Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two days and counting

I went to the Gatorade® swim this morning with a 20 minute swim on the schedule. I'd gone to bed early last night but I still woke up tired because we all slept together and my son is a worse sleeper than I am.

I felt pretty out of place the first two minutes or so. The water until you get to the sandbar is really cold (well, a little cold), I had not been in open water since Nutmegman, and well, I'm a lousy swimmer- but getting better.

By the time I hit the warmer water, I was feeling good. By the end of the twenty minute swim, I actually felt like maybe I can do this thing, and even do it well. The illegitimacy of me putting myself in an Ironman, which always strikes me when I first look at an IM swim course, fades again when I get in the water, start swimming, and remember I've done six of these.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hijacked Twitter Accounts

Looks like someone hacked Hillary's twitter account....

Falling into place, or falling apart ?

Looking at my last post, wow ! What a difference a day makes. I went to bed Friday night and my biggest concern was how to fit in a four workout around dropping my bike off for transport to Florida in New Haven at noon. I hate when we have things to do at noon on the weekend...

At 4:00 I woke up with stomach cramps. Half an hour later, I was evacuating my bowels and stomach in a pretty fearful way. I hadn't been sick since August of 2008. I wasn't sure if it was a virus or if it was chlorine poisoning. I'd gone swimming in the Branford pool late Friday night and it seemed like they'd treated the pool right before I got in. Add that they turn the hot water off at night and the showers were too ice cold to bear, and I had a tremendous amount of chlorine on me- I should have showered when I got home. Nauseous now, the smell was making me even sicker.

At 5:15 am Saturday morning, I was up for the second time with a combination of diarrhea and vomiting- just dry heaves at this point- while Margit was upstairs with Ian. I rushed to get out of the bathroom before she came downstairs- she was going swimming and with the next week likely to be a difficult one for her for workouts, I didn't want her bagging her swim because I was sick.

I got up around 6:45 AM and worked on packing my gear bag, which was going down on the truck with my bike. I drank some coffee and did eat a banana, but my stomach was at about 20% and it was amazing that I held that down. My legs were already very sore- when my stomach hurts I sleep in a ball- and that position and less than four hours of sleep makes my knees ache.

I knew the ride (3 hours plus an hour run) was never going to happen, so around 9:30 I put on a pair of tri shorts and ran around the house, thinking I'd swap my Saturday and Sunday workouts. I came to the conclusion my stomach might handle it, but my legs couldn't. I was so dehydrated that I could feel every trouble spot in both legs.

I thought maybe I'd be able to eat some lunch and feel better, so I came inside and mixed some Propel. I never was able to bring myself to eat before we went to drop off the bike.

The rest of the day was spent alternately running around doing things we needed to do and lying flat on my back. I had no strength, I felt miserable. I managed to get down a second banana, an apple, a plain yogurt (something I would never normally eat), and finally, a small amount of dinner. Then I slept 9 hours.

I got up at the ridiculously late time of 7:15. I can't say I was 100%, but I was 90% at least. I had my usually breakfast, a cup and an half of coffee, a banana, half a grapefruit, and an apple, got everything ready to take my Lightspeed out for a three hour ride, or some combination of ride and run. I debated just doing my 90 minute run. That's just part of my routine. I plug into the music and run and just kind of have some time to myself. But i wanted to get that ride in.

We had a pretty viscous storm last night- rain and wind, so there was a lot of stuff down on the side of the road. I got out riding and was doing a pretty good job dodging things, but then I hit a branch about twice as wide as my thumb. My front wheel started to wobble and I know with the Light speed when that happens not to try and force it to stay straight. So I let the bike go off to the right as there was traffic behind me.

Dodge the telephone pole !

Telephone pole dodged, I did a little off-road work, then got back on the road as the truck went by, slowing down to make sure I was all right. I probably should have turned around and gone home.

