Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'll Be

Someone googled:

"I'll be your nasty black mother" and got to my blog.

I just thought it was funny, and wanted to share.

Monday, December 19, 2011

30 for 30

Saturday I ran my last race of the year - #30.  I never intended to run that number, but it's funny how that fell on my the year of my 30th birthday.  I certainly won't be going for 31 next year.

This weekend was the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler, a favorite of mine, and just about everyone else in the Baltimore/MD/DC/VA/PA areas, as 3500 people were registered for this hilly, cold, December 5 miler.  In the 7 years I've lived here, I have run this race every year except for 2009, when I wasn't running.  I've had good races, I've had okay races, but I've never had a bad race here, and I wasn't planning on a bad day on Saturday.  The course had changed, and was now slightly harder, so I figured if I could just run around 30 minutes, I'd be very happy with that.

In the past two weeks, I've tried to bring up my running mileage and see if I can get more comfortable running again.  I had a really good run on Thursday night with Ed, when it was 60 degrees and we didn't have to wear shirts.  But by Friday, the mercury dipped, and by Saturday morning, it was pretty cold.  I ran 10 miles with Brennan, Zero and Chrissie on Friday night, and was a little worse for the wear on Saturday morning.  My morning duties included riding around on a school bus that was shuttling runners back and forth to the start line.  I finished that up at 8:20, dropped off my stuff and tried to run for a minute or two to warm up.  Once again, I donned one of the best running outfits of the day - Under Armour camo spandex, my red and black striped gloves, and my bright orange Adidas Bostons. 

Despite the race being so huge, it's not at all a fight for the start line.  And, considering literally everyone in the top 50 or so runs with us or are other locals, it's a pretty friendly start.  Got going up the hill, and when I hit the first mile in 5:40 I knew the mark was clearly off.  I heard a GPS watch beep about 20 seconds later, which seemed more correct.  Mile 2 was 6:14, which probably made up for the short first mile, and then mile 3 was 6:03.  Seemed pretty good.  I was running mostly by myself, with the exception of a dude, also named Ryan, wearing pirate pants and Vibrams, who was just ahead, and responded to all my friends on course cheering for me.

As we hit the lake, I just tried to keep the legs turning over.  Mile 4 was a slow 6:17, so I wasn't sure if I was actually running that slow, or if it was long again.  Either way, with 600m to go, we turned downhill to the finish, and my knee was just not letting me open up.  I saw my watch tick just over 30, and I crossed at 30:07.  Not a bad day, a little faster than last year, on a little bit harder of a course, so I'm pleased with it. 

Sunday morning it was time for a long run, and I met up with some of the guys at Gilman to head out on a 13 mile run.  It was a difficult route conceived by Nate and Ed, a lot of climbing, a lot of downhills.  We held 7s for the run, probably starting a little slower and picking it up to the 6:50 realm by the end.  I then hopped on the track for a mile to see what we were running: 1:40 (6:40/mi-ish).  I felt that was about right for how we had finished the run.  Then I picked it up a little, going 1:37, 1:33, 1:29 for a 6:20 last mile.  I felt good about the day, but my knee is in bad shape.

I'm not sure why, the 53 mile week, while one of the biggest I've had in a while, is not the biggest week I've had - and I wasn't really doing much else to wear on the knee.  I think it's just the cold.  Knee is very stiff, very tight.  I hope it can loosen up or I'm going to be in trouble this winter!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Race Report: A Race I Didn't Do

I didn't race this weekend, but the amount of effort I put in made it feel like I did!

Friday afternoon I met Alyssa and Carly for a 4pm rollout of Baltimore, headed for Nowheresville, VA.  I was originally led to believe that this trip was 3.5 hours, and I figured we'd hit some traffic.  A little bit on 70 and then some near Frederick, but for the most part, it was a smooth trip to Winchester.  Where I then found out we were still 2.5 hours away.  Oh my God.  Part of my concern is that I'm too big for Alyssa's car, and my knee starts to swell as I drive.  But I can do it, I'm a big boy.  We stopped for a meal at Wendy's somewhere in VA.  I go to order a #6 - Spicy Chicken Sandwich, my go-to.  I ask for no mayo, as always, and the kid is confused for a second but then goes "do you mean you want a Spicy Chicken Sandwich?"  Yeah, that's exactly right.  "Well that's a #7 now."  WHAT?!  Apparently their new burger, the W, is a #6.  How are you just going to change on me like that.  And to top it off, they put mayo on it.  Dammit Wendy's.

Our car trip was peppered with some high quality banter, including the prerequisite "What If" scenarios, like what would you do if a chimpanzee ripped off your partner's face - would you stay with that person?  You know, the usual.  We also got some great games of 20 Questions going.  I think the girls were a little annoyed at mine, which more often than not including dead historical figures.  Whatever, it took them all 20 questions to guess Miley Cyrus on the first one, so I figured they couldn't do any worse.

Finally we arrived at Camp Bethel.  It looked like a great place for a cult to gather.  Alyssa registered while Carly tried to guess who would be fast based on appearance.  This is actually quite more challenging at ultras than it is at road races.  The start time is a cruel 12:01am, and the start is about 15-20 minute drive from the camp, so we caravaned out to the start and prepared for the LONGEST DAY EVER. 

It was a pretty neat sight to see all 130 or so people turn on their headlamps and start running through the woods, and as that would be the last we'd see of them for 5 hours, Carly and I headed to the first aid station we could go to, #4, about 21 miles in for the runners.  We got there by 1 and tried to catch some sleep.  Neither of us were prepared for just how cold it would get sleeping in the car, and my light resting was interrupted around 2am when we were asked to rearrange the cars on the road.  We "slept" until 5 (I figured I probably slept for about 2, 2.5 hours) and the alarm went off.  I had heard runners going by for a little while, and we expected Alyssa around 5:30.  As we were preparing her stuff, a runner was approaching the car and Carly goes "that doesn't look like Alyssa," but then the runner stopped at the car and looked in.  It WAS Alyssa, at 5:10am.  Shit, we are NOT ready.  We send her ahead to the aid station so she can eat while Carly tries to swap the batteries in her headlamp.  I can't see anything, it's so dark while it's not a difficult trail, I keep tripping on rocks.  We get to the aid station (maybe quarter mile from the car) and then send her on her way.  This is 5 hours into the race.

During this time I wondered how long 5 hours is when you're running in the dark woods of Virginia by yourself.  I also wondered how much longer I could have made it in that car, I was so cold.

We then drove to the next aid station.  Driving, by the way, on those unlit mountain roads, was insane.  Could not see anything.  But the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway was cool.  We kept missing our turns because they would be literally "drive 9.6 miles and then make a right onto dirt road" - none of the things were labeled, and it looked like little driveways.  Incredible.  Got out of the car and heard what sounded like a roaring river, but couldn't see it.  We could only see the lights of headlamps bobbing along a ridge high above us, and watch as they zig-zagged down the switchbacks of a long descent. 

At the next aid station, we could finally start to see the sun.  It was calm in the woods, and a beautiful morning.  Alyssa pulled into the aid station and looked good, and was ready to do a quick change into some different clothes.  Onto the next station.

This one was gross.  I don't know what was going on, but it was clearly a body dump for hunters.  This little kid goes "daddy a deer head" and I run over with my camera to grab some shots.  It was disgusting, just a decapitated deer head.  And a couple of rotting, picked apart carcasses.  Some in plastic bags, presumably what the hunters used to drag their kill out of the woods.  Then came the BEAR.  It was a bear head, partially skinned, it looked so peaceful, but so sad.  Its spinal column was still attached, with the white, fatty meat of its interior.  Really gross, really sad, really disrespectful. 

It was now just after 10am, and they were at 42ish miles.  Carly was set to jump in with Alyssa, after pounding 2 Red Bulls and eating some food.  Alyssa was doing pretty well, and I'm sure it was nice to have company for the remainder of the race.  For me, it meant I was now the solo one, and had to find my way to the other aid stations by myself.  It also allowed me to roll the windows down and enjoy the brisk air (the girls do not like the windows down).  It was a beautiful drive along the BRP again, and I found the next aid station - #8 at mile 49 - and hung out there for a while.  It was starting to get windy, and the temp felt like it was dropping, and it was only 11:30. 

Alyssa and Carly came powering up the path, looking better than any of the racers in before them (that I saw).  Most significantly, Alyssa was making up time on the woman ahead of her, a known rival.  Another important note in ultras is that the stated distance is never the actual distance.  If they say 7 miles to the next aid station, it's probably 8.  If they say it's 100k (62.4 miles) it's actually 66.6 (hence Hellgate 100k). 

The girls trotted off to enjoy some downhill running, while I packed up and had to start hauling to get to the next station.  The distance for the runners may have been 7 miles, but for drivers it was much farther.  I still knew I had at least 80 minutes to get there before them, so I wasn't in a supreme hurry.  During this entire time I was consuming very little.  I had a pop-tart and a couple small slices of pizza, and a Gatorade.  I resisted the urge to drink Coke so that I wasn't going to waste the effects of caffeine early in the day.  This would be critical on the drive home.

Aid station #9: the last one.  Nestled in the woods, 7 miles to go for the racers.  3.5 up, 3.5 down to the finish.  The 4th place lady was 5 minutes ahead of Alyssa as she exited transition, but she was walking up the hill.  Alyssa and Carly came flying in like BAMFs.  I gave them the time gap and they did serious work.  I had a 40 minute drive to the finish and I figured it would take them 60-75 minutes to get to the end, so I just rolled.  At the finish, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was counting on them getting in around 14:45, so imagine my surprise when I see the two of them coming in at 14:32 with NO ONE around them.  It was like that scene in Troop Beverly Hills, I just didn't expect them.  AND they were ahead of the 4th place lady, which meant Alyssa was 4th.  They had covered their last 3 miles (albeit downhill) in 8:15, 8:05 and under 8.  In a 100k trail race, that is insane.

