working out actually works

The segment below is the hill on the road I live on. If you look at the full leaderboard you can see how much progress I’ve made in just a couple weeks of recovery from my turf toe, and improving through training.

My results as of 2/7/14

My results as of 2/7/14

Last week: 4x (2 minutes run/1 minutes walk) 5 days

This week: 5x (2 minutes run/1 minutes walk) 5 days

Bike is slowly coming along too, but I don’t have any metrics to share from my trainer rides yet.


What I did on my summer vacation

I decided to keep the original title of this post that I’ve been writing and re-writing in my head since late summer. It’s now January 4th, so it’s really “What I did on my summer and fall break from blogging” or perhaps more appropriately “Our year of living nomadically” (the squiggly red line tells me that isn’t a word but I’m keeping it). We slept under 8 roofs from May 15 to Nov 8, when we finally settled into our new place.

So what did I do on my summer/fall/early winter vacation from blogging? Both a little and a lot. I trained a little, I raced a little, and I did a lot of eating. 2013 was the first year I gained weight year over year since before I started racing. Not something I’m proud of but it’s an important fact that I have to deal with. Not some insane amount, but enough to mean my start to 2104′s season has a larger speed bump than normal to overcome.

Racing this year will be a lot of fun as we’re planning on several races at least one of us has done before, and we’re also looking at one new one to do together near where Rachelle grew up. I’m returning to Jersey Devil, and taking on an XTERRA that’s new this year, French River, which is only about an hour from our new place. We’re actually planning on racing mostly pretty local this year. With Quassy and Season Opener, we’re really only travelling for Jersey Devil and Rev3 Dells, and if Rachelle’s schedule allows Cedar Point. If she can’t get off for Cedar Point, I’m going to make a return to the Landmine Classic.

Stanley is doing pretty good with the new place; lots of sidewalks for walks, and lots of dogs around, though he hasn’t made a friend to play with on a regular basis. It’s also been pretty cold, so we haven’t spent much time outside. But he’s healthy and seems happy, so we can’t ask for more there.

As for how I resolve the weight gain and the loss beyond it? A fantastic wife determined to finish a full ironman this year (I’m going along for the ride but I’ve got other goals more pressing than 140.6, like say cyclocross!)  and a coach ( who has continually put up with my shenanigans, our nomadic summer that left it truly impossible to eat right, and difficult to train (that’s an excuse but in the history of excuses 1 bedroom hotels in a strange city during a rainy summer don’t give a lot of room for exercise).

My big goal for this year is a wedding (No, not mine, we haven’t gone and moved to Utah, but if Keri Russell is truly single, I may have to encourage Rach to find work out there). My cousin Kyle is getting married in the fall in Durango, CO. It’s months and months away so I have time as long as I take real advantage of the opportunity to train and eat healthy. I want to be able to ride out there, and I have no chance of that in the high elevation if I don’t lose some serious weight this year.

And with that, you’re up to date on everything worth sharing right now. Other than in case you haven’t seen it, I built a cyclocross bike as the gift from my wife for our anniversary. It’s nothing special, a cheap frame and fork, components stolen from my road bike, and some from a pro cyclist and all around good dude James Stout.

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39 is just fine

I’m a pretty humble guy. I’m no great looker, I’m not particularly skilled at anything that makes me stand out much when I’m a group of people. I’m certainly not rich. But boy, am I happy. I have an amazing wife who I never doubt loves me. I have a great family that supports me, and I’ve got a dog who seriously makes my quiet days of working at home  a real treat. And that working at home bit is pretty spiffy all on its own.

So yeah, I’m bragging a bit there. But here at the end of my first full day of being 39, I’m feeling pretty lucky. I’ve got  a pretty good thing going here right now, and it hasn’t always been this way in my life, so I’m working hard to keep it. Still got some work to do on me, but that’s not news, so I won’t dwell on that today.

We’ve settled in at the new place, and the widlife here is pretty spectacular; bald eagles, deer, lots of groundhogs, and even a family of them with babies, chipmonks, foxes and squirrels. Waking up to that isn’t quite as cool as waking up to an amazing view of the lake, but it’s certainly better than living in town.

This weekend is going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Rach is racing Rev3 Quassy Olympic on Saturday. For once, she had her flat tire BEFORE the race rather than during it, so hopefully she’ll set a good time. I just will never understand how a 120 pound girl racing on tired at 100 PSI gets pinch flats. And then after the race awards, we’re driving halfway home to the site of the Gran Fondo Catskills where I’ll be racing/riding/complaining about the 50 mile version. It was announced later than most rides for June, and it falls pretty close to Gran Fondo New York, so not a lot of folks have signed up. I’m lucky enough to be riding it with a couple of friends, and if we have problems, Rachelle will have the car and can rescue us. Plus, Floyd Landis’ presence is a featured part of the weekend, and I’ll get to meet him at some point. All this and we’re only driving 4 hours from home.

