Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I have an issue with New Year's resolutions. Why wait until an arbitrary date to change your habits? Start tomorrow. Or right now. If it's worth resolving, resolve to start doing it immediately.

While I'm climbing down from my soapbox, I'll acknowledge that some resolutions are fine to start at a later date, particularly the ones I'm about to go into, which all happen to align nicely with the new year. It's convenient (but not at all hypocritical) how that works out for me.

These aren't all the things I'm planning, but they are what I'll share for now.

1) One of my favorite Zen truisms is, "When you wash the dishes, wash the dishes." It means live in the moment and stay focused on the task at hand. In this specific case, for me, it's literal: I'm going to wash the dishes each night instead of letting them pile up. I'm also going to do a good job of it. Simple things can make a big difference.
2) I'm going to get stronger. That means consistency in the gym.
3) I'm going to do fun stuff.
4) I'm not going to care about Ironman. If it happens, it happens. I'll be prepared either way. Fitness is useful, and not just for running around in lycra.

I've already started on two of them, so I guess I can keep one foot up on the soapbox.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I think I've been pretty lucky in my life in that the few opportunities I had to really cheat, I didn't realize I had the opportunity until the moment had passed. Or the cheating scheme seemed so blatantly obvious that I figured there's no way I (or anyone else) could get away with it. Of course, in the latter situations, the cheaters ultimately almost never got caught -- leading me to stop placing much value in my professors' observation skills.

To summarize:
1) I'm a little slow -- if you have a great scheme, why not just come out and explain it to me in detail.
2) If your scheme is so great, why did you have to explain it to me in such detail? There's no way that would work; it's too complicated.

Needless to say, I rarely get approached anymore with a "foolproof" plan for getting a better grade, earning "free" money, etc. My annoying qualities keep me in high moral standing.

One of my friends on the other hand seems to be presented with shady offers all the time. Most often lately, this happens with work colleagues, sometimes even at work. Apparently there's a whole slew of people that actually run side businesses (some not quite legal) while "working" at their primary job during business hours.

I'm sure this happens at my company too, but my perceived inability to comprehend shady dealings has insulated me pretty well. Incompetence is also my negotiating strategy: ask Hannah how many times I've bought jewelry at lower prices just by saying, "Hmmmm..." and pausing for a minute after being told the price. Either the jeweler thinks, "This guy's a really good haggler," or, more likely, "I feel sorry for how dumb this guy is; all I did was tell him a number and he's trying to figure out what it means... I'll sell it to him for less."

I believe in karma. Eventually, cheating is going to come back around. You might have the nicer car or the race trophy, but eventually you're going to wind up losing: either your job, your money or your friends.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Recipe for an Awkward Evening

Mix in a small space:

- 45 people from a Marketing and Communications department for a life insurance company, mostly women over 40
- 12 comedians "performing" for over two-and-a-half hours, with talent ranging from awful to middling to genuinely funny (some recipes call for only six comedians and a show half as long, but only use that amount if you want a pleasant evening)

- Large quantities of classless humor (sex, rape, reproductive organs, racist comments, playing up stereotypes, etc.)
- As much profanity as possible
- "New material" night
- One guy who thought jokes about the annoying qualities of "It's a Small World" were original
- A healthy dose of Tiger Woods

Once combined, let simmer while sitting at a table with your manager and your manager's manager.

When cooked, you'll have my department's holiday party last night.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Swim Camp day 12 and day finished + snow!

On Friday, San Angelo was hit with a blizzard the likes of which I've never seen (in San Angelo).

You'll notice the artistic juxtaposition of my wetsuit (which I had left out to dry after my lake swim a few days ago) against the stark harshness of a west Texas winter.

I think we had a total of at least a couple millimeters.

Friday's swim:
WU: 1000 easy

1000 pull with paddles/band/buoy

20x100 on 1:40 (arrive 1:28-1:30)

50 easy
Total: 4050m

Saturday's swim:
WU: 1000 easy

1000 as 75 free / 25 back

I did the following straight through:
- 20x200 (First 10 on 3:20, arrive around 3:08 / Second 10 on 3:15, arrive on 3:03 for first 7, 3:00 for last 3)
- 3x400 descend on 6:10 (5:56, 5:53, 5:43)

300 easy CD
7500m total

Total for the two weeks: 62.4k
(That's over 38 miles for anyone that doesn't want to do the conversion. Yay for me.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Swim Camp day 11

I thought I might be able to go for a monster session tonight, but got started a little later and had to wrap up early to coach the masters group. I've hit my target of 50k, but with only two swims left I'm barely on track for 60k. I'll probably need to throw down something huge on Saturday.

For a while I strongly considered swimming in the lake again on Sunday morning before my flight, but they just issued a winter storm warning (which I assume means we might get a flurry here in west Texas). All the same, there's not enough neoprene out there for me to swim in open water when the air temp is in the 30s. Getting caught up in the fun and challenge of the virtual camp is one thing. Getting hypothermia...

Today's workout:
WU: 800 free / 400 back / 2x200 free

54321 swim:
5x100 easy, 500 steady
4x100 easy, 400 steady
3x100 easy, 300 steady
2x100 easy, 200 steady
1x100 easy, 100 steady

8x50 as odds easy, evens mod hard

50 easy
Total: 5050m

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Swim Camp day 10

1000s day. Also known as the day Nick didn't want to bother with any math to figure out intervals.

1000m warm up

1000m as 75 free / 25 back

1000m as 10x100 IM continuous

1000m pull with paddles, band and buoy

1000m as 100 kick / 100 swim

250m easy CD to loosen up my shoulders
Total: 5250m

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Swim Camp day 9

The novelty has worn off.

Of course, I'm talking about the novelty of blogging my swims. I'm sure the novelty of reading them wore off days ago. I'm still having a fine time swimming though.

WU: 750 swim / 500 pull / 500 kick / 250 swim

750 swim as 25 fly / 50 free

250 easy

5x200 on 3:15

200 easy

1000 as 75 free / 25 back

50 easy CD
Total: 5250m

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swim Camp day 8

Today's swim:
WU: 700 swim / 500 pull

2000m TT - 30:07.78 (1st 1k in 15:19, 2nd 1k in 14:48)

100 easy

400 pull / 350 swim easy
Total: 4050m

Not much to say here. I was really pleased with the time trial. I was concerned I might have gone out too hard, but when I came through the first half at a faster pace than my individual 1000s from the other day, I knew I'd be able to lean on it more in the last 500m.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swim Camp day 7

Yesterday I ran in a new pair of trail runners -- the New Balance MT100 (yes, another pair of shoes). They're essentially racing flats for the trail, although some of NB's sponsored athletes use them for ultramarathons. Whatever works for them I guess.

I will not be using them for ultras (of course, I won't be using any shoes for ultras since I have no interest in running that far, but that's besides the point). While they worked great for the three or so miles I ran on the trail, I took a beating running 2.5 miles on the road when I met up with Hannah for the run back to the car. My arches feel like someone went at them with a switch. Good shoes for short, quick trail runs. Bad shoes for pavement.

