Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hot and Dangerous

Following the Sheehan race, I did take it pretty easy.  I felt like getting in a longer run on Monday, so I ran down and back to our Monday Fed Hill Runners group, making it a 14 mile day.  After that I proceeded not to run again until Friday, when I met Brennan in the morning for a 12 mile run, during which I lost about 10 pounds.  I weighed in at 158 post-run, which is really, really light.  It hasn't even been that hot this past week, mostly just humid, which is really disconcerting. 

Swimming went fairly well, with Tuesday doing 30x100 and going straight into 400-300-200-100.  Knocking out 4000m in 1:04 is always a good sign, and on Wednesday I did another 4x800 workout.  Thursday got into the pool with Alyssa and we did her workout of 10x200, which was tough, and by Friday I was pretty cooked.  Got in for a 75 minutes and kept it all pretty easy.  For the week, that made 17,5000m.  Following the previous week's 16k, I was pretty pleased to get the swim volume back up.

The bike last week was tough.  I made it up to Wednesday Night Ride, and again found myself riding on or very close to the front for a good portion of the first half.  Fortunately, the pace was kept pretty chill on Stringtown, so I got to the front and began to pick it up on Yeoho.  There were just too many people left at this point and I was tired of the free ride service they were getting.  Seriously, it's like they're afraid to ride on the front.  For instance: there were two dudes wearing the same team jersey and we'll say Rider A is on the front with Rider B in 2nd, me in third.  A pulls off and B, instead of sitting on the front for even ten seconds, immediately pulls off.  I move to the front.  When I feel like being done, I pull off to the left, but instead of pulling through, the rider behind me just finds my wheel again.  A couple of times, the person in front of me would allow a gap to form, and then I would have to leapfrog them to close the gap, so instead of getting a little break, would find myself on the front again pretty quickly.  Needless to say, when we were about 4 miles out from the end, I had had enough.  I sat up, and rolled into the finish. 

Thursday came and I hadn't been to the Thursday Night Ride in a while, but this meant two things: I would potentially have to ride harder than I really felt like riding, and I had to drive again to get to the ride.  I drove up to the running store and left from there, riding the 25 minutes to the bike shop.  The group was small, and the power hitters weren't there.  I was glad to see that; although it meant I would spend a lot more time on the front, it also meant I'd have a little more control of the effort.  Sure enough, I was able to keep things comfortably hard, putting in a few hard sections.  The ride wound up being just over 50 miles so I was psyched to knock out the back to back days like that.

Saturday, following the timing of Dreaded Druid Hills 10k, Pat, Alyssa and I rolled out around 11:15 for a 4.5 hour ride.  The air temp was allegedly 87, but it felt much cooler.  It was mostly overcast, and threatened rain for a large part of the day.  We made good time to Rocks, putting in a monster effort for about 5 miles through the park and up to the gas station.  Stopped there briefly to refuel, and then got on our way.  A few miles later, after riding on a particularly shitty section of the road, I looked down and noticed my rear tire looked a little soft.  Got off and it was going flat.  I can't remember the last time I got a flat on a ride, it may be over 2 years ago.  Anyway, fix that in a few minutes, but the CO2 didn't really catch well and my tire felt just as flat as it was before.  Well, no bother, I'll just keep going.  We continue to roll and put in another few good sections, and finally make it home a little after 4, good for nearly 80 miles.  I go to put air in my tire and it was at 20psi.  Haha.  Nice.

Off the bike I went for a 5 mile run, which felt awesome.  After how much Friday's run leveled me, I was glad to see I had come back alright for Saturday.  Went out Saturday night for the first time in a real long time, making it out until about 1am.  This meant Sunday was going to be rough.  4:45am wakeup, Pat swings by at 5, me/Pat/Alyssa head up to Philly to spectate the Philly Tri.  We get up there, find a place to park (that seems nowhere near the finish/transition) and start hoofing it.  We find ourselves atop Lemon Hill, which is where the course went, and not a minute later I hear the distinctive horn of a little motorbike, and what would you know - up the hill come the two leaders, Cam Dye and Andy Potts.  It was perfect timing, and a perfect spot to watch as it was a really tough climb.  We watched the pros come through, and then our friends, including Zero and Tommy, in the elite wave.  After their second loop, we walked toward the Art Museum along the water, and then down the other side, to catch the end of their run.  We walked all the way to the finish.  My dogs were killing me, and my knee was super tight.  I hate walking, and we had to have walked at least 6 miles by the end of the day because from the finish line we still had to walk back to the car, which was on the other side of the river. 

We drove home, all exhausted, and stopped in Newark DE for breakfast/lunch.  Got back to the homestead around 1:30 I guess, and was wiped.  After gorging at a bbq on Sunday evening, I finally went for a 4 mile run.  It was one of the slowest runs I've ever done, I just needed to get out and shake out. 

For the week, that made it 17.5k swimming, 171 miles on the bike and 35 miles of running - a pretty balanced week, and 19 hours.  I have to be a little careful though, because I've been having some left hamstring issues since Eagleman.  I started feeling it on the bike, and I figured it was due to the fact I didn't really put in any similar efforts on the TT bike for that length of time.  It hasn't hampered me during workouts, but has really become a problem when I'm sitting for a while or sleeping.  When I got back from my run last night (another down and back to FHR, so another 14 miles), it was not feeling great.  Today it feels a little worse.

So no track workout for me tonight, instead I'm going to attempt the first of the BRRC Summer Track Series tomorrow evening at Goucher.  Scheduled events include the 1500m, 800m and 2 mile, so my plan is to race the 1500, run the 8 hard, and then do more of a tempo effort in the 2 mile.  Good effort ahead of this weekend's Peachtree 10k in Atlanta.  Things I have to keep on top of now are, as usual, hydration and sodium intake.  I can see it in my face after these longer efforts, the dark, sunken eyes are a trademark characterisitc of depletion.  The temperatures honestly haven't been that bad lately, but the humidity has been quite high.

