Monday, April 26, 2010

St. Anthony's Triathlon Report

I got egged into signing up for this Olympic distance triathlon back in December by a friend. I had the Paris Marathon scheduled for 2 weeks prior and didn't think I should do an event so soon afterward. Given that the prior year's event turned into a duathlon with the swim portion canceled due to rough surf, however, I did feel a strong desire to return to complete the whole course. In the end, I'm glad I did.

The Swim

The surf in the pre-dawn hour before the start of the race looked fairly calm. However, having grown up in the area, I knew the Tampa Bay waters near the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg can get pretty choppy. Being a very popular race, there were a total of 32 waves. I was in wave #23 which was scheduled to go off at 8:31 AM. It was a little frustrating to have to watch so many athletes start and just hang around waiting for my wave. I did get to see a couple of friends go off in their waves, and finally put on my wet suit about 20 minutes before my wave. The water felt warm and calm near the shore. Once my wave went off and I'm swimming the outbound leg of the swim, however, I note that there are steady rolling waves coming out of the south. On turning north for the cross leg, these rollers actually lifted and assisted the swim north. It did take a little longer to get the buoy sighting as I had to sometimes wait for a roller to subside in order to see the next buoy.

The real surprise came once I turned west for the return to shore leg of the swim. Those once helpful rollers kept trying to pull swimmers north while the buoy markings required swimmers to angle in a SSW direction. I tried to hug the buoy line tight, but the extra effort going against the current made me wonder if I was making progress. At one point, I turned around just to make sure that I was indeed moving up the line toward the shore. I think whatever wave assistance time I gained on the cross leg was lost on the return leg. I come out not knowing whether that was a good or bad swim, but note it took me 39 minutes for the 1500 meters.


Getting out of the water, I accidentally hit the stop button on my Garmin watch instead of the lap button for T1. When I get to my bike I also had some trouble getting out of my wet suit. It bunched at my left leg where my chip strap was around my ankle. I missed having the wet suit strippers (sounds more exotic than it is) that helped me at IMAZ. On exiting the transition area, I realize my Garmin mistake. I hit the start button and hit the lap button twice to get it on the bike leg, but now have no idea what time I spent in T1.

The Bike

The bike was interesting in that there were some winds that seemed to blow out of the west and the south at different times. I think they were a net neutral as I did slow some into the wind and got some decent speed when the wind was at my back or backside. I did manage to pass a good number of other riders in both instances, so psychologically I felt strong. In these events the head and the heart are very interconnected. Your perceptions are almost more important than reality in that your mood effects your output. In any event, my bike felt good. T2 was a little over 2 minutes, and I was off on the run.

The Run

I had feared the run due to the late wave start. I knew that the sun can get hot pretty quickly this late in April in St. Pete. Fortunately, the wind kept it feeling somewhat cooler and the course winds through partially shaded neighborhoods. At each water station, I took a couple of sips of Gatorade, and tossed a cup of water over my head. Additionally, there were some locals with their hoses out on the course offering to mist runners as they ran by. Thank you misters. I made sure to get misted by everyone offering a spritz.

In past years, I often would get cramps in my hamstrings on the second half of the run, but since learning to take electrolyte tablets for the ironman distance, I seem to have this problem licked. Not only did I not cramp, but I felt good and strong. Instead of being hindered by having run the Paris Marathon 2 weeks prior, I think my conditioning for the run was better than in past years. I felt strong and started passing runners on the return leg of the run. My final time was 2:58. This is my second sub 3 hour Olypmic tri without cramping issues. So now I will focus on improving the swim and bike to move that number down.

After the race, it was time for the after party! The St. Anthony's organizers do it right. Beer, fresh fruit, pizza, and a live band. What more can you want?

Meanwhile, over in Madrid, buddy Wayne completed his 3rd European marathon in 5 weeks. Crazy? Yes, but he's having a great time touring. Heading Westward, buddy John and his friend Carl participated in the Long Horn 70.3 event in Galveston, Texas. John told me afterward that they also had some wave action in their swim and it got quite hot on the half marathon. But they finished and are both in good shape today. Me, I'm a little sore. Perhaps that's the carryover from the marathon. If so, I accept the consequence and will rest up this week before getting back into training.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Weather Report

