Monday, November 29, 2010

Fatigue: Endured

I know I've mentioned it before, but Zero found this picture of I guess Joe Paterno's office, and in the background is a Nittany Blue t-shirt with the words "Endure Fatigue" emblazoned on it. We began to use this phrase as it sums up, well, just about everything. When Z emailed me following Arizona and used the above line as the subject, I thought it was a more-than-appropriate title for this blog post.

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

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, as its name suggests, is a time to give thanks and to be thankful for what we have in our lives. With that in mind, it seems appropriate to express my gratitude to a number of people who helped me get to the finish line on Sunday. Don't worry, I'll get to the race report later, but this is way more important.

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

Passport to Tempe

To know me is to also know that, among other things I am constantly and consistently late for, the airport is my favorite. There's a rush I get when I'm running really, really late. Since I haven't checked a bag since I flew to Australia some years ago, I can normally get away with this*, but since I had to check a bike box, I knew I had to be there at least somewhat early. I thought I had it all set on Thursday, I was out of the pool with enough time to get my haircut and then pack my stuff (yep, hadn't packed yet, flight was at 12:35pm). But then, just when I thought it was safe and I had avoided all the gym crazies, THWACK! Some dude starts rattling off about online stock trading. I crept closer and closer to the door, but my inability to rudely walk away when the situation warrants it was the death of me. 20 minutes later I was finally in my car, and now on the verge of running late.

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

Finals Week

This week kind of feels like finals week in college.

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

Monday, November 15, 2010


A quick glance of the bib numbers and I see that I have been given 321. Last year I was 267. I did not like the number 267, there was no rhythm to it, no flow. Every five years I guess my number will go up considerably as they must do it by age group. Regardless, 321 I like. And I'll tell you why.

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


There we have it, folks, after 141 days of continued physical activity, I did actually take a day completely off. I have felt quite good over these last 20 weeks. 20 weeks, man, that's a lot. 5 months. Almost half a year. Obviously there are plenty of people who have streaks much, much, much longer, but for me to go that long (twss) is pretty cool. And it all started with one Get Tough Week.

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

The Lonesome Dove

Also known as, October, Part Deux.

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

October, Part 1

September was a great month, and I had made sure I recorded training each of the 100 days of summer. The first two weekends of October were going to reintroduce racing, but feeling like I was crunched for time, I didn't plan on resting up for any of the races. First up was the inaugural Red Bank Triathlon, Sunday October 3rd. Before that, however, on the way up to Red Bank, I stopped in Newark, Delaware, to race the 3rd annual Main Street Mile. My love for Newark/UDel is obvious, so it was a natural stop. Cheese ran, finishing 3rd, and I ran, well, slower than I did on the track on Tuesday. I was tired, and racing that distance felt uncomfortable and unnatural. The last, and only other road mile I ran was back in 2008 in Bel Air. I ran 5:24. The Newark race was point-to-point along Main Street, featuring a slight incline at the start, then a dip/flattening out, before rising again slowly to the finish.

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 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.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


It's time for a little acceleration. I have a couple of more posts until I'm caught back up to the present.

Labor Day weekend is typically a last chance for me to get to LBI aka Kootman's house for a last weekend of fun. In years past, it would consist of a few of us. Now that some of them have babies, etc, it's a little different. And, unfortunately for me, I had to use that weekend for some big training. After all, you can't expect to do well in an Ironman and lose a few days by going to the beach!

I was looking for a big week/weekend and I got it. That first week of September I got in 23k in the pool, and 221 miles on the bike. To keep it somewhat balanced, I ran just about 34 miles. From Wednesday through Labor Day Monday, I rode 6 days, including Friday morning 2 hour ride + Patapsco hour run, and then headed to Frederick on Saturday with OJ. The plan was to get after it. Riding with OJ out there is sure to make it tough. I chased him up the hills all day, and ultimately finished up at 3:01:23 for the ride. It was the fastest I've ever ridden it by a few minutes, and OJ's ride time was just under 3 hours. We chased this with a 5 mile run, and all in all it was a good day of training. I was finding it easier to put away 3 disciplines in the same day now, getting into the pool for 3500m after getting back to Baltimore. Truthfully, one of the only reasons I was getting in the pool was because it was nice outside, and I wanted to hit the pool every day that weekend. I had been swimming outside all summer and accrued a tremendous speedo tan, so I was going to keep working on that until the pool went back inside.

That Sunday was a 67 mile ride, easy 2k in the pool and then a chill 7 mile run at Robert E Lee Park. Had to "rest up" before Monday. The prescribed workout that day was a morning 60 mile ride with Pat. After about an hour we hit some hard sections of 5-10-15-10-5 (minutes) with about 5 minutes in between each. By the time we got to Roland Park and were a few miles from home, I was cooked. Didn't feel like riding anymore, just tired. We still had to run, too. We headed out for our 6 mile loop and made it down to the Square in 6:10 or something. We decided to push the pace until 18 minutes, then chilled out for a bit, then picked it up for the last 9.