This past weekend was one of the few "off" weekends I was going to have this summer, and it wound up being super busy.  Now, I've got races each of the next 4 weekends, and traveling for 3 of them (ATL, 2 in NJ).  It will be a balancing act to ensure I can keep the volume up and still maintain the race efforts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

George Sheehan Classic

Following the continued failure of my 2011 triathlon season, I was glad to take it fairly easy last week.  Correction - mostly easy.  I somehow managed 16k in the pool, which took place in just the first four days of the week, and that's the most I've swam in any "week" this year.  I headed back home to NJ on Thursday night for Father's Day and one of my favorite races, the George Sheehan Classic 5 Miler. 

Friday's weather was threatening, with off and on rain showers, so in my effort to not tempt fate, I opted to not ride.  I headed into Red Bank to the packet pickup with my brother when it opened, and then we went up to Tatum Park to run.  Tatum is a park that's about 5 miles from my parents' house and for some reason I didn't really start running there until college.  It's a small park, good for 5-7 mile runs without repeating any trails, but the terrain varies from single track trails to large meadows, and it's not a very hard place to run.  Ran my 7 mile loop and felt alright heading into Saturday.

Get to the race on Saturday morning and am immediately saddened by the field.  This used to be a race won in 23 minutes.  There would be 3 to 4 thousand people in the race.  And that's when it was in August - inevitably worse conditions.  Now the whole race just seems budget, like they're hanging on to this ghost of a race to try to keep the memory of Dr. George Sheehan alive (If you aren't familiar with the good doctor, check him or some of his books out - he was my mom's doctor when she was growing up).  After warming up with the siblings, I came back to the car to discover that I had not brought my flats.  Bummer.  I even took out the stupid elastic laces (from last week) and put back in my regular laces the night before, and now I had to run in my trainers.

On the line and it was like a high school reunion of sorts.  There's Rathbone, who was maybe two years younger than me in high school, and has been running super strong as of late.  Falvey, who ran for CBA and lives with Pat's brother Tommy.  Petey Fo, who went to school with my sister and who is quite speedy.  The four of us started on the line together, and after saying I was looking to run about 5:40 for the first mile, they agreed that sounded good.  After a lengthy speech from Dr. Sheehan's son Michael, and then not having someone to sing the National Anthem so we just sang it ourselves, the gun went off and away we went.  There's a slight incline for a quarter mile before making a left and the race had already separated. 

The four of us were a few steps behind Noel, who has won this race at least the last two years and generally wins all the races in the area.  I knew two years ago she ran 27:3x, and last year she was around 28:30, so it would be a good bet to follow her if that's what I was looking to run.  My legs felt okay, but I just felt tired.  We split mile 1 in 5:39 - right on - but I just didn't feel like I had it in me on this day.  Meanwhile, Eric is riding his bike alongside Falvey, and then drops back when I got dropped.  It looked like he was trying to "pace" me, to which I wanted to shoo him away.  My 2nd mile was 5:54 and I felt depleted.  Looked like I just wasn't quite ready for the effort!

Faced with the decision of a) running the same effort, but still slowing down or b) consciously slowing down and saving it for another day, I chose B.  And once on Ridge Rd, that's where I felt the tiny force that is...E Lun.  Erin ran with my sister in high school and just graduated from Richmond, having run I think in the 17:30 range for 5000m.  She was flying, and of course I was now legitimately running like a zombie.  I uttered some encouragement, as did she, and she flew up the road.  Despite this relaxing of effort, I was surprised to see a 6:12 mile 3.  That wasn't as bad as I expected, but I was raining sweat and was sloshing in my shoes.  And that's when my least favorite part of the race hits: the Neighborhood.

It features many, many turns and I've never run well in there.  Fortunately, despite running 6:28 for the mile in there, only one or two people passed me.  This was a surprise, I guess most other people were struggling too.  It was when we popped back out onto Ridge that I began to run out of fear.  I heard that the 3rd place girl was behind me, and that 4, 5 and 6 were close behind.  Awesome, let's get beat by 6 chicks.  Tower Hill was upon us, and I ran well up that, nearly bridging to Falvey.  Unfortunately, as we all know I can't run downhills, and he opened back up.  Simultaneously, the third place girl went by me.  I was fine with sitting behind for a brief second, due to the view, but then I had to run a little faster.  I turned onto Broad Street, saw my parents and Vic on the side, realized I couldn't catch Falvey and just strided in.  30:18.  Ouch.  This is literally the 2nd slowest time I've ever run here.  Even after Eagleman 2008 I ran a 29:44.  I just did not have it today. 

Yet somehow, when results were posted, this abysmal time was good enough for 20th place, out of just 1443 runners.  Every year I get slower but my place stays about the same.  I wish this race could return to its former glory!  Noel did wind up winning, in 28:39 I think, and Erin was 2nd in 29:34.  Falvey finished just 6 seconds up on me, but Rath went 28 low for 6th or 7th place I believe.  So he actually got faster than our first mile. 

The good news of the day was that my brother and I won the sibling-sibling title, as he ran a course best 35:02.  Just depends on who shows up any given year, and more importantly, who fills out the team paperwork.  At least we won something. 

Later in the day I met Tommy to go ride.  We left at 3pm and I was looking for 2-2.5 hours.  We rode around the various townships and finally got out to the beach and saw that we were going to pick up the north-blowing tailwind on Ocean Ave.  Blazed it.  I looked back at one point and Tommy was nowhere to be seen.  Once we hit the beach clubs, where the cars have a tendency to NOT look as they pull into or out of the parking lots, I slowed down and Tommy caught back on.  Kept it chill on the freshly paved 2 mile stretch from Rumson bridge to Sandy Hook, and once on the Hook, I wanted to put in a fair effort to the end of the island.  It's somewhere between 5.5 and 6 miles, and armed with a tailwind, it meant going pretty quick.  Tommy stayed on my wheel for 4 miles of it before slipping back a little, and it felt super easy to push 30mph (tailwind obviously helps).  I split 12:02 for the lenght of the island, and then we had to come back into the wind.  Bleh.

