Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 IMLP- The Swim

The day starts off pretty early. Nutrition needs for an Ironman are exorbitant. It's not really about how much you can eat as it is about how much you can absorb. For full breakfast absorption, you need about 3-4 hours of lead time for the food to make it through your stomach, into the intestine, and out into the blood. This means a wake up call at 3:00. I actually made it out of bed by 3:15.

With breakfast fermenting in my belly, the hopes of gastric emptying firmly on my shoulders, I did some pre-race couch sitting. I put in a movie and sucked on my water bottle as hydration is also important.

Upon making my way to the swim start, I stopped off at transition. Here I pumped up my tires, dumped some fluid in my bottle, and started up the Garmin. This year for swag, they handed out a transition backpack. I stuffed unpacked my morning clothes bag, consisting of my wetsuit, cap, goggles, and body glide, and stuffed in my transition bag. Standing mostly naked in the morning dew, I racked my bag and headed on down to special needs (a 0.25 mile walk).

On the way down, I found the Wife, who was on the wrong side of the path. Should she have been on the left side of the chute, we would have had the chance to walk together. Alas, the right side was crowded with no real way to make across. I walked alone amongst 2000 of my soon to be competitors.

The pros went off 10 minutes ahead. Their gun fired and I had not entered the water. I waited on the beach. Once you enter the water, you are stuck treading until your race starts. I had no intention of warming up that much. Another couple minutes standing in my wetsuit seemed better than exchanging elbows and heels with my closest neighbors. To remind you, here's what the swim course looks like.

When some undetermined switch flipped in my head, I entered the drink and made my way over to my usual starting position. I tend to hang out about 10 feet back of the start line and 5 feet off the dock. This is a very crowded area and quite aggressive. I don't mind. Plus, I am directly underneath of the IronVoice, Mike Reilly. That's the guy who typically does all of the announcing and talks for about 19 hours on IM day. He is beloved by many, including myself. He didn't even look in my direction.

The gun went off for us age groupers at 7:00 am. And by gun, I mean cannon (literally). There are about 10 people with immediate access to my body with my extended water family reaching into the triple digits. A split second after the boom, we all go from vertical treading to horizontal swimming. This takes up valuable liquid space, which Mirror Lake does not have. We are immediately in peril. The cage match lasts for another few minutes as athletes garner for position and try to find their pace.

Having been through the scrum in the past, I immediately make it past the dock and veer left. Technically, we are encouraged to stay to the right. I would estimate that 2000 out of the ~2800 athletes heed this advice. Others, like me, know that there is calmer water on the inside. The rules do not forbid swimming in this area, only encourage the other area. The rules specifically state that we must swim around the end buoys. I know this and I do this. At the end of the turn around, I merge back to the left hand side again and continue my tour through the waters.

Here's a short video showing what the swim looks like from this year's race. I think it captures the serenity of the morning, with the sun nestled comfortably behind some clouds. You can see the pointy end of the swimming arrow followed by the masses. If I had to guess, I'm somewhere between the pointy end and the main mass of swimmers.

video 

I came out of the water for the first lap in just under 29 minutes. From there we have to physically get out of the water, run across the beach, and get back in. Lap 2 is a little bit longer because now we have to swim the length of the dock and make a left hand turn before getting back onto the course. Meanwhile, the clock ticks on.

I expect to have contact on the first lap. I also expect that the contact lessens on the second lap. This is what happened with one exception. There was this woman swimming immediately to my right. Remember that I am swimming on the inside. Also to my right are the guide buoys. There are about 10 of these buoys on each length. Well, Miss Swimmer needed to avoid these buoys. She had 2 options: swim left or swim right. If she choose right, that meant getting involved into the main wrestling match, from which there is little hope of returning. If she choose left, she banged into me. She choose me every single time. I suppose I should be honored.

Once in a while, I would try to lose her. On one such occasion, I surged to try and get in front. She saw this move and surged with me. Another time, I slowed to maybe get behind her. Nope. She also slowed, plus there were other swimmers on my feet who were none too pleased with the new pace. I resigned to my fate of having this mystery woman brush against me every 50 yards.

My second lap was predictably a little bit slower by about two minutes and twenty seconds. Lap 2's official time was 31:04. My total swim time was 59:50, which is about average for a Banter swim time. I was in 143rd place at the time.

I got out of the water and headed over to the strippers. Strippers are volunteers that help you out of your wetsuit. Basically, they work in pairs. You peel yourself out of the suit to your butt. You find a couple of nice people, run up to them, and sit in front of their feet. They grab your suit and synchronously yank the suit off in one full heave. That's the theory anyway. On race day, my suit once again failed to make it over my right heel. I will definitely be cutting that little bugger before my race.

