Friday, December 24, 2010
RM: "Just passed a funeral home called "ya sik." I was like no, they're probably dead."
EA: "Btw, my mom, who still has questions about sending emails, has signed up for facebook. maybe the mayans were right about 2012."
RM: "I just showed up to P's house. He comes out with a machine gun."
EA: "12:45am - gus and i get home and make cake shakes in the basement to not wake our parents."
RM: "7:00pm. My dad has never seen a shake weight. I instruct him how to use it, then laugh."
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Seriously, it's the secret power of dynamic inertia that makes this heart-pounding workout so effective in just 6 minutes a day.
I ran Celtic Solstice over the weekend and it went...well, it went. I love this race, and it is always great to see so many familiar faces before, during and after the race. After last year's insane snowstorm reduced the field to about 400 finishers, this year's conditions enabled the majority of the 3000 registered entrants to compete. With basically our entire posse there in some fashion - volunteering or racing - it was almost like a Tuesday Night Track workout.
All of us were up at the front, as the start is quite narrow. Fortunately it starts with a quarter mile uphill, so it makes it thin out (at the front) pretty quickly. I kept Arjun, Pat and Seth within range as I ran next to Tom Stott, and figured those guys would be in the 5:30-5:40 range for the first mile. Imagine my surprise when they were around 5:50 and I was just under 6!
Going back to Friday for a brief second - I was walking down in Fells Point and fell on ice outside of Shucker's. I landed pretty hard and did not feel good about it. The fall also broke my camera, so I need to get that sorted out with the establishment.
Anyway so my right hip was not feeling great and as mentioned in the earlier post, I just haven't been feeling great running lately. My stride felt short. I wore my flats, my feet felt alright, but my knee was not real excited about the idea of running fast. In the 2nd mile, Anthony went by me, as did Dave Berardi. I clipped that one in just over 6, so I guess I was right on 12 minutes at 2 miles. Approaching the little out-and-back section, I was able to see that Mellow, Prada and Tom Stott were close behind. Pat, Seth and Arjun had long gone, as had Kris, who was having a great race.
Mellow went by, and then the first placed girl caught up. I ran with her, figuring maybe I'd help keep her ahead. We re-passed Mellow and hit mile 3 in 6:10 or something, then got onto the Reservoir loop. I was running the tangents well, minimizing the distance I had to run, but mile 4 still seemed long at 6:17. I realized breaking 30 was mostly out of the question, unless I ran a 5:30 last mile (actually not impossible as the last mile is flat and finishes with a quarter mile downhill to where the start was).
I was on that line of I couldn't go any faster, but if I had gone any slower I would have felt like I wasn't going anywhere. I ran a 5:49 last mile into the finish and stayed just ahead of the first girl. 30:18 was my finish time, a scant 3 seconds slower than my Born to Run race from a few weeks back. I felt much worse during that race, but I was still fit. This race exposed the very minimal amount of running (and riding and swimming) that I've done.
Talking with people after the race, almost everyone who wore a GPS watch recorded the run at 5.1 miles. It stands to reason that, if one did not run the tangents well on the Reservoir loop, it would be long - but that still seems pretty long. Jim had the race certified, but on race day there are cars parked along the Reservoir, which undoubtedly throws off the trajectory of your straight line running. I guess my point here is that it is definitely a full 5 miles, and probably a little long.
I thought I could run a bit quicker than I did, but I also can't say I'm surprised as I've done virtually no running, and certainly nothing quicker than the pace I ran, in a month.
Following the race, everyone enjoys the best winter post-race celebration under the big top, and then a few of us hit up Kisling's. Kisling's has been a favorite of mine since 2003. I used to go a lot more frequently, but now I limit it to a few times a year. This time, however, totally hit the spot - it was the most on-point their wings have been in a while. Delicious.
Sunday morning I had planned on getting in a longer run, and I figured it would be cool to run at the park. Real bad idea. It was a winter wonderland in there, and within a few minutes I did something I've never done at Patapsco - I fell. And I fell hard. The stream crossings were quite treacherous. The water was running really high, and the rocks were iced over. Since I no longer have the ability to jump or hop, my choices were limited to caulking myself and floating, fording the river or paying a Shoshoni guide $2 to help me across.
I made it (barely) over the first two small crossings, but then came a bigger one. I stepped delicately on a rock that looked half dry, and then WWWOOOOPPP there went my legs. I landed on some ice and, more significantly, in the drink. It was cold. And wet. I got up and kept going, figuring now that I'm wet, I'll just splash through the streams. That's what I did. It was kind of fun, although just as I would regain feeling in my feet, I would lose it again splashing through the water.
My knee started really bothering me, and I wished I hadn't gone to the park. But I finished the run, 1h45m, and then went to the Ravens game with Brennan. Following the game it was time to watch this year's Hawaii coverage (broadcast the day before) and then 3 hours of Survivor season finale. It was a late night and a long day.
Monday I figured I would run TO Fed Hill with Pat and BG, and then get a ride back with Ed. But then Pat said he was going to run back, and Ed said he needed to put in 4 more after the run, so my option was wait until Ed finished (30min) or just run back. I figured it was easier to just run back. It was another 13+ day. I felt better running on the road, but by the end of the run I was pretty cooked.
Tuesday I got on my bike for the first time since Arizona, for an easy 75min on the trainer with Pat. He smeared poo all in my house (literally, Ed).
Today's plan is to run tonight and then head back to NJ tomorrow for some Yuletide greetings.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I started writing this post a few days ago, and it was a little too woe-is-me/I've seen a little turnaround, so I figure a rewrite was in order.
In the weeks since Arizona, my body has not been excited to move. By the end of the third week post-race, I had run a total of 38.5 miles across 7 runs, had ridden my bike exactly zero times, and swam 5 times for a total of 18,5000 meters. Suffice to say, I decided to give up the ghost on the 400 miles of swimming. I looked at it and realized I was going to have to swim at least 5k every day that I could possibly swim (between going home for Christmas, some house guests and the wedding, I had about 16 swimmable days this month.
Running hasn't been great mostly due to the cold. It's been unseasonably cold in the last couple of weeks, and this has been having a really negative affect on my knee. I used to be able to run in shorts into the low 20s, now if it's below 50 it's got to be covered up. It aches all day, and I make it through runs only to have it ache all day after I run. Basically, once I run in a day, that's it for me. No swimming, no riding. Have to do those first. Pretty much I will only be running at night for the next few months.
I ran a week ago (Thursday) without a watch for the first time in a real long time. I was trying to trick my brain into running however necessary. I ran the same run on Saturday following the timing of the Figgy Pudding 5k, and didn't run terribly slow, so I felt better about that. But it still didn't feel comfortable. Saturday afternoon/evening was our annual Christgiving pot-luck dinner, a great new tradition for our team in Baltimore, and then the Festivus celebration followed. After a pretty late night, Sunday was a flush-the-gunk run with Pat, Cheese and Brennan. The run was really slow, but I did feel slightly better than Saturday.
Monday I felt a lot better, so I tried to put an end to the gloomy outlook of "I'm not going to run this winter" and instead adopted an "I am going to struggle running this winter but I'll still do it" mindset. The weather, however, was adopting an "I hate you" motif. Air temp around 27 with windchill around 15, the winds were howling. A small yet hearty group of runners showed up to FHR, and the dudes went out for Shady 7. We picked up a pretty sweet tailwind in Cherry Hill, but then got brutalized on the Hanover bridge.
Last night I managed to run 10 miles with Pat, Barf and Harvey at WNR. Once again it was super cold, and still windy but not as bad as Sun-Tues. Of course, my satellite doesn't care, any wind over 15mph is enough to knock it out. I haven't had TV since Sunday. But as far as the run went, I was able to run alright and that's the longest in 25 days I've run, so that's good.
Now rather than rewrite anything else, I'm just going to post the remainder of my original post about how my motivation is low. Ha, man if that doesn't prove I'm lazy, I don't know what does!
Swimming is just annoying. I have swam so much in the last year and a half and I'm tired of it. I also know that I can literally take two months off and get myself into the same shape within a few weeks, so it's like I'm not even worried about it. Maybe that's a positive thing, the one thing I've learned over time is that, even being horribly banged up, I can pull myself into shape very fast. I'm trying not to sweat it. The pool is never the problem, it's getting to the pool. I am cold by the time I get there, and just don't want to get in. I ultimately jump in and get going and am fine, but then I get out, and I'm cold all day, and I smell like chemicals. Turn them down!
The bike, well that's been pure laziness. I didn't want to have to start up again by riding the trainer. I was hoping for a few days outside. But every day I went to go do it, it was shitty out. It's generally been pretty gross the last three weeks. Very cold, very windy, lots of rain. So much rain that my house sprang a leak again and damaged the beautiful wood floors.
Speaking of the house, I will be house-less in just a few weeks. Yep, Emily and Bryan received an offer and accepted it. As of this Friday, they will potentially no longer be the owners of this place. I say potentially because there is a small possibility that it may fall through, so until the ink is dry on the paperwork, I still live here. But, it's another thing I'll have to deal with in now a very short amount of time.
Part of my lack of motivation has been my schedule lately. Post-AZ week was of course Thanksgiving and a wedding, and then I had to go up to NYC for a wedding the following weekend. I stayed in NJ for what looked to be my last surgeon visit (sweet) but wound up not running for 8 days straight. I did go for an 8 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail up near the Delaware Water Gap in northwest NJ one of the days, which rocked me pretty hard. Uphill wasn't as hard on the body, but the downhills were killing me.
I think part of the new me is the need to have consistent training. I saw that, for 142 days, I did not have to take a break. Of course, it rarely dropped below 60 degrees during that stretch, which helped, but I kept moving and had very few problems. Now I feel like the decrepit shell of Alfred Terry has consumed me, and I move slowly and with nothing but aches and pains.
I am running the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler this Saturday. At this point, with 50 miles in 3 weeks and an inability to run faster than 6 minute pace, it may not be pretty. In addition to the new stress of Friday being the day of reckoning with the house, and this potentially being the last weekend of living here, I have a houseguest for roughly 5 and change days in the form of Brian Godsey. Pereless stopped through this past weekend, so it looks like the Inn at Fleet Street will keep its occupancy record until the very end. We're even thinking about having a last bash on NYE if we're still here.
I realize that it's "only" been a month since I competed at Ironman, and the point of a late season race is to chill out for a minute, so like I said, I'm not sweating the lack of training - but I am concerned about how I've been feeling. I need to get ahead of it and figure that out so I don't go too far backwards. Race season is a long way off, and as always, I'm less concerned with May than I am with next fall. But, it is nice to be able to look at next year with some certainty, as opposed to the speculation of 2010.
