Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finally following orders

I remember a conversation I had with Ian ~2 weeks ago. He mentioned the training of a world class runner and the 'easy' run pace and how much slower it was than the race pace. It got me thinking about what I do when I run easy/tempo/intervals etc. I am sure I'm not the only guilty party here, but I don't run my easy efforts slow enough. I was always afraid of slipping back into being slow so I would make sure I would hit a certain average for my easy runs. I am sure it was too fast, too much intensity for 'easy'.

I was sick all last week so I have not run in a week. I had a run scheduled for this morning, an 'easy 4 miler'. Wingman came along with me. I told him this was going to be an easy effort and that I was not going to run faster than a certain pace. There was a goal to this workout (as with all workouts) and by golly I was going to nail it. So out we went. With the wind. Big mistake. Basically the route was an out and back route. Of course this meant I would be running two miles back into the wind to get home. And it was windy.

Wingman ran alongside me and when a car was approaching, he would tuck in behind me and run single file until it was clear again. I kept the pace easy, staying true to the goal of the workout. Despite the headwinds, I kept the effort easy by dropping my pace. The feeling I had was I could run that pace all day long so I knew I nailed it.

When we turned back into our development, Wingman did some pickups. I opted to stay back and run my workout. In the past I would have been tempted to chase him down, but that would defeat my workout. Craig Alexander discussed this in a podcast I've listened to a few times already. Working out with a group is good, but don't lose sight of your workout goals. This is going to be crucial for me heading into the new year. My off days will be few and far between so I need to make sure my easy efforts really are easy. If not, my season will come to a screeching halt very quickly.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where do I begin...........

So for the 2nd time in a month, I came down with a cold. I am sure a patient came in sick and I got it from them. I wish people would stay home when they are sick. Now they come in, get me sick, and in turn I am sure I made a few other patients sick. And the winter cycle begins. I think I need to look into working part-time ;-) (May-October). I missed all my workouts this week. I felt too crappy to even try to workout. All I could muster was walking on the treadmill. I had two vacation days I had to use-or-lose so I took off Friday and Monday. I spent Friday running around, getting a haircut, shopping, etc. Monday we were going to play golf, but now it looks too windy to play.

Yesterday was the HoHoHo Holiday run in Bethpage. I've run this race every year for the last few years but I had to bail this year. I am getting over the cold and I knew the air temperature would not help me. Cold air into my lungs would have set off a coughing fit, just like the Turkey Trot. Lesson learned. So instead I went down as the 'official' photographer for the Wingman and my all-things-Australian coach Ian. Joan was spectating as well. I dressed in layers and stood ready at the start. It's a two loop course so I knew I'd see the guys a few times. The guy that actually won the race was pretty fast. Wingman and Ian did a great job themselves. I snapped a few photos of them in action:

 Wingman in action

The Flying Aussie - making it look easy as usual

After the race we went in for the awards and clapped wildly for Ian as he collected his 2nd place award. Afterwards we went out for breakfast. We had a great time catching up with Ian and Joan before the hectic holiday season sets in.

Later that day, Wynn and Teresa stopped by to pick up some extra cycling helmets for their crew coming out next weekend. I just picked up a new helmet for myself and the Wingman in the last month so we had plenty of spares lying around. After catching up with them, we planned a New Year's Day ride with the usual suspects. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and the 6 of us can get out. And no ride is complete without breakfast afterwards!!

Today I went downstairs on the trainer to ride. I would have gone outside to ride with the Wingman, but my Jewish mother Wynn advised against it. I tried a new workout called "Suffer-fest" and they do not lie. I suffered every minute of it. This particular workout was designed to be a climbing session. They mix in video from real cycling races and you have to match the efforts. It was a pretty cool workout and you do get wrapped up in it. When it was over I did a little strength work. Not for my legs though as I could not feel them, just the upper body stuff.

Tomorrow I may sneak out early for a short run or back on the bike trainer to shake the legs out. All I know is I don't have to go to work tomorrow!! I have more time to sleep in and recover. Wingman is off tomorrow too so we have some time to spend together. I think we'll head out and get my pool membership started. It's time to get back into the pool.  I have a few things on tap to help get me into the pool more this year. Some of them require me to beg a little at work with the boss for a longer lunch break in exchange for working later, joining a new masters swim club, and/or joining a local pool. We'll see what shakes out. I am switching over to part-time in the winter months (4 days work instead of 5) so that will help me in the winter get into the pool and get a long workout in as well. Early January the boss and I will sit down and figure out what days I am taking off.

For now, I am rested and ready to tackle the last workouts of 2011 that will usher me into 2012 ready to race!! I am focused and ready to take on the new challenges and goals that lie ahead.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Silly Season

This is the time of year where my intense training takes a back seat. I enjoy late October through November when I don't have to work too hard when it comes to swim/bike/run and just enjoy getting out and running or riding. The real work picks up again come December/January. That mindset came in handy when I was sick last week. I hadn't had a cold in about 2 years and then last week I was sidelined with a cold. I left work early on a Friday to come home and rest. I had to skip a race the next day as I wasn't even close to 100%. With the holidays coming the following week, I had to rest up. So that weekend I spent it home taking it easy then it was back to work Monday for a shortened (sort of) week.

Thursday I ran a 'turkey trot' and knew as soon as the gun went off I had nothing to give. My chest felt heavy and so did my legs. I had been completely inactive for over a week and a 5k was a tough effort. But I took it easy and just planned on enjoying the exercise. I was coughing a bit about halfway through and finished feeling a little horse, but I was glad I ran it.

Thanksgiving dinner was spent at Dolores' house with Big Lou making dinner. We always do our group shot at some point, but this year I decided since it was nice out I setup the camera and gathered everyone outside for a quick shot. With two small kids added to the mix, I was nervous we would not get the shot with them looking forward. I would set the 10-sec timer on the camera and then run into the group so there is no one behind the camera to get the attention of the little ones. Needless to say these two are true professionals and we nailed the picture on the first shot.

La famiglia (the italian crew)

Dinner as always was wonderful. And more importantly, Louie and Lily were wonderful new additions to the family dynamic. 

Friday was back to the grind at work. Too bad many of my patients didn't remember their appointments, and some that remembered canceled which makes for a sloooooow day. 

Saturday was a fun day. First I went out and did a long run. I just ran with a regular watch, not my garmin, and just run for time. It was a nice to not be focused on splits or how fast/slow I was going. I just had to run for time - distance was not important. I was laboring towards the end, but that was no real surprise since it was the longest I had run in a while. Then it was me and the Wingman off to Newark for the NJ Devils game. I love ice hockey and enjoy watching it live. Hopefully this season we'll get to a few more games.

Sunday we went for a longer ride. I hadn't been outside for a ride in a month so today was an effort for me. The last few rides were on the trainer so I had no wind to contend with. Today was a different story. There was a slight wind to contend with but I just kept it comfortable. When we got home, I took a quick shower and then a nap!! Been a while since I took a post-workout nap. My folks came out for a visit and we went out for an early dinner.

I will be able to dedicate more mentally to my training next season without the stress of school/studies. The time management aspect of working will be interesting, but I might make some changes that would benefit me. I am eager to take that next step in my training and racing. While the 2nd half of my season was not as good as the first, I am pleased with how my racing mindset has changed. What I am thinking during a race has evolved over the last year. I think I got a big boost from my late 2010 surge that catapulted me into 2011. My attitude going into each race was different that it ever was. I am looking forward to seeing what I can do in 2012 and hopefully springboard into a huge 2013 when I plan on going long again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What a week.......and I have a plan

I'm sitting here wiping my nose and sniffling. Haven't experienced a cold in over two years. This is pure misery. Today was the final straw. I had to take a generic brand of Nyquil to help me sleep last night. I finally managed to sleep through the night. It was the first night this week that I was able to sleep. I went to work as usual, but I had a tough time trying to talk. I decided early on to pack it in. I made it through the morning, finished my paperwork and left at lunchtime.

