Monday, November 30, 2009

Ironman Arizona-The Run

I came in off the bike and grabbed my bag from transition. Once again, there was no thought of going into the tent. I changed quickly into my running shoes and visor- I decided on the free Tribike Transport visor because it matched my kit, and hey, it was free. If I needed to toss it, I would toss it.

I did stop to try and use the port-potty. I peed a little, but mostly wasted 45 seconds.

Then I ran out and asked which direction was out.

'Through the tent.'

It was my only time all day in the tent.

I ran through quickly, located the sunscreen people and said 'Face, back of neck, arms, legs. And hands.' I'd had the exchange planned while I was still on the bike. After the sun poisoning that I'd gotten in my first race here, I'd sprayed sunscreen all over myself before the swim, and knew I'd need more on the run, as almost my entire run would be under the desert sun.

I'd put my watch on for the run and started it as I went under the arch at about 6:38:30.

I saw Steve almost immediately and began working to real him in. I got to the mile mark and he was close, but problematically, I'd run a 7:30.

Way too fast.

I went through the first water stop. I needed endurolytes and had just taken a GU. A volunteer actually followed me into the aid station, asking what I wanted, which I can't tell you how much I appreciated, as I'd later get stiffed at three different aid stations. I told him I needed water and got it, downed the endurolytes and kept running.

I caught Steve on the bridge and asked if he minded if I ran with him for a while. He said no, but we were running at different paces, and although I wanted to slow down and work my way into the marathon, I just couldn't do it.

I ran the second mile in about 7:15.

Huh ?


I did slow it down after that, although mile 3 is a downhill mile. If you've never seen the course, it's kind of amazing. They've managed to pack an entire marathon into a course that only covers a few miles of roads. You run out, over the river, er lake, um why can't we just call it a canal ? then back over the water again, through transition, down to the next bridge, over that, run a loop that takes you to both the biggest hill and the biggest downhill on the course, back over the second bridge, and back past transition.

Three bridges and you run on both sides of the water. The biggest negative about the run is that too much of it is on concrete.

Over the third bridge on the way out, I saw Eric and he told me I looked solid, or something like that. I waved, slightly.

The real test for me was at about 4 miles. Over the second bridge, on the way out, was where I'd cracked last time I did the race, where I'd ducked into the porta-potty and tried to go, then come out and walked.

There was an amazing amount of shame in that for me. I never really got it, to the point where I had to go back and do the race again primarily because it had beaten me once and I couldn't accept that.

I ate a GU as I ran by the potties, grabbed a water and downed some endurolytes and I never slowed down. Was I a little afraid of the aid station ? Yeah, I was. The knowledge I'd cracked there-

And then it was just another spot on the run and I was past it.

I took it easy up the hill. Then, because of my leg, I took it easy on the downhill.

As I was coming back to the bridge the lead male's entourage was catching up to us. It's kind of tight on the path and I was yelling at people to get out of the way of the motorcycle. 'Come on, it's the lead male. He's already won Canada. Get out of the way.' The truth is that a motorcycle probably shouldn't be on the run course when the run course is a pedestrian path, but that's how it goes. I think he was double-lapping me.

That's DOUBLE-lapping me. Ouch. Humble much ?

I made it back into transition. I was low on GU- only had three, and I took one at the loop marker and then it was out again towards the arts center. I was running OK, but not great. I was really happy to be on the second loop.

It was cool at the long fountain by the art center, and then I was working my way up through people. Even though wasn't running especially well, I was passing people. I got down close to the hotel we were staying at and back to the aid station with the uber-helpful guy. He again escorted me in to the area where I got the water I wanted so I could down more electrolytes and it was back on the bridge again, one of the bigger 'uphills' on the course. By now I was running with certain goals in mind.

Then at about 10 miles the 5th place woman passed me. I know because she was escorted by a mountain bike. When you're the 5th woman, there's no motorcycle and camera, I guess. She passed me, but then she didn't gap me. I was actually getting annoyed. I was still trying to keep my effort steady, and didn't I have to be running harder to not be getting dropped by a pro woman (who had just lapped me) ? Yeah, it's a weird sport. Then, I realised what he problem was as she ducked into a porta-potty. I never saw her again- and I unlapped myself !

Does the Ironman have a scrap of mercy ? No. While the 5th place woman was in the crapper, she became the 6th place woman as the former 6th place woman went by me.

