Saturday, November 6, 2010

Leaving, and understanding 'TIA'


Cheers,

and....TIA

This Is Africa.

This is a saying that must fully be adopted by even the transient such as myself.  Things NEVER go according to plan.  You wait.  You wait for everything from electricity to transport to arrive.  You think you will be somewhere at 2...well, better not expect to be there by 7.

TIA.

You thought this...and that happened.

Americans need to find patience.  Before leaving I was even aware of that.  From my home in Stanhope NJ I have four 24-hour Dunkin Donuts within five square miles.  You must also add in three CVS's, a Walgreen, a 24-hour Shoprite, and a Super Walmart.  Not to mention the internet gives me movies, music, and communication on demand.  There is NOTHING to wait for in NJ.

Hense you see people freak out day in and day out of the stupidest shit ever.  It makes you wonder what exactly burrowed into our asses to make a 2 minute cue at a check-out counter absolutely intolerable.  I'm as culpable as the next.  More than 1 minute line at an ATM and we are off running to another.  God forbid there is an old lady at the Supermarket checkout struggling to write out a check (that vestige of the ice age)...us Americans might just beat her down.  It's terrible.

But, TIA as taught me a great deal.

It involves removing yourself from the center of the universe.  Things like the elements, sickness, and death get in the way of expediacy every day.

Where are we going anyway?  I don't know where I'm going so, cheers, and thank you Africa for making that ok, because if that's the case I won't be such a jerk in getting there.  I'll just have to kick back and relax and let things happen as best as they are capable of unfolding.  Can't alter reality to suit you.  Just enjoy it as best as you can.

TIA

Highveld vs Lowveld

I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my mind around certain numbers and the corresponding relationships. 

For example, there are 1 millions Swazi’s total.  Last I heard we had over 20 million New Yorkers alone.  Swaziland is an independent nation, yet it’s square mileage is approximately the same as New Jersey. 

But this doesn’t make it any less diverse.  (And, similarly, I believe it’s time to acknowledge how diverse just New Jersey is, not to mention the other 49 states.  After all, in terms of size NJ is, what, 6th smallest?)

And I guess just as we have the Appalachians of High Point we also have the low laying Pine Barrens of all those Southern Counties of Western NJ.  (The whole Jersey shore, though being a North to South completion, is it’s own entity together, we all know)

Lowveld
I’ve spent most of my time in the Lowveld of Swaziland, watching the sun pound the clay dirt so hard dust rises. 

Here there is a rolling, lulling landscape punctuated by compact homesteads boosting between 3-6 huts in the closest proximity.  The property consists of some poor quality farmland that as been turned over to chickens, goats, and cattle, for the most part.  It is not the most fertile place on the planet.  Rusting tractors from the 30’s and 40’s disintegrate into nothingness in the most conspicuous of spaces.  As if after the colonial powers packed up they just left their agriculture there, it too costly to move.  And without overhead capital, farming is a demanding and terribly unproductive enterprise here in Swaziland. 

Gnarled trees dot the landscape, somehow getting past the stage of being mere bushes, the far more prominent of vegetation.  There light purples and azure blue flowerings erupt before you as the eye is only accustomed to different shades of clay, bark, and the green of aloe trees after awhile. 

Dirt roads hardly make their presence known amidst the dirt savannah.  What might at first seem a road on the horizon just might be a dried streambed.  Near my home there was a damn constructed as a means of modernization.  As far as I could gather, it’s been an absolute failure.  Now cattle are now just walked farther and farther to be watered.     

Shade is always sought in summer.  A dozen men will stay stationed all day at pool tables position under the corrugated awnings next to bottle shop.  The scores of vendors (all selling same thing) hold umbrellas for the day’s entirety.  (Anecdotally, I’ve been told that Swazis don’t possess a word for ‘imagination’ in their vocabulary.  It is not just being mean.  It speaks to how 10 vendors will line a street all selling only mangos, the same mangos, in the same size bag.  The logic being that if one person can make a living doing it, and I have mangos, I better copy them.  It will take only one brilliant Swazi to open a burrito stand and the history of the country will forever be different.)


Highveld

My last days were spend in what I feel is the most scenic part of Swaziland.  As you drive in from South Africa there are suddenly pine (or at least some similar coniferous tree) forests that are logged into oblivion.  Luckily there is still enough there to proffer up a monkey sitting at the roadside and to give the rising mountains a texture not unlike The Northeast, only slightly less fierce in gradient.  I sometimes I felt like I was in a rolling, rural Virginia or even some of the hilly country I cycled outside Tampa.

After crossing the boarder there is an explosion beneath you and you climb winding roads of steep grade that make most cars wheeze and sputtered as drivers scramble for the right gearing.  Little adobe-esque houses and huts are built into the side of mountains.  Not mountains like we think of them on the East Coast but that undulating, curvature of elevated Earth that composes so much of California around San Francisco.  Here the rainy season brings about one million shades of green, all of which we have at home, but each hue as a different character…something, well, African. 

Huge amalgamations of granite boulders dot all the hills.  I was unable to garner from locals if these were remains of passed glaciers.  Whatever the case they stack upon each other to great heights on top and from the sides of mountains.  Here rivers will see flowing over hard rock beds, slowly bring valleys into existence.  It’s just as hot here but people seem to have a bit more energy.  They seem to complain about the heat and battle through while Lowvelders just understand it and surrender to it.

Some of these pictures were taken at a private residence that boasted amazing views and caves in the granite.  I’m very grateful to Jason at Bombaso’s for taking me there along with the Finnish constituency that was currently in residence.

As you leave this area, most notable for the capital Mbabane, and start moving towards Manzini, you plummet down hills and watch the temperature rise.

A Pain in the Ass



Watch where you sit in Swaziland. 

I don’t know who, but someone walking by must have been treated to the sight me with my pants down and Kate utilizing her tweezers to remove a half inch thorn that was burrowed deep in my ass cheek.

Hope they’ve recovered themselves by now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Portrait of a Gogo


A Gogo is an old woman.  But not just any ordinary elderly lady.  To be a Gogo you must be over 1,000 years old.  950 won’t cut it.  At least 1,000 and you must look every day of it.  (The ability to be 1000 is easier than you think, there being virtually know records of birth in Swaziland.  Everyone’s birthday, officially, is January 1st because that’s what he or she filled out on the forms on the rare chance that they sought documentation of any kind).

I spotted my first Gogo on the roadside as our khumbi pulled up.  She had two backs, one on her head, of course.  And she finished a conversation with someone and hustled to the car.  She almost ran.  Well, it looked like she was running, for at 1000 if you are not going backwards, you are flying ahead.  She popped into the khumbi and immediately started cracking jokes (I’m sure they were dirty too) with everyone.  She pinched Kate a bunch of times and I’m sure would have done something suggestive to me if I wasn’t crammed in the back with three especially voluptuous and fertile women with there children.  (Note:  my only proposal for marriage came from a near Gogo, but not Gogo proper.)

Gogo’s continually pop up in the paper.  (No, not in the obituaries.)

I got The Times of Swaziland everyday I could to see what was happening.  There was some seriously big deal politics going down. 

For example, there was a e5000 lawsuit (maybe $900) regarding a failed exorcism of demons from a hut by a reputable witchdoctor.  Litigation is still be processed, but, hell, if those people still have demons haunting their hut, that is surely a case of doctor mal practice if I’ve ever seen one!

And Swazis sometimes get rowdy.  Usually involving alcohol.  Unfortunately, large bush knifes are in great abundance.  No one is shot (unless by a police officer).  But there are stabbings daily.  For example a girlfriend went all Bobbitt on a fellow for some infidelities.  And fights over money are common enough. 

It is when these conflicts occur on the homestead is when Gogo plays a part.  Once or twice a week a bush knife wield Gogo chases someone off or shuts up a belligerent family member by offering to filet them.

So let this be a lesson to American, pushing aside our aged parents.  I say all senior citizens should get their pensions, social security, and machetes to enforce their wisdom.

Names


It is an chicken and egg situation:  do great people become apparent because of their great names, or are certain people given names because they are sensed to be great. 

For example, I’m going to write a young adult book entitled The Amazing Adventures of October and Jason in Swaziland:  Tales of a Khumbi Driver and His Conductor. 

