Thursday, December 19, 2013

Running is cathartic...

A long road in the last 3 weeks I've had to deal with the loss of my dad, getting divorced and then helping my mom put the pieces of her life back together. Yes, in that order. Ugh. I literally sat in the living room, drained, upset and not knowing where to go next. Well, no better time to lace up a pair of shoes and go for a run. Running is one of those things that helps center me. It helps me burn off the day, reminds me who I am and allows my brain to process life and a create a plan going forward. Tonight, even though I turned in a terrible run time and felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, I ran all the garbage, anger, sadness and doubt out of me. That run was just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Body issues...

Body of the tenets of lululemon (for the employees and ambassadors) is to do something that scares you everyday. Well it doesn't get any scarier than this for me. Anyone who knows me will tell you I NEVER take my shirt off...EVER.

But...I was struck by none other than my own my brother (10 years my senior and 60lbs overweight) telling me he doesn't have the time or is able to "have that athlete body like little brother". He's had less injuries than me, he's smarter than me, we have the same genetics but he says I have the build people should want. Me?

I hear the litany of excuses from my brother that I hear from coworkers, friends and everyone else. It can't be done. "This" body comes from my driving myself in the ground training and racing while watching EVERYTHING that goes into my mouth. Because I want to be in the best health in order to have a healthy, better quality of life. And still I don't have that vaunted 6 pack (although I do admit I take great pride in passing those who do on race day). Actually, according to my Tanita bodyfat scale and other scales, I'm at 18% bodyfat. Well ain't that a kick in the head!

I think it's interesting that my female athlete friends can talk about how another woman has better breasts, flatter stomach, or better body...while they look great themselves...but we men can't think or feel the same way. 

Well...I'm 41, I'm a triathlete and this is my body. It's not the body I want. I've broken it. I've healed it (or at least tried my best to). I race 20 plus races a season on it. I swim, I bike, I run, I lift, I do yoga with it. That grin isn't because I'm happy with where I'm's because I'm happy about where I'm going...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I met Mirinda Carfrae...and it changed my life

I look at this every morning
It dawned on me, as I was running an 8 miler on the treadmill while watching Rinny run down people on NBC's broadcast of Ironman Kona today, that I have met very few people in my lifetime that have had a deep impact on my life but meeting and talking to Rinny was one such occasion.

Why? First off she said I was inspiring. Me! This woman, who is the champion of our sport, said I was inspirational because of all I've overcome physically to be a competitive athlete. I don't have words to describe how much that meant to me. When you have someone you idolize tell you that...there is no greater motivation. She took extra time to sit and talk to me about training and racing. I have often thought back to that conversion when toeing the start line at races all season.

Secondly, she validated the way I approach racing. People have often said I shouldn't be so hard on myself, pushing myself relentlessly, going into the pain cave during training and in every race...well, Rinny was the one that said " have to be ready to hurt at that next level in order to win" and " order to win you have to dig deep and suffer, and most people can't do that". That approach, that mentality is what gets me through races when my legs and lungs are on fire but I fight through it to cross that finish line...often for a podium spot. It was that mentality that after improper nutrition and hydration got me through heat exhaustion/heat stroke at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse to cross the finish line. It was that mentality that got me back on the bike after a terrible collision and crash at Timberman 70.3, gutting out the next 59 miles of the race to cross the finishline...taking an hour off the time I posted at Syracuse...even busted up. Timberman, that race and that finish, is one of my proudest achievements to date. Its that mentality that's pushed me through injury and fueled my ending up on podiums this season. My accomplishments this year are due in part to meeting one of my idols and the conversation Rinny had with me.
Congratulations again Rinny on not only becoming the Ironman World Champion once again but for setting the course record along the way. You inspire, motivate and change people's lives every day...I should know...I'm one of them!

Another reading from the Book of Dutch...

We always hear about successes and get lulled into a false sense of security, either thinking it always happens for a select few or it will never happen for us. Yes, there are things to be learned in success...but there's even MORE to be learned from failures. As Thomas Edison once said, "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward".  It is that trial and error where we truly learn the value of a success. In my opinion, with out that struggle, one can not truly appreciate the value of success. Not to mention...failure is what builds character! It seem that the paths I've chosen in my life...has afforded me the ability to build LOTS of character.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When did "fat" become the new "n" word?! And when did honesty become "bullying"?!

I've had a couple of conversations lately where people have said I can't use the word "fat" to describe myself and I shouldn't use it in general because its derogatory. There's also been a lot of talk of "fat shaming" with the recent FB post of mother of three - Maria Kang's "what's your excuse" image. Somehow people are now treating the word "fat" as derogatory and "bodyracist" in the same way society treats the "n" word. Really?! Are you f'ing
kidding me?!

That body came from not caring and no work
So there's a couple of things to talk about here. First off...I can call MYSELF anything I want. I am describing ME and me alone. The "me I refer to is the one in the picture to the left. I was 5'9", 245 pounds with a 38 inch waist...creeping to 40 inches. There is no other adjective to describe what I was but "fat". That will always be the image in my head...of me. Yes, I know I'm hard on myself. Try being a skinny kid most of your life, then becoming fat and miserable (I won't even get into all the health problems I was suffering from...all of which were exacerbated by the weight) ...and you'd be hard on yourself to stay fit and trim too. I call myself "fluffy" now partly to make light of my personal fat composition struggles and to continue to drive myself to train everyday. But that's me talking about ME. Those people that say "well if he thinks he's fat, what must he think I am?!" are dealing with their OWN problems. I have NEVER called anyone fat nor detracted from others and their fitness journey. I took ownership of my size and health and made changes. I took responsibility for my weight, health and mood. I didn't blame anyone else for it. Sure life may not have been that great at the time and I might've been injured but no one held a gun to my head to keep me out of the gym or eat like it was the apocalypse. I get a hard time from people because they see current me and think I'm naturally this way. My current level of fitness comes from hard work and driving myself to be healthy and fit...and continually motivating myself to be so. And on the flip side of that I just LOVE how my coworkers tell me I'm "manorexic" and I should just "eat a hamburger" because "you're too skinny". What...the...hell?!

Secondly there's an accountability problem in this country. I guess the stats about being the second most obese  nation on the planet (Mexico has us beat) with a jump of 13% of the nation qualified as obese in 1962 to 33.8% of Americans being obese in 2012 isn't "our" fault?! Look, I'm not a fan of every freaking fat food holiday this country "celebrates" (i.e. national donut/candy/ice cream/cake/blond brownie day) but they and the fast food industry didn't make us fat. Our lack of self control of ourselves and our children has made us fat. 

That body came from HARD work and constant effort
Speaking of, I'm 41 (although I think a fit and young looking 41 at that) and I can only remember a handful of obese kids throughout my years of school. Have you looked around lately?! Obesity causing heart attacks is rapidly becoming the number one killer in the 18 and under age group! Are you serious?! Studies show that obesity causes 100k-400k deaths a year and cost our society an estimated $117 BILLION (preventive, diagnostic, treatment, lost work, premature deaths) and EXCEEDS monies spent of alcohol and smoking health care costs. And you have a problem with the word "fat"?! Get over yourself! Its fat. Quit bitching about it and take responsibility for yourself. I'm tired of being politically correct about fat and fat issues ESPECIALLY since I WAS a fat guy and battle everyday to NOT be. Maybe if you stop making excuses, take charge of you own life, quit trying to belittle those that have and actually get your weight under'd live a happier and longer life. One that I'm SURE you're loved ones would appreciate your being in and around for, rather than "lose you early" to crap eating habits and being overweight. And no, I'm not being mean or insulting or a bully...I'm telling the truth. I've lost too many family members to poor health and reasons they could control (almost including myself) to not want to change the "culture" and change myself. Maybe if more people took responsibility for themselves, if doctors and dieticians were honest and we saw each other as part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem, we'd end up a healthier, fitter nation.  But, I'm sure a lot of people reading this will just think I'm another "fitness Nazi". Ugh.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Army 10 Miler...every race can't be a PR

Yes, I know that not every race can be a PR but that doesn't mean I don't want to PR each race. Going into the Army 10 Miler (ATM) I was trying to be realistic in my goals. Mostly, given the rehab running and lower mileage post-hip injury, I was trying to focus on a pain free race. While I LOVE the ATM (I should've been racing it every year for the last decade, because I'm always in DC at the time, but hadn't because I was a fat ass-ed,watch it from the sidelines guy) it comes at the end of triathlon season and I'm always banged up and trying to make the best of it. Two years ago it was an ankle, last year back and pelvis and this year it was the hip. Ugh. Well, I tried to have a plan going into the race focusing on proper form/body position/gait and listening to my body to run pain free. That sounded like a good plan at least...

