Thursday, February 28, 2013

TTE / Echelon Spring Training Series

** REGISTRATION will be available through Echelon Cycle & Multi-Sport in the next few days. Any questions please contact us through the website:

Join the coaches and staff of  and Echelon Cycle & Multi-sport for the 2013Spring Triathlon Training Series. The series will be designed around those doing the Vineman Monte Rio Triathlon OR any Spring / Summer Triathlon. 

*** Sign up for the clinics that interest you the most OR for the best value sign up for all six of them in advance and receive a FREE 8 week structured training plan for Olympic distance racing 



* APRIL 7th - Swimming for Triathlon & Open Water (in pool session) 
--- Ridgeway Swim Center 7:45am - 9:15am

* APRIL 11th - Proper Run Pacing / Execution for Triathlon (outdoor structured progressive run session)
* APRIL 25th - Technical Transition Clinic & Training Session (transition practice, skills, training)
* May 2nd -  Bike / Run Combination Workout ... (Pacing, training, skills)
* May 16th -  Open Water Swim Skills ... Site TBA pending availability 
* May 23rd - Race Planning & Execution ... Lecture, discussion and written race / fueling plan for Olympic distance racing 
--- Other than April 7th, all sessions are scheduled for Thursday evenings at 6pm (subject to change based on availability / facility)

** Sign up For All Six Sessions and receive a FREE 8 week training plan targeting The Vineman Monte Rio Triathlon OR it can be use for another short distance triathlon you may be training for. Along with the training plan those who sign up for all 6 weeks will receive addition materials to aid in proper training and race execution. The training plan will be designed around tried and true training sessions and planning that have been successful for hundreds of "Train To Endure" athletes.  

Series Price: $90
Clinic Pricing:
* $25 for the pool session (cover rental price)
* $15 for a single session

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Experiment …more lessons learned

I call my trip and race at Ironman Louisville an experiment because I was in unchartered territory mentally and physically. Mentally because I had never turned around and attempted a long distance race so soon after a previous (this gap was 9 weeks) and physically because it was likely I would lose some fitness based on professional commitments at key times leading into the event. Even with that, I really wanted to make the trip across with one of my athletes and couple other locals that were racing.   

Pre Race: I knew I still had some good fitness based on power & pace in specific workouts but no doubt I wasn’t able to do some key sessions 6 weeks out and 4 weeks. As well as missing some of the training in those periods, which really wasn’t the biggest issue, it was my professional commitments creating fatigue that was more detrimental. Coming out of those 3-4 day periods I needed to get energy back and slowly build back into training. I ended up with a good solid 17 day block leading into a 10 day freshening period that culminated with the race. As I planned the race I thought if I played it VERY smart and let other people fall apart in the rolling hills of the bike and then the heat of the run I could get that top ten I thought possible weeks previous. 

... friendly faces on race day

My Version Of The Race

SWIM … this was a no wetsuit (85 degree water), time trial swim start where some people start lining up as early as 5am considering there is no starting order you are given. My only concern initially was starting early enough that I didn’t get hung up in a mass of cyclists in a section of out and back that has a fast descent in it. I ended up starting about 23 minutes after the first swimmer went off. Un-forseen Mistake #1  

As soon as I jumped in the water the stroke felt very good and I was cruising nicely and wanted to swim strong until we got out into the river and were able to jump on the current and roll downstream. Come to find out there was no current in the river this year (lack of rain) and swim times were slower across the board. The plan was to get to the downstream section by swimming a strong the first 1000 meters, then relax on the downstream section to conserve for the rest of the day and try not to overheat in the swim. In the end I had a solid swim but was out there longer than expected.

22nd out of the swim

Things I might change (or advise) considering I swim relatively well compared to the field:
-Start earlier … that swim was so congested it was like playing Frogger (the video game) in the water (what a mess)
-Not sure if it’s legal but I would have taken my swim cap off and stuffed it in my suit … I think the 85 degree water started the warming process much early (plus I expected an easier ride to T1 with the current)

I had a pretty simple plan considering a hot humid day was expected … ride very light on power across the first hour and then ride about 5-7% lighter than my effort from 9 weeks previous and execute a slightly adapted nutrition plan from 9 weeks previous. On top of that I had to be really secure in letting everyone else destroy themselves in the first 70 miles of the bike knowing the weather forecast for the run

