A VERY Happy Birthday to me!

Sorry for the prolonged absence (and the abbreviated mispost earlier); the end of last week was very busy at work and then we went straight into full on birthday/memorial day celebration weekend. Then I had access problems using Blogger in Chrome, so assumed it was down on all browsers. I guess the fact that Google makes Chrome doesn’t matter when it comes to which browsers it works on.

Anyways, so Friday, Rach and I met our team captain at the bike store to thank the owner for supporting us once again in putting on our Tri Night. Then I got down to the real business of my trip: Shopping! My work let everyone off early, and after a hard week, this was appreciated. My friends at work took me to lunch for a cheeseburger and gave me a nice gift card, which I promptly put to use at the bike shop. After an hour or so of looking, I came out of there with new gloves and a new saddle, one far more suited to racing than comfort style riding.

Saturday, I turned 37.

Thankfully I haven’t been mistaken for a woman (at least recently).

Saturday, We went for a 42 mile bike ride, and saw that our fitness is really coming along. We had to take shelter from the rain for a while, but it was a nice warm sunny day otherwise. We spent the rest of the day eating (I had a slice of cheesecake!), drinking (I had a beer!), and shopping (I bought some stuff!)

Sunday was more shopping and a nice easy relaxed off day from training to recover from the hard ride the day before. And Monday, I put the new saddle on the bike and we did a bike/swim/bike workout with the triathlon team, totally 20+ miles on the bike and a 1/2 mile in the lake. The new saddle and gloves are working out nicely.

Finally, we spent some time at the ocean. As our time in New England might be coming to an end sometime later this summer, we’re starting to take in all of the sites and sounds we haven’t done yet, or won’t be able to if we move more inland. The beach on yesterday afternoon let Rach work on her tan and me work on my fear of sharks. Heck, I even swam very briefly in the frigid waters.

This week I have a race I completely forgot about until last week; The Chase Corporate Challenge. 3.5 miles out and back on Commonwealth Ave, turning around right near my house. Last year, it was humid and had just stormed and I walked almost the entire thing because it was so hot and there were so many people. This year, I think I’ll be able to do significantly better than my 52:05 from last year (especially because I still dispute that time).

In between a swim and a run, a quick update

23 days left until Patriot half, meaning just inside 3 weeks of training time left. Work has been a LOT better this week, but I’ve also been putting in a ton of hours to make sure I can enjoy the long weekend to it’s fullest. Case in point I just now finished my work for the day a tad bit before 11 PM. 

 
I haven’t been working straight through since the morning though. Because I knew I had a lot to do, but still wanted to get my workout in, which today was scheduled to be an outdoor swim. So,I put in my 8 hours, went home, ate and got the wife and headed for upper mystic lake. 1/2 a mile later, we were out of the water. The water has warmed up considerably since Season Opener, and while it was cool, it was not mind numbingly cold. My wetsuit keeps me plenty warm and while I’m still not quite comfortable in it, I can definitely tell I’m floating better when I wear it. 
I’ve still got a run tonight, and I’m not going to miss a workout, even if it’s a late run. I finally decided to reach out to my teammates on my fundraising. I hadn’t bothered them with it because they already do so much for me. But with some prompting from my buddy Jordan (who is quickly moving up my list of favorite teammates) , I decided to reach out to them with the details about Rebecca and why I’m racing this race. To say they have responded in a big way is a huge understatement. Donations today alone were $150 or 10% of my goal. I’m now slightly past the 50% mark, and I’m starting to see the finish line.
These donations, plus the donations of everyone so far (along with all the encouragement I get through comments and twitter) have me feeling like you’ve put your money where my mouth is; so I can’t let you down. It’s really inspiring even on nights when I’m tired and a hard day of working has me looking longingly at the couch. So, off I go for at least a short run, because when race day comes at Cedar Point, I’m going to be ready.

ain’t no sunshine…

Sure, it’s gonna be 80′s and humid today, but it’s still overcast, and it’s going to thunderstorm later on, probably cancelling softball tonight. I can’t control the weather, but I’m not letting that stop me these days. Too close to the bigger races, and want to pack in all the fitness I can. Last night, it was raining. “Screw the rain” I said, just cause I won’t ride my road bike in the rain unless I have to doesn’t mean I can’t ride. It’s days like this, when the trainer is completely unappealing that I am so thankful for the mountain bike. Because I was busting out a ride outside in the rain, it felt like a good ride for wearing my Stomach of Anger jersey, feeling all tough and everything.

