Sunday, December 2, 2012

Running in a fog

This weekend brought me to Annapolis for a half marathon. I signed up for this race a while ago, but recently got an email from ObiJen about the timing of the race and my upcoming season. The big concern was the mileage buildup required for the race and running too hard this time of year. The priority is the downtime to rest myself for next season. So I agreed to just run 13.1 miles and not race it.

Race morning arrived and the Wingman and I walked to the race start. Our hotel was close to the start/finish so we didn't have to mess with driving/parking. It was pretty cold in the morning, but I knew  once I got running I would warm up. The great debate is what do I wear. I have to say I nailed my clothing perfectly for this race.  The only change I thought about during the race was maybe a short sleeves and arm warmers so I can make adjustments on the fly.

I waited until the last minute to strip down to my race clothing. Right after that we made our way to the starting line so I can be in the crowd to keep warm. The race started very unceremoniously. I didn't even realize the horn went off. I saw the crowd start moving so I wished the Wingman good luck and was on my way. It's an odd start to the race as you run through the parking lot of the Navy-Marine Memorial Football Stadium. After that they turn you out onto the streets of Annapolis. It was pretty overcast and foggy so I left my sunglasses on top of my hat as I ran. I figured as the sun was coming up I would put them on, but that morning, the sun never came out. The entire race was run in a fog.......

Within the 1st two miles there were a few short inclines in the road. I remember looking at the elevation profile and thinking the hills didn't come into play until much later, but here I was less than 1 mile in and there was a small hill. I took it easy going up knowing that if I spent too much energy too soon, I would blow up later. This was going to be a long run and I had to pace myself carefully. But being true to my jackass nature, I bolted down the hill. I would repeat this pattern all race long: easy up, jackass down.

By mile 3 we were in downtown Annapolis running towards the waterfront. I would love to tell you the view was nice, but as I mentioned before, it was foggy and I couldn't see far in front. We circled around the dock and then over past the Naval Academy. Over the 1st 4 miles the course was rolling. I had my Garmin watch on, but kept it under my sleeve and did not look at it. Since I was just supposed to 'run', I wasn't worried about what my mile splits were. What also helped was there were no clocks on the course at the mile markers to distract me. I just kept it comfortable........well, as comfortable as I could on the rollers.

I kept cruising along and around mile 5 1/2 is the bridge that runs over the Severn River. It seemed like it went up forever. The fog kept the top hidden, which I guess is a blessing so I couldn't see how far I had to go. For all I knew, Brigadoon would appear when I got to the top.

After a long haul up, I crested the hill and 'jackassed' my way down. With the dense fog, I had no idea how long it was until I reached the bottom. But as soon as I reached the bottom, there was another small hill to run up. This begins a long out/back section that I knew at some point I would see the Wingman on the course. At the far end of this section is a turnaround with an aid station. I grabbed a cup of water and sipped a little and prepared myself mentally for the final few miles of the race. I knew I had to get back up the hill to Brigadoon. I did see the Wingman and we high-fived as we passed. He was looking good so far. I wished him luck and made my way towards the bridge.

The fog was still thick so once again, I had no idea how high up I had to run. I kept my head down and feet moving. It was tough, but I made it up the hill and, you guessed it, 'jackassed' my way down. I felt in control at this point, but the fatigue of the hills was getting to me. I only had ~2 miles to go now.

The last two miles were clear as day to me. The first thought I had was that I was glad my foot was holding up so far. I avoided any rough sections of pavement to spare me from any pain. The second thought was how well I was doing by only drinking to thirst. My water consumption has been cut down a bit and I can feel it in the longer runs. I don't feel quite so bloated in my hands and legs. I'm no longer worried about any formula for how much I need to drink and when. It's just a matter of I grab a cup if I need it and drink as much/little as I feel is needed. For the Army 10 Miler, my training runs, and now this race it is working well for me.

Just before the mile 12 marker was the last water station. I wanted to grab a cup, but was slowed to a walk in order to get a cup. It was a small station that was undermanned so I had to wait a split second for a cup. I looked up a noticed that the station was right at the bottom of a small incline. I opted to walk the 50 feet up and then start running. When I saw the mile 12 marker, I decided to look at my watch. I was incredibly surprised at the time I was making. I knew that unless I completely walked the last mile, I would break a soft time goal I had set since I wasn't 'racing'.

I knew I wanted a strong finish so I picked up my pace a little over the last mile. And then, the foot haunted me. There was a short out/back on  College Road and the turn around was over cobble stones. It was the most nerve-wracking 6 feet on the entire course for me. I slowed down so I can place each foot strike directly on a stone, not the edge. It's like walking through a mine field. And of course I missed the last stone and caught an edge of a stone. It sent shockwaves up my leg for a moment. I made it 12 3/4 mile and to almost get stopped in my tracks by a stupid stone.

I shook it off and wanted to find the finish line. The course winds back through the parking lot of the stadium to the finish line. After crossing the line, I stopped my watch and hurried to find the people with the mylar. Now I was freezing. The post race swag was nice - a running hat and finisher's medal. I grabbed them and then made a bee-line to the baggage drop off to get my clothes. Once I got dressed I had to find some food. I was getting hungry.

After I ate, I waited for the Wingman to finish. After he came across, we repeated the clothing and food pickup, then began the walk back to the hotel. Once we were safe in the room, I took the longest hot shower of my life. If I could have taken a nap in there, I would have.

Later in the day I checked the final results. I knew I set a PR, but wanted the official race time. It's been 6 years since I've run my fastest half marathon, and in this race I crushed that time. Looking back, this was the easiest I have ever run 13.1 miles before. By no means was this an easy race, but I never had that feeling that I went out too hard and paid for it dearly on the back end. It wasn't a perfect run, but I felt like it was a solid day out there.

I feel good about where I am at with my fitness. The next few weeks will be easy for me. No crazy training, just some work to keep my fitness. The real work begins soon enough, but for now I will enjoy this coming month. Bring on the offseason!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, or Turkey day. I think it should be called "Stuffed Fat Pig" day since that's what I wind up feeling like by the time dessert rolls around. To prepare for an afternoon of non-stop eating, the Wingman and I had a full morning planned.

We started out in Mattituck for their annual 5k Turkey Trot. We haven't done this race in years, but were looking forward to racing a little closer to home. My goal for this race was to just run it 'at a trot pace'. The "PR or ER" machine was turned off for the day. It's a nice course that's relatively flat. Only near the end do you have one short hill to get over before the finish. After I finished, I waited for the Wingman. We went into the gym and grabbed some fruit and water, then bolted home to get some more activity in before the eating began.

Since Wingman's been working crazy hours, we haven't had a chance to ride together so we grabbed the road bikes and went for a ride. The temps were a little cool at the start, but within 10 minutes I was nice and warm. There was a little wind to contend with, but nothing too strong. We pedaled along for close to 2 hours, working up an appetite.

Once we got home, it was time to shower and get dressed up for dinner. We drove to Dolores' house where the main guest Mr. Louie was waiting. As usual, I ate way too much food. But I had a great time and that trumps everything.

So I sit here today, like a bloated fat pig, trying to think of how to get my fat ass off the couch. I have a half marathon in one week so I need to work off the turkey bloat in a hurry!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

7 seconds

"To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain--
not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it."

Yesterday I made the trek into Lynbrook for the "Fly with the Owls 4 Miler". It's a long ride, but it gives me the opportunity to meet up after the race with some friends to catch up. I did this race 2 years ago but was sick last year. So this year I was going to do everything in my power to stay healthy and get out there.

The night before I looked up my 4 mile PR to see if a new PR would be a possibility. It wasn't a completely far fetched time for me, but I knew I would have to run pedal to the metal or live up to my new motto "PR or ER". 

With fall races, judging how to dress can be tricky. What made the decision difficult yesterday was the dreaded windchill effect. It was supposed to be a little windy with temps feeling like it would be close to 10 deg cooler than it really was. Then you have to do the running math and add 20 deg to that since that's what it would feel like when you are actually running. I decided to wear a compression top and a lightweight long sleeve shirt with my running shorts. I felt cold before the start of the race, but once I was in the middle of the crowd waiting at the starting line, I warmed up. 

