Thursday, June 25, 2009

Branford Road Race

I seem to be on a two year cycle with Branford where I run well one year, and then stink the course up the next. I was on the stink end of the cycle this year.

It's a tough race. Like most of my friends we're all coming off races or long training days. I was seven days on from Health Net, which was one hard Olympic-distance race. I'd run two hours Monday and put up a 60 mile ride Friday in about 2:50.

None of that should have stopped me from breaking 30:00...

I was in the dead middle at the start, one row back, and got off to a good start.

I wanted to moderate my effort, but I was absolutely engulfed at the start by men, women, and kids. I mean it was a free for all and there were a lot of people around me who I felt maybe shouldn't be taking it out quite so fast. The first mile includes a long downhill and I was settled in and felt like I was running fairly even, picking my way through the crowd and following the shortest line. I was amazed at how many people were not following the tightest line, or anything like it. I was watching whole teams of people headed down the middle or even towards the right-hand side of the road.

I had two women in front of me and then a third passed me before the mile mark.

I went through at about 5:35, maybe 5 seconds too fast.

There was more downhill and I tried my best to push. I could see one of the people I'd expected to come back to earth still running well ahead of me. He was a kid that looked to be about 12, with a buzz cut- red hair- wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Really, this kid ran a 5:20 mile.

The second mile is not an hard mile, but it gets hard because everyone continues the blistering pace. I'd backed off a little and went through that second mile in about 11:25. I was hanging in with a group, but running to one side of them, because they were making no effort to follow the shortest line. There was no wind along the seawall, so it made no sense to sit in someone's wheelhouse, which I don't like anyway.

We took the turn, and the third place woman was still just out of reach, the kid with the buzz-cut was on a mission, and I felt like I was behind the world. At the same time, there were several people behind me that I'd been beaten by last year, so I decided to just hang on and keep working. Past the turn it's downhill and then it flattens out, you get a quick peak at the ocean, then turn your back to it and blister your ass up the course's toughest hill.

I was moderate on the hill, but still passing people. Looking back I went too slow.

I passed a number of people. The third place woman- who passed me back once on the downhill before I passed her again. Several guys in their fifties. The kid with the red hair ? No, not yet. I swear, I was getting housed by a 12 year old, or so it seemed.

After turning the three mile mark, you're on a hill. I ran well in this section, and mile 4 (3-4) was my best. This included running by my house, where Ian and Great and the Blaskovichs were in my driveway cheering and taking photos- thanks again. Jen and John !

You climb part of the hill and hit the 4 mile mark. I had people in front of me and people pushing me from behind, and I just ran as hard as I could. I did not have a great last mile, right about 6 minutes flat.

I turned the corner at the armory running well through the downhill, however after I turned the corner I just didn't have a great kick. I had a gel in my singlet and I should have taken it but I didn't. Mistake. Always a mistake. The final turn was so far away.

I ran past Caron's Corner again and some people from the store were out there cheering, then it was hard to the turn. I was neither catching nor being caught.

Near the turn, the smell of carnival food and the pancake breakfast was overwhelming. I wanted to vomit. The smell, a mix of frying and, uh, frying, does not go well with maximal or near-maximal physical effort. Then I did hit the turn and the clock said 29:51.

I ran as hard as could to break 30:00 but instead I hit the line at 30:05 and that was just not what I wanted.

But you know, the A race on my schedule is Fairfield, not Branford. If I run well there, this race won't matter. I do know this. Guys like George Buchanan and Jim Zoldy, Bill Thramann and Hank Berkowitz, Steve Swift- they all ran good races on an incredibly humid day.

I just hope I remember to look back at this post next year so it reminds me I'm supposed to run well next year...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saxo Bank Announces Tour Team

Saxo Bank announces Tour team

Fabian Cancellara will look to win the Tour's first yellow jersey for Saxo Bank (AFP/Getty Images)
The Saxo Bank team run by former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis will centre its hopes for victory on next month's race on Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, and powerful Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara.

