. You CAN NOT succeed without failing first. The failure is required.
Hopefully, this is where we can be different. Social media and the internet is so full of curated and photoshopped ideals that we all get fooled even when we think we don’t. There is no shame in failing, there is nothing wrong with not being perfect, it means you are out there trying to be better, and we ALL fail.
I hope you come Rally with us.
(Here is how it all helps become a better person, character, fitness, ect)