Monday, October 24, 2011

Unbreakable

What a weekend! With our first cool front of the fall season coming through South Florida, I decided Saturday to stretch my long run from the prior weekend's 10 miles up to 16 miles. The first 9 miles went fine, but during the last 7 my feet started to ache and I wondered if my energy would last through the entire run. I got through it, but ended up wondering if I'll ever hit that easy glide through a long run that I've felt in training for other marathons and long distance triathlons. Have I crossed some fitness/age hump where I'll never hit that "I feel I can run all day" stride? Or am I simply level jumping in my long runs and not getting enough base mileage under my belt? I hope to know the answer to that in the next couple of weeks.

The big event of the weekend, however, occurred on Sunday morning's ride. When I head over to our groups usual meeting place at Downtown Bicycles, I notice some storm clouds over the beach. When I get to the strip mall, only Helen, a strong triathlete, has shown up. Helen tells me she is only riding 30 miles since she has the Miami 70.3 triathlon coming up next weekend. She is riding north on A1a to join the G-2 riding group that is starting at Atlantic Blvd. at 7:30 AM. As I think the group ride may be at too aggressive a pace given my 16 mile run the day before, I tell Helen I'm going to ride solo, and I leave her at Atlantic and A-1a.

My ride north is fairly uneventful, but for the various puddles I need to go around from prior earlier rain. I make it to my planned turn around at Spanish River Park and turn to head back south. However, as I near the Hillsboro Bridge, a light rain starts to fall that picks up to a fairly crummy rain that pretty much soaks me. "Oh well," I think, "You can only get so wet." As I ride through Lauderdale-By-the-Sea, the rain has stopped, but the roads and my bike are still pretty wet. This stretch of A-1a has a lot of condominiums and small motels along the road where a lot of out of town tourists stay. I'm always a little concerned about this area since a lot of older drivers live in the condos and the out of towners are less aware that bicyclists ride through this area on weekends.

Sure enough, a small red pickup truck facing the road, pulls into the road about one car length ahead of me without the driver noticing me. He pulls onto the road and I feel like I just dodged a bullet. I've always told my riding buddies that the problem is that these drivers just don't notice a bicyclist. We have too small a profile than they are used to looking for before pulling onto the street. I thank God the guy didn't run into me as he pulled onto the road. Little do I know, however, that I'm not through with this driver. Without hitting his breaks or putting on his turn signal, he starts a right hand turn back into the hotel parking lot...IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT OF ME!!!

I jam on my somewhat damp breaks and try turning right into the parking lot, but realize I'm screwed. I smash hard into the side of the truck's cab and am on the ground stunned before I can process what happened. A driver coming up behind us pulls off the side of the road ahead of us, jumps out of his car over to where I'm laying on the ground and asks, "Are you OK?"

"I have no idea," I say. "Let me see if I can get up." The second before I hit the truck, I was sure I was going to be severely injured. I shudder even now as I think about how badly I thought I was going to be hurt. I'm thinking broken teeth, broken bones or worse. As I pick myself up off the ground and start checking myself of broken bones or bleeding, I'm amazed. While I'm a little sore in the left shoulder and thigh, I find I'm not only not bleeding anywhere, but that I'm able to fully move my left shoulder and leg. The driver of the truck is an black guy who appears to be in his late 50s who has his wife in the truck with him. He's busy apologizing while the driver of the other vehicle tells him that you've got to look out for bicyclists along A-1a. While these two are busy talking to each other, I check my bike. Other than the front break being knocked out of alignment, my bike also appears to be OK. Not that I can ride the last 4 miles home with the break rubbing against the carbon wheel. Not to mention that I'm kind of stunned from slamming into the side of the truck. In any event, I decide against calling the police to report an accident and accept an offer of a ride home by the driver of the other vehicle.

My unfortunate take away from this incident is that I no longer feel that I can ride the open roads of A-1a. This was the second incident this year in which I'm nearly in a major accident due to a driver coming out of a parking lot onto A-1a. In the prior incident in February, a driver pulled quickly up to the rode from a big lot. Instead of breaking at the end of the lot, he pulls all the way though the bike path and up to the line that separates the bike path from the road. As the parking lot was hidden by a ficus hedge, I didn't see the car coming. I was able to slam on my breaks just in time to avoid hitting the car, but it all happened so quickly, I was unable to shout out to my wife Salome, riding behind me, that I was breaking. Our bikes collided, but we miraculously do not fall. Other biker who witnessed the incident, yelled at the driver as they rode by, but the driver took off either oblivious to what he'd done or not wanting to face our wrath. Salome gave up riding on A-1a that day and has stuck to riding our spin bike in our home gym since then.

For me, Sunday's incident was strike number three. For those that read my prior blog, you know that I was hit by a 89 year old lady during a ride in Clermont, Florida two years ago. When I think about how badly I could have been hurt in each of these incidents, I feel like Bruce Willis in the film Unbreakable in which unbeknownst to himself, he is a superhero who goes without a scratch in the various accidents he's been in throughout his life. Well, I know I'm no superhero. I may be quick to figure how to roll with the physics of a situation to minimize the impact of an unavoidable collision, or I may just be damn lucky. In any event, I've decided that too many people in my life depend on me to continue taking the risk of serious injury. While I love riding along A-1a, I no longer feel it is responsible for me to do so. I know too many people who have gotten hit and hurt to keep taking chances of a serious injury.

I can use my spin bike at home or go to spin class to keep my riding skills up for triathlons. Besides, I read that some of the professional triathletes do the bulk of their bike training indoors. I'll still ride where outdoors where I can ride without the large amount of traffic we have in South Florida, but I bid A1a goodbye. The problem with South Florida bicycling isn't that the streets are too crowded with cars. The problem is that the drivers of the cars are just not that good at driving. Too my friends who I know will continue to ride A-1a: "Let's be careful out there."

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Scotty, I Need More Power!"

Ironman friend and riding buddy Maria had turned the big 5-0 a few weeks back and decided to celebrate with a 50 mile bike ride this Sunday. How could I say no to a group ride followed by a brunch? Knowing I had this ride set for Sunday, I co-ordinate with training buddy John to do a 12 to 14 mile on run on Saturday with the group that leaves out of Holiday Park at 6:30 AM.

About 8 runners gathered Saturday morning, and we start off on our run. I'm fine through about the 5 mile mark of the run, when my energy level just drops severely. As I drop off the back of the pack, I'm wondering if I'm relapsing from the cold I was getting over, am under-trained, or I'm overheating from the humidity level. As my only symptom is feeling like a limp rag, I figure I'm just short of energy. Unfortunately, I had run out of goo packs and have no way to jump start the energy stores. While I always carry cab fare in case I can't complete a long run, I decide that as I'm at the mid-point of a 10 mile loop, I should just run the next 5 miles slow and get the mileage in.

Nothing sucks worse than a long run when you don't feel the energy to complete the run. I'm not running that much slower, but the perceived effort makes it feel a lot slower. As I come to about the nine and a half mile mark, I come across John going back out for another 3 mile loop. "Turn around," John says as he passes me. "No, I've got no energy," I reply. I feel so bad about my run that I tell the other runners hanging out back at the park to let John know that I wasn't feeling well and am going home. No need for an after run, breakfast analysis of a crummy run. That afternoon, I make sure to stop by the running store and get a new case of Hammer Gels.

The next morning, as I pack my bike in my car, I wonder if I'm going to bonk on the ride. I hadn't been on a ride since before I left for Europe. This could be trouble. To make matters worse, a storm front was stationed off of the coast and the winds were predicted at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Oh well, I can't miss the "50 for 50" ride.

About 8 riders show up at Maria and we're met by 4 more as we reach A-1a. Being a bit cautious, I stay mid pack on the outbound, but take my turn pulling on the into the wind outbound ride. I'm holding my own, but wonder if I'll run out of gas again today. As we start our return ride, the wind is somewhat at our backs. I take the lead and feel pretty good about myself. Unfortunately, I'm feeling a little too good and start to drop some riders. I realize I'm a crummy lead rider, which is why I like the solo riding of triathlons. I pull back to a consistent pace and share the lead with other riders. At about mile 45, I start to lose steam and drop off the back of the pack. OK, so the dreaded energy drop off didn't occur until near the end of the ride. I glad that I was able to complete the full 50 miles. Brunch afterwards at Maria's house was fabulous.

I'm not sure what the drop in energy level was all about on Saturday, but I'm glad it didn't effect Sunday's ride. I just hope it was a fluke and I'm back on track for my next long run.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Resurfacing

When you go scuba diving with friends on a boat, you take turns diving and staying on the boat. The team stays on the boat has some idea of how long the dive team will be under water diving based on an estimation of the depth of the dive and the amount of air in the tank. When a diver doesn't surface in the estimated time, the guys on the boat start to wonder. Did we miscalculate the amount of down time the divers had? Did they drift away from the boat and we need to start looking for them drifting away from the boat, but on the surface? Or worse, did they run out of air? Are they still alive?

