Hi, I’m Matthew. And I use to run a blog before we “pandemic’d.”
Now that we’ve addressed my awkward absence of the last 16 months, I’m doing my best to get back to what life was like before a bat closed movie theaters and indoor dining around the world (am I making a light hearted joke about a global crisis? Yes – it’s called coping… and thats for another post when I’m ready).
Things are slowly opening up again which mean, triathlons are actually happening – that’s right LIVE and IN-PERSON sporting events (insert mind-blown emoji – tears of joy emoji or pizza emjoi – just because people love pizza).
So the opportunity presented itself recently to return to racing and to get a taste of what life use to be like (and after exploring the COVID protocols, limited participant entry and social distancing efforts) and I made the decision to go for it…
And as you’ll find out (if you have the patience to listen to me talk to myself for 13 minutes) I had less than 3 weeks to train…
The whole vlogging thing is new to me – but makes talking to yourself feel less neurotic when you have a camera. Eager to hear your feedback!
There is so much I want to say about my IRONMAN experience…
Completing the 140.6 mile triathlon has been a goal of mine for years. And with seven 70.3 mile triathlons (the distance before the 140.6) under my belt, I finally felt ready and prepared to make the jump to the “full” Ironman triathlon in 2019.
At mile 132.6 in the race the sun began to set and I slowed my “casual” pace down to walk to take the entire experience in. It was then, when a particular quote and song from my training profoundly hit me – and that reflection is what I wanted to share in this post…
At the Mile 18 marker of the 26.2 mile run, I looked up to the beautiful, watercolored Arizonan sky and it hit me – that it wasn’t just the day that was coming to a close – but also my journey to becoming an IRONMAN (more IRONMAN specifics in a later post to come).
Like all things in life – there is a start and a finish. But for me, this finish was an actual “finish line” and the difference between the start and the finish was 52 week of physical training, mental toughness and self care/preparation.
I’ve done a ton of endurance races in my life (as most people do in their late 20’s – early 30’s) and I’m generally the person who picks up speed to sprint to the finish. But not today. Not this race. And not this goal. This moment was when a quote and song from my training spoke to me and appeared clear as day, almost as vivid as if the words were etched along the concrete trail in front of me.
Background on the quote…
One of my favorite quotes I had obsessed about during this year of training was –
“It’s Not the Result That’s Important, It’s Who You Become in The Process of Achieving the Result.” – John Canfield
And at mile 16 (or mile 132.6 of 140.6 miles) it hit me that I was definitely going to cross that finish line and I was definitely a different person than I was 52 weeks ago when I committed to this goal.
Background on the song…
Music fueled a great deal of my training, and my “go-to” song was “Giant” by Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man. Here is a cliff notes version of the lyrics –
“I would be nothing Without you holding me up Now I’m strong enough for both of us Both of us, both of us, both of us
I am a giant (ooh) Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see ‘Cause I am a giant (ooh) We’ll be breaking boulders, underneath our feet I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am a giant (oh)
Don’t hide your emotions You can throw down your guard And feed from the notion We can be who we are You taught me something, yeah Freedom is ours It was you who taught me living is Togetherness, togetherness, togetherness”
– “Giant” – Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man
When times got tough during training – like mile 56 of a 112 mile bike ride, 2,100 yards of a 4,2000 yard swim or mile 13.1 of a 26.2 mile run knowing I was only doing HALF of what was going to be expected of me on race day, I spoke to myself and asked my “Giant” for help.
Who was this Giant? Well, he was the voice inside my head who reminded me that I was stronger, tougher and worth working hard for. Basketball players may channel Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan or Lebron James – but in the triathlete world, that “Giant” to me was Craig Alexander (2011 IRONMAN 70.3 & 140.6 World Champion), Lionel Sanders (multiple IRONMAN 140.6 & 70.3 Champion) or Tim O’Donnell (2019 IRONMAN World Championship Runner-Up) – all icons and legends in the triathlon world who not only stood out as IRONMAN Champions – but were legends at the largest IRONMAN stage in Kona, Hawaii.
During training I would watch Youtube video of their key races, their training routines and pre/post race interviews. Their dedication to their craft and laser focus in swimming, cycling and running made me want to be a stronger athlete.
Now back to the story…
So as I looked into the sunset and could visually make out the 8 miles ahead of me leading to the finish line, I started to think about how far I had come and how this big, epic, scary, audacious and bucket-list goal of mine was minutes (okay, hour’ish) away from being one of those “breaking boulders (underneath OUR feet).”
