Thursday, May 31, 2012

Universal Studios visit of fails and success

Long time followers of this blog may remember that my wife and I have a rental house near the gates of Disney World in Florida. Here is a link to the website for the house and fear not, there is a blog follower discount if you are interested in staying there for a vacation. From time to time we have to go down there to check out the property to make sure our management company is taking good care of it, check out the wear and tear on the "stuff" in the house and to replace anything that needs replacing. Of course we use these visits as an opportunity to go to the parks but almost every time we go to one of the Disney parks. When we went last weekend to visit, the family wanted to check out Harry Potter at Universal Studios instead.

We know how to go to Disney as we go so frequently. We understand Disney "park management." We know which rides to hit first and which can wait until later in the day. We didn't know the Universal rules of engagement and were afraid of battling the Universal crowds. My wife took the initiative to research the options and found a scam deal. Universal offers something similar to a fast pass that lets you cut a lot of the lines but they charge you up to $45 a day per person for this privilege. Multiply this by 4 people and 2 days and we're up to $360 in addition to the admission fee. But, and there is always a but, if you stay one night at an on site hotel you get this included with the room AND get to be in the park an hour earlier than the rest of the horde at a lower price. We booked a room at the Loew's Royal Pacific resort for one night to take advantage of this deal.

Our plan was to get there at 7am knowing that our room wouldn't be available, leave one night of stuff in the car, walk over the park, hit Harry Potter at 8am for the early opening, visit the rest of the park, then go back to the room when we needed some nap time. Sounded like a plan.

We got to the hotel a few minutes after 7 and my wife went to check in to get our passes. There were only two people working the front desk and she had to wait about 20 minutes just to get help. Finally, she was called and the person at the desk said our room was ready! I got the stuff from the car and self parked (at $11/night). We carried the stuff to the room and the key opened the door but the door latch was engaged so we couldn't get in. I was thinking that someone was still in the room so we carried the stuff back to the front and waited again. Meanwhile the clock was ticking.

My wife was point on this. She got the other person working the desk and immediately sensed attitude. She explained what happened and asked for someone to unlock the latch. The desk person said we should either put our stuff in storage and come back later since check in was officially 4pm. She explained that we only got the room to get into Harry Potter or reload our stuff into the car. The clock was ticking and she started getting frustrated. He said no rooms were available for us. She asked to speak with a manager. He said no managers were available. They were all in a "meeting." I walked over and was able to express a little NY attitude back in his direction explaining that he couldn't be the person in charge and wondered why the managers were avoiding us. I asked my wife if we should just get our money back and leave. The desk clerk said that he would go check on the manager. Magically then, a manager came out.

Even more magically, a room available for us and he put us in it. It was now about 8:15. We explained that the whole reason to stay there was to be at Harry Potter at 8am and if he could do something for our inconvenience. He said he would get back to us later in the day.

We got to Harry Potter about 8:45 and the wait for the main ride was already 45 minutes. We waited on the line and got to the front, got into the car and my seat belt wasn't clicking right. The ride minion asked me to step to the side as the ride cart took my family into the ride itself. The minion said that I was too big to ride this ride.

I was embarrassed. Apparently the rides at Universal were not designed for people that are larger dimensioned. There are sample seats in front of some of the rides to test body sizing. Even so, I felt a lot of shame.

When we went back to the hotel for nap time I had a choice to make. I could turn to the dark side, rent a scooter to drag me around the parks and wield a turkey leg to knock people out of my way.

Instead I went for a run. I haven't run in a while (almost as long as I haven't swam). It was 95 degrees with 99% humidity. It felt like I was breathing in the exhaust from a hair dryer. It involved more walking that I expected. My feet hurt from walking all day around the crowds beforehand. It was only a couple of miles but I would not admit defeat.

That horrible run felt good for my soul. No fail here.

