Island de Ometepe, Nicaragua

I had planned to post more often, but Wi-Fi is hard to come by (so my laptop is useless). However, mobile data service is surprisingly good. So, I have been capturing and posting updates to my Instagram feed fairly frequently. I'd love for you to follow me there, or check out this cool new way to share Instagram photos, it's called PhoSho. However, PhoSho lacks the captions, so Instagram is better if you are actually interested what's going in the pictures. 

The quick summary is that I am loving every minute of my time here. Everyone I have met has been wonderful. The people are extremely friendly and humble and very patient with my struggle with their beautiful language. The food has been phenomenal! By default, most all of the food is naturally raised and organic. The cows, pigs and chicken graze everywhere. There is no force feeding animals antibiotics in their feed here.

I am moving to a new spot in a couple of days with Wi-Fi and hope post more then.

A Tuxedo, An Exchange Student and A Lizard

Slight delay on leaving
 Atlanta, but the rest was easy.
It is now Monday night. On Friday night, I was escorting my daughter in a formal wear event in Wisconsin Dells (about 2 hours from our house) wearing a tuxedo. On Sunday night, we picked up Mandy, who will be part of our family for the school year as a Brazilian exchange student. Then, twelve hours later, we were back at the airport dropping me off for my trip to Nicaragua. 

The trip to Nicaragua wasn't particularly eventful. For as much as I have been nervous about the trip, it was pretty smooth getting here. In fact, it almost felt too easy. I went to the airport in Milwaukee and got on a plane, then another plane in Atlanta, then I landed in Managua. A quick jaunt through their immigration and customs and a quick ride on the hotel shuttle and here I am. 

The excitement will come tomorrow as I head out to Balgüe, which is about 4 hours of traveling by taxi, bus, boat and another taxi away. I'm looking forward to visiting Ometepe and staying in the shadow of two
My Visa Stamp
magnificent volcanoes for the rest of the week -- or however long it takes for me to see monkeys. I won't leave without seeing them swinging in the canopy of the trees.

Now back to the lizard. I was walking to my hotel room tonight and saw motion out of the corner of my eye. And, let me tell you, the last thing I expected to see on the 6th floor of the hotel walking down the carpeted, air conditioned hallway was a leeeetle leeeezard. But, the cute little guy was on a mission. He had places to be, bugs to eat and more humans to scare. 

Trivia fact. In Nicaragua (like Spain and other countries), they call the first floor of a building (or the ground floor) "planta baja". The floor above that is the 1st floor, etc. I'm on the "5th Floor", but I'm actually 6 stories above the ground. This is likely the last time I'll be in any multistory building in Nicaragua, so I'm not too worried about being confused beyond tonight.

Friday & Saturday: A Tuxedo
Sunday: An Exchange Student
Monday: A Lizard

QUICK POST: Nicaragua's Government Suggests Eating Iguana as Massive Food Crisis Looms

I feel that I've developed a bond with this land I haven't yet set foot on. As such, I've been monitoring news sources for information about Nicaragua. Much of the news is inspiring and speaks of the strong determination of the Nicaraguan people. However, some of the news is concerning for the outlook of Nicaragua and her people. This story is an example of the challenges the second poorest country in the Americas is facing. A massive drought has had a severe impact on the crops and livestock of the country.

'via Blog this'

Is this thing still on?!?!

Since its inception, Kill the Gator has been about facing fears and doing things I thought was impossible. It started from a conversation I was having with a fellow triathlete at the very beginning stages of our triathlon training. We were talking about our fears of swimming. We talked about being in a swamp. A swamp with alligators. And how'd we'd really need to figure out this swimming thing. Kill the Gator became our training mantra.

Since then, I've completed 3 duathlons (run, bike, run), 4 triathlons (swim, bike, run) and a 24 hour bike race. I've killed the metaphorical gator. The last couple of years has found me focused on more pedestrian concerns (work, moving to a new city and working on a new house). I'm not yet ready to compete in more multi-sport events (but I hope to next year), but I am ready to kill another metaphorical gator.

A week from today, I'll be landing in Managua, Nicaragua for a 13 day adventure. By myself. Three months ago, my Spanish skills consisted of simple greetings. I've been feverishly studying Spanish in an attempt to get by. Truth be told, I'm terrified. However, I believe you can't grow without being uncomfortable. My biggest regret is that I don't make myself uncomfortable more often. This is all about being uncomfortable. That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Or, as my Gramp's always said, "Tough and hard to bluff."

Fortunately for me, I have an incredible wife who has been super supportive of my trip. She spent a few months traveling around Central America and has shared many of her experiences and tips with me.

My itinerary has been helped significantly by Airbnb. I've connected with fantastic people who I've been able to e-mail and coordinate many of the details of my trip. My first contact has been a wonderful resource offering to coordinate transportation, providing great travel tips and a great resource for local activities. Craziest of all, is that she attended UW-La Crosse and is familiar with Wisconsin. It is indeed a small world.

I'm spending the first part of my trip on Isla de Ometepe. Ometepe is a large island in Lake Nicaragua formed by  two volcanoes. One is active, the other is dormant. I'm planning to spend time on the quiet beaches, hiking and looking for howler, capuchin and other monkeys and swimming in the fresh, clear waters of El Ojo de Aqua.

Isla de Ometepe - I'm staying on the other side
of  the volcano in the foreground.

From Ometepe, I'll transfer to Playa Gigante and spend the next part of my trip on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Playa Gigante is a fishing village that is becoming a surfer's mecca and tourist spot.
Playa Gigante - I found a place on
Airbnb at the end of the beach here.
I'm going to spend an hour or two a day in a Spanish School right on the beach (steps from my  casita) and may try a surfing lesson. This blog may become called "Kill the Shark." Who knows? I'm hoping for calm(ish) waters to try and snorkel in a nearby cove.

