Friday, July 31, 2009

Figuring out where to ride.

The family and I are going away on vacation next week to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York and with Timberman70.3 coming up in just a few weeks, this is about my last opportunity to get in some serious training before it is time to taper.

For those earth science aficionados out in the blogosphere, the Catskills aren't officially mountains. They are officially a "dissected plateau" and this "dissected plateau" has more than 30 peaks (things that look like mountains to me) over 3500 ft.

BikeMike didn't fail me and put some volume on the workout schedule knowing I'd be away and wouldn't have to squeeze in work. I expect to ride at least 200 miles on my bike and plan to climb a few of those non-mountainous inclines as part of it even though fat, old guys and "dissected plateaus" probably mix like milk and cranberry sauce. Mix in a few runs, some golfing, fishing and I doubt I'll miss going to the office that much.

But where to ride? I have ridden in that area before but not riding any structured route, let alone routes or hills with "names." Of course, named routes and hills don't typically have names like "slow gradual nice" hill or "tranquility" hill. For example, near my house is Mt. Misery Road - need I say more?

Mike asked if I was going to be anywhere near Devil's Kitchen (a classic hill name). I didn't know where it was so I looked it up. Various reports have that hill at 2-3 miles long with parts of it more than 20% incline. When the now extinct Tour de Trump raced past there, rumour has it that some pros walked up this hill. Think this might be a bit much for me now, maybe next year.

I saw that a relatively new race, the "Tour of the Catskills" has a stage near where I'll be. I think I'll do a portion of that ride (the Pro 1/2 32 mile extension) as part of Sunday's scheduled 3.5 hours. Might be too aggressive for me as I'd pick it up near Durham near the bottom of a 1000ft or so climb per the map ( ) but writing about it on this blog will help me not wimp out.

I figure this route would be a good test of my fitness. The Tour of the Catsills has King of the Mountain (KOM) points that can be won during the stages and some of them are on this route. Instead, I think I'll shoot for the Rockstar of the Dissected Plateau (RDP) award. I doubt the RDP jersey is polka dot like the KOM in the Tour de France but I bet the only size available this year is XXL.

Next year I'm sure they will have to find a smaller size.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A few seconds here, a few seconds there.

My girls are finally home from sleep away camp. Courtney has been riding her bike almost every day while Amanda decided to continue her cross country quest and actually started training! After a solid 3 days of running 2-3 miles a day she figured that she was ready to race -go figure. Work got in the way of my training plan so BikeMike and I adjusted the agenda to have me join Amanda in the Wednesday night no frills LIRRC 5k.

I set a PR by 6 seconds, bouncing against the, hopefully not mythical for me, non-sucking barrier of 10:00min/mile, finishing in 31:02. A few seconds better than my previous 5k PR set just last week and a few seconds short of my 10:00 goal. Still finished last in my age group, 42 seconds away from not last.

Amanda also set her 5k PR by 3 seconds. This time was a few seconds better than her pre-camp trophy snagging 5K time but a girls cross country team showed up in mass to race this time. It was obvious that they have been training together for a while and they had their game faces on. Many were her age or younger and they all seemed fast. Amanda experienced for the first time what I describe as people were racing against her rather than running in the same race. She finished 8th of 16 in her AG.

We'll see how effective this race was as a learning experience and what Amanda will do about it. Hopefully whatever she does will find her a few seconds. I need to continue on my quest to find a few seconds too. Then we both need to continue finding seconds here and seconds there and after a while, those seconds will add up to be something.

Last night we found a few seconds here and a few seconds there. The journey continues....

Monday, July 27, 2009

2010 Race Calendar

I had to start planning my 2010 race calendar now since some of these events close out within minutes of registration opening. For example, Ironman Eagleman 70.3 registration opens next week and I need to decide before then if I should to be at the computer the moment registration opens. It isn't as bad as trying to get Springsteen tickets but on second thought, maybe it is.

