Monday, June 29, 2009

Ironman: Part One.

“Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.”

~Tom Krause

Finishing is victory at Ironman.

I believe that every Ironman has a defining moment. There is some point during every single person's ironman experience as a competitor that becomes the attitude, the emotion, the feeling of the day. And it will make or break you.

For me, during this Ironman, it was at 2/3rds of the swim.
And the feeling was: "Continue".

I was initially confronted with that idea when I stopped about 1.8 miles into the 2.4 mile swim, dry-heaving and gagging on lake water and pure, unfiltered fear. Tears were in my eyes. It felt worse than the first Ironman. No one said it would be easier the second time--in fact, I spoke with the founder of ART and he told me he thought the 2nd Ironman was the hardest. Mentally, I had believed I was prepared, but maybe I was not. However, I at least thought I would be ready for just how punishing the swim was. How did this happen?

The first lap had been a personal record for me; 33 minutes for 1.2 miles. Not rocketing through the water by any stretch, but during a 2.4 mile swim I rarely feel good enough to swim towards my upper limit and I had today. I re-entered the water at the beach after my first lap feeling cocky. First lesson in Ironman racing: NEVER feel cocky and over-confident. It really is amazing how the moment you do, nature senses it like a swarm of bees and unleashes revenge of heavenly proportions upon you. For me, the wind had picked up during my first lap, and I swam fast enough to catch up to a large crowd of very angry, aggressive swimmers.

The waves at the distant end of the course, furthest from shore, had grown unconscionably large. The waves were so large in fact that two people could swim up and over one of them single file. Undoubtedly, the weather had gotten worse. Bad weather was to be the second biggest theme on June 21st, 2009. The first most important theme I already stated at the beginning.

Finishing is victory at Ironman. For me at this point, finishing the swim again was victory. This year, at the gun and into the first lap I had stayed back and toward the outside--a lesson hard learned from the titanic beating I received during Ironman 2007. As a result I earned my best 1.2 mile swim time. What I did, however, was swim well enough to place myself smack into a pack of swimmers that I was trying to avoid. It hurt and it was scary. I did exactly what Dr. Gerking told me not to do: I lost my wits. I lost energy trying to push through the crowd, only to be beaten back. I couldn't find a rhythm in the enormous waves. I couldn't breathe. I got sick.

I felt sad as I thought about my wonderful swim time melting away in the waves. I pushed around the turn and felt like I was going to throw up. I stopped and looked towards shore. Through the tears forming in my eyes I could make out the finish arch. 0.6 miles away. I could do that, I told myself over and over. I could swim that any day of the week. AND the waves were going with me. I gagged and tried to puke up the bad emotions. Every time I started swimming my stomach revolted. It was by far, to date, the hardest 0.6 miles of my life. I remember seeing the enormous crowd along the concrete steps in front of the resort as I swam in. I wondered if I was noticeable, flailing along.

And then... it was over.

The clock said 1:12. I think it ended up being longer than that, 1:14 for some reason, but the clock said 1:12 as I tried to hold it together up the beach, onto the grass, towards the army of waiting peelers who would make my ascent onto land official. I kept thinking about 1:12. Thats 13 minutes faster than my last Ironman swim. I made it. And it was a lot faster. But what's more--

I only lost 7 minutes that second lap! How the hell...?

The next huge lesson at Ironman: nothing is really as bad as it seems. It is like the weather in Colorado. When it seems like a terrible day or like nothing is going well, wait five minutes. It will usually feel completely different.

The Morning.

I remembered the morning of 2007 being a little chaotic in the hotel room, so this time I had my ducks in a row the night before. When the alarm roostered at 3:45 (it really is a rooster alarm), I laid there for 5 minutes and thought about what I needed to do. I waited a moment for the nervous energy. It didn't happen.

I was remarkably calm. I thought about my training and how prepared I felt physically, and a wave of excitement rushed through me. I was excited, this time, and not terrified of the unknown. I was well rested and healthy. Having the first Ironman race under your belt makes a significant difference.

