Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coach Newell and those racing LP

When I was a freshman in highschool, I had a bunch of friends that were on the swim team. I had never swam competitively before, not counting the underwater races I had against the lifeguards at the town pool when I was in grade school. Yet, I was looking for something to do over the winter time, so I went out for the team - exactly one day before the first swim meet of the season.

Coach Newell was a crusty old guy that resembled Popeye. He was real old school, and he instructed me to get in the end lane and swim 1 lap. After finishing, he replied "you'll do. Tomorrow you are swimming the 500." Of course in Highschool they could never get anyone to swim the 500, and this became my event by default.

The next day I heaved my way through an 8:46 500, complete with open turns and all. I was quadruple lapped by the winner of the event. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and by the end of my freshman year, I was swimming below 7 minutes for the event.

Anyways, the focus of this story is this poem that Coach Newell used to read to us before meets. I wish I could remember it and if he were still around, I'd contact him to see if he still had it. I'm sure he still would along with his bull whip that he'd breakout when we were dogging it in practice.

The poem began something like this: "How do you deal when the pressure is on?" That pretty much is the focus of the poem.

There are a bunch of you going up to LP this weekend to race. For those of you that I coach or that I had the pleasure of working with at one of my camps, I know you are ready. I have full faith in all that I have racing there. I know the blood, sweat, and tears you have put into your training. I know the sacrifices you have made and the key sessions that you excelled in. I know that if your head is in the right place, you are certainly ready.

Your head being in the right place is the key. For the last 3 years that I have spectated at LP, I have positioned myself, along with Baker, out on a hill at the 6 mile mark of the run. Baker and I would harass the competitors from our perches here as they ran, shuffled, or walked by. Initially, our goal was to make them laugh a bit. But for those walking, we took on a mission to get them running. I would say that 95% of those that were walking - we'd get running. And they would continue running. This tells me that when we hit a really hard spot out there, sometimes it's eaiser to just ease up, yet we are still capable of going faster. It's so much a mental game.

For all of you racing LP on Sunday - this is what you have trained for. Don't worry about the "should have's" and "could have's" in your training. That's water under the bridge now anyways, so why waste energy on that? Instead, focus on all the great training days you had. The long bricks, the long runs that went great, the camps, the big weeks, ... Focus on that and tell yourself that this is just one day, and it's time to make the most of a great opportunity.

You all have an opportunity this Sunday.

Last year in Hawaii, I was dealing with some issues, mainly a shoulder problem and a sinus infection. I remember that the day before the race, I stopped focusing on these things and instead turned my attention to the opportunity at hand. That night, I remember telling myself; "you know, nothing really matters right now. the bottom line is that tomorrow morning, I'm going to show up at that starting line, and see what I can do. That's the bottom line. Go out there and race."

Everyone puts pressure on themselves for some reason in the week leading up to the race. So how do you deal when the pressure is on?

Best of luck all - you are ready! Believe it.



Sunday, July 15, 2007

Saturday Morning Rides

Saturday morning was one of those "perfect ride days".

I rolled out of my garage at 5:45am, setting out on my favorite 60 mile hill ride. This ride has hills everywhere, but there are three main ones; the first is in Bridgewater, where you take a left while heading north as soon as you get over the bridge on Lake Lilli..., the next is rt. 317 from Roxbury into Woodbury, and the final one is rt. 111 in Monroe at the 56 mile mark. All three of these climbs have gradients up to 18%. In between them is more hills, just not as challenging as the three major ones.

It was in the low 60's when I left and the sun was already up. I made a playlist that was 3 1/4 hrs, and my goal was to finish the ride before the playlist ended. As I started up Hattertown Rd., I was thinking about when I first got into triathlons and riding. There was a Saturday morning 8 mile time trial hosted by Amity Bikes in Woodbridge, and I would ride out to it, race the TT, then spin home, for a 3.5 hr ride. I used to love the feeling of finishing this Saturday morning session while most were just awakening. I also think this small, once a week TT was critical in my cycling strength development.

There is one big downhill that leads you from Brookfield into Bridgewater on this ride with a big left hand turn, and as I'm riding down this, enjoying the speed, I take the left hand turn to come right up on a deer standing in the middle of the road. I swerve to the right quickly, however, the deer panics and starts running towards my right as well. I'm steering my bike to the right still, at 45 mph, but I'm leaning to the left, into the deer. Yes, he's run right at me and is that close. Maybe it's a she, I didn't have time to check. It quickly switches directions as we brush up against each other and the deer runs off to the left as I remain upright, my heart rate at 160 bpm and I'm not pedaling. I reach the bottom of the hill and cross the bridge and take the left to begin the first really big climb. This one climbs really quick - it starts out at probably an 18% grade. My adrenaline from my brush in with the deer is raging, and I hammer this climb at 450 watts the whole way up.

