Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crash !

On Sunday morning I got up and couldn't get my MacBook Pro's screen saver to stop. I had a spinning beach ball instead.

Force-quit didn't deliver any relief so I did a hard reset.

When it restarted, it got as far as the Apple logo, then crashed. I tried three more times and the same result. I tried booting from Tech Tools pro DVD I have but it was a few months too old to boot the new MacBook Pro.

Next, I booted from my Snow Leopard DVD. Ran Disk Utilities and repaired the disk. Or tried. The first repair attempt quite halfway through and the second quit right away. The drive name disappeared, replaced my a default machine name.

I had to reformat the hard drive even to install Snow Leopard.

This would have been a disaster, but I'd been using Time Machine to back my laptop up to a 2TB external hard drive. Except for having to drive to work to get the drive, it was amazingly easily.

When the OS X install finished, an option screen came up asking me if I wanted to transfer data from another mac or restore from a time machine backup. I plugged in the USB drive and two and a half hours later, I was up and running and I'd lost a total of one day's work (time machine incrementally backups once an hour when I'm plugged in at work).

That's pretty great- one day of lost work and that's it.

Time Machine rocks.

My Spin Setup

Just a photo of my spinning set-up...

Friday, October 23, 2009

One more last race-again...

I guess I just can't pass up the chance to run a four mile race these days in Branford.

On Sunday I was planning to run 2 hours. Which I did. I ran a 75 minute warm-up with @poycc. In the rain. And the cold. I think it was a little under 50 degrees the whole warm-up, and raining, and then the wind kicked in.

I was wearing light-weight lobster gloves, tights, and jackets for the warm-up but I stripped down to my tri-gear and arm-warmers and headed over to the starting line. The wind kicked up and I couldn't believe it, but I found myself trying to talk myself into the idea that I could actually run the race without resorting to being all bundled up.

And it worked. By the time the race started, as I stood on the line watching the guy with the grey in his hair tying his shoe seconds before the race started (and doing a poor job of it), I thought this would be easy. The countdown came and them we started out, running down past Lenny's and hooking a right.

There were five of us in a pretty tight group, jockeying for for position, the police car just in front of us as we headed past the Owenego and out towards the ocean.

We were running together and no one really seemed to be ready push it. Chris Stonier, who I know is faster than me, was i the group, but no one was giving the sense that they wanted it.

And frankly, I was feeling as good as I could for having already run 70 minutes, for being cold and wet and having ridden 5 hours and run 45 minutes the day before. In other words, I knew what I had- which was nothing frankly.

So I did what crazy old guys that are washed-up runners do when faced with superior talent but running in bad conditions near the front of the pack.

I attacked.

I had a chance to take the lead, to be the guy chasing the police car, and I took it.

What happened the rest of the race really might be immaterial. I mean, I suppose in some ways I was that guy you see lead out at a race with no chance of winning it and you think 'ah, kind of jerky' but then again, not exactly. I wasn't running out of my head or anything. I had a chance to grab the lead, and I took it

Maybe it only lasted 10 seconds, but it was great. I was running hard, not smooth but hard and there I was, out in front. Making the effort. I might not win the race, but I'd taken my best shot it at and it felt great to be there.

And then reality set in, I was passed. We went through a mile at 5:20 and then I quickly fell to fifth.

Other memories- the kid with the track flats that ran me down with a sound like a horse and how I asked him 'what the hell are you wearing ?' as he ran by and he laughed. How my hands went very uncomfortably numb about 1.2 miles into the race. The guy with the shoe tying problem and how he had to stop mid-race to tie his shoe again.

The futile feeling running a course I know so well and knowing I was running out of time and was not going to catch anyone, but just enjoying being on a training course in race situation...

Crossing the line in 23:37, fifteen seconds faster than my last last race before Arizona in much worse conditions.

I was glad I did it. Was it smart training ?

Ah, who cares...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There is No Bonk

How desperate was I to avoid my 5 hour ride outside today ? Or rather, how much would I have preferred just to spin in the comfort of my basement, with an hour earlier start ?

About eight o'clock last night I texted Eric to find out whether it would be better training for Arizona to spin or head out in the cold this morning.

I've been working with Eric eight years now and I have called him for advice maybe a dozen times, mostly around IM time. I have never texted him.

Of course, I knew what his answer would be- it was silly even to ask. Bundle up and get out there, he replied.

I've done plenty of outdoor riding in the cold, and I'm not adverse to the cold. When I get a couple of beers in me and tell you about how in high school I used to run - while it was snowing- in track shorts and a half-shirt, it's not just the beer talking. I really used to do that- and I lived in upstate New York, where below zero was frequent, and it was fahrenheit.

