August 26, 2011

The calm has been restored....

So I wanted to apologize for the whiny little bitch fest that I had in the previous post.  What I am going thru is COMPLETELY and uttely new to me.  I have never gone thru two ironmans in a single year, let alone two in such short of a time and one being Kona.

When trying to explain my conundrum, I have equated it to playing tee-ball and suddenly getting called up to the Major Leagues and expected to be able to hit with a decent batting average.  (what is with me and all of these SPORTS analogies lately?  Who AM I??!?! - haha)

I wanted to let you all know that the decision to rest this week and recover was probably about the best thing I have ever decided (you know, other than my decision to wear clean underwear every day of the week...) Today is Friday and my legs feel good.  Not 100% yet as I still have a teeny bit of muscle soreness if I bound up the stairs, but nothing major feeling like my legs are going to snap in half and not support me. 

I've got the fire back and I'm chomping at the bit to get back to training.  I've got a HUGE tempo block for the next two weeks that I'm looking forward to suffering thru and then it's a rest week, one more sharpening week, then taper for the big dance.  The links are all falling into place and I'm feeling good about this again. Good stuff.  Just wanted to give you some semblance of an update before the weekend.  I'm having a beer tonight with dinner (just because I can...) and then we'll get back to business next week.  Stay calm friends.  See you on the roads, cheers.

Oh and PS - If you all didn't notice I have a fun little TWITTER feed (@TravisEarley) to the right that I've been "cracking wise" on lately.  Fun times, I initially got it to stave off the inevitable boredom before IMLP, but it's kinda fun now.  Follow me if you like! Cheers.

August 23, 2011

The great unknown...the double!

It’s the great unknown. I can honestly say that I feel as though I am going into my first Ironman and I feel like my head is below the surface of the water right now. It’s a very weird feeling and it’s been mixed bag since July. There have obviously been feelings of pure elation that I had worked so hard for so long and finally seen the fruits of my labor, but then came the pangs of fear of, “wait, I have to do another ironman in only 10 weeks?!?!?” I feel like I’ve been thru the wringer in terms of emotions for this and I just want to apologize for anyone who has been caught in the collateral crossfire.
As a self coached athlete, I tend to rely on several folks to kind of bounce ideas off of and mimic what I have seen works for me/them. Unfortunately for me, I only know of one other person who has done Ironman Lake Placid – Kona double in the same season. Most folks whom I have come in contact with have qualified at late season races like Wisconsin and Florida and those have slotted them entry for the following year, allowing them the time to adequately train for such a big endeavor. Or they have done so at Texas which is early season, allowing them time to come down from IM and rest before going back at it.

So what do you do? You play with the cards that you’re dealt and you map out a plan. My loose plan was to take a week of recovery after IMLP and then just kind of get right back to it and into the swing of 20+ hour training weeks. I’m calling an “audible” this week and swapping stuff around though to make this a rest week. I’m in need of a breather and I feel like I’m just going thru the motions if I don’t rest this week. My legs have that dull ache that reminds me that I probably haven’t recovered from IMLP yet.

Again, it’s the big unknown. I’ve never done two Ironman’s in one season, let alone two so close together. Friends that have doubled in a single season have always had adequate time in between so I can’t even lean on them for support/advice. It’s very daunting to be heading to the Ironman World Championships and wanting to perform at your very best, while also trying to figure out heat acclimation strategies, drop those last few pounds to get to race weight, navigate workout schedules, uniform choices, equipment issues, finding places to swim over the summertime and also adjusting to using a different nutrition strategy (solely using the crappy Ironman Perform drink mix rather than my tried and true Gatorade and CarboPro mixture) prior to the big dance. That combined with a more intense workload and a 40 hour work week, puts my stress budget thru the roof. Sorry friends if I have been a little “off” lately… I think I’m just nervous and anxious and ready to get this thing on the road.
So with that being said, I’m taking a rest week this week and that will free up my schedule a little bit. I’m going to re-collect myself and take care of some of the little things this week to get those out of the way. I know I’ve been a little bit negative lately to those that have been around and I apologize. My roommate last night said to me, “I’m done with this pity party, don’t bitch about having to get on your bike, you’re going to Hawaii” and that kind of slapped me in the face and back to reality. I know that I am incredibly grateful that I am headed to the Big Island and MANY folks would kill to be in my spot right now, so I have to make the best decision about training I can. And that means resting this week, pushing thru the next few weeks and then getting ready for race day. We had a discussion about how I could just do nothing for the next few weeks and I’m still going to Hawaii, but that’s not my style. If I’m going to race against the worlds best in the toughest course around, then I want to be in peak physical condition to do so. Besides, I think the Ironman gods would smite me if I just took it as a 17 hour pleasure cruise. Madame Pele would be pissed and no one needs that…

