Saturday, August 25, 2012

The lure of the finish line

Tomorrow I'm supposed to race the Runner's Edge TOBAY sprint triathlon. Less than 24 hours beforehand I don't know if I'm going to race or not. The plan in my mind keeps changing.

I'm really not ready to race. My breathing issues haven't been cured yet and I have follow up appointment scheduled. The swim in this race is 1000m or so. I might have swam that distance once or twice in the last 9 months. I rode the bike course last week on my race bike and had to walk up a hill (a 14% hill but walking is walking). Running is, well, running. There will be a lot of walking if I do this at all.

Does any of this matter? How great is the lure of finishing?

It will be my daughter's first grown up tri. She will toast me. Most of her friends have bailed. Since I'm a registered racer I get to go into transition to help her set up so I will be at the race anyway. If I don't race, I will cheer her on.

If I do race, the wetsuit should help my swim knowing I'll be in the drink for a while. I can bring my old man road bike that has lower gearing and the course should be ride able. If I walk the 5k, so be it. I might come in last but there are 1500 racers so I should finish before a few - not many but a few.

So the plan now is to get ready to race and see what tomorrow brings. Maybe I'll race. Maybe I won't. I need to realize the lure of the finish line will be strong. Can I resist that temptation? Should I?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quote of the week - H.L. Hunt

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” - H. L. Hunt

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic thoughts

Now that the Olympics are over, I've started thinking about the sports that should be dropped or added. I'm sure there are more but here is a short list:
  1. Tug of War. It was an Olympic sport from 1900-1920 but hasn't been held as an official sport since then. There is a movement to resurrect this for Rio2016. I wonder how serious people could get cheering for it.
  2. Rhythmic Gymnastics. Why is this a sport? I don't like sports that are "judged" on a subjective manner. I prefer sports that are unambiguous - who gets to the finish line first, etc. While it is cool to watch like a Cirque du Soleil , if this is a sport wouldn't whoever hula hoops the longest warrant consideration for a medal?
  3. Equestrian events. Does the horse get a medal? If not, isn't the variability of Trigger's skill have a large impact? They dropped other animal sports like polo a while ago. If they bring back polo, imagine the marketing synergy possibilities.
  4. Make the cannonball a required dive. The splashometer can help judge. The referee from the Canada/US women's soccer game might be looking for a gig.
  5. Why is there no half marathon?
  6. I am not a fan of the opening ceremonies nor closing ceremonies. Why do these gala's need to be wrapped around the event? At least with the superbowl it is during a short halftime and there is always another option (like the Bikini Bowl or a Beavis and Butthead marathon).
  7. If ping pong is in, why isn't darts or foosball? Beer pong anyone?
  8. Curling. 'Nuff said.
The best line that I heard was that if we can spend billions of dollars to get an international competition of gym class or color day, why don't we try something like math?

Which am I missing?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do you train to race or race to train?

This was one of the first questions that my coach asked me in my first meeting with him when we were considering setting up a coaching "relationship" back in the day. At that time I couldn't imagine anyone who raced to train after all, isn't racing and racing fast the goal?

Well, not for everyone and not necessarily now for me. That doesn't mean that I won't be racing though. I stated the other day in a post that I'm targeting 2014IMAZ. I will be racing that day but what about between now and then? In this world where you need to sign up for a race a year in advance, some prior planning is required. Two years prior may be a bit excessive but let's work backwards.

Consider it a given that I'm racing IMAZ in November 2014. I'll need a late season relatively flat (to simulate IMAZ conditions) HIM to test pacing and nutrition. Either Shoreman70.3 in Port Republic, NJ (I used it for IMFL) or Mighty Montauk at the end of Long Island would suffice. The beginning of 2014 is open as I just want to fit something in.

2013 will be getting lean, getting healthy, getting strong and getting fast. The get fast I'm going to race most likely shorter. Right now I'm targeting StA olympic with TNT, shooting for NYC OLY to represent team Aquaphor and some late season race. I might try to dovetail the same race for 2013 as I'm thinking for 2014 to measure improvement.

2012 is a wash out for me medically so far but there is hope that I'm on the road to recovery. Signs are looking up. I have a tri on my calendar in a few weeks but I'll probably do it just for "fun." This means probably walking the 5k and coming in close to last. I've also signed up for a 10 miler and a half Mary leading up to this pesky marathon in NYC in November. Will that happen? I don't know. I've been walking long (last weekend was 7miles) just in case.

