Monday, June 30, 2008

Unsocial Networking

I looked back and the reason I started this blog was to psyche myself up for a marathon that no longer exists. I'm not sure a nine second PR (or anything in this blog since that time) justifies having a blog.

I actually started the blog as well because I had clients I was encouraging to blog and didn't feel that I should have them doing something I wasn't all set with myself. These days, I have blogging, Facebook, Flicker, Friend-Feed and Twitter all down fairly well, so for a 43-year old, I'm pretty well socially networked even if I don't have an expansive social network.

However, I've read about how bloggers face abuse, threats, sexually degrading remarks and more. But the first time I was exposed to that second-hand was today.

I'm a huge Battlestar Galactica (re-imaged) fan. I've been following a really cool blog The Science of Battlestar Galactica: Revamping. The blogger is a writer for Wired, a very talented writer- and the blog has been excellent. Some of the questions he's asked- and answered- have been kicking around in my head, but having a history degree and what could only be described as a weak grasp of both physics and chemistry there were times I was not sure how to even frame, much less address the questions that he posed.

Apparently, someone was harassing this blogger. He didn't provide any details, but he did make it clear that 'one jerk' was stopping the whole process, and putting his goal of writing a book at risk, which was what the blog was supposed to stimulate.

One jerk. one less blog.

The peril of the internet- at its best democratizing. At its worst, one loud voice drowns out a symphony of ideas...


I'm officially in my Ironman Lake Placid taper, which is now just 20 days away.

The last time I did the race in 2006, my longest ride- 98 miles, came just 13 days before the race and my taper was only 8-9 days long. This was not my coach's fault. I was cramming to get the volume in because my son was still an infant, about 5 months old, and if I went out and rode for a long time, well, that was a long time...

With two centuries in June and about 55 miles running in the last 8 days, I'm ready to start dialing down.

Math Answers

Well, I would say a math teacher would say D is the correct answer. Obviously, the missing piece of the equation is any mention of units.

Without any reference to units, 3 can't equal 2. There's no point in having a linear numerical system expressing unique values and then have two distinct numbers equal to one another. As soon as you throw units in, however, the equation makes perfect sense.

I gave one hint- Clif Block Shots. That's the three. Normally, when I'm doing either a bike ride or a brick, I eat one bag every thirty minutes. However, I bought the entire supply they have at Zane's Bicycles and after calculating what I though Margit would need for her Saturday ride, I decided that I could only take a maximum of 4 bags, and then run with just Gatorade. The ride was three hours long.

When I don't have enough blocks, I go with a 40 minute gap and eat until I run out.

So the answer is 4 = 2 2/3. Not a bad plan, actually, as that allowed me to 'carry' the calories from the last bag 20 minutes into my run.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Math problem

If 3=2, then 4= ?

a. 4
b. 3
c. 2 2/3
d. Not enough information has been provided to solve the problem

This problem occurred to me while riding on Friday. Your only hint (and this should give it away): Clif Shot Blocks

answer on Sunday

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Orange You Glad You Met Me ?

I did a swim/run brick from the gym today- a massive (for me) 2500 yard session in the pool followed by an easy- er, moderate- run for an hour.

The run took me up into Orange, eventually past the High Plains Community Center.

Although I've been running road races long enough now (this is the tenth year, which is scary) and have forgotten more races than I remember, there's something familiar about the location. Any doubts I had there used to be a race held there was put to rest when I ran past a line with 3M on it- the three mile mark of a 5K that ends in the parking lot. I ran a little farther- I was near my halfway turnaround, and there was Pine Tree Drive. I headed down it until I hit thirty minutes and then headed back.

It reminded me of the last time I ever judged another athlete based on looks, which was also the first time I remember racing Chris Dickerson.

I think it was 1998, although I can't find the race result, and I'm pretty sure it was this race. I was running sub-seventeen minute 5Ks back then, which of course made me eligible to overestimate my own modest ability. Not to mention under-appreciate it. Anyway, Chris Dickerson was there. Not being from CT, and being generally ignorant about the athletes in the sport I was participating in, I had no idea who Chris was. Which is too bad. Chris is just a great guy, a really awesome runner and stellar competitor.

However, to me, he was just this really big guy with wireframe glasses and white tube socks. Chris kind of runs big, because well, he's big- compared to yours truly, a guy so small that the phrase 'I'm OK with midget' has come out of my mouth a few times. But seriously, I took one look at Chris and thought 'Not a problem' or something like that. Something stupid.

