Saturday, June 27, 2009

FATHERS AND SONS

"If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons." — James Baldwin

My father died when I was 7. Most memories I had of him have long since faded. I keep a few but they are fuzzy at best and over the years I'm sure my mind has replaced actual events with a little boy's imagination. But as the poet Anne Sexton once wrote, "It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."

In my memory, my dad was a builder of roads, a friend of John Wayne and a war hero. We would watch "Army" movies on TV together, go on long trips in his big trucks and eat ice cream together at truck stops. Those are the good memories. Real or unreal, I can't say.

(My dad working in the back of his pickup)

The not-so-good memories: me sitting on the kitchen counter holding a hammer while my dad worked on something under the counter and me dropping the hammer on his head. It's probably one of those funny moments we would have shared as grown ups.
I remember standing outside a hospital with my sisters waving at my dad as he stood at the window in his room. He had been admitted to be treated for lung cancer and back then kids weren't allowed in the rooms.

I remember being in our living room after my dad came home from the hospital. He was sitting in a chair and got up quickly to go do something as if he wasn't sick anymore, and I commented to my sisters about how fast he got up. I remember thinking he must be better now.

I remember a preacher coming over to pray with my dad.

And I remember one summer morning when my aunt and mom told my sisters, my little brother and me that our dad had died the night before and not really understanding what that meant.

I remember the funeral home, the way it smelled (to this day I hate going into floral shops), and sitting behind the privacy curtain with my family during the service. Seeing my dad in the coffin -- sleeping -- as we walked by. A Bible placed in his hands. I remember noticing the people staring at us. The flower arrangements -- yellow flowers arranged to look like my dad's dump truck. The soldiers shooting guns at the cemetery. The flag-draped coffin. I remember crying.

I know Father's Day has come and gone, but yesterday I received a packet in the mail from my sister, Debbie. In the package was my birth certificate, copies of family photos from when I was a baby and photos of my dad and mom. My sister also mailed me my dad's wrist watch.

I took the watch out of the package and gingerly wound it up. It had been sitting in a box for over 40 years. I doubted it would work but after the first wind the second-hand started moving. I wound it a few more times then set it to the correct time and slide it onto my wrist.

(My father's watch)

Somehow that watch made me feel good. Like a piece of my past that has only lived in my memories was real. Although the watch is in excellent shape I noticed that it had grease and grime in its seams. Grease that my father, who worked on his own trucks, probably got in it himself. I thought about cleaning it up and making it look shiny, but then changed my mind. I think I'll just leave it the way it was when he last wore it.

I looked up the watchmaker and found out that it was probably made in the 1950s and that it should have a serial number stamped on the inside that could possibly tell me the exact date it was made and who bought it and where. I just don't want to risk breaking it by taking it apart to get the number.

I wore my dad's watch for a day. I'd spend a few minutes at a time watching the Swiss secondhand sweep around the dial. When I got home from work last night. I wiped off my fingerprints and put it up for safe keeping. Some day I hope to pass it on to my sons and maybe some day they'll pass it on to theirs.

Fathers and sons -- the whole earth could blaze in the glory of fathers and sons ...

(My mom, my sister, Debbie, and me at age 2.)

(Me at 4 months old and my sister, Marilyn)
(Christmas Day. I was probably 4 or 5 here. I still remember that Christmas (I think).)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RUN, FAT BOY, RUN

I watched the funniest movie the other day. "Run, Fat Boy, Run." It's basically about a guy who runs a marathon to try to win back his girl. It has a great visual about "hitting the wall" and the will to finish. If you watch it, just don't be eating during the "blister" scene, but it is funny.



This week this "fat boy" is focusing on running. It's my weakest discipline of the triathlon so this week I'm working on pacing and pushing through the mental weakness I seem to suffer from. I started out on Monday running just 30 minutes but with each 10 minutes getting faster. Tuesday was a 40 minute run with each 10 minutes getting faster and Wednesday was, you guessed it, 50 minutes with each 10 minutes getting faster.

As the week went on I noticed that as I increased the time I found it easier to maintain the pace from the day before even with picking up the pace for the additional time. By Wednesday I was practically sprinting the last 10 minutes.