But the truth is, if I had owned a trainer when I was 16, I would have put my three-speed on it and cut my running down to three or four days a week.

In the end, I didn't even bother with a heavy cycling jacket or booties, and I was fine.

In the fifth hour, I did a time trial effort. I'd separated from Steve Surprise, who had suggested at about three hours that I ride ahead and just turn around in an hour. I was on a tighter schedule. I did just that, turning around at four hours- an hour from home, and rode as hard as I could to catch Steve.

Only Steve had stayed on Route 1 when I'd veered off by the Surf Club. On the way home, I was chasing him and he was behind me, which was great because I never stopped working hard. I got home, disappointed I hadn't made the catch, put on my running shoes and headed out.

At first I was running really, really well, jamming along listening to 3 Doors Down.

For the first 4 hours on the bike, I was doing really well- 2 Clif Shots, 2 Clif Shot Blocks and three bottles of Gatorade,. But in the last hour I was going close to race pace and ate nothing and drank only 2/3 of my bottle.

What happened 14 minutes into my run was almost inevitable. I crashed, hard. A real bonk.

And that same biochemical deficiency that saps your strength, that makes your stomach turn over and your legs crash, also affects you mentally. I immediately went into hyper-doubt mode.

This is exactly what happened to me at Firm-Man (twice in the same run).

This is what happened to me last time in Arizona. In fact, this is exactly what I'm trying to build confidence to protect against with a long brick, and instead I'm proving I don't have what it takes to go long.

Too many of my long bikes had too little effort on the run.

I didn't sleep enough last night.

I'm going straight home, go in the house and lie on the floor for a while in a pool of self-loathing.

And then, I decided instead of feeling sorry for myself I'd eat the Clif Shots in the back of my jersey. I wolfed down five blocks (I dropped one).

Two minutes later ? The bonk was over. I ran another 35 minutes. I ran by my house to add on eight more hilly minutes. I remembered that bonks or no bonks, I had a good run and a decent race at Firm-Man.

I ended the run listening to 'Spybreak (Short One)' (the Propeller Heads from the Matrix) and that brought the following thought:

There is no bonk

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting Serious about Arizona

There's a point in every build-up to an Ironman where you realise that you have a certain number of weeks left, and you have some long workouts in your schedule, and they mean something. That's the point in the cycle when, like any other point in the cycle, no one workout will make or break your training, but the psychological lift of a good5 hour, 100 mile bike or 2 hour run really can carry all the way through to your race, can in fact remind you when you slip into a painful, unhappy place, that what you are trying to accomplish has been done- by you- before.

This is where I've been lately. I ran 2:15 a week ago Saturday (with a 4 mile race in the middle), rode 4.5 hours on Sunday then came back and ran 90 minutes Tuesday.

This weekend I rode 5 hours on Saturday, rode another 2:45 Sunday with a half hour run, ran 70 minutes Monday, then 2 hours on Tuesday. I added Spinervals Mental Toughness tonight- a great 90 tempo effort that delivers a red-zone punchline in the last ten minutes.

i can tell there's an edge here. On one side is the real danger- not that you'll be undertrained, but the opposite. Push too hard and instead of peaking you'll be so spent that you end up flat- Eric, my coach, talks about that in this post about swim training for Kona. I think among athletes who have a serious expectation for an ironman, the ones that don't plan to walk the marathon, overtraining is probably a bigger issue than under-training.

Nevertheless, the other side of the edge is that. That the training will be intense enough but not long enough or long enough, but not intense enough. I tend to think you can replace duration with intensity more easily than intensity with duration. Train long and slow and you will be...

Still, some of the long training needs to be moderated, which is why I've been mixing easy and hard runs.

I've been running 2 hours all year, starting in January. I'm not concerned about whether I've worked the run hard enough. And I've worked the bike hard, and now I'm getting in my long rides (or maybe long spin this Saturday...)

I feel like this could all work out really well. Of course, there are no guarantees...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Congratulations Eric

Congratulations Eric on another sub-ten Ironman. Eric ran a 6:28 last mile, just to be sure. Wow !

Just saw John Wilson finish as well.

Watching the championships is nothing if not inspiring.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obesity and the Rest of Us and a New Jersey Race for Governor

I was reading an opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday about an attack ad (are there any other types ?) in the New Jersey Gubernatorial race. Find it here: Corzine Points a Spotlight at His Rival’s Waistline

BTW- why is an election for Governor (or Governour) referred to as a gubernatorial race ? Are the people running goobers ? Goober is a pretty derogatory term...

Where was I ?

In any event, a number of political analysts were weighing in on whether the advertisement is an example of fat bias that is over the line or whether it's a simple attack ad.

The question is perhaps more highly charged because Corzine and Christie are opposites- Corzine is a man who regularly shows up at 5K and 10K while Mr. Christie is, well, not.

