Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colbert Report Craziness- X-Files Reference

While highlighting the danger of pool parasites that have their origins in human and animal feces, Colbert asked the obvious question- who is pooping in our pools ?

His answer: the Poopacabra.

Now, I happen to think this is a clear and unmistakable reference to the chupacabra, which, I really believe most Americans had never heard of before the X-Files episode 'El Mundo Gira' from the fourth season...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ironman Lake Placid- Part V

This of course is the part of the race report I'd just as soon never write. It doesn't do to have a blog and only write about the things you want, though.

I wanted to finish off the race with a 1:45 second half of the marathon. After feeling so horrible going up the big hill, I was amazed at how good I felt coming back down. From miles 14-17, I felt good. I kept turning it over. I made it to the entrance to the out and back and I was still running pretty well. If I had been drinking soda, who knows ? I did take some bananas, some water, some gatorade. But I look back and I know I needed more. The Cliff Shot Bloks were in my Elite singlet. I didn't think I could eat any more.

I was too worried about my gimpy legs, not worried enough about my nutrition. Even when I'd been running well, my head had started to swim. In fact, I was seeing an optical illusion that was making me worry I was hallucinating. When I looked over at the double yellow line, to the right I was seeing a third line, a dark, translucent blue line like an energy beam from some sci-fi show. I looked over and thought 'I can't possibly be seeing that.' Except I was. This went on for a while.

Finally, I slowed to a walk to go through the feed station around 18 miles. I don't know what my heart rate was because the battery on the chest strap died the day before we left for LP. I worked to get it down and then Jeff Molson went by my, cruising along. Like a man caught after a long breakaway, I tried to re-integrate myself to the flow, but he went by. It was enough to get me running again. I made the turn of the out and back, and started back, running, but slower. I wanted the hit a porta-potty but someone from the other side of the road beat me to it so I stood behind it to pee, then started running again.

I lost track of mile 21, but somehow, I made it to mile 22, and I was somewhere around 10 hours. I'd taken it easy up the big hill after the out and back. My head was really swimming now, but I knew I'd get there and that was a good thing. I slowly ran mile 23, losing time, losing hope. This is my greatest regret. If I had held on better in 23, I would not started walking in 24. Miles 24-25 I had to walk, or I thought I did. I went by Steve and Chuck on the out of that shorter out-and-back and I was now a good 15 minutes behind schedule.

Then I hit the cone, and started running again immediately, slowly and painfully at first, but then suddenly I was passing people again, going downhill. I got to the oval and passed several more people, including two after the final turn, where I found a little bit of steam.

And then I was done, 16 minutes late and very frustrated, yet also satisfied with my second fastest time on the course. Can you be frustrated and satisfied at the same time ? That's for another post.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ironman Lake Placid- Part IV

The run. Never easy in the ironman.

I came in off the bike. There was someone to take it right away as soon as I dismounted, which was nice. I kept my helmet with me and tried to run, but I couldn't. Still, I was upright. That's better than Florida, where my right knee buckled and I collapsed as my bike was wheeled out from under me. Also, my right ankle, which usually aches for the first five minutes after I get off the bike, didn't. But I couldn't. I stumbled to the porta-potty, peed, and then headed for my bags, which I once again self serviced to save time.

In the tent, I was quick, even though I was changing from the cycling jersey, which chafes my neck when I run, to the Elite singlet. I wanted to give Dave some props out there. I shoved a clif block in each pocket and started running. But I was hurting. See the picture below.

I told myself that with the conditions of my calves, I should focus on running the first half of the marathon and then re-evaluate my condition. Finishing was never a question, and I'd come out onto the run course at around 7 hours, so I knew I was still in contention to qualify and even crack the top ten in my age group based on historical data- but only if I could run. And I didn't think I could.

The beauty of the Lake Placid course is that downhill start to the run- much of the first four miles is either downhill or slants down. However, when both your calves are in danger of a race-ending cramp, downhill is bad. You have to baby the downhills. Still, I started out really well. That short-stride ironman run is really well-suited to cramp-ready legs. I started passing people and set a nice solid pace. When I passed the fairgrounds and went into the steep downhill on the bridge, I really backed off.

I have to admit that as much as I love the Lake Placid race, I hate the 'out-and-back' at at the bottom of the hill and my biggest regret is not running the marathon course this June (or ever), outside the race. It's just 2.5 miles or so each way, but it just goes on and on and on. And it's not flat. Sometimes it's downhill, sometimes it's up hill, and either way, you get the opposite later.

