Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Long Beach

This is not the face of a runner enjoying a casual stroll.

This is the face of a runner in pain.

This past weekend I participated in the Long Beach City Managers 10 Mile Trophy Run. This road race zig-zags through the streets and along the boardwalk of Long Beach, Long Island.

I probably should have enjoyed the scenic views running alongside the Atlantic Ocean more than I did. Instead, I was focused on not stopping, not slowing down and not letting that guy with no shirt and no hair gain a step on me.

My wife, unborn child and dog were also in attendance and I certainly couldn't let them down!

I had fully anticipated running this race at a casual pace just to get in the miles. Besides, I'd concluded a 54 mile bike ride less than 18 hours prior.

The starting gun went off and as per the norm my brain stopped. I ran the first mile in 6:15 which is more of a 5k pace for me. I pulled back but still clocked a 6:30 and a 6:45 for the subsequent 2 miles... Fool. Fool. Fool.

Finally I settled down into a sustainable pace (that shirtless bald guy still behind me!) but my legs were pretty shot. The remainder of the race would be about holding on.

That "shirtless guy" caught up to me at about mile 6 and as it turns out he's a fine fellow who's run just about every single half marathon on the Eastern Seaboard... Kudos to you, man! He ran a nice strong pace, pulling me along for the next two miles. Unfortunately he had some knee pain and faded at mile 8.

Sometimes some portions of some races just suck. Such was the case in the 9th mile. The heat, the bike ride and the 5am wake up call were all shouting in my head saying "slow down!" Regrettably I listened to them and lost two positions before snapping out of it for the final stretch.

The final kick brought me across the finish line in 1:11:10 (7:07 pace) which was good enough to finish 18th overall and 4th place in my age group - I even got a trophy!

At the finish I bumped into DebbieJRT who is even nicer and more genuine in person than she comes across on her blog... Good luck in Steamboat!

Since we were so close to the beach I brought my brand spankin' new wetsuit! I figured I'd give open water ocean swimming a go post-race. Swimming in the ocean is hard. I must have consumed a half-gallon or more of salty ocean water. What a debacle! It seems I have some hydro-work to do before Tinman.

I've signed myself up for a smallish sprint distance triathlon this coming Sunday. Please pray that I don't drown.

"The sea - this truth must be confessed - has no generosity. No display of manly qualities - courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness - has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power."
-Joseph Conrad

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Queens Biathlon

Sunday morning. 5:00AM. Three alarms ring out… It’s time!

The Queens Biathlon was held today in Alley Park, Queens. The race consisted of a 5 kilometer run followed by an 18 mile bike followed by another 5 kilometer run.

I arrived with a few of my teammates from the Hellgate Road Runners and had ample time to check-in, change, use the restroom, warm-up and rack the bike in the transition area.

The weather was right on the cusp of being cold and the forecast called for scattered showers. Having completely over packed I “enjoyed the luxury” of debating what to wear. I finally settled on my tri-shorts and a short sleeve cycling jersey, figuring it is better to be too cool than too hot.

I arranged, then rearranged my transition area and checked my bike one last time. I thought to myself:

“Self, you’re going to run into the transition and in this order: put on your helmet, take of your running shoes (leaving the laces undone for the 2nd transition), put on your bike shoes, trot bike out of transition and then hammer away.”

It seemed like a reasonable plan of action for the transition and with that I headed to the start.

Over 100 people toed the starting line and since this was my first attempt at multi-sport racing I wasn’t exactly sure where to line up in the queue. Eventually I made my way up toward the front and with very little adieu we were off.

As a newbie I really had no idea how hard to push. I didn’t even have a predicted finish time in mind. Despite this, I quickly fell into a fast pace and started picking off runners as the race made its way along the out-and-back course.

I ran much of the race trading position with a rather fast woman. I would pass her on the up hills and she’d catch me on the down hills. As we hit the turn around I realized that she was the lead woman…

The run course finishes on a long, steep up hill and again I passed her to finish the first run in 9th place overall. The execution of my transition plan was flawless: helmet, shoes (laces loose!), bike shoes, bike off rack, trot out of transition area.

I swung my leg over the saddle and WHAT THE F***!!!!!!!!!

Flat tire…

I cursed violently and went to work changing the inner tube while the competition streamed by. I lost over 8 minutes changing that tire. When I finally took off – literally among the last few people to start the bike – I was furious!

I dropped into the aerobars, put my head down and channeled that anger into the pedals. At one point I looked down and was doing 36 miles per hour - wicked fast for me.

That speed was short lived as a strong headwind slowed things down, but still, I hammered away trying to make up lost ground. With screaming legs and throbbing heart I passed by riders in one’s, two’s and three’s. Then it started to rain. Not hard and not for long but each drop that pelted my forehead fueled the furious fire in me.