After standing in the dark with only a headlamp for 20 minutes, the darkness of Africa complete, you hear the rumbling of a VW 15 passenger bus maneuver its way around and often through deep crevasse in the dirt road.  Somehow they can do it at 60 km/h too.  And there from the driver seen flashes the broadest smile rich with enthusiasm I’ve ever encountered.  He jokes constantly as you rubble to town at break neck speed.  (I got out of the khumbi once expecting to see high performance tires with thick tread – possibly like a dirt bike.  I found only bald rubber).  When he laughs it is a full body movement:  he leans forward and strikes the dashboard, he bends in half and erupts to full posture unleashing howls and exasperated disbelieve. 

If there is a bodhisattva still roaming, if Buddha as been reincarnated, he is driving a Khumbi in the distant bush of Swaziland and his name is October.  And in fiction I will be the conductor:  they guy collecting money from the people piled in the back of the khumbi.  And we will have many adventures helping people while we find ourselves in dire danger and hilarious situations.

I’ve met other characters notable names.  Doctor was an inquisitive taxi driver who would reciprocate his inquisitiveness with answer any question you can answer.  Like, his favorite sport was Karate.  Go figure.

Mad props go out to G.E.R. (Genetically Engineered Rapper) who explained to me how the Freemasons run the whole world, and all it’s monetary, political, sporting, artistic, and religious institutions.  Whatever your beliefs, story telling is wonderful we should all listen attentively and not dismissively despite our ‘erudition’. 

From him I learned that theories persist about World here that I’ve never even heard of.  The best thing to do is to listen with open mind and heart.  That’s what I’ve decided.  I mean, how crazy do you think people felt certain story tellers were as they told a story of a virgin in the Middle East giving birth to the Lord of the Whole Universe (well, Son…but the same, but somehow different, but the same as the Holy Ghost, which is like the Son, too, and Father, but different, but the same, but though omnipotent, still died…) 

We need narratives in which to understand life.  And narratives have characters and I feel blessed by all the characters I’ve met as of late.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Arrived: New Rythms



Today is my first day surviving on my own.  Kate left me in her village unsupervised.  Before you worry:  she explained that if I were to happen across a pack of giraffes  (or other gregarious African pacifist) I was not to shed my clothes and run free through the deep mountain valleys that surround us.  (Packs?  What do giraffes run in anyway? Pods?)

On Tuesdays Kate teaches yoga classes at the gym in the metropolis of Manzini   (metroplis used liberely here – think Hackettstown on a Friday night, only with brighter, whiter smiles).  Manzini is about 3-4 hours away which, by my calculations, translates into about 100km.  For here irregular and pocked dirt roads are traveled by ‘kumbis’: fleets of ailing VW vans stenciled with their assigned routes.  On steep gradients they strain under the weight of crammed passengers and their luggage, the engine lugging and wanting to downshift while pedestrians start to pass.  But no one complains, it beats walking in the heat which can register up to 110F. 

Or does it?  Culteral note:  Swazis can stand having open windows in a moving vehical.  Regardless as to if there are 26 people sitting on 12 seats and you are secured between one man’s armpit and a bag of mangos on a woman’s lap.  There is to be no moving air!  None!  If you have a window seat you will be forced to wage war for a blip of fresh oxygen, every other passenger taking a turn at reaching over you and closing the window you just opened moments before. 

There is no schedule to khumbi travel.  The vehicals depart go whenever they fill up.  So if you are first at the stop for your particular Khumbi, you might have to wait over an hour or three for other passengers to arrive.  Maybe then the driver will relent and forego his cost benefit equations and burn the requisite gas on 75% capacity – instead of the customary 175%.


            There was very little in the way of transition time afforded me from the thriving urban streets of Jo-burg (as Johannesburg is called here) and the concrete, beetle strewn floor of my hut in a remote village.  Two days in fact. But I’m doing pretty well.  I have always felt I’ve done better with less than most, and here there is no shortage of shortage.  We have quite an abundance of it, in fact.

            Wake up time is around 4.30am (though I am not sure, since I’ve already dispensed with clocks or watches).  That is wake up time/get out of bed time, mind you, not your wake up call time.  The roosters here suck at the whole sunrise affair!  Throughout the night you can hear them.  Sometimes a light will reflect off the curragated metal of a hut or shed and trick the loud bastards into doing their yelling thing.  Then a salvo is launched between homesteads.  Another rooster hears the sunrise impaired one and says:  oh snap I must have missed it, better get to cock o doodle doo-ing.  Full throated cock vocalilizing (yes  I just wrote that) reverberate against the your head throughout the night.  Don’t even get me started about the amorous donkeys.  Did you know that they sex while running?

            Getting up so early is certainly no a burden when you were fast asleep at 7 or 8 pm – there is very little to do during daylight and consequently there is nothing doing once it gets dark.  I sleep extremely well here.  And I sleep a great deal.  Yesterday the temperature cracked 111 F, and I slept through three hours of the afternoon’s oppressive heat on the concrete floor of the hut in my underwear.  Thank God I have inherited my Father’s ability to sleep on picnic tables.  I never knew that peculiarty of his would be so useful.



            Today is actually cold, believe it or not.  There is thunder on the horizon and the sun has not broken through.  The weather here is schizophrenic.  A schizophrenic on acid.  I’ve already been made privy to the fierceness of a Swazi storm – if that’s a strong enough of a word, I was waiting for The Four Horsemen to arrive and sow devastation.  Lightening is actually a grave threat here.  Forget the scorpions and Black Mambas. 

My first storm happened while I was staying at a backpackers in Mbabane.  Day two.  After the hail and rain tried to eradicate all forms of life outside one of the hostel’s employees came back to the drinking table with his underwear in hand.  They were struck by lightening while hanging on a clothesline.  The charge burned a hole through the image of Che Chevera printed on the guy’s red boxers. 

            Things are nice and quiet now as the storm is still only on the periphery.  The cattle have been herded down the dirt road and the children have finished their 8-kilometer walk to school.  The goats, chickens, fist sized insects have already faded into invisible background noise. 


            Life is pretty easy when there is not much to choose from or distract you.  Yesterday Katie and I walked the .5km to fetch water with a wheelbarrow and two 25-liter jugs.  That is our drinking and washing water.  It has provided me with a very nourishing breakfast, however – lots of coffee, buttermilk squash soup, and peanut butter sandwiches.  Our main staples here are fresh eggs, porridge, and rice and beans.  And that’s about it.  We can get Coke, Sprite, and Fresh Fruit Juice from the little ‘store’ on the corner.  The treat we eat from there is “Emafatti”.  Think of donuts without the sugar.  They just fry up some flower balls.  They are delicious!  The kids here are actually provided with money to travel by khumbi to school but they’d rather pocket the 1 Rand (20 cents) and walk so that they can buy some Emafatti later during lunch break.

            So it’s maybe 9am now and I’ve been up for hours.  I don’t wear a watch; just watch the sun trying to gauge time.  I will be reading a great deal today and writing some.  I might sit on the stoop under the straw thatching of the hut and watch the goats play.  I could walk a bit in the bush and see some amazing sights of undisturbed wilderness.  It’s strange.  Often I see a crazy insect I could never imagine and then I realize that it may be an ‘undiscovered’ species, undocumented, and I might be the ‘discoverer’.  Yesterday I found this crazy caterpillar that armored itself with pieces of sticks, making a shell that it could retreat into when disturbed.  Lots of lizards too.  They fall from the straw ceiling, which is high, maybe 5 meters, and whack against the ground before they run away dazed.  We call the suicide bombers.  They are cute:  very similar to Thor, my old dear friend, the newt.
           
            The most obvious lesson I’ve learned so far is that one doesn’t need much ‘stuff’ to be happy.  There are two little girls running back and forth in front of my hut pulling an old plastic tub with a string and having a blast.  Probably more fun than if they had huge doll sets or matchbox cars or whatever new and improved toy is being sold on TV.  People here are mostly concerned with not starving to death and being protected from the elements.  People walk very, very slow.  There is little to do and getting there is part of the thing to be done, so why rush it?  Watching the completely different way that people can live is an amazing experience and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to experience it in person.  I’m learning valuable life lessons by the minute.
   