PS: The manager never got back to us regarding making us better. The next morning the bill was slipped under our door. My wife called him directly the next morning and he explained that he thought someone else was going to take care us. He apologized and came to our room personally with vouchers for a free breakfast buffet and also took off the parking fee. I guess squeaky wheels do get the grease from time to time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quote of the week - Albert Einstein

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Team Aquaphor 2012

I was recently selected to become a member of the 2012 Team Aquaphor. I'm fairly excited for a variety of reasons that I'll get into on future posts. Still awaiting all of the details and will keep everyone posted.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quote of the week - Maya Angelou

"We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated." - Maya Angelou

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Phondo Phail

On Sunday, May 20, I was scheduled to ride the Gran Fondo NY. I did the Medio Fondo last year and was going to do a ride time decision to do the 110 mile Gran Fondo or the 60 mile Medio Fondo.

But life had some different plans. My daughter Amanda had a 9AM (or so) audition the day before at the Manhattan School of Music. This was going to be followed up with a rehearsal at 2PM at Carnegie Hall for a concert that she was playing in that was scheduled to start at 8pm. I realized that it could be a late night so I got a hotel room in the city to try to get a little sleep before the ride.

Early in the morning, I put all my stuff for the ride in my car. While she was at rehearsal, I checked into the hotel. The hotel had a parking lot but unfortunately had no attendant until 7am to fetch cars. The ride was scheduled to start at 7 so I needed my car about 6:15. After driving around the upper west side I found a 24 hour lot that would be ok. The downside, of course, was $37 for parking. Ouch.

The concert was great but ran late. We got out at 11:20 and I got to the hotel at 11:45. I called for a 5:45am wake up call and tried to sleep but could not. I was able to get a few hours of sleep but woke up coughing feeling like I was going to puke. I thought about just going back to sleep and bailing but took a shower figuring either I would feel better with some breakfast or I would just cut the ride short if I still felt that bad.

I then realized I only had one water bottle. A quick stop at the store got me a Evian with a flip top and parked the car a few minute ride from the starting line on the NY side of the river. The race was scheduled to start on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge at 7am. I stayed in my car since I was still feeling like crap and got on my bike to head over. I found the Evian didn't fit in my bottle cage but just put it in a jersey pocket. The cops wouldn't let me get to the starting line, though, as they said the road was closed at 6:30. They said I could go around the other side. Me and about 20 riders rode the hills of northern Manhattan only to find the other side was closed too. A volunteer told us to take the bike path across the bridge and meet up on the other side. The ride still hadn't started.

I consider myself a fairly level headed person but the bike path across the GWB freaks me out. It is narrow where many points can't have two bikes side by side. On one side cars are whizzing by. The bridge is shaking. On the other side there is a low fence and then.....nothing. I kept thinking that if I slip, over the side I go. Yes, probably irrational, but since I wasn't feeling good, it was all I could think of. Meanwhile I heard the announcers on the lower level. The race still hadn't begun. I finally got to the other side of the bridge.

The Fondo is a hilly ride and I haven't done a lot of hills. It parallels the future IMNYNJ bike course and covers most of the run course. I joined in the ride and tried to keep the pace mellow but the ups and downs made it hard. I stopped a few times to try to make myself puke hoping that it would make me feel better. I couldn't. I couldn't drink as water tasted like sand.

The ride was crowded. I kept feeling worse and coughing more than anything. I got to the first rest stop and made myself drink. I decided to keep going and at about 20 miles in turned back figuring 40 miles feeling like I was was good enough. I limped it back. River Road was in crappy state but there was a sign that said they were going to pave it soon. That will make it better for the Ironman. Near the end I decided not to go 3 miles (or so) to pick up my medal but rode over the bridge again. I freaked out again.

All in I did about 45 miles. I got into the car and headed home. When I got home I went under the covers and shivered for about 2 hours. I still wasn't thirsty nor hungry but started feeling better after spending a lot of time cleaning out my intestines filling up to toilet bowl a few times. Same effect as puking but I was able to start feeling better. After a second nap I was almost alive. Hopefully this was a 24 hour type of deal or something that I ate. We'll see tomorrow.

When I looked at the data after the ride I rode harder than I expected to. This probably didn't help. I failed at nutrition. I failed at hydration. I failed at sleep beforehand. I failed at most things related to this ride but got in a decent work out. Given my physical state, it was all ok.