Anyway, the point of this post was that the last few weeks I have lacked the real motivation to get out there and get stuff done with a purpose. I felt like I was going out for rides because I HAD to not because I wanted to get it done. That’s not right. I mentioned how I can’t even use visualizations about running down Ali’i drive or hitting the energy lab as motivation to get me going because I don’t want to fuzzy those visualizations with the real memories I will be making in only a few weeks. So a rest week is needed to recharge the batteries and then get after it. There’s only 45 days left to the big dance and I will be prepared. Rest assured. Now I just need to let my body heal some, get some SOLID amounts of sleep and be ready to attack the next few weeks with a vengeance.

Rest hard friends, the season isn't over yet....see you on the roads in a little bit.  Cheers.

August 8, 2011

Luck can change your outcome

Day after Ironman Lake Placid in 2009
I keep on using the below picture in every single post that I've done since IMLP this year. Needless to say I've waited a long time to be able to have a photo like that and I'm pretty stoked about it. To say that I got a little lucky this year would be an intense understatement. 
Day after Ironman Lake Placid in 2011
Luck was NOT on my side in 2009, but I feel like I caught the winning lottery ticket this year.  I'm sorry to keep blogging about it, I just can't shut up about it and stop smiling!!! It's been a hell of a way to come back from the crash and while I didn't have the race I thought I was going to, it still worked out. 

Plane ticket is booked and the acommodations are almost solidified so it's becomming all too real.  :o) I'm just hoping I don't wake up tomorrow from this huge dream...Big training block starts again today.  9 weeks until the big dance!  Cheers.

August 2, 2011

Day after IM race report (Kona slot)

So, I've heard that each Ironman has it's story and there was another good tale that came out of last weekend up in the Adirondacks. 
I went to bed on Sunday night, not knowing if I had qualified for Kona or not.  See the way roll down is calculated, they take the percentage of your age group vs. the # of starters at the race and that's the percentage of the 65 slots that are divvy'ed up per age group.  Per my "rough" calculations the M25-29 age group would get between 3-4 slots.  (I think the actual # was 3.68 or something like that) Now I had no idea if they would round up or down, or what the procedure was.  So I went to bed on Sunday, knowing that I was going to hit one of my goals (get on the podium again in a more competitive age group) and not really knowing if I was going to auto-qualify or have to go to roll down. 

Rumor around the casa was that #3 in my age group had already taken a Kona slot at a previous race this year, so was going to pass it down anyway.  As with anything with Ironman, I wasn't ready to believe that until I had that slip of paper in my hand... Call me a doubting Thomas, but I wanted to be sure before I got excited.

So, I wake up from the Ironman insomnia at about 4:30am in my hotel.  Maybe the Advil had worn off, or dad was snoring too loudly, I don't know.  Either way I went over the roll down procedure in the Athlete Guide to make sure I wasn't missing anything one more time.  Dad and I woke up around 8:30am or so and I knew that auto-qualifiers had from 9am until 11am to sign up at the high school gym.  We were at breakfast (attached to our hotel) at 9am and sat with Jochen and a few other folks that morning.  As we finished up at around 9:50am or so, I said, "Dad, we gotta get going!" as I knew it was a good 20 minute drive MAX to get to the high school.  I wanted some time to spare.

