Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Week #4

You can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind; cause your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance well, they're no friends of mine.

Christmas week was an interesting little test, not as much of physical fitness as it was fighting the demons of going home. I haven't stayed at home for as many consecutive days since 2005 (Tues night-Sat afternoon) and frequently I have trouble getting my training in while I'm up there. Most of this is due to being there for a short time, not feeling like dragging my bike up there and the fact that none of my friends run anymore.

In order to counteract this, I actually brought my rollers home. I was determined to ride no matter what, even if it meant riding inside. Fortunately it didn't come to that, and the week yielded my 2nd highest week by hours of 2008!

I ran fairly easy Monday, and despite feeling like ass put in a decent 3600m in the pool on Tuesday. This would be the only swim of the week. Wednesday morning I was home and ran at Hartshorne, site of my ankle's destruction back in 2003. Conditions were rough, with ice and frozen mud all up on the trails, and it was sleeting. I muddled through 11 miles, and called it a day as I then had to begin Christmas shopping.

Thursday was Christmas, and as tradition prescribes, I strive for at least a 50 mile ride. I headed out toward the beach in 50 degree weather, and in spite of the wind managed a decent ride to the end of Sandy Hook, and then up Scenic Drive and back through Middletown. Of course, I left my house at 2, so as I rolled back in at 5 it was dark.

Friday I got out at 12, it was about 10 degrees cooler but I was still rocking short gloves. I was actually really cold, but was too lazy to go back to the house in the first quarter mile. This day I headed south and west, towards Manasquan Reservoir. Some great roads exist out there; little traffic, long, slightly undulating stretches make for fast riding. 3 hours later I was back home, and met up with Pereless at Tatum for an easy 7 miles. He had just eaten at Five Guys so needless to say it was not a fast run. Again, finished in the dark.

Saturday was a little warmer again but this time was actively precipitating. Because it wasn't raining at the start of the ride, I left at noon and headed out for the same ride as Thursday. As I neared the beach, it was super foggy and so humid there were just raindrops in the air. Wind wasn't bad, but I was really cold and wet. But, I managed the 3 hour ride again.

I drove back to Baltimore and due to a housekey fiasco did not go for a run, but when I woke up on Sunday morning it was 65 degrees! Really windy, but 65 degrees. Pretty awesome. I headed down to Columbia and met up with Scotty, and we rolled (on very wet roads) towards Centennial Park to meet Zero. We had a sweet tailwind for the first half of the ride, but then we turned into the wind and it was brutal. We picked it up a little towards the end, then with 3 miles to go Tom got a flat. Another 50 mile ride, making 4 straight - 200 miles in 4 days on 3 hours a day. I was tired.

Since I had only run 3 days this week, I had to run in the afternoon, so after dropping my bike off at TriSpeed (I am working on coming up with a female name for my bike, as I will be spending considerable time with her this year) I headed back down to Patapsco to meet Jake. This run turned into a tough run, the trails were sloppy and I was beat to the street. We crawled through a challenging and slow 11+ miles. At this point I was totally worked and it was 5 o'clock - I had been out since 8.

The week wound up looking like this:

Swim - 3600m (only had access to the pool the one day really)
Run - 37 miles (4 runs)
Bike - 200 miles (4 rides)

18.25 hours. That's a huge week for me and a great way to end 2008. I need to recover a little over the next few days, and then bang from Thursday through Sunday again. Then I plan on taking the following week pretty easy.

In other news, Terps play their bowl game tomorrow at 4:30, so GO TERPS!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celtic Solstice 2008

Celtic Solstice is another one of my favorite events, and definitely my favorite end-of-season wintertime race. Normally I can't stand racing in the cold, but this race is worth it. First, it's grown by leaps and bounds in its nearly 10 years of life. There were 2800 registered competitors for yesterday's edition, and even though only 1800 were officially timed (some people forget to pick up the chip, etc), that's still a ton for a late December 5 miler.

More importantly, Jim Adams does a great job with the race premium. No "free" t-shirt, just an optional premium for $35. In years past we've received Brooks technical shirts, then a pretty cool half-zip long sleeve thing, then last year it was a really sweet jacket. This year I think is the best so far, being an awesome and totally comfortable fleece. There are a ton of people who only sign up for the race to get this premium.

The first two years I ran the race, in 2005 and 2006, I magically ended up with the same time and place. Last year I raced it, feeling pretty good for some reason heading into December. This year I wasn't sure what to expect. I feel like a 30min 5 miler has got to be pretty standard for me now, assuming I'm running, but to go much faster than 29 at this point was going to take a lot of effort, seeing as I've run about 100 miles in the last two months, with most of that coming in the last couple of weeks.

I toed the line next to the squad of Justin, Dr. J, Scotty and MGP, and as the gun went off, the race went tearing up the first hill. It's about a quarter of a mile up before taking a right hand turn, and I felt like I was sprinting. My HR skyrocketed before finally settling in. I was keeping most of my friends in sight, but just couldn't bridge up. I hit the first mile in a surprisingly slow 6:03. Either it was long, I thought, or man am I out of shape!

The 2nd mile last year I remembered as being short, so I think things may have been adjusted this year, as I came through in 5:55. At least I was heading in a better direction. The cold was taking its toll and I was really not feeling comfortable. Another thing I love about this race is the number of people that shout me out during it, since it's got an out and back at one point. It's always fun to spot your friends and it helps pump you up. I hit mile 3 in 5:54, so at least I was consistent. I headed down around the lake and was caught in the middle, just running by myself. Someone behind me was making a terrible sound, like they were dying. I then caught up to Weems McFadden of HoCo (interestingly enough he possessed the number ahead of me) and we came through mile 4 in 5:58.

I was still quite uncomfortable but knew the race was almost done, if I could just get around the Moorish Tower and back onto the road I'd have a nice downhill. I get to that point and deja vu prevailed - Eric, Will and Pete are standing there alerting me that if I don't run faster I'm going to get "girled" (act of getting beat by a girl). The same thing happened last year. So I made sure I sprinted in, and put it out there with a 5:35 last mile, crossing the line at 29:28.

At first glance, this is 22 seconds slower than I ran last year, but I had also been running for a while last year and had somewhat of a base underneath me. I had already done the NCR Trail Half and then run 16 miles in the Metric Marathon (not to mention the little xc meet) - so I was definitely more race ready than I was yesterday.

Dave kept his stranglehold on the race, winning for the third straight year in a most excellent time of 25:08, while Kyle was 2nd in 25:18. Collin Anderson had a great race, crossing in 27:55, and then it was Justin, Mike and Tom Stott (28:10, 28:15, 28:46).

Weekly Wrap-Up

And now for the weekly wrap up.

This week was even less by volume than last, but I'm okay with it. Just under 8 hours I think, but I haven't taken any days off.

Swim: 9,000 meters
Bike: 0 miles
Run: 41 miles

I was really tired this week, and the current work situation is getting more and more stressful with the state of the automotive union, so it was a pretty rough couple of days.

However, I had a great swim on Friday night, rolling 2000m straight in 34:05. By 500 I went 8:45, 8:38, 8:30, 8:10. I felt pretty good, and was pleased with the effort.

I had a "good" week running, going over 40 miles for the first time in two months. Monday was real warm and we got after it on the run. Wednesday was a little more chill, and then I ran with Kip on Thursday in Mt. Washington for some slow hills. Saturday I raced, and then today I did our Wednesday Night Run in one of the slowest times I've ever done it, which was good.

This week is a bigger week, thanks to a few days off from work. I need to see if I can get my bike fixed up on Tuesday before I head home, and then knock out 5 days of rides. I won't get to swim much, so running and riding will be the staple workouts for the week.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ironman on TV

For the past few Sundays, VS has been televising some of the Ironman events from the past year. I watch most of them knowing the results, but interested in seeing how the races have unfolded on camera. I've watched the half from St. Croix, and the fulls at Louisville, Arizona, Lake Placid and Wisconsin. It's amazing stuff to watch.

Last night I attacked the big one that taped from Saturday - NBC's coverage of the Hawaii Ironman. Normally you can't watch this without tears as they tell some over the top story of the person who overcame some terrible tragedy. This year was a little different. Gone were the Dick Hoyts, or the Brian Boyles. There were a couple of inspiring tales, mostly serving as fodder to get you to join the Navy I think.

But a large part of it focused on the pain of this race, and how it affects even the most seasoned pros. The two winners, Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington, both owned their races and looked cool doing it. Just about everyone else seemed to get crushed by it. As a professional, whose season and life centers around this race, I just don't get how they can all be destroyed by it. But, I understand how they can be destroyed by it, having gone through a few terrible experiences this year myself.

So Arjun and I watched the coverage and were pretty amazed at the race, and then it got me thinking - what am I doing?? This is going to really hurt, and I've got a year to get ready for it and the course doesn't seem all that challenging. I suppose that's relative, because the distance is the same, and flatter courses pose the challenge of having to pedal the whole time; 3 lap courses get boring; Arizona's pretty warm.

We'll see how things go. I'm on track for a pretty decent week, hoping to get in another 100 or so miles of riding this weekend, with about 45 miles of running and 12,000m in the pool. Next week with Wednesday through Sunday off I'll look to make a big week on the bike, so I need to make sure I get my bike problem worked out quick!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Week (Weak) #2

I finished up the week yesterday and was mildly disappointed in retrospect. The numbers looked like this:

Swim - 9,000m
Bike - 100mi
Run - 31mi

Looking at it, it's pretty weak. I only managed to get in the pool twice last week, and only rode Saturday and Sunday. I managed an additional day of running and increased my mileage there to a more respectable amount, but it's still low.

Timewise, however, it really wasn't bad. 13h45m of total training, down an hour from the previous week, but I decided to take a look at how the rest of this year has gone for me. What I noticed was that I only had 6 weeks higher than 13:45, and the last time I was above 13 hours (before last week) was the week ending July 7th.

My two swims were largely uneventful, mostly because I felt terrible all week in the pool.