Well, I've been away from blogging for almost six weeks. I now resurface. No worries, I'm OK. I'm still training for the Philly Marathon in late November, but I did get side tracked for awhile. First, my wife & I went on a 10 day trip to Europe stopping in Budapest, Vienna and Prague. It was connected to a Florida Bar Conference. It was a good time traveling with good friends. My only problem was that there was so much history, art and architecture to absorb that after a while, the sponge that is my brain had trouble absorbing all the information. Thus starts a new phase in which I've ordered history books on the areas which should occupy my free reading time for months, if not years to come.

I did manage to get in a run tours of both Budapest and Prague, but had to take a rain-check in running in Vienna as it was literally raining and windy the days we were in Vienna. Salome & I managed to see an opera at the state opera house in Vienna, a string quartet in Prague, and a choral concert in Prague. All in all, a great trip.

My only problem with trips to Europe is the return flights home. I seem to get over the pond OK, but after about 6 hours of flight time on the return, my respiratory and immune systems start to loose the battle of recirculated air and onslaught attack of the germs from the communal cesspool they call bathrooms in coach. By the time we make it to our connecting flight in New York for the last leg flight to Ft. Lauderdale, my throat is scratchy and my eyes are itchy. Sure enough, I come down with some Euro-virus and am out of training for 10 day.

I been back to training for the last couple of weeks and hope to be ready to roll in for the Philly Marathon. I'll try to surface more regularly just to give the "OK" signal.




Thursday, September 1, 2011

28 and Counting

How many marathons have you run? Most runners keep track of this number. It usually comes up in conversation when you discuss your running with runners and non-runners alike. It's hard to keep a count of the various half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks I've run. The same holds true for sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. However, I do keep a count of the 70.3s and the one Ironman event I've done.

It was easy to keep track of the number of marathons I ran when I could rattle them off in order and could tick them off on my fingers. As the number got larger, however, it got harder to keep count. After awhile, I kept an Excel spreadsheet with times and dates of my marathons. While the time trend-line is no longer getting shorter, I've had some great travel experiences over the years. Today, that number stands at 28. My wife thinks I should count the run portion of my Ironman in my marathon count, but I feel that's cheating. It wasn't a marathon; it was the run portion of an Ironman. In any event, I don't count it and the number stands at 28.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with deteriorating cartilage in the big toe of my left foot. As my doctor told me, I've got arthritis. It's probably genetically based , but exasperated by over-use by running. My doc gave me the additional good news that the arthritis would start to gravitate to other parts of my body. Sure enough, in the last few years the aches have spread to both feet and my knees. When I tore the medial meniscus of my right knee late last year, the writing was on the wall. Either I stop doing long endurance events, or I face a future of less functional leg and feet joints in my later years. Currently, I can still handle distance runs, but the Aleve after a long run is more necessary these days and sometimes less effective than in the past.

As I contemplate how many more marathons I want to risk, that total number looms large. As my son Alex points out, 26 would have been a cool number to have stopped at given the marathon is a 26 mile event. I've countered that if I'd done that, I would have missed running the Paris and London Marathons. Both of these I wouldn't have missed for both the travel adventure and the beauty of each of those courses. Thus, the number stands at 28.

I have several friends that have run 30 plus marathons before they gave up the distance. That seems like a cool number to have reached. It seems to say that one has had a long and complete history of running the marathon distance. Sure, there are runners that do all 50 States; some who've run 100 marathons. That clearly will not be me. I know my marathon days are numbered, but I feel I should be able to knock off two more to get to that next plateau of 30.

With this in mind, I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th, 2011. I've run the Philly Distance Classic, a half marathon in September, which I liked a lot. The course for the first half of the marathon is that same course. I've always had the Philly Marathon on my radar as it was always promoted as a good race at which one could achieve a Boston Qualifier. While I no longer concern myself with qualifying for Boston, I still would like to include Philly in my list of marathons I've run. As my wife, Salome grew up in Delaware, we will use it to tour both Philadelphia and her former neighborhoods in Delaware with our son Alex. If any of my marathon buddies would like to join in, let me know. Registration is still open. The more the merrier I always say.

After that, who knows. Perhaps I'll extend my Miami Half Marathon registration in January to the full marathon event. It would be my 4th Miami Marathon, which is one of my favorite local races. Either that, or I could be tempted by my other marathon buddies to run a foreign marathon in Europe or Asia. But after hitting number 30, I'll probably start to focus on half marathons, 10 milers or 10K races with national reputations. One thing is for sure: I'm coming to towards the end of the line for my marathon career.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Team RWB

If there was one word I could used to describe my friend Mandy Miller it would be "dedicated." Mandy is a multiple Ironman Triathlete, Marathoner, Ultra-marathoner and even an Ultra-Ironman. She's done the Marathon De Sables, a six day marathon across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. She's done Kona, Ironman France and ultra marathon's of varying distances. The list goes on and on, just like her. She keeps going and going like the Energizer rabbit.

Mandy recently dedicated herself to being co-race director for a series of running events being put on by Team RWB, which stands for Team Red, White & Blue. Team RWB is a 501(c)(3) charity that does fund raising through sponsorship of athletes at marathons, triathlons and other endurance events in a fashion similar to Team-In-Training or the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The mission of Team RWB is to to transform the way wounded veterans are reintegrated into society when they return from combat. Here is a link to the charities web-site: http://teamrwb.com/

In any event, Mandy decided to dedicate her efforts to a series of runs that will memorialize the victims of the 9/11 tragedies in New York City, Washington DC and rural Pennsylvania. Mandy will be the race director and a runner at the run in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania event will contain a 9.11 mile and a 5K memorial run to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11/01 on Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. The 9.11 mile loop will pass through the Flight 93 National Memorial.

This last Saturday, Mandy and some friends hosted a fundraiser for these runs at the Parrot Lounge on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Many of Mandy's friends from the triathlon and running community turned out in support of Mandy's efforts to raise awareness of the needs of returning veterans and to promote these memorial running events. All I can say is that I'm proud of my friend Mandy and was happy to give my support to her worthy efforts. The fund raiser was a fun event.

Best of luck to Mandy and other runners raising funds to run these 9/11 memorial events. Anyone wishing to join in any of the runs or wishing to donate to the entity can get race information at the Team RWB web-site listed above.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gererantion Next

One of the gifts that we can give to the next generation is sharing our interests with them. In doing so, they learn to enjoy and appreciate the things that we enjoy and appreciate. This was brought home to me yesterday by two incidents. First, my son Alex was looking to do a fun activity before he started middle school on Wednesday. I suggested the Florida History Museum in Miami. I had taken his older brother, John to this museum when he was about the same age as Alex and remembered it as a good history museum. Sure enough, Alex loved the two hours spent at the museum. With the exhibits featuring Spanish explorers, Caribbean pirates, Seminole Wars, Key West salvagers, Cuban cigar makers, and the Flagler railroad, this Florida history museum captured a lot of what he had covered in his social studies classes over the last few years. I'm a bit of a history buff, and particularly enjoy Florida history. It was gratifying to see my son show similar appreciation for this small, but very interesting history museum.

The second instance of sharing an interest with the next generation was my training buddy, John Clidas showing his nephew Andrew the ropes of triathlon training. Andrew, a 17 year old going into his senior year in high school, was visiting Fort Lauderdale from Washington State. John took him to the Lauderdale Yacht Club to work on his swim skills and had him do several swim workouts. He also showed him the ropes of riding a road bike and got him used to riding with clip on bike shoes. On Sunday, I accompanied John and Andrew on a 30 mile ride and did my best to give him tips on riding in groups. It all culminated on Tuesday, when John had Andrew do a self scheduled sprint triathlon. As I e-mailed John after his e-mail about their workout, I've heard of the Grateful Dead song "Uncle John's Band," but I wasn't aware that there was an event called "Uncle John's Sprint Triathlon." Andrew seems to have enjoyed the training and doing "Uncle John's Sprint Triathlon." I think we've recruited another participant to our sport. Below is a reprint of Uncle John's e-mail:


How 'bout a quick shout-out to nephew Andrew for completing his first "un-official sprint triathlon" this morning. We need to encourage our up and comer triathletes --- right? Can any of you remember when you first got started in this crazy sport??

