December 13, 2010

Why I'm racing IMLP in 2011

This was what I sent in to when I filled out the registration for 2011.  I wonder if they'll even notice... I'm training this winter with a fire in my belly as I have unfinished business on this course.  So watch out Lake Placid.  I'm coming for you....

December 3, 2010

WATTS UP?!?! - Power is here...

I had hinted a while back that the Lunar Phoenix was getting some new additions and more upgrades this season, but I hadn't gotten around to posting anything about it yet. (probably had something to do with my solidification of my "top-10" list in the post prior!...I had to sample them all again JUST to make sure they were worthy, heh heh!) 
Well this year I broke down and had one of those you-can't-really-pass-this-up type of deals put in front of me and I had to jump on it!  Many thanks to my buddy Turbeau Curbeau who was the one getting rid of a spiffy new-to-me wireless PowerTap SL+ hub.  Here it is installed on a brand new rim that I just got back the other night.  It's a 32 hole hub and it was originally installed on a 16 spoke rim (actually a Bontrager Race X Lite rim) but being that I am about 155-160lbs, I got a little sketched out with it being on such a light rim that I had it swapped over to a sturdier one. 

I've been riding for about a month now in the dungeon and been racking up the base mileage.  I have a Tacx trainer for the time being and that's giving me a really good and accurate depiction of my current level of fitness.  I'm also reading "Training and Racing with a power meter" by Allen Cogan and Hunter Allen as suggested over a few beers up in Lake Placid by my buddy Ryan.  (he just got back from Kona for the 2nd year in a I listen extra careful to what he has to say - all the while trying to weed out the uber metro-sexual dribble that he often injects into his conversations!) But he's more than legit, so I listen.  This book should be the freaking power-bible, it's got so much information. Honestly, I knew that power=watts when I started riding and that was a fun little factoid, but this is written in a very scientific, easy to read approach that kind of spells out how to use and interpret data from power files in order to make you a more complete rider.  It's just great and I feel like I'm learning a lot about myself as a rider and where I can improve mainly. 
Normally, when I bike (or run) I have a tendency to go out MUCH too hard and fade over the course of the race. I mean, I hang on for dear life, but it's not always the most effective way to pace a race. With a powermeter, I feel like I can almost keep myself in check and make sure I have the much needed gas left in the tank for the latter stages of the marathon and the latter stages of the bike. I have a feeling this will be a very valuable tool as my fastest stand alone marathon is a 2:53 and my fastest Ironman marathon is only a 3:41. Ideally these should be MUCH closer together and I feel like if I pace the bike a little better, I can run the marathon that I know that I am capable of.

Plus as a bonus, it’s really cool to see your wattage displayed on a screen and when you ease up on the pedals, your watts INSTANTLY decrease. There is virtually no lag time. I am so used to racing with heart rate, which always keeps me in check, but the lag time is about 30-45 seconds and your heart rate can be influenced by a variety of other factors (wind, temperature, hydration, etc) Have you ever had a ride into a headwind and been pushing on the pedals all ride long, only to come home, enter it into your training log and then forget that it was windy that day when you look at the ride 3 weeks later? A powermeter will eliminate that, because as a head wind increases, so do your watts and it’s just a more accurate depiction of your ride.

All in all, I’m stoked to do my FTP testing at the end of this weekend and get my base zones so I can gauge fitness levels and gains over the course of the season. After all, I’m kind of a numbers guy and I’m just pretty excited to have the ability to coach myself more accurately and remove another x-factor from my self made training plan.

So, a new blog entry will be written in the near future about seasonal beer offerings (since there was an over whelming response to the top 10 list) but I just wanted to get a new one up about the watt-o-meter and my newfound accuracy of bike training this season. Watch out friends, I’m coming for you in 2011. See you down in the dungeon while I’m crushing cranks! Cheers.

November 23, 2010

Top 10 beer list

I've talked of this post for a while now and casually mention it whenever I have a really good beer.  (DISCLAIMER: this is an ever fluctuating list and nothing is written in stone with it.  It is all personal opinion and probably will change by the time I finish my final edit)

The basis of this list was to create a virual "top ten" list of beers.  The concept came about because over my years, I've gleaned a lot of knowledge about the beverage industry and have come to appreciate the finer brews out there.  Slowly I realized that this post might become enormous and I would have to split it into seasonal beers there as well because most breweries offer limited release beers that coincide with the seasons that sometimes are better tasting than their flagship offerings. However on the flip side of things, those seasonal offerings are very strong and not always a standard normal drinking beer.  That's why I have split out the seasonal section (it will follow in another post).  But anyway, without further adieu, here is my rendition of my top-10 all time drinkability beers:

#1 - Unibroue - La Fin Du Monde
Literally translating to "the end of the world", if you have too many of these special beers, you might feel like doomsday is near the next morning.  This beer is probably my absolute all time favorite brew.  It's brewed by a company in Canada called Unibroue and their offerings are all supreme in my books.  All of these beers are bottle fermented which means that when you pour it, the fizzy head is exhorbent and you get a small amount of sediment in the bottom of your glass/bottle.  It's sold in 4 packs because the alcohol content is up around 9% ABV and it is a little bit pricey.  It's a belgian white beer, so the head is tiny compact bubbles and the appearance is cloudy in nature.  To anyone that I tell this well kept secret about, I always tell them it's comparable to a stronger version of Blue Moon or Shock Top (without the overpowering citrus aftertaste to it) All in all, this one tops out my list.

#2 - Ommegang Brewery - Rare Vos
This amazing creation is bottled and brewed right down the Thruway from our hometown here in Rochester in nearby Syracuse at the Ommegang Brewery.  A rich amber beer in color, Rare Vos is a middle of the road drinkable beer for me. I originally sampled this for the first time at the Flour City Brewers fest back in 2005 or 2006.  It was in Fronteir Field at the time and the guy that was pouring samples at the Ommegang table told me I was going to need a "frequent flyer" card because I was coming back so often for a refill!  I thought it would just be a regular amber ale, but there is some distinct characteristic that I can't place my finger on that makes this one special. So it snuck up on my list after years and years of going back and trying it.  Rare Vos scores very high on my list and I would recommend it to anyone.