Luckily since I'm familiar with the race and area (and was staying at a hotel about a mile from the start) I walked to my corral with about 25 minutes before start time. It's great to be in the 1st wave but it's daunting to stand around waiting for the start in a herd of Kenyan-looking, long distance runner-looking folks! Even though I was dealing with the hip injury, I decided to wear my Saucony Virratas because I'd hoped the zero drop and lightweight would help me with quicker turnover and get me through the race faster. I just kept going over the course in my head and kept telling myself to focus in body position/gait. The cannon goes off (I mean it is an Army event, we're not gonna use some puny starter pistol) and we get moving. 

Miles 1-6:54, 2-6:46, 3-6:49
I know everyone always says "run your race"...which for me is start way too fast and pay the price. I mean, the race I really want to run is fast out of the gate, getting faster every mile with a podium finish and there's that. But...the better way to go is start slower, gauge effort and focus on negative splits after the first third of the race. I thought I was starting slow until I hit the 1st mile mark on a sub 7. Ok, I'm not hurting and feel good so let's see how this goes. The course is flat and miles 2 and 3 went the same way. Ok, relax, focus on gait and form and let's see where this takes me. 

Miles 4-6:56, 5-6:46, 6-7:01
As I hit the 4 mile mark I was surprised that I was feeling good and still running well. Yes, I had a plan but I was feeling really good. Then, I realized that if I can keep this up I'll not only have a good race but I might blow the top of my 10 Miler PR...hence the uptick for mile 5. Coming up on mile 6, I got the tell tale sign of an eroding body position because my right foot nicked my left ankle. That means I was collapsing my left side...again...ugh. Ok, ok, deep breaths and keep going. As I hit mile 6 and the 10k mark I could feel myself slowing down and I felt the speed bleed right out of me. I mean it was like my bubble burst. In one fell swoop my hip started hurting and my speed trailed off.

Miles 7-7:10, 8-7:03, 9-7:10, 10-7:05
The course turns on itself for miles 6-7 and offers a chance to catch your breath and gear up for the last 3 miles. Those miles are on a highway leading back to the Pentagon. It's weird. Racers are out on a highway overpass, there's no crowds and no noise. All you can hear is the sound of feet hitting the ground. Pretty cool indeed. The 9 mile mark is at the exit  ramp for the Pentagon, with a slight downhill and is a great way to build steam into the finish. I just gave all I had toward the finish. I was surprised to see the finishing clock as I closed on the finish. I crossed the line in 70mins. Really? Did I just run that in a 70?1 I DID get a PR! My hip didn't feel great, I didn't have a pain free race...but I took 2 minutes off my 10 Miler PR and was satisfied with the day. Not to mention, I got another one of the coveted Finisher's coins. Those things mean a lot to me and I was happy to not only pick one up but have a PR to boot. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the race...and I"m already started to plan out my race schedule for next year so I can be healthy for somewhere around a 65...and then maybe do the Marine Corps Marathon the following weekend. No rest for the fluffy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Army 10 Miler plan...and an amazing surprise

Well, that Army 10 Miler is tomorrow and I've been going over and over it in my head to try to figure out what's the "plan of attack" and what I can actually expect.

I've been dealing with this hip issue, which I have to admit has been feeling a ton better but I also haven't been pushing a race pace on my runs lately. I've focused more on body position and foot placement more than mileage. I actually haven't done anything longer than an 8 mile run (3 weeks ago that lead into my rehab running cycle I've been on) so I don't really know what to expect form a 10 miler under race conditions.

I've been thinking that the best thing to do is take the race in chunks to start by breaking it down into 3 5ks. The first 3 miles should be "body check" to see how the hip feels and to make sure my body position in on track. Since my runs lately have been that, I should be okay. The only "hill" in that 5k will be running up the off ramp of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The next 4 miles will be relatively flat where keeping a good pace should be easy. The 10k mark should be where I will get the low down on how I feel. If I'm hurting those next 3 miles are gonna suck but if I feel good I should be able to run negatives out to mile 9 and then its a dash to the finish (or if in pain, gallop of the dead) that last mile. So...plan in hand it was time to head to the expo.

While out a ways from the race and in an armory, the expo is decent sized to get your number and pick up some deals on whatever you might need last minute. Walking around the expo I ran into a guy I hadn't seen since we served together in the Rangers 13 years ago! The "whiz" was this unbelievable runner who was known for staying out for longer training runs after normal organized physical training or would leave work and go home for a 10+ miler or more run. The guy was a running demon and in '97 came in 99th overall at the heralded Boston Marathon. While the guys we served with didn't realized that a big deal that was, I was a marathoner and knew that was some rarefied air. He has always been the person I've thought of when upping my mileage and marathon training. Imagine my surprise when we walked by each other a the expo and he recognized me. Imagine my even greater surprise at his saying that I looked 100 times better and more fit than I ever did in the Army and if maybe he could retire from the Army he could train more and look like me! Me? Really? This guy has been my running hero, still looks like a long distance runner and wants to look like me? I was speechless. We spent the next 20 minutes catching up, talking about training and our expectations of the race, exchanged contact info and went about our way. And by that I mean we ran into each other like 4 more times. Here I haven't seen this guy in 13 years and then kept bumping into him. Crazy!

I know I'm hard on myself. I know I say I don't look the way I want or have the times I should have...but it really meant a lot to have a guy I haven't seen in over a decade, who I consider a "real" runner not only tell me I look better than I did but compliment me on my training and racing. Maybe I am doing something right...

Well, time to settle down and get ready for tomorrow's race.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I think "rehabbing" is most definitely one of Dante's 7 circles of Hell...

Okay, so I haven't been wanting to admit it....but I'm hurt. Not in pain, I'm always in pain (not a surprise considering how battered this old, fluffy body is) and not that pain is a bad thing...but I'm in injured.

It seems that the crash at Timbermen 70.3 and the impact my left hip absorbed as I hit the pavement left me with some lasting injuries. The fact that I put another 47 miles on the hip (13 of which were running in a modified gait, favoring my left side because of the injury)  just threw my entire body off biomechanically. And...because I didn't address it earlier and continued to log mileage training and racing after Timberman (in all honesty I thought I just had to be careful because of the cracked rib and impact on the rib cage from running) I just injured myself more. After gritting my teeth and fighting through a great finish at the Hero Olympic a few weeks later, I spent the following day home from work because I couldn't physically stand up because the pain was so bad. What was so difficult to understand for me was that I hit the asphalt with my left hip but it was the right one that hurt so badly after a run.

Enter new friend and licensed massage therapist "pain" Lisa (I know too many Lisa's so they each get their own identifier and after her digging in my hip almost brought a tear to my eye..."pain" was apropos). She explained that I "collapsed" my left side due to the injury and therefore hyper-extended my right to compensate. I did that for 13.1 miles of the race, (you can see it in the pic above) then continued to train and race on it for the next two months. Lisa explained that I had developed a compensation pattern (due to landing on the left hip) that had created over-/miss-/dis- use of the right hip flexors and later4al rotators. Essentially, one hell of a muscle sprain. So...that meant shorter runs to "rehab" (focusing on body position, foot position and gait) lots of time warming up and cooling down/stretching after runs (something I don't often or well enough) and my new favorite...LOTS of time sitting on a tennis ball to get deep in my glutes and attachment areas of my quad. I like to call it...time spent quietly whimpering to myself while watching TV or playing video games to take my mind off the pain (All that time on the roller and ball was torture...only made worse by the fact I never use them. I will be the first to admit that I don't "recover" well. I just want to keep going and never think about the fact that this body has seen a lot of miles and a lot of abuse and NEEDS to be taken care of). started to work and the hip area felt better. I was still able to still lift weights in the gym and ride with no pain but running was only slowly getting better. Then I had an epiphany! Why not get to the track and run it counter clockwise?! That way I could focus on proper foot placement (straddling the lane lines), an upright body position AND since I would be leaning right throughout, I would effectively be stretching my left hip the whole run...GENIUS!!! Three track rehab 5ks and my hip feels fantastic! Granted I'm still off my normal pace but its coming down. Tonight I'll shoot for a 5 or 6 miler on the road and then its the Army 10 Miler this weekend. I was hoping for a PR but considering the last few weeks...I'll gladly take a pain free ten miles instead.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Lobsterman Triathlon, a bucket list race crossed off to never do again.

