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 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


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!