I don't need to do this ride again but I do need to ride the hills of 9W more. Next time, though, I'll drive over the bridge in a car rather than ride over the bridge on my bike.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quote of the week - Karen Lamb

"A year from now you may wish you had started today." - Karen Lamb

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The "Swiezy / Pope" Montauk Railroad Century

I've ridden a fair amount of century rides that start at the Babylon Long Island Rail Road train station and end somewhere in Montauk. For those not intimate with the geographically of Long Island, Babylon is about a third of the way out and the village of Montauk is about 6 miles from the end of the southern tip. The terrain of this part of the island is generally flat but wind can always come into play. Point to point is less than the Benjamin but each ride seems to make it above the hundo with a few zigs and zags.

Most of the rides end at or near the Montauk train station, not the world famous lighthouse as depicted in the ride logo above. Since these rides are point to point, riders are left with how to get back to where they started. In the past, my wife and family have SAGed (or cheered me on) which left them in Montauk with a car for transport back but most people take the train. Trains can only accommodate a few bikes so typically the ride organizers get some trucks to transport the bikes back to Babylon. This time my family had other stuff going on so, for the first time, I was planning on riding the chooch back. It was also the first club event that I did with the Suffolk Bike Riders Association (SBRA).

I've been riding with them for a few training rides but haven't found the right group yet. There was about 200 riders riding the club century. All seemed to know which group they were part of as the groups started leaving at 7am. The C+ group that I most commonly rode with (but were normally on the slow side for me) were waiting for most of the other groups to leave before they started. Rather than wait, I just hopped on a random group. If they were too fast, I rationalized could always fall back and latch on to one of the groups behind us.

The effort to keep pace wound up being fine for me. The weather was perfect with a bit of a tail wind which is always good when the ride generally goes in one direction. Compared to highly structured rides, this ride was generally informal. There was a few cars doing SAG support but the rest stops were more of the mindset to find a common place to stop and mooch bathrooms in store or buy additional foodstuff along the way. Our first stop was at Wendy's and the second at a 7Eleven. This group I was with seemed to savor their stops.

Savor, perhaps, isn't strong enough of a word. The rest stops were about 25 minutes (my goal us under 5). At the second stop one of the girls got a salad made for her from the salad bar. At the third, a different girl got a manicure. Really. She said that rather than wait on the bathroom line in a deli, she went into the nail salon next door with no bathroom line and got a little pampered. She couldn't do a pedicure with the cycling shoes on and to save time only got one coat of polish, but that is how much this group enjoyed their stops.

But while we were riding, the group moved at a good pace. They said their goal was a solid B/B+ pace and we were cruising about 16mph most of the time. I found out that there was no reason to push the time on the breaks because the truck for the bikes was expected at Montauk by 7pm before the last train west (at 7:30pm). We finished up early, ate some good pizza in town and a few of us decided to hope that the truck was near the station early, If so, we could hop on an earlier train. The train station is about a mile outside of town.

At the rail road station there was no truck but a train leaving at 5:30. Everyone else waiting had a bike pass for their bike. Apparently they knew this deal and got an annual bike pass for a few bucks beforehand. I did not. The concern was that the rail road staff only are supposed to let 2 bikes on per car and there was about 20 bikes trying to get on. All must have passes. When the train doors opened, we all put the bikes on quickly. The conductor came by and while the other guys showed their passes, I waved a generic ticket. She didn't give us a hard time so we considered this a win! I'm sure we could have made an even earlier train but even so we saved a few hours.

I looked back at this ride with a lot of positives. The pace was decent. I held it for a hundred miles. I finished a century with a dubious level of fitness and an even more dubious amount of training. I realized that my fitness can't be that bad if I'm still able to ride a century at a decent pace. Today, the next day, I feel fine. Yes my body realizes that it did something but overall I consider this ride a success.

The journey continues....

Friday, May 11, 2012

I forgot.

A while ago I joined a bike club to get my riding in. They had a club century scheduled for that thing called "the future" so I all proud of myself , I signed up.

The future in this case I recently realized is tomorrow. Tomorrow as in the day after today. Yikes.

I forgot that one should actually train for an event like this. I forgot that one should actually pay attention to what one eats while training for an event like this so I'm fat. I forgot that during the aforementioned forgotten training rides one should practice what one plans on eating and drinking during long rides to prepare for events like this.

I just went to the supermarket (didn't forget that) and bought the food stuffs that I used successfully during iron training except went with Gatorade instead of Ironcrap.

