Big Raffle, Big prizes, big storm, big updates!

Yes, I’ve been gone a while, but I’ve got lots to share:

- The “Frankenstorm” is pounding the east coast right now, and we’re starting to get the wind and rain. I bought a generator and we stocked up on water and peanut butter. Our electric company is a little co-op with about 18 employees and a couple weeks ago a small thunderstorm took out the power for the whole night. No power means no breathing machine. Another reason to focus on weight loss, but I digress.

- What would normally be the best news of the week is that I got asked back to be a member of Eleonore Rocks next year. I was glad to be a part of the team this year and I’m really looking forward to continuing my work helping new babies come into life or enjoy what time sick babies may have with their families.

- The “even better news” is that the annual Eleonore Rocks raffle has started. For $10 a ticket, you are entered to win these fabulous prizes!

  • 1 Blueseventy package (includes goggles, wetsuit, swimskin, cap, toe covers, race belt
  • 5 Asics backpack with gift cards for shoes
  • 1 LifeProof package (worth $800)
  • 1 All3sports care package (items TBD)
  • 1 Speedfil
  • 2 Infinit Nutrition care packages
  • 1 ISM saddle of winners choice
  • 1 Garmin 910xt
  • 1 Rudy Project Wingspan and 1 pair of Sunglasses

The raffle starts today and ends 12/1/12. To enter, go to my Eleonore Rocks fundraising page, select the “raffle” option from the drop down, and choose how many tickets you want. The raffle option is the only way to enter that gets counted for this contest.

- Finally, my favorite news of the week; my niece Abby is being induced for labor today and in the next 48 hours, I’m going to become a Great Uncle, as opposed to just a great uncle. My niece called me to tell me it was happening and as she walked into her birthing suite, she said “Uncle Ben, they have an Eleonore Rocks chair in here!” So now I have a personal connection to Eleonore Rocks beyond just my fundraising; in a few hours my great niece is going to have her first sit in a rocking chair with her mom in an ER Chair. Please help us make this experience available to many more families

The first chair my great niece will ever sit in

- I’ve started running to get ready for Smoke the Turkey 5k in Toledo. I hadn’t spent any time running in the prior two months so getting started again has been a challenge both from the motivation and physical aspects. But I’m doing it anyways. I don’t want to put on weight this winter, I want to lose weight to be ready for next years season.

- Speaking of next year, I’ve started looking into next seasons races. There are a lot I want to do, but I simply haven’t figured it out yet. A lot of neat races are starting next year plus some old ones I’ve been wanting to get back to or finally finish for the first time.

No triathlon, just trout (but you should read it anyways)

A week ago this past Sunday I was driving home from Half Full Triathlon thinking I was not going to put my legs through that kind of torture for a long time. But there I was, just a week later, standing for several hours in the Salmon river, knee deep in water flowing at just under 300 cubic feet per second, feeling it try to uproot me from my spot at the edge of a pool that’s been constantly replenishing itself with gigantic fish.

Never mind that the river had been successful once already; when we first arrived to the part of the river called “ball park” (Sections of rivers get nicknames for landmarks nearby) I learned how invaluable my guide was going to be. I had ignored his warnings that having spikes would help me to feel more stable on the more slippery spots where we were likely to have the best luck; I’d fished a bunch at Oriskany Creek and a little on the West Canada, I figured I’d be all set. Then I got out there, and I’m sliding around, and when trying to take a step I lost my balance and wind up on my side in the water. My guide Jim helped me out, and I realized my balance wasn’t the only thing I lost, my pole was gone.

It’s funny that my first day out on a creek I fell, and my first day on a real river I fell. I guess I learn stuff the hard way. Jim had brought a spare pole to account for just such a tragedy, and after renting some corkers (spikes that strap onto fishing boots to stop you from slipping) and a dry t shirt, we visited some other areas of the river. I wish I had taken pictures, it looked every bit what you think salmon run fishing looks like; guys (and a few gals) all along the river, fishing throughout the rain, hoping for that one big one to hit their artificial fly. We tried a few different spots, but none of them were really active. It gave me a chance to build up my confidence which was good because Jim wanted me to give ball park another try now that i had the spikes.

When we got back to ball park, we approached the spot Jim had identified from our first visit. Spikes make fishing in a fast moving river feel so much safer. Jim made good calls all day long, none better than the pool he had identified. Within a few minutes of setting up on the pool, I got my first hit. I didn’t set the hook hard, so that fish and the next couple of hits that followed weren’t on the line very long. I soon got the hang of it though and the next couple of fish on the line were protracted battles. One even ran upstream, a big king salmon that I thought I might have a shot at (fish that run upstream tire faster) but it wrapped the line around a rock before changing directions and breaking the line.

