“This Ain’t Hell, but I Can See It From Here!” After-Action Report: Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) 2019

This year, I decided to take a break from triathlons and just do one event: Ride Across INdiana (RAIN). I enjoyed that ride last year, and my wife said she and Abigail enjoyed the time.

I figured this would be a long, tough ride that would otherwise be uneventful. It didn’t seem bad last year: I used it as a training ride for Ironman Chattanooga, and it was a good time.

The problem?

Last year, the conditions were perfect: high temperature was in the low 70s with occasional light rain, and a really nice west-to-east tailwind that made the last 45 miles wonderful.

No such joy this time.

Here is a simple comparison, by the numbers:

High Temperature77/light rain97/sunny
Winds18mph (tailwind)16 mph (crosswind from south)
# Starters~1,1001,032
# Finishers1,042644
Total Riding Time (hrs:mins)9:3011:06
Avg Moving Speed (mph)16.814.7

I woke up at 4AM and began my preparation for the ride: brushed my teeth, strapped on my Garmin heart rate strap, checked my gear to see if I had forgotten anything.

Dangit!!!! I had forgotten sunscreen! And I was going to need it today!

So, making no delay, I hightailed it to Kroger and bought some sunscreen. On the way back, I pulled back into St. Mary of the Woods College–where we were staying, and where the ride began–to see a couple riders taking off early. (That is legal, as this is a ride, not a race. As long as a rider completes the course before the 9PM cutoff, it counts.)

It was 5:25 and still dark outside. It was already 80 degrees.

This was going to be a long, hard slog.

Still, I felt ready.

While I was not training for Ironman–and therefore was not as fit as I was last year–I was still pretty darn fit: I had three century rides in the last 2 months, and I had done a fair amount of strength work, as I had bulked up considerably. I wasn’t in Ironman condition, but I was still in good shape. And my training rides were in hot conditions.

I figured I would go slower, but this course shouldn’t be too tough. I had two extra tire tubes “just in case”, and I am experienced in changing out flat tires. If I ran out of fluids, I knew there were convenience stores around. I carried extra cash just for that purpose. I also knew that my wife would be trailing me on the back section.

I made it to the start line with 5 minutes to spare before the official start. There seemed to be a solid turnout. According to the folks in-the-know, the number of starters was less than they had last year, but not by much.

My problems began early: My rear tube blew out at mile 6. Apparently, my tire pressure was too low, and I hit a bad section of road, causing a “pinch flat”. I was able to swap a new tube, and a SAG driver had a pump ready for me, so I did not have to use my CO2 cartridges. I was back in business within 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, I had trouble getting a good pace going due to (a) many traffic lights and (b) bad road quality. I also noticed the climbs, due to the lack of a tailwind. I was clearly working harder for my miles. But I still felt ok considering the conditions.

Pulling into the first rest stop at mile 39, my wife was relieved to see me. She thought I had suffered a really bad accident, as I took longer than she expected to get to the first stop. My riding pace at the time was close to 15mph, but the flats and the traffic congestion–and traffic lights–slowed me down. But at the rest stop, I got some food down, got some fluids down, refilled my bottles, kissed the wife and toddler, and headed back out.

On the second stretch, I felt better and my pace was improving, even as the temperature climbed. I was having a good time until mile 57: that’s when my front tire blew out.

Thankfully, I was ready for that: I had a spare–although I was down to my last one–and was changing it out when a Good Samaritan came by. He let me use his pump–once again keeping my CO2 cartridges unused–and even gave me a bottle of ice water. I was back in business.

Pulling into the second stop, at mile 64, I still felt pretty good. Even with the flat, I was doing well. For the sake of precaution, I purchased two additional tubes from the SAG mechanic at the rest stop. I figured I’d rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them. In this heat, anything can go wrong.

I made it a point to get more food down, refill the bottles, get some more fluids down, kiss my wife and toddler–who was having a great time–and head back out.

The ensuing 28 miles were brutal. Indianapolis traffic slowed us all down: traffic lights, traffic circles, stop signs, railroad tracks, and some stretches of bad road quality. Making matters worse, I ran out of water and Gatorade. I could feel the heat; I knew I needed to hydrate.

At about mile 87, I found a CVS. I pulled in to get some Gatorade. The manger saw me and invited me to use his walk-in cooler–which was 38 degrees!–to cool off. (I <3 CVS.) Still, I felt pretty good going into the lunch stop at mile 92.

Remarking about the heat, I told my wife. “This isn’t Hell, but I can see it from here.”

From there, I got some food down, got some water and Gatorade down, refilled the bottles, kissed the wife and toddler, and headed back out: 21 miles to Greenfield.

The stretch to Greenfield would have been a killer, except there were several wonderful families who handed out bottled ice-cold water to riders. I had, once again, expended both my water and my Gatorade, and those Good Samaritans saved my butt. (Every finisher with whom I conversed, shared the same story.)

Pulling into Greenfield at mile 113 2 was lonely–no personal service vehicles were allowed, so my wife was camped out after that on US40–so I did my business quickly: refilled the water bottles, peed, got food and fluids down, and headed out.

My only problem: I forgot to unpause my Garmin. As a result, I lost about a quarter mile on my data feed.

Turning onto US40, I saw my wife parked at a Speedway station. I stopped, gave her a quick update, kissed her and the toddler, and headed out. We agreed to meet every 8 miles. I was feeling the heat, so I figured I’d sit in the car for a couple minutes to cool down. She also had extra Gatorade in case I needed a refill before I pulled into the final rest stop at Dunreith.

That last stretch of US40 was pure brutality. The heat radiated from the ground, ensuring that we had no relief, even as the air temperature began to slowly drop. The climbs, while not as difficult as the hills of Kentucky’s century routes, are still noticeable when you’re on the back end of a 160-mile ride with heat indexes above 100 degrees. Being able to cool off in the car was a game-changer.

I pulled into the Dunreith rest stop, with 28 miles to go, exhausted. I knew I was going to finish, but this was going to suck. I inhaled more fluids, ate some carbs, got some pickle juice down, and sat in the car to cool off. Then I kissed the wife and toddler and headed out.