Once the horn went off, I bolted down the road. I wanted to get out of the crowd a little bit so I could settle in. The first mile is pretty straight-forward. After that it gets a little crazy, like an ADHD dream, lot's of turns.

arrows highlight the first mile

I wore my garmin GPS watch, but I knew the event would have timers at each mile on the course. When I rolled through mile 1, I was on a good pace. Not too fast, not too slow. But I could tell I was getting very warm. The two shirts were causing me to overheat. Since my race number with timing chip was attached to the top shirt, there was no way I could easily remove a shirt while running. I just figured "how bad can 3 miles be?" The answer is: pretty bad.

All I kept thinking was how long that 2nd mile felt. I didn't want to slow down much so I found someone to stay with. I also used this person as a shield when the winds picked up a bit. I tried to match  them stride for stride so I could keep pace. When I finally got through the 2nd mile I did some race math. I was still on track to PR. But I also felt like it would be a hard 2 miles to go. I felt like I was out there much longer than the race clock showed. I was in agony and the only way to make it stop was to get to the finish as quickly as possible.

I now began the craziness of the turns on the course. This organization does an outstanding job of marking the course and controlling traffic. There are volunteers at every turn with signs and pointing which way to go. I would have said 'thank you' but speaking was just not an option. I was deep inside the hurt box. My pacer was now long gone and I was on my own. I tried to latch on to various runners, but I kept yoyo-ing back and forth. A big mental game went on in my head. I was thinking about just slowing down and taking it easy, but when I passed the 3 mile clock I knew that if I could just hang on a PR was mine. All I had to do was hold it together.

This last mile was one of the hardest miles I've ever run. The turns were disorienting and my fatigue was making it worse. My legs and arms were getting heavier. I kept thinking "this must be the last, this must be the last turn..... no wait, THIS must be the last turn." 

Finally I did make it to the last turn. It was now a straightaway. The strangest sensation came over me. I looked to the side of the road and thought "that looks like a nice place to lay down." What a bizarre urge. Needless to say I fought it and did the best I could to pick it up to the finish. I saw my friends just before the finish. I looked at the clock as I crossed the line. I managed to just hang on and PR by 7 seconds. Holy crap. I worked that hard and suffered that much for 7 seconds. Clearly I have accepted the pain and learned to run through it. It wasn't easy at all, but I know what it feels like and survived it.

Photo courtesy J. Cordello  

After the race my friends and I went to a diner for breakfast. I just remember inhaling by breakfast and chatting away. Our time together ended too quickly and I was back in the car heading home. I passed out on the couch and took a serious nap. 

When I got up my legs and arms felt like jelly. It took my quite some time to get over that race effort. Who knew that 4 little miles could hurt so much.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Putting the puzzle together

A year ago I sat down to plan out my 2012 racing season with the goal of an Ironman race in 2013. I completed Ironman Lake Placid in 2006 and then my life was too busy to be able to dedicate the time to training. It takes a commitment in time and effort to get yourself to the starting line. I knew I would not be able to give it the proper effort until now.

I originally had a different Iron distance race in mind, but as the year went on, I decided to return to Lake Placid to improve on my last performance there. Looking back, I didn't have the right pieces in place to make it really successful for me. I was still relatively new to the sport and didn't have a lot of distance fitness in the bank. I was able to complete the race, but I don't think it was a success. This time around I am starting to put the small pieces in place to lay the foundation for the bigger pieces.

The first thing is to look at yourself and really think about what it is you want from this process. Every one has a reason as to what motivates them to accept the challenge. This is important because as the training gets harder and things get put on the back burner for your training, you need to remember why you are doing this. I saw a great quote earlier today that sums it up for me:

"Our biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs. The burning in your legs. And that voice in your head that yells “CAN’T,” but you don’t listen. You just push harder. And then you hear that voice whisper, “can” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the person you really are."

Just remembering this makes the journey to the starting line a little bit easier...........

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting The Work Done

This past weekend I made my way back to Arlington, VA for the Army 10 Miler. (ATM) This is the 5th year in a row that I've done this race. Each year I get a little bit faster on the course. I was hoping that I would be able to break even this year. I've been hovering around the same time the last two years and wasn't sure I would be able to break through this barrier. I've been running well this year keeping the injury bug away so far. Aside from a small hiccup that required two injections in my foot recently, I've been able to string together a good year of running.

The flight down was supposed to be 40 minutes in the air. I was half asleep on the flight down so I wasn't paying attention to the time. But at one point I could tell we were doing a lot of turning and ascending/descending/ascending/descending. I could feel my stomach turn and I got very sweating which is a precursor to full blown motion sickness for me. I made sure there was a bag in the seat pocket in front of me as I expected my lunch to make an appearance on this flight. But I was fortunate the we landed just before trouble reared it's ugly head. Then the pilot came on and said "we had to make a landing at Dulles due to weather at Baltimore and we need to refuel." Obviously what were we doing for over an hour was circling the airport waiting for clearance to land. Once the plane ran low on fuel, we had to be diverted to another airport. We were on the ground for over an hour before we could take off again. So far this trip was not starting well.

We finally made it to Baltimore and then drove to our hotel in Virginia. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then we went to sleep. Saturday morning was Expo time. This is a highlight for me. I get to walk around and get as many freebies as I can fit into my bag and then go outside and play with all the Army Special Forces weapons I want. This year I had my eye on a grenade launcher that would look AWESOME on my front lawn. I hope Santa will bring it to me..........

We took it easy Saturday afternoon in an effort to save some energy for Sunday. Friends and family were asking if I would be setting a PR and I told them it was highly doubtful. My 10 mile PR is on an extremely flat course. The ATM course has a few rollers on it and the last ~2 miles are killer on the highway - constant up/down/up/down. You will be punished if you push too hard too early. I figured a course PR was possible if I played my cards right. Pacing is important on this course.

First thing I noticed race morning was that it was very cool. I had quite a chill and was afraid to ditch my warmup shirt until the last possible moment. When they announced 1 minute to my wave start I threw my extra shirt to the side of the road and got ready. Each wave is started with a large cannon and a ton of smoke!! I was able to find some clear space and get moving. Within a quarter mile I noticed that I wasn't breathless or having any difficulty running. Usually it takes me at least a half mile to settle in to my pace, but I found my rhythm early. Hopefully it would be a good omen.

I decided to keep my Garmin covered and just run by feel. Since I was comfortable early in the race, I knew my pace was OK. I had studied the course over and over again to make sure that I would run the tangents and cut all the turns tight so I wouldn't tack on extra mileage by running wide. As soon as I made a turn, I was planning where I needed to be on the road for the next turn. I wouldn't know if my strategy would pay off until late in the run when I finally looked down at my watch.

The miles ticked by easily. I was waiting for the wheels to fall off and for the real suffering to begin. I got to mile 5 and noticed on the race clock that it was starting to go in my favor. I still had no idea how I was doing on time, but I knew I wasn't losing anything yet. I kept my foot on the gas and decided to not let up.

Mile 5-7 takes you up and down Independence Ave. I knew this would be my last stretch before I hit the rollers on the highway. I didn't make a conscious effort to pick up my pace, but inadvertently I did. I was still feeling fresh and didn't have that feeling that I could not maintain my pace any longer. My legs just kept going and going. When I saw the 8 mile marker I knew this was where the hard work would begin. It was here that some words came to mind. I remember reading Ian's race report for the Pumpkinman Triathlon and one line he wrote about starting his run stuck in my head:

"I told myself 'here was my chance to be great'"

These words were true at this moment. I looked at my Garmin and saw that, unless I literally collapsed on the course, I would set a course PR. A ten mile PR was going to take some serious effort over the next two miles. I could not let up for a minute. It was going to take everything I had to hang on. This was going to be my chance to be great..........

I seemed to float over the next mile. Normally I am suffering at this point, but I still seemed to be moving well. My pace certainly dropped down a little, but I was still running well. I knew I could afford to slow up a little on the uphill as long as I gunned it going downhill. Before I knew it I was heading up towards the exit ramp for the Pentagon. Only 1 mile to go!! At this point I could feel the fatigue starting to creep in. The last mile on the highway was taking it's toll on me. But at the same time I knew I wanted that PR badly. It's funny how it wasn't even a thought earlier that morning, but at this time it consumed me. I kept the intensity up. I didn't want to get to the finish line with any regrets. This was like a poker game and I was all in on the final hand........

