Sunday, December 26, 2010

1 down

My first training block is complete (minus an hour sitting on my bike). There was a lot to like as well as the cruel reality that there is a lot of hard work ahead. My bike legs came around well and seem to be picking up strength every week. Because of my off-season swim focus, my swim is passable, in fact much better than usual. My run needs work. My slower effort paces seem to be coming around, but wow I've got a ways to go to find my A game. Today was 4x 1 mile repeats. I knew when I saw it on the plan that this would be a rough day. The christmas marathon of family, food and gifts is a big deal for my clan. Following a suggestion from Jesse, I tracked my trailing 3 day average of sleep going into this workout, and basically saw what I expected. I need sleep. Averaged 5.5 hours a day. Must do better. Must.

I ran the miles on the Shelton Highschool track, and the workout was everything I thought it would be: painful and slowish. It was windy on the back stretch, very cold, and snowy. 23 months ago I did a similar workout, albeit on the road as opposed to the track...track is hard on the brain, and put the miles under 5:50 with a fast of 5:44. 2 months later that was six repeats below 5:50. Today I did not break 5:50 once. 5:54, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00. True I was running on less rest between repeats this time (~1:40 vs 3:00+), and I was really tired, but if I'm honest I think I am slower. I weigh about 4-6lbs more than during those previous efforts. The weight is helping recovery, but the foot speed is suffering. My heart didn't really get tested today. It was the legs not turning over, the arms aching, the head rolling around. HR averaged around threshold, which is well below what I'll average on a higher quality effort.

The fact that I've had concerns about this workout could lead one (including me) to believe it was in my head. I was beaten before I began. This is somewhat true. However if I lost that first battle I won the war of wills today. I thought I'd quit after the second repeat. I finished it. Bent over. Hurled. Caught my breath. Saw my heart rate had already recovered completely. Hardened up and cranked out #3. I knew if I got through the third one I could get myself through the last. And while a 6:00 mile on the last repeat is nothing special, I was 6 seconds behind that pace w/400m to go. It took a 1:24 final 400 (5:36/mile pace) to hit that 6:00. The eyes were closed, the legs were burning, and the head was lolling backwards...but I did it.

The Brooks/Hanson running team trains using the philosophy that you aren't training for the first 16miles of the marathon during that 16mile run on tired legs, you are training for the last 16. Well today I felt like I was training for the finish of races. My finishing kick is probably my favorite part of my race. Today's workout reminded me I can still kick. I have 26 weeks to speed up the earlier miles of my race.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More week 3

Okay week 3 is really in the books this time. I'll tell you about it, but I'm worried about jinxing myself. After a moment last week when my legs felt tapped, which I can pretty much say with 100% confidence was due to inadequate recovery (stress, nutrition, sleep), I've been extra diligent...and it showed. My legs were OUTSTANDING today. It was my longest ride of the block, coupled with a run, and I just crushed it. The power climbed steadily throughout the ride, and I felt really smooth on the run. And all this came after a very encouraging swim yesterday where I strung together a few 500s (actually 500,600,500 because I can't count!) with only a 9sec variance between the 500s. I've never been that consistent in the water.

So I'm relaxing about things. Hell it's not even December 20th! I feel like my form is as good, if not better than, Pumpkinman. Maybe I'm slower from the extra weight, but something's going right, and actually I've got a theory about that. The big difference this time around is my head. I'm focused. I like my job. The kids are older and sort of get it. At least they get that I have to do something and more or less let me park them in front of a Scooby Doo DVD and/or art supplies while I ride. In return I try to make sure eveything is done and I'm refueled by 10:00am. Longer workout, earlier start. But the single biggest thing is the realizing just how difficult training got the last time around. Leanna was ill. Every workout was something I just needed to get done and out of the way. There wasn't much enjoyment. Today when I came up the stairs and saw the kids sitting in the family room and Leanna downloading pictures in the living room, I knew that I could do this. It was quiet. Normal. We can all do this...together. We are a team, even if I'm the one training my body. And the team is strong.

Speaking of the team, we had a couple of other "team events" this weekend. Friday night Alexandra took part in her gymnastics exhibition, and Saturday morning Dylan tested for and received his yellow belt in karate. Sure he's 4 so he's not some full contact martial arts terror. But he is learning. His skill level is beyond that of the new "little dragons" and most of all he likes it. He likes it to the point he actually enjoys the occasional practice session with me at home. And he even surprised his instructor, Sensei Jesse, by knowing the difference between a front punch and a thrust punch.

Today the team did a nature hike around Sachuest Point. I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've all done the loop and I didn't end up carrying someone the last 1/2 mile or so. We saw plenty of wildlife. A red-tailed hawk passed about 15ft over our heads. And of course there was another coyote on my run this morning. "Nice doggy...Nice doggy..."

Friday, December 17, 2010

IMCDA Training week 3

Technically week 3 isn't over yet. But the "theme" is beginning to make itself known. As the training hours tip towards the double digits again, for the first time I woke up with my legs feeling tapped out. Okay I woke up at 4:15am, but nonetheless I felt a bit tapped out. I had an outstanding run Thursday, my paces validating what I sensed about my run; it was coming back. But add in some work and holiday stress, take out some sleep, and the restoration just didn't happen on schedule. I still got through the ride today in good shape, though at lower average power, but it seems unlikely I will be running on consecutive days this weekend. Fatigue begets bad form, and bad form begets injury. Job #1 is to avoid injury. To replace the missed run time, I'll be logging a little more pool and bike time. No big deal. As I've said before, it's not even x-mas; don't be stupid.

In other news I got a care package from De Soto sport today. 3 pair of shorts, repaired free of charge. Now THAT is customer service. I really needed those reinforcements, so the timing is perfect. Merry X-Mas!!

Finally, if you weren't in the holiday spirit yet, have a look. How can you not feel the magic?!

And if you're interested in reading something not triathlon related? Try this one!

What do non-rowers talk about at a party?

I have no idea. :)

Earlier this week I got an intriguing request all the way from New Zealand. The people at http://www.rowperfect.co.uk/ were interested to know if I would mind writing a little something for their site. "Well why the hell not! What do you want?" So this is where it got interesting. Among other things they were curious about a U.S. point of view concerning the recent shake up at USRowing. "Uh...shake up?" I felt compelled to reiterate my disclaimer; I have not coached since 1999 and it's been even longer than that since I've competed. However, I decided I'd do a little research and see what I found.

It took only a moment to learn that the big shake up involved the removal of long time men's coach Kris Korzeniowski and the plans to relocate the men's Heavyweight program from lovely New Jersey to balmy California. Likewise the Lightweight men are being relocate to Oklahoma. So if I'm totally honest about my reaction, it was as follows: Kris Korzeniowski is still alive? KK was "the guy" when I was in college, in 1985! And while I can see a rowing base in California, especially if they want a "warm water port", Oklahoma? Seriously folks, I really don't care how great the facilities are, I would not put Oklahoma and rowing in the same sentence. Do they have water? Yeah screwing the lighweights again... I know they're not the money boats. And what of the women? They're going to hang in New Jersey. So now we're spread all over the country. I guess Team USA unity is not the focus. And don't get me started on the still non-existent support for rowers themselves. Basically if you do not row in an Olympic event, you need to be self-funded. That's not going to hurt the talent pool! But let's face it, if we can get a gold in the heavy men's 8, do we even need other boats?! (Just call'n like I see'm.)

I'll stop short of offering much more commentary related to the moves. I've been out of things long enough to know I need to learn more before offering too much opinion. What I can offer is just how quickly I was able to come up to speed, really a function of how little USRowing has changed in 25 years. Sure people right in the middle of things might think it's sooo different, but big picture, not so much. Rowing in the US is a boutique sport. A great one and one I love, but enjoyed by a fairly select few. Need more proof? As I started reviewing names of coaches, I started recognizing people I knew or coached against. Hell one current US coach stares at me every morning from the picture of my wife and her development camp 8 from 1992. Small world.

If the goal is to reinvent USRowing to bring home more hardware, maybe more than a change of coasts is needed. Maybe the appeal needs to be broadened. No I don't have the "how to" for that. Just asking the question. My uncle Walter, a former Syracuse oarsman, was very active in Canadian Rowing. I recall him mentioning disarray up north as well (eh!). How did that turn out? I don't know. Guess I'll call him and ask. Might make an interesting next article!

Cheers.

PS: Also saw that Three Rivers Rowing Association (my former boathouse while I was coaching at Pitt) from the great city of Pittsburgh (my home town), scored a second club of the year award? Begs the question, how many community oriented clubs are there?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

IMCDA Training week 2

Okay, I'm only two weeks in to a 30 week haul, so no reason to overanalyze things...but then again if we never overanalyzed things we'd be missing out on one of the great privileges of being human!

The theme for this week was "back off the ledge." The focus was on a very workman like, and hopefully intelligent, approach to the training. And this amazing thing happened: things started clicking. And the more they clicked the more relaxed I became. The numbers are not world beaters right now, but things really feel like they are moving in the proper direction. The extra weight I'm carrying is definitely helping my recovery between workouts. The one area where my volume is a little off right now is my running, mostly because of intermittent discomfort in my right ankle. However, I had a very encouraging run on Friday, enough so that I really don't think I'm behind at all. I have a test of mile repeats in two weeks, so we'll have a better idea then, but let's just say I'm confident.

