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.