The way the road winds near the end, it's hard to know exactly where the finish line is. When I was ~1/10th from it I could see the black and gold balloons. The finish was near. I saw my watch and knew that unless I stopped to take a nap, the PR was mine. I crossed the line and stopped my watch. I knew it was a course PR, but was fuzzy about my 10 mile PR. When I checked my times later I knew I had the 10 mile PR by ~2 minutes and a course PR by 5:30. BOOM!!

Once I made my way through the finish line corral and food line, I went back to get my clothes. I was getting chilly in my wet clothes.  I can honestly say I had no idea that performance was in me. When I looked at my splits later, I was very consistent. 8 of my 10 miles were less than 10 seconds apart in pacing.  The two 'slower' miles (mile 1 at the start and mile 8 on the highway) were at most 20 seconds off my fastest pace. 

Looking back, I can't complain about my performance. For the first time in a loooooonnnnnngggg time I am happy with how the race unfolded. I feel that this was a complete race from start to finish. I really can't see where I would make any changes. My course strategy paid off as my Garmin measured 10.12 miles so I didn't stray as badly as I did last year.  I really surprised myself with how the race unfolded. I have a half marathon in December and I have already changed my goals for that race. So between now and then, it's time to Get The Work Done!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It Don't Come Easy

"It don't come easy
You know it don't come easy"

The lyrics to the Ringo Starr song were very appropriate today. It was my 'A' race of the season, the Rev3 Half Iron race in Maine. The Wingman and I arrived on Wednesday to settle in before the race. I picked up my race packet on Friday and got my bike ready for drop off Saturday. There was the mandatory athlete meeting in the early afternoon. Once that was done, we went back to the hotel to relax and rest up.

I had trouble sleeping the night before, which is not unusual. I went to bed around 8p, then was up from 9-10:30p, then asleep until 2:30a. From there I tossed and turned until 3:30a when my alarm went off. It was an early morning because the race started a little earlier than usual. They explained it at the race meeting. When you exit the swim, you have to run up the main street and cross the railroad tracks. There was an Amtrak train scheduled to roll through at 8:20a so they had to make sure all athletes were out of the water by then and not slowed down for a passing train.

My wave went off at 6:36a. It's a beach start and you have to run into the water, through the waves and start swimming. I made it out past the waves OK and was on my way. The course is a rectangle shape, swimming out .35 miles, then across .5 miles, then back .35 miles. When I got to my turn buoy, I had trouble finding the next set of buoys to sight off of. They were small yellow buoys, and with the rising sun in the background it was hard to see. The other odd thing I noticed was it didn't seem to be straight line across. It seemed to veer out to the right, making the course possibly longer. But since we all swim the same course, I just kept going. I kept my thoughts on the final leg of the swim. With the waves coming in, it should hopefully make for an easier effort. When I made that final turn, the easy factor I was looking for was not there. You had to deal with the current coming in, and then pulling out. So for your forward progress, you were pulled back a little. I had trouble seeing the beach due to the swells, so I used the ferris wheel for sighting. When I finally hit the beach, everything went wrong. I had trouble focusing my eyes on anything. It looked like the people on the beach were tilting left and right. I thought for sure I was going to stumble and go down. I managed to make it up the beach and down the road to transition. It was along the way that I gave my first thoughts to dropping out of the race. 

I sat down in transition to put my socks on. What I really wanted to do was lay down and take a nap, calling it a day. But then I thought I should get on the bike and start riding, that my stomach and head would settle down after a few miles. 

I grabbed my bike and exited transition. The bike course is rolling, but the bigger elevation gains are early in the ride. I knew I had to just relax and wait for my body to reset. I did the short climb out of town to begin the ride. I knew ~3-4 miles in is the first big climb. Honestly, it's not that big of a climb, but for this course, it is. It seemed a little steep so i just relaxed and pedaled. I kept looking at my bike computer to see when I should start eating/drinking. usually it takes me 15 minutes to settle down, but today took a little longer. I started sipping water, then adding in my regular nutrition every 15 minutes. The first hour was going to be a hard ride so I knew I needed to be patient. I could gain some speed after the first 20 miles or so. Or at least that was my plan. I could see that my power targets were not happening .I just couldn't hit my numbers today. I felt like I had no snap in my legs. Now I started getting nervous about how I was going to run if I couldn't ride. I decided to not think about that right now. I just kept focusing on 5 miles at a time. 

Finally around mile 30 I started feeling a little better. My speed picked up, but the power still wasn't there. I cruised along for the next 15 miles, then my stomach just completely shut down. I started getting a cramp on my right side and couldn't stay in the aero position. I rode the last 10 miles sitting up, and belching like a truck driver in an effort to relieve my stomach. 

I made it back to transition to begin the run. I poured water over me to cool off, changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and number and started to run. I figured the sooner I got running, and faster, the sooner I could end this race. I was getting quite hot out there. But I could feel my stomach getting harder. When I got to the 1 mile aide station, I grabbed some ice for my hat and a little water. Then I kept moving along, slowly, but I was moving. By the time I got to mile 2, they said they had soda as well as water and gatorade. Perfect, I knew that some flat soda would hopefully settle my stomach down. It did wake me up a little, but didn't really help me. I burped a few more times to try and relieve some of my stomach bloat, but it didn't help. I thought at one point I was going to vomit. Just before mile 3 they have you on a packed trail out to the 6.55 mile mark and then turn around and come back. There was an aide station every mile and I grabbed soda at each one. I had my gels for some extra calories. I ran as best as I could, but by mile 5, my stomach told my brain "you are walking now". I just couldn't run anymore. Every running step was murder on my gut. But the bright side was my methods of keeping cool were working. I tend to overheat in warmer temps, so at each aide station I grabbed a cup of ice and carried it in my hand with the open end of the cup in the palm of my hand. It seemed to be doing the trick to keep me comfortable in the heat. I also read that cooling your pudendal nerve is also a good way to keep you core temperature down. So I dumped some ice down my shorts. Let me tell you, it WOKE ME UP!!! Holy cow, that will get your attention every time!! 

Before I knew it I was at the turn around and heading back. I was still walking, but I was more than halfway there. I almost missed the turn to come off the trail. The traffic cop stationed there directed me to exit the trail. Thank goodness, I would have kept going. Now I had ~2.5 miles to go. By the time I got to the 11 mile marker, I was running/walking. I had to end this misery quickly. When I started the run, I told the Wingman to wait for me before the finishing shoot. Rev3 gives you your finishers photo for free. Plus, you are allowed to bring someone with you across the finish line, but you just have to be mindful of the other racers. About half a mile from the finish I saw Wingman, in his proper Wingman shirt. 

I told him what I wanted from him and he ran along side me all the way to the final shoot. I grabbed his hand and we made our way to the finish line. The race announcer made quite a deal about him running with me. He even announced that "the Wingman is coming through the finish."  Me, all I got was a mention of my race number. Where's the love?!?!? What's up with that?!?!? 

The thought of crossing the line with the Wingman was what helped drive me to finish. I dragged him all the way up to Maine, and he got up really really early on his day off to accompany me to the race so there was no way I could not finish. I wasn't feeling well, but it wasn't anything very serious required me to stop. I knew I had to keep going. It's the tough races like this where you find out just how deep you can dig to pull out a finish. This was by far my worst half ironman finish by a lot, but it was the best that I could do today. 

We have a couple more days up here before heading back home. Tomorrow we will be battling for the "Putt-Putt Championship of Maine." It's going to be an epic battle. I will also post some photos later from the race. I have to put them together first.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Calm before the storm

We drove up to Maine on Wednesday for a little R&R before my race on Sunday. It's been a busy summer and I wanted a little peace and quiet from the insanity/BS of the Hamptons. We were on the 11a ferry out of Orient and on our way. We made it to the hotel before dinner time. We managed to get everything up to the room in two trips.