It was a great race, and maybe a mildly unexpected result, for Alyssa, who has now shut her last two races down in the closing miles.  Forget that lady that's married to Kevin Bacon, Alyssa should be The Closer.  Mariano Rivera could learn some lessons from her.  It has been a long, but prosperous season for her and hopefully now she'll chill out for a bit.  Mostly because I will not be going to anymore ultras in the winter.  Ha.

Then it was time to drive home, and we didn't get on the road until about 3:30, which meant 90 minutes of daylight.  Carly passed out right away and Alyssa couldn't be expected to drive, so it was on me.  And I was...sleepy.  I had to resort to a Red Bull - something I've only had when it accompanies a clear adult beverage, and it makes my heart race.  In just a few sips, I was ready to drive again.  We stopped at James Madison for dinner, where I continued my great eating (chicken and waffles!) and then back on the road.  It was a "quick" drive but still took us a long time to get home.  We stopped for snacks at a Sonic in Winchester and made it home around 9:30pm. 

Then Sunday was our annual Awards Night, which is a fun end of year party we have at the running store to celebrate the great year.  This year was probably the best as we enjoyed some great food: alligator bits, turducken, pizza, desserts - it was awesome.  Reminds me why our group is the best one around, because we do awesome stuff.

For my own personal week, it was a pretty quiet one.  I only made it into the pool twice, and didn't ride.  I did manage to run 44 miles on 5 runs, which was good.  I did not feel good through Friday's run, but by Sunday I felt a little better, and even hit the trails myself for the first time in a while. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finally Coming Down...Off the Ledge

Just a little play on words if you read one of Alyssa's recent blog posts.

It's now December, and Arizona feels like a lifetime ago.  But don't worry, my feelings haven't changed.  I've just been able to process it, and have a little laugh.  My dad said to me over Thanksgiving, that I didn't fail, because finishing isn't failing, I just didn't meet my goal.

And of course I had to remind him: that IS failing.  I had a goal, I failed.  But that's neither here nor there, because I then told him that I know when to fold 'em, and that time is now.  So while I'm sure there will be a disappointed 6 readers who won't get to see depressing race reports any more, it will take the frustration out of sucking.

The highlights of my last two weeks have been a combined 11 hours of training, including a little attempt at the Born to Run 5 Miler over Thanksgiving.  Held the day after Thanksgiving, this annual race in Freehold (where Bruce Springsteen was born) has certainly changed over the years.  I used to go to it, know some of the people, see some friends.  Now they seem to have all disappeared.  It was a little sad this year as I showed up, signed up, did the race, and then just...left.

The race is not super competitive, last year I was 9th or 10th with a time just over 30 minutes.  That was also just a few days after IMAZ, so I figured this year I should be able to do at least that, maybe go faster.  My legs actually felt much better this year, and I went into it feeling like I could run 5:50s.  I was content with not going out hard, so I stuck behind some little kids and a couple of girls at the start.  After 600m, 4 guys went off, and so I decided I'd rather keep them in sight than sit back.  It felt supremely easy, and I was sure I was running 6:15 pace.  First mile coming up...5:42.  Ooof.  Not good.

Who ever knows if miles are totally accurate, but that was way too quick.  The next mile is mostly downhill, and I ran 6:01.  I felt like if I could keep the miles between 6 and 6:10, that would be good.  I was getting passed by a few people, including the first girl, but I didn't really care.  The middle miles are in this little park, some trail, some gravel, but generally not fast terrain, and a few turns, BUT the 6:35 I ran for mile 3 was a shock.  So then I realized I had virtually no shot and running "well" and just kept the effort there.  Back uphill, 6:45.  Ha!  Finished with a 6:30 and came across the line in whatever, like 13th or 14th I guess at 31:35. 

After the race, there was a small Spanish guy who I recognized from races up there, and he tells me (in his accent that I can do if I'm telling the story live) that I probably would have finished top three had I not gone out so hard, yada yada.  I said I wasn't too concerned, that I did an Ironman the other day, and he and this other guy just went "ohhh..." 

I took Mon and Tues off after AZ, and then swam a little on Wednesday.  Thanksgiving I took off, and Friday ran about 6 miles and then rode 22 miles with Jason Gers at the beach.  Good ride.  I then used the good weather (temps in the low to mid 60s!) and motivation to get on my bike on Saturday for about 18 miles - the same route I rode the day I got hit 2 years ago.  Made sure to go slowly by that spot.  I came back to Baltimore on Saturday and got in the pool Sunday. 

Ran pretty easy all last week, running 7 on Monday, 8 on Wednesday, 7 on Friday and another 8 on Sunday for 30 miles.  I didn't ride at all, but I got in the pool 4 times for 8700 meters.  I actually feel pretty good in the water right now, but not great running. 

With 11 months down, here is how I'm grading myself for November:

Swimming - B+.  1:01:27 at Arizona is the best I've swam there in the three years, and basically confirms that, unless I stop swimming altogether, would not swim worse than a 1:05.  As I've always said, 1:05 was the time I used to think that I would be stoked to swim.  But, I still feel like I should have been under an hour.  No big deal.  For the month, ended up with 37,500 meters, a pretty standard month.

Cycling - C.  I only have my performance at the race to judge this on, and that was...subpar.  437 miles for the month, which is about what I did last November.  At this point I'm going to really have to take a look at what's going on for me on the bike, because it's at travesty that my swim keeps outsplitting my bike and run at this distance.

Running - B.  I was running pretty well in November, and obviously the only real race I had was AZ, but I still don't even think it was my running legs fault, something else was going on.  I feel like if you're running 30 miles a week after an IM, you're doing okay.  130 miles for the month. 

One cool byproduct of the running mileage is that I eclipsed my 2007 mileage (1751) with my run on Wednesday, the last day of November.  I now sit at 1767 with 26 days to go.  My highest mileage (keeping in mind that I didn't keep track of things during college so I'm sure those were all much, much higher) came from 2008, when I ran 1874.  I won't crack 2000 this year, but I'll probably get to 1950 or so. 

As I began this post with a little jab at my own self-worth, things have been going well for Alyssa, as she was selected to the Rev3 Tri team for 2012.  Pretty cool, as Rev3 really does put on great races from what we've heard, so I'm sure I'll get to see some of them. 

In other news, Under Armour just partnered up with Tough Mudder for 2012.  I think Tough Mudder is a joke, and it makes me cringe to think of the money that they print for their dumb races.  Haters gotta hate, I suppose, I'm sure if I was the one making that money for not doing shit I'd be happy too, but still.  Maybe UA should focus on sponsoring REAL running events (Baltimore Marathon excluded) and making real running apparel and shoes...just my two cents.  After that Hot Chocolate race debacle in DC this weekend, and Annapolis Half Marathon a few weeks ago, I've got to suspect that these RDs have dollar signs in their eyes as they think they can just start a race and have 10,000 or more people.  These races are just TOO big.  You're not the NYC Marathon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That Was Such an Epic Fail

Upset.  Embarrassed.  Annoyed.  Frustrated.

These are just a couple of words I would use to describe how I felt before, during, and after the race this weekend.  So if you are expecting words of encouragement or hope, or an "I'll be back to get 'em again" - you can probably stop reading.

But, since I do try to keep some balance, I will say that at least one of us had a great day.  GREAT day.  Alyssa swam 1:05 and some change, just a few ticks slower than what she swam at Louisville, and then rode a 5:45 - which included ten minutes on the side of the road when she flatted on lap 2!  She was 6th in her 25-29 age group out of the water, and still in 6th off the bike.  She then did what can only be summed up as some SERIOUS work on the run.  FASTEST run split in her age group, 3:47.  While I (and she would concur) would say her open marathon PR is "soft" at 3:31, to run that close to your open time off the bike like that is insane.  It helped her finish at 10:45:51, which was a 50 minute PR over her Wisco 2010 time.

MORE significantly, she finished 2nd in the age group, which means she qualified for KONA.  And, even cooler than that - she ran third place down HARD in the last mile to do it.  If that's not a champion, I don't know what is.  She was still many minutes down with 10k to go, but just kept hunting, and was 20 seconds down inside the last mile.  Boom.  Awesome.  So that meant yesterday morning we got to walk down so she could pay $775 to get to go to Hawaii next year. She also got some really cool news this morning while we were in the shuttle back to the airport, but she'll tell you that in a couple of days...

I will also take the opportunity to thank a few people for their efforts:

My parents made the trip out.  My dad came out last year, and had so much fun that he just had to come back.  He managed to drag my mom out, as she's never seen an IM.  As I've always said, if you've ever met my dad, you know that there is not a human being in the world as enthusiastic and energetic to cheer - not just for me, but for everyone on the course, people he doesn't know.  They even came back for the midnight finish, and when a few people were straggling in after midnight, and therefore not "official" finishers, he was the one encouraging people in the stands to cheer them in. 

Mike Zero came out, even though he wasn't racing.  Now, in fairness, I would probably go out to Tempe for this race every year myself.  Particularly when ASU is playing Arizona and you have tickets.  But, like the friend he is, he made himself available for assistance all weekend, and was hugely supportive on the course - running around from place to place faster than I was (which wasn't hard).

Clairebear came down from Flagstaff to watch, which was nice of her.  She did it last year, and obviously Mike did it two years ago, so we have a nice little history of IMAZ in our little family.  Claire is a tough little cookie, and I really appreciated her coming down for basically the day just to watch and cheer.

My cousin Matt came out again.  Matt came out last year after my dad mentioned we were going to be out there (he lives there) and even though I hadn't seen him in, like twenty years, he was such a great fan.  It was great to see him again, and he was on top of shit after the race, picking up my gear bags and bike and bringing them back to the hotel.  Thanks Matt!

My buddy Eric Marenburg (a proud and loyal Terp) drove out on Saturday from San Diego with his buddy Tom (who I've run with before while out in SD).  Their friend John was competing as well, and they took the 6 hour journey on Saturday just to watch, and then split after the race on Sunday.  Tom got some great pics, which I'll put up at some point.  They were great out on course though, and were tremendously helpful when I was not feeling it.

