Wednesday, September 29, 2010

packed and preped... and shocked

Well, the bike is boxed up and ready, and I'm just one load of laundry from being packed and ready for my trip to Club Nationals. It's been an exciting year, and I'm ending it with one last race that I never thought I'd be doing. I'm participating in a National Championship. Plus I get to do it while representing more than myself. I get to do it on behalf of my teammates of Wheelworks Multisport.

The funny thing is, I'm actually pretty nervous. I'm doing a triathlon far away from home, I don't have Rach by my side, and some of the stuff I'll need, I have to buy when I get there because of air travel rules against Gu and CO2 canisters. Plus, It's a course I've never seen, and I'll be relying on my sister-in-law for a lot. Not that she isn't super reliable, but I just feel bad for asking so much, so she's definitely getting fed on Saturday after the race.

What matters though is I get one last race in, and for a distance this short, I'll get to go all out. Nothing left behind, every last bit of effort given. And it's going to be SO much fun. It's just the right amount of suffering for a trip like this. And then I get to relax and have fun. I have a great hotel room, a great locale with nice weather predicted, and even fairly short flights.

On another topic, just a few hours ago it was announced that Alberto Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol during the Tour de France. He claims it had to have come from food contamination. Clenbuterol is used outside the US to help provide a larger lean meat yield in some farm animals. One would think it's possible he's telling the truth, and the levels of his positive test haven't been released yet. But it certainly doesn't look good, and with the history of doping in the sport, and the recent admissions by Floyd Landis, it's hard to think anything other than the worst.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It doesn't get easier, but it does get faster

As I approach the last race of my second triathlon season it occurred to me how much faster I've gotten over these past couple of years. It's sometimes hard to see it in the race results, mostly because sprint distance race aren't all the same size, so comparisons are hard to make. The stamina increase is obvious, simply by the fact that I finished Timberman. But the speed isn't always as clearly defined.

Last night, Rach and I went for a run as part of week 4 of my couch to 5k training. It has me doing a lot more running than I'm used to out of each workout, and it's a struggle. When I run, I get up near my body's "red line" really fast still. It just simply hasn't gotten easier to run, at least from a perceived effort way of measuring. And yet, when I run, I'm going farther, faster. It's like I still get exhausted just as fast, but I'm getting more out of the time I'm actually running. 

The problem I've always had with running is that I've never particularly enjoyed it. My very active mind has trouble finding peace while I'm doing it, and I almost always feel like theres something more interesting I could be doing. The logical part of me knows that I need it for training, for exercise, and just for my health, but that part is the quietest voice when I'm trying to decide whether or not to get off the couch. It's why I've been on week 4 of the Couch to 5k for the better part of 2 weeks. 

We ran after dark last night, and in our neck of the woods, a woman doesn't run alone after dark, so Rach ran with me at my pace. Plus with her injury, she shouldn't be running full speed yet anyways. And while I didn't really notice at first, Rach mentioned that I was running faster than I used to. At one point early in the season she ran with me, and said "You could probably walk faster than you're running right now." It stung a little bit, but it's true. I'm a pretty fast walker and was a terribly slow runner. I'm still not fast, but I'm shooting for a 3 mile PR during the last leg of Club Nationals this weekend. 

My current best 5k time is a bit over 39 minutes on two very flat courses last season. One of them, America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k, I believe was measured short, and was not chip timed. Even with the run coming after the swin and bike, I'm still shooting for a time under 39:00, as this course is purported to be quite flat.


- Tonight is my last bike ride to train for the race before I box it up to take on the plane. Hopefully that operation goes well and the bike arrives fully functional on the other end of the flights to SC, and arrives on time with me. Last thing I want is to pay $100 to ship the bike only to have it either fail to arrive, or fail to arrive on time. 

- Finally swimming today. Last night it simply didn't work for my schedule. Thankfully this is a short swim, and maybe even ahead of the bike the easiest part of my training to pick back up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hub on Wheels, TD Bank Mayor's Cup and a new sponsor

Last summer and fall in Boston were particularly rainy seasons, unusual in both frequency and volume of rain. I remember it well because starting with the day we moved in to our first apartment here, it seemed to rain in Boston on every day we did anything significant. We move in; it rains. We explore town; it rains. My first triathlon and road races in Boston? Yep, it rains.

Last year, on this same weekend I did my first tri out here, and it was pouring at 7 AM, and was still raining at 8 as the cyclists road by on Storrow Drive. I remember taking Rachelle to work before I drove out to Nantasket Beach for the Fantastic Nantasket Sprint Triathlon, and watching the rain slowly dissipate into a sprinkle just as I arrived. The rain picked up again later in the evening and I woke from my nap to the sound of rain on the window. We then journeyed down to watch the professional cyclists ride in the first race I'd ever seen in person.

Flash forward a year to yesterday, and you get a much different picture. A bright sunny morning greeted the riders of Hub on Wheels yesterday as we milled around the "Boloco Block Party" prior to the start of the ride. Wheelworks was supplying race support, and I had a mechanic give my bike a once over as I talked to Gary, our team liaison, about racing and the clubs upcoming "Tri Night". Several of our team members arranged to meet up and start the race together, and before I knew it we were in the starting chute ready to leave.

Riding bikes is almost always more fun to do with someone else than it is to do it alone. Having several teammates around to start the ride made it all the more enjoyable as we took off from downtown and up along the river on Storrow. The reason I say "to start the ride" is apparently, they're all a LOT faster than I am, at least over longer distances. We started riding at about 19 MPH and my poor legs were able to keep that pace up for just about 5 miles before I started getting dropped. Clearly, I haven't been riding enough since Timberman, because I should have been able to hang with them at least until we got off Storrow. 

Once I got dropped, my plans changed. I had been waffling a bit about doing the 50 mile ride anyways, but feeling that my legs didn't have it to stick with the gang for the long ride, I decided I'd do the 30 mile middle distance ride. And because I was now not beholden to keeping with a group, I could stop at the apartment to get my cell phone, which I had forgotten at home. Being that the apartment is basically right off Storrow, I simply took the exit I normally take when I'm driving home from work, grabbed my phone, and got back on by riding back up the off ramp. Convenient, eh?