When it comes to my workouts and athletic events, I'm a Weather Channel junkie. I go to the on-line sight, search for the event city and study the hour by hour predictions like a gypsy reading tea leaves. Here is the hour by hour forecast for St. Petersburg, Florida, the sight of the St. Anthony's Triathlon for this Sunday morning:

sunrise Sunrise 6:56 am
7 am: Temp 75°F, Mostly Cloudy, Feels like: 75°F, Chance of Rain:10%, Humidity: 84%, Winds: From SSE @ 16 mph

8 am: Temp 75°F. Mostly Cloudy, Feels like: 75°F, Chance of Rain:10%, Humidity: 84%, Winds: From SSE @ 16 mph

9 am: Temp 76°F, Mostly Cloudy, Feels like: 80°F, Chance of Rain:10%, Humidity: 82%, Winds: From SSE @ 16 mph

10 am: Temp 77°F, Mostly Cloudy, Feels like: 77°F, Chance of Rain:10%, Humidity: 79%, Winds: From SSE @ 17 mph

11 am: Temp 78°F, Mostly Cloudy, Feels like: 78°F, Chance of Rain: 20%, Humidity: 76% Winds: From S 17 mph

I ran this search after a couple of other friends doing the event sent out the frightening statement that isolated thunderstorms were predicted for Sunday. Amateurs! They made the rookie mistake of simply checking the overall weekend forecast.

So, it looks like we may get some cloud coverage (a good thing), but no thunder storms (that would be a very bad thing). I'm not sure what to make about those winds. That's a bit breezy for the bike, but it may end up being neutral in that you sometimes have the wind with you, sometimes against you. Oh well, we can't control the weather.

Good luck to all my friends doing the event this weekend. Hope to run into all of you at the race. Be sure to save me some of the beer and food please. I'm in the 50+ wave and we don't start until about 8:30 AM. You'd think they would give us old guys a head start instead of making us wait until after the Clydesdales start. Me, I plan on passing some fat dudes on the bike and run courses.

Best wishes to buddy Wayne, running his 3rd marathon in 5 weeks in Europe this Sunday at the Madrid Marathon. Also, best wishes to buddy John, who is doing the Long Horn 70.3 this weekend in Galveston, TX. I guess an Olympic distance triathlon isn't long enough for Iron John.

I like what Ryan Hall said on Monday about his Boston Marathon strategy. "My goal was to have fun out there and to run free. Joy and freedom, that's what I wanted." So, my parting words to everyone doing events this weekend is just that: Have fun! Swim, ride and run with joy and a sense of freedom.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Period of Transition

Much going on after returning from Paris. First off, following the exploits of my friends left behind as they dealt with the airport shutdowns due to the volcanic ash coming out of Iceland. Salome & I flew out on Wednesday, the day before the eruption. My running partner Jacques a/k/a Garth and his wife Christine lucked out as they flew out on an afternoon Delta flight that was one of the only flights to get out of Paris on Friday when a short window of clear skies opened up.

Not so lucky were buddies Wayne and Bob, who had taken a train up to the Normandy coast. On their return to Paris, both of their Saturday flights were canceled. Wayne had booked a flight to Madrid and Bob was to fly back to the US. Of course, all trains to Spain got booked up quickly as the southern airports were the only ones operating in Europe. Wayne will get the high speed train on Tuesday and Bob on Thursday to Madrid. Best wishes to Wayne for next Sunday's Madrid Marathon and to Bob just getting on a flight back.

Me, I needed to switch gears in preparation for next weekends St. Anthony's Olympic tri. I wanted to get out on the bike before the weekend, but South Florida experienced 15 mph winds from Thursday through Saturday. I got out for a 35 mile ride on Sunday and came across the Spanish River Park Sprint Triathlon in progress. I got the police officer's permission to slip into the flow of the bike riders. I picked up pace and did some passing of other riders. It was good practice for next weekend. I still need to get in a couple of swims this week.

Sunday night, we had a gathering at our house to reconnect with friends and drink French wines and eat French cheeses. Several of us are doing St. Anthony's and buddy John is off to Galveston for the Lone Star 70.3. A group of us gathered in my garage for an instructional packing of John's bike in a bike case. In spite of the rainy and windy evening outside, we managed to have a good time.

