Monday, January 26, 2009

As Good As It Gets

It was 3pm on a Sunday, and we should have been in a cab headed to the airport. Instead we were sitting on Ocean Drive in South Beach drinking mojitos. I then realized that this was as good as life gets, or at least mine, anyway. The sun was shining, the drinks were strong and the girls were, well, not wearing very much clothing.

Our weekend getaway to the hottest part of Miami was the best weekend trip I've ever taken. The worst part of it was it having to come to an end. With ages ranging from 23 to 35ish, it could have been strange, but what resulted was an awesome couple days of fun in the sun.

Jen, Brennan and I arrived to sun and warmth around 2:30 on Friday afternoon, and met up with Ben and Justin at the Avalon Hotel on Ocean Drive, our home for the weekend. After lunch of empanadas and Coke we hit the beach for some late afternoon rays. It was awesome. More awesome than the beach was the plethora of volleyball courts situated directly across the street from the hotel, which provided more than its share of entertainment over the weekend.

My brother arrived a little while later and we hit the strip in search of food, entertainment and beverages. We were bombarded by ESL hostesses as we walked down the narrow and crowded sidewalk, until we came to a place that looked phenomenal. I won't lie - I was drawn in as much by the song that was playing (now I forget what it was) as the enticing half-priced 46 ounce beverages. After we had consumed our share of food and mojitos, we headed back to the hotel for a minute. Ben had prepared an appropriately themed "mix CD" which we listened to before hitting Mango's. While we were there we saw a lot. A LOT. At some point we had had enough, and Terence was late, but on his way, so we went somewhere else to meet him.

En route to our next destination we thought it would be a good idea to acquire straw hats. For some reason a store on Collins was still open, and thanks to some help from the Argentinian employees, we got our sweet hats. We met up with Terence and made our way to Delano's, which, besides from being completely out of our league, was awesome. And we got compliments on our hats.

We arrived back to the hotel vicinity around 2, and were lured by hunger into Johnny Rockets. It was the most delicious food I'd ever tasted in my life, and, satisfied, we all headed to sleep. Except for Ben, who had already passed out while we were waiting for our food at JRs.

Saturday was fairly uneventful, as planned. We woke up, hit the beach, ran to the Convention Center to get our stuff, and headed back. I went back to the beach for a little, and then we again went in search of dinner. This time we thought we'd avoid the drinking, so we went to Jerry's Famous Diner on Collins. We went back to the spot and went to sleep.

4am, Sunday. Actually, 3:59, one minute before the alarm. This was when I woke up. This is a time normally reserved for triathlons, but with a 6:15 race start (the earliest start time I've ever had) we had to get up early. Brennan again was saved by Johnny Rockets, who provided him with hot water for his oatmeal. Terence then came through by flagging down a van cab, so we all traveled the short trip to the start line together. We hopped out a few blocks away and made our way to gear check. One thing to keep in mind is that Terence booked a 7:30am flight. Our race starts at 6:15. You do the math. He was just planning on not making it.

Now we're in "downtown" Miami, I guess, and it left us wondering why anyone would go to Miami and not just stay in South Beach. The buildings are pretty awesome though.

And then it was race time. I forgot we had a race. Justin, Brennan, Ben and I got stuck with some pretty terrible start positioning, which meant we had to forceably push our way through to the front in the first half mile, and to make it worse it's pitch black. The four of us weaved with precision through the crowd and up the "beast" of a hill they have. We could see Terence in front of us. He had somehow managed to start on the front of the line. As we stormed down the bridge we had clocked a 5:58 mile. Not bad considering that start.

From there, Ben and Brennan took off while Justin and I stayed back a little. The trip east on the causeway was awesome. It was completely dark with the exception of the lights from the monster cruise ships alongside us. Totally cool. And totally fast, as we hit mile 2 in 5:37. I'm lucky half the time to hit that once during a race, so to run that at mile 2 was a little too ambitious. We consciously slowed down to 5:53 for mile 3, but then just before 4 I started to get gapped by Justin. Miles of 6:03 and 5:58 were to follow, putting me at 29:30 for 5.

