Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Je Ne Sais Quoi

While I'm trying to gather my thoughts for a coherent decade wrap-up post, I can't help but wonder what I must have done to anger the universe. I've learned some valuable lessons this year, such as:

What Goes Around, Comes Around

This is entirely false. Not that I cure cancer, but I certainly don't steal or commit murder. However, you would think I do based on the punishments I've received this year. Meanwhile, I've noticed a number of people who just constantly are coming out ahead and this bothers me. In a similar vein, this also encompasses the "no good deed goes unnoticed" ideology.

When it Rains, it Pours

This is entirely true.

It Could Always Be Worse

This is a big one. No matter how impossible it seems, or you feel like you're constantly being Cleveland Steamered, it could always be worse. Never forget it. You learn that certain things are just simply out of your control and there's no point in worrying about them. Once something's happened, that's it. Just do your best to put it behind you and move on. Easier said than done, but we always have two choices.

1. Accept, move on, make the best of every situation

2. Deny, complain, get angry

I woke up yesterday morning to a smashed passenger window. I was annoyed because it means I have to pay for a new window, and it's cold out. I was originally happy that nothing was taken. Then this morning I went to look for my lucky backpack, which I thought was in the house. I was wrong. I've had this backpack for 10 years and if you've ever seen me you know what backpack I'm talking about - the black Maryland Track and Field one. That thing has been with me everywhere I've ever gone, usually posing as my only piece of luggage. I didn't have anything super important in it, other than 2 pieces of Under Armour pant type things that I enjoy having in the winter. I didn't pay for them, at least, but I will have to if I want to replace them. Mostly I was sad to lose the backpack, just as I was sad when I lost my Terps hat in 2005 and my student ID in 2006. They were just some of the things tying me to school, and the backpack was probably the only possession I truly care about in the world. Its value is immeasurable and cannot be replaced.

But then I realized, maybe it's time to move on. You can buy a new backpack and get new things that you lost. I know it must sound ridiculous that I'm this sentimental over a backpack that was falling apart anyway, but it was important to me, and when you can't go a few days without another rainstorm, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

I had always considered this piece of material lucky, because it kept me safe in my travels, but how lucky could it be if it was around me through this year?

I have one more day and then 2009 is over. I have never been more excited for a year to end.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forgot About Elf

In the past week or two I've managed to get out for karaoke 3 or 4 times. It helped bring back a little bit of joy to my heart. Karaoke was something I had never done until I moved to Baltimore. Every Wednesday back in summer 2005 I would head down to Shucker's in Fells Point, usually armed with cousin Emily, Spider, Thais, Sgrizzi, sometimes a few others would show. Jimmo was the karaoke DJ and since very few people would sing, I would get to sing 10 songs a night. It was the rmcgrath show, and we all know how much of a fan I am of that.

One Wednesday we went and Jimmo wasn't there. We found out that allegedly the karaoke was "killing their business" - when in reality of course it was their terrible food and poor service. I stopped going there altogether.

I had to find a new karaoke jam. Tried a few places with mixed results. On Tuesdays, after TNT, I started heading to Frasier's on the Avenue in Hampden with Jake, Godsey sometimes and Brusewitz. It was cool, until the roller derby girls started taking over. It was at Frasier's, however, that Jake and I perfected our "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the style of Old School, which has brought crowds (and girls - psyche!) to their knees ever since. I also had some great performances of Outkast's "Roses" and D12's "My Band".

Moving on from Frasier's, I also had a secret Wednesday night spot in Brooklyn Park - Maynard's. DJ Tony had the hugest assortment of jams, a great sound system, wireless mics, a stage - it was sick. Thais performed here a few times with me, as did Godsey. Not sure that many others made the trip down. I soon grew weary of driving down there and had nobody to go with.

Recently, the arrival of Patty Mac into the group has brought a resurgence of karaoke. Walt's Inn, on O'Donnell, has become a favorite of ours. We've hung out with Mike Tirico there. We've run into friends from days gone by. I've gone on Sunday nights, Monday nights, Wednesday nights and of course the normal weekend nights. Every time brings something different. A few times ago I rocked the crowd (on a busy Friday night) with my renditions of "Nuthin but a G Thang" and "Forgot About Dre". I am super gangster so it's very natural for me to perform these well. Then of course I'm always reminded of my old AIM screen name, which was "forgot about elf". The double entendre of course insinuating I was a fan of the song, and I had also somewhat forgotten about my nickname of Elf.

Last night (Monday) it was a throwback to 2005. Meeting up in the Square was a crew I don't think I've ever seen all hang out at once together, and certainly not for as long as we did. It helped that the few teachers in the crowd had off today. The group was composed of Mike and Shane Prada, Kipchirchir J. Bitok, Brian Godsey, Andy Gell and then Joel Brusewitz, fiance Alix Ruth and Dave Berdan joined us. I have barely seen any of them in the past few years. We walked into Walt's like Gangbusters to find it was completely barren of any patrons. Nevertheless, we rocked the shit out of the place. It was like the Rolling Stones at Altamont, or when Elvis returned to Vegas after he was banned.

We stayed until close, so of course I'm pretty exhausted today. It was a tiring weekend - a whirlwind of houseguests, being snowed in, staying out late and driving people around. I'm glad it's over as I really need to return to normalcy after this week. I also definitely need to begin Christmas shopping. I love going to the Mall on Christmas Eve, I am so much more efficient when I'm under the gun.

As far as training goes, Friday was a pretty sweet run. 4 miles with BG and Kip, used to be the old crew. 7:28 first mile, started to pick it up a little, then dropped a 6:38 last mile uphill. I was pretty impressed. The snow began to fall on Friday night, and by Saturday morning it was full-on snowstorm. I drove my "new" car to get Zero, Jen and Chrissie, then while on Fallsway we narrowly escaped the totalling of my car. We were volunteering at Celtic Solstice, which went on as planned. 3200 had registered; 400 showed to run. BG got the win, wearing spikes, and Julia Rudd got the W for the ladies. It was an unbelievable race and I'm psyched it took place.

Last week I managed a shade over 17,000m in the pool, which represented M-F swimming. I had 4 really good workouts but by Friday I was a little tired. I took the weekend off and got back in yesterday and felt awful. I think the mornings I swim immediately following PT are tough because I get beat up by the PT session and then just feel like I'm dragging. Today I felt much better in the pool.

I rode Tues and Thurs last week, the snow and the guests hampered my ability to ride this weekend so I'll probably have to bring my bike and trainer home with me so I can do something over the next few days. I'm heading down to P's graduation from FBI training and on my way back through Baltimore if I have time I'll try and sneak in a quick swim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Santa

I really only have three things on my Christmas list this year; unfortunately, none of them can be answered or gifted:

1. Find gainful employment
2. Get a better knee
3. Have my lawsuit settled

I've never felt so "stuck" - however some of my friends and family have been quite helpful and supportive so that's been a positive.

I haven't written anything in a few weeks. There were times I intended to, and tried, but just couldn't do it. I just don't feel like I have much to say. I could list my swim workouts, my attempts at running and a handful of boring bike rides, but it didn't seem inspired.

The one good thing I've finally done with myself is that I purchased a car the other day. Used, but a 2006 so not terribly old. Somehow, at age 28, this was my first ever buying experience at a car dealership. Thanks to my friends at Bob Bell Ford, the process was really easy and they gave me an absurd deal. And, thanks to the check I received for my totaled bike, it made purchasing the car as a cash deal much easier. Of course that means I have no money to buy a new bike, so I was quite sad as I wrote the check for the car. I'm hoping that, since I no longer have to rely on car/walking/rides from others, that I can be motivated to be more proactive in my job search.

It's silly to me sometimes to think of how proud I am of these miniscule baby steps I have to take right now.

We had our 3rd Annual Awards Night the other night - as always a great celebration of our accomplishments for the past year. I try and make sure I prepare awards ahead of time so I can say something about each person, then because it's me I get jumbled in my index cards and inevitably forget about one or two until I'm reminded. Our team is unlike any other I've ever seen, and I'm reminded of that each year when we do this. Thanks to the race timing that we did this year to earn a little extra dollars, we ordered some pizzas and had the party at the store.

My friends then surprised me with an amazing gift - a new digital camera! For the last decade I've only owned my manual SLR Pentax K1000, which has been through a lot. And since it's become increasingly difficult to find places to service cameras like that, and film/developing are expensive, I knew I'd eventually have to move to the digital world. I wish I had this for the whole year as I spectated at something like 22 races this year! So for 2010 I'll have it, and I'm pumped because I definitely won't be racing for a while. My friends routinely go above and beyond for this gift, which I really don't deserve and wish they would just not worry about!

Another ritual of Awards Night is I hand out index cards and everyone writes down their goals for the next year. Because we are more than "just" runners - meaning, we have other things in our lives that are important to us - I always ask for a few running related goals, and then personal related goals. I love being able to watch as the group strives to hit their marks, and then review every so often to make sure they're on target. Of course sometimes things come up that prevent you from reaching any of your goals, then you feel like the year was a waste. For the record, I don't actually feel like my year was a complete waste, but that's for another post.

The bad news I have is that my PT says I really am not doing well with my progression. It's weird to think that I'm not doing the best of any post-ACL surgery patient of all time, because I feel like I could still beat most people at a sprint tri right now, but it's the truth. There are two other dudes who had ACL surgery right around me and I asked the PT how I stacked up. He told me I'm the worst by far and we just can't figure out why my knee refuses to straighten out completely or bend better. I go into PT every MWF and feel as if it's the first time I've ever been there sometimes.

At the same time, I've seen some pretty unbelievable progression. Obviously I've been swimming well for 5 months. That sucks. I'm tired of the pool. But I'm getting faster and stronger. If I have any shot of competing at Columbia or Eagleman, I need to know that I can swim in the 20:xx range (Columbia) and 27:xx range (Eagleman). I say this because there is no way on earth that I run as fast this year as I did last year.

It also means I have to get back to (minimum) where I was last year on the bike. This is a tall, tall order. Ideally I'd need to be even faster. And unless my lawsuit is magically settled in the next 2-3 months or I find a job that pays me more than I was making previously, I just can't rationalize spending the money on a time trial bike just yet.

If I can continue with the 4-5 hours per week in the pool (not much need for more), and start getting up to 6-8 hours on the bike, I think I should be in good shape. Running is going to be in the 2 hour per week range for now I think, at about 30-40 minutes every other day. I managed to run about 5.5 minutes at 6:20-6:30 pace on Monday night with the guys as they finished their run. It felt like an absolute sprint. Wednesday I ran down to the Square to meet the guys for WNR. 7:34 to the Square (1 mile, mostly downhill). Probably ran about that pace with them until 19 minutes on my watch. Walked about a minute, then ran uphill for 2.5min. Then walked downhill for a minute and started to run the last mile home (uphill). The uphill feels easier than downhills right now, so I got to the top of the hill in good shape to be under 7, but then the last two blocks are downhill to my stoop and it hurt. 7:00.5.

