Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sean Swarner

There are seven continents on the planet. Each and everyone has a mountain range that hold the honor of being the highest point of that that continent!

They are as follows:
Asia - Mt. Everest - 29, 035 feet
Africa - Kilimanjaro - 19,340 feet
Europe - Mt. Elbures - 18,422 feet
South America - Aconcagua - 22,842 feet
Australia - Mt. Kosciusko - 7,310 feet
Antarctica -Mt. Vinson - 16,067 feet
North America - Mt. McKinley - 20, 320 feet

Sean Swarner has been to the top of all of them. The amazing part is that he is a 2 time cancer survivor and is the first and only survivor to make it to the top of Mt. Everest. By the way he only has one lung!

While in the 8th grade he was diagnosed with 4th grade Hodgkins Lymphoma and was told that he only had six months to live. Within a year his cancer was in remission and follow up test were all negative.

Then in May of 1990, 20 months into remission, doctors found a tumor next to his right lung. The tumor was an aggressive form of cancer called Askins Sarcoma that was unrelated to his early fight. He was only given two weeks to live.

Again he survived! The removal of the tumor and the treatment that followed left him with only one functioning lung and one goal in life.

In an interview with a Denver newspaper, Swarner stated “My goal is to hopefully inspire others to motivate themselves,". To do this he set out on a mission to stand on top of the Seven highest peaks on the planet!

On June 19th 2007 he completed this goal on the Top of Mt. McKinley! At that time he dug a hole and buried a banner bearing the names of 300 people who had been effected by cancer. He stated that they carried him to the top. Not the other way around!

He has said that “The human body can live for 30 days without food, the human condition can sustain itself for 3 days without water but no human alive can survive more than 30 seconds with out hope”.

His story is more complex and detailed then I can possible write in a bog. There are a lot of videos on youtube about his story so check them out. It is worth the time.

I saw a special report last year on ESPN’s “Out Side the Lines” about Sean (also on you tube).

The reason I am bring this up is that on Saturday 10/11/08 he completed the Hawaii Ironman!

I am perfectly healthy. Never had cancer or any other major illness and there is no reason for me to ever miss a workout, when there are people like Sean can accomplish so much with nothing but their will to do so!

Do you have an excuse?

Train hard!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ironman Anyone?

It is not a comic book or a major motion picture! Hawaii is our spots Mecca and The Hawaii Ironman World Championship is our Super Bowl!

This race will be held on the “Big Island” of Kona, Hawaii this Saturday October 11th.

You can log on to and track the race as it is happening or wait and watch latter this fall when NBC will air its telecast.

If you have never seen it before then get some tissue and get ready for a great show. NBC has won Emmy Awards in the past for this production and is well worth the time to watch. You will cry and get motivated! If you don’t then you simply do not have a soul!

A friend of mine watched it 5 years ago and decided that he did not have time to train for something like that but he did start running and has completed several 10ks, ½ and full marathons. He gives credit to the telecast.

My favorite Ironman moments:

In 1995 Mark Allen, one of the greatest athletes of all time, said in a pre-race interview that he thought something amazing was going to happen. He did not know if it was going to involve him but he just felt that this was going to be a race to remember.

Was it ever…

A German rookie named Thomas Hellriegel destroyed the bike course record and had a 13 minute lead over Allen, who was in 5th off the bike.

Some how Allen picked off the 4 athletes in front of him one by one until he passed Hellriegel at mile 16 and won his 6th Ironman World Championship in 7 years!

How did he do that?

In the women’s race that same year Paula Newby-Fraser and Karen Smyers reminded us of what character is all about. Newby-Fraser had won the last 4 races in Hawaii and had an 11 minute lead off the bike but Smyers ran the second-fastest marathon time ever in the women's race and passed Newby-Fraser less then 500 yards from the finish.

Newby-Fraser had hit the wall and sat down for over 20 minutes before she could finish. 20 minutes out of it and she still finished 3rd! Hard to say who had the better race.

How did they do that?

That same year a 34 year old from Australia named John Maclean became the 1st wheelchair athlete to complete the course but was not an official finisher because he missed the cut off time. I have always remembered something the commentator said about Maclean’s effort. They showed Maclean pushing himself up a steep hill, wincing in pain and the commentator said:

“The pain will not last for ever but for those who bear witness the memory of accomplishment always will.”

That has always stuck with me and I think about it every time I am going up a hill.

A few years later Maclean finished an Ironman distance race well inside the allotted time! That is 140 miles using nothing but your arms!

How did he do that?

I know that this is dragging on and I swear that this is the last one for now.

In 1996 a Belgian named Luc Van Lierde became the 1st European to win the Ironman. He was a rookie that no one had really heard of. He received a 2-minute drafting penalty on the bike but managed to come catch and pass Thomas Hellriegel and not only win the race but also set a course record in the process! To top it all off he had never run a complete Marathon before that day!

How did he do that?

The answer to all the above questions is simple!

They believed in themselves! That is something we can all learn from.
Happy training!

Friday, September 19, 2008

We are all in this together!

Well, I decided to start a blog then get a serious case of writers block!

Hopefully I can get through this one without boring you to death.

As endurance athletes, we find ourselves to be quite humbled more often than not. The truth is that on race day only a select few have the opportunity to win the over all race and a few others that will take home the age group titles.