I was having fun, even without pulling in a fish, but fearing I might go away unhappy, and this being his maiden voyage as a guide, he wanted to make sure I didn’t. I think the guide buddy he’d been checking in with throughout the day had been filling his head with horror stories of customers who wanted only to reel in the big one, no matter what. Me, I’d gotten past a fall, wet clothes, a rainy trip, a lost fly pole, really cold feet, and learning a whole lot in about 6 hours; I was happy just to be still fishing. Jim though, wanted to up our odds a bit, replacing our tippet (the end of the line) with some stronger material. The risk in this is, is that the fish can see the thicker line more easily, meaning fewer hits. But when those hits happen, your odds to keep the fish go up a bit.

And that’s just what happened. My second cast after the line change my fly stopped drifting almost right away. A hard tug, and I had a steelhead on the line and about a foot in the air. This wasn’t nearly my biggest jump of the day (I had a King Salmon that I think was trying to match Felix Baumgertner’s ascent from the other day; you should have seen the look on my face), but I knew I had this one good. After an initial quick fight, I put a little stress on her; she ran, and she ran hard. In about 10 seconds she went about 200 feet downstream, but I still had her. Watching a fish move that fast, and feel that much pull on a fly pole is something to behold. That’s when Jim started walking me down stream as a I slowly reeled her in.

It’s strange the way things on the river work; when someone hooks a fish the people between you and your fish stop what they’re doing and get out of the way. It reminds me a lot of triathlon race day; everyone wants to win, and while they’ll be jealous of the people who are winning, they also want to help each other out. As I took my cautious steps down the river, several other men made way and encouraged me. Jim was in my ear making sure I was taking safe steps (he was more nervous than I was after I fell earlier in the day), and making sure I was doing the right thing with the fly rod to keep tension without breaking the line. In fact, it was another angler who was my net man on the steelie in question when I pulled her in. I really couldn’t tell you who was more excited, but it might have been Jim. I loved the whole day, and catching my first trout, a mammoth 28 inch steelhead was a huge thing, I was thrilled. I felt like a real fisherman for the first time in my life.

 

Half Full Triathlon Race Report: Wait, I did what?

Over these past few weeks, this blog has done its level best to combine fishing and triathlon. Yesterday in the midst of the Half Full Triathlon, I did just that, much to my chagrin.

Swim: So there I am about halfway through the swim, and I’m making good time. I didn’t have any goals when I planned this race out a few weeks ago, but after the schedule got changed, my only goal was to be out of the water before the first (aka Lance) of the half distance race caught me. The aquabike division was the last wave of the Olympic, and I was the very last person in the water. I was on pace to do my average swim, and stay ahead of the half distance racers, but as I made the 2nd to last turn, I felt something on my foot. At first I assumed it was seaweed and tried to kick it loose. I couldn’t get it off, so I stopped to pull it loose, and that’s when I figured out why it wouldn’t come off; it was tangled up fishing line, a bunch of it. Long story short, cold water making my hands too numb to do much with my fingers in the water and tangled fishing line led to a panic attack. Right there in the water, I’m freaking out; every kick makes me more nervous that there’s a hook somewhere in the tangle and I’m going to wind up with it in my foot.

In the end there turned out to be no hook, but my panic meant the pointy end of the half race passed me by a few minutes in the water. Coming out of the water I finally got the fishing line off. Not a big deal in that I really had no goal for the swim but to survive it, but I was about 8 minutes off even my slower Olympic distance swims. 58 minutes is not a respectable time for a .9 mile swim but on this day, with this situation, I’ll absolutely take finishing over not.

Transition: was another special event all it’s own. When I peeled my wetsuit off, I could have quickly been on the bike and on my way, but by then it was raining and it was really cold. Plus I knew what lie ahead, a bike ride I wasn’t at all trained for, that was about 2 1/2 times as difficult as advertised. In fact, by the time I made it to transition, the ambulance was already being called out to the bike course to carry someone dealing with symptoms of hypothermia off to the hospital. I took my time and made myself as warm as I could; compression socks, short socks over them, arm warmers and a tech shirt over my tri top. Compression socks with frozen hands and toes are damn near impossible, to the tune of a 14 minute transition. That’s like 5 or 6 transitions for an athlete with better transition skills than mine.

Bike: Timberman has 2,000 feet of elevation in 56 miles. Rev3 Anderson has 1,043 feet in 23 miles. Half Full Tri had 1,924 feet of climbing in just 32 miles, and unlike the other two, it was hellish weather. Cold, gloomy, rainy and at times with some wind. When I couldn’t ride fast, I rode slow. When I couldn’t ride slow, I walked. When I couldn’t walk, I stood and rested leaning on my bike. I made sure I was on my bike as much as I could be, until the cramps didn’t let me. Then I rested,stretched, and rode some more. It was a slow slog, made easier only by the fantastic people riding around me who would ask how I was doing or give words of encouragement. Even Lance said “Morning” as he passed me on the bike. The hills on this ride were tough, and didn’t end until I turned into transition. My time for the bike was incredibly slow, around 3 hours, though I don’t have my official time yet. I do have my garmin which I forgot to shut off until I was on my way out of transition.