            I’ve enjoyed the idea of not being rushed.  For example, who knows when this email will reach you all?  Could be a week, or maybe more.  But it doesn’t really matter or phase me.  Things get done when they get done, as best as one can do them – that is the philosophy here.  You can’t alter reality or impose your will upon circumstances beyond your control.

            I hope all is well with everyone!  I want no one to worry about me here.  Things are secure and I am safe.  The only thing I ask from you all is you ENJOY your luxuriously huge bathrooms.  Stretch your feet out and relax.  For here I have only what we call ‘the silver bullet’.  A 2-foot by 2-foot latrine made of shiny corrugated metal that goes straight up into the air.  My shoulders are way to broad!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Concourse E


If my suspicions are correct, I just imbibed my final draughts of Guinness for quite some time.  (I labored over that sentence because I didn’t want to have to make ‘Guinness” plural – for what would it be, Guinesses or Guin-eigh?  It surely can’t be Guinness’s because that is just an abomination of correct apostrophe use – thank you Lynne Truss!)

Such consternation is most likely the result of having four beers starting at noon; the consequences of a 7 hour layover.  Ce la vie.  Thankfully there was a fine wine bar in Concourse E that had a reasonable selections of beer on tap, as well as a pair of sweetheart bar tenders to help pass the time.  Mad props to that inherent amiability of Georgia and southern charm.  So what if I keep turning around expecting to see Larry The Cable Guy when a man speaks behind me.

Did I mention that I am in Atlanta?

For that matter, have I mentioned that I’m flying to South Africa?  Johannesburg will be my port of entry to Africa – where I will make my way into Swaziland in an effort to disappear off radar for a while.  (Consequently, who knows when I’ll be able to post a blog again.)?

This race season offered both its share of good and bad.  Most epiphanies are the result of failure and not success, and in that regard this season produced enlightenment.  Not finishing Ironman Kentucky was a difficult pill to swallow. 

I didn’t go down without a fight, at least.  If that’s what you call waking up in the back of an ambulance with an EKG reading that you are having a heart attack.  Going into the race with a hip fracture I knew my run would be limited, so I biked hard.  I mean HARD.  Too hard, obviously.  The day dissolved into discovering myself on the side of the road shivering, unable to sweat, and incoherent.  Wish someone hollered out that the day came with a 105 heat index attacked.  But that’s racing and my naivety.

Did I mention that I have a stress fracture in my hip?

Yes, I really did pound my body into submission this year.  Oh well, nothing time can’t fix.  Let’s hope, anyway.

Hence Swaziland is the perfect opportunity to recuperate; mentally as well as physically.  Twenty five percent of my luggage must be books.  In this part of the year they will be much better use than extra clean clothes.  It’s time to focus on my writing and compiling this year into a comprehensible narrative.

So here I am with the daunting proposition of an 18-hour flight and the even more challenging reality of having to survive the savannahs of southern Africa.  Luckily I fortified myself for both with a bit of Ireland.  (Incidentally, I have it on good authority from an Irishman that they like to drink Budweiser in the land of Leprechauns.  Go figure.) 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Perspective

Sometimes it takes an injury to be able to take a step back and remove your head from your own ass.  It's a small price to pay in the big picture.  I had that moment today during an ocean swim and memorialized in on my camera.

Ironman Kentucky, I'm coming, bum hip or not.  I'm giving it my best even if I'm a hobbling train wreck in the end...and I can live with that.

I'm not counting myself out of the race.  I just can't run now, and maybe not next week.  Maybe not up until race day.  But I'll swim hard and hammer the bike.  Then maybe we can all just keep our fingers collectively crossed that my body stays intact for the marathon.

Right now I'm down the shore for two shows during the 7minds reunion.  Have not seen a few of these guys in years and it's great to be playing together and just relaxing with a few beers.

Life's too precious to get all bend out of shape over the unexpected.  Just expect it and you'll move past it quicker.



video

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Relish Vulnerability

Fear is the easiest state of being.  It is the most natural, the truest native experience of homo sapien.

The default setting of our psyche is to stay hidden, veiled, thus avoiding a need to decide between the fight or flight mechanism. Simply rising to that conflict involves the intimation of courage.

Training is difficult but does not engage the mechanisms of fear that accompany the prospect of peak performance.  Training there is always the spectre of tomorrow.  Never the absoluteness of today.

Some where along the line we start looking for a way out as race day leaves the periphery and takes full command of our awareness.

I wonder if I truly am too tired to train sometimes, to take it to the next level.  Instead, am I not just afraid to actualize myself, step out from the cave and embrace vulnerability?  Because through the same window that we gaze at catastrophe, we can also see victory.

 Relish the chance to be destroyed and broken down till there is no shell remaining.

That is how winning is done:  finishing what it is you've chosen for yourself to do.

Play with the deck stacked against you if all you can do.

Win or loose.  Just don't  bitch or offer excuses for not stepping up to the plate.  Let today be the day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

5 Steps

1) Denial and Isolation


I haven't blogged in days.  It's a fact, check the dates on my posts.

Why?  I've isolated myself from having to admit to the truth.  It's easy to deny.  It was just a slightly sore hip after a 21 mile run with some tempo at the end.  A slight tweak in the wrong direction.  It was nothing.  It will be gone tomorrow.  It's nothing ice can't fix.

Ok, two days of pain.  No big deal.  I'll go get some massage and ART therapy.  Fix it up in a jiffy no big deal.

There is no injury here.  Not after 8 months of hard ass training.

2)  Anger


What the fuck?  You stupid fool!  The last long run and you blow it.  You felt a little pinch at mile 19 and you should have stopped!  When in doubt leave it out, right?  You know this but you didn't listen.  You thought you were invincible.

There goes my whole season.  There goes all I worked for!  I hate myself for blowing it after everyone was so supportive.  Only an idiot would injure his hip this close to a race!

3)  Bargaining


I will never push it that hard this close to an Ironman again.  I will go to church on Sunday if I wake up without the pain in my hip.  I will dedicate my race to Sister Theresa if I show up injury free to Kentucky.  I will skip my run workouts this week and everything will be ok.  It's only fair, right?

4)  Depression


What's the point of even trying?  I blew it.  I'm a failure.  I've let everyone one of my sponsors and supporters down.  I invested everything I had in this year and my big race I'm going to be a limping fool 2 miles into the run.  This is a sport for athletes, not screw ups like me.

5)  Acceptance


Almost every elite athlete will battle an injury.  Not only that, he or she will battle it at the worst time possible.  There is no good time!

It happened.  I learned from it.  I am doing EVERYTHING I can to fix the problem.  Lots of rest.  Lots of ice.  Lots of ART therapy.  Lots of happy, healing Buddha thoughts.

People in this world have come over much harder odds than me.  I'm really very fortunate just for the opportunity to toe the starting line and I'm going to give it my best regardless if I'm 100%.

This is the moment that tests one's mettle.  So I might have to taper a bit harder than was planned.  Adaptability is the great athlete's trademark.

This race is going on, injured hip or not.  Good or bad, I'm in it.  Life goes on.  This is just a part of the adventure.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Northwave Tribute


The Northwave Tribute has exceeded any and all expectations I could throw at it.  I'm pretty demanding on my shoes, maybe a bit finicky.  The Tribute was a nice suprise.

Easy On-Off:  The Tribute has a really snazzy top velco system that allows you to position it in a loose and receptive position that will stay.  Even after the mad barefoot dash and leaping on the bike and pedaling a 1/4 mile or more I still find the shoe ready for my foot.  The pull strap on the back is much better than other tri specific shoes I've used because of its angle, much easier to grab.  Pops off in a jiffy.  T1 just got easier.  The top velcro also is big enough to really 'hug' my foot and allow maximum power transfer. 

Stiff Sole:  Fiber glass and carbon fiber composite.  Super stiff and light. 

Heel Cup:  I really feel this external cupping.  Creates stability for foot in a way that I believe aids in solid power transfer.  It keeps my form effecient even as I'm powering with ragin cadence and biggest possible power.

Ventilation:  Nothing could be worse than putting your wet feet into a shoe and having puddles soak your feet for 112 miles before a marathon.  The ventelation system, which actually starts at the toe tip, keeps your foot in good shape.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not So Fast...

