Endurance Sports and the Christian Life

In a time not so long ago in a world not too far away, I embarked on a dimension of my fitness journey that I had not considered before. Up until 2000, my idea of exercise had always been playing sports such as tennis and basketball. (During my high school days, I played tennis, golf, and wrestling. Wrestling taught me mathematics with all that time I spent on my back counting the lights!)

But in 2000, I decided to take up endurance sports. At the time, I was enjoying running 5 miles a day–I had dropped a lot of weight and felt the best I had since high school–and, out of curiosity, stumbled into the ultra-distance community while researching some ideas about running.

In April that year, I completed my first half-marathon, a distance of 13.1 miles. I hadn’t trained for it, but enjoyed the heck out of it.

Then I signed up for the Air Force Marathon. It was 26.2 miles, and it was at a place I loved to frequent in my childhood: the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH.

After the half-marathon, I realized that a full marathon was a whole different ballgame.

Anyone can do a half-marathon, most venues give you 4 or even 5 hours to do it. Most people can WALK that distance without too much of a problem. Sure, if you haven’t trained for that you’ll be sore for a couple days, but–unless you have a disastrous health situation–you can do it.

But a full marathon is a different beast. 26.2 miles.

To successfully complete that without hurting yourself, you actually have to TRAIN for it. You need to develop a running “base”. You have to do long runs–progressively increasing your distance and time–once a week. In the marathon world, 20 miles is the magic number: if you get comfortable doing 20 miles in your long runs, you’re ready for the marathon: it’s a 20 mile run with a 10K at the end.

But the preparation, the training, that requires discipline.

That year, I would do two of those–the Air Force Marathon and the Indianapolis Marathon–and then top it off with a 50K (31 miles) race, the Quivering Quads 50K at Cuivre River State Park in Missouri.

Admittedly, the first of those–the Air Force Marathon–hurt. A lot. I was in pain for 3 days afterward. But the second wasn’t bad at all. And after the 50K, I was tired but not sore.

The training had paid off. I was in the best shape of my life.

After a hiatus–from 2002 to 20012–in which I struggled with back issues, I returned to the game. I did the Air Force Half-Marathon in 2009, 2010, and 2011, but decided to take the plunge and help MrsLarijani do the full marathon, as that was one of her goals. (She did it twice: 2012 and 2013. She’s also done the half marathon with me three times, and had a solo half-marathon finish last year.)

Now, I’m doing “centuries” (100+ mile bike rides), triathlons, long-distance swimming, and the occasional marathon. Since 2012, I’ve done a half-Iron triathlon, two marathons, and 14 century-distance rides. (I DNFd at Ironman Louisville last year, as I got pulled by officials at mile 17 of the run, due to my missing the cutoff time for the final turnaround.)

If my back and knees hold up, I’ve got my sights on an Iron-distance triathlon next year.

After that first race, I had someone in my church question the value of those kinds of events. “It’s just torture!”

I told her. “Life is an endurance event.”

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, admonishes them about running the race–living out the Christian life:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

In distance running, as with the Christian life, success requires discipline.

In the Christian life, you are going to face all kinds of temptation to cut corners: from gluttony to dishonesty to various forms of sexual immorality, it’s easy to cave to those. It requires discipline to fight against the lusts of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life.

But what does that have to do with endurance sports in particular? After all, other sports–tennis, basketball, weightlifiting, etc.–require discipline, too. What does endurance sports teach that other sports do not?

I can sum that up in one word: perseverance.

In the West, particularly in the U.S. of A, we have a Christian culture that is drowning in various forms of the Prosperity gospel, which is a profoundly heretical teaching.

In modern culture, these are the variations of Christian teaching that are pervasive:

  • God doesn’t want His people to suffer.
  • If you are a Christian, you won’t struggle with lusts. If you do, it’s because you aren’t spiritual enough.
  • If you are a Christian, you will never struggle with material things. If you do, it is because you are living in sin.
  • If you are a Christian, you will never struggle with health issues. If you do, it’s because of sin. Or you are demon-possessed.

In reality, it’s the other way around:

  • If you are a Christian, you are going to suffer in this world. Some Christians will suffer more than others, but this world is not a playground.
  • If you are a Christian, you are going to struggle with sins that, at their root level, involve lust and pride. That is true if you are a teenager with hormones blazing at Mach 9; it also holds true if you are 50 years old and happily-married. Temptations will come from angles you never thought possible, and it takes years to learn to fight and maintain vigilance.
  • If you are a Christian, you will likely have your share of setbacks. Those may not be your fault. You may lose a job though no wrongdoing; you may be falsely-accused of something evil; you may experience health issues–including terminal conditions (cancer, congestive heart failure)–that are common in this broken, cursed, dying world. Hardships CAN be a result of sin, but they are not necessarily a consequence of sin.

In Scripture, Jesus and the Apostles stress the value of endurance. In Mark 13:13 and Matthew 24:13, Jesus said it flatly: he who endures to the end will be saved.

(And no, I am not going to go on a tangential sidebar about the question “are you saved because of your works?” The answer to that question is no, but a more complete discourse on that is beyond the scope of this post.)

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4, says, “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure.”

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul assures them:

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ

In this case, he commends their endurance of persecution and reminds them of the endgame.

In the world of endurance sports, you are going to have setbacks. You might get cramps even if you’re well-trained. The conditions might make your race more challenging. If you’re swimming, the water might be colder than you are used to, or might be choppy. You might get kicked and have your wind knocked out. You might have a bike crash. Your back might be stiff.

Some days will be uneventful, but you are going to have days that are very challenging.

As you age, your body breaks down. That is normal, as we all are going to die one day. Once you hit 30, your cardiovascular fitness, ceteris paribus (all things being equal), begins to decline. Flexibility starts declining. Your back and knees aren’t going to be as good as they were in your teens. This is why you don’t see very many over-30 (or even over-40) athletes in the Olympics.

But here’s the thing: it’s common to see old fogeys–and I’m talking 50 and older–in endurance events. They remain active, even though their bodies aren’t what they once were.

On the extreme end of the spectrum is Madonna Buder, the “Iron Nun”. She is the oldest person to have completed an Ironman triathlon. At 86, she has done 45 Ironmans, and she recently won her age group in the USA Triathlon National Championships. I have dubbed her “Sister Badass”. I hope to live that long, and do what she does now when I am that age.

But what is the value in that?

I can answer quite simply: endurance teaches you the value of fighting through pain while keeping your eye on the finish line.

While every race has a finish line–you finish, you get your medal, and you might even have some goodies (even a beer)–endurance events, marathons and beyond, are a whole different ballgame.

Every endurance athlete I know has some routine they do after they finish. Some wear their medals to work. Some frame their finisher certificates. Some collect their race bibs. Every race presents different challenges, different memories.

(I wear my t-shirts for that season’s events to work.)

For me, every t-shirt tells a story.

