Friday, May 22, 2015

Ironman Texas 2015 Race Report

"Mark Dodge, You are an Ironman"

I had been playing those words over and over on every swim, every bike, and every run for the last 8 months while training for this event. They stirred emotion, caused pain, joy, exhaustion, love, anger, fear, frustration, disgust, sadness, surprise, happiness, and taught me things about myself that even I didn't know was there. How can those small little words cause so many different emotions? I don't think I will ever be able to answer that without the memories of this journey causing me to tear up. Ok, enough mushy stuff and onto my day at Ironman Texas.

I went into this race with a couple goals. I wanted to have a strong swim that would give me motivation for the rest of the day and I wanted to stay up right on the bike after the crash in IM70.3FL. My plan the entire time was to wear my wet suit as long as it was allowed. This was my first full distance Ironman and I wanted to enjoy the day. As the race grew closer the water temp rose to 81 degrees which made me a little worried about getting over heated in the water. I hadn't ever swam that distance at one time and thought I might get hot. The bike is my strongest of the three legs and I knew as long as I followed coaches plan I was fine. The run was a little different at this distance. I knew it would be a gut check with the heat and humidity along with a 112 mile ride happening first. I wasn't nervous at all. All those big time football games made my mind clear and focused. 

I arrived at Ironman Village for check in Wednesday afternoon and went through check in without a hitch. The volunteers do such an amazing job at these events. I met up with Michael Ramirez for the athlete briefing and then had lunch with Coach Dawn. It was nice to see some familiar faces. My family wasn't coming into Houston until the next day so I did most of my preparation that night. I went through my super detailed check lists and packed my transition bags for race day. It went so smooth I had to check everything about 5 times to make sure I didn't forget anything. I think Ironman has made me extremely OCD.
Friday I took my family (Courtney, Hudson, Brent and Sherri) to the Ironman Village to get them familiar with the lay of the land and make sure race day they knew where to be to help me on the run. It was amazing to have my family there to share this with. Ironman is not something that can be done alone and it made my experience so much more fulfilling to share it with my family. 

Race morning I woke up just like I planned at 3:00 am just like I had done on the races before. I kept my routine exactly the same so that my body and mind knew what was coming next. I ate breakfast and drove to transition arriving around 4:00 am. I went to my bike and the transition area was completely covered in mud and smelled horrible. The rain over the last week had taken a toll on the grass that was there before. It was now just a mud pit. I prepared the nutrition on my bike and made sure my transition bags where labeled and my red bow was visible so that I could be quick in and out of transition. The water temperature was announced just before I headed to the swim start at 81 degrees. I had a plan and even with the temps that high I was sticking with it. 

