Ironman Maryland 2017

 

The bags were packed and loaded, the bikes put in the car, all that was left was to start the drive to Cambridge Maryland and to the adventure of a lifetime: Ironman Maryland.  It seemed that when I signed up, that October was so far away.  Suddenly October was upon us, and it was time to see if all those hours and miles training would hold up.  There was that little voice inside questioning whether I could do it, did I train hard enough, but it was time to see.  We started the car and off we went!

Strangely enough, I was calm on race week, and that never happens.  Two weeks prior, I was a nervous wreck, and now I was as calm as could be.  It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I wondered why I was acting like this was just an out of town training day, and not what it actually was, and what it’s called: “The Hardest Day in Sport”.

We stopped in South Bend Indiana for the night and stayed right by Notre Dame University.  We decided to take advantage of it and did an early run through the campus.  It was beautiful!

img_0232-2We made it to Cambridge last Tuesday night and met our hosts.  They were a wonderful couple, and seemed excited that I was racing.  We had access to their pool, canoes, pretty much everything.  We really got lucky finding this place.  The next morning we made our way to the Ironman village to check in.  It was really happening!  We then had breakfast and then went for a quick swim.  There were sea nettles (jellyfish) everywhere, and a fellow athlete told me to coat all exposed areas with Vaseline, so the sea nettles wouldn’t stick to you and sting you.  I took the advice and didn’t get stung during the race, but got stung a few times in practice.

Wherever you went in the town, people let you know they were happy you were there.  Stores and streets were decorated, and you could tell the residents were as excited as we were.  A lot of locals volunteer at the race, and have for years!  It is a really amazing community.

On Friday, we drove to Baltimore to meet my coaches, Jenni and Jeff Keil, and to bring Jeff to the race with us.  Jenni unfortunately could not stay, but we had a great pep talk before we headed back.  I was still calm and the race was less than a day away!

Before I knew it, it was race day!  I got ready, and just like that I was in transition setting up my bike and filling my hydration system.  I put on my wetsuit and even laid down for a bit before it was time to line up for the swim start.

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We self-seeded by expected finish time, so I got in the 1:30-1:40 group. Suddenly I was walking into the water and on the adventure of a lifetime!

The swim was largely uneventful, especially with over 1300 swimmers in the water.  I fought the current more than the other swimmers, and then I was out of the water and onto transition.  The wetsuit strippers got you out of your wetsuit in less than a minute, and then someone handed you your bike bag.  Then it’s off to the changing tent to prep for the ride.

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The bike was extremely flat and very windy, with head/cross winds of 30-40 mph.  It was tough, with little breaks from the wind.  Around mile 80 I started feeling nauseous.  I think I have too much protein in my drink, but it was too late to fix that now.  It affected me throughout the remainder of the ride and the entire run.

When I got back to transition, I saw Jeff and told him I was feeling sick to my stomach, and that I didn’t know if I could run hard or for how long.  Jeff said to run when you can, walk when you have to, but that I could do it.  I had to decide whether to throw up and get it over with, but risk dehydration and possibly being too ill to continue, or to deal with it and keep moving forward.  I opted for moving forward.

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img_0227.jpg The run was long, especially feeling like you are going to get sick at any moment.  I went into my special needs bag, hoping I put something in there for an upset stomach.  I didn’t. So, I grabbed my Advil, band-aids, and my Dr. Pepper (my treat), and took off. I forgot my headlamp, and once you are in your bag, it gets tossed.  So when it started to get dark, I realized my mistake.  I was so upset about that, but lesson learned.

I never figured how to see what time it is on my watch when you are recording a workout, so I lost track of time.  Some areas get really dark, and I tried using the stars to tell what the time was. Man, there were a lot of stars!  It had to be about 10:30-11:00pm. I remember my dear friend Kelly Hill, who has completed 5 Ironman events, telling me that your mind will go to some dark places, and whether you cross the finish line or not depends on getting out of those dark places.  I was about to enter mine, as I realized that if it was 11, I was not going to make it!

I figured that if it was 11pm, and I had 8 miles to go, that I was going to be 4 miles short if I continued on this pace.  But I couldn’t go any faster, and I was trying. I got depressed and wanted to sit down and quit.  Since the run was a 2.5 loop out and back, I saw people heading in the direction I was coming from. I asked what lap some were on, and they said they were starting their second lap. I was finishing my second. I wished them luck, but in my mind I knew that the wagon would be coming to pull them from the race . . . and soon they would be pulling me too.

I turned the corner and saw Julie and Jeff.  My wife ran up to me and said she was proud of me.  I almost cried. Here I was failing, and she was proud of me.  I finally got up the courage to ask her what time it was, and was shocked when she said 7:47.  My dark place was melting away.  I asked her two more times, and she finally said “like the plane”.  I was elated, as I had only 6 miles left and plenty of time. I started to really enjoy the run then.

Just before I entered the finishers chute, I stopped and got out my charm pouch that I carried.  It was given to me by my dear friend Jodie Dunker, and I carried it on my 70.3, and I wanted it with me on the finish line here. So I pulled it out, gave it a kiss, and headed to the red and black M-Dot carpet. I crossed in 14:44:41

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Crossing the line was a blur. I thought I would lose it, but I didn’t.  I crossed, got my photo, my medal and hat and finishers shirt, more photos, and then I talked to Julie and Jeff and we bought some things in the Ironman village.  It really hadn’t hit me yet. Maybe I was tired, or preoccupied, or who knows what, but I was thinking that I would be more emotional.