7 days ago, Andrew was a "survival only" swimmer. With the help of Sandy Clobus and her expert coaching this past week, this morning, Andrew completed the first leg of "Uncle John's un-official Sprint Tri" with an approx. 1/2 mile swim at the LYC pool (about 26 minutes in the water). 7 days ago, Andrew had never ridden on a road bike and had never ridden in "clip-in" pedals. This morning, after exiting the pool and being held back by Uncle John's slow 6min 30 sec. T-1, Andrew completed a 12.09 mile bike ride in just under 50 minutes (gross time -- we were stopped by lights and traffic quite a few times). By the way --- Andrew also completed 3 thirty mile bike rides during the week. Lastly, after a complicated T-2 of 5min and 27 seconds (we had to bring the bikes back up and into my condo), Andrew completed a 5K in 25:34 (8:13/mile pace).

Total time --- 1:52:40 for Uncle John's Un-Official Sprint Tri (1/2, 12, 5K).

Well, needless to say -- not only was I impressed with Andrew's tenacity and perseverance this week, I was also incredibly proud of him and look forward to hearing about his first official sprint triathlon experience back home in Olympia, WA.

Way to go Andrew!!!
John

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

9/11 Remeberance

A few months ago, I saw a request on the Runners' World web-site seeking stories from runners whose running was impacted by the events of 9/11. I immediately thought of my Ironman training buddy, John Clidas. When I first met John in 2000, we were both serving on our church's governing council. At the time, I was running pretty much solely for fitness other than an annual Thanksgiving 10K that my brother Dave and I ran in remembrance of our brother Jim, a biker/runner/triathlete who had of cancer. In the summer of 2001, I noted that John had lost some weight and was looking pretty fit. I asked him what his workout regime was that got him in such good shape. "I'm training for the New York City Marathon," he replied. Having always talked of one day running a marathon, I was both impressed and a little envious.

In the uncertain and somewhat scary world immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, John was uncertain whether the NYC Marathon would be held that year, and if it was held, whether he should risk going and participating in the event. As you may recall, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, many wondered whether terrorists would try to launch another attack on US soil, and New York City, being the financial capital of the world, loomed large as a potential target for another terrorist strike. John ultimately decided to go on the trip and run the marathon. I always felt his telling of his experience running the NYC Marathon was moving. Thus, when I saw the Runners' World request for stories related to 9/11, I called John and suggested he submit his story to Runners' World. The editors chose his story as one of several to publish in the magazine's September issue marking the 10 year anniversary of that tragic day. I've told John how ironic I find it that I've been knocking out blog entries for several years to little acclaim, while he gets published in Runners' World on his first submission. Of course, I offer my whole-hearted congratulations to John on his getting published. I also feel a bit of pride in recognizing a good story and encouraging him to write and submit it for publication. Way to go John!

For those of you who subscribe to Runner's World, check out page 75 of the September issue to see running buddy John Clidas' recollection of running the NYC Marathon after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. If you're not a subscriber, check out the article on-line at the Runners' World web-site link by clicking here.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

That's the Brakes

I did the Huntington's Disease Sprint Triathlon this weekend at the Miami Marine Stadium. This is my favorite venue for triathlons in South Florida due to its protected bay swim and its tree shaded partial trail run. I hadn't done an event there yet this year. In fact, other than the the Florida 70.3 in mid-May, I hadn't participated in any athletic event this summer. It was time to get back into action.

Knowing I hadn't focused on swimming recently, I knew I had to get back in the pool. I tried to get together earlier in the week with a training buddy, but we couldn't coordinate a workout until Thursday. I spent a total of 30 minutes doing laps that morning. On Friday, my back was a little sore from the swim, which told me I wasn't in ideal swim shape. While I chastised myself for ignoring the pool, I figured it was better than going into Sunday morning's swim cold.

Sunday morning, I pick up my friend Jerry and we head down to Miami. We pick up our numbers, set up in transition and await the start. The Olympic athletes go off first, then those of us in the sprint waves. Buddy Tony Whittaker is also in my wave. I start the swim and try my best to find my own space. I'm that comfortable with my breathing, but tell myself to simply focus on my technique. As I make the turn around the last buoy to had back to shore, I notice Tony off to my side. Either my form is not as bad as I feared, or we are both off of our game.

As I ride my bike, I don't seem to be able to maintain a decent average speed. I seem slower than usual, but keep plugging away. As I come back to transition I think that I must be off my game due to lack of longer rides.

On the run, I start to feel better about myself. I seem to be picking up speed as the run went on. I see my friends Jerry and Tony well ahead of me on the run and know that there is no catching up with them. Both Tony & Jerry had been riding long and hard over the summer months. I figured they killed me on the bike. After crossing the finish line, we find out that Jerry took an age group award. Another friend Helen placed first in her age group in the Olympic. Thus, we stick around for the awards in the hot sun.

After packing up and driving back home, I start to unpack my bike and gear from my SUV. As I check out my bike, I note that the front break is rubbing on the carbon fiber hub. Aha! So that's the culprit. Either that or I need to get back to a spin class.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ode to the Tour

My wife Salome turned to me Monday evening and announced, "I miss the Tour." "Yeah, me too," I replied. It hasn't been a week since the Tour de France is over and we're experiencing withdrawal already.

We started following the Tour during a Summer vacation to Greece in 2000. Our young son, Alex was six months old. We'd awake in each morning and turn on the Tour as a way to start our mornings. It was Lance Armstrong's first year defending his title. It was a year in which Lance battled Jan Ullrich and Marco "the Pirate" Pantani. Lance appears to let Pantani take a win atop Mont Ventoux, which upsets Pantani to no end. We were hooked. We've watched the Tour every year since.

This year, my son Alex, now age 11, finally started absorbing the rules, rolls and games that go on the fight for the yellow, green and poke-a-dot jerseys. He listened to Phil Liggett & Paul Sherwen comment on the personalities and strategies, and started to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various riders and teams. He started appreciating the beauty of the HTC train getting ready to launch Mark Cavendish on his sprint for the finish line. He understood how much effort Thomas Voeckler gave in trying to keep the yellow jersey for yet another unexpected day. He caught how the Schleck brothers worked as a team in the Alps, how Alberto Contador recruited Sammy Sanchez to work together while being from different teams, and how alone Cadel Evans was at the front of the Peleton as he tried to reel in Andy Schleck on Stage 17 in the Alps.

And, oh the crashes this year. It had me referring to this years' Tour as "The Year of the Wreck." While the number of crashes may not have been more than in other years, they were particularly horrifying to see on the screen. Many team leaders ending their tours on wet windy roads that dump them head over heals into ravines or worse.

In the end, Cadel Evans road a spectacular time trail on Saturday and was a worthy winner of this years tours. Seeing team HTC once again lead out Mark Cavendish for one last time on the Champs-Élysées was icing on the cake. No doubt Andy Schleck will one day win the Tour, and no doubt Contandor will win additional grand tours if the powers that be don't kick him out of cycling for a while. But to see 34 year old Cadel Evans, an old guy in this sport, win the Tour was very satisfying.

As for this old guy, I've got a sprint triathlon set up for this weekend. As I've told my friends, it's just too hot to go much longer at this time of year.

In other triathlon news, my Alaskan buddy, Mark Schroeder did his first 70.3 event, the Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma, California. When I looked up his results, I decided to compare them to my results from doing Vineman 70.3 last summer. While I was quicker on the bike and he was quicker on the run, we came in at the exact same time. To the second. Of course, I've now challenged him to a head to head event to break the tie. Congratulations to Mark and his wife Stephanie on their completing the Vineman 70.3 course.

Congratulations too go out to buddy Maria Price on completing Ironman Frankfort this last Sunday in 12 hours and change. Winds, rain, and intestinal discomfort could not stop this Ironman. Way to go Maria. I can't wait to hear your stories in person.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life's Too Fast....And Too Short

Sometimes life gets so busy, with so much happening, that it all becomes impossible to chronicle in a blog. That is what has happened to me this past month. A regular reader of my blog asked me why I haven't posted in such a long while, so here is my effort to catch up.

On the training/athletic event front, I was in limbo. My friends Jerry and Miranda were off to do Ironman Coeur d'Alene, which I had pulled myself from based on doctor's orders and how my knee felt at Florida 70.3 in mid-May. Buddy John Clidas was off to Kenya to do the Safari Marathon and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Feeling a little left out and it being too hot to go long outside, I retreated to my gym and started doing speed work on the treadmill. I figured it I wasn't going long, I'd try to go faster.

I figured wrong. I was doing great for a couple of speed sessions. On my third session, I decided to kick it up a notch. I was feeling fine until I felt a twinge in my left ham string. I knew I'd blown it. I slowed as quickly as I could, but the damage was done. I'd pulled the my hamstring. I spent the next week feeling foolish and following my friends Ironman events on-line. Then, my mother-in-law Kiki suddenly passed away.

Kiki lived with my wife Salome & I. She was a poet, an amazing cook, and like a second mother to me. Kiki had lived with us since her husband John died from cancer in 2003. She helped raise our young son Alex and was intricately woven into our daily lives. While 78 at her passing, she never had what you would consider an old age. She loved to do gardening and was re-planting a bonsai tree the morning she died. We'll miss her greatly.

