Thursday, June 26, 2008


It's no secret that I love the summer. I crave it's warmth, long days and motivation.

At the same time, it always comes with a hint of disappointment, even before it starts. I always start off and think, "wow, this summer is going to be great. I'm going to do nothing, every weekend. Absolutely nothing." Then of course reality sets in, and I realize I have no weekends free until August. It's race, after race, after race and too many weddings. Even today I finally accepted that June is almost over.

This means that the longest days have come to pass, and the days will only get shorter and the weeks will only go faster. I really do enjoy the days that it stays light out til 9. In most places in Europe right now, it's light out until after 10, or even later. People just hang out all night, nobody watches TV, of course nobody does any physical activity either. It wouldn't be a lifestyle I would care for at this point, but I do wish we here in the States would stay out a little later during the week, start work a little later, take life a little less seriously from time to time.

Since Friday, I've run 60 miles. It's one of the longest weeks I've had in years, and it was comprised of 6 straight runs: 11, 5, 16, 7, 12 and 9. 33 of the miles came on the trails. During this time I didn't ride my bike at all, and only swam twice. I'm amazed at how beat I am after this amount of running. I definitely need to accept this as a normal week as I prepare for the marathon this fall.

Tonight I made it to my Thursday Night Ride, which is one of my favorite activities during the summer. Hard to believe it's my fourth summer doing this ride, and it's nice to see the familiar faces if but once a week. Since we had as much daylight as we were going to have, we did a longer ride, checking out some new roads in the process. It was a good ride, albeit very warm. Well over 90 degrees, and it just crushed me. I was glad to see I had more power left at the end of the ride than I did last week, when I was crawling.

I'm going to look to get in the pool tomorrow morning and hit our usual Friday afternoon trail run, followed by a bbq and one of the few nights I am planning on going out. Saturday I'll try and ride a little and run following the Dreaded Druid Hills race, and then it's baseball time in DC. Sunday is another Patapsco long run and hopefully an easy ride in the afternoon. Then I plan on taking it easy until Thursday, when I'll set up a good 4-5 days of riding and then recover leading up to Rhode Island Half IM.

But, I'm also going to try and enjoy the summer before Labor Day rears its ugly head.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2008 George Sheehan Classic

The George Sheehan Classic is a 5 mile foot race in my home town of Red Bank, New Jersey. Its origins, as far as I know, go back to when it was the Asbury Park 10k. Then Asbury became a not-so-desirable place to do anything other than drugs, and the race moved to Red Bank. It remained a 10k until I'd say about 15 years ago, when residents of one of the asshole towns the race passed through pitched a fit and the race was adjusted to its current distance of 5 miles.

Also, the race used to be held in August. When I was in high school, we would volunteer at the race, so I never ran it in the event until 1999, when I used it to show off my 60+ mile training weeks as I headed to college. I managed to run 29:09 I believe, which was my first 5 mile race. For me, it was a great result. I think I may have done worse in 2000, when I had something weird going on with me that summer (a result of giving blood the week prior to the race no doubt). I missed the event in 2001 as I was in Australia. 2002 I got back on track, running 28:49, which is still my course best. In 2003 the race was just a week after I broke my ankle, so I was obviously not able to compete, and I don't think I did it in 2004 either.

Then they moved the race to June. I was never too sure why they did this, but it had a significant impact on the race's attendance. It used to pull 4000 people and if you didn't break 29 you weren't in the top 100. All of a sudden the majority of times were slower, although the winners stayed the same as there was some money and a few foreigners would come and drop 23 lows. I know 2007 I had a bad race and ran 29:06. 2006 was a good year, as I ran 28:56 or something. 2005 I was just getting back to racing that year and went 30:30. This year I was hoping to run a course best.

Over the four years now that they've held the race in June, it's gotten worse and worse. This year there were no foreign athletes and the winning time was 25:34. 3rd-5th were 27:09-27:30. That's terrible. Apparently they took the money away from the race. Then, it used to have a great expo down at Marine Park, and a post-race food assortment that rivaled any race. Now it's no longer the case. Small expo, not in the parking lot but rather on a small plot of grass, not much to offer in terms of food. Only maybe 2000 people in the race. I realize that's still a lot, but a far cry from the old days.

