Ironman 70.3 Ohio

After completing my first Ironman 70.3

After completing my first Ironman 70.3

Well I did it. I mentioned in my previous post that it had always been a dream of mine to compete in a triathlon. I completed my first Sprint distance triathlon last September and wanted more. I was out of shape and rocking a dad-bod. This challenge was twofold. It would help me get in shape and it would help me accomplish some of my life goals. That was what I thought initially, but it ended up being so much more.

The four most common distances in Triathlons are:

Sprint: Swim .47 miles, Bike 12 miles, Run 3.1 miles
Olympic: Swim .93 miles, Bike 25 miles, Run 6.2 miles
(Ironman)70.3: Swim 1.2 miles, Bike 56 miles, Run 13.1 miles
(Ironman)140.6: Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles, Run 26.2 miles

As I mentioned earlier, I did a Sprint distance race last September. I had just bought my bike earlier in the year and I thought that race was rough! I signed up for an Olympic distance race at the end of June this year, but unfortunately, the swim portion of the race was canceled due to flooding. I still competed in the duathlon, but felt like it wasn’t a full race.

I had signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Ohio back in December of 2016. At that point I had only one Sprint under my belt and I thought my sanity had lapsed. One of the things that this experience has taught me was discipline. I’ve never been a particularly disciplined person. My friends know that I am more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” type. I was so nervous about my race, that all of that changed. I started planning each and every week around my training schedule. I said no to plans on Saturday mornings that would interfere with my long workouts. I left events early so that I could get to bed on time. This experience really changed me in ways beyond fitness.

Ironman 70.3 Timing Chip

Ironman 70.3 Timing Chip

When July 30th, 2017 (Race Day) finally came. I had an odd sense of calm. I woke up before my alarm went off at 4am and started getting ready. Coffee was already waiting for me downstairs and I ate a nice breakfast before heading to the race start. We had to be out of T1 (Transition 1, swim to bike) by 6:45am, but my wave didn’t start until 8:12am. So I had a lot of time to kill. I hit the porta-potties multiple times and made friends with some of the more veteran triathletes.

As my wave time neared, I put on my wetsuit and got ready. (I was very happy they announced at 5am that the race would be wetsuit legal by .2 degrees!) I assumed that I would be part of the slow group. So I lined up in the very back. This was my first mistake of the race. Swimming in a huge group is difficult enough, but trying to maneuver around people and pass them is even more difficult. After the first turn, the swim headed directly into the sun. This made it almost impossible to see the buoys. So my swim was all over the place and added a couple hundred extra yards to my 1.2 mile swim.

When I ran up the beach into T1, it was already mostly empty due to how late my wave was. I hopped on my bike and took off for the 56 mile bike ride. The weather felt great and I had remembered to actually kick my legs during the swim. So they were warmed up for the bike. This was my first experience with biking aid stations. Trying to grab a water bottle from someone while you are going 15 mph on a bike can be pretty difficult. Luckily, I didn’t wreck! I started to feel a little fatigue in my legs around mile 46, but pushed on. At mile 50 while going down a big hill, my chain popped off. I had to pull off to the side and put it back on. I quickly finished the last 6 miles and headed into T2.

As I sat down to put my shoes on at T2, I was already tired and I could feel the mid-day sun blasting down on me. It had gotten hot and the temperature was almost 90. The run was brutal with very little shade and I hit a wall at mile 2. I had to run-walk the rest of the half marathon and was disappointed in myself. The run seemed to drag on forever at my slow pace, but the other athletes were so encouraging. Everyone I saw was also doing a run-walk due to the heat. When I finally was on the last mile heading back to the stadium, I got a second wind. I knew my family was waiting to cheer me on and when I finally saw them my heart soared. I sprinted around the stadium track to finish.

A wave of relief washed over me. I almost felt like crying. I had trained so hard for this and I did it. I completed it. Unfortunately, I missed my goal time by 9 minutes due to my very slow run split, but I finished. It just means that I will have to come back next year and do even better!

