Monday, December 31, 2007

In Review- The Year that Almost Was

Well, I know it's New Year's Eve because I'm once again reviewing the wreckage of my Fantasy Football team as we head to the playoffs and the inevitability someone else will win the league I've run for 13 years.

I decided to take on some new challenges in 2007. Of course, the unspoken challenge is continuing to be an older first-time dad, something that is not always the easiest thing. It's ironic in a way, because my own adoptive parents entered the game late- my dad was 48 and my mom 46 when I was born, even older than I was. Hopefully, I'll see more than 10 of Ian's birthdays- number 3 is hard around the bend less than a month after Christmas. Potty training is coming too.

The year started off slowly, with graduate courses and slow, easy training. There was the misery of the diet and the misery of the Plunge on the diet.

With no race on Margit's calendar and Ironman Arizona the first on mine, we had much more important issues on our mind. Like where Margit was going to be working and where Ian was going to be in day care. These big ticket items worked out with a lot less difficulty than we at first thought they might as Margit hit on a temp job at Pfizer and I took over full-time day care transportation duties around January 31st. Around the same time, we came to the difficult conclusion Margit's mom would have to go into a nursing home...

My grades were good, really good, and so was my training. I was ready for Arizona, but at the same time, Lake Placid was weighing on me and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I have to be honest that I never really felt that I deserved the result I got in Lake Placid. I felt like I'd been in the right place at the right time and not really earned what had come the way I might have had to at a race with a better field. At the same time, having passed on Hawaii left me feeling like I had to try and get a spot again. That's not the best way for me to go into a race and one simple mental error- not taking sunscreen before the bike, really impacted my overall performance. It became my worst race, and yet out of, also a learning experience. I both broke and then, in the end, didn't break. Running the last five miles of a race I'd lost the will to continue in was, well something.

And hey, the beer was good.

Oh yeah, and Peter Daly beat me and I posted another second at Brian's two weeks before Arizona.

On a serious note, there was Dave Parcells passing away in Florida and that was- that was a blow for everyone. I can't really express anything other people with more right and eloquence haven't already said. Dave was a great guy. He left a hole.

I didn't take much time off- I'd signed up for Eagleman. I couldn't find time for courses with the afternoon pickup at day care, so there was parenting, day care, work, and training. Margit's mom's situation finally started to settle out, our cat population jumped to six, and of course, by May the lawn had gotten away from us.

I had to drop out of a duathlon in June just a week before Eagleman with a strained calf. That's the first DNF due to injury I'd ever had and so close to an half-IM... Ice solved the problem. I went to Eagleman, had a great swim AND overcame my math meltdown that had me thinking I'd had a miserable swim, survived the drafting on the bike, and posted a pretty good time for being hurt. I even learned to appreciate Avril Lavinge in the porta-potty line, and snapped a great picture of Ian reading a certain coach's catalog that he got a good laugh out of.

I think it was a good summer, although it's always hard to remember the best of the warm lazy summer days when it's 30 degrees. There was plenty of great weather- and oh yeah, an iPhone.

The big event of the summer for me was the Swim Across the Sound. Never in my life have I dreaded anything more (well, except that time I was waiting for Margit to bail me out on her birthday). The thought of being out in a boat, jumping off that boat into 80-100 feet of water. I'd rather be in a pressure suit orbiting the planet. But it worked out great. I wasn't the boat anchor you'd think I was going to be. The harbour made me horribly sick. I was sneezing up man-sized phlegm an hour after I climbed up on the dock. I couldn't breath well enough to sleep for about 48 hours.

John Brennan- thanks again for organizing that. Awesome job.

Margit went from a contract job to full-time at Pfizer. That was a relief but not a perfect solution- but hey, they do have their own triathlon (employees only). Ian switched day care- tough moments there. He still talks about his 'old school'.

While preparing for the Extrememan half-ironman I found myself helping to set up the Madison Triathlon. Steve Surprise and I sat on the 'race committee', we showed up a day early and helped set up transition- I even gave the race day instructions to the athletes and was a bike course marshall.

Then came my third big race of the year, and probably my only chance at winning a triathlon. I didn't get it done, instead coming third. Enough said.

I took that to heart and went on kind of a tear. I placed in the top ten at a half-marathon the next week. Another two weeks and I jumped into a marathon, cracked the three hour mark, slept it off and won a 5k the next day. Then it was Reunion weekend at Rochester and a second place at a dirt duathlon the following Saturday in one of Rochester's kick-ass parks.

My college reunion was a great time and a real reminder of how much I enjoyed the extended stay I had at UR. The only low moment was Richard Lewis at Curb Your Enthusiasm. Man, he just couldn't get it done.

Somewhere amid the races Margit's BMW crashed into a deer and was totalled. Car shopping sure is fun, isn't it ? A throw away call I made to the Acura dealership I bought my car at about a TL I saw on my iPhone while we were at CarMax led to Margit, well, driving a TL. Also, I lost a cat. Jonah, you were a great friend, the one cat I could count on to Bite the Hand That Feeds.

Of course, I over-raced getting ready for Christopher Martin's and put up a miserable race despite running my fastest 5k in years.

But the big story to end the year with was seeing my son have the first Christmas where he understood what was going on. From magic reindeer food and cookies and milk left out on Christmas Eve and sharing the classics- Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to opening gifts, he was a great joy. We have some greed issues to work out, and I swear this is the last year I stay up until 1 AM Christmas Eve building a toy, but it was a great day.

Now, 2008- my coach says let's have a great year. I have two IMs on the docket, my family is healthy, I have a roof over my head- so I think that's a great idea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My iPhone is calling

I thought that I'd test out blogging directly from my iphone today.

Ever see a bicycle frame thrown 30 feet up in a tree ? The bent
Cannondale frame toss Sunday night at Amity Bike ended just that way- on the first toss of the night...

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Weather Running

Not that I know anything about anything, but I certainly have plenty of experience running in the snow and slop. I ran 5 days a week in high school, regardless of the weather. Living in upstate New York, that meant fairly frequent runs in snow, sometimes deep snow. Of course, my focus is a lot different these days. But one thing hasn't changed- a long run in the wintery mix requires a slightly different approach. I think it's a great workout, but I also think it's a certain type of workout and one that has to be approached a little differently.

You don't really get that many opportunities to do a long run in the snow when you're down here in CT, especially along the shore, and I think it's just a great opportunity to have a really good time and enjoy yourself. You do a lot of long runs and most of them probably aren't all that memorable, but a snowy run or a run in a storm- you'll remember that a lot longer because it is special.

However, if you're looking for a red zone workout (there's nothing wrong with that, maybe you're training for a late January/February marathon), stop reading this, find the nearest treadmill, crank it up to your 20K pace and elevate it to 4-5% and have at it.

Here's my tips for having a great, enjoyable long run in the snow, sleet and wind.

1) Dress just warm enough and nothing more. It's cold, it's wet, you want to get bundled up. But it's easy to overdo it and you could find yourself sweating up a storm and melting down. Or worse, you might be tempted to remove that outer layer, which usually cools all that sweat and then your core body temperature can crash. It's ok to be a little cold the first 5-10 minutes. Running is one of the best ways to elevate your core body temperature and once you do that, you'll be fine.

2) Leave the beat-up old running shoes at home. If a pair of running shoes aren't good to run in on a normal day, they aren't good enough to run in the slop either. If you're a triathlete you probably have at least 2K invested in your bike and associated gear- you can swing 80.00 for running shoes if the pair you wear really gets ruined (and they won't). Give the old shoes to one of those drives that collects used shoes.

3) Turn down the volume on the ipod- just a little. When the roads are bad, you have to be able to hear the traffic, especially snow plows. The last thing you want to do is go around a corner and find yourself face to face with a plow blade

4) If you (micro) manage your music on the iPod, take it down a notch. Add some festive holiday jingles. Snow Patrol and Stars of Track and Field's The Antarctica EP are mandatory. Nine Inch Nails and Evanescence is probably a little too extreme.

5) The big thing- take the heart beat down a good 10 beats. Your leg muscles are going to be working extra-hard pushing off the uneven, sliding 'ground'. Run at your normal heart rate and you'll be beating up your legs, which shouldn't be the point. Keep it moderate.

Pick a route you don't usually run, or run one of your routes backwards. That way you won't be watching your watch and worrying about how far behind your usual pace you are. Running for 90 minutes ? Pick an eighty or even a seventy-five minute loop- you can always add on if you're ahead towards the end.

6) Wear glasses. You'll probably be headed out into a pretty gray day, and it may seem like the right idea to ditch sunglasses that will only dim things down more or fog up. But driving snow, sleet, or ice can make it impossible to keep your eyes open, much less on the road.

The bottom line is that a snow run should be fun. A good workout yes, but you might be better off leaving the red zone run for another day. Take time to enjoy the scenery and see the world a way you rarely do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christopher Martins 5k Road Race

I waited a few days before posting anything about this race.

Good news: 17:46 is my fastest 5K in years, probably three years.
Bad News: I got beat by several people who shouldn't beat me and finished 26th.

I really wanted to run well at this race. And I did. So some other people ran better. Oh well, time to suck it up, get in some strength training, and look at the all the racing I've gotten in in the last two months and say hey, not bad.

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hitting the Wall While Training

Thought I'd share this.

When I get 'off workouts', I do some weird stuff, especially during lunch workouts at the gym, where I admit to getting bored on the treadmill or the aerobics bike.