What’s strange about aquabike is that once you get off the bike you’re done, but you still have to go run through the finishing chute. So technically, it’s still a triathlon, but the run is about 200 yards. I did it while holding over my head a bib with the name Rebecca Tabat on it. Rebecca if you aren’t familiar was Rachelle’s cousin who passed away a couple of years ago from abdominal cancer at just 19 years old. She’s why I joined Team Fight. And she’s why I did the race even with all the Lance drama.

And she, along with my friends Derek, Jordan, and John Young remind me why you should never quit no matter how much it hurts, or how much you want to stop. And sometimes, when you don’t stop, you get rewarded with more than a finishers medal. By finishing, I podiumed for the Men’s Aquabike. 3rd place. A podium at a Rev 3 event. No matter how happy I am with how I did this year that was something I never expected to see myself type. I really had an enjoyable weekend, and I have some final thouhts on the Lance stuff I’ll share this week while I spend a couple days figuring out what’s next. In the meantime I’ll leave you with my Rev 3 podium photo.

Yes, the medal does have a certain Flava Flav quality to it…

Madison Tour de Farms

A year in North Carolina had sort of wiped my mind of the fact that riding your bike in the fall can be cold and wet. My day at the Madison Tour de Farms was all it took to remind me. The first 12 miles were just cold. I was riding in my Elonore Rocks kit with my Wheelworks Multisport arm warmers. I don’t know where my long sleeve training gear is right now, so that was the best I could do.

It was fine though, as I said, for the first 12 miles. I was warm enough to see some Wagyu Beef in it’s pre-delicious state

They look cute, and they taste yummy!

A bit further on we saw some deer who clearly didn’t care that they were tresspassing

super inexpensive lawn care option

 

Somewhere between the beef and the venison the climbing started. I’ve done a few tough races, and I’ve trained for some of the climbing but never enough. These last two weeks prior to Half Full Tri Im determined to make sure I get accustomed to climbing so that I’m sure I can handle what I’ve got in front of me that day. So I did the best I could climbing my way through this tough climbs. Some were pretty brutal, I wound up walking up segments of the 4 steepest hills, which led to some pretty slow going at times.

Unfortunately not long after I saw the deer, the rain came, and it led to missing the entrance to one of the farms on my map, skipping the buffalo farm that was just a couple miles off the 20 mile route, and even walking a downhill! The road was so steep and stopped at a right hand turn at a stop sign that the majority of the 20 mile riders walked down the hill.

I was disappointed about the buffalo farm, but fighting with the climbs was enough without the wind gusts and sideways rains, so I followed the route back to Critz Farms where the ride started. They’ve got a lot going on at Critz Farms; petting zoo, apple cidery, pumpkins, playground and tractor rides, christmas trees, a farmers market, and a cafe. Plus along with the ride was a lunch with all ingredients from local farms.

It was all amazing, but the bratwurst was the single best brat I’ve ever eaten

 

Fresh made apple fritters, hot apple cider, and a dry bench

Then I made up for missing a couple of farms, by exploring my way around Critz:

This goat was certain I had food for him despite my repeatedly telling him I didn’t
This is a 3 week old miniature donkey
Super baby ducks
After the sun had finally come out, I still looked like a drowned rat

Trout, Triathlon, and Love, but maybe not in that order…

Yesterday was Rach and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary. We celebrated by her working all day and me staying at home with the dog. That’s married life I guess. Actually when she did get home last night we went to dinner and a small dessert. Being who we are, presents started a few days early (because i can’t keep a secret). Rach had asked for a couple of things (one of those small blenders that blends into a drinking cup you can take to go) and a make up stand for her dresser. Her surprise gift was an unorthodox one; a gun. Yep, i bought my wife a gun for her anniversary. She’s been jealous of my neices BB gun since she got to shoot it back in June. So I got her a BB/pellet rifle and some targets to practice with. My asked for gifts were some more flies for fishing and a vest. Im not sure what my surprise gift will be as that hasn’t happened yet.

I’m lucky to have her in my life and I recognize that fact, and I promised to try to be less annoying in year 4 of our marriage :D

As for the trout; I know they’re out there, but I haven’t landed any yet. I took Saturday to try a bigger river, hoping the open space would allow my inexperienced casting a little more room to work it’s magic. Sadly, the only magic I saw was the magic of nature. Tons of beautiful places to fish right now. My trip to the West Canada Creek (which looks amazingly like a river in most parts I saw) was worth it, even though I didn’t see a fish bigger than 2 inches long.

On the way to one of my many stops along the river, I found this bridge which made me suddenly wish I had my bicycle with me just to ride under it.

After neglecting Stan for a few hours instead of heading off to Madisons hops festival, I decided to make the short trip to Waterville for their annual cruise-in. Part town festival, part auto show, Stanley got a good work out walking all through town while I scoped out cars (and roadside food vendors) and he met new furry friends.