As soon as I got home I put on some 'couch clothes' and made myself comfy on the couch. It wasn't long before I was out like a light. I had a great nap and before I knew it the Wingman came home. We had dinner and he took me out to get a little ice cream to speed my recovery. What a guy!!

While home this afternoon, sniffling, I was thinking about how I am doing at work so far and what I need to improve on. I look at what other PT's at work write in their notes and compare my notes to see what else I could be looking for or testing. I have also decided I need an accent. Patient's seem to respond to Sinead's accent so I figure I will work on one. Obviously I cannot use an Irish accent since she has the market on that one, and I think an English accent is too close. Instead, I will hire Ian as my 'coach' and learn how to speak like an Aussie. I'll be like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I promise to be a good student and work hard. I think if I can develop a good Aussie accent it will also translate to a faster swim/bike/run split. We all know how fast they are. In Kona, Australian men won the last 5 world champion titles and an Australian female won last year and was runner up twice. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Hey Ian, let's make this happen!!

Tomorrow morning we're heading out to Lynbrook for a race and then having breakfast with our good friend Jennifer. The race won't be pretty since I havent' run all week, but I will get through it and then enjoy catching up with Jennifer. Every week we watch Modern Family together via Facebook. Hopefully soon we'll have a Modern Family viewing marathon of season 1. That would be awesome!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A brief update

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been. Almost two weeks ago, I left on Friday night for DC for a race with the Wingman. We flew down and settled into the hotel. The race was Sunday and I had a fast turnaround as I had to be back at work Monday morning. My flight back was 10p and I landed at 11p in Islip. By the time I got home it was close to midnight and I had to be at work for 8:30am. Needless to say when that alarm went off at 6a I was completely wiped out. I managed to get through the day, but when I got home I wanted to do nothing but sleep. I waited for the Wingman to come home (he flew home Monday evening with his cousin) and then I went to sleep.

I was constantly on the go with work all week. I was working in two different offices so I had to keep track of what days I was working in what office. This is hard to do when you are sleep deprived. And to make it worse, I had my first patient conflict to deal with on Tuesday. I won't go into details, but basically there was a patient that walked in and was having a meltdown in the reception area. Being the 'Supervising PT' in the office, I stepped in to deal with this person. By the time the whole situation was done and they left the building, I was mentally wiped out. This situation reared it's ugly head again on Thursday and, once again, I had to handle this person.

Friday I was back in Sag Harbor with my regular caseload. That evening I had to leave for NJ for a Foot Disorder: Biomechanics course. The Wingman was staying home. I made the drive Friday night and got to the hotel pretty late. I got some sleep and drove to the medical center for day one of a two day course. Within the first hour or two, I realized I learned that most of what I was taught in school was a bit outdated. The instructor for the course was outstanding and I was able to re-learn so much about the foot. The day went well and for dinner I was meeting up with a friend from school. We spent several hours chatting and before I knew it, it was late. Once again I was going to be sleep deprived. Day two of the course went well and by 5p I was back on the road home. I made it home at a reasonable hour (sort of) and somehow coasted my way through work on Monday.

I am so looking forward to not setting my alarm clock Saturday. It will be so nice to sleep in a little bit and not travel all over the place. Sunday we have a race, but it's a local one. Thank goodness!! I have so much to do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crushing Dreams and a Beatdown at the Ridley

This past weekend I made my return to the Ridley 5k after a 1 year hiatus. I've done this race every year since 2002 but last year the Army 10 Miler conflicted with it. On Saturday morning I lined up for the 5k.

The main road the race starts and finishes on was ripped up for repaving so that meant taking it easy on the way out and back. But once off that road, it was all out. When the gun went off, I started out at a comfortable pace as I made my way down 25. The crowd fanned out quickly and I had some room to run. I had a race planned the next day so I knew this would not be an 'all out' effort. The turn off came quickly and I was running well.

Before I knew it I was coming up on the 1 mile marker. Ahead of me I saw a small runner. At most she came up to my waist. She was wearing a pink shirt with shorts that had matching trim. She looked like a child of one of the central american farm workers up here. On a whole, they are short people so she could be a 7 year old or a grown woman in my age group. Either way, I had to keep her close. As I came up along side her, we established eye contact. I taunted encouraged her by giving a thumbs up and said "good job". She took this as a challenge and ran ahead of me. I smiled knowing full well she was about to get a beatdown by me. I let her go a little but knowing she couldn't hold on. I maintained my speed and quickly came back to her. This time I didn't look directly at her, but I could see out of the corner of my she was looking at me. I mumbled "hasta la vista, baby" and put down the hammer. At this point I had 2 miles to put her away. There would be a few opportunities on the course to judge how far ahead I was.

The first roundabout came up and as I went around a small turnaround I didn't see her. For all I knew she was right behind me. I looked for her as I went up the road and still didn't see her. That meant at this time she was still not too far behind. I was running scared here. I didn't want to have this race end in a showdown. I turned down Riverside Drive and headed towards the next turnaround. After I turned around the traffic cone, I looked for my prey. She was a good distance behind me now. I knew if I didn't slow down, the crushing of her dreams would be complete.

I kept up my pace and was nearing the finish line. I made the final turn off 25 and headed to the finish line triumphant!! I kept my eye on the clock and saw my victim making her way up the road. She wound up finishing ~3 minutes behind me. When I looked up the results later, I saw that she was 7 years old. It's never too early to crush the dreams of a child. Ah, I love the smell of a good beatdown, smells like victory!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fulfilling a Promise

Last year at this time I was doing some fund raising for my cousin Michael's medical bills as he was about to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant after a relapse of his leukemia. When I brought him the money I told him when he was well enough he had to run a race with me. He promised we would run together. Sadly, Michael passed away in March and we never had our run. After his wake his mother said they wanted to do a race with me like Michael had promised. I searched the web for something in the fall and found something that could get everyone involved.

Fast forward to yesterday and Wingman and I headed out to East Brunswick, NJ. We arrived at Cathy and Paul's house in the morning. Carolyn and her boys, Danny and Nico, and Rosanna and her daughter Juliana came to Cathy's house before the race. Even my aunt Katherine tagged along. We formed a caravan and drove to the race start. We were missing my cousin Cindy because she had to work and couldn't get out of it, but she sent her husband Jim and their daughters Kathryn and Lauren. Michael had plenty of people representing him.

This event had a few races - a kids pumpkin dash, 1 mile fun run, 5k and 10k. We were split between the 1 miler and 5k. Carolyn was the official photographer for the 5k race. Carolyn, Aunt Katherine, Cathy, Rosanna, Juliana, Danny, and Nico rounded out the cheering squad after their 1 mile fun run.

The course was a simple out and back. It gave us all plenty of opportunity to see each other on the course and cheer each other on. I have to say I was so proud to see Kathryn and Lauren running out there. The Wingman saw Kathryn running on her own and doubled back to run with her and coach her to the finish. Jim and Paul stayed with Lauren and got her through the race.

Overall it was a great family event. I was so grateful to everyone that stepped up to help Michael with his promise. It truly made my day and next year we are all planning to do this again!!

Lauren and Kathryn before the race. Clearly someone
is proud of her race number!

 Wingman and Danny finishing up the 1 mile fun run

 Danny making some adjustments to his race shirt

Carolyn trying to give the illusion she's 
running in with Nico

 Cousin Cathy and Aunt Katherine

 Our cheering squad, ready to go!
Nico, Danny, Juliana and Rosanna

 Carolyn's foot........

Kathryn finishing her 1st 5k under the 
watchful eye of Coach Wingman


 Paul, Jim and Lauren. Seriously, she gets
major style points for this finish!!

 Someday my hair will bounce this nicely when I run

The whole crew!!

