Thursday, October 18, 2012

Me vs Lance

It's been, oh, nearly 6 months since I last posted anything here. To be honest, I just didn't have the heart. I still don't. But, I just kind of need to get some thoughts written down.

I guess the last thing I wrote about was the REV3 Knoxville race. From there, things went downhill. Fast.

I raced at Columbia Triathlon, my time-honored tradition, and it didn't go great. I did swim the fastest I've ever swam there, which was a positive, but I rode pretty slow. And my run wasn't very good. It just wasn't my day. But I moved on, and tried to put in a solid Memorial Day weekend. The weekend after Memorial Day was the REV3 Quassy race in Connecticut. Mike, Courtney, and I headed up to my parents' on Friday night in an absolute deluge. Alyssa met us there and we continued north in the rain on Saturday. Sunday the rain held off for the race, which was legitimately one of the hardest courses I've ever done.

The swim was great, very clean water, but the bike was just hard. I'm not even sure why, but it was. I rode something like 2:40 and outside of the Hunterdon race in 2010 (road bike), my first big race since getting injured, I've never ridden that slow for that distance. I got onto the run and that was just as hard. Up and down, steep, very little in between. Of course for me, I really struggle running downhill, so I was just in pain. I think I ran around 1:35, which in retrospect I guess isn't even that bad. Alyssa and Mike did really well, and Courtney finished her first half. We drove back to MD that night, again in the rain.

But no rest for the weary, as just a week later I toed the line at Eagleman. This time I was off from the very beginning. The debatable water temperature was allegedly cool enough to allow wetsuits, and since everyone else was wearing one, I did too. I wouldn't say that wearing it is what devastated me, but it certainly didn't help. I exited the water and reached my bike, and had to lean on it for a second so I didn't faint. That wasn't a good sign for the day to come. Out on the bike, I was riding slower than I ever have and just wishing for it to end. The back half wind slowed me down even more, and it ended up being a slow, slow ride. I should have stopped there. I went out onto the run course and within feet it was evident I was in for a long day. By the turnaround I was in serious trouble. I made it to mile 10, where Alyssa was waiting for me, and I couldn't hear and could barely stand up. We began walking towards the finish but the ultimatum came: either start jogging, or you've got to stop.

So stop I did. It was my first DNF, excluding the planned DNF at IMAZ 2010 when I could only swim anyway, and it was tough to swallow. Even tougher that I still had to walk back to the start, so I probably only cut off a mile. But I couldn't put everyone through another 30 minutes of me walking.

After that day I was pretty fried. I had one more race on the schedule - Philly Tri two weeks later - and I was not looking forward to it. Something was wrong with me, but what? Mike, Andy, and I went up to Philly that last weekend, and I was pretty relaxed. I had low, or no, expectations. When Alyssa, Pat, and I had gone up to watch the year before, the race looked so awesome, so I figured it would just be cool. On the bus ride to the swim start, we sat next to Andy Potts, which was neat, and then the water was about 82 degrees so it was at least comfortable. I floated down the river and came out, and as the story has been this whole year, just had a subpar ride. I got onto the run and was really struggling, and finally managed to get across the line. The highlight of this one was talking to Matt Reed, one of my favorite pros, for a while after the race. We got to talk to him in Knoxville and Quassy, but this was a full-on conversation. He was having a tough year himself, so we comiserated in that.

On the same day, Alyssa was out crushing Ironman Coeur d'Alene, finishing 2nd in her age group.

As bad as the first 6 months of the year were, I was definitely not prepared for how much worse the 2nd half of the year was going to be. June seems like a lifetime ago now.

Since 2009 I have had some tough months of July, but this one took the cake. I lost the most important person in my life, and didn't have an outlet. I felt so fatigued and exhausted all the time I just couldn't do anything. I couldn't run, couldn't ride, couldn't swim. I was down for the count. My idiosyncracies finally got the better of me. I let things consume me, and paid for it.

July passed, and then August. I proudly watched as Alyssa knocked out great race after great race. Even though I hadn't been riding, I attempted to mount up for the Church Creek Time Trial in August. The last time I went out there was 2008, so I figured it was my Olympics (London Olympics, by the way, were great). I rode okay, finishing just over an hour for the 40k. With just about 4 weeks until the race I'd been looking forward to for years, I was pleased.

I had hoped I would spend most of the summer swimming and running in preparation for the Survival of the Shawangunks. This unique race is an 8 leg triathlon that consists of a 30 mile bike, 4.5 mile run, 1.1 mile swim, 5.5 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, 8 mile run, 0.5 mile swim, and 0.7 mile run straight up a mountain to the finish. It was so hard, but so cool. I did it with Mike, Benda, and OJ, and Mike killed it. I made a few poor choices throughout the day, but more than anything, I just wasn't in shape to do as well as I thought I could. I might do a little write-up separately for this one as it was pretty cool.

That was September 9th. Under my original plan, I was going to use my amazing base of running over the summer and this race to help propel me towards NYC Marathon. But there was one more triathlon I was looking forward to - the REV3 Half Full Triathlon here in Columbia.

Alyssa had won a free entry as an award for her high finish at Quassy, but since she was heading to Kona that weekend, she couldn't race, and had given it to me. So thanks to her for that.

Again, I hadn't been riding or swimming much, but I did have one day of glory in the pool where I knocked out 30x100 on 1:40, which is kind of my marker. If I can do that, I'm usually okay. Of course, I don't think I swam the two weeks leading up to the race, so it probably disappeared. I hadn't been on my bike in at least two weeks either. Running had been up and down, but I was really looking forward to this race because...

I got to race Lance Armstrong.

If I had written this last week it would have been much different than writing it this week. I will no longer discuss the topic, but no matter what, I was excited to get to race with him. It was my third REV3 event of the year, it was basically Columbia Triathlon x 2 (and in reverse), which means it was close, and it supports a good cause, so I was pumped. What I was not pumped for was the weather. 45 degrees and rain are not my favorite conditions. The water was a balmy 67 so that felt good. I thought the time trial start was a little weird for the size of the field, but I didn't think much of it once I started, because I just ripped through and over people. It was the best I've felt in the water all year. I may not have swam super fast, but I didn't swim horrible, and I got out feeling good.

So good, in fact, that I opted to not put on arm warmers or anything that would keep me dry or warm. I simply had a jersey and my shorts on. Hindsight, this was a bad idea. Everyone else, including Lance, had jackets, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers. Within about 30 minutes I was soaked - and frozen - to the core. I was shivering and having trouble staying upright on the bike. I couldn't ride in my aerobars because I was shaking so much. I was having difficulty getting to, and eating, my food. I took in a mere 300 calories on the 2:51 bike (yikes - again, the slowest I've ever ridden, fortunately, everyone was that slow).

Had it not been for Mike and Grace appearing at mile 45, I would have called it a day when I got back from the bike. My feet were blocks of ice, I was just so cold. I saw Suzanne Hurst, who was running the relay, in transition, and talked to her for a second before I took off. This time cost me the chance to get to run alongside Lance, because when I got on the path everyone was yelling "he's just ahead of you, you can catch him!" and sure enough, there he was. I was running quick, he was running quicker.

I settled in with 6:45-6:50 miles and felt good about that. I had hoped to run faster, but it was all my body was giving. And it was comfortable, and I was wearing just my green speedo so everyone out there was appreciative of that. I saw Mike and Grace in a few spots, which was great. Then around mile 8 (2 loop course) I got really, really cold again. I began to slow down, and made it across the finish line and everyone was commenting on just how blue I was. Lance, for what it's worth, crushed it. I'm sure he got in his helicopter right after the race, because I didn't see him anywhere afterwards.

Again, without Mike and Grace, I probably would have died. Just too many extremes for me - extreme heat at Eagleman, now too cold at Half Full. I went into the med tent, where my temperature was 93 degrees. It wasn't pretty.

I warmed back up, had a brief chat with Richie Cunningham, who raced the whole REV3 series this year, and then heard my name called for 2nd in my age group. It's the first time I've gotten any award this year and while normally I wouldn't be worried about it, it was really cool to get something at this race. I'll post a picture of the medal maybe.

And that was that. The Orioles made the playoffs so I got to go to a game, which was really cool, but kept me pretty cold again. Baltimore was a pretty nice place to live for a few days, before the O's lost and then the Ravens had some players hurt. Now it's back to regular Baltimore.

This past weekend was our Marathon, which is always a fun and busy day for me riding around to spectate, and the biggest triathlon event of the year took place too - Ironman World Championships. I was so proud to watch Alyssa cross the finish line (online), and you can read her race report here.

The other thing that's been keeping me going is the radio show, The Runaround on ESPN. I've been doing it since April, and it's been a lot of fun. I am pretty sure only my mom and dad listen to it though. It may not exist into the new year, so if it goes away, I'll have enjoyed my time as part of it.

I only had one race left on the calendar, the New York City Marathon, and I'm going to have to scratch from it. I just don't feel like my body has a marathon in it right now, part of it is my heart not being in it, but I also don't want to be out there and have another tough day. I've had too many of those.

So if this is my last post for a while, it's been quite a journey, and thanks for following.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

REV3 Knoxville Race Report

Knoxville, we have a problem.

The 2 hours and change of racing in Knoxville was without a doubt the least exciting thing that happened over the weekend. Instead, the eXtreme road trip was the highlight.

Thursday night was my Alumni Mile at the Maryland Twilight Meet. It's the 4th year they've had it, and I have now been able to run all 4 years. My progression of times is pretty hilarious: 5:12, 6:15, 5:00, 5:14. In fairness, the 6:15 was 6 weeks after my 2nd knee surgery and I hadn't run a step yet. Last year was a pretty sweet race, with the exception of the 5:00.11 FAT result. This year I knew I was not as fast, and certainly not as comfortable running fast, so I had to scale back my expectations. My splits were 77.1 (409m), 78.2, 80.5, 78.3. Yikes. Worst of all - got outkicked by Danielle in the last 150. Embarrassing, maybe, but whatever. The meet was the most fun it's been in its years, we had a great turnout, and got to catch up with a lot of old teammates.

