Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm just a swimmer in a rock and roll band

This morning was the 2nd running of Team BAMF. Last year we formed and competed in the NYC tri. This year we scaled back a bit and competed at the TOBAY Triathlon. My part for the team is to swim. Wingman handles the biking duties and Daddy BAMF handles the footwork. It's been a busy year for Daddy BAMF. He's a new dad (Baby BAMF was born in January) and he's in the process of moving his recording studio to a new location so he's a busy guy and we're glad he was able to join us again.

Wingman and I woke up at 4a to get ready. Our gear was packed the night before. Not that I had much gear (wetsuit and goggles), but we ate breakfast and packed the car to begin the long drive to Oyster Bay. When we arrived it was still kinda dark and FREEZING!! I really wanted to put my wetsuit on to stay warm, but I knew once the sun came out that it would warm up and I'd be too hot. I regretted my decision to leave my sweatshirt home and only wear a long sleeve shirt. Finally when the sun came up, it warmed up.

We met up at the bike rack in transition and reviewed our race 'strategy'. OK, we had no strategy but we chatted it up until we were told to make our way down to the water. Our transition location was right near an exit so I was happy. We also grabbed the end spot so we had some room to hang out. I grabbed my wetsuit and started the walk. Daddy BAMF and Wingman came with me to the swim start. We were in the 5th wave so I had ~17 minutes to wait after the 1st wave went out. I forgot what a nightmare it is at TOBAY to actually get into the water. We have to walk down a concrete trailer ramp for launching boats. It is so chewed and beat up that you have to be careful with each foot placement so you don't twist an ankle or cut your foot. I got to the starting line and waited it out. They put 'Teddy Roosevelt' on the mic to say a few words and wish us good luck. I thought I had picked out a nice starting point. It didn't look like there were too many women in my wave. The level of testosterone was quite high. Once the gun went off, it was  like the wild, wild west. The nice spot I thought I had was quickly swallowed up by the men around me. I had a lot of trouble trying to find a rhythm and get my heart rate settled. I wasn't even at the first buoy and I thought I was going to panic. I actually stopped and waited ~4 seconds for the traffic to clear up around me because I had no where to go. As I tried swimming all I could think was "am I breathing? Is air actually getting into my lungs?" because it felt like I was inhaling, but nothing was coming in. I stayed calm and just focused on one arm in front of the other. The water was very choppy from everyone thrashing around. Finally about halfway out to the turn buoy, I felt like myself again. I had some room and could swim without being kicked and punched. Seriously, I don't remember the ironman swim being so violent at the start.

As I made my way to the turn buoy, I looked around to see what room I would have and how I needed to approach. The coast was clear so I made a beeline to the buoy and made a tight turn. Normally a swim course is a triangle or rectangle shape, but this one was a super tight rectangle. So tight that the turn around was almost like a u-turn. On the way back in my goggles started to fog so I had some trouble making out the final buoy. But I had no trouble recognizing all the caps from the wave that started in front of me. I passed A LOT of white caps. Not to shabby for starting 5 minutes behind them. I followed Ian's secret swim tips for the 2nd half of the swim and it paid off.

The swim exit is always tricky for me. Last year I asked Sinead for advice as to when I should actually stand up to prepare for the exit. I usually stand too late in shallow water and my momentum carries me forward and I fall as I try to stand. Ever since she told me when to stand, I've had no trouble with the exit. As I get ready to finish the swim, I always think "What would Sinead do?"(wwsd) for guidance. As I got closer to the exit, the bottom was murky and I could not see. I did notice someone else walking so I decided to stand up. Then I noticed I was waist deep. Drat!! I got up too early. I got down and swam some more. When I finally stood up, it was a little late (not what Sinead would do). I was shallow, but I didn't fall over. I made my way up the carpet to a hero's reception from the crowd. I looked at my watch and was please with my time, until I did some math and realized the swim must have been a little short. I could see the transition area ahead and was looking forward to passing the chip to the Wingman. Where I thought I would be entering was not the case. I had to run down the entire length of the transition before I could enter it. If I go back and measure it, I believe it was 4 miles, uphill, in the snow to transition while fighting off a grizzly bear (or is that the path my dad took walking to school). I don't know, it seemed like a far run. Thank goodness they put carpet down. Once I got inside I passed the chip off and was done.

