Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Sunday I christened my new bike, Frankenstein, by riding from my parents' house in Red Bank to my aunt and uncle's house in Toms River.  The Parkway, of course, yields the shortest distance at around 40 miles, but taking the backroads, and a few scenic routes, bumped the ride to over 50.  For the first time this year, it was legitimately warm, with temps in the upper, upper 80s and a powerful sun shining down.  Frankenstein is a 2010 Cervelo P3, and I was very excited to take him home.  I used what I could from my old bike - which wasn't much - hence the name, Frankenstein.  I wish I could have made it all black, but maybe I'll add some skulls and crossbones at some point. 

My last post was on Wednesday, following my string of a few good workouts, and last Thursday I kept the juice rolling.  I wasn't sure how my legs would respond to the back-to-back Wednesday/Thursday hard group rides, but I felt pretty awesome and decided to give it a go at Thursday Night Ride.  My 6th summer of riding with them now, and it's always fun to see them.  Unfortunately, since my POS road bike is dying, I had to ride entirely in the big ring.  This was particularly challenging up Piney Grove, and at the end going up Caves.  But I had a great ride, really good group of us got rolling.  We didn't do the summertime long version, for time considerations, but did the 35 mile route and it was a good one.  A little chillier than I was hoping for, had to wear arm warmers, but at least it wasn't raining. 

Friday I got into the pool, and again, thanks to The Band, had a better-than-good workout for myself.  Did 800m of warmup, then jumped into a 2000m straight swim.  I like to do this workout on Fridays, and this was the 3rd one I've done in the last month.  The first week I swam a negative split 34:40, but started out pretty slow.  The second week I swam a 33:15, which was also negative split, and I felt good about that.  This week, I started out much quicker, but felt a little tired.  I swam 1:40/100m for each hundred through the 1000, then "picked it up" to 1:39/100m for the next 500 (1500 = 24:55).  I was looking for 1:35s or better on the last 500 but I was not feeling it, and finished with an 8:02 for 32:57 (31:20ish through 1.9km).  I was still pretty pleased, as I swam about that in the fall (granted it was the second of 2x1900) and was in 29 minute half-iron swim shape. 

Then it was off to NJ for the weekend.  I got home and it was time to go to dinner, so I didn't run.  It wasn't very nice out, so I didn't really care.  I housed an obscene amount of food at dinner, including one of my mom's soft shell crabs.  Never having eaten one before, I was a little curious about the whole "eating the shell and claws and stuff".  It was alright, but afterwards I didn't feel so hot.  Could have been that or just all of the food, who knows. 

Saturday's plan was to ride, originally, but upon waking up to a downpour, it looked like Sunday's run was going to replace the bike.  I called up Pat (it's totally awesome when one of the people you train with every day in Baltimore also happens to originate from your hometown) and he and his brother Tommy met me and my brother at Hartshorne.  The goal was a 90 minute run, and we hit all the trails with maybe only a mile of repeats.  The rain wasn't too bad in the woods, and the fog was epic.  I haven't been on trails since January, and my foot held up pretty well.  It just felt good to be back in there, as it's one of my favorite places to run in the world. 

Run done, and I wasn't going to ride (even though later in the day, like after 4, it cleared up and the temp picked up) so I relished in not having to do anything for the rest of the day.  Sunday I woke up and it was much nicer already.  We were instructed we'd be going to breakfast at 7:30 so my sister could join us before going to work.  The waitress was totally vapid and a few jokes went way over her head, but the food came out and all seemed good - until my sister let out a sigh of disgust.  There was an enormous (dead) carpenter ant on her plate.  Now, we don't have proof, but we think it may have been INSIDE her sausage and came out when she cut it open.  Either way, it was totally gross.  I felt bad for her; the rest of us could have brushed it off, but she doesn't deal very well with things like that. 

Now it had turned out to be a nicer than nice day.  My brother wanted to join for the journey down to Toms River, and I was okay with it, but needed to remind him of a few things: 1) this was only his third ride of the year, and at 50+ miles, a pretty long one; 2) it was really quite warm, and he is not fond of the heat; 3) I would be on an aerodynamic machine intended to be ridden fast.  We went out via 520 through Marlboro, into the wind, and he was right on my wheel.  We crossed 33 and found one of our roads was closed, so we had to detour slightly out of the way (in the end, about 3 miles).  When we went right on 524 and then Sweetman's Lane, we hit a few rollers, and he began to fall off a little.  I would ride up, then wait up.  Ride up, wait up.  We finally got onto 571, which would be our home for the last 22 miles or so, and came around with the wind a little bit.  Combined with the flat roads, it was beautiful.  We just don't have easy roads like that around Baltimore.  It felt good to be on a time trial bike again, it had been too long.  By a little over 40 miles my brother was about out of water and with nowhere to stop, I gave him mine (I had only consumed maybe a quarter of the bottle).  As we got closer to the beach, the winds shifted and the temp dropped just slightly, and we ultimately came in at about 55 miles and just over 3 hours - a really solid ride for my brother.  I was contemplating going for a short run real quick, but we were already late for eating so scrapped it.  On the way home we put the bikes on my dad's car, and made it to within a mile of the house before the skies opened up and my bike got drenched.  Go figure, I should have expected it would get wet the first day out.

For the week I ended up with just two swims (good ones, at least) and 3 really solid days on the bike (130 miles).  Only ran 3 times for a total of just over 32 miles.  But feeling good doing it, so that's a plus.

Yesterday I got back to Baltimore in time to run down to Fed Hill for the run.  It was warm again, and it always takes a few runs in the heat to get the legs used to it.  Pat and I ran down at a fairly reasonable pace, and the group run started off pretty chill, but heated up towards the end.  We then had to run back.  A long 12.5 miles, but the run did bring my total for the year up to 666 miles.  Thought that was pretty interesting. 