Doesn’t this look like something James Bond would drive?
I just missed the good shot of them sniffing each other
Stan is like Dr. Doolittle; he likes to talk to all the animals, and showed no interest in chasing or eating this bunny

Sunday was spent mostly around the house, hanging out with Stan…

Chippies on the back porch are like Stanley’s personal Outdoor Channel, and it’s pretty entertaining for me too.

… and fishing from the back deck

The bass I’d heard stories about in our lake actually do exist it seems.

 

Finally when it comes to triathlon, there’s actually a lot to talk about. I’ve been working back into training, including a couple of lake swims, at a surprisingly good pace (sub-20 mins for a half mile). Riding has still been a challenge as I continue to work in more hills (otherwise there’s only so many places I can ride). I’m registered for an un-timed charity ride this Saturday called the Madison Tour de Farms. It visits a hops farm, a buffalo farm, a goat farm and the more traditional produce farms in the county. There are 9, 20, and 40 mile courses. the 20 mile course has more elevation than anything I’ve ever ridden save Timberman, and the 40 mile has 1 1/2 half times the Timberman elevation. I need to get some details about lunch, but I’m strongly considering the 40 mile course regardless of how much of a challenge it is. My only concern is making it back in time for the lunch I’ve already paid for!

So that brings me to what I’m preparing for; the Half-Full Triathlon. You may have heard by now that Ulman Cancer Fund and Rev3 decided to pass on USA Triathlon sanctioning so that they could include Lance Armstrong in the race. This was hinted at a few weeks ago, but it became official yesterday morning. When it was hinted at, I didn’t expect it to actually happen, believing the USADA decision would have come out by now, and made Lance harder to involve without more of an outcry. But as this hasn’t happened, it’s easier for the organizations involved to include Lance. It’s not terribly surprising as the gentleman who founded UCF is the CEO of Livestrong. As I have been scheduled to race this event all year, I’m torn in continuing to support this event, especially now that I’ve reached my fundraising goal, and paid for travel and lodging at the event. $1000 is a lot to throw away in terms of our budget for racing.

To be fair, Lance is not racing against the registered pros (many of whom have spoken out against his participation), and he is not charging an appearance fee (which is unusual for him, as he has charged appearance fees for other cancer events he has attended ($100k + Netjets credits @ Pelotonia). Between that and my own sunk costs, I’ve decided to go ahead and race. It’s going to be an insane event probably, a smaller local event that was made larger with Rev3 involvement now will be a circus with Lance participating. Means an earlier morning wake up, crowded transitions, and likely a lot more to have to avoid. But I still believe in the message and work of UCF and Lance doesnt benefit from their funding (though obviously he continues to benefit from the appearance and racing with support from his sponsors). If this benefits UCF and doesn’t lead to a chain reaction of more races spurning the ban in order to bring in Lance, it could be a lot worse. I don’t like the precedence this sets, and personally I think this is still more about Lance than UCF. He could easily have come to the event, done a speech, acted as master of ceremonies, and handed out finisher medals. But that’s not Lance’s thing; in that way this is about him. He got what he wanted, a way to race, even if he’s only racing a division of cancer survivors, you know he’s going to attempt to be first overall, even if his time isn’t offically recognized as the winning time because he won’t be in the pro wave.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting week.

Getting my feet (and everything else) wet

Summer is fading like a memory of last nights dreams; something you long to hold on to but can never grasp firmly enough. Warm days and cool nights are giving way to the need for the extra blankets and pajama pants instead of shorts around the house. Thus I’m doing everything I can to enjoy each day before the snow boots and parks are de rigueur.

A week ago, I was scouting the local trout stream. This past weekend, I put the scouting to use, and actually fished the stream. Well, fishing is an interesting word; it actually means to catch fish. As I caught no fish, I guess I can’t say I was fishing; rather I was attempting to fish. Between several stops at fishing access points and a mile or so of walking, I threw my lure into the water with excitement, but little skill. I found I was far more skilled at putting my hook into the trees and weeds around me than into the mouth of a fish. Oh I did have a couple bites, and upon walking my way up into a small pool I saw a great many brown trout, even some of decent size.

As I visited the old canal lock that I posted pictures of last week, I made my first real mistake in fly fishing; fishing waders only keep you dry if you manage to stay upright. On my way out of the pool at the base of the lock, I stepped on one of the large slabs that used to make up the lock wall; it’s covered in algae and quite slippery. Before I knew it, I was face down in the creek feeling the shock of the crisp water on my upper body and face. And soon, everywhere else as I mentioned, waders only keep you dry if you don’t let water in the top. Thankfully I was merely wet, not flooded and was able to continue on, but as I visited one more stop I realized my first fishing adventure was ending up all wet in more ways than one and called it a day. I’d say it’s a safe bet this blog won’t be redirected in purpose to a fly fishing journal, but I will be back out there this week once everything is dry and my courage matches my enthusiasm.