The morning continued in this way--very calm and smooth. We easily found parking a few blocks from the transition area. Not too bad of a walk before the race. We dressed warmly and arrived to feel a little breeze blowing, but not too bad yet. NOTHING like 2007.

So far, so good. I can do this, I told myself. I have done it before. I can do this, over and over.

I felt like I was so prepared that I had so much of an easier time getting everything in order before the race; I could swear I was forgetting something. But no, it was just me having that previous experience. I arrived at the immense, flood-lit transition area with my beautiful wife/Ironman cheerleader before the thing even opened; I was among the first 15 in. That was a cool scene, what with the flood lights and anticipation. Jan and I walked back to the car and I dropped off the extraneous stuff I wouldn't need during the race. I smooched our dog good bye, and Jan and I walked hand in hand towards downtown Coeur d'Alene.

She decided it was time for her first ENORMOUS cup of coffee, I think it was 20 ounces, and I went back to transition to fiddle. It was sunny and pleasant walking along the water. I started to really feel the excitement of it all when I saw how crowded the swim start was already, and all of the other triathletes, much more nervous than me, scrambling around in the final 30 minutes before we were kicked out of transition.

The bike was in terrific shape, as always. It was hard for me at the first Ironman to leave it overnight, I am super anal about that. This time it was a relief to have it out of sight before the race so I could really be at ease... Even though, it's a Virgo outlet for me to keep my tri-bike in excellent condition and now, considering that I wouldn't have it if it weren't for my grandpa, well, now it means an extra special amount to me. I will never get rid of this bike. Or let anything happen to it.

Anyway, I checked my tires (cough for later in the story), filled my bottles, fidgeted a little,grabbed what I needed, and had just figured out where and how to put all my crap on my bike when I hear my name being called. I turn around and see some frantic waving over outside of the transition area fencing. It was my dad and my Aunt Siri, the latter all the way from Alaska. All of my dad's siblings had come in to town (Spokane) if they weren't there already for my grandparents 60th anniversary, so Siri decided to come see the start of an Ironman--fresh from knee surgery. We walked around to the grassy knoll where just days before, at the base of the gigantic blow-up gatorade bottle, Brian, Jan and I swam the course and laughed. Hardly the state of Ironman swim start.

The mass-swim start of 2600 people is ridiculously awesome to see.

I got the chance to hang out with Dad, Siri, Jan and Shawna before I had to go to the beach. I felt good. I felt really good. Calm, fun, warm once dad let me borrow his jacket, ready. I knew in the back of my mind that it was probably bad to feel so good before the race. When or how that would play out was to be determined. It was time to march with the other athletes towards the beach.

At that moment, who should walk past me but Mark Kendall, one of my early triathlon mentors while I was in college. He was largely responsible along with Jeremy Gerking for my enthusiastic start and successful beginnings in triathlon. Mark and I walked along together, chatting about how we felt, neither of us willing to really go out on a limb and claim we were going to have a brilliant day. I assumed he would smoke the sucker.

But do any of us really do that well at Ironman? I guess it's all relative.

The march was agonizingly long to the beach among the crowd of a thousand other athletes, clad in super neoprene suits nervous as hell. Finally, finally my chip crossed the mat and beeped--one slight portion of the myriad of other beeps.

The sand was cold on my feet as I made the final commitment to this day, and stood on the beach wondering, again, what on earth it was about this that I felt compelled to do. And then I smiled.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You are an IRONMAN... AGAIN!

"The first requisite of success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem without growing weary."

~Thomas Edison

This one's for you, grandpa.

11 hours, 23 minutes, 48 seconds after trudging reluctantly into the dark, cold, wavy waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I emerged from the marathon to the sound of cheers and laughter and the announcer telling me what I wanted to hear.

Aaron Moss, from Kenmore, Washington... YOU are an IRONMAN, for the second time!

