Ironmaz - Training Log

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
One week later
It's just been over a week since the Ironman and I still find myself in disbelief.

It is hard for me to believe that I crossed as many miles as I did. The experience has humbled me, but at the same time it has empowered me.

You really have nothing to lose in life as long as you try.

Even though I did not finish, the experience was still significant and I can already feel the effects of it on my life. I find myself a little more decisive and honest with my decisions. And I don't find myself doubting much around me.

We try so hard to keep a tenuous hold on reality as we fail to understand that it is constantly shifting, evolving, changing. We cannot hold onto things that change. And change is inevitable. Sooner or later, reality will tear away from us and we are left with nothing but hopes and dreams that will never be.

I could have ended my Ironman 1 mile into the event. Once my leg cramped, I could have asked the lifeguards to pull me out and take me home. My day would have ended then and I still would have had a good story. My comfort zone was disrupted and I spent the next 10 hours pushing through the desert looking for a good place to quit.

But I didn't. I kept pushing. Hopes and dreams would not be lost on that day.

I didn't finish. But I didn't quit.

In the end, my decision to pull out was based on health reasons--when you can't breathe, there isn't much you can do. Because of that, I don't sit around and wonder what would have been. No, there is no need for that when a lot had been done.

I will return to Ironman in 2008. It might be Arizona, it might be another event. I'm not sure at this point, but I will give myself a little time.

Ironman requires a commitment that I cannot put into words. It requires more time than you can imagine. And for the moment, I would like to focus on a few neglected parts of my life.

This will be the final entry on this blog for a while. I will continue to share my thoughts and feelings on my main website at www.andrewmaz.net. And there is much happening at www.andrewmaz.com as well. So if you wish to know what the neglected parts of my life are, visit those sites.

Do not be alarmed by my failure to commit to another Ironman at this point.

If you spent 10.5 hours in the desert by yourself, you'd want a little time to catch your breath and catch up with yourself.

I will cross the finish line.

Monday, April 10, 2006
114.4
Why am I doing this? Why am I here? Why even bother?

These are the questions we come across everyday in our lives at some point.

Funny how these thoughts come across us while we are sitting at our desk; the pointless existence of our everyday lives.

And then on one Sunday morning, 1800 lunatics gather in a random city to attempt to find some meaning in life.

Funny how attempting to cross 140.6 miles on sheer human power adds meaning to your life.

Not deep meditation, not spiritual enlightenment, not some sort of transcendental experience.

There is something in pushing yourself physically that collapses everything you think about yourself.


The swim started well. I felt good, comfortable and calm. The water was reported at 45 degrees F, much colder than we expected. But I jumped in and made my way to the start line. The gun went off and there we went. It took about 15 minutes to find my place in the water, away from others and free to swim at my own pace.

My pace was solid and I felt very good. The turnaround came much sooner than I expected. Then the unthinkable happened.

My right calf cramped.

I was caught somewhere between panic and despair. I quickly remembered that my wetsuit would keep me afloat. The pain was more excruciating than usual. I looked over to my left and saw a lifeguard. For a moment, I thought about calling him over to me. Then another thought—I could get pulled from the race, and I would have covered less distance than last year.

Somehow, I managed to relax my leg by doing the breaststroke for a few minutes. And then I set off to complete the swim. The problem was that I couldn’t relax because I kept wondering when my leg would decide to cramp again. Fortunately, it didn’t. However, as I approached the final buoy and headed back to shore, I started wondering if my legs would be able to support me when I got out of the water.

Fortunately, volunteers are at hand to help pull you out of the water and up the steps. But once I was on my feet, I realized that the lower half of my right leg was useless. I also noticed that my left hamstring was cramping as well. After the wetsuit pull, I hobbled my way to the transition tent, wondering how I was going to ride the bike. I tried stretching my calf, but it didn’t help much. My only hope was that it would loosen on the bike.