The execution started out perfect as I was moving quickly with a light tailwind, sling-shotting early starters, and with very low wattage. Overall it was pretty uneventful but I had little bad patch starting mile 45’ish (that lasted about 10 miles) as the course drops into some low lying areas that seemed hotter than elsewhere (a good little yellow flag for me to watch pacing) After that I was feeling very good and really just need to keep holding back, keeping even pressure on the pedals and staying fueled. Late in the bike (mile 90;ish) I actually had real low point where I thought maybe the race was in jeopardy (bad stomach and it felt a little warmer) so I switched to on course sports drink and tried to stay focused into the solid headwind the last 25 miles home. Fortunately I was feeling a little better just past mile 100 and even noticed more athletes sitting in the shade likely out of the race. Heck, I even had to back off power a little as the wattage numbers were creeping up. The other thing that was encouraging was after a long period of riding by myself I must have passed 15-20 riders in the last 10 miles of the ride

…16th off the bike

Things I’d change (or advise) based on the days conditions and how I rode:
-Maybe even ride another 1-2% easier … not sure where … maybe on the first of the loop sections?
-Considering my wattage and kilojoules expended (AND heat stress) I would have gone lighter on calories and added a little more water and electrolytes

... ice everywhere ;-) 

RUN … the plan was to open running 8:30’s and do everything possible to stay cool the first 3 miles and then just settle in to what was possible. I had done this in training (even up to 6 miles) so I knew I could auto pilot the first part of the plan.

I stuck very solid to that plan up through mile 3 and decided to wait even longer to see if I could move quicker later. As we got away from town it seemed to get hotter and or more humid as we hit residential sections with vegetation, plus my stomach wasn’t super happy. Even though I was taking advantage of the cooling tricks all the signs were pointing to me getting very hot. So I tried to back off even more, stay cool and try to get some fluids to stay down. By mile 13 I told my sister it was crisis management but she felt she needed to tell me I had moved up to 12th and everyone else was fading even worse than me. GREAT … now I had to decide how much the top 10 or maybe better meant to me … what I found out is 10th was enough motivation to just keep moving, and on this day moving was actually getting it done. While moving I was actually at a decent pace but I had to take really long walk breaks to get ice and cold sponges and drinks to try and cool down. There were times between miles 15-23 that I thought the day was done … until I get the word with 3 to go that I’m 10th or 11th. Honestly the last three miles were like running in the black hole as I was so overheated and under fueled by this point. I really wish I could have enjoyed the finish chute or the finish line but it’s all a blur. My buddy Mike reminded me post race that when we talked about finish placing I said; “for me to go top 10 I might have to get dragged off in a wheel chair” … ironic as it was, a wheelchair ride and two liters of IV later I found I got my10th  

… 10th at the finish

As per my previous blog entry I talked about my three year plan. I’m still 6 months+ away from that and as my wife said, I was 11 minutes away from pulling off the Christmas Day miracle on the day (a kona spot).  That was not even a focus of the day but it’s fun to be back in the game to the point where you can sniff it. When you come up a little short of the big goal it’s an indication the goal was/is respectfully challenging, BUT achievable … plus as a consolation it was nice to hit that top 10 again. In the end it’s not about the Kona spot but because we don’t have control over who shows up BUT it is about the day when I get back to a flow, get the execution right AND take advantage of all the pieces of the puzzle and wisdom gained over time.

At the end of the experiment I’m not sure if I can answer if it was a success because I’m not sure what I was looking for in the outcome. If I was looking to see how patient I could be, let go of expectations, not be afraid of failing, and to learn if I could go really deep again? … then it was a success, I know it wasn’t a failure

In the end I don’t know that I’d roll that kind f experiment again with the time commitments between races but I sure had some learning that I can use for my athletes and myself:

-Hot weather races are tricky … racing in 85 degree water, 90+ degree heat and humidity is not even close to racing in a cool weather, cold water, wetsuit swim. My Kona athletes will get this reminder as they finish their preps. Though I had a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place … 10 years removed from racing in the REAL heat reminded of a couple lessons. 

... we had to sample some of the local pastries ;-) 

Stay Engaged … DL 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Years Later ...

3 Years Later I'm Coming Clean - Consistency Really Does Matter 

In Prelude to this article / story I feel a recap from my race @ Ironman Coeur D’Alene is relevant.

