Friday, October 29, 2010

Pardon me, is that $1000 falling out of your pocket?

Yesterday, I was sick. I am still sick today, but I actually managed to get enough sleep last night (unlike the night before) that I will be doing some work from home while trying to move up my doctors appointment. It's nothing long-term serious, just sinus pressure and headaches so bad that I can't hardly keep my eyes open. Sudafed, which got the job done earlier this week, was not cutting it Wednesday night, and I woke up at 3 AM, and was awake until almost 8:30. I tried working from home, but sleep finally got me around the time I'd actually have to be productive so I bagged the day and slept. Combining that with the recent memory issues, and I'm really glad to be seeing the doctor today.

When I did wake up, and could manage to look at the computer for a little bit to alleviate some of the boredom that comes with staying home; I saw that the WTC was up to it's usual tricks. This time in the form of "Ironman Access", a program designed to allow people who evidently have more money than sense, to move to the front of the line for race signups, ahead of even volunteers and current year racers. It even included the ability to sign up for a couple of 2012 races. Why someone would want WTC to be able to hold onto their money for almost 2 years is beyond me.

With race entry fees going up each year, the every increasing difficulty for the "average triathlete" to register for the most sought after IM races due to a reduction in slots, and other more recent concerns (5150, black-out dates, etc), it was the wrong time for WTC to push for even more money. Especially as this program at least looked to the community as something that would reduce the number of entries available to the general public.

The program was so universally reviled that there was a groundswell of negative feedback on internet forums, Ironmans Facebook page, and evidently their email inbox. So swift and strong was the triathlon community response that after trying to mount a small defense via their Facebook page, WTC eventually gave in and cancelled the policy.

In announcing the change, WTC President Ben Fertic released a video that you can see here.

What really struck me about this video is how pissed off this guy looks to be making it. It made me firmly believe even more that this change was made very begrudgingly, and that this program may have even been Mr. Fertic's idea. His body language and tone are definitely not conveying any sense of sincerity whatsoever.

What hit me next is how distorted the view of the triathlon community WTC has. Their supposed motivation for this policy is according to their numbers 2500 paid for registration slots go unused each year. Talk about bending your statistics; a majority of unused slots are a result of injury, accident, and other unforeseen circumstance that prohibits the athlete from attending. Yes, there are some hard core triathletes who will register for 3 races before they fill up to be sure they get at least one of their target races, but the number of 
folks who do this do not comprise the majority of age groupers. 

In fact, this entire line of reasoning seems to contrived as a defense for instituting the Ironman Access policy to begin with. If WTC were actually worried about filling unused slots, they would institute a transfer program. Transfers are common throughout the race industry. Can't use a race entry? Simply find someone to take it off your hands, or let the race director know, and they'll find someone for you. Usually this is handled through some sort of waitlist process, which is another standard race feature WTC has chosen to completely ignore. Through a simple process similar to how TicketMaster handles the season ticket holder resale policy in other sports, you could automate the transfer process while keeping scalpers out of the loop, and making more money on transfer fees the whole time. See how screwed up WTC is? I can actually use TicketMaster (a greedy monopolistic company in its own right) as an example of good corporate practices in relation to the folks at Ironman.

In the end, the "social media uprising" against Ironman Access was successful. But it's just a matter of time before WTC comes up with yet another way to scalp a bunch of money from athletes in a way that isn't good for the average athlete or triathlon as a whole. Yet another reason that Mooseman will likely be our last WTC race.

- I had a terrific run on Wednesday evening. I started week 5 of my Couch to 5k again, and in the first 5 minute segment, I managed to do half a mile. My second 5 minute segment was just slightly slower, but again it was fairly close to half a mile. The last 5 minutes I was a good bit slower. Sadly, I think this run is what led me on the downhill path to where I wound up just a couple hours later in terms of how I felt.

- I have a doctors appointment today, and the results of that will determine whether or not I run in tomorrows 5k. I'm feeling better today than yesterday, but I clearly have a sinus infection and I don't want to do anything that will prolong my illness. But if the doctor says it's ok, then I might give it a go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hard rowers and holy rollers

For me, this has been an offseason of trying new things. It started with my mountain biking adventure at the Landmine Classic, where I crashed and had an awesome time. Last week, Rachelle pulled me into the part of the gym where they do stuff other than cycling or running, stuff with weights and lifting things, stuff that I'm (still) not at all comfortable with. Monday night there was my first adventure with the rollers, and last night was the TRI Rowing event at the Community Rowing boathouse on the Charles River here in Boston. 

The Community Rowing Boathouse
The indoor training room is upstairs in the back of the building. The last of the 3 platforms sticking out of the second floor in the picture above is off the room we were in. The event was put on by Concept2 rowing, one of the leading companies in the rowing ergometer market (The US olympic team uses the models we used last night). The idea was to show triathletes how rowing could be beneficial for their training. If those triathletes just happened to want to buy a rowing machine later on, so much the better. Definitely not a hard sales push. 

The class was co-lead by our team captain, Sunny, who is evidently good at just about everything. She is certified on Concept2 machines, and acted essentially as our coxswain and rowing technique model. She had talked to me about the idea of rowing as part of training before this event got scheduled, so I wasn't surprised to see her heavily involved. 

The class started out with some simple slow easy rowing to get technique down. The hardest part of technique for me is keeping my knees together. i feel like the muscles inside my thighs (so groin and whatever else is in there) need to be stronger. This was always a weakness in hockey, and probably affects my running and biking as well. Everything else felt good, even my back, which surprised me because my clearly my weakest link in sports (100 extra pounds mostly in my midsection will do that).

Once everyone had the basic form down, we worked on trying to find a comfortable speed at which to row and still get a decent amount of power output. We first measured this in terms of our time per 500 meters. They explained that 26 - 28 strokes per minute is a good starting point and at that pace i was able to get down to about 1:45 seconds per 500. Of course that was going basically as hard as I could, and I couldnt sustain that pace for very long. I mostly averaged around 2:20 per 500.

Next we learned about pacing, which involved rowing intervals of increasing pace. We started at about 26 strokes per minute and worked to get over 32 strokes a minute. It doesnt seem like a big change, but it definitely felt like a big change. The instructor compared it to swimming, where you can be really efficient in getting across the water in as few strokes as possible, or you can put out less power and use more strokes, which is obviously less efficient. Finding a way to still generate a significant amount of power while doing more strokes is what separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

Then, we went for pure power. How hard could you row while keeping your strokes per minute around 28. Being the biggest guy in the room, I have an advantage is that I can really get my weight behind my pulls. We measured our power output in watts, and for a short time I was able to get my wattage up around 320, which was second best in the room. It shows that the weight helps and hurts, because getting the wattage up is great, but not being able to sustain it sucks. In the end I averaged around 300 watts, which I was fairly happy with for 3 minutes worth of rowing.

Finally, after a much needed break, the leaders divided us into 3 person teams, and we did a relay race. One ergometer, three people. The idea was that we'd row a combined 2000 m, with no one allowed to row more than 1000 m. You had to be smart during transitions, as the clock ran the whole time, even if no one was rowing. I rowed as hard as I could and did 2 segments of about  2 minutes each with my watts up over 300 for the most part. In the end, it took our team 8:30 to go 2000 m, which was about middle of the pack, I believe. And it was a lot of fun to do.

In the end, I was glad Rach and I did this, and I am definitely intrigued by the idea of rowing my way down some section of the Charles in a rowing shell. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do it consistently, and I'm guessing even more to do it well. I'm going to add it into the gym rotations we're doing, so long as FitRec has machines that will allow it.