I always used to believe that people that competed in these endurance races were crazy and superhuman. I didn’t think that I would ever be doing one, but now I have. It just proves the old mantra that you really can do whatever you set your mind to. You just have to have the self-discipline. So get out there. Set a goal. Then crush it!

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Finisher Medal

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Finisher Medal

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Everyday Adventures: Bait and Switch

  • The Everyday Adventures series focuses on the adventures we have on a day-to-day basis, not necessarily out on the trail or climbing a mountain. Life is an adventure!

Tree down and path

The Bait

In my previous Everyday Adventures post, Manly Gardening, I wrote about a visit to my parents’ farm for a work day. That was a long job and it was well after dark when we finished. What I didn’t mention was that we technically only completed half of the job. The front yard had three more areas with rotting timber retaining walls that needed to be torn out and replaced. Since we were unable to finish the front that same day, my father contacted me a couple weeks later asking if I could come out for another Saturday to help finish the job. “It’s all in the dirt this time instead of on concrete. It will be much easier; probably only a couple hours.” he promised.  With my brother back at college my parents didn’t have anyone else to help on the farm. I had plenty of things on my To-Do List at home, but reluctantly agreed to go help for “a couple hours.”

The Switch

The next Saturday was hot and sunny. When I arrived around noon, my father was already outside getting things ready. He greeted me with a hug and said, “Glad you’re here! Let me grab my chainsaw.”

“Chainsaw?” I responded quizzically. I wasn’t sure how that was going to help us remove rotten timbers.

“Yes, we had a big wind storm recently and it took down a bunch of trees. I need your help cutting them up and moving them.” he said as he walked into the garage. I chuckled to myself and followed after him.

All I could think of was a scene from Die Hard (one of my favorite movies) as John McClane, dirty and in pain, crawls through an air vent and sarcastically quotes his wife’s invitation to visit, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” Except in my head it went, “Come out to the farm, it’ll be an easy job, only take a few hours…”

Getting ready to chainsaw

Even my dog wanted to help.

The Job

In the backyard, the wind had blown one tree down into another tree. They were blocking the path into the woods so they both had to go. Neither tree was very large so my father made quick work of them with the chainsaw while I hauled and stacked the logs and branches. The next task was a medium sized pine tree that had fallen out of the pine woods towards the pond. The challenge with this one was that it was covered in poison ivy and surrounded thorn bushes. That tree took a little bit longer, but we made a good team. We had the tree cut up as well as all the brush cleared in about an hour and a half. The last tree was the real job. It was a 50+ foot oak that had gotten struck by lightning.

Cutting down the huge oak

A perfect cut so it didn’t hit the dam or the fence behind the tree

This tree had a ton of limbs to cut off. Not to mention, each cut piece of the main trunk weighed over 100 pounds. We worked the rest of the afternoon cutting limbs off of the tree, hauling the smaller branches into brush piles, and stacking the cut logs. It was exhausting work and I couldn’t help but tease my father about his comment about how easy this weekend was going to be doing landscaping timbers.

Logs Everywhere

Logs Everywhere

The Conclusion

To my father’s surprise, we were able to completely cut up the tree and stack everything before dark. He admitted to me later that he thought he was probably going to spend the next week or two having to finish the job. We went inside, had a wonderful dinner, and ended the night with a board game. We were exhausted, but we felt accomplished. It’s a feeling that can be hard to come by in today’s society. We are being pushed to get the next job at work, the next car, the next must-have item. Putting in a hard day’s work to accomplish a difficult task is a great way to take a step back and be satisfied with something. So what did you accomplish today?

Chainsaw and brush piles

Just a glimpse of the huge brush piles we created and a few of the smaller logs we moved

Word of the Week: Wanderlust

Alex on the trail

Wanderlust

/ˈwɒndəˌlʌst/

noun

1. a great desire to travel and rove about

What is it?

