Ridiculous Road to Everyday Extraordinary- Backstory Part 1
October 18, 2016
January 31, 2017
Marathon Maniac Becomes Iron Idiot- Backstory Part 2
November 18, 2016
Stop! This blog post is useless unless you've read the previous one: Ridiculous Road to Everyday Extraordinary- Backstory Part 1. So, If you are inclined to read any of this self-aggrandizing propaganda, go back and read the first one first, then come back to this one, it is Part 2 after all!
Now then, if you've come this far with me, then I feel I owe you a bit more to complete the tale and bring you up to the current day. Be forewarned, this post is long and far too detailed but once I get this one off my chest, future blogs should cover no more than a day or so, while this and the previous one cover years. I'm in no way asserting that you should really care, and maybe you really just want to read about 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days... if so, you are certainly excused from reading the book I've written below- there will be no test on this material.
Running is one thing, Triathlon is, as we say in BFE, a "wholenuther" thing altogether. So, after Boston, my second 100+ mile jaunt, and a few more marathon States, what's a boy to do? Ironman, of course! For months I had been afraid to let the word "Ironman" escape the confines of my depraved skull because I knew, sure as life itself, that if I said it out loud, I'd actually have to do one. If you aren't familiar, we're talking about a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finally you get to run your guts out in a full 26.2 mile marathon. All this happens in one day and has an overall time limit of 17 hours, plus there are multiple timed checkpoints that earn you a DQ if you don't reach each in time. Ironman is the natural progression when your endurance addiction starts to really become insatiable. So, late one night in September 2014, after everyone was in bed, I happened to be looking on ironman.com, just to see what races were in States I hadn't done a marathon in yet (wouldn't want to waste the energy on a State I'd already completed!), and I found Ironman Wisconsin... so, while I was there, I decided to see how much such a thing costs to enter... and while I was marveling over the crazy expense, this led to that... an amnesiac fugue set in... I was no longer in control of my fingers... I filled out the form and hit "Confirm Purchase". Just like that, I was signed up for arguably the hardest endurance event a person can do. Nevermind that I didn't know anyone who'd ever done one, I hadn't owned a bike since I was 15, and I'd never swam a lap in a pool... I was officially scheduled for Ironman in just under 1 year. So I did what I do? I procrastinated for a few months before I really did much of anything... then it started getting real.
The bike. First things first, I had to spend some money, because, after all, the more you spend, the harder it is to back out. I had no idea even what to look for in a bike, so as I was traveling for work, I stopped into a couple bike shops. I learned the term TT, which stands for "Time Trial" bike. This type of bike perches you in an aggressive aero position out over the front wheel with forearms on aero bars and shifters on the ends. What that means for a big, super inflexible, guy with a pot belly is... No Chance in Hell! I went with the next best thing, a road bike with aero bars added on, fitted for my limited flexibility and immovable torso obstruction. I got a really nice one though. When I saw that matte orange and black Giant Propel Advanced Pro 0 sitting in the showroom in size Large, I knew it had to be mine. Obscene amounts of money later, I owned a bike that made me feel like a monkey doing a barrel roll on a tightrope atop a football. Seriously, the first time I clipped into it for an outdoor ride and laid out on the aero bars, my heart pounded out of my chest like I was leaning out over a cliff in the Grand Canyon. Mind you, I'm not afraid of much and have ridden my Harley in a hurricane and Washington DC rush hour... this, however, was terrifying. I felt like the smallest twitch or breeze would result in me and my super-expensive toy being cleaned off the pavement like Humpty Dumpty.
The swim. Unless you were a collegiate swimmer, the most intimidating thing about Ironman for most people is the swim. 2.4 miles in the open water is a long way and the time limit of 2 hours and 20 minutes seems simultaneously both too long to continuously swim and too short to go such a long distance for most land lubbers. The pool at my local YMCA is 50 yards long, meaning I had to go up and back twice to get my baseline 100 yard time, then multiply that time out to the total race distance of a mere 4,224 yards. I put on my swim trunks and went in with all the optimism of the oldest of 4 boys who used to play a mean game of jaws with his younger brothers in lakes and rivers as a kid. Though I had never been on the swim team or learned any strokes other than the modified Baywatch, I felt my marathon stamina and relative comfort in the water would win the day... wrong. After about 40 yards of dragging my big legs through the water, I was purple and on the verge of a heart attack. I have no idea what my first 50 yard time was, but rest assured, I knew I had found the fatal flaw in my big Ironman plan... I seriously couldn't swim 50 yards without nearly passing out and I was ridiculously slow to boot.
The run. I think we've already covered the main precept and constant thesis which started this blog... I Hate Running. That fact is clearly only amplified when you are expected to run a marathon, mostly after dark, on dead beat legs and a 10,000 calorie deficit for the day.
What to do? Call in the reinforcements, dial the lifeline, ie: Get Some Help, Fast!
The first thing I did was try to find a swim teacher. In a small rural Kentucky town, there is no Masters Swim Class. There are no Ironman or other Swim Coaches just waiting around to teach a full-grown male how to swim. Sure, if you're in the 2nd grade and want to learn how to blow bubbles in the water or if you're a High School Freshman on the swim team, there is help readily available. But a big, hairy, bald guy isn't welcome in either of those circles... even just to take notes... So, after a long search, the YMCA matched me with a High School Senior (Hi Jonathon!) who was kind enough to teach me the basics of swimming the crawl. I paired his help with some YouTube instruction from Total Immersion (and a subsequent subscription to their how-to videos) and within a month or 2, swimming was the least of my problems.