And of course all the people back here that were following, and sent supportive messages before/after the race.  That doesn't mean that all of them were smart, like asking if I was "happy with the result" (ha, sorry OJ), but I guess we all struggle to find the right thing to say to someone when they've had a shitty day.

The Race

Quick 2010 recap:  I swam 1:02:21, rode 5:32, ran 3:57 = 10:40.  Again, cool at the time, first one, trained for a few months after the two knee surgeries, neat.  I have been riding well this year and felt like 5-5:10 was going to be a good target, and 3:20-3:30 a good target for the run.  Cutting 40 minutes off my time would get me under 10, that would have been cool.  9:45 should have been a realistic target.  Here's what actually happened:

Swim: 1:01:27.  During the swim, I was pretty proud of myself.  When we got to the start, the crowd to get into the water was insane, and I was worried that at the pace the group was moving, we wouldn't get in the water by the time the cannon went off.  We ran through the bikes and came in from the side.  I don't think most of the people realize that you have to swim about 100m to the actual start "line".  The water, which had felt so cold the day before, was not as bad.  It really must have to do with the air temp, because that has been the case each year I've done this swim: freezing on Saturday, not bad on Sunday.  Water temp was 61, by the way.  I get in the water, pee in the wetsuit, get to the start, and within two minutes, the cannon goes off. 

In the last two years I've had some trouble with spiking HR, fogged goggles, and it's cost me some time.  This year I was much more calm, and my goggs were not a prob, although I did get pushed out to the right a bit and scraped my hand along the bottom of one of the boat ramps in the first quarter mile.  The start was very aggressive, I was getting pretty annoyed.  I swam a little out to the right so I avoided it, but I also didn't have any feet to draft off of, so I was doing the work on my own.  I felt comfortable, and had a good rhythm going.  But geez if it doesn't feel like the longest swim ever.  Finally got to the turnaround and headed back in, and it seemed quite choppy.  I guess it was some surface chop from the wind, but everytime I breathed to my right I was getting a mouthful of that disgusting water. 

There were two or three instances where I would swim up on someone and then it was like they tried to match my pace, but were swimming RIGHT next to me and hitting me - for absolutely no reason.  Like, move over man.  I think it may have been the same guy in two of the instances, separated by about 15 or 20 minutes of the swim, which would be real weird.  But wouldn't surprise me.  I noticed fewer and fewer caps on the way in, and felt good about where I was coming out.  Then I looked at my watch and my first thought was "really??"  I'll take the improvement from last year, but all things considered, with no stops to clear goggles, it's probably a push.  Still, it had me out of the water in 186th (as opposed to 226th last year maybe?) and 20th in the age group.

T1 - 3:45.  This is an improvement from last year, but only by about 40 seconds.  I guess over such a short time, that's pretty decent.  I certainly don't think I could have ran any faster - I was blazing through to get my bag.  Despite them yelling my number, the volunteer was just standing there in my row, so I found my bag myself.  Cool, thanks.  Ran over to the tent, where again nobody helped.  So I got my jersey on, put on the helmet, glasses, and shoes, and was on my way. 

Suggestion for IM: acquire bike racks that are taller.  All of the dudes on my rack have large bikes.  The racks are small.  They wound up racking my bike handlebars first, and it was basically locked in between other bikes.  Took a second or two to get it free, and then was out onto the bike.

Bike: 5:19:25.  And this is where my day started going wrong.  There weren't many people around, I passed a few people, started taking my calories.  Which, for those counting at home, consisted of: 600 calorie bottle of CarboPro in the aerobars, and an 800 calorie concoction of EFS liquid shot Vanilla (600cal worth) + 2 scoops of EFS Orange (200cal) and water.  That was 1400.  I figured with a 5 hour ride I would have 2000 or so calories available to me, so I brought 3 Honey Stinger Waffles as comfort food (160cal each, so 1980 total).  Note: these calories, except for the Waffles, are vile to me.  I seriously think I'm struggling with the sugars.  At the first water stop, a few miles in, I took a water bottle and threw it in the middle pocket of my jersey.  Boom.  Felt good about the setup.

As we headed up toward the mountains on the Beeline Hwy, we had a bit of a headwind.  Seeing the pros flying down the road on their first return confirmed, so as soon as we hit the turnaround, PACHEWW (as Alyssa might say).  Flying.  With no computer, I have no idea how fast we were going, but it was fast.  There were a couple of bigger guys around me at this point, and it was getting very frustrating.  On the way out, they had sat behind me, in what I'm sure was a not-quite-legal distance.  At some points they would try to pass, but they would slow down so much going up the hills, that I would pass them back.  On the downhill, the one guy just flew by.  Towards the end of the first lap I ate one of the Waffles, and decided it was not a great snack for the day.  Just a little too dry for me.  It also didn't help that my little sickness that I picked up was making swallowing a challenge. 

First lap was 1:38.  Think that averages out to be 22.8 or something miles per hour, and I thought about it putting me around 4:55 pace.  Perfect.  If the winds stayed that way, I could count on a headwind out and then a nice tailwind back, and I felt like I would slow down a little bit from that, so come in around 5.  Excellent.

But then something happened.  There was simply no more power in the engine room.  I didn't feel bad, I just could no longer generate power.  The headwind started to shift to a crosswind, and by the time we turned around on the second loop, it was a headwind.  Not cool.  That lap was predictably slower, around 1:44 or 1:45 or something.  Alright, not too bad, if I can just keep that pace, I'll still finish up okay, it'll be just under 5:10.  Not a great day, but fine. 

Z and Claire were hanging out on Rio Salado, but out from the crowds, and I just shook my head as I went by.  It was not my day.  I turned around, completely unexcited to have another loop to do, and tried to brace for another 37ish miles.  The winds were really picking up now, and it's the worst feeling when you are riding like shit and you are out of the saddle pedaling downhill and going nowhere.  I was hydrated (I had peed 5 times on the bike, a serious amount of urine was in my left shoe) and wasn't cramping up like I had at Louisville, but I just couldn't ride any faster. 

Dejected, I crawled into T2 after a 1:56 third loop.  Sure, I had ridden 13 minutes faster than I did last year at AZ, but it was still 5 minutes slower than what I thought was my worst possible day at Louisville.  Fuck.  I am not looking forward to this marathon.

T2 - 3:36.  Again, a little bit faster than last year, I went to the bathroom real quick and did a full costume change into running shorts and a singlet.  Again, a botched bag handoff.  They didn't hear my number right, so I had to get it myself. 

Run: 4:23:doesitevenmatter.  You know you're in for a long day when...your first mile is 7:26.  Last year I ran 6:45s for the first three.  That was too quick, I learned that, but on Sunday, that 7:26 was my fastest mile, and it was as fast as I could move my legs.  I kept thinking I would start feeling better, and that this was a good thing, that I wasn't going out fast.  I had left transition so I thought if I can just run 8s, I'll get under 10 hours.  Even if I just run 9s, I'll go faster than I did last year.  But I couldn't even do that. 

I'm running over 8 minute pace in the first few miles, can't eat anything, can't move my legs.  What can you even do at that point?  I got real excited just before mile 3 when the Ford Motivation Station was playing LMFAO "I'm Sexy and I Know it" - I wished I had been racing in the neon green speedo at that point.  I saw everyone on the bridge and just said I was going to be out there for a while.  I kept moving forward, and then I decided I would try to go to the bathroom just prior to the Curry Rd hill.  It seemed to help my stomach, but not my legs.  I still was "running", but I wasn't going fast. 

I even tried to mix it up, where I'd see if I could run fast, but I was just moving in slow motion.  I was more than bummed, but I wasn't in a bad place like I was at Louisville.  I literally just could not go any faster.  My day got really sad as Alyssa FLEW by me, after we crested the Curry Rd hill for the third time.  I wished I could have just run it in with her, but I had nothing in me, and obviously she was on good legs and just had to go.

It's a really hard thing to see people run by you all day.  I mean, EVERYONE was going by me.  Old people, chubby girls, didn't matter.  Someone posted a picture of me on FB and I commented that I am the fastest-looking 6 hour marathoner in the world. 

I finally made it to the finish, it was dark.  Alyssa had been done for a few minutes, and was in the med tent.  That's where champions go.  People like me stroll across the line (actually, I did the Snake Hill Bandit move) in 10:51:45.  We take our mylar blanket, don't allow the volunteer to put the medal over our head, instead opting to take it in our hands and walk off.  Grab our shirt and hat, and then go into the tent where the food is.  We eat a couple slices of pizza, drink some chocolate milk, and sit down and wonder what the fuck just happened.

Most people show improvement when they do these things.  Most people get faster when they work harder.  Apparently, I operate differently, because I've managed to disimprove by 11 minutes over the course of the year.  The two biggest races I've had this year have been the two biggest failures.  At least I can do that right.  Go big or go home, no?

The Infinite Sadness

I started to cringe when I thought about how much time, money, and energy I've wasted this year to have these performances.  If I want to be an 11 hour ironman, I may as well not even train.  If you were to ask me if it was worth it, all the sacrifices, the time, the weekends, losing the summer, being so absent that people forget you even exist, I would say: Absolutely not.  I wonder, why do I keep doing it?  I haven't been enjoying it, and I'm not good at it.  Normally, even after a bad performance, you still can feel like you came away with something.  I came away with a $2000 weekend in Tempe, Arizona. 

I also don't understand why my body hates me so much that I get sick upon arriving in these Ironman towns.  I didn't feel as bad as I did at Louisville, but my legs didn't get the memo.  Even there I managed a 5:14 bike split even after my dehydrated body started seizing up.  And, I ran low 7s for the first few miles.  Something was obviously not right on Sunday, and I'll probably never know what it was.

With so many question marks, I'll never pinpoint the one thing, shoot, it's actually probably a lot more than one thing, that I'm doing wrong.  I really thought I had it down this time, but once again, someone somewhere is laughing an evil laugh at my demise. 