The only thing between me and full recovery now is that my knee refuses to cooperate and get better like I ask it to. Is that too much of me to ask?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Raising Arizona

A year ago I expected I'd be writing this blog post about my first Ironman, excited to have finished, exhausted from a long season and maybe psyched about a Kona slot for 2010.

But, as Andre 3000 said, you can plan a pretty picnic but you can't predict the weather.

And that's exactly what happened.

Mike Zero and I signed up for this race this time last year, and immediately I had a grand vision of the two of us training together, racing together and then getting out to Arizona, where we would start the swim together. Yeah, gay, I know. But at least one of those happened.

Thanks to my corporate sponsor, Justin, who had bequeathed me a free flight on Southwest, I made it out to Arizona on Thursday prior to the race. I love Arizona but hate the flights there and back. They just feel unnecessarily long. I met JK and Z at the airport and we made our way to our home for the weekend - Days Inn on Apache Blvd. The best news was that the new-ish light rail stopped right in front of the place and was a 3minute trip to Mill Ave, the heart of the ASU campus.

We were hungry, so we hit Chronic Taco for some dinner before retreating to the hotel. Friday morning we went to the expo and check-in. Thanks to the predictably awesome weather, they can have it outside. That made it pretty awesome. Checked out some fly gear and then waited in the long line to check in. After this we all split - Mike to do a ride, Jen to do a run and I met with some people about hosting a Skirt Chaser race in Baltimore next year. We reconvened later and met Mike's parents for dinner.

Saturday morning we decided to go for a little swim. I thought I had heard the water temp was between 66 and 72 usually. I definitely heard wrong. 63. That's the 2nd coldest water temp I've ever raced in, behind the 61 of Columbia 2003. Zero and I jumped in and I immediately wanted out. It was mind-numbingly cold. We were two of the only ones without swim caps on, although that would have only offered marginal relief. We swam just a few hundred meters out and back. The air temp, even at 9am, was cool. In fact, the temperature never really went much higher than 75 I'd say, certainly not above 80. The sun is so strong out there, though, that it feels a lot warmer.

We took a little trip up the mountain that was right there, and took in the sights. It was an amazing view and we were able to see all the buoys for the swim course. Man, 1.2 miles looks far. Came back down and Mike and Jen went for a little run, and I just chilled out. The Mashners and the 3 of us went to lunch, where Mike's friend Gee also met us. We ran a few other errands and then it was time to chill out.

Mike and I stayed at his parents' hotel room Saturday night, to make it a little easier to get to transition in the morning. We woke up just after 4am, and were at transition just after 5. It was cold, maybe in the high 40s or low 50s, and windy. And super dark. After getting Mike's various pre-race necessities in order, we got into our wetsuits around 6:20, and at 6:45 were being corraled into the water.

The water, which had felt ice cold the day before, didn't feel as bad when the air temp was cooler. It was about 200m swim to the start, so Mike and I made sure to get in front, get a good position along the start line. Darude's "Sandstorm" blared over the speakers and the gun sounded. 2400 athletes went from vertical to horizontal and it was honestly the craziest thing I've ever seen. Despite being really far up front, I was instantly swarmed by swimmers. As my knee began to get assaulted by a flurry of hands and feet, I started to freak out. Had I been too ambitious in my endeavor? Too zealou in my attempt to return to racing? What had my doctor let me do?! I looked for an opening to try and swim over to the side, just to get out of the way. No chance. I was in it, now, and it was sink or swim time.

Swim I did, and did pretty well. I settled down and got into my rhythm. I would catch up to a pack, weave through them, and catch another group. As we went under the far bridge, and a couple hundred meters further to the turnaround, I was amazed at how many people were still around. We turned back and now the sun was coming up to our left, which is the side I breathe on typically so I was temporarily blinded. I looked up ahead to the bridge we had to swim to - geez did it seem impossibly far away.

I held my effort steady, and finally made it under the last bridge. We had one more turn, now directly into the sun, with maybe 150-200m to go. I lined up the best I could with the little steps they had set up for us to climb out of the water. That in itself was a task, as my knee didn't want to cooperate. I was out of the water and saw the clock read 1:12. Yikes! Then I realized that it was on the pro start, so minus 10 minutes. I walked through the area where volunteers help take off your wetsuit, each of whom was asking if I was okay since I was walking.

I felt a pat on my back, thinking it was just another athlete urging me on - but it was Mike! We had finished the swim within seconds of one another. I encouraged him through T1, and then I sat there and watched the other competitors head out for about an hour and a half. So many people, so many bikes. Amazing that some can't make it through the 2h20m cutoff. And more amazing is the bikes they are riding for not being able to swim! The cold water was taking its toll on a few people, as well.

The rest of the day was tiring. Ironmans are hard events for spectators. You're on your feet for so many hours, cheering for everyone, not eating, moving around. We walked out a few miles to watch Mike on the bike course, and then walked back to watch the run. I've perfected my spectating skills to an unbelievable level. I know everyone appreciates it.

I obviously wish I could have gone on, but it just wasn't my time. Zero, on the other hand, had a great race. A 5:41 bike and a 3:30 run lifted him to his debut Ironman finish in 10:22:58, good for 28th in his 30-34 age group and 226th overall I think. And afterwards he seemed pretty fine. The toughest part of the day was controlling our boners - no joke we're sitting in the finisher's area (thanks to my number, I had an all access pass and could go wherever I wanted, very helpful) and there is a dude and his girlfriend next to us. The girlfriend had really nice...boobies...and she kept leaning over. You couldn't NOT look. Mike will concur.

We headed back to the hotel to clean up, and then back downtown for CHRONIC TACO 2: Revenge of the Taco. Much quieter in Tempe on a Sunday night, I presumed it was because of the holiday. I figured a lot of kids went home early since ASU is a joke and they probably cancel classes for the whole week. Then we went back over to the finish line to cheer in some more people. The jams were kicking and our dancing was inspiring. People were in awe of us, they didn't even know how to react.

Ironman finishes are amazing. There are a lot of people in the race, but by comparison to something like a marathon, for the most part each individual has a chance to cross the finish line by his or herself. Nothing is more amazing than when an athlete like Rudy Garcia-Tolson finishes.

So that is my Ironman story. Incomplete. The part I did finish I was pleased with. 1:02:23 for my first ever 2.4 mile swim. It was good enough for 216th overall and, more significantly, 13th in my age group. Of the top 10 finishers in my AG, only 2 swam faster, and the guy who won the AG swam slower. That's promising for the future. A few years ago I didn't think I'd ever swim faster than 1:05. But most importantly I did get to be there, with Mike, at the start line, and be a part of his experience.

I made it back on Monday to Baltimore, and all the psyched I had accumulated rolled out when I arrived to cold rain. It's going to be a long few months. Tuesday I had to head back up to NJ to see the doctor, who continues to be pleased with my progress.

I managed to run/walk 2.4 miles on Wednesday with my sister. 3 laps of the old 0.8 mile loop we have at one of the parks. I started by walking 1 minute, running 2, and then after the 2nd lap I went to 1min/3min. My laps were 8:27, 8:26 and 7:55. Just about 10 minute pace for the whole thing. I met up with my friends on Wednesday night for our traditional dinner, and then went out for a bit. Today I celebrated the holiday as per usual with just my immediate little family. Tomorrow I'll run again and hopefully hit the mall for some Black Friday madness, and then Saturday is the 10 year reunion that has consumed my energy over the last few months.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On the Road Again

Your resume says you went "All Kerouac on that ass?"

Monday I ran for the first time on roads, but it was just a short trip up Cross St before getting on the safety of the bricks in the Inner Harbor.

Tonight was a big night. I had a stellar ride this afternoon - 5minutes faster than Monday's effort on the same course. Had to wear armwarmers though, which is frightening as I realize the days are only going to get colder. That means more and more clothes.

Following the ride, I was determined to meet my posse for at least a few minutes of our Wednesday Night Run. I did my walk a minute run a minute thing to the Square, splitting the mile in 9:47 (figured my running pace was somewhere in the mid 7 range). I met Brennan, Ben and Pat and we departed down Potomac at what seemed like breakneck speed. Stanford caught up to us and we crossed Boston St.

I made it a few more minutes til we got past Bay Cafe, and then I turned around.

I know it wasn't much, but it was a huge accomplishment. More than anything it was just nice to be able to run with my friends again, even if just for about 4 minutes. I'm sure it's going to be spring before I can handle an actual entire run with them, but it gives me something to keep working towards.

Now time to deal with the pain of having run tonight. Grr.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bad Romance

Sour grapes. Bitter lemons. Other normal food items preceded by negative adjectives.

There are days when I get down about things, and just feel like I'm filled with anger. Take yesterday. It was a nice day so I hopped on the bike and rode my maybe 21 mile ride. I felt better and rode faster than last Monday, so I was pleased. But it still doesn't feel right.

I then rode down to Fed Hill and was going to attempt a run. Since I just passed the 10 weeks mark, I was given the green light to run in the following format:

1min walk/1min run for up to 20 minutes

So that's what I did. I went up Cross St (uphills are tough, downhills just hurt). Picked up the bricks and went around Ritz Carlton and made it just beyond Rusty Scupper by 10 minutes. The first of the runners went by me and when Sanders caught up to me, he joined me in my little Galloway style run.

A few minutes later, Brennan, Pat, Jordan and Johnny Blatz picked us up and from there I just tried to "run" the rest of the way in. So it turned out to be 19 minutes all told, with maybe 11 minutes of running and 8 of walking, probably about 2 miles, maybe just under.

Boy, did my knee not feel good by the end. I rode my bike home and the rest of the night my knee looked...weird. I can't be sure, but it appeared as if my ACL was jutting out of the knee.

I obviously do not expect to be able to just jump right back into running, but man, when it hurts this bad, you begin to wonder if it will ever get better. Even when I had my other pretty serious injury, I was able to get back fairly quick.

The thing I hate most is being negative. There's really not much I can do about anything. I'm doing all I can. The one thing I'm very concerned about is my leg not straightening out completely. That's got to change fast or I'll be in trouble.

So as I focus on positive things, take today for example. It's super nice again, and starting at midnight last night ESPN is showing nothing but college hoops. Terps play tonight on CSN, there's games on ESPN2 and MASN. Great to have it back. I also got to attempt to serve someone, in the legal sense. I felt like Matthew Perry in that Serving Sara movie.