She did drop me.

Eric likes to break the marathon into ten miles, ten miles and then 10K, and I think that's very useful. I have some benchmarks I work with as well- 13 miles, and for no real reason, 22 miles.

I saw Ian and Margit again on the run and think it might have been when I exchanged a high five with Ian. That was somewhere close to twelve miles.

I first took cola right before that, because I was out of GUs. The soda picked me up and then upset my stomach. The upset didn't last as long as the pick-me-up, so I went with it.

It was a big relief to hit the back half of the run course, if there is such a thing on a three loop course. I saw Eric again and he was- as always- nothing but positive energy. Shortly after I saw him I was again headed to that area I'd walked at in 2007 and-

I was worried. I was hurting a lot more than on the first lap. Screw it. I went through with no difficulty and now I'd heaped dirt on this area that had beaten me in 2007. Of course, that uphill graded area of the course hadn't beaten me. I'd beaten myself- that and the sun poisoning and the desalination. Not this time. I ran through the aid station, took some more cola, and then I was easing my way up the big hill for the second time.

I wasn't feeling that great though.

I had to pee, but after I went down the biggest downhill on the run course, there was nowhere for it.

I was having a harder and harder time running. So I found a large utility pole- some monstrous grey metal thing, ducked 'behind' it, bent at the knees, and peed. If this is too gross for you, so be it. I didn't pull down my shorts. I just peed.

And then I started running again.

I felt a lot better. I went through the Inspiration Station and it didn't pick me up like it had the first time 'We love You'. Isn't that sweet. I was going to fast to see my message come up. After that I just concentrated on getting through the second loop and out onto the third loop.

I was so psyched to be on that third loop. About a mile in, getting close to the aid station, I found myself running with a guy and a woman that were talking to each other. They were on their second loop and I was on my third and yet I was having trouble passing them at first. Then I basically got tired of listening to them talk and passed them. I got more great service in the aid station, and was back out on the bridge- that bridge I'd be going over the last time.

The third loop of a three-loop ironman is a thing unto itself. It's liberating in that the end of the day is coming for you and yet, there is still a lot of work to do. I got stiffed at the last aid station before 22 miles, but when I got there, to 22, I really felt like I'd done my job, and put myself in a position to have a chance to-

Do what ?

When I'd left transition at the start of the run I'd set a goal- break 10:40. Not a lofty goal, but I just needed to run a solid 3:40 on one good leg to do that.

With four miles left, I needed to run about 8:00s.

I kept pushing through and ticking off the miles, but by the time I got to 25 miles, the numbers on the watch weren't adding up. I was not going to make the 10:40 mark.

Of course, as deadlines go, this wasn't killer. It wasn't the difference between qualifying or not qualifying, or between getting a medal or crossing the line with the lights out.

I had three people in my sites as we wended through the parking lot. Because Ian had run the kids mile run the day before, I knew what the finish line was set up like. I passed two of the three people I was trying to run down before I reached the final turn into the straight away. Then I had a dilemma.

The guy in blue and yellow I was trying to pass didn't want to be passed. He picked it up in a big way and went by him under the Ford black inflatable. There was no strategy. I just ran as hard as I could, and then it was over.

I had beaten him to the line, and while he tried to recover, I got my picture taken.

But I was whooped...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ironman Arizona-The Bike

I have never been so glad to be on my bike. Just surviving the swim seemed like a journey worth the trip.

When I signed up for the race last year, I thought that the winds would be less of an issue in November than April on the bike and that was not exactly correct. It was obvious right away that the wind was going to be a factor all day, although not as bad as April 2007. Having dealt with it before, I felt prepared. It was going to make the ride challenging both physically and psychologically, because no matter what direction it took, it would be in my face for a long way. I'm a fan of getting punished on the way out and enjoying the tailwind on the way back, so that was my hope.

I got my wish. As we worked through the early set of turns that take you out to the reservation, it was clear the wind would be in my face on the way to the turn around.

Eric had said to give our stomach 15 minutes before starting to eat, so I sipped at my Gatorade and took some Endurolytes. My legs were basically stumps. I couldn't feel my feet, my achilles tendons had no flexion, and my calf was still pretty sore. Of course, the cure for the calf was drop my heel and extend my pedal stroke to stretch out the calf muscle, except that I couldn't drop my heel...

