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.