I say “our” because I started my training with my “Giants” being my sport specific idols. But my internal thoughts and voice slowly developed into its own person – the “Giant” within me. I was creating and fueling my own driver and motivator.
As my personal fitness and mental toughness improved this year, I didn’t always have to look to my idols content to motivate or push me – I found that push in myself to be better and to naturally want and expect more from myself (don’t get me wrong – watching any of Lionel Sanders workouts will always humble me and leave me in awe). I was becoming my own giant and my own motivating voice inside my head (Did I just admit to talking to my own self in third-person? Yup, A little crazy? Probably. All aboard the crazy train.. Choo Choo).
In my 6th 70.3 race, the first race of the 2019 season – I crushed my Swim, Bike and Run personal records in Santa Cruz – becoming my own giant and identifying that not only was I out performing my previous efforts – but I still had gas in the tank to push harder – and to give it that little extra effort that I didn’t know existed months prior.
Just one month before IRONMAN Arizona at Tempe 70.3, I took my PR time from Santa Cruz and CRUSHED it by 9 minutes – with my BEST bike time (on what is known as a pretty sh*tty bike course). I can vividly recall the conversation in my head during lap 2 of the 3 lap bike course. I had improved my time from lap 1 by minute and could ultimately pull my fastest bike split EVER if I could shave 3 more minutes on lap three – and then I did. That right there is Giant AF, my friends.
And even more important than race timing and personal records, I became my biggest cheerleader and my biggest driving force to step up my own game. The outside voice of “You can do it” turned into the confidence to know and own the statement, “I can do it.”
And there are too many additional voices and faces to name that kept motivating inspiring and holding me accountable to my IRONMAN dream – for them, I will forever be grateful. There wasn’t a single conversation, text or social media message that didn’t positively impact me and leave a lasting impression on me and this amazing experience.
There were many setbacks, injuries, low-points and moments that derailed my training and straight path to this finish line – but the person I became this year made my drive (and Giant mentality) bigger and stronger than the problems and setbacks I faced.
The lyrics of Giant also said “Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see.” That view started as a medal, a finish line and even visualizing the social media “I did it” post minutes after completing the race. But as the race got closer, and my personal Giant got bigger, the view was a better and stronger me. Not just athletically – but mentally stronger, emotionally in-touch with the overall experience and (SO) appreciative of every milestone and step it took to get there – and again, grateful for the support system I had cheering me on to accomplish this goal.
These thoughts, memories, quotes and song lyrics got me from mile 132.6 to mile 140.6 in what felt like the blink of an eye – and with the biggest smile on my face when I got there.
Could this just be the rambling of a 35 year old who worked way to hard this weekend and still needs to rest and recovery? Possibly (add dehydrated and sore to the list).
But that home stretch to the finish line is one I don’t ever want to forget…
Coming off my worst race by the numbers but a huge personal accomplishment I was asked to give advice to a new triathlete. First of all, I’d encourage any new triathletes to NOT read my previous post as I would hate for my anxiety issues to spread like wildfire. But I do have some advice I’d like to share with anyone bored with one sport and crazy enough to dive into the punishment/addiction/challenge that is Triathlon. So Casey – this post is for you!
Before you Race-
Respect the Sport! Triathletes are competitive and you don’t want to get in someones way, slow down their transition or look like an idiot on the course. Most triathletes I meet have a history in one aspect of the sport, but dove into the other two elements had first (usually swimmers who take on running and cycling or cyclists who take on swimming and running). You’ll need to learn the lingo like T1, T2, Open Water and Drafting. And you’ll have to understand new phrases like Rolling Starts, Age groups, Passing Rules and Race Etiquette. Luckily most races have athlete guides. And always try to speak with a triathlete experienced with your race to get expert advice on the course – as they vary and conditions can change. Know what the water conditions are in advance. Be prepared if you need a wetsuit or if the temperature bans wetsuits on the course. For example, Oceanside 70.3 is beautiful and sunny weather for the bike and run – but the transition area opens at 4:30am and the temperature is in the low 50’s so you better have warm sweatpants and a jacket on hand to stay warm before the race start!
