Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I love the Chris Rock bit from years back when he talks about a girlfriend who he's given gifts and money to, only to have her say: "Sure, you've done a lot for me; but, what have you done for me lately?" In other words, its not about what you've done in the past, but what you will do in the future that matters. I view my athletic accomplishments this way.

I have friends that have little display areas of their medals from various marathons and triathlons. I'm not big on public displays of my accomplishments. I keep most of my medals in a box that I'll look at once in a blue moon. However, each year I hang my medals from the current year on a tie rack post in my closet. Its a daily reminder during the year of what I've accomplished. By the end of the year, I've got six to ten medals dangling in my closet. I'll look at them and think about the good times had at these events and think that its been a good year. But come the new year, those medals come down. Sure, I've done a lot to keep fit, but that was last year. What have I done for me lately?

I'll enjoy this years medals for a couple of more days. As I take them down to go into the box with other past years reminders of past achievements, I'll take a moment to reminisce about the events I participated in during 2010. But then, I'll look to the new year and the new race season. I'll soon post my schedule for 2011. Fortunately, I have an event scheduled for late January, so the tie post will not stay empty for long. But it will be a reminder to look forward to the new year of training and getting ready for new accomplishments.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Good Company

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong won’t compete in a New Zealand triathlon next month because of a sore left knee.

Armstrong's entry into the Eves Blue Lake Multisport Festival caused the sprint-distance event to sell out. The event was likely the beginning of his testing the waters again at triathlon in his rumored attempt to eventually compete at Kono for the Ironman World Championship. However, Armstrong recently tweeted: “Unfortunately can’t make the tri in Rotorua. Dealing (again) with some knee issues and unable to run for now.” The injury does not interfere with his cycling. Armstrong will still compete as scheduled in the Tour Down Under cycling race in Australia that runs Jan. 16-23.

So it looks like I've got company in the sore knee department. Like Lance, I've got a sore knee that is keeping me from running. Also like Lance, I can still ride and will continue to train on the bike. However, I will not be competing in the Tour Down Under. Sorry to disappoint anyone.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Water On The Knee

That's the diagnosis of what I thought was a pulled hamstring ligament. The good news is that my hamstring is fine. In fact, my doctor checked out my knee ligaments to make sure I didn't have a tendon issue. His opinion is that my ligaments are strong. Thus, this is not an injury that should stop me from exercising.

The bad news is that the cause of this stiffness and pain is that my right knee joint is aging. As I've been running marathons for almost 10 years, and triathlons for the last 3 years, the knee joint has taken a beating. It's pure physics. I'm a middle weight guy (175 to 185 depending on the training) and try to run in a non-pounding, foot rolling manner. But, the miles take their toll, and we each have a different genetic useful life of our various body parts. The body responds to knee joint stress by adding fluid. The added fluid caused the stiffness and soreness.

The good news is that after resting it for a week, it feels fine. I can continue exercising. I did a 12 mile ride Christmas day without any negative effects. I've been told to wear a light knee brace and take an anti-inflammatory before a long run. I've been told I don't have to give up doing the marathons, but to take them easier. I'll see how that goes in London in April before deciding whether I can still handle the distance.

For now, I finally scratched myself from doing the Goofy in Disney in two weeks. I haven't been able to train and I'm pretty sure doing a half marathon and a full marathon on consecutive days would re-aggravate the knee. Next up is a ski trip to Snowmass in late January, followed by the Miami Half Marathon at the end of January. I've ordered an exercise bike to help with these next two months of winter when its too cold or windy to get outside. My plan is to do more bike work and treadmill work to give less stress to the knee. Hopefully easing back in will allow the knee joint to keep from swelling. Time will tell.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tis the Season

I've read several triathlon blogs recently which run along the same theme: its a busy time of year; I'm eating too much; and I'm not getting enough (or any) workouts in. Well, I've come to terms with this downside to the holidays. Its call perspective. We come off of triathlon season and it won't be time to be fully back in the swim, bike, run habit until March. Of course, we'll all get in runs, indoor or outdoor bike training depending on your local weather, and some heated pool swims. But, on the whole, most of us are not getting a lot of training done during the holidays. Here is my response to Flatout Buddy!!!, who was looking for a quot of inspiration to easy his holiday training blues:

Realize its a crazy time of year, try to get in a short treadmill or stationary bike workout indoors, and enjoy the season. As for sayings, I can’t do better than Ecclesiastes in Seasons: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven...a time to plant, and a time to reap that which is planted...a time to break down, and a time to build up...A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing...A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak...A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Now is the time to rest from last season in preparation of next season. In the meantime, take the season to appreciate what you did over the last year, and start planning for next year. But be sure to enjoy those you love, sing some Christmas songs, dance if you feel the urge, and have a cheerful drink with friends. Or as the song goes: “Tis the season to be Jolly.”

We can worry about getting back into our regular training routine starting in January. After all, isn't that what New Year's Resolutions are all about? Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oops!... I Did It Again

As athletes, we are eternal optimists. We sign up for these long endurance events as much as a year ahead of time knowing that there will be obstacles thrown in our path, that the training will be long and demanding, and that during the events we will have ups and downs before reaching our goal of crossing the finish line.

Sometimes we are so optimistic, we bite off more than we can chew. For instance, my buddy Tony is signed up for his first marathon, the Austin Marathon in February. I attempted to assist Tony in his first go at a marathon in this years Miami Marathon, but he had to bow out due to an injury. I admired his decision to give the marathon another go when he announced he intended to do Austin. However, he one ups himself this weekend by registering for the 2011 Ironman Louisville. I love the optimism to sign up for an event containing a marathon before you know you can complete a marathon. I know Tony can do this: he's done a couple of half ironman events and is a strong cyclist. But to sign up for a full ironman before knowing you can handle the marathon distance? That level of optimism makes me smile.

Then there is optimism to the point of being stupid. That would be me. I'm coming back from what I think is a overextended hamstring, I'm slowly increasing my long run from 3 to 6 to 7 miles. All is going well. I start to rethink that I can do the Goofy Race & a Half at Disney in early January. I decide to do a 10 mile run. Oops! Too much, too soon. For the next 3 days, my right knee is again sore and I'm limping. Boy, that was stupid.

So, Goofy is again scratched. Its time to make an appointment with my doctor and try to figure this thing out. I only hope its something that does not require surgery and can be healed with rest.

P.S. "Oops" wasn't the first word that came to mind when I realized I'd re-aggravated my injury.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday "Bonk" Training

God knows this is a hard time of the year to keep fit. We are inundated with holiday parties, gift baskets and baked goods at the office and at home. Its also a colder time of year making going outdoors to exercise less inviting. Fortunately, there is a simple way to help keep us from gaining too much weight during these trying, but fun, times. Exercise before breakfast.

An article in Wednesday's New York Times entitled "The Benefits of Exercise Before Breakfast" discussed a study that shows that exercising in the morning, before eating, seems to significantly lessen the ill effects of all this excessive holiday eating. The study seems to indicate that by running or biking intensely before eating or drinking exercise drinks helps to keep us from putting on as many holiday pounds or becoming more insulin resistant.

I found a comment from a reader who referred to the weight loss benefits of “exercising in a fasted state”as “bonk training”. The commenter mentioned a September 2002 Bicycling magazine article that outlined the following "Bonk Training" workout:

1. Upon waking, drink 2-3 cups of coffee, up to 45 minutes before cycling. Don’t eat.
2. Ride at endurance pace- 60-70% of your max heart rate, or a casual pace that doesn’t make you pant when you talk.
3. Keep it up for 20-90 minutes.
4. You can do this on consecutive days, but mix in at least one normal breakfast per week.
5. Eat your typical breakfast as soon as the ride ends.
6 . Watch the blubber ignite!!

I don't usually eat much before a run anyway, but I've always been told to eat before a ride to avoid the bonk. I guess that's flipped on its head for shorter sessions. I don't think I could stomach 2 to 3 cups of coffee before a ride, but one cup along with only water in my water bottle is something I could handle. I don't think I would do this on a very long run or ride, but I can see it on a short to intermediate workout. I think I'll give this a try. Just to try to keep off those extra holiday pounds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Maybe I Am Goofy

If you've kept up with my blog, you know I've been coming back from a right leg hamstring tendon issue suffered in the brutal 8 bridge crossing at Miami 70.3 in late October. I'd previously signed up for the January 8th & 9th "Goofy Race and a Half" at Disney World (1/2 marathon Sat./full marathon Sun.). I was pretty sure this raced was scratched from my early 2011 schedule.

Now, I feel there is a glimmer of hope that I can complete this event. I gave my leg proper rest and have eased back into running with no problems. I ran 7 miles last Sunday, a 5K speed workout on Tuesday, and today I ran 10 miles. So far, no soreness in the hamstring. Thus, I'm faced with a very short time to ramp up to the full marathon distance. I figure I can go for 13 on Sunday, 15 the following week, and 18 the weekend before the event. Ideal training? Hardly. My approach will be to take it easy, no need for speed, and see if I can complete this event. Given that I will not have done the traditional 20 mile run, I plan on doing the Galloway run/walk method. I've done many marathons (27), so I'm counting a bit on muscle memory, and treating it like a training run.