And Riis believes Saxo Bank, who won the Tour last year with Spaniard Carlos Sastre under their former name of CSC, can dominate from start to finish.

Cancellara, who won the Tour of Switzerland on Sunday, is among the riders who could take the yellow jersey as of the first stage time trial in Monaco on July 4.

Andy Schleck, the winner of the Tour's white jersey - for the best placed rider aged 25 and under - will then spearhead the quality-packed Danish team's bid for the coveted yellow jersey.

The three riders were among the nine-man team announced by Riis on Monday.

"Just like the past couple of years, it has been a very difficult decision because there have been several excellent riders in our consideration for the nine spots for the Tour," said team owner Riis. "... now we have picked nine riders which together form an extremely strong lineup which could help dominating the course from the beginning to the end.

"With Fabian in peak shape it is clear that we have a perfect chance of taking the yellow jersey from the start and there is absolutely no doubt that this is what we are here for. At the same time, we have a homogeneous and powerful team for the team time trial and it should form the foundation for our efforts in the overall standings.

"In Frank and Andy Schleck, we have two super-powerful cards to play and the rest of the guys will be able to give them the right support. We believe in a fantastic Tour de France for Team Saxo Bank."

Seven of the team's nine riders competed at last year's Tour. The two new arrivals are Dane Chris Anker Sorensen and Swede Gustav Larsson, who won Olympic time trial silver, behind Cancellara, in Beijing last year.

Sastre has since moved on to the Cervelo team, as did Volodymyr Gustov.


Andy Schleck (Lux), Frank Schleck (Lux), Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Stuart O'Grady (Aus), Jens Voigt (Ger), Nicki Sorensen (Den), Chris Anker Sorensen (Den), Gustav Larsson (Swe), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Branford Road Race Course

I live in Branford- hey, I live on the course- so I thought I'd write up a review of the race course.

Mile 1- This is a fast mile that is a net downhill. From the start on the side of the green, the road looks, and largely is, flat, but it's flat with a slight downhill bent to it. Because of the number of people in the race, it's a very fast start from those in front and a little bit slower for people not in the first ten or fifteen rows. But the tendency is to really take out this first mile, and that's a mistake.

It's OK to run right down the middle of the road here. There's no advantage to hugging the left hand-side of the road.

As you pass the Connecticut National Guard armory on the left, the road dips sharply downhill for a short distance as you go under the train overpass. Then it's a longer, shallower uphill that takes you over a short bridge that spans the Branford River. As you head over that bridge, get to left and start hugging it

You'll follow a left-hand bend and the road will be basically flat, with shorter sight-lines. You'll continue down the road, which has a slight bend to it for the rest of the first mile, finally coming up to a three way intersection. You bear left and just past the intersection is the mile 1 mark. This mile or the second one will probably be your fastest.

MIle 2- Another fast mile. The will bend towards the left here and you'll be running a shallow downhill almost at once. You can get a nice pace going here without pushing too hard, but the temptation will be to let it all out, which you should avoid. It continues to be downhill until you reach the Elk's club, and then it ticks back up, and you climb through a right-hand bend. At this point if it's sunny, it will be hot and there's no shade until you get in Mile 4. The road will continue a slight uphill bent until you hit the second to last house on the left. Then it's downhill again, and you'll see some separation develop as you head towards Lenny's.

Just past Lenny's there a left-hand bend to the road and you want to hug the left-hand side of the road. As you go through the bend, you're face with the strongest uphill of the course, but it isn't long and you should definitely power through it at full-speed. Then it's downhill to another left-hand bend and you're on the seawall. Hug the left-hand bend, then move to the right side of the road.

It's usually windy along the seawall. On most days the wind will be at your back, but it may also blow in off the water or be in your face. It's a good place to be in a group. The road is pretty flat here and fast, but again, keep it under control. Shortly after the beach ends, you'll go through mile 2.