Train Insane or Remain The Same! You will know the distance that you will be racing, so push yourself to be able to tackle that distance with confidence and a little more. Race day will have a bunch of unexpected challenges, don’t let fatigue and physical ability be road blocks to your success. When I first started with sprint triathlons, I would train for 6-10 miles when my race was only a 5K (3.1 miles) knowing that the run would be the last obstacle in the race and I wanted to have plenty of fuel to keep going out of T2! Also don’t underestimate your transitions – and the only way to get this right is to practice! Brick workouts are workouts that transition between Swim and Bikes or Bikes and Runs! Get plenty of practice transitioning so you get quick at making the changes AND your muscles adapt to the quick change in physical demands!
Understand your body and the fuel it needs! Few sports involve hours of demanding physical activity – which means your body needs to have the correct fuel to help you get the max output needed for race day and training! Make sure you understand what your body needs and listen when your body gives you signs. Proper hydration and fueling can make or break a practice and can derail your race before it starts.
Keep It Simple! Minimize your gear to just what you need and never tryout new gear on race day! There are a few key items that you NEED and a few hundred other items you may think you need – but you don’t. Practicing your transitions will help you trim down your race needs that will help keep your transiton area simple – AND keep your transition items in YOUR space – which may only be a few inches from your neighbors. But also be prepared – while “less is more” is good etiquette, you also need to be prepared. In my tri-bag (yes, you too should have a bag dedicated to triathlons) I have a zip log bag filled with first aid supplies. You never know when you’ll need blister repair, road rash clean up or extra sun screen/contacts/etc… You can’t rely on the course or course assistance to have you covered. And since a Port-a-Potty is a staple of most races, make sure you have Clorox Wipes and flushable wipes as your gonna need them! And speaking of the tri-bag of extra supplies, that leads me to the next item on the must have list – a Race Crew!
Support Crew! You need a wingman/woman who will be patient enough to wait for hours for you to finish the race, understand the sport to give you pace reminders as you pass them on the course and can sport your tri-bag with your race extras while you’re on the course! For me, just having the mental support makes a world of difference on race day! Whether its the person who is taking pictures of you, throwing you extra nutrition mid race or being there to remind you that “you can do it” you need to have a support crew/person on race day!
Have a Routine! I layout all of my transition items the night before and make sure that I know what I need and know where it is for when I need it. And the morning of the race I shower and apply a layer of lotion sunscreen, body glide (your new best friend) and then a spray layer of sunscreen… Did I mention sunscreen? Then I get dressed so I am comfortable in my race kit and know I’ve applied enough body glide to get me through the day! Friction is not your friend!
These are the best pieces of advice I could think of and think they will help anyone whether its your first triathlon or your fiftieth! A lot of races will even have Facebook Groups or Twitter accounts so you can send direct questions to the race directors or get answers from others headed to the same race! Good luck to everyone on your next race, especially if it will be your first! And I hope these few pieces of advice help Casey tackle her first traithlon with confidence! =)
It’s been two months since I slid on ice and fell injuring my neck, back and race confidence (thank you, Pacific Northwest – for nothing).
I have had five different doctors who I see atleast two to three times a week all while not missing work and still making my way across the country or up and down the California coast. And if you’ve ever flown with a sore neck – imagine the discomfort with your neck, back and shoulder area all out of wack… but back to the point – Being injured sucks!
Every year I sign up for a race to keep me motivated to workout while I’m traveling. This year my race destination of choice is Oceanside, CA! Months and months ago I signed up for the IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon as a weird and twisted reward to help my work/life balance (who rewards themselves with 5:00am workouts?!?!?). This will be my 4th half-IRONMAN in the last 4 years which should make me a pro (or atleast not an idiot on the course), but unforeseen circumstances have thrown a total wrench in my training plans.
I had to listen to my doctors and had to take time off of training for my back and neck to recover. I wasn’t expecting it to take almost 2 months – but apparently my back specialist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, acupuncturist and general practitioner know a thing or two about the human body (who would have guessed?!?).
Fast forward to today… I made my way to the pool for a swim workout. I could clearly tell I had been away from the pool as my arms and legs were burning in the first few minutes of the workout. And there is no reality check as cruel as throwing on a speedo after a long break from the gym… but none the less I made it through a slow and steady 1600 meters.
But what has been harder than the actual workout – is the recovery. I’m not one who likes to sit still – in fact my attention span runs out by the time I’ve decided where to sit and have already rearranged the furniture in my head – twice.
So this swim workout was followed by a 3 mile walk back home (conference calls are the perfect time to squeeze in some miles) and then a good stretch when I got home.
Recovery followed – not running, swimming or biking… or lifting or moving or anything else for that matter. All in an attempt to not over due it and risk further injury. And the next day I headed to acupuncture – a forced therapy that I didn’t believe in until I actually tried it.