Ya, this race recap is a few weeks late but to be honest its taken me this long to purge all the hatred from my soul over it. If you live in New England there are races you "have to do" and the Lobsterman Olympic in Freeport ME is one of them. For the first time I had a group of friends all wanting to do it so even though there was camping involved, yes camping and we'll get to that eventually, but the chance to hang out and race with a group of fellow triathletes was too good to pass up.

So off we went to Maine to pick up registration packets, get to the camping area (which at least was right at the starting area for the race) and set up camp. Unfortunately, mother nature did not feel like cooperating...and it poured most of the day. So much so that we ended up holed up in a local restaurant waiting for a break in the weather. The storm didn't let up until it got dark which meant looking for the camping area to pitch a tent and pitching said tent was done under flashlight/headlights. Now I have to admit that I HATE "camping". I spent 10 years "camping" in the Army and the day I took off my uniform was the day I swore to myself that I'd never sleep outdoors, in a tent, or go without a shower again. But...this was gonna be a different, fun experience right...right?! Ugh. Tent set up and in bed by 9:30 to try and get as much sleep as possible before the sounds of people coming into the race wakes you up.

There was a benefit in being literally 100m meters from the transition area and having the ability to wake up, then walk over for set up. Because of the rain the days prior, the transition area was already a little "mucky" as we set up and all I could think was how terrible it was gonna get as the day dragged on. I never cease to be amazed at the divergence of people's transition areas. So guys were so spread out so much that as athletes walked up they had to ask people to please use less space. This ain't your living room people!

Swim: .93 miles, 44:34
Everything setup, time to get on a wetsuit and head to the water. Oh ya...the was frigid! So cold I wished I had a full wetsuit but I decided to at least do the double swim cap trick to help with holding onto some heat. As we entered the water, I actually missed being a fat kid beecaue the blubber would've insulated me! One of my fellow racers noted that the folks behind us would have a hell of a time navigating in the water because our caps are the same color as the buoys. Prophetic words indeed. I've never been so happy to hear the start command becuase I wanted to generate some heat and get to swimming. It seemed like it took forever to get to the first buoy. We were swimming perpendicular to the current and I felt like I was swiimimng as much left to right as I was straight. Ugh. Ok, first buoy down now swim into the current to the next buoy. The comment about the swim caps being the same color as the buoys was spot on. Every time I thought I was sighting on a buoy I realized it was a swim cap from my wave. The cold of the water was quickly replaced with the anger of realizing this swim seems to be taking forever. I figured the best thing to do was stay with the "pack" of swimmers to use as my guides to get me through the course. I finally made it to the last buoy and made the turn toward the finish thinking this should go quickly with the current to my back. With no intermediate buoys for guidance the only thing to do was stay with the pack hoping we'll get to the end. We turned into gopher swimmers. Every 25 meters or so we'd all stop and pop up our heads to try and sight the swim exit...and ask each other where its at. It was only after a few minutes more that I realized that we were easily 300 or more meters off course to the right of the swim exit...which was black and in the shade...making it almost invisible. Sonuva! I was getting tired and just wanted to get out of the water by now. Ok, dig in and finish this damn thing already! I finally got to the swim exit, got out of the water and glanced down to see my watch read 44 minutes. 44 minutes?! Are you kidding me?! Ya, the water was rough but last weekend I swam an Olympic in 26 minutes...what the hell?! Well, nothing to do but get to the bike and see what time i can make up.

T1: 2:34 (my worst ever)
I have to admit, I was gassed coming out of the water. All of T1 seemed to be in slow motion and the time certainly shows it. I couldn't feel my hands or feet and they did not want to function to get me out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear.

Ride: 24.7 miles, 1:16:44 - 19.3mph
The ride out of transition was on a sandy course and I was so fearful that the sand would accumulate and get stuck in the narrow space between my Cervelo P2's frame and rear wheel (its happened before) and lock me up but luckily I got out and onto pavement with no issue. Really?! Even on a dry day, putting expensive tri bikes on sand is acceptable? I don't think so. The bike course was uneventful but not flat. We really need to define what "rolling hills" are. That course was "hilly" to me. For some reason my GPS didn't pick up so I had no idea of speed or pace so I spent most of the course passing people and leapfrogging with another triathlete from a college team. It was a pleasant diversion too because I felt gassed out on the ride. I just wanted to get off the bike and get to the run.

T2: 1:15
Hitting the dismount point I see that its absolutely muddy slop getting into transition. I sank into ankle deep in mud with both feet trying to get to racks. Are you kidding me?! Ya, I know it rained but this is supposedly a "premiere event" and nobody thought to plan for this or better yet to fix it? Ugh! Just get the bike racked, get out on the run and get this over with.

Run: 6.2 miles, 49:03 - 7:54 pace
Within a few 100 meters on the run, my right hip started to bother me again. I've been dealing with this weird hip pain the last few weeks. I don't know if its from overuse, some change in my gait or a leftover thing from my Timberman crash but it hurts as if it needs to "pop" and can't. So...I knew this run was gonna suck and the time showed it. My GPS still hadn't picked up so it was all about passing people and making it to the turn to head back in to the finish. The last mile was over rolling hills and my hip was killing me. I wanted nothing more than to just get to the finish and that picture shows it. I crossed the finish in 2:54:58...over 40 minutes slower than the weekend before. Then, imagine my surprise when in passing I talk to one of the race staff about how crappy the course was to find out that the swim was closer to 1.2 miles than .9 miles. Are you f'ing kidding me?! That was not the way I wanted to end my season. Yes, I know "things happen" at races but Lobsterman isn't some first year mom and pop race. I expected a well put together, Ironman-like professional event and was sorely disappointed. Yes, it was a "bucket list" race to do but having done it, I wasn't impressed nor have any desire to do it again next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Every day...every motherfucking day!

You are better than you think, you are tougher than you think, you are stronger than you think. The only thing that separates an "athlete" from a "normal" person is the drive to get their ass up off the couch and turn themselves inside out to be better. Pain isn't a bad thing, pain reminds you that you're alive. Injury pain is one thing, soreness pain is another. The problem is most people are so accustomed to just sitting on their asses everyday, they have idea how to tell the difference. Quit listening to the voices in your head that tell you that you "can't" do it and instead scream back that you "can"! You don't have to circumnavigate the world, traverse the continents, discover a new civilization, conquer a're greatest accomplishment will come from conquering yourself....being the master of your own body. Its not a quick fix, its not something to be done with pills or surgery or radical diets..its a journey that you take one step toward every day...every motherfucking day!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Me a model? What?!

Contrary to poplar belief I do not like pictures of myself and I hate taking them even worse. I see every thing out of place and every flaw. I rarely buy race photos because more often than not I look like a bag of smashed buttholes. I know most people hate their race photos too. But, I'm talking about the photos where other people think I look great but I think I look fat or my race gear is unacceptably askew (did I just use the word "askew"? How fancy!). I scrutinize EVERY photo taken of me at any time and drive the people taking photographs nuts. I went from being the skinny, bean pole kid to the fit Airborne Ranger (of course because of the job there were no pictures taken of me then) to the fat, eat everything in sight adult. So I've always had hang ups about how I look. Of course...then I would get into a triathlon...a sport filled with people who are physically fit and shredded whether they're competitive or not.