More swimming:
WU: 500 swim

4000 continuous -- 1:05:32 total -- I attempted to descend by 1000m (1k - 16:51, 2k - 16:43, 3k - 16:11, 4k - 15:45)

100 easy

400 kick / 400 pull / 100 CD
Total: 5500m
Weekly total: 31.1k

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Swim Camp day 6

We interrupt this regularly boring swim camp update to tell you about something cool we did last night.

Hannah and I had heard about a local brewery outside of San Angelo, but we'd had no luck finding it and no one we spoke with had any idea what we were talking about. On Thursday, I finally stumbled across something online, but it wasn't much to go on. All we learned is that there's a brewery/restaurant in the renovated space of an old schoolhouse in Eola, about 20 minutes east of San Angelo. We decided to give it a try for Friday dinner.

It was a little tough to find in the dark; small town Texas is like that. Eventually, we found the place and went inside. This wasn't like any upscale Colorado brewery, but was, without a doubt, the coolest thing we've seen in a while.

In the early 2000s, Mark, the owner, bought the old, abandoned schoolhouse (built in the early part of the 1900s I think). The school had closed in 1982 and had fallen into serious disrepair -- broken glass, missing roof sections, floor covered in mud and dirt, and fire damage.

Over the next few years, Mark basically renovated the building himself. He's still got plenty of work to do, but he's come a long way. A big chunk of the building is now the brewery. He's turned two rooms into dining rooms -- one with a bar and the other for private functions. The seating is old-style classroom chairs and tables. The menu is written on the blackboard. He also set up a bunkhouse for visiting hunters.

It's also worth sharing that this guy doesn't have any formal training in carpentry, roofing, pluming, etc. It's very impressive.

Oh, and the beer was good. I get the impression he usually has two kinds on tap, plus others in gallon jugs for purchase.

We'll be going back next weekend for a beer tasting. Should be fun. I'm also (not so secretly as of this post) hoping to get the running club to do a race out there. Prizes could be things like pint glasses. There's a lot of flat, lightly-traveled farm roads out that way. Could be really cool and encourage some folks to get out of San Angelo.

And here's the swim from today:
WU: 750 free / 300 kick / 500 pull / 250 free

10x200 (4 on 3:20, 3 on 3:15, 2 on 3:10, 1 on 3:05)

100 easy

5x100 IM on 1:50

300 easy
Total: 4700m

Friday, November 27, 2009

Swim Camp day 5

My shoulders are starting to feel it, but so far, everything is holding up okay. I've also been hungrier lately, which is a good thing, since we have so much turkey left over.

WU: 500 swim / 300 kick / 500 pull

2x1000m (second 1000 faster than the first): 1- 16:26, 2- 15:27

100 easy (or 200, I can't remember)

4x100 on 1:15 (odd = backstroke, even = freestyle)

200 CD

Total: 4000m

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Swim Camp day 4

I'm thankful the university pool was open today. I don't think I could have handled another swim in the lake.

WU: 500 free / 100 kick / 500 pull / 200 kick / 200 free

5x400 (each one faster than the one before) all on 6:30: arrive - 6:22, 6:19, 6:16, 6:06, 6:01

200 easy

10x100 (evens = free, odd = IM) on 1:55

100 easy
Total: 4800m

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swim Camp day 3: Fail

Today, due to holiday hours at the pool and the fact that I still had regular working hours, my only option was to swim at the lake.

Despite dressing like a lame superhero from head to toe (wetsuit, neoprene cap, socks and gloves), I was only able to get in 3500m before I started loosing some motor function.

Everything was going okay once I could stand to put my face in the water. I was ticking off 350m loops every five minutes. Pretty suddenly though, about 2900m in, I started shivering in my legs, so I tried picking up the effort to keep warm. That only lasted for another few minutes. The next split I took had me swimming about 30 seconds slower, which is not common for me. A minute later my whole body was shaking and I was having trouble getting my arms around. I called it a day at that point. Hours later, after a long, hot shower, plenty of food and beer: I'm still cold.

It might not help that I was also racing the sunset. Here in Texas, the minute the sun drops, the temperature plummets. My highly scientific personal measuring system put the water temperature at 33 degrees Fahrenheit... or maybe in the 50s somewhere, the system is kind of glitchy.

Anyway, no 4000 meters for today. Fallback goal is 50k over the two weeks. I'm just shy of 12k now.

Today's workout:
3500m continuous in the marginally above freezing lake. I saw a frozen snake. Or a reed. One of the two.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Swim Camp day 2

The not exciting part starts right away (I warned you):

WU - 400 swim / 200 kick / 300 swim / 100 kick

2000m continuous with band and buoy

50 easy

10x100m on 1:55 -- first five freestyle (arrive 1:35), second five IM (arrive around 1:40)

200 cool down
4250m total

That band and buoy set and that 8x250 from yesterday are some of the "bonus" workouts for the camp that get me extra points that I can trade in for all sorts of fun prizes like a plastic sword or ray gun. I'm much better at swimming than skeeball, so I should be up for something good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Swim Camp

The Endurance Corner team is doing a virtual swim camp for the next two weeks. There are all sorts of points for hitting certain distances in a workout, as well as doing specific sets, but the details probably aren't that interesting for most of you. My personal goal for the camp is to swim 4,000 meters each day for 13 days. The camp is 14 days long, but I'm planning for one off day that I'll probably reserve for the last day when I need to fly back up to NJ/NYC.

With the holiday and wacky pool hours, I'm sure I'll be in the lake at least one of the days -- likely covered head to toe in neoprene (wetsuit, cap, booties and gloves if it's really chilly). The days have been in the 70s, but mornings and nights are down in the high 30s/low 40s. I might have a tough go of it.

The pool at the university where I swim is short-course meters (scm). Technically it's over 25 meters long (about 26 meters -- I have no idea what pool designer messed that up), but I'm rounding down to 25 meters for ease of math.

Anyway, today's workout:
Group swim (which I conveniently organize):
Warm-up: 200 swim / 100 kick / 2x100 swim / 2x50 kick / 4x50 swim / 4x25 kick
10x25 on :45
5x100 on 2:00
10x25 on :30

After the group practice, I rolled into:
8x250 (first 25 fly) on 4:20
200 cool down

Total: 4200m

So that's today. I expect if nothing else interesting happens to me, this will be the highlight of my blog for the next two weeks. For your sake, pray that I have some decent stories from Thanksgiving or my cold lake swims.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm full of energy... bars

I recently picked up Thrive, by Brendan Brazier, which amounts to a vegan approach to eating for endurance sports. I have no desire to become a vegan, but some of the recipes intrigued me as well as his thoughts on eating in a way that puts less stress on your body.

I was most interested in his energy bar recipes, of which I've made six batches in just over a week. Some were success. Others... still edible, but bordering on gross in terms of both taste and consistency. This is coming from a guy who's go-to meal in my first few years out of college was canned tuna, rice and olive oil. I still look back fondly on that dinner/lunch/sometimes breakfast and even sneak it in every so often when Hannah is working late.