I met my wife 8 miles later, and–to my surprise–felt pretty good. I was tired, but I felt better than I did at Dunreith. I told her to meet me in 10 miles.

About 10 miles later, I met her again. As I cooled off, I had one problem: I needed water, not Gatorade, as I was almost out of water. I told her to meet me at the next gas station–or at 5 miles–to get some water. At this point, I had about 10 miles to go. The next stop was going to be precautionary only. I was getting strength back.

With 5 miles to go, I saw my wife on the opposite side of the road. A Good Samaritan had a bottle of ice-cold water: exactly what I needed going into the final climb! Oh, and there was shade now, as it was later in the day. I thanked God for the shade. I told my wife, “Meet me at the finish…we’ve got this!”

The last 5 miles felt easy. Yes, there was a climb left, but it didn’t feel so bad with the shade and some cold water. I finished with 45 minutes to spare. At the finish, I chatted with the folks at the finish line, enjoyed the moment with my wife and the toddler, and downed some chocolate milk.

After the finish, I followed the RAIN Facebook group for updates from other riders. There were mass casualties: riders were dropping like flies. Heat exhaustion TKOd a large swath of folks.

Every rider I know who finished indicated that the Good Samaritans with the ice water saved their day. I can attest to that. The DNF rate was above 37%, which exceeds the mega-brutal Ironman Chattanooga 2016, which was in comparable weather. Heat exhaustion took a lot of riders out of the fight. Several ended up leaving in ambulances. To my knowledge, however, there were no fatalities.

Another dynamic I saw was the support crews out there: just as my wife did for me, other riders had help from their spouses and/or cycling clubs. They parked their cars, vans, and RVs at churches, gas stations, even open fields, providing food, water, and A/C for riders on that last stretch of US40.

As I look back on the day, I was happy to come out on top. I had never suffered a flat tire during a century ride, and I took TWO of them in the first 60 miles. I had never biked in conditions this hot, but this time I did it for 160 miles.

That tormenter of Ironman triathletes–Ironbitch–showed up for a rematch, and she brought the heat with her. I took her best shot, and I won. I even had the legs to tour the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB with the wife and toddler the next day.

As I talked with my wife last night, I remarked that I am not an elite cyclist.

She laughed. “Why do you say that?”

Me: “I’m not pulling that course at 18-19+ mph. To me, that would be the sign of an elite cyclist.”

Her: “You may not be the fastest one on the course, but I’m not sure that matters.”

I don’t have elite speed; I do have elite endurance.

But there is one important difference in me now compared to what I once was: I don’t quit. Yes, I’m in better shape than the average bear, but let’s be honest here: fitter people than I punched out on Saturday. You need to be fit to finish a 160 mile ride in that heat, but you need more than physical fitness; you need mental toughness.

Learning that isn’t an academic exercise. You can only learn that the hard way. I’ve suffered DNFs, so I know the humiliation that comes with it. That teaches you more about perseverance than anything. In general, you don’t start learning until you get pushed to the edge of what you think your limits are.

In my case, as I am getting old, I have severe disk problems in my neck, middle back, and lower back. My heat tolerance isn’t what it once was.

Still, in the nearly two decades with such health issues, I’ve learned to adjust and improvise, and focus on what I could control, and roll with the punches. I couldn’t make it cooler outside, but I think of all the times I got into the car to cool off. I think of the time I walked into the cooler at CVS to cool off. I think of the times I stopped to grab some ice water, the time I sat in front of a fan.

Even with the 2 flats. Even with heat exhaustion. I had no doubt about the outcome, only the finish time. I didn’t quit; I just stopped to regroup and get my bearings. I was never out of the fight.

Over the years, I have learned to embrace the suck.

And on Saturday, I French-kissed it.

Ironman Bragging Rights, Sort Of

MrsLarijani works for a private school at which Abigail is in the toddler class. It’s a really nice school.

Every year, the school has a 5K run as a fundraiser. Usually, most of the parents run it. The run is tomorrow morning.

One of the parents has a tendency to be a doúcheflúte. He tends to be kind of loud when he comes to pick up his kid, and he often gives other parents a lot of crap. MrsLarijani saw him chiding another parent for not being signed up for the 5K, as if trotting for 3.1 miles makes you some great athlete.

Me: “Are you saying you want me to wear my Ironman finisher shirt tomorrow?”

MrsLarijani: “YES! I WANT YOU TO WEAR IT!”

Me: “I won’t be the fastest runner out there, but leave us out there long enough and I could bury most of their asses.”

MrsLarijani: “True story.”

It had been my intention to retire that shirt, as I only planned to wear it to triathlon club-related functions. But hey…if it gets a loudmouth to shut up, it might be worth getting it out.

Ironman Chattanooga 2018: Bittersweet Victory

Three years ago, I experienced a major setback: I DNFd* at Ironman Louisville 2015.

To say it was a disappointment would be the most charitable assessment.  MrsLarijani had been such a great sherpa, only to see me miss the final turnaround cutoff time and get pulled at mile 17 of the run.

As a result. I had unfinished business. I owed MrsLarijani a finish. 

Like Julius Erving of those 1977 Philadelphia 76ers–who blew a 2-0 lead to the Portland Trailblazers–and like Jana Novotna, who blew a lead in the third set against Steffi Graf at the 1993 Wimbledon, and like Goran Ivanisevic–who pumped a record 37 aces past Andre Agassi in the 1992 Wimbledon Championship, only to come up short in 5 sets–I had a score to settle.

No, this wasn’t the NBA Championships, or Wimbledon for that matter.

I had a score to settle with the Ironman demon that torments every athlete on the second loop of the run. I call that demon IronBitch (heretofore referred to as India Bravo, or Ms. Bravo).

She waits patiently, usually somewhere past mile 10 of the run. But she is sadistic. She fights dirty. She will charm you and then plunge that knife into your heart as you begin to run out of gas.

This year, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. It is a 2.4-mile downstream swim, a 116-mile bike (4 miles longer than a standard Ironman), and a 26.2-mile run that features one of the toughest courses on the Ironman circuit. 