18 miles later my legs were shot and I had made little time up. I finished the bike in 70th. I quickly got the bike back on the transition rack, took off my helmet and switched back into my eagerly waiting running shoes for the final 5k run. Whoa… were my legs unsteady for those first few minutes!

This time the hills seemed longer and steeper and the halfway point seemed further away. The fury was gone now. I just wanted to finish.

At the halfway turnaround I broke away from a small group of runners and found myself alone - pulling away from one group but too far back to ever catch those ahead.

I climbed the final hill to the finish line with a total time of 1 hour 45 minutes 18 seconds. I placed 6th in my age group and 45th overall. Had I not lost the 8 minutes to the flat tire I would have likely placed 4th in my age group and in the top 20 or 25 overall.

The splits look like this:

Finish TimePace
5K Run
18M Bike
(54:26 without flat)
5K Run

Despite the frustration of having a flat in my very first bike race I am not discouraged. I was presented an obstacle and I overcame it. I trained fairly well and raced intelligently (for a newbie).

And, I have a sneaky, sneaky feeling that there will be plenty of additional opportunities!

"Fortune turns everything to the advantage of those she favours."
-La Rochefoucauld

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Be The Hammer

As previously posted, I was run down by a car last Thursday while training on the bike. Did this brush with death* slow me down…?

Not for long!

I had intended to do an AM/PM workout on Thursday, take Friday as a rest day and then brick on Saturday. I only lost one workout as a result of my flesh on bumper affair. I took Thursday evening off and instead toasted my blessed good fortune with copious amounts of adult beverage. I rested Friday as planned and then on Saturday dug in.

I did 42+ miles on the bike at about 19 mile per hour, followed by a 5 mile run at approximately a 7:30/mile pace**. On Sunday I went for a 12 mile run at an 8:35/mile pace.

Thus far triathlon training is an exercise in time management and also in fatigue management. I am working out on average 7-9 times a week and taking one rest day per week. Packing 2,000 meters in the pool or a 20-mile ride in the morning followed by an evening run is not at all uncommon.

Never once in my life have I been as fit as I am today.

This Sunday will be my very first foray into multi-sport competition. I will be participating in the Queens Biathlon. The race is a 5k run / 20 mile bike / 5k run course and I fully intend to drop the hammer.

You must either conquer and rule or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be the anvil or the hammer.

*admitted hyperbole
**actual times. Not hyperbole

Thursday, May 10, 2007


It has been far too long since I have posted and I have also neglected reading my favorite blogs these past few weeks. It’s really no excuse but work, life and training have been intense. I had fully intended to post today telling you about my crazy adventures, nutters training schedule, and witty observations on impending fatherhood.

All of that will have to wait for another day. This morning I was hit by a car while training on the bike…

I know what you’re thinking and you don’t have to worry. The car is fine.

When I set out this morning I decided to take it easy on the bike to set myself up for a good evening run (two-a-days... I told you tri training is intense). The first lap of my 7 mile circuit was at an easy clip… I stayed out of the biggest gears and never got up above 20mph. Feeling good, I decided to pick it up in the second lap. I dropped down into the aero bars and began to work the pedals.

This particular ride takes me past the entrance to the infamous Rikers Island prison. Traffic here is generally light but was a little congested as I approached due to a red light. As I neared the intersection a car making a left hand turn onto a minor side street pulled out in front of me (see below diagram). I jammed on the brakes but it was too late.

There is an interesting phenomenon in situations like this. The world slows down and seems to move in slow motion... Tunnel vision sets in. For a brief moment I could also see the future and there was nothing to be done…

The car made contact with my left leg and all of my forward momentum redirected sharply and abruptly to the right. Somehow I unclipped from the pedals, jumped from the bike and landed on my feet, more or less walking away, before the bike ever hit the ground.

Ego wanted me to be angry with the driver. Legally, there is likely mutual culpability. The fault however is my own. I had slowed as I approached the intersection, I was obeying the rules of the road and I was exercising heads-up caution but I was still being too aggressive approaching a semi-congested intersection.

The man who hit me was kind, considerate and didn’t once give thought to his now scuffed bumper and hood. There was only sincere concern for life and limb. “Bicycles and bumpers can be replaced. You my friend cannot be…” very nice words from a man whose name I don’t even know. We parted with a handshake and bid each other a good day.

As I sit and write this the swelling in my leg is going down and I am developing a pretty gnarly bruise. My leg is sore but nothing seems broken or out of whack. The discomfort is easily manageable with some Tylenol.

Absolute luck, divine intervention or serious good karma… It doesn't really matter much. I am just thankful to be walking. In fact, the bike was not damaged and I was able to ride the last few miles home... I even contemplated riding another 7 mile circuit.

In the end I decided a long shower and second cup of coffee would be the more more prudent course of action.

I think I'll skip the run tonight too. Perhaps I'll do a good deed to build up some of that spent karma and then toast Jesus, Buddha, and my guardian angel.

“Any landing you walk away from is a good landing”
- Launchpad McQuack