The couple minute break to grab my phone seemed to give my legs the time they needed to adjust to a harder day in the saddle, and by the time I had finished with Storrow, I knew I was going to be able to finish the 30 mile ride. I started feeling stronger as I got through the first 15 miles, only to encounter hills as we made our way to, and through, a cemetery. If ever there was a metaphor for feeling "dead" after a climb, this was it.

Thankfully the well apportioned rest areas made recovery quick and easy. Generally the ride was uneventful, other than a near miss by a "handicapped" driver in a high-end SUV who in no way was paying attention to what was going on around her. The only handicap I could see was potentially blindness as she almost hit me pulling out of her driveway. And I'm not an easy target to miss.

I've been most of the places the 30 mile route took me, but some of them I haven't been to in a while, and it was nice to see areas like Pleasure Bay and the harbor walk on a sunny day day in early fall. There were sections I wish I'd made more effort to pay attention to, but I was focused on being safe and really just getting a good ride in. Some of the areas that I hadn't ridden before, like Dorchester, I probably wouldn't ride again due to the condition of some of the roads.

When I got back, I changed, had a burrito and a well earned beer, and waited for Rach to finish working. She got down to government center just as the women's race was starting. After a quick bite and the beer I lured her out of the warm house with, we watched most of the women's criterium. With Rach joining the BU Cycling Club for the year, she'll likely be riding in at least 1 criterium sometime this spring, and I wanted her to get a glimpse of what she'd be doing. It's a fun kind of race to watch, as the riders hustle for the line in order to pick up lap-ending cash prizes.

Here's where I get to today's big news. I've been looking for sponsorships for next years racing season as many of my sponsorships for this season are ending shortly. I've got some folks already lined up for next year due to existing deals, and I've had some renewals as well. I'm also really excited to announce that Mountain Khakis has come on as a sponsor for the 2011 season. What I didn't know when I signed on with them is that one of their racers, Adam Myerson, is from right here in Boston. He, along with 4 of his teammates competed in the Men's race yesterday, and did pretty well. I was able to get a picture with Adam and his teammate Eric Shildge prior to the men's race.

Quiz: Which one is NOT a professional cyclist?
That's Adam on the right and Eric on the left. Both of the guys were super nice, and it turns out Eric and Rach have a mutual friend-of-a-friend. As part of the sponsorship, Mountain Khakis was kind enough to let me pick out a few products, gratis, from there web store, and send them to me. They arrived this week, and being the giant dork I am, they're the clothes I changed into after the hub ride. What's funny is that I honestly had no idea that Team Mountain Khakis was participating in the race, as they did not attend last years event. Another lucky "Forrest Gump moment", as Chuck would say. Team MK wound up having a pretty good race, and four of the 5 guys from the team, including both Adam and Eric, placed in the money. I don't know if they won any of the mid-race primes, but I wouldn't be surprised. 

In all, it was a really nice weekend.


- The stuff Mountain Khakis sent me was the first product I've received absolutely free since I started getting sponsorships, so I guess I'm slowly moving up in the world of sponsored amateur athletes. I guess that means effort and a good attitude, and not just results, pay. Now it's time to start putting results in there too. 

- I'm always easily inspired, so imagine how inspired I was after a day of riding and racing! I'm chomping at the bit for this weekends Club Nationals, and I can't wait to get some more training in before the race. 

- A lone member of the Trek-Livestrong U23 team owned by Lance Armstrong participated in yesterdays race. Without a team to help him, he was still able to finish second, and bring home some decent money for 90 minutes work. It just shows that there are lots of different levels of talent in cycling, and the truly elite can stand out even without a team behind them.

- I got in a pretty solid run on Saturday. I really think I have a chance at a PR for the sprint distance, even if I can't hang a 20 MPH average on the bike portion.

- I'll finish today's post with a couple more pictures from yesterday:

Gary Wood and friend getting a better vantage point for the race

Team Mountain Khakis rider David Gutterplan warming up

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sometimes you get inspiration EXACTLY where you expect

Last night was one of our Wheelworks Multisport team socials. We met up for drinks and appetizers at one of the places near downtown. It seems to be a central point for our rather spread out group, though frankly I could do without meeting places that have $12 parking as the only viable option. Rach got all dolled up and went out with the girls from work instead so it was just me.

There are a lot of positive things to take from a being part of a triathlon club or team. Sponsorships, discounts, training plans, and learning from the experience of others who have done more than you all rank real high on that list. But above all that is simply the camaraderie and inspiration that comes from hanging out with the people who have shared interests with you. Plus, socializing coincides better with drinking beer than racing does. Well, at least it's not common to drink beer during the race. I had 2 Sam Adams Octoberfest last night, and boy did it remind me of why I do all the working out. So I can occasionally enjoy a couple of beers mostly guilt free.

I did Timberman at approximately 315 lbs. It's been a month now since Timberman, and I'm only 7 pounds more than race weight which I'm fairly happy with considering how little motivation I had in the weeks following the race. But in talking to one of my teammates yesterday, I was reminded of just how far I have to go. The man who was standing in front of me, the guy with probably 10% body fat, was once a 300 lb guy who had a heart attack at 28 years of age and is now an Ironman Lake Placid finisher.

It reminded me of several things:

  • That I'm really lucky my poor life choices around food and exercise from my early-mid 20's didn't come back to bite me harder than it has. My worst health problems were slightly elevated blood pressure during my divorce and of course the fact that I was fat. None of my medical tests other than BMI or body fat % come back with a bad result.
  • It's a long way from 388 to 323, but it's even longer from 323 to 220. I have to duplicate the progress I've made, and then go another 50% past that to get to my ultimate goal.
  • I've been able to accomplish a lot without having lost all of the weight that I will. 32 road races including 2 half-marathons and 7 triathlons including a half-Ironman. Oh, and a mountain bike race, too. All that while I was a 300+ pound individual. Imagine what I'll be able to accomplish as a 200+ pound individual!
  • That this fall and winter will perhaps be the most important time ever for my weight loss as I will have lots of opportunity for success in improving my fitness and decreasing my weight. I have a strong support system (my wife and my team). I have nearly unlimited access to a gym (FitRec) or outdoor exercise (the Esplanade). And I don't have anything other than work and the gaming site as time eaters. Plus, Rach is gone every other weekend from now until March, so I'll have plenty of time to do the work.
On top of all that, I'm re-joining Weight Watchers @ work today. They finally set up a group here at work, and our organizational meeting is today. I'm not officially starting until tomorrow, because we're having a work potluck, and I want to enjoy it. Weekly weigh ins with a group helps me to remember that each food decision is an important one, but that one bad decision doesn't need to ruin my whole day. 