Unfortunately, it was a late meet in College Park, and Friday was an early rollout to Tennessee. Alyssa was borrowing her dad's Subaru to fit our bikes, plus Ed, and we were on our way. Made it to Roanoke, where we stopped for lunch around noon, and headed back out. We noticed a loud, helicopter-like sound, that got louder and louder, so we finally stopped. To our horror, two of five lugnuts on the rear driver's side wheel had completely sheered off and a third was about to come off. We tightened it, and drove a little more carefully until we got to Knoxville. But it was late in the day, and as we found out from Sears and Pep Boys, Subaru parts are not easily found. There was no way we were taking the chance of driving all the way back to Baltimore on it, so we HAD to get it fixed.

Fortune smiled upon us and a Subaru dealer was open for service on Saturday. They fixed it quickly for us in the morning, and crisis was averted.

Meanwhile, Friday night in Knoxville, our hotel was right in the "thick" of it, a short walk to Market Square, which was poppin'. Alyssa and I went to eat while Ed went to meet some friends at an art gallery, and who should he run into by ERICA MOORE and PHOEBE WRIGHT, of UT Track lore and now American hopefuls for the Olympics.

Saturday, after the car was fixed, it was time to check in. REV3 does a lot of things well. Packet pickup is not one of them. The process just seemed to take a little too long, mostly with the picking up of chips, as they take your picture for when you cross the finish line. But, it is a fun little area for kids and families, so I could overlook that. From there it was time for the practice swim. I bumped into my buddy Andrew Yoder, and we chatted about the course. I expected the bike course would be difficult, and he confirmed it was a tough one. Got in the water, which was a little chilly (66-67 degrees) but very clean. Swam for 20 minutes, then headed back to the hotel to get some lunch, and then ride a little of the course. Did a 15 mile ride, then ran just under 3 off the bike. It had warmed up quite a bit, and was very humid. With all the energy spent on Saturday, I slept well - maybe too well - and woke up Sunday pretty tired.

Sunday got down to the swim start, and that's where we ran into Ed, who had brought his parents to come watch us swim. This is a big deal as his parents have only seen HIM race once in the last ten years. The gesture was appreciated. And now for a little bit of a race report:

Swim: 22:13

This is the only split I actually know, because the timing still is a little hard to decipher. When I heard the time, I was pretty pleased, as that's a decent swim for me, but after looking at how fast some of the other people swam, I don't think it's all that cool. Pros were in the low 17s, so it was fast water. I got a crappy start; I tried to warm up, and when I got back to the "line" I couldn't get any farther up than 6 or 7 people back in line. It was an aggressive start, and my goggles went flying off at one point, so I fluttered around getting those back on. This didn't cost me time as much as opportunity. I then spent the rest of the swim working through groups, and then as we turned around, we began to catch the earlier waves of the half iron swimmers. I felt good about my 2nd half, and if I had been swimming that speed the entire time, I should have been in the 21:30 range. If I can get towards the low 21s at Columbia, that will be a major win.


Normally transitions aren't a big deal, they are what they are, but this one was without a doubt the longest I've ever done. First, you pulled yourself out of the water onto a little dock, then ran up the dock, then up the concrete and through a building, then onto the road, over some train tracks, on a sidewalk, up the grass, and into the dirty parking garage. All told, a legitimate 300m+ of running. And no, not like the people that say "it had to be a quarter of a mile" and then their transition time is 90 seconds. I actually took my wetsuit off as I got out of the water and ran with it so I could run a bit faster, seemed to work, but my transition still wasn't super quick.


No idea what I rode. I really just wanted to get a feel for the roads again. I haven't been on the time trial bike since November, and I left the Zipps and aero helmet at home. I don't own a computer, have never had a powertap, and on this day, didn't even wear a watch. Just rolled with it. I seemed to be riding decent, I was climbing very well - and there were for serious climbs on this course - but I didn't seem to have the ability to go much faster than I was. It was an aerobic effort, so I just need to sharpen. It felt like a long ride.


Again, into the parking garage, and elected to put on socks. I was not going to, but I was sweating as it had become pretty warm and was very humid, and the blisters I would have gotten just weren't worth it to me. Ed was there to encourage, and I went out onto the run.


I think I ran about 40 minutes, probably just over. The run course was actually very easy, so this isn't a very good split, but all things considered, I'm actually okay with it. It was just an out and back on Neyland Rd or whatever it is, exposed to the sun, and then a partially shaded greenway asphalt path. There weren't many people around me, I think the only ones I saw were the 3 guys that passed me. Aruond 3.5/4 my piriformis began to lock up, so I stopped for a second to stretch and dig into it a bit, and that seemed to help so I was on my way. There were no mile marks, but it wouldn't have mattered as I didn't have a watch. Just going on feel. With a half mile to go, I went by a guy I had met the day before, and cruised into the finish at just over 2:13. I think it was 20th place in the non-pro field, and I didn't get beat by any age group girls. So that was cool.

I went back to the hotel, showered, packed, and Ed and I went back to watch Alyssa rock a 3rd place in the half. And because we could, we ran across the line with her. It was awesome, can't wait for the picture. It was really warm at this point, that half would have been real tough.

Things I liked:

The event was very family friendly, and was at a cool venue. Knoxville is a pretty place and a perfect location for a race. The pro field was awesome, and the race looked like it was a good one. Helps when there's $50 large on the line. And as we always say in triathlon, the pros are so chill and accessible following the race, it's really cool. Highlight was probably having a bit of a chat with Matty Reed on Saturday as we ran into him while he was running. I personally don't care about medals and t-shirts, but they were designed and executed well.

Things I would change:

The water on the run course. They handed out these weird little packets of water, almost like Capri Suns or something. They had instructions on how to open them but I couldn't figure it out, nor could anyone else, as everyone was just biting them open and spitting the plastic on the ground. If the effort was to reduce the number of cups/trash, it failed. Way more plastic on the course, little bits they'll never find to clean up. The water also tasted disgusting, like the plastic. The only thing I liked was being able to control the volume of water that was coming out, and it was a little easier to run with and spray.

The body marking numbers. They gave you stickers, and it's now Tuesday and my numbers are nowhere near gone. The sticky film is clinging to my skin and I don't think the numbers are going to disappear anytime soon.

But I did really like the race, got to meet DC's own Conor Shapiro, who had a great race, finishing one spot ahead of me, and met some other cool people. Unfortunately, we still had the business of a 9 hour drive after Alyssa's race. We got our stuff out of transition and by this point it was 3pm. Yikes. We were making decent time and stopped in Roanoke VA for dinner. It was...awesome. Seriously I did not expect it to be that cool. I don't know what it was, I just liked it. When we rolled from there, it was 8pm, and we still had close to 5 hours of driving. And it started raining. Again. (It had rained on Friday). Alyssa and I have had bad luck with driving to races in the past year, it is ALWAYS raining - Luray, Louisville, Eagleman.

It was a tough drive, and my knee and body hated me for it, but we got back just before 1am.

I was pleased with the effort, with 4 more races in 6 weekends, the goal was not to go into the well, just have a good race. I think I accomplished that, and if I can get some good training in this weekend, I'll feel better about Columbia. I'm still not feeling great while I run, and I'm concerned both about pace and distance. The problems seem to start around 3 miles of harder effort, and once it's there, it doesn't leave. But it also happens at easier efforts, after time. So 13 miles could be tough, especially on a hilly course after a hilly 56 mile ride, at Quassy. Eagleman might not be any better as you're just using the same muscles the entire day. Need to get the body dialed in!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rock the Vote

Consider it practice for November...

Jim is one of five finalists, as we know, in the Retail Means Jobs "This is Retail" contest. They are not showing the current percentages of vote-getting, but this is obviously the toughest since it's down to 5. Make sure you vote 10 times every day for JIM!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back to Zero

All I have to say is, thank FSM that I wasn't running in Boston yesterday...

Indeed, a very warm east coast weekend led to devastating results for some in Beantown, and even in the land of training it yielded some very tired legs and salty skin.  I kicked off the weekend by running a little over an hour with 40 year old Kris on Friday, after which we celebrated with some Chipotle, and then a surprise party for him down in Fed Hill.  Here, Zero and I discussed our plans for the weekend.  It would be the most time I've spent with Mike in many months, and outside of IM training, one of the best we've gotten in.

We rolled out on Saturday morning for our standard Mt. Vista loop, and the conditions were awesome.  We were cruising along, and ended up riding one of the quickest - if not the fastest - I've ever done that ride.  It helped that we had some assistance from the traffic lights.  2 Fast, 2 Furious.  After the ride, headed up to watch the track contingent crush the 1500m at the Hopkins/Loyola Invite, including a big PR for my roommate Ed (3:56.99).  It was pretty warm at this point, and the sun was strong.  I tried to get down to the pool before the night's activity, but my attempt was thwarted when I got there and realized I had forgotten my suit.  

So I skipped it, which was fine, I was dehydrated and would have put myself in a further hole.  I picked up Mike, and we headed the tiny trip up to Homewood for the TERPS vs Hopkins lacrosse game.  A big game for both teams, and an awesome night for doing anything outside.  It was PACKED.  Lots of Terp fans, which was good, because the team was down 6-3 in the 2nd half.  They stormed back, scoring 6 unanswered goals, and winning 9-6.  Awesome.  After the game we headed down to Fells, got some burgers at Kooper's, and headed home for another early morning.

Sunday I pedaled to Mike's, we threw the bikes on his whip, and cruised down to Columbia to watch Dustin and some other friends run the Clyde's 10k.  It was overcast, and humid.  The course is already hard enough, so it looked like a tough race.  We jogged a few easy miles around during the race, and then headed over to Centennial Park, site of Columbia Tri, to ride a few hours with Chicken Tender.  Due to a miscommunication, Andy was riding his new Green Monstah (not sure if he named his wheels yet, but his sweet new TT bike), so already Mike and I were at a slight disadvantage.  The plan was to ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 miles out there, and not leaving until 10 meant it was already a little warm.  Sun, again, very strong.  

We departed and opted to not ride the course, instead heading out on an old route I used to ride with Scotty.  It was a fast first hour before we eased up a little, and then when we hit Frederick Rd following Gravitron, Andy was psshhewww gone.  We tried yelling up the road to tell him to turn, but alas, he did not hear.  Nor did he look back, despite not knowing where we were going.  We stopped, and finally he returned.  Silly Andy.  We corrected ourselves and were now onto Triadelphia Rd and the Son of Gravitron.  Once back on the Columbia course, we did 2 times the lollipop, which sucked, and then rode home.  It was just shy of 60 miles but I was done.  Very hot, very dehydrated, very much out of water.  Mike and I hit the RoFo for some drinks, and then he dropped me off.