In other words, I scheduled my appointment with Ms. Bravo for September 30, in the city where I met MrsLarijani. I decided I would settle my score with Ms. Bravo once and for all.

I trained for that meeting for 5 long months.

I rode my bike trainer religiously, and included transition runs after my rides. I blocked off Saturdays for long bike rides. In the 4 months leading to Ironman, I had 11 rides of 6 hours or longer, including the 160-mile Ride Across INdiana (RAIN).

I rode 3 times a week, I swam twice a week. And after my rides, I added small transition runs. I also did long runs the day after my long rides.

And in my long runs, I simulated long distances on tired legs, just to get mentally prepared for my meeting with IB on the back half of the run.

I also tapered for 2 weeks instead of 3: I wanted to make sure I was at peak fitness going into the race.

I felt very good going into race week: I had a minor stomach bug a week out of race day, but that cleared up quickly. Then, during race week, Chattanooga received the unexpected “gift”.

HEAVY RAINS. From Sunday through Thursday.

The runoff–and the necessary release of 100,000 cubic feet per second of water from the dam–made the Tenneseee River a fast-moving cesspool of sewage. On Thursday morning, three days before the race, Ironman officials cancelled the swim.

At the same time, they made our lives harder, not easier, by (a) going to a time-trial start on the bike, and (b) enforcing a modified cutoff time for the finish.

With that news, I felt that my finish would have an asterisk, as an Ironman triathlon includes all three disciplines.

At the same time, you can’t control the weather. I decided I’d make the most of what was now an IronBrick. Besides, that run is pure brutality.

I started just before 9:40 AM. Temperature was mild, in the 70s, and it was overcast. There had been rain, but it cleared out just as I started. The first 30 miles were uneventful. I was killing it. I was ready; I had slept well the night before–got a full 8 hours of REM sleep–and was jacked.

Then, at about mile 35 of the bike, the clouds moved out, the sun moved in, the heat went up, and so did the humidity. I started feeling tired.

During the bike, I started out consuming Gatorade exclusively at every rest stop. But I felt like I was bonking at mile 50–very unusual–so I cut back on the Gatorade and went to water.


On the second loop of the bike, no one passed me. I saw athletes WALKING their bikes up what seemed like otherwise mild hills. I also saw a fair number of folks who had flats or other mechanical issues. They looked defeated.

Still, I felt good on the bike, although I haven’t figured out how to prevent chafing. Body Glide is good but is still short of the glory. Oh well, a little chafing won’t ruin my day.

I finished the bike in 7:37, and, other than the chafing, felt great. I would have finished faster, but I had to stop to pee several times. I haven’t perfected the art of peeing in my pants while biking.

My goal for the bike was to have my legs ready for the run. Mission Accomplished!

I was also well-hydrated.

In transition, I was methodical: dried my feet, changed my socks, put on my running shoes, put on my race belt and back brace, and downed some gels and some water. 

I figured I had 7 hours to do the run. Even in the Hell that is Ironman Chattanooga, this was doable. 

Did I say I had my legs?

I was ready to OWN IronBitch; er, I mean Ms. Bravo.

Coming out of transition, I started slowly on the run: I jogged the grassy part coming out, then walked the uphill leading to the first bridge. I made a strategic plan to jog the downhills, walk the uphills, and run/walk the flats at a 50-step run/50-step walk pace. 

I kept it very methodical, and paid close attention to my heart rate (HR). Coming out of transition, my HR jumped into Zone 4 too easily, so I made it a point to err on the side of going easy in the early stages.

As the sun started to set, and I started to get more shade in the park, my HR went down to Zone 3 on the jogs and Zone 2 on the walks. SUCCESS!!!!

When I reached mile 10, where IronBitch–er, I mean Ms. Bravo–stabbed me 3 years ago, I felt great this time, even as the hills of the North Shore were getting brutal. When I pulled into the halfway point–three years ago I was defeated–I was looking forward to meeting Ms. Bravo this time.

I was looking for her, calling her name!

Other than needing to poop–which I did at mile 15–I felt good, even though I was clearly getting slower. The fatigue was coming, but it wasn’t the pale dread of bonking. I had beaten back Ms. Bravo’s minions. I wanted to fight her.

Doing the math, I knew I was ahead of schedule, but I didn’t want to get complacent either, because Ms. Bravo will make you pay for complacency. I knew what pace I needed to keep, and I was still on my target. Coming into mile 17, where I got pulled 3 years ago, I muttered, “Yippie Kiyay!”

I was tired, but I knew I was going to finish. I was jacked!

Yes, I had one more trip into North Shore for those hills.

Yes, it was going to suck.

But I was going to finish.

I saw those hills as a necessary evil. Every mile, I muttered, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” Then, with 5K to go, I spotted Ms. Bravo, the demonic killer of Ironman dreams, hiding in the bushes. She was crying.

She asked me if she could walk with me.

“I’ll take a HELL with the NO to GO…”

When I saw the marker for mile 25, I knew I was good to go. I was sore, but not that sore. I was tired, but it was more of an “I had a long day and I want to be done” kind of tired rather than an “Oh God please put me out of my misery!” tired. All I had to do was go up and over the bridge, make a turn, and head into the finisher chute.

The announcer at the athlete briefings had said 12:40 would be the cutoff. It was just past 12:20 AM. As I headed in, I looked for MrsLarijani. Then, as I approached the chute, I saw her. 

MrsLarijani: “Speed up, the cutoff is 12:30 AM!”

Me: “No, it’s 12:40, I’m fine!”

MrsLarijani: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yep!”

The bad news: we were both wrong.

The good news: I still made cutoff!

(They implemented a flexible cutoff, but they were trying to account for the advantage that athletes would have received from the easy swim. They had said 12:40, then suggested giving all athletes 14:40 total to finish. They settled on 14:50. All athletes who finished with times over 14:50 were DNFd, which just means they didn’t accrue official points for Ironman-related programs. I beat it, but just within 5 minutes.)

