MY BEST IRONMAN FINISH EVER RECAP OF IRONMAN ARIZONA Ross Hauser, M.D.
You learn early on doing long distance endurance events that you have to accept what the day gives you. So was the case at Ironman Arizona 2007. Wind gusts of up to 30 mph on the bike and run course caused all the athletes to forget about pre-race goal times. I trained hard over the winter and was hoping to break 12 hours for the first time. I was in the best shape of my life. I tapered and then stopped training for two weeks prior to the race, so I was well rested and ready to race.
I set my PR (personal record) in the Ironman 2.4 mile swim with a time of 1:15:45. For me this was fantastic. I just had a great swim. I kept relaxed so I was right on course for my best Ironman time ever. I then started the bike course. It was basically an 18 mile out and then 18 mile back course that we repeated three times, in other words, six 18 mile loops. The first 18 miles was harder than I thought it would be! I was hoping that the ride would be easier coming back after the turnaround. It clearly was not, as the wind picked up dramatically. It felt like the wind was hitting me at 15 mph and we were basically going directly into it. Those 18 miles were horrible because I was feeling like we would have 112 miles of torture.
The Wind Blew So Hard -
on one downhill I stopped pedaling and my bike stopped.
I was not in a good spot mentally. I saw Marion (my wife) at the turnaround. She was with Rob Donovan, whose wife Christine was doing her first Ironman. Seeing them gave me a lift. When I started my third 18 mile loop it was clear that this loop was going to be easier, as we had the wind with us. I hammered it for the 18 miles. My elation turned back to torture as we went into what was now a 20-25 mph head wind. The wind was picking up. It was then I started thinking of a friend of ours, Rusty Farst, who does underwater cave diving. When faced with an adversity or challenge he says you should embrace it. So I embraced the wind. The wind no longer bothered me. It is the same wind for everyone. I knew, however, that my chances of breaking 12 hours in the Ironman for the first time were not going to happen, but I still could have a great day. I then began to smile and encourage other athletes. Everyone was complaining about the wind. I didn't like the wind, but by embracing it, it just didn't bother me that much. I hammered it pretty good on the next 18 mile loop, as we had the wind with us. The last 18 miles into wind gusts of 30 mph was very difficult, but I went at a pace that would allow me to run the marathon course.
To give you an idea of how hard the wind was, on one downhill I stopped pedaling and my bike stopped. Now I weigh 152 pounds and my bike and bottles probably weigh another 25 pounds at least, so how hard does the wind have to blowing to stop 177 pounds that is traveling downhill? Another example was on a flat section of the course I had to get into my granny gear (I have a triple) to be able to pedal at 90 revolutions per minute. The wind was brutal.
I made a quick transition off the bike, changed into running gear, and started running. My mantra on the run was just relax. I must have relaxed too much and not thought of pace, because by the time I got to my second 8.7 mile loop, I realized that if I kept up this pace I would soon be walking. I altered my game plan and decided to walk up the inclines (small hills/bridges) in addition to walking through the aid stations. I didn't realize it until I looked at the results on the internet, but I did the first 8.7 mile loop in 8:58 minute miles. I was flying!!! I wasn't discouraged by adjusting my race strategy as I, like the other athletes had to take what the day gave you. My coach Pete Alfino was there and that is one of his major philosophies he teaches his athletes. Marion, Rob and Pete were great to see on the run course. Seeing a familiar face really helps motivate you. I did about 10:20 minute miles until mile 24 aid station. It was there I saw my friend Rob who was volunteering now at that aid station. It was great to see him and when he asked what loop I was on I excitedly exclaimed, "My last one!" I then felt renewed energy and ran probably 8 minute/miles til the finish. I met up with Marion with a quarter mile to go and we ran in together. We crossed the line at 12:29:33! I was extremely happy. I had a great race.
One might look at the time and think I did 12:13 at Ironman Florida and trained all winter and did 16 minutes slower and think I had an off day. Well it turns out I gave it everything I had with the weather conditions the way they were. The high temperature of the day was the upper 70's. In Ironman Florida, I was something like 865 out of 2200 competitors, but in Ironman Arizona I was 682! My highest Ironman finish!
