Friday, November 17, 2006

Strange week it's been.

Things happen in threes.

I was out for a run Wednesday afternoon. It was a great day for running; high 60's here in Connecticut in November! I have this one hour course that I love to run. It starts out on the rail trail, then enters signle track trails, before hitting a rolling paved road, then turning at the half way point onto a dirt road, before finishing back on the rail trail.

I was 45 minutes in and running past our town dump entrance off the dirt road. At this exact moment, I had an urgency to pee. Guys have it quite easy in this situation, usually picking any tree. However, right inside the gates to the dump sat a port-o-potty. Since this was very convienient, I ducked in quickly. I was in there for 20 seconds at the most. While inside, I heard a car drive by. As I exited the out-house, the car was driving off, outside the gates which were now closed and locked with chains. It'd be easy to hop the fence if it weren't for the barbed wire. Barbed wire is a bitch, especially when trying to climb over it in running shorts and a singlet. I pulled a Schofield and busted out by climbing a tree and taking a leap of faith.

On Thursday, I head to the dentist to have two large side by side cavities plugged.

My dentist is a great guy who I've been going to since I was a kid. He gives me a shot of novacaine or some numbing agent directly into my gum. We chat for a bit and he asks me if my mouth is numb yet, but it's not. So he sticks another needle into my gum. He then begins drilling. The thing is, I can feel the drill grinding into my tooth. Being an idiot, I don't notify him. I'm thinking that he injected me with this numbing chemical twice already. A; the pain killer should kick in soon, and 2; I have a client meeting in an hour and I don't want to be late. He get's deeper into the tooth and now I'm squeezing the hand rails of the chair so hard that there are probably permanent finger marks from my hands. 45 minutes later, I leave the dental office and finally my mouth begins going numb!

To cap the week off, my big toenail that was bruised in Hawaii from the bro-hug fell off last night.

Have a great weekend everyone!



Monday, November 13, 2006

Opportunity Awaits

Most people dread Mondays. I kind of like them. Monday is the start of a new week. Just like many use New Year's day as a starting point, an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and set some new goals, Mondays can serve the same purpose.

Try this today: Instead of dwelling on the fact that you still have four and a half work days left in this week, and the fact that this particuliar Monday here in CT can be even more depressing due to the rain, focus on these questions: "what can I do this week that will make it a stellar week? What may put me one step closer towards a big goal? What three things can I do during this week of November 13th that will seperate this week from any othter ordinary week?

It's easy to get caught up in a particuliar routine, and to get sucked into common societal bs like the fact that Mondays should suck. Instead, view Mondays as an opportunity. And remember, there's a coworker or age group competitor out there that's creating a situation that puts them one step closer towards their big goal. Don't let them getthe one-up on you.



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Spring is here!

I guess it's time to take the storms out and put the screens in. Seems like it was just last weekend that we took the screens off the windows and put the storms in. Wait, it was just last weekend!

Today, it was over 70 degrees in CT. The sun was out and it felt like spring. I wanted to get on my road bike and put in a nice, 3+ hour ride. Instead, I did a light run and then some strength training.

I'm at the tail end of a bad cold. I guess between the sinus trouble I had during Hawaii and the lack of sleep afterwards, my immune system was low. It seems as though this bug is going around. I know lots of sick people out there right now. I thought I'd share my immune system booster, cold remedy routine:

Emergen-C 6 packets per day
Cold Snap 2 supplements X 4 times per day
Kyolic garlic capsules 2 capsules, twice per day
Pearls Acidophilus 2 per day
herbal tea 4 cups per day
Nyquil at night to knock me out

I planned on taking 2 weeks fully off after Hawaii, and then doing some light training for 4 weeks of mountain biking, trail running, and strength training. This will have to start this weekend.

I'm already planning for 2007. I'm focusing on 1/2 IM races, with Timberman and Worlds being my two A races. I'm also really looking forward to this years camps. I've been planning the agendas and let's just say that attendees will be quite tired at the end of these. A good tired though.



Sunday, November 05, 2006

Importance of cumulative base

I've been working with Angela Forster for a few years now. She is a very accomplished athlete, completing many Ironmans including qualifying for and racing in Hawaii. This year, she took on a new goal of running an ultramarathon in June. She had never run one before and signed up for the 100 miler. During her training for this race, we basically eliminated cycling and swimming sessions. She did lots of long runs, mostly in trails. Well, not only did she do well in this event, but she finished as the second woman. Yes, she's talented, but her hard work and dedication combined with her consistency is what really paid off. She took some well deserved down-time following this event, and then basically stayed fit with lower key, shorter swimming, cycling, and running sessions.

About four and a half weeks ago, she called me and told me that she was thinking about doing IM Florida. Her and her nutty husband sign up for like every IM in case they want to race them, so she was already registered. Yet, she wasn't going to race this until about four and a half weeks ago. Our conversation was: "Do you think I can really do this?" "Sure, you have so much base that we'll give you two really solid weeks and then back you off" I responded confidently, before hanging up and shaking my head in bewilderment, wondering if she actually would be capable of doing this.

The reality is that if she went extra, extra easy, then finishing wouldn't be a problem for an athlete with Angela's background. But she's also a competitor, and as much as I emphasized the need for her to start very slow and build into this race, I was worried that this competitiveness may take over.

I gave her two very big weeks of training, and mostly at or slower than goal IM effort. We then tapered her for two weeks. I told her that I wanted her to take the swim quite easy, and the first half of the bike as well. I told her husband Scott that if he doesn't see her smiling on the course during the bike, she's going too hard.

Angela ended up finishing 8th in her age group and in 11 hours 28 minutes!

I've stressed the importance of cumulative base. That is, base built up over seasons of training and racing. Angela shows how important cumulative base actually is. In fact, with the training she did in the late winter and spring, if she had started her build for this maybe six weeks out, instead of four, she might have nailed a pr. This makes me believe more that those with years of experience and base - if they have a very solid early season of base training, then they probably will race an IM bettter starting their build six or seven weeks out instead of the typical 12 to 14 weeks out. In fact, many enter their key race of the year a bit over-cooked.

For those of you racing an Ironman next year, take some down time now for the off season and plan your pre-season schedule. Remember that much of your race day outcome will be determined more by what you do January through April, rather than the 8 weeks leading into your key race.

One more note: In regards to taking an off season, make sure you seriously take some good down time now. Many triathletes are so driven, that they finish their last race of the season,
and already begin thinking of next season and the training they want to do to get faster. Or there are those that are very paranoid about losing all their fitness, or gaining weight, so they don't take a sufficient off season. These are usually the same athletes who go through the following season, stale, injured, de-motivated, or all of these things. I once read that the Kenyan runners take two solid months off at the end of their season! They don't do a bit of running! Now, I'm not advising this amount of time, but I think that most should take two solid weeks of "no training" time, and then do four, very easy weeks of one easy session per day.



Monday, October 30, 2006

After Thoughts

I always stay in Hawaii for four or more days following this race. I do nothing but spend time with my wife, doing whatever she feels like doing, and overindulging. The post IM experience in Hawaii was, once again, incredible. We stayed at a great resort that has one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to. It’s a protected cove that has white, soft sand and beautiful palm trees, and just past the lava rock barrier that sections off the cove is an incredible coral reef that offers up great snorkeling and diving. I used to be very bad at lying around on a beach. I absolutely love the beach, but I’d get extremely antsy lying around. I’ve learned how to enjoy be lazy though, and what better time than following an IM and beginning your off-season. For a couple of days, Lisa and I just hung out in a cabana with a cooler of ice water and fresh fruit. We would read, or talk, or occasionally nap. About once every hour or so, I’d dive into the emerald green salty water and float around. Sometimes I’d take my goggles and explore the coral reef. This beach is a hang out for the huge sea turtles, and on more than one occasion, I’d swim with them a bit. One day, we hiked into the Waipo valley which is just amazing, with the huge cliffs and waterfalls and the black sand beach. One night, we received a bottle of wine at our room, compliments of the Forster’s, and we took it with two glasses down to the beach and watched the sun set, before dinner.

