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IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: 112 Miles Feels Even Longer in 90-Degree Heat and with 7,200′ of Elevation Gain

Once I was out of transition, I immediately started hydrating and sucking down my homemade coconut milk and whey protein race fuel concoction. It’s important to start eating and hydrating as soon as you get on the bike because you obviously weren’t able to eat during the swim. I was feeling great and keeping my cadence high on my FELT AR5 bicycle with brand new Profile Design Aeolus 80.5mm tubular wheels. I’d picked these up just in July when I was out in California and was really excited to use them for the first time. The guys (and girl, thank you, Larissa!) at Profile really helped me out with the wheels, a few hydration bottles and a FuelBelt for the run.

The bike course at Louisville is deceptively hilly. Even though there aren’t very many significant hills, the roads are almost never flat. The course is always up or down and it behooves you to constantly be shifting to maintain a higher cadence to rely more on turnover speed than burning up your legs with powerful pedal strokes. The layout resembles a stick figure with one arm and no legs. You ride up the body and take a right at a Y-fork for the arm, down a hill and then up to a turnaround. Come back down the arm and then do two loops around the stick-man’s head and finish back the way you started. 

The first part is actually pretty flat and then the descent down the arm gives you quite an adrenaline rush, which is always welcome. I was still feeling good as I finished coming back down the arm and took the right turn to go out for the two loops, just before mile 30. 

Miles 30-60 were probably the best miles of the day. I felt strong and the temperature hadn’t reached its peak yet. There was a Foster Grant straightaway in a middle-of-nowhere town that felt like somewhere because the whole half-mile to a mile stretch was lined with people on both sides. When I race, I like to interact with the fans on the side of the course and draw from their energy. We hit the Foster Grant section for the first time at about Mile 45 and I rallied the crowd and hit about 28 MPH, pumping my cranks like pistons firing. The second time through was close to Mile 75 and it felt like the only energy I had was coming from the crowd. 

That second loop is Miles 60-90.That’s when it really started to suck. My legs had been feeling good up until that point but at about Mile 65-70, I started to have thoughts of “Why do I do this again? I’ve raced two IMs before so I know what they feel like and how bad they hurt. It’s gonna be 90 degrees before too long and I’m barely into this race.” In the words of country music singer Dierks Bentley, “What was I thinkin’?” For those of you who have not raced an Ironman or any endurance event longer than a half marathon, Mile 70 of a 140.6-mile race is WAY too soon to be having those thoughts. It’s perfectly normal to be having those thoughts at around mile 15 or 16 on the run. It’s even OK to be saying, “The last thing I want to do is run a marathon right now!” when you come in off the bike. But if you’re legs are screaming at you by Mile 70-80, you’re in for a LONG day out there. Barring an act of God, your best case is “finishing” the race. Any aspirations you might’ve had of “racing” are out the window. Like super far out the window. Like so far out the window you can’t see them anymore. Like… Ok, ok I’ll stop now.

A brief aside: As I’ve mentioned before I trained for this Ironman solely using the CrossFit Endurance protocol. That basically can be summarized by 4-5 days a week of CrossFit, and about 2-3 days of each sport her week. Sometimes I did three days of a sport. Usually a short interval workout (50s or 100s in the pool, 100-400m repeats or less than 2-3-minute intervals of running, 1-mile or shorter repeats on the bike), a longer interval workout and then a Tempo or Time Trial workout in 2 or 3 of the sports. Also included were 2-3 days a week of Olympic lifting of varying rep schemes, usually a dynamic effort or max effort lift. For my time trial/tempo work, I built up to about a mile in the pool, 65-miles on the bike and a half marathon on the run. Other key swim workouts were 6x500yds and 3x1000yds. I did a 3×10-mile bike TT workout at one point and then my favorite was 3x5K run with 10-minute rest periods. 

Long story short, the main thought going through my mind was “Well, I guess that wasn’t quite enough.” What made it easier to take was the fact that I knew I was rolling the dice and experimenting with this one from the beginning. It’s a heck of a long distance to gamble on but the process of registering for an Ironman lowers a person’s IQ by at least 30-50 points. So when you see that “REGISTER NOW!” button, it beckons you to click it like a dog that’s ready for their walk so you say, “OK, fine I’ll do it!” And then you’re in and you fall in love with the idea of race day and lose your entire social life due to training, proper diet and rest/recovery. 

I finished the second loop at Mile 90 and 22 miles seemed doable. Right around this marker, I noticed that my feet were really starting to ache. The longest I’d been in my bike shoes in training for this race was about four hours. I was nearing five hours at this stage in the game and the stiff bike shoes were taking their toll. The constant hills weren’t helping much either; it’s a little known fact, but the Louisville course is actually hillier than IM Madison and was ranked the fourth toughest Ironman last year, behind St. George (which was canceled after a nearly 25% DNF rate in 2012). 