Not one to let a single hiccup ruin a weekend of adventure, I decided that I’d eschew my normal road ride on Sunday for a spin on the mountain bike. There are 140 miles of horse and cross country trails all suitable for mountain biking, which is a lot more than I’ve had access to before. I decided my first ride would be at Brookfield Railroad State Forest. As the name implies, it was once railroad land and you can see traces of the rail bed to this day. I had planned on providing some pictures of the trails and my ride, but the oxygen deprivation I’m left with after a mountain bike ride, even a short one, seems to be far more acute than that of a road ride. The hills are always shorter, but they seem far steeper and the ground less sure; I didn’t fall but I made abundant use of my brakes throughout, and walked up a few of the hills that my legs seemed ready to handle by my lungs were not prepared for. Two miles was as much as I could handle, but it was a lot of fun, and I will be back.

On the way home from rolling through the woods, I took a dirt road. There aren’t a lot of them around, so I suspected I might be wandering into something beautiful, and indeed I was.

Cornfields don’t look like this in Michigan or North Carolina

 

Then right before the last turn home I encountered a family out for a Sunday walk.

Not the kind of Wild Turkey we had in college

Lastly, we visited the Chenango Canal Towpath. Aside from being a historic site of travel in the area, it’s got a history with industry as well

Original site of Motts Apple Cider Mill

But I think you can see from this picture why we took our walk

I can see worse jobs than working the tow path of a canal

Last, my fly fishing practice on the lake has yielded some small fish, but a couple worth noting, specifically yesterday I hit a keeper Black Crappie along the shoreline in front of the house. I still don’t know how to cut and clean the fish, but once I learn, dinner will be free from the lake!

It’s called a Cappie, i hope they don’t taste that way

 

Lake Moraine Days

Moving somewhere sight unseen always feels like an adventure until you get there and get settled in. Then it just feels like home. It’s a little bit different this time as it’s my first time living in a furnished apartment, and while I am still adjusting to using other peoples things on a daily basis (and keeping Stanley from breaking other peoples things) I have always been blessed with the ability to make myself at home nearly anywhere.

Our first days here have been filled with exploration and play whenever we’re not working. Rachelle’s schedule has been erratic as the athletes arrive at school and must be poked and prodded to assure they’re of sound health to begin their training for the upcoming seasons. The whole of the student body has arrived and has begun the long slow march toward spring. The campus itself is almost as alive with color as it is with people. The leaves have started turning, and in some cases, falling. I’ll get some pictures as the colors really start to change; right now we’re at the point where the trees have dots of colors with a backdrop of green. But even as I look out over the lake this morning, I see trees that were bright green just a couple of weeks ago that now sprout all manners of orange and red. And our deck has a large collection of various colored leaves, though the majority of them are brown, it’s a reminder of the dry summer that’s about to end and that fall will soon be here.

The water, like the leaves, has been changing as well. What was a gigantic bathtub of relaxing warmth has quickly changed to a tepid pool that now mimics the bite of the autumn air. That’s not to say it’s unswimmable, but it won’t be long until an open water swim requires a wetsuit, or that my trips out on fishing float will require waders and warm pants underneath. For now, I can still wade daily into waist deep water and tease the local panfish with my amateurish fly casting. I’m afraid I may never pull a bass out of the lake, but I’m quite adept at finding large bluegills, and in the right part of the lake, I’ve caught several 10 inch Alewife, a fish I was unfamiliar with until I moved to New York.

That dry summer I mentioned above has affected the water levels throughout Central New York, but it certainly doesn’t show at first glance. There’s water everywhere here; from the lake in our back yard

The north section of Lake Moraine, the part I haven’t fished yet

To the waterfall at Chitenango Falls State Park

Upper Chittenango Falls
Lower Chittenango Falls

Lastly, to the trout streams I plan on spending my September and October weekend mornings ankle or knee deep in (Most of them are too shallow these days to stand waist deep). I took the long labor day weekend to explore the local streams and I was thrilled to find local streams within just a few miles drive. I mostly looked and explored as I don’t have all my gear yet, but I did throw a line in the water at a stream specially designated for catch and release, intended for learning the art of trout fishing. The best part about these streams is that they’re incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The training stream is a section of the old Chittenango canal, and I actually fished off the top of a lock.

I didn’t catch any of them, but there were trout in that pool just to the left of the old lock
My first trout steam, Im confident there was a brown hiding under that tree but I don’t have the skill to reach the spot yet
The view upstream from the Deansboro fishing access point. Getting waders will help me make this trek soon.

Of course, water isn’t the only place we’ve adventured. The biking here is so very challenging, that I’m still fighting to build up distance and stamina. Rach and I did a loop around the lake yesterday, and we both were completely beat. But I have a month to get ready for Half Full Tri, and the riding here is much harder than it will be on race day. So I’m not too worried about the distance or the climbing, I’ll get there. And I’ve never had as much access to open water, and I’m taking advantage of it; whether swimming or kicking my fishing float, I’ve been averaging about a mile a day or so. Plus, we learned yesterday that I get free access to the sports facilities at Colgate, including the amazing pool facility, which I’m definitely going to make use of it.