The two rides I put in weren't bad, but my knee hurts, my bike is falling apart and my computer isn't working. Saturday I was riding before 8am with Dean and his friend Rob, managed 3h15m and then Sunday I headed out solo for 3h45m. I left late in the day (1:30) and was definitely shrouded by darkness once back in the city. My knee was killing me, which could be because if I'm a freewheelin', my rear hub's a squealin. It's an annoying sound so I just keep pedaling. Minor overuse. All told, though, I'm proud that I've gotten out both Sat/Sun the last two weekends for rides totaling 13 hours.

Running wasn't terrible, but it was all pretty slow. Wednesday I was pretty beat up from my first leg session in the weight room, and I still felt the effects on my slow Friday run with Kris. Saturday I got out a little after my bike ride and put in 6 decent miles, and because I got home so late Sunday I opted for not running.

Looking forward to the week ahead, with some fun activities planned for the evenings. Saturday will mark the return to racing at Celtic Solstice 5M, a favorite event around here. The first two years I ran it, I finished in the exact same time AND exact same place (30:56, 47th). Then last year I actually kind of raced it and went 29:06. This weekend we'll see, guess it depends on how I'm feeling race morning. I'd certainly like to run well to remember what that feels like, but I also don't think I'll run poorly.

Oh, and a BIG shout to the Terps Men's Soccer National Championship team, they won the NCAA Title yesterday after beating UNC 1-0. This is their 2nd title in 4 years, and the Terps' second fall NCAA Championship (Field Hockey also). Go Terps!

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Race Are You Training For?

I probably haven't read this blog in about 4 months, quite frankly because I was getting bored of it, but I happened across that particular post today and was completely stupefied.

Now, it's entirely possible that I missed the point, and that maybe he is suggesting what one should be doing at this time of year for an Ironman next fall, but this level of training would be nearly impossible to even finish an Ironman, let alone do well at it.

I understand people have obligations that limit their training time, and I'm fortunate that I have no family of my own to take away from my time, but to do an hour a day during the week and a "big day" of about 4 hours on a Saturday just doesn't seem enough. I'm already freaking out that the 20+ hours a week that I'll get up to shortly aren't enough to do well at the distance.

It's really not important that you read the entire blog post, as it was quite long, but the main points were basically swim on MWF for an hour, and maybe 4 runs per week, nothing particularly long, and a quasi-long ride on Saturday.

He also says in one sentence that swimming isn't all that important because it's the shortest part of the race and has the least gains to be made, yet has the athlete do it a disproportionate amount compared to the other disciplines.

It's like when I go up to TriSpeed for Saturday rides. It's chill for the first 7 miles, and then all of a sudden becomes a hammerfest until the church on Dover at mile 13. Then everyone stops and regroups, and decides how long they're going for. Most of them turn around, while some carry on for about 40 miles. Occasionally they'll do 50. I guess if you're doing sprints/Olympics as your main training that could be enough, but I'm surprised that there wouldn't be more people going longer.

I personally won't feel comfortable doing the Ironman next year without having many, many 75+ rides under my belt, and a number of 100+ rides. Additionally, I'll want to see a bunch of 20+ mile runs and probably a few 80/10 bricks.

I'm sure one day my situation may change and I have a limited amount of time to train. I just won't kid myself and try to do Ironman events in that time.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Miami and Boston Travel Plans

I'm mostly putting this on my blog cause I don't want to clutter up TWSS, but also so I can keep track of my own progress as far as making travel plans.

MIAMI HALF MARATHON, Sunday January 25

I booked my flights. I'm flying AirTran from BWI to MIA on Friday 1/23 at 10:59am. It was super cheap ($72). On the way out, I'm flying from FLL (Fort Lauderdale) to BWI on Sunday 1/25 at 5:41pm. That flight was $158. There were less expensive, earlier options, but I want as much of a beach day post-race as possible. Also on the way down you can probably find a few more flights into FLL (and also really cheap). Total for my flight was $251, booked direct via AirTran. Oh and hint, since I hadn't seen it before, don't select your seats unless you really want to, cause they charge you for that.

We don't have a hotel yet, but we'll be staying in South Beach. Rooms are probably in the $200-$300/night range, so if we have 2-4 people per room it will be about $200-$300 per person for the trip.

We may also rent a car, because we'll have a few people going back to FLL at the same time on Sunday, and also the race start is nowhere near where we'll be staying, so we'll need to get up there. That won't cost that much I feel like.

BOSTON MARATHON, Monday, April 20

It looks like we have a minimum of 14 people going up to this race (plus probably two more spectators), which is crazy. From what I understand, Alyssa and Chrissie have their own respective hotel arrangements, so that takes two out, but we'd probably need 3-4 rooms depending on what other people are doing.

My mom (who is a travel agent) has already booked a room for her and my dad at the Hyatt Harborside or something. A sample of the prices were: $600/night in Boston; $400/night in Cambridge; $240/night at this place, and it's just a water taxi ride across to downtown. To me that sounds like a good idea.

Since I would prefer to get this taken care of sooner than later, I'm going to email everyone who has expressed interest in doing this race and traveling with us to get strict counts. After the Philly Marathon debacle I just want to be sure it doesn't happen again. Hopefully we can come to some kind of decision within the next week and have it squared away.

I can already see how ridiculous that weekend is going to be trying to accommodate everyone's special needs prior to the marathon, but bring it on - how often do you get to race Boston with friends of this quantity and quality??

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A New Attitude and A Fresh Start

I've been letting my fitness situation get me down lately, and I normally don't do that. It's pretty unlike me to be anything but awesome, so I'm going to flip it and reverse it. I talked to two of my buddies today, Nick and OJ, and talks of suffer-fest riding has me poppin' wood. I have 8 days til my first Frederick trip of the new season and I am nowhere near in shape to handle 55 miles of climbing. When I went onto my homepage today ( I saw an interview with American pro Tom Danielson. Most of it was fluff, but I did pick up this little nugget:

All the time in cycling, I think. Your brain can be your best friend or your enemy. If you can break it down to, ‘I must kill everyone,’ or ‘I must destroy,’ then you’re fine. But if you start thinking, ‘Do I really need to be doing this? It’s raining out. The road is slippery. People are crashing everywhere. It’s cold. My whole body hurts.’ That’s when it’s negative, and the desk job seems quite good. But if you can use your mind to make your body like a motorcycle — you just turn the throttle and go — if you can make it like that, you’re fine. That’s normally how it is in training, you take out the elements of stress and performance, and you enjoy it. That’s the key to racing.

This goes for any of the sports we do. It all boils down to attitude and how you approach it. If you're negative, then you're only setting yourself up for failure.

I'm headed back to New Jersey right now and have a 50 mile ride planned for tomorrow morning, and then hope to get in 100 miles of riding this weekend (Sat-Sun) when I'm back here. A little game of MANHUNT in Patapsco on Sunday should help with the final piece of mental recharge, and then Monday is a NEW day.

I am looking at December as being a big month, not from a volume or intensity standpoint, but for re-establishing good behavior and more importantly, a routine. December 1st is Monday, so I can start fresh with the new week. I'm feeling a little bit better about my foot right now, it hasn't hurt after Monday's run really and perhaps it's on the mend. My other little ailments are starting to go away after some much needed rest. I figure I might not be too off course, and while I don't want to do be overzealous, I feel like I can still get to where I wanted to be (mileage-wise) by the end of December.

I'm hoping you all keep me in check though and make sure I'm doing my shit. The good news is that I won't be trying to wile out on Mondays, which seem to be particularly aggressive these days with the group splitting at the end of the run.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mission: IM AZ 2009

Registration opened up today for Ford Ironman Arizona (race date 11/22/2009). The race has been held typically in April, but this year it took place in both April and then again yesterday. The race will permanently be held in November to avoid the spring wind and potentially hotter temperatures.

At 2pm it was supposed to open up, and the ensuing rush of Interweb traffic crashed out. After 40 minutes, Zero was finally able to get through. I was still getting shafted. He then calls me up at 2:45 and says he was able to get in (again) and was going to go through guest access to get me in. So a few minutes, and $551 later, I am registered for an Ironman.

Shoot. I'm registered for an Ironman.

My knowledge of triathlon is based on this event; I heard about it in 8th grade and thought "geez that's a piece of cake, I can do that" - nevermind the fact I didn't race anything over 200m on the track, didn't own a bike and couldn't swim. Now to finally be registered for one is pretty cool.

Although, in the back of my head I can't help but think that if I hadn't gotten in, IM Western Australia would have been really cool to do. Drawbacks are the late date (12/8) and the fact it's on the other side of the world and would be really expensive. But it would have been really cool. One year...

So now I have 52 weeks to get ready for this race, which sounds like a lot but there will probably be 15 100+ mile rides, 15 20+ runs and yikes, I'll have to do more than a few swim workouts of 6000+ meters. I'm not real psyched on the late date of this race either, as I was totally burned out before November this year (and just about every year). It'll require a bit more focus and a lot less racing. Forced two weeks off after Eagleman, easy/long training through the summer and intense training during the fall.

The cool part of the experience will be getting to go through the process with Zero, and my old friend Larry, who at age 60something will be doing his first Ironman.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It looks like I'm taking some time off from running.

There is what appears to be a piece of bone protruding from my ankle, and while it doesn't hurt terribly to run on (??), it does hurt to walk and also to the touch. I have to call Denise's hospital to make an appointment for a bone scan, which can't be done for another two weeks, so at this point I figure I'll just take those two weeks off anyway and I bet it'll be better by then.

This means that my already severely unfit self is going to become less fit each day, until I'm reduced to my running ability circa 1995. For your reference, this is when I started running cross country and ran my first 2 mile xc race in 18:10.

In the meantime I guess I will just try and make the effort to swim everyday and ride inside during the week (egad) and outside on the weekend. Not that I shouldn't be doing those things anyway, but for me it's always easier to run when I don't want to do anything else (e.g., now).

What this also means is that I will not be doing any sort of group runs for probably a very long time, as my reduced fitness will not allow me to keep up. I'll be lucky if I can be back to an 11 mile long run by the end of this calendar year I think, which will certainly not put me in a great position for the Miami Half Marathon or XC Nationals, but I'll have to make do.

