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 Active.com 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 !

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vineman Half-Ironman Race Report

No, I didn't sneak out to California to do this race. A former Athlete's Foot-Hitek teammate, Jenny Meyer, sent out this race report and it's such a great one that I asked her if I could share it on my blog and she agreed. So without further interruption....

Friends, Black Swans, Fellow Crushers of Bone

Yesterday I completed the Vineman 70.3 Half-Ironman Triathlon. I did not drown, fall on my head (again), or re-break my feet. I have a fantastic white outline of a bathing suit on my otherwise scarlet back, but that is the worst of my injuries as of this morning's inventory.

The race took place in the heart of California's wine country - not whine country, as my brother Robert admonished me on the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Rosa. At the expo, I saw more shapely, immaculately-shaven legs than I have ever seen - on men. A man with a Schwarzenegger accent explained all the race infractions that would earn you time in the penalty tents on the course - sort of like in hockey. I started getting nervous. I reeeeally didn't want to get a time out. Robert elbowed me when they started talking about the penalty for peeing in the vineyards.

Triathlons are so weird! You have to have so much stuff. Everybody seems to have a better idea of what's going on than I do - but then, that's something I'm used to. The swim took place in the Russian River. 1.2 miles. I watched people calmly piling up their creams and gu's and biking paraphernalia, while I was just praying that I left the right shoes in the right places and trying to inconspicuously rip the price tag off my brand-new wetsuit. I got in the water and panicked. I couldn't breathe!! ... duh, it's water. Pick up your head, dummy. And yes, I peed in my wetsuit, and I loved it. Sorry, Mitz. From that point onward, the swim was fun - when I wasn't being kicked in the face or groped underwater. When I got nervous, I just had to remember to breathe.

Ooooh it felt good to get out of the water! I saw Robert, in his Stanford kit and ready for his own ride, grinning at me from the sidelines as I ran my bike up the embankment. "BONECRUSHER!!!!!!" I bellowed as I clip-clopped up the hill (those were laughs of abject terror, right?). The bike ride was... well, boring. Beautiful, don't get me wrong. 56 miles. Vineyards, golden hills, yada yada yada. But you couldn't get within 7 meters of the person in front of you or you'd be penalized for drafting. And I've never biked that far without chit-chatting with people or stopping for breakfast. I was going along at a decent rate, drinking a lot, getting passed by dudes with aero helmets and disk wheels. I felt pretty snazzy with Rob's aerobars attached to my ride, although I think I was the only "competitor" with peanut butter sandwiches duct taped to my handlebars. I couldn't enjoy the scenery so much because I was just trying not to get a time out. I was also concentrating on not falling off my bike, and I was worried about getting a flat. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess that I did indeed pee in my bike shorts. More than once. If you don't think we can be friends anymore, I'll understand. Best part: 5 miles from the end of the bike portion, I saw a girl in my age group (you have your age written on your calves) hop off her bike to help one of the aero-helmetted guys who got a flat. I heard him protest, and I heard her say "your race is probably more important to you than mine is to me." So classy. "You're awesome!" I yelled at her. (Nobody would ever want my mechanical assistance, I'm pretty sure. But I'm also not that noble.)

I saw Mom and Rob at the transition area, where I yelled "I DIDN'T FALL OFF!!!". Slipped blithely into my running shoes (sort of) and started trucking into the run. Now, maybe you'll remind me of this when I start making noises about doing an Ironman: the run felt AWFUL. Like starting at mile 20 of a marathon, and then doing 13.1 miles. It was around noon, and the course was hilly, and the sun was beating down with sadistic insistence. I was passing people the whole time, but at a dead shuffle. I finished the entire event in a total of 5 hours, 41 minutes - achieving my goal of under 6 hours. Finisher 678 of 1800+ finishers, 125th woman, I think. Slower on the bike, but faster on my feet.

So... I think it'll always be the marathon for me. Less stuff to worry about, more socializing, more exuberance. Lower center of gravity, less far to fall. The triathlon means slow, prolonged discomfort. I can see how one might prefer the zany smorgasbord, but I couldn't thoroughly enjoy any of the disparate pieces out of consideration for all of them. Those of you who did Lake Placid yesterday - dang. Are you able to move?

Jenny "The Bonecrusher" Meyer

Tour de France Woes

I'm not a cyclist, and most of what I know about the sport comes from a few amateur cyclist friends and of course, watching the Tour on TV.