I think what makes the section daunting is that it is comparatively flat to the rest of the run course. Coming onto it off the downhill is kind of a, well, a downer. I remember taking my first banana part in this section. I was hoping the potassium would help fend off cramps. I also took some electrolytes, although many of the 'pills' had turned to power.. I climbed the biggest hill in this section, a hump really, still running well- I did stop to use the porta-potty at some point.

Then it happened. That damn out and back. So far out. Finally I made it to that damn far-off cone, but I was already beat up mentally. I felt like I was struggling to maintain my pace and as each mile ticked off, I was calculating where I want to be at the half-marathon point- somewhere around 8:45. I was not really keeping track of how fast each mile was, that gets in your head.

I finally made it back to the Ironman inspiration station. I got the generic 1232- alan macdougall- 'You're a winner' message. I saw Margit going out shortly after that- she looked like she was running well and I guess I looked better than I had, so we slapped hands and then I worked as best I could to the end of the out and back.

I took it really easy up that long hill, then worked harder on flatter section. I started feeling better as I went by the fairgrounds, and basically just ran solid to that great big uphill into town. I did not walk the uphill. As I turned the corner at the Mobil station I heard Eric and someone else and felt like I was doing OK. I finally climbed up onto the second out and back and I was hurting. The turn-around on this second out and back is also WAY out there, at the same place the bikes come out onto the road. Any out and back gets magnified in distance at a time like this. I saw Steve and Chuck and just pushed to get there.

And then I turned at the cone and suddenly I was running downhill again and I felt better. I soon saw the first woman mountain bike and the race winner for the women coming up the out-and-back as I was going down. I found another gear. I did not want to be lapped by the winning woman.

Before I knew it, I had indeed run half the marathon, and I was even on pace. But there was another 13+ miles left....

Friday, July 25, 2008

X-Files Movie

All I'm going to say for now, is that I saw it and it felt like slipping on an old shoe for two hours. I liked it it. But I have a feeling the pace is going to prove far too leisurely for many movie-goers

Ironman Lake Placid- Part III

I should probably take a step back here as I head into the second loop of the bike (is writing this easier than riding was ? Hmm....) and talk about some of the nuts and bolts of what I was doing.

I bought some lemon-lime endurance gatorade power mix a week before the race on and had two bottles mixed to start the race with. That way I could start taking nutrition on the course and except for switching to orange (which I find provides less gastric comfort), there would be no change. I was drinking about one bottle every 40 minutes and eating Cliff Bloks- one bag per half hour. Each hour, I took some endurolytes and race caps. At two hours, I ate as many Nacho Cheese Combos as I could get down- the oddity of eating a dry food (out of a baggy) on a wet day was not lost on me.

Or my mouth.

I read a lot of people use advil or other pain killers when they race (and train). That's not my style.

So I headed back out on the second loop. I'd cut through a lot of the slower cyclists who share my lack of swimming skills. The second loops is always different because of this. There's more competition and unfortunately, more drafting as well. I've always felt that LP is not a drafter's course, but well, any course offers drafting opportunities.

I did not attack the big long hill that starts just after the run out and back.

I did attack on the downhill. I had one guy in front of me that I was not going to pass, so I settled in 5 bike lengths behind him, waiting until that first section 'flattens' out and then attacked and passed him.

The second long section of downhills was just like the first. I was going by people, fighting to see through the rain and moving right on those few cases where I got passed (three more riders passed me). I went by the sign that clocks your speed at the end of the downhills and remembered Coach Troy talking about people getting pulled over for speeding. Not today.

I took the turn with more authority but then my groin started to hurt. I continued to crank out the cadence and I finally decided that the pain was from needing to urinate. This time I didn't wait until Upper Jay. It was in this section that I started to notice that I was no longer attacking (and in a few cases being counter-attacked) by single cyclists. I was attacking groups of 3-4 riders.

I hate this. You are working alone, you pass them, they work together to pass you back.

It is what it is. I was peeing without stopping, and this is huge for me and proves the need to practice this on your long rider. Is it gross that I'm blogging about urinating ? Sure. Is urinating at 15-20 mph better than hopping off an urinating at 0 MPH. You bet !