Michael, your family came through for you yesterday, 
but I know you were there running with all of us.
Thank you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hello small chain ring, so nice to meet you.......

My off season has begun so I am not training for anything. But I still enjoy getting out and riding. Today I had plans to head out with Wynn and Crazy Mark for a ~3 hour ride. I had an appointment at noon up island so I told Wynn we needed to be on the road at 7a. They were more than happy to oblige. Wynn had a route picked out that would hopefully shelter us from most of the wind blowing out there this morning.

I drove to Wynn's house and Crazy Mark was already there. We chatted in the kitchen for a few minutes with Teresa and then it was time to head out. At 7a, it's not quite light out, but it's not dark either. We must have looked like a strange site wearing sunglasses, but before long it was pretty light out. We zipped along the back roads heading west towards Middle Island. The usually quiet roads were busy with detoured traffic from the LIE. There must have been an accident or some kind of closure to warrant all the cars we saw.

The roads were mostly flat until we were up in Middle Island and heading north from there. Usually I am used to flat land riding, but this was considered hilly to me. I wasted no time in dropping down into my small chain ring. I haven't been on this ring in ages. And today I spent a good deal of time in it. Wynn was up ahead and Crazy Mark and I were bringing up the rear.

Rocky Point was the last hilly area I rode through. I could feel the fatigue setting in. It's been a month since I rode more than 1.5 hours. My last long ride (3 hrs) was my race in September. I also had to keep one eye on the clock too. When we got to Wading River, they turned up north to add on a little more and I bid them farewell and headed back to Wynn's house. The ride back was tough. I was alone to ride into the wind. I had no one to take turns blocking the wind. I just kept my head down and pedaled hard.

Before I knew it I was back in Wynn's development. I had completely forgotten about the big hill to get to his house. Crap. Once again, I dropped down onto my new best friend the small chain ring, and got up. I packed the bike into the car and went inside to say goodbye to Teresa. She graciously have me a few brownie cupcakes and I made quick work of one of them. Sooooo good after a long ride.

I really enjoyed the route today and am looking forward to getting back out there again soon. Group rides in the fall are so much fun!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mission Report: Army 10 Miler

My latest mission was the Army 10 Miler down in DC. My training has been sporadic to say the least due to a lingering leg injury. It was getting better and I was ramping up my mileage again slowly, but then I was sick for a week, and when I returned to running, the leg pain started coming back. I opted for a new pair of running shoes and tried some taping during the week. It seemed to keep the pain away so I had my fingers crossed for the race. My longest run going into it was ~7.35 miles so no matter how you slice it, this was going to be a tough race. The last two miles are tough to begin with, but if you are covering them with a lack of run fitness, it has the makings for a brutal morning.

Friday night Wingman and I departed for Washington, DC. We got in pretty late and went straight to the hotel and to sleep. Saturday morning we got up and made our way to the expo to pick up our race packet. I also had to think about what weapons I was going to use for this race. Would a standard military rifle do?

Or should I bring the rocket launcher?

Or do I just go with a simple Black Hawk?

The Black Hawk is very impressive in person

Instead I just opted for a simple pair of Asics:

Weapon of choice for the Army 10 Miler

The race changed slightly this year. The start and finish lines were moved to different areas of the highway. Just getting to the Pentagon was a near nightmare. The Metro was hardly running any trains so we had to wait almost 20 minutes. Once we got to our stop, we had to wait almost 15 minutes just to exit the station. Once above ground, we dropped off our bags and made our way down the highway to the start. It was crowded so I gestured to the Wingman to follow me. 

Once we got up to the race start, I relaxed knowing we were now settled in.  Since I haven't trained 100% for this, it was just going to be a 'Sunday run' and not a race. The problem is, once that cannon goes off, I can't control what the HOTS will do. I knew that I could get to the 6 or 7 mile marker comfortably, it's the last 3 miles that had me worried. 

After the Star Spangled Banner was sung, the cannon went off and my mission began. I went up the road about 1.5 clicks and turned off on an exit ramp to get onto the Arlington Memorial Bridge. This bridge is like a minefield for me. I had to watch every step I took. The bridge is all cobblestone and one wrong step could tweak my shin splint and end my mission right there. I followed a 1.5 foot wide solid cement border along the edge of the bridge. Once I secured the bridge, I circled around the Lincoln Memorial. I know this part of the course like the back of my hand. I knew which lanes to be in to prepare for the turns. I made sure not to follow anyone to closely so I could see the pavement at all times. Last thing I needed was a pothole or rough road surface. I also avoided stepping up onto curbs. I turned onto Constitution Ave and ran past the Federal Reserve building. After a sharp left, it was an uphill climb towards the Watergate Complex. I swear I shed a tear every year I go past. 

Another sharp u-turn and I came around the back side of Watergate and then along the Kennedy Center. I was 3 miles in and was making good time so far. I started to think that if I could put in a few fast miles, then maybe I can minimize the damage late in the race. But for now, I just kept my focus on feeling good. 

Before I knew it my Garmin buzzed I noticed that I was 4 miles in and that each mile time was almost identical which means I was running very even splits. I knew I would be able to rendezvous at the 5 mile time check with plenty of time to spare to keep the mission alive. Once I crossed the timing mat I was running down Independence Ave and along the National Mall. The streets are heavily lined with spectators so I knew I had to keep moving fast. I turned at the American Indian Museum (seriously, there is a museum for everything in DC, so PC down there) and made the turnaround. The only glitch so far was not being able to open my gel packet. I fought hard with it and finally got it open and swallowed it down quickly. 

By now I was 7 miles in and entering no-man's land. It's a slight uphill back up Independence Ave so I made sure I didn't gun it. Every step now was in uncharted territory. Fatigue, my enemy, was waiting for me with every step I took. It was getting warm out and I could feel my eyes burning from the salty sweat running down my face. Would my mission be in jeopardy? With each buzz of the Garmin, I reviewed the split. I was still making decent time, but I knew the dreaded highway awaited me. This highway is tough because it's constantly rolling. You're up, you're down, you're up, down, etc. It really wears away at you if you went out really hard (or haven't run more than 7 miles in a few months). 

Mentally, I was calculating how many more minutes I had to run. After you cross the George Washington Memorial Bridge, you have 1 mile to go. I knew this was almost over. I finally made my way up the last hill on the highway and then raced downhill to the Pentagon. In years past, this means your race is almost over. But with the new course, you still have ~ 1/2 mile to go. This was the longest half mile of my life. I was doing the math and looking for visual contact of the finish line. Once I had it in my sight, I ran hard to try and salvage a course PR. I flew across the line and managed to set a course PR by 16 seconds. It was nowhere near my 10 mile PR, but the lack of running and this being a tough course made that impossible. 

Wingman and I flew back to NY tonight and for the most part my legs feel fine. The only thing is it feels like I was hit in the calves with a baseball bat. Go figure.........

My race season has officially come to a close. The rest of the fall season are short, fun races to help me get back some speed and fitness. I need to sit down with myself over the next few days and figure out what I want from next season.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's like a roller coaster.......

What a long week. It all started last weekend with my uncle coming to NY from SF for a visit. I had the weekend planned out, then we had another thing to deal with. The Wingman's cousin passed away after battling pneumonia and we were back and forth all weekend. Saturday morning I went to my mom's house to visit my uncle, then the afternoon we went to the wake, back to my mom's Saturday evening for dinner. I got home a little late and got my things together for my race the next morning. I think I got ~5 hours of sleep.

When the alarm went off I got up, ate, showered and went to my race. It wasn't until I got to the race site that I realized I left my helmet home on the table. I was ready to bail on the race and head home when I ran into Mary Ellen and she found a helmet for me to use. The race was over pretty quick. It was all high speed, short effort stuff. No time to think, just go go go. It made for a great workout! After the race, I changed and drove to my mother's house to see my uncle before he left for the airport. Then I drove home, showered, and changed for the wake. I was exhausted at this point. I slept in the car as Wingman drove to the funeral home. Between the two wake sessions, we went out to dinner. I think we finally left the funeral home after 9p. That's a long day for me - up at 3:45a and in bed well after 10p.