As I crossed the finish line, the announcer looked at me, called my name–and he didn’t butcher my last name, as most people do–and yelled, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

It was anticlimactic. My feeling was more along the lines of, “Mission Accomplished!” MrsLarijani and I enjoyed the moment–Abigail was at the home of some friends and was sleeping–and headed out so we could get to bed.

In retrospect…

I ran the race I trained for. I figured the bike course would be hot and humid, and I had many long rides in hot, humid, crappy conditions. I was ready for that race.

And even though I had no long runs greater than 18 miles–and none of them with hills like North Shore–I trained in hot weather, and simulated running with tired legs. I kept a smart strategy of walking the uphills and capitalizing on the downhills, and it worked.

My final time was close to the cutoff, only because running is my weakest area due to my back, hip, and knee issues.

My mission was to get a decent bike performance that left me enough time to do a run within my physical limits. I did exactly that.

But there was something that stuck out from the race…

In the run, I was tempted many times to walk the flats on the second loop and instead chose to jog them.

Had I walked them, I would have been DNFd.

I believe that temptation to walk was Ms. Bravo trying to lure me into a backstabbing. And the conscious need to jog when I could, that was God yelling from the corner and warning me of the trick play.

Sure, there was no swim, and for that reason I feel like I still may have to attempt another race at that distance.

Still, after talking to several finishers who had multiple Ironmans under their belts, the word out was that, even without the swim, this was harder than most Ironmans.

I believe it.

Had this been Louisville, the bike course would have been slightly harder–but 4 miles shorter–but the run would have been a joke, as it is all flat. Where the Chattanooga run course took me 7 hours, I would have cleared the Louisville course in under 6. And the Louisville swim course, while tougher than Chattanooga, is still pretty easy.

As I process everything I went through to get to this point, I am pondering whether to sign up for another Ironman, just to get in all three disciplines.

My heart says, “Yes, this would be fun! I was ready, I can do this again!” And I must admit, flipping off Ms. Bravo was kind of fun.

On the other hand, my hips, back, and knees are screaming at me, telling me, “Why do you hate us so much???”

In addition, the risk of weather-related cancellations is always there: last year, I had a half-Iron triathlon cancelled due to storms. This year, Ironman North Carolina was cancelled due to hurricane damage in Wilmington.

Even though athletes were allowed to defer to another date, how would you like it if you trained for a big race, only to end up deferring to an “alternate” race in 6 months due to a storm-related cancellation?

And a full-Ironman can run about a thousand dollars.

Ultimately, this was an official finish, and it was my best ultra-endurance performance.

And I won my rematch with Ms. Bravo.

*DNF: Did Not Finish. It denotes someone who either (a) started the race and, due to a number of factors, did not finish, or (b) those who finished but missed an official cutoff time. Ironman events typically have stingy cutoff times. That’s part of the Ironman lore.

After-Action Report: Ride Across INdiana (RAIN)

Going into this year, I had two bucket-list items I wanted to tackle: Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) and an Iron-distance triathlon. I had hoped to do those last year, but life got in the way–good, but challenging events–and I had to pass on those. Instead, I settled for the Kentucky Century Challenge and a smaller triathlon.

I enjoyed those rides, which included the Bourbon and Bluegrass Ride–arguably the best century ride in Kentucky last year. But this year, I decided to tackle RAIN and Ironman Chattanooga (IMCHOO). My plan was to use RAIN as a training ride for IMCHOO.

RAIN is exactly what the name describes: a ride across the width of Indiana. They bill it as “one day, one way, 160 miles”. The course is mostly flat, but it does have some significant climbs–long but not really steep–to keep you honest. While I’m an experienced century (100+ mile) rider, I’d never taken my bike longer than 115 miles on one day. And at IMCHOO, the bike distance is going to be 116 miles. I looked at RAIN as a means to get myself mentally prepared for the long grind of the bike course of IMCHOO.

Going into RAIN, my plan was simple: aim for the same RPE (rate of perceived exertion) that I plan to aim for the bike portion of IMCHOO. I figured if I felt good at the Greenfield rest stop (almost mile 115), I will be in a good place as my final ten weeks to IMCHOO commences.

The week of the ride had me concerned about the weather outlook: all week, the indicators were for thunderstorms on race day. I wasn’t worried about rain–I’ve biked in conditions that included both rain and cold temperatures–but I’m no longer fast enough to dodge lightning. My hope was for the rain the be light to moderate.

I hoped to finish RAIN inside 12 hours: I was giving myself room for rain delays and even a bonk on the last portion of the ride.

In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised.

The temperature at the start of the race was probably in the low to mid-60s. Very comfortable. Skies were overcast with the forecast calling for sporadic rain.

The first rest stop was at mile 40, so I had the following: water in my Speedfil hydration bottle, Gatorade in my secondary bottle, and pancake syrup for my emergency carbohydrates for late in the race.

It was so comfortable that, for that 40-mile stretch, I never went to the Gatorade. Coming into the first rest stop, I was wet from the rain but otherwise comfortable. Timewise, I was killing it by my standards, averaging just north of 17 mph. I felt VERY good, almost like I was barely working.

The line at the rest stop was long, but–after a little delay–I snuggled with my baby girl, chatted with my wife, filled up on carbs and topped off my water bottle and got moving.

The second rest stop was about 25 miles. Again, it felt effortless. There was rain, but that had a cooling effect and actually made the ride more enjoyable. The wind was light but at our backs.

At mile 60, with 100 miles to go, I joked with one of the riders: “I think I’m warmed up for my century ride now!”

Going into rest stop #2, I actually felt rested. I chatted with the wife, snuggled with my baby girl, filled my water bottle, got my carbs, and got moving.

The 29 miles between rest stops 2 and 3 also felt effortless. It was the best I’d ever felt at that stage of any century-distance ride. I noticed some chafing, but I wasn’t tired. I hung out with the wife and baby, downed some lunch, topped off my water bottles, and got moving again. Next stop: Greenfield, IN.

The 29 miles into Greenfield were difficult, but only due to the Indianapolis traffic: we had several long red lights, a few stop signs at busy intersections, and one train delay at a railroad crossing. Those slowed me down by about 10-12 minutes. Otherwise, the stretch was good.