When I got home I was simply too beat to run, but after a long rest and a little dinner, I decided I want to try and tackle the rollers again. This time, instead of just hopping on and going for it, I devised a plan. I put the rollers up against the one flat wall in the living room and moved the couch next to the other side of the rollers so that the only way I'd wind up on the floor is if I somehow managed to take a header. 

My biggest problem on Monday night was that I just couldn't get stable enough on the bike to start pedaling properly, and then use my momentum and balance to keep going. So last night I used the wall as a crutch to get started and then once I was up and riding would move slightly to the right so as not to be touching the wall at all as I rode. I was able to do this successfully for a few minutes at a time, with just occasional bumping of the wall or leaning to avoid falling. I did take two falls onto the couch but no damage was done, and I found myself far more in control than the night before.

It's amazing how much I'm finding I need to work on balance and bike handling, but it's looking like I'll be able to gain a lot in those areas through using the rollers. I'm hoping that at some point in the near future I wont need the wall to get started on the bike so I stick the rollers in front of the TV and watch a Spinervals DVD while riding. But  even in just few minutes on the rollers, I'm finding this is definitely a good away to get in a winter workout. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jarred Shoemaker talks the talk and HELP! The rollers are trying to kill me!

Last night Rach and I went to Belmont Wheelworks for a talk featuring Jarrod Shoemaker and his coach Tim Crowley on how the training "secrets" of the pros can help the average age grouper in their efforts to improve. Mr. Shoemaker seems like a terrific guy, and is very well spoken. I feel like I learned a few things from them, and I'm going to share some of that here.

Doesn't this pic help you feel like you're getting this all first hand?
The one thing I will say up front is that I was disappointed they led off the talk about the "secrets of the pros" (insert mystical music here) with the fact that there ARE NO SECRETS! Talk about putting it all out there. If there are no secrets, what were we doing there?! (I'm kidding, of course)

Turns out, while there are no secrets there are a ton of common sense things that professionals do the same way we do. Sometimes they just do more of it, and sometimes they do it in a more sophisticated way. And there are a couple of really important ones that most age groupers probably don't do (but unlike Jarred and his coach, I'm putting the "secrets" at the bottom of the list):
  • Track your training. They track and measure almost everything. Jarrod uses power meters to capture his cycling power output, running speed, etc. They track all of that information, and have the files for the past several years. So when he says something feels different in how his training is progressing, he has the files to go back and see how that looks in terms of exertion and results.
  • Sleep. Rest is so critical for the body to get stronger and just to recover from the workouts of the day. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, with my regular nights sleep usually at about 5-6 hours. In fact, Coach Crowley indicated that it's probably worth cutting some night workouts short if it's going to deprive you of sleep because your body really needs it, and the training won't be as valuable for you without it.
  • Recovery. This ties in with sleep of course, but also using some percentage of your available training time just to spin out your legs, take a light run, or cruise at the pool. One of the quotes I took away from the night was "You can't go really fast unless you go really slow, too". It would seem from this that I am on the verge of breaking several speed records, because I have been going really slow for a REALLY long time. 
  • Speed. Speed isn't just something that shows up in races, you need to train for it. A bunch of base miles is all fine and dandy, but if you put them in slow, that's what you're going to get out of them later too. Mix in speed work all throughout your training. You don't need to do it every day, but make it a part of the longer workouts, so when you're racing and you need that burst for a pass or a strong finish, you'll have it.
And now for the two big ones I took away from the night:
  • Confidence. When you schedule a race, do that race, even if you think you're not ready for it. If you've trained, and you're healthy, do the race. You might feel like you aren't as fast as you want to be, but the training is there, and the only thing that might make you feel like you can't do it is your mind. I can attest to this one personally. Do you think I felt like I was truly ready to do Timberman when i sat there in my wetsuit for 30 minutes before my wave went off? Do it anyways. 
  • Cross training. Most of the serious age groupers I know focus very heavily on swim, bike, and run as you might expect. But one of the key points Tim and Jarrod make is that burnout can come either physically or mentally, so training in the right ways, including mixing in other disciplines can go a long way to keeping you physically and mentally fresh. Even if those other disciplines are just different forms of the same things (cyclocross was the example Jarrod used), because it's a new challenge and teaches you new skills. Plus cross training might take an extra month or so off the time you have to spend cooped up in the basement. 
It was a great hour, and to top it off Rach won a pair of the most expensive race tires Trek makes! ($75 a piece). The look on her face was priceless. It's like someone gave her a can of motor oil or something of the like. And Jarrod even posed for a picture with me, which was nice because I'd asked him a tough question about the national championship (he was the first american but came in second overall in the race to an aussie), so I'm glad he didn't beat me up. If you ever get a chance to see Mr. Shoemaker speak, i highly recommend it.

Me and Jarrod Shoemaker

- My friend John from work has done it again. Previously he came to my aid when the bikes were stolen by giving me a nice 10 speed to ride. This time, when clearing out his basement he realized he had a set of bike rollers that were going completely unused and asked if I wanted them. With the winter looming, meaning several months on an uncomfortable bike trainer at the gym, I jumped at the chance to get these.

If you're not familiar with rollers, they're like a low-tech version of a bike trainer. 3 metal tubes connected by a frame. You put your bike on top, and start riding. While they don't offer the easy adjust-ability of a bike trainer, they provide a far more realistic feeling of riding, because you are actually rolling, just in the same place.

Therein lies the challenge: because you're actually rolling both wheels, trainers require you to use balance to ride just as you normally do, except what you're riding on is round, not flat. Here is a breakdown on my time last night:

Setting up and adjusting the rollers: 5 minutes
Time spent actually riding the bike: ~1 minute total
Time spent standing over the bike, trying to pedal with one foot, trying to get the second foot in place, pedaling for a second before losing my balance and falling off the bike, putting the bike back on the rollers and starting the process over:
about 20 minutes

So, yep, I need to work on my balance and get some practice with these suckers. I was smart enough to take the toe clips off my pedals or i probably would have broken some part of my body last night. The good news is that I worked up a sweat just trying to get this workout going, so I got some value out of the time. I'll give it another shot tomorrow, and I'm considering moving the rollers next to the bed (just in case).

- Tonight is the TRI Rowing event, where I will be physically abused in a completely different way. Hopefully tonight, I'll win the prize, so there will be no weird faces involved.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A week to look forwards to

This weekend was decidedly low key. I didn't work out after Thursday night. I started coming down with something on Friday evening, and by Sunday I had a full blown cold. We went and watched a little of the Head of the Charles regatta on Sunday afternoon. This is a can't miss event in Boston, if for nothing other than the massive amount of free healthy food samples that could fill a fridge for several days. In fact, we did just that are enjoying the benefits. Probably got 3 days worth of additional healthy snacks AND a 3 mile walk out of the deal. Plus we got to watch some great rowing.

The rest of the week will be far more up tempo with quite a lot going on.

- Tonight, we're headed to Wheelworks in order to hear US Elite National Champion Jarrod Shoemaker speak about training. He won the National Championship earlier this year, and is a MA resident. He and his coach will be sharing some of the techniques they use in Jarrod's preparation throughout the year, and how they can be applied to the average triathletes' routine.

- Tomorrow night, they're having a rowing clinic at Community Boating specifically for triathletes. The idea is to show how cross-training with an ergometer (rowing machine) can really benefit triathletes. My guess is that it's a good way to build lean muscle while burning some serious calories and that it works lots of muscle groups. As a Certified Athletic Trainer, Rach says in her experience that it's also a workout in which people are often injured, so hopefully they'll teach us the right (and safe) way to do the exercises.