My race almost ended around the time I first went to eat. As I passed one athlete, he decided it was time for a bathroom break- on the other side of the road. He started cutting across the road as I was finishing my pass and he nearly t-boned my back wheel. I was not happy.

I was relying mostly on Clif Rocks for solid food. In hindsight, a 50/50 mix of Rocks and Blocks would have been a better choice. The second banana I'd eaten that morning was also waffling between the good idea and bad idea columns. I think it's safe to say that two bananas and a Red Bull are probably not a perfect choice.

Once we started heading out to the reservation my early speed started to bleed away. Turning the pedals is an amazingly mechanical process. I was sore and a little discouraged, but I'd still managed over 20 mph out to Beeline Highway. That average started to head south as we turned into the wind. I looked down and saw I was going 14-15 mph per hour at some points, but I wasn't worried. I knew that I had what I wanted. Into the wind on the false flat out- it's pretty much a steady slight uphill grade out to Shea Road (the turn around).

The drafting wasn't too bad on this first loop.

I had to pee for the first time on the way out, probably 15 miles into the bike. The last time I'd done the race I'd gotten severely dehydrated (my pee started burning during the bike and continues to feel like fire for three days after the race). I could tell I was much better hydrated. I took turns with gatorade and water bottles all through the bike. The funny thing about peeing on the bike this time was that it felt hot coming out and on my leg, then cold as it got down to my left foot- which didn't actually need any more wet and cold.

I saw Steve Surprise coming back from the turn around, and he had maybe seven minutes on me. He was berating a group of people I was passing from across the road for drafting. I laughed and tried my best to do some math. I didn't think I could make that up in a single loop, but it did invigorate me a little bit. I worked through the turn, starting now to dump water on my head and chest (but careful to keep it away from my feet) to keep my core body temperature from elevating.

I was eating every half an hour. My nose was also running and I was frequently blowing it- the sinus infection was making its presence felt.

As soon as we'd crested the hill at the turn around, the effect of the tailwind and the downhill combined. I hit 36 miles per hour- this is supposed to be a flat course, right ? Let me tell you I've never hit 36 mph in two races at Ironman Florida. This is not that flat a course.

The ride back was fast until we got off the reservation. Once you made the right at the gas station things slowed down a bit as you were riding into the cross-wind.

My feet were starting to wake up but my right side was sore because I was using my hip to do the work that my leg was supposed to be using. There was already salt on my legs- I was taking endurolytes every half an hour as well. I just kept grinding out the first lap and before I knew it, I was looping back out.

I saw Ian and Margit as I headed back out on the second loop. They were cheering me on, but I knew Margit could do the math and would know I was not in a great position at this point.

Eric really pushed the idea in the pre-race meeting of not pushing too hard on the bike. 'You should feel a little bit guilty', Eric said. 'Like it's a training ride.' I tried my best to stick within that, while also working on moving up.

That's the hardest part of the bike for me- moving up. I'm dead serious about not drafting. Because I come out of the water so far in arrears, I am faced with the frequent need to pass people. That requires a little more work in some cases than I'd like to do. Over 112 miles, there's a lot of situation where I have to get out of my rhythm to stay within the rules.

It was also clear on the second loop that continuing to eat was going to be a challenge. I had the bike computer as my only clock to keep track of the thirty minute intervals. I was basically keeping a package of something open at all times and eating one at a time (block or rock). That was helping quite a bit, but I realised I was drinking a lot of water- almost as much water as gatorade. You go with what you can stomach. I noticed my speed dropping to around 18 mph going out on that second loop- the wind was still in our face and I was trying to just stay aero. My feet and legs were warming up and I was getting some heel drop extension.

I knew my leg would hurt on the run...

The bike computer has some kind of issue with the right control button- likely gatorade has been spilled on it. The button sticks sometimes, including during the race. The computer started switching- at random intervals- from one function to the next. Sometimes it was cadence. Then trip distance. Then speed and average speed. Speed and max speed. Cadence usually came up when I was going uphill into the wind...

Steve maintained most of his lead over me during the second loop- he went by me going back from the out and back after losing only about a minute. I got to the turn, babied my way around the cone, and picked out 'tall guy' for my water. As in 'You, the tall guy' and a point. I like to identify the volunteer early- I've seen too many feed zone crashes...

