Be the Milk

I was reading, and by reading I mean listening to audible while driving, to the Stephen King collection called “Bazaar of Bad Dreams”. A collection of short stories, which I really enjoy from him, where he narrates the introduction to each one. I have always liked it when King takes a moment and describes what he was thinking, where the thought came from, etc. He always makes me think about why I don’t write things down more as they come to me. How many good ideas have been lost to the cosmos because I didn’t take a moment and scribble it down somewhere?

Anyway, before one particular story he began talking about how his mother had a saying for everything, and how one specific one always stood out;

Milk always takes on the flavor of what it’s next to in the icebox

This is something I have heard from my own parents and grandparents, so it automatically strikes a chord in me, but the inner meaning began to worm its way into my psyche as I drove home that night.

We, as athletes and coaches, are a lot like milk. We take on the flavor of what we are reading, who we are listening to, what people we are around while we train. It’s inevitable as humans to not have this happen.

The trick, as they say, is not to become the onion if you are the milk.

Now, what do I mean by that?

Humans are adaptable. We take on the cloak of what is around us in order to survive. Over millions of years, we evolved to meet the climates where our ancestors found themselves. What we, as athletes and coaches, need to do is adapt to the things we learn and the people we train with or coach.

The danger is taking on too much of the things around us so that we lose what is our own essence, and our own belief system. Most of us want to be liked, so we tend to become what we need to become in order to be accepted and liked by the people we are around. Joseph Campbell’s theory of Masks speaks to this in great detail. We assume the mask of what is accepted, but underneath we are the same person we have always been, and eventually, if we don’t tend to the real person, the mask cracks. This is how women end up married to abusive men when nothing, while they were dating, showed that he was abusive. Eventually the mask he was wearing cracks and the monster emerges.

The trick is, then, to assume what is around you, take it all in, but never lose or hide who you are as a coach or an athlete. No matter how many onions are sitting next to you in the icebox, never try to be an onion, because no matter how you taste, you are still at your core, milk.

As I am working through my coaching certification I was hit with things being taught that I knew I would eventually come across; nutrition and the belief still being held by most dietitians that an athlete’s daily food intake should be 60-75% carbs.

Big sigh as I read this, and I started to react, but then it became clear to me that it really didn’t matter what they were teaching. The lessons (and most of the coaches) are geared toward elite level athletes. Not overweight or obese clients. For them, this level of carb intake might be correct because they burn constantly. What I do know is that this type of eating will not work for overweight athletes trying to lose weight. I know this not only because of my own experience, but because of studies I have read, books on the subject, and people I have trained with over the years.

And it doesn’t matter …. it just doesn’t …

I will take in what they are teaching, answer the questions as they taught them in the final test, then throw it out once I attain my certification. As part of the venture, you are asked to develop your own coaching philosophy; are you an LLD type of guy, or maybe an LLDLD person? Do you believe carb loading works? Are you a paleo/wild diet/Asprey/Tortorich/Abel follower, or do you agree with Rich Roll? Some love Gatorade, while some prefer plain water.

All of these decisions make up who you are as a coach. I am still developing that, but I know that I want clients who are new to the sport, are overweight and feel they cannot lose it, who think that a triathlon, or a half marathon, is out of their reach. Clients that feel they are too old to start something new or have too many medical issues. These are my people.

I have met many people since becoming more of a presence online. I became a podcast host because I met Andrew Weaver through another show and then ventured off to do a spin-off of that show on my own. I have had arguments with people on those forums that I eventually ended up agreeing with, and I think I have had the same effect on some others. I have had to accept that no matter how much science you throw at people there are some that will always believe in carb loading, ice baths, and Greenfield followers who think bio-hacking is normal.

I have to accept that and just stay the course, but at the same time keep an open enough mind that might come to agree with some of them in the future.

That … I am still working on. 🙂

Jelly Roll

There are many good things about training. The first of them is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a long ride, or finally being able to breathe in the water, or running under a 12:00 pace for a 5k. All accomplishments I have seen over the last 7 seasons, but along with these good things, there are usually corresponding not so good things.

