Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ironman C'oeur d'Alene - The Race in Pictures (of me)

I sprung for the value pack of photos of the race and I am going to use them everywhere I can.

Here is a photo essay of Ironman CDA featuring one of the competitors who made almost full use of the 17 hours they allow to complete the race.

This is the only photo in which I am not featured. I was way in the back to avoid being swum over by all these folks. It didn't look this bad from my perspective but that was probably because I was looking down at my feet.

Ninety-two minutes after entering the water I emerged, with very cold arms.  The swim was actually sort of fun - like a giant game of water polo. This is probably the fastest I ran all day.

I am about mount the bike and start off on my 112 mile ride. This was a critical moment in my race as I sometimes have trouble getting my leg over the bar and I desperately wanted to avoid face planting in front of the crowd.

This is just one of the hundreds of bikers who passed me on the course.  I was curious as to how far ahead of me this guy finished, but when I went to the athlete tracker I discovered that he didn't finish the bike course.

In the inspirational film the day before the race they reminded us that the only thing we could control was our attitude. So every time I saw a photographer on the course I tried to smile.

This is my wife's favorite picture.  It was taken after the last big hill on the second lap of the course. I can tell because I've removed my arm warmers and I'm too tired to wipe my nose.

I ran most of the marathon with my number covered by my tee shirt. But at mile 25 I remembered that the finish line announcer would want to know who I am, so I made the number visible even though it ruined the fashion look I was trying to achieve. 

At mile 16 they made me put on that glow stick that is wrapped around my neck because the sun had set. 

Mr. Ironman

A few minutes after this picture was taken the adrenalin-effect wore off and I could barely walk.  That condition only lasted a couple of days.  

It was a great experience.  Maybe I'll do it again someday.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

C'oeur d'Alene Ironman - The Morning After

                                          Len, Amy and Fernando BEFORE the race

I was really sore the morning after, so I delayed this report until the morning after the morning after. I feel much better today, but I try to avoid stairs. Or hills.

It was a great race. The weather was perfect: cool and cloudy on the swim and bike and sun and shade (and later moonlight) on the run. The crowds were very encouraging and they had 3,000 volunteers (for 2,800 competitors) to help us get through the day.

On the Friday before the race they had a mandatory athlete’s meeting to go over rules and provide information on the course. They also showed a video on the Ironman experience. I think it was targeted to those of us who were doing our first (only?) Ironman and to give us a mindset for approaching the race. Instead of focusing on the premier elite runners they emphasized the everyday athletes crossing the finish line in the dark, with supportive crowds cheering them on.

The tagline for the segment was “The only part of the race that you can control is your attitude.” I reminded myself of that many times during the event and it really did help.


It was a cool and cloudy morning. 2,700 competitors can really fill up a beach. I stayed at the back of the pack as we waded into the water figuring that there would be fewer people trying to swim over the top of me that way. But there were swimmers everywhere for the first mile. At least it was easy to follow the course (see positive attitude).

I finished the first lap (1.2 miles) in 43 minutes. The waves picked up on the second lap, but it was far less crowded and I was certain I swam that lap faster, but the current might have held me back as I got out of the water in 92 minutes. My “goal” had been to complete the swim in 90 minutes so I felt pretty good about that segment.

I had a sleeveless wetsuit and my arms were a little cold on the second lap and I started to worry that I might have some hypothermia issue if I got too cold, but then I thought about my friend Aurora Gore who swam the English channel w/o a wetsuit in 50 degree temperatures and decided I didn’t have anything to worry about.


My training mates Amy Shelly and Pam Rashid (along with my coach Craig Strong) constantly harangued (counseled?) me about taking in enough fluids and calories on the bike segment so that I didn’t get cramped up and dehydrated like I had in Galveston and Kentucky earlier in the year. I followed their advice and the weather cooperated by being cool so I didn’t sweat as much. But as a result I ended up stopping at three of the aid stations to use their port-a-johns and usually there was a line, so that cost me about two hours. Okay maybe more like ten minutes. And to be honest, I was glad to stop especially after some of those really really long hills.