Finally, I spent $4.99 to catch the Boston Marathon online with Universal Sports. Several of my friends are running and I'm tracking their progress. Once again, US hopes for the ever elusive win at Boston rested on our 2 best marathoners, Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi. Ryan ran the fastest Boston time ever for an American in 2:08:41. Unfortunately, that time was only good for a 4th place finish, as Robert Cheruiyot, the younger, ran a course record of 2:05:51. Meb came in in 5th place in 2:09:25. Both Meb & Ryan's time are world class and I'm proud of these amazing American runners. It's just a tough course with some of the best in the world at Boston. Perhaps next year.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Moveable Feast: The Paris Marathon Race Report

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway

Before I left for the Paris Marathon, I knew this would be a memorable trip. I traveled to Paris over a summer in law school and have visited several time since. The ostensible reason for doing the Paris Marathon was to join in on buddy Wayne Crayton's Trampathon Abroad, a 3 European Marathon trip. Wayne and his buddy Bob had done Rome 3 weeks earlier.

Who was I kidding. I love Paris. I love the food, the wine, the monuments and museums. I love the simple, yet elegant style of Paris women. I love a good French wine with a reasonable price. It was also an opportunity to reconnect with good friend, running buddy and fellow triathlete Jacques Watters and his wife Christine. They had moved from Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina about six months ago. Jacques had decided to join in on the trip. He also proposed that we run in related costumes. After kicking around a few ideas, we came up with Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World." I knew then that this would be a fun run and not a race for a PR.

It was all for the best as there were 31,566 runners at the start in front of the Arch de Triumph on Sunday morning. The temperatures at the start were in the low 50s and most runners wore the white plastic bags given out at the Expo for that purpose. My wife Salome wore a plastic bag and made it look good. Jacques & I wore flannel shirts both for warmth and to fit the Wayne's World rolls. Many people got the get ups and we acted the part. We did impromptu bits for those around us, until the loudspeakers started playing Black Eye Peas' "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night." As we approach the starting line, we step over heaps of discarded clothes, plastic bags and water bottles full of what appears to be the end product of drinking too much fluid before the race. I guess those plastic bags provided more cover than just protection from the wind. Salome started the marathon with us, but stopped at a Port o' Potty near the starting line. So much for keeping the group together. Wayne and Bob were a couple of corrals back, so we were pretty sure we would not see them until the finish.

The course down the Champs-Élysées was crowded but exhilarating. Just before we got to the Place de la Concorde, Jacques and I noticed several runners pulled over in the park peeing on the evenly placed trees. As we pulled over to also take advantage of nature's urinals, I noted that any other time of the year, the French police would beat us for peeing outdoors in this location.

The course through the streets of Paris was beautiful. When we got to the Place de Bastille, we met up with Jacques' wife and his Uncle Roger, a Frenchman who lives outside of Paris. While we ran the Paris Marathon, Christine and Roger ran the Marathon de Metro trying to get on and off at subway stops along the course to see us run by at 4 stops. I told Christine afterward that she should organize run supporters and sell shirts that say, "I ran the Marathon de Metro." All I ask is a 10% cut in this venture.

At about mile 10, Jacques mentioned he'd need to use a Port o' Potty. As we happened to be running in a large park on the east side of Paris, I notice that several people had simply gone behind the bushes. Luckily, Jacques brought along a small bit of his own toilet paper.

The costumes lasted until about mile 9 1/2 when the shirts and wigs become too hot. When Jacques handed me his flannel shirt to toss to the side of the road, it was heavy with sweat. I tried to toss it quickly. Jacques still got many shout outs along the course as part of his costume was an AC/DC tee shirt. I guess the French love AC/DC. On the other hand, who doesn't love AC/DC?

At mile 12, Jacques got jostled by anther runner and I watched him fall in what felt like slow motion. There was nothing I could do to stop his fall. All I could think of as he fell was that our day could be over. If he got hurt, I would most likely have to accompany him to the hospital. Luckily, he falls well. While hitting his knee and scrapping his hands, there was no bleeding. I felt the need to make him feel better and gave him a handful of electrolyte jellybeans. Unfortunately, the jellybeans bunched together in his mouth, almost choking him in the process. OK, so maybe the jellybeans weren't such a good idea.

Along the course, we stopped off and danced beside with some women dancing with an African drum group, drank red wine being offered around the 30K mark, and met up with Christine and Roger a couple more times. We passed the Eiffel Tower and the small Statue of Liberty. At one point, we ran under a bridge near the Seine River. The crowd started a shouting wave behind us that went from the back of the mile long tunnel towards us at the far end of the tunnel. It was a little spooky as it sounded like a train coming up behind us.

