Monday, September 29, 2014

Two sides of the coin...I should flip more often

The last few weeks have been difficult mush less the last few months. I've been battling health issues that have been attributed with causing my poor performance in training and races and resulting in my emergency appendectomy. I've been trying to get back on track with training but to be honest, life is kind of kicking my butt right now. 

Throw in that last weekend I had to stop at mile 8 of a 10 mile training run because my HR spiked up to around 230bpm and I was sincerely concerned I might be having a heart attack. WE won't even go into how angry I was that I had to stop before logging the mileage. This past week was spent with normal training and I had no HR issues other than having to go slow on the run and bike in order to keep my HR in the prescribed zones from my coach. So, flash forward to yesterday where I'm supposed to get in a 12 miler. I knew the run wasn't about pace or effort, it was all about mileage. J was out for an 18 mile run so I figured I'd drop in for the last 6 or 8 miles as company and then get the rest of my miles alone. Well that was a great plan until around mile 3 when had a HR spike of 230bpms again. No pain or numbness of the face and hands like last week, this time it just felt like there was a machine gun going off in my chest. Ok, well start walking and let it come down. My HR dropped quickly back to normal so I figured I was fine and started running again...only to have it spike back up to 230bpms within 20 or 30 strides. Sonuva! Nothing to do here but walk home. I saw that my HR was dropping quickly again so calling an ambulance or even going to the ER would be fruitless because I'd show up and my HR would be normal (I've had a few EKGs up to this point and they've all come back clean).  Well, time to call the docs again (I'm getting a little tired...and stressed out from trips to the docs) and schedule a stress test or another EKG or whatever tests they decided. I sat down, upset and beyond frustrated thinking that if I've had my "had two good years of training and racing" and now gonna start falling apart...I'm gonna lose my mind.

I went through the rest of the day trying to be positive and even managed a nap. I woke up to my mind racing. What the hell?! I went from this high speed-low drag-wired for sound triathlete who was fit and thin and doing 20+ races a season and could do anything...to this fluffy, filled with doubt, worried about my own mortality, not racing or training hard, "athlete". I'm heavier than I want to be...WAY heavier. The best way to explain it is its like the fact is this thick heavy coat of grime that I can never clean off. It weighs me down, mentally and physically and I'm not dealing with it anymore. I'm going back to being me, only two ways to finish...across the line or on a stretcher. I'm the guy that knew I was having a heat stroke but refused to quit an Ironman race because I was going to finish. The same guy that crashed and cracked ribs at another Ironman race but would be damned if I'd quit. That is my core being. I talked to the doc and yes while I need a follow up with my primary physician I have been been training with no issue except for last Sunday and on my first attempt of the run. I should be ok to keep training but if I have a HR spike or pain I should stop ASAP. Ok, that I can deal with. I went back to find the clothes I ran in earlier in the day (a terrible idea in hindsight because the salty clothes tore right into me...but I was trying to prove a point) reset, took a deep breath and went out for a run again. I have a 3 mile loop that I normally run so I figured I'd do one loop, see how I felt and watch my HR. If there were no issues, try another loop...then another with the goal of getting in 9 miles to complete my mileage on the day. The 9 miles went by without issue and while I didn't push hard and constantly watched my HR on my watch, I got it done and finally...FINALLY have a feeling of accomplishment.Ya, I got my 12 miles in...now to get back to training like I know how...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

OHIO



After watching the documentaries "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" and "Food Inc" I was reminded of absolutely how out of touch our mass market food sources are. In this day and age where you walk into a supermarket and have no idea where your food comes from...or how it's been treated/handled/harvested...or you find out that companies responsible for pesticides and Agent Orange like Monsanto are in the food business...its time to get back to food you know! 

I'm rapidly becoming a fan of OHIO (only handled it once) food. Get on the internet and do a search for local farms. Go visit them and look in their "stores". I love opening the door to their food case and asking where the items come from...to have the owner point outside to pens, coops and fields and say "right out there". Not only is it "made" there but...its FRESH! Local farm bureaus and co-ops share and sell each other's food. And it's good, really good. Ya, that's milk from a local dairy...in a GLASS bottle. Order what meat you want ahead of time and mass raising in feed lots go away (one of the major attributed cause of the issues with our mea
t sources). Change the way you shop and what you're eating. Take the time to know your food source and support local farmers

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

51st Annual Fred Warren 5.5 Mile Road Race...oh the hills


Schnazzy right?
(I've been meaning to post this race recap from the race on the 27th of July...and it was stuck in my "drafts" lists for a while. Ugh, well here it is) As I’ve said before I was lucky enough to be selected as an ambassador for TopoAthletic shoes. Well, I got their kit in the mail on a Saturday and figured I just had to go find a race to wear it in..right?!

