207.6 Miles. Mission Accomplished.

On Saturday February 17th, 2018 at 12:05 in the afternoon, I entered the water.

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Testing the water, like the guy from Gladiator with the sand.

The water at Lake Pflugerville had been in the mid-40s F about 5 days before race day, on our location test day, so I was worried.  But instead of the nearly freezing rain of that day, race day was a comparatively lovely mid-50s overcast day, with the water an almost tepid 48 degrees F.

 

The Iron Unicycle was always meant to be a feat unto its own.  Something unique.  For that reason I allowed myself the freedom of doing a pre-swim mile run in the wetsuit to warm up for the cold water (and cut a slice of the final run), and then ended up doing 2 miles in the wetsuit after the swim as well.  This 2-miler returned the blood to my feet before I hopped on the unicycle.  After starting the 1-mile wetsuit run and the swim at 12:05, I exited the water at 1:40pm and ran the other wetsuit run of 2 miles, bringing the total distance to 6.7 miles at about 2pm.

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Contemplating the wetsuit run.  Probably adjusting…

The hardpacked path around Lake Pflugerville is about 3 miles, and I had planned in 6 laps around the lake.  I gave some kids high-fives, I stopped 2 or 3 times with my crew to snack and hydrate before the big push out around Austin, I fought the wind.
At just past 3:40, having put away 18 miles of unicycling around the lake and bringing the total mileage to 24.7, I set off for downtown Austin.  The long way, that is.  For the first leg of the 167 mile unicycling portion, I had daytime on my side.  The sun even peeked out a couple times!  The trails were beautiful and my pace rocketed up, which meant good news as far as making up for the many breaks I had taken.  It spelled bad news for my soreness later on, though.

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40 miles. Phase 1 of 167 miles of Unicycling.

The first phase lasted from 3:40 to 7pm, leaving me at 59 unicycle miles, or 65.7 miles total. As you can see, the rest stop at the end was Modo Yoga, where my crew captain Jimmy Agnew works.  Just as the last yoga classes ended, he was able to set out some snacks, heat up some roasted veggies, and even put on some Bob Marley for good vibes!  His help, humor, and upbeat energy kept me going for the full 24 and 1/2 hours.

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42 miles.  Phase 2 of 167 miles Unicycling portion.

Phase two went by in a relative breeze, lasting from 7:15pm to 11pm.  At this point I had reached 97 unicycle miles, or 103.7 miles total.

*HALFWAY*

     For mileage, not for effort!
I listened to the a Divine Throughline podcast about nut-based cheeses, which was appetizing enough to keep me attentive.  My headlamp started to fade, so luckily the on-route pitstop at my brother’s house allowed me to get some new batteries.  My brother Morgan was my original inspiration for wanting to do something like an Ironman.  He did his first (and only, he’d say) Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, ID in 2015.
My break stop at 11pm gave my crew a chance to fit on two other bike lights, and I ate some figs, dark chocolate, and took a power nap.  I chugged some tea with chocolate and cordyceps, which is a mushroom shown to give a performance boost. Try Four Sigmatic’s mushroom products here.
Here is where delerium began to seep in.

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58 mile Out-and-Back. Phase 3 of 167 unicycling portion.

I left at 11:35pm, having once again taken a longer break than anticipated, but this time for a good reason.  Some soreness and nighttime fatigue led me to take a power nap and then sluggishly get some snacks before heading out.  This leg lasted from 11:35pm to 4am.  Although this was meant to be a 29 mile out and back totaling 58 miles, I somehow shorted it by 10 miles.  I suppose having these maps pre-downloaded instead of having to guess would have been helpful.  I arrived back to the crew at exactly 4am, exactly 10 miles behind schedule.  No problem, you might think.  Well, The Iron Unicycle was very specific.  I was meant to be leaving on the running portion at 5am, allowing plenty of time to run the 10 miles to the Austin Marathon starting place.  (Remember 1.5 Ironman means 1 and 1/2 marathons.)  This means that I needed to unicycle 20 miles from 4am to 5am.  My pace had slowed from 14 to 10 mph, breaks included, so this was not happening.  Jimmy tailed me in the car under my urging.  This kept me on pace and on the unicycle.  If I did fall, he’d be there to tend this wacky athlete.

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Original 10 mile loop for Phase 4 of 167 unicycling portion.