Plus, I'm competitive. I want to lose the most each week at group. No matter who nice I am or congratulatory I am of others who are successful, I want to be the leader. I love getting the little 5 pound stickers each time I cross one of those milestones. Weight Watchers uses a goal system and they usually set your original goal at 10%. That would put me at losing 32 pounds, or right around the 290 mark. That's near my goal of 287 by 1/1, so it seems like I'm going to be in a good place to accomplish it.

This weekend I'll also be riding in Hub on Wheels, which is a city-wide ride starting at 8 AM on Sunday downtown. They have 10, 30, and 50 mile rides around the city. It's the same day at Nantasket beach, the first triathlon I did when we moved out here last year. Unfortunately, Rach has to work on Sunday now, but several of the Wheelworks folks will be riding Hub as well, so I'll hopefully get to spend a little time with them. Sunday afternoon there is a professional criterium that Rach will join me in watching after she finishes working. 

It's looking to be a really fun weekend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My favorite things

This is now my second blog post using a song title from The Sound of Music; one more and I'll need to surrender my man card. It fits though, so I'm using it. Below are a few of the cycling things that I consider my favorite things.

First among these are my cycling jerseys. I'm excited to have these, but I'll be more excited in the next couple weeks, as I'm nearing a weight where they will all fit. There are 2 new additions to this group this week, which is what prompted this post. Sadly, not every company keeps a 3X cycling jersey on hand, (or else I'd probably have more) and not all those that do actually fit like a 3X. Anyways, here they are.
Save your butt, share the road.

That Butt Stuff - You've probably seen this one before, as I've worn it for most of my training rides this season. It's not all that specially graphically, but it's the text that makes this jersey so good. People still get a kick out of seeing it, and since I'd never shown a picture of the back, I wanted to include it. I honestly had never noticed the "Share the Road" message until I took this picture last night. 

Are these cyclists powered by AA or D batteries?

Team Radio Shack - This is the "replica" jersey that almost exactly matches the ones the pros of Team Radio Shack wear during professional cycling races. The only difference is that it's missing the Nike logo on the left upper chest, and this jersey is actually made by Bontrager, the company that makes accessories for Trek. I bought it on our honeymoon in Paris as a souvenir of the trip and to commemorate Lance Armstrong's last Tour de France. It took a lot of work to find it.

Just so we're clear: Bikes, NOT Bombs
Bikes Not Bombs - This is the jersey just released by the local bike co-op I was volunteering at for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, the classes didn't work out with my schedule and low energy levels following Timberman, but I'll still support the shop with my business and donations of parts I don't need. This is the first jersey they've ever made, and the flags represent the countries they've sent donated bikes to. I especially like the clean look of the logo on the back, and I wish they'd found a way to incorporate it into the front as well. Either way, it's a nice jersey for a good cause.

I wonder if lighthouse workers have pictures of bikes on their uniforms
Edgartown Bicycles - Cycling is a big deal on Martha's vineyard. They have multiple bike rental shops in each town, and I was hopeful that we'd find a cycling jersey that I could bring home as a souvenir of the trip. Not only did I find one, but it was at the bicycle shop literally across the street from the hotel we stayed at. The front pictures Edgartown Light, the lighthouse that Rach and I climbed to the top of. The rear pictures one of the islands other lighthouses (I believe Gay Head Light), as well as the inside of Edgartown Bicycles shop. The guy who helped us was actually a former Fuji employee, and was really cool to talk to. Rach got bored because I spent a good amount of time in the shop on 2 separate visits.

That's it for jerseys for right now, other than my TdF yellow jersey which I will never be able to wear, so it's just a wall decoration to me. Now on to some odds and ends.

Landmine Classic - The water bottle was the swag they gave racers at packet pickup. It's got the logo of the group that maintains the trails at the state park where the race was held. They have a whole series of events unrelated to the race just to keep trails up and enjoy them. The dog tag is the finisher medal for the event. It was unique and pretty cool that it stood out from the other finishers medals I've recieved. Of course, once i actually GET my Timberman medal, that will be the most important piece from any of the races I've ever done.


- Did 10 miles on the bike yesterday in 43 minutes. That includes the starts and stops that naturally occur while riding up and down the Esplanade. I was able to maintain 16 -18 MPH for good stretches but I got winded a bit at the halfway point so I was down in the 14-15 range for a while. Not too bad a first ride after several days away from the road bike. I'll be riding every day this weekend and Monday AM before I have to get the bike boxed up for the trip to South Carolina.

- Tonight is a team social that I'll be attending sans Rachelle. She's got a girls night out with the ladies from work.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One of life's post-it notes

I wonder how many of you are like me that some things go into your brain, are absorbed forever, and don't need repeating for you to pick up on them, while other things take hundreds of repetitions or reminders to get them to sink in. Usually they're small things, ideas that are simple and easy to explain, thus I've recently (as in 5 minutes ago) started thinking of them as "Life's little post-it notes".

Today's post it note: "Eating good makes you feel good". Yesterday, I simply didn't have time to work out. All my plans went out the window when work reared its ugly head and 2 simple errands wound up taking 2+ hours. What I was careful to do was to eat healthy all day. Even my midnight snack, which while ideally I'd avoid, a banana and a small glass of skim milk certainly didn't break the calorie bank. I felt good all day yesterday, and I woke up today feeling great too.

Today's schedule is a lot less hectic; no errands and I'm caught up on work so I know I'll have time to get in some time on the bike and hopefully a swim. With the run being a mere 3 miles and the bike only 10, the swim is actually the area I need to be clear that I'm ready for. 750 meters should be a pretty simple swim, well less than a half hour, but I need to make sure to get some more work in on this.


- Tomorrow is show and tell day; I have some pictures of various things I want to show you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I finally had a strong day all the way around in terms of food and exercise. I battened down the hatches on my eating having regular sized portions of healthy food, and followed it up with putting some "sweat equity" into my body. I spent several hours working myself physically in an abundance of tasks including lifting. Nothing heavy just lots of light repetition. I even built most of Rachelle's dresser, leaving her just  7 drawers to build to have the dresser of her dreams.