Finally, don’t forget to vote for me in . While I have a great life, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a nice vacation later this year. Just vote for New York!


Progress and Pictures

A week and a few recovery rides after Jersey Devil, my legs were still a mess and I simply couldn’t find any strength or speed in my riding. Another week later, and the speed hasn’t come back yet, but the strength is starting to come around. After a ridiculously hard trainer ride that Coach Alan assured me would help with climbing and hard efforts, I’ve done 2 hard climbing rides as I build up my stamina and climbing legs for Catskills Gran Fondo. On the first ride I was able to ride all the way up a hill I’ve never been able to get up without walking. I followed that hill with 2 even harder hills, and got up all those. Both rides were only about an hour in length, so I’ve got some more work to do, but I’ve got 3 weeks to do it, so I know I will get there. They actually shortened the route I’m doing from 50 to 40 miles, and it’s going to be a bit less challenging, but still plenty of climbing to push me to my limits. My last few workouts are on the Garmin feed so you see what I’m up to if interested.

Also, as a reminder, please keep voting for me in the Dial for Men Muckdown. I’m doing my best to promote the contest, and frankly, I think entering every day to increase the odds of winning a Jeep would be motivation enough, but I like to win stuff, so I might be a bit biased on that point.

And I got the rest of the pictures back from XTERRA Jersey Devil of my finish, and it includes video! (a first). It’s phone video so it isn’t the highest quality ever, but I think it’s pretty awesome that moment is captured. I was so tired, and every time I put my left foot down my ankle throbbed with pain, but jogging up to that finish was a very happy moment (though it might not look like it too much because I was pretty beat).



The 2014 SI Swimsuit Cover?


Boy I wish I’d had the legs to run when this was taken.


The folks who stuck around to watch me finish, including the XTERRA Ambassadors and RD. What a great group of folks!



I am an Ambassador of Filth

That’s me, “mucking” it up HA! Puns are awesome

If you’re my wife, my mother or another close family member, you’re saying “Finally, someone recognized Ben for what he’s really good at: being a mess”.

I was teased about having training wheels on my bike, so I took them off myself when I was 4 or 5, because I knew where the tools were. And really how are you going to get ever dirty if you never fall down?

While I’m a cerebral guy who has always loved computers and video games, as a youth whenever I wasn’t reading, I was playing outside. I’d come in dirty and smelly after playing any number of sports, digging in the dirt with my Star Wars figures to recreate the Sarlacc scene from Jedi (wait, I still do that), or playing “guns” (not real guns, but toys) with the neighbors.

I am so good at filth, I excel at it even indoors; One day in high school I left my trombone at home, and my aunt had to pick it up at my house. She later told my mom “I thought I might get bit by a rat in there” because my room was a mess of books, toys, and dirty clothes on the floor.

Even when I wasn’t making a mess, my parents said I was. If I left a few things laying around and moved onto another room or activity, my mom would refer to them as “my having left a little Ben Mess laying around”.

I don’t think my “Ben Messes” will ever win me an anything, but I wanted to give you guys some background before I tell you what did.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest on facebook, which honestly is a regular occurrence. I like to win stuff, because if someone is going to win, why not me?

Dial for Men is having a contest called “The Muckdown” which pits each state against the others for being the dirtiest. I originally just voted to enter the contest for a chance at the jeep, but when they gave the option to enter a photo, I figured why not? I’ve got some great race photos and I know how to get dirty. So I picked one and submitted it. And then I promptly forgot about it. Because I was busy getting filthy on my trip to New Jersey for XTERRA Jersey Devil, because I don’t discriminate about where I get dirty.

I forgot about it, that is until I got an email on Monday morning telling me I’d been selected as the Ambassador of Filth for New York, which is pretty cool. It comes with a cool prize: a $750 Outside Magazine prize pack. They haven’t told us what’s in the prize pack yet, but I’m hoping for camping, biking, fishing, or kayaking stuff, maybe a little of all of the above. Should be pretty cool. I know several of the folks from Outside and they really know their gear.