From Playa Gigante, I'll spend a couple of nights in Granada. Granada is an old colonial city on the northern end of Lake Nicaragua. I'm hoping to find some good food, buy a few things to bring home before heading back to Managua for a final night before an early morning departure.

My ability to post while I'm on the road will certainly be limited -- which is intentional. I'm hoping to go "off the grid" for a bit. But, I hope to share a couple of stories about my adventure in facing my fears.

Here's to killing the metaphorical gator! What makes you uncomfortable? What are you afraid of? And, what are you waiting for? ¡Nicaragua, allá voy!

Roosters, Man-O-Wars & an Olympic Finish

We left Milwaukee Thursday evening and arrived in Fort Lauderdale around 1am. By the good graces of the airlines, all of my triathlon gear made it to Florida, as well. Even though I trained for the better part of the year for this triathlon (including a setback from a freak injury), I think a small part of me was hoping part of my gear wouldn't make it so I could just sit this one out and enjoy a leisurely vacation.... No such luck.

Instead, we started the nearly 4 hour drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West so I could get to the packet pick-up for my triathlon, as well as get my bike re-assembled, go for a test ride, swim in the ocean and prepare for today. The packet pick-up was on the beach where we swam from. The beach with this sign about the Portugeuse Man-O-War jellyfish. Not exactly what the guy who was already super anxious about an open water swim in the ocean wanted to see. So, I stripped down to my tri shorts and went for a swim. That's what you do, right? The water was a bit chilly, but nothing like Lake Michigan, which is where I credit most of my OWS. Then again, Lake Michigan doesn't have jellyfish. Holy shit! This just got really real.
I returned to the hotel, had a nice dinner with Jill and Emma at the hotel (where they served Gluten-Free Pasta!!!) and went to pack my bag. Then I did what I've done before everyone of my triathlons so far, I lay in bed nearly wide awake until my alarm goes off. I slept less than 1.5 hours for my biggest race yet.

When 4:20 am came about, I dressed, grabbed my backpack and  rode the 3 miles from our hotel to the transition setup in the dark, dark morning. The signs below are on the beach...that's the ocean in the background. Not being able to see the waves was a bit disturbing. What brought a smile to my face all while I rode to the race site, and while I was setting up transition was the constant crowing of the infamous Key West roosters. I thought they either really love dawn, or hate mornings. It was better for me to think they were just overwhelmed with excitement about the day.

I did more of a warm up than I have done in the past. I ran a mile, biked 5 miles and then suited up in my wetsuit and did some swimming. Just as I got to the beach, I ran into Jill and Emma! This brightened the morning for me. Emma and Jill were awesome supporters and equalled a cheering crowd of at least 10.

The sun was just rising minutes before the race start. We had a water start and I was in the first wave (green caps -- no I'm not in the photo to the right). Our swim started out along the White Street Pier. I started fine with good form as the waves were very small and mild, due to the long pier being a great breakwater. However, once the Olympic swim course took us out past the breakwater, I struggled to keep good form as I was being rolled about in the waves. This is the one area I really, really wished I could have had more practice. However, even though I felt like I swam all the way to Cuba and back (as I am horrible at spotting and staying on course in open water), I made it through the swim in one piece. No, I was not stung by a Portugeuse Man-O-War either. But, I saw several down below me in the water. One mile in the ocean is a long swim. That is what I learned.

As I came out of the water, I experienced triathlon "strippers" for the first time. Once I had my wetsuit pulled down off my arms, I just sat in the sand and a "stripper" stripped my wetsuit off of me. I love "strippers!" I struggled a bit in my T1 as I couldn't find my sunglasses, even though I painstakingly laid everything out. Then, they appeared. Next, I slipped on some water right as I was mounting my bike and crashed on my knee which gave me some nice road rash.

Then I rode into some of the strongest winds I've ever contended with. The thing about small islands and beautiful courses that go along the ocean shore is that you are exposed. Totally and completely exposed. The first half of the course was pretty slow. Once we turned around though, it felt amazing. Sustaining 25+ MPH was like nothing. But, it was a long 1:15 on the bike.

The run. I started strong and quickly lost steam. The first two miles were decent, but running back into the same wind that rocked me during the swim and slowed me on the bike was tough. The sun was now higher and reflecting directly on me off the water and it was getting hot! I drained all my fluids on the bike and stopped at every aid station for water or sports drink and was still feeling a little dehydrated. Making the U-turn to come back helped some with the wind to my back, but I just couldn't sustain the run pace. I stopped, instead of slowed at the water stations and then slowly hobbled on. My knee was hurting from my fall while mounting. I realized that I was on the verge of missing my goal of finishing the run in less than an hour (<10 min/mile) and picked up the pace. I wasn't successful...I finished the run in 1:00:11. I can live with that!

Jill saw me after I came through the finish chute and asked me to go back under the Finish sign for a photo. I wanted to puke, fall down and die all at once. I declined the photo opportunity and started walking it off. When she rejoined me and asked how I was doing, I told her, "That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

But, I finished the damn thing. In fact, we might just make this trek to paradise an annual event. I still need to talk to Jill about that....

As always, thanks to everyone who helped me reach this goal. What started  5 years ago as a way to lose some weight (65 lbs and counting), has turned me into something I never thought I'd be: disciplined with my health and driven to be physically active. Becoming a triathlete is just the icing.

Thank you to my amazing wife, Jill, and my awesome, always bubbling with exuberance daughter, Emma! You two make me happy in so many ways. Thanks to all the family and friends who have shared kind words about my accomplishments! And, thanks to the Tri Wisconsin Triathlon Team! Joining the TriWis workouts has had a huge impact on my training! I was proud to represent TriWis today.