For the bike, I bought a Wahoo KICKR trainer, downloaded the TrainerRoad app, and took my first FTP test. Throughout that winter, I could often be found watching Netflix on a TV I set up on an ironing board and riding for hours at a time. When I rode inside, I had a full sized beach towel under me to absorb the sweat pouring down my legs and a steel cooking bowl just off the right side of my front wheel where I would wring out my very fashionable headband. I could quite literally put a quart or more of pure sweat into that bowl, harvested from only my headband during a good workout. During those workouts, the towel couldn't keep up and I'd make streams, then rivers, of sweat that my children could slip and slide on, much to the chagrin of my tolerant wife (Hi Kristin!).
I also hired a coach. If you are going to bite off a full Ironman, do yourself a favor and hire a coach. Though I couldn't get a coach in my town, I found a coach online and she prescribed the workouts I needed to get me across that first finish line. I can't say I did them all with the religious fervor that I had conducted all of my initial marathon training, but then again, squeezing 15-20 hours of workouts, plus pre-workout nutrition and prep, plus post-workout hydration/nutrition/whining/unconsciousness, is a little tough to do sometimes when you are trying to run a couple of businesses and be more than a deadbeat dad. I'll have to say that my first coach just wasn't either as experienced or willing as needed to aptly modify a cookie-cutter training plan to meet my individual needs and lifestyle... but she certainly did a lot more than I could've done for myself in that regard, and after a true 9 months of real deal training and 14 hours, 40 minutes of hell, I crossed the finish line at IMOO (the affectionate shorthand for Ironman Wisconsin which runs through America's Dairyland), and was told by Mike Reilly the $20,000 words I'd been waiting to hear, "Dave Jones, You Are An Ironman!"
That Ironman did take its toll, however. Throughout the entirety of the run, I puked about every 2 miles. Every bit of fluid or nutrition I took in made me nauseous and ultimately came back out. I had heavy heart palpitations at mile 17 and really wondered if I was going to die on the course, but quitting was never an option. A week after the event, my youngest brother (Hi Anthony!) called to ask if I was "done being an Ironman yet" and finally free enough to go play a round of golf with him and another of our brothers (Hi Chris!). I accepted. We played a lovely 9 holes and unanimously agreed that it was fun and we should do it again. That night, I woke up with a pain in my hip that couldn't be curbed. There was no way to lay, stand or sit to make it tolerable. I eventually got up and went to the liquor cabinet where I found an unopened bottle of Jose Cuervo. I opened it and, in full "Nothing is Impossible" style, proceeded to drain it completely in a misguided effort to knock the edge off of the pain. At 5am my wife found me curled up on the floor sobbing in pain with a whole 5th of tequila in me. A few hours later I was in the hospital and shortly thereafter I had major back surgery to remove what my Neurosurgeon (Hi Dr Spooner!) told me was the "largest fragment" of disc (with some bone too I believe) he had ever removed in his career. When I woke up from anesthesia, my wife said the first words out of my mouth were "2 Ironmans in 2016 bitches!" Sounds like something my id would say, but I can't confirm it.
I did not, in fact, do 2 Ironmans in 2016, but I did complete the full Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa 1 month out from back surgery, an Ironman 70.3 6 months out, a full 140.6 Ironman Coer d' Alene 10 months out (over 2 hours faster than the first), all 3 Savageman triathlons (which include a 20 and 30 mile on day 1 and the 70 mile which is the toughest ranked triathlon in North America on day 2 for a total of 120 miles) 11 months out, and the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon the day after the 1 year anniversary of the surgery, setting a new personal marathon record by 18 minutes and running a full mile (mile 8) with Meb Keflezighi. I did all this (except the Route 66 marathon which no one in their right mind would've encouraged), with a new coach, Shelly Lake. Sure, I worked harder and was more dedicated than 2015, but she also wrote each workout specifically for what I needed based on training progress, and we collaborated well on what needed to happen to squeeze out the best performances with the time and energy I actually possessed. Shelly continues to be my coach, even though I have also achieved both USAT Level I and Ironman Certified Coaching credentials in the interim. I continue to firmly believe that if you want to be a successful and healthy endurance athlete for very long, you need a good coach and I've found one... you should too!
(Yes, I'm available for coaching, but only if you are into Ultra-Endurance feats beyond 26.2, preferably way beyond! Email me if that's what you're into.)
Alright, its finally done. The backstory is complete. As I sit here and write this comprehensive, self-indulgent, mega biography; I am training for and about to embark on the stuff that probably brought you to this page in the first place. Just in case you don't already know what that is, here is my current race schedule for the near future:
- December 8-11, 2016:
+ 4 Corners Quad- 4 Marathons, 4 States, 4 Days
- January 7, 2017:
+ Mississippi Blues Marathon (supported training run)
- January 25-31, 2017:
+ Triple 7 Quest- 7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days
- Tentative ideas for the rest of 2017
+ A 6 Day Footrace (Need to do one of those!)
+ A true 100 mile Ultra that is not a multi-day event
+ Some cool multisport event, maybe a triathlon or maybe not
+ Add more states to my goal of completing a marathon in all 50 States
+ Ideas? I accept inspiration, and I'm obviously highly suggestable!
Stay tuned for daily Blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking as the above races get underway. I really appreciate our interest and thank you for taking the time to read the backstory before the Main Event!