Coming into this year, I was full of doubt, but also optimistic that I'd be able to get back to training and racing. I was so optimistic that I signed up for Columbia and Eagleman, Arizona and even Chicago Marathon. At least I was able to do one of those four. Between 2009 and 2010, I was out about $2000 in race entry fees. Man, that's harsh. By the time I was able to start running again, I had to amend my goals. They kind of looked like this:
Run in Patapsco
Run 30 minutes for 5 miles
Do Ironman Arizona
Never before have goals been so scattered or the gap between goals so immense. On the one hand I wanted simply to run in Patapsco, but then also complete an Ironman? Crazy, Ryan, just crazy. Fortunately, I can gladly say I did accomplish all three of these goals.
I have done a few runs in the park, and as long as I can see the trail (i.e., no leaves) I can continue to run there this winter. I managed to run under 30min (off the bike) at Red Bank Tri. I ran 30:15 at Born to Run 2 weeks ago. This weekend is Celtic Solstice, where I hope to be under 30, and then I'm going to do the Polar Bear 5 Miler on 12/26 in Asbury Park. And of course, I did the Ironman. Not too shabby.
Since I feel like this post has been somewhat scatter-brained, I'm going to save my 2011 plans and goals for another post. For now I'll enjoy the surprising amount of snowfall we are getting.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
As I continue to replay last week's race, I feel pretty good about a number of things. For instance, I feel like it was the best I've done with nutrition in any race I've ever done, and as a result I'm sure that helped me not feel totally wrecked at the end of the race or the next day. I also feel good about the effort level, as in I didn't get ahead of myself and try to get after it too hard. In the future, that will change, but for this time, I think it was the best move. Of course, that didn't really help my time at all, but that's the breaks.
Following my 5 miler on Friday, I headed back down to MD for rehearsal dinner/wedding. This week is another rehearsal dinner/wedding. While I would like to just be able to chill out for a minute, I suppose it's better than them having been prior to AZ, and at least they're immediately following the race so I don't feel as bad about taking some time off.
I think doing that race may have set my recovery back a few days. I have been tired, and haven't really been in the mood to do any "training." Maybe that's just what happens when doing a big race so late in the year. Even though I only started preparing really in July, it's still the farthest into the year I've ever gone, with NYC Marathon 2008 the previous mark. I took Sunday off and went to watch the #2 Terps men's soccer beat #15 Penn State on a goal in the 88th minute to advance to Friday's NCAA Semi-final.
Monday I made it to FHR and did the 6 miles. We ran together for a mile, then the pace picked up and I got left behind. Fortunately, Zero was okay with running my slow pace and eventually we picked up a few others to run with us. Tuesday, the last day of November, was rainy and windy. The temperature, though, was mild. A fairly large group met at the track to do a workout, which was surprising because there were weeks when it was nice that we didn't have that many people out. I ran the warmup and cooldown, and that was enough for me.
Today I finally made it back in the pool, after swimming just 1500m last week. My goal is a lofty one, to make it to 400 miles. After today I'm at 350, so I need to swim another 80,000m this month. Normally I wouldn't think that's too bad, but I'm going to miss a bunch of days due to traveling this month. I'll see how I feel after a few days of this, it's a less-than-significant goal, but I'd like to get there. I'd also like to get to 5000 miles on the bike, currently I'm 570 miles away. And I'm at 770 miles of running and would like to get to 900. I think that's reasonable.
For the month of November, I ended up with 36,500m of swimming, 455 miles on the bike and 131.5 miles of running. I was a little disappointed with the bike, as I could have just gone out for one 45 mile ride and had a cool 500 for the month. But then, I just didn't feel like doing it last week and didn't have time over the weekend.
I have one more goal this year - the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler on December 18. The first two years I ran it, I ran 30:46. Exactly. Both years. I wasn't "racing" either of those years, so in 2007 I tried to see what I could do. I managed a 29:06, which was a pretty decent time. In 2008 I hadn't run much following NYC Marathon but managed a respectable 29:28. Obviously didn't get to race last year, but this year I'm hoping to take a crack at getting under 29. I think it's reasonable, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't hit it - I won't do anything but easy running between now and then anyway.
I've started to think about my goals for next year, as well as my race schedule, so I'll get to that next.
Monday, November 29, 2010
By now, many have either figured out that I did actually race at Arizona, or have heard my little recap. Truthfully, it was surprisingly uneventful. I didn't truly suffer like I have in some races, in fact it didn't even feel like racing. It felt like a really long training day. But, I do want to write down my thoughts about the race, what I need to do to improve and what I hope to accomplish down the road.
First of all, I'll say that I am not disappointed with the result, in fact I'm pretty psyched. As I've mentioned to many of you over the last week (wow, it's ONLY been a week?), I'm more proud of myself for making it to the start line than for making it to the finish. Making it to the finish line of any of the events I've done has never been a question. I will always finish. But, especially in this case, I wasn't going to go if I thought it would set my knee back.
From a competitive standpoint, my first inclination was to dissect the performance and figure out why I did not accomplish what I thought I could do going into the race. But pretty quickly it was clear that what I accomplished was no small feat. Due to the circumstances beyond my control, I took a year off from running and cycling. Those are months and miles that I can't get back. I lost what I had built over a number of years, and more importantly, wasn't continuing to build. It was comforting to know, however, that as I began to get back into it, that my aerobic fitness returned reasonably fast. Obviously I was continuing to swim (for the most part) over the 12 months, which was keeping some fitness, but I had taken March and April completely off. So to go from zero to Ironman in just 5 months was nothing short of a dream for me. And to finish better than all but 10% of the race illustrated that with some determination, help from those around you and a lot of elbow grease, really anything is possible.
Obviously I had ridden/ran on Friday, and the conditions seemed good. It gets breezy out on the open road, but I expected Sunday's conditions to be about the same as it had been the days leading up. Saturday's swim was fine, I was prepared for the cold temps, unlike last year, and I went for a 3 mile jog in the afternoon before going to dinner. My dad had gotten into town just in time to eat - actually slightly later than I had hoped to eat, but it didn't really matter.
Sunday morning we walked outside and it was expectedly chilly, but unexpectedly windy. I went for a short jog just to warm up a little, before getting into the wetsuit. 6:45 came and one by one everyone started jumping in the water. 15 minutes treading fairly cold water gets old pretty quick. As if nerves aren't already high, and the reality of an 8 to 17 hour day staring athletes in the face, they blast the beats over the PA. I'm all for pumping sweet jams, but I feel like I want to be super calm before the start at a race this long! The cannon went off and arms and legs were flying everywhere as the swell of 2500 people thrust forward in Tempe Town Lake.
Last year I swam 1:02:23. It was my first race of that distance, and I was super nervous as my knee really was in its early stages of recovering from surgery. When it started getting hit, I freaked out and really didn't think it was a good idea for me to have swam. With the experience from last year, a better knee and about 350 miles of swimming since then, I figured I would pretty easily be close to an hour. Before the cannon sounded, I was trying to clear my goggles. A poor choice to go with the rose colored Socket Rockets, as they fogged up immediately upon entering the water. Now, there may have been a countdown, but I swear I didn't hear it, and I got caught out with my goggles not on my face. I quickly put them on and began to swim, but the right one filled up with water. It was early, and I wasn't moving very quick, so I swam over to the side a bit and fixed it. As I began swimming again, I noticed I was headed straight for a dock, so I nudged my way into the field a little better.
The goggles soon fogged up again, but I was committed to just getting into my rhythm now, so I kept going. The only thing I knew was that I was going in the general direction of the race, but I wasn't around anyone, so I tried to rejoin the race. After going around the turn buoys, I stopped for a second to clean the lenses - now with the sun shining brightly to my left, I couldn't even see arms in the water. I ultimately stopped one more time to clean them, really frustrating actually. I was just swimming all over the place. I came out of the water and got my wetsuit taken off and crossed the mat in 1:02:21. Bleh. But hey, at least I was faster than last year, even if only by 2 seconds. Last year with that time I was 13th out of the age group; this year was 24th.
Since I didn't have to go through T1 last year, this was a first for me. My feet were totally frozen but I was running pretty fast through the transition area. I got to my bag's area, but the volunteers were slow to find it. No big deal. I went into the tent and made sure I had everything I needed, and tried to put on my socks. My feet were cold and covered in grass. I finally got out of there after what felt like an eternity (4 minutes) and onto the bike.
Lap 1 - I got onto the road and felt decent, as I anticipated I would just an hour into the race. I made sure to not ride too fast, after all it's not an Olympic or even a Half. I settled into what I felt was a reasonable effort and made my way into the desert. It was oddly overcast, pretty chilly and definitely windy now. Good thing it was overcast, too, because I didn't put any sunscreen on out of transition (shh!). I didn't have a computer, so I didn't know how fast or slow I was going, but I was taking a look at my watch at the 5 mile intervals that seemed to be lined up. I made sure I ate a Gu every 30 minutes, and took an S! Cap every 45 minutes. I was drinking a decent amount, I started with my aero bottle (water), a water bottle (Gatorade) and my Hannah Montana water bottle (Coke). That first lap took 1:45, and while I wasn't psyched to see it had taken that long, I figured it was an effort I could hold for the distance and it was 5:15 pace.
Lap 2 - Out on course they feature PowerBar Ironman Perform drink, or whatever it's called. It wasn't too bad. Seemed a little lighter than Gatorade, and the bottle was both easy to grab and easy to drink from. Lap 2 is also where I felt the urge to relieve myself. I've been racing for a long time. I've never had to stop to use the bathroom before this year in a triathlon. Maybe I'm just getting old, or need bladder control. I seriously didn't even pee in my wetsuit until 2008 I think. Having never peed while riding, it was an uncomfortable experience. I found that I wasn't comfortable doing it while riding into the wind or with the cross, because stopping pedaling was slowing me down. So I would either do it when I had the wind, or if there was a slight downhill. It was really gross to me. And I figured I would have to go once at most. Nope. 4 times. I think because I was drinking a fair amount, but it was cool and therefore I wasn't sweating as much, it just had to come out.
That 2nd lap is also where it began to rain. It was uncomfortable and frustrating, mostly because I felt like I was being punished for choosing to do the race. Like, of all the days to do a race in Arizona, THIS has to be the one where it rains?! I kept the effort about the same that lap, but I had apparently slowed a little to a 1:48 lap. Now I was on 5:21 pace, if I kept that same time, and this was on the slow end of what I was hoping to ride.
