Comparisons: Nickel versus Johnny’s, Marathon versus Ironman

Hi folks,

Exercise Tip: Allow sufficient recovery time after really long races or workouts.

My lovely little dog, Nickel, passed away a few days ago. She lived for 16 good years and had a happy life, dying quietly of old age, wagging her tail for treats up until near the end – may I do as well. Then a few days later I had to deal with another unpleasant transition.

Johnny's only in Carrboro, my favorite quick stop and place to relax and chat and blog.

I had nipped across the road to enjoy my usual morning cup of coffee at ‘Johnny’s Only in Carrboro.’ For me, Johnny’s is a kind of home away from home sort of place. I started blogging in Barcelona, Spain, but on my return to the USA I continued this enterprise at Johnny’s in a little chair provided by the manager of this establishment, Brian Plaster. Here is Brian, last year, sitting in the blogging chair, holding one of my favorite wines, ‘Daily Red.’

Brian at Johnny's in my favorite blogging chair - the chair is long gone!

But something was not quite right this day. It was much too quiet. The garden looked the same, and very inviting as usual. Brian Plaster, with his artistic talents, and some great staff, have made this place into a tremendous hangout. Blogging at Johnny’s has been a pleasure, and now that there is a bar with draught beer it is a good place to be from time to time. With the usual anticipation and the thought of tamales, I approached the door. There were the usual lists of produce chalked up on either side of the entryway.

The door of Johnny's in Carrboro

The door to Johnny's with chalk boards listing available local produce.

Those old chalkboards always remind me of the many lectures I have given over the years. ‘Chalk talks’ and talks with no visual aids were the best and the most challenging to pull off well. Then there was PowerPoint, taking the lecture scene by storm, everywhere you go. A great visual tool, but like so many great tools PowerPoint can become a crutch, actually isolating you from your audience. How is it possible to make regular eye contact, and really read their level of interest, if the lights are off and flashy graphics fill the screen – it is really just more television! Quality lecturing is storytelling, and good storytelling demands human to human interaction, and we are visual creatures. Whilst providing clear information, a flashy screen distracts from the storyteller, and thus from the story. But what is that on the door that my visual self detects. A notice? New produce or a local band about to play?

Johnny's Is Closed!

The notice says, “Closed, Thanks for 4 great years, Carrboro, Brian.” That is it! Gone, just like Nickel, an empty shell devoid of life. Bummer! Not change again, with misoneism rearing its ugly head inside my heart? Yep! Once again things are not the same as they were but a moment before. I wander back to my little blue house, feeling lost, wondering which was the greater loss, Nickel or Johnny’s (my heart says Nickel, but each one is a serious setback), and what to have for breakfast. At home, however, I am greeted by a comment on my blog from Benjamin Carey of Heartosaurus fame, and a fellow member of the Aortic Aneurysm and Lucky to be Alive Society. A definite ‘pick me up.’ And here it is:

“Kevin you’re an inspiration. I’ll be tracking you in July at placid. I have a marathon under my belt and am considering an ironman at some point. You’ve done both…….how much different is the training for an ironman (outside the obvious–you need to swim and bike too). Also how did you feel during and after your first ironman? Was it more exhilarating than the marathon?”

Like Nickel and Johnny’s, chalk and PowerPoint, where does one start with the comparison? The easy part is the training – extremely different simply due to the need for swimming and biking skills and the time needed to train, which for an Ironman generally approaches 20-25 hours per week as race day looms. That said, I felt more beat up immediately after my Boston Marathon qualifier and best marathon time at the age of 65 (4:07) than from my best Ironman race at the age of 67 (13:34). An Ironman, however, leaves you tired deep down inside, and it really takes me a couple of months to fully recover, using active recovery approaches, but what a blast it is. In both cases, the challenges of training, nutrition, and learning how to pace yourself and avoid injuries are equally interesting. If you want to do it right, read books and blogs by the experts, and find the best coach you can. They are different beasts with different teeth, and they are both exhilarating, each in their own particular way, my friend.

I look forward to my next dog, Johnny’s reopening, maybe, giving no more scientific lectures with or without chalk (enough is enough), and very much to seeing Benjamin on the Ironman circuit.


Kevin (Old Dog)


  1. Ah, nostalgia, it’s not what it once was…

  2. 20 hours a week! wow. I think i’m going to stick with running for now, and maybe some duathalons, and watch guys like you for inspiration! Good luck in Lake Placid!

  3. Kevin Morgan says

    Hi Benjamin,

    It’s not so bad, but now I am thinking that if I take the things I learned from my coaches and combined that with things in Tim Ferriss’s book, The Four Hour Body, it might be possible to cut this training time in half. One would have to do some long workouts, but less, I suspect. I’ll write a post on this.

    What is the thrust of your blog? I need to know in order to focus my posts, which I am happy to write once I get one week ahead on mine. Scheduling posts ahead works very well, by the way.

    -k (Old Dog)

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.