Saturday, July 30, 2011

Carlos the Crab

A while ago my 15 year old daughter Amanda asked to sign up for her first "grown up" triathlon. I signed her up and registered myself as well (I've done this face before and it is fun). She has raced junior triathlons in the past. She runs on the school track team and won MVP of the girls XC team last fall. Last year she competed in this race as the run leg of a relay team with two of her friends - they finished came in third place female team.

The race, the Runner's Edge Tobay Triathlon, has a 1000m open water swim, a 15k hilly bike ride and a 5k run. The swim will be a wetsuit swim so I was able to get her a wetsuit to use.

Her training plan has been typical for a 15 year old girl. At the end of June she asked if we could ride the bike course so we did and she did well. Then she went to sleep away camp. She is home now so yesterday I asked if she was still planning on doing the tri. She said yes and asked if we could swim. I asked if she knew where her wetsuit was and if she ever tried it on. When she showed it to me it was still wrapped in plastic.

This morning we went swimming at Sunken Meadow. Sunken Meadow was crowded at 6AM. There were a few hundred people on the boardwalk chanting in some strange language. I figured they were either doing a baptism of some sort or a ritualistic sacrifice. Amanda said she knew that some people thought triathlons were a cult but this was a bit excessive. I didn't want to get closer to the crowd to figure out if they were looking for a volunteer for the sacrifice so I talked her through putting on her wetsuit and into the salt water we went.

She immediately realized her training had a hole in it as swimming in open water might be a little more difficult than she expected. The taste of salt water is an acquired taste. She found it hard to swim straight (really?). Siting was a concept beyond her. Contact while swimming was interested (I helped let her get a feel for a big old guy crashing into her). We swam about 25 minutes and then she stopped screaming "I SAW A CRAB." I said he lived there and named him Carlos. We stopped, stood up in the water (where we were was about 4 ft deep) and I tried to calm her down. Carlos then decided to nip at my toes so I jumped a bit. She looked at me and said "don't be mean" since she thought I was picking on her. Carlos then nipped at her toes. That didn't go over so well with her.

We decided to call it a day and headed towards the shore. The hoard then started to head to the water. Luckily they went a little down the beach from where we were. Safe!

Since her triathlon is now 4 weeks away Amanda asked if we could go swimming again next weekend. She said she might even want to bike the bike course again but will let me know. Wonder if Carlos or one of his friends will be there the next time we swim.

I'm sure she will be looking for him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quote of the week.

"Always do whatever's next. " - George Carlin

Monday, July 25, 2011

Do Epic Shit

Last weekend my wife and I traveled north to Lake Placid to cheer on my friend Fran who was competing in Ironman Lake Placid while using the opportunity to get some training in beforehand. I saw someone wearing a shirt with the title of this blog post and as the weekend continued realized that for many, this comment applied.

Being at an Ironman is a very unique experience. The air seems to get more charged as the week progresses and Lake Placid turned into the epicenter of the triathlon universe. There are athletes, training and not training, everywhere. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and the heat wave was in full force.

I had a swim on my schedule for Thursday after the drive. I was a little nervous that the rest of my friends weren't showing up until Friday so I'd probably be swimming alone. That fear went away as I walked the short distance to the official swim start and saw hundreds of triathletes swimming. The traditional Lake Placid buoys were out, not the ones marking the ironman course so I decided to basically swim the length of the lake and back. Mirror Lake is home to fast swims but my time for the lap at 50 minutes was a lot slower than a lap should be for me (realistically about 40 minutes these days with the effort that I put in). I felt fast so guessed that the course I swam was not the ironman course (someone later told me that the course was setup for kayak races held previously).

My wife and I grabbed dinner and ran into Mandy. My wife saw her at the swim earlier but Mandy was on her way to meet some other bloggers, Jon and Jason, who were racing with her. I haven't met many bloggers in real life but it was a great experience spending a short time with them. Wish there were different circumstances where we could sit down and talk for a longer time. I think my wish will come true one day.

Friday had me doing 3x30 minute bike intervals at a high effort. I decided to go and ride a part of the course and ride up the famous 6 mile downhill into Keene. It was hot. It was windy. I did the first two intervals and realized I was out of fluid. With the 25-30 mph wind shooting down from Placid to Keene I realized that I wasn't going to make it back. I decided to go back down the hill to Keene, reload on water, and call my wife to rescue me.