Lap 3 - When I got to the end of lap 2, and it was raining, and I saw my dad and Alyssa standing there in the rain cheering, all I could think was "holy shit, this sucks for them." I managed a Cheshire Cat-sized grin and shook my head. Man, what a day. As I turned the wet corner and headed out for lap 3, I really was tired of going out into the windy desert. At some point, a tumbleweed rolled with some zip across the road right in front of me. The wind was old. The abnormally low temperature was old. The wet road was old. But onward I pressed. I ate my Snickers bar and drank some (now flat) Coke around mile 84-90 and pepped up a little. At this point, I figured I should keep my effort much lower to save something for the run. I came across the line in the realm of a 5:32 bike split - way off what I thought I would ride, but given the day, it was reasonable.
I got off the bike and ran to where my bag was, and once again found myself waiting to receive my stuff. I went over to the tent to change, and decided to stop by the bathroom and evacuate. Better to do it now than on the run, I thought. I then went into the changing tent and went Fully Monty en route to a full wardrobe change. I just felt like, for at least this time, I would be more comfortable running in my running gear than in my tri gear, which now smelled like urine anyway. T2 was longer than I would have hoped, but considering a trip to the bathroom and full costume change, it was reasonable.
I got out onto the run and felt good. I didn't want to exert myself, so I ran a pace that felt comfortable. Just so happened that pace was faster than everyone else around me. I hit the first mile in 6:47 and that seemed about right so I stayed there. 6:47 mile 2, 6:45 mile 3. At that point I've gone back over the bridge and have now headed down into transition area and then up onto the dirt path that parallels the lake. There was no 4 mile split, but there was a 5 mile split and that was 14:02. I figured 7 minute pace was closer to where I should be, as I was hoping to come through the half in 1:33-1:35. I didn't see a 6 mile marker, but did see a 7 and that split was 15:05. The wheels were on there way to falling off.
My dad and Alyssa had been joined by my cousin Matthew, who lives in Arizona and, incidentally, I haven't seen in about 13 years. The spot that had scouted enabled them to see me at a few different spots along the course that intersected, so they didn't have to move too much.
After this mile 7, I hit mile 8 (7:52) and mile 9 (8:05). I think I was still running at this point, and was going out onto the second lap. Now for some reason it felt real windy again, and I was no longer enjoying the run. I stopped at the first aid station to get some nourishment, in the form of a cookie or two, an orange slice, some sports drink. As long as I was moving, I was running a decent pace, but the walking breaks were slowing me down. Mile 10 was 8:53 and after that I started to lose it with splits of 10:27, 9:37 and 8:57 (about 1:44 at the half). In retrospect, I think it was in mile 11 (the 10:27 split) where I stopped for a second to chat with the gang and give cousin Matt a hug. Since it had rained earlier, I did see a rainbow at one point and thought "man I must like guys or something because this is pretty."
Depending on where the aid stations were positioned, how bad I felt and how motivated I was to keep moving, my splits bounced up and down. 10:17, 9:33, 10:58, 8:53, 10:24, 12:03, 11:07, 10:06, 9:39, 10:23, 9:17, 9:33, 11:28 (1.2 miles). These added up to a split of 3:57:08. Yikes.
Not in my most unlikely of race scenarios did I envision it would take me nearly 4 hours to get through the marathon. I legitimately felt that, based on some of my workouts, a 3:15-3:20 was possible, and that 3:30-3:40 was about as slow as I was going to go. Boy, I was way off! But, I couldn't even be disappointed because I had just run a marathon. Forget the fact it was at the end of an Ironman - I ran a marathon. In less than 5 months of running following two knee surgeries, I was able to run a 3:57 marathon. I was pumped.
As I turned the corner towards the finish line, it seemed like a bright light at the end of a tunnel - both literally and metaphorically. Not in the "I'm dying" way, but rather in the "hey, maybe things are turning around" way. I couldn't believe how far I'd come in such a short time, and was proud of the accomplishment. I had finished in 10:40:00, and I think that was about 218th place overall. 24th in the age group out of the water, 16th off the bike, stayed in 16th by the end.
Upon crossing the line, women's champion (and 8th overall, setting a new WTC Ironman record along the way) Chrissie Wellington wrapped my Mylar blanket around me. I wanted to say "Hey, remember that time you came to Columbia Triathlon, started 5 minutes before me and I wiped out your bike advantage and beat you?" but I felt that would be inappropriate as she had just cleaned my clock by, oh, 2 hours and change. She ran a 2:52 marathon split. How many girls do YOU know that can run a 2:52 open? I know a couple, but they couldn't run that off a 4:47 bike split and 51 minute swim!
I ate a couple slices of $600 pizza and then joined my cheering section. I felt okay, certainly better than I've felt after any half iron or marathon I've done. I got back to the hotel, showered, tried to eat some food and then headed back down to watch Claire finish. She had an awesome race, truly. I originally felt like she would swim 1:30-1:40, but apparently she really worked on her swimming and swam a 1:15. Flying! You could tell the conditions really affected her ride, but she got out and ran a 4:35 marathon, which was awesome. She finished at 13:35. Considering her two half iron distance races this year were just over 7 and just under 7, that was really awesome.
Downtown Tempe, like last year, was DEAD on Sunday night. My dad came back out and met up with us at Hooter's, and we stayed there until 11. Then we went down to watch the last hour of finishers. If you have never been to an Ironman finish line, you are missing out. There is nothing like it in all of sports. The jams are PUMPING, and those in the stands are going crazy as anyone approaches the line. Mike Reilly, unequivocally the best MC for an event I've ever seen, announces everyone as they cross the line and keeps the crowd hyped. A short while later, Chrissie and Linsey Corbin (2nd place, who broke the old course record too) came out and danced around, ran in with finishers, etc. This is the equivalent of Haile Gebrsellaise or Ryan Hall coming out after the NYC Marathon or Boston or something and handing out medals, or running in with people. You will never see that happen. It's what makes triathlon what it is. An ability to compete in the same race, with the same conditions, with World Champions. Everyone suffers the same, some just for more time than others.
The last finisher came in at 11:59:15, just 45 seconds in advance of the cut-off. Awesome. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the race was just over. Back to the hotel and off to sleep, with an unfortunately early morning ahead of us. Alyssa was going to sign up for 2011, and while in line with her I decided I may as well too. This process took a long time (we were there at 7 but didn't get through the line until after 11). Then we met up with Claire and walked up the mountain with the big "A" on it. I think they may actually just call it "A" Mountain. As we descended to Mill Ave for lunch, we saw Jordan Rapp and his wife eating at Fatburger, so we chatted with them for a minute and took a pic. I'll post that later.
Later in the day it was flight time. And man, my knee hurt. The plane left an hour late, but at least was super quick, clocking the trip in just over 3.5 hours. By the time I got home, it was 1am. Airports the day after Ironman are funny. A large number of people are obviously in town for the race, and most start asking questions whether you raced or not. I've been to a few Ironmans now without competing, so it was nice to finally be able to say I competed. Even more funny is watching everyone who competed walk around. Look like broken old people.
I took off Monday and Tuesday, and then got in the pool Wednesday. Following the race on Sunday night I got a bad case of hiccups (see also: serious hiccups, not just little ones) that lasted until Tuesday morning. By Wednesday I still didn't feel totally right, and only made it through 1500m. I timed a race on Thursday morning before heading home to NJ, and then Friday I ran the Born to Run 5 Miler in Freehold. Named for The Boss's classic anthem of rebellious teenage love (he was born in Freehold), this race features a sweatshirt premium and often times some quick folks. This year it looked like I was "a quick folk" as everyone stared at me in my Falls Road singlet. Someone noticed the slowly fading number on my calf and asked what race I had done. Then they asked why I would be here, five days later, running.
I went out with the group, before a couple dudes separated themselves. Then it was Olympic Trials Qualifier Lindsey Gallo (from neighboring Howell originally, now of VA) who passed me. I hit the mile in 5:50, and it was all positive splits from there. 6:00 2nd mile. 6:12, then another 6:12. I had no shot now at breaking 30, but I tried to stay tough and have a respectable last mile. My legs were screaming at me, I felt not great. But I ran a 6:00 last mile and finished at 30:15 for 9th place. I even got quoted in the paper the next day.
I wanted to do the race, so I did it. I could have just run it, but I kind of wanted to see how my legs could respond 5 days later. I was barely able to run two miles at 6min pace back in the summer, so this was a good sign.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The biggest thanks goes to my parents and brother and sister. My parents have always encouraged the three of us to do the things we're passionate about, and they supported me as I struggled as a slow, freshman cross country runner. They watched as I began in the sport of triathlon a decade ago, and I know there was no way they understood it at the time. Shoot, I still don't think they completely understand it, but they know what it means to me and they'll always support it. When I got hurt, they were there to help however possible. When things went south, they were there. And when I tried to start training again, they kept me motivated. There aren't many things I can give to them, so this race was like my gift to them for being great. I wish my mom, brother and sister had been able to get out to see it, but I was really happy my dad made it out. When he told me on Wednesday that he was coming, I was very excited - I wanted him to be able to see me cross the finish line. The only thing dads really have is the ability to brag about their kids, so while it's completely embarrassing to have your dad tell your life story (and your brother's and sister's) to total strangers, you earned this one dad. Thanks for being there, like always. My brother, you've amazed me with how far you've come as an athlete and seeing your enthusiasm for it keeps me going a lot of days. I'm proud of all that you've accomplished in your 25 years. And little sis, I love watching you follow your passions and can't wait to see what is up next for you. Mom, well, thanks for everything.
(The rest of the thank yous aren't in any particular order, just as I'm thinking of them...)
It's hard to believe that I'm 29 years old and I've only now just done one of these races. Obviously that wasn't the plan, as I should have gotten it done last year, but man - I feel like I'm behind the curve. But if it wasn't for the work of a few professionals (not hookers), I wouldn't have even made it this year. My amazing surgeon, Dr. Torpey, let's just say I hope I don't have to see him again - but if I have another reason to see a surgeon, he's the only one I would go to. I've never met a doctor who spends as much time in a visit with a patient, or who has cared that much about understanding what it is that I do, and where I needed to get back to. My lawyer, Tom, thanks for getting all the things taken care of that allowed an uninsured liability to get the health care he needed to not be crippled for life. Obviously you're getting paid, but thanks for caring enough to help me out.
I've been going to physical therapy now for a year and a half. That's a long time. In that time I've seen 3 different therapists. First was Robert Incitti up in Red Bank, for the month after surgery that I was in NJ. There are people who are passionate about their work, and then there's Robert. I wish he was closer. Then I went to Stavros, who got me as far as he could before I switched to Brett at LifeStrength in Towson. Gamechanging performance. As a triathlete, Brett understood where I was trying to get to, and each week we figured out how to deal with what was going on. More than making my knee better (because it's still not, not really), he started giving me the confidence that we could get to this race. Thanks to all 3 of you guys, and Argie, who works with Stavros, because she was helpful as well.