The rest of the ride, I was still flying on some type of endorphins and had one of the best rides I've had in a really long time. What certainly helped was that is was just the perfect morning to ride. I rolled back up my driveway around 9am, thinking once again that most were just awakening. Lisa, Ryan and kate were watching the first Alps stage of the tour which was really exciting. Then Ryan and I went for a ride. Ryan wanted to ride on the roads, since he's really only ridden the rail trail here. So I took him up to the Bethel Corporate park where there is a 1 mile road around the park. there is one decent hill on the loop with a painted sprint line at the top, and another painted sprint line at the opposite side of the 1 mile loop. We did 5 loops, and Ryan sprinted for the line every time. I'd lead him out for some, and he'd push his bike forward as though he were in a bunch sprint. We then stopped at bethel Bike and he got to check out Greg Pelicans Cervelo P3C which, as Ryan let me know, is an exact replica of Fabian Cancellaras. All this and it was just turning noon!

Not a bad start to a great weekend.



Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The dog days are here! It's been in the 90's in CT and very humid. I never really mind this weather until I have a run like I did yesterday.

I had a small window in the afternoon to get in some training. Denny White gave me a call to see if I wanted to get in an open water swim at Pinewood Lake in Trumbull. His friend and doctor owns a house on the private lake that sits directly across from the beach. We usually swim across to the beach and then back (approx. 3000 yds). Neither of us wore wetsuits, which was good considering that at some parts of the swim, the water felt so warm that I think I was actually sweating. The swim felt nice though, and the lake was peaceful. I hit the beach on the other side and climbed onto a small dock to wait for Den. There was nobody at the beach, except for a few guys dressed in plain clothes that were busy setting something up. The parking lot was filled with old 1950 style cars. Denny swims up and informs me that they are using the beach and lake for part of a movie shoot and that they must not be finished yet. He mentions there are some famous actors in it but hasn't a clue who they are. We head back across to the docs house. He was home when we returned and informed us that the two main actors are Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. I didn't think, or would never hope, that is was possible to have a Titanic II.

After the swim, I planned on stopping at the rail trail right down the road in Trumbull. I headed out and nobody was in the trail - it's usually quite occupied with walkers and runners. 2 miles in I began getting lightheaded and slowed down my pace. I then struggled through the remaining 6 miles. I should have turned at the 2 mile mark where I was lightheaded but I can be a stubborn fool at times (most times according to my wife). I was sweating like Costanza after the Kung Pow upon finishing this run. I think that I was more calorie depleted than overheated. I think I was actually bonking more than anything. The day before I ran in the heat of the day and felt great. Sometimes though, I'm still depleted from the day previous. Usually I experience one or two of these days per year - these real suffer sessions. The good thing about them is that they somehow physiologically help me acclimate quicker, once recovered.

I was able to weasle my way into the full Timberman 1/2 in August. I have heard great things about this course. If anyone has raced it and has any feedback on the course, I'd appreciate it.



Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Tour Begins!

I recovered pretty well from the 40 miler last Sunday. Monday, I was a bit stiff around the tendons of the knees, as expected. I took the day off from training, but was back at it on Tuesday with an easy ride and run. I actually felt pretty good. In fact, the week went well.

We (the family) just returned from a quick overnight trip up to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The beach we like up there was totally reconfigured by mother nature and some of the storms that occured this winter and spring. There is about 30 less feet of beach now, and after walking about 20 feet into to the ocean, the floor drops off quite drastically. There was a bizarre break also, and the waves were great, but dangerous for youngsters and not so secure swimmers. Between that and the cold water temp, there weren't too many in the ocean. Lot's of surfers though. I went in and played a bit. I'm claiming it a swim, even though I really just went in to pee and then rode a few waves, before freezing enough to high tail out of there. So that makes 4 swims this year - 1 in Tucson, 2 in LP, and 1 in Watch Hill.

We went to Mystic Aquarium today which was nice. The kids were somewhat interested. Ryan couldn't wait to get home to watch the Tour De France Prologue.