We hopped in the car and had a few things with us like a wheel to return to and all and started driving West on Route 86.  It was about 10am now and we had a good hour to drive 20 minutes, no big deal, right? 

5-10 minutes down the road we are stopped in a line of cars.  It looks like there's construction up ahead, but I'm thinking maybe it will be a one way road and our side is stopped.  We sit for a few minutes and then the cyclists who are in the road start turning around.  I roll down the window and asked one and he said, "roads closed, take the detour..."

Internally, I immediately start to panic...

I know that there are 3 main roads in Lake Placid: 73, 9N, and 86...If 86 is closed, we would have to do the bike course in reverse to get to the high school.  That was close to 40 miles of driving in about as many minutes now....

I turned the car around and Dad looked at me and said, "whatever you have to do, just get to the High School!"  I began to drive, and we switched on the GPS just to give us an was not pretty.  ETA said 10:56am and we were on some windy roads with lots of no passing zones.  I'm not going to say I've never broken any laws in my time, but I'm REALLY REALLY thankful that no police were out on the detour that morning.  I was driving approximately 70-80mph and passing people on the double yellows to get there (Dad was being an excellent spotter as well) but other than that no words were really said. 

The only thing I could think about was a message I got from a buddy, Pat Wheeler that morning that read, "You better get your ass to the high school and get your slot!"  I have never been more nervous in my years on this earth.  It was a challenge to race an Ironman finally and now IM was throwing this monkey wrench in my plans to get to Hawaii!  NOTHING is ever easy with Ironman....NOTHING.

We screamed up to the high school with 9 minutes to spare.  I threw the car in neutral, slammed on the emergency brake and hobbled as fast as I could into the high school as the parking guy said, "You can't park here" and my dad got out of the passenger seat and proceeded to move my car (thank you dad!) I ran into the high school and had to weave thru throngs of people to get to the table, but as I looked down, I saw a red line right under my name and my name was highlighted.  Along with 3 others....

And I lost it, I cried, I collapsed on the table and I smiled to myself. 

The woman at the table told me congratulations, asked to see my wristband and I obliged.  She gave me a sheet of paper that I've been waiting for YEARS to get.  It read, "Aloha, and congratulations on qualifying for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championships in beautiful Kailua-Kona....". 
I don't think I have ever held onto a sheet of paper so tightly.  I had it with me all day too.  I went over and they swiped my credit card in the machine, I sloppily signed my name and it was the easiest $675 I have ever spent.  The rest of the time in the gym was a whirlwind.  Ryan Barnett (fellow qualifier and 2x finisher in Kona) came over and talked with Kim and I about the coolest things about Hawaii.  He gave us some great information and some websites to try and find a condo.  He also regaled us with stories from his visits and congratulated me immensely. 
We got ushered out by the volunteer coordinator, Derek Spain, who we met last year and I had to return a wheel to the bus, and high tail it to get to the awards by noon-thirty and buy a ticket for my dad.  (see how unprepared I was for this?)  The awards were great, I got up on stage and it was just me and the first place guy (who was 3rd overall amateur and is going to take his pro card by the way!) We each held our slabs of rock above our heads and it was another uber proud moment in my triathlon life. 
Looking back this story still gives me chills.  I feel like I won the lottery a week ago and I don't really know what to do.  I'm overwhelmed by the amount of congratulations I've received and pats on the back. (It's kind of awesome to open up Facebook and see "46 of your friends like your status".  I know I got really really REALLY REALLY REALLY lucky this year because a 10:10 probably shouldn't have qualified me.  In 2009 a 10:00 was the last one to go and I think last year was a 9:43 to take the last slot.  I'm humbled that I was able to auto qualify and just haven't really stopped smiling since I was given this chance.  You best bet, I'm going to go as hard as I can on the Big Island and make you all proud!
My whole goal a few years ago was to attempt to try and qualify without the assistance of a coach (my thought process was that I was the one that knew my body the best) and to say that I did it alone would be COMPLETE and utter falsification of the facts.  I just didn't have someone writing my workouts each week. I know it is incredibly cliche to talk about how no one succeeds in anything without the help and support of friends, family and everyone else around, but it is totally true.  Thank you all for putting up with my triathlon ramblings and all over the last few years (I know I can go on and on and on...) Thank you to everyone that has lent ideas, taken me under their wing, told me I was crazy for doing too much in a given season, let me fall flat on my face, lended assistance, kept me focused and believed in me.   
This is just like a freaking dream come true and I can't really put what I'm feeling into words.  It's an incredible feeling to chase a goal for 6 long years and then finally get a chance to reach it and I couldn't have done it without the overwhelming amount of support.  Mahalo, I'll be sure to make you proud at the World Championships.  Cheers.