Tommy again stuck to my wheel as I was getting tossed around, and we made it back in just under 17 minutes.  Once we hit the uphill of the mammoth bridge into Highlands, he was gone.  Ha.  I chilled and waited, and then we rode down Scenic Blvd into Leonardo.  He went home from there, and I turned around and went back up the 2 mile climb.  I tried to stay in the aerobars and was successful, riding it in 7:08 (not a bad split up).  I came home via Locust and Rumson, along River Rd and through Red Bank.  A solid 2:25 on the bike for the day and then headed over to the NJ International Track Meet.  Saw a few solid performances, including Canadian Olympic Carmen Douma-Hassar in the 1500m, and rolled out.

The next day was some family time, so the crew rolled to Allaire State Park for a 2 hour "hike" - really a walk, but that's a long time to be on your feet!  I hadn't been to the park in years, and it was awesome.  Lots of good trails, but nothing too challenging.  Some sandy stretches, some pine needles, real cool.  The roads outside the park are great for the TT bike, so next time I'm home I'll head down there.  After helping dad move some real heavy stuff, we went to eat at this new place in Marine Park, The Boondocks.  Great weather, awesome view.  Didn't want to eat too much as I still needed to run, so following dinner, my bro came with me to Hartshorne.  We didn't start running until 7:30.  He ran real well, keeping up with me for the whole 7 miles, and then I added on 2.  That was dicey, as it was now pretty dark in the trails, and the trail I was on was pretty shitty.  Got back, satisfied with the run.  When I lived there, one of my favorite things to do on the longest day of the year was to run there with waning daylight up to the bunkers, and run back in the dark.  June 19 was close enough this year!

Going home is mostly always enjoyable.  I definitely miss the beach lifestyle, and the plethora of parks is a great resource.  Discounting my run-in 2 years ago on the bike, in general the roads are good to ride on.  Not a lot of debris, no highway riding, and above all, flat.  I obviously wouldn't trade my training here, but every so often it's nice to know you can just leave your house and immediately be rolling on the bike.  I like catching up with my friends, and this weekend a few extra were home because of the weekend.  Got to see Koot, Lauren, P, Vic, Bobber and LByrne, so that's a major success.  Considering I have to go home twice in July, likely twice in September and once in October for races, I'll get to see enough of it this year. 

Following the race I feel pretty decent, realizing I just wasn't ready to race I suppose, and I think I'll take it pretty easy again this week.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Every Day I'm Shufflin'

Well, that sucked.

Seriously.  Not good.

The score is now Eagleman 2.5, Ryan 0.5.  I'll say I earned a half point in 2009 because I didn't have an epic failure, unlike 2008 and now 2011.  The trip to Cambridge began on Saturday with the diva-worthy temper tantrum I threw when my bike was not cooperating.  My fault for not having it ready to go before Saturday, but when I went to swap the brake pads (putting in the cork ones for the carbon rims), the front right would not go all the way in (twss) and, somewhere in the process, I f'd up the whole front brake.  Now it was late in the morning, and I was already sweating.  Alyssa and I met Pat's brother Tommy in Cambridge and by the time we were ready to ride, it was already 1pm.  On the way out for my 45 minute ride, I could tell something was wrong because it felt like I was pedaling through fudge.  When we were halfway out, I stopped and looked at the brake - and sho nuff it was completely up against the rim, impeding the smooth rotation of the wheel.  I was really frustrated now, and wanted to smash that piece of shit on the ground.  We arrived back at the cars, now almost 2pm, and went for a 20 minute run.  I felt pretty terrible, and the pace of 7:50ish reflected that. 

On our way to the transition area, we spotted Benda and Bob V, and fortunately Bob had both his entire toolset and the skills necessary to quickly adjust my brake.  Satisfied with the outcome, I threw the bike in transition, where I knew it was going to take a bath later that day.  Then we hopped in the water.  It was warm (they claimed 82, but I don't know if it was that warm) and real shallow.  The buoys looked close, but generally I think they're supposed to be about 200 meters or so apart.  If that's the case, you could stand well beyond the first buoy, and even at the second buoy it was only about 7 feet deep.  I swam to the second one and then came back.  We met up with Pat and Jackie and the five of us found our hotel.  Then it was time for dinner - but where to go?  I hate the Eastern Shore, at least that part of it, because it's filled with fast food and awful chains.  We opted to keep my terrible tradition of eating at Greene Turtle in Salisbury (25min away) where it was a) freezing cold inside and b) slow and not very delicious.  We scooped up some DQ on the way home and then kicked it in the room, getting ready for the next morning while watching I Love You, Man. 

We heard our neighbor's alarm go off at 4:15, so I didn't sleep very well after that, but I didn't "get up" until 5am.  Out the door just around 5:30 and off to park, we had to walk a little bit to get to transition so that served as my warmup.  This is the first time I think in the history of racing that I did not run a STEP before the race.  We watched the pros come out of the water and then I just didn't feel like running, and with my foot hurting, I figured I may as well not give it an opportunity to hurt.  The air temp was still somewhat cool, but the humidity was high.  And here's where the race report begins:


First pro out of the water was a little under 25 minutes.  Some were closer to 30, some were over.  It seemed that my pre-race (non-wetsuit) goal of 32:xx was not likely.  I've done this race three times now, and the start has moved...three times.  This time we entered via the boat ramp, and I guess one hour and five minutes after the pros went off, off we went.  I felt like I had a decent start, and the conditions were pretty good - good water temp and not too choppy.  By the first turn (a long way out), there were noticeably fewer orange caps around.  I was picking up a lot of the slow swimmers from earlier waves, and nobody from my wave had passed me since the first 200m.  I was pleased with my lines, and since I touched three buoys, I felt like I was swimming as straight as I could have.  By the time I turned in towards shore, I didn't see any orange - I was really just by myself.  When it became shallow, the race got weird.  I figured swimming is still faster, and more efficient, than trying to walk or dolphin dive for an extended period, but there were a number of people walking in seemingly as fast as I was swimming.  With maybe 75m to go, I started mixing in some dolphin diving before finally just giving up and wading in.  Out of the water in 34:45 (192 overall/33rd 30-34).