This list is my planned "A" and "B" priority events. There will be "C" priority races that will sneak in or be more like opportunitistic training days than race days. I'd like to minimize travel but not necessarily eliminate it. I also like to repeat some events to be able to gauge improvement as the training continues but I want to introduce some new ones too. So, the 2010 plan for A and B races looks like:

  • St Anthony's Triathlon (Olympic) April [registration opens 12/1/09, 9am EST]

  • Eagleman 70.3 June [registration opens 8/4/09, 9am EST]

  • Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon July [registration opens 1/1/10 but it doesn't immediately close out] or NYC (Olympic ) Triathlon July [registration is 11/1/09 at midnight but that'll be hard for me since a few hours later I'll be running the ING NYC Marathon]

  • Tobay Triathlon (Sprint) August [this one doesn't sell out fast]

  • Firmman 70.3 September [a new race for me that doesn't sell out fast]

  • NYC Marathon 26.2 Novemember[qualifying makes the sign up easy]

  • The last item to note is that I will not be doing the 9+1 NYRR races in 2010 to guarantee entry into the NYC marathon in November 2011. If all goes well, dare I say out loud, November 2011 have a different marathon scheduled. This one will be preceded by a 2.4 mile swim and a 112mile bike ride. They call it Ironman.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Old school and no frills.

    On my workout schedule this week there was an option to race one of the weekly 5k races held by the Long Island Road Runners Club as part of their Summer Series in Eisenhower Park. I've never raced one of these events but heard they were great opportunities for race intensity workouts.

    The race entry fees are low ($4 for members, $7 for non-members) and the only sign up is right before the race at the start. There is no tee shirt or swag given out. It is a simple show up, sign the waiver, fork over the bucks, toe the line and run when the gun goes off. No timing chips but times are posted by officials noting the finishing times. A typical field size is a little less than 200. There are kids races beforehand. The races are sanctioned by USA Track & Field and the club.

    Typically these races have no names but last night was one of the "regular's" 60th birthday so they named the race in her honor. I ran in the race last night. I kept thinking this was old school racing.

    I went out too fast but I set a PR. This experience showed me I don't need a fancy shirt, a sponsor's bag, or nutrition samples that I'll never try to have a good night.

    I also came in last in my age group but I could still do that with all the frills included too. In fact, I have.

    But it is becoming less common. Rock on.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    The Road to Average

    On Sunday, July 19, 2009 I raced the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon and it made me rethink how I rate my race performance in triathlons. I thought the path on improvement had plateaus along the way and I thought the first one was "not sucking." After I reached that plateau I could set my sights on the next plateau which would be "average."

    Although I had high hopes for the bike, I didn't reach the non-sucking plateau during this race. While my bike computer showed that my speed averaged 19.2mph, the "official" race results showed my time to be slightly slower at 18.7mph. My swim was 26:01 (3:09min/100yards). My run was 33:56 for a 10:57 min/mile pace. This run time was by far the fastest that I've run as part of a triathlon and in fact was my fourth fastest 5k ever.

    I was happy with my performance, especially the run, but then I heard the usual post race grumbling from the other racers. The grumbling had to do with the current (realizing that nobody ever grumbles with the current at the swimmer's back) and the deceptive chop (also realizing I need more open water salt water swims). It was also the most violent open water swim, for me, that I can recall as I got physically beat up. I didn't know how accurate the distance was either so my swim time, even though much longer than expected, didn't bother me in and of itself. I felt I was close to where I needed to be on the bike since the course was hillier than I envisioned.

    Then I took a closer look at the numbers.

    This race had an elite swim wave. In order to be in the elite wave, racers needed to be able to swim a half mile in under 13:00. Nobody did. Mmmmm - maybe there was a point to the grumbling.

    There were 493 finishers. My bike time was 161st best - above average! My swim time was 263rd best - almost average. My run, while good for me, was 418th (well below average or, dare I say, the usual). My overall place was 280th.

    All of these "placings" were much higher than my previous race performances in relation to others. We don't need to discuss transition times here but I found out that people actually run during transitions - who would have thunk it?

    I was above average on the bike yet I still didn't hit the non-sucking plateau. I was close to average on the swim and had one of my better runs. Maybe I need to pay more attention to "the road to average." Wonder what the next plateau is after I hit average?

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Prediction for the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon

    One of the reasons why I started this blog is to document my mindset prior to races so that I don't second guess myself on what I consider should constitute a "good" vs. "bad" performance. If I perform as I've defined as my hope (even though many others might consider that a horrific performance on the scale of a Milli Vanilli concert), I shouldn't consider it bad if I hit that mark. I fully expect in every race that there will be areas for improvement but stating my goals beforehand helps keep me leveled.