I'm going to attempt to run every other day for now, and ride a few times per week plus continue to swim as much as I've been. My hope is to be as fit as possible with riding and swimming and if I can run at some point next year, I'll try to race.

I head out to Arizona on Thursday, and I'm pumped for the swim at Ironman. I am feeling confident in the swim, and the idea of racing again is great.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I know what you're thinking - 2 posts in one day? I hate reading this garbage, why is he posting more?

Well it's only because I feel like I accomplished something fairly significant tonight at the track. The weather was perfect for me to administer a hard workout to the hearty group that showed up for our last night. It was also perfect for me to attempt a run myself.

The goal was to run a half mile, bumping up a quarter mile from last week.

It was really nice and after 800m (4:34 - yikes) I kept going with Denise running alongside of me for a 4:18 second half (8:52 1600). Denise just won the Harrisburg Marathon over the weekend in 3:02 for her 2nd marathon win of the year.

While that is a slow mile, it's amazingly not the slowest mile I've run this year. That honor would belong to the 11 minute miles I was dropping at the end of Boston.

But whatever I ran and that's all that matters. My knee hurt(s) but I did it. Tomorrow I may continue to pay for it.

Here's a little quote from Ryan Hall's post-NYC blog:

"get back up, even if you have been down for awhile, and keep going at it. I am sure you won’t regret that you did. "

I'll keep it in mind, but I'd like to know when he's really been "down" - ha!

Totally Zeal

I encountered my first challenge this past weekend, and met it head-on:


Since July 10th, I had ridden a bike outside on two occasions. The first was in Chicago, as I rode a little mountain bike alongside Ben, Zero and Brennan on their 20 mile run. The second was just two days later in Louisville as Brennan and I watched Alyssa's Ironman. These were both prior to surgery and I had a better range of motion.

In order for me to be able to ride my bike at HUBS, I'd have to know I could ride my Orbea. Friday, for the first time since July, I was able to pedal down to Physical Therapy, and then did a little more riding around town - maybe 10 miles in total.

I was super psyched for the chance to be able to participate in the Saturday event, and made it without any problems. Here's a little recap:

We met just after 3 down in Fed Hill, and after dealing with a few rookie concerns of flat tires, etc, we got rolling around 3:40 to ride to stop #1, The Dizz in Remington. It was about 4 miles the way we rode from Fed Hill, and we got there around 4. Met a few more people up there so our group was nearly 20 strong.

From The Dizz we headed north another 2.5 miles to The Backstretch Saloon - a very (very) small bar in Medfield, adjacent to Cold Spring Lane. Our group barely fit into the bar, but we met some friendly people and split from there just as it began to get dark. A dark ride down Fallsway was pretty adventurous, and we ended out on Maryland Ave, headed to bar #3 - Dougherty's Pub on Chase St. From here we ordered the pizzas, which were going to arrive at Arjun's.

We hauled down Maryland Ave right into Fed Hill, getting beat by the pizza delivery guy. 10 pizzas later we were energized and ready to go back out to stop #4, The Row House on Light St. It was after 8pm and people were starting to get drunk. A quick stop at Hooters in the Inner Harbor, to reprise our first ever Hubs, and off we went to BAR, another Hubs 1 stop in Fells Point. They renovated the bar and our 17 or so people filled it up and brought life to the empty place.

Now it was after 9pm and we had a few stops left in Canton. We went to the new Canton Station, again it was empty, and then met up with Pat and his wife's bday party at Walt's Inn. Here is where the fracturing of the group began. People were fading, beginning to head home. The hearty forged on, now to Pickled Parrot for a quickie and then to the nightcap in the Square - Claddagh's. The floor was particularly bouncy this evening, giving the distinct impression it was finally going to collapse. No such luck.

Everyone proceeded to go above and beyond the call of duty, and we ended with some pretzel dogs before every person cycled their way back to their respectives domiciles.

No mechanicals, no true crashes, stayed on time - truly a great HUBS.

I was mostly excited that I was able to ride around, and didn't feel too beat up the next day.

After that I made up my mind that yesterday (Monday) was going to be the day, go big or go home. I was going to let ambition get the better of me.

PT: crushed it. Bending is going well, straightening not so much. Regaining strength and stability.

Swim: crushed it. 4200m, 600m warmup, then broken 600s (600 swim, 2x300, 600 pull, 6x100, 600 swim) then capped off with 2x200 and a 200m cooldown. Fastest I've swam in years.

Weights: lifted til the point of failure basically.

BIKE: I was going to go for my first real, legitimate outdoor ride since July. 130 days. I figured I could make it through my just over 20 mile loop that I have, it's a little rolling but the flattest thing I can ride and the only thing I can do from my house really. The temperature was like 70 degrees or something, extremely mild for mid November. Out Route 40, tons of traffic unfortunately. I didn't suffer from any nerves, but I was being a little more cautious, as expected. By 10 miles my knee was getting tight, and since I can't really stand out of the saddle, I was putting a lot of stress on my weaker knee trying to get up the hills. Back on Eastern Ave and I was getting tired. Ass hurt, knee was tight, but I was riding. Finally made it home - the ride passed with little fanfare.

Then I had to ride down to Fed Hill and back for the run. By the time I made it home I was pretty tired and my knee was sore. I had let my ambition get the better of me, but I made it.


So far for 2009 I've swam about 25,000m more than I did in all of 2008. By the end of this year it'll probably be 100,000 additional meters.

I've ridden and ran less...a LOT less. Don't want to talk about that too much.

Tonight is our last track workout for the season, I'm hoping to run about a half mile tonight if I can.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Winter Warlock

I got hit with something nasty last week and while I'm still not over it completely, I'm doing significantly better. Nothing like getting kicked while you're already down.

Halloween wound up being pretty sweet, although Fells Point was much quieter than years past. I couldn't figure it out. The weather wasn't great, but it certainly wasn't terrible, and I thought the Saturday night would have meant utter debauchery. No such thing. We stayed there for just a little while before returning to Fed Hill.

While I love checking out chicks dressed as slutty versions of various professions, it's not what Halloween is about. It's a time to be inventive. I'm sorry, but if you're going to dress like a slut, you're going to get treated like one. Me and my crew, meanwhile, are super original. This year Zero and I dressed as Siegfried and Roy, and Brennan was our white tiger. It was unreal. Pictures are available on Facebox via Nina's album. Jen dressed as Troy Polamalu and was a hit. Literally.

After a few hours of sleep it was time to drive to New York to spectate the marathon. It was pretty similar conditions to last year. Chrissie was starting with the elite women so we saw her first - she wound up running 2:44:37 for 12th place overall and 4th American! We were all super psyched. Then Melissa came through at 3:08:30, which to me is pretty pimp as I've not run that in my two attempts.

We made it home after a long day and it was time to crash.

I took Monday off as I still repaired myself, and Tuesday's swim was atrocious as a result of 10 days out of the pool. BUT the good news was that I ran a quarter of a mile on Tuesday night. I went up to the track and decided I had to at least try, so on Diane and Eileen's cooldown I joined them for a lap. I could barely keep up at their just over 8 minute pace, and by 200m my knee was about ready to explode, but I did it.

As JK said the other day, "little victories are still victories"

According to my PT down here, at 10-12 weeks I should be able to start running; tomorrow represents 9 weeks.

I have a big test ahead this weekend - HUBS OF FURY. I'm trying to make sure I can even ride at all, so it's going to be a milestone if I'm able to do it.

Just remember, as the Winter Warlock says in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the beloved Christmas film, "Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking out the door."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Falls Apart

Wow, how much changes in just a few days...

I started the week hopeful to get back into the rhythm after an abnormal weekend. After the doctor on Tuesday, I went to PT on Wednesday morning and figured I'd get back on track, but I started to feel pretty crappy. Thinking the better of doing something that would make me feel worse, I took the day off. By Wednesday night, I was not feeling well at all. And by Thursday morning I was definitely sick. No pool/workout for me.

Thursday nights, since 2001, I've had a longstanding tradition. I have hardly ever missed an episode of Survivor (actually, I've never missed an episode, except for the entire season of China which I was boycotting. Not because it was in China, but because I was tired of not getting picked to be on the show). For the last 4.5 years, I've been having these Survivor Thursday nights with cousin Emily, but last night was the end of an era.

She and Bryan were leaving this morning, headed to Tampa, to begin their new life as Floridians. They are going to have a little baby in March, so it's a very exciting time for them.

Of course, for me, that means I'm now in the house by myself, as I am going to continue to live here. It's the first time I'll have lived completely alone, and it's definitely weird with nothing and no one in the house. Mad emptiness. When I have/feel like spending money, I'll have to acquire things like a couch or chairs or sources of light.

I woke up a bunch in the middle of the night to a nasty cough, and knew that I would be putting others at risk of getting sick if I went to PT today, so I called Stavros at 6am and said I wouldn't be able to make it. I walked down to the gym around 1, Justin and I were supposed to swim, but I wasn't getting in the water. Instead I just coached from land.

I'm feeling marginally better, but not enough to be able to do anything. Annoying as I've now just lost a week.

Tomorrow is my favorite day of the year - Halloween. A holiday that enables you to assume a different identity and revel in debauchery. As long as I've lived here, I've never missed an actual Halloween night in Fells Point. This year, being a Saturday, I'm particularly excited. An extra hour of sleep (or extra hour at the bar) and then the NYC Marathon on Sunday. A great weekend indeed, hope I can feel better soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Post Haste

Yesterday I had to drive up to New Jersey for my not-quite-8 week follow up visit with the surgeon. I walked down to Fells Point Enterprise to rent my car around 8am, only to find out I had apparently made my reservation with the Enterprise on Eastern Ave in Dundalk. Fortunately it wasn't a big deal and I was on my way in crappy weather. Fortunately the jams were pretty sweet during the ride and I made it to Red Bank in a pretty timely fashion.

First stop was to my PT guy up there. He was pleased with how I was doing, but still hits me with that "5 months til you're running" mumbo jumbo. Dude, that's just NOT going to work.

From there I stopped at home, picked up my mom and headed off to lunch. Got the "I'm worried about you" lecture, and again was like yeah mom, I usually just don't even want to get out of bed because that first step sets the tone for my day and when that first step is riddled with pain and hobbling, I'm never psyched. My confidence and motivation is near zero and one thing affects the other.

After lunch it was doctor time. My surgeon spends an inordinate amount of time with me. It's weird. Most ortho docs say hi and roll out. Dr. Torpey spends almost too MUCH time with me. I explained to him what I've been doing at physical therapy and also on my own, and he said that usually by the 8 week mark (this Friday, for me) they hope that patients have just restored their normal routine. I surpassed that mark weeks ago, but of course my normal routine, as he said, is much more vigorous and will take time to get back to.

