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 !