Imagine my level of agida when I found out that as part of my being selected as a lululemon ambassador again this year I was going to get a triathlon themed photo shoot. It coming on the heels of Timberman and my being laid up for a week and not being able to train and race properly kinda derailed my plans for being "shoot worthy". Honestly I was considering last minute lipo surgery the day prior. I was so stressed out from the camera "adding 10 pounds" more to my fluffy frame. Now I did a photoshoot last year as an ambassador. Only one image was used last year...and the photographer had trouble shooting me because I was carrying weight around my waist that was showing up on camera. Let me say that I'm not upset about the photographer telling me that. It was the truth...but it was all I could think about going into this year's shoot. The location for the shoot was "Walden Pond" (and yes it is a real place not something Thoreau imagined for a poem) and it was a gorgeous day. Imagine my surprise when the photographer walks up and is blown away by how "awesome and fit" I look and I "don't even look like the same guy he shot last year". Talk about putting my mind at ease and in the right mindset for a photoshoot! Oh, let me talk about the photographer for sec. Kadri Kurgen is this chilled, mellow cat who takes PHENOMENAL images. You can see some of his work here on his website and I suggest you like him on Facebook too. Kadri had just returned from this photoshoot of naked yogis in the desert and the images are breathtakingly beautiful. Talk about setting the bar! This was a "triathlon themed" photoshoot. We started with cycling and instead of trying to shoot me in motion I suggested we find a good spot for light and put me on a trainer. The imagery that Kadri shot was amazing, including a shot of the light coming through my aero bars/hands!
A quick change of clothes and we were on to running...right along the water of Walden Pond...awesome. Running consisted of my essentially doing 100m sprints by Kadri as he snapped images. He also would stop between shots to tell passers by that he was shooting a "famous up and coming triathlete"...oh, the looks I got. I didn't have an appreciation for what we were doing until Kadri showed me some of the images on his camera and I was awestruck. I look like a lean, muscular "Kenyon-like" runner. I dream of being that guy...but to see it in a photograph left me speechless.
Lastly was the swim. I had never dipped a toe into the water at Walden and now I know why folks love swimming there. The water was comfortable and calm (Thoroeau was spot on). This picture is the one that Kadri put on his Facebook page (told you to go like him). I actually look like a pro triathlete or a model in a print ad. Kadri is an amazing photographer and if he can me ME look like a's a true testament to his skills. I can't wait to see the rest of the photos when they get released and there will be a "3 shot" from the session made into a giant poster and put up in the Natick lululemon store for the next year (gulp). It's been one of my greatest experiences a validation of the athlete I am and want to be and fuels me for the coming year!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Cape Cod Hero Olympic Triathlon...a pleasant surprise

After the crash at Timberman 70.3 I knew the best thing to do was try to rest, lower the intensity of my workouts and not race for two or three weekends. Honestly it killed me. I was the cheering section at an Olympic Tri in Old Orchard Beach and a Swim race in Lowell. I absolutely hated to miss the swim race! My times have been coming down and I so wanted to swim (wait, did I really just say that?!) but my ribs weren't 100% and I wanted them to heal (or heal more). But, I was lucky enough to get entry to the Cape Cod Hero Olympic Triathlon out in Mashpee and I didn't want to miss it. Not only because I was able to get in but because I LOVE Streamline Events' races. The race director is a great guy and his races have the best staff and support. So with 3 weeks rest, I headed out the Mashpee to race.

The race venue was kind of off the beaten path and included a 2 mile bike ride to the transition area/start with all your gear from a parking lot...a little bit of a pain but the ride was worth it...the race area was gorgeous. Now I had picked up my race packet the day prior only to realize that I was #6. To those of you that don't know, those numbers don't just go to who registers first. Those are seeded numbers. Usually the first 20 or so numbers at any given local triathlon go to Elites (one step under pro's) or teams or local "VIP" athletes (none of which by the way way are me). So when I got my numbers I felt a little pressure. That was reinforced when I got to transition and was in the first rack with the Elites and two Para-athletes. Okay...just gonna be a normal race...gulp. Imagine my surprise as I walk out of transition and run into Bill, the race director, who stops what he's doing to ask me how my recovery has been going and thanks me for coming to his race! I was blown away. Its so obvious that he loves his races and sincerely appreciates the folks that come out to do them! Just one more reason I support and race his events. A quick double check of my layout and I was done.

Swim: .09 miles, 26:58-1:39/100yds
Well, now nothing to do but get a little warm up in the water and get ready for the swim start. The water was...brisk. Phew, welcome to Fall temps in MA (note to self, start racing down south after August...brrr)! We waded into the water for the start...a few "don't drown" thoughts to myself and the gun goes off. There was a bit of a current going out so I knew I needed to the turn and get it to my back ASAP. I kept focusing on form (that damned dropped arm/shoulder when breathing is my nemesis) and being fast. I was trying my damnedest to get into a smooth rhythm but I was breathing every other stroke. Ok, well I guess I'm pushing harder than I thought so just keep this up and keep moving. I hit the final turn buoy headed home, thinking I'm having a great swim when as I look left I see my swimmer friend Kim blow by me...ok, try top hop on her luck. Then I look right to see J blow by me! NO way I'm getting on her feet! Both women started a wave or two behind me by the way...ugh. Damnit! Ok, ok...just focus on my race and get to the finish, nothing I can do about it now. I dig in and push to the shore, get out of the water, glance down to see what I think is a pretty good time (for me anyway) and then focus on getting to the bike.

T1: 1:15

Bike: 22 miles, 1:03:10-21mph

The bike course went out to a double loop on the quiet, clear of cars, well maintained roads of Otis Air Force Base. That means a fast course and one that went right by the aircraft parking area which set up for some great pictures! As I peddled I started thinking "...there's no need to push it, I'm only a few weeks out from a bad crash, its not like I'm gonna I win this thing anyway. I didn't even feel like racing this last night. I should just relax". Ya, that's the BS you tell yourself when you're gonna quit. I felt good, had a decent swim and was wearing #6 after screw that and lets start chasing folks down! I looked down to see my speed was holding at 24mph. Good, I can work with this...keep this speed, get to the next person, pass...repeat. I had no idea where I was in the overall but I kept looking for people in my age group to ride by and kept pushing. I caught both Kim and a few minutes later J, was feeling pretty good and just hammered as hard as I could the rest of the way. I didn't know why but my stomach was killing me. I couldn't tell if it was becuase I swallowed too much air (or water) during the swim or if I was bloated or had to pee or what but I was uncomfortable. All I could think was get to back to transition as fast as I could so I could hit a portapotty and figure out was going on.

T2: 1:32

Run: 6 miles, 44:26-7:22min pace

I rode into transition with people really excited and cheering my arrival. Huh? That NEVER happens. People kept yelling that I was doing great and that I was not that far behind the leaders. For real? I glanced around transition as I went to rack my bike and saw there were only a few bikes were racked. Holy crap! Maybe I am having a good race! Ok, rack my bike and get out of transition as fast as I can. Of course, NOW I would have trouble racking my bike! Ugh. After 3 tries I got it situated, got on run shoes, grabbed my number, visor and headed out of transition. Just as I crossed the timing mat to hear the beep I put my visor on...only to realize I couldn't strap it on, HELMET! DOH! In my haste to get out of transition, I forgot to take off my helmet. So here I am looking like an idiot, trying to hand my helmet off to a volunteer yelling at me to "just throw it" with a #6's all over me. I was angry, and even worse, embarrassed. Talk about a rookie move. In all my years of racing I've never left my helmet on. Hell, I've been the guy in transition yelling "take off your helmet" to other folks for years! I quickly got my helmet off and took off like a shot for the run.There were a few people in front of me and I tried to run them down quickly and get settled into a good pace. That was easier said than done. The next 6 miles were spent with me debating in my head about whether I should run into the woods quickly (remember I was gonna use that portapotty in transition off the bike?) or keep pushing. But I kept catching people...and felt like I could catch more people...and I didn't want to lose the time from running in the woods (yes, these are indeed the thoughts that go through a triathlete's head). So I made the decision to just bear down and get to the finish as fast as possible or blow up on the course.