But it’s not over yet. There’s now a contest for the Ambassadors chosen to represent each state, and 3 of the ambassadors will win a trip to visit the state that gets the most votes for an outside adventure.  They haven’t explained how that part works yet, but I assume having folks vote for New York doesn’t hurt (hint, hint). And someone who votes will randomly win a Jeep. That alone is a good enough reason to vote, even if you’re not voting for me (although I think you probably should), because driving a 4×4 is too much fun. My 4WD vehicle only goes off-road when I drive over a curb, but I know how much fun I love going off-road on my two wheeled vehicles.

As for how I’m going to get filthy next, I don’t know. But at the end of this month I’ll be climbing 4000 feet of some of New Yorks hardest roads in the Catskills Gran Fondo. I will definitely get good and filthy that day; some of the roads at the top of the climbs are dirt roads.

And in case anyone is wondering, no we aren’t getting paid for any of this, Dial didn’t ask me to write this blog, and I am an actual Dial user. When I was growing up, this was a very common sight in our house:

I wasnt just filthy on the outside, I had my mouth washed out with this more than once




The Devil Went Down to …Jersey (aka My 1st XTERRA race report)

The Jersey Shore is not ANYTHING like it’s shown on TV.

Ok, I mean I guess they have the ocean

And if a woman is looking for the strong silent types, you can probably find those around too



But even when I ate at at a fantastic little Italian place out on Long Beach Island where I spent Saturday night, I couldn’t find any Guido’s or Guidette’s.

In fact, every single person I met was really nice, even strangers were super cool to me. Some of that is probably the beach lifestyle, or maybe having lived through the worst thing Mother Nature could throw at them, but I was pretty much surrounded with awesome folks. Like the guy at the TGI Friday’s where I went to watch the Blue Jackets season finale who put some “jersey music” on the jukebox for me, or the folks at my hotel who let me use the money I had put down for my first nights stay for my second when I couldnt get to the hotel on the first night due to car problems.

Those niceties extended to my race as well. I have never been among a more laid back an fun group of triathletes, except when surrounded by teammates of course. I have to assume it’s the “XTERRA vibe”. people consistently going out of their way to make others feel welcome and belonging, especially to those who may have bitten off more than they could chew. An example, instead of the pros/super speedy folks ignoring the newbs to focus on their race, Ken Robins, the multi-time XTERRA eastern region champion led a bunch of us through a 2 hour clinic on the day before the race, including riding the entire bike course (yeah, more about this later). He and another XTERRA Ambassador answered everyone’s questions and made the race seem a lot less daunting than it had just 24 hours earlier.

Of course some of that I can attribute to my attitude about the importance of a successful race changing when I spent several hours by the side of the road Friday night with a broken rental car, and some extra money staying at a Holiday Inn roughly in the middle of nowhere. At that point, I decided I didn’t care how I did, I was just going to finish and even more importantly have fun.

And I can tell you that I FOR SURE accomplished both of those goals.

So, let’s get down to the actual race report.

The Swim:


We swam 2 1/4 mile laps. Mass start with only men and women’s waves separated. If you look closely you can see the top of my head in the far right of the group getting ready to go. The water was somewhere between wicked cold and “freeze your stones off”. I have swam in colder water twice in my life, and at least this time I was able to do it somewhat quickly. My swim split was 23:49, but that doesn’t tell the full story; because the beach is 1/4 mile away from the transition area, I stopped, took off my wetsuit, dried quickly, put on my trail shoes and a shirt, and climbed the steps to the transition mat. If I had to ballpark my half mile, it was much closer to 20 minutes. I forgot my swim watch, but that’s an easy guess based on my normal transition times.


Transition 1:

T1 is 1/4 mile from water, which after a swim might as well be on the moon for as ready as I am to start running. So I used the quickly paced walk to recover fully from the swim. When I got to my bike the rest of transition was pretty quick, and I was on my way. T1 split was 8:55, which included probably 4 minutes of walking. Oh, and I got to walk by this tent camping unit that reminded me of my time at summer camp (The race course wound across boy scout and girl scout camps).



The Bike:

Coach Alan is awesome. He pushed me harder than I’ve ever trained, and I felt more prepared to start the season than I ever have. Unfortunately, I’m also stupid. When I went to the clinic on Saturday, I thought we were only riding a little of the course instead of the full lap we rode. Oh, and I didn’t bring any fluids for that ride. And I had just finished walking most of the 3.5 mile run course. When Alan said he wanted me to do some short hard efforts on Saturday. I don’t think he meant 10 hot miles without hydration. Needless to say, I burnt some matches on Saturday, but because of everything I learned on that ride, I’m certain it stopped me from having multiple crashes. Instead I just had one.