It was a very hard day. Much more difficult than the First Ironman. But, after enormous waves, again being beaten-up pretty handily in the water, 2 flat tires, a RIDICULOUS 15 mph headwind on the bike, rain and 50 degree temps on the run-- I managed to shave 1 hour and 21 minutes off of my time.

It really is an experience that is hard to describe to someone who has never done it, or even seen it. It is a sustained effort over so long, and it requires so much mental exertion; so much time is spent in doubt...its hard to imagine it ending at ALL during a number of points during the day.

My race report will be coming soon. Until then, I am on vacation!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Tomorrow is Ironman. For now, this is my pre-sleep wind down in the form of blogging. I am so excited to go do this. And, to make things better, I found the pics of my last race. These are good!

Samples Picture of Aaron.


biking in...


Still Going!

I would love Ironman to look as good as these pictures!! Hopefully it will just be a fun day. I am starting to get a little AMPED up, but so far, its not as bad as the last time I did this craziness.

Talk to you apre-tri!


Ahhh.... controlled chaos! There really is a method to this madness!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rain, wind, waves... oh my.

"The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it."

~Patrick Young

Right on, Mr. Young.

The weather will not be ignored. Today was cold, windy, rainy and downright icky. The waves seemed smaller at first, but then as we swam further out it was the familiar 3 foot giant swells. Still, the swim feels good, almost fun. Now add the 2500 other lunatics thrashing all around me for instant, giant washing machine effect. Barf.

Still, I look forward to it.

Today I opened my race stuff and looked through my bags for race day. I changed the cleats on my bike shoes. I cleaned my bike chain one last time. I will lube it race morning before I am off. It was too wet today to ride, and even Jan just ran after our activities on-site. The weather was cruel today.

Still, I am excited to get out there and do triathlon for over 10 hours. Hopefully not 12. I am ridiculously excited to this race. I am just NOT excited about the weather forecast: 62 and rainy. Crap, it was better in SEATTLE!!!!!

I handed out around a hundred samples of Aquaphor today, even got booted from the area of the registration line when they saw me handing them out. Apparently, this activity is frowned upon, because nearby are vendor booths where companies pay primo coinage to have the opportunity to hand out stupid stuff. I didn't see anyone else capitalizing on the line of hundreds of tri-geeks, so I was just being entrepreneurial...

But the race director gave me a lecture so I left, and handed the rest out just as easily across the street in a popular parking lot. Good enough!

Well, its almost race-meeting time. I hate this. Its all a bunch of over-anxious, anal type-As in one big tent listening to a bunch of shit that really is not useful whatsoever. Oh well, as Brian would say.

One final thought is the value of planning ahead. This is a crazy chaotic mess if you have not thought through every minute at least once. And thank god for the ART tent (Active Release Therapy).

OK, enough. My battery is about dead which is a sign I need to turn this off. I will sleep well tonight. And I will sleep in a bit tomorrow. After all, its my last day before Ironman!!!!! Woooo hoooo!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arrival in Ironland and other Tales

"It's a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it's light out."

~Bill Watterson

This picture look familiar?

It should, it is exactly like the picture from 2007, the last time I engaged in this lunacy called Ironman.

Aah, its wonderful, though! We arrived last night, around 9, into Coeur d'Alene (how elegant a name--so annoying to spell!) Along the way over I phoned my dad who told me my grandfather, experiencing all of the age-and-smoking-related ailments a human can experience, had been put back in the hospital for a variety of reasons I will not go into. So, seeing as how his hospital in Spokane was right off the freeway, and I knew my way around ok, we decided to stop and see him. And I am glad we did.

My grandfather has always been a stoic, kind of stern figure. But lately his own mortality, as a result of aforementioned age-and-smoking-related health issues has caught up with him and he has softened quite a bit. Over the last few years he has appeared to me to become almost an entirely different person--and one of my favorites.