- Saturday we're doing a Halloween 5k at the local YMCA just in our neighborhood. It's a bit hilly in that area, so it will be interesting to see what they have chosen for a course.


- In what amounts to last weeks news, I lost about 1 pound on Friday. Still have a long way to go, and it's time to step on the gas. No crap food this week, and I'll be working out every day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Look what I got in the mail, a mere 2 months late!

That's one happy guy right there!

That's right, my Timberman medal finally came! I opened it and carried it around with me until Rach got home, but I refused to put it on until she put it on me as she would have on race day. She was less than thrilled to play along with my homemade ceremony, but she was more than willing to take pictures of me acting like a fool. (She seems very excited whenever this happens).

Now that I'm officially a 70.3 finisher, I've obviously become far more distinguished, and therefore, going forward will only been seen in photos that reflect that change in status.
Winston, my good man, bring me my Chinchilla skin workout shorts
Finally, after wearing it around for a while, speaking in a British accent and making my wife roll her eyes at me multiple times, I hung that sucker up on the wall.

The nail is no longer empty
So knowing me and how fired up I get by this kind of stuff, you can only imagine how hyper I was to go work out. I went out and did the 3rd day of week 5 of my Couch ot 5k. It called for a five minute warm-up followed 20 minutes of consecutive running. 

I did a 1/2 mile in 6 minutes and had to take a short break to catch my breath. I rested for about a minute before I ran the remaining 14 minutes. The fact that I could do so much with just a little rest is a good sign, and it's clearly progress over what I've done before. But it wasn't what was called for, so I'm going to repeat week 5 of the plan. I don't consider it a failure in any way, just that I need to keep working. I wound up doing about 1 1/2 miles in 20 minutes which isnt to shabby for me. 

Rach had her spin class last night, and instead of staying home, I drove her to FitRec and got in the pool. My first "Chlorination" as a reader referred to it the other day, since the day before Club Nationals. It's amazing how fast it feels like swim fitness goes away. I didn't have nearly the stamina I did just a few weeks ago, but my speed was actually a bit better. I wound up doing around 1200 yards over an hours time, taking it real easy with breaks and building up to 250 yards in a row. A couple of weeks worth of work ought to get me back to where I was.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A (semi) serious moment

I haven't been wanting to make too much of this, but lately I've been forgetting things. Today, I walked into a meeting of several of my co-workers, and I had to take a few small notes. One of those notes was to add my boss to the invite list for a meeting I'm having next week. As I stood there and looked at him for 30 seconds, I couldn't remember my boss' name. I literally had to look at everyone else in the room and think through their names before I could remember his.

And this isn't the first time this type of thing has happened of late. It's not like any of them are serious things, like I don't forget who or where I am. But I've been far more forgetful over the past few weeks of little things that I've never had problems with before. Maybe it's just the first signs that I'm getting older and a bit slower on recalling things. But these are all simple things that I shouldn't be having problems with. It could be a lot of things; stress, too much caffeine, poor sleep quality, or perhaps even the after effects of the header I took during the Landmine Classic.

The sleep apnea is the most likely culprit, as memory problems along with headaches are primary symptoms of the disorder. If that's the case, at least I'm already getting treatment, and I know what and how to help with that treatment. My current mask isn't working well, so I ordered a replacement mask this week that arrived today. This model is the best one I've ever had, and they simply were out of stock on them when I got my replacement machine. A mask that fits well goes a long way to helping get a good nights sleep.

If it is the apnea, that also helps explain in part why I've been having food and exercise motivation issues. When my apnea is affecting me, my motivation to workout is way down, and my food cravings go way up as my body fights to power through the lack of sleep. I tend to take the lazy way out on eating during these times as well, which only adds to my desire for junk. It sounds like a bit of an excuse, but when I've had problems in the past with this, these are the things I see happening.

It's funny in a way that there's a bit of a "catch 22" to all of this. To be less affected by my apnea, the best answer is to lose weight. But when my apnea is causing me problems, all I want to do is be lazy and eat. I guess the way to look at it is that it makes it that much more of a goal to overcome these extra challenges to lose the weight I want need to.


 - I played a little NHL Slapshot to try and get in a little workout in the house, but I wound up not even breaking a sweat. I had meant to cardio it up with some Wii Boxing, but I couldn't find the darn Wii Sports disc. I wasn't motivated enough to hit the gym and swim, and it was too dark for the bike. I need to buy some damn lights next week.

- This morning I read a blog entry from my friend Mandy, who got up at 4:30 AM today to run. If she can do that, I can certainly run sometime this evening, and I will.

- Finally, a shout out to The Big Tuna, who has lost 30 pounds since July. He has done a lot more with his weight loss than I have this year, and in a lot less time. But there's still plenty of time left. My goal for the rest of the year is to get to where he is now. He's a little down about his first mountain bike ride ending in a DNF right now. Oh, but did I mention his attempt was at a 60 mile ride? He did 20 of it in his first organized ride, so to me that's ANYTHING but a DNF.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My wife, the gym rat

It probably won't surprise any of you who have met or know Rachelle, that she's a bit of a gym rat. She can't always find the motivation to go, but when she actually is in the gym, she's in her element. She knows how almost all the machines work, and she can use them. Sure, she doesn't have "massive guns" (though she'll disagree with that), but she can do multiple reps on all the machines she uses and looks very natural among all the body builders. 

I on the other hand am anything but a natural with working out. While most people look at me and see a big dude who might have some physical skills, what I see is the 12 year old skinny kid who could not bench press his own weight. In fact in high school, my uncle John promised me all of his old baseball cards, but not until I could do just that; bench my weight. When motivated by baseball (or hockey) cards, there isn't much I won't/can't do. It took me all summer and part of the next year, but I could eventually lift my own weight... exactly *cough* twice *cough*

The off-season workout plan called for a gym session last night. Rach did a bike session while I got my run in (more on that in a minute), and then we went to the machines. Some of them I had used before, like the rowing machine and the leg left. My favorite is the leg press, where I can do 2 x 12 reps at over 300 lbs. We also did some stuff that I am not very good at like a standing pull-down and some other stuff I don't even know the names of. 

Lifting isn't absolutely essentially to compete at triathlon, but building some lean muscle is essential to losing weight as the more lean muscle you have, the faster your body burns calories. And any workout that involves my core is something I need to be doing as 56 miles on the bike really tests your stomach and back, let alone 112. I'm not sure how I was able to get through the Timberman ride without doing more abdominal work, but I doubt I'd get through the full Iron distance without it.

So about that run... 

I'm in week 5 of the my Couch to 5k. Day one had 15 minutes of running in 5 minute segments with 3 minutes of rest between each. I was expecting the same for day 2, but boy did I get more than I bargained for. It appears that week 5 is when things start to become more challenging. Last nights run consisted of two 8 minute runs with a 5 minute cooldown in between. And that's not all; Fridays run, the last day of week 5, is a 20 minute run, with no breaks.

Now don't take this as me complaining, but wow was that a big effort last night. And surprisingly I was able to do it. I don't know how fast I was going at the end, but I was definitely faster than race walking pace. I ran at the gym, and the track there is really weirdly distanced. 7 laps of the track is a mile which is weird enough; but from which lane is it a mile and which are longer or shorter than a mile? i shouldn't need a PhD in Mathematics to figure out how far I'm walking on a track. 