Finally the people here are exactly what we were hoping for. The biking and running on the road here is only difficult because of the elevation, not because there are people wanting to run us off the roads. Our neighbors, mostly retirees and their families, are amazingly nice, and have volunteered use of boats and docks for when the water is too cold to fish from my float. The people here are so down to earth. An example; our actor landlord, he of ~200 credits on his IMDB page, does his own yard work and is a garage sale expert, finding all kinds of deals. Rachelle likes he co-workers and everyone we’ve talked to has been nothing but friendly.

And then there’s the dogs. Most of our neighbors have dogs, and Stanley has become fast friends with all of them. I’ll share some pictures shortly, but Stan might be the one who has adapted most easily. He loves sitting and watching the lake, going for walks, visiting his doggy neighbors, and of course playing in the lake. He still doesn’t like baths but he’s at least getting comfortable with the water.

3 weeks in one post

Yesterday I was feeling a bit down. I think it was the after effects of 4 weeks of living on adrenaline and a shoestring budget to support Rachelle’s transition to Colgate University. It reminded me how much more work I have to do to get us to a place where we can support just picking up and moving on short notice for Rach’s career, which until she works herself up in the industry could happen every year.

Thank goodness the work and the worry paid off. And frankly, it paid off IN SPADES.

After packing the whole house in North Carolina the day of my last post, we spent our last night in NC before heading to New York. While I’m sure I’ll miss the mild winters of NC when I’m on a trainer in January in NY, one thing I won’t miss is the long drive from Angier to my parents, especially those trips through the mountains of WV. Our first trip to our new home lasted exactly one night. After a 12 hour drive, we put almost everything we own in storage, and spent the night in a hotel I would only stay at again if all the makeshift roadside campsites in the world were occupied. On a lark we changed plans for boarding Stanley for the week and were able to find an affordable place here in New York so we didn’t have to drive him to Michigan for boarding on our way to Indiana.

Indiana you may say, what’s in Indiana? Well 2 weekends ago, my cousin married her longtime boyfriend/fiancee at the Basilica of he Sacred Heart at Notre Dame University. The only places I’ve ever seen churches that compare were in London and Paris. Such a beautiful bride in a beautiful church. And the reception was something to behold. Maybe not quite as amazing as having your reception in a castle (I have to keep reminding Rach how amazing that was because she wants to have us get married again so she can have another day like that), but pretty spectacular especially considering it went off without a hitch during a nasty thunderstorm and tornado warning.

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do it’s in a shirt and tie with my hot wife

After the wedding it was back to Michigan for a couple days at my folks before 3 days with my family at a cottage in Michigan. What could be more awesome practice for living in a lakeside cottage than by spending a weekend with your entire family in a lakeside cottage that sleeps 15? We had a fantastic time, swimming, playing games with the family and fishing. Thanks to my uncle John and my cousin Kyle, picking up fly fishing didn’t take me nearly as long as it would have. I’m no expert, but at least I’m catching fish already. In fact I caught my first fish, a 10″ Largemouth Bass, on my first full day of having my rod and reel.

me, Kyle, and the first fish stupid enough to fall for my fake fly

After the weekend with family, it was another full day in the car to camp, this time for 3 days on our own in luxury accomodations at the Lebanon Campground just outside Hamilton. Our move in date at the new place was 8/15, but Rach had to start work on 8/13, so we made due for 3 days.

Home sweet home?

I don’ mean to make it sound at all like we suffered, far from it; it truly was an adventure, and an enjoyable one at that. But after 2000 miles in the car in just 10 days and living out of a suitcase for 2 weeks, it was time to be home. Which finally happened last Wednesday when we moved into our new residence (at least until May of next year when it will change at least for the summer while the cottage is rented out by the week or used by its owners). That’s months off, and because the house is furnished, it won’t be nearly the work of a normal move to go somewhere for the summer. That small detail means nothing in comparison to the opportunity we have in living here.

The view from our back deck
Stanley and I cruising on the neighbors boat yesterday

You’ll notice I didn’t mention training yet. That’s because I haven’t been, at least not really. I rode about 40 miles at my parents house before the weekend at the cabin with my family, and finally rode a few times when we got here. But the 2 week hole in formal training gave me pause about tackling Rev 3 Cedar Point, even just the half aquabike. The cost of travel and entry made up my mind further. I’ve been swimming some, even doing a 3/4 mile training session the other day in the open water along the edge of the lake. And I’m still doing Rev3/Half Full Tri in Maryland in October. The Olympic Aquabike. I have a full month to finish adjusting to the elevation here, get used to the climbing on the local roads, and get my ride endurance back where it was in time for a challenging Half Full Course.

At first I was disappointed about Cedar Point, but now I’m becoming more comfortable with the decision that doing it would be less fun than not doing it, and giving myself time to get back into a schedule and be where I need to be for the next race is a really good thing.