So the race starts and we head down Pine Tree Road. If you know Pine Tree Road (and why would you), it's downhill, a fast but hard mile when you're on Chris's heels. I thought as we hit the mile mark in 5:20 or so, that Chris would start to go off the back. Well, there was plenty of going off the back, only I was doing it. By the time the race was over, Chris had, as he has done a hundred times, crushed me like a grape, then shook my hand and very earnestly told me how well I ran.

Although I was a dumbass that day, I learned a valuable lesson about not judging other athletes before a race, especially based on looks.

But I was thinking about it today and I have a feeling that there is still a little of that which goes on in my head the other way. Transition in triathlon before a race. Let's face it, other people have killer kit, sweeter looking bikes, ironman tattoos, an appropriate number of body piercings (one just isn't enough), cut muscles. And let's face it, most of them are better looking too. The word schlump comes to mind when I compare myself to that.

But you can't tell anything at all about a triathlete by looking at them. Thank goodness. I'm not a great triathlete, but I certain beat plenty of better looking ones every time I race, because of course, I'm not racing them. I'm racing me, and I'm racing the clock. Except when a guy with a 40,41,42,43, or 44 is right in front of me...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lance Again

Yesterday's brick workout included a 45 minute run. I was near the end of the run, chugging along at 'race pace', when a twenty-something in a toyota went by, leaned out the window and yelled 'Go, Lance !'

First of all, clearly I do not resemble Lance Armstrong, who is younger, taller, fitter, and most recognizable ON A BIKE. I was even wearing my CSC socks and gloves and I ambled down the road.

I was running with my coach Eric Hodska today (great 2 hour trail run in Trumbull, where they've done an awesome job with some new trails) and he pointed out it's just something the kids like to yell out. And as the President of UNH told me the other day 'everyone knows I ride a bicycle.' Still, I guess it says something about endurance sports that our most recognizable endurance athlete is actually a retired cyclist.

It's also a reminder of the other Americans- Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton come to mind- who have tried and failed to supplant or follow in the footsteps of Lance.

Then again, Lance has last been seen (as an athlete) running the Boston Marathon the last two years. And on a good day (a really good day), I could probably match him on the marathon course.

So if you see me out on the road and feel like yelling 'Go Lance !' go right ahead- it won't bother me at all. Just don't throw anything at me....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fairfield Half Marathon

My life is a strange combination of the exquisitely choreographed and the hopelessly haphazard. On one hand, I'm signed up for two ironmans this year, which requires you to not only decide on the race a year in advance but hit a five minute window on the internet. On the other I spent all week debating doing the Health Net Triathlon to support my team- Force 5 Sports. In the end, it was clear that would have created too much havoc in a weekend workout ecosphere that included a 7 hour workout for Margit. While she would have made the adjustment, it didn't make sense.

I started considering running Fairfield instead on Friday morning. But I probably would have stayed on the fence about it if I hadn't gotten a totally random call from JB (of JB Sports) on Friday afternoon. We talked briefly and he encouraged me to come down and run the race. There's three race directors I have trouble saying no to- JB, Marty, and the one that lives in my house. Of course, online registration had closed at noon and with over 3000 runners coming to the half and the 5K there was no way I was going to ask JB to sneak mine in.

Although I was signing up at the last minute, I did go into the race with a plan. That plan was to use the race to mimic how I want to do the Lake Placid run, that is, easy on the first half and careful on the early downhills. I was also going to use cliff blocks for nutrition, but it turned out that the ones in my trunk had already been eaten. My teammate Steve Surprise, who rode down with me, loaned me 4 dollars to get more- thanks, Steve.

When I got done with my warm-up, I saw Jim Zoldy and that was cool- I wanted to congratulate him on a great Escape from Alcatraz (the triathlon, not the prison).

I lined up right in the center, ending up behind the leading women contenders, who packed in after I picked my spot.

JB gets the race going pretty well on time, which is very cool.

Of course, the first mile always is a little bit too fast. It's a nearly board flat mile with about two turns, a long field of vision for the runners, and the adrenaline that many people feel when they have 1600 people on their heels. I have to be honest. i don't feel it. What I feel a combination of panic and embarrassment as truly great runners start pulling away, although ironically part of the panic is the knowledge that they still shouldn't be that close to me, and I'm over-exerting myself.

When I first saw the one mile clock I was about twenty seconds away from it and it said 5:20. I didn't even wait until I got to it- I started backing off straight away. I went through in 5:43 or so. As I trimmed my speed in the second mile, people started to pass me, including Jim, who I would only see for maybe a mile or so, and at a distance. Jessie and Natoli went by.A few guys I know are from the Danbury area went by. Dave Pantin pulled along side and this young big-chested guy with no shirt and an Old Spice aura also passed me. He appeared to be running especially hard for his build and where we were in the race.