Last night, It wasn't something that I cared too much to think about, and just focused on getting through it. I was struggling with just a couple minutes left in the second set, so I'm going to have to really dig deep on Friday. I'm excited in a way though, because this is how I am building up the stamina to run a complete 5k. I'm going to get a good test of where I am on the 30th for our Halloween 5k.


- I made it to the gym last night in part because of Rachelle's motivation to go, but I also took time to read my Timberman race report before I left worked yesterday. Nothing I've experienced in my life has been the kind of challenge that race was. When I read it, I am reminded of what I am capable of.

- Speaking of Timberman, the medal is supposedly in a box at a shipping place at this time. It's supposed to be mailed by Friday and finally arriving sometime in the next 10 days after that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Ever have one of those days where things are just blah? It was a beautiful sunshiney day yesterday, pretty nice weather for a fall day in Boston. And yet I was just completely in the dumps. The run went great on Sunday, and Rach and I had a really fun Sunday evening. But I woke up yesterday just totally bummed out.

I also noticed my sense of humor has been MIA from my posts for quite a while as well. I spent some time thinking about it last night before sleep, and this morning before I got myself going. I think there are some obvious reasons behind it.

- I am affected by the turning of the seasons. Sorta like a tree losing it's leaves or a dog growing in it's winter coat. Well, ok more like the dog I guess, because thankfully I'm not losing any hair up top, and shaving these days almost requires a chisel. When did my beard get the texture of brambles?

- The lack of true off-season training. While the road races help keep me motivated to run, the broken spoke on the Fuji is keeping me off the road bike. I can't even tell you the last time I swam. I have the mountain bike, but it gets dark so fast now, I barely have any time to ride it on weekdays unless I get up at the crack of dawn. And lately, that just ain't been happening. Rachelle has a plan, and we've done some of it, but not regularly, and not enough.

- Triathlons seem really far away right now, and that's anything but true. Last year, we started training just a bit more than 8 months out from the race, and I was barely able to finish in the time allowed. Our first big race this year is 2 1/2 months sooner, so 8 1/2 months out is... well, any time now. Yes, we have the base of fitness from last year, and I think we've been doing just enough to maintain most of that, but we need to start doing more pretty soon.

- I'm not sleeping enough. I was doing well for a while, going to bed early and getting up early, but lately that simply hasn't been happening. I'm going to try to adjust my sleep schedule to take advantage of the end of daylight savings time when it hits so that I can take advantage of more morning sunlight for running and riding.

I guess it could be worse, I could be Randy Quaid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Race Report: Paddy's Road Race

It's nice when a race comes off mostly how you want it, especially when the end result at least shows a little of the effort you've been putting in. I've actually had a good bit of luck since the starting gun of Timberman after a fairly challenging start to the season. Yesterday was an adventure in forgotten things, but the race turned out pretty well anyways.

Relying on technology in races is one of those double edged swords that can come back to bite you. It was at this race last year in fact that in the pouring rain, my old iPod nano gave it's life in trying to provide motivational music to get me through the cold and rain. Thankfully, nothing broke this year, but I did forget both my watch and my phone, so I had no way of knowing how fast I was going to be running.

It's a well organized 3 mile race through an area of town (Newton) not too far from where I work. They advertises it as a mostly flat course, but it's really made of tiny little rollers, so you're constantly going up and down. They also provide signs so that runners know to line up by ability, not just with their friends. If you've never done a road race, you'd be amazed at how much nicer a race goes when a majority of the racers are properly grouped. Heck, I can't even imagine how the fast people feel in races where people start wherever they want.

I couldn't hear the starting gun, but when the pack in front of you starts running, it's time to go. I was far enough back that it seemed to take quite a while to cross the starting line. From there it was just running at as hard a pace I could sustain for as long as I could sustain it. When I felt like I was at the red line for a while, I'd stop and walk. Unlike in previous races when I'd stop and walk, I wasn't walking at full race-walk pace.

Instead, I used that time to cool down before running again. It's part of the realization that came as part of my couch to 5k, that I can run longer and faster if I rest a little bit between. I was surprised when I got to the first mile, thinking it might be a ways off yet. As I passed they read off 13:52 as the clock time, but I knew I had started some amount of time after. That meant I was sub 14, which is about where I usually am. Bummer.

Trying not to think about it, I pushed on, and found that much like the first mile, the second mile came faster than I expected. As they read the time, I was now at 27:40 minutes, so my second mile was a little under 14, so again, about where I expected to be based on last year. I was working too hard to get bummed out this time, and the group around me and I had a nice moment when we saw one of the early finishers running back our way to do a cool down. I said to them "The early finishers should not be allowed to do that, they should be required to run somewhere else and show off for those people" which got quite a few laughs.

The last mile of this course is one of those courses where there are two turns that deceive you into thinking the  race is almost over. There's a building a few minutes into the last mile that looks eerily similar to a building right near the finish, and it tricked me again this year as well. I realized my mistake just a minute later, when I saw the next turn of the course. I hadn't sprinted for long but was bummed to slow down, knowing I couldn't sustain that pace.

I went back to a brisk walk to save up what I could for the turn onto the last road on the course. I had decided I was running the whole last road, even though it was a pretty long distance including the turn back down into the finish line. I made the turn and put everything I had into that last 1/3rd of a mile. I was pretty well spent already, but knowing the line was coming I pushed through to the finish.

My burning legs were happy when I crossed the line. The clock read 40:30 when I finished, but knowing it had taken a while to get to the starting line, I hoped for the best. Because this race is so well run, I didn't have to wait long for my result; 39:23. 23 seconds faster than last year.

I know that doesn't seem like much, but considering much of my walking was used to recover, between runs instead of pushing for the best possible time. I feel like I've made good progress so far, but I can't wait until I have the stamina to run 3 full miles.


- When I say Paddy's is a well run race, I mean it: fruit, hot dogs, and an amazing chicken pot pie soup that is the best post race food I've had in a long time. Oh, and did I mention the free beer? We didn't partake this year because we'd already had hot dogs and soup, but free beer is the best reason to race, ever.

- We've got a Halloween race picked out, and we'll be racing again in just under two weeks. That gives me 5 more runs to get ready. It's a race we haven't done before, but it's right in our neighborhood.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Half a freakin pound

Last week, I lost 6 1/2 pounds. This week? about 1/2 a pound. ugh. I know I didn't eat as well this week as last, but I was down more yesterday, and I ate pretty well yesterday. I've been craving sugar and salt, which means some form of junk, whether it's just baked french fries or not, to get that taken care of.

The good news is that even with those cravings I still lost a little, and I have a whole new week to correct that. Plus I'm running tonight, and we're racing Sunday. I'm pretty excited to see how the working out, specifically the couch to 5k is going to impact my time.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and a shout out to my friend Tim who is running his first half-marathon this weekend! Good luck buddy! And to anyone else racing this weekend, have fun!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WTC: Biting off more than they can chew?

For the folks who read to hear about what I'm doing, this is going to be one of those times that you might not be that interested in what I have to say today. In that case, just jump to the "notes" section at the bottom of the post. But for those of you who are really into triathlon like I am, there's something I've been thinking about that I need to get off my chest. It regards the 400 pound gorilla in the triathlon room and how they might be doing more harm than good for triathletes.

I'm speaking of course about World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), the folks most known as the owner of the Ironman brand, and specifically for putting on the Ford Ironman World Championships in Hawaii (Kona), and the related Ironman and Ironman 70.3 race series. There's been a lot of buzz regarding WTC lately, between the recent acquisitions of multiple half-iron distance races, launching a magazine, and more specifically the creation of a new series of Olympic-distance races, purchasing the rights to 13 established triathlons in the US and an as-of-yet unknown number of international distance races.