I was debating what to do the rest of the way out. Ride an hour out, ride back, run an hour. Ride 1:15 each way and run half an hour ? I had to be done by around 12:40 so Margit could get to her massage.

The Lightspeed is an older bike, long past it's last tune-up, and with my gear bag packed and on it's way to Florida, I was stuck with no way top fix any problems I might have.

After the bike skipped gears a few time on me I decided to bring it back home after two hours and turned around in Clinton. I was about 10 minutes past my turn-around when I hit some auto-glass hidden in the leaves outside Hammonassett.

I heard the snick-snick of the glass, climbed the hill, and thought I was all set. But down at the bottom of the hill, I realised I was flat.

I was at 1:11, and I had a total of 3:05 to get home.

I started running- from the far side of Madison, I ran for about 50 minutes, in my bike shoes, to the bike shop in Guilford, bought a tube, and road home, then went out and ran another five minutes.

I checked the phone messages, realised I had to go meet Margit to pick up Ian.

It was a nice, sunny day and I had a good, if weird workout, and hey, I'm still alive ! And still ready to race.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Closing in on an Ironman

With the race about a week away, it's odd to finally start to feel as though some things are falling into place.

I tweaked my achilles tendon about a year ago and while it never stopped me from doing anything, it has been getting progressively more sore right up through about two weeks ago. To the point where it felt like I had a high ankle sprain. I just kept icing it, didn't back down on the workouts, even when the other ankle started to hurt as well.

In fact, last weekend was my longest weekend- a 4 hour bike, one hour run and a two hour run the next day.

The ice paid off. I don't use painkillers or anti-inflammatories except for the ice, but somewhere during the last week the pain started to fade away and right now, with eight days to the race, I'm starting to feel like I'm really ready for this thing that seemed so far away for so long and now- now I'm right on top of it...

I have friends that are going down to race as well, and I hope it a good day for everyone. I'm especially impressed with my friend Steve, who hasn't let the fact that he punctured a lung and landed in the hospital at this race in 2006 stop him from going back two more times.

It's time to start throttling down the engine and hoping what feels good now or could feel just a little better will all fall into place...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Last Long Ride

I wasn't looking forward to my last long ride once I got up this morning. At 7 AM it was light enough to start of 4 hour ride, however it was still overcast and 42 degrees. A week ago, I'd done 4 hours in 60 degree weather, so this was just not what I wanted.

I waited until 9:20 and then set out. It was still in the 40s and I have to admit that at first I was feeling a little sorry for myself. It was cold- by fifteen minutes my hands and feet were paying the price, although I'd rubbed bodyglide on my face and that seemed to make a big difference. The wind was blowing hard in my face, I couldn't get myself to drink any appreciable amount of gatorade, I kind of had to pee. I couldn't help but thinking this was not an ideal training ride to prepare for Florida. On Thursday night, I'd been sweating in near seventy degree heat and humidity running...

But then I started to think about it. The clouds had blown off, it was bright and sunny, the leaves are turning- it was beautiful day. And I was cautiously optimistic that on the way back, the wind would be at my back and I'd be rewarded for the hard work into the wind I was doing- and it was hard work.

And for once, the wind was at my back and not a cross-wind (something I've been burned on plenty of times riding along route 1). In the end, battling the wind made it a better ride- I rode farther today than last week, negative split the ride by 8 minutes, and although it never really warmed up, I was able to enjoy the fall in all it's awesome splendor.

Then I hopped off the bike and at first, it was like the start of the bike ride. My feet were still cold. My tight hamstrings were making my ankles hurt. I was thinking about how it would be in Florida if I got off the bike and felt like this. And then everything warmed up and I started running not just well for after a four hour ride, but well period. It was a beautiful day for running- maybe a little chilly on the bike but a great day to run. I put in 50 minutes and when I finished, I realised that I'd just had my best workout yet getting ready for this race...