With ample time to think about and over-analyze my race, here are some of my thoughts:

First, I’ll definitely be back to Hawaii for number eight. Not next year, but I’ll be back.

I’d love to go into an Ironman with no side issues, but, for the majority of us, this really is hit or miss. Most of us have busy lives outside of triathlon. Families, careers, responsibilities that make optimal focus towards an IM impossible. The key thing is to realize that you don’t need to be perfect going into an IM. Sure, aim for optimal preparation, but when a curve ball comes your way, be prepared to deal. Freaking out over issues or distractions only makes the race that much more difficult. There’s much more to gain from staying calm and figuring out a solution, a way to work with or compensate for whatever issue(s) that has come about.

As I mentioned in a past post, I have a feeling that most overestimate what they can maintain, effort-wise, for an IM. Especially on the bike, which makes for a very challenging and long run. Most of the time, if the run didn’t go as planned, it was mainly due to mispacing rather than nutrition. Think about this in your training. If your long rides aren’t similar to your IM pace, than how can you expect to ratchet the effort up on race day for 112 miles and receive no ill effects from it? Think of your next IM like a wave, building energy from start to finish. As the wave rolls towards shore, it gets stronger.

My preparation towards this race started back in January. I established a consistent weekly schedule or habit. No, I wasn’t doing long or hard efforts back in January, but I was thinking already about the season, and getting in five to seven runs per week, and three to four rides per week. I was also doing core every other day and some strength training. This consistency remained throughout most of the year. I had some big weeks of training in there, but the weekly consistency pays off more than a few big training weeks. Big training weeks are great for upping your threshold of what you feel you are capable of. They are extremely beneficial mentally and physically, but only if the weekly consistency is there year round.

My cycling training was very specific. Each session had a purpose. Cycling takes up a lot of time, and I didn’t have this time to log a lot of “junk” mileage. I’d do one day of big gear work, usually intervals on a flat to rolling road or long, gradual hills in a big gear. I’d do one day with a time trial effort. The other key day each week for cycling was my long ride. I rode my long rides like I planned on racing in Hawaii. I started off easier and built into it, and I rode my long rides at IM effort. As I got closer to race day, I’d throw in some specific intervals later in the long ride. Those were my three key weekly rides and on the occasion that I was able to sneak in another ride, it was usually a very easy recovery ride in A zone, but at higher rpm’s (90+).

My run training was focused more on frequency and IM pace rather than specific intervals like my cycling training. For an IM, I feel that run frequency and volume trumps run quality. Nearly all of my run training was done at 6:45 to 7:30 per mile pace. I rarely ran faster than 6:45/mile or slower than 7:30/mi. I wanted this pace ingrained in me physiologically and psychologically. I aimed for seven sessions of running per week. Some days I would run twice, especially if the previous day I didn’t run. I did lots of bricks, mostly because this was the most time efficient way for me to fit this in. But I did notice that as I became more fit and used to the running frequency and volume, I didn’t need to brick as much and yet would still run well off the bike.

I did a few longer bricks. Four or five hour rides followed by 75 minutes to 2 hour runs. I think Mark Allen and Peter Reid once mentioned that they feel running more than 1 hour off the bike in training takes more out of you than it should, so they don’t advise this. However, these two guys were logging huge weekly volume compared to what most age group athletes are doing. With that type of volume, longer bricks may break you down to much. But for the majority of age groupers, long bricks are a great way to train, preparing you more for race day both physically and providing a great mental benefit.

Key sessions that I did: I kicked off my IM training up at Lake Placid during IM week up there. I used the four days to log big bike mileage, mostly in A and low to mid B zone. I did three days of 4.5 hr + riding, including the climb up Whiteface. I bricked most of these rides. I did the Vermont ride in late August, and focused on maintaining a steady effort over the two days of riding (142 miles each way). I did a 40 min brick run in Vermont. I’ve been doing this ride at least once a year since 97’ and I’ve learned that this ride is a great barometer at showing me where I’m at physically and mentally. There have been years where I really wasn’t having much fun during this ride, not because of the effort, but just mentally I wasn’t into it. Those times usually showed I was on the edge of overtraining, and burnout. This year, I had done a lot of different training routes. I was coming off what was basically a year off from racing as well. We rode up to Vermont into a stiff headwind and in rain. I was alone the majority of the time and I was smiling and loving it. This was a good! Another key week was the small Fall training camp I hosted in September. Unlike my other camps, I billed this one as pure training (no testing, …). We logged some big miles over some really challenging courses. It was very beneficial for those that attended.

I had no illness in my main build towards Hawaii, mainly because I focused on getting 7+ hours of sleep per night and I would back off if I felt I needed it, even if my schedule called for something more intense. I got my first cold three weeks out from Hawaii. One of my kids was sick and I was not sleeping well do to extra time I was putting into The Ride For Rick and a few other projects I’ve been working on. I basically did nothing except swim during this week of illness.

So that’s basically my IM story for this year. Once again, it was a blast and I learned a ton.

I once heard a well followed pro discuss how most aren’t really willing to focus like they need to too achieve excellence in triathlon. He used the example of a top business executive or CEO and how this person got there by totally focusing on his work, giving up most outside distractions, and being available towards work 24/7. He mentions that if you are truly searching for excellence, you need to get rid of other distractions. This was the quest that he took on, and how he lives his life. He’s right, in that this is the way to really achieve excellence. I viewed this in another light. I have witnessed top business executives sacrifice family, friends, fun, for their work. I have witnessed triathletes sacrifice family, friends, fun, their careers, for their sport. Most of these people that do this never really turn out satisfied. It’s sad. Find out how much time you can truly devote to triathlon, and then maximize this time. Aim for excellence based on your time frame. There is far more satisfaction to gain, knowing that you were a great family person, kept your career on track and in focus, made time for friends and fun, and still excelled in your sport. You have to accept that you will never reach your potential. The only way to reach your potential is to sacrifice all these other things. But that doesn’t mean you cannot excel. Don’t confuse aiming for balance with mediocrity. At the end of the day, it’s all about satisfaction, and you’ll know if you have achieved the right balance – if you truly feel satisfied. If you are excelling in one area of your life but you still aren’t feeling satisfied, than something is off kilter.

Thanks again for reading my Kona blog. I will continue to post here. About what, who knows?



Friday, October 27, 2006

The Run

I had to make a pee stop which caused me a bit of time in T2. Starting out on the run, my legs felt really good. In fact, my legs felt fine for 20 miles of the run. But the heat was oppressive and it felt like I was running in a convection oven. I started using coke at the aid stations for calories just because I like it. I was dumping cups of water and ice on my head and down my jersey and shorts at every aid station and wiping myself with cold sponges. This offered a brief bit of relief before forging onto the next mile and aid station. The first 10k, I was running 7 minute miles and they felt easy, except for the heat that was starting to build in me. I had a few people looking at my splits that commented that I didn’t stick to my plan, which was to take the run out easy, but honest, I was holding back with my legs. I had done some great run training and thought I was capable of holding 6:55 pace for the marathon. I knew this wasn’t to be the case considering that it was probably the worst heat and humidity I’d ever experienced here during the run. I ran up Palani hill at the 10 mile mark and saw Lisa again. I told her I’d be back soon and we’d have dinner. Out onto the queen K I was still running solidly, but then, around mile 15, I started to melt a bit. My run was reduced to a shuffle at times, but I never stopped to walk. God, I wanted to. I had that devil on my shoulder chirping “just walk, you’ll feel so much better!” but I wouldn’t give in. I knew that as soon as I walked once, it would make it all too easy to do again, and again. The last 10K just sucked. I began counting my foot strikes, trying to shift the focus to anywhere besides how I was feeling. At mile 22, I caved, and walked through an aid station. I hadn’t been eating or drinking much for the whole run. When it gets this hot, I lose my appetite, and if I force it, it usually sits hard in my stomach. I was continuing to sip coke, and dump water on my head, and chew ice. I walked for about 100 meters out of the aid station and then resumed a trot. At mile 24, I locked onto a German who was in my age group and used him to drag me to the top of Palani, and then I surged on the downhill and ran the last mile strong.

