Thursday, October 18, 2012

Me vs Lance

It's been, oh, nearly 6 months since I last posted anything here. To be honest, I just didn't have the heart. I still don't. But, I just kind of need to get some thoughts written down.

I guess the last thing I wrote about was the REV3 Knoxville race. From there, things went downhill. Fast.

I raced at Columbia Triathlon, my time-honored tradition, and it didn't go great. I did swim the fastest I've ever swam there, which was a positive, but I rode pretty slow. And my run wasn't very good. It just wasn't my day. But I moved on, and tried to put in a solid Memorial Day weekend. The weekend after Memorial Day was the REV3 Quassy race in Connecticut. Mike, Courtney, and I headed up to my parents' on Friday night in an absolute deluge. Alyssa met us there and we continued north in the rain on Saturday. Sunday the rain held off for the race, which was legitimately one of the hardest courses I've ever done.

The swim was great, very clean water, but the bike was just hard. I'm not even sure why, but it was. I rode something like 2:40 and outside of the Hunterdon race in 2010 (road bike), my first big race since getting injured, I've never ridden that slow for that distance. I got onto the run and that was just as hard. Up and down, steep, very little in between. Of course for me, I really struggle running downhill, so I was just in pain. I think I ran around 1:35, which in retrospect I guess isn't even that bad. Alyssa and Mike did really well, and Courtney finished her first half. We drove back to MD that night, again in the rain.

But no rest for the weary, as just a week later I toed the line at Eagleman. This time I was off from the very beginning. The debatable water temperature was allegedly cool enough to allow wetsuits, and since everyone else was wearing one, I did too. I wouldn't say that wearing it is what devastated me, but it certainly didn't help. I exited the water and reached my bike, and had to lean on it for a second so I didn't faint. That wasn't a good sign for the day to come. Out on the bike, I was riding slower than I ever have and just wishing for it to end. The back half wind slowed me down even more, and it ended up being a slow, slow ride. I should have stopped there. I went out onto the run course and within feet it was evident I was in for a long day. By the turnaround I was in serious trouble. I made it to mile 10, where Alyssa was waiting for me, and I couldn't hear and could barely stand up. We began walking towards the finish but the ultimatum came: either start jogging, or you've got to stop.

So stop I did. It was my first DNF, excluding the planned DNF at IMAZ 2010 when I could only swim anyway, and it was tough to swallow. Even tougher that I still had to walk back to the start, so I probably only cut off a mile. But I couldn't put everyone through another 30 minutes of me walking.

After that day I was pretty fried. I had one more race on the schedule - Philly Tri two weeks later - and I was not looking forward to it. Something was wrong with me, but what? Mike, Andy, and I went up to Philly that last weekend, and I was pretty relaxed. I had low, or no, expectations. When Alyssa, Pat, and I had gone up to watch the year before, the race looked so awesome, so I figured it would just be cool. On the bus ride to the swim start, we sat next to Andy Potts, which was neat, and then the water was about 82 degrees so it was at least comfortable. I floated down the river and came out, and as the story has been this whole year, just had a subpar ride. I got onto the run and was really struggling, and finally managed to get across the line. The highlight of this one was talking to Matt Reed, one of my favorite pros, for a while after the race. We got to talk to him in Knoxville and Quassy, but this was a full-on conversation. He was having a tough year himself, so we comiserated in that.

On the same day, Alyssa was out crushing Ironman Coeur d'Alene, finishing 2nd in her age group.

As bad as the first 6 months of the year were, I was definitely not prepared for how much worse the 2nd half of the year was going to be. June seems like a lifetime ago now.

Since 2009 I have had some tough months of July, but this one took the cake. I lost the most important person in my life, and didn't have an outlet. I felt so fatigued and exhausted all the time I just couldn't do anything. I couldn't run, couldn't ride, couldn't swim. I was down for the count. My idiosyncracies finally got the better of me. I let things consume me, and paid for it.

July passed, and then August. I proudly watched as Alyssa knocked out great race after great race. Even though I hadn't been riding, I attempted to mount up for the Church Creek Time Trial in August. The last time I went out there was 2008, so I figured it was my Olympics (London Olympics, by the way, were great). I rode okay, finishing just over an hour for the 40k. With just about 4 weeks until the race I'd been looking forward to for years, I was pleased.

I had hoped I would spend most of the summer swimming and running in preparation for the Survival of the Shawangunks. This unique race is an 8 leg triathlon that consists of a 30 mile bike, 4.5 mile run, 1.1 mile swim, 5.5 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, 8 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, and 0.7 mile run straight up a mountain to the finish. It was so hard, but so cool. I did it with Mike, Benda, and OJ, and Mike killed it. I made a few poor choices throughout the day, but more than anything, I just wasn't in shape to do as well as I thought I could. I might do a little write-up separately for this one as it was pretty cool.

That was September 9th. Under my original plan, I was going to use my amazing base of running over the summer and this race to help propel me towards NYC Marathon. But there was one more triathlon I was looking forward to - the REV3 Half Full Triathlon here in Columbia.