#3 - Lake Placid Brewery - Ubu Ale
Lake Placid holds a special place in my heart as most of you know.  Their flagship beer is no different.  With a rich malty flavor and an exceptionally dark color, once I was introduced to the "nectar of the gods" as it is referred to in several circles, I was hooked.  Combine this beer with the relaxing atmosphere of Lake Placid and the fact that usually when it is consumed, I'm up there doing what I love (training for triathlons, hiking high peaks, etc) this beer has risen to a high ranking on my top ten list.  Recently pushing it up into a higher ranking has been my appreciation for this fine concoction during the winter months (typically when real malty beers should be appreciated, but I don't discriminate) after snowshoe races.  My rule of thumb is that "the darker the better" for beers and the Brew Pub got it right.  Tipping the scales at a stout (no pun intended) 7% ABV, this beer was named after the breweries Chocolate Lab that is depicted on the 6-pack case.  Great beer.

#4 Franziskaner - Weissbier
I suppose with all of the talk of hefty malty beers, we should lighten the load a little bit.  I definitely don't discriminate between malty or hoppy, but this beer is one that I kind of stumbled upon and grew to love. First off it has a taste kind of like a more dry Blue Moon (only without the fruity overpowering aftertaste) and to boot in most bars that you can find it on draft, it's served in those 22oz glasses as depicted on the left.  It's a great drinkable beer that you can have 5 of and still be okay with the taste after you're done. 

#5 Warsteiner - Dunkel
I came across this beer when at a trail race in Hell, Michigan many many moons ago.  Well not exactly the Warsteiner brand of beer, but the Dunkel brewing style was discovered for me then.  Something about it just clicked with me as a solid drinkable everyday beer.  We were at a local brewery outside of some town in the southeast quadrant of Michigan and were tasting flights of beer and a dunkel came up in the flight and it was hands down the best beer we had out of the bunch.  There are a lot of other brands of dunkel-beer that have been brewed recently including varieties from larger breweries such as Michelob down to the small town guys such as the Genesee Brewery here in Rochester that just came out with their own JW Dundees Dunkel.  Not a bad dark brown ale to have around the house, a little more malty in flavor, but with a good balance of hops on it as well.  Overall a dunkel variety will always make my top ten list.

#6 Troegs - Dreamweaver Wheat                                                           Normally I don't buy beer because of the labels, but when walking down the aisles of a local beer distribution store (B.O.T.W. - for those of you who are reading in Rochester) but this one, I couldn't resist.  Most of you that know me, know I have an affinity for trees.  Hell, I cultivate bonsais and have a tree tattooed on my back.  So upon seeing a label as such and the name dreamweaver just caught my eye, I had to try it.  Turns out it was a good choice.  A little pricier than most beers (around $12 per 6 pack) but definitely worth the cost, dreamweaver is an unfiltered goodness in a bottle.  A hefeweissen by category, this one has a faint citrus aftertaste, but overall a solid brew.  One that can definitely be drank over and over thru the day.  Not overly hoppy, Troegs does a great job at perfecting their beers for the niche craft market

#7 Guinness brewing company - Guinness Stout
It's about time we had a stout added to the list, eh? Brewed at the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, Arthur Guinness had the great idea many years ago to roast the barley that is used to brew this beer.  This gave it the essential dark color and malty aroma.  I became a big fan of Guinness in college when we used to play open mic nights at the Idle Hour and get absolutely hammered on the $2/pint specials of Guinness.  That combination only strengthened my resolve towards loving the malty characteristics that make up this fine nectar.  It also gave me the confidence to get on stage and sing and play some original songs for people that probably didn't care what I was playing anyway.  Overall a great brew!

#8 Samuel Adams – Imperial Pilsner
Now many of you can probably come up with better ideas on a solid “hoppy” beer for this list, but since this is my list and it looks like I’m a big fan of dark brown beers and Hefeweissen’s. The Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner has a delicate but not overpowering bitterness that is balanced quite nicely with the smooth barley and malt to form a solid pilsner style beer. It’s smooth, but not overly sharp and has a nice clear and aromatic flavor.

#9 Leffe – Brown Ale
This beer was first discovered by me at Acme Bar located on Monroe Ave in Rochester, NY. Obviously the lesser known of the Leffe family of beers (most folks are at least familiar with Leffe blond) It was discovered one night while having pizza in the bar (yes they make pizza and serve it in the bar…it’s amazing) that this one is a generally good solid brown ale. Comparable to Ithaca Brewing Company’s Nut Brown, I haven’t come across a Leffe Brown that I haven’t enjoyed.

#10 Dogfish Head – Miles Davis Bitches Brew
No list could be complete without some type of offering from the wonderful craft brewers at Dogfish Head brewery. The first brand I tried from them was their aprihop and while I do not generally enjoy overpowering fruity beers, this one wasn’t bad. So when recently a bunch of friends were out at a local tavern and we (whilst intoxicated) noticed this sitting on the shelf, felt compelled to give it a try. I was just stoked because it had Miles Davis on it! This one poured as dark as they come and had a nice chocolate aroma on the head. It dissipated quickly, but then again, so did my drink. It was delish. It was a prime example of a solid stout that held some chocolate characteristics to it as well. A fine example.

So there you have it, since it’s off season, go grab yourself an assorted 6-pack and sit on the couch relishing your past accomplishments this year. I know my season’s been extra long and I could use a rest too, so kick back for a few weeks, enjoy some choice drinks that you normally wouldn’t have, indulge yourself and I’ll be back to report on my favorite seasonal brands and varieties in the near future. (Because some of those seasonal one’s almost made it onto the top ten! – the only reason I didn’t include them in the top ten is because you can’t get them year round!!) But this is a good time for beer friends. My top three seasons are either upon us or will be soon, (Autumn, Winter and Spring) so get out there, grab a cold one and relax, you’ve earned it. Cheers!