Now, I'll enjoy a few days with the family with no workouts (well maybe no workouts). But, hopefully some snorkeling and a sunset celebration. And, more amazing fresh seafood.


Give It a Chance

The first time I swam the length of a pool with any purpose beyond pure recreation and joy was around February or March of last year (2011). I barely made it across and the crossing required a few stops to catch my breath. This morning, I swam 2500 yards or 100 lengths of the pool in 50 minutes.

When I got into the pool this morning, I wanted to get back out and give up for today. I wasn't feeling it. I felt tired and sluggish. I had planned to swim for 50 minutes today, so I kept swimming. I was starting to bargain with myself and was thinking, "If I could just get at least 30 minutes in. That would be okay." Ten minutes into my swim, I wanted to quit. I wasn't feeling it. Again, the bargaining continued, "Maybe 20 minutes is okay for today??" 

But, then something happened. It wasn't profound, it was just the realization that I usually want to quit every run in the first mile, every bike ride in the first 5 miles and most swims in the first few minutes. This gave me something to think about as I swam back and forth, from one end of the pool to the other. After a few more laps thinking this over, I knew I'd write about this tonight.

Whether it is a workout session, a new food, a new person you've met or any number of other things, give yourself a chance to succeed. You may have a good workout, or find a new favorite food or a new best friend. The one certain thing is that you won't have a workout to be proud of, a new favorite food or a new friend if you give up too soon. This morning's workout turned out to be my fastest pace this season!

I'm 10 days away from my first Olympic distance triathlon, the Key West Triathlon. I've wanted to give up many, many times. I still think about it. But, even a bad experience (which I don't expect) is better than no experience. So, I'll give it a chance in 10 days.

One final thing, as it is the week of Thanksgiving, I want to acknowledge my endless thanks to my lovely wife, Jill and awesome daughter, Emma. Without them, I wouldn't be doing these things. My sacrifices for training are as hard on them as they are on me. I'm so incredibly fortunate to have them!

Think about what you're thankful for and always remember to give it a chance, whatever it may be.

Triathlon is a TEAM Sport

In the sport of triathlon, you typically endure the pain of sprinting the last quarter mile of your run alone. You only receive an individual score at the end of the race, no team score. And, you can't rely on a timely assist or block to get you across the finish line either. But, triathlon is most definitely a team sport.

The teammates I rely on most don't wear the same uniform as I do, nor do they have a race number written down their arms and legs. They do not always sweat along side of me through endless hours of training. Yet, they are there for me through my most challenging times. Times when I feel the most vulnerable, and the most like giving up.

My wife, Jill, and daughter, Emma, hold me up when I'm doubting. My parents and sister encourage me with their endless pride. My family is the most important team I have as a triathlete. I wouldn't be a triathlete without their support.

Me and my beautiful wife, and
Team Maertz co-captain!
As I continue recovering from my injury on a slip-n-slide (see previous post), I have been distressed that my training will be completely derailed and that I wouldn't be able to compete in my first Olympic distance triathlon on September 15th. My wife and co-captain of Team Maertz, saw my distress as well. She knows me better than I do. I am not a lifetime athlete who has always been fit; I am a middle-aged guy who was unhealthy for most of my adult life. So, Jill knows the signs of when I'm not healthy. And, then she steps in.

Me and my #1 supporter, Emma!
She asked what my backup plan was if I wasn't able to compete in September. She could see that the realization I wouldn't be competing was scaring the hell out of me. She saw how frustrated I was after  completing 12 of 16 weeks of my training plan only to be injured at this point. She reminded me of a triathlon I told her about a while back. It is scheduled for December 1st. In Key West, Florida. She suggested I look into it and see if we could make it work using some free flights we have.

Well, I've given up on my September triathlon. But, I still plan to reach my goal of competing in my first Olympic distance triathlon this year as I compete on December 1st in The Key West Triathlon. It takes a team. And, I am fortunate to have an awesome team in my corner.

Now, I just need to continue recovering, retool my training schedule, figure out how to travel with my bike, get used to swimming in salt water and most importantly, how to properly thank my wonderful wife. I am blessed.

An Epic Race & A Bump in the Road

Exactly one week ago I was finishing up the Riverwest 24. I didn't have a goal in mind when I started the race at 7:00 PM on Friday night, but by midday on Saturday I realized I could break 200 miles and set that as a goal. Similarly, I set a goal to break 40 laps. I did both. I ended with 42 laps and over 210 miles. I was pleased.

I went into this epic race with one goal: do not over do it and derail my triathlon training. Although I didn't sleep for the entire race and finished tied for 15th out of a field of nearly 70 other males riding solo, I don't feel I over did it riding and racing. The experience was awesome. As a fellow RW24 rider mentioned yesterday (yes, we're all still talking about it), "It changes you." It did. It changed me.

Previously to the RW24, the longest I had ever ridden was 65 miles at once. I broke 210 miles in the 24 hour period of the race. I figure my "time in the saddle" was around 18 hours while I worked my way around the Riverwest neighborhood 42 times. Racing in the RW24 as a solo rider requires strategy, endurance and community.

The Riverwest community puts this race on to showcase the best of their neighborhood. In addition to traversing the neighborhood down main thoroughfares, residential streets, over the marsupial bridge, zigzagging bike paths and climbing up out of the river valley 42 times, there were about 20 "bonus checkpoints" each highlighting one of the many things that give the community its character. The Riverwest community showed first-class hospitality and put on an awesome race. Others thought so too, even those from out of town.

The first bonus checkpoint required break dancing, the next required being on stage in the local public house in an impromptu stand-up comedy routine, then you had to pretend to be a server at one of the neighborhoods many eateries. I also did a rap routine, took a mouthful of crushed, hot red pepper flakes and did 30 jumping jacks at one of the neighborhood youth centers. My bicycle tire and bare foot were cast in clay and will be part of a permanent installation in a park. And, I was tested on my Riverwest knowledge. These activities (and likely some I forgot) rounded out the first 12 hours of the ride.