Thursday morning we packed the bikes into the Element and drove most of the bike course to check it out. We parked at a local supermarket and decided to ride part of the course. It seems very manageable, but you have to be patient early on. While it is a relatively flat course, most of the elevation gain is in the first 18-19 miles. If you pace yourself well there, you can be rewarded with a great 2nd half. So far the weather forecast looks like the winds will be low and if I get lucky with the weather, the humidity will come way down when I start the run. Bonus!!

Today was packet pickup at the race expo. This is the first year at the venue for Rev3. So far, they have done well at other locations so I anticipate them doing well here. The turnout will be around ~1000 athletes between the olympic and half Rev. Hopefully that won't mean I will be DFL........

Tomorrow the Wingman and I will do an early swim to get a feel for the water temperature. I was torn between a full sleeve and sleeveless wetsuit.  The water temperature is 65 degrees. Everyone I emailed said they would go full sleeve for this one. Ian even went so far as to say "Don't be a jackass, wear the full sleeve, it will be faster." So full sleeve it will be. There is also an athlete meeting and mandatory bike check in. I will get all of that done early and then just try to relax in the afternoon.

The race is Sunday morning and hopefully I have a great race in me. I know my pacing for the bike so I don't ruin my run. I just have to GTWD Sunday..............

Swim start, heading towards the pier

 No messy racks to deal with, just grab your bike and go

 Rev3 has some big trucks to haul their gear

Some day I will get my coveted race number '666'

 So much junk food down at the Pier, but it looks so good

And the mother of all snacks - Nutella Crepes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taper Time

My one big race is coming up in just under two weeks. A lot has been going on since I last posted. I've been using this year as a springboard for racing longer next season. I had on particular race in mind, but decided to return to Ironman Lake Placid and improve on my original race performance. I hesitated about financially committing a year in advance to this race, plus it's over crowded, but the idea of getting my big race done in July instead of September was a bonus. This year I struggled with the heat in my training and had to resort to indoor training for my long runs. If I race in July, most of my training would be in cooler temps.

My Wingman has been riding with me and that makes my rides more enjoyable. We pick a route based on my scheduled ride time (and wind direction) and head out. Getting him into cycling was a great decision. He enjoys the riding and we get to spend time together. My last few long runs have been on the treadmill. With all the heat/humidity, I've had to stay indoors. I managed to pull off (2) two hour runs on the treadmill. It wasn't easy, but for the first run I watched the women's marathon in the Olympics. I was ready to stop around 1:40 into the run when the announcer talked about Alberto Salazar. Alberto said what separates the greats are their ability to embrace the suffering when things get hard. Upon hearing that, how could I possibly quit running. So I kept going and finally finished my run when the winner crossed the finish line. My run lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes. That's a lot of running.......

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Working the plan

This morning was the 17th annual Montauk Sprint Triathlon. I've competed in this race just about every year since 2005. I missed it in 2006 when preparing for Ironman Lake Placid. This is a great local race that I love coming back to every year. My last race this year was June 24th, the Philly olympic distance.  Since that race, my workouts were built around not repeating my lackluster performance in Philly. Today was the day that I would put my feet to the fire and execute the plan.

Last year I had a great swim. I put in a lot of work in the pool and then more in the open water prior to the race. This year, not so much. We had a favorable sweep current last year to push me along a bit. This year we swam into a slight current. The last few open water swims  sessions I had, I put some work into changing my stroke. I found some serious deficiencies and worked to remedy them. And it paid off. I felt much more balance and powerful with each stroke. My stroke cadence didn't improve, but more importantly, my distance per stroke improved. I felt great for the 1st half of the swim today. About halfway through, there were a few swells to deal with. Once I got a feel for the timing, I was motoring along. I also was a little more aggressive on the swim. Normally when I come upon some feet or a bottleneck I'd wait it out and then pass. Not today. As soon as I swam up on some people I immediately swam around them. I didn't want to lose any time on the swim if I didn't have to. I just moved as swiftly and smoothly as I could through the swim. When I got to the end of the swim, I did have a little 'hiccup' trying to get out of the water. I stood and tried to get out of the water, but I quickly noticed that the ground below me was not level and I fell over. I got up again and lost my footing a second time, but did not fall. I made it up to the transition area and prepared for the bike.

Once on the bike, there would be no holding back today. I tried to move quickly through the bike course. It's relatively flat, one hill. You can really open it up out there, but with so many other racers, you have to be careful. This is where I failed in my last race. I was too careful and held back too much. I had specific instructions to rip it up today. My workouts were even designed around it. I felt very fluid on the bike. I've been battling shoulder pain in the aero position, but today I didn't notice a thing. I seemed to be firing on all cylinders on The Beast. I was passing many people and passed by only a few. I didn't even hesitate when I came behind someone. I just looked over my shoulder to make sure my path was clear and then pulled around the rider in front of me. I repeated this process over and over.  I finished the bike course and all I had left in front of me was a 3.1 mile run.

In my last race, I had some serious burning foot pain. I took it easy to start the run today so I wouldn't irritate things. The run starts with an uphill run out of transition. Once on solid ground, I wanted to get into a rhythm. The hardest part of a run is the first 5-10 minutes. After that, it gets a little easier. I feel I get stronger as the run goes on. Now I am waiting for this moment, for it to get easy. With each stride, I could feel a little more zip in my step. I made my way through the park, grabbing water at each aid station to pour over my head or down my back. I wore arm coolers for my last race, but didn't bring them today. Rookie mistake. I was overheating quickly out on the course. Even though there was a lot of shade, it was still pretty hot out. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. I hit the turn around and knew that the end was getting closer. The hardest part was yet to come. The last little stretch on the course is uphill to the lighthouse. I was so hot and tired at this point, but there is no way you can walk up this hill. There are too many spectators and there would be too much shame if I walked. I did make it up there, but not sure if you would call what I did running. 

Once I crossed the finish line, I looked back and was satisfied with what I did out there today. I ran the best race I could with what I had in my body today.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cracked like the Liberty Bell

On Sunday I toed the line for the Philly Olympic Distance Triathlon. I haven't competed at this distance in 4 years. I've gone longer and shorter in that time span, but left this distance off the schedule since I could not find a race that fit in. But in December when the Evil Exercise Scientist and I sat down to plan out my year, I said it was time for an Olympic distance. And the timing of Philly fit the bill.

I was anxious leading up to this race. I haven't been swimming as much as I should, but my biking and running were going fine. My plan was to take it easy on the swim and then I had my orders to "Step on the gas" for the bike and go hard on the run. The plan sounded good, but execution of the plan is another story.

The few days leading into the race were touch and go. We had some massive rainfall which left the river at a level of "code red" which means no swimming or submerging. Not sure the race director saw that warning because the swim was not cancelled. As a matter of fact, the water temp was so warm that wetsuits were not allowed. Eeek!! That means bacteria-riddled water will come into contact with more of my skin than I wanted. Gross.  At this point I knew I had to swim faster.  I was in the first swim wave so it was in my best interest to swim fast so I can get on the bike course before the rest of the racers behind me.

We were allowed to jump into the water to get to the swim start. I saw each athlete go under when they hit the water. I was not prepared for complete, disgusting immersion so I sat down on the dock and slipped in. There would be enough time for me to get completely wet, but I wanted to prolong it. I swam easy to the start and waited for the horn. The starter said to watch the buoy's and not let the current bring you forward. What current?!?!  I've swam in the Hudson, I know currents. Philly, you have no current. Don't tease me.

The air horn goes off and so do I. I took it easy to get started and found my rhythm early. I'm pretty sure tons of people passed me, but I didn't care. I kept sighting and swimming. The water felt pretty warm for 82 degrees and I'm glad to decided to not wear the skin suit over my race clothes. I passed under a bridge and could see a turn up ahead. I decided now to pick up the pace a little. My hip flexors were fatiguing from the flutter kick I was doing to keep me going and I wanted to stop sweating in the water.

I finally made it to the swim exit and was surprised at my mile swim time without a wetsuit. I was more than pleased as I ran into T1. When I got to my bike, I tried to change quickly and get going. I had a long way to go to get to the bike exit. Lucky me to be staged all the way at one end of the transition area.