And here we are, three days from my race and on shaky ground if I will be able to finish or if I will even make it to the starting line. Listening to my body and trying to put common sense in front of stubborn pride. My doctor says I am able to give it a shot and has confidence that I am able to do it in my current physical condition – so let’s see how the next 48 hours go! Wish me luck!
Tough love is pushing through when your mind and body are both working against you… I’ve been MIA in my posts lately because of an unexpected setback – an unfortunate work injury (womp womp)…
My training has been swapped out with physical and occupational therapy and my optimism has been chipped away day by day – but I haven’t given up.
My runs have turned into uncomfortable walks, my bike has turned into a hanging rack in the garage and my swims… well let’s just say I haven’t drowned…
But today my aches were louder than my alarm and I was wide awake squirming for comfort at 5:30am and my mind started down the path of “I can’t, I won’t and I shouldn’t…” and then I thought about the fourth IRONMAN 70.3 medal that I DON’T have… I’m not (that) materialistic, but I own the fact that I live for race medals. I’ve gone as far as to cancel races because the medal (or lack of medal) didn’t get me excited for the race. And while I am very pleased with my collection of Sprint/Olympic Tri and 1/2 Marathon and 5k/10k medals – the IRONMAN 70.3 medals take priority – and one day the 140.6 medal will reign supreme (if I ever take it off). So I started thinking about what the medal would look like and more importantly how it would make me feel. That medal would be the token of accomplished that said “the work injury couldn’t stop me” and that “I overcame reguardless.” And then I realized that this medal would mean a little bit more and I wanted it more!
My race kit is black and blue and I wear it only for 70.3 races (it’s like my battle-armor) so I crawled out of bed and grabbed my Nike suit that’s the same color (competitors mindset or something – it just felt right) and my goggles – essentially the only thing I needed to swim – and I drove to the pool. It was 48 degrees and raining – not the best conditions but I worked out anyway.
It. Was. Cold… It was a slow warmup and an even slower workout – but I did it. And I feel better now that I did! The medal is 58 days always and now it’s not about the strength or the endurance, now it’s about the mental strength.
I’ll keep caring for my injury, keeping my eye on the prize and remind myself when I feel self doubt – to shut up and workout! 🙂
Thanks for listening and feel free to comment! 🏊🏼🚴🏽🏃🏻
Today I decided to explore the neighborhood on my bike! Really wanted to familiarize myself with my surroundings and needed to get some training in (Two Birds – One Very Slow Stone). With Oceanside 70.3 being only 150 days away, I have A LOT of work to do!
I’m always open to anything to help my Triathlon experiences easier or smoother, so a friend suggested Strava! Strava is website with an iPhone app that tracks your metrics during your workout – specific to Running & Cycling. It was super easy to understand and very accurate! I’m using the free version but already see the perks of what their paid service can bring! Love the exposure to Race/Run/Ride groups in my area and the map of your workout accompanied by turn by turn directions! It even recognized that I cut through the parking lot of Netflix (talk about detail)! Excited to use the desktop version to see more of the data it collected.
Spent most of today’s journey on the Los Gatos Trail! Not sure the exact distance of the trail since I took some detouring, but I’m guessing it’s 12-15 miles round trip. It’s 100% paved with a 15MPH limit – which is pretty understandable with the number of cyclists, dogs and walkers. This trail is really accessible and backs up to a dog park, business park, Netflix Headquarters, apartments and a lake. The trail also runs straight through Campbell Park with a playground, basketball courts and lots of grassy areas. On the way back home I stopped at the park to do some stretching and get a little upper body workout. It was cool when I started my ride so I had a long sleeve shirt and tights on – I could have survived with shorts and a tank top because the afternoon heat was much warmer than I expected.
The Los Gatos trail takes you along a small lake (the Vasona Reservior to be specific) which was packed with ducks and geese and lined with beautiful trees! Totally a future picnic spot – I’ll def post pics of that area on my next visit!
My post workout consisted of three sets of:
-18 Inch Box/Stair Jumps
-Push-ups with Side Kicks
-Dips on the 18 inch Stairs
-Backtuck Burpees + 4 Push-Ups
-Alternating Leg Step Ups
Red Hot Chili Peppers have been my go-to artist for working out. Sometimes it’s the music that keeps you and the intensity going!
Going to be traveling later this week and hope to capture some of my hotel workout tips and tricks uploaded!