The run course was rolling and again all I focused on was picking someone to catch, passing them and then picking someone else. I even ran down and passed people running on a relay team...and I LOVE passing relay people since they come into their "leg" fresh because they're only doing one event. Its always so deflating to think your pushing hard to then have someone blow by you like you're standing still on the bike or run. Those "catches" just kept adding fuel to the fire and with 2 miles left I turned myself inside out to catch anyone left out on the course and get to the finish. I ran negative splits with the last mile on a 7:01 pace. Not too bad. As I crossed the finish line, about to throw up from exertion, I felt great. I didn't listen to the little voices telling me to lay off and other then the helmet issue I put together a pretty darn good race. I was 59th overall/13th in my age group out of the water, 17th overall/4th overall on the bike and 15th overall/1st in my age group on the run. Like I said, the course was hilly and I guess it hit a lot of other racers too. That all resulted in 17th overall and 3rd in my age group on the day. I'm happy with the numbers and even happier with the result and like I said, I felt like a put together a pretty good race. Now one more triathlon left in the season and then the focus shifts to the fall/winter road race training/racing plans...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Clear your mind of can't...

I really appreciate all the "I can't believe you finished, great job!" kudos I've been getting since 70.3 Timberman (I got similar kudos after the 70.3 Syracuse debacle)...but to be honest, there was no other option. I don't say that to be flippant. I really believe it.

As I said in my Timberman race recap, "I'm not the fastest triathlete, nor a shredded with a 14 pack one either but what I am is the kind that can put his head down, focus on a goal and drag myself to it". That can only happen if you decide that words like "quit" and "can't" are NOT an option. Its not some magic skill I possess. I decided long ago that not doing well or coming in dead last is acceptable...quitting or giving up is not. I've always said there are only two ways to finish a race...crossing the finish line or being taken off in a stretcher. We're taught to deal with whatever life throws us at work, or with our family and friends. We can't just check out when things get tough. Why should a hard training session or race be any different? Or better yet vice versa?! If you can drag yourself through a tough workout or get to the finish in spite of a terrible day...why can't you also handle anything that gets thrown at you in day to day life?! I have always lived by Nietzsche's "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger". Just remember that you're not dying today...BE STRONG!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I am blown away...

Rarely am I at a loss for words...but this is one of those times.

I was approached by Cervelo not too long ago because they were interested in "my story" and because I'm an outspoken Cervelo enthusiast. I made the change to Cervelo bikes a while ago (you can read about it here) and have never looked back. It started with my P1 and now I own a P2 and an S5 (and I may or not be looking at adding another Cervelo bike or two to the stable). I follow and comment on all their social media stuff too. Well, It seems they were impressed with my Timberman 70.3 experience (aka crashageddon) and not only put it on their website ( but made me a featured rider and put me on their homepage! Um...AWESOME!!! To be on their site, alongside their pro's and sponsored teams means the world to me. I feel like a real athlete...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Timberman 70.3...the aftermath (Part 2)

This post is gonna be long one too and not for the faint of heart with the attached pictures. Just warning you...

Well, my race recap was one thing...but dealing with the results of the day is entirely another. I would've loved to just walked through the finish area and right into the med tent like I did at Syracuse (yes, two 70.3s and two trips to the med tent. That actually hurt to write). Instead I had to walk all the way around, through transition, out the "run out" gate to get to the med tent. Yes, I know I was in pain and I might not have been "right of mind" (then again, when am I EVER that?!) but that was stupid but the only way to get to the med tent.

As I walked up behind a gentlemen getting a blister attended to (really? a freaking blister dude?!) I was asked curtly "what's wrong with you?". Now look, I understand that I'm not decapitated and/or gushing blood and I don't expect Florence-Fucking-Nightinggale to be in the med tent at an Ironman event but I've had people going by me all day with looks of horror, asking me if I'm ok and telling me I need medical attention to include Andy Potts (by the way, I forgot to mention that there were these mirrors a person had set out on the course with "Look at this Rockstar" on them as you ran by. I saw myself in the mirror going out on the second loop and I had a look of horror when I saw how bad I looked) so why don't you do some quick assessment and see that I'm not here for a splinter! I would've loved to have said any or all of that. Instead, because I was at the point of being hammered crap I just uttered "crashed on the bike, think I cracked a rib" and turned to show my shoulder/back. Well, that changed everything. I quickly got walked to a stretcher in the tent.

The damage to me
A medic came over to look at me and ask if I could get my arm above my head and asked "how attached are you to the singlet?" because he was going to cut it off. "Um, I've been racing in the singlet for 3 years, there is now way in hell you're cutting it off me! I'll lift my arm!" I replied. Once he got the singlet off...we could really see how bad the damage was. I knew when the medic called for a must've been worse than I thought. What was visible down to mid torso was: the deep road rash from stretching from my left elbow, across the left shoulder (big chunk of meat taken off the top by the asphalt) across my back to the right shoulder. I tore off the end of my left pinkie finger and ripped up my right thumbnail that accounts for all the blood and my stuck together fingers), and took a large chuck out of my left elbow (you can see in the picture it was dark. I thought there was a rock in it and that's why I couldn't get comfortable in aero but it turns out that was just blood in a hole I gauged out). The busted blood vessels and bruising under my left arm is what got the doc called over. I knew I'd hurt my ribs, I just didn't know how bad. The doc put his hands around my rib cage on the left side, put his thumbs on the ribs and as he asked me "How does this feel?"...squeezed. I let out a noise I don't think I've ever made before in my life (enough to get EVERYONE'S attention in the med tent and surrounding area) just as I (and he) felt this cracking sound in my rib cage. "Ok, ok" he said, "Well you definitely bruised them and cracked at least one from the impact. There's no protrusions so you know you're just gonna have to fight through it while it heals". Sadly, I did know all that. I figured that was going to be the case but I wanted a real doc to check and confirm my suspicions.

I walked out of the tent in a sling, with the guidance of rest and take Advil for pain. Jesus, how many times had I heard that in my life?! I put on a "I'm lucky" and "I made the best of the day" face on...but inside I was dying. I had this race dialed in. I was having a killer day. I was quietly working toward a sub 5:30 (or faster) half Iron. Now that was all gone and I'm left with another "great story" about a race gone bad. Second 70.3 in a row I had to have J go recover my gear from transition. People keep walking by and offer their apologies and asking if I finished. Of course I fucking finished! ...but thank you for asking. I just wanted to get out of there, go the hotel, get changed, get a shower, put on my race shirt (I earned that puppy) and get some food.  It wasn't until I got back to the hotel and got my shorts off to take that shower that I saw there was even more damage in the form of a swollen bruise the size of grapefruit on my left hip (I guess I hit my hip hard on the asphalt too) and road rash/bruise on my left thigh from the impact as well. I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror (if you know me, you KNOW I hate looking at myself in the mirror) devastated. I will say that I was proud of myself for dragging that busted body in the mirror through 60 tough miles. Once again, I proved that I'll accomplish what I set my mind too...but I'm tired of doing it the hard way. Could I just have one damned easy thing or something go right?! The mantra my whole life has been Nietzche's "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger" (a mantra I plan on having tattooed on me as soon as this season is over) but for once, just once could I have anything difficult in my life go easy?!

The damage to my gear
After a shower, cleaning out and dressing of the damage (I forgot how much water and assorted ointments sting) it was time to assess the damage to my gear and most important to my Cervelo P2. That P2 means everything to me and my purchase of it made me feel like a "legit" triathlete. The thought that it was skinned up or even worse was not one I could think about while no the course.  Seems hitting the pavement at 28mph isn't just destructive to the human body. So, from top right going clockwise: my Giro helmet took the brunt of the impact (you can see the impact area and crack along the top of the helmet) and will need to be replaced. My left shoe/foot hit so hard the asphalt dug into the shoe and broke the carbon fiber sole and will need to be replaced. My left Look pedal (yes, those are older PP256's but I was given a few sets years ago and I love them) got chewed up and lost a big chunk. The left braker lever got shredded and broke from the hit (thankfully I still had the rear brake for the rest of the race and I couldn't use my left hand anyway) and will need to be replaced. I took out a 1/4 gouge out of the left side of the aero bar and it will need to be replaced. The left rear skewer on my SRAM S60 wheels is trashed. I hit the pavement and skidded so far that the end of the skewer got chewed off (definitely will have to be replaced). I can't believe my bike held together for another 47 miles and I held together for another 13.1 miles on the run! No wonder I had so many people pass me and ask if I was ok!