With no wetsuit to pull off, I figured I could have a speedy T1.  Nope.  I found my bike and just was not moving with any oomph.  I put on my glasses, then helmet, then number, and since I don't have a computer on my bike, I wanted to ride with my watch so I could keep track of when I should be doing various activities.  I ran out of transition and was surprised to see them allowing people to mount their bikes RIGHT THERE.  That seemed precarious, as that road is pretty narrow to start.  I hopped on the bike and started pedaling.  After the initial uphill, I had built enough momentum to get my feet in the shoes, and then as we turned onto the next road, I tightened them up.  I quickly found my groove and was easily moving past people.

I settled into the aerobars and the first 8 miles went pretty quick.  I passed 10 miles in what looked to be about 24:30, and looked to have about 8 minutes in my pocket from when I went out a few weeks ago.  It then seemed like there was a little bit of a headwind on the way out to the refuge, which I expected, and I rolled through 20 miles in 48:45 I think.  My goal was to ride 2:15, which for some reason I thought was 25mph, because apparently I can't do math.  I used the calculation of 20mph = 3min/mi and 30mph = 2min/mi, so 25mph must be 2:30/mi.  I figured out during the ride that it was not correct, and in fact it was 2:24/mi.  So at 20 miles, I was about 45 seconds slower than 25mph pace.  Shoot. 

I had made the decision to only have my downtube water bottle cage, nothing else.  I figured I would just take something from every station and would be good.  Well, I didn't need anything at the first one, so I took a water bottle at the 2nd aid station (around an hour).  As we made the left in the refuge, it felt like we picked up a bit of a tailwind so I used it to my advantage.  I passed 30 miles in 1:12:30 I think, so I should have been on pace at this point.  I had a little Bento box with 4 Gu packets, and threw in some Gu Chomps, and originally had 6 S! Caps.  Well, the humidity had me feeling a little queasy, so I only ate the Chomps (I think there were 6 or 7 of them) and I had somehow lost 3 of the S! Caps so I could only take three. 

Shortly after 30 miles is where I came up on Pat, who must have swam well and was riding great.  I then passed OJ, who was of course just out for a swim and ride.  I hadn't seen many 30-34 people in a while, so it was good to see some people I knew.  I passed 40 at 1:35 and felt okay, but was becoming a little less comfortable in the aero position.  Note: as OJ and I discussed today, we definitely do not ride our TT bikes enough.  This is only the 6th time I've ridden it this year, which really means since July of 2009.  56 super flat miles take it out of you when all you do is pedal and crouch.

I passed Dorchester HS and made the left turn at 1:53, which was still about the same amount of time I was up on our ride from a few weeks ago, and that's when I started noticing the wind again.  Passing 50 in just a few seconds over 2 hours, I thought I could still get in inside of 2:15, but must have slowed down in the last few miles because I finished at 2:16:44 (24.57mph).  A 2 minute improvement from 2009, and what appeared to be 8th fastest ride in 30-34 (moved me into 11th off the bike).  Cool, but obviously the people that had ridden faster had also swam faster!  So now I have to run really fast, ha.


T2 was also not particularly quick.  I had worn my one piece for the swim and bike, but I have trouble running in it for longer distances, so I unzipped the thing, pulled the top down and put on my old white tri top.  Much more comfortable.  I also put on socks and a hat.  The first couple of steps told me I was in for a long day.  Even in 2008 I at least ran the first quarter mile faster.  I figured I would run something in the 6:15-6:20 range for the first mile, and that the slowest I would run would be 6:30.  Imagine my surprise when I came through in 6:46.  Well, there goes that.  For a little while I held hopes that I just needed to control my faculties, but my left quad was seizing up.  Bad news.  I immediately slipped to nearly 7:30 miles, and then it only got worse.  When some of the girls I know started passing me (they had started 8min earlier, and I had passed them on the bike), I threw in the towel.  Out on the eternally long stretch of shittiness, I saw Matias out there killing it.  Adam Webber was having a great day (Matias had only passed him near the turnaround).  Chad was running well.  Jeremy Cornman, who, much like Columbia, had left T2 with me, was blazing.  It took everything I had to stay upright.  My fingers were tingling and I could feel that all-too-familiar feeling of electrolyte depletion. 

I was now walking...a lot, and stopping for no reason at all.  I hit the turnaround and shortly after, Pat passed me.  In that stupid little taint of a road around mile 10, OJ was riding next to me for a minute on his bike.  Two guys pass me and say "you know you'll get disqualified for that" - to which my snotty remark was "yeah his pacing my 10:30 miles is really an advantage."  F you.  So he took off and I went back to suffering.  A really old man cruised past me.  Then with 2.5 to go, you come up on this little neighborhood that always has a party.  Sometimes they have a slip-n-side, and I had always wanted to do it.  Well, no slip-n-slide this year, but they had Cornhole.  So I took one of the beanbags and on my first throw, tossed it right through the hole.  AWESOME.  They gave me high fives.  Then I got yelled at by a race official on a motorbike because I was on the wrong side of the road.  Again, F you.