Monday was the wake. I shifted my work hours to go to the church in the morning and work the afternoon. But as soon as I woke up Monday, I felt something was off. I came into contact with quite a few people and I cringed all weekend as I could feel germs all over the place. I was hoping whatever it was would pass me by. But I went into defcon 5 and started eating zinc lozenges like they were candy. It wasn't long before my taste buds could only taste zinc no matter what I was eating. I also upped my vitamin C intake. This was an all out assault on the germs. Whatever took hold, didn't have much of a foothold on me. I had some sniffles and felt run down from no rest over the weekend. It impacted my workouts for the week. I am in crunch mode for the Army 10 Miler. I opted to rest a few days and let my body get a break. It's been 2 years since I've had a cold and this one was mild compared to the last one I had. I think the zinc helped me and taking it easy didn't hurt either.

It was a tough week at work. When I'm not feeling well, I can get crabby. We had to explain the Medicare regulations regarding PT visits to patients and it was like talking to a wall at times. I kept my composure, but it reminded me that in my perfect employment world, I would prefer not to work with most geriatric patients. I am fortunate that I have a few patients on my caseload that are fun to work with. I really get to stretch my brain with them between hands-on manual therapy and creative exercises. Now that I no longer have to study, I've been doing some reading on various treatments. Today's topic was neck pain and looking at the evidence out there to help me plan treatments for patients. I'll try to put something together over the next few days to hand out at work.

My weekend workouts fell short of my goals. I had a long run planned for Saturday, but I had to cut it a little short. I was running on fumes after being sick this week. It will leave me with a gaping hole for long run training as I head into the Army 10 Miler. I am heading into this race undertrained. As a precaution I am going to tape my leg to support my recovering shin splint. I have no idea how my leg will hold up over 10 miles so I'm better off being safe than sorry. Today the Wingman and I went out for a 2 hour ride. About halfway in he got a flat from a piece of metal. When he took his spare tube out, we realized the valvestems were too short. I gave him my spare tube with the thought of "we both couldn't possibly flat on the same ride." Well, guess what? I flatted. Damn nail in the tire. I now had no spare. I sent the Wingman home and I began the walk of shame. I knew it would be ~40 minutes before I would see him again and I was afraid of sitting around and feeling cold. I walked a bit up the road and decided to sit on a guard rail in the sun and wait. I saw the Wingman drive towards me so I went near the shoulder to wave to him my new location. And he kept on driving...........

He didn't see me because he was trying to pass a slow driver. I called him on the cellphone and told him to turn around and come back. He picked me up and we headed home. Tomorrow we will deal with patching two tires and tubes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Roundup

This was a busy weekend. Saturday morning the Wingman and I went for a ride with Wynn & Teresa. We went out to Mattituck and had a planned breakfast stop. But first up is my favorite part of the ride: the oil tanks. It's not the tanks I like, but the hills over there. Wynn and I were riding side by side chatting like a couple of old ladies and before I knew it, we were up the hill. Once you make the first climb, it's like a roller coaster up and down the rest of the way. Your momentum carries you over the smaller hills and you can power down the hills. I got down into a crouched position to minimize the wind resistance and let 'er rip!! After the hills we made a pitstop at the beach. It almost turned into a big mistake. Immediately we smelled bacon and looked to see where the Wingman was. We turned to him said "NO." I was afraid he was going to storm the people that were cooking there and eat their bacon.

Once we left the beach we had another hill to climb to get up to Sound Ave. We lucked out and had no traffic to deal with getting across the road. From here we rode for a few miles and made our way to Mattituck for breakfast. I ordered oatmeal with fruit and man oh man was it good. It hit the spot and I knew it wouldn't haunt me for the ride home. As always, the conversation was great and before we knew it, it was time to head home. Wingman and I had to get home to shower and meet up with some of my friends in Huntington.

We bid Wynn & Teresa farewell and went a more direct route home to save time. We were fortunate to have a slight tailwind, but needless to say it was a hammerfest going home. I wanted to get a good workout in for the second half of the ride and I think we succeeded.

We got home, quickly showered, and drove up island to Huntington to the Cheesecake Factory. It was a farewell luncheon for my friend who will be moving out of state next month :-( The 3 of us spent a lot of time together studying and I think we were an effective group. Each one of us brought something different to the table. It was great to get together one last time. I think we spent over 3 hours in the restaurant talking. I will certainly miss our conversations, as well as RAM and the CLWBIC.....

Sunday I had a long run planned. Since I am getting back into running long, I'm not too concerned about my speed right now. I think I'm about 20 seconds slower per mile on the long runs then where I was at in the spring before it warmed up. The most important thing was to feel good the entire run. And I did.

When I got home, Wingman went out for his run. I planned on making chili for the football games on TV. First, I was in a celebratory mood and went out to Williams-Sonoma and bought a sweet new pot. I then went to the supermarket to pickup the missing ingredients for the chili. When I got home I went to work whipping up a batch of chili. I think it could very well last the week! The great thing about it is if you let it sit around long enough, it gets hotter. Can't wait.

I'm heading into my last week of tri training. One more race this season and then it's the offseason for me. I have some goals for the offseason and it's time to get to work on them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Badges?!?! We don't need no stinkin' badges......

This summer saw many changes to my race schedule. First I was sidelined from running by a shin splint. I had to scramble and find a race of equal swim/bike distance to my "A" race, but without a run (referred to as Aquabike or Aquavelo). Originally I was going to race in Williamsburgh, VA but instead I found myself in southern NJ to put an exclamation point on the end of my season. Or so I thought.......

We had a tropical storm in NY two weeks ago and as part of cleaning up the yard and bringing the BBQ back onto the deck, I hurt my back. I have a cranky SI joint to begin with, but one false move while lifting the BBQ and I really threw it out. I was hobbled for two days and sought treatment from two of the best manual therapists I know - Vinny and Sinead. They did their best to free me up, but something like this doesn't heal overnight. It took some time for the inflammation to calm down. When the race rolled around Saturday morning I was feeling better, but not near 100%.

Wingman did his usual awesome job of putting my race number on the bike. He is meticulous when it comes to cutting down the number to the right size and can attach it smoothly so it doesn't interfere with me.

The Beast - locked, loaded, and ready to roll

We got to the race venue and it was a little dark. It is a really small race that is very low key. They cap it at 350 athletes so it's never really crowded on the course. It's so low key, that you can rack your bike anywhere in transition you want. There were no assigned racks. I really wasn't concerned about location so I found a spot on the end of a rack near the side fence. I dropped off my bag and hit the port-a-john. The line was short so I wasn't there long. Up next was body marking. I noticed inside my race packet they give you your race number to put on your arm yourself. It's basically a temporary tattoo. It really looks sharp to have a nice clean number on your arm. The only marking they do is put your age and division on your calf. Since I was in the aquavelo division, I had a giant A on the back of my calf. And I know that A is for AWESOME!! After the marking I went back to transition to setup my stuff. Since I wasn't running there wasn't much to setup. Just my bike shoes, jersey, helmet and sunglasses.

Badges?!?! We don't need no stinkin' badges.......

I grabbed my wetsuit and walked to the beach with the Wingman. As soon as I put on the wetsuit, my back felt great. It compressed my pelvis enough to support it. Had I known how good I would feel I would have worn the wetsuit all week. I got into the water to warm up. First thing I noticed was the color of the water. Like I told my friend Kari, it looked like the color of iced tea and I don't mean that as a compliment. Her mother told me that was because of the high levels of iron in the water. Well, if I had an iron deficiency issue prior to the swim, this would take care of it.