95 miles came and went and hitting 100 had never felt like such a relief. My dreams of a sub-5:30 bike time went up in smoke and even sub-6 seemed unrealistic. The temperature had risen to ~90-degrees at this point as the clock neared 2:00 p.m. Passing Mile 110 is about the distance when you feel relief with the knowledge that you will be off your bike in a couple miles, but simultaneous dread at the thought of RUNNING A MARATHON in a couple miles. RUNNING A MARATHON is in all caps, bolded and in bright red because that is the font that your mind uses for that thought. And it’s flashing like a warning light in your car. 

I unstrapped my shoes and slipped my feet out as I rolled down the transition chute into BIKE IN and dismounted at the line. My feet hit the ground and I forced myself to start jogging despite jarring pain with each footfall. There were a few good thoughts in my mind, like “My feet should loosen up as I start to run…” and “Maybe I’ll start to feel my legs soon,” and “The good news is that I’ve already swum 2.4-miles, biked 112-miles and my family and friends are here to support me.” I grabbed my Run Gear bag and headed into the change tent, desperately looking forward to sitting down on something larger than 3″x6″ (i.e. my bike seat).

To Be Continued in Part 3…

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: Race Morning and The Swim

This is the first part of my IMKY race recap. As a brief prologue, with the help of about 50 donors, I was able to raise a grand total of $2,570.80 for Louisville-based charities! $166,566 was raised by all Ironman Foundation-Louisville athletes, blowing last year’s ~$60,000 mark out of the water! This was my first time fundraising with that large of a goal and I was overwhelmed at the response. Thank you to those of you who gave! If you weren’t able to support me this time, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll fundraise for another race in a year or so.

The race did not go quite as I’d planned it (that’s a severe understatement, haha) but this is often the case with Ironman. This was my first Ironman I did following CrossFit Endurance training protocol so I knew it was an experiment going into the race. More on that in the race report though! Rest assured that I am in good spirits and grateful for the finish.

—-

My race morning alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. as usual and I was up and ready to go in no time. My dad picked us up from our hotel at 4:15 and we were waiting outside of transition in the pre-dawn darkness by 4:40. Louisville is unique in the fact that it’s a time trial-style swim start that begins about a mile up the river from transition, so all 3,000 of us Ironman Louisville-finisher-hopefuls lined up in a single file line starting around 5:00 a.m. There is no seeding system so it’s first come first serve, which made things kind of interesting. The pros were sent off at 6:45, our cannon blast went off at 7:00 a.m. and I was in the water by 7:02 AM. The Ohio River was almost bathtub warm at over 80° but since the air temp was still below 70° that morning, it wasn’t too bad. As we all know, the great Ohio River is known for its clear blue waters and thriving aquatic ecosystem; it almost reminded me of the swim course at Kona…NOT!  In all reality though, it wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying and I even took a few sips just to make sure.

I was very curious to see how my swim would turn out since I had only been swimming twice-a-week at most since May and only about 2,000- 3,000 yards each each time. I had focused primarily on my technique with lots of intensity. There were many training days of 20x100yds, 200yd repeats or 3×1,000yds and the longest I’d swum continuously was about 1,500m. I believe that all the Olympic lifting, pull-ups and muscle-ups from CrossFit played a huge role in my swim performance. I quite enjoyed the swim and really felt like I was holding back most of the time. I wasn’t able to find anybody’s feet to draft off of but settled into my own rhythm and was able to avoid being kicked or punched as can often happen. We swam in a channel for nearly a mile before coming around an island and reaching the turnaround a few hundred yards later.

The sun was peaking above the horizon as we headed back so I was glad to be wearing my tinted TYR goggles. I had flashbacks to IM Arizona as we crossed under two bridges on the return trip and I felt good. There’s a saying in triathlon that goes something like, “You can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose it.” It’s a long day out there and the swim typically makes up about 10% or less of the total race time. You don’t need to be a hero in the water, if you know what I mean. Just hit a decent pace and keep it under control. I was in my groove and within sight of the Swim Exit when I glanced at my watch that read 56:00. I turned it on for the last half mile and came out of the water in 1:08:47, feeling fresh and ready to drop the hammer on the bike course. This is going to be a good day, I remember thinking as I jogged down the chute to transition, grabbed my Bike Gear bag and ducked into the change tent. A volunteer helped me pull on my bike jersey and another one slathered me with sunscreen before I sprinted down to my bike, waiting for me at the end of the first row (one of the perks of being an Ironman Foundation Athlete).