That plan failed since there was no cell service in Keene. I decided to ride the course to Upper Jay to see if there was service there. No go. I continued on until Jay, still no service. I saw a bike rider on the side of the road and asked to borrow their phone since she had service. I got my wife and asked her to meet me in Wilmington for lunch. I just needed to ride the 5 miles of hills to get there so I did. My phone worked in Wilmington and my ride netted out to 3200 ft of climbing per Garmin in 37 miles.

The next day had a full loop+ of the course but Fran wanted us to join him on a shake down swim. A quick 25 minute hop in the lake with him got that done and Tim and I were off to ride. If anything the wind and heat were worse. There were more riders riding but there were multiple accidents along the way. I had to stop multiple times to reload on fluid and to try to escape the heat. It was a miserable, humiliating ride with the wind in our face as we climbed the whole 17 miles in to Placid. I only did one loop but if I had to race that day I doubt I would have made the cutoff. I was genuinely worried for the racers the next day.

My friend Mel was in charge of volunteer security and she asked if my wife and I could help out. Since we were just going to be watching the race anyway we volunteered. We got up at 5am and the heat and wind seemed gone (later I heard the head wind up the hills turned into a slight tail wind, yea!) Being security got us in behind many of the ropes but my job was to make sure only athletes entered the starting area. Sound easy, right? The reality was that it was a stressful job but this is one of the few times where my size helped in the world of triathlons.

I'll let you read the athletes accounts for their day. We ran from point to point cheering on anyone we recognized. At the end of the day we were toasted and we didn't even race! There were so many successes and people "doing epic shit" that I will remember that weekend for a very long time. Kudos to Fran, Mandy, Jason, and Jon on finishing their races: You are all rock stars!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ask away, I dare you

I was tagged by Annette in the latest blogosphere virus, "You ask, I answer." Some of you may be getting sick of this but that's OK. Realize since this is all about me I may make up questions which could be even more interesting that real ones. So, ask away. Questions close in one week - don't miss this incredible opportunity!

PS: The picture isn't of me but I have a battery that looks like that one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quote of the week

"There is no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you are talking about" - John von Neumann

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A weekend in the life that interrupts.

My biggest challenge with this adult onset endurance athlete iron quest is life balance. Sometimes life gets in the way but sometimes I can do what I need if I'm little flexible. Sometimes you need to be a little insane and last weekend fell into the insane category. A wedding ceremony where the whole family was invited and looking forward to it that made it a challenge but we did OK. Here are the highlights:

5:50AM Wake up before alarm. Realize I can sleep in a little longer. Reset clock from 6AM to 7AM. Go back to sleep. Sleep a little.
7:00AM Get up. Hear a strange noise from the living room. Investigate and find the 46 gallon fish tank is almost empty due to a leak in the filter. Where's the water? All over the living room rug. Start cleaning. Do what I can.
7:55 Start riding realizing my hope for a 2:30 ride ain't going to happen but hit the road to get in what I can get in.
9:45 Did 1:45 of hills which turned out to be a little over 20 miles.
10:00 Clean up more flood, shower, get dressed, pack up the car with 3 dresses (pre-chosen by the Mrs. for my girls later in the day)
11:00 Leave for Newark Airport to pick up with women flying in from Maine for the wedding ceremony later that day.
11:30 Get caught in traffic.
12:45 Arrive in Newark Airport.
1:30 Lunch break at NJ Turnpike rest area with the beautiful people that seem to gravitate to rest stops.
3:00 Arrive in Princeton. Check into hotel. Try to take a nap unsuccessfully.
5:30 Wedding ceremony for Michael and Sara.
6:00 Cocktail hour.
7:00 Reception starts
11:00PM Post reception party starts.

12:30 AM Realize I'm a lightweight and can't stay up all night any more. Go to sleep.
5:00AM Get up, get dressed, get the children moving, load up the car.
6:15 Good bye Princeton, heading to Newark Airport.
7:15 Drop off girls at Continental for return flight to Maine. Drive home. No traffic :)
8:30 Arrive home. Clean up more flood. Eat breakfast, read newspaper. Economy still a mess. Mets had a miracle win - wins will be fewer as the player garage sale progresses.
9:30 Nap :)
11:30 Wake up to a phone call. Telemarketer.
12:00 Clean up more flood.
1:00 Eat some lunch.
2:00 Put on cycling clothes, pump up the tires and head out for long ride. Winds up being 61.1 hot, windy miles. Temp at start of ride was 90. Remembered why I like riding earlier in the day before the heat kicks up.
7:00 Change clothing and head out for a short transition run.
8:00 Dinner, jot down these thoughts. Clean more flood. We're going to need a carpet cleaner.
9:00 Shower, set clock for 5AM. Read "Go the F* to Sleep," a new classic children's book.