Now is the time of the year when you've got to be careful - there is finally some better weather, and the legs feel good so you go out every day and just want to crush.  But, you pay for those efforts quickly enough.  This week, I'm hitting up track tonight, and then tomorrow night will be an easy ride, and Thursday I think I'll head back up to TNR.  Friday and Saturday will be light and then Sunday, back out to Frederick for trip #4 on the year. 

I killed a spider in my house this morning, and within a very short while, ants sprang from virtually nowhere and began to pick apart it's body.  It was kind of awesome to watch, so I almost felt bad when I had to kill them all. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Changing Up the Stash

I don't normally post about individual workouts, or even back to back days, but today I felt like it was warranted.

I came off of Saturday's disappointing season-opener with a Sunday long run down at Pike's Peek, where everyone ran incredibly fast.  I got in what I felt like was 12.5 for sure, maybe 13, but it was mostly pretty slow.  It was real windy, and pretty cold, and following the early (for me) weekend mornings, I opted out of a Sunday ride.  My stuff was still soaking wet from Saturday, and since I need to pick up a new pair of cycling shoes, I would have had to wear my tri shoes, which were real wet.  I was glad to take the remainder of the day off.  My foot was really bothering me.

Monday came and the weather was pretty nice, so Ed and I ran down to FHR (3ish miles).  The run there is 6, and I was content with making that it - but that was counting on having a ride home.  No such luck.  Real small group, so I had to just suck it up and run home.  This run was incredibly slow, and by the time I got home, my foot was in bad shape.  Consecutive 12+ mile days plus the "race" on Saturday had me a little beat up. 

My initial plan for Tuesday was to just get in the pool, but when I didn't, I figured I would just do an easy run up at the track.  After taking an Aleve on Monday night (for those who don't know, I hate taking pain relievers.  I still have basically all my oxy's from surgery - well, until I disposed of them), my foot felt good enough to make it through the workout.  The workout was going to be 1600-1400-1200-1000-800 with 200m rolling jog (<90sec).  My intention was to run around 85sec to start and work down to 81 by the end.  With a smaller, evenly matched group of me, Brennan, Berardi and Elijah, and Pat slightly off the front, we came through the 1600 in 5:31.  The effort wasn't too challenging, but my legs were not feeling too fresh.  Since it was a little quicker than I was looking to run, I now had to make sure I didn't go any slower. 

The 1400 was the same pace as the 1600, but before the 1200 my stomach was not great, so I ran inside to hit the bathroom real quick.  I caught back on with them after 600m, and they were moving much quicker - 80sec pace now.  So I ran the 600 in 2:01, and then was back on track with them.  We ran a strong 1000 at 3:20, and then I was a little tired and fell off pace in the last 200 of the 800, running 2:42.  I then ran another 600 to make up the distance, and ran 2:00.  All in all, a pretty decent workout for me, as it's the longest one I've done this year and I am getting back to where I was towards the end of last season. 

A good track workout, a bad Chipotle experience.  Barely made it home before blowing up.  Felt real bad all night. 

Woke up today and felt a little better, and today was trying a new thing in the pool - The Band.  This is courtesy of Alyssa, via her coach Hilary Biscay.  I've seen people use this over my years in the pool, never understanding it.  I try to avoid too many pool toys, usually opting for some pull work, not to exceed a third of my total swim volume for the day.  But, in a few short weeks of swimming, Alyssa made some no joke improvements, and it's puzzled myself and Pat.  It could be the fact that she's actually swimming for once, or just her overall gains in fitness and speed have translated to the pool.  Either way, I'm getting frustrated with my own swimming, which has apparently hit the wall.  So when that happens, it's time to change up the stash.  Today marked day one of my swimming with the band.  And, almost unbelievably, I saw improvements.

Now, because I am chronic disbeliever, I could chalk it up to the fact that I shaved my legs on Friday for the first time since January I think.  Maybe since I haven't swam since Saturday I just felt good today (although every other time I've been out of the pool for 3+ days this year that hasn't been the case).  But those things probably wouldn't amount to much time, and I was swimming considerably faster than I've been swimming.  Note: this is still not very fast, but improvement is improvement.  So it was a good 3500m in the pool, back to maybe where I was swimming last fall.  It is just one workout, so only time will tell what the band's real impact will be.

Tonight I headed up to Oregon Ridge for the Wednesday Night Ride.  I went two weeks ago and got shelled after about 25 minutes.  My goal this week was to make it to at least York Road with the front guys.  I met OJ at his crib and we rode the 20 minutes over.  I felt like I had decent legs today, so I'd try and give it a go.  There was a sizeable group (85 degrees, no duh), and the first couple miles there was a strong accordion effect going on.  A lot of yo-yoing.  After we got onto Falls Road, the pace ramped up, and once on Stringtown, it got real strung out.  I was sitting in the back, and decided in order to not get dropped when we turn onto Yeoho, I moved up to the middle of the group (now down to maybe 12), and sat next to OJ.  When we turned onto Yeoho, I was up in the front and all of a sudden found myself on the front of the group.  Next thing I know, me and this other guy have a gap.  Wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew there was a sprint point fairly soon, so I imagined everyone else was prepping for that.  This one guy bridged up to us, and then he and the other guy rolled - I got left in the middle.  I figured I would wait up for the others but to my dismay they blew right through me.  Yikes.