Today, I was doing sets of 10 minute time trials on the bike, with 5 2 minute intervals of increasing tension, followed by hopping on the treadmill, doing a minute easy and then four 1 minute intervals of increasing speed and elevation. I do a lot mixed workouts like this and one of the things I really concentrate on is moving quickly (read, running) from the bike room, which is enclosed in glass, and the treadmills. I've been doing this for a year and never run anyone over or been a hazard.

I also have a real pet peeve about the fans being on in the bike room. No one else is ever in the room when I am there for more than a few minutes and it's usually empty at lunch. Aside from the waste issue, I started using those bikes when I was training for Arizona and wanted to get a good sweat on. I much prefer sweating anyway. There are no electric fans at the big races...

I had turned the fans off in the room before starting but someone came in during the five minutes I was on treadmill and turned one back on. I did my second bike interval and it was bugging the hell out me the whole time. When the interval was over instead of just dashing out the door (I ride the bike closest to the door), I ran into the back of the room, pulled the cord out, and then headed for the door. There was another member walking across the opening to the door (double doors) so I shifted over to my right to avoid him, planning to pass through the right-hand door.

And smashed into floor to ceiling plate glass- I was one 'panel' too far to the right. I totally de-cleated myself- but I did get right back up. The guy was pretty shaken up, but I just grunted that I was okay, hopped on the treadmill and pulled my visor down so the blood oozing out of my head wouldn't drip...

Needless to say, this should have been at least mildly embarrassing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Jingle Bell 5k

Some races seem to have a personality. It's all just the random chance of course, what type of weather- and in fact to some extent what week- races get and fall in.

But as I was running the course backwards with Charlie Hornak afterwards, we agreed that could not remember a year the race hadn't be contested in bitter cold, windy conditions. No freak 50-60 degree days (and that weather had been with us as recently as 10 days ago).

The 2007 version of the race was no exception. I parked at about 9:05, bundled in heavy running tights and my Force 5 jacket as I ran to get my number and go to the bathroom. Number- no problem. Bathroom- well I can understand why this church doesn't want bathrooms designed to be used a few times a day to get stank-bombed by about a 100 guys, most of whom probably fueled up on some combination of pasta and cheese the night before (do people still carbo-load ?). Nevertheless when it's 30 and you have to plant your backside on the plastic porta-potty seat, well, that's not how to warm up.

I ran back to the car, convinced myself I was going to run in my bike shorts and singlet (with arm-warmers, of course), and the cannon to starts the race goes off. Frak ! And it's 9:15- wtf ? Guess they were testing it. I convinced myself there was no way I could have missed the beginning of the race given the number of other people in the parking lot, then searched for some evanescence, and started warming up, mostly just doing sprints and lead-out.

The start of this race is always brutal. Uphill, dead into the wind, and since the race draws some speedsters, it's at a pace that by half a mile you are questioning why you're running a 5k and sure that the legion of runners behind you are about to overtake you. Then the wind picks up and you wonder if you'll ever get to the turn. Which you do. I was back and forth at this point with a teenage kind wearing the sort of warm-up suit that I thought only people on the Sopranos still wore. We hit the turn and tried to tell myself to be patient. But not too patient. I also felt kind of like this was my first cold weather race- only it wasn't- Cow Chip was.

We wound our way through the neighbourhood and I was perplexed by some of the people around me, who would be beat me up one hill and down the next, and then would beat them up and down the following set. I was trying to take it easy on the uphill and save something for the last mile. Somewhere past a mile they were handing out water. I took one and dumped it down my back, just because.

At the top of the last hill before you turn back onto the main road the race finishes on, which is about two miles, there's a guy that stands there and always says 'It's downhill the rest of the way.' This guy is dead wrong. The course has a series of uphill rolls, and then the last .3 or .4 miles is downhill. I was behind two high school kids at this point and closed on them. At 2.5 I passed them and tried to surge away, but I didn't have that kind of wheels and they separated from me- and beat me.

I still managed a 3rd in my age group, but it wasn't quite as fast as I would have liked.

Happy 40th Charlie !

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Trumbull Cow Chip 6K

I had day to rest after the Turkey Day races. I used it to ride for about 90 minutes with Steve Surprise. We did the Wednesday night loop, since we're long past the time of year we can actually do the loop on Wednesday night. It was a little cold, but nothing ridiculous.

It was definitely colder this morning. When I left the house, it was still in the 30s, and I was still looking at rushing to get there within half an hour of the start. But I was pre-registered and not worried. This is a lower key type of race, although plenty of talent was there for this year's version. I got my number so quickly that I ended up standing around inside. I didn't want to start my warm-up more than about 15 minutes before the race, given that I was in a singlet and arm-warmers, with no gloves. I've been holding back on racing in gloves for no good reason.

I felt pretty good after the warm up in that I was warm, but not so good in that I was pretty gassed. After the ride yesterday we'd spent the rest of the day shopping and that's always a long day. I didn't feel that I had anything left, and with teammates like Ryan Pancoast, Rodney Furr, and Bart Wasiolek there, I knew I was only running for pride (and pain).

We headed out and like all the races this time of year, the opening lane was clogged solid with kids. High school and maybe even younger, including some crazy girl who must have been 12-13 and spent the first half-mile in front of me. Normally I don't have any issue with this youthful exuberance, but after I almost ended up wrapped around a garbage can, I lost my good cheer, bore down, and started making my way up through the chaff.

It was beautiful conditions for such a cold day and as we hit the trail, I was feeling pretty good. There were a couple people in front of my I felt I should be able to work my way past and I tried to push past, while also protecting my backside- someone was trying to get by and at first I was going to move over but then I reminded myself that it was cross-country and there's no reason to move over for anyone.

I broke out of the trail and moved up past one runner in Milford Road Runners gear and a Shoreline Shark. Then there was, quite frankly, a lot of hard running in open space, with the guys in front of me (five of them) out of reach. Well, one was almost in reach, but not quite. I also had one guys close enough behind that I worked hard, but I was still in space, where I spend too much race time. At about three miles Marty went by on his bike and asked me if I'd ran two races Thursday. I said yes and went back to running.

Although the guy behind me closed to within three seconds, I didn't have to sprint at the end, and frankly, I didn't want to.

This is a fun race. I hung out afterwards with Charlie Hornak while we waited for Marty's unique awards and as usual, Marty makes the race more than what it otherwise would be- a good time, fun, and most of all unique.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Double- Turkey-style

Every since I started running in my mid-thirties, I've done my share of crazy things, but none more psychotic than the double- two races in one day (or at least twice in one weekend). This year I'd pretty much proven I'd broken away from that way of doing things. I passed up numerous small races getting ready for big races, eschewed races for 90 minute runs and so on. But starting with the marathon-5k weekend, there's been a big racing uptick.

I ran the 8k cross country race last Saturday, then went out Sunday and ran 90 minutes. I took it easy during the week, spinning for 45 minutes and swimming 40 25s in the pool Monday, doing a 10-10-10-10 treadmill/spin Tuesday (which turned out to be good practice running off the bike), and an hour hard on the mountain bike yesterday.

I'd pre-registered for both races but wasn't sure what I'd be doing. Margit had a masters swimming at 6AM and the chance she'd be back for me to do the 5k in Branford wasn't good. However, I pre-registered for both races to avoid crazy last-minute running around, just in case the double came to fruition. Talk about a good idea. Margit got home at 8:10 and by the time I headed out the door it was 8:20. i headed out on the mountain bike- didn't want to get trapped parking- and promptly went the wrong way. After about a minute, I realised my mistake, turned around and booked up the road the other way, my heart rate over 150 (I've been wearing the monitor when I run road races, just to get an idea what I'm doing).

I got there at 8:29, threw the bike down on the side out of the path of the start, and lined-up. the race started about five minutes later. As I get older, and road racing is less central to my racing portfolio, the 5K gets harder and harder. It requires a type of training I don't do, I can't run times I am happy with, and it hurts- a lot, sometimes.

But how could I pass up a 5K that is run on roads near my home, the majority of the roads ones I am on for part of every 90 minute run ?

We headed out from the school going right and there were a lot of high school kids ahead of me. Then JT was ahead of me and JT, being a great runner, well, I knew if I could hang on his heels I might have a good race. The first mile was fast, pretty flat (an uphill, but only noticeable if you know the road). I finally passed JT, and as I was determined to go all out, I want to hold him 2-3 seconds behind me. I picked my way past some high school kids and turned hard at the cone and started to push a little. It's tough when you're on road you can hit 25 mph on your bike on to be running just under 6 minute miles.

I would have guessed that I was in 9-10th place, but I came in 5th, with Margit and Ian cheering me on at the last corner and JT 2-3 seconds behind me. I walked out of the chute, grabbed my bike, checked with Margit. I saw Michael D. finish and immediately was on my way home on the mountain bike. It was 9 am and the Madison race was at 10.

I got home, switched kit, grabbed some clif shot blocks and then Margit came home. I waited as she changed and helped Ian build some railroad tracks, then we were on our way again.

It was 9:35 when we got to Madison and parked. I wasn't worried. I had my chip and my number, but we had to pack Ian in the jogger and register Margit. I ran ahead and filed out her entry and then we got her in the bathroom line. While I was waiting for her I ran into Jen Talon, who watched Ian and all I can say is THANKS ! Brian had told me she'd watch Ian and I'd let Margit know but she'd been a little hesitant as Jen already has two kids. I ran off to get Margit's chip, which she missed when she registered- chaos !

I worked my way to the start and settled in with a bunch of fast guys I knew would beat me. It was hard not to think about how I'd ran a 5k just over an hour ago. Then the race started and the first two things that came to me were- Charlie Hornak passed me and I figured I was in for a 30:30 run and he'd beat me, and I had no fraking clue how the course ran as we headed out towards the park entrance.