I also happened to notice that I exited the water with a couple of lady pros. This is the first of several professional encounters during the race. The pros look just like everybody else on the course. But, they are clearly distinguishable by the big letter "P" on their calf. In contrast, the rest of the riff raff (like me) have our age plastered in permanent marker. Mine said 38 (even though I am only 37).

Upon a further glance, I saw that the ladies were none other than Jessie Donovan (who would later on actually WIN the race) and Jennie Hansen. Jennie is from Rochester (here's a link to her blog), a link to her IMLP race report (still no mention of me) and she is the Awesome Chick that I have written about in the past. Not surprisingly, she has gone pro and would finish in 2nd place in her first IM attempt. Awesome chick indeed!

Here's a short video of me running from the water exit, down the path, to the transition area. I'm the ugly, simian looking bloke in a white shirt. You can see Jennie passing me about halfway through the video. She's a bit shorter than me and wearing a bluish shirt. She zoomed right by adding unnecessary credence to her professional status.

video

Up next, I'll show you the bike course and then tell the story.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WW- GI Problems

I'm currently working on my IMLP 2012 race report. There were some good things to report and some not so good things to report.

I am struggling with the not-so-good things to report. Some of them, not all,  involve gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Whereas I have no qualms going into the nitty gritty of the issues, I do realize that I want others to read my report. Therefore, I am hemming and hawing over the appropriate words and descriptions that will get my point across without losing readership. Thank goodness that there are resources that I can use as a reference.

Using Bristols, I can simply report the number of the issues I was having. From there, I can use the official title.


So, maybe I had a type 6 Dangling Poopie. Or maybe I had a type 2 Spinal Tap. I'm pretty sure a type 1 Wet Cheeks would have been extra specially gross as most of the receptacles were porta potties. You'll just have to wait for the race report to get the official news. I bet you can't wait.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

IMLP Swim

IMLP is a world class event in perhaps the greatest location. There is absolutely everything right with this race and I will attempt, over the next few posts to prove it. Later on, I'll tell you about my 2012 experience, when I've had enough time to digest everything. If you are the kind of person who loathes nature and picturesque views, then these next few posts are probably not for you.

Here is what the Ironman Lake Placid swim venue, Mirror Lake, looks like from a couple of different angles:

This picture is from behind the swim start. Downtown Lake Placid can be seen just past the water with the mountains in the backdrop. You can use the buildings in the town as landmarks to know your position in the water.

Here's what it looks like from the 'triathlete beach'. There is a public beach off to the left but the athletes tend to enter the water from this position during training sessions. If you read reviews on the race and people say that they started from "the beach", they mean here.

This is what the swim course looks like after it is set up. You swim out on the right hand side close to the yellow buoys. You swim back on the left hand side close to the red buoys. There is a nice yellow cord about 6 feet under the water that holds the buoys in place. If you are brave enough during the race, you can get close to the yellow cord and use it as a lane line.
  
 
The swim is 2 laps. Each lap is 1.2 miles long. You must get out of the water after the first lap near this sign (oh, the irony). Run across the public beach and go back in for a second loop.
 

Here's what the swim start looks like with 2000 plus people all starting at the same time. The closer you are to the front, the faster your swim time will be. But, there is A LOT of contact. Elbows. Heels. Hands. Heads. Be prepared for some physicality during the swim start.

Here's a shot from behind after the gun. As you can see, lots of bodies in close proximity for a very long time. In my experience, this bump and grind is at its worst during the 3 minutes after the start and at the first turn-around buoy. It tends to ease up on the way back and lessens even more on the second loop. Please note, it never really goes away. If you want to lesson the contact even more, rumor has it that you can start on the beach or way out to the right. I have also learned that staying on the inside, left side, of the buoys helps as well.

Once you finish your second lap, you are free to get out of the water. But, transition is a good distance away (roughly 0.25 miles). You come out of the water, over the beach, and up this path.

Then, you travel down this road.

At the corner, you turn right and head for those big white tents. That is the transition area.

On race day, the entire path will be covered with green, astroturf-type carpet to help ease the pain of running on hard bricks and concrete. There will be no cars. There will be lines and lines of screaming cheering fans.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WW- Weather Freakout

As with every year, I am starting to freak out about the weather in Lake Placid. As you may or may not know, I suck I have the Ironman coming up this weekend. Since training is pretty much over, I've got this excess energy that I spend towards worrying about stuff that is completely out of my control.

