You are currently browsing the blog archives for October, 2010.




By Craig Gabel

I have been somewhat enjoying some down time from training. I physically haven’t done very much at all for the last 3 weeks, but all I think about is what I should be doing. So I am attempting to put those thoughts on paper for the whole family. I am writing up a training schedule for all of us. Hopefully we can get on track to meet our goals for the future.

I feel so lost not having an event to train for. I have no idea what I want to do. I know I am pretty much done with events for the year with the exception of a 5K or two with Leesa and/or the family. I’d like to do another Ironman next year and of course Lake Tahoe. Maybe an M-dot event but trying to figure out which one is a little mind boggling right now. Trying to not think about these things make me want to think about them even more…I definitely have the Tri bug. I guess only the future will tell the full story.



A numbers game

By Leesa Gabel

I’m a word smith, not a number cruncher. When my kids need help with math, they know to go straight to their dad, not me. So the past 14 days have been hard for me because it’s been a numbers game. My blood counts aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing….which is returning to normal. I’ve managed to baffle my doctor….which is probably not a good thing to be doing. Not that I’m doing it intentionally, it’s really out of my control.

So, here I am….14 days after ending treatment and I’m frustrated. Frustrated that I’m still not able to do the things that I want to do… go back to Boot Camp at HealthRidge!! I’ve actually been listening to my doctor who has told me to take it easy and let my body adjust. I lounge around all day and watch NCIS (completely hooked on that show)….not sure how much more easy I can take it! There’s a part of me that wonders if perhaps getting out and walking or something wouldn’t be more productive for my body (I know it would help the numbers on the scale to lower). But I’m afraid I’ll go into my doctor’s office and hear the dreaded I-told-you-so speech if being active actually does more harm than good.

I guess for now I’ll listen to my doctor and play by his rules and hope that this stupid numbers game ends soon. And that I come away the winner!!



My first Ironman triathlon

By Craig Gabel

Ironman Triathlon…seriously? Who could endure that kind of punishment? Isn’t that something only elite athletes can finish? Could the average guy like me do something this crazy? Why the heck would I want to? These are all questions I have had in my head for decades now. I always thought completing a triathlon would be a really cool accomplishment. Just over one year ago I did finish my first ever triathlon. It was an Olympic length and up until I crossed the finish line, the thought of me even signing up for an Ironman was a very distance unreachable goal… for me anyway. I considered myself much too old and overweight for something like that. Ironman is a younger man’s event…early 20 something’s. Boy was I ever wrong!After completing my second ever triathlon one year ago, the Redman half Ironman, I knew a full Ironman distance was actually reachable…even for an overweight guy pushing 40. I set my sight on the full distance the moment I crossed that half Ironman finish line. I’ve spent that last several months training for all 3 sports. Using the Lake Tahoe century ride training to ramp up my riding endurance, that only left swimming and running. Well if you know me at all, you know I am a bit of a fish so the swimming was a no brainer. I just needed to get ramped up on the running. Not that I hadn’t run a marathon before. I just had never run a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride. How on earth could anyone still have the strength to walk or run a full freaking marathon after all that distance on the swim and bike? It was going to a huge challenge.

Redman Ironman… What an experience. The event I knew would be top notch based on last year’s event. I just had to put in the time to train up for it. I trained with a fantastic group of people who were all Team In Training alumni. They knew what needed to be done… so we just went out and did it. My first mentor Kim played a crucial part in my training. It was hard to stay motivated week after week. I knew I had to get with someone to keep me on task. Kim was the answer. She encouraged me to run when I did want to. I encourage her to ride when she didn’t want to. We trained well together and were physically ready for the challenge.