Swim - Walking over the bridge and over looking the swim is a pretty daunting sight. You can barely see the turn around and for someone that is not the greatest swimmer it is hard to not get nervous. When I got to the swim start I started to focus on the task at hand. I wanted to keep my thoughts in the moment and not concern myself with whats next. One thing I have learned the hard way throughout this journey is Ironman can be an unfriendly animal if not prepared and even worse if you get ahead of yourself. It is ever changing and what you expected will most likely not happen so be prepared to change at all times. As I finished putting my wet suit on we said a prayer for everyone there and gave thanks to even be in the position to do this. How blessed are we who have been given the opportunity to be in this position. I am so very grateful to even start. I walked down to the swim start and watched as the none wet suit swimmers entered the water. I was laser focused at the start. I put myself at the very front of the wet suit group since I new I would be a faster swimmer and didn't want to get stuck behind anyone. I expected to finish around 1:30 minutes. When they finally let us go I was the second swimmer in the water and started great and the water was not warm, it was actually cold in places! I moved out to the first buoy and stated to get into a rhythm. I had never found a rhythm on any of my swims before. I started looking forward like coach said and found groups of swimmers ahead to pick off. I made my way through group after group. I was the aggressor this time which was a new one for me. Keeping my focus on each group ahead of me made the swim go by very quickly. Before I knew it I was at the turn around and making my way back towards the canal. I maintained the pace for a bit and then found another gear. I kick it up a notch with about 1000 meters to swim and found myself moving through swimmer after swimmer. The canal was like a washing machine with the amount of swimmers but I never let my focus move away from picking off the next swimmer in front of me. Before I knew it the red buoy was right in front of me and after a quick left had turn I was at the stairs and out of the water. As I exited the water I looked at my watch and it said 1:14. I had to look again, I think I even let out a scream in excitement. It was short lived as I quickly refocused and readied myself for transition. Once out of transition I ran to my bike to start the next leg. So far so good. 
Bike - Once out of transition and on the road I started going through the plan in mind to make sure my mind was on the next task. My plan was to ride the first 56 miles in mid to high zone 2 maintaining around a 130 heart rate. I also had to make sure I was eating and drinking something every 15 minutes. The first 56 miles went by without a hitch. I had heard the first half of the course was fast but I had no idea it was this fast. I was barely putting in any effort and I was maintaining a pace of around 22 mph. It was incredible. Although I knew the back half would be miserable if not prepared for the head winds and chip seal roads. Mentally I had to focus on keeping my heart rate low and eating. It made the time go by faster focusing in on the small goals, every 15 minutes and not the bigger picture that I was riding 112 miles. Just before bike special needs I came up behind one of my favorite people, Kris Cordova. It was like Christmas seeing her out there. Let me quickly tell you that she taught me how to ride smooth and steady. Its hard to even put into words how much she means to me and how much she helped me throughout this process. I look up to her tremendously. We visited for a minute and I must have looked like and idiot since I was so excited to see her and then I moved passed her keeping my focus on my race. It was hard to go by her and not want to just ride with her. Just after passing her I made the turn back towards The Woodlands and the head wind came on with a vengeance. It was hard not push harder as you could feel your pace drop but I had to keep my focus on my heart rate. I didn't want to blow up before the run. It was slow and boring for the next 40 miles and I was getting tired of eating and drinking. I was ready to get the heck off this bike. At around mile 100 you go through some neighborhoods and God must have been looking out because at mile 105 He dumped about a 15 minute down poor on me. Those 15 minutes where like heaven! It cooled my body and allowed me to rest a bit before the run. I finished the bike with a 5:36 split and a 20 mph average. It was exactly how coach and I planned it. So far my race was going perfect. I felt strong coming off the bike and my nutrition was on track. 
Run - I made it through transition again without any issues and hit the run course. It is a 3 loop course that goes around Lake Woodlands and along the waterway. Once on the run I started to feel the toll the swim and bike had taken on my body. It is not called a Ironman for nothing right? I made it through the first 7 miles holding the 10:00 pace that I wanted. At around mile 10 I saw Courtney and Hudson. I only saw them for a couple seconds but the mental strength it gave me was incredible. Although I was having stomach issues and my knees started swelling I was able to keep moving. At around mile 16 I really started to feel the pain. My back and knees where locking up and I was having trouble maintaining a run. On top of that I couldn't take down gels anymore for nutrition so I had to move to oranges and grapes from the course. It wasn't much but at least I was getting something down. The pain was incredible and the stiffness just kept getting worse. I made the decision to stop at run special needs on lap 3 to put on a new pair of socks and to take some ibuprofen. It was the right decision. The new socks were amazing! I don't know if it was just something that took my mind off the ridiculous heat and humidity but I was able to get my pace back down at least to around a 11:00 minute mile. At mile 20 I knew I was getting close, I told myself you can run 6 miles in your sleep. I willed my body to keep moving. Each mile closer I could feel the emotion building. I saw Brent at about mile 22 and he ran with me for a few steps. He reminded me I was almost there. I tried to take in the entertainment around me the last 4 miles but the pain was excruciating. My knees looked like watermelons and my back was so stiff I was having trouble swinging my arms. I got to mile 24 and thought I could pick up the pace but my body shut that down in a hurry. I could hear the finish line, I was only a couple hundred meters away. I saw the damn sign for lap 2 and 3 to the left but this time I was going right! All of a sudden I found myself looking up at the finish line. I looked around at all the people cheering and I knew it was over. It was really over. All I could think about at the moment I crossed the finish line was to thank God for the strength and courage to get me through this. I don't even remember hearing those words, Mark Dodge you are an Ironman! I walked under the arch and it was done. 8 months, hundreds of laps and miles behind me but I was an Ironman. The emotion I had been holding in the last 6 miles came rushing out when I saw my amazing wife Courtney. We both cried together and celebrated the moment. It was something I will cherish with her forever. One of those moments that no one can take from you. I finished the run with a 4:56 split and a total time of 12:00:38. 
My coach had the perfect plan for a day that was brutally tough on most but her experience separated me from a lot of the other competitors. She set me up for success with all the training and one hell of a race plan. This was the first race for me that everything came together. I will never forget this race and the amazing time I had with my friends and family. Thank you all for the prayers and support. 
Also a quick update on the fundraising. With your help I was able to raise over $14,500 for Save the Children! I am just as proud of that as I am completing this Ironman. Unfortunatly I did not make it Kona as I placed 3rd and needed to be one of the top two. I will have another update out soon on this. 