Alyssa had won a free entry as an award for her high finish at Quassy, but since she was heading to Kona that weekend, she couldn't race, and had given it to me. So thanks to her for that.

Again, I hadn't been riding or swimming much, but I did have one day of glory in the pool where I knocked out 30x100 on 1:40, which is kind of my marker. If I can do that, I'm usually okay. Of course, I don't think I swam the two weeks leading up to the race, so it probably disappeared. I hadn't been on my bike in at least two weeks either. Running had been up and down, but I was really looking forward to this race because...

I got to race Lance Armstrong.

If I had written this last week it would have been much different than writing it this week. I will no longer discuss the topic, but no matter what, I was excited to get to race with him. It was my third REV3 event of the year, it was basically Columbia Triathlon x 2 (and in reverse), which means it was close, and it supports a good cause, so I was pumped. What I was not pumped for was the weather. 45 degrees and rain are not my favorite conditions. The water was a balmy 67 so that felt good. I thought the time trial start was a little weird for the size of the field, but I didn't think much of it once I started, because I just ripped through and over people. It was the best I've felt in the water all year. I may not have swam super fast, but I didn't swim horrible, and I got out feeling good.

So good, in fact, that I opted to not put on arm warmers or anything that would keep me dry or warm. I simply had a jersey and my shorts on. Hindsight, this was a bad idea. Everyone else, including Lance, had jackets, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers. Within about 30 minutes I was soaked - and frozen - to the core. I was shivering and having trouble staying upright on the bike. I couldn't ride in my aerobars because I was shaking so much. I was having difficulty getting to, and eating, my food. I took in a mere 300 calories on the 2:51 bike (yikes - again, the slowest I've ever ridden, fortunately, everyone was that slow).

Had it not been for Mike and Grace appearing at mile 45, I would have called it a day when I got back from the bike. My feet were blocks of ice, I was just so cold. I saw Suzanne Hurst, who was running the relay, in transition, and talked to her for a second before I took off. This time cost me the chance to get to run alongside Lance, because when I got on the path everyone was yelling "he's just ahead of you, you can catch him!" and sure enough, there he was. I was running quick, he was running quicker.

I settled in with 6:45-6:50 miles and felt good about that. I had hoped to run faster, but it was all my body was giving. And it was comfortable, and I was wearing just my green speedo so everyone out there was appreciative of that. I saw Mike and Grace in a few spots, which was great. Then around mile 8 (2 loop course) I got really, really cold again. I began to slow down, and made it across the finish line and everyone was commenting on just how blue I was. Lance, for what it's worth, crushed it. I'm sure he got in his helicopter right after the race, because I didn't see him anywhere afterwards.

Again, without Mike and Grace, I probably would have died. Just too many extremes for me - extreme heat at Eagleman, now too cold at Half Full. I went into the med tent, where my temperature was 93 degrees. It wasn't pretty.

I warmed back up, had a brief chat with Richie Cunningham, who raced the whole REV3 series this year, and then heard my name called for 2nd in my age group. It's the first time I've gotten any award this year and while normally I wouldn't be worried about it, it was really cool to get something at this race. I'll post a picture of the medal maybe.

And that was that. The Orioles made the playoffs so I got to go to a game, which was really cool, but kept me pretty cold again. Baltimore was a pretty nice place to live for a few days, before the O's lost and then the Ravens had some players hurt. Now it's back to regular Baltimore.

This past weekend was our Marathon, which is always a fun and busy day for me riding around to spectate, and the biggest triathlon event of the year took place too - Ironman World Championships. I was so proud to watch Alyssa cross the finish line (online), and you can read her race report here.

The other thing that's been keeping me going is the radio show, The Runaround on ESPN. I've been doing it since April, and it's been a lot of fun. I am pretty sure only my mom and dad listen to it though. It may not exist into the new year, so if it goes away, I'll have enjoyed my time as part of it.

I only had one race left on the calendar, the New York City Marathon, and I'm going to have to scratch from it. I just don't feel like my body has a marathon in it right now, part of it is my heart not being in it, but I also don't want to be out there and have another tough day. I've had too many of those.

So if this is my last post for a while, it's been quite a journey, and thanks for following.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

REV3 Knoxville Race Report

Knoxville, we have a problem.

The 2 hours and change of racing in Knoxville was without a doubt the least exciting thing that happened over the weekend. Instead, the eXtreme road trip was the highlight.

Thursday night was my Alumni Mile at the Maryland Twilight Meet. It's the 4th year they've had it, and I have now been able to run all 4 years. My progression of times is pretty hilarious: 5:12, 6:15, 5:00, 5:14. In fairness, the 6:15 was 6 weeks after my 2nd knee surgery and I hadn't run a step yet. Last year was a pretty sweet race, with the exception of the 5:00.11 FAT result. This year I knew I was not as fast, and certainly not as comfortable running fast, so I had to scale back my expectations. My splits were 77.1 (409m), 78.2, 80.5, 78.3. Yikes. Worst of all - got outkicked by Danielle in the last 150. Embarrassing, maybe, but whatever. The meet was the most fun it's been in its years, we had a great turnout, and got to catch up with a lot of old teammates.