I don’t say bad things because in the grand scheme they are not “bad”.

The first thing that pops to mind is the weight loss. Yes, I know … those that have read my stuff for a while have heard me bitch and moan about my inability to lose weight, or at least lose weight consistently (because going from 313 to 276 is a loss). The weight comes off, grudgingly, slowly, pound by pound, only to inch back up on occasion as if my body is telling me “don’t get too full of yourself, buddy, I control you still”.

But what I have noticed is a whole new issue.

When I was at my heaviest I took some pride (believe it or not … amazing how a person can find pride in negative things) in that my belly was not “flabby”. I carried all of my weight in my gut (not uncommon for a guy) but I still had decent muscle mass in chest and legs, so my midsection, though huge, was HARD. Tight as a drum. And here’s the thing … now that some of the weight has come off, the stomach has become flabby. And it is refusing to tighten up.

This is my body again saying:

“See? we will allow you to lose weight but we will keep this jelly roll on you so that you remember we were here!”

The body can be a real bastard.

So, anyway, on another point …

Throughout the years I have ridden three different road bikes (a borrowed LeMonde, a Scott Speedster, and now my Litespeed C1), a mountain bike (a refurbished Giant frame), and a Scott Plasma 20 TT bike (now sold to a new home). There are differences, and in the course of these years I have come up with a list for riding … lessons learned if you will. They are:

    • It is much easier to stand on a TT bike than a road bike. I am not sure why this is … maybe just the way your body sits on it.
    • If you plan on racing and riding in hills, invest in a compact crankset and an 11-28 cassette. Once I changed my Litespeed over it made a world of difference.
    • All bikes must be named and all names should show at least a little bit of creativity (i.e. naming a Bianchi “Bianchi” or a black bike “Blackie” is … boring). My bikes are/were: Scott Speedster was “Mario”. Litespeed C1 is “Buzz” (like Buzz Litespeed. OK, I thought it was funny). Scott Plasma 20 was “Gunner” and the Giant mountain bike is “Buster” because he busts my balls going over rough terrain and jumps.
    • It’s fun riding in aero going downhill (even if it’s a bit scary), though the control, or feeling of control, you have on a road bike makes it a bit less scary.
    • Love Bugs taste better than grasshoppers. This might just be a palate issue.
    • In that vein, learn to ride with mouth closed and breathe, Nuke Style, through my eyelids.
    • There is something deeply gratifying getting off the bike and having sweat drip off you like a river. This may be a Florida thing, but sweating like that is … manly.
    • Braking takes longer on a Tri Bike … adjust accordingly. Just trust me on that one.

So … things are coming along. So many people helping me, from Team in Training Alumni’s to Meghan Collins-Fanning, to Facebook followers, and to listeners of the podcast. They have been awesome, and when the motivations wane, as it tends to do, they are the ones that pull you out and push you to the next level. This has been an awesome adventure so far.

I just wish I had started sooner.

Injuries and Adrenal Fatigue – Can You Train Through Either?


Author’s Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Information in this post is from my own research from as reputable sites as I could find. If you have better information, please feel free to share, as long as you cite your sources.


Athletes can be a stubborn bunch. Even those of us that should know better, that coach or advise others, tend to not follow the best practices when it comes to injuries.

You know who I am talking about.

When we are training for a specific goal, a target race, the only “A Race” on our schedule, nothing will deter us from those long training days, the early morning sprints around the neighborhood, the sneaking out of work early to get a swim in before a scheduled bike ride. Miles or Time in training equals success on race day, so the inverse must also be true, basically, that time or miles lost during the training period costs us on trace day. We will run through small aches and pains to the point that we are hobbled, then after an evening of ice, compression, and elevation, get right back out there the next day and do it again.

The trick is when is it time to say “enough”?

