Sunday, January 30, 2011

Following protocol.

While all racers should know the unwritten rule of "never wear a race shirt until you earn it," many, as exhibited at most local races, do not. With the New York State Parks Winter Run series being the first series that I've signed up for that you only get one shirt for the whole series, I pondered a bit of a protocol question: Do you earn the right to put the shirt on by finishing one of the races or do you have to run 'em all? Not respecting unwritten rules could lead to unimaginable consequences but what if there is some ambiguity?

Even though they handed out the shirt before the first race, I chose the "run 'em all" option. Sunday was the last of the 4 week series with a repeat 5k at Jones Beach. I woke up in the morning with the temperature seemingly being the warmest it has been in months (36F!) but most importantly the wind wasn't that severe. I jokingly thought that I should just wear just shorts and a tee shirt rather than the tights, two layers of thermal shirts and gloves (notice no race tee shirt) that I wound up layering on.

My race overall went well but I went out too hard forgetting that my body still can't run like my mind thinks it can. I was able to realize that, step it back, get under control again with a 30 second walk at about the 2mile mark, and finished in my fastest time of the series. I did wear too many layers and I probably could have gone faster. Anyway, I'll take it.

I originally signed up for the series since my coach felt that it was more likely for me to go outside and run if I signed up beforehand rather than finding reasons to wimp out. Why would this be? I don't know why this is but after I finished the race today on went the race tee like a badge of honor. After all, this shirt was earned and I followed protocol.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Millrose Games

On Friday, after the panic of handing in her research paper subsided, my daughter texted me "So, are we going to Millrose Games tonight?" The Millrose Games is one of the premier indoor track meets and is held at Madison Square Garden. We went last year and had a good time. She mentioned in passing to go to the meet a few weeks ago but hadn't mentioned it since. I thought going was off the table but apparently, as usual, I was wrong. I was looking for a quiet night where I had a short run planned. Instead, I snuck out of work a little early, did my run on the mill, and we hopped on the train into NYC.

We had a good night at the Garden. A few things will stand out as I remember this night:
  • The moron screaming "Let's Go Rangers" near the end of the anthem before the Wanamaker Mile. I guess some habits are hard to break. Full disclosure: I used to be a season ticket holder for the Rangers until hockey went out on strike - I haven't seen a hockey game since.
  • We paid for cheap seats and moved down as the Garden wasn't nearly full. We were sitting with the University of Connecticut men's 4x800 relay team (who came in second by 0.11 seconds behind the University of Virginia). In a supportive tone one of the guys leaned over to another and said "I can't believe you let that FRESHMAN beat you, dude!"
  • Sara Hall won the Fred Lebow Women's 1500m run ten years after she won the Girl's high school one mile run.
The announcers were making a big deal about Sara Hall running in the Garden ten years ago and winning the girl's mile back then and the women's 1500m now. Then I thought a little bit (always dangerous). I last ran on the track at the Garden 33 years ago in 1978. This was when I ran indoor track in high school. It wasn't the Millrose Games and I probably came in last but still I should get some credit. I told my daughter and, without any words, she just rolled her eyes. I guess it is all about perspective.

Friday, January 28, 2011


"Gluttony is not a secret vice." - Orson Welles

I am fat.

When I started this adult onset athletic endeavor, I rationalized that I would do this get my body composition under control. I was doing ok until a few months ago when traveling ramped up and I lost focus on what I was eating. I started training again and got hungrier. This cycle repeated itself and was magnified by holiday noshing. I started noticing the clothes were getting tight.

One of the "gifts" that MrsRockStar got for herself this Christmas was to pay a service to convert all of our old video tapes onto DVDs. She has been spending time watching these videos (even the ones where someone, NOT ME, takes a 20 minute film of their shoe or the ones where the soundtrack is the phrase "Is this on?" repeated over and over). She commented that I am one of the few that actually in better shape now than then. That may mean that the bar is set fairly low sinceI'm still down a significant amount of weight - with the recent weight gain maybe a little less significant amount of weight though.


I'm embarrassed to say how much weight I've gained but realized it was time for an intervention. I rejoined Weight Watchers and am feeling some success already. There is a whole new Weight Watcher's program but I really join it for the nagging and guilt.