By that point, I needed a shower. I stopped by our home base (a small Riverwest cottage offered up by one of my group's co-workers -- awesome!) and showered and put on fresh bike wear. Part of my strategy had been to hit the bonus checkpoints right after and right before taking a break to keep my momentum up (and stiffening muscles at bay when I stopped). It was nearly 6:30 am and I was feeling good after a shower and watching the sun rise over the same city I watched it set over earlier in the race.

2 Flats During the Race --
Not bad for a 210 mile ride.
The race was going well. I had 125 miles by that time. Then I hit a bump in the road. Literally, I hit many bumps on the worn city streets here in Milwaukee. But, figuratively this was a bump in the road of my race, my day and (I'm now realizing) my training. Enter Bonus Checkpoint #11: "You won't be slippin' on a banana..."

In 1993, the Center for Disease Control issued a statement that said "WHAM-O Backyard Water Slides Are Dangerous For Adults". The organizers of Bonus Checkpoint #11 didn't get that memo. I pulled up to the checkpoint and realized there was no line. Timing sort of sucked, considering I just showered and it was 70 degrees or less outside at 6:40 am. But, I was excited because there was no line to "race" another participant down one of two slip-n-slides. I stripped off my shoes, socks and emptied my jersey pockets and stepped up and...dove down the slip-n-slide. I landed on my right breastbone/upper ribs, as if I was sliding into home plate.

I hurt. I hurt bad. I was walking back to my bike thinking it felt like I broke a rib. The lady next to me was commenting that her parents never let her have a slip-n-slide growing up because they're too dangerous. But, I was pumped with 12 hours of adrenaline and wasn't ready to give up on the ride. So, I rode.

Tim, Me, Jill (my wife), Trent and Matt
We are all parents at our daughter's school and we all
rode together in the RW24. Matt & Tim both finished
in the top 10 solo male riders! This is post-race -- I was
hurting inside, but the beer was just starting to
work and the adrenaline hadn't worn off yet.
I spent the next lap thinking about calling it quits. But, I was so damn frustrated that my legs were feeling awesome and I knew I had another 12 hours of riding left in me. I couldn't let a 3 second ride on a children's ride stop me. I finished that damn race. I broke 200 miles, I finished 40 laps and then went on a couple of more to accompany Trent on his 30th lap. Technically, I didn't "finish" by riding the last possible lap. I stopped around 6:20 PM and could have rode a couple of more laps, but I knew I was hurting badly. I consider riding some laps in every hour of the race a complete, finished race.

Fast forward to one week later, right now.

This week was always planned to be a rest week. My rest weeks are still 7 workouts, but each workout is 40% shorter than the previous week. I should have swam 3 times, ran twice and rode twice this week. I rode this morning for the first time. I don't feel much better than I did on Sunday after the race. I'm starting to worry about how big this "bump in the road" is going to be.

I saw a doctor on Monday to ensure I didn't break a rib, or collapse a lung or noticeably damage any internal organs. I didn't. But, I severely bruised and strained the muscles and possibly tore some tendons. He said my recovery may be 2-3 weeks and I shouldn't do anything that hurts. That would include laughing, yelling, sneezing, coughing, picking stuff up, breathing deeply, pushing myself up, lowering myself down and a  list of other things.

Now I either completely rest and hope it heals with enough time to recoup my lost training time. Or, I can try to work out in a reduced state and potentially prolong my recovery. And then, there is the possibility that I just won't recover in time to finish training and compete on September 15th.

For now, I'll just sit and wait and see what happens.

The Distance

A song, last week and this coming weekend. The Distance. Last week was week 10 of my 16 week training plan and it represents the first week I swam more than my Olympic distance, biked more than my Olympic distance and ran more than my Olympic distance -- in a single week. In fact, last week's long run was the furthest I've ever ran at one time.

The remaining weeks of my training plan will have me continuing to exceed any previous time or distance I've ever conquered before while swimming or running. I'm excited and a bit anxious about the increased distances. The last few weeks made me really optimistic about my training and my ability to keep pushing longer and longer.

However, as my weekly training eclipsed 8 hours a week of training, I've realized I need to spend far more time thinking about what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat to maximize the training sessions. I've picked up a couple of books to help. I'd recommend both. The first is Racing Weight and the second is The Feed Zone Cookbook. Racing Weight is meant to help endurance athletes find the optimal race weight for themselves while not sacrificing on nutrition. The Feed Zone is a cookbook with many awesome recipes for meals for before, during and after workouts put together by authors for a couple of the professional cycling teams.

My swimming and running distance records will be broken each week throughout the remainder of my training (except next week's rest week). But, my bike distance record? My bike distance record will be shattered this weekend.

I'm racing for my first time in the Riverwest 24, more affectionately known as the RW24. It is a 24 hour bike race and I'm doing the race solo. There were options to be on a I chose solo (I know this doesn't make sense). I'm having my doubts about my participation. But, I'm choosing to view this as a social event. My wife is riding on a team and I'm one of five dads from my daughter's school who's riding. It should be epic. I have no goal, but I suspect I'll put lots and lots of miles on the bike.

One final share.

I rode last night with the TriWisconsin Triathlon Team. It started well. It got better when a rider whom I've seen before, but never met formally, asked me to slow down and let the others in the pack catch up and reform a group. He started schooling me on group riding tactics and etiquette and I soon learned more in those few miles with John than I had in the previous half-dozen group rides I participated in. He coached the 10 of us into tight double lines and how to keep together over hills and how to peel off the lead and much more. The ride was going very well.

