Saturday, May 29, 2010

Birthday miracle, part 2

I thoroughly enjoyed my birthday yesterday. I woke up at my lowest weight in 2 years (313), I only worked a couple hours, and Rach wound up having the day off. We ate a little more than normal, didn't work out at all, and I even drank a beer.

The day after an intentional "off day" from our healthy lifestyle, I normally don't get on the scale. But after lunch today on a whim I decided I'd see how much work I'd need to do the rest of the weekend. When I saw the number, I got off and checked it again just to be sure.

Yep, 311. For realsies. Couldn't believe it. I lost weight 2 days in a row. So, um, clearly I've been going about this the wrong way. Out with eating healthy and working out, in with cheeseburgers and beer. Seriously though, I think this simply my body's response to the fact that I finally had an off day, took the chance to recover.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend, and I won't interrupt your time away again. I'll be back Tuesday with a recap of the weekend, including my next feature on bicycle maintenance.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's a birthday miracle!

Today is my 36th birthday. I got my frist present the minute I woke up. It was a present I gave myself yesterday by swimming 2400 yards in the morning and running 3 miles last night. The present I gave myself was being able to get on the scale and have it read 313 pounds. While my wife is buying me a surprise today, and I'm looking at some bike parts this afternoon, this is probably going to be the best gift I get.

If you look at my race results, you'll notice that I track my weight for every race. A little over 2 years ago my weight was 313 when I did a 5k put on by my then employer. I was still walking every step back then, and my finish time was ~43:00. Last night, I did my 3 miles in 39:59, so an average pace around 13:20 a mile. The first mile I actually did in 12:46, and the next two were a bit slower as I had to walk a little more during each. The first mile I ran all but 2 minutes, and had I been able to run straight through, my time would have been even lower. In fact, stamina is the only thing keeping me from running sub 13:00 miles regularly, as I am apparantly getting faster in my running.

I still have a long way to go, but both the weight loss and the time I put in last night are really encouraging. I've had times faster than last night, but not on a regular basis, and that was all walking, with no running. Last night was the first time I've ever run a mile faster than I could walk it. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. When I'm finally able to run a mile straight, and keep a pace similar to last nights, then I'll be making some serious strides.

The main goal now is to take this 3 mile effort and build on it towards a half-marathon. My best half-mary time previously was ~3:45. If I could average 13:20 for 13.1 miles, that would take almost 50 minutes off my time, and give me a good sized buffer to making sure I can finish Timberman inside the time limit.

- Not going to overdo it today, just some relaxed fun, a nice dinner (I'm wanting a black and bleu salad), followed up with Berryline. They have Blueberry froyo at the Fenway location that I'm a huge fan of, so that'll be tonights dessert.
- I'm looking at parts today that'll take my bike up to the level of a standard road bike. Nothing too fancy, other than integrated brakes and shifters ("brifters") similar to what Rach has on her bike. It'll be a slow process that may or may not be in place for the next race, but certainly by the MA State Triathlon in July.
- We haven't figured out our Memorial Day plans yet, but you can be sure it will involve being outside, and hopefully swimming.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

All things being equal

I've been eating pretty carefully for a while now, actively tracking my points, and working out like a demon. And yet my weight has stayed consistently around 314 over the past couple weeks. I know enough about losing weight to understand salt and water retention, that it's not just the points, but what makes up the points, and that eating exercise points is the same as not having exercised.

I also understand that because muscle is denser than fat, when muscle takes the place of the same volume of fat, you can actually gain weight from that process. All things being equal, the most obvious answer is usually the right one. So I'm beginning to believe the gain in muscle is what has temporarily slowed my weight loss. I'm getting better on the bike, better in the pool, and sort of better slightly less terrible in the run. While the number on the scale is only moving ever so slightly right now, my clothes are starting to fit differently.

When we last visited my parents in December, I used my dads leather punch to put a few new holes in my belt. I started using one right away, and a couple of months ago I started using the next one. This week, I've had days where my pants were sagging in that hole, and so I moved it in to the last new hole including today.

Yesterday was a crazy mess of heat and humidity, and our pet hamsters were a little worse for wear. This lead to me spending time putting in the window A/C, which spiraled into cleaning the house instead of working out. Rach complained of dead legs during 2 attempts at running, so at the time I guessed it was for the best anyways.

This morning we had a long swim on the books, 2400, almost all freestyle except a couple hundred of the warmup. Including warmup, breaks, and cooldown, the entire 2400 took 90 minutes. I felt strong throughout, though I did tire in the last 400. The rest day definitely gave me a stronger swim today, and while I need to maximize my use of the next 85 or so days, I'm definitely going to remember to mix in some rest.


- Checked in again with CBJ PR. No word from Tyler, but they'll be checking with him shortly.
- The cheating in cycling story has blown up even more with a fully detailed letter from Floyd Landis on how he cheated, and how cyclists could beat the current anti-cheating programs. It'll be interesting to see how that all pans out. USA Triathlon implemented a stronger testing program this year for its pros, and some of the pros have reported finally getting their first blood tests as of this week. While this doesn't apply to most amateurs (though reports indicated amateur cheating is on the rise), it just speaks as a whole to the integrity of our sports, their records, and ultimately their athletes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It's funny what you can get used to. 3 months ago I was fighting to do a hard hour on the bike without feeling like my legs would fall off. Yesterday, the only fighting I was doing was with the pedestrians who don't seem to understand what the dotted lines in the middle of the path are for. Seriously, it's paved like a road, painted like a road, how come people can't see you should treat it like one?

Now that I have that gripe out of my system, I' m happy to say we're really getting some good training weather right now. By good training weather, I mean hot and humid, the kind of weather that is hard to prepare for without having it to train in. Living most of my life in the Midwest, I'm familiar with summer heat and humidity. I've never done this much training or a race of this magnitude, so understanding the effects of the weather, and how to prepare for it are some key things.

First and foremost, I've been cramping in my feet during some longer swims. Some of this might be technique, but I believe a lot of it is how much swimming takes out of me. It's more of a whole body workout than biking or running, and I'm always down at least a couple pounds meaning some dehydration is probably occurring. Being that it happens in a body of water is ironic; "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink".

One of the prizes we won from the Season Opener giveaway was a bottle of Endurolytes, an electrolyte replacement capsule. I don't yet know how much it helps, but I took it yesterday before our hour ride in the heat, and didn't feel like I had lost much juice at the end of the ride. I don't recommend all Hammer Nutrition products (Heed, their Gatorade competitor, tasks like ass), but their Hammer Gels are good, so I'm going to give the pills a try on the especially hot and humid days, or before the really long swims. Plus, making sure I'm getting enough water is a big part of the puzzle.

Another adjustment I've been making is to my running stride, trying to eliminate some of the heaviness in my step. I'm not moving towards a barefoot running stride or anything like that, just something that I feel will help with the strain on my knees and allow me to run for longer periods, which is the single area I can improve most, even when it comes to hills.

Finally, I'm working to adjust my sleep cycles. i have a tendency to be a night owl, and I am constantly having to watch how late I stay up. Especially the night before we have a big early morning workout. There are nights it can't be helped, but I'm shooting to be in bed by 11 PM every night. Hopefully this will allow me to be better prepared to get up early, as I feel best when I get in that work to start the day.

Hopefully these small adjustments can help lead to a big result: a better rested, better prepared, and better nourished me.


- I'm adding a page on the header bar for "Team Tyler". While I still haven't heard anything new, I'm still optimistic I'll will soon. This is a busy time of year for the hockey folks who have Tyler's role, and it's likely between training and work duties, plus getting some time with his family that he simply hasn't had much opportunity to sit down and give me a call. Even if he never does call, it's still a worthwhile charity to promote.

- Wheelworks Multisport has a list of races they focus on each year. Two races that make the list every year are the state and regional championships. The state championship happens while we're away for the honeymoon, but the regional championship is the week after Timberman. I know it might be pushing our luck a bit, but we've decided for sure to sign up for this race. WWMS has won the championship several times over the past few years, and we want to be a part of that. It' an Olympic distance so it won't be nearly the effort of Timberman, and should feel not much different than the training work we put in this past Sunday

- Yesterday was a fairly easy hour on the bike. We only average 12 MPH for our rides along the river, but most of that has to do with all the stopping. The GPS tells me we regularly hit 16+ MPH, but then we'll be stopped for 2 or 3 minutes to cross the street. Finding some more open roads is something I'll be working on this weekend while Rach is busy at soccer camp.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I learned something big and important yesterday. No, it wasn't how with no money down, I can buy houses, refurbish them, and turn a tidy profit (though that might be nice). I learned that there's a place deep down in me that doesn't care if I'm tired, if I'm hungry, if I'm hurt; it's a place that only wants to keep going and reach the goal.