Today's events, first the withdrawal of Cofidis after Moreni tested positive, admitted to doping and was taken away by French police in irons, and then of course Rasmussen being fired, certainly put the sport in a tough, tough spot.

What surprises me a little bit is how hard my wife has taken it. Personally, I think that if cycling is really trying to clean itself up- meaning the teams and the coaches are no longer facilitating doping by their athletes- it is going take more than one season. Cycling certainly has a bad history of doping, with plenty of disgraced athletes, and I think that the sport is on the verge of sponsorship meltdown, with the tipping point where the sport never recovers somewhere extremely close.

Yet at the same time, I look my favourite spectator sport, NFL football, and can't help but think it's little better off when it comes to athletes doping- although much better off in other ways, including sponsorship fatigue, where the Michael Vick meltdown is probably a bigger issue (see Nike). I think the league has a better drug testing system, but I don't think they test often enough, have tight enough controls, and the smokescreen of athlete privacy is used to prevent the general public from learning the extent of the performance enhancement drug problem the NFL has. The league is populated by literally super-human men of such bulk and speed that it simply defies any statistical explanation of how the population is producing so many men so large and so gifted- gifts that often lead to pain and suffering in later life.

The Tour is a beautiful thing, a wild, undulating mass full of personality, rivalry, excitement- and disappointment. But the last few days, it seems like mostly the later. Which is too bad. I'd miss it if it were taken out of my July...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lake Placid- 2008

Turns out even signing up for Ironman Lake Placid is gruelling.

I logged on at 8:45 this morning, signed into my Active account, searched for and found the Lake Placid entry, and started reloading every five minutes or so. I was there last year in line and seemed to remember something about not everyone in line getting into the race or something like that. I was unable to sign up because we still debating taking the Hawaii slot, although I did make it to the head of the line before things went south.

Back to this year. Around 9:30 I reloaded the page, clicked on register and got a confirmation page saying online registration was CLOSED. OK, I've heard of Ironman races closing quickly but half an hour BEFORE they open. I let out a howl, which frightened a co-worker.

A moment later, an announcement showed up on the page indicating that on-site registration demand was going to delay online registration and that a message would be available at 1PM. Not online registration, but a message.

Well, around 12:30 the message changed to announce that 800 slots were to be made available at 1:00 PM. I was out running at the time but caught it ten minutes later. Around 12;50 they announced at the awards banquet that 800 online spots were going to be available. I got a call from Steve.

I hit reload again at about 12:58, got in and registered, as did Margit. The race closed in under ten minutes !

Sunday, July 22, 2007

IM Lake Placid

It's always a tough day when we are here in CT on race day. For me, for both of us to some extent, Lake Placid is the race, but a new job for Margit and a new furnace were enough to shelve plans to head up this year, although as late as yesterday Margit was still talking about me jumping in the car and driving up.

Instead, I got up and ran early so we could take Ian to the Beardsley Zoo. It was a beautiful morning, a little windy maybe but as I was running back up the road in Indian Neck and the sun was stretched out long across the still water, no boats moving yet it made me think about just how special it is up there- and how Branford in the morning, before the traffic gets going, isn't such a bad place either.

It's ironic- if you had told me when I was 18 that one day a year the world would kind of stop and the only place I'd want to be was the Adirondacks, I'd have laughed, living about 2 hours south in the foothills north of the Capital District. Running and biking about 1000 ft of climbing from my high school parking lot to Grafton State Park (biking on a 3 speed touring bike), I never really thought much about doing either in a race- I just happened to have a friend who lived off Route 2- and I can't say I enjoyed it. Of course, I also wouldn't have guessed that a year later, I'd be selling the family house and moving away for good, making coming back to Upstate New York a lot less ordinary.

We have a lot of friends doing the race this year- Howard Jones, Ken Osborne, and of course Steve, not to mention Chris Schulten, who judging by his top 40 position, just about ready to ask for that pro card...

It's such a tough course- harsh but fair ? I don't know. I just hope everyone has a great race, or had a great race, or enjoys being in one of the world's truly special places, doing a truly special race...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Trumbull Sunset Run

Prior to the first time Margit did Lake Placid the Trumbull Sunset Run (once part of a Trumbull Series- anyone remember that ?) was a regular part of my yearly race schedule/last minute decision making process. This is only the second time I've run the race in the last six (?) years however.