I have a new contraption that I have to use, it's basically a styrofoam splint that goes under my leg, with a little foot thing that I prop my heel up on. Then I strap the leg down and grimace for 15-20 minutes, 3x a day, as it attempts to straighten my leg out with a little force.

Besides that I have to continue to work actively on my knee to get it to bend and straight more fluidly. The ligament is solid, so there's very little chance I could derail the surgery. That's good news.

I got back into the car and drove back to Baltimore, heading straight over to the track. It was dark and rainy, and chilly. All I could think was holy shit, by the time I can start running the weather is going to be so miserable I don't even know if I'll be able to handle it.

This morning I went to PT at 6:30 and felt pretty good. Much better than the past few days. At the beginning of therapy here in Baltimore, so just about 4 weeks ago, I was able to leg press 313 with my left (good) leg and I forget what the right leg was, but it was at least 40-60 pounds less. Today I did the little test again and it was 373 with the left leg and 333 with the right. So I'm getting back. My right leg has lost an inch in circumference compared to the left.

As far as bending I'm well over 100 degrees now on my own, and can get to 130 degrees with help. I need at least 110 before I can even really contemplate running.

The other good news is that I asked the doc if there was anything that would prevent me from doing the swim at Ironman Arizona, and he said no - so as long as I can get a reasonable flight I'm going to head out there and do the swim.

I began to think about my various injuries over the years at the hands of running and riding, and how, much like when Frodo gets stabbed by the Nasgul in LOTR, I will always have to live with this pain. In 2003 I obliterated my Talus bone - a bone situated in my ankle, and tore the ligaments in my foot. It took me two years to really work through the residual problems there and I still don't have the same flexion in my left ankle as I do my right. Similarly this ACL/meniscus deal is going to haunt me for quite a while.

Every day I think about 2010 and when I'll be able to compete again. My physical therapist said "well even if you can't start running for a while you could always walk" - and I said "man, I've been there, done that." It's not like I'm proving anything to anyone by going to Columbia next year, having a decent swim and bike split and then walk/jogging the run. It's not worth it for me to just finish. Same goes for Eagleman. That race is hard enough and long enough to begin with, I don't want to go there and plan on walking. Mostly I'll be upset if I go to Miami but can't run the half in January.

I need to get back. I know my confidence and motivation are tied to how I feel physically, and I am tired of being down.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good

Halloween week! My favorite holiday of the year. I always love when Halloween is on a Saturday, too - because as a kid you think you can start trick-or-treating right after breakfast and go all day. This year marks the 5th consecutive year of celebrating in Fells Point. I've never seen a street party for Halloween like this one anywhere, and I'm always psyched to spend hours people watching.

Last week turned out to be pretty decent. 5 days in the pool for a total of 21,000 meters - by far the most I've ever done in a week. By Thursday I rode one of the spin bikes at the gym for 15 minutes, and did 20 minutes on Friday.

I knew the weekend was going to be a lot for my knee. Pereless was coming up from Quantico which meant two nights of going out (and, consequently, two very late nights). Friday was spent in Fed Hill, getting home at about 2:30. Woke up around 8 Saturday to on-and-off torrential rain. This altered my ability to endure the Navy-Wake game, as I am not a fan of getting soaked while watching sports. Left at halftime and came back to go out in Canton Saturday night. Probably a little too much on my knee, and I was paying for it yesterday. My knee was swollen and sore.

I woke up at 6 this morning and walked down to PT. I was really sore and it was the slowest I've walked since I came back to Baltimore. After getting worked on, it felt considerably better and I feel like I'll be able to get down to the gym later today. This week's expectations are to increase the swimming a little (by Friday I was dead last week and had a terrible workout) and ride every day for an additional 5 minutes. If I can do that, it'll put me at 45 minutes by Friday.

I don't use much resistance on the spin bike, so I don't know how I'll react when I have to go out onto the road that first time!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


We first met Denise a few winters ago as we congregated in Canton Square for our Wednesday Night Run. She was probably the coolest homeless person I'd ever met. She was telling us all sorts of wacky homeless stories, about her sexcapades, how she gets money - it was like a book you just didn't want to put down.

But as her mental state has dilapidated, so too has her kindness. A few months back she was in the Inner Harbor and threatened to push Cheese into the water, referring to him as a skeletor motherfucker or something along those lines.

People spot her all over town; she's easily identifiable by her bright red lips and cheeks, and her nasty demeanor. I liken her to a prostitute that dresses as a clown but caters exclusively to pirates.

Anyway I saw her yesterday. That was where I was going with that thought.

I made it into the pool Tues-Fri of last week for a grand total of 11,000 meters. The rain was particularly soul-crushing as it was cold, and I had little desire to walk down to the gym on Saturday and Sunday in it.

My knee is bending a little better, although it still feels just as tight as it did 6 weeks ago. I'm so close to being able to pedal, but it's hanging up right at the end. I've been back in the weight room though, attempting to make up for the strenf deficiencies that have nagged me over the past few seasons. Looking back at my log, I'm "stronger" than I was in 2002. Except for the legs, obviously.

Goals for this week are:

1) 4k a day when I get into the pool. I should be able to do at least M-F, Sat/Sun may be tougher this weekend

2) Be pedaling by Wednesday

3) Become a bully and intimidate 4th graders

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is This the Beginning?

It's no secret that the last 12 months have not been terribly kind, in particular the last few; but as Ben pointed out on Saturday, it all started with the Baltimore Marathon 2008 and maybe with this past weekend's Marathon in the books, it's time for a fresh start.

Last year at Baltimore I traveled on my trusty steel steed, the 2002 Airborne. I parked it in the Inner Harbor, locking it to a light post outside of Hooters. When the race was over I headed back to it, to find it gone. This was impossible - surely there was no way, amidst thousands of people, someone had cut my lock and stolen my bike.

A year later, my fleet of bikes has been decimated, ravaged harder than [insert things that get ravaged here, including but not limited to naval fleets, porn stars, carcasses]. I had 4, but after the stolen bike, a bike on loan and the crash, I'm down to just the trusty Orbea, which is now 4 years old.

Following Baltimore it was a series of missteps, from a terrible day at New York Marathon, to the land of the unemployed, to an even worse day at Boston, to the accident, and the list goes on. The good news is you see that you can have just about everything taken from you, and yet life goes on - particularly when you have the help and support of friends and family. So I'm pretty fortunate I've got a standup crew in my corner.

This year's Baltimore Marathon included me, on my feet, at the expo for 12 hours on Thursday, with another 7 hours on Friday. Long days. My brother came in Friday afternoon and after a PT session late in the day, we headed to Zero's for a little pasta party. Saturday morning came and it was oddly warm, and we were over at the stadium to see the start before making our way to mile 9/the half start. There we met up with Barf, Stanford and Alyssa, watched runners go by at miles 9 and then 13, and then the half marathon start. Then it was time to go to the finish. Conditions deteriorated and it was no longer enjoyable to be outside. Emily walked down (a hefty walk for her in her condition!) and we watched until my brother came through.

As a result of the long days on my feet, my brother in town and a late night Sunday, I didn't make it to the pool after Wednesday of last week. On Monday I had only the mental fortitude to make it to PT, and Tuesday looked like I was headed towards another day off. I just didn't have it, mentally I was wiped, physically I am and have been wiped. What I struggle with is the eternal question of "why?"

Why would I want to put time into real training right now when it hurts to do it, and I can't do anything anyway? Why would I want to make the effort when the chances of me racing anytime soon, or even in 2010, are slim to none, because there's a million things that would have to happen first to allow that? Why even try, when it could all be snatched from me again anyway in another split second?

One good reason is that I still have (at least) one goal: to qualify for and compete in the biggest event for a triathlete, the Hawaii Ironman. As I've mentioned a million times, it's what got me where I am now. I've tried, unsuccessfully, for the past two seasons to get there. Next year it may not happen either, but I've got to keep trying. And when it comes down to it, that's all we can ever do. I know 6 people who competed at Kona this weekend, and I'm trying to keep their efforts in mind as I've been slumping.

Instead of moping on Tuesday, I dragged my butt down to the super warm, over-chlorinated pool and swam. It wasn't much, just 2000m, but it was something. And then after timing everyone in the cold up at the track, I felt like I finally earned that Tuesday Night Chipotle.

Today was a better day. I had a good session at PT, then smacked the pool up for 3000m. It's hard right now because I lost a ton of fitness in the month of September, and all my parts aren't functioning at 100%, so I'm swimming a bit slower than I was in August and it's taking more out of me than it should. Following the pool, I hit the weights and I feel like I'm getting some strenf back.

I even felt good walking home, with a fairly normal rhythm, but later in the night my knee was on fire and fairly swollen. Maybe I overdid it a little today.

But at least it's not the end.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

There's Another Kind of Hero

I have this PowerBar box that I keep random things in. Stuff I've accumulated from travels, college, ticket stubs, business cards, whatever. I found an article in there I haven't read in a few years, and I figured I'd share it here. I can't remember where I got it from - whether it was something we picked up at a running camp, or something my high school coach gave us.

"A cold wind blew the golden leaves across the hard ground. They made a rasping sound, like a death rattle. It was a sound that matched his breathing. Harsh and grating and painful. The sweat was frozen in crystal crusts at the end of his hair that flopped each time he took another stride and his feet fell heavily, jarringly, on the ground.

He wore sneakers that were tattered and shredded from the shrapnel of a thousand small pebbles over which he had run. His sweatpants were gray. It was a color that matched his complexion. His arms drooped with exhaustion, like the flowers bending to give way to winter, and his was a lost, hopeless cause. For the winner was already across the finish line, far ahead, out of sight. And the other runners had long ago left him behind. His legs screamed at him to stop. His scorched lungs pleaded for rest. Even his socks seemed to fly at half-mast around his ankles, soiled flags of surrender.

Still, he ran.

In the autumn of our dreams, we are all quarterbacks. We are cunning and graceful and when we step into the huddle everyone bends forward eagerly and the crowd rises expectantly because it knows we will deliver the bomb just as the clock blinks down to zero.

Ah, but that is in the autum of our dreams, not in the winter of our reality.

You want to know about reality? Then go watch the other autumn sport. It is called cross-country. Watch it and you will know what they mean when they speak of the loneliness of the long distance runner.