I've been tired and sore before during road races. I've been hungry, or had to hold a nature break for a really long time. But I haven't really previously reached a point where I was tired, sore, cramped, needing a potty break, hungry, thirsty, and well, just ready to completely give up. I got there yesterday while training.

If you read yesterday's entry, you'll know that we had a big training day on Sunday with training in all 3 disciplines. It was a long hot day in the sun, and at the end, I was beat. I actually looked forward to Mondays scheduled workout of 2000 yards in the pool, thinking it would be nothing compared to the previous days effort. Either I forgot how much I had given on Sunday, or didn't think about the cumulative effect of this bigger workouts back to back for the first time in a while.

Yesterdays swim was a complex one; it started with a 200 yard swim and ended with a 200 yard pull (swimming with just arms, holding a float buoy between your legs). For the 1600 yards in between, we didn't go any longer than 50 yards without switching strokes. The default stroke was freestyle, but we alternated that with breaststroke (my strongest) and using a kick board (by far my weakest).

I started strong with a relatively strong push through the first 600 (200 swim plus 400 alternating every 25) yards, which was meant to be the warm-up. Then we got into the meat of the workout: 75 yards alternating swim-breast-swim, and 75 alternating swim-kick-swim. We got 10 second breaks between each set of the 2. After about 6 sets, I was about 50 yards behind Rach, and thought I was looking at finishing quite a bit slower than she did.

But that's when something took hold; I was already tired, and I was getting hungry, but I knew I could push through. Then I started cramping, first in one foot then in the other. I was probably still a little low on electrolytes from the previous days effort, and it was coming back to haunt me. But even though this was just a training swim, I wasn't going to give up.

Giving up in practice leads to giving up in the race, and the thing you're fighting most against in an endurance race is against the hurt and exhaustion in your body making the voices in your head yell at you to give up. I've never had a DNF, and even if I'm the very last one across the line before the time limit, I'm NOT getting my first at Timberman. So, while I cramped, and my swim turned slow and sloppy at the end of each lap, I pushed on. I had reached a sort of swimming nirvana, where the pain and the hunger and the fatigue couldn't reach me.

Finally, I reached the last 200 which gave my cramping legs a much needed rest because of the small pull buoy. Getting a reprieve from the cramps, I found strength in my arms that I didn't know I had, and got myself through the last 200 pretty quickly. I took everything I had just to climb out of the pool, but in the end I had done 2000 painful and glorious yards in an hour and 20 minutes. Thankfully, there isn't a kick board element to Timberman, or else I might not make the cutoff.

We've got a lot of work to do over these next couple months, and some workouts will be even harder than this one. But I know now that no matter what, I can get through them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

3 months

Timberman is now a mere 3 months away, or at least it was as of Saturday.

It's a good thing too, because I am so not ready yet to take on those distances in succession. Independently, I've swam 2100 yards in under the time limit, and my longest walked 1/2 marathon time is 3:45. Even though I consider the bike my strength, I've never actually ridden 56 miles, and I am slow on hills; so there's a lot of work left to do.

Our training has really started to pick up, as we move towards longer distances. Saturday, I did a quick 7 miles just to get work on. Sunday, we really put the hammer down with a mini-triathlon of our own; 1000 yards in the pool, 18.5 miles on the bike, and a 2 mile run. The swim time and run times were fine, but the bike time was no where near what it needs to be.

Our bike was slow in part because we did hill training. We decided to just go out and ride, and take on hills as we found them. And find them we did, with a surprisingly hilly area just north of Cambridge, MA. For a while it seemed every time we turned we were headed up; even when we turned back towards home. Let me say that not knowing whats coming around the next bend isn't helpful; I prefer to know where the pain is going to come from.

For her part, Rach was good on the hills dancing away on the pedals as I watched her slink on up each hill, gapping on me every time. She's clearly more ready for the climbing than I am. Thankfully, I've been learning more about the full capabilities of my bike, and as I get to a hill, I drop down into the "granny gear" up front, and changes gears as needed in the back. On several climbs I was able to make it to the top without dropping into the lowest gears, while on others not only did I hit the small ring up front; I was on my 2nd lowest in the back too.

And I still had to stop along the way. It's not my leg strength that's causing the problem, it's my cardio fitness. On each of the 3 longest hills, I had to take about a 1 minute break halfway up to catch my breath. I get out of breath trying to haul my big lumpy self up the hills. I can manage well on less steep climbs, but as the climb turns up, so does my breathing, and I just don't have the practice I need yet.

The other part of the speed issue is that we kept getting lost. We stopped several times to figure out where we were. I was getting tired from the hills and so when I wasn't sure what the next turn should be, we stopped and out came the GPS. It got to the point where I was tired enough that Rach had to make sure I was reading it right (It was hot yesterday, and I didnt bring any Gatorade, just water, so I was running low on sugar to be sure). Eventually we got it straightened around, and got headed back the right direction.

The good news is that I'm clearly making progress. I didn't have to walk any of the hills, and I was probably no more than 2 minutes behind Rach on any of the climbs. If we have 80 days left of full on training time before we taper in August, minus the honeymoon, I should be able to get in 35-40 more rides. My speed in the flats is fine and is easy enough to keep up. Now I just need to climb every single chance I get.

The weird part about yesterday is that the run felt like the easiest part of the day. I hadn't swam in a week, and my climbing sucks, but I've been running enough that I'm guessing I did 2 miles at 13 minutes each. Rach beat me back but said she wasn't waiting for much more than 5 minutes. I'm thinking it was closer to 8, but I'll take it. I didnt have the GPS with me on the run, so I only went by feeling, but I know where the 1 mile turn around is. I jogged way more than I expected, though I didn't do it consecutively until the end. It was like 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off, but I felt pretty good. I could have done more but was glad I didn't have to.

Knowing where we are now, I'm glad we've done all the training that we have, but I'm just as glad we still have time to get where we need to be.


- We were supposed to swim at 5:30 this morning, but my body simply wasn't up for that. 1800 yards in the pool as a workout for the day will seem easy at the end of the day. But to start the day, my body wasn't into it.
- Rach is working a soccer camp this weekend, and taking the car both days so I'll have time to work on my areas of weakness without making Rach wait at the top of every hill. It'll be interesting to see how I do for training motivation when making sure she doesn't have to stop riding too long isn't in the back of my mind.
- When you train with someone you love, in traffic, on bumpy roads for fast winding downhills, it's hard not to think about their safety. I find I do it constantly with Rach, especially when we're exploring new territory. She's good on her bike, but doesn't know anything about maintenance, so wouldn't have the first clue what to do if she had a problem. That's another thing we need to work on before Timberman. She has a nice bike, but I need to teach her to change flats and other basics.
- After yesterday I'm more optimistic about my upcoming race with the in-laws. I don't expect to beat anyone, but I think I'll put in a PR, especially if our running these next two weeks lets me hit that distance (5k) regularly.
- Lastly, the scale this morning showed 314. My next weigh in should put me at a 3 year low.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and 6 years ago

Good morning, gentle readers.

Please excuse my absence yesterday, I took a mental health day. Not that I am any healthier (especially mentally) but I was feeling a bit tired and stressed (mostly by work), and it lead to a rather upset stomach, so I just took the day completely for myself. While the rest of you spent your day at work, I spent my day switching between the chair and the couch, in search of the ideal TV watching position. I wound up doing some work anyways on a project that couldn't wait, but I was relaxed sitting around in my boxers which doesn't happen at work.

What this usually means for my wife is dealing with me whining and moping while I switch endlessly between channels, or being tortured by watching me play xbox. Yesterday, she came up with her own form of torture, by forcing me to watch Grumpy Grandpa and Crazy Blonde Regis and Kelly. While it does have a quirky appeal for millions of housewives, to say it's not my cup of tea is an understatement.

Thankfully, prior to her waking up, and after she returned from work, I got to watch cycling. In the morning, it's the webcast of the Giro d'Italia, and in the afternoon, the Tour of California. It was a big day in both races, and even though he was only in one of the two races (and neither after he crashed out of the Tour of California), Lance Armstrong had some involvement in both. Mostly because Floyd Landis, disgraced 2006 Tour de France champion finally decided to come clean about doping during his career (except of course about the one test that he failed), and started naming names; including Lance.

I bring this up because outside of the fact that cycling is inherently a part of triathlons, and something I enjoy watching, most people don't know Armstrong started riding as a world class junior triathlete before getting seriously into cycling. He's spoken several times about coming back to triathlons once his days of professional cycling are done. He's even spent time training this season on the IM Kona bike course.

Whether Armstrong's guilty or not (I personally believe he's not), the point of this is that Landis is living in the past, and because of it, he can't move forward. I find that I get caught doing that myself sometimes, though no where near to this extreme. Being stuck in the past can be very self destructive, especially if you have goals that require you to live in the now and look towards the future. I can't tell you how many times I've given in to temptation because I thought "I'm always going to be this way so why am I fighting it". It served as a good reminder that today is not yesterday.