So it seems that both me and my gear were beaten up and broken from the day. Its funny that I have a joke about the Iron Man the comic book character. There's this pristine, shiny panted version that gets the job done and nothing goes wrong...and then there's the "battle damaged" version that's all beaten and scarred up from a fight that was won but was tough as hell. Me and damn near everything I do seems to always be the latter...and that Iron Man version will be tattooed on my body very soon...hopefully inside the Ironman "m-dot" logo after I finish a full to get back to training...

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Timberman 70.3...and old friend joined me...pain (Part 1)

This post is gonna be long and not for the faint of heart and I'm not holding
back the language, it was that kind of day. Just warning you...

I was really looking forward to this 70.3! After the debacle at Syracuse and all the lessons learned, knowing the Timberman course like I do and the projected cooler (high 70's, low 80's) weather forecasted, I thought the conditions would be perfect for me to crush the race. Friday was spent getting up to the venue, getting checked in, meeting with the great Ironman staff (story to come about that later) hitting the expo to buy race gear and then a quick swim and run with J and Kim.

Saturday was spent milling about the expo and venue, checking in bikes and buying tons of Timberman gear. Very rarely do I buy race-event gear but after not buying stuff at Syracuse (losing it all in a taken bag, long story) and nothing in my size being available online after the race, there was no way I wasn't going to have enough Timberman 70.3 gear! Then it was back to the hotel for simple dinner and an early night's sleep. 

Nice and clean layout
Race day wake up came at 3am (never ceases to amaze me that I can't get my butt out of bed at 6am to get ready and into work but will be an alarm on race day) packing everything up and heading to the venue to get parked. Great parking spot found it was time to head into transition to set up. I will say that I really enjoy setting up my transition area. Its a great, quiet time to envision the race. How you'll get into and out of the transition, what you'll need, how to finish. I use it as a great visioning exercise for the day and a way to cement locations and paths I want to take to and from. I find it very settling. I also get a little chuckle to lighten the mood by seeing folks layout their living room's worth of stuff around their bikes. I understand the wanting to have everything but people you just don't need to have it there.
Calming the nerves
I have to say, I wasn't nervous at all...getting my wetsuit on, getting down to the start, swimming a bit in the water (which felt great by the way), right up until I queued up in my wave. I have no idea why but a hurricane of butterflies hit my gut as I stood there. All I could do was close my eyes, take deep breaths, focus on the task at hand and get ready to enter the water. Now when you sign up for Ironman races they ask you to write a short bio about yourself and why you're doing this race...imagine my surprise when they read MY bio as we entered the water. I was blown away and to be quite honest, very moved. I get so focused on racing and times and such that I forget how far I've come. I yelled "thank you!" when the announcer wished me the best of luck and couple of my fellow racers leaned over to shake my hand and wish me good luck as well. All the nerves went away. I thought to myself that this will be a great swim for me and started to move toward the front of my wave. I've spent way too many races now seeding myself in the middle or back. I'm gonna find a pair of feet to hop on and if these guys wanna swim, they can swim over me! 

The Swim: 1.2 miles, 38:35 - 2:02/100m (a new PR!)
I look surprised because of my time!
The horn goes off and I start swimming. I know the first few hundred meters will be a meleĆ© so I just focus on keeping a good line and concentrating on form. The Timberman swim course is more of a rectangle (short to first turn buoy, long to the second, short into the exit) so my goal was to get out in open water by the first turn, try to find feet to hop onto and swim hard to the last turn buoy. I knew I was swimming hard because I was breathing every other stroke and while I felt the effort, I felt really good. I just focused keeping calm, sighting the next buoy, swimming hard to it, focusing on form (especially not dropping my left shoulder at each breath), repeat. As I hit the second turn buoy to head home the feeling of a full bladder hit me. Now, unlike "real" swimmers I am unable to pee while swimming so the next 100 meters was spent debating whether to stop and pee or try to pee when I get into transition or while out on the bike (don't "eww", plenty of triathletes do it). I thought the best choice was to stop briefly, pee and then get back to business. Getting to the swim exit required swimming over people but I swam as far as possible (the lake is extremely shallow going out and coming in for quite a way) before standing to get off my cap/goggles and start getting my wetsuit off. As I exited the water I glanced down to pause my Polar RCX5G5 and saw that I just did the swim on 39:30!!! Are you kidding me?! I couldn't believe it. Did I really just knock 6 minutes off my swim PR?! I was afraid to dwell on it just in case I read the watch wrong but I could crack a smile that the day seemed to start off very well. I changed my focus on getting to the bike, getting off my wetsuit and getting out for the bike leg without incident. Unfortunately I nicked something heading out of transition and lost control of the bike for a second but recovered quickly, mounted and was on my way. 

T1: 3:02 (not great but not bad)

The Bike: 56 miles, 3:00:03 - 18.66mph (not what I wanted)
Ok, here's where all the lessons learned from Syracuse had to kick in. I started drinking water as soon as the course flattened out and popped 2 salt tabs. As I got settled into a good rhythm in the first mile I passed a terrible crash with a cyclist on his back, face covered in blood. So terrible, but medical personnel were getting there so I needed to shake it off and get back to work. I knew that there was a big hill coming at mile 11 or 12 so I had a few miles to build a head of steam, get a good rhythm/pace, get hydrated, get fed and prepared for the climb. I was averaging around 24mph and was feeling good. My legs felt great, I was force hydrating and got calories in me which should pay off big later in the race. There was a slight downhill into a turn around mile 9 and then the unthinkable happened. Going into the turn at about 28mph, the woman in front of me picked an outside line, so I picked one to the inside. About mid-way into the turn she decided she wanted to change direction and jumped to the inside...right in front of me and on the line I was taking...sending me straight into the pavement. 

You can see my whole left shoulder is purple already
As I went down I tucked in my left arm (so thankful for all the learning-how-to-crash-training I got as a young cyclist because had I put my hand down I would've broken my collarbone and ended my day for sure) and rolled as I hit the pavement. More cycling training kicked in and I slapped my hands down to stop my "slide" only to realize that I wasn't wearing clothes and tore open the palm on my right hand. I could do nothing now but tuck and roll to ride it out (kinda funny how time slows and you can think of things to do or not to do as they happen). Me and my bike slid across and ended up on the other side of the road. I knew it must have looked like a bad crash because I heard the collective gasps and "oh shits" of the people around me.  I hopped up to grab my bike just from a volunteer as a police officer walked over with my water bottles to tell me he was gonna call an ambulance. "The fuck you are" I replied "just leave me alone for a second and I'm on my way". Maybe not the best way to address a cop but I wasn't going to take a chance of having some EMT "play it safe" and pull me from the course. I got my bell rung and my shoulders and side were on fire. I knew I hit my head hard but wouldn't know how bad until later. Looking down all I could see was blood all over each hand, I ripped the tip off my left pinkie and tore the thumbnail off my right thumb, and I couldn't close either hand. I thought to myself "well, isn't this just going to make for an interesting rest of the day?!). As I stood on the side of the road, dazed and bleeding, I was crestfallen. Syracuse was a crap show. Here I was at Timberman having a great race, everything going to plan and it all went away in an instant. But, there is no way in hell I'm not finishing. Firstly, because I don't have any quit in me. You can pull me off a course but I'll find a way to keep swimming, biking or running but I'll never...ever quit. Secondly, I was so excited to do this race and execute my perfect race plan that I had bought a TON of race branded gear. There was no way in hell I was gonna take that back! So, I got back on the bike and started pedaling. Unfortunately, that hill I was hoping to build momentum for and fly over was right around the corner so I'd have to slog through it. The moment I got out of the saddle the rock the bike it felt like somebody had hit me in the chest with a baseball bat. Then it dawned on me...on top of all the skin and gear damage...I might've broke or cracked a rib.  Shit...shit...shit! Ok, ok..let's think about this. I can lock myself in aero, not move my torso very much, focus on pedal turnover and get back to transition. Then I'll see how I feel out on the run. That sounded like a plan, let's do that.