It saddens me, this being my hometown race I just want to see it thrive like it did in the old days. The race is run in honor of Dr. George Sheehan, a runner and author, who is known among the running circles as a great man. He just happens to be from my town.

Anyway, I was able to tell the competition was not here this year just by looking around. It didn't stop a ton of old people from lining up in front of me. Who do these people think they are? I noticed to my left that a man, looked older, was knocked down and trampled at the start. That's what you get. Personally I wasn't expecting much. With my body still reeling from Eagleman, and my first run just the day before - I figure 6 minute pace would be nice but if it was too hard I would just chill out. Also, my right foot started hurting again during the run at Patapsco on Friday, which is now worrying me.

I start running, annoyed that I'm stuck behind slow people, and it's about 200-300m before I find some open real estate. I start picking off a few people, and then catch up to a large group. I felt really comfortable but had no idea how fast or slow I was running. I was surprised to see my watch at 5:38 at the first mile. I continued to stay comfortable, and actually felt like I was moving along pretty well. The second mile is flat, then a little downhill and then back uphill. I was not handling any uphills very well, and came through mile 2 in 5:49. Mile 3 is all flat. I was feeling decent now, the effort wasn't killing me but I also wasn't getting faster. 5:55 mile. So I was at 17:22 or so at 3 miles. I would have been happy ending the race there.

Mile 4 is largely through a neighborhood. Not that the two compare, but this is my version of Hawaii's Natural Energy Lab. The neighborhood just sucks so much energy out of me. Lots of turns and chicanes, and then you come back out on Ridge Rd, going against a sea of slower runners, and you're running towards a hill. Mile 4 was 6:18, my worst neighborhood mile ever. I was dead going into Tower Hill, and felt like I was walking up it. Fortunately, I recovered and tried my legs out about 800m from the finish.

I could tell I wasn't going to have much, at this point I was just trying to hang on. I saw my parents and Vic at the corner as I turned onto Broad Street, and from that point there is less than a quarter mile to the finish. Just a straight shot, drag race style. Normally I would go into a furious sprint, but my legs wouldn't respond today. I "let" a few people go by me, and settled for 18th male/22nd overall in 29:44.95. No course best for me today, which is slightly disappointing. I did manage to hold off Maggie Guiney (30:03) and put it down on Jeremy Pilkington, although I think he's hurt.

The weather was alright, not very windy, humid, close to 80. Weird though, my body hasn't seemed to like the heat much this week, and 80 felt like the same as Eagleman. My right foot was alright, not sure how that works, but my left foot got blistered up from no socks. Time for some new shoes too. Positive side-note, me and Beez Nuts (my sister) took 2nd in the sibling-sibling contest for the 2nd straight year.

So I'm frustrated that 29:45 gets me 22nd at this race, Kootman ran 26:40 once and got 22nd I think. I love this race so much but unless it does something to get better, I don't know where its future is headed. It has to get most of the race paid for through sponsors. so I don't know why they can't put on a good race. I'll see what happens for 2009, as it will be the week after Eagleman again I'm sure.

Another thing I've been thinking about is that I can't believe I moved from NJ 3 years ago. This is my fourth June in Baltimore and that just seems crazy to me. Sometimes I think about how little I've actually accomplished in that time here, but really I've come pretty far considering this time in 2005 I was just getting back to racing. Of course, I did run a 30:30 then, so the fact I only ran :45 faster this year is a blow, even if I did have an excuse.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Revised 2009 Race Schedule

Well, I went a little crazy today, signing up for a few more races. My credit card is tired, and needed a break - otherwise I would have gone for a few more. Anyway, here's the new revised schedule:

6/14: George Sheehan Classic 5 Miler (Red Bank)
7/12: Belmar 5
7/13: Amica Rhode Island Half Ironman
7/19: Rockville Twilight 8k
7/27: NJ State Triathlon
8/24: Chicago Triathlon
9/1: Bay Cafe 5k
9/6: Lancaster Triathlon
9/7: Annapolis Triathlon
9/21: Philly Distance Run
9/27: Bull Run Reunion Run
10/12: Terp Trot 5k
11/2: NYC Marathon

I am still quasi-on the fence about Chicago. I found a pretty cheap flight and could probably stay with someone, but it looks like BG might come to visit that weekend and also I could do without going out there. However, I did have a goal of 8 tris in 08, so I need to backfill. Might do a Set Up Event in August then. On the other hand, I could use August weekends for long runs. Hmm, what to do?

