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For most of us, exercise should be a part of our daily routine. I find people are much more likely to say they have no time to exercise than they are to say they don’t have time eat, sleep, use the restroom, bathe, etc. Of course not doing one of those essential activities would have major consequences. Lack of exercise also has consequences, many of which are easy to ignore until years later.

Yesterday I had two encounters where I was asked by triathletes how I train for an Ironman. The question initially struck me as odd, because training for an Ironman is much like training for any other triathlon. Basically it begins with a lifestyle of daily exercise.

Three weeks ago Molly and I arrived to our new home in Great Lakes, IL. We have never been in this part of the country, and knew nothing about the area. The day we arrived I spoke with Marty Taylor who has been here for a while and he told me about a Tuesday evening ride with Alberto’s Cycling. I showed up there, unfamiliar with the route and the group. I tried to keep things mellow, but fell into the pace line rather quickly, which consisted of about 6 of the fastest riders. I hadn’t done a lot of pace line riding in San Diego, so it was pretty fun riding the flats at 27-30 MPH, until I was in the front and missed a turn (I didn’t know we were turning!). Time trialing at 30 MPH then wasted me for the second half of the ride. I was accepted into the group, and they told me about their weekend rides.

That Saturday I rode 11.5 miles to Alberto’s. Minutes after I started it began to sprinkle then pour. I arrived soaked, and chilled. Two people (one of the owners and an employee) were there, and said that because of the rain they weren’t going to ride. In a way, I was relieved, but I also realized that the ride was conditional on the weather. They even said that the Sunday ride probably wouldn’t happen. I rode home and got 25 miles in at least.

Sunday morning actually looked good. I rode to the shop to see if the ride was happening. Sure enough, no rain, and the ride was on. About 2 miles into the ride and it poured. A flat in the group had us huddled under some trees while the rain dumped on us. I saw rain coats start to come out, but all I had was a rain sponge. To my surprise I saw a couple other groups riding by in the pouring rain as we stood there. Flat fixed and we went on. I was waiting for someone to pull the plug. It sucked, I was miserable, and I would have gladly followed someone else’s suggestion of calling it a day. Hmmm… that never happened. It wasn’t even suggested. Sixty miles of not being able to feel my waterlogged toes (toasties don’t do a good job keeping water out of shoes) I finally made it home, and soaked in a tub for 40 minutes to defrost. I think the last time I took a bath like that was… probably never. I would have used bubbles if I had them.

Out of the tub, still wrinkled (I don’t think the bath helped with that), I got online and ordered a Computrainer. It was only September, and the Midwest weather was likely to get worse.

A few days later Molly and I toured some of the local bike shops. Activator Cycles, just 2.2 miles from us in Lake Bluff hosts a fast mountain bike ride Thursdays from 6-8 PM, year-round, regardless of weather. This caught my attention. A group that is close, late enough to make after work, and a ride I can rely on. That and I have a 3 year old mountain bike with less than 100 miles on it. The first Thursday we had high winds, 25 MPH with 60 MPH gusts. Molly questioned my sanity (a regular occurrence), and I shrugged my shoulders and replied “they said regardless of weather”. Sure enough, there were about 8 of us there, and it was brutal. The wind was one thing, but the trails were flooded, and it was dark-dark-dark. I worked to keep up, but was gapped rather quickly and I just couldn’t catch up. Nick, the owner, fell back and decided to show me the route since it was my first time out.

The next day my Computrainer showed up, and so did the sun. It was gorgeous out and I did some exploring of some new routes that I found on and Molly and I did a Tandem ride west of us on some decent roads and also took bikes on the train into Chicago where we started orienting ourselves to this amazing city. Then I did a 108 mile ride north of us. I was surprised though when I rode about 70 miles in Wisconsin without even a glimpse of a convenience store or a service station. The roads were great, very little traffic, and a few nice rollers. The day was warm though and I went about 90 minutes without any water or food.

The following Thursday’s Activator ride had great weather. I was determined to stick with the group, but my lack of experience and poor handling led me to going off the trail into a ditch. My chain popped off and I tried to catch the group, but never even got a glimpse of them. I finished the ride with Dean who had also fallen back. This Thursday, my third time out, it was raining, windy and cold. I contemplated using the Computrainer for the first time, but remembered my resolve to stick with this group through the year even if it was my only ride outside some weeks. Four of us headed out and again I was dropped. This time I got lost in the trails since I was riding by myself. The trails were covered with leaves and I went off them several times because it was hard to make them out. So far it’s been rather humbling, but I figure the only way to get better is to stick with it.

This morning even though it was only 48 degrees and raining slightly, I figured the weather was bad enough to give the Computrainer a try. First impression: very nice. I still have a lot to learn about the programs, but I can tell that it will be a great tool to keep me in shape through the harsh winters here.


A month after a race isn’t the ideal time to publish a race report. After all, it’s old news, and the pain is (mostly) forgotten.

Earlier in the year I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this race because I knew I was moving to Great Lakes, IL for my first staff physician assignment. When I found out I didn’t need to report until September 30, I quickly signed up and planned to move after the race. The race was on Sunday, September 11.