We had a great view of the lake and the surrounding mountains, which I tried to appreciate. They looked a lot better to me on the downhill portions.

My goal on the bike had been to finish with fresh legs. I had figured I could do that and average 17 t o18 mph, but I ended up with an average speed of about 15 mph for the 112 miles. I was happy to get off the bike and pleased that I made it through the segment without any mishap like a dreaded flat tire. (I’m not too good at changing tires. The last one I had, Amy changed for me because I was taking too long.)


I had not realized they would have changing tents for us. That was a big plus as it allowed me to switch into running shorts and a comfortable running shirt. I felt good on the run. Well as good as was possible after that bike ride. Maybe I just felt good to be off the bike. My goal on the run was to run the whole course. And I did. It was a very slow pace (12:30 minutes per mile) but it was a run. I only walked through the aid stations. The crowds on the run were great. It really helped to have people encouraging us.


A great experience. Hearing the announcer say “Len Joy you are an Ironman!” was thrilling. I finished without tripping or stumbling and I think I might have been smiling. I felt good. And I think I could have run another ten or twenty feet maybe. My time was 15 hours and 17 minutes. I thought I would be finishing around 14 hours but I didn’t really have any idea as I had never run all these distances separately or together. I was very pleased with my performance and proud of all my training partners who were completing their first Ironman: Amy Shelley, Pam Rashid, Mo Schultz, Paul Hoban and Alicia Riggs. We all finished. Our coach Craig Strong of PM did a great job of getting us ready.

I am really glad it’s over. This morning I woke up at 4:30 AM and then I turned over and went back to sleep. That was fun.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ironman C'oeur d'Alene - The Training is Over

Well almost over. The Ironman C'ouer d'Alene will be held Sunday June 24 so these next few days will involve travel, registration and checking out the course. The serious workouts are over – at least for me.

I started training with Craig Strong and Precision Multisport  at the beginning of December – 28 weeks ago. There are about ten of us who have trained with PM for Coeur d’Alene. The training program includes a combination of group and individual workouts.

The group workouts have been a big plus as this endeavor doesn’t seem quite as insane if you have company. And the challenge of trying to keep up with the group has forced me to train harder than I would have. Our group workouts included a training camp weekend in Kentucky and weekend trips to Wisconsin and Michigan so we could experience something we don’t have in Illinois – hills.

I kept a blog to record all my workouts as I thought I might write a book someday about the experience. Here are a few factoids from that training data:

• I weighed 190 pounds when I started training and this morning I weighed 186. But now that I’ve had breakfast and lunch I’m probably back up to 190. This isn’t a good regimen for weight loss. You have to eat too much to survive.

• My functional threshold power measured (FTP) increased from 188 watts to 251 watts;

• Over the 28 weeks I trained for a total of 320 hours – an average of 11.4 hours per week.

• I swam 66 miles – 2.3 miles per week – which is 98% of the Ironman swim (2.4 miles)

• I biked (including spin classes) – 2,464 miles – 88 miles per week – 79% of the bike (112 miles)

• I ran 422 miles – 15 miles per week – 58% of the run Ironman distance (26 miles)

Triathlons are great for data crunchers. There are so many things you can analyze. When I’m running I often spend a lot of mental energy trying to imagine my time for the race. I’m always a great deal faster in my imagination. For this race I have two predictions:

1. I will start the swim shortly after 7 A.M. (I won’t be in the front lines.)

2. I will finish the race before midnight. (after that they turn out the lights, I think.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Father's Day: "Where Your Treasure Is There Will Your Heart Be Also"

Ken Joy (1917 - 2008)

Fred Sawada (1916 - 2002)

On a spring day in 1970, a Japanese-American girl sends a frisbee whirling across the university quad...