I saw OJ again sitting with pre-race fave, Chris Legh, on a lawn in the shade, with a mile to go.  I stopped and talked to them for a bit.  Then finished up.  My run was 1:58:54, one of the worst of the day, and all but 2 of the people I passed in my age group on the bike reclaimed their positions on me, and I finished at 31st in 30-34 and I guess 166th overall.  My final time was 4:54:04.  This was somehow slower than what I did at Hunterdon last September, with just three months of running and biking in my legs, on my road bike, on a really hard course.  Man, I suck.

Upon crossing the finish line, I was greeted by Cheese, Jen and Carly, who had made the long drive out to watch us.  Really nice of them.  Particularly since Cheese had raced that morning in Baltimore, and drove out immediately after.  I felt pretty terrible, and although I've never thrown up after a race, I thought I was going to.  I dry heaved a few times and then finally cooled down to the point where I was a little more normal.  Watched Alyssa come through (new PR - 5:05, previous EM best was 5:19) and then I went in the water for a few minutes with the brothers McLoughlin and OJ.  It was not cooling me off much.  I didn't care much for sticking around for awards, but good thing we did as Alyssa had earned a slot again for Clearwater (note: when I say Clearwater, I mean Las Vegas, but I am continuing to call it Clearwater because I like the sound of it better). 

A storm was about to roll through, so we packed up, including the belongings of Alyssa's friend, Andrew Hodges, who had finished well in the pro division.  We hit Wendy's in Easton on our way out, then got stuck in bridge traffic for a while as the storm of the century hit hard.  That night I had a fairly typical hiccup fit, and then Monday came.  No rest for the weary, this was Alyssa's birthday and coach Hillary had given her a tough swim workout.  Apparently on her athletes' birthdays she likes to give them 10k sets, but being the day after the race she had a kind heart and gave her 26x200 instead (for 26 years old).  I actually felt pretty awesome doing this swim, much better than I expected to feel.  My left quad was really tight from cramping the day before, so I didn't run.  Tuesday I got in the pool for a short set, Wednesday I swam a little longer again and then ran at night.  I felt surprisingly decent.  This morning I got in the pool again for another workout with Alyssa.  I love how the past four days have been incredibly nice, with low humidity and low mornings temps.  It couldn't have just arrived one day earlier?

So now it's time for some analysis:

1) Speedsuits work.  Looking at the swims of those I know who wore speedsuits, and those I know who didn't, I can unequivocally say that they work!  It should be pretty obvious, but I really didn't think the advantage would be that great.  But here's what I know: Benda swam about 25:45, wearing a Blue Seventy suit.  OJ admitted after the race that he wasn't really swimming that hard, finishing in 28:55, but even swimming very easy wouldn't come in 3 minutes behind Benda.  Meanwhile, Matias - who had an all-around great race - swam just one second behind OJ using an XTerra speedsuit.  Then I put it into context of Columbia.  Matias swam 19:13 there, while Pat swam 19:31.  I would have expected maybe 30 seconds or so between the two at EM.  Instead, Pat swam 31:20 with his tri top and shorts.  That's a pretty big gap, and at this level you wouldn't see an improvement like that (discounting bad days).  Pat lost time to others who he may normally outswim, but then my gap to Pat was about what I expected at 3:25.  Benda is a great swimmer, and I am clearly not, but I also shouldn't lose 9 minutes over 1.2 miles.  Maybe 7.  I am now going to have to get one of these things as Louisville is obviously non-wetsuit.

2) I need to spend more time on my TT bike.  Obviously after being hit by a car while on my previous TT bike, one can understand my apprehension and aversion to riding it on a regular basis.  I do not feel comfortable riding out of the city on it (at least not riding on the bars), and most of Baltimore County is simply just too hilly.  Most of our rides feature quite a bit of climbing, so I need to figure out a decent place to ride it.  But I noticed that I became less comfortable by the minute after about 90 minutes on it, and my neck and arms were quite sore after the ride.  A course like EM does not suit my fancy, as I hate pedaling (seriously, it sounds dumb but I hate pedaling).  Based on how some of the other guys rode, I wouldn't have expected to be as far back as I was.  I use them mostly as barometers as they are quite speedy on the bike.  Adam rode 2:12.  Matias was just under 2:15.  Chad rode 2:13.  Lucas didn't race this year but has gone 2:13.  These guys are among the strongest riders in the entire race, so at least I held my own, but when I'm already giving up minutes in the water, it doesn't leave me in a good position.

3) Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.  My buddy Matias, amateur winner and 8th place overall, had a great race, going 4:05.  That's ridiculous.  He was kind enough to share his race report, including his nutritional intake.  He used smart, even splits to get the win, and clocked I think the third fastest run of the day behind Richie Cunningham and one other pro.  He consumed an ideal amount of calories throughout the bike, and was able to run fine off the bike.  Meanwhile, I consumed probably 300 calories total throughout the day, and paid for it dearly.  This is the same thing that happened in 2008.  In 2009, interestingly, I ate a little more and ran "okay" (1:31).  I don't know why I keep thinking that my body can go without food or water in these long races, but I keep doing it and keep paying for it.  If I'm going to make it through Louisville and have any kind of a good day, I need to really make this a focus. 

Believe it or not, despite my horrendous runs at these longer races, I actually race pretty smart.  I swim and ride aerobically, and try to leave legs for the run. I just don't do anything else smart, like drink water or consume calories or take in enough salt.  It's getting old, but I have no one to blame but myself.  It's clearly frustrating when you have a race like EM on the calendar for a year, and spend the better part of 6 months training for it, only to have it be a real shitty day.  You spent money on the race, hotel, all your gear, etc, and spend time (which is really more valuable), so it makes it look like a real bad investment after the fact.  And as we approach the halfway mark for the year, I realize my year has barely started.  I have 3 more tri's before Louisville, and then at least another two in between Louisville and Arizona.  Those, plus two 5 milers, an 8k, a 10k, another road mile and probably two track meets, then maybe a half marathon in September. 