I decided to go with the patient style of running and after about a mile point five Charlie started coming back. I passed him then I started passing a bunch of high school kids. We wrapped around back to the start, headed out towards Meigs Point and I was still passing and battling with people. I schooled myself to not push before the turn-around and as we started around it I was 17th. I hit the place where the 4 mile clock was at 23:38 and thought I had a shot at breaking 30. Since I had not broken 18 at the 5K...

I think the 4 mile mark was short. I worked hard to hold on as best I could and still dropped three spots and came 20th, with three more high school kids within 6 seconds. I grabbed Ian right after the race, got a beer from Bill from the Jaycees, and hung out while Margit ran an awesome 36:24. Brian and Jen are just great folks and hanging out with them and Charlie made the race a nice social event as well, and there was plenty of beer !

What did I learn ? I'm not so young anymore, but I am still crazy !

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Madd Dash 5 Miler

Another out of order race blog.

It's hard to pass up a Sunday morning race that is contested on some of the same roads you run on during the week. Working at UNH, I frequently (almost every run) at least touch the course and on the days when I run through the park I do a decent portion of the race, although fortunately the race does not pass through where I was arrested while running (the longest 90 minute workout I'll ever have !)

The race is a good one. It seems like the course should be fast, but it always seems to be one of the first colder days and the wind can be a bear, which it was.

I always know the crowd that shows up is going to include some fast runners like Bryce Lindamood (good luck with your first child !) and some high school kids (I got beat by five teenagers this year). Add Marty paying a woman from NYC to come up on the train and run 28:16 and I expected after a two-week layoff to get buried. But it's a good course, I have friends that run it ever year like Charlie Hornak and I hadn't raced in three weeks, so I thought it was a good opportunity to get in a warm-up for the 8k (see previous post).

I wasn't expecting to break thirty minutes and I had decided to go out slow and build into it. That strategy has been working for me lately so I stuck with it and ran the first mile over 5:40. Pretty soon Barks went by me, then the woman, then Frank Tiroletto, who usually gets the best of me. There were also a lot of teens in front of me, so after a mile I started to work a little harder. Frank was clearly having trouble breathing and I didn't let that stop me from passing him again. He mentioned how the woman- Lisa Stublic had blown by him like he was standing still. She'd done the same to me.

I ran hard until mile 4 and passed a few people that started to fade. Then I passed the guy in 11th and started back around into the park, thinking I was set. Although I had a good race, he ran me down again and just nicked me at the finish line by about a second. I'd have been pissed, but I thought I was going to throw up so I knew I'd given it everything. I handed over my number and went to look for Margit and Ian, but I'd broken thirty and suddenly I felt ready to race again after two weeks off...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

8K Cross Country Championship, West Hartford

It was a pretty tight assignment. Get in the car at 8:50 am, drive to West Hartford, run a cross country 8K at 10 am, hop back in the car and be home at noon.

A drive like that will get you ready for a race, that's for sure. I had half an hour to sign up, warm up, and get on the line- literally.

The race is not an easy one. It's a chicklet-busting uphill start to the race, followed by plenty of trail running, but it's also overall a fast first two miles. Given that the last three miles are hard miles, it's best not to go out too hard early. I was right behind Oscar Barretto starting up the hill and I was thinking, this isn't right (I hardly belong on the same course with Oscar), but we settled in pretty quickly and I soon found myself running in 13th place, right behind two teammates- Rob Barksdale and Brian Talon. We moved up two spots and then started up the hill at two miles and that was when the fun began.

It's more trail running at that point, and some real uphill. I let Brian and Rob separate because I know from having run the course 5 times that if you push early, you die late, and they are faster than I am. They quickly took out the two runners closest to me. I passed one but then settled in and began reeling them in more slowly . At three miles, they were well ahead of me and I was just passing another runner. We rocketed down one hill, took a set of turns and started heading up in the other direction. The guys in front of me were taller, younger- guys that could no doubt take me out on the road, but as I'd been gaining on them on the downhill, I was really looking forward to the uphill.

I had two guys in front of me I thought I had a chance against. I passed one at about 3.7 and he fought to hold me off and take his position back, so I really fought the urge to open it up and just keep moving forward. I was hoping to catch the last guy between me and my teammates before four miles, where there is a steep, dangerous downhill.

It didn't happen. We wound through the back of the course and I wasn't getting any closer to him. I wanted to get that last place but he wasn't coming back. We broke out of the woods, onto the trail by the road, and still I was two seconds back. then we got on the road, and in the final two hundred meters, I did pass him and put three seconds on him. I coughed a bit in the chute and Will asked me to let him know if I was going to puke so he could get the shot.

Oscar won the race, Brian, Rob and I came 5-6-7, and Charlie Hornak broke into the top 14 to give Hitek the win.

Another great race, a great course, and just a blast to run what's really a super-fast trail race...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Strides 5k- Day after Hartford Marathon

I don't usually go out of order, but hey, it's my blog/private record of my races and training.

I really wasn't expecting to run a 5K the day after the marathon. Margit was running the Strides 10K for the Pfizer team, and there aren't too many opportunities for us to run back to back races. The 10K was at 10AM, with the 5K at 11:30. I needed the extra recovery time, every minute of it. I had decided after the soreness in my left thigh, my calves, and both hamstrings was simply too much, that even a slow jog was going to be too much and that I should just come home and spin (or take the day off). But Margit gave me an extra little push in the morning, so I threw my Hodska kit on under my race hangout clothes and we piled in the car and headed out to the eastern end of the Nutmeg State.

I should note right up front that all the talent- the Mohegan Striders- ran the 10K. No one would have even noticed me if I ran that race, stumbling in 5 minutes or more after the race winner. Ian and I stood about a quarter mile from the finish- he banging his cowbell and cheering 'go team pfizer' as the 10K unfolded. Margit ran a good time, finished second in her age group, and about twenty minutes before the race, I started warming up.

It did not go well. Aerobically, I was fine, ready to go. But my legs were so sore than after half a mile warmup, the beginning of which was unbearable, that I was pretty sure I was not going to race. It seemed absurd to try.

I did some strides. These felt a lot better than the steady running. I pulled out my Cliff Blocks, ate them, though about it. I'd paid my 15.00 and gotten my t-shirt. I decided, why not ? It's just, unfortunately, the way I'm wired. I can make smart decisions in cases like this, but I rarely do. The night my nose was broken playing dek hockey, I went out, unable to play goalie, but came back in the second half playing center. That just makes me, well, stupid, and not really the good kind of stupid.

I got on the line, took off the headphones, and waited for the two commands. I decided that if I couldn't be smart, I could at least run smart. I didn't go out all out. I worked my through the crowds, but I hung back until I could judge the field and figure out what if anything I could do to control the race. We took a quick left and then went up a fairly reasonable hill. We hooked a right at the top of the hill and a woman master I recognise started to pass me. That was it. I might be hurting, I might be trying to stay patient, but I wasn't about to get beaten by any female masters who don't run for Hitek. I opened up my stride and to be honest, it started to not hurt as the muscles warmed up.

We headed out of the park, hooked another left and there were four people in front of me. I picked them off causually, not speeding up, just doing my job. Then it was there- I was chasing the police car, everyone behind me, stamping out a nice pace. I just ran, hard, hard as I could. The police car finally came to a turn-around in a gigantic circular driveway. I wasn't even sure I should be following him, because he turned strangely in the driveway, looking almost like he was parking. As I passed the bulk of the field going the other way, I heard 'Nice marathon yesterday'.

I never looked back and while it got a little tough in that last mile, I just kept striding out until I broke the tap.

Really, this race is great family event, with two road races, a fitness walk/kids event (all at different times), food sponsored by Outback Stake House (they did have caesar salad), long-sleeve t-shirts. I really recommend this race as a nice way to combine racing and family hang-out time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Black Diamond Duathlon- Victor, NY

I'm going out of order here- it's been a long long week. First, I had to have one of my cats put to sleep on Tuesday. Then one Wednesday I did two workouts including a Spinervals, which made my coach think I was nuts. Thursday I dropped my son off at daycare and drove to Rochester. The luckier of my two friends landed an hour late, which was the only reason I made it in time to do the airport pick-up. The less lucky one spent the night in O'Hare airport.

Saturday morning came threatening rain. I'd been up late, had gotten wicked post-nasal drip the second I'd gotten to Rochester and woken up with a sore ear at 6:20 in the morning. I couldn't help but be frustrated with myself- yet another race on five or less hours of sleep, although I'd gone to Rochester to hang with friends, not race. I also thought about the article I'd just posted on Eric's site and reminded myself that like everyone, I've raced sick- one time I ran the Boston Build-Up 10K with earmuffs on so Margit wouldn't realise that my ear was swollen to twice its normal size due to a sinus infection (I ran a lousy time and was attacked by a dog).

I had to get on the internet and look up directions to the race, sneak my mountain bike out of the hotel room without waking up the guys, and drive to a place I'd never been before. However, packet pickup the day before had been in the same general area, and after being up there for races the last four years and actually driving places (something I never did when I lived there), I'm starting to feel like my sense of direction is starting to click.

Although it was very grey, it was about 60 degrees by race time (9 am) and I was a little incredulous to see some of my fellow competitors wearing full-finger gloves, tights, and light jackets. I mean you race in Rochester, you learn about cold- I think I've done as many races in the snow up there as I have down here.

It was an off-road sprint 2-10-2. Totally trail run, mostly off-road bike with about a mile of single track. I know there's one guy up there who owns me- that's a terrible thing to admit, I suppose, but the guy always beats me. Jason Urckfitz. Well, there he was, standing right on the line. While I'm not shy about standing right on the starting line at most local races, whether I belong there or not, and sometimes I don't, I didn't think I should do it there. I was already in my Force Five kit and was going to ride with my TT helmet. I didn't need to be trying to elbow my way into between people.

