Radical Immersion

Ironman Training with Life, Marriage, Children & Work

2015: The Long & Short of It

There was no singular event, race or accomplishment to define the past year.  However, there were many firsts — new experiences, new friendships and new adventures.

  • For the first time, I raced outside the continental United States in March with a trip to Puerto Rico.
  • I ran a half marathon personal record by about eight minutes in April when Esme and I took a weekend trip to Raleigh.
  • Later in the year, I ran a marathon personal record during a training run and lopped about eight minutes off of that time too.
  • After more than a decade away from it, I swam the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim during a heat wave.  I crossed in about 1:46 or as fast as I ever have.
  • I had fun — and some success — with local Olympic distance races that I’d never been to in Charlottesville and Colonial Beach.
  • In late June I showed up for my fourth Ironman in four years.  By my own assessment, I was more fit and more prepared for Coeur d’Alene than the previous races.  It was far from my most successful race.  I barely dragged myself into the finish area.  Nonetheless, it was a great trip to a beautiful corner of the country.
  • I was able to see all four members of the tribe swim in the “A” meet for two consecutive weekends for their summer swim program.
  • During one four week period in the summer I raced three times, in three formats — Ironman, Olympic and open water marathon swim.
  • I volunteered at a race — a 5k — where Desmond won some hard earned recognition.
  • In July I did my first ever race in the ocean.  The nine mile course in Ocean City is worthy of the term “marathon swim.”
  • In September, my team of two years began the process of folding up.  Then in October I joined a new team — with a whole new set of people to learn.
  • During the summer, I spent the better part of an afternoon volunteering with kids in a program with the DC Parks and Recreation teaching and answering questions about swimming and triathlon.  Later in the year I guided a blind athlete during a half marathon.
  • When November rolled around, I found myself going long again for the JFK 50 — my first ultra-marathon.
  • I watched Desmond flourish in cross country and Josephine in the field events of their first year of track.
  • A couple weeks ago I ran with Esme for the third straight year at the Celtic Soltice — and she dropped nearly seven minutes from her 2014 time.

In all, I swam more than 233,800 yards which is just a bit shy of 133 miles.  Though I didn’t check, this may be the first time ever that I ran more than I rode my bike.  Cumulatively I was on the saddle nearly six days during the year covering 1,765 miles (not including commuting).  By contrast I ran the equivalent of 7.7 days for a total of 1,261 miles.

The blue dots on the chart below represent the intensity of a workout.  The closer to 1.0 the harder the session.  Each blue dot corresponds to a red dot.  The red dots along the X axis are days that I did not exercise.  Red dots above the axis show how much “work” I did that day.

There is a clear pattern with a minor peak in March for Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico and the Raleigh Half Marathon and a major peak at the end of June for Ironman Coeur d’Alene followed an Olympic race and the Ocean Games.  Then my fitness declined; I continued to work out but without a clear plan or schedule of races.  At the end of August I decided to do the JFK 50 and the workload and frequency of sessions picked up straight through Thanksgiving.  At that point, I started “offseason” until about a week or two ago when I started swimming again.

2015 TSS


Back to the pool last night.  I skipped track night and went straight indoors to buy a three month pass.  It has been months since I swam. I did six 500s on 7:30 alternating swim and pull.  Numbers one, three and five were 6:41, 6:37 and 6:34.  The pulls were 6:47, 6:40 and then I got […]

The Trail Ends in Williamsport

The JFK 50 finishes under a banner stretched between a pair of RVs on the road in front of the Williamsport Middle School.  I immediately dropped onto a chair and took a cup of water.  To my surprise, with my back to the school, I was looking out over a cemetery.

Probably not the best image for many of the people coming through the finish line.  It made me laugh a bit.  I guess I am dark.  I was wiped out but the whole scene was funny.

After weeks of hemming and hawing about doing the race, I decided to go for it on a Friday afternoon in August.  Dana taught and then went to a second class that night so we didn’t talk about it but I had mentally committed.  It would be a huge adventure.

Later that night, my father died. Read the rest of this entry »

Where to Start? Boonsboro

Yesterday I ran the JFK 50.


I don’t know where to start with a race report.  It was a huge day.  I improvised, thrived, stumbled (several times), worked my way out of two dark patches, let go of my preconceptions about pace, settled into a new threshold and then held it for three hours.  I learned once again that the mind is more powerful than any other part of the body.

I ate 12 Gu packets (including three or four Roctane), drank at least 200 ounces of fluid including water, Gu Brew and soup stock, inhaled two bananas (1/2 at a time) and twice failed to swallow the tempting cookies on offer at aid stations.  Once I snagged a small handful of M&Ms and another time I added a Nuun tablet to my 18 ounce handheld flask.