I’ve always liked the word wanderlust. It conjures up images of mountains, forests, and adventures. As I’ve mentioned in my previous articles, I was very hyper growing up and had a vivid imagination. This caused me to frequently fantasize about new adventures and exploring the world. I have an eight to five job and typically sit behind a desk five days a week. With each passing day my wanderlust grows stronger. It feels like my inner-caveman is crying out; telling me that I must be active. I must get outside. I must travel and rove about!

What do I do?

Your life is busy. My life is busy. We’re all busy. That’s just the way life is and it doesn’t get any less busy (until maybe after we all retire). This just causes the wanderlust to grow and grow. So I make time to explore the world.

This doesn’t always mean flying across the country to climb a volcano (although, I have done that). I often stay close to Ohio, but I make sure that I adventure. I hike, backpack, and rock climb as often as I can. I also work around my house and visit my parents to help out on their farm. I can settle that inner-caveman and sometimes even the wanderlust with a good, hard day of physical labor.

I also try to keep my mind sharp. We can all adventure through books, movies, magazines, and other forms of media (I suggest reading instead of digital entertainment to satisfy that wanderlust). Even if you don’t have time to sit down and read a huge novel, quick, short stories and articles can be great. Maybe you can even write some yourself! My good friend Tiffany Metzger has some great prompts and short stories to get you started on her site. You can check out her blog here! (I’ll be featuring more about her in a later article about why I write).

Just Do It!

If you are anything like me, you have a list of things that you wish you could do. Write those things down and attach timelines to them. Then just get out and do it! I did this a few years ago and it has really made a difference. You won’t be able to cross everything off, but focus on the things you can. This year, I finally started taking Martial Arts classes. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid, but never had time for. Make time for the things you want to do! Especially things that can build you up or make you a better person.

So whether your wanderlust drives you to climb a mountain or just curl up with that book you’ve been meaning to read, take some advice from Nike© and “JUST DO IT!”

Lifting a tree

Want to lift a tree? Just do it!

Everyday Adventures: Manly Gardening

  • The Everyday Adventures series focuses on the adventures we have on a day-to-day basis, not necessarily out on the trail or climbing a mountain. Life is an adventure!
View of a Farm

View across a horse pasture.

Early Saturday Morning

Sun peaked in through the curtains making the room fairly bright for 7:45am on a Saturday morning. School was out for the summer and my teenage body was loving the extra sleep. I rolled over to face the wall and drifted in and out of sleep. Faintly, I could hear my father’s voice, “Alex, I told you to get up fifteen minutes ago.”

The bed was so comfortable, the temperature was perfect, and I could hear birds singing outside. When I tried to wake up, it felt as if sleep was physically pulling at my body; beckoning me not to go. I gave in and sank back into sleep’s grasp.

Suddenly, I was jarred awake. The temperature was no longer perfect. I turned over to see my father holding my blankets in his hand glaring at me. Since I was on the top bunk, his eyes were nearly level with mine. He dropped the blankets to the floor and said, “The longer you stay in bed, the hotter it gets outside and we have a lot of work to do.” He walked out of the room.

My teenage mind immediately interpreted this statement to mean that I could stay in bed as long as I wanted as long as I didn’t mind dealing with the heat. I rolled back over, curled myself into the fetal position to stay warm without my blankets, and went back to sleep.

Hard Work

My father has a small farm and I still remember each Saturday morning him having to drag me out of bed as I clutched my pillows. Hard work is something that many people do their best to avoid. In this case, I am specifically referring to physically demanding work, but it is true for most work. I sometimes joke that our best advances in technology have come from humans’ desire to do less work. Over time, I have come to enjoy hard work, but I have to admit that I did not always.

Now that all of his children have moved out, my father sometimes still requests that we come home to help on the farm. I try to oblige whenever possible since it is a lot of work for just my mother and father.

A few weeks ago, I, along with my siblings, were all staying with my parents for Easter Weekend. My father took full advantage of this by having my brother and me help him with work.

Hard Work

Hard Work

The Task

When this house had been built, the builders had laid the small retaining-wall of landscaping timbers on top of the edge of the back sidewalk instead of in the dirt of the garden. The timbers had rotted over time, as most wood does. Our task was to remove the old, rotten timbers and replace them.