We are a short-sighted bunch. We either refuse to see the big picture or are so narrowly focused on the end event that we just don’t see it. We only see “today” and do not take into account what happens tomorrow if we continue to train through an injury. A slight tweak in an Achilles is run through until it changes from a “hurt” to an “injury”. When I played football the coach would always ask us as we lay writhing on the ground if we were hurt or injured. Back in the late 70’s when I played this was a HUGE distinction. If you are hurt, you can play, and if you can’t play, then you are replaced, and possibly never getting back on the field. This happened to me my last year of playing against New Smyrna Beach (damn them ‘Cudas). I was chasing a running back (#44 – will never forget that number) down the sideline and leaped at him just as he was about to score, grabbing him by the back of the shoulder pads (something that is illegal in today’s game). I snapped him backward (though not in time since he did cross the goal line) and I went flying into the spectator area, which was very close to the sidelines. I rolled a number of times before coming to a sudden stop against the concrete. When I got up I felt that my knee was off, but I limped back into the huddle for the extra point attempt. Back in these days, there was very little kicking, so they went for 2, using the same running back and I met him coming through the middle of the line, just as he planted his helmet directly to the same kneecap.

I couldn’t get up. My knee would not bend. A couple of teammates helped me to the sideline and sat me on the bench. My Defensive Backs coach came over and asked if I was OK. I told him “I can’t bend my leg”. He shook his head at me, swore, and yelled “Ingram … get in there for Harris” and walked away. I sat there for a few minutes, scared to pull my pants up to see what was there before the trainer came over. I leaned against the trainer we had as he pulled up my pants. My kneecap was about an inch off center. He looked at me and said “grit your teeth” which I did as he grabbed the knee and pushed it back in place, telling me it was “just dislocated” and would be OK. “Just ice it”. Since we lost that game (we played on Thursday nights) we had a practice the next day. I hobbled into my head coach’s office and told him I didn’t think I could go. All the coaches looked at each other, and then he said “fine … sit on the bench” without ever looking at me. I walked away, hearing them laughing when I closed the door, and never saw the starting lineup again.

So, when I feel a tweak, it is my first instinct to try to push through it. One day, to me, could mean not making the lineup, in this case, not starting the race. When I hear of others that have a nagging issue I am the first one to tell them to sit out, to rest, that losing one training day is better than losing the whole year, but I am the worst culprit. I am not alone. I know coaches who say the same thing to me yet are out running or biking on injuries themselves. As I said .. we are our own worst enemies.

Sometimes the injuries are evident, like a sprained ankle, a plantar fasciitis issue, a swollen knee, but often they are not, especially when we are dealing with true adrenal fatigue (AF). Once your cortisol levels drop to zero, there is no recovering from that other than taking time off. You cannot “train through it”. The issue is recognizing AF is not always easy, because it can feel amazingly like just being tired, or over-trained. So you take a day off, maybe two, and then hit it as hard as you can once more. And it is just as bad, or worse, than before.


What is Adrenal Fatigue?


From the Adrenal Fatigue website, AF is defined as a collection of signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level, most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Pretty scary stuff right? I wonder how many of you reading this right now are walking around with it and never knew it? Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%.

And this was in 1969 … you know … BEFORE the internet, 24/7/365 work days, terrorism, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Donald Trump, etc. Imagine what the numbers would be today??

The problem is this; although adrenal exhaustion is a real medical condition that can be measured through blood tests, adrenal “fatigue” is not. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms, and there is no test that can identify adrenal fatigue (http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/myth-vs-fact/adrenal-fatigue).

Eric Metcalf, MPH writes (and reviewed by Dr. Brunilda Nazario) on WebMD that:

Adrenal fatigue is a term that’s used by some to say that fatigue and other symptoms are caused by a poorly working adrenal gland in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress. But it’s not a proven medical condition. Your adrenal glands make hormones. One of these is cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, if your life is too stressful, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough hormones, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. But there’s no evidence to support this theory. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real)

Robert Vigersky, MD, a past president of the Endocrine Society, says the symptoms are very common in people in general. Though people often blame their hormonal glands, such as the adrenals or thyroid, for their tiredness, Vigersky says in many cases fatigue is due to common problems such as:

  • Poor sleep habits
  • Poor diet
  • Stress at work or home
  • Depression

All of these can affect your energy level without involving your adrenal glands. Fatigue is also a symptom of many diseases such as anemia, arthritis, diabetes, and heart failure, says Janet McGill, MD a hormone specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