When I look at my 2013 Horsey Hundred shirt, I remember that first century ride: no prior cycling experience, no cycling shoes, had no idea what I was getting into. But finished smiling. It was after that race that I decided that an Ironman event was, in spite of my back issues, within the realm of possibilities.

My 2014 Redbud Ride shirt reminds me of the nasty crash at mile 16. I got up and rode 84 miles–with a concussion, a jarred back, and a black eye–to finish.

My 2015 Redbud Ride shirt reminds me of the cold and rain for 33 miles. Rider after rider dropped out. But I stayed the course.

My 2015 Horsey Hundred shirt reminds me of the drunken jackass who killed a rider 3 miles behind me–at mile 99–as I was crossing the finish line.

My 2001 Air force Marathon shirt reminds me of 9/11: that race was cancelled due to security concerns, as it was on the heels of the September 11 attacks. (The race organizers sent us our shirts and patches as commemorative of 9/11, even though the race was not held. I usually wear that shirt on September 11. I have that patch on my flight jacket for the same reason.)

My 2000 Quivering Quads 50K shirt reminds me of the hills, the branches I tripped over quite often, and the nice chili I enjoyed at the rest stops. The fatigue of “the wall” was not enough to surmount the enjoyment.

My 2016 Toughman Indiana shirt reminds me of a number of things: coming back from an asthma attack in the water to beat the cutoff time, my first triathlon finish, my first ultra-endurance finish since 2000.

In life, we also have varying challenges, and–as we fight through them–we have a story to tell. And that is an integral part of your witness if you are a Christian.

You are going to have challenges in your marriage if you are married. Even if you are HAPPILY married. (No, seriously.) If you’re doing it right, you will learn more about your own sin–and God’s grace–than you ever thought possible.

If you are single, you’re always going to have sniveling naysayers questioning everything form your spiritual fitness to your sexual orientation, or–if you’re lucky–you’ll just get relegated to a “singles” class pretty much segregated from the rest of the church. You will have the challenge of living among God’s people without developing a chip on your shoulder. Some days, that will be easy. Until Debbie Maken shows up and wrecks the party…

You may have challenges–with which you were born–that make your life harder than the average bear experiences. You may be wheelchair-bound; you may be autistic; you may be more prone to depression or anxiety; you may be predisposed to bipolarity; you may have various traumas–from car accidents to combat experience to abuses that may include physical or sexual–for which you didn’t ask. Life is not fair in that regard.

(Endurance sports teaches you not to worry about others who are running better times. Some folks are more athletic; some have better genetics than others. They run their races; you must focus on racing your race.)

Living out the Christian life in the midst of all of that requires perseverance, allowing God to create in us hearts of flesh where our hearts would otherwise gravitate toward various forms of hardness.

Endurance sports teaches exactly that perseverance. It is what separates endurance sports from other sports. In triathlon, you will get challenges from many different angles on the same day, due to the multi-sport nature of the event.

Preparing for such events requires discipline and perseverance. Being willing to swim in cold water, or run or bike in hot and humid conditions, being smart enough to hydrate and maintain nutrition while working out. And on those hot, humid, sucky days, maintaining your training often requires thinking about the finish of the event for which you are training.

In the Christian life, it is the same dynamic: the hardships can be severe: from the depths of the hell of depression to the worst anti-Christian persecution (think ISIS). This requires calling attention to the endgame, the finish line.

This is what Jesus says to the church at Smyrna: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

To the church in Pergamum: “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

To the church in Thyatira: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star.”

To the church in Sardis: “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

To the church in Philadelphia: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.”

Endurance sports are an object lesson in this.

Triathlon Glossary (Half-Serious)

Triathlon = An event for people who wish to suck at three sports on the same day.

Sprint Triathlon = a triathlon featuring a 750-meter swim, a 20K (~12.5 mile) bike, and a 5K (3.1-mile) run.

Olympic Triathlon = a triathlon featuring a 1500-meter swim, a 40K (~25 mile) bike, and a 10K (6.2-mile) run.

Half-Iron Triathlon (also called “half-distance” triathlon) = a triathlon featuring a 2K (1.2-mile) swim, a 90K (~56 mile) bike, and a 21K (13.1-mile) run.

Ironman Triathlon (also called “full-distance” or “Iron-distance” triathlon) = a triathlon featuring a 4K (2.4-mile) swim, a 180K (~112-mile) bike, and a 42K (26.2-mile) run.

“Double-Anvil” Triathlon = Iron distance x 2 (4.8-mile swim/224-mile bike/52.4-mile run). People who do these races need such anvils dropped on their heads.

P1 = Peeing before the race. Often done in the wetsuit, although many athletes deny doing this. While we’re on this issue, there are only two types of triathletes: those who pee in their wetsuit, and those who lie and say they don’t. Just sayin’…

P2 = Poop stop before the race. If you don’t do this before the race, Murphy’s Law guarantees that you’ll have to do this during the race, and–when this happens–your distance to the nearest port-a-potty will be directly proportional to the square of the urgency of your need to go, and the probability of it being unoccupied when you reach it will be inversely-proportional to the square of your need.

T1 = Swim-bike transition area.

T2 = Bike-run transition area.

Brick Workout = a workout involving a multisport combination–usually a bike-run combination–in order to prepare your body for transitions during race day. Otherwise known as a masochistic workout done by people who are just nuts.

Mass Start = swim start where everyone starts together. This is also called a “washing machine”.

Rolling start = swim start where people stand in line to enter the water. Your time begins only when you start. This method is prominent in some Iron-distance events where athletes swim in a river and the start area is a set of boat docks. Examples of this include Ironman Louisville.

Wave start = swim start where people go out in groups (called “waves”). Your time begins when your wave starts.

DNS = Did Not Start. Athletes who were registered but otherwise skipped out due to injury, illness, sharks in the water, alligators in the water, jellyfish in the water, algae blooms in the water, human feces in the water, etc.

DNF = Did Not Finish. Athletes who started the race but, for whatever reason, did not complete the race. Reasons include quitting (rare), getting pulled for medical reasons, missing designated cutoff times, or dying during the race. On a serious note, the latter DOES happen a couple times per year, usually during the swim, and usually due to undiagnosed heart problems and/or swimming-induced pulmonary edema (SIPE).

DQ = Disqualification. Athletes who started the race but, due to rules violations, were disqualified.

Draft zone = that distance–usually 10 meters–behind a bike that, in USAT races, athletes must remain outside in order to avoid a drafting penalty, assuming the officials are enforcing draft zones, which they usually don’t.

Drafting = On the bike, that means following another athlete closely enough in order to take aerodynamic advantage of the slipstream, which minimizes the drag forces you encounter, therefore making your work on the bike easier.

This practice is actually very common in cycling events and is actually an integral part of the strategy. In ITU (International Triathlon Union) events, it is also a common practice.

But in USAT (USA Triathlon) events, which is what most triathlons in the US are, it’s a big no-no. If you get caught doing this, you get penalized.

