Monday, March 29, 2010

Brian's Beachside Boogie

Usually, a race is just a race.

As an athlete, I'm not one of your big thinkers. I don't have a head full of times, or averages or what other people have done. I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about a race before it happens period.

However, after the stinkbomb I laid at the Shamrock race I was quite frankly worried. I was coming into this race as the defending champion and I was coming off a race that really made me question what I was capable of. Sure, it was just one bad race, but...

But a funny thing happened.

The race started.

Like all duathlons, the very beginning is kind of weird. Unlike a road race, where I start out towards the front and fall back as the race progresses, in a duathlon, people stream around me and then I work my way up. I was concerned when I fell back in the first few hundred yards that I was not going to close down and then, well, then I did. I starting moving uo and around and settled into a top ten spot around 9 or 8 and that was exactly where I wanted to be.

There was a guy in a Cyclonauts jersey. I passed him, settled in in front of him and he managed to accidentally kick my right foot out from under me. I didn't fall, but I was annoyed. Don Gustavason was somewhere around me, in front for a while and then behind, then in front again. The first run settled down pretty quickly though and I felt good.

I really felt like we weren't pushing the run that hard, which is how I like it. Usually the bike is my strong leg in this race, although the age of my bike- 13 years at least- its weight, and its deteriorating condition- had me concerned. Then again, I've won the race twice, including last year, on that bike, so how bad can it be ?

I hopped on the bike and quickly started moving up, from 7 to 6 to 5, to 4. But then I was passed by the guy in the cyclonauts jersey and I was back in fifth as we went towards Meigs Point on the sand and dirt.

When you get to Meigs Point though, the race hops onto the road and I get down on my aerobars and just go. I averaged about 23 mph on the road and passed both Don and the Cyclonaut, moving up into 3rd. I was feeling good, pushing myself hard, and thinking I had a chance to dial into third on the bike and try to hold that on the run.

Now, remember that I laid the course out. I got on the off-road section and my decision to go with toe clips and not a one and one hurt me. I was slow on the off-road section and soon found myself back in fifth, close on to the two guys in front of me- and then we went into the woods. I was holding my own and then I went around a turn and a branch reached out and grabbed my leg and it stopped moving and that was it.

I went head over handbars onto the dirt and as my head hit the ground I watched the 3rd and 4th place riders getting away. That was that. I climed back on the bike, took way too long getting up to speed, and hauled some ass.

I finished the first loop, started on the second, and I just couldn't close. All the way out to Meigs Point I was working hard and keeping my eyes open, but there was no one coming back to me. When I got back on the road I did make up some time, but not really enough. And then as I came out of the woods on the back of the course, Charlie Hornak caught me and said something about the wind.

I picked it up right then. I'd thought I was riding in 5th in the middle of nowhere. Having someone catch me briefly was just the kick in the ass I needed to redouble my effort.

Despite the crash I still posted a top 5 bike time, which I feel pretty good about, except for the crash and the four people that posted faster times.

I came in 5th, hopped off the bike, dropped and retrieved my Oakleys and headed out on the run.

I had not yet given up on moving up and I ran hard. Really hard. Of the top five finishers on the winner had less of a difference between their first and second run times. I was hauling ass truing to catch the 4th place guy and I did see him, just a couple hundred yards ahead with a little less than a mile left, but it was just too much.

I came across the line about 45 seconds slower and four places lower than last year but I'll take it for now. It was a big improvement over my last race, I lost to a guy who put up a great time- Karl Schilling- and two of the guys that beat me- Tim Cote and Don Gustavson, are guys I know that are great athletes and nice guys as well. I also want to mention that Charlie Hornak really has picked up his racing this season and I'm expecting a lot out of him.

This was not a great race for me and I'm not happy with how I did, but I'm not too disturbed either. It was a definite step-up and a real motivator. I raced- pretty well. There's room to improve- a lot- but it was a good hard effort and a reminder that no, I don't actually suck.

I just have to work a little harder...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brian's Beachside Boogie- Pre-Race

First of all: If you get lost on the bike course, blame me. I laid it out Friday and reviewed it today. Remember, it's two loops.

It's going to be interesting to see how tomorrow goes. After laying such a rotten egg at the Shamrock and Roll 5K, I did pick my training up a notch. So possibly, we'll see some positives results from that. But really, I don't know. I think maybe I laid a little too low for two long with my training, especially my running, and while my bike fitness is good, overall I'm a little short.

But I had a good 27 miles on the mountain bike today. I'm ready to see what I can do, and most of all, have a little fun, assuming my feet don't completely freeze off tomorrow.

If you're racing- good luck.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NFL Overtime- Horribly unfair to sports commentators

If there is any vote besides the Health Care vote that people have been obsessed with this weekend, it's the NFL's competition committee's vote on proposed changes to the overtime rules.

Like the Health Care debate, commentators- writers and broadcast journalists- have rallied around common talking points. Although to be honest, there isn't, if you listen to them, two sides to this debate. In fact there is no debate.

The talking point ? 'Fair.' The word that keeps coming up and out of the mouth or pen of everyone involved is that the current rule- whoever scores first (Donovan McNabb)- is unfair. Everyone wants to see fairness returned to the game.

Follow the link above and you'll get an idea why- most people think that the team that gets the ball to start overtime 'often' or 'usually' wins. Not so. Yes, that happens about 40% of the time. That's um, less than half.

That means that 60% of the time, the other team gets the ball. With the current rule.

But what really irks me about this, honestly, is the use of the word 'fair.' This is football, NFL football. Fair ? What is this, t-ball ? Fair ? Oh, does someone get their itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny little feelings hurt if they lose ?