Now, I'm pissed. I'm angry that I've NEVER had a bike crash until now...NEVER. I'm angry that someone could be so stupid and jump my line at speed. I'm angry that my "redemption race" is slipping away. That anger fueled me to make sure I ate, hydrated and salt-tabbed and pedaled my ass off to the turn. I hit the turn to see I was averaging around 20mph thus far. Not anywhere near where I wanted to be...and then...I guess the adrenaline wore off. Coming home I felt like I was pedaling through mud and deep breaths were out because of the pain. Throw in that I was getting some people I had passed already...and by people who went by me with looks of horror on their face (which let me know I must've torn myself up worse than I thought) and that second 23 miles was torture. I just kept telling myself that I needed to bike as hard as I could because I knew I'd lose time on the run. I've never been so happy to get into transition. I only had a short run left, I kept telling myself its a series of 5ks and then I'd get that medal and get to wear my finisher's clothes (no one ever said triathlete thoughts were sane).

T2: 4:48 (not bad, terrible)

The Run: 13.1 miles, 2:32:22 - 11:37min/mi pace (horrible)

As I came into transition I thought I could quickly get out of cycling gear, get on my running gear and figure out how I felt on the run. body had other plans. Getting off the bike and running to my transition spot was difficult. Bending over to grab my shoes was hard and getting my shoes on, even with flex laces, was excruciating. My fingers were bloody and stuck together, my hands were swollen and didn't want to work and I never thought the "pulling action" of getting on shoes would hurt my ribs so much. All I could see were stars...ok, ok...quick breaths, quick sip of water and get out on the run.

Holding onto my jersey and my form has gone to crap.
The course is a double out and back loop so I broke it down in my head to four 5ks (actually 3.3 miles each loop) and I just need to focus on each 5k in order to get through it. Luckily, your legs really hate going from hard effort cycling to running so the pain out of the heads of my quads overshadowed the skin/chest pain for a mile or so. All I was trying to do was breathe and keep a solid upright form while running. I figured if I could do that maybe I could just fight everything else off. I finally caught J, who's swim wave had been 4 minutes a head of me. I had hoped to catch her in the first 10 miles of the bike to use as a "marker" but that's how bad my day was going. As I went by her the look of horror on her face told me everything. All I could manage was to say "crash" as I went by and just kept running. The first 5k out is flat to downhill and my chest was killing me. I knew the turn and the 5k loop back was gonna be uphill and that's where I'd find out what I had in me. I turned that first 3.3 miles on an 8:39 pace. No land speed record but not bad considering. The return trip uphill was when it really hit me. I couldn't swing my arms to "dig" into the hill and as I needed to breathe deeply from effort my chest felt like someone was slamming a baseball bat into my left side. The only thing I could think to do was unzip my top and grab onto it to make modified sling, hold my arm tight against my body (to get some relief from the pounding of running) and keep going. I passed a guy run/walking who said "dude, you look pretty bad, maybe you should see the docs". "I will" I said "right after I cross the finish line". His response? "spoken like a true Ironman". I took a little solace in that comment. I'm not an Ironman. I've only done half Ironman events (for those that don't know - a half Ironman or 70.3 is a: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. Whereas a full Ironman is a: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). My goal is to do a full and my thoughts on that were challenged throughout the day but I have proved to myself that if I required my dragging myself along the course with only my tongue..I will get through a full Ironman and get that coveted Ironman tattoo!

You bet your ass I bought this picture!
At the top of the hill is where J caught back up to me. She ran with me for a bit but had good legs for the run so I told her to take off and go run her race. Against my wishes she stayed with me, and stayed with me through the remainder of the run. There is a begrudging appreciation for having someone with me for that run. I am one of those guys that feels like struggle and difficulty should be faced alone, "never let them see you sweat", "never let them see you hurt" (in all facets of my life really) but I didn't have the capability to run away and I sure as hell wasn't going to run any slower. So we slogged through the next 8 miles together. I couldn't talk or chat. All I could really do was shallow breathe as fast as possible and keep my legs turning over. I had no idea how my "body" was doing on top of the injury. I knew the pain would mask dehydration or being in the tank with calories so I tried to grab a cup of water and a cup of coke at each aid station to keep myself hydrated and put quick calories in my stomach. I'm not the fastest triathlete, nor shredded with a 14 pack one either but what I am is the kind that can put his head down, focus on a goal and drag myself to it. That's what got me through those last few miles. I don't remember much other than focusing on crossing the finish line, getting a finisher's picture (the cameramen bugged out after the bad storm at Syracuse) and getting that medal. Imagine my surprise that as I crossed the finish line, proud of myself for gritting through the day...I got to have Andy Potts, who'd won the event 2 hours earlier and a pro triathlete I greatly respect, put my medal around my neck! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I met him back in '09 when he had that terrible crash and how I was afraid talking to him about it at a gathering on Saturday would be bad luck for him before this race...well, I relayed that story as he put my medal on and turned to show him my shoulder and back. As I told him that it seemed to be bad luck for me, he had a horrified look on his face and said "Oh my god, you have to have someone look at that! Did you do the whole race that way?!". I responded with "yes I did, on this day I made SURE to have more hope than doubt!", referring to the inspirational speech he gave on Saturday that really rang true for me. He fist bumped me and said "now THAT'S what I'm talking about! Great job!". Andy Potts fist bumped me and said "great job"! That meant a lot to me, it really did. Standing at the finish with that medal around my neck, friends asking me how I was doing/taking care of me meant a lot too. In spite of the crash and injury I finished Timberman in 6:19:35 and took an hour off the time I posted at 70.3 Syracuse. I had the wherewithal to soak up the moment and my accomplishment, before heading to the med tent to find out how bad off I really was. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post "the aftermath"...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A great approach to Triathlon...

I was lucky enough to attend a "Make a Wish" meet and greet with Andy Potts at the Timberman 70.3 festivities. I met him in back '09 when he and I both did the Chicago Triathlon (that was my first tri as a fat guy and he was "the" up and coming racer) and wanted to chat with him again...but considering in '09 he had a horrendous crash (striking a novice cyclist who couldn't maintain her line, the irony of that I will learn later, at 30+ mph...destroying his bike and getting sent to the hospital in a helicopter. It ruined his chance for a shot at Kona that year.) I thought bringing up that little tidbit would be bad form or worse, bad luck so I just sat in the audience listening and then taking pics of J and Jenn chatting with him.

Andy was given the chance to talk to the audience and he relayed on his approach to triathlon and subsequently its applicabllity to life. "Triathlon is all about the balance between hope and doubt" he said. "You have doubt as you push through training, through each event on race day...but that is countered by the hope that you're going to do better, be better. If you have a bad swim, you push it from your mind and focus on having your best bike. If the bike doesn't go to plan the you'll have the best run you've ever had. At the end of the day its all about having more hope than doubt. Always remain positive and focus on making the next thing your best, not doubt that it could be". What an amazing and positive way to look at things!

Obviously an approach honed through years of being a top notch collegiate and Olympic swimmer and now a 70.3 champion and 140.6 race winner. I always struggle with what to think while I'm racing, all sorts of things go through my mind, especially what could go wrong...but now I'll be thinking about hope...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Timberman 70.3 plan

Well, the plan at least. 

I learned a lot from and have had TONS of time to think about what happened at Syracuse 70.3. It's led to me approaching my training differently (not everything has to be an all out effort), rest days (actually taking them as opposed to not) and food (increasing my caloric intake isn't a bad thing). Hopefully all those things will contribute to a more successful and even more hopefully, enjoyable race come Sunday. So that being said I wanted to capture my "race plan" to put me in the right frame of mind and give me something to review post race. 

The swim: The only thing that DID go well at Syracuse was the swim. A 2:23-100 pace for my first 70.3 swim wasn't bad (wasn't great either). I'm no Andy Potts so I don't expect to take a ton of time off my swim in a couple months but I have been working hard on form and not fighting through the swim. I'd like to do the 1.2 mile swim in 42 minutes flat. 