Now, I'm no communist, and in the broad sense of things, I'm all for the right of a company to expand as it sees fit. WTC has deep pockets from all the IM branded products and 140.6 and 70.3 races that regularly sell out the day they open for registration. It's their money, and they can certainly spend it how the choose.

But what about the effect this has on the participants in their events? How does all of this recent growth change the landscape of triathlon? I've got a few key areas where I think this is a cause for concern.

  • Dilution of the Ironman brand. There's a reason why Mercedes-Benz doesn't offer a $10,000 car or Apple doesn't offer $20 iPods. Part of the demand for something is the exclusiveness of the club. Ironman's brand has become iconic, which adds to the mystique of it's iron-distance races. There are even some folks who still believe you're not an Ironman if your 140.6 came at something other than a WTC race. For those folks, WTC reaching out into a bunch of different retail forays will surely see the brand as diluted, and therefore not as enticing to spend the extra money on a WTC race vs. some other company (Rev 3, independant races, etc.). Meaning eventually, while striving to reach out to new customers they may disenfranchise themselves from some of their most reliable consumers/participants. Especially in a market where repeat business is the #1 priority, this could be very troubling.
The logo for the new Olympic distance series
  • Confusion over what it means to be an "Ironman". Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. As most athletes don't start their immersion into the sport with a half or full Iron distance, the creation of the 5150 olympic-distance series makes sense as a way to rope in a potential customer base. And while the new series doesn't have the name Ironman in it, the logo (pictured above) is a pretty obvious tie in. Between that and a bunch of Ironman branded products likely being hawked at the race venue, my guess is that it won't be long before we'll have folks who have finished one of these races bragging that they did an "Ironman" race. Personally, I don't care that much, but as I said, I know triathletes that would, and would go out of their way to correct them. Maybe once I've done a 140 mile race, then I'll care if someone else calls themselves an Ironman who hasn't done an Iron-distance race.
  • Regularly racing with the pros may soon become a thing of the past. Unlike in baseball, basketball, or hell even bowling, when you participate in a triathlon, you're not just coming out to compete with and against folks of your own ilk. In every triathlon I've been a part of, there has been at least a few world-class elite athletes who has represented their country in a world championship or is a professional triathlete. It's one of the things that makes the sport special. While I'm probably never going to be good enough to give them a run for first place on the course, I get to say i raced with and against names like Lieto and Wellington when we did Timberman. But as a way to get the professionals to attend the races that WTC wants to further develop, they've instituted a points system that professionals must follow to qualify to participate in the Ford Ironman World Championship (AKA Kona). Each race is categorized as being in a certain points category, and professionals wanting to qualify will likely need to focus on the continental championship races, reducing the likelihood of them participating in the lessor valued races. This means that smaller races will likely see smaller pro fields as the big points will be elsewhere and pros will look for races where they have a higher chance of getting the points they need to qualify for Kona.
  • WTC adding blackout dates into race contracts. In an alarming anti-competitive practice, the WTC is adding "blackout dates" into their race contracts with their race locations. Essentially, these clauses say that an area (for example, Muncie, Indiana) cannot host any other triathlons in the 30 days prior to or directly following the WTC event. I recognize the company wants to maximize it's profits and prevent scheduling mishaps, but this means that smaller races that may serve as important fundraisers for local charities may have to be rescheduled (which can be costly) or cancelled entirely. No matter what else, I'm for competition, because it forces race directors to continually improve their race experience, or see it fall by the wayside. That's one of the reasons I was happy to see the Rev3 Triathlon Series come into the picture at the Iron-distance race level, in order to prevent WTC's de-facto monopoly from becoming a true monopoly.
  • Negative changes in the actual race experience. If you've been reading the blog since Timberman, the fact that I STILL haven't gotten my finishers medal is a bit of a sore spot for me. It's the starting point for this whole topic. Plus, when I called in to talk to the WTC athlete services to check on this (Who I must say are as helpful as possible), I head a recorded message that they weren't even taking calls about Ironman Lake Placid due to the volume of concerns. Sure, it's natural that there will be glitches at a given race, and that problems do occur in an event that relies equally on weather and volunteers. But when the volume of complaints overtakes the customer service department, it's time to consider growing your staff to match your offerings. Of course, that cuts in to profit margins, and companies are often loathe to do that. Cuts in profit margins could lead to less benefits included with race entry fees, or perhaps moving to less costly (read: inferior) venues. Between these issues and the possible disappearance of professionals from most races, it could mean a real degradation of the race day experience.
In the end, it may be that WTC adjusts to all of these changes in a way that improves the overall feeling of participating in their events. But right now, it sure looks like a field of potential marketing and operational landmines that could really impact not just the WTC but the general experience of triathlon participation in the US and perhaps the world over. 


- Last night was day 1 of the fifth week of my couch to 5k. The workout actually calls for one less minute of running overall, but lumps the running together in 3 five-minute segments with a three minute walk between each. The challenge is to sustain a somewhat steady speed throughout the third running segment. I always feel stronger in the second running segment of these workouts, as it usually takes most of the first segment to adjust to the running. Last night was no different, as I felt strong in the second segment, but had to fight to finish the 3rd segment strong.

- It's gorgeous here today, but we're expecting a strong storm tonight, so I'm going to do my best to get in a mountain bike ride before the storm hits.

- Things are looking good for tomorrows weigh in. I'm not going to post on fridays until after noon, so I can include how it went.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some days even the little battles are big battles

Preface - First, a quick welcome to all the visitors who found me via USA Triathlons bloglist. It was very kind of them to link to my blog out of the thousands of triathlon blogs out there. I hope you'll find some value and/or entertainment here and stick around. I welcome comments (and criticisms if you have them) and responses either here on the blog or at my email address. Also, if you've recently found me outside of the USAT bloglist, well... welcome to you too!

Work today has been shall we say, confrontational. I won't go into the boring details except to say that we're going through a lot of growing pains and I find this all very stressful. And if there's one surety about my response to things, its that when i get stressed; I eat. My willpower has been pretty strong lately, but today wasn't looking too good.

I didn't pack my lunch today because we're out of sandwich meat and peanut butter (at the same time no less!) so i was forced to buy my lunch today. The really stressful meeting was right before lunch, so off I went to the lunch counter with dreams of pizza, steak subs, french fries, and non-diet soda in my head. Here in New England restaurants with names like "Athens" don't mean you're stuck with Greek food. In fact, they offer everything I listed above and more.

Getting there, the two friends and co-workers I had been having to disagree with (not personal disagreement, job responsibilities requiring us to represent different needs type of disagreement) were there, so I of course felt even more awkward. This made me even more ready to eat something bad. Then the lady at the counter asked for my order and that's when it really got tough.

I looked at the menu and everything that was grease filled and salty called my name like a mothers voice speaking soothingly to an upset child. The worst part is that their pizza is readily on display in one of those rotisserie display cases. I've had it before and can attest they earned their 2008 best pizza in town award.

As the counter woman stood ready to take my order and the folks in line behind me waited anxiously for their turn, I stalled, trying to figure out what I truly wanted. Thats when the thoughts went through my mind about how much work I'd been doing, and that I had an off day yesterday, and Paddy's is only 4 days away. And that's when I made my decision.

Lean roast beef, no side dishes, drink the diet soda waiting for me back at my desk.

I know that's a lot of drama just for ordering a sandwich, but some days the effort that goes into making a healthy food choice is as much of a workout as going for a long run.