A couple of weeks ago I did a training session with Bree Wee: a 3 hour bike ride and a 40 minute run. We squeaked out 56 miles on the bike and probably 4 to 4.5 miles on the run. It was an easy training day for her. For me it was a learning experience. I learned that when your body gets used to having a certain number of calories fed into it, it doesn't respond so well if you don't supply the expected calories.

That day on the bike I only had the calories from my drinks -- about 200 for the entire ride -- when my body was used to about 500 or so. ( I typically gain weight on long rides, I guess I just like to eat out of boredom.) Anyhow, that day I only had my drinks, which was actually fine for the ride, but on the run I bonked big time. after about 15 minutes my heart rate jumped about 10 beats a minute and my breathing became labored. By 20 minutes into our run I was toast. I could barely breathe. And did Bree take pity on me and slow down? Yeah, right! No. She may have even picked up the pace some.

She chatted away about Ironman and how even on this day we were building memories that would help us get through the marathon on Ironman.

After that run I resolved that I was going to work on my run and train my body to keep going even when my nutrition falls through. So this week as an added bonus of running every day, I also have been running on zero calories. No calories from the time I wake up until I'm finish running. Only water and salt tabs.

With no calories I figured Monday's run wouldn't be a problem. From what I've read, our bodies store enough calories for about 30 minutes of exercise. I've also heard this will teach your body to start burning fat first.



Tuesday was fine as well. My body was adjusting to this zero calorie thing. Wednesday after 40 minutes I started feeling a bonk coming on. Zero calories plus the much faster pace and running for the third day in a row was getting to me but I was determined not to slow down for the last 10 minutes. My heart rate shot up, my legs felt like lead and my lungs burned but I managed to get back to the pool (where I started from) right on pace.

I beat the bonk!

Thursday I backed off to 40 minutes but still worked on pacing and managed to gain nearly a half-mile from Tuesday's 40 minute run. This pacing thing might be working after all. Having zero calories before running seems to help control my pacing maybe because I'm not getting that sugar-rush ups and downs.

For Friday I'm backing off again to 30 minutes with each 10 getting faster. Saturday will be my 6th day straight of running. I haven't done that since I was in school. Each day running seems to be getting easier as my body adjusts to the routine. My pace is picking up some, which I like.

Sunday is the Kona Marathon/Half Marathon and 5K run. My daughter, Rebecca, is doing the 5K in her wheelchair and Karen and I will be walking beside her so I'm not running in the race. So because of that, for my run on Saturday I'm going to run the half marathon course -- by myself-- just to say I did it.

I'm going to try to beat my Honu time so we'll see if these pacing workouts are helping. My goal is to beat my best half marathon time by 13 minutes. That's a minute a mile -- ONLY a minute a mile. THAT'S EASY!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CONFIDENCE DAY

"Spirit can walk, spirit can swim, spirit can climb, spirit can crawl. There is no terrain you cannot overcome." ~Irisa Hail

It's finally starting to sink in just how much training it's going to take to do Ironman. Right now training days are hanging around the same as I was doing just before the Half Ironman (except for the 112-mile bike ride I did a couple of weeks ago).

I've been getting a lot of helpful advice from friends and from what I can glean from all of their knowledge is that my training needs to increase steadily to a peak at exactly 3 weeks from race day. Sept. 19 should be my longest training day and what all my training should point toward.

I used the same advice for the Half Ironman and it really did work. So even though the Ironman World Championship is on Oct.10, I'm focusing on Sept. 19 and the 9-plus hours of training I'll be doing that day.

It's a day I will look back on knowing that I did most of an Ironman on the Ironman World Championship course -- my home course -- and the confidence that it will inspire three weeks later on Oct. 10 when myself and 1,800 of my closest friends enter the warm waters at Kailua Bay for a little swim, a short bike ride and a quick jog around town. Nothing I haven't done before -- thanks to confidence day and the advice of good friends.

As my friend Bree Wee always says, "It's in the bank!" or at least it will be Sept. 19 ready for withdrawal on Oct. 10.

112-MILE BIKE RIDE
A couple of Thursdays ago, Rob, Michael and I rode the Ironman bike course. Actually, I rode the bike course, Rob and Michael started at Waikoloa and rode to Kona to meet me then we rode the course) At the end of the day Michael had rode just short of 112 miles, I rode 112 and Rob rode 160 miles. I think we all averaged over 17 miles an hour on a windy day.