As I was now 9th on the road, I was just trying to keep pace.  When we made it to York, two of the guys in front of me popped and now I was 7th on the road, behind the front group of 3 (way up) and Gruppo OJ, consisting of Juice and two others, were a little up the road.  I could see them, but I was never going to catch them.  I turned the gas off a little, at the same time the roads came around into the wind.  Tough ride home in a solo effort, but I rode pretty well today and I was pleased.  The way home we had a tailwind, which was sweet, until we turned up the steep hill back to OJ's and, in the small chain ring, my gears were jumping all around and then the chain dropped.  Thought I was going to go straight into traffic, but finally got it back onto the big ring and had to suffer up the hill in a big gear.  Piece of shit bike, I don't know how much more it has in it, but I don't have the resources to get a new road bike right now. 

Man, that was more words about my last swim/bike/run, and more positivity, than my race report.  Obviously training is not racing, but it helped put me back in better spirits following the weekend, and confirmed to myself at least that it was just a bad day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Charlie Browned

Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest - Lucy

Warning: as negative as my posts generally are, this will by far, be one of the most negative.  So keep that in mind if you choose to read this "race" report.  It will then end in a scathing indictment of triathlon race organizations.

Saturday was the first stop in the triathlon season, with the Rumpus in Bumpass Triathlon down in Virginia.  I had been following the anticipated weather reports throughout the week and knew that conditions looked pretty miserable.  However, weather is weather, and everyone has to deal with it the same on race day.  We had received an email saying the water temperature was 68 degrees (pretty nice) and I expected to have my new bike finished by Thursday before the race to ride on.  With OJ having raced the year before, I had it on good authority that the swim was both potentially long, and quite rough.  The bike course was a two loop format, pretty easy roads, as in only small rollers to contend with.  The run was also two loops, not very difficult, not very interesting.  Despite how bad my foot's been lately, I have been feeling okay racing so I figured I could have a decent run, and a pretty good ride.

Then it was time to get Charlie Browned.

Thursday I call the bike shop.  The bike I was/am purchasing was built and ready to go, but I didn't like the aerobars so I wanted to swap them out.  This was last Saturday.  They were going to order the bars that day, expected them in by Wednesday, bike ready to go by Thursday.  I am told on Thursday afternoon that it is on the list to be finished that night.  Okay.

Friday I call the bike shop.  The response I get was quite unexpected.  They tell me that they put the order in Wednesday for one-day delivery, but due to a glitch [sic] the part didn't ship and now they don't expect bike to be finished until Monday. 

I am pissed, but whatever.  I can ride my road bike, even if it is on its last wheels.  I've raced on it many times, and considering I am generally one of the only people that can ride as fast as I do that you will ever see racing a road bike, I really don't care.  I do recognize that, off the bat, I will lose time on the bike.  Simple fact: it is not as fast as a time trial bike/aero position.  My main problem with the bike is how its been behaving lately.  I've ridden the shit out of this thing over the 6 years I've had it, and it needs some serious work.  It's not shifting cleanly, sometimes at all.  This has caused me irritation on normal rides, and I knew it was going to frustrate me during the race.  As a result I do not put on aero wheels, which I don't have anyway, and I wouldn't wear an aero helmet while on a road bike, because that would just look stupid.

Friday night I finally decide to do my taxes and find out I owe money.  Quite a bit, actually.  And it has me stressed.  I don't sleep great, but thanks to the 10am start, at least I don't have to be up at 3am to get there. 

I drive with Alyssa down to Lake Anna, and that was probably the highlight of the day.  The rain starts, it's supremely dark even when it's supposed to be light, it's windy and it's cold.  It evoked memories of April 2008 when OJ and I drove to the very same place for the Kinetic Sprint.  It was a week later, and on the other side of the lake, but the conditions were identical.  On that day, I was racing my brand new P2, and I rode it pretty well.  I then had a good run, and finished well.  I swore that I would not race in conditions like that again.  It's not that I can't, it's that I don't want to.  I have been racing triathlons for 10 years now.  By some standards, far from an O.G., but for most people out there, it makes me a dinosaur.  I have decided that I no longer enjoy some conditions, and I'm not going to pretend like I do.  And considering that, three years ago I hadn't been seriously injured, my feelings are only stronger against it.  There are a few reasons, including the danger of riding wet roads in a loop format when 98% of people can't properly handle a bicycle; roads that remain unclosed to traffic but cars couldn't care less; my knee locks up when it's cold and raining, and knocks me out of commission.

Of the last 4 triathlons I've done, now going back to Oct 2 of last year, the temperature has been below 55 degrees and it has rained.  I just don't enjoy it. 

Nevertheless, I'm already at the race site, and I've paid (oh, I've paid) for the race, so of course I'm going to do it.  I do a short warmup before getting into the sweet new black kit I picked up.  I go down to the start, and since my body is already wet, getting the wetsuit on is becoming a challenge.  In order to facilitate getting it on, I put my right arm over my head and Riiiiipppppp - there it goes.  I now have a hole in the armpit, and my motivation is flattened.  I have never before wanted to just not start a race.  I know this hole is going to bother me during the swim, as it will allow the water to fill up the suit, but the water is too cold to go without the suit.  I don't believe it was 68.  I would say maybe more like 64, and with the air temp and rain, it was miserable.  The only thing keeping me in the water was that I heard Ke$ha's "Blow" blasting over the speakers. 

The swim was eventfully uneventful.  I did not want to be there, but I was committed to swimming at least some kind of effort.  The start was fine, until we made the first turn, when we were faced with some chop.  I didn't really care, but apparently it was a little too much for the slower swimmers of the first wave.  I was having some difficulty making out the buoys, but was doing my best to swim good lines.  I know I made a big error as we made the turn back towards shore, and had to correct myself.  It was around this time that a swimmer from the wave behind overtook me, I felt like it was the form of perennially fast swimmer Chip Berry, so I thought maybe I wasn't swimming all that bad.  Got out of the water finally, and walked it into T1. 