Another great point about the weekend is that although we indulged in terms of deserts and treats, we also spent most of our time on the move. So we didn't gain any weight, and in fact I'm now down a few pounds from where I started the weekend. I'm at 319 now, and feeling a bit better. Tonight we're supposed to ride and swim, and we've got some chores that will keep us busy.

I still need to figure out about getting my bike boxed up for the plane ride to Club Nationals. If I can find my old cycling gloves, that's one less thing I need to buy right now as I can definitely get by for a 10 mile ride and the training for that with my old gloves. I want to wait until the holidays when the big gear sales start happening to buy anything else. I need a new saddle for the mountain bike and some full finger gloves to wear while I'm riding in the woods too.

I know I'm all over the place but I'm in a much better mood today than I was yesterday, mostly because I got a good nights sleep last night with my new CPAP machine. Every time I get a new one of these things, it's smaller and more technically advanced than the last one, even just less than a year since I got the last one. It's an important part of my overall health, and acts as a crutch if you will until I lose enough weight to do without it. When I don't have access to it, I sleep very poorly, wind up eating and drinking more in order to fuel my sleep deprived body, and am pretty cranky.

Thankfully, I only went one day without it this time, and it wasn't a race weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

1 year and 10 days

I am happy to report that Rachelle and I made it back from our weekend on Martha's Vineyard safe and sound. Sadly, the same cannot be said about my CPAP machine, which disappeared somewhere between the ferry dock on the island and when we got in our car back on the cape. This led to a less than ideal night of sleep last night, but a Breathe Right strip applied before bed and a liberal dose of caffeine applied when I got up are helping me through. Thankfully, I have terrific insurance, and I'll have a replacement machine today.

The weekend itself was fantastic. It reminded me very much of Mackinac Island, MI, except it's bigger and allows cars. The buildings and towns have that same old style charm, but in a distinctly New England way. It's very touristy, but mostly in a nice way. A few too many t-shirt shops, and everything is pretty expensive, but that's all to be expected.

Contestants in the Vineyard Fishing Derby trying to hit it big

We didn't do as much riding as we had planned, mostly because we did more shopping than we had planned. Big bags of purchased goodies do not go well with riding a bicycle. We did however ride the 5 miles between Edgartown (where we stayed) and Oak Bluffs. The ride between the two cities takes you right along part of the northern coast of the island, and we got some great views of the ocean. It just so happens the day we went out there is a festival that unofficially marks the end of the summer season. We got some great deals on souvenirs as well as just some nice stuff we liked.

The MV old-time bicycle club rode their bikes in the festival parade

While we didn't do anymore riding the rest of the weekend, we walked at least 5 miles on Friday before and after dinner, and Saturday was probably closer to 10. Sunday we only did a couple miles, but we still made time to enjoy our last morning on the island before hopping the ferry home. Then we did some much needed shopping for the house on our way back to Boston. A new dresser for Rach, a new TV for the living room, and an Xbox for me. It was a great way to cap off an amazing first year of marriage to the love of my life.

Rach and I at the top of Edgartown Light. She's so gorgeous. I'm a lucky guy
The second year of marriage to my darling wife is starting with an important 10 day window that I'll be using to really push my training for Club Nationals. I'll be running tonight and riding and swimming tomorrow. This will be the schedule for the next 10 days, running and biking every other day before it's time to taper for the trip. I'm otherwise prepared, with a plan for basically everything, including getting my bike packed for the trip down. I do need to buy some new bike gloves as my good pair got destroyed during the Landmine face plant incident.


- I'll be adding the pictures from the weekend to this post tonight, and go back over plans and goals tomorrow.

- The 2011 sponsorship process has started and I've got some exciting news on this front. Obviously, I don't rate a full time sponsorship from anyone (yet), but I do have some stuff in progress that will add to what I can do this season, and hopefully will allow me to spend my money strictly on the most important aspects of racing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A little trip, a big guy, and some bigger news

First off, you can take a break from your browsers tomorrow folks, because there won't be a Friday post from me. Rachelle and I are taking a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary on Sunday. We're going out to Martha's Vineyard, which I managed to keep secret from Rach for exactly 8 days. She's pretty excited about the destination. I'm curious, and happy to be spending a long weekend with her. It'll be just the two of us, our bikes, and all the other folks visiting for one of the last weekends before the weather really turns. It's our first trip to the island, so I'll share some pics from our ride when we get back. Depending on the weather and my recovery from Landmine, we might ride all the way around the island (a 50ish mile trip).

Next, I've just had the worst time with food, really ever since Timberman. My willpower has been for shit, to be honest. I haven't had the discipline to track points, and it seems I'm being offered pizza on a daily basis (I've had pizza 4 of the past 5 days, sometimes twice in a day). Today was better than most lately, because I made a healthy salad for dinner. I'm currently sitting at 323, and pissed that I have gotten this far above 310. That seems to be the number I've reached several times and I tell myself it's getting easy and I back off. Pretty crazy, right? What made it worse is that the tri shorts I wore at Timberman didn't really fit tonight when I went to go for a run, and being my only workout shorts right now, that made running difficult. So I stopped.

Landmine was a strong workout, harder than I expected, but I had only a week to train and really didn't do a heck of a lot. At least not in comparison to the training we did this summer. So I continue to want to eat like I'm training (only without the healthy food choices) and I haven't had a serious goal to work towards. It's been surprisingly tough, because even with Club Nationals just a couple weeks away, I haven't had the motivation I had all summer long. It's still the after effects of Timberman, and I knew to expect this.I just wasn't prepared for it to hit this hard and last this long.

It would seem I need that formal goal, that real and true formal set of races to look forward to and to be counting down towards. So, I talked to Rach when I got back from my aborted run, and here what the 2 big goals are for 2011.

June 5th: Rev3 Quassy Half Rev (70.3)
September: Rev3 Cedar Point Full Rev (140.6 aka IRONMAN)

This means I have just 8 months until my next 70.3 and just about 1 year until my first full Ironman. And I'm not just going for finishing this time either. I'm setting a target of 7 1/2 hours for Quassy and 15 1/2 hours for Cedar Point. 

These are things I can do. 
These are things I will do.