 - Speaking of running, Monday night was my last day of week 4 of my Couch to 5k. That means I start  week 5 today. I'm pretty excited because it means I'll be running 15 out of the 21 minutes of the actual workout, with 5 minutes of warm up and cool down.

- I've been getting a few offers by coaches willing to take Rach and I on as clients. I recognize that it's part of growing their business but it was still nice to hear that we seem "especially coachable" and that my attitude "is the coaches dream". We've thought about looking for a coach, but at this point we're pretty much restricted to self-coaching via online training plans because of the cost.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yay! Recovery day!

After a four consecutive days of workouts, Rach and I have rest day scheduled today. Normally, I wouldn't take a day off after just four days, but with races and workouts, we won't have another day off scheduled for the next two weeks. That means taking today off isn't really optional, it's sort of a must in order to give my body a day to rest.

That also means I have to be extra vigilant about my food intake. We've mostly been avoiding eating away from home, with the exception of Subway and what I ate on Saturday at the hockey game. I've been packing my lunch which allows me to keep my points in check. I make sure to pack snack bars to keep from getting hungry in the afternoon and wandering to the vending machine or worse a restaurant in search of other food.

I had another good run last night which put the end to week four of my couch to 5k. I do feel faster. I'm not tracking distance with a GPS because I don't want to get discouraged or frustrated by knowing my pacing, but I did run most of 1/2 mile in less than 5 minutes last night. We're familiar with the distances of the path we run on, so I'm seeing what feels like improvement. I guess I'll know better on Sunday how I'm coming along.


 - Rach and I will have the 2011 calendar put together in the next couple weeks along with the road races for the rest of this year. A couple of really good running tests with hills this fall, and some great races for next year. I'm getting really excited and I'm really happy to be training again at more fulfilling clip.

- Related to next years calendar, I have been looking into the charitable aspects of racing, and are hopeful to make an announcement next month about doing at least one race for a charity next year.

- Can you believe it's almost mid-October? A little less than 8 months until our next 70.3, and 11 months until our first Ironman!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When the cats away...

It was a really busy weekend, and I have lots of stuff to share:

Rachelle's team had a road game Saturday afternoon in New York, so I was left to my own devices for the start of the weekend. My beloved Columbus Blue Jackets started their season on Friday afternoon, so I scooted out of work early to catch the game. I made chicken wings (baked, not fried) to get a little of the feeling of being at a game, but stayed within my points. 

After watching my boys drop a 3-2 decision, I had a decision of my own to make: take the day off and enjoy my weekend of bachelorhood, or go out and get a run in to keep prepping for Paddy's Road Race. I guess the discipline is really starting to kick in because it was no more than a passing thought before I got off the couch, got into my workout clothes and hit the trail. 

35 minutes later, and I was back in the house.I ran the second day of the third time through the fourth week of my Couch to 5k plan (try saying that five times fast). I realized during this run that I'd been doing part of the workout wrong. Instead of pushing myself to walk as fast as I could between runs, I was supposed to be using that time for recovery to be able to give more during the running period. Guess I'm a little slow on the uptake. The running portions felt a lot better after my realization, and hopefully this will help me improve my running at faster pace than I have been.

Saturday was the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The woman's three time defending champion Chrissie Wellington had to pull out of the race due to an illness she came down with the night before, so it was a wide open field on the ladies side. As for the men, the competition is so close, it's hard for any guy to repeat. In the end Marinda Carfrae took it on the women's side while Chris McCormick got his second Kona victory in the past 4 years. I only watched a couple hours of the race, but as always it inspired me to get some work in.

Off I went on the bike, but not the road bike this time. That was still in the box in the living room. Instead I took the mountain bike to the Middlesex Fells for a trip around the 7 mile mountain bike loop. The Fells is a really amazing reservation, and the loop was a cool place to ride. Talk about tough though, lots of climbing on the loop with some technical sections that I thought were much harder than at Wompatuck.

Many of the easier trails that better fit my level of experience are off limits due to unrest between local hikers and bikers as to shared usage of the park. I didn't encounter any problems, other than having to walk about a miles worth of the loop because of my inexperience and lack of skill. I will say though there were some sections of single track that I managed at the Fells that I wouldn't been able to have tackled prior to the Landmine Classic, so I guess I'm improving.

Sunday I had planned on finishing off week 4 of Couch to 5k, but Rach insisted that she wanted to ride and that we needed to run Monday because it would put us on schedule to run every other day this week without having to push or skip a workout prior to Paddy's. She's subscribed us to a off-season training plan, so I had to dig the road bike out of the box and put it back together so we could ride.

We did something I haven't done before, an 85 minute series of increasing speed intervals. 10 minutes of warm-up followed by 5 minutes at 15 MPH. Then we did 10 minutes of cool down and then 5 minutes at 16 MPH. This went on until we ended with 5 minutes at 19 MPH. Normally I can do 5 minutes at 19 MPH pretty easily, but I haven't really tried it in a fashion like this, and let me say I had a hard time keeping the number over 19. In fact I wasn't able for the whole five minutes, but I got most of it.

It felt really good to get in a workout like this that will help keep the legs going through the fall and into winter. The only bad part was hitting a pothole about an hour in. I heard a snap but didn't notice anything wrong, so I assumed it was just the typical noise that comes from the bike during a drop like that. It wasn't until we were 1/4 mile from home when I heard a soft pinging noise and looked down to see a spoke bouncing around between the wheel and the fork. I stopped to unscrew it and walked the bike the rest of the way home.

Thankfully, it was only a front spoke, which is cheap to fix and not that dangerous to be missing, but it still means work needs to be done on the road bike if I'm going to ride it anymore this year.


- Progress on the Timberman medal: The woman I've been working with at WTC told me more of the story of what happened to the medals. Originally, they ordered enough for everyone but somehow come race day, the person responsible for them showed up with fewer than the ordered number of medals. She didn't go into details but it does sound as if something shady went on with the original order and they're still looking into it. 

Worse, when they  made the replacement order, supposedly only 100 of the 200 replacement medals were ordered and delivered. She had been under the assumption they had all been ordered and sent, learning only Friday that this wasn't the case. They have now ordered the final 100 medals and should have them in hand in "two weeks". She didn't know if that was when the warehouse would have them, or when they'd be sent out, but she said to call her back next Friday.

Between this and what I'm hearing was a mess at the Ironman Lake Placid event, it seems as if the WTC is growing at a rate faster than it can properly support. But that's a conversation for another time...

- Eating has been going mostly better as I followed my points all of last week and wound up losing 6.6 pounds from my weigh in on 9/24. I am sure this all happened in the week following Club Nationals because I know what I weighed when I got home from the race, so it was a single weeks worth of work that got me there. I stayed pretty close to points this weekend as well but my food selection Saturday night at the hockey game I attended left something to be desired. Gives me something to work on I guess.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's been seven weeks, can I be pissed now?

I hear repeatedly that my positive attitude in the face of the pretty significant challenges I undertake is what attracts many of the readers. I hope you won't mind if this is one of those rare days that I don't have that super positive vibe going. In light of the circumstances, I think you'll be able to forgive me.

Remember that nail I pounded in the wall to be the place of honor for my Timberman finishing medal? Well, as of today, almost 7 weeks out from the race; that nail is STILL EMPTY. That's right. The medal that signifies the completion of the my goal, the culmination of all my efforts, and a major milestone in my progression from just some fat guy, to a much less fat guy who has pushed himself to and beyond his limits.