I am still psyched on the double weekend in September, which I was supposed to do last year. If I can find a few XC races in October, I'll do those, because those won't affect a long run. After NYC, probably do a few more little things but these are the big ones.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eagleman: Why?

It wasn't like the heat surprised me on Sunday morning, I knew it was going to be hot. I felt like this whole year has prepared me for adverse conditions, although it's much easier to have to deal with sudden, extreme cold than sudden, extreme heat. I woke up before my alarm on Sunday, at 3:55 a.m., and by 4:30 I was in the car, driving the 35 minutes from Salisbury to Cambridge. I parked and lugged my gear down to transition. The weird thing was, I was not nervous at all, which almost never happens. For as much pressure as I had on myself to do well here, I felt completely relaxed. Maybe it was the change of venue from the normal haunts (Columbia, New Jersey, etc), or maybe it was the fact this race is so much longer than normal, and success hinges more on pace than pure speed.

Either way I felt good about the day, and felt like I was properly fueled leading up to the swim. They made the announcement around 6 am that the water temp was 76 degrees. To me, this is the gray area that I always wish against. At 78 and above, wetsuits are illegal for all athletes. Below this and they are allowed. At 76 degrees, for a 1.2 mile swim, that's a lot of extra heat you're generating (because you do sweat when you swim) and I am never sure what to do. Despite being a mediocre swimmer, I would prefer that wetsuits weren't allowed, even if it's going to hurt me more than the swimmers. It speeds up transition and I don't get as hot. Anyway, we get in the bath water that is the Choptank River, and after 7 years of racing, I was finally able to pee in my wetsuit. It was so gross, but I had to do it.

In some years, the Choptank lives up to its name, producing whitecaps and making for very difficult swims. Others years, like 2007, it's like glass and the swim times are very quick. This year the water didn't look bad, but you could see the current moving swiftly, largely against the way we'd be swimming. As we rounded the first buoy, I could feel the current working against me. I stayed comfortable, and steadily moved up through the field, but I felt like I was out there for a really long time. This was confirmed when I exited the swim in 33:14. Everyone was slow, but this was particularly slow. I lost considerable time to my main age group competitors, but was still 18/60ish in the age group and 274/1300ish in the race.

My transition was terrible. I couldn't get my wetsuit off, and I was flustered. I discovered that in my clothes changing process from the morning I had put my singlet on inside out, which meant I couldn't access the little pockets. In my haste, I decided to leave my salt pills behind. To call this the day's biggest mistake would be an understatement. I got to work fairly quick on the bike, and was feeling good. My cadence was high and I was in a pretty big gear, so without a computer I knew I was going quick. Around mile 20 I decided that only having to ride 5 more miles would be more fun than 36 more.

My water store was depleted, so at the 20ish mile water stop I grabbed a bottle and dumped it into my aero bottle. Did the same about 10 miles later. I was managing to eat my little packets of Gu, but I didn't feel like I even needed calories, I was losing something else - sodium. I didn't feel like I was losing power, and I felt alright when I saw the crew at mile 45. Two miles later I was rendered useless on the side of the road, with a right quad muscle seizing up so intensely I thought I was going to have to drop out. I waited a few minutes for it to get better, then soft pedaled to the finish. My time was 2:28:38, a far cry from the 2:15 goal and even the 2:20 worst case scenario I had planned for. Amazingly, it was still the 10th fastest in the group, 123rd overall, and off the bike I was now in 9th in my age group. My second transition wasn't bad, I took two salt pills right away and went onto the run feeling strong.