The last 100 meters of an Ironman is still one of the best feelings in the world. It never gets old, and I was quite proud that I was finishing and in a decent time. At this point in the race, I want the clock to stop clicking, yet I want to slow down and take everything in. Funny, we spend the whole race trying to get to the finish as quickly as possible, and when we get within a ¼ mile of the finish, we want things to run in slow motion.

I was thinking about my very first IM race, which was here in Kona, during the final miles. I was thinking about how there were times in the race, and particularly the later part of the marathon, where I thought to myself “F*&# this! This is the last one of these I’ll ever do”. And then, when floating down the green carpet of the final 100 meters, I was thinking “how will I get my ass back here next year?” This point of the race cannot be described, so I won’t disservice it by trying. Let’s just say that the final 1 minute of a nine and a half hour race makes everything worthwhile, and puts goosebumps on the skin just thinking about it.

Upon crossing the finish line, I continued to heat up, and felt a bit nauseous, so the catchers (they assign two volunteers to each finisher and call them catchers) took me to the med tent. They put cold towels and ice on me but my body heat warmed and melted these things quite quickly. They than gave me an IV and I began to feel better fast.

Curveballs will constantly be thrown our way and how we react and deal with them determines our success and satisfaction. This IM has to be one of most fulfilling ones yet.

Still more to come (if you aren’t sick of reading yet)!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Bike

Running to the changing tent after exiting the swim, my left shoulder was throbbing. I braced my left arm against my body to reduce the impact. In transition, a volunteer was taking my race belt with number attached out of the bag and ripped my number off. I had to wait there while he re-pinned it. I was now curious to see how this injury was going to effect my cycling as I headed off to find my race bike. I had one leg down, two more to go!

To say the bike leg was frustrating would be my understatement of the year. I had trained very well for this race and my cycling was feeling very strong. But as I mounted my bike, I could feel sharp, shooting pain in my shoulder and it intensified as I went into the aero position. I immediately took two more Excedrin, but it still hurt like a mother to rest my left arm in the aerobars, so for the next 60 miles, I would do 3 minutes in the aero position, 3 minutes upright. To add to this frustration, the pack riding on the way to Hawi was disgusting. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse discussing this and I know that those who’ve read my race reports are probably tired of my bitching about drafting, but this was the worst I have seen it by far. Usually it’s just a train of people, but they weren’t even breaking up the blocking. There were packs of 20 that were three cyclists wide, like a peloton! I saw some marshals on the course but I think they were overwhelmed or intimidated, because I didn’t see many penalties issued. I really just don’t get it. I pedaled much easier than anticipated at times, dropping back from the huge packs. I don’t believe in the statement “everyone was doing it, so what was I supposed to do?” All’s that I know is that there were many athletes there who had much faster bike splits than they were actually capable of. Lisa waited for me to come out of the water and then hopped in the rental car and took the high road through the mountain to make it to Kawaihai which is about the 35 mile mark. I saw her there and gave her a smile and a thumbs up. On the climb up to Hawi, the wind started to blow a little bit, but nothing too bad. I was still in a lot of pain, and very pissed off to boot. Riding upright, with your hands on the pursuit bars creates a lot of drag, and on this course, it’s like riding with a sail hoisted. As I neared the turnaround, the pro’s were coming back the other way. Norman Stadler had a huge lead. Next came Chris Lieto, who had a one minute gap on a train of maybe 15 pro’s. If these guys were riding 7 meters apart, than I need to have my contacts prescription re-examined. I would say they were maybe two meters apart at the most. Stadler and Lieto both have a low cadence pedaling style. It looked like they were pushing huge gears at maybe 70 rpm’s and they were heading downhill.

At the turnaround (60 miles out, 52 back), I took two more Excedrin and went into the aerobars. I was going to suck it up on the return trip and deal with the uncomfortableness. I began motoring! Not one cyclist went by in the last 52 miles. We had a headwind back on the queen K, but it wasn’t bad considering what could be here, and it switched to a tail wind around the airport. I averaged 24 mph on the return trip. The weather conditions on the bike were good. Mostly cloudy on the queen K, the sun came out on the climb to Hawi, and then back on the queen K it went away and we actually got sprinkled on for 10 or so minutes. The heat and humidity was building though. I could see a lot of salt build up on other competitors. I could also see a lot of fatigued competitors in the final 30 miles – athletes that were riding very strong much earlier in the day. I believe that most athletes overestimate what pace they can truly hold. These athletes usually look frazzled in the last 30 miles of the bike ride. Almost bewildered like they don’t understand why they are feeling lousy at this point. This makes for a long marathon. There is a lot of bravado in a fast bike leg, but I always thought the goal of racing a tri is to get to the finish line in as fast a time as possible, not do a so-so time but with a crushing bike split.

I used my power meter to guage my effort and I loved racing with it. The benefits of racing with power are enormous, the main one being that It kept me focused on my plan instead of me getting caught up in what everyone else was doing. Interesting note; I stuck with my plan the whole time which was to maintain 265 watts give or take 10 on the flats and slight uphills, and 300 watts on the climbs give or take 10. On the way out where I couldn’t ride aero much, I was much slower, averaging 21 mph. I ended up with quite a significant negative split. Just shows how one’s position on the bike can make such a difference.

Riding into the second transition, I felt solid, yet down a bit. I knew I was capable of going much better during this ride and was limited by my own stupidity. You see, in the past, I was always capable of getting away with three weeks of swimming prior to the race, and still post a decent time in the swim. This year, I started up my three week swim training plan once again. I had written about the swim mp3 goggles in a previous blog and how they caused a great distraction from pool boredom, allowing me to swim much more yardage in my first two weeks than I had planned. Hindsight now, I feel this extra yardage probably irritated my rotator cuff. Not enough to cause the problem I was experiencing with it in the race and during the past week, but enough to make it vulnerable. Then, on my flight out here, I did the damage. Maybe lifting my bike box, or even leaning on it the wrong way on the flight. It was like a rope that had been worn in a spot to where it was just a few strands, and then one thing, big or small, is enough to make it snap. I was thinking about how stupid this was and how this swim build was something I’d never advise for a client of mine. The pain I was experiencing, that was limiting my ability on this day, the day I trained so well for in two of the disciplines, was my own damn fault! Live and learn. I won’t make this mistake again.

It was now a little after 1pm and I still had a nice run to do in the heat and humidity.

More to follow!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Swim

The tradewinds returned to the island yesterday. It was blowing but much cooler and the humidity much lower. I’ll take strong winds over heat and humidity any day. I’ve been lazy the past two days, lying on the beach and reading, occasionally taking a dip into the ocean, enjoying our last few days here in Hawaii before heading home. I’m pretty sore still – mostly my quads and calves. The worst of my post race pain didn’t even occur during the race! A friend came up to me afterwards to give me the bro-hug and stepped hard on my big toe (he was wearing running shoes, I was bare foot). Looks like I’ll be losing the nail.