Pre Race: I knew I was in the best shape I had been in since 2002 based on training markers … that said it wasn’t the same shape as 2002 and I honestly didn’t know what it meant. The training had been consistent and healthy throughout the year but it isn’t always about just the previous six months that matter

Without specific details this is my short version of the race:

*Smart / Strong / Solid swim on a tough conditions day... good training & racing strategy ... came out of the water 16th / 153rd …it wasn’t fast because of conditions but it was the best swim I’ve had in 3 years

- Evenly Paced / Nutrition was executed & and absorbed
- I struggled climbing for some reason (not a good course for that to happen and not sure what was missing on the day)
 - I could do whatever I wanted as far as generating power on the flattish terrain so tried to balance my power out there since I couldn't climb
- I still had to hold back in the last 15 miles and had good power ... off the bike 16th &173rd

- Conservative start
- A slightly unsettled belly first half and just paid attention to that
- I had a bad patch around 17-20
- Overall even pace throughout
- I was never able to lift pace ... but it was good to be able to lift effort the last 10k's
- Pace was off by 30sec overall by what I thought very reasonable (some of that relative to the days early conditions, some to my flat-ness, and by not being able to lift pace over the final 10k’s)
- I Finished 15th & 124th (moving up 50 places on the run overall was a nice consolation prize)

The three year plan was a good one BUT you’ll see where 2010 derailed it overall ... CONSISTENCY RULES and I'm living proof! 

A Three Year Reflection …

I remember sitting around the table in the Fall on 2009. A number of us had made an agreement:  In 2012 they were all going to sign up for the Hawaii Ironman Lottery and I was going to try and qualify for the race. SIDE NOTE: You know, I’m not sure why people rush into doing long distance races. Some might say, why wait three years? Well, my body needed three years, three consistent years, to get back to even having a sniff of a qualifying spot.   

Well things change and life happens … Job changes, life changes, weddings, race goals change and I was the only one of the bunch that was sticking around for the three year plan. (To be honest, I never said a word about my three year plan after that day … I just started one day at a time)

For me I was kicking off the plan in 2010 with Ironman Canada at the top of the list in the three stages. 2011 was going to be shorter races but with some careful consideration I though Ironman Arizona would fit in well. Then, I planned to follow up with a shot at qualification at Ironman Couer D’ Alene in 2012. If the planned worked perfect it would put me on the start in Kona 10 years (and a very different athlete) after my last visit there.

Well "perfect" took a nose dove early in 2010 as my first ever bout of Plantar Fasciatis (caused by a bad combo of worn cleats, pedals and the wrong running shoes) took me out of running from January through most of May. I stilled raced at Canada but 8 solid weeks of run training got me to mile 11 in great shape and it got me to mile 15. I finished, learned about what I needed and what had improved … onward. Problem was, an old soccer injury was finally demanding attention so knee surgery in October was necessary and therefore did virtually no running from race day until mid December. SIDE NOTE: I almost abandoned the three year plan at this point based on losing all the running I had accumulated)

As we rolled into 2011 I tried not to think about all the non-running in 2010 and pressed forward with the end goal being Ironman Arizona in phase 2 of the three year plan. Throughout the year I actually had very good results at shorter distances races and the body was doing great. I had a solid race at Big Kahuna and ran well enough over the last 6 miles that it gave me confidence looking forward to November. Problem was I had picked up some sort of virus in the day or two leading onto the race (unknowingly at the time) and the ensuing race compounded the fact that not only did I get sick, I got very sick. A mild case of pneumonia left me down and out for September and left my November race in doubt. Quite frankly the only reason I stayed on board for IMAZ was the goal still dangling out there for 2012.  So I tried a 6 week block in to the race and that coming off almost 3 weeks of no training, plus one week easing back in. Overall the build-up was good but man was I going into the race “under-done”. The other problem I ran into was a bit of a foot niggly that I didn’t think would hamper me come race day but it did. I got through the race and added more to the “what I need to do in 2012” list.

Well 2012 came around, and as I mentioned at the top, my lead in training for Ironman CDA was pretty darn solid. I was healthy all the way through the training (though I did have a short scare with my foot) and I was confident for a real solid race. As time passed I realized that I was little off on race day and ended up being flat. I think I should have done less from 21-17 days out and more 10-3 days out. Other than that the only thing that was lagging was my running, and that left me shy of thinking the Kona spot was reality. What I do think is reality follows:

  • 9 months no running in 2010 makes a serious dent in the “consistency of training” model … especially when I didn’t run from 2004-2007 … it wasn’t the run “speed” that suffered for 1012 it was HOLDING that speed for 26.2 miles
  • The set back in September in 2011 was small but it does make a difference when you need most things to go right in the three year plan and combine that with the running missed in 2010.  
  • Because of what I noted, my running is still 6-12 months away from being back to where I need to have a shot to be in the Kona mix. (when I say, “in the mix” for me, and the way my body is now, that means competing for the last spot in the age group) On top of all that, Kona allocations slots had changed from 2011 to 2012 and our age group was going from 6 down to 4 for 2012.