November 19, 2010

The evolution of my ride...

Over the years I've had some solid bikes and I just thought it would be a pretty cool post to chronicle the evolution of my bikes over the years. I started out doing multisport in 2004 when my buddy Phil convinced me to do the first annual Penn Yann/Keuka Lake triathlon.  I was a newbie and had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It was the only race I did that entire year.  I rode it on this bike below:
 It was a FILA bicycle (I know, right? Fila makes bikes?!?!? I thought they just made crappy shoes!) But I was hooked and came back the next year to try the Olympic distance race.  In between that time, I got hired on to work for a large insurance company and was sent down to Georgia to live for a little over a month. I shipped the bike down via UPS in a cardboard box and reattached the pedals (I had shimano SPD's on it) and rode ALL over the Atlanta suburbs.  It was amazing and I felt as though I was a little kid again.  The shifters on the down tube and the swan neck stem didn't even deter me.  Neither did the fact that when I climbed, my knees hit the handlebars.  I was elated, I had a bike (given to me by my now roommate Erin Varley, thank you!) and I was riding...everywhere. 

But there comes a time that you realize you need to upgrade.  Not really knowing what I was doing, I chose a Trek 1500 bike from a local bike shop that was an aluminum frame.  I don't have a pic of it for here, but I still own it and actually raced on it this past year in several bike races. I finished 5th in the Bloomfield RR this year and some guy stated as we rolled around for cooldown, "props to the guy in the lead pack on the steel frame bike!"  Made me feel a little proud inside and that bike was adequately named "the TANK" because I used to ride it long and I loaded it down with bottles.  Also it is jokingly called "old ironsides" as well, but that's a little known name. I rode that bike out in Missouri for the US Halfmax National Championships which are now called the UltraMax or something like that. 
But I rode on and with the decision to race an Ironman in 2006, I decided it was time to buy a big boy bike and rubbed my pennies together to purchase, "the BEAST".  (see above, that's her hanging out a few days prior to IM Florida where she took me for a 20.7 mph bike split) She was a solid, solid machine and the first time I rode her, we travelled along the streets of Buffalo at blazing speeds and I knew it was a match made in heaven! :o) I was seeing speeds on the odometer that I hadn't EVER seen.  She was sleek, full carbon and FAST.  I got her several upgrades over the years and actually a lot before IM Wisconsin in 2008.  She came to IMLP in 2009 with a full carbon cockpit (stem, basebar, aerobars and brakes) and was as light as a feather.  She lived a good life.  Tragically though, it came to an end on 7/26/2009 as we had a minor mishap halfway thru the bike course at IM Lake Placid.   I still have her cracked frameset in my storage space in the basement and I don't really know what to do with her.  We've shared so many miles that I can't see just tossing her in the garbage just yet. We've won races, had the worst things happen mid race, had bad rides, shared many a laugh over the years.  But with every disaster comes a silver lining:
With the death of the Beast, came a new creation that rose up from her smoldering ashes.  The Lunar Phoenix (see above) was born and resurrected several key components from the Beast to make her a whole bike. I'm still working on getting everything back to where it was in 2009, but those components sure are pricey and my pocketbook will not allow me to be as frivolous as I would like to be.  But as the keen observer might notice, the LP is a P3 frame and the Beast was a P2C, both are carbon, but good old LP was a slight upgrade (why not, right?) LP is certainly fast and she'll be a solid steed.  She hasn't gone thru the rigors of a long course season yet though, so I'll have to break her in gently.  The beast was a pro at that.  She'd ridden herself thru 3.5 Ironmans (I say 0.5 because she only got thru half the bike the 2nd time I did Placid) But as always, there are upgrades to be had and instead of getting her fancy handlebars and such, I chose a more frugal and hopefully beneficial route this year. For my b-day this year, I was given a wonderful Tacx trainer which I affectionatively refer to as the "watt meter" and it's awesome.  I've never trained with power and it definitely showcases your weaknesses as a cyclist out there.   
This is the current set up that I have right now in the "dungeon" at my apartment. I ride in the basement laundry room next to the circuit breakers and most of the time it's in the darkness.  The lights are actually on a motion detector thing and they shut off after 16 minutes and 2 seconds exactly (I timed it last night...) but it's nice because no one really bothers me (other than my neighbors that come to change over their laundry and they already think I'm crazy, so I suppose it's no shock to see me spinning in the basement too)

But the Tacx isn't the only power meter that I've been in contact this year.  See my good buddy Matt upgraded his bike and had a spare PowerTap SL+ hub to sell, so I took that off his hands really quickly and am currently having it installed into a new rim (with the proper amount of spokes) by Craig down at the Mendon CycleSmith.  I'm stoked to be able to ride outside and keep myself in check with power because I have an affinity to go out too hard and then die in the latter miles of the bike.  I don't have a picture up of it yet, but will take one in the next few upcoming weeks. 

Now the only problem for me was that I didn't have a head unit to have the hub send the signal to.  This was a definite problem as I didn't just want a really expensive hub on my bike. I wanted to be able to utilize it.  This problem will be rectified hopefully this February when I purchase a Garmin Forerunner 310xt.  This little beauty is just like the GPS running watches in th past, but it has the ability to pick up a ANT+ signal from a PT hub and display power.  Plus it has a handy little quick release kit that allows this to be mounted to your bike and then twisted off and snapped onto your wrist for running.  BAM.  This thing is gonna be sweet for an Ironman.  It is basically a bike computer that is detachable and can be used to pace a marathon correctly.  And the kicker is, if I purchase the one with a HR strap on it, I can use my health savings account from work and buy this baby pre-tax and it's a qualified purchase because HR monitors are "necessary for the treatment/prevention of heart disease" according to the folks that manage our HSA's.  So that's why it's not coming into my possession until February, I have to still pour cash into my HSA for it.  But the wait will be worth it to have power on the bike and a GPS for the run.  Sweet.