For all that he's done, I've got to also thank Brian Shea. He's a competitor, a great father, a coach and an advocate for the sport. He was one of the first calls I made when I got hurt, and he's my go-to guy for all things triathlon.
Thanks to my friends from the Maryland Multisport Club, circa 2001-2003 - Larry, Peter Hibbs, Lisa, Dzul, Courtney, Peter Feret, Katie Ka, Astrid, Ron $ Willoughby, Tom Stott, Lindsay, hell even Tri Guy Tommy. Never has a more random crew of people been brought together by sport. From age and status, we couldn't have had more variety, but triathlon connected us. Peter Hibbs was mostly responsible for the club, so I guess you could say without him coming to MD from Cali and starting the club, you never know if I would have even gotten into it. And we have entomology to thank for that. Peter is such a laid-back California dude, but was secretly super competitive, and more than anything a great leader. Tri Guy Tommy was the complete opposite, but was a great competitor and truly terrific training partner for the time we trained together. His guidance and discipline was invaluable in helping lay the groundwork for my future in the sport. Lisa, my teammate on team Skeet Skeet (Lancaster!), and my friend, even though you still have my Scooby Doo pajama pants and probably got rid of them, I am glad to have joined you finally on the ironman bandwagon. Katie Ka, one of the truest runners out there. She runs because she honestly likes running. I wish there were more of you! Big Peter Feret, you're the man. I thank you for your uncanny life wisdom. You are my guru.
But the real mascot of that group is Larry. Larry has kept all of us connected over the years, and always provided perspective. Larry is a pioneer of the sport and has a thousand stories that will illustrate just how long he's been around. He's been one of my biggest supporters and as I crossed the line on Sunday, I wished he could have been right there. That one was for you, Larry. Thanks for everything.
Over the years I've made tons of friends, mostly through sports/the sport, and each of them has left me a little better than they found me. Cara, thanks for teaching me how to do flip-turns, and for helping get me really, really drunk in New Orleans all the time. Mike Prada, my friend and roommate, I'll always think back to our morning runs from Cumberland, our runs in Greenbelt, our runs to DC, our runs around University Park. 90% of our time together was probably spent running, and I'm glad I can finally run with you again. My girl Kristin Lubas, I'll probably never call you your new last name because Lubas is just so much better, but thanks for always supporting me.
My guys from home - my best friends since freshman year. Koot, Vic, Chima, Sgrizzi and P. We've had some great times over the last 15 years, and I hope to make it at least 15 more. Thanks for following along online on Sunday and for the shout outs afterwards. It meant a lot that you guys did that. My thanks also extends to your significant others, so pass along to Reese, Susie and Lauren.
Moving to Baltimore was the best thing for me at the time I moved here, and continuing to live here is still the best thing for me. It's almost staggering the number of people I've watched come and go, and the "group" has become an extension of my life. I wish I hated you guys more so I could feel okay leaving. But, I like you all, or at least most of you, enough that I stay put. Now, with 150 or so people that I consider part of the team, I'm not going to go through and mention you all by name, so don't take offense if you're reading this and you're like WTF where's my name!
OJ - you are the man. When you made up a 20 minute gap on me at Columbia 2001 en route to winning, you were my hero. I didn't know you, but I wanted to be as good as you were. And never in a million years could I have guessed that 4 years later our paths would cross. It's hard to believe I've known you now for 5 years. You are, without a doubt, the best training partner I've ever had. Never an excuse, always up for going hard, up for riding in 20 degrees. You brought light to my world as a cyclist when you took me to Frederick some years ago. Without you, I would still be driving out of the city to ride. And, even though I am really sick of Route 40, without you there would be no Gunpowder Loop, Mt. Vista loop, Aberdeen, Rocks, Leone Spring, whatever. And there would be no Wednesday Night Run, from its humble beginnings as a showcase of the shittiest parts of Baltimore to its slightly more sophisticated route. I absolutely could not have gotten to where I was before, or where I am now, without your help. Thanks a lot buddy. You are still an inspiration, and doing a great job as a new father.
Tom Stott - friend, training partner, de facto Physical Therapist, fellow Tour Crasher. We've had some pretty amazing adventures over the years, and I suspect that will continue. I'm grateful for all you and Patty have done for me, and for what you do for everyone you know. Two of the most genuine people I've ever met, and I'm proud of how well you're doing.
Team CYB - Zero, Pat and Alyssa. Three people who have known what I've been up to over the last few months, and knew what I was trying to accomplish. Zero, I wish it could have been last year and we got to race the whole thing together, and for that matter, could have trained together. That was a huge disappointment for me to not be able to do that. I wish you could have made it out this year, but thanks for sticking by me. And also for the super late text message Friday night while I was asleep. Ha, don't worry - I was smart and turned my phone off!
Pat, my bike sponsor and a blossoming champion. It's been a fun year and a half watching you get faster - and I say it in all seriousness, not like "man I hate that Pat's getting faster while I'm on the sidelines." It's tough to see our own growth, so being on the sidelines I've been able to see just how far you've come. Thanks for letting me borrow your bike for the race, and for helping me get back to where I am. From Luray to Red Bank, it's been fun to race with you and I'm looking forward to our synched schedules next year again.
Alyssa, how can I thank you for all that you've done for me? This little note won't be able to express it all. Thanks for coming out to the race and all the help during the week and weekend. Following the bike ride with my dad back in June, it was our Oregon Ridge ride that made me believe I could come back. Inadvertently, the rides we did to get you ready for your Ironman were what allowed me to do mine. Thanks for the prodding. It's amazing to see how committed you are to being excellent at what you do, and while I know you don't need anyone to say it, it's motivating. Here's to a great 2011 for you.
Clarkson trio - Arjun, Melissa and Brennan. My thanks to you guys is actually less running/training related, even though that's what brought us together. (Side note: I can't remember the last time I ran with Brennan, though, ha!) You are three of the best friends anyone could ask for, and probably the three nicest people in Baltimore. Your commitment to your family and friends is amazing, and what you did for me, particularly in the beginning of the year - I can't thank you enough.
FHR/TNT - It was the Fed Hill group that got me started here, meeting runners, forming the group that exists today. It is, in fact, how and why most of you are all part of it. We have Susan Sperry and Susan Kim to thank for FHR. But that allowed me to meet Spider and Tim, Godsey, Kip, Kris, Ben, Chrissie, etc...and most of all Jim Adams. Jim is the greatest advocate for sport I have ever met. Thanks for continuing to support me, and for all that you do for everyone else. That goes for pretty much everyone at Falls Road - Pete, Karen, Dan, Eric - it's like my 2nd or 3rd or 4th home. TNT over the years has seen so many amazing athletes, each just out because they like to run and want to get (or stay) fast, and each of you has helped each other achieve some tremendous goals. The TNT folks were the first ones to see me run again, and have been super supportive along the way, so quick thanks to all you guys, including (but not limited to) Seth, Suzanne, Diane, Denise, Eileen, Alex B, Terence, Collin, Dr. J, Spence, Dave P, Meg McNew, Dusty, Lisa, Doug, Kyle, Becky Parks (both of them!), Steve, Jeff, Tom Stewart...
Big thanks are in order for my old Friday crew, that really made running fun again when I got here - Mike Prada, BG, Andy, Jake Marren, Kris, Justin, Kip, Chrissie, Adami, the others that have come and gone. Kris, I thank you for your sage wisdom. I don't know anyone that old, except for Ben, so the knowledge the two of you impart is very valuable to me. Plus I just like running with you.
Justin, running misses you man. Amazing how we both got dealt real shitty cards. But, just as I have come back, so too shall you. And, like you've been there for me, I'll do my part to get you to where you want to go.
Alex, you're my boy Blue. Always good for a diversion, pumping some jams, having fun when fun needs to be had, riding when you need someone to ride with. Jen Koshy, the funnest Jen around. You too know what it's like to be out of commission, but keep smiling and having fun, so I try to keep that in mind too. Ben, even though you're gone, I still love you. And your insight on training and racing is profound, so I appreciate that.
Thanks to my little buddy Cheese, you descended upon this town and since you've lived here you've been a great friend. You've kept me motivated on the days I don't want to do things, and have also kept me in line when I should know when I need a break or perspective.
Then there's thanks to general posse members, like cousin Emily and Bryan, for putting up with me and the crazy sport. Sara Spears for being a great friend over the years, and because she continues to surprise me with her nonchalant ability to just go out and do road races or duathlons. Jennifer for her positive and unique outlook on life, LByrne for her constant excitement about things I do and for sending me Lucky Charms, Ryan Schmidt for his excitement and support from afar. My R2W friends - Carmitchel, Leyendecker, Brew, Clark, Bartlett, Hoya, et al., for keeping me on track. [Amended] I would be remiss to not mention Pasta Mista, my official dinner sponsor as I eat there twice to three times per week most of the time. Your pizza fuels me.
I realize this reads like an acceptance speech at an awards show, and I would be way beyond the WRAP IT UP point, but I wanted to try and express whatever small amount of appreciation I could to all of you who have helped me on my way. I consider all of you part of my family, because I lean on you for help when I need it. They always say that the Ironman is a family affair, that your family sacrifices just like you do. Sometimes I got to train with people, but a lot of it - I'd say upwards of 90% this time around - I did on my own. I can certainly do that, it's not a big deal. But I wouldn't want to do it if it weren't for everyone's support. My relatives are proud and I don't think they even know what it is I did.
I wanted this race for me, not that I even care so much about what the race "means" because shoot, I don't need a race to validate myself as a triathlete. I just like racing. I wanted to do this race as a way of repaying all of the support that is graciously shown to me from literally hundreds of people. So, to finally confirm what I have known for years, I am an Ironman.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I was 98% sure I had packed everything, but the one thing I forgot was also one of the most important - my watch. Fortunately I got word back to Ed, who was able to drop off the watch at Jen's, from where Alyssa picked it up later before she left to come out here.
I parked my car, hopped on the shuttle (sidenote: carrying the bike box in addition to your other stuff onto the bus is quite challenging) and got into the terminal around 11:48am. By the time I got to the counter, it was 11:54 I think. Apparently that meant late check-in and my stuff was not guaranteed. However, I experienced some good fortune in that the nice Southwest lady didn't charge me the $50 to fly the bike. That was marginally cool.