While others rushed around me, I had no impetus for moving quickly.  There was about 100m on grass that we had to run out to the road, and then another 100m before you could mount your bike.  My feet, being cold especially, but with my left foot being unable to run barefoot, were in serious agony.  I had clipped my shoes into my pedals, and as I tried to hop on my bike, my calves cramped.  I could not get my feet into the shoes.  I wound up having to get off the bike, unclip the shoes, put them on my feet, and then get back on.  Now the wind was really out of my sails. 

Onto the bike and I felt okay, I passed a few people, then a few people passed me.  I brought no water bottles, I carried no food.  I rode at an effort that wouldn't have been acceptable for a weeknight ride.  The parts that I took pretty slow were the turns, as I've ridden enough to know that water + paint = fall.  Other than that I was mostly sitting up, and keeping a consistent effort going.  When I got back to the last 600m or so, I really sat up, stretched out my back a bit and then got off the bike, took OFF my shoes, and walked down the hill into T2.

I was pretty annoyed that my feet were as wet, cold and muddy as they were, so I slowly put on my socks (which were wet) and old flats (which were wet) and got on my way.  Two dudes from that Team FeXY came out of transition with me, and started moving at a pretty good pace.  I briefly gave consideration to running with them, but then thought, why bother?  My day was over before it began, and now the goal was to run 10k as efficiently as possible so that I could at least salvage the weekend with a better day on Sunday.

I didn't wear a watch, which was one of the first times I've run a race without a watch.  I didn't even want to know my mile splits.  I passed a few people, think I got passed by one kid (a Terp Tri member, go Terps!) who had started in the wave before me.  I was unimpressed by the course, which featured a 200m section of trail that was particularly muddy, at the end of the first loop and then at the end of the race.  I walked across the line, grabbed a bottle of water, and went straight into a short cooldown, where I headed back up to the main road to see Alyssa come through. 

When it was all said and done, my 2:19:17/39th place finish was the worst placed finish relative to the race (distance, field, etc) that I think I've ever had.  I tend to only use the markers of the best of each discipline to measure my day, and they were all lackluster.  The swim ended up being a shade over 27 minutes.  I always expect to lose around 5 minutes to OJ, but this was like 6.5 minutes.  That's really atrocious.  On the bike, based on last year's results, I felt like I could have ridden under an hour.  Given the conditions of the day, and the bike I had to ride, I knew this wouldn't happen, but between my slowness in getting my shoes on/off at the bike mount/dismount line, and the level of effort I put out, it just wasn't happening.  I think it was a little over 1:08, and actually ranked worse relative to the field than my swim.  Ouch.  The run ended up being 40:28, 31st best for the day.  That's one the slowest 10k's I've ever run off the bike, but considering how little effort I put in, about right.

Actually, I don't even feel all that bad about the run, because I know what kind of shape I'm in and that was as easy of a day as I've had in a while. 

There were some things in my control, and some that were out, but in the end, I just didn't want to be there - and it showed.  I won't make an excuse for my lack of effort.  Conditions are conditions, and races are still races.  The likelihood of having a shitty day at Columbia (cold, rainy) and Eagleman (hot, humid) is quite high, but those races are more important to me and I try to save my efforts for when they count more.  If anything, I should apologize to my fellow competitors, who are guaranteed shitty weather anytime I touch the course.

Now, as promised, an open letter to organizers and directors of triathlons:

After racing at Saturday's Rumpus in Bumpass Triathlon (Setup Events), I feel even stronger than ever that the registration fees for these events is criminal.  The trend over the past few years is races selling out and fields expanding, but the quality of races has not improved.  As much as it kills me to spend $600 a year in advance to sign up for an Ironman, I have come to expect that one of their races will not only be run well, but you will at least feel like you've received what you paid for.  Even a race like Columbia, which charges now $130, you expect great competition, a professional field and a well-organized race. 

Rumpus cost $95 when I went to register some months ago.  For this, I had the opportunity to do a race.  At the end of the race, I got a bottle of water, a small pizza from Papa John's, and a couple of Cokes.  There were over 700 people registered for the race on Saturday, and another similar size field registered for Sunday's sprint event.  My best estimate is that in registration fees alone, the race cleared something like $125,000 for two days' worth of activities.  I certainly don't expect people to go broke, in fact I expect race directors to make enough to get by, but I also think that fees should be reasonable.  I know there are both fixed and variable costs, including things like permits, insurance, POLICE, t-shirts, food, portable toilets, lifeguards, EMTs, etc.  This stuff all adds up.  If it adds up to even half what they generate from registration, that's still a lot of money.

The reason they can charge it, though, is because they can.  They say "well it's less expensive than races like Columbia."  True, and it certainly doesn't dismiss the fact that, in 2001, I paid $65 to register for Columbia in February (race is in May).  And, 10 years later, we still eat the same shitty pasta salad and fake Oreos at the end of that race, which are inevitably soggy because it rains every year.  Everyone knows that triathlon is an expensive sport, and over the years has priced some people out.  What the sport needs is people like Brad Jaeger, whose Triathlantic Association used to hold lowkey, fun races, that charged a minimal amount.  Sidenote: Brad has gotten back into the business, and tried to hold a duathlon this weekend in Chesapeake.  He had to cancel due to lack of interest. 

People don't want to race those races.  I don't know why.  And I'll admit, I'm part of the problem.  I'm going to do big, competitive races because that's my focus.  I don't want to do a duathlon because, well, I don't want to race duathlons. 