This decision is based somewhat on the fact that all seems to be OK with my hamstring. The other factor is that the good folks at Disney will not allow for a deferral. So, what say you, fellow marathoners and triathletes, is this a good idea, or am I Goofy?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Treadmill Speed Workout...Yes!!!

Having successfully run a 7 mile run on Sunday without post hamstring tendon soreness, I was able to try a treadmill speed workout this morning for the first time. Normally, I don't really like to get on the treadmill. I enjoy the outdoors. I usually reserve the treadmill for when its just too damn hot out during the summer months. But I've got a 5K coming up the day after Christmas. So it was back to the treadmill. I started off at a 9:30 minute/mile pace and took it up another half minute per mile pace every half a mile. I ended up doing a 6:30 minute/mile pace for the last tenth of a mile.

It felt good to try to go somewhat fast again. So far, no post workout stiffening of the hamstring. I may recovered. I'll slowly start to go longer again. I don't want to relapse. But its looking good. You don't realize how much you love to workout, until you aren't allowed to workout. Its good to be back.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Shopping

Its the time of the season for Holiday shopping. Being a 21st century man, I don't think I've stepped into a mall so far this season. On-line shopping seems to allow for the most training, football viewing, and other leisure time. I've also been inundated with pretty good prices on the on-line sites I usually purchase goods from: for books, CDs, and DVDs; for my son Alex's most favored toys; and Performance Bicycle and Bike Nashbar for things for my bike.

In any event, I've been thinking about getting carbon wheels for the last year or so, but spending over $2,000.00 on a pair of Zipp Wheels? Let's just say that I didn't feel I was good enough to justify spending that kind of money on a set of wheels. I'm too cheap and I didn't feel I'd get enough performance bang out of those bucks. But Performance Bicycle offered a pretty good discount on a Reynolds carbon fiber wheel set, and my Cervelo tri bike has been very good to me this year. So, I pulled the trigger and ordered the new wheels. I hope my bike will be happy on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True

"This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."

This piece of advice from Polonius to his son Laertes in Shakespear's Hamlet seemed appropriate to me this last weekend. Several of my triathlon group were doing the Jiggle Bell 5K this last Saturday morning and encouraging me to join in on this festive holiday run. I knew that in recovering from my hamstring injury, it was probably best to skip this event. However, I got the classic peer pressure call to come out and run it easy. My buddy Tony suggested I do a fun run 10 minute mile pace.

I have to say, I was tempted. It's a fun event, with people dressed in reindeer antlers, Santa hats, and other jingle bells on their running shoes. I place a call to buddy John seeking his advice, which I get late Friday night before the event. He suggests that I come out and join the fun, if I think I can do it as a slow fun run.

Who am I kidding? I've never run a 5K race at anything other than near puke speed. Isn't that what 5K events are for: to see if you can go so hard that you feel like you're gonna puke? I've never actually puked after a race, but I've felt like it a couple of times. I find it hard enough to keep the horses in the barn at the start of a marathon. I'm going to go out and jog a 5K? I don't think so. Knowing myself, I knew I wouldn't be able to take it easy in a 5K. So, I took a pass and did an easy 5K treadmill run at home with that 10 minute mile pace dialed in. Not as fun, but the smart thing to do as I'm coming back to running.

The good news is that I've done a couple of these 5K runs, and so far, so good. I've got enough faith in doing my recovery smart, that I've registered for our New Year's Resolution 5K run on December 26th. I think I'll be ready in time for that. Who knows, maybe I'll puke after crossing the finish line? Not that that's my New Year's Resolution. My New Year's Resolution is to run the Jingle Bell Jog and some other fast 5K races in 2011.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Road to Wellville

Dr. Tim Nokakes, the author of the bible on running, "Lore of Running," gives running injuries 4 grades based on the severity of the injury. A grade 4 is an injury so severe it prevents you from running. Grade 3 is an injury causing pain to the point that it limits your training and impacts race performance. A grade 2 injury causes discomfort, but not pain, while running. A grade 1 injury causes pain only after running and is often only felt some hours after running. The trick is to catch an injury at a stage 1 or 2 and treat it before it becomes a stage 3 or 4 injury.

I've got a stage 1 injury. I feel fine while running, but end up with soreness and stiffness behind the knee several hours after running. I believe I know the cause of the injury: over-striding coming down those 8 bridge crossings at the Miami 70.3. A running friend, Jen, from "Yeah, I Run Like A Girl..." blog, was able to give me the diagnosis the hard way: she's coming back from the same injury. Jen ignored the grade 1 signs of the injury until it became a stage 4, forcing her to take several months off from training. Jen's diagnosis: an injured hamstring tendon.

The trick is treat an injury properly in order to get back to normal training. First step, rest and and relaxation. Easier said than done. As regular endurance athletes, it's very hard for us to give up our regular training routine and sit on the sidelines/couch while our regular training buddies participate in events or text you to join in the next workout. Not only are up a bundle of pepped up energy with no outlet, but you have to keep reminding your buddies that you are coming back from an injury and can't join them. This makes you sound like your looking for sympathy, which you are not. You want nothing more than to get back out on the road with your buddies to bike and run. Thus, it takes discipline to do the right thing and rest.

After taking what you think and hope is enough pure down time, you start slowly returning to the road. You go for short distances and don't push the pace. Well, I gave it 10 days of pure rest. Hopefully, with my stage 1 injury, this is enough pure rest. I've started back with an easy 10 mile ride. I did an easy 3 mile run, a 20 mile ride, and today a 6 mile run. On my return run, I stopped by St. Bart's cafe, a sidewalk cafe on A1a near the Swimming Hall of Fame popular with a lot of our training group. Buddy Tony is sitting having a coffee. Having seen me on the outbound run, he ordered me up a class of ice-water. As I stop to chat, Tony asks if I feel better. I tell him: "I'll know this evening if it stiffens up."

Anyway, so far so good. I hope I stay on the road to Wellville and don't end up in the ditch by doing too much too soon or going too hard. I hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend and training just enough to balance out all the good eating going on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Given that Thanksgiving is upon us, I thought I'd list some of the things I'm thankful for over the past year related to triathlon and running:

I am thankful that it didn't get any warmer or more humid during January's Miami Marathon. The heat and humidity of those last 3 miles made me ask to my friends on finishing: "Remind me, why do we run these things?"

I am thankful for the great venue that is Miami Marine Stadium, where I did two Olympic distance evens and one sprint. With its protected bay for swimming and shaded run path, there isn't a better venue in South Florida for triathlons.

I am thankful for the company of good friends Wayne Crayton, Bob Bowker, and Jacques & Christine Watters who were part of the Paris Marathon trip in April. That was a wonderful adventure shared with good friends.

I am thankful to Marathon Tours for putting together these international marathon trips. They not only make your foreign marathon trip easy and fun, but they create an environment where you get to know other interesting athletes from around the U.S.

I am thankful that ultrarunner Bill Andrews allowed me to crew for him at the Keys 100 in May. During the course of this event, Bill taught me a lot about both crewing and running an ultra.

I am thankful that buddy Tony Whittaker, out of all my tri buddies, decided to join Salome & me on the Vineman 70.3 trip to Sonoma Valley. Not only could I not have found a more enthusiastic fellow athlete for the event, but he brought along his expertise in wine and fine dining.

I am thankful for TriBike Transport for once again allowing me to travel across the country without the hassle of a giant bike box. While they charge a pretty penny to transport your bike, they do it professionally and with a smile on their faces.

I am thankful for the water stations, well stocked with water and ice, at the Miami 70.3. These well placed stations a quarter mile on both sides of the Port of Miami Bridge made an impossible task of 8 crossings over this beast of a bridge tolerable torture instead of life threatening.

I am thankful for my virtual training buddy and coach, John Clidas, for his keeping me focused on my workouts even though they were mostly separate workouts during his busy work travel year in which he was imitating the George Clooney character from "Up in the Air."

I am thankful for my spin instructor, Dorota Porazinska for getting me to break out of my habit of a steady pace and learn to change it up. It was enormous help help in the hills of Sonoma Valley and all of the turns in Miami.

I am thankful for my trainer, Penn Ivanov for both strengthening my core and upper body, but also for his sound advice in balancing aerobic training with weight training.

I am thankful for all of my training buddies and friends that give me a reason to keep the training social and fun, provide mutual encouragement at events, and give me a reason to follow an event over the internet as they do events at out of the area "away games."

I am thankful for my fellow bloggers who read my entries and write good blogs of their own to keep me both interested and amused. I get more from these blogs than I ever get from magazines devoted to the sport.

I am thankful for any of my Facebook friends that read my blog entries, especial those that leave comments or click the "Like" button. Sometimes its the only way I know anyone reads these posts.

I am thankful for my sons, Alex and John, who keep me feeling younger than my years by making me play like a 10 year old and socialize with a bunch of college aged young adults.

I am thankful to my mother in law, Kiki, for her fabulous cooking, the care and devotion she gives to my son Alex, and constant concern she expresses that my wife & I may be overdoing it with all these athletic events.