The flight is uneventful, other than being long and filled with old people (presumably snowbirds), and everyone seemed to be coughing. I was riding bitch in between two old ladies and quietly read my book, "Drink, Play, F@*k." When we got off the plane, the bike showed up but my other luggage, containing all of my clothes, did not. Everything evens itself out for me, I can never come out ahead. I got picked up by the hotel shuttle and checked into the Courtyard, conveniently located just a block off Mill Ave, in between 5th and 6th. In other words, less than 400m from Chronic CANTINA (they changed the name in the offseason!). It was now just after 4pm local time, and the weather conditions could not have been more ideal. Great temperature and most of all - absolutely no wind.
I walked around for a little bit, getting suckered into a number of conversations by random people. One of the construction guys working on the hotel saw my Maryland jacket and that led to finding out he's from Linthicum, and that he also worked on the Courtyard which is a mile from my home in NJ. Another guy on the street saw the jacket and told me he's from Ellicott City. At the Dunkin Donuts, the kid working was a nerdy filmmaker and was psyched to see my camera so that was a long conversation about photography.
If you've ever been to a triathlon, then you probably have an idea of what that scene can look like. Lots of nerds, lots of expensive shit, lots of talking about races you've done and races you plan on doing - but surprisingly not much talking about the race that's in 2 days. Well an Ironman is like that times a thousand. Probably because you have to be there so many days in advance and it attracts a different type of supergeek than your run-of-the-mill sprint tri. They stick out like white people in Harlem. Especially when you superimpose them in the setting of Tempe, a hippie-ish place in the shadow of its flashier neighbors, Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Once again, Alyssa bailed me out by picking up my bag at the airport, so I didn't get an opportunity to run last night. No big deal, I mostly wanted to shake out after the flight but I think the walking worked. Currently I'm sitting outside the Starbucks, where the temp is a balmy 57 degrees. Slight wind but not bad. Certainly not what it was like on Wednesday in Baltimore. Temp will eventually get up to 80 or just over, conveniently around the time I need to run on Sunday. Today I'm going to walk down to check in, then put the bike together and ride/run. Claire gets here in a bit so perhaps she'll join me.
Sidenote again: I just don't understand why people don't bring normal looking clothes. I mean jeez, you don't need to run around in and wear all day your tri kits. You look ridiculous. Compression socks. Visors. Your jacket that you bought when you, and a thousand others, qualified for Age Group Nationals.
I love it, and wouldn't have it any other way. You know you're at a triathlon.
Oh, and I did get my favorite - grilled fish burrito - last night from Chronic CANTINA. I am not sure what my food choices will be just yet for tonight and tomorrow, but Sunday, rest assured, Attack of the Taco, part deux, immediately following the race. Presuming I can walk.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Except I've prepared infinitely more for this test than any I took in college.
The one truth is that, for this type of examination, cramming don't do shit. It would be such a novel idea to have a 'taper' for tests in college. Imagine that - not studying that much. Oh wait, that's what earned me those amazing grades...
While the physical studying has been done, and midterms are long behind, there is still a lot of cramming going on, of the odds and ends variety. You just have to be so prepared, it's really nuts. I can go to any running race with a pair of kicks and some clothes. The amount you take to a destination triathlon makes your neighbors ask if you're moving out. At least the ironman is a long enough race to make it worth bringing all that stuff.
My least favorite news of the day was about the water temperature in Tempe Town Lake. Just 10 days ago, Claire did a 4k open water swim there and the water (recently refilled following the damage to the dam) was a balmy 71 degrees. People were swimming without wetsuits and it was probably glorious. Fast-forward to today and allegedly the temps have dipped to 62, and expecting to drop potentially a little more. Well, at least I know how awfully cold that was last year and can brace for it this year. Although there really is no bracing for it, that's just cold. Nothing I can do about it.
Since I'm a huge procrastinator, I'll start packing tonight. Normally I would wait until about an hour before my flight, but even I know this is going to be more work. I fly out Thursday around noon:thirty, and arrive in Phoenix at 4pm. I don't know how that works. I feel like it should net zero itself and I should be there at the same time I left. I'll get there too late to check in for the race on Thursday, so it'll be a short run followed by probably Chronic Taco for me. Too bad Zero will miss out on that this year.
I just got back from my last little ride and man was that rough. I planned on riding today, just doing my 2 hour Gunpowder Loop, riding the TT bike again - but the weather had other plans. People that don't ride bikes can't contemplate that just because the sun is out and the temperature is relatively mild, it doesn't make it a nice day. With home-damaging winds in the area since last night, I attempted to head out and immediately was getting thrashed. The wind was angry, and every flag I saw was getting whipped like it had just had relations with the master's daughter and attempted to run away. I had to use the kung-fu death grips on the bullhorns just to stay upright and out of the way of the unusually high traffic. Maybe rode in the aerobars for 5 minutes total. It was the weather's way of saying fuck you, Ryan, we don't want to see you make it to this race.
But at least I got out of it unscathed. Tomorrow morning I'll hit the pool for a little bit before flying. I'll have my laptop and may check in once more before race day, but if not, as always you can follow along online at www.ironmanlive.com.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I've been vibing on the number 21 lately. I have put in exactly 21 weeks of training since I started back up in June. I did the math the other day and found out that, over those 21 weeks, I've averaged precisely 21 HOURS PER WEEK. How insane is that? 21 hpw x 21 weeks = a lot. I remember being in college and I'd have a few weeks over 20, but then I'd always have an 8 or a 9 hour week from time to time, and most weeks were considerably less. Obviously I was training for shorter races, and I was trying to be fast, but realistically I'm faster on a bike now and I'm not really a whole lot slower than I was back then (at least in triathlons, open races much slower).
So then I'm explaining how this number keeps popping up when Erin Feldhausen [amended] goes, "aren't you racing ON the 21st?" Holy crap, I am. November 21st. I am loving this flow. All good things. The merry-go-round, it goes up and down and AROUND. Harness good block bad.
In an attempt to honestly examine myself, given the factors I faced, I wouldn't change the way I trained. My concern was, from the beginning, my knee holding up under the duress of a 10 hour race. Most of all, that it would physically be able to make it through 26.2 miles of running. My months were structured around building up my volume to a level acceptable and reasonable to be able to complete an ironman. In the pool, this volume was reached at the 100k mark in July. I realized that whether I was swimming 50k per month or 100k, I was likely going to swim the same time. I had the 4 biggest months I've ever put in on the bike, so I don't think I could have ridden more, but I think at some point I should have transitioned to some harder rides. I didn't really do a ton of efforts. Then I thought about it - I did everything the same as I used to do, and I used to ride pretty well. That's not to say I think I can go in and have the same results; I'm not the same athlete I was last year. But, I think that with my ability to race a bike being pretty good, I'll do okay with the volume-based system. I don't anticipate riding at the same effort level I would normally do in a half or less, so it's better I don't even get that in my head.
Running came along slowly at first, but soundly. Each run provided me the opportunity to say "this was the fastest I've run since x/xx/xxxx" or "this was the longest I've run since Boston 2009."
The phrase "body of work" is one that pops up a lot during March to describe NCAA Tournament teams. Well, I am honestly proud of my body of work. From doing literally nothing to being in ironman shape in 4 months is pretty impressive, and I realize that. I also know how hard I had to work to do it. In July, there was absolutely no way I was going to do it. In August, it was still less-than-likely. By September it became more realistic and then after the half in October it was time to pull the trigger. It's hard to believe it's been 5 weeks since that race. I've made big improvements in just those 5 weeks even.
But now isn't really the time to pat myself on the back or give myself some attaboys. The job isn't done. Last year I had a goal, and it was ambitious. I've always said I don't need to do a race just to finish, because I'm not that type of competitor. I could have gotten myself into shape to be able to "just finish" this race, but what would have been the point? If I'm going to do that much work, I may as well make it count, right? Go out and compete. If your body doesn't cooperate, then so be it. I go into this race with a goal that may be slightly amended from last year, which is more a function of not having my bike to ride, and not having done any races I use as benchmarks.
I guess the thing I'm overlooking is that this is a long race, and I've never done anything longer than a half. Like I give a shit. All I do is suffer, this will be no different. If anything, I've taught myself to endure fatigue this season. I rode maybe 50 miles of my 950 mile October with people. I ran all by one of my bricks solo. I've gone out and suffered in the cold, the dark and, more than anything, the wind (that was part of why my harder bike efforts didn't happen, I was working hard but not going anywhere!). It's not like I'm hoping to crash and burn, I certainly could do without having to walk a marathon, but I also realize that I will always, always make it to the finish line. Even if I have to walk.
I put in my last couple of big workouts over the last few days. Following the 20 mile run, I ran again on Thursday, just an easy 4 with Ed. I felt a little sluggish, but I anticipated that. I originally thought I'd get out Wednesday for my last "long" ride, then I pushed to Thursday, but stuff came up so I held off until Friday. Instead on Thursday I rode for a few hours around the county with Brennan's sister Erin. Friday came and it was time to get out for one more 85 miler. I swam in the morning and got out onto the bike just a little late - 12:40. The ride normally takes 4:45, and with a quick stop in the middle + traffic lights and stuff I figured I'd get back around 5:40. So I knew I'd be riding close to 40 minutes in the dark. I was riding decently quick, not blazing, but it was just taking forever. Too many stops at red lights I guess. By the time I made it through Loch Raven, it was getting dark, and when I made it over to Joppa Rd it also dropped 10 degrees. I started to bonk a little, and suffered up Bellemore in the dark. Scarfed a Gu, felt a little better, and then made it home. Ride time was 4:45 on the nose, but it was 6pm. I don't know how that happened.
Saturday I ran 10 miles in the morning with Kris, my legs were a little tired and the route didn't help at first. 6ish miles uphill to Gilman. I love that run normally, but man, legs were tired. Kept the effort real chill, and then had some benefit of longer downhills on the way home. That was good for opening up the stride a bit and by the end I felt better. Saturday afternoon went to the Navy game and that was pretty awesome. Also the Terps rammed UVA in the 2-hole pretty hard, so that was good.
Sunday was my last little attempt at a workout. I figured a week out was plenty of time to be able to handle this longer type of day, especially since I kept the effort down. I mostly needed to make sure I could ride Pat's bike and that it fit okay. I made a few adjustments and got going around noon. It was weird to be on a TT bike again, as it's been 16 months now since I last rode one. I also never rode the bike on any of my normal routes, as it's quite dangerous. I rode out 40 and then hopped onto Mountain Rd. I was able to do a few long stretches in the bars on that road, but then on 165 the shoulder is non-existent and the cars were flying by, so with the crosswind and sun blaring in the face I sat up. Rode for about 3:15, felt good when I got back, and jumped in the pool. Did a 3000m straight swim, picking it up each 500m or so. I worked down to just under 1:40s by the end, and finished the swim in 51:40.