We started out and it was like every duathlon. I swear there were twenty people in front of me after 50 yards as we started up what would be a quarter mile of steady climbing, some parts steep and some shallow. I've thrown up all sorts of clunkers this year- Arizona, Extrememan, Marty's duathlon that I dropped out of, but one thing I have gotten much better at is being patient and not panicking. That certainly helped me at Brian's and again at Shamrock. I just needed to remind myself this always happens at duathlons.

I started moving up. Soon I was in the top ten, the top eight, then I worked quickly into fourth. I was watching Jason run and my evaluation was a simple as it was unfortunate. I was not going to be able to run down Jason and still be in any shape to get on the bike. I admit I was looking past the other two guys in front of me, but only because I was waiting for the right moment to pass them in the woods. I worked my way into second. I have to be honest, I'm not sure when, somewhere in the back during the grass loop. I came through the loop and promptly headed in the wrong direction. A course marshall redirected me and I started bushwacking- I was quickly back on course, headed downhill towards transition and came in second, but with third right on my back- he was in transition before I got out. The other guy that was in the mix I'd put thirty seconds on, but I'd see him again.

I was in and out of transition very quickly- toe clips, yes, I'm the guy who still uses them. I settled down on my aerobars- yes, aerobars, but at least I have a straight up Stump Jumper mountain bike with nobby tires, not a cyclo-cross bike. I even asked about the aeros to make sure they were legal for the race. Turns out so were cyclo-cross bikes, but i don't think anyone gets an advantage using one when there's any amount of single-track or mush. I started pedaling like mad but Jason was slowly pulling away. the trail we rode on is what you'd expect for a well-kept trail by a railroad track, hard-packed dirt with small crushed stone. Perfectly fine for aero work except for where larger stone was used to fill holes or at intersections.

Then we hit a section that was grass, like the run and your legs start to feel rubbery as you climb uphill on grass that's wet and kind of soggy (it had rained the night before). There were two-three inch deep ruts that you had to stay out of. Then it was back on the trail. Somebody yelled 'Go alan.' Still don't know who and I know they were talking to me. Then it was into the single track. I haven't been on single-track in a long time, months to years, depending on how strict your definition is. Halfway through I had to take my left foot out of the clip and it had to stay out until I got back on the trail. I rode well, but the guy that had been fourth on the run caught me after we got on the trail. He wasn't sure what to do- he sat off my shoulder about three lengths back and decided on when to make his move. That, well, I don't like that. But I'm sure it was clean. he went by and I went into 'no panic' mode. I'd beaten this guy on the first run, he had to change his shoes. I just needed to keep him in sight. I let him get four bike lengths and then tried to hold him there.

He was looking back, which was good. But four became six became eight. Ten. then we hit a wicked downhill with 'loose gravel' signs warning the bottom was dangerous. He went full throttle. I did not. I went into transaition almost thirty seconds down.

There was an announcer. He made a BIG deal about how much time I'd caught back in transition and as we ran out estimated that I'd make the catch within twenty seconds and he also said we were 1:38 behind the leader. I made the catch.

I'm very proud of the fact my second 2 mile loop was only 3 seconds slower than the first loop. But the marathon and 5k double had toasted me and the second loop was HARD all the way to the final downhill. I ended up losing by over two minutes. Jason would have beat me if I'd trained a month for the race and gotten ten hours sleep and drank five less beers then night before, but again, I went to the reunion to hang out.

This was a great race with great sponsors. But when the race director talked about how he'd been trying for three years to get Jason to come do the race, i had to laugh. He'd actively recruited the only guy that beat me. Too funny.

If you're in upstate New York next year the third weekend in October, take the mountain bike and expect a fun, well-run race with great timing by Score-This, pizza after the race, and a good fair course...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hartford Marathon, Part II

20 people ?

I started hauling ass up through the ranks. My 'don't look back' rule had not served me well as far as a bathroom break went. I still had the guy in orange and the guy in blue and white in my sights, but they were pretty far off, and my immediate goal was to undo the damage my bladder had caused.

I caught the first fifteen, and I have to be honest, I was a little demoralised that there were so many more people hanging off my back. Worse, I had to work pretty damn hard to move back up and my whole plan was to not work particularly hard, but as I had in recent races, simply hang on, wait, then move up as people wore out.

I caught the last four guys. They were all post-college guys in their twenties, nine plus miles into the race and chatting it up, which was funny to me, but probably normal for them. One of the guys said that he'd run at UNH (New Haven). I otherwise would not have interjected myself into the conversation, as that would have been rude (and I had no desire to talk, another theme that would re-occur yet again). We talked about UNH's desire to move up to D one among other things. We ran as a group to the turn-around, and then started picking people off. At the same time, by the time we got to fourteen, the four-man group had split, with two in front, one in no man's land, and the other off the back. I tried to tuck in with the front two but they were setting a nice pace that was more than I had left in me.

We were all picking other people off. My left quad, or whatever that muscle on the front of your thigh is, was starting to hurt. With a long run of 90 minutes going into the race, I expected some things to ache a little. My left calf hurt, and my right knee hurts. But there were no bio-mechanical shortcomings in my stride, my breathing was good, the cliff blocks were helping me. I was dumping at least half a cup of water on my head at every stop, which I'd starting doing at mile 2- that's right, I went front to back pouring cold water on my head. At fourteen, I broke the race down into three mile segments and felt I ran 14-17 very well, and was running a good 17-20

But people were coming back to me. I took advantage of every 5-10 foot rise in the terrain and I felt really good- until some guy in yellow and black went breezing by me past 19. I thought he was going to simply bury me, and although he'd built up about 10 seconds at 20 miles, he never really pulled away.

I passed twenty, and except for this guy, I was feeling good. Here I was, untrained, cruising. No meltdown, no breakdown, no sick stomach or light-headedness or just plain feeling like shit. The course got as hilly as it was going to get and there was a little wind, but I could have cared less. People were coming back to me. I started using the guy who'd passed me as a barometer of my own pace, just as a check.

The older guy in the headband came back to us. The guy in blue and white, eventually even the guy in orange, who'd been out of site. Down by the field they use for Capital City, we went by a guy running in memory of an Iraq war soldier who'd been killed and he was doubled over. I'd just completed a pass of the guy in yellow and black and I clapped the guy that was struggling on the back and said 'You can do. you're doing great.' He started to run again, although it might not have lasted long.

I kept pulling away or closing ground on the short little hills.

My last pass was a woman just after the railroad tracks at mile 25. Someone was running with her and we exchanged 'you're doing greats' and then it was the long haul over that last mile, around the park, up the hill as you're doing it. I felt like I was blasting my way to the chute and who was there in the chute ? Marty Schiavone, with nothing but happy things to say and Margit and Ian were there as well.

I ran 1:27 and change going out, and 1:29 and change coming back, and wow, I was actually happy with that. Now if you'd told me I'd be running (and winning) a 5K the next day, I'd have laughed out loud

(more tomorrow)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hartford Marathon- Buy Low, Sell High

After missing the online registration deadline by an hour Tuesday, I also passed on chances to drive 50 minutes to Manchester Wednesday and 45 minutes to Hartford yesterday, leaving only race day registration.

Note to self (what this blog is one big one of, after all)- bad idea. Second note to self- check HMF website late the night before if I make this mistake again. At about 10:30 last night they posted a warning that only 20 spots remained for the half marathon. By the time I parked my car at 6:50, the half was closed. Fortunately, I'd decided on jumping into the marathon back on Tuesday for some very specific reasons, so there was no issue for me. The registration was- well, getting registered was not bad. Getting a t-shirt ? That was bad.

Bottom line, I was late to commit to the race, and on race day you take what you can get and get what you can take, especially when you're jumping into a marathon you didn't train for. I know I did get a medium long-sleeve t-shirt- reading one of the message board some people who pre-registered didn't.

After weeks of being spoiled with hot temperatures, today was the first truly cold weekend day of the fall. It was less than 50 when I left the house, and at 7:45 when I dropped my bag off and was committed to a singlet and bike shorts, it was still a little chilly. Bill Sheetz saw me and was surprised I didn't have gloves on. I'm kind of an all or nothing glove wearer. It has to be pretty cold then I don't mess around with those disposable hand-peds. I didn't even bother with arm warmers- I was confident that it would be 56-57 and pushing towards 60 by the halfway point. I saw people with plastic bags and heavy shirts and headbands that covered their ears and of course, whatever works for you works (even if it's a big ear-covering headband and no shirt).

I ran into a large number of people I know in the corral before the race. Most of them were running the half- Charlie Hornak, Frank Tirotello were two.

We traded jokes about how loud the sound system was and kept it lose until the race started. We headed out and the first person I saw at the bottom of the park was Rob Straz, outrunning me early. We traded some pleasantries and Charlie and I settled in and traded casual conversation about fantasy football and the race. After the initial downhill and a short uphill out on the highway, the race got pretty flat.

I was wearing the Elite kit again, and sure enough someone came up behind me and said 'Dave Greenfield'. That was back before 2 miles. We talked about bikes for a while- this guy is getting a new Razor, I think, after putting down his T-Class. I've rarely spoken with so many people about one guy and had everyone be so positive (my coach Eric is another one of those people).

I noticed they had a gu stop at 2 miles, which made no sense to me, but I carry my own nutrition...