Wingman had an awesome ride and Daddy BAMF kicked some butt on the run. It's a difficult course because of the hills. But if you pace yourself right, you'll be fine. Both the bike and run course are uphill for the 1st half and downhill the 2nd half. Overall, we did well as a team. We finished 8 out of 20 in the Coed division and 26 out of 61 of all teams. Not too shabby for a trio of Bad Ass MotherF*#$kers.

Daddy BAMF, me, Wingman

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down, the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy

The strangest things go through my head when I ride. I don't wear music when I ride so I've got to have a soundtrack ready to go in my head for long rides. Music gets me through a lot of things and riding is no exception. I have been known to sing out loud to myself when riding. I can't help it. Today was my first shortened ride as part of my taper. In reality, it won't be until this coming week that I will start to physically feel the effects of the reduced volume and increased fitness, but don't tell my mind that. Mentally, I felt sharp out there. And if you ask Wingman, that's rare. I don't go by the nickname "Hero of the Stupid" for nothing. 

We had a route planned out and I knew I had to sit in today and just enjoy it. The hills didn't bother me as much as usual. I'm not saying they were easier, but I put out the same effort and seemed to get up them a little faster. We had some headwind to deal with too. Since we are racing tomorrow (Wingman is riding) I played the part today of the "Domestique" so he could save some energy for tomorrow. When we were up into the wind, he sat on my back wheel and I pulled him through. I actually enjoyed the role today. Normally I HATE riding into the wind, but I guess it must not have been that windy out today. 

There is one section on CR21 that I love. It's fresh pavement, super smooth. At the end of this section is a 'school speed zone' with a detector that tells you how fast you are going. It's like blood in the water for me and my pulse quickens. Immediately I forget my role and begin shifting gears to pick up speed. I move my hands to the drops and pick up my cadence. I can feel the burn as I approach the speed zone. I am hoping there is no car coming behind me so it will register my speed today. As I get close I see my speed and realize there is no car. Today, the 28mph belongs to me. Not blazing fast, but the best I could muster at that moment.

When we finally made the turn to begin the ride home, we enjoyed the help of the tailwind. As we approached a red light in Shoreham, we saw two motorcycles stopped. And you know what that means. It means the "Hero of the Stupid" is in action again. When the light turned green I stood up and powered away from the light. For a brief moment, I was in the lead. But I could hear the roar of the engines and knew it would be short lived. I was beaten. But I have to say I had some nice acceleration. But now it was back to the taper ride. No more fooling around (last thing I need is a smack from Jen). 

The rest of the ride home was uneventful. I have to say that it was a fun ride. I think I even smiled the whole way. I have to spend the rest of the day getting my stuff ready for school. My office in the basement looks like a hurricane went through it, so it needs to be straightened up. Wingman will rest up and I'll check in with Daddy BAMF later. 

Doot-in' doo doo, Feelin' groovy....... 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Swimming Uphill (at least that's how it felt)

I couldn't stand the thought of getting up at 5a to swim during my last week off.  I grabbed my stuff and drove down to the lake.