At Greenfield (Garmin had me at mile 113), I felt VERY good. For the most part, I felt like I had accomplished one of my goals for the day.

The rest of the ride was 47 miles of nice highway on US-40 going into Richmond, with a stop 19 miles in at Dunreith.

Just as I pulled into Dunreith, we got our hardest downpour of the day. But it was short-lived.

At Dunreith, I got some last-minute carbs just for insurance purposes. I also made sure to top off my water bottle and Gatorade bottle. Snuggled my baby, kissed my wife, promised her I’d take it easy on the slick roads. 28 more miles to the finish.

At that point, I wasn’t so much tired as much as I was just wanting to be done. My worst problem was chafing, not fatigue. I felt like, if the race were 200 miles, I had enough in the tank to get that done.

That last 28 miles were really nice. That stretch of US-40 coming out of Greenfield was, on its own, worth the ride. We had an entire lane to ourselves, it was well-maintained, it was flat. (Well, except for the two final climbs.)

With 14 miles to go, I went to my emergency carbohydrates–my pancake syrup–for the first time. And I only did that as a precaution, as I knew there were a couple climbs at the end.

At mile 151, we had a long climb: not a steep climb, but a long one. I felt like hammering through it as hard as I could, but I stuck to my plan of sticking to my planned Ironman RPE.

At about mile 157, we had another climb: not as long as the one at 151, but enough to let us know how good the flats were. When that was over, I knew the finish was near.

Sure enough, as my Garmin indicated I was on the last mile, I saw the cones directing us to the finish at Earlham College.

I finished right at 5:30PM. My total time was 10 hours and 30 minutes, including the port-a-potty lines at the rest stops, the long red lights, the one railroad delay, and a few long delays at intersections.

According to my Garmin, my total moving time was 9 hours and 30 minutes. 16.8 mph average. And to my surprise, I was able to hold a 16+ pace well into the final stretch. My drop-off at the end was due to the two long climbs and some red lights. I did not bonk.

That was my fastest pace of ANY century ride. Even at the end, I was nailing solid split times, better than any of my training rides. Normally, my legs are gone at the end; not this time.

On the positive side:

(1) My preparation for IMCHOO appears to be going well. I now have 5 century+ distances for the season, and even in the off-weeks I’m getting solid bike-run combos in. My performance at RAIN was better than any of my previous rides–training, scheduled events, even the sub-100s.

I hit it out of the park.

(2) I was able to maintain my RPE throughout the ride. I expected to bonk, but it never happened.

(3) The weather was perfect. All of my prior training rides had been in hot and humid conditions with persistent headwinds. This time, I got good weather, and my body rewarded me.

Overall, the folks who worked RAIN put on a great event. The rest-stops were well-stocked, the course was well-marked, the police did a wonderful job of patrolling the tough intersections.

If you can do at least 80 miles of hilly riding, you can do RAIN. If you’re an experienced century rider and want to expand your horizons to get some bragging rights, this is a ride for you.

If you want a long ride for a regular annual challenge, this is a ride for you.

This was my favorite long ride to date. I give it 5 stars.

Cheaters — I Don’t Get It

Last year, at a triathlon, I encountered a gal (JD ) who was struggling on the bike portion of an Olympic (Oly) distance. I chatted with JD, effectively talked her through the bike, and we finished the bike portion at about the same time.

During the run, it was the same: it was very hot and humid, and she was clearly dehydrated. I had plenty in the tank and could have steamrolled her, but–like the fictional would-be Naval Aviation Officer Candidate Zach Mayo–I “talked her over the wall”. At the end, JD decided to break into a sprint so she could finish ahead of me.

I thought it was tacky of her to do that, but I figured what the hey..if it makes her feel better, that’s her business. As for me, I’m man enough to enjoy a DFL*. MrsLarijani and I had a good laugh over it.

This year, JD did the Oly distance at the same tri. The conditions were better. This time, due to a schedule conflict, I opted for the Sprint distance and had a blast. It was my best triathlon execution to date.

This time, JD finished 3rd overall among the women. The kicker: her “official bike time” was better than any of the men. Her average pace was over 25 mph!

I know that course very well–it is very hilly, with a nasty half-mile climbout coming out of transition–and I know many of the athletes who did that race; some of whom are VERY elite athletes: we’re talking Boston Marathon finishers and potential qualifiers for the Ironman Word Championships in Kona.

I also know that JD is not a strong cyclist. And even if she trained very hard over the past year–and I KNOW she didn’t–there is no way in HELL she biked a 25 mph pace on that course. She couldn’t even pull that pace on a flat course such as Tri Louisville.

But that brings me to wonder: why on earth do people cheat in events like these? There was no prize money on the line. Other than some token recognition–there’s some bragging rights, but this was a small-ball event–what is there to gain? I can understand people cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, or Ironman Kona, or even fudging to get a finish that they did not earn at a large event.

But an obscure triathlon that is a fairly laid-back event where no money is on the line and people are generally training for other events?

Ultimately, JD will have to live with herself.

That day, I saw some bold people out there: several people doing their first triathlons. One gal–very obese–slogged her way through the swim, bike, and run. She was about 2 miles into her bike as I was finishing the bike. But, as I drove out after packing my gear–I saw her enjoying a casual jog into the turnaround on the run. I gave her a thumbs-up.

I don’t know her, but she has every reason to be proud of her finish.

There are analogs with the Christian life in this.

One of the things I often point out in endurance sports: you cannot afford to run someone else’s race. You are there to run YOUR race.

During this year’s race, there was a gal who passed me several times: we took turns passing each other. We did this throughout the bike and run. I wasn’t racing her; I was focused on my Garmin data and maintaining a pace I had planned. She was doing a run/walk ratio and was very methodical. She was clearly a better runner, and I suspected she was probably using me to pace her.

I didn’t care: I ran the race I trained for, and I got the finish I wanted. I would suspect she did, too.

The obese gal did the same: she was all smiles in that home stretch. She ran the race according to the rules. Sure, she was DFL, but an honest finish is a good finish. Her finisher medal counts as much as mine does.