Cross-country runners don't get scholarships. Or no-cut contracts. Or offers to endorse deodorant or pantyhose or coffee or cars. Cross-country runners get shin splints and blisters on their feet and runny noses and watery eyes. One thing more. They get a special kind of self-satisfaction that few of us are ever privileged to experience. Oh, it is not from winning. It is merely from finishing, from ever going out there in the first place and running through the puddles and briar patches and up hills and down hills and telling lies to your legs, and running on even when the others pass you, one-by-one, and geez, don't they ever get tired, don't they have a chest that's on fire, don't they ever get the dry heaves, and who cares anyway because there's no crowd, no cheerleaders, just hard ground and ugly ol' trees with no leaves and som guy driving by in a car, honking his horn and grinning like an idiot, and oh God, why don't I just slow down and walk for a little ways?

That, friends, is reality.

Oh, us silly damn sports writers, we get all caught up in down-and-outs and slam-dunks and power-play goals and a frost-bitten World Series and sometimes we get the notion that what comes out of the mouth of some semi-literate who is a millionaire only because his glands went berserk at an early age ranks right up there in importance with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So we tend to dismiss things like cross-country as 'minor' sports, and besides, who the hell knows how to read a stopwatch past the 4-minute mile anyway? So in our jock fantasies, the hero is the guy who scores the winning touchdown. But that is not reality. Reality is the kid you'll see when you're driving through a park or past a golf course, the kid with the stocking cap and the sweat-stained sneakers, loping along way behind the field, his eyes rolling wildly, this hypnotic trance of pain and puzzlement contorting his face.

Maybe he will not be able to put into words exactly why he still runs. Maybe he will mention something about 'gutting it out' or pushing through the pain barrier or running on because he has this curiosity that drives him to discover just how much he is capable of...or not capable of. That can be the harshest kind of reality, and anyone who is willing to confront it, then he is, in the truest, purest sense, an athlete."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bloomin' Onion

As we all know, thanks to Outback, but the bloomin' onion - a glorious heap of battered and fried onion shards - is, in fact, the national dish of Australia.

When I lived there, me and my friends would ask every restaurant we went to if they served bloomin' onions and then when they said no, would feign disbelief. Surely they had to serve it if Outback did.

For the first time since I've lived here, I visited the Outback Steakhouse on Boston Street. I've driven by it more than 1 million times and whistle (ahem, hum) the song everytime I go by. I don't dislike Outback, but it's one of those places that I'm generally not going to choose to go. But since a few of us went to the Orioles game on Sunday and received a scratch off card for a special surprise at Outback, we decided to hit it up after Fells Point Fest.

It was actually a pretty busy Sunday - 6:45 wake up to drive down to DC with Jen and Arjun. We spectated the SHIT out of Army Ten Miler. On the road at 9:30 back to Baltimore. Got to the game about 50 minutes late, which somehow put them in the 4th inning. Fortunately for us we still got our money's worth as the game went into 12 innings. It was mad nice in the stadium. Then we headed over to Fells Point Fest, kicked it there for a minute and then it was Outback time.

Oh, the scratch off cards - yeah we're pretty sure they were all good for a free bloomin' onion. I've never eaten onion rings before, and generally I'm not a fan of onions or fried versions therewithin.

Today I had a better day at PT, at least I think I did. Hard to say when the tasks they prescribe seem so menial, yet I can't turn a pedal due to my knee's lack of desire to bend. It was mad nice out again, so I then went to the gym only to discover that the pool is still closed. WTF Merritt, get that shit open. When it's the only thing I CAN do, I want to be able to do it! Lifted instead and then headed home. Then I got antsy so I walked the 3.75 miles to Federal Hill (59:20, not bad) and hung out at Fed Hill Runners. Sad that I missed all the Mondays in September.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

4 Weeks Post

Yesterday marked 4 weeks since surgery, and I've got to say, I honestly thought by 4 weeks I'd be on a bike in a real way.

Instead, I walked down to my physical therapy place down here - Canton Orthopaedic and Sports Rehabilitation ( - to start working again with my boy Stavros Rologas, and found that I'm way behind in my rehab.

He feels like I probably should have spent another week or two on crutches as my knee is constantly bent at too much of an angle. It sits around 10-12 degrees, far from the 0 I need it to be at. Basically every step that I take I'm just reinforcing the problem, so the #1 objective is to get the knee to 0. The bending will come, apparently.

My tibia or fibula, one of those two, still hurts a little from where they drilled into the bone to insert the bioabsorbable screws. And when Stavros worked me over, I was not feeling swell for most of the rest of the day. I also had to sit on the stationary bike and the objective here was to get my knee to go all the way around. I had to raise the seat up to its highest level, and even then I still had to adjust my form just to force it around. It wasn't pretty.

It's tough because within 4 weeks of getting hit, I was able to do so much more. This past week was another rough one, and it makes you forget what feeling good even ever felt like. I'm approaching 3 months now of this injury affecting me, and I'd guess it's going to be another month til I'm really able to ride and probably another month after that til I can run.

The ongoing legal drama has become even more complex, and I believe that it will not be settled for quite a while.

So it's Saturday, and it's pretty nice. I'd like to walk down to Fells Point Festival, but it's pretty far and I probably shouldn't walk that much. But it's really nice out so I'm torn. Also today the O's are 2 games away from ending the season, and there are tons of college football games on.

Next week is another week of the PT grind, hoping to get to a point where I can move around better as we've got the Baltimore Marathon expo on Thursday and Friday, and then the Marathon et al on Saturday.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

My Gina

Well, I'm finally back in Baltimore, after a long month at home in NJ.

It was ashame I couldn't really enjoy my time at home, by which I mean I couldn't really go to the beach, swim in the ocean, run at the parks, pillage and plunder...

Over the past week I've gotten out a little more. Friday I went over to Celeste and Jay's - they live right on the water now so we rode their Danzi over to Highlands and ate dinner at Windansea, then rode back. It was a fun way to spend a Friday night. Then Saturday me, bro and parents hopped in the whip and drove to College Park - to watch the Terps get smoked by Rutgers, in the cold rain. That was not so fun.

I did my last two New Jersey PT sessions on Monday and Tuesday, at which point I was not able to bend my knee anymore than I have been able to for 10 days. 88 degrees on my own, 92 with help. I can straighten to 0 with help, but sit between 5 and 10 on my own. Not great. According to the therapist I am apparently behind where I should be. Motherfucker, how am I behind on anything?

I saw the surgeon on Tuesday as well, who recommended I take an anti-inflammatory for the next month because my knee is still pretty swollen. I've got PT down here tomorrow at 9, and then I'll hit it 3 days a week for probably the next 6 weeks I'd guess. It really isn't not a lot of fun.

Alyssa was kind enough to come up to NJ to retrieve me, and we stopped by TNT when we got back to town. It had been a really long time since I've been at the track. And man does it get dark early!

Friday, September 25, 2009

3 weeks

First, a simple math equation:

Meniscus < ACL

I've had a number of people tell me recently about their knee surgeries, only to come to find out they were talking about their meniscus. Let's get one thing clear: ACL surgery is approximately one thousand times worse.

Meanwhile I had one of my worst days since surgery. I went to the pool in the morning and struggled through 2500m in the pool, bringing my week total to 9000m. That's not terrible. I'm disappointed because I'm swimming slower in the yard pool than I was swimming in meters before surgery.

I went over to PT after that and it was frustrating. I struggled at first to make it to 86 degrees, and that was disheartening. My range of motion is just not doing well. By the end of the session I was able to get to 90 again, but it was no easier than earlier in the week. Part of the problem today I think was that I swam before PT - which helps with building muscle but decreases flexibility.

My therapist then goes "when do you start running again?" so I of course reply, November 1st. He goes "five months" - I said you mean until I can race again? He says until I can run again. Yeah, that's not going to work really for me, let's try 2 months.

Surgery was 3 weeks ago today, allegedly by the end of next week I'm supposed to be able to start pedaling a bike.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mission: 140

Normally at this point in the year I'd be talking about my fall goals, and maybe start thinking about the following year. Right now I have a new goal, but it has nothing to do with racing: I need to get my knee to bend to 140 degrees again.

Every minute of every day I feel pain. There seriously isn't a moment during the day where I feel even okay, or remotely close to comfortable. Whether I'm sitting, standing, lying down, whatever - I hurt.

140 is a good number. It's what I weighed when I started college (that current number is somewhere in between 165 and 170). It's also the distance, in miles, of an Ironman. To be accurate, it's 140.6, but it's easier for the symbology*.

Today I went to physical therapy in the morning and managed to bend my knee 92 degrees with help. I've been stuck around that number for a week. My leg just does not desire to cooperate. Following PT I had my next challenge: walk close to a mile to the gym. It took a little while but I got there, and it was time to hop in the pool again. Day 1 I swam 1500m, and Day 2 was 2000m. I thought I could do a little more than that, so I wanted to bump up to 3000m. I probably should have stopped at 2000. My knee was definitely not appreciative of what I was putting it through, and this is the easiest form of activity I can give it right now.

After the session my next challenge was the 2 mile walk back to my house. I was starving, so I detoured slightly to eat something. A little boost of energy hit the spot and gave me the motivation to walk home. I walk slow as shit. It took me almost an hour to get home when normally it would be 30-35 minutes. My knee was screaming at me and I just wanted to stop on the side of the road or hitchhike or something.

I finally got back into my neighborhood with a half mile to go and was pumped to get back to the house. I smelled like chlorine and was sweating, since the temp was over 80 and it was humid, but rather than shower I crashed out for a while. I never thought this combination of minor activities would make me more tired than a race, but it did.

Now I wish I could just cut my leg off, it hurts so bad.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty hot, for the record. She's always been a favorite. Her and Heather Locklear.

Today is my mom's birthday, so it's actually nice to be here to celebrate with her for the first time in a few years. Thanks mom for having me a few days before you so we didn't have the same birthday!

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Philadelphia Distance Run has been my favorite race since I bandited in 2006. I ran with Chima, who hadn't run more than 8 miles in the previous 7 years I don't think. His goal was ambitious: 7:00/mi. I drove up from Baltimore to crash at his girlfriend's place in Manayunk. At the time they hadn't been going out real long, now of course they're married.

The weather was perfect, which I found out would be a staple of this race. I couldn't go into the corrals with a number, so I waited for Chima about a quarter mile up the road. Magically, I spotted him very easily and jumped in. We ran even, comfortable splits and by mile 4 we were running 6:48-6:50, well below his goal pace. I was enjoying the run, it was super nice out. Once we crossed the bridge to the other side of the Schuykill, Chima was finally starting to have to work. The pace slowed, but only to 7:00-7:05, so with the time we had in the bank, we ended up with an average of 6:59 per mile pace. It was great.

So then I went back the next year to run for real and it was an epic failure. I had been running through a piriformis/sciatic problem and it crippled me at mile 6. I only finished because I was too far away to not finish. I ran 1:35. At the time, it was the worst race I think I'd ever had. Fortunately there were a few more years of worseness to come.