After the good block, I was going to take it easy for a few days. Had a good 40 mile ride with OJ on Wednesday, but then started feeling a little sick. I blamed this on Ed, as he had the croup or the whooping cough or something. When he gets sick, he gets SICK. His cough lingered for weeks, and despite my normally insane immune system, even I get weakened when I'm on that line of hard training. I was a little disheartened, because I was hoping to race Lancaster Triathlon on Saturday. I was feeling good about my swim, and since I've only ever ridden my road bike there, I figured I'd ride about the same as normal. Running was going well, and in general I just felt like it would have been a good race.

However, the sickness wouldn't have been the only thing stopping me from competing. In all the years I've done that race, I've always signed up day of. One of the nicest things about that race. Except I found out the day before that they were no longer doing race day registration, and that the race had apparently closed 6 weeks prior online. WTF? This is Lancaster. Not Columbia. Stupid. It was a really nice day, too. So then I thought maybe I'd jump up to Delaware Diamondman on Sunday, as they did offer race day registration, but when I woke up Sunday I still felt under the weather and it was also pretty shitty out. Saturday, despite feeling ill, I made it out for 64 miles with Pat and OJ. It did not go well for me. Then ran at Robert E Lee for another 7. Sunday, the sickness took me out, and I just made it out for a short 6 miles.

I started feeling a little better, and managed a good TNT workout that next week, before getting out on Wednesday for the Rocks 83 mile ride. Despite rain for 3.5 hours of my day, I rode pretty well. And because I left real late, I didn't get home until late, so it was dark. The long days by myself were good because I could control my efforts a lot better, but they were also pretty boring. I was planning on banditing Philly Distance Run that Sunday, but it didn't stop me from running 11 at Patapsco with Kris on Friday. My parents and brother came down for the Orioles vs Yankees that night, and then I got up early Saturday to squeeze in a 4 hour ride before heading up to Philly. It's one of my favorite trips of the year, and this one did not disappoint.

Sunday started off a lot warmer than we expected. I warmed up with Melissa, who was doing a marathon pace run inside of the race. We did about 3 prior to the start, and then I did another 1 after to make it 17. I think she did 20. I started off and felt like I was running low 6, but was disappointed when I saw I was at 6:22. I kept the first 4 within a few second range, running with Matt Castille, but by 4.5 I was pretty much done. It was no longer comfortable, and I considered stopping. I wanted to get in some miles, though, so I continued on at a slower pace. I was no running closer to 7's, and didn't want to have any miles OVER 7, so as each last 100 or 200 would approach, I would run fast enough to sneak under 7 then slow down. Stupid, I know, but I didn't really care. I didn't like the reversed course, and I didn't like the loudness of the music on course. I finished up just under 1:28. Far off where I thought I could run, but I wasn't going to concern myself with it. After we got back to Baltimore (it was now real warm), I still had to ride.

I had to go up to NJ the next day for a doc visit, which I was not psyched about because I had driven to Philly twice in the past week and just didn't feel like being in the car anymore. One Philly trip was, of course, to PDR, but the other, a few days earlier, was to the Lady Gaga concert. That was pretty awesome.

Thursday came and the temps were still kicking in over 90 degrees. I hadn't gotten out for a real long ride in a while, so I decided that would be the day. I rode up to OJ's, where I met him for a 50 mile ride. I was not prepared for the weather, or something, because I was getting crushed from early on. The 3 hours of riding with OJ felt real twice as long. Then I had to ride home still. It was rough. 101 miles I think but it took me over 6 hours. That's what Cockeysville and north county rides will do to you. The next few days of the weekend were going to be another big push as I was racing the next two weeks.

Hit Patapsco on Friday with Kris, running 2 minutes faster than last week, and then Saturday rode with Pat. It was 95 degrees when we started at 11:30 though, and Pat was having a rough day after 2 hours. It wound up taking quite a while to make it through the 85 miles, so I got home late. That meant getting into the pool late, so doing just a short swim before it closed. Then I still had to run. It was a real good training day, and it was really nice by the time I went to run. The WineFest was going on in the Square, so Canton was packed. Sunday I almost welcomed the rain as it kept me from riding. Pat joined me for a long run out to the Fort and back. Neither of us felt great, but we got it done.

My brain just keeps thinking "one more day, one more day." I keep saying I'll start taking it easy. But I just kept feeling good, and by now I was freaking out about the two months I had before Arizona. I wasn't going to make a final decision on whether I would race until after the half Ironman I was going to do on 10/10. So I absolutely had to be prepared for that race.