Sometimes we suck.  Our heart rates are through the roof and we aren't moving.  We hate life, exercise, etc.

Today was one such day.  I didn't hit my pace marks during my speed work at the track.

But circumspection is needed when trying to gage one's fitness by using speed/time over a period of months.  There are a great deal of variables to be taken into account at any given moment.

So before you go hurling yourself over the nearest cliff when the slow bug gnaws off your legs, take a second and look around.  Maybe things aren't so bad

Topography:  In March I was consistently averaging 20mph on my 100 mile + training rides.  This August, I was averaging 18mph.  Did I suddenly start to suck at cycling?  I hope not.  I hope the drop in speed has something to do with the fact that in March I was in Florida and now I'm in North Jersey.

A quick call to my training partner in Florida and a check on mapmyride.com showed me something startling:  in Florida a 100 mile ride had about 600ft of total climbing.  My last 100 mile ride in NJ had 6000 ft of climbing.

(This is the perfect case for using a power tap, which would, in fact, give me objective data all the time, but, alas, I can't afford one right now.  Oh well.)

Temperature and Humidity:  You are not going to run PR times when in a sauna.  Just look at professional marathon times when compared to the temperature.  Every Boston Marathon they always put that graphic up on the television telling the average times based on how hot it was.

So in the August death trap, don't be surprised if your speed work turns into a death march.


My coach, Ryan Grote, is very big on making sure I 'don't get to high, get too low'.  He makes sure I move on after a bad day and don't dwell.  This advise is easy to understand yet hard to employ.  We love to self loath.  But sometimes circumstances trump your speed/time expectations.

Get over it.  Try again next time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Heat Advisory Pt 2

Previously I wrote about the importance at training in the afternoon heat.  Particularly during these wonderful July and August months that accompany heat advisories from various authorities.

The reasoning being that in Ironman, marathons are run in the afternoon heat, and, if we are lucky enough, the afternoon heat of lava fields in 100% humidity.  The previous post might have come off a bit brash.  Something in the order of:  when warned to please stay indoors and check on the elderly, run 20 miles.

I'd like to stand by this verdict but a word of caution should be noted.  Today's experience was a reminder of the precautions and self awareness needed to safely execute such dumb ass training.

I ran 8 miles at a moderate temp today.  I didn't quite fuel up properly and dumbly dumped approximately a 3rd of my water bottle on my head by mile 4.  Only 4 more to go, right?  It's nothing.

Well by the end of the run I was counting my right foot falls.  Must have done it 1000 times!  I was woozy and dreaming of that water.

I still kept my tempo up and finished around a 7.15 pace but I knew I was very close to danger zone.  Actually, I was in it.  I walked straight inside, filled my water bottle, and walked into cool (not cold) shower full dressed.  Even after that the world got a few shades grayer and I nearly hit the deck.

So a little humbleness goes a long way.  But also, I've gained valuable insight into my body that just might keep me out of the medical tent at IM Louisville.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swimming Long

It's incomprehensible that I routinely make 5-6 hours available twice a week for a long ride or brick workout, and, yet, seemingly, it seems impossible to allot just short of 2 consecutive hours to the discipline of swimming for any given day of the training week.

Incomprehensible, until the obvious fact bitch slaps you:  swimming long sucks.  There I said it.  Great swimmers, in particularly the great ultra distance swimmers, must either be the most imaginative people in the world, or whatever is antipodal to thought and imagination.  (Phelps might come to mind here by his personal detractors)

The reasoning for this conclusion results from what mental feats (or disasters) that are required to spend 2-6  hours a day staring at the black line of the bottom of the pool or the nothingness of a lake or dark ocean.  (People who train in tropical paradises including corral reefs and/or tiger sharks obviously fair better).

Yes Dave Scott famously responded when asked what he thinks about when swimming a 7000 meter workout:  "breathing".  And therein lies the proof.  We all know Dave Scott was a robot.  They probably forgot to automate the breathing function into his subconscious.

Also there is the 'easy out-ness' of swimming in the pool.  Around 3000 meters you say.  Man I'm tired.  Time to go 30 yards yonder to the warm hot tub or showers.  Cycling doesn't afford this temptation.  When 50 miles from home when you realize you are tired you HAVE to say, suck it up loser, get pedaling.  Takes immense effort to do this in a pool.  Especially when, as stated, you are staring at a black line beneath you.

Yet all this complaining is tangential to my real point.  You must, simply, swim long every once in a while.  Acknowledge these draw backs and just do it.  Like work.  Punching the clock.  Get it done.

Like cycling, swimming is one of the sports where you can train distances in excess of your race discipline.  Bike 150m, then 112 is much more manageable.  Swim 7000m, 3800 is a cake walk.  (Obviously running does not follow this rule.  You should not exceed 22-24 miles before your IM.  However, AFTER, in the off season, I surely encourage you to run a 50k or 50 miler to recalibrate your sense of 'long')

So I swam 5000 today (5 x 1000).  That's over 1200 more than I'll need for IM.  While that's a paltry distance for a real swimmer it does give me a modicum of confidence.  All week I had been doing drills and speed work.  But in the end, there is no avoiding it, get out there and swim long.  Feel the ache and burn and want to stop, and just stop looking at the clock and the tempting locker room door that leads you away from that damn black line of boredom, monotony, and, eventually, madness.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Launch - Test Run




How many puns and word plays can we make with a shoe called the Launch?  3? - 2? - 1?....  Sorry couldn't help myself.  In short, endless, so let's just lift off, take flight, shuffle to Cape Canaveral, and forget it.

Anyway, the shoe get's it's names from it's light weight (9.3oz).  However, it doesn't quite reach the helium injected non weight of the Green Silence (6.9oz).  But it's not supposed to.  Brooks has the Launch categorized simply under 'neutral shoe' while the Green Silence has been designated "competition".

For Brooks, I believe the Launch is supposed to accommodate a certain dualism.  Something that is race worthy, but also a light trainer for those going minimalist.  Kind of like the Nike Lunar Glide, an all in one shoe, just a whole lot better.

The Launch is more flexible and feels more natural to me than the Lunar Glide.  Not such an awkward platform in my eyes.  Sometimes I wonder what Nike is thinking.  It works for the world over, but not so much for me, I guess.

I can tell already the place the Launch will take in my arsenal:  light weight trainer when I don't feel like I need the support of the more plush Glycerine.  I'll keep the dirty Glycerine trail bound and try and keep my Launch demi-virgin (real word with fascinating etymology).

Previously I had been using the Green Silence for a light trainer, but no more.  The shoe just couldn't handle the repeated abuse and is showing wear fast.  I don't think this is a fault of Brooks, just user error on my part.  I'm thinking the Launch, being a sturdier shoe, should take the abuse the Green Silence could not.  Green Silence, meet the track and the race course.  You're cut off.

The Launch breaths well.  The mid sole to upper sole has a nice low profile that really lets you feel the road.  Probably not the best candidate for the heavy heeled striker.  Brooks has done way better in the past when it comes to being bold with their color scheme.  But then again, I got shipped boring green, white and black one, not the bitchin' bright red one which is available.

There might be an explanation for this, as the shoe was ordered by none other than Ryan Grote, the most unabashed of Jets fans.  Green and black, green and white, it's like algea-ish or something off a shampoo bottle.  Not a football team or a shoe.  Whatever, tho...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unsightly Politics

Gather round and let me tell ye a parable:

I walked into the locker room at the YMCA and was confronted with two naked, older (not elderly, but, say, recently retired) men having a heated discussion about politics.  They were not sequestered in a corner, but front stage; old man balls out, hands on hips bitching about this and that.  Loudly.  I don't even know if they were agreeing or arguing.  It looked like they were just taking turns speaking.

That's it.  That's the whole story.  The moral?  What can we gain from this?

I learned that there is a time and place for politics.  And readers, I promise you, after today, I will never bring them into my blog.  I used to maybe put up a political jibe here and there on FB.  No more!  Why?  Because to the innocent bystander, politics is UGLY.  People should save it till they are in an isolated area with other people who are themselves ready to engage in policy debate.  Otherwise, people who consider each other political anti-christs should just get along nicely.