So Jan and I stopped by and he was, in his own subdued kind of serious way, thrilled to see us. Hospitals have a way to make all those staying in them seem older and sicker than they really are, and he was no exception. I was and am concerned for him, but what he is really experiencing I will never know. He is a Male and a Moss, and from a generation that does not complain--they just motor on. And so it goes, and so it goes... I will never appreciate what he has gone through for me, for my country, for himself and his family. The least I can do is listen to him and show him I care.

After we stopped in Spokane we kept on to Coeur d'Alene (CDA). We are staying in the Motel 6, which on Wednesday before Ironman, was woefully understaffed. I waited in line to check in for about 40 minutes while Peggy managed to answer phones, make reservations and patiently deal with the 80 year old in front of me who did not know how to use a credit card swipe machine. Ack. It was torturous (at best), but eventually it ended-- and I was hurriedly cramming the bikes into the room so that we could head downtown for my LAST pre-ironman beer: Vanilla Bourbon Stout at the CDA Brewery. Oh man, it is worth waiting for. Thick, rich, not too hoppy, yummy!!

We met Brian Kirby, my labmate, and his dad there, had dinner, and enjoyed a lot of laughs--most of which were at Brian's expense as his dad more than willingly shared embarrassing details of Brian's somewhat misguided youth.

The last time I was here it was just me; and I had a few notes to go by from my Ironbuddies. This time, I am the veteran and Brian is the newbie. And I have to say that it's really nice to have him here. The humor and laid-back attitude is well suited to counteracting my anal, serious, anxious demeanor. We blend together into about the perfect level of attentiveness to the tasks and schedule at hand.

This morning we swam in the lake down at the actual swim start, just like last time I was here. BUT this time, the water was about 64 degrees. The waves, however, were ridiculously huge, like last time. As Brian would happily state, "OH WELL!" We will deal with that on race day. After that we rode our bikes over the run-course and enjoyed the gusty winds sweeping in off the lake, rather annoying. There were a lot of nice bikes with people on them doing the same thing as us. Its amazing how many people converge on the towns which host the Ironman events. The population of the town is literally 30% larger for one week of the year. And hopefully everyone is spending their out-of-town dollars accordingly!!

After our bike ride we did the Ironman check-in game, waiting in line then going in the dark tent of reckoning. I remembered last year the psychological evaluation they hold, and warned Brian not to look too shifty... he apparently did ok because he emerged with the same blue Irongeek bracelet as me.

Now the day is over and its time to rest. Its almost 7 and mentally I am done for the day. Its an intense experience from start to finish, and every day the bed is calling me... the cardboard Motel 6 bed and its sleepy spell are pulling me again.

Till tomorrow.

But, alas, no beer for Ironpeople...

A good Thursday before ironman is complete! Now its time for dinner in the sun and sleep. Aaaah, life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ironman Thoughts

"There are mental demons we fight and mental angels that we all carry around; it’s how we deal with them that will determine if we can finish this thing called the Ironman, this thing called life."

~Mitch Thrower

Ironman Race Day Thoughts

Sitting at work. All I can think about is Ironman.

I am standing on the shore with a couple thousand other triathletes. It is quiet but for the sound of the waves, the voices over the loudspeakers, the helicopter and the demons screaming.

We stand together in solitude.

Strangely experiencing a mix of fear and curiosity.

Looking ahead to T1.

Not looking forward to the impending beating in the water by my fellow athletes.

Wonder where Jan is? I wish she were here with me now.

Sitting at my desk, 400 miles away on a beach filled with anticipation and adrenaline.

Go Team!

"The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win."

~John W. Holt, Jr.

Team Moss had a good day, Saturday, at the Five Mile Lake Sprint Triathlon, in Federal Way, WA...

Brian Kirby had a fantastic pre-ironman tune-up race! In just his third triathlon ever, I believe, he went home with 3rd place in the Male 30-34 age group. Sweeeet!! Watching him fly into the park at the very end of the run was something. That big dude can really move! I dare you to get in his way!