#1: FRIENDSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXERCISE
At Ironman Arizona we had several friends compete: Kim Katz, Michiko Perry, and Christine Donovan. Kim was with her parents, so we didn't see her as much, but we saw a lot of Michiko and were with Rob and Christine Donovan the whole time. Honestly, the time away from doing the Ironman was just awesome. Rob and Marion just had a lot of funny stories that we were able to share together as Rob, Christine, Marion and I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together Monday after the Ironman. Michiko joined us for breakfast. Michiko did not make the bike cut-off but she was so great about it. Because of the winds, it just wasn't possible to cycle so fast. But instead of being depressed she ended up consoling other athletes who did not make it. She has completed the Ironman three times. She is an amazing person.
After breakfast we spent the rest of the day with the Donovans. We basically laughed for 8 hours straight. The combo of Rob and Marion were hilarious. I will let Marion tell you about her day spectating, but let me just say spectating at and helping a significant other through the Ironman race is no small task. We got up at 4 a.m. and were back in our hotel room at like 1:30 a.m. the next day. Our friend Christine finished at 16 hours 52 minutes. So she had only 8 minutes to spare to finish the Ironman. It was awesome being at the finish line seeing her cross the line! We are so proud of her!
Rob wanted to go the Biltmore Spa and resort the next day for lunch. So we made the 20 minute trek and had lunch at the Cobana Cafe at the Biltmore, right next to the Paradise pool. It was awesome! We then had a 3 hour dinner at P.F. Chang's in Tempe. Again we laughed for a few more hours. The time spent with them was precious. No comparison. Friendship is more important than exercise. So we (Marion and I) are going to try to do races with friends. It is your experiences with your friends and the memories you make that make the event so special. Marion and I over breakfast today (yes, it is Tuesday and we are on the airplane going back to Chicago), talked about the race schedule for the rest of the year. Tomorrow for breakfast I am meeting with Allan, one of my training partners, and he'll tell me what races he and Barbara (his wife)are planning on doing. We hope to hook up on a few of them.
#2: MY FAITH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXERCISE
Right now I believe God would tell me that I love exercise more than Him. I do a lot of exercise but also think about it a lot. I read about it. I enthusiastically pick up Triathlon Magazine and reluctantly pick up my Bible. I believe God is right.
The thing about God from a Christian perspective is that God is forgiving. This is why Jesus died on the cross. To forgive me and you of our sins because that is what the penalty for sin is, eternal separation from God unless the penalty for the sin is paid. Like a parent whose son or daughter has gone astray, when the son or daughter asks for forgiveness, the parent is just happy they are back and ready to get their life in order. So it is with God (from a Christian perspective) that if one of His children goes astray, then He is ready to accept them back. I am ready to get back. Back to basics. So what am I going to do?
I am planning to get out of the rat race. I am going to get rid of a lot of wasted time. I have a coach, Pete Alfino at Mile High Multisport. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. It is his job to get a program to get me into shape. I donâ€™t have to read about every new and greatest fitness trend. So I am going to limit how much reading I do on the subject. I am going to plan my race schedule in the next week so it will be set basically for the next 16 months. Yes, I am planning with a bunch of friends to do Ironman Lake Placid in 2008, so my race for next year is already set. So by planning my schedule (assuming no injuries or other life changing events) I don't have to worry about a bunch of races or spend time planning out trips. It will basically be done in the next week or two.
Sometimes you have to get back to basics. For me in regard to the Christian faith it means praying, reading the Bible, meditating, and memorizing Bible verses, spend time doing both of those with my wife, Bible study/accountability with friends, and doing ministry with Marion. I meet with two of my friends once a week for Bible Study, friendship, and lunch. Marion and I meet with a couple of couples about one evening every three weeks for a Bible Study. I have a ministry in mind and will talk it over with Marion. Praying I am hopeful to get consistent with that. To do these activities I need to have more time. Sure I could just stop exercising, but exercising has been a great blessing to Marion and I. I can gain many, many hours by eliminating other activities in addition to the above items mentioned. I can tell you this - I am planning in the next year to watch a lot less T.V.
#3: RELAXED AND HAPPY IS MUCH BETTER AND LESS TAXING THEN BEING STRESSED AND MISERABLE
There is a famous Bible verses written by the Apostle Paul that I believe is in the book of Philipians that goes something like this, I have learned to be content in all circumstances. Our friend Tim Kenny is the living example of this. He believes you should "enjoy the journey." He is a very relaxed, happy, and contented person. If he has conflict in his life, he tries to resolve it immediately and go back to being relaxed and happy. Let's face it, being relaxed and happy is much better and takes less energy than being stressed and miserable. During this Ironman, I easily could have stayed stressed and miserable as the wind gusts and wind speeds became worse. Trust me, the wind was awful on the run as well as the bike! Running into a 20 mph wind is no easy task! Especially after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles!