And then there's my swimming. Yesterday I had this strange experience. I put in ~2000yds and you know where I felt it? In my legs. No I do not have an egg beater kick. Far from it, actually. My best guess is that I was kicking off the wall a little harder than usual. Also, my shoulders did not feel it at all. Middle back some, but not arms and shoulders. Oh, and I also lowered my golf PR to 63.

It's a strange experience, this being confident and relaxed. Only a week ago I was ready to quit. Now I'm feeling good. Heck, it's December 12. There's time. I'm starting to think my biggest challenge will be to pace myself so I don't plateau too soon.

As an aside, there is this growing movement to return to my rowing roots for the C.R.A.S.H.-B.'s. In QT2 fashion, people want to ride an indoor bike TT and do an erg race in the same day! I miss rowing, but not really erg racing. I was never great at it and it hurt like hell. That said I'm concerned I will have to go for it just because... And I'm pretty sure I won't be satisfied unless I'm back pulling in the 6:40s anyway. That's a lot of work in a discipline I haven't done seriouly since 1995. The good news: rowing crosses over really well to triathlon. After all that's how I got into the sport.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

IMCDA Training week 1

I just completed my last workout of the first week of training. Only 29 more weeks to go! Already a pattern is developing. You know how I said I think I'm going to set a new record for "I can't do this"? Well I may set that record by New Years! As promised this journal is not going to be all "this was awesome...so motivated...super excited!!!"

Yesterday was a very light day on the schedule. In fact the only real thing to do was get a baseline 400yd TT time in the pool, and a 20min easy recovery effort run later on. I was sort of excited to do the swim because I wanted to see that number I'd hit a couple of times the previous month: 5:30. Not because that number is very good, but because it's the best I've ever done in my life and represents a time 50sec faster than I've ever done at the beginning of Ironman training. Well long story short I only went 5:44. I'll not bore you with the reasons why, legitimate or not. Bottom line I came up short...and I ended up with a King Kong sized hair across my ass for the rest of the day because of it. In fact I passed on the run, but not because I'm lazy. In the back of my head I knew I'd run it waaaay too hard because I was in such a pissy mood. I lost count of all the "F--- I'm never going to improve. I'm kidding myself if I think I can break 10hrs" that passed through my head yesterday. Forget that I still posted my best time ever for the beginning of training. Forget that 10hrs is really going to be a function of hacking time off my bike, not squeaking time off of my swim. No, none of that mattered. I wasn't even sure I wanted to keep training. All kinds of crazy ideas went through my head. But somewhere in all that mental chaos, a little common sense kicked in. Forget training for the rest of the day. Get the X-mas tree. Decorate the house with the family. Knock back a drink or two. Watch a bad movie.

Today I was back, but on my bike trainer for 2 hours...and I crushed it. Not from a total power standpoint, but rather from the standpoint of power given my prescribed heart zone (15watts better than I had been posting all week). And the legs felt great. So yes, I'm not quitting. I'm really lucky Leanna gets me with regards to this. I'm positive I was testing her patience yesterday, and probably early today. She knows it's all part of the process: doubt, despair, and then HTFU you pansy. I'd like to say there won't be any more of these, but the truth is there are likely to be plenty. As long as they all end with a power jump on my bike...I guess I can deal!

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

6yr old theology

About a month ago Alexandra started asking about God. Then the other night Alexandra hits me with "what is 'Hell'?" Well, most parents I suspect would short this answer, but I know my daughter and she won't take the brush off, so I, despite some personal discomfort, decided to go back to my roots.

I am the son of a Presbyterian Minister and retired Professor of Theology, in fact the "James Henry Snowden Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology" at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (*note: as a kid I always thought my dad was saying he worked at a cemetery!*) I've grown up around theologians, so when I get lobbed a "what is Hell" question, well let's just say we could teach a course on this one. So out comes the "Children's Bible." I explained to Alexandra "if we're going to do this, we're doing it right and we're starting where all stories start, at the beginning. But be warned," I said, "these are not stories like Dr. Seuss stories. There is good. There is evil. Most of all, people in the world have very strong feelings about these stories. They argue over their meaning. They go to war for them. They die for them." Pretty heavy stuff for a first grader, but she took it pretty well. That said we're definitely going to pace this a bit.

Last night we read about Creation. Gee, nothing controversial there! I did overlay some of my beliefs, but explained them as such. I explained that not everyone thinks of this the same way I do, and as you get older and learn more you can make your own choices too. At the end of the night I explained that in my opinion, the arguing about the historical accuracy of these stories, e.g. did Creation really only take 6 days as we know days, really misses the point. The message in the stories is the important part, especially as we move into those later stories. Be a good person. Don't try to hurt people. Forgive others. Don't be a d-bag (okay I didn't tell her that one!).

And then, as only a child can do, she stared at me and said, "Okay Dad, but who created God?"

Outstanding!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving

Another trip to Pittsburgh is in the books. I'd be happy to not drive the van for a while! It's about 9 1/2 hours each way. Oh, and the kids don't sleep while driving anymore. You never know how much you appreciated those 2 1/2 hr breaks until they're gone! We stayed with my brother's family and as usual the main focus was my kids interacting with their cousins Corey, Justin, and Michael. Well that and the driving. And a week w/o Scooby Doo (except on the DVD player in the van). The drive down was the worst. We weren't in "travel mode" yet, so the first 3 hours took forever.

Corey's a certified teenager now. He's on a swim team. He's got a girl friend. He texts a lot. Despite that he and Alexandra still have a special bond. For those who don't know, Corey was the young man who crossed the line with me at my first Ironman in 2003. That event in many ways was the catalyst for the adventure which would end with Alexandra. It is fitting that they would bond to one another. Additionally their birthdays are only 3 days apart.

The other boys are growing up as well. While they were always individuals, their differences in interests seemed more apparent than ever. They're establishing themselves as individuals and in doing so seemed to fight less about certain things because I guess they weren't trying to "occupy the same space." That's how it was for me with my brother. Once I went off in my own direction I felt much more comfortable with things. The discomfort, as Leanna can attest, comes storming back whenever there is overlap. We fall into old patterns of behavior so easily, even if we're not really those people anymore. Or maybe it's just me.

This trip was also marred marked with a unanimous "it's too bad we only see you once a year" from my family. While it's nice to be missed, there's not too much I can do about it. I live 500miles away and have two small children.

Despite the cost, and the time, and the hassle, the trip still serves as a great bonding experience for the family. It was the Thanksgiving drive in 2007 that began the bonding between Alexandra and Dylan. The time in the hotel, while containing more than I few "Daddy can I press the elevator button?" "No I want to!" "I want to use the room key!", also served to bring us closer. No distractions, just 100% focus on each other. The kids ALWAYS seem more grown up when we get back than they were when we left. Oh god yes I need a break from it now, but like training it will have longer term benefits. We made memories.

So another Thanksgiving trip is in the books. Like finishing Ironman we're in the throws of "I'm never doing that again!" We'll see about that in 11 months. Maybe next year will be the year we start spending holidays in our own house. However, no time to think about that now. We've got Christmas barreling down on us! Zoiks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Training like a grown-up

I have a life...sort of...okay not so much. I do have a family and I support that family and they in turn support me. I am also training for Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2011. Type 'A' Ironman triathletes, which of course is redundant, have been known to abandon family and/or work in the pursuit of a qualifying slot for Kona or perhaps a PR. I include myself in that group. Now I'm not so naive as to say I'm not going to backburner more than a few things in the name of following my training plan, but I am determined to handle things in a more straight forward, and thus less stressful manner. And if there is less stress, long hours should suck less!

I'm not going to go back over my race goals. If you haven't read them 'click here.' Instead, here's a list of simple truths about how training will be conducted. Some of these statements might make Tim cringe, but oh well. That's what he gets for crap'n in front of me!

1) Rest is as or more important than exercise. Working out when overtired results in poor form. Poor form results in injury. Injury results in missed workouts. At almost 45 yrs of age, I can't afford setbacks.
2) If a workout is missed, it's gone. There are no makeups. *Note: this does not mean I can't rework the plan in advance to keep the progression/recovery intact.* I instituted this policy back in my rowing days, and while it seems extreme at times, in the end things have always worked out better. When you try to juggle things in an effort to make up for missed time, you invariably 'F' up the progression and cannibalize recovery time. (see point 1) Miss too many key workouts, and frankly someone is telling you there are bigger issues than missed workouts if you know what I mean.
3) The plan is important, but that doesn't mean I won't add some "creativity" in order to keep from going insane. This is my third trip through the protocol. I understand the progressions and what we're trying to accomplish during each phase. I also know myself and my needs. If the ankle aches, no questions asked the runs move to trails or water. I may split up long rides between the Kurt Kinetic, the rollers, and/or the road, or get creative with intervals. Here's one: try riding a section of your Z1 ride as a butt load (3 x 20 w/5min between @bottom Z1) of 45sec top of zone, 15sec ZR for an average of mid Z1. Time flies and you can use the 15sec to get the blood back in your junk!