God Bless!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BLOOD, Sweat, and Tears – Ironman 70.3 Florida Race Report

Going into the race I had a tremendous amount of confidence from the training I had completed over the several weeks prior. Just two weeks before IM70.3FL I completed what’s called last long day (LLD). It is a 4000m swim, 120 mile bike, and a 2 hour run all in one day. LLD was exactly what it sounds like, a really long day. The swim was pretty fun because it was the first time I have ever swam in a wetsuit and it really gives you a lot of flotation so I had one of the best swims I had ever had in training. The bike wasn't difficult as this is probably my strongest of the three disciplines. The run was pretty tough just based on the fact I was tired and had pushed my body farther than I ever had. If it wasn’t for the amazing teammates I had around me that day it would have been much more difficult than it turned out to be.

My preparation for IM70.3FL started on the Wednesday before as our flight to Florida was the next afternoon. I made a very detailed check list to make sure anything I could possibly need was accounted for. I think I packed enough for about 3 people. I laid everything out on the floor at least twice and checked everything multiple times – probably the most OCD I have ever been. Once I went over it several times I eventually packed it in the suitcase and still laid in bed thinking about everything and hoping I didn't forget something. As it turned out I had everything I needed and I am glad because it turned out I needed some of the extra things I packed.

This was my first Ironman event and I will tell you it is an amazing environment. They do an excellent job with the set up and coordination for everything. I picked up my packet the day before the race and did a long walk around to get a good look at transition entry and exit as well and the swim start and exit. I am glad I did this because where I was located in transition wasn’t the best. I had a very long run with my bike through transition before I was able to mount my bike. It wasn’t the best but I have learned in Ironman you just have to make the best out of all situations. Once I got my bearings and felt confident about the course I checked in my bike and made the 45 minute drive back to where we were staying. I went to bed that night with a lot of confidence about how I would do, maybe even a little too much.

The morning of the race I got up at 3:30 and made myself my standard pre-race meal of 3 eggs scrambled, a bagel with jelly, and a couple sausage links. I gather up all my last minute items like my frozen bottles of infinit for the bike and any nutrition I needed. I arrived at transition a little before 5:00am and was waiting to hear if this would be a wet suit swim or not. I was hoping for a wet suit swim but not long after I arrived it was announced that the water was 81 degrees and it wouldn’t be wet suit legal. I was a little disappointed but I still had a decent amount of confidence based on the way I had been swimming over the last couple months. About an hour before the swim start I ate a power bar as planned and then just relaxed a bit before the start. My age group start was at 7:34am so around 7:15 I took a gel and started to prepare myself mentally for the swim. The swim for IM70.3FL is an M shaped course which made for an interesting swim. My plan was to go out hard in the front of the pack and work towards some clear water to eventually find rhythm. Unfortunately that’s not how it went. I got to the front of my group and started well but after about 200 meters of swim I was over taken by a large wake caused by a couple jet skis that were driving around the course. Not sure why there were jet skis as I have never seen them at a triathlon swim before but they made some rough water. After that I slowed down and ended up in a very large group of swimmers and had a short panic. I ended up swimming to a kayak to catch my breath before continuing. At this point my mind was trying to convince me to quit. I was only 200 meters into a 1.2 mile swim and I went from total confidence to considering quitting. I decided to keep going. I found the next kayak on the course and swam directly to it. I ended up making this my new plan for the rest of the course which put me in the very back of the pack once I finally exited water with a 59:07 swim time. I was very disappointed once I made it to transition but I was proud I was able to finish after battling the devil on my shoulder constantly telling me to quit. At least I won that battle and was able to keep moving. I made it to my bike and was fast in transition. I was in and out in less than 4:00 minutes even with the 200 yard run from the beach and another 100 yard run with my bike to the exit.