In the aftershock of Kiki's passing, I started watching this year's Tour de France. This appears to be the year of the wreck. While there are always crashes in the first week of the Tour, this years wrecks seemed more dangerous and seemed to take out more team leaders than in past years. The car swerving into the group of 5 breakaway riders throwing one of them into a barbed wire fence was particularly scary to watch.

After watching a week of crashes, I get an e-mail picture from buddy Tony Whitaker showing off his road rash from his Saturday morning ride. It rained pretty good on Friday night, and the Boca Raton bridge was still slick. He ended up fishtailing and going down hard, taking a nice chunk out of his helmet. More scary was our friend Jerry coming up behind him. Jerry ended up doing a flip over the top of Tony. One of my friends could have been seriously hurt.

The next morning, I was suiting up to go out for a ride with friends. However, before exiting my closet, I started to have a bit of an anxiety attack. With the unexpected death of my mother-in-law, the week of wrecks at the Tour, and my friends' crash the day before, I suddenly felt that it wasn't safe to go out on the road. I realized this was all coincidence, but I just didn't feel safe going out. I decided to stay indoors and do my spin bike.

The next weekend, I returned to the road with my riding buddies. After watching the Tour for a second week and watching Thomas Voeckler give his heart and soul to defending the yellow jersey, I had to get back out on the road. It felt good to be on the road with my buddies again. I also came across a rider who is originally from France named Laurent. We spoke of the Tour and how we each thought the various riders were doing.

My hamstring felt mostly recovered and I returned to running. I made it safely through a 5K run and decided it was time to sign up for an event. Not being involved in an athletic contest since mid-May, I felt like I was falling away from my athletic lifestyle. I needed to get back in the game. Thus, this week I signed up for the Huntington's Disease sprint triathlon for July 31st.
Several of my tri friends also signed up, so it looks like we'll have a fun time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Balancing Act

As I touted my wisdom of doing shorter, more intense workouts in my last blog post, I quickly learned a valuable lesson. You can't go short and fast for too long and expect to be able to go long.

A buddy is about to leave on a trip to Africa to do the Safaricom Marathon in Kenya with Marathon Tours. Saturday morning was his last long run before departing on the trip. I agreed to accompany him on his last long run along A1a. I hadn't run long since the half marathon run as part of Florida 70.3 on May 15th. Not so long ago, I figured. With the treadmill speed work I been doing, I figured I was good to go. I ended up running about 12.5 miles. We ran at a reasonable 9 to 9 1/2 minute per mile pace. While I was feeling a little gassed the last mile or so, I made it through feeling fine.

Well, the next day, I slept in. I had insomnia the night before the run, so I figured I was making up for lost sleep. However, as the day wore on, I realized my leg muscles were sore. My legs needed some recovery time from that long run. It was like going from lifting 50 pound weights to lifting 100 pound weights. There is a price to be paid the day after a step up in effort. Thus, I may have to tweak my summer training schedule to keep within striking distance of a long run. Perhaps an occasional mid week 10K run to keep the long runs within reach. Meanwhile, I'll try to keep doing some faster stuff on the treadmill. The experiment of one continues.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Going Shorter

I read with interest Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot's post about his mistake in boosting his training mileage by 300%. Amby is both a better runner and writer than I'll ever be. He won the Boston Marathon in 1968, has run more miles and races than I could ever hope to run, and is a professional writer. Me, I'm a age group runner turned triathlete competing against my buddies and my prior times. As for writing, this blog is about as far as it goes. What we do share in common is both of us tearing in the meniscus in our knees. In deciding whether to have surgery or allow the meniscus to heal itself, I read Amby's prior from last summer about his knee surgery. Amby went in for the surgery, I opted to allow the meniscus to heal naturally.

Both of us had to take time off of our training, and both of us had to be careful in coming back into race shape. I was forced into six to eight week layoff of training before trying to quickly ramp up to marathon shape for the London Marathon the third week of April. I then had to quickly ramp up to 70.3 triathlon shape for the Florida 70.3 in mid-May. The comeback was a fine balance of pushing myself to the limit of my abilities without pushing so hard that I blew out my rehabilitating knee.

During these two events, I did feel some knee pain and it caused me to keep from doing either event full-bore. Since then, I've decided to ease up in my mileage to give the knee adequate time to fully recover. As endurance athletes, I believe we tend to keep adding to the work load, going longer and longer in our training. It is the old "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" mentality. With an injury, I think it best to take time to heal, then slowly build back up. That's where I am now. With no events that I'm scheduled for until October, I've backed off mileage and am doing 5K treadmill workouts for a little more speed. Last Sunday, with most of my friends either doing killer long rides for an Ironman event or out of town, I decided to do a sprint brick. It felt good to keep it shorter and a bit quicker.

From reading Amby's post, it looks like he went the other way. He tripled his weekly training mileage from 25 mile per week up to 75 miles per week. While his knee was fine for the first 6 weeks, it started to bother him. His meniscus appears fine, but the area surrounding the knee hurt. He began to hobble through his runs and now regrets breaking the 10% rule that says to only increase your mileage by 10% per week of training. I think Amby has relearned an old rule the hard way. I too noted after my knee recovery that it wasn't the meniscus that bothered me; it was the area above and below the knee that got sore. I think there may be a compensating fatigue in the area surrounding a healing injury.

In any event, Amby's blog entry reaffirms to me that I'm doing the right thing in backing off and keeping my workouts shorter for these summer months. I'm hoping that this approach brings the knee back fully for the fall. With the focus away from endurance and more on quickness, perhaps I'll get a little faster. That's the hope anyway.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Driftin' & Dreamin'

"Compass card is spinning, helm is swinging to and fro. Oh, where is the dog star, oh, where's the moon. You're a lost sailor, been away too long at sea." Lost Sailor - The Grateful Dead

With the decision to forgo Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I've become adrift in my training. I never realized how much I depend on scheduled events to dictate my workouts and training until I had nothing on the books. My next scheduled event is Austin 70.3 on October 23; but that's it, and that's a long way off. It's getting a bit too toasty here in South Florida to go too long if you don't have an event forcing you to go long. Thus, I've kept my weekend long rides under 40 miles and my long runs under 10 miles. Meanwhile, a good number of my friends are training for marathons, Ironman events, or ultra events. While I feel a little guilty that I'm not training long, I don't feel guilty enough to train long in the heat.

After a couple of weeks adrift, the wandering mind starts to ponder the summer and fall possibilities. Our local summer triathlon series of sprint & Olympic distance events sponsored by Mack Cycle announced that they are moving the series from Crandon Park on Key Biscayne to Miami Marine Stadium. While the bike ride is essentially the same, I consider this a brilliant move. Miami Marine Stadium's swim area is in a protected bay, which keeps the water fairly calm even on a rough surf day. Also, the run is on a tree shaded trail. Thus, I think I'll sign up for one or two of these events to give me a focus for the Summer.

The mind then turns to the fall. Should I sign up for a fall marathon? NYC and Marine Corps sold out, but Philly in late November is still open. My doctor would like to see me give up marathons completely, but I'm not sure I'm ready to hang up the running shoes just yet.

Then the mind turns to the spring of 2012. I've had the Rome Marathon in mid-March penciled in for the last couple of years. However, as registration for going with Marathon Tours is now open, I'm not sure how long of a trip to plan. My wife, Salome, has never been to Rome. Do I plan a week trip including a side trip to Florence? Or do I make it a longer trip and include the Amalfi coast and maybe Venice? Any of my running friends have an interest in coordinating a trip? Let me know.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recovery Weekend

Given that I was coming off last weekend's 70.3, I didn't do much during the week. My only workout was Thursday, in which I did my spin bike for 15 minutes, followed by 2 miles on the treadmill.

Saturday, was a planned group ride. A couple of riders were going 80 miles, so they started early and did a loop south on A1a. I got to Sunrise & A1a at 6:50 AM and waited on everyone to arrive. Runners were warming up for a 5K event set to go off at 7 AM, which I jokingly referred to as the "Rapture Day 5K." Our group arrived and I rode 40 of their 80 miles. Sunday, finding that the world had not in fact ended, I got out for a 10K run. The right knee was still a little sore from last weekend's race, but nothing to complain about.

Since I don't think my knee can handle a full Ironman, I canceled my scheduled appearance at Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Thus, my schedule now stands open for the summer. While several of my friends are hard at training for Coeur d'Alene or a summer marathon, for the first time in years I have no real training schedule. Perhaps it's time to simply ride, run and swim for the enjoyment of the exercise itself. Of course, I'm sure this will last all of a week or so before I find another event to sign up to do.