Hey, whatever works.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writing voice.

My daughter is writing a science research paper and she asked me to critique it for her. She said that one of the criteria for the paper's scoring is that the writing style should have a "voice." She said it would be great if I could help her revise the paper so the wording could flow like some of my blog entries. 

I initially told her to shoot much higher than my writing ability. When I was a  student I was told often that I was a poor writer. I don't know what happened but over the years, the reviews of my writing improved to the point where some people now think I write well. Payments weren't involved in this transformation but magic must have been. Probably dark magic.

We started working on the paper. I had the challenge of balancing how to help her but not to rewrite the paper myself. I'm sure some other parents completely rewrite their kid's papers but I try instead to advise or guide my children with their school work. We reviewed her draft sentence by sentence.  I would ask her if she meant what I thought it said. If not, she would give it another shot. I recommended that she use less words. It might be simpler or clearer to use shorter words and to get to her point quicker. We went through a bunch of sessions and I think the paper was getting cleaned up nicely.

Before she went to bed though she had to update her facebook page with  "You're trying too hard to sound like a nerd."-My dad in reference to my paper. 

Did I say that? Probably. It is in my "voice."

Quote of the week.

"The status quo sucks." - George Carlin

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Signs and ignoring them.

  • The following message was posted on the NYS Winter Park Series website: "Due to cold weather, the awards ceremony for the Robert Moses 5k (1/23)will take place after the Jones Beach 5k (1/30)." Although I was not expecting to attend this ceremony, this was a sign.
  • When I got up Sunday morning I turned on the local weather forecast. They said that Long Island's historical average low temperature for January 23 was 26 degrees and that today's high temperature wasn't expected to reach 26 degrees. Another sign.
  • The wind was supposed to be blowing at 15-20 mph leaving a wind chill of about zero.
  • When I got in my car the thermometer read 19. This was much better than when I got home late last night where it read 3. Yes, three. Fahrenheit. Another sign.
  • To get to the race site at Robert Moses State Park, I had to take the bridge to go over Great South Bay. The bay was mostly frozen over. Sign again.
  • I got out of my car and ran a little to warm up (ha!). All I accomplished was losing the feeling in my face since it was frozen.
  • At the end of my warm up, I reset my Garmin and the screen read "Keys Locked." I went back to the car to sit in relative warmth, googled a solution to this issue and fixed it.
  • Since I had a few minutes,I called my wife. She commented "I don't want to seem unsupportive but I have no idea how you can be considering actually running outside today." Sign, sign, sign.
  • I headed over to the starting line fondly thinking about running on a treadmill - a not frozen treadmill. I thought that nothing was worse than a treadmill. Could today set a new standard?
  • I found a spot near the starting line out of the wind (hiding behind a van from a local radio station). Without the wind, the temperature was fine. With the wind, no so much.
  • My goal was to just run the whole thing without a walk break. I realized that the wind would not cooperate with running fast so decided to keep a steady pace.
I ignored every sign that said it was stupid to run today. Mission accomplished with no walk breaks in 33:23. I was supposed to run a mile after the race too per my training plan. Instead of that I ran back to the car and put the heat on high.

Maybe there is a limit to my stupidity after all?

PS: Hail to the Steelers!

Friday, January 21, 2011

When technology fails.

I consider myself a technologist. I still work (if you can call what I do work) in technology but it has been years since I've had to actually do technology work (management weenie might be more appropriate these days). I think, compared to most, I'm fairly literate in computers, data, electronic communications and such. I've used this "expertise" to do some "experiments" in the triathlon world comparing some of the different power meters as well as bike computers and related cool stuff. My wife thinks this is because I seem to spend whatever spare dollars I find around buying triathlon toys but I won't go into that any further since going more into that topic can't end well for me.

My bike trainer workout on Tuesday night called for me to ride 5 minutes easy as a warm up, 20 minute a specific (read hard) wattage, 5 minute recovery, 20 minutes at the same wattage,and a 5 minute cool down. This workout seems to be a favorite of my coach and to hit these desired power numbers requires me to turn off my brain to just focus on the wattage digits on the bike computer. I do put music on in the background but have found that if I put anything interesting on the television I will fail to hit the target power number.