Last week of September, and it was time for a good track workout. We were doing 1600 hard, 3200 tempo, 1600 hard. It was a small group, but a great night for track. Originally I thought that 5:30, 12:00, 5:40 would be reasonable times for me. Once we got going, in the dark, I felt great. We negative split our first 1600 and ran 5:19. Then we perfectly evenly split the 3200 at 11:33. Wow. I was feeling pretty good still, but I knew the last interval would be tough. I ran with Prada and Elijah and we were moving well, again negative splitting, and I finished in 5:22. It was a great workout and now I was feeling pretty confident about the weekend ahead.

The next day I got out for a 77 mile ride, and was riding decent despite the wind and getting rained on again. That last day of September I made sure I got out for a run, so was just going to go do 6. But then Chris Nowakowski ran into me and we got to chatting. It had rained all day so the Harbor was really flooded, but it was nice out while we were running and we got in 8 for the day. Not bad!

September ended up as another big month. Not only did I record big volume, but I started mixing in some real efforts, and brought my long runs up again. I finished with 75000m in the pool and 885 miles on the bike, and a "whopping" 159 miles of running. By hours, the weeks were 24, 20.5, 21.17, 21.75 and 20.75.

I had some races coming up and was feeling ready to go. September, always a good month for me. Next up, my return to racing, the month that was October and finally making a decision about Arizona.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Writing this now makes it seem like summer was a lifetime ago, and in the scheme of miles and hours, it really was. The four weeks of July, in hours, were 22, 22.75, 20.50 and 27.33. I accomplished my goal of re-establishing some routines. The bike rides were going okay, the runs were coming along slowly. TCYB (Team Crush Young Butts) had planned on going to Set Up Events' Luray Triathlon in the middle of August. The original thought was to do the double (Olympic on Saturday, Sprint on Sunday) but after 14 months without racing or knowing how my knee would hold up, I decided one race would be enough. Right at the end of July I signed up for the race on August 14th.

Following the 270 mile bike week (not to mention 26km of swimming) to finish Get Tough Month, I figured the first week of August would be a down week, after all, I had certainly earned it. I took it easy in the pool, and didn't do anything significant until the weekend. That weekend I headed home for the wedding of a high school friend, so I took the opportunity to get in a run at Hartshorne. I knew going into it that I was taking a chance doing that. First, I hadn't really run on trails yet, and these are some of the hardest around. It's also where I broke my ankle back in 2003. Second, I had just run a 9 mile run two weeks prior, so it was going to be my longest run (by a good amount), however most of my runs were under 7.

I showed up to Hartshorne ahead of the Middletown South XC team's practice, got in 3, then ran about 7.5 with the kids. It felt great to run at Hartshorne, and even better to not get hurt. I went for a short ride after that, and then Sunday went out for a longer ride (62mi). While I have had to go home many, many times in the past year and a half, now that I could train again it was not as bad of a trip. More importantly, I now felt as if I'd be able to get through the race, which was the following weekend.

That next week started pretty normal, taking my usual fairly easy Monday and Tuesday before picking it back up on Wednesday. At PT that day, however, Brett really cranked on my knee. I didn't notice it during, but as soon as I tried to pedal my bike that evening, well, the pain was obvious. I could barely pedal. I kept hoping it would loosen up but no luck. I remember we did the Gunpowder loop in reverse, and I was just way off the back of Pat and Alyssa. I didn't want to hold them up, but I was going nowhere. I eventually limped home. The next few days were rough. It hurt to swim. It hurt to run. I figured it didn't even make sense to try to ride. As of Friday night, the evening before the race, I was not sure I'd even do it.

I called up Brett and asked him what I should do as a quick fix. I took an Aleve that night - something I try to avoid - and iced it, massaged it a little. Saturday morning we got up and headed to the race, and during my warmup run I felt awesome. I felt fresh, bouncy and relaxed. Figured what the heck, if it's too painful to race, I'll find out during the race. The swim was a non-wetsuit swim and turned out to be the most aggressive start outside of IM that I've ever seen. I figured I was in the top 10 out of the water, maybe as high as 7. I was psyched. I ran into transition and saw Pat (we were racked next to each other). I thought that was a good swim if I'm that close to Pat - but turned out he just had a really, really slow T1. He actually put 1:40 into me in the water. Yikes.

Onto the bike and there is a significant climb a quarter mile into the ride. I spun up in an easy gear to avoid the pounding on my knee. Passed one or two people on that hill, and then was moving well. I passed Pat shortly after. Then a few dudes, including Dirk, went flying by. It was tremendously windy on the course, and I felt like I was losing time on downhills and flats by being on my road bike. I thought I was in somewhere between 6th and 8th coming into transition, not including any of the next wave (40+) that may have made up the gap. I felt awesome heading out onto the run and really felt good competing again.