I mounted my bike shortly after the mount line and was finally comfortable in the race. The bike and run were my strengths so I knew what to expect, or so I thought. I settled into about 21 mph for the first section and felt awesome. I was barely even pushing myself while keeping my heart rate well under my 132 goal. I was passing tons of riders the entire time. I made it to the first aid station to get water and everyone was really bunched up. There was about 100 people handing out water in only about a 20 yard area which made it pretty dangerous for the riders. I was behind a couple ladies that were having trouble getting a bottle and after the second try the first went down on the pavement and took the second with her. I was only about 3 bike lengths behind them and made a quick decision to try and turn but when I did I hit my front brake and went over the handle bars with my bike. It was a brutal crash and I took the brunt of the damage. I immediately got up pretty dazed and shocked but was able to grab my bike and get off the course. I did a quick look over my bike and had to bend back my bottle holder as it was bent down onto my rear wheel. I got it out of the way check myself out and realized I was cut up pretty bad. I had major road rash on both knees and elbows, and about ¾’s of my back which was the worse.

Was this the end of the race for me???? The thought definitely crossed my mind but I wasn't about to quit since my bike was still operational. I have been through worse than this and I have never quit before so I did a quick look for my water bottles with my nutrition in them but only found one which had spilled so I was basically going the rest of the way on only gels and water. Once I started again I could feel the burning all over my body but focused my mind on my current situation which was power through and keep cycling. The course was not a super difficult course but there was about 1,500 of elevation gain over the 56 miles and there was not much wind until the very end of the ride. I focused on the small things like my heart rate and gel intake to take my mind off the pain. Even with the pain I was able to smash the bike course the remainder of the time averaging 21.2 mph and moving up from 199 in my age group to around 124 passing 75 men along the way. It was a solid ride with little effort and got my mind back in the game. As I was coming into T2 I heard my wife and family which was exactly what I needed.  I dismounted my bike ran the 100 yards to my area and focused on the run. I was again quick in transition getting in and out in under 4:00 minutes.

Coming out of T2 onto the run course I saw my family again cheering me on and it felt good to be off the bike and making progress. I had my 4 gels and my base salt for the run to get in the needed calories with the on course nutrition to supplement. I started out running well at around an 8:30 pace for the first loop which was right where I wanted to be and my heart rate was around 150 which is right where I wanted it. The run course is a 3 loop course that runs around Lake Eva which is where the swim is. I was not ready for what I found on the course though. I was anticipating a fairly level course but found 3 large hills on each loop. About 1 mile into the first loop the first hill came and it wasn’t bad but directly after was the second which was longer and taller. I made it through the first loop feeling ok but I could tell my inner thighs started to become very sore around mile 6 which at the time I didn’t think anything of but later found out had some very large bruises from the crash earlier on the bike course. The heat started to kick in as well; getting up to 96 degrees with 100% humidity didn’t help anything. At every aid station I had to do my best to keep my body temperature down. I continued to follow my nutrition plan after the crash and took my first gel 30 minutes into the run. I followed that up with some base salt but that seemed to cause some stomach issues so I stopped taking after the first shot. The residents on the course were absolutely amazing. I can't thank them enough. They stood out in the heat with their water hoses and sprayed us down as we went by each time. They were the thing I look forward to the most on each loop. From mile 7 to 11 I struggled with the leg soreness and heat but gathered myself for mile 12 and 13. I just wanted the hell out of there so I decided it was time to move a little quicker. I picked up the pace and before I knew it I could see the finish line arrow. That was quite a sight, better than a kid at Christmas seeing that stupid sign. After getting that excited for the finish turn at a 70.3 I may just pass out with joy when I see that sign at IMTX…… The feeling of going across that finish line at an Ironman event is something special. If you have not done it you have to make it your goal. The environment is something special and I can’t wait to do it again.

I learned a tremendous amount during this race. I learned that you can beat the devil on your shoulder by finding small goals within the bigger goal to keep your mind focused. Find the small things that are achievable and focus on those, before you know it you will have made it to the end. Also there will be adversity when you do any type of Ironman so expect it and don’t let it control you. Just know that it is coming and be ready to adjust your plan accordingly. Last of all I learned I am much stronger mentally than I even thought. It took me to the brink with the horrible swim and then the major crash but I found a way to get through it and finish. It was an amazing opportunity for me and I can’t wait to apply these lessons to my training and move forward to become a better triathlete. See you all after IMTX!

Just a reminder I am doing all of this for one reason. To help kids through Save the Children. So far I have raised over $7,500 with your help and support. Please consider donating and supporting me through this challenge by going to my fundraising page. 
I promise you I will not let you down and I will represent you with all of my heart.