This is often a sore spot among American triathletes, because while drafting is illegal, the rule rarely gets enforced, and many of the elites will draft with near-impunity.

It’s like federal laws against mishandling classified information: they only apply to little people.

Sucking Wheel = synonym for drafting, usually a perjorative term.

“That cheater is sucking wheel!”

Penalty tent = a prison where athletes guilty of various offenses hang out for a designated time and kvetch about the officials. I’ve never been in one myself, but I’ve heard stories from folks who’ve worked them in Ironman events.

Special Needs = In Iron-distance races, a designated point (usually during the halfway point of the bike, and the first loop of the run) where athletes keep items that they may need during the race. This could include an extra clothing item, a food item, a bottle of beer or vodka or bourbon.

(Well, not really, but–trust me–when you’re starting the back half of the marathon portion of an Ironman, bourbon sounds like a wonderful idea.)

HTHU = Harden The Heck Up. More common variations of this include HTFU, and–since we’re adults–we all know what the F stands for. This is a common admonition to embrace toughness, and is popular among the ultra-distance community, which includes ultra-marathoners, long-distance swimmers and cyclists, and triathletes who go out at distances from the half-Iron and beyond.

Athlete #1: “I am dehydrated, I’ve hit the wall, my legs are killing me. And I still have 20 miles left on the run.”

Athlete #2: “HTHU! You got this!”

RTFM = Read The Flippin’ Manual. (OK, that’s the clean version anyway.) The response when athletes on Facebook groups ask the same question over and over, and the answer is in the athlete manual.

Body Glide = one of the greatest inventions of the last 50 years. Helps prevent chafing. Failure to use it often results in bloody nipples.

Chamois Butter = another great anti-chafing aid. Often used to prevent saddle sores and chafing in the crotch and buttocks.

Modesty = Forget it.

Gatorade = sports drink that royally sucks but, due to universal availability, is very standard at endurance events.

Infinit = high-end sports drink that is popular among Ironman triathletes.

Tri bike
= a road bike that is specially-designed to accommodate the aerodynamic position and includes aero bars. Also called a “time trial” or TT bike.

Aero bars
= special handlebars that allow the rider to pedal while resting in an aerodynamic crouch. These are a hallmark of TT bikes, but also can be installed on standard road bikes.

Podium: If you place overall, or place in your age group, or place in any group that receives awards, you get to stand on the podium for a photo op. Example: “I made podium; I got second in my age group.”

DFL: Dead Flippin’ Last. Again, that’s the clean version. In triathlon, this is often a badge of honor, as finishing always beats the heck out of a DNF or a DNS. A crappy finish is better than no finish. And if you manage to finish in spite of severe setbacks, it can be a “Peacock Moment”.

Peacock moment = a major accomplishment. Whether it’s your first triathlon finish, your first open-water swim, your first century ride, your first “podium”, a first-place finish, or even a DFL. If it matters to you, then it’s a Peacock Moment.

After-Action Report: Louisville Landsharks Triathlon

After my DNF at Tri Louisville in June, which was due to a mechanical problem and not a physical matter, I signed up for the Louisville Landsharks Triathlon, held at Taylorsville Lake State Park on July 24.

Instead of doing the smart thing and signing up for the Sprint triathlon (1/2-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 5K run), I did the really stupid thing and signed up for the Olympic triathlon (1-mile swim, 25-mile bike, 10K run).

Why was this a stupid idea, given that I was otherwise in fine shape for it?

(a) the course was very tough. Water temperature was 87F, meaning this would be my first OWS without a wetsuit. And given that the swim was in loops, I was going to get kicked, bumped, and swam over by the faster swimmers. The bike course was quite hilly. And the run was also quite hilly.

(b) the weather forecast was very nasty: morning temps were in the mid-80s with very high humidity. Temps would climb into the 90s, with heat indices surging above 100F. And there were no shaded areas on the course.

The triathlon was hosted by a triathlon club in which I am a member: the Louisville Landsharks. They have many highly-elite athletes. I absolutely expected to finish near the bottom.

Many of the elites had opted out of doing the entire triathlon, opting instead to participate in relay teams. They were the smart ones.

Me? I was a freaking idiot. I wanted revenge for Tri Louisville. And–dang it–I was going to get it, heat be damned.

Part 1: The Swim

The swim start was a “mass” start. I intentionally started in the back, and was the last one out. The swim felt pretty good for the first loop, even though I got bumped quite a bit. I started having trouble on the back half because I kept bumping into a swimmer who I was slightly better than, but not so much better that I could overtake him. I would pass him, he would draft me, and then pull up and bump or kick me (unintentionally). I finally said the hell with it, stopped, treaded water, and let him go on for a while. I didn’t want this upsetting my rhythm.

My back locked up on the last quarter-mile, as this was my first open-water swim without a wetsuit. I usually rely on the wetsuit for low back support, and I didn’t have that this time. Still, I finished relatively comfortably, even though I was clearly slow as molasses.

T1 (swim-bike transition) was pretty smooth–downed some carbs, got my bike shoes, jersey, and helmet on, and I was on the bike path.

Part 2: The Bike

My Speedfil hydration bottle was not mounted properly on my aero bars, and this made drinking and riding difficult. But that was a minor inconvenience.

The course started with a very hard half-mile climb-out, followed by 24.5 miles, mostly rolling hills. The heat was noticeable, and I drank nearly all 3 of my water bottles. My pace was a bit slow, but I otherwise felt comfy. I passed a lady on the bike, who was clearly dehydrated.

Pulling into T2 (bike-run transition), I felt pretty good, although it was hotter than Bill Clinton in a Japanese whorehouse. I downed more carbs, got some water down, dried off my feet and got my socks and shoes on, strapped on my back brace, and headed out for a 10K. On the way out, I passed the gal I passed on the bike.

Part 3: The Run

Whether I would finish the run was never in doubt. But, after the first mile, I knew it was going to be slow. I saw elite runners walking the last leg on the return! While I clearly had the legs to jog comfortably, the heat was very brutal. I was sweating profusely, but my body was not cooling. I had a water bottle and drank from it liberally, and I was consuming water at twice the rate I normally do on runs. I had to defend against heat exhaustion.

So I decided to jog only on downhills. I felt good, but wanted to be cautious, as MrsLarijani does not permit me to die without permission.

The gal I passed on the bike caught up with me, but she was clearly struggling. She was very dehydrated. I figured I’d chat it up with her and see if she could jog some downhills when they came.

Thankfully, there were plenty of water stops, and I was able to keep my water supply strong. I was still getting dehydrated, but being able to drink was helping. I was able to jog comfortably, but didn’t want to upstage the gal. At this point, I really didn’t give a crap about trying to beat anyone. And besides, I was having a good time giving her tips about the Ironman Louisville course, which she signed up for this year. Her weak area is the bike, and that is actually one of my stronger showings.