I hauled some ass on the second loop back as the wind was at my back again. I missed one bottle exchange and I was still struggling to eat everything, but getting it down, along with endurolytes.

I was still sore. My hip was complaining about the extra work I was giving it because of my right calf and then my groin was starting to hurt as well.

I could tell on the ride back into Tempe though, that the wind was shifting. This was bad news. I had an idea that it would be at our back on the way out on the third loop, which was not a good thing. I'd done this last time in Arizona- fought the wind coming back on that third loop and gotten off the bike fried.

The ride back in was uneventful. I was still moving up but of course, not passing as many people and there was some jockeying- I'd pass someone who'd pass me back or visa versa, and I was starting to get close to some packs.

I went around the loop back in Tempe and was out for the third loop. I was almost glad I didn't see Ian and Margit again. It can be very emotional, seeing your family like that, especially when you're maybe letting them down. I needed to concentrate, find my centre and get something done out there.

I almost didn't finish the race and concentration was what saved me.

I was early on in the third loop when I took a right hand turn. I was aggressive in the turns all day because I was seeing a lot of grandma riding in the turns. I went wide, then settled in. The guy in front of me was going maybe two miles an hour slower and I was just thinking of starting my pass when-

He stopped. There were five porta-potties on the side of the road and the guy decided to just, well, stop. In the fraking road. Not pull off, not give a hand signal. Just stop.

You reaction time ? You've spent an hour and twenty minutes in 61 degree water. You've been riding about four hours and ten minutes. You were up with a fever the night before.

You swerve.

Somehow I made the move I needed to make.

Later, as I was peeing (#4), a guy came up to me and said 'That was a sweet move back at the bathroom. I closed my eyes.' He was sure we were abut to have a three bike (or more) pile-up.

The third loop was the one where I did have an issue with groups drafting. Once on the way out and twice more on the way back I would find myself dropping to let an entire drafting group go by and then accelerating to around 28 mph to pass the whole group. I never hit thirty on any of these accelerations- I didn't have that left in me.

I'd gone through the turn around far enough behind Steve that I knew I wasn't catching him. And as I'd expected, the wind was in my face on the way back- no 30 mph speeds, more like high 20s. After the second acceleration and before the third I caught the eye of one of the officials and he gave me a nod and a smile.

An idea formed.

The next time the pack attacked me, I went with a quick counter and went much harder than the other two. I splintered the group, drew a few people in and next thing I knew, the motorcycle pulled up and the guy behind me was headed for the penalty tent

Sweet justice !

I rode back into Tempe somewhat exhilarated, but my right calf was still sore and I knew one thing.

It was going to be a long run.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ironman Arizona-Pre Race and the Swim

I'm a big proponent of a good night's sleep the night before the Ironman.

I am not a big proponent of lying in a pool of my own sweat, nose running, unable to sleep for two hours.

After swimming in Tempe Town Lake Thursday and Friday I'd noticed some nasal congestion, but mostly when I got up. It was serious enough that I was considering skipping the Saturday swim. But the need to get that open water feel and also weather the cold one more time trumped worries about the bacteria in the lake.

Unable to sleep, sweating, nose plugged
I would have liked to had that decision back.

I did get about three hours of solid sleep.

I was up by 4:45 am. I ran for ten minutes with Steve Surprise, ate breakfast- two bananas and some coffee, plus a few handfuls of Fruit Loops, then Steve and I took the shuttle from the hotel to the race. It was dark and a lot colder than when I did the race in April.

Steve and I stayed together for a while, then he went his way and I went to the bathroom. This gave me a chance to catch up on some decent music, read a few tweets, and an article about Apple bringing flash to the iPhone, get body marked. Then it was back to the bathroom, with time to drink a Red Bull, down a Gu, and get my wetsuit on.

Being on the small side it's easy for me to worm my way through a crowd, squeeze under railings, and get to the water. But when I got to the canal wall, my desire to get in the water was minimal. They were encouraging us to do just that, jump in, get it over with, as we'd have to do it anyway. But I knew every minute in the water would only make the swim harder.

Finally, I jumped in around 6:50, and started swimming to the start. The water was every bit as cold as I'd remembered and my hands and feet immediately started to suffer. I tried getting up on the wall of the canal but that didn't help.