The first loop of the bike course was miserable. I could not find a comfortable spot on the bike. My arms bothered me, my legs bothered me, and I couldn’t get comfortable on the seat. My new, extremely well-padded gloves seemed to be useless as well. My heart rate started out at 150 and never went lower. Things were not looking good.

I thought about quitting the bike ride 100 times yesterday—once for every mile. Somehow, I made my way to the top of the hill, grabbed some new Gatorade and talked to one of the volunteers for a moment. I told him if all went well, he would see me again. The way back to town was better, but not great. I had made up my mind to pull out after the first loop.

However, once I pulled into town, the excitement of the crowd and the announcer’s voice gave me a little extra push. There was no way I could bail out now. I decided that maybe the second loop would be better. And it was—for about 5 miles. Once the climb up the Beeline Highway began, I started feeling miserable again. But once again, I found my way at the top and even took a moment to chat with another volunteer at the Special Needs section. I picked up my new gel flask and moved on.

This time, as I started finishing the second lap, I decided that maybe I would quit then. But I looked at the clock and noticed that I was 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff time for the second loop. I decided that the only thing to do was to try to finish the third loop. Maybe I would get lucky and finish by 4:30pm, giving me 7.5 hours to finish the marathon.

It was a good thought, but the third loop did not go as easily as planned. In fact, it started getting very lonely as I started to realize that I might be the only one out there on the third loop. Yes, there were others coming back, but I kept wondering if there was anyone behind me. It was not until I reached that top of the hill the third time did I discover that there were two other women behind me. I was not alone.

At mile 100 I noticed that I had only 45 minutes to finish. I would need to stay about 15mph in order to make the cutoff. I found some strength hidden in some corner of my mind, and pushed. For the first time in the ride, I decided not to give up.

The last 12 miles were surreal. I was all alone. It was just me, the falling sun, and an open highway. I could see no one ahead of me, and I lost sight of the two women behind me. I imagined that this is what it must feel like to be in first place and have no one behind or ahead of you. But I was going to make it. I didn’t know if I would be able to do the run, but at least I would conquer the bike.

I pulled into town and headed down the small city loop that led back to the transition area. Someone shouted as I rounded the corner: “you’ve got 5 minutes.” I had a quarter of a mile to go. Only 400 yards, but it felt like forever. As I tore into the cycle chute, spectators were shouting for me to keep pedaling and once of the bike, to run.

I did not realize how damaged my legs were until I tried to run. But I crossed the timing mat with 1 minute to spare.

Pulling out of race is not an easy choice. And here I was, having to make the decision again. My asthma had flared up quite severely; in fact, I haven’t felt it this bad in years. The bottoms of my feet were sore. My thighs were sunburned to the point that moving my legs was painful. I sat in the transition tent searching for the last bit of will to get my feet moving again. And I kept staring at the clock.

I knew I could cover a marathon in 6.25 hours on fresh legs. But I only had 6.5 hours to officially finish and I could barely stand. And if I waited too long, I wouldn’t have enough time. I wanted to finish, but I also did not want to miss the cutoff. I need to cover the first two of three loops by 10pm in order to be allowed to continue. I stood up and took few steps. Between the pain in my legs and the wheezing in my chest, I knew that going on would not be a healthy decision.

So once again, I pulled out of the race.

But this time I finished the bike. I covered 114.4 miles of the Ironman. And only 26.2 miles to go.

The bike course was hard on me mentally. It is amazing how hard it is to ignore that voice in your head that tells you to quit. And this time it was louder than it has ever been before.

24 hours later, it still all feels like a dream. I’m back home in LA now and my tri bike is hanging on the wall again, with an additional 112 miles on it. The sunburns hurt, and my right calf is still acting up at times. But I’m breathing easily and am experiencing only mild muscle fatigue.

I covered 114.4 miles and I’m here to talk about.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the future…

Sunday, April 09, 2006
Ironman update
I know that the results page still shows that I am moving. But I am not.