The original loop designed for the end of the unicycling was meant to be a distance Jimmy could support by bicycle, but we need to do 20 miles, it was raining, and I decided I’d much rather have him run with me to the start of the Marathon.  We did a bigger version of the above loop, bring the unicycle portion total to 167 miles by just before 6:00 am.
I stuffed some snacks into my mouth, hydration pack, and pockets.  I pulled on my compression socks and running gear, and happily tossed the helmet and gloves off, and joined Jimmy on foot to the Marathon.  We now had less than one hour to arrive at the Marathon fresh and ready to finish the (last) 26.2 miles.  We managed to squeak out 6.7 miles.  Because I need 10, but did NOT want to add the on after the end of the marathon, I just hoped that I could summon the will power to add them on during the marathon.  I would double-back on the crowd 1.65 miles and go again with the flow, adding a total of 3.3 miles.  This did not happen.  I managed to add .3 miles over the course of marathon, partly due to those prior logistic and pacing errors, and partly due to lack of remaining willpower.  I decided firmly that I’d rather come up short on the arbitrary 1.5 ironman running distance.  I’d rather just finish the Austin Marathon as it came.

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Jimmy and I after the Austin Marathon, which is to say after The Iron Unicycle.  207.6 miles in 24 hrs 36 mins.  Did I think the Nuun packet was my race medal?

I felt considerably fresh from 0 to mile 12 of the marathon, which were my mile 9.7 to 21.7, or 193.4 miles total.  But every mile after that I became less and less motivated.  I wish I could give a story of the warrior mindset.  I wish I could say I was in great pain.  Well, I was in great pain.  Maybe not the worst of my life, but enough that, when combined with the fatigue and drain of an overnight race (and remember–uncycling 167 miles!) I simply became content with walking, with just finishing.  At no point from mile 12 til the end of the marathon did I doubt I could finish.  But I doubted I could run or do more than walk.  Initially I ran between water stations.  Then that became broken up by bouts of walking, then it was only the downhills that I ran.  Luckily, my brother and his wife showed up at mile 18 to usher me along.  My peppy sister-in-law, who by running standards was as fresh as daisies, coaxed me into little jaunts of slow running.  We chatted and laughed as we debated when we would walk again.  I picked the telephone pole 10 feet away, she picked the stop sign 50 feet away.  We compromised.  After my sister-in-law came my brother, who saw me through to mile 22.  This was the mile marker that hit me moderately hard on last year’s Austin Marathon.  The year prior I had run the Austin Marathon with 5 months of solid run training, and was able to eek out a 3:28 marathon.  The infamous mile 18 bonk did not happen, but I did get the mile 22 no-f*cks-given stage.  Same here.  The f*ck jar was empty.  My only promise to myself was to finish, and to finish by running the last mile.

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Strava GPS map of the entire 207.6 Iron Unicycle.

So even though I started in cold water 24 and 1/2 hours earlier, and then weathered the discomfort of 167 miles of coasting-less unicycling.  Even though I fell 1 mile shy on the unicycle and 3 miles shy on the running, and even though my legs seemed to be built from pine needles and granite, and I was tired enough to nap in a port-a-potty, I ran the last mile.

Then, the 71-year-old guy who finished his 71st marathon way ahead of me gave me a high five.
I guess it’s all relative.

 

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Huge thank you to Unicycle.com and Kris Holm for sponsoring unicycle parts!

Thank you to Ari from Four Sigmatic for sending out the support package of insanely awesome superfood mushroom elixirs!  Try their products out, everyone!

Thank you to Paul and Kat for sticking it out with the filming in all conditions: cold water, moving car, moving unicycle, moving car keeping up with moving unicycle? Thanks for the awesome footage!
And most crucially, at the darkest hours and with the best vibe and humor, Jimmy Agnew, brother in arms and crew captain, thank you!  You and Raygen were the unsung heroes, but I shall sing your praise nonetheless!

Perspective and Pain, pt 2

I jumped into the frigid water.  I wore a tri-wetsuit, thick swim cap, goggles, and booties for my feet.  Dry-run for the 1.5 Iron-and-a-half-man.  Or wet-run, rather.
I quickly realized this would be the most painful and challenging part of the 24 hour event, and possibly one of the most difficult undertakings of my life thus far.
My honest internal turmoil, as broken down in recipe form:

1 cup I’m not Doing This

2 cups You’ve Got People Counting on You, People to Motivate

1 tsb Am I Event Motivated by This?

1 Handful of F*** It, chopped finely

2 x Peeled and Grated “Nah, This Could Be Fun…in-a-Get-a-Tattoo-while-Fourwheeling kind of way

Mix above ingredients in a large, 40-something degree F lake and add a pinch of Salty, Gritty Let’s-Go.

My face went numb, I couldn’t quite close my mouth.  My fingers went really numb and became half-open claws, which don’t work as well as closed fingers for freestyle.  I had to alternate freestyle and breaststroke to keep my bearing and not get dizzy.

As a general rule, they say you gotta believe in yourself.

I say you gotta weather every emotion between not-knowing and then peeing yourself and then trying anyway and then doubting and then believing.

In our modern world, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel pain or discomfort.  If these feelings are for a good cause, if they’re what’s involved in your mission to becoming something better, or to experiencing something deeper, see them come and let them pass.  They are signs you’re kicking ass.