With a half-mile to go, it was all downhill, so I broke into an easy jog. She broke into a sprint when she got into the parking lot. I was happy to finish jogging and smiling.

At the finish, I felt good, albeit a little dehydrated. I got my revenge. The heat added at least an hour to my time, but I felt good at the finish, and that was a lot better than a lot of folks could say. Once I got a liter of cold water down, I felt fine.

At this point, my triathlon season is over, as I have completed the triathlons I had on my schedule. I finished an Olympic and a half-Iron, while DNFing at a Sprint due to a blown tire and no spare. On top of that, I have three century rides done, with one more to go. The grand finale will be the Air Force Marathon in September.

If my stress test goes well, I’m aiming to sign up for an Iron-distance next year.

After-Action Report, Bike Morehead, Tri Louisville

I’m finally out from under other obligations, and can write about a new race that has been added to the Kentucky Century Challenge: Bike Morehead.

Being on the third Saturday in June, Bike Morehead–which takes the place of what was the Preservation Pedal–is particularly challenging. Not only is heat and humidity a high risk, the course is exceptionally hilly. According to this profile, it appears to have about the same climbing as the Horsey Hundred. The problem is, those RideWithGPS profiles are subject to the settings on the GPS unit.

The official cue sheets we were given indicated almost 7,000 feet of climbing, with a large portion of it being in the first 30 miles.

I made it a point to drive that part of the course the day before. I can describe it in one word: brutiful. Very scenic, and very hilly.

Given that I had a triathlon the following day, I decided to hang out with the slowpokes. But, unlike the Horsey Hundred, I was well-rested for this one.

We departed at about 0630. The first ten miles were relatively flat and enjoyable.

At about mile 10, the fun began. The climbs were tough. Not as bad as Tussey Hill at the Redbud Ride, but more like repeats of the Peaks Mill climb at the Horsey Hundred. It was tough, but not too bad. Pulling into the first rest stop, at mile 25, we all felt somewhat relieved. The worst part was over.

From there, it was mostly flat, with a smattering of tough climbs here and there, just to keep us honest. And it was VERY scenic, providing a ride around a lake. A few of us were tempted to stop and take a swim!

On the back 50, the temperature began to climb, but–thankfully–there were some additional rest stops provided at the last minute. Hydration was never a problem. Nutrition was also not a problem.

At around mile 92, there was one brutal climb left: it was like Peaks Mill, but about twice as long. It was grueling, but not that bad.

After that, it was easy-peasy going in to the finish, where the folks at Morehead were providing a catered lunch/dinner.

This was one of the best rides on the KCC. My only problem was the large amount of time we spent on US 60; given the problems cyclists have had with bad drivers, including the Kalamazoo driver who killed five cyclists, I would have rather stuck to less-traveled roads.

Other than that, two thumbs up. Now my moral dilemma: whether or not to do the Hub City Tour in September. I would have no reservations about doing it, except that I have the Air Force Marathon the following Saturday. I have already qualified for my 300-mile jersey, so the Hub City would be purely for bragging rights.

Right now, I am leaning toward doing it.


The day after Bike Morehead, I had a sprint triathlon: Tri Louisville. In spite of the amount of climbing over the course of the 102-miles of Bike Morehead, I felt great in the morning. I was ready for the triathlon: a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and a 5K run. The swim would be all downstream, and the bike and run would be on a flat course. Piece of cake…

One detail, though: I fried a valve stem before the race while filling my rear tube. This forced me to use my spare. This shouldn’t have been a big deal. Surely, my tires will be fine for 12 miles; it’s ONLY 12 MILES!

Going into the swim, the hard part was waiting, as it was a “wave” start, and I was in the final wave.

I was intentionally the last one to start the race. To my surprise, I passed several swimmers, and even bumped into a few. I felt great at the swim finish, going into T1. This was easily my best swim ever.

My time in T1 was quick: I dried off my feet, got my jersey and helmet on, slipped on my cycling shoes, and was off.

The bike course was excellent. I was not going overly hard, but focused on staying aero, staying comfortable, and using my high gear. I was having an excellent race.

Then, at about mile 3, at the intersection of 12th and Main, I heard a bad noise: PFFFFTT, followed by a thwap-thwap-thwap!

I had a flat.

I stopped, looked at the tire, and–S**T!!!!–I took a nail in the rear tire.

And I was out of spares!

I flagged down an officer and called MrsLarijani, and she got ahold of the race director, who said he’d send a SAG person out to me. Others had offered their tubes to me, but none of theirs would fit my wheel. Turned out, there was no SAG: the race director had sent someone to take me back to the transition area.

My race was over.

Lesson learned: I will have multiple spares on hand in the future.

And I plan on getting revenge at the Louisville Landsharks Triathlon in July.

After-Action Report: Horsey Hundred 2016

Going into the Horsey Hundred, I was aiming to do something I had never done before: complete two marathon-caliber (or higher) endurance events in consecutive weeks. On May 21, it was Toughman Indiana-Noblesville, a half-Iron (70.3) triathlon, followed by the 102-mile Horsey Hundred bike ride on May 28.

My goal for the HH: take my time, and finish it. The weather forecast was for hot and muggy conditions, with a slight chance of afternoon rain. Temperatures were projected to be in the mid-high 80s, with high humidity.

For this reason, I took three water bottles with me: (a) an aero-bar-mounted Speedfil hyrdration system that allows me to drink while riding in the aero position; (b) a large Camelbak bottle in my main bottle holder; and (c) a regular water bottle to serve as my emergency hydration. Because the rest stops were spaced well–the longest ride in between stops was 18 miles, with most being closer to 13 and one being 11–I expected that I should not have to go to the third bottle.

Still, I planned to drink lots, in order to prevent dehydration. I also planned to put down between 300-400 calories–mostly carbs–at each of the rest stops.

We departed at 0635.

The first stage, which lasted about 16 miles, was relatively easy. It was muggy, but not hot. There was some cloud cover, and that helped keep things somewhat pleasant. We arrived at the rest stop before it was even open, but I had packed plenty of gels. I stopped to pee, refill my Speedfil bottle, and get some calories down. Then we headed back out.

The second stage was also uneventful. All the riders were somewhat comfortable. I refilled both my Speedfil and my Camelbak bottle, got some more calories down, made sure I peed, and headed back out.

The third stage was tougher, largely due to the long climbs at and around Peaks Mill near Frankfort. Still, while the climbs were long, they were not steep. I pulled into Frankfort (mile 43) feeling very good. I methodically downed more calories, refilled my water bottles, peed, and headed back out.

The 4th stage was easier, as we received a small downpour that lasted all of two minutes. It actually felt good, and gave some respite from the heat and mugginess. Pulling into Millville (mile 53), I figured the worst was over. There would be a long climb coming out of Millville, but, to my recollections, it was not as tough as Peaks Mill. With freshly-filled water bottles, I began the back half of the ride.