Aerobically I was still comfortable, but my body seemed to be broken. My piriformis was hurting me worse than it has since fall of 2007, and both my feet were really hurting. It's weird. But it was cool to be running up Ocean Drive, passing our home for the weekend. And it was still dark! The sun wasn't even hitting the horizon as we cruised through miles 6 and finally by 7 it was starting to get light, but at this point we were headed back west. I was staying cool, despite the physical pain (and the tense hostage situation that was building) and hit miles of 6:04, 6:08 and 6:12. I was working out the math and thought if I could go 30:30 for my next 5 and hit 10 at 1:00:00, I could still go under 1:20.

Then I just couldn't do it. Or, rather, didn't do it. I no longer wished to kill myself for a subpar time, so I slowed my role. I ran 6:30, 6:40 and 6:41 for the next couple of miles. Terence had gone by and I cheered him on. We were running along the Venetian Causeway (built by John Collins, a farmer from NJ) and finally, at the 11 mile mark, the passing of me by some douchebag looking kids combined with the cheering spectators made me want to run again. I picked it up and quickly swept T back up. I was going to run 6's or better for the last 2 and 6:30 and still finishing that fast would have been good.

But Terence didn't look good, and I wasn't going to leave him. I ran it in with him, and the last two miles wound up being 6:32 (where I was catching him, then slowing back down) and 8:14 for the last 1.1. Shoot, 1:22:32 (on my watch), I definitely could have swept back 2 minutes in those last two miles to finish at 1:20:30. What was most important now was how do we get back to the beach??

Terence fell asleep in a port-o-potty. Then again on the sidewalk. He be sleep everywhere. Brennan also was not feeling great. Somehow this race had crushed our bodies. But not our spirits. We headed to the hotel, cleaned up, checked out and went to Johnny Rockets, where our waitresses appreciated our humor. And Lisa looked like Rihanna, except way hotter.

We then hit the beach for a few last bits of sunshine. Yesterday we had seen two dudes almost kiss in a desperate attempt to get these two girls to make out, as well as some teen Latinas posing on some beach furniture for their own private photo shoot. Oh, and a dude wearing a gross banana-hammock/thong. Sunday would provide us with our first glimpse of boobs - only they were about 100 years old. Each. Yuck.

After the beach we decided Wet Willie's was in order. Since it was only 1pm, it was pretty quiet, but you can see why Ludacris would shout it out. Ben had left us, and after leaving Wet Willie's, Justin and Brennan each made their way back to the hotel to TCOB. Meanwhile Terence was getting a 2nd wind and me, Jen and my brother weren't feeling bad to begin with, so we went back to Ocean's 10 for some mojitos. We spotted Miami Heat player Shawn Marion driving on Ocean Drive in a classic Cadillac convertible. We kept drinking until the absolute last possible minute, and then took a cab to Fort Lauderdale airport. Man was that far. Terence fell asleep in the van.

We arrived at the airport, where Terence managed to get on the plane. And yours truly managed to have to sit on a plastic bag cause his seat was wet. Not sure from what, and the flight attendants didn't really seem to care. Oh, and it wasn't supposed to be my seat in the first place, just some old dude and his wife were already sitting (he was supposed to be riding bitch) and I felt bad making them sit in it. So I then sat in the middle seat to boot.

When we landed at 8pm, the dream was over. The temperature hovered below 30 and I was wearing board shorts and a t-shirt. And my straw hat. I'll hold onto the dream a little longer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

76 miles

Over the last 7 days I have covered 76 miles on my feet.

Normally I wouldn't be so psyched about such an arbitrarily random number, but I haven't run this much in a week's time since 2001. I feel like my friends Jake, Pat Reaves or Ben right now with this much mileage! I'm actually surprised I've held up this well at all.