Between the 2 races, the non-stop cycling talk surrounding the doping, and the return of nice weather, I was dying to ride but was stuck in the doldrums of my work worries, so I didn't get off the couch yesterday. Thankfully, the nice weather held, and being National Bike to Work day (I think this is the last mention of bike month), I had no choice but to get my ass in gear and ride in.

The day of rest seemed to pay off as I felt strong the entire ride in, and including several traffic stops, finished the 5.5 miles in 27 minutes. Not super fast, but I'd estimate the riding was closer to a 15 MPH average with several minutes of stops. Not bad for the hilly roads between home and work. Practice makes perfect better, I guess.

Tomorrow, Rach has an all day conference, so I'll be spending a full day concentrating on the bike. The Giro, the Tour of California, and a long ride. I haven't decided where yet, but perhaps a trip up and down the Minuteman Trail. Not too hilly but a good quick ride. And maybe I'll mix in a run too.


- I never weigh myself following a sick day, because the number is always unrealistic and temporary. Either I've purged a couple pounds I'll quickly add, or I eat too much and the numbers will quickly drop. I'll take a look monday after a good strong weekend of training and see where I stand.

- No updates on the interviews, but I still have lines in the water and I'm baiting a couple more hooks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maybe cyclists are the audience...

Before I started riding, I was like many motorists in that I never really paid that much attention to bicycles. Sure, I was careful around them, and never went out of my way to cause them trouble even if they were slowing me down. It wasn't until I started cycling myself back a couple years ago that I started to open my eyes to the relationship between bikes and cars on the road and how commuter cycling seems to be viewed by the general public. You're either too poor for a car, an environmental nut, or a college student. And regardless of which of these you actually are, you are a hassle to motorists everywhere. 

When I first learned about national bike month, bike to work work, etc. I assumed the audience for these events wasn't actually cyclists. Here in Boston I see the daily battle between bikes and cars and while there are a lot of events aimed at cyclists this week, I always figured that the point of all this was to raise awareness of cycling to the folks in cars. If you can get people in cars onto bikes, or at least to have a healthy respect for the people they "Share the Road" with, it could reduce the amount of tension on the streets and make being on the road safer for everyone. 

Sadly, I'm beginning to think that it's often less the motorists who need an education, but rather the cyclists. This will be an unpopular point among my cycling brethren, but please hear me out. There are two key points that I think identify who actually needs the education:
  • Laws. There are laws that cover just about everything you can and can't do in a car, and those laws seem to get more stringent every day. Red light cameras, anti-texting laws, and insurance requirements; nearly anything you can do wrong in a car has some punishment attached to it. And in cases where you are at fault, you're required to be fiscally responsible for it. And yet, as we drove down Comm Ave yesterday, while Rach and I saw several people holding up traffic at green lights due to texting, we also saw a guy flying down the road on his bike doing the same thing. Yep, texting on a bike. Sure, probably not a widespread problem, but as younger folks consider texts a part of their daily life, where there's one there's bound to be more. While these same laws are set to govern cyclists, I see them disregarded by cyclists on  a daily basis. 
  • Safety. We have laws that you must wear your seatbelt in the front seat of a car. Even without the law most people do it because they know how well it works. Airbags became standard in the 90's and it's impossible (maybe even illegal at this point) to buy a car without at least front, and probably side airbags. All of these devices built into a vehicle (and mandated to use) strictly for your own protection. And while neither of these devices would be applicable to a bicycle, there are standard safety devices namely helmets and brakes, that are applicable. And yet I see someone nearly every day on a bike without either a helmet or brakes, and often times both. And somehow wearing a helmet on a bicycle is still not required by law. Brakes may be required in some states, but it's actually a growing movement not to have them, in order for your bike to be more aesthetically pleasing.
I'm not saying cars are inherently safer in general. I do believe in the current environment on city streets here in Boston, it is safer to operate a car than it is to operate a bike. And if cars were suddenly removed from the road, we'd see the number of road related fatalities plunge by a huge percentage. What I'm saying is that in this day and age when people are so preoccupied with their own life that they don't put much thought into the lives of those around them, you can be less cautious in a car and still survive because of the mandates and protections you are afforded. But the same can't be said for cyclists; Any additional risk, whether it be a lack of helmet, brakes, or just not paying full attention to the laws of the road can be fatal because of the presence of vehicles.

I hadn't planned to be so heavy handed about bike month/bike to work week, until yesterday when I learned that a cyclist was killed in Newton on Monday, very nearby to my own commute. Any time the report reads "cyclist was not wearing a helmet" it's meant to give off the immediate impression that it's the cyclists fault he's dead. While journalism is meant to be impartial, that kind of writing has a pretty obvious slant. Sadly, the cyclist in question chose to not only ignore a simple safety precaution, he took a stupid risk by driving into the intersection.

Maybe he made a mistake; maybe he thought the car would be clear in time. Maybe he had a mechanical problem and couldn't stop himself in time. Maybe he was just in a hurry and wanted to get somewhere in a hurry. In any case it shows that for every driver out there cutting off cyclists or laying on the horn when we're slow getting started at a green light; there's a cyclist out there with no helmet and/or no brakes, rolling through an intersection. 

This death is just an example that while educating motorists as a whole to "Share the Road" will provide the biggest net safety increase, a little caution and personal responsibility from cyclists is the surest way for each individual to stay safe out there.


- Great commute yesterday. I climbed the hill again on the way in and was several minutes faster getting into work. With the weather turning colder and rainier in the afternoon, I took the bike trail route home as it lets you only interact with vehicles at pedestrian crossings, reducing risk.

- My work schedule today made it basically impossible to ride to work. I need to visit our corporate headquarters and have to look my best while over there. If I were a skinny guy who sweated less, or didn't have to put as much effort into riding in, I could pull off a shower and maintain a professional appearance while walking back and forth the 10 minutes between offices. I'll be back on the bike tomorrow, and still looking forward to the big hill on Friday.

- Still quiet on the interview front. Frankly, I'm a bit bummed. Hoping yet to get this stuff up and flying. Have ideas for other folks to talk to, and will get that in motion this week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hiding in plain sight

Growing up I was too skinny, smart, and mild mannered for my own good and got picked on a lot for it without fighting back. After a couple months of therapy in 5th grade, I was better able to handle it. I learned Kung Fu humor as a defense mechanism for the insecure feeling I got when the teasing got to be too much. Later on, I did learn karate for when the bullies went from words to fists. Thankfully, I only ever used it once, but things did get a lot better for me after one fight in 9th grade.

While I learned to deal with most of the insecurities of my youth, becoming overweight added a whole new set of adult insecurities. Whether it was dating, buying clothes, or just going out in public, while I didn't really realize how big I'd gotten I did start to notice that there were things I didn't do as easily as others. Learning to play hockey for instance was a lot more work for me than the rest of my friends who while they may not have been in perfect shape, had less stamina and weight related top-heaviness to overcome.

To get to the point, I still get insecure sometimes when I am lining up at a race or just getting on the bike. It happened at the Season Opener the other week when I stood there amongst all the folks in our wetsuits; I must have looked a bit like Shamu. It doesn't happen every time, as there are plenty of times when I am just totally in the moment; happy to be working out or racing against other folks. When it does happen, I try to remind myself that I'm doing something I love, that finishing is way more important than finishing first, and that each step I take brings me closer to a time when I won't stick out amongst the other athletes in such an obvious way.

Having learned Lowell 1st run is "dry", I secret "the keg" under my winter running shirt
Racing in Ohio is a good bit different than racing in Boston. While there are a lot of beginners here drawn in by the abundance of races throughout the year; overall Boston is home to a higher grade of amateur athlete than Columbus. Maybe it's just my perception, but after participating in a good number of races in Ohio during the 2 years I raced there, the elite amateurs here make up a larger percentage of the group and the middle of the pack is faster.

That's not to say I'm not getting faster or that I'm putting down Columbus in any way; it's just different. In fact, it's a compliment to the racing establishment back there that they were able to take someone like me and help me to grow enough to not feel completely on the outside looking in while competing here. Plus, I'm taking on larger races here with more participants who have more experience. That I'm not scared out of my mind (most of the time) to do it says something about the people I competed with before, and about me. 

And even though I've grown in some ways (and thankfully shrunk in others) a lot over the past couple years, like I was saying above I still get insecure. Thankfully, that humor defense still kicks in when I need it. Getting ready to ride on a day I'd eaten poorly and needed to be sure I didn't just sink into the couch, I got ready to get on the bike. And though I didn't need to, I put on my "That Butt Stuff" jersey as I rode through the city. Sure enough, at least 3 times on that ride, I hear laughter followed by "look at that!". 

Sure, they could have been laughing at a fat guy on a bike. But I'm pretty sure they were laughing at some guy wearing a shirt that has the word "Butt" in huge letters on front and back. Allowing the insecure fat guy on the bike to hide in plain sight.