In the couple of years that Setup Events has gone from hosting a few races to now being the "nation's largest triathlon production company", they have put on great races and have always received positive feedback.  I loved the Kinetic race (done it twice) and Luray (done that twice).  But I say, with great power comes great responsibility (Peter Parker's uncle also said it, after I did).  If you are going to be a premier event producer, act like it.  You have 700 people registered for your race, and you are giving out towels to the winners?  That is bush league.  A towel with "Virginia Triathlon Series" printed on it not only cheapens the effort of those who have helped make your race a great, competitive race, but it also shows how cheap you are.  I wager that towel, bought in bulk, costs less than $2.  Probably less than a trophy. 

Mark Coleman of Endurance Maryland gets it.  He put up a prize purse for his St. Patrick's Day Duathlon.  It was a small field, and that severely cut into his budget for the race (the race did, however, cost $95), but he still offered it.  That was enough for me to go.  And you know what, if he has the race next year, I'll probably go back. 

For Setup to not offer a cash purse, or even free entry into another race of theirs, is absurd.  But, they are able to act as a small monopoly because people will keep signing up for races regardless of the possibility of a payday.  Very few of us are in this sport to become professional triathletes, earning minor ducats along the way.  No, instead triathlon is a sport of opulence, for people who can afford to do it, and would do it anyway. 

To be fair, while this is like the US Government (wasting time) trying to send Barry Bonds to jail for doing something everyone else does too, Setup Events is not the only culprit.  All of them are.  Columbia Triathlon Association is just as guilty.  They have now begun their IronGirl race, and the Celebration Sprint.  They just use the same course skeleton as Columbia.  I know triathlons are limited by swimmable bodies of water, but to me that's just lazy.  The worst is probably Piranha Sports, because they put on the same shitty race weekend after weekend, on the same flat, boring Delaware courses, and charge a ton for that privilege. 

I am not saying I could do better, nor am I offering.  I actually do not want to be a triathlon race organizer, mostly because I still want to race myself.  I know that races struggle to make money, and a lot of them are trying to raise money for causes other than their own pocketbook.  I just think that there need to be some changes, like if you're going to charge as much as you do, put some money on the line.  There are plenty of running races that do it, and some of those fields are even smaller than triathlons.  There are some race directors out there who are open to suggestions, and others who operate on the MYOB tip. 

Of course, the only thing I can do is not go back.  I'm not going to actively tell people to not do a race, or not support one association over the other.  They wouldn't listen anyway.  I can say, unequivocally, that I will not go back to Rumpus, but in all likelihood I will go back to Luray in August.  I generally appreciate Setup Events and what they have done and continue to do for creating more races.  I wouldn't have gone to Rumpus anyway had they not changed the date of Kinetic to the week before Columbia.  I love how we can have plenty of Father's Day races but nobody dares F with Mother's Day. 

Ultimately I have been having a bad couple of days, and it culminated with the bitterness of a race that I did not enjoy.  It happens. 

As far as my foot, I don't know how I'm going to deal with it.  My knee was locked up all Saturday, and my foot has been unbearable.  I'm going to see if a few days off from running will help out.  I can't really run less than what I'm running right now.  Oh and update on my bike - well there is none, as they still aren't done with it yet.  I wonder if I'll even have it before Columbia at this point. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Perfect Mile

Last night was the Westminster Main Street Mile, the 30th edition of the downtown event, and the gang had decided to bum rush this race.  We rolled 12 deep to Westminster, a town I'd never visited.  The usual pre-race rigamarole was replaced with the affable feel of a summer youth race.  There were literally hundreds of small children, behaving like small children, and then a handful of people who looked like they had come to do work.  The Falls Road Dirty Dozen, as I'm calling us, warmed up and then changed into flats and trudged up the hill to the start.  There were a few older guys who looked pretty serious, including, we came to find out, the course record holder (3:56); Luke Belford, a quasi-local guy who was 3rd in Sunday's Port to Fort; and a smattering of high school/college looking kids. 

Based on the homework I'd done, I figured this course was up to 13 seconds faster than a flat mile.  I figured right now I'm not in great shape, but maybe could run a 5:13 - so I felt like there was an outside shot at breaking 5 for me.  When the whistle was blown to signify the start of the race, everyone tore down the hill, leaving me in their dust.  Obviously, anyone who has seen me run downhill since my surgeries knows that a) I can't really do it and b) it hurts...a lot.  Fortunately it was such a short race that I didn't have time to complain about it, and I passed through the quarter in 67.  If I tried to run that on the track (which I don't think I could right now), I'd be so toast I would have had to walk the rest of the way. 

At this point, I was still behind at least 3 girls.  I knew I would not be able to beat Diane, I was actually handicapping myself at + :20 to her.  Fortunately, I started to move up through the fading field, passing two of the girls and making my way through a few other guys.  I hit the half in 2:22, and though that was pretty decent.  If I could keep that pace, I would run under 5.  The course flattened out from there, and then there was a slight rise before dropping again into the finish.  I passed the 3/4 mark in 3:36, so breaking 5 was pretty sure now.

I passed one or two people right before the finish, and held off one hard-charging long haired guy at the line to finish 23rd in 4:50.  Obviously it was super fast because of the downhill, but at + :13, that would be a 5:03 mile.  Even if it was 20 seconds faster, that would be a 5:10.  I would gladly take either of those.  It sets me up well for a potential 5 minute mile at May 5th's Maryland Twilight Meet Alumni Mile. 

Following the race I was pretty pumped.  It isn't too often that I exceed my expectations, and I really didn't think I'd be able to run that fast.  I didn't feel too wrecked, and my foot felt okay (does not feel great today, but I expected that).  We cooled down by running back up the hill to the start, where Chrissie asked "how long have we been running" - to which we all replied "uhh...a mile".  We headed over to McDaniel College, which is right near the finish line, and watched the DMR of Ed, Jordan, Arjun and Tristram (all of whom had raced the mile) run 10:48.  Jordan pointed out that the last time he ran on a DMR, they ran 9:37.  Yikes, that's fast.