Of course, obesity as oblique or direct criticism is as old as politics as we know it. Prior to the ready availability of cheap food, obesity was seen as a privilege of the rich, which is not to say that this was accurate, only that it was prevalent. The term 'fat cat' which actually applied to donors, not the politicians themselves, dates back to the 1920s. Fat Cats and equally fat pols have been paraded and trucked through endless series of political cartoons in the US and UK over the years. Even the memory of Churchill isn't enough to stop UK cartoonists from drawing on the image.

I'm not going to lend my weight to an analysis of whether the Corzine campaign is playing the heavy a bit too much with their advertisement. I don't live in New Jersey, and I'm not going to be pounded with the ad to the point where I'll feel as if I've taken a few stones to the skull.

But reading the article (which has actually been edited since I read it) and comments about it, reminded me once again about how divisive an issue obesity has become in a country that is unquestionably tilted towards it.

I saw the word 'freak' applied to Corzine and his level of fitness at in one point in the version of the article I read. I'll get back to that towards the end of this post.

Depeche Mode sings 'there's a fragile tension' and that's a great descriptive of how our society regards the issue of weight. Clearly, treating someone different because of their weight is not defensible.

If it's bias, that is. Rejecting a job applicant because of their waistline is certainly not appropriate. Consider air travel, however. Is asking a person who is too large for one seat, what Southwest Airlines calls a passenger of 'considerable size', bias against a person who is obese, or an attempt to not place other passengers in a situation where they have inadequate room to sit in the seat they have paid for.

Of course these are extreme ends of the issue.

As the girth of our society expands, the issue of weight has become much more sensitive and complex. The medical community is alarmed with our levels of obesity, and this seems perfectly rational given our spiraling health care costs, increased rates of Type 2 diabetes and an array of other health issues driven or exacerbated by the condition. And yet, as if the health effects of obesity are a political issue, there is a growing movement of people who claim that a cluster of obesity myths are part of an alarmist conspiracy, if you will, by doctors looking to cash in on a lucrative market, nutritional 'zealots' and fitness 'freaks.'

There has been a similar aesthetic backlash, with a growing, and pardon my use of the term, 'fat is beautiful' movement. I have trouble with this concept, given that many of the people in that movement are asking society to expand their definition of beautiful while simultaneously railing against 'thin is beautiful.' Personally, I find beauty to be a relatively narrow concept that most people don't fall inside- certainly including myself. I don't see beauty as a right people have, and I don't think there's anything wrong with not being beautiful. While I appreciate the nuances of self-esteem that are involved in perceiving oneself or being perceived as attractive, I think as a society we are better served by trying to simply determine how one generates sustainable self-worth.

For me, the whole issue is very hard to grapple with. I live a certain lifestyle that makes it easy for me to not have my weight be a major issue. I worry about putting on weight in the winter like a lot of people, but at my heaviest I'm not looking at a weight issue, except how five extra pounds affects my racing. I have friends that have medical conditions that make it difficult or impossible for them to manage their weight with the same ease (or at all).

Clearing judging someone as less mentally agile, less moral fit, or less capable of leadership because of their weight is wrong.

That's bias.

But ignoring obesity ? Pretending it's not an issue, viewing obesity as a 'lifestyle choice' doesn't service our society either. And so does allowing your voice to be discounted because you yourself do not have a weight issue, which is another tactic that's being employed these days. The 'obesity as a lifestyle choice' crowd is using the same tactics we see form people who reject global warming- that we as a society need to accept the way things are, that people who are trying to bring change are zealots, etc.

Somewhere between allowing a person's weight to affect our value judgements and pretending obesity isn't a medical issue that our society needs to address, somewhere between the business of obesity treatment on one end and the incredible economic pull of 'big food', there has to be a willingness to treat obesity not as a political issue where everyone heads for the extremes and makes dialogue impossible, but as a work in progress, important work.

I'll admit that when I hear people talk about 'weight bias' as the last acceptable prejudice, I just roll my eyes. I'm sure the GLBT community would like to dispute that. Weight bias certainly exists and definitely is wrong, but there's more to the discussion of weight and obesity in our society than bias. What drove it home to me was when one response to the article stated that weight bias wasn't the last socially acceptable prejudice because cigarette smokers are similarly discriminated against...

Wow ! I mean, wow !

So here's my take- the Corzine team can hide behind the fact that Christie is obese and throw their hands up and say 'Well, he's fat, and looks fat in the commercial- what's the big deal ?'

Cowardly. Low-minded. Indefensible.

In other words, a typical attack ad.

And treating unhealthy lifestyle choices as lifestyle choices and not working aggressively to combat them because we have been cowed and bullied as a society in becoming so paralyzed by our concern for people's feelings that we let them die rather than try to help them move in a healthier direction ?