2011 Ironman Lake Placid race report

I wanted to write this one a little bit after the fact because I wanted to let this one sink in a little bit before dropping my thoughts on paper.  As evidenced by prior posts, I had an inkling that I was going to rip a solid race and had put a lot of hours in this year so far leading up to it.  (editors note: I do not believe I had a GREAT race, I had a good race and was able to turn around a few mistakes I made during the day)
But leading up to this race, I was feeling pretty confident. I had been using the same race day nutrition that I used on race day since November of 2010 on every single trainer ride in my basement and every other ride to get my body used to breaking down that many calories and the specific concentrations of my drink mixtures.  As far as training hours go, since January 1, 2011 - I had put in close to 470 hours of training.  I won't bore you all with the details, but it was 243 hours of cycling and 1,000+ miles of running and 88 hours of swimming.  (Basically I had maintained my swim distances from 2009, increased 38 hours of cycling and then 209 more miles of running as compared to 2009)  That was a lot of time and I'm not going to lie, I was stretched pretty thin at times.  (I thought I was stretched thin before....) But I had about 8 weeks over 20 hours total and had an average of 16.5 hours for each week in 2011 (that's including my 8-9 hour rest weeks) Needless to say I had put in the training...

The days leading up to the race were pretty status quo for me, I had a good taper going, wasn't really feeling too awful fresh, but starting to get that bounce back in my step and I was getting everything organized.  One thing that was weird was that Kim kept on talking about how this was going to be a "non-wetsuit" swim.  And I have heard all the chatter on slowtwitch before and people "freak out" that the water's too warm and everything and I didn't want to accept it.  Kim decided to order us Blue Seventy ZP3TX swim skins in the unlikely occurence that it would be non-wetsuit.  She ordered them and told me, if we don't use them, we return them, if we do - they'll help and hopefully you can wear it at another race this season that's also a non-wetsuit swim.  I am VERY glad she was persistent enough to order one.  :o)
Other than that, the days leading up to the race were good, dad and I travelled up to the ADK's and we had a hotel at the Adirondack Holiday Lodge in Wilmington (better than "the Ritz") and we had kind of a "home base" with Kim's family who had rented a condo place on the run course.  This would prove integral to eliminating the stress leading up to race day by either just having meals there or just having a place to crash and not staring at each other wondering what to do next in a hotel somewhere.  Dad and I hung out there for the two days leading up to the race and he hung there on race day.  Kim's dad had the great idea of creaing "Team Ammon and Earley" t-shirts and everyone wore them for the race, which was really cool. 
Race morning came and I really don't remember too much from that.  Weird.  I heard as I was dropping sunglasses off in my T1 bag that it would be a "non-wetsuit swim for those age groupers going for awards and Kona slots" and I smiled as I walked into transition.  A non-wetsuit swim would help me (the stronger swimmer) and also I had the swim skin.  I was hoping to do pretty well in the swim.  Kim and I got dressed in the suits, walked down to the water and sat with a few friends for a few minutes before I got antsy and got up.
I got in the water and the pro's went off, I was still hanging on the dock and I treaded water over to the start line and was about 5-7 people to the right of the dock and RIGHT on the line.  There was a bigger guy next to me in a full wetsuit who was breaststroke kicking the hell out of me as I was in the swim skin which had no bouyancy.  Regardless, the next 10 minutes were really long as I treaded water and tried to maintain my position on the line.  But as "Christmas Day" drew nearer, I knew I would be ready.