Gig'em and God Bless,
Mark Dodge

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Triathlon is a lifestyle (Long Overdue Update)

First let me apologize for not updating everyone sooner. It has been a really crazy last couple months with trying to juggle the training, work, and most important my family time. My last blog was back in October and so much has happened over the last few months that I will try to touch on. Lets start with a update on my training. After the Kerrville triathlon finished my training moved towards the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon that was held on December 9. During that time my training moved towards a significant increase in the amount of miles I put in to get up to the marathon distance level. It was a really great opportunity for me to feel a very small portion of what the Ironman will be like. I also convinced my wife Courtney to join me in this. She signed up for the half marathon and we made a family training calendar for her. She started training about 10 weeks out to build up to the 13.1 mile run in which she had never ran more than a 5k. It was the most amazing thing to watch her confidence level sky rocket after each weeks long run as she would beat her personal record in distance going from 5 miles up to 12 two weeks before the run. During this time I was still training for triathlon with a focus on the run and taking the final swim lessons to help me get over some of my fears of the water. Sometime in November something clicked and all of a sudden my swimming went from nothing to something I was starting to feel confident in. My average training time during the fall was about 8 to 10 hours each week which was not bad compared to where I am now. My weeks now look something like the chart below which is about 16 hours worth of training.

January 26 Weekly Workout Plan
Swim - 2800 meters
Bike - 2 Hrs Trainer
Swim - 2500 meters   
Run - 7 miles repeats
Bike - 2 Hrs Trainer
Run - 1 Hr Intervals 
Swim - 2700 meters
Bike - 90 miles
Run - 15 Miles
I am not sure how I would be able to manage this amount of training without the full support of my wife. She puts up with a 2 year old at home while allowing me to get 5 hour bike rides in on the weekends while I am sure she would love nothing more then take a break after a week long battle raising our crazy son. I will never be able to thank her enough. 

Race Day - Rock & Roll Marathon
The morning of the race we were up around 4:00 to get in some important nutrition before the race and make our way down to the Alamo dome. It was pretty crazy if you have not been to a marathon before. There are about 20,000 people there trying to check gear and get in there starting area before the start. I started in corral 4 which was one of the earlier groups and I had my wife come up with me. We said a prayer just before we left and that was the last time I would see her until I finished. Once we started I was focused on the next 4 hours of work. I broke the marathon down into 4 chunks to keep my focus on each mile rather then the big picture. Each 6.5 miles I had a little different strategy to allow for different things to happen and the best possible outcome. The 1st quarter I was focused on keeping my heart and pace down, out of the gate I always jumped out fast and new I would need to pace myself to keep my energy. The 1st quarter was fairly easy easy as I keep my pace around 8:30 per mile and planned to start kicking it up a gear each quarter after. The 2nd quarter I continued to feel strong and I was able to move to a 8:15 pace. After I past the halfway point I was slowly starting to feel some fatigue start to creep in but it was expected. I made it to about mile 14 when you turn back north towards the finish line. When I made the turn I could see the Alamo dome about 12 miles away and it looked 100 miles. It was a major challenge to keep my mind focused on the little things when you see the end which looks forever away. I had to put my head down and focus on me, each step took my complete focus. The 4th quarter of this race in along the Mission Trail which sucks! There is nothing there and it seems to last forever. At around mile 22 my body was starting to quit on me. My legs were screaming at me to stop and for mile 23 and 24 I lost pace from my normal to about a 9:15 but I had to use everything I had to just maintain that. Once I got out of the Mission Trail at mile 24 I was able to refocus and put the pain in the back of my mind. I was very thankful for those long training days in the Army and on the Texas A&M practice fields to have the mental strength to push my body much farther then most. The last 2 miles were a complete gut check, everything in my body said stop but I just kept pushing. I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:44 which I was very happy with. I was hoping for anything under 4 hours. My wife finished her half marathon with a 2:18 and she looked like she could have run the full. I was a complete mess. I could barely walk my way to the car. Needless to say I was happy that was over but I learned a great deal about myself during those 4 hours. I know now that I can push even more then I thought and I know that I will need to have a very controlled focus on my pace throughout the Ironman to be able to go the distance. 

Currently I have raised $7,513 towards my goal of $20,000 for Save the Children. Back in November I arranged a charity auction through eBay with several item which were donated. One was a A&M Game-day Experience which was donated by the Letterman Association. It was a huge success and raised over $2,000. I am currently working on a couple sponsorship's to develop a custom triathlon suit to market those companies during the race. If anyone knows of a company that would be interested please let me know. Thank you to everyone that has been following my challenge and especially everyone that has supported me. I will keep you updated as I move into the next phase of training. 