I let it all go. I'd like to think that as I get older, I'm getting more intelligent. I mean, people tell me I'm intelligent, but the truth when it comes to sports is not exactly. I tend to be more intelligent when I'm operating very close to my margins. Six or seven years ago when I was all in as a runner, I could run crazy the first five or six miles of Fairfield, pound out some ridiculous sub-six miles, then just hang on. Of course, when I finished I looked and felt the Ramones hotel room the day after the show. These days, if I did that I'd end up running 1:28 or slower.

There's a big hill right there and I worked up it, but only at 90%. This is a big hill, but short and completely manageable. People still came back to me, and some people clearly were pushing too hard. At the top you get some nice downhill, then another uphill...

... and so on. The course kind of rolls like this, with the general elevation increasing, but both sharp climbs and decents, until mile seven. I was determined not to push the downhills. Again, I wanted to use the race as a training run for IMLP. the first seven miles are downhill and the worst marathon I've run in three tries at that race was the one where I opened up with 7 miles in 42 minutes. I was back and forth with people around me, including Dave. We'd get to hills, I'd push at 90% or so and get small gains, then on the downhills hold my own or more likely lose ground. However, as we got past the halfway point of the race, I sensed the people around me were starting to fade slightly and some of the people in front of me were coming back to me.

I decided that since I was on the back half of the course, I was going to attack on the downhill, within the idea of keeping a steady pace, not shredding my calves, and so on. I'd taken a bag of Cliff Shot Blocks at six or so miles and that was kicking in, so I went for it, opening up my stride and...

By mile 10, when the hills had come back, I'd moved up about half a dozen spots and felt really good. I continued passing people- and everyone was really positive and supporting with one another- it was a great group of runners today.

I saw Natali ahead of me as I crested the last hill, caught him after mile eleven, and then just pushed it in. I passed two other runners from Danbury and then as Mark Gihouly announced it, it was a race between me and Manoel Leal to the finish line. Except I wasn't blowing up my tight calf to sprint and he crushed me by five seconds.

I tossed my chip to a volunteer and headed back out for Steve, feeling pretty good about my run. Steve was already at mile 12 when I got out there and we had a good run back in. All in all a good day for a run...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Lodger- Shakespeare, His Life On Silver Street

I received this book as a birthday present, and I have to say that if you'd told me ahead of time that someone could take a few court and church records, a few spoken sentences from Will Shakespeare's mouth to court recorder's quill, and weave a entire book out of it, I'd have said that either the result would either be hopelessly dull or so heavily fabricated as to define logic.

However- and I'll admit to being only part of the way through, Charles Nicholl has done a nice job of taking the facts, and painting not a story but a period, and placing the actors on life's stage.

I recommend it if you're interested in Shakespeare of 17th century England.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Century

I rode 100 miles today. Or rather, according to my clearly underperforming bike computer, I rode 100.25 miles. Ever since I got my rebuilt wheel back from Zipp, the computer has been reporting some crazy things, which of course, is one more good reason to ignore it. It clocked the LP course as about 109 miles.

Of course, the number is so arbitrary. I mean, I could switch to kilometers and be riding a couple of centuries a week, right ?

Still, it was my second time in that numerical neighbourhood in the last ten day, and this time, I felt like I earned it. For one thing, there was no IM course to tool around on. It can be hard to come up with 100 miles off the top of your head when you're riding alone. It wasn't planned.

I was wearing a singlet and I have one water bottle cage on my bike so the plan was to just ride two hours with four cliff block packs, swing by the house and pick up another bottle and more cliff blocks and maybe hit four hours. But after climbing some hills, I decided to go out a little farther from home, then swing back down to Hammonassett for water, ride up the same hills again, and be home at three hours to grab my food.

When I didn't hit the driveway until 3:30, I thought what the heck, let's tack on 90 minutes and see where I am. I was hungry, thirsty, saddlesore, and it was starting to rain, but I could see that 100 mile, 5:15 ride in the distance and decided to go for it.

The last seventy-five minutes was the best part of the ride, the fastest part, and I did it while keeping my heart rate down where I wanted it. Then I ran 25 minutes and that felt good, too.

So what did I take away from the workout ? 100 miles- it's just a number. What my heart rate was, and how I felt on the run, those things do matter. And I was happy with them. But a century ? Just a number.....

PS: What does Newsweek know ? The new Coldplay album is pretty good....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Go Lance, Go !