Giant Eagle Olympic Tri Race Report; Or When Training Pays Off

In four years of triathlon, I’ve never had a race that went according to plan. Sure I’ve podiumed a few times in small age groups, and I’ve finished most of the races I’ve started. But I’ve never had a race where my training (and not the lack thereof) led me to set goals that stretched me, and I would have to put together a good day in order to reach them, and then I reached them. That is until this past Sunday at Giant Eagle Olympic

Race Setup: This is a point to point race that stretches from a Northeastern Columbus suburb and ends  just across from Nationwide Arena. A 2 loop counter-clockwise swim totalling 1500 meters. You exit the water to a semi-clean transition (they provide bags but let you set up like normal so long as everything winds up in the bag when you’re done) to the bike. The bike begins with 5 miles of mostly flat followed by 5 miles of slow climbing, which deposits you near the top of Columbus proper for a ~14 mile descent into the heart of downtown. A slightly less clean transition (especially if you’re one of the later folks to arrive) leads you to a slightly hilly run (lots of little ups and downs, but nothing as drastic as say Timberman’s course), which winds around the riverfront area of downtown before finishing under the old penitentiary arch.

The swim: The water was just barely wetsuit legal, but I had days before decided I was going without. I started at an easy pace to make sure I didn’t go out to hard, and I found I was able to sustain pretty easily. In fact for anything above a sprint, this is the first race I was able  to swim without rest stops every 200 or so yards. I only had a couple hiccups; I paused briefly a couple times to sight more clearly; I took a mouthful of nasty lake water that almost made me puke, and I took the worlds longest midrace pee right after starting lap 2. I shit you not, that pee cost being under my goal time because none of my other stops were more than a couple seconds. That pee was at least 45 seconds to a minute. And I had already gone twice before the start.

Swim Goal: 45 minutes

Actual Swim: 45: 46

Things to improve: Get wider goggles for open water swim sighting, practice swimming laps counter clockwise, keep pushing distance

T1: No wetsuit meant an easier recovery than normal from the swim, and once I found my bike, I was ready pretty quickly, but then I had to get all the swim stuff and morning clothes in the bag and tidy up my transition before leaving. I’m guessing that cost me about a minute.

T1 Goal: 3 minutes

Actual T1: 4:00 (this is a close estimation as T1 timing failed so it lumped into bike official time)

Things to improve: practice transition, getting shoes on without sitting, jogging with bike

Bike: We drove the bike course the night before the race, so I knew what to expect and once we got past the first 8 miles or so, I knew the roads pretty well from the years spent living in Columbus. Cycling is where living in North Carolina has really paid off; what used to feel like big climbs in the past, I now just gear down and spin my way slowly uphill. The first few miles were pretty easy, then the climbing came, and with one exception that felt pretty easy as well. There’s a .5 mile long climb at mile 7 that I geared down pretty far in order to make it up without taking too much out of my legs. It was during that hill that I passed maybe the first person I’ve ever passed (aside from Rachelle) going uphill.

A couple miles later, I started the downhill run to downtown. I felt like Chrissie Wellington, grinning like a crazy person. I put some good efforts in as the course wasn’t completely downhill, but I also was trying to conserve energy for the run. I had the cardio to thank a lot of the police and course volunteers (there were TONS! A felt safe throughout the entire bike even on main traffic arteries). Riding by OSU and many other places I’d visited so many times, before cornering right by the arena, was a pretty cool feeling. Even better was feeling fast and strong. Great bike course, fast but with enough bumps to make you work a little.

Bike Goal: 1:33

Actual Bike: 1:28:01 - Easily a PR for 24.3 miles, and a 16.6 MPH average! An exceeded goal, and by several minutes!

Things to improve: I still coast too much on flats, I need to keep building for consistent cardio to keep pedaling

T2: This felt a lot faster than it actually was. I had to find my bike rack, get all my run gear out of the bag, switch shoes, fight with laces, get out of bike gear and head out. I was walking in transition, and there was a long chute to get out of T2 to point runners the right direction. I went with short socks instead of CEP compression to save time.

T2 Goal: 3 minutes

T2 Actual: 5:10

Things to improve: the clean transition still flummoxes me. Dump the stuff, put it on and leave. Run, don’t walk, even if you’re tired. No excuse to waist time in transition.

Run: Things had to come back to reality after a strong 2/3rds of the race, which they did, but again my training showed itself. When I blew up at Belews Lake, I wound up with a 1:41 on a day that wasn’t that hot (though the course was hillier). I started the run pretty strong, alternating 1/4 mile run/walk intervals. I managed that through the first 2 1/2 miles when running started to feel really awful, so I just tried to stay close to a 15 min/mi pace as I walked up and down the little climbs of the course.

There was a point where I thought maybe I’d gone of course (you’d think I’d be used to being the only one out there after all these races). It wasn’t just me; a woman who had passed me came walking back towards me asking if we were still going the right way. We were but I certainly understood her concern. The heat and humidity were pretty intense by this point, and I was glad to have run in the Carolina heat this summer. As I crossed the finish line some of my Eleonore Rocks teammates were waiting for me with high fives at the ready and I actually jumped up and stomped on the timing mats as I went through.