Goals, even important meaningful goals, are frequently devices which we contrive to put pressure on ourselves, pressure intended to make us perform at a higher level. However, in setting goals we frequently don't list the opportunity cost of those goals, namely sacrificed friends, family, health, etc... It's easy to say, "yeah we have to make sacrifices," and we do. But how many people list the specifics of what they are willing to sacrifice? 6 hour continuous bike ride and not skating with the kids? Too costly for me. How about 4 on the bike, some skating maybe lunch, and then another 2 hrs later on when they are otherwise occupied? Maybe the T-run is in the pool at the athletic club so the kids can swim?

There's more than one route to any destination. There may be costs, but there might actually be gains as well. A mentally relaxed athlete is waaaaaay more powerful than a stressed athlete. Stress kills. How many people crush 'B' races and step on their cranks at 'A' races? Lots. Getting my body ready is important, but I've got to get my head there as well, and the best way for me to do that is to keep living the rest of my life while I train.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long weekend

Stop laughing Leanna. It wasn't long because I had the kids...okay maybe a little! It's been a while since I had an extended break from work, if you think 4 days is extended! The Blackberry has remained sheathed and despite being on my laptop I have not checked work email. I know I have things due but not only will I be able to get them done Monday, worst case they will be a little late. It's real work to no obsess on ALWAYS having everything done at work and getting upset when it is not. The reality is that obsession often keeps me from getting things done at home, with the kids, etc... “Me first” is the new motto. Yes, yes I'm sure you think that was the old motto as well! Well triathletes, especially us long distance sorts, are known for being fairly self-absorbed. It's not because we're bad people. It's because there is so much to keep in order, so much to do to prepare, that frankly it can be very overwhelming. Ahh, overwhelming...I'm pretty sure I'm going to set a new record for "I can't do this I'm going to quit" during the Coeur D'Alene training. I had at least three or four of those moments before Lake Placid in 2009. Well here we haven't even started formal training (2 wks) and I've already had one. I think it really revolves around the fact that somehow I need to recreate space for training time. I've kept a decent routine going in terms of repetitions, but the durations have been much shorter. That does not mean, however, that I've just had all this free time sitting around. Rather other things have filled that time, notably work and sleep! Well I need to keep the sleep so guess what's getting "deprioritized!" I also get overwhelmed by the cost of this. I was listing out the expenditures for Coeur d’Alene and it's really pretty daunting. Yeah we can do it, I mean Dylan doesn't really need to go to school does he? **Note: If any of my teammates going to Coeur d’Alene need a roommate, drop me a line. The family's not making the trip.**

After 44 years, though, this creating stress and then forcing myself through it seems to be part of the process. Which each have our thing and I guess this one is mine. It's hard to imagine a build up with stress the level of 2009. That was real stress and anxiety. I have this saying, "if you can throw money at a problem and make it go away then it's not really much of a problem now is it." It's a statement about relative importance of things. When people are ill, money doesn't fix it, and that's a real problem. The fact that airlines now f--- you to fly a bike, well it's an annoying pain in the a--, but not really a problem on par with what we've been through in this house. (By the way, I'm planning on using Tribike Transport unless someone has a better thought.)

Here are my some starting numbers in the three disciplines along with the same numbers from the beginning of training in 2009. You'll see that across the board the numbers are better. I think this means the improvement curve will be flatter, but with the 30 weeks of training leading to Coeur D'Alene, I hope to end up at a level never before achieved, one which will bring me across the line in under 10hrs (fyi, it makes me anxious just typing that!).

Swim: 800yd (11:58), in 2009 13:10, Golf score 64, in 2009 69
Bike: 265watt 20min avg, 2009 250watt
Run: 7:18 mid Z1 pace, 2009 7:30 mid Z1

Other numbers:
Resting HR 46bpm. Functional (observed) Max 170bpm.
Weight 160lbs

By the way, my exciting weekend has included but is not limited to: A trip to the dentist, a 5 year old birthday party for Dylan's friend at an arcade, an anxious sister at the party, a son melting down because he wasn't allowed to throw the ski ball overhand, a full day of the worst (in terms of quality not taste) food I've had in my body in YEARS...still in sodium OD shock, benefit elections for 2011, garbage day, making the kids clean the toy room (it's a very "Egyptian Slave Driver build the damn pyramids" experience), one gymnastics class (with another meltdown, but apparently that's a very common experience there because all the little gymnasts are mini prima donnas), solo parent at a 4 kid play date (*Note, small animals make this a piece of cake, though I do think the kitten spent a few of those 9 lives already!), and 45minutes of running, 3200yds of swimming, and 45min on the trainer (so far). We crossed an important threshold, the kids behaving themselves and watching a show or playing while Dad rolled on the trainer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Work and play

I don't write about work much, if ever. I like the brainwork I do, but in general a job is a job. That whole career path thing is pretty much only relevant as it pertains to making sure I can provide for my family. Yes I've been asked why I don't change paths entirely and do something else. Well at this stage of the game it would be hard to start over and not take a big drop. However, one thing that I keep considering is combining the aspect of my work that I love with something that could benefit my fellow athletes and friends.

I work in business intelligence and specialize in developing different ways to present information in meaningful manners. One of my strengths is pattern recognition which is used in data mining. Data mining, simply put, is taking large sets of data and looking for patterns in things, possibly previously considered unrelated things, to find new meaningful measures. It's a technique used in a growing area of research termed theory-less research. It's meant to address the all to common practice of developing a theory and then making the data fit that theory rather than objectively determining whether or not your theory holds water. This approach, while a bit difficult at times (there are lots and lots of dead ends!), is intended to more accurately determine causal relationships by ignoring what we believe to be true, which can color the results, and working with only what is true about a given situation.

In the past it seemed that in order to tie work and my passion together meant having to do something coaching related. However after 7 years as a collegiate rowing coach I am pretty much done. That doesn't mean I don't want to help, I just don't really want to be the guy again, not until I "retire." At that point I'll take up my position as a Bill Bowerman-esque running coach, complete with fedora and stopwatch. (I also think coaches should start wearing suits at competitions again, but that's another story for another time!)

But I digress, again. The landscape of training and racing is far different today than in the past. There is sooo much data available. I've had on my personal drawing board a project to combine my data mining skills with this data availability and using some industry standard tools create something really cool in terms of training/racing analysis. I know there are lots of people doing things like this, training peaks comes to mind, but they are limited. They have their "measures" and then market these for everyone. In my world, many of the measures don't exist yet. Oh and there's this, I am really good at this. I trust we'd learn a lot. One area I'm interested in exploring further is the change over time as athletes move from their peaks to their "masters" years. Finding patterns which indicate likely modifications to training protocols would be intriguing. Why can I survive on lower volume than most? I don't subscribe to "genetics" being quite as important as people think. Yes there are differences but I think it's frequently used as an easy out, a cheat. The mapping of the human genome demonstrated one thing clearly, we're all really, really alike.

To date my biggest limiter has been time to do the project and a diverse set of data. Thanks to my Garmin I have lots of data about me. But to do this right I need more than me. Diversity is key. Maybe you're reading this and you have lots of data about you. Well, color me interested. If you'd share I promise to let you share in the the findings. Your name will also be detached from your data (though referenced in any credits), because frankly the interesting stuff is at a higher level than a single person anyway. The possibilities intrigue my brain and my inner athlete. Who knows maybe one day I'll even get something published about this work, something with my picture on it...as long as I'm wearing a fedora.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Some lessons are subtle...

...and others not so much! So I was out running yesterday, on "my trail" again, and I was just losing myself. I wasn't really focused on anything and was marveling at how the trail looked so different than just 2 weeks earlier because the leaves had fa... WHAM!!! Down goes Joel. Down goes Joel. I tumbled "a-- over tea kettle" and lost my glasses. Knee scrapped and bruised, hand bleeding a little, toe sore, I crawled around on all fours like Thelma of Scooby-Doo fame, feeling the dirt for my glasses in the leaves. I know for a fact I let at least one MF'r drop. And then I started laughing. Hello there, that's just one of the many ways trail running is different; there are tree roots!

The incident was also a not so subtle reminder of one of life's lessons: you need to be able to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get yourself moving again because sometimes you truly are all alone. And if you are wondering, I kept going. Once I started again I began remembering the first time I took a similar digger in a cross-country race. I remember seeing the whole pack just cruise on by me. I was muddy, had my pride bruised, but was otherwise okay. However I spent the rest of the race running below my ability because I was feeling sorry for myself. I don't recall exactly, but that lack luster result may have ended in one of the two demotions from the varsity that I would endure during my career. No folks, I was not yet the athlete I am now.

I ended up running the whole route yesterday and actually crushed my times on the same route posted two weeks earlier, all because I decided to keep going even when there was nobody there to know if I quit or not. I knew, and that's all it took. This morning my knee aches a little, but no big thing. The scrape on my hand has scabbed over. My left big toe is a bit tender, but all in all I feel pretty darn good.

There you have it, another life lesson learned on the trails. Before I finish though I think I need to stress a corollary to this lesson. In truth I think quite a few people do understand that in life you need to be able to rely on yourself to make it through adversity because sometimes there is nobody there to help. But the corollary is that sometimes other people are there, and if they offer help freely you need to learn to accept it. It turns out this is harder for some people than you'd think. It was harder for me, that's for sure. However accepting the help makes experiences far more meaningful because now you've shared them with another person, a person you can forever call friend.