PS: The Mrs' schedule rivals mine with replacing the workouts with 4 flights between the NY area and Maine with a few hundred miles of freeway driving in Maine. But doing what she did I could do what I did.

PPS: Couldn't squeeze in watching the soccer game.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Follow up on travel woes.

The good news:
  • Sheraton did the right thing. Those who haven't can read my post on my wife and my weekend in Maine here. The summary is that my wife and I couldn't use our hotel reservation in Bangor airport since our plane was cancelled and we rebooked out of the Portland airport instead. Sheraton said that they couldn't refund our money but they could give us credit for a future stay. Since we plan on staying there again within the next few weeks it works out fine for us. Well done Sheraton.
  • Avis didn't ding us on returning the rental car in a different airport. They said no problem, no fee, just drop it off. Again well done, this time Avis.
  • Delta was able to book us on a flight that got us home at about the same time with difficulty. The bad part is the mystery weather report that caused them to cancel the plane in the first place (the day turned out to be what the TV weather folks said, "Sunny with a high of about 80") and that it took us a while on the phone to actually get it done.
  • It probably did cost us a little extra in gas money and a few bucks for tolls on I95 but all in all we did about as good as we could.
The bad news:
  • We stayed at a Comfort Inn. They are running a promotion where you stay 2 nights and get one free. My wife wanted to cash in the freebie but was told the hotel that she wanted the free night. They explained that we actually don't get a free night but got 8000 points. A free night in the hotel where we stayed was 24000 points. She tried a few others and no other hotel was less than 20000 points. They said that there were over 8000 hotels where we could get a free room nationwide. We were looking in Maine without success. Wonder where these hotels are?
  • My wife was flying today. Delta delayed her flight for four hours until they got a back up plane. Some people never learn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quote of the week.

“I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in fifty years what my father taught me by example in one week.” Mario Cuomo

Monday, July 11, 2011

Adventures in traveling.

Last weekend my wife and I visited our children who are at sleep away music camp in Maine. Rather than do the 8 hour drive up and 8 hour drive back, we decided to fly. Delta flies from NY to Bangor, we'd have to rent a car to get to the camp (about an hour away from Bangor), and we were scheduled to fly back on a flight leaving Bangor at 6AM on Monday. This would put us back in NY at about 730AM Monday morning. At least that was the plan.

There are parts of Maine that have a lot of nothing. If fact, I think there are more parts of nothing than of not nothing. This camp was on the edge of nothing. The downside, based on your perspective, of this was the lack of cell phone service. We learned the downside on this trip.

On Sunday, after leaving our kids who seem to be having a good time, we returned to civilization, at least what passes for civilization in the state of Maine. At this point in time my wife's iPhone started buzzing. She said that we had urgent messages from Delta regarding our flight but she couldn't download what the message actually was. While we were in the sliver of cell phone coverage, we pulled over to the side of the road and found out our flight was cancelled. Delta rebooked us on a flight leaving Monday night.

That wouldn't work for us so we worked the phones. I found that the flight was cancelled due to weather. I asked if it was odd that weather was cancelling the flight A DAY IN ADVANCE (I found out why later). We were contemplating either driving home in the rental car and kept trying to see what was available from other airports. We were finally able to get booked out of Portland, Maine (it took a few false starts to get them to realize that Portland, Maine is not Portland, Oregon) but we had to drive about 90 minutes from where we were to get to the Portland, Maine that is. Returning the rental car at a different airport seems was able to be a nonevent but when we returned it no one was there anyway.

Our plan in Bangor was to stay at the airport hotel the night before our flight. We tried to move the hotel reservation from Bangor to Portland without success. Delta said that because the flight was cancelled due to weather they had no obligation to help us with our nonrefundable hotel room (the a-ha moment of the cancellation reason). We walked into a hotel near the Portland Jetport and took the rebooked flight home without incident.

Now I have to spend a bunch of time trying to get refunds. Confidence is low but I have to give it a shot. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quote of the week

"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that"- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

PS: Doesn't he look like Bernie Madoff?

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Sunken Meadow Park on the north shore of Long Island is a long standing training site for triathletes. There is nice beach along Long Island Sound, albeit a bit rocky, and a boardwalk that is 3/4 of a mile long with markers every 1/4 mile. This makes it relatively easy to gauge distance while swimming. The water is typically calmer than the south shore (aka, the ocean) but it can get choppy at times.