I still had to swim, so I went down around 4:30, and somehow muddled through an hour of swimming before Alyssa got home from her weekend of running with the Rev3 Run Across America group.

Needless to say, when Monday proved to be even WARMER than the rest of the weekend, I watched the splits of my friends at Boston in agony.  They were really struggling.  A couple of DNFs, a few really slow times, but a few very good races too.  So it wasn't all bad.  I headed up to the radio show (more on that in a minute) and then got back down to Fed Hill for Monday's chill 6 miles.  It was hot, and my legs were heavy.  

In all, a cool weekend to get to kick it with Z, watch some races, get in some training.  #goodtimes

The radio show - The Runaround on ESPN - is a radio show created and produced by my friends at Running Maryland, Greg and Brad.  It's been on the air since mid-January, and is a weekly AM radio show about RUNNING.  I had called in a few times, but recently was asked if I didn't mind coming in to guest host, so I've done it two of the last three weeks.  Not only is it fun for me, but absolutely a great resource for runners.  The guys do a great job with it, and have scored interviews with some world champions, like Chaunte Lowe, Ashton Eaton, and Jenny Simpson.  It gets bigger each week, and it's in large part thanks to the main sponsor, Holabird Sports.  I hope more sponsors start checking it out, because it's a huge audience.  You can listen on Mondays from 5-6pm on ESPN1300 if you're in Maryland, or online at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quantity and Quality

Inspired by a little friendly Twitter banter last night with my good friend Ben, I got to thinking during this morning's swim about Ironman training, and, more importantly, how one gets started.

It's a very simple answer, when asked where to start: at the beginning.  But sometimes arriving there IS the hardest part.  Ben, an accomplished runner, decided to get into triathlon in 2011.  I remember the initial conversation going something like this:

Ben: "I'm going to do an Ironman."
Ryan: "Cool! You going to do any races prior to that?"
Ben: "I'll probably do an Olympic."

Now of course, there are plenty of people who have "complete an Ironman" on their to-do list, and many who are the triathlon equivalent of the NCAA Champion Kentucky Basketball team - that is, "one and done" - who may literally train for and do just that one triathlon.  Traditionally, you get from it what you put in.  Some of us, who have huge chips on their shoulders, get hosed more than others, but in general, work = success.

And as we know, Ben actually did 2.5 triathlons in 2011 - Columbia (great cherry-popper), Luray, and then tried to do the Poconos HIM but the swim got washed out.  For Ben, a strong cyclist and very good runner, it shorted him the opportunity to work on the one area he needed the most work: OWS.

He comes into 2012 with IM Wisconsin on the horizon, and the prospect of his first half sometime in June.  The reality is Ben will be fine, because he's a competitor, and it's not like he hasn't done long races before (2:32 marathon, crushed JFK 50 Mile).  But it made me think about my own progression in the sport.  For as much shit I take about my race performances, I actually have been extremely patient in my triathlon career.  Ironman was always a goal, but it was never this thing that I had to do to make my life feel complete.  In fact, so far from the forefront of my mind was the distance that it took me 8 years of triathlon to even bother to sign up for one.  However, my preparation for the day started way in advance, in fact, probably as early as 2006, for a day that wouldn't materialize for a few years.

It was the same thing with the marathon.  I really just didn't want to do one until I wanted to do one.  I was running 90 miles a week in college and I know I will never be as fast as I was then.  I knocked out 20 mile long runs like I was King Hippo.  I could wake up at 6am, be out the door at 6:07, and start a 13 mile run at 6:10 pace and finish at 5:20 (#thingsiwillneverdoagain).  Had I run a marathon back then, I bet I would have run pretty well, and perhaps would never have done another one, because I would have had nowhere to go but down (or up, as in increased time).  Years went by and it wasn't until I ran part of Boston in 2007 (the Nor'easter year) with Andy that I said, yeah, maybe I should do one.  And it wasn't until NYC 2008 that I actually ran one.  I was 27. 

So it would come as no surprise then that I waited 8 years, scratch that, 9, to do an Ironman.  I was perfectly fine with competing in Olympics and sprints from 2001 to 2003.  Back then, there were not as many HIMs, and IM was really just for the truly insane.  I had no faith in my ability to make it through the distance, but more importantly, I just didn't want to do it.  Each year I ramped up my volume a little bit, riding longer, riding more, getting my all-important hours per week up.  In college, I included my weight training time in my weekly numbers, but most weeks were 15+, and some were in the 21+ range.  That was for Olympic distance racing.  I'd swim 3-4 times per week, ride 3-4 (130-200 miles), and run 45-55 mpw.  That's actually more than most people spend on IM training.

After severe injury #1 in 2003, I didn't compete in 2004 or 2005, and in 2006 made my triumphant return.  I started slow, and raced what I knew, and what I enjoyed.  By 2007, thanks to riding with OJ, Benda, and the Thurs Night Ride, I knew I had much better riding legs than before, and felt like I could tackle a half.  I signed up for Eagleman 2008, and we know how that went - but it wasn't for a lack of fitness or strength.  Neither was my Providence failure that year.  By late 2008, it was time to sign up for IMAZ, and I believed that I was ready.  I had done a number of 100+ mile rides in 2007 and 2008, and 2009 would bring more of that. 

And that long winded explanation is what brings me to the crux of my position: volume doesn't hurt.  Being prepared doesn't hurt.  I've been marginally successful in triathlon, but one thing I've done well for years now is ride fast.  And for those who have ridden with me, you know there's no secret to what I'm doing.  I ride more.  In the winter, when you have a day that lends itself, you ride 4 or 5 hours.  It may be months before race day, and you might not even be doing a long race, but that kind of strength sticks with you.  In fact, most winters I was able to get away with a couple of long rides to keep my fitness there, and by spring time, I was ready to go. 

How else was I able to go from riding 1:10 every year at Columbia to riding in the 1:04s?  Or averaging nearly 25mph at EM?  It's just riding, man.  Riding.  I can vividly recall all the shitty days of my life.  One was last year, when on a rainy, 38 degree day, Benda/BenW/Pat and myself rode the Lineboro ride from Meadowbrook.  It was the last weekend in March, and it was 97 terrible miles.  Yeah, it tires you out, but then you have a long ride in your legs, and come July, when the workouts mean a lot more, you're not worried about doing your first long ride.

The layout of a year lends itself to a particular buildup.  For me, that means in the winter, I swim and run more, because I can run outside easily enough, day or night, and it's easier to get in the pool than it is to ride.  You build your volume up then, so that when you can start riding again, and your body is going to be tired, you don't have to worry about cramming.  If I took the approach of a slow, steady buildup, I'd be trying to balance building up swimming, riding, and running volume, as well as increasing intensity, and the two are a recipe for disaster. 

Instead, I have gotten my swim to a point where it's relatively automatic.  I can handle 20k weeks pretty easily without sacrificing quality, and can still do the work when my legs are shredded from 300 miles of bike miles in 4 days.  If you want to do well at Ironman, it's what you have to do.  No way around it.  I'm disappointed when I don't race well, but ultimately, I still only have one goal.  Completing an Ironman is not hard.  I've seen the people that come in at midnight.  ANYBODY can do it.  It's racing it that is the challenge. 

For as much as I ride, or run, or swim, most days I'm still hesitant to believe that I've done even enough.  I follow the training of my peers and rivals, and I think man, I should be doing more.  Are my long rides even long enough?   Is 115 miles enough?  Should I do 120, 125, 130?  In my 115 miles, I don't even spend that much of it at race intensity, should I be?  Last year I delicately balanced a pretty high volume.  Remember 2010, when I finally got to do the IM?  I had done a lot of training, and still thought it wasn't enough.  And, ultimately, the amount that I had been able to run post-surgery turned out to be just not enough, and I paid for it on the run.

So I give Ben a hard time, but he is a natural, much moreso than I am.  I'm sure he'll do fine at Wisconsin.  I just know that if it were me, I would do more now so I could tell how much I can handle.  You're supposd to get burned out at some point, it's not easy training.  Race day is a freaking godsend when it comes, because you realize it's actually less tiring than a normal training week.  Sure, you're beat up afterwards, but as a reward for hard work, it's pretty satisfying. 

What I've finally figured out is that I just don't LIKE Ironmans, or marathons, for that matter.  It's not how I want to spend my time.  I'm not particularly good at them, and it's not enjoyable for me.  Oddly enough, I really don't mind the training.  I love going out for long rides, even if I have nothing coming up.  It's just fun.  Take this year - no IM on the calendar yet I'm doing the same workload.  And I know that if I had to tomorrow, I could go out and compete at any distance.  I want to make it through an ambitious race schedule of 5 races in May and June, including 2 HIMs.  That's a lot of racing.  In order for me to make it through that, I need to get the rides in early, because pretty soon I won't have the weekends to do them.  And even though I'll have nothing in the fall, I'll still get my long rides in during the summer, because if I decide to sign up for an IM for 2013, I'll need to keep getting them in.

I guess the point of all this is that you can never go wrong with a 3 or 4 hour ride, but you'll never see the people competing for Kona spots or AG wins doing 1 hour rides.  But you have to build it up early, because otherwise you're caught in June, trying to swim/ride/run more than you ever have before, and when your body shuts down (and it will) you won't have time to recover and build back up before race day.

Monday, April 02, 2012

All Spark

"I just can't do it, Captain. We don't...have...the power."

That's what I've been feeling like for the last couple of months.  I simply do not have the power.  I'm currently running and riding slower than I have in years - including when I came back after a year off due to surgeries.  I don't know what's going on, but it's frustrating.  I haven't had a "good" run since the fall, and while I finally have gotten back on my bike, it's just not going well.  Even swimming seems to have plateaued, I guess expectedly, because at some point you're going to have to assume there will be diminishing returns.  Gone are the 30k weeks without spending much time elsewhere, where every swim was a good one, and here are the swims on tired legs, where my times are not improving, and I feel stagnant.  The only takeaway is that on even my worst, most tired days, I am able to get through the workouts and intervals, which previously I don't think I could have done.

April is here now, but in reality, I have nearly 3 months until the end of the spring season.  3 months isn't much time to GET into shape, but when you carry a base of fitness like most year-rounders should, 3 months is an eternity to sharpen and get race fit.  Even now I still have 5 weeks before the start of tri season, which is a lot of time. 