I'm heading up to NJ tonight for Father's Day and to race one of my favorite races, the George Sheehan Classic 5 Miler.  Once upon a time this race attracted foreign talent to the tune of a 23:05 winning time.  If you placed in the top 100 it was a big deal.  Unfortunately, the race moved from August to June, they took away the money and thus the talent, and now if you break 30 minutes you'll probably finish in the top 30.  It's kind of sad.  But I love this race and I get to run with my brother and sister, and see a bunch of friends from the old days.  My best time here is a pedestrian 28:49, so if I get my legs under me by Saturday, I'd like to give it a go and see if I can go under that.  Considering Peachtree is just 2.5 weeks away, it will be a good test of my running legs. 

A final note about Eagleman, and then I'll stop (for real) is that I'm still impressed with my bike split, considering how hard I've had to work over the past two years to get back there.  EM was the last race I did before getting hurt and I'm glad to see that despite a knee that has severely restricted range of motion and a tremendous imbalance in power in my legs, I can still ride with some gusto.  And as I was waiting around while they were announcing Clearwater spots, I noticed one Brian Boyle being called up.  You may remember him from Kona coverage a few years ago, a young guy who was nearly killed in a car accident, and decided that in his second chance he wanted to do the Ironman.  His first ever tri was Annapolis (2007) and then a month later he went to Hawaii.  He made it, but it hurt.  He caught the bug, though, and started doing Eagleman.  He has a swimming background, and really got his bike going (fyi, his bike split was a full minute faster than mine at 2:15:40, that's nuts).  This year he finished well enough in his 25-29 age group to earn a rolldown slot, and he was super psyched, celebrating with his family after they announced his name.  It was a great sight to see someone so excited to just be alive, to earn the chance to compete against the world's best.  As I was packing my things in transition, I ran into him so we chatted for a minute.  He really does remind us what it's all about.

Oh, and as a postcript, at least I didn't get SUNBURNED.  I put on sunscreen prior to the swim start, and only my shoulders took in a little sun.  I feel great about this one minor area of improvement.

Friday, June 10, 2011

End This War

Despite my attempt at defeating this battle with my sinus infection, it appears as if I have lost.  5 days on antibiotics and now a full 12 days of sickness and my conditions have not improved a whole lot.  Generally I don't feel terrible, as in I am able to do things without falling over, but I am really struggling breathing.  Yesterday in the pool was miserable.  Not helping was the fact the pool was kicking at around 86 degrees, and the air temp was 99 when I swam.  I have developed a phlegmy cough over the last few days, which is not always present, but when it hits, it's hitting hard.

I'll get through Sunday, but I think it's going to be a tough day.  But, it's Eagleman, it's supposed to be a tough day.  When I did this race for the first time in 2008, I never imagine how bad things could go.  After all, I stuck to the relatively safe Olympic distance events for the first 7 years of my triathloning, so the worst that happened was you had a bad run and ran like 40 minutes.  It was around this time in 2008 that I ramped up this blog, writing daily updates before the race.  It was a big deal for me.  When the mercury started rising a few days out from the race, I didn't immediately get worried, because I honestly didn't realize how hard it would make it.  The result was bad.

I swam slow, in what I don't think was a particularly slow year.  I overheated in my wetsuit and got into T1 hot and flustered.  I spent an exorbitant amount of time in transition, making a ton of rookie mistakes.  Ultimately, I went onto the bike with no salt, I think maybe one or two Gu's, that was it.  On the bike, I didn't drink enough, not taking water at the stations, and paying a painful price.  At mile 47 I stood out of the saddle for just a second and crack - there went my legs.  Both quads cramped up so hard I had to get off my bike.  I tried to let them relax for a couple of minutes before soft pedaling in.  I had been in good shape (had ridden 1:04:40 at Columbia earlier in the season) so when I finished at 2:28, I was disappointed.  I thought I could turn it around for the run, but a half mile in, I was reduced to walk/jogging.  And then just walking.  For thir...teen...miles.  3 hours and 39 minutes later, I crossed the line, sunburned and delirious.  When we got to the Wendy's in Easton, I nearly threw up when the smell hit my nose.  I couldn't eat anything.  When we got back to Baltimore, it was time for the Bay Cafe celebration party.  Tried to eat some of the shrimp salad sandwich I love so much and nope, couldn't do it.  Time to go to the emergency medical center. 

Following that race I couldn't do anything for three days, I was so badly sunburned.  By mid week I started peeling, nay - sloughing skin off.  It did this again over the weekend.  It was gross and that one day probably ensured that I will develop skin cancer.  I was able to race a 5 miler at home the following Saturday, and didn't run too poorly, so I knew my failure had been a matter of poor race day execution.  My legs were alright.  So I decided to do the inaugural Providence half ironman just a few weeks later.  The swim went much better, the bike went much better, and then run...well it went slightly better.  Still was by no means good.

I was convinced that I was meant to do longer races, but apparently I was not cut out for it.  I suffered again that year at my first marathon, and then again in the spring of 2009 at Boston.  Another couple of days like that and I was ready to quit. 

So Eagleman 2009 was again a pivotal day in my "endurance" race career.  I went in with far fewer miles on the bike in my legs, and much less swimming, as a result of my focus on Boston that spring.  At Columbia that year, I had gone about 90 seconds slower on the bike, but I found my form in the short time between the two races.  I had a good swim (for me) and got onto the bike and rolled.  2:18:44 I think was the time, which was in line with what I thought I could do.  I don't ride with a watch or a computer, so I never have any idea of how fast or slow I'm going.  Coming off the bike I thought I could just tear off, and clipped the first mile in 6:03.  From there it was mostly downhill, keeping the miles under 6:30 until mile 5, when everything was over 7.  I finished with a 1:31:52, and was not thrilled.  My overall time was 4:24 - slightly better than 2008's 6:47. 

I felt like I was learning from each time I was out there, and that by November I would be in tip-top shape for Arizona.  Of course, Alfred Terry had to interfere with those plans, and back to the ground floor I went.