Here is where it gets interesting. I believe in testing frequently. Testing can be done as part of a workout (the dreaded 2x20 on the bike, or 3x300 in the pool, or 5k on the run) or as part of an official event. Those events can be viewed as supported testing sessions. There will be more than a few. I won't be training for them. They will be training themselves.

So almost everything for me is racing to train. It is a different mindset that I'm still wrestling with. Do you train to race or race to train?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quote of the week - Dr. Seuss

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” - Dr. Seuss

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Trinity of Iron

There are 3 things I need to change in my quest: train right, get healthy, and lose weight. I'm calling them my trinity of iron. If I miss one of these, I'll fail in my quest. So, what's the plan?

Of the three, training seems the least complicated to me. Yes, I went through the USAT coaching class and I'm sure I can design a plan that will work. Another option would be to get one of the template plans and adapt it but I think it is better for me to engage a coach for the training. I've worked with Coach Mike Monastero from Long Island Tri Coach and Babylon Bike Shop in the past and I know he can design the workouts necessary for my success. I feel that Mike works well with me, can get me in a good place for my goals, and is a match in philosophy.

I'll supplement Mike's sage advice with some focused swim training. I haven't been to master swim class in a while but think that these classes will make me a stronger swimmer. My plan is to spend the rest of August getting back in the pool and then do one master class each week. I've also worked one on one with Danielle Sullivan on my swimming leading up to IMFL2011. Perhaps she'll be interested in giving me a different perspective from time to time. We'll see.

None of this matters if I do not do the training. Finding the time will be my biggest challenge. I do have to work for a living. My job consumes a lot of time. My commute is long. I will have to travel for work. The plus side of the equation is that I can do almost all of my training in my house. I have a Computrainer. I have a treadmill. I even have an endless pool. It is difficult for me to train during weekday mornings and during my IMFL training I often started my workout after 9pm to get them done. I did miss some from time to time but I need to be more diligent. An open item is how to make sure I'm accountable to my coach and myself.

But how much time do I need to invest now? My target is 2+ years away so there is no need to start the 20-25 hour training weeks now (if fact if I did I would break). I'll leave it to Mike's judgement but I'm looking to train an hour a day during the week and perhaps a little longer on the weekends (as life permits) trading duration for intensity. I'm going to try an experiment of a Wednesday double where I run in the morning to try to mix in some Yoga at night. I hate Yoga but even if it doesn't help me physically I think it may help me mentally. If not yoga, I know I'll need some sort of social workout with other athletes. In the winter, spin classes kick in with the tri club or investigate if there is something athletically I can do with my wife (Ironman is a team sport in case you don't know).

The getting healthy component is the next least complicated. I do have some ailments and physical limitations. Some may never get better. Some may get worse but I still have hope that enough will improve to the point where I can be successful. I'll never be perfect but rather than lament on what I can't do, I have to embrace what I can. I have plenty of doctors advising me on the best path for success and I need to listen to them. My current breathing issue is the most pressing. Next most crucial are my legs (knee and feet in particular). Patience for this patient is paramount but I can't be passive with this.

The last leg of the trinity is losing weight. I've done it before. I've done Weight Watchers and have had success with that. I've tried NutriSystems and that wasn't as good for me. I've consulted with a nutritionist in the past and that really wasn't a match for me. Perhaps I need to try a different nutritionist.

My doctor said, wisely, that any diet can work if you follow it. No diet works if you don't though. My two biggest eating disorders are that I eat out too much and when I do I make poor choices in content and quality. The old joke of the food here sucks and the potions are too small doesn't apply to me as the portions are never too small. Speed often trumps quality to my detriment and portion sizes have exploded for me. I think it more habit than need.

My solution is pre-planning. That is, I need to plan my weekly menu in advance and dovetail my dinners with the rest of the family. I need to eat breakfast home before heading out to work. I probably need to start bringing lunch more frequently (I'm going to casually ramp this up). Typically I do OK eating-wise during the week and fall apart on the weekends. When something disrupts the plan, I'll need to adapt.

Writing down what I eat vs. plan will help me succeed (don't worry this blog won't become a picture of every meal that I eat!). I've used to track this in the past. TrainingPeaks supposedly has a feature for this too and it has the advantage of that is where I track my workouts and training sessions. That may warrant some consideration.

There are a lot of plans above and they definitely are things that I need to focus on. The trinity of iron visual will help but it will all come down to me on this quest. I wish it was as easy to do as to write about it but it is not. Every journey needs to start somewhere.

Friday, August 3, 2012

H.B.A.G. (Hairy Big Ass Goals) and Needs.