What I'm more concerned about than just being slow, or not feeling like I have power, is how my body FEELS.  It feels shattered.  I haven't done anything comfortably or without pain in years now, and yes, I realize that's just going to be a part of what happens when you suffer an injury like I have, but it's no easier to deal with.  My left hamstring/piriformis seems to fail on me pretty regularly.  It doesn't bother me much on the bike, but running, it hurts all the time.  It seems to deteriorate as I approach an hour of running, or after 2.5-3 miles of harder running.  Meanwhile, my right hip flexor/groin area is also not functioning properly.  Both of these are combining to impact my ability to drive my legs when I'm running.  The hamstring isn't as much of a problem on the bike, but the hip/groin thing is. 

As I was watching Transformers (Michael Bay version) the other day, I realized what I need:

An All-Spark.

I just need something that will recharge me, zap me back to normal, restore my life energy.  The number of times I've heard, or said, it's because I'm getting older - absolutely false.  At 30 years old, I shouldn't be this run down.  Engine's fine, chassis is a little bit up.  I feel like the Millenium Falcon.  I'm still the same person that ran a beautiful Philly Distance Run last year, so I have to hold onto hope that I can get back to even just where I was a few months ago.

Part of my realization was that my maladies are likely caused by severe muscle imbalances.  Pedaling, running, and swimming make you strong, but don't give you strength.  I've noticed that, particularly in the endurance races, it's often the athletes in their late 30s and even into their 40s now that are making waves.  If you look at their schedules, most have families, time-consuming jobs, that will limit their training.  But they're performing as well, or better, than they were in the past.  Some part of it is that they're more focused, and not overtraining, like they were before, but in talking to some of them, you see that they're strength training.  Through high school and college that was always a part of my routine, and I never felt better.  So I've reinstituted real strength training, and that's leveled me this past week as I adjust to the soreness, particularly in the legs.

I'm counting on leveling out some of the imbalances I have in my legs, which isn't something I can do all the way, on account of my out-of-whack knee, but I have to try. 

In other news, following my great first weekend of March Madness, my bracket was mostly demolished in the Sweet 16.  I shouldn't say demolished, but I dropped quite a bit.  The way does theirs, I cannot win my group now, and I'll have to settle for just another mediocre-ish year.  But in my money pool (CBS Sports) I am in the lead, and the best anyone can do (one guy) is tie me.  If Kansas wins tonight, I win.  If Kentucky wins, we tie, and then it comes down to combined points for the game.  I guessed 148, he guessed 157.  Based on the scores through 5 games, the scores have not been near 80.  So it's going to be close.  I don't honestly believe Kansas is the better team, but it's March!

Anybody that put Kansas in the Championship game was probably doing so on account of name.  They were a #2 seed and I didn't consider them to be in the top 5 teams of the Tournament.  Nevertheless, in this game of points, we have to take some chances, and because they're kind of like Michigan State was in the early 2000s, I never count them out.  When I looked at all the potential matchups, I legitimately believed it would be Kentucky and Kansas.  It looked doubtful throughout the entire Tournament, as each team faltered at some point, but in close games, the better team should always win.  And, both did.  So now here we are, 4 years after Kansas, coached by Bill Self, beat Memphis, coached by now-Kentucky coach John Calipari.  In 2008, it worked out great for me, but in the closest of games.  The last time Kansas played in a Championship game in New Orleans though, it didn't end so good for them, on the great play of a Syracuse one-and-done named Carmelo Anthony.  Kentucky has a great, soon-to-be-one-and-done freshman in Anthony Davis.  "Anthony" isn't the only thing they share, as each player has the capability to lead their team to a great win.

So I don't believe that Kansas is going to win tonight, but the worst I will finish in my pool is 2nd, and I think 1-2 get paid, so I would take it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


March.  My absolute favorite month.  The reason is simple, just 4 letters:


If you know only a handful of things about me, you'll know that I only drink Coke, I love pizza, and that come Tournament time, don't even think about bothering me for 3 weeks.  Unless we're talking college hoops, we're probably not talking about anything.

I've always loved March Madness (copyright, Indiana High School Athletic Association/NCAA), filling out brackets for as long as I can remember.  I grew up a fan of the Big East, biased by my parents' alma maters (Seton Hall, Villanova), and through most of high school always thought I'd end up at UConn, or somewhere else in the Big East.  Obviously that changed, and I went to Maryland, and that's where my March stories really kick in.

Until you've been to a Final Four that your team is playing in, you have not lived.

I'm serious.  I can count on one hand the number of things I'm most proud of that I've accomplished, and even though I had NOTHING to do with the Terps' success on the court, going to the Final Four, and watching my team win a National Championship, is one of the great highlights of my life.  It also marked the first time I had ever won any sort of Tournament pool, as I clearly had Maryland in a bee-line to the Championship. 

I fastidiously studied each of the then 65 Tournament teams, watching countless hours of Big 10, Big East, Big 12, and PAC 10 games.  I knew everything that was going on in the ACC.  I would have been more proud to scored perfectly on my bracket than to have achieved a 1600 on my SAT (and I think it would have been harder to do).  That set the wheels in motion: could I be the best at picking the brackets?

For years I slaved away, trying to manipulate the perfect bracket.  But alas, it never came.  When Bill Self went to Kansas, I thought to my "Self" - man, Kansas is going to get it done.  For a few years I put them into my FF, even winning it all, only to be let down by early round exits.  Until 2008.  That's when my luck changed.  With 12 of the Sweet 16 teams, I ended up with 7 of the Elite 8, the entire Final Four, and the Championship game: Memphis vs Kansas.  Kansas was down 3 with time evaporating when Mario Chalmers hits a HUGE 3 and sends the game into OT, where Kansas went onto win.  I won my money pool - the first time I had ever won any money playing (in college we weren't allowed to, NCAA rules, like it mattered since we won't have a TRACK TEAM in a few months). 

I had decent results over the next few years, but then this year came and I was slightly disenchanted by the process.  Sure, I've been watching games, but not as many as I used to.  The Terps are in the middle of a serious rebuilding period, and the ACC is pretty weak all around.  This causes me to watch less basketball, and also, the games are on pretty late sometimes. 

Customarily I create a group on's Tournament Challenge and just name it "Terps in [the following year]" and I filled out my bracket there.  I then copied it over to my money pool.  It looked un-intriguing, if that's even a word.  I have felt, all year long, that there were 4 teams that were clearly better than all the rest, and that all the rest are so mediocre that it didn't even matter who played whom.  As the best day of the year came around (Thursday!) I once again felt the rush of excitement of being an ordinary human with really no impact on the outcome of the games. 

By the end of the day, I had done pretty well for myself: 15 and 1.  Normally I'm psyched if I can go 12-4, 13-3.  Every so often I'll go 14-2.  But 15-1 was a great start.  Friday would be the true test.  I took a hit - but so did everyone on the planet - when 2 seeds Missouri and Duke both lost.  It was a big surprise, but since I didn't respect either of their chances of going very far, it didn't sting as bad.  I then won two pretty big victories when USF (12) and Ohio (13) both won.  By the end of Round 1 (now Round 2) I had gone 27-5.  That wasn't too bad.

Saturday came, and besides being St. Patrick's Day, it was a zillion degrees down here in Baltimore - a truly beautiful day.  It almost becomes sad then, that the only thing I want to do, is absorb college basketball.  I got my outside things done, and only missed a little bit of the action, before going deep into the zone of 7 straight hours of basketball watching.  Thanks to CBS, TruTV, TBS, and TNT, we are now able to watch all the games, rather than just the "Game of the Moment."  It is awesome.

Saturday was my no-hitter, my hat trick, my triple double; I went 8 for 8.  I mean, I literally had all 16 teams that were playing that day, and successfully had picked all 8 of the winners of those games.  It was marvelous.  By Saturday night I had moved up to 52nd place in the brackets, out of literally millions and millions of submitted brackets!  It was cool.  I knew it wouldn't last, but it was a great moment for me.

Sunday, like Friday, was the tougher of the two days.  Gone were the sure-things, the can't-lose games.  I cringed, I closed my eyes, I yelled, I clapped, I got excited, I got sad - and in the middle of it all I watched some basketball.  The state of Florida let me down, and the state of Ohio showed it is for real.  Of course, they still live in OHIO, but that's besides the point.  It was a little bit of carnage, I had Florida State in my Elite 8, and they lost, and I lost a couple of other games.  I went from 52nd up to 1600th, but I was still in the 100th percentile in, and was still in the lead of my money pool.  I have 12 of the 16 teams in the S16.  The question now is, how many can I land in the E8?

Do my Final Four picks have what it takes?  Does Kansas have the moxy to win it all again for me?  I'm putting a lot of faith in them, the least they can do for me is give me a fighting chance.

We'll find out, starting again tomorrow!  Let the sleep deprivation begin again!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Kids in a Pool

To paraphrase my main man, Samuel L. Jackson, "that is it! I've had it!"

I'm sick and tired of these monkey-fighting kids in this Monday-to-Friday pool!

Of course, that's the FX-edited version, but you get the drift.  Yesterday, Alyssa and I got into the pool at 5:35pm to do a swim that takes a full hour.  Thursdays are frustrating already because the swim kids are in from 4-5:30, and then masters are in from 6:30-8:00/8:30.  Sidenote: I don't know what they're doing in there that whole time because I don't think most of them are really swimming 5km+ swims.  Anyway, we had just finished our the first 400m of our WARM UP and the lifeguard is giving us the boot.

What now?  "Pool's closed.  A kid...had an accident."

An accident?  Seems more like an on-purpose to me.  Accidents happen.  DIARRHEA does not.  That means your kid is sick.  To allow them into a public pool, that is irresponsible.  Should be charged with attempted murder with a dangerous weapon. 

Furthermore, this is now the 2nd time in the last month that I've been kicked out, on a Thursday night, due to a kid having an accident.  Last time it was "just" vomit, which means pool is closed for the rest of the night, but can re-open in the morning.  DIARRHEA, since it scrapes your esophagus and can pick up E. Coli, means pool is closed for 24 hours. 

I have been a member of the Merritt Athletic Clubs since 2006.  Not only do I like the gym, but the location is ideal for me, and I have enjoyed my time there.  I find it unreasonably priced, at nearly $90/mo (where do you think you are, NY? this is BALTIMORE), but there aren't other viable choices, so I deal.  Recently, they have been getting out of hand with the kids.