On the way to the race start, my stomach went into a lava-like meltdown.  I spent 35 of the 45 minutes that I had allotted for pre-race preparations in line for a toilet.

I had planned to meet up with Ignite teammate Austin to give him a bag that he could deliver to the aid station where we come off the AT and onto the canal trail.  It had a dry shirt and sleeves.  I never found Austin, gave my bag to a friendly lady at the start who promised to deliver it to the station where she was crewing for a friend.  I got there before she did and ran the whole day in the same clothes.  True to the spirit of the race, my bag was waiting for me at the gymnasium adjacent to the finish line.

I fell.  Four times in all, I was Captain Faceplant.  The first time was uphill on the AT around mile 12.  It stung but caused no damage.  The second time was on the precarious switchbacks coming off of the AT.  After 2:30 of running I was suddenly bouncing my knees, feet, forearms and shoulder off of a bunch of old fashioned, hard and sharp mountain rocks.  Five minutes later I did the same thing but on level ground after stumbling over another rock only this time I landed with a big stick under my right thigh and after bouncing my knee off of another rock.  The final tumbling humiliation came on the smooth canal trail as I ran in time with a group of three others.  Suddenly at the 21 mile mark, I managed an ungainly summersault featuring an impressive skid across the leaves and gravel to come to a stop like a big turtle stuck on its back.  It was this last maneuver that turned my left hip into an fair impression of hamburger.

I saw a bear.  It wasn’t of the ursine variety.  Rather, it was a bit of curiously shaped log bathed in some mindbending dabbled light with oak leaves blowing all about.

This was no autumn walk in the woods.  I put a hurt on myself a few times.  Coming onto the C&O Towpath, I spied my friend Erin up ahead by the her coral-orange shirt and gray backpack.  I ran 7:47 and made the catch.

She was running with a guy named Dink — who I believe must be a ultra and trail legend.  He has done nearly 80 marathons, several Ironmans including three in one seven week period, and scores of ultras.  He knew people who passed us.  He knew people we passed.  He knew their stories.  He was not having a great run — said he felt a little tight — but was having a great day and was genuinely happy for the opportunity to once again be on this course.  Dink is the ultra community embodied.

They chatted and set the pace.  I zoned out and went along for the ride at a perfect pace.  A little more than 10k later I was skidding across the gravel thinking that I was probably too much in that zoned out headspace.  Once I righted myself, I chased for about 15 minutes but could not close the gap and realized that I was now solo for the entire second half of the race.

I visited with Austin around mile 27.  Around mile 35, a lady who had stopped to pee next to the trail by bowing her knees out and pulling her shorts to the side looked up, smiled and waved.  I laughed and waved back.  I walked 30 seconds with an aid station worker coming off the canal trail so we could talk about the dam and old fashioned dynamo located in a stone building across the river.

I passed half a dozen people in the last eight miles.  The road rolled, but mostly it was lonely and I think that got to people more than the hills.  The shadows were growing, the temperature was dropping and I see why so many people struggle there.

The day was long.  It was full of beauty and calm.  I spent time thinking about a few hard things.  I reflected on my father, his life and death.  I spent a lot of time reveling in the beautiful tree-lined corridor.  I don’t know where to start with a race report.  Neither do I know where to end.


Sport as a Guide for Life


A couple months ago I agreed to serve as a guide for a local runner.  Joe is a paraolympian; he is blind.    We were registered to run a half marathon about a month ago but it was canceled due to dangerous weather conditions.  We tried again and entered another local race — the Potomac River Half — that utilizes the towpath along the C&O Canal.  I thought I could help and he didn’t mind that I really had no idea what I was doing.

We emailed and spoke on the phone but didn’t actually meet until the morning of the race.  He was late; his wife got turned around trying to find the race.  I had to find a bathroom.  We both had to pick up our race packets.  After introductions and all the normal pre-race activities — from changing shoes to pinning bib numbers — we found ourselves at the back of a pack of about 150 people as a clock counted down three more minutes to the start.

Joe suggested that we work ourselves up toward the front.  He thought it would be easier.  I stashed our bags and his cane in the woods and we walked through the people right to the front row moments before the horn sounded.

We were a study in contrasts. Read the rest of this entry »

Going Long — In IV Parts

I. Last weekend I ran 27 miles and followed it with 12.5 on Sunday.  It was a mixed bag.  I ran a marathon personal record for on the first day despite coming in decidedly slower than I started.  It is always nice to drop 10 minutes off of a time.  The next morning I watched tribe members at their cross country meet and then ran home, the long way, along the river to get in another two hours at an easy pace.  It was pretty ugly after the first half.  Around six miles, I got hungry.  Around eight to nine miles, I started to bonk.  At 11 miles, I was walk-running and totally cooked.