Eric had told us to get to the middle if possible, but I couldn't. I was on the outside with no way in because we were all treading water and even out near the wall, just a few rows back from the buoy, I was having trouble finding somewhere to tread water where no one would kick me.

I don't get it. Why do people in the water think it's okay to kick you. Sure, everyone is trying to do the same thing, but I wasn't kicking anyone...

That's just how it is. Finally, the mayor of Tempe gave a few inspirational words- the guy is part comedian, part motivational speaker. Then we had the national anthem.

Then the cannon went off.

All the people still standing on the wall jumped in and we all started swimming.

At first, it was not bad. I was finding water with my numbing hands and feet. For the the first three minutes I was swimming mostly head down, not having too much trouble.

Then it got to be too tight, too close. I was unable to keep my head down without risking being constantly kicked. As soon as I get my head up like that, my breathing goes south and I start hyperventilating, which makes it impossible for me to get my head down, which...

Eric Hodska, my coach, had said if you were having trouble to just go stand on the wall.

This saved my race. I swam over to the wall. I climbed up on it, adjusted my googles and walked a little bit. Hey, it's a race. Keep moving forward, right ?

About fifteen seconds later, I jumped back in. I had clear water. I started to swim and had no problems until the turn-around.

Meanwhile, my feet were getting really numb. My calves were twinging because my achilles tendons were completely contracted. I was worried. I worked my ankles and toes as much as possible but I knew my calves were in danger of massive cramps..

Because of the shape of the course and the fact that I was on the outside of the pack, some buoys were close and some were far away. I kept trying to work inside but the same two or three guys kept getting in my way or hitting me every time I tried to make a move.

The swim out to the far buoy in a one loop swim is forever.

Finally, I got there. People were cheering when they hit the turn around. This really pissed me off. Stop cheering and keep swimming. The people who swim at my ability in the Ironman seem to always slow down and gather themselves at the buoy, which makes this the most dangerous part of the course and also pisses me off. Why can't they just keep swimming. The increased congestion leads to a lot of unnecessary contact and-

Sure enough, I got knocked around and my right calf cramped. It exploded in pain. I kept swimming. What else could I do.

It was a terrible cramp, lasting about three minutes. Then finally it eased. An unbelievable sense of calm like I have never felt in an ironman swim came over me when the cramp eased. I have literally never been so at ease during a swim.

Then the calf cramped again.

I also felt a series of twinges in the left calf. I fought to stay clear of anyone and it passed.

The swim back was a confusing mix. I was just yards away from some buoys, I was at fifty yards away from others. There were people everywhere, although I seemed to be keeping pace with a group.

We finally went under the bridges and then around the last buoy.

The swim in from the last buoy was epic- long, difficult, confusing. I seemed to be on everyone's right.

Then suddenly I was on the stairs, hauling myself out. I could not walk, I could only limp. I had to take my wetsuit off standing up. The volunteers didn't like this but if I'd laid down and they'd pulled on the leg of my wetsuit the calf would have erupted.

I stumbled on wet feet to the bike to run bags. No one could find mine so I did it myself, then I changed outside the tent where it was light and I could see what I was doing. I slipped my cycling jersey (the pockets loaded with food and electrolytes) on, put on my helmet and sunglasses but forgot my gloves.

I was angry and upset and wasn't sure if I wanted to scream or cry. Another 1:20 + swim. Frozen feet. A seriously injured leg. I'd been here before.

I found the will to run to my bike, then run out of transition with it. While people started trying to mount their bikes standing still, on an uphill, an inch over the mount line, I ran. And ran. More than 100 yards, out onto the street. Then I mounted near the turn and started pedaling. Neither foot was clipped in but I didn't care.

I was on my way.

Behind where I needed to be. Sore. Cold.

And my nose was running...

None of that mattered now. Now I could ride.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ironman Arizona-FIrst Thoughts

It's been a long two days since the race. Usually I'm on the blog right away, doing my best to get everything recorded before it all fades from memory.

Then again, I'm not usually driving to the Grand Canyon less than 24 hours after I finish an Ironman, so you'll have to forgive me if it takes a few days to get through the race report.

First and foremost- this was not the race I wanted to have. When I left the bike to run transition at 6:58, I knew it was over. The real time that I wanted to beat would not be beaten on this day. I adjusted my goals on the fly, but that 10:40 was not the time I was looking for when I lined up, or rather when I jumped into Tempe Town Lake and started to suffer.