Mile 3- The road continues to be pretty flat until you hang a right-hand turn on ninth avenue. Then road twists around to the left and you'll be running downhill for a short distance, then after a brick house on the right you'll break out and be back along the beach. Warning: people really start to push here, looking for separation. Don't get sucked in, because the hardest part of the course is coming up.

This is a really nice area of the course- nice houses on the left (private) beach on the right. But then you'll see the road ahead take an uphill left-turn that doesn't look that bad until you're through the turn.

There it is- the worst hill on the course. It looks long because it's a straight uphill shot- it's long enough but looks longer than it really is. And it's steep.

Get over it. Don't let the hill discourage you, and don't push it out too hard. If you blow yourself up on this hill, your race is over, because you still have almost half the race to run. Just be calm and patient up the hill, try to stay with the people around you, and work your way to the right. There's a right-hand turn at the top of the hill, cross the road and get back on the left-hand side.

When you crest the hill, you'll still be running on a flat-slight uphill. But as soon as you see the downhill, hit this hard. It's a long, straight downhill and if you've managed the uphill right here's your chance to separate from the people around you. Really work the downhill. At the bottom you'll take a left-turn, then a second left turn and your on Pine Orchard and past the 3 mile mark.

Mile 4- Mile 4 starts with a short, fairly flat section and then a long, relatively gradual uphill. This part of the race is shaded and if there is wind, it will be diminished as you're running through the trees. Although this is an uphill section, you'll really need to run it like it was flat. Partially because it's a shallow uphill at first and partially because now you're getting into the later stages of the race. I run this road all the time and you can maintain your normal pace about 3/4 of the way up the hill without pushing too hard.

Then the hill ticks up a bit, but that part is short, you go into a downhill roller, and you'll see another train overpass ahead. That is a short uphill, but don't be surprised if the short uphill seems tough and you lose a little speed. Don't sweat it, because you're about to get a long downhill. Stay to the left going over the bridge because the road will bend that way and take full advantage of the longest downhill on the course. It's a strong downhill initially that's straight with a long sight-line.

You have to take advantage of the downhill here, because of it's length and because the 5th mile is not as fast as you might think it is.

At the bottom of the steep part of the hill you'll pass a side street on your right and while the road does flatten out, it's still downhill. You'll run past my house, continue on a sharper downhill and see an uphill in front of you. Power through this. The hill is short but a little bit steep, however there's a big reward after you crest. The four mile-mark and a water station are part of the way up the hill.

Mile 5- After cresting the hill, you'll hang a left, so stay left. Around the bend it's flat for a short period and then you get another fast downhill. Use it !

The road will bend to the right and you'll being hanging a right at the armory, so after you come through the turn on the hill, work your way to the right. Don't hammer the downhill but work it hard, because the rest of the race will be an uphill. At the bottom of the steep downhill, the road will flatten out but you can maintain a great pace all the way to the turn. You'll also break out of any last bit shade, although you've probably lost that as of the end of Mile 4.

You'll have a long sight-line as well. You'll see people come back to you a little as they exit the steepest part of the downhill while you're still on. Don't let that lull you.

It looks flat, but basically it's uphill to the left hand-turn that takes you to the finish.

You have to run hard as you can after you make the turn. There will be crowds here and then stretch back to the final turn will be longer than think, especially because the starting line is part of the way down the street and you run past it. You'll probably be tempted to save something for the final turn and push to the finish, but you really have to gauge the people around you before deciding on when to make a move.

Finally, you'll reach that left-hand turn onto Main Street. The finish line will probably be just a little farther away than you remember it being. This is a flat finish, so if you've left anything in the tank you can really open it up here.

And that's it !

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Health Net Triathlon

I signed up for the race Friday morning- I wanted to make sure that doing the race wasn't going to cause problems with the rest of the family- workout plans, a party we had to go to later in the day, and so on. I don't really look forward to Olympic races because they are not really geared to my skill set. Comparing the distances, it's 75% of a half-ironman swim, with less than half the bike or run.

That's not to say that the distance isn't fair. There is no such thing as an 'unfair distance'. There are just distances and courses that favour one athlete over another, although I think some courses promote fairness on the course more than others.