I'm not really sure how some people are able to not run for long periods of time and be able to crank out halfway decent results, or run at all for that matter. If I take three days off in a row I lose everything I've worked to attain over a period of months. Just goes to show how very little natural ability I have, and proves why I don't take days off if I can avoid it. I'd always rather run hurt than not at all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

USATF XC Preview

To quote Isla Fisher's character in the movie Definitely, Maybe:

My shit is a mess.

I started running again this week by showing up to Fed Hill Runners on Monday. After a mile my body was falling apart. I took Tuesday off. I tried to run again on Wednesday from Canton. I did much better, making it about 5 of the 7 miles before my body crapped out. I got back in the pool on Thursday for my first swim in 6 weeks. That went about as well as what you'd imagine. Yesterday I just wanted to run a few miles again, and I started out pretty slow but didn't feel terrible. Halfway through the 5 miles, this feeling changed. I "picked it up" the last mile home - 7:01. My right hip is all sorts of f'd up, and my left knee hurts more than anything has ever hurt on me ever.

Needless to say I should probably not have run this morning at the cross country race, but a) I have too much pride and b) I really wanted to do it. I arrived at the course out in scenic Derwood just after 8 and watched Denise roll to the women's masters win. Then Dave Berardi ran well in the men's masters. Finally at 11 it was time for the premier race of the day - men's open. By far the biggest field of the 4 races and very competitive. I was foolishly wearing a long sleeve pullover/shirt thing, which, after 2k, was stifling as the temp reached the mid to upper 70s. I went out pretty slow but was committed to running whatever my body could handle. As it turned out, that wasn't that bad.

My first 4km were 4:13, 4:14, 4:11, 4:20 (6:45/mi). I was really warm after that, so I wanted to back off on the third lap. 4:26 and 4:39 were the 1km splits on that lap. Then my body just started to fall apart. My left knee couldn't handle shit, it feels like it's going to give out on me. I ran a 4:47 kilometer 7, and then tried to pick it up a little to have somewhat of a decent finish (4:25).

My overall time was 35:17, which is actually a little bit quicker than I first anticipated. I thought I'd be running 7:30-8:00. The course is quite challenging, but you can go pretty fast I think if you run smart. On the back end of the course there is a steep downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom, and with it being as muddy as it was (rain the last 3 days) that became tough. There's a hill on the front end that is a little challenging, but it's not bad. Undulating. Never really flat in any points. The first kilometer of the 2k loop is quick.

I'm not sure what place I finished in, or how many people were in the race, but it wasn't a terrible day. Now my knee hurts so bad I can't even walk. I guess I'll be taking a few days off from running, and I'll see if riding doesn't aggravate it tomorrow out in Columbia. Shit.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Inspired by Alyssa, who posted her projected 2009 racing schedule, I am going to put into writing my preliminary schedule. While 2008 is not quite over, the demands of our sport necessitate us to plan far into the future. Anything marked with an * denotes a definite.

1/25: ING Miami Half Marathon*
2/7: USATF Cross Country National Championships*
2/21: Club Challenge 10 Mile*
3/15: Shamrock 5k
4/20: Boston Marathon*
5/10: Kinetic Sprint Triathlon
5/17: Columbia Triathlon*
6/14: Eagleman*

The plan is then to chill out the remainder of June and start rebuilding for the fall.

7/26: New Jersey State Triathlon*
8/30: Ironman Louisville
9/20: Philly Distance Run*
10/11: Chicago Marathon
11/1: New York City Marathon*
11/22: Ironman Arizona*

Obviously I will not do two Ironmans and two additional marathons, but it'll be probably one of each. Louisville is not my first choice, nor is Arizona, but they seem to be the only ones left open in the US. Chicago Marathon is the same weekend as Baltimore, but they'll be split up again in 2010. New York didn't go great this year, and Justin plans on doing it (since he registered this year but broke his ankle) so I think I might like another go at it. Plus, New York would be a good race to do a few weeks out from the IM. We'll see what happens.

Since posting this I have decided that I will do Ironman Arizona because Mike Zero and Larry Rutledge are committed to this one as well. Since Justin is looking to do NYC Marathon next year, and it would be a good run a few weeks out from the Ironman, I'll commit to that as well.

All I know is that I need to race a lot less, because the distances are going up which means so are the stakes. If you have a bad day in an IM, you don't go out the next weekend and make up for it. I want to cut out some of the shorter races, the back to back to back weekends, and unnecessary summer racing. I'm at 24 races this year, probably finishing at 28. I need to cut that down big time next year.

Monday, November 03, 2008

New York City Marathon 2008

8 seconds. I never thought I would need the full minute of 3:10 in order to qualify for Boston, but there it was, staring me in the face. All the positive thinking in the world is not enough to overcome what you really need to be running with at that point: fear.

The race had obviously not panned out quite like I hoped, but in the end hope is not a plan. Of course I had hoped to go through 16-18 miles fairly comfortably around 6:10-6:15 pace. I didn't see that being terribly out of reason given PDR and how I felt there running much faster. 6:18 pace is 2:45, and while I knew it was a reach, I felt like I could do it. If I couldn't, at least I wouldn't slow down to much over 2:50. Worst case 3 hours. Boy, I was way off.

I haven't woken up this many times during the night in a while, and was definitely anxious as I was up before the alarm. Thanks to my dad we got a ride right to the Fort, which was awesome. It was a pretty cool scene, and definitely well organized. It was also super windy and not terribly warm. Jake and I chilled out with this dude from Colorado, who appeared to be quite fit and looking to go low 2:30s. It was time to go into the corral, which was really cool. I was in the first wave and was mad close to the line. The cannon went off, amidst the speakers playing "New York, New York" and off we went to traverse the Verrazano Bridge.

Everyone talked about how hard the first mile is, uphill, lots of people, but I didn't really think it was that bad. I weaved through a few folks and found some space and hit the mile somewhere around 6:40. The view is pretty awesome if you take the time to look, and running over the bridge was one of the things I was most excited for. The downhill mile on the other side was pretty awesome and I cruised through 2 miles in 12:18 (5:38). At this point I found a little group to run with, there were three of them that were clearly friends but also had really poor running etiquette. I think I clicked my watch a little early on mile 3, which made mile 4 a little long but was at 18:59 through 5k and 4 miles in 24:30.

At this point I was feeling good, knocking out 6:15 and 6:07 for the next two (10k was 38:12, so 19:13 5k split. All this time though, as good as I felt aerobically, my body just felt trashed. The race was really hard on my hips, and the wind wasn't helping. Just after mile 7 (6:13) I felt the onslaught of mudbutt, so I ditched into the bathroom. I managed to get feces on my shorts and hands, which was disgusting. After the 2 minute stop I was back on my way, and after the 8 mile split (8:15) I was back into two miles at 6:13 (1:03:48 at 10).

So in my head I'm thinking, okay you just ran 1:01:48 for 10 miles, which is right on 6:10 pace. You're doing great, keep it up. Then mile 11 happened, and I'm not sure what happened. I just slowed down. 6:34, to be exact, and then picked it up a little bit for mile 12 (6:26). Mile 13 was 6:40, so it was apparent the wheels were well on their way to coming off, but I was still at the half in 1:24:15.

I knew I was slowing down, but figured I could at least go 1:30-1:35, and get under 3, but something was definitely up. I was out of it, and my body was shutting down. I was having stomach trouble and my legs just felt broken. Miles 14-16 were really slow, as I went over two bridges and back into Manhattan (22:52). I was still at 1:46 at 16 and thought c'mon buddy, let's go.

Zero jumped in for a little but it was really tough having him there being as fresh as he was, and it was tough for me as I crawled up First Ave. I still wasn't doing terrible yet, as the next couple of miles were 7:43, 7:50 and 8:00. It's amazing to think of how one's body shuts down like this. I figured I wouldn't be in serious trouble til this point, and definitely didn't think I'd cross over 7s, let alone 8s.

Then the real trouble started as I crossed another bridge into the Boogie Down - 8:16, 8:22, 8:20, 8:42. At this pace it was now clear that 3 hours was out, 3:05 was out, and Boston was questionable. Zero jumped back in and was helping, but I was in all sorts of misery. All I wanted was to get into Central Park and feel good, wave to my family and friends and come in with some energy. This was not to be. I saw Kootman and Pereless, but couldn't even respond.

The death blow was really mile 24, which was largely uphill and 8:58. Real trouble now. I knew I had one shot to get under 3:11, and that failing was not an option. Running 3:11:00 would have made the effort not even worth it, so I sucked it up and went. With 2 miles to go I was at 2:52:35, so under normal circumstances you would think no problem. Well I was having a problem, and the next two miles were 8:25 and 8:08. I was now at 3:09:09 with .2 to go. Could it be done?

Fortunately for me and those around me, I was able to "kick" it in with a 1:42. Only about 42 seconds slower than I would run for .2 at the end of a 10k, but whatever, it got me under 3:10:59. I walked through the finish and was freezing, like hypothermic style. I went into the medical tent and tried to get warm, my legs seized up, I smelled like feces - it was terrible.

I finally got walking again and met up with the squad, and then met up with my parents and walked some more, took the subway to the train, rode the train home and was exhausted. At least my subway and train trips were free.

Most important take away: it's great to have great friends, so thanks to everyone who supported this endeavor, whether you were there or not. But a lot of credit is deserved to those who were there, so thanks to my parents (especially my dad for his driving and help) and my bro, Kootman, Pereless, Vic and Bobber (from high school team) and then ZERO for running with me, and the indefatigable squadron of Melissa, Arjun, Alyssa, Brennan, Jen and Sara Spears for their efforts. It was really awesome to see you all out there and know you were rooting for me.

Not like what I've done is that big a deal, certainly people do them all the time, but you guys have been to all the shittiest races I've ever had (which have all happened this year mostly).

Mad props go out to a few people I saw yesterday who had great races, first being Jake, who took the last 24 weeks to train as seriously as anyone and it paid off with a 2:42:59 debut marathon; Brian Shea, who thought he would go 2:55 and wound up dropping a 2:51; Maggie Guiney who passed me at 14 and while that killed me, she did go 2:54; and Matias, who is one of the more amazing athletes I know, who ran a pretty even split 2:38 and change.