I am most thankful for my wife, Salome, who not only understands and puts up with my passions for running and triathlon events, but also participates in them herself. I can't think of a better formula to stay young at heart than to go jaunting around together to various athletic events.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Congratulations Bob & Melissa...and Tom &Chrissie

Ironman events take a long time. Watching large parts of Ironman Arizona today was the first time I watched the live feed from the WTC. My impressions in watching online are that it's great to watch the mass swim start, the pros coming into and out of transitions, and of course the finish. Of course, seeing your friends finish is very cool. Other than that, WTC does a good job of keeping it interesting by having other pro athletes talk about the competitors and how the pros handle these events. Thus, you could spend a full 10 hours that they have commentary, but that's a long time. So, I caught the start, transitions, the finishes, and some chunks in between. All in all, very interesting. I picked up some tips and got to know some of the background of some of the leaders. I also did chores around the house and stepped out to Home Depot for some supplies too.

As for the event, a few of us that know Bob & Melissa followed them throughout the day. As we expected, they did well on a challenging day that included rain, wind and cold. Not exactly what they expected for a race in Tempe Arizona. Congratulations to both Bob & Melissa. Bob finished in 12:44; Melissa in 13:03. Way to go guys! It was great to watch you cross the finish line.

Other than following our friends, it also was an exciting day to follow Chrissie Wellington and her boyfriend Tom Lowe. Tom was running his first Ironman event having done three 70.3 events previously. Tom comes in third overall in 8:11,with the fastest marathon time of 2:41. Not bad for a first timer. Chrissie, 3 time Kona Champion from 2007 through 2009 had to miss this year's Kona due to a virus. In order to not let her season end in a scratched race, she decided to do IMAZ. She absolutely killed the course. Not only is she the first woman, she breaks the woman's world record in Ironman by 11 minutes by finishing in 8:36. Congratulations to Tom & Chrissie. Nice way to end the season.

Go Bob & Melissa!!!

It's always fun to have a rooting interest in an IM. Today, I'll be following two of my friends, Bob Kazar (#1932) & Melissa Johnson (#2494) as they compete in Ironman Arizona. I met this couple from Akron, Ohio when I did the Dublin Marathon in October, 2007. It was probably Bob & Melissa that got me to think that I could do an Ironman event. During our first meeting at a pub social mixer for the Marathon Tours running group, Bob & Melissa talked enthusiastically about their past Ironman experiences. "Don't you need a tri bike?" I asked. "No, just put some aerobars on your road bike," they replied. The rest, they say, is history. The next summer, Salome, buddy John & I did our first sprint triathlon, followed that fall by our first half ironman, and culminating in my first (and to date, only) Ironman event, last year's Ironman Arizona.

What goes around, comes around, I guess. In following buddy John's and my progress, Bob & Melissa got excited enough to sign up the next morning for this year's Ironman Arizona. I'm glad that we could return the inspiration that this couple gave to us to get involved in this great big ball of fun that is "triathlon." I'm sure these strong athletes will once again inspire me with their efforts today.

By the way, Happy Ironman Anniversary to tri buddy John Clidas. He was my partner in crime last year in training for and completing Ironman Arizona. John has already completed his second Ironman event, having done Ironman Florida earlier this month. As for me, once I give this hamstring injury a couple of weeks to heal, I'll start slowly gearing up to Ironman Coeur d'Arlene in late June, 2011. The circle of inspiration continues.

Meanwhile, I've bookmarked the live feed from Ironman Arizona and will be watching my friends on-line throughout the day. Go Bob & Melissa!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Down & Out In South Florida

I think those 8 bridge runs during Miami 70.3 took their toll on me. I don't think it was the heart rate killing uphills that did me harm, but the recovery runs on the downhills. Not having trained for hills, I think all that downhill over-striding left me with ligament damage in the back of my right knee.

Of course, like most injuries, you're not even aware you've injured your self during the event. In fact, I took it easy that week and only did an easy 5 mile jog the following Friday. It was only after a Sunday 10 mile run, that I felt soreness in the evening. So, I take the next week off of running. Saturday, I go with my group for an easy 30 mile ride. No problem. Sunday, Salome & I do an easy run out on A1a along with the runners finishing the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1. Thus, we ran 3 miles, hung out at the finish, then ran 3 mile home. All run at a comfortable, easy pace. That afternoon, after sitting for about an hour during lunch, the back of the right knee was stiff again. Yesterday afternoon, getting up from my desk at work, the knee was very tight again.

OK, I am forced to admit it to myself. I'm injured. Of course, now that I know I'm off the road for a couple of weeks, my friends are texting me to do speed work. As I get more messages, I make more calls explaining that I'm injured and out of the workout loop for a while. It's almost like admitting you're addicted to something. First, you have to acknowledge to yourself that you've got a problem. Then, you've got to announce your problem to your friends. After I'm recovered, I guess I'll have to make amends to my friends that I had to skip workouts with by making up workouts with them. It's like a freaking 12 step program.

The shame is that we Florida athletes are entering our sweet spot in training. All of our Northern friends will start to put away their bikes, swim suits and running shoes until the spring. We Floridians get to keep training in what is the coolest, driest time of the year. Worse still, I'm signed up for the Goofy (1/2 on Saturday, full marathon Sunday) at Disney the second weekend of January. If this injury doesn't heal in the next couple of weeks, I may have to scratch that event. :(

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Say What? Free Entry Into a 70.3 Event

Apparently, I was not the only one to voice complaints and criticism about Saturday's Miami 70.3. Another tri blogger, Courtney of Speedy CB's Ironman Journey, left a comment agreeing with my criticisms. When I later read her race report on the event, she did an even more thorough dressing down of the race organizers. Then, tri buddy, Jerry Busbee, e-mails me a link to a race report by an elite female competitor that again goes over similar criticisms of the race organization.

Well, the folks at WTC must have been inundated with complaints and criticisms about the event. Late last night, the WTC issued a press release acknowledging the race set up was a problem, distancing themselves from the race organization, vowing to take over the race for next year. In addition, they announced a complimentary race entry into any of the 70.3 races in 2011 listed below:

Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, Ironman 70.3 Florida, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, Ironman 70.3 Mooseman, Ironman 70.3 Boise, Ironman 70.3 Kansas, Ironman 70.3 Muncie,
Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, Ironman 70.3 Racine, Ironman 70.3 Boulder, Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens, Ironman 70.3 Timberman, Ironman 70.3 Branson,
Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Ironman 70.3 Austin, or Ironman 70.3 Miami.

This was probably a good face saving thing to do. I know I feel somewhat better about the whole thing. Now, I've got to decide which race to do. Of course, I have to keep in mind that with travel costs, a free entry is like offering me an opportunity to spend that entry fee several times over if I go to an event outside of Florida. So there is no free lunch as they say.

I'm already registered for Ironman 70.3 Florida in mid-May as a step up to IMCDL in late June. Texas and New Orleans are out due to the fact that I'm running the London Marathon the 3rd week of April. Hawaii, Mooseman, Boise, Kansas, Muncie, Rhode Island, and Racine are all out of the question due to their close proximity to IMCDL. I really can't see doing Miami a second time unless they redesign that run course. So that leaves Boulder, Steelhead, Lake Stevens, Timberman, Branson, Syracuse, Augusta and Austin.

Which one should I do? Anyone who has done any of these events that would highly recommend one of these over the others. Or should I simply finish the WTC events I'm signed up for and walk away from a free entry? You thoughts are appreciated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Miami 70.3 Race Report

Well, the inaugural Miami 70.3 has come and gone. Boy, am I pooped. Thumbnail sketch: the swim seemed overly long, the bike was a joy, and the run was like doing hill repeats in Dante's Inferno. Following is my race report.

Friday Expo: Tri buddy Jerry and I arrive at the Miami Hilton around 11:45 AM for our number pickup at the Expo. While this is a first time event, WTC should have their act more together for registration. I end up waiting in a line for about 45 minutes before I'm told that this was the line for participants without USAT cards. Worse, there appears to be no line for people with USAT cards. Then, you have to go through 3 lines to get your number, pick up your bib, then get your chip. Kind of ridiculous. In any event, Jerry needed to pay his $10 for his temporary license, so I would have wasted the time anyway.

While waiting in line, I start up a conversation with a guy named Ricardo. It turns out he is also from Fort Lauderdale. As we chat, up walks another couple of tri buddies, Ellen Itzler and her friend David. Turns out Ellen and Ricardo are training buddies. Small world. Ellen tells us the manditory pre-race lecture didn't reveal much other than the fact that the revised run now calls for 8, yes 8, bridge crossings over the road to the Port of Miami.

After getting our numbers, I buy a "Miami 70.3" bike jersey and decide on the spot to wear it for the bike and run portions of the race. Jerry & I listen in on the course review, then head over to drop our bikes at transition. My spot is right under a large tree and I wonder if this will be a hassle in transitions. Jerry, who got his race entry through a buddy whose company was one of the event sponsors, has a sweet spot near the front of the swim in/run out entry/exit with a spectacular view of the fountain and waterfront. After dropping the bikes, we grab a quick bite for lunch at Bayside.

Race Day: I pick up Jerry at 4:55 AM and we have an uneventful drive down to Miami. After parking at Bayside, and getting by the security at the Bike Out gate, we set up our transition areas. Knowing it was unlikely to be wetsuit legal, we left our wetsuits in the SUV. My area under the tree becomes less crowded as other competitors decide they don't like begin crowded by the tree and relocate. Great, now my transition area has plenty of room. After pumping our tires and doing the Port-O-Potty thing, Jerry & I chill on a bench in transition until just before swim time. As I'm in the 4th wave, I head over to the dock we will jump off of ahead of Jerry.