II. Yesterday I tackled the 27 mile loop again.  The first eight miles were effortless and my splits were within seconds of each other.  Miles nine and 10 incorporate the first hills.  I finished 10 miles in 1:20+ before hitting an eight mile section of hills.  Around mile 16-17, my abdomen melted down.  I had cramps from my hip all the way up my side and under my ribs.  I was short of breath, pained and annoyed.  A really good run was going down the drain.  Then the worst, I was walking.  I walked along for at least five minutes until I came to a bench with a fountain where I stretched.  I couldn’t fix the problem.

After some time, Kirby came along.  She had only a few miles left.  I ran along — the company made a bad situation tolerable.  The discomfort didn’t really go away, but I stopped thinking about it.  So much so, that I decided to finish the run with the “extra” four mile loop instead of turning for home where the path passed closest to our house.  It was a long, unhappy four miles.  In all, yesterday’s 27.25 miles took 20 minutes longer than last week’s 27 miles.

III. Last month I ran about 207 miles.  I think I’m hitting the limit of how much my body can handle.  Hamstrings are getting tight, then better, then tight again.  My glutes hurt — like an ache.  My feet are sore.

IV. I emailed the race director for the race around Key West.  Nothing back yet.  It is a 12.5 mile ocean swim — it could be a grand adventure next June!

50 Women…Or, How about 10, or 11

Dear Diary,

As you know, I’ve been involved with the 50 Women to Kona campaign all year.  First as a social media participant, then behind the scenes plotting a bit with like-minded co-conspirators and then, a month or two after launch, as member of the board at Tri Equal.

Those Tri Equal folks are a good bunch.  Like any fledgling organization, we’ve had some hiccups but every hitch has been quickly addressed because of a surplus of energy and goodwill.  I’m lucky they will have me.

Today I saw this article about influential women in cycling because it posted to the Tri Equal Facebook page.  I know it is not dispositive and it is insiderish to the cycling industry, but it begs the question, who are the influential women in triathlon?

The following is off the top of my head.  It is not comprehensive nor is it done with any analytical rigor.  It is personal and subject to change.  What do you think of the list?  Who do you find influential?  In alphabetical order, I present a first look at the influential women in triathlon.

  • Mirinda Carfrae — Is record-setting champion from Australia.  With four Ironman world championship wins and six podiums out of seven attempts on Kona, she has one of the most recognized faces in the sport and a devastating run.  Carfrae is paving the way for cross-over athletes through her sponsorship deals with running shoe company New Balance and other roles as a sponsored athlete (Chocolate Milk anyone?).
  • Emily Cocks — Is a pro who many won’t recognize because she is not on the cover of magazines or the top step of the podium at international races.  However, she is the co-host of the hugely entertaining and informative race previews done on the Fantasy Triathlon podcasts hosted by the growing TRSTriathlon platform.  Cocks is making the sport more interesting for the casual observer by creating a market for in-depth analysis and prediction.
  • Sara Gross — Is co-founder at Tri Equal and perhaps the most vocal and visible agitator for reforms to improve the sport for women.  She frequently writes articles in-depth articles for Witsup.com where another leading woman in triathlon hangs her hat, Stef Hanson.  Gross’ fact-based investigations and advocacy are making an impact on bubble surrounding the sport making more and more participants ask, “Is this what I expect of the people organizing the events that soak up so much of my energy.”
  • Kate and Kyra — Represent all the women who are not famous but are out there making it happen.  Kate co-founded a tri-specific shop that then sponsored my first team.  Kyra just took her pro card and serves as president of my new team.  They race, encourage, volunteer, wrench bikes, cajole and generally do good things in the sport.  There are tens of thousands of women like them, but these are the two I know making my local triathlon community a little better.  In many ways, they also represent the most important woman to the industry — the next woman to enter the sport is likely to come in because she was welcomed and nurtured along by someone already in the sport.  Someone they know and trust.  These women are found everywhere — they improve and grow the sport in subtle but tangible ways.
  • Rachel Joyce — Is like so many other accomplished professionals in the sport.  She is available to age groupers at all her races, she is quiet about her many significant accomplishments in sport, she has experience in a high-pressure career outside of sport (in her case, law), and she races with ferocity giving no quarter to her competitors.  Like Sara, Rachel is putting her time and energy behind the movement to improve the sport as a leader at Tri Equal as well as a partner in activities with the kids in her adopted hometown of Boulder.  We may look back at 2015 to see that her work with Team Bravo and major non-endemic sponsors like Coca Cola change the informal structures of the sport as well — from developing professionals, to expanding the footprint in South America and bringing new money into the sport, there is a lot of good that happens around her.
  • Siri Lindley — Has unimpeachable racing chops.  She is also the most high profile female coach in the world and she personally coaches some of the winningest women in the sport.  Need to know more?  See Team Sirius.
  • Paula Newby-Fraser — Is a legend.  However, that would not make her influential today if not for her continued involvement in the sport.  Among other roles, she serves as the pro ambassador for Ironman which means the largest race company, with the biggest races, attracting the most people to the sport have her involved as a model for age groupers and a liaison for pros.  In a word, she has reach.
  • Julia Polloreno — Is the editor-in-chief of Triathlete and Triathlete.com.  Like Stef Hanson, she has her pulse on the people, trends, gear, races and other dynamics that make the sport so interesting.
  • Chrissie Wellington — There are women still entering the sport because of her example — as a athletic champion and as ambassador for causes globally, people know and love the woman known for her smile.
  • The women behind Smash and Coeur Sports — Hillary, Michele, Haley and Kebby are more than triathletes and small business owners.  Certainly their success in creating and marketing women-specific kits make it easier for other women in the sport to get or stay involved.  They are influential because both companies are building communities of interest that serve as anchors.  They are reinvesting in the sport and into their most passionate customers.