It was really hard, I got schooled by another race but as always, learned another lesson. For Boston it'll be time to TCOB (take care of business) and run a little bit smarter. I kind of wish I had run a first marathon prior to this one, just to have the pressure taken off a little. NYC has been such a big part of my life as a runner and is the most important running race I can think of. Boston is big for Americans; New York is big for the world. Everyone knows New York. So while I haven't committed to next year's race schedule, this may wind up back on the docket if I have good fortune.

Race #24, the most I've ever done in a year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vegas Vacation

First and foremost, I do not believe in the saying "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." That said, I didn't do anything questionable enough to not be written. But my one night event in Vegas was just the ending to a crazy few days out in the desert.

Wednesday morning I was late for my plane, as usual. I had a 9:20 flight and left my house somewhere around 8:26. I made it down to the airport pretty fast, and as I was getting out of my car in Long Term A, a bus was about to stop nearby. I ran over to it and got on. A minute or two later I realized I didn't have my running shoes and that I may have left them on the trunk of my car. I emailed Arjun and asked if he could stop by (he works near the airport) and check if they were there. He texted back while I was on the plane and said they were not. My only hope was that they were in the trunk.

This leaves me without shoes now before our little work 5k on Thursday morning. In years past we've stayed at nice resorts that have been nowhere near any shops of any kind. The good news was that this year's resort was near a mall; the bad news was the resort was a shithole. I walked over to the mall and perused its numerous shoe stores with no luck. I finally settled on some crappy Mizunos from Sports Authority that were a half size too small.

Then I remembered I know someone who lives in Phoenix area and works at a running store nearby. I got in touch with him and he came by, dropping off some Brooks Glycerines. They would suffice. The next morning I wore them to race to a 4 minute victory on what was a deceptively hard and seemingly long 5k. I ran 19:17, and while I don't think I was running under 6s, I don't think I was running over them. Next finisher was 23:10. Afterwards you would have sworn I won the Olympics, with the people I work with gushing over my run.

Later that evening I then WOW'd the crowd with several songs at one of the sickest karaoke jams I've ever been to.

Friday evening we were all done with our work obligations, but since we weren't able to fly out til Saturday morning, a few of us made the most of our time and headed the 5 miles to downtown Tempe. Reminder: this is home to Arizona State. A couple things I know about ASU are that anyone can get in and that the girls are real hot. I was not let down on either count. Fast forward to the end of the night and I found myself in the hotel pool til 5am, and asleep around 6. Woke up at 7 and had to get ready real quick for my flight.

I arrived in Vegas and once I saw the sun beaming off Mandalay Bay I was revitalized. My buddy FranManDaLastDon picked me up and we checked into the Bellagio. Quick note: this is my first trip to Vegas. I have images in my head from all the TV shows and movies, and did not want to be disappointed. My original room at the Bellagio was supposed to be a "deluxe lakeview room" - meaning I would get a little view of the crazy lake with the sick fountain show.

What really happened was Francis got a room upgrade through his connections (he used to be concierge at the Bellagio) so we got a tower suite, corner unit room of 1500 sq ft. It had three bathrooms, a huge living and a kitchen/bar. It was ridiculous. Unfortunately we would hardly even see the room.

For dinner we headed to The Country Club at Wynn. Amazing meal. Thanks to Francis' roommate, who is the manager of food operations at the Wynn, we received a significant discount for the meal. It was still really expensive. After that we headed downstairs to a bar where they hooked us up again. I'm starting to realize at this point in order to have a really awesome time in Vegas you need to either have a LOT of money or know somebody who is kind of a big deal.

Now it was time to start the going out portion of the evening. I'm still exhausted from last night, but have to suck it up. We drive over to the Palms and hit the Playboy Club and Moon. Francis knows someone so we don't have to wait in line OR pay the $40 cover. After we leave there, we headed over to Pure at Caesar's Palace, and again went straight through the VIP line. Checked out the Pussycat Doll Lounge, which was actually pretty awesome, and stayed for a little at Pure before moving over to the Mirage.

At this point I'm barely able to keep my eyes open, but I wanted to see Old Town LV, so we headed down to Fremont St. Definitely the shadier part of town. Walked around there for a minute, then hit McDonald's for McFlurries and headed home. It was 4am and I crashed on the bed like a baby.

Needless to say, Sunday was a tired day. We kicked it for a little while, took in the rollercoaster at New York New York, and then took a 5pm flight home. As I returned to the airport parking lot around 12:45, I popped the trunk and was woken up with excitement.

My running shoes were there!

Ultimately it was a totally sick weekend, felt awesome to ball like a VIP on Saturday but I think that ruins any other trip I may ever take out there. My boy FranMan is headed back to the east coast soon, and this may be the only trip to Vegas for me while he's out there. It makes me wish I had stayed longer, or gone out at some other point in the last four years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

28th Annual Terp Trot 5k

After watching 4.5 hours of the Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday, it was my turn to race on Sunday morning. Of all the events I do each year, the Terp Trot probably holds the most sentimental value. For one, it's the only race I know I can win (partially because it's the only race I've really ever won, in 2002 and 2006), but also because it's great to go back to College Park and run a race.

I think I first did the Terp Trot back in 2000. The course was much different then, still starting in between Byrd and the Union, it made its way through Lot 1, around VMH and back up towards the Union. As you screamed down Campus Drive, you then went halfway around the circle and down towards the nerd portion of campus, before coming back up by the North Campus dorms and finishing through the stadium walkway. I liked when it was completely contained in campus, and started and finished in the same spot.

When I did the race again in 2002, the course had changed to include "College Park" - although really this just meant crossing Route 1 and going behind Frat Row and Leonardtown before returning up College Ave. The finish features a sharp left hand turn at AOPi, with about 25m to go to the line. In 2002 I ran side by side with Tri Guy Tommy before outkicking him at this turn. In 2006 I won by a minute and didn't need to worry about it. This year it again proved the difference between first and second.

Saturday was a warm day, for October 11th, and the sun was strong. Not ideal marathon conditions at 80 degrees, but I thought it would be great for Sunday morning. After barely drinking or eating all day on Saturday, I headed to the afterparty at Arjun's. As a result of some friends in town that evening, I didn't get home until after 1:30, and let them sleep in my bed. This meant a crappy sleep on the couch. If it had been anything longer than a 10k I was racing, I wouldn't have done that.

Woke up a few hours later and it looked like it was going to be another great day. I picked up Alyssa and drove down to CP, registered and warmed up. My boy Ron $ Willoughby was there doing his first race in 2 years, and my friend Karen, who just finished her first marathon on Saturday came out to watch. I always scan the start line for the competition, and noticed a few of the usual suspects - wrestling team (not really competition but fun to watch), a couple HoCo guys and that dude from Annapolis Striders. We chatted at the start a little, and then I noticed two fairly legitimate looking dudes.

The gun goes off and I quickly move to the front before being passed by a guy on the wrestling team for about 100m. That's always a highlight of this race, one or two of the guys on the wrestling team gets a rise out of his teammates by sprinting at the start, before blowing up. Anyway I make the turn into Lot 1 by myself, and am alone as I speed down towards VMH. I can tell there are a few people behind me, but try not to look back. I can tell one kid (one of the two from pre-race) is catching me on the uphill, and sure enough we are side by side coming down Campus Drive. I couldn't tell if he was strong enough to get a lead, but we did exchange the lead a few times before he started pulling away by the chapel.

Apparently I had come through mile 1 in 5:27 and mile 2 in 5:49. The 2nd mile was in the spot I always remembered it, but the first mile seemed to be a little early. After crossing Route 1, where I saw Alyssa and Karen cheering, I was able to catch the kid and subsequently pass him as we went behind Frat Row. I was psyched, as I felt the momentum had shifted, and with 3/4 of a mile to go I should be able to hold on.

Au contraire, as he was coming back on me around Leonardtown. Only it wasn't him, it was a newcomer (the other kid from pre-race) and he seemed to have the legs. As he passed I could only think DBAP, and did everything I could to stay on his shoulder. I adjusted to the increase in pace, and as we turned onto College Ave I still felt good about my chances. With a minute to go, I started to pick it up, and I guess with 100m left I took off, hitting the last turn in first and never looking back.

It felt good to secure a win for 2008, my first W since 2006, and with the time of 17:18 it was a few seconds faster than last year and only a few seconds slower than my time from 2002. It did feel extremely hard though, and I think last year I was in better shape, just reeling from the piriformis problem I was having.

After the race I cooled down with the guy who got 2nd, and then waited around a while to get my crappy little award. I actually kind of swept the awards (first 19-29, first UM affiliate, first overall) but gave the two awards away and kept the overall. It was a gorgeous day in College Park - not a cloud in the sky, mid 70s, strong sun - so we grabbed a bite at the Bagel Place before heading back home for a fun-filled day of corn mazes and apple orchards.

This was race #22 for the season, eclipsing my previous best of 21 races from 2006. I actually skipped on a race report for race #21 since it was worthless (Bel Air Mile, 4th place, 5:24 in the rain and crappy weather, which was also the day of my birthday party). I need to check results later for what happened at Hereford, since Bull Run was rescheduled for the day of Baltimore Marathon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Philly Distance Run 2008

I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run for the first time in 2006. It was the first I'd ever heard of the race, and I was running with my friend Chima. I really wasn't a fan of the city, but my view started to change a little after the race. It was a perfect race morning and a very well run event. Chima, who probably hadn't run more than 8 miles in the last 7 years, was in the zone, and we ticked off 6:48s like it was our job until mile 9, when the course goes over a bridge and makes its way ever-so-slightly back uphill to the finish.

The following year, 2007, I decided this would be the perfect fall half marathon. The timing is great, and I doubt you can find any faster half marathon outside of VA Beach. Our squad rallied a sizeable group for last year's event and we were again treated to great weather. Unfortunately for me, I was dealing with a pretty serious piriformis/sciatic issue, and after 6 miles at 6min pace, I was reduced to a crawl. I finished, in severe pain, at 1:35. At the time I thought there was no way I could ever run any slower, but thanks to a few half Ironman events this summer, I was proven wrong.