I wish I could just be happy with finishing these things, and I do realize that finishing isn't always a given:  Jordan Rapp DNFd early, and a few other pros dropped.  But Eneko Llanos one-upped Ronnie Schildknecht's IMFL time from a few weeks ago, setting the fastest NA IM time ever.  3 women broke 9 hours.  Tim O'Donnell ran a 3:45 marathon.  People suffer in these things.  What I wouldn't give to suffer and go fast. 

What's worse, I don't even feel like I was out there Sunday.  We got back today.  My feet feel fine, my legs feel fine.  I still feel sick, but my body generally doesn't have the effects that accompany doing a big race.  That's probably because I walk my marathons.  Last year I was in pain for a week.  I happily avoided signing up for next year's race.  I'm all for streaks, and I would even still contemplate going out there, but I can't do it again.  I need a break from the course, I need a break from ironmans.  Maybe even a break from triathlons for a while.  Maybe even all racing. 

What I felt the worst about was being the rain on Alyssa's parade.  She had the best day of her life and probably all she wanted to do was celebrate, and I was just a Gloomy Gus.  The situation was magnified by just how great her day was and just how terrible mine was.  Had I had just a normal bad day, I don't think it would have been so bad, but mine was a colossal, epic, mountainous failure. 

The Morning After

Ironman people love lines.  I think it's a very white thing.  There was a HUGE line to buy official Ironman shit.  There was an even HUGER line for registration.  Seriously, huge.  I bet there were only 100 slots left to hit Active later in the day, because the race sold out in ten minutes online for 2012.

We went to Awards, obviously, as Alyssa picked up 2nd place and her Kona slot.  Awards was alright, I liked Louisville's setup, and food, better.  I was pretty amazed to see the results of my age group, 30-34 once again proving it's quite challenging.  I thought on a best day scenario I could go 9:30.  Last year, I think 6th was 9:35 and I think there were 6 slots to Kona.  This year's top 5:

9:00, 9:02, 9:02, 9:06, 9:15.

Holy shit.  Only 5 slots, our age group was relatively small this year (there were 9 in either 40-44 or 45-49, those groups were huge). 

This year there were 65 slots to Kona.  Next year, just 50.  Yep.  Since they keep adding races, but the number of people they're logistically able to allow into Kona remains the same, they are going to just cut slots from the races.  That sucks.  Looks like my next best shot is in about 10 years, maybe.  It's going to be the trend for races from now on.

So I've got some things to ponder and contemplate, and figure out what I want to do down the road.

Just as I was feeling sorry for myself after the race, we went back to the finish line just after 11pm.  This is my favorite part of the day, and even though we were quite tired, we were committed to being there until the last person crossed.  With 12 minutes left, they announced that the last finisher was abuot a half mile out, so we thought we'd only be seeing one or two more people - but then this wave of folks came through.  It was incredible.  One particularly banged up old guy was literally being carried by two other competitors.  I've never seen anything like it. 

Now it's 16:58 and more people are coming...we couldn't believe it.  And then more!  16:59.  One minute to go.  One person is coming in and it looks for sure like they are the last one.  But then, around the corner, a person is coming, but they are struggling.  Mike Reilly sprints over, and while I'm sure it's not really kosher, it's 16:59:40 and you know what, this lady is doing it, so he grabs her, and starts to briskly escort her towards the finish.  She crosses at 16:59:59 - I shit you not.  I started to well up, I thought for sure I was going to start bawling.  That's what it's all about.  The will to do it.  I will always take for granted my ability to do things, but it was just a year and a half ago that I was lying on the road outside Shadow Lake Village all sorts of fucked up, and thought there was no way I'd be able to do it again.

We arrived back in Baltimore today to a deluge.  Fitting.  Hard to believe it's Thanksgiving week.  My sense of time is a little skewed from just a few days out in Mountain Time.  I'll post later about the rest of the trip, and our time in Tempe - it was actually a nice little visit.  Just wasn't a good race. 

I've got the beat, I just need the words.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sun Also Rises

Well, after a night's sleep, I can say that I feel a little better.  I feel less achy, and my throat is less sore.  I was able to breathe through one nostril a little better, although as I've been up for about a half hour now, it's start to close back up.  I'm going to give the practice swim a go in a couple of hours, get in a short run, and then chill out hard the rest of the day.

The other day I was clicking around and came across a few articles of interest. 

Man Sails Around World to Decrease Awareness  It's an Onion article, I just found it funny because it's what we joke about all the time.

Then of course, since it's still on my mind, Save MD Men's Track!  There has been an outpouring of support from across the country, from teams to professionals, everybody's signing the petition to help save Maryland Athletics.  Did you know that the track team is actually self-sustaining?  In other words, it doesn't lose money, unlike some other sports we know...

Here is a good article from the Washington Examiner (ha, yeah) about the legacy of Maryland Men's Track and Field.

And, in case you wanted to read the president's report on the issue at hand...

But, onto more important things, specifically now, the race at hand.  I like reading race reports, and particularly appreciate when they are honest, or I find them applicable.  Pete Jacobs, recently 2nd place at Kona, provided some great insight into how he races.  As we all know by now, I am not very technological.  Don't know much about bikes, don't use HRM, don't use power, haven't even had a computer on either of my bikes in at least 3 years.  I simply wear a watch to have an idea of where I am timewise, to help remind myself to eat or drink, and maybe get an idea of how fast I'm going.  But in the end, you can only go as fast as you can go. 

There is always a point, especially during an ironman, but potentially in any distance race, where you think all is lost and you may as well quit.  I imagine that for pros, this is an even tougher reality, because this is their livelihood.  If they don't place, they don't win money.  If they drop out, maybe they can save it for another day.  If you look at tomorrow's pro field here at Ironman Arizona, it's one of the top fields of any IM race this year, and the pattern is the same: "I didn't have a great race at Kona, so I decided to salvage my season/capitalize on fitness/earn some points by racing AZ."  And why not?  The 6 weeks or so in between the two is enough for a professional to break it down and build it back up, and what else are they going to race, right? 

Anyway, Pete Jacobs once again ran the fastest split of the day on the Big Island, and I was surprised to read that he doesn't wear a watch.  I would like to get to that point, but for now I think I need to at least wear a watch on the bike and run, so that I can put a time with an effort. 

My final article is from Jorge Torres, former CU Buff and pro runner, who, along with his twin brother used to rip it up.  Jorge was hit by a car while in Ireland for a race, and got pretty mangled - not bad enough to cause him life-threatening injuries, but bad enough to keep him out of the 2012 Olympic Trials (marathon).  He vows to come back.  Sounds familiar!  I wish him the best on his journey, and I'll draw some inspiration from it myself.

Might check back in later, but if not, I'll try to get some words up following the race!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Traveling Somewhere

Could be anywhere....(but it's not, it's Phoenix)

Well, there was a little coldness in the air yesterday as we flew out of Baltimore, but upon our arrival in Tempe, even as the sun was setting, we were greeted by nice, warm, dry air.  And of course, I started to feel sick.  I honestly don't know what my problem is, but it's like Louisville all over again.  It's something about airplane air or hotel rooms or something that makes my body revolt.  Midway through the 5 hour flight I started feeling the sinuses blocking up.  I got off the plane and after we made it to the hotel, went for a 4ish mile run around the Lake.  It was pretty awesome, it's so well lit, it made me wish for a second that I could be out there running when it was dark on Sunday, but then I realized that would mean I'd have to be out there a really long time, and decided I would rather just finish.

I felt kind of achy, achey, however you would spell that word, but not too bad.  Made it through the run and as our hotel is super duper close to the action, walked through the parking lot to Z'Tejas and chomped up a delicious meal.  We also noticed a higher volume of students than in previous years, and for good reason: tomorrow the ASU Sun Devils take on the Wildcats of Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium.  Normally we've seen the number of students be pretty low, as we suspect they take off early for Thanksgiving.  After all, they DO got to Arizona State...

Anyway there was apparently some sort of joint UA-ASU bar crawl, which meant a lot of kids going out and getting to have fun.  Of course, we were asleep before 9 (11pm out time).  When Zero arrived after 10, I didn't even hear it.  I did not sleep well, the Claritin I took really dried me up.  My throat hurt, my nose was stuffy, I had a headache.  Not good.  I'm just hoping that I have enough time to kick it before Sunday morning, because I'd rather not have to take any more medicine tomorrow.

Today we walked through campus and hit up an IHOP.  It was funny to see all the kids on campus, how small they were, texting while skateboarding.  We almost sat in on a class, but then decided to check in and hit the expo instead.  That was done pretty quick, and then we picked up some things.  I lost my watch a week or two ago, so I picked up a watch at the Timex booth, and Zero got some sweet new K-SWISS kicks (two paiirrrr).  Then it was time for lunch: CHRONIC TACO.  This is seriously the highlight of the entire trip, and probably 90% of the reason Zero came out to watch.  My parents had just arrived so they joined (thanks dad for lunch!) and now I'm sitting here debating whether I should try to ride or not.  Originally my intention was to do one of the loops, but at 37 miles and close to 2 hours on the bike altogether, I don't think my body is up for it right now.  I'll probably just do an hour. 

Tonight I'll eat a little less for dinner I think, and maybe not gravitate towards Mexican again, and hopefully by tomorrow can feel a bit better.  The plan will be to get in the water briefly for the practice swim and then a short run, and then off the feet for the rest of the day.  It's ashame you have to be so boring when you go visit these places sometime! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Save Maryland Athletics!

I had something else in mind for today's post, but since this news popped up today, it's really been all I've been able to focus on.  Yesterday the announcement was made that 8 sports teams were expected to be cut from Maryland's athletic department, including men's cross country, and men's track and field (indoor/outdoor).  Being an alum of the program, it's beyond sad for me to see this happen.  Here's the Reader's Digest version of the story:

1. Maryland's athletic department is required to be self-sustaining, meaning that, unlike many other schools, the only money it has to operate with must be generated by itself. 