After a grueling 112-mile bike ride, I decided that with only 6.5 hours to complete the marathon, and will some cramps in my legs and blisters on my feet, I pulled myself out of the race. If you check the results page, you will notice that there is not a time in the bike-to-run (T2) section.

I will provide a full update tomorrow when I am conscious and rested.

As for now, thank you ALL for you love, support, and prayers. It all kept me going during the bike.

But now, considering I have been up since 3:30am, I am headed to sleep.

In the meantime, keep Saturday night open for some SUSHI!!!

Andrew

Saturday, April 08, 2006
1109
This is the last post for a while.

If all goes well, you won't hear from me until sometime on Monday.

I make no promises at this stage except for one--I will give it everything I have. And when I reach that point, I will give it everything I have left. And after that, I will give it even more.

There is an expression in Spanish that originates from the Arabic - ojalá. In other words, God willing. The Arabics of ancient Spain believed that Allah, the God of Abraham, had a plan for everyone. It was not up to us to question His motives or plans. We merely set ourselves on our journey and let His will rule.

You can watch the Ironman live on the Internet at www.ironmanlive.com. The broadcast starts around 6am PST and runs until midnight PST. My race number is 1109. If I heard right, you can follow an athlete's progress online. You might even see me cross the finish line if you stay up long enough.

I have prepared the best I can. I have done what I needed to do. Made many sacrificies and put in my time. I will put one foot in front of the other and make my journey across the desert.

My good friend Paul posted this on my guestbook. I am not certain of the accuracy, but knowing Paul, he checked his sources:

In Arabic, "Maz" is roughly translated as "he who conquers the desert in fantastic fashion."

Ojalá...

Friday, April 07, 2006
two nights before
You read about the importance of getting a good night's sleep two nights before the event. The logic is that your nerves will keep you from sleeping the night before the event. All said, I should be in bed right now. But I've recently discovered that it is best to work with your body's natural sleep patterns rather than trying to change them overnight. I'll get to bed soon and sleep in tomorrow. I'll even take a nap tomorrow.

Today I took my bike out for a short 25-mile ride. Funny how I call 25 miles short. That's already 25% of the Ironman bike distance. It felt good to be on the bike. Real good. In fact, almost too good. I decided to turn around and head back to the hotel. I'll try to remember how good I felt today on Sunday, around mile 90.

I'm not nervous. I'm not anxious. I'm excited. I'm wired. I'm wound up. Now I understand what a good taper feels like. After pulling back my workouts to almost nothing for the past month, I feel the energy in my body ready to explode. I swam a few laps in the pool today and could feel my muscles burst with power. Even on the bike, I climbed the hill over the river on McClintock with fierce intensity.

Tim DeBoom said that a lot can happen in Ironman so it is best not to make pre-race predictions. He said to keep the moments real when you're out there and do it for the right reasons.

Out on the bike today as I headed down Rio Salado back to the hotel I took a moment to realize what I was doing. I was out in Arizona, riding my bike in the afternoon. Less than 48 hours away from starting one of the greatest human challenges around. And I realized how fantastic my life is at the moment. Forget all the tangible things we hold onto--money, loneliness, dissappointment, and fear. Forget all that and realize that life is fantastic.

And then I realized how sad it is that most of us will never discover how fantastic we can be.

We're too busy making other people happy, working jobs we don't like, holding onto money because it makes us feel secure, watching TV because we're too tired to do anything else, drinking wine and beer because it helps us relax and "be ourselves" around others. We come up with any excuse we can to prevent ourselves from being fantastic.

And why?

Because being fantastic involves going places and doing things other don't. Being fantastic means being terrified. Being fantastic means letting go. Being fantastic means letting loose and flying with no parachute. It's as scary as hell. Trust me. I've been there.

But the moment you realize that the fear is merely in your mind. The moment you realize that you are freer than you have ever been. The moment you realize that you are pushing that line people call normal so far out that it breaks...