Anyway, energy bars.

Who knew they were so easy yet so much of a PITA to make?
- Ingredients required: Not much, just some dates, nuts, protein powder, seeds and ground flaxseed. Depending on the recipe and variation, you may also need fruit, chocolate, cacao and some more exotic ingredients (popped amaranth?).
- Tools/appliances required: Again, not much, just a food processor, spatula and plastic wrap
- Patience required: More than you can imagine, at least for the first few batches.

For my initial trials, I was successful in terms of taste because I followed the recipes exactly. But they had the texture of raw cookie dough, so you can imagine the difficulty of eating one while riding a bike.

My next batch was more solid, but tasted awful. I tried increasing the amount of protein powder to soak up some of the moisture. Ugh, that was a mistake. However, if you need a homemade recipe for something to "clean out" your system, let me know.

I found some measure of success by increasing the amount of dates and ground flaxseed and by baking the bars at low heat to remove some of the moisture. Since these are supposed to be raw though, I may be missing the point.

I finally discovered that the secret isn't necessarily in the ingredients, but in the forming of the bars themselves. Originally I had been trying to make them into PowerBar sized shapes: long and flat. Then it occurred to me: Clif Bars are pretty thick. And Lara Bars (made mostly with dates, just like mine!) are significantly thicker. So, some mashing and shaping later, I found success:
And they're good. I'm not sure they'll replace all the store-bought bars for long training rides when it gets in the high 90s, but they are a good addition, and they're definitely healthier than the big name energy bars. Since they're mostly fruit, nuts and seeds, they make a fine snack too.

And yes, that's hemp protein in the background of that picture. That's what the recipes in the book call for. I don't know that it's absolutely necessary or if it's because of the vegan approach. I do know that it was large quantities of regular vanilla whey protein powder that made one my batches gross.

Interesting fact: it's illegal to grow hemp in the US, because the government is afraid everyone would make lots of protein powder. But it's a-okay in Canada. The stuff I have is from Vancouver, by way of the local grocery store.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I would have sworn I had broken my foot after Lake Placid this past year. Actually, I was kind of concerned I had broken my foot before Lake Placid -- Hannah was the only person that knew because I didn't want the negative energy that would come out of my family's well-intentioned concern. I was already anxious as it was. 2009 was my least "mentally ready" IM -- even more so than my first. I think my choice to stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from all the activity in Lake Placid was a good one, otherwise I might have been a wreck.

But this post isn't about my fragile mental state, it's about goodbyes. Specifically, goodbye to some good friends.

Before the race I had some pain in the ball of both of my feet, but more significantly in my left foot. After the race I had an enormous bruise on the bottom of my foot that made walking absolutely suck. I'm not 100% sure what caused my foot pain, after all, I hadn't been running particularly fast or particularly long all year.

It might have been that my shoes were too worn down and I would have been better off switching to a new pair a few weeks before the race.

It might have been that my orthotics weren't doing their jobs.

It probably was a combination of both.

In any event, after the race I ordered a new pair of my super-favorite $60 Vitruvians for use when I could get around again without hobbling.

I'm sorry to say that Vitruvians are no longer my super-favorite. For whatever reason, I can't put those shoes on without my feet hurting. The shoe design didn't change, I know that. I guess it's possible that my feet changed from the pounding of the ironman, but I doubt it. Maybe it's psychosomatic... I guess that would mean this post is about my fragile mental state.

It doesn't really matter. I'm back in Brooks (the Ravenna and ST Racer 4, specifically). And I'm not wearing my orthotics anymore either. And, most importantly, I don't have any foot pain. At only $60 a pair, I don't need to spend any more effort figuring out why the Vitruvians stopped feeling good on my feet. It's just the way it is.

So, goodbye $60 running shoes. Goodbye clunky orthotics. You served me well ...until you turned on me like a pet tiger.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

For the past two years, Hannah and I had somehow missed out on Halloween in San Angelo. The first year, she was in an apartment complex with no kids and I was moving into a different apartment in NJ. Last year, we were prepared, but learned much too late that "Halloween" in San Angelo isn't always on Halloween. We had candy ready, but were out on the observed night. When we learned how the holiday is celebrated in town, we raced home, but the kids were done for the night.

This year, we thought we were prepared. Four-bags-of-candy prepared. Between the last two years in Texas and the previous two years in a condo complex (on the outskirts of town), we hadn't encountered many trick-or-treaters. So, four bags of candy should be fine, right?

We started by handing out two pieces to every kid. Based on our past experience, we still would have been left with a ton of candy at the end of the night. We got a little worried in the first hour when we started running low.

So we did the initial check of the pantry. We had some Dove dark chocolate individually-wrapped squares. Perfect.

Ten minutes later, we had to raid the pantry again. "Hey, we have a bunch of gum. Kids like gum! Who cares if it's sugarless."

Another 15 minutes later we started digging deeper into the cabinets. "Hershey's 100 calorie dark chocolate. Great!"

You can see where this is going.

We went through some individually-wrapped Easter candy that was in the freezer. Then some snack-sized popcorn bags. Then mixed nuts. When I had to bust out the mini-Clif Bars, we got very nervous.

Hannah found a full box of Quaker granola bars. She poured the contents into the "candy" bowl. She didn't tell me what else was in that granola bar box.

More and more kids came to the door. Some were genuinely excited about the Clif Bars and granola bars, others just thought there were getting big candy bars. Hannah just kept dropping things in their baskets.

Then she told me what else was she had slipped in... We turned the lights off after that. Hopefully those kids won't remember who gave them what.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We met somebody cool

Hannah and I went down to Austin for the Livestrong Challenge this past weekend.

Long story short, we had a great time. We got to ride our bikes. It was for a good cause. And we met some really nice people at the Team Fatty meet-up on Saturday.

Naturally, despite having our camera with us the whole time, we only took a few pictures. But boy did we take the important ones.

Are you ready to have your mind blown? Or are you ready to have your mind perplexed while you try to figure out why we're so excited to stand next to a guy wearing the same t-shirt as me? If you're the former, be excited! If you're the latter, go read some other blog.

Hannah and I got the opportunity for a quick photo with Elden Nelson, the Fat Cyclist, and the ringleader for Team Fatty. It doesn't do him justice to just say how incredibly cool and nice he was. I'm pretty sure he made the effort to talk to everyone involved with Team Fatty, either on Saturday or on the day of the ride. Truly an awesome, standup guy.

Luckily we got two pictures with him because either he or Hannah had their eyes closed. I opted to stick with the sunglasses, as I'm sure I have my eyes closed in both pictures.
I found it interesting that I'm actually bigger than someone. Despite this, Elden still looks like he could crush me if he wanted to. I need to spend some more time in the gym.

Waiting at the start. Team Fatty members got to start before almost everyone else. Nice little perk. Another bonus: I learned the little logo on my helmet is reflective.

I'm willing to bet this is also the closest I will ever be to Lance Armstrong.In case you're wondering, no, his speech was not that inspirational. I'm sure he had gotten that all of out of his system in the previous 10 speeches he made over the weekend.