The race was a lot of fun, and will definitely go on my calendar every year.  It's a great subsitute for my workout for the week, and with the tri season opener on Saturday, I wasn't too pressed to run much more than that.  Today and tomorrow will be pretty easy, and then Saturday race followed by Sunday long ride. 

Oh, and I obviously didn't run the perfect mile.  Ed came as close as possible, running 4:05 in a winning effort.  Breaking 4 is clearly a possibility for one of our group in the next few years.  The perfect mile, for me, would have been if the race course was reversed and we ran UP the hill.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Riding Dirty

The first full week of April made me realize one thing:

I don't give a shit about May flowers, and what it takes to bring them to us. 

I am seriously struggling with rain-onset depression right now, and last week was another tough week to make it through.  It was not terrificly warm, and it rained a few full days, and just brought about that spring malaise I loathe so much.  But, I turned lemons into lemonade and made the most of my workouts, featuring a fairly decent 4x(600-400-200) workout on the track on Tuesday, and my first Wednesday Night Ride out of Oregon Ridge of the year.  I don't anticipate I'll go every week, 1) because it's the day after my track workouts and I no longer have the energy or brash stupidity of trying to do back-to-back workouts like that but 2) I like my Thursday Night Ride that I've been going to for now 6 summers.  Unfortunately, Thursday Night Ride starts in Owings Mills at 5:30, and it's a pretty far drive just to ride 35-38 miles.  In summers past I've driven to the running store and ridden from there, making it a little over 50, but I don't feel like riding that much right now.  Riding from home, while heinous and meaning I have to ride on Route 40, is just easier.  But, I also realize the value of the hard group rides, so my plan right now is to alternate which one I go to week-to-week. 

Anyway, the Wednesday ride got hot pretty early, with a split occurring before it even got to Stringtown Rd.  I was comfortable on Stringtown, but as soon as the group went up Yeoho I started to lose contact a bit, and spent a few miles desperately chasing.  When I realized I was never going to catch back up, I just rode hard (by myself) for 45 minutes, then cooled out for a while.  Later, I saw two guys a little ways back so waited for them to catch on, and then wound up largely pulling them to the finish. 

After my usual 4 day hiatus, I got back in the pool Wednesday with a subpar workout.  Thursday went a little better, and Friday was decent.  Still need to be more consistent about it, especially because I hate getting in the pool on weekends, and if I don't get in on Mondays, I'm already three days out. 

Saturday was a day I had been looking forward to, my third trip out to Frederick in the last 6 weeks and we had a big group coming - including OJ, Benda, David, Pat and Zero.  We hit the first climb pretty hard, and at the top I had ridden it in 18:12.  When I went out with OJ and David a month or so ago, I rode it in 19:16, so I was pleased with the improvement/personal best.  On Harp, which is always the death of me, I rode solidly, and then on Wolfsville I called for a sprint point before the end of the looped road.  The homefield advantage went to OJ and myself, who know the road better, but nevertheless we were lining up for a good sprint.  OJ had pulled off, so it was David, Benda, me.  Zero let a little gap form between us, so OJ slotted in right behind me.  I knew this meant trouble, as I figured David would pull off, then Benda, and then I would be stuck leading out OJ.  My only play, I felt, was to attack from third wheel and just try and go early.  Unfortunately OJ was right on my wheel, and then I was burned up.  OJ took it out from Benda.

Now my legs were feeling it, and the third climb back on 40 was going to be tough.  OJ was grinding out a massive gear, charging up the hill in the big ring.  I sat right on his wheel, content with letting him set the pace on this one.  I felt awesome though, and was sitting in a small gear and riding comfortably.  As we got closer to the top, I was plotting my move.  The road flattens out a little, just enough to pop into a bigger gear and take off.  My bike, which is falling apart in its old age, refused to go into the big ring when I needed it most.  Finally I got it going and made me move, gapping OJ and Benda.  The move was the death blow, or so I thought.  My legs were burned up and I had to sit back down, I had gone too far into the red.  The duo were coming back, fortunately not quickly enough, so I stayed ahead.

We dropped into Boonsboro and found that we were going to face a slight headwind on the way home.  Coming up South Mountain, I knew what was going to happen - OJ was going to do to me what I had just done to him.  That's how it goes out here, no mercy.  I sat on the front, setting the tempo up the shorter climb.  At one point, OJ and Benda went around me and I thought "sweet, this works out even better for me".  I made one last effort, passed them both, and neither came around as we crested the hill.  Rode it in 6:39 which is about as fast as I rode a few weeks ago (when I rode up in the big ring, today was small). 

But now, my body was paying for the day's efforts.  I was cooked.  It's about 12 miles to go, mostly pretty easy on the way back but if you're not feeling great, even the little rollers feel like mountains.  I had topped the first 4 climbs in first, but on the last climb of the day, the shortest one (Braddock Mountain) I had had enough.  Rode up as easy as my body could, trying to regroup before the Fast and Furious 5 mile descent into the finish. 

The ride ended up being the fastest I've gone out there, and the first time getting under 3 hours for the just-under-54 mile ride.  We scrapped our post-ride 30 minute run and instead went to Wendy's, which was a great choice. 