Sunken Meadow is also home to once of the top cross country courses in the nation and has held many top running events. "Snake Hill" and "Cardiac Hill" will trigger memories, mostly unfavorable, for folks that have experienced the horror joy. For biking, it is on the hillier part the island so that many . It is not uncommon to see athletes swimming, biking, or running and it is a perfect venue for bricks.

The park officially opens at 7am. This means that they start collecting parking fees then but the gates are open well before then. Most triathletes that I know have no problem dropping a ton of money on "stuff" (see wetsuits, bikes, etc.) but make them pay $8 to park and you know they are getting there before 7. Lifeguards typically go on duty at 9AM and are on duty until 7pm for the summer hours.

Now to the safety question. Most triathletes are swimming in groups and because they are there before 7am, are typically done before the lifeguards show up. The state police have been reported to be making people come out of the water since they are officially not allowed to swim without lifeguards on duty.

This morning I swam at Sunken Meadow (in the water at 630am) and was not harassed to come out during my swim. There was at least 3 groups of triathletes totaling about 25 people swimming while I was there (you can tell since they are all wetsuited up - the water was reported to be 68 degrees). The water was like glass and conditions were perfect.

Now I realize that swimming with a life guard would be theoretically safer but still I feel that enforcement of this "no swimming without lifeguards" could be a bit over the top. Many of the folks I train with are, in fact, life guards themselves. Some coach the lifeguards and run the certification program. Of course I'm sure that there are morons, aren't there always, that would swim alone in harsh conditions, get injured (or worse), and blame the state for letting them swim when the police could have yelled at them.

I'm mixed on this. On one hand, as a triathlete with some level of skill, I need to train and wouldn't put myself in a dangerous condition. On the other hand, how can they tell if someone knows what they are doing beforehand. Additionally, something unexpected could happen. Could a solution be to get an exemption but that wouldn't handle the unexpected. Knowing NY State, there will be some ridiculous fee for that and it would be so onerous that no one would get one.

At what point do you say the risk is managed? I made that decision for myself today and hope to continue to be able to make that decision.

PS: Last year I was swimming there late afternoon on a rainy day with some friends. The lifeguards came over to us and said that they were required to make sure that no one was in the water as they were going off shift. He said that once we were out of the water (that instant) he was going to leave the beach and not look back. If we elected to go back in he wouldn't be aware of that as we were out when he left.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lance and Livestrong.

I was recently considering signing up for one of the Livestrong Challenge events. These events are held are various locations throughout the country and involve running and/or cycling. This event would be a supported ride that could act as a long training day for my Ironman training. (Note it is getting difficult to get folks to join me for long rides as some of my training pals are starting their Placid taper). Last Sunday I rode 47 miles before I met a friend for an additional 30. This was after riding a few hours of hills the day before solo. This weekend has 7 hours in the saddle, an OWS and some "running" for me but lets get back on topic.

An added benefit of these Livestrong events (or drawback whichever way you look at it) is that in addition to the registration fee, an additional $250 is required to be raised or donated to Livestrong. For those who are unaware (yes, there may be some), Livestrong is a charity that, per their web site, "looks at the experiences of the cancer community, find problems and develop solutions. Then roll them out to help more people in more situations." A great mission. It was founded by Lance Armstrong and he is still closely associated with this charity. Therein lies the rub.

Lance comes to mind through another vector as this weekend marks the beginning of Tour de France. I don't think there is any denying that Lance Armstrong was/is a historic athlete. His accomplishments speak for themselves. But was he clean? Are any of them? Should we care? And does this potentially stain the charity or these charity events?
The evidence around Lance continues to become public. The Sports Illustrated report, Tyler Hamilton on 60 minutes, Floyd Landis' claims, and others seemingly every day. On the Lance side of the equation he has denied doping and points to the gazillion tests that have not found him guilty. Could it be that Lance is only guilty of associated with the wrong people? Is not being caught the same as not being guilty?

I own a lot of Livestrong/Nike branded clothing and a few of the yellow bracelets. I keep believing that at some point Lance will be "stated" as guilty. I say "stated" as proof at this point is going to have to be interpreted in some manner.

What will that do to the charity? Their mission is still great. Will that impact fundraising? Absolutely.

I think I need to separate Lance the athlete from Lance the person from Livestrong the charity. I doubt we'll get to closure on the first two but I think the charity has merit. Even so, I've decided to not buy the Livestrong cycling jersey now and I doubt I'm signing up for this event. However, I may do it in the future and I may donate to this charity if my philanthropy goals point me in that direction.

Did Lance cheat? I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes out that he did at some point in time. Will that matter to the people that the charity has already helped? I think not so much.