Before the race I confided in my buddy Vince and said: “you know, if things go REALLY well and I get a break I could sneak into the top 10, maybe go around 10:15 and I’d be super, super pleased with that”. I wasn’t far off that and that was pretty much the deal on race day … except that things didn’t go really well, they just went. Yup it was a tough weather day in the swim and on the bike but it was for everyone else too. In the end I also knew that if I was going to hit the ultimate goal I needed every bit of consistency over the three years and a race day that was more than just average.  If I take in to account my hiccups along the way and my “average-ness” on race day I landed right about where it was going to.

When the dust settled I was very pleased with my effort on race day and I enjoyed the process over the three years of getting healthy and strong again … even through the dark times. It was really nice to stay engaged and be able to urge my body at a steady rate across the entire day at CDA with no fade. Honest reality tells me a more consistent 2010, plus a healthy September of 2011, and a better than average race would have put me fighting for that last spot in 2012. This isn’t a woulda, coulda, shoulda whine on the blog … it’s reality, reality that I have learned from and that I can apply to my athletes and maybe you can learn from as well.  

NOTE:  Another significant item that I did learn is that “Version 2” of me is pretty different than the guy that stopped racing for a long period back in 2002. My body & system seem to have a marker that says “sorry DL, I’m not allowing you to go there ever again” …. OH, and NO, I’m not extending my three year plan to four, time is up for now!

What I’d like athletes and coaches to take away from this is? As you look at race goals don’t be afraid to stretch it out over the long haul. If you are young or new to the sport PLEASE take the time to develop and evolve, you’ll enjoy it in the long run!

Be Patient and Stay Engaged … DL 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Women's Only Triathlon camp

Women's Only Triathlon Tri Camp
Specifically Targeting Barb’s Race Triathlon
Presented by: "Train to Endure"

July 7th & 8th 2012 - Sonoma County California 
This camp is designed for the female triathlete interested in fine-tuning their training and course knowledge for Barb’s Race. The Barb’s Race Tri-Camp is designed to provide race specific training on the course for athlete’s preparing for this popular Sonoma County women’s only half-iron distance event.  Join us for an “insiders” preview of the Barbs Race course with local Sonoma County triathlon Coach Jen Latourette and one of Vineman Race Directors Amy Latourette.
·         Fine-tune your training and race day plan
·         Get answers to all your burning Barb's Race questions
·         Get professional, experienced coaching and support from coaches who know the course\
·         Build a plan and gain specific insight and skills that will give you confidence on race day!
·         Train with positive like-minded individuals, make new friends, and be inspired!
Our Goal
is to provide a high-quality training experience in a supportive environment where you have the opportunity to get answers to all your questions about the race course while getting hands-on, experienced coaching specific to the demands of the Barb’s Race.

Our Mission
Our mission is simple, to provide a positive, high quality training experience for any female triathlete who has her sights set on Barb’s Race.  It doesn’t matter if this is your first or your fifth event – we’re here to help you improve your skills, gain fitness, get to know the course, and improve your racing!

All levels are welcome and encouraged!!
We invite you to take advantage of this great opportunity on the course with local coaches and event staff
who love and support the Barb’s Race mission and event.

Sign up or Questions à  Contact
Deadline for Registration: 4 weeks prior to start of camp.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back Half Strength

** This article was originally published at

Limiters or “limiting” can be scary words as they reference something we may not be good at. The reality is, if we want to improve, we have to face that fear of what we aren’t good at -- or simply need to improve at -- and find a way to change it. One area I find lacking in most of the athletes new to me or that I continue to work on with developing athletes is what I call “back half race strength.” That may mean different things to different athletes; for most it means maintaining pace/power from the first half of the race over to the final half of the race (and even within each race discipline). This especially holds true over the last half of the run where it’s easy for a race to go wayward very quickly. While many of the other columnists here have addressed specific limiters within each swim, bike, or run discipline, I would like to address how we can work on our back half strength on a daily basis.