I did 6.21 miles of mixed bike path and single track. There’s nothing particularly hard about about the single track on the esplanade, other than a few big roots and rocks, which makes it great training practice for a rookie MTBer like me. It’s only tricky dodging where the single track (made mostly by runners) goes way to close to a tree to clear it safely with the handlebars. Took me just over 30 minutes of ride time, including the ride out and back.

Having gotten in a quality ride, and feeling a slight twinge in my knee, I erred on the side of caution turning my brick into a separate bike and run. Watched a period of hockey and then went out for a short run. managed 17 minutes of run time, and was pretty happy with my pacing. Still a long way to go on running, Once the knee is feeling better, I think it’s unavoidable that I need to at least talk to a coach.

So much to say!

Sorry for being a little MIA last week, we had a great deal going on. As long time readers will attest, I’m generally a pretty upbeat guy. You may not know that if you started following in the winter as I am somewhat seasonally affected in terms of my mood, and to say it nicely I sometimes get a case of the winter blues that can stretch for most of the season. 

The emergence of the sun a few weeks ago lifted my mood and really seemed to help me kick my weight loss back into overdrive, losing nearly 10 pounds in 3 weeks. Sadly, last week was 7 straight days of rain and overcast skies, disrupting outdoor workouts and sending my mood into a downward spiral. No where was this more evident than at work, where frustration got me to the point of arguing with my boss, a boss who is generally very good to me. I’m the only person who does my job, so I don’t always feel supported when things don’t go in the ideal manner. I took that all out on my boss because of my mood (and lack of training the way I want, a serious lack of organized support for my role, stress about everything going on, and the weather) on Friday, and I regret it. I’ll apologize when we have our one on one later this week.
With that out of the way there is so much good news to talk about:
- Rachelle now officially has a Masters in Applied Anatomy and Physiology. (if you read her blog or are a facebook or twitter follower of hers, stop by and congratulate her!)  She graduated from Boston University this weekend, and both my and her families came in for a visit. She is really happy to be done, though she’s going to miss her time at BU for sure.  It was also the first time my family had visited since we moved here, so it gave me a chance to show them around town. They came in a day earlier than Rachelle’s folks so we could take them to the places Rach’s parents had already seen. Plus it was my sisters birthday, and we took her up to Lowell to see Jack Kerouac’s grave, which  was something she really wanted to do. It was a great weekend other than the sunburn I got while sitting at graduation. Seriously, it was overcast and 50 and somehow my face is sunburned.
- The weather is starting to break again. We had ok weather this weekend, but with all the goings on, I only had time for a short run on Saturday. i didn’t even get to participate in bike week because the weather and having to be in the right place at the right time with my folks on Friday (National Bike to Work day). But I’ll get my revenge this week with at least 2 nice days expected, and some long rides planned on any day the weather will support them. Plus we’ll be swimming a minimum of 3x a week and running 3 to 4x a week. I’ve tested out my knee and it seems to be ok.
- Even with the stress, the family event dining, I kept my portions controlled and most of my food choices smart (One fast food meal all weekend, and 1 small ice cream cone), so I actually lost another pound over the weekend. With just 25 days until Patriot half, We’re really going to be working hard these last 3+ weeks to get ready. I feel like we did a good job building base this winter, but that the weather has really stopped us from putting in as many long outdoor rides as I’d have liked.
- Rach now will have a lot more free time to look for work and train. I’m hoping we’ll be able to focus on getting up earlier and getting to sleep earlier especially with the NHL playoffs just a couple weeks from being over. Balancing early morning training and getting into work early is something I’m going to work on this week. 

maybe the sky is just sweating…

It’s 50 degrees and rainy right now. That statement could also have been made anytime in the past 4 days, as we are getting the weather equivalent of Groundhog Day. The puddles are getting too big to ride or run on the Esplanade, and with the rain it just doesn’t feel safe being on the road with the cars. Plus, the gym is on summer hours and will be closed this weekend for Rachelle’s graduation.