With Ian, it's pretty hard for both of us to run a race unless we get a babysitter. Margit has pushed Ian through a number of races, including a remarkable 4 mile journey last year at the WAASC St. Patrick's Day Race in which she scored for AF-Hitek. But there's no question that isn't the same as racing. When Marty told me that not only was I welcome to come and run gratis, but that he'd enlist his own family to watch Ian while we ran. All this while Marty was busy directing the race.

When people tell you that Marty is special, well, a lot of people never really get to see it. They only see him on race day and not the rest of it, the guy that throws dinner parties for 50 people to say thank you for helping out. He took the time to email and tell me to come to his race, run free and bring Ian and margit and he'd take care of that too. And he did.

I'm still a little off my form, and I'm certainly no competition in my age group for George Buchanan, who came off winning two races in the last week to add a third place tonight, but I'll take my 18:12 9th place finish and be thankful that I have a friend like, and that the entire racing community has a friend like Marty Schaivone.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blocks versus Gu

My coach recently suggested that we adjust my workouts to focus on speed rather than distance, so I thought that I'd adjust my nutrition to match. Normal on my long bike rides I take Cliff Shot blocks, which are my preferred food, and Gatorade (a single bottle).

On Saturday, with a two hour ride and 30 minute run brick scheduled, and coming off a short race where I used Gu, I decided to take 4 Gu, the same Gatorade, and give the workout a go. The ride was simple- 1 hour in B, 30 minute time trial in C, 30 minutes in B, and the run in B. I decided to aim for a 42 mile ride that would take me out to Madison and up towards Durham from Hammonassett, with enough legitimate climbing to make it a serious 2 hour ride and also prepare me on the off chance we went up to Lake Placid.

Much as in a long race, your nutrition rarely hurts you while you are still on the bike. It can happen, but it's infrequent. The ride went well. I got the 42 miles in at the 1:56 mark, including over 22.4 for the time trial on rolling terrain, pulled into my driveway, tossed my helmet and shoes, put my running shoes and cap on and started run.

The run is hard, with a hill right at the beginning, and two other decent hills in about 33 minutes, although I was aiming for about 31 minutes with a solid B effort. The initial climb always makes you feel gassed and you have to remind yourself that you've gotten off the bike and climbed, that there's a downhill around the corner...

No reason to bore anyone actually reading this with the actually blow by blow of a thirty minute training run, so in short- I was gassed on the run. I did run a solid B pace, but it felt like an uneven C pace.

Verdict- Gu might be all right for a sprint race of about an hour, it simply isn't up to a two and a half hour race or workout without other supplemental nutrition that makes me wonder why you'd choose it as part of your nutrition suite. Now of course, that's just me. And just me is sticking with Clif Blocks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lost in Transition

starring: alan macdougall
not co-starring: Scarlett Johansson

It's been a weird season, that's for sure. Just doing an April Ironman is odd. The Griskus Sprint Triathlon was no exception.

I have a mixed history with the race. I was on a team with Ken Osborn and Guy D'Aniello that beat the entire field one year. I also sliced my hand open on my wheel one year and swam into a dock another. I went into the race this year nursing a sore knee, wearing a new uniform, and just hoping to beat the rain off the bike. But I found Evanescence's Lithium in the bathroom about 25 minutes before the race, so I had the right music.

I got off to a good start. I was in the elite wave, I started on the inside, and despite being left in the wake early, I found myself cutting a dead straight line to the first buoy while the bulk of the white caps were far off to the left. Me getting the best line to the first buoy seems hard to imagine, but I took it for what it was and kept going. The first buoy had come up quickly and I was encouraged. I was trying to break the swim into two halves. The second buoy also came up quickly and I was feeling, for me, pretty good. The third buoy ?

Not so soon. The buoys looked evenly spaced from the shore, but then again, it looks like a straight in and out. Finally, I hit the third buoy, rounded it with another guy from my wave, and got pushed back into the lane I'd just come up.

I've been swum into by a single off-course swimmer before. I have not swum into the oncoming lane of traffic before. Four guys hit me in rapid succession, knocked my goggles half off and left me ever-so-slightly disoriented. But I put my head down and swam until I heard someone telling me to get up and walk out. I ended up swimming in the top half of my age group and the top 40% of the field, which is remarkable (for me).