"The greater danger for most of us isn't that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo

The day after IMLP many of my friends were signing up for the 2013 version of the race. More than a few went up to Lake Placid to volunteer to get to the front of the registration line. Others were taking the chance that they would be online as it opened to the people not onsite. In years past the registration has been sold out quickly. I seem to recall one year where it was closed out before anyone online got a shot to register. Other years where it was open for only a few minutes. Promptly at noon I got my first text from Mr26point2 (who completed his second ironman the day before) to sign up. I checked it out , found it open, but didn't sign up.

Later that afternoon I continued getting calls and texts to sign up from friends who were "in." I got texts organizing groups to training for the race. Other groups were already scheduling when to go up for camps. All seemed amazed that it was still open. I went to the site a few more times and even started filling out the registration but I did not sign up.

Why not?

My wife asked me if I needed an Ironman to get back on track. I said I think I did. She said that I needed to get back on track and while Ironman is intrusive, even though she thinks I may think it not, we'll figure it out together.

Back to registering for Placid. I thought about it but my brain did kick in a little. Placid is the wrong race for me. When I first considered attempting an Ironman I realized that the climbing for that race really doesn't match my body composition. It is relatively close to my 'burg. I've been there. I know the logistics. While I've ridden the bike course at Placid a few times, I found my weight and the hills don't mix well. (of course one the texts that I got said that I wouldn't have as much of a weight problem if I trained but that is a different, though related, problem).

Then I thought: What about IMNYNJ? Again, not an optimal course for my athletic abilities (or lack there of). It is much more convenient with the course less than a 60 minute drive from my house without traffic. It is a new race. There are a bunch of friends that are volunteer captains already and I'm sure they would not turn down my help. Rev3 Cedar Point is another option but if I do another Ironman I want it to be an official Ironman race. No offense to the Rev3 folks but I feel there is a difference in the atmosphere with a branded IM race. There are other races, some earlier and some later. IMAZ seems an ideal venue for me. While I haven't ridden the course in real life I often pop it in the Computrainer. But 2013 IMAZ is the week of my 20th wedding anniversary. A racecation for me is not the best way for both of us to celebrate. Also, would I even be ready?

The short answer is no. I can't do 2013 since I'm expecting to spend a lot of weekend time with my daughter checking out colleges. If I shoot for 2013, there will be conflict with road trips and I don't want that for either me nor her. Can I train and still look at colleges? Yes but the training focus will need to be on shorter races and losing weight. I need to do that anyway so that takes racing Ironman in 2013 off the board.

But IMAZ in 2014? That could work. I have the blessing from my wife and everything. My daughter should already be in college (a frightening thought in itself).

This raised a different question in my mind: What do I want to get out of Ironman? I've already proved to myself that I can finish. Although I walked most of the "run" at 2011IMFL, there was never any doubt in my mind from the beginning of the run that I was going to finish before the cutoff. That was my goal and I met it. I realized my goal in almost every endurance race I've attempted was to simply finish.

This time I want more than just to simply finish. I want to race well. What is racing well? I'm not talking Kona or anything like that but a 75 minute swim (I did 85 in IMFL), sub 7 bike (7:14@IMFL), sub 6 run (a blister ridden train wreck at IMFL but it really didn't matter to me since I knew I had it), add on 20 minutes for transition (27 in FL) and you get 14:35. Round it and say sub 14:30. Be happy with sub 15:00. HBAG#1. Book it.

What do I need to do that? I need to lose weight. A lot of weight. I raced IMFL at about 270 lbs. Two years ago I weighed 245 and I seem to recall a little lower (but not in the 230s). Since then my weight has steadily increased to now where I'm over 300lbs. The start of the weight gain seems to align with my second bike accident where I broke my left wrist and got stitches in my right hand. It stopped my training cold and while I think that I got the training part back for Ironman, I never got the eating part back.

My definition per BMI of not obese is 234 (I'm 6'2"). I want to race IMAZ at less than 230. HBAG#2.

It is great to want something but I can't just want Ironman. I have to need Ironman. I've coached many athletes during the iron "decision" and ask all "why do they want to do this?" I know there will be times during training that I won't like myself. There will be times where I don't like what I'm doing. There will be times where I'll be so tired that I can't think straight. There will be times where I won't be a pleasant person to be around. I will doubt why I'm doing it. I need to have a need to keep me focused.

I need to be the person I can become not the person I am now. Even though there is so much good in my life now, I need more. This quest will get me there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quote of the week - George Lorimer

"Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible." - George Lorimer