2. Due to poor budgeting, and some poor financial moves, the athletic department currently faces a $57 million deficit, and expects it to grow significantly unless drastic measures are taken.

3. Maryland currently has 27 sports teams.  Football and basketball, like at any school, are generally expected to be the bread-winners, and also generally support the other teams.  However, football also loses money on an annual basis, and women's basketball bleeds it.

4. Over the past decade, Maryland has won National Championships in men's basketball, women's basketball, women's lacrosse (many times), women's field hockey (a couple of times), men's soccer (a couple of times), and has sent numerous individuals to national championships. 

5. A board was commissioned with the task of making recommendations on how to stop the bleeding, so to speak.  They came up with their decision, which was primarily focused at first on cutting some teams.  The 8 teams they have recommended cutting are of course men's xc, men's track and field, men's tennis, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, women's water polo, and women's acrobatics and tumbling (had never heard of that one). 

So basically, 160 or so athletes are impacted by this decision, which, although it's not final (yet), it looks like it's a done deal.  These teams would be eliminated as of July 2012.  At least, for any of those teams that happen to give scholarships, the school will honor those through graduation, and will honor the coaching staff's contracts through their terms. 

I can't say it's a surprise, I always figured Title IX would get the track team at some point, but to go down like this is terrible.  A lot of the blame can be placed on an administration who is no longer there: an athletic director from the era of overspending who thought that building suites and adding seats to a football stadium that already struggled to sell out was a good idea.  Who then thought it would be a good idea to hire a football coach for a lot of money, who produced great results at first but then fizzled out.  And then, after that AD rolled out for a "better" position, the new administration decided they were not satisfied with said football coach, and decided it was easier to buy his contract out and hire a new coach.  So currently, Maryland pays two coaches, only one of whom actually coaches (if you can even call it that, I'm pretty sure I could instruct players on how to lose 8 or 9 games a season). 

For now, it's not about which sport deserves to stay over another, or who is to blame, but rather about how a school needs to fix itself before it doesn't carry enough teams to be considered a Division I program.  The ones who are losing here are each one of the athletes, most of whom are not on scholarship, and are just out there because they have a desire to compete and represent their school.  It's a matter of pride.  Your first ACC Championship event is just something special, even if you finish 2nd to last in the race and your team is DFL (me, XC 1999).

The stark reality is that a school which has the ACC record for most championship titles in track and field, both indoor and outdoor, is about to disappear.  A school with a storied tradition of great athletes, fading into obscurity.  Olympians, World Record holders, heck, even the 2012 US Olympic team head coach (current MD track coach, Andrew Valmon) have passed through College Park.  And it's all about to go away. 

And yes, I realize that this is not a new situation, and that Maryland is not the first who has had to make some cuts.  Delaware, Towson, James Madison, to name a few, have all had their track teams stripped in recent years amid public outcries.  But with due respect to each of these schools, Maryland is a school in the ACC - a BCS school and full eligible member of Division I sports. 

In the years since I've been involved with Maryland Athletics, it's not often that we've fielded truly competitive teams.  Every so often someone will make it to NCAAs in cross country or track and field, but for the most part, we're all "going professional in something else."  For me, I knew my capabilities were never going to put me at the top of the conference, or even at the top of the team.  I was just proud to be able to have that chance to compete.  Had the team been any more competitive, I probably wouldn't have been able to run.  As it was, I ran for two years and then went off to become a triathlete, a weird sport at the time for a college kid to get into.  But not once have I forgotten my time on the team.  My days there provided me with some of my fondest college memories, and some of my best friends.  As I approach ten years since I graduated (well, it's still a little ways off, 2013), I still have "Go Terps!" in my email autosignature, and have to explain it at least once a month.

Maryland Cross Country and Track and Field provided me the platform to reach for higher goals.  I still compete, and at a high level.  It's in my blood now.  When you're around winners, whether they were on soccer, basketball, lacrosse, whatever, it's contagious.  You want to be a part of it.  If you were an athlete at Maryland in the early part of the decade, it was a feeling that is hard to describe in words. 

It also comes as no surprise that student-athletes are also among the highest academic achievers, track and cross country in particular.  Every year they are in contention for, and often do, record the highest average GPA as a team.  Strive for excellence, every day, in all things, right?  I, for one, earned All-ACC Academic honors my freshman year.  And while classes were definitely not that hard that year, I would wager some of that had to do with our required study hours each week.  They provide you the tools to be successful, that's for sure.  I know that swimming and diving, and I would also have to wager that tennis, also produce high GPA averages.  With a basketball graduation rate at 0% (yes, 0%), how are you going to tell the students keeping the legitimacy in the "student"-athlete to take a hike?  If I were in charge, I would want those kids around. 

I know that words are only words, and that, in this case, what the athletics department needs is money.  Unfortunately, I'm not going to make an impact there.  From what I understand, men's track/xc needs about $200,000 to operate annually.  What is it going to cost to allow these kids to still compete, at the minimum?  All they need are some uniforms and entry fees to events.  I hope whatever happens to these teams, they all still keep training and competing, because it's a part of who they are.  I'd even volunteer to help organize them into a cohesive club if they needed it.  Go out and be the baddest club around. 

But, all we can do is keep spreading the word, and hope that someone out there is listening.  Taking these teams away hurts the kids, hurts the coaches, and hurts the school.  It alienates them from feeling like valued members of the alumni community.  It discourages them from striving to be their best.  It tells them that we are doomed, that everything we hear about the economy, and big business, is true.  More than anything, it leaves us all feeling not as proud to be a Terp.

Good luck, Maryland Athletics, I hope to see you on the other side.


Monday, November 14, 2011

We've Only Just Begun

It's only the beginning of race week and already I'm trying to wrap my head around the things I have to do before leaving on Thursday.  And with my brain not functioning, I'm having to write things down and leave myself little voice recorded notes. 

I didn't really take much of a look at the big picture, but despite me feeling like my volume had been low since September, my last couple of weeks have been quite consistent, and also big enough to explain why I've felt so tired: (end of September to now) 21, 17.25, 12 (week after the half iron), 20.75, 21.75, 20.5.  So last week I made sure to bring it down. 

Following the Marathon weekend, I ran an up-tempo 6 on Monday, and then decided to get in my last long run on Tuesday.  I targeted it because it was going to be far enough out that I could recover, but also because the weather looked like it was going to be great - and it was.  Temperature was over 70 degrees on the day, which was a little closer to what the temp will be this weekend, but, after a few weeks of cooler temps, it was a bit of a shock.  I set out for my Gwynns Falls Trail 17 miler, which is a nice run that goes gradually uphill, then more uphill, then some rolling, then into the hills of Druid Hill Park (very hard) before shooting downhill for 4 miles to the end.  I've done this run a handful of times this year, most recently with Brennan and Joel, when I felt awesome and we ran just a few ticks under 2 hours.  On this day, I didn't feel as good, I was a little worried that I had "wasted" my good feeling on the previous night's run.  I started off and knew I was running pretty quick, but I could also tell hydration was going to be a factor later in the run.  Specifically, lack of hydration as there is nowhere to get water along the way, and I didn't carry any.  I brought two ClifShot gels at least.

I made it out of the GFT a little quicker than last time, and then up to Dru Hill with about the same advantage.  Last time, Brennan and I blazed the hills in the park.  This time, I didn't have it in me.  I was starting to really feel the tightening of muscles, and my HR seemed high.  With the 4 miles downhill remaining, my hips and knee were none too pleased.  I ended up finishing about a minute slower than last time, which means I lost something like 2.5 minutes over the last 50.  Yikes!

I bounced back, and made sure to keep efforts relaxed over the next few days.  I got back in the pool on Wednesday night and had a good swim, which involved 4x800 as the main set, alternating swim, pull.  I kept each interval the same as the previous one, and left the pool 4200m richer.  Thursday was another chill day, with just an easy 6 with Ed.  I had misplaced my watch, I'm pretty sure I dropped it at the gym, so that's gone, which sucks.  Mostly because I need to go buy another one now, but also because I had grown to like it.  Our run was uneventful until, back on Fleet, in Fells Point, I hit a parking meter with my right hand.  It hurt bad.  My brain was just not working, there was no reason I should have hit that meter.  Or lost my watch.

My hand continued to hurt, swelling up and turning black and blue pretty fast.  On Friday, I hit the pool for what I was hoping to be a good 2x1900m workout, and in the short warmup I could feel my hand.  My middle finger was numb, and my hand did not feel good.  It didn't impede my workout, fortunately, but the broken clock and no watch annoyed me.  So I just went on feel, and whatever, in the end that's all that counts anyway (more on this in a minute).

I had to drive up to NJ on Friday night again, which I wasn't super psyched to have to do after just having gone up to NY last weekend, but my sister was participating in one of those Tough Mudder races  events, on Sunday.  I headed over to Holmdel Park again on Saturday to watch some of the NJ Group Meet, which was pretty entertaining.  Those kids are just so fast these days.  NJ has a rich xc history, and this meet showcases that.  Following the meet, it was pretty warm, but very windy, and I still had to get out on the bike.  I wanted to get in at least 3 hours and it was already 2pm, which meant I was going to be pushing the limits of daylight.  I had once again brought home the TT bike, which further proves my theory that the weather knows when I'm planning on riding it, and decides to make it very windy.  But I felt good, much better than last week, and had a decent ride down to, and around, Manasquan Reservoir.

Got back and it was dark, and looked at the clock inside - 4:59!  How was it so dark?  Sucks. 

Sunday morning was the Tough Mudder race, and I'll leave my opinion about this, and events like it, for another time, but suffice to say I was on my feet for quite a while.  It was after 2 that I got home, and still had to drive back to MD so I could get in the pool.  Pool closes at 6:30, I got back at 5:45.  I was originally hoping to do a longer straight swim, but with the time constraints, settled for 2000m.  I felt good again, and now I feel like I'm set up for a good swim. 