I watched 2 mountain stages of the Giro d'Italia this weekend. All I can say is Alberto Contador is going to be hard to beat at this year's Tour de France. The dude is killing the other climbers in the mountains. I tried to watch a little of the Tour of California, but I guess I'm a traditionalist. There is nothing like seeing riders battle it out in the Alps. Although, I think these mountains were the Dolomites. In any event, it was Europe. I can't wait until July.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Florida 70.3 Race Report

Going into Florida 70.3 in Orlando, I knew two things. The race has a reputation for a very hot run course, and that I was not ideally trained for the event. I had come off a knee injury which kept me out of training for 6 weeks in January and February; had to ramp up first for the London Marathon the third week of April, and then had to switch over to triathlon training. Not ideal.

Pre-race. My buddy Jerry and I drove up to Orlando early Saturday morning. We didn't figure in the extra time that it takes to be bussed over to the race site and so ended up spending most of Saturday afternoon getting signed in, shopping at the expo, and getting our bikes into the transition area. What normally takes a couple of hours took about 4 1/2 hours. We finally checked into our hotel at about 5:30 PM and were able to meet with our friend Maria for a pasta dinner around 7 PM. Then it was back to the hotel for pre-race preparation and off to bed.

We awoke Sunday morning to ski filling thunder and lightning. A front was moving through the area. We turned on the local weather forecast. It looked like it would just clear by the time the transition area would close. Not wanting to stand around in the rain, we delayed our depart for the parking area a bit. By the time we drove, parked and got bused over to the staging area, time was getting tight. We got body marked and headed to our bikes. I lose sight of Jerry and don't end up seeing him until after the race. Unfortunately, the race organizers decided to stick to their schedule, and I found myself barely able to set up my transition area before the call to leave the transition area goes out. I am able to pump my back tire, but I'm having trouble getting a reading on my front tire. I pump, but the needle swings wildly, letting me know the pump is not adequately connected to the tube valve. I try to reconnect and re-pump with the same result. At this point, I'm being told to leave the transition area. I put the pump in some nearby bushes and hoped I had enough air in the front tube.

Swim. I meet up with buddy John, who is in the same wave as me. Having hit the port-o-potties just beforehand, we don't have long before our wave is off. Because it was on a lake, it was calm and should have been a piece of cake. But because I didn't get enough swim practice in before the event, my time wasn't what it should have been. I probably cost myself an extra 10 minutes on this leg.

T1. As I enter transition, I hit was I think is the lap button to switch over to timing the transition. It turns out I hit the stop/start button instead. I get to my bike and decide I'd better recheck the front tire. Good thing too, as when I find my pump and attach the valve, I note that I only had 80 pounds of pressure in the tire. I pump to 120, gear up and head to the bike out. As I'm ready to hit the lap button for the bike leg, I realize my goof. I start the watch and double click the lap button to get to the bike leg timing.

Bike. The winds from the front that blew through that morning gave us a nice head wind for the first 5 miles or so. For some reason, my legs were tight early on anyway, so it didn't make for a great start of the bike. At an out and back turn around, I think I spot my buddy John Clidas about a half mile ahead of me. I shout out his name, but get no response. After a while, my legs get warmed up and I start enjoying the ride. However, as I didn't get in as many long rides before the event as I probably should have, my neck starts to get sore during the second half of the ride. I'm also getting sore being in the saddle. By the time I completed the ride, I was dying to get off the bike.

T2. As I rack my bike and start to change, I note that my socks are dry and comfortable, so I skip a planned sock change. I get on my running shoes, restock my nutrition supplies, and head out for the run.

Run: As I started the run, I was surprised at how good my feet felt in my running shoes. I don't know why this was, but they just felt comfortable and the socks felt good. My feeling good was not to last. The first mile, which is supposed to feel awkward, felt find. However, between mile 2 and 3, I began to feel resistance and soreness in my right knee-cap. By the end of mile three, I begin to worry that I could re-injure the knee. I give very serious consideration to dropping out of the race. Since the 3 loop course are about 4 1/4 miles each, I decide to ease up on the pace and take walk breaks at both the aid stations and the mile markers. This seems to ease the discomfort. By the time I get back to the transition area, I think that I can make a second lap if I'm careful. Near the end of the second lap, I spot my buddy John on a turn around. As I'm about a half mile ahead of him, I assume he's on his 3rd lap and I'm way behind. I see him at about the same place again on the 3rd lap and realize I probably got ahead of him in T2. Long story short, the knee holds up, but is not happy. I finish a couple of minutes ahead of John and get to see him and another racer bolt for the finish line in final kicks of mutual encouragement.

We all meet up after the finish and congratulate each other on our finishes. Our friend Maria took 4th in her age group, so we were excited for her. I ran into another tri-buddy, Eric Levy, who also did a stellar job. Jerry did well, but wanted to do slightly better. He was doing the event as a step up IM Coeur D'Alene. This was also supposed to be a training event for me to do Coeur D'Alene, but that was before the knee injury. At this point, I was happy to just finish the course.

Lessons Learned. I learned a couple of lessons from this course. First, if you don't put in sufficient training, you can finish, but you'll have more aches along the way. Second, my knee can no longer handle the stress of a long ride followed by a long run. Thus, IM Coeur D'Alene is out of the question. In fact, if I want to avoid re-injuring my knee, 70.3 events are a bad idea. Thus, I'll probably stick to sprint and Olympic distances in the future. Who knows, maybe I'll get in more interval and speed work and actually get faster at these shorter distances.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ooooh....My Aching Back

Many of my fellow triathletes are fond of saying that swim fitness comes fastest with the least amount of training. While I tend to agree with this sentiment, I may have put this off for too long to get comfortable for this weekend's 70.3 in Orlando. "Comfortable" being the operative word.

As I stated in a previous post, I'm just barely getting into shape for a 70.3. Coming off a knee injury in the early part of the year, I had to devote most of my training time to getting back to marathon level fitness for the late April London Marathon. Coming back from London with a virus, I wasn't able to get back to training until a couple of weekends ago. While I got in a couple of 60 mile rides and some runs, I kept failing to get back to the swim. I hate lap swimming, preferring open water swims. On the days that I was healthy and planned a swim, the ocean was just too rough. When offered a pool swim last Sunday, I couldn't pull myself away from the Heat-Celtics game. Finally, this Sunday, I agreed to a pool swim with a couple of buddies.

I decided to swim for 45 minutes, about the time I figured I'd be in the water this coming Sunday for the 1.2 mile lake swim. Not having seriously swam since last October's Miami 70.3, it took me a few laps to find my form. Soon, I felt like I hadn't dropped off swimming. I finished my 45 minutes and felt good about myself. That is until Monday.

When you lift weights or do another activity that you haven't done in a while, there is a tendency to be sore the next day. Monday, my back muscles kept reminding me that I haven't been doing that freestyle arm motion on a regular basis. Ouch! I took the day off from my scheduled long run, opting to simply rest up from Sunday's ride and swim.

I was going to hit the open water this morning, but South Florida was covered in smoke from an Everglades lightning strike fire. I figured an indoor treadmill speed workout was preferable to smoke inhalation. A shame too, as the ocean was calm this morning. I can only hope the ocean remains calm the next couple of mornings, so I can get in another 45 minute swim before Sunday's event. OK, lesson learned. Don't give the swim short shrift.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is Running Long Sunday A Bad Idea?

I scan the Active.com Triathlete e-mails that pop up in my in-box for occasionally interesting articles. A recent entry caught my eye entitled "Why You Should Stop Running Long on Sundays." The article by Rich Strauss, a coach with Endurance Nation, suggested that a long run on Sunday following a long Saturday ride is a bad idea. While Rich acknowledges that many, if not most, triathletes follow this weekend warrior pattern, he argues that it is bad training. The argument goes that after two consecutive days of long workouts, the next few days are spent recovering from the hard weekend and we lose quality training days during the first half of the week.

I've trained both ways. When I train for longer events, I tend to ride long on the weekend, then do my long run mid week. However, for shorter training, I tend to bunch the long workouts in on the weekend. Its usually simply a matter of the weekends being the most convenient time to do these longer workouts. There is probably a lot to be said for this separation of long workouts. I think I'll try to put this in practice. Anyone else doing this, or do most of us bunch up the long workouts on the weekend because it is most convenience from a work schedule standpoint?

I have the same question about brick workouts. No doubt a mile run after a long ride helps us train for transitions, but do longer brick runs after a ride do much for our overall fitness. I do them, but I wonder if they make me fitter, or simply more fatigued during the following days. Would I be better off holding off the run for the next day or two and do it faster?

Monday, May 2, 2011

2 + 2 = 70.3

When I was scheduling my Spring events, I figured the I'd gear up for the London Marathon, then come home to hammer on the bike and swim in preparation for Florida 70.3 on May 15th. The theory is that training for one endurance event will get you to a fitness plateau that you can then use as a base to train for the next event. This worked well for me last year, when I came back from doing the Paris Marathon and did the St. Anthony's Triathlon two weeks later.

