Saturday, October 29, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of tapering, all things considered. I understand it, but I don't like it.

I was supposed to ride 3 hours today and run another. I suspect this was as much to keep me busy as anything, given that one of my few abilities is a freakish ability to recover from workouts and races. It didn't happen, as William Shatner (have you heard the new album ? I have) say. Due to Margit being at the tail end of one job (and about to start another), my son's soccer game, a hair cut, and my bike being shipped to Florida on an 18-wheeler, I wasn't even close to this.

Did I mention the utterly freak snowstorm ? If you are anywhere on that northeast corridor I'm sure I don't have to.

The bottom line is I only spun for 2 hours and 20 minutes and got in a zero minute run. No brick for me today.

And you know what ? It absolutely doesn't matter. It will have no effect on my race a week from today and in the end, while I might remember having largely missed my workout, I'll probably forget.

I am tapered and I am ready to race. That's what's important.

So in the morning I'll get up, run for about 100 minutes, and rest for a week.And that's OK.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Wheel of a Professional Cyclist (October 15th)

So I had a choice. Ride 100 miles again- for the third week in a row- get my ride started at 9 and be done at 1, and do the training that had been assigned, or go on a group ride with a guy that rides in the Tour De France.

For a lot of people this might be a no brainier. You go and meet the pro, you have an experience. For me though, I wanted to have the best workout to get me ready for Florida, especially after the stink bomb I'd laid out the week before, when it took me almost 5:15 to ride 100 miles. I really had my confidence shaken by this craptastic of a ride, nutrition product fail or no nutrition product fail. There was a string urge to go my own way, even though the ride would ultimately take me right by where the charity ride was, even though I could meet my wife in the parking lot before the race to hand off my son, because it's also where she swims.

I decide late Friday that what the hell, I would go. I mean, I am a firm believer that no one workout makes or breaks a race, and this was a chance to share the road with a Tour rider, I had friends that were going to the ride and for some logistical reasons I won't get into, it actually kind of made more sense to start my ride in East Lyme than at home. I wasn't going to meet the pro though, I was just going to support the ride. And get a good workout in. The CT Cycling Centre guys had sent out an email indicating they'd be doing another 50 miles to get the ride up to a century, which was what I needed, so I showed up early, registered, and then ran half an hour on the track, which was right behind the registration. So I was making it a reverse brick instead of brick, but I was still going to get my miles in at least.

The ride started a little bit late after Tom and his family arrived in the limo. He gave a short but heartfelt speech about growing up in East Lyme, and then we started the ride. It was over a hundred people as far as I could tell, probably more, and it's the first time that I've been involved in what you could call a mass start. We managed to get out of the parking lot and out on the ride, and I'll say this. For the first 15-20 minutes, it was pretty stressful. There were a lot of people, and we were staying together in a group, so it was pretty slow, and a little erratic. I hadn't ridden together with anyone in weeks, and here I was in a mass of people going 20, then going 10, then going 30, then going 15. I mean, I ride with people, but my idea of a big ride if 15-20 people, not a hundred.

But I figured it out after a bit, that I needed to be on the yellow line, as far to the outside as I could get, and until I forgot this, things got a lot better. There were still the occasional sketchy moments, but I was riding behind Greg Comen and another CT Cycle Center/Zanes guy. When they moved up, I moved up. Pretty soon the ride had actually separated, and there were maybe 30-40 of us left, still a 'big' group for me but a lot less than earlier.

I was really impressed with Tom Danielson. He was riding back and forth in the group talking to everyone who wanted to grab a chat and it was interesting stuff, traveling and racing and so on. Really making an effort to engage people. Greg and some of the other guys I knew were talking to him so I rode right behind him, trying to keep a little bubble. Which was ironic, because in a short while, I would come as close as anyone in the ride to causing him some stress- at least as far as I know. Oh yeah, every ride has a story...

So I got comfortable on the ride and of course, this was a mistake. The ride wasn't hilly, but there were some hills, and on one of them I got forced to the inside, our let myself get trapped on the inside. I should never be on the inside when climbing because as people start to slow down, I usually go around them. The guy in front of me was going 12 mph. Then he was going 7 mph. Just like that. I moved to his right, overlapping his wheel but well wide of it, and with the plan of riding off into the woods if that was what it took- at least no one else would get hurt. Since this is something I'm not used to I then made a mistake. Instead of jumping on my gears and getting a nice hard gear to slow my turnover, I tapped my breaks. Immediately I had to clip out. I got my left foot down caught my balance and started right up again. No big deal, except of course that Tom Danielson was right behind me when it happened.