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When we got home, our hosts left a bottle of champagne and a poster board with congratulations written on it! They even were out on the course cheering me on! They were incredible, and even with an upset stomach, the champagne tasted delicious.

The next day, my wife forwarded me the video she took as I crossed the line.  I got to really hear them call my name, hear that I was indeed an Ironman, and the tears started flowing.  I still tear up talking about it now.  I went from a 3 pack a day smoker, to 40 lbs overweight, to an Ironman!  It’s almost surreal, and I cannot wait to start training for the next one.

I tried to thank everyone personally for their help in getting me across the finish line, but I want to mention a few here that really helped in more ways than they know.

To my wife Julie, for loving, supporting me, and even joining in on this crazy way of life.

To my coaches Jenni and Jeff Keil, for training me, helping and encouraging me, and being such an amazing part of making me who I am today.

To Connie and Eric McGarrah, who always supported and encouraged me, and always made me believe in myself.

To Chris Matthews and Tiina Erb, who text with me daily and offer advice, encouragement, or just let me vent and they listen.  You are awesome.

To Kara Palczewski, my running wife, for training with me, photographing me, making my awesome video, and for being one of the most amazing friends I have ever had. Love you to the moon and back!

To Jodie Dunker, who is my biggest fan, official race photographer, charm maker, and a better friend than I deserve.  Love you!

To Kelly Hill, from making videos early on showing me the medals I’d soon have, to offering unending support, encouragement, advice, tips, and even texting me to help me pack my special needs bags and my bike and run bags as well.  You have been so big a part of this, that I felt you crossing with me at the finish line. The love and admiration that I have for you cannot be described. I cannot wait until we can do one together.

I know I’ve missed a few people, and know that I love you all dearly.  Now we start training for Ironman #2.  If I have my choice and can afford it, we will be heading to the Great White North for the next one.  We will know more by the end of the year, but I think Mont Tremblant is calling.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

 

Racing for a Cause, Getting Closer, and Other Assorted Things

It’s been a while since I last posted.  Time flies by so quickly, and with the increase in training hours, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for everything.  I finally mowed my lawn! Lol.  But here is an update on things going on, how training is going, and other assorted tidbits.

First off, I’ve decided to use this race to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by joining Team in Training.  Usually, you pick an event and raise money to go to the event, along with the support and training that TNT gives.  But as usual, I have to be a little different.  I’ve already paid for my race, I have awesome coaching through E11even Athletics, and everything is set.  But I can still help raise funds without a goal race.  So in honor of my Mom, who died from Lymphoma, I am doing this and I could use some help.  Please consider donating here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/ia/yourway18/TKneale#home

Mom went through chemo and radiation once, and said to me “never again”.  She had diabetes, and the combination almost killed her.  She made it a year and a half cancer free, before a PET scan showed that it was back and this time, in more than one lymph node.  She opted for Hospice care, and as you know, they stop all meds except for pain. One day, we went to visit her and she said “What’s my last name? I know my first name is Betty, because everyone calls me that.  But what is my last name?” When my wife asked her “what’s Dad’s last name?” Mom remember her maiden name. So Julie said “What’s Roy’s last name?” and she said “Kneale…oh! Write that down so I don’t forget.”

As we left, I broke down and cried.  No one should ever have to go through that.  It was a helpless, sad feeling, and by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do: smile and help a parent remember their name when all you want to do is cry and take their suffering away.

So please consider donating.  Hopefully they can find a cure and no one else has to go through this.  Thank you.

On to happier things. Training is going well.  I have rode a couple century rides now, and have another one scheduled before we taper.  The swims have been pretty good as well, and I feel more confident each time I get in the water.  I have a 20 mile run on Saturday, and hopefully that will go great.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here.  Something that a few years ago I didn’t dare think about is about to become reality.  I am about to embark on the “Toughest Day in Sport” . . . Ironman 140.6. Hard to think that a former 3+ pack a day smoker, one who smoked themselves into asthma, would be at this point, but one things for certain, I didn’t get here alone.  Between my wife and her support, my wonderful coaches Jennifer and Jeff Keil, my friends in the Des Moines Triathlon Club like Connie and Eric McGarrah, Karen Chicken, Scott Newbury, and Shelley Goodell, to good friends like Jodie Dunker, Kara Palczewski, Kelly Hill and Chris Matthews, I am toeing the line with a lot of people in spirit.  I just want to say thank you to all of you, and for those I’ve missed…know that your support is appreciated more than you know. If I cross that finish line and hear those words, I will have a lot more people to thank.

My coach said to me “the hay is in the barn”. I had to laugh at that because when I trained for my first marathon, Loren Storts was coaching us and he said the exact same thing. I have never forgotten it, and now that I’m coaching runners and triathletes, I’ve caught myself saying it too.  But he’s right: we are about as ready as we can get.  A few more hard workouts, a couple more challenges, and then it slows down to race day.  One thing I didn’t expect to discover as the workouts got longer was it’s not completing the workout that’s hard, it’s starting it!  The other day I had a 6 hour ride and a 30 minute run off the bike.  I was prepped and ready to push off when I looked at my watch: Sunday morning – 9:30 am. That’s when the thought popped in my head “People are just waking up. They’ll have breakfast, and lunch, and will be thinking what to have for dinner when you get back…..and you will still have a run to do!”  To me, that’s the hard part. Once I get going, I’m fine.  But knowing that most of your day will be spent training is a challenge.  But like all good challenges, the reward at the end is so, so sweet.



Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

So Many Changes Going On…

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write a blog post.  There has been so much going on, and I guess time slipped away from me.  Maybe I need to put a time on the calendar to write each week.  So let’s just get started with a quick recap of events, and then onto newer things.  So here we go…..

Since I last wrote, I have run in a couple half marathons; The Drake Road Races half and the Dam to Dam.  My running wife Kara was surprised at the finish line of the Drake half by her boyfriend, who proposed to her at the finish!  It was awesome to witness, and I am so happy for them both.  They are wonderful people, and I wish them a lifetime of love and happiness!

The Dam to Dam was brutally humid; to the point were I got nauseous for a bit on the run.  It was a hard race, and there were a lot of people having heat related issues.  So the elusive sub 2 hour half still eludes me, and stands at 2:02:37.  One day, I’ll break that time….

We also did the Copper Creek Sprint Triathlon this past Sunday.  My coach decided that we were going to use it as a workout and train right through it with no rest days, so we did.  On Saturday before the event, I rode 66 miles in 3:47:33, then ran for 20 minutes off the bike (about 2+ miles).  So when the triathlon rolled around the next day, I decided that I shouldn’t expect much as far as timing goes. Boy, was I wrong! I PR’d the race from my previous time by 9 minutes! Other than horrible wind on the bike, it was a great time.  I was the calmest in the water than I have ever been at a race, and ran sub 9 miles for the 5k.  It was a great day!


So, onto change and what I’ve been noticing lately.  In the past, I would have looked at my training schedule and freaked out if I saw a 4.5 hour ride and 20 run off the bike.  Now, I look at it and think ‘Hmm…if the wind is with me I should make 80 miles.”  When I saw that this Sunday’s workouts were a 3500 yard swim and a 13 mile run, instead of saying “How the heck am I supposed to do that all in a day?!?”, I think about it and say “I might as well bring my running stuff to the beach and make a brick out of it.”

These are the changes I’m seeing.  There is a confidence growing in my abilities, and it’s coming from within.  Instead of wondering if I can get it done, I’m wondering if I can make it harder.  Instead of doubting myself, now I tell myself that I need to “finish this off and you’ll have the rest of the day to yourself.”  But then, after a bit, I wonder why I can’t throw in another workout because I have some free time.  It’s this positive mental state that makes these workouts seem a lot easier than they truly are.  Because believe me they are hard!  That 66 mile ride? First 33 miles were headwind. My legs were screaming until I got to the turn-around point.  Then, with a tailwind, my legs wanted to push faster and enjoy the speed.

I hope that confidence continues, as it is an awesome feeling.  Yesterday I went to the lake to swim.  It was extremely choppy, with whitecaps all over.  I watched two swimmers as they swam a short distance and quit.  As I geared up, I thought “What if Maryland is like this? This will be good practice!” So into the water I went, getting pushed around by waves, some of them slapping over my head like some kind of sandlot bully.  But I wasn’t about to be bullied out of the water, not until I finished my workout.  I pushed on, swallowed a little water, had to stop and sight more than once, yet it was the calmest in the water I have ever felt.  It was amazing!  Now before, I would have said ‘no way” and went to a pool.  Now I was happy for the challenge.

So before I end this, I want to thank Kara Palczewski for the bike pictures above and the swim pictures below.  We are working on a photo journal of my training leading up to IM Maryland, and she is just amazing with the camera.  We still have run photos to do, so I’ll have more to post.  But if you are in need of a photographer, give Kara a call. You will be extremely happy with the results!

So now it’s time to prep the bike for a ride (did a 5 mile run this morning) and then maybe post a time on my calendar to write…
Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Changes in Training and a Tearful Goodbye to a Loyal Friend

I guess I should start this post with the sad news first.  I had to say goodbye to one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. Maverick, my Weimaraner, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on January 29, 2017.  The poor guy had congestive heart failure, valve disease, and arthritis, and still wagging his stubby little tail at me.  Try as we did, the medications and treatments were not helping.  One of the hardest things you have to do as a pet owner is to forgo your selfishness to hang on and let them go and be pain free.  Maverick my friend, one day we will be together again.  Please don’t forget me, as I will never forget you.  R.I.P. Buddy.


Training has been going well, even with dealing with the emotions of the past week.  We have a challenge at work where you get extra money placed in your health savings account for completing 2 hours of exercise a week for 10 weeks.  Guess what? I’m done . . . Before the end of week 2!  I smile when people say to me “How to they expect me to fit in two hours of exercise a week?”  Maybe I should tell them that this Saturday I swam for 1:10 and biked for 1:45 after that…and I’m not in peak season yet!  But I guess it’s a matter of what’s important to you . . . If you want it badly enough, you’ll make the time.  Which leads up to the next topic/challenge I’ve had to face…

My department at work moved locations, and it could have thrown my training into disarray.  See, I was right across the street from the YMCA, and could get a lunch workout in, and then only have one evening workout left.  It was a great arrangement.  But moving to the new location, with the work gym less than satisfactory for what I needed, a change was in order.  So now I’ve become a member of the EMC (Early Morning Crew).  I get up at 4am to get to the gym (which is a few miles away from my office, and a YMCA) which opens at 5am.  I am now one of the people I used to laugh at…standing at the door, waiting for them to unlock it and let me in.  But I can get a good workout in and still be at work well before 7am.  Then all that’s left is an evening workout if I have two scheduled.  If there’s a will, there is a way!