Well, great plans have a way of coming undone. Coming back from London for the London Marathon, I brought back a nice little virus/flu that had me feeling weak and tired for 2 weeks. As I was sitting in my office last Wednesday still feeling wiped out, I thought: "There's no way I can get ready for this half-ironman." I called my buddy Jerry who I'd planned to ride up to Orlando with and share a room and told him not to count on me. I left a voice mail with another buddy John, also signed up for the event, and said I was likely to pull myself from the event. I spoke with John later and said I would try to get some workouts in over the weekend to see if I could salvage the situation.

As the weekend approached, the e-mail announcing our usual group ride failed to appear. When I sent out an e-mail to find out who was riding Saturday morning, I got back varying responses that indicated everyone was doing something different. I was on my own for a Saturday ride. That turned out to be a blessing. By riding solo, I not only was able to warm up at my own pace, but I was able to get back in the groove of the solo ride of a triathlon event. On my outbound ride, I felt like my fitness was off. I was averaging between 17.5 to 18 at best. To my pleasant surprise, I'd been fighting a headwind and was able to ride from 20 to 23 on the return route.

Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 6 AM. I awoke feeling tired and a little sore from Saturday's ride. I decided to go back to bed and slept until 9:30 AM. I cut the lawn and swam with my son, Alex in our pool. Later in the day, I made tentative plans to do a pool swim with buddy John at 4:30 PM. He was supposed to call and confirm. He didn't call until 5:30 PM, in the middle of the 3rd quarter of the Heat-Celtics game. I bowed out and wished him a good swim. I did go out for a run at 7 PM to make up for my sleep in that morning. A bit of a slog of a run in the evening humidity, but I completed the 10 miles I'd planned for the morning.

With only one more weekend to get in long training, It's still a question as to whether I can get race ready in such a short period. I'm hoping to get in an open water swim or two before the event. I'll also try to get in shorter workouts during the next two weeks. I hope my energy level continues to improve and two long workouts on two consecutive weekends is enough for me to at least complete a 70.3.

Monday, April 25, 2011

London Marathon Race Report

Sorry it's taken me so long to post a race report on the London Marathon. I came home with a virus that kept me lethargic for a week. Anyway, here goes:

Friday. Salome & I arrived in London Friday morning, got to our hotel, the Crown Plaza St. James, near Buckingham Palace, and called our friends Bob & Melissa from Akron. We arranged to go to the Expo that afternoon. I love a big race expo for the sheer excitement of the crowd of pre-race runners. Not to mention all the race gear for sale. Both Salome & I dropped quite a few pounds on London Marathon gear. The Expo had on display some of the wildest costumes from prior years runners on display. The London Marathon is the biggest fund raising marathon in the world with most British runners raising funds for some charity. The most unusual costume on display was the deep sea diving suit complete with lead boots. Of course, the guy running in the suit took over 5 days to complete the course.

After the Expo, we hurried back to the hotel for the Marathon Tours cocktail party. In addition to Bob & Melissa, we reconnected with our friends Jerry, Lupe & Maggie from Albuquerque, and Linda Mueller from Chicago, and met several other fun and interesting people from around the US who traveled to London for the marathon. Like me, Linda was completing her tour of the World Marathon Majors. We also got to spend some time talking to our Marathon Tours guides Scott Guillemette and Jacqui Kaufman.

Saturday. Saturday morning I went for a 4 mile run with Bob & Melissa to shake the legs out. I always love doing a run of a city to get the lay of the land. After breakfast, Salome & I went for a walk around London with Bob & Melissa. We made it to the London Eye, but the line to get on the ride looked way too long, so we walked back across the Thames and towards Trafalgar Square for lunch at a pub. We returned to the hotel in the early afternoon and ate an early dinner at the hotel's restaurant. Then, it was off to bed.

Race Day. Race morning, Salome & I got dressed into our costumes. Salome was dressing up as a Hawaiian hula girl and I dressed up in my Wayne's World get up from last year's Paris Marathon run. However, without buddy Jacques "Garth" Watters to accompany me, my heart wasn't into the spirit of the get up. I did get into the spirit of fun in the lobby as we gathered with other runners to load onto the buses for the start. At the start area, we hung out with Bob & Melissa; however, since Bob was in a corral ahead of us, Salome, Melissa & I huddled together at the start. Our friend Linda from Chicago had a connection with a friend involved in race organization, and were given race committee vests that allowed them "backstage access" to wherever they wanted to go at the start. Little did they know that he had slotted them to walk the pro men to the start line. Thus, they got to see the elites start from a very nice viewing area.

As we stood in our corral, I offered to try to pace Melissa to a sub 4 hour marathon. As she didn't want to hinder my run, she declined the offer. This was a blessing as I thought I might be writing a check my body couldn't cover. As we stood waiting for the starting pistol to fire, I became too warm in my flannel shirt. Thus, just before the start pistol fired, I removed the shirt and threw it to the side.

Once the race started, it took us about 2 minutes to cross the start line. Not bad considering the size of the crowd. London splits the start into 3 groups starting on 3 different roads. Thus, the start isn't too much of a problem given that there are about 40,000 runners in the marathon. However, the crowd of runners was quite thick and the roads were fairly narrow, causing surges and slow downs as the various start groups converged at different points along the first 5 miles of the course.

By mile 1, I tossed my blow up guitar as being a nuisance to carry. Around mile 3, I found the wig was getting too hot, so off it went. I thought I'd keep the Wayne's World cap on, but found that it also made my head sweat too much. So near mile 4, I went to the side of the road and gave it to a young spectator cheering us on. Speaking of spectators, the entire course was lined at least 3 people deep the entire 26.2 miles of the course. If you like a good cheering audience, then London is the marathon for you.

Coming off my knee injury, I'd planned to take short walk breaks at every mile. However, with the severe crowding of the course, it wasn't safe to try to take a walk break. I didn't dare try until mile 8 for fear of being run over. From there on I did take walk breaks, but it was a risky proposition until the last 6 miles of the course. I'd have to say that as far as the size of a marathon goes, I think London reaches a tipping point where the size is simply too big. With so many runners on the course, you find it difficult to run your desired pace and are constantly being jostled by other runners.

My second thought about the race was that the first half in southern London could have been in almost any major European city. There didn't appear to be anything special about running in the neighborhoods in London south of the Thames. It wasn't until I approached the Tower Bridge just before the half-marathon point that I started to get excited and enjoy the course. However, crossing Tower Bridge was exhilarating. As you looked left, you realized you were running by the Tower of London. However, as I hit the half marathon mark, I noticed that I was a couple of minutes over the 2 hour mark. Knowing that I've never done a negative split in a marathon, I knew then it was unlikely that I would break the 4 hour mark. Thus, I decided at that point to pull back on my effort somewhat and try to make sure that my knee would not give me trouble for the second half of the race. From miles 14 to 16, you could look across the street to see the leaders coming on the return route of the out and back portion of the course. As all the guys that I saw were pasty-white Englishmen, I was pretty sure I'd missed the lead Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.


Meanwhile, a few miles back, wife Salome was having the time of her life running in her hula girl outfit. Her goal was to try to break 6 hours and thoroughly enjoy the crowds. She received many shout outs from the crowd yelling "Go Hula Girl!" and gave away some of her leis along the route to spectators. She even stopped to give a lei to a bobby doing crowd control along the course. Being further back in the crowd of runners, she saw more of the costumed runners who tend to run slower in their elaborate get-ups. She saw two guys running with a surf board and ran along with them to make the Hawaiian theme even larger. Of course, they declined her request to let her ride the board for a mile or two as they carried it as they ran.

Back up to where I was running at about mile 17, I was enjoying the running through the business district of London. I enjoy running through the business district, which reminded me somewhat of running through downtown Chicago during the Chicago marathon. On my return trip back towards Tower Bridge, I looked across to see if I could spot Salome on her outbound portion of the out & back loop. No such luck. In fact, at this point the only runners still on the outbound section of the course were runners in elaborate and most likely hot costumes.

The final miles along the Thames River heading towards Buckingham Palace were a jam of 5 to 6 deep crowds of spectators cheering wildly for all the runners. Given that most of the runners are local Londoners running for fund-raising causes, I'd have to say that the people of London support their runners in grand fashion. As I passed Buckingham Palace and headed the last couple of hundred yards to the finish line, I couldn't help but tear up a bit. As I said to a fellow runner after crossing the finish line in 4:20: "The only thing better than running a marathon is finishing a marathon."