I've learned much today, dear reader.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Audiobook of the Week

I listen to a great deal of audiobooks.  I'm pretty sure if I were to visit Harvard they'd give me an honorary degree.  Really.  I've been training to them for years.

Just in Ayn Rand and Dostoevsky alone, I have over 200 hours of material.  No joke.

Yeah, I'm a dork.  But I'm going to share with you my favorite listens each week so you can hone your choices without as much trial and error that I've had to put up with.

This week:  Endurance by Alfred Lansing,  narrated by Simon Prebble










This reading is of the 2nd edition, 1958.  You can tell this is an older text because it is imbued with a certain kind of romanticism and poetry that non fiction writers just don't employ anymore.  It's not journalistic.  Lansing really tells a tale.  What does this mean for the authenticity of his narration of each man's experience of the horrible events?  Who knows?  But I don't care...

Oh, yes...about those horrible events.

This is the story of Shackleton's failed attempt to cross Antarctica.  It details the whole voyage and all it's characters.  (The ship was called the Endurance after Shackleton's family motto.  No, Shackleton was not marathoner or triathlete.)

When out training we suffer.  We feel sorry for ourselves and come home and whine to our loved ones about how tough it was out there and how hot it was or how cold it was and wah wah wah.  I do it all the time!  I'm a little bitch, sometimes...really!

So I found it refreshing to delve into the experience of a 17th month survival ordeal in which each second was often horrific.  I mean, what's a Ironman compared to 17 months!  What's a three week build or a month of base aerobic conditioning in comparison.  After all, I we do this with food and shelter.  Jesus, we are wimps!  

I don't want to give to much away because these true events are pretty amazing and almost seem fictional.  Just get the book.  It tops off at 10 hours so it's not the longest of listens, I finished it in two and half days of long rides, but it's well worth it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rest Day

There is a crazy phenomenon that tries to assert itself again and again into triathlon training.

Real life.

And against all my greatest efforts things such as grocery shopping and laundry occur.  I need to go to the bank or get the car washed.  I need to sometimes attend to things like basic hygiene.  That, and occasionally I have to communicate with the outside world, allowing friends and family to know that I'm still alive.  (Free tip:  don't make your last FB status "swimming at the lake" and then fall off radar for a few days.)

Herein lies the importance of a rest day.  One suddenly has 3-4 hours not dedicated to training that can be utilized for basic necessities.  I find it of utmost importance to take advantage of this in an attempt to make the rest of the maddeningly busy week smoother.  Here are a few ideas put into action while you are not actively swimming, biking, running, or lifting.

1)  Do all shopping and procuring of food and toiletries.  Buy lots.  Double what you think you'd need.
2)  Do ever piece of laundry that has been making your house smell like a gym locker.
3)  Empty all the gear from your car (it, most likely, HAS been a gym locker and DOES stink).  Let it air itself out, maybe vacuum it if you have the energy.
4)  Tackle each email in your inbox that you have been putting off.
5)  Pay all your bills due that week.  After a 6 hour brick, you're not going to remember.  No.  No way, now how.
6)  Acknowledge the existence of your loved ones.  Maybe say thank you.


I find it important to do at least one workout if possible.  But it is active recovery.  No intensity or duration.  Just form.  I find a swim filled with technique drills really helps dispense a great deal of lactic build up.  And if I can't manage it I DO NOT FEEL GUILTY.  At least I tell myself that.

Even God needed a day off.  I know we are triathletes and all, but we can maybe take a cue from the omnipotent.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike Fit...Do it.

Here's a fact:  if the road is flat 25% of drag on your bike is road resistance, 75% is air resistance.  The single greats limiter of aerodynamics is...wait for it....YOU.

Triathletes like to buy stuff.  We get an aero bottle to fit on our aero frame.  My new bike hides the brake calibers behind the seat tube for a more aero flow.  We wear aero helmets, and god damn it, somewhere inside we really thinking shaving our arms and our legs makes us more aero.

Well, all these tiny details are kinda ridiculous when you compare them to the 125-190 lb and 5 ' to 7' human that is riding the bike.  Just think about it!

So before going nuts with you're aero this and your aero that, try making yourself aero.  If not, it's like watching a $10,000 ride  go down the coarse, thousands of dollars spent on shaving off grams, with 5 water bottles at 20 oz each.

A bike fit is needed for this.  A bike fit will not only get you aero, but will benefit:

1) your pedal stroke efficiency
2) your comfort
3) proper muscle group utilization
4) your power output

Now there needs to be a little give and take when it comes to getting aero versus being comfortable.  What good is having a bitchin' aero position if 20 minutes into your IM bike split you are dying to get the hell off your bike?

I find that it best benefits me to get as aggressive as possible and see if it's not going to work.  If I can't do my long rides, then it's time to raise my headset  or something.  But mostly, if all things are going properly, my legs hurt enough to keep me from noticing my back and my wrists (the profile design T2 cobras are wicked aggressive, but sometimes, ouch).

So where do you go to get fit?  Go find Rob at Marty's Reliable Cycle in Randolph.  I've been working with him for years and he is a pro at dialing me in right where I need to be.  We go over the pros and cons of how aggressive I can get on my bike and still be able to maintain comfort and my ability to run afterwards.  In short, we optimize my ride.

Find Rob Here

Or, you can be one of those individuals who spend a small fortune on your bike, wheels, and little aero do-hickies, and ride your bike int he most un-economical and non aerodynamic way.


A few tips when you go for your fit:
1)  Make sure you've been doing some race tempo rides and pay attention to your position.  It's probably much different than your casual position.  I've found time and time again that when I race I'm probably 50mm more forward in my saddle.
2)  Don't be afraid to pedal during the fit, work up a sweat and relax into your natural stroke.
3)  Make sure you can relate your style of riding and experience to your fitter.  It's an art, not a science.


Now, once you are optimized.  Then go by every aero do-hicky on the market!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heat Advisory

The last two weeks have been brutal.  Admidst brown outs from rampant air conditioning and cooling centers being opened, some of us are out there cycling and running as far as we can.  Hell, in some of the more shallow open water lakes I've broken some heavy sweats during a long swim.

Let's address a slap in the face fact of being an Ironman Triathlete.  I don't care who you are, you are not going to start your Ironman marathon before noon.  If you did, you most likely broke the WR IM bike split.  Maybe the WR IM swim split, too.

Now think of all those whiney marathoners you know.  Wah wah, the race isn't starting till 8.00am.  It might be 60 degrees by the end.  Wah wah, this year is record heat of 65 degrees.

Let's look at some of the main IM calendar in North American.  June, July, and August.  Afternoon marathons here are very likely to be well above 80, if not 90.  Kona lava fields are ALWAYS 90 with 100% humidity.  Last two times I did IM Arizona let's just say it wasn't a breezy and cool 55.

As an IM triathlete accept the fact that you will run your marathons in the absolute worst marathon conditions...oh yeah, after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.

That's why when there is a heat advisory, I'm out running or biking hard at noon sharp.  If I swim a 1 hour split and bike a 5 hr in IM KY, let's see, I'll get to start a marathon in the lovely August heat of 1 in the afternoon.  It's what it's about.  If it was supposed to be easy, it wouldn't be as interesting.

And next time a marathoner is bitching about the outrages temperatures at Boston.  Just laugh.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Importance of the Early AM Run

I hate the mornings.  Let me say that again.  I HATE the mornings.  Sometimes I'd like to compare it to castration with a dull spoon.  And I define morning as 9am.  10 years as a professional musician will do that to you.

So how do I feel about 6am?  5.30am?  bleh

Yeah, anyway.  I am exagerating, but you get the point.

Well, I run 2-4 miles around that time.  Even if I have a 'real' run scheduled for later in the day.  The morning run gets me up and moving.   

Do you procrastinate in the morning?  I do.  Suddenly I need to watch stock futures or organize my boxes of pop tarts.  Anything to keep from getting going.  I spend an hour 'fueling up' for a workout that gets moved farther and farther into the day.