At about mile 55, we started to get more rain. It was steady and light, and felt refreshing. When that rain moved out, the sun also appeared, bringing plenty of heat to go with the humidity. We knew that the rest of the ride was going to be hard.

From then on, the brutality began.

Pulling into mile 65, I had gone through two water bottles in less than 12 miles! I also felt myself starting to get fatigued, which was highly-unusual at that part of a century ride. I was thinking that the after-effects of Toughman Indiana were starting to take a toll on me. Still, I refilled the water bottles, put down some more calories, and headed back out.

The stretch from 65-77 was, in a word, nastiness. The Dry Ridge Rollers–with which I was well-acquainted, as this was my fourth Horsey Hundred–were downright awful. The heat and humidity were adding to the troubles. I pulled into mile 77, having gone through all three water bottles in barely 12 miles!

From there, I made sure I had plenty in the tank for the 16-mile ride to the final rest stop: Bethel Presbyterian Church, where they were serving root beer floats. I almost never get one, but this time I would be ready for a treat.

Shortly after pulling out of mmile 77, I bonked at about mile 80. My legs were totally shot: I had next to nothing on the uphills. My aero riding was marginal at best. I would finish, but it was going to be a hellish 22 miles.

I proceeded to go through almost all my water bottles on the way to Bethel Presbyterian Church.

Pulling into that last stop, I was never so happy to see a cooler or Gatorade. I quickly refilled my bottles, drank some Gatorade, and then treated myself to a root beer float.

The final 9 miles were relatively mild, even if the heat was brutal. There were some hills, but nothing like before. Other than some potholes that were well-marked, the final stretch was uneventful. There were cops everywhere, on the lookout for drunk drivers.

I was dead tired at the finish, but happy to be done.

Other than the bonk, I had a good ride. I had minimal chafing; my hydration strategy paid off big, and I was methodical with calories. I attribute the bonk to the triathlon I ran the week before.

Even with that last 22 miles of misery, it was instructive. As Winston Churchill once quipped: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

Next stop: Bike Morehead on June 18, followed by Tri Louisville (a sprint triathlon) on June 19.

After-Action Report: Toughman Indiana 2016

It is kind of funny that a triathlon can be called “half-distance”–which is 70.3 miles, or half the Ironman distance–and still be an ultra-endurance event (i.e., a race that carries an endurance load exceeding that of a marathon).

Toughman Indiana-Noblesville, a half-distance triathlon (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) just north of Indianapolis, was my second triathlon. (My first, Ironman Louisville 2015, ended in a DNF when I got pulled at mile 17 of the run, as I missed the final turnaround cutoff time.)

In my anger, I quickly signed up for Toughman Indiana.

I also bought a bike trainer and rode it all winter. Also swam, a lot. In my triathlon club, I was one of the mileage leaders during the winter. I’m not fast, but I AM very steady and I get it done.

I also ran the stairs often during my lunch breaks: my Ironman race was killed as my legs deteriorated, so I worked overtime to strengthen my quads.

Four weeks before Toughman Indiana, I had my first century ride of the year: Redbud Ride 2016. It was very smooth.

Two weeks before Toughman Indiana, I had a really nice brick workout: a 4-hour trainer ride and a 10-mile run.

I felt like I was ready for a half-distance race.

Going into Toughman Indiana, I had only one major concern: the water.

It wasn’t that I was intimidated by the 1.2-mile swim distance–I was plenty comfortable with that–or even with open-water swims in general. But this time, the water temperature was a major concern. Even with a wetsuit, 62 degree water can suck for someone like myself who is not very cold-water tolerant. Especially when you throw in longstanding asthma issues.

But I took advantage of he 15-minute practice swim beforehand. I slowly waded out into the water, wearing both the wetsuit and my neoprene sleeves. The shock was awful. My feet went numb, my hands went numb. I attempted to swim short distances, and lost all breathing control. It took me most of that 15 minutes to get acclimated.

Then they pulled everyone out of the water for the pre-race briefing.

After the pre-race briefing, it took quite some time to get everyone into the water to start the race. By the time it was my turn, I was already dry and had to re-acclimate.

As I started the swim, I went out of my way to be deliberate. I swam slow, allowing the wetsuit to do the work. But I had two problems: (a) the cold water was still causing my face and neck muscles to tighten, and (b) wake from the boat traffic was causing some unsteady chop, making it hard to establish a breathing rhythm. (During the Ironman swim, the waters were choppy, but it was rhythmic: you could time your stroke, go with the waves, and it was actually kind of fun. Not so much at Toughman.)

I started having asthma issues about 200 yards into the swim. I began hyperventilating, and I ended up spending considerable time on my back.

My first concern: “Dear, Lord, don’t let me get pulled out of the water.”

My second concern: “Dear Lord, let me recover, and let me make the cutoff time. Let us celebrate a good finish today.”

About 0.4 miles in, as I approached the island for turnaround, I recovered. I found my rhythm. As I rounded the island, I had it back. Now I was racing the clock. Toughman had only one really hard cutoff: everyone had to be out of the water by 9AM.

I put on my best application of HTHU (An acronym for Harden The Heck Up, although many triathletes often substitute F for H) and went all-out to the finish. I knew it was going to be close.

I beat the cutoff by about a minute.

As I went into T1 (swim-bike transition), MrsLarijani had already laid out my necessities, making my transition easier. I was methodical in T1, making sure I got down my necessary calories, got dried off, got my socks and cycling shoes on, and made sure my helmet was strapped on.

And then I hit the bike course for what I thought would be a nice, flat, fast ride.

Within the first couple miles, I noticed that the winds were quite significant. I hadn’t seen THAT in the forecast.

Still, I focused on what i could control: I stayed aero, kept it steady, and focused on getting adjusted to the ride. I knew the winds were slowing me down, but I wasn’t too concerned about it.

Then, I began the first of two 24-mile loops, and that’s when the headwinds from Hell began. They were unrelenting.

Normally, if I’m on a flat course, and I’m in my high gear and in the aero position, and I’m going at my comfortable pace, I’m between 16 and 17mph.

This time, I wasn’t even pulling 14mph. Newton and Bernoulli were kicking my arse.

The funny part: I still felt pretty good.

On the back part of the loop, I began to capitalize with the wind at my back. But I made one wrong turn and that killed my momentum and added about 2 miles to my ride. But I laughed that off and kept fighting.

The second loop was ugly, but I caught up with a ride named Dale, who was a retired Army vet. We began to chat it up. While this event was a race and not a ride, I figured it would be tacky to try to race this guy. Besides, when I told him about the 1:00 cutoff time, he said, “Oh no…you don’t understand: that’s not a cutoff for us; that’s the cutoff for the police. The only hard cutoff time was the swim.”

At that point, I figured what the hell…I’m going to enjoy the ride, The headwinds have already killed my time goals anyway.

Still, I surprised myself: my swim-bike split, even with the headwinds, would have been within Ironman cutoff times.