Thanks Mr. Moore for your use of the "literal naming convention".

Todays notes:

- The first day of bike to work week was a smashing success. I knew it immediately by how tired my legs were and how hungry I was at work most of the day. The ride home was even faster, and I can already tell that dealing with less flat terrain each day on my commute is a good starting point for getting better on hills.

- I sold the Fuji last night. First guy that came to see her bought her. He's doing rehab for a soccer injury and seemed like he'll take good care of her. I got more than I paid for the new bike, and more than covered the cost of all the extra parts I put on the old bike (except the rear wheel and Look pedals, both of which I kept).

- I submitted my questions to Tyler Wright via the CBJ PR mechanism and they've been forwarded on. They have a link to the site on the CBJ Foundation page related to news coverage. Hopefully I'll get a call or an email response shortly on this. I just wish I hadn't given the wrong phone number the first time. 

- I'm still getting used to bike commuting each day. For example, today it's a lot cooler and overcast, and I forgot my bike gloves on the way in. Thankfully the new handle bars are far more comfortable than the old ones and while I noticed not having them it wasn't something that caused any trouble. It's better than forgetting my underwear like I did yesterday.

- I don't know about anyone else but I'm watching the Tour of California with interest this week. Aside from the obvious Lance sighting, the fact that the best of US cycling is doing the premiere US road race is a big deal. Yesterday the coverage wasn't very good due to the weather, but today it's expected to improve and they really start climbing pretty soon, which is where all the fun happens.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A great weekend biking leads into Bike to Work Week

Finally, a weekend in Boston where the weather cooperated. All weekend long, we had nice weather. So nice in fact that Rach managed to get a pretty good sunburn volunteering at BU's graduation ceremony.

Friday,  I wasn't in a very good mood because I am neither going west for E3 or helping my in laws move; no June trip for me. We wound up not doing much other than watching hockey, and having dinner at a bar by the arena. Even eating perfectly all day til dinner, 2 beers turns into 2 pounds the next morning. It's REALLY frustrating that I can't do even such minimal relaxing on a day I don't workout without a jump in weight. Sorry for the griping, just sometimes it gets to me.

Saturday, I was feeling a lot better thankfully, and I decided I wanted to put what was left of my plane ticket money towards a new bike. While clearly my weight is the biggest hindrance to my riding, my bike has been tasked with something it really wasn't meant to do; namely racing. The Fuji Absolute 4.0 is an entry level hybrid, really designed for commuting and recreational riding. I don't get as much out of my bike, and therefore myself because of the mostly upright riding position. While I love my bike, I am determined to make big performance strides this year, and some of that will be improved by just getting a new bike.

So while we didn't find anything at any of the shops in the area, and Craigslist brought only a couple of near misses (a couple of Fuji frames; one cracked and one an hour away), we did do some exploring and wound up in Salem to see some of the witch related sites. It's still amazing to me that we live a mere 30 minutes from amazingly historical places like this. 

This is what happens when you make me drink when I'm trying to lose weight. 
When we got back, Rach was tired, having gotten probably a little too much sun, and didn't want to work out. As I have a lot more work to do both to get ready for our next race, and most importantly to lose the damn weight. So out I went on the bike, determined to get in a solid ride and learn to climb some damn hills.

And so I did.

Ok, make that Hill. There was just one hill of any significance on my 10 mile ride. Then again, because I did the same 5 miles out and back, I climbed each side of the hill so I guess you could say it was 2 hills. It was city riding at it's finest, well timed lights and a few roll-throughs at empty traffic stops. A good solid effort into and then with a stiff breeze. It felt great having pushed myself to get out there on a day I could just as easily have stayed in and taken a nap with Rach.

The other reason that ride was important is that it's the last I'll ever take on my Fuji.

Just as eating grilled chicken with salad is different than eating a cheeseburger with fries, riding a bike designed for performance is different than riding one designed for fun. I knew that it was time for a change, and while I definitely still want a high end road bike, I've learned enough to know that even a bike with less than stellar components (my Fuji for example) can be a good starting point.

So while cruising around on the web Saturday night I started thinking outside the box, which led me inside the box. The big box. I wound up on, and I found this:

Yes, that's the new bike shine captured in all its glory
It's a road bike. A GMC Denali branded road bike (made by Kent Bicycles) to be precise. It's not anything special, but it's a bike with honest to God road geometry. I picked it up early Sunday morning, and moved the important pieces (wheels, pedals, saddle, and accessories) from the Fuji to the new one, and put the replacements on the Fuji. It's amazing what a little mechanics knowledge and 3 hours can get you. Then I hit the road.

It's funny, you'd think after riding for 18 months that riding a couple miles would be easy. But the difference in geometry actually had me using muscles in my legs that I don't think I've used the entire time I've been back on a bike. Being that I don't have a full shops worth of bike tools, I rode hard for the two miles up to the bike shop for some break tightening and a quick checkout that everything was assembled properly. It's an uphill ride from the house, the kind of slow gradual climb that normally knocks me down a little, but not too much.

By the time I got through those 2 miles Sunday, I was pretty much gassed. Clearly, I have a lot of work to do to get used to this bike. But the fact that I put in another 5 1/2 miles after I was done at the bike shop tells me I'm going to get that work done.

 - While the whole month is Bike Month, this coming week is National Bike to Work week. Normally, I only ride Fridays, but I'm riding every day this week. In fact, about the time this pops up on the web, I'll be on the new bike on my way into the office.

 - No news on the interview front. I'm going to send along my questions, and hope it either prompts a phone call, or I get back an email with all the answers. Tyler's training blog shows him to be further along than Rach and I are for a race only a week before ours. He's going twice as far though, so that he's about twice as far along makes sense.

- I didn't get to the Review page this weekend with everything that's going on. I'll get it up this week.

- I put the Fuji on Craigslist Sunday afternoon. I've gotten a bunch of calls and emails, and I expect it'll be gone by dinner tomorrow. Then I can start looking at the next set of upgrades the bike needs.

- We signed up for the Minuteman Sprint Triathlon on 6/19. It should be a perfect prep race for the Olympic we'll be doing in July.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This just in: It's Friday!

The Morning of Temptation came and went with nary a peep. I woke up early (and hungry) this morning so Rach and I went over to Bruegger's for "Hot Bagel Breakfast" as we call it. I got a bagel sandwich and OJ, and this kept me satisfied til lunch. Had a healthy lunch to boot, too. Got my taste for a bagel satisfied, and didn't have any cravings afterwards. It probably didn't hurt that I was busy.

The weather is still playing tricks around here, so when we get good weather we have to take advantage. So while we had a swim scheduled last night at the BU FitRec pool, it was really nice out, so I wanted to get in a run. My legs are still recovering from the race, so I wasn't a speed demon. But I was able to keep up my run 3/walk 3 interval for two miles and was slightly under 26:30 for 2 miles. I walked back 2 get in a couple more miles as well.

When I got home I had just enough time to change before we left for the pool. Swimming went better than expected as I did 500 yards in about 15 minutes. Things went downhill after that as I was still pretty sore in my left shoulder. I wound up doing about 1/2 mile total. Not bad considering it was the first post race swim.

The weather is supposed to turn sunnier this weekend, so I'm going to try and get a long ride in on the bike. Rach is gone on Sunday, so I'm on my own to workout. I don't know what the plan calls over the next couple weeks, but i'm going to add some additional running. I have a lot of work to do to in order to get faster between now and the 5k in Wisconsin.

Other notes:

- So, the pictures came out from the last race. I have to decide if it's worth buying them or not, if for no other reason to add some humor to the blog. It's fairly not cheap ($50) to buy the digital images from races these days. But there are a couple good shots, and like I said the rest I have some funny plans for.

- I had originally planned a trip in mid-June, but due to vacation limitations at work that won't be happening. Instead I'll be focusing on my training during that time, and I'm going to be participating in an additional road race (3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge) on 6/24. It's paid for by work, so I can't really turn down a free road race.

- Rach is going to be gone the week before I was to be gone, so I need to come up with some zany training hijinks to spice up the blog (and my life) for the week she's enjoying time with her family.

- More site updates this weekend, as I get the reviews page online and continue to clean up the schedule.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quick notes

 - It's been a very stressful and busy week at work, and with temperatures staying cool and us still tired from the race we made yesterday an off day. We're putting Wednesdays workout on Friday, as it's supposed to warm up moving into next week.

- It looks like we're settling on the 6/19 Minuteman Sprint and the 7/18 MA State Olympic Triathlon as our primary tune-ups for Timberman. The Minuteman is a longer bike (14 mi) and Run (4 mi) than the distances we did this weekend, so that should help us prepare for the Olympic which will be the longest race (.9, 21, 6) that I've ever done. Minuteman is similar to other sprints I've finished and had better results than this past weekend. The other interesting thing about the Olympic is that it comes just a few days after our honeymoon in Europe. If nothing else will, that should serve to stop us from eating our way across England and France.