The following is part one of my race report:

"It's not the distance that overwhelms people who race Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon. It's the relentless wind that blows across the lava fields. You're on one of the highest ridges, you see miles of repetitive road to Hawi, and you relize it's extremely hot and you're going straight into a 30 mile-an-hour crosswind. I've found that those who dwell on these conditions tend to fold.
I always train for adversity. I consider adversity an asset, Something to turn around to my advantage. One of life's most important lessons is learning to put your losses in perspective and to savor your triumphs by riding on euphoria's wave. Have High Goals and Expectations, regaurd defeat as stages on the road to success by remembering the little victories that have gotten you where you are."

Dave Scott

Kathy Salvo sent me this quote the day before Hawaii this year.

I arose at 3:45am and immediately downed a can of Ensure. I prefer Boost, but the supermarkets were all out of it here. Next, I ate a powerbar as I made some coffee, and then took a hot shower to loosen up. I sipped some coffee and stretched lightly as I analyzed my condition. My hamstrings didn’t feel tight which was a good sign. I usually run well when I do a certain stretch and my hamstrings feel loose. My shoulder hurt though, and I knew it was going to give me some problems. I drank another ensure as I prepped my nutrition for the day. I was using Infinit in two bottles. The remainder of my calories would come from powerbars and gels. I also had a container of Saltstick capsules, a small bag of Excedrin (which I had never used during a race before), and a roll of Tums. Lisa and I gathered up some last minute things like clothes to change into afterwards, and by 4:30am we were headed to the car for the trek to Kailua. I drank my third can of Ensure around 5am.

This is the worst part of race day for me and it’s compiled in Kona by waiting in long lines. However, this year, things went very smoothly. They really were ultra organized and had a great system down. I went through bodymarking in minutes, then went to my bike to remove the plastic bags from my saddle and bars that I placed on there the day before in case it rained. I put the right amount of air in each tire, and put my bike in the right gear. I made my way over to meet Lisa, apply lots of bodyglide, stretch a bit more and listen to my Ipod. It was already getting hot and humid. There was lots of cloud cover but it was still hotter and more humid than usual here. Even the locals were commenting about this during the week. As I sat and stretched, I watched some bizarre warm-ups by many of the athletes. One guy was doing sprints, like he was warming up for a 5K. One woman just paced back and forth, clearly showing the pre-race nerves.

Lisa worries about me a lot on race day, and because of this, I decided to not let her onto any troubles I might be going through up to and through the race. I downplayed my shoulder situation, but the reality is that it hurt quite a bit on Thursday and Friday. It hurt when I did my solo swim on Thursday, but I mentioned the swim was just what I needed because while I was out there, it came upon me that I can’t make Lisa any more nervous than she already would be, and this swim on Thursday allowed me to find the new stroke I would use on race day. I took two Excedrin (I mentioned I had never used Excedrin in a race before but it isn’t ibuprofen or something similar like Advil or Aleve. NSAIDS can really irritate the stomach on race day, especially in an IM event, and they place a lot of stress on the kidneys) and headed to the ramp at 6:30am to get in the water. In Hawaii, there is such a crowd getting in the water and you literally have to get in 30 minutes prior to the start to get a good position, and then wade near the start line for 15 to 20 minutes. As you wade, it get’s more and more crowded and athletes end up kicking each other quite a bit here.

The swim is an out and back that turns clockwise around a big sailboat at the halfway point, so I lined up far to the left so that I could break off from the pack if need be. My new stroke for this race was to throw my left arm forward and lightly pull back, while taking more forceful, correct strokes with my right arm. The rotator cuff grinds uncomfortably when I anterior rotate and reach. When I start my catch, it feels like someone’s sticking a knitting needle in the top of my deltoid. I just had to make sure I tracked right so that I didn’t end up swimming in circles.

The cannon sounded and there was the usual frenzy of people swimming on top of each other, but I found some free water quite quickly. I was doing ok until, about 15 minutes in, I swung my left arm directly into another swimmer. I went on to do this two more times. The bay still had a good amount of chop, and I think swim times were a bit slower in general, but I exited the water in 1:04 which was fine.

During long races, you have a lot of thinking time. Most of the time, we are self-evaluating, wondering if we could hold the current pace, smiling and riding high when we feel good, and worrying and overdwelling when we feel bad. And during a long race, you will have times where you feel good and times where you feel bad. During the swim, I focus on trying to feel smooth and loose, and then I zone out once in awhile and focus on the fish, the scuba divers filming the race for NBC. I try to get a good song in my head although usually the opposite happens. I think about work, or movies, or anything that may distract me for a bit. Later in the race, I seem to think an awful lot about food – like burgers or pizza or ice cream.

Coming out in 1:04, there were so many other athletes around me. I knew that the early stages of the bike would be frustrating, but didn’t realize just how frustrating it would be.

More to come…



Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quick Update

I'm very pleased with my race yesterday. In fact, it, along with my first IM, is my most satisfying race to date. While training for this race, I had plans of going faster and being more competitive, but had to rework my plans due to situations that arose this week with my shoulder and this sinus infection. It was a very tough, yet rewarding experience. I know that without these issues, I would have been exactly where I wanted to, but there were bigger lessons to learn this day.

The conditions were strange - both great and terrible at the same time. The wind was quite light for here, with the brunt of it a headwind on the return trip from Hawi. There was also some cloud cover throughout the day. Yet on the other side, it felt more hot and humid then most other years here. It felt similiar to the heat and humidity of 1997.

Lisa and I spent a relaxing day under a cabana at the beach, occasionally getting up to take a dip in the ocean. We are heading to Kailua to meet John Brennan (who had a great day and just a great experience thus far) and his wife Barb for a cocktail and then to the awards. Don't worry Gus, we'll be following up the awards dinner with a huge piece of Mud Pie from Huggo's.

I'll be reporting much more detail in the next few days, but for now, I just wanted to thank everyone for their support and well wishes. It means a lot.



Friday, October 20, 2006

It's go time!

Ironman eve here. I can't wait until tomorrow. My off season begins on Sunday, so I'm going to make the most of my last day of the 2006 race season. My shoulder, the sinus congestion i've been waking up with, the heat - none of that matters now.

I know I've said this before but anytime you get to the starting line of an IM, it's important to reflect and be thankful. Many will think that they created this through their hard work, which they did, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't feel thankful. I have many to thank starting of course with my wife and family. If you don't have the support of your family in an endeavor like an IM, it certainly makes the journey difficult. Coming back from a run and having your 3 year old daughter ask how it went is the best. Also my father who loves the sport and lifestyle and is always calling to check up on me and see how my day's training went. I have so many great friends to thank, most specifically Baker who would keep me company through some torturous sessions. I still don't understand why that guy hangs out with me. Scott and Ange who have been just great friends also. And all the friends who have been calling and e-mailing me best wishes over the past week, or who even just called to see if I was ok during the earthquake, thank you.

Last night, Lisa and I had dinner at one of the resort restaurants here. We sat right on the ocean, and there were two Hawaiins singing and a hula dancer. It was quite relaxing. I didn't sleep so well, but I tried, and rested for a good 9.5 hours.

Upon awakening, Lisa and I went for an easy run. I only did 16 minutes and felt quite stiff. I came back and stretched out and waited for Lisa. I don't put too much weight into taper week sessions. Most think you should feel like you are ready to jump out of your skin, but I never do for an IM. The training was long and mostly aerobic and sometimes it takes a good 30 minutes into a run before I start to feel loose and comfortable during IM training.