Following year (2008) I went back and ran much better, but still didn't do great. I was hoping to run very well this year, and Alfred Terry ensured that I would not be able to do that.

I did make it out to Philly for this year's race, and I was glad to get there. My brother and I drove down and met up with Arjun, Melissa, Jen and Nina, who were thoughtful enough to celebrate my birthday with a mini-surprise in the hotel room. I appreciated their kindness and we later met up with Joel and Alix for dinner at our favorite Philly restaurant, The Continental.

The next morning they all went out and killed it, with some amazing PRs and generally great runs. Our favorite Philly post-race spot is back in Newark, DE, at Deer Park Tavern, so my brother and I detoured slightly to go hang out there with the gang.

Sad that I couldn't do the race, and sad that it's the last year that the official name will be the Philadelphia Distance Run. Like a common whore, the race has been bought up by the Rock n Roll franchise, so it will be named the ING Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon next year I'm sure, brought to you by P.F. Chang's. Bleh. The only sweet thing about it is that this year's shirts were dope, finally no more cotton and it's bright orange. Doing all these ING races I'm just going to have a floor full of orange shirts.

All the walking around did some serious work to my knee. Was not feeling good at all by the time I got home. Monday's PT session was rough as a result. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere, and my motivation is being crushed every day when I see how awesome everyone else is doing. I know, selfish - I'm happy that everyone is doing so well but I also just don't see how I will be able to compete next year when I'm back to my 3rd grade level of fitness and everyone else is just steamrolling along.

I'm also going nuts being stuck at my parents' house in NJ. I can't even go out and enjoy the things I normally do here, like go to the beach. I was about to say "go for a ride" but I don't think I'll ever bring my bike back here to ride again.

I made it into the pool yesterday. A little over two weeks out of the pool and I didn't feel terrible, but I'm also back to where I was right after I got hit. That is to say, I swam 1000 yards with a pull buoy, then 650 without. Can't flip turn, can't kick really. It was better than nothing.

Today I'm struggling. My motivation and energy are really low. My dad's going to drop me off at the pool and I'm going to try and walk home. It's about 2 miles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Weeks Notice

Surgery was only two weeks ago, but it has felt like an eternity. I've been festering inside for these two weeks, only going outside to make my MWF trips to physical therapy. I've watched a lot of movies, and a lot of the same movies multiple times. Fortunately, the new season of television is underway so at night I have new things to watch.

I think because it took so much energy, both physical and mental, to get over the initial shock of the injury back in July, I don't have that much right now. I anticipated a drop in morale after surgery, but I don't feel like doing anything - mostly because I can't. At least when I still had my old ACL I was able to pretty quickly get back into the pool, lift, and was even able to ride a bike within a few weeks.

A big difference is that the days are shorter, the weather is cooler and the leaves are changing color. It no longer is the middle of the summer, but rather full on fall.

My improvement seems to be moving at a glacial pace, or roughly the pace I was moving in the last 10 miles of the Boston Marathon this year. But there have been some improvements.

Last week, my first at PT, my extension and bending were poor. 0 degrees is straight out and 140 is about as far as you bend your knee. Mine was at 10 and 35. That was Monday, 4 days after surgery. Wednesday I missed due to my trip to the ER, and I don't think he took a measurement on Friday.

By Monday I had managed to get to 2 and 60, Wednesday was 0 and 70, and today I managed to go 0 and 88. Almost got to 90 but I was not successful.

Apparently 90 degrees is the goal for the end of week 3 on the ACL protocol, which means I'm almost a week up on just where I should be able to bend to. I am able to do some mini wall squats, which are embarrassing because it shouldn't be hard but it is impossible for me.

My mom is also going to physical therapy for her Achilles tendon, so we go together. We are a family of cripples.

If by next week I am still not able to walk better, it means I can't come back to Baltimore. Since my physical therapy place is about a mile and a quarter away, I have to be sure I can walk at least that far without a problem in order to be able to return. So I may end up being here another week or more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Last November I made a huge leap for myself - I signed up for Ironman Arizona 2009. Actually, I didn't even sign myself up, since I couldn't get through on Mike Zero managed to sign himself up, then got back through again and signed me up.

Man, that seems like a lifetime ago.

Triathlons didn't always sell out a year in advance. No, you used to be able to sign up the day before certain races. There are still a few out there like that, but in general, the races that I want to do, do sell out very quickly.

It's frustrating because you are committing to doing something 365 days later that requires you to be super fit, but you never know what's going to happen in that time that may derail you. Of course, sitting there a year ago, I would have had no reason to think that I wouldn't be able to race.

So now, being mid-September, I'm already out of the game for a number of 2010 Ironman events. I don't foresee being physically capable of doing one before July anyway, which only left Lake Placid - a race I have no desire to do. Then comes Louisville. I am pretty sure I could wait to sign up for this one, but after going to it this year and seeing how great the weather was, I know next year will be terrible if I go to do it.

Next up: Wisconsin.

I remember when Wisconsin began. My training partner at the time had just become a card-carrying professional and went out there for his IM debut. The race quickly earned a reputation as a challenging bike course, and over the years would be known for its inconsistent weather, its amazing organization and fantastic community support. At the time my friend went 9:55 and was 18th overall. Wow.

Brennan's sister has done this race the past couple years, so he goes out to watch. During my trip to Madison last year for Chima's wedding, I was awed by how awesome the place was and really felt like that would be a race I would want to do. Alyssa decided she was going to sign up for next year and the thought popped into my head.

I went online around 4pm on Monday (I don't remember this race opening to in the past few years) and began filling out the application. My favorite was the section regarding "overcoming obstacles or adversity" on your way to the race. I filled it out, thinking that I've got a pretty good shot at making it onto TV.

Then I came to the payment section. Nearly $600. I contemplated it for a second, then a few minutes more. Last year I took this leap, but given my current situation, I just couldn't do it. I closed out the browser and forgot about it. The idea of spending money for a race in the future isn't the problem; the problem was I spent the money last year, can't do the race this year, don't have that money back and can't spend money I don't have on a race if I just don't know how my rehabilitation will go. And it's not just the race entry, it's everything - flight, hotel, bike transport, days off, etc.

It was sad, because it just appears as if the Irongods are working against me to allow me to ever do one of their races. I don't even want to think about next November yet (and IM Florida or Arizona) and those are the last two remaining races. There's always the SetUp Events Beach 2 Battleship in November, but that sells out just as fast as an Ironman event.

I've already signed up for Eagleman next year, which had gone up $15 from last year, and Columbia opened up a little over a week ago.

Columbia is a race that sold out in February 2001, the first year I did it. I think I registered in January. Then each year this hysteria was manufactured by the race director and the idiots that do these races that you had to sign up earlier and earlier. By 2003 I was signing up in November. After my two year hiatus, I was signing up in October.

I thought I might at least have a few weeks this year, but when I went online on Tuesday they were down to 260 spots. Not bad, I thought, probably have another week or so.

Or not. Thank God Pat emailed me this morning, informing me that as of 9:15am there were 15 spots left. The time was now 9:55am and I had to haul to get through it. I filled everything out, was appalled at the $130 price tag for the race (2001 it was $75) and when I got my confirmation, there were only 9 spots left.

Amazing. I am the 10th to last person they are going to let in that race.

But who knows if I'll be able to race or not. I may not have a time trial bike, I may not be running. Only time will tell!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life's a Beach

Growing up near the beach definitely has an effect on you, especially as you get older and move away from the beach. In the summers as a kid you would go to the beach club every day. Your life was amazing. You needed nothing other than the PBJs mom would make for lunch and maybe a frozen Charleston Chew. The only time you were unhappy was the 20 minutes of every hour that was dedicated to Adult Swim.

Then you get to high school. For the first couple of years work hasn't got you down yet, so you still might go to the beach. You're in the weird age of hating to go places with your mom, but also really want to be at the beach. Running becomes a bigger part of your life, and then you have to start working, so summer days revolve around those two activities. Fortunately for me I worked basically at the beach and would run at a park nearby everyday, so even if I wasn't at the beach I could feel it.

College comes and now you're 2.5 hours from the nearest beach. You can't just go there whenever you want, but when you're home for the summer it's not all that different from high school.

Then you graduate. Work takes more out of you. Training takes up your free time. All you want to do is go to the beach. For two years after school I still lived here and it was available to me. I went as often as I could. Since moving to Baltimore it's become a trip to go to the beach. I've never been to a Maryland or Delaware beach; I figure that if it's going to take me 2.5 hours to go somewhere I'd rather go back home to NJ.

I've spent more time in NJ this year than I have since I left in 2005. It's not been on purpose. Prior to today, in all the time I spent here I think I only made it to the beach once. I'm just not allowed to be on the sand or go in the water. I've watched many a beautiful day pass by in sadness from the couch.

For those from beach towns, most know that September is the best month for the beach. The crowds disappear after Labor Day, but the water is at its warmest, the air is still warm and the humidity goes away. Perhaps it's because I'm a September baby - really an Endless Summer baby, as my birthday falls right on the cusp of Summer turning into Fall. Those Indian Summer days are the stuff of legends, and today it was like I was a kid again.

My mom had a doctor's appointment in Spring Lake so I went with her, and afterwards we drove through the mansions of Spring Lake and up along the beach to Belmar. After eating the most expensive pizza lunch in the history of time, I was determined to walk along the boardwalk unassisted by crutches. I made it probably close to a quarter mile up, took a small break on a bench, and then headed back. The beaches were surprisingly crowded - not because the weather was absolutely perfect, but because it's a Monday. And there were tons of slammin' hot chicks, too. I couldn't figure it out. Of course I also couldn't sit and stare with my mom hanging around.

We used to be able to go to Kootman's house on LBI whenever we felt like. For us, it was an hour's drive and offered a little getaway from Red Bank. In high school and even in college we would go down any weekend we felt like. As we've gotten older it's been reduced to holiday weekends, and this year I never made it up. We normally go big on Labor Day weekend, but as everyone had other things going on, it fell apart.

Today was as close as I would get to my perfect beach day for the year, it would have been nice to go on the sand or in the water. Or lay on a blanket next to the two hot blondes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Guardian Angel

This week was a rough week for me. It started on Monday with progress; I only took two pain pills on Sunday and I didn't take any on Monday. I started to feel a ton better and when I went into the surgeon's on Tuesday he was mad impressed with my skillz. He said my knee looked great, and the inside was pristine so it made for a good, clean surgery. I then went to PT and while I pretty much couldn't do anything, I made progress in that I was able to lift my leg up on my own power from a supine position. Little things = big things, unfortunately (that is what I wish she said).