One of the interesting things to me is how fully one single person can change the perception of millions of people. Take Lance Armstrong. He single-handedly reminded a nation who apparently had largely forgotten since the days of Greg Lemond that cycling was actually a professional sport.

So it's no surprise to me that once every two weeks or so someone yells out 'Go Lance !' to me from a car as I'm peddling along.

Sort of.

I'm not exactly a cycling geek. How much does my Elite T-Class with dura-ace parts and one 303 and one 404 wheel weigh ? Ask Dave Greenfield. I wouldn't know.

However, as a longtime CSC fan, I have all the gear. Socks, cycling jerseys, gloves. I had an easy ride today in iffy, cool weather- 2 hours spin. I often end up literally spinning on days like this, in the basement, doing an aero basebuilder. Despite the murk, I headed out and before you know it, bright sun was everywhere, the sky was blue- and I was tooling along at 18mph, easy, so easy.

I was about 45 minutes into the ride in Madison, when a silver convertible went by and a 20-something in the passenger seat leaned out and yelled 'Go Lance, Go !'

Which was kind of ironic. In the first place, while I'd been racing a car at 30 mph the other day in the same spot, I was really, really tooling along. Lance ? More like Bobke... Second, I was wearing CSC kit.

To me, when you see a guy in CSC kit and you yell 'Go Lance, Go !' it's kind of like seeing a kid in a Bret Favre jersey throwing a football and yelling 'Go Brady ! On one hand, obviously no one with even one working eye is going to mistake me- on or off a bike- for Lance Armstrong. On the other, I'm out for an easy ride and I kind of feel like I'm embarrassing the collective memory of Lance Armstrong out there just riding in my A zone, not even wearing my TT helmet, in an easy gear just keeping the cadence up.

I keep my effort down, but I couldn't help but laugh ? Lance ?

Maybe it was the yellow bike...

ps-After reading this interview with Eric Hodska, I wonder how my own picks: Sin (NIN), Spybreak (Propellerheads), and Rebel Yell (Live) stack up against the coach's expectations...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Branford Road Race

Well, I managed a 29:35 and felt really good about that. I haven't been under 30 minutes since 2004 and I was the eighth master in a state championship meet, so it was OK.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day: More than the Branford Road Race

I'm not sure how many times I've run Branford. Several, that's for sure. Sometimes I've run it after running for an hour (or two), sometimes I've run it after time on the bike, sometimes it's been the focal point of the entire day.

What was certainly under the radar for most of my years here in Branford was the idea of it being a Father's Day race. Father's Day was pretty far under my radar for a long time, from say 1973 until at least 2005. Yes, there were cards from the cats, but coming within a few days of my birthday it was never something I really considered. When you go thirty plus years with no dad, grandfather, or expectation you are about to suddenly turn into a dad yourself, the signal on the holiday is pretty weak, and I certainly never considered Branford a holiday weekend race or holiday race (not that Father's day is a holiday weekend).

Of course, Ian is still a little too young to run Branford himself, so we needed to find a babysitter for him for the race tomorrow, so that is certainly a reminder of fatherhood. Last year was cool, he was out on the lawn cheering for us as we went by in mile 4. This year he'll be on the green, I think, hopefully enjoying himself- his babysitter is a teenage girl and that is something that usually makes him seem (pretend ?) to forget us in a heartbeat.

Branford is one of those June/July races I used to do pretty well at when I was a runner, but 27-29 minutes is behind me now and I don't really miss it as I train for LP next month. I was runner #2 in 2006 (?) and didn't even break 30 minutes- talk about not earning your number...

Anyway, the race is still a USATF-CT championship and after our master's team finished second by one second a few weeks again, it's not like I can mail this one in. But it's certainly not a focus race, even though I train on the course several times a week (I can't run out the driveway without being on the course, after all). Well, we all have to live somewhere- or rather we all should have somewhere to live...

Maybe that's something to think about tomorrow. The seemingly homeless man that walks by my house every day- I wonder if he has a place to live. Or if he is someone's dad...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pluto- Tell the IAU They Have It Wrong

While I realise that taking one astronomy class 20 years ago does not make me an astronomer, astronomy has always been a one of my interests. It's inevitable, having grown up and been a small boy during the Apollo programme. I can remember when people still crowded around the TV for every space launch. One of my favourite books as a child was this massive, oversized book about of solar system with this large, luxurious drawings of the planets.

Including Pluto.