The regular crew was there and finishing up their swim. I put on the wetsuit and we made our way down to the water. We started swimming right away because, according to Jen, it was freezing. I had some inner conflict swimming today because I didn't want her to think that I was the slowpoke that I really am. I had to channel my inner Ian and find another speed to swim at. It was a little dark so sighting was rough. I think I did a decent job of swimming straight but I can't be too sure. I was so focused on swimming as fast as I could without killing myself that I don't really remember sighting. I know I did it and probably corrected myself without thinking, but I just wanted to get to the other end in one piece and my heart still in my chest. I have to say I think it was my fastest swim time across the lake. I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone today, which is a good thing. When I got to the far end, I was happy the swim was done, but realized I had to swim back. Oh man, this is going to hurt. With the wind blowing, there was a little more chop on the way back. It made breathing a little more difficult. I didn't have my breathing timed well with the chop so getting a good breath was hard to do. I was still focused on not looking slow so I just kept putting the hammer down. Before I knew it I was back at the beach. I looked at my watch and even with the chop, I still made it back ~30 seconds faster than usual.

The weather for the next few days is crappy, so looks like I will be on the trainer today for my workout. I haven't been on the trainer in a while, but it's just to windy and wet to ride outside so close to my race. And I have until Thursday morning to recover from the swim before I step back into the lake.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Ride

So the Wingman and I went out for the last long ride prior to my race. We looked at the weather forecast and decided to head east into the wind and then home with the wind. The ride out along 48 was tough. The winds were ~10mph (not that heavy) but it never stopped blowing. You were just hit with a constant headwind that wears your down. In Southold I pulled into a parking lot to take a breather, about 23 miles into the ride. We were getting close to the turnaround point, but part of me wanted to go back now. Wingman then said "Would you like me to ride in front now?" I was pulling the whole way out and now he  offers to ride in front. I told him "I think it's a little late for that now." But when we hit the road again, he went in front to block me from the wind for a few miles.

Since we were slowed down by the wind, we didn't make it as far as I had hoped, but I still got the time in. Once we turned around, things were much better. My mood lifted and we were happy riders again. It's amazing what some tailwind can do for you.

We did have one scary moment. A few weeks back we passed a deli with an overpowering smell of bacon. I thought for sure I would lose the Wingman there. But he dealt with the inner conflict and stayed with me. Wow, I rate higher than bacon on his list. Today was a whole new issue. We were in Southold on 25 and I took a big wiff of something and turned my head back towards the Wingman and at the same time we both said:

It really was a struggle to not turn around and find the source of the donut smell, but we rode on. I heard Wingman behind me shouting "we have to stop. Turn around.  We need donuts!!! Stop!" I almost felt bad, but knew that if we ate donuts we'd never finish the ride.

I remembered the camera and took some photos along the way.

Port of Egypt? Did we make a wrong turn?

Quiet section of 25 near the Greenport/Southold border

I love the scenery on the ride

It's never easy to pass Magic Fountain Ice Cream shop

We know we're getting close to home when
we come up on the Old Steeple Church

Wingman smiling despite passing the donut shop earlier

Modern Snack Bar - getting closer to home

A glass punctured tire brought my ride to a 
screeching halt only 4 miles from home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pick up that weakness and put it in your pocket

I had mentioned previously that I get my workouts sent to my email address. Each morning at 5a, I can find that day and the next day's workouts at my fingertips. It really is helpful to plan out my day and when the workout will fit in. Generally, I know what days are cycle days and which days are run days, but it's the specific info about the workout that comes in handy. I also forward my workouts to the Wingman so he can see how long we are riding for. Today's workout called for an hour ride and part of the workout said "try to do this on a rolling course." I look at that and logically think that I don't have to ride a rolling course, but try to do it. Well, Wingman would have none of that. He quickly shouted "Yipee, we're going to ride Mill Road." We went back and forth a little about my having to ride the hilly route and of course the tyrant won.

I am such a crappy hill rider, especially the rollers. No matter how many hills I ride, it never seems to get easier. They always seem to kick my ass. So today I made it through the rollers, no easier than any other time, but I kept a phrase in my head "Pick up that weakness and put it in your pocket." I got this from a show called "Two Weeks in Hell" about the selection process for the Army green berets. The very first day they start out with log PT and rolling at 4am. The rule is no spitting or vomiting in the pit area. These guys are pushed to the limits and when they step out of the pit to puke, an officer is standing over them yelling "Pick up that weakness and put it in your pocket!!!"