Back to Tuesday night. After the five minute warmup, I hit the lap button on my Garmin Edge 500 and hitting the lap button made the Garmin freeze. I stopped riding and spent a few moments leveraging my vast technology background to unfreeze it (aka hitting all the buttons a bunch of times). I was able to unfreeze it and did the rest of my workout close to prescribed. After this type of workout, my legs are typically wobbly and I started downloading the data into Garmin's Training Center to take a look at how I did prior to uploading it for my coach to critique.

No data downloaded. Sigh.

I looked at the Garmin's screen and it had the data. I started hacking into the Garmin's memory and saw the workout files there. I tried to download it again into TC. Nada. I started looking online to see if others have had this issue and there were many examples of this problem. I thought about writing software to manually grab the data but then realized that while interesting adventure, this isn't something that I had time for. I would not let this beat me. Some said that another Garmin software product Garmin connect (GC) might be able to get the data. I configured that and now had the data in that product.

But it still wasn't on my computer. I use WKO+/Trainingpeaks (TPC) for most of my data analysis. I exported the ride from GC and tried to upload it into TPC. The data wasn't good. It was now closing in on midnight so I called it a day.

But it kept bothering me. I kept googling method after method to fix this issue. After two days I got data! It probably took me hours and hours of time to get this. The data wasn't perfect but I was able to look and see that I missed my targets slightly. Of course I wondered if the numbers were actually off or did I corrupt them with all the transformations.

I probably would have been better off not getting the data after all.

PS: If people really want to dig into this type of training see Frank Overton's article on sweet spot training here Sweet spot training is hard but it does make you stronger.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Play it forward for the Snail Clan

For those of you who are not follower's of The Georgia Snail, please check out his blog at and help his family out by voting early and often. This is fairly painless for you but could mean a lot to someone else.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quote of the week.

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me." - Emo Philips

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An update in bullets

While some may believe that an update in bullets short changes the literati of the blogosphere, I obviously don't drink that microbrew of Kool-Aid - at least not to excess. So......

  • It was noted earlier this week 49 of the 50 states in the United States had snow on the ground somewhere in the state. The only one not participating at this time is Florida.
  • In Jan 2010, while I was waiting in the corral before the running the Disney Half marathon in Florida, it was snowing.
  • With the additional foot of snow dropped here last Wednesday, there are now mountains of snow in every parking lot. Who said Long Island doesn't have hills?
  • There is so much snow on the ground here that they moved the NYS Winter Run series from Caumsett Park to Jones Beach Park.
  • I've been much less than 100% physically last week that I'm blaming on my root canal gone bad. The endodontist put me on antibiotics and I've been tired and in pain all week.
  • Rather than do my workouts on Thursday and Friday I went to bed before 7:30pm.
  • My planned bike workout on Saturday was dialed back by Bike Mike as recovery from being sick. I was able to do it without incident and set me up for the NYS Winter Park series 5k Sunday.
  • I had no real expectations for the Jones Beach 5k. Cold and windy doesn't often make for a good day at the beach, let alone a good running day. My plan was to take a single one minute walk break at about halfway and run a pace a little harder than comfortable. I was feeling pretty good so I forced the break at the 20 minute mark. The final time was 33:08 with the mile splits of 10:03, 10:42, 10:49 and the remainder at 8:54 per mile. I'm happy with this as it appears as there is still some hope of real running in the future. Next week might be the time to just run the 5k without the break.

Hey laughing boy, one bullet left.

  • J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets? Yes, J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot nannies

While at the tennis asylum with Mrs. RS the other day after we were done playing tennis, I overheard a conversation that reinforced the notion that the more you learn about people and society the more you realize you don't know. Yes, I was at the tennis asylum and haven't been banned yet but that's a story for a different day but let's get back on topic: the conversation was about "hot nannies" and how certain members of select socio-economic groups compete with each other by comparing the hotness of their nannies. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, my wife and I do not have a nanny to "help" take care of our children but there are some two career couples with families in my area that do employ nannies. Supposedly some people who are regulars at the tennis courts bring their nannies to mind their children (even though there is day care) while they exercise and to show off the nannies as a secondary competition.