The water temp was nice and I couldn't wait to get started. I was looking forward to putting down the hammer on the bike and the swim was acting as a warmup. There were three waves and I was in the last one. When it was my turn to enter the water, I tried to line up in a good spot - not too far back, not too far forward. When the siren went off, I went into the water and started my swim. First thing I noticed was it was crowded. The first turn was probably 100 yards out so I took it easy and then after the turn I tried to find my line. I could see that I was swimming in a pack of women. They were lined up off my right shoulder and trying to push me left. I held my line, but it was a very physical swim. I didn't want to expend too much energy trying to break loose too early since there was another pack ahead. Each time I came to a buoy they tried to push me into the buoy. I would use my left arm to push the buoy aside so I could get through. At times I could also feel someone swimming across my legs. WTF?!?!  It wasn't like they would hit my leg with an arm. They would swim over my legs. That forced me to increase my kicking a little to get the point across that I was not to be used as a shortcut.

I kept my stroke nice and steady and well before the swim turn around I had lost the women near me. They fell back and now I had some room to swim. When I reached the turn around, it was setup like a u-turn. What a disaster that was. It really should have been two left turns instead of one. Clearly people on the swim lost their minds at the turn and did a breast stroke to get around. I swam a little wide to keep up my pace and not slow down. I still felt great in the water. I made every effort to not swallow water since who knows what's in Jersey water. At some point on the return trip I noticed that I was alone in the water. I looked around to be sure that I was still on course. I could see that I was fine and getting closer to the beach. I kept up my stroke pace and before I knew it I was standing up to exit the water. I peeked at my watch and saw I had a decent swim time. It was the 2nd fastest time in four half iron distance swims so I was pretty happy. Especially since this was the most physical swim I've ever participated in.

I eased my way into T1. I didn't want to risk running and jarring my back. I got to my rack and got the wetsuit off. I wanted to change into a cycling jersey instead of a tri top for the ride. I never realized just how hard it was to get a top over a wet body. I finally won the battle and finished my transition. I got out to the bike mount area and hopped on to start the ride.

Just starting the bike ride and I'm sucking my gut in to support my back

Due to the storm two weeks ago, the race director had to change to bike course from a one loop to a two loop course. As part of the change, the length increased from 56 to ~57.5 miles. The course is relatively flat and my goal was to use the first loop to warm up and check out the course and then really bring it home on the second loop. I felt great on the course. The road conditions were decent and there was virtually no wind. I settled into my aeroposition and kept an ear out for my alerts. I have my bike computer set to alert me for every lap. I defined a lap as 5 miles which, depending on my speed, is anywhere from 15 to 16 minutes. Each time the lap alert went off I took a drink or had something to eat. I knew if I was going to have a good bike split and really drop the hammer I would have to nail my nutrition.

I found myself passing quite a few people and hardly getting passed. I was feeling strong and powerful on the ride. I looked over my power numbers and saw that I was far from burning myself out. What was strange was that I was riding pretty fast, but my numbers weren't up where they usually were. I was wearing an aero helmet and that would save you some watts but I think with my back issues, I was not going to generate as much power as I usually do. I just kept my focus on the road ahead and pacing myself.

I had a couple of lapses in focus on the bike course. At one point I settled behind some guy (3 bike lengths of course) and decided to sit back. I knew I could be going faster, but for some reason I didn't feel aggressive enough to do it. Finally after ~2 miles I passed him and moved on. I was riding alone for a few more miles and came upon a few more riders. I carefully passed each one, but the final guy must have had a bone to pick. I was riding along and noticed a shadow. He was right on my wheel. Literally. I looked back two or three times at him so he would know I was aware of his wheel sucking, but he clearly didn't care. I put out a big surge for ~1/2 a mile, but he stayed with me. Well, just short of turning my head and yelling at him, I grabbed my drink bottle and took a sip. Then I sprayed it over my shoulder at him. I don't think he took too kindly too it and before I knew it he passed me and so did another rider. Now he latched onto her wheel. I could see just how close he was to her. There was less than one foot between their wheels. Again, another mental lapse as I just sat back and watched. Finally I decided enough was enough and put out another surge and passed the two riders. I was afraid of picking up the drafter again, but he didn't follow. 

One mile after the pass I looked back and saw that I was alone again. I kept cruising and before I knew it  I was near the turnaround to begin the second loop. I knew I had to put up or shut up now. As I made my way out again, I tried to remember the landmarks from the first loop. Sadly, nothing looked familiar and now I had a bit of a headwind. I did know that when I got to ~44 miles (halfway mark of the 2nd loop), I was home free. I looked down and saw that I was at mile 30. Not even close. Now my ride piriformis was screaming out at me. I was trying to figure a way to stretch it out without stopping on the side of the road. With the clipless pedals, it's hard to rotate my legs around to really get a good stretch. I unclipped at one point and wiggled my hip around to try to stretch it out. No luck. At this point I resigned myself to just finishing up and then after I dismount working it out. Onward ho............

I could feel fatigue start to settle in. Mentally I needed a pick-me-up. Usually I have a musical soundtrack in my head to keep me going. Oddly enough the only song that came to my head was a downer.

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore
It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
I feel I'm knocking on heaven's door

I had no idea what was happening. I think the stress of my summer was getting to me. Mentally I was fatigued and was running out of steam. My legs felt good, but it was hard to keep my focus. I started to calculate my calorie intake for the ride and I was spot on with my regular needs. My power numbers were still in a good range so I wasn't bonking. I didn't feel hungry but took in a few extra calories just in case I was starting to get low.

I looked down at the mileage and saw I was at mile 50. Only 7.5 miles to go. I did some quick math in my head to see how many minutes it would be. I also played a game in my head. I imagined various points along my rides at home and tried to picture where I would be if I was riding at home. This little game worked fine. When I got to the turnaround marker from the 1st loop, I was directed to go straight. At this point I saw I was alone on the course. No riders were in front of me. Now I was nervous about going off course. Honestly I had no idea what the rest of the course looked like. Thank goodness for the volunteers on course. They guided me along. I looked ahead and saw the sign for the school parking lot we parked in earlier that morning. Now I knew I was home free. 

The final stretch........

I headed towards the dismount area and panic set in. I've pretty much been in the aero position the entire ride and now I have to stand up. My lower back had stiffened up and that made getting off the bike a challenge. I unclipped and stood there bent over. I lowered the bike slowly to the side and attempted to swing my leg around. I performed the most delicate dismount anyone has ever seen. Then I walked in looking something like this:

After the bike dismount

I got into the transition area and collected my medal. Once at the rack I stood there trying to relax and Wingman snapped a photo.

The most 'upright' I'd been in the last 3 hours

At the end of the race I was allowed to take my stuff out of transition right away. We brought it back to the car and then sat in the air conditioning for a while until the results were posted. After the last biker was in, they posted the results from the aquavelo division. According to the sheet I placed 2nd in my age group. When they announced the awards, the woman that came in 1st in my division was actually 2nd female overall. Since you can't double dip (overall and age group) on the awards, I won my age group. When I looked at the results online later that evening, I could see they still listed her as 2nd overall and 1st in the division. How can they steal my thunder?!?!? 

Another race, another prize....

My race went well, but I am a little disappointed with my lack of aggression at times on the bike due to mental lapses. I just wasn't sharp 100% of the time out there and that can't happen again if I want to be successful. I am pleased with the swim effort. It was a rough swim. The most physical I've ever been involved in and I didn't back down. I held my position in the water and never let up.

Since I don't want to end my tri season on a whimper, I have one more short sprint later this month. Then the offseason begins. Despite not being able to race the half iron distance, it was a successful season for me. I performed well in all races I was in.........

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Riding and a runaway horse

This past weekend the Wingman and I joined Ian and Joan (aka The B-Train) in Hadley, MA for "The Farm Ride". We originally were going to do the century ride (100 miles) but my mileage just hasn't been anywhere near that. It would be a game time decision as to what distance we would do.