So today I pushed myself within the scope of my workout and put my weakness in my pocket (FYI - there was no puking on the ride). I will remember that phrase for race day.

This weekend is my last long ride and run before my taper begins. I am looking forward to it. Last year I could see during my taper how much I had improved. My speed was improving as I gave my self the proper recovery time for all the weeks of training I had put in. Last year I was antsy during the taper, but I trusted the plan laid out for me, didn't deviate from it and I saw success in my race. Knowing this, the taper this year should be easier to get through.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Defending the Dream

Those words are taken from the West Point Class of 2013. Since my dismal outing at Montauk last month, I wanted to comeback and strike with a mighty vengeance and leave it all out there. I had a decent race in Montauk, but I was frustrated with a bike problem (not of my doing) and it impacted my run. I felt I was setup that day for a good race and, even though I set a PR, I can't say it was a good race. And that left me plotting for the next race - my assault on the West Point Tri. Wingman could see the efforts I was putting in for my workouts and in turn, his riding has improved as well.

Teresa was coming up to race as well and Wynn was in 'sherpa' mode for her. We met up at packet pickup and surveyed the course. The area up there is beautiful. The lake looked nice and the buoy's were already out. The swim was going to be a basic rectangle shape. They had carpet laid down from the swim exit over a small hill and then it was on pavement to transition. They cap the number of participants so the transition area was small. Once we were done there, we made our way to the hotel. Since we checked in at the same time, we wound up getting rooms next to each other. So for an hour we retreated to our rooms to relax before heading to dinner. Wingman got to work attaching a new water bottle cage to my bike.

Wingman hard at work making sure The Beast is ready

The Beast is ready to roll for race day

Choosing some 'good carbs' for dinner

OK, OK we didn't load up on candy for dinner. We went to some tavern in Sugar Loaf for dinner. After that, it was lights out around 9:30p. I had my usual bad night's sleep prior to the race. But by 5a I was up, eating breakfast, and taking a shower. Then we packed everything up, met Teresa and Wynn and followed them to the race. The nice thing about this race is it's an 8a start, not the usual 7a so that gained us an extra hour of 'sleep'. We had a short walk from the parking area to the transition area. I got my stuff setup quickly and listened to some prerace music to set my mood. Since I had so much pent up anger from the last race, I chose Metallica this time around to get me fired up. Wynn and I were discussing Metallica music earlier in the week and I told him that this was a good song.

So before I knew it, it was time to make my way over to the swim start. They did the usual prerace announcements and good thing I paid attention. I was in Wave 3, but the cap I was assigned was for wave 5. I went into one of the halls and got it straightened out. I stood on the beach with the Wingman and Teresa waiting during the national anthem. Then Teresa made her way to the water to get ready. I popped a few Shot Blocks and put the rest of the pack in my jersey pocket safely inside my wetsuit. Or so I thought it would be safe. Soon it was my turn to get into the water. I said goodbye to the Wingman and swam to the start. I then did what most racers do, I had to go to the bathroom so I pee'd in my wetsuit. As I felt better, I then realized "Oh, I guess those Shot Blocks in my pocket are no good now." The race announcer gets the crowd involved with a countdown before each wave goes off so I had a nice 10 second count before I had to get going. Once the horn went off, I started swimming. My goal was to swim as fast and comfortably as I could. I didn't want to redline the swim. I managed to have some nice open water for most of the swim. Once I could feel someone trying to get too close and come over my back, but a nicely placed elbow and fist took care of that. I got to the first turn buoy and surprisingly had no traffic so I turned close to it. It was a short swim to the next buoy and again, no traffic so I took the turn close. I could tell I was moving quickly because I was passing quite a few caps from the wave in front of me. I came up on two guys in red caps and tried to swim between them but found there was a guy in front and in between them. DOH! I had to stop and make a sharp turn to get around them. From there I could see the end of the swim was near. When I got close to shallow water, I came up alongside a woman that was doing a breast stroke. She was kicking me with every stroke. So I would retaliate with a slap or I'd grab her foot each time. This went on for 5-6 strokes and then I finally stood up to get out of the water. I made my way out and ran to T1. My wetsuit came off easy, got the bike gear on and was on my way.