When I used to just run, I guess the most I ever ran was 85 per week. I was pretty consistent at that number, and it was always on 6 days and usually included 2 morning runs during the week. This time around it was 7 days/7 runs and included 40 miles in Patapsco and 4 runs that I would classify as "very hilly".

I have another 9 miles on tap for tomorrow, before taking Thursday as a no-run day, and then a couple short, easy runs on Friday/Saturday, leading up to Sunday's Miami Half Marathon. I'm quite looking forward to this escape, albeit brief, from the world up here.

As I was explaining to Kip, who has accompanied me for 32 of these miles, I'm trying a different approach to the tri season this year. I feel like my riding has gotten pretty good and I have a solid formula for success. I feel good about my swimming. My running, however, has been fairly stagnant. I needed a breakthrough, and the only way I was going to accomplish that was if I took this month with a little lighter swim/ride schedule and a big run one. So far so good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thanks For the Memories

What a week! The highlight came on Tuesday morning when I got word that my job was eliminated, effective immediately. That certainly threw me for a loop as it was completely unexpected. Certainly things could always be worse, but it still sucks.

As a result, I no longer have a vehicle, since it was a company car. The company was not very helpful, so I wound up driving to an office in White Marsh so they could pick it up, and I rode my bike home. That was Wednesday, so fortunately it wasn't terribly cold, but it wasn't very warm. At least it's only 12 miles away.

The good news was that I actually rode my trainer for the first time this season. I managed 90 minutes on Tuesday night. Rides over 90 minutes I always prefer the rollers, and didn't have the patience for that this week.

I did start feeling better running this week too. Wednesday was a quick paced run (for me, given my current fitness) of 12 miles @ 6:25 avg. I was a little tired on Thursday, but Friday, Kip and I hit Patapsco in the late afternoon for a 10 mile run. It was cold, dark and still throughout the park, but it was probably my best run of the new season.

Saturday I hit another 9 with Kip, and my current flavor is to do work everytime the road turns upward. I've been taking easy days really easy and putting in more specific efforts. Today I ran for 2 hours - 20ish minutes more than I've done this year and I felt alright doing it (with the exception of a liquidation event about 85 minutes in). 58.5 miles this week caps a great three week stretch for me of 169 miles. That's normally a month's worth of running for me.

I was going to try and ride today since the temperature is more hospitable, but I'm actually pretty worked from the run and the hour is late right now to go outside.

Weekly Totals:

Swim: 8000 meters (two swims, eh)
Bike: 40 miles
Run: 58.5 miles

12 1/4 hours

The week ahead: I've obviously now got the task of finding a new job, so I will begin with that process this week. At the same time, I will focus a little on getting in a real quality week - hoping for about 200 miles on the bike (it'll be a short week as I am going to Miami on Friday) and 60 miles of running, culminating in the half down in MIA on Sunday.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hangin' Tough

I'm tired. I'm old. I'm beat up. I feel like Tina Turner, or Lil' Kim's pussy.

Seriously, I can't remember the last time I had a good run, and this isn't one of those stories that ends with "...until tonight, when I went out there, got after it and killed my run." In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if this wall that I've seemingly hit is I-T. I'm sure it's not, but man, I am dying out there.

To my body's credit, it's handled things quite well these past 6 weeks. No days off since December 1st, so I guess that is up to 42 days, and the past two weeks I have run 55 and 55.5 miles, respectively. I've barely run over 50 miles in a week once every few months, so stringing two 50+ back to back weeks is proving harder on my body than I thought. I remember just a few years ago when this would represent 3.5 days of running. Now those days seem to be just a fond memory of when my body wasn't as beat up.