After the meltdown I'd had in the water a week and an half ago, Margit didn't want me to go. But I was in the pool Monday through Thursday, amassing what for me was a titanic 7000 yards swimming. I also was getting in the runs and rides. This is my training time and that means training through a race like Health Net- I'd gotten back to back 50+ mile days on the bike going into the race as I get read for the Fairfield Marathon and the longer triathlons I know are in my future. I love having days off in June.

I got to the race early, found myself racked near another late entry (I assume), Peter Daly, who is in great shape and racing really well.

I was in the water early, a little after 6:30. It was cold, and I could smell something in it that promised a sinus infection later in the day, but I got really comfortable and was confident that I could easily take this swim on. I got out and back in a few more times as the race start neared, trying to stay warmed up, keep my googles from fogging, and so on.

At the same time, i was trying to think my way through the difference between warming up and racing in the water. The calm, placid, if slow work ethic when I swim alone is difficult to maintain in a race.

But as the women got in first and started, my pulse was down low, I felt good. We were counted into the water one at a time and were joking the way guys do right before a race. And then we were off, starting from a stand in waist deep water. I was surprised to find I only had to walk a few steps then I could start swimming and catching water. Great. No one was clawing their way over my back, hitting me.

All good.

Then about 250 yards into the swim, I started losing my happy thoughts. I did start getting jostled and the buoys were hard to see. I had to lift my head up to sight and I could see guys pulling away and...

That was it. My heart-rate shot up to about 175. I tried putting my head down and turning to breath every four strokes, but I didn't. I had to lift my head up to get any water and this leads to me choking on the water because I'm still trying to swim, because deep down inside me there's some part of me that just can't accept giving up, which is not a good thing. And then even that snapped and I had the thought that the side of the lake was right over there and I should just get out before I got hurt.

I hate moments like this. I hate writing about moments like this. But hey, it's what really happened.

But I'd already been through this drill. There's the first open water swim of the season, and there's the first race of the season, and they suck, but you get over it.

I put my head back in the water and took my normal strokes and turned my head on every fourth one and eventually, I started to breath again when I did it, because I had no choice. It probably lasted all of 30 seconds, but it easily cost me a minute in lost time before I really settled down and hit my 'stride'. Then I was around the far buoys and headed on the long swim across the river- there really needs to be some intermediate buoys...

My hands and feet got cold. I kept swimming. I swallowed a little water once on the way back to the middle buoy, but other than that it was unremarkable. I made the first of the two left-hand buoys on the course and then started for the last buoy.

That buoy was a very long way away. You can tell me the course is a GPSed .9 miles. I won't buy it. The course seems to have been about 1.1 miles long. After you turn at the last buoy it's just back to shore and there are people everyone. Again, I'd put an intermediate 'back' buoy in the water- the swim back was spread out like an ironman swim. there were people everywhere.

I crawled out of the drink at about 35 minutes, based on the clock reading '40 something'. I had an end rack, which was great, because I hate my wetsuit (or anyone else's, and that's happened) covering up my running shoes or food.

My transition was not great. I'm still learning how to get my new time trial helmet over my mellon, and socks. Are socks actually designed to go over your feet ? Yeah, I guess they are but maybe not wet feet in a hurry. But my feet were cold. I needed the socks.

Then I was off.

Despite the fact that my entire team did this race last year, I knew absolutely nothing about the course. This is where the intelligent me and the rock-headed athlete just don't interface- at all. I will actually go to a race I know nothing about, in fact, go to a race and not even know, except in general terms, what the distances are. Maybe that's why I like halves and ironmans. Not much guesswork. I had no idea how far I was riding, what the terrain was. I don't know the first thing about Shelton, or rather I didn't...

I did know the start of the bike course was a climb because I'd driven straight down into the park. I was not ready for the right -hand turn that- surprise, led to more climbing.

And more climbing.

Then you climb.