Shinsaku Sawada came to America in 1918 and settled in Seattle with his wife and three children. In 1928 he lost his wife to tuberculosis. His eldest son George, writing to his father in 1943:

…you told us she’d gone away. That we mustn’t cry. You smiled at us, but not from the heart. How sad you looked when you thought we were safely tucked in bed, and your pretenses dropped like a heavy load.

Shinsaku built his tailoring business and saved for his children’s education. Again from his son’s letter:

Then came the depression and overnight we were poor. Your business and the college fund were lost. I wanted to leave school and go to work...

“No,” you said with quiet doggedness. “You shall continue your education.”

George had graduated from the University of Washington and his younger brother Fred was a private in the U.S. Army, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

We were sent to relocation centers. I could not understand why you attempted to restore my faith in the government which had denied you the right of citizenship... I did not realize the love you bore for this country, made more dear because here it was that mother had been laid to rest: “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”

Wisely you said, “This is your sacrifice, accept it and you will no longer be bitter.”

On the 5th of July, 1943 Sergeant George Katsuya Sawada was killed by a sniper while serving as a Medic in the 442 Regiment in Italy.

Fred Sawada idolized his older brother. George was studious while Fred was hardheaded, impetuous and fearless. Wounded on five separate occasions, the following is from his citation for the Silver Star:

While moving through a sparse vineyard Sawada motioned his comrades to stop. As the enemy prepared to take up positions, Sawada opened fire… the enemy patrol of seven men was killed or wounded.

Fred made it home and married his high school girlfriend Susanne Matsumura. They raised two children, Suzanne, who became a corporate attorney, and Stephen, a noted cardiologist.

Stephen Joy and Lillian Mackey were married in 1910. They lived on a small farm in upstate New York. By the time their third child, Kenneth, was born, they knew that rocky farm would condemn them to a life of poverty. They gambled and bought a one hundred fifty acre farm – on contract.

Ken’s first memory is his bedroom filling up with smoke on a chilly October night. The farmhouse was on fire. Neighbors rushed to help. Big Clifford Hunt jumped down from the burning roof, pumped his heart out when it looked to all like it was hopeless. They saved the farm and the world Ken came to know was much different than it might have been.

Ken finished high school, with no plans for college until a teacher named Leonard Palmer showed him how he could work his way through Cornell. He was the first member of his family to get a degree. While waiting on tables he met a teaching student named Jean Burr and fell in love.

During the war, Ken became a pilot and his job was to fly home the wounded. In August 1944, he took off from the island of Kawajalien headed for California with forty-four wounded servicemen.

At one thousand feet the plane rolled sharply to the left. Joy tried to right the plane, but the bulky C-54 continued its sickening roll, spiraling towards the ocean. From out of nowhere, flight engineer Harry Hilinski, raced to the flight deck and opened the hydraulic valve. The plane leveled off, and Joy, his crew and the forty-four soldiers were saved.

He returned home, married Jean Burr, and together they raised four children.

One of them was me.


On a spring day in 1970, a Japanese-American girl sends a frisbee whirling across the university quad, and as she lets it fly, Suzanne Sawada yells to me, “Len! Catch it,” which I do, amazed that she knows my name. We were married three years later and last December our three children took us out to dinner to celebrate our 38th anniversary.


Shinsaku Sawada, a sophisticated, educated man, traveled halfway around the world to build a home for his family. Fred Sawada, inspired by his father’s grace and his brother’s sacrifice, fought bravely for his comrades and his country and returned home to become a devout Christian and a devoted husband and father.

Stephen Joy had an eighth grade education and never traveled more than fifty miles from his farm, but gambled everything he had to give his family a better opportunity. Ken Joy took that opportunity and flew all around the world. A leader in his community and his company, he was always there when his family needed him.

What I have learned from these fathers is that what endures is not our possessions our or careers or even our reputations, because in time those will all fade away. How we live our life, the good things we do – the acts of kindness and the sacrifices, large and small – for our family, our friends and even for complete strangers, those things will live on in ways we cannot imagine.


June 7, 2012