A quick glance of coolrunning.com showed that there was the 51st Annual Fred Warren 5.5 Mile Road Race right by my house Sunday night. A race…by my house…in the evening…and a never-before-run-distance…perfect!

So getting there an hour early (duh) for the 6:30pm start found a pretty large group of people to run. Most of which were talking about how hilly the course was. Ya, I mean I know there are hills out here so I didn’t think anything of it…big mistake.

My quads were screaming!
As the race started I figured the best thing was to try and settle into a 7min pace for the first few miles to see how the race shook out. Hitting the one mile mark on 6:42, I heard the high school track kids running the race telling each other the pace was too fast and they needed to slow down for the “rest of the race”…uh oh…do they know something I don’t?! Well, nothing to do but keep going. And then the hills came…ooph. Mile 2 was on 7:33 and I figured out that the course would just be a series of short, steep hills to get over and try to gain speed on the backside…and then mile 3 came. The course turned cross country as we climbed to the 3 mile mark (on a 7:50), so I figured the guy yelling time splits was at the “top” of the hill as we were running up to him. Sweet baby Jesus was I wrong. As we climbed to the 3 mile mark…to turn right…to a MONSTER hill…that you couldn’t see the top of. This is a hilly course? Indeed! The hill was just as mentally crushing as it was physically. Some of the people that were in front of me at this point, were walking up the hill. Walking! Son of a monkey hammer that hill hurt to get over. How much? I turned in an 8:52 for mile 4! Mile 5 was just spent trying to catch my breath and get back into a decent rhythm and all I could manage was a 7:42. That last half mile was just gutting it out to the finish. I ended up with a finish time of 41:15 which landed me 34th overall and 7th in my AG. Not a great time but a new distance on a very hilly course in new schnazzy kit. I’ll take it. Now I need to get on the foam core roller and a nap!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Lowell Mill City Triathlon...sometimes familiarity is just what you need.

The calm before the storm
I have to admit that between the debacle at the Patriot 70.3 and all the medical issues afterward I was more that a little gun shy about racing again anytime soon. I have been bouncing between having great training sessions, having terrible training sessions, taking too long to recover and general stress and worry about what the heck is going on with me as of late. The last thing I wanted to do was race. With everything going on the last thing I needed was to have a bad race and just compound all the bad crap that's been happening lately. On the other hand, maybe the best thing I could do for myself was to race again and get back in my normal routine of racing every weekend. Luckily the Mill City Triathlon was coming up and I know the race, the locale and the course pretty well. What better way to get back to racing? Since I've raced the event the last four years, I know exactly how far away it is, where to park, what transition setup looks like and how the race runs so there wasn't the normal pre-race jitters of having to get there super early in order to be "prepared for anything" like I normally do. 

Parking and set up of transition was easy and it was into my wetsuit to take an easy swim in the water. Now I was stressing about the swim. Yes, its short but the swim at Patriot killed me and I was more than agitated about getting back into race water. I've had all sorts of crazy stuff happen on this course over the years so I just wanted to focus on good swim form, get to the turn buoy and get out of the water safely and not hating everyone on the planet.

Swim - .33mi, 13:05 (Phelps has NOTHING to worry about)

It was nice to get in the water with a bunch of swimmers to race. I don't know what's up with this 3 people enter the water rolling swim start thing races seem to be doing lately but it was just nice to be in the water surrounded by swimmers. I seeded myself in the front third of the pack. When the gun went off I knew that all I needed to do was sight the turn buoy, swim with the pack and I'd be good. To my surprise I actually felt good in the water. Nice even stroke, good body position and string kick....and the buoy was getting closer fast (well at least fast for me). I actually grinned in the water at the fact I was calm and swimming by other swimmers. So much so that I had the where with all to hit the lap button on my watch because I wanted to know how quickly I swam each length on the swim (7:11 out, 5:55 back. no speed record and yes there was a current but I'll happily take it). I got out of the water, caught me breath and headed into transition.