That was the farthest I have ever ridden. Although my training plan calls for me to build up to that distance over the next few months I wanted to see what it was like to stay on the bike for 6 and a half hours and how much work I need to do to get comfortable with it.

To be honest,it wasn't as bad as I thought. strengthwise and musclewise I felt great. Comfort was the biggest problem. My feet hurt the most (the contact point where my shoes attach to the pedals) followed by my neck (lay on the floor on your stomach then get up on your elbows and look forward and see how long it is before your neck starts hurting. That's basically the same position your neck is in on a TT bike in the earo position) and my wrists hurt from the awkward bend from the aerobars. To my surprise, I didn't get saddle sore thankfully.

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. ~Thomas Alva Edison

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A LITTLE TWO-WHEELED COMPETITION

Rebecca has been training for the 5K race that is run during the Kona Marathon June 28. She has been doing laps around our block and around the walking path at Old A. Today she did three laps around the block at our house.

(Rebecca and I racing toward the finish line.)


I usually walk around with her encouraging her and making her work harder than she wants too. So on her last lap today I decided to jump in her other wheelchair and race her. I thought giving her a little friendly competition would make the last lap fun and motivate her. Of course I thought it would be pretty easy and I'd have to take it easy on her.

BOY, WAS I WRONG!

Pushing a wheelchair up hill is hard work and I had to really struggle just to keep up with her. Today gave me a new appreciation for how hard Rebecca trains and for all disabled athletes. They make pushing a wheelchair look easy, but like any good athlete, when it looks easy, it's all talent and hard work.

(I had to resort to trying to cheat to beat Rebecca.)


Watch for Rebecca June 28 during the Kona Marathon. She'll be the one flying along in the wheelchair.

Monday, June 1, 2009

QUALIFYING



Three days post Honu (Hawaii Half Ironman) and I'm feeling great. First and foremost, we got Karen's biopsy results back and our cancer scare is over — Praise the Lord! That is the biggest relief.

(Karen with our Great Dane of a daughter, Camilla and her fiance, Allan.)

Also, our Danish daughter and her fiance came all the way from Denmark to watch me race: Technically, she's not our daughter but that's another story. Also, they came to visit us and it just happened to be at race time. But a good coincidence.

THE RACE
I was a lot more confident race morning this year. Last year I was begging Karen to take me home before the race started. I was convinced that I could not swim that far. That's how nervous I was last year. But this year I knew I could go the distance, the question was, "how fast?"

THE SWIM


(And we are off! That's me in the blue swim cap right over there ... Special thanks to Karen for taking photos throughout the day.)

I forced myself to start upfront and just left of center. That gave me a straight line to the first turn buoy. While waiting for the canon to go off I tried not to look behind me at the 1,300 swimmers breathing down my neck but I couldn't help it. Yikes! My heart jumped into my throat. A lot of them were still on shore so I figured I only had to worry about 500 of them crawling over me at the start.

When the canon went off, a huge burst of adrenaline churned the ocean white. I remember it sounding like I was swimming in a waterfall. I started out way too fast but I was determined to not get swallowed up by the beast chasing me — the pack of hundreds of swimmers, that is.

About 200 yards out my lungs were burning and my arms were screaming at me to slow down. As soon as let up a little I got pounced on by a couple of swimmers behind me so I forced my arms to keep moving. Panic and a terrific amount of claustrophobia would begin to set in every time I would think about how many swimmers were around me.

So my main goal was to just try to stay calm and swim smart. I planned each turn so I would be just to the outside and still have a draft. I was shooting for a sub 35 minute swim but hoping I could get it down to around 30 minutes. Coach Steve and I figured 33 to 34 minutes if the course was accurate.

I had a great swim except I got boxed in after the last right hand turn. It was so crowded I could not get past the swimmers in front when I was ready to sprint.

A TENSION BREAKER
With about 200 yards to go, as the pack was beginning to pick up the pace, Things were getting really tight. Arms, feet, hands and torsos were everywhere. The noise intensified like at the start. Suddenly, I spotted a blue Hawaii Ironman 70.3 swim cap gently floating down to the sea floor, totally in contrast to the chaos on the surface of the water. For some reason, in all the insanity of the moment, seeing that swim cap sinking slowly down to the sand below us made me smile and relax. I think I was still smiling when I exited the water a minute or so later. Swim time 34:03. I beat last year's time by 11 minutes.