Though the back half of our races is obviously dictated by our fitness it can often be our mind, ego, toughness, or just reality that sabotages the end of those events. (Yes, nutrition plays an important role too, but we need to assume for this article that you have a good grasp of that.) The largest component of getting this right is being realistic and confident about our abilities so we can be tough at the end. Without racing frequently, how do we practice “getting it right?”

Daily: No matter what your session is -- swim, bike, or run -- structure the workout so that the session or main set begins in such a way that you feel strongest over the second half without “pace fade” or a drop in power. Keep doing this day after day until you get it right, and then stick with it.

Weekly: It’s not uncommon to see a pattern of athletes being real good Monday through Wednesday, struggle a bit on Thursday, re-group Friday for a strong Saturday which is then followed by a lackluster Sunday. When you see patterns like that, be honest with what you can handle over a week so that you structure yourself and your fueling to be steady over the entire week.

Training Blocks: No matter what your training cycles are (10 days, two weeks, 17 days, etc.) be reasonable about what you can handle so the last few days aren’t a death march just to get through it. Don’t create a pattern that forces a “recovery” period before you want it.

Season: When the dust settles the most important period of training before your peak or key event is the final eight to 13 weeks. If you can’t be strong for at least the last eight weeks leading into your target race, you’re missing the sessions that most highly influence your race day performance.

Much of this takes time, confidence and experience to learn. But do your best on a daily, weekly, and training cycle basis to give yourself a chance to be great at the end. If you are honest about your fitness and you can train back half pacing frequently, you’ll have the confidence to race it and not be affected by outside influences that might force you to do just the opposite.

Be strong at the end!

Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California and works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. Dave can be found at:,, or on twitter: @dklatourette

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Things Don't Always Go As Planned ... Pt 3

Part 3 ....
The only thing left to do was pack up the car with my gear, my sister, and the TTE Kangaroo! I finally realized that I was going to make it to the start line but not, unfortunately, without other set backs. My "wing man" Mike had actually been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and now it was just me on the start line. Though I didn't realize it at the time, Mike not starting actually sucked some "mojo" out of me. Because we had trained our toughest sessions together, it quite honestly didn't feel right that he wasn't going to be out there. On top of that I had developed a foot "problem" (while cycling) in a small, but powerful muscle, on the bottom of my foot. (flexor digiti mini brevis) It had bothered me in the last 3 weeks BUT I wasn't really worried about it since I had been treating it, and figured race day would take care of the pain ;-)
So hit the road we did! Amazingly it was an uneventful drive and door to door (including stops) was 12:15 without any warp speed driving. My two favorite sights on the way were of: 1) A couple "Airstream Campers" that being transported somewhere for "rehab" (The one above looks more like the ultimate aero helmet) 2) A guy, on I5, tethered to and pulling a shopping cart with his luggage in it! Wish we had the camera out for that one!
Arrival in Tempe was made complete when my wife (the other half of the bad girls above) dropped in to town on Friday. Having my family, and then friend/athlete Kyle, around really made the time more enjoyable. We were a small but powerful group! Because of them I was pretty calm and optimistic!

Calm until the day before the race - DOH. Honesty the nerves and anxiousness made me feel alive, challenged, and assured that there was no taking anything for certain! The 24 hours before the race seems pretty routine ... eat, a little training, eat, pack up race gear, eat, work on my race day science project (above), eat and HOPEFULLY sleep!
Race morning is always a gut wrenching experience for me and eating is difficult. I stick to liquid "foods", take comfort in the family/friends around me and try to stay warm. As nervous and anxious as I was i felt a bit more at ease because getting to the start line had been so much of a challenge. With that overcome I simply had no idea how this one was gonna play out!

The swim was an absolute chaotic, slow-swim mess like I have never seen before in 20 years around and in the sport. (it was my slowest wetsuit Ironman swim since my first in 1994) I'm not sure what it was BUT I was quite certain, (and I stated this to the crew as I ran by post swim) that whomever set the swim course in the morning was quite possible going at it hard with the Captain Morgans!