Second- this race was HARD. The cold water, the crowded course, the wind on the bike. It was not an easy day until I got to the run, and by then I was spent.

Third- I really did have a good season this year. If you can have a good season without acing your A race, or if you can go and have some great time with your family before and after the race without throwing out a total dud on race day and be overall happy, then I'm glad I came out here and I look forward to doing it again.

More later, and thanks to everyone who sent emails and tweets and good wishes my way.

Hope I didn't let y'all down...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last thoughts

Time to hit the hay- well, in half an hour or so.

I'm not nervous and I'm not quite resigned either. I tend to go into a race with a pretty low-key attitude and I'd just like to be able to get out there and well, basically, have the swim over with. Once that's out of the way, I'll be happy. There's a liberation for me when I get on my bike and the fun begins.

I hope everyone else I know here has a great race.

No matter what happens, I'm sure I'll have something to write about on my blog tomorrow...

Friday, November 20, 2009

How cold is too cold, or Tempe Town Lake equals Brrr....

I look back now on my last ride in Connecticut, a three hour misery-fest in 50 degrees and rain and suddenly, it seems like great training for the Ironman Arizona...


Yes, that's right. With the water now officially at 63- and I'm betting on 62 on race day, there's no question the water is cold. And it's not a cold, but just a little for the first five minutes. It's just plain clod. And that's something as an athlete that you have to be willing to deal with on race day.

The water is not going to magically get warmer. Your hands and feet are going to get cold. Two swim caps might be a good idea. But you can't get in and try to take it easy either. It's not like a training ride on the bike where it's cold so you keep the pace mellow. You have to go as hard as you can and keep your head down.

That's the one thing I'm really going to have to work on- keeping my head down. With the cold, my calves will want to cramp, but with the muscles tight, lifting my head up and arching my back is the best way to make that happen. No, it's all about keeping my head down, staying focused on moving buoy to buoy and not letting the fact that the water is cold and murky make me unhappy.

It's not the swim I'd like to have.

But it is the swim I'm going to have. So I'll take it, and like every Ironman one of the happiest moments will be when I get out of the water and the swim is over...

Happy Birthday Steve !

We celebrated Steve's birthday at Benihana's last night.

Arizona in November

At 7 AM this morning, two days before race day, the temperature is 48 degrees.

By any standard, this is cold for the start of the race. Add that the temperature of the water is only 64 degrees and you start to wonder what your thinking was that you were going to be racing in the heat.

I don't like cold water. I did Muskoka one year- June in Ontario. The stated water temperature was 54 degrees and this was, if canadians are capable of such things, a lie. I was disoriented when I exited the water.

This is nowhere near that bad, but swimming without a wetsuit yesterday, I wasn't too happy.

Of course, the truth is there will be 'heat', which is to say that it will get up into the mid-to-upper seventies during the bike and the run. And with the stronger sun here, it will get hot. I certainly was sweating in the middle of the day while I was standing around waiting for my bike, which TriBike Transport did a great job getting here.

Overall the village was very well organized and if everyone had not wanted to check in at the athlete registration at 10AM yesterday, which is no fault of the venue, things would have been perfect.

But the four hours I spent at the village waiting for one thing or another did make it clear- it will be hot. Just not in the water or at the beginning of the bike...

PS- the race does not climb that hill. It's just a cool hill. Maybe I'd place better if we did climb it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Last Ride

My bike was shipped off to Arizona Tuesday, but I still had one long ride left. A three hour jaunt in low B today on my other T-Class.

I was not especially looking forward to it, both because of how great my own bike felt last weekend and because I'd started to think the soreness in my ankles/feet came from the fact that at its lowest my seatpost was still too high on the T-Class and I've been too lazy to saw the post. Add to that the forecast- mid-50s and raining and there was quite a bit of thought of spinning inside.

But I looked at the forecast and it was mid-fifties, with around a 50/50 chance of rain. I stepped outside and it was not really that bad. It had hardly rained at all since I'd gotten up, just sprinkles really.

I decided I would bundle up and give it a go. Deep down I knew that an outdoor ride and run was probably the way to go. Let's face it. I'm not just willing to spin- I enjoy it. Popping in a Spinervals versus riding in the rain for three hours ? It's a no brainer. Sweating in the basement or suffering in crap weather ?