When I first started checking the forecast, the high temperature for Sunday was 74º. This is as close to perfect as you can imagine. I checked the next day. Up to 77º. Then I checked again. 78º.

Yesterday morning, when I checked the forecast, it called for 84º. This is well outside of the realm of perfect. I, perhaps, should stop checking. Every time I look, it gets hotter and hotter. But, I cannot stop. I think that everyone is OCD about something and I have successfully identified mine.

FYI, I just checked again in the middle of writing this post. It went down to 81º. Better but still not great. Maybe if I engage my will hard enough, I bet I can get the prediction back down to 74º.

To complicate the diagnosis, the Banter-in-Law is a certified nutcase meteorologist and provides me with my own personal forecast. He has never been wrong. He vows to continue checking the models as he has access to NOAAs latest and greatest. Even with a pro checking the data, I still have to repeatedly validate the numbers.

Anyway, thank goodness that the race is in Lake Placid. There are some areas that are expecting much worse race conditions. For those of you down south, good luck to you this weekend. I'll just be happy that I'm not living here:



P.S. And I couldn't stop myself from checking again. It is now at 80º (right where the BIL said it would be). Since there is 4 days left until race morning, I'll probably check about 2000 more times just in case.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Race Review- Tri in the Buff

What an outstanding name for a race! A Tri in the Buff. This race is part of a series of races offered in the upstate NY area by Score-This. Pictures were taken by Terry Wherry Sports. Not once did I actually see someone in the buff. I, myself, would probably not race in the buff. Probably not. Given the temperature, there was certainly perfect conditions for buff racing. There were a few scantily clad individuals that were close.

The Problems
This racing season has been a whirlwind of learning opportunities for me. And, as you have probably already experienced, 'learning opportunities' is code for 'I suck'. I know it but I am still enjoying myself. That's right, I enjoy a good sucking.

There were 2 main learning experiences here, each with it's own caustic problems. First, my bike was broke. This happened sometime on my Thursday century ride. I noticed that my front derailleur was not shifting as snappily as I am used. On Friday, I sat down with the bike to try and resolve said shifting issue. The derailleur hanger had corrupted itself down the middle. Bummer.

Bummer because it was Friday night and I'm a loser with no plans for anything more than work on my bike. Bummer because all of the shops were already closed. Bummer because the race was on Saturday.

"Why not just use your other bike?" asked the Wife.

"Hahahahahahah," I responded. My other bike is a road bike. This is a triathlon bike. My other bike is made of aluminum. This is made of carbon. Carbon! The other bike has a working front derailleur. Did I mention that this was a carbon tri-bike? I will not be riding my road bike. That bike is strictly reserved for emergency purposes. The tri-bike was still ride-able. I had a decision to make:

Shall I place the chain in the big ring or the little ring? Each choice had its merits. The big ring allows you to go faster. BUT, it sucks at slow speeds and on hills. The small ring allows you to spin easier when the going gets tough. BUT, it is the slower ring. As I debated the options, the bike decided for me. It utterly refused to stay in the big ring. Small ring it is.

As usual, I show up to the race and get into transition just as the announcer is making last call. Last call means that you have about 5 minutes before you get kicked out. I am used to this sort of stress and decide that the amount of vigor spent setting things up is akin to warming up. I place everything where I want it and grab my wetsuit.

The Swim
For once (seriously only happens for this specific race), I was in the early swim wave. There was an Elite Wave scheduled 2 minutes before mine. Not only was I the last one out of transition, but I was also the last one into the swim coral, to which I arrived as the elites were starting their swim. My gun was not going to fire for another 2 minutes so I had plenty of time. Standing in knee deep water, it was apparent to me that today's race was going to be warm. Bang. The gun goes off and I reserve my weather related contemplation until later.

The swim was a box-shaped course. For Olympic distance racers, including me, we had to travel around twice. I swam out medium hard and searched for feet. I found a likely candidate and followed him around the course. He did well. I kept following.

Making the turn from the first loop to the second loop was just short of torture. The swim buoys were clear enough. The frontal path was parallel to the shore and right on top of a sandbar. The water was just over your knees. This is no-mans-land for swimming. It is too deep to run in. Not deep enough to swim in. We had to plow through the water. I semi-ran, semi-dolphin dived. I got really, really hot.

I was able to stay with the same dude that drug me around the first time. We had the additional obstacle of swimmers in the later Oly and the early Sprint waves to keep us awake. Again, the guy did well. So well, in fact, that he was the first in our age group and 4th place overall. I was the second place guy in the AG and 10th overall.