After the swim, it was warm and I headed out for a 6 mile run and boom, the day was done.  10.5 hours on the week, my legs feel like they've returned, and I head into race week a little fresher.  It was 35 miles of running, just the one day of 50 miles on the bike, and 10.5km in the pool. 

Today it's insanely warm and I am going to resist the urge to do anything and take the day completely off.  It's been a while since I took a day off, and I feel like I'd rather do it early in the week than later.  We fly out Thursday, so I'll swim Thursday morning and run a few when we get there.  Friday will be a lap of the bike course.  Saturday hop in the water briefly for the practice swim, then another short run.  Which leaves me Tuesday and Wednesday.  I'll swim and run a little tomorrow, and ride some Wednesday.  Weather looks like rain and dropping temps over the next few days. 

I'll also have to get myself a new watch.  We have all our nutrition things, thanks to Brian Shea at Personal Best Nutrition.  Other than that, most of the other packing I do is on auto.  Brain will start to kick in and just put things in a bag.  I try to bring as little as I can.  You're going to Tempe, not Africa, and it's the Ironman - they have everything there. 

In the slightly annoying news department, my chilblains are back.  Those are the terrible little blisters I get on my hands and feet when the temperatures start to drop.  They are back with a vengeance this year, showing up earlier, despite the relatively mild temperatures, and they are hurting more than ever before.  Fortunately nothing that gets in the way, it's just annoying to have to write, open anything up, etc.  More posting this week!

Monday, November 07, 2011

A Vision in Neon Yellow

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, hundreds of people were running through Central Park, seemingly unaware of the tens of thousands who would be running there later. While the scores of Baltimore supporters were scattered about the five boroughs, Alyssa and I ran around the Park. I had a vision, premonition, whatever, that Ryan Hall was going to pop up around a corner at any second. Nearly an hour into the run, it hadn't happened, and I began to lose hope, as we headed back to where we started.

Just then, a tall runner, a flash in neon yellow, with blonde hair, appeared, running so fast and light it was like he was running on clouds. It was Ryan Hall. I pointed my finger in the air to acknowledge him, or maybe, subconsciously to let him know that "we got him," and he silently did the same.  It was the coolest thing ever.  Not because it was Ryan Hall, but because I believed it would happen, and then it did. 

I also realized that it's one of the reasons that the New York City Marathon is the best race on the planet (I'm sure any triathlete readers of this will disagree).  It matters to EVERYONE.  Everyone is there.  There are two races that most Americans know: Boston, and New York.  Most runners will be more impressed if you ran Boston, because they realize that means you qualified for it, but a lot of people don't get that.  The race has been around for what, 115 years?  New York's been around for 40.  Boston's limit is 25ish thousand.  Does New York even have one?  (There are talks of expanding NYC to a two day event, with a race on Saturday and another on Sunday, to allow for up to 100,000 competitors. This I actually don't agree with).  Boston is significant to Americans.  New York is an international race in an international city. 

Enough about the merits, I just love the NYC Marathon.  And it's only my opinion.

Anyway it was a terrific day for a number of my little teammates, and a tough day for others.  No matter what happened, it was great to be able to see them in a few spots, and support them on their 26.2 mile journey through the boroughs.  And by boroughs, I mostly mean Manhattan because I wasn't going to try to get to any other spots.  We got to mile 17-ish right as the men's lead pack was going by - they were flying.  Waited there for all of our friends, then ran back up to the Park and saw with a mile and a half to go. 

For me, it was another exhausting weekend.  Last week I took a look at the weather and it was determined that Thursday was going to be the best day of the week, so I took advantage of the kinder weather and got out for a longer ride.  I set out to do my Lineboro ride (115) but I was just not feeling it, and the light situation was not going to allow it.  But I made it up to Lineboro and thanks to last minute map adjustments from Alyssa (phone), I was able to re-route and cut off a bunch of miles.  At least an hour's worth.  I was disappointed it didn't end up being longer, but at 96 miles it would have to do.  I got back into city limits and it was pretty dark, and still had to run.  Fortunately, Ed and Pat were going to run just then, so the timing was perfect.  6 miles off the bike, day done.

Friday wasn't as nice, and on my 9 mile run I was not feeling tremendously comfortable running 6:25/mi.  We also had three straight days of tough swims, starting with Wednesday's 30x100.  I have now done this workout a few times with Alyssa, and I made it on the intervals fine, but it wasn't as easy as I felt it should have been.  Thursday was rough, Friday was a little better. 

Friday evening we headed up to NJ, getting to my parents' around 10:30.  An after-midnight bedtime meant I was tired waking up Saturday as we headed over to Holmdel Park - site of NJ Meet of Champs - to do a little cross country race.  My best time there in high school was a paltry 18:20 or something.  It's a hard course.  I never raced there after that until a few years ago when I was coming off the 2003 injury.  I ran 18:52 basically two years in a row, and at that point I was running under 17 on the road.  Ha!  Cross country racing is just so different, and in order to really do well, you need to race a whole season on the grass. 

This year I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew my sister's old high school teammate, and my new nemesis, Erin Lunny, would be running, and I didn't feel like getting beat if I could avoid it.  But, I have just felt so slow lately, and I also had a 4+ hour ride after the race.  I went out pretty chill, running the first mile in an awful 6:32.  Yikes.  It goes uphill on grass for 400m before kicking up for another 100m, steeper, and on rocks.  Then you roll for another 500m, and then still head slightly uphill to the mile mark.  The 2nd mile is the "Bowl Mile", which features a quarter mile on flat dirt road, quarter mile downhill, then straight up for 200m, and rolls again to the 2 mile.  That was 6:18.  Back in the day I could have gone 6 minutes for the last 1.1, which is flat and then downhill, but I didn't have the turnover.  And that darn E-Lun was like 10 seconds ahead of me the whole time.  I finished up at 19:15, decent enough for what it was, and recovered almost instantly.  Alyssa ran awesome - a 21:00 would be good enough to be on most girls' varsity teams, and was a minute 5k PR (granted she hasn't run many).

Then it was bike time.  I have a 74 mile ride that goes out past Great Adventure, and into Allentown.  The roads at home are much easier than they are here, but there is just so much traffic due to the high number of guidos that drive around in their obscenely huge cars and SUVs.  That's NJ for you.  I used to be able to crush this ride, on my road bike, so I figured riding my TT bike I should be alright.  It was super cold and super windy, and I was not feeling it.  I had to wear my jacket, I was that cold.  I was uncomfortable in the aero bars so I literally rode maybe 5 miles total in the bars.  What a waste of bringing that bike up!  It already messes me up enough to ride that bike, since the position kills my knee.  It took us a shade over 4 hours to do the ride. 

Then it was time to drive to NYC.  Got there just before 8, ate dinner, crashed out.  I was just too tired.  Fortunately, we got an extra hour, which felt great and I felt a lot better Sunday, but was still beat from Saturday.  I decided I would run with Alyssa for 75-80 minutes of her 2 hour run.  I had alotted 10-12 miles of running for myself, and knew that I would have to run some again to watch the race.  Alyssa has been getting faster, but obviously our paces are not the same, so we tried to meet in the middle a little.  It meant that she was going to have to run a bit faster than normal.  We had a good 85 minutes of running, so at least 10.5 miles I'd guess, and then I ran probably another 2+ during the race.  But watching those races is tiring, you're on your feet ALL day.  And then you have to drive back to Baltimore.  A very long day.

So today I am taking it easy, I'm inside of two weeks now and I just need to get to the line a little refreshed!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I'm Sexy and I Know It

So as many of the 6 of you know, I love Halloween.  I think it's a great holiday and I think, even though it's one of the bigger ones, it is still not getting the credit it deserves.  Young and old, black and white, this holiday is for anyone and everyone.  Even with a root in religion, you obviously can (or should be) able to celebrate no matter your creed or belief system.  All you need is some imagination.

And, as it so happens every year, I wait until the last minute to make a costume, and then try and do something that nobody else is going to be.  In the past I've been Kanye "White" (I held a sign that said "George Bush Hates White People"), the "Don't Taze Me, Bro" kid from Florida, Siegfried (of Siegfried and Roy, with Zero, and Brennan as our White Tiger), and Ace of Ace and Gary, the Ambiguously Gay Duo (with Zero).  I try to figure things out on the fly, and spend as little as I can get away with.  This year, I went to run at Fed Hill where we all "dressed up" as bandits.  At least 6 or 7 of us were wearing race medals on the run, which was pretty funny after an episode from the weekend.  After the run, it was after 8pm and I had to get a real costume.  Ed and I traveled to the Eastpoint Mall, one of the shittiest malls on the planet, and hit up the stores to see what we could come up with for me.

My initial options were:

1. Chuck, from the TV show "Chuck"
2. Steve Carrell from The 40 Year Old Virgin
3. A character from LOST
4. Wilfred, the dog from the TV show "Wilfred"
5. Jennifer Garner's "Sidney Bristow" from Alias

I'm proud to say that I'm one of the 8 people that watches Chuck.  I don't think anyone would have gotten the costume, and despite being the easiest on paper to do, I couldn't find the necessary stuff at this ghetto mall.  Steve Carrell was going to require me to wax or shave my chest into a man-o'lantern, I just didn't want to do it.  Nobody would have gotten the Lost character.  Wilfred was my favorite summer show, but I didn't know how to make it. 

So my options were now "Hanging Chad" from HIMYM, Ted's costume back in the 2005 episode "The Slutty Pumpkin", or Jennifer Garner.

I found a pink wig at Party City, 5 minutes before they closed, and went with Jennifer Garner.  Of course, I haven't shaved in a while, and didn't have time, so I looked like this:

As you can see, not quite as feminine as Jennifer Garner, although probably not far off - she was, after all, pretty jacked in that show.  The dress was actually from college, when I wore it for another costume, so this thing is 9 or 10 years old now.  I bought it for $1.98 at Valu City in Greenbelt.  I hiked up the skirt a bit when I got to Fells Point, and I was immediately accosted by women and men alike.  I guess I was asking for it.  A lot of pictures were taken with me.  I told people I was Jennifer Garner's male stunt double, but I could also have been an undercover transvestite police officer/prostitute, which we actually have here in Baltimore up on The Stroll.