Unfortunately, it was a late meet in College Park, and Friday was an early rollout to Tennessee. Alyssa was borrowing her dad's Subaru to fit our bikes, plus Ed, and we were on our way. Made it to Roanoke, where we stopped for lunch around noon, and headed back out. We noticed a loud, helicopter-like sound, that got louder and louder, so we finally stopped. To our horror, two of five lugnuts on the rear driver's side wheel had completely sheered off and a third was about to come off. We tightened it, and drove a little more carefully until we got to Knoxville. But it was late in the day, and as we found out from Sears and Pep Boys, Subaru parts are not easily found. There was no way we were taking the chance of driving all the way back to Baltimore on it, so we HAD to get it fixed.

Fortune smiled upon us and a Subaru dealer was open for service on Saturday. They fixed it quickly for us in the morning, and crisis was averted.

Meanwhile, Friday night in Knoxville, our hotel was right in the "thick" of it, a short walk to Market Square, which was poppin'. Alyssa and I went to eat while Ed went to meet some friends at an art gallery, and who should he run into by ERICA MOORE and PHOEBE WRIGHT, of UT Track lore and now American hopefuls for the Olympics.

Saturday, after the car was fixed, it was time to check in. REV3 does a lot of things well. Packet pickup is not one of them. The process just seemed to take a little too long, mostly with the picking up of chips, as they take your picture for when you cross the finish line. But, it is a fun little area for kids and families, so I could overlook that. From there it was time for the practice swim. I bumped into my buddy Andrew Yoder, and we chatted about the course. I expected the bike course would be difficult, and he confirmed it was a tough one. Got in the water, which was a little chilly (66-67 degrees) but very clean. Swam for 20 minutes, then headed back to the hotel to get some lunch, and then ride a little of the course. Did a 15 mile ride, then ran just under 3 off the bike. It had warmed up quite a bit, and was very humid. With all the energy spent on Saturday, I slept well - maybe too well - and woke up Sunday pretty tired.

Sunday got down to the swim start, and that's where we ran into Ed, who had brought his parents to come watch us swim. This is a big deal as his parents have only seen HIM race once in the last ten years. The gesture was appreciated. And now for a little bit of a race report:

Swim: 22:13

This is the only split I actually know, because the timing still is a little hard to decipher. When I heard the time, I was pretty pleased, as that's a decent swim for me, but after looking at how fast some of the other people swam, I don't think it's all that cool. Pros were in the low 17s, so it was fast water. I got a crappy start; I tried to warm up, and when I got back to the "line" I couldn't get any farther up than 6 or 7 people back in line. It was an aggressive start, and my goggles went flying off at one point, so I fluttered around getting those back on. This didn't cost me time as much as opportunity. I then spent the rest of the swim working through groups, and then as we turned around, we began to catch the earlier waves of the half iron swimmers. I felt good about my 2nd half, and if I had been swimming that speed the entire time, I should have been in the 21:30 range. If I can get towards the low 21s at Columbia, that will be a major win.


Normally transitions aren't a big deal, they are what they are, but this one was without a doubt the longest I've ever done. First, you pulled yourself out of the water onto a little dock, then ran up the dock, then up the concrete and through a building, then onto the road, over some train tracks, on a sidewalk, up the grass, and into the dirty parking garage. All told, a legitimate 300m+ of running. And no, not like the people that say "it had to be a quarter of a mile" and then their transition time is 90 seconds. I actually took my wetsuit off as I got out of the water and ran with it so I could run a bit faster, seemed to work, but my transition still wasn't super quick.


No idea what I rode. I really just wanted to get a feel for the roads again. I haven't been on the time trial bike since November, and I left the Zipps and aero helmet at home. I don't own a computer, have never had a powertap, and on this day, didn't even wear a watch. Just rolled with it. I seemed to be riding decent, I was climbing very well - and there were for serious climbs on this course - but I didn't seem to have the ability to go much faster than I was. It was an aerobic effort, so I just need to sharpen. It felt like a long ride.


Again, into the parking garage, and elected to put on socks. I was not going to, but I was sweating as it had become pretty warm and was very humid, and the blisters I would have gotten just weren't worth it to me. Ed was there to encourage, and I went out onto the run.


I think I ran about 40 minutes, probably just over. The run course was actually very easy, so this isn't a very good split, but all things considered, I'm actually okay with it. It was just an out and back on Neyland Rd or whatever it is, exposed to the sun, and then a partially shaded greenway asphalt path. There weren't many people around me, I think the only ones I saw were the 3 guys that passed me. Aruond 3.5/4 my piriformis began to lock up, so I stopped for a second to stretch and dig into it a bit, and that seemed to help so I was on my way. There were no mile marks, but it wouldn't have mattered as I didn't have a watch. Just going on feel. With a half mile to go, I went by a guy I had met the day before, and cruised into the finish at just over 2:13. I think it was 20th place in the non-pro field, and I didn't get beat by any age group girls. So that was cool.