I know this … I fit into every symptom of adrenal fatigue but mine is due to 2 of the 4 (maybe 3 of the four) common problems, in addition to having psoriatic arthritis and no thyroid due to cancer. Adrenal Fatigue is a new buzzword (much like Celiac, where people want to be Gluten Free, but most are not actual Celiac diagnosed … ) so when someone throws that at you … take it for what it’s worth and get checked out before buying supplements. Do your homework, and do what is best for you using an intelligent mind. Lots of information is at your fingertips these days. There’s no excuse for being misinformed. And remember, just because the medical establishment doesn’t recognize something as a disease doesn’t mean it is not real (for example Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease were not recognized for a long time, and the effects of Low T is not agreed upon as well).

And if you’re tired … how about resting?

Just a thought …

World War Me

We all fight ourselves to some extent. No matter the odds, the abilities of the people around you, or the struggles caused by outside influences, the biggest enemy you face on a daily basis is that voice inside your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, not strong enough, not young enough, not tough enough. That inner voice is compelling and very influential. Even those that walk around you, strutting as if they have the world figured out, struggle inside. Don’t let them fool you. The ones that push themselves to be first in every race are fighting the demons inside them telling them, as Ricky Bobby would say, that second place is the first loser.

My biggest obstacle in training, losing weight, racing, is myself. I have a hard time letting go of the past, of letting the failures of my youth not affect the present. It is a hard thing to do for me. I relate everything to the past, to the point that it affects where I am now.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. ~ Buddha

“Maybe I should push a bit harder on this run?”

     “Remember last time you pushed hard and got injured?”

“Maybe I should apply for this position?”

     “Yeah but it’s all politics. You probably won’t get it anyway so why bother?”

“I really like this person!”

     “Yeah but every time you fall for someone they crush you in the end. Protect yourself.”

What results is a shell that you start putting around yourself for protection. Even if you don’t think it is there, it is. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection over that past few years and have discovered this shell. Especially emotionally. Something that happened in my past hardened me to the point that I am just recently discovering how deeply the damage actually is. I know I come across open in these pages and in the podcast, but in many ways, I am closed off, especially to certain subjects. I have taken playing Devil’s Advocate to the point that even those closest to me have no idea what my true thoughts are about politics, religion, relationships, etc. I always take the contrary side, even if I agree with the person I am talking to. I really don’t know why.

For some reason, anyone taking a stance that they know everything and there is no other answer irks me, and I have a hard time walking away from it. This is true in normal life as it is true in training. Take the nutrition example for instance. Tons of data is out there showing that carb loading pre-race does nothing for you and actually can hinder your performance. They are actually putting this information in magazines and books. So why are there still so many coaches telling people to do this? Is it arrogance on their part (“to Hell with science. I know what works!”)? Is it just an unwillingness to accept that something they have done for years is actually wrong? Does it come down to just not being able to admit you’re wrong? Maybe all of it?

“It is an awful thing to be betrayed by your body. And it’s lonely because you feel you can’t talk about it. You feel it’s something between you and the body. You feel it’s a battle you will never win . . . and yet you fight it day after day, and it wears you down. Even if you try to ignore it, the energy it takes to ignore it will exhaust you.” ~ David Levithan

I am not as black and white as people accuse me of being. I just don’t discuss certain things. And to be truthful, there are things that are asked of me that some want a black and white answer to, that to me, is not black and white. For example, when I am asked if I believe in God. That’s a complex question to me. It is not a simple Yes or No, at least not in my mind. The simple answer, the black and white version that people want when they ask me that is “yes, I believe in God”. The more complex, and one I won’t get into fully here is “do you believe in a God that sits in heaven watching us and judging us and when we die takes us all into his kingdom for eternity?”. The black and white answer to that is “no”. But like I said, it is more complex than that to me.

So, even at the ripe old age of 55, I keep fighting this war inside me, this World War Me. The difference in this war than all the others is the only casualty is me.

I am the only enemy.