I wouldn't suggest asking Alyssa about swim team kids unless you're ready for some yelling.  Since it's mostly tweenage girls, they are terribly misbehaved in the locker room.  The parents are oblivious, and also part of the problem the way they think they own the gym.  Swim team kids currently practice from 4-5:30pm MWTh, taking up 3 lanes (of 4 available).

Then there are the swim lesson kids.  These kids are the worst.  I'm pretty sure the parents are not members, and that they just bring their kids in for lessons.  They scream at the top of their lungs, and run around the pool deck with reckless abandon.  And they puke and shit in the pool.

I was a kid once.  I am sure my behavior wasn't the best, but I also could poll my parents and see if I was this bad, and I'm positive I was not.  I think it's great to get kids involved with swim lessons.  JUST DON'T DO IT AT AN ADULT GYM.  That shit is for the YMCA.  There's one on 33rd Street, but I'm sure the white parents that bring their kids to the Merritt don't want to go to "The Hood." 

So let's calculate the impact of last night's shitshow:

Masters' swim was canceled.  Those people pay extra (on top of the absurd monthly membership fee) to get coaching, and the coach gets paid.  They swim Weds and Fri mornings, and Mon/Thurs nights.  Now your Friday morning masters swim is canceled, because the pool is closed.  And the pool will remain closed all day, meaning that all the other kids' swim lessons are canceled, as well as any of the adult private swim lessons that they do are canceled. 

The worst part?  Merritt sends out no notification of this.  They don't have it on their website, they don't tweet it, they don't put it on their Facebook page.  This is abhorrent.  I'm sure plenty of people are going to go out of their way to the gym today, expecting to swim, only to be denied.

Meanwhile, it just pisses regulars like us off.  So much so that I am now going to have to look into switching gyms.  And, because I feel like my valid concerns fall on deaf ears, I will speak poorly of the gym to anyone and everyone.  Here are my current pool options:

1. Meadowbrook.  This is THE place to swim, not just in Baltimore, but in America.  As their Twitter handle suggests, this is literally the @PoolOfChampions.  NBAC has produced Olympic greats Michael Phelps (co-owner now of the facility), Katie Hoff, Joanna Zeiger.  Plus, my friends/training partners OJ, Benda, Courtney, all swim there.  The problem is that it's 20 minutes north in the wrong direction, and I don't see myself driving there to swim when I'm not motivated.

2. MAC Harbor East.  This isn't much different a facility than the Merritt, it's 2 miles down the street, whatever.  It would be a lateral move.

3. 33rd St YMCA.  Cheap as dirt, but also dirty as dirt.  Don't like swimming there, and also 20 minutes away.

4. University of Maryland.  You know, if this wasn't egregiously far away, I would go there, because this beautiful pool is going to be unused soon, when they cut the Swimming and Diving programs.  The beautiful 10 lane 50m pool is deep, cold, and fast.  And the gym is awesome.  It *almost* makes me wish I lived closer.

In the end, they've got me by the balls.  Merritt has 3 locations in the City, with Canton being the premier, but the only valid option for swimming during the non-summer months.  Downtown Athletic Center has a 3 lane 20yd pool, so that's out.  Fort Ave only has the outdoor pool, so it's only open May-October.  But, no kids are allowed at that gym, I think it's 21 and older.

The summer is a weird time at the Canton pool, because on the weekends it turns into a club.  Yes, a nightclub.  Club Aqua, Saturday nights.  And during the day, they have a DJ out there and most of the bros and hoes are out there getting tan and drinking (there's a bar).  It's pretty uncomfortable to be there swimming for exercise, probably moreso for the girls who aren't in skimpy two-pieces.  Since I DGAF I just hop in in my speedo and unkempt, manly chest, and tan my cheeks. 

It's mostly just frustrating that they don't care.  The lifeguard apologized for having to kick us out, but you never hear a manager saying sorry, how can we make your experience better.  We tweet at them frequently, and they never engage with us.  That's irresponsible of a brand or organization, it's like why bother even being involved with social media?  They retweet the pretty bimbos who say things like "YAY! SO excited for Body Pump this morning!!!!" but they are missing out on an opportunity to engage with us, who have legitimate concerns. 

Instead, I'll just keep complaining and badmouthing them.  Like The Rock says in Fast Five:


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Leap Day

Thanks to 30 Rock, we learned that "real life is for March," which meant we had to find a way to honor the superfluous 24 hours we were given.  The day turned out to be one of the worst of the year.  Temps in the low to mid 40s throughout most of the day, under torrential downpour.  It seemed to be let up in the evening in time for our Leap Day 4k on the track, but no sooner had we been lulled into a false sense of security, it began pouring again.

There were over 20 of us on the track, fearless warriors, running 4000m around the track.  As we passed the 500m mark, some of the most fierce lightning bolts illuminated the sky in hues of pink and purple.  The smart move would have been to call it, and head for safety, but we are anything but smart.  The rain continued, the lightning blasted all around, and 10 laps later, we had the first ever Leap Day 4k in the books.

February ended up being the most mild February I can recall.  And while it's still a short month, the extra day enabled me to eclipse a pretty cool milestone for myself - 103,000 meters in the water.  The crazy thing is that most of that came in two weeks, when I was over 30k for each week.  I've had some of the best swims of my life, and feel better than I ever have in the pool.  I did a 75x100 workout, and then the 100x100 one a week later.  I've swam over 7k (two swims) a couple of times, and this week it all came together.

Didn't swim Sunday or Monday, and Saturday was light, so by Tuesday, I was feeling pretty good.  During the warmup, I could tell I was on one, so the main set of 30x100 on 1:40 was very comfortable.  I started swimming quicker as the swim went on, so the last 6 I tackled on 1:35.  Then I swam 2x200 and swam the fastest I've ever gone for 200 in that pool - 2:55 and 2:56.  The effort wasn't quite all out, but it was hard.  I wonder how many I could have done on 1:40...

Woke up on Leap Day and was not pumped to get in the pool a mere 10 hours after that swim.  It was tough, and I didn't expect a great swim.  For some reason, I really struggle with Alyssa's 200 workouts.  Normally they're done on a Tuesday morning, which means the first swim after at least a 36 hour layoff, and I get shelled.  This wasn't going to be any kinder, 10 hours after a 4500m night when I was so "on" - but I was going to give it my best shot.

12x200, groups of 3, working down on intervals.  The first couple made me think I wasn't going to make the easy ones, so there was no way I would make the hard ones.  But I summoned my courage and got it done.  And after 3700m, that put me at an even 103km for the month.  My previous high month came in July 2010 when I swam 101km.  So this was pretty cool.  Meaningless, but cool.

With the 9 miles at the track last night, I finished up with 175 miles for the month.  A little more than I did in January, but I'm feeling so-so about it.  I need to get my running back on track, that's for sure. 

I won't even mention my miles on the bike for February, as it's shorter than a Rocks ride.

But, February is now behind, Leap Day proved that nothing is impossible, and real life can resume.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humpty Dumpty

Here are the footnotes from my "race" this past weekend:

1. What happened?

Sunday was the year's biggest race - the Club Challenge 10 Miler.  From a team perspective, this is the race we prepare months for each year, and this year's team was the best we'd ever assembled.  Expectedly, there were some beyond amazing performances, which I highlighted over on the Team BlogAlyssa ran a great race, running 3 minutes faster than last year and blasting through the 70 minute barrier.  But for me, this was not a good day.

Maybe I'm numb to failure, but I don't find myself getting upset, instead just taking bad days in stride.  They happen.  To me, they happen a lot. 

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I've re-tooled my approach to most races, and just find myself running slower and slower.  In the past, I would go out hard, and often times eat it in the back half.  Then everyone would make fun of me, say I go out too hard, why don't you go out slower, etc. 

Coming into the race, I was supremely less confident than I've ever been going into it.  Last year I ran 1:00:12, in 2009 I ran 58:55, in 2008 I ran 59:25.  I honestly thought I could fall into that range, but I was going to go out a little more relaxed than I normally would.  On paper I was maybe 20th-25th on our team's depth chart, and I knew who I should try to stick with.  The first mile is mostly downhill, and while they seem to change the location of the mile marker each year, the 6:07 I ran was undoubtedly the slowest first mile I've ever run in a race shorter than half marathon. 

I looked at my watch in disgust, but I was running with a good little pack, so I kept running with them.  Mile 2 was a shade quicker, and we hit the split in 12:02.  Mile 3 has a little dip - the steep downhill kills me, so I lose a little momentum there - but the split was again in line at 6:02. 

And that's where my day ended. 

Pretty much since I started running again, going back to 2010, I've had nothing but problems.  Foot, hamstring, piriformis, you name it.  I've always suspected that it's largely related to the muscular imbalance I perpetually face following surgery, and the fact that my right knee doesn't bend or straighten even close to as well as my left knee.  I've always just put my head down and barreled through, figuring that it's probably "just the way it's going to be" - but now I'm wondering if my body has had enough.

I can't remember a run, or ride, or even swim in the last two years now that has been completely comfortable.  I'm not fluid, I'm not smooth.  Building up to and following IMAZ in November, my left ham/piriformis started misbehaving.  This was exacerbated in January when I did the Charleston Marathon.  I've had a lot of problems since, and haven't had many good runs in the last 6 weeks.  As I got past mile 3 on Sunday, the familiar feeling of dragging a dead leg along was too much, and my options were going to either be keep pressing until I dropped out, or just slow down. 

The pace crept up to 6:30-6:40 or so, and stabilized there.  I was fine aerobically, but was wincing with each step.  Everybody was passing me.  Then the worst possible thing that could happen, happened: I caught up to Remus just before mile 8.  He had obviously gone out real hard, and was now just coasting in.  He was letting everyone else pass him, but when he saw me, he got excited, and then started running with me, and would not shut up.  I had to run it in to the finish with him.  I should have just stayed behind him so he didn't know I was there.

So I ran 1:04:54.  Yikes.  To call it a race, at this point, wouldn't be fair.  In 2006, the first year I ran Club Challenge, when I was not running that long, and raced stupidly, and wasn't prepared for the hills, I ran 1:04:10 or something.  Somehow, this day was worse. 