So, super cool weekend. Super good people. Awesome experience. And for a really great purpose.

UPDATE: I'm prominently featured in a well-read blog. Don't believe me? Here's the picture from fatcyclist.com.
What? You can't see me? Are you blind? I'm right next to him......about 20 feet back.

You can all say you knew me when.

Friday, October 23, 2009


The more I've been reading lately, I'm leaning towards the theory that my legs didn't cramp in Lake Placid because I was short on electrolytes, but because I just wasn't as fit as I needed to be.

That kind of sucks because I would have bet money that I was fitter than in 2007. My swim and bike splits would attest to that. And my recovery after the race suggest that as well. The fact that I didn't walk anywhere near as much as 2007 would make me think that I was fitter in '09 as well.

I do think that I was fitter overall. But my run fitness may not have been where I hoped it was. A little recap:

In '07 training, I:
- Ran a lot faster in training than in '09
- Did much less cycling compared to '09

While I ran much more in 2009 training, I also trained at a slower pace than in 2007. Do I think that training at a slower pace factored in my slower 2009 run time? Sure. But running slower more often also allowed me to consistently train -- something that I didn't do so well with in previous years.

More likely, my "running" legs still weren't quite back to 2007 strength levels. They were just fatigued during the race. I spent '08 breaking myself down without realizing it (leading to my injury). I'm still building back now, as evidenced by my hip still giving me a little trouble. I always knew getting to where I want to be was going to take a few years -- let's see what happens this year.

I believe my flaw in my '09 IM run was thinking that I was going to run as fast or faster as in '07, while not actually having anything to back that up. I had done no tests in '07 to compare with my '09 data. I had done no races in '09 to get a feel for my actual race speed.

So, what am I changing this year? Actually, not all that much:
- I'm not going to get injured again. That put me in a little bit of a panic. If I do get injured, I think I'm pulling the plug on CdA and getting myself 100% healthy, rather than getting myself healthy enough to train and race, but not okay for the long term. I'll talk about how I'm not going to get injured another day. Mostly it involves me turning my frail 140 pound body into a ripped, strapping 145 pound body.
- I'm going to have at least one test race in addition to all my standard training tests. I had one race in all of 2009: ironman. I might have gone a little extreme in my focus on that race. Gordo also recommends that I try to get one low-priority race in each month through the winter. I think that's mostly to keep me from going crazy. Luckily San Angelo has a ton of running races throughout the year. Hopefully I'll be able to find a masters swim meet somewhere too.

That's about it. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The science

I bet you didn't think the "science" portion of our vacation recap would have any interesting photos. But you're wrong! Ha ha!

Well, technically, you're right -- the science itself is incredibly non-photogenic (unless you want to see pictures of me riding a stationary bike breathing into a tube) -- but since the science part of the trip only directly involved me, Hannah was free to wander around Boulder. I'm pretty sure the picture above is the Boulder library. I think the one below is of the other direction.

So, about the science. This is the second year I've gone out to Boulder to have the EC guys put me through some physiological testing (Alan ran the tests this time -- boy is that guy smart). I did a lactate and fuel test on the bike and a run lactate test at the track. If you're wondering what any of that means, ask your local physiologist. You can ask me, but I can't guarantee I'll tell you a factual answer.

The numbers aren't particularly interesting to look at for most folks, so I won't bother to share them here (that and I don't have the charts on this computer). The tests were worthwhile to me though. Both Alan and Gordo gave me a lot to work on to improve my fitness/overall triathlon performance, without overwhelming me.

My big takeaway is that I need to get stronger. It's been more than five years since I could clean more than my bodyweight. I doubt I'll get back to that strength level again, but a good five or so pounds of muscle will do a lot to improve my performance and reduce my now-injury-prone body (five pounds is an approximation, I'm not going to be watching the scale).

So, what does that mean? Some solid time in the gym and lots of time on my bike. Bonus for living in San Angelo: we're entering the windy season (which runs October through September) so I'm sure to get lots of resistance work in outside.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The walking

Since I think the pictures are more interesting that my narrative, I'll sum up briefly and then get to the goods. After my science stuff ended on Tuesday, Hannah and I drove up to Estes Park outside Rocky Mountain National Park. After we arrived, we went for a short walk around town. On Wednesday, we went into the park and did a shorter day hike to the top of Deer Peak. At this point, it had started snowing in the mountains, so we ended up wearing every piece of clothing we had brought. We then drove around the park, although most of Trail Ridge Road was closed due to snow and ice.

Wednesday night we went to a ranger-led talk about elk, who were in their rutting season.

On Thursday, we wore some additional clothing that we hadn't originally brought on the trip and ventured out into the snow to the top of Flat Top Mountain. While tough with a few inches of snow to push through at the top, it was a good pick since it doesn't actually have an actual peak to summit (being a "flat top" and all). That afternoon we drove up to Ft. Collins.

We saw quite a lot of elk on our trip. These guys (and gals) had moved down from the mountains to the Estes Park golf course.

I suppose there was some science involved in the walking as well. Nature, etc.

On the way up Deer Peak Trail. You'll notice the puffy clothing.

Top of Deer Peak... looking at snow.

On the way up Flat Top. Beautiful overlooks.

The snow starting to get deep. You'll notice I made Hannah break trail. I'm polite that way.

Me at the top. Had Gordo not given us the EC beanies, I'm not sure what we would have done (...actually, we probably would have just bought hats. It was cold and we're not that dumb).

We made the mistake of stopping to eat at the top, which is our usual practice when we go for hikes. Of course, we rarely hike when windy and snowy, so even though we talked about not stopping at the top, we did anyway... and proceeded to get really cold. Once we realized what was going on, we booked it down the mountain to get warm. That meant we didn't pause for many photos even when the clouds started to clear up a little.

I'll wrap this up with the stoic rodent we came across on the way up. We found a copy of Watership Down up the trail a little. I think he had just read it and was emboldened.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Vacation in reverse

Hannah's and my vacation to Colorado can basically be broken down into three categories: science, walking and beer. Quick synopsis: we flew to Denver (me from NYC, Hannah from Texas), spent a day in Denver, spent two days in Boulder (where I did my science stuff), spent two days in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (where we did the walking stuff), spent two days around Fort Collins (including a trip up to Cheyenne, WY), then flew back to Texas. Throughout the trip we did the beer stuff.

To keep everyone's interest, I'll start with the beer post, then I'll back into the walking and science stuff.

You might be surprised to learn that Colorado has quite a lot of good breweries. They also have Coors (ha. ha.).

Here's Hannah about to be crushed by a giant kettle (drum? vat?) at the Coors factory. She has a habit of standing in front of giant things that can crush her when we go on vacation. She'd probably blame the photographer for that.
This was the first part of our week-long beer tour, during which we tried to get to most of the local breweries on the Front Range. Between this trip and last year, I think we hit all of the ones north of Denver, except one in Lyons.

Not surprisingly, the beer tours didn't lend themselves to the greatest photo opportunities.
If you think that's exciting photography, you're probably going to be disappointed that we didn't take any pictures at the microbrew places. On the other hand, if you're bored (that is, normal), you'll understand why we didn't even bother bringing the camera with us to the small breweries. Everything was really interesting, just not photogenic.