    The Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon is this Sunday and it sort of snuck up on me. It hasn't been a focus or "A" race and while I have been training, it is hard for me to predict how I will do. Firstly, I've never done it before so I don't know the course, terrain, route or logistics (this is my first point-to-point tri too). Secondly, it has been a long time since I've done a so-called sprint triathlon. And finally, who knows how accurate some of these distances for each leg of the tri will be - Jose is the race director and, as a swimmer, has been know to strech the swim distance a bit at times. So I'm guessing the swim will be at least a 1/2 mile, the bike will probably be pretty close to the advertised 14m, and the 5k run should be a 5k run.

    I haven't talked to BikeMike in detail about this race and he may reset my mindset but philosophically, besides not getting hurt and having fun, my approach for this race is:

    - Swim like there is no bike.
    - Bike like there is no run.
    - Run like I stole something.
    - Celebrate.

    Translated, this means I hope that this might be an opportunity to "not suck" on the bike and I want to run the whole run (stopping for a quick water doesn't count). The best gauge of success will be if I want to do this race again next year.

    Stay tuned. Rock on.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Athletic Philanthropy?

    I believe that it is philanthropic to volunteer. I volunteer for a variety of organizations and have even fund raised a bit as well. I am a little on the fence though regarding volunteering in order to get something in return. I signed up to volunteer at the NYRR CPC Run for Central Park 4m race Saturday for the sole reason to meet the requirement to gain guaranteed entry into the 2010 NYC marathon. Dawn is going to help out too more, I think, so we can spend time together than anything else. Is this philanthropy for me?

    I did this NYRR volunteer gig last year and the reward for volunteering (and finishing 9 additional NYRR races) is that I'll be toeing the line on the Verrazano Bridge looking up at 26.2 miles on November 1, 2009. This will be my first full marathon and knowing my personality, I realized that I most likely will find at least one (perhaps, yes only perhaps, more than one) area that needs improvement so I'm doing the whole cycle again to guarantee entry into the 2010 version of the race. I've done 6 of the 9 races already and the "job" I've volunteered for doesn't seem that hard. Yes, there is a race entry lottery but I have no confidence that I'll get in that way - I'm 0 for 1 so far in that lottery.

    My "job" will be as a course marshal. That means Dawn and I will stand out on the course, cheer on the runners while encouraging them to "stay to the right" (or left based on which direction around Central Park the race goes). I'm no rookie at this since this is the same job I did in my NYRR volunteer stint last year.

    I will volunteer at another race this year with no strings attached. I try to do that in at least one local event per year anyway. I also get my girls to help out so they learn that these races don't happen without help, especially ones with low entry fees that donate any proceeds to charities we believe in. That, I think, is true athletic philanthropy.

    This event comes close but I feel the obligation attached with the guarantee take a little away.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    A lost moon.

    Forty years ago next week on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 became the first man to walk on the moon. Eleven men followed him with the last man to be on the moon being Gene Cernan of Apollo 17 . Apollo 17 left a plaque on the ladder which read "Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind."

    Most people are celebrating this anniversary remembering one of the finest examples of engineering, project management, and project execution ever attempted. I vaguely remember watching one of the subsequent lunar landings in the elementary school gym with the whole school looking at a very small black and white television.

    Yet, this anniversary makes me sad. Since Apollo 17 no one has walked on the moon. In fact, no one has even attempted it since then.

    Neil Armstrong is currently 78 years old. Gene Cernan is 75 years old. Three of the twelve astronauts that have actually walked on the moon have died. I'm sure you realize that while the astronauts might be the most recognizable faces of the space program, they were not the only ones involved. There were teams of people that figured out how to get it done and got it done. Lots of lessons learned and ideas that were considered but not chosen. Some of these smart people have died. Other are getting on in years.

    Where is this knowledge today? While some was written down, I'm sure some is gone forever. This anniversary made me realize this loss. Our current generation doesn't even know what was lost.

    Sorry for the bummer soapbox speech but I'm sure that if you show the picture below to someone of my generation, many will immediately identify it as something to do with space. They might not know it as the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) but they will say it had something to do with landing on the moon. If you show it to most kids of our next generation, they will immediately identify it as Lego.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Flashes of brilliance.

    At camp visiting day last Saturday I played tennis with my family. I was never a tennis player and can't remember the last time I played. My wife has played since before I met her and now my kids play. In order to play doubles they asked me to join them. They were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    I was horrible but less horrible than I remember being. Perhaps it is some variant of senility kicking in or perhaps my expectations were properly set (at none). I mentioned to my kids how I had "flashes of brilliance" while fighting off the rust. This of course made them roll their eyes and lovingly comment, "not so much."