Around mile 17, we get passed by a guy who is walking the race on stilts. With his long stride, he was making about 3 strikes with each leg forward. It hardly seems fair. I told Jacques I had half a mind to kick out one of those stilts. After the race, a lot of the other runners from the Marathon Tours group also had seen this guy pass them during the course of the marathon. I mean, come on, the guy passed most of us during the course of the marathon....and he is walking! Yup, someone should definitely have kicked out one of those stilts.

At mile 20 there was a stand giving out white wine. How could we resist. We stopped and toasted our hosts and each other.

Jacques started dropping off pace the second half of the race. It was fine with me as we were not running for time and were having a blast together on the course. I thought we had a chance to beat 4:45, but we end up crossing the finish in 4:50. Shortly thereafter, Salome crosses in 5:07. She was feeling great through 26 miles, but fell apart a bit for the last 2/10ths of a mile. Luckily, a nice French runner assisted her for those last yards. We meet up with Christine and Roger for post race pictures and each headed for our respective hotels. Salome & I meet up later at our hotel with Wayne and Bob who were not far behind us on the course.

That night we drank Champagne and continued with wine at dinner. The rest of the trip was touring and long dinners in the evening. I highly recommend this marathon to anyone who likes a beautiful run. Just be sure to run it for the view. It's too crowded to run it for time, particularly if you stop for wine.

On the right side of this blog is a slide show of both our touring and the marathon. If you're viewing this on Facebook, the pictures are also loaded up under my photo albums.

We all had such a great time on this trip that we agreed that we should do one of these European Marathons each year. Probably not a realistic goal, but who wants to argue with such a great idea when you are deep into your post race wine and fromage?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pictures from the Paris Marathon

I'm back home. Paris was a blast. We all ran in support of our buddy Wayne Crayton's Trampathon Abroad, a 3 marathons in 5 weeks trip through Europe. Jacques & I ran as Wayne & Garth of Wayne's World (costumes lasted through 15k). Great temperatures (mid 50s) and sunny on a beautiful course. Everyone made it through the course safely. Well, that's if you don't count the header Jacques took after being jostled by another runner at mile 12. Once I dig out of the pile at work, I'll get a full post up. In the meantime here are some photos from the race of me, Jacques, Salome, Wayne and Bob. "Party On!, Excellent!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bound For Paris

There is nothing like getting ready to go on a trip to Europe to cause your client's to suddenly need work done ASAP. Getting ready to leave for Paris is no exception. While I've had the chance over the weekend to do my last 10 mile run on Saturday and a 40 mile ride on Sunday, the rest of my time has been spent trying to clear the work front to be able to leave for Paris.

My Saturday was filled with work. Easter Sunday we had an absolute feast at my son's Godparent's house. Nick & Anna do the best Greek Easter festivities I've ever witnessed. An open fire lamb on the spit, spinach pie, lamb soup, grilled vegetables, fine wine and lots of delicious desserts. I may have put back on in one day that 5 pounds I lost from that stomach virus.

I been so busy, I can hardly get to do a blog post or Facebook status update. It hasn't kept me from looking daily to catch buddy Wayne's fabulous pictures from his travels through Italy. I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with the pictures from Florence, coastal Italy, or Venice. They are all so beautiful, that I will probably have to do a marathon in Italy one of these years.

My other running buddy Jacques decided that we would dress in costume for the run. Based on a text where I responded to his half marathon time a couple of weeks back with "Party On," we decided to go with a Wayne's World theme. I found a Wayne's World hat on eBay and purchased it, but I fear it may not arrive in time. I did get a black coolmax shirt, a black running hat and a black wig, so I'll do the best I can. That wig may not make it through the entire race if it gets hot. However, it appears that the weather in Paris will be cool for Sunday's marathon (low to mid 50s). As you can tell, this will be a "fun" run in which I'm not looking to PR or burn up the course. You've gotta have fun sometimes, right?

I'm working on my French for the run. "Excusez moi, sons les toilettes?" "Je cherche la ligne d'arrivée." "Appellez un docteur!" Hopefully, I will not need to use these phrases and can instead simply go with: "Party on!" "Excellent!" and "Schwing!"

I haven't been in the water since MIT on March 14th. I've managed to fit in 2 rides a week with all the run training for this marathon. With St. Anthony's only 2 weeks after Paris, it might get ugly. Oh, well. Se la vie. I'll check in on my return. Until then, its wine, cheese and running in Paris. Au revoir!