Now two years ago the International Astronomical Union, in all its scientific geekery, declared Pluto did not meet 'the' (read their) requirements for a planet and it was demoted to-

Well, that was a question. They decided on the name plutons for these 'dwarf planets', which was summarily rejected all right-thinking scientists as inadequate. Apparently 'dwarf planet' couldn't be used.

Fast forward. While dunces like me continue to cling to the notion that Pluto snuck into the lexicon of solar system members as a planet and ought to be left alone by the IAU, they've decided on the name 'plutoid' for dwarf planets.

Now I understand why astronomers are particularly sensitive about correcting what they consider to be inaccuracies. First of all there's the fact that many people can't distinguish between astronomy (a science) and astrology (a collection of superstitions that divides the population into roughly the same number of subsets as the media has divided the US electorate during this election cycle).

Then there's the series of howlers that have come out of the field historical. The celestial heavens as fixed objects in the sky. The earth as the center of the universe. Flat earth. And of course, when astronomers started getting these things right, what was their reward ? Excommunication, jail, and in some cases, death.

So there's some real desire to correct mistakes, errors, and commonly held misconceptions. Nevertheless, I don't think that the Pluto is a planet people are recidivist inquisitors, anti-science whackos, or other assorted crazy goofballs. In fact, many are astronomers. The IAU's last pronouncement just reminds us that even when scientists operate a democracy (that's what the IAU is), the results aren't always sensible.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Lake Placid- Karma Where There is None

Editor's note: I don't actually believe in karma, but every so often, it rears its ugly head anyway.

I drove up to Lake Placid Saturday. It was the last full day of the Eric Hodska Camp and the plan was for me to do a loop of the swim course, two loops of the bike course and a short run on Sunday after the camp's last Sunday morning run.

After what seemed like a good start to trip, things went ever so slightly sour when I stopped in Glens Falls for a bathroom break, hopped back in the car and was greeted with the 'maintenance rec'q' light on. It stayed on for the next hour and a half, which, since I didn't know the reason for it, was ever-so-slightly stressful.

I hopped in the lake around 10:00 Sunday morning and swam- and swam- and swam. There are a long line of buoys out there marking the course. However, during the majority of the year where there isn't an ironman going on there is no demarkation for the turn-around. I knew I'd gone too far when I could see the bottom of the lake was about a foot from my hand. I turned around and swam back, but it was a long swim- seemed like about 1.5 miles and for my first open water swim since September- I was worried out there by myself, as my hands started to get cold enough that they weren't working right. Of course, my numb hands caught the water better than my warm hands, so next time- ice bath !

Transition was probably about 15 minutes long, sad considering we were at the Adirondack Inn, which is across the road from the lake.

I headed out, determined to go easy. I did. I grannied down the big hills and felt bad about it. Sort of. Open road, really- really- windy.

There's no getting that back, but it wasn't a race, so who cares ? I survived the downhill- twice as it turned out.

I had a good ride from Keene to Upper Jay and from Jay to Wilmington. When I was almost in Wilmington, I saw a boy on the opposite side of the road selling lemonade. He called out, probably thinking I was as likely a customer as he was going to get. I yelled back that I 'couldn't stop', but the truth is, I see kids selling lemonade and I never stop. I had nine dollars, I had an empty water bottle. I could have stopped.

I went on. I knew I wasn't having a great ride, but my goal had been to have an OK ride and that was all. Not go race pace. I went out and back on the out and back. Then I turned and headed in. I was psyched. I was thinking about attacking the downhill more on the second loop and about being patient on the way back in to LP.

I was not thinking that an elderly woman in a station wagon was going to pull out of the Adirondack Gift Shop, backing out into the road. I had to swerve across the yellow line to avoid her, and as I swung back over the double yellow and the white line, I went too far right. I heard my back tire slashed and stopped immediately. The tubular tire was wrecked. I took out the iphone, walked backwards and got a signal- called for a new wheel and started walking.

I tried to run, but my right knee hurt when I did, so I started walking. I walked two or three hundred yards and slipped the headphones on and then I heard this song. It made me- emotional. It had already been a long day. I'd had a long swim, I'd not taken the big downhills the way I wanted. It was 90 degrees out, I was alone. And I wasn't sure my car would get me back home.

I walked over the 45/101 mark on the road and it hit me. I was feeling sorry for myself. It had only lasted thirty seconds, maybe a minute. You don't get through the ironman feeling sorry for yourself. That just isn't an emotion that's acceptable. So I started running. In my bike shoes. Uphill. I ran past McDougalls and the Hungry Trout. Then I got my wheel- thanks Margit for picking up the call and providing rapid service. But I'd kept my heart rate up, I'd kept moving forward. Maybe 45 had become 46.