The "things that are wrong with me list" is growing these days, and it's resulting in some negative thoughts. For one, I feel as if I'm running slower and it's taking a lot more out of me than it should. But the more optimistic side of me is looking up, realizing the mileage is coming up and I should expect to be knocked down a little at first. I think the harder thing to overcome is the mental breakdown. We seem to have had a lot of "middle days" lately - ones that are cold enough to not ride outside but warm enough to have to make the conscious decision not to.

That was the case this weekend, as both my planned rides were scrapped. I did my first running "workout" of the new training cycle on Saturday at Derwood (more to come on this). By the time I got home - way later than planned - at 2:30, I was wrecked. And then it started to icy rain a little, so no riding outside for me. I woke up today at 5:45, looked outside and saw the wet roads, and felt how cold it was. I texted OJ and Tom and said there would be no riding in Frederick. It's not worth the drive to ride on slick roads out in Hateville.

The end result was a week without riding. Believe it or not, I'm okay with bike hiatuses in the winter. I'm confident enough in my ability to ride a bike fast for a while and know what I have to do to catapult myself into racing shape before the season.

The pool was another story. I got in 3 times for 10,000 meters, which isn't a bad week, but it was one good swim and two crappy ones.

Running was weird. I ran by myself for 3 of my 5 runs, but only because I'm running so slow I don't want anyone to have to run with me. Saturday a couple of us headed down to the Ag Park in Derwood to do a workout on the USATF XC course. I was glad to see everyone else had a good workout, but I just dogged it. We did get introduced to our new friend, Julia, who we have decided is ridiculous, inappropriate and hilarious. A perfect fit for the group.

Weekly Totals: 9.75 hours (big drop from previous two weeks but no riding)

Swim - 10,000m
Bike - 0
Run - 55.5 miles

But what else is new? There is, after all, more to life than training sometimes. Especially this time of year. Actually, I'm lying. There's not much going on by way of fun times, and lately I've been staying in the house a lot more.

On the Boob Tube: A new season of The Real World, Wednesdays at 10pm. The 21st edition of the show makes its way to a sick pier warehouse in Brooklyn. It's actually quite a diverse cast. And by diverse, I mean there's a post-op tranny. Sweet. Tuesdays just got a whole lot better with the return of Scrubs. Now on ABC, the show also returned to being funny, after 1.5 seasons of unfunnyness. Following Scrubs on FX is the 6th season now of Nip/Tuck. The first season of this show was amazing. Then it's just gotten weirder and weirder. I still watch, usually to see the hot chicks that get banged, but whatever, it's still a decent show.

Returning soon will be Lost (1/21 - back to Wednesdays!), and I'm sure new seasons of Survivor and Amazing Race will pick up after the Superbowl. Also, I saw the cast for the new Celebrity Apprentice and I'm partially amazed at who agreed to do it, so I may watch that.

Speaking of football, all is good on the homefront as Baltimore is celebrating the Ravens' success. A trip next week to Pittsburgh is all that separates them from the Superbowl. Should be pretty fun. Unfortunately for the Giants, their season ended today at the hands of the lowly Eagles. Oh well.

I'm currently watching the Golden Globes, which is the start to the televised awards season. I love these stupid things. Again, mostly for the hot chicks, but also because television and film are two staples in my life. I always wish I could be there and hobknob/politic with these folks.

I'm also trying to make some dietary changes by way of reducing the sugary cereals. Once I'm done with my current stock of Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks and Cocoa Krispies, I'm going to avoid them for a while. Maybe eat more eggs or oatmeal. Oatmeal with tons of brown sugar and maple syrup. Booyah.

The week ahead appears to be getting cold. This means the inevitable - I will, in fact, have to ride my bike inside. As much as my body will fight it, I'll have to do it. I might try and stack the front half of the week before it gets too cold. My goals are to get in the pool 4 times, run 57-58 miles and shoot, if the weather on the weekend isn't bad maybe finally get out to Frederick. Or at least do a real long ride.

Monday, January 05, 2009


A few weeks ago I had a few packets of Roctane (made by Gu) sent over to me to try out, and, now that I've consumed them all, I wanted to take a moment to review them.