T1: 1:56, (there was a run to get there from the water but I thought I was faster)

Bike - 13mi, 37:57 - 20.55 mph (not great)

Like I said, I know this course really well and knew I had about 5 miles before the first turn so I wanted to get into to good rhythm and be around 23mph to start off the ride...and I was right there...until the first turn. That was where a group of motorcyclists (10of them to be exact) riding two abreast, freaked out and stopped at the turn..in the middle of the road because they couldn't figure out what was going on as the race official and cop were YELLING at them to go through the stop sign intersection to make room for cyclists coming up...and with nowhere to go I put the bike onto the shoulder and into the grass and had to dismount. Oh ya,, and the turn was on a hill...son of a monkey hammer. All I could do was run the bike up the hill, remount and try to get back on pace. My mind, my heart and my soul were filled with anger as I get back in the big ring and try to get up to speed...only to be relieved by my passing the SAME group of motorcyclists lollygag riding below the speed limit, two a breast, further down the course! Jumping-jesus-christ-on-a-pogo-stick! For real?!?! I took great pride, passing them at about 45mph on the downhill, in the lane marked out for us cyclists. My goal was to just keep the speed above 22mph for the rest of the way and then see how I felt out on the run.

T2: 46secs (now THAT'S more like it!)

Run: 4mi, 30:52 - 7:43 pace (this should've been faster, I just didn't have anymore speed)

The run is a simple out and back and you can probably see at least a half mile in front of you so all I wanted to do was pick runners to catch...and run them down. I considered looking at my watch and checking my pace but why? Its only four miles, just run! Amazingly I kept thinking "save it for the turn" while "ain't nothing gonna break my stride" was stuck in my head. I literally laughed out loud. First off, save it for the turn? What was I gonna save? I was gassed already and its only four miles. Secondly, "ain't nothing gonna break my stride"? Ha! This race was. I was running wide open already and I knew I probably wasn't turning faster than a 7:30 pace at best. Time to quit thinking about time or pace and just catch the people ahead of you. Because its an out and back course, I could see the leaders and started counting as I headed to the turn. I thought I was in 12th or 13th and I was closing on one runner. Time to just empty the tank and go. I caught two runners and crossed the line in 1:24:38. Good enough for 11th overall and second in my AG. I'd love to say I went into the race with o expectations..but that would be a lie. Anytime I want to show up, I think I can podium. Yes, totally unrealistic I know...esepcially given the circumstances ove the last few weeks but I was very happy to end up on the podium. Amazingly, I was only a minute of my PR for the course. I'll take it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Patriot Half...the experiment...the failed experiment


Well the morning started a little earlier than normal. Since the race was only an hour from my house it didn't make sense to waste money on a hotel for 2 days. That meant a 3am makeup on race day, drive down to the race venue, get set up in transition and prepare for the race.Getting there in under an hour (duh, nobody is on the road at 4am) meant I was one of the first vehicles there and I had plenty of time to setup. I actually ended up parking about 500ft from where I set up my bike (score! I had no idea how great a parking spot that was until later in the day). Race packet was picked up that morning, bike set up and laying out my gear for the day went as usual. Nothing to do now but relax (ya, right), hydrate and get ready to race. Yes, I was anxious. I hadn't done a 70.3 since Timberman last year and although I felt good I was hoping for a 5 hour day (you can read about my race plan in the prior post) and wanted to get started. A quick swim in the water before the start settled my nerves and reinforced the decision to go sleeveless was a good one. The temp was in the mid 60's and the water temp was the same so the water felt great and I was excited to get in the water to race.

Racked and ready...of course I was the first one there
Now the Patriot Half has adopted a "time trial start" over a "wave start" by age group. This meant that we'd start in groups of 3 swimmers every 10 seconds through each of the age group waves. I was willing to give it a try but soon learned how much I hate it. I seeded myself in the 1st third of the wave which put me in the 10th "group" of the wave. Countdown timer goes off and we enter the water. I felt really good. That first 300-400 yards went off without a hitch. I was actually having a good swim with a smooth swim stroke and breath count. As I got settled in, I tried to sight the first buoy. Not only was it further than I thought but I had drifted to the left a good bit and had to correct my line ASAP. Without the "herd" of swimmers in the wave (normally I would get in the middle of the group trying to draft of feet) I didn't have a group to follow to the buoys. Twice during the swim I had people on kayaks telling me to swim to the right because I was drifting so far to the left. I also know I was expending a lot more effort because I was having to correct my line so often. I had no idea what my time was or where I was in the race until I saw race caps from waves behind me passing me. I told myself "ok, no need to get worried, other waves have fast swimmers so maybe I'm not doing that bad". The swim seemed to take forever no matter how hard I swam. As I got out of the water I glanced down at my watch to see almost 48 minutes. 48 minutes?! Are you kidding me?! My watch can't be right I thought. Two things that struck me as I left the water: I cut my right foot on the rocks as I got out (not fun but it happens) and I couldn't seem to get my wetsuit off to save my life. Normally, by the time I cross the timing mat I have my wetsuit unzipped and down around my butt with my cap and goggles in my hand. Today, while I got my cap and goggles off, when I ended up at my bike I was still struggling to get my wetsuit open much less off. As I continued to try and get my wetsuit off, a volunteer ran over and stripped it off. Then I fumbled getting into my cycling kit, almost dropping my bike as I unracked it (I should've realized there was something wrong then but thought all I needed to do was get on the bike, get settled and start fueling and I'll be fine) and off I went on the bike.