Photos by Paul Dubiel:

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Lake Pflugerville, February 13, 2018.  Test for the Iron Unicycle.  40-something degrees F.

Route Map on Google!

If anyone out there is in any of these areas and wants a high-five, let me know.
Phase 1, the City Tour, 2pm-7pm ~58 mileshttp://bit.ly/2BsPFqG   (loop)
Checkpoints:
1. Roy Guerrero Disc Golf Course, on trail by water.  Time window 5:30-5:45.

2. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Shoal Creek side near soccer field.  Time window 6:20-6:30.  =

3. (~58 miles) Break #1, short.

Phase 2, Support Crew’s First Nap, 7pm-11pm ~42(!) miles: http://bit.ly/2Ep8RbA   (loop)

Checkpoint only for emergency:

Austin Executive Airport. Time window (assuming on schedule): 9:00-9:20

11pm –  Break #2, moderate length and decent meal, hot tea no caffeine.  Cary naps?

 100 miles total.

Phase 3, Third Lap’s the Charm, 11:30pm – 4am, 68 miles: http://bit.ly/2Es1oZi  (**out and back, 58 miles)
Arrive at Support Crew at around 4:00-4:15am, light meal, some caffeine, digest while finishing the last 10 unicycle miles:
10 mile loop, with easy adjustments if less/more than 10   —   http://bit.ly/2F10os6    —
Target time to finish unicycle portion and drop off unicycle: 4:45-5am
Leave on RUN portion no later than 5am. First run leg will be 9-11 miles depending on swim-runs.
9.1-mi version of run from Support Crew to Austin Marathon Start line:   http://bit.ly/2BWef4f
Pace accordingly to arrive at start of Marathon at 6:50am precisely.  Stretch!

Target pace for Austin Marathon: 4 hours.  Absolute slowest: 5 hours (which would mean 24 hours for whole feat)

Perspective and Pain, Pt 1

Today is Tuesday February 13th.

4 days til the Iron Unicycle, my Iron-and-a-half-man on a unicycle.  I feel ready, but I also feel the unknown.  It’s fear mixed with readiness.  It’s unknown and it’s okay.

What is known is that this will be a probably painful but definitely worthwhile challenge for me.  As was shared at a Marathon Race Prep event I went to the other night, a Haruki Murakami quote:

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Yesterday, my collaborator and friend Jimmy Agnew, who runs unicycle clubs across Texas, joined me to get my wetsuit rental and we took a trip to Barton Springs in downtown Austin.  I tested out the wetsuit, and goggles and swim cap from my triathlete brother, Morgan.

Everything went swimmingly.

Pool workouts these last 5 months have been everything from brutal and suffocating to lightly fun and breezy.  I used to swim as a kid and I do feel comfortable in the water, but doing endless laps is not my style.  Enter Nature.  It’s like night and day.  (Well, it creates and manages night and day, actually)  But I mean that it’s like a totally different animal.  Swimming in a chlorinated tank with artificial lights bears no resemblance jumping in the ocean or in a spring-fed pool.
What bearing does this have on life, this comparison?  It’s not the swimming, it’s the environment.  Sometimes it’s not even the outer environment but the inner one!  Yes, it certainly helps to align the outer environment with the inner, as with getting out in nature.  This applies to our social life.  If your friends aren’t supportive, and after communicating and giving it a chance, we should move on to new friends who can be supportive in who we are.  For family this is not possible, but certainly it’s important to try, and then at some point, create some healthy boundaries.
Surround yourself with nature, with love, with support, with helpful and openly communicative people that bring the best out in you.  And temper that grasp on your outer environment with a grasp on your inner.  Maybe don’t change the outer, but just adjust the inner in order to better see what is in the outer.  Maybe it’s a matter of cultivating a sensing of feeling loved or feeling supported even when you didn’t think it was there.
I found a reading by Thich Nhat Hanh that can be paraphrased like so:

Knowledge gets in the way of knowing.

I would say that perspective gets in the way of experience.  Whether by outer or inner, a slight change of scenery, or an abrupt action of change–even a dramatic and dangerous one–can bring us closer to deeper experience.

 

 

 

Daily Grind or Daily Glide?