After the full year off, I started up last year with simpler intentions.  Do a race.  Be able to run the whole thing.  Do the Ironman.  My own expectations were low, I was just happy to be out there again.  2010 was a complete mulligan year.  But, once again, I find myself at a critical juncture with Eagleman.  My day at Columbia didn't go great, but I rode decently quick - enough to give me the confidence that I can at least ride what I did there in 2009.  The swim for me will probably be tough.  I don't even care about the non-wetsuits, I actually prefer it because I would seriously overheat and probably die (the water is real warm).  I'm concerned about my inability to breathe right now, and hope its effect isn't too considerable.  The run, well, I know best that anything can happen.  I do know that I plan on starting out MUCH slower/easier than years past.  I had a pretty decent run at Hunterdon in October when I went out easy.  At that time, I struggled with the distance, since I hadn't run that long in something like 15 months, so when I got to mile 8, I was out of legs. 

This time around, I have at least been able to do runs of that length, and as long as I can get through the foot discomfort, I'll be alright. 

It would be really great to be able to go faster than 2009, but the swim is such a question mark for accuracy, etc, that I won't worry too much about it.  I'd be really happy if I could have a good run - something more in line with what I should be able to run.  If I took my splits from 2009 and just went 5 minutes faster (1:27ish run), that would put me under 4:20 and I'd be happy with that.  A few years ago the focus was on earning a spot for one of the two World Championships that you can qualify for via Eagleman, but a quick scan through the 30-34 age group shows that it's statistically unlikely.  Just too many fast guys in this wave.  It's seriously insane.  Plus, in 2009 I was 4th and was therefore first loser, so I don't expect my luck to change.  If there are say 8 spots to the two races, I would expect to finish 9th. 

Mostly I just need to have a day I can feel good about, as that's been lacking from this year.  Pat and I have both said it, the thing we look forward to most is going in the water after the race is over and just cooling off.  And then, for me, hitting up Wendy's, and probably Sonic, in Easton on the way home.  Since the Bay Bridge toll is going to go up from $2.50 to $8 by 2013, this may be one of the last times I race EM! (just kidding, of course, although that still makes me irritated).

Eagleman is far from my favorite race, but it's one I won't stop doing until I'm satisfied with a result there.  And, since for the next 20 years I'll be in ridiculously competitive age groups, I'll probably never be satisfied, so expect to see me there.  Plus it's close, and relatively less expensive than traveling to somewhere else that sucks to do a race there.  I think that's one change I'll have for next year - race less.  These entry fees are killing me.  Much like the $3200 oil change I got yesterday.  Yep, brought the car in for a 60k service, and left with a $3200 bill because my shit was all messed up apparently.  Awesome.  Should have sold it for $3200 less than I bought it, and then bought a new car.  Or a new bike.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

What Cures Taste Loss?


That's from one of my favorite commercials, I believe it's a Miller Lite commercial but could be Bud Light because generally (sorry Bren) ML commercials are rarely as funny as BL ones. 

So my sickness did not improve over the weekend.  In fact, it became worse.  By Monday, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I went down to the CVS Minute Clinic, was seen by a Russian quasi-doctor/nurse type person, and finally got a prescription for some antibiotics.  My sinus was really, really infected and swollen.  The good news is I don't feel too sick, but I certainly don't feel good or comfortable doing anything.  Swimming has been particularly tough.  I had an okay swim on Friday, but my swim on Saturday was the worst I've ever had.  Green, thick mucous (mucus?) invaded my nasal passage and had me feeling terrible.

Fortunately, the antibiotic has helped a little, but even a full day on them hasn't seen the condition improve to where I'd like it.  My throat hurts a little, and my sinus is still hurting.  The green color has disappeared, which I suppose is good.

That puts you in a weird position, particularly in race week.  I know that pretty much nothing I do can help for Sunday, but anything I do can have a negative effect.  I have to be real careful with my energy expenditure.  For instance, right now it's almost midnight, and I'm simply not tired since we eat dinner real late on Tuesdays, and then I am wired. 

Friday night I managed to get in a real, legitimate long run - the first over 14 since the first weekend in April, and the first over 12.5 in maybe 5 weeks.  The weather was good, and I enjoy running on Friday evenings.  The pace was more than honest, and with 3 miles to go, I picked it up.  My foot was not pleased the next morning, which pestered me on my 3 hour ride, but I got through it.  Sunday I had planned on riding, but just wasn't feeling it, so I ran instead.  Pat and I didn't roll out until 2pm - and if you've ever been to Baltimore, you can imagine the cast of characters that would be sitting outside on stoops on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Also, we made the mistake of going on some of the more hood roads in town.  We made it through nearly 90 minutes without incident, and I called it a day.

Woke up on Monday feeling terrible, which is what prompted me to go to the quasi doc.  I did manage to run Monday evening, and felt okay.  Today my swim wasn't terrible, and my track workout was pretty decent.  My plan was to run 2-3x1600 with a minute rest at something comfortable, in the realm of my open half marathon pace.  I felt like I would run 5:50ish on the first one, and work down to 5:40 (at the fastest).  The idea was not to be cooked after the workout, just to get the legs turning over a little.  Obviously there is no point of the race on Sunday that I run anything close to that pace, so it doesn't make sense to run any faster than that. 

First one was 5:43, and I felt okay sitting at the back of the group.  Second was 5:40, and again, at the back of the group I was fine.  On the third one, my left quad started up with the same pain I felt during both my Columbia workout a few weeks back, and during Columbia, so I pulled up at 800 (2:47) and called it a day.  The work is done, no need to set myself back. 