In T2 (bike-run transition), once again, my wife hit it out of the park. That was the smoothest transition I’ve had in a triathlon.

As I began the run, I felt very good. My legs weren’t sore at all, and I was jogging steadily. I felt like I could run faster, but I wanted to play conservatively because I had no idea what I had left.

For 11.5 of the 13.1 miles, I felt very good, albeit a little dehydrated. I was losing water faster than I could get it down. At this point, it was hotter than Bill Clinton in a cathouse. I had been battling some GI issues all day–they had started before the race, and were probably travel-related–but they started to come to a head at mile 11.5. I became concerned that I might have a problem. So I slowed to a walk. But as I felt I was ready to get back to running again, Dale–the Army guy–caught up with me. So we started chatting it up and I figured we would finish at the same time.

As we neared the finish line, both of our wives were waiting for us to give us our medals. For him, it was his second half-distance (70.3) finish.

For me, it was my second triathlon, and my first finish.

The course was seemingly easy, but conditions were brutal. That added the “Tough” to Toughman.

I’ve had a combined 13 century rides in the last 4 years, and I’ve never had headwinds that bad. And the run conditions were no picnic, as the temperature made dehydration a problem. I still felt otherwise very good at the end.

But coming back from an asthma attack to beat the cutoff on the swim, that made my day. Everything else was details.

Next stop: Horsey Hundred this Saturday.

NYT Story on Triathlon Cheater Julie Miller

In all sports, you’re going to have some people who violate the integrity of the sport. From spitballs to steroids to blood doping, cheating is nothing new.

In endurance sports, doping is not uncommon among elite athletes, although technology appears to be catching up. Athletes who pass drug tests today, may fail them years later, as more sophisticated tests become available. Just ask Lance Armstrong.

But doping is not the only way to cheat in endurance sports. Some athletes intentionally skip parts of the course. The most notorious example of this is the infamous Rosie Ruiz, who “won” the 1980 Boston Marathon, until officials determined that she had not run the entire course.

Enter cyclist and triathlete Julie Miller.

Ostensibly an elite triathlete, Miller was very popular in her stomping grounds. Her triathlon and cycling accomplishments seemed impeccable. In fact, last year she won her age group at Ironman Canada, qualifying for the World Championships at Kona. (Elite triathletes often train for YEARS to earn a slot at Kona; usually, at Ironman events, you have to finish in the top five in your age group to go to Kona. Qualifying for Kona is a very big accomplishment.)

Unfortunately, Miller’s tale of hard work and accomplishment was a complete farce. In fact, the evidence seems to indicate that almost none of her “victories” were legitimate. The New York Times has a very good piece on this.

Looking at her Ironman Canada data, she actually had a very impressive swim-bike split–just north of 7 hours and 15 minutes–and that was legit, based on her chip.

But after T2 (the bike-run transition), she claims to have lost her chip. (This is where I call BS. The timing chip is fastened in a pouch, which is part of a Velcro strap that you fasten around your ankle. If she had that strap on at the end of the bike, then the only way it would have come off during the run is if she had TAKEN it off. In some isolated cases, they have come off during the swim, but athletes are told to always check. If they lose their chip coming out of the swim, they can get a replacement at T1. EVERY athlete knows that. The Ironman officials EMPHATICALLY tell athletes–MANY TIMES OVER–to always check their Velcro strap. The chip will not come out on its own. They beat it into you during the athlete briefings in the days before the race: “No chip, no time!”)

Even then, the Ironman officials extended her every benefit of a doubt. She had a Garmin GPS unit; all she would have had to do was submit the Garmin data supporting her side of the story, and they would have cleared her. She didn’t give them that data because she didn’t have it. She didn’t have it because SHE DID NOT DO THE RACE!

What is galling about this is she insists on her side of events even though the hard evidence shows she cheated. She stole the glory from athletes who rightfully earned it, and came within a hair of gaining a Kona slot that someone else had earned.

Den Empfield of Slowtwitch.com is on the money: these days, it’s not just the timing chip. There are photographers throughout the course, and photographic evidence can actually reconstruct an athlete’s entire race profile.

(I know this because, two years ago, I ran the Air Force 10K and half-marathon back-to-back. I wore both race bibs in order to keep from having to stop to switch them in between races. What I didn’t know: because I had two bibs on, the system did not log my times, and therefore I didn’t get an official time. When I told the officials what happened, they were able to go back and review the photographic evidence, and they were able to provide my actual times although they were unable to give me my official “split” times.)

Miller not only cheated at Ironman Canada, it also seems that all of her prior victories are now suspect, as well they should be.

As one of my favorite philosophers–Harry Callahan–said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Miller, at Ironman Canada, had plenty of time to WALK and finish the race, and she would have received a finisher medal at a very tough Ironman venue.

But that wasn’t good enough for her. She had to get to the podium and get her Kona slot at any cost.

Now, it’s even money as to whether she’ll ever be allowed back in Ironman competitions.

Ironman Louisville 2015: After Action Report

Going into IMLOU2015, I felt cautiously optimistic.

On the positive side:

(1) In spite of having so many difficulties learning to swim, that came together in mid-August. Prior to that, I had a strong chance of failing to make it out of the water.

But two weeks before IMLOU, I nailed a 2.4-mile open-water swim. In the weeks prior to that, I nailed several open-water swims in the Ohio River.

I felt ready for the swim at IMLOU. The only wildcard: water temperature. All of my practice swims had been in warmer water (76F and higher). At start time, the water temp was 68F.

(2) I had five rides of at least 100 miles, the last of which was 4 weeks before IMLOU.

(3) I had four training runs of at least 20 miles, the last of which was three weeks before IMLOU.

(4) I was well-tapered (3 weeks).

On the negative side:

(1) I had suffered two bike crashes during critical brick workouts. Both of those came 6 and 5 weeks, respectively, before IMLOU.

(2) In spite of my century rides, I still hadn’t logged a lot of miles on the bike. This was due to spending so much time on the swim out of necessity. (After all, I can be a 20mph biker and a sub-4 marathoner, but that means nothing if I can’t make it out of the water.)

Basically, I was forced to gamble on the premise that my century riding experience–10 in the last 2 years–would be enough to give me the legs going into the run portion of an Ironman triathlon.

(3) I had stomach problems that morning, probably due to a meal I had the day before.


The swim:

When I cannonballed into the water, I had an initial shock: I could not breathe because the water felt so cold. Thankfully, I recovered quickly. Within ten yards I was in business.

My hard work on the swim paid off well. I focused on my race, staying very steady. I had no breathing problems. No panic issues. No fatigue. I felt very good going upstream in the Towhead Island channel. I had to stop to pee twice, but other than that, no issues whatsoever.

When I reached the turn buoy at 0.8 miles, I was elated. I was going to nail the swim. This was going to be a good day.

The rest of the swim was very nice going downstream. I finished comfortably and was all smiles coming into the swim finish.