That's indefensible as well.

It's not prejudice to suggest healthier eating and more exercise would benefit large segments of our society. It's not prejudice to suggest that obesity causes illness. It's not prejudice to suggest that people should eat less fast food, less sugar, or smaller portions.

And anything that people can voluntarily do to help reduce health care costs ?


Let's separate how we treat people who are overweight from how we view- and attempt to address- obesity. And along the way let's not allow ourselves to be cowed into thinking that reducing treatable obesity is somehow a prejudice.

In other words- value everyone. And try to help them live longer while we're at it.


I'm giving a big shout-out to everyone I know who's racing tomorrow, including my coach Eric Hodska, Kramer and everyone else that's looking forward to fair weather and a fast course.

This is it, the big moment the sport holds its collective breath for. I hope it's a great day with fair winds and following seas for everyone, and that the stories that the day makes are the kind that can be told with smiles...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Stony Creek Road Race

One more race before Arizona.

This time I decided to sign up for the Stony Creek Road Race a four mile run in Branford. I was planning to ride over to the race, run it, then bang out a four hour ride. But instead we got a real soaking overnight and with the rain still coming down half an hour before the race, I decided to park at the nature trail, do a 15 minute run into Stony Creek and warmup, then run a little over an hour and an half afterwards.

My legs were tired when I got there. I'd pushed a little harder during the week this week and I felt it this morning.

I'd said to Margit that it would all be easy if Jesse Efrom was there. Jesse, who works at SoundRunner here in Branford, is like that shutdown corner no one will throw at. If he's at any local race i this area, chances are you will get thumped. He's got real talent. Any thought of picking up another win at this race (and it's been probably a decade) went out with the rain water when I saw him.

I lined up and we got started pretty much on time, good news when you don't want to lose any time.

John Tolbert was one of seven or eight guys ahead of me early. I knew John would be my toughest competition in my age group and I also knew with a good run, he would easily beat me. He got a nice gap early, and I used it to pull myself away from a couple of early challengers and settle into sixth, where I would stay for the whole race.

At about half a mile, I found myself audibly chuckling at the degree to which Jesse was burying me. I lost a 5K to Jesse by 2:00 earlier this year. Granted, not my best race but he was first and I was second and he beat me by two minutes. Over 3.1 miles.


When we hit the first hill, me watching JT's back, any thought of a big comeback went out the window. Quads, hamstrings, calves, all were letting their presence be know, insidious. Because I'm hurting doesn't mean I'm hurt (apologies Coldplay). This was going to be a strength run and my goal after all was just to keep it under 24:00 minutes then run another 1:35, assuming I was at about 40 minutes total.

As I crested the hill and headed for the turn that would take us back onto Stony Creek's main road and headed out again, I saw jT show some hesitation in the turn.

There were wet leaves in the turn, a lot of them.

A not-so-subtle reminder of the change of seasons (although it was warm).

We headed back out towards the fire station, except we banged a left before it and started up the toughest hill on the course. It was clear to me by this point past 1.5 miles that I was just going to be working at holding onto sixth. But I was still staring at JT's back, focused on the guy in front of me.

We crested the hill and I got my two mile time shortly after that, which was followed by the race's big downhill, a long turning affair on 146 that we usually exceed 30 mph on our bikes. It was a little frustrating running along 146 here because I simply wasn't catching JT I was concerned in fact that I was not going to avoid being caught. I kept plugging away though and the truth is, I like this course and this run, so it wasn't all bad.

We left 146 and ran a short loop with another hill and then by the small bridge at the old mill there was a sponsor's sign- or something. My brain couldn't make any sense of the URL whatsoever.

Back on 146 JT's lead had grown. We had passed three miles and I knew that I had to open it up as much as possible.

I was working pretty hard for average results and could feel the number of long races I'd done in the last month, plus being woken up at 5:50 AM by my son. Still, I was holding my own. I got near the final turn back onto the street the finish was on and a woman yelled 'Go red.' I thought 'Damn. Someone must be right behind me.' Then I realised that I was red- I was wearing my Hammer Nutrition kit.

I turned onto the street and I couldn't see the finish. Although I run on this road all the time, I'd lost track that there are not one but two bends in the street.

Finally, I saw the finish and the race director JB was waving me in. The clock was in the high 23:30s and I managed to get in about 6 seconds under 24. After running that 23:54, I took off my chip, congratulated the guys that beat me, sucked down some Clif Shot Blocks and water, and started my run right back up.

I did get another hour and thirty-five minutes of running in and all in all it was a great workout, which is a lot more important right now than whether I ran well.

But I did have some fun on a course I haven't raced on in a long, long time.