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...