Def give Strava a try if you are looking for a new app! It didn’t kill my battery and event synced with the Health data from my iPhone! And if you are in the San Jose, CA area – I highly suggest hitting up the Los Gatos Trail!
If you know of any paved trails for cycling or running trails in the Bay Area – Let Me Know! Till then, 150 Days till IRONMAN Oceanside 70.3… not like I’m counting or anything! 🙂
I am an athlete. I’ve always been an athlete. So my need to be active (and competitive) as an adult isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me.
In 2011 I was introduced to something insane… something absurd…. something for only the mentally twisted… I was introduced to the sport of Triathlon.
Some people take on one sport as an adult. Maybe softball, kickbal, Pilates/Yoga/Crossfit… but the truly self destructive and insane active adults work three sports into one by swimming, cycling and running. That means a lot of baggage… literally and figuratively. Have you ever tried traveling with a Bike through LAX?!?! No Bueno
I spend most of my time traveling for work. I attend meetings, events and contract work all across the United States and abroad. And as I got into my late 20’s quickly realized that fast food and social evenings out on the Road will hit you faster than the “Freshmen 15.” I’m pretty sure the mission statement of my 26th year on this planet was “No Reeces Left Behind.” Honestly, I went to Disney with two of my cousins and we took our picture with Stitch and that photo made me realize I was getting… “fluffy.” (But standing next to costumed characters does make my head look small, so that was a win) So I made the choice to bring fitness and a healthy lifestyle back to the forefront of my daily routine… and I signed up to do a Triathlon (without even owning a bike).
This decision made me feel the pressure to perform and not just participate in the race, but to finish! And what better accountability – than Social Accountablilty! I told myself to post about what I was doing and share my progress. Why? So people would constantly ask me how I’m training or how the conditioning is going. And guess what, it worked! I had people constantly asking me when my race was, people offering to run/ride/swim with me and I even got a great deal of free nutrition and conditioning from friends with experience. Still today, I have friends and co-workers that always challenge and encourage me to workout when we see eachother!
So as I traveled by myself from hotel to hotel and city to city I would wake up early to swim, put in time on the stationary bike or get in a few miles on the treadmill before bed. I would select hotels based on the size of their pools or quality of their gym. And I continued to post about it and felt the warmth and support of community of people that wanted me to succeed! Fast forward to my first race, a Spirit Triathlon – and I got 2nd place! This went on record as the first time I was ever content with a 2nd place outcome in my life!
So on an adrenaline rush and overinflated ego from my podium finish – I signed up for NOT the next level race (a brisk Olympic Triathlon)but a Half IRONMAN #LostMyDamnMind
For those of you who don’t speak “Tri” -Race distances go from Sprint, Olympic, International, Half IRONMAN, IRONMAN and anything past IRONMAN is ******* crazy. You can see all of the specific distances on Total Triathlon (I’m not an expert and honestly – I only run races with impressive finisher medals).
This insane decision helped me in a lot of ways.
It helped me create “ME TIME.” Even when I would spend weeks on the road for work. It forced me to wake up earlier and make time to sleep and eat better because I needed my body to perform. It also helped me to put more thought and brainstorming into professional and personal decisions. It is illegal to wear headphones or listen to music during most triathlons for safety reasons, so I started to train without music which gave my mind time to really focus on what was going on that day. And now, when I really want to get creative or open my mind to new ideas the process starts with my running shoes – or a speedo, depending on the water temperature. And as someone whose energy level is often compared to the Energizer Bunny, this gave me a venue to burn off (some of that) energy!
Fast forward four years from my 1st Triathlon, I’ve competed in various sprint races and three IRONMAN 70.3 races (yup, that’s 70.3 miles of pure craziness). And since I only wear my tri-kit (the ridiculous race outfit) when I race, I wear the same kit in every race – hence the same wardrobe in every photo (it gets worn aboouuttt once a year). No one warns you before the tri-life that your shorts get shorter, swim suites get tighter and your daily schedule changes in fear of adding time to your finishing time.
And now I’ve signed back up for IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside once again!
So after a grueling and brutal travel schedule of back to back to back to back to back to back event weekends, I’m going to drive down to San Diego on my first Saturday off and Swim 1.2 miles in the ocean, Bike 56 miles and then Run 13.1 miles on April 1st…. for the fun of it!
So feel free to follow my upcoming Triathlon posts about how I’m prepping for the upcoming race, success and horror stories from my past races and anything else Triathlon related!