We all have the capability no matter what we are feeling or life is throwing at us to be content and happy. We don't have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The week before the Ironman, I had some stress I was carrying. Finally, my coach wrote to me because of what I was writing in my training log. He said something like this â€œI know you have endured the death of your mother-in-law and have such and such a stress going on. I have seen it in many of the athletes I coach. They put in all this hard work and then say they are just going to have "fun" at the race and not try to reach their goals. You have made three training trips. You have done the workouts. You cycled through the Chicago cold. You have cycled in the rain to get your workouts in. You cycled over 5 hours at a health club. Stress is stress. Let someone else handle the stress this week. You need to devote this week to the Ironman. The stress will still be there when you get back. Only you know what your goals are for the Ironman. You can accomplish your goals. You have put in the work. He wrote it much better than I am writing it. But remember, I am on an airplane, so I don't have the letter with me. But it refocused me again. Sometimes in life we let stress beat us down. I am going to continue to work on being positive, surrounding myself with positive people. It just makes sense.
#4: I AM STRONG, RELAXED AND CONFIDENT. IT IS OK TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
There are a lot of good self help books out there. The one my coach recommended I read is In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick. Sometimes I have some of my clients read this book. It is easy when you are an athlete and have an injury or are wracked with chronic pain to develop a pessimistic attitude. "I am never going to get better." Sometimes we have to be reminded that our negative attitude just hurts us (and, of course, those around us). We have a tremendous ability to either help or hurt ourselves, just by the way we think.
I have to admit to you that I easily can see the negative in things. For me the glass is half empty instead of half full. My coach helped me realize that I was not reaching my athletic potential because of my negative thought processes. So I have worked hard at overcoming them. One of the mantras that I try to say to myself during training and event is "feel strong, relaxed, and confident." One day before the Ironman I watched the movie Rocky Balboa. The climax of the film is when Rock is speaking to his son that you have to believe in yourself to be truly happy. If you don't believe in yourself and what you can accomplish, then you will never be happy. In my opinion, I thought the film was very uplifting. I enjoyed it and it was a great movie to watch the day before the Ironman.
You see, we are taught since we are young to brush off compliments and be humble. From a Christian perspective, this just means realize, dude, your skills and ability to accomplish things comes from God. Every good and perfect gift is from above. Sure, I have to train hard and you have to train or work hard, but the ability to live, breathe, and everything we do comes because someone either created us or allowed us to be created. Again I am speaking from a Christian perspective. Bottom line is, I believe God wants us to be happy with ourselves. Do you think God wants us to just hold onto stress and be unhappy? Is that what you want for your children? I don't think so. Pray about what is bothering you. Do what you can do to remedy the situation then be strong, relaxed and confident. It is ok to believe in yourself. You can and will accomplish your goals!
#5: GOALS ARE GOOD IF YOU ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Our friend Christine finished the Ironman Arizona Triathlon in16 hours 52 minutes. I saw it! Six years ago she was 50 pounds overweight. Six years later she completed the Ironman. About two months ago, she and I cycled 112 miles and she averaged 16.9 mph. How did she do it? She did it by setting small goals and once those were accomplished she set bigger and bigger goals. About a year ago she set a goal to complete Ironman Arizona. She needed every one of her training sessions to complete that goal. If she would have finished the race 8 minutes slower she would not have been an official Ironman finisher, as the race has a 17 hour cut off. We watched one man finish 20 seconds late. The announcer said he was an Ironman Finisher in our hearts. That is it! The official race results will say he did not finish.
It is important to set realistic goals. Make sure you have the time, energy, and financial resources to accomplish your goals. Setting a goal to finish the Ironman, but having only 5 hours a week to train is not realistic. Likewise for me to say I am going to set a goal of praying 2 hours/day is not realistic on many fronts. I am not much of a talker. I am a better listener. Yes, I know part of praying is meditating and listening. But my mind wanders. I am a writer. I am a deep thinker. But a realistic goal is to pray everything time I think of it. Maybe do short prayers throughout the day. Maybe a minute here. A few minutes there. Get into the habit of praying throughout the day. As I get more consistent with thinking about praying and then actually doing it, it will be easier and easier. Then perhaps set a time to pray. Maybe set a one hour slot of time to pray. See how that goes. In other words, set some goals of the things you would like to accomplish. Make sure you have the time, energy and resources to do it. Make a plan and then stick with it! If you enjoy the journey, then surely you will accomplish your goals. Who would have thought six years ago a 180 pound 35% body fat Oak Park doctor would now be a 4-time Ironman finisher? How did that happen? By setting small goals along the way and accomplishing then.