PS: Here are the numbers from the two runs
October 24
November 6

PPS: Notice the two breaks in pace on Nov. 6, at mile 2 and at mile 4.4. The first was the digger. The second as a close encounter with a cow that had escaped its pasture and the irate farmer who was "chasing" it. For the record he was swearing way more than I!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I went for a run today. I know, I know...I'm supposed to just be swimming with the occasional bike ride thrown in. In general that is the case, but today was different. Today I needed to get out in nature and run, and not just any run, a trail run. Originally I was thinking of running the Sachuest loop a few times, but I changed my mind and opted for a little known gem of a running route around here. It's a trail that runs from Newport National Golf Club to Glen Farm. It parallels a road that features prominently in my bike rides, but you'd never know it. I last ran here in November 2009. I wasn't escaping a sick ward of a house this time, but nonetheless there was a reason I needed route on this day. The experience is nearly unparalleled; no people, no sounds but your breathing and your feet on the dirt and leaves. You get into this rhythm where you're just weaving through the trees. As the leaves fall it's harder and harder to see the path, but if you allow yourself to relax and just go where the terrain allows you to go you'll find you are moving the right way. It's so easy to lose track of time, to just exist in the moment. You're cruising along straight towards a large tree with an old stone wall behind it. You don't break stride because it must be the way, but what about the wall? You lean around the tree and straight through a previously unseen gap in the wall. It's work but it heals the soul. There's so much majesty around you, you are so small, you have no choice but to remember your place in this world.

We went to church today. This is a tough on for me. It's not a skipping church is what the cool kids are doing, thing. I have some very real, very personal reasons why. No I'm not discussing those here. The thought of attending "church" elicits am almost Pavlovian response from me now. I regret that I can't communicate the issues effectively. I'm also torn because I do believe in allowing my kids to learn and make their own decisions. I believe in supporting my wife with things that are important to her. At some times I'm better at that than others. This is a "me thing." I promised 17yrs ago that I would raise my kids in the Catholic Church. Even then I knew I wasn't really telling the truth. If it happened, well it wouldn't be with whole hearted enthusiasm. If they end up choosing a church, that's fine, but I need them to have a choice. And as for me and my lie, well I'll bear the burden of that one.

Alexandra wants to know about God. But you see, I don't believe you learn about God in church (and try explaining to a 6yr old why you eat the bread and drink the wine). My experience is that you learn more about Man in church than God. If you want to learn about God, come run on my trail.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two wheel'n

Some days I have a hard time coming up with something to write about. Not today. This one is easy. Today Alexandra ditched the training wheels. Sure this is one of those inevitable moments as a parent, but trust me the lead in is anything but.

Let's back up a little. Parenting has taught me more patience and wisdom than anything else in life. Prior to parenthood I envisioned the job as being the constant teacher, the wise old sage teaching the kids. You know, Yoda. And while that's true to a degree, trust me when I say it is you, the parent, who do much of the learning. For me it's been a very difficult albeit rewarding adventure to discover how my kids learn. For Alexandra it's been about learning how to help her manage her anxiety (and my anxiety!). Early on I would try too hard to help her work through things. The net is that I probably pushed a little too much and at times she regressed. Her "relationship" with water comes to mind. As time has passed I've learned to not push so much but rather let her wait until she was ready. I guess I feared that she'd move away from something and then never come back to it. She'd get scared in the water, or on the bike, and that was that. She'd never be a swimmer or ride a bike. Hey I'm not nuts, I have seen it happen...to other kids. But I've learned she's way more resilient than that. In fact it's now downright fascinating to me. She moves away from things physically, but I have this strange feeling that she does not move completely away from things mentally. Whether she consciously thinks about things that have given her trouble and why they gave her trouble, I don't know. But first with swimming and then today with her bike, she fairly abruptly came back to them and decided that she was ready. And when she says she's ready...She is Ready. I think I held her saddle for all of 10 seconds today. 7 miles later she was declaring how when she was on her bike she never got tired. I'm sure the catalyst was her friend Lauren becoming a two wheeler herself, but as you know that peer pressure thing can work the opposite way. But not with this little girl.

Now I trust her judgement with these sorts of things more than mine. If she's not ready, I don't push at all. She has demonstrated with two big milestones this year, when she's ready she goes and never stops.

Of course, Dylan wants to keep up with his sister, and he is wired differently. I mean, he's a boy. Dylan will fall on his bum, or head, over and over until he gets it. That's just what he does. But keeping up with big sis does motivate him, and today that got him back on his bike and riding with us. When last we saw Dylan and his new Lightning McQueen bike, he was abandoning it on the Cape Cod Canal bike path and daddy was swearing. Well today he rode until he was dropping. Dylan is talented in his own right. Unfortunately he's 2 1/2 years younger than his sister and at this point in life that's a huge gap. But he tries, gets frustrated, screams, has a fit, gets mad, and then tries again. It's just a matter of time. Yeah, time and a bunch of bandages and ice packs!

What a great weekend.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Preseason

Rest time is over. I took exactly 3 full weeks of complete inactivity following Pumpkinman. Early on I had considered racing the Amica 19.7 sprint race near my house (1.5 miles away), but I elected to pass and just try and gain some weight instead. As it turns out I continued my uncanny streak of skipping races that end up having some major issue. The Amica 19.7 race had the swim canceled because they couldn't secure the markers in the surf. Well folks that is the issue trying to do such a short swim in the ocean.

But I digress (I do that a lot if you haven't noticed!). Anyway, by the end of the 3 weeks I think Leanna herself was tying the shoes onto my feet and asking me to please get out of the house and exercise! Drinking beer and eating chocolate cookies in the name of weight gain is fun and all, but I had so much pent up energy by the end that I was bouncing off the walls. However, I did not and have not run, which is my typical off-season activity. No, I have not mounted a bike either, though I will this next week. Instead I went to the pool, 4 times in the last 6 days actually. Yes, I am looking to find and embrace my inner swimmer (stop laughing please)! I am commiting to become a faster swimmer this time around. It's not that I need to be faster than my absolutely predictable 1:06 Ironman swim. I want to be faster, because I know just how my confidence will just soar if I see, say 1:02, on the race clock. 4 minutes, that's the target. Why 4? Well first I think it's very doable if I just apply myself. Second, if I were in possession of a 1:02 Ironman swim instead of a 1:06, I'd have been to Hawaii twice already. Yes I used to rationalize my lack of swim focus because the amount of training time required to drop the 4 minutes was time that could be spent making bigger gains running. That argument held water (ha ha) when my race time was a 10:58 and I only ran 3:50 for the marathon. Then came 2008, QT2 and Coach Tim, and the subsequent 10:21:56 finish with the 3:28:46 marathon. The final M40-44 slot went to Vinu Malik at 10:19:33. And my swim blew that year: 1:10! Then came 2009 with a 10:14, a 3:23 run and back to a 1:06 swim. Well we know how this one ended; 105 seconds short of the last slot. When I looked at the results one thing became apparent: I was playing catch-up from the gun. In fact only Dave Nerrow had a slower swim than me in the top 13 places, but his bike/run combination is flat out devastating.

So that brings me back to this preseason and my new swim focus. 1:02 that's the number, well one of the numbers but the one commanding the most attention right now. If you're curious the other numbers are 5:25 and 3:19. Add in some transition time and you still get the idea: I'm not shooting for the final spot for Hawaii. The goal in fact has nothing to do with Hawaii, because frankly thinking about that might lead me to delude myself, to research other year's results for M45-49 and analyze trends and think about what is "good enough." No, the goal is breaking 10 hrs. He probably doesn't know it, but Pat Wheeler is an inspiration here. He too suffered a painfully narrow miss in getting to Hawaii, only to use that to fuel his training and obliterate the 10hr barrier. I don't have his speed, but when the goal is set as it is above, 1:02/5:25/3:19, it is clear to me that I most definitely have the ability to break 10. Hawaii, might be an outcome, but hear me now...It is NOT the goal!

How determined am I? Well consider I might actually get some formal swim coaching! *gasp* Inconceivable! ("You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.") I have tried to put some weight on for the early blocks of training (mixed results) because when I'm heavier I recover more quickly, which will be important with my increased focus on volume. I can get away with very low volume running, somewhat lower biking, but not swimming. It's not as natural to me. I need the hours to gain the minutes. I feel good, I'm 7lbs or so more than I was at Pumpkinman, and I'm really eager to get going. Reinserting patience is the biggest challenge! I know it will be a bit of a grind on the trainer in the middle of the winter, but this is my time.

I have some experience with finally achieving long held goals. I ran my first marathon in 1995. It was humbling. From that day on I wanted to break 3hrs. I would get as close as 3:04 on a couple of occasions, but never really get there. Then in 2006 I really dialed myself in mentally. I did the long stuff in the winter. I logged every work out. I took care of the little things. Hell, even my Road ID said it. And I did it. I have the same feeling this time around that I had before the 2006 Boston. The feeling like the focus is there, like an approaching tide the inevitable is coming. And the inevitable is me. It's the unmoving object versus the irresitible force.

So come June 2011, it'll be no problem that my Garmin is only supposed to last for 10hrs on a charge. I only plan on using ~9:56 minutes of it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The year in review

Yes, my year is over. I know December is a ways away, but who said December had to be the end. This year is done. Next year starts in roughly 8 weeks. So let's review.