And I'm starting right now. I'm pushing away the plate, eating right, and getting my shit together so I can have a successful last race for this year, head into the fall with a spring in my (running) step, and ready myself for what will be an awesome 2011 season.

See you all Monday. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This is your brain on sick

The past two days I've felt like total crap. It's nothing race related, I can assure you, but none the less I've been home bound for the past 48 hours unless you count a brief walk to escort my wife home from work during a rainstorm. I've been sleeping lousy and worse the headache and the cold medicine yesterday combined to make my writing even more flighty than usual. (Though I am still awesome). This lead me to miss some things I had really wanted to mention, including having a sentence I just didn't finish:

  • Just as I had managed to pick up my bike and get out of the way to catch my breath after my face plant[ a fast, experienced rider on a really nice bike passed me. Not 5 yards in front of me, he took a tough line over some roots, and did an end-over right there. Now as you're probably aware, I always want my competitors to do well because I believe we're all just racing ourselves. But just that one time, I was thrilled to see someone who knew what they were doing take a spill. I had literally been thinking "I'm probably the only one who's going to do that today". Thankfully, the guy wasn't on the ground 5 seconds before he was up and on his way. If he'd been hurt, then I would not have been happy.
  • I've learned from comments, emails, and message board posts that this race was actually a very tough course and that the 6 mile version wasn't easier; just shorter. In fact, some have told me after making it through this one, I might be able to expect an easier time on other courses in the future. Let's hope so, because I still don't want to think about getting back on the bike for another day or so.
  • The theme of this race was the "Landmine Classic". One thing about landmines, they don't have a very good rep, nor are they particularly much to look at. In fact, if you showed the common landmine to someone on the street, I doubt they could tell you what it even is. So, the race organizers decided to use a grenade as the visual marketing tool for this race, and the race t-shirt features a picture of one prominently. All this leads to the finishers "medal", which was actually a dogtag. I'll get a picture up later, because it's a very unique idea (at least in my experience) and I think it's pretty cool. I didn't even know we were getting one, so I was extra excited to see it and have it be something different.
So now that I've got my first mountain bike race out of the way, it's time to focus back on training for Club Nationals. Regardless of my feeling under the weather, Rachelle and I are going to do some light lifting and core work shortly, and tomorrow I swim and run. It's still over 2 weeks til the race, so I have enough time to hopefully kick out some serious run workouts and get in half a dozen swims. 

I'm not neglecting this race, and I will definitely be training hard over the next couple weeks, as I really want to make a nice showing. But I think my current level of fitness has me mostly ready to do a sprint, with one exception; my food intake. The food and portion control aspect is the hardest part of all of this. I can't even pretend to have that figured out right now. It simply comes down to willpower and goals, on a day by day basis. Some days I have the willpower to make my future more important than my present, some days I don't. I just have to find ways to not just make up for poor eating habits with exercise, but rather to use my goals and plans as a way to reinforce what I need to be doing.

One last thing I want to add is a welcome to all the mountain bike folks that have been finding their way to the blog. A few folks who I met at Landmine managed to find the blog, and have spread the word. Thanks for visiting. I can't promise the blog is going to become all MTB all the time, but clearly my 90 minute 7 mile effort shows I have a knack for landing on my face finishing what I started, whether that be on the road or in the woods. So, you can be sure there will be more mountain bike talk, probably starting again right after Club Nationals.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Landmine Classic Race Report

I spend a decent amount of time taking good-natured jabs at myself as a way of keeping my enormous ego in check reminding myself I can always do better. Sometimes I even get feedback that maybe I'm too self-effacing. But today, there's something that needs to be said.

I am awesome.

That's right, I said it. I mean I know everyone's been thinking it for a while now, and a some of you have said it, but I guess it's time that I said it too. So what brought about this sudden pronouncement? It wasn't really any one thing, but sort of the combination of several things, with yesterdays Landmine Classic race as the straw that broke the camels back.

It probably shouldn't have taken Timberman for me to realize that it isn't who finishes first, but who finishes, and even those who had the courage to start. I hate it when people compare sports to war, but I'm going to make this one exception. Wars aren't just won by the soldiers that survived, but the soldiers who gave their all and didn't make it to the end as well. In sports, the goal isn't nearly so dramatic or important, which is why I usually dislike those kind of analogies. But it is a battle against yourself, one that sometimes no matter what you do, you can't win, which I learned at the MA State Triathlon,

But yesterday, in my first mountain bike race, I won that battle. I didn't win the race, in fact I wasn't even close. In fact, I was last. But I finished, and it was awesome. And thanks to some really nice people who hung out to watch, I have the following picture to show you:

I'm not very good at applying blackface

That's me riding my new mountain bike, but what's that on my clothes and legs.. and face? Well, my friends, that's dirt. And how you might ask, did that get there? That would come from something like this:

Ok, so it was like that except it was a root or a rock, on a dirt trail in the middle of the woods instead of a traffic cone in the middle of someones back yard. I distinctly remember hurtling towards the ground before the impact and the hard landing before the bike hitting me. And it hurt. 

At first, I was entirely sure I'd broken everything, including perhaps the ground I landed on and the bike that landed on top of me. It was the kind of fall that happens suddenly, and you don't have a chance to tense up, which I guess worked in my favor. My arms wound up mostly under me, and I landed somewhat on the right side, including my face. I had the wind knocked out of me, I scrapped up my knee, and I was a little dazed for a minute, but I was otherwise unharmed. 

I was down for a minute and as soon as I could catch my breath, I wanted to get up and get myself and my bike out of the way because there were other riders on the course. I figured as much as crashing hurt, getting run over had to hurt worse. I've crashed once before, last summer at the end of my first ever long ride (28 miles), and that time I scrapped up my knee and bent the bike a little. This is the first time I've crashed mid-race. I wasn't down more than a couple minutes, but it felt like a quite a while. 

The fall came just a half mile after I flatted going over a sharp rock, which seemed insignificant in comparison. I'd forgotten how easy it is to change a mountain bike flat, with only 4 minutes between flatting and being back up and rolling. Between the fall and the crash, Id probably lost 6 minutes, but to be honest, I was pretty sore. While I was mid-pack when I flatted, and was near the back before the crash, I decided that it was better just to make it through at as hard a pace I could manage regardless of where I finished. Especially with the most technical portions of the course yet ahead of me, I took my time with the difficult parts of the course.