All of the above pointed me to a trainer ride tonight. I had taken Monday and Tuesday off due to illness and with just a month left until the next race I can’t afford to miss any fitness, so I pushed myself to get back working tonight. While I feel like my bike and swim fitness is closing in on where it was at mid-season last year, my run is only slightly better, and after tweaking my knee last week, I’ve been really hesitant to push it too far, so cycling it was.

One of the things I’ve been planning for, should we ever emerge from the wind, rain, and fog of May is the way I’ll handle the heat at Patriot. Last year I only did the sprint, and it was like 85 with no wind, and I was beat. I did a little test to find my sweat rate tonight, with the window open, and a fan on in our apartment which is normally at least 72 degrees, but closer to 75 most of the time. My sweat rate after a hard, but not maximum effort 45 minute ride was 64 ounces per hour (I drank nothing, and lost 48 ounces in 3/4s of an hour).

This seems about right for most summer conditions under say 85, because riding I’ll have more wind than I have here in the house. Running is a different story, and I can only imagine my sweat rate is even higher during the run. Balancing water and electrolyte liquids is going to be the big challenge in that race in the later part of the run. I remember at Timberman being barely able to drink anything the last hour, and it was only mid-70s that day.

Isn’t it just great what you can learn about someone from their blog?

I got a bike fit!

I try not to complain about my financial situation in life. I have it a lot better than most people for sure. But with Rachelle in school, we’re paying for two triathletes on one salary which means we have to pretty picky about where our triathlon dollars get spent. And because I want Rach to have everything she need to be successful and enjoy the sport, I’ve been willing to sacrifice my own needs, be a budget shopper, and skip out on some things, even some essentials.

But with my birthday coming up, a weekend to myself, and a lot of long bike rides coming up, I decided it was time to splurge a little and get a bike fit. I made an appointment for Friday night and it turned out that our teammate who works for the shop was the guy to do my fit. My seat was WAY too low, and was raised a t least 3 inches, and my pedals still aren’t wide enough, even with some washers added to adjust the width. I’ll need to switch to Speedplay at some point, but I wasn’t ready to splurge THAT much ($200 for pedals, which is almost half what my bike cost).
I put the fit to a test on Saturday with a ride up the Minuteman trail, and between the new fit and increasing fitness, I took 10 minutes off the rolling time for the ride over a couple weeks ago, and 20 minutes off the stoppage time. Im really getting excited for the longer rides we’ll be seeing this summer.

Now if someone could just make the weather cooperate.

Advice in just 140 characters…

I love twitter. I mean, it’s like facebook distilled, but without the limitation of having to previously know someone to be able to talk to them. It’s a room full of people who wind up congregating around shared experience or interests. I’ve learned a lot, had short conversations with people I never thought I would speak to (Just in the past month a 7x TdF winner, a disgraced 1 time TdF winner, several professional triathletes, a world champion cyclocrosser, and of course friends both near and far). I’ve participated in some fun #fitblog and #bikeschool discussions, and am nigh to constantly tweeting about bikes, hockey, or beer with someone.

But something has been bothering me lately about how twitter is being used to dispense advice. Because folks are looking for that “literary sound bite” of saying something that will get endlessly re-tweeted on a topic they have something they want to share, they’ll over-simplify their thoughts and wind up offering advice that not only isn’t all that helpful, it can actually lead people in the wrong direction.

This seems to happen in particular with health and fitness coaches, especially those who specialize in weight loss. One example was the other night when someone tweeted a picture of a bunch of boxes of cereal she was throwing away. “Keep these out of your cupboard!” she said. Amongst the mix were some corn pops and a chocolate cereal. But the vast majority were variations of Honey Nut Cheerios and the like. Keep these out of your kitchen? America eats a lot of complete crap for breakfast (donuts, McDonalds, fat-heavy meats, etc.) and yet a cereal thats 150 calories per serving (including the milk) and whose primary ingredient is Oats should not be in your breakfast diet?