- I'm starting to look more seriously at bikes. While I enjoy the triple chain ring on mine (giving me more gear combinations to climb with than most road bikes) the quality of the components causes me issues (like having the chain come off during a gear shift in this past weekends race) that I'd like to avoid. I'm not spending a lot, and I don't know when I can actually get one. In fact, if you happen to work for a bike company looking to provide a sponsorship to a fat guy who will say nice things about you during triathlons, please don't hesitate to email ;)

- Thankfully, this week isn't a high priority week in terms of our fitness. Pretty soon, every week will be high priority and I hope I don't have to continue to battle the level of work stress I've had this week as we progress through the summer.

- Sometime today I'm going for a run. We're now only a couple of weeks away from the showdown with my mother in law in the 5k in Wisconsin. Against my better judgement, we went in with the family to buy her some running shoes for Mothers Day. Just what I need, a well equipped opponent. While my performance was OK on the run course this past weekend, it's going to take a monumental effort to beat Shari, but I'm going to give it everything I've got.

- Did I mention the name of the Wisconsin race? It's the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome 5k. I've never heard of this, but just the name sounds terrible. Rach said she picked this race among the races local to Milwaukee that weekend because she wanted a shirt that had vomit on it. I told her if she'd go back in time to my college days, that I am sure I could have given her one or two of those.

- Don't you hate it when outside looks sunny and gorgeous but the thermometer reads 43? It's like the weather is teasing me. Hello, it's May already!!!

- Lastly, I got the results page fixed and up yesterday. I had planned some nice HTML tables, but in the end you get snapshots of my results spreadsheet. The columns you see are about half of what I actually track on each race, but the rest is only important to me (race location, etc.) and make the pic too wide for the screen.  I'll work on the review page this weekend, and then once the interviews start coming in, they'll be a separate page for those too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May is Bike Month, so ride your bike (SAFELY) this month

I mentioned before that I would be posting about bike month, and probably even a little bit of bike advocacy. This is as political as this site will ever get (though I did just request an interview with Senator Scott Brown who also participated in the "Sinking of the TitanicRescue Boat Triathlon" this past weekend), as I do think bicycle safety and "Share the Road" are key concepts anyone who rides a bike should know.

Last night, I mentioned that Rach and I got in our first post-race workout by stretching our legs during a quick jaunt on the bike. What I did not mention at the time is that I forgot to wear my helmet last night. I never ride without one, so you would think "How did you forget your helmet?". It's been on the colder side of mild out these past few days, so i put on my breathable fleece skullcap that I wear under my helmet. Somehow, this made my brain feel like I had my helmet on, and it wasn't until I was all clipped onto my bike and rolling down the street that I realized I hadn't gotten the helmet out of the closet.

I love the feel and look of my Rudy Project Slinger helmet, so riding without it is not natural for me. I noticed at several points throughout the ride that I didn't have my helmet on. It didn't cause me to alter my cycling, but every time we came to an intersection or I wobbled trying to clip back in that if I fell I might bump my noggin.

Everything went smoothly until the last bit of the ride. As we live on a one way street, we often ride on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic to get home. Last night as we approached the house, I noticed a section of fresh cement with cones and tape around it. Thinking I could fit smoothly between the cones and the bush on the left, I zipped through so I would be less likely to wobble into either one.

Clearly I misjudged the width of my handlebars as a brush with the bush caused me to over correct, catch the safety tape attached to the cones, and drag them with me for about 10 feet before I came to a stop. I was able to unclip ok, and my brakes worked, but putting your foot down in bike shoes with cleats doesn't do much to stablize you. I felt like even more of a heel because the poor maintenance guy charged with standing there had to clean up the mess.

Thankfully, I didn't hurt myself and I didn't damage the fresh cement. But it just seems like when I'm not being careful, this kind of stuff happens. So please:

  • Always wear a helmet
  • Ride a bike that has brakes (seriously, no brakes is a fashion statement for city cyclists!)
  • Obey all traffic laws
  • Don't ride on sidewalks (especially by fresh cement while not wearing a helmet)

- I've had a lot to say lately, so I've been posting more than once a day. Of course that can't be sustained long term especially as some of my bigger features (interviews) are waiting to be completed. I expect to go back to first thing in the morning M-F with some weekend posts effective tomorrow.

- I weighed 316 as of this morning. 11 pounds til a double cheeseburger. This is a fun challenge.

- Rach and I have picked out a couple more triathlons prior to Timberman, hopefully I can add them to the revised schedule this weekend. 

- More time on the bike tonight, probably about the same distance but hopefully faster.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Milestones and next steps

So, not to be too self congratulatory, but I noticed just now that yesterday was my 100th post, and that sometime during the day was our 3,000th visitor, not bad for a few months. I can't wait to see where I'll be 100 posts from now. Thanks for being such great readers, just knowing you're there to share this journey with makes the bad days better, and the good ones great. So thanks.

Ok, now onto some real news:

- It is our standard practice to take at least a day off after a race to recuperate from the effort. We did just that yesterday and for good reason: Just walking yesterday was tiring and painful. Some races I feel great the next day, some I feel awful. The day after my first half-marathon I walked like an old man, and took a 6 hour nap. The day after the second one I went for a short jog. You just never know.

- The day off after the race is always accompanied by almost uncontrollable hunger. Thankfully, I had my willpower cranked up to 11, and managed to avoid binging. In fact, in the couple of days since the race, I've lost a couple pounds. I usually do, and the hard part is not eating too much due to the increased metabolism as my body replaces glycogen and heals sore muscles. I'm really locking down on my intake, with a goal of 305 before I get any of my craving (aka fast food) foods again.

- We hit the bike today for a nice little 7 mile ride. Started slow, but picked it up to average 16 mph for the second half of the ride. I've gotten some good advice from the Beginner Triathlete folks who live in Boston area about hill training. We'll be adding that into our training as early as this weekend.

- We're going to settle on another sprint triathlon and get it scheduled this week. I like having races scheduled closer together than we'd previously planned. It's been about money as opposed to athletic readiness that had limited our schedule, but we're going to do our best to get another race or two in. Rach is upset about her slow swim and nearly giving up, so she wants so revenge. I told you she was competitive.

- Tyler Wright has returned home to Western Canada to enjoy his summer and continue training. I should hear from him any day, and as soon as I do, so will you.

- While neither Rach or I came home with any divisional awards, for the first time ever we came home with some post race raffle prizes. I won a Nathan Speed 2 hydration belt, which holds 2 small bottles and has a pouch for goo packets or other race food. I also won a large container of chocolate Hammer Gel and a bottle of electrolyte tabs, so I shouldn't have to buy goo packs for the remainder of the season. Rach won a Nathan Quickdraw handheld bottle. I actually have one of these already and LOVE it, so I know she's going to like hers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

New England Season Opener - Bike and Run...make that walk

(This post picks up from where I left off yesterday, which if you haven't read; I highly recommend. You don't want to miss a triathlon where the medical boat sinks, and my wife gives me a heart attack. This post too will be long, but I didn't want to drag out the rest of the race.)
So there I was, standing in transition overcome by the realization that my wife was ok, and would be able to continue the race. In fact she hurried through her transition and took off without me while I hurried to finish my stalled clothing change and get the heck on the bike. Adding the bike shoes definitely allows me to get more out of each pedal stroke, but until I get used to keeping them on the bike and getting my feet in them during the ride they're a small liability during transition. They take a little work to get on, and I can't run in them very well for fear of falling.

So I got out of transition, on the bike, and started rolling. The problem is that the ride starts with a hill. I mean seriously, who the hell designs a course like this? We just swam through the last 10 minutes of the Titanic only to be confronted with a hill. It was then I realized that the first hill didn't appear on the course walk through video. Oh well nothing I could do but switch down to one of my lower climbing gears and get climbing. I made it up to the hill when I heard a strange sound; my own labored breathing. 

One hill and I'm gassed already, just freaking great. 

The course flattened out for a little bit before the biggest climb of the race one that took up much of mile two. With everything I'd gone through to this point I decided that it was time adjust my goals from some sort of personal best to just finishing. It was in this spirit that on a plateau near the end of the second mile, I pulled off to the side of the road, unclipped and stood there while I drank my 5 Hour Energy, ate a Hammer Gel, and drank some Gatorade. I mean if I was going to push on, I would be properly fueled.

The wind had shifted to a headwind as I started back up the long hill, as gravity wasn't enough working against me at this point. It was only at the top of the hill did I remember the one benefit of being a big guy on a hilly course: I might be a terrible climber, but I am a master of the descent. My average speed on each climb throughout the course was probably about 8 MPH. My average downhill was easily in the high 20's.