In the end I wound up riding a 1:27 time for the 7.2 mile course. I was last by about 20 minutes, but I had a terrific time. I learned how hard mountain bike racing is, and how sore your rear end is after a hard day of bouncing around on it. Today, my face hurts, my rear end feels like It's been target practice for a place kicker, and I'm going to have a couple new scars on top of my old scars. But getting to the end made the whole thing worth while.

This is your body. This is your body on mountain bike.
And that was just the beginning. Because I missed the 2:30 train back into Boston, and with the commuter rail not until 4:30, I rode to the closest red line stop to catch a train back into town. Of course, that meant a 9 mile ride up to Braintree, and almost missing another train before I finally got to relax on the way home. In the end I rode around 20 miles on the bike, crashed, flatted, and finished a mountain bike race. 

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of the race.

It's like any other race, except in the woods...

and the bikes look like this...

and the starting line looks like this...

and the 15 minute wait for the first timers to go after everyone else.
(Yes, those kids beat me.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ready or not here it comes

At the "first timers" meeting at Timberman, the guy asked the crowd "How many people here is this their first 70.3 distance race?" Nearly everyone raised their hand. Then they asked "How many people here is this their first triathlon?" Surprisingly, quite a few people raised their hands again. I was a bit flabbergasted at the idea of people doing 70.3 races as their first tri. Then there's Sparfy, who did Ironman Canada as his first, so I guess people do it. 

That leads me to this weekends mountain bike race. I've ridden the mountain bike exactly twice to this point, and while I'll be taking another short jaunt on it today to get the legs going again, I won't be getting another chance to ride the trails out at Wompatuck before race day. The brakes have gone out on my truck, and that means I'll be using Zipcar to get to the race site on Sunday, and nixing my plans of going the day before. 

Thankfully, I'm doing this for the chance to compete, and not worried about winning. At one point I thought I was going to get an automatic medal, because only 3 folks including myself had pre-registered. That number has now jumped to 8, so if I am to get a medal on Sunday, it will have to be earned and not just by finishing. Either way it's going to be fun, I'm just hopeful it isn't too rainy between now and Sunday, because mountain bike racing in the mud isn't something I'm thinking I want to try my first time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A big mistake and some suffering

Ok first, I got something you gotta read. My bud Sparfy just did Ironman Canada, the same race where Team Tyler kicked some major butt. His story of suffering and enjoyment of said suffering is what I hope you guys get out of my race reports. I love how he re-works swear words so they can stay in the story without actually being swear words. Anyways, here's the link to his race report. It's long, so don't forget to come back!

So I made a big mistake at Timberman. Well technically, immediately following Timberman. I should have taken a more active approach to recovery instead of sitting on my duff. While I definitely needed time to recover, I should have started taking short rides and swims sooner. I was concerned because I've read about several large triathletes who didnt take enough time off after a big race and wound up with chronic fatigue. The gal who wrote the book Slow Fat Triathlete even experienced this, and frankly it scared me (I do tend to be a bit of a worrier). It's nothing I won't be able to overcome but every effort right now feels like a big effort. 

For example, Last night was running night. It was the last day of week 3 of my couch to 5k, and I am trying to run as opposed to the light jog/shuffle I've been doing for so long whenever I work on running. So I ran through all of the running sections last night. By the end of each of 4 sections of running, I was right up against the red line, breathing hard, and tired. The last 3 minute segment i didn't think I was going to make it through. I managed to finish but Im sure I slowed down at the end. 3 minutes of running shouldn't really put me on tilt. It's from the inactivity of the past couple weeks.

Then this morning was my first non-commuting ride on the road bike since the race. I didn't feel very comfortable, and I'm guessing the bike is in need of adjustments, but most of it was me. I only rode about 5 miles, and I can tell it's going to take a few rides just to get the kinks out before I can really get working on my speed. I topped out in the big ring today at 17 MPH, and I couldn't really sustain it very long. Hopefully it comes back quick, because I'm counting on a big ride at Club Nationals.


- I've got a post coming up talking about sponsorship, as well as some gear reviews on the horizon. One thing I learned today is that H2OAudio is now doing a referral program with some discounts, so I'm going to post the link to it here, and later on the sponsorship page.
- Some friends from Wheelworks have alerted me to the fact that there are some Mountain Bike trails significantly closer to my house than Wompatuck that I'll be able to make use of for riding after the race.
- Lastly, has anyone out there ever shipped a bike to a destination triathlon? I could use some advice. I want the bike to be safe, but I always want the shipping to be as inexpensive as possible.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Getting schooled

While I'm learning a new sport (trail mountain biking) as a cross-training endevour, Rachelle is literally back at school after a long summer off. She technically started last Thursday, but now that Labor Day is over, school and work are now kicking in. What this means is a major changes to our workout schedule.

Rach is working until 6 or 6:30 each evening, and has class some mornings. Between that and the length of days getting shorter we're going to have to move our workouts to early morning. This isn't a great fit for people who seem to have become extra fond of sleep since Timberman. Normally a night owl, I've been in bed by 10:30 pretty regularly lately but still wanting to sleep until 7. Hopefully I'll be all caught up soon, so Rach and I can start getting up earlier.

Last nights plan for a bike and run took a nosedive when Rach had to work late followed by the discovery that FitRec had their start-of-the-semester open house last night. By the time we got home from dinner, it was too dark to ride outside, and too crowded at FitRec for riding or running. So, we did what any people just getting back into working out post race recovery period would do; we punted. We're riding right after work tonight before dinner, then I can run in the dark. Rach still can't run because of the knee, but cycling is good recovery exercise for her and can still give her a good workout.

I've continued to move ahead with planning and prep even as I start stepping up training tonight. The sprint course was recently updated from a 500 to a 750 yard swim. This adds a little time to my race, but not much. A 750 yard swim should mean I'll be under 20 minutes in the water, and shooting for 35 to 40 minutes on the very flat bike, with an ultimate goal of 30 minutes. The run I'm still working on my goal, and I'll keep updating it as I get further into the couch to 5k. I'm hopeful I can do 3 miles in somewhere around 36 minutes, but it's tough to say that at this point.