I went back to the hotel, showered, packed, and Ed and I went back to watch Alyssa rock a 3rd place in the half. And because we could, we ran across the line with her. It was awesome, can't wait for the picture. It was really warm at this point, that half would have been real tough.

Things I liked:

The event was very family friendly, and was at a cool venue. Knoxville is a pretty place and a perfect location for a race. The pro field was awesome, and the race looked like it was a good one. Helps when there's $50 large on the line. And as we always say in triathlon, the pros are so chill and accessible following the race, it's really cool. Highlight was probably having a bit of a chat with Matty Reed on Saturday as we ran into him while he was running. I personally don't care about medals and t-shirts, but they were designed and executed well.

Things I would change:

The water on the run course. They handed out these weird little packets of water, almost like Capri Suns or something. They had instructions on how to open them but I couldn't figure it out, nor could anyone else, as everyone was just biting them open and spitting the plastic on the ground. If the effort was to reduce the number of cups/trash, it failed. Way more plastic on the course, little bits they'll never find to clean up. The water also tasted disgusting, like the plastic. The only thing I liked was being able to control the volume of water that was coming out, and it was a little easier to run with and spray.

The body marking numbers. They gave you stickers, and it's now Tuesday and my numbers are nowhere near gone. The sticky film is clinging to my skin and I don't think the numbers are going to disappear anytime soon.

But I did really like the race, got to meet DC's own Conor Shapiro, who had a great race, finishing one spot ahead of me, and met some other cool people. Unfortunately, we still had the business of a 9 hour drive after Alyssa's race. We got our stuff out of transition and by this point it was 3pm. Yikes. We were making decent time and stopped in Roanoke VA for dinner. It was...awesome. Seriously I did not expect it to be that cool. I don't know what it was, I just liked it. When we rolled from there, it was 8pm, and we still had close to 5 hours of driving. And it started raining. Again. (It had rained on Friday). Alyssa and I have had bad luck with driving to races in the past year, it is ALWAYS raining - Luray, Louisville, Eagleman.

It was a tough drive, and my knee and body hated me for it, but we got back just before 1am.

I was pleased with the effort, with 4 more races in 6 weekends, the goal was not to go into the well, just have a good race. I think I accomplished that, and if I can get some good training in this weekend, I'll feel better about Columbia. I'm still not feeling great while I run, and I'm concerned both about pace and distance. The problems seem to start around 3 miles of harder effort, and once it's there, it doesn't leave. But it also happens at easier efforts, after time. So 13 miles could be tough, especially on a hilly course after a hilly 56 mile ride, at Quassy. Eagleman might not be any better as you're just using the same muscles the entire day. Need to get the body dialed in!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rock the Vote

Consider it practice for November...

Jim is one of five finalists, as we know, in the Retail Means Jobs "This is Retail" contest. They are not showing the current percentages of vote-getting, but this is obviously the toughest since it's down to 5. Make sure you vote 10 times every day for JIM!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back to Zero

All I have to say is, thank FSM that I wasn't running in Boston yesterday...

Indeed, a very warm east coast weekend led to devastating results for some in Beantown, and even in the land of training it yielded some very tired legs and salty skin.  I kicked off the weekend by running a little over an hour with 40 year old Kris on Friday, after which we celebrated with some Chipotle, and then a surprise party for him down in Fed Hill.  Here, Zero and I discussed our plans for the weekend.  It would be the most time I've spent with Mike in many months, and outside of IM training, one of the best we've gotten in.

We rolled out on Saturday morning for our standard Mt. Vista loop, and the conditions were awesome.  We were cruising along, and ended up riding one of the quickest - if not the fastest - I've ever done that ride.  It helped that we had some assistance from the traffic lights.  2 Fast, 2 Furious.  After the ride, headed up to watch the track contingent crush the 1500m at the Hopkins/Loyola Invite, including a big PR for my roommate Ed (3:56.99).  It was pretty warm at this point, and the sun was strong.  I tried to get down to the pool before the night's activity, but my attempt was thwarted when I got there and realized I had forgotten my suit.  

So I skipped it, which was fine, I was dehydrated and would have put myself in a further hole.  I picked up Mike, and we headed the tiny trip up to Homewood for the TERPS vs Hopkins lacrosse game.  A big game for both teams, and an awesome night for doing anything outside.  It was PACKED.  Lots of Terp fans, which was good, because the team was down 6-3 in the 2nd half.  They stormed back, scoring 6 unanswered goals, and winning 9-6.  Awesome.  After the game we headed down to Fells, got some burgers at Kooper's, and headed home for another early morning.

Sunday I pedaled to Mike's, we threw the bikes on his whip, and cruised down to Columbia to watch Dustin and some other friends run the Clyde's 10k.  It was overcast, and humid.  The course is already hard enough, so it looked like a tough race.  We jogged a few easy miles around during the race, and then headed over to Centennial Park, site of Columbia Tri, to ride a few hours with Chicken Tender.  Due to a miscommunication, Andy was riding his new Green Monstah (not sure if he named his wheels yet, but his sweet new TT bike), so already Mike and I were at a slight disadvantage.  The plan was to ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 miles out there, and not leaving until 10 meant it was already a little warm.  Sun, again, very strong.  