JD, on the other hand, got some recognition out of this. But she did not play by the rules. At the end, her medal is meaningless, not even worthy for the trash.

Similarly, in the Christian life, we each have our own races. Some of us have more gifts than others, just as some athletes have better genetics than others. I have a bad back, bad lungs–from three bouts with pneumonia–and a torn rotator cuff. I accept that I am not going to be in the ranks of elite finishers any time soon. Some folks live this life with more gunning against them than others. Some inherit more baggage than others.

Your job isn’t to finish first; your job is to finish well. That you get to run that race is itself a grace from God; you didn’t earn it.

Your finish is also a product of God’s grace. Your calling is to be faithful and run that race according to the gifts you’ve been given.

Just as some athletes will cheat, you will also see “cheaters” in the Christian ranks. They are often hypocrites–they fashion an image that you see on Sunday and Wednesday, while they are completely different persons in private.

But make no mistake: as the Bible says, their sins will find them out. (I often frame it this way: your character will eventually catch up with you.)

The same is true with athletes who cheat. Just ask Lance Armstrong. Just as you can have your awards rescinded–in Lance’s case, years after collecting on the prestige and monies–you can be “disqualified” on judgment day.

I would suspect that, in the final judgment, there will be a mother lode of surprises: some of them pleasant, and others not so much.

*DFL: in the word of endurance sports, this stands for Dead Flippin’ Last. (Well, that’s the clean version.) It’s often a badge of honor in triathlon and other endurance sports, as a last-place finish is better than a DNF (Did Not Finish).

Bicycling Magazine Omits Facts

In their recent piece about the deaths of two Zombie Zone cyclists, Bicycling magazine left out important facts regarding one of the cases.

In May 2015, Hinkel was at mile 99 of the region’s premier event, the Horsey Hundred Century, when a pickup truck crossed the centerline and hit him head-on. Witnesses called 911 immediately. The driver, 29-year-old Odilon Paz-Salvador, who had a history of substance abuse and was allegedly drunk at the time, continued three miles down the road until police pulled him over at a mobile home park—as Hinkel lay bleeding on the truck’s bed cover. Emergency responders found Hinkel there and rushed him to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Here are the rest of the facts:

(a) Paz-Salvador is an illegal immigrant.

(b) Paz-Salvador had at least three prior aggravated DUIs, one of which had his blood alcohol level at 0.3.

(c) Paz-Salvador’s deportation orders had been sitting in bureaucratic Hell for more than a year.

(d) Paz-Salvador was not “allegedly” drunk: he was bombed off his arse. He confessed to smoking marijuana and had beer in his truck.

(e) After hitting Hinkel head-on, Paz-Salvador was fleeing the police.

That he was even in the United States, let alone allowed to walk the streets or–worse–drive on them, is a travesty.

Like Hinkel, I rode Horsey Hundred 2015. My group was finishing when he got hit; we were three miles ahead of him. (We started long before he did; elite riders like Hinkel often start later whereas groups like mine–who are intentionally slow–start earlier.)

Hinkel was very likely enjoying the last couple miles of what was a long but pleasant ride. He no doubt had enjoyed a root beer float and other goodies at the Bethel Church rest stop, which was the final rest stop before the finish. The hardest parts of the ride were over, and, at mile 99, it was relatively flat the rest of the way. He had one more turn to make, then he’d be riding into Georgetown college where he would finish, check in and get credit for the Kentucky Century Challenge, and then knock down some nice food.

That all went to crap when Paz-Salvador showed up, struck Hinkel head-on at a high rate of speed, and then tried to flee the police with Hinkel–badly wounded–in the bed of his truck.

After-Action Report: Redbud (Makeup) Ride 2017

I had originally set my sights on doing an Ironman triathlon this year. But The Battle of NICU blew a 2-month hole in my training schedule. So that will probably happen next year.

But I decided to sign up for the Kentucky Century Challenge. This will be my 4th year doing it. This year, the format is different.

(1) There are five “century” (100+ mile) rides, not 4.
(2) Doing 4 rides earns you the free jersey.
(3) Doing all 5 rides earns you a free pair of bike pants to boot.
(4) The rides for this year are:

  • The Redbud Ride (London, KY), Apr 22
  • The Horsey Hundred (Georgetown, KY), May 27
  • Bike Morehead (Morehead, KY), June 17
  • The Bourbon and Bluegrass Ride (Owensboro, KY),August 5
  • The Hub City Tour (Elizabethtown, KY), September 9

It seems that, in odd-numbered years, the Redbud Ride gets hit by nasty weather. 2013 and 2015 were nasty. (I did not do the ride in 2013, as I was not aware of the Century Challenge at the time.) 2014 and 2016 were excellent.

This year, we got the odd-numbered weather: suckola. Cold weather, rain, and thunderstorms forecast for most of the day.

As a result, the Century Challenge team gave everyone the chance to “make up” the ride, provided they had been registered for the Redbud. It had to be a verifiable completed ride–with witnesses–or with evidence from a GPS unit (such as data from a Garmin device).

Since I now have a Garmin 920XT, I figured this would be perfect.

What I decided to do, though, was use this opportunity to get a baseline for my performance at 100 miles on a flat course, complete with heart rate, calorie burn, and split times. And I wanted to do it with minimal caloric intake during the ride.

As a result, I picked Beckley Creek Park in Louisville, and decided to ride the entire 100 miles on the Egg Lawn. At 0.8 miles per loop, that would require 125 loops.

On its face, this would seem like a boring ride.

For calories, I had 200-calorie jugs of Gatorade of various flavors, as well as a 1300-calorie bag of potato chips. I picked the latter because it had three things I wanted: carbs, fat, and salt. My diet has been increasingly ketogenic, and I am ratcheting back carbs progressively. This was my opportunity to see what that would do for me on a century ride.

My plan was to break for hydration/nutrition/bladder relief every 20 miles.

I started out very strong, probably too strong. The weather was very pleasant: temp was 55F when I started, and winds were light. I stayed aero most of the way.