Dead Zones

One of the hardest parts of being an adult-onset athlete is learning when to back off. We have become so ingrained to sit on our asses for years upon years, that when we do find the energy, the willpower, the need, to get up and start moving, the very thought of sitting back on that couch is anxiety producing. It scares us. This is a hard thing to explain to those who have never been on the “other side”, who has always been active. Taking a day off to them seems easy, and welcomed. When I have a recovery day on the schedule, especially on a weekend day like Saturday, I spend the whole day fidgety. The mere act of sitting still, relaxing, taking it easy is enough to throw me into a panic attack. I get images of scales going past the 300-pound mark again. Images of not being able to get up that hill the next day. Just typing this is making me antsy.

I will find reasons to prove my point as well, even if some are concocted.

“Took a day off did you? Well, you gained .6 pounds because of that, fella! Get your fat ass back on the road!!”

Our inner voices can be very insensitive at these times.

And we listen to these voices.

“We have lost dozens of pounds yet see in ourselves the same, self-loathing behemoth we were 5 years ago.”

It never goes away.

We can look at pictures of us before and now, and see … SEE … the difference and yet it makes no difference to us in our heads. A day off is giving in to the monster, the 300 pound beast inside me that wants, so badly, to win … at all costs.

So … when I struggled through 2016, into 2017, and now facing 2019 with injury after injury, along with new and exciting medical issues erupting, and with it some MORE meds to take, I feel like I am at my wit’s end. I was not sure in recently if I actually cared enough anymore to keep going. I was having a crisis of faith, in a way, and was about to give in to Rick (my inner voice has a name) and let the fat guy back out. I went from a low of 238 pounds in January 2014 back to 278 pounds. Rick is back. And He is angry.

I need help.

The first thing I needed was to get a grip on was my health and injuries. Normal, and I say normal in the most positive way, coaches spend time on your workouts and training plans. I needed more. I needed someone to look at what I could do, what I have done, and what I can do, and try to help me (I say “try” because I am very hard-headed at times) work through it in a logical manner. This is how I found Meghan Fanning at Zendurance Now. I had “met” Meghan through a few online groups I was part of, so when I was rambling on about what my issues were, and she started chiming in, I asked her onto the old podcast to discuss injury management. Once talking to her with Andrew on the show I felt like she understood the issues I was having (as well as Jennifer) so I contacted her about coaching us, and she agreed. Meghan is “Up North”, so the coaching is via email and Skype sessions, but what I like about her is that she tells you what she thinks, point-blank, but not to the point that she’ll tell you not to do something if you really want to do it. An example is the Disney Marathon in 2015. I knew I wasn’t ready, she knew it was probably a mistake, but she gave me some pointers and told me to just take the race as it comes and not to be afraid to pull off if I had to. I did end up DNF’ing that race (the first time I had ever DNF’ed a race), but I felt supported, even in that failure. That is what makes her a good coach. She may not like or agree with something, but she listens and attempts to work around the issue without getting me killed.

Unless you count Infinitus. I do think she was trying to get me killed there.

So, the body was taken care of, but that’s the easy part. The mind is the hard part because I have spent 55 years screwing my head up as much as possible without actually tipping over to insanity. I have been told a few times, and once very recently, that one of my strengths is my willingness to look inward and mess with my inner doctrines. This is not something most people can do, especially men, or so I am being told. I find it interesting to be honest, which is why my undergraduate degree is in psychology. I find the way people think fascinating, but it’s easy to look at others and find their … not faults I think … wrong word … find their roadblocks. Each of us has the capability to be great. It is there. The hard part is unlocking the barriers that prevent us from becoming great. Being honest with ourselves, being Self Aware, is important in this. It is not self-deprecating to refer to myself as a Fat Slow Triathlete. All of the parts of that title are true. I am Fat, I am Slow, and I am a Triathlete. So what’s the problem?