No, I'm serious. You just start this long, slow climb after climbing your ass up out of the park and don't get me wrong. I love to climb. I do. If you look in my 'suitcase' of skills, there are two things in it- climbing, and Elite bicycles putting me on a good bike. And I was passing people by the dozen, even though I had to admit early defeat to the course and shift into low gear. I used to think 'granny gear' meant the small chain ring, but it felt more like survival gear. I had my cadence up in the 80s, but I was only going 12 mph at one point.

There was a police officer at one intersection and he was all 'you're almost at the top'. Liar. But finally I did crest the first long escape from the park and got on a downhill and there was Coach Troy in my head, doing a greatest hit riff from Hillacious, the Uphill Grind, and the virtual rides. 'You have to maintain your intensity when you crest. Hammer, hammer. Other people are recovering. Get that cadence up over 100rpm...'

And I did, because I was attacking the downhill. I mean, the next uphill. And the next, and the next.

This went on for a while. You went screaming down a hill- I was going 42.5 mph and not pedaling down the first really big downhill because I was sure there was a turn at the bottom- and then you were going uphill at 15 mph again. This just went on and on. I mostly just passed people, however, I got passed, and repassed, and got passed again, and repassed again, one guy in my age group who definitely had my number on the downhills, and a couple of younger guys.

But for the most part I was passing and outworking people on the downhills, pedaling when other people weren't- I hit 45 mph.

Then we went over the dam and that was where I passed Gary. I was also in the sites of three guys that were riding me down, and they caught me right before the turn off 34 back towards Shelton. I didn't like being passed, especially by one or more guys I'd already passed, so I countered, moved up into second of the five behind a guy in tights- is that legal, when you can't see his age- and was about to overtake him when-

I misssed a turn. Instead of sending us over the bridge they sent us under it. As everyone went by I had to pull a u-turn in front of a municipal bus. Was there enough time ? I thought maybe...

Then I was chasing. I was mad at myself and these guys were kind of grouped. So I attacked. As we turned back onto what would be a steady climb I gave it everything I had and passed all of them and I was really flying- 22-23 mph up a hill. I gapped all but the guy in the tights, who must have been on a team, and he got to the park entrance before me and then out descended me.

I almost didn't dismount soon enough and was slow getting off the bike but finally that too was over and then it was all good. I slipped on my Zoots, grabbed my Cliff Shots and started running along the beach.

I was a little discouraged. No one was right in front of me, someone was right behind me. I took a shot and then drank from the bottle I was carrying- Heed.

Then it was up onto the road and before I knew it, I was at the one mile mark. And there was Peter Daly. I was at 1 mile. If he was coming back in at mile 5 then I was 25 minutes behind him. That was devastating. I mean, with the swim, he probably had 9-10 minutes on me, which meant I'd have had to have lost 15 minutes, or what took me an hour took him 45 minutes. The math didn't make any sense. I was either having a dud of a race or there were two loops on the run.

Don't get me wrong- Peter's a great guy. He's racing phenomenally well, but that big a gap would have really meant I was racing poorly. I redoubled my effort. Except we were climbing steep hills. I started to question myself as I reached the apex of the hills. Was I still really racing hard ? Was I giving 100%. I have nightmares where I'm running a race and going so slow that I'm walking up the hills, and I was flashing back to that.

Then I crested, heard my respiration, and started bolting down the backside, and no, I wasn't holding back.

The turn-around was blissfully close after that on the only short flat section of the run. Then I was headed back, looking for the leaders coming back at me. I saw Gary Rodebaug headed out on the first run as I headed back.

The run is a junk-buster in both directions, with a super-aggressive climb up to get to the downhill that was a heart-busting uphill. Finally, I reached three miles and there was Steve Surprise cheering us on. I'd seen race leaders coming back at me, so I'd relaxed a lot. I turned gingerly at the cone, no sense cramping, and headed back. I think I took another shot, drank more Heed. There was a woman and a guy in red I was chasing, but there were also first-lappers in the way now. Near the same paex, one guy in a race kit was walking and I wanted to say 'No walking, it's a 10K' but who knows what brought him to that point so I just said 'Keep it up'. I caught the guy in red and headed down the hill.