In transition (T1), I fumbled a little bit trying to get my GPS tracker on, and had to make a pit stop due to my stomach issues, but I made it onto the bike by 10AM, which was my target.

Mission #1 accomplished.

The Bike

Because of my bike crashes, I decided to take it easy for the first 27 miles which included (a) some very nasty pavement on River Road and (b) a dangerous out-and-back on highway 1694. My mission: don’t crash!

River Road was horrible. Pavement was awful, but I avoided crashing. It is flat, but the horrible road quality made it difficult to ride.

The 1694 stretch was much better, given that it had recently been re-paved. But it was still dangerous, as it is narrow and you have bike traffic going both ways, often at high speeds. Tragically, there were several crashes, and I saw the aftermath of one: a woman was lying motionless in the road, her bike scattered on the other side of the road. (I learned she had broken her jaw and collarbone, and needed lots of stitches. Another cyclist had pulled right into her path.)

I took it very easy on 1694. I rode the brakes on the downhills, stayed aero on the flats, stayed away from other riders–we weren’t supposed to draft, but a lot of riders broker that rule, which is what caused many of the accidents–and tried to take it easy on the uphills. Sometimes, I went a little hard on the uphills, and I would pay for that later.

The next big stretch is a two-loop trip around La Grange. There are lots of hills in this section, particularly on 393 and Ballard School Road (also affectionately known as Bastard School Road). That loop was difficult, but I handled it well. My only problem: had to take a couple pit stops due to stomach issues.

The second La Grange loop seemed uneventful–I made the 3PM cutoff for the second loop with almost a half hour to spare–and I was feeling well except for the stomach problems.

When I made the final turn onto US-42 for the 30 mile trip to the bike finish, I felt great. Yes, there were hills, but it was mostly flat. The only problems: the headwinds–13 mph–and my stomach problems. But those seemed like low-grade nuisances. While my finishing time for the bike was a little higher than I wanted, my swim-bike split was close to my target.

The Run

Coming out of T2, I had 5:45 to do the marathon. This was well within my training limits.

Only one problem: my quads were hurting. This has not happened to me all year after a century ride. The swim would not have affected my legs much, because (a) I rely on my wetsuit to keep my lower body up, and (b) my swimming motion is core-driven, not leg or arm-driven.

The bike had trashed my quads!

This probably wasn’t helped by my nutrition deficit, due to my stomach problems.

Still, I started the marathon on a positive note. The course was flat; I was otherwise comfortable; my quad pain dissipated somewhat; I was getting food down; I had a fighting chance.

For the first 5 miles, I felt good.

Then things started slipping ever so slightly. I could feel my quads stiffening, and my splits started to slow. I responded by taking bananas and a small amount of chicken broth. Got some carbs down, but tried not to overeat. I also adjusted my stride to gain more comfort. This was working for the most part.

Then, at mile 12, the bottom fell out. I hit the wall very badly. My quads were all but dead.

While I made the 13.1 mile cutoff, I knew I was in trouble. There was an 11PM cutoff at the turnaround point (approximately mile 20), and, of course, the midnight cutoff at the finish line.

I needed a miracle to recover.

I went to my special needs bag. I had a banana and a peanut butter and honey bagel. I couldn’t keep the bagel down, so I went for the banana.

I kept walking, and taking in fluids and electrolytes and carbs. I figured I might just get the jump-start I needed to run.

That never arrived.

I had just finished mile 17 when the clock ran out on the 11PM cutoff.

I was pulled from the race.


On the positive side:

(a) I had the swim of my life;

(b) I had a strong bike performance that set me up for the run I wanted;

(c) I did not quit.

While my stomach issues were a nuisance, I don’t think that had anything to do with the result. These things happen in ultra-endurance events. Chef Gordon Ramsay, an Ironman veteran who has finished Kona before, was DNFd on Saturday at Kona after vomiting throughout the run course.

Ultimately, I think this comes down to my bike crashes that ended my key brick workouts. I needed at least one of those. I got neither.

At the end of the day, I got killed on the margins.

I plan on attempting another Iron-distance race, but not next year. I don’t want to put MrsLarijani through the training chaos two years in a row.

Next time, my quads will be ready. Now that I have the swim down, I can spend a LOT more time on the bike. Can someone say HILL REPEATS???

I’m looking at either (a) Beach to Battleship, (b) Ironman Chattanooga, or (c) Ironman Louisville in 2017.

I’ll be ready for the rematch.

Brutal Century Ride: Hub City Tour 2015 (One More Brick To Go)

In my quest to complete an Ironman triathlon–I signed up for Ironman Louisville (IMLOU), which is in 4 weeks from yesterday–I have taken up century (100+ mile) rides as training runs. In 2013, I completed the Horsey Hundred; it was my first organized bike ride. That convinced me that I might be able to pull off an Ironman, given sufficient training.

Last year, I completed the Kentucky Century Challenge–the Redbud Ride, Horsey Hundred, Preservation Pedal, and Hub City Tour–to earn my free cycling jersey.

This year, I decided to use the KCC rides to prepare for IMLOU 2015.

The Redbud Ride was brutal, with the first 33 miles in cold and rain, but I finished strong.

The Horsey Hundred was excellent. I finished comfortably.

The Preservation Pedal was a soaker, with non-stop rain. But I finished without a problem.

In July, I biked the IMLOU course. All 112 miles. It was tough, but not as bad as the KCC rides.

But going into the Hub City Tour, I had some setbacks.

(1) On August 30, I was biking the IMLOU course. I had done a nice swim, and was only a mile into the bike ride when I wiped out. I hit some uneven pavement and went down hard. Broke the helmet, tore my jersey, got some nice road rash, and sprained both wrists. I got 40 miles in, but had to abandon the ride when MrsLarijani–who was riding SAG–started having car trouble.

(2) On September 5, I was biking in downtown Louisville. I was 54 miles into a planned 100-mile ride when I nailed a pothole on 2nd and Jefferson Street. Went down very hard. Broke the helmet in 3 places, and wrenched my middle back. Ended up in ER. CT scans were normal: no head injury. X-rays were negative. Back spasms were nasty, however.

So, going into the Hub City Tour (September 12), I had 2 jobs:

(1) Finish the ride.

(2) Don’t crash!

Making matters worse, the HCT is the hardest of the KCC rides. After an easy 48 miles, the middle 34 has brutal hills and nasty headwinds.

What I didn’t know: the road quality was downright horrible: lots of potholes, gravel, cracks, and uneven pavement, often at the bottom of downhills. This was not the case last year.

The ride was very difficult from the get-go. To play it safe, I stayed with the slow ride group. The first 48 miles were easy except for the road quality. The hills weren’t bad, and the weather was pleasant except for the headwind.

The middle 34 miles were awful: bad road quality, merciless headwind, and steep hills. Because of the road quality, it was hard to go for the momentum on downhills, and that made the uphills more difficult. By mile 80, we had seasoned riders who were really hurting.

