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.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rhode Island Half 2008

I went into this race relaxed and with only one goal - not go to the hospital. In that respect, it was a success.

I was in New Jersey most of last week for work, so I left from there on Saturday with my parents. Providence is normally a 4 hour drive from where we live, but there's always traffic, and can take much longer. The logistics of this race were pretty annoying. Check-in was in Providence. Start and T1 was 45 miles in the opposite direction at the beach, and we had to rack our bikes the day before. Our hotel was back in Providence. Lots of driving, regardless of traffic. The GWB cost us an hour. Then we spent another hour muddling along through Connecticut. It was a terribly stressful drive and we didn't get to Providence until almost 5.

Bikes were supposed to be racked by 6, and we didn't even get down there til shortly after that time. Conveniently, my brand new wheels have been acting really gay lately, not accepting air, not keeping air. I blame the people that glued my tires on. So I had to call my friend Joe up before he left Maryland and ask him to bring me a spare wheel.

I ran into a few people I know from the homestead, notably Brian Shea (coach/owner of Personal Best Nutrition), Scott DeFilippis, Mr. Drury and Mr. Dorgan. We also ran into Spider at transition. The NJ crew all tried to find dinner for the evening near the beach, but every place we tried was too crowded. Finally we gave up and headed our separate ways. The GPS voice told us there was a pizza place a few miles away so we looked for it. To our surprise it was now a randomly nice restaurant, and it was a great find. We made it back to Providence around 10pm, just enough time to shower and head to bed.

I woke up at 4:30 the next morning, and planned on leaving at 5 to arrive at transition around 5:45. The pro wave went first at 6:00, but my wave was last at 7:05. Near the start we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts, which was a terrible idea as it lost us 15 minutes. Alyssa calls me at 5:48, asking if I'm on my way cause they are closing transition. I ask what time, she says technically 3 minutes ago, but definitely by 6. Oh shit. I haul ass, get numbered, get to my bike, tire is completely flat. Phone is in the car, how am I going to find Joe? I run around the beach and parking lot, and magically find him. Swap wheels. Now I need to find my dad to drop off my wheel and I had also forgotten the rubber bands that keep the aero water bottle in place. Magically find him on the beach.

The race had started at this point, and just after I got everything squared away they closed the transition area. Phew. Now I had some time to breathe, get into the wetsuit, stand on the beach watching the waves crash on the shore. The dance beats were bumping in the background. Water temp was around 70, which would have been okay for no wetsuit, but there was no point in NOT wearing it. I started pretty slow, just getting out through the waves. The tide was going out, so it was actually fairly easy on the 900m trip straight out. We banged a left, went 100m across, and then turned, with the waves but against the outgoing tide, for the final 900m.

I came out of the water and was really comfortable, having swam a decent 30:45 (190th). I made my way through transition and onto the bike, where I started flying north with a tailwind. The first 15 miles were super fast, and I thought at that rate I'd ride 2hours. Unfortunately we turned into the wind, and it simultaneously got really hilly. No more flat roads, just ups and downs. The hills weren't bad, but it was easier to power through out of the saddle. Mile 45 was a bigger hill, and then the last 7 or 8 miles were really dodgy. Lots of tight turns, lots of people and lots of water bottles on the ground. I shut it down, not willing to take risks, and saved the legs for the run. Bike split was 17th best of the amateurs, 31st including the pros at 2:23:03 (23.5mph).

Got into T2, went through pretty quick and got onto the run well. Much different story from a month ago. A half mile in we were hit with the toughest hill I've ever experienced in a race. I still managed a 6:36 first mile, and dropped to 6:20 on the second. The course was at least visually appealing, even though it was pretty much an out-and-back that we did twice. It also meant we had to run down the super steep hill, which was harder than going up. I was still going okay by the halfway point, but was starting to tighten up. I can't figure it out. The second trip up the hill was tough, and then came the walking. I couldn't get rid of a stomach cramp, and my body felt broken. I made it to mile 11 finally and was able to "run" the last two miles, but I had slowed down so much it wasn't even funny.

Ultimately I ran a 1:50:56, good enough for 270th best run. That's the first time my swim outranked my run. That blows. It's particularly difficult to get passed by people you know shouldn't be passing you. I guess that's the cruel nature of the sport. I just don't understand why I keep having these problems. In my head I know I'm one of the fastest open runners at any triathlon, and one of the best cyclists. I do hundred mile rides like it's my job and knock out crazy long runs. Therein lies my problem - I do them separately. I used to be at my best when I was doing 2 bricks a week, and lifted a lot. I need to bring those back. There also would seem to be something going on with my nutrition. I think I really need to take a lot more salt during the race. I sweat like a 300lb fat kid. I take on water, but it's not holding.

So whatever, I was pleased to finish this time a lot better than I had done a month ago, had I just held my first half pace on the run I would have finished in the top 15 of amateurs. Scott DeFilippis finished 3rd with a great race, in his third attempt at the distance this YEAR. Spider, away from the half distance for 7 years, had the fastest run of the DAY and an overall great race, finishing 22nd and picking up the age group slot for Clearwater. I was 106th in 4:49:09, which was two hours better than Eagleman but still 30min slower than where it should have been.

Of course I had to wait around with him because a) he didn't have his wallet so I had to pay for him to register on the spot for the Clearwater race and b) he needed a ride back to the race start. It was a long day, I got a little sunburned again. Then we ate dinner and headed home, not getting back to NJ until 1am. It was a long, long weekend.