It continued to go well until I hit mile 20. At mile 20, I bonked. Hard. As I was peeling off the lead and ready to finish climbing another hill, the group just went past me. I couldn't catch back up. I tried for a couple of miles. Then, I gave up. I knew what happened and immediately started to fuel up. By the time my gel was kicking in and I had some more fluids, the group was gone. I accepted the fact and just kept my pace easy and kept my head down.

Just as I crested another of the many hills on this course, I saw John pedaling back. He quickly turnaround, looked over his shoulder and hollered back, "You dropped behind, now you have to suck wind from my wheel. Fall in." He pulled me the last few miles back (at 21+ mph average for those last miles). As pedaled on, he continued giving me insight and lessons into cycling, triathlons and group riding.

I learned a ton of lessons last night. Cornering. Climbing. Group riding. But, the best lesson of the night was the one I learned when I saw John pedaling back to me to help pull me home. That lesson transcends cycling and triathlon. But, it is part of the reason why I've come to love the multisport, endurance community.

"Who or what is chasing you?"

I woke early this morning to ride before work. I'm in the 10th week of 16 week Olympic Distance Triathlon training plan. It is a volume based plan, so all workouts are based on a number of minutes. So, today I rode for 77 minutes. Not 80, not 75, but 77 minutes.

I've been training hard lately and have been feeling the effects. So today, I took my 77 minutes a little easier while still try to meet some sort of training goal. I rode slower than usual and tried to keep my heart rate in or below zone 3.

Going slow allowed me to allow myself to also stop at times and take a few pictures. This picture was my favorite of the day. This amazing sculpture is located at Atwater Beach in Shorewood (just north of Milwaukee). I had already stopped and snapped a picture of the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, but seeing the sun rays and the sun beaming through the head of this sculpture literally stopped me in my tracks.

I love the photo on so many levels. So many. The angle above the lake. The letters making up the bust. The dramatic sun rays. But, mostly I love how it has made me think all day today. It has made me incredibly introspective.

My training plan also called for a 38 minute run so I went running at lunch. I work in an awesome location downtown which allows me to run along the Milwaukee Riverwalk, right over the North Avenue Foot Bridge and into Riverside Park. Great scenery, only one road crossing and lots of time to think.

So, when a couple of teens saw me running on the bridge and asked me "Who or what is chasing you?" and I didn't have a good (read "smartass") response for them, I spent the rest of my run thinking of one. At least I intended to.

Initially, I could only think of, "Nobody!" or "Nothing!" for a response, so I kept trying to think of a more witty reply. But, I kept coming back to a realization. I realized I AM BEING CHASED.

I am being chased by my old self. The self that was 65 pounds overweight. The self that was incredibly unhealthy. The self that overate. The self that thought anyone who was out running was "over ambitious".

I am being chased by constant unhealthy temptations. I am being chased by the threat of Type 2 Diabetes which affects both of my parents. I am being chased by statistics (obesity, cancer, high health care costs, etc.).

After a bit, my watch showed I had been running for half my allotted time so I turned around and started backtracking to the office. I was looking forward to seeing the teens again so I could tell them, "A LOT! I'm being chased by A LOT of things! OK???" Maybe they'd think I was some crazy guy. Who knows? 

Unfortunately, they weren't there, so instead I went back into my head. I challenged my self on whether or not I'm being chased by bad things or maybe I'm actually running to good things. Half-empty? Half-full? Which of course just made me keep thinking. And now, here I am still thinking?

By the way, did you ever hear of the Pessimist who thought the glass of water was half-empty and the Optimist who thought the glass was half-full? Well, what about the Opportunist who just took the glass and downed it in a single gulp?

I realize now there is no value in knowing whether I'm being chased by bad things or running towards good things. The value is that I'm running. And swimming. And biking. And living.

Routine vs. Change

I normally roll with change and love change. I'm eager for new things. But, I'm realizing that this "bring it on" attitude with regards to changes in my life can be in conflict with trying to follow a training routine.

I carefully plot out my 7 workouts each week as part of following my 16 week Olympic Distance Triathlon Training plan to minimize interfering with family and work life. So, when I showed up at the pool today to take part in an 8am "open lap swim" at a local High School, I was very frustrated to learn it wasn't open. Ugh.  If only I triple-checked the schedule.

This is when it hit me that I'm actually building a routine. Complete with the feelings of being let down when something messes with that carefully laid out routine. Routines can be problematic. It sucks when you begin to expect routine and something happens to derail it.

The realization that I "have a routine" is a bit scary to me. I like embracing change and rolling with what is thrown my way even while recognizing my laid-back style doesn't always yield significant results with my fitness goals.

In addition to becoming a better swimmer, cyclist and runner, this journey has afforded me an opportunity to learn something else. Patience. And, that I need to figure out how to create more resilient plans so when mishaps like today happen I can recover and not miss a beat in training.

In other words, I need to roll with the changes caused by a failed routine.

Lies. All Lies.

Five weeks ago I came to accept the sad fact that I wasn't going to compete in the Big Foot Triathlon which I competed in last year, which was my first ever triathlon event. I wasn't ready. I wouldn't be ready.

I had big hopes when I last wrote here of having a plan to re-invigorate my weight loss and my fitness, but I didn't follow through. Sure, I could tell you a variety of reasons why it didn't happen. But, they'd probably just sound like lies. If I were a revisionist, I'd just delete the last blog post. But, I'm not.

The important thing is that I AM going to compete in the Land Rover TriRock - Lake Geneva in the Olympic distance on Saturday, September 15, 2012.

Land Rover TriRock Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

In order to get in shape, I found a 16 week Olympic Triathlon training plan and am now (proudly) in my 5th week of training. So far, so good. The plan is swim focused (my weakest event) and has 3 swim workouts, 2 bike workouts and 2 run workouts each week. Every fourth week is a "rest" week with the same workouts, but significantly reduced length of time over the previous week.