Her point was that it contains “unhealthy processed ingredients” (primarily in cereal sugar or sugar syrup). Making smart choices are a big part of what eating healthy and losing weight are all about. I don’t claim to be a coach, but saying that no cereal is good is doing a disservice to what the people following you might take from it. It wasn’t until I questioned her thinking and called her on what she said did she take time an respond, in the end saying that at “high level, theres no place for processed food or added sugar”. And that if I want to “eat that and lose scale weight, more power to me”. She seemed to indicate that while having nearly any kind of cereal in your diet was a sabotage to eating healthy.

My point wasn’t to call this person in particular out (hence, she wasn’t named), nor was it to suggest that she’s wrong for trying to help people. It’s merely to remind folks that making blanket statements over twitter in the name of brevity, especially in regards to health, eating, or exercise can be dangerous to your readers. (Plus I know for a fact people can have healthy diets while eating cereal and lose weight because I’m doing it and so do lots of others).

In the spirit of offering health advice, here’s what I’d say in 140 characters:

“see a nutritionist and doctor before starting diet. get your blood tested. eat balanced healthy meals and exercise in tandem. dont overdo it”

Notes:

- I am formally and officially registered for Rev 3 Cedar Point, so I’m really on the hook for the rest of my fundraising now. The race is 4 months from this past Wednesday, so if you haven’t made a donation yet, please feel free to do so now.

- Speaking of losing weight, I’ve lost another 2 pounds, so that’s 12 in all in the past few weeks. I am closing in on what I weighed at my lowest point last year, and will hopefully be below that when I take on Patriot Half. I have a long ride scheduled this weekend that I’m probably moving to tomorrow due to rain expected on Sunday.

- Rach is in Florida, and I’m living the bachelor life. Last nights softball game didn’t go so great; I went 1 for 3, and we lost 10-8. But I’m enjoying playing. Softball requires a totally different type of fitness (lots of quick bursts) so that’s gotta be good for accelerations in my run training, right?

The big push…

It took a couple of days but I’m feeling a good bit better about how I did in the Season Opener. Back when i was racewalking, my first ever race was a 10k. I finished it in 1:45. The next year I did it in 1:28. I’ve had a couple of 3 miler’s and 5k’s where I’ve not improved, year over year, but finished in about the same time. When I put it in context and think about the fact that it’s nearly a 7.6% improvement over last year, I’m pretty happy about that. I performed better, even with weighing a little more than I did during last years race (which won’t be the case for very long).

Monday, I commuted to work on my mountain bike, which was a nice way to get the legs moving again. Later in the evening when we were headed to the pool I was surprised by some sharp pain in my right knee. I was so surprised by the pain that Rach thought I was joking because of the look on my face. It literally felt like I was being stabbed in the middle of my knee. It hurt for a while, and then was done, but seemed a bit loose and I didn’t trust it. As we swam I put as little stress on it as possible, and I felt ok getting out of the pool. Maybe I broke loose some scar tissue or just tweaked something, because after taking yesterday off entirely to rest my knee, I feel fine now.
Being that I’m comfortable getting back to work, it’s now time for the big push. 37 days left until Patriot Half, and we still have some work to do. We’ve done two 30+ mile bikes and with just under 6 weeks until the race, we really only have 4 more weekends to get in longer rides. Last year we had a lot more road mileage in before Timberman, so I’m really going to push to get at least three rides of 40 or more miles in. Last year we never did a 50 mile ride before the race, and while we finished, we certainly could have done better with more preparation.
As a reward for her two years of hard effort in grad school, Rach is headed to Florida for the next 5 days, and was kind enough to put together a training plan for me to keep me on course while she’s gone. While she’s at a spa or running a flat 5k race with her mom in perfect racing weather or lounging by the pool; I’ll be working away on race fitness. I’m glad she’s keeping me on track, because I’ve heard a lot lately from friends who don’t have strong support systems that haven’t been training the way they should. It’s just another way in which I’m so lucky to have her.
Finally, and this is a small favor I’m asking. I’ve entered a contest for a trip to watch the Amgen Tour of California. If you’re a Facebook user, and have a second to do me a favor by voting for my entry, I’d really appreciate it. If not, thanks anyways.