Sometimes, you have to just bundle up, get out there, and everything falls into place.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reunion and Disunion

I was invited to attend this year's Charger Huddle, the fall fundraising banquet for UNH's athletics programmes. The theme this year was firsts- as in first teams. I was the assistant coach for the Woman's Lacrosse team at UNH for the first four years- outlasting even the first coach. With de'Sha unable to attend, the current coach contacted me and asked me if I'd be there, and at the last minute I decided that I would.

Sixty dollars later, I had a great time- I'll post a few photos. It's easy to remember how hard being an assistant coach is when you have a full-time job- the hours, the long drives, the days you stand around in the frigid cold. And when you do that, you forget how much fun it is, how there's nothing quite like being part of a team.

I got to stand up and say a few words, spend time talking to a bunch of people I spent four years of life interacting with, and came away with a beer mug, a lapel pin and good feeling about having been a part of something.

Five minutes later, near the intersection of Whalley and Route 10, it all came crashing down. I was at a stoplight, waiting to turn and there was this woman in a winter jacket and sweatpants at a bench. She was hunched down oddly and appeared to be pulling the sweats over a pair of jeans. She appeared to be looking over the bench at the cars, but her furtive behaviour and body angle was all wrong.

Then she finished getting the extra layer of clothes on. She'd been bent over looking at a small child while she bundled up, made obvious when she picked up a baby or small toddler in a pink winter suit- pants and a winter coat. It was 10 o'clock at night and there was no bag of groceries or fast food. It was 50 degrees at the time and there's only one reason to dress for temperatures in the 30s- because you are going to be out in the cold all night.

Of course, I don't know the back story. Single mom who lost her job. Fleeing an abusing husband or kicked out by a heartless boyfriend ? Drugs ?

It doesn't matter. I don't believe in karma, or ying and yang or higher powers that pull puppet strings. But I have to wonder if the financial turmoil we are all experiencing isn't symptomatic of an economic culture so given over to greed that we have no solution for the 1.5 million people that experience some degree of homelessness over the course of a year.

Then again, I'll get up in the morning, ride my bike and run, and continue preparing for my trip to Florida to do the Ironman and forget at some point that the sixty dollars I spent tonight could have put up a mother and her baby daughter and fed them tonight...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Swim Stroke

Finally, I have my swim stroke. An article in the Hammer Nutrition newsletter, a brief conversation with my wife, and suddenly, it all clicked. What my coach was telling me about pushing down the T and how you had to have bent elbows to get the catch right. How the T was coming up because the catch was starting to soon and pushing me up. Jack helped me correct so many things about my stroke but I never quite put it all together.

I guess I'm a visual learner.

I climbed out of the pool Monday with a strange combination of excitement and frustration. On one hand, I'd just swum under 30 minutes for 30 laps, again, a big deal for me. On the other hand, I've been a miserable swimmer for what, seven years ? And now it comes to me ? Now ?

Of course, I know. I can't retrain my entire stroke in 3 weeks. I am not going to get in the ocean and do anything different than I have done in any other Ironman. At the end of the day, my swim won't be any better.

I have to accept that. I have to focus on retraining my swimming over the entire winter and hope it really will be better next year and that means plenty of open water swimming to get a new stroke to work in that alien, otherworld environment that is not a clear three-foot deep pool.

It's OK. I have learned something that could- COULD- make me a much better triathlete. Just not November 1st 2008.

Relax. Take your time. Enjoy that day- and then get to work. And somehow, not regret what's gone by. Not feel like I've been phoning it in the last seven years in the pool. The wasted years of modified dog-paddling ? Can't get those back...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beyond Words

When I was rushing home today in hopes of getting half my lawn mowed, I heard something on the radio that- I'm not even sure how to express it.

There are currently wildfires burning out of control in the greater Los Angeles area. At the time I heard the report, one person had died as a result of the Marek fire. When it comes to wildfires, we usually do a pretty good job of evacuating people and in general, while it is sometimes hard to believe that are any trees left to burn out there in California, these fires are huge, unstoppable events.

