Monday, June 25, 2007

Week 24: 3 races, 3 podiums...

...and yet the top step eludes me. Only 40 seconds behind the winner of my age group, but still behind. However I felt like crap all week leading up to it, and even felt weak the day of the race. It was my first triathlon of the year, and I have only been in the water a few times since May. I also had no open water swims yet this year, and I elected to wear my new sleeveless wetsuit which I had not even tried on yet. It might seem like a pretty big risk, but I was not really tense about this race. I went in with lowered expectations and elected to try harder if things were going well 1/2 way through the race. The race itself was 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike (one big climb), and a 3 (more like 2.8) mile run. My final time was 1:04:05. (10:45/35:31/17:45). The bike and run times also include the time spent in transition before the leg was started. That is significant because I ran a 16:45 for the 2.8 miles. Even better, the course was an out and back and I ran 8:39 out, and 8:06 back. The run back marked the first time all year I've finally gotten it going during the run, and now I think I know why. As I've focused more on distance running and longer events (and with me getting older), it takes 2 miles before I begin to find my stride running. In the previous events the second run was only 2 miles long, so I never found my stride. This bodes well for my next race which is an Olympic Distance race which features a 6.2 (arguably more like 6.5) mile run. If I can get the kind of mojo going that I had during the last mile on Sunday, I will run down a few people. Of course I might also be back in Moscow with someone trying to run me down!

All things considered I managed a decent swim for me (10:45 for 1/2 mile and 1.5 minutes back of the leader). That's about 400 yards on land, a gap I might have mostly made up during the transition.

In the final tally I was 14th overall, 2nd in my age group (M40-44 for those keeping track). And hey, I was still able to bring a medal home for Alexandra and more nutritional product for myself. Hey that might not seem that great, but a tub of the good sports drink runs $20, so I'll gladly accept it as a prize. And to see Alexandra jump up and down for another gold medal (okay silver, but she doesn't know the difference yet!) is worth every bit of pain.

Only two runs this week (I said I felt like crap). 3.5 miles on Friday and 2.8 miles Sunday. Also one swim and one bike during the week. Obviously one additional swim and bike as well on Sunday.

Runs: 60
Mileage: 6.3
YTD Mileage: 416.30

Monday, June 18, 2007

Week 23

Two runs: 7.5 miles at lunch and the 13 feels like 14 miler in Connecticut Sunday. Let's call it a 21 mile week. The lunch run was notable because I was just trying to tire myself out after having to put Otis down. I partially succeeded, but not entirely. The run yesterday was a test of my form. I had my best time on the loop going at up to the 10 mile point, and then I sort of slowed down. I was insufficiently rested and it was hot. Probably my hottest long run of the year, and I wasn't able to keep a strong pace the last 3 miles. It was okay, but in April I really kicked well during that final stretch. None of that happening Sunday. The final time was a 1:34:30 which is about a minute slower than April. At 10 miles I was a minute and a half up, so I lost 2 1/2 minutes in 3 miles.

Runs: 58
Mileage: 20.5
YTD Mileage: 410.00

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2/26/1994 - 6/11/2007

He really was the best Big Pal ever.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Week 22

Okay, the workout week is not over yet, but I'm not running again. We returned from Moscow Friday, and Saturday it was back to work. I had been couped up in our little Russian apartment or in a car for a whole week and was just dying to be out on the street running. I elected to repeat the 12 mile run I had done just before we left.
The weather was in the mid 50's and very humid. I tried to run somewhat conservatively for the most part, but opened it up during the last couple of miles. The first miles were a little strained as my lungs tried to open up after a week of second hand smoking. Also the knees were a little slow loosening up after the flights. Nonetheless it felt really good to be out. If I was more rested and had more energy I would have just kept going.
My final time of 1:14:31, which was about 2 minutes faster than the last time, is possibly my fastest effort on that loop. I have to be happy with that.


Runs: 56
Mileage: 12
YTD Mileage: 389.50

Saturday, June 09, 2007

And now a word about air travel...

Lufthansa is a German airline (duh...). No really, I mean it: a VERY German airline. The Germans have mastered gassy food. Lufthansa serves that food in large smelly portions with great frequency. It's so boring on a flight from Moscow to Boston or Boston to Moscow that you make the mistake of eating all this food just to have something to do. And if you choose to skip a meal? The flight attendant, doing her best rendition of my late (German) grandmother, gives you a disapproving look and insists that you take at least the cold food plate.

And another thing: also in true German fashion they don't splurge on padding for the seats. My butt is killing me today.