Embarrassed. Tom said 'Whoa, it's getting crazy now,' but his voice was upbeat, not aggravated and that really helped. I mean, it was my fault and it wasn't. The guy in front of me died, but hey, I needed to be ready for it....

At one point of our guys ride up to me and jokingly said 'Tom asked if you'd stay in the back'...

So of course you kind of spend a while after that just trying to forget you did something stupid. Nobody got hurt, I wasn't riding like an asshole. Still, it was a little hard to just relax.

But hey, we got close to the end of the ride, and we were riding near Route 1, which is exactly where I'd been doing my training. We were still on a side road and a pace line formed. There were about 12 guys in the line, but right away, guys started popping off the back. And after my earlier shortcomings I did not want to start hopping the the queue and cutting people off. But these guys weren't getting back on so I started moving up, settling in, pulling people behind me as I went. We settled into about eight people, with Tom on the front and a guy from Keltic named Gerard (?) behind him. Tom would pop out every so often, clearly not expending himself too dearly, seeing who was along for the ride..

Then he and Gerard went. I was waiting for someone else to go and the gap was getting bigger, and no one was going. So I pulled out of the line, and hopped the gap. A couple of guys urged me on as I went, which I though was kind of funny, I mean this was a charity ride, but hey, whatever, I needed it. It was hard work getting across the gap, but I did get there. At some point Gerard dropped and there I was, on Tom Danielson's wheel. What the hell ?

Then someone went by us. Now this is breaking the primal rule. I learned this riding with Eric. If you are riding with someone that can drop you at will, and they want to be in front, then you don't pass them. It's simple logic. Anyway, this guy passed, and then pretty soon he too was gone. I was not. There I was, sucking Tom Danielson's wheel, riding pretty damn hard. He was probably going 80%, I was going 95%.

One more guy joined the mix, and Tom dropped back to see who else was coming, but there wasn't anyone else. I was still second wheel, but with Tom behind me. And then I looked down and saw a front wheel on my right, on road I'd never have ridden on, and I felt a very gentle hand on my hip. Tom Danielson wanted to get by. He didn't push, he was just saying 'Hey, I'm here'. I gave him some room and he moved in front and then that's when the race was on. I looked down and I was hammering away at 37mph- and I was out of contact of both Tom and the guy that was second wheel, who had also been dropped. I was still hammering, but it was over. He looked back to make sure we were still there, and turned into the school. I was expecting the rest of the ride to ride me down then, but that didn't happen, we'd made our getaway and the little charity ride had turned out to give me two great stories.

I have to give big props to Tom Danielson again, because he stayed and gave individual pictures with each and every person that wanted one. (see mine below). I was really, really impressed with how much of himself he put into the event.

I went back out, added another twenty miles, then ran a 6:30 mile on the track, packed it up, and went home, workout completed, and yeah, I had a hell of a lot of fun too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Branford Shores Fall Classic

I'd last raced two weeks ago, and with Ironman Florida three weeks away, a road race hardly seemed like the right thing to be doing.

The lead-in didn't exactly help, either. I'd swum 3K yards on Friday (a marathon swim for me) and time-trialed the Hammerfest course after, then spent part of my Saturday chasing a TDF pro on a sprint (more on that in a later post).

My Sunday workout called for 2:15-2:30 of running, and as I traded emails with @poycc I was trying to figure out how to make that work with a 4 mile road race on basically the same course as the Hammerfest. I mean, how do you pass up a race you can run to on roads you train year round on ? Well, by staying focused on your main goal, but one of my weaknesses has always been thinking I can train for one thing and still race whatever distances and disciplines I want.

So I came up with a plan. The race was starting at 10AM so if I started running at 8AM, I could meet Michael at his condo at 8:45, we could run over to the race and sign up and then continue running. By the time I got over there and signed up I had a little over an hour under my belt. I registered quickly, then I went out and ran entire course. It was windy- really windy, and running the course really helped to give me an idea how to attack it in a race.

I got back and because I wanted to have 1:40 in the bag before the race started I did another 10 minutes on the Branford Road Race course. The I went and talked to John Courtmanche, JB, and Michael. While doing that I realised that Bart Wasiolek was there. Any chance of a win was gone, because Bart had also brought one of his Quinnipiac runners with him. And the guy that I had beat by five seconds at the last race was there as well.

Well, I was not expecting to win anyway. After having run an hour and forty minutes, with my calves sore from the ride the day before and my achilles tender, I was going to be lucky to hold my own.

We started out, running downhill, and I quickly settled into a lead group of 5 people, Bart and his college runner, the guy from the other race, a teenager and myself. I was in the middle, running hard as we took the right into Indian Neck and as part tried to open it up, I followed him in the college guy, hoping to make it a three man race. I couldn't believe how fast I was running, totally out of the box at the start.