But I was feeling great except for my butt being sore from the saddle!

The last stage was relatively flat, but most of the group was in pain from the previous sections. Once we turned onto Ring Road–the main road circling Elizabethtown–I felt very good. I got into the aero position and blasted forward. When we turned into E-Town Sports Park, I was all aero. I even stayed aero after turning onto Mulberry Street, catching up to someone who had been ahead of my group the entire time. I left him in the dust as I turned onto Helm Street.

After finishing, I topped it off with a small transition jog.

Whereas I was very soreafter finishing the HCT last year, I wasn’t even stiff this year. I even ran 10 miles the next day. No pain at all.

I have now earned my 400-mile jersey. That was one of my goals for the year.

My other goal still is pending: Ironman Louisville. October 11.

One more brick (ultra-long workout) to go, and then taper begins…

Louisville Ironman Bike Course — Take 1

Because I needed a long workout, and because I wanted to gain some familiarity with the Louisville Ironman bike course–given that I plan on riding it for real in October–I decided I would ride it a couple times this summer.

Yesterday was Take 1.

MrsLarijani was riding SAG, and this would prove critical. But more later.

Here is the route.

As far as century rides go, the route is very straightforward, especially compared to the Kentucky Century Challenge rides (Redbud, Horsey Hundred, Preservation Pedal, and Hub City tour).

In terms of hill profile, it looks tough: not a lot of really nasty climbs–although there ARE some humdingers–but about 70 miles of what appear to be non-stop rollers. On a hot day, as well as a day where you have completed a 2.4 mile swim and have a full marathon (26.2 miles) waiting for you when you’re done, those rollers can make for quite the psychological challenge.

That was my take going in.Weather was about as good as you can expect on a July day: high 60s in the morning, heavy humidity, with highs expected to hit the mid to upper 80s. Very little chance of rain.

I figured if I could bike this in 8 hours or less, it would be a very good day.


I started from the downtown YMCA (on 2nd street), caught Witherspoon Street, then turned onto North Preston Street and then onto River Road.

The River Road stage is about ten miles, and it is relatively flat. The only serious problem: there are sections were the road quality SUCKS. We’re talking bumps, cracks, potholes, craters, sinkholes. OK…maybe not sinkholes, but it’s pretty jarring.

From there, I turned onto US-42. This is where the hills began: one decent climb, and then a fair amount of rollers where the downhills don’t give you enough speed to truly capitalize. I never had to come out of the saddle for the hills, so that was good. None of these hills were as bad as the really nasty climbs in the Redbud Ride or the Horsey Hundred, but they began to remind me of that 34-mile stretch on the Hub City Tour.

I played it conservatively because I didn’t know what to expect.

Turning onto 1697, for an out-and-back, that 9-mile stretch had a lot of hills, some of which were quite challenging. The downhill sections were pretty nice, though.

From there, I caught US-42 and took some rollers, and then began the first of two Lagrange loops starting with a turn onto 393. The 393 stretch wasn’t too bad: some longer climbs, but nothing too bad. I was going a bit conservatively here, too.

Then I turned onto US-146. That was a fair set of rollers, but nothing too bad.

The fun began with the turn onto Ballard School Road. These were some of the more challenging hills of the course: they didn’t seem THAT bad, but it seemed that they would never stop.

Once we got to the top, I noticed that I was having trouble getting speed. I looked down, and my rear tire was flat.

No problem: I had a pump in the car. I started pumping it, then removed the cable, and–PFFFFFFF!!!!–the tire went COMPLETELY flat. Valve-stem failure.

No problem: I had a spare tube. Some folks from a house in the area jumped in to help me get the tube on, and it seemed to fit, except for one thing: the valve stem didn’t come out far enough for us to get enough air into the tire. We got some pliers and pulled. PFFFFFFFF!!!!! We pinched the tube.

Both tubes were dead. I was hosed.

So we took the bike to Schellers, and they were able to replace the tube. From there, we came back to the point of failure and resumed the ride.

(Note: during the Ironman, this won’t be a problem: the SAG folks are renowned for their skill and speed.)

At this point, I was dejected. I had clearly been riding too slow, and at the pace I was riding, this was clearly nowhere close to Ironman-worthy numbers. So far, I had gone 45 miles in 4 hours. That was downright awful. I had been WAY too conservative.

I had 70 miles to go, and I had something to prove.

So I decided to ride a higher gear on the flats and downhills, and get a little more aggressive on the uphills.

I proceeded to put in my best cycling performance. I finished the first Lagrange loop–from Old Sligo Road to L’Esprit to 153 to US-42 and back to 393 comfortably. After stopping for Gatorade at the 393 intersection, I hit the second loop aggressively.

It felt good. I was sweating up a storm, it was hot, but the pace was nice. I hit Ballard School Road and took the hills without incident, and stopped at the top–where my tire blew–for a quick drink break, and finished up to US-42.

Now here’s my take: when you hit US-42–knowing it’s a straight shot into Louisville–there is a really nice feeling to that.

Yes, there were some rollers left: the hill profile doesn’t tell the story. But the hills weren’t all that bad. I was able to stay in the aero position for most of the way. The 31 miles in seemed pretty nice.

Until I got onto River Road and started hitting the jarring craters!

Oh, and for a note of comic relief: I had my first altercation with a driver. Some douche nozzle drove by and yelled, “Get off the road, faggot!!!” (I guess he was revealing his own latent homosexuality…but I digress….) I was too lost in concentration to flip him off.

Otherwise, the ride back to downtown was nice.

I had biked the remaining 70 miles in about the same time that I had biked the previous 45. I averaged a pace of just under 16 mph for that 70-mile stretch.

Still not where I want to be, but  definitely an Ironman-worthy performance.

This morning, I am quite pleasantly surprised at how sore I am not. Legs feel fine; back is fine; neck is fine; upper body is a bit sore, but not nearly as bad as after Redbud. Butt is sore.


  • I was able to stay aero almost the entire time, coming out only to attack hills and give myself butt relief.
  • I put in a pace that is Ironman worthy on the back 70.
  • My legs felt pretty good at the end.

What I need to work on:

  • I need to hydrate better.
  • I need to use my high gears more often.
  • I need to get a little stronger on the uphills. That would make a ton of difference.

I’ve got 3 months to get there. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Here is my take on the course:

  • While I would hardly call it an “easy” course, it is certainly not as difficult as any of the Kentucky Century Challenge rides.
  • The rollers can be tough psychologically, but they are not nearly as tough as the Dry Ridge rollers of the Horsey Hundred.
  • While there are some challenging climbs, none of them brought me out of the saddle. I had to get out of the aero position, but the only time I ever got out of the saddle was for some periodic butt relief.
  • The final 30 miles are nice.
  • While this is hardly a walk in the park–112 miles is always going to have its challenges–it is not a course that should intimidate anyone who has any significant riding experience. Don’t get arrogant–respect it–but don’t fear it either.