Lisa ran for 35 minutes and then we headed to breakfast. I'm looking forward to burning off some of these calories I've been putting away this week. Actually, I've eaten quite healthy, and the only dessert I've had all week is coconut sorbet last night after dinner.

We then headed over to Waikoloa Village. Lisa wanted a new bathing suit. It's painful shopping with your wife for bathing suits. It makes the IM seem easy. When I was here in 2002, I bought Ryan an red Eukeleile. I picked up a pink one for Kate at the same store. I picked up some last minute supplies for race day also; baby powder for shoes, Tums for the calcium which I take during the run, and excedrin in case the shoulder really acts up.

We then headed back to our resort and Lisa went down to the beach while I went out for an easy 20 minute ride. I met Lisa at the beach for lunch, and then we headed into town to check my bike in which is always something I loathe. The traffic from the airport to Kailua has been brutal. Then you have to stand in a long line with your bike, helmet, bike gear, and run gear. There's no shade and everyone is very intense. Besides the traffic into Kailua though, things went quite smoothly. People are really bike crazy right now. Everyone wants to see the latest and greatest in cycling technology and there is no shortage of this in Kona. The magazine photographers were all stationed outside the bike check-in, snapping photo's of cool bikes.

We left Kailua and hit Jamba Juice one last time before race day, for our drive back to the Fairmount. I'll order some pizza through room service for dinner, my pre-race dinner ritual, and get some last minute things together, than lights out.

My race strategy will be as follows:

Take it easy in the swim and stay relaxed.

Be patient early on, on the bike. From Kailua to the airport, stay around 250 watts, and 290 on hills. Then from Airport to Kawaihi, keep easy/steady at 265 watts and 300 on hills. Then, for the next 15 miles up to Hawi, keep watts under 310. This is mostly uphill. Relax until Hapuna beach on return trip and then keep it steady at 265 and 300 on hills back to town.

The first 4 miles of the run, I'll run very, very easy. I'll then begin to settle into a pace I want to maintain. If all goes well, I want to run steady from the queen K down into the energy lab, then back.

The last two miles are a done deal. You are back in Kailua and can here the crowds at the finish line and it's mostly downhill.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading. I'll report back on Sunday to let you know how it went.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lazy Thursday

The Thursday before a Saturday IM, I like to be very lazy. Lisa is still on EST and was up at 4am tossing and turning, which had me up. We had breakfast here at the hotel and then made the 40 minute trek to Kailua to pick up my bike and get in a swim.

Before swimming, Lisa and I walked around the IM village and then through town, doing some shopping. We were joking about how this place is the hottest place on earth. My father called and asked if it was raining. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. He's been on daily which has been showing showers here. The only rain I encountered was yesterday on my drive up to the hotel to check in. I rented a convertible and had the top down with my huge bike case sticking out of the back seat. Somewhere on the Queen K between Kailua and our hotel, it downpoured for 5 minutes. Yes, I got soaked in the convertible.

I finally got in the water at the pier around 10:30am. i just wanted to do a short 25 minute swim to see how the shoulder was. Not to bore anyone reading with more shoulder reports, but it was feeling the same as yesterday if not a slight bit better.

The swim was great though. There was no one in the water at this time. Actually, I encountered one woman at one of the buoys - it was Missy Lestrange who is here to compete in her 20th Hawaii IM! The water was a bit more clear and there were big rollers coming in still. The rollers come at you laterally and sometimes you find yourself on top of the wave looking down about 8 feet which is very cool. This was a peaceful swim and just what I needed. It allowed me to relax a bit more and enjoy one of the things I love about Hawaii which is the ocean. It was great to take nice, long relaxing strokes, tasting the salt water and checking out the fish swimming around.

After the swim, we made our way back to the resort, stopping for fresh Ono sandwiches along the way. The fresh fish here is incredible. For those of you(Baker) who don't (Baker) like fish (Baker), I feel bad.

Lisa went down to the pool and beach and I lied around and read a bit in the room. I then began putting my gear together for race day. We have to check in our bike, helmet (I'm going with the non-aero one), and transition gear tomorrow.

Tonight is a big eating night. I plan on putting down the carbs. Should be fun.

So, all in all, quite a boring day here!



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Comin' round

I checked out of the condo with John today and checked into the hotel Lisa and I will be at. I had a blast staying with John thus far this week. He's a great guy and an optomist. We had some great conversations, did some nice training and ate some terrific food. John thinks I'm a very fast eater, but the reality is that he eats like my mom. Growing up, we'd all be done with dessert and my mother would still be working on her salad. We had a great meal last night - a sushi appetizer then maui onion encrusted Ahi and macadamia nut wasabi mashed potatoes.

The shoulder actually felt better upon awakening today. I never got a chance to swim yesterday afternoon (pool was closed), so I thought I'd go down to the pier and test it out. It felt ok - back to about 60% improvement. I didn't have a lot of power in my left arm, but I was able to swim. I did an easy 35 minutes and then went and had another ART session. I think this will be the last ART session. I want to let it heal up between now and race day. I've changed up my game plan. I will take it very, very easy during the swim. I don't really think I have a choice at this stage. I don't want to do some reall damage, and I also don't want it to effect my ride. On Sunday, I couldn't even ride because I couldn't put pressure on it. So I'll give up some time in the swim, but it is what it is. I'm just really fortunate to be able to race here and I'm excited to be out there Saturday. I'll have to be very patient early on during the bike. I can't think too much about my time in the swim or placing and try and make up for it early on. This would really bite me later in the race. I plan on staying comfortable for the first 70 miles. I'll try to stay around 265 watts during this time period.

The bay was very choppy once again this morning, with huge rollers coming in. I've never witnessed the bay so choppy and the water so stirred up. Usually, there is over 100 feet of visibility in the bay, but this week it's been about 10 feet. There were a ton of swimmers in the water this morning. Swimming back in is like playing Frogger.

After breakfast, I went out for a nice easy hour ride on the Queen K. I love seeing how fit people are here and at all ages. I was talking with a guy who was 62 and looked as though he was maybe 40.

My dilemma now is to decide what helmet to use (I know, the problems we should have!). I brought my Giro Atmos which is very well vented and comfortable and also my Rudy Project Syton aero helmet. At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Giro. Coolness and comfort win out over aerodynamics for me on this course. I've heard a lot of talk recently about some studies that these MIT guys did in the windtunnel and what an advantage an aero helmet is. I have to tell you, I really don't think that testing in the windtunnel stands up well to real riding testing - or actually being out there on the road. Some of the guys here have aero helmets so long and pointy that I'm sure if we get a good side wind gust, they'll be getting a nice cervical adjustment.

I'm about to go for an easy 30 minute run, and then head back to Kailua, which is about a 45 minute drive, to stop by Mitch Gold's house - he's having a little party there tonight, and then I'll head out from there to the Airport to pick up Lisa.

Until tomorrow, asta la vista.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday 411

We are back at Jamba Juice at the moment. Man, I love these shakes! Someone needs to open one up in CT. It may not fare that well in the winter time, although maybe they could serve soup then.

I slept lousy last night. My shoulder started hurting again around dinner time. It was throbbing all night and kept waking me up. I'm starting to get just a bit nervous about this. I had ART done again today on it. They seem to think that it's due to extreme tightness in the subscapularis, although I feel the pain in the rotator cuff. I may go for an x-ray tomorrow. I'm not going to let this throw me. It may make the swim Saturday a bit unpleasant, but I'll deal with this. Shit happens.

John and I went to the Kona Brew House last night for dinner. We had some good pizza and some nice micro-brew local beer. I ran into my friend Mitch Gold there with his wife and a big group.