The beautiful and amazing Jan Howard earned her first hardware by improving on her previous time on this course by 10 minutes, winning 3rd place in the Women 30-34 age group. This girl has worked RELENTLESSLY on her running especially, but on all parts of her racing and it is really paying off. Not only did she train right through this race, but the day before she came home from a week long trip to Atlanta, complete with booze and southern cooking. Indeed, her accomplishment is special. But most importantly, the part that means the most, is that she has figured out how to race the best way for her. She has taken the tools taught to her and figured out HER OWN WAY, and it is working. I am so ridiculously proud.

I managed to use the entire length of the 5K run to catch and pass someone and earn 5th overall and 1st in the Men 30-34 age group. It might have been 3rd or 4th overall if my timing chip had not stuck inside of my wetsuit after the swim to bike transition. Oh well. I felt really good all day and feel good today. I forgot how hard going fast is!!

Shawna Hengel, in her first triathlon EVER, flew around the course and earned 5th in Women 30-34. She looked waaaay too comfortable out there, and I fully expect her to experience exponential growth throughout this season! She has talent!

Now, as the unofficial coach of this rag-tag bunch of wanna-be trigeeks, I have to say I am damn proud. All in all, I would say that Team Moss had a spectacular showing.

And if the season stopped there, well, maybe I wouldn't be so nervous still. Today is Monday. This coming Sunday is IRONMAN. All I can really do now is rest, be smart, and stick to my pre-race plan. The water appears to be cooperating temperature-wise, and the training is behind me. That is really the best I can hope for. I will be blogging from race headquarters, the Motel 6 in Coeur D Alene. Woo hoo!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ironperson #568

"I am not a number..."

~Number 6 (The Prisoner)

Bib Number: 568
MOSS --AARON --32 --M --30-34 --KENMORE --WA --USA --STUDENT

If you can not be in Coeur D'Alene in person to watch #568 do the Ironman shuffle, please feel free to watch him do it here:

Monday, June 08, 2009

New title for the blog: Training and Complaining

"Sweat silently. Let's have no squawking about a little expenditure of energy."

~Martin H. Fischer

We should all take some time to help those a little less fortunate than us. For instance, whenever possible, after a forest fire, share your water bottle with adorable little critters most of us only read about in books or see on television.


Yesterday I was loading a few things into the car for a trip to Goodwill, which occurred because I am cleaning out the garage in an effort to make room for two vehicles instead of just one. Incidentally that didn't happen. I closed the garage door, walking by the button and giving it a tap, and was walking to my car on the other side as the door is closing(I deftly step over the laser-beam sensor as the door closes--don't try this at home, kids). Lo-and-behold my canine companion Cappie followed suit. I don't know if it was dumb luck or if she knew, also, how to avoid the beam that stops the door from unleashing its squishing powers, but she squirted out into the driveway, obviously pleased with herself, before the door closed. She pranced to the car while I stood in utter disbelief.

I realized that she saw the current situation (I had the garage in such disarray, and was carrying a huge armful of crap) and thought I might be trying to run away, and that she had better get a move-on if she were going to keep an eye on me.

Then she got to go to Goodwill.


My muscles and tired limbs are healing.

One of the very coolest things about training for an Ironman is that, unlike training for shorter races, you get to really taper. You get to, in a controlled fashion, dwindle your training volume down (while maintaining intensity of course) towards the race in an effort to rest and recover and sharpen towards race day.

Tapering for Ironman is great for two reasons (at least for me):
1) I am training much less distance and therefore training takes up a lot less time out of the day, and therefore I have much more time to do useful things--like clean bikes, organize the garage, and vacuum.

2) Since I have been training so damn much until now, I do not feel that overwhelming urge telling me I "should be running" or something. Nope. Nada. No training.

The unfortunate thing is that I am not too good at resting. I may not be training, but I am, as I mentioned, tearing apart the garage. That is not restful (and you would agree if you saw this in action). Therefore I do need to work on resting.

But the no training thing? I have that down.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The last ride. The bike is different, the speed is faster, but the partner is the same.