At the dock area, I spot Ellen and give her last good wishes. She is off in the wave ahead of me. Since it's her first 70.3 event, I wonder if I'll see her again before the finish. I get in line in the group of 50 and older age group. Of course, the race organizers once again give us the silver/gray caps. They must think this is so funny. Before I know it, it is time to jump off the dock. When I hit the water, I go fairly deep. As I finally surface, I get hit by another competitor being pushed into the water by the organizers. Hey guys, no need to injure us before the event.

The Swim: As the gun sounds for my wave, the water feels good. It's still dark out, but I can see the first buoy up ahead. The current, which I can't feel is with us, so I get to the first buoy with ease. Thus, I think the swim will not be so bad. However, after that first turn, I can't see the second buoy. It feels like I swim for long periods without making the headway I believe I should. Apparently, the current is more than I can feel. It seems to take forever to reach the second buoy. Likewise, on the next leg, it seems to take much longer than I expect to sight and get to the third turn. Worse, I think that the 3rd turn must be the finish as I've been in the water 45 minutes already. Nope, there is another leg to complete. I come out of the water in 1:06. My worse time at this distance ever. Not sure if the course was long, the current was worse than it felt, or I was under-trained for the swim. Probably a bit of each.

T1: As I run to transition somewhat dispirited, I take solace in the fact that the bike is next. As I fumble getting on my socks, shoes, bike shirt, helmet and arm bands (I need the sun protection), the announcer tells the spectators to watch the athletes in transition. He comments that "Some athletes go through transition like a Swiss Watch, other like Swiss Cheese." I look up at a female athlete who is waiting nearby as part of a relay team and say, "I guess that makes me Swiss Cheese." T1 time: a pedestrian 7:15.

The Bike: The bike is my favorite portion of long triathlon events. You're on the bike for a long time, and you're still pretty fresh. This was no different. I felt good on the ride, except for the fact that some of the streets were pretty narrow and it got a little dicey when large groups of fast riders with Zip Wheels came by en-mass. While I imagine it's hard to get separation in the early miles on the bike, these groups of 6 to 10 riders were clearly and massively violation the "No Draft" rules. I saw one rider who was drafting so technically beautiful off of another rider that I admired his drafting technique. The lead rider was not going to get separation from this guy hugging his wheel. It reminded me of some of the climbs up Alp Duez in the Tour de France. They lead guy would cross to get the guy off his wheel, but this rider (#2025) countered his every move. As I noted that most of these guys were in their mid 30s to mid 40s, I decided it didn't effect my "old guy" age group ranking, so I should stop worrying about these mass "No Draft" violations. With the narrow streets, there was no room for any course monitors to ride a motor-cycle. I just can't figure out whether the violations are intentional or not.

There are lot of turns on this course, so there was a lot of braking and accelerating work to be done coming out of the turns. My biggest concern was running out of fluids. My stomach doesn't handle Gatorade well in long endurance events. I brought two water bottles with a mix of Heed, which my stomach does handle. I left my third water bottle position open for hand-offs at the 3 aid stations on the course. When I got to the first station, they only had Gatorade. I grabbed it and noticed that the plastic wrap was still on the bottle top. After failing to pry it off with my hand and my teeth, I tossed the bottle away as too much trouble. The second station was so small, I blew by it before I noticed it. After the turn around, I realized I was getting to the end of my second water bottle of Heed. By the time I got to the last aid station, I'm borderline dehydrated. I grab what they have, which is again Gatorade. I drink some and note that the stomach will not be handling this well. However, as I have no choice, I keep the bottle and take small swigs when I can.

As an aside, my friend Ellen apparently did dehydrate on the bike course. She apparently stopped at an medical station and was given 2, yes 2, IVs and was advised to go to the hospital in an ambulance. She somehow got back on her bike and completed the race. I've got to arrange a luncheon this week to hear her complete story. I later saw Ellen on the bridge and she looked fine. Way to hang in there Ellen!

The winds were supposed to be around 13 mph out of the NE, so I thought the return portion of the ride would be a struggle. Luckily, it was more of a cross wind most of the way and I was able to ride in the mid 18s most of the way. My ride time was 3:02:24 and an average of 18.4 mph.

T2: T2 was pretty uneventful and a lot quicker, given that I only had to change shoes and restock energy gels. T2 time: 2:44.

The Run: When I originally signed up for this event, the run was supposed to be 2 loops over the MacArthur Causeway. Thus, I knew there would be 4 uphill bridge runs. I didn't know until the week of before the race that the run course was redesigned to go over the Port of Miami bridge 8 times. While a slightly shorter and less high bridge, it's not that much shorter. I don't think anyone looked forward to this run. While I was able to run the flat parts of the run, I and just about everyone else had to walk at least part of the uphill of the bridge. I ended up running until my heart rate couldn't handle it, I'd walk a bit, then run, then walk again until I reached the top. I would recover on the down slop side of the bridge, but every time I had to go up that bridge, I'd wonder if I could finish the race. I felt like I was bonking on each climb. To make matters worse, the bridge was totally exposed to the sun and it was hot. To the race organizer's credit, they had well stocked water/ice stations about a 1/3 mile after the bridge on each side. Thus, it was a battle to keep hydrated and from overheating on each climb. As I said in my summery, it was like running through Dante's Inferno. I saw most of my friends on some portion of the bridge climbs, and we cheered each other on. But it was not fun. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think a half ironman events are crazy because you end up running in the heat of the day. This event reaffirmed that belief. I just had no idea I had signed up for a hill workout to boot.

Once I was finally done with my 8th bridge run, I knew I was home free. I zipped up my bike jersey, took a last water cup about a 1/3 mile before the finish and was able to pick up pace for the finish. Just before the finish, I hear buddies John and Tony on the sideline and reach out to high five them before I finish. Run time: 2:33:18, Final overall time: 6:52:10. Not my best, but not my worst half ironman event. It is in the books and my triathlon season is over for 2010. Not sure I'd recommend this event based on the 8 bridge repeats, but otherwise it was a good event. I'd hoped for cooler weather this late in the season, but it is South Florida.

Now, I get to sit back and watch my tri buddies, both local and in blog land, do their Ironman events. Count me as one who will be glad to be a spectator for a while. Best of luck to John, Bob, and Chloe in IMFL this weekend. Best wishes also to Bob & Melissa in IMAZ later this month. I'll be following all of you via computer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Excitement of Anticipation

Being 4 days out from race day, I'm starting to get excited about Miami 70.3. I'm getting a little concerned about these wind that keep blowing pretty steadily, but there's time for them to die down. Die down winds!

I'm also hoping the surf will calm a bit in order for me to do one last open water swim in my wet suit. I'm not a huge fan of wet suits. I don't like the constriction in the chest. I get over it after about 5 minutes in the water, but I am not a fan of that feeling.

Expo and bike drop are on Friday, which shortens the work week a bit. I love an expo. I proposed to tri buddy Jerry that we head down earlier in the day to avoid the Friday afternoon rush hour on the drive back to Ft. Lauderdale. Jerry expressed concerns about shopping time. I assured him that will be no problem. I love a good expo and I'm ready to shop.

I'm also starting to obsess a little about the run course. They changed it and I'm not sure how many laps we run on this winding downtown course. Thus, I'm getting excited about the mandatory course review session on Friday.

Finally, I'm excited about tonight's Miami Heat season opener at Boston. Check out LeBron's commentary on the whole summer controversy in his new Nike commercial. I love the Don Johnson/Miami Vice bit. Very funny.

I can't wait until tonight's game! I can't wait until Friday's expo! I can't wait until Saturday's race! OK, I think I may be coming down with a slight case of Taper Madness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Less is More

Taper time is a funny time in the training cycle. You come off a week of your longest training, and suddenly you are training short distances. You know it's the right thing to do in order to show up on race day with fresh legs, but you feel like you should be doing more. As this weekend was the last weekend before Miami 70.3, I had planned an Olympic brink (25 mile bike/6.2 mile run) for Saturday. As I spoke with tri-buddy John Clidas Friday evening, he jokingly said that I may want to consider dropping back to a sprint brick. I chuckled. He then said, "If I told you to do less, you'd probably agree." After we got off the phone, I thought that even though he was kidding, he was actually spot on. In the last week before an even, less is more.

Now, I've always been an advocate of doing something during the week leading up to an event. You just want to keep it light and easy so that you go into your event rested and ready to go. But did I really need to do an Olympic brick the weekend before a half-ironman? Clearly, it's not going to improve my performance. Any training effect is in the bag. I don't advocate total rest in that you don't want to de-train (if that's a word). I like to get out on the bike to ride to get the legs turning over, run a couple of times from 3 to 4 miles, and swim a short distance. But this is mainly to keep the muscle memory going.

So, when I got up Saturday morning, I decided to make it a sprint brick. I rode 10 miles, transitioned over to running shoes, and ran a 5K. I had just enough time to get home and shower before heading out with son Alex for his soccer game. I felt good and fairly fresh. I followed that up with a nice, slightly brisk 4 mile run this morning. Again, I feel I got good leg turnover, but little fatigue. (By the way, the boys kicked butt against a very good team.)