Fells Point is normally the jump-off for Halloween, even when the night falls oddly on a Monday, but this year was really, really quiet.  Awkwardly so.  I didn't mind, I didn't want to be out late as I had to be home before midnight to sign up for this:

Survival of the Shawangunks

I have wanted to do this race for many years now, and there was momentum when OJ and Benda said they would be in for next year's race.  The race is an 8 leg triathlon, consisting of an initial 30 mile bike ride, followed by alternating run-swim-run-swim-run-swim-run.  The total amount of running is 18.7 miles and swimming is 2.1, but the kicker is you have to swim across lakes WITH your running shoes.  Doesn't matter how you do it, whether you swim with them on, carry them, or shove them in your shorts - you just have to get them across the water.  I'm looking forward to this unique event.  The date of the race coincides with 70.3 WCs, however, so if I were in a position to earn a spot to that, I'd have a decision to make (although since I'm not a fan of spending money to not do races, it would probably be a no-go on Las Vegas!). 

The other thing about SOS is that they have a midnight registration, so we had to be at our computers right at midnight, as the race sells out in a matter of minutes.  The field is capped at something small, like 300, and in order to compete you must have completed a half iron in the past 18 months.  This year's race was shortened due to the damage from the Hurricane, so no telling if it will even be patched up by next year, but it'll be fun no matter what.

So that started framing out my 2012 season.  Obviously, because I'm a bitch, I signed up for Columbia and Eagleman again.  My tentative plan is to do Philly Tri at the end of June, and then call it a season.  I raced too much this summer, so I don't want to do that again.  Philly Tri just looked cool because everyone went so fast there, aided by a downstream swim and a perfect day. 

Prior to Columbia, I have a couple of races on the radar but most will focus on running.  I will not be going back to Rumpus, that's for sure.  Then next fall it will be NYC Marathon.  I'm excited to get to watch my friends race there this weekend, and I hope to make next year a much better experience for myself than when I did it in 2008. 

Since October is now finished, I'll do my typical grading:

Swimming - A+.  I have been really rolling since Louisville.  I finished with 52,000m in the pool this month, with some really great workouts.  I don't think I had gone above 39k any month this year, so it felt good to get back in for a decent amount.  Like I said in my previous post, I feel pretty locked in for swimming well at Arizona.  I have swam 1:02:20 basically the past two years, and that's been with a few pussy moments at the beginning that have undoubtedly slowed me down, not to mention my prior inability to breathe bi-laterally in open water.  Now that I've changed that, I feel much better and more comfortable.  I'd like to think I can actually go under an hour, but anything up to 1:02 will be acceptable.

Cycling - A.  Coming along.  715 miles in October, the most of any month this year, but still far below what I was hoping to get in.  I initially thought I'd be close to 350 for the last week, which would have put me in the 850 range, and if my first two weeks hadn't been light, I should have been over 900.  Mileage isn't the end all-be all, but for me, I've found that if I'm keeping on top of volume, I'm riding well.  I didn't have any one great ride that stands out, but I didn't have really any bad rides.  I got in three 80+ milers but none above 90, and had a decent race at Waterman's.  My goal for Louisville was to ride 5 hours, that was well within reason, and I was on pace for 60 miles before my day went a little south.  Arizona is a friendlier course, although it is horribly boring, and I feel like even if I'm not in as good of shape, I should still ride about what I would have in August.  So 5 hours is the goal, but again I'm more concerned with feeling good to go off the bike, so I'll accept up to a 5:10.

Running - A.  With 190 miles, it's the most I've run since the month before I got hurt in 2009, and Sunday's 21 miler is the most I've run since Boston Marathon 2009 (I will not include either Ironman as I did not really run those).  It was a great confidence boost, but also a reality check.  Going out at 6:45 pace just can't be tolerated.  My first three miles last year at AZ were 6:47, 6:47, 6:45.  Just too fast.  I backed off from there to 7min for the next two, but then it turned quickly.  I'm a firm believer in getting that money in the bank, because nobody can honestly say they expect to negative split an Ironman marathon, so if I go out at 7:30 pace hoping to average 7:30 pace, I'm probably going to slow down no matter what.  I think 7:15 pace = 3:10, 7:27 = 3:15, 7:38 = 3:20.  I am not going to say I'm going into this race expecting a 3:10, or even 3:15, but there is absolutely no reason I can't run 3:20.  At that pace, it's not like you even need to be fast - it's just about attrition and energy management.  My 1:18 half marathon doesn't mean shit come IM day.  Either you can run it, or you can't.  Maybe if I go out a bit slower, like 7:10-7:20, I can actually hold that and run that for longer before slowing down.  My biggest concern is always how the time trial bike leaves my knee feeling, which ultimately gets tight on the run and starts to really give me pain.  Lately, with the weather getting colder, it's already showing me signs of not wanting to cooperate.  But I deal.

October was a good month, but it was a trying one.  The weather was definitely not as kind as it was October of last year, and I have felt a lot more nagging stuff than I have all year.  My right piriformis/sciatic, in particular, is giving me discomfort.  As long as I can get through the end of this week, I think I have some time to work those things out, and I'll be glad to rest up a little before race day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

On Our Own

It's cold.  It's raining.  It's snowing.  And that's when it hits you:

Why did I sign up for a late November race?

It always sounds like a good idea at the time, signing up for that late November race.  You'll have plenty of time to train, and the weather is generally decent enough through October.  But then a day like Saturday comes, and reminds you that this is closer to WINTER than it is to SUMMER.

With four weeks until Ironman Arizona, I thought last week would be a good time to put in some higher volume.  My initial goal was to spend an honest amount of time on the bike, here's how that went:

Monday - I hit a squirrel.  Yep, while riding through Hopkins' campus, a squirrel dashed out in front of me and did that squirrel scramble, and went right through my rear wheel or something.  It was messed up.  I stopped, turned around, and went to see if I could offer it help, but a car decided to not pay attention and partially ran it over.  The squirrel flopped somehow to the side of the road, and somewhat scampered off.  I'm sure it's dead now.  I felt really bad.

Tuesday - It was a pretty nice day, so what better way to spend it than getting another flat on the side of White Marsh Blvd.  Alyssa was with me, and had to endure an expletive-riddled tirade. 

Wednesday - It rained.  It wasn't supposed to, but it did.  I went out anyway.  5.5 miles in, on Route 40, flat.  Shit.  I fixed it, and was pretty cold, and decided I no longer trust this bike, and I would head back home.  A half mile later, it went flat again.  The tire was definitely to blame, I should have obviously changed it before going out on the bike today, but I was stubborn and thought I could press it one more day.  But after 4 flats in three days (including Sunday, the day it all went wrong in the first place) I caved on Thursday and got a new tire. 

Thursday - I calculated my ride distances at 30, 34, and 11 for the past three days.  Thursday was supposed to rain all day, and it did.  I was clearly not going outside on this day.  Late in the evening I made the decision to actually ride my trainer.  It was pretty late, so I only did 30 minutes to spin out the legs, but I still got on.

Friday - This day had been set aside as a long ride as it was all-but-written that Saturday was going to be seriously shitty.  Alyssa's workout was 4hr ride + 2hr run off the bike.  I decided I would ride with for a little over 3 of those hours and then do another hour, and therefore make it about 80 miles for me.  It was super windy, and quite chilly.  I ran 8 miles off the bike just under 6:30 pace, and it was okay.  I could feel the need for calories about halfway through the run, I think the cold was keeping me hungry.

Saturday - I couldn't do it.  We were timing a 5k in the morning (in the SNOW) and being outside for 2.5 hours was too much for me.  It took all the strenf I had to get into the pool for my 3000m straight swim, and then later in the evening put in a little 4 mile shakeout run ahead of Sunday. 

Sunday - It was sunny, but really cold, as we headed to DC to run and support some friends at the Marine Corps Marathon.  After putting in 21 miles, and not getting home until after 1pm, I didn't have it to go outside to ride, and instead opted for a very nice shakeout swim.

So the week was kind of a bust on the bike.  What had the promise to be a big week on the bike, turned out to be less-than-normal.  I was at least able to get in my third 5 hour ride in two weeks.  But, I'm lacking confidence right now for my bike. 

The week itself was pretty great though, a balanced 22 hours of training, with 57 miles of running (one of my biggest weeks of the year) and 16km in the pool, and just the 160 miles or so of riding. 

I feel pretty locked into my swimming, which is a complete reversal from where I was at this point out from Louisville.  I haven't really had any bad swims, and have been doing well to keep on top of my weekly long swims. 

My running has been pretty solid as well.  Tuesday I got onto the track and did a 2.5 mile (4000m) run at tempo effort.  For as busted as my legs felt, I felt warmed up after 4 miles and started off at 6min pace.  I was able to pick it up from there, splitting 5:50 at the 1600 and running a 5:49 second 1600.  I went 86/83 for my last two laps, so it was a 14:29 effort, I was pleased to see that, despite very few workouts lately, I was able to run fairly close to the 5k pace I ran in September. 

The big run workout of the week was Sunday's long run, at Marine Corps Marathon.  MCM is one of my favorite events, I've been going to it since 1999 when I was just a wee lad in College Park.  The course has changed a lot over the years, so this year I ran from Metro Center over to Georgetown, and ran until I hit 31 minutes (~4.5 miles).  From there, I jumped in at mile 5 and ran with one of my little teammates, who boasted a 3:01 marathon PR.  She was killing it, running super strong.  Our mile splits were really even, and I picked up Team CYB teammate Andy Chicken Tender Sovonick.  Andy offered to run with me on my long run, a super kind gesture of him, as he generally doesn't do super long runs and his season is mostly locked into training for some shorter races.  CTR will also be a key training compadre for the 2012 season as he and I have a very similar schedule. 