    I did find that tennis uses different muscles that running, biking, and even swimming. Logical but I only thought of that once my muscles (not the rest of the tennis players) started complaining. I was wondering how those "different" aches would impact my training.

    I've had a good, for me, week of training except Saturday's planned run that I replaced with a 7 hour car ride to and from camp coupled with the previously mentioned tennis experiment. I also had what might have been my first track interval workout since back when I knew how to run (30+ years ago). During this workout, it seemed like the memory of Coach Bob Pratt, one of my high school track coaches at Smithtown HS East, was even on the back stretch calling out times as I gasped for breath near the end. I missed, though, how we seemed to start almost every hard workout:

    TEAM: "What are we doing today coach?"
    Coach Pratt: "Quahters." (with his faint not "New Yawk" accent)
    TEAM: "How many?"
    Coach Pratt: "I'll let you know when you've done enough. Ready?"
    TEAM: "Sigh."
    Coach Pratt: "Go."

    My intervals last week were one mile intervals. I told BikeMike the only thing missing in addition to Coach Pratt was my regular ritual of barfing after the second or third interval (I didn't miss it that much though). My running also seemed in slow motion even as compared to my memories (probably because it was in slow motion). His response was to put more intervals on the schedule, this time halfs.

    One day I hope to get "a flash of brilliance" doing something in the triathlon arena. It might be a simple workout. It might be a race. I still remember one track workout years ago when it seemed like I was able to fly around the track doing intervals. We were doing "quahters" (it wound up being 10 of them) and it was easy to do 60 second quarters (much faster than my normal workout pace and closing in on my race pace). That flash of brilliance lasted one day and the next day it was back to my normal (where quarters were slow, difficult, and included barfs).

    I may never be able to run a 60 second quarter again (let alone 10 of them) but I'll still be searching for another flash of brilliance in the tri world. Maybe it will be today. Maybe next week. Maybe Timberman in August. I just don't want to waste it in tennis.

    Golf is a different story though.

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    A Weekend Away

    With the kids away at camp, Dawn and I went away for a mini-vacation for the July 4th weekend. Although we never stayed there before, we scooted up to a B&B in Westbrook, Connecticut, a small town on the southeastern coast. We felt like kid-less grown ups again on an adventure.

    We did all sorts of Americana. Saw a minor league baseball game with rain (but no rain delay), rainbows and fireworks after the game. Ate dinner one night at a seafood restaurant on the water with plastic forks. Did a little shopping at outlets and local craft stores. Had great fish and chips at an outdoor table in front of a "pub" in Old Saybrook. Went for a bike ride (not a training ride though). Had a fancy dinner. Most of all, though, three things from this weekend stand out in my mind and really cemented this as a great trip:

    1) The first was the Chester Rotary's 31st Annual Four on the Fourth Road Race which gave me the opportunity to get some running in (I know it is frightening to talk about running a race while on vacation but this seems to be a recent trend of mine). What is memorable about this race wasn't my time (only 12 seconds off my 4m PR even though the course was the hilliest I can recall) but what was memorable was how the whole community seemed to come out for this race. While nobody knew me except Dawn (and vice-versa), everyone seemed to know everyone else. Cheering sections galore lined the route and I'll remember a group of guys wearing POW/MIA shirts running the course together, carrying flags, and shouting out various cadences as they passed me :"This ain't a hill - no it ain't", "I see a girl with a star on her ass - watch out boys 'cause she is fast, sound off 1,2", etc. [Note the girl was with them and laughed]. This was a great small town atmosphere and we wondered why we don't have that in our town.

    2) The second "thing" was when we decided to go for a walk along the beach (remember kid-less grown ups). In contrast to New York, fireworks are legal in Connecticut and it seemed like the whole town was out trying to out do each other in launching firework after firework over the water. The night was so clear the water acted as a mirror for the thousands of rockets and the like. We left early but I think they were planning on going all night. They probably did and had a lot of fun doing it.

    3) The most important thing is that we were able to, as Billy Joel mentions in Piano Man,"forget about life for a while." Instead of focusing on what is wrong with the gazillion things going on and what we need to do to make each wrong thing better, we were able to just enjoy our time with each other.

    Sometimes life is that simple. Remember that more frequently.

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Sean Ryan Memorial 5K

    Thanks to my friends at the Greater Long Island Running Club ( ) for forwarding this picture of yours truly running (yes, running) the Sean Ryan Memorial 5K in LongBeach on 6/27. I don't look as fat as I am or feel in this. I didn't Photoshop but did someone else?