The original goal was 1:19, or right around 6:03 pace. My cardiovascular effort on the bike was not taxing, and I started out well running. Unfortunately for me, the damage of nutrient imbalance was irreversible, and no matter what I did I was not coming back from it. A half mile into the run I was seizing up again, my body just stopped functioning. I was relegated to jog, cramp, walk. It took 36 minutes to go the first 3 miles, and only got worse from there. You may not fully understand how humiliating it is to be one of the faster runners at any given race and be hit so hard that you have to walk. I continued walking, in the brutally hot sun. The air temp was 100 degrees, and the road surface was around 115. I took fluids at every water stop, thank God for them, but it was too little too late. I was over an hour at the turnaround, and then just slowed to a crawl. My body was furious at me, and was showing the outward signs of severe dehydration. Cold, tingly fingers, delirium, stumbling. I was praying for a familiar face, someone to have better judgment and pull me out.

I kept walking, and finally got to 3 miles to go and saw the crew again. I was deflated at this point and wanted to stop. They forced me to keep going. I mustered up a slow jog with 200m to go just so I didn't walk across the finish line. My "run" time was 3:40, or 16:45/mile. My finishing time was 6:47, again, nowhere near the original goal.

People have told me they were impressed by what I did, continuing on, but I am not. It was stupid. I suffered so much, and am sunburned so badly I still can't move. It was definitely not worth it, and I wish I had stopped. The people who weren't reduced to walking were impressive. The people who had amazing races despite the weather were impressive. My friend Matias won the amateur division and was 9th overall in the same time as he did last year. His run was 6 minutes slower but his bike was 7 minutes faster, and his swim was a little slower but in "real" time we'll say it was faster.

As I looked at the results, had I even been able to muster up a 1:40 half, I could have placed 4th or 5th in the age group. Not good enough for the Hawaii slot, but probably would have picked up a slot to Clearwater. I'm glad I don't have to do an Ironman this year, it's clear that I am not ready for it yet. I'm hoping to recover by this weekend and I'm considering jumping into the Rhode Island half Ironman that is slated for July 13th. I don't really want to do another so soon, but I feel like I need to get in another attempt at the distance this year and I don't know when else I could.

So it was about the worst possible day I could ever have, I appreciate everyone's support and concern in my quest, and everyone that came out to watch really helped. I'm not interested in having a decent race, I had a goal, tried to stick to it and got burned. It happens, and hopefully next time won't yield a similar result.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Final Countdown: Saturday

I woke up this morning and decided to take my time moving around. My intention was to leave around 8, get to Cambridge by 9:30, ride for an hour, do my stuff and chill out. I didn't leave until well after 10, and it was already seering outside. Super hot, super humid. The fog at the Bay Bridge was absurd. I got out to Cambridge and it was considerably cooler. I did all my stuff, definitely a different experience from Columbia, although every pre-race like this is familiar in some way. I ran into my buddy Matias and we chatted for a while as we picked up our numbers. I then headed back over to transition and dropped off my bike. Everything feels good, we'll see how it goes tomorrow.

I then drove the 30 minutes to Salisbury, my home for the evening. Emily, Bryan and I spent most of the afternoon inside either the hotel or restaurants, as it was too hot to do anything else. Finally around 8:15 I went for my shakeout run. I decided against riding today, as there was generally no need to exert myself anymore than necessary, or further dehydrate myself. I'm reminded of Lance Armstrong's 2003 time trial meltdown and so I am erring on the side of caution. It's certainly not going to help me win the race. But I did do a very short, very slow shakeout run. I felt terrible, which I actually don't mind. I'd rather feel terrible right now than awesome. Awesome means something's wrong.

It is going to be a tough day tomorrow. Temps today were in the high 90s, feeling like 103. Tomorrow's expected highs in Baltimore and DC are 97 and 99, respectively, and out here probably about 95. The surface temp of the road is going to be hot enough to melt my shoes. I've tried to go with as many light colors as possible. If I think I need to drink, I should drink twice as much. I've got salt tabs. I guess I'm ready as I'll be.

Here we go!

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Countdown: Friday

Late is the hour of my post. I worked from home today, which was probably a good idea as I would have melted getting in and out of the car. Around 7 I headed up to Performance Bikes to get a last minute trinket for my bike: a crappy basic computer. Originally priced at $49.99, it was marked down to $19.99. Then I saw the Polar CS200, same as I have on my road bike, for a considerable discount (but still $120). I briefly considered purchasing it, but I think I'm going to get a new watch and just use that for my Cervelo. I don't know yet. Regardless, I headed down to the pool afterwards and got in a short little swim set. I felt pretty good, rolled through a 600 warmup, then a 50-100-200-100-50 "main" set and then cooled down. It was a nice evening to swim.