#6: DON'T BE AFRAID TO REINVENT YOURSELF
It is common for my clients to say "I could never do an Ironman!" I then tell them what if I told you I would give you two million dollars to complete the Ironman in next two years! Immediately the light bulb goes on! We limit ourselves so much. You see you do what you are compelled to do. Someone who is out of shape can complete the Ironman if they train hard and smart for a couple of years. It depends on your motivation. You see most of us are afraid to reinvent ourselves.
We all should regularly ask ourselves hard questions. Here are a few: Am I becoming the kind of person I want to be? If the answer is no, then why don't you reinvent yourself? If I was to die today, am I prepared to meet God? If not, what must you do to be prepared? Am I happy? If not, what are the specific items I must change in my life? Then make a plan and stick to it? Is my life fulfilling? Is my family prospering? If not, why not? What changes can I make to myself to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Do I given 110% to my spouse? Employer? Coach? Children? Parents? You see, you and I don't live in a bubble. Everything we do does affect a lot of people? If you are in a good mood, how many people is that positive energy going to influence in a day? If you are a bad mood, how much of that negative energy is going to spread around those closest to you? Don't underestimate your influence on people and people's influence on you. Choose to be a positive force.
Yes, Ross Hauser, once again is going to reinvent himself (with God and Marion's help). I believe he will come out a much better person. Please don't be afraid to reinvent yourself. Change is hard. The hardest step is starting. But why not start today?
#7: LIFE DOES NOT ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED AND THAT'S OK
You and I don't know the end from the beginning. We do not know in the whole cosmos why certain things happen to us. Why did our best friend and mentor Pastor Peter die at the age of 42 and leave a wife and seven children? The youngest one was 2 years old when he died of cancer. Well, it has been 12 years since his death and I am happy to say the family is in Clearwater, Florida. Two children have graduated college and three are currently in Clearwater Christian College. The two youngest are being home schooled. One is married and currently in medical school. One teaches at a drama/theatre program. One is in Army officer training school. Marla (mother) works as a pharmacy tech. Most importantly, the whole family is still strong in their Christian faith. We couldn't have known what would happen when Pastor Peter died 12 years ago. Nor do we know how the family will do tomorrow or 12 years from now, but God is God and we are not. We just don't know the end from the beginning. But we surely can do our best each day to try and make someoneâ€™s life better.
We make a choice everyday when we wake up. Are we going to be a positive influence in the world today or be a negative one. Life doesn't always go as planned. Awful things happen. People we love get injured, disabled and even die. Maybe this happened to us. But as long as there is life, there is hope. At Caring Medical we have a few signs in our office that say "Hope Practiced Here." What a great saying, isn't it! Why not go around everyday with an invisible banner on your forehead reading Hope Practice Here." Why not be source of hope for people that you come into contact with. Many people are depressed, stressed, and unhappy. Who is going to help these people? Why not me or you? I am up for it! I hope you are.
You may be asking what this has to do with the Ironman? Well, you weren't out in those 20-30 mph winds. Each athlete who finished the Ironman two days ago (April 15th, 2007) did so even though the day was not the day they envisioned. I am sure almost no one hit their goal race time because of the winds. But each made the decision to do their best that the day gave them. I know I did. I had a great race, though it was slower than my last Ironman. But I was proud of myself for hanging in there and having the best day possible! I am sure most of the Ironman triathletes out that day felt the same way. I hope that when you set out today, whether it be at your home or office or on a trip, that whatever you do you go out with the determination of an Ironman triathlete to give it your all today. Be the best person you can possibly be today!
#8: IS HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF REALLY HOW YOU ARE?
Some people have a realistic picture of themselves but I am afraid most do not. You see, most of us, when we are criticized by a spouse, significant other, or employer typically defend ourselves. Counselors see this all the time. Most of us just do not see our faults. If we would clearly see our faults as others see them we would change. Make sure that you see yourself as you really are.
The day after the Ironman, you pick up your Ironman pictures. The photographers at ASI Photography do a great job taking pictures. I always buy the pictures that they take at the Ironman and have Chris at Harlem Art Gallery make a collage with them. I am proud of each Ironman I have completed. Only I truly know how hard it was and what I needed to complete it. Marion, of course, would have a good idea and so would other Ironman triathletes. It is extremely hard. But when I look at my pictures I am always astounded at how bad my running form looks. It always looks awful.