But for the AM run, there is no fueling.  There is no nothing.  Just have a pair of shorts and my shoes at my bed side.  Wake and run out the door.  No thought.  It's half over before I wake up.  It's not so much about fitness, but attitude.  Also, if I can't get to my 'real' run for the day,  I don't feel guilty.  During high volume weeks this really keeps your miles up where they need to be.  Breaking up your miles into twice a day, morning and night, works really well for me.  I still keep my 'long runs' continuous.

Obviously, if my scheduled run is an A-priority track, I don't do this.  But otherwise, a quick 20-40minutes in the morning goes a long way to motivate for training on any given day.  Somehow I'm out on the bike or at the pool earlier than if I planned on starting my day on the bike or at the pool.  Go figure.  A quick run before breakfast sometimes leads to a great run after breakfast, too.  Experiment.  Have fun.  Make the morning a little less crappy, if you hate the morning.  Don't rush the run.  Don't push it.  Just enjoy the sunrise as best you can.

The Importance of a Swim Coach

Firstly, let me liken my experience utilizing a swim coach to what I know best: cycling.

Each time I spend quality time with a swimming expert and mentor I feel as if I had just been riding my bike for the last 3000 miles with the break rubbing.  Yes, huge wattage for a fraction of the potential speed.  Yeah, that sucks.  You may feel the same way in your swim.

My whole career has been spent hammering the swim to come out in the middle of the pack and then chasing down guys who swam much better, seemingly, on much less effort.  As I become more and more efficient swimmer I'm learning one thing:  yes, they did swim much faster and they used half the energy shed by my completely non-hydrodynamiclly inclined body.

2010, enter Melissa Grosenstein.  Find her on Facebook or track her down at the Randolph, NJ YMCA or hit me up for her info.  Or, now, maybe find her on a tri course, being that she just started racing, and, by the way, was the fastest Newbie AND an AG podium in her very first tri.  She won't mind me telling you it was mostly on pure fitness and swimming domination because experience sure didn't play into it :)  Being first out of the water must be nice!  (One day, with her help, I'll see how that feels.)


Working with her a day or two a week means one thing:  drills, drills, and drills.  She's on the money with this.  I'm going to paraphrase the epic triathlete Don Fink.  If you can bike 112 miles and run 26.2, you have the aerobic capacity to swim 2.4.  Period.  How efficiently and fast you do so has to do with your swimming form.  Thus, treat swimming like golf.  It's all about form during the majority of practice.

So now I've been in the water 5 days a week.  But only one of those days is focused on distance.  Once a week I get out in the open water and hammer for 2+ miles.  Here is where I build swimming endurance and work on sighting skills.

Otherwise, yes, I'm in chlorinated water staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool trying desperately to figure out how to roll my hips properly.  (Yes, ladies, my inability to dance even cuts into my triathlon performance).  Would seem boring, but each time I swim a new PR it gets easier and easier. In the Randolph Triathlon I only had to bike by 9 guys to be third on the bike course.

For those of you down towards the Princeton area please check out Erica Smith, a great swim coach I have worked with previously.  She's an OPEN WATER BEAST.  Find her on face book or hit me up for her number.  A collegiate all-american she'll get you in top form for sure

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Green Silence Rocks





AND IT'S RED AND YELLOW!!!!!  How awesome is that?  And the shoes don't match.  But yet they do.  They compliment each other, as in each shoe is the other's opposite.  It's hard to explain other than...sweet.  I love how people do double takes all the time as I run by.

Anyway, maybe I should touch on why I race/train in the shoe (though the cool looks do make the case).

The Green Silence is a racing flat for sure.  It's super light weight and flexible.  However, it offers a tinge more support than Brook's Racer ST.  Enough as to often inspire me to take this light weight shoe on a few training runs a week, leaving the Glycerine's home.  Even to the tune of a 18 mile trail run.

There is a great deal of hub bub and trendiness about minimalist barefoot yada yada.  It has it's place and it's merits.  But minimalist is not an all-or-nothing black and white thing.  At least I don't think it is  It's not either barefoot or huge cushioned stability shoes.  It's not an all or nothing.  Everyone loves to be part of a club, right?  So get your vibrums and run non stop in the them?  Bad idea.

However, if you want to lean towards the minimalist camp for your training shoes get The Green Silence.  If you just want a sick racing flat for the track or your race, get The Green Silence.

6.9 oz  Cased closed.

On another note, The Green Silence is ridiculously 'green'...not in color, as mentioned previously, but in eco-friendliness.  Recycled materials and soy based inks.  God damn it's better than granola.

Mid Season Race Recap

Some highlights of 2010

High Point Hill Climb TT
2nd cat 4/5/open

Bassman Triathlon
3rd AG, 11th overall

Superhero Half Marathon
3rd AG, 12th overall

Jerseyman Triathlon
2nd AG, 7th overall

Randolph Triathlon
2nd AG, 5th overall

Ironman Kentucky
?????

My form is shaping up bit by bit.  All these races I was training through, meaning no taper, just another workout in the week.  My only big taper was for Eagleman, which was my biggest disappointment to date. DNF.  It hurts to still think about it.  But I was ill.  I was off.  It wasn't my day.  It was a disaster so I pulled the plug so I could immediately get back to some quality training.

I'm bummed I haven't marched onto the overall podium yet this season, but I use that as fuel for my training.  I will get there!  Each race I can point to a small weakness that kept me from it, and I am taking great care in addressing each shortcoming.  My swim is x10 better than when I began the season and the new bike set up is incredible.  More on these later....

Rebirth of The Blog

Back in the blogging saddle!

Yes, it's been quite some time since I've recounted happenings and events in my 2010 Triathlon season. Last check, I was blogging from Tampa florida where I went for spring training. I wasn't even punctual with my posts then.

My excuse at that time was the 25-30 hour training weeks just wore me out. Now I have another excuse to dodge responsibility with: earning a living. Training for Ironman is much, much easier if you don't work for a living. (Any and all sugar mamma's please contact me. An Ironman sure beats a pool boy).

I am able to fit my training weeks in around teaching guitar lessons and working at Marty's Reliable Cycle and The Running Co. , but little else gets done. Time blogging could be time spend eating or sleeping, and at times that is an easy choice regarding where to delegate my time.

But as the season progresses and my form takes shape I'm finding a bit more energy to get back to keeping all my friends up to date with my progress. It's mid July now and my form for IM Louisville is coming along fine. My race results have steadily improved throughout the season and I'm hoping for a solid peak come the end of August.

I hope to be a bit more regular and to address a variety of topics. Any suggestions? If anyone out there has a question hit me up. I'd love to add an "ask Jason" component to my ramblings. It's just another excuse to pontificate on the virtues or vices of some topic. :)

Be well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Florida Week 3

The most important lesson from last week is to listen to your body. Mine was telling me a great number of things that I was ignoring.

Namely, acclimation takes time. You can't just start riding 120 mile rides in 90+ degree temperatures in the scorching sun and not expect to suffer a bit. I paid little mind to hydration much to my own demise come the weekend.

Also, intensity is plays a serious roll in how much volume you can do. I'm not training with a HR monitor these days. So I knew I had to be careful about overdoing it with enthusiasm. As intensity increases volume must decrease for a bit. Well, last week I pushed both up. Mistake.

Monday
Workout #1
Bike 2.45.00, 56 miles

Workout #2
Swim 1.15.00, 4000m

Workout #3
Life 0.30.00

(5.30.00)

Tuesday
Workout #1
Brick, Bike 52 miles, run 4
3.00.00

Wednesday
Workout #1
Bike, 5.50.00 110 miles

Thursday
Workout #1
Run, 1.30.00, 11 miles
Workout #2
Swim, 1.00.00, 3300m

(2.30.00)

Friday
Workout #1
Run, 1.15.00, 6.5 miles

Saturday
Workout #1
Brick, Bike 111, Run 4
6.15.00

Sunday
Workout #1
Run, 2.15.00, 16m

29.05.00 hrs
Swim 7300m
Bike 329 miles
Run 40 miles

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Florida Week 2 (too hard too fast)

This week I learned about some boundaries. You can't know your limits until to transgress them, or try to at least. When I woke up on Saturday I realized I was in trouble. I couldn't walk or talk. I wobbled and couldn't do the easiest of tasks. Yet I still showed up at my training partner's house for my long brick. Thank god he had the sense to tell me to just watch a movie or two.