Taking the cones at the turn around I was excited, because I was still passing people in my age group and other people from my wave. I bumped one woman going over the railroad tracks and she gave me a lot of grief, but she took that turn/bend way too wide and I just brushed her. I struggled up the hill and then down the long run back towards the finish.

I was chasing one guy, which became clear after we got to the cones. I asked Steve where I was going and he said straight to the finish. I kept chasing this last person, thinking yes, I can knock off one more person. At 5.9 miles I made the pass and then I just opened it up and gave it what I had.

It was Martin Cappiello, who is just having awesome races. He never stopped pushing me, which allowed me to slot in 4 seconds ahead of a guy from the wave after me.

I found Rob Barker and we ran a twenty-five minute warm-down, I checked the results and headed home.

I managed to scratch out an age-group win, but was 19th among the individual finishers. It was a decent first race for me, but I know I can do a lot better.

Karma- Which I don't believe in

As often happens on my day off, I was late getting home from work.

Actually, we had a New Haven Road Race Board meeting Friday morning, which are held at the Fire Academy, which is about 5 minutes from UNH (counting the lights). So I stopped in for a few minutes to take care of the insurance for the USATF-CT JO meet. 90 minutes later I was actually on my way home.

By a few minutes after 11:00 I was home, the cats had been fed, and I was actually dressed to run for 45 minutes as a warmup to my ride- scheduled for 3 hours, but I already knew I was only going to be able to make 50. It was my birthday, and I had things to do. But I stopped long enough to pay a bill online, which is a pretty quick thing, then I headed out.

It was still foggy and misting as I started running the opposite way on the Branford Road Race course. I'd crested the hill (the downhill between 3 and 4 on the course), and was headed down (the uphill on the course in that mile). Suddenly, about 5 seconds ahead of where I was there was a weird cracking noise, followed almost immediately by a tree branch crashing down across the side of the road I was running on.

It was about 8 feet long and at its widest, as big around as my calf. Not huge, but it would have been enough to brain me or at least knock me down.

I'd been aggravated about getting what I considered a late start to my workout.

Not anymore... that's my foot next to one piece.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Never Let This Happen to Your iPhone

I've heard about it, seen it on the internet, but I never expected it to happen to me:

On the plus side the screen can be replaced and I took this picture with my other iPhone (work).

My 2:24 Marathon in April

You might find it odd that after running a stunning 2:24 marathon back in April, I didn't tell a single person.

That's because of course I didn't run a 2:24 marathon. Except on paper. I received the following email from JB (John Bysiewicz) today:

did you have anything to do with this marathon? You are in the results.

and the attached results (click for the full size image):

If you can't read them (not sure how they will size) you'll see Ian Frankel and I ran 2:24s (go us!), Jim Zoldy ran a 2:20 (awesome, Jim !), and Chris Schulten (now representing Germany) ran a blistering 2:17.

Also, if I was within 2 minutes of Larisa there is no way I'd let her beat me after the way she put, what was it, 12 minutes on me at Mystic in 2006 after using me as a windshield early in the race.

Apparently someone was using these bogus results to try and get elite treatment. I'm not going to identify the athlete except to say it wasn't anyone I mentioned.

And hey, thanks, I always wanted to break 2:30!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finding My Center- In the Water !

It's pretty clear I'm not always comfortable in the water. And yet, today, while swimming 2000 yards worth of ladders- I know 2000 yards is a lot for me and is probably an off-day in the pool for many triathletes, I had something really strange happen.

I swam a set of 200-250-300-300-250-200 at race pace with 50 in between each. I was in the 250 on the downhill side of the ladder on the third laps, and suddenly...

I actually felt good. My rhythm was good, my body roll was steady, I was reaching out and grabbing the water and pulling down and not having a problem on that breath every other left stroke...