We went through a mile at an almost sick 5:41. I mean 5:41 is pretty slow, but not when it's a 5:41 mile within a two and a half hour run. I was running as hard as I could, but I still fell into fifth place as we ran along the water. I was unable to hold off the other two guys and Bart and the college kid ran away. As we turned onto Bayberry I was locked in fifth, bout I felt like if I picked it up I could move up into third as we took the first turn and then headed up the short hill.

And I did. The five man race became two two man races, two runs off the front and the teenager and I fighting it out on the back of the course. I was convinced a shirtless JB was going to blast by me at some point, but it never did happen. Instead, at each hill, I would open a small gap on the teenager, who was tall and lean, kind of the anti-me. Then his long stride would close me down.

At around 3 miles we got back to Pawson. I was running up the hill and pulling away, but with a mile left to go I didn't want to blow myself up. So I moderated my effort, which may have been a mistake. I got very little separation and as we broke back onto the main road, I ended up behind. I would spend the rest of the race there, locked in fourth place. I tried and failed to gain ground.

Finally I could see the finish line and my goal was simple. Break 24:00. For some reason though, a flag maybe, the clock was obscured. So I ran my ass off and what do you know ?

23:59. Sub-6.

That felt good.

No, it felt great. I ran home, got my bike and road back to Lenny's and as they called my name I walked in, took my trophy, and rode home.

I ran 2:35 total. So I accomplished everything I wanted, and more....

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Not Get in a Bike Accident

My long ride last Sunday had plenty of adventures and while the overall ride was a sort of disaster in slow-motion (time-wise- 100 miles in an anemic 5 hours 13 minutes), it had one shining moment. It came when I didn't smash into a car.

I was about an hour into my ride, feeling really good. I was headed up Route one at about 23mph. A blue Honda went by me, going barely faster than me, a line of cars behind him. He appeared to be looking for somewhere to turn, but I had the feeling, since he had no signal on and with the way he was kerning the car, that he wanted something on the other side of the rode.

I was wrong.

When we got the entrance of the Mobil station, he turned right. No signal, no warning, no breaking, just that old man 'I'm going here' turn.

At first, I ran through the 'how do I avoid hitting this car' protocol. I had maybe 2.5-3 seconds before impact, and what a long amount of time that is when you have to start calculating.

Instinctively, I hit the breaks, and because I had my race wheels on, I immediately started to fishtail.

Bad, meet worse.

The fishtail, uncorrected, would lead to a crash. So I admitted to myself that there was no way- none- that I could veer right with enough speed to avoid getting hit and therefore I should hit the car instead.

The clarity that came- the relaxation- when I admitted that yes, I was going to be in an accident and it was up to me to have that accident on my terms, allowed me to focus.

I let go of the breaks, and the straightened out of the fishtail. Step one, that crash was off the books. I was still going to hit the car...

Or was I. I'd ruled out squirting around the car on the left because of the traffic- that line of cars- but the fishtail had me pointed a bit left. I looked down and I was still going 20 mph, so I went.

I didn't think, just went. Missed the back bumper by a good 6 inches.

I turned to give the guy the finger and a mouthful of frakitutudes and he was oblivious, smoking a cigarette and looking straight ahead. No idea he'd almost ended my ride 4 hours early, wrecked my bike or run the risk of me putting a few K of dings in his car.

I fought the urge to go back. I had another 80 miles to ride.

And that was the important thing. Accepting that there was no way I was never going to get to the end of my ride is what ultimately allowed me to do just that.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

On Long Rides and Long Runs

Last week I rode 100.0 miles in 4:59:30. On my training wheels. That was a tremendous adventure, full of memorable events, including a frenetic last 29 minutes where I started 50 seconds off a 20 mph pace and somehow rung 1:20 out of the last 10 miles despite plowing through two knee-deep puddles and doing some almost Lance-worthy off-roading.

Today, I ran for 2 hours. Map My Ride gave me some questionable, on the shoreline gps data (a lot of workouts show up short her on the shoreline). I ran a solid negative split of nearly three minutes after running a very solid 1 hour and 1 second out before turning around and coming back. I drained a bottle of hammer nutrition and one flask of EFS nutrition.

I never felt bad. I never had to take a dump (yes, this happens on some long runs), I never felt bloated, and I never faded. I do have to shout out to Bear McCready. His music was the fuel for my run today, as I just listened to BSG seasons 1-4 the whole run, and damn, that music makes me solid. It's the perfect blend. It doesn't send me off the deep end like Linkin Park, and doesn't lull me to sleep the way Alannis does.