I started gently suggesting to Charlie that he should pick it up. My plan was to run in the 6:40 range for as long as possible, with the idea that even if I slipped to 6:50, I'd still break three hours, which was the only goal I was willing to discuss with anyone. But Charlie was running about the pace he planned to run, so we stayed together until the 4 mile mark, shortly after which the two races split. During that time I moved up when I had to, passing people who'd gone out to fast and bringing Charlie with me. I really wanted Charlie to go for his own benefit, but I wanted him to go for mine as well- the 6:36s we were running were too fast for me.

After the split I considered slapping on the headphones. They were not illegal this year although they are claiming they will be in 2008. I think this is a bad rule for this race, given that they don't use USATF for insurance and headphones simply aren't dangerous on closed courses for road races, nor do I buy the complaint from running purists about them either. But it wasn't going to be that kind of day.

I ran up on one athlete in blue and white that would be back and forth with me for the next ten miles somewhere past five miles and he started a conversation- the usual marathon banter, what time are you looking to run, how your form looks at that point, what your goals are. I was willing to discuss breaking three hours, beyond that any explanation would not fit into a marathon running pace.

The bottom line is that I ran a pretty solid marathon within my LP Ironman in 2006. Since then ? Another meltdown at Mystic last year starting at around 19 miles. Despite running a 2:55:40, I was on pace after 15 miles to run under 2:50 and just couldn't hold it- and I was trained for the race, doing long runs and two-a-days specifically to be ready, and that was pretty much how every Mystic went- 2:55, 2:56, 2:58, 3:01. That was followed by my run-walk-run marathon at Arizona. Result- I needed to prove to myself that I can succeed at long-course events, and that means being steady. I wasn't trying to run fast- if I were, I'd train and look to break my lame 2:46 PR, which I believe I can do for the next few years. I wanted to run as close to a flat time between halves as possible. Why ? I want to have my best marathon at LP in four tries next year.

I separated somewhat from that runner, partly to get alone with my thoughts and partly to get away from some foot-slapping noise. Soon a guy with a headband who looked about 50 or so went by at around 6. This is where you ask yourself whether you need to be patient or show some intensity- it's easy when you are being patient to slow down too much. I decided that patience was in order, and also reminded myself that I would be beat by women (5), by guys 50+ (2), teammates (2), maybe even by people I didn't particularly like (0).

Another runner in an orange shirt came up and the same conversation issued. I did share with him that I really needed to use the port-a-loo. I'd actually needed to pee since before the race started and was not willing to do the urination shuffle I'd seen one other runner do. I can pee on the bike. While running ? Forget it.

At the next port-a-loo, I started to break across the road, only to watch a woman wearing two sweatshirts and baggy pants and carrying a purse start in. Someone must have seen that I wanted to go because there was actually an outcry from several nameless spectators (thanks !) but the woman didn't hear and I wasn't going to stop AND wait. I went on. I let the guy in orange pull away and focused on hitting the loo at approximately 9 miles. Since I basically refuse to look behind me, I ahd no idea what was going on but I had this ideal (false) that I was running in a vacuum. Why not ? I typically do.

I ducked in, peed, and timed it. Fifteen seconds was all I gave myself. Anything more I was not willing to try and make up over the next mile. That might be silly, but I figured I'd better have a plan, or I might regret letting nature call later.

When I came back out, at least 20 people had passed me. 20 people ? I was- unhappy.

(more later)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Half or Marathon

Hartford is in three days and here I am debating whether to run the half, the whole marathon, or nothing.

I logged on Tuesday morning around 9 am to sign up, having decided that despite my coach telling me to run the half and wanting to do well at an out-of-state duathlon the next weekend, I was going to do the marathon just to get one in this year.

Online registration had closed at eight- I know this is picky, but if you're going to say registration closes on Tuesday, at least make it noon...

I really don't like running marathons any more and have done Mystic out of a sense duty/because coach says to do it. The marathon is a very hard thing, harder in some very specific ways than an Ironman. I wouldn't say that the marathon is harder, but it is harder in some ways, and I haven't exactly enjoyed the last few. Running that far, as hard as you can, it's a lot of really, really hard work and the satisfaction I get out of it is just not like that of even a bad Ironman.

That's a very personal thing. Marathons are great races and the fact that I haven't really enjoyed the last few I've done doesn't mean it's not a great distance or that Hartford isn't a good race. But I have no intention of running Boston next year- I've run Boston and don't feel an urge to go back- nor do I think a spring marathon makes for a good summer Ironman (in my case). At the same time, I've run the Hartford half two years in a row and there's something a little, well, it's not the same running the other race at a big race. The half-marathon is actually just one of the other races Saturday (along with the 5K).

So, the marathon it is ?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

i in iPod for inDestructable ?

Last Sunday, after running the Niantic Bay Half-Marathon, my Force 5 singlet was tossed in the wash. I'm not sure how or who did it and it doesn't matter, but this particular iPod Shuffle has been through a lot. It's gotten lost twice, dropped repeatedly (with the dents to prove it) and used by my son. The shuffle is special, however because it was given to me with my 2006 Lake Placid Ironman time engraved on it- guess that's one way for me to always have a reminder of what I should be focused on.

The ipod was still attached to the pouch on the back of the singlet. It went through the wash. Mostly likely still attached, it went into the dryer. Now, the constant banging in the dryer, which is in a closet in my kitchen, should have been a tip-off, you might think. Not at all. While I gave up all my '80s era buckle-festooned clothes around 1990, I live with a two-year old and a woman, so I take it for granted that the dryer cycle is loud, large, and live.

So I was surprised when Margit handed me the iPod the next day and said, 'here, this came out of the dryer.' I was taken aback, and not in the good way. Still, I have had other 'soaked' Apple products continue to function, so I plugged it right into my Mac immediately.

It showed up in my iTunes straight away and was identified by name and I thought I was golden. But I know that a single mount is not a guarantee a piece of computer equipment will work. I gave it a minute, unmounted it and plugged it back in. The light on it flashed- first red, then yellow, then green, then red again. No ipod showed up in the list.

I left it plugged in, hoping it would charge overnight and then work- and it did.

I've done three ninety minute plus workouts since and it's made it through each one, and damn, I'm psyched. While I do have a spare shuffle, having my favourite audio workhorse still game for my workouts is a big deal.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Niantic Bay Half-Marathon

After running the Mystic Places Marathon or marathon relay every year, I was disappointed (although not surprised) to have the Marathon fold. It was replaced by the race I ran today, which was JB kindly comped me for in exchange for doing surveys for the Marathon.

I have to admit that I wasn't really looking at this race with very much focus. As usual, I am still in triathlon mode in the end of September and I'd just come off consecutive races- Hammerfest and Extrememan. I did transition myself to duathlon training this week- I skipped the short pool workouts and took my my bike to work or ran at lunch every day and did another bike or run after work. I also knew I'd be doing a fifty mile ride the day before, and while the Ride for Rick is a charity ride, the front end of the 50 miler is fairly brisk. I led the way up most of the hills and then the big boys did the hard work on the flats and the last 5 miles, but the ride left my legs just a little bit tight and certainly it wasn't the right way to prepare for a long road race. We also spent the afternoon at the Durham Fair, so by 7 PM last night I was beat.

There are no excuses on race day, though. Well, if you get to the starting line, that is.

After racing at the park every year I was taking certain things for granted- like the starting line being at the same place. It wasn't. About 15 minutes before the race Margit came over and let me know I was in the wrong place. It took a good five minutes to run to the starting line- soon after I got there JB announced that the 5k would start in 4 minutes, the half-marathon in 9 minutes. I wasn't just warmed-up, I was over-cooked.

I spent a few minutes talking to teammate Oscar Gonzales-Barretto, who is just an awesome 40+ runner and the certain winner of my age-group. The start of the race was one of these crazy 100 yard wide start line funneling into a single lane road- kind of like a mass start of a swimming, but for me, less frustrating.

The start went amazingly the well- the top ten runners (including me) were able to get to the road without any problems and then we started racing. I was running alongside Charlie Iselin and we started talking. I was counseling a moderated approach and New Haven came up- Charlie brought it up. At New Haven I let Charlie run away from me, but he started to struggle at about five miles and I eventually came back on him. Today, I was trying to get him to stay with me, and that worked for about 3 miles. We made it out of the park and were headed out towards Giant's Neck. But shortly after three miles, Charlie and another runner had who'd come up on us started pulling away and I let them go because their pace was not where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, some 50 year-old runner who would end up finishing about 5 minutes behind me was absolutely stuck to me, occasionally passing me, then falling back behind. A shuffler, the noise was driving me crazy. That's one of those things that is really tough. Everyone has every right to run however they want- I run with my number behind me and cliff shot block packages rustling in my pouch.

You can't turn around and tell someone to run quieter. The low point was at around four miles. I was running into the wind, uphill, the shuffler in front of me, Charlie and the other guy just a little farther head than I wanted then. I felt tired. My left hamstring was so tight my calf felt it was going to cramp. I tried to stay calm and positive and ate my first bag of Cliff Shot Blocks. I had another nine miles. I worked to start to slowly close the gap between Charlie and his running mate, and hopefully that would drop the shuffler. I overtook them just before the turn back onto the main road and started running downhill into the park. They gave me some encouragement, then they closed me down and we ran back towards the finish together. As we headed for the turn-around they passed me and I felt like I was having trouble hanging on- I think they got a better bounce from the crowd than I did, although i was the one trying to work JB and Mark G. to say our names and give us the props. However, as we started heading out, I caught site of the guy in front of us- he had almost 30 seconds. I turned it on and dropped them short of 8 miles and that would be it. From there I was working my ass off to close this guy down. At the 9 mile mark, though, he still had ten seconds, I was again running into the wind, I needed to eat and I felt like I still had people close behind that might close me down if I faltered at all.