Sure, it was 8:30, maybe 9:00 minute mile pace. But I was angry, and on race day, I'd rather be angry than self-pitying.

As I mounted the bike and started off- still uphill, I wondered. If I'd just stopped for the lemonade, how would things have been different ?

Karma may not be real, but it sure is weird.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


It's funny how pervasive smell is. I was doing my 45 minute run in an unusual place today- Orange. I was on a back road, Travis City, maybe- something city. And the smell of manure hit me.

Now you don't get a really good whiff of manure that often anymore. At least not living down on the shoreline here in CT. I grew up in farm country. The only school I ever went to (K-12) was downwind from a chicken farm. Our cross-country course (and all cross-country courses in the area) went through a cornfield. The biggest social event of the year was the Schaghticoke Fair (yes, that's spelled correctly- I googled it to make sure).

And I had the strangest thought when I smelled it. I thought of my mom and dad and how they had this really strong bond. It was really random. I don't think about them that much- Dad died when I was 8, Mom when I was 19. Dad grew up on a farm and would have been a farmer if he hadn't gone off to fight in World War II (I was adopted by some seriously older parents).

Who knows what actually made me think that- a smell familiar from the place I spent most of the first twenty-years of my life, my dad's connection to farming, or just random thinking.

It sure is funny the things that are hidden inside your head, and the observations that you make, even when you're young. It makes me wonder what Ian is picking up along the way- he talks about family all the time and his idea of what a family is a little too rigid, but understandable for a three-year old.

Maybe the bottom line is, when I smell manure, it doesn't gross me out. It just makes me think about a place I can't go back to. A place that doesn't really exist anymore and in the way I remember it, probably never really did.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It's all in a name ?

Johnson-Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush- ???

Starting in 1963, and extending to the present, the United States has been led by Presidents with a maximum of two syllables in their last name.

So what does this mean for Barack Obama ? O-bah-mah. That's three syllables ! Ouch. Since Johnson replaced Kennedy, the following major party candidates have had three or more syllables in their names- Goldwater, McGovern, Dukakis. What do these three candidates have in common- a two-syllable word- landslide. Goldwater and McGovern were soundly thrashed in both the popular vote and the electoral bullshit- um, er, electoral college. Dukakis has the honour of having lost the popular vote by slightly less than 10% but getting pistol-whipped (or is that tank-whipped) by almost 4-1 in the EC.

So what's in a name ? Well, we already know that a Clinton can beat a Bush, and a Bush can beat a McCain...but this is linguistics, not math.

Do Americans have some weird preference for short names in politics ? Is this all that's standing between Dennis Kucinich and the White House ? Is Mike Huckabee destined to be an also-ran because his grandfather didn't change the family name to Huckfinn?

Even the men on the losing end have been short-namers. The last four losers ? Bush-Dole-Gore-Kerry- or is that Bush-Dole-Bush-Bush ? It's same short names either way.

The last time five syllables were involved in the Presidential Election (two major party candidates), it was Nixon/McGovern, and that was a bloodbath.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for big names. Let's face it, what's more fun to say, George Bush, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ? Now granted, I wouldn't want to have dinner with, much less live in a country led by, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that's a name that you can lay into. It's fun to say, if you can get your tongue around it. And the United States has been making it too easy for foreign journalists for 45 years. While we have to learn to say (and spell) Ahmadinejad, Sarkosy, Macapagal-Arroyo, and so on- names that are hard for us, if not for others- we've been serving up softballs- the last 20 years all we've served up are Bush, Clinton and Gore. Um, I mean Bush and Clinton. And the Bushes both had the same first name. What the hell is that ?

That's right, for the last 20 years the country has been run by either a George or a Bill. This is the same country that once served up Ulysses as President (granted, he sucked).

I'd be all for Barack Obama changing his name to Obamalamadama. Try it- come on, just try saying it. Felt good, didn't it ? I can see the translators struggling to make that name into something intelligible... just think what they could do with it on the Daily Show.

So, can a man with three syllables in his last name beat a man with just two ?

Well, I certainly hope this isn't what decided the general election, let us put it that way. After all, we wouldn't want to interfere with the Diebold hegemony, would we ?

Grey Days

This is the time of year where the grey days can be hard. When it's January and it's grey and rain (or snow) threatens to ruin the day when you have a long workout on your schedule, you head for your basement and don't think twice. I'd rather sweat for three and an half hours in the basement than spend half an hour bundling up to ride outside.

In June, it's funny how the same decision is a lot more difficult to feel good about. Sort of.