I'll do a short bike and 30 minute swim over the next couple of days. After that, I'll probably go for a light 2 mile run. That's it. Yes, I'm starting to get that build up of excess energy from being underutilized over the last few days, but I hope to be fresh and ready to go on Saturday. Hopefully buddy John takes some of his own advice as he heads into his last weekend before IMFL. To all of you getting ready for either Miami 70.3 or IMFL, remember: less is more.

Happy taper everyone.

Monday, October 18, 2010


We spent the weekend up in Gainesville visiting our son John for Homecoming. Being on both the homecoming and Gator Growl committees, John got us into several events including breakfast with the President of UF. After that, Salome & I ran with young son Alex in the 2 mile Gator Gallop, a fun run on the homecoming parade route. The picture is of us after the run in front of the D.U. house awaiting the parade. For the uninitiated, we're doing the "Gator Chomp."

Gator Growl, the homecoming show, was a fun event with 3 comedians headlining. Lots of laughs and a good time. There were some great student skits. Here's a link to one called "Facebook Down" to give you a feel for these fun student produced skits. Unfortunately, the football team just couldn't put together enough offense to win the game. Oh well, the team has had several good years under Tim Tebow. A rebuilding year should be somewhat expected.

As for preparations for Miami 70.3, I took advantage of the cooler Gainesville weather to knock out my 13.1 mile run for the weekend. I postponed my long ride until this morning, but it was a strong 58 miler. I hit a groove several times on the ride where I just felt great hitting a 21 mph average. Some days the training feels like a chore; other days you hit that groove where you happy to be training. Today's ride was the latter. Felt great. I think I'm ready for Miami.

Salome & I had lunch yesterday with our friend Ellen Itzler to review our preparations for Miami 70.3. Ellen did Escape to Miami a few weeks back and had some stomach issues during her run. Miami will be Ellen's first 70.3, so she's a bit concerned about a repeat of stomach issues. Thus, we talked about race strategy and proper hydration and nutrition during the race. I think she's going to do fine. But, as most of us know, when you step up to a new level for the first time, you're a bundle of nerves.

Miami will be my fourth half ironman and, as a local event, a sort of homecoming. Another tri buddy, Jerry Busbee is also doing Miami. Jerry is also signed up for IMCDL as part of our group tackling that event next June. He is also a pretty strong triathlete. I'm hoping he can take my picture as I cross the finish line well after him. We've coordinated bike drop off on Friday and will try to get in an open water swim workout or two before next Saturday's event. This weekend's run and today's ride were my last long workouts, so it's officially taper time. Yeah!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Boys of October

Well, we're well into October and it's busy out there. With just a few weeks left until Miami 70.3, I did a Saturday morning 13.1 run. Being slightly cooler and being full into the fall marathon training period, A1a was full of runners out getting ready for various races. This is the time of year it starts feeling really good to be doing a long run. You feel just so much better running when the temperatures are just 5 to 10 degrees cooler. I finished feeling so much stronger and fresher than the prior weekend 12 mile long run. I felt so good that after coaching my son's soccer game, we all went the beach and I swam 1.2 miles. I finally feel good to go in all three disciplines for the upcoming half ironman. Sunday, I ended up riding solo, but got in my 60 miles. As I say, I feel good to go.

My son Alex has caught baseball fever, so we spent a lot of Sunday watching the various series. With my football teams not doing so well this year, it was a nice change of focus. October is a very busy sports month, with baseball in the play-offs, football in full-season, and hockey and basketball staring up. I've enjoyed watching a couple of pre-season Heat games, and look forward to an exciting first season with the Three Kings.

Congratulations go out to friends Lupe, Maggie and Jerry on their Chicago Marathons races on Sunday. They look great in their post-race photo posted on Facebook. That says a lot as it sounds like it was another hot year in Chicago for the marathon. Way to go guys. See you in London in April.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pac-Man Gobbles Up More M-Dots

The World Triathlon Corporation, owner of the "Ironman" and "Ironman 70.3" labeled events just announced a series of Olympic distance triathlons to be held under the moniker "5150." Why they chose 5010 as opposed to 50.1 is beyond me. I guess they figure it sounds grander and cooler. In addition to adding a number of new events and an annual championship in Clearwater similar to the Ironman 70.3 series, they also incorporated several well established Olympic races into the series. Some of the existing Olympic races included are as follows: Miami International Triathlon (Miami, Fla.) in mid-March; St. Anthony’s Triathlon (St. Petersburg, Fla.) in late April/early May; Washington D.C. Triathlon in mid-June; and Nautica NYC Triathlon in early August.

There are others, and I assume that these were successful established races on their own. I note that there are also several new events that are listed specifically as 5150 events. Thus, WTC is clearly bringing more to the table than simply gobbling up other successful races. However, it feels like a Pac-Man game to me. I'm sure that this will excite the professional athletes as it will give them more opportunities to win more prize money. I also bet that the companies owning the acquired events are also thrilled. I often think that this is the formula for a lot of triathlon and marathon events. Get big and successful in the hopes that a larger entity will come buy you out at a profit. It's the American way. The Rock n' Roll Marathon series comes to mind.

However, I'm not sure this is in the best interests of the average athlete. A series in which big prize money has to be gathered to pay the pros usually means higher entry fees for the rest of us. It also seems to take away from the local feel of an event. Locally owned, locally operated events create local pride. I'm not sure we'll lose the local pride in these events, but they will no longer be simply local events. They will be WTC events.

Now, I've done several WTC events. They put on top notch events. They make great official gear that we as athletes and consumers of such goods like: hats, shirts, mugs, jackets. You name it, they've got it to sell to us. But I always tried to balance out my WTC and non-WTC events. I like the feel of a locally run event. Whether its a big city marathon like Chicago, New York, or Boston, or a small local race like everyone's home town 4th of July or Thanksgiving Day races. These events feel like they belong to these cities and our local towns. Yes, I know those big city marathons are like corporate giants themselves, but they are not all owned by the same company. They still feel like they reflect the spirit of the locale.

I'm not sure that ownership or association with WTC will kill that sense of the local for these existing events; but deep down inside, I don't trust a growing monopoly in any field. I hope in gobbling up all the class events in the sport, that WTC doesn't unintentionally eat its young. This sport is expensive enough as it is. Will race fees jump to pay for the "Ironman" label? Will new entrants to the sport shy away from these series events with higher fees? Only time will tell if, overall, this is good for the sport.

Nice Weather Down Here

I went for a 7 mile run this morning. Man was the weather beautiful. It was in the low 70s with low humidity. I'm sure this will not last, but man was it sweat. This is why I like to train for a winter marathon in South Florida. The weather doesn't get marathon training great until about now. The late fall and winter in South Florida are the best running days of the year. I look forward to gearing up for the Goofy race at Disney in early January.

A shout out to running friends Jerry, Lupe and Maggie doing Chicago this weekend. Have a great race guys. Also kudos to local Chicago marathoner Linda Mueller who will work the race. It's always good to give back to the running community by volunteering at a race.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wide Awake In America

"I'm wide awake. Wide awake!
I'm not sleeping.
Oh, no, no, no." Bad - U2

I suffer from occasional insomnia. It's not a big problem unless I've got a group training event scheduled for the next morning. Actually, the mere fact that I have an early morning group training event planned tends to cause me to sleep less soundly. It's like the night before a major endurance event where you have to get up at 4 AM. I tend to sleep lighter and awaken a couple of times during the night to check how much time I have left to sleep. Screwy, I know, but it's how my mind/body works.

Sometimes, I just inject too much caffeine during the day without realizing it, and I get the payoff when I lay down to sleep. Last night was one of those nights. I had a 7 mile group run scheduled with a couple of other runners for 5:45 AM. Not too early, but early enough. I tried to go to sleep at 10 PM, but it was a "no go" situation. After laying in bed for a hour, I got up, watched some late night talk shows, and putzed around on the internet. I try to get back to sleep again around midnight, but again, I can't buy shuteye. Around 1:30 AM, I e-mail my buddies that I'm not making the early run, take a sleep aid and await the kick-in of sleep. I awake around 8 AM and hustle off to get in a portion of my weight training session with my trainer. I'll get in the missed run this evening, but I sure hate the unwanted night owl status.

On the plus side, I had a good training weekend. A 12 mile run on Saturday morning; a 60 mile ride with triathletes Mandy and Miranda at a good pace on Sunday; and an open water swim on Monday. I think I'm back on track to give Miami 70.3 a decent effort at the end of October.

As for my running buddies this morning, I can only offer my sincere apologies and vow to more closely monitor my caffeine intake.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mid-Stream Trainning

After a nice, but wet Thursday morning return to brick workouts, I decided to focus on going long over the weekend. I got up early Saturday morning for a 10 mile long run, followed by coaching "The Ducks" to another win in youth soccer. The practice on corner kick set ups and passing to the open player seems to be paying off.

Another long ride Sunday (58 miles) with buddy Tony. A little residual hamstring fatigue on the ride from Saturday's run, but after warming up, all felt good. Still acclimating to the longer stuff. A bit hard to maintain the pace on the return leg of the ride. I finished up with a 10K run this morning before work. With any luck, I will join buddy John for a swim workout in the pool this evening.