Wait. How is that possible? I was on his feet the whole time. I'll tell you how... They don't stop taking your swim time in this race until you enter the transition area, or about 200 yards away from the beach. I decided that, since I have troubles getting out of my wetsuit, to stop in the semi-knee deep water to remove my suit (seriously, it helps a lot). He kept running. I, also, am a pansy and do not run very fast out of the swim.

The Transition 1
I was determined to make better use of my transition 1. If you are an avid Bantee, you would know that my first triathlon of this season had a ridiculously slow T1 time. That race prompted me to post T1 tips. I was determined to have a better transition, if only to prove what I was talking about. How'd I do? My T1 time was a plush 49 seconds or 4th fastest T1 in the race. I'd call that not bad.


The Bike
I leave the transition area, bike in hand, getting ready to start the ride. Remember, I had done a 100 mile ride just about 36 hours ago and I did not have any big gears. It was time to practice my cadence drills. Cadence is exactly the same as rpm and I have my Garmin set up to show my cadence. After I mounted my bike, I got myself up to speed, I glanced down at my Garmin. Not there. It seems that I would leave my beloved master at home in the charger. (Aside: When I got back, it was happily humming along at 100% juice and not in the least bit upset that I left it behind. That device is so awesome it's smug. End Aside.)

So, now I had no front derailleur, and as a consequence no big gears, coupled without any data. I wasn't sure how I was going to get through this race. Last year, when I had everything working, I made it around the course with an average pace of 21.7 mph. This year, when I had absolutely no clue as to my speed, I made it around the course with an average pace of 21.7 mph (according to the published race results). This speed was good enough for 4th place in my AG and 26th overall on the bike. It would seem that having the big gears may not actually be necessary. (Still can't help but wonder, "What if...".)

One thing I did notice on the ride was the absence of my liquids. They were there at the beginning of the ride. But, by about mile 20 (out of 24), I was completely void of juice. It was a shame as I remember really wanting a drink.

The Transition 2
I jumped off the bike as was again determined to not have a bad transition. Soon, I'll post on how to make a good T2. Since I do not practice without socks, I do not race without socks. One sock, the left one, did not obey as well as it could have. Everything else went well. I made it out of T2 in 1:02 (damn sock), which was 35th overall.

The Run
I started the run. It was getting hot and humid outside as it is prone to do in mid July in the great Northeast. I started running at a pace I believed to be conservative. But, the Garmin was still at home, refusing to make the trip on my behalf, so I really had no idea.

Much to the credit of the race, there was plenty of water on the course. For a 5k, they had 4 water stops. It was at the first one that I made my second big learning experience: I only took one cup of water. Remember that I was already thirsty coming off the bike. A smart triathlete would have taken in a couple of drinks. Not the Banter. Nope. He took in just one 4 ounce cup of aqua per station for the first 5k. This mistake manifested itself at mile 3.5.

At mile 3.5, I had taken in about 3 cups of water and struggled to get the 3rd one down. I was hot. I was tired. I was sore. I was sweating profusely. And, much to my chagrin, I was walking. Shortly after I started walking, something really spectacular happened. I was offered water by one of the racers. She ran by, asked if I was okay, and started to unclip one of her Fuel Belt water bottles. I didn't take the bottle. Didn't need it. I simply wanted to give my recently gulped fluid a chance to make it out of my gut. I eventually started running again. This woman is a much better athlete than I  in many aspects. I walked for a short while longer.

Here's the thing about walking: it's really slow compared to running. I would normally be able to hold a 7:30 or so pace at this distance without much of an issue. My official race pace for the 2012 Tri in the Buff? 10:01. Ew!

My overall place for the race was 40th. When all was said and done, I was happy to survive. To be frank, I was primed for a DNF. I was sincerely ready to give up. But, I had dropped out of a race once before. Exactly once. Having already experienced the personal anguish and internal humility of giving up, I kept going. This race didn't kill me. I'm not sure if I am stronger.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WW- I need new gear

I'm in the midst of reviewing my last race. There were some technical problems with that race (along with some tactical problems) making it an extremely difficult review. One of my technical problems: my front derailleur. Okay, it wasn't as much of a problem as it was a no show.

Here's a pic of my bike sans front derailleur. The shifting device itself is in pristine shape. However, the thing that mounts the derailleur to the frame, technically called a 'hanger' as I've recently learned, has sheared in half. I've also recently learned that having a working part without it being able to be mounted to the frame is quite useless. So, I brought the bike to the LBS and of course they didn't have the piece in stock. I was stuck doing the whole race in the small gears as the chain refused to stay on top.