My speedy downhills made up some of the time I lost on the multiple climbs until I got to the really big hill later in the course. That's when my legs gave out. At the base I knew I was tired; my toes were still numb, and each previous hill had taken more out of me than the resulting descent had given back. About halfway up this last major hill I had no choice, I unclipped and walked my bike. 

I had really thought that my days of walking my bike up hills were behind me, but apparently not. If only I'd been aware of where I was in the course to understand the downhill that was soon to come. I remounted the bike about 3/4ths of the way up the hill and made it to the top. Around the bend from the top of the hill came the biggest downhill of the race and a top speed of 35 MPH, and that was with me riding the brakes the whole way down the hill because of a hard right at the bottom. 

This isn't to say my whole ride was ups and downs. I did manage to talk to a few of the folks I saw and did a series of passing-on-the-downhill-only-to-be-passed-on-the-next-climb with a few folks. I also got a lot of nice inspiration from the other folks I was seeing out on the course, including Rach who I finally saw about a mile and a half from the finish. She was headed the other way on the run course, and looked to be doing much better than when I'd last seen her. I wish I could say the same for me as I came out of the bike course knowing that I'd be no where near my goal time for the ride, normally my best part of the course, and the run, my worst still to come.

Bike Goal: 40:00
Ben's Time: 56:50
Rach's Time: 44:28

It's funny to say it, but the run was actually really uneventful. I knew my legs had almost nothing left, and that there were a few hills on the course. I doubted I could run much, but with feeling returning to my feet and the sun finally out to stay, I was determined to leave everything I had out on the course.

Just like the bike, the run started and ended with bigger hills, with a somewhat flat section in the middle and rolling hills around it. I realized in transition that I had forgotten my phone at home so I had no way to pace myself or have any idea how I was doing. I just decided to walk as fast as I could and run whenever I could. It turned out that the running wasn't very often. I ran on some downhills, and a little bit of the flats. It was by pure coincidence that I was running when I saw the race photographer. I had been about to walk, but I am heavily motivated by photo ops. I'll share the photo as soon as it's available.

I had no idea of how I was doing time wise, but as I reached the halfway point, nature called, so I took a quick pit stop and headed out for the second half of the 5k. I managed a little more jogging before I climbed the last big hill and up onto the reservoir retaining wall for back end of the loop. That's where I saw an overturned boat floating at the top of the water near up against the wall. I didn't know it was the medical boat that had sunk earlier in the race, so you can imagine my bewilderment at that point..

From the vantage point atop the wall, I could see the transition/finish area and I picked up the pace as best I could. Back across the beach the wind had calmed somewhat and I thought about how the day would have gone with better swim conditions. At the far end of the beach, I reached the path back up to the finish and started jogging. When I hit the pavement for the last 25 yards I sprinted full out for the finish.

Run Goal: 41:00
Ben's Time: 45:33
Rach's Time: 27:02

What does it all mean?

When I crossed the line the race clock read 2:30:13 but I wasn't sure how far back my wave had started. It turned out we were about 19 minutes after the start of the race, so I ended up with a final time of 2:11:13. I didn't hit a goal time in any of my disciplines, and wasn't even close on the bike. Amazingly, my best time to goal was on the run, probably because I had finally thawed out by that point.

In terms of standings it's a disappointing 208/208... last place for the triathlon. While it's the standing I wanted there are a couple clear caveats to this placement:
  • There is no doubt that these were not the ideal or even standard race conditions. Just getting through the swim without assistance, let alone the rest of the race makes it a success.
  • The last 3 swim waves were cancelled and their race times grouped under the run/bike. This includes the newbies, many of whom had 1+ hour bike rides that would surely have put many of them behind me with even a good swim.
  • With the exception of the transitions which were slower for obvious reasons, none of the 3 stages were the slowest I've ever done for that discipline. In fact, the run/walk was the fastest 5k I've ever done in a tri, by over a minute.
  • Did I mention the rescue boat sank? That has to count for something.
In the end, this was the hardest overall tri I've done yet, and I was only a couple minutes off my average time and about 35 minutes over my goal time. There are a lot of things to work on, but in my mind this was a success that I can build on. Plus, Rach is already pushing me to schedule another sprint before we move on to the Olympic distance.

Next up: Lessons learned and heading back to training.. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Race Report: New England Season Opener - The Swim

(Note: I had planned to do the whole race report in one post, but it just was too much. I hope you'll read the next couple days as I tell you about ocean spray on a lake, a sunken rescue boat, surprise hills, and a good walk spoiled.)

5 Months of training. 20 pounds lost. Improved technique in all 3 disciplines. Better equipment (Ok, new goggles and a rear wheel that doesn't fall apart after 5 miles) And an actual training plan.

I was ready for a race.

Unfortunately, the race I was ready for wasn't the race I got.

The forecast called for wind. I was prepared for wind, with a windbreaker and 3 layers to wear on the bike and run. But this early in the season, not much can prepare you for wind that blows hard enough to turn a placid lake into ocean like chop.

The swim was to be broken into 6 waves. To account for the weather, as we all stood on the beach, the swim was shortened slightly from a box swim around a set of buoys to a triangle that attempted to have the swimmers cut across the chop. As usual the elite men (the red caps) hit the water first, and while these are easily the strongest swimmers among the field; it soon became apparent that trouble was brewing. The wind was blowing the buoys around so much that even the advanced swimmers were continually having to reset their swim lines in order to make it around the course.

Rachelle's wave (the yellow caps) was next into the water. As they waited in chest high water for the start, my wave stood on the beach. The first of the red caps had made the turn around the buoy when Rach's wave started swimming. I really didn't notice much at first after Rach hit the water because it was so hectic. The winds were getting worse and we were being called to wade in.

Standing in the cold water made me appreciate how truly cold the wind was; the water actually felt warmer. At around 55 degrees, it probably was a bit warmer than the air temperature. We got out to the starting point and waited for the air horn. As we stood there adapting to the cold water, I saw a couple of the yellow caps starting to have trouble already, not even halfway to the turn around buoy. The typical chatter and false bravado of the big guys wave died down pretty quickly as we saw a couple of the yellow caps abandon the race before we even started swimming. I hoped Rach wasn't among those who had packed it in that soon.

The horn went and I started swimming. I knew it was going to be a challenge but I had no idea how much so. Even with goggles, it was difficult to see. The wind was blowing the water into a spray on a lake and as I breathe on my right, it was blowing into my mouth as I swam. It felt like the ocean swim I did back at Nantasket Beach in September, except with more overall motion.

Swimming straight in a pool is easy. You point yourself at the other wall, and steer yourself with the line on the bottom. There are no lines on the bottom of a lake, and unless you've done a lot of drinking before swimming; pool walls don't move. It was hard to tell for sure if I was swimming straight because every five or six strokes I'd look up to spot for the buoy and it would be in a different spot than I last saw it. Eventually, I just decided I was headed as close as I was going to get to the right direction, and would adjust as I got closer. As I closed in on the buoy I saw several people together holding on to a life preserver, swimming their way towards land.

Once I hit the turnaround things got easier for a little while. The spray wasn't hitting me in the face. While I was sighting for the second buoy, I was pointed towards shore so I knew that it'd be easier to figure out my lines. Unfortunately, this is when I really started getting cold. My feet had long since numbed and my hands were getting close, but even with heat of my suit, I still hadn't adjusted to the cold water. Between that and my sinuses I had to stop every couple of minutes to catch my breath.

As I rounded the last buoy I took a quick look back and saw that about a dozen folks were still behind me. Knowing I wouldn't be last helped me pick up some steam for the closing 100 or so yards. Swimming in, I saw the ambulance making it's way onto the sand by the launching area, and I assumed someone had succumbed to the cold. I also saw and heard that the rest of the swim waves following mine were being cancelled and the rest of the waves taking running starts back into the transition to do the bike.

I made my way onto shore, and walked as fast as I could up the rather long path to transition. I managed to pass a couple more guys from my group on the way up the hill right before we hit the timing mats. I headed over to my bike and that's when I really started to panic.

Rachelle's bike was still there.

She was in the wave before me, and usually in the pool she manages to do her first 400 about 30 seconds faster than me. Of all the things I expected in this race, it wasn't to see her bike sitting there in transition, at least without her next to it. I stripped off my wetsuit and started drying, all the while screaming for one of the volunteers to come talk to me while I dressed. None of them were listening, as it was mass chaos at this point. I dressed and headed over towards the closest official when I saw Rach come walking up into the transition area.

When we started the effort to do these races together, we also started ribbing each other about who was going to have the worst time. Rach is very competitive and she likes to talk trash. Her acting all big and tough gets me going, and I talk it right back to her. Never more than that moment when she came walking up did I care less who won that day. I was so glad she wasn't the one in the ambulance.