This year I was determined to make this race great. I figured I would be in awesome shape, and could use my time to help me get an idea of what my pace might be like at NYC. Of course the last few weeks have been less than perfect, and between my meniscus thing and the bike crash from last week, I was hurting going into the event. I wasn't going to let it stop me, though, as we had a huge group going up for the race this year. I did have to scale back my original goal of 1:16:xx, but I was looking for better than 6min pace still if I could handle it.

The whole weekend was actually a blur. Starting with Friday, my 27th birthday, Arjun, Brennan, Melissa and I made our way up to New York on a gorgeous day to see one of the last games to be played at Yankees Stadium. The Orioles lost, but we had a good time, and made it back to my parents' in New Jersey a little after 1am. After a few hours of sleep we headed down to the University of Delaware for my sister's xc meet. Another unbelievably nice day out, we were feeling good about Sunday morning. We made it into Philly in the afternoon and got our pre-race stuff taken care of, before making our way to dinner.

I didn't sleep well Saturday night, could have been the 8000 calorie Eskimo Pie I ate just prior to trying to fall asleep, or that our hotel room felt like "sub-Saharan Egypt," but either way we woke up at 6:15 and got ready for the race. I felt pretty good and the temperature was amazing. It was probably 60 degrees when we went outside and it felt awesome. Our hotel was about a mile from the start, so it was an ideal warmup. We found the rest of our posse and a few of us tried to start as close to each other as we could.

This is a big race; all told there were 13,181 finishers. Corral 1 is where most of us were situated, but we were decently far back (about 9 seconds to cross the start). Ahead of us were many people who knew they should not have been there. I am fine with being pushed/pushing, but if you're slower, get out of the faster runners' way. I pushed an old man, unintentionally, and he mouthed off to me. I suggested to him that he not start so far up. Then I almost knocked over a girl with headphones. Why the fuck do you need to wear headphones in a race with 15,000 people? Or any race for that matter? Just go run 13.1 miles on a treadmill you lazy bitch.

After a half mile the road opened up a little, enough that we were spaced better. Ryan O, Arjun and I were all together when Ben flew past us. Don't know how he ended up behind us, but whatever. Arjun tried to go with him, and we passed the first mile in 5:46. Faster than last year by a few seconds, and felt comfortable. Ryan and I stuck together and hit mile 2 in 5:42, then the curvy mile 3 in 5:52. Through 5k we were at 17:55. I noticed Arjun again just ahead (5k: 17:45) so I wanted to bridge to him. I worked well through mile 4, which is back onto Ben Franklin Parkway (5:49) and down onto Schuylkill River Drive. Me and another dude were running together when we hit passed mile 5 in 5:00. Obviously incorrect. I noticed the hash mark for actual mile 5 (5:47) on the ground, and just after that I caught up to Arjun. He said something to me, took off and I could not keep up. Hit mile 6 in 5:53.

I come through 10k in 36:09, which is the fastest 10k I've run all year. One thing I'm never afraid to do is go out hard, which doesn't always pay the best dividends, but I feel like it puts me in the best position to have the race I'd like to have. If I were to have gone out a little slower, sure, I may finish faster than I ultimately finished yesterday, but how are you going to hit your goals if you don't put yourself out there?

With that nice lead-in, you can imagine where the story's headed. Miles 6-9 are basically flat and straight on the River Drive. Very nice scenery, but it's a boring part of the course. There aren't many people around you, and there's not much going on. You can also see the whole race ahead of you. And for me, it's where I typically fall apart. Miles 7 and 8 weren't terrible, but I certainly wasn't pleased clocking 6+ min miles (6:01, 6:04). At that point, you're getting slower and there's very little you can do to speed up. It wasn't so much an issue with aerobics, as I am fit enough for the pace, but my body just felt so broken. My left hip still hurts really bad from my fall, and it was causing my stride to be herky-jerky. I had been feeling my knee most of the run, but it was staying consistent so I wasn't too worried. I finally made it over the bridge (6:07) where I hoped the energy from having 4 to go would help me out, but it didn't. Mile 10 was a dismal 6:11 (10mi = 59:18).

You look at the race now as a 5k. A 5k in which you are running very, very slow. My 10 mile times from this year have been 59:59 (Austin 1/2, finished at 1:19:36), 59:25 (Club Challenge) and 58:12 (Broad Street). I had originally hoped to pass 10 today in my Broad Street time and keep going. Instead I was about :41 faster than my Austin split and finished with about the same last 5k. I was struggling, and fell to 6:18 for miles 11 and 12. I knew under 1:18 was out, but wanted to be sure I was under 1:19. I managed a 6:13 last mile and :36 last .1 to finish up at 1:18:42. A personal best on the day is never a bad thing, but it does sting when you expect your body is capable of just a little bit better.

As it were, everyone raced tremendously well. I really love the Philly courses, you can run phast in Philly. Arjun wound up at 1:16:50, putting nearly 2min into me over the 2nd half. We had great weather (71 avg according to my watch) with sunshine, cool air and little breeze. Our friends from Howard County and Georgetown also had some great races, so it's always nice to see our local guys do well. Next year the date of the race is September 20th, so the day after my birthday. I tell myself to do some other races, but I will probably keep coming back until I get it "right." This race has great potential and if I'm ever going to run fast, it will be here.

Overall I was pleased with the outing. With the little things I've had going on, I wasn't really sure how the day was going to go. I feel like it could have gone horribly wrong. I actually don't think it could have gone a whole lot better, so I'll take it. I was glad to be in one piece at the finish line. I do realize I have my work cut out for me though at NYC, and will likely need to adjust my goals here to be more realistic, as I would prefer to not have a finish like I did at PDR. I actually think somewhere between 6:10 and 6:15 is manageable for 18 miles, and as long as I don't go bankrupt I should be good to average 6:20 pace. 2hr45min is 6:18 I believe so that might still be a shot.

We left Philly after the race, all in all satisfied, and headed to our favorite post-Philly race spot (in Newark, DE): Deer Park Tavern. My little sister met us for a minute, a few people indulged in Bloody Marys, and we headed back. It was a busy little weekend, and there's another one coming up. I need to get back on track this week with the bike, I haven't been riding much in the last couple of weeks. I am pretty sure my tri season is over, but I don't want to lose too much. I was also mildly sad that I had to miss the 2nd Annual Endless Summer Tri in LBI, due to Philly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lancaster Triathlon 2008

Race #19...

Lancaster is without a doubt my favorite triathlon of the year. My affair with this race began in 2002, when Lisa, Larry and I headed up to Lititz, PA, in early September. Lisa and I did a relay; she did the swim and I did the bike and run legs. We did pretty well. 2003 and 2004 I was injured, but made my comeback to the world of multisport events by going back to Lancaster in 2005. Lisa and I again did the relay, and again she swam while I rode and ran. For it being my first event in over 2 years, I felt I did pretty well. I rode my brand new Orbea and rode pretty quick.

Things that made me appreciate Lancaster were the grassroots efforts of the people and community, just seemed like an old school race. They gave out horrendous sweatshirts that I love, little things of honey and after the race lots of Turkey Hill Iced Tea and Lemonade. Most importantly, the weather has always cooperated to make for a great day out in Amish country.

So fast forward to this year. Due to the cancellation of Annapolis, I was worried people might found out about this race and so I signed up before race day for the first time ever. Then, the days leading up to the race were clouded by an alleged tropical storm making its way up the East Coast. When I woke up Saturday morning it was pouring here, and I thought ugh, great, and made my way up.

It wasn't raining when I got there and I was pretty psyched. I figured we lucked out. I went to warm up, and my knee didn't feel terrible, which was good. Ever since our long run at Greenbelt I've really been hurting. It feels like my meniscus, and it's definitely impeding my ability to run. I was dripping with sweat and had to squeeze into the wetsuit, which I probably didn't need as the water felt pretty warm. I followed the line of buoys as close as I could, and felt pretty comfortable. I didn't know my time when I exited the water, but it had to have been decent (23:16, 28th). I ran through transition but as I did one of my shoes came unclipped, so I had to run back into transition to get it.

Out on the bike and I felt alright. I once again elected to ride the trusty Orbea. I was just being a baby and didn't want my Cervelo getting all wet. I made my way up the hills and thought I was riding okay, but I wasn't putting my all into it. The rain and wind just really started to annoy me, so I just rode.

I shut it down and sat up with about 1k to go on the bike, and came swiftly into T2. I did take the time to put on socks because I knew my feet would get ripped up in the wet shoes. On the way out of transition I felt strong, but that feeling was quickly replaced with a not-so-good feeling in my knee. I hit 1k in 4:12 and did the quick math: it was going to be a slow day. I struggled in the first few miles, which are actually very hard. The hills are longer and steeper than most of what you find at Columbia. I went 6:45-6:44-7:06 for the first 3. Then you roll back down, with just a couple of lighter inclines. 6:40, 6:40, 6:31 for the next 3, with a 1:11 for my last .2 miles. End time was 41:38 (12th) so at least my run split outranked my bike for once this year. It was, however, over 3 minutes slower than Columbia, and well over a minute slower than 2 years ago.

My final time was 2:15:15, good enough for 11th place out of 169. I was technically 13th out of 182, but there were 13 relay teams, 2 of which beat me. I was supremely disappointed with this race, but won't hold it against the event. I was surprised though - no more sweatshirts, instead they were heinous technical tee's. Honey was still there, as was the Turkey Hill, but no more pewter plate awards! Instead we received cycling jerseys, which I guess is kind of cool.

I finished 8th with a 2:15:38 on a nice day in 2006, out of almost 300. So this year there were fewer people but more competitive parity, since the times weren't all that fast. As I'm beginning to think about 2009 I may take this race off the calendar, but then again it (usually) doesn't hurt to jump into an OD race.

My knee is still not feeling good, not sure what will make it feel better. Crashing on my bike last night certainly didn't help. I've never fallen off my bike or crashed until last night on my way home from the O's game. A few blocks from my house I guess I moved awkwardly and my backpack slipped off my shoulder and before I could catch it, it went straight into my front wheel. Bike locked up, I went flying over the handlebars, landing on the street. It HURT. Amazingly enough my clothes were fine, and I had mostly superficial injuries. Cut on my left elbow, cut on my ankle that was bleeding pretty bad, and then the left hip was really hurting. In fact it hurts pretty bad. It may further impede my already impeded running.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SMS Conversation with my Mother

Under normal circumstances this blog is not to represent things outside of the realm of athletic feats of excellence, but this one cracks me up.