Well friends, I hope you have enjoyed my evolution from a steel framed bike that was too small for me with shifters on the down tube, all the way up to a full carbon rocketship with a powertap that is being installed.  Now I must say this, the bike is only as fast as the rider, so I'm gonna be training my @$$ off over this winter and will hopefully be able to rip it up next season.  So until then, train hard my friends and I'll be the one crushing cranks with the lights off.  Cheers.

November 16, 2010

Competitive Eating challenge 2010

So those of you that have known me for years know that I have a knack for taking down eating competitions.  Usually I try to prepare for these and the original one that I did many moons ago was to eat a whole large pizza by myself (piece of cake!) when I was in college.  Over the year, the challenges have increased in intensity (I think close to 2005 was to eat one of everything on the McDonald Dollar Menu - thanks Dave for suggesting that one, but I finished it...) And just recently my sister Jenna, brother in law Dave, and myself conquered the Cheeburger Cheeburger challenge of eating a one lb burger with 4 toppings on it up in Charlotte.  We got our pictures taken with this large stuffed burger and got on the wall of fame up there.  That was all childs play in comparison to what went down last night.
As I type this, the only thing I have eaten since the 6:15pm start last night, has been a single 1/2 cup of coffee and a yogurt and quite honestly I still feel full.  This was insane and the details are located here but I don't believe they do it justice.  From my calculations this is what was included:

0.5 lb burger with 0.25lb cheese
0.5 lb burger with 0.25lb cheese
8 strips of bacon (0.5 lbs as bacon is 1oz per strip)
4 sets of (lettuce, 2 slices of tomato and onion and mayo)
1 lb of pulled pork
1 lb of seasoned french fries with 0.5lbs of meat sauce on the fries as well
~5lbs of food is the approximate grand total of food to be consumed. Picture below is what was delivered to our table:
Now the reasoning behind all of this was that I originally just wanted to get my name up on the marquee outside of Sticky Lips and wanted to get a picture of myself underneath it.  That would have been fun, but last night was not my night.  To give you all a little insight on how ridiculous this challenge is, they make you sign a waiver prior to starting that basically says that you will not hold Sticky Lips BBQ responsible for any "harm done to myself or others" from this contest.  It's the real deal.  And you have 30 minutes to complete it or else you don't win...
Thats my bro-in-law, Dave above signing away his life on the waiver. There were 3 of us brave souls who tried to accomplish this monumental task that night. It was me, Dave and my buddy Matt who was just coming off of IM Florida and ripped off a 10:13!! So he had the post Ironman metabolism in his favor. I do have to thank my sister, Jenna for shooting all of these pictures of the night as a picture is worth a thousand words. I'll let them do the talking though...Enjoy 
The image above is me tearing thru about midway done with the time limit
Dave threw in the towel about 22 minutes in when he realized that although he had an AMAZINGLY strong start and had finished all of the burgers and pulled pork, he wasn't going to finish in the allotted timeframe.
It took me a little longer to realize that I probably wasn't going to be able to accomplish this mammoth task.  I felt good thru about 15 minutes, but honestly the hot meat sauce mixed in with the french fries just really took it's toll on me.  It wasn't necessarily a mental thing (I kind of assumed it would be a mind over matter type of deal) but it was strictly a CAPACITY issue and my stomach wouldn't stretch enough to hold the remainder.  The picture directly above is what I left behind....I'm not proud either.
Matt got bested by the challenge as well, although he kept on powering thru after the time limit expired and he "won" the challenge out of the 3 of us fools because he eventually ate the most food.  I think the best quote of the night came from Matt when he said something to the effect of, "I don't even want to WATCH Man vs. Food on the Travel channel anymore, I think I'm just completely done with eating challenges".  And I absolutely agree with him.

My whole deal was that after I was done competing in Ironmans that I was going to try my hand in competitive eating.  There is absolutely NO way that is going to happen now.  I'm just not cut out for it in any way, shape or form.  So there you have it.  The final tally was Food 3, Man 0...So instead of a solid message on the marquee, I'm left with a full stomach (still), lots of indigestion, and this:
So that's it.  I'll be cranking extra miles on the roads and trails and on the trainer to work that big guy off, but hopefully I'll see you all out there on the roads and trails.  Take care, eat well and cheers. 

October 15, 2010

Chicago Marathon race report

So as most of you now know, this was an interesting race for me.  I was in really really good shape and ripping off the fastest training runs and workouts I've done since college.  As I enjoy doing late summer, early fall marathons, I signed up for Chicago with the intentions  of seeing how fast my PR could get down to on a pancake flat course.  As alluded to in the previous posts, my PR at this distance was a 2:53 from Boston a few years back and I was excited to see how far I could drop it.  Sunday would not be the day to do so...
I arrived in Chicago with high hopes and fully tapered for 2 weeks.  Life stresses aside, I was focused and had given up caffeine and alcohol for over 3 weeks now and wanted to see how that would affect my performance.  Spoiler alert...I'm never doing that again.  The expo was fun (the pic above is of a giant wall they had at the expo with everyone's names listed on it) and the fact that the Kona Ironman World Championships were streaming live in our hotel room via laptop, helped to keep me off of my feet and otherwise occupied for Saturday.