Friday night we took the ferry from Orient and then drove from CT to MA. We arranged to meet The B-Train for breakfast in the morning, quickly checked in and went to sleep. The next morning we got up and met then down in the lobby for breakfast. We got up to speed about the course as they had done a short ride the day before. After breakfast we followed them to the bike start. The start is very informal. You basically just check in and start whenever you are ready.

We rolled out with cue sheets in hand. The B-Train led the way. The B-Train is what I call Ian and Joan onboard the tandem. Watching them ride is like watching a train roll by - smooth precision pedaling. As we were making the exit from the campus onto the road The B-Trian pulled ahead. The Wingman and I worked together to bridge the gap to get back to the tandem. We came upon some railroad tracks and I managed to launch a water bottle from it's cage on the frame. Wingman and I stopped to pick it up and that wound up being the last we'd see of The B-Train for quite some time.

After we picked up the bottle we decided to keep riding our pace and hope that we'd meet up at the first rest stop. We followed the markings on the ground and enjoyed the sights along the way. I wound up following some old-school cyclist. This guy was riding a touring bike and his shifters were on the ends of his drops. I was riding close but not too close. Good thing because Old-School liked to bunny hop the big bumps in the road. If I rode too close I wouldn't have too much time to react to obstacles in the road. At some point he pulled over to help a group change a tire so we continued on. We rode for a little while with another group, but it was quite haphazard. They couldn't decide what speed to ride. They'd be up to 20mph, then drop quickly to 15 requiring me to jam on the brakes. The guy in front of me would call out "slowing" but I really wanted to ride alongside him and say "Do you seriously think I can hear you when you shout from on front of me?" But I opted not to.

There are many farms and wide open fields on this ride. We passed a home on our left when something caught my eye. I thought a deer was running on the side of the road, but when I turned my head to look I realized it was a large HORSE on the loose. I have to admit that I puckered up a bit (and I don't mean my mouth). I was almost paralyzed with fear that the horse was going to run out into the road right in front of me. Oh man, if I ran into that horse, that might have actually topped my "I hit some kids, I'll tell you about it later" story. But lucky for me the horse ran along the side of the road and left us cyclists alone. Phew!! Bullet dodged.

We made our way to the 1st rest stop and didn't see The B-Train there. I hit the ladies room and then grabbed some fruit for a snack. We topped off our bottles and hung around a bit. A few minutes later we saw The B-Train roll in. We were puzzled as to how we were ahead of them since we never saw them out there after we separated, but they stopped a few times along the way. We exchanged a few stories and then headed out for the next leg.

Wingman and I rode a little longer with the tandem this time. We were riding in a large group for a while and when we came upon a hill, that was the end of it. The B-Train powered up the hill like they were riding on a flat road. I was stuck in some traffic and couldn't break away. Once again, we lost contact with the tandem. Wingman wanted to work together to bridge the gap, but I couldn't break free from the pack I was in. We did work together to break out into a smaller group that we stayed with until the next rest stop. We rode along at a nice pace but before I knew it I was getting pretty hungry. I was eagerly awaiting the next rest stop.

When we pulled in, I immediately scanned the area for food. They had pie but I wanted something more than that. I made a beeline for the table with the peanut butter and jelly. I grabbed two slices of wheat bread and the first thing I noticed was "mmm, this bread is soft. I like soft bread."  Then I smothered it with PB&J. I took a bite and was immediately happy, Wingman saw that I was eating a sandwich. He looked at me and then turned away. When he turned back the sandwich was gone. He asked me "did you just eat that sandwich?" and I sheepishly replied "yes" and looked down in shame. I made that sandwich disappear faster than a David Copperfield trick. After that I loaded my bottles again and we made our way out.

We decided earlier to bag the century and ride the 70 mile route. I just wasn't feeling a 100 miles in my legs today. The last leg of this ride was challenging. It had a short, steep hill and many miles of bike paths. We got up and over the hill no problem but the bike path was another story. It was far from smooth and incredibly boring. I think we easily rode ~8 miles of the path.  It was bumps galore and my kidneys were bouncing up and down and my eyeballs were vibrating. I couldn't wait to get off the path. Add this to the list of reasons I hate the state of MA.

We finally made our way onto solid roadway again and were on our way to the last rest stop. We stopped in and had some burgers and corn. We chatted we a few others from the ride and then decided to head out for the last few miles back to the campus parking lot where our car was. It was brutal. My legs were tired from the last stop. If we had just skipped the stop I would have been fine, but the stop and start was tough. The whole ride was ~74 miles. We slowly made it back to the car and the Wingman loaded our stuff into the car. We went back to the hotel to shower and clean up for dinner.

I think our dinner easily surpassed the ride. Ian and Joan had dinner Friday night at a local restaurant and we went back Saturday. Oh man, that was a great dinner. Each entree came with a giant popover. I swear it was the size of my head!! The dinner was great and so was the company. We had breakfast at the hotel Sunday morning and then we departed for the ferry ride home. We promised that next time we'd do the whole hundred.

The B-Train and the Wingman

The Wingman 

No farm ride is complete without a tractor

A cow field

One of our last bridge crossings

Riding at the back of the pack on the bike path

The reward for our ride - Popovers!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What a week

The last week has been a super busy one. First, I took a week off from running to try to rest my weary leg. I was at the point where I was about 50 days out from my big race of the season and I opted to stop running for a week. Losing a week of running would impact my run fitness a little, but if I kept running I risked making the injury worse and not even getting to the starting line. And it wound up being a perfect week to take off as I started my new job and it felt like a baptism by fire. It's an understatement to say I was busy. Plus I was meeting with my study group during the week so there was no rest for the weary.

With no running on the schedule, there were extra bike workouts on the schedule. On Saturday, Wingman and I went out for the long ride. I hadn't been on the road bike in a while and with the heat I wanted to be comfortable. The temperature and humidity would be brutal in the afternoon so we went out early to try to beat the heat. The air was so thick I could hardly breathe. The ride called for an easy first half and faster second half. Around the halfway point we stopped at a 7-11 and I got a slurpee to cool me off. Each sip brought on a brainfreeze no matter how slow I tried to sip.

After our pitstop we motored on. I felt stronger as the ride went on. I was pushing the pace on the way home with Wingman in tow. We were about 2 miles from home when I heard the Wingman calling out from behind me. I looked behind me and noticed he was dropping back. I asked him to repeat what he said. What he said and what I heard were two very different things.

He said: "I have a flat. Go get the car."
I heard: "You're fat. Go get the car."

No joke. That's what I thought I heard. Now, I know he would never say that but it was pretty funny to hear it. I raced home and drove back out to pick him up. When he got into the Element, I told him what I thought I heard. It became a running joke throughout the weekend.

Sunday morning brought on more riding. I picked a route that was about as hilly as you will get out here. At the first climb I started my spinning to get up. My goal was to spin up and not grind up like I usually do. I focused on my cadence and just put my head down. I saw the Wingman go by. I picked up my cadence and next thing I knew I was passing him on the way up. Near the top I looked back to see where he was and I could see that I was about to claim the "KOM" polka dot jersey. Once over the top I went into an easy spin to recover. We had a few miles before the next incline. By the time we got to the incline, I did the same as the previous hill, found a good gear where I could spin and power myself up. Looks like my week in NH and ME paid off on the hills. The rest of the ride was nice and quiet and I took it easy coming home. I had another easy ride scheduled for Monday and I kept that ride easy.