It poured rain during the night, so I advised John to skip the swim at the pier this morning. After strong rain here, the bay get's polluted with run-off from the town. We certainly don't want a nice parasite visiting our GI tract. So we headed out for an easy 30 min run on Alii Drive instead.

Yesterday and today, the sun was very strong here and the humidity very high. We are still trying to acclimate. John and I were talking about how the sun is much stronger here than in other locations where it may be the same air temperatures.

After running, we headed to The Aloha Cafe for breakfast which is just a great spot. We then went to register.

I just dropped my bike off at the Cannondale Tent. The head mechanic, Murray, is a great guy and a great wrench. He was finishing up Faris Al-Sultan's bike! He told me he'd replace the bearings in the bottom bracket and run some new cables. How cool is that?! I told him he could do whatever he wanted to it since I totally trust this guy.

After we finish here at Jamba Juice, we are going to the Kona Aquatic Center to get in an easy swim. I want to test this shoulder a little. Then we'll head back and catch some of the IM parade before dinner at Hugo's. I always think I'll have a lot of time to veg out during the taper and it never seems to work that way.

Lisa arrives tomorrow evening. I can't wait to see her.

I listened to the Foo Fighters yesterday on my ride up to Hawi. They are just a great band, and although the cd has been out for awhile, pick it up if you don't own it. DOA will get you going up any hill.

So that's all for now.



Monday, October 16, 2006

Great day thus far

"It doesn't get much better than this!" That's what I said to John as we floated in the pacific at Hapuna Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

After breakfast, we loaded our bikes into the SUV john rented and drove up to Hapuna. This is approximately the 35 mile mark of the bike course on the Queen K highway. We were meeting John W. and Oakes there to ride up towards the turnaround in Hawi and back.

The ride towards Hawi rolls mostly uphill, with mountain views to the right and ocean views to the left. Usually, there's a pretty good headwind heading north here, but today, there was a light tailwind. The sun was quite strong today, but it didn't feel too hot out. Very humid though. My legs felt good. Not great yet, but that's expected after only arriving a day and a half ago.

This part of the island took a bit more abuse from the earthquake. part of the road was closed to cars for repair. There were lots of huge stones and pieces of lava rock littering the sides of the road, and there were also some fissure cracks running across the asphalt. Nothing that would affect the course for Saturday though.

We road easy for a bit over two hours and regrouped at the parking area in Hapuna, and headed down for a dip. John W. and Oakes blew out pretty quick. I think they wanted to get to registration today which closed at 2pm. I usually wait a day or two to avoid the crowds and long lines. John B. and I took a dip, did some body surfing in the big waves, then stopped off at Waikoloa for some great Ono sandwiches for lunch.

Right now, we are sitting outside of Jamba juice. Chris McCormick, one of the race favorites is sitting at the table next to ours. I was talking with him about his kids. He has his brand new baby with him, she's 6 weeks old! He said he feels somewhat good, although you never know on race day, but he's ready to roll. I said that it's easy to overanalyze every little thing this week and you can't really put much weight into anything until race day, to which he replied "exactly".

I am going to do an easy 30 minute run before dinner, and then we are headed to the Kona Brew House for brick oven pizza and maybe a cold one or two.

All in all, just a great day!

Quick Update

Monday morining here. I just did a short swim to test out the shoulder. I'd say it's about 60% better. The bay was really stirring this morning. Big swells and cloudy water. I followed up the swim with an ART treatment and now we are having some quick breakfast before heading up to Hapuna Beach. We are meeting John and Oakes and doing an easy 2 hr ride toward Hawi and back.

Following the news, it seems as though whats being reported is worse than what's going on here.

We did a nice ride last night out past the airport - the wind was blowing on the way back. I followed it up with an easy run and then a great dinner.

I'll report back later with a more detailed post.



Sunday, October 15, 2006

Can I have some fries with that shake?

I’m staying with John Brennan in a condo on Alii drive until Lisa arrives on Wednesday. I couldn’t sleep so I got up and started to put my bike together. John awoke and we decided to go down to the pier and swim. At about 7:10am, while gathering up some swim gear, we hear this big rumble, as though a plane had flown directly over the condo. Then, everything started to shake. Now I have never experienced an earthquake before, but I knew right away what this was. The pictures on the walls began to shake, and the floor began moving back and forth, similar to the ride at the park where I take my kids – the one that’s a platform hanging from chains that you have to balance on. I headed for the doorway and told John to do the same (he was in his bedroom at the time). Later in the morning, John mentioned that if he were in this situation again, he’d run outside, which is the thing to do. It was quite freaky. We were on the first floor of a big 3 story condo and the whole thing was shaking and vibrating. The refrigerator in our unit moved a few feet from the wall, and this is a regular size fridge, not one of those small college jobbers. The tremors lasted for about 40 seconds. This felt pretty strong but we didn’t really have any idea how serious it actually was. As the news has shown, this earthquake registered 6.6 with another 5.5 aftershock, and it affected the whole island. The epicenter was right where we were, in Kailua, Kona.

We headed down to the pier and ran into John Wilson and Oakes Ames who were just returning from their morning swim. They had no clue what had happened. The police closed the pier due to a possible Tsunami, which actually benefited me. I love to swim here and got in and took three strokes to realize my shoulder wasn’t going to participate today. Power was out all over Kailua, so I decided to take John up to my favorite breakfast spot, the Aloha Café which is about 15 miles south of Kailua but sits up very high. As we drove to the Café, we saw huge boulders all over the roads. The Café was closed due to the quake (along, as we’d soon find out, with mostly every other restaurant and store on the island). “Never a dull moment John!” I mentioned as we drove back to Kailua.

When the earthquake first occurred, I called Lisa to tell her about it. I must have not been dramatic enough when describing the event, because she mentioned how she was in an earthquake before when she lived in Missouri as a kid, and then switched the subject quickly to tell me about something else. She called me back around an hour later to tell me that it was all over the news. I received many calls and e-mails, checking up on me – thank you.

Now, it’s around 1:00pm and bright and sunny and John and I are sitting at Lava Java watching the ocean and you’d think that nothing out of the ordinary occurred.

Already, this trip has created some unforgettable experiences! It certainly took our minds off of the Ironman for awhile. Things like this occur and once again, brought to the forefront is the fact that we shouldn’t take racing so seriously. I sit here now thinking it’s kind of silly to even get nervous before one of these events considering the big picture.

I posted yesterday’s blog when I arrived in LA while awaiting my connecting flight to Kona. I was to arrive in Kona at 7:30pm, which would be 1:30am East Coast time. We boarded the plane and taxied out only to sit on the runway for 30 minutes before the pilot came on and announced that we needed to taxi back to the gate for some repairs. Long story short – I arrived in Kona around 9:45 pm. My luggage including my bike arrived which was cool, and I made it to the condo around 10:45pm (4:45am EST). I can’t sleep on planes, so needless to say it was quite a long day. Yesterday I had a very bizarre incident that I hope dissipates. While on my first flight, my left shoulder started to hurt a bit. As the day went on, the pain became quite intense. By nighttime, I couldn’t lift my left arm. I still don’t know what caused this, or even what is really going on. I never had any shoulder problems before. I took 3 Advil before falling asleep and they took awhile to kick in, but finally did. I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep before awakening. Anyway, it felt great to be back in Kona.

This afternoon, I plan on doing an easy ride to loosen up and maybe a small run, and maybe catch a nap, and maybe down some more coffee. Before Buffalo Springs this year, I cut caffeine out of the diet for 10 days. For those that know me well, they know this is no easy feat. Well I didn’t really notice much of a difference on race day, so I plan on living on caffeine here all week. Seriously though, this just kind of proved my point that you don’t do anything different in race week.