I mentioned last Saturday, and the swim/bike brick that I did.  While my coaches, Jennifer and Jeff Keil (seriously, go to elevenathletics.com and look them up…amazing people and awesome coaches) had a structured bike workout, the only thing in the swim was a ?.  I took it to mean maybe swim if I felt like it, but what to do?  So I got to the pool and did this..

1000 yards freestyle (non-stop) 1 min rest

1000 yards pull (non-stop) 1 min rest

500 yards free – :45 sec rest

500 yards pull 

It didn’t take long, and I just cruised, so I wasn’t worn out for the bike.  I dried off, changed, and hit the bike right away.  The problem with spin bikes are the are not accurate on the mileage.  So after doing a little research, I’ve determined that a 1 hour spin for me is approximately 17 miles.  So I rode approx. 30 miles after the swim.  Not a bad days work!  But I feel sorry for the buffet I stopped at after. LOL

So, until next time, remember to believe in yourself, dream big, and have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and give it a try.  You’ll never know how amazing you can be if you don’t try.


Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

So Much Fun Stuff Going On…


I passed!  It was one of the tougher tests I have ever taken, but I completed the two exams and I am now a certified triathlon coach.  The first exam was a multiple choice test, and although challenging, it went really fast.  I think that a couple of questions were arguable due to personal coaching philosophy, but that’s ok.  The main thing was I passed, and received my email on how to proceed to part two.

This is where the “fun” started.  It’s called a ‘short answer’ test, but the truth is, its nothing of the sort.  You begin by downloading all the necessary content: athletes bio, health assessment, assessments for their run, bike, and swim, base training schedule, the athletes availability schedule, list of goal races and their information, and the test.  Now you start and you use every sheet of paper you downloaded.  For example, I was supposed to come up with a three-week general prep schedule for my athlete, taking into account the athletes availability, particular weaknesses in each discipline and how to correct them, getting at least one intensity and one endurance workout per discipline per week, along with core/strength training.  That’s part ‘A’ of question 1.  Some questions went to part ‘F’, so you know that it’ll be a long test.  

The good thing is that it wasn’t a timed test, so you could stop, get a cup of coffee, review notes, bang your head into a wall, and return.  I decided to write everything out, and then when I was content with my answers, transfer it to the online format and send it in.

So I took my time, went over it again and again. Changed and corrected mistakes, and the spot on the wall where I banged my head grew larger.  Finally, after almost a week, I just wanted it to be done.  I knew that if I did not pass, that they would suggest areas to review to improve your score one time, so I decided that I would send it in, find out where I messed up, and focus on those areas.  So I nervously hit the ‘send’ button.  I breathed a sigh of relief; it was off.  I looked down and started gathering my papers when I noticed something….a mistake!  How did I miss that?!?  I could hear the laughter all the way from Kona.  Now I dreaded getting a response, because I was certain that I would be doing the entire test again.

Within the hour, I received an email stating that they received my test, and that it can take up to 14 days to grade and return it.  So, now all I could do is wait, and go over my notes to prep myself for the retake.  The next day, I received an email from Ironman University.  I was scared to open it, knowing I’d be knee deep in schedules and stretches, zones and threshold levels.  Finally, I opened the mail…..

I got 90%

I almost cried.  I was so worried, and yet I did really well.  I read that email over and over, making sure they sent it to the right person.  I was now a certified triathlon coach through Ironman University.  I have already started putting the knowledge learned into action, as I have two athletes that are beginning their triathlon journey that I am coaching.  While my primary focus is on the beginner triathlete, I hope to follow them as they grow and see how far they go in the sport. I enjoy writing the schedules, planning the workouts, hearing “Are you trying to kill me?!?” After they see the schedule, answering questions, etc.

But the thing I love the most is encouraging them.  Letting them know that they can do this, that they are amazing, and even though the workouts get harder, they in turn get better.  It’s fun to see them grow, not only in ability, but in self confidence.

So now I have coaching triathletes going on, and my coaching half marathoners is about to start up again.  Then you have to remember that I have my workouts to do to prepare for my first Ironman (Maryland, October 7, 2017).  The plate is filling up, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

When I chat with people about working out and hear them say “I can’t”, I just smile because I know they can, and I tell them why.

I did . . . and so can you!

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Exciting News!

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It’s time for a long overdue update. I finished my second Des Moines Olympic distance Triathlon recently, and set a PR (personal record) by cutting 37 minutes off last years time! That’s huge for me! Granted, it was a bit cooler than last years event, but I really give credit to my coach Jennifer (Jenni) Keil and the E11even Athletics team. Jenni trained me for my Ironman 70.3 in June, and during that training I saw what I needed to change to be successful in the Olympic distance. I learned to hydrate and refuel, even if I didn’t feel like it, and it paid off big at the Des Moines Tri. No sick, weak feeling, no hitting the wall, just a strong swim, bike and run! It was awesome!