Average speed exceeded 17mph for most of the first 50 miles. I was killing it by my standards. I finished the half-Iron distance (56 miles) inside 3:30, which was a 45-minute improvement over my Toughman Indiana bike time last year (and that was on a flat course as well, albeit with epic headwinds).

After mile 50, I began to slow, as the winds picked up and my legs started getting tired.

At mile 60, my quads were starting to hurt.

On one hand, a flat course might seem easy, but the downside is this: on a flat course, you cannot stop pedaling, whereas on a hilly course you get relief on the downhills.

Also, my bike mechanic screwed up the settings on my bike when he test rode it. Ergo, my bike-fit is whacked, and that probably is what put too much stress on my quads.

At any rate, I was unusually sore.

On the bright side: I was not tired, even though I was going harder than I normally do on my century rides. I finished the first 50 miles in just north of 3 hours, and that included pit stops. The lower calorie approach was working.

On the front 50, I used very little Gatorade, using water for my primary hydration source. I used Gatorade at pit stops only. But on the back 50, I switched to Gatorade, as I figured I would need the extra carb support.

As it turned out, I was well-hydrated throughout the ride. Where I had planned to only stop at 20 mile intervals to pee, I had to stop at mile 70 and mile 90 to do that.

At mile 80, my legs were KILLING me.

At that point, I had 25 laps remaining. I knew I was going to finish, but–dang!–it was going to hurt. Still, I was on track to finish at a 15 mph pace (including pit stops).

At mile 90, I hit the wall. Fatigue was setting in, and my legs were really hurting. But I knew I had the finish. Just 12-and-a-half laps to go.

I slogged it in from there, getting my miles in. Total mileage: 100.4. Including pit stops, my total pace was 15 mph. Not including pit stops, I was at 15.7 mph.

Total calorie burn was just south of 2,100. If that is accurate, then i only expended about half of what I thought I would. (I was expecting a calorie output closer to 4,000.)

On the positive side:

  • I now have a baseline for my performance at 50 miles, 56 miles, and 100 miles.
  • This was my fastest completion of any century distance.
  • I have a tangible picture of my capabilities at races such as Toughman Indiana.
  • I only consumed half the bag of potato chips.
  • I only consumed 400 calories of Gatorade.

Total calorie intake during the ride: about 1,100. Not bad.

After the ride, I went to Wendy’s and had a small chili and a small chocolate Frosty.

The only negative: my leg soreness. I’m not sure if this was due to (a) my lack of training due to NICU Hell, (b) my bike fit, (c) the fact that my legs got no relief due to it being a flat course, or (d) some combination of the above.

I might have to take my bike in to get it re-fitted. This is money I did not want to spend, but it may be necessary.

Overall, however, a very good ride. 100 miles “in the zone”.

And, with my Garmin, I now have the data online.

Boston Marathon 2017: Another Serial Cheater Gets Busted

I’ve run 8 marathons, an ultramarathon (50K), 7 half-marathons, 6 10Ks, and God-only-knows how many 5Ks. That doesn’t include two triathlons (a 70.3 and an Olympic) and 13 century (100+ mile) bike rides. I’ve completed the Kentucky Century Challenge three years in a row. I also have a 2.4-mile open-water swim event in my resume. That doesn’t include the two DNFs: Ironman Louisville 2015 (missed a cutoff time on the run) and Tri Louisville 2016 (mechanical failure). I’m not particularly competitive–several of my finishes are DFLs–but I know what endurance is. I also have great respect for those who fight hard to qualify for prestigious races.

In all of the triathlons, we wore straps with timing chips. I never missed a split.

In all but two of the runs, there was some sort of chip, strap, or bib-based timing device that every runner wore. I only missed a split in two of those races–the 20104 Air Force 10K and Half Marathon. What happened? I wore both bibs at the same time, because the races were back-to-back. And because I had both bibs on, the mats did not record my split times. As a result, the Air Force folks had to go back to photographic data to verify that I indeed ran the course, and they were able to verify it.

I say that to point out that it is very, very hard to miss a timing mat in multiple races, let alone the same race.

Keep that in mind when you read this.

What really pisses me off: much like the Julie Miller Ironman case, these Boston cheaters are stealing the slots that others have earned.

Like the Ironman World Championship at Kona, the Boston Marathon is exclusive: you have to run a “qualifying time” to earn a slot. (Either that or you can run as a “charity runner”, but you have to raise a ton of money.)

Runners often train and race for YEARS before earning qualifying slots. And in some age groups, even if you run a qualifying time you still could be denied a slot. This is because some age groups are so competitive that you have to run well under the qualifying time to actually get a slot.

In other words, in these endurance events, cheating is the equivalent of “stolen valor”.

“If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going”: After-Action Report, Air Force Marathon 2016

Going into the Air Force Marathon, I had some concerns:

(1) My knees had been bothering me on and off all summer.

(2) I had not trained for this event. Aside from some longish workouts–a few bike/run bricks–I had not done any serious long runs. I had been to 20 miles once, but that was a very slow pace. Since Toughman Indiana, I had laid back on the training, mostly due to very nasty summer weather, and went into this race about 10 pounds heavier than I wanted.

(3) I had done a very tough century ride (the 101-mile Hub City Tour) the previous Saturday, and simply did not have a good taper. (Note: a taper is that period before a race, normally two weeks for a marathon, 3 weeks for any distance longer than a marathon, where you cut back the duration of your long workouts.) Due to the century ride, I had only one week to taper where I normally take two.

(4) Weather on race day was tough. It was about 20 degrees warmer than usual at the start time. Forecasts were for thunderstorms and heavy winds. There was a thunderstorm before the race, and that caused a half-hour delay for the race start. And the humidity was very high.

My goal: finish, get it done. Preferably with no injuries.


The start of the race was uneventful. The first mile was pretty flat, but mile 2 was very uphill. From there, you have some mild rollers between mile 2 and 6.

I felt very good, except that, at the 10K mark, I was already drenched from head to toe. I was sweating profusely, mostly due to the weather.

As a result, I made sure to drink at every rest stop. I made it a point to walk the uphills and keep a light jog on the flats and downhills.