Another thing I forgot was that I signed up for another ride, the Gran Fondo NY, for another time also called the future. In this case the future is, ummm, next week.

So, at 7am I point the bike east and ride towards the east end of Long Island. Wonder what else I forgot?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Too proud?

I've mentioned that my children are musicians and that they are better, most likely, than I ever was or will be. Recently they participated in the New York State School Music Association(NYSSMA) evaluation festival. In summary this involves:

Participants in all categories prepare and perform a solo selected from the NYSSMA Manual, perform scales, and demonstrate sight reading from original music provided by NYSSMA at the audition. Each NYSSMA solo is preassigned a difficulty level from I (easiest) to VI (most difficult). Instrumental soloists also must play scales, the number of which are determined by difficulty level of the solo. Overall each participant is judged on seven categories, tone, intonation, technique, accuracy, interpretation, scales, and sight reading.

Both of my girls have been preparing for months. First up was Courtney, an 8th grade student, but attempting a Level VI (most difficult) cello solo. The judge's score came back at 100/100.

Amanda was next up a week later on the violin. She was in a special category of level VI that is the first step in being considered for All State honors. Her performance was also judged 100/100.

Can't get much better than that!

Quote of the week - Ted Nugent

"When the going gets tough, kiss my a**" - Ted Nugent

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How did I get to this weight?

I use MyPlate as part of to track my weight. I haven't been all that religous abuot tracking but typically do it from time to time. I decided to start again and the site gave me a little badge to be proud of my progress. The badge updates automagically. Today it says:
I've gained 47 pounds!

A dubious honor. I've looked back at the data to correlate how I've lost gained this weight against my training.
  • I was very heavy when I started real training. My training initially wasn't Ironman training but started with cycling, then to sprints, then to oly, then to HIM.
  • I was at my lowest weight (almost at goal) in the first half of 2010.
  • In the second half of 2010 I decided to start my Iron quest for a fall 2011 race. I fully expected to continue the success I had in the body composition front.
  • Instead, though, I focused on training more than nutrition and gained about 20 pounds during training for 2011 Ironman Florida. Most of it was gained in the early part of the training but thankfully when I was training up to 20 hours a week, I wasn't gaining (nor losing) weight.
  • After I finished my Ironman (6 months ago today!), I've gained the rest.
So, what have I inferred from this data? If I train up to 20 hours a week and don't pay attention to nutrition, I have maintained (not lost) weight. If I focus on nutrition/body composition and train a moderate amount (say 10 hours a week or so), I can positively impact my body composition. Can't you train for a Iron Distance race AND pay attention to nutrition/body composition? Some people probably can but I proved that when I had the opportunity, I did not. Don't know why as I understood the importance of this. Note I'm not even talking about the impact on my family life with Iron training.

Since I won't consider "the" stomach surgery, I think a mix of 10 or less hours a week is right coupled with a renewed focus on nutrition is the right approach. What is that nutrition focus? To be continued.....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Did you ever?

  1. While driving in a car and seeing a bike on the back of another car, slow down to check out the bike to see if it was cooler than yours or if yours was cooler than it?
  2. Yell out "slowing" while driving in a car?
  3. Take a short cut to some place where you've never been before?
  4. Time how long it takes you to pee?
  5. While riding a bike, get lost on purpose?
  6. Say to yourself when race day has inclement weather, "if it wasn't safe, they wouldn't let us race?" Afterwards, realize you were a moron.
  7. When considering a vacation, check out if there is a race or a nice bike ride nearby?
  8. Wear rain gear when it wasn't yet raining knowing that if you didn't wear it it would rain at the most inopportune time and the rain gear prevented it from raining until after you were done?
  9. Pack TP for a run or ride as you knew there was a turtle trying to poke his head out of the shell and facilities were, at best, few and far between?
  10. While traveling, see a running store or a bike shop and have to stop to see if they had anything that you hadn't seen before?
  11. See a complete stranger wearing a race tee shirt and immediately think either "I did that race already" or "I want to do that race." Started talking to the person to see what they thought of the race.
  12. Think of weird things?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quote of the week - Roger Staubach

"Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation." - Roger Staubach