But this story on NPR really- it was kind of upsetting. The one fatality (there has since been another) was a homeless man, who was living in a cardboard box which apparently caught fire while he was sleeping. To think that a man forced to take refuge in a cardboard box dies because the box caught fire.

I'm not sure how to even have a rational response to something so heartsickening. I have enough of a problem with the idea that we have so many homeless people in this country. But to burn to death sleeping in a cardboard box ? That's your home.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Triathlons and Politics

At the risk of alienating half of the people who read this blog (what, two people ?), I am going to post something that's political. To be honest, I think that it's sad how afraid everyone is talk politics these days with friends whose political leanings are unknown. Of course, if you drive by my house you'll know who I support, but these days discussing politics is as poisonous as discussing the Red Sox and Yankees, at least living right on that fault line here in south-central Connecticut. A

I was thinking about this on my long ride yesterday. I read a number of articles, including this one by Victor Davis Hanson, which suggest to me that some conservatives have already started retrenching, meaning they have given over to losing the presidential election, and started assigning blame.

I personally think this is kind of lame. Hanson's article, one of many echoing the same lament, is the equivalent of writing up your pre-race expectations and saying you're not going to do well, but then blaming others for poor result you expect to earn, and suggesting it's unfair. It would be like me blaming the triathlon community for masters swim programs, personal swim coaching, and high-end wetsuits, while logging 3000 meters a week in the pool...

The argument goes something like this if you don't want to read the article- and you should- The MSM (that's mainstream media) won't allow John McCain to ask legitimate questions that point to deficiencies in Barack Obama's character because the MSM wants Barack Obama to win the election and is is actively attempting to bury any news items that allow Mr. McCain to question Mr. Obama's character, should he chose to, which most recently (yesterday) he appears to no longer want to do.

There are three hot-button issues that have been focused on: Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright, and Tony Rezko.

The Ayers issue has gained the most traction with the right. Why ? Bill Ayers = Terrorist. Barack Obama + Bill Ayers. Barack Obama= ??? According to the political advertisements- which have not actually run according to the Washington Post, the official campaign position is that it represents 'bad judgement.' But in this post 9-11 world, the word terrorist has obvious, and ominous, implications.

Has the MSM covered the story ? Well, if you consider the right's printed paragon of liberal excess, the New York Times, part of the MSM, and their front page adequate coverage, then yes. In the Washington Post, a fairly balanced news outlet, they reviewed the Times coverage this way: 'The New York Times got it right last week when it noted that the Illinois senator had "played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers."'

The Post article also does what the MSM has not necessarily done a great job of- explaining why Ayers is an education advocate in Chicago and not a man living in an 8 by 8 cell.

So while you have people at McCain/Palin rallies shouting 'terrorist', and conservatives pundits claiming that the association is being ignored, the MSM has looked at the association and determined it was largely that of two men who sat at the same table in board meetings, not co-conspirators plotting to bomb the Pentagon again (in Ayers case, at least).

I don't think on the second point I could really do the Reverend Wright controversy justice, as I am not myself a journalist, nor do I have the time to devote to my blog to detail the 'controversy' in all its g(l)ory. But if you can close your eyes and not hear 'God damn America,' you were probably in a coma in the spring of 2008. Claiming the media did not examine this relationship is a bit of a specious argument. Whether you think the relationship was accurately represented by the Obama campaign is probably a matter of your personal judgement. What can't be questioned is that Mr. Obama responded by delivering a significant speech on race that, as much as the actions of the media, answered the controversy.

Finally, you have the Tony Rezko connection. Of the three character issues, certainly this seems to be the most interesting. Unlike Mr. Ayers, Mr. Rezko is in jail. Further, Mr. Rezko was in real estate, and real estate is an important component in our current financial mess. Yet of the three character issues, this one is getting the least play, probably because it evokes the least emotional response. It also is by far the oldest of the three issues, and has been investigated very thoroughly. The Rezko connection, which included suggestions that the Obama's home was purchased at a reduced price due to the involvement of Mr. Rezko, was an issue during the Democratic primaries. It was certainly floated as a problem by the Clinton campaign.