Since I'm at the store and spending money, my inhibitions are lowered. I had some time to kill and I started to look around at all of the neat things that I could have. Understand that a year or 2 ago, some idiot at the USAT headquarters published a study that suggested that the average triathlete brings home roughly $150k per year. I have never met one of these athletes, meaning that there are some exceptionally rich athletes out there needing to balance out my kind. As a result, anytime you attach the word 'triathlon' to something, the price gets inflated.

For example, I need a new watch. Not that there's anything wrong with my Garmin, it's just that this one is so cool.

It's waterproof up to 3300 feet, made of titanium, and it is powered by the motion of your body. For just $89,999, it is a steal at $55 thousand off the retail price. If you buy this before I place my order, I'll be pissed. (If you get the chance, go to the Amazon site and read the reviews/ user comments. You'll thank me later.)

Since I'm having issues with my bike, it may be time to upgrade. The performance bike market has expanded greatly. I am thinking on getting away with my old school carbon-fiber ride for something more titanium. How about this ride?

For only $40,000 you could own this gem. It features "technology and innovations derived from racing car, with the highest levels of fabrication and craftsmanship." Included, for no additional fee, is an on-deck cycling computer saving your Zenith watch for the run.

So, now that I've (potentially) got a new watch and a new ride, I need some cycling shades. My current Trifosi sunglasses are on their 3rd year and have a few scratches. Enter the Dolce & Gabanna 2027b sunblockers.  These bad boys are a steal at just $383, 609. It's got gold and diamonds. These precious minerals indicate durability. Plus, the price makes sense as $383, 610 would be absolutely ridiculous for these UVA/ UVB/ and UVC protectors.

Finally, I need new running shoes. I had considered these:

These are vintage Air Jordans. They are made of highly sustainable silver proving to be not too gaudy for everyday use. The problem is that they are designed for the basketball court and I doubt that they have the correct support needed for endurance training. But, at only $60,000, MJ has personally autographed them, making them almost worth the risk of using them in a race.

If you want something running specific, might I suggest picking up a pair of these- 2007 Shanghai Golden Grand Prixat from Shanghai. Silver can tarnish, but these golden running shoes are for the long haul. At only $24,000, these vintage sneakers weigh in at 620 grams of gold (my new Mizuno Wave Rider 15s are roughly 300 grams of shoe). The added weight is worth it when you consider how strong and efficient your legs will become after prolonged running blocks in these shoes.

Both of the shoe suggestions, along with a few others, can be found here.

As you can see, I am conflicted with so many options. Whereas I cannot boast the salary figures of the 'standard' triathlete, I can at least take steps to blend in with the right gear.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Red- Running Shoes Diary


Dear Red-Running Shoes Diary,

The other day, I went for a morning run. It was warm and humid outside rendering my shirt useless. I donned my running shorts, which flowed over my sculpted legs just short of my knees. My white socks were barely showing above my well worn running shoes, just below my chiseled calf muscles. I lead out on the run with my six-pack abs. (1)

After grabbing a drink of water, I called for the golden retriever/ yellow lab mix, who is my faithful running companion (and also happens to have six-pack abs). We set out on the road heading due south from my house. Our pace was comfortable (2), allowing me to breathe easy while my Baywatch (3)-esque pecs rippled in the motion.

We had made it about 8 miles (4) from my home and I had just now started to form the first beads of sweat. Off to my right, there was this large, picturesque mansion screaming of a millionaire (5). On the back deck of this pristine manicured landscape was a pure-bred golden retriever. This dog was a handsome specimen (6). I'll call him Max (short for Maximum Awesomeness).

Max was unbound by any form of restraint. There was no fence, electronic or otherwise, to keep Max contained. I doubt any fence could hold that magnificent animal (7). Max gave a warning growl, friendly bark, and sprinted (8) his way in our direction.

My running dog is not one to back down from an aggressor (9). As Max continued his march, judging by the wag of his tail, it was clear that Max was no adversary. The 2 dogs faced off (10) for about a minute.  It was apparent that Max had no intention of going home on his own. I staged an intervention.

I grabbed Max by the collar and walked in the direction of his home. Max resisted at first but I out-Alpha'd him (11). As I approached the rear door of the house, I noticed that the back screen door was wide open making it abundantly obvious how Max had escaped his domicile. The was a large, 42" plasma (12) TV playing in the background. I knocked on the door.

"Hello," I said, "I've got your dog." No response. I repeated my salutation. Again, no response.

My dog and Max were happy for the delay as they took advantage to play (13). I started to walk around the deck, staring into the most fashionable decorated kitchen (14). I saw no one. Certainly the owners did not depart and leave the house wide open. I went back to my original plan.