(Uh, that's my shoulder on the left of the picture. I was so fast coming out of the water I ran past Karen before she could take the picture. Well, that's her excuse anyhow.)

THE BIKE
I wanted to ride the first 10 miles or so easy to give myself a chance to warm up and relax. Those first 10 miles were anything but relaxing. Fortunately, the referees weren't enforcing the no drafting rule. There were so many bikes on the road you couldn't help being close to other riders.

There were packs of 20, 30, and 40 riders at a time depending on if it was up hill or down hill. Near the end of the Queen K the pack I was in probably reached 50 or 60 riders. As we headed downhill on the highway to Kawaihae, we reached speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour.
That's when it happened.

THE WRECK
What I heard: Even with the wind howling like it does at that speed I could hear the nonmetalic sound of carbon fiber hitting the pavement and a woman scream. It happened so fast but seemed to be happening in slow motion all at the same time.

What I saw: Through about 15 cyclist who were right in front of me I saw a bike and a body hit the pavement -- hard and fast -- and bikes barely missing the sliding carnage. The girl and the bike seemed to slide forever before coming to a stop.

What I thought: "This is it -- I'm going down, and hard." Nowhere to go. She was right in front of me. Her bike sliding just to the right and her body sliding directly in front of me. Riders were tight on each side of me and who knows how close they were right behind me.

What I did: We were going too fast and were to tightly packed to even think about touching the brakes. For an instant I thought about squeezing in between her and her sliding bike but it looked to tight so I leaned to the left until I was rubbing shoulders with the rider next to me.

Just before I got to her she stopped sliding and sat up facing the onslaught of speeding bikes. I can only imagine the terror of what she saw coming at her. And I was the one heading right for her.

She looked me dead in the eyes and let out this helpless scream as I flew by her. I have no idea how I missed hitting her. Thinking back though, maybe it was me who screamed ... All I know is my heart was in my throat for quite a while after that and I wondered if anyone hit her after I passed.

After that we hit the main portion of the climb to Hawi. I felt like I was going slower than my practice rides which were averaging about 3 hours. When I hit the final climb at mile marker 15, 5 miles before Hawi turn around I did some quick calculating and figured I was at a 2 hour, 30 minute pace, which would be a personal record for me. The nice thing is I was feeling really good except for a nagging hamstring cramp every so often.

I kept up with my hydration and nutrition plans, even eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich right on time. I had a little bit of a mechanical problem on the climb out of Kawaihae to Queen K on the way back. My chain came off but jumped back on. But with about 6 miles to go I could not keep it in gear. The chain kept jumping from one gear to the next. But that was tolerable. As I got back to the resort I jumped up on my pedals to get my legs used to carrying weight again (a tip from Coach Bree that allowed me to actually jump off my bike and run through transition instead of walk like I usually do).

Off the bike I felt good. I had a long run from the bike dismount to my run gear but I felt good and even managed to smile for the camera. Bike time: 2:45:39. Last year's time was 3:15.


(I even remembered to take my bike shoes off before dismounting, which makes it much esier to run to your transition area.)

THE RUN
Hot, Hot, Hot -- and hilly. But mostly hot! That sums up the run for most of us. I averaged 10 minute miles for half a marathon after riding 56 miles at 20 miles per hour average. For an old guy, I have to feel good about that. I did manage to do a couple of 8 minute miles along the way. The most important thing I take from the day is that I stayed with my hydration and nutrition plan and I think that allowed me to keep going when the heat got to me.

I did have some cramping in my hamstring (the same one causing me problems on the bike). The last 4 miles were touchy. I had to take short strides so as not to pull it, which slowed down my time by several minutes.

Run time: 2:13:45. Last years time 2:30
Over all time: 5:40. Last year's over all time: 6:29:36

So that's my race. Oh, I qualified for the big show -- The Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona Oct. 10. Only about 1,800 triathletes worldwide get to compete in this legendary race. Just that thought is almost overwhelming to me.

Below are some photos from the day. I'll try to get captions on them soon


PICTURES













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