I came out and Marty told me I was 5:15 back.

I had a good bike ride. Not a lot to say. I only got passed by one athlete in his 30s, and I think i had a top 10 bike-split, but I'll never know, because the mat missed me as I went over it and I'm listed as having the slowest bike time in the whole field, 1:37 minutes, which is 30 minutes longer than the whole race took me. Not to be outdone by the mat, I spent upwards of 90 seconds missing my gear.

Now there's no one to blame but me that all I took into transition was a small black bag, a few gels, a hat and a pair of sneakers. Although I was careful not to cover my shoes with my wetsuit (experience has taught me not to make this rookie error). All of my teammates from the elite wave I'd caught on the bike left transition before I did. At one point Steve Surprise yelled 'back here' but it still took another 15 seconds to find the right row. I went out of transition behind Michael D, passed him, stopped to tighten a shoe, passed him again, and then bore down on the run. Eric was the first person I saw, and he said that I was 1 minute behind Steve. Ouch. I'd passed Steve on the bike around mile 8.5...

I have great teammates from Force 5 Sports, but I wanted to be the first Force 5 finisher, and I was trained and rested and ready to have a good race so that was a reasonable expectation. I passed Steve after the first mile, running really hard but feeling tired from the long downhill (it turns out the section we were on is a false flat that is actually uphill. I saw several other on the other side of the road but closer to the turnaround than I expected.

I caught Gary Rodenbaug next, who is a phenomenal 59 year old, absolute star. I tried to give him a few words of encouragement, and then set my sights on Robyn, who is another superb athlete (Gary and Robyn are fresh off nationals). Right in front of her was Bill Sheetz, one of Eric's clients. I gave them both what encouragement I could as I went by- we were climbing now and that cut into me. I passed a few more people and then duked it out and lost to one last athlete on the line.

Margit had a great race and placed in her age group, as did Robyn, Steve, and Gary. I didn't. Minus the 90 seconds lost in transition, I would have placed third, but you don't get mulligans in triathlon.

I was able to trade up my 4 dollar draft miller for a Guinness after the race, which was the best move I made all day- thanks, Mike Barry !

Did I learn anything finishing 25th instead of 15th ? Hell, yes. I went right to Eric and asked him for a plan. He said to get a flag so I can find my stuff. I think a canadian flag will serve the purpose nicely. There's no point in regretting the massive brain fart I had yesterday, and I still ran as hard as I could and moved myself back into a decent place, higher than last time I did the race in 2005.

I think I need to expect to do well more than I do. I ran hard, swam well, bikes very well, yet a mental mistake torpedoed me. Confidence isn't always a bad thing, and can actually help. While I didn't panic in transition, I also did not get the job done in an area I usually have no problem with. That's a lack of confidence.

At least that's easily corrected.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day 5k

Wow. A record crowd showed up for the 5K in Milford (USATF-CT Championship race #3). 400 hundred race day registrations, which was enough to blow through the all the registration forms, race goody bags, and force Marty to delay the race by twenty minutes.

I was certainly not expecting much. I did do three hour plus runs in the week since the Fairfield race, but not were speed workouts. With my knee being sore still, it's much easier for me to go out and ride- 60 miles on Sunday, 42 in 2 hours yesterday. I rode hard yesterday, pushing in the wind and going after some decent hills.

As the sanctions representative for USATF-CT and a member of the LDR committee, it's great to have such a large crowd for the race. As an athlete, well, the guys that show up because it's a USATF-CT race are better athletes (than me, that's for sure) and that means my name sinks down the results list like a stone.

Holiday races tend to offer one feature other races may not- costumes. Guys in red,white and blue top hats, suspenders or other patriotic gear. This year, I saw a guy in his late 60s or early 70s in cowboy boots. He started, unbelievably, in the third row. He apparently ran the entire race in the boots- no socks. I'm thinking some really scary blisters happened there.

The front was really tightly packed and as often is the case I wanted to get a team box going but there were only three of us standing right there. First Chad Brown was nice enough to move his feet a little, then I got some help from one of my teammates and managed to get off the line. My right foot had actually been turned out and back, which is not how you want to start a short race.

Sort of. The race featured some pretty serious false starts, which I won't go into because they were accidental and did not affect the finish. Meanwhile, although I was in the second row, the middle sagged backwards while the ends went forward. The race starts up a sort of sloping grade. Hill would be a strong word, but not much. I was in about 60th place as we took the first turn. I was behind a number of women, several kids in basketball shorts and high-tops, this guy Rodney with the the big head band, and possibly, although I can't confirm it, Doc Whitney.