  • Dana Ann — because without my wife, her support and good attitude, and steadfast belief in dreaming big, I wouldn’t be involved at all.  Because she is what influences me.

There you have it.  Eleven bullets, sixteen individuals, two companies, some pros, some amateurs a few friends and very little editing — because otherwise it wouldn’t be off the top of my head.


UPDATE — You may ask, what about Daniela Ryf the former Swiss Olympian and reining Ironman champion at both 70.3 and in Kona?  I think she is one of the most interesting women in the sport.  Interest in, and awareness of, her will only grow.  But I don’t think she is currently influencing the sport as much as the women mentioned above.  Over the long term, she has tremendous “influence potential.”  Also, you may ask why Smash and Coeur but not Soas which is another company geared toward women.  I think what makes Smash and Coeur so interesting is not their target market, but the attraction each has with their customer base.  They are on the trajectory of Harley Davidson or Ironman — I could actually imagine someone getting a tattoo of their brand logo because it signals desirable attributes and inclusion into a “club.”

Sports Parenting in 10 Sentences

Worth reading and revisiting from time to time.



1 word: Hi.  Greet your child when they get in the car with “Hi” before you ask about practice, the score of the game or homework.  

2 words: Have fun.  In all likelihood you’ve heard this statistic: 70% of kids quit sports before they turn 13 for the primary reason that they are not having fun.    Encourage and remind your kids to have fun.

3 words: Tell me more.  Before forming an opinion or dispensing advice, ask for more information from your child.  This will force them to tell more of the story and give you more information as to what is actually happening.  

4 words: Good job. Keep working.  Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and parent of a NBA player suggests these four words.  Rivers notes that as parents we are often tempted to say…

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Ask Not…

I registered for the JFK 50.  It is way out of my comfort zone and only about ten weeks away.

Yesterday I finished my first back-to-back long runs over a single weekend.  For the week, I hit 62 miles with 2/3 of it over the weekend.

I’ve got a lot to learn but I actually came through the weekend in better shape than I expected.  There was no bonk, I have one blister and no toenail problems, and I barely walked.

Stay tuned, this adventure is just getting started.

I also joined Strava in the past ten days.  These are the maps produced by Strava for the November 21st race.  Looks like the first two hours are a bit gnarly.

I also joined Strava in the past ten days. These are the maps produced by Strava for the November 21st race. Looks like the first two hours are a bit gnarly.

Today is the first World Marathon Swimming Day

140 Years and Counting…


The SwimmersThe Swimmers

Logo of the Marathon Swimmers FederationAugust the 24th is the day in 1875 that Captain Matthew Webb successfully swam the English Channel, landing at Calais on his second attempt in under 22 hours. It’s the date that the sport of Channel and Marathon Swimming unofficially claims as its birth day, (disregarding previous unsuccessful attempts by Webb and others).

So following a suggestion by US marathon swimmer Leonard Jansen on the Marathon Swimmers Forum in May 2015, the non-profit voluntary and free swimming organisation that wrote the (only) Global Rules of Marathon Swimming, the organisation that runs the only peer- nominated and selected Marathon Swimming Awards, the Marathon Swimmers Federation announces today, August the 24th, as the first official World Marathon Swimming Day.

Because the Marathon Swimmers Federation is merely an expression of the worldwide community of marathon swimmers. We are all in this together.

An alternative day could the first day that someone conceived both of…

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