"Hello! Hello!" I said in a much louder voice. I was starting to fret (15). I decided to put Max in the house and close the door behind him. One more try, "Hello. Is there anybody home? Hello," I said as I went to grab Max (16).

I walked Max back to the house. I put him inside and reached for the door handle. Then I saw her.

She was a magnificent specimen of the human female form (17). Her hair was dripping wet, indicating that she had just showered. She was wearing a black, silk (18) robe. She smiled in my direction and gave me a playful up-and-down (19).

"I've got your dog. He followed us on my run and I didn't think he should go with us," I said. "I knocked but nobody answered."

"Thanks," she said. "He does that from time to time. How could I ever show my gratitude for your gallant, thoughtful behavior." She stepped towards me and started to untie her robe. The silky material dropped to the floor, displaying her curves in all of her shapely, womanly glory. She took a few steps towards me. I was frozen in a mix of fear and delight. Fear in that I am a happily married man and don't wish to ruin it. Delight in that this was a site to be proud of and I didn't want to miss it. (20)

My running dog stepped up to my side, nudged my hand, and awoke me from my stupor (more proof that he is smarter than me).

"No problem," I said. As the running dog and I turned away and galloped off into the sunrise.


___________________________
Errati:
The Banter would like to apologize for some inconsistencies in the above post. Please insert the following corrections.

1. Two-pack abs (21)
2. Slow as molasses
3. Big Bang Theory
4. About 400 yards
5. Shack with a deck
6. Old, graying and overweight
7. I don't think the owners believed that Max was able to leave the porch without assistance.
8. Plodded
9. He hid behind me, tail tucked
10. Sniffed each other's butts
11. Was eager to follow anyone anywhere.
12. 19" black and white
13. Sniff each other some more
14. Sink full of dirty dishes.
15. Get annoyed with the situation.
16. Separate the 2 dogs from yet more butt sniffing.
17. Average, 40-something blond
18. White, full-legged terry cloth
19. Looked at me the way you would if encountering a real-life gargoyle.
20. This entire paragraph should read, 'She said, "Please stop eating my food and get out of my house."'
21. Semi-buddha belly

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Change of the Guard

So, I headed in to the YMCA for my workout the other day. Regardless of the prescribed set, I enter the pool area with exactly 1 thought in mind: Does my butt look fat in these speedos? I hope that the hot chick is working the lifeguard stand.

Understand, I have absolutely no desire to interact with said hotguard. She's half my age. Even if I were 20 years younger, I would probably behave exactly the same way I do now: jump up and down like an untrained monkey admire from a distance. I lack the confidence to talk to hot chicks and she was/ is way out of my league. I simply enjoy the pleasure of pool candy whilst working out. Plus, she always seems to be bored out of her gourd causing her to walk laps around the pool deck. There's something else on which to focus on as you, ahem, stroke 16 times per 25 yards to flip it over and repeat.

Much to my chagrin, I entered the deck and saw this dude. After a second glance, I knew this guy. We had coached a team together several years ago. In his current manifestation, with his hairstyle and red guard shirt, he resembled Chuck Sherman from the American Pie movie franchise.

Don't get me wrong, I like this guy (even though I can't remember his real name). He was a good coach and a guy of solid character. He worked well with the kids and, unlike several of the other coaches for the club team, he had an idea of how to swim. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I spied the deck clock and made a mental note as to where the second hand was in relation to the 60. He didn't need to follow my gaze. He's a swimmer and knew exactly where I was looking. At the 50 second mark, like he was using to force and in tuned to the black hand, he shut up letting me get ready to start my set. Like I said, I like this guy and he knows his stuff.

My workout for the day was enough to make Olympians writhe in fear rather vanilla. I did a 500 yard warm-up. Then I snapped of 10x200s. I followed the set with 5x50s hard (I always put the hard stuff at the end). As I was cooling down, there was a change of the guards.

Dammit. My workout was done. It was time for me to leave. And the hottie walks in. This was not the girl I had in mind an hour ago. She was, umm, better. You know the type. Blonde. Ponytail. Cute. Late teens or maybe early twenties (and the simple fact that I am obsessing over the age difference is proof that I'm an old fart who has not yet had his mid-life crisis). Yet there she is. The pic at the right is not her but it's pretty darn close. I look. My girl is wearing shorts with an inscription on the back. I have no idea what it says because, err, I'm not wearing my glasses on the pool deck. I look away. I look at the deck clock. I glance at the time, which just so happens to be located right behind the lifeguard stand (I also can't really see the numbers but I'm the only one who knows that). Back at her. Crap, I am being far too obvious. The clock clearly says one thing... It's time to leave.