The weather forecast kept creeping up and up for Chicago in the days leading up to the marathon and even though the race started at 7:30am CST, I was planning on it being a reasonable temperature and maybe chilly.  So, I purchased a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt from a Goodwill store on the way to the Buffalo airport and had an extra pair of arm warmers on that were too small for me and good to wear and throw away.  I walked out of the hotel on race morning with a coffee, bagel and water bottle to get to the race start and instantly, I was warm.  That should've been a good indication of what was to come.  I walked about 2 blocks and ditched the pants and sweatshirt in a dumpster.  Not a good idea to have those on today. I made my way to my corral race morning and saw Tim Dwyer before the race and we chatted a bit.  I took off my arm warmers before the race even started too.  But being in corral A, right behind the elites has it's perks as we got to see them all warming up and heading to the start line.  But after the national anthem and some intros the race was on. 
It took me a whole 3 seconds to cross the starting line, which was pretty cool seeing as how there were 45k runners in the race and there were craploads of people out cheering for us all.  It was kind of intense, and I was trying to get amped up for it, but I checked my HR monitor a few minutes before the gun went off and it read 68.  I honestly don't know if I was excited to race.  I was nervous, just not sure I wanted to get out there and suffer.  I knew the paces that I wanted to hit to have a PR day and I was planning on ripping thru the half in about 1:22-1:23 (6:15-6:19/mile pace) I saw Kim and her friend Megan at mile 3 and was already looking for them when I passed by (not a good sign) I felt okay, just the pace was fast and I don't know if I was ready for it that particular day.  At 3 miles I was about 30 seconds ahead of where I needed to be for my predicted 6:15pace.  Not that big of a deal, but I'll get into why that matters later. 
At mile 5 you head thru a park type place with a few turns and I was chatting with some folks around me and I made mention to the guy in the blue singlet and white sunglasses above that I'd just like it to be mile 20 and still be travelling at this same pace (another good indication that this really just wasn't my day).  The pace was high and I hit 5 miles in about 30:45 (still 30 seconds ahead of what I should have been goin, but at least I was being consistent now) I had no idea if I could hold this pace for the entire marathon, I just wanted to get to the half on schedule and maybe that would give me some sort of mental boost?

At around mile 8, I started to get some pain in the forefront of my right foot...I was getting a blister, not cool.  By the time I had gotten to mile 12, it had burst and it was painful every footfall.  I was coping and trying to block the pain and just keep it moving.  I saw Kim and Megan again at about mile 13 and struggled out a smile (later Kim would tell me that I looked like absolute shit) and I slogged thru the halfway mark in about 1:22:4X so I was at least right on pace.  (I had lost that 30 second buffer though) At this point, I don't know what happened to me, I suddenly got really hot (so much so that I took off my hat) and couldn't get my heart rate down to normal.  It was seriously thru thr roof and I felt like I was exerting WAY more than I should have been for this point in the race.  My 1:22 half marathon that I had just run felt similar to the 1:17:10 I ran in Buffalo earlier this year, only I had another half to go!
I'm not proud of this, but I did what I had to at this point in the race.  Legs were burning and I was watching my race fall apart.  I got to the next aid station and I grabbed water and gatorade and started briskly walking thru it. For the remainder of the race, between miles 13 and 20, I walked a total of 3 times for about 30-45 seconds a piece, just to clear the HR and get it down to a reasonable number.  This made me slump into a pretty bad patch thru this section.  We ran thru a neighborhood that looked very similar to the brownstones of NYC and then we went thru Chinatown and I just wasn't excited about any of it.  At least in the NYC marathon, I was stoked to be heading thru areas and burroughs that I had never been to. For Chicago, I was struggling and uninspired.  (I know this sounds like a lot of excuses, but it was freaking hot out)
I was drinking and eating enough (ate 3 gels and numerous cups of gatorade during the marathon) so I know nutrition wasn't off, I think the heat just got to me that day.  I had put so many self imposed expectations on myself that I tend to crumble under those stressors (anyone reading remember me swimming my senior year in HS and the 20 year old backstroke school record that I missed by 0.03 seconds?...'nuff said!)  So, miles 13-20 were rough, but I was done walking and definitely NOT giving up.  I hit the 20 mark in God knows what time, but in calculating in my head, I thought I might be able to sneak under 3 hours if I just keep on running and moving and NOT walking.   
I slently made a vow to NOT walk the last 10k (6.2 miles) and luckily, I kept that promise to myself.  I was tempted every aid station to hoof it thru, but I kept on slugging along.  I hit the 23 mile mark and started to come around.  It was still a long way to the finish, but I knew I could keep running.  At mile 25 you round a corner and see the finish line in the FAR distance.  It never seemed like it would come.  Finally I hit thru mile 26 at around that 3hr mark and it took me 7:25 to run the last mile.  Mile 26 comes at a little hill and I looked over to see Kim and Megan in the crowd to the left and I just kinda shrugged my shoulders at them.  I didn't really know what else to do but finish it up and call it a day. 

Hitting the line, it just felt good to stop.  I was trashed and drank copious amounts of liquid post race as I waited to find Brian and Liz (they must've walked by me or I left before they got in) I grabbed a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat ale and a weird thing happened, my left shoulder siezed up....I'm talking, couldn't swing it without feeling like a knife was slicing thru it.  It was so strange, but I didn't want to tell anyone about it for fear that they might take me to a hospital again (flashback - IMLP 2009) so I just had the massage team work on it and it loosened up.  I just think I wrenched something over swinging my arms to get my legs moving during the race (my legs did not react...)
My total time was a 3:02:43 and everyone I spoke with said their times were about 15-20 minutes slower than anticipated due to the temps being in the mid 80's at 10:30am when we finished.  Sunday just wasn't the day to go after a PR, simple as that.  I'm not salty with my time, I know it was a valiant effort for so hot of a day, I just know I was in shape to run a best time.  I know I can do better.  It's kind of like the feeling I have after IMLP 2009 when I crashed.  I had worked REALLY hard that year and now for the second time, I still have nothing to show from it. I know I can run faster than 2:53 and can rip off a faster IM than a 10:27...I just have to go ahead and get it done.  I know there are a lot of cheesy photos in this post, but if you want to view the entire album of suffering, they can be found here.
We toured the Goose Island Brewery in Lincoln Park after the race before heading to the airport and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone heading to Chicago.  It was gourmet food in a bar setting with beers that tasted so complex and different that I was genuinely surprised and pleased.  I guess that started off my rest period for me to get re-charged and taking at a MINIMUM of 2 weeks off will be much needed. I need to rekindle my fire and get myself amped up for bigger fish to fry next year.  I've got some new toys coming in and stuff to announce in the near future, so check back often. But until then, train and rest hard my friends.  Recover well, cheers.