With the pool done, it was time to run a little. It was awesome out, great temperature (no shirt weather in mid November is always awesome), and it was dark. So I ran my usual 6 mile loop, and was running comfortably. With a mile to go I picked it up a bit and finished up with just over 5 hours on the day. Then it was time to consume mass quantities at Panera.
Now it's all done. Can't believe the week is here. I'm excited, and definitely nervous. I think I'll feel a lot better on Sunday night.
Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do ~ John Locke
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The reason behind the streak, as I've mentioned, is because I felt like there was no reason I couldn't, or shouldn't, be doing something every day. Certainly there were days I took easy, following my Minimum Standards of Excellence Guidelines (30min/4mi run; 1500m/30min swim; 60min ride). But now that I'm within two weeks, I felt less was going to be more.
As I passed the 100 day mark, I got it in my head that I wanted to hit an even number. Then I passed 120 and thought, "140 would be cool, as the Ironman is 140.6 miles" - so for good measure I did 141. In reality, I could have kept going and been fine, but again, what was the point of another easy swim on the day I wanted to take off?
After my big Halloween weekend, I needed some rest, so I took it easy most of last week. No doubles. Just one activity per day. Short swims. Not much running. Only rode once following Sunday the 31st and that was Saturday the 6th. Volume was just over 11 hours - the lowest I've had since I started training again back in June (even that first week was 14 hours). I figure that was good enough to restore some snap to my legs. For the final two weeks, I was trying to focus on one last solid workout in each discipline. Last Thursday was the swim. I realized one big difference between last year and this year was that I haven't done any long, straight swims. Last year I was building up each week until I got up to 3000 or 3200m or something. This year I wasn't worrying about it. I felt good about the swims I've been doing, I can't even count how many days were 5000m or more, and the recovery is always short so the workouts are almost continuous. Anyway for my workout last Thursday I was looking to do 3x1000m, but as I got rolling I felt pretty awesome. I decided mid-interval I would do 2x1500m, but as I approached the 1500m mark, I thought maybe I'd do 2x1900m.
I swam super comfortably on the first one, picking it up along the way, and finishing in 32:30. As I figure the wetsuit spots me close to 2.5 minutes over that same distance, I felt good about it. After a short break, I got rolling on the second one. I was trying to go quicker on this one, and I did. By 1000m, the pace was getting tougher. I held on to finish at 31:25, although the effort was slightly greater than IM effort. A solid 3800m set.
Over the weekend, a few friends rolled into town to celebrate Kootman's bachelor party. This meant I had time for just my ride on Saturday morning, and Sunday would be determined by a) what time everyone left and b) how hard of a night Saturday was. A + B = only ran 6 miles on Sunday night, very slowly.
As I've been meaning to get in a long run for a while (long being more than the 17 miles I did a few weeks ago), my options had been limited to Monday or Tuesday. At this point I needed as much recovery as possible, not knowing how my body would handle the long run. I set out around 5:15pm on Monday night for my 6 mile loop, got back to the house, downed a Gu and some water, and headed back out to swing by Pat's and head to Fed Hill. I wager I was running right around 7's, and when we hooked up with FHR, there were parts that were definitely well under that. A little under 16 miles in, we now headed back home. Ran a little quicker home than we did there (interesting as it's downhill there, uphill home) and then tacked on a few more minutes to make sure I was at 20 miles. Good job, me. And thanks Pat for running 13+ with me.
Not to skate over this little achievement, this is the longest I've run since Boston 2009. Of course, almost every long run was the "longest since...", but this one was a big run. Hard to believe it's been 19 months since I've run 20 miles.
As a result of the long run, my knee was definitely tender. Tuesday wound up being the day off. Wednesday I woke up and felt better, and after my PT session I was much looser. I just have one more "long" ride, which I intend to get in on Friday. My body seems to handle the long rides much better, and by that I mean a 4-5 hour ride just takes a lot less out of me than most runs over 13. Following the long ride, it will be time to check myself before I wreck myself. I'll probably put myself on a self-imposed media blackout. Rest is the name of the game. My body is feeling good, but I'm always concerned with picking up a random illness right before big events. For an Olympic it's not a big deal, it's a 2 hour race. But for Ironman, I can't even imagine how tough it's got to be competing not at 100%.
Friday, November 05, 2010
One of my flaws (I have many, this is just one) in the past has always been I do not like training like a "triathlete." Sure, I run, ride and swim, the key components of training and racing A triathlon, but it doesn't mean you are training FOR triathlons.
Coming up as a not-really-that-good runner, I was used to running. I know how much my body can handle, I know workouts I need to do, I know what types of races will come from the fitness I'm in. When I began swimming in college, I was at first doing it as cross training on days off from practice, then as I started transitioning to tri-training, I began swimming with the Multisport Club at Maryland. A few were decent swimmers, and led us through some workouts. The final piece, cycling, came by following Tri Guy Tommy around PG County and DC.
Over the years I evolved, and especially when I moved to Baltimore. Due to a different accident, I had taken a few years out of the multisport game, so I hadn't swam in close to 3 years. I still hated swimming and did only the bare minimum that I could compete in Olympic distance races. I was running like a runner, and I was riding with other cyclists. I rarely did any "triathlon specific" workouts, such as, for lack of any other term, brick workouts, and most days I was only training in one discipline. I was relatively fit, but my speed was still an asset because I could generate a fair amount of power on the bike, and I was running well. Fine for a 2 hour race, not enough for anything longer.
Fast-forward to 2008, when I first attempted the half distance. I had been doing triathlons for 8 years at this point, but never anything longer than an Olympic. I was getting in long rides, and doing longer workouts, but there was still a disconnect. I very rarely did bricks, in fact, if I went back through my training log I'm sure it was once every blue moon followed by whatever racing I did. I was committed to changing that for 2009, and while I started to, obviously that came to a quick end in July.
For the first half of this year, I clearly had little to no structure in my training. It was more like do whatever you're able to do, whenever you feel like doing it. When the notion that I could race again came about, though, I knew I had one chance to get it right. In normal years, I spend a large part of my time focusing on running, for a number of reasons:
1. I enjoy running
2. My friends run, and most of our group activities are runs
3. It's easier for me to do that in the winter
4. There are more running races I can and like to do than there are triathlons
In 2008 I raced 27 times. 1 bike race, 7 triathlons and 19 road races. In 2009 I had done 7 running races and 3 triathlons by the time I got hurt, but I probably wouldn't have done more than 12 total running races and the number of triathlons would have numbered 7 or 8. I was starting to bridge the gap, so it only made sense that I also made an effort to train for the events that were important to me.
So enter 2010. One thing this injury has left me, among other things, is slower. I am not as fast as I was. I'm using that to my advantage, for now. I liked doing running races because I was somewhat fast. It was this somewhat speed that also put me in the hole in a number of races, including triathlons. Because I wasn't doing smart, specific workouts, I didn't know how fast I should really be trying to run off the bike. Now, while I'm slower on paper, I've had some good runs off the bike this year because I'm running smarter. And, more importantly, I was doing the workouts I needed to do.
I wasn't able to physically run off the bike until sometime in late July or August, but once I was, I tried to include it more in workouts. They were short runs at first, 4 to 6 miles tops. Again, great for Olympics, not enough for anything longer. And after I made it through the two races in October, I knew I had about two weeks of intense, specific workouts to get ready for Arizona.
I've always been fine with doing workouts on my own. Throughout most of college, I only trained with two people - Tri Guy Tommy, and Tom Stott. Running I've always been fine doing on my own, but I enjoy the social aspect of it (not to mention there's almost always someone who will run with you). Swimming was one of those things where even if I didn't want to do it, I'd just get it done. I didn't need someone around. The bike is kind of different. I have no problem riding on my own, and most years I'm not riding enough to really notice it - but this year was different. In the summer I had a steady stream of people to ride with. I didn't have to do any long ride (see: over 4 hours) by myself. And even if there isn't much talking going on, you're just not by yourself on far away roads. The summer rides were very, very hot, but there wasn't much wind. By late October, this was completely flipped. The days were now quite short, and the temperatures had come down. More than anything, our wind systems made it seem like we were constantly being hit by hurricanes. And it always seemed to be at its worst when I had to ride.
After all that fluff leading in, here are the 4 workouts that gave this post its title:
Sunday, October 17: I had gone to a wedding in Wisconsin on Friday with Melissa and Arjun. It was, to say the least, a traveling fiasco. I was trying to fly back in super early on Saturday to spectate the Baltimore Marathon and get out on my bike after, but I missed my flight and didn't get home until way later. I had gotten virtually no sleep and was exhausted when I got back. Sunday morning I was going to ride up to old TriSpeed (Timonium) where I would meet OJ, he would accompany me for the nearly 78 mile PA ride, and then I would ride home, where I would run off the bike. Due to a child-watching situation, he wasn't able to ride until 12:30. Then it became 1. So I left (for a near 7 hour ride) at 11:45am. 15 minutes later my phone rang - he couldn't meet me until 1:30. Shoot, I think that's just too late now, I need to get this in. I forged on by myself.
Leaving the city headed north is an awful way to start a ride. The first 10 miles feature traffic and traffic lights. It's also completely uphill. And as soon as I made it out past Oregon Ridge, I was also dealing with a gnarly wind in my face. I was already miserable and I was barely 2 hours into the ride. After Hampstead, I picked up a tailwind that pushed me to Leone Spring, where I stopped briefly for a quick refill. This was 3 hours into the ride (50mi) and it was nearly 3 o'clock. Then an amazing thing happened - I didn't so much as unclip from my pedals for the next 3h42m. That's right, I went from Leone Spring, blasted through my usual pit stop in Glen Rock, all up and down the hilly, exposed York Rd, into Hunt Valley, up Jerome Jay (at mile 90 this really hurts) and home through the city, without stopping at all.
I had done, in my opinion, a good job with my nutrition, so I didn't feel too cooked. It was, however, almost 7pm by the time I started my run. Heading out for 9 miles at 7pm isn't too bad normally, just after 115 miles on the bike it's a little tougher. My run down to the Square was a surprisingly quick 6:35 or something, so I just tried to keep it around that pace. I finished the run at 1:00:58, and was tired but pleased. I proceeded to eat an entire pizza.