While the Coors tour was neat, it would end up paling in comparison to the Budweiser tour we took at the end of the week. We were both a little disappointed in that -- since Golden is the flagship brewery for Coors ("tap the Rockies" and all), it was a bit of a let down. The sampling beers weren't all that impressive either, but it might be because Coors beers themselves aren't all that impressive. They're not bad by any means, but we were much more impressed by the Bud options. It might be because Coors doesn't have a "top end" option, while Budweiser has Michelob and a bunch of different seasonal options.

The packaging assembly at Budweiser was really amazing to see. At one point, there was this crazy articulated robotic arm that was doing something cool on the packaging floor. No, we don't have a picture of the cool thing, but we do have one of me staring intently at it.
They also have lots of vats of beer fermenting and whatnot.
Trust me, the pictures will get better when I get to the hiking.

Basically, all but a small amount of the beer we sampled was great. I assume the stuff that I thought was awful is good to someone, but I prefer my bourbon and my beer separate. By that I mean I'll drink the beer, but keep the bourbon in another room well away from me -- please don't make some super-drink. Hannah liked it though. And my brothers probably would as well. So there's clearly a market for it. Me and the sorority girls will take our wussy drinks over here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The zero returns

While I try to post a blog entry once a week (mostly for myself), sometimes that doesn't happen. So what have I been up to? I've been turning old.

Some brothers take their brothers out to do crazy adventures for a 30th birthday. RDM, JNM and I drove down to Austin. I'm not complaining; it was my idea for my brothers to visit me in Texas. I don't think any one of us was up for swimming in frigid Swedish waters. Maybe someday.

And Austin was plenty crazy with the first UT home game and all. Of course, we ended up picking the one bar that wasn't showing the game ("I wonder why no one's in here?"). But we did see some bats and my brothers learned some Texas history (and the girl working the ticket center at the Texas History Museum was a student from Sweden, so in a way, we were connected to the crazy race around the islands near Stockholm... yeah...).

So my brothers got to see our little area of Texas. They saw some flash flooding, some authentic cowboy boots (and cowboys) and some UT coeds. They had authentic Tex-Mex and both had a breakfast taco for the first time (I don't quite understand that one -- they exist in NYC too).

We spent about half the long weekend in Austin and half in San Angelo. On Labor Day we went for a walk in our local state park. These aren't the most fascinating pictures, but I wanted to capture the fact that both RDM and JNM were in Texas with me at the same time.

Here's RDM and JNM searching for the elusive San Angelo elevation change. It's out there, you just need to look for it.

And here are my brothers walking away, shortly before Joe imploded in the sun/heat (it's not just me!).

Friday, August 28, 2009


With the exception of this post, I don't think I've ever actually called myself a "triathlete." More often than not, I usually say that "I do triathlons."

It's not usually a conscious effort, but it is something I debate internally from time to time. I definitely used to be a swimmer. I used to be a rower. I used to want people to know I was a swimmer or rower and address me as such ("The Esteemed Nicholas Robin Mathers the First, Rower").

Now I don't care. Or, to be honest, I try to avoid being defined as any one thing. Sure, it's partly because of the stigma associated with triathletes. But, the more I think about it, it's because I want to keep my options open.

I like being fit. I like training. I like having an event to use as a goal. I don't NEED it to be an ironman though. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that.

All this rambling might be me having a minor freakout because my hip is bothering me and I've already got this expensive race on the calender 10 months from now. It's probably worth noting that Hannah has made it quite clear that it's okay to walk away from a $500+ event if I don't want to do it. Having "permission" along with the financial means to not worry about that decision is reassuring (not that I'll be throwing away $500 weekly). But I still have anxiety.

Or it could be that I'm closing in on 30 and I'm having a mini identity crisis.

Whatever. I'm excited to get back to training -- even if it's mostly hikes and swimming until I resolve my various stability issues. Somehow I've also been appointed (I might have volunteered) as the key person to get a masters swim program started at the local university. Hopefully we can get something going. It'll be good to train with other folks and not worry that I'm going too fast for my own good or that I'm holding someone else back. The pool has a nice way of leveling everything out -- mostly because everyone is crammed into the same 25-meter box.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to basics

This was originally a much more fatalistic-woe-is-me-self-flagellation kind of post. Then I edited it. Now it's just a me-being-grumpy kind of post. If you think it's overly dreary, imagine what it could have been like.

My hip hurts. More accurately, my hip hurts like it did last summer. The summer I trained and raced through some severe hip pain. The summer that led to the fall that led to this past winter where I did no running or cycling for three months.

So, I'm understandably a little frustrated and apprehensive. And I haven't really been doing any substantial training. What I have been doing is trying to figure out why my hip hurts. Here's what I know:

1) I was dumb. I raced a 6mi road race three weeks after LP, with no running between LP and the race. While my hip and knee didn't hurt specifically, I was sore for five days after the race. And I really overloaded my calves.

2) I was dumb x2. I went out for a ride with the local Loop Group. They go hard about 10 minutes into the ride and seemingly don't let up until they're in their cars driving home. I started with one group, got dropped, then got picked up in the back half of the ride by the fastest pack that was doing a longer loop. I blew myself up staying with them for as long as I could, then got dropped again. This was my first ride since LP. I was exhausted for three days. And since this overlapped with #1 above, I was still sore for another day.

3) I'm weak. Towards the end of the spring and the beginning of my build to LP, I was able to move some decent weight on the hip abduction, leg extension and leg curl machines at the gym. And I could do multiple sets of hip bridges and high rep hip abduction exercises using a high-resistance band without too much trouble. Right now, my legs get all wobbly and burny with one set of 10 hip bridges. I'm a little surprised my strength faded so quickly in a few months, but apparently that's what happens.

I'm pretty sure #3 is the problem here. And then #1 and #2 exasperated everything.

Fortunately, I'm aware that for me hip pain preceeds crippling knee pain. I won't spend the fall thinking that my belt is rubbing my hips weird (that was last year).

So, here's what I'm doing:

1) Get my stabilizers consistently stronger. I'm tired of feeling like I'm one run or ride away from ruining my season (a season that hasn't even started yet).

2) No fast running. It's part of the plan I'm supposed to be following (the no fast running part). I should probably follow the plan. Technically I was between plans when I did the race, but that's not much of an excuse.

3) No group rides. I thought I had enough self-control to not get sucked into the kill 'em all mentality. Apparently not.

So, if anyone wonders why I'm being all anti-social or spending stupid amounts of time in the "women's fitness" room at the gym, now you know.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lots of effort, little change

I swam as part of a relay in this past weekend's Wool Capital olympic distace triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run). Two guys from Goodfellow Air Force Base did the other legs, which was nice, since that means I only needed to show up with goggles and swim suit. I also opted to bring shorts and a shirt, mostly because I didn't want to scare any children after I finished my leg ("Why is that man walking around in his underwear?").