October 1, 2010

Chicago Marathon goals

So with the big running race of my season being about a solid week away and things being pretty jittery around here, I just thought I would drop a blog entry down about the specific goals that I have for the upcoming Chicago Marathon
Normally I throw a bunch of little smaller goals with increasing difficulty down here just as a motivator to myself and to let folks know what I think I might be able to do. I haven’t truly flat out raced a stand alone marathon since 2008 and there were some hiccups there as well. (well the last marathon I ran was NYC marathon in 2009, but I was coming back from the crash and was only on like 8 weeks of run training at that point.) The last marathon that I truly raced my heart out was my PR, Boston back in 2008.

So I have been doing some massive training and done some things a little different this marathon than I have for others. I was out on the last little track workout last night and realized it might not be enough (or it just might be “Taper City Blues” right now…but we’ll see) I’ve given up caffeine and that’s been a real difficulty for me. For some reason, even though I enjoy my coffee regularly, it’s been really hard to give up. I’ve never COMPLETELY given up caffeine for a race, just kind of cut back. Last week I had 2 half cups of coffee at the office and a Mountain Dew (my Achilles heel) on lunch. This week – NADA. I’m still finding that I’m dropping the ball mentally on a few things, like sending emails without attachments, but I know that the benefits of going chemical free for this race will be good. The other day at my office, I brewed coffee for everyone just to get the smell in my nostrils. (I swear I felt like a crack addict) I only have about a cup or two a day, but it was enough to make it hard to kick the habit. I won’t keep it up after the marathon I’m sure, but I just wanted to see what racing like this would do.
But anyway, past the ridiculousness of me, I wanted to get some solid goals down on paper (well, kinda…) for this race. The number one thing I want to do is really leave it all out on the course. I mean completely be spent by the time I get to the finish line and know that I couldn’t have run faster. I have the tendency to “front run” in local races and take it out way too hard, but this one I’m going to try and negative split. But we’ll see. My previous PR for a marathon is a 2:53 that I ran in Boston in 2008 and I’d like to drop 10 minutes off of that. At least get under 2:50. And I think I have the fitness to as well. I ran the Buffalo Half Marathon in 1:17:10 earlier this year and if you double that, add a few minutes for fatigue, you might be around that sub 2:45 mark. But only time will tell, so as it stands, here are my goals:

1. Run a SOLID HARD and well run race

2. PR in the marathon distance (sub 2:53)

3. Beat Diane Matthews PR (my buddy Brian’s sister who ran a 2:48:10 at Chicago)

4. Run a sub 2:45 marathon

I earlier thought that I might be able to swing a LOW 2:4X marathon and possibly dip under the 2:40 barrier, but I think I would have needed to do more than just Yasso 800’s for speed work. I’ve done some solid 20-22 milers at sub 6:40/mile pace, so let’s hope that the training I’ve done leads me to the marathon that I know I’m capable of.

My plan is to run the first half in about 1:22-1:23 and that works out to 6:15/mile-6:19/mile split thru the half. I’d love to negative split that as the Buffalo Half I averaged 5:53’s for the half marathon, so adding 20 seconds per mile should be a cake walk. (but we’ll see)

Now the only thing left to do is put my feet up and relax and know that the work is all done, I just have to let the taper kick in and do my thing on race day. I’ve been getting serious sleep lately and averaging about 9-9.5 hours a night, which I know can only help repair my body (I wonder if it is from the caffeine deprivation?) :o) But yes, bib #’s are up and I’ve snagged the ultra low #963 (I know, under 1,000 for a marathon that boasts 45,000 participants!!!!) if anyone cares and I’ll be touching down in the Windy City on Friday and heading right to the expo.

So the work is done for me, is it done for you? I’m getting off of my feet and relaxing and letting taper town kick in, but I’ll see you out on the roads and until then, taper hard friends. Cheers.

September 20, 2010

Dances with Dirt recap

So last weekend I had the opportunity again to join several crews heading to Hell, Michigan for a 100K Extreme Trail Relay race called Dances with Dirt.  This is always a blast and while I first headed out and was placed on the "JV squad" in 2007, I was asked to be on the "stud team" this past year and it was a good thing.  (In 2008, I was doing IM Wisconsin and in 2009 I was too broken and banged up to race this)
Our team consisted of our the 5 good looking guys pictured above.  From left to right it was Brian Matthews, Jeff Beck, Dan Andrus, myself and Mort Nace.  This was a picture post race and after a few drinks so I apologize for the ridiculousness, but it was all in celebration of a fantastic effort this past year.  Now the last time I races, our team ended up finishing 61st overall and they awarded prizes to the top 60, so we were out of luck, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning. 

This race pulls crazy folks from all over the country and Canada in for a rocking good time. Trail runners are notably always known as that crazy goofy breed that doesn't rely on pace or mile markers and just kind of goes with the flow.  We fit right in.  This year 374 teams came out to play and each team had 5 runners on it which made for a lot of folks there throughout the day. (since this is a relay, just think of the logistics for parking and shuttling teams gets crazy)  But luckily, we really didn't have to deal with too much of that. (i'll explain soon...)