Sunday morning was the Port to Fort 6k, a race I've done once (2006) and a unique distance that attracts 2000 competitors (using that term loosely, a lot of corporate teams show up and basically walk).  The idea was to run our long run and in the middle just try and open up the legs a bit (during the race part) and then continue with the long run.  3 of us had ridden the day before and 1 of us had gotten real ripped up at the bars, so needless to say, it was a tough one.  Like the taints we are, we wore the race day t-shirt, which was cotton.  Side note: I can't believe people actually do this.  Generally you are picking up your shirt on race day, which means I presume you arrived at the race already wearing a shirt.  Why would you wear two, or switch them?  Seems crazy.  I still abide by my 14 day rule.  Anyway, we get in about 5 miles prior to the race, and then the race starts.  My legs were trashed.  Made it through the 3.72 mile run, just over 6 minute pace, and then ate a hot dog and glazed donut, and got back onto the run. 

Got back at 11 (race didn't start until 9) so I only had 30 minutes to get myself together to leave for Columbia to ride.  I was meeting a pretty large group down at the course, for a 40-50 mile ride.  Well, a couple things didn't go right, and ended up just riding 30 miles, but that was fine by me as I was pretty cooked.  And I will say this - the Beastman and Chicken Tender Runner are going to rock the bike, and the entire race, at Columbia, much to my ego's dismay.  I'll have to see if I can compete on the bike at least!

It turned out to be a pretty good, and evenly distributed, training week.  9600m in the pool, 170 miles on the bike and 35 miles of running.  Very efficient, not a wasted workout among the bunch. 

The title of the post is also appropriate because, anyone who has ridden with me can attest, my bike is filthy.  The Orbea Opal I acquired in 2005 is nearing the end of its life.  Everything is original, and the crap has been ridden out of it.  I think more things need to be fixed than work, and these days I sometimes wonder if it'll even make it through any given ride.  Therefore, this will be its farewell season.  By the fall/winter, I will need to find a suitable replacement.  Usually if I need something fixed, I bribe OJ with McDonald's to help me with it (once, though, it was a Dura Ace cassette, chain, cranks and whatever else we stripped from the P2).  But these things don't seem worth fixing. 

However, on a more positive note, I did acquire a new bike to race on.  I figured I can race on my road bike pretty well, but as I'm returning to my pre-accident level of fitness, that I need a proper time trial bike, or I'll just ride with a chip on my shoulder.  I wound up getting a P3, should have it by Thursday, just in time to race Saturday.  Pictures and epic story to come later.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Super GT Saturday

The weather this time of year, to me, is frightful.  In December, if it's too cold, or it's raining or snowing, I am fine either taking the day off, or riding inside.  Rides can be much shorter, as the "season" is a ways away.  By the time you get to March and April, though, excuse time is running thin and you have to start getting outside no matter what.  A 90 minute trainer ride just does not do what a 3+ hour ride on the roads will do.  Of course, it's also the time of year when it rains (all the f***ing time) and is always super windy.  And sometimes you luck out and it's warm but a lot of times it's not.

This was the case with Saturday, which became Super GT Saturday (Super Get Tough Saturday).  The planned ride was the famed Lineboro ride.  It was the first ride I did with OJ and Benda all those years ago (I guess 2006?) when I overestimated my abilities and got left in Glen Rock to ride 30 miles home by myself.  From old Tri-Speed in Timonium, it's a 78 mile ride.  From home, it's 115.  I was up for something in the middle, so Pat and I met Ben W and Benda at Meadowbrook shortly after 8am on Saturday.

Rewinding for a minute, back in college, training with Tri Guy Tommy meant that you went out in all conditions.  One day I remember was so bad that I wanted to scream bloody murder.  38 degrees, monsoon-like rain.  I made it through 90 minutes or 2 hours or something and had to call it a day.  From that day forward I was committed to not doing that again.  Over time, OJ and I have developed our system.  If it's below 50 and actively precipitating at the time we are supposed to ride, we call the ride off.  If it is not raining at the start, but we think we will get rained on during the ride, we'll suck it up.  Shoot, just riding below 40 degrees sometimes is a challenge, without rain. 

Saturday morning when I woke up it was 32.  When we got to Meadowbrook, it was maybe 34.  And it looked like it was going to rain.  As we were putting our stuff on, it started to rain.  Shit.  Get on the bikes, quick, I said.  As we pedaled out of the parking lot and onto Falls Road, it was a steady rain.  For 2 hours it rained.  We went up and up and up, until finally we were in Hampstead.  When we got to Lineboro Rd, we were pleased to finally have some respite.  For at least 20 miles, it's generally flat to small rollers, and with the tailwind we had, it was pretty comfortable. 

But riding in the rain is weird, and does strange things to you.  You can be miserable, but totally fine, while it's raining, but then it stops and your legs lock up.  It's happened to me before, and it happened to me on this day.  I tend to not do well with stops, particularly extended ones, on cold days.  The sun was not shining and even at 1pm the temperature was still not above 40, and the hours of rain enabled my body to get pretty cold.  One minute I was riding well, we stopped in Glen Rock for a refueling break, and when we got going again, I had nothing.

As we got onto York Rd (22 miles from HV, at least 34 back to Meadowbrook), there was no power left in the engine room.  It took everything I had to get up the grueling hills of Hereford.  Ben, who is training for an IM in a few weeks, was riding stronger now and I told him to go home.  Pat stayed back with me and I quickly crushed a Snickers, a glazed donut and drank a Coke from a (now) 7-11 on Mt. Carmel Rd.  It seemed to get me back to a better place, and I was able to get home from there.  As I don't ride with a computer, Ben's was malfunctioning and Pat forgot to start his for a few miles, the ride was somewhere between 96 and 97 miles.  Easily the worst day I've ever tried to ride that long in my life, so even though I was brutalized by the end, I deposited that one into the fitness bank. 