For starters, I'm a big fan of Gu. I have eaten the chocolate Gu religiously over the years, as they provide calories and also taste good, are easy to transport, and, most importantly, are a tremendous flat-fixer. If you ever get a flat and there is a noticeable gash in your tire, just eat one and stick it in the casing of the tire before putting the tube in. It'll protect the tire til you can get a new one, or in my case, can be ridden on for two years.

I then started eating Vanilla Gu, which is the best tasting one.

The Roctanes came and I wasn't sure what they were all about - they looked like normal Gu but I guess there is something different about them. Maybe more caffeine. Anyway, the flavors were Blueberry Pomegranate and Orange Creme or Orange Vanilla or something.

I brought them with me on each of my 50 mile rides over the 4 days I was home, and ate one at 90min and one at 2h15m. They provided an immediate boost of energy, moreso than the normal Gu, and weren't that bad tasting. I'll say I enjoy the Orange flavor better, and probably wouldn't buy Blueberry on my own, but I also don't like blueberry that much to begin with.

My recommendation is to always keep flavors simple - the more flavor combos you do, the more chance you have to mess up.

But these were some tasty little snacks and great for rides or runs, and now that I'm aware of them I'll probably make sure to carry one or two with me for that extra jolt when needed.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Week #5

I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with how things have been going as of late. I'm not doing anything crazy by any means, but getting solid base work in and achieving levels of volume I haven't done consistently in years.

I intended on riding my bike this afternoon for about 2 hours, but with Godsey in town I figured it would be mildly rude to sit on my rollers for that long, or to go out on the road and disappear for a while. So I'm calling it a week as of 7pm on Sunday.

Swim: 1000 meters (more on this)
Bike: 150 miles (2 rides)
Run: 55 miles (6 runs)

This is one of my highest run weeks in the last couple of years (only went over 50 on four occasions last year) and it was done with some pretty good longer runs. I haven't been feeling very swift, and the runs are taking longer than I normally do, but I'm getting it in. I ran 14 miles today with the gang up at NCR Trail. I hate that place. I think it's mental, but it always feels like I'm running way harder than I should be to run 7 minute pace there.

Really psyched on the rides this week. I picked up my tuned up bike on Wednesday, and rode it on Thursday (New Year's Day). I left my house just before 10am, it was really cold and way windier than I expected. The combination of 20+ miles uphill and the headwind resulted in a super slow ride. I wound up picking up some help on the way back down, but was just out there all day by myself, with the exception of maybe 7 miles towards the end with some dude I caught up to. At just under 4.5 hours it was a long time to be out there for 67 miles, but whatever.

Yesterday was the complete opposite. I woke up after not too much sleep, and hopped on my bike at 7:40. I rode up to TriSpeed to meet Tom Stott and Sean, and we rode for an hour before meeting up with a group at 10am at Oregon Ridge. We rode with them for a little, then Tom and I broke off. The roads were amazing; empty, paved and scenic. It felt warmer in the morning, probably due to less wind, but as the wind picked up it became a tailwind for us home. I stopped at 7-11 in Timonium for a Milky Way, and then continued on my way home. Just about 85 miles, on my bike for a little over 5 hours. I came home, ate a little and changed, and then Kip, Godsey, Anthony and I hit the trails of Robert E Lee for about 7 miles.

Had I ridden today it would have been a 185 mile week, but I'm definitely tired from a 6.5 hour day yesterday and a "long" run today. This also isn't taking into account the 3am bedtime last night and another 7:30 wakeup call today.

Swimming - yeah. I didn't have time on Monday or Tuesday due to work, and then Wednesday I didn't realize the pool was closing early so I only had 20 minutes to swim. I just went in for a 150 warmup, 750 hard and then 100 cooldown. It was the least I could do. Then no time over the weekend. I'll get that back this week and maybe take it a little easier on the other two.