The moment you let the hot desert wind blow across the face and let the sun toast your skin and breathe the air that the Indians in the region call sacred...

It's fantastic.

People call me crazy because I'm doing the Ironman. Normal people don't do things like that.

Normal is boring. And I'm not crazy.

I'm fantastic.

Try it. You'll never want to be normal again.

Friday morning
Yesterday was somewhat of a blur. It also started later than expected. I couldn't fall asleep Wednesday night. So I didn't wake up until 7:30am on Thursday. That was followed by a small crisis at work, which then didn't have me leaving the house until 10am. From that point on, it was all about getting to the registration table at Tempe Town Lake before 4:30pm. I did have all day today to take care of my registration, but I really wanted to have today to mull around the hotel and do nothing.

While at dinner with friends last night in Scottsdale at the wonderful restaurant, Flo's, someone asked if the drive was boring. I realized that I was not bored during the drive. I don't know if it was the speed or urgency of my drive, but I did not mind at all. There was something peaceful about the drive. When I pulled into Phoenix, there was something familiar about the place--as if I had been here last week. I didn't need maps as I drove around town last night.

I do find this place called Arizona to be magical. There is something in the sunsets that inspires peace. There is something in the way the sun shines unabashed here, no clouds or smog to get into its way. The dry air is crisp and biting, and every breath means something.

I drove the bike course last night. It is much more intimidating that last year's course. Last year, you spent a lot of time weaving your way around downtown to add the miles. This year they are sending us out on Highway 87 (Country Club Hwy) for a good 10 miles out before turning around. There is a good solid 4 mile climb to the top. It is not a bad hill, certainly easier than anything I have encountered on PCH, but we'll see how I feel after the third lap. It is a nice course either way.

And maybe it's the familiarity of the place or the fact that I have realized that life is not defined by your accomplishments as much as your journeys--but I am not nervous this year. The week is still early and a lot can happen between now and Sunday, but so far so good.

Am I confident that I will make it?

I can't say right now.

But I am confident that I will have fun trying.

And this is why a lot of people only do one marathon or triathlon or bike tour in their lives.

They define their existence by their accomplishments, not their journeys.

I am about to begin an exciting and life-changing journey.

Whether I cover 50 miles or 140 miles, I will learn something.

And the lessons learned will last longer than the t-shirt I will get when I cross the finish line.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Packing
And thus the packing begins.

It's been 11 months since I've done any sort of triathlon, let alone a long distance one.

I forgot how much I have to bring. With all the running events I've done this past year I've gotten a little spoiled. Just a pair of shoes, some socks, some water, some gel. That's all.

Add a wetsuit and bike and suddenly it gets huge.

This is all part of the business that one goes through when preparing for something like this.

It's almost daunting when you start--packing that is. But you break it up into smaller sections, first by discipline--swim gear, bike gear, run gear. Then you break down each discipline.

I remind myself that this is the way Sunday will go. First focus on the swim, after the swim, the transition, then the bike, and so on. Break the swim down into smaller sections--the fourth bouy is the turnaround. The bike is three laps. The run is three laps.

Don't think about the miles. Don't think about the the time.

Think about moving forward.

Just like life. Don't dwell on the past and don't worry too much about the future.

Enjoy the moment.

Monday, April 03, 2006
Restless
This is the point where I'm supposed to be feeling doubt.

But I'm not.

Am I confident?

Perhaps.

I think the better word is peace. I am at peace with what is coming up. I'm a little anxious and excited, but I am not scared. I believe I can make it, but I will not think any less of myself if I do not make it.

I have put in countless hours and countless miles. I look at my bicycles and see that each one has nearly reached 1000 miles, when at the beginning of the year some had barely touched 500. My running shoes show wear and some of my socks have holes in them. My water bottles are stained and I had to throw out a few because the smell wouldn't go away. Chlorine has eaten through two of my swimsuits.

And here I am, six days before the race.

Restless.

Sleep does not come as easily as it did weeks ago.

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