I went from there over to Nick's house, via the Square. It was off the chain. So many hot chicks. It's days like this that I get jealous of normal people that don't spend their weekends racing.

Nick helped me with a few things on my bike, and then I returned home. I finally headed out for a run around 10pm. I realized that even though I didn't need the run, I needed to run, for sanity's sake. My foot felt alright, as I would hope it would after 3 straight days of no running. I do feel a little heavy, and need to make sure I'm conscious of what I eat tomorrow. I was running pretty slow, headed down to Boston St and then picked up the bricks behind Tindeco. Came back out on Boston, and went up O'Donnell through the Square. For the uphill mile through Canton I picked it up, and while the legs felt good, the humidity was crushing, even at the late hour. I managed to comfortably roll a 5:50, but realized that I wouldn't be able to hold that pace for more than a few miles. As much as I want to just start out at 6:00 pace on Sunday (well, want and able to are two different things), I may be a little more conservative at first. It's supposed to be quite warm (see: high 80s) and the sun will be strong.

I'm planning on getting up around 6:30 tomorrow, have a few things to do before I can leave, run through the final checklist, and then I'll be off. I'll get out to Cambridge and ride my bike until I feel warmed up, so about an hour to hour-fifteen I guess. It's funny how you lose motivation to do anything before a big event like this. Then I'll meet Emily and Bryan for lunch in Salisbury, check into the hotel, and maybe go for 4-5 miles easy, and stretch. HYDRATION is super important tomorrow, as will be rest.

I am considering bringing my laptop so if I do I'll check in tomorrow.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Countdown: Thursday

It was another warm day today, I'll be much happier if it just stays like this for the next few days. Maybe it will be so hot that there won't be any wind, which would be great on the bike and swim, and I'd deal with it on the run. They're calling for high 80s on Sunday, so you've got to figure that by 9:45-10:00, when I'm running, it's going to be toasty.

Taking yesterday off seemed to help a little bit. I was definitely tired, from what I don't know, but it probably worked out for the best. I got home a little after 6 today and Nick came over to ride around 6:45. We headed out Route 40 to White Marsh Blvd, then took Eastern Ave back home through Middle River and Essex. I haven't been on my bike since last Wednesday, and my legs felt great. They felt fresh, but I avoided the urge to crush it, as I would like to keep them feeling fresh the next few days. More importantly, my foot felt alright as I pedaled. It hurt a little when I stood, but I shouldn't have to stand too much on Sunday.

It was an easy 30 miles, and I got home and felt good enough to run. That's a good sign. I did not run, but I'm pretty sure my body will remember what to do on Sunday and I think I'll be able to get into the low 6 minute range off the bat. To me, the faster the better, I'd rather blow up then go out too conservatively.

Prognosis now looks good, I didn't take any ibuprofen today, I don't plan on taking any tomorrow unless I absolutely need to. I have only been drinking water the whole week, no Coke or iced tea. Probably eat pretty light over the next few days, try to keep the liquids up and rest and stretch.

For the week, I only missed Tuesday's planned run and yesterday's planned ride. I expect to swim tomorrow morning and then run at some point tomorrow, might try to get out in the hot part of the day for a minute.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Countdown: Wednesday

The end result of today is that I'm no further along than I was yesterday. I wound up taking the day off, fueled partly by being tired and partly due to the nasty storm that rolled through around 4 o'clock. It really didn't stop, so I didn't get to the pool, and wasn't riding my rollers today. It was hot and humid, and I was melting. Not a good sign for Sunday.

The foot feels mildly better, but it's very tight. I'm still taking ibuprofen. I need to try and run tomorrow, and if possible, get out on my bike.

Keeping me going have been all the messages wishing me the best for the race, and believe it or not, a few fun blog posts by Chuckie V, whose blog I read. I like his perspective, it's an old school POV from one of the pros with the most flair in the sport. I hate that the WTC (Ironman governing body) refers to half-Ironmans as "Ironman 70.3" now. 70.3 of course represents the distance, in miles, of the race. I guess it's pretty easy to say, but it sounds dumb. Just say half-Ironman.