Not knowing the area makes things for this race a little more complex, but hopefully I'll be able to lean on Rach's sister Laurel a bit for helping me get around and figuring out where I need to be. Plus, they have some really good course maps to help me figure out what I'm doing.

Lastly, the hard workout on the mountain bike in conjunction with my eating better seems to be paying off. I was down to 318 this morning. A week or so I ought to be knocking on the door of 310. I believe I did Timberman at about 315, so I'm hopeful I can really get my weight down for this last race.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Climb every mountain, some of them twice

After a fun weekend where I ate entirely too much, yesterday I only ate a little too much. I got on the scale this morning and saw 320 looking back at me. Obviously, the two weeks away from serious training and watching what I ate wasn't good for my waistline. With a little less than a month until the Club Nationals, I have a good bit of work to do to be ready.

I started back to counting my points today for food intake. It's been tough the past couple of weeks to watch food intake because I'm hungry almost all the time. My body is still acting like I'm training full on but without the calorie burn to go with it. I thought the hunger might dissipate as I got further away from Timberman, but it hasn't. At least it hasn't returned to normal yet. Some of the eating has also been boredom eating, because I've been kind of taking it easy in general, because planning for ambitious future endevours doesn't take the amount of time and effort the actual endevours take.

Yesterday, after a visit to IKEA to help Rach add to our collection of bedding, we headed over to Wompatuck State Park to ride the trail for Landmine Classic XC race this weekend. I've been to the park before so finding where we needed to go wasn't tough, nor was actually getting there. This ride was to be my first real foray into trail riding, Mondays little ride along the Esplanade single track not withstanding.

The course I rode was the beginner course, a 6 mile loop through the southwest part of the park. Actually, I rode about 4 miles of the 6 mile course as I ended my ride when I rode back by where the car was parked, having covered the toughest part of the course in under an hours time. Not that an hour is fast, but I do have some excuses for why I was so slow:

  • It was my first trail ride.
  • The vehicle gate at the turnoff to the south field was closed, so first I had to bike down to the field.
  • I went the wrong way at the starting point actually going down the trail that the race comes out of at the end.
  • I stopped to check the map at least 5 times because I didn't know the layout very well.
  • It was my first trail ride
  • I took a couple wrong turns, including one down a descent that it's quite obvious why it isn't on the beginner course
  • I'm fat, and therefore high climing isn't exactly my forte. 
  • It was my first strenuous workout since Timberman.
  • Did I mention it was my first trail ride?
So now that the excuses are out of the way; I had even more fun than I expected. I can't really say I had forgotten how much I love riding a bike, but I guess the feeling of enjoying a ride so much that I forget what a workout I'm getting is something I hadn't experienced in a couple weeks. Climbing the hills while dodging rocks and roots takes a lot of attention so it's a unique challenge for a mentally hyperactive guy like myself. The flats are fun and I feel like I'm going pretty quickly through those sections. 

The yellow section is the part I'll be racing this weekend
There's a guy I work with who tells me the trails should be better marked on race day so I should be able to spend less time and effort worrying about getting lost and be able to put more effort into going fast and not falling down. I got stopped by a couple of the bigger obstacles in the path and had to walk a little in spots, but I'm guessing across 4 miles, I only had to walk about 100 feet or so over obstacles I simply couldn't find the line through while riding. I did hit a climb I needed to walk because I was at the redline, but I'm guessing that will be less of an issue come Sunday as I'll have a couple more rides in by then.

While I'm putting some emphasis on the XC race this week, don't think I'll be neglecting my triathlon training. I'm running tonight and putting in some time on the bike with Rach following my run. I have just under a month to prepare for Club Nationals, and I'm going to make sure I put in the effort to get the results I want.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The first ride on my new ride

This long holiday weekend has been a joy so far. I survived enjoyed visiting with my in-laws who came to spend the better part of the weekend with us before returning home to Florida. It went so well, that upon a visit to Salem, MA (home of the witch trials) I wasn't even tempted to tell my mother-in-law to get on her broom. We had loads of fun and a bit too much food, so I'm glad to be returning to my normal routine in order to start taking off weight and training for my various upcoming endeavors.

As I mentioned last week, I've been looking for a mountain bike. I was seriously considering one off Craigslist, and I visited all my usual bike haunts looking for something new as well. I really wanted a Fuji to go with my road bike, but the local Fuji guy wouldn't come down enough on his 2010 Nevada with the features I wanted to make it work for me price wise. In the end, I wound up at the shop where we've bought both of Rachelle's bikes in order to take advantage of a 10% discount I got by being a member of the local public radio station. That's right, The Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, and a 10% discount at some local bike shops. Now that's what I call service.

My new mountain bike
The new bike is a 2011 Trek 3900 Disc. It's 3 steps up from their bottom of the line bike and I got it at a steal of a price. I made the decision to go with disc brakes because as a bigger guy if I wind up in mud, I want to know that I'm still going to have a good chance of stopping before I get into worse trouble. Plus they had this model in blue, which is my favorite color.

I got a chance to really ride it for the first time yesterday evening after we dropped Rach's parents off at the airport. The esplanade along the river doesn't offer any sort of climbing or real serious challenges, but it does have a couple good lines of single track due to runners and riders who want to avoid the multi-use path. I managed to get in about 7 miles of mostly flat riding learning to stay in the thin trail while taking the bumps from rocks and roots.

The biggest challenge at first will not to baby the bike. Being a big dude, I baby my road bike. Unlearning that behavior for the mountain bike is something that will take time. I'm trying to break myself of it by basically rolling over everything I see, even stuff I am probably not ready for, like big roots and such. I rode some sections of the trail multiple time to get the feel for going over rocky or rooty sections where I'm on the edge of losing control.

So far, I'm totally loving what it's like being on the mountain bike again. My first bike when I started riding again was a Trek 800 MTB, and I remember the feeling of being able to go almost anywhere with it because I wasn't worried about breaking it. Now that my bike has a front shock, that feeling is multiplied because while the MTB handles like a tank, it also rides like a tank; up and over anything in it's path.

Now that I've got the bike, I'm heading down today to the race course for Sundays race. I'm going to go out and ride part of it and decide if I should sign up or not (I'm pretty sure I'm going to sign up, it's really whether I should take on the 6 mile or 11 mile route). I want to make sure I'm not totally out of my mind and ability in taking this on so soon, and that I can get out of there in one piece without sacrificing my ability be successful for Club Nationals in just a few weeks.