I'd reconned this course and knew that the first 2 miles would be twisty but then settled down into flat, low rollers that I could get into a good rhythm and get to racing. I mean I had all those swimmers in my wave I had to rundown after all! I quickly got off to a 21mph pace, got salt tabs/gel/water in and focused on the road ahead. The first 5 or 6 miles went okay but I started having trouble with water/fuel. Every sip was becoming a struggle. It felt like every swallow landed a concrete ball in my gut that wanted to come back up. Then I had the weirdest sensation, one I've never felt before, of needing to either go to the bathroom or vomit. I dealt with it for about 18 miles but had to pull off the road and run into the woods quickly. Luckily I only had to pee (quick check of it being clear so I knew I wasn't dehydrated and could press on) then quickly hopped back on the bike and got back to racing. When I say racing...I really just mean pedaling. I saw my speed gradually coming down while feeling like I was outputting as much or more effort up to this point. I also didn't feel good. Yes, it's a 70.3 and feeling "good" may not be an apt description for racing...but I felt bad. Nausea, headache and body fatigue seemed to be building rapidly. The only thing I could thing to do was to keep trying to take on salt, liquid and fuel. That was what I needed and all this would go away right? Well, didn't seem to be. I was having difficulty keeping anything down and started either bringing up water/fuel or dry heaving. Then the wheels start turning. What's wrong with me? Do I need more or less fuel? Am I pushing too hard? Am I not pushing hard enough? Am I sick? Is all of this in my head and I need to quit being a wimp and just fight through it? The one thing all of those thoughts did tell me was at least my brain was working! 

As I continued to pedal, it seemed as if I was looking at the world through binoculars and it was getting dark around the edges. Well, that's new! Around mile 26 there was a guy that double flatted and was asking everyone/anyone for CO2 cartridges. Mine were right on top of my rear bag and I was pretty practiced at pulling them out and fixing a flat from a rolling stop (yes, I do practice that. What? Doesn't everybody?) but I almost crashed my bike slowing to hand off the cartridges. Ok, THAT got my attention. I have proven bike handling skills and the fact that I was having trouble concerned me. I did however notice that when I stopped to hand off the cartridges the world brightened right up. All the "dark around the edges" disappeared. Ok, that's a good thing, NOW I can get back on track. Problem was, as I got to the end of the first loop the dry heaving and dark edges came back. Now I got concerned. I didn't experience this during Syracuse 70.3 (where I suffered heat exhaustion/borderline heat stroke) or Timberman 70.3 (where I crashed on the bike and had cracked and bruised ribs). "Let's get through the first loop and see how the second one goes. You can always bail out at the run" I told myself. Who am I kidding?! If I got to the run I would drag myself and walk if need to be to finish. As I went past the first loop I was dry heaving...ok...and that was at mile 28 with another 55.1 miles to do. I can't even begin to explain the battle I was having in my head but almost ditching the bike in a turn at mile 33 sealed the deal. I turned around and pedaled against the flow of cyclists headed back to transition. I'll be completely honest and say that was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in quite some time (there were a lot harder ones recently I didn't bat an eyelash over). But that slow pedaling back to transition was sheer agony. I felt like I'd let everyone down...starting with myself but including my friends who had been so supportive and the companies who's gear I was rep'ing. Add insult to injury that when I came to the dismount area, helmet in hand and what I was told was looking pretty rough...it was as the race leaders were coming in to go out for the run. I didn't even have the energy to tell them I wasn't one of the race leaders...I'm a medical.

I never got to put this on...
As if I didn't feel awkward enough, the medics and volunteer staff descended on me when everyone realized how out of it I was. I couldn't thank them enough for their concern but I couldn't have been more embarrassed at the attention. After a few questions about my status, some ice, water and a coke all I wanted to do was get out of the area. I did not want to be confused with the real triathletes that were steaming into transition. I consider myself very lucky that I had a close friend that grabbed me in transition and helped me the short distance back to my truck. The look on her face told me all about the look that must have been on my face. I was devastated. Mister "cross the finish or get taken off on a stretcher" just quit his first race. The "beast" that dragged himself through 70.3s with heat exhaustion/stroke and broken/bruised ribs and terrible road rash was now sitting on the tailgate of his truck watching other athletes race. I just kept reminding myself how long it took to recover from those injuries and stopping was smarter than dragging myself through. But Jen was there to give me a hug, kiss on the cheek and said "you did the right and smart thing, there will be plenty of other races but there's only one you". Love her face! Ok, time to change clothes and become a spectator.