The gun went off and our runner Jeff blazed out of the gate.  His goal this year was to win the opening leg and boy did he not disappoint.   We came thru in numero uno and even though I wasn't racing until leg #4, I knew it was "game on!" and we were gonna have a horserace.  My first leg was a 10k that was called Potto and the trails looked pretty much like Mendon Ponds Park.  It was wide track and fast as it was pretty sandy and dry.  I took the handoff in 8th place and before I even got to the woods (like a quarter mile) I was in 5th.  I was running possessed and on a mission to pick up as many positions as possible.  My leg ended where the race started and I came thru and never saw another soul until I finished.  We hovered around that 5th place for most of the day.
We were running strong and at one point, the newbie on our team - Mr. Matthews, took a wrong turn and got lost for a few minutes down the wrong trail.  We were down a few positions a that point and I thought Mort was going to blow a gasket stomping around waiting for Brian to appear for him to take the hand off.  My next leg was the 8th leg or so called "Bat outta Hell" and I was off for a speedy 2.55 mile jaunt from the General Store in Hell.  I was ready to blaze and ready to take the hand off from the River Styx leg and doing windsprints to warm up and keep my heartrate up.  I took the handoff and flew and never saw anyone but ultra runners my entire leg.  Same thing happened for me for my final leg #11, Vertigo where I took the handoff from Brian (after his quad cramped majorly about 5 minutes before the start of his leg) and he ran phenomenally too.  My legs however got scraped and cut to sh*t on the Vertigo leg because I was running thru a field of soybeans and was about the 5th one or so thru it so there was no real visible trail yet. The only tricky part was that it started to rain on this leg for me an the downhills on slippery leaves were a little tricky. It ended in about a 0.5 mile section of goldenrod and I was bleeding pretty good by the time I got to the car. 

Now the real excitement came when Dan handed off to Mort and we were 50 seconds from 3rd place with two legs to go, Mort's and then Jeff's.  Jeff was running anchor for us and took the handoff 1:40 down from 3rd place. We got in the van and hightailed it to the finish line and narrowly beat Mr. Beck there.  He popped out of the woods and was cruising to the line pulling us from 5th overall to a very respectable 3rd place overall pre-handicap.  It was a grand day and we were ALL celebrating very hard post race in the rain. 
In the past teams have come away with some solid prizes such as embroidered sweatshirts, duffelbags with the race logo on it and some nice stuff.  3rd place overall netted us these beauties... awesome...(insert sarcasm here) but it was still a wonderful race and they did a great job organizing it too.  We all go hammered afterwards and as the saying goes, "you work hard, then play hard" and we definitely all did.  This was the last big race for me before Chicago Marathon which is less than 3 weeks away now and I'm itching to drop a solid race there.  Should be a fun time.  But until then friends, race hard, train harder and see you out on the roads and trails.  Cheers.

September 9, 2010

Squirrelly state of my state

That picture really has nothing to do with this post, but I just thought the t-shirt was awesome and needed some recognition. :o) But anyway, on to the proverbial "state of my state".  Things have been going really well around the lands of Keep Moving Forward lately and I've been gearing up my training in prep for the Chicago Marathon coming up in a month and a day (but who's counting really?)

I've been pouring in the miles on my feet and completely forgone the biking and swimming as of late.  I guess you can say that I'm truly focusing on my running again and it's kind of bringing meback to my roots (or something like that...) Our masters swimming program starts up again on 9/20/10, but I will not be joining until after Chicago is done.  I truly love swimming, but I really don't want to get back into the pool as soon as my taper is starting and start working out different muscles that haven't been used in a good 3-4 months.  As much as I'd love to hop back in, I can wait a few weeks and get back in the pool once business is taken care of in the windy city and utilize swimming as a pseudo recovery after the marathon.

My training has been going really well lately too which is nice.  I've thrown down some good speed workouts (Yasso 800's) and have had some good pacing long runs that I've gotten under my belt.  (20 mile run at 6:40/mile pace) and I have some serious goals that I'd like to hit for October 10th, but there's still some more work to be done before then.  For the first time in a while, my run mileage has been over 40-50 miles per week and while that may not sound like a lot, I know from years of running under my belt, I'm a runner that thrives off lower quality mileage instead of just tons and tons of junk mileage. 
The one thing I have been dealing with (and I blame it on getting older) is I have been creaking and cracking so much more lately than in years past.  One thing I have realized over the years is that I have extremely tight calves.  I've done the whole precautionary things such as purchasing those ridiculous calf sleeves that are supposed to give compression to your lower extremities and increase blood flow and keep your muscles loosened up. Well this year after purchasing a new type of running shoe, I started to develop slight plantar faciitis. It’s not crippling or too severe. It’s just painful when I take the first few steps out of bed in the morning. Kind of like the picture above.

I’ve been trying to prevent the on-slaught of pain by icing and stretching a ton, but it’s not really getting any better, just kind of maintaining. I’m having a feeling it’s from giving up the biking and the swimming and converting those into running miles. My weekly running mileage went up from about 30 a few weeks ago to over 50 this past week and I’m having a feeling the increased and focused running has something to do with it. I'm dealing with it, and I'm hoping it goes away once the marathon is in the past.  I've got to get things all locked up for IMLP next July and be 100% once I get to that starting line. 

I suppose I will write up an analysis of my race plan as the date draws nearer (including paces and goals, etc), but I'm getting ready to dance this upcoming weekend in Hell, Michigan for my second foray into the crazy relay trail world (I did this 100k relay in 2007 too).  It will be a fun time with fun people and I'm sure we will all enjoy a few brews after a long and hard days work :o) If you're going to hell this weekend, see you there, otherwise, get out on the roads and trails and I'll see you as I'm prepping for Chicago.  Cheers.

3rd annual trail beer mile report

So a few weekends ago, we held the 3rd annual trail beer mile at my buddies farmhouse in Rush, NY.  Since they were selling it in the next few weeks, we took the opportunity to have a final "hurrah" at their place which has a fantastically maintained "track" in their backyard which measures exactly 443yards.  (they measured it with a wheel)
There will be no other photos from the event (to protect the innocent...and last names were not used either) other than this official results sheet which was written with a sharpie on the back of my PBR box (I only use the best...) It was a tight race and both Brent and I had been training for weeks/years for this event.  I know I started my illustrious beer miling career back in the hazy foggy memories of SUNY Geneseo and to honor that, this time around I wore an old SUNY G singlet and decided to forgo the usual costume. 