I did the only thing I could do- eat. We exited Giant's Neck and on that long stretch back we had to run on the yellow line because the one side of the road was open and the other was full of runners. I finally caught Vin, another 42 year-old, father of a 2.5 year old, triathlete and IM LP veteran, as we turned onto the main road.

I tried to pass him. He surged. I tried again, and again, and again. He was up to every challenge. I was just about out of gas. At Mile 12 I decided to make one last push, and that one got me the separation I was in desperate need of. I ran like I had just kicked a car and came in with a little time to spare, followed by Vin, who ran a great race and really put himself out there.

Especially coming off last week, running hard in the back half of the race and running away from several people really made me feel a lot better about my running. It might have been a week too late, but it's important to have a short memory when you race anyway.

Margit also had a great race and I owe her for getting me to the starting line...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Extrememan Half-Ironman

I really started this blog because I do such a poor job of self reporting otherwise, but this year's entries seem to have a common theme- what could have been. Let's not break that flow with this one.

We went and saw Richard II the night before and by the time we got home, settled in, and asleep, I ended up with 3 hours of sleep, and that probably includes some eyes closed brain open time. But EH always says it doesn't matter how much sleep you get the night before, so I got up and was out of the house and on the road in less than half an hour.

I got there pretty early, got a good rack spot, and once I found my head phones, I was happy. I did a good warm-up run and I was the first one in the water at about 6:30. I swam out to the first buoy and back, fixed a leaking google, got out, and looked over the course. It was long- really long. I spoke with a couple of the guys on the beach and they assured me that they had walked the beach (half a mile each way, plus the out to the buoy would be 1.2) and measured it by radar. Of course, I seem to have zero credibility as a swim-distance gager, apparently because I dislike swimming so much. No one listens. Ever. I get to do extra swimming. Joy.

I'd had a good week in the pool- 4 times in five days and somehow, my catch had improved in spite of the fact my hand and arm are attached to me. I started inside in the front, avoided any panic, kept my head down, and did all kinds of stuff I don't do in a race.

Once we hit the first buoy, the rest of the swim was brutal. Going away, we had the current coming across us but pushing us slightly forward, however, the sun was directly in our eyes, and sighting could only be done with a sideways glance. It forced me to basically act like, well, a triathlete. I had to slap feet, follow bubble trails, and swim in a pack. It was school or die.

Another re-occurring theme this year has been the hope of getting to the turn-around on a course, just wanting to hit a turn-around, and then finding out what was waiting was worse. The current was pretty strong. I didn't really worry about it. Not being that fast, it doesn't surprise me when I'm not swimming fast. I was having a problem staying off the beach and I drifting away from everyone else, but we'd been instructed that on the way back all we had to do was pass one buoy at the turn-in, so I felt had a better line and although I started taking on a little water, I just plugged along. At around 40 minutes, a bell or alarm went off in my head letting me know the swim should be over. I lifted my head, realised I was getting wicked neck chaffe, and saw the single buoy. It was hundreds of yards away. I put my head down, pointed my body at it, and kept going.

I climbed out seven seconds behind Michael at 54 minutes or so, after having swum a mile and an half (as later measured). Margit told me that I was 15 minutes behind. She seemed to think this was great and told me so. I however, thought of 15 minutes as a crushing deficit.

I hopped on the bike anyway. Four miles in, I lost a full minute because I trusted signs, a volunteer, and the guy in front of me. Wrong turns happen, this one hurt but I rode it off.

The bike was hard, there's no way around it. There wasn't any part of the course except the late cul-de-sac I hadn't been on, but still, climbing Higganum and Little City is a little work. I was only passed once, on 79. On Higganum, I threw my chain, most of the way up. Going down Clarendon I had to pass several roadies out for a Sunday ride including a Hods-chasing style decent to pass two guys in their tuck. They might not have racing, but it still would have been illegal to draft them.

On Roast Meat Hill, I peed, as I'd planned to from the time I left the water. Then I tried to eat my fourth pack of Cliff Shots. The sports drink on the course was a berry flavour not-gatorade that was not sitting well with the Lemon Lime blocks. I put the blocks in my mouth and gagged. Being me, instead of spitting the blocks out, I swallowed half. I gagged again. My response ? Swallow the rest. Moral of the story- your gag reflex IS smarter than you are.

148 was the most dispiriting part of the ride, but I worked my way back, came in seventh off the bike and started running, thinking I was about 7th.

First lap- awesome. I ran one guy with hamstring issues down right away- advised him to not start running again until he was sure that he was ok because he was trying to start and stop which is a good way not to finish. I ran some other guys down but was not sure what my place was.

Second lap- passed the guy who was the top male finisher go out, felt real strong, but on the back half of the lap, running into the wind, I started to fade just a little bit. I also started feeling kind of, well sick.

Third lap- I was struggling going out. Some guy on his second lap blew by me like Achilles, and I thought I might be dropping a pace. i wanted to and didn't want to throw up. Finally, halfway through the lap I walked for ten seconds while I sorted out the throw-up/don't throw up dilemma. I didn't. I started running again, and got passed. All I could think about was finishing, lying on the ground, and feeling like hell for a while.

I thought I was finishing sixth. I finished third, unless you count the relay. I hate getting beat by relays. And guys. And women. I got beat by one of each. I crossed the line, went down on all fours and stayed there until the paramedics came over. I went through the checklist- no blurred vision, trouble remembering who or where or when I was, no ringing in the ears, and so on. I did the list for them as a courtesy and they went back to to the van. I was fine, except for the feeling like dren part of it.

Bottom line- it was an accomplishment just to finish the race. But I was disappointed not to win and it was probably my only chance to win an half. But why complain ? I did make a great effort, I was spent was I was done. I should have been better. Maybe I'll learn something....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hammerfest Triathlon- Age Group Blues

Hammerfest typically signifies the end of my triathlon season- except that year that I did Florida- and the transition back to duathlons and running. Not this year. With a half-ironman coming seven days later, Hammerfest was once again a tune-up for a bigger race, in fact a tune-up for a big mysterious adventure, a first time race with some last-minute course modifications thrown in, a small field and a distance I've never raced this late in the season.

The day started early- my son woke up at 4:40 AM. Here I had the luxury of going to a race a few miles from my house that starts at 7:30 AM, and I was up at 4:40...

Breakfast was coffee, a banana and some Red Bull. I got to race, found the sitters for my son- thanks, meneo family, you are awesome- and went looking for my bike, which had been racked earlier. I got in the water around 7:15, got good and warmed up and then waited and tried to decide whether to swim early or walk, as the tide was out.

I took the sucker bet and swam, and regretted it. My wave literally walked away from me and man would I regret that !

I had a good swim- head down all the way, trailing the bulk of my wave but I swam steady and ran up the hill past several fellow red caps. I was on the bike quick and this is my home course, the place I time trial, so it was a good time. Unlike past years, no one was sucking my wheel, no one passed me the entire bike. I went as hard as I could and then wheeled back in and started transition.

My feet were numb. The toes of my left foot wouldn't go in my flats, so I widened the opening and kept trying. Started running on frozen stumps and it took forever to catch the first guy in front of me and then it started to click. I was running well, but near the turn around I saw a balding guy with glasses about 25 seconds ahead of me. i had about three miles to run him down. Last year I missed placing in my age group by 16 seconds. I wanted to do that this year. I tried, or thought I did. In the last mile, I was looking at this guy the whole way.

13 seconds after he finished, I finished. Another 4th place finish...not happy. Not happy at all. 13th overall ? Nice, but not what I hoped for.

That said, it's a great race, you can't pass up racing in your backyard, can you ? It's for a great cause, the race is a lot of fun, what more could you want ? How important can an embroidered towel really be ?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Haven Road Race

It's hard to believe that the race was almost a week ago now.

The race looms over the early part of my September every year and I view it with a mix of anticipation and dread. On one hand, as a member of the road race board for at least the last five years, it's nice to see the Friday morning meetings, the packet stuff, the race bag pick-up and everything else materialise into the actual race, and to be connected to something which is so well run (by others, not me), so well liked, and such a big-time running event.

On the other hand, committing time at the start of the Fall semester is a real challenge, and the race it self ? Historically, this is not a race at which I run well, or at least, not run as well as I would like. I compare it to the hillier Fairfield half-marathon, where I ran a 1:18, and look at the sorry collections of 1:15s and the 1:20+ I ran last year and wonder why I never prosper at this race.

Of course, you have to go into the race with your good sense firmly in place. The race is huge. Cracking the top twenty in your age group can be a challenge- it is a national championship, after all. A guy like me is going to get beat by more than a hundred men and women, and everyone seems to bring their best to the race. So if you are ever going to run a race against the clock and only the clock, this one is a good choice.

That said, the number one race killer for me has been the fast start. I usually position myself in an area with some other runners I know, not too far from some other Hitek and Mohegan guys, whose pace I'm familiar with, about 2-3 rows in. I usually then proceed to explode over the line, get sucked into a ridiculous pace and run a 5:30 first mile which sets the stage for a melt-down somewhere in the no-man's land between miles 8 and 9, when I'm not even clear on where in New Haven I actually am anymore.

I got out in a leisurely 5:42, running along with Charlie Iselin. I had a two-day sinus infection and was on day two, so I was dry by the mile mark but I couldn't get over to the table to get water. We exchanged some brief conversation, agreeing that was too fast. Charlie's an amazingly genial guy who will work with you and encourage you if he comes up on you during a race to come along. We both backed off, but I was really thinking about the heat that was coming and how I usually suck on the back half of the course. I let Charlie start to open up a gap slowly and stuck with what I hoped was around a 6:15 pace, which was my goal for the first ten miles. A large number of women and guys I thought I'd been trying to keep off my back in a shorter race went by, but I was determined to not get into oxygen debt early.

