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.