Because I was sweating so badly, I took it extra easy. My split at the halfway point was disappointing–I was at about a 14-minute-per-mile pace, which was slower than I had planned–but I otherwise felt good, except I noticed some bowel issues materializing. I knew I would have to take a pit stop, and hoped I could hold off until mile 20.

I had to break for the potty at mile 17, and that cost me about 10 minutes.

Other than that, most of my run, up to mile 21, was pretty smooth, even if slower than I wanted.

At mile 18, I had an unexpected surprise: MrsLarijani, who had registered for the race but decided (wisely) not to run it–as she had not trained for it at all–showed up to jog with me. Given that she had paid her registration fee, she wasn’t a “bandit”, so she was legally on the course. She decided to jog with me until mile 25, then cut over and meet me at the finish line.

I enjoyed that.

At mile 20, I felt good. “Only 10K left. Anyone can do a 10K! We got this!”

Then the hills from 21-24 began. I started having severe cramps in my calves and hamstrings on the uphills. I had to stop several times to use my stick roller to rub down the cramps.

But I was still able to jog the downhills, even if I was practically crawling uphill. Miles 21-24 were awful.

Looking at MrsLarijani during the worst of the cramps, I quoted Churchill: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going…”

But once I crested the final nastiness at mile 24, I decided I was going to jog the final 2.2.

The last 2 miles featured terrible headwinds, although the course was pretty flat going into the finish. I had about 10 minutes of very bad cramps after the finish, but–after that–felt good, even if I had to walk slowly back to the car.

There were MANY stragglers behind me. While I am used to seeing marathon-related carnage, this was more brutal than normal. I saw people getting cramped at mile 9 whereas that normally doesn’t happen till at least mile 18. There were a lot of hurting people out there.

On my end, aside from the cramps, I was fine. I did not bonk, and my RPE was pretty low for most of the race. Even with my problems–I lost a combined 15 minutes to pit stops–I still beat my first marathon finish time by 25 minutes.

I’ll take it.

After-Action Report: Hub City Tour 2016

From a fitness perspective, I began the year strong: I swam, rode my bike trainer, and even threw in some runs, with a vengeance.

That paid off for me in April, May, and June. I began my endurance season with a decent ride at the Redbud Ride. That was my third Redbud, and my most uneventful. My only concern was my lack of power on the hills, but I was otherwise strong: I rode aero and even got good use of my big ring on the flats and downhills. I was clearly improving.

In May, I had a half-Iron triathlon (Toughman Indiana) and a tough century ride (Horsey Hundred) on consecutive weekends. I came back from an asthma incident in the swim at Toughman Indiana to beat the swim cutoff, and earned my first triathlon finish. The following Saturday, I struggled in the heat and bonked at mile 80, but still enjoyed my fourth Horsey Hundred finish.

In June, I had scheduled a century ride (Bike Morehead) and a sprint triathlon (Tri Louisville) on consecutive days. Bike Morehead was of concern because of the brutal hills: almost 7,000 feet of climbing according to the cue sheet. I finished Bike Morhead feeling very good (was barely tired and not sore), and felt excellent at Tri Louisville until a mechanical problem ended my race at mile 3 of the bike. That was frustrating, as I had one of my best swims, and was going strong on the bike.

In July, I got my second triathlon finish: an Olympic distance at the Louisville Landsharks Triathlon. Hills, Heat, Humidity, Horseflies, no problem.

But after June, my fitness dropped a bit, largely because I am not training for Ironman this year. This month, I had two events left: The Hub City Tour, followed by the Air Force Marathon.

My goal for Hub City: finish comfortably, and leave some room for recovery.

The only reason I signed up for Hub City: I wanted my third consecutive Kentucky Century Challenge jersey. If you do all 4 rides, you get the jersey for free. I wanted the freebie. It’s all about the bragging rights.

But going in, I had not trained for this one. I had focused mostly on strength work, and had done some smaller rides and runs. And Hub City is the hardest of the rides, featuring a nasty, hilly stretch from mile 43 to mile 77 which is downright awful.

Complicating matters: a brutal line of storms was on the way.

My group departed at just north of 0700. Our goal was to enjoy the ride, and beat the incoming storms.

The first 45 miles were relatively smooth. A few areas of rough pavement, and a few climbs, but nothing major. Pulling into the third rest stop, the hills had begun, but we all felt pretty good.

Then the fun began.

(1) I struggled on the hills. My lack of rides was showing, as I simply did not have good power on the hard climbs. Having said that, I still wasn’t hurting.

(2) The heat was nasty. The incoming storm front was bringing some colder air, but we had none of it. Several riders were laying down at the rest stops. They were clearly pooped.

(3) Headwinds were very rough. Hub city is known for headwinds on the back 50, but this was a circle of hell all its own. We also had some very bad crosswinds. Sustained winds were at least 20-25mph, with gusts worse than that. I nearly got blown off the road twice.

(4) For the first time at Hub City, I saw seasoned riders dismount from their bikes to walk their bikes up the toughest climbs. In spite of my struggles, I never had to do that.

(5) I nearly hit a deer. On one of the downhills, I decided to go easy, as I was concerned about road quality. That was a wise move. In the middle of my descent, a deer popped out of nowhere to cross the road. Had I gone all-out in the aero position, I would have nailed the deer.

(6) There were lots of bone-jarring, hemmorhoid-popping rough spots in the pavement. Due to these stretches, it was tough to capitalize on the downhills. It was also tough to use the aero bars in these sections.

(7) On the toughest climb, there was a gal who was running hill repeats. She PASSED us on the uphill. I remarked to one of the guys in the group: “You know you’re having a bad day on a bike when a RUNNER passes you on a hill!” (I blew past her as I got to the top, though.)

Once we got past mile 77, things improved somewhat, although we still had some tough climbs left. The good thing about Hub City: once you turn onto Ring Road, it’s a piece of cake. A small jaunt down Ring Road, then a ride through the E-Town Sports Park, then, after a few short turns, a left onto Mulberry Street, then a left onto Helm Street, and you’re done.

We beat the incoming storm by 15 minutes.

Overall, a fun ride. Mission accomplished.

This Saturday: Air Force Marathon.