Run Goal: 1:31

Run Actual: 1:36:21

Overall: I know it’s a slow time for a lot of people, but for me beating my goal of 4 hours feels like a huge success. I trained this summer with this and Cedar Point in mind, and the first half of that goal is now complete. I worked hard, but I know I can work HARDER. I didn’t focus much at all on my run, I didn’t do enough bricks, and I certainly have room for improvement in even the areas I did well. I will say that I thought I handled the bike quite well, and I beat 20 peoples bike splits, which is more than usual. But I know I should be able to do it all faster and I’m going to. A big thank you to my friend Chuck who was kind enough to host Rachelle and I for the weekend, put up with our early bed times, demanding food requests, and getting up early to be our own personal shuttle driver to and from the race. (More on Chuck tomorrow)

Overall Goal: 4 hours

Overall Actual: 3:59:20 ! (skin of my teeth!)

I missed the big group shot because I was still racing, but was lucky enough to get a picture with a few of my teammates who were waiting around for race results.

 

The road home…

Home has a lot of meanings to me. There’s the house I grew up in, where my parents still live, which will always be home. And of course, wherever Rachelle lives is home to me now. But in a way that Buie’s Creek never will be Columbus will always be home to me as well. And so it’s back “home” I’m headed tomorrow to race this weekend.

I wanted to race the Giant Eagle Multisport Festival since the announcement of the inaugural event almost two years ago. I never actually did a tri in CBus; my Ohio races back in my first season were in smaller towns closer to the corners of the state than the middle. So when I learned that this race was sponsored by INFINIT and that it would be a signature race of the Eleonore Rocks team, I had to do it. I get the chance to see a couple of friends in the area, and Rach and I get to race through areas we’re pretty familiar with, including down the main street in Columbus (High Street).

Rach is racing the “girls tri too” super sprint on Saturday Morning. She’s been wanting to race a women’s only event for quite a while, and we had planned for her to race one earlier this summer, but her work schedule never allowed it. She’s then racing the Sprint distance race on Sunday, while I’m racing the Olympic distance. The Sprint distance is longer than many with a 30k bike so that sprint athletes get to experience the same ride down High Street into downtown.

I’ve been so busy with work, packing the house, looking for a new place to live and the logisitics of the move that I’ve not really had much time to think about goals, but I’ve been really strong in my training over the past two weeks. I have set PR’s for my 500 yard swim in each of my last 3 swims, and I’ve had 500s later in those same swims that would have broken older PRs. My biking is getting stronger, and I’ve either set PR’s or moved up in KOM rankings on Strava during most of my rides over the past couple weeks. My run, that will be interesting to see this weekend.

Reading the athlete guide, I saw that the race has a cutoff time of 11:15 AM. Based on my start time (6:49), That gives me 4:26 to finish. That’s 5 minutes less than my current PR for the Olympic distance, set at Belew’s Lake at the start this season. I’m not letting that race be my guide as I was fully sick and fighting what turned out to be Exercise Induced Asthma and allergies without the benefit of knowing what I was up against. I’ve trained hard since then, and I’m stronger and faster now.

Swim: I’m setting a conservative goal in the swim goal of just about 45 minutes. That’s basically my best 1 mile time right now, and I’ve done a good bit of distance (1900 yard and 2500 yard swims) over the past few weeks so I think I’m ready, and hope to come in under that time, but swimming a straight line and sighting aren’t my strengths.

T1: No socks on the bike, likely no wetsuit to peel (water temperature is 77.2 degrees and a warm weekend is expected) and new easier shoes to work with ought to make for a quick T1. I’m not sure how much running is involved but I’m saying 3 minutes for T1

Bike: The bike is interesting, the first 5 miles are basically downhill with a few very small rollers, then it climbs about 160 feet over the next 4 miles, before dropping 260 feet over the next 15 miles. As long as I’m geared and hydrated properly for the short climbing section, I think this will be a new 25 mile bike PR. 1:40 would be a 15 MPH average, I’m going to shoot for a little better than that with all the downhill over the second half of the ride, so I’m going for a 16 MPH average, and a 1:33 bike time.

T2: Switching shoes and putting my CEP Compression Socks on will probably take a couple minutes but I’ll be glad for the time as the run gets on. I’m guessing 3 minutes for T2 also

Run: I would love to break 4 hours for my Olympic, which if everything else is as expected would mean I could run a 1:35:59 and still make that time. I’m hopeful I can run a 1:31 or so and give myself even more clearance. Other than a pretty solid hill right out of T2, the run course looks like it could support that time. I’ve run some of this course in the past during 5ks back when we lived there, so it should be pretty familiar.

If you’re in the area, I hope you get a chance to come out, support the racers, and consider stopping by the Eleonore Rocks/INFINIT booths. I’ll be around all weekend, and checking my twitter @Ben_m_Berry, so if you’re around I’d love to meet you.