Gig'em & God Bless,

Friday, October 3, 2014

Kerrville Triathlon Race Report (Milestone #2)

Kerrville Olympic Triathlon

I began my prep with a specific goal both mentally and physically. Triathlon is NOT just a physical sport but largely mental. You have to prepare yourself for "game day" mentally just as much as you do spending hours in the pool, on the bike, and on the trail. I went into "game week" with a list of what I would need to be successful that had nothing to do with winning. It all had to to with ME, and the steps I needed to do during each phase mentally and physically. It is a change to focus on just me and what I need considering I have always focused on the team while in the military and as a football player. My goals revolved around the team goals and now they are specifically set for me. I focused mainly on the mental side of the 1000m swim since the last swim 4 weeks before went pretty rough. I felt good physically that I would be able to make it through BUT I knew going into it I would be fighting the voice on my shoulder to quit, that it was to far. So I set my thoughts around the swim. I planned to use the time before the race to prepare myself. I knew the voice would be there but I knew how to fight back. I knew the distance in the open water would look daunting and to not let that bother you. This time when we got to the waters edge to focus on the small steps - the first 150 meters I knew would be rough. Get through the first 150 meters I told myself over and over, focus on each stroke, timing, pull, breath. I was ready for the swim. I went through my first transition in detail, first step - socks, shoes, nutrition, race belt, helmet, glasses and out. My nutrition goal was 1 gel out of T1, 1 full bottle of Infinit, and 1 gel going into T2. Again I went through T2 in detail, shoes, hat, and out. Water and Gatorade was all I needed for the run. I was ready!

Saturday morning I was able to go to Kerrville and watch my father in law crush the sprint. It gave me the opportunity to get some of the butterflies out and do some recon on the course. It was really great to see the course and feel comfortable with my plan.

Rise and shine. Sunday morning I was up at 4:00 to eat. I had a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwhich and a bottle of MUD pre race drink. I pulled on my tri suit and mentally kept telling myself the same thing over and over that you are ready. You are prepared, its all up to you. I made the 40 minute drive to Kerrville with my pre race music going, AC/DC. I got into T1 to set up around 6:30 and began my focus and prep. I continued to drink Gatorade and hydrate throughout the morning before the swim began. T1 closed at 7:15 and we made our way down the swim start. I saw the course... it looked miles long, but I was ready, I knew it would look that way and mentally it didn't phase me because of my preparation. I watched EVERYONE enter the water before me, my age group was literally the last group to enter the water. I had a lot of time for that voice on my shoulder to intimidate me, it was a constant battle to keep focused. At 8:25 it was my turn. I walked to the waters edge and went straight in.

The first 150 meters were slow, my timing was off and there were swimmers on all sides of me. It was my first true open water swim as well. I hit the first turn and was fighting the voice to quit, it kept telling me you aren't going to make it, its to far. I have NEVER quit nor will I! I keep fighting, thinking small, focus on stroke, timing, breath, stroke, timing, breath! I make to the turn around and see the finish line which looks miles away. I have to fight off the voice again! Keep focus! Small things. I keep making progress and BOOM I am suddenly there. I didn't have a time goal for the swim just to make it through and I did! I knew at this point I could focus on my strengths. I didn't have time to enjoy the small win as I was immediately running up the hill to T1. I was already going through my steps. I hit T1 quickly and had my socks and shoes on in a matter of seconds. I was in and out of T1 in around 2 minutes. Out of T1 and now on the bike I stay with my strategy and take my first gel. I hit the bike moving quickly, I am pushing around 22 mph and I start passing people left and right. For the first 15 miles I keep a 21 mph average and feel great. This is my strength, Coach Dawn said to push to the max in this race so I hammer it. I know the run is short and I can gut it out so stay strong on the bike. I get to mile 28 in under 1:25 minutes and a pace of 19.7 mph, I take my last gel and finish my Infinit. The last 500 meters I turn up the cadence to 125 to get the blood back in my legs and before I know it I hit the turn into T2. Off the bike quickly and I run to my bag. I rack my bike and in a matter of seconds I am out of T2 with my shoes on and running. Out of T2 I take half a cup of water and dump the rest on my back. I feel great! I am running hard at a 7:30 pace and know that I need to slow a bit. I take it up to 8:00 and just put my head down. I cant believe how good I feel. After my push on the bike I thought I would be tired on the run. But because of the hours I spent training and prep I was hammering it. Mile 1, mile 2, mile 3, I keep going through the check points and continue to stay focused. Water at every station even if it was just a sip. I keep the pace at between 8:00 and 8:15  through the run and now I am on the last half mile. I had a little left in the tank and put my head down and push. I hit the turn and there's the finish, I lengthen my stride and done! I am done? I didn't have anything left in the tank, it was empty. I left it all out there. My wife and son are there to greet me and I give them a sweaty hug. Its so important to have the support in this sport and I have the strong foundation with my wife. She is my rock. Milestone #2 complete, now its time to grind. Next up Florida 70.3 in May.