So I did the thing that wasn't easy because I knew that was the whole point. After this, it will be a long stretch of weeks before I willfully go out and ride in the rain again, since my next race after Arizona is Lake Placid. Next Sunday won't be easy. Or if it is, it will be a waste of my time.

I didn't have any solid food, so I swung by Soundrunner, but it was a few past nine so they weren't open. I went back by my house and I'd already done 10 minutes of my ride. I headed out the usual way. The wind was blowing in my face and although the sun was peaking through the clouds it was raining. I gave up the thought of making it all the way to Old Saybrook.

Good thing.

I went through Stoney Creek and hit a place where the road was flooded. But it was only about 6 inches deep. The bottom of my feet got wet. I evaluated how they felt, decided that it was warm enough that I could take being wet, and went on.

The next washout was at least calf high- on the bike. I rode through it anyway.

I turned around at the third washout.

If I'd had any sense I might have headed back home.

Instead, I rode back to Stony Creek and then hooked a right and headed for Route 1 and started to wonder if I could get to Guilford in an hour.

At 57 minutes, I was on the town green. I was wet, but my feet were holding up. I was starting to lose the feeling my right hand because I had no bike glove on (only could find one), but other than that I was fine. I was thinking about how I'd made the right choice.

Then it really started to rain, get dark, and the wind blow. I found myself turning my face out of the steady hard pelting rain.

I decided to go to Hammonassett, do the Meigs Point loop and come back home.

It got darker. It got colder.

I was damned if I wasn't, on my last training ride, going to make it to Meigs Point. I love time trialing in the park.

Somehow, I made it all the way to the Point in half an hour, about the normal time- only to find there was even a part of the park road that was flooded. And then I made it around the tear drop and what do you know- the wind was howling in my face, I had another 90 minutes to ride.

And now my feet were getting cold. I hit the red light leaving the park to turn left, so I decided to practice one of those Ironman skills you don't get to use every day. My tights constrained the flow nicely and my left foot really warmed up quite a bit while I waited for the light to change. The heat was almost too much of a shock..

I did a good job picking what to wear- the technical top under my cycling jersey and lightweight tights were keeping my core and legs cold.. My one hand was getting pretty numb. The other one, not so bad.

I worked hard when I could and worked steady the rest of the time. I tried not to think about how unlike Arizona this ride was. I tried to ignore how the drivers that were out were even less intent than usual in giving me space or even seeing me. I rode back up on Route 1 to avoid the flooded areas and with an extra part of a Hammerfest loop I managed two hours and fifty minutes of solid riding.

Sure, I had to take a five minute shower (and watch red welt form all over my arms, hands, feet and legs) to warm up before running- yes, on the treadmill- for 25 minutes.

Was it worth it ?

Definitely. A little last minute adversity just before a big race is just the thing to serve as a reminder...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Running Too Hard in the Ironman ?

I went out for my last long- 4 hour- ride and run yesterday. I really wanted to get the run nailed down and watch what I was doing. Maybe because it was going on during I workout, I was thinking about Ironman Florida and how the 10:00 mark got away from me in the back half of the run.

Or rather, I was wondering if it had gotten away from me in the front half or the back half.

I had a good ride. I started out with Steve and two other people but at 90 minutes I headed out on Route 1, settled into my aerobars and really opened it up. I had a great ride, came back and stripped off my cold-weather gear and headed right out on my run. I wanted to test a theory.

I wasn't going to take any food with me, just gatorade. I wanted to eliminate a quick burst from a Clif Shot affecting how I felt- I wanted to see if I started to fade at around 15 minutes (what should be 2 miles).

My theory was that what was hurting me- what had hurt me in Firmman and my last kong brick and even in Florida last year- wasn't the back half of my run, but the front half.

It goes like. I get off the bike, get my gear on (I used a three minute transition yesterday to mirror what happens in the race), and start running at what I feel like is a good pace for me. Which is really how fast I feel like I can run running, not really how fast I should be running. That's because I do the vast majority of my running faster than I'm ever going to average in the Ironman, and I start out the Ironnman running at a pace that feels good.

It's no different than the way 5:30 feels fine for the first mile of a 5K, and then starts to feel like crap.