I rode the hill up to Jay nice and steady, turned onto 86 to Wilmington and went small gear. Dave Greenfield talked me out of repeating 2006's race where I rode a 23-11 gearset. I was on 25-12 and was riding well. However, I got passed by one rider, which because I have issues with being passed, especially on hills, upset me a little. Sure, there are tons of riders that can roast me, but that doesn't mean I like being passed. However, about 3/4 of the way up the hill, I passed him back. This would be a repeating theme. The guy is younger, maybe 30-34. His name has faded from my memory already and I have no doubt in a few years that he'll be kicking my ass all the way up the hill. But at the time my thought- and my advice to him is this- you have to climb all the way up the hill.

Maybe in my old age I'm just a smarter climber.

the packs were starting to form, but I just kept to my own pace. I was able to get to the out on the out and back, take a few riders before the big downhill again and felt like I was doing well. Then a pack went by. I told myself to let it go and stood up and peed and ate.

I jockeyed with this group to the turn in the out and back, dropping when passed, then picking them off in threes and fours when the hills separated them. I kind of lost my temper at the turn-around and bombed down the hill and that was a little dangerous. I think, with 4 IMLPs under my belt, just based on number of ambulances seen, that the section from the turn-around to the big uphill on the out-and-back is the most dangerous on the course. There is no side to the road and you have bikes filling both lanes. I made one pass just inside the yellow line where my handlebar came within 4 inches of a handlbar going in the other direction. I could smell the other rider.

That was the kind of ride I was having. I didn't panic, I just kept going.

The group passed me again when I was peeing, all in a row, and this time, I lost my temper. We were in a flat area. I finished peeing, then accelerated and passed all of them at about 30mph. But it hurt, and I cursed myself after I did it because it was a stupid waste of effort.

At the feed station I asked if the volunteer that had gotten hit was all right, and was told yes. That was good, if true.

I approached the last stage of the ride the same way. attacked the little downhill- thought about A & W strip clams fondly, then climbed. For the first time, I heard the motorcycle of the official. Like all riders who hope they are honest and rule-abiding, that noise makes you nervous. It makes me less nervous on the hills because I will be passing people, not because I'm a great rider, but because I'm 5'4" and 135 pounds. Hills vs. me is a good match-up.

More on that later.

As I crowned the worst hill on the course, the one just before the high falls gorge, I saw fog setting in. Fog. I've ridden through this pass in fog before and let me tell you, that's a ride that sucks.

The fog was not as bad as I'd feared, but the wind was up and the pass was- hard. I rode the pass area conservatively.

Out of the pass, the motorcycle came back. I was ahead of the scrum of riders that were working together, but the front three picked me off. I dropped back. I had to tap the breaks to get four lengths back. This frustrates me. Pass me or don't but get it done. Tapping my breaks got my passed by three more, and then three more. They clumped together. I sat up. The motorcycle was between us. I put my right hand up as the referee looked back at me, imploring him to do something. This, above all things, frustrates me. When the rider who drops pleads with the official to enforce the rules, when there is a clump in front of you, make the call.

Didn't happen. I would go by the penalty tent and it was empty.

It is what it is.

By Big Cherry, I'd passed all but one of them.

The bears were again not that hard. I switched to the small gears halfway up Big Bear, kept passing people until the turn onto Mirror Lake Drive, and then shut it down a little. I rode easy into town, but then picked it up at the turn by the lake because what else can you do when the crowd is cheering.

I asked if anyone knew who had gotten stage win but no one answered. I took the turn wide into the barriers by the Olympic Center- how often do you get to ride like you're under the flame rouge in the Tour. And then I was off my bike and limping towards a porta-potty...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

IM Lake Placid

Between race reports, here are the pix I have so far:

IMLP ASI Race photos

Lake Placid- Part II

It took a while to get my transition bag. Because I'm not a good swimmer, lots of people are coming all at once when I get in, and I decided to self-serve the bag rather than wait.

I went to the end of a row- there was a guy on the last chair so I just dropped my gear on the floor and changed quickly. I strapped a My Athlete device on, but it had gotten wet in the battery casing because I had unpacked the bag before the race and it never registered. My bad- sorry John. I was out of the tent quickly and self-served my bike as well. As usual, I ran up the wrong side of the aisle and had to limbo under the rack, awesome with two shredded calves.