We handidly won, although things might have been different had one of the other teams actually had their mid-30s 10k runner instead of a substitute.

The relays go off with the sub-35 age group racers, so the majority of the fastest athletes are in this bunch. Since I didn't have to worry about the bike or run, I decided to open it up and see what I could do in the swim.

Incidentally, there's not much difference between me going all out and just putting in a steady effort. While the course probably isn't exactly the same (buoys move, etc.), I swam about a minute faster than last year, when I did the entire race and swam with a moderate effort. While I wasn't surprised at that outcome, it's still enlightening to experience first-hand.

Also of note: This is the first time I've raced that a bunch of people were wearing the various "swimskins" that have become all the rage since the last Olympics. The overall winner didn't wear one (he went the Speedo route the whole time, chafing be damned), but the top three fastest swimmers did. I don't know if I would have been as fast as those guys had they not been wearing those suits, but I don't think it would have required as much effort on my part to hang on their feet (which I lost when we started swimming through the earlier waves). They definitely are a device that improves speed in the water. In any event, I'm glad FINA is going to ban themfor pure swimming events. I don't think triathlon will follow FINA's example, but I'm not really bothered about that. If there's one thing triathletes love to do, it's spend money on "free" speed... or, to be more accurate, "expensive" speed.

I wouldn't have been able to hang with the top swimmers for the duration of the entire race, so the fact that they get a minute or so on me in the swim (as opposed to 30 seconds sans-speedsuit) doesn't really matter. And I can still beat the folks that are slower than me, swimskin or not. It just creates more of a margin between the fastest guys and me. Besides, I'm saving my $300+ for something that will improve my bike splits... like a motor.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Tough day

Some of you already know about Fat Cyclist's wife's passing the other day. I don't remember when I first came across the FC blog, but I'm pretty sure it was before I started my current job (4+ years ago). That's a long time to be deeply interested in someone else's life, especially someone you've never actually met.

When Hannah and I were talking about it last night, we discussed that while we can feel sympathy, it's hard for us to feel empathy -- we haven't been in his situation (and hopefully we won't ever).

In any event, we'll be in Austin for the Livestrong Challenge at the end of October. I'll have a donation link in the sidebar in the next few days if anyone feels inclined to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Say what you want about the dude, but his foundation is making a difference.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


I still keep a toe in the rowing world, mostly through friends, although at this point it's probably just my pinky toe. Whenever I go out to lunch with some of my post-collegiate rowing buddies, inevitably the conversation comes back to the current goings-on at our old club, what other old rowing friends are up to (very few of whom are still in the sport), or, most often, reflecting back on how awesome we were, or how awesome we almost were.

This week is the Canadian Henley, without a doubt the best annual rowing race in North America, and a tie with the Head of the Charles for best rowing "event" on the continent. It's also the most competitive club race. The elites are super fast too, but since the best elites are preparing for Worlds/Olympics, are in the middle of their trials or have just finished their trials, there's not much depth in the fastest events.

That doesn't really matter, as Canadian Henley is primarily a junior, under-23 and not-ready-for-primetime/past-your-prime event. There is a competitive field across the board in those categories (technically called Junior, Under-23, Senior), with almost every event requiring heats. The best, most meritocratic, most cut-throat aspect of the race is awards are only given to event winners -- there is no silver or bronze. So, you either win or you don't.

Anyway, I periodically check out a rowing news site and I saw that Canadian Henley is this week. So, I clicked through to the regatta page and looked at the results page. The picture on the page is a winning crew from my old club. I don't know any of these girls (I think they were in elementary school when I last raced), but seeing the picture gave me a little wave of nostalgia.

From there, I was pleased to see the Canadians really have it together. I don't know of any North American rowing event that archives their results as well as Canadian Henley. Certainly not US Nationals. So, since I was feeling nostalgic and all, I looked at my own results from the years I raced there. I was shocked to see the results haven't changed since I raced -- first in the 145lb 8+ and 3rd in the 145lb 4+ in '02 and 3rd again in the 145lb 4+ in '03. I would have thought that, by now, our years of talking about how the events unfolded would have at least moved us into 2nd in one of those two other races. Damn the Canadians and their effective record-keeping.

In a bit of irony, our coxswain in those two years of races ended up rowing in the 145lb 4+ in 2004. And they won. So maybe we should have had him rowing instead of steering and yelling.

Of course, I can take solace in the fact that I'm still part of the reigning champion crew in the 145lb 8+. It's not at all important that they retired the event after 2002.
I'm sure I have a non-watermarked copy of this somewhere, but this is what's still available online (7 years later!). For those that can't tell, I'm the shortest guy there (aside from the coxswain) -- second from the right.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Number 3

Since most of the folks who read this blog aren't too interested in the gritty details, I'll keep it short.

Ironman Lake Placid went very well for me overall. After a series of injuries earlier this year (all self-inflicted), I was unsure of my true fitness. Now that the event is over, I can easily say I'm far and away much fitter than two years ago.

I made some mistakes during the day that hindered my ability to have a great run, but despite some rough patches, I still pulled out a PR. I knew halfway through the bike that sub-12 hours wasn't going to happen, but that didn't really get me down at all. I did what I could with what I had on the day.

You can see some photos on RDM's site. I might need to go with a crewcut next time, the spastic hair isn't too photogenic. But then again, neither were my facial expressions.

On a revelatory note, Hannah informed me that I'm not very enthusiastic to see my supporters during the run. Up until being told this information, I would have sworn that I stick my hand up and excitedly wave and smile as I run past. In fact, I have a distinct memory of doing so to Hannah and her parents when I came into the Olympic oval for the finish. Hannah's folks corroborated her story that I barely acknowledged them. Clearly there's some neurological disconnect going on here.

Thanks to everyone who came to watch: Hannah, my parents, RDM, JNM, significant others, Hannah's folks, as well as my college friends Trevor and Diana, and, of course, the other 50+ people that were there only for me. Also, thanks to Gordo at Endurance Corner -- I've learned a lot this year and I'm looking forward to what's coming up.

EDIT: Somehow in my early thanking, I left out the two folks that traveled the farthest to watch me: my aunt Robin and uncle Bob. Whoops! I blame the leg cramps on the run for that oversight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My entourage

Hannah and I fly from San Angelo to Philly via Dallas today. She's hanging out on Thursday in PA and driving up to Lake Placid with her parents on Friday. I plan to be in LP on Thursday in time to register and get that out of the way as early as possible.

Each time I do an ironman, my fan base grows -- I want to say exponentially, but with some simple math, anyone would be deceived into thinking that's not true. So, I'm going to explain it with some complex math. Those of you who aren't professional e-mail writers like me may have trouble following along.

I've created an intricate chart to illustrate my popularity. The x-axis represents the number of ironman races. The y-axis represents those individuals willing to lose a weekend to watch me wear lycra and run around in circles.

An obvious answer to my increased fan base is that my family has grown, what with inlaws and various significant others, most of whom were around before, but clearly deemed me not interesting enough. Or they had work. Or they got suckered in this time around ("Oh, the Adirondacks are so amazing when it's not raining. And the day-long race is unbelievably captivating.").

