Thoughts on Mooseman

I think that the most telling was Jeff, Warren, and I sharing the same thoughts pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line, which was something along the lines of “Well, I think full on Ironman is never going to happen.”

Which wasn’t an acknowledgement that it wasn’t within our capabilities, but was more of an acknowledgement that the commitment to 140.6 was light years beyond our willingness to commit to the training, time, and suffering necessary to do the race right. But more on that later. Specific race observations that might be useful to someone else approaching the 70.3 distance:

1. The swim base is pretty easy to get. I was swimming 3 times a week between 1.5K and 2K from January to March, and dropped down to twice a week from March through the race, as it was nice outside and I swapped a swim for a bike each week. While the Mooseman swim was in a pretty sheltered bit of cove, I’m not sure that more open water swimming would have helped much with the lake swim. Maybe if it’d been an ocean swim, which I think the Hip would corroborate.

2. If could go back to February and redo 10 workouts between then and the race, I’d cut out a couple of my 10+ mile runs and do them as bike/run bricks. The transition between bike and run just plain sucks if you haven’t been doing it – the back needs to learn to go from completely stretched on the bike to vertical on the run. The first time I realized I had lumbar muscles was about 400 yards into the run when they seized up.

I did several run/swim bricks, but, frankly, I don’t think the transition from swim to run is really that tough. Swimming’s low physical impact. Although it’s critical to do a lot of it to build good form and not blow all your energy in the swim, I don’t think there’s much other than making sure you’re under LT to make going from swim to bike difficult.

On the other hand, instead of the 10+ mile runs, I’d like to do many more workouts of 60-90 minutes on the bike followed by 3-6 miles of running. I think that the individual bike and run workouts during the week (40-90 minutes bike and 4-7 miles running) built and maintained enough of an aerobic base to get through the race, and that bike/run bricks, starting with 15 mile/5 mile goal in February (1 hour on the trainer, 5 miles bundled up on the road) lengthening to a 40 mile/10 mile brick 2 weeks before the race would have been immensely useful.

3. I think Warren’s approach to transition was brilliant. Even if I’d been shooting for 6 hours (or 5.5 hours like Zipper), the difference between 7 minutes total in transition or 14 minutes in transition translates to minor, minor performance improvements in each event. Stretch, fuel, and move out. Plus, I would have had sunglasses on the bike, and wouldn’t have squinted or worried about catching a rock in the eye.

4. Mooseman was exceptionally well supported. In hindsight, I wish I’d considered nutrition more. I don’t know what I would have done in a less posh race situation. Much of my bike training relied on cash and convenience stores.

5. Wish I’d taken Actafed the night before to help sleep/ease congestion, and a Claratin the morning of the race. Snot sucks.

I suppose I could go to some good number like 10 tips, but that’s about all I really learned in the race that I didn’t capture in last week’s post. There are a couple of personal observations to make, though:

Initially, I’d approached Mooseman as a chance to really get in shape; a chance to go to the next level in training. But, as the race approached, and as life continued to intrude, I realized that I was spending a lot of time training in order to just survive 70.3 miles. Training for peak performance would have required at least twice as much time as I had to commit, and just wasn’t going to happen.

So, in my mind it became fine just to finish this race. And I’m thrilled with the outcome.

This is my last half ironman for quite a while, though. After 5 years of relative dedication to fitness (WOW – really? 5 years of being pretty consistent with running?) I think I ought to move past ‘finishing’ as a goal and actually try to improve. Improve weight and BMI, improve finishing times, and generally go from being a guy who runs to support poor eating habits to just being a guy who runs well.

The best long-term outcome from this race is that I’ve realized that I LOVE a 6 day training schedule, and love doing a run and a swim on the same day (or a bike and a swim) at least twice a week. I remembered why I love cycling – the symphony of person and machine, the animate and the inanimate merging like yin and yang into something greater than the two parts, and will not be happy unless I’m doing it more this summer.

But I’m not committed enough to give more than 3 hours of my weekend over to training. I love the time with the kiddos, I love the time with the church, and I love puttering around the yard instead of being alone training.

A good (for me – shooting for around 4 hours) marathon can be done on a schedule of 7-9 hours a week. A good Olympic triathlon can be done. And great sprint tris can be a part of that training schedule.

But, unless I can come up with some quantum breakthrough short of HGH, EPO, and crystal meth, there’s no way that schedule is going to support anything beyond finishing a half ironman for me (as has been proven).

I’m trilled to have done Mooseman, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the first race I’ve done for which I think I’ve accomplished something significant by training for and finishing. I’ve written before about my letdown with finishing marathons and not hearing choirs of angels while I crossed the finish line, about not feeling “changed” by completing a marathon. Mooseman did show me that there’s a whole other level of potential I haven’t tapped in my psyche. That’s one reason why it’s the first medal I’m really proud of.

But it’s going to be a long, long while before I do 70.3 again. The kids are going to have to start ignoring me on the weekends, and I’ll have to have the HoneyDo jar cleaned out.

So, I figure some time around 2050 or so,

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mooseman

  1. I think the prospect of 15 hours of noting but power bars, power gels and gatorade is what puts me off as much as anything. We all kind of sat around for hours after the race complaining about our stomachs. Physical challenges are interesting to overcome. GI challenges – not so much.

    Naturally, the time impact is also a huge factor. Am I willing to give up all my family and free time for a year just to finish one stupid race? Not right now, that’s for sure.

  2. A half-ironman is nothing to scoff at. As you discovered, it takes a lot of time commitment have the fitness base to survive, let alone thrive. And I comment all three of you, given your other life commitments.

    As you know, I train a lot on the bike. And there are a lot of sacrifices made to try and meet or exceed my goals. As I don’t have kids and am not part of any church, that certainly opens up some time, but then there’s the matter of having a social life outside of cycling that’s key to me: 24/7/365 cycling isn’t me. And Kirstin – she certainly sees less of me during the summer months when I’m in full-training mode.

    Luckily, the big ride for this season is on Saturday, so I’ll have a nice post-ride recovery period to hang out, take some time off from the train-train-train regimen, and get grounded again before the next big rides come up in late July.

    Time budgeting is a bear, as is maintaining quality of training within these time limitations. Folks who commit to a full Ironman experience are a different breed, that’s for sure: a ton of commitment, just to finish. Those who excel are at another level, entirely – like Levi compared to li’l old me.

    Once again, congrats on finishing Mooseman – another notch on the bedpost of endurance.

  3. Bill,

    First of all, congratulations. This is a huge accomplishment. Wow!

    Even though I have never wanted to do an Ironman – or even a half Ironman – I think I can relate to your comments about devoting the time and energy to the training. In my last two marathons I went the high-mileage route. The training was highly successful but there would have been no way I could have done it witout a flexible work schedule and the ability to combine my work commute with my daily runs. Without those two things, I think it would have been very difficult and exhausting to run, have a job and a family.

    But, enough about me – way to go YOU!

  4. You get major props from me for doing Mooseman. I promise I’ll be there in 2050 to watch you finish.

    It’s certainly more manageable to train for and improve marathon times (I think). That’s what I believe in so don’t going trying to change my mind with that swimmy and bikey thing.

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