It looks worse than it feels, and it didn’t happen until the last mile of the bike. Even with all the above, plus ridiculously sandy and muddy sections that I simply don’t yet have the bike handling skills to ride, so I had to walk a couple sections on the first loop. On the second loop, I tried to ride more of the mud and the sand because I wasn’t worried about slowing down everyone else’s race in the narrow single track sections. It was really a lot of fun even with all the struggling. I missed the only goal I had come into the day with (a 2 hour bike) by about as much time as I stood by the sandy fire road waiting for the speedy folks to go by.


The Run:

Aka the walk. The very first thing I did when I got out of the car was to roll my ankle pretty badly. I thought it would calm down before the race, but it gradually got worse throughout the bike. I ignored it and just tied my trail shoe tight. Unfortunately between the sore ankle and the shredded legs from the bike, I didn’t have much left, so I just walked the whole trail. Mud, trees, dust, hills, and pine needles, plus some brambles made for an interesting hike. I actually told the race director he was a “jerk” for making the run that hard (he knew I was teasing). The course was challenging but fun, with trees to climb over and mud to run through, and even some great tree lined trail that’s just kind of amazing.


The walk was an unceremonious 57 minutes. but there was a ceremony waiting for me anyways.

The finish line.

I finished after the awards ceremony and most of the racers had long gone home. But waiting for me was a line, and a clock, and some race staff, and the two XTERRA Ambassadors. It felt like a huge crowd, because as tired as I was, I was super excited to have actually finished. Instead of the emotionally overcome finish of Timberman, it was a relaxed smile of satisfaction and a need for food and water. As I sat there, I was presented with my times, and some prizes. Unusual for the person who finished last, right?

Appearantly, XTERRA has a tradition where at each race they give out a “Spirit Award”. I looked this up. Some people have been given the award for helping an injured competitor, for racing with bruised ribs, or any other number of things that show the spirit of overcoming adversity. Me, I think I got it for being devilishly handsome. Or maybe for telling the race director as I started the run “I wont make it in time for the awards, just leave the clock running and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Or maybe because instead of making life hard on the fast people passing me on fire road as wide as a dime, I got out of the way and encouraged them as they passed. Either way, I was given an award, and I finished the race.

Oh, did I mention the spirit award came with beer (and a cool hat and a combination CO2 inflator and multi-tool)?



My total time was 3:42, about 42 minutes more than I hoped before the day started. And I don’t care 1 bit. Because this race was awesome, and I had a great time. And I’m going to train even harder so I can do another one of these in the fall.

PS. If you got through all this I hope you like the new blog layout. I’ll have some more pictures from the race in a few days.

Those who can’t do…

It’s been a month, so let’s recap.

- Lost weight, gained weight, lost weight again. Still working on it. Set new goal of 310 by 5/31. Entirely doable with only 1 vacation weekend. My birthday is just before that deadline, but sacrifices need to be made, ya know?

- Definitely getting stronger, endurance is up, speed up a little too, even in running. Swimming has been an issue of late, but that’s a cyclical thing for me sometimes. Will have a better picture of where that stands when Coach Alan gets me back in the pool later this week.

- The snow has provisionally thawed here in lovely Hamilton, NY though we have been getting the occasional bursts interrupting the rain. It’s still cold enough that it sticks, but not cold enough for the ground to be frozen. The thaw has allowed me to be out on the mountain bike a bit these past couple of bike workouts in preparation for XTERRA Jersey Devil, and the soft ground has definitely been hard/good for the training. I still am not climbing much yet, but I’m guessing the plan for these last 3 weeks of hard work will be to get in as much uphill on the MTB as I can. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and let me get on the MTB trails at the top of Colgate University.

- Since we last spoke, some races have changed. I switched from Gran Fondo New York to Gran Fondo Catskills so I can ride with friends and have breakfast with Floyd Landis. Rachelle is racing the day before at Rev3 Quassy, then we drive halfway home and I’m doing the 50 mile route at Catskills. Lovely time of the year to be up that way, so I’m excited. We don’t know much after that on the calendar expect Giant Eagle in July because we haven’t heard about Rachelle’s renewal at Colgate yet.

- The big news, due to Rach’s schedule, her prior coach just wasn’t working out. So being someone who has been coached and has read basically everything you can read to try and get better, I’m going to give it a go. I have no intentions of ever coaching anyone else other than her, but I figure I know her best, I know what her hangups for training are and what we need to do to get her trained up even with her insane schedule. So we’ll give it a go, and the extra money we save can go to bills. Day 1 was a success, so hopefully it only gets better from here. I’ve learned a ton from friends and coaches and Rach will have input too. She has a much better set of raw materials to work with so I have every confidence this will be a success.