The day wasn't a complete wash. I got to watch so many people realize their goal of racing and finishing a 70.3. Their happiness was palpable. I also got to yell and cheer for J as she crossed the finish line of her SIXTH 70.3 and broke 6 hours in the process. I couldn't be more proud of her after seeing all the hard work she's done over these months.

Sadly, there's more to this story. As I write this I've been having trouble bouncing back from the race (which is really weird considering I was back to training only a couple of days after each of the aforementioned 70.3s) and have doctors appointments to try and find out what's wrong. Hopefully it's an easy fix and I'll be back smashing my bags in training in no time

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Patriot 70.3...its coming

Ok, so a fresh recon of the Patriot 70.3 course this past weekend has me thinking forward a couple weeks to race day. 

Those course pics look great…I hope the water is as calm and the roads windless for the race. That was not the case during the course recon, the wind was ridiculous, but it’s all about planning for optimum conditions. The weather should be nice that day so that shouldn’t play a factor. It’ll be warm but the hope is I’ll be done way before the day gets hot. For the 1.2 mi swim, I’m looking at a 37. Not fast, totally doable and should set me up for a good bike. With a good rolling to flat course (and no crash) 21-22mph is totally doable. The key will be to focus on hydration and fueling maintain speed and rpms. It’s a double lap course so I can see how I feel about pushing the speed higher for the second lap to set myself up for the run. That half marathon course is flat and shaded so a conservative estimate off the bike would be around a 7:55 but I’d like to be able to drop down to a 7:30 after the 10k mark to push for the finish. All that and a good couple of transitions should put me in the 5:00 to 5:10 ballpark for the first 70.3 of the season. Well…the mark is on the wall and the “experiment” of Patriot will give me a better feel for a sub-5 at Timberman. Then…

Friday, May 30, 2014

The 9th Annual Holliston Road Race for Boston Children's Hospital...I got better

I figure the best way to get back to where I want to be...is to race myself into shape. Luckily there was a 5k close to the house that I've done before so it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday. I know the course pretty well. The route is challenging...a series of rolling hills with a good hill climb after the second mile that tops out just in time for a kicker hill into the end.

Was I nervous? Of course! I always am. Even when I'm off my game I still have the expectation to do well and end up high in the overall an/or age group rankings. I did try to seed myself in the front third of the pack at the start to hopefully keep me in check for the start.

Mile 1: 6:41
The first mile is flat to downhill so I was all about working on an even pace and utilizing the flat before the hills came.I hopped on the shoulder of a guy that "looked" like a speed demon, hoping to drag some speed off him, but I realized I was running faster than him! Well, looks can be deceiving. A quick glance at the watch shows me running on a 6:40ish pace...not bad...ok, deep breath and lets keep moving.

Mile 2: 6:39
The rolling hills and turns gave me a chance to get into a good rythm and start runing people down. All I could do was tell myself "execute the pass" and keep moving. I picked the pace up a bit to get some steam heading into the upcoming hill.

Mile 3: 6:47
On the other side of the 2 mile marker was the "hill". You know, the kind you can't see the top from the bottom. Man, I hate those kinds of hills! Nothing to do but lean into it, get those arms pumping and and get over it. I kept looking at that telephone pole on the other side of the hill's crest to give myself a place to push to. I know that would be the place to catch my breath for the final push to the finish.I wasn't close to run anyone down in front of me so I focused on turnover and trying to chew up time to the finish. The kicker to the finish put lead in my legs but I just kept pushing to the right hand turn where I could finally see the finish and gave whatever I had left to cross the line in 20:54.

While that was not a great time for me, nor was it a PR for that course (almost 50secs slower than my last time on the course), I was happy to have a race where I "felt good", didn't blow up and had a good rhythm from beginning to end.  It was good enough to give me 7th overall (the winner only ran a 19 plus, that course was indeed challenging) and 1st in my age group. While I'm still off my level of fitness at this time of year, that wasn't a bad performance. Not to mention, I take GREAT PRIDE that the 6 people in front of me...were 10 years or more...younger than me. Ya, the old, fluffy, broken guy getting it done. LOL. Now to build on this and move forward.