Only later did I find out she almost was. Rach had trouble getting her breathing under control and about the time she reached the turnaround buoy, she had decided to abandon the race. She talked to one of the lifeguards in a kayak and had been given a life jacket which she was sharing with a couple other swimmers who were also in difficulty. Rachelle and the other swimmers near her swam towards the rescue boat.

And that's when the rescue boat sank. Yes, sank. It made the news even.

I hope they don't send me the bill for this.
Evidently, as the firefighters were pulling some swimmers out of the water, other swimmers were pulling themselves onto the boat. The weight balance shifted, and the boat started taking on water and sunk in the matter of a couple of minutes. Though Rachelle had technically waved off the race, because she didn't accept any assistance that wasn't available to everyone else on the course, and didn't actually get onto the boat, she was allowed to continue.

So as happy as I was to see her when Rach finally walked into transition, I'm guessing she was even happier than I was.

My swim goal: 12:00
My actual swim: 18:58
Rachelle's swim: 25:33

My time in transition 1: 6:32
Rach's time transition 1: 3:51

Tomorrow I'll pick up with the start of the bike and finish the rest of the race details (yes, it kills the suspense but I did finish). Hopefully, I'll get the call from Tyler Wright and I'll have some news to share about something more important that just my daily struggles with my weight and training.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Packed and Ready

I don't usually post twice in one day, mostly because my life isn't THAT interesting. But we're all packed and ready. Tomorrows clothes are laid out, the wetsuits are side by side on the floor, with the tire pump and my very full triathlon bag next to them. Both bikes have been checked from stem to stern, and I think I found the squeek on mine. The stem on my bike (the top of the front fork that holds the wheel) had come a little loose, and probably was sliding up and down a little when I put pressure on it, which was likely causing the noise. Also probably wasn't really safe to ride with it loose. Adding that to the things to check before I ride.

We realized tonight that Rach doesn't know how to change a tire, and doesn't have the proper tools to do so on her bike. Too late to teach her, we just have to hope the fact that her bike has probably about 100 miles on it and the tires are in good shape. Clearly, that goes to the top of the list before next race.

Now we just sit back, watch hockey and get ready for sleep. Tomorrow morning comes early.

Prep and Pack

It's rainy and overcast outside, but not overly cold. I've got the first stage of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) bike race on TV as I sit here thinking about what we have in store for us tomorrow. No workout yesterday, but a nice 4 mile walk on a perfect spring night to keep the legs moving a little. One of the things I've picked up over the past couple years is that doing nothing the days before a race is almost as bad as doing too much. You don't want the legs to get too still.

Packet pickup opens at 3 today, and we'll be there right about then. I watched the bike course video a couple ot times, and it doesn't look too bad other than a climb that takes almost the whole 2nd mile. Quite a few turns so it's going to be a bit hazardous if it's wet. That'll lead to some slower speeds I'm sure. The run course has some rolling hills but doesn't look any worse than what we see walking along the river. A couple hundred feet of climbing across the entire 5k.

The swim course is an out and back rectangle, and the interesting part is that while it's a wave start, it isn't a running start. Each wave starts in the water by start bouys. Plus there's a bit of a hike from the beach to the transition area. I'm not sure where the timing check will be after you get out of the water, so either the 1st transition will be a little longer or there might be an extra minute on the swim time.

Finally, to show that I'm not just an amateur athlete but an amateur journalist as well: I received word yesterday that Tyler Wright would be gracious enough to take some time to sit down for an interview with me. I was truly excited, as bringing some outside flavor into the blog from time to time is something I hope to be able to do on a regular basis. So, when the CBJ PR folks asked for my number I responded quickly. Or should I say too quickly; I typo'ed my own phone number when I sent the email. This is NOT the first time I've done this. Chalk it up excitement or nerves, either one would be accurate. 

I know Tyler will be kind enough to call when he gets my email with the right number on it. Until then, you'll just have to make do with my personal story, which should have an interesting entry following tomorrows race.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The wait is almost over...

The New England Season Opener is less than 2 days away. I think we're almost ready for it to be that close. We've been doing some easy workouts, trying to make sure we keep progressing, but not overdoing it. Last thing I want is an injury right before race day with no time to recover. I've been lucky thus far in that regard, so knock on wood, fingers crossed, etc.

Last night I did 2 miles at what I'm hoping is race pace. Average was about 13:05/mi, and I alternated at 3 mins running and 3 minutes walking. I did the last minute of each mile walking so I was more rested to start the next mile. This was really exciting, because it gives me a good indication that I can finish really close to my 5k goal. Of course there's still the matter that this will come after the swim and the bike, but that's no big deal, right?

I'm going to get this out right now: I'm nervous. Yes, this is my second season. Yes, I've done similar races with longer distances in both the swim and bike. Yes, I've done more preparation and am farther along in my training this year than at any point in my almost 3 years of competitive events.

But this is the first race with Rach. On top of making sure I am ready, I need to help make sure her race is as smooth as possible. And then there are my allergies, making it tough to breathe. Im not going to use that as an excuse, but it's definitely weird to have that affecting how well I ride, etc. Plus there's that "new race" nervousness. Any race I've never done before has an extra level of nervousness attached to it.

And then there's the weather conditions. We already knew the water would be cold, but hoped the warm weather we've been having would make the rest of the race easier. According to, the temperature at race time will be between 44 and 49. And Windy. ( had it in italics so I figured I should too). I've done a race in those conditions before, but to say it was the most enjoyable environs would be a lie.

To ease some concerns, we're driving out to Hopkinton tomorrow in order to get our race packets, and explore the bike and run courses. There's a bike course video that we'll watch tonight, and hopefully that will help with the nerves. In the last race of last season, the nerves didn't stop until I got in the water, and then they disappeared right until I broke a spoke with a mile and a half left. Thankfully the wheel held, and has now been replaced with something much stronger.

Ok, enough of my whining, time to start getting focused on getting everything ready for Sunday.


- Talk about burying the lead: I heard back today from the CBJ PR department that my interview with Tyler Wright regarding his Ironman on behalf of Hats for Heroes is a go. I should be receiving a call from Tyler sometime today. The interview will run basically as soon as it's completed, likely sometime early tomorrow. My first official interview for the site. Color me excited.

- I learned something last night. I was reading Chrissie Wellington's web site, and found her recap of Timberman 2009. As almost everyone else, she had terrific things to say. However, one thing she said  added to my nerves "I took the bike out for a 3 hour spin on Thursday and was quickly reminded that the Timberman bike course is in fact rather hilly." As we've discussed before, hills and fat guys don't generally mix. Chrissie Wellington is no fat guy (nor any other type of guy for that matter). On top of that, she's basically the best female triathlon cyclist on the planet. So if she says the course is rather hilly.... well, I'm screwed. I better go make sure the training plan has some hill work in it.

- May is national bike month, and I plan on adding some minor comments throughout the month on this topic

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My favorite 2 (4?) sports come together to fight cancer

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you'll remember my occasional mentions of my love of all things hockey. Before I got into triathlons, hockey was the sport that most encompassed my life (it mostly still is). I am such a hockey fan that I was a founding member of an NHL booster club, and was even the clubs president for a while. Yes, I'm that cool dorky. That club is the Jacket Backers, and my team is the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The CBJ came to Columbus early in my time living there, and from the first season on I was hooked. For the first few years of the franchise, the team was comprised mostly of experienced journeymen, minor leaguers, and rookies new to the league. While I have enjoyed watching all of the teams players over the years, the players from the first few years have continued to stand out as my favorites.

One of these favorites is a guy by the name of Tyler Wright. In hockey circles, he was what was known as an agitator. A guy with a mix of hockey skill and grit, but whose true value to the team is his ability to get under the skin of the opponent either to get them off their game or more beneficially into the penalty box. Tyler excelled in this role, and soon became a favorite among the local fans.

But it was his work off the ice that really made Tyler stand out. Mr. Wright joined the CBJ in their inaugural season (2000-2001) and took the opportunity to establish (in conjunction with The Blue Jackets foundation) "Hats for Heroes" as a charitable foundation benefiting the fight against pediatric cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

Hats for Heroes sells hats with the proceeds going to the foundation, which uses these funds to positively impact the lives of the children and families impacted by these diseases. Blue jackets players sign some of the hats, allowing the foundation to raise even more money for the cause.
This is a cause I very much believe in. The Jacket Backers make an annual donation to the CBJ Foundation helping to provide funds used for projects like the Family Resource Center at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Now that I've given you the background, here's the hook: Tyler Wright is going to take on the 2010 Subaru Ironman Canada as a fundraiser for Hats for Heroes. Tyler has no experience as a triathlete, and though he's long had this goal, he's never acted on it before. He has partnered with Blackberry and Trek to help with the training and equipment needs of "Team Tyler".