None of the very few nannies that I've ever seen could be considered "hot." Perhaps it is my point of reference or perhaps it isn't something that I actively research, but most of the nannies that I've come across are decidedly "unhot." It was pointed out that it must be me because there are many examples of hot nannies with the most famous being the ex-Mrs. Tiger, Elin Nordegren (who either retired from modeling before she made the career move to become Jesper Parnevik's nanny or after she was making the big nanny bucks). While I'm not privy to her divorce settlement, I doubt Elin needs to model or nanny much any more.

Since the tennis league that I'm in is a couple's league, we tried, unsuccessfully to identify hot guy nannies. No one knew of any guy nannies, let alone hot guy nannies. Perhaps there is a glass ceiling for guy nannies that is unknown to those not in the biz. Don't be surprised if someone takes up this cause.

I keep thinking of a Mrs. Doubtfire look alike with some indeterminate accent when I visualize what a nanny would look like. I'm sure that this is because I spend too much time either at work, with my family, or doing this triathlon/training nonsense to be able to gain a true appreciation of a hot nanny contest but I had to wonder, since hotness is relative, how does one win? Then I took a more cynical look at it and tried to figure out who would win. Could it be the nanny? The guy who hires her? Does the guy even hire the nanny? Does the nanny agency? Could there be cheating? What about a hot nanny ringer?

The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quote of the week.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Marker Sets, sort of.

First let me put on my coach's hat:
A marker set is defined as a very precise workout that can be repeated over time to track an athlete's performance improvement. These workouts are done periodically and in a controlled environment otherwise the environment can impact the results - we'll get to that later. A triathlete's training plan typically includes these workouts in each of the disciplines but these workouts can often be disguised as regular workouts. Sometimes the athlete will know that they are being "tested" and other times they will just be following the plan.

All of these "workouts" would include proper warm up and cool down but some examples of marker sets could be:
  • For cycling, on a bike with a power meter go as hard as possible for a set period of time and note the average power (my coach uses 2x20 minutes with short rest in between). Another option is a time trial on a known course (pick one where speed wouldn't be impacted by traffic or lights).
  • For a swim, 3x300m with 30 second rest in between. Another option is a workout where one would do 200m hard (to simulate a race start) and then a time trial 800m.
  • For running, a timed 5k. On one hand doing this on a track could be viewed as better than elsewhere since it will remove the variability of altitude changes (ie hills) but it will work as long as the route and distance is consistent. Another option is 3x1600 hard with ample rest in between (note that these two have very high correlations in pace).

Every athlete is different. Some training methods provide improvement for certain individuals while the same workouts could cause some athletes to not improve as much as expected (if at all). Market sets are best used to see "if the training is working." If so, great. If not, try another approach.
Now, I'll put on my incompetent athlete hat.

I've been doing a lot of marker set type workouts recently. The first was a cycling workout and the second was a running workout. The problem with doing the cycling tests (ok, I admit that there is many more than one problem), is going out too hard. I had failed in a earlier test but this time I decided to go out a little easier than I would imagine. The next result of this 2x20 minute workout is that my average power for the first 20' was 235 watts and the average power for my second 20' was 239 watts. These numbers were lower than what I expected but since I do this workout as a marker set periodically I was able to find the exact same workout in the history file from January 2010 where the results were 252/251. While I am no where near my peaks of in the 280s, the numbers shows that I am just a little behind last year at about the same date. Last year I was in much better shape and further along in training that I am now so this is overall OK.

On to running. I signed up for the New York State Parks Winter Run Series 5ks. This series is a 5k in four consecutive Sundays in a different park in the region. You only get one shirt if you sign up for the series and it is only $40 registration for all four races. The first race was held Sunday at Heckscher State Park. Heckscher is flat course, right on the Great South Bay, and is ALWAYS windy. These races start at 11AM in order to give the daylight some opportunity to warm the air up a little but there was still some ice on the ground . When I left my house it was 26 degrees. When I got to the race site it was much warmer at 29 degrees (maybe not so much). I saw the flags standing at attention and called my sister on the cell phone to see where we were going to meet. She offered her car as she wanted to stay in the car until the last minute to keep out of the cold wind (later they said the wind chill today was about 10 with the 20mph winds).