Then I started run, passing the crowd that was walking to the exit without getting in anyone's way. I ran over the mat and past the people who insist on mounting right over the mat. I got to the turn, went wide, and mounted in clear space and then started out easy. They put hay bales at the bottom of that first hill for a reason.

Then I started picking it up, drinking Gatorade, and eating Cliff Bloks. I remembered something Coach Troy says on the DVD about seeing people hammering the course in the first ten miles and never recovering and I took that to heart. At the same time, my plan was to ride the course the same way as last time- a 2:40 and a 2:50- a 20 mph average. That means no slacking.

I didn't slack. I also didn't blow myself up. I was worried. About my throbbing calves, about negotiating downhills when I couldn't dare to tense my leg muscles, about the driving rain. I climbed the first real long hill and came to the conclusion that as long as I didn't point my toes down I'd not cramp up again. I passed a lot of people heading for the downhills including a few I knew. The rain was hard, persistent, and I couldn't wear my glasses.

I got to the hills and reminded myself what Eric always says, which is that I could handle it. I started down and the rain pelted my eyes so badly I was worried I'd lose a contact. So I started dipping my head down, letting my helmet the brunt right before I wanted to get a good view, then looking up quickly and making my evaluations before the rain hammered my eyes half-shut. I screamed by people- it was amazing. Heavier larger bikers went off my back. Yeah, I got passed by three people, but I passed dozens glued to the white line while I was out near the yellow.

Good stuff. I had to pee, really pee, but there was no trying that until after I hooked the left into Keene. Again, this is an area Coach Troy talks about on the DVD. Easy to average 25-26 miles an hour here, but not smart. I rode the section steady, but couldn't find the place to pee. I tossed a bootle but took nothing, ate again, got some electrolytes and just spun. After I turned at Upper Jay, then I peed. I got passed by a few people, but by the feed zone, I'd passed them back.

There was no wind. I climbed up that last hill into Jay in the big ring, wanting desperately to hit the big hill at the turn onto 86(?). I took that turn (there's still some sand there) easy and then started up the hill, still in the big ring. I passed Margit, who was having a very good race. I climbed a little more and shifted to the small ring, then passed Mary Eggert, who I said hey to, not that she knows me. Her husband always kicks my ass when I race in Rochester...

I really had a very uneventful ride down from the crest of that hill to the out-and-back except for one woman that was blocking the outside of the lane and going 25 when I needed to be going 30. I just kept saying on the left and holding my distance until she moved. As I passed her she seemed really annoyed, but oh well, I didn't force the issue by forcing by her out of the way, I just kept chattering at her until she did the right thing.

The climb into Wilmington allowed me to move up a little more. I peed again on the downhill to the out-and-back, took the turn easy, and then attacked a little bit. there was a bunch in front of me and I wanted some separation before hitting that big downhill. I got it, felt comfortable as I rocketed down it, passing one guy, and being passed by one guy that I re-passed on the uphill on the other side.

I worked steady to the turn-around, picking it up a little after the lumber mill, and worked hard to the turn. I grannied the turn and got it from the crowd for that, so I hammered the downhill after the turn. I could see the faces of people I'd passed not that long before and I saw surprise that I was attacking the downhill hard. I kept that up all the way to the big hill, now an uphill, and worked that hard to. When I reached the top, I rested a little, rolling into the back part, which is a downhill.

Then I saw what for me looked the worst part of the race. At the feed zone leading out of the out-and-back two riders were headed for the end of the feed zone. The one in front correctly picked the very last volunteer to grab a water from. The other athlete picked the second to last volunteer, but he did not slow down, he did not keep his non-pickup hand on his break, and he was cut off by the other rider. Unable to slow down, instead of bailing on the zone and going left, he simply plowed into the volunteer. I heard the f-word.

My job was to keep going. I slowed into the turn, relaxed on the downhill, but after I made the turn, I picked it up, really working the downhill. this carried me part of the way into what I think is inarguably the hardest climb, up by Whiteface Ski Resort or whatever it is. Finally, for the first time, I saw the officials. They seemed unconcerned about the drafting. I put that out of my head and passed, passed, and passed. I kept climbing, now in the small ring 23, one pass after another.

I finally made the top, turned the corner into the High Falls Gorge area where they have that observation area. There was no wind.

Think about this- no wind in the gorge. Rain or no rain this was random chance all in my favour. I didn't have to kill myself in this section and so I didn't. I kept the pace steady, average about 18-19 mph all the way to the Cherries, bursting on the downhills and staying in the zone on the up rollers.