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” has little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It is meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult-onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

A large portion of my change was based on getting my life together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once you get the initial “lethargy” over with as your body is readjusting. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts, and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary. It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to change. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things: You’re neglecting your family! You’re obsessed and that is not healthy! You’re being a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

If you are struggling, I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a coach, whether it be a fitness coach or a life coach. Do your due diligence and find one that matches your personality or fills a need you have in your life. I use joke a lot about how Tara Newman would ask me blunt questions like “well when you finish an Ironman, do you expect to be different?” … reminds me of something my grandfather would have said. My grandfather was my first “life coach”. He had his faults, as do we all, but he had this old world Italian way of looking at things that cut through the bullshit and hit the nail on the head. I have striven, in my life, to be like he was, at least in that manner. He has been gone for over 25 years now and I have been missing that person in my life ever since. So after struggling for that long with no one, I am starting, at this advanced stage, to fill that void with people I think like, act like, or wish to emulate in some way.

Andrew and I used to talk on the show about self-destruction or holding back just enough so that you had a reason for not being at the top of your game in training or in a race. It may not seem related but I think it is. A part of me was destroyed in that situation, and I am not sure that I ever fully recovered. There is always a sense of “distrust” in me about relationships, a stand-offishness that allows me the ability to not be hurt if the relationship ends. I have been doing better. Suffice to say, though, that some can be traced to my inner shittiness and cold-hearted side at the most inopportune moments. I can be an asshole to the nth degree at times. Being aware of it doesn’t make it right though. So, as far as training goes, it’s that part of me that just assumes failure.

Just wrap me up now

The Joy of Swimming

I … am not a fish.

I know that comes as a shock to some of you because if you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know how comfortable I am in the water. It is, in fact, like a second home to me. I love having the wave’s splash over my face as I try to swim. It’s especially nice when the waves are just a bit higher than your head so that when you come up for a breath the water is right in front of you … I tell you brothers and sisters … is there anything more calming than being that close to the water?

It’s … well …

Soothing is what it is.

It’s kind of like being coddled in your mother’s arms on a cold December night in front of a roaring fire.

But you know what’s even better?

Being in the water with 500 or so of your closest friends.

The playfulness that ensues while seeing who can get to the turn buoy first.

The happiness you feel as your brothers grab your feet to try to propel them faster through the water. The occasional love tap of your buddy’s arm as it crashes onto the top of your head. The happiness it brings to grapple for your goggles as they float to the bottom of the lake (or ocean) while people are coming at you like you just yelled “Polo!!!”.

Yes … the swim is quite magical …

If you’re lucky, and we always end up being lucky because we are, in fact, in the water, there will be seaweed floating through the swim zone.

Even better, underwater seagrass! Nothing completes a relaxing swim portion than the occasional feel of something brushing past your legs, or across your face, while you’re trying to remain calm. Yes, the only thing better would be to have actual wildlife swim next to you. If luck holds, and you know it will, it will be the rarest of all wildlife, the elusive jellyfish. The exhilarating rush of the slight pinching feeling as they let you know they are around as if they are saying

“Hey! Hi there! Come on and play with the Jelly Man! We ALL float down here!!”

Yes, they are charming creatures. In addition to being able to play with them, afterwards, you may get to experience the pleasant experience of having a complete stranger pee on you.

Now, really, what has two thumbs and LOVES being peed on by strangers???

THIS GUY!!!

So, no, I am not a fish. I wish I was because then I could spend my whole life in the ocean. Frolicking, and laughing, and playing with my fish buddies. Maybe nibbling on the toes of the triathletes swimming over me.

Everyone knows
that Triathlete toes
are the best meals in the sea!

Right??

I am ready …

Let’s go swim!

Pain is NOT Weakness Leaving the Body

At its core what is “pain”?

Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. It is not a weakness. A weakness is when you have NO pain and your brain is telling you to stop, because you’re bored, or you’re tired. That is not true pain. There is a reason for pain, and true pain is a warning bell for you to STOP whatever it is you’re doing at that minute, or it WILL get worse. I have a couple of examples of this.