I moved on to the bike quite frankly it seemed to go by pretty quick. Because I wasn't sure how the foot would hold up and I KNEW that my back end run fitness was poor I kept things really smart on the bike and finished the last 18 miles feeling VERY good ...
3 Loop Run Time ... the multiple loop course is easy to break down into mini goals with pacing strategies, opportunities to see your "peeps" often BUT you end up with a lot of sharp turns and corners ... OUCH. The first 12 miles went by pretty quick (even though I was running super conservative / mellow) but the foot was starting to become more of an issue than I planned. After having a little pity party for myself at one point, I realized that by power walking for 60-90sec, every 3-4 minutes I could "re-set" the foot and still manage some running. I kept that rolling the best I could but got off my nutrition schedule and then realized I was hungry ... HUNGRY? I never get hungry in a race ... OOPS. I kept it moving and got er' done somewhere around 10:27 on the race clock

When things don't go as planned go to Dunkin Donuts the next day! Across from me was John Dahlz, the guy that led the pro race out of the water. John had a tough day too, tougher than me, as he had lost all his race nutrition from his bike early in the ride and things went south from there. John came in a bit after me and obviously his race day didn't go as planned either ... classy move by finishing by a great athlete that could have easily packed it in!

When things don't go as planned, take a long drive home 24 hours later and hope the sun comes up! (it did) Reality is, that drive allowed my to do alot of thinking, planning, eating, dreaming, and wondering. Though it was long, it might have been the best thing for my brain. (Definitely not my body though) ... Many thanks to my sister for driving 90% of the route home. The freaking Kangaroo was deflated and bloody worthless by then!

It took some time, days in fact, to tune the big picture in. As I looked at all the details I realized a few things:
* It took 8 weeks from when I was sick to get back to where I was 10 days before the Big Kahuna Race ... not optimal long distance racing fitness!
* I pulled off what I could on about 4.5 weeks of solid training and 10 days of freshening
* I've got a big support group that was pulling for me. Without them, and their energy, it may have been over sooner!

Thanks to EVERYONE for their support on Twitter and Facebook (too many too mention) but especially TTE NATION and the ENTIRE crew from Endurance Corner (especially Gordo and the Tucson peeps).

When things don't go as planned take a step back, and if at all possible do one of the things my dad taught me in his living days ... improvise, adapt, overcome!

Have a GREAT Holiday Season ... DL
NOTE: I may post a traditional race plan that I wrote a couple weeks ago ... I'll go back and read to see if it's worth the "boring-ness"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Pictorial - Things Don't Always Go As Planned ... Pt 2

With a relative clear mind I set off in to the training block with my eyes and mind set forward and trying not to think of behind OR the "what if's".

Just ten days into the training block I decided to take a trip I had planned (Tucson's Mt Lemmon above) to train and learn from other coaches and athletes at Endurance Corner. I was very fortunate to catch up with Chuckie-V as he graciously allowed me to stay with him and Angela Naeth. So not only did i get a chance to "sponge it up" in a variety of ways during the five days, amusement was never far away. All I had to do was ask Chuck a question and the result often provided knowledge, entertainment and discussion far more comforting than my bed roll! ;-) I left Tucson happy that I made the trip (that I almost cancelled), BUT I was still questioning my fitness.
When you decide to sign up for a late season race there is no guarantee that you'll have buddies to train with. Fortunately I had a few key sessions that my wing man Mike was along for, plus we'd get a few other fitness craving members of "TTE Nation" for parts of the sessions as well. Reality is though, if you are going long and doing it late, then you better be prepared to find comfort in your shadow as a training partner. I did ... he was loyal, he never dropped me, and try as I may, I never dropped him

There were so many days where I just wondered when the fitness would come around again like it was in early September. Waiting, waiting, waiting ..... c'mon already! Having people around (like my wife) who "get it" helps when that extra push is needed to get out the door. These are the days when you need to just "get 'er done" and keep having faith that the "increased fitness switch" will get flipped on. Then, no matter what, good session or bad our "Luca Dog" simply didn't give a crap how my session went. He was just happy for me to be home and that someone would fill his dinner bowl OR at least be his "wing man" for awhile.
Then it finally happened ... on a lonely, cold, November morning 14 days away from the race. (it really was the morning I took this photo ... there was just something about the pool, steam, and sun that was inviting) The swim plan was set for 4500 meters, the sun barely rising and the procrastination lingering like it always does before you jump in the pool early in the morning. I ended up having one of those sessions that makes you believe again. One of those sessions, when for some magical reason all the work you've been doing makes sense and seems to have formed itself in to "fitness". The days to follow would see more of the same and I finally believed I had a chance ...

Part III follows to wrap this thing up ... (sorry Chris)