We departed and opted to not ride the course, instead heading out on an old route I used to ride with Scotty.  It was a fast first hour before we eased up a little, and then when we hit Frederick Rd following Gravitron, Andy was psshhewww gone.  We tried yelling up the road to tell him to turn, but alas, he did not hear.  Nor did he look back, despite not knowing where we were going.  We stopped, and finally he returned.  Silly Andy.  We corrected ourselves and were now onto Triadelphia Rd and the Son of Gravitron.  Once back on the Columbia course, we did 2 times the lollipop, which sucked, and then rode home.  It was just shy of 60 miles but I was done.  Very hot, very dehydrated, very much out of water.  Mike and I hit the RoFo for some drinks, and then he dropped me off.

I still had to swim, so I went down around 4:30, and somehow muddled through an hour of swimming before Alyssa got home from her weekend of running with the Rev3 Run Across America group.

Needless to say, when Monday proved to be even WARMER than the rest of the weekend, I watched the splits of my friends at Boston in agony.  They were really struggling.  A couple of DNFs, a few really slow times, but a few very good races too.  So it wasn't all bad.  I headed up to the radio show (more on that in a minute) and then got back down to Fed Hill for Monday's chill 6 miles.  It was hot, and my legs were heavy.  

In all, a cool weekend to get to kick it with Z, watch some races, get in some training.  #goodtimes

The radio show - The Runaround on ESPN - is a radio show created and produced by my friends at Running Maryland, Greg and Brad.  It's been on the air since mid-January, and is a weekly AM radio show about RUNNING.  I had called in a few times, but recently was asked if I didn't mind coming in to guest host, so I've done it two of the last three weeks.  Not only is it fun for me, but absolutely a great resource for runners.  The guys do a great job with it, and have scored interviews with some world champions, like Chaunte Lowe, Ashton Eaton, and Jenny Simpson.  It gets bigger each week, and it's in large part thanks to the main sponsor, Holabird Sports.  I hope more sponsors start checking it out, because it's a huge audience.  You can listen on Mondays from 5-6pm on ESPN1300 if you're in Maryland, or online at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quantity and Quality

Inspired by a little friendly Twitter banter last night with my good friend Ben, I got to thinking during this morning's swim about Ironman training, and, more importantly, how one gets started.

It's a very simple answer, when asked where to start: at the beginning.  But sometimes arriving there IS the hardest part.  Ben, an accomplished runner, decided to get into triathlon in 2011.  I remember the initial conversation going something like this:

Ben: "I'm going to do an Ironman."
Ryan: "Cool! You going to do any races prior to that?"
Ben: "I'll probably do an Olympic."

Now of course, there are plenty of people who have "complete an Ironman" on their to-do list, and many who are the triathlon equivalent of the NCAA Champion Kentucky Basketball team - that is, "one and done" - who may literally train for and do just that one triathlon.  Traditionally, you get from it what you put in.  Some of us, who have huge chips on their shoulders, get hosed more than others, but in general, work = success.

And as we know, Ben actually did 2.5 triathlons in 2011 - Columbia (great cherry-popper), Luray, and then tried to do the Poconos HIM but the swim got washed out.  For Ben, a strong cyclist and very good runner, it shorted him the opportunity to work on the one area he needed the most work: OWS.

He comes into 2012 with IM Wisconsin on the horizon, and the prospect of his first half sometime in June.  The reality is Ben will be fine, because he's a competitor, and it's not like he hasn't done long races before (2:32 marathon, crushed JFK 50 Mile).  But it made me think about my own progression in the sport.  For as much shit I take about my race performances, I actually have been extremely patient in my triathlon career.  Ironman was always a goal, but it was never this thing that I had to do to make my life feel complete.  In fact, so far from the forefront of my mind was the distance that it took me 8 years of triathlon to even bother to sign up for one.  However, my preparation for the day started way in advance, in fact, probably as early as 2006, for a day that wouldn't materialize for a few years.

It was the same thing with the marathon.  I really just didn't want to do one until I wanted to do one.  I was running 90 miles a week in college and I know I will never be as fast as I was then.  I knocked out 20 mile long runs like I was King Hippo.  I could wake up at 6am, be out the door at 6:07, and start a 13 mile run at 6:10 pace and finish at 5:20 (#thingsiwillneverdoagain).  Had I run a marathon back then, I bet I would have run pretty well, and perhaps would never have done another one, because I would have had nowhere to go but down (or up, as in increased time).  Years went by and it wasn't until I ran part of Boston in 2007 (the Nor'easter year) with Andy that I said, yeah, maybe I should do one.  And it wasn't until NYC 2008 that I actually ran one.  I was 27. 

