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Ironman Training

Undeniable Recap of 2021

We didn’t do it gracefully, but we survived 2021. Holy f^¢king sh*t it’s been a roller coaster of a year. Here are some of the highlights.

Lucy is such a happy dog!

Lucy Jane Carter

On April 28, 2021, I got a call from the president of the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue asking if I’d take in a foster. A 3-year-old basset was found wandering by herself in Tempe – no tag or microchip. As I loaded this hound into my car a few hours later I thought, “Here’s to another 10-year commitment.” I named her Lucy Jane.

Lucy Jane came into my life exactly when I needed her. I’d survived a car accident and sustained a concussion only a few weeks earlier. When I noticed her mellow loving temperament, I registered her as my emotional support dog. We’ve barely been apart since then. She goes to work with me every day, and we even turn my trip to Cleveland for Content Marketing World into a road trip so she could come with me. She’s brought so much love into my life.

Faith wearing Rosie’s sweater. She was so little!

Faith Helen Carter

The reason why I could take in a foster in April, was because Faith, the basset hound I adopted at the end of December 2020, only lived 36 days. For those 36 days, my life was focused on giving this little girl the best life I could. Rescued from a breeder in Tijuana, Faith came with a host of medical issues, including renal failure. On February 1st, after rushing her to the ER for what would be the last time, I accepted that my job was to give this little basset a soft place to land and surround her with love for her final days.

We did it!

5K Ocean Swim with the Jews

Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve been training for my first full Ironman race since the fall of 2019. My race was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. (Hopefully third time’s a charm in 2022.) I still flew to New York to do the 5K ocean swim. My original plan was to do this 3.1-mile swim so that a 2.4-mile swim on race day would be easy in comparison.

For context, my coach, David Roher, and his friend and my teammate, Shlomo, swim in the ocean at least once a week all summer, and several friends periodically join them, all of whom happen to be Jewish. It was important to me that I could hold my own with this group, not just as part of my training, but also because I didn’t want to be the weakling who couldn’t keep up.

It turned out, I had nothing to worry about. My training paid off, and I held my own just fine with the “Jewish Swim Team” as I lovingly called them. Coach David swam behind me, just to my left, and I when I periodically drifted out to sea, he grabbed my foot and pulled me back on course. (Swimming in a straight line isn’t my strength.)

Cow hugging with Moothias – he’s such a sweetheart.

Volunteering at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

I changed my work schedule at the end of 2021. Now on Monday mornings, when everyone else is heading back to work after the weekend, I head out to Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to over 100 cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and other animals, many of which have special needs. A lot of the time, my job there involves scooping poop and laying out fresh straw, but it also includes spreading love, petting the animals, and singing to them.

JK and I decided that we’re in a boy band called Boy Band.

Hugging my Friends

As I went through my jar of happy memories while I worked on this Undeniable Recap for this year, I noted that a lot of them were notes about hugging various friends. Between the pandemic and busy lives, I don’t get to see my friends as much as I’d like, so when we do get to meet in person, it’s so wonderful to have that moment where we get to hug.

We drove out of our way to stand on the corner in Winslow, AZ.

Firsts in 2021

Rushing a pet to the ER; Having a pet hospitalized over night

Cooking with a BBQ

Using a composting service

Staying at a Getaway Cabin (I hope they create an outpost in Arizona.)

Hosting a law graduate for a bar exam

Getting Experience Points on Sigler in Place

Getting a concussion as an adult

Washing my car using a drive through car wash

Biking at South Mountain on Silent Sunday

Sights: Standing on the Corner in Winslow, AZ; Singing at Knight Rise in Scottsdale, AZ; Fearless Girl in New York, NY; Captain Janeway Statue in Bloomington, IN; Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX

We really drove out of our way to visit the Future Birthplace of Captain Janeway.

Lessons Learned (or Re-learned) in 2021

I’m a better person when I have a dog.

Do not perform home surgery on yourself.

Time is our most precious resource.

Make time for self-care before you’re forced into it.

If you answer the phone with, “It’s done. There’s blood everywhere,” the cops may show up at your front door.

Dairy Queen has pup cups.

Hooman and Hound – I love this dog.

In Memoriam

Hoomans: Ron Flavin, Joanne Rogers, Ethan Pleshe, Jane Murdock, Beverly Cleary, Carolyn Lange, Jason Wright, Michael Berch, Stephen Sondheim, Paul Saviano, James W. Trumpy, and Betty White

Critter Friends: Jager Martin, NASA Shankman, Athena Takaha, Jasmine Guerrero, Wooliam Takaha, Violet Takaha, Rambo Inman, Pearl Takaha, Bart Isaacson-Ortmeyer, and Bunny Reilly

Triathlon Training in the Winter

This photo is not of Phoenix, but it can get pretty cold here in the winter. Photo by NOAA Photo Library (Creative Commons License).

It’s 201 days until Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021, just over seven months until race day. There are very few valid excuses for not doing a workout, and “It’s cold” is not one of them. Suck it up, Buttercup. Triathlon training means training in the cold.