Anyway, we're running with Emily, and clicking miles in the 6:40-6:45 range, all the way down Haines Point, and back onto the Mall, and all the way to Mile 20.  For me, that was 19.5 miles, all well under 7 minute pace, and that was enough.  I did a mile and a half easy around the Mall before calling it a day.  I peeled off at 20, but Andy, who had jumped in just before 9, kept running with Emily until mile 26!  A great act of kindness, and it helped her out a lot. 

The Fall is really tough from a training perspective.  One by one, people finish their season and move into recovery mode.  Each week, fewer and fewer training partners remain.  Besides Alyssa, I haven't ridden with anyone else in weeks.  On my runs, there are more days by myself, particularly Mondays, when it seems as if I have become too slow to run with!  It got me thinking about the great Bobby Brown song from Ghostbusters II - "On Our Own."  There are definitely times when I, like many, feel like I'm out there doing it on my own.  Workouts become a chore.  You want the season to be done.  The race seems like it's forever away, which is a curse, because you think you still need to do more to get ready. 

But then you realize that you're not out there on your own, you have a big support network of people who are willing to help you get through workouts, or even just to talk you into doing them.  It would be nice if they could also then do the race for you.  Psyche, obviously not. 

My keys over the next few weeks are simple: do enough to get by, but nothing that won't positively affect you in three weeks.  With my swimming on point, that means I will swim a little less now.  With my running going well, it means maybe another long-ish run, maybe a couple of runs at a quicker clip, but mileage not to exceed 40 in any week.  With the bike, I still feel like I have an opportunity to make some gains.  I can typically ride myself into real shape just by riding a strong couple of days.  I believe I can get that in this week/end, and then I've just got to get my legs back under me before November 20th.

My favorite google search that has brought ONE person to my blog:

"ryan mcgrath asshole"

These days I am surprised it was only ONE google search for that phrase. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

She's Gone From Suck to Blow

Following last Sunday's long ride plus short run off the bike in the land of dehydration, I felt terrible - allergies were kicking up, that weird thing with my ankle was really bothering me.  I wasn't in a good spot for a minute, but fortunately, I stopped being a pussy and sucked it UP.  Like my best friend Barney Stinson says, "Whenever I get sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead. True story."

I hadn't been in the pool since Friday, so Tuesday's swim was just to shake the cobwebs out before a much better swim on Wednesday.  Thursday's weather was pretty shitty so once again the week was almost gone before I had ridden my bike.  I ran Monday and Thursday for 9 miles each time, and my ankle wasn't great.  It seemed to be okay in the pool, and actually feel a little better after swimming, so that was keeping me going.  Then Friday came, and it was time to get in a big little weekend. 

Friday morning: 6:15am, Gilman track.  Alyssa's workout was 8x400 on 2:00 (you can tell a swimmer wrote that workout).  I ran them with her, we were running +/- 1:30, so roughly :30 rest for each one.  I was then going to ride straight from there, but I had forgotten arm warmers and it was only in the upper 40s, so I had asked her to loan me hers.  I go to put them on and wouldn't you know it, they were her compression socks.  Shoot.  I just did not have an arm warmer-less ride in me, so I texted OJ, who was home, and stopped by his house to borrow his.  LIFESAVER.  Made it through about 3h45m of riding before getting home.  Later that evening I hit the pool for a 3500m workout, of which 3000m was continuous.  I like doing longer swims like this, it makes me feel like I'm doing a long run.  Just over 50 minutes for the swim, which was really comfortable and I feel good about my swim right now.

Saturday morning: 6:50am, Canton Merritt pool.  The pool opens at 7 now, which is sweet, but it's because the kids swim team gets in from 8-9:30 and then masters are in from 9:30-11:30/12.  They literally take up the entire pool, which is why I generally don't swim on Saturdays.  Anyway, Alyssa's workout for the day was a tough one: 4000m swim (27x100 main set) followed by 5 hour ride.  I had felt awesome swimming on Friday night, but 12 hours later was not as excited to be in the water.  I also struggle in the fall when it's not light out at that hour, and it's getting cold, because I enjoy neither of those things.  Either way, get through the swim, and it's now time to get dolled up to ride, and Zero joins us for the first 90 minutes.  It was windy, and not very warm.  It took what felt like forever to get to the gas station out of Rocks, where we finally picked up a little bit of a tailwind for 13 miles, before getting blasted in the face again.  It was just not a pretty sight.  I felt tired and my legs were dead.  After the ride it seemed to get nicer, of course, and I ate over a pound of ground beef that I turned into a meat sauce.  How that would impact me on Sunday was TBD.

Sunday morning:  I got the opportunity to run with my friend Pat Reaves, a Terp who is unfortunately pursuing higher higher education at Duke.  He was in Baltimore for the weekend visiting friends, so we made plans to run Sunday morning for 10-12 miles.  Since he had gone out, I was able to get a late start, which was nice, but I was still up before 7 anyway.  We rolled from Riverside Park at 9:30, headed out onto Shady 7, and about 25 minutes in is where my bowels could not contain the 80% lean ground beef any longer.  With no leaves to wipe with, it was a gross situation.  I found a leaf that did enough of the trick and we were off again.  It was beautiful out, clearly headed for nicest day in October rating, and we headed out to Fort McHenry.  When we got there, it was bathroom time again.  Fortunately this time I had toilet paper.  Along the way we picked up Chrissie for a mile or so, and I finished up with about 12 miles.  I took the nice day as a sign to get out on my bike, so around 2pm I made it out and it was...awesome.  My thought was "so THIS is what no wind feels like."  It was so still, it felt great.  I was cruising along Route 40, to White Marsh, and there was little traffic as it often is on Sundays during NFL season.  I made it out to Route 1 near Gunpowder and as I was heading up to Mt. Vista Rd, I hear psssfftttt.  Shit.  I check out my rear tire and there is a gash in it.

This is the 5th fucking tire I've shredded this year.

I burned up one on the trainer earlier this winter, then got another one that didn't last long, then got this one.  On my TT bike, I blew through both the very expensive tires very quickly, which begged the question, how shitty were those tires?  I used those ones two times before they shredded and died.  Fuck you, tire manufacturers.  Anyway, I didn't bring my phone, of course, so I use the empty packaging of my Clif Shot gel to line the casing of the tire, which should at least get me home.  The hole was so big, it wasn't hard to find.  The gel pack is jutting out of the tire, so I'm not confident it's going to last long.  The change took just a few minutes, but it felt like it got a lot darker in that time, so I got going again.  Legs felt good, which was a good sign, and I made it through a busy Loch Raven and out through Towson and home in just about 3 hours. 

The unfortunate part about Sunday was having to run again.  Alyssa's Sunday schedule is morning long run, easy shakeout swim, then 5 mile run in the evening.  I've done this second run with her a few times.  Once or twice it has served as my only run of the day, and once before it was also my 2nd run.  Especially since getting hurt, my body doesn't not like running twice in the same day.  But today I felt alright, and we started off and I noticed we were running significantly quicker than she's done the run in the past.  After an altercation with a local white trash community member, we were headed into the home stretch with a new Sunday evening CR - I was impressed she had run as fast as we did!

My ass was pretty sore after that, I think the combo of 17 miles of running that day plus about 190 miles of riding in the three days just did me in.  But, with just a month to go until Arizona, it's as good a time as any to get in days/weekend blocks like that. 

Like many, I struggle this time of year to get the training in.  It's partially the cumulative fatigue of the season and the year, and how that affects my motivation, and a lot of it is weather-related.  I can find all sorts of excuses not to get out to ride (running I'm usually okay).  Too windy, too cold, too cloudy, too wet, I just don't want to.  I found that, in 2008, when I was training for NYC Marathon, that I just didn't have the drive in October and November like I did earlier in the season.  And NYC is two weeks prior to Arizona!  So last year, when preparing for Arizona, I found it even harder.  I managed to get in some good work last year, however, largely because I was motivated by coming back and just trying to get to the start line.

Obviously I enjoy racing, and I don't often let my fitness slip away, but when I signed up for IM Louisville earlier this year, I wasn't sure how I'd respond after August to get ready for another one.  There are some who can do multiple IM events in a year.  I don't think I'm there yet.  Two is probably my limit.  I believe in time off, mentally and physically, and allowing yourself to build towards one event and have that be your premier event. 

As my previous posts would indicate, I was able to find my legs pretty quickly after Louisville and so while I have been going through waves of feeling good and not-so-good about Arizona, in general I feel ready to go.  I knew that I wouldn't need to do as much to prepare for this one, relatively, because I would have a solid base of fitness from training for Louisville.  When I say I "tricked" myself, I mean that I approached Louisville more as an ironman that I was going to do off of my summer fitness, and still had Arizona as the bigger goal.  Note: while not originally intended, this also helped ease the frustration of having a bad day at Louisville.

I also knew one of the tough things was going to be doing too much.  When the summer temperatures and humidity blow out, and the weather is a lot nicer, it's easier to want to pile it on.  Fortunately, in the fall, the daylight limits you a little bit and it's easier to keep things in check.  But I didn't want to get too ambitious and try and put in super huge days or weeks through September and October because I knew I wouldn't hold up.  I felt like I could handle a small block around this time, up to about two weeks out from the race, and then shut it down.  So that's what I'm doing.

As of right now, I'm feeling good about my swimming - much better than I felt going into Louisville.  I'm starting to feel a little bit better about the bike again, after not feeling so confident for a while.  Running has been going well and it's been nice to notch a PR this fall (half marathon) and have some other good runs.  I still feel like I need one or two more long runs, but I've got time for that. 

I'll probably post again at the end of the week with this week's outcome, which, two days in, has already been going well.  But, as the title of this post indicates, not everything was all rainbows and lollipops - so the next post will talk about my frustrations so far this week!