Week 21

This is actually for the week of May 27 to June 2. Two runs: 12 miles and 7.5 miles. It was tough going because I think the Duathlon tapped the energy levels a little more than I expected. The trip to Moscow also comes as a well timed break. Historically I injure myself the first week of June, probaly because I'm off my spring fitness peak, but am still trying to push it to prepare for June races. On my return from Russia it will be time to build up again for a mid-July peak at Middleboro. That means starting with a little base work.

Runs: 55
Mileage: 12/7.5
YTD Mileage: 377.50

1 down, 2 to go

Adoption from Russia is three trips now. We've just completed the first leg. It's 4:30am back here in the states and I'm wide awake. It's noon back in Moscow. Lunch time for Dylan.
The trip back was uneventful yesterday, though the flight over the Atlantic was a little bumpy. Nothing extreme like the turbulence we hit over the Irish sea on the way over, but unsettling enough and for a much longer period of time. Among the changes I need to make for the next trip: sleeping pills. 11 hours flying without sleeping made me a little nuts.

So for those who are curious about adoption, here's the drill in Moscow: Get ready to wait. It's all about long periods of sitting motionless; Airplanes, cars, queues, waiting rooms. The actual "work" took maybe 2 hours, probably less. For the most part they just wanted our signatures. The exception was the doctor's visit. Actually 8 doctors, among their specialties: a psychologist, a narcologist, an oncologist, a neurologist, and 4 others. I'm sure they had some specialties assigned as well, because there were individual lines for them to sign (and stamp, after all this is Russia where the rubber stamper is king!) on our health certification form. The worst part was the interview by the narcologist. The psychologist was much easier. Though she looked like the scariest of the doctors, the prototypical cold war era Russian woman, she was really nice. Mostly she asked me about my job and my schooling and my marriage. You could tell she was trying to get a reading on how satisfied I was with my life. The funniest question, which we were all asked, was did I marry for love or money. You know it's tough not to crack a joke, but they don't like jokes too much (though I think this woman actually had a sense of humor). It's another cultural detail" if you smile or joke they think you are not taking it seriously. That's been the toughest part for me every time I've been interviewed, because I am quite aware that in this setting I can be the embodiment of nervous laughter.
The oncologist had a few comments for me. First he commented that my spine was not straight. Okay he said that to everyone. I wanted to comment, "it's from sitting for hours in this Moscow traffic!" Actually I think my spine is fine. This was just one of those "things" they tell everyone. Also he commented on a mole on my back which has grown in recent years. "Not a problem yet, but have your doctor keep an eye on it." Frankly I do agree with him on that one. Finally he inspected my chest where I carry the one feature that got all the doctors' attention: a 15 inch scare along my sternum. He pressed to check the structure and indicated that the surgeon who conducted the surgery did an excellent job. Well I should hope so, the technique used is named after the man who operated.
The rest of the doctors conducted their interview as a panel and just asked a bunch of stock questions, checked my blood pressure, listened to my heart and breathing, etc... No big deal. The whole thing took 3 hours (including wait time). I did manage to spill a cup of tea in my lap just before we went in for our first set of interviews, however. Again I wanted to crack a joke about "my drinking problem", but I doubted they would have seen the movie "Airplane."

The drive to the airport yesterday took 2 hours. It's only about 25km away, so suffice it to say I could literally run there faster (I can run 25km in about 1:40). If there is one traffic feature that is incompatible with this volume of traffic, it's a rotary. Yes we hit a rotary. I won't go into too many details about the driving anarchy that ensued, because I couldn't do it justice and frankly you wouldn't believe me. Cars, trucks, everything ... 4 lanes wide on a one lane road... on the dirt...going up the off ramp of the highway jumping curbs...off-roading... total chaos. Is it any surprise that the Moscow Times published the stat that there have been 10K traffic fatalities so far this year in the Moscow region alone?

I'll write more later as I remember it, but now I'm going to do something I wouldn't have dared during the last week; go for a run on the street. I do have a life to rejoin for a month or two here.

Oh yes, one final note about the influx of US culture. Imagine my surprise flipping on the TV and seeing an ad for "South Park." With Putin and Bush disagreeing on the Missile Shield at the G8 summit, which was big news there, I half expected to hear Putin exclaim "Respect Ma Authoritah!" Oh yes, international newspapers also make a point of running the goofiest pictures of Bush that they can find.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life in the slow lane...

If there is a lasting memory I will take away from Moscow, it's not an image of the Kremlin, it's the traffic. We sat in the car for about 6 hours today. It's just a giant gasoline and diesel powered queue. It's the story of the trip. Hurry up to get somewhere and then wait.