Swim - 2.4 miles - 56:27 - 4th in the AG
The cannon fired and it was physical.  I knew that going into this, it's a variable washing machine of bodies all around and not having the extra float of a wetsuit made this a little daunting.  Regardless, I got out and hooked onto a pair of feet, loop one was really uneventful other than just trying to get on faster feet each corner.  (as was everyone else, which made loop one pretty physical)  As I drew near shore and saw the timing mats upon exiting the water, the clock read 37:XX which to me shocked me, for a brief second, I didn't know if I had swam really slowly, or if they hadn't changed it over from the pro's.  It would be the second of my two ideas that was true. I hit the mat in 27 minutes. Phew. 
But after going thru the arch and hearing the names being called, I heard Ken Koppenhaven and then another name, then Travis Earley! So I yelled, "Ken!!!" as I dove back in and sprinted to catch up to him.  I caught him as we were rounding the dock and I put my hand right into his armpit as swam up to him (Don't ask, I think he was actually going straight and I hadn't turned yet, plus he had a wetsuit on...he had a GREAT swim) but he gave me a thumbs up sign on his next stroke and I swore I saw a smile :o) It was a good feeling as in 2009, I had done pretty much the same thing with my buddy Bruce. Good times.  But anyway, the rest of the loop was good, I would spot Ken a few more times and we would exit around each other.  I goofed off on the way to transition and I was having a fun start to the day.

Bike - 112 miles - 5:41:23 - 9th in AG
After heading thru transition, I grabbed my bike from another friend volunteering, Jeremy Hammond.  He gave me some words of encouragement and ushered me onto the course.  I started riding and immediately noticed my Garmin wasn't picking up HR or power.  This scared me, but I knew I could do it without.  However on the rollers out of town, I played with it a bit and eventually shut it off and turned it back on and they were detected immedaitely.  Phew, disaster averted!

Loop one was really nothing special, just what I had practiced and nutrition was going in smoothly and I was hitting all of my numbers.  I made it down the descent in one piece and fellow awesome triathlete Ryan Barnett, dropped like a stone next to me down the descent and was whizzing by so fast I couldn't even call his name out! Loop two the descent was a little more shaky for me, but I survived.  On a side note, I checked my brakes as I got my bike home and they were almost completely worn thru because of how much I was braking on that downhill...scary.  But nothing special really happened other than a little squirrell going across my path on one of the out and backs which made me smile. 
About 3:30 into the bike I re-evaluated my nutrition that I still had on me.  I had a 600 calorie bottle of gatorade and carbo pro and 2 gels each being about 100 calories a piece.  I knew that I could digest about 400 calories an hour on the bike and mentally split this bottle in half for the remainder of my ride (one half this hour and then one half the next hour) About 45 minutes later, I reached back to have a drink and squeezed into my mouth and it was empty... Whoa.... NOT good!  I immediately thought my race was over, that I had screwed up again and it was completely my fault.  But then experience reared it's sly head and said, "no, you know what to do, you've overdrank calories before, just slow down, sip a little wate and take a salt pill.  It took about 1.5 hours for my gut to calm down, but I dug myself out. 
I ran into Nick Brodnicki in the last 11 miles of the course and he helped me to maintain a steady speed and play a little cat and mouse with him.  He entered T2 faster than I did, but as we exited he was right in front of me.