As they say in Hawaii,



Saturday, October 14, 2006

Creating Experiences

I obviously didn’t get a chance to post yesterday. Between work, some easy training, packing, spending time playing with the kids, more packing, … I ran out of time.

I was out yesterday on an easy 1 hour 45 minute ride on a great course. The day was one of my absolute favorite type of days; crisp upper 50’s temperature, very sunny, and nice foliage (although not nearly as good as last year) – just a great New England fall day. I was thinking about the fact that I’m heading over to the Big Island the next day for my seventh time, and reflecting back on my previous experiences there.

The Ironman is a great part of this trip, but it’s just that, a part. Lisa and I love the island and we’ve had just great experiences every time. Each time you take a trip somewhere, you have an opportunity to create a new and cool experience, even if returning to the same destination. This is what separates memories. What keeps memories from blurring together? I remember each of the trips we’ve taken to Hawaii quite well, and while I won’t bore those reading with the full details, I’ll list some highlights from my previous six encounters.

96’ – My first time traveling to Hawaii and first Ironman race ever. I went into this one sort of clueless, coming off a training plan developed by a combination of my exercise physiology studies, what I had learned in my own training and also what I had read about endurance training. I remember having a conversation at the urinals in the Chart House men’s room with none other than Dave Scott. My parents came out to watch the race, and Lisa and I had a blast, exploring the volcano, going snorkeling, and finding beautiful beaches.

97’ – I came back to the race in better condition, went 8 minutes slower, yet moved up 35 places. Very tough conditions and I learned that this race is a different race every year and you can’t set up a time goal strategy for Hawaii. My sister and brother-in-law came to watch and we did a great sea raft snorkeling excursion with a crazy guide, and swam with the big turtles. Lisa and I found a private, hidden away beach that was unbelievable. A half moon cove with palm trees and white sand and bluish green water - it’s still one of our favorite beaches. We spent a whole day there and saw maybe two other people.

98’ – tough year for me. I was burning the candle a bit too much and got sick with bronchitis the day before the race.

99’ – my fastest race there in tough conditions. I ran really well this year. My parents came back out to watch again, and my good friend Darren Delmonico from California also came out and surprised me. He was staying at a friend’s house up in the hills on a coffee plantation. The place was a shack – literally! It had a makeshift plywood front door and the lock was a pad lock. The views were unbelievable though. My father was dropping Darren back off there after dinner one night. The rental car agency stuck him with a Crown Victoria that was so big it took up two parking spots. I would make a beeping noise whenever he backed up which would piss him off. Darren was giving directions and at one point, it was so dark and it looked as though my dad was about to drive off a 200 foot cliff. Lisa and I went to Maui for a few days after the race and had a blast.

02’ – it was good to be back! In 2000, my son was born so I skipped Hawaii and raced LP that year instead. In 01’ I cancelled the trip in late September. 9/11 just happened, and I couldn’t see going. The race organization kept the whole entrance fee though, including the carbo dinner tickets I purchased ahead of time! Since then, I’ve boycotted the carbo dinner. That’ll teach em’. This was an interesting year. I flatted 3 times before the 56 mile mark of the bike. I still remember sitting on the side of the highway, waiting for tech support. Turns out that water was getting between the tubular and the rim and pushing the tire into the brake pad, causing the tire to tear. I rebounded though, and finished ok. Our flight out of Hawaii was in the evening and we were killing time by walking around Waikoloa. Lisa felt lousy, and we purchased one of those home-pregnancy tests, to find out that she was pregnant with Kate.

04’ – Conditions this year were brutal, to say the least! I was representing my good friend Rick Moisan who was in a severe battle with lung cancer. He was supposed to make the trip with his family but had to cancel at the last minute due to his condition.

At the moment, I’m somewhere over the Midwest on my first flight to LA, before connecting to Kona. After a very hectic week, and few months for that matter, it actually feels good to sit for awhile and relax. I find myself wondering quite a bit about what experiences will be created on this trip. It should be fun!

Download this: (this song came up on my Ipod during yesterdays ride, and although it’s an old one, it was great to ride to) The Alarm, The Walls Came Down



Thursday, October 12, 2006

More swimming!

So I've been swimming quite a bit (at least for me) the past two weeks. I belong to a fitness center in Monroe, and they have a sister center in Fairfield with a 25 yard four lane pool. They have two lanes set up with lane lines and the other two open, and I get my own lane no problem here.

There are always six or seven people in the pool when I swim, and I'm the youngest by probably 35 years. The pool and it's occupants remind me of a scene from the movie "Cocoon".

These members primarily walk or float around in the non lane section. Many of them sit on those long flotation noodles. This appears to be their social time. They seem to be interested in everything I do. There's one guy who counts my laps, telling me whenever I stop at the end of the pool how many I took, and how I'm way more efficient with the big paddles versus the little paddles or no paddles. Then there are the two who are infatuated with flip turns. They can't comprehend how I don't smack my feet on the wall each time (little do they know) and are curious to how I time it. Then there are the women who ask if I have to flip turn because I'm getting their hair wet. There's also one guy who wears the full diving mask and snorkel and swims under my lane upside down and watches.

They are all actually very sweet, and ask a lot of questions whenever I stop at the gutter in between intervals. I've been wearing the mp3 goggles and I'd move the ear pieces last week so that I could hear their questions, but this week I've just been answering yes to everything, not moving the ear pieces. I'm not being rude, they usually ask the same questions. Sometimes, I'm finishing up an interval and can see them conjugating at the gutter, and I don't stop.

They are a fun group though and I'm starting to learn them by name. In fact, they were asking me something that I answered yes to, and now I think I may be playing bridge with them in a few weeks.

Got in one last 5000 yd swim today. That's alls that I did, training wise. Felt a bit tired and had a lot of work and other things to do. Man, tomorrow will be a busy day. I still need to pack.

Download this: The Killers, When You Were Young



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Not The Norm

I was working with a personal training client yesterday, one that I see three times per week. Towards the end of the session, I mentioned that she needs to behave next week and get in her exercise while I’m away, to which she replied “where are you going?” I’ve been working with this client for over six years now.

Most of my pt clientel still have no clue as to what the Ironman is all about. I think most outside the triathlon circle still think that there are maybe only one or two hundred triathletes in the nation. That you could show up on the day of the race, pay ten bucks and wait for someone to blow a whistle before you take off across a painted white line signifying the starting line with 30 other people. I still get the same comments when asked about the distance of an IM. The one I loathe; “112 miles!!! I can’t even drive my car that far without getting exhausted.” Occasionally, I’ll get the “I used to race marathons. I did a 3 mile marathon a few years back and I think a 5 mile marathon.” Many will ask upon my return if I won. One year, after placing somewhere inside the top 65 in Hawaii, one of my pt clients asked “how’d you do?” I mentioned my place and they returned with “sorry about that. Better luck next time.”

Years ago, this would bug the hell out of me. I wanted them to understand the magnitude of an Ironman. The dedication it took, and the sense of accomplishment. Maybe I wanted them to understand this to appease my guilt for putting so much time into this sport. I wanted it to be more than it actually is, which is just a race. Sure, most of us benefit a lot more from these events than the simpleness of racing from point A to point B in as fast a time as possible. In fact, I think everyone is affected quite deeply after participating in an Ironman, whether they want to admit it or not. But as crowded as these races are, as quick as they fill up, as hard as they are to qualify, the sport is still small in the grand scheme of things.