The plan, as you know by now, was to bridge from 2009 to 2011, which is to say bridge from IMLP 2009 to IMLP 2011. Along the way some deliberations occurred and it was decided to make the target IM CDA 2011 instead of IMLP. Put the change of plan under the category of planning for success. The desired outcome is a trip to Kona which, while feasible at either venue, stands a better chance of being a good experience by virtue of an extra month to recover. *Note* I am not doing CDA because I think it is easier. If anything I think I'm better relative to my peers on harder courses, especially harder run courses. I've done IMLP 4 times and know it takes 4 to 6 weeks until I even feel like I can train at normal paces again. That makes the extra month gold for me in terms of Kona prep. Additionally I am historically much stronger at the end of June than I am in late July. Even as a young'n June good, July not so much. The last few years my late June training numbers, even while overloading, were far and away the best. Sure the cost and logistics are a pain, but it is full throttle in 2011 to cross a big item off "the list," so it was deemed to be worth it.

So how successful was the year? I was good not great all year which was indeed the tag line for this year. Being a good not great athlete allowed me to make progress in other areas of life. Others will have to decide if I was successful. I do know it was priceless to be home every day. The kids have really begun developing at a high rate. I refer to what they're doing as "skills acquisition." From hesitant to jump off the edge of the shallow end while literally wrapped in flotation devices, to diving under water in the ocean wearing nothing but a bathing suit, mask, and a smile!

But the best part of the year was being able to be there for my #1 fan Leanna. I believe things happen for a reason. I narrowly missed out on Kona last year...for a reason. I needed to focus on my family, and on helping my best friend try to return to health in whatever way I could. There would be ample opportunity to return to being self-absorbed. It was difficult and stressful but we kept focused. Endurance training and racing has taught me how to live in the moment, deal with what is and don't waste energy on what you wish would be, and most of all to be patient. Since her surgery in March we've made steady progress towards normalcy. She even attended my last two races, and she's returned to work and the gym. There are no words to describe how I feel. If I had to give up Ironman forever to reach this point, I would. It's this incredible bonus I don't. Hell I feel like I'll be heading to Coeur D'Alene playing with house money. There's still a long road to travel between here and there, for both of us, but we won't be alone. Leanna, I love you.



























Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Did you know this was here?

No Honey. I had no idea there was a huge outlet mall in Kittery. Really. Cross my heart. Honest, had I known I would have stopped (instead of accelerated) years ago!

We were in Maine this past weekend. I raced the Pumpkinman Half Iron. Depending on how I did this was possibly my last race as a 40-44 year old. The kids stayed with grandma and grandpa this weekend. Instead just Leanna and I made the trip; a flashback to younger days. And just like in the old days, race prep and planning was sub-optimal. The biggest gaff was realizing I was out of my nutritional products just a day or two before the race. I decided I wouldn't sweat it and would just pick up some goods when I get there, which I did. Only problem was that I couldn't find my Powerbar stuff. Instead it was GU products, which I have used. Okay no big deal. I know I can tolerate the stuff and I can do math, so I quickly recalibrated my eating/drinking schedule and figured I was good to go.

Alright, back to the report in a moment. First a recap of the focus of this year, which of course started last year. In Lake Placid, in July 2009, I came up 105 seconds short of a trip to Hawaii. While the natural response is to get right back at it and try again, 2009 was a very difficult year in our family and the best plan was to do the opposite. The family comes first. So plan 'B' was to make this a bridge year; keep a reasonable training schedule, focused on repetition more than duration, and race enough so I remember how it feels. The motto was 'Good not Great.' The result of the plan was to recharge physically and emotionally but find myself at a higher level than I typically do at the beginning of an Ironman ramp up, in this case the IM Coeur D'Alene 2011 ramp up. For the most part the plan has worked. Leanna's health is improved. I'm in a different job and happier for it. I raced Mooseman 70.3 in early June and had a respectable if far from overwhelming result. Good not Great. Last weekend I cranked a Sprint tri to blow out the cobwebs before Pumpkinman, and again had a respectable result. Good not Great. So this was it, and if I hit my goals, this was it until next year.

What goals you say? Well goal 1) was to not suck. I had a pretty good feeling I'd be okay, but I was worried about going slower than 4:45 which would not have been okay with me. The course profile just is not that difficult. Goal 2) is always to have one of the top runs amongst my peers. It relaxes me quite a bit on the bike to know I just need to keep people close and I can run most of them down. Goal 3) was to go under 4:40. While not a incredibly fast tme, based on my training volume as well as what I had seen the previous week, and indeed what my training numbers were telling me, this was going to take a little work. Not impossible, but not a foregone conclusion.

For this race I had mostly one thing going for me, I know how to pace. Yeah there was some trash talk going on amongst teammates, and yes it actually added a funny and dare I say relaxing element to the race. It broke the tension. But the truth of the matter is that those things would not even enter my mind on race day until the run. The last race I had where I blew up was in '06 or '07 when I made the mistake of getting into a bike race instead of focusing on the race as a whole. What I didn't have was volume. I had been getting more trips into the water lately but nothing too impressive. My run mileage was very low as it has been all year to save wear and tear on the ankles, and my bike mileage was also low. In fact I had only cracked 50 miles in a single ride twice since the beginning of August.

I just wanted the swim to be steady. I went out hard and then settled and tried to get some feet. That only worked for a minute or two as we quickly caught people from the previous wave. So I just tried to relax, keep loose, and concentrate on pulling through with my whole body in sync, not trying to generate force from my arms/shoulders. Amazingly this worked and I came out of the 1st loop right behind teammate Custie in 14:48. I'd drop off a little on the 2nd loop, but still managed 15:45 or so. Then I had my first bit of "fun". Despite better judgement, I wanted to see how fast I could sprint the big hill. So prior to crossing the timing mat at the end of the swim I stopped in the water and removed my wetsuit, or should I say 3/4 of my wetsuit. Damn thing hung up on my timing chip again, so again I had to drop to my butt in the water. I was so frustrated that I pulled really hard, the wetsuit came off and I began to run. "Hey buddy your chip is in the water." F--- Me! I turned and a kind soul handed me the chip which I then fastened very firmly (I have a bruise to prove it!). I later discovered that the kind soul was another teammate Mary Eggers.

I ran my a-- off up the hill...and thought my heart would explode at the top. In fact I walked the last 20ft or so in transition to settle my heart rate before beginning the bike. This was no sprint and I needed things under control. The rest of transition was uneventful so off I went. Because the swim had been more than 30min, it was time to knock down a GU packet, and so I did. Well maybe knock it down is not the right term. I did squeeze it into my mouth and at that moment remembered why I went to Powerbar Gels instead of GU. The GU was the consistency of old toothpaste. I mean damn...get me some water. I got it down but it landed heavy. Good for me my stomach is tough and I didn't really suffer GI issues, but that doesn't mean the experience was at all pleasant. Anyway the ride was mostly uneventful if underwhelming. I had good heart rate control (pick up the effort rate goes right up, relax the effort and the rate falls almost immediately). I just didn't have great speed. Okay speed, but not great. Had there been big climbs I expect I might have done better relative to my peers, but as it was sustained power in the aero position was a key to success. I had the same issue at Mooseman so this was nothing new. It's definitely on the hit list for CDA training.

I kept calm and just rode a steady pace. After all was said and done I discovered I even split the ride. Not too shabby. Coming in on the bike I saw my teammates all in a row, but all quite a ways ahead of me. If I was to keep from being the slow poke of the group, something my ego would not allow, I would need to knock down a very solid run. And I did. In fact I got them all except for Keith who was having a fantastic day. The very first time we crossed over on the run I knew I was not closing on him and short of a complete explosion I wouldn't see him until the finish line. I think I was truly excited for him because in a way it helped with one of my anxieties as well. You see Keith is the only one in this group of us who is older than me, and if he's still moving well then I probably should not stress about waking up one day before CDA and finding that my run, my number one weapon, is gone. As for the rest of them. Well I mowed them down one at a time! By the way I even split my run as well.

My final time was 4:38, good for 2nd in the age group. That meant I hit my goals. Pretty good, not great. Definitely got all out of what I had in me so I have promised to not complain. I do have a list of things to work on, but at the end of the day the basic elements seem there. Just need to add volume back in.

Once again for you fellow geeks here are the Garmin files:

Bike
Run

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

That's it?

The rock, you know Plymouth Rock, wasn't nearly the giant monolith I had been expecting. Yes I appreciate the historical significance, but really I found myself wondering how the hell the Pilgrims even found it. Yeah I know it's been split and chipped away at, but seriously double ...no triple it's size, go 1/2 mile offshore and take a look. "One in a million, Doc. One in a million."