All plans to do anything else on Saturday were now erased, and efforts went toward recovering for Sunday's very early long run.  I started running from College Park to DC in college, and for most of the last 12 years I've always done the run on the weekend of Cherry Blossom, timing it so I finish my run around the time of the finish of the race.  Waking up at 5:30 on Sunday to accomplish this, this time, was tough for me, but we made it down just in time to see Zero get across the line.  The run was probably not too slow, either.  None of us seemed to have great legs, but we muddled through and put in an hour and fifty minutes, so we figured at least 15 miles. 

The two days of long ride/run had taken their toll, and by the time I got home Sunday at noon, I was not much in the mood for getting out on the bike again.  This was a good move, as I felt a little better on Monday morning.  With Monday being Orioles Opening Day, and the mercury hitting 80 degrees, it was an opportune time to get out on the bike.  Alyssa wanted to go down to the Columbia course, and since I haven't ridden it in two years, thought it would be a good idea as well.  The forecast said it was going to be windy, and you know anytime they actually bother to say that, it's going to be SUPER windy, which it was.  I hate riding in Columbia to begin with, and the wind just makes it worse.

I break that course into 3 parts - beginning (to the second traffic circle), middle (the lollipop section, back to the circle) and end (circle back home).  It breaks pretty nicely almost into even thirds (by distance), with the beginning being somewhat hard, the middle being hard, and the end being somewhat easy.  I don't often go out to Columbia, so when I do, I try to ride an honest effort (if I am just doing the course).  In the first section, we got to the circle in 25:35.  Three times over, that would be a 1:16ish ride.  The middle was particularly tough on this day, because of the wind.  That section took 29:18 so we were just under 55 minutes back at the circle.  The way home was quite fast, at just over 21 minutes, and we finished up at just over 1:16.  That's a pretty decent ride out there, particularly for Alyssa, who rode around 1:19 last time she raced there.

For me, though, I always get somewhat disheartened when I realize how much time I have to pull to ride what I need to ride.  12-16 minutes, where can I even find that time?  I didn't feel like I was going all out, but I also just don't understand how I've ridden as fast as I have there.  A time trial bike will certainly help a little, and full-on race effort.  I guess that could be 10 minutes.  So right now I'd give myself a 1:06.  I need at least 2 minutes in the next 6 weeks.  Considering how badly I'm going to get smoked in the water and on the run, I really need to make sure there's at least one shining moment come race day.  Nevertheless, a ride like that goes a long way.  From there it was Orioles time, where the O's won their Opening Day matchup against the Tigers to start the season 4-0 for the first time in a decade and a half. 

I have been feeling pretty crappy for a while now, some days like I'm completely broken.  Too bad I'm not better on a bike, maybe I'd just stop running and swimming.

Here are some of bike riding tips mentioned in today's post:

1) Besides being uncomfortable, and my hatred of being cold, the real reason I don't ride outside in the rain is safety.  When faced with choices now I try to think safety first.  Rain may be okay for us on our bikes, but with the talking/texting/asians/women/old people, etc, going on in cars, I don't trust them.  I'd rather take the day off or ride inside.

2) A Coke and a Snickers can bring you back from the brink. 

3) If you plan on riding your TT bike, plan on that day being windy.  It's Murphy's Law, just the way it works.

Friday, April 01, 2011


March is finally over (somebody tell the weather that) and I'm excited to move onto April.  I really need the weather to improve, now more than ever.  Days like the ones we've had this week kill me - cold, rain, dreary.  I never feel good and generally don't enjoy getting out to train.  My mechanical issues are still plaguing me, most notably the left foot problem (plantar?) and in turn everything that's affecting.  Running has been limited still, moreso in comfort than in volume.  Here's how I ended up in March:

Swimming - C+.  Finally getting into the pool at least 3 days per week enabled me to swim 38,000 meters.  This should really be a two week number, but it's at least 14,000 more than February.  In the middle of the month I seemed to have some decent workouts, but this last week or so has been a struggle.  I'm just not swimming very fast, and not feeling good doing it.  Still, compared to March 2010 (4000m, one swim before surgery), it's an increase. 

Cycling - B+.  I know I gave myself an A last month, and I've actually done a fair bit of riding given the conditions this month, so this is more related to the weather and my outdoor ride capabilities.  Two trips out to Frederick and a really gangster four day cycling binge helped me feel pretty good about my fitness.  But then it got cold again and rained, so it put me inside for two weeks.  The annoying thing right now is that I feel the best when I'm on my bike, but I haven't had as many opportunities as I'd like to get outside and feel good about it.  This weekend looks to be super frustrating with temps just not quite where they should be still.  I finished with 456 miles on the bike, my highest March total potentially ever but definitely in the last 8 years.  And much more than the one hour trainer ride I did last March before surgery.

Running - B.  Again, looking at the numbers and it's decent at 173 miles for the month.  Consistent with the past two months, and much more than the 0 I put up for March 2010.  4 weeks of track workouts now and I've seen some improvement, but each effort has left my foot pretty wrecked.  I got in two proper long runs and haven't "missed" any runs, so that's been positive.  My race effort on 3/13 was also good. 

April is going to be a fun month, kicking off this Sunday with my annual run from College Park to DC to see the Cherry Blossom race.  Opening Day for the Orioles is Monday, and thanks to Brennan I am 100% ready for the Orioles this year.  Then things get fun with Race Week 2k11 - where Ed and I will be trying to outrace one another.  He has 4 races from Saturday 4/9 to Saturday 4/16, while I have potentially 4 races from Sunday 4/10 to Sunday 4/17.  This includes a 6k, a road mile and the tri season opener.  Then it's back to NJ for Easter weekend.  As long as there is no rain, the temps are in the 70s and it's sunny every day, I don't think I'll have a problem.