Again, the MSM did investigate the connection. Both the Tribune and the Sun Times, as well as the New York and Los Angeles Times, ABC and Fox News, among others, have looked at the connection between the two men. Obama himself has admitted that the sale of land adjacent to his property to him by Rezko suggested the 'potential for impropriety.' What the MSM was not able to prove was that his connections with Rezko led to political influence.

Still, as so often seems to happen with politicians, this of all the connections is the closest to anything disturbing. It is not surprising. Why do politicians so often run afoul of ethics with real-estate developers ? Because developers need the help of politicians to get projects approved- for zoning, for funding, for community approval.

Nevertheless, this connection has been vetted by the press, and found wanting of any serious negative consequences for Mr. Obama.

The problem with these character attacks, if you will, or a question of character, if you won't, are twofold:

1) Credibility- these attacks play well with the base of the party, but as one conservative analysts said 'Show me a middle-of the-road voter that will be swayed...' Much less entrenched liberals that will be convinced. It's not like Michael Moore is going to tune into a McCain rally then leave and call Jon Stewart up and say 'Why did you lie to me when I asked if Obama was an Arab terrorist ? How could you ?' These questionable associations have been available to middle-of-the-road voters to Google and watch on You Tube for months, and they just haven't really gained any more traction than John McCain's association with Charles Keating.

Obama was called out by the Clinton campaign for not having been properly vetted and they suggested Obama might wither under bright lights, which the campaign did its best to bring out. Now, just three weeks from the election conservatives like Hudson, Krauthammer and others are still saying that the only reason that Obama hasn't withered is because the media refuses to turn on the spotlight.

Regardless of your political persuasions, spend five minutes on You Tube and you will find a diametrically opposed individual- a conservative cuckoo who believes that Obama is a Muslim whether he believes it himself or not or a liberal looney who thinks the financial crisis is a conscious plot by George W. Bush to suspend elections.

News outlets report on what sells, and these 'character questions' aren't selling. The news agencies put them on the shelf, and the consumers spoke. What they said appears to be, 'Thanks but no thanks.' The spotlight was turned off not because of bias, but because the bright light failed to show any improprieties on a scale that the voters were uncomfortable with.

Although if Obama wins, 'Cottage View Terrace' might become our next Whitewater.

2) Fatigue- Although conservatives spent most of them time they controlled both the legislative and executive branch this century castigating Democrats for a lack of civility- 'up and down' votes on nominations for the bench and cabinet positions, the truth is that for the last quarter century american voters have been subjected to a non-stop series of character attacks. From almost the moment Bill Clinton was elected, the Clinton bulwark was laid siege to by conservative activists and ultimately congressional investigations. 8 years later, he left off, surviving a bruising impeachment that demonstrated both his considerable personal shortcomings and congressional (or at least senate) contempt for the whole process.

In 2000, the first victim of conservative character attacks was actually- John McCain. In the south, conservatives activists worried that the then-centrist McCain might beat George Bush in the primaries spread rumours that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. These rumours were a bizarre perversion of a charitable act- the McCains had adopted a Bangladeshi girl.

The next was Gore- he was lampooned alternately as a serial exaggerator, a liar, a braggart, a hypocrite, and even 'fat'. He was repeatedly said to have claimed to have invented the internet, which he never did claim to have done, and it was his congressional testimony on global warming that was the basis for the exaggeration claims. Mr. Gore has now won a Nobel Prize for his work on raising global awareness about Global Warming.

In 2004, the 'Swift-Boating' of John Kerry, the last war hero to run for president prior to Mr. McCain, needs little comment either to its vitriol or its inaccuracy. The MSM largely left Mr. Kerry to defend himself. He declined, and it may have cost him the election.