Fundraising Update

Thank you again to all the people that have supported me on this challenge! To have you in my corner is so motivating. Without you I would not be able to push myself through this. Currently we have raised $4,007 of my goal of $20,000! Thank you so much! If you would still like to help me reach my goal please go the this website Any little bits helps this amazing charity and will help me reach my goal.

Gig'em and God Bless,

PS: I have been writing about my 9/11 experience since the 13 year anniversary two weeks ago and hope to have it out soon. Its been more difficult than I thought to put some of those emotions in writing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wurst Tri Ever (Milestone #1)

Wurst Tri Ever

I competed in the Wurst Tri Ever in New Braunfels, TX as my first triathlon and milestone #1 towards my goal of Ironman Texas. It was a sprint triathlon with a 400 meter swim, 14 mile bike, & 2.7 mile run. It was a great learning experience for me about all the other details that go into triathlons, not just the racing. I got there early to set up my transition area the way I wanted based on conversations with experienced triathletes to help decrease the amount of time I spent in transition and to maximize my time on the course. I made sure to set up my socks and bike shoes first with a small towel on top to dry my feet as well as my race belt and helmet in position on my bike so that there was as little extra movement as possible and my running shoes ready just behind them. I wasn't worried about nutrition much in this race since it was so short but that will become more of a priority as the races become longer. I was very pleased with the way my transitions turned out with swim to bike time of  1:33 and a bike to run time of :42. The race itself went well by most standards but I am pretty hard on myself when it comes to competition. The race started with a slide into short 150 meter open water swim that didn't go well at all. I started ok but when I went around the second buoy I got kicked and took in some water and I had a quick panic moment. It took me a minute or two to regain myself and finish that part of the swim. Once I finished the short open water we walked about 100 meters to a pool where we swam the remainder of the 400 meters. Moving from the pool to T1 went great, I was able to get in and out quickly and on my bike under 2 minutes. I was happy to be on my bike where I could make up some time that I lost during the swim. I powered out of transition and up a significant hill to start the 14 mile ride. I felt great on the bike! I was riding my new Cervelo P3 and was able to keep an average pace of just under 19 mph on a course with significant elevation change. I passed roughly 50 people on the bike and as I entered the transition to move to the run I was able to remove both of my shoes and peddle on top of the shoe so that as soon as I was off the bike all I had to do was put my running shoes on and go. It worked great! I was out of T2 in under a minute. The run felt pretty good and I pushed myself pretty hard since it was only 2.7 miles. I was able to run my normal pace of 7:45 per mile without a problem. It was great to cross the finish line with a 9th place finish in my age group after a rough start in the water. All in all I think it was a successful first tri. If anyone is interested here is the link the official results


After the race I continued to analyze my swim and was pretty frustrated that I didn't perform better. I even allowed it to effect my swim Monday morning. The swim has been difficult for me physically and mentally because I am used to being able to pick things up very quickly. Coach Dawn had to grab me by the face mask like the old football coach used to do and get my mind right. This isn't the same type of training that I have ever done before and I need to enjoy the moment and understand you have to be very flexible mentally to allow the good times and bad to pass quickly and live in the moment. Once I was able to let go I had my second swim lesson with Todd and it went better. So much so that my swim workout Friday was a break through. I felt more comfortable/relaxed than I have ever felt in the water and my breathing significantly improved. I know that I will still have ups and downs moving forward but it felt good to have a strong swim for the first time. My next milestone is an olympic distance triathlon (1000m swim/29mile bike/6.7mile run) in Kerrville on Sept 28.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Take a towel swimming

As I write this I am somewhere over Austin, TX flying back from St Louis. I travel a decent amount in the current roll I am in which has become a challenge making sure I am able to get my workouts in. Today’s workout was a 2400 meter swim so I had to locate a pool that had swim lanes that I could use. I found a local gym not too far from the location I was working and decided to go around lunch. Well what I hadn’t thought about was a towel….. I went ahead and did the workout knowing I didn’t have one and when I got out I had to dry off somehow since I had a flight to catch in about two hours. This gym for some reason didn’t use paper towels and only had hand blow dryers like the ones that never dry your hands after you wash them. The only thing I could find was toilet paper, so I started unrolling as much paper as I could and spent about 10 minutes trying to dry myself. I must have flushed a roll of TP down the toilet and I am sure all the people in the locker room wandered what the heck I was doing. But at least I got my workout in right? Coach Dawn would be proud.