With packing for the Lake Placid trip going on, I thought I should be at least available in case something needed to be done (contacts had to be picked up, as it turned out), so I did my run on the treadmill- 45 minutes listening to Coldplay at 8-8.5 mph. When I got done, I felt like I'd had a much better workout than I would have in the 60 degree, rain-soaked morning. I'd spent the time working on my form, thinking about the LP run course, and getting a good sweat on.

Margit asked me as she was leaving if I was going to stick to my plan of doing the LP DVD or head outside. It had stopped raining, although it still looked pretty threatening, and the roads were wet. Also, my back wheel is at Zanes so it was going be another ride on the Lightspeed, which is more adventure than I really need- the big ring needs to be replaced if I'm going to ride that bike outside. Since I'm planning to ride the actual course (2 loops) Sunday, I thought it was no big if I spun instead of slogged today.

Then again, the prospect of a 200 mile week (a lot for me) was dangling out there.

It's funny. As a runner, when I was just running (and maybe riding 30 miles a week), I measured everything in miles run. When I started training for triathlons, I left that behind. People ask me all the time- how far did you run just now (often hear this at work, where I run at lunch a lot). My answer is 'I don't know'. I don't map or drive or bike the routes I run, and often on my long runs I change my mind where I'm going during the run- the goal is to run out for half the run, and back for half the run.

I'm the same way on the bike, except that the bike has that damn pesky computer. So while I might ride for 3.5 hours, I want to to try and get in x miles and when I'm done I know I got in x (or y) miles. I still make the routes up as I go along and I have no clue how far point a to point b is (it's sad really, how little I work at all this), but at the end, I know the result. Add in a decent memory, above average math skills, and at the end of the week I certainly know how far I rode.

Of course, the right side of my brain- the same side that keeps track of how far I rode, I guess- knows that number is so meaningless.

An hour in, I considered stopping the DVD and heading out on the Lightspeed. Which is kind of silly. The first hour is out of town and around to Jay, or in other words, the easiest part of the ride, and the part of the workout where the advice consists of 'keep it easy.' And the point of going easy is so that you aren't gassed when things get hard. Still, I could easily have headed out and got in 50 miles.

I did hop off and grab a bottle of water to replace the gatorade I'd drank, but hopped right back on and kept going.

I had the same internal debate in the back ground for the next 30 minutes or so, even though there's still a part of my left eye socket that hurts if I press on it. However, I decided that this had been the plan from yesterday and I was sticking with it.

And spin instead of ride outside, I was still glad I did it. When the DVD was over I did unhook the Lightspeed and ride it outside for about 40 minutes.

It's kind of silly after having a good treadmill workout where I felt it definitely beat going outside that I really wasn't comfortable making the same decision with the bike workout. But even a June, a good trainer workout is still a good workout.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


So- the island isn't really an island at all, at least not in the strict literal sense...

Fairfield Just Du It

I look like I'm working hard anyway.

Finding Your Way and the Du It Duathlon

A year ago, if you'd told me that I'd get my season together around the end of September, I'd have doubted it. I'd just dropped out of a duathlon I'd hoped to have a chance to win because of a calf problem and I was staring down Eagleman in a week, with no guarantee I could run. Turned out a little icing solved the calf issue- you'd think after four years as a college coach that would have occurred to me sooner. I was as discouraged as I could have been, although the odd thing is, I'm actually an optimist. After not running for two weeks I not only went to Eagleman and assumed I'd be able to run but PRed the course- although both my times there are among my less impressive long distance races.

So fast forward to this morning. I got off the highway and immediately went the wrong way. Fortunately it was about a minute before I saw Chris Thomas riding to the race- instinct was already telling me to turn around- maybe I was getting something out of my system. I still got to the race about an hour early, registered, checked out my bike with a quick spin and got a spot on the racks where I could actually find my bike.

I was warmed up and ready to go when Marty gave the race instructions. Important note here. I listened to the instructions. The one thing i took away was 'When in doubt, choose right'. All the turns were right hand turns, with the exception of a couple on the run.

OK. I had a gel and cliff blocks in my EH jersey, gatorade on the bike. I was ready to go.

This was another one of these races where I felt buried at the start. People were streaming around me. It was uncomfortable and frustrating- aggravating, really. There was a Bethel guy in front of me and I wasn't sure if it was one I usually beat or get beaten by, although I thought it was the same guy I'd beaten at Greenwich. I was running the pace I wanted to run, so I was trying to shut out all the noise in my head and focus on that.