My mom texts me tonight to let me know she has an extra ticket for the Rutgers vs Fresno State football game on Monday. 1) I don't care about this game and 2) It's Labor Day and clearly I have to be back here for numerous reasons. I let her know this, and say that if I were going to go to any game this weekend, it would be the inaugural Maryland vs Delaware game. She claims she "didn't know they were playing." I said, impossible, we had this exact discussion a few months ago.

Then she goes on to tell me, "did kev tell you danny paden is a dad?" Kev is my brother, Kevin, and Danny Paden is his friend from grammar school. In other words, he is 3 years younger than me and not my friend. I text back and said my sister (who visited today) already told me.

She then says she is going to send me the picture of this little baby. I text back and say "I already saw it, I don't really care, all babies look alike."

A few minutes later she sends it anyway. Delete. Thanks for wasting $0.25 for the picture message, mom.

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Olympics Revisited

Before the XXIX Olympic Games commenced on 8/8/08, I sincerely expected, nay, hoped they would be a failure for China. I really didn't want to see them be successful, in many ways. Two weeks later, that attitude has been completely turned around. Not only do I feel this year's Games were totally awesome, but I think, for the most part, it painted China in a good light. A few things they could have done without:

1) Digitally enhancing fireworks during the Opening Ceremonies
2) Making a cute little girl lip-synch for some busted girl
3) The alleged age of their alleged gymnasts

In only a few cases did the weather play a factor, and without being there, I don't think it was "as bad" as had been portrayed in the months leading up to the Games. That's not to say that some days didn't look absolutely disgusting, because they did, I just think for so many of the events they are inside or at least the athletes' exposure to the elements is limited to under a few minutes per event.

So I've tried to compile a list of few of my favorite moments from the Olympics this year, which is tough because every day produces more than its fair share; from the Water Cube to the Birds' Nest, and all points in between, there was never a pause in action. I'll also list my 10 favorite hotties of the Olympics later, but here is the short list: My 10 favorite moments from this year's Olympic Games:

10) Rhythmic Gymnastics. Yeah, you probably didn't even know this was real. I started watching this back in Atlanta. It's one of the last events they hold, and really one of the stupidest, but damn if it doesn't look good in HD. My brother and I used to watch this on the last Saturday of the Games, and soon found ourselves to be expert judges (along with trampoline). This year was no exception, as the individual winner (Evgeniya Kanaeva) was totally hot and did some crazy stuff, and the team winner (Russian Federation) had a routine that looked like a circus act. There are so many visual things going on, it's nearly impossible to absorb everything unless you do it in slow-mo.

9) Galen Rupp in the 10,000m. In a race that I'm sure hardly anybody watched (it was on between 3 and 4 on the first Sunday), the field was running together through just over 5 miles. Galen Rupp, a young American who runs collegiately for Oregon, was sitting in the pack with the big boys until a destructive 61 second lap with 4 to go blew the doors off. He finished in 13th overall, however, first American, and ran under 28 minutes. This kid is the next American distance track runner.

8) Dara Torres in the 50m free. People are always going to question exactly how she did it, but regardless of how, Torres, at 41 years old, earned silver in the fastest swimming event, losing gold by the narrowest of margins (0.01s). Her time was an American record, and she exuded class throughout the entire process, even holding up the start so a competitor could fix her suit. 8 years ago, at 33, she became the oldest swimmer to win a medal. Now at 41, she seems to only be starting and you can see the drive back in her face. No doubt she'll toe the line in the 2012 Olympic Trials.

7) Women's 4x400m relay (track). Sure, this is an event that on paper I'm sure we should have expected to win, but there were a number of events we should have won on the track this year that we didn't. My girl Allyson Felix clearly has something wrong with her, but still ran well, and then the third leg really messed stuff up for us. Sanya Richards anchored, and quickly tried to close the gap to the Russian team, before keeping the Russian in check. It looked like she was letting the race slip away until the last 75m, when she finally nudged past for the gold. An exuberant Richards, clearly disappointed with her 400m individual bronze, pumped her fist as she crossed the line. It was a great race to watch, even if we probably should have won handily.

6) Usain Bolt in the 200m. What superlative hasn't been used yet to describe this phenom? If there were more sprinting events, he would be the Michael Phelps of the track world. In his early round heats of the 100m, he looked so smooth and effortless, jogging some of the fastest times the world has ever seen. Then he comes out like gangbusters in the 100, blowing the field away and making it look easy in a World Record time. The 200 seemed like it might be a little tougher, as he wasn't easily getting under 20 in the rounds. The final was different, however, and from the gun he got after it. He came off the turn running so fast, the other competitors must have thought they were going to run 21 seconds. He looked like he was working harder, ran through the line and was more humble than after the 100, and earned another World Record that I thought was unbeatable. To top it all off, despite a sloppy handoff to Asafa Powell, the Jamaican team recorded another World Record in the 4x100m relay. The US would never have been able to touch them.

5) Dwyane Wade to Kobe for the alley oop. I'm pretty sure it was D-Wade to Kobe, but after all the ridiculous, Globetrotter-esque highlights, it's hard to remember exactly. Either way, Dwyane had stolen the ball or something and threw what looked like an off balance pass to nowhere, just in the direction of the basket, when all of a sudden Kobe swooped in and grabbed it for the dunk. The first 6 games or whatever for the American team were cakewalks, which was kind of fun to watch, before their rematch with Spain and a much narrower victory. While I was apprehensive watching that one, I'm glad we kept our heads and won the gold. Even though we never should lose gold in the first place.

4) Jonathon Horton on the high bar. I think that's the kid's name. Actually, this could go to all of USA Men's gymnastics. Unlike their female counterparts, they worked super hard, were somewhat underdogs when they earned bronze in the team comp, and were ecstatic with the result. Then in the event finals, some of them knew that in order to win, or put themselves in a position to win, that they would have to put everything on the line. The one guy did so on the pommel horse, performing a routine laced with such difficulty that he fell off. He knew the risk but did it anyway. That's PDAW worthy. Then the Horton guy does the same thing on the high bar. Changes his routine 2 days before the competition so that it's more difficult and nails it. It earned him silver, some believe it was gold-level, but it wouldn't have mattered what medal he won he was so excited after the routine. That's what being an Olympian is all about.

3) Double golds in beach volleyball. This is probably my favorite game-type event to watch in the world. 1) It's fast 2) It's on the beach 3) There's hot chicks and 4) They're in bikinis. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have been the super team in the world over the last year, not having lost a match since 8/19/07. They won gold 4 years ago and wanted to repeat as champs. They are dominant and humble, and more than anything they are prepared. It's spectacular to watch them compete. Their win in the rain was a good one. The men, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, had a tougher road to their gold after losing unbelievably on the opening night of competition to Latvia. From there out it was necessary for them to be flawless; one more loss and they'd be out before the medal round play even began. So they cleaned up their act and despite a few close matches, came out on top, defeating a tough Brazilian team in 3 sets to win gold.

2) Nastia Liukin, basically anything she did. I just liked watching Nastia. I liked watching her on uneven parallel bars. I liked watching her on the beam. I liked watching her in her little outfits, with her tightly pulled back hair and huge forehead, and big smile. There are times she looks like a total bitch, and others when she looks like the sweetest thing ever. Her dad was another character in this drama, which became a little weird by the end. I felt bad when they earned silver in the team comp, but hey, it happens. Then she won the all-around. That's satisfying. In the event finals she got robbed on both accounts, but I feel like she got the one that counted. I also like Shawn Johnson's gusto, but Nastia gets my main approval. I just wish they had shown more of her at the little gala thing, I remember that being a lot more fun to watch.

1) Men's 4x100m freestyle relay (swimming). This goes down as the best race I've ever seen in my life. Take it out of context: just say it was a random meet. It would still have been cool. Now add some more life: the Olympic games, US vs France, for gold. Now give it the piece d'resistance: losing means Michael Phelps will not win 8 gold medals. Sure, what Michael Phelps did was amazing; it has never been done before, and may never be repeated. Would it mean he's a failure? No. More amazing than the physical feats, just the fact he expected 8 wins, visualized 8 wins, and achieved 8 wins, when the pressure was on. That's sick. Anyway, this race was one of the stepping stones to get there, and with their situation looking dire, old-ass Jason Lezak makes up a body length on the World Record holder at the distance, Alain Bernard, and out-touches him at the wall. The reaction from his teammates was pure, and you know the first thought in Phelps' head was not "oh thank God he just kept my medal hunt alive" but rather "yes, that was sick, I'm proud of my teammate." There may never again be a race with so much riding on the line, so I'm glad I got to see it.

So these are my top 10, I'm sure I've forgotten a few, and as I remember I may include them. One great moment was watching the female swimmer from South Africa compete in the 10km open water swim event as an amputee. That was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Luray International Triathlon 2008

I signed up for this race last month on the coercion of Alyssa. She called me out, and, as everyone knows, I don't respond well to that.

She and I headed down to Luray on Friday night, and arrived in the town known for its caverns around 9:15. We were pretty hungry and there were not many options that late at night. We settled for Uncle Buck's Tavern, where I had a crappy hamburger and a crappy sweet potato. The highlight of the evening was watching (with no sound, mind you) Michael Phelps win his 7th gold 0.01 seconds. That's right, it was the closest of margins in the 100m butterfly, winning over Mark Cavic, who just seemed to not touch hard enough (twss).

We left the restaurant, went to the hotel and watched the remaining Olympic events. I woke up surprisingly alert at 5:30am and we got ready to go to the race. There was a tremendous amount of fog in the area, and the temperature was pretty cool. The venue was set amidst the Shenandoah Mountains, which provided a really cool landscape.

Everything in the race was two loops. Two loops in the lake, two loops on the bike, a two loop run. I was in the first wave, which went off at 8am. The water temp was comfortable, but at 74 I still wore my wetsuit. I felt awesome at first, but then I think I went a little awry after we turned into the blinding sun. On lap 2 we started passing the very slow swimmers. One of them clawed my timing chip off, which proceeded to sink to the bottom of the lake. Oh well. I'll probably have a charge on my credit card this month. Nevertheless, I felt like I didn't swim that great. I got out and there was a fairly long run to transition.

