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."