My first mile was around 6:20. Considering I hadn't been running under 7 at all on any of my runs, I didn't expect to run better than 7's off the bike. I figured if I felt good, I should just keep going until I didn't. No point holding back. Next mile was 6:19. Then 6:22. I was keeping that pace and on the 2nd loop caught two guys. I wound up running a 39:49 10k, which was a huge surprise, and finished 11th overall. In 2008 I also finished 11th, although my time was a little faster back then (swim this year was slower, as was the bike. 2008 my run was only 39:12 I think).

I was very pleased with the result, as it surpassed my expectations. Of course, David Glover and the Set Up Events crew put on a great race at a great venue, and it was a fun weekend with Team CYB (Alyssa, Pat, Zero) in Luray. My takeaways from the race were: 1) While I swam a little slower than I thought I could, I still had the 19th fastest swim. 2) My bike split, conducted on my road bike, was 17th fastest, and shows I still know how to race any kind of bike. 3) Your body remembers how to race. So even though I didn't think I'd run very fast, once I was in the moment, it just turned itself on.

My knee had held up through the race, and generally started to feel better. I ran 12 miles with Zero when we got back to Baltimore that Sunday night, again recording a "longest run since...". Because I felt like the week before was a little too light on the bike (just rode 58 miles on two rides, including the race), I picked it back up that following week, riding about 225. That included another Rocks 98 mile ride with Alyssa as what would be her last real long ride before Wisconsin, and then following it up with 54 on Sunday out in Frederick with Z and Alyssa. Frederick, as I've mentioned before, is always a hard ride but a good barometer of fitness.

We rode the ride all together, of course each climbing at different rates. It was the first time I've ever done that ride and been warm - normally I'm only out there in the winter and spring. My knee held up better than I thought it might on the steep pitches of Hamburg and Harp Hills, and after the ride we went for a "fast" 2 mile run around the pond at Frederick High School.

I was at a critical point in training now, because the summer was coming to an end, and Chicago Marathon was only a few weeks away. Could it be done? Well, certainly I could have finished it. But I wasn't going to go out there and run another slow marathon - I've already done that twice. I was beginning to dismiss the thought entirely. But another thought was gaining momentum. Would I be able to do Ironman Arizona?

I knew I would need to get my body running better, particularly on long runs. On Monday, August 23rd, I ran to Fed Hill Runners and back, so 14 miles on the day. I didn't get out to ride as much as I would have liked that week, as ultimately I went to San Diego on Thursday for the weekend. Many times when you take trips of a personal nature to visit friends, it can be tough to get out for training. This trip was probably the best training trip I've ever had. I woke up early Friday morning to swim with the Tri Club of San Diego at Solana Beach. I was definitely fearsome of sharks, as it was the same group a few years back that lost one of their members to a shark attack on the very same swim. The water was also absolutely frigid. Glad I brought my wetsuit, "for sure." The group was pretty chill, mostly an older group and pretty relaxed. Grabbed breakfast with them after, and then later in the day went for a run with Andy's high school xc team in the desert hills.

The next morning I went for a workout with Bryon, one of Andy's roommates. He's trying to get into triathlon, and would ride his bike to UCSD's track to do some workouts. I rode an old mountain bike the 10 miles with him on his road bike, we climbed through Torrey Pines, and got to the track. Once there, Bryon did some workout involving stairs and pushups and stuff, while I hit the track for a shorter workout of some 800s, 400s and 200s. Then we rode back. Sunday was going to be a big day for me - a long run with Eric. He's another Terp out in San Diego, and was running Chicago as well. He was doing 20, and I hoped to make it through 16. I didn't want to impede his workout, so I was fortunate there were a few other dudes there running about my pace. Felt good when we turned around at 8, but by 13 I was cooked. When Eric got back we had to hit Denny's HARD to restore some chemical balance (see also: Coke and some omelettes). It was a great couple of training days. Sidenote: the next week Eric ran a 1:12:10 half marathon at Disneyland, and was looking to go 2:30 at Chicago. But, like many, he did not have the best day out there.

August was now over, and it was another solid month. I ended that last week with 48 miles of running (on the heels of the 14 and 16 mile runs in the same week). For the month, it was a far cry from the volume of July, recording just 583 miles on the bike and 60,000m in the pool, but it was a good running month at 153 miles.

I was psyched though, those numbers would have been good last year for me. As a result of the two big months, I had recorded nearly 1500 miles of riding and 100 miles in the water. Pretty insane. Most importantly, I was starting to get my running back to a level that made me think, Arizona is possible. As we transitioned into September, where I planned on racing a little bit, it would become

Mission: Arizona.

(Also, sorry for the long posts, I'm sure they're a bore to read. I should have written things along the way and just saved them to post now, but back then I didn't have the desire to do it)