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Las Vegas and back again

A week in Vegas with one of my best friends is a great way to cut loose and let the stress of life roll away like a pair of dice on the craps table. A couple of slot jackpots and four 10′s in a hand of Crazy 4 poker makes things go a lot easier, especially if you’re losing most of the rest of the time. I wound up in the end down a bit but I still had a really good time.

The big hit of the weekend was the 10′s at Crazy 4 Poker. Years ago I hit 4 aces in a hand of Let it Ride, and I didn’t think to take a picture, but this time I made sure I had a fantastic hand immortalized.

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While we went there mostly to gamble, you can’t play cards for 7 days straight (even if you do stay up almost 48 straight hours twice during that period to give it a good solid try!) so we went and did some other fun stuff. First there was the trip to Hoover Dam. The tour was awesome, and the feeling of the sheer power of the water under your feet when you stand over one of the intake pipes is pretty amazing. Plus the new bridge near the dam is quite the sight to see.




On our way back from the dam I found a little railroad museum, which had some pretty cool stuff including a steam engine with a double boiler.

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Our other stop was Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It was pretty awesome looking at what water, wind, and sun can do to the earth over millions of years. What was maybe even cooler was meeting a couple who were cycling through Red Rock Canyon to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. That place is no joke to ride, I was impressed by both of them, especially because they were on rented bikes.

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Getting back to real life took a couple days but I’m definitely glad to be back to training. Since I last wrote, I went in for a fitting which will be finished Friday night, and I bought a new ISM Prologue saddle. Plus I put some new grip tape on the bars. Pretty stoked for what it’s going to look like when it’s all done. And the training is going well.

A fantastic two weeks

I haven’t blogged in a couple weeks but not because things haven’t been going well. In fact, they’ve been going so well I didn’t blog because I didn’t want to jinx it.

Since my last update:

- Feb 1: Colgate Women’s hockey held their Autism Awareness night. They had a targeted raffle (where you put your tickets in the jars for the prizes you wanted) and a chuck a puck contest (where you throw foam pucks onto the ice and whoever gets closest to center ice wins the contest). I bought a few raffle tickets and a few pucks (because I’ve always wanted to do a chuck a puck, and never got to before). On the raffle tickets, I won 3 prizes; a $25 gift card to McDonalds, a $25 gift card to the grocery store, and a Miracle DVD signed by 1980 Miracle on Ice goalie Jim Craig. (Jim’s daughter plays on the team and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know him a little bit).  For the Chuck a puck the first puck I through landed on its side and rolled to dead center of the center faceoff dot and stayed on its side while hundreds of other pucks landed around it. From that I won a $25 dunkin donuts gift card, a free 6 inch subway sub, $50 for dinner to the nice inn that is a 5 minute walk from our house, and a bunch of Colgate clothing and books.

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- Since Feb 1, things finally started clicking for me on the weight loss, and I lost 5 pounds. I also felt like I finally got past the workout plateau I’d been on and was finding more strength and more speed.

- And lastly I learned yesterday that I got a raise and a bonus after a fantastic year at work which I’m putting into my trip to Vegas and some stuff for the bike. I’m looking at an ISM saddle and a bike fit, and maybe a couple other things, depending on how things go in Vegas. It’s gonna be a great trip. It’s been really cold here so a week in warmer temps having some fun with one of my best friends is welcome right now.


Rest Day!

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been 2 full weeks since my last update. I’ve been pretty busy with work and training. Today was finally a rest day. I’ve had a couple others but those were spent all day in the car driving back and forth between New York and Ohio for the Blue Jackets season opener.

Coach Alan has been working me pretty hard, and I’m seeing progress. I have gained a mile per hour in my 30 minute average on the bike, and I’m closing in on the same for running. My swimming I’ve dropped over a minute on my 1000 yard pace. I’ve also gotten a good amount of time on the mountain bike. We’ve just started focusing on big ring work on the trainer, and fartlek runs. Oh, the fartlek. A name that makes me giggle, but a workout that makes me suffer. 40 minute fartlek effort, on the hills, in 10 degree weather.

Things are getting heated up for Eleonore Rocks, the uni’s are getting ordered, and the fundraising is getting straightened out. I’ll have more details on this later.

Lastly, three weeks until tomorrow until I head to Vegas for a week. It’s going to be a great trip. I’m going to work hard to lose 10 more pounds before that trip. My weight has been coming down, and even with though it has yo-yoed a bit due to travel, I’ve lost 6 inches off my body to go with the weight lost. I really want and hope to be successful this year in getting leaner and healthier.