We had packed out our house on Thursday, the same day that all of San Diego County and many surrounding areas were hit with a massive power outage. Fortunately I had made hotel reservations 30 minutes prior to the power outage. To experience a large blackout was a bit eerie. Our dependence on power for food, water, gas, and most aspects of our nocturnal living (television and lights) became very obvious.

For those that are not familiar with the Superfrog Triathlon, it is one of the oldest triathlons. It is put on by the Navy SEALs and has a couple aspects that add to the difficulty of the race. The swim has two surf entries and exits with a beach run of a couple hundred meters at the midway point. The bike, although very flat is usually faced with high winds on the Silver Strand. The run includes running on the beach. There have been several courses for Superfrog over the years, and this was a brand new one starting at the Advanced SEAL Training base on the southern end of the Strand. The run included 6.5 miles of beach running, but the majority of that was along the water where the sand is wet and smoothed from the receding waves. There was only about ¼ mile of soft sand running.

I set up my transition as soon as it opened up. The lighting was great, and there were bike racks designated by wave. I was in the 4th of 5 waves. John Czajkowski parked his bike next to me. I hadn’t met him before, but found out he was a fan of this blog, and was also my biggest age group competitor. I had a lot of friends racing, which was cool since this was my last race before leaving San Diego. The race has the feel of being a big deal, and also the feel of a small local race where a lot of familiar faces show up.

When my wave started, some of the swimmers from the first wave had already started their second lap. I got through the surf rather unscathed and felt very relaxed. My first surf exit seemed to happen during a pause in the waves. I couldn’t even get a good push from the waves. I was very pleased though to find out I was the first in my wave out of the water and Steve Hazlett was right behind me. Other times I’ve raced against Steve he’s been ahead of me on the swim, but I knew my swim had been doing pretty well lately with about 10,000 yards/week of Master’s swim practice. During the second surf entry I kept an eye on Steve’s position, then I got hit and tumbled by a wave. Uggghhh. Steve was ahead! Then I saw a wave hit Steve and he was back to where he was before. I picked up the pace a bit and on the second surf exit had a couple good pushes from waves. I just couldn’t seem to catch a wave, but even a little surge is nice to have.

Heading to T1

The transition area had a very rough surface. I had staged my flip-flops just outside the transition area so that I could use them to run in with. I thought it was a good idea, but so did a lot of people. There were flip-flops everywhere. A quick transition and I was off on the bike.

The initial part of the bike was on a small rough road that I just cruised on to catch my breath, get my shoes on, and grab a sip of water. As soon as I hit the Strand it was on. I held an iso-power of 280 Watts throughout the bike course. I was surprised when I flew by Matt Dixon. I had to raz him a little. The race wouldn’t be the same without it. Matt started 5 minutes ahead of me, so I knew I had 5 minutes on him at that point. Matt has been running much faster than I, but I thought if I continue to build that lead I might just beat him. I wanted to make him regret doing that VO2 Max workout two days prior. His reasoning was that Superfrog was a ‘training day’ for Kona. I wanted to make that reasoning an excuse for me crushing him.

The high winds didn’t show up this year on the bike. There was still some wind, but it was much more mild that I had expected. I was very pleased with my ability to hold 280 watts throughout the race. The goal power is always easy to hold initially, but once fatigue kicks in it becomes much more challenging.

When I finished the bike I didn’t see a single bike in for any of the waves except the first. I was surprised that I already had 10 minutes on everyone in wave 2, and 5 minutes on wave 3. I generally do not wear socks in triathlons, but because of the sand running I thought it might be a good idea to wear some. I’m not so sure anymore because it slowed my transition time a lot and I’m not sure it helped my run at all.

I started my run and along the beach I saw Tommy Brown about 2 miles ahead of me on the beach. Tommy was in wave 1, so that gave me 15 minutes, but I knew he was a much better runner than me so I figured that race was over. It wasn’t much longer when Matt Dixon flew saying “5 minutes?” I think I was more surprised by that then when I had passed him on the bike. Matt was running so quick I was thinking “crap, I really need to pull this run together”. My run was okay, but not as quick as I was hoping for. Although my training had been really good for several months and I saw a lot of improvement in each of the three disciplines, my running speed hadn’t returned to where I know it can be. When I started my second lap I was surprised once more. Tommy was still just 2 miles ahead of me! And he wasn’t looking so fresh. I was still lucid enough to do a quick calculation and realize I might have a chance at beating him. I found a little more umph within myself. Although I was pushing myself much harder for the second lap, my splits were 49:48 and 50:21. Again, I am pretty pleased with the even pacing.

Matt, Kona ready and finishing Superfrog – First age grouper overall

The festivities after the race were great too: meeting with a lot of friends, enjoying sunny San Diego, and getting cool handmade trophies. Click here for full results.

Matt and I with our First Place (age group) trophies

The very next day was my trek to Illinois. Although I got in a few runs during the traveling it was good to take some time off. For the past month my workouts have been rather unstructured, trying to learn about our new area. It’s been fun with mountain biking, pace line riding, commuting by bike, rowing, trainer workouts, and running. I already ran a marathon and did a 108 mile training ride.

Thanks for reading.


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October 2011
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