It's a two loop course and I knew I would have one clear loop to hammer it.  I knew the course was hilly, but didn't realize just how hilly it was. Each loop was ~12.5 miles with ~600' of climbing (1200' for 25 miles). And some of the climbs were steep. I was dropping it into the small ring to get up the climbs, saving my legs for the 2nd loop and then the run. The downhills were fun, though I had a few scary moments. First one was coming around a right bend on a downhill and my rear wheel hit a rock on the pavement. I felt the wheel come off the ground for a split second and I hung on as I threw my weight to the left to counterbalance hoping I wouldn't wipe out. Success!! I was still upright. the next dicey section was a big downhill at the end of the 1st loop that I totally misjudged. At the bottom was a hard right turn. I realized it a little late and began to brake hard, fulfilling my destiny as HOTS. I made the turn....barely.....and made my way around for the second loop.

The second loop was slower than the first. I was passing people, but sometimes there were just too many all over the place and it wasn't safe to get around. I would have to sit back and bide my time waiting. when it was safe, I made my way around then. Since I knew the course better the 2nd loop, I knew where I could hammer the downhills and where to brake. Clearly I didn't want to repeat any near disasters from the 1st loop.

I made the long walk through transition and changed for the run. All I had left was 6.2 miles. Just 6.2. It was getting warm out and I put my Zoot arm coolers to the test. The tricky part of this race was the run begins on the grass outside of the transition area. It was at this precise moment that the neuroma in my foot woke up from it's 6 week coma. Holy crap, my foot was on fire as soon as I hit the pavement. I tried every trick in the book to calm it down. Nothing was working. I almost stopped to take my shoe off and mobilize my joints to reduce the pain. By the 3rd mile it seemed to be quieting down to a whimper. At each aid station I would walk through to rest my foot, grab some water to drink/pour overhead and arms. The arm coolers were working to keep me cooler than usual. I have issues in the warmer weather with overheating and this is the 1st step in trying to keep me cool.

When I passed the mile 3 sign I figured I was home free. WRONG. I had to run across the grass again to get to the 2nd half of the run. Sweet baby jesus, someone is out to get me. I gingerly run/walk the 4/10th mile across the grass to get to the pavement. But no luck, this neuroma was back with a vengeance. I decided at this point once I hit the pavement I was going to run as fast as I possibly could to get it over with. My 3rd and 4th toe felt like someone lit them on fire. I was in agony. Every swing of my leg I would attempt to flare my toes to give it some relief. I noticed on the sidewalk was a large Great Dane. I thought long and hard about hopping on it's back and riding it for a mile or two, but that would have gotten me disqualified. Hey, if you're going to get a DQ, make it a good one!!

I repeated my walking breaks at each aid station to try and get relief. But in the end, I just raced it in as fast as I could. I caught Wingman by surprise with my negative split. He wasn't expecting me to come in so soon. After crossing the line, I grabbed my finishers medal and an ice cold towel to drape around my neck. Cold never felt so good.

I have to say it wasn't my best race, but I gave my best under all the circumstances handed to me. The 2nd loop of the bike had its challenges and the run was absolute murder for me. But it clearly shows me that I can push through the pain when I have to, to finish the race.

Oddly enough this week, I had two runs with absolutely no pain in my foot. None. Zero. Zilch. I guess running on grass/uneven surfaces just isn't working for me. Hopefully my next two races are smooth surfaces.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Oh, oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?"

That's the line from "Uncle John's Band" from the Grateful Dead. And it's so true. Last I left off I landed in Spain for a 2 week cycling vacation. Next thing I know it's almost mid-June and racing season is here. I've been on a hectic schedule the last few weeks and hardly home on the weekends. Last month the Wingman and I rode the Gran Fondo in NY/NJ. Then I was off to Baltimore for a course in Dry Needling  to further enhance my PT skills (blog link courtesy of Sinead). It was 3 days of intense learning. You were in class for 10 hours and then spending a few hours at night in the hotel reading/studying/preparing for the next day. I can honestly say it has changed the way I look at pain in my patients.

I wasted no time in putting my new skills to work. First up was Sinead. She was having some neck motion restrictions and a headache. I used ~7 needles in her cervical spine and 2 up in the base of her occiput. I could certainly feel a change in her deep tissues after the treatment. She reported later a 90% reduction in her headache and neck pain/restrictions. Success story #1. My second volunteer was an aide that works with me. He has AC joint pain when he bench presses. He rated his pain to be about a 6 out of 10 when he benches. I placed a needle in each of his upper traps, and then went to work on his right shoulder. The magic spot was his infraspinatus/teres minor region (aka Ground Zero). When I asked what he was feeling, he said he could feel the pain in his AC joint being reproduced. Bingo!! It goes to show you that sometimes the pain you experience can come from a different source. After his session, I had him load up a bar to try to bench.  He loaded 155lbs up and said his pain felt like a 3 out of 10 now. He could bench press with a lot less pain. My last volunteer for the day was Jen. I went to town on her glutes and her lateral quad. She was feeling some ITB pain when she squatted, along with some other tightness in her hip area. Many times 'ITB' pain is actually trigger points in the lateral quad that refer pain down the side.

I hit a few trigger points in her glut that were tough to release. After I was done, she was pretty sore. I had her ride a stationary bike to work it out and hydrate to help flush things out. By the end of the next day, she could squat pain free and instead of her hip tightening 1 hour after running, it now took 3 hours. Progress.

Of course needling by itself is not the complete answer. The biomechanics of movement need to be assessed and corrected, muscles need to be strengthened and not in the traditional 'gym' sense. Pounding out bridges to strengthen glutes is fine, but if you can't use that strength in your activity, then you've wasted a lot of your time. Which leads me to this past weekend.

Sinead and I flew to Tampa for the APTA conference. They had an exhibit hall where we got to play with some fun "toys", but mostly we sat in on a 3 day lecture on Biomechanics of the hip, knee and ankle.  I definitely picked up a few interesting ideas and techniques that will help me better help my patients. I am also getting heavy into motion analysis and have been working with a new software application that allows me to quickly view video that I capture of a patient doing an exercise or running on a treadmill. I can analyze the movement and see where the breakdown occurs, show the patient, and then go to work fixing the dysfunction. This is the direction I ultimately want to head in my career.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The eagle has landed......

And feels like it went head first into a windshield. We flew overnight from NY and landed in Madrid in plenty of time for our connecting flight to Palma de Mallorca. Sleeping was difficult on the plane, but I managed to get a few hours in. Every once in a while i would wake up and see some strange TV show or movie on the screen and the one character looked eerily like Vladmir Lenin. Why someone would have a character like that is beyond me. Or maybe it was some strange sleep deprived hallucination. Which would probably mean I have some serious issues in my subconscious. I'll just stick to being sleep deprived. On the flight from Madrid to Palma I was out like a light as soon as I sat down. When I opened my eyes we were beginning our descent into Mallorca. Clearly, the highlight of the trip so far was the pat down aka breast/pelvic exam by the Spanish version of TSA in Madrid. Once I got my clean bill of health we continued onward across the airport. When we landed in Palma, we followed the signs to the baggage pickups. We waited....and waited.....and waited, but no bags. We went the customer service area and no one on the plane made mention that international flyers had a different area to get their bags. We scrambled to the area and found my bag but Wingman's was no where to be found. So we waited some more, but no bag. We filed a report with the airline and are hoping for a speedy arrival. In the meantime, we got to our hotel quite wiped out. I fought the good fight and tried hard not to take a nap but I failed. The room is amazing. It's like a two room cottage with a full bath and a bidet!! I don't have the courage to try it yet. Tonight we'll grab some dinner and then head to bed early to sleep. Tomorrow afternoon is our bike fitting and we can take a leisurely spin. Unfortunately we can't do any clothes shopping because most stores are closed on Sunday's here. I planned ahead and brought some sport detergent so we could wash our cycling bibs. Looks like for now we'll be washing Wingman's clothes daily........ Stay tuned........

Monday, April 9, 2012

Veni, Vidi, Vici......

That sums up Saturday's ride at Bear Mountain. This time we brought Wynn and Teresa with us to share in the suffering joy of multiple climbs up the hill. We picked them up early Saturday morning and after a small equipment failure on Wynn's bike, we were on our way.