I'd found my center. Maybe not my emotional center in the water, but at least the physical axial one. I was calm, I was fluid (for me), everything felt good.

Of course, it didn't last that long, and the water is still a place that's defined by my struggle to overcome it rather than my willingness to interact with it. I understand that, I know that as long as I seek an antagonist relationship with the water, I'm going to get one. Nevertheless, for just a moment, I grapsed what it must feel like to be a swimmer.

Maybe that, and not a certain speed or even a certain stroke, that should be my goal...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

It's all in the half-days

When I'm not trying to drown myself- if I couldn't laugh at myself, life would be without a lot of its of mirth but as it is plays like an episode of Seinfeld- my workouts right now are, I hate to say this, but they are awesome.

I hoard my time off because I consider it the primary benefit of my job, that and half-days on Friday in the summer. Both Margit and I are professionals with lots of work, and taking long vacations just never seems to happen, so starting in the last week of May I combine a deluge of days off and half days- I had 9 to work with, which give me four days off, six half days, and as long as I avoid Fridays, another four half-days. That's a ton of days off.

I basically use it to do two things- get in shape- which I never am going into that period- and keep the lawn mowed. It gives me a chance to train 3-4 hours a day up to four times in a week.

Yes, this is probably a little unhinged. But it beats getting up at five-thirty to swim and working out every day at lunch and some of the other things I do.

And yet, this Friday, I did something I'm not sure I've ever done on a half-day Friday.

I ran.

I look at all this time as bike time and swimming time. Swimming is usually jammed into my lunches. And the chance to bike for 3 hours does not fall out of the sky like rain.


It was 58 and raining Friday when I got home. I got home late, despite my best intentions to get home early- I'd spent half a day at work Thursday, even though I had the whole day off. Go figure...

I was planning on doing the Lake Placid Virtual Reality ride, but by the time I got home, I didn't have time. I didn't want to go outside and ride, and the though of spinning for 90 minutes to two hours- all I had time for, just didn't seem to be a 'big workout', which is always the Friday goal.

So I put on my running shoes, my kit and a technical shirt over than, and went out and ran for about 92 minutes. I negative split my run by about a minute.

I'd done the same 90+ minute run on a sunny mid-sixties Sunday, after an easy 42 mile group ride (140 minutes) and a 20 minute run the day before. On Friday, I did it after a hard 60 mile ride that was under 3 hours and a strong 20+ minute run the day before.

I hit the turnaround for the run 1 second ahead of Sunday. I finished a full minute under the previous run. Then it was time to change my clothes, check my email, buy some fish and some vegetables for dinner, and hit the day care.

Maybe a 90 minute run isn't equivalent to a 60 mile bike ride. Maybe I could have squeezed another 15-20 minutes in.

Who cares ? I went out in the rain and got a great run in and opened up my weekend for more variety in my workouts- I did a two hour time trial on the bike today with a short run afterwards and it felt great, and that was after spending 90 minutes mowing the lawn.

The rain and the chill is something I usually view as the enemy. It's supposed to be sunny and warm all the time now (queue laughter). And yet, it gave me a chance to mix up the routine and relax.

That in turn gave us a change to spend a couple of hours on the Guilford Green today at a Children's Fair, where Ian had a blast. It's great when everything- family, workouts, work-life- all falls into place. Even just one weekend...

Barely Surviving my First Open Water Swim of the Season

For someone who has a blog mostly as a diary of my racing, writing a post like this, where I reveal a truly asshat embarrassing moment, is probably not what I had in mind. But if anyone can take anything away from me being a complete and total jackass, please do.

My swimming has come a long way, and I spent a decent amount of time swimming this winter, although as always when the spring comes and duathlon season starts it takes a back seat to running and biking.

Margit encouraged me to join the team for an open water swim at Lake Quannapaug (sp) last Monday night. I hadn't been in the water for three weeks, was the last person to get there, the water was way too cold for my tastes, and I started out chasing everyone. Also, I'd done upper-body strength training that morning.