The Cherries were easy work.

So were the Bears. I stayed big ring about 2/3 of the way up Papa Bear, hit the turn and then stayed in the small ring until after I'd climbed that last little hill.

I took the turn onto Mirror Lake Drive easy, and kept it steady until I was up by the Olympic Center. Then it was back out for the second loop...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ironman Lake Placid- Part I

It wasn't raining at 4:30 AM when I got up. This is kind of funny, because it was one of the few times in the day I'd be able to say that.

I ate a banana and started the coffee, then went and ran for 10 minutes. I ran down to where they body mark and they were just setting up the step stools for people to stand on, but were not ready to mark. I ran back to the room and waited for everyone else to get going.

We headed down to get marked and make the final adjustments in our swim to bike and bike to run bags. I'd packed everything in the bags in bags, because I'd been pretty sure it would be raining in the morning. When it wasn't, I removed all the inner bags to save time. In the end this wasn't a bad move per se. My gear would have been soaked after about 1 minute anyway, so the fact that I got this wrong was pretty much meaningless. I took the bags, which included a pristine apple bag, back to the room, grabbed my wetsuit and headed down to the start.

There was a long line at the porta-potties, so I finally just headed down the water and got in. I spent the pre-race floating on my back, talking to Margit, and staying afloat. I started middle-right, five or six rows deep. That's an aggressive start for me, but i decided a year or so ago that I need to start close to the line and try and survive because at the end, I might be competitive in my age-group.

The Ironman swim is never easy (well Arizona was easy, but that's the only one), and Lake Placid is hard, but I got off to my best IM start ever. I was swimming with my head down early and often. I was also trying to work my way to the inside, but slowly. My feeling is that in a counter-clockwise swim, the people on your left are on the inside and therefore have a right to their water, just as you have a right to the water you are in compared to those people on your right.

Those people on the outside ? Some of them think an over-your-back diagonal towards a buoy is the way to go. Oh well, there are no damn rules in the swim, and if I want to stop getting beaten up by people who can't swim but can flail and kick, I need to swim faster.

I still had a decent swim out to the turn-around. I got hammered in the turn-around, which is also usual. Then coming around, I had someone really trying to ride me inside. I put my foot on his hip to get a little nudge before he could hit me again. My right calf locked up, then cramped. This was like 2003 all over again. The cramp stole my breath and I did three lifeguard strokes. I dismissed the idea of stopping and started a regular swim stroke again but I knew I was in trouble. I swam steady to the end of the lap, but I couldn't really put my legs into it, so my right hip started to get sore- I was still rolling at the hip, but without any help from my legs.

I limped out of the water. I had trouble making it from the exit back to the entry, and I started swimming while most people were still walking.

The swim after that was uneventful. I came out of the water after one lap in 38 minutes, I think. I got on the line pretty good and swam to the turn-around, then got pushed wide again. I fought to get inside and did this time and avoid more pummeling. I was doing really well, keeping my head down, not looking up. But then I got close to shore and was a little wide right, so I lifted my head straight up to sight the finish of the swim, which was about 100 yards away.

My left calf exploded. Cramp is too mild a word. There was a lump I could feel in the calf, like baseball-sized. I gasped, really hurting now, but this time I didn't even pause. I just kept swimming. I had to get out of the water, and somehow I did. I could barely stand, but I found Eric, who stripped my suit and I started getting out of the area, stumbling, then limping, then running past people. Cramps or no cramps, I knew I could ride. I'd done this before. But would I run ?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Finally Back

We had some crazy internet access in Lake Placid, and most of it was bad. I should have blogged from my iPhone, but there was so much else to do.

I'll start decompressing my race- since most of my experience was limited to that- tomorrow.

Dave Greenfield- you rock ! Thanks for bring my bike back from the brink...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Morning of...

Not much sleep last night...but oh well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day before the Day

It's 16:30 and I'm sitting on the private beach that comes free with our room and what do you know- four bars on the MacBook Air!

I think Margit is ready to have a great race, I mean a kick-ass awesome race, and that's what it's important. I also want to shout out here to Kramer- I hope the race is really an enjoyable experience and if you see him out there, make some noise. There's a lot of people here we know, there always is, but that's one more thing that makes this just the most awesome race venue- for us at least.