We turned into the first hill and I climbed at about 90%, took some water at the top of the hill, and I think that was about where Ian Frankel came up on me. He's a Hitek teammate and was running what was to be his last race in his age group, I think I gave him some encouragement and kept going and soon Dave Pantin (also on the board) and another runner in my age group went by.

Through mile 4 everyone started pulling away. Charlie got about 20 seconds, and everyone else built close to half a minute. Usually this is the point of the race where I get discouraged. then I push hard up over the bridge on 10 and by the time I hit Long Wharf, I'm gassed, I feel miserable, and oh, more and more people pass me.

I let everyone go, and focused on my nutrition. At mile 5, I was going to eat a pack of Cliff Shot Blocks. I waited. I watched people's backs. I ate.

Charlie started to come back to me. I closed the gap without changing speed. I watched Ian, who'd hooked onto a woman who'd passed me about the same time. I tried to keep Dave in sight.

I hit the 10K mat at 38:50. That's a at least a minute slower than last year, I think. But I felt good, even though Mary-Lynn Currier had passed me within the last mile and I knew Kerry Arsenault (both teammates) couldn't be far behind.

The best part of my race was still ahead of me, and that was only possible because I stayed calm on Long Wharf, even though Mary-Lynn and Ian were now 20 seconds ahead by the end (Ian tends to slow up at the water stations). I kept it even and thought about closing people down. Around mile 8, Ian started to come back a little but not too much. By mile 9, I'd hooked with 3 guys who came up on my right slowly and whose pace I was able to match. We started running people down, passing Ian (who ended up getting water cramps) and then working up the hill in East Rock (where we really moved up places). I lost the guys on the downhill, which I did not want to blow up.

It was still damn hard running, downhill or no, that last 1.5 miles. Dave and the other 40-something were tantalizingly close, but I never did catch then. I trimmed all but 10 seconds of their lead away, but in the end, I wasn't able to pass them as I passed quite a few others. The next finisher after me was Mary-Lynn and Kerry was only 20 seconds back.

The 1:18:41 is a far cry from the series of 1:15s I ran, but it was a solid two minutes faster than last year, and it felt a lot better as well. More proof that a steady, solid performance feels better and lends itself to better results than a hot start and a late meltdown....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Park City Olympic

There's probably no distance I'm less qualified to race than the Olympic distance- 3/4 the distance of an half-ironman swim, but less than half the distance of the bike and run. The oversimplified math- more swimming plus less running and biking.

I should probably not have signed up for the race, either. The University where I work now holds move in day on the same Sunday, meaning that by going to the race, I miss this big event, where my staff is responsible for doing a variety of things all of which are likely to fail- although my staff did a great job this year and it ended up neither what they were doing or the prep work I'd down prior caused anything but joy and happiness.

I'm not one of great pre-race athletes in any case. I'm usually pretty quiet, preferring to slip on the ipod headphones, listen to some snow patrol, coldplay, evanescence, get in a short warm-up, and then resign myself to the race. That's right, anything that starts with a swim does not inspire anticipation, only a sort of cold dread. I mean, my goal for the race was to place in my age group, but excitement ? Not really one of my pre-race thoughts- something I should work on.

My warm-up died a quick death when a woman I'd never met started gesturing to me to follow her while I was running. At first I nearly ignored her because I assumed she was either signaling someone else or simply didn't know who I was, however, I turned to follow and there was an athlete collapsed on the ground outside a port-a-potty. He eventually claimed the overwhelmingly horrible smell caused him to become light-headed. This sport is amazing for perspective. I was busy trying not to think about how tired my legs felt after a bad week of work and training, here's a guy that needed to lie by a port-a-potty just to get his legs under him. We walked him back to transition but he refused to go to the medical tent and as far as I can tell, he raced...

So, the swim. I'm going to be honest here because what's the point of having a blog and not being honest ? I really was uncomfortable in the first lap of the two lap swim, so uncomfortable that I could only occasionally keep my head down- you would think after 5 ironmans that the oddly claustrophobic combination of the feelings of being left behind and not being able to breath would no longer be an issue. But it is. I was losing time and I knew it, but I sort of kept going until I was dragging my knuckles on the sand on the way in. At that point I stood up and tried to run- but I was knee deep and I could walk. What a thing- walking. All I could think of was that I was walking during the first 15 minutes of a race...

The second lap went better except for some confusion over whether to head back out sighted on the first or second buoy (this is why I need to learn to breath from both sides...). At the point I realised I was swimming at the wrong buoy, I really had a strong sense that any hope of placing in my age group was out the window. I was really discouraged.

The bike is tough. 5 loops, lots of people. Lots of 'on your left please, on your left please, on your left, MOVE LEFT'. I had to yell fairly harshly at one woman who complained that she was already passing someone. The problem was, she'd executed the pass, had five bike lengths and was still afraid to move back over. Still, I thought there was less clumping (and drafting) than last time I did the race, and except for the podium finisher who passed me on the right for no good reason, it was not a bad ride. I spent five loops trying (and failing) to catch Steve Surprise. When I saw him on the first lap I knew he had 5 minutes on me. Still, I knew I had to ride hard, but not too hard, and just try to move up.

The run- I decided to divide the 10k, which is two loops, into 1.5 mile segments (more or less) and not push too hard. I knew I could easily go out angry at myself, blow up, and end up unable to really run well. I caught Steve, then I started catching people in my age group. I drank Gatorade. I poured water and ice on my head and down my back as the heat crept up and the humidity held at 50% or more. And my age group competitors came back to me. When I passed them, I made no effort to pull away, just kept the pace.

I ran myself into third place.

What did I learn: I can be a pretty clueless triathlete. I went into the race not even knowing how long the bike route was or how long the race might take. When I came in pushing 2:20 I was surprised at how long the race was. Fortunately for me. Patience, not aggressiveness, was the right tact to take, and while the victory was a minor one, I did achieve my goal...

He was in sight when I started the run and I decided

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Clinton Bluefish 5k Recap

I've only been involved in two above board races this month- a 5K at one end and a swim across Long Island Sound at the other.

I'm actually qualified to run 5ks, unlike swimming across things, but I have to say that distance training, or whatever training I'm doing these days, is not good 5k training. But I was still psyched for this race because Margit and two friends were also doing the race- my high school friend Darren and Rob Bove- ex-student employee and now friend.

I knew I wasn't really in for a great race. Our friend Minh flew in for the draft but his plane was two hours late and by the time I was crawling into bed it was after midnight. It had been, by my standards, not a good week for working out. I was tired, my knee is still less than 100%, and the race typically draws some pretty damn fast college kids, why I don't know.

I raced the way I expected to, which is that I struggled in the final mile and lost two spots in my age group, posting an 18:30 that was not that exciting.

But hey, I'll take it. What was really important was that I was sharing this race with friends- not runners that have become friends, but rather friends that have become runners. Rob ran so hard he tossed his cookies after the race. Darren had a great race and Margit was 5th in her age group- pushing Ian. Talk about perspective....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Eight Coaches, Lots of Beers, Lousy Players

In another departure from my usual type of post, today we had our 13th draft, and for the first time in a long time, every team was represented either by their coach or a stand-in- and not just any stand-in but rather a former league champion. Our league is a keeper league, and last year we protected eight players and drafted one rookie after the NFL draft. We also have abnormally large rosters- 26 players, to accommodate playing right through the Super Bowl, long after most leagues have shuttered. Yet more unusually, we started off the day running 5K- half the coaches in the league turned out to run the Clinton Bluefish 5K, which was an amazing thing, with spectacular performances turned in by Margit, Darren, and Bove.

When 64 established players and 8 rookies are already off the table, even the first round of the 17 round draft is going to include a reach or two and while there was plenty of suspense (sort of) about who the first pick would be- Ronnie Brown- there was also a palpable sense of resignation about drafting down through the seemingly endless rounds.

What amazes me- and should tell me exactly why it is I never win my league- is how the same players end up on my roster year in and year out. I went into the draft determined (as I have been for several years) to break the cycle of choosing familiarity over talent. And I started out on the right foot- I reeled in Maurice Jones-Drew, a player that was on another roster last year and plays for a team- Jacksonville- that I really dislike. But 10 of remaining 16 picks involved players on my roster last year, and I tapped the Bears, Jets, and Dolphins 8 times.

I seem to remember last year going hog-wild on Dolphins, which did nothing for me except to leave me with a lot of guys to cut as the Dante Culpepper stuck a fork in their season. Of course, the one Dolphin I should have kept, Ronnie Brown, did not survive the playoff purge.

The draft itself went pretty well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We had a laptop for everyone, almost enough power, plenty of beer and food and although it took four hours, having everyone available was a much better experience. I want to thank everyone for showing up and getting the season- if not my team- off to a great start.

My team, on the other hand, is pretty beat.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Swim Across the Sound

Hard to believe the swim was nearly a week ago, but it was a pretty rough week, so...

I was NOT looking forward to the swim. There were a number of things about it that were not exactly what I usually look for in a day- getting up at 4 am (not something i do even for the Ironman), spending a great training day (stuck) on a boat, but mostly swimming miles from the nearest shore. I do plenty of outdoor swim training alone, but in small lakes or in the ocean near the shore. The idea of being miles from the nearest strip of land, swimming in water that is probably close to one hundred feet deep is not a good one. I was also worried that I'd be holding my six-man team back, and generally that I would simply embarrass myself. But I told myself it was for charity and in memory of Dave Parcells and I just had to get out there and do it no matter how uncomfortable.