So last week my family went to Lake Tahoe for a couple days for a short vacation before my high school hall of fame induction and it was great. My 18 month old son Hudson did great on the plane. He is such a great kid! I am scared to have another because I fear I am in for it with the second. We went hiking all around Tahoe and had a great time. I was also able to get a couple good runs in while I was there.

When we got back I had a long bike ride planned the next day with another guy on my tri team that is headed to Ironman Maryland in a few weeks. He was leading the way at about a 20 mile per hour pace and I am only used to going about 18 mph. It is significantly faster than normal but I was able to keep up pretty well. Without even knowing it we were already to the turnaround point and we had ridden 30 miles! Now we had to ride back and I was starting to feel the pain. I wasn’t going to stop, I don’t know the word "quit" so I just gritted my teeth and plowed forward. At about the 55 mile mark I was hurting. I was able to gut it out and finish with a 19.3 mph which is fairly respectable but I will need to keep around a 20 mph for the 112 when I get to IM Texas. All in all it was a good first long ride and I felt good about where I stand on the bike.

I also started my fundraising campaign for “Save the Children” last week with a few posts on TexAgs. I am amazed at the positive comments and donations to this great charity and to help me get to Kona. Currently the amount raised is $2,307 and my goal is $20,000. That is an amazing first week! I can't thank you all enough, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! If you would still like to support this great cause please go to and donate even $1 will help these kids. I have many other events and posts that I will be sending out to keep you all up to speed on my progress and training. I plan to post an update to my blog around once a week and I will be going into many things including Aggie Football, my time in the Army, my family, and some of the things close to me personally so please continue to follow the blog. I hope some of what I share will help motivate you to believe that if you put your mind to ANYTHING big or small you can achieve it. I came from a life where nothing was handed to me and I had to work extremely hard for every inch. I have been very blessed for the doors God has opened for me and will always do my best to glorify Him. Thank you so much for all your support!

Gig’em & God Bless
Mark Dodge

Romans 5:2-5

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The real reason - Charity!

As I wrote in my first blog I have signed up to compete in Ironman Texas and committed to helping raise money for an amazing charity that I hold very dear to my heart. When I grew up I had a very difficult and abusive relationship with my father and was molested by my grandfather when I was around 9 years old. It had a major effect on my life and now that I am in a place that I can affect change I plan to do everything I can to help other children that are in difficult times. I have committed to raise at least $20,000 for the Save the Children Foundation ( As a Texas Aggie, I know the power of the 12th man so I truly believe this an obtainable goal.

Save the Children Foundation gives children in the United Stated and around the world what every kid deserves - a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. The foundation started in 1932 with initial programs to provide clothing, school supplies and hot lunches to children in Kentucky and has grown to an international program that assists during natural disasters, war, and assistance to help displaced children. Please spend some time on the website and see all the amazing things they are doing. The foundation has an overall rating of 4 out of 4 stars by the Charity Navigation rating organization and is extremely transparent with the support it gains. Nearly 90% of the money donated goes directly to program services.

I am committing myself to train as hard as possible to help these kids gain support and I believe the Aggie network will step up with me to this challenge.

As well as having this amazing opportunity to help this great organization I will also have an amazing chance to compete in a lifelong dream of becoming an Ironman. I have wanted to become an Ironman since I was a kid as I watch the televised World Championships from Hawaii each year. Ever since then, I always wanted to compete in Kona. This dream now has a chance to come true. The top two fundraisers between now and May 16, 2015 will be given a slot to compete in the Ironman World Championships next year. There are very few slots that open up for Kona and I need your help to get there. I have hired a great coach and have an amazing support system to help me get through this challenge. With your help I will be able to not only support and amazing charity but will also be able to live a life long dream. I will be blogging throughout my training to keep your up-to-date on my training and preparation for this amazing challenge. To help support this cause please go to my personal donation webpage ( Thank you so much for your support!

Gig'em & God Bless,
Mark Dodge 07'