Other than that, it was watching football and following up on friend's results in their various races. Good results by Mandy Miller, winning the woman's overall sprint division of the Escape to Miami Triathlon. It looks like buddy Bob Becker had another tough year making the time cut off at the Spartathlon. I'm sure Bob will one day complete this monster of a race.

P.S. I realize this isn't the most interesting post, but it's what I had to work with. I don't know if it's just that I'm midstream in training for the end of October or I just have not got much interesting to write about.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Body Will Do Only What You Ask It to Do

The last week, I returned to cycling after a couple week's layoff. I ramped up for a 10 miler, then 12, and 13 miles during the week. I surprisingly felt sore after the first couple of rides. However, knowing I've got to ramp up for the Miami 70.3 at the end of October, I decided to go long Sunday. The long ride wasn't bad. Not knowing how long I was in condition to handle, I did a 45 mile out and back going north along A1a. I felt so good, I added another loop going south to make it 56 miles, the full HIM ride distance. It felt good to go long.

I slept well Sunday night and awoke feeling good and energetic. My leg muscles felt somewhat tighter and in place. It made me think about how our muscles react both to exercise and to extended periods of rest. When I go on an extended break from working out, after about 7 to 10 days, the leg muscles seem to relax and unwind. When returning to regular workouts it takes about a week before the leg muscles seem to adjust back to a tighter, more athletic compactness. It's like the body will do what is asked of it. If we're working out regularly, the body stays in the condition it need to be in to handle that load. When we don't ask it to handle regular physical activity, the body slowly goes to a more relaxed looser shape. I guess that's the concept of resistance training: stress the body in a workout, adapt in recovery. It just feels good to feel the body making the adaptation to a higher level of fitness. More energy, a firmer body. It's no wonder we love to train for and do triathlons and other endurance events. It feels so good to be able to go these distances. Maybe not during those last miles of a marathon or a full Ironman, but otherwise it sure feels good.

I do believe in training cycles. Over-training can run the body into the ground. However, it sure does feel good to have the body in that "ready to roll" athletic firmness. This morning, I returned to working out with weights at my trainer's gym. I can't wait for this weekend's long run. Be sure to keep asking your body to do more. It will only do what you ask of it to do.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ultra Marathons

While I'm still in recovery and out of the workout loop, I'm thought I'd write about something I have little business writing about: ultra marathons.

I have several friends who run ultra marathons. One of these friends, Bob Becker, is the race director for the Keys 100 Ultra Marathon, a 100 mile ultra marathon from Key Largo to Key West that takes place in May. The event also contains a 50 mile ultra from Marathon Key to Key West that I may attempt one of these years. I crewed for a 100 mile runner, Bill Andrews, this last year and found the experience interesting and rewarding.

Bob is an experienced ultra runner, having run Badwater, Marathon des Sables and many others. Later this month, Bob is going to Greece to give a second go at running the Spartathlon, a 153 mile race from Athens to Sparta, a run based on the theoretical route that Pheidippides ran in seeking the Spartan's assistance in the Athenian's battle against the Persian empire on the plane of Marathon. Bob tells me this is a very hard ultra marathon in that there are cut off times throughout the course. If you fail to get to a particular race station in sufficient time, your race is over. This will be Bob's second try at this event. This year is the 2,500 year anniversary of Pheidippides' run, so it has special meaning. The race is September 24-25. Don't you just love a race that lists multiple days for it's occurrence?

Another ultra runner friend, Mandy Miller, has started a website call Ultras 4 Mortals. The site is dedicated to all things ultra running. Like Bob, Mandy has an impressive resume in both ultra running and triathlons. If you are an ultra runner, or like me, interested in attempting an ultra one day, check out her website. As Mandy points out, while "ultra" means far beyond the norm, those that run ultras are normal runners that go the extra miles to do the extraordinary. There are already some interesting posts up on the website. Be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the Sidelines

Three weeks ago, I returned from my summer vacation with what I thought was a head cold. It came with a nice case of laryngitis. When I got back in town, I went to see my doctor. As we are both of the philosophy of not abusing antibiotics, we decided to let my body fight what we thought was a virus. A week later and the things still around, so I'm put on 5 days of antibiotics. The next weekend I do a sprint triathlon. I get through the thing, but felt I was better prepared for a half-sprint triathlon. Each leg felt about half the distance too far. I knew I wasn't 100%, but we athletes hate being taken out of the game.

In all honesty, other than the two weeks of laryngitis, the symptoms haven't been that severe. Headache, sore throat, ear ache, and slight nasal congestion. The real problem is that I've felt sluggish and easily tired when attempting a swim or short ride. As I knew my doctor was going away for the weekend, I called him Thursday to let him know "the gunk" was still hanging around. We scheduled a follow up appointment for yesterday. Turns out, it's simply a stubborn sinus infection and I'm on another round of antibiotics.

I feel like a football player sidelined with an injury. I'm dying to get back in the game. We endurance athletes just don't transition well to a sedentary lifestyle. I want this thing over however, so I'll follow my doctor's orders to a tee. I'm told I can ride and swim. A side effect of the antibiotic I'm on can be Achilles tendinitis, so I'm not supposed to run at all. I'm hoping this downtime doesn't tube my Miami 70.3 for the end of October.

In the meantime, youth soccer season is upon us and I've once again volunteered to be one of the coaches for my son, Alex's team. We had our first practice last night, so I got to work the vocal cords a bit. Still a little rasp in the voice, but the kids look good. With all the kids having seen the World Cup games this summer, they seem extra eager to play. We had a great first scrimmage last night. So, although I'm temporarily stuck on the sidelines, at least I'm coaching.

Monday, August 30, 2010

After the Deluge: Miami Nice Race Report

As mentioned in a previous post, in preparing for the Miami Nice Sprint Triathlon, I was coming off a cold that came with a bout of laryngitis. I'd managed only a 13 mile bike ride on Thursday, a 5K run on Friday and a 20 minute swim Saturday morning. On each of these workouts, I felt like I was pushing the envelope and possibly coming back too soon. In addition, my mother-law-law, Kiki, kept harping in my ear that I wasn't resting enough and jumping back into exercise too soon. However, this was my wife Salome's only other schedule triathlon for this season and I wanted to support her. My plan was to start the event, take it easy, and if I felt overtaxed, to drop out.

Preparation Sunday morning went fine, until just before the race. There were some ominous dark clouds coming in from the east. As the announcer started the first couple of waves, it started lightly raining. As the rain was chilling, Salome, buddy Tony & I got into the water near the start as Tony had indicted the water was quite warm. It felt good to be submerged to our necks and in fact it was warmer in the water than being exposed to the rain. The rained picked up and soon visibility was about 3 feet. The winds picked up and waves started forming on the bay waters. It felt like I was getting a message from God to cease this foolish venture and go home.

I turned to Salome & Tony and said: "If this keep up, I'm not racing. This could be dangerous not only on the ride, but if anyone got into trouble on the swim, the guys in the rescue canoes may not see the troubled swimmer." That's about the time, lightening struck. OK, I'm outta here. The 30 or so of us warming ourselves in the water quickly exited the bay. The swimmers already swimming were called back. As we headed for the expo tent, I turned to Salome and said: "Let's get our bikes and go home." To give you an idea of the scene, here is a picture of a friend's daughters before it got too sever. Note the 3 inches of ground water and the swimmer trying to shield her eyes in the background.

The race officials let racers into the transition area to check on their gear, but held off in letting anyone take their bikes out of transition. The transition area looked like Minnesota, a land of a thousand lakes. Helmets was floating in giant puddles here and there, and everything was completely soaked. But like a lot of rains in South Florida, this storm passed in about 40 minutes.

While the ground was still covered with many large puddles, the race organizers decided to restart the race. The race contained both an Olympic and a Sprint division. In order to keep within allotted traffic closure times, the organizers shortened the swim and bike portions of the Olympic event to the sprint distances; only the run would be different. We decided to stay and do the event.

My race report is pretty simple. With each leg, I was fine for the first half of the swim, bike and run, but felt tried for the second half of each leg. I was clearly returning to the fold about a week too early, but never felt that I couldn't complete any of the legs of the event. If only they had a half sprint event, I would have felt great. As far as my times, they weren't too far off what I'd have done fully recovered. All in all, I felt good about participating.

After finishing, I circled back a few hundred yards from the finish to watch Salome come through the finish line. She looked in good form. After clearing our gear out of the transition area and getting some post race food, we headed toward the results postings. As we approached the results board, a couple of friends congratulated Salome on her first place age group finish. Salome thought they were pulling her leg, but sure enough, there her name was atop the listings for her age group. Needless to say, she was thrilled.

Another buddy, Andy Wiener placed in my age division (I came in 5th), so we had much to cheer about in the awards presentations. We sure are glad we stuck around for the race. As Salome said: "It's important to finish what you start." Here are our victors at the awards ceremony.

On the Ironman front, buddies Miranda and Michael did fantastic in Ironman Canada on Sunday. Miranda's race went as follows: Swim- 1:15:26; T1- 7:30; Bike-6:29:10; T2- 5:26; Run- 3:50:38, for an overall finish of 11:48:10. Micheal's results were as follows: Swim- 1:11:26; T1- 7:30; Bike-6:45:16; T2- 7:59; Run- 4:18:37, for an overall finish of 12:32:54. Just spectacular results in my book. Congratulations to both Miranda and Michael on great races.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Miami Nice Indeed!