I am also registered to "race" in a 24 hour bike race. The Riverwest24 is a 24 hour bike race through Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood and is an endurance junkie's dream. I'll be spending the next 6 weeks, plus the night of July 27th through July 28th determining if I am an endurance junkie. Regardless of my findings there, I'll be doing the event with friends and fellow dads from my daughter's school.

So, here are my revised goals.

  • Complete an Olympic distance triathlon in 2012. 
    • In progress, following training plan. 
  • Reach my goal weight, which means dropping about 15 pounds.  
    • Paying more attention to eating and nutrition, letting the 7-8 hours of training a week do the rest. 
  • Commute to work by bike, more often than I do by car. 
    • Making good progress. 
  • Complete the Riverwest24 Bike Race with at least 200 miles ridden. 
    • We'll see about this. 
  • Re-engage Kill The Gator mode, which really just means writing here more. 

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

I've been trapped in a hole for months and am just starting to see some light. My eyes are still adjusting. I've fallen out of my regime. This is my first winter since I've become what folks refer to as an "active" person. And, well, you know, I haven't really been active. Adjusting to winter, dealing with illness and coming up with a suitable "off season training" plan has been a big failure for me. I have all kinds of reasons and justifications for how this happened. But, since they bore me when I tell them to myself, I won't bore you with them.

Instead, let's talk game plan. Let's talk goals. Let's also be pragmatic.

Goals first.

  • Complete at least three triathlons in 2012. 
    • Two Sprint distance triathlons. 
    • One Olympic distance triathlong.
  • Reach my goal weight, which means dropping about 15 pounds.  
  • Commute to work by bike, more often than I do by car. 
Simple enough, right? Goals need plans. And, if you want to avoid failure, then you need Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance -- the 7P's. Or, trade the 7 P's for 1 P and just be pragmatic. 

I love the word pragmatic. It is fun to say, but I mostly love the meaning of the word and the philosophy behind it. If don't like getting into the language and nuances of word meanings, you could just say that you should be practical when planning. You can be practical all you want, I'm going to be pragmatic. 

So, if you want to create a plan for reaching some goals you must identify the challenges of your reality. My reality has these challenges. 
  • My immune system.
  • My body's weaknesses.
  • My work travel. 
  • My geographic location. 
  • My time. 
My immune system and winter don't get along. I've been plagued with sinus and ear troubles my entire life. I was sure I'd be swimming a lot during the winter months (in a pool...not Lake Michigan), but my ears haven't allowed this to be so. I need a plan for this, because as you know, triathletes swim.

I injured myself in late summer and spent most of fall rehabilitating. I injured my Achilles tendon and my feet (plantar faciitis) during training. They are still sore, but I need to continue my rehab and exercises to strengthen and stretch those problem areas, or I won't reach my goals. 

My career demands that I travel. I need to learn discipline while I'm traveling to continue to eat right and keep up with my regime. 

I live in Wisconsin. It is cold here. And, it snows. Sometimes. Each time I tell my wife we should pack up and join the contingencies of our family that live in California, she says, "You just need to embrace winter and do winter sports." "Okay," I say. "We'll need snow to do winter sports." It finally snowed last week. And, we've already made good doing "winter sports" and went cross country skiing (which was awesome). However, I still have to learn to get over the mental barrier that I can't maintain the outdoor training that was working really well for me. I need a plan to train without relying on the great outdoors. 

My work has been demanding lately as I go through a variety of transitions with people and systems. These are exciting challenges for me, and it is easy to put in long hours in the evenings helping them become reality. But, I need to find time for my personal goals. 

So, those are my challenges. Next, I consider what has worked well for me before. 

I've used a couple of different Tony Horton programs in the past. I first did Power 90, which helped me lose my initial 40 pounds. I've also dabbled in P90X, with success, but I haven't completed the whole program. Those videos work for me. They give you the plan...I don't have to think. They are great for strengthening and endurance and cross-training. And, I lose weight doing them. 

By the way, I don't really write blog posts. I actually write to consider my dilemmas and often -- like today -- a solution unveils itself by the end of the post. Today, I convinced myself that getting back into P90X is going to help me get back into a routine. I may just be ripped like Tony H. in the process. Who knows?? 

I want to swim, I want to bike. I want to run. I love being a triathlete. And, I will do all of these things. In the spring, summer and early fall. For now, I'll hang with Tony H. 

So, the plan is: 
  • Begin P90X tomorrow. 
  • In 90 days, Wisconsin will begin to thaw, I'll begin to train outside again. 
Simple enough, right?

"My motors are sore!"

Mommy is away on a trip with her sisters in Palm Springs! While she relaxed in the desert air, Emma and I had an adventure of our own. I've attempted to chronicle our day with Google Maps. Let me know how it works for you.

View Daddy Daughter Bike Ride in a larger map.

The day ended with Emma telling me, "My motors are sore. I need to go to bed."


I know many runners, swimmers, bikers all will tell you that they have their best pondering occurs while they are out on the road or in the water in the middle of a good workout. I'm no different. My ride this morning was fueled by one of these thought-storms.

This morning I rode for the first time in several days as I was recovering from a cold that wiped me out. I'm coming around now and got out on the bike for a good ride this morning. Where did I go? To the beach. Why to the beach? Not to swim. I went to the beach to see the crew I had been swimming with this summer. So, I went and watched them come in from their swim. I watched the sunrise. I cajoled and told them they're crazy for still swimming and 30 minutes later got back on my bike.

Next, I rode down the lake shore to downtown Milwaukee and out onto the Lakeshore State Park (an amazing gem in downtown Milwaukee) where I encountered a red fox. Actually, I almost collided with the fox. He was running full bore towards me down the bike path and I was riding at 20+ mph towards him. As he veered off, I stopped. I stopped to take pictures and follow him along and admire the beauty of his red fur with the orange-red sun rising behind him.