I has been a long time since I ran hard. I wanted to shoot for about 11:00/miles but then decided to mix in a walk break at each mile mark for a minute since the worst thing would be to get hurt by going too hard. I was hoping for about 34:00 5k but I wound up crossing the line at 34:54 (splits were 10:33, 11:22 (with a minute walk), and 11:32 (with a minute walk). Again, not where I'd hope to be but a number to work with. Afterwards my coach told me the weather and wind impacted most athlete's time by 4-5%. The wind made this less than an optimal marker set. Even so, it was a good workout and I got it done.

That's a recipe for success. Let's see what next week brings.

PS: Swim marker sets are happening soon. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Impending Geezerhood

A few weeks ago I got an offer in the mail from one of the banks where I have a simple savings account. I don't have a lot of money in this account since I really only have this account to avoid paying any fees for using their change counting machine or getting gift cards when necessary. Anyway, this offer was to convert my account to a 50 Plus Senior Citizen account.

A. Senior. Citizen. Account.

I am not (yet) a geezer but will be one day so the next time I was in the branch with my cup full of change I asked about the account. They looked up my account, explained the deal (free safe deposit box, no fees, minimum balance of $6, free checks, free ATM, etc) and then said I could convert since I was close enough to meeting the age requirement (aka being a geezer). I thought a moment, swallowed my pride for the pursuit of cheapness and converted the account. It was an odd feeling (sort of like when you first drive a minivan and try to explain why a minivan is much more functional than a Mustang GT convertible) but it might be one of those growing up rights of passage that nobody ever tells you about.

On the way home I started mentally accepting that I am actually turning into a geezer but it was lunch time. I decided to grab a quick lunch so stopped at Wendy's and saw a little sign there explaining their senior citizen program. I, of course, had to read the rules and got upset that the program kicks in at 55!

Which is worse: opening a geezer account or being upset that I couldn't get a coffee for a quarter? I don't even drink coffee! Soon I'll be driving a Mercury Grand Marquis (instead of the Mustang or Minivan) or eating dinner at 4PM. Wonder what else is on the road to Geezerhood?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quote of the week.

"Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music." - Ronald Reagan

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Event Calendar (aka the 2011 Rock Star Tri Tour) is Filling In

With last week's sitting around watching it snow, dinner with the Crew talking about 2011 event plans and several back and forths with my coach, I added a few events to the calendar. My season "A" race is IMFL, my "B" races are StA and probably Rev3 Quassy. Every other event is a training day that a race happens to be wrapped around so there is no taper nor a recovery. The training might be speed work, it might be a nutrition or pacing rehearsal, or it might just be for fun. So, in chronological order:
  • JAN 9: NYS Parks Winter run series - Hecksher State Park 5K (REGISTERED)
  • JAN 16: NYS Parks Winter run series - Robert Moses State Park 5k (REGISTERED)
  • JAN 23: NYS Parks Winter Run Series - Caumsett State Park 5k (REGISTERED)
  • JAN 30: NYS Parks Winter Run Series - Jones Beach State Park 5k (REGISTERED)
  • FEB 6: NYRR Gridiron Classic 4m (REGISTERED)
  • APR 17: Nassau to Suffolk Bicycle Challenge 100k (NOT registered yet but won't fill up)
  • MAY 1: St Anthony's Olympic Triathlon (REGISTERED)
  • JUN 5: Rev3 Quassy HIM (Not registered yet)
  • JUN 17: Fireman Ironman Camp in Lake Placid, NY (REGISTERED)
  • AUG 28: Runner's Edge TOBAY Sprint Triathlon (Not registered yet)
  • SEP 4: Golden Apple Bike Tour 100m (not registered yet)
  • SEP 24: Hamptons Half Marathon (Not registered yet)
  • SEP 25: Tour of the Hamptons Bike ride 100m (Not registered yet)
  • OCT 2: NYRR Grete's Great Gallop Half Marathon (Not registered yet)
  • NOV 5: Ironman Florida (REGISTERED)

The crew is pushing for more cycle events in May. Under consideration is GrandFonduNY (100+m), Montauk Century (100m), Bloomin Metric Cycle (100k), and/or the Iron Time Trial (112m TT) but I'll defer that to my coaches choice. More events of the "fun" category will be added as impromptu, non planned, spur of the moment, events (like the completely unexpected podium finish of the Independence Triathlon in 2010) so stay tuned!