The problem Mr. McCain now faces is the american public actually has turned its attention away from Brittany's Spears re-flattened midriff, and what they want to hear is how the candidates can save their jobs, their homes, and their investments (if they have any). That includes me. I am far more concerned about whether I will have a job in six months than I am of a mind that Mr. Obama went to Mr.Ayers basement after those board meetings to build pipe bombs.

If conservatives could demonstrate that Mr. McCain has a compelling economic program that the MSM is ignoring, then I would at least be interested. Quite honestly, it seems that few people really understand what the candidates budget plans are, but if the message includes jobs, housing, and financial stability, my bet is the MSM will cover it and the people will listen.

As the crass saying goes, 'it's the economy, stupid.' What these continued character attacks- which Mr. McCain now seems once again to be disavowing- suggest is that his own campaign does not think he can win on the only issue that matters to the voters.

This petulant whining about the press before the election has even been held, simply isn't in the spirit of putting forth your best effort. Stop pointing fingers, start working harder on legitimate issues. And perhaps, accept the fact, if it should happen, that your man lost because their man did a better job, or offers a better strategy. Some days we don't win, and most of the time when we don't, we deserve the result we get.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One More Long Run

I did my second long run last Sunday- again 2.5 hours.

But I'd run a lot of rolling hills in that first extra-long run, and I'd been chasing a rabbit on the way out. Another athlete had told me they'd run all the way to the Guilford Green and back in 3 hours- so I was determined not only to run to the green in one hour fifteen minutes, but exceed that distance, so that my 2.5 hour run would be even longer. I did it so I would have a goal, but looking back, that goal, while achievable, was too aggressive, and I ended up leg sore (well, ankle sore) for several days.

So last week I ran as close to board flat for the 2.5 hours as I could and I started out slow. I also started out early- at 7 AM, in the rain, the 50 degree rain. The rain let up and stayed away- until 2 hours, and I ran that last half hour much harder than the first two.

This is the effort that I should be aiming for in Florida- two and a half hours of very steady running, followed by 45 minutes or so of hard, hard effort, running against the end of day so I can finish my second ironman in daylight this year...

Two hours this Sunday. One last long run and then dial it down.

Race Simulation

When I start getting close to a big race, or when I'm losing that triathlon fever in the dead of winter and start wondering why the hell I would ever want to get in the water again, I do a race simulation at the gym at lunch.

This involves swimming 10 laps in the pool, changing in the looker room, doing 15 minutes in the aerobic spinning room on a bike I've already set up, and then running 15 minutes either on the treadmill or outside.

Wednesday, I hopped in the pool and had at it. I swam 10 laps in 9:30. That might be an indication for most of you to give the sport up as a bad job, however, for me this was a real breakthrough. I've never broken 10 minutes for 10 laps in the pool. In fact, I've never done 10 X 50 on 1 minute successfully. I even split it pretty evenly- 4:41-4:49. What's even more amazing is that I finally figured out how I could actually catch the splits while swimming.

I had a really good spin. High cadence and steady, to get ready for Florida. The spin is always the best part of the workout- I make sure the fans are off in the room and build up a good sweat.

I ran outside and ran well, but my left ankle felt pretty bad at first. It takes the ankle a long time to warm up. Having had a serious high ankle sprain (soccer) makes this a lot easier to deal with. I negative split the run by 30 seconds

Of course a workout at the gum that's 40 minutes long is not going to get you ready for an Ironman, but a little of all three sports never hurts to keep that triathlon fire burning.

Friday, October 03, 2008

IM Florida

Wow ! I'm actually going.

The airline tickets have been reserved, the condo reservations are set. Sure, Margit said 'You were always going', and I've been training since August 1st for this race, but to me, when you're talking about a race that's across the country (it's not literally across the country, but close enough), you're not really going until you've bought the tickets and committed to actually go there.

I'm psyched. One more big training week, maybe two, plenty of ice, and let's do this thing.