Here comes the thought-storm. When I was young, I rode bikes for the sheer joy of riding bike. Sadly, the last long bike ride I took (as a kid) was the day before I got my driver's license. I've rode on and off over the years as an adult, but almost always to get in shape or to exercise.

When I began training last year for my first duathlon and this year for my first triathlon, I rode my ass off to be faster, to burn more calories and to go further. I planned my routes to ensure I'd have the least amount of stops as possible. I even wrote a blog post once about my sacrifice for art when I stopped in the midst of riding. I thought of it as a sacrifice to stop and admire (and photograph) some "found art" along the trail.

Today, I came full circle. I, once again, am riding bike for the sheer joy of riding bike. I wouldn't have dreamed of stopping for so long even 2 months ago. I would have considered it a wasted training effort. Two months ago, I would have rode past the fox this morning and just thought, "That was cool. Gotta keep going. Gotta keep going." However, today I enjoyed it.

Funny thing about circles is that there is no beginning and there is no end. So, although I am now riding again for the sheer joy of riding, I realize I'm kind of slacking on some of my fitness goals. This has been another common thought-storm of mine as of late. But, I'm sticking to my 1::1 thought-storm to blog post formula and leaving it at that for now.

You, on the other hand I'll leave with something else. Enjoy some of the beauty from this morning's ride.

The slight disturbances in the water are the swimmers
coming back from their morning swim. 

Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox is in the bottom right corner of the picture. 

The sky was amazing. 

Hey, who are you calling a "biker?"

My wife and I were talking to a group of bikers not long ago about their bike group. Where they ride to, how often do they ride, etc? These bikers were wearing tight fighting clothes, not made of leather. After a bit, my wife commented how different it is that now we hang out with bikers who wear Lycra and Spandex. We used to spend time with bikers wearing leather jackets who rode motorcycles. A few years ago, "going for a bike ride" meant getting on my motorcycle. Biker referred to those who rode motorcycles.

Times are a changin'. @Mr_Triathlon tweeted earlier today, "My recommendation for anyone getting into triathlons ... is to get a second job." Well, my answer to this common triathlon dilemma is to finally sell my motorcycle. Triathlons and cycling are expensive pastimes. My 1996 Triumph Adventurer is for sale.

My 1996 Triumph Adventurer

Selling my motorcycle is akin to cleaning out my closet of my "fat" clothes. It seals the deal. Going back to my former ways of sitting around and being unhealthy is not an option for me. Being healthy and active simply feels too good. If the weather is good enough to go for a ride, you'll find me pedaling. 

How Gator Killing Changed Me

I was hardly confident I'd reach my goal of losing the weight I set out to lose. I certainly never considered I'd change my life in so many ways. I was defined by things I couldn't do. Or, more sadly, wouldn't do because I was uncomfortable trying. I steered clear of opportunities which might expose my weight to others. This may have meant not being involved in something which involved taking my shirt off, running, walking too far, lifting too much, etc.

Now, I haven't reached my goal weight yet. Perhaps I never will (yet I'll never stop trying). However, I'll continue to marvel at the many ways my life has changed. I have energy I've never had. Motivation I could have never imagined. And, an outlook that keeps pulling me forward.

My mantra of Kill the Gator didn't exist when my journey began. At least it didn't exist in those words. However, a seed was planted at the onset of this journey and I was unknowingly watering and nuturing the young, tender sprouts. Until it became a wiley, carnivorous beast of a plant. Swallowing whole gators. Or, in a more common vernacular: facing fear, one fear at a time.

Now, I feel defined by this mantra christened by my friend, Michael, and I in a series of tweets. Yes, powerful things can happen in 140 characters or less. The ability to take on a fear of something new hasn't just been realized in my fitness endeavors, it has spilled over into other aspects of my life. Here are a few of them. Some are simple, some seem a bit awkward to share. But, they are all meaningful to me.

- Although I've lived within 2.5 miles of my office for 9 years, I've never had the courage to ride my bike to work. Now, I average riding my bike 3 days a week.
- I bought a manual, rotary style push lawn mower. No cords, no gasoline, just good old-fashioned sweat powered.
- I have been seen wearing a lot of lycra and the occassional Speedo (no, not the bikini bottom kind, jammers, the ones that look like bike shorts)
- I've sought out others who are like minded to train with and share inspiration with. I'm actually an introvert, and reaching out to new groups isn't really my thing.
- I swim. I've always had a mild fear of deep water. I still do. Yet, I swim in open water as often as I can in water that is deep.
- I ask for help. Often. I've always been very stubborn about learning new things. This whole fitness endeavor has helped me ask for help of others. Whether it's regarding their knowledge, experiences or help with a wetsuit zipper, I ask.
- I look for ways for our family to be active together. I want to share in the good health with my wife and daughter.
- I watch a lot less TV. I never watched much, but I watch a lot less now. After reading a recent study which showed the average adult loses 22 minutes of life for every hour of TV watched, I'm thankful my interest in sitting in front of the tube has ended.

The items above represent some of the more positive changes I've made. There are some downsides I'm working through. Primarily, I'm working through challenges I have with balance. I don't always balance competing interests well. I need to balance family, work, training, household responsibilities, etc. Within each area, I need to be careful to not overextend myself. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. This isn't always healthy. :-)

All of these things combine for a very active mind these days. I'm constantly strategizing how I can get another training session in, or more time with my beautiful wife and daughter. I'm working on balance. It may very well be my longest, most challenging journey. This space may continue to be filled with the challenges of balancing healthfulness with life.

Have you always been healthy and active? Or, have you had a transformation? What's your story?