I feel like I got through transition pretty well, and headed out onto the bike. There was a hill about a quarter mile in that made the HR skyrocket, and I felt out of synch for the first few miles. I was so out of it that I thought about just shutting it down. Fortunately I started feeling it, and began to roll. They had 5 mile markers, and I passed the first one in 12:30, and then 10 miles in 24:30. This is pretty fast, I thought. The end of the loop featured a long false-flat that was a real challenge. As I turned into lap 2, I now had more people to pass again. Hit mile 15 in 38:00. Didn't see a 20 mile mark, and I thought the course was 24 miles, so I figured I'd be done in around an hour.

I pass the loop entrance and assume the park is right there, but didn't realize we had a few more miles to go. And another hill. I had really ridden well, but was disappointed when I saw it had taken me 1:08:12 (3rd fastest, even though I don't have splits) for just over 25 miles. Another fairly quick transition and I was out onto the run, not feeling great stomach-wise but legs were alright.

I cruised through the first mile and was surprised to see a 5:56 on my watch. That clearly was not correct, because I wasn't running that fast and there was a hill that would have slowed that down. Mile 2 was 6:40, which I felt was slow. Mile 3 was just about 7, so again I felt like it was slow. Mile 4 was just around 6:00, and then Mile 5 was like 7 again. So when I came through the line and saw 39:12, my inclination was that it was short - but upon further review I think the miles were just long, making up the .2 along the way. I wasn't pleased with the time, as it was the 17th best run, but I didn't really care at that point.

I crossed the line in 2:14:58, which was 7th in my wave. I was floored by the difficulty of this race; as a reference, Columbia I raced in 2:08:40. The winner of the race was a beast. Slow swim (22 something) but monster bike (1:04) and a good run (35). Impressive. I came to find out that I had finished 11th, but they had my time as 2:05:10, since I lost my chip - and this clearly was 12 seconds off. I'll say it was 9th place. Of course since I had raced in the Open wave, I finished 3rd there and they gave me a vase that reads 3rd Overall. I was not psyched to accept this.

Alyssa did great, recording a PR, a 9th place finish and 1st in her age-group. Larry the Slug was there too, always nice to see him. There was a random two person band that was playing some surprisingly decent music, and more importantly there was a lot of Gatorade. I would come back to do this race and probably stay for the weekend. The weather was cooperative, cool temp, no humidity, largely shaded course. It represented race #18 for me.

We headed home, I watched more Olympics that night, including Michael Phelps' amazing 8th gold medal. I then woke up early on Sunday and rode out in Frederick with Dean. First time riding with the Kiwi and it was a good one. The weather was amazing, best we've ever had in Frederick. Normally it's either freezing cold or a million degrees. We hit Hamburg, and Harp, and we were riding pretty quick. Rode well in between hills and by the time we hit South Mtn I was feeling good. We absolutely rolled from there, with a slight tailwind, and were able to bring our average speed to 17.5mph for the ride. Previous fastest was 16mph for the 54 miles. It was a great two days.

Monday I ran down to Fed Hill, did the 7 mile loop and then ran home. Much better than last week, average pace was 6:35 and I felt pretty good. Tired on Tuesday, but that was a monster 3 days I put together. At some point this week I'll get around to posting thoughts/comments about the Olympics.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Church Creek Time Trial

Races #16 and 17 were kind of mid-year fillers.

I did not intend originally on doing the 5000m at the track meet on Thursday, but Kris was going to do it and far be it from me to not show up and support. And then I always figure if I show up I may as well race. I had swam in the morning, and then just finished a 32 mile ride at an honest level of effort, so I was kind of tired. I didn't warm up, just put on my flats and went.

There were a bunch of kids in the front at the start, and they were crawling. I'm talking probably close to 25sec through the first 100m. I move to the front and hear the remarks, "there goes the rabbit!" Clearly that was not my intention, but I was hoping to get Kris into a better position to run fast. By the 400m I had a huge gap. I shut it down, moved to lane 3, which apparently confused the lads. They finally caught me and I slowed down, just clicking off 89's. Came through the 1600m in 5:46, 3200m in 11:44 (5:57) and then decided I'd like to run under 18, but in order to do that had some work to do. My last 1600m splits were 85-84-81-81 (5:31) and that got me just under. I was pretty pleased with being able to put in that kind of effort. I didn't cool down, not sure what place I finished, but I do know that it was not the venue to run fast.

Saturday I headed out to Cambridge, MD, home also to Eagleman, for a 40k individual time trial. This was the first time I was racing my bike in a time trial fashion without having to run after or swim before, so I was looking to crank. I figured averaging between 26.5 and 27mph was within reason, as I had gone through 25.5 miles in an hour on the course back in June. My start time was 11:52:30, so I left the house around 8:20. It took 2 hours to get there, getting stuck in a little traffic, and then I warmed up down from the high school to the start.

It was neat to get a hold for the start, and since it seemed as if we had a little push from the wind in the start direction, I was able to start in a pretty big gear. The person that was supposed to start :30 in front of me didn't show, so I started 1:00 behind someone. I got after it from the go and within a few miles had started picking off some of the slower riders in front of me. After about 14 minutes we turned right into the wind. This became a challenge. I was more concerned with keeping my cadence high than trying to push a big gear, I just didn't seem to have the legs to do it.

Not that it's a technical course, but I was glad that I was familiar with the course from Eagleman. I remembered the bumpy road that destroys your "nether region" as Dean put it. I was trying to push a larger gear through this section so I wasn't bouncing in my seat. I had hit 20k (halfway) at 29:30, which was considerably slower than I was expecting. I was expecting a tailwind for the last 8 miles, so I was hoping to negative split the ride.

Finally, after what seemed like an impossible amount of time, we turned to head out of the Blackwater Refuge and onto a smooth, wind-aided road. I noticed the 10k to go line on the road and a quick look at the watch and I was concerned I wouldn't break an hour. I put as much as I could into the last 6 miles, especially with a mile to go. I stopped the clock in 58:57, which was an average speed of 25.2mph. Not exactly what I was expecting, this race was a lot harder than I anticipated. Of course, less than a minute after the race I seemingly had completely recovered. I rode back to the high school, very slowly, with a couple of guys I know, and at this point the day had turned pretty warm. The sun was strong.

I managed to pull a 2nd place out of 33 in the Cat 5 race, almost 2 minutes back from 1st but 1 minute ahead of 3rd. I did manage to finish faster than a couple of Cat 4 and Cat 3 folks, but there were some really impressive performances, especially by some old guys. And I mean legitimately old, like in the mid 50s. The guy that won Cat 5 was over 50. Couldn't believe it. So I clearly have some work to do.

I should have brought a water bottle, I really underestimated how thirsty I got. Other than that I didn't think I did anything wrong, but I was disappointed that I was only marginally faster than two weeks ago in the triathlon. On my way out I stopped at Wendy's in Easton, which was tasty, but then it took me forever to get home thanks to traffic on the Bay Bridge - 3 hours to get back. Ridiculous!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Winning IS Everything

We're all familiar with phrases like "winning isn't everything" and "it's not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game." Well you know what, those are bullshit.

Would Kevin Garnett be any worse of a basketball player if he didn't win an NBA Championship? Certainly not, but we would asterisk his name in comments like "Kevin Garnett, perhaps the best player to never have won a championship" had he stayed in Minnesota.

What the unenlightened fail to understand that, at the highest level of sport, it is only about winning. Try telling the silver medallist at the Olympics that they'll "get 'em next time." There may never be a next time for them.

I understand that accomplishments, awards and money are things we can't take with us when we die, but they're certainly going to have an impact on how we live. Bill Buckner had to move to the middle of the country and become a recluse because of his blooper in the 1986 World Series (not that I was complaining about that one).

Winning is important to all of us. It is proof we're the best. I have trained with some of the most competitive people and I can say firsthand that winning something, no matter how big or small, is all they are concerned with. Brian Godsey is one of these people. Whether it was proving he had run the slowest on a particular course (yes, the slowest) or exploding over a game of MarioKart, he wants to beat you. OJ is another one of these people. He will kill himself to beat you at something. A lot of times he doesn't care if he doesn't win, just as long as you don't win. These two people have also won their fair share of races in their time, and once you know that feeling, it's hard to accept anything else.

Some people call it drive, some call it desire, yet others call it that killer instinct. I think it's just human nature, and the lack of these things is what has made the world into the place it is today. It's very hard to get to the top; it's even harder to stay there. I've only won two races (actually the same race, twice) - the Terp Trot 5k. This is my race. If there is a way that I can compete at it every year, it will always be my goal to win.

Most people are satisfied with just finishing something, and I'll never take that away from them. For them, that is their personal win. While there can only be one winner at any given event, others can also win.

Age-graded wins don't count, at least definitely not yet. In college I remember after some races Tri-guy Tommy, my training partner, would come back and tell me he "won." Then I would look up results and say "no, you got 4th." "Well I won my age group." Doesn't count. It's designed to make you feel better about yourself.

I got to thinking about winning this week as I consider the task ahead for America in their quest to "win" the Olympics. How does one measure success at the Olympics? Purely by medal count? Types of medals won? Percentage of gold medals to overall medals? Is their some kind of scale based on available resources and size of the country? For instance, we have more people in the Olympics than some countries have in their population, surely they can't be expected to win as many as we do.

Then I thought about Michael Phelps. He is in a position to do something no human being has ever done - win 9 gold medals in one Olympics. This is absurd. The fact he can is reason enough for him to do it. Most people say he could win more than that if the swimming events were spread over more days. He is so much better than everyone else at so many events it's impossible to fathom. But with all that potential comes so much pressure. I don't know how he deals with it. See while most of America is a bunch of lazy assholes, they do judge success by one thing: did you win gold? If you say yes, it's "oh okay, that's good." If you say no, I won silver, it's "oh...well, good job. Maybe next time." The unenlightened can't comprehend or appreciate because they don't understand what it takes to get there.