on loss and preparation

Today was a sorrow filled day in cycling as the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) saw the death of a 26 year old cyclist yesterday as he made a high speed descent off the last climb of the day. United in grief, the peloton became a relatively slow moving parade across todays planned route; with each team taking a place at the front of the group to honor the fallen rider. The team he rode for crossed the finish line arm-in-arm, with the riders best friend, American Tyler Farrar taking the deceased riders place in their lineup.

Photo from Cyclingnews.com

No one would confuse me with a professional cyclist (though they may think I have eaten a professional cyclist or 2). While I lack their bike handling, their climbing power, their ability to pedal my bike at high speeds for more than a short distance; one thing I can do that they do is go downhill very fast. In the past year, I have reached a top speed of more than 40 miles an hour on my bike on quite a few occasions and approached 50 MPH on a couple of occasions. Most of those descents were short steep little hills where it was over before it started, and none were of the distance and difficulty that claimed poor Wouter Weylandt. A few though were longer descents that keep my speeds in that range well after I’ve reached the bottom of the hill.

It’s these moments that are the only times I really experience fear on my bicycle. At that speed, no helmet, no brakes, no super-fast reflexive movement is going to save me from a very serious injury if anything unusual were to occur. While I’m not dealing with a peloton of riders sardined together, what I get to ride with is even more dangerous; a bunch of other cyclists with probably my same semi-lacking set of bicycling skills willing our body to perform at higher levels that it may be prepared for in situations we could never replicate in training.

Unlike so many instances of commuter cycling accidents, there was no question of if the cyclist was wearing a helmet, or if he had proper brakes on his bike, or maybe that he was texting. He was a professional, taking risks he knew could lead to a tragic end if even one thing went wrong. Sadly, it did, and now his girlfriend and their unborn child will face each new day without him. He died doing something he loved, and that’s something

Most of my readers are fellow triathletes or participants in other amateur endurance or contact sports. So to you my friends, i ask only this: Please be careful. Train safely and compete smartly. Go as hard and fast as you can go while still being in control (or at least the edge of in control). Check and re-check your equipment and safety gear before and on race day. While Wouter’s death is a tragic accident, I don’t want to have to ride in honor of a friend because of something that could have been prevented. I’ll do the same, because the thought of Rachelle and my family going through what this guys family is going through right now is just overwhelming to me.

Don’t live in fear of loss, enjoy and cherish the people in your life each day knowing that you’ve done what you can to reasonably prepare for avoidable loss as we participate in what are dangerous sports.

Race Report: 2011 New England Season Opener

It’s 8:30 PM as I begin to write this blog, and I still don’t know how I feel about the race that I finished hours ago. (For a story from someone who knows how she feels about the race, read Rachelle’s race report. But read mine first, because well, you’re already here).

A year ago, on a gloomy, cold, and overcast morning Rachelle and I (and a few dozen other triathletes) ventured into the frigid waters of the Hopkinton Reservoir for what was to be quite the adventure. This year, the sun shone brightly for most of the day; though the water was still really cold as we’ve only had a couple weeks of good weather to warm it.