Run - 26.2 miles - 3:27:05 - 4th in AG
The run was what I knew I had faith in.  I had been putting in some GOOD miles leading up to IMLP and I was prepared to unleash my secret that I'd kept hidden for so long.  I caught Nick and our other friend Andy Burke on the down hill heading out of transition and didn't look back.  I was motoring.  I had some folks on the run course that were being spotters for me and telling me how far back I was in the AG and I didn't hear anyone on loop one.  I just knew that when I saw the leaders coming back towards me on River Road, I could just count those folks in my age group based upon their bib #s (I knew the range was approximately #760-#960) The first loop, I did an approximate count and I was about 7th according to my calculations.  It was time to start cranking. 

I floated the first loop and was feeling good, I climbed Rich Clark hill and slapped a bunch of fives and then by the time I got back to transition, my watch read 1:35 for the marathon.  By this time it was getting a little hot out and muggy.  I was picking folks off and by the time I hit River Road on loop 2 I was in what I thought was 5th.  The race was now mine to lose.  I only got passed by about 3 people the entire 3rd loop (that I saw...) and one was a 50 year old dude that did an "airplane" around the last River Road turnaround. 
Mile 16 came and I started to walk the aid stations to ensure that I was getting all the nutrients that I needed.  My mile splits were going north pretty quick and the 7:15's and 7:30's that I was holding on the first loop gave way to 8:00's and I even saw a 9 on the screen at one mile.  I was taking salt like it was my job and probably ate about 10 tabs over the course of the marathon.  Meanwhile, I kept on looking at calves and checking to see if anyone was coming up on me quick.  By this time the lap traffic of the first loop athletes were mixing in to the 2nd loopers and it was getting harder and harder to find out who was on what loop. 

By the time I hit the River Road turn around, I mentally made note that it was about a 10k back to the finish line.  I thought to myself, how many times have you run a 10k in training, just get this done!  I hit 4.2 to go and I envisioned that I was in my neighborhood doing my normal loop.  Climbing the "Rich Clark hill" the second time, there were no high fives to folks, it was ALL business.  I made it to the last little out and back before the oval and I thought, "I'll be damned if someone passes me right now and knocks me off the podium" so I gave it my all and halfway back to the oval, I started to run out of gas...but was able to power thru the downhill and towards the finish line.  I hit the oval and looked over my shoulder and thought I saw someone, so I started sprinting.  (there was no one there)
FINAL TIME - 10:10:31 - 4th in the AG and 62nd overall (including pros)
The aftermath is that it didn't sink in that I had just done a 17 minute PR, the only thing I wanted to do was sit down, or lie down.  I started to dry heave a bit and as I let my body go limp and have a few good hurls over a garbage can, they moved me into the med tent.  Upon getting weighed on the scale, I was 13 pounds lighter than when I initially was weighed at registration.  That was enough for them to administer an IV for me to get some fluids in me.  As I was laying there with the IV, I saw Ryan and he told me, "Stop being a little bitch and let's go get a beer at the brew pub." He apparently had some blood blisters in his shoes that broke open near the line that looked a whole lot worse than they were. 
I scared the hell out of my dad (which is to be expected after the ridiculousness of 2009) by being in the med tent, but I knew if I got an IV, I would be better recovered in the chance that I might be punching my ticket this year.  A little more than 30 mintues later, I discharged myself from medical and started wandering around looking for dad.  I felt like a lost puppy dog and I couldn't find him for the life of me.  He apparently was busy wrangling my bike out of transition, grabbing my bags meanwhile looking for me as well.  We were just missing each other.  2 hours later I found him and we watched Kim finish and it was a good afternoon.  I tried to post as many pics as I could here, but there are some more right HERE if you want to check all the shots. (I think there's even an almost video of me coming towards the finish line - It cuts off)
I'm going to post another one about how everything with Ironman is hard....even going to get a Kona slot (long story) I'll try to post that before the weekend as I have some good photos to get up as well.  But thank you to everyone on course cheering me on (seriously it seemed like all of Rochester was there!) and to everyone I saw and yelled at on race day.  Every Ironman has a story and this one was a pretty good one...Cheers.