It then occurred to me that there are a few other attendees that I can appropriate as part of my own loyal crowd. I'll have some friends from college watching the race this year. It's not important that they're actually there to cheer on one of their family's friends; I'm not above Venn-diagramming them into my circle of well-wishers.

And then there are the other people I've met over the years, many of whom are racing. I'll just assume that they're on the course to cheer me on. They couldn't possibly have their own goals (other than to be my supporters). And let's also assume that all of their friends and family are cheering for me, in that they'll be cheering for their own racer, who is, as we've just established, only on the course to support me.

It's not so hard to put that total number north of 50. And, if you take my previous incredibly involved chart and drop in the new numbers...

...you can see that I can easily claim a more than exponential increase in fan base. And that, more than anything, is the reason I do ironman.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How it's going to go down

I have a race number for Lake Placid: 262. For those interested, you can track me on ironman.com on Sunday, July 26. It should be pretty obvious how to do it once you're on the website.

The weather will probably be pretty cool compared with my current "I'm dying in the Texas heat" standards, so the temperature shouldn't really be a factor. I'm giving it 50/50 odds on if it rains or not. I lost my weather-control wand but I have a new jacket, so I'm not too worried.

Get the job done
My swim will be the easiest long-distance swim I've done. Part of that is because I haven't done the necessary swim training to mix it up with anyone and part of that is because -- after getting roughed up at LP last time -- it's not worth the mental energy getting frustrated. It'll be what it is.

I'm going to have a much quicker transition than my last two IMs. I've got a better wetsuit which shouldn't be too difficult to get off (unlike my last LP race, where I struggled with the top for five minutes and felt like I dislocated my shoulder). I'll probably be wearing my knee warmers under my wetsuit to save time during transition, so if you're there and looking for the dorkiest looking guy coming into the change tent, it'll probably be me -- essentially I'll be wearing capri pants.

I'll put on bike jersey, socks and shoes, put my gels and such in my pockets, roll on my arm warmers and grab my helmet and sunglasses. Depending on the weather, I'll either put on my rain jacket or a wind vest.

The bike is going to be controlled. I'm probably going to get passed by a lot of people. If everything works out, I'll see a bunch of them again in the last half of the marathon. We'll see how my bike fitness falls out. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have no real sense of my actual race speed, as I haven't done any race testing. I have done a whole mess of outdoor riding for the first time this year, so I know what efforts I should be putting out. We'll see what happens.

My second transition is going to be quick. I'm doing a full change to running gear as I like to have something to focus on. If it's cold/rainy, I'll still be wearing the arm warmers. High fashion.

The first 18 miles of the run is going to be relaxed -- just rolling along. I'll be walking out of transition and waving at the crowds telling me to get running. Once I start my actual run, I'll be walking for a bit (15-45 seconds) every 10 minutes. If everything is going great, I'll open it up in the last 10k and see what I can do. If everything is going good, I'll maintain pace. If things aren't going so good, I'll do everything I can to keep the wheels from flying off. Whatever happens, I'm going to PR the marathon.

Will I break 12 hours? I don't know. But I'm going to race like I'm going for a personal best, whatever the day brings.

Bonus points if anyone knows who that is at the top.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Beards, Battle Scars and Bears

Since I'm mostly working from home, and don't really have to worry about my professional appearance, I wondered what happens when I don't shave for two weeks (aside from keeping the scraggly bits under control). This: Despite the quasi-beard and no one to see me, I still make sure to wear a suit to the (home)office every day. Keeps me in the zone.

Battle Scars
The cat has been mixing it up with somebody. The other day I noticed his ear had dried blood on it. And there was a small chunk missing (we originally thought it was just some errant fur). Well, we cleaned him up and his wounds are healing nicely, although now he's the tough cat in the neighborhood.

Since he is a cat, it's virtually impossible to get any clear pictures of his scars (with those cat-like reflexes and all). Here's what you get:

Hannah and I went up to the Abilene zoo on Friday afternoon. Many of the animals were hiding in the shade, but we did come across a black bear who was very interested in one of the local birds.

Sorry about the picture quality. Everything is via my phone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meltdown #2

Yesterday I had my long run scheduled. Even though it's only an hour difference between New Jersey and Texas, I've been having a hard time getting up the hour earlier (mainly because I've been going to bed an hour later).

I found myself unable to get out of bed to do my run in the morning, so I chose to do it in the evening. Since I'm still working on Eastern time, I was out the door by 5 p.m. Central. And that was a mistake.

A mile into my run, I passed an electronic sign at a carwash that read 95 degrees. "That's pretty hot," I thought to myself, as if I didn't realize it was hot without the temperature reading. "This might not go so well."

Things actually weren't so bad for the first 90 minutes, although I had to walk a few of the steeper hills to keep my heart rate from going out of control (yes, contrary to my own belief, there are hills in Texas).

For my longer runs when it's warm, I typically carry two liters of water in a backpack. That started to dry up around the two hour mark. That's also about the same time I noticed I was covered in salt, all my body hair was standing on end and I was feeling a slight chill. A few minutes after that I completely detonated. Walking uphill had my heart rate in the high 140s. My legs ached (and not from the blistering 10 minute per mile pace I had been running). My inner thighs were rubbed raw (no more short shorts for long runs).

I waved at a police car that drove by. He waved back. A minute later, he came by again. And then less than a minute later he came back again. Each time I waved and kept on my way (at this point, I was moving at an aggressive walk). I suppose I couldn't have looked that bad, or else he would have stopped, right? Maybe he thought I was lost. Or maybe he was checking out the short shorts.

In any event, about a mile from home I ducked into a convenience store, bought a 32 ounce Gatorade and trudged most of the way home, before Hannah stopped to pick me up on her way to a work dinner. After I got home I checked a few weather sites and learned the carwash sign was wrong. It was still 101 degrees at 7:30.

That's two big workouts where I completely fell apart in the heat. Maybe I need more water. Or maybe I need some new, trendy gear.
All the cool kids are wearing this these days.

Or maybe I should just wake up early and not train when it's 100+ degrees outside until I'm used to the heat.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Now that I'm more or less set up down in San Angelo permanently (for those that didn't know that... surprise!), the weather gods have decided to mess around with me.

My last few trips down to Texas from NJ were leaving warm weather and coming in to warm weather. In some instances, it was actually cooler in Texas than in the northeast.

As anyone from the north knows now, the mid-atlantic region has recently been trying to one-up the northwest for the soggiest coast award. Temperatures have been consistently in the low 60s in NJ. So, that's two weeks of very mild temperatures.

Imagine my relief upon returning from my horrible long ride yesterday to learn that it was 96 degrees -- that gave me an easy excuse (actual or imagined) for blowing up (figuratively, not actual) three hours into the ride.

And for those that don't know, it's also incredibly windy in west Texas. At one point, after driving myself into a headwind for 30 minutes and not really moving anywhere, I decided to turn around. After spinning, just by picking my feet off the ground I was carried along at 6 mph. I'm not sure how strong that means the wind was blowing, but I assume it was strong.