We parked in the same area as last weekend and unpacked the bikes. With the four of us it was a full house in the Element.  We had 3 bikes on the rear rack, the roof cargo bin was full, and a bike in the back area of the Element. We took a quick warmup ride and went up the hill.

I never realized just how long the climb was in time. On Long Island, a climb may last 3-4 minutes but up here it can last 25-40 minutes depending how tired you are. We made quick work of the 1st two ascents and I'm proud to say I did not cry or sob once on the way down. We gathered around the Element to discuss our 3rd trip up. I have to say that was the most difficult ascent. Most of the ride up wasn't bad, but there are two small steep sections.

As I made the turn at the gate to begin the 2nd half of the climb, the Wingman was not behind me. I didn't wait as I was afraid to lose momentum so I continued up. By now I was learning the terrain of the climb and had a good feeling about where I was. the 2nd half is ~2 miles long but has many turns. It can be deceiving to know where you are in relation to the top. As I got closer, I suddenly could hear Wingman behind me. The hunt was on!! The pursuit to the top just got interesting. I remained calm, not wanting to burn any extra energy in the battle to the top. If I had to stand to accelerate I had to time it right so I wouldn't burn out too early. As we turned a corner I knew we had ~4/10ths of a mile to the top. Wingman thought that was the final turn. It wasn't, there was still another left, then right, then final short climb. He cried out "You've got to be kidding me!!!" and then dropped off my wheel. He rode hard up the previous 1.5 miles to catch me. He had nothing left to challenge me. I give him an A for effort in trying to overtake me.

Once at the top, we planned to ride down to the traffic circle and then just ride halfway up and stop at the gate. When all was said and done, we climbed 4500'. Not too shabby for a couple of flatlanders. Overall we made 3.5 trips up Bear Mountain. I think it's safe to say that we will be able to handle the climbing in Mallorca. The gearing on the bikes supplied by Trek are better for hills climbing than what we have now. We won't be speedy up the hills, but we will make it up there.

what a color coordinated crew.......

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Lions and Tigers and BEARS, oh my!!"

This morning the Wingman and I were going to drive up to Harriman State Park and ride a few loops but instead decided to check out Bear Mountain. It's one of the climbs on the Gran Fondo NY that we're doing in May. Plus it's a long enough climb to give us a good workout prior to Mallorca.

We got a bit of a late start on the morning and wound up getting to the park a little later than I anticipated. We scoped out the route and then parked waaaaay at the bottom to ensure we were doing as much climbing as we could. Where we left the car was a perfect spot so we could swap bottles or pickup more layers to wear if needed.

Wingman quickly unpacked the bikes and I grabbed our bags and got our gear out. We started riding a short route to get a little warmup before the climb began. The climbing started at the base of Seven Lakes Drive and we rode up to the top of Bear Mountain. The first part of the climb was fairly easy. I had it in an easy gear and was able to spin. The road conditions were pristine!! The mild winter we had didn't beat up the roads. I knew the climb had to get harder, I just had no idea when it would. We turned onto Perkins Memorial Drive and this is where the climbing really began. About a 1/4-1/2 mile in it quickly ramped up to a 12% grade incline. The good news was it didn't last too long. Once it flattened out to 6%, it seemed quite easy. I wasn't riding fast, but I was able to keep spinning. I was getting quite warm and was hoping the top was near. I really wasn't familiar with the roadway so I had no reference points to tell me how much more I had to go. All I knew was when I saw the porta-johns, I was at the top. But right now, no toilet in sight.

The road curves mostly to the right as it winds up. I would occasionally look up at the bluffs on my right to get an idea how much higher I had to go. That didn't work either. I had some good recovery sections on the ride where it 'flattened' out a little before the next short climb. There was one more section of 12% before we reached the top. Then, I saw my salvation:

Not the actual porta-johns at the top.....

I was so happy to see them. Not that I had to go, but it meant that I was at the top and could rest a little. The views were nice. Unfortunately it was cloudy/overcast so we didn't get the full effect of the panorama.

 After our 1st climb up.......

Flat lander conquers mountain......

After we took some photos at the top, it was time to ride all the way down. Fast descents always make me nervous. I've hit the pavement once before going fast and it left a mark or two so needless to say I took it easy going down. I have to say, while I was cautious, it was fun. Before the descent I put on another pair of gloves and put the sleeves back on my jacket. That wasn't enough. I was a bit cold on the way down. When we finally reached the car, I dropped off an empty drink bottle, grabbed some arm warmers and a beanie. Then we made our way up for climb #2. 

Again, the 1st part of the climb went pretty smoothly. Until I heard some noise behind me. I heard something along the lines of "Oh crap" and then the noise of something hitting the brush. I stopped to look back and saw that the Wingman went off the road into a small ditch. He was upright and OK, so my first thought after that was "How the hell did he get in there?" His response "I had an itch on my back and when I tried to reach it I saw I was veering off the road so I just decided to ride into the ditch." Oh, OK. 

He got back on the bike and we continued upward. Once again we turned onto Perkins Memorial Drive and started the climb. This time I paid a little more attention to the sign on the road. It's ~2 miles up. 2 winding miles. Problem was I didn't look at my bike computer to see what the mileage was when I started this section. It didn't matter, I just kept riding and was looking for the porta-johns again. I kept thinking "OK, after this turn is the top. Nope. OK, after this turn is the top. Nope. ARGGGH, I swear the top better be coming soon." 

I got through the two steep sections unscathed and it wasn't long before I saw my beloved toilets. I think it's a sad commentary on my day that one of the things that brought me joy was a public toilet. 

Once at the top, I dressed for the descent (long sleeve shirt, cycling jersey, arm warmers, sleeves on jacket, beanie, and two pairs of gloves. The problem on the second descent was I was sweating a little more and my clothing was a little wet. I was shivering on the way down. As I made my way down, I felt warmer. At the halfway point, we turned right to see what the other direction would bring. What it wound up bringing was yet another climb to get back.

We tacked on a few miles to lengthen our day and then went back to the car to head home. Overall, it was a good day of climbing. We're heading back next weekend and will make 3 trips up and down Bear Mountain. Then the rest of the ride will be the up and down on Seven Lakes Drive to get more time in the saddle without any steep climbing.

~1300' climbing on each ascent

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slowly coming together

My last two weeks of workouts have been good. I finally feel like there is rhythm to my workouts and I'm finding it easier to nail them. By no means are they easy workouts, but I carefully read the fine print and make sure I nail the goal of the workout. There's no point in training in a grey area and getting nothing out of it.

I had an running interval workout on Wednesday before work. I didn't get a chance to program it into my Garmin, but I managed to memorize the details of the workout. I got through the warmup unscathed and now it was time for the 'meat and potatoes' of the workout. There were 3 various timed intervals with rest intervals in-between. At the end of the 3rd, you repeat the whole thing again over the course of 4 miles. Then an easy cool down run. The first two minutes blew by, then it felt like it got a little harder. I just kept plugging away and before I knew it, it was time to cool down. Thank goodness. I felt great and was pleased with the effort, but at the same time I was glad the workout was done.

The weather this weekend put a small monkey wrench in my itinerary. I had to flip-flop my workout days as the Wingman and I were heading up to Harriman again to ride. So today I got up and went to work at my folks office. I got home to an empty house this evening (Wingman is out playing poker) and hit the treadmill in the basement. Our satellite TV company came by yesterday to install a new receiver unit on our TV's. Now the unit downstairs will let me watch what is recorded on the main TV. So I popped on the Kona 2010 ironman coverage, covered up the time display on the treadmill, and started running. It really was a great way to get a run in and stay motivated to keep going. My only downer with the Kona coverage is the sappy stories they play. Honestly, I would just prefer to watch the pro's race and skip the average joe's story. Ah, the beauty of a DVR, I would just skip the stories and get back to the pro race. Before I knew it the coverage was done (and then some) and I had 90 minutes completed on the treadmill. I'm glad I got the run in.

Tomorrow morning we leave early for Harriman State Park. We have a big agenda planned. We're going to ride a little in the park and then make our way up to Bear Mountain. It's ~4 miles of uphill climbing in one segment and hopefully it won't be too bad to climb so we can try it twice. Perhaps I'm a little too optimistic, but we won't know until we get there tomorrow. I'll have the camera packed to capture some of the scenery again.