I'm not sure where to go from here.  It's the type of malady where you need to actively work on it rather than just take time off.  I can run, it is just aggravated when I'm trying to run faster.  This hampers most of my spring goals.  I had hoped to pop under 58:55 at CC at the beginning of the year, but I realized that was a little bit of a stretch given what I was doing.  My goal of running < 16:48 at Shamrock 5k in two weeks is out.

I'm frustrated because I obviously just bring it on myself, so I only have myself to blame.  So far this year I've swam too much, ridden too little, and run too slow.  It doesn't leave me feeling too good about the spring race season, or beyond, for that matter.  I'm not sure that all the king's horses and all the king's men could actually put me back together again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sick of Swimmin'

100x100m is the swimming equivalent of running a marathon.  Obviously, the two aren't exactly the same - but in terms of relative time and aerobic taxation, they're pretty close.  Much like riding a hundred miles, it's as mental as it is physical.  And, like any of those other activities, something you have to build towards.

Since my marathon last month, I have spent my training hours each week largely in the pool.  Over the last four weeks I have logged a shade under 100km in the water, which is about on par with the biggest month I've ever swam.  I'll admit, even I've had to ask myself: "why?"  And while the answer is largely because I felt it was a small contribution I could make help Alyssa get through it, it is also at least partially self-serving.  Even though I'm not putting a big focus into long races this year, I don't think a high swim volume, particularly in the early part of the year, can hurt.  And, if my workout yesterday was any indication, the proof may already be in the proverbial pudding.

Things I've noticed during the 62km last 14 days:

1. I absolutely despise swimming twice a day
2. I swim better at times other than 5:30am
3. I am not as hungry as I thought I'd be
4. I am always tired
5. My skin is melting off my body from the chemicals

At least twice a week we've had to get in the pool twice.  This is more mentally draining than anything else, particularly on the days that masters are in the pool in the morning, and then later in the day, the kids' swim team is in.  We are constantly fighting for one of the precious pool lanes in our tiny pool (4 lanes).  After our 75x100 dress rehearsal, I knew the 100 would be manageable, but would be pretty exhausting.  The intervals were not impossible, it was just the sheer quantity and time spent in the pool, that was going to take its toll. 

Since swim kids and masters Occupy the Pool until 11:30 on Saturdays, we had no choice but to wait until then to get in the water.  When we got out onto the pool deck, it was as if we were Mariano Rivera coming out of the pen in the 9th to take the mound.  See the other byproduct of us being at the pool so much is that we are now mini-celebs.  Of course, I've always been a favorite there, but now that all these people see Alyssa and have familiarized themselves with her CV, she has become like the Queen, and I am the Mayor.  She is awed and respected, I am just the funny guy who everyone likes.

We had told a few of the guards and the masters coach earlier in the week that we were doing the workout, so as we made our way to the lanes, we were greeted with positive encouragement and thumbs up from the people in the pool area.  This is what you get when you go to a gym that has a pool, rather than a pool that has a gym.  We are far from the fastest swimmers at this place, but we are the most consistent. 

The warmup was over pretty quick and before we knew it, it was time for Main Set A of 42x100m.  It was sliced into groups of 6, which made it go by a little easier.  Following that, it was 30x100m with the paddles, pull buoy, and band.  Normally I crush these, as I have the odd tendency to swim an average of 7 seconds per 100m faster with paddles than without, but on this day, my arms were pretty tired, and I kept the effort even.  After that was done, we had just 10 left, and poof - after a full 3 hours in the pool, we were done.  10,000 meters.  6.2 miles of swimming. 

It was, if nothing else, a cool accomplishment for someone who does not consider himself a swimmer.  Of course, OJ brought me back down a little when he informed me he did that set once in a little under 2 hours.  This was also when he was swimming 100k a week in college.  Whatever, this was big for me.

After the swim it was serious pizza time, and then, inevitably, falling asleep early on Saturday night to very sore, very tired arms.  I had run an easy 8+ miles prior to the swim, and Sunday's workout was a morning long run on the Club Challenge course.  Of course, it went from being reasonable weather to 22 degrees and biting, mean, angry wind overnight, so the workout was brutal.  14 miles, 6mi w/u, 3mi of fartlek, then 2.5 miles of tempo, before cooling down.  It went just okay - I was clearly tired from the week, and, believe it or not, STILL had to swim (again) Sunday afternoon.

Team CYB headed over to the pool, with Andy coming as our special guest, and Zero making an appearance.  On Thursday, when we were supposed to do 25x100, a kid threw up in the pool, which forced them to kick us out and close for the night.  We had only made it through 9, so we had 1600 meters to tack onto what was supposed to be a chill 2000 on Sunday.  We made it through 2500 and decided we would do 9x100 and then 100 cooldown to get the additional time in. 

Then, something happened that I can't quite explain: I swam FAST.  For me, at least.  We cruised to a 1:30 on the first one, and we had decided to go on 1:45, so had plenty of time.  Wow.  Normally I do not swim this fast, and I certainly would not have expected to swim that, comfortably, the day after such a big swim.  From there, I held, or went faster, on each one.  For the last four, we turned them into going on 1:40.  My last 100 was 1:25.  I felt awesome.  I fully realize that these times are a joke for anyone who swims, but for me, that's a very encouraging sign that the swimming I've been doing is paying dividends.  My 18+ hours of training last week consisted of a staggering 11+ hours in the water.

But, as Ariel says, she is "sick of swimmin'" and that she's "ready to stand," which is what I now need to do.  My running is a little off where I'd hoped, in terms of volume, and comfort.  I have run 45 miles each of the last two weeks, which is okay for me, but I need to run a little more than that now, and, get a little quicker doing it.

For a day, though, I did feel a little bit Phelpsian.  While they would certainly cover the meters much faster, it amazes me that anyone can spend that much time in a pool.  That's why I run and ride - you're outside, seeing different things, and able to talk to those around you.  So I am looking forward to resting a bit from the water, maybe not having to swim twice this week!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Hitting the Reef

We've all hit the proverbial "wall" in running, and perhaps the air's been "let out of our tires" on a ride before. But what happens when you are DONE in the water? On Friday night's 75x100m session, Alyssa coined the term "hitting the reef."

I loved it, it's great. If you've ever hit the reef, literally, you know how bad it hurts. Coral cuts and scratches, and then mixed with the salt it starts to sting. It is very painful, although perhaps not as bad as the sunburn on your back from snorkeling for 3 hours in the Great Barrier Reef.

For Alyssa, it was at 7000m that she hit the reef.  The final set of 10x100 was 25 sprint, 25 back, 50 free easy, and as she came off the wall on the back stroke, it was like POOF, done.  This 7500m evening was the "cherry on top of the ice cream on top of the cake" that has been her 2012 swim camp.  Alas, no rest for the weary, as this coming Saturday we embark on a Coach Hil staple: 100x100.  3 hours in the Merritt Pool = not sure if I will still have flesh by the end.

For me, since I am so "sexy at swimming" (refer to Ben's blog from last week), I was able to do it, but it took a lot out of me.  I swam 30,000 meters last week - the most I've ever done in a week by a couple thousand, and fairly close to what I was swimming each month last year.  Alyssa must have a clear lead in the Merritt 100 Mile Challenge as she sits at 74 miles.  I think I'm at 53.  My 100 mile projected ETA is the end of the first week of March. 

Meanwhile, I did manage to actually ride my bike once last week.  I realized I didn't miss it.  I'm honestly just not feeling the bike right now.  I did run 45 miles, including a very sloppy, very difficult 2 hours in Patapsco yesterday.  My knee did not like the constant torquing on the ice-like mud that coated the trail. 

From the world of running, there was a half marathon in Japan where 24 men were under 1:02:00, 47 were under 1:03:00, and 75 were under 1:04:00 - that's pretty insane.  You do NOT see races that stacked.  But in Japan, it must be the norm, after all, in the Fukuoka Marathon you need to have qualified with a 2:42, and if at any point during the race you slip below 2:46 PACE, you get pulled.  They have a van that scoops you off the course. 

I haven't watched the highlights of this weekend's New Balance Grand Prix meet from Boston, but I saw most of the results on Twitter on Saturday.  Seems like a pretty solid meet, big names going head to head.  Makes me ready for outdoor season to be here because it means we'll be one step closer to the Olympics!

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Home Run

Usually when I head home to NJ, I end up running by myself.  Which, incidentally, I don't mind, because I like to go out when I feel like going, and hit the parks and the routes I used to run back in the day.  But now when I go home I check in with Jason Gers to see what he's got going on.  I've known Jason for a while, but had never done any training sessions with him until I was home over Christmas.  At this point he's a little faster than I am running, but in general, we're pretty closely matched. 

He said he aws going to do a 14 mile run on Saturday morning, with the first 10 easy, then 3 up tempo, then a mile easy.  I met him at 8am at the beach in Sea Bright, where it was atypically very calm.  No wind whatsoever, the ocean was totally flat.  Temp was in the mid 30s.  Also joining us were three of his usual training comrades: twins Jay and Dave McGovern, and Bob Horn.  I'd never met these guys before, but I've known their names for years.  The McGoverns were a few years older in high school (and at a different school) and while they were good then, they're much faster now.  All three of those guys are mainstays of the local NJ running scene, you'll always see their names high up in the results.

The planned route was from Sea Bright towards Red Bank (so basically I could have just met them at the turnaround), through Rumson, Little Silver, and Fair Haven.  A nice little run.  Mostly flat, a few gentle inclines and declines, all road.  The first couple of miles were chill in the 7:15 range, and then dropped to 7:00-7:10 for the rest of the first 10 miles.  When we hit 10, we picked it up to <6:30 pace (6:29, 6:25, 6:20).  Since I am in pretty decent shape, despite this being just my 4th run in the last two weeks, the effort wasn't going to kill me.  It was more the running 14 miles that was wearing me out.  But I got through it, and felt good.

Saturday night I headed up to beautiful Newark, NJ, with my dad to see Seton Hall take on Louisville.  We had awesome seats, and the game was great.  It started off bad for The Hall, who were down 15 early, and looked like they were going to go down with a wimper.  But in the 2nd half they summoned the courage of lions and came back!  Of course, both sides were playing pretty poor basketball, it was as if neither side wanted to win.  Seton Hall ended up losing, but it was still a fun game as always.

On the professional running circuit, pretty bad ass weekend.  At the Dubai Marathon, 9 of the top 10 were Ethiopian, with the winner setting a course record (2:04:23) in his marathon DEBUT.  The guy is allegedly 21 years old.  And, he negative split it.  Shattered Gebrselassie's previous CR, in fact the top 4 were under 2:05, and there were 13 runners under 2:08.  Insane.  Even the women's race was fast, with 3 under 2:20 and the top 10 all under 2:26. 