The day turned out, quite simply, much better than I could have imagined. First, the family who donated the services of their boat where awesome, just great. I can't say enough about what a good job they did, how nice they were, and how much that made the day work.

Second, my teammates were great. First, an extra nod to recent Ironman Lake Placid competitor Howard Jones, who had a stomach virus and still swam his ass off for us. Now I have to think stomach virus and all day on a boat are about as diametrically opposed as you get. Howard spent the time in between swims keeping what little food he ate down, but he rocked in the water. Tom Coffey was our lead leg and he kept catching the people I kept losing ground on. Margit and Sue Fegleman also swam extremely well, and John and I managed half a mile every fifteen minutes.

The event is very well run. The number of boats and jet skis with police officers on them and the Coast Guard who protect us from the seemingly endless stream of IDIOTS with boats (and the caps are deserved) can't be spoken about enough. What you here about how stupid power boat drivers can be is true and then some, but we were always safe and no one came near us except other swimmers.

What really surprised me though was how much (with the exception of the final swim into Captain's Cove, which was unspeakably foul) I really enjoyed doing something I'd been secretly dreading. I actually swam well, for me. I got caught up in working with my teammates and trying to get the job done. We might have been the 29th team (out of about 39), but we still did pretty well on the day and when it was all over, while relieved, I wasn't dying to get off the boat or amazed that I'd survived. Instead, I'd swum at least two miles, done what I had to do, helped raise some money, and had a good time.

Eric talks about stepping outside our comfort zone. this was definitely where I started the day, but not where I ended it...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Swim Across the Sound

I'll warn each of you that I am once again soliciting small donations for a swimming event, this time the Swim Across the (Long Island) Sound.

Now, I know what you're thinking here:

a) Can't this guy just swim for free ?
b) Should he really be using 'swim across' in a sentence that also features the pronoun I ?

Fortunately, I am not actually attempting to Swim Across the entire Sound- that's a 15-17 mile journey (depending on tide and navigation abilities of your boat captain). I'm on a six person team, who will no doubt make sure my one-sixth of the journey is as short as possible. Even better, if you'd prefer to give money to support Margit's swim, she's on the same team as I am (poor Margit).

But here's where it gets serious: We're swimming to honour the memory of Dave Parcells, who was the guiding force behind this annual charity event. Dave died while swimming the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim earlier this year and his passing has affected a tremendous number of people.

Here's what my teammate John Brennan said about Dave and the Swim: "The Swim Across the Sound has always been a great event to benefit a great cause for St. Vincent’s. Dave Parcells made it even greater over the years with his tireless devotion to the event and the sport of endurance swimming. He was a great man, friend, and most importantly a great father. To those of us that do extreme sports Dave was super human with his drive and courage from Ironman races which pale in comparison to not only his single crossing of the English Channel but also to his double crossings of the English Channel. Dave passed away suddenly in April doing the sport he loved the most while competing in the 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim. You will be missed Dave but never forgotten. So please help out this year and make this swim in David’s memory a great achievement for St. Vincent’s. Thank you.

The best thing is that this time you don't have to send a check (those of you who have supported my plunge efforts have had varying success getting your checks cash in a timely fashion). You can go to and donate.

Please consider a small donation to this worthy cause, and yes, I'll cough up pictures of the swim after it's over (along with some sea bilge)...

What is the Swim?
The Swim Across the Sound was inspired by people whose lives had been touched by cancer and who were determined to turn that experience into positive, active steps to help others. One of the region's most exciting and compelling athletic events, the Swim involves amateur solo swimmers and relay teams, swimming 25 kilometers from Port Jefferson, LI to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport to raise pledges to help cancer patients and their families.

While the Swim marathon is the marquee event, the Swim has grown dramatically, sponsoring more than 30 events annually to raise funds to help support cancer survivors, such as the Tour de Sound (bike ride), Aquathon, Sikorsky Walk to Fight Women's Cancers, Teen Smoke Stoppers, and a Circus for Special Children.

The Swim’s mission is committed to breaking down the barriers to access for cancer screening and prevention programs. It is also committed to providing education about how people can minimize their risks for cancer and improve their chances of surviving the disease. The Swim supports no research, but has a unique niche, providing services 34 cancer education, screening and prevention programs of which many are free. The Swim typically offers help for services that traditional health insurance would not cover. In addition, the Swim helps cancer patients on a case-by-case basis to fit an individual’s specific needs.

St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation along with a young man who had lost a leg to cancer launched the Swim in 1987. The purpose was to raise awareness of the impact cancer could have on an individual and their families and help raise funds to help these patients deal with real life issues. The Swim raised a total of $5,000 in its first year. Since then the Swim has grown dramatically, raising $2.5 million in 2004 and helping more than 18,000 cancer patients and their families.

For several years, the marathon swim was the only fundraising event. In the early 90's, after several successful years, the race was converted into a professional marathon swim across the Sound. It became part of a professional marathon circuit and many of the world's best swimmers began coming to Bridgeport to compete in this exciting event. The Swim returned to its amateur roots in 2003, converting the swim marathon back to all amateurs.

Talk to anyone who takes part in the Swim or its other events other as a competitor, volunteer, sponsor or fan and you'll quickly understand why the Swim is so important. The fact is, everyone knows someone whose life has been changed by cancer, and through the Swim everyone can help. The race against cancer is a war that must be fought on many fronts, and all are important. We believe that cancer prevention and early detection (when cancer is most curable) provide the best opportunities to make the greatest possible impact on the greatest number of people with the funds we raise.

Whether by providing no-cost/low-cost mammography screening, helping teens stop smoking, or assisting patients undergoing cancer therapy, the Swim brings a message of hope that the direction of cancer can be changed. None of the successes of the Swim would be possible without the special volunteers and donors who support us. The hundreds of supporters who join each year makes all this possible.

Today, the Swim has become one of the most successful fundraising events of its kind in the USA. Please join the Swim in turning the tide against cancer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tour Delivers ?

It's clear reading the papers, the cycling sites, and all the respected news outlets that there are only two ways to look at this year's Tour- either a complete disgrace in need of major reworking for next year, or the obvious end of the sport.

Of course, it's true that no amount of cheating can be tolerated in sport. Once you tolerate it, the whole underpinning of sport is taken away. However, clearly not all cheating is equal. Doping (especially in cycling), point shaving in sports that are decided by a point system, hoping on a bus in a marathon- these are all unforgivable. Doping in football and baseball is clearly forgivable, however- you have Bonds, McGuire, and other be-muscled home run freaks in baseball. In football, remember you have to test positive twice before you are even suspended for four games, and no announcement is made as to why a player fails a test. In triathlon, Nina Kraft failed a test after winning in Kona, yet somehow the Ironman soldiers on gamely.

Naturally, taking this kind of attitude clearly ignores the frequency with which doping comes up as an issue in the Tour, which has simply had too many doping scandals. This year was especially shocking after the last few years, when a steady stream of doping incidents took out Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich (the only one of the bunch earning a double-raspberry for also dabbling in recreational drugs), and finally Tour 'winner' Floyd Landis. It was expected, well, maybe too strong a word- hoped- that 2007 would be the year the peleton rode clean, and I think that media started beating the 'now or never' drum so loud, so early, that they roundly believed this was the Tour's last hope, and in some cases I get the impression that certain sports writers can't heap enough dirt on the sport fast enough, just so they can get rid of it.

Which is not to say that the positive Vinokourov test wasn't shatteringly bad for the sport and an indication of a serious problem. The other two positive tests hardly seem to be on the same level as this one. Vinocheatkov won two stages and tested positive after BOTH of them. The Rasmussen thing is a different mater as UCI and Rabobank both dropped the ball on this one. If he'd been banned before the start of the tour, articles about how the Tour was 'decapitated by doping' would not have embarrassed the race AND the sport- and to be fair, these articles were unfair in that Rasmussen didn't actually test positive. Did he dope ? Maybe, probably, almost certainly. But the only crime anyone has on him right now is being a great big danish ass.

Morale in the peleton was low and that's probably a better indication than the all the ink and photons wasted on slamming the sport. Clearly cycling has a huge problem it needs to deal with, but I think the hundreds of thousands of spectators who caught the Tour live, the millions more who tuned in, are saying that they still love the sport- and in its last day, it delivered a massive time trial that had the real drama cycling fans want- 3 riders separated by a scant 31 seconds. This was not like the Lance years. The Tour's winner was in doubt yesterday until Levi crossed the line, Cadel crossed the line, and Contador crossed the line. The Tour was, in the end, unpredictable and exciting, even thrilling, when the talk was about the race and not the doping.

I still find it hard to believe that so many competent sports writers seem to be excoriating cycling while turning a blind eye to other sports. There's an old joke about what the only thing dirtier than field is- track, of course. BALCO was more than Barry Bonds, Bonds is just the largest, most well-known product. And the lid is starting to come off regarding the steroid problem in football- Dr. James Shortt admitted prescribing banned substances to several Carolina Panthers, including Todd Sauerbrun- the punter for christ's sake, the punter ! It might seem unbelievable that a punter would use steroids- but Sauerbrun was the strongest and for two years the top-ranked punter in the league- and also one of the most unstable, with 'aggression issues' including on-field and off-field outbursts.

I think the Tour has to answer these doping questions to the best of its ability and the sport needs to give cthe Tour the tools it needs to have a clean event. At the same time I think it's also time to stop kicking cycling while it is down and instead look across the sports spectrum.

Start by doing something, something serious, about Barry Bonds !