Monday, March 26, 2012

There's gold in them thar hills........

Well, not exactly. On Saturday the Wingman and I made the trek up to Harriman State Park to get some hill riding in. I shot off an email to Wynn to see if he was interested and, sure enough, he was. We picked Wynn up early in the morning and made the ~2 hr drive to Harriman. The last time I rode up there was when I was preparing for Ironman Lake Placid a few years ago. I wanted to go back so we can get some good hill work in prior to Mallorca.

The happy trio made it up to Harriman and we parked in the lot on Seven Lakes Drive (7LD). We stumbled out of the Element and were in the process of getting ready to ride when a large white van pulled up. It captured our attention because it was almost like the clown car in the circus, except this time it was full of Asian hikers. No joke, 12 of them filed out and made their way onto the trails. That image got me through most of the days ("how many asians can you fit into a van?").

We started out on Seven Lakes Drive heading towards Tiorati Circle, but were told we couldn't go up Tiorati Road because it was closed for the winter. Since the park attendant was right there, we decided not to be too arrogant and ride past her. So we doubled back and went down towards Sebago Beach which lead us to Lake Welch Drive (LWD). LWD was also closed, but we went around the barriers and continued with our ride. There is a huge downhill on LWD that you can easily hit >40mph without trying. Since I am such a nervous nelly, I took it easy on the downhills. At the bottom we decided that we would just make the long climb back up LWD instead of turning off this week. Holy cow, what a long climb it was!! The climb was a tough one in that it was 2 solid miles of uphill at ~8% grade. I slowly made my way back up and was overheating like crazy on the way up. My sunglasses were fogging up.

When I finally made it to the top I stopped to grab a quick bite to eat and to pull my knee warmers off. Then we were off again. We made our way back towards 7LD and at the other circle I told the crew to ride up the 106 section as I remembered it had a hill in there. I couldn't remember how long the hill was, but it turns out it was pretty nice. It wasn't quite as steep as the one on LWD, but it did give you a nice break here and there since it wasn't a steady drive. The road condition was much nicer here. We did the nice out and back and met up with Wynn in a parking lot. He had a big grin on his face which meant "Can we do that again?" Since it was anise roadway with beautiful scenery, we road it again. I brought my camera along, but with all the climbing I didn't take too many shots.

By the time we returned to the car to rack the bikes, we logged ~3 hrs of riding and over 3,350' of climbing. We're not too sure about the climbing totals as my garmin and Wynn's device did not jive. But I can say it was quite a bit. I'm not sure the roadway was ever flat.

Overall the ride was great. Wingman, Wynn and I had a good time riding in the park. The scenery was amazing up there. Whenever you felt like the suffering was too much, you just picked your head up and observed nature. There was so much to take in.

On the way home we stopped at a diner for a quick bite to eat. When we got home I grabbed a 30 minute nap, took a shower and then was off to work for a few hours. 

Next week Teresa will be joining us so it should be a blast again. Looking forward to what round two will bring....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free time is dwindling......

Today was one of my last days off on my part time schedule. I was lucky enough to extend my flex schedule into March, not sure if April is realistic. I am covering in East Hampton for 4 days early in April and then I will be away at the end of the month. Our trip to Mallorca/Madrid, Spain is one month from today. I have been cycling and trying to find hills on Long Island, but the reality is we don't have anything significant in terms of long climbs. At some point soon Wingman and I will take a day trip up to Harriman State Park/Bear Mountain and get some better riding in.

The weather has been fantastic this winter. We had some colder days, but overall it was mild.  I think we had snow twice and it was gone the next day. Doesn't get much better than that. Today was the first day of spring and I celebrated it by being off and on a two hour ride. It was in the 70s and light wind which means an excellent ride was to be had. I knew a 2 hour loop and set out on it after the morning fog burned off. As I made my way down CR24 towards CR51, the Tom Petty lyrics were going through my head as I was churning the crank arms on my bike:

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was driving
Trees went by, me and Del were singing
Little Runaway, I was flyin'

I was in such a great mood during the entire ride. I had a clear head and was able to really hear my breathing patterns. I think I might have even been smiling most of the ride. I need more days like this where I can get out and just relax and not let the stress of my daily grind get to me anymore.

Before I knew it I was home. 5 minutes faster than the last time I did that loop. Good ride!! But I made quick work of changing and went for a short 20 minute run. It was then that I noticed how warm it was. Warm weather on the bike doesn't bother me too much but I'm not built for warm weather running. I just put one foot in front of the other and get the run in the books. It wasn't pretty, but I was done.

I was supposed to swim tonight, but when I woke up this morning I had a neck problem. I couldn't turn my head to the right. It's still a little stiff and since I breathe on the right I opted to not beat my neck up and give it another day to loosen up. I did some work on myself to get some more movement, but not enough. I'll hit the pool tomorrow night after work.

Wynn and I exchanged a few emails today that had me laughing. We are both pretty much geeks (sorry Wynn, but we are) and will combine our efforts on a 'major motion picture event' in a few weeks. It will be fun to see how it all works out, but for now the project is 'under wraps'.............

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Will Run for Soup

Saturday morning found me on the starting line for the Little Cow Harbor 4 Miler. February was not much of a running month. I've been doing more cycling in preparation for our trip to Mallorca. I've only been running 2x a week recently so I had no expectations for this race. I've run it the last 2 years and it's a challenging race. It's not really flat where you can get 'comfortable' while you red line. It is mostly rollers where you can't establish a steady pace. I knew a PR was not even a fantasy, so I decided to use this as a workout to build my hill running strength.

The weather was weird. It wasn't really cold (yes Jen, I wore shorts), but it was overcast and ready to rain. We made our way to the starting line and waited for the horn. Once it sounded, I started easy. The first section is a slight uphill. My goal was to 'take the hill', but this first one was not it. I wanted to build up smartly. Once I got past the first little incline, the rollers began. The 1st mile is all up and down. Each uphill I hammered up and then used the downhill for a recovery. Even the last 1/4 of mile 1 is a false flat so that meant no easing up. I could feel my heart in my throat and suddenly remembered "Crap, I left my heart rate monitor home." I wanted to capture my heart rate data to see what I was doing on the hills.

The first half of mile 2 is a nice little recovery area and somewhat flat. I picked some people to run in a pack with so I would be protected from the wind. As we made our way back towards the middle school, I prepared for the next series of rollers. As I ran up the hills, I put my head down and motored up, even passing people along the way. Again, using the downhills to rest up a little in preparation for the next hill.

When I passed the school, all I could think about was the post race soup. Honestly, this is what has us coming back each year. The soup. It's homemade turkey/potato/vegetable soup. Right after a race, it's still cool out, that soup hits the spot. Mmmm, soup...... But not yet. I still have one more mile to finish up before I can get a bowl. Back to the race......

It's a downhill into the last mile. It's pretty much a mile loop around the neighborhood in front of the school. It starts as a gradual downhill, but you are tested at the end where the last ~1/2 mile is uphill and the last little bit into the school parking lot just punches you in the gut and then in the teeth. I picked it up and finished strong. I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was about a minute or so slower than last year. I was not surprised nor worried. I thought I was right on target for where I am in the season. Actually, I have to say I was pleased with how I raced. My goal was to take the hills.

Once I crossed the finish line I went to the car to get my jacket, and then immediately went to the soup line. That first hot spoonful was everything I was hoping for. Big pieces of turkey, potato chunks, mmmmm. Wingman had two bowls!! I was satisfied with one big bowl. Can't wait until next year, but for now, back to the grind of my training.............

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where does the time go?

Holy cow, I must have been busy. Didn't realize it had been so long since my last post. Work keeps me busy (both jobs now). I am working in Sag Harbor part-time for the month of February so I get a little time off for good behavior. We've also had weird computer issues a the tax office where they run slow when there are too many people working. That has made me shift when I work. I now work Friday nights from 7-10 or 11p and Saturday night 5-10 or 11p. This actually works out great because I can have my daytime free, sleep in if I need it so I'm not so tired; and get my workouts in. Plus there is no one else working except for me so I have the office to myself. I can get a lot of work done in a short period of time with no interruption. When Monday comes along, I have a nice day to myself! It feels like a 3 day day weekend. I'm thinking of doing the same thing next year, regardless of the computer speeds.