 
So, now for the news! My coach and I had been discussing starting a group to train beginner triathletes in the sport, and to help them prepare for the sprint or Olympic distance triathlons. Jenni was also talking to my friend and fellow teammate Chris Matthews about this, and Chris and I were both excited to discuss it and wanted to be a part of it. Well, that time is now! E11even Athletics has started a beginner triathlete program called “Earn Your Stripes” (see image above), and it will take beginner athletes and guide them through the three disciplines as well as core/strength training to prepare them for their first triathlon. Coach Jenni has asked Chris and I to head up the program as the coaches! This is quite an honor, and I am happy and excited to assist taking E11even Athletics to the next level, and to help beginners find the same love for the sport of triathlon as I have! Many of you know that I currently coach runners training for their first half marathon, so to move up to training others for the swim and bike portions, as well as the run portion of a triathlon is exciting, and of course it makes me a little nervous. I want to do the best for the people who put their trust in me, and I want to be sure that, while triathlon training is tough and at times demanding, the athletes also have fun. You have to enjoy what you’re doing, or you won’t do it, simple as that.

 
My fitness journey has been an amazing adventure. From barely running a quarter mile on the treadmill to completing a Ironman70.3; from not knowing anything about the sport to helping others navigate their way through it. To make the news even better, I am currently studying to become a certified triathlon coach through Ironman University. I hope to complete this training soon, and put the knowledge I learned to work helping others.

 
So, if you are thinking “I’d like to do a triathlon”, look no further. Go to http://www.elevenathletics.com. Ask questions, sign up, and join us. You’ll be off to your own amazing adventure too! You will love the team at E11even Athletics, and you’ll be amazed at what your body can do!

 

Live healthy, be happy!
Travis

Looking Back While Moving Forward

To quote a famous song, “What a long strange trip its been”.  Looking back, I can remember sitting in the bleachers watching my friend complete an Olympic distance triathlon.  I remember thinking on how cool it would be to cross that finish line, to be in that exclusive club. Then I remember looking at my belly, knowing I was 40+ pounds overweight, and saying to myself “Who am I kidding? I’ll never do that”.  Well, with determination, and an attitude that I would not give up on myself any more, not only did I reach that dream of completing an Olympic distance triathlon, I shattered it by going to Raleigh, North Carolina and completing an Ironman 70.3!  Talk about an exclusive club.


Thanks to my coach Jenni and the E11even Athletics team, I trained properly and stayed healthy, and finished my race strong and ready to keep going.  After the race I had a two week break where I did no running, and only light biking and swimming.  Coach Jenni said the first week was to let the body heal, and the second was to take a little mental break before starting training again.  But, what to train for?  I completed my goal, and while I always have the next goal in mind, this was one goal that I could not decide on my own.  It required complete honesty from my coach, my wife, and myself, and after my “mental” break, it would be time to talk.

So I talked with my wife and discussed my new goal.  I had her blessing, so the only hurdle was my coach.  Jenni has always been up front and honest with me, even when the honesty can be hard to hear.  I trust her without question, and respect her opinion, so I nervously gave her a call.  What would she say? I was actually scared dialing the phone. Would she agree with me? Tell me that my new goal wasn’t obtainable?  What would I do if she said it wasn’t a good goal?  We talked for a long time.  I was surprisingly happy to hear that not only did she like my new goal and supported it, but she said she would be more than happy to train me toward making that goal.  She then asked if I wanted it, really wanted to do it, and I said “yes”. We talked about possible events over a couple conversations, and for right now we have penciled in an event for 2017.  It’ll be in early October (I hope) and hopefully much cooler than Raleigh was.  So I think I’ve stalled enough.  Here is the main goal penciled in for 2017:


If you noticed that there is no 70.3 at the end of the image, it is not a mistake.  Although at times I think about it and think about breathing into a paper bag.  The goal is to do a full 140.6 Ironman.  I have over a year to build on where I am now, but as Coach Jenni said “Your weekends are now officially over”.  They will be replaced with long bike rides (Jenni said that I will do several century (100 mile) bike rides during my training), more runs off the bike, although the swims won’t change that much.  Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to the challenge!  I’m looking forward to watching myself improve in ways I never thought possible.

I just hope I get in and get registered in time, and that they don’t change the date.  They are still prepping to run the 2016 Maryland Ironman, so the 2017 race is not open yet.  That gets me a little nervous, not knowing if you’ll get in until you do, and then freaking out yelling “Oh my God!! What have I done?!?”  But then you come down from the ledge, take a deep breath, and get to work.  After all, it just another 70.3 miles more than Raleigh, right?  Ok, where’s my paper bag to breathe in??

But honestly, I cannot believe looking back, at how far you can come when you don’t give up on yourself.  By constantly pushing to improve, you can do amazing things, even train for an Ironman.  I started by slowly running a mile, slowly biking about 5 miles,  and barely able to swim 25 yards.  In less than 7 years, I went from that to training to swim 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles.  What a (not so) long, strange (and wonderful) trip it’s been.

And it’s only just beginning….