I did not sort out the field the way I usually do on the first run. I just ran in and focused on having a good transition, which I did- I'm adjusting to using the bike shoes in these races finally.

I took some Gatorade right away and started riding. We'd been told there was no passing in the coned-off area at the start of the riding. The second we exited the cones, I got passed by someone who had actually outrun me as well.

Again, I told myself to let it go. He slowly pulled away, but not far away as he was in sight. And then things started getting strange. We reached a Y intersection with a police officer. There was a LARGE (I mean large) white sign with a big red arrow pointing to the right fork.

The guy ahead of me went left. Confused, I asked the police officer for direction. He pointed right. I went right. I started screaming, while going up hill, because the other road was parallel, but the guy couldn't hear me. I was just wearing myself out, so I stopped screaming. I felt bad for this other guy. If it had been a group ride, I'd have busted my ass to catch him, but going the wrong way- that might only have led more people off course. I felt bad about moving up this way, but I was also busy trying to get my breath back climbing a hill.

I think I had been ready pretty steady, but maybe a little uninspired, and with no rabbit in front of me I just settled in. This was a mistake, and I think, like my first run, I was just a little bit- not much, but a little- having trouble shaking off the training pace. But then another athlete made the race for me. There are several tri clubs in CT and I'm in the one with the fewest people (we're looking for more- all ability levels- join today !). A CT HEAT athlete went by me and made the mistake of being social/nice. He said something like 'Great job', or 'You're doing great.' This was a mistake. I usually say something like 'Keep it up," as it's awkward telling someone you're passing they are doing really well. But It wouldn't have mattered what he'd said. I loathe being passed on the bike, it's an ego shortcoming, I know, but I can't take it, not if it makes me think I'm not working hard enough. Which I wasn't.

I gaged him down the hill, stayed back as required. I came to the conclusion that I just needed to up my cadence to pass him, and that's what I did. I got on top of the gear and started pushing on a flat, opened up a small gap. I never looked back after that, so I'm not sure when (or even really if) I dropped him. But my second five or so mile lap was about two miles an hour faster, and I felt like I was really racing. It was a tremendous difference, and I just want to say thanks to whomever that was for challenging me- it was just what I needed.

When I came back in, it was right behind a pair of more casual-looking athletes who'd obviously missed the repeated instructions about the two-loops on the bike. Why two loops is too much for some people- well, that is just one of those things that happens, I guess.

I had a good second run. I felt really strong heading out, I downed a gel, and when I turned the corner and started up the long uphill, I ran steady. There was a guy in front of me who was not running very well. I passed him and then set my sites on the next guy, who was a long way away and I never did catch.

The bad news was that on the way out on the second run, I saw a significant number of cyclists coming back in on the same road. Problem ? The run and the bike were on opposite sides of the railway parking lot, and there was no, and I mean no, part of the two courses that overlapped. How these people got on the run course, I'll never know. They clearly missed a turn somewhere, and it's amazing they got back at all.

Although my overall time was not great (54:58 ???) for 2-10-2 (and by 2, we mean 2+), and I got beat by one or more people I usually don't get beat by, I actually think this was a good race for me.

Thursday I did a reverse brick- 1 hour hard run, then 60 miles on the bike in under three hours. Friday I did a hard, hilly 68 miles on the bike. Saturday, for an easy day, I ran an hour. Now for all I know, everyone I was racing is also doing an Ironman in July and is on the same training schedule as me, but maybe not. Doesn't matter. The workouts are definitely eating into my racing- and that beats the snot out of the alternative, and what I think my coach would say is my history- my racing interfering with my training.

And when I got kicked in the pants a little bit by another athlete- who was only being nice, no question, whose reward for encouraging me was not appropriate- I responded with a better, more focused effort. That's what I really took out of the race.

Now, I also feel REALLY bad for Marty Schaivone. Marty worked very hard to make this a great race, and through no fault of his quite a few people ended up off course. I'm not going to comment much on that. I'm a big believer that you and only you can prevent navigational errors and you have to know the course. At the same time at least one athlete said a police officer sent them the wrong way. The one person I saw go off course had no excuse I know of, he just missed a sign, arrows in the road, and the general instructions that all the turns were to the right. Regardless, it happened, and the only thing you can say for sure is that it was not Marty's fault. Period.

If you're reading this, Marty, I for one had a great time, it was a great cpurse, and I hope that this doesn't discourage you in any way from doing this again.

I was a little sore going into the race and I'm still sore now. But I feel like a year later, I'm finding my way this season instead of losing it.

Hopefully I'll feel the same way after my afternoon run.