My triathlon coach, David Roher, has recommendations for when his athletes can switch from wearing shorts to tights. When I’m doing a long workout, I dress based on the temperature it’s expected to be at the end of the workout. Actually, I like feeling a bit cold when I start my workout. It helps me notice when my body warms up during the workout, and there is less risk of overheating.

Swimming in the Cold

I train at an outdoor pool. Thankfully, it’s heated. They say that the pool thermostat is set for 82 degrees. What’s not heated is the area outside the facility’s door where I wait for the place to open while standing in flip flops.

The most uncomfortable part of winter swimming is the few minutes after I’ve stripped off my sweats and I’m sitting on the edge on the pool putting on my swim cap and googles before getting into the water. That ground is cold against my butt.

A few weeks ago, the heater was on the fritz over the weekend, and when I arrived to swim on Monday morning, the water was only 72 degrees. That was chilly, but still nothing compared to how cold it’s likely going to be in Lake Tremblant on race. The race is expected to be “wetsuit legal” and “booties legal.”

Biking in the Cold

Cycling outside in the winter is when I notice the cold the most. When you ride, you generate your own wind, and then there is also a headwind for half my ride. I also prefer to ride at sunrise (the coldest part of the day), and get my workout done early in the day. The path where I ride has a lot of shadows, and so it takes a while for the ground and surrounding area to warm up.

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear tights if the temperature is below 50 degrees. I’ve been riding up to three hours at a time, and in the cold, that means cycling tights, a long-sleeve shirt, cycling gloves (with full fingers), and heavy socks. Unlike sneakers, the tops of cycling shoes are open. Before I switched to heavy socks, my toes got so cold on these early morning rides, sometimes I couldn’t feel them.  

Running in the Cold

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear shorts until the temperature drops below 40 degrees. I recently modified this rule to allow tights if the weather report says it feels like it’s below 40 degrees. (I live in the desert for a reason. I’m not a fan of being cold.)

Right now, my run workouts are less than five miles each, so even when it’s cold, I’m not outside for very long. It was a different story a few years ago when I was training for a marathon in January.

I have access to treadmills, but I don’t like running on them. It’s so boring. I call them they human hamster wheel. I much rather run outside, even when it’s cold, windy, or raining. The same is true when it’s hot and humid in the summer.

Open Water Swim Training Update

After a brutal swim at the Half Ironman in Maine last year, I knew I’d be spending part of my off season practicing open water swimming. In the pool, I can see where I’m going, I have my own lane space, and I can put my feet down whenever I want. Open water swimming is the opposite of all that, plus I’m in a wetsuit. Mine has a lower neckline compared to other wetsuits, but it’s snug against my neck, especially when I rotate my body to be parallel to the ground to swim. I always have to remind myself that my wetsuit isn’t strangling me. (I’m really sensitive about things touching my neck.)

I did the Splash and Dash at Tempe Town Lake a few months ago. It had four race options:

  • Swim 1,000 meters, Run 5K
  • Swim only, 2,000 meters
  • Swim 2,000 meters, Run 5K
  • Swim only, 4,000 meters

I suspect the real purpose of this event is to give the people doing Ironman Arizona a few weeks later a chance to swim the length in the race (4,000 meters) in the lake where there’ll be swimming on race day. I signed up for the 2,000-meter, swim only.

Tempe Town Lake – Image by Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale from Flickr (Creative Commons License) – No, I did not get poisoned or super powers from swimming in this water.

I arrived at the lake at 6:50 a.m., checked in, and strapped my timing chip to ankle. The air temperature was 58 degrees. The water was 63. The 2,000-meter swim started at 7:32 a.m. They invited us to jump in a little before race time to “splash about” and get used to water temperature. Yeah, no thanks. I was only getting in that water once.

The race route was a 1,000-meter rectangle. Each person did one, two, or four laps depending on which event they signed up for. Like Maine, there were kayakers and paddle boarders throughout the route to help any swimmer who got in trouble. Shortly after I started swimming – 2:19 according to my Garmin – I grabbed onto a kayak, trying not to panic. (There’s something about feeling my wetsuit against my neck coupled with being hit by other swimmers that triggers my “fuck this” response.)

I told the friendly volunteer in the kayak, that I was panicking and he asked an insightful question, “Has this happened before?” That actually helped me calm down a bit. I took a minute to take some deep breaths and compose myself, and then continued with the race.

Once, I calmed down, running into other swimmers wasn’t as big of a deal. After one collision I remember saying, “Oops, that’s your butt.” The rest of the race felt pretty good. I worked on my spotting (trying to swim in a straight line by aiming at landmarks). A good rule is to check your spot every 2 strokes. I was doing it every 10, because I don’t like how spotting breaks up my cadence.

I finished the 2,000-meter swim in 45:03, 17 minutes faster than my time at Maine 70.3. The cut-off time for the swim for the full Ironman is 2 hours, 20 minutes (140 minutes). That’s encouraging to see that I’m on track to have a good swim at Ironman Mont Tremblant this summer.

I still need to work on not panicking when I first hit the water. I hope to do a few more open water group swims before the race.