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Raleigh Ironman 70.3

Before I begin my race recap, I want to send out a heartfelt thank you to my coach, Jennifer (Jenni) Jageman Keil and the awesome team at E11even Athletics.  Jennifer said that she would train me, work with me, and help me so that not only would I finish my first attempt at a Ironman 70.3, but that I would finish strong with gas still in the tank.  She was not kidding!  If anyone needs a coach for running, triathlon, swimming or biking, I strongly advise you to check out Elevenathletics.com. It was the best move I made in this adventure.

To anyone considering triathlon, join a triathlon club in your area.  I belong to the Des Moines Triathlon Club, and they have been a Godsend.  Between the advice, tips, camaraderie, and group workouts, they will have you up to speed in no time.  Also get a sports massage therapist, and go at least once a month.  My therapist, Amanda Lundstedt with Active Edge Orthopedic and Sports Massage, is not only a friend but also a fellow triathlete.  She asks what I’ve been working on, and knows where I need the most work.  Trust me, it feels good too!

I also want to thank everyone who cheered us on, helped us out, kayaked for us, or assisted in some way to make this dream a reality. You all know who you are.

So onto the race report. We arrived a week early to Raleigh, so we could get acclimated to the conditions, and to have a vacation (my wife Julie was attempting her first 70.3 as well).  We were getting used to the warmer temperatures, both on land and in the water, but started to worry that the race may not be wetsuit legal.  On Friday we attended the athletes meeting and our fears were confirmed:  the water temperature was 79ºF.  We left the meeting, toured the expo, and called our coach Jenni to see what should we do.  Do we try it without the wetsuits, or go to the back of the groups and swim with it?  We made a decision that if the water temperature did not lower by race morning, we would do our best without them.  Jenni warned us that we ran the risk of overheating in the wetsuit with water temperatures that high.

Saturday:  We went to Jordan lake for a quick 20 minute swim, 20 min bike, and 20 min run.  We swam without our wetsuits and it felt pretty comfortable.  However, the lake was calm and still, nothing like it was about to become.  We finished our workout, dropped off our bikes in T-1, along with our biking gear, and proceeded 56 miles into downtown Raleigh to T-2 to drop off our running gear.  The bike was a 56 mile one-way ride, thereby needing the two transition areas.

We decided to leave everything (bike gear or running gear) in their individual bags, because a storm was going to move through the area bringing a lot of rain.  We made sure that the bag openings were turned down, so they wouldn’t catch the rain.  We hoped that maybe the rain would cool things off, including the water temperature at the lake.

That night, the storm rolled through, dumping a large amount of rain.  We knew that the officials would make the announcement at 5:00 am Sunday, so we bagged our wetsuits to take with us just in case.  Now to try and get a little rest before heading to T-1 at 3:30 am Sunday morning.

Sunday:  It’s race day!  We ate a light breakfast, grabbed our carry bags (stuff for before the race and wetsuits), and headed to downtown to set up T-2 and get on the bus for the trip to Jordan Lake.  Even with all the rain, everything in T-2 was dry.  We set up our stuff and then got on the bus for the ride to the lake.


When we arrived at the lake, we found a very different situation: our bags were moved slightly, and the openings were left upward, so they were full of water.  My transition towel, socks, shoes, even my bike gloves were soaked.  I tried wringing them out, but they had adsorbed too much water.  They would never dry in time.  I decided to try my best getting dry and getting my socks on so I wouldn’t blister during the ride.  I wasn’t so sure that I wouldn’t blister because of the wet socks.   At 5am the official announcement came: the water temperature was 81º!  It actually rose two degrees even with all the rain!  That made the decision about the wetsuits an easy one: we were not going to wear them.

The Swim:  For some reason, Raleigh Ironman 70.3 lines up the swim groups by age: oldest first.  That meant I was in wave 4: first two pro waves, one 55 and older wave, and then mine.  Being nervous not having my wetsuit was hard enough, now I had the worry of all those 20 somethings swimming over me.  The lake, which was calm on Saturday, was now choppy and rough.  I tried to remain calm as we entered the water.  Suddenly the horn went off, and we were swimming!

It was a free-for-all.  People banging into one another, swimming over top of one another, no concern for others at all.  I tried to pace myself and stay out of the way, but seemed to get drawn right into the mix.  We had not reached the first buoy when someone’s hand went up, signaling for help.  All I could do was get out of the kayaks way and keep moving forward.

I made it around the first turn, and noticed that I had a little room to myself.  I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I enjoyed it.  The water was going in swells now, so I timed my breathing to be at the low point of the wave.  I would try to sight the buoys on the crest of the swell.  This worked until I was in another pack of swimmers, then I just did the best I could.