I did, and it was much needed. I did the same on Sunday, too. It was much needed as well. I was overtrained.

I'm pretty sure it was a matter of intensity rather than volume. I shouldn't be doing intervals so hard I puke this early in the season. I thought it was the heat. It was too much enthusiasm.

So now it's time to pull it back together, and find my rhythm this week.


Monday
workout #1
1.15.00 swim 3500m (1500, 1500, 500)
workout #2
2.45.00 bike 52 miles with intervals 10x4min

Tuesday
workout #1
Brick
2.18.00 bike, 46 miles
28.00 run, 4 miles
workout #2
1.00.00 Swim 2800m
workout #3
.20 lifting

Wednesday
6.15.00 bike, 120 miles

Thursday
off

Friday
workout #1
Run
1.30.00 11 miles, 4 miles in 25.37
workout #2
Swim
1.15.00, 3000 meters

Saturday
off

Sunday
off

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Florida Week 1

I'm not sure if it's a good omen to get the stomach flu immediately before driving 1100 miles to do the most serious training you've ever attempted. I guess it's better than getting the stomach flu during an important week of training.

Well, despite a bit of travel, sickness, a little drama, and feeling like a stranger in a strange town I was down to business on Monday.

Foremost, I'm please to announce that my place is right next store to Busch Gardens and The Sun Dome. Pretty cool locale with more than one burrito joint. SCORE. The YMCA nearby is a lovely facility with a, get this, an outdoor lap pool, which, very often is set up as 50 meters.

Riding down here is very different that Jersey. It's big gear land. You stay in one position very seldom shifting. Just steady state effort, not the hilly up and down tempos of back home. It's just flat and flat. Never getting out of the saddle kinda sucks. But I want to change my style up a bit this year to be able to power through the headwinds of Kona. So this is perfect to learn how to push big gears all day.

Monday
workout # 1
bike 3.15.00 56 miles, 90 minutes aerobic, 10 x 4 min intense with 2 min recover, cool down. Felt so good to be out on the open road I didn't even stop pedaling as I puked breakfast all over myself.

workout #2
swim 1.00.00, 2500 yards. Mostly endurance with some 200's at 3.20 pace.

workout #3
30 minutes lifting. High rep, low weight. Legs were DEAD.

Tuesday
workout # 1 brick
2.05.00 Hard tempo ride with Adam (a wicked talented local cyclist who is the best training partner one can think of). Then 4 miles 26.50. (2.30.00 workout)

Wednesday
workout #1
5.20.00 Long ride, 100 miles, 81 solo, 19 with adam. Seriously beautiful sights and reasonable tempo considering the wind.

Thursday
workout # 1
Hard Run 10 Miles
1.18.00 (5 miles warm up, 3 miles @ 7.00, 6.45, 6.15, 2 miles cool down)

workout #2
1.00.00
Swim 3000 yards (6x 500)
.30

workout #3
weight room. Squat, leg press, abs

Friday
workout #1
Swim 4500 meters...1.50.00

Saturday
workout #1
Brick
Bike 76 miles 4.16,00, run 5, 38.00)
4.55.00

Sunday
workout #1
long run
16 miles
2.03.00



Monday, March 1, 2010

Establishing a baseline in volume

As of writing this I am 10 days out from heading to Florida for 6 hard weeks of non-stop, unadulterated training. I'll be embedded in the Tampa sunshine and riding up and down the Florida Coast daily. I can't wait.

Obviously the change in venue next week will cause a disruption in my training. Thus I plan on having a big 7-10 days to figure out how much volume I can handle. Then I can recover during my transplantation to FL. Then Monday March 15 I'll kick off with this week's figures to base my schedule off of.

Monday
workout #1
1.50.00 indoor hard bike. (warm up. 20 min drills, 4 x 10 minute Z4 with 5.00 rec, cool down)

workout #2
55.00 swim 2250 yards. (800 w/u, 4 x 200 @3.35, 25 sec rec, 250 yard drills, 400 cool down)

Tuesday
workout # 1
2.00.00 Brick (1.30.00 indoor bike, 4 mile run outside, 29.24)

workout #2
45.00 Swim 2250 yrds endurance

Wednesday
workout #1
3.00.00 Bike on trainer (90 minute aerobic, 10x4 hard with 2 min rec, 30 min cool down)

Thurday
workout #1
1.10.00 Run 9 Miles (37.00 4.5 mile warm up, 15 min hard- 6.30, 6.30, then blow up, cool down)

workout #2
1.00.00 Swim 2500 yrds

Friday
workout #1
2.45.00 Brick (2.30.00 bike, 15.00 run)

Saturday
workout #1
1.37.00 Long Run (12.3 miles over some burly hills in Jockey Hollow and Morris Lewis Park. Gorgeous!)

Sunday
workout # 1
1.30.00 Easy spin on bike with drills, recovery

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Marty's Reliable Cycle...

I just picked my bike up from the spa. I sent it there for a few days to bask in the attentive affections of professionals so as to rejuvenate it from last season's races and the doldrums of this winter's rides (so I can pound the crap out of it again...with the utmost care, of course).

A reliable cycle shop is indispensable to the Triathlete. Not only in the technical aspects of having your bike in tip top shape, but in the personal aspect of getting it done fast, well, and by quality people you trust. (Especially as your careening down a mountain at 40+mph)

As long as I am anywhere near the metropolitan area I will be hanging out at Marty's Reliable Cycle. I tend to gravitate to the Randolph shop, but only because of geographical considerations. The Hackettstown and Morristown shops are just as great and offer the same great service with their own idiosyncratic spin.

At the Randolph shop I sometimes just hang out. I did especially when I was a newbie. I think that says something. I mean, it's a bike shop, not a cafe. They don't mind...I think. As a rookie I'd find any excuse to stand around and talk shop and pick their brains. Everyone there knows so much more about bikes than I ever will. That, and they are just fun people. There are no pretensions, only good natures. (The reason Marty's will always kick SBR's ass. Yes, NYC...suck it.) Everything at Marty's is so anti-elitist. This is so important since in this regard cyclists can be such a pain in the ass. (Triathletes, are by far, the worst!)

Upon picking up my bike up on Saturday I had one of the most important rituals that can mark the beginning of a serious season of biking. I got 'fit' to my bike. The 'fitter', none other that Rob.

I will always maintain that people invest in getting the most out of their gear. I mean, what good is your mega bucks bike rig if you are pedaling it with complete inefficiency? Rob is there to make sure that every wattage of power generated from my body goes directly into unadulterated forward motion on my bike.

At Marty's, Rob has all sorts of do-hickeys and levels and charts. But that doesn't qualify him in my mind. What does make him a master of the 'fit', is that I leave the shop faster then when I go in. Faster, more comfortable, and less prone to injury. He took his time with me and broke down his analysis into Jason terms. What more could I want? The important thing his he listens to my triathlon needs and my particular style. He is no dogmatist, something I really appreciate in an industry where everyone claims to have 'the way'.

Marty's sold me my first bike over six years ago. I wandered in and declared I needed a bike because I wanted to ride one from Oregon back to NJ. I was so over my head, clueless and bike dumb. I'll always love Marty's because they took me seriously and gently and kindly led me though the initiation into bike-dom.

I sent them a postcard from every state I crossed. I could never had made the trip, or my athletic career happen without them. They are a part of every bike split I've ridden and will ever ride. When I road race, it's always for Team Marty's. They now have a triathlon team, too. So make sure you swing by their website:







Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Three weeks of base building in retrospect

I am pleased to say that when I look at my data concerning volume of training, and recall the intensity that much of it was held had, it appears that my fitness is far superior to where it was this time in the season compared to previous years. Thankfully, also, I have remained relatively injury free, suffering only some debilitating lethargy and some slow moving mornings.

The first week was a shock to my system. Often I was in a stupor during work. More than once I wanted to pull to the side of the road and just sleep away the evening instead of making my rounds. I was able, however, to rediscover my love for music, and in particular, that of Taking Back Sunday, whose albums kept my rearview window vibrating to each full volume bass drum. The benefit to living out of your car, I am discovering, is that you’re always surrounded by speakers.