On Potential


The Single Worst Thing About Triathlon

I'll be back with tomorrow's update, we've only got tomorrow, Friday and Saturday before the gun. Starting to really feel the nerves. On a side note, I talked with Brian Shea today, owner of Personal Best Nutrition, coach, great athlete and all-around good guy. He coaches Scott DeFilippis, who, among others, will be competing for the Hawaii slot in our age-group. Scott ran a 1:05 half last year and a 2:24 debut marathon. I used to race "against" him in high school, and his brother was my sister's XC coach in high school. The guy has gotten quite proficient at triathlons, and with his running skills, he's going to be a tough competitor. Can't worry about it now, but his training volume is probably double mine. Fortunately I'm pretty good on the bike these days, so I need to make hay in the event that my foot acts up.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Countdown: Tuesday

I decided to run last night. I'm not sure why. Actually, I am. It was probably the nicest day of the year so far, and I felt obligated to run the first night of the Fort Loop. Of course, we get to the Fort and it's closed. Anyway I felt alright to run, and felt decent for the first few miles. Then somewhere on the back stretch my foot started to hurt. We were also picking it up, our group of Ben, Arjun, Kris, Spence and some other guy. By Charles Street, we were really moving. Definitely faster than I would expect to run on Sunday. I'm hoping that maybe the pace I need to run on Sunday won't be that hard.

After the run, I was not feeling great. The foot hurt pretty bad. I iced when I got home, and took another ibuprofen. I woke up today feeling worse. The foot feels better in shoes than it does barefoot, and I consulted with some people I trust and feel confident that it's nothing more than a bad case of tendinitis or a sprained foot. The suggestion is for me to lay off of it as much as I can, keep up with the ibuprofen, and just roll the dice on Sunday.

So I just hopped in the pool for a minute today, swimming an easy 1500m before heading up to the track. I was jealous I couldn't do the workout, which was 3200m tempo, 1600, 1600 (:20-:30 faster than the tempo pace), and another 3200m tempo. Big workout, 6 miles worth of hard running.

So far I've only had to amend today's run, otherwise I'm still doing everything I had planned on doing in the first place. I didn't even plan on swimming today, so that was good. Tomorrow I'm calling for a swim in the morning, and then a 30 mile ride. I'll see how I feel on that, if I don't feel good, I'll stop. I'll see how it feels Thursday, and may try and ride. Worst case I can take off til Friday but need to be running by then, even if it's not for longer.

Prognosis: If the race were today, I'd make it through, but it wouldn't be pretty.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Countdown: Monday

At 7:00 am this Sunday I will embark on the most significant sporting challenge of my life, a half-Ironman in and around the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. Eagleman, as it's known, is one of the fastest races of its distance in the world, and one of the most competitive in the US. The course is flat, but very windy. And I mean windy. The Choptank River is also highly unpredictable. Last year had some really fast times, thanks to favorable currents. It can change from year to year and no knowing what's in store until the morning.

The bike course is so flat that you can't take off for even a second. That means 56 miles of pedaling. No hills to coast down to get your legs back, just pure pedaling. The run encompasses most of the first part of the ride, so again it's just flat and it's very boring. Temperatures can really start to get toasty by the run, and the sun is typically brutal. It's a grueling distance to race, 4+ hours of very hard effort.

Of course I know what my goal is, and really won't be satisfied with anything less. That's not to say if I don't achieve my goal that I'll be upset, just not satisfied.

Anyway, we're now just a few days away from the odyssey, and I plan on posting a little summary each day of how I'm feeling prior to the race. I have to say, I'm a little nervous right now, as my right foot is really hurting. It started on Wednesday evening after a slow and rocky run through Robert E. Lee Park. Thursday didn't feel great, and with the travel to Wisconsin and the weather, I just took off. I tried to run on Friday, it was a slow 6 miles followed by an even slower 5 miles with Sgrizzi and Kootman. Foot hurt bad. Saturday I woke up and it felt even worse. We ran a very slow 5 miles. I got home yesterday and just went to the pool. I'm taking ibuprofen a few times a day and plan on not running again until Wednesday or Thursday if need be. I'm hoping some last minute rest will be better than trying to continue to run on it.

If I had to race today, well, let's just say I don't think I would finish.