You bet your ass they do, this is football. You want fair, watch MLB baseball. Everybody gets their chance to hit the ball and no one goes home feeling they've been cheated because the other team scored the winning run and then immediately took the ball and went home.

Some argue that the NFL is the only level of the game that hasn't adopted a more equitable overtime rule.

Good for them. Anyone who has suffered through a multiple OT college football game, one that goes on forever with players dropping like flies, knows that madness that way lies.

This is a disease that has infected just about every other sport. Look at the NHL! The only thing wrong with a tie after 65 minutes of play is that too many people got in their heads that a tie is somehow wrong and replaced simple ties with a shootout. What about World Cup soccer matched decided by shootouts ? Absurd.

My problem with football's version of the shootout is the same as my problem with shootouts in sports that use it. It's like if you had a tie at a 5K, deciding the winner by having them throw a shot put. It's just not real sport.

The whole point of football is the battle for field position. As soon as you add a rule where each team gets the ball whether you succeed or fail on your offensive possession, the normal flow of the game goes out the window. I think it was Jeff Fisher (who has no right to complain about fair after the Nashville Nightmare and subsequent no-call of a forward pass) who brought up both kick-returns for TDs and pass interference calls.

Well, you're more likely to see teams throw bombs looking for pass interference calls when they know if they don't get a first down they aren't going to have to punt and defend as though their lives depended on it.

And what about a game that ends on the first play of overtime with a kick-return for a touchdown ?

Tough sh!t !

Football is not about offense. Football is about offense, defense and special teams, and you have to be able to master all three. If you give up a TD on the opening kick-off of OT, your special teams let you down and you lost.

Fair ?

You had sixty minutes to win the game outright. If you didn't do it, then you don't 'deserve' to win, in fact you don't deserve a second chance. If you do get the ball and you do score, more power to you. If the other team gets the ball, get your defense on or take the loss like a man and go home.

Fair ? Save the t-ball for someone with a lesser constitution. I don't want 'fair.' I want football.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Climbing Gates Pass- In My Driveway

Filed under: Things I've never done before

We're having some insane weather here in CT for March. On the first day of spring it was 65 degrees at 2:45 PM and through a series of events I found myself not having worked out yet. Normally Saturday is long ride day, but I did the IMLP course on a computrainer Thursday night so I really just needed a good hard 75 minutes or so.

I finagled a car nap out of my son Ian- not by his choice, of course, but a nap is a nap. I immediately set to work, getting my trainer into the driveway. I grabbed my MacBook Pro, my helmet, and a step ladder and next thing I was doing Gates Pass with Coach Troy- in my driveway.

I made the mistake of adjusting my trainer tension (more tension) just before the ride, so it was a tough one.

Why the helmet ? I wanted to get used to it because I may use it in a race next week. Let me tell you- helmet plus training equals milky-white sweat.

Still, it was a great way to get 70 minutes of high tempo spinning in, outdoors, while my son took a nice long nap.

It's all about picking your spots.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Me and Roadies

The same afternoon I laid a turd on the Shamrock and Roll course, I took my mountain bike out for a time trial.

This is sort of a bad race tradition for me, not necessarily the mountain bike, but the feeling is if I've got something left I'd best get rid of it.

So on the way back from Guilford, I saw a pair of roadies as I was leaving town. So I road down the slower of the two (I don't think they were riding together) and then closed on the second one.

I was really time-trialing- down in the aerobars, in my TT helmet. I passed the second guy, but as I was, well, on a mountain bike, I didn't exactly separate.

So he passed me back on a hill, and instead of just letting it go, he says to me 'You should get a time trial bike.'

I was not in the mood.

I snapped back 'This is a time trial bike. What does it look like I'm doing ?' Then I buried him...

It was silly, but it felt good....

Shamrock and Roll 5K

Every year I toss up a real clunker, a race I want back as soon as I finish running it- or earlier.

This was that race this year.

I hate writing about the bad races, and this wasn't a case of running a few seconds slower than I would have liked or getting beat by people that I should be getting beat by. This was what happens when all your week day running over the last month has been on the treadmill, you're five pounds overweight and you are coming off a week of one a day workouts.

Not to make excuses. I should have been ready, and I wasn't.

The race started relatively on time this year, but with a different course. I had started warming up early and considering how prepared I was for the race (not), probably went too hard. We head out from the starting line and ran a block or two farther than usually before hooking that left that takes you to the big hill.

I was keying off George Buchanan, and although he was right about where I expected, I felt like I was labouring. My stride was choppy, my arms were churning. When we turned left again I evaluated who was around me and I knew I was in trouble. Around half a mile I started to feel like I just didn't belong out there, like I feel during the swim of most tris, and I did the same thing I do then, I pushed that thought aside.

Then we were on the big hill and Charlie Hornak was pushing me, so I tried to pick it up a notch. That brought little benefit, but I was still fighting and not really sure just what was going on.

My iPod died.

Finally the big climbs were over and we started the downhill. I felt like I was picking it up a little, then there were some more turns and I was back and forth with people. It wasn't really the usual give and go, in part because I was giving and going with people that I don't usually see up close during a race.

We were screaming down the hill, like always, but then we had to hook a left.

It was kind of weird, because I'd run this race for years and the rhythm of it and the rhythm of me were both just wrong.

I had no idea where were were until we turned back onto the road that we started on. I was still off, still struggling. I got encouragement from Charlie, but the truth was I was just gassed.

I crossed the line over 18:40, unhappy with myself.

But I went and grabbed a beer, then warmed down with Charlie, who was very kind about how craptastic my running form was.

And I had gotten the wake-up call I needed.