So it would come as no surprise then that I waited 8 years, scratch that, 9, to do an Ironman.  I was perfectly fine with competing in Olympics and sprints from 2001 to 2003.  Back then, there were not as many HIMs, and IM was really just for the truly insane.  I had no faith in my ability to make it through the distance, but more importantly, I just didn't want to do it.  Each year I ramped up my volume a little bit, riding longer, riding more, getting my all-important hours per week up.  In college, I included my weight training time in my weekly numbers, but most weeks were 15+, and some were in the 21+ range.  That was for Olympic distance racing.  I'd swim 3-4 times per week, ride 3-4 (130-200 miles), and run 45-55 mpw.  That's actually more than most people spend on IM training.

After severe injury #1 in 2003, I didn't compete in 2004 or 2005, and in 2006 made my triumphant return.  I started slow, and raced what I knew, and what I enjoyed.  By 2007, thanks to riding with OJ, Benda, and the Thurs Night Ride, I knew I had much better riding legs than before, and felt like I could tackle a half.  I signed up for Eagleman 2008, and we know how that went - but it wasn't for a lack of fitness or strength.  Neither was my Providence failure that year.  By late 2008, it was time to sign up for IMAZ, and I believed that I was ready.  I had done a number of 100+ mile rides in 2007 and 2008, and 2009 would bring more of that. 

And that long winded explanation is what brings me to the crux of my position: volume doesn't hurt.  Being prepared doesn't hurt.  I've been marginally successful in triathlon, but one thing I've done well for years now is ride fast.  And for those who have ridden with me, you know there's no secret to what I'm doing.  I ride more.  In the winter, when you have a day that lends itself, you ride 4 or 5 hours.  It may be months before race day, and you might not even be doing a long race, but that kind of strength sticks with you.  In fact, most winters I was able to get away with a couple of long rides to keep my fitness there, and by spring time, I was ready to go. 

How else was I able to go from riding 1:10 every year at Columbia to riding in the 1:04s?  Or averaging nearly 25mph at EM?  It's just riding, man.  Riding.  I can vividly recall all the shitty days of my life.  One was last year, when on a rainy, 38 degree day, Benda/BenW/Pat and myself rode the Lineboro ride from Meadowbrook.  It was the last weekend in March, and it was 97 terrible miles.  Yeah, it tires you out, but then you have a long ride in your legs, and come July, when the workouts mean a lot more, you're not worried about doing your first long ride.

The layout of a year lends itself to a particular buildup.  For me, that means in the winter, I swim and run more, because I can run outside easily enough, day or night, and it's easier to get in the pool than it is to ride.  You build your volume up then, so that when you can start riding again, and your body is going to be tired, you don't have to worry about cramming.  If I took the approach of a slow, steady buildup, I'd be trying to balance building up swimming, riding, and running volume, as well as increasing intensity, and the two are a recipe for disaster. 

Instead, I have gotten my swim to a point where it's relatively automatic.  I can handle 20k weeks pretty easily without sacrificing quality, and can still do the work when my legs are shredded from 300 miles of bike miles in 4 days.  If you want to do well at Ironman, it's what you have to do.  No way around it.  I'm disappointed when I don't race well, but ultimately, I still only have one goal.  Completing an Ironman is not hard.  I've seen the people that come in at midnight.  ANYBODY can do it.  It's racing it that is the challenge. 

For as much as I ride, or run, or swim, most days I'm still hesitant to believe that I've done even enough.  I follow the training of my peers and rivals, and I think man, I should be doing more.  Are my long rides even long enough?   Is 115 miles enough?  Should I do 120, 125, 130?  In my 115 miles, I don't even spend that much of it at race intensity, should I be?  Last year I delicately balanced a pretty high volume.  Remember 2010, when I finally got to do the IM?  I had done a lot of training, and still thought it wasn't enough.  And, ultimately, the amount that I had been able to run post-surgery turned out to be just not enough, and I paid for it on the run.

So I give Ben a hard time, but he is a natural, much moreso than I am.  I'm sure he'll do fine at Wisconsin.  I just know that if it were me, I would do more now so I could tell how much I can handle.  You're supposd to get burned out at some point, it's not easy training.  Race day is a freaking godsend when it comes, because you realize it's actually less tiring than a normal training week.  Sure, you're beat up afterwards, but as a reward for hard work, it's pretty satisfying. 

What I've finally figured out is that I just don't LIKE Ironmans, or marathons, for that matter.  It's not how I want to spend my time.  I'm not particularly good at them, and it's not enjoyable for me.  Oddly enough, I really don't mind the training.  I love going out for long rides, even if I have nothing coming up.  It's just fun.  Take this year - no IM on the calendar yet I'm doing the same workload.  And I know that if I had to tomorrow, I could go out and compete at any distance.  I want to make it through an ambitious race schedule of 5 races in May and June, including 2 HIMs.  That's a lot of racing.  In order for me to make it through that, I need to get the rides in early, because pretty soon I won't have the weekends to do them.  And even though I'll have nothing in the fall, I'll still get my long rides in during the summer, because if I decide to sign up for an IM for 2013, I'll need to keep getting them in.

I guess the point of all this is that you can never go wrong with a 3 or 4 hour ride, but you'll never see the people competing for Kona spots or AG wins doing 1 hour rides.  But you have to build it up early, because otherwise you're caught in June, trying to swim/ride/run more than you ever have before, and when your body shuts down (and it will) you won't have time to recover and build back up before race day.