So it was a 17 hour week, just slightly below last week's but a great start to the new year. The week ahead should be a little more of the same, I'm going to try to keep around 55 miles a week of running for a few weeks, and hopefully introduce some indoor riding this week during the week. I'm okay with getting outside on the weekends but need to ride a little more during the week.

Friday, January 02, 2009

When It's Over

I waited a little long to wrap up 2008, so I'll combine posts. I want to grade myself on accomplishing my goals this year.

Columbia Triathlon

The goals were to swim under 22:30, ride under 1:05 and finish overall under 2h10m.

Check, to all 3. The swim was 22:23, just a few seconds off my PR there, but represented over 2:30 faster than 2007. The bike was 1:04:44, which represented a PR by 5:30. This was a HUGE breakthrough. Overall I went 2:08:40, which was a nearly 9 minute PR. I finished 27th overall (including the 12 pros ahead) and my bike split was 13th overall (2nd amateur I believe behind my friend Joe).


The goals were to run a 16:30 5k, run my road PR in a 10k (34:08), run under 58 minutes for 10 miles, go under 1:17 at Philly Distance Run and run a 2:45 marathon.

Waaa-waaa, didn't hit a single one. 16:48 at Shamrock was as fast as I would go, but in fairness the event I would have expected to run 16:30 was cancelled, and at that point I didn't care as much. I only did the one open 10k, and it fell in the middle of some other bigger races, so I didn't take it as seriously, and I got fairly close to the 10 mile goal (58:12 at Broad Street). Had I been able to keep pace with Arjun after mile 7 at PDR, I would have slipped under my goal, but definitely fell apart and we all know what happened with the marathon.

I did, however, accomplish one running goal of winning a race - Terp Trot 5k.


The goal was to win my age group and qualify for Hawaii.

I did not. Enough said.

Other random goals

I wanted to take off fewer than 26 days of training and run 2,000 miles. I also wanted to compete in 26 total races, including 8 triathlons.

In actuality I took off around 42 I think it came to, and fell shy of 2,000 (1,874, still up from 1752 or something from the year before). I did 27 total races, including 7 triathlons and 1 bike TT.

I'm pleased with the results, it was a long year, and it felt long before I even hit the fall. The curse of August is still very much real, with some weird injuries plaguing me again in the late summer/early fall and curtailing some of my fall fun. After a little time off post-NYC and some mental refreshing, I feel ready to go. So far I've got a 32 day active streak going, and am already on pace for hitting some larger than usual volumes early in the season.

2009 Goals

Just as important at looking back is setting new goals. I think I'm going to structure things slightly different this year, and not be as concerned with things like total mileage, number of days off, number of races. I want to race less, that's for sure.

For me it's also very easy to have specific goals for each race I do, since I know what races I'll do this year already. The triathlons are real easy:

Columbia - I want to get into the 21:xx range in the swim, go 1:02:xx on the bike and 37:xx on the run. This would yield a good time and undoubtedly a solid placement.

Eagleman - Avoid the pitfalls from last year, for starters. I know I've got the wheels to do a 2:12 on the bike and 1:20 on the run, and if I could swim under 30 it would be an amazing day. No more qualifying spots for Hawaii means the pressure's off a little.

NJ State Tri - fastest bike split and top 5 overall

Ironman Arizona - I am preparing for a fast time but will not be disappointed with anything I do. I believe a one hour swim and five hour bike are reasonable, and then the run is a wildcard. It could be 3 hours, it could be 3.5, it could be 4. Either way, I absolutely want to be 9:45 or better.

The running races are a little different, because they won't be my first focus this year. At Miami next month I'd like to go under 1:20, and then not run slower than 60 minutes at Club Challenge. At Shamrock I think I can run a few seconds faster than last year, and then Boston Marathon will be the next big event where the goal will be to run an evenly paced, as comfortable as a marathon can be run.