SWIM TIME: 1:08:47

TRANSITION 1: 4:39

BIKE (To Be Continued…)

The Ironman Chronicles: And Then I Rode 112 Miles

Part 2 of my Ironman Chronicles series on Ferrigno Fit is LIVE! This post tells the story of the bike portion of Ironmna Arizona, the first Ironman I raced in November 2011. Check it out and check out the Ferrigno FIT website as well. Great content and inspiration all over it!

The Ironman Chronicles: It Starts with the Swim

Check out this first chapter in a three part series I’m writing about my Ironman Arizona race. They will be posted on Ferrigno FIT and here’s the direct link to the article. Many thanks to Shanna and Marti for all their hard work and for giving me this opportunity to be apart of this incredible movement!

“Endurance Inspiration” Icebreaker Speech

The following passage is a speech I gave today at the Toastmasters chapter I recently joined at City National Bank where I work in Los Angeles. This chapter was just started a few weeks ago and I’m serving as the VP of Public Relations. This was the first speech I gave and was called the Icebreaker.

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Today, I want to share a little bit of my story and give you some insight into what drives me. But for me to do that, I want to invite you to use your imagination and take a walk in my shoes. Are you ready? Alright, let’s begin. Please close your eyes. Now, I’d like for each of you to imagine yourselves just waking up in a hotel room to an alarm that you set the night before. The clock on the alarm reads 3:45 a.m. The purpose of this early morning wakeup call is to give you adequate time to prepare for a day-long experience that will commence in three hours and fifteen minutes at exactly 7:00 a.m. At that time, you will embark on a journey that will altogether inspire you, challenge you, scare you, excite you and cause you to feel every emotion you’ve ever felt before and some that you have never felt.

You’ve been awake in the darkness preparing for the day for over three hours now and the sun is finally beginning to rise. Open your eyes. You haven’t spoken very much, if at all, since awaking, to conserve every potential drop of energy. At this very moment you are wearing a wetsuit and treading water in a lake with over 2,500 other people, male and female, ranging in age from 18 all the way up to 80 years old. There’s a nervous tension in the air as the MC’s voice blares over the loudspeakers. And then, at exactly 7:00 a.m., the cannon fires and the once calm lake turns into a raging river as the thousands of athletes at once begin flailing their arms and legs and swimming in the same direction, starting the journey 140.6 miles. This journey is called the IRONMAN Triathlon.

How many of you know what the Ironman triathlon is? Does anyone know what the distances of the race are?

My opening remarks above actually came from a personal experience. I raced my first Ironman in Arizona this past November and was fortunate to qualify for the Age Group World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That race is approximately 241 days away. Yes, I’m counting.

The reason I chose to give my Icebreaker speech about Ironman is because triathlons have taught me a lot about life and who I’ve been created to be. I am drawn to Ironman and other extreme feats of endurance for three reasons.

#1: I have a compelling desire to test my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Obviously, undertaking a feat like Ironman requires a great deal of physical endurance. The mental component becomes very important once you reach the point when your body wants to shut down–and you WILL reach that point. the emotional and spiritual aspects come into play because you will have to dig deep and look deep inside and ask yourself, “Can I do this? Am I capable of finishing this race?” as the famous runner and Olympian, Steve Prefontaine, once said, “The real reason to run a race isn’t to win the race but to test the limits of the human heart.”

#2: It gives me a platform to speak with people individually and collectively from a place of authenticity. Saying I want to be an Ironman and actually doing an Ironman are entirely different. To paraphrase an old poem I learned recently, “You’re writing a story, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. And men read what you write, distorted or true, so what is your story according to you?” Before people will take you seriously, you need to prove by your actions and words that you’re truly living the way that you say you are. Why do we rake people like Billy Graham or Tony Robbins seriously? Because they’ve demonstrated by their actions, by the millions of loves they’ve touched, that they are authentic.

#3: And most importantly, I believe my purpose in life is to inspire people, to lift them out of their current situation and open their eyes to see the unique potential they have. That is why I did Ironman. When I got home after the race and could finally reflect, I was overwhelmed by all of the support I had received via Facebook posts, emails, texts and calls. Tears just started flowing because I was so humbled and blessed when I saw the kind of impact I had made and the people I’d inspired. .

I know that wherever I go, someone is always going to see what I do. I have no idea what they may be going through at the moment when our lives intersect but I do know that my life and my actions have the power to impact them either positively or negatively. At the end of the day, that is why I do my best to live authentically in each and every moment. I don’t always succeed but I give it my best shot. And I truly believe that each of you are impacting lives everywhere you go, whether or not you realize it. So today I want to issue a challenge to you: What is your story according to you? Thank you.

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