This task turned out to not be as simple as it sounds. As we found out, when the builders had poured the concrete for the sidewalk, they had actually inserted metal spikes into the edge of it. They then attached the timbers on the sidewalk onto these. Furthermore, since the previous timbers had been built on the sidewalk and the garden had then been filled and used for years, there was almost two tons of excess dirt that needed to be removed. This was the only way that we could move the timbers the six inches into the garden to get them off the sidewalk. To add icing to this cake, there had also been small trees planted in this garden at one point and their stumps would need to be removed.

Wisdom Before Beauty

The work was grueling. The metal spikes made it difficult to remove the old timbers. Then we had to break the spikes off at the base. We also had to shovel roughly 1600 pounds of dirt by hand into a trailer on our tractor (while making sure not to damage my mother’s flower bulbs).

When it came time to remove the first stump, my brother was on pick axe duty. He kept trying to dig around the stump by using the pick axe to scrape dirt out from around the roots. My father kept telling him to swing it and use more force. To my brother, this advice was a personal criticism and he continued to grow more and more frustrated. Finally, he blurted out, “If you think you know how to do it, why don’t you do it yourself?”

The gauntlet had been thrown down. The 6-foot-tall, stocky college-student puffed out his chest and stared down his gray-haired father. I stopped my work and looked at them. The tension in the air was tangible. It was one of those defining moments where the son thinks, “I’m a man now. I know better than dad.”

“Fine, I will,” replied my father. He grabbed the pick axe from my brother, raised it high above his head and swung it with all his might into the ground. An audible crack resounded at the collision. He pried back the pick axe, reached down, picked up the stump, and tossed it to my awe-struck brother. He then laid down the pick axe and walked back to his area to continue cutting timbers. I smiled to myself and tossed another load of dirt into the trailer.

Daffodils

Flowers with the new timbers.

Conclusion

They say, “A little hard work never killed anyone.” I find this statement humorous, because I’m sure that you could find an example where someone died doing hard work. The sentiment is true though. We should not shy away from hard work. It can leave us feeling accomplished and satisfied. We worked on this project until after dark to ensure that it was completed. We didn’t want to give up! Not to mention that we later found out that my brother had been working all day while sick with strep throat (kudos to him for powering through). That night our whole family sat around the dinner table laughing, enjoying each others’ company, and eating a well-deserved meal.

So get out there and enjoy your hard work. Life is an adventure!

Word of the Week: Boredom

Daffodils

Boredom

[bawr-duh m, bohr-]
noun
1. the state of being bored; tedium; ennui.

Bored

[bawr, bohr]
verb (used with object), bored, boring.
1. to weary by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions, etc.:

“Back in my Day”

Growing up I was not allowed to say that I was bored. My father told me that there is never a reason to be bored. Life has too much to offer. Being someone who was home-schooled due to my hyperactivity in grade-school, this was a pretty difficult thing for me to grasp. I constantly craved input and stimulation to stay interested. How could I possibly have fun in the middle of nowhere, out in the woods, without my Gameboy in my hands, or at my parents’ get-together when no other children would be present? I couldn’t even sit through a full play-through of a board game.

It’s a Choice

The change has come slowly, but as I have matured, I have come to understand what my father meant. Every moment has so much to offer. All of our lives are finite and boredom is a choice. Do you want to spend your life bored?

Reluctantly, I started trying to focus more on the moment. I paid more attention to the conversations that my parents and their adult friends were having instead of wishing I was anywhere but there. Now and then I would even join in on a conversation with a “grown-up.” Because of this, I ended up learning a lot from them, passing the time much more enjoyably, and even learning conversational skills that have helped me all through my adult-life and professional career.

There are still lingering effects of my hyperactivity (I’ve never finished a full game of Monopoly), but I’ve come to learn that life really is an adventure and I’m going to make the most of every moment!

What about you?

Enjoying a morning cup of coffee while breathing in the fresh air of the woods