A few weeks ago I set some fairly aggressive goals for this race, thinking my months of training would allow me to meet them. I’ve reached each of those goals in previous races, but not all in the same race before. They’re goals that would allow me to advance from the back of the pack to the back of the middle of the pack at short races smaller races like todays. 
Sadly, I didn’t reach those goals today. Of the 6 goals I set, I didn’t reach any of them. 
Swim
Goal: 12:00
Last Year: 18:59
This Year: 15:17
—————–
Last year, the conditions were pretty dreadful for the swim. The race directors prepared for that possibility by moving the swim from an out and back format to a straight line along the shoreline. One of the things I thought I had in my favor was that I’ve lost enough weight to fit into the new XTERRA Vortex 3 wetsuit I got for Christmas last year. Rach and I went for an easy swim in the Upper Mystic Lake to get some acclimation to the cold water in preparation for the race even, and I thought I was ready for this morning. 
For some reason while I did ok with last years swim considering the terrible conditions, this year I simply couldn’t control my breathing and had to take some breaks to catch my breath. I had been so busy talking Rach through getting through the cold swim, I didn’t expect at all to be dealing with the breathing issues myself. It wasn’t any kind of panic, just an inability to breathe deeply and evenly. On the plus side, I was 3 minutes faster than last year, I didn’t feel overly tired when I left the water, and I managed to let only 4 or 5 of the ladies in the wave behind me to pass me. I still need to lose some more weight to feel like I can really use the new wetsuit; it felt a bit constricting in the chest which probably didn’t help with the breathing.
Transition 1:
Goal: 3:00
Last Year: 6:32
This Year: 6:31
—————
I don’t know if it’s nerves, confusion, being tired from the swim, or the fact that I have to take off a wetsuit, put on clothes and bike shoes, gloves, and helmet, but I really seem to have problems with the first transition at this race. I think some of it stems from my wanting to be so diligent to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything important (which I managed to do anyways). It could also be that it’s the first transition of the year, and I’m a bit out of practice. Either way, a 6 minute transition is stupid long, and it shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes to do all that. A one second improvement over last year is just sad.
Bike
Goal: 40:00
Last Year: 56:50
This Year: 52:43
—————–
 Biking is my favorite part of racing and what got me into it in the first place. In my mind, a bad day of biking is still better than a good day of running (not that I’d know what that’s like). We had rollers and a trainer this winter, and I was determined that even if I didn’t get better at anything else, I was going to make this my best season of riding. I forgot just one thing; hills are the devil, and for a short race this course has quite a few of them. I was better prepared this year, but still not “gooder” (shout out to Gain and Tropicana commercials) enough. 
At the top of two climbs, I had to stop and catch my breath for about a minute each time, and I wound up walking part of the biggest hill. On the plus side I only walked for about a minute and I gutted through some of the climbs I was quick to dismount and walk last year, and my low gear spinning is a lot better. The fact that I still weigh about 12 pounds more than when I did the race last year isn’t helpful, but the fact that I performed 4 minutes better in spite of that tells me I’m at least moving the right direction. (Shout out to the nice guy working the bike service who made this ride possible; I banged my derailleur with a heavy door earlier in the week and need a new derailleur hanger. He used skill and some brute force to get it to shift smoothly this morning.)
Oh, and I wasted a minute after dropping my Garmin because I was trying to put it on while riding, which was the important thing I forgot to do in T1.
Transition 2:
Goal 1:30
Last Year: 3:22
This Year: 3:08
—————
Bricks. I need to do more bricks. My transition from bike to run is a little bit because I wear normal bike shoes instead of triathlon specific shoes, and far more that I’m simply not an accomplished enough runner to do much more than walk as fast as I can from the bike rack to the transition exit. There’s a lot of easy things I can do to speed this up, some of them are even free (take the zip laces I already own and stick them in my freaking shoes!). Still being a little faster when I blew up some on the bike says progress is being made.
Run (Walk):
Goal: 39:00
Last Year: 45:33
This Year: 43:35
—————–
I’m gonna be honest, this goal was ridiculously ambitious. My best ever 5k in a triathlon was 42:39 on a pancake flat course in South Carolina. I’ve been working on my run, but with a hilly course that has some off-road running mixed in, I was shooting for the moon with this one. Usually, I’m either most disappointed in my run, or accepting of the fact that I’m still not much of a runner, so I sort of shrug and say “oh well”. This time, I actually am kinda stoked. On a hilly course, at the end of a hard swim and bike, I put in a pretty good effort for my current skill level. I was able to run for stretches of time picking random goals for where I’d stop. I need to push my way through the rest of my Couch to 5k, especially with the half-iron now just over a month away. I did manage a negative split on my second mile, of which I am pretty proud.
Overall, I was 2:01:13. I had really hoped if nothing else to be under two hours, so I missed out there too. It’s 10 minutes better than last year, so I’ll take it, but I wanted a lot more. 
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