I finally made the second turn and headed for home.  A mad rush of swimmers started picking up the pace, and once again they were swimming over the top of me.  I actually had to shove one off of me!  During this, I tried to remind myself to stay calm and not freak out, but I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I did!  I finally reached the shore, saw that someone hit my Garmin watch, pausing it.  I clicked it on for T-1 and made my way to the bike:  1.2 miles – 53:39


The Bike:  I got to T-1, tried to dry my feet off, and finally got my very wet socks and bike shoes on.  I ate a HoneyStinger gel and drank a little before applying sunscreen and donning my helmet and wet gloves and heading out of transition.  I mounted my bike at the designated spot and took off.  The roads were amazingly dry already, so there were no concerns about it being slippery. The course was not too bad, lots of rollers with a couple challenging hills.  But with every hill there was the opportunity to fly downhill, which I seized.  32 or 33 mph was easy for me to hit on this course, and would help boost you up the next hill.  I followed my coaches game plan to eat or drank every 15 minutes, trying to intake 250 – 300 calories an hour.  I was pretty close to that per hour, and could almost tell without looking at the time when I was due to eat or drink.  Before I knew it, I was in downtown Raleigh racking my bike and lacing up my running shoes.  My pretty bike ride had come to an end: 3:12:28.  Average 17.4 mph for 56 miles!


The Run:  The temperatures and humidity started to rise as we were on the bikes, but it wasn’t noticeable until we got off the bikes and started the run.  It was now up to my two feet to finish this.  I started out, and noticed that downtown Raleigh doesn’t have a lot of shade.  This course was deceiving, as it was a two loop run that showed going up and then down twice in stair step fashion.  It was anything but that.  It was a steady up, with rolling streets that made it feel like you were going up/down, not stair step.  Even the “downhill” had up and downs to it!  By mile three, I noticed a lot of people walk/running, and after a few miles I saw that logic in that.  Walk up the hills, run down the hills.  Stop at every water station, drink Gatorade, get ice for your core, front of shirt, back of shirt, and under your hat, and move to the next water station.

After the first loop, you turned down a long street.  In the distance you could see it! The finish line was there!  But, as if they were playing a cruel joke on you, there was also a sign that redirected people finishing their first lap around so they could start their second. It felt like they were saying “You can see it, but you just can’t get to it!”  So around the corner I went for my second lap in the heat.


On the second lap, I saw runners dropping out.  The paramedic carts were flying back and forth, carrying people to the medical tents.  I felt bad that those people made it so far, only to fall out on the last portion.  I continued my method of stopping at every water station, walking up the hills and running down them until I got to mile twelve.  I decided that I would build up my strength for .1 miles, then run the last mile in.

The Last Mile: When I turned the corner, there were people sitting at patio bars, drinking beer and cheering runners on.  They would see your name and cheer you on as well, and it felt good to hear it, even though you knew they were only goofing off.  Then came the sign, the one that told runners on their first lap to turn.  It also told runners on their second lap to move to the right. That’s when you noticed the chute you were to run in, and the hundreds upon hundreds of people standing in the heat along the fence line cheering on the runners.  These people were not merely goofing off: they were there with a purpose in mind; to get you to the finish line.  As I made my move over to the right, a large roar went up in the crowd.  “Here comes one!” I heard, and I almost started crying!  Then I told myself to get it together, you have to get to the finish.  The people in the crowd, none of them which I knew, were calling out my name, telling me how awesome I was, and that I could do it! “Only a few more feet to go!” “You are amazing!” “You’ve done it!” were just some of the encouragement the crowds shouted to me.  It became deafening, and I smiled as I ran past, but tried to focus on that black square finish area, and that red and black carpet with the red “M-Dot” symbols I had longed to be able to run across.

I hit the carpet, I heard the announcer call my name and where I was from. “Travis Kneale from Des Moines, Iowa” and I threw out my arms as if being welcomed by family.  Actually it is a family of sorts, and a very exclusive club as well.  Suddenly I was across the finish line, I was done.  I received my medal and finishers cap, took a photo, and got some water and stretched while I waited for my wife to cross.  I watched the volunteers catch people as they fell, or walk them immediatly to the medical tent, and I couldn’t help but thank Jenni because I felt like I could have kept going.  I felt good, tired yes, but good.


I finished the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 in 7:09:06. Not exactly the time I wanted, but with the heat and humidity, I will gladly take it.  I didn’t get any blisters from the ride or the run, even with wet socks!  My wife Julie crossed the line in 8:03:25.


That’s it!  Eight months of blood, sweat, and tears came to a conclusion in 7:09:06.  Hard to believe it’s over, that we did it. Now, we have a recovery period and then a sprint triathlon at the end of the month.  Hopefully it will seem like a short workout!  Then it’s time to discuss with my coach what lies next.  I trust her wholeheartedly, and know that whatever we decide to tackle next, she will make sure I not only finish, but finish strong.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Countdown: T-Minus 10…

Ten days.  It hardly seems possible that eight months has went by since my wife and I toyed with the idea of doing a half Ironman, or Ironman 70.3. We were excited and nervous, but knew it was so far away, that we had plenty of time, so no need to panic. 

Ten days. Thanks to my friend and now teammate Chris Matthews, I made contact with and signed up with the most amazing coach, Jennifer Jageman Keil and her team at E11even Athletics. I knew we would need proper guidance to make this work, and Jennifer has been awesome, even when I was frustrated (which in the beginning was often).

Ten days. We started training in October, and training by heart rate. This lead to my most frustrating moments, and Jenni calmly talked me “off the ledge” as I grew irritated by my run times. I had never ran so slow in my life! It felt like I was going in reverse, but Jenni was the calm in the storm I was creating by letting frustration get to me. 