And now I realize that this is just fine. Even if I dragged some non tri-friends to an Ironman event, they might come away with a bit more appreciation, but most still won’t really get it. I know many who have dragged family to events, only to come away disappointed that the family members didn’t “get it” better. There are the few who do “get it”. The year I did Lake Placid, I rented a house and brought up a bunch of family. Baker was there and witnessed his first Ironman. Afterwards, he came up to me and just said “Thank you.”. I could see in his eyes that he understood.

What I now know is that we are extremely lucky. We should not only be appreciative of the sport we participate in, but of our lifestyles. Of the fact that we love to exercise. That we understand how cool it is to be returning from a hard Saturday morning 80 mile ride when most are just awakening. That we get mistaken often for being 20 years younger than we actually are. That non-athletic MD’s freak out when they check our resting heart rates. Because 90% of the population out there are the exact opposite. They don’t like to exercise at all. That’s the norm. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little bubble that we forget what’s really going on.

I did an easy 2 hour ride today and a 45 min brick run. I felt good! I’m still slightly congested, but all is well. After today though, I can’t wait to get in that Kona sunshine.

Download this (good tune to train to): The Fray, How to save a life

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Swimming With Tunes

I began my swim training last week for Hawaii. At the beginning of every season, I tell myself that this is going to be the season I actually swim consistently. Then I get caught up in my busy life and each day have to prioritize and swimming seems to be the low man on the totem pole. I’m not saying that the swim is unimportant. I just have to weigh the benefits of my devoted time. This year, I finally accepted that this is the way it’s going to be with my schedule. I’d like to swim three times or more per week in addition to my other training. I’d also like to get in some 24+ hour weeks in when prepping for an IM, but the reality is that it ain’t gonna happen.

So with three weeks to go, I headed to the pool, dreading that first session where your arms feel like anchors and you wonder why there’s no cross-over effect from all the cycling and run training. This time, I went armed with a Finnis Swim mp3 set of goggles.

I have used music more and more in training. I know some frown upon this – especially the hard core running community. They feel that running with music is soft, for the weak, and a distraction. I bought into this – almost – this summer one day when I forgot my nano while prepping to do a long ride. I panicked at first, thinking, “man, this is going to suck!”, and then quickly thought; “wow, am I getting soft! Get out there for a week and train without music in anything.”, only to realize that I don’t need music to train but I do enjoy it and I actually think it helps me more than hinders me. It came to me that it’s stupid to think that running with music softens you and is a negative distraction. I have been training for many, many years, and 99% of this time it’s been solo, so music has become a very nice training ally.

Back to swimming;

I sat on the side of the pool deck for about 15 minutes, rotating my arms and shoulders around like pinwheels, making it seem as though I’m loosening up, when all’s I’m really doing is procrastinating. I then put on the goggles and turn on the music and feel as though my ears are going to start bleeding. The noise coming from the unit is loud and screechy. Strange though, as soon as I put my head in the water, the music becomes very clear and sounds the way it should. In fact, for underwater, these things work great. Sound travels 4 times as fast underwater and that is why sounds usually come across very distorted, but this unit works great. I set off with the goal of swimming a 1500 continuous. My goal is to get in 3000 total yards for todays first session. I start out easy and don’t feel too bad. I end up swimming 2200 continuous. Then I put on paddles and head out to do a 500, and end up doing 1000. I then use a pull buoy, aiming for a 500 again and put in 1000. My first session swimming in awhile and I bang out 4200 yds! This is a good start.

I head back to the pool the next day, planning to swim 4200 again, and do 5000. Then, two days later, I swim 5000 again. All of this is mostly continuous swimming. I realized that if I start swimming so close to a race and add in interval sessions quickly, my arms feel heavy on race day and I loose my feel for the water.

The mp3 goggles are not what caused me to feel somewhat decent in the water last week. But they did provide the diversion I needed. Instead of focusing so much on how dead my arms felt or how bored I was going back and forth, back and forth, I listened to the music and just kept going, doing 18,000 yds last week instead of the planned 12,000!

I am not endorsed by Finnis, so I’m not plugging these for any reason, other than that if you’ve been swimming alone instead of with a masters group, and have been doing this for years, they can be a nice change and distraction from the monotony of indoor pool sessions.

I’m headed back to the pool today and was just thinking that I’d better check to make sure I packed my mp3 goggles. Otherwise, how will I swim?! Kidding!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lessons Learned

I spent most of the weekend, and last week for that matter, overanalyzing every symptom I've developed from this cold. I'd awake in the morning, weighing heavily how well I slept, how my legs felt, how stuffed up was I, and how was this all going to effect my race.

I started Sunday morning with a really nice 2 hour run with Gus and Kenny in the trails. It was a beautiful morning, and I overdressed to begin getting somewhat heat acclimated. My legs felt fine and the run felt easy - my last long one before Kona.

In the afternoon, Lisa, my kids, and I went for a bike ride down to Great Hollow Lake. Both my kids are getting over this cold that I am dealing with. We roll out of my street and enter the trails, and Ryan shifts into his biggest gear, stands up, and takes off. Occasionally, he glimpses back through his sunglasses, to view the gap that he's opened. He gets smaller and smaller until Lisa suggests I go reel him in. Kate's in the trailer attached to my mountain bike and she's just singing along. I finally pull up next to Ryan, as he says, "that was good attack, huh dad!" (He's still way into cycling and the Tour.)

We get to Great Hollow Lake and ride up the steep hill to the soccer fields. I brought a soccer ball in the trailer, and we head out to play a bit. Ryan will cough occasionally, as will Kate. They never once complain. Ryan laughs constantly as he challenges me to see who scores. Kates playing defense and still singing, and Lisa's playing goalie. They run constantly until I suggest we take a gatorade brake, which is short, because they want to play again. After an hour of this, we get back on the bikes for the trip home, where Ryan continues to throw attacks, sprint for lines, and laughing and smiling the whole time.

Kids don't overthink things which is a gift, and which is something we should get back to. Adults lose their ability to play. In fact, they lose it to the point where they have to think about how to play. My kids, dealing with the same cold I have, didn't worry about how it was going to effect their play time. And let's be real, doing an IM is our play time. Sure, we put an awful lot into it, but, unless you are a small handful of the pro's making a living off of this sport, than it's a fun hobby that we should be appreciative of finding and being able to compete in. It's really important to be appreciative but not take things to seriously.

I went for a ride today and checked out the trees, thought of my race strategy, of being competitive, and of having fun in Kona. And guess what? Even though I'm still hacking a bit and still a bit stuffed up, my legs felt fine!

By the way, yesterday I posted a picture of my bike I'll ride in Hawaii. It's my favorite bike to date, and I've had an awful lot of bikes! I owe huge thanks to Scott Forster who has been my tech guru and also to Matt C. at Cannondale.



Sunday, October 08, 2006

Friday, October 06, 2006

Testing, testing, 1,2,3...

I'm testing out a new blog. I hope to post here frequently in my next two weeks leading into Kona (and also thereafter).

Speaking of which, the race is two weeks from tomorrow! I'm nursing a head cold at the moment, but that should hopefully be gone before boarding the plane next Saturday. I had a really solid build (until getting this cold!). I'll post more on my training plan that I did for this years race soon. Last week, my kids weren't sleeping well, and I had too much going on, which meant I wasn't sleeping well and I caught this cold. I was starting to taper anyway, so the first few days of the cold, I totally rested, but at the same time, I was also to begin swimming. So after a few days rest, I got my ass to the pool. I plan on swimming today again, which will make 4 times this week!

As my wife mentioned; "You knew you'd get sick at least once! Better now than race week."

Thanks for reading and get outside this weekend, the trees here in New England are about to burst with color.



Tuesday, October 03, 2006