It could easily turned into panic time, however, a number of people around me are people I should be either right behind or in the area of as I watch them run away, so I settled in. My knee had been bothering me all through the warm-ups, during strides, and I tried doing a knee-bend once and that was definitely a bad idea. However, as I started running hard- but controlled- it really didn't bother me. In fact, it might have helped me have a better race by forcing me to run a little slower.

I was just over 5:30 for the first mile and I seemed to be out-dueling people on the hills. There was a lot of back and forth and a few guys passed me, but I felt like I was having a good, controlled race. I hit 2 miles at 11:20 and still going ok. Marty saw me when I gave the V sign and he called out my name.

I was a little gassed in the last mile. I haven't run a 5K since Christopher Martins. I let one guy get passed me, but other than that, I held my won as we took the last turn. I was sure Kerry was bearing down on me and teammate or not, I didn't want any women beating me. That's silly, I suppose, but oh well.

I went through at 17:48. Wow ! First, it's kind of sad that 17:48 would excite me. Five years ago, I was still running sub-17s on really good days. Of course, I was probably running 5-6 days a week back then, still doing speed work, and so on.

However, it's a good time for me. The last time I broke 18:00 minutes was a 17:59 at Christopher Martins in 2005 and it was my fastest time since a 17:47 at the Corporate Challenge in August 2005. It was also 20 seconds faster than last year, although last year's race was my best training day before Lake Placid (I followed up the race with a 98 mile ride, my longest of the year outside the Ironman). 18:08 was the closest I had all last year, even the one race I won...

Better still, teammates of mine were the top man and woman- Kerry for the women, Oscar for the men.

But the biggest shocker of all- Charlie Hornak shaved his head...

Sunday, July 01, 2007


This is a little change of pace for this blog, but I wanted to add my impressions to the myriad of iPhone blogposts.

Getting the iPhone my wife had promised as a birthday present was and wasn't an easy task. My wife's aunt's 70th birthday party was Friday, so standing in line at the Apple Store in Westfarms was not an option for me. I'm not sure I would have wanted to do that anyway, although I did stand in line for 10.4 there, which is the first time I've stood in line for the release of anything. My plan was to get online at 9PM EST and order one online, eat the ten dollar shipping and hopefully have it next week.

One flaw in this plan. Well, two flaws. I took my MacBook with me to the Higgins household, where the wireless is free and the yard is large enough that war-driving isn't an issue. I felt kind of bad about this. 9PM was likely to be right around that awkward time when we either should have left half an hour earlier or we would need to stay later to get Ian settled. The second was there was no guarantee that- the Apple Store would be able to handle the load, that there would be many phones being sold online, and so on.

I got on the site and although I got a few http service unavailable, I was able to get through the ordering process. However I stopped short because the estimated shipping time was 2-4. Weeks that is. Weeks ? I was willing to wait, trust me. But I was thinking I'd be waiting a week or so. Not a month.

I drove up to the Apple Store in Westfarms after calling to confirm they were in stock. The local ATT store was out of stock, so that was my only option. I walked in, was taken directly (although the store was packed, the line was short to check out. I bought the phone, turned around and walked out and drove home.

I didn't get to activate it until six hours later. That took all of 5 minutes (I was already an ATT customer).

I've been using the phone for a day now and here's what I've found:

The phone is incredibly easy to use. I actually kind of like my Treo 700P, but only compared to the cell phones I loathe. I am still not good at dialing with the touch screen. No such issue with the digital number pad on the iPhone. It's a joy to use. Recording a greeting ? How cool is it that you don't have to dial into your voice mail ?

The internet. The ATT coverage in my area is rated as good (on a scale of moderate to best). On the wifi at home, it rocks. On the ATT network- it works. It's good enough. It looks awesome, the flip orientation is great, and if you have the fingers for it you can move around the internet pretty damn well.

The camera- that's the biggest letdown. I'm a recent convert to the value of a camera on a phone. My Treo camera is simply a better camera which takes pictures with more vibration than the iPhone seems to tolerate.

Music and video playback. I was surprised how good the two tiny speakers on the bottom of the phone are and how good they sound.

Syncing- awesome, just awesome.