The bike course is like the Blood, Sweat and Tears song "Spinning Wheel":

What goes up, must come down
Spinning wheel got to go 'round
Talkin 'bout your troubles is a cryin' sin
Ride a painted pony let the spinning wheel spin

As soon as we made our way out of Camp Buckner, I thought I was having wheel problems again. I felt like I had a hard time riding because of a wheel rubbing. I kept looking down and checking my brake pads to see where the rubbing was coming from. I didn't see anything. What the heck is going on? I look around and I see other people riding a bit slow. Ah, we're going up a false flat and then the hills were coming. I felt a little better about it. The other riders were all over the place. Practically no one was riding to the right. If there was a USAT marshal on the course, at least half the field would have been giving blocking penalties. No one was was giving the courtesy of announcing a pass. Someone would just ride by. There were others that would come out and pass and never look over their shoulders to see if anyone was coming. Seriously, if they ride bikes this badly, I would hate to be driving next to them. Safety on this course went out the window. People were riding like old people drive in Florida. I decided since this was not an 'A' race for me, I would be somewhat careful on the downhills. I didn't want to pass people at a high speed because if they just moved out, there would be very little time to react and I didn't want to get up close and personal with the asphalt. When I finally made it to the first turn around, the cadets were saying "it's all downhill from here." Liars. The first long downhill was crazy fast. I didn't pedal down it as I would have spun out of gears. Just coasting I was doing 40mph. I saved some energy for future climbs. The downhill seemed to last forever. I think it went on for ~2 miles. Then it was time to climb again. I could see packs of people up ahead. I don't know the exact details of how it happened, but I heard a scream, two bikes collide (going uphill, go figure) and a woman go face first into the guardrail. When I rode by her face was bloody and she looked pretty shaken. I think I would be too. Other people stopped so I kept going. When I saw the next cadet on the side of the road I told him of the accident and that help was needed and where. I continued on my ride and was hoping the turnaround was coming. I wanted to get away from the other riders. I dropped the hammer on the rest of the ride and gunned it to T2. That bike course was hard. There was never a flat section. It just punched you in the mouth and said "shut the f*&k up."

Right out of T2 is a hill. Leave it to the Army to make the run course just as hard. There were a few more flat sections than the bike course, but the run course was hard too. I managed to run up most of the first hill but my heart was racing. I walked the rest of the slope and then started running. The first part of the run is alongside the obstacle course. I was thankful that all I had to do was run and not add anything else to it. The run course features several turn arounds so you could always see people. I looked for Teresa and saw her 3 times on the run. My goal on the run was to run as much as I could as fast as I could. The hills were killing me. Every time I had a nice rhythm and pace going, a hill would come and feeling good went out the window. That's what made it such a hard course - you could never get comfortable. I used the downhills to my advantage and went all out. Before I knew it, I was heading back towards the transition area. The cadets were calling out "just over the hill and around transition." I knew the finish line was in sight and the end was near. Or was it? As I came over the hill, Wynn was taking pictures. When I got to the bottom of the hill, like a true smartass, he said "The picture didn't come out, go back up the hill." There were small children around so I couldn't do this to him:

As I made my way around the transition area, I had such a feeling of relief that this race was over. But no, it was not to be. There was more running to do. And another hill to climb. Oh for cryin' out loud I'm dying out here. I make it to the last turn around and head back. I could finally hear the finish line area. Now the end is really near!! I cross the timing mat and was completely fried. 