I'm, once again, excited about the Tour this year. There are so many pessimists who are frustrated and fed up with the doping and scandals in the Tour, but I'm still a follower. Sure, I realize there is a major problem in professional cycling - one that will be difficult to make go away. It's also very easy to sit back and point fingers and call out the cheaters, not realizing the pressure that these riders are under. Is it right for them to submit and dope? Definitely no - it's not right. But is it an easy yes or no choice for these riders? Again, it's easy for us to say "yes, it is an easy yes or no choice!" not realizing everything that's going on. I am certainly not justifying it - all's that I'm saying is that until you walk a mile in someone elses shoes, don't judge. If they doped, then it's plainly wrong and penalties should be paid. But don't lose focus of what the Tour is all about - the stage race with amazing courses and unbelievable action. Plus, this years Tour should be very clean considering last years spectacle. Plus, watch it with a passionate 6 year old who doesn't yet understand doping and scandals and you'll witness the pure excitement that this race evokes.

I still cannot believe how fast Fabian Cancellara rode the prologue!!! Close to 5 miles covered in just under 8 minutes. That's mind boggling.



Sunday, July 01, 2007

40 on my 40th

I’m still waiting.

Yesterday I was 39. I felt great. Today I turned 40. I still feel good. I’m a bit sore at the moment, chafed up pretty badly from my run this morning, but otherwise, the doom and gloom hasn’t arrived yet. From the way most react when they hear you are turning 40, or the way many react when they, themselves, turn 40, the wheels should fall off soon. There’s not many hours left today, so it should happen very soon.

Lisa threw me a great surprise party last night at the Bar in New Haven. I was a bit suspicious this week that something was up. She is the worst at keeping secrets. She did really well though. I was supposed to be under the impression that her and I were going to dinner at Roomba. I thought that maybe she arranged a small get together. She was very quiet and anxious on the drive to New Haven, so I further knew something was going on. After parking, she mentioned that our reservations weren’t for a bit and suggested we go across the street to Bar to get a drink. We walked into the back room and “Surprise!” It was a really nice party that Lisa arranged. She had the room until 10pm only – another party reserved the room. Turns out that they are shooting some of the fourth Indiana Jones movie in New Haven, and they were the ones who reserved the room. We were hoping to see Harrison Ford but no such luck.

It was a late night (for me), but I was up early today since I had planned a long run. The trail from Tait Rd. in Trumbull to Newtown and back is just over 20 miles. I wanted to run it twice today. I usually do a long ride on my birthday and I received a lot of calls this week wishing me Happy Birthday and asking if I was doing my long birthday ride. It made me realize that the long ride was not much of a remembrance any more. I had done so many that I began to take them for granted. So, late Thursday night, while thinking about this, I decided that I would run 40 miles today.

I headed out at 5:55am on the 4.5 mile out and back section towards Newtown, loaded with a full fuel belt and my ipod. I met up with John Brennan at 6:30am at the parking area in Monroe for the trails, where he tagged me with a My Athlete gps tracking unit. I then headed towards Trumbull. As I ran by the single track trail that leads to the tough stair climb in Monroe, I thought “that would be cool if I hit that at the 39 mile mark!” The plan was to keep my heart rate under 130 for the first 30. It was an unbelievable morning – sunny and cool, just beautiful. I felt smooth. A bit sleep deprived, but what else is new. My heart rate was hovering between 124 and 129 and I was clipping along at 7 minute mile pace. In fact, I hit 20 miles in 2 hrs 19 minutes, back at the Monroe parking area. Lisa and the kids came down to the parking area to wish me Happy Birthday, and Baker, Gus, and Laura were there also, ready to keep me company for the second loop. I ditched the fuel belt and my singlet, and took a water bottle in hand and a bottle of coke. We ran the out and back section to Newtown, then Laura jumped on her mountain bike and was a great soigner. Ryan and Kate ran with us for a bit at this point.

I went through 26 miles in 3:09, and still felt smooth. After passing through the 26 mile mark, I though about how I was now in unchartered waters. I had never run further than 26.2 miles at one time before. At the 32 mile mark, my legs were starting to feel it. Cardio-wise, I felt fine. But the lack of training for this didn’t really prepare my joints well for the pounding. I was still holding a pretty solid pace. At the 38 mile mark, Lisa and Big Rocks joined me and we ran together for a mile, before I told Lisa that I was going into the single track to run the stairs. I finished the run today in 4 hours 50 minutes. It felt great. The excitement of doing something I haven’t done was cool.

We walked back to my house and Lisa heated up a ton of left over pizza from Bar last night. My parents, my sister Tonya, my cousin Emily, Baker, Brennan, Gus and Laura hung out with us on the patio for awhile, eating and rehydrating and conversing, while the kids played.

What a great weekend. Life is good!