Salome crossed in 5:48, a time with which she was thrilled. Since she had some issues in finishing her long training runs, she had doubts as to whether she would be able to run the last six miles. Fortunately, with the fun of interacting with the crowds as "Hula Girl," she kept a positive attitude and was able to run the entire course. While she had declared prior to the race that London was her last marathon, she has let the euphoria of her London finish cause her to rethink that decision. Rome next March anyone?


Post-Race. The biggest problem after crossing the finish line was winding your way the mile or so through St. James Park to get back to the hotel. As I walked though the park, runners were sprawled everywhere laying on the ground. While I was very tempted to join them, I knew that laying down meant that I would not get up for a couple of hours, so I kept doing my hobbled walk though the crowd of resting runners.

As I returned to our hotel lobby, I came across our friends Jerry & Lupe. Jerry had crossed the finish just a couple of minutes ahead of me. Jerry, who works for Intel, had volunteered to fly to Tokyo to help with post tsunami recovery work and had to quickly shower, change and get to the airport to fly out to Tokyo. Now, that's dedication to your work. Way to go Jerry!

Salome & I spent the next couple of days touring London, hitting a lot of the usual sights. With the royal wedding approaching, the line to get into Westminster Abby was long, but we had to go in. We hit several of museums and caught the Queen Rock-Opera "We Will Rock You" on our last night. All in all, a great visit. Salome is ordering her race photos, so I'll do a subsequent blog post to post some of her race pictures and some of our trip pictures.

Me, I'm just thrilled that my knee held up. I had no post-race swelling or soreness in the right knee, so I think the tear in my medial meniscus is healed. My biggest concern now is whether I've got sufficient time to gear up for Florida 70.3 on May 15th. With this virus, I lost this last weekend to train. Hopefully, I'll be fully recovered by this coming weekend and can hit the swim and bike hard enough to at least show up in Orlando in three weeks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Run Rabbit Run

This being the weekend before a marathon, it was a chill weekend. Don't do too much, watch some sports, and rest up for next Sunday. So, Saturday was an easy 10 miler. The last long run. The goal: don't do anything that risks injury. Salome & I got out the door at 6:30 AM, ran the 10 easy and were both back by 8:30 AM.

Most of my friends were out for long rides getting geared up for May 15th's Florida 70.3. I put off my ride until Sunday, not wanting to get coaxed out for a longer ride. I did a semi-causal 30 ride Sunday with 3 friends. Just enough to keep the cycling muscle memory intact, until after the marathon. Then it was onto chilling for the rest of Sunday.

First up, watching the Miami Heat dominate the Boston Celtics in a game that should give the Heat the #2 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That's good for an additional home game in the second round of the playoffs that should be against the Celtics. After 3 previous poor showings against the Celts, this game gave me hope for Miami in that future rematch.

Finally, I tuned into the Paris-Roubaix cycling race on the Vs. Network. Ah, the joy of hearing Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin comment on a bike race. Paris-Roubaix is one of the "Spring Classics" of bike racing in Europe. It's a brutal 160 mile course, much of it over narrow cobblestone streets, called pave, starting outside Paris and ending in a velodrome in Roubaix northeast of Paris. In most races, the favorites let an early group of unknown rabbits go off the front to keep the pace honest. This keeps races from becoming slow tactical races by the best riders. If the best riders screw around with each other, one of the unknowns in the breakaway can end up stealing a race title. This is what happened Sunday.

Fabian Cancellara, the race favorite, had won both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix last year by such large margins that European sports writers started a crazy speculation that Cancellara had a small motor inserted into the frame of his bike that helped him accelerate so well. A totally bogus speculation, but showing just how good Cancellara was last year. In last weeks Tour of Flanders, the other riders were keying off Cancellara so much, that he tried to break away too early and ended up burning out and being beaten for 1st place. This weekend, the other riders again keyed off Fabian to such an extent, making him do all the work up front during the last 20 miles of the race, that they ignored the unknown rabbits out front. Belgian, Johan Van Summeren, took advantage, and took the race, by riding for his life to a win. Cancellara held on for second. Knowing life wouldn't get any better than this, the lucy Belgian proposed to his girlfriend at the finish line. Nice touch. Fabian Cancellara later joked with the press that the other riders were keying off of him so much that if he had stopped at a cafe for a cup of coffee, the whole race would have stopped with him. The race had me looking forward to July's Tour de France.

In other sports news, I read this morning that Chrissie Wellington once again broke the women's world record for the Ironman distance at this weekend's Ironman South Africa. She lowered her own record set at last November's Arizona Ironman by 2 and 1/2 minutes to 8:33:56. The next women came in at 9:08 and 9:20. So, 2 world records after missing Kona in October due to a stomach virus. The rest of the Pro woman better hope Chrissie doesn't get sick again. She comes back way too strong.

Congratulations to Chloe of Running with a Bottle of Wine, who took 1st place in her age group this weekend at a local triathlon. She also did a great post about keeping your transitions quick and simple. It's worth a read. I'll put her advice to practice after this weekend's marathon.

I also see where a running buddy, Bob Bowker, pulled himself off the course of the St. Louis Marathon this weekend at mile 8. It was too hot, Bob knew he was off pace, and that to finish would have been a brutal and senseless self punishment. He walked off the course, which saves his training for another day. It takes a wise runner to pull himself from a race when it's clear the race is not going well. We can all learn from Bob's experience. I just hope I don't learn that lesson next weekend.

Friday, April 8, 2011

London Calling


A week from now, I'll be in London getting ready to go to the expo to pick up my race number. I've got to say, I'm pretty excited. Given that I was on crutches for 3 weeks in January with a slight tear of the media meniscus of my right knee, I almost have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

Running the London Marathon will complete my running of the 5 marathons that make up the World Marathon Majors (Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin & London). These are the 5 marathons where the best runners in the world show up to compete and world records get set.

When I first started running marathons in 2002 and I started paying attention to the pros again, the men's world record was set in London by Khalid Khannouchi in 2:05:38. The next year, 2003, the women's world record was set by Brit, Paula Radcliffe in 2:15:25. Each year in April, the world's elite marathon runners are running either London or Boston. While Boston is always an interesting race, the world record doesn't get set their due to the hilly nature of that historic course. London is one of those sweet spots of marathon running that race directors like to advertise: its flat and fast.

Not that I'll be fast. Coming off recovery of the meniscus tear, I've had to ramp up my distance in quick fashion. In order to avoid the risk of re-injury, I avoided the speed work necessary to get into PR shape. In fact, to quickly ramp up to the marathon distance, I utilized the Jeff Galloway run/walk system in which I took a short walk breaks of 30 to 60 seconds each mile. This conservative approach seems to have worked.

Yesterday, I went for a last pre-race checkup with my doctor to have my right knee examined. While my doctor thinks marathon running is a bad idea in general, he was impressed with my recovery. He indicated that my heart rate was back to a sub 50 bpm resting rate, indicating that I was back in marathon shape. Having done a race pace 10K run that morning and feeling great, I could have told him that without the heart rate reading. He checked the knee for mobility and any residual water retention. It all looks good and I'm cleared to run, so long as I don't try for a fast time.

The other thing that the London Marathon is known for is runners in costume. London has the largest number of runners of all marathons and is a big charity fundraiser for a lot of London runners. To increase the amount of funds raised, a bunch of the runners dress up in costume. Some of them are outlandish. Like the guy who ran, more likely walked, one year in a full Knights armour. I think it took him over a day to complete the event. In any event, since we can be fast, my wife Salome & I have decided to make it fun. I'll be reprising my "Wayne's World" costume from last year's Paris Marathon. Salome is going with an Hawaiian theme with a grass skirt and lei. Not the most complicated costumes, but something to have some fun with pre-race and along the course.

We've got several friends that we've met at other travel marathons over the years who are also running London. Thus, it should be a good time to reconnect, have a good run, and drink some warm English beer. I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Top Ten List

I received a bit of a shock today when I received an e-mail informing me that this blog made a top ten list of Triathlon & Fitness blogs. Now, I'm not familiar with this web-site or have any affiliation with NewToTri.com, but I'm honored that someone even gave this blog consideration in such a list. As is stated in the posting, there are thousands of triathlon & fitness blogs on the web and it’s very much a case of personal preference. I've followed a cuuple of those that made the list.

It's kind of ironic in that I was coming off an injury in January and was seriously considering stopping the whole athletic blog experience. However, as I had already committed to and paid for a trip to London for the London Marathon, I kept at my recovery and training. In the past few weeks things went well enough that I felt the urge to start posting again.

If the top ten listing caused you to check out this blog, know that I'm a bit wordy and tend to write in a bit longer essay type format. I'm an age grouper, who tries to do the best that I can given the limitations that a busy life puts on my training. I love the sport of triathlon and the fitness and travel experiences I get as a dividend. We've got an active triathlon and running community in South Florida and I love living down here in Paradise. I'm not sure I'll be making that same statement as I train in the hot summer months.