It's not like I haven't been patient, or haven't been proactive. Originally, we were told it would just be a week until they sent the medals. Then we were told 2 to 3 weeks. Then we were told 3 to 5 weeks. We were told 3 to 5 weeks 2 weeks after the race. I've reached out to the World Triathlon Corporation (Owners of Timberman, and producers of the medals), and their athlete representative told me the medals were already shipped once.

That last email exchange was early last week. She told me that they would ship me another by the end of last week. Their headquarters are in Florida, so a medal shipped last week should have been here by now. I recognize that they may be pretty busy getting ready for Kona (Ironman World Championships), but seriously, there has been more than enough time to get these medals and get them out to us.

I have to be honest, I was beginning to wonder if maybe my results weren't being recognized for some reason. Like maybe because I didn't finish in under 8:30 that my results were being recognized by the race officials but not Ironman. But I checked, and as long as you finish before the course closes, your finish is official. So it isn't that.

And I found out yesterday that I'm not the only one who hasn't gotten theirs. I've been able to find at least a couple others who have not, and I haven't really tried that hard to find more. I knew Rachelle had been one of the last ones to get the correct medal, but one of the folks I found finished only 12 minutes after Rach at 7:42 and still hasn't gotten hers, either.

I'm sorry if this sounds petty or whiney, but it means a lot to me and I really would like my freaking medal.


- First Weight Watchers weigh-in of the session. I've lost several pounds in the past couple weeks, and I'm hoping that will be reflected in todays results. I would have liked to have skipped breakfast to get a number when I'm not carrying around a bowl of shredded wheat in my stomach, but was just to hungry to wait for lunch to eat. I'm showing amazing restraint today during the Morning of Temptation. I may even grab a cheese bagel to put on my desk to save for lunch, just to show I can have it right there and not eat it.

- I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wanted to go for a mountain bike ride last night along the Esplanade. It's a car free area, well lit, and has almost no joggers after dusk. I even rigged a light to the handlebars so I could ride more safely. Unfortunately, I didn't look at the rear tire until I was completely ready to ride. Totally flat, and with no spare in the house. I'm going to stop for a spare on the way home today, and ride tomorrow on the trails at The Fells.

- Running again today. I've been reading a lot of folks out on the web wondering if Couch to 5Ks get any easier as you move along. I think for some of us, they're supposed to be challenging each week as you move up. The challenge is what lets you know that running is not something most people just pick up. The effort you feel in getting through each run is how you know that you've accomplished something.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A chain reaction

Last night, I got one of the best compliments I've gotten in a REALLY long time. Ange, an elite triathlete who has finished Kona, and whose Timberman time this year was just a little over half mine, said that I inspired her to get back to work on her own weight loss. For several minutes I was quite excited as I read through her blog, learning we'd competed in two of the same races, and to see someone here semi-local doing a lot of the things Rach and I are doing and really succeeding at them.

But then I realized, it wasn't me who motivated her. Sure, she read my story, but all I did was channel the motivation provided by a commenter, "Mary in NC", who kindly reminded me I could do more to apply my determination and willpower to my food intake as well. How many mornings did I get out of bed this year at 5:30 AM to make it to the pool by 6? What about that time 45 miles into the Timberman bike did my legs seize up, and I found a way through it? If I have the willpower for all of that, I definitely have the willpower to make quality food choice 20 meals a week (That 21st meal is where I get to use my extra points per Weight Watchers, so I don't wind up binging).

So, while I'm absolutely thrilled to have Ange find the blog, and to get to learn about an athlete of her caliber, I also know that the real motivator here was "Mary in NC".


- I'm still doing week 4 of the couch to 5k, because I am exhausted by the end of the run. I'm not moving on to week 5 until I can handle week 4 without slowing down at the end of each run. I ran last night, and I did the whole thing as planned, but by the end I was beat.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Weight Loss, Sponsorship, and Kona

it's amazing how fast you can start losing weight when you actually follow a plan and stick to it. I'm now 72 hours into not just following my Weight Watchers points, but actually making smart food choices for the food I intake. I'm down several pounds since Sunday. Some of that is due to kicking the salt out of my body, and some of it is simply eating a lot less. I'm going to bed a little bit hungry and definitely waking up hungry, which makes breakfast fun!

Waking up hungry has been a great reminder that when I eat properly, my body responds to it. And though I might not like going to bed a little hungry, it's further reinforcement to keep going in the right direction so that my body will slowly start to adjust. Being hungry isn't fun, but I know it's the right way to feel right now. I'm not starving, just not completely full. And that's where losing weight starts, taking in fewer calories than you burn.

Of course burning calories helps too. We had a rainy night here in Boston, and Rach, on a very rare day off, wanted to go have some fun. So off to the mall we went, for dinner and some window shopping. I ate at make-it-yourself salad place, and had a broccoli, mushroom, feta, turkey, and light ranch over spring mix salad. It was delicious, and I was really happy to have the willpower to ignore all of the poor choices around to focus on eating healthy.

One of things I love about triathlon is all the gear and technology, and losing weight has a benefit there as well. As I get closer to looking like a traditional triathlete (thinner and buffer), more sponsorships will likely come my way. In addition, the sponsorships I get will have more options for me. Not everyone makes a 3X cycling jersey or tri top. As an example, Mountain Khakis shorts only went up to 42 inch waist, so I requested the biggest I could get and will wear them as soon as they fit.

Sponsorships make doing more races possible, because I can get more and better gear for less or no money, and put our money towards race entries. One race I know Rachelle dreams of doing is Kona, the Ironman World Championship. The annual event is going to be held this weekend on the big island, and is something Rach and I hunker down to watch each year. They always package a highlights show for consumption, and while I love watching the human interest stories and hearing John Tesh do a breathy drama filled narrative, there's just something about seeing it live that brings out the excitement of this kind of race. So that's what I'll be doing with part of my Saturday.

Which means Sunday I'll probably be on the bike or running, because while I am easily inspired, nothing gets me more inspired than watching the pro's go all hard core on the toughest course in the world.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The season is over; long live the season!

Triathlon season is finally over. Originally, I'd planned to be done over a month ago, but Club Nationals was just too good to pass up. There are always opportunities for more races, including a local cross country triathlon that includes a 5 mile canoe paddle that sounded intriguing. In the end, I just decided it was time to stop for the year to focus on weight loss and building up my body for next years races.

The only problem with stopping racing cold turkey is the fact that I need goals, both short term and long, term to keep me motivated. So with triathlon season over, it's time to start road race season. These races will give me a chance to measure my progress, give me little goals to shoot for, and most importantly keep me motivated to work on the portion of triathlon I mostly dislike and am not good at.

I also know that my running will be the area most directly impacted by my weight loss. One of my anonymous readers has been absolutely right to chastise my diet over the past couple weeks. It's clear that I haven't taken my weight loss or nutritional plan very seriously. Frankly, I've been lazy, and that can't continue, especially with the season we have planned for this year.

I've been able to get myself started again with now 48 hours of solidly sticking to my plan for how I want to spend my food points in a healthy manner. I started recording my point usage this morning, and between that, getting on track with my running (I'm going to repeat week 4 of the Couch to 5k), and a little encouragement from Rach when I feel like I'm slipping, I'm going to be successful towards my goals.

Our first race of the fall is Paddy's Road Race; a 3 mile road race on 10/17. Last year, we did this race in the pouring rain, and I came away with my first sub-40 minute 3 mile race. The race was almost a month before I started the blog, so I don't have a race report. But I do have a photo from the event.