Lake Swimming > Pool Swimming

Why do I think lake swimming is better than pool swimming? Because you don't get this in a pool...

My view as I approached the beach this morning. 

My view from the beach yesterday morning. 

I've seen these amazing sunrises for 4 of the last 8 days and enjoyed the awesome experience of watching the sun appear over the horizon while I'm taking a breath of air during my swim.

I've been waking at 4:45 AM to meet a group of people for a swim at this beach each day (I can make it) at 5:45 AM. I ride my bike there and back. It's a 9.5 mile ride, so it takes me about 30 minutes each way. The ride there is in almost complete darkness. I swim, then get back on the bike and go home.

I have never felt so alive in all of my life.

Tri-ku || Camp Whitcomb/Mason Triathlon

I've always loved reading @bikerly's baiku and I've been inspired to try and write my own tri-ku, or triathlon haiku. Here's my first attempt.... Share your thoughts.

Hoping not to puke,
I hear, "Hurry up Daddy!
Don't you want to win?" 

My race report from the Camp Whitcomb/Mason Triathlon is I See Crazy People.

Oddly enough, "Triku" is trademarked. So, I hope in the spirit of artistic expression, the trademark owner is okay with my use of the phrase with an extra hyphen. 

I See Crazy People

I stole the title of my post from a decal I saw yesterday while at the Camp Whitcomb/Mason Triathlon. The Camp Whitcomb/Mason is the longest, continually running triathlon in Wisconsin and is set on the grounds of the beautiful camp run by Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. The Camp Whitcomb/Mason is a Sprint Triathlon with a 1/4 mile swim, 22 miles bike and 5k run.

The Camp Whitcomb/Mason Triathlon is the second triathlon I finished.

I knew I was addicted to triathlons as soon as I started training for them. I didn't need to actually compete in one to know I was hooked. Completing my first triathlon was my symbolic "killing of the gator" as I faced my fears. Those fears included swimming, competing with really fit people and wearing spandex in public.

I didn't expect it, but yesterday's finish was just as a much a Kill The Gator moment as the first. I faced the fear of competing without feeling completely prepared. Up until the moment before the race, I contemplated not racing. I've been struggling with strained Achilles tendons, plantar fasciitis and a little bit of a cold. Besides my nose running like a spigot while I was biking and running, it was the Achilles tendons I was afraid of.

I wasn't afraid of further injuring myself. I was afraid I would not be able to hold myself back. Once I get started around all these crazy people and their awesome encouragement, it's hard to hold back. It's hard to run slowly when you're almost there. It's hard to not push it up those hills when your adrenalin is cursing through your body. It's hard to not push it when you don't hurt while your doing it, but after.

The old Chris would have given up. He'd have played it safe and tossed out excuses as if he was throwing out candy from a float in the "Look at Me, I Tried" parade. He'd have explained how hard he worked out and trained, but ultimately it just didn't work out. I really don't miss the old Chris.

A couple of the wild turkeys I saw.
The rest were wearing spandex ;-)
Instead, I woke up at 4am and packed the car. I drove the 40 minutes to the event with the light of a full moon to guide me. I was the first athlete there. The sky was still dark. So, I did what every other triathlete would do. I found the port-a-potties. (For the unacquainted -- or maybe it's just me -- I have a near constant urge to use the bathroom prior to the start of a race.) I enjoyed the full moon. I watched a group of baby wild turkeys be entertained by a few adult turkeys furiously chasing each other.

As time crept closer, I began to setup my transition areas. Yep, that's right, there were two areas to setup. This race had a swim-to-bike transition and a bike-to-run transition. I'm glad I gave myself extra time, because I must have gone back and forth 5 times (and they weren't really close to each other) as I forgot stuff. Going back and forth wasn't really a problem though, as the bathrooms were in between.

My wife, daughter and parents showed up just as the first wave of swimmers went out on the course. This was really nice! I loved seeing them before I got started. I knew they'd be there when I got out of the water.

I had my best open water swim ever. I was able to stay focused (after a goggle problem at the start). I did a "trudgen-like" stroke (using a side-stroke kick) and had a mantra of "I'm trudging." None of this was planned, but it worked. It was the longest I've swam without having to revert to a recovery stroke.

I finished my swim feeling strong and ran to my bike. The bike was a beautiful ride through hilly scenic roads that was challenging with near constant headwinds for the first half of the ride. I pushed hard up the hills and to the wind betting on a strong tail wind to bring me home. It worked. I finished the bike still feeling strong in my legs.

Now was the time to run. My daughter was screaming from the edge of transition to "Hurry up Daddy! Don't you want to win?!?" I was taking my time. My legs were a little rubbery and I was worried about continuing the momentum and starting out running hard. I needed to slow down some. My Achilles don't bother me on the bike, just while running fast or running hills. This course had several hills on the run.

As I ran out of transition, Emma was there to slap my hand. But, the best part was Jill and Emma ran with me for the first 400 yards or so. It was awesome to disappear into the woods on the trail with them dropping off. Although there were a few times I was really tempted to push it hard on the run, I controlled my pace. I was number 115. I saw number 114 in T1, I wished him luck. He said, "I won't be passing you on the bike, so I'll see you at the finish." To which I replied, "Don't worry, you'll pass me on the run." As he ran past me, he yelled, "Hey 115, you kept your word!" I love these interactions!

As I neared the end, the volunteers yelled out that this was the "last hill." Again, I thought about pushing hard and finishing strong. The woman running next to me, said, "Let's do this." and took off. I started to, but then slowed. I caught back up to her just before we got to the real last hill. We looked at each other and said, "They lied!" She pushed it hard, I pushed a little and followed her through the chute to the finish.

Then they hung a medal around my neck. World, meet two-time triathlete, former fat guy, Chris Maertz.