The short version: Salome won 1st place in her age division in the Sprint division of the Miami Nice Triathlon today. As I always say: "Any day you get an age division award is a good day." I guess I have to add: "Any day you get 1st place in your age division is a very special day." A full report to follow soon.

Now I've got to start tracking my friends Miranda and Michael as they compete in Ironman Canada today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ready or Not....

Before I left on our family vacation, I signed up for the Miami Nice Sprint Triathlon. My wife Salome was signed up for the Olympic distance event as part of a "two-fer" registration for the early June race put on by the same folks. Salome subsequently downgraded to the sprint for this late August triathlon after I explained how the June Olympic event almost put me in heat stroke by the end of the run. Thus, as we left South Florida for the Northeast and Canada a couple of weeks ago, we were both signed up for this weekend's sprint tri.

Little did I know I'd come back from that trip with a head cold that would also give me laryngitis. This cold has hung around a little longer than I'd hoped or expected. I do try to follow doctor's orders and so I've been resting the last week trying to get over this bug. Fortunately, it stayed out of the chest, so I should be good to go once this is over. The bad thing is, I've only got a few more days to train for Sunday's event. So, ready or not, here it comes.

At least it's only a sprint. Buddies Miranda and Michael leave tomorrow for Ironman Canada. The climbs on the bike course look tough, but M & M have trained for the hills. I wish them well on their races. In comparison, my sprint should be a cake walk. If only my voice fully returns and I get in a couple of workouts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Been Travelling

I got back from a family trip to the Northeast US and Canada on Monday. Our college aged son, John, was out of summer session with a week to spare before getting back to Gainesville to prepare for his fraternity's fall rush. Prior to leaving, I got in one last run with buddy John, a 10 miler, while attending a Florida Bar conference in Palm Beach.

The trip started with the Newport Jazz Festival on Sunday. Our flight had gotten delayed and we only made the last two performances, but they were good ones. Herbie Hancock played from his new album. The set contained jazz versions of John Lennon's "Imagine" and Bob Marley's "Exodus." Chris Botti closed the evening with several special performers. All in all, a great afternoon of jazz. I'd like to do more of these live jazz festivals. I think you never appreciate jazz more than hearing it live and watching the musicians play their instruments. Not sure why that is, but it seems to be the case.

We traveled up to Maine, staying with some friends who have had a place up there for decades. The views of the water during the day and the skies at night were spectacular. You know you're away from light pollution when you can actually see the Milky Way. I love just gazing into the night sky's when you can see countless stars in the night sky. We toured Acadia National Park, as our son John wanted to do this for years. We did some hiking and rock climbing. At one point, the Bob Marley's "Exodus" came up on my iPod and young son, Alex, sang along to the music. I guess he got something out of Newport Jazz too.

Next up, we drove through Maine and up to Quebec City, Quebec, an unexpected pleasure in several ways. As we checked into our hotel, we were informed that Cirque de Soleil had a free performance at a nearby open air performance center at 9 PM. We grabbed a quick bite and then caught the show. Like most Cirque shows, the story line was somewhat vague and in French, but was marvelous. The next day we caught the changing of the guard and toured the Citadel, ate lunch at a sidewalk cafe, hiked a nearby waterfall park, and ended the evening in the Port area. All we unexpected pleasures in that we originally didn't plan to visit Quebec City. However, it was also in Quebec City that I came down with a pretty bad head cold.

The next couple of days were spent in Montreal. Our hotel was newly renovated in a modern style. Very luxurious. We visited the Montreal Art Museum, toured Old Town, and walked the gardens next to the Olympic Stadium. Meanwhile, my cold got worse. By Sunday morning, I developed laryngitis, which I'm just getting over now. Salome & the boys kept joking that they liked me better this way.

Sunday afternoon, we drove to visit our friends Guy and Noami, who have a summer home in Vermont. Their home has a lovely view of seven mountain ranges going from Vermont into New Hampshire. Guy & Naomi had some neighbors and friends over for an evening barbecue. We ended the evening watching an open pit fire burn. It was nice getting together with a couple we really enjoy, but don't see often enough. Our sons also connected nicely with their two boys.

As we were making our plans for the drive back to Providence for our flight back home on Monday, I noted that we could drive through Springfield, Massachusetts, home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. I'd been floating the idea of a trip to several of the sports halls of fame, but the family has never signed onto that idea. When I mentioned that we could knock off one of the halls of fame, they eagerly agreed to add this new stop to our travels. I'm not sure whether they were trying to please me, or were just eager to knock one of these things off the list. In any event, all of us enjoyed touring the Basketball Hall of Fame and learned a lot about the early history of the game in addition to seeing our favorites. To top it off, Scottie Pippen was recently inducted. Scottie's son was on my son Alex's team this last year and Scottie occasionally coached the kids. Thus, it was nice that Alex had a personal connection to one of the hall of famers.

Other than the 10 mile run with John, the only workout I got in was a 30 minute run up Mount Real in Montreal. Otherwise, I've been off the grid workout wise. This cold had me down, but I'm just about over it. I'll try to get some workouts in this weekend and next week in preparation for next weekend's Miami Nice Sprint Triathlon. It will probably be more for completion and getting back on the horse, than for time. Besides, I don't know if you've noticed, it's pretty hot out there in these dog days of August.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Thinking

Today in the mail, I received my rejection from the JFK 50 Mile Run. Participation in this event is by lottery. Having a passing interest in doing an ultra, I applied for this event. I figured if I got into this event late November event, I would pick a 50K race sometime in October as a step up to JFK. Coming off Vineman 10 days ago, however, I was not looking forward to stepping up longer runs for the next several months. It's hard to do long runs in South Florida in the months of August, September and October. I keep relearning that lesson every time I schedule a fall marathon. This lesson was reinforced in training for Ironman Arizona last November. However, I decided to apply for JFK and let fate decide. I'm kind of relieved by the rejection.

I realize that I need to have an off-season to allow my body to cycle down on training before cycling back up for another season. Thus, I've given serious thought to blocking certain times of year for recovery, base training, and then events. Given my local climate, the best time for marathon and half marathon running is in the winter and early spring. Triathlon season tends to get going in March. You can train to go long through about June, so July is about the latest I should schedule an Ironman or Half Ironman event. Therefore, I'm going to use late April or early May as my cutoff for marathons, and July as my cutoff for long triathlons. That will give me August, September and October to do other things that South Florida has to offer: swimming, diving and fishing. I'll use the fall to ramp back up for the winter marathon season and transition over to triathlon training in the spring.

My buddy Tony, who did Vineman with me, was eager to sign up for a sprint triathlon this weekend. For me, I just want to roll back on the intensity of training and not compete at the sprint distance. I've still got Miami 70.3 on the books for October 30th, so I've still got to train for endurance in the fall (at least this year). Thus, I'll still train, but more to maintain general conditioning for the next 4 to 6 weeks. I start back training more seriously in mid September.

Anyway, that's my new way of thinking. I've been at these long endurance events pretty much straight throughout the year since the summer of 2002. Maybe this new cyclical/seasonal approach is a sign of me getting older and wanting a break from continuous training. Perhaps it means I getting wiser. I've always heard about periodization in training. Let's see if it works.

Since I use this blog primarily for training entries, I'll post less frequently, if at all, for the next 6 weeks. I'll still check out my fellow bloggers now and then, but you may not need to check in with my blog until mid September or so. Enjoy the rest of your summer. I plan on enjoying mine.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vineman Race Report

This was a trip that I and buddy Tony Whittaker signed up to do. My wife Salome came along as support and for the wine touring. We arrived in San Francisco early Friday afternoon via a lovely direct flight out of Fort Lauderdale on Virgin America. We picked up the van, packed Tony's bike and headed up to our hotel in Windsor. Instead of going to the pasta feed in Windsor, we had stopped on the way up for our only pre-race wine tasting at Buena Vista Carneros outside of the City of Sonoma, then ate dinner at "The Girl and the Fig" restaurant in Sonoma. Like most of our eating experiences on this trip, it was gourmet all the way.

Saturday Course Preview

After picking up my bike and gear bag from Tribike Transport on Saturday around noon, we drove out to the swim start at Johnson's Beach. The river looked much calmer than I imagined it would. It looked like it would be similar to swimming in a lake while camping. After stopping by the refreshment stand to thank the beach owner, Gail, for letting the use of his beach for the event, we drove the first part of the bike course to survey it. We were glad we did, as the turn at mile 5 off of Westside Road onto Sunset Ave. was a severe right and downward turn. We were later warned at the pre-race race director's lecture to take this turn slow as riders often wreck coming down this steep embankment.

We cut across the course to the latter section of the course that contains the biggest climb of the bike course: Chalk Hill. Tony & I got on our bikes and rode about 5 miles leading up to the climb and 5 miles afterward. Salome acted as driver of the sag wagon and photographer. In riding the rolling hills, I knew I would enjoy the bike section of the race. Living in flat South Florida, this kind of riding makes cycling truly fun. Of course, when we got to Chalk Hill, I did get out of the saddle to complete the climb. Not the Tourmalet, mind you, but a good 3/4 of a mile climb. That night, we ate at Baci, an Italian restaurant in Healdsburg. Tony had one glass of wine with dinner, but I stuck with my pre-race glass of water.