It was a hard race and I feel like I left it all out there. I had no regrets. I could have gone faster on the bike course, but was smart in my decision to play it safe. Especially after seeing the results of a bad accident. I executed my game plan well. I grabbed an ice pop at the finish line and a finisher's water bottle. After Teresa finished, we went over to see the results. At first I could not find my name, but then I realized that the race timer had me and everyone from my division timed in the wrong wave. My finishing time was 6 minutes faster than my real time. So that means my swim time was cut off. I realized my swim split would be AWESOME!! I had the 7th fastest swim of the day. It was like channeling my inner Ian. But I knew it was not accurate. I went over to let the race timer know that the whole division was timed wrong. He said he would not be able to fix it before the awards ceremony, but that he would take care of it. I went back to the sheet and saw that I finished 3rd in my division so that means hardware. After packing the car, we went back for the awards and I got my prize. Wynn and Teresa were kind enough to hang around and wait with us. Teresa had an awesome race and told me how she was thinking happy thoughts about me with each hill climb..............

The cadet on the right gave me the award. You can see he was 
totally impressed with his brush with greatness.....NOT
(though the cadet on the left is going to have some serious knee issues
in his future if he keeps hanging back on his knee like that)

The awards were nice - an etched pint glass

Defending the dream that I had for the last month

After the race, we made our way back to Long Island for a BBQ. I was feeling pretty good up until it was time to leave. Exhaustion set in and I was ready for bed. At 6p. Actually, I fought the good fight and went to bed at 9p. 

My next race is in 2 weeks where Team BAMF unites again in TOBAY. I am only swimming that day. Then the race after that is my 'A' race. Bring it!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Power of Ian

Last week there was an exchange of emails amongst our small swimming group. I had to bail on the Tuesday morning swim because I was had something to take care of that morning. Wynn was bailing because he and Teresa needed another rest day. I copied Ian on the emails so he would know we weren't coming. I didn't know he was out of town. Imagine my surprise when I get this response from him later that  day:
"I go away and the swimming just goes to hell"

Oh no, we've set off a time bomb of chaos that would later blow up in our faces. Wynn has always referred to Ian as the "keeper of the lake." Ian is 'the man' when it comes to open water swimming. Heck, he's the man when it comes to any type of swimming. We all try to channel our 'inner Ian' when it comes to swimming. But the man is a fish.

Wynn, Teresa and I swam on Thursday without Ian. He was still out of town. We talked about making up the missing swim and decided on a Friday evening swim. Teresa politely backed out of it and quickly made friends with the 'locals' that were having a BBQ at the beach. When Wynn and I entered the water, they came over to ask her where we were going. She told them where and they translated it into spanish for the rest of their families. They would keep coming over to her for updates on our status. They were getting concerned when it looked like we were taking too long. 

Wynn and I made it back to shore safely and were happy we made up that swim. I even emailed Ian telling him what we did and that we wanted to redeem ourselves to him and beg for forgiveness. To which he replied:

"Glad to hear you guys made up for the missing swim but I hope that you swam extra 
distance to make up for the fact that an early morning swim is 1.2 times more
effective training than an afternoon swim because of the law of specificity."

I wrote back to Wynn that we screwed up and had to go back and swim some more. Ian would not be happy. And clearly he could not have been happy. His body and the eco-balance of the lake are finely tuned to each other. One disruption in his mood can set off a chain of events at the lake. I woke up Saturday morning and saw this headline:

Wildwood Lake in Northampton has been closed to swimming due to high bacteria
levels in the water, the Suffolk County Health Department announced today.

The health department did not provide additional information about the cause of
the closure, or how long swimming would be banned there.

Oh no. We swam in the lake just a few hours earlier. This was a sign that Ian was not happy with us. We scrambled over the weekend to figure out a backup plan that doesn't include jellyfish. We had nothing. Then the good news this morning. Ian saw the new posting that the lake is open again. He is on his way home Monday night and will be ready to swim Tuesday morning. Amazing, isn't it? Let that be a lesson to all of us, don't miss a swim. If you do, you mess up the whole lake when Ian gets mad.