I slept terribly on Monday night though so when Tuesday night came, I took a percocet/oxy/whatever it is that I have. I woke up on Wednesday with a 101.5 degree fever and a headache, which I rarely get. Both my parents were at work so I just tried to sweat it out, but the fever crept up to 103 and the headache became blinding. By the time my mom got home I had enough and had to go to the ER.

My trips to doctor type people are always fun because I have to explain so much to them. No, I don't have insurance. No, I don't have car insurance, but yes, it was a motor vehicle accident. No, I wasn't driving, I was on my bike. A push bike, you know, with pedals. Employed? No, I don't have a job. How am I going to pay? Your guess is as good as mine. Now I know I am not the only one in the world right now with no insurance and no job that needs medical attention. It just sucks, you feel like you're being treated like a 2nd class citizen. Note: this does not mean that I feel bad for illegal immigrants who do not have health care.

My 4 hours in the Monmouth Medical ER were highlighted by the A/C nearly putting me down permanently (it felt like the top of Everest) and some hot nurses. In the end, there was nothing they could/would really do for me so I just left, with a fever still.

On Thursday I felt a little better but not great, and I was annoyed that I had to miss my PT on Wednesday. It's amazing how I feel like I just lose days now. And the worst part of my day is sleep. I fear it.

Today turned around a little better. Besides the hurricane going on outside, I went to PT in the morning and had made some good improvements already. I've got some kinesio tape on my knee so now I look like Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. Then I had a good meeting with my lawyer and gave him a few running tips (he's getting ready for NYC, but is NOT a runner) and also swim advice. I should have charged him, but I'll let it slide.

As I improve I'll have many, many notes to write to people, thanking them for their help along the way. Of course my parents have been invaluable and those that know my parents would expect nothing less of them going way out of their way to help me out. Alyssa and Brennan have also been super helpful over the past week, and the messages I've gotten from some of my friends have been very kind.

But sometimes you find that you're eternally linked to another human being, and in this case it's this guy Steve. Steve was in the car next to the guy who hit me, waiting to make his own turn (right, instead of left). When I hit the deck, Steve was by my side in seconds. He even came down to the ER later that night to check on me. He's a tanned guy, looks like he might be 50 but apparently it like 65 or something. He and his wife still have a place in River Plaza but really live in New Mexico. Part of the reason to move out there was that he, an avid cyclist himself, couldn't stand the threat of being hit every day in our town.

He's also a Buddhist, which is pretty awesome.

So this was July 10th. My mom must have sent him a nice email afterwards and whatever, I probably won't see him again.

Or will I? Because at PT today my mom hears a guy's voice and thinks it sounds familiar, and she hears my PT guy call him "Steve" - so she asks if Steve lives in NM. Sure enough it is Steve, and my PT guy opens the curtain and voila, there I am. He hops off the table and comes over and gives me a hug. He says he thinks about me every day (not in a gay way, you pervs) and can't get the sound or sight of the car hitting me out of his head. He was amazed to see how good my knee looked and we chatted for a bit. It was just coincidence that he was in NJ, because he's only here every few months. How crazy is it that he goes to the same PT place I went to at the same time today?

He made a comment to me that I hadn't put on any weight, which made me laugh because I said dude you don't know how hard that was!

Steve, a great dude. He encouraged me to keep in touch with him and stop by his place in NM if I'm ever out there, he's got some bikes we can ride. I won't say I owe my life to this guy, but I will say I wish more people in this world were like Steve. Maybe when I go out to AZ for the Ironman in November I'll make a detour out to NM.

So then at my lawyer's later in the day he ALSO makes mention of me not putting on any weight. I love athletes man, they just know. I could be in a full body cast but if it looks like I didn't put on any weight, hey, sweet job, you're still at race weight.

Heading down in a little bit to Maryland for the RM Memorial 5k. A tad inappropriate, I suppose, but whatever it's all in good fun and I'm hoping the times are quick. The weather seems iffy but we'll make the most of it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Prediction: Pain

I figured since I am both a) a BOSS and b) a Champion, I would not need any sort of Western medicine following the surgery to repair my ACL.

Then I felt like every chick that says she wants a natural childbirth until the pain is too great.

I went in for my surgery on Friday. I didn't really tell many people that I bumped it up to the 4th because I didn't and don't really want a lot of people emailing/texting/calling me with bullshit about how things are going to get better. I'm fully aware of what I need to do to get better and I will do it, again because of a) and b) up top. I've unfortunately been in a similar position a few years ago and while it took me 2 years, I did get back into shape.

The surgery went well; they pulled out my fully torn ACL and replaced it with a donor ligament. I'd like to think it's from DJ AM or maybe Michael Jackson. They also had to fix up my meniscus, which they found was also torn. When I came out of the twilight anaesthesia I was in severe pain. I couldn't feel my leg because of the nerve block, but I could feel the pain. I sucked it up and took the Oxycodone. They didn't have crutches my size at the surgery center so I got wheeled out to the car and hopped in using my good leg. I have an enormous immobilizing brace on my leg. In this brace are ice packs that surround my knee, and they connect to a cooler that plugs into the wall. In turn, ice cold water circulates around my leg. It's kind of cool.

Friday was a tough day. I was taking my pills every 4 hours, and they would wear out after 2 so I would just writhe in pain for 2 hours. I also have a pain pump connected to me, and can hit the button to deliver more pain medicine. I waited until later in the day but finally had to hit it a few times. You can only hit it once per hour. Through the night Friday I was up once per hour having to call my dad to help me get to the bathroom or deliver more medicine.

Saturday, still hurting. Fortunately we had the start of college football so my brother and I watched 12 hours of games - at one point we were flipping between 5 channels of simultaneous games. Late in the day I had a couple of visitors in Vic, Pereless and Caitlin. Like the 3 wise men, they came bearing gifts. Vic brought a Lipton Iced Tea (sweetened), P brought a Slurpee and Caitlin, like the wise man who brought gold, brought me a Star magazine. These are the elements of every Skeetfest weekend.

Saturday night I slept a little better. Only woke up a few times. Very uncomfortable to sleep as I can't make even a slight move. But I woke up on Sunday feeling considerably better.

I also woke up and now that the numbness is wearing off, I can feel my knee a lot more. This was not very awesome. My visitor today was Alyssa, who stopped by after her friend's wedding which was not far from where I live. She loaded me into the car and took me into Red Bank, and then we drove down along the beach and went to 7-11. It's the next best thing to actually going to the beach. The only problem is that we saw tons of guidos and DBs, most probably from NY or north Jersey.

After being out of the house for a few hours I was not feeling very good and had to return. I only took two of my pills all day yesterday though, so that was a minor accomplishment. The highlight of my day was watching I Love You, Man - which was really quite good.

Last night I "slept" through the night, which really means I didn't have to go to the bathroom or call my dad for medicine or help or anything.

I really underestimated just how painful a surgery this was going to be. I have not showered since Friday morning. I feel gross and lazy. I should have shaved before going in, but I had to be there at 6 on Friday morning and just didn't do it. The worst part was my worst fear coming true on Friday - I had a hot nurse. She was rocked up, but she was still absurdly hot. She was really tan but I figured it was just her general skin tone. My parents made a comment to her about being tan and allegedly she said that I was pretty tan myself. YEAH BOYEEE.

Hopefully she did not see my unit and laugh or anything. The nerves were blocked, it wasn't functioning!

Today I feel alright. Generally annoyed that I have to sit in a reclining chair all day but that should only be a few more days. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and then a physical therapy starts as well. I'm not sure what I can even do, it may literally just be me taking my brace off. Hopefully I can take a shower.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's Up Doc?

While I wish my doctor's trip was as funny as the scene in Funny People, it was not. There was, however, a particularly freckled ginger in the doctor's office who was pretty hot. And I say that because, as most people know, I have thing for gingers and also pregnant women. Sick.

The ortho was pretty surprised when I told him I'd been swimming more now than I normally swim, and able to kick/flip, etc. The constant pain is down to a manageable level, and I'm almost able to completely straighten my leg, and the bending is coming along. At this point, I'm good to go for surgery and can get it done whenever is convenient for me. Since he does it on Mondays and Fridays, I'll probably have to wait until after the RM Invitational because of Labor Day. That leaves me with almost a month still.

So in the meantime I'm going to continue to train, and probably up the volume and intensity for a little while. Can't hurt myself any worse, I figure, at least not in the pool or a fixed machine like a spin bike.

The surgery seems pretty quick, outpatient procedure, they don't even use general anaesthetics, just a twilight version so I'm not even totally out. Takes about an hour. They'll scope it, take out the bad ACL and insert a new ligament from a donor (hopefully it comes from a super slutty lesbian nympho criminal). For a few days I'll likely have to stay home (in NJ) and chill out, but I'm confident I'll be able to be at Philly Distance Run to cheer on the multitude of friends I have running.

Then comes the real recovery. The doc feels that within a month I should be back in the pool, within 6 weeks riding a bike and by 2 months running again. That puts me in mid November, which will represent 4 months of not running. Not that I would try and shortcut my recovery, but given how quickly I got back in the pool and to riding a bike after the initial injury, I can't imagine it will actually be that long. I'm going to say I'll be back in the pool within 2 and on the bike during that 3rd week.

He then told me about a girl who goes to Monmouth University and plays field hockey, tore her ACL in the spring. He did the surgery on May 9 and cleared her just last week to play again for her senior season. I wondered if it was the ginger that was sitting in the waiting room, as she was wearing a Monmouth shirt and looked like she would have played field hockey.

Anyway, he said that she just rehabbed like an animal, spending oodles of time in the training room and just forcing herself to get better and stronger. I can do that. New goal: 100% by December 14, which will be 3 months and would enable me to run Celtic Solstice that next week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Out Here Grindin'

I thought it might be funny to still continue to post race reports for the races I would have done this summer, but then I realized it would be dumb and confusing.

What's been going on? Well, not much. Shortly after getting back to Baltimore I started rehab at Canton Orthopaedic. It's about 1.25 miles down there, so I walk. Then I do PT. Then I walk to the gym and swim and lift. Over the past few weeks I've gone from swimming with the pull buoy and not flip-turning or pushing off the wall, to getting ride of the buoy, flip-turning and pushing off. As a result of swimming everyday, I'm swimming faster than I normally do and am doing more distance each week.

Physical Therapy was kind of fruitless until the past 10 days, when I've been able to do and handle a little bit more. They had me doing leg press with one leg (each leg, one at a time). The first day I was able to do 313lb on my left leg (good leg) and maybe 243 on my right. Two days later I did 313/273. Today I got up to 333/333. So not only did I up my weight, but I brought my right leg back up to my left. It's still not very stabile, but I can do it.

I'm also back to pedaling a bike. Inside, of course, but I've ridden up to 30 minutes on a spin bike. I hope by next week to be back on my road bike on the trainer.