If you like my style, be sure to check out my prior posts from last year at this blog and from my prior blogs. My listing of public followers isn't large, but I link my posts to my Facebook page which gives me a somewhat larger readership, at least amongst my friends. If you do like my postings, I'd ask that you follow the blog publicly so I can get a feel for whether anyone is reading my posts. Supportive comments are welcome. For any of my Facebook friends who would like to publicly follow my blog, you can do so by going to my blog at this link. Simply scroll down the right hand side of the blog and click on the "Follow" button, then follow the directions for publicly following the blog. Again, it gives me a feel for whether people read and like my blog. Nothing more. No e-mails or spam results from following a blog.

My upcoming schedule after the London Marathon is Florida 70.3 in mid-May. I'm registered for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in late June, but my participation in that event will be contingent on my continued recovery and ramp up in training for these first 2 events. I'll do some sprint and olympic distances over the summer, and finish the season in October with the Austin 70.3.

In any event, I am honored by mention in this top 10 list. I just hope my future posts are good enough to keep me off of a Letterman Top Ten List.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nice Day for a Run Along the Beach

That was Sunday morning's caption for a picture of a couple running along A1a Saturday morning. It captured my feelings about having done my last long run before the London Marathon on Saturday morning along A1a with my wife, Salome. We started around 6 AM with Salome intending to run 12 miles and I planning on 15. A mile and change into our run, we come across our friend Miranda doing interval work with a running buddy in the dark along A1a near Sunrise Blvd. It takes us almost being face to face to recognize each other in the dark. As we get another mile south along A1a, we spot another friend, Chris Howard heading north in the dark on his bike to get to an early morning group ride. I think how it's only the very serious athletes that get out well before sunrise to start their workouts.

A1a curves toward the west to become the 17th Street Causeway. As we get closer to the Runner's Depot Store on 17th Street, we start coming cross more runner who are now getting out for a group run from the store. After we hit our 6 mile turnaround, it's light enough out for Salome to give me permission to go ahead at my own pace. As I run east and start heading up the 17th Street Bridge, I'm somewhat blinded by the rising sun, which causes me to pull my hat down low over my eyes to allow me to use the hat's bill as a shade. As I climb the bridge, I can only see the silhouette of runners climbing or descending the bridge. With the bright early morning sun, I can only make out distant dark shapes of runners in motion. It's looks like a work of art. As I descend the bridge I can make out some familiar faces of runners from a group that starts out of Holiday Park that I sometimes run with on Saturday mornings. As I come around the curve where 17th Street becomes A1a, I get a honk from a car that I believe is Miranda's. I wave back, wondering what she's got going on so early in the morning to have gotten home, showered and be driving down the road so quickly. Must be an after workout breakfast date.

As I head further north along A1a, I note how different the sidewalks look now. With the early morning sun above the horizon, the sidewalks are much fuller with runners doing shorter mileage and walkers out for a couple miles. Groups of cyclists ride by heading north for various lengths rides. The street and sidewalks are now a beehive of activity compared to the sparse singles and couples running in the predawn hours.

I cross paths with an old friend, Abe who lives in the condominium we lived in several years back. Abe is one of those fixtures in our running community who one inevitably comes to recognize along A1a because he runs it almost every day of the year. Everybody who runs near dawn either knows him or recognizes him. We high five each other for the third time in a week as we once again cross paths while running.

I get to the turn around of my northern loop near Oakland Park and head back south through a beachfront neighborhood where some of our other friends live. I cut through on the beach side of the Palm's Condominium to run the soft boardwalk that takes you along the beachfront. Coming north are our friends Manda and Andy out with their two dogs. "I see the dogs have decided to take you guys for a walk this morning," I say as I pass. "You got that right," they respond. The both have on bike jerseys having completed their early morning workouts before the dogs take them for a cool down walk.

As I hit the open beach road and into the unshaded portion of A1a just north of my Sunrise Blvd. turnoff, I decided that I feel so good this morning, that I'll run an extra few miles in the tree lined shade Birch State Park. As I start this 2.5 loop, I note a charity fund-raising walk about to start. "How nice," I think. I know that for many of these walkers this charity event will be their first steps into a more active lifestyle. As I hit the outward end of the park and circle around to the west side of the park, I can see my house across the inter-coastal waterway. It's always at this point in a run that I wonder if I couldn't just swim the half mile to my home instead of running the 2 miles that it will take me to leave the park, cross the Sunrise bridge and run back north along Bayview Drive to get home. Of course, it's a totally ridiculous thought that only comes to mind late in a long run. I finish the park loop, come out onto Sunrise Blvd. and cross the bridge to the mainland. In another mile, I'm almost home. Just before turning on my street for my last couple hundred yards, my Garmin beeps off my 18th mile.

Yes, it's taper time. Next weekend, I'll only run between 8 to 10 miles. I had no real reason to run as much as 18 miles this weekend, but the weather wasn't too hot and I came across a lot of my friends. I suppose part of it was just hitting my stride again in training and feeling good. Part of it was the realization that I love the shared experience of all the early morning athletes along A1a getting in their long runs and rides before the weekend's activities sends us all in different directions. Besides, it was just a nice day for a run along the beach.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Long Run


"I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot, I used to stay out till the break of day. Oh, that didn't get it, It was high time I quit it, I just couldn't carry on that way. Oh, I did some damage, I know it's true; didn't know I was so lonely, till I found you. You can go the distance, we'll find out, in the long run." The Long Run - The Eagles

Salome & I had our longest long run in preparation for the London Marathon planned for this past Saturday morning. As we were getting ready to get to bed on Friday night, we went through our usual long run ritual. I set my watch alarm for what I think is an appropriate time to get up and get ready to get out the door in order to get an early enough start; she suggests a much later time, then we compromise. It's the dark side of being married to another lawyer: everything is a negotiation. Who am I kidding? It's probably true about all couples.

I set my alarm for 4:30 AM. Salome suggests a 6 AM alarm. After a discussion for distance, pace, and the hourly projected temperatures from weather.com, we compromise on a 5:15 AM alarm. As I turn in bed and start drifting off, Salome says: "I'll probably wake up before that anyway." "Fine," I say, "Wake me if you do." I quickly drift off into a deep sleep.

In the middle of the night, I sense activity in our bedroom, some lights being turned on, bathroom water flowing. But I'm still pretty deep into my sleep and not feeling like getting up. Before I know what's going on, Salome is talking to me. "What's your credit card number?" "Huh?" "I'm downloading a GPS mileage app on iTunes and the credit card you have listed on the account has expired." Man, she' not only awake, she's wide awake and talking a mile a minute. Turns out she awoke at 3:30 AM; it's about 4:15 AM at this point. I decide I'd better get up. Salome reminds me of my agreement to be awoken if she got up early. I thank the Lord she didn't take me too literally and wake me at 3:30 AM.

As I'm about 15 minutes of prep time behind her, Salome gets out the door before me. Fine, I think, she runs slower than me. I catch her in a few miles. After I get started, I find that it takes me over 5 miles to catch up with her. As I run along A1a, I note people lining up for the start of the Palm 100 Mile Relay run that is starting that morning. As Salome & I make our way back along the 17th Street Causeway, we note the first runners heading out towards US-1. We will come across these runners for the rest of our long run.

As we come into South Beach Park, we spot our Aussie friend Deb Mrky with her running buddies doing their long run in preparation for the Boston Marathon. I mention to Deb that Boston will be the day after the London Marathon and I hope to watch it as I recoup from my run. She mentions that, like us, she and her mates are doing 22 miles this morning. I don't bother to mention that Salome is only planning to run 18 and I'm only doing 20.

As the sun starts coming up around 7:30 AM and we're at about mile 12, Salome give me permission to go ahead at my own pace. I take the pace up a bit and go ahead on my own. I stop off at a gas station to refuel, and end up talking a couple of minutes with a relay team running the Palm 100. With a new bottle of Gatorade, I finish my northbound loop and head home. That last couple mile stretch along a sun exposed A1a is always interesting. However, I'm feeling pretty solid with no major issues. I end up doing a fairly strong last mile. As I hit the home stretch, I come across Salome finishing her 18. We've made it. Now, the next 2 weeks long runs will be shorter and shorter.

I've noticed these last couple of weeks that the long runs don't seem harder, but that I'm more tired the rest of the day than in years past. I chalk this up to age. Salome chalks it up to a lower overall mileage and a shorter training period. I've had to do a fairly quick ramp up coming off my knee issue, so she's probably correct. Heck, I was on crutches in January and a six mile run in mid-February was painful. So my weekend long runs were as follows: 6 miles, a 5 mile race, up to 12, up to 16, down to 15, then up to 20. That's about as truncated a build up as I can handle. In any event, it looks like we're a "go" for London. As the song goes: "You can go the distance; we'll find out, in the long run."