I have so many things to say and no time to say them, but I mostly want to thank Eric for keeping Margit and I on course, my son Ian for dealing so well with two parents that train long hours, Steve for everything Steve does, Helena and Chuck for making the last few days a lot- a LOT- less stressful, and especially Jason for having my back at work. And Michael for making us dinner once a week. That's huge.

I have no idea what the day will bring, and to be honest, I'm not worried...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Downhill Practice

We had our downhill practice today- we park in one of the pullouts and ride down while a few support vehicles follow us down. We're going fast enough that we're not really holding up traffic- and the second time, there was emergency road construction part way down.

Back in June, when I road the course on a Sunday afternoon by myself, I had a pretty miserable pair of downhill runs. Coming on the tail of being off the bike twice, I'd really been unhappy with where I was in that regard and I have to be honest. I was not looking forward to the downhill practice today. My coach Eric: always says that the course intimidates people when it shouldn't, and I agree with that, but at the same time, when the roads are open, the downhill is tough.

However, after doing two downhill practice runs today, any questions I have- and there shouldn't have been any- were answered. I'm looking forward to getting to Keene the second time.

It's always interesting doing the downhills. There's always at least two guys plus EH that beat me down the hill, and they averaged about 4MPH faster than I did, but if I average in the mid thirties in that section, I'll be happy enough. No, I'll be thrilled.

We had two absolutely wicked thunderstorms, both with hail, but each time, it cleared up nicely. I got a peek at the athlete's village today and they certainly improved the merchandise tent... other than that it's all about staying calm and relaxed...

It's been slow blogging because of our spotty internet access, but I'll add something tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

CSC Shows Their Stripes

I thought CSC showed their hand appropriately today. With a rest stage on offer tomorrow, CSC finally attacked. The analysts were starting to ask questions. Given CSCs top-notch performance in the team standings, there was a question of whether they needed to go on the offensive with individual riders, as well as the eternal question- can CSC be more than a great team and put riders on the podium.

Of course, in true CSC fashion, the brass ring remained so slightly out of reach. Two Saunier Duval riders stole Frank Schlenk's glory for the stage win, and simple random chance left Schleck 1 second out of yellow. One second out of yellow going into a rest day.

Of course, neither Schleck is the CG threat, but CSC-Saxo in yellow is the only thing that could have improved today's stage.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

iPhone 2.0- A Much Better iPhone

I was hoping to get my hands on a new iPhone this weekend but workouts come first and although I was in an Apple Store yesterday, the new 3G iPhone was not.

No big. I'd had the opportunity to use the iPhone 2.0 software for some time and things like enterprise support (read Microsoft Exchange email support, whoopie) have been nice. However, the big hope had been that the App Store would fulfill its promise. That button did very little until Thursday, and what it is doing is just awesome.

That is, if you've installed the 2.0 software, gone to the App Store, and have yet to find any apps worth installing on your phone, you're either a) a VERY casual computer user, b) not looking hard enough, or c) a great big curmudgeon.

And that's fine. Do you need to install apps on your iPhone ? Of course not. Everyone expected I was one of those people who would either jailbreak my phone or be down in my cups over the lack of available apps. I wasn't. I bought my iPhone to be an iPhone- that is a phone, email, and internet.

However, now that I have aim, twitteriffic, remore, and other applications on my phone, it's a better device. I've spent more time using my iPhone as an in-car iPod since the software came out, but I'm warming up to the new potential of an already great device.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something New- A Swim Meet

For my first time in a 50 meter outdoor pool, I decided to go the extra distance and compete in my first ever swim meet, a dual masters meet between Hopkins and East Lyme.

My plan was to swim one event, the 50 free- no turns or anything, and a distance I could just put my head down and go. The plan was set wrong by having only 4 men show up to swim for East Lyme. So I found myself in the meet's first event, the 200 IM, swimming the anchor leg (freestyle). Then the 50 was shortly after that, and I swam a 43.3- just under double the US men's record at the distance. And they say it's all about the suit...

I tried jumping in from the deck. I imitated the posture of the other athletes- the swimmers- however, when I hit the water I did not move forward. I think I lost about 5 seconds right there (and I spent the rest of the meet practising this skill during breaks).

My third event was the 100 free. With my open turn and my complete loss of oxygen at 75 yards, I clocked in at a frightening 1:39.

Undaunted, I anchored our 200 free relay. Fortunately, we were already toast when I hit the water.