And yes, I begin the post with a digression. This last weekend was a family vacation/kids first trip to a race/farewell to summer. "Daddy, what's Labor Day mean?" "It means thank god school's back in because you kids are a lot of work! Just kidding honey." Though last week it seemed the weekend would be dictated by Hurricane Earl, Earl was a dud so instead the weekend revolved around our trip as a family to the Mayflower Sprint Triathlon in Plymouth, MA. Now I haven't raced a sprint in a long time. I think the last one was 2007 or s0 and before that, ... well ... , I can't really remember. Sure you could look it up, but it's just not that important. What was important was structuring a weekend the way we used to do it. "Back in the day" Leanna, Otis (our lab) and I would pack up for a weekend on the Cape and I'd race in Hyannis or Falmouth. We'd see the same group of racers/friends we'd always see. I didn't know too many people back then but over time many of those people would become the basis of my triathlon family. It was in those days that I met Tim, Cait, Beth, Brian, Steve Kelley, and others. Actually Steve was the first person I met due to his position as President of the Bay State Triathlon Team. This weekend had the familiar feel to it; grass roots kind of event with the same familiar faces, albeit older and some of us with kids, and a lot more carbon fiber. I mean even I had a carbon bike!

The race is held right in the historic section of Plymouth and started at 10:00am, not the sunrise 7:00am start we've all grown to love! The location and time made for lots of spectators, both willing and not. For those of us trained for and truly best suited for long distance triathlons, the sprint triathlon, this one made up of ~.4mile swim/12mile bike/3.1 mile run is a painful event. You have to go hard right from the gun and you really can't make any mistakes. It's not a race where I focus on finishing as one of the top three goals. First and foremost it is a race of execution. Spend too much time in transition because your foot got stuck in your wetsuit (again! time to cut it!) and you can watch the places go by you. There just is not enough course to repass too many people. After that it's just a matter of going all out. No real strategy. No nutrition plan. Just how hard can you go for 60 or so minutes.

In my opinion my biggest strength these days is in my ability to pace. So a sprint does not play into my strengths whatsoever. However it does satisfy that need to feel nervous, to get hit in the water, to have my heart try to leap from my chest, to make me want to hurl...in short it serves to help me prep for the next weekend's Pumpkinman 1/2. It's also an opportunity to bring the kids to a race. Yes the whole clan came to Plymouth, and an hour of racing was about all their 4 and 6 yr old attention spans were ready to handle. In fact a delay in the start (boat entering the harbor) almost pushed them, and by extension Leanna, over the edge! I loved having the kids at the race. In fact seeing them cheering for me was one of the best experiences I've ever had (fyi that's why I'm smiling in my race photos during the transition run from the swim to the transition area). That said, holy crap they were difficult. Did you know we went 3 for 5 on spilled drinks...Mommy and Daddy drinks! "But Daddy it was on my place mat and I didn't want anything on my place mat." They very possibly learned some new, more colorful words!

But back to the race, yes the kids were there cheering their daddy as he worked it, even if I was a bit rusty (hadn't raced since early June). And I had fun: I went hard. I hurt on the swim/bike/run. I finished 1st in my age group and 12th overall.

Post race was some relaxation time in Plymouth, including dinner out. We ran into the Snows plus Mikaela (Cait's sister) at Sam Diego's. And despite Cait questioning my sanity because I don't like fried ice cream, it was fun seeing them.

Next weekend is Pumpkinman and I want to do well. I'm fairly realistic that there are no PRs in my future as I don't have that kind of training volume this year. Nonetheless I still have goals related to maximizing what I have, and that means giving out lessons on course management and pacing.

See you next Sunday.

Here are the Garmin files: Bike , Run (note: heart strap fell down during run)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fortunately I can use flexible spending for band-aids

**Let me apologize in advance for likely offending the womens with some of the terminology.**

Training has become very quantitative these days. There are numbers and measures for everything; right in the sweet spot of a business intelligence data geek like myself. Along with ones many people use, I have some "personal" ones which while harder to record w/o lots of data points but are very meaningful. e.g. Cardiac response, the slope of your heart rate changes vs. time with a change in effort. It's about how quickly my heart rate both increases and subsequently decreases with the addition or subtraction of effort. When I'm fit this is steep. When I'm not, not so much. But here's the thing: as valuable as all these hard numbers are in determining fitness, no number is as powerful as that qualitative measure which tells me it's time to rest a bit: blatant stupidity. Similarly a serious lack of coordination is highly correlated. And not to be outdone, there's the moodiness referred to by some as "being on the rag" and others as "having sand in your vagina" or maybe just "a bug in your a--." An inability to push to functional max during intervals is another measure, sometimes described as a bout of "vaginitis."

One of these conditions is bad enough to usually necessitate some sort of plan modification. When you've got all of the above? Shut it down. I tried to deny the facts when it was just some vaginitis, but when Leanna began inquiring about the bug in my a--, maybe I should have taken note. When I got a bit freaked out (out of the blue) while 1/4 mile off shore in 3ft swells I might have figured out I needed to dial back. Maybe the fly and die run would clue me in? No, it took the missed shift/dropped chain on a 12% pitch/leaning fall/sliced knuckle (this sequence filed under blatant stupidity) to give me a clue. Yeah, no denying the blatant stupidity. 8 miles riding in with blood running down my arm, and cutting off the last 18 mile loop was my acceptance. I did do my T-run, which all things considered was decent, but then it was quiet time until Tuesday. Since then things have been getting back on track. I had an encouraging swim and a better ride and run. I can't say I've fully got my mojo back, but I'm not that whiny bitch anymore either.

PS: The knuckle wrapped in "Woody, Bullseye, and Jesse" (Toy Story 3) was quite the conversation piece at work!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guru Redux

It's been 5 years since I built and started racing my current race bike. It was a rebuilt and personalized circa 2002 Cervelo One. So when Tim offered to let me build up his Guru Crono since he had moved on to a sweet Scott Plasma, I leapt at the chance. I've been racing bikes since 1985. The first was my only complete bike, a steel Lotus. It was fuscia. Since that bike I have ridden only aluminum. Aluminum bikes have a lot of things going for them, but one of those things is NOT comfort. If your position, tire pressure, etc... is not spot on they can be brutal.

The Guru Crono is an all carbon bike, so for that reason alone I was curious to ride the finished product. However, making this project more interesting, I was determined to use only things found in my cellar to rebuild it. This first photo shows what I was starting with.

The main thing missing was a fork. Well if you've been in my cellar (and you probably haven't because that's just not allowed), you'll know it's a bicycle graveyard down there. I had a couple of options for a fork, but selected a fairly vintage Giant Aero fork. I've always liked it. It has a bit of lateral flex to it, but that's not really an issue for me. Next the components were all pulled straight from the Cervelo. The one acquisition for this build was the Vision aero base bar and extensions. I got them for $80 and I like their profile. My current bars are just a little "busy".

The ride: The second I started rolling I noticed one thing instantly; this bike handles much more quickly. Whether it was just the fork or a combination of the fork and frame geometry, this handled more like my road bike. However it was not squirrely. It was very stable on straight lines and I never felt like I was in danger of a digger...well after the first lap I never felt in danger! I'll admit feeling more than a little apprehensive and thus tense for the first 20 or 30 minutes. I did need to stop about 15 seconds after rolling out to adjust the front brakes. The pads were way off. The shakedown ride was on the trainer. You don't use brakes on the trainer...whoops! After that everything stayed put.

While my lap times were not noticeably different than previous rides (don't underestimate the benefit of being familiar with a bike) there were two key areas where I felt a difference. The first was on the false flat I hit 21 minutes into each loop. The bottom bracket area of this bike is stiff. The second I put pressure on the bike moved. I was noticeably faster going through this stretch. The front end of the bike is also lower than the Cervelo and this was evident on Sachuest Beach Rd. There was wind today and I felt like I could "duck" under the wind a bit. Not everything was perfect. I missed on the saddle position and my quads blew up around mile 50. Seated climbing on steeps was difficult (I'm sure the lay off didn't help here). I've already fixed this. Now I just need to stop peeing fire (kidding...that's already stopped)! A few other things needed to be tweaked, but nothing major. Oh yes, the other pleasant surprise was how much better the shifting was than the Cervelo.

Overall a good ride. Things showed promise. A number of the issues from the morning might well be tied to the 2 weeks which have passed since my last road ride. I'm seriously considering racing a sprint tri on September 4th to see how the bike races before I hit Pumpkinman on September 12th.

Today's ride

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I have a laptop and a blog and I'm not afraid to use them! (or Why you should sponsor me.)

I'm fairly analytical in nature. Hell, it's what I do for a living. So when I sit here and assess my marketability, the "why" a company should sponsor me, I come up with nothing...almost. It's really a matter of perspective. I'm not Lebron (thank god!). More to the point, I'm not Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack, Andy Potts, hell I'm not a triathlete of any note whatsoever! I'm not a professional athlete at all. There is nothing significantly different between me and the multitude of age group athletes who are out there in the wee hours of the morning, or night, in the rain, in the snow, in all sorts of crap hammering out hours and miles to be 5 minutes faster at the end of 10 hours next year. I have a full time job at a bank. I have a wife and two children. I have a modest house with a mortgage. I'm not special in any demonstrable fashion. And that...that is the key. There is nothing different. I'm representative of the vast demographic which inexplicably (to those who don't understand) spend hours, and yes dollars, on sport. Perhaps my advantage over many is simply that I found my focus on sport a bit earlier than some and have a bit of a head start. Oh, and I can write a bit too.