I'm also sure that what I'll get out of this new adventure is worth the financial cost and nerves about taking to the trails. For one, I'm definitely learning better bike handling. Learning how to hold even a line of flat single track is a lot harder than just trying to ride in a straight line on the road. Then there's the climbing; spinning a 33 pound mountain bike up a dirt trail has to be harder than riding a nice light 18 pound road bike up a hill.

Finally, there's the tingle. There's risk around every corner on a mountain bike; rocks, roots, holes, descents, tight turns, etc. It's sort of like the feeling of going 47 MPH on the road bike, except you get the feeling of doing it throughout most of a ride. Some of that nervous fear will wear off over time, replaced with the confidence of having done it before. And the more time I spend on any bike, the better my fitness and the better my ability will get.

Spending time with this fork is better than time with a table fork
Finally, happy Labor Day. Especially to those of you who actually have to labor today at work.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A sprint to the finish

Well, the voting results are in, and in a very close race, the sprint distance race won by a mere 2 votes! I personally did not vote, as the will of the people seems to be that I don't have to suffer for as long during my trip to Myrtle Beach.

I've registered for the sprint distance race, paid for the plane and hotel, and even renewed my USA Triathlon membership. Now, I just need to train my butt off so I can get ready for this race. All summer I've been ramping up distance and just hoping a little speed came with it, now I'm going to be training to go as fast as I can. For the bike and the swim, this shouldn't be too much of a problem, and hopefully the run will come along as I work my way through the couch to 5k.

Rachelle's parents are here for the weekend, and we're already having a really good time. I had to work today but was able to give them a 5 mile walking tour yesterday afternoon highlighting the best local tourist attractions while focusing on some of the things that are part of Rach and I's daily life (aka the park and the river). We've got dinner planned tonight, and then weather permitting a trip to the cape tomorrow.

Yesterday I ate well, and a 5 mile walk in the 95 degree heat I am happy to count as my cross training. Today I am supposed to run, but with Hurricane Earl headed this way, that may not be easily possible. We'll have to play that by ear. If I wind up doing it at the gym tomorrow that isn't a great loss I guess.

Enjoy your weekend and stay dry!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Your morning inspiration

As I've mentioned on more than one occasion, I am easily inspired. But if you've seen this, and are not inspired...we'll you're probably a zombie, or maybe a vampire.

Anyways, aside from that awesomeness, I appreciate every single one of you who has voted on which race I should do. If you haven't voted yet, what's the deal? Didn't you like choose your own adventure books when you were a kid? I know I did. And in a way you'll be choosing your own adventure, because as always I'll take you along with me for the ride... and the run... and the swim. Just not in that order.

Last night, I did my second day of my Couch to 5K. Because I started at week 3, it's not terribly intense, but it sure feels like it. It's a 25 minute workout, but only 9 minutes of it is spent running. Even so, I was beat by the end of yesterdays run. It was so darn hot and humid out, I was still sweating AFTER my post-run shower. Even so, 9 minutes of running shouldn't feel like it did yesterday. I'm definitely still recovering from Timberman. But I'm making my way through it. I run again tomorrow, and will try to get a short bike ride in tonight. Rach's parents are coming in tonight for most of the weekend, so I'll be squeezing things in where I can.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You choose MY Adventure...

I use this blog to vent when things to go wrong, to brag when things go right, to pump myself up when I'm down, and to get feedback when i don't know what's going on. Today, I'm going to use it for all of those things.

What's wrong: I'm still recovering from Timberman. I am no longer in any specific pain, (though I still have the remains of a small blister bothering my foot) but my energy level is only now closing in on normal. I simply didn't have the juice to do anything yesterday. Work was draining, and the heat and humidity (near record high temperature) meant even just walking over for Rach's MRI was exhausting. A few weeks ago, this wouldn't have gotten to me like it did yesterday. I've heard that it takes about a day per mile of the run to recover from a distance race, so in about 3 days I ought to be just about right.

What's right: I've been eating better, and I lost another pound yesterday. I'm still doing a good bit of snacking, but I am snacking in healthier ways, mostly thanks to a good talking to from Rach on the fact that recovery time is not "eat what you like time". Plus, now that I have a race goal to look forward to, it's a lot easier to stay motivated. And I'm feeling pretty fresh today, so hopefully I'll have a good run, and maybe even a bike.

Pumping myself up: As I alluded to above, it's been super hot here, and I've been worrying about Rachelle's knee and what it means for our training this winter. Should have MRI results tomorrow. But I'm not going to let the unknown get in the way of preping for Club Nationals, or for planning for our next season. I'm still holding off on announcing our plans for next years big race, in part because we're waiting for the date, but also because I want to see what's going on with Rach's knee. I still need to focus on keeping myself motivated to improve my racing and get in better shape even if some of it will see Rach cheering from the sidelines instead of riding beside me.

Feedback: So, while I'm all excited to do a race at Club Nationals, I haven't been able to figure out which one to do. There's no difference between the 3 distances in terms of participation points earned toward the championship (which seems weird that short and long races all count the same). There are 3 distances available to choose from, so I'm going to run through the pros and cons of each distance:

  • Half-Iron
    • Pro: I would be a freaking super hero if I finished 2 half-irons in my second season
  • Olympic
    • Pro: I DNF'd my first attempt at an Olympic this season, so there's a revenge motivation here. Plus this is likely the flattest (aka easiest) Olympic course I will ever see in my life. And it only costs $20 more to do the Olympic than the sprint.
    • Con: I only have a month to prepare, so it seems like taking a big bite in a short window. I won't likely be able to run the entire 10k as my training plan has me working to get to 5k distance in time. It takes a lot more time to do a 10k, so less time exploring Myrtle Beach with sis-in-law. 
  • Sprint
    • Pro: Short, flat, fast. Absolutely positively will be able to PR this race. Best chance to add placement points in the sprint race where I can go all out.
    • Con: The only thing I can think of as a reason not to do the sprint is that the race will feel like it's over before it starts.
Here's where you come in. Poll Closes 9/3/10 @ 8:00 AM ET.
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      PS. I reserve the right to think you're all nuts and do whatever I want. ;)