I could just cross 'swim meet' off my list of things to do, but hey, maybe I'll learn to swim and actually be something other than comedic relief.....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Tour

Well, I've added the Tour widget to my blog, which is free advertising for Versus, but that's OK. They need the help.

Personally, I think that this year's Tour is pretty damn exciting. I sort of feel the way I did when I first started watching the Tour. New teams, new riders. Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to be happy to see CSC get out, but hopefully my favourite team will stay together with their new sponsors. Some people I've talked to have said they think it's just not exciting anymore.

I think some people just can't get up for the Tour now that Lance is gone, and others have bought into the idea that cycling is somehow tainted in a way that other sports aren't- I was reading former football player Mike Golic talking about how the Tour is off-the-radar because of its lack of credibility. Interesting. Football has a pretty good drug testing program, but let's face it, drink driving is getting more players suspended these days than failed drug tests and the league just isn't getting it done regarding HGH.

American sports writers are especially quick to bash the sport. I think despite the Lance Armstrong era american sports writers see cycling in general as European and the Tour as even worse, French. It's hard to believe how despised the country that was vital to the securing of our independence, a country that gave us the Statue of Liberty, is these days. But really, it's more than that, it's just that the sport is based in Europe, in my opinion, that makes sports writers seem to love to bash it.

Am I underplaying the doping problem cycling has had, and may still have ? Not really. Bad is bad and the problem was bad. But let's compare. Floyd Landis wins the Tour, but tests positive for testosterone. Result ? Banned for two years, victory stripped, team he rode for disbands.

Then there's America's Pasttime. Barry Bonds is approaching the sacred cow of baseball records- a sport that is defined by its statistics- and what does the MLB do ? Turns a blind eye. Yes, Bonds never failed a drug test, but that's because baseball had no effective testing and no effective punishment. Remember when a failed drug test was a 15 day suspension ? And how many have there been. Obviously baseball felt something was wrong with Bond's actions because they refused to honour the moment when he set the record. But they let him set it...

I think this year's tour is off to an exciting start because so far, nothing predictable has occurred. If the rest of the peleton can keep Robbie out of the winner's circle and CSC can take a shot at the team title, I will be happy...



Monday, July 07, 2008

The Mundane vs. The Big Race

While mowing the lawn Sunday afternoon I was struck by how, as a complete and hopeless amateur, those of us staring down an Ironman in the near future still have to go at our day to day life as though it's every bit as important as a day spent swimming, biking and running.

The lawn, of course, doesn't cut itself. And I can either cut it when it needs to be cut, or I can regret being a lazy bones and waiting. So as I cut it, I thought about comparing the two events:

Cost of entry:
IM- 475.00
ML- one beer (strictly enforced)

Beer on course:
IM- prohibited
ML- required

Cost of Equipment:
IM- 3000 (bike, shoes and helmet, wetsuit and googles, running shoes)
ML- 139.00 (mower)

Shortest Completion of event
IM- 10h 25m (twice)
ML- 0h 58m

Longest Completion of Event
IM- 11h 25m (includes walking 8 miles of marathon)
ML- 2h 15 (includes mower dying, going and buying and then assembling new mower and finishing)

Encouragement from fellow athletes
IM- Yes
ML- Front-yard only, and only when near road

Percent chance to run out of gas
IM- 50%
LM- 90%

Crowd cheering when finishing
IM- Yes
ML- Front yard only

Name Loudly (mis) Pronounced at Finish
IM- Hell yeah
ML- Hell no

Medal for finishing
IM- Yes
ML- Wife frequently responds to me finishing with 'Yeah, so you mowed the lawn. Do you want a medal ?'

Overall- The ironman wins, but mowing the lawn is sure less costly.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day 5000

I took a break from my Ironman taper to run the Independence Day 5000 in Milford, only because it's a USATF-CT championship. I went to the race with Henry Brown, who is over from the UK to visit. He was kind enough to drag my sorry behind around for about two hours on the bike yesterday and also head to the 5K today.

I wasn't expecting much- after a brisk ride and run yesterday I was pretty sure it would be a slow go and and the 15 minute warm-up I took with Henry and Charlie Hornak did nothing but reinforce that idea. Although my knee and achilles felt pretty good, I seemed to be a little sluggish through the first mile and an half of the warm-up. However, I often feel that way when I first get to a race, and I've learned some good strides can set things right to some extent.