We were also treated to some indoor track from the World's Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden.  It wasn't the Millrose Games, though, which moved from MSG to the NYC Armory, but based on the broadcast you wouldn't have known that, as they were still basically calling it Millrose.  This weekend's broadcast is the New Balance Indoor Games from Boston.  AND the Superbowl.  It's a great Sunday of sport!

Friday, January 27, 2012

One Moment in Time

Behold, the Magic of College Park!

On Wednesday I was given the opportunity to attend the biggest sporting event of the year in College Park: Maryland vs Duke.  This is always a big game, and although the Terps have not been as successful over the past few years, you just never know what's going to happen.  This year was an even bigger occasion, as they dedicated the court to Gary Williams prior to the game.  When my old tri buddy Larry "The Slug" Rutledge offered me this seat a few months ago, I was so psyched and could obviously not pass it up.  It was so loud in the Comcast Center that you couldn't even hear the tribute video, but it didn't matter, because the place got quiet QUICK when Gary took the mic.  Known for rarely cracking a smile, it was a rare chance to see GW legitimately choked up as he addressed the crowd and gave on final fist pump.  Gary was the maestro behind the Terps' rebirth in the 80s, following the death of Len Bias and the subsequent NCAA sanctions, and led them to Sweet 16s, a Final Four, and, a year later, an NCAA Championship.  I had the rarest of rare opportunities that year, to actually be in attendance at the Georgia Dome as my college won its first National Championship.  There are few moments in my entire life that can even come close to that night 10 years ago. 

The game itself was up and down.  The Terps built a little lead, but went into the half down by a basket.  In the 2nd half, they kept it close for a while, but lost the momentum, and couldn't close.  Duke is, unfortunately, just a much better team.  At least the Terps put up a fight.

It's always a trip down memory lane when I'm in CP, and on this particular Wednesday, I also had the chance to swim in the pool that I learned to swim in all those years ago.  Larry got me into the gym and we headed down to the pool, and, unlike the Merritt, it is:

1) an enormous pool
2) super deep
3) very well lit
4) not chock full o'chemicals

The 50m pool was cut up into a 25y section, which I swam in, while the deeper end/diving well was being utilized by the soon-to-be-cut water polo team and diving team.  There are 10 lanes when they do it this way, and 5 were being used for a Masters' team, but 5 were open to circle swim.  When I arrived, I had to share a lane, but pretty soon I was the only one in the pool.

I'm always talking about how somehow I used to be able to swim much faster than I do now, and that I don't believe it because I still race about the same speed.  And yes, obviously meters are longer than yards, but even with a typical conversion, I still come nowhere close to what I used to do in CP. 

I had already swam Wednesday morning, but wasn't going to pass up the chance to swim in the big pool, so I gleefully hopped in and started swimming.  It felt so good, such a massive volume of water, I love it.  The way the water spills into a little causeway, it's just so fast!  And with a nice, visible digital clock, I could easily see my splits.  The difference a pool makes.  The one thing I did notice was that it was a warmer temp than they used to keep it.  It was comfortable, but I was looking forward to the colder water.

I did a 500 warmup, then 3x100 and then 4x50, before going into a main set of 3x(200-100-50) on 3:00, 1:30 and then 50y easy in between sets.  First one: 2:50, 1:23, :38.  Comfortable.  Even with a conversion of 8-9sec/100, that still was faster than I would normally swim in the meter pool.  Second set: 2:45, 1:19, :37.  Nice!  Last set: 2:39, 1:17, :36.  It was awesome to have a reminder of previous swimming "glory."  I've never been a particularly good, or a fast, swimmer, but I remember being able to do 200s in the 2:40s, and 100s in the 1:12 range and able to do them on 1:20.  My swim workouts were all set up by Tri Guy Tommy back then, and they were so different than what I do now.  3x a week, 4000-5500y, with a 500 w/u, 5x100 drill-swim, then up to 800 of kicking (with fins).  Main sets would be in the 2000-2500 range. 

I decided to see what I could do for a couple of hundreds, so I went hard for one (1:15) and waited til 2:00 to go again.  Another 1:14/15.  Then 2x50 on :60 (:35, :34).  Not too bad.  I think part of it was, when my knee was better, I could really do a strong dolphin kick and I'd take a minimal amount of strokes per length, and I was doing a lot more "speed" in the pool.

What's most sad perhaps is the fact that, as of July 1, the pool will have no swim/dive team or water polo team inhabiting it, when the school cuts 8 sports teams (including those, and men's xc/track)

I was really pleased with the workout, and just excited to get to be in College Park for the night.  I decided to not swim on Thursday, instead opting for my first attempt at riding in almost 2 months.  Just an easy 45 minutes on the trainer.  Predictably, I hated it.  This morning it was back to the pool and I felt terrible.  Such is life.

The other initiative is getting back in the weight room.  When weight training was part of my regular routine, I was almost never hurt, I felt stronger, and had more energy.  With typical IM training predicating high volume, it's hard to find the energy or desire to be in the gym.  But, when you look at the improvement Craig Alexander made this year, and see that he was putting in the gym time, it's hard to deny the correlation.  Of course I'm not talking about meathead-style training, but strength and balance.  My body is so broken down, it's the least I can do.  3 days in the gym this week, focusing on building smart, core, stretching, foam rolling - the little things I generally avoid.  Seems to be working.

Heading up to NJ shortly as this week is college hoops week for me.  Seton Hall vs Louisville tomorrow night at The Rock in Newark.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Band

Time is a weird concept. 

The sun rises, the sun sets.  We wake up, we go to sleep.  Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking.  Into the future.  I think I tend to notice time more following a bigger race.  For instance, 10 days ago I ran a marathon.  It feels like a lifetime has passed since then.  In the days following the marathon, I didn't run, I didn't ride my bike.  I took Sunday and Monday completely off, and then tried to get in the pool on Tuesday.  I felt terrible.  I actually got out of the pool after getting through just 1000m, something I hadn't done in a long time.  Wednesday I was able to swim a little more, 3000m.  I finally ran again on Thursday, an easy 6 miles with Kris.  It did not feel good.  Mostly it was just muscle soreness and tight hamstring/piriformis, but I was surprised at how beat up I was.

The weekend weather forecast looked less-than-stellar, which was good, because I committed to spending an inordinate amount of time in the pool.  Alyssa had 4 swims scheduled between Friday and Sunday, and, due to a tired Thursday morning, Coach Hill said "just do Thursday's workout on Saturday morning, and Saturday's workout in the afternoon."  The swims looked like this:

Fri: 3000m/2500m
Sat: 3100m/4700m
Sun: 3700m

17,000 meters in three days across five swims.  I swam 15,000 meters ALL of last January.  Alyssa's workouts are very specific, while for me, as long as I'm in the pool, physically touching the water, I think that's good enough.  She tends to have a lot of pulling, and a lot of work with the band.  I don't like to do either of these things.  Actually, I will rephrase.  I like pulling, but I've always been of the "keep it to less than a third of your total swim volume."  The Saturday afternoon swim called for 500-1000-1500 main set with paddles, pull buoy, band (PBB).  I PBB'd the 500 and 1500, but just swam the 1000. 

Perhaps most notable was how I felt better on Friday and Saturday afternoon than their respective morning counterpart.  And, even more surprising, was how awesome I felt on Sunday.  To quote Drake, I was "on one."  Too bad that many, many hundreds of meters were with the dreaded Band.  In fairness, it was a lot easier since I didn't do anything other than swim all weekend, but still, it was a lot for me. 

Needless to say, my body was pretty displeased with me on Monday.  I convinced myself to run again, and ended up muddling through 70 minutes just barely under 7:30 pace.  I kept thinking, "you better check yourself, before you wreck yourself."  And, when this morning's 6am swim came 'round, it was another exercise in futility.  Not only did I get smoked by Alyssa, I barely made our pretty generous time interval on our 10x200 main set.  I then decided to lift and stretch a bit.  I now have a new 2012 goal:


Seriously, when did I become this inflexible?  Once upon a time I did actually go to yoga class on Wednesdays at the gym, and wasn't this bad.  After the meager lift/stretch session, I was feeling plucky and thought man, I should ball.  You know, pick up the rock and hoop it up.  15 shots and one made basket later, I was walking back into the locker room after jamming my thumb hard enough to make it bleed.  Playing basketball.  By myself.

With a light workout load over the weekend, I took the opportunity to engage in some fun activities:

1. Went to the Baltimore Comedy Factory ( to see one of my favorite comics, Iliza Schlesinger.  She won the last Last Comic Standing season, and until now had never had the opportunity to see her live.  It was hilarious, and a great start to the weekend. 

2. Went to the University of Maryland Indoor Invite on Saturday to watch some of my TWSS teammates run, and ran into some familiar faces along the way.  The "Save UMD XC and Track" campaign is still alive, but with $4.2 million to raise by July 1, it's still a big task.

3. Went to see The Artist with Alyssa on Saturday night.  When I heard about this black and white, silent film a few months ago, I was really excited.  This 90 minute journey back to a better time of film making was well worth the trip to Arundel Mills on a Saturday night (I hate going there).  Jean Dujardin was incredible, and was nominated this morning for Best Actor, and Berenice Bejo was an absolute star (she's nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role).  The film is up for Best Picture, and the screenplay got a nod for Best Original Screenplay.  If you have the opportunity to see this, do it!

This week it's all about college hoops, as I am going to the Maryland vs Duke game on Wednesday (thanks to Larry!) and then Seton Hall vs Pitt on Saturday in NJ with my dad.  Remember to keep the balance!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Have a Dream

That someday, I will run a good marathon.

This weekend was not one of them.  Fortunately, I did start my 2012 campaign by accomplishing one of my goals: qualify for Boston 2013. 

With the Boston Marathon changing its qualification requirements (chopping 5 minutes off previous qualifying times per age group), and me not having run an open marathon since Boston 2009, I was going to have to run at least one marathon this year.  And, with a new registration process, I knew I'd have to run it before September.  While I am planning on running NYC Marathon later this year, it would be too late for next year's Boston. 