The point is, the 5 hour ride was an adventure and an effort. The two hour run ? Just another workout. I went out, I ran, hit the head, grabbed two scoops of Hammer Nutrition Recoverite, then went to my son's soccer game, where I had to convince him that yes, he wanted to play, not just watch.

Now, I've done some three hour runs this year, so I know what even longer runs feel like and it makes me stop and think.

I've come to the conclusion that as an athlete, I'm a better cyclist than a runner, and maybe that's true. But my running has really come together in the last month and maybe instead of fighting the idea that I'm a good runner, I should go with it, what with IM Florida coming up next month. After all, the Ironman doesn't end with a bike loop, it ends with a marathon. Maybe being a runner is a good thing. Maybe being a good runner is an even better thing.

So the fact that I can go out and run for two hours and it's just a punch the clock effort, that's a good thing. Let me save the aggression and the passion for the bike, where I need it, and let's run like a professional at IM Florida. I'll have a better race, maybe even turn in that 3:20 my coach thinks I'm capable of...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tommy Sullivan's Run for the Ribbons

Yesterday I rode 100 miles and then ran 25 minutes.

This morning I was planning to get up and run up to two hours starting at 0700. I had it in the back of my mind that I might still go and run the race this morning instead of doing my long run, but I wasn't really planning on it.

I got up late, which means about 0645. That's still plenty of time to feed the cats and make the coffee, eat some banana and get dressed. Still I was psyched when Michael D'Addetta emailed and suggested starting at 0730 instead. Mostly because it was pouring rain out and in the mid-fifties.

It was a great call. As I stepped out the front door to run, the clouds parted, revealing blue skies and sun. That was it for the rain and the entire 75 minute run with Michael and Mary Dunn was beautiful. I could have gone another 15 or twenty minutes, but I knew the race was at 1000 and I had over an hour to get there. I'd decided to run it after all.

The point is that I'm training for Ironman Florida. Going and running a 3.4 mile road/trail race the day after a long ride makes no sense. I mean what should come after a 100 mile ride is a long run, maybe 2 hours. So there was no way I was going to rest up for the race. But I won the race last year so I wanted to at least go and run, which was the only reason I'd even been thinking about it.

So I changed from my running clothes to some race gear, hopped on my bike, rode over to the race and registered.

I was already warmed up, so I just did some strides and I saw a lot of the same people I saw last year. Then I saw one guy and everything changed. This guy was tall and thin, running shorts and a tank top. He had a massively long stride and as he warmed up, doing strides the same as I was, t was clear he was faster. He exploded off the line and covered tremendous ground each time.

Oh well, there was nothing I could do about it but run my race.

The race got off pretty quickly after that and I'd picked my line I wanted and surprise, I was very quickly out in front. I was not expecting to lead the race- there were cross-country kids and so on and I was pretty sure I'd be trailing someone. I wasn't.

The start is pretty much downhill, half a mile to the woods. I was chasing the pace car and for now this was my race and I was going to run it and take charge. I forgot about the fatigue of the 100 mile ride/run yesterday, the earlier 75 minute run, and I just kind of ran. When you are out in front, you had better run your ass off. Before I even got to the woods, it was clear that it was a two person race. I didn't look back, I never do, I could just tell from the sound of it. The guy I'd seen at the start, the one i was pretty sure was the fastest guy at the race, was on my back, within 2 seconds.

We headed into the woods, and I had the lead, and I ran with it. I think in the woods, the shorter guy has the advantage. That shorter stride makes it easier to make adjustments and find footing. I ran hard, but I felt like the guy was just marking me and I was expecting him to go by. And he didn't, and didn't. We hit a mile at around 6:30 and still I was in front. In the woods now, I was pushing every advantage and shaving every line, running straight at trees, sailing over clusters of roots. I was still thinking the guy was going to blow by me, until I finally starting thinking he was just marking me because he assumed I knew the course but he didn't.

And that was how I ran the whole woods. And then we broke out of the woods and were back on the road and quickly hit the 3 mile mark. I ad two seconds on him at three miles. No way I was going to gold onto two seconds.

And no way I was giving it up, either. The course dips downhill after three mies, then ticks up to the finish. I tightened the screws as much as I could and just kept running up the hill. I wanted to win, and I didn't want to be caught.

And I wasn't. Kudo to the guy that held me within two seconds for three miles and end up 5 behind me for running a tough race and keeping me guessing. He pushed me the whole way

the coolest thing ? Two days later I was out running at lunch in New Haven and John Courtmanche pulled up alongside me and said "you didn't just win your age group, you won the whole damn race !" I will always remember that....