I was wet, but not cold. Blubber is an excellent insulator
I wound up at 39:46 on what felt to me to be a little bit of a hilly course. I bested that time a little over a month later at a very flat race in Plymouth, and I'm sure to beat both of those times this year.

The other race we've signed up for so far is the Lowell 1st Run. My poor performance in this 10k last year is what motivated me to lose much of the 25 pounds I've lost this year, and helped me realize I would need to train a lot harder to finish Timberman. I have a time to beat in this race as well, and with nearly 3 months to train and lose weight, I intend to smash it.

There will probably be 3 more races mixed between those two; a halloween race, a thanksgiving race (perhaps a return trip to the Feaster Five or America's Hometown 5k), and a Christmas themed race of some sort. They'll all be 3 milers or 5ks so I can use them as milestones, not big huge endurance efforts.

All of this will keep in mind that I'll be slowly starting to build miles towards our June and September 70.3 and 140.6 efforts. Running is the area that needs the most work, so it's where I'm putting the most effort. We'll be working out an off-season plan that allows me to maintain


- It turns out my run at Club Nationals this weekend was actually my best run at any triathlon yet. I had a 3 mile run last year at Nantasket, and beat that time by almost 6 minutes. My next best was the 5k run at the Season Opener this year, and I would have come in under that time as well for a like distance.

- On the plane ride from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach on Thursday, I sat next to a triathlete who was competing in the Long Course national championship, and we talked triathlon the whole flight in. It was definitely motivating to hear him talk about the races he'd done and how excited he was to be competing in this event.

- On the way towards home during the flight from Myrtle Beach to Charlotte, I sat next to a lady reading her week 6 Weight Watchers book. We started talking and it turns out the tall man next to her was her husband who had lost 100 pounds this year through eating right and walking. He was once 350 and is now 250. And while I didn't ask his age, it was clear he was in his late 40's or early 50's, and looked a lot more comfortable than I was sitting in my cramped airline seat. He'd gone from a 3XLT to an XL shirt (he's a tall guy like myself), in just 11 months. If he can do it, I sure as heck can too.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Race Report: Myrtle Beach Tri/USAT Club Nationals

I've been having trouble trying to sum this weekend up in words. I think it's because Club Nationals meant a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. 

First, it was a chance to give something back to the Wheelworks Multisport team. Just by showing up, I put us in contention to win a national level club award. Unfortunately, Division III was the most popular division in the club competition with no fewer than 12 teams showing up to compete. My travel and participation points were good enough for 9th place, which while I wish was higher, is pretty good for just a single person. What's funny is if we'd had a mere 10 more members, we'd have been competing in Division II, which was not as strongly contested, and we'd have taken 3rd place based on the points I earned. 

It doesn't really matter where I ended up in the club standings, because I got to compete in a national championship in the sport I love for the club that has given me a lot this year. Plus I learned what to expect from an event at this level, and had a great time, so hopefully my experiences will help encourage other members of our team to want to travel to this event in the future.

One reason I wasn't expecting was to be there to cheer on a friend. I didn't think I'd know anyone down there, but as I was thumbing through Facebook on my phone, and saw my nearly lifelong friend Monica West had posted a status update that she was in Myrtle Beach getting ready to run. Monica is a terrific triathlete, and was racing to qualify for Team USA at the Long Course (half-iron) distance. It wasn't her first time either, as Monica represented Team USA last year in Perth, Australia for the 35-39 age group. I didn't think fast enough when I saw her to get a picture, but I did get a chance to high five her as she ran by into transition.

Unfortunately, yesterday wasn't her day. She ran a strong race, but her best leg is the swim and the swim was cancelled (I'll get into that in a bit). Monica still wound up with a time of 4:51 for the bike and run. To put this into perspective, my Timberman bike of the same distance was over 4 hours by itself. While she didn't qualify for next years worlds, I am proud of her effort, and prouder still to call her my friend. She's a great triathlete, and I know she has a lot to look forward to next season and beyond.

As for my race, I found it kind of ironic. My first race of the year had the swim cancelled (for everyone after my wave of course), and the last race of the year had the swim cancelled. The inter-coastal waterway where we were to swim tested positive for higher than allowed levels of e. coli, meaning the department of health wouldn't allow us to swim. I was a bit bummed, because while I'm not the strongest swimmer, I enjoy the swim. Plus the swim course as planned wouldnt require much sighting and would have allowed me to be at my best.

The Inter-Coastal waterway... evidently it's icky with e coli (and probably sharks)

Instead, the race organizer used a time-trial like start to simulate a few swimmers coming out of the water at a time in order to reduce the chaos of a mass start into a bike transition. While this meant a 200 yard run into transition, it was a heck of a lot better than if the race had become a duathlon, which would have likely doubled the run distance. I've never done a time-trial start before and it was actually kind of neat.

At first, I didn't think my first transition would even as good as normal. My set-up was not very good because our transition prep was interrupted for the swim cancellation announcement. Plus, I forgot my bike bottle in the fridge at the hotel, so during set-up I had to steal a bottled water out of transition to stick on my bike so I'd have something to drink. I managed to run 200 yards, grab the bike and jog at least another 100 yards to get out of transition in 3:21. I'm pretty happy with that considering how much running was involved.

It took me a minute once I crossed the mount line and hopped on the bike to get my shoes in the toe clips. I really need to replace those suckers with some Keo pedals again in the spring. Once I got going though, I was flying. At least I thought I was. The course was a mostly flat out and back, 5 miles each way. My computer on the way out was telling me somewhere between 17-19 MPH, and on the way back 14-17 MPH into a fairly strong headwind. 

I knew the computer was acting up because I couldn't get it to sit in the mounting properly, so I figured it might be a little off on the time, and I figured it was a bit slow. I didn't have any idea how slow until I glanced at my watch timer coming back out of transition and it said 35 minutes. I was pretty psyched because it meant I had to have been close to a 20 MPH average and blown away my PR for 10 race miles on the bike. 

My second transition was pretty smooth, and I have to say I was mostly happy with it considering the height of the bike racks (very high) and how different this setup was than my previous races. Wound up being 3:00 in and out of transition on the nose. Considering the size of transition, and the fact that my bike was almost as far from the run out as possible, it could have been a lot worse.

The run, on the other hand, couldn't have been a lot worse. After my PR on the bike, I had what amounts to a fairly average run for me. For a course this flat, I had hoped for something much more, but by the midway point in the run the heat was beginning to get to me. The run was mostly blocked from the sea breeze, and open to the sun, which adds up to a far from ideal situation. On top of that, the time trial start didn't give me any way of knowing how I was faring against the folks in my division. I had nothing to push myself against, so I just dug in as deep as I could. I wound up with a run time of 42:39, which while not the worst run I've ever done was a full 3 1/2 minutes off my PR for a 5k, and this was only 3 miles.

Overall I'm pretty happy with my race. If there had been a swim, it's very likely I'd have set a PR for a sprint distance race. I just felt great, even when I was tired on the run. As it was, I had an amazing bike, and an average run that allowed me to finish in 1:17:49, 177/188 finishers. I finished last in my age group, but by less than a minute and I wasn't the last male in the race either. 

Food, drinks, my medal, and a towel - Photo by Laurel Tabat

Once the race was over my sister-in-law Laurel and I went and did some shopping and had a post race meal at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Laurel had never had it before, and I promised her she'd love it, and she did. We followed lunch up with some shopping and touristy exploring before settling in at the hotel for dinner and a few drinks.

Blueberry vodka + lemonade + Sprite = Happy Laurel!
It was a great experience the whole weekend, and getting a chance to spend the weekend with my "sis" was definitely the best part.