Racing is expensive, but frankly can be budgeted fairly easily. Entry fee, travel, room, food for x number of nights...no big deal. The price clearly limits the amount of destination races, but really there are other limiters that play a bigger role. For me the bigger issue comes in the form of unplanned expenses, and these occur in training as much if not more than racing. Good wheels, power meters, heart rate monitors, tires, tubes, chains, shorts, shoes, shirts, socks, food (oh god the cost of food), water bottles...this stuff adds up. As my sponsor I'd be looking for you to help me get through the training so I can make it to the races. This year alone I had 3 pairs of $80 shorts blow out seams (I'm huge...okay no I'm not!). Stuff like clothing, shoes, parts, "hydration systems", if you got it to share I'll proudly display it in training and racing. No worries about look'n all NASCAR here!

So what's in it for you? Well I don't expect something for nothing. Send me stuff and I'll use it and write an honest review about it. If I like it I'll pimp your goods to all my friends and even some people I don't like! If it's junk I'll adhere to my personal standard that I will not just denounce an item. Rather I will provide constructive feedback as to how it can be better. And for pricier items (e.g. if a bike manufacturer would want to loan me a ride or wheels), I'd gladly return them following the review. You see I'm easy. And I can talk when inspired...or write...or Tweet (somewhat)...

I'm a middle aged man, and we have no inhibitions because frankly it's just too damn late to change us. That means you'll get pure, unadulterated honesty. I have a lovely wife, two darling kids, and for some unknown reason this need to be a triathlete. It's as if it is encoded in my DNA. I'm never more content than when I'm so exhausted I can hardly speak. And that is a story which describes untold numbers of us.

Sound appealling? Drop me a line and let's make a deal: joel dot kehm at gmail dot com.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quote of the week (and other memorable moments/thoughts from vacation)

Dylan (sitting in the shallow water of Crystal Lake) - "Daddy, there's water in my hole."

I'm such a juvenile! Had I been drinking anything, it would have been coming through my nose. That was last Monday. You see we spent this last week on what might well have been our first full family vacation, and I mean a true vacation. The road bike stayed home. As it turned out the running shorts (and socks!) stayed home, though that was by accident. Sure I was upset about my stuff being left at home, but only for a short while. I've been more huffy for a lot longer about other things in my day. Instead this became an opportunity to say "f--- it. For one week I'm just a guy with his family (who had his swim stuff and mountain bike and could still sneak in a little sump'n sump'n during the week)!

There were so many things that we experienced, that it's hard to remember everything. But I'll try to hit the high points. Going back to my little buddy Dylan, along with the quote Dylan had the first memorable event of the week. We had taken a boat over to a remote part of Nauset Beach and there were horseshoe crab bodies everywhere. Well leave it to my little buddy. He has a way of grabbing things that he shouldn't. Recall the bumble bee he tried to hand to Mommy? Well here we are two years later. "Ouch Daddy. It poked me." Yes Dylan found the LIVE horseshoe crab. Meanwhile Alexandra was mermaid girl. She put her mask on and just started swimming along checking out things on the bottom, and diving down to grab things.

The next day we hit the bike path as a family. For this, we unveiled Dylan's new Lightning McQueen bicycle!


The bike path was crowded and a little hairy at times, but all had a good time...well almost all. Dylan didn't have the best trip because he took two diggers. However, he got some ice cream at Cobie's and finished up the ride. What a trooper. However, he was done for the rest of the trip. His sister on the other hand, she couldn't get enough. Later in the week Daddy and Alexandra got to go out on the path together, and yes, we covered some miles. Give her some "daddy sippy" (Gatorade), a juice box, some gummies, and a place to pee outdoors, and she is good to go!

And lest you think it was all kids and parents (and grandparents) having a good old fashioned family vacation, well, Mommy and Daddy got a little grown-up time. And what do two grown-ups do when getting their first free time in what seems like years? Why they hit a drag show! Actually I got to cross two things off the bucket list: "#47: Drag Show" *check* "#58: Happy hour at gay dance club" *check*!

*begin digression*
Let me digress for a moment. The thing that jumped out at me in these experiences was how the "human experience" has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. Did you know that there are some really uncoordinated arrhythmic gay people? There were quite a few lonely people as well, just like you'd find in any straight club on any night. And there were nice people and d-bags. Maybe because I clearly was just an observer, and as a middle aged man could really give a rats ass what people think about me, I was able to appreciate things in an objective way I couldn't when I was a young'n hit'n the clubs (no comments Miss Leanna). People are people, even when they are in an orange prom gown and blonde wig yelling "Hi runner!"
*end digression*

Of course it wasn't all fun and games. Stress is an ever present part of life. You try to let your guard down, and wham! In retrospect it didn't dampen the enjoyment of the trip, but what a pain-in-the-ass that they did such a lousy job cleaning our room. We stayed at the Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster and at those rates you'd think they could clean up the hair balls, candy wrappers, cheese-its, and families of dust bunnies left over from prior guests (we don't eat candy or cheese-its). My pillow fell behind the bed...and then had to be washed. A bit distressing because I'm not made of money you know, and this vacation was a little bit of a reach because I truly wanted to experience it with my family. They did waive the resort fee after we complained for the 3rd time (and I'm not a complainer, really), but they're still getting a nice letter.

And it wouldn't have been a vacation if someone didn't get sick. Yes Miss Alexandra got the scratchy throat, mild fever, and bad attitude I had last Saturday following my training ride (more on that and the Garmin file in a later post). But don't think for a second that that stopped her. No, it would take a lot more than a summer cold to have her miss anything...anything at all. She's a little terminator "And (she) absolutely will not stop, ever..."

Yes the last week was truly memorable. We have tons of photos which will end up on Facebook soon. The kids have memories now like I have from my childhood, and that makes me so happy I can't explain it. Dylan and mini golf. Alexandra on ready for two wheels. Tons of hermit crabs. The elusive minnows. Grandpa and "the stick" comment (I'll explain another time...). Special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for watching the kids a bit and to Alan and Mike for showing us a good time.

And of course my loving wife out and having fun and dancing, something that could not have happened a year ago. I love you.

Friday, August 06, 2010

What's my thing?

Seriously, when you think of me what do you think of? What is(are) my defining characteristic(s) at least from the standpoint of external perception of me? Is there anything about which you'd like to hear more, e.g. a topic for a recurring series of posts? Do you want more pictures?

I'm not having another identity crisis, but I am starting to think forward a little. This is an opportunity that has not existed in my life in some time; the ability to plan the future, to think about what I want to be when I grow up. I want to write more, and so I want to know what people think. My posts cover a very broad range of things. I'm looking for a little focus, at least for some of them. Help me please (and I'll say nice things about you!).

Yes I an serious here, and remember I reserve the right to delete the more offensive of the suggestions!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

So this is what my parents felt...

My mom saved lots of stuff from my childhood in my parents basement. Once we bought our house in Middletown, "care packages" began arriving with some of my stuff from long, long ago. I remember thinking three things:

1) I can't believe this is still around.
2) You held onto this crap all that time?
3) What the hell am I going to do with it?

Well yesterday I experienced some of what was probably going through my mom's head and heart. We are beginning to make some room in our overcrowded travesty of a cellar, and to do that it means things such as the crib and bags of baby toys must go. It really was not that long ago that we used these items, and yet they will never be used again. I confess to feeling sad as they went into the dumpsters at the transfer station. My little nugget and the wee man are no longer that.

(FYI, most items are slated to be ground up and recycled.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quassy

This past Monday we took the kids to an amusement park, a small amusement park, but an amusement park nonetheless. The park was Lake Quassapaug (Quassy) in Middlebury, CT. Some of you tri peeps might know the location from Rev3. While Alexandra has been to Disney, that hardly counts. She was really little and didn't really experience the park.

The biggest adult decision of the day was to go on a weekday and not weekend. It could have been hell had it been crowded. After that the day was as much about me being a kid again as a parent...and it was awesome. We started the day on the "Mad Mouse", a little coaster from 1920 or so. I was terrified that the damn thing would hurl us off the track and we'd free fall to the ground! And I don't think my kids will ever let me forget screaming like a little girl as we vanished into the darkness of "the Big Flush", a water curvy slide which is entirely in the dark! Then there was the water park, the "Saturation Station." A good amount of time was also spent in the lake swimming with lots of little fishies. Then it was back to the Big Flush with Alexandra while Dylan and Mommy checked out some rides that Dylan had his eye on.

I managed to keep the "investment" in crappy midway stuffed animals to $8.00. Of course to pull this off I had to throw the squirt gun game, not once, but twice. And yes the kids made sure to let me know that "You're not very good at this game Daddy." I didn't make it too obvious. A miss here and there, no more than a couple seconds, and they would win.

Today I was back at work, at a job that I actually like, and was struck by how contrived our "real lives" are. Raw emotion, laughter, and fun with loved ones; that is real. Worrying about whether or not we have an indicator for "Criticized Loans" in our new database, kind of silly. Sure the second decision has lots of implications surrounding it which could effect millions of dollars, but maybe the takeaway there is that real life isn't really about money, now is it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pace = Patience

I'm enjoying the final night of my first "vacation" from my new job, a 4 day weekend in Connecticut. In two weeks we go on a real vacation to the Cape. This past weekend had been spent in Lake Placid, NY the past couple of years, and while it would be nice to think of those trips as "vacations", truthfully they were anything but. Sure they were fun and there are lots of life long memories, but they were work. So this year we deviated from the norm and did nothing. well, okay not nothing. We went to a family party and then played with the kids the whole time. In the midst of this I did some run training in the heat in humidity to log how my body was currently handling such things as well as to conduct an experiment. So yeah, we didn't deviate from the norm that much. We did go as a family to an amusement park, and it wasn't a stressful nightmare, so that was new!