I had my first run tonight in over a week. When I got home from work I was getting ready to change when I heard rumbling outside. Before I knew it, there was a massive downpour. I thought about getting on the treadmill, but decided to wait out the rain. In less than 10 minutes the rain stopped and I went out for my run. I felt almost light on my feet at the start, but made sure I was holding back. It was supposed to be an easy run to test my leg. For the most part the leg felt good. Every once in a while I would feel a quick jab, but it would last for a split second and then it was gone. I got a little faster as the run went on, but I was a little on the slow side. In the grand scheme of things, I was happy with how the run turned out. I'll re-assess how I feel tomorrow to be sure it's still OK, but tonight's run was definitely progress!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking this mother down

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

This morning the Wingman and I got up early to head out to Montauk for another triathlon. I've done this race every year since 2005, with one exception (2006). It's such a great venue to race at and the weather is pretty much perfect every year. The setup is a little tricky with two different transition areas, but with some help from the Wingman, I get my stuff setup easily and stress-free on race mornings. The only thing weighing heavy on my mind is a lingering calf issue. I've been battling a shin splint on and off for over a month now and I have good days and bad days. Most of this week has been bad. I've been wearing a compression sleeve at night when I sleep and since this week has mostly been a recovery week, I've stayed off my feet as much as I could.

I decided to wear my sleeve for the race so my calf would feel good during the race. The 1/2 mile walk down the sand to the race start wasn't much of a help. I tried to minimize the twisting motion of my foot/ankle as I walked but I could feel a twinge every now and again. Once I got down to the starting point, I chatted with Wynn, Teresa, and Marty for a little bit. Then the Wingman joined us for a few. Before I knew it, it was time to get into the water for the start. The ocean was a little cool at first, but I quickly got warm. There was also a nice chop that we were swimming into as well. The saving grace was the underlying current that would carry us along. When the horn went off, I started off. At first I was in a little traffic jam, but I decided to take it easy a little to see if it would open up. My patience paid off and due mostly to the chop, I quickly found some open water to swim in. I've done a few open water swims with a chop similar to today so I had a rough idea how to time my strokes for the rise and fall of the chop. At times it was a little weird when I would look up to sight ahead and all I would see is a wall of water coming towards me. I think I was about a 1/3 of the way through the swim when I was actually thinking "This is kind of fun. I wonder if I can go back and do it again?" 

I think by the time I was 3/4 of the way done with the swim, the waters were calmer and I could see ahead of me. Oddly enough I noticed that there were very few swim caps of my color in front of me. I wound up finishing ahead of most of the people in my wave which is a huge victory for me since swimming is not my strength. Once I got out of the water I took a peek at my time. I was ~1 minute faster than last year. Oh boy, could this be the makings of a good race? Only time would tell.......

I made my way up the beach and into T1. I passed the Wingman who was sitting down on a rock not expecting me quite so soon. I waved hello and he cheered me on as I ran by. I got to my rack, stripped off the wetsuit and got ready to ride!! 

I grabbed the bike and set out on the bike course. There was a bit of bike traffic in front of me and I was kicking myself for not being 20 seconds faster in transition. Now I was stuck trying to maneuver around people. For ~3 miles I had to do various accelerations to try and get around people. I felt good on the bike and was pushing my pace. Every once in a while I would look down to see what my speed or cadence was. I didn't bother looking at power. I think maybe twice the entire time I looked at my average power. I zipped around Gosman's and decided to go for broke. I was feeling really good and wanted to see what I was capable of on this course. Before I knew it I was back on Montauk Hwy and making my way to the Lighthouse. Usually on this stretch of road, I tend to labor a little, but not today. I think I've really nailed my nutrition down. Even though it's a short course I still brought half a bottle of my drink out there with me. I'm not as fast as the uber people out there so a little swig here and there to keep my topped off doesn't hurt.

Up ahead I could see my nemesis looming. There is a big hill to climb about 2 miles from the park. Every year I struggle up this hill. It's a pretty sad sight to see my climb this hill. I am usually huffing and puffing my way up with my heart beating in my throat. But this year was different. I was spinning up easily and in a harder gear than in years past. Next thing I knew I was at the top and flying down the back side of the hill. Holy crap, who stole my old, crappy hill riding legs and replaced them with the climbing legs I had today? Now I was flying the rest of the way to the park. I looked down at the race time and started to think about a PR on the course. 

I got to T2 and switched out my shoes for the run. Before I left the transition I took another swig and told my calf to behave itself. I channeled my inner Jens Voigt and said "Shut up legs" and began my run. As soon as I hit the grassy hill, my left calf started to ache. I walked it up the hill and started to run when I was on solid ground. The usual spot of my pain didn't bother me, but I could feel a knot in my calf with each step. I tuned it out and kept moving one foot in front of the other. I had no idea where on the course Obi-Jen was and the last thing I needed was to have her see me walking at any time. I knew I would find my rhythm quickly, but I forgot that the run course is ever so slightly uphill on the way in and you are rewarded with the downhill on the way out. The other thing I forgot is just how long it seems to take to get to the turnaround point. I saw Wynn running along with his laser focus and when I said hello it almost seemed to startle him.

I kept my focus now on finishing strong. When I saw my time prior to starting the run I knew I had a course PR in the bag. The only thing would be if I completely imploded on the run course or a catastrophic injury. I got to the turnaround and was never happier to be heading out of the park. I took advantage of the downward slopes for free speed and overall, my foot turnover was increasing. I was feeling a little stronger as the run went on. As I exited the park I saw Teresa and cheered her on. 

Now I made my way to the road and the uphill finish. I did my best to get up the hill as quick as I could. The only thing going through my head was the faster I got up the hill, the faster the race would be over. When I crossed the line I stopped my watch and was shocked at what I saw. I had an incredible PR. I shaved 13 minutes off the PR I set last year. Most of the time came off the blistering pace I set on the bike and some more came from the run.

This race was a HUGE breakthrough for me. My bike average was ~2.5 mph faster than my previous best. I climbed the hill like it was a bump in the road. I powered through the last 2 miles with plenty of energy. I held it together on the run. There are always things I find in the race that I could work on for next time, but overall I have to say I am finally pleased with my race performance. The results are proof that Obi-Jen's planning and training are taking hold. The pieces are starting to come together as I hunker down for the heavy load coming up for my A race in September.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2/3rds of the way there.......

Today was day 2 of racing. Last night was the time trial and today was the 'international' triathlon. The distances were a little shorter than a traditional international race, but with the hills on the course it felt long to me. It was also the Wingman's first triathlon so I was nervous for him as well as trying to focus on my race.

We are staying really close to the race start so there is no need to drive over. We just make the 5 minute walk to the transition area with our stuff. First up was body marking then we made our way into transition to setup our stuff. After I was done with mine, I went over to the Wingman to check out his setup. We reviewed the in/out areas of the transition for the swim/bike/run segments. Before we knew it, it was time to line up for the swim time trial start.

The swim is in a very, very small lake so each racer goes in one at a time every 5 seconds. I had looked into the water earlier and could see there were small rocks in the water. In an effort to avoid the broken toe suffered in my last race, I knew I would go easy into the water. I wished the Wingman good luck and found my spot on the starting line. It took about 12 minutes before it was my turn and I stood at the top of the slope and when I was told to go, I ran down the slope and then slowly got into the water. As soon as I dropped down to swim, I realized the water felt FRIGID!!! I kept trying to swim but I felt so breathless from the cold water. They listed the temps as 70 degrees, but there was no way this area of the lake was 70. I just took it easy until I got a little warmer. At first I thought I made a mistake wearing the sleeveless wetsuit, but as soon as I got to the first turn buoy I was feeling better. The lake swim was weird as the water seemed to change temperatures in various sections. The swim itself is really short, only .25 miles so I was out in less than 10 minutes. Getting out was a challenge too. Plenty of rocks under foot made it a challenge.

I made my way up the slope towards the transition area. I passed up on the wetsuit strippers and got to my rack and got the wetsuit off quickly. I put on my socks, bike shoes, shades, helmet, and grabbed the bike. Once out of transition I mounted the bike and started my 20.5 mile ride.