By the final week I had noticed huge dividends in my performance related to two aspects of training that I have previously not devoted adequate time to: swimming technique and weight lifting.

In the pool I’ve had the benefit of two swimming mentors who were granted many a great laughs at my expense. It was a great test in my humility. I’m a bad ass Ironman already, right? I don’t need to piddle around with dumb swimming drills. I’m a bitching 4000 meter free-stylist! Well, I went back to square one. This is an understatement. I’m working back to square one as I undo three years of horrific technique. The upside? I’m faster and swimming is easier, and, dare I say, fun? As my hydrostatic awareness greatens so does my enjoyment of being in the water. I’m no longer flailing through a workout hoping for the ungodly suffering to end. I’m gaining confidence that not only will I get out of the water in a reasonable time, but also, much, much fresher. I am hugely indebted to Erica Smith for her help. (You can find her open water swimming blog under the blogs that I follow.)

In the weight room I have braved the surrounding hoards of bench pressers and bicep curling creatures who can’t help but look at themselves in the mirrors and flex when they think no one is looking. At least in a packed weight room, the leg machines and squat racks are empty. Welcome to Jersey. By increasing my power output from my legs I’m allowing my aerobic capabilities to produce speed without increasing my heart rate. More gets done for less because I’m stronger. The only draw back from the weight room is that it interferes with my running. These last three weeks I’ve had low run mileage because running post lifting leaves me with dead legs. It’s terrible. As lifting becomes less crucial I hope to up my run miles.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this week of recovery. I’ll half my workout output to let my body recover from the shock and overcompensate leaving me stronger for the next three week training bender.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Base Build I week 3

Last week I was a little short on hours (approx 13), but fortunately I upped the intensity so I felt completely wiped out in the end. Most importantly, instead of logging hours biking or running, I made huge improvements in my swimming thanks to the tutorage of the amazing open water swimmer Erica Smith.

Let's just say that my stroke is BAD. Real Bad. Completely inefficient. It seems that previously I was working twice as hard in the water than my competitors, thus making me twice as tired getting on the bike. The good news is, that since my times were still competitive, and I was still in the race after the swim, I've trained a pretty crazy aerobic engine in the water. Imagine if you always had lead weights strapped to your ankles for 3 years of racing--the idea is that through swimming technique I'll be dropping those lead weights in the water. Even if I don't get 'faster', I'll be twice as fresh hitting the bike, where I do my real work. I'm very excited in my improvements and will be spending more and more time in the pool, not mindlessly swimming 1000's, but methodically working on my stroke efficiency.

This week I have a busy schedule so I'll keep the intensity up a tad incase I can't find the hours. The weight room is making a huge difference. I'm putting up much more massive stacks of weights with less effort. I'm psyched to see how that translate once I can get the bike on the road! I hate snow. I hate snow. I hate snow.


Monday
workout #1
swim 50 minutes....tech tech tech

workout #2
40 minutes. Max strength workout

Tuesday
Bike
2.00.00 (30 minutes tech: one leg, spring cadence, 4 x 10 minutes HARD alternating big gears)

Wednesday
6.2 miles on the biggest hills I could find. 48.28. Pretty hard tempo at times.

Thursday
Workout #1
Bike 1.30.00 (lots of drills with 30 min total tempo)

Workout #2
Swim 1.30.00 4000 yards ( with lots of drills in the mix)

Friday
Workout #1
Swim 2500 yards 45.00

Workout #2
Weight room. Maximum strength routine

Saturday
1.30.00 Trainer workout

Sunday
4.45.00 Brick
(3.30.00 hard on trainer, lots of tempo at LT, 1.20.00 run, 9.80 miles)


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Base Build I week 2

(wednesday morning entry)
Things are starting to get blurry. I apologize to all of you who I forget to call/write back. I apologize in advance to all of you I will surely, at some point or another, forget to get back to. There is definitely a solipsistic aspect to training full time while holding down a job and managing regular life affairs. The whole world becomes a little bubble revolving around training and necessities. It's terrible, and I'm doing all in my power to be a better person and friend this time around. I remember getting an email back from a pro...I don't know, maybe 4 months late haha, and she said, "Sorry, I was in 'it'. You understand." I surely did, but that doesn't mean that everyone does. So whoever notices that I suck at life, being around to talk and hangout out, and, god forbid, have fun, call me out on it! Don't be afraid, I'll appreciate it.

There are just not enough hours in the day. And when I have a free moment, well, I am so damn tired I'm useless.

I'm starting this week's blog on Wednesday and will update it as the week continues.

Monday
workout #1
Swim 3250 yards (600 w/u, 400, 300, 200, 100 (x2 tempo) 400 fins, cool down)
1.15.00

straight to
workout #2

Weight room, 1 mile warm up run then (leg press, squat (both max) abs, back extensions, and seated row)
45.00

Tuesday
workout #1
swim 2000 yrds, easy
45.00

straight to
workout #2
run 5 miles then cool down (treadmill on hill routine) 5 mile split (38.00)
45.00 n

Wednesday
Indoor bike. 3.00.00 (20 min 1 leg drills, 6x20 min tempo with 10 min recover)

Thursday
Blizzard has drivin me in for second day....
indoor bike 2.15.00
Friday
Workout #1
1.15.00 3000yrd swim with coach. Various sets and drills
workout #2
30 min weight room, maximum strength
Saturday
workout #1
50 min swim, yards n/a, mostly drills. Really learned I'm a terrible swimmer. Worked on stroke for some good results. I've been dubbed the proud creater of the 'Stevie Wonder Stroke', with my excessive swaying side to say. Also, we deterimined that I sink like a lead weight.
workout #2
1.05.00 Run through central park. Some 7.00 paced miles on hills. Felt strong

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Base Build I


Yes, a blog update was long overdue. I’ve gotten your emails/messages (some kinder than others) expressing my laxness in keeping my training status up to date ☺ The reason for my disappearance from the blogosphere can be attributed to two things 1) I was mostly in the prep phase of training and found it rather uneventful, and 2) Once the shit hit the fan I was so tired that informing you all of my progress took a much lower priority than laying still with my feet up.

But I’ve just finished my first week of real training so it should offer and adequate account of where I stand. Being that I have some tri ‘geeky’ readers as well as coaches using this blog to monitor my progress, I’m going to start including my workouts in brief.

This week reminded me of the demands on my time, strength, and mental stability. I can only hope it gets easier as I adapt. I happy to acknowledge that my speeds/endurance/feel are far superior than this time in the past. The two bricks I did this week resembled some of my peak workouts when I was 24. Being a little older/wiser has it’s perks I think.

This was the week of Feb 1

Monday: Off. Busy, day. No time for training.

Tuesday:

Workout #1- Brick

2.45.00 on bike trainer. (20.00 one leg drills, 6x 10.00 tempo on bigger gear with 5.00 recovery). quick transition to
1.05.00 run. 7.25 miles of road

Wednesday:

Workout #1-Bike

1:00.00 bike indoors ( one leg drills and 2x10 min medium intervals)

Workout #2- Swim
2500 yards with 4x400 tempo

Workout #3-Lift
Ran 1 mile warmup
Maximum strength squat, leg lift +abs and back extensions

Thursday:

Workout #1-Run
10 miles of hilly roads/trails. 1:23.00

Workout #2-Swim
1000 yards easy

Friday:

Workout #1-Brick
2:45.00 indoor bike (one leg drills plus 5 x 15.00 intervals)
48.00 6 mile transition run

Saturday:

Workout #1 Bike

2:15.00 indoor trainer (4x15 fast spin, hard intervals)

Super Bowl Sunday:
Got dressed up and .5 miles down the road admitted I was toast. Legs were so tight and it was SOOOO cold. It’s too soon to over train so I sat it out. I can thus use the last 6 days to plan a better distributed workload next week.

Conclusion:

approx 14.5 hrs of real training with two days off. I'll take it.


Strengths: Great transition runs. I was running off 2.45.00 bike rides with little notice. Lifting I was already putting up max loads. Only a triathlete can leg press 500 pounds and refuse to do a push up ☺

Weaknesses: Swim, swim, swim. I need to get more yards in plus drills. I’ll attend to this next week.


Goals to note:

BACK TO KONA (but first to race weight!)