Work is great, but working out sucks. Sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes even doing things we normally love is like grinding teeth, or grinding gears. What is your daily grind? Why does it grind? Can it glide instead of grind? Can it be your daily glide?
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We call it the daily grind as if it were a truck-trailer grinding down tireless wheels, driving on while ignoring sparks and wasted energy from dragging. Why can’t we stop to fix the tires? Why do we just grind away, sometimes for months and years? Why do we stay at jobs we don’t like? Is the security worth it? Why do we stay with people we don’t love, or better yet, whom we don’t realize we love because we’ve been holding back? Why do we hold back? If something creates friction, can we look it square in the face? Is it literal friction from your bike’s/car’s brake pads rubbing, or inner friction because you keep doing something at complete odds with what you want. Can you cultivate the want for something that’s lost the fun?
How do I grind away when I need to. When it seems as if the grinding originates from friction created because I shouldn’t be doing it, I work towards phasing it out. I phase out the habit or person or mentality. A small percentage of the time, grinding comes about because something needs/wants to be done, or is scheduled, but your energy is simply low. No amount of re-angling mentally or spiritually will get you to a place where you cultivate the WANT. On these days, one of which was today, for most of the day, I grind away because I know it I’ll want it another day. Today I do what my future self will surely believe was best for the sake of consistency and persistence.
I have been training for several months for the first Unicycle Iron Man, February 17th in Austin, TX. Actually, because it’s lined up to culminate with the Austin Marathon February 18th, it’s a 1.5 distance, overnight Iron-and-a-half-man. (Unaffiliated with Ironman ™). These two weeks are the apex of my training, and I can freaking feel it. But I know the heavy load on my body will be built back stronger in the tapering down weeks to come. I know that, so I grind on. When we can’t glide, we grind.

 

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210.9 mile Iron Man on a Unicycle

It all began in 2015, when I witnessed my brother do his first full Ironman.*  He had trained for years, building up from triathlons to half-Ironmans.  He had put in the work and had built a safe baseline to stay injury-free.  He knew this was his chance: he was newly married and planning to have kids only after completing the race.

He picked a safe race location: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  A short drive from the Canadian border.  Cool summer weather.  That’s what they said.

Coeur d’Alene, ID.  When it’s nice.

The day came and his wife, best friend, myself, and my girlfriend and the time all flew/drove out to cheer him on.  The weather reports showed some serious climate change weather.  Temperatures 20 degrees above normal.  Ironically, the morning was cool and clear, which would’ve worked for the run, but not for the swim.  That day broke records, coming in at a high of 108 degrees F.  My brother stayed strong through the middle of the bike, getting halfway through the 112 miles – which on a good day is a challenge – before succumbing to a first bout of heat exhaustion.  He stopped at a Medical tent, and his wife and friend and I saw his tracker stop.  We imagined the worst: he could’ve fainted and crashed, or worse.
In reality, he was resting and re-hydrating, doing all he could to resist quitting.  I ran the first mile in flip-flops to cheer him on, but I could tell the joy had long since left.  He walked much of the marathon out of a determination just to finish.

The dropout rate that day was over 30%.  My brother finished, but his investments of time and energy and money were wasted on circumstances out of his control.  Right after the race, feeling uncharacteristically bummed and hopeless, he told me: “This was stupid.  Never do this.  It’s just not fun.”

   This one’s for you, my brother.

  The plan is simple:

Race a solo, 210.9 mile Iron-and-a-Half-Man distance triathlon using a unicycle for the biking portion, and ending with the Austin Marathon.

Swim: 3.6 miles

Unicycle: 168 miles

Run: 39.3 miles (Ending with the Austin Marathon)

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Image credit: Parks.pflugervilletx.gov

With the help of Jimmy Agnew, the founder of the nonprofit One Wheel, Many Children and the UniSaders unicycle clubs of Texas, we are planning a sponsored charity event at Pflugerville Lake on February 17th, 2018 starting at 2pm.

  There will be games, signed books for sale, a raffle, and free food and drink.
My swim starts at noon, and I get on the unicycle right after the event starts at 2pm, which gives me 14+ hours to unicycle 168 miles, and 2+ hours to do the first half-marathon (13.1 of the 39.3 miles), bringing me to 7am the following morning, which is the start time for the Austin Marathon (the final 26.2 miles)

Facebook Event.

Want to get a sense for what it’s like for me to unicycle well over 100 miles at a go?  In April of 2017, with Jimmy and the Unisaders present, I unicycled 130 miles consecutively, without breaking or dismounting, breaking a world record.  The first 10.5 miles?  Blindfolded, for another world record.  The event was documented on my other blog, here.

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Massive credit and inspiration goes to Rich Roll and his podcast, which you must go check out and give a listen to!  Listening to him and to his guests has inspired me to continue to push my own boundaries.  Buy his book, Finding Ultra, about overcoming addiction and becoming an ultra-endurance athlete.  His guests’ stories both humble and excite me, but most of all, their stories spur me on to express the truest version of myself in everything that I do.  I know now that my place is in leading by example through Action and Story and feats of human endurance, learning from those whose stories I hear and who came before me, and by branching into new versions of the story of the Human Spirit.

Get ready.  We got this.

 

 

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*Ironman™ is a registered trademark of World Triathlon Corporation (WTC)
This event is not an Ironman™ race, nor is it affiliated with ™ or WTC.

It is a 210.9-mile ultra triathlon using a unicycle instead of some fancy cardboard-fiber bike.