Wednesday, October 20: Three days later, after a little recovery, I was back at it. This time for not as long of a ride, but still a long one. I didn't start until a little later than I should have, but I had a tailwind out Route 40 so I picked up some time. I was feeling good and powered through Rocks, hitting the gas station in just over 2 hours. The way I was moving I felt I might ride in 4h30m, which would have been good. But then Old Federal Hill Rd, the gauntlet of misery, reared its ugly head. The wind was now hitting me squarely on the chin, and my energy dropped. I was not excited to be out there, and just kept ticking the pedals over, knowing that each one was at least getting me closer to my destination. I had to text Pat from the road to let him know I'd be a few minutes late to run, and as I got home just after 6 (4h43m ride), I threw on my running shoes and ran down to meet Pat. I was already a few seconds quicker than Sunday's run, and having Pat to run with helped keep the pace honest and kept me from losing my mind. That run turned out to be a minute faster than Sunday's at 59:57. It was another 83mi/9mi day.
Saturday, October 23: This was the day I had been looking forward to. I was going to go out to Frederick, do my Five Hills of Frederick (53+ miles) ride, ride back to Baltimore, then run 9 miles again. At first I thought I had Pat as a lock for going out there, but then he had husbandly duties. Then I thought OJ would be able to ride, but he was a no-go. Shoot. It didn't look as if I'd even make it out there, because it hinged on getting out TO Frederick but not driving BACK to Baltimore. Fortune smiled upon me as Alyssa was going out there to run on the AT that day. I rode my bike and my things down to her house on Saturday (should I count the extra 3.5 miles of riding?) and we hit the rode just after 7:30am. It was...cold. I had arm warmers, leg warmers, booties, long gloves and my vest on. I figured it would warm up, but it was definitely starting off cold. I didn't have much to eat in my house so early in the ride I stopped at DD and housed a few donuts. Good fuel for the day to come. I don't know why, but the beginning of the ride I felt awesome. I thought I was riding pretty well up Hamburg (in hindsight I rode 20:30, but when I was out with OJ it was 19:43. I'll blame it on the cold). I was not feeling great up Harp, and it was a little windy at this point. It also was not warming up like I thought it would. Climb up to Greenbrier and everyone and their mother was hitting the AT, then descended into Boonsboro. There I picked up the slight breeze home, and made it to the top of South Mountain in just over 2h32m. I didn't think that was very good, and I was marginally disappointed.
Alyssa had parked her car here, so I was able to drop some stuff off. I took everything off before I reassessed and decided the arm warmers and vest would stay. I took off again and got rolling, and before I knew it I was at the top of the last climb with 5 miles to go, and I was at 2h57m. Where did that come from? I didn't think I'd ride faster than 3h15m, but the last 5 miles are super quick so I would surely be under 3h10m. I was inspired, so without crushing myself, I rode pretty quick, covering the last 5 miles in 10:34 and finishing up at 3:07:37. Only a few minutes slower than I rode with OJ, probably the 3rd fastest recorded time AND I was by myself - I don't think I've ever ridden the ride solo.
Since I still had about 59 miles to go, I just rolled right through Frederick and onto Liberty Rd. This road is evil. You'd think that it would be downhill all the way back to Baltimore but no, there is tons of climbing. You're either going up or down, but the downhills never seem steep enough for you to NOT pedal. It's also barren. As in, nothing to see, and very few places to stop. I had gone pretty far on just two water bottles (they had Gatorade in them) and since it wasn't very warm, I was doing okay. But my energy began to dip and I was struggling. Finally I made it to the 7-11 I normally stop at, after 4h45m of riding. I slammed a Coke, ate a cold taquito, poured some Gatorade in the bottle and kept a Snickers in reserve. I felt much better and got back on my way. I was getting closer to Wiggleville (Libertyville) and soon enough was back at Falls Rd with just 12 miles to go. It had finally warmed up a little, and I felt good as I made it home - 112 miles in 6h19m (3h12m home). For being on my own that was great, especially for half that ride taking place in Frederick.
Once again, it was time to run. It was 3pm, the sun was strong and the wind was whipping. I put on a hat but had to keep it backwards so it wouldn't blow off. 9 miles was the plan, and I hit the Square in 6:15. Way quick. Decided I would keep that effort going and whenever I hit the wall, I hit the wall. Fortunately for me, I didn't. I got back to the Square and ran 5:52 home, finishing my run at 57:21. Way faster than Wednesday and right about half Ironman effort.
I felt awesome that, within the span of 7 days, I had gotten in 3 long rides (two IM distance or more) and 3 great bricks. These were the types of workouts I should have been doing for years. In reality, though, I don't know that I could have done these workouts a few years ago. My pain threshold, physically and mentally, is greater now than it was then. Total saddle time was somewhere near 18 hours with another 3 hours of running - only 1 of which was with someone. That was a lot of alone time, and yes, it gets pretty boring. But I couldn't expect anyone was going to ride with me, since either seasons were over or the distances were longer than they needed to be riding.
I wasn't done, though, as the day after the Frederick ride, I woke up early to drive to College Park. One of my favorite runs is from College Park to DC. Depending on the route, you can make it anywhere from 9 to 13 miles just to get there, and then running around the Mall is always a fun way to add on some distance. This particular Sunday was the Army Ten Miler, and Cheese was racing. Pat and I left CP Metro Station just before 7am and headed down the Northwest Branch Trail. It was dark and quiet, which made for a nice trip as the sun came up. We got to the Capitol and were around 1h12m of running, so we still needed much more time. We ran along the 10 mile course prior to the runners arriving, and then watched for a few minutes as people we knew went by. It was a gorgeous morning to race or just run around DC. Continued the run down to Lincoln, then back up to the Washington, jumped in the race again, and then finished right at 2 hours at Smithsonian Metro Stop. I was calling it 17 miles, equaling my longest run and an capping a solid weekend. Bagel Place was a natural stop in CP on the way home, as it was a beautiful day. After I got home, Zero joined me for a 2 hour ride in the afternoon.
For that week, my volume was low in the swim at 8100 meters, but good on the bike and run, at 228 miles and 52 miles, respectively.
The following week, leading up to Halloween weekend, was going to be the last real big week I could put in. I wanted it to be big on the bike more than anything. I rode 50 on Wednesday and 60 on Thursday, both windy days, before setting up for Friday. Friday was going to be very hard. The plan was to go to Cambridge and ride on the Eagleman course. I was hoping to do a warmup on the bike, then hit the bike course hard, add on a little at the end, cooldown and then run 12 miles off the bike. In a perfect world, the sun would have been shining, it would have been around 70 degrees and wind would have been light. But the world is not perfect.
Friday October 29: I woke up Friday morning and heard the wind howling. That was here in Baltimore. I could only imagine what it was doing out on the Eastern Shore. It was also not warm. I debated just scratching it and saving it for another day, but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to, as I had Godsey in town until Tuesday. I had originally thought of doing it Saturday, but I didn't want to be gone for 10 hours on a Saturday while he was here.
After finally pulling the trigger, I hopped in the car and drove out to Cambridge. It was maybe just over 50 degrees now, and when I got out of the car at Great Marsh Park, the wind knocked me over. There was absolutely no way I could ride in this. But, I was already here, so I had to do SOMEthing. I put on all my clothes and started pedaling, barely staying upright. The Choptank was so rough you could have surfed the waves it was producing. Had there been a race that day, they would definitely have canceled it. I made it the 10 miles out to whatever road that is that takes you straight into the Wildlife Refuge. This is where I experienced the headwind. It was tough, and I know I wasn't going that fast. I was annoyed because I was not concerned about effort today, but rather speed. I wanted to know how fast I could ride. I got out onto the Refuge and picked up a tailwind for a while, which was nice, but short lived as soon I turned again and was getting nailed by a serious crosswind. That's the problem with strong directional winds - 3/4 of any ride you're getting crushed.
I made it to Dorchester High School (about mile 46) and sat down for a second. I pondered whether I could do another lap, or if I was better off going back in. DBAP, right? So I went back out. The wind was meaner, the air was colder and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I rode that lap just 3 minutes slower than the first one and finally was able to head in. I guess it was at least 92, but probably more like 93 or 94, and it took me a whopping 5h10m to complete. I fully expected it to be 4h30m. I returned to the car and it was 5:20pm. I unhappily put on my stuff to run and then thought about how I would do this. I felt like it was going to get pretty dark if I went out 6 and back 6, and those roads, while not heavily traveled, are very dark and there's only a narrow shoulder to run on. Other options were a series of out-and-backs, but that didn't seem enticing. I knew if I got back to within sight of my car I would stop.
I headed out and my first mile was a disappointing 7:10. It took me longer than usual to warm up, pedaling for 5 hours (I mean, pedaling the entire time, not once being able to freewheel) had taken it out of me. The wind was just as bad running. I hit mile 2 in the neighborhood and then mile 3 in that weird section and was at 21:04. Now onto the dangerous road. It was so boring and lonely out there. I felt like people driving by must have thought I was crazy, as you don't see anyone out there running normally. The long stretch to the turnaround was awful. I don't know how I do this when I race at Eagleman, it really is a terrible run. Anyway I made it to 6 at 41:50 something, so just under 7min pace.
Now I was heading back, and it was dark. I tried to quickly scurry off the main road to be in the protective confines of the neighborhood, and was surprised to see I was still only just running 6:58 pace. I thought I'd be faster for sure. With 2 miles to go now I had to eat a quarter mile straight into the wind - that was rough, but then I had it somewhat pushing me on the way home. I finished up at 1:23:34 for 12 miles, certainly not bad considering I didn't have food or drink for that period of time. It was almost 7pm and I had made it through this awful workout. Time to go home.
Saturday I rode an easy 50 miles, went out for Halloween (Saturday's costume was lazy, I was Jenn Sterger. So basically short shorts, tight shirt and a picture I drew of Brett Favre's weiner). Sunday we woke up, hit Patapsco for 12 miles, including a 6:55 mile up Gun Rd, which I was very psyched about, and then went out again for Halloween day. This time my costume was a little better, Zero and I were Will and Carlton from Fresh Prince, in their Apache dance costumes.
All in all, it had been a hard two weeks. That last big workout represented the 4th big brick, and was the longest I've ever run off the bike (outside of half ironman race) AND was the longest I've run off the longest I've ridden. This year I've now had 3 rides of 112 or more.