Race Day

The race director had indicated that racers in later starts didn't need to get to the start too much before their wave since they didn't close the bike transition area. Bad advice. Since Tony's wave didn't go off until 7:10 and I didn't start until 7:26, we showed up on race morning at Johnson's Beach around 6:30 AM to find total chaos. The beach is a little tight to hold the approximate 2,000 racers with the bike transition area and the Port O Potty area taking up the entire beach. Apparently, no one else took the race director's advice to heart and it was a little hard finding a position in the now crowded bike racks to set up our bikes. After finally finding a spot to squeeze my bike into on the racks, I headed over to the Port O Potty lines to take care of urgent business. While in the longish Port O Potty line, I hear buddy Tony's wave called out and started. I thought: "I hope he made it down to the water in time." He did. So much for being able to cheer your buddy on at the start.

The Swim

As I went down to the beachfront to do a swim warm up, I noted the eerie fog floating over the river. The water felt warm enough to swim without a wet suit, but when it's a wet-suit legal swim, who wants to be at a competitive disadvantage to everyone else in a wet suit. As my wave of 50 to 54 is called to get into the water, the common theme of the jokes passed around is about being the "old guys" in these events. At age 51, I think how I should have gotten into the tri scene about a decade or so earlier. To add insult to injury, the race directors always give my age group either a grey or white swim cap. Today is white, which just makes us look older than our age. I always think that the race organizers must have a good laugh when they decide the swim cap colors. Fortunately, most race directors are around my age, so it may all be a bit of self deprecating humor.

As the announcer counts down from 10 and the gun goes off for my wave, I notice the strangest sight I've ever seen at a triathlon: some of the participants start walking the swim course. The river is shallow enough to stand up in and at some points gets shallow enough to be only knee deep. With about 10 percent of the "swimmers" walking up the river covered in fog, it looks like a scene from either "Apocalypse Now" or "Platoon." The only thing missing is guys carrying rifles over their heads as they wade up the river.

Being a triathlon however, I refuse to take this easy way out. I'm here to swim, so I swim. For the first few hundred yards, I get that restrictive/constrictive feeling in my chest. With the water so warm in Fort Lauderdale, I haven't had the chance to practice swimming in my wet suit. I realize I haven't swam in my wet suit since April at St. Anthony's Triathlon. So I start my swim feeling awkward and wishing I had chosen to swim without a wet suit. I briefly consider stripping out of my wet suit, but realize I would then be hampered with swimming and carrying a wet suit. I continue swimming, but don't get into the groove on the outward swim against the current. Of course, seeing guys walking in the river at about the same speed that I'm swimming doesn't help me feel good about my swim. Once I make the turn and am swimming with the current, I get into a better swim groove. However, as I get out of the water, I think: "I'm glad that's over." Swim time: 48 minutes. Nothing to blog home about.

The other thing I dislike about wet suits is that I am not very efficient in transition trying to get out of these things. It always seems to take me an inordinate amount of time to get my feet out of those last feet of the wet suit. In addition to that I decided to wear UV protection sleeves which turn out to be hard to slide on my arms when my arms are wet. It also takes a little extra time to put my wet suit into the transition bag. T1 time: a whopping 6:28. Oh well, at least I'm starting the bike portion of the event.

The Bike

Getting up the beach to the road is a little tricky as you have a steep climb with no run up to the climb to get up to the main road. However, once onto River Road, I feel great. The first 5 miles is on a fairly main road and I just try to get my legs used to spinning at a good pace. I slow for the crazy sharp turn onto Sunset Ave. and get ready for the short steep climb coming out of this little subdivision. From here on, it's rolling hills.

What can I say about the ride other than it was a blast to ride. Rolling hills and beautiful views of vineyards was why I signed up for this event. While I'm not used to climbs, I felt I held my own for being a Floridian. My average was 17.1, but I have no way to know if this is good or bad. Buddy Tony rode an average of 20.1, but biking is his strong suit. I think he told me he topped over 40 mph on one of the descents. I also had to make one pit stop at a Port O Potty, so my average was probably slightly higher as I probably lost 5 to 7 minutes waiting in line. Oh well, when you've got to go, you've got to go.

I enjoyed working the climbs. I had started taking spin class about a month earlier with our friend Dorota, so I felt a little more prepared for climbing. I simply loved accelerating on the downhills. It made me feel like a kid again flying downhill on his bike. I was glad we had done reconnaissance on Chalk Hill as it allowed me to climb more aggressively than other riders since I knew the hill. I must have passed around 15 riders by the time I crested the top of the climb. By pushing up that climb, I had a clear run down the other side and just flew. A few miles down the road, however, served as a reminder of the risks involved in fast descents and sharp turns.

At about mile 50, a rider had fallen just before a turn and a car was blocking the road for him as he awaited the EMT guys. I think the guy was OK, but it made me glad that the descents were behind us. As we headed into town and towards the Windsor High School transition area, I tried to spin a good cadence to get the legs ready for the run. My T2 time was 3:54 primarily due to the long run into and out of transition.

The Run

As I start my run out of transition, I check my watch and think that I might be able to get close to a 6:15 finish time. However, after the third mile, I realize the run course is also hilly. When I approach a steep hill that rose sharply and swung to the right, I realized this was going to be a challenging run course. I decided to walk a portion of the uphills and try to run the downhills. At least that what my ultra running friends advise. This strategy seems to work. There are some shaded areas on the run, which gave some respite from what was becoming a hot mid-day. I feel alright at the turn around point at the La Crema vineyard, but soon realize on the return that I'm going to have a hard time getting to the finish.

I start to take more frequent walk breaks and can feel time slipping by. Many other runners are feeling the same, so I take some solace in that fact. I now adjust my expectations and think that a 6:30 to 6:35 finish would be swell. It's on this return run through Hell that I start thinking what a fool I am to have signed up a couple of weeks back for Ironman Coeur d'Arlene. I think about my thoughts of running an ultra. How am I going to get through something like that? I then pull back from the edge of the mental abyss and realize I've just got to take it easy and click off each mile. I start trying to pace and pass other runners. I also start to chat with other runners and we give each other encouragement as we go.

As I go by the last water station at the 1 mile mark, I think I'm good to go for that 6:35. About a quarter mile later, my right hamstring cramps and will not unwind. I'm forced to an immediate dead stop to try to massage the cramp out. I'm stuck in place with less than a mile to go. I try to walk, but the cramp will not allow me to move. I stand on the side of the road and massage the ham for 5 to 7 minutes. It finally loosens. I begin a slow jog and finally am able to run again. However, I now know I've got to be careful not to push too hard as the ham keeps threatening to tweak out again. I come across Salome on the sidewalk about 1/2 mile from the finish. She tries to take my picture, but the camera is malfunctioning. As I see she is on the verge of tears, I tell her to forget about it. It's all good. I just want to cross that finish line.
At the finish line, buddy Tony, who crossed in 6:09, has chatted up a couple of women and provides me with a personal cheering section. I veer right and over to high-five Tony before heading under the finish line. My final time: 6:43. Afterward, Tony tells me that he too had moments on the return run where he was thinking about posting his Cervelo P3 for sale on Craig's List and chucking the whole triathlon scene. We soon both return to our senses after meeting back up with Salome and sitting under a tent eating fruit. Tony's time was also a PR, but he wishes his Garmin watch hadn't died. Since there were no clocks on the run course, he had no idea he was so close to a sub 6 hour finish.

Post Race Wine Touring

The next couple of days were spent wine touring and eating at fantastic restaurants. The vineyards we visited were as follows: Geyser Peak, Robert Young, and Alexander Valley on Monday; and Chalk Hill and Gundlach Bundschu on Tuesday. The restaurants were as follows: The Girl & the Fig and The Swiss Hotel Garden Cafe in Sonoma; Baci, Costeaux French Bakery, and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg; and Stark's Steakhouse in Santa Rosa the night after the half-ironman. It was all incredible, with each bit of food and sip of wine a pleasure to pass over the tongue. It was a pleasure to have Tony along, as the guy can detect and distinguish flavors and hints of flavors that the average man (me) has trouble discerning. He definitely raised my wine game. It always pays to travel with a foodie. All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend our time recovering from the race.

We finished up our trip with an evening on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I love eating the fresh oyster's and octopus from the outdoor vendors along the pier. By the time we sat down for dinner at a sea food restaurant, however, my appetite had been satiated. There was no way even the freshest fish could top the two days of gourmet eating and wine tasting we had just completed. I almost couldn't finish my snapper, and I love snapper.

Evaluation of Vineman

Both Tony & I feel that this was a fun, but tough course. It was hot and hilly on that run. We probably should have done more hill running work in preparation for this event. We also could have used some heat training runs to acclimate ourselves to running at noon. Even though it's less humid in California, it still gets hot at mid day. We see room for improvement by improving our training and nutrition. Thus, it looks like we'll be doing this triathlon stuff for a few more years. Tony's already trying to talk me into a sprint tri in a couple of weeks. Me, I've got Miami 70.3 lined up for the end of October. I'm going to take it easy for the next week or so, then it's back to training.