I'm also walking...a lot. Some days I'll walk over 10 miles just to get places. I live so far from everything that it's a necessity, as I don't want to make my friends come get me all the time.

I've also changed my diet. Most mornings are now oatmeal or eggs. I try to only eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and keep the snacking to if I really need it. I'm not burning as many calories and would prefer to not have to try and shed 20 pounds when I can get back. I also needed to stop eating as much cereal so I haven't eaten it since before I got hurt. But then at Safeway tonight I really just needed it so I bought a few boxes. I will keep it to a minimum though.

Lifting has been going well also. I started out super weak and it was embarrassing, but I'm getting back to some of the old weights and feel stronger.

As a result of all my activity I'm pretty tired, and my feet hurt generally, especially my left Achilles. Basically the parts of me that are now taking the brunt of everything to compensate, even though I'm not limping or anything. Have to push off the wall in the pool mostly with my left.

Last week I spent most of the week in jury duty. Everyone complains about it, but I thought it was pretty sweat. I mean, I also wasn't as inconvenienced as most people are since I don't have a job, but it did cause me to miss a Price is Right audition. I have only had one real goal in life, since I was a kid, and that is to get on Price is Right. I definitely would have been picked too. Wack.

Anyway jury duty is a pretty cool experience. You learn about the judicial system and can appreciate what happens everyday. The case seemed fairly mundane but by the end it was pretty wild, and the jury was such a cross-section of demographics. I want to try and explain the experience a little more, maybe I'll do that later.

I'm heading to NJ tomorrow, to see the surgeon. At this point I'm sure he will tell me whether I can go ahead and get sliced up, and when that will be.

Highlights of my day: A new commercial and watching the track and field meet.

Also I hope everyone is ready for the Ryan McGrath Memorial 5k to be held at Johns Hopkins track in Baltimore on Saturday September 12. It's going to be pretty awesome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Lance Effect

Make no mistake: this year's Tour de France was what it was because of Lance Armstrong. There are many who, for various reasons, are not fans of Lance, but there is absolutely no denying the effect he has on the popularity and intensity of that race. Fans want to get as close to him as possible, reporters want to ask his opinion on everything, shoot, even the other riders want to chat with him or ride near him. His aura is captivating.

Not only does he rally his team and bring out the best in his competitors, but he now is able to do it in a way that really says "I'm just a country boy from Texas." Mellow Johnny is what his friends used to call him; a play on words of the French term for the yellow jersey (maillot jaune) and how the Texans would say it. And it wasn't all that long ago that he really was just a country boy from the US, taking on the best in the world and winning their race.

Like anyone at the top, he has detractors, and like anyone at the top would, he ignores them. He politically deflected questions about the tension between him and Contador, while giving enough sound bytes to make reporters wet their pants. He referred to himself during and after the race as an "old fart" who was just trying to keep up with the kids, but not only did he keep up - he was on the podium and made it look so darn easy. After a 4 year hiatus from the highest level of the sport, to come back and ride that well was simply not something most thought he could do.

I have long considered Lance to be among the greatest Tour riders of all time, which would go without saying that he is one of the greatest cyclists of all time, but I felt his insular focus on the Tour would prevent him from being considered the greatest of all time. Surely Eddy Merckx "The Cannibal" or Bernard Hinault "The Badger" would own that title. The way they rode in their heyday was mythical; the stuff of legends. If a competitor pissed off Eddy, he would put his team on the front and punish them when the race was already in the bag. Or, he would solo to a win just because he could. He was ruthless; he won 8 stages in a single Tour, snagging wins in the mountains, the flats and the time trials.

But to compare these great riders to Lance is the same as attempting to compare Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Barry Bonds*. They played their sport in a different era when the nature of the sport was different. Back when those two were in their prime, every cyclist was a jack-of-all trades. Now we deal with specialists. There are prologue specialists, long time trial specialists, sprinters, climbers, power climbers, lead-out men, super domestiques. I had a notion that in 2004 or 2005 Lance was going to attempt the nearly impossible - to be in yellow wire to wire. I am pretty sure we'll never see this happen, but I thought, just for a minute, that if anyone could do it, it would be him.

As aggressive a rider as Eddy Merckx was, he is also very stoic and contemplative. He's a man of few words, but when he speaks, everyone listens. Miguel Indurain, I don't think he ever said any words. He just went about his business, got things done. Hinault, a little more colorful. Then there is Lance. He used to seem so uncomfortable with the formalities of the media, but he's developed into a surprisingly candid, if not political, ambassador for so many things. Needless to say, I called bullshit throughout the three weeks of the Tour when they really tried to act like the team was cohesive.

It was pretty clear that there was a group of riders that were largely loyal to Contador (including the vociferous Benjamin Noval, who was left off the roster for what he felt was being "too loyal" to Contador). There is no doubt in my mind that Johan Bruyneel wanted Lance to win, wanted to set the team up for Lance to win, and was hoping that Lance would have beaten Contador in that first time trial so he had a legitimate argument to make to ride for Lance. There were guys loyal to Lance, like Popovych, Kloden and Leipheimer, and no doubt these will be the ones that ride for Team Radio Shack next year.

Where will Contador go? Well, reading some of the post-Tour news and even though the Tour is not the end of the season, it has a feeling reminiscent of the days following the World Series or Superbowl - who will get dealt to where. The problem for Contador is he has an entirely too high asking price (est. 1.5mil-2mil Euros annually) and that doesn't even take into consideration his entourage of staff and riders necessary to build a winning team.

As it's always pointed out, sometimes the strongest rider doesn't win because they're not on the strongest team. There are those who feel that Cadel Evans is in this category, because he's a great rider and his team has never been quite strong enough to launch him to that final position in Paris. Twice runner-up is as good as he'll ever do. But to me, he was 2nd in soft years of the Tour, and has never proven he's a worthy champion. I will say that his tenacity and willingness to attack are admirable, he's never done it in an effective way, and when things aren't going his way I've seen him give up. Not boss-like.

Contador is definitely a skilled rider, and with 4 consecutive grand tour starts and victories, any team would be crazy not to look at him and salivate. Not many teams, unfortunately, can afford him, and there are some that really don't care to have him. Caisse d'Epargne, a Spanish team, would certainly like the chance and I'm sure he'd ride for them. Their stars have all but fizzled out, in guys like Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro. Valverde was always tapped as a successor to Lance Armstrong, but poor Tour performances and now a ban from racing in Italy for 2 years limits his effectiveness, and Oscar Pereiro, who won the 2006 Tour (by disqualification of Floyd Landis) is just a baby.

Garmin has expressed interest in Contador and I could envision them pulling a cheeky move like that, but they have neither the resources nor the management to build a team around him. I'd guess as long as Astana gets their act together he'll continue to ride for them under whatever new management they have going. After all, he's won two Tours and one each of the Giro and Vuelta, at this point unless he really cares about a legacy he'll just ride for the money.

Lance, meanwhile, couldn't care less about the money (something rich people say, cause they have lots of it). He wants another crack. He can do it, of course, and he'll pay attention to every detail, build his team around it and train harder than he ever has before in order to do it.

One thing I do know is that Alberto Contador is definitely not making any friends in the peloton after his dismissal of Lance Armstrong on Monday: "My relationship with Lance is zero. He is a great champion and has done a great Tour, but on a personal level I have never had a great admiration for him and I never will." This coming just after the Versus little profile on him where he said that during his recovery from a life-threatening brain aneurysm he read Lance's book and it inspired him to come back.

Hmm, curious. Sounds to me like someone had his feelings hurt. In fairness, I can see Lance being a little bullish during the race and isolating this non-English speaking teammate, much like I isolated and made fun of just about every kid that ever came onto my team that I didn't like.

A quick note about Johan Bruyneel, before I forget. I'm tired of everyone sweating his nuts. He is a paper champion. I do not doubt the guy is smart, a good tactician, but to me he's like Phil Jackson. I'm pretty sure I could win a gazillion NBA titles too if I had players like, oh, I don't know, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant playing for me.

So when you look at Bruyneel's grand tour performance you think geez, he's got two wins in the Giro (Contador 08, Salvodelli 07), a win in the Vuelta (Contador 08, Heras' may still stand but he cheated so I won't count it) and 9 wins in the Tour. But of those 12, 10 came from 2 people, and 1 has seven alone. That would be like me taking credit for Ben's marathon, because I ran with him a few times and yelled at him on the track. I'd almost be more concerned with the fact that he has been involved with many cheaters - Heras, Landis, Hamilton.

Postal/Discovery/Astana has really been solely focused on one goal each year. It's nice they have that luxury - their sponsors are willing to see them not win any other races ever. During the Lance1 era, nobody was allowed to win stages, and I always felt bad for George Hincapie because he just wanted to win Paris-Roubaix and nobody would ever really ride for him. Or like when Levi tried to win the Vuelta and Lance wasn't really doing much, I figured he'd ride to help him out. Nope.

In the era P.L. (post Lance), when they didn't quite have a Tour win in them necessarily, or at least it wasn't a given, they started to move towards winning stages and other races, but it almost seemed more like dumb luck than real strategy. Now you have Columbia boasting 58 wins or whatever they have this year, again, I could show up at the People With No Legs 5k and sneak a win, and also having Mark Cavendish doesn't hurt. They surely have a good team but no real big wins.

Then you look at Team Saxo Bank and Bjarne Riis. A Tour winner himself in 1996 (even though he publicly admitted to using EPO during this time and offered to give back his jersey, but everyone was cheating then so really it's moot), he has built a team that can win just about any race all the time. He's got two overall contenders in the Schleck brothers, even if Andy has cemented the fact he is the better of the two; he has a legitimate Classics/weeklong stage race/prologue/TT rider in Cancellara; he has the most aggressive and fun-to-watch cyclist in the world in Jens Voigt; he's got wins in the biggest races throughout the year. He's a guy that I would not mind having as my directeur sportif.

But it all comes back to the Lance effect. He essentially made Bruyneel the director he is considered today. He blew up Chris Carmichael's Training Center, leading to probably boatloads of dollars for Chris. He is King Midas, only everything he touches turns to a bright yellow.

In all honesty, Lance Armstrong is the reason I ride a bike. He's the reason I (along with millions of people) watch the Tour. He's the reason I don't have a reason to not train. And I'm pretty sure he'll continue to be the reason I have to get back to racing as I work through this recent setback.

There are people that choose to use their powers for good in this world, and people that choose not to. Lance is one of the good guys, and the world needs more people like him around. But something to always keep in mind is that the higher up on a pedestal he is, the longer the fall to the ground. People are so invested in him that I think if he ever said "I cheated" that cycling would collapse and millions of cancer patients would pull the plug.