As I walk out of the pool, I wave my hand at the lifeguard stand. I do this after every workout, regardless of who is working. I have never actually had the need of a lifeguard while swimming and I pray that I never will. This does not mean that I don't want them there. They all do good work for just over minimum wage. Imagine that, the people paid to save our lives earn just a little bit less than the average McDonald's employee. The lifeguards have earned and deserve my gratitude. The least I could do is thank them for keeping me alive. Not many other people at the Y do this, which is a huge shame.

As I wave and smile, I take one more look at the lifeguard stand. I smile as I realize the full weight of the awesomeness of what I have just seen. I was just kept safe under the watchful eye of the Sherminator! Life is good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ironman Syracuse 70.3- The Run

I had planned on publishing this post much earlier. I really wanted to wait until the "Official" results were up so that I could post some real data. Alas, I'm not sure the official data will ever be posted. I just assumed that when you go to the Results Page, click on the "Official Results" tab, there might actually be something to look at or a document waiting for you to download. Nope. Either that, or I'm not looking in the right place. If anyone knows of a better place to find official data, kindly teach me. I am a ready and willing learner.

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The Ironman Syracuse 70.3 has a lot of good things going for it. They have a pretty good swim. A challenging, yet picturesque bike. They struggle on the run.

Two years ago, I did not do this race (mostly because I didn't learn about the race until it was over). The swim and bike were the same. Back then, they had this idea to run point to point. The run itself was a net downhill run, meaning that there was potential for fast times. This also meant that people had to be bussed back to the race site. People were not very happy with the bus ride back (no comment on how the bus company felt about hauling sweaty, smelly triathletes on their plush fabric seats).

Last year, they changed the course to be a 2-loop, lasso-shaped run. The run featured some rolling hills, a couple of larger hills, and kept athletes closer to transition. The run also went over some railroad tracks. Well, rumor has it that the RR company was not pleased with needing to shut down train traffic for most of a day. The run course was changed for the 3rd year in a row.
This year we ran south out of transition, on to the main road, hung a left into a neighborhood, and up a hill. Then, at the top of the hill, we turned around and went back. Repeat 2 times.

Just for the record, I did not like this year's course. There are a couple of reasons for that opinion. If you look at the course map, you'll see that the first portion of the run was in the park, indicated in green. It is a beautiful park. However, a majority of the run in the park was on cobblestones. No, not the nicely paved, compressed cobbles. These were the type that had sharp edges. The type that you could pick up and launch to defend yourself against an attacker or small, predatory animal. They were not very fun to run on. (Aside: I heard a comment that some lady ran the course barefoot. Wow! I struggled in shoes. More evidence towards my pansiness. End Aside.)

The situation did not improve when we left the park. Now that we were on the main road, a different problem presented itself. The race organizers were able to close down a lane of of the road. Good for us. Bad for motorists. However, in that one lane of traffic, there was a bike lane for people returning from their ride. There was outbound running traffic. There was inbound running traffic. Basically, it was cone-to-shoulder athletes. There was not a lot of room for elbows.

Once you made the left hand turn off of the main road, about 2 miles into the run, things got nice. We entered a neighborhood and had both lanes to our running bliss. I was averaging 7:50s per mile at this time and feeling pretty good. Perhaps I was a little tired. Perhaps I was a little warm. Perhaps I was an idiot.

My Time With a Pro
I happened to be running with one of the professional ladies, #47 Suzy Serpico. She was on her 2nd lap and I on my first. To be honest, I had never heard of her before. Here's a link to her site. (Oddly, no mention of me.) She was pretty hot running well and I took advantage of hanging with a pro for a short while. I tried to pay attention to what she did at the aid station. She took in ice and sponged herself down. I ogled. I noticed that she was not wearing socks for the run. Suzy was very serious about her job and did it efficiently.

The bliss continued for only about a 1/2 mile. This is where the pain began. We started to go up. Suzy was not kind enough to wait for me (she ended up an awesome 7th in the ladies race). Then we turned right and continued to go up. I was, once again, running alone.

The Party
At the top of the hill was the best group of volunteers ever at an event. They had prepped the course before the race with encouraging sidewalk chalk. They were literally having a luau. Men and women dressed in grass skirts. The boys had on coconut bras. The ladies were in Hawaiian shirts and festive garb. They were playing tropical, reggae sorts of music. They were screaming and yelling with copious amounts of energy. It kind of made the suffering up the hill worth it. Kind of. Regardless on my attitude towards that hill, these volunteers were the greatest!