Ten days. One morning my workout said “Run for an hour. Not too hard but at a pace that makes you happy”.  Now I’m supposed to watch my heart rate so it doesn’t go over its maximum aerobic function (for me: 130), but she didn’t say to watch it, so I decided I’d run a great clip and watch her freak out over the HR. After an hour I had covered 6.5 miles. Proud of myself for jacking up the HR, I finally looked at the average: 131. I got a text shortly after from Jenni, it was a smiley face. 

Ten days. From freaking out over having to swim 1500 yards, then 2000, then 3000, then 3500, to calmly telling someone “I only have to do 2000 today”.  From being sore from sitting on the trainer for an hour, to going 2.5 hours and feeling fine. 

Ten days. We have leaned out but weigh the same. We found muscles we never knew we had. We discovered our endurance can continue to grow, and that never giving up, especially in yourself, reaps big rewards. 

Ten days. In ten days we will step into a lake in Raleigh, North Carolina and embark on a journey of 70.3 miles. If all goes well, we will cross the finish line with smiles on our faces. But if something happens where we do not finish, we will learn from it and try again. We already know we have the drive and dedication to do this. Now all that’s left is to wait ten more days. 

Before we start this adventure, I want to thank some people for everything they have done. To my wife, who is joining me on this crazy journey, we make a great team, even when we go off in different directions at the gym. To my coach Jenni, who is totally amazing. To the Des Moines Triathlon Club for their support and training. To Chris Matthews, aka Awesome Girl, for connecting Jenni and I, and for all the advice and support she has given. To Kelly Hill, for her constant support and encouragement. Glad to have you on the team! To Mel Cortez, Karen Smith, Jodie Dunker, and everyone that supported this crazy dream. And a big shout out to my friend and sports massage therapist Amanda Lundstedt. I’ll need to see you once this is done!  If I forgot someone, my apologies, but I’d be typing all day. 

Ten days. The culmination of eight months of blood, sweat, and tears is down to ten days. I’ll try to post more as the day gets closer, but if not, keep Julie and me in your prayers. Look at the beautiful charms we will be carrying on the bike and the run. Thanks again Jodie!! Hopefully when we meet up again, I’ll have another title: Ironman 70.3. 


Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Funny How Things Change…

It’s funny how life changes before you.  Sometimes it’s gradual, where you don’t even notice it until someone else points it out to you.  Other times it changes so quickly that you hardly have time to react.  In the past few years I’ve experenced both of these types during my lifestyle change, and noticed how my life has went from one thing to another, a nd what sometimes looked impossible was actually rather easy after all.

From late night TV binging to early morning rises to get a long run in; from seeing how much ice cream would fit in a bowl to how much protein was in my energy bar; from struggling to cross the line at my first sprint triathlon to training for my first 70.3; it has been an amazing change and quite an incredible journey.  There has been worry that I wasn’t good enough, struggles to get through, self-doubts, and sometimes even pain, but in the end there was always satisfaction, happiness, pride that I could do it, and that I didn’t give up on myself.

The other day I was looking at my workout schedule that my coach sent for the following week. On Saturday I had a 30 run that said “off the bike” but no bike scheduled.  On Sunday, I had a 3 hour bike scheduled and then an 11 mile run.  I wondered if it was a mistake, so I emailed my coach to ask.  But what surprised me wasn’t that I caught it, it was the following line I wrote with relative ease:

 “I’m game if you are, just wanted to clarify.”

Wow.  I looked at that line after I wrote it.  Did I really mean that? Was I really up to riding for three hours, only to jump off the bike and run for eleven miles?!?  There was only one thought that came to me:

“You can do it”

It’s funny, I would have never considered that a few short years ago.  I still feel like that overweight guy on the sidelines of the triathlon, watching my friend cross the finish and wishing I could do that.  Now, suddenly, I am beyond that.  With every new day brings new uncharted territory in my fitness journey, and I am the only person that can blaze the trail.

I have a running mentor who I love dearly.  She started to focus more on yoga, as I continued to run.  One day we ran together and she was asking questions.  Then she smiled and said “The student has become the master.”  I felt happy that I had learned so much, but saddened that I had grown beyond my mentor and was somewhat on my own.  She is still there cheering me on and supporting me, but she wanted me to know that I am no longer a “beginner” runner.  

Now I have been given a great opportunity. I am coaching a half marathon program at Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines.  I set up the running schedule, workouts, map the runs, answer questions the runners have, pace the distance runs as well as lead the way for the Wednesday hill/speed workouts.  I have a lot of help from Andy, Claire, and the pacers, but it’s quite an honor to be asked to ‘coach’ the group.  That is something I would have never dreamed of.

Another way you change, sometimes without noticing, is your appearance.  The other day, I ran into a friend of mine that I have not seen for months.  He looked at me and exclaimed “How much weight have you lost?” I told him that actually I haven’t lost any weight recently.  He looked me over and said “Then you have added a lot of muscle because you have really leaned out”.  After he said that, I looked in the mirror.  It was true, I had leaned out a bit.  I hadn’t noticed it until he pointed it out to me.

Today we are running in the Des Moines Leprechaun 10k. It’s a fun run, and it’s my third year of running in it.  However, it should take me 50-55 minutes to finish the race, but my coach has me scheduled to run for 1:50 today.  So it looks like I’ll be pausing my Garmin long enough to cheer for my wife and my friends, and then running off again.  I would have never guessed that would be possible a few years ago. 

 Funny how things change…

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis