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.