Today was the last of the official duties for this first trip (of 3) for the adoption. We filed our papers with the court. Today was only the second day the new court house was open, so it was not terribly efficient. Well, you've got to start somewhere. Most of the clocks had not yet been set, and there were workmen still moving things in and putting things together. That said it looks like it will be a nice facility once it is fully operational. The actual filing took about 35 seconds. We really just signed a book indicating that we had taken care of all of the prerequisites. However, after the signing was done (following a 35-45 minute wait), we had to wait for our interpreter because she was the only one present who was authorized to escort the two families who were having their adoption hearings to court. Below is a picture and my new friend Bill (he and his wife are also on their first trip) playing a little "travel Scrabble" to kill time.


We finally got to the baby home to see Dylan at 4:00pm. This after leaving the apartment at 9:15am. As indicated above, the lions share of the time was spent sitting in traffic.



Tomorrow is the flight home. Next update will be made in the States.

-Joel

PS: Hello to the "lurkers" out there. You know who you are Emily! I'll leave a comment on your blog when I get back.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What, no Starbucks?

Coffee was a big deal in St. Petersburg. I think it maybe had to do with the heavy italian influence. Moscow does not have the coffee addiction yet that St. Petersburg had. Case in point: they still use the word "coffee" when referring to instant! There are quite a few "cafes", which do seem to serve espresso based drinks, but the chain coffee shops have not made it and you cannot find Starbucks or Peets coffee (now available at Shaw's!) or Seattle's Best.

There is one exception: McDonalds. Yes you read that right: McDonalds. First they are everywhere. I mean everywhere. Second, many have something that does not exist in the states: McCafe. When you look inside a McCafe, it looks exactly like the coffee shop you find in Barnes and Noble. It is very similar to, but not exactly, a Starbucks. They even hand out punch cards for frequent buyers. I'm going to try it today.

I have found one good latte, at a chain italian restaurant. It is unique in that they put a layer of dense milk foam on the bottom, then the espresso layers into the middle, and finally the less dense foam on top. It creates a pretty cool presentation as the espresso cascades to the bottom (think of a Guiness beer).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Greetings from Moscow

This won't be a terribly long post, but I wanted to say hello to everyone back home and pass on a few details from the last three days. Jet lag is still an issue. We're 8 hours ahead over here and my body refuses to adjust to the new time. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that we're far enough north that at this time of year it is only dark for about 4 1/2 - 5 hours. It's still full light now and it is 10:00pm Moscow time.

We've seen Dilshor (soon to be Dylan Joseph) twice now. The first day was a brief, supervised visit. Today we spent a bit of quality time alone with him. He really started to open up today as we played with him indoors. There have been so many official things to take care of, and traffic is so awful here, that those two visits are the extent of our interaction. That said I have a good feeling about him. He's very alert and inquisitive. He crawls well and shows a desire to be up on his feet. If you hold him in the standing position, he really tries to not go back down to his knees. We'll see him again tomorrow morning and I'm sure even more new traits will come out.

Here are some observations:
- Despite the best efforts of politicians, our two cultures are growing more and more alike. In it's way it inspires hope in me. The western influence in Moscow is huge. The change has even caught up with the older folks, but clearly the youth are driving it. As we waited for examination by one of the 8 (not a typo) doctors we had to see today (more on that later), I observed an older woman, really the stereotype of a strong, stout Russian woman in plain sensible clothing, pull a kerchief from her large purse and unroll it only to reveal...a cell phone! The internet is everywhere as well. Currently one company, Goldspot, seems to dominate the Wi-fi market, but I would not be surprised to see competition come. There are hot spots covering most of the city. There are billboards for western goods everywhere. There are car dealerships everywhere (not only Lada, but Audi, Mistubishi, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, etc...) I even saw a Chevy dealer. At one point, the view of the Kremlin was blocked by a monstrous wall on which was painted an ad for Cartier. Did I mention the traffic?

- The worst part of being away, by far, is not seeing Alexandra. Missing her, combined with the sleepless nights, makes the nighttime seem interminable. I truly feel like we've been here more than 3 days. It's not as bad while we're doing things, but when there is idle time, it's really hard.

-Oh yes. Moscow is really expensive, especially the hotels, so after the first night at the Marriott Renaissance, we moved into an apartment. I'm glad we did so for more than just reasons of money. We've had to go out on the streets on our own and do things. It's still an intimidating city, but less so to me now. Other than the obvious architectural and civil engineering differences, it does remind me of NYC. The billboards and neon add to that.

-Note to Austin: It's a Windows world over here. Better tell Steve jobs to get an Apple store in Moscow quick. I've only seen one person walking with an iPod.

"Driving on New Arbot Street"