From here, it's time to seriously chill.  No Weds Night Ride for me tomorrow; instead I'll do a 2 hour easy Gunpowder Loop.  Possibly the same on Thursday.  Swim one of the two days, swim short on Friday, run a few miles Friday, and get ready for Sunday.  At this point we're anticipating a no-wetsuit swim, so I'd like to have some arms and legs to be able to swim okay.  The rest of the forecast doesn't even matter.  It's Eagleman.  You have to plan for the worst.  If it's NOT hot and humid, you count your blessings. 

Thinking ahead past Sunday, I am trying to mentally prepare for possibly some time off from running.  It would kill me, because I've really been going strong since I started running again last year, but my foot has just gotten to a point that has me worried.  It hurts...all...the...time.  I honestly don't believe I could run a marathon right now, and it certainly won't get any better if I just hammer through to Louisville.  I really have no need to go run/walk 26 miles off the bike in August, and then do it again in November.  At least this year I do have a solid base of fitness, and could endure some time off without too much repercussion. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sniff Sniff Cries

On Sunday I began to feel sick.  I attributed it to the cats at Ben and Kendra's house, and I'm still at least somewhat sure they acted as some kind of trigger, but I do also realize that back-to-back days of hard (long) workouts and sunburn definitely did not help.  On Monday, I felt pretty beat up, ran that little mile race, and drove back to Baltimore, feeling worse along the way.  We still did not have air conditioning at my house, which made sleeping on Monday night particularly difficult.  I woke up on Tuesday feeling maybe slightly better, but not great.  I made it into the pool, and felt alright, but had a little trouble breathing through my completely blocked nose.  I didn't do the track workout that night, instead opting to sit on the track in 95 degree heat and watch everyone else run. 

By Wednesday I was not any better.  I had neither the legs nor the desire to go up to Wednesday Night Run to get punished, so I rode with Pat on our little Gunpowder loop.  Again, the temperature came in around 95 when we went out to ride, and it was just those Triple H conditions that are so familiar to the Baltimore summer.  Also not in our favor was the wind, which aided us on our way out, but bent us over on our way back.  It was seriously one of the worst winds I've experienced coming back in on Eastern.  We struggled.  I had a splitting headache and it's based in my sinus area.

I figured at this point, I'd HAVE to be better by today.  No way I wouldn't.  Wrong.  I felt even worse today, and I think it's coursing it's way south as I've developed a little cough.  My brain hurts so bad my eyes won't focus - it's like that thing that gets implanted into people's brains in Mission: Impossible 3 and fries their brains and kills them.  Nevertheless, I decided I should at least try to do something today.  I drove up to Mt. Washington and rode the 9ish miles over to Owings Mills for the Thursday Night Ride.  It's one of my favorite things to do and this is only the second time this year I've made it out.  I had left with enough time to make it there, but didn't count on a road being closed due to a fallen tree.  I had to go pretty far out of my way, and as a result had to haul ass and got there just in time to catch them.  It was a small group tonight, and again we were treated to a super wind on our way up and out.  My legs felt okay, and I was riding well on the climbs, but my headache was killing me. 

I worked when I felt like working, and would drift off the back when I felt like it.  I then started to get really achy, and just wanted to be done.  Finally after 3 hours, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 miles, I made it back to my car and headed home. 

Now I'm pretty concerned.  It's been 4 full days of sickness, and that seems excessive.  It's not often I get sick - I believe this is the first time this year - but when I do it does tend to knock me out for a few days.  Still, I don't feel like anything is getting better.  The good news is that I'm close enough to race day that I could take a few days easy to recover (although I have done that already the past four days, but I guess I could chill out this weekend).  The bad news is that I'm going to start freaking out if I don't feel better by tomorrow.  Real annoying. 

Anyway, with the passing of another month, I'll give myself a report card for May.

Swimming - B+.  Some progress.  I swam 39,000m this month, which is in line with what I did the previous two months.  I had a few good workouts and really thought I was making some gains, but I was disappointed with my swim at Columbia.  I think it's time to go back to what worked for me last year, which is more volume.  Especially as I start working towards Ironman at the end of the summer, I need to get off these 10k weeks and move up to 15-20k weeks again, on 4-5 swims of 4-5k. 

Cycling - A.  I had a really good month of riding.  619 miles, which again is the most I've crammed into a month of May.  My consistency has been great, I've had some really good Wednesday rides, and obviously "cultimated" with Friday/Saturday of this past weekend where we really got after it.  I didn't do my more typical Memorial Day, where I would then go out and crush again on Sunday, but I think this will work better for me.  I had a good split at Columbia, and am starting to feel a bit more comfortable on the TT bike again.  After two years of not riding one, due both to a) not having one and b) truly being uncomfortable with the idea of getting wrecked again, it's nice to be out there again.  My one complaint is that it does seem to work my knee pretty good, and I find that it's a lot stiffer following hard rides than if I were on my road bike.

Running - B+.  A little off last month, and volume was quite low at just 125 miles.  My previous May months have been more in the 150 range, which is a little lower due to bringing it down the week before and generally week after Columbia.  This year I ran 20 of the 31 days, but had a bunch of shorter runs in there.  Since May 14, when I ran 90 minutes, the most I've run has been 8 miles, which was the 10k race and a 2 mile warmup at Columbia.  All other runs have been in the 6 or under range.  I'm not real psyched about that, because I can't forget that I do have a long race next weekend.  Of course, it's too late to do anything about it now, and realistically at Eagleman, whether I've run twenty long runs or none, it's just a brutal day.  I'm planning on doing a longer run tomorrow and then will probably be back on track this month.  My foot is still giving me trouble, but I had a couple of decent workouts and two decent mile races this month. 

All in all, I feel as good as I can heading into next weekend's race.  Of course, I'll feel much better when I...well, feel better.  But as far as the training has gone this year, I've been really consistent, and think that, assuming conditions are more like 2009 than 2008 or 2010, a course best is within reason next Sunday.  At this point we figure the water will be too warm for wetsuits, which will slow the swim down, so anything could happen there I guess.