The first one happened to me in high school. Playing Strong Safety (or Monster Linebacker as we called it) for the DeLand High Bulldogs against the New Smyrna Beach Barracudas. NSB’s running back, a big corn-fed farm boy, #44, hit the line and we all stacked the middle to stop him. From the corner of my eye, I catch movement to the right and see #44 heading down the sideline. I take off after him and catch him at about the 5-yard line, grab a hold of his pads in the back (which would now be a horse collar foul) and yanked with everything I had. He flipped, OVER the goal line, and I went flying into the bench area. I got up and felt a twinge in my knee, but it had been the first week that I had earned a starting slot and I was NOT about to come off the field. So I limped to the huddle and lined up for the extra point. At this time in High School ball no one really kicked field goals, so they were going for two. They handed the ball to Farm Boy again, he came through the middle where I met him head on …. only he ducked under my tackle and slammed his helmet, and that big old farm boy head, straight into my knee.

I saw stars but managed to get to my feet and limp to the sideline where I was immediately yelled at by my coach for allowing not only the touchdown but also the extra point (obviously I had missed the practice where I was the sole person responsible on defense for stopping plays like this). I went to the bench and sat down but found I was having trouble bending my knee, so I motioned for a trainer. She pulled my pants over my knee and my kneecap was sitting to the outside of my leg. She freaked out and called the coach over, he looked at it, grabbed the kneecap, and pushed it back into place, then told the head trainer to get ice for the “pussy”.

Yes, that is NOT an exaggeration. It is exactly what he said …

On Monday afternoon I was back at practice.

I finally got the knee fixed in 2009 after once again ignoring pain while running on a treadmill and spraining the ACLs on BOTH knees.

A more recent example was a Fit Niche Pub Run in 2011. I usually am “off” for the first half mile or so of a run, so when I felt sharp stabbing pains in my right foot I didn’t think much of it. “It will loosen up,” I told myself. “You can’t afford to miss the miles with a marathon coming up”, so I pushed through it, and the funny thing was it did feel better after a while, and even after the run. I had forgotten about the pain until I got home and got my shoes off. It started hurting again but now was to the point that I could barely walk on it. So what did I do? I iced it for the night, iced it Friday, and Saturday headed out for my training run with Team In Training. I made it 2 miles before having to stop running. I went to a doctor and was told that I had probably ruptured the tendon the starts at my ankle and that I should rest it. I did …. for four days and tried to run the next week’s Fit Niche, made it two miles before hobbling back to the start. Iced it. Then Saturday headed to team run. Made it two miles. This finally got my attention and I sat until the week before the half marathon …. three weeks of no running. I finished the run with no pain and then finished the marathon.

So I started reading. Jeff Galloway and John Bingham mostly at that time. It has finally sunk in that I am not in these events to become a champion. I am in them to finish, to become healthy, and to have FUN. Where I had failed in the past to keep up with training was the same path I was heading down again. I had become obsessed with pace time, and finishing times, and had forgotten to have fun. PAIN is NOT fun.

Galloway says in his book that the pace for a half marathon should be one that is comfortable and that you can hold a conversation throughout the run and after the run. He has a formula that is basically multiplying your normal one-mile pace by 1.2 and that should give you your half marathon pace in the end. My normal pace at that time was in the 12:00 range, which means my half time should be in the 14:27 region. Guess where it was? Correct. 14:23. That means I held my normal pace through 13.1 miles, and I should be proud of that and be OK with that.

This might be I have started to “lose my motivation”. I have forgotten to have fun. When I watch Chrissie Wellington compete in the Ironman she was smiling the whole time …. she was pushing her body to its limit, sapping every bit of strength she had in her, yet she is HAVING FUN. The funny part is when you watch Crowie in the same race, he is grimacing, scowling, hating life. The “man” part.

So … PAIN is NOT a weakness. It’s a warning sign that you are pushing too far. If my Stepfather had heeded the PAIN he was feeling for a year when urinating instead of trying to be tough, we would have found the cancer, but instead, he waited until the bleeding was so bad he was almost passing out, and he died three months later at the age of 64. As “men”, as “athletes”, especially those of us that have seen success before athletically, we try to treat ourselves like we are still 17. but 17 was 38 years ago, and I have to accept that and change my definition of an athlete.

Am I an athlete? I don’t think so. Not really …. I may never really be one …. but I am going to keep racing …. and from now on I am going to have FUN doing it, no matter what my time and pace are.