Basically the bike course elevation profile is a big U shape. First half of the ride is downhill and the second half is uphill. I knew I had to bomb the downhill section as I would lose time coming back up. I was flying along and before I knew it, I was at the turnoff. After ~ 8 miles there is a small loop that you do before you come back out. Wingman and I drove the course yesterday so I knew where the hills were. This first one at the turn off was a doozy. I knew I would have to drop down into my small ring to get up it. It looked steep from the car, but it was much steeper on the bike. When I looked down at my bike computer, it said it was a 16% grade. You just don't find many hills like that on Long Island. But I just focused on spinning up.....ok, more like grinding up the hill. Once over the top I popped back onto my big ring and recovered with a slight downhill. The road surface was not too smooth so I was moving around a bit to avoid any bumps that would slow me down. Otherwise, the loop section wasn't too bad. Any uphill area was preceded by a downhill so you had some momentum to climb back up.

Before I knew it, I was flying back onto the main road. The uphill route back to the transition area was about to begin. It's roughly 8 miles of uphill riding. It's very misleading because some of it is a false flat. I looked down at my computer and it was telling me the 'flat' area was 2-3% grades. I kept the gear light and easy for spinning and kept staring at the computer for the distance. I so desperately wanted to get off the bike. The constant pedaling was wearing me down a little. I started to think "how am I possible going to run after this?" but I quickly got back into the moment and stopped worrying about what was coming. Before I knew it I was at the last climb which is the steepest of the last series of climbs. I just hammered over the top of it and once again re-introduced myself to the big ring. I had about a half mile to spin it out before I had to transition to the run.

My legs were feeling fresher by the time I reached the transition area. I was somewhat pleased by my bike time seeing as how I am not a hill rider. I changed my shoes, grabbed one last swig of my drink and made my way out to the run. I took it easy going out as I wanted to find my running legs. I focused on my leg turnover and keeping a steady rhythm. I was wearing my Garmin GPS, but didn't really look down to see my pace. I was going by feel. Once I hit the first mile marker I could see I had a good first mile. The time was better than I felt. As I went through the first water stop I took a gel and some water. Normally I would go without for 5 miles, but since I am racing again tomorrow, I didn't want to deplete myself too badly. The run course was pretty flat with only 1 uphill in both directions. The hill was steep for me so I power walked it to save some energy since I knew I could not run it any faster. After this hill it was mostly shaded. I ran along wondering how the Wingman was doing. I was also hoping that the turnaround was coming soon.

I kept on running and at the turnaround I had another gel and some water. I could feel my energy level picking up. I felt stronger on the 2nd half of the run so I knew my nutrition plan was working. I took advantage of this new found surge and tried to hold on to it. I don't think I was actually running faster, but I felt more power in my stride. I kept it going and was looking for the Wingman. Since the entire run course was an out and back style, I knew I would see him at some point. It was on my big downhill and his uphill where we exchanged high-5's.

When the GPS buzzed that I was 4 miles in, I was thrilled to know that there was only 1 more mile to run. I barely remember that last mile as I was focused on finishing (aka tunnel vision). I was getting closer to the transition area and could hear the spectators ringing their cowbells like crazy. I somehow found another gear and motored around the long finishing chute to a 1st place finish in my division.

I felt pretty good at the end of the race. My legs were tired, but otherwise not too bad. I think the bike course hills tomorrow will be challenging for me. I will certainly feel the fatigue of the entire weekend of racing while climbing back up the hills.

My proudest moment of the race was watching the Wingman cross the finish line of his first triathlon. It was a hard race with the hills, but he handled it well and he is welcomed into the club of triathlon finishers!!

Tomorrow is my last race of the weekend. It is a shorter distance than today (.25 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run), but it will still hurt. I just hope I have some running left in my legs when I get off the bike.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"You'll get a 3 countdown......"

Those are the words I last heard spoken to me prior to my launch into my first ever bike time trial (TT). Getting to the starting line today though was touch and go.

Yesterday the Wingman and I arrived in New Hampshire and checked into the hotel. We have a nice suite in a ski lodge right near the race start. It has a full kitchen so we went out to do some light grocery shopping. We picked up some cold cuts and other stuff for dinner. When we got back to the hotel, we made some sandwiches, watched TV and went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, I just didn't feel right. I felt really dizzy and every time I moved my head the room would spin. I took it easy and had some breakfast and took a nap to try to sleep it off. I thought perhaps my head was congested so I took an allergy pill hoping it would help. When I woke up later, I did feel better but still not close to 100%. At this point I was doubting my ability to race tonight. I made another sandwich for lunch and still felt lousy. Hmm, maybe a shower would help clear my head.

Got into the shower and I knew it would not be pretty. My stomach quickly alerted me that I needed to vacate the shower immediately. Before I knew it, I was sick as a dog. This may be a little TMI, but the sandwich came back up. I am thinking there was something to the cold cuts that did not agree with me. Wingman had the ham while I had the turkey. Once my stomach was empty, I was actually feeling a little better. I still felt weakened, but at least the dizziness was gone. Phew. Now I had about 5 hours to get some calories in me to sooth my stomach and get ready for the time trial.

Wingman and I went down to the packet pickup and got all of our goodies. We scoped out the race sight and then came back to the room to get the race numbers on the bikes. Before I knew it, it was time to make our way down to the race sight. There were a lot of racers already there. I could see that the race director abandoned the TT ramp. Racers had to go off every 20 seconds so it would have been impossible to load everyone one by one onto the ramp in a timely fashion. Instead, you clipped into one pedal and two guys on either side of you grabbed the bike so you could clip the other foot in. Then they passed you off to two more guys to hold you up prior to the start. Once guy asked "Are you ready to rock?" and I answered "Please don't drop me." He laughed and then said "You'll get a 3 countdown" and then I vaguely remember hearing 3..2..1..and the horn went off. I got a huge push from the two guys like a giant catapult and was flying towards the main road. Spectators lined the road and the cowbells were going like crazy. It was a huge boost for the start. I realized in my worry over the start that I forgot to start my computer. I was about 2/10th of a mile in when I started it.

The first half of the course starts out flat and then goes into a big downhill. I quickly worked up into a big gear to be ready for the downhill. I used the free speed here knowing I would be slower coming up. I felt like I was flying but never looked down at the computer to check my speed. The other issue I had was the sunglasses I was wearing were too dark for an overcast, twilight race. I have a lighter tint pair, but I left them home. I had no trouble making it to the bottom of the hill. I had to slow down quite a bit as it is a tight u-turn before you begin the climb back up.

Once I began the uphill I had to decide if I was going to pass the woman in front of me. I waited it out a little to get through the first climb. On the flat, I could see she wasn't going any faster so on the next climb, I came out of the saddle to accelerate past her and continue my climb. I was handling the hills well for a flat lander, but the last climb was a tough one. I opted to stay in my big ring (tomorrow I will definitely be in the small ring) and I was working hard. The one thing that snapped me out of my tunnel vision was hearing some kid shout out "If you believe in yourself, you can do it!!" Which is a reference to this video:

It made me smile a bit and took some of the hurt out of that climb. By now I was on flat ground again and quickly shifted gears back to I could finish out the ride fast. I hammered it down the last big straightaway and made the first of two left turns to get to the finish. I passed the spectators again with the cowbells going but I had to slow down for the final turn. The finishing area is really short so I opted out of a crazy sprint so I wouldn't have to brake too hard once I crossed the line.

After the end, I took an easy spin to flush out the legs and then went back to see the Wingman finish. There were about 40 riders between us so I saw him on the course as he was heading down the first hill and I was near the end of the last uphill. He was looking strong out there!! After he finished I told him to keep on riding to cool down.

We came back to the room to change and went back to see the results. We didn't do too badly in our first TT effort. I would love to come back next year to see what I can do if I can get any better at hill climbing.

Tonight will be an easy night as we both have a tri in the morning and I have another on Sunday. No rest for the weary as I feel it will be a looong weekend.........