Monday, April 02, 2012

All Spark

"I just can't do it, Captain. We don't...have...the power."

That's what I've been feeling like for the last couple of months.  I simply do not have the power.  I'm currently running and riding slower than I have in years - including when I came back after a year off due to surgeries.  I don't know what's going on, but it's frustrating.  I haven't had a "good" run since the fall, and while I finally have gotten back on my bike, it's just not going well.  Even swimming seems to have plateaued, I guess expectedly, because at some point you're going to have to assume there will be diminishing returns.  Gone are the 30k weeks without spending much time elsewhere, where every swim was a good one, and here are the swims on tired legs, where my times are not improving, and I feel stagnant.  The only takeaway is that on even my worst, most tired days, I am able to get through the workouts and intervals, which previously I don't think I could have done.

April is here now, but in reality, I have nearly 3 months until the end of the spring season.  3 months isn't much time to GET into shape, but when you carry a base of fitness like most year-rounders should, 3 months is an eternity to sharpen and get race fit.  Even now I still have 5 weeks before the start of tri season, which is a lot of time. 

What I'm more concerned about than just being slow, or not feeling like I have power, is how my body FEELS.  It feels shattered.  I haven't done anything comfortably or without pain in years now, and yes, I realize that's just going to be a part of what happens when you suffer an injury like I have, but it's no easier to deal with.  My left hamstring/piriformis seems to fail on me pretty regularly.  It doesn't bother me much on the bike, but running, it hurts all the time.  It seems to deteriorate as I approach an hour of running, or after 2.5-3 miles of harder running.  Meanwhile, my right hip flexor/groin area is also not functioning properly.  Both of these are combining to impact my ability to drive my legs when I'm running.  The hamstring isn't as much of a problem on the bike, but the hip/groin thing is. 

As I was watching Transformers (Michael Bay version) the other day, I realized what I need:

An All-Spark.

I just need something that will recharge me, zap me back to normal, restore my life energy.  The number of times I've heard, or said, it's because I'm getting older - absolutely false.  At 30 years old, I shouldn't be this run down.  Engine's fine, chassis is a little bit up.  I feel like the Millenium Falcon.  I'm still the same person that ran a beautiful Philly Distance Run last year, so I have to hold onto hope that I can get back to even just where I was a few months ago.

Part of my realization was that my maladies are likely caused by severe muscle imbalances.  Pedaling, running, and swimming make you strong, but don't give you strength.  I've noticed that, particularly in the endurance races, it's often the athletes in their late 30s and even into their 40s now that are making waves.  If you look at their schedules, most have families, time-consuming jobs, that will limit their training.  But they're performing as well, or better, than they were in the past.  Some part of it is that they're more focused, and not overtraining, like they were before, but in talking to some of them, you see that they're strength training.  Through high school and college that was always a part of my routine, and I never felt better.  So I've reinstituted real strength training, and that's leveled me this past week as I adjust to the soreness, particularly in the legs.

I'm counting on leveling out some of the imbalances I have in my legs, which isn't something I can do all the way, on account of my out-of-whack knee, but I have to try. 

In other news, following my great first weekend of March Madness, my bracket was mostly demolished in the Sweet 16.  I shouldn't say demolished, but I dropped quite a bit.  The way does theirs, I cannot win my group now, and I'll have to settle for just another mediocre-ish year.  But in my money pool (CBS Sports) I am in the lead, and the best anyone can do (one guy) is tie me.  If Kansas wins tonight, I win.  If Kentucky wins, we tie, and then it comes down to combined points for the game.  I guessed 148, he guessed 157.  Based on the scores through 5 games, the scores have not been near 80.  So it's going to be close.  I don't honestly believe Kansas is the better team, but it's March!

Anybody that put Kansas in the Championship game was probably doing so on account of name.  They were a #2 seed and I didn't consider them to be in the top 5 teams of the Tournament.  Nevertheless, in this game of points, we have to take some chances, and because they're kind of like Michigan State was in the early 2000s, I never count them out.  When I looked at all the potential matchups, I legitimately believed it would be Kentucky and Kansas.  It looked doubtful throughout the entire Tournament, as each team faltered at some point, but in close games, the better team should always win.  And, both did.  So now here we are, 4 years after Kansas, coached by Bill Self, beat Memphis, coached by now-Kentucky coach John Calipari.  In 2008, it worked out great for me, but in the closest of games.  The last time Kansas played in a Championship game in New Orleans though, it didn't end so good for them, on the great play of a Syracuse one-and-done named Carmelo Anthony.  Kentucky has a great, soon-to-be-one-and-done freshman in Anthony Davis.  "Anthony" isn't the only thing they share, as each player has the capability to lead their team to a great win.

So I don't believe that Kansas is going to win tonight, but the worst I will finish in my pool is 2nd, and I think 1-2 get paid, so I would take it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


March.  My absolute favorite month.  The reason is simple, just 4 letters:


If you know only a handful of things about me, you'll know that I only drink Coke, I love pizza, and that come Tournament time, don't even think about bothering me for 3 weeks.  Unless we're talking college hoops, we're probably not talking about anything.