Not much to say other than it was a hot night out and a tight race.  I was running in fear, but still thorouoghly enjoying my beers.  I ended up running a wrm up lap with Ryan and a cool down lap (actually his last lap) with John.  But during the race Brent was bearing down on me on the back stretch of the last lap and I was worried I was going to lose the contents of my stomach if I had to run any faster.  Think of it this way, I think we took 60-90 seconds to put down the 4 beers, so that means we were running 6:00/mile-6:30/mile which is a pretty solid feat when you are burping up foam and have just put back 48 ounces of carbonated liquid.  Not exceptional times, but pretty solid races for a trail mile and us being a rag tag group of runners.  Nothing to submit to the website yet, but give us time and we might have a few entries :o)

There was a relay team of Marta and Scott in which Marta ran and Scott drank.  Unfrtunately their result will forever have the *asterix next to it because unbeknownst to Marta, Scott caused the need for a penalty lap and it was never run.  But good times had by all.  We had a solid crew and are looking at local tracks or other venues to put this on next year.  Our group has always done the "trail beer mile" thing and even though we'd like to keep up that tradition, Brent and I were talking that it'd be cool to get to a track to see what we could lower our PR's to.  I'd like to think I could be in the LOW 7's if I put my mind to it! :o)
But I wanted to at least get a short report down for this race before it got too long after the event to remember the fun.  I have the "Beer mile champion of the world" trophy for another year and will gladly bring it back for next.  We even added times and names to the back of the trophy so it looks like a mini Stanley Cup.  Good stuff.  If anyone has any ideas where to hold the next one, shoot me a message.  I'm all ears.  Obviously this would have to be a venue that is secluded because I'm sure no one wants to get popped for an open container or public intoxication ticket.  But anyway, I'm gonna write another entry in a little bit about the status of running, so until then....enjoy yourself, train hard and have a beer (it's a really good season to...) Cheers.

August 19, 2010

Plan2Peak TTT Race Report

So the boys of Team Big Pants Racing came together last weekend to try and bang out a team time trial for the Buffalo Cycling Club's yearly time trial series.  This was a crack pot idea that was construed by none other than our team captain and founder, Ted Graney.  All great ideas come from any situation where you think to yourself, "well, it sounded good at the time!" :o) This one was fun and amazingly, we did pretty well too.

Sunday came and I made the drive out to Grand Island for the race.  This was pretty low key as it was a club race and we were parking in the lot of an old chemical plant to get our bikes ready.  I pulled in and hopped out to stretch out the legs.  I had a feeling this was going to be a crazy suffer-fest today because I haven't been biking too much lately.  I should've taken the foreshadowing hint, I was right...

I strolled over to registration, met up with our newest team member, Joe Priore and ran into Kevin Patterson of TriSpot.  He was a little bit shocked to see me I think, but I reminded him that I do triathlons for TriSpot and I bike race for the Big Pants Racing team!!! (side note - Even though I bike race a lot around the area, I was never asked to be on the TriSpot cycling, mind you, OTHER folks that are on the tri team, are subsequently on the cycling team as well, but I was left in the dark on this one...okay rant and pity party over) 
Well the forecast called for sprinkled showers and we were all decked out on our triathlon bikes with our Team Big Pants kits on.  Later we would find out that the sleeveless jerseys were illegal for bike races, but since it was just a club race, they let us slide.  For the record, I was in bib shorts and a cycling jersey.  Above is the rear of the bib shorts.  Since my brain is kind of fried today and this write up came in the semi-monthly Big Pants team newsletter (yes that's right, we have a newsletter) I'll let Ted paint the picture with words of this race:

"And for the first time ever, Big Pants Racing entered a team in the Buffalo Bicycling Club's Team Time Trial on Grand Island last weekend. A 20 mile TTT around the Island. It was a blast, and for our first time at it, without any practice, we put up an impressive time of just over 47 minutes. I know we could have gone faster too. The results haven't been posted yet, but I know we were competitive. The team was Travis, Joe Meyer, Joe Priore, Ryan MacPherson, Kevin Lozano and me. With Ry and Trav on the team the risk of a horrifying crash was so heavy you could almost taste it. But when the starter yelled "GO" we dodged the oncoming traffic and blasted off. Ry and Kevin put in such massive efforts early that they got us going hard and then dropped off to let the remaining four of us bring it home. Those guys are team players. Naturally, it started raining hard 2 minutes before we flew into the only three turns on the course. Travis gave us plenty of room and then sprinted back to catch us and jump back on the front. We started to shorten up our turns at the front and that gave us just enough time to recover before having to take our time on the leading end of the line."
No photos were shot of this momentous race, but I can only assume that we looked like the Team CSC boys above flying into the line :o) In the rain, it was ridiculous to try and hold someones wheel when there was rain flying sideways into your face and a variable rooster tail of road spray coming up from the wheel in front of you.  Made the course a lot more challenging than it should have been, but still fun to try and latch on the back of the train after peeling off the front of the line.  Really is a lot different than triathlon riding. This was seriously like speed work and intervals on the bike!

So, I know I paced this one TOTALLY incorrectly and was limping back to the finish for the last few K's.  Thanks to my teammates for not dropping my sorry ass as I was the 4th one to cross the line and subsequently stop the clock for our team.  (even despite the emails about everyone scared that they wouldn't be able to hold my wheel!) In my defense, I took some monster pulls at the front of the line early and dug a pretty deep hole of pain to try to get out of. At one point I was pulling everyone and looked down and spotted 30+mph on the flats. It was crazy. 

All in all it was an awesome and fun experience and despite being like the Red Sox (a bunch of idiots) we managed to pull together a respectable time of 47:29 and that was good for 5th overall and if they put us in the Cat5 group like we were SUPPOSED to be in, we would 've been 2nd in Cat5. So not too shabby :o) We all went on another loop as cool down and had some brews (thanks to Ted) in the parking lot post race.  Good stuff and I know we all can't wait until next year for this race! 

Next up I have to defend my title in the 3rd annual trail beer mile in Rush, NY on Saturday evening.  I went an 8:02 and was able to fend off the likes of several top notch Rochester Runners such as Ryan Pauling and Brent Bartlett, among others.   So we'll see if I can bring the mini trophy home for another year!  Until then, crack a few brews, enjoy your training and get out there on the roads and trails. See you in the sunshine.  Cheers!