That left me a couple of options: look to something like VA Beach's Shamrock Marathon or DC's National Marathon in March, or try to get it done in Charleston.  The races in March were appealing because of their proximity to Baltimore, field size and support, and it would give me plenty of time to train.  Charleston was appealing because it was a place I'd never been, an "easy" course and a Saturday event.  But it was also just 7 weeks after Ironman Arizona, and after the long 2011, I needed a break.

Immediately following the Ironman, I was still undecided about what race to target, and figured I needed a good month of running before I could commit.  I ran 6 miles post-Ironman week, and then weeks of 30, 44, 53.  I decided I felt good enough to be able to get through the marathon in Charleston.  I felt like 7 minute pace was a good goal, which would be a 3:03, and give me a comfortable cushion for the Boston registration process later this year. 

I ran a few workouts during December, but was not going to try and cram workouts and long runs in.  The two longest runs I did were 17, one on Christmas day and one on New Year's Day.  17 miles is not even close to what I should have been doing, but I didn't have time to worry about it by the time January hit.  It then became "rest up enough so you're feeling good on race day." 

Alyssa and I flew down to Charleston on Friday morning, leaving a cold, windy Baltimore and arriving to a cold, windy South Carolina.  We ate a great bbq lunch at Nick's BBQ on King St, and then tried to drive the course.  The maps provided by the race did not include road names, just colored lines and approximated turns, so needless to say we got lost.  After running the race, we wouldn't have been able to follow the course anyway.  This was the first sign that this race was not going to be well-organized.  We then stopped off at the "expo" to pick up our stuff, and scooped up Andy, Ed and Conrad from the airport.  The four guys went for a dangerously dark shakeout run, which was Conrad pace (quicker than I would have liked).  We were all hoping the wind would die down, because we knew the temperature was not going to magically rise. 

Race morning came and the wind had calmed down a bit, but not much.  And it was cold.  34 degrees is what the thermometer read.  Conrad and I got dropped off at the marathon start at 7:15 and stood around until 7:40 when we went to warm up for a few minutes.  Since it was so cold, I was going to start the race with my singlet, and two light/longsleeve tech shirts, and was wearing shorts and gloves.  In my haste to get out of the car, I forgot to grab my little EFS liquid flask.  Oops.  I would see the others around mile 9.5, so I could grab it from them then. 

The race starts on East Bay Avenue, and runs a mile and a quarter south to the end of the peninsula.  I made sure to not get caught up in the race and go out comfortably, but I could tell we were still moving quick.  6:23 at the mile confirmed that.  I told Conrad I was going to back off, and as we headed north it was obvious we were going to be going into the wind for most of the day.  Mile 2 was 6:29.  Still too fast.  Tried to ease into the slowing rather than just stop dead, so mile 3 was finally more in line at 6:37 and mile 4 was 6:40. 

About the course: the first 3 miles were in the downtown area, which is nice.  It quickly becomes more like Baltimore (see also: pretty hood) and for miles you are just running on some boring deserted road that parallels the overhead highway and a train track.  It's very unattractive, and super quiet.  I didn't expect any crowd support, so I was able to deal with that, but it was just so boring.  Very flat, but the wind was negating any of that benefit.  Every so often Conrad, who was using the marathon as a long run, would turn around and jog back towards me, run with me for a minute, and then take off again. 

Miles 5-8 were: 6:32, 6:43, 6:28, 7:16.  I think 5 and 7 were a tad short, and that 8 was a bit long, because I felt pretty locked into 6:40-6:45 at that point, and we were running in a straight line.  Until Mile 8, when there was a little bridge to run up and over, but we had the downhill so I figured it zeroed out. 

I guess it was around 8 or so that we sharply doubled back on ourselves, and as we headed south for a few hundred feet, it became so quiet and you felt, for the first time, what it was like to not fight the wind.  That disappeared when we Zorro'd our way onto another road headed north.  This was around 9.5 and I could see, and hear, Ed, Alyssa and Andy.  They had all run the 5k, which started/finished at the marathon finish.  Ed and Alyssa each won, and Andy had run with Alyssa to help pace her to her first sub 20 5k!  The Shrimp and Grits 5k, as it was called, was 3 miles, but with a 15:12 for Ed and 19:05 for Alyssa, we put their time estimates for the right distance at 15:45 and 19:45.

I passed off my top layer shirt and grabbed an EFS flask and continued on my way.  The half marathoners were about to split off, and all of a sudden it went from a couple dozen people around to 3.  Seriously, there was nobody around.  It was dead quiet.  The road also stopped being pancake flat and began to roll a little bit.  It was also at this point that I realized, since Mile 8, we hadn't had a water stop in a while.  It was over 3 miles without a water stop, and the volunteers were poorly executing their distribution strategies.  Of course, it's always on the athlete, but as I would approach a water station, I would point to a person and a cup, and say "water" or "gatorade" - and without fail, each one would literally pull their arm back towards them at the last second.  Of course the teenaged volunteers always think this is pretty funny, but I assure you, it's not.  They were also holding the cups in a really stupid way, so I was barely getting any water at each stop. 

Miles 9-13: 13:33 (9 + 10), 6:42, 6:45, 6:50.  Half split est: 1:27:45

I felt good about that, it was right where I thought I should be.  I figured 1:28-1:30 would be where I needed to be to buffer a slower second half, but, if I felt good, and could double it, would put me in a place to break 3 hours.  But a few things were starting to worry me.

1. Since the start, I had been more than aware of my hamstring and piriformis.  It is never good in the cold, and there were a few times when it would lock up mid-stride. 

2. I had to go to the bathroom.  I thought I could maybe make quick pit stop and relieve myself, but I was worried about starting up again, and how much time it would take.

So I forged on.  And now the course was just getting ridiculous.  It was a lot of running around circles, figure 8s, and running on little walking paths behind schools and through neighborhoods.  As each mile passed, I was sure that my pace had to have slowed to over 7s because of all the turns.  I remember one point, behind a school somewhere in the 14th mile, that I turned around the building and just got blasted in the face by the wind.  Yet somehow that mile was still 6:50. 

I had come through 10 miles at 1:06:42, and thought if I could hit 20 miles around 2:15, that would put me in a good place for a 3 hour race.  I was feeling very full, and was having trouble eating anything.  Miles 14-18 were annoying, but got through them in 6:50, 6:47, 6:51, 6:53, 6:53. 

By that point, I've now run longer (excluding IMAZ, where I didn't really run) than any run since the end of October.  2.5 months without a run over 18 miles is a long time!  It was around this point in the race that we also merged back up with the half marathoners.  So now I'm stuck behind 2:30 half marathoners as we entered this ridiculous little neighborhood, and I can pinpoint the exact moment where I lost my momentum.  It was when I got to a water table, and the volunteers were not holding the water, it was just sitting on the tables.  I had to get water, but had to zoom around a few half runners and try to grab whatever I could.  It was ineffective. 

On the path, I got stuck behind a group of people taking up the width of the path.  They were running and carrying something.  I could see a body, and these guys all had the same shirt on that said something I couldn't read.  I thought maybe it was a disabled person or wounded soldier, and was touched by the display.  Until I made my way around them and saw it was a CPR dummy, and they were EMTs.  Now I was pretty annoyed that they rudely took up the entire path when they didn't need to.  It was as if the race organizers didn't bother to inform the slower half marathoners that they were going to be caught.

Miles 19 and 20: 7:11, 7:13 (2:15:40)

Holy crap.  I still have a 10k to run, and have now gone right by the finish line for the 2nd time in this race.  Doing the quick math, I realized at 7 minute pace I would run a 43:30 10k, and that would be good enough to get me under 3.  Only problem was, I wasn't running under 7 minute pace.  I knew I needed to keep the carnage under 7:30/mi to make sure I achieved my only goal.  Around 21, I saw the gang again, who encouraged me to keep going.  I had an out and back 5 miles.  Out with the wind, back into it to finish the race.  Uh-oh. 

I've been through this before, it's an all too familiar feeling.  I just can't go any longer.  But I had to keep my head in it.  I did not want to miss by a few seconds, or get it, but have it be barely under 3:05 and then still not get in.  I watched as the few runners ahead of me were heading back into the finish, and they all looked terrible.  Except for the girl and her two pacers that had passed me at 20 like I was standing still.  They put 5 minutes into me in 5 miles.  Ouch.

Miles 21-Finish were not pretty: 7:24, 7:20, 7:34, 7:43, 8:00, 8:17, 1:45

I realized I was going to run under 3:05, but I knew if I tried to press it at all, it could seriously shut me down, and I just had to keep moving forward.  I allowed my body to slow down and, like the Winter Warlock, just tried to put one foot in front of the other. 

I crossed the line in 3:03:43, which is a full 7 minute PR (sadly) from my first marathon in NYC.  Not happy about the super positive splitting, but all things considered, it's what I should have expected.  I was 15th overall, and the winning time was a "slow" 2:45.  Much slower than last year.  After the finish line, despite the temp barely clipping 44 degrees, no mylar blankets!  I could definitely have used one to keep whatever heat was in me, in me.  I was freezing. 

The gang came over and we went into the tent, where I sat down and shivered.  There were a few angels though, like the lady who was a massage therapist and came over to help get the cramping out of my legs, and the guy who handed me a dry shirt to wear, and the lady who kept trying to feed me this allegedly magic water.  The Shrimp and Grits were, as advertised, delicious.  And since we were all winners in some capacity, we all took home some hardware.  It always reminds me of moon rocks, particularly in Apollo 13 when they were confused why the plane was coming in off trajectory, and it was because they weighed less than expected - since they expected them to be carrying moon rocks. 

Conrad was a great help out there, as he probably ended up running 28 miles at least during his 3:00:01 run.  And the cheering and support from the others was also great.  We then got to watch the Olympic Trials on Saturday afternoon at the restaurant we ate at for lunch.  They were a little confused as to why we wanted to watch Running, but we excitedly watched all 2 hours while eating bbq. 

Ultimately, I'm pleased with a PR to start the year, but wish I had prepared better and run a little faster.  I'll have NYC later this year to redeem myself maybe, but I still sit as one of the fastest half marathoners with the slowest marathon times that I know!  Even though I liked Charleston, and would return (perhaps for Cooper River Bridge 10k), but would not go back for this race.  I hope they can make the changes necessary to grow their event, but it wasn't my favorite race.

I'm also really glad I didn't stop to go to the bathroom.  3:05 minue 3:03:43 = 1:17.  It could have made the difference.