Race day. Once we got to the start we entered the water with some nerves tingling a bit. I was actually pretty relaxed. It seemed like another long training day for me. When we finally heard Black Sabbath’s Ironman over the PA speakers, we were pumped. Jon (who’s been with me since day one of my triathlon training days and an awesome friend) let out a very loud and enthusiastic “Yaaaaaaaaaa!”. I am pretty sure folks in Kansas heard him. It was awesome and Jon, Kim and I were all ready to kick Ironman butt. The shot gun fired (literally) and off we went for the 2.4 mile swim. The swim seemed very long as it usually does in these events. We swam a 1.2 mile loop twice. I had decided to wear a wetsuit because the water temp had dropped over night. I really don’t like wearing it but figured it might keep my muscles warm and prevents some cramping towards the end. Half way around the first loop I had enough of that darn suit. I was seriously contemplating swimming to the shore and chucking it up on the grass but I endured the discomfort for the remaining lap. I finished the 2.4 miles in about an hour and 25 minutes. I was about 5-10 minutes slower than I wanted to be but I didn’t want to kill my energy on the swim and have nothing left for the bike and run. The best part was seeing my quasi-adopted little brother Donnie waiting for me and all the other swimmers to lend the athletes a hand out of the water and unzip that dang wetsuit. Up the ramp out of the water I see my stripper wife. Ya she was a stripper than morning because she helped strip wetsuits off the athletes. You basically come out of the water and unzip your wetsuit, work the suit off your arms and down to your waist. You lay down in front of two strippers and they grab your wetsuit arms and yank it right off your legs in like 500 milliseconds. Ya, ironically enough my wife was a stripper that morning at of all places…Lake Hefner. What are the odds? LOL!

On to the bike. My transition was a bit slow (around 10 minutes) because I hit the changing tent and put on some dry clothes. That ended up being a great decision since I was not only dry but much more comfortable on the bike. The bike course was a 28 mile out and back (loop if you will) that we had to ride 4 times to meet the 112 miles. The first loop really set the tone for the remaining 3. As one of our teammates (and fantabulous training partner) JRo described the course, It was ‘Craptastic’. It totally lived up to the name. It was relatively flat but rough and bumpy as all get out. I started off with about a 22 mph average for the first 6 or so miles. I was ecstatic! Then after the next 8 or so miles, I knew that this was not going to be nearly as fast as I had hoped. I kept it around 17-18 mph for the remainder of the first loop. On that first loop I saw all my teammates doing the half iron, JRo, Dave, Erin, Dianna and Jennifer which was really cool. Plus, I saw my full iron teammates Jon and Kim. It was good to see everyone even if it was just for a few seconds. Just knowing we all made it through the swim was a great feeling… not that I had any doubt we would all make it. It was just good to see everyone on the bike. The second loop was a tad slower and dropped my average down to 15-16 mph and was so rough that my water bottle cage backed out both screws from the frame. One came out completely and the other was barely hanging on. I had to stop and tighten up the one remaining screw and put another one in to replace the lost one. I was off the bike for about 2-3 minutes. That is the only time I got off the bike for the entire 112 mile duration. The third loop I experienced a very strange feeling of sleeplessness. I truly felt like I could fall asleep while pedaling. My eyes got very heavy. My head was hanging down and my energy level just completely tanked…I felt as if I had bonked (meaning I hit the breaking point of no energy or motivation to continue. I immediately fueled up with some Hammer gel, a Clif bar, some electrolyte capsules, Gatorade and water to try and give myself a boost. I was hanging by a thread so to speak and I finally snapped out of it on the 4th and final loop. The best part of the bike was seeing my fellow teammates with huge smiles on their faces and also seeing my family at the turn around on each loop. I finished up the bike in 7 hours and 18 minutes.