I've always loved March Madness (copyright, Indiana High School Athletic Association/NCAA), filling out brackets for as long as I can remember.  I grew up a fan of the Big East, biased by my parents' alma maters (Seton Hall, Villanova), and through most of high school always thought I'd end up at UConn, or somewhere else in the Big East.  Obviously that changed, and I went to Maryland, and that's where my March stories really kick in.

Until you've been to a Final Four that your team is playing in, you have not lived.

I'm serious.  I can count on one hand the number of things I'm most proud of that I've accomplished, and even though I had NOTHING to do with the Terps' success on the court, going to the Final Four, and watching my team win a National Championship, is one of the great highlights of my life.  It also marked the first time I had ever won any sort of Tournament pool, as I clearly had Maryland in a bee-line to the Championship. 

I fastidiously studied each of the then 65 Tournament teams, watching countless hours of Big 10, Big East, Big 12, and PAC 10 games.  I knew everything that was going on in the ACC.  I would have been more proud to scored perfectly on my bracket than to have achieved a 1600 on my SAT (and I think it would have been harder to do).  That set the wheels in motion: could I be the best at picking the brackets?

For years I slaved away, trying to manipulate the perfect bracket.  But alas, it never came.  When Bill Self went to Kansas, I thought to my "Self" - man, Kansas is going to get it done.  For a few years I put them into my FF, even winning it all, only to be let down by early round exits.  Until 2008.  That's when my luck changed.  With 12 of the Sweet 16 teams, I ended up with 7 of the Elite 8, the entire Final Four, and the Championship game: Memphis vs Kansas.  Kansas was down 3 with time evaporating when Mario Chalmers hits a HUGE 3 and sends the game into OT, where Kansas went onto win.  I won my money pool - the first time I had ever won any money playing (in college we weren't allowed to, NCAA rules, like it mattered since we won't have a TRACK TEAM in a few months). 

I had decent results over the next few years, but then this year came and I was slightly disenchanted by the process.  Sure, I've been watching games, but not as many as I used to.  The Terps are in the middle of a serious rebuilding period, and the ACC is pretty weak all around.  This causes me to watch less basketball, and also, the games are on pretty late sometimes. 

Customarily I create a group on's Tournament Challenge and just name it "Terps in [the following year]" and I filled out my bracket there.  I then copied it over to my money pool.  It looked un-intriguing, if that's even a word.  I have felt, all year long, that there were 4 teams that were clearly better than all the rest, and that all the rest are so mediocre that it didn't even matter who played whom.  As the best day of the year came around (Thursday!) I once again felt the rush of excitement of being an ordinary human with really no impact on the outcome of the games. 

By the end of the day, I had done pretty well for myself: 15 and 1.  Normally I'm psyched if I can go 12-4, 13-3.  Every so often I'll go 14-2.  But 15-1 was a great start.  Friday would be the true test.  I took a hit - but so did everyone on the planet - when 2 seeds Missouri and Duke both lost.  It was a big surprise, but since I didn't respect either of their chances of going very far, it didn't sting as bad.  I then won two pretty big victories when USF (12) and Ohio (13) both won.  By the end of Round 1 (now Round 2) I had gone 27-5.  That wasn't too bad.

Saturday came, and besides being St. Patrick's Day, it was a zillion degrees down here in Baltimore - a truly beautiful day.  It almost becomes sad then, that the only thing I want to do, is absorb college basketball.  I got my outside things done, and only missed a little bit of the action, before going deep into the zone of 7 straight hours of basketball watching.  Thanks to CBS, TruTV, TBS, and TNT, we are now able to watch all the games, rather than just the "Game of the Moment."  It is awesome.

Saturday was my no-hitter, my hat trick, my triple double; I went 8 for 8.  I mean, I literally had all 16 teams that were playing that day, and successfully had picked all 8 of the winners of those games.  It was marvelous.  By Saturday night I had moved up to 52nd place in the brackets, out of literally millions and millions of submitted brackets!  It was cool.  I knew it wouldn't last, but it was a great moment for me.

Sunday, like Friday, was the tougher of the two days.  Gone were the sure-things, the can't-lose games.  I cringed, I closed my eyes, I yelled, I clapped, I got excited, I got sad - and in the middle of it all I watched some basketball.  The state of Florida let me down, and the state of Ohio showed it is for real.  Of course, they still live in OHIO, but that's besides the point.  It was a little bit of carnage, I had Florida State in my Elite 8, and they lost, and I lost a couple of other games.  I went from 52nd up to 1600th, but I was still in the 100th percentile in, and was still in the lead of my money pool.  I have 12 of the 16 teams in the S16.  The question now is, how many can I land in the E8?

Do my Final Four picks have what it takes?  Does Kansas have the moxy to win it all again for me?  I'm putting a lot of faith in them, the least they can do for me is give me a fighting chance.

We'll find out, starting again tomorrow!  Let the sleep deprivation begin again!