The Running

I went out for a run in the late morning on Saturday and it was hot and humid. The air temperature was 96 degrees in the shade making it 100 or greater on the road for much of the run. The run is about 8.5 miles and to give context, here's my data on the exact course in late May. For that May run I went out in the morning so it was still cool, upwards of 25-30 degrees cooler than Saturday. If all other things are equal the temperature increase should have slowed me to about 1:00 to 1:01. As it was I ran 1:04. Why the drop? Bad pacing. Purposely bad pacing, but bad pacing.

I ran a normal pace for the first 3-4 miles. I held up well over this distance, but found my hr creeping up pretty high. On the big climb that took me to the halfway point of the run, my heart hit my functional max (170bpm) and things started to come apart a little. The extra effort required to run at a pace derived in cooler temperatures was overheating my core. What you'll see in my Garmin file is that I can't get my hr to really come back down very quickly after I red line it. It'll drift down some, but no drop offs like I typically see after finishing a climb. Miles 4-6 in the "Player" view of the May file, plotting Elevation and Heart Rate, demonstrate this. So once the core is overheated and you're in the heat of the day, the only way to keep things together is to really back off the pace. Had I gone out more conservatively, odds are I come in faster than a 1:04, maybe closer to the 1:01, because I wouldn't have had to slow down as much to just keep from falling apart completely. So there are a couple of take aways here: 1) if you are training by pace, the pace shouldn't be what you've logged in the lovely spring training sessions, its that pace adjusted for the conditions. 2) Discretion is the better part of valor. You lose way more time if you blow up and have to slow, than if you just manage the pacing right from the beginning.

My biggest indicator of current "durability" is the ability to run the day after a hard workout. Indeed the hardest workout for me in Ironman training is ALWAYS the long run day following the long bike day. Running, even running somewhat long, on the same day as the bike never proves as difficult. While not incredibly long, the stress of the Saturday run qualified as a hard day. So I set out to try and recover, and attend a family function, and then run again Sunday. Sunday it was hot again, but I did a couple of things in my favor this time. 1st I pre-cooled my core by hanging in the pool for 20min or so before the run. 2nd I kept the run short (~4.4 miles). This file reads more like a normal run for me. As soon as I back off the effort, I see my heart rate come down fast. And I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to come back after being pretty gassed the day before.

So is there another take away here? For me the key to analyzing heart rate data is in the slope of the graph, not in the absolute numbers. Environment clearly plays a big part in these absolute numbers, but with a proper pacing approach even extreme circumstances can track in a normal fashion from the standpoint of the rate of heart rate change given a change in effort.

(My best example of this, which unfortunately comes before the Garmin days so there is no file, is the Mooseman Triathlon run in 2008. That day was hot, really hot. They measured 98-100 degrees on the road. On that day I ran with my head and despite really hating every minute of it, ran myself to an age group 3rd place. My running form was great that year and I was experiencing what I call "instantaneous heart rate response". I was able to move my heart rate up or down at any time with just minor variances in effort and really notice things like how much more quickly fluids cleared my gut at 154bpm as opposed to 158bpm (threshold rate).)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Relaxing is hard work

I'm nursing more aches and pains now than when I'm seriously training. Sore shoulders, knees, you name it. Leanna's getting ready to trade me in for a newer model! Take yesterday for example, I injured myself picking up dinner. Okay there's a little more to the story than that, but sadly not much. I was walking in the door carrying our mexican take-out, and the next thing I was hitting the ground with all my weight on my left elbow. Hurt like a mother. Thought I would hurl. Turns out little "D" had turtled on the threshhold rather than walking right in. Because my hands were full I couldn't see him so down I went. He and Alexandra were upset to see Daddy writhing in pain on the floor. Alexandra brought me the blanket she uses for her dolls and Dylan brought me his Snoopy. All of this while I was still on the floor! Yes, the thought was very sweet.

I already had a minor, nagging issue related to an impingement in my right shoulder. And the ankle...can't forget about the ankle (too much fun in the sand!). Yeah, time for that mega-bottle of Advil from BJs and some focus on rehab. And no Leanna, you cannot hire the pool boy that looks like he's from "Twilight". We don't even have a pool!

So I think I want to race some sprint tris again. I used to be pretty good at these. I haven't actually raced anything shorter than an Olympic distance tri since 2003, and only a few of those. Since 2006 it's been almost exclusively 1/2 and full Ironman. Maybe it's from being bumped and bruised again and realizing that bumps and bruises aren't the end of the world, but I think it might do me some good to get right into the middle of some scrum in the water at a sprint tri and then bustin' ass on my bike and run.

You might have noticed a dearth of training data from me lately. Well I've been mostly training naked (minds out of the gutter please), which is to say w/o my Garmin or any other watch. I've just been focusing on pacing and feeling smooth without the mental stress of watchign crappy performance numbers come up because we're into week 3 or 4 of 90+ degree weather. No I'm not complaining about the weather, just making the point that one needs to provide some accommodation for performance when the weather is like this, and the best way for me to do that is to leave the watch.

I'm really going to miss LP this weekend. I raced there the last two years, the two best Ironman years of my life. Good luck friends.

(If you were looking for deep thought/philosophical musings, well sorry. I've got nothing right now.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No baby no more.

Alexandra and Dylan are the joys of my life, and if you've been a follower of this journal you already know that. This weekend took the experience to a new level, however. This was the first full weekend of summer and we celebrated in traditional style; two trips down the street to the Altantic Ocean. Both kids having been making great progress with their swimming this year. Private lessons have made a huge difference, especially for the occasionally anxious little girl named Alexandra. So with the water a reasonable 70 degrees and the surf only in the 1-3ft range, we let them boogie board w/o life jackets. I was never more than 10ft away, and we kept a fairly strict thigh deep rule.

The kids were full bore from the beginning. While Dylan wasn't quite getting the nuances of catching a wave (he is only 3 after all), Alexandra was figuring it out. She would position herself just at the break, and time her jump so she accelerated down the front. It was amazing watching her take waves all the way into shore. But the best moment came when I relaxed enough to "play" myself. I still kept an eye on them at all times, but Daddy was determined to have a little fun as well. After a couple warm ups to get my timing down, I laid out on a wave (body surfing) using my favorite "side stroke" technique. Over the years it has always provided me with the best glide and with my head out of the water, still a continuous view of my kids while they played. Well during the 3rd or 4th ride of the day, I looked and low and behold I had a companion on my wave. Alexandra had caught the same wave I had and was riding right next to me! It was awesome...

And as for "buddy", between riding the waves and chasing the seagulls, he still found time to make eyes at the ladies. Apparently coeds who attend Syracuse are his type!

(**Note: Alexandra also ran her brother over while on waves on numerous occasions this weekend. She "claims" they were "accidents...")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kona or Bust?

Going through one of those mini crises again. You see I have about one week to decide what I'm doing next year as far as racing. Why do I have to decide now? Well thanks to the wonder of Ironman, or should I say the marketing of Ironman, if you want to build a season plan which involves an M-Dot Ironman event (yes I know that is redundant), you pretty much have to have your mind made up 366 days before the event. That is because these events often sell out approximately 13 minutes and 34.3 seconds after registration opens.

So with no further delay, here is the list.

Option 1) Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2011 --> Kona 2011
Option 2) Ironman Lake Placid 2011 --> Kona 2011
Option 3) Ironman Louisville 2011 --> Kona 2011
Option 4) Ironman Wisconsin 2011 --> Kona 2012

I've never raced Coeur D'Alene and the travel logistics are a bit more difficult. Family would not be able to attend, but they aren't that excited about attending any next year, so maybe that is moot. The swim may be a bit cold, but not nearly as packed as Lake Placid. Lots of QT2 people will be there next year. Area looks really nice. One big enticement is the extra month to recover before rebuilding for Kona.

I know Lake Placid cold. I could race it in my sleep. I know the shifts on my bike. I know the sensations on the run. I could visualize this race 1000 times before race day. Family would probably attend, though that is not a given. Plenty of QT2 around. However, maybe a different course would be nice? And the swim is just plain rough. And based on recent history I don't start feeling myself again until early September which puts me almost into taper time for Kona. Getting into Lake Placid is the hardest of all, as I have to be in Lake Placid this year working as a volunteer even to have a chance to be there next year.

Louisville: 90-100 degrees, 100% humidity, almost no time to even recover before Kona. No family. No friends. Probably doesn't belong on the list at all.

Wisconsin: Qualifies for the following year in Kona making the ability to prep for a good race in Kona as optimal as it will get. Course profile actually suits me pretty well. However no family or friends and based on this year anyway, fewer qualifying spots for the big race. It is in September which is typically a good month for me speed-wise. As for the area, how much do I like cows?

And then there is option 5). Forget it all. No matter which path I pick this is going to be an expensive venture and there's no guarantee things will even work out.

So there it is. 8 days to figure it all out.