With Monday's off, I had the pleasure of my very first photo shoot with a VIP client. Miss Lily will be turning 1 in march and her mom (my cousin Jen) asked if I would take some photos of her. I was a bit nervous as I have never done anything like it before. I usually take photos of landscapes, etc; not kids. But I was willing to try. Miss Lily was such a trooper. Seriously, I've never seen an 11 month old be so pleasant for so long. She had one little sour moment, but her mommy jumped in and cheered her up pretty quickly. The shoot was setup at Lily's grandma's house. We had furniture moved and a nice area setup. I found myself on my belly under the dining room table to take the photos. The things I do for this kid.......

I took ~190 pictures that day. Miss Lily was such a model. I will never forget the cupcake shot sequence or the teddy bear sequence. Not sure the poor bear will forget either - he's traumatized............ Thank you Miss Lily for letting me be your personal photographer. Can't wait for our next photo session.

On the training front, Mallorca is 2 months away. I'm trying to get all the workouts in, but I've been stressed about my regular job. I'm doing a lot of evaluations (which I don't mind), but it increases the paperwork I have to do. I've had a few good patients coming in that I've tried to keep on my schedule so I would have something to look forward to each day. But somehow I always get a patient just before lunch that makes me lose my appetite so I wind up not eating, which sets me back a bit. The last time I skipped lunch was because my patient was a smoker. I didn't treat him in a room, I had him on a table in the gym area so it would be well ventilated, but it didn't matter. The smell was horrible. Made me sick to my stomach. Despite scrubbing my hands, I could still smell him. He's a 30+ year smoker and that shit is in his skin and embedded in his breath. Totally disgusting.  By the end of the week, I was throwing up the white flag. It was a bad week.  Hopefully things will get better.........hopefully.........

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I gotz some mad mechanical skillz.....

Well, maybe not great skills, but I managed to actually do something and not totally screw it up. When it comes to fixing things on my bikes, I leave it to the trained professionals at my local bike shop. Once or twice when I've tried to fix things, it goes horribly wrong and I do the "walk-of-shame" into the shop with my tail between my legs, begging for forgiveness.

I recently got a new trainer for my bike to help me get through the winter months. It's the LeMond Revolution trainer and I ordered it with a Shimano rear cassette. When I put my trainer bike on it, I noticed when I dropped into my 14-13 or smaller cassette, the chain would skip like crazy. I had the Wingman play with the barrel adjuster while I pedaled, but it didn't seem to do the trick. So I started to think about what else would be wrong. Then, it came to me. The cassette that came with the trainer was a 10 speed. The groupset on my bike is a cheap 9 speed (normally I own 10 speeds). A-ha!! All I have to do is swap the cassette. Easy peasy, right? Well sure, if you are mechanically inclined.

Wingman suggested we go to the bike shop and let them do it. I resisted the suggestion and wanted to see if I could do it myself. I mean seriously, am I that big of a jackass? (sadly the answer is usually yes). It wasn't like it's an expensive part that I could break and be pissed. So I went to Youtube and found tons of videos on how to change the cassette. Now I needed the tools. A chain whip is ~$30 and I'm not sure what the locking tool would cost. So I emailed Wynn and asked him if he had the tools. He replied yes and that it was OK for me to borrow them.

I stopped by last night after work and picked them up. He gave me a few tips and basically told me 'don't be a moron' I would be fine. Clearly, he forgot that I am known as the 'Hero of the Stupid' in these parts.

This morning I got up and watched the video two more times. Then it was time to head downstairs and make it happen. I followed the directions carefully and took my time. Before I knew it the cassette was off the wheel and the trainer. I swapped it out and put the bike back on the trainer. I popped on my shoes and did a quick test spin. I must have been quite the sight in my pj's riding the bike. The bike shifted smoothly, no chain skipping. I now have all gears available to me again.

It really was an easy thing to do. Hardest part about the whole thing really was duplicating the man's accent as I worked:

No walk of shame for me this time..............

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting the work done

For the first time since September, I'm back in the pool. I meant to swim with the local tri club on Tuesday night, but I was overwhelmed with evaluations and fell behind on my documentation. I wound up bringing stuff home to type which pisses me off to no end. I would love to leave my work at work, but when my schedule gets loaded up and a patient doesn't shut up, then I lose time. So my pool entry was delayed until Thursday. And I looked and felt like someone that hasn't been in water in ~4 months. My 100 times were so slooooowww. I had my workout scribbled on a piece of paper in a ziplock bag and I ticked off each set on the list. Before I knew it, the workout was over. And I had that horrible feeling of weighted arms. It wasn't a hard or long workout, but it still wore me down a little. The Wingman was in another lane practicing his drills. Once we were both done we headed home and I went right to sleep. I had a long day Friday.

Friday morning I had to head to a different office to cover for another PT that was off for the day. It was a slow day, which I didn't mind for a change. Then I had to head to the tax office for my 2nd job. It was a good 12 hour day for me. I headed home to spend a little time with the Wingman and then get to bed early.

Saturday was a pretty windy day. I had two choices for my ride - stick to my schedule and do an easy 90 minute ride on the trainer, or head into the trails with the Wingman, Wynn, and Teresa on a MTB ride that would be anything but short and easy. I opted to stay home and ride the trainer. I missed riding with the group, but I'm glad I got my workout in. I really want to stick to the plan this year and not go too hard, too fast, too early in the season. One of my goals is to not burn out or get injured before the end of my season. Saturday night we headed over to Ian and Joan's for dinner. Wynn and Teresa were also there. As always, we had a great time and laughed a lot.

Today I had a long run scheduled, but the wind was not going to cooperate. I opted for the treadmill instead. I loaded up my iPad with a few training podcasts and fired up the treadmill. I had an hour fifteen to knock out. About half way through, the moment I was waiting for occurred. That wonderful runners high. It's a great moment when I feel it take full effect. There is an amazing disconnect between my upper and lower body and my brain says "hmm, the legs are moving, I don't know how it's happening, and I can't feel them going, but they're going." I'm on auto-pilot until the workout is done. Once it was done I felt good that I banged it out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What goes through my head

At any point in time, I am always in thought. For some reason, I just can't shut down my brain. It comes in handy at work where I can listen and think at the same time. But sometimes I would like to enjoy some quiet time and relax but I have yet to figure out how to do this.

When I go out and exercise, especially running, many things go through my head. Sometimes I create lists of things I need to do or I sort through problems. Other times weird shit enters my thoughts and then I am trapped. A conversation I had with Dolores a few years ago popped into my head. It was a Saturday during tax season and somehow we got on the topic of the song "Cracklin' Rosie" by Neil Diamond. I was telling her it sounded like some hooker:

Cracklin' Rosie get on board
We're gonna ride 'til there ain't no more to go
Takin it slow

Cracklin' Rosie make me smile
God if it lasts for an hour, that's all right
We got all night

So we spent a good deal of time analyzing the lyrics and convincing ourselves it was about a hooker. But we were stumped by the part where he calls her a 'store bought woman'. So we consulted with my mother, who is all things Neil Diamond, and she informed us that Cracklin' Rosie was not a hooker, but wine. Needless to say we were crushed. We preferred our version of the song.

So now my problem was despite listening to my iPod on the run, all I could hear was Cracklin' Rosie in my head. And it was in my head all day.

Play it now. Play it now. 
Play it now my baby.....

We were so fortunate with the weather today. It was almost 60 degrees out. I was supposed to ride, but with the Wingman's swim lesson, we juggled the workouts so he could ride with me tomorrow. I went out and ran long today. I'm doing a better job on the long easy runs of just sitting back and trying to go easy. I don't bother with the GPS watch. I pick a route that will cover the time goal that is set for me. It's not even about mileage. Just get the time in so the fitness builds up. 

Tomorrow the Wingman and I will be busting out the mountain bikes and riding some double track trails with Wynn & Teresa. Wynn assures us it will be challenging with hill climbing. I dug out my GoPro video camera so hopefully I will get some good footage of the ride.