On to the run…okay mostly walk. Transition from bike to run was relaxed and therefore a bit lengthy at around 10 minutes. I was more concerned about my teammates than myself. I had not seen Kim the last 2 loops and I was very worried about her. I had seen Jon on every loop so I knew he was not far behind me. I saw Jen and Dave in the transition area and asked if they knew where Kim was on the course. They did not know anything. I figured maybe I just missed her in the mind fog I was in. I congratulated them on their half ironman finish and moved on to the run. Just out of transition I found my wife waiting to greet me along with my family and teammates. It was good to see them and get some encouragement before starting the long run course. I had planned to walk at least the first two miles before even attempting to run. I surprised myself by getting into a nice jog after just .25 miles. I felt okay. I was really tired and the thought of a full marathon was really overwhelming. I mean I had a hard enough time just doing a marathon by itself just two weeks prior. Now i had just swum and biked over 114 miles and now I have to complete a full 26.2 mile marathon…jeepers. I tried to stay focused on my pace. I had a full 8 hours to finish the marathon before the course became unsupported. I knew if my pace dropped below 17 minute miles I’d be challenged to finish on time. I know a 17 minute mile…that’s walking at a good clip but it’s not like running constantly. This should be easy…right? Well not so much for a big guy like me. I walked and ran intervals. Sometimes it was based on my pace. If I got slow on the pace, I’d run to speed up the average pace. If I had some good landmarks then I run from tree to tree or telephone pole to telephone pole or whatever other landmarks I could find. That worked pretty well for a most all of the run. Having to run a 6.55 mile out and back 4 times was very intimidating. It took me getting to the 13.1 half marathon point to get the “I’ve had enough. I’m done. I’m ready to quit!” thoughts out of my head. Reaching that half marathon distance made me feel like I was getting there but that 3rd loop was the worst. I think in my mind I thought making it to the halfway point meant I could relax a little bit. When you just endured almost 128 miles of energy expending exercise you can’t relax. To relax at that point in the event would almost be like stopping. I did relax for a while and then my average pace really dropped quickly. That was a huge mental blow. Now I had to not only get back in the groove but also make up time. Making up time at this stage is extremely tough mentally and physically. My team mates Erin and Jennifer (who had previously finished their first half ironman distance) were on the course cheering me on. I think I was pretty out of it though since it was really dark and I didn’t even recognize them at first. I recognized their voices before their faces. Thankfully, the one thing Team in Training has taught me is that no matter how tired I am and painful I feel there is a cancer patient out there who is feeling much worse than me all the time. My pain was just temporary. These real life heroes would give anything just to walk a mile much less do anything close to the monumental task I was doing. I couldn’t quit on them. I thought of my awesomely wonderful wife. She’s never given up so why the hell would I give up! Plus my selfish thoughts of, I can’t let my team or my family down filled my head. They came all this way to see me finish. I have to finish. But the one thing I did repeat several times on each lap was a conversation in my head. I’d ask myself, “How bad do you want this finish?” I’d answer, “Real (expletive) bad”. All these things kept me going. The one thing that ultimately got me over the mental game and to the finish line was our super awesome coach. Coach Jen kept me motivated. She said the right things at the right time. She listened to me whine and complain, talk myself up and talk myself down, but she also knew when to just leave me alone, which is what a truly great coach knows how gauge. After night fall she more or less gave me a pace to keep which is technically illegal but hey she was just out for a walk on a public trail and I was just trying to keep up. I nicknamed her “Coach Recon” at that point.

My brothers and sisters-in-law, my dad and step-mom, my teammates and most importantly my wife cheered my on to the finish line. Jon had finished his first ever Ironman just over an hour ahead of me. They were all still there bringing me into the finish. What an awesome feeling to have such a fantastic support system. I made it! I finished 140.6 miles. Late in the run I knew I was ahead of the cut off so it became my new goal to finish the same day I started. We started at 7:15 AM. I had until 12:15 AM Sunday morning to cross the finish line. Well I crossed that finish line at 11:55 PM on Saturday, September 25th. I finished it all in the same day. I hadn’t even thought of that as a goal until my final loop on the run and it gave me the motivation I needed. Leesa was there to give me my finishers medal which was the absolute best finish hands down I have ever had. I gave everyone a big nasty sweaty hugs.

16 hours 40 minutes and 51 seconds = Ironman status forever!

I went straight into an ice bath for about 10-15 minutes. Then warmed up and headed back to the hotel with all my family and friends right there with me. The next day I felt pretty good in the morning. The long car ride home was another story though. Sitting in the car for hours on end made it very tough to get out of the car and walk around. The second day I worked from the comfort of my bed with my legs relaxed and slightly elevated. Moving around the house that day was tough to get started but got easier the longer I was moving around. I ended up at a scout meeting that evening and felt pretty good walking around. The 3rd day I had a couple quirky pains but the 4th day… it felt like I hadn’t even done the event at all. Total recovery! That was pretty darn cool!

So Ironman may not be for everyone, but it can be done by the average Joe if you put in the time to train for it. Just make sure you’re prepared physically but more importantly mentally. It was a huge mental battle that I thankfully won but I can see how physically capable people can fall victim to the mental war. Just ensure you are ready for it before you get to the starting line and success will be yours. If you fall, just get back up and try again! Thank you Kim for training with me all summer long. I couldn’t have made it without you. I am very proud of both our accomplishments this year. Next year will be even better. I hope we can all training together again for another Ironman event in the future.