So how do we motivate ourselves to compete in something that we know we will not win? We put in hours on top of hours, pushing pedals, pulling water, charging hills and making our family and friends think that we are all crazy! (In a lot of ways they are right) The answer is so that we can say that we did.

Our PRs are our goals, t-shirts our rewards and the fact that we took on a challenge and completed it is our satisfaction. We brag about our times, wear our shirts like a badge of honor and smile when we see others jump on the endurance bandwagon because they see what we have accomplished.

It is so easy for each and every one of us to inspire others. This is a responsibility and an honor that we should all recognize. I see it as a psychological reward in the sense that I am leading by example of a healthy and competitive lifestyle.

It takes a lot of time, effort and support for us to compete in this madness the way we do. I learned the hard way that we cannot do this on our own. In order to meet our goals we have our training partners, our families, our friends and more than anything else we need each other in order to cross the finish line.

We need our training partners for obvious reasons. I have had the pleasure of training with my life long friend Jerry Carroll. Jerry is a man of amazing character, drive and motivation. Anyone who has ever seen him compete in anything knows that he is a great athlete and anyone who has ever talked to him knows that he is 10 times a better person. I am a better man and athlete because of him.

We need our family and friends. They are the ones that give us rides to the races, ask us about our training days and give us a nudge when we need it.

I do my long runs on Sundays. It is a figure eight route that starts and finishes at my front door. The front of the subdivision is the half waypoint and my favorite part of the day. It is a long flat boring portion of the route where I tend to run out of water and food. Every Sunday between 8:00 and 8:15 my 14 year old son is standing at the front of the subdivision with a cold water bottle and 2 Power Gels for me. He starts cheering for me as soon as I top the hill, hands me the supplies and pats me on the back as I pass. I have a goal that he will never see me walk in a race. I could not do this without him.

We all some times get into the mind set on race day that we are on our own. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our biggest motivation on race day should be each other. How many times have you been struggling up a long hill and someone passes you with a word of encouragement and it made you pick up the pace? Now, how many times have you said something to someone struggling up a hill? We can make a difference every time we race.

A few years ago, when I was somewhat fast, I passed a guy in the last few hundred meters of a 10 K. I had been chasing him the entire race and he had a great pace the whole day. He was just out of gas. As I past him I said, “I have been chasing you all day! Don’t let me beat you now”! He picked up the pace and we sprinted to the finish line together. We broke the tape in 43:34. We shook hands and caught our breath and he thanked me for saying something to him. He said that he beat his PR by almost 20 seconds and would not have done it if I had not said something.

You just never know when you are going to make a difference in someone’s life.

Train hard and may the wind be at your backs!

Friday, September 12, 2008


Hello to all. Well this is my first attempt at doing something that I find to be important.

In our sick, demented, frustrating world of endurance sports it is important to stay motivated. Some times this is very difficult to do, as the temptation of a nap is always stronger than going out and doing speed work at the local high school track.

So my purpose here is to try to provide some encouraging words that might get you out on the road, track, pool or gym and help you stay motivated and reach your goals.

I am going to keep this simple today and share a story that many of you have might have heard before.

It is the story of the Bumble Bee and the Race Horse:
(You can find this article in "Triathlete’s Training Bible" by Joe Friel)

- A few years ago a group of scientists developed an interest in bumblebees. These scientists reckoned that these little insects held some secrets of flight that may provide some answers to questions about operating in space. After all, they asked, how could such small wings produce efficient lift for a relatively large and hairy torso? And how could a round body and flight position that violated many principles of aerodynamics move so efficiently through the air?
After weeks of study, hypothesizing, scrutinizing and examining the scientists came to one conclusion: Bumblebees are not capable of flight.Fortunately no one told the bumblebee. The silly insects go right on believing that flight is normal for them despite what the best minds in the scientific world no as fact. We can learn a lot from the bumblebee. The single most critical piece of this sporting puzzle is believing in yourself and your capacity to succeed. “if you think you can or you think you can’t,” automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, “you’re probably right.” The bumblebee thinks it can fly. Actually, the thought of anything else never even crosses its tiny mind. It just keeps flying.
Then there’s the race horse. The philosophy of equine athletes is similar to that of human athletes, and they are trained in much the same manner as a runner. They use heart rate monitors, train with intervals and endurance, follow a periodization plan and eat a diet designed to enhance performance.Psychologically, racehorses differ a great deal from the human athlete. They never question their training preparation. When it comes time for a workout designed by their trainer, they do it without wondering if its enough. They don’t go out in the morning and put in a few extra junk miles for “insurance”. They don’t worry and fret after a poor performance. Stable life goes on as usual.On race day, racehorses are nervous just as human athletes are; they know what is about to happen, but they don’t magnify the tension by comparing themselves with the other horse (“look at the legs on that stud!”). Instead they are very purposeful in their approach to training and racing. There is but one reason for every day existence – to get faster. If the horse is physically strong and the trainer is smart, this happens.
If you are to succeed in the sport you have chosen, the first thing you must do is believe in yourself just as the bumblebee does. Without this, all of the science in the world won’t do any good. You must also have a purposeful, racehorse trust in your training. Continuously second guessing and changing training direction after every race are a sure way to fail. Think like a bumblebee, train like a horse.

-Hope you all have a great weekend and Happy Training.