T1: Make sure I catch my breath and settle down coming out of the water. On the run into transition, sight where my bike is, get my wetsuit down to my butt and get to my spot. Focus on staying calm, getting my wetsuit off, getting on my helmet/sunglasses/shoes, unrack my bike and get to the mount point for the bike. 

The bike: my goal here is to constantly take in a steady steam of fluids, calories and salt tabs to stave of dehydration or caloric deficit. I know there's a killer hill at mile 11 so it's key to get into a good rhythm/pace, get through that hill and maintain 23 or 24mph out on the flats by the speedway. I need to make sure I'm drinking plenty of fluids (refilling my aero bottle with water grabbed from aid stations) and prepare for the climbing on the way back. A 21mph average pace would put me at a 2:40 bike and set me up well for the run. 

T2: The key here is to dismount the bike safely, and get to my spot without incident. Grab a gel for the run, shoes on (socks and shoes seated properly because if not 13.1 miles will destroy my feet) and get out of transition smoothly. 

The run: I know the heads of my quads are going to kill me after that 56 mile bike. It's a 2 loop course so I want to focus on "settling in" for the first mile or two to get my legs into running. The course has a downhill on the other side of the 2 mile mark to the turn so I want to use that to my advantage to get around a 7:45min/mi pace. I want to take on water and coke on early to see how I feel. With the first loop done (you run by the finish) its about maintaining pace to the turn. That last 3+ miles back is all about emptying whatever I have left in the tank. As the course flattens and then declines to the finish I want to be running as fast as possible and maintain good footing on the grass into the finish. An 8 min/mile average pace would get me home with a 1:45 half marathon and a 5:12-70.3 finishing time. 

I smile big for the finisher's picture, get my medal and rejoice. That's what I'm hoping for anyway. Let's see what happens on Sunday. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Marshfield-Duxbury Triathlon...left me scratching my head

I honestly wasn't planning on racing. I had done Mill City in Lowell the weekend before and although I didn't do exactly like I wanted, I was happy with my result. So I figured a weekend off wouldn't be a bad thing. But enter a new friend with entries to a triathlon and the decision was made (it also really helped that it had an ocean swim and even though I live in Massachusetts, most Tri's around here are lake swims).

Now Marshfield-Duxbury is not close to my home. Its about a 90 minute drive from my house. Throw in that transition for the race closed at 7:30 am...and it became a 4am wake up kind of morning. I never cease to be amazed that I can barely drag myself out of bed to get to work at 9am but I seem to not only have no problem with early mornings but I happily pop up on race day.

Getting to the race was quick simple enough, partly because there was NO traffic at 4:30 am! Although there was a bit of a hiccup at sign in. The race didn't have us as registered (the reason given that we registered so late) but Bill Burnett, the race director for Streamline Events was on the ball and got us squared away (he really is a great guy and can bee seen doing any/every job at his races)!

Clean layout with my lucky charm visor
Set up in transition was not only a breeze but since we registered late, and got a high number the rack spot was in the corner of transition by the bike out. It was a great spot! Quick to the bike out/in point and great sighting to the run out gate. I do love having a clean and orderly transition area and after seeing the successful pro's lay out their gear the same way I realize its not because I'm a neat freak, its because it just makes sense. Bike setup, last minute porta potty trip and all that was left was to get on my wetsuit and hit the water for a quick swim before the start. That still sounds funny to me, "a quick swim before the start". There was a time that I was so anxiety riddled about the swim that I would pace back and forth until the last minute when I had to wade into the water for a start. Now I want to get in and swim a hundred to "warm up and relax".

1/4 Mile swim: 8:53, 2:00min per 100
Of course...another race...where my age group was PACKED! It was a beach start so I figured since we'd have to wade into the water/dolphin dive, I tried to be toward the back. The gun goes off and we all go. Most guys went running into the water. It was shallow for a while so I dolphin-dived in and shallow stroked until I got far enough into the surf to swim normally. I rn into the same problem that I had the week before at Mill city...I was swimming over guys. Not just to the turn buoy either but through the whole swim!which I really don't understand, I didn't start at the back of the pack. Well, keep swimming man, keep swimming! I will tell you I find ocean swims challenging, especially when the water is choppy. There were times i was stroking in the air because I was lifted so high out of the water by a wave. Not world ending but different and that occasional mouthful of salt water doesn't down as easily as pool water. I will say that a 2min-100 was a little disappointing. I felt like I was pushing much harder. Maybe it was the waves, maybe it was the rain. Oh ya, did I forget to mention it was POURING rain the whole swim?! Good times (Note to self; seed yourself toward the front next time. It'll give me feet to hop on and "push" me through the swim). Not great but good and I can build on my placings on the bike and run. There was a lengthy run out of the water, up a hill and into transition. But, as I mentioned earlier, that corner transition spot worked out great. Quickly out of my swim gear, throw my bike gear on and I was out of transition in good time.

T1: 1:28

11 mile bike: 30:50, 21.5mph pace (I'll get to this at the end)
The bike course was relatively flat and fast minus one hill around the middle of the course. I have to say that I thought I felt good and was riding well. Every time I looked down at my PolarRCX5GPS I saw 23 or 24mph. That is EXACTLY what I wanted to be riding! I only had 3 or 4 guys pass me (they didn't put AG markings on the calf at this race so I had no clue their AG...I hate that) and I rode down a bunch of folks. Yes it was pouring on the bike course but I LOVE that. Most people ease off in poor conditions but after years of training and racing in all sorts of conditions...and never having crashed, not because of my poor handling skills anyway (knock on wood) I just chew up bike courses in bad weather. I focused on turning a big gear at high rpms, standing up to power through the hill and chasing down people. Other than the rough road getting out of and back into transition, I felt like I was hammering and maintaining great speed through the course. I knew the run, although short, was going to be on the beach so I was pushing hard to get home. My favorite line of the day was a photographer out on the course who pointed me out to another guy and said "that guy looks f'ing angry". Bwahahaha! I'm ALWAYS angry when I race: at the course, at other people, at the weather, at myself. Its what pushes me through. I have my own angry mini coach in my head telling yelling at me to work harder. Back into transition, drop the bike and get out on the run.

A cool "race day" collage
T2: 44 seconds

3 mile run: 22:23, 7:08min mile
Like I said, the run was out on the beach. It was early in the morning but its sand nonetheless. I climbed the mini hill out of transition, tried to get close to the water on hard packed sand and get my legs to moving. A quick glance at my watch and I saw a 7:30 pace...too slow...need to pick it up. It was an out and back course along the beach, which I thought I could see the turn so I picked up the pace. I saw the leaders coming back to the finish and thought I was finally having the race I wanted...until I realized what I thought was the turn around was actually the 1 mile marker! Sonuva! Ok, deep breath, you're still up front (I thought), no one has passed you, so keep looking for packed sand, get to the turn and bomb to the finish as fast as you can. I caught 2 of the guys that had passed me on the bike earlier, could see another in front of me and was running negative splits. Good, get him in your sights and run him down...which I did about 10 feet from the finish to cross the line in 1:04:17.

I was gassed and happy with what I thought was a great performance. It was a big race, over 400 people, so I thought with the good bike, catching folks on the bike and run and given the conditions, I would end up pretty good overall. And then...the results got posted...not in the top 20 or so like I hoped...but 50th overall (54th after the final results posted) and 9th in my age group. Looking up the the breakdown of the legs I only rode a 21.5mph average, not the 23 or 24mph I thought. I was really disappointed. Like I said, I felt good and even though it was a good field I expected to place higher. I can't figure out for the life of me what happened on the bike. I literally was standing there at the results posted scratching my head. Maybe if I was in front on the swim I would come out with and be pushed by the leaders. Maybe I read my speed wrong. Maybe my "pushing hard" wasn't pushing hard enough...

My friend Bryan sent me this quote from Friel, "If your last race wasn't what you wanted, learn from it, throw it away and move on. It's not easy. But it's necessary". So I'm trying to learn and move on. I'm hoping to put together all the peices at Timberman 70.3 in two weeks.