So, Texas greeted my official move with a kick in the pants.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where's the humor?

I think I used to write a pretty clever blog. But lately, it's been sort of mopey. Or, at best, boringly factual.

There are some changes coming my way that should turn that around. Ironman Lake Placid being just one of them. The Adirondacks in general and LP specifically are a powerful place for me. Going there should lighten my mood, if only because everyone else is so intense (or pretends to be intense -- and we all know the importance of intensity in a day-long race).

That faux-intensity manifests itself in some strange ways. If you go to any triathlon, but especially an ironman, you're bound to see some of the most condescending bumper stickers or t-shirts around. I don't know what it is about triathletes, but the sport isn't short on egoism or self-importance.

These are two of my favorites, and are a good representation of the field.
Because nothing defines "excellence" like half-assing three different sports instead of committing to speed in one.

On second thought, I just might be too cynical. This last one isn't condescending at all. The sticker is just being exceedingly honest. Most ironman participants really do use the marathon as a cool down -- a 22-mile walk after they blow up on the bike and the first few miles of the run. As such, those with this sticker are genuinely impressed that someone ran an entire 26.2 miles.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I wrote this last Thursday. It's interesting what a week's reflection will do. Incidentally, I'm no longer worried about having a herniated disc. It's just my hips (always the hips!). Shouldn't be anything some diligent stretching won't take care of.

I had decided a while back that I would only attempt another ironman if I felt my fitness was such that, in a year's time, I'd be able to put myself in a position to go sub-12. In the summer of '08, I felt I was fit enough to do that between '08-'09.

Then I got injured (IT band). Then I got injured again (rotator cuff). And now I'm a little nervous that I have a herniated disc. I've only had pain in my back twice -- both times after my longest runs and both times using a Nathan hydration vest. I need to do a very long run without the vest to find out. Of course, I'm writing this a day after my longest run this season and my back is killing me. So I'm not in any huge rush to go test things any time soon.

I'm not so sure that the sub-12 goal is going to happen this year. It's not really just my injuries/lost training time (although that doesn't help). Mostly, it's that my training results aren't matching up with what it would take to go sub-12. I used to think that you can rise above your training efforts, peak with a good taper and pop out a lifetime best performance.

After training under the Endurance Corner program, I realize that's not actually the case for ultra-distance events. Sure, for a shorter race (even including a marathon), there's the ability to transcend what you've regularly put out in training. But the transcendence in an ironman is really about pulling everything together in one day. Right now, the individual components aren't fast enough -- I won't get magically faster when I'm 10 hours into my day.

Do I still believe sub-12 can happen? Yes. But I'm basing that on the fact that I'm consistently throwing down workouts that I couldn't even comprehend two years ago. I'm also counting on the crappy chip-seal road surface in Texas slowing me down at least a mile per hour and that there will be a "magical" difference in Lake Placid. Here's hoping...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Good Samaritans

This past weekend RDM and I visited our folks in Ocean City, NJ. They've had a place down there for a little while now, but this was the first time I had been down to see it.

On Sunday, I set out for a long ride. I had a pretty good route mapped out on mostly county roads with wide shoulders. As I was about to leave in the morning I decided to grab my windbreaker since it was a little cool and I'm awful in the cold. I figured I'd be taking it off once I got off the island and away from the early morning ocean breeze.

Needless to say, the jacket never came off. About an hour into the ride it started drizzling. "That's odd," I thought, "It's not supposed to rain today." Of course, that's when it started raining harder.

I rolled into the town of Woodbine and, with the wet roads, picked up a piece of glass in my front tire. In the time I stopped to change the tube, the rain had turned into a full on downpour.

I was all proud of myself for changing the tire in less than three minutes, but then I started the arduous process of filling that tire using my mini-pump. If you've ever used one of those pumps, you know what I'm talking about. Ten minutes later I figured I was around 80psi, which was good enough for me to get moving again, as I was completely soaked through.

I opted to head back to OC, still 75-90 minutes away rather than continue on. I only had one more spare tube and with the roads filled with grit and glass, I didn't want to take the chance of being even farther away if I needed to call for a ride.

Needless to say, about 20 minutes into the trip back I got another flat, this time in my rear tire. The plan at that point was to change the tire and get moving. If I got another flat, I'd have to call for help.

As luck would have it, a car pulled up ride after I pulled the wheel off my bike. Two cyclists hopped out and asked if I wanted a ride. It didn't take much internal debate for me to agree. 20 minutes later I was back at my parents' place.

So what lessons did I learn? Not too many actually. I've ridden in the rain before. I've changed flats before. I had enough spares and a patch kit. I had some cash. I had a cell phone. There wasn't much I would or could have done differently. And despite the cruddy weather, I still had a good time. My only regret was that I had to turn back early and had to finish the ride on my trainer later that evening.

The only things I could really take away are:

I didn't have a rain coat. Between watching Ironman Lake Placid last year and this past weekend, I've decided to pick up a good lightweight jacket. In fact, I already ordered it.

I didn't have my blinky light. That's not really a big deal, but it was kind of dumb of me. I had brought a light with me to OC, but decided to leave it behind. If I was going to leave one thing behind, I'm glad it was the light and not the windbreaker. That said, I could have easily brought both.

Filling a tire with a mini-pump is awful. I knew this already, but had forgotten.

I realize this little story probably wasn't very interesting. But if anyone asks why I'm bringing a rain coat or CO2 tire fillers on all of my spring rides in the northeast from now on, here's my rationale.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Neutral Sodium Diet

I decided that beginning May 1, I was done with fast food. At least for a while. That lasted only a few hours.

On May 2, I again decided that I was done with fast food and have surprisingly been successful so far.

There were a few reasons why I wanted to change the diet. Most of them are the standard: save some money, eat better/real food, etc. I also finished reading "The Omnivores Dilemma" -- you try reading that and see if you want to eat any mass-produced beef. Or mass-produced anything.

All those reasons are well and good, but the tipping point came when I pulled up to Wendy's one evening, and the woman at the drive-thru recognized who I was by my order (and my voice) and asked how my day was going. While I have nothing against friendly fast food servers, I realized I was eating too many of my meals out of a bag.

An interesting side-effect is that for the last 10 days or so, I've been really dehydrated. I couldn't figure out what it was at first, but then I thought of all the sodium I dropped from my diet cold turkey. I've just started to get back to balance and no longer feel like I need to drink tons of water in a day.

Is this interesting? I'm not sure. But I'm curious how long I can keep it up. Ideally at least through the ironman. Then we'll see what junk my subconscious wants to use to refill the fat stores.

Friday, May 22, 2009


As I'm sure you've heard, spring is a time of change. I expect I'll have some news to share in a few days, but in the meantime, here are some of the changes happening in our backyard. What once was a barren expanse of dying or dead grass is now a veritable forest. Or, rather, an unveritable forest.

Okay, we have three new trees. But that's three more than before. And with great trees comes great responsibility. Like watering and stuff. And doing something with the rest of the yard so that they're not lonely.