So I was interested in the 10-15 minute range. I was running well when I started and then sure enough, at around 12-13 minutes I started to fade a little bit. I dropped my pace by about 15 seconds a mile and lo and behold, the fade faded. That was it. The inevitable trough was not inevitable at all.

A little bit later I looked at my results from Florida last year. I started out running at a 7:10 pace for about the first 6 miles of the run. I finished the last 6 miles at an 8:23 pace. Now 8:23 pace isn't horrible, but who knows. If I'd started out at 7:50 pace, I might have come home at 7:50 pace.

Can I translate to Arizona in two weeks ?

Who knows...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Getting Cold ? Not Really

While I was not looking forward to today's four hour ride- starting at 9:00AM, wearing booties (first time), gloves (first time), a jacket (first time)- it turned out to be a beautiful day to ride.

I don't like getting bundled up to ride. I'd rather jump on the trainer and climb Mt. lemon virtual with the heater blowing on me just to simulate the heat that's likely to be the issue in Arizona. And it's a bona fide pain in the ass to fish your nutrition out of that deep well jacket pocket.

You just tend to feel (or you get it in your head) that you can't ride fast, or hard or whatever.

And that's just bull. Maybe it was just having my bike back, with a working drivetrain and race wheels, maybe it was having watched the swim start of Ironman Florida, but I had a really good, solid ride today in blazing sunlight, beautiful blue skies with just a hint of clouds.

The leaves are down now and you get to see the countryside in a way you haven't seen it in a year- the air is crisp and fresh.

It was just an awesome day. And too cold ? No, not today.

Today was just a great day to be on a bike, and I was lucky enough to be out there for one more long ride.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Magic Mouse

I received my Apple Magic Mouse at work late last week. I'd ordered the mouse the day it came out after reading the description on Apple's website.

I'm a heavy-duty Apple aficionado, but that doesn't mean I jump on every new product Apple introduces. Part of that, of course, is that I can't afford to jump on every product Apple releases, but it's also because as much as enjoy using the Apple products I do use, they all don't speak to some want or need of mine.

I have a MacPro at work and I've been using the Mighty MOuse that came with it the last two years.


The little scroll ball. The fact that the first thing I had to do was disable the right versus left mouse regions and that straight press down. I just never liked that mouse.

But I used it because it was what came with the computer. But one look at the Mighty Mouse and I knew it was just want I wanted. Wireless. Sleek. Capable of accepting finger gestures on its surface. Metal underside- not a bulky mouse, but a thin, well-design pointing device.

It comes in a nice sleek clear plastic shell that I really thought was sleek. Then I read one blogger refer to it as a 'soap dish,' and that kind of stuck with me.

But about the mouse. Great precision. Wonderful feel. The hard work of scrolling that tiny ball has been replaced with mouse top finger gestures. Solidly built with metal and hard plastic components that have that long-term feel. I can really see this mouse lasting a while. The mouse even has a nicely implemented green 'on' light and a great on-off switch.

On the negative side, it doesn't support multi-touch. I'm seriously hoping that the truth is: it doesn't support multi-touch yet.

I recommend this mouse to anyone that has a mac mouse they aren't really happy with, or who wants something more. It's not the Logitech Nano VX, but it's a great mouse and a real step up to go from Mighty Mouse to Magic Mouse.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

No Such Thing as an Easy 2.5 Hour Run

I was a little surprised when I saw a two and a half hour run on my schedule for Sunday. I was hoping to be headed back to two hours from two hours and fifteen minutes.

To be honest, I hadn't run this long since IM Florida last year.

The run was complicated by a very late start for a Sunday run- 3:30 PM on the day the clocks went back an hour. By the 90 minute mark I was turning on porch lights on motion sensors as I ran by houses. But I was lucky, as our weather held for one more week, first for the five hour ride the day before, the the run itself.

I took two things away from this run.

The first was during the run itself, when I really felt like 'yeah, I can do this, no problem'. I was able to turn it up in the last hour and run with only a little soreness in a few places.

the second was what hit my when i went to shower (at 6:30 at night). There is no such thing as an easy run that long. I felt good during the run. I stopped at two hours, thirty minutes and fifteen seconds because that is when I got back to my house, not because I had to. But fifteen minutes later, was I just a little tired ?

You bet.

Not exhausted, but tired. Glad I only had a swim the next day.

Running two hours ? I do that all the time. Run two and a half hours ?

Only when my coach tells me to...