I did my strides for about 10 minutes, and remembered back to a year ago. At that time, my right knee had been really sore. I couldn't do a knee bend, and this race had been a challenge to get the knee loosened up to run. Things are much better these days. Ice seems to help a lot.

The massive flood of race day registrations- some 400- left the data input team scrambling and it was announced that the race would start ten minutes late. That was frustrating, but expected (see last year's blog post). It's just too much for two people with laptops to handle. Still, it's always hard to be warmed up and ready to go and then have to reboot.

I waited for about ten minutes, talking to Charlie and Henry, then decided to start doing more strides.

The race started twenty minutes late, but no complaints here, and everyone seemed pretty relaxed about it. The race starts on an uphill, winding a little bit into a 70 degree right hand turn. As happened last year, the field surged ahead quickly, with the middle sagging backwards as the edges pushed forward.

Generally, I've gotten really good at being patient. But I've been doing mostly longer races and duathlons. You can't be as sedate running a 5K as you would be in a shorter race, or at least I can't. Other guys with more speed can, but I have to have a decent first mile if I want to have a decent 5k. So I started to work my way around people. We turned out onto the main road and I was alongside the leading woman and we took the left up the hill. I got caught a short there but negotiated the sewer grate.

Going up the hill, I passed George Buchanan. I was keeping my eyes on Henry's back, trying not to let him get too far away. Passing George gave me some confidence and worried me at the same time, but I figured I would press my advantage if I was running well. We all crested the hill and I really worked the downhill, which basically lasts a little past the 1 mile mark, which I hit at 5:25 or so. Then it's another uphill. I passed more people and kept pushing. During warm-up I'd seen that Marty had marked the 1.5 mile spot, so I decided to push until I got there, then moderate my effort going up the hill, which I did.

We turned the corner and I was back and with one of the Hitek open guys. I also knew that George was on me and I was hoping he was going to be going through soon. The course is pretty much downhill after that last climb and I decided to try and push the downhill as much as possible.

The last mile is basically three stretches, two of them long and fairly straight, then a wind into the parking lot. I kept wondering where George was. It turned out that he was nursing a sore hamstring and was running 'just hard enough' to beat another team's top Grandmaster- which he did. He went by at around 2.6 and dropped a 13 second hammer on me.

I hit the 3 mile mark at 16:40, rejected the notion of sprinting for a sub-17, and ran 5:33 pace for the last 1/10th of a mile. That's fine because I ran 5:34 average for the whole race. Henry cracked 17 with a 16:58.

I haven't run a 5K within 30 seconds of this in the last four years, as far as I can tell. I'm psyched- I think if I taper well now, I might just do okay in Lake Placid.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Taper Time

I'm officially in my taper zone for Lake Placid. It's early, too. As of June 30th, with the race still three weeks away, I found myself officially winding my training down...

..with a hilly ride of about 1:45. A seemingly minor detour (closing just about 1/4 mile of road on 146) forced me to ride all over the place, before coming home and calling the Branford Police. Someone had thrown a bottle at me and I might have let it go, but another car followed the first one, got a license plate number and then brought it back to me, so I felt obiliged.

By the time I was done mowing my lawn, the police had dealt with the situation- apparently the teen's grandmother was driving the car, and he's on probation, so...

I really hesitated to make that call, but with someone else bring the number back to me, I felt compelled. I also had more than an hour to think about it while I was riding, and the bottom line is that's the sort of thing that could cause a rider to swerve and possibly go off the road. It didn't phase me, but there's a difference between when you are just being a jerk and littering and when you are throwing a bottle at someone and then yelling at them.

I have to say this is one thing that after years of running and riding, I still don't get. What is the jollies that people get from harassing people while they are working out is beyond me. Eric wrote about it on his blog and the truth is for the most part, it's just funny. 90% of it is harmless and inane. But the other ten percent ? This bottle-throwing incident, the time a guy chased after me with a tire iron, and the guy who threatened to shoot me in the back.

Yes, shoot me. In the back.

It's taper time. I had a swim lesson yesterday, and today I went to the pool and practiced. I swam 25 yards. Stopped. Thought about what my coach was telling me, and tried doing it. Swam 25 more. Stopped again. In 25s and 50s, just trying to get it right...

Taper time. Just please, no more tire irons, no more guns, no more bottles...