The return trip down the hill was fast. Maybe a bit too fast. I screamed down the hill with reckless abandon and passed some of the better uphillers. By mile 4.5, we were back on the main road. The running lane back towards transition added another challenge. Not only were we granted a running space of roughly 3.5 feet wide, but we were sequestered to the road's shoulder. This particular shoulder had a nice slope to encourage water runoff. It also encouraged runner runoff. I remember distinctly that my left leg did not enjoy being topside while my right leg got to enjoy the comforts of full extension.

I was excited to get off of the main road. They plopped an aid station at the right hand turn and I was getting hot and dehydrated. In reflection, I'm pretty sure that I did not take in enough water on the bike. It was warmer than I had anticipated and that fact was starting to rear it's ugly head. Once you start down the path of dehydration during a distance run, forever shall it dominate your destiny.

My excitement was short lived as we were back on the cobble stone path of hell. I opted to run on the very edge of the path, which was half dirt/ half bruise-inducing limestone. It almost felt like cheating. Almost. We ran back to transition, turned around, and headed out for another loop.

Lap 2
As I started the second lap, bike traffic had slowed down significantly but running traffic had increased. The runners were becoming bold enough to run on the edge of the bike lane. It didn't seem so bad this time. Of course, I was running high on steam but low on energy. I made it to the hill and started to walk.

The number of spectators at the hill had increased dramatically. Included in this bunch of people was a small group of college-aged coeds. As I walked, I was staring intently at a space on the hill about 20 feet in front of me. One of these aforementioned college-aged spectators just happened to be a girl. In a black bikini top. In black short-shorts. Wearing Vibram Five Fingers. She stepped in front of me and contacted my eyes. She walked backwards while I plodded forwards. She continually spouted out words of encouragement as I made my way up. I'd be lying if I told you I heard a single word she said. I was concentrating on, umm, the hill in front of me. She escorted me to the right hand turn and went back down to find another victim of her siren ways. I had considered going back down for another turn.

The luau was still going strong even if I wasn't. I was still walking. So was Blaine. Blaine was a 47 year old female on her first lap. She was dressed all in pink and had her hair in a nice, sporty ponytail. I must also note that she is a much better walker up hills than me. I told her as much and she laughed. I'm not sure if the humor was in my statement or my patheticness. Maybe both.

As I made my way down, I did some mental math. This sort of activity is a wonderful distractor from running related discomfort. Since it was clear that I was not going to set any kind of PR on the run, I wanted to finish in under 2 hours. At the bottom of the hill, I calculated that I needed to run at about a 9:30 pace from here on out to succeed. Now that I had a goal, I also had a race-related focus instead of something that was well outside of my dating pool.

The Pain
As I made it back on to the main road, the pack had thinned out. The bike leg was all but complete and the space for running was wider. The left leg did not complain (it might have simply gone numb). My entire being was hot, sweaty, and miserable. Don't believe me. I have proof. Or, I should say that FinisherPix.com has proof. If you want to see just how bad I was feeling, this pic says it all.

I crossed the line and stopped the Garmin. It had me at 1:59.50 for the run. I had 10 seconds left to spare. Race listed me at 1:59.18, which I would have used as backup ego in case I needed it.

My unofficial race time was 5:18.53 or about 10 minutes slower than last year. That time was good enough for 276th place overall.

I did not enjoy the run course. I did not mind the big hill, especially with the bikini/ luau scenery. The cobblestone path and the crowded main road were just not fun. The logistics of that stretch of road are something I hope that the RD revisits and solves in the future.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WW- Independence Day

I have to be honest. I love America. I love the 4th of July. I love fireworks.

First, as a sciencey guy, I am repeatedly amazed by the technology involved in making colorful, shapely things that go boom. How they can take some black powder invented millenia ago by the Chinese, smack it into a mortar, shoot it up in the air a couple of hundred feet, and have it appear in a flash of brilliance as the planet Venus is awe-worthy. 





Second, in America, we have the right to say (and type) whatever we want. And, apparently, our phones have the right to change those words to whatever they want.




We also have to right to bear arms. So we use that right to blow stuff up.

"Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small portion of it." -Convenience Store Clerk in the Simpsons.




When I was a kid, my dad had a friend who would supply him with bricks and bricks of firecrackers and grosses of bottle rockets. And, since I was a kid, I really meant that dad's friend supplied me with bottle rockets. Still on the kid thing, I was (am?) an idiot. Didn't me and my idiot neighbor friends have bottle rocket wars? We'd fire them at each other, using our front doors as 'forts', and score points based on how close we'd get to human flesh with more points for the rocket making it into another's house.

It could have been worse. (This statement should act as your disclaimer for the below video.)