I have a real mental block about chasing people in the water. My overall lack of experience swimming with other people- I never swim with anyone else in the pool- makes for a real exaggeration in my mind as to how far behind I am, and I have a tendency to start to panic. I'm usually able to settle down in races, where there are always people around me, but when I'm all alone and last, I start looking up, which is not a good thing for me to do.

I do most of my swimming at LA Fitness. The pool is full-length, but it's 3.5 feet deep, warm, and the water is crystal clear. Lake Q is about 8 feet deep (well, I think about 15 feet at it's deepest point) and almost as dark as night. On the rare occasions when you can see the plants tickling your hands and feet, you wish you couldn't.

The first few strokes I took were great. They felt really good, my breathing, which always seems to suffer in the late spring when we have bad pollen since that time I had the ammonia poisoning, felt good.

And then bam, it all hit me. I started thinking. About how they think it's the cold water that kills most triathletes in the swim, some weird-electromechanical fartup with the human heart- for frak's sake people, please stop re-tweeting this same goddamned reheated article, it was one study but I've read ten articles based on it. Thinking about how far behind I am. About how my first open-water swim is always a total disaster and I have to turn around, head back to shore, and start over a second time.

The bottom line in all this is that while I'm not claustrophobic- I'm the guy that will crawl under a coach that's 3 millimeters higher than my ass sticks up and wait twenty minutes just to put a good scare it someone when they sit down (and the couch sags to zero millimeters above my backside)- I'm clearly claustrophobic in the water. I can't hear, I can't see, I have no sense of distance. Oh, my googles fogged up and I could not see anything, did I mention that ?

I get over it. I've been trapped on the wrong side of the same lake in thunderstorms. I've been out in the ocean when the tailbits of the hurricane starting rolling into the bay and I'ms up against the rockwall.

I've done seven ironmans. Margit reminded me of that later.

I wouldn't stop. I was lifeguard swimming to the group, but i wouldn't stop, wouldn't just turn around. However, when we reached our first stopping point, I was one of two people who'd had enough and starting swimming back.

And that's when it all fell apart.

I'm not going to go into the blow-by-blow of it, but even though I was wearing a wetsuit, I wasn't sure I was going to make it back. I felt like I was on the edge of drowning out there, impossibly far from any shore. I kept fighting to get to the beach, stopping every thirty seconds or so. I was as panicked as a wild animal and I couldn't control it. My heart rate was about 200 hundred, my breathing was burning and painful. My legs were on the verge of cramping the entire time. Finally, I did make it far enough to stand up waist deep in water, seeing stars, and I stumbled onto the shore and sat down on the beach, my feet in the water.

I waited about five minutes. I even closed my eyes and just listened to the water, trying to find a calm place inside myself, my center. Anyone who knows me is probably laughing. I have no calm center. Or I do, but I'll never admit it.

I got back in and started swimming. I knew if I went back to the car, threw my wetsuit in the trunk, and went home angry, it would be like this again the next time. I got a decent seven or eight minutes of swimming in, even got passed by a couple of teammates that were swimming back in and held on to a steady breathing pace, a good stroke.

I was spent like never before when I got out, and I was embarrassed enough not to say anything.

Worst first open water swim ever.

I'm over it. I think psychiatrists are great people, but I don't think talking about my claustrophobia in the water would help me. There's no a-ha moment where I realise why I'm afraid of the water and the feeling melts away. I am uncomfortable in the water because things like this happen to me. The flip side ? It's stupid. I've done seven ironmans. I even did a few of them well. I can swim. And Monday night proved to me that even at my most self-challenged, my stubbornness is much stronger than my fear. I was insane with panic, no question. I also am still here (thanks, wetsuit).

It was a disappointing low in what otherwise has been two weeks of great training...

Once again, the first chance for me to swim in the open water and I make the least of it. As I said, jackass. I am so much better of a swimmer than my first ironman, when I literally was not sure I would survive the swim. Literally. Wasn't sure I was going to survive.

I'm a way better swimmer than that guy.

Just not last Monday night.