I still don't know if I'm really ready to race, but I've certainly done about all I can to prepare.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
It was a little chilly in the morning, and there was a slight headwind on the course. The gun went off and within a hundred feet I was already back a hundred feet. On Tuesday, I had gone out at a reasonable pace and was able to negative split, but here, I went out just a second or two too hard. And, as Coach Milligan always used to say, go out a second too fast, come back a second too slow. Now, I have no idea over what distance he meant, but it was pretty apparent. 74ish first quarter, and I was redlined. 82 second quarter, which put me at 2:36 at the half. I figured 5:12 would have been sweet, but obviously I was not running that pace any longer. 3rd quarter was tough, running an awful 86 (4:02). I recovered just enough to have a final "kick" - but right before the finish two women blew right past me and I was deflated. 82 last quarter led to a...you guessed it...5:24.
After that I got in the car and headed home. I still needed to ride, and since the race the next day was short, I figured I could ride 50 miles and be okay. It was probably a little ambitious. It was windy and chilly, and I really should have stopped much sooner. Nevertheless, at least I got in some miles. I went down to packet pickup (the loosest sense of the term), and then got dinner with my brother and Vic at New Corner. My brother was racing his first ever multisport event on Sunday, by the way.
Sunday morning he and I woke up early and hopped on our bikes, opting to ride the mile and a half to transition (in the dark) rather than drive. It was not warm. At all. And it was super windy. So windy, in fact, that the normally calm Navesink River looked like the mighty waters of the North Atlantic. The boats were being tossed around and the race director made the decision to shorten the course. Instead of 750 yards, it was going to maybe be a quarter mile. Basically we were keeping close to the boats that were tied up, circling them, and getting out. It was a time trial start, so athletes hopped into the water one by one, with a second or two separating them. First three in were Tommy, Pat and then myself. The water was salty and warm, but so choppy you couldn't sight anything. After just a few minutes I was out of the water and sprinting into transition.
I saw Pat and Tommy fiddling around with arm warmers and getting onto their bikes. I didn't bother with arm warmers (poor decision) and got out onto the bike just after they did. Nobody had passed me in the swim, and I wound up with the 4th best swim, but still managed to lose a minute to Pat. On the bike it was very windy and the cold air did not feel good. My legs felt dead, I just couldn't get going. I could see Pat and Tommy ahead, and then around Sunnyside somebody passed me. Then as we got out into Holmdel, three more went by. This was not expected, or normal.
On the one hill of the course, I easily went past those 3 while seated. Man, if only there had been more hills! Coming back into Red Bank along W. Front and going by my house was cool, the course was basically the same hour ride route I've used for years (in reverse, actually, and it was that route that I was on when I got hit). I sat up before transition, and guessed I was in 6th going onto the run. I cruised up the short hill out of transition and onto W. Front. Seemed like everyone was pretty far ahead of me, and I wasn't sure if it would be possible to catch anyone on just a 5 mile run.
I suppose that would have been the case if I didn't set that course on fire. I felt incredible - maybe the best I've ever felt running off the bike. My first mile was 5:53 and it was like I was out for a tempo run. I saw Vic, said something humorous to him, then powered up into the neighborhood over the 35 bridge. Mile 2 split was 6:06. Hmm, well, not that bad, and I guess I would have been okay with settling in there. I had just passed one guy and was about to pass another. We were now in Bodman Park and did a little cross-country style out and back. Pat was now passing the leader (the first guy to go by me on the bike) and Tommy was in 3rd at 1:30 ahead of me with 2.5 to go. There was likely no way I could catch him unless he was having a terrible day, but I kept the pressure on. With a time trial start, you never know who started when.
Coming out of Bodman, my 3rd mile was 5:58 and then mile 4 was 5:57. I was back on the bridge with a mile to go, and that mile was mostly flat with a short little downhill into the finish. I gave my brother a high 5 as we passed each other at the Molly Pitcher, and kept tearing into the run. I felt awesome in that last mile, and sprinted into the finish, splitting 5:28 for my last mile and recording the fastest run of the day at 29:23. In all honesty, I wouldn't have believed I could have run that fast open right now, let alone off the bike. Pat was 29:36 and then everyone else was at least a minute back. I ultimately finished 4th, with Tommy in 3rd and Pat getting his first ever win. It was an awesome day. And my brother, with some trepidation about his swim, made it through, had a solid bike and a super fast run to finish up his first triathlon. This was also the first time, perhaps in any race, I've ever negative split. Awesome.
Despite the miserable weather, and the race, I went back out for another 30 mile ride later in the day. It was awful, but I had to do it.
The next week I was feeling it a bit after some really good efforts the previous week, particularly on the run. I took it relatively easy, not riding again until Thursday (68) and going pretty light in the pool and run. I once again filled up the car and headed home, this time for the Hunterdon Half Ironman. This race previously existed as Belly of the Beast, before my friend from high school, Mike Nusbaum, took over and renamed it. The location is in beautiful Hunterdon County, New Jersey, known for its challenging terrain. About a month or so earlier, Mike had emailed Pat and myself to see if we wanted to do either his Oxford Olympic or the Hunterdon race. I said the Hunterdon race fit perfectly for me, so he provided me entry into the event (thanks Mike!).
Of course, my original 10/10/10 plans were to be toeing the line at Chicago, but the more I thought about it, the less it made sense. I certainly could have made it through the race - I'm not above walking and I do not drop out of things. But I thought doing a half iron event would be more integral to knowing whether I could do an ironman. Plus, with the small field, it could be a great opportunity for me to place well. Once again I probably did a little more than I should have the day before, this time riding about 42 miles with Brian Shea. The weather was nice and the effort wasn't out of control, so I didn't mind, but I should have kept it to my original plan of 1h45m. Later in the day I ran 4 miles with my sister at Meadow Ridge. MR was a favorite of mine for tempo efforts, on its 8/10 of a mile dirt loop. This time I did not feel so great and was a little worried I was not going to feel good the next morning.
Driving up on Sunday I watched the temperature drop from mid 40s in Red Bank to a low of 34 degrees at the park. Yikes. I got set up in transition and Mike had awarded me #2. #1 went to Arland Macasieb, THE Filipino Pro. Mike was hoping for a good duel, and, as it turned out, he got what he wished for.
The water was the cleanest water I've ever swam in, obviously other than the Caribbean or GBR. It was a reservoir, so I'm not sure how we were allowed to swim in drinking water, but it tasted delicious. Water temp wasn't bad, but the air was, so I kept myself submerged until the gun went off. The course didn't seem too confusing on paper, but once we were out there, it was crazy. As we neared the first buoy, Arland made a move to the front and for the first time ever, I made a move (in swimming - I know!) and was sticking to his side. At one point I nearly went into some rocks that popped up, narrowly evading what would have been pretty painful. We came around another buoy and were now facing the sun. That made sighting very difficult, and as a result I went one way while Arland and a few others went another. I figured I was wrong, so I corrected myself and caught back up. Then a boat came over and told us we were going the wrong way. We corrected ourselves and headed to the other buoy. Arland went around it, so I naturally followed, and once again we found ourselves being redirected. Finally we were on course and there were three of us - a lady with no wetsuit, Arland and myself. For a brief second I contemplated trying to come around them to get out of the water first and record the fastest swim time, but it was too difficult and then I stumbled out of the water. Turned out the woman was a relay swimmer and former D-1 swimmer at JMU, so we won't count her. My swim split was 29:19 - a PR for the distance by a minute, and was 2nd best of the day.
Arland and I were racked next to each other so we exchanged some pleasantries while we put on some clothes. For me, it was just arm warmers and I was out of transition and onto the bike in first position. For Arland, it was nearly twice as long as my T1 as he put on leg warmers, arm warmers, a jacket, a balaclava (not really) and gloves and a jacket. He had a lot of stuff on. The bike began with a little climb out of the park, and as I was the only one on a road bike, I figured at some point I would get passed. I kept waiting for it and waiting for it, but it still wasn't happening. The course was very tough, a lot of climbing, and a lot of just not knowing where you were. The turns were well marked, but not having ridden the course ahead of time, I didn't know when to anticipate turns. The toughest part was on this highway that skirted along the Delaware River/PA border. I thought I heard the guy at the turn say we were on the road for 2 miles, so after 10 minutes I was becoming worried. Finally, after what must have been 7 miles, there was the turn - right into a mile and a half long climb.
I was keeping on my nutrition, and kept the effort reasonable. With no computer on the bike, or watch, for that matter, I had no idea how long I had been out. With 2 miles to go we had to reclimb back up to the park entrance (very tough) before descending into T2. It was at this point that I caught my first glimpse of another human being. Arland came screaming into T2 right behind me, and his transition was much quicker so we left onto the run stride for stride. Mike was going nuts. It was turning into the race he hoped for. Arland asked Mike what kind of runner I was, to which Mike replied "fast" - not really helping Mike!
The first mile was in the woods and thanks to warming up in there that morning I saw that it was really, really rocky. I didn't know how much of the course was going to be like that, so I still wore my flats. It was not a comfortable first mile, as there wasn't a trail so much as a bunch of rocks and a general direction. Arland had stopped to take a leak, so I was in the lead by about 30 seconds. We came out of the woods section (6:44 first mile) and onto asphalt. Phew. I now had the urge to drop some weight, so I stopped in the public bathroom that was there. I was very slow in my bathroom break, probably to the tune of 90 seconds, so my 8:01 2nd mile was likely closer to 6:30. Arland was now about a minute up. After my 3 there was a very steep downhill, which I basically hobbled down. Then it was rolling to the turnaround, where Arland asked if I had gotten misdirected. Nope, just bathroom break, I said. When we returned to the now big uphill, I slowly gained ground and caught up to him. We ran together from miles 5-8, chatting along the way about my accident, Baltimore Marathon and the previous day's Hawaii Ironman (which was sick). Then I let him know my downhill running was quite bad/painful, and for him not to worry about running with me.
Not long after I mentioned that, the downhill was back, and he took off. The 2nd trip down it hurt pretty bad, and I was hurting the remainder of the run. In the last 5 miles, Arland put nearly a minute a mile into me. At that point I was just trying to get to the end, and finished with a 1:33:03 run (3rd) and took 2nd place. I was actually pretty pleased with the run, as actual running time was 1:31:30, and on a tough course. I only ran 1:27:53 at PDR 3 weeks before. The point is that I'm running better off the bike than I do open, relatively. The total time for the event was 4:53:10 or something, my bike split was 2:46 high (2nd). I now felt pretty good about being able to make it through Arizona, and in my head made the decision to go. The 2nd place was my best triathlon finish ever, so even though it may not have been the biggest or most competitive race ever, I was psyched.
The week after Hunterdon was a pretty uneventful, standard week. Wanted to get my legs back under me before I did anything else. After all, the critical time was coming. I was now about 6 weeks out from race day, and would need to have two weeks of both high volume and solid intensity before I would be comfortable bringing it down.
Since this post has gone pretty long, I'll wait for another to highlight that two week period.