I'm not normally one who asks folks to donate to a cause. When I make donations to charity, I feel the only ones who need to know are Rach and myself (oh, and Uncle Sam!). But this is a combination of a person, a cause, an organization, and 2 sports I very much believe in. And with Rebecca's recent passing, I am more willing to put aside my discomfort in asking others to join in the fight. If you have it in you and in your wallet to make a donation to Team Tyler, you can do it here.

I've inquired about interviewing Tyler for the blog, and I'm hoping to hear back soon. I'd love to get some of his thoughts as his training starts to get serious. I've interviewed him in the past for the Jacket Backers, and he's a down to earth guy with a wicked sense of humor. Either way, I'll definitely be passing along updates and making a donation.


- We followed up yesterdays AM swim with a short bike. 4.5 miles at less than race pace. I'm still getting that stange clicking when I pedal while putting any weight on the handlebars. I'm going to thoroughly look the bike over tonight to figure that out.

- Sand in your wetsuit is a bad thing. It means either a very uncomfortable next swim, or intentionally getting 10 pounds of neoprene wet and hanging it to dry in a small bathroom. Not my idea of a good time.

- Rachelle's last final for the semester was this morning. Nothing other than another day of work standing between us and the triathlon. We're headed out to Hopkinton to pick up our entry packets on Saturday. We'll be scouting for parking as well as getting a basic layout of the course.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Midweek news and midweek blues

An aside before I get into todays update: I try to keep this blog focused on my training, my weight loss, and all other things triathlon (or the sports that make up triathlon). But it's with a heavy heart that I learned last night of the passing of Ernie Harwell. If you don't know the name, he was the radio and later TV broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers for over 40 years. To me, the man was the voice of summer, the voice of baseball and the voice of my youth. Last year he acknowledged that he had inoperable cancer of the bile duct, and was headed to another place. He passed last night at the age of 92, with his wife of 68 years Lulu by his side.

He lived one of the fullest lives I've ever heard of. He had a patent for a bottle opener, had 66 songs recorded and worked with some amazing artists, he was a multiply published author and of course  a broadcasting hall of famer. He was the only announcer ever to be traded for a player. Further, he was a living history of baseball having met, interviewed, or known every ballplayer of any significance from 1930 on including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and on through all the heroes of today.

What I reflected on most last night when I learned of his passing is that it was Ernie who introduced me to sports. Even before my father and I started playing catch, it was Ernie who relayed the magical exploits of the heroes of my youth. An amazing man who faced even death with dignity and grace. When I think of all the athletes I've admired and longed to be like, Ernies life (and death) is a reminder that you don't have to play the game to be of the game.

Thanks for being patient with that. Now on to what you came here to read:

- A lot of folks seem to be finding the blog because of my review of the Look Keo Easy pedals. I've gotten significantly more time in the saddle since I wrote the early review, and I've found I've pretty much fully adapted to them. Further I feel even more strongly that they are a good product, especially at their price point. I'm a heavier rider and the pedals don't seem to be having any trouble with my weight. Plus I definitely feel like I'm getting more out of my effort all the way through the pedal stroke. I'm still figuring out what my review system is going to be but at this point I would give it 4 gears out of 5. The main sticking points are that the cleats wear down a bit easier than I'd like and the instructions for installation are basically non-existent. Otherwise, they're an excellent entry level clipless pedal set.

- I'm making a doctors appointment for next week. My sinuses and therefore my breathing have been significantly affected by this years allergy season (a first for me). I would have done it before the race, but I'm concerned that what I'll be prescribed will likely be listed as a banned substance for in-competition testing. Not that I'm likely ever to be tested, but without a medical note and assurance that I am conforming with the laws of my sport I wouldn't dream of taking anything that could lead me into trouble. It's becoming slightly more common that amateurs are being tested, and even if I didn't get tested, I'd know I was taking something that WADA or other organizations feel can improve performance. It will likely be over a month before our next race so I should have plenty of time to get my symptoms resolved.

- Ran again last night and did a 12:30 mile on tired legs. I pushed myself to run a full half mile last night and managed it in just over 6 minutes. I was pretty burnt at the end and my walking was pretty slow to follow it, or I likely would have been under 12 minutes. Based on how my training has gone I've decided on a 3 minutes run, 3 minutes walk strategy that might allow me to even be under my current goals.

- We got in the pool this morning and my swim was significantly better than our trip to the lake on Sunday. My overall stamina seems a bit iffy right now, but I did 800 yards in 30 minutes including some intentionally slower laps and 100 yards on the kick board (90 year old women with walkers could pass me when I'm using a kick board). Gives me faith that my swim on Sunday will be in line with my goals.

- We'll be riding tonight and then dropping bikes off for a tuneup immediately after. At least Rachelle's for sure. I'll probably give mine the once over myself to save some $$$.

This mornings weight: 319. I'm pretty sick of shedding these same 5 pounds just to put them back on from a week of eating like crap. I did well yesterday and I'm going to do the same today.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


One of the problems most people (myself included) experience with weight loss is that they don't have infinite time and infinite money to throw at the problem, both of which allow for greater success. If you have all time in the world to workout, you'll lose weight faster, and you can better account for the days you don't eat well. If you have infinite money, you can hire a trainer and a chef, one to keep you on track losing weight, the other to make sure the foods you eat are beneficial to your goals.

This past weekend I didn't eat like I should. Friday, I used my extra points for the week, but I didn't count them, and just kinda ate whatever I want. Saturday I was pretty good, and Sunday...well, at least I worked out a lot.

I got to yesterday morning weighing 319. I knew a lot of it was salt, the extra fluids I was drinking due to the heat and humidity but man, to jump from 314 to 319 in just two days made it really easy to get down on myself. So, I took some time yesterday to remind myself how far I've come, how far i still have to go and to set goals that will help me to get there.

The daily goal of course is just to stay within my daily points. I've gotten REALLY soft about watching the points on a day to day basis, basically guessing at the points in my food thinking that I know what it'll cost me to eat things. I'm going to track every point and purchase a kitchen scale to make sure what i think is 2 ounces is really 2 ounces. I've found several apps for tracking Weight Watchers points, and I'm going to use that to stay on course.

The exercise goal is simply to stay within the parameters of the exercise plan Rach has laid out for us through Timberman. I'll be uploading that this week so that our plan is out there for everyone to see. If we deviate, it will be just to rearrange days within a week, unless injured (fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc).

The fun part of course is to figure out some race goals.

For the first race of the season, it's always hard to guess how you're going to do. All the training, all the hard work that goes into it is done without the adrenaline fix you get on race day. But we also don't usually get up at 5 AM to drive an hour to set up for training either. We're supposed to have some unseasonably warm weather the rest of the week leading up to the race which should warm the water some more as well which should make swimming easier.

Based on my previous races and where we are now in our workouts, here's what I'm setting for goals for the season opener:

Swim: 12:00. Thats about 3:00/100 yards. I should be faster than that, but any time better than 12:00 I'll be happy with.
Bike: 39:00. My best previous 10 mile race ride was 40:08, so surpassing that would be ideal. I'd be averaging greater than 16 MPH, which I know I can do under average conditions.
Run: Here's the challenge. My best triathlon 5k was 46:48 and my best ever was 42:04. For this first race, my goal is going to be to do a sub 42:00 5k. Anything that starts with 41:XX is good. I'll still be happy with a 42:XX but anything beyond that means I didn't leave it all out there.

I also have started formulating goals for Timberman beyond just finishing. I still have a lot of training to do, but I honestly believe at this point I could finish Timberman under the time limit based on my current level of fitness.


- I'm going to take time this week to clean up the 2010 schedule (we're doing less due to money constraints), adding my race results page including all of my previous work, and formalizing the readers who write section

- Congrats to Fat Cyclist for finishing IM Utah!! He did great and serves as an inspiration to many, but especially me, seeing how fast he was able to go. I'm using his 1/2 distance splits to help set my goals for Timberman.

- I ran a 12:11 GPS tracked mile last night. I ran 5 minutes, walked 3, and ran the last 4:11. Normally this would be deserving of it's own post, decorated with unicorn stickers gold stars because it's super fast for me. But my goals make this something I need to start accepting as something I can just do, and therefore I'm trying to treat it that way.

- I walked a 15:42 mile last night. I tracked the mile I walked right after I ran to see how fast I could walk it. I have no doubts that I'll be doing some walking during the 5k in this weekends race. I wanted to see what I could reasonably expect to walk after the swim and bike, so I started this mile at a slow pace and built up as my legs recovered. I felt good, and could have gone faster. In fact, what was really exciting is that I honestly wanted to run more, to push myself. But it's the week before the race, and that isn't smart.

- I haven't completed a 5k distance in several months walking or running. I know I can do it based on the sheer number of times I've done it, but following this race I'm going to continue to expand my run distance. I completed a total of 3.5 miles on sunday, but that was done half in the morning half at night. I'm hoping this gives me that feeling of accomplishment at the halfway point to keep pushing myself as hard as I can through the rest of the race.