Even I would say "wow, silver is great, bronze is great, 4th place is great!" but if I am good enough to get to the Olympics, I'm only satisfied with gold.

Ultimately I suppose it comes down to knowing your audience. One of the most degrading things you can say to an elite athlete is "well at least you finished." Our college coach used that as his motivational speech once: "just finish." Thanks, coach. After Eagleman people were saying how much respect they had for me just because I had finished. Great, I finished, in a terrible time and nearly killed myself. When we were in Boston a few years ago for Andy's marathon, a Bostoner (Bostonite?) on the train said one of the most intelligent things I've ever heard a non-athlete say to an athlete. "How was this time compared to your goal?" That's a proper question that should never get you in trouble.

I realize that winning is never easy, and that's the point, you've got to earn it. I'd like to get a W in a multisport event this season, but if it doesn't happen I'll keep working for it. Desire, drive and killer instinct. Humans got to where we are for a reason, it's up to some of us to keep that legacy going.

And I'd wish Michael Phelps luck, but he doesn't need luck. Go Baltimore!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Jersey Triathlon 2008

I realize that I waited a week and a half to do this, but better late than never I suppose. I was too frustrated afterwards to say anything about it. This race, now in its third edition, arrived in Mercer County Park in 2006 and quickly became a favorite race. Very flat, very fast, a PR course (not to mention the always short bike course). 2006 was my first year back to triathlons after the long hiatus, and after Columbia it was just my 2nd race that year. I swam like garbage on their unreasonably long swim course, and then rode decent, and had the run I would have expected for myself at that time. The effort produced a 24th place in a time of 2:08:xx.

2007 I knew I was much better prepared, and I was, rocking to a much better swim on their proper-length swim course. I went 25min, which was still slow compared to the olden days, but it was the same time I swam at Columbia that year and without a wetsuit, so I was pleased. I did well on the bike again, being one of the few riding a standard road bike, and then was pretty pleased with my run. My time of 2:05:58 yielded 15th place.

I came into this year sporting a near 9 minute improvement from Columbia year-over-year, so I had expectations of pulling at least 8 minutes from 2007 NJ. I wagered my 22:23 at Columbia would at worst have me out of the water in 23 and change, and then I've been raping bike courses lately so I figured I could have one of the fastest splits on the day. With a 38:09 run last year and a similar time at Columbia this year (on the harder course) I figured sub37 would be reasonable. All in all I was looking for a top 5 finish.

I spent a large part of Saturday watching the Tour, then finally made my way up to NJ, which, thanks to Delaware traffic, took longer than it should have. I called my buddy Vic up to meet for a run in Middletown, so we did that, got some pizza and before I knew it, it was 10pm. I went to sleep probably right before midnight, and woke up around 5.

I woke up to thunder. Loud, disturbing thunder, and thought oh man not again. It was warm, so if it rained I would have sucked it up, but I didn't want it to rain. Fortunately it was all good an hour away in Mercer County. I arrived and due to the Sprint waves going off first, we had to be out of transition pretty early. I prepared my stuff, and went for a warmup around some awesome trails they have out there. I took a dump, it was messy and I was not happy about that.

Made my way down to the water where the bathtub like 80 degrees greeted me happily. I started in the first wave of Olympic folks, and we were off. I felt like I was swimming pretty well and kept one guy to my left for the first half. I still felt like I was going okay, but as we turned into the sun, my goggles fogged up and I was just blindly swimming along, trying to keep this guy in my sight. Now, I can't say for sure what happened, but I could tell I was swimming for a while and since I couldn't see, I was having trouble spotting the buoys. I don't wear a watch, so I didn't know my time out of the water but results indicated that I swam 27:36! No way on earth did I honestly swim that slow. In perspective, Eric Benjamin has never swam faster than I have, I put a few minutes into him at Columbia, and he beat me by 2 minutes on this day. So I was aggravated, not sure what happened and my only conjecture was that I went off course, because I can't fathom swimming 2:30 slower than last year when I am swimming as well as I ever have.

So that pissed me off. I head through the long transition, cursing the parking lot for ripping up my feet and heading out on my bike. This was race #2 with having my shoes clipped in and I handled myself a little better, but still lost 15sec to a guy that I came out of transition with. Once I was settled, I felt amazing - I truly feel at home on this bike/any bike these days. I started crushing the course, but right before we turned into the college campus I got stung by a wasp. In the groin. It was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. I started freaking out, reaching into my shorts to get the stinger out. It hurt for a few minutes but I put it behind me and continued to smash. Back out on the open roads it was like I couldn't find a bigger gear to push, and I felt like I was effortlessly flying along. By the time I got back to the 2nd tour of the campus, I had caught a few dudes, and at this point there were too many people to pass so the four of us basically rode into the park again together. I separated a little from them just prior to T2, and tore in and out of there and onto the run. 56:07 for just over 23 miles, 24.8mph average and 6th fastest split of the day. I was pretty pleased.

I thought I felt pretty good, and wanted to see how many people were in front of me. There were quite a few. I was moving up well, but when I hit the first mile I saw 6:09. Man, that's way too slow. 2nd mile was even slower. Rather than freak out about time, I was concerned more with passing people. I continued to do that, and just let the run take its course. I started to not feel great around 5k, and could tell I was fading. The heat, which was by no means bad, was getting to me a little. I finally came on a half mile to go and was getting passed by someone (the first of the day to do that). He goes past, and then goes "shit" and slows down. Clearly he had blown his wad.

I catch back up to him, let him know that I wasn't in the age group division but rather the open, and we ran to pick up a guy sporting a DC Tri Club outfit. I just hate DC so much that I had to beat him. The three of us were full on now with 300m to go, and with 200m to go I had enough to sprint. I'm coming down the straight and hear the announcer calling it, and can see behind me the two coming back. I had nothing left. Lunge for the line, it looked like the DC guy got me but in official results it was me, 2:05:10; him, 2:05:11 and other dude 2:05:13. That's pretty sick. My run was a disappointing 38:37, but was still 10th best so I know a lot of people struggled on this day. I was disappointed with the overall result as well at 16th. Had I swam just a little bit quicker it would have made a world of difference. That's really what it came down to.

Eric had a really good overall race, winning the Clydesdale division, but my arch-nemesis Josh Wall got 7th, mostly on the heels of a good swim. I killed him on the bike but again we were just seconds apart on the run. I don't believe he actually lives in Beach Haven, because for 9 months of the year nobody does. That is what bothers me most.

It was also amazing to see the youth factor - so many young dudes in the top 20. Goes to show you that this distance really comes down to that, young guys that swim in college or were good swimmers can get in, get some time and then anyone can ride 23 flat miles reasonably fast and hold on for a 10k. I used to think this distance was my bread and butter, and even though I've struggled with the half distance this year, I think that's where I've got to start focusing more energy. Sucks. They're more expensive and a hell of a lot more painful.

My brother and sister came to watch, which was cool because my brother has never seen me race before. Afterwards we headed up the road a little to Lawrenceville and Varsity Pizza, home to the world's best buffalo chicken pizza, and killed some before I headed back to Maryland.

The race was weird this year, something about it just didn't feel right. I know it's a ways off, but I'm thinking that I've done about all I can do at this race and that maybe I won't do it next year. I say that now, but really my parents (when they're in town) love coming to it, it's pretty close to here and close to home, and it's a good race to do. I suppose if I don't have anything else to do next year I'll do it. I hear that Columbia 2009 is up to $140 and will probably close soon so I have to register for THAT now too.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Triathletes are a bunch of tools.

I learned this important lesson when I first got into the sport in 2001. I was taught to never show up to a group ride (of any kind, but particularly with roadies) with aerobars, or goofy bars as they may be called. Not only did you look stupid if you did, it's also quite dangerous to ride around someone in their aero position.

Every year I went to Columbia and, as a college kid, would look at the bikes around me with jealousy. I went into each race with a huge chip on my shoulder, thinking "it doesn't matter what kind of bike you ride, you still have to pedal." And pedal I did. I have done pretty well in my racing career on a road bike, and really didn't think a time trial setup would benefit me much.

Now I am in a place where I can both afford and rationalize spending the money to get a time trial bike, and I've got to say - it's pretty amazing. My bike splits this year have been retarded. Some of this I will attribute to being in better shape and not racing like a bitch, but some of it is definitely bike-related.

Of course, people still take it to that next level. I picked up a Cervelo P2C with some pretty deep Reynolds wheels. No disc, no power tap, no computer of any kind. I have a friend who is amazing on the bike. All his gadgets are ridiculous. Sometimes I wish I took it to that level, but most of the time I am pleased with my current status.

Triathletes are also, in general, idiots when it comes to running. It's not that hard - run more, do some hills, mix in some harder efforts and recover. As a slow runner, doing 200s on the track all out is probably not something you really need.

Swimming, well, I can't say much on this subject, since I suck. I've been steadily improving over the last few years, but it's only gotten me to where I swam once upon a time (2003). Again, swim more, swim easier - that's how you get faster.

You put all three together and you've got a triathlete. A quirky, "A" personality with possible OCD/manic qualities. They're analytical and not emotional. They love arguing over methods, and never use rationale. In my 7 years of the sport, I can say I've only met a few of the more serious people that I would consider being pretty cool. Doug Clark is one. He's from NJ, around 40 years old, and still competes every year in the NJ Beer Mile Championships. OJ is another. He and I have a good time when we go to races, and despite being old and "out of shape" he still crushes it.

Everyone else rolls around in their dorky triathlete gear, logo-emblazoned jackets and jerseys, and love wearing their spandex hours after the event. They don't seem too friendly and take themselves pretty seriously.

I guess sports like running, cycling and swimming attract nerdy people. Running races are certainly filled with geeks. Cyclists think their shit doesn't stink. Swimmers try to live their college lifestyle through adulthood. And I don't mean by swimming a lot, I mean by acting like 20 year olds. I'm sure that I, too, am pretty dorky, but I do have fun, make fun and genuinely enjoy what I do. I run like a runner, I ride like a cyclist, and I swim...well, I swim.

With that in mind, off to another race site where I get to mingle with the kings and queens of Nerdvana.