So this year I had a lesson on Chi running. It is a running style that is supposed to minimize the stress on your joints. I even bought a mirror with wheels and put it in our basement by our treadmill. I thought my running form had improved drastically until I saw my Ironman pictures. My running form looked awful. So I really am not running with the type of form I thought I was.
You see, you may think you are generous person, but you might not be. I hope you have some friends or significant other that will tell you how you truly are. For those that read the Bible, meditating on various bible verses can often reveal character flaws that we have that need to be improved. Whatever method you choose, just make sure you see yourself clearly. If you can't, then have a friend or loved one show you what your form looks like. Sometimes you do need some video but sometimes you need to be reminded that your actions do not quite meet up with your words. If someone criticizes you, realize there is probably some or all truth in what they say. Use the opportunity to make yourself better. If you don't, you have just missed a wonderful opportunity to change to become the type of person you really wish to become.
#9: THE PAIN GOES AWAY BUT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT STAYS A LIFETIME
The mental and physical pain during the Ironman is enormous. But it is now about 30 hours since I finished my Ironman and my pain is about 5% of what is was at the finish. In other words in 30 hours I am rid of 95% of my mental and physical pain I had at the end of the Ironman. No, I didn't take Motrin! I just took some supplements. Okay, I'll let you know what I have been taking:
Supervits Ultimate Pack
Prolo Support Pack
Yes I get them at www.benuts.com. If athletes just understood the principle of recovery enhancement they would get much more out of their exercise program, while minimizing injury risk.
In my office at Caring Medical is the collage of Ironman Coeur D'Alene. In the collage is my picture coming out of Lake Couer D'Alene. No one really knows all the fears that vanished in my life because of that feat. One year before that picture was taken, I was afraid of the water. I believe it stemmed from my being self conscious of having to wear a nose plug while swimming. I didn't enjoy swimming at all, to the point that I never learned to swim. I get cold easily and typically pools were too cold for me. Maybe someone made fun of me sometimes. Perhaps I saw the movie Jaws too many times. For whatever the reason I was basically afraid of swimming and afraid of open water. Despite all that, my buddy Peter (yes, Peter Blakemore) and I signed up Ironman Coeur D'Alene.
I spent a year with him learning to swim. Three weeks before the Ironman race I was with my buddy Tim swimming in a lake when I had a panic attack. This was three weeks before the race and I was still having panic attacks in the water. I feared a panic attack in the Ironman. As my actions just mimicked my thoughts, I had a full blown panic attack at the Ironman. I wanted to swim to a kayak, but it was too far away. I just took off my swim cap and to the bottom of the lake it went. I floated on my back and then a miracle happened. It may not seem like a miracle to you, but I regained my breath. I finished the loop and then the second loop went great! It was the first time for me that I really overcame one of my many fears! It literally changed my life. Something that I had feared for so long I no longer feared. To the point where in Ironman Arizona I only had one time where I went on my back because of frustration, no panic (someone smacked me and knocked off my nose plug but I caught it and put it back on. I had a back up nose plug around my neck).
You see when you accomplish something that was very hard, you cherish that forever. Some pains may never truly go away, like the pain of losing a loved one. The pain does teach you a lesson. For most pains eventually go away, but accomplishing something that you never thought possible, well, that feeling stays with you forever. I hope you stick with those projects, people, and goals that you are working on. Because hard work does pay off and the feeling of accomplishment stays with you forever!
#10: YOU GET OUT WHATEVER YOU PUT IN
Exercise is a lot like life. You get out of it what you put into it. My first Ironman I finished 1406 out of 2200. My next one 1135. My next one 862 and my most recent Ironman I was in 683 place or something like that! No, I didn't win the race, but I am getting closer and closer to the top! I am now in the top third! Not bad for a guy who could not swim a few years ago and had not ridden a bicycle since a teenager.
Exercise is a lot like life. You get out of it what you put into it. I hope in your life you will give 110%. What you will get is 110%. It may not seem like it now, but the work you put into helping your friends, family, and employer or business will come back to you. You may not see it, but others see it. They see your ethics, professional, kindness and joy you give everyday. If this doesn't apply to you and you are not being the kind of person you wish to be, just realize you can change. Change can start today. Every Ironman had to decide one day to start exercising. They most likely, like Marion and I decided to do it just to lose some weight. Once you decide to make a change it will be amazing to you where it will take you. Perhaps one day you may hear the announcer say "Your Name You are an Ironman!"
Happy Training! RH