Monday, May 22, 2017

Like a Ton of Bricks- 60 Day to GO!

And the season of BRICK workouts is upon us.
(What is a BRICK workout?)
When you do two different workouts, one after the other without a break. Like going for a bike ride and as soon as you get off the bike, switch your bike shoes for running sneakers and go running.
(So why do you call them BRICKS?)
Because they are stacked one on top of bricks
Named after world duatholon champion Matt Brick, who employed them in his training and thereby made them famous.
Because of the way your legs feel the first time you try to run off the bike ;-)
Because you feel like you've been hit by a ton of em’ when you're done.
For the record, I hate doing them.
(So, don't)
But I recognize them as a necessary evil.
(Why are the a necessary...evil?)
When you dismount after 112 miles, you hand your bike off the volunteer in the yellow shirt.
Then you have to run to the changing tent & prepare to run a marathon.
If you are not use to running after hours of pedaling, you might face plant, right there.
(But you are wearing sneakers)
No, you are cycling in bike shoes & now you need to go put on your sneakers.
Triathlon is a race where you swim, run to your bike, bike, get off your bike, then go running…all without stopping.

(Why would you do that?)
That, is an entirely different blog entry.

Monday, May 8, 2017

When You Gotta Go - 75 to GO

I was giving a talk do elementary school kids about Ironman triathlon.
I was talking about how the 112 mile bike section takes and the inevitable came up
"What do you do if you have to go to the bathroom when you're on the bike?"
I told the class of 5th graders point blank,
"You have three choices; you pee on the bike, you get off the bike to pee or you wait and pee later."
"What if you, you know have to..."
"Make a poop?"

So we are dealing with two issues:
First, what to do when have to pee?
Some athletes will just go while they're on the bike.
(Sounds disgusting)
Others will pull off to the side of the road and find a bush.
(Sounds less disgusting)
I tried to pee once on the bike, but in the bent over position on the bike, nothing happened.

(Why didn't you straighten up?)
I did & I still couldn't pee.
(What did you do?)
I chose option 3, I waited til later, in the changing tent after I finished the bike.
(You peed in a tent?)
There was a urinal in the tent.
(What if know?)
Need to "make poo" as my 5 year old calls it?
(Yeah, that)
There are porta-potty at several points on the course.
(Have you ever, during a race ?)
The 24 hours before a race is a carefully choreographed food fest. This dance between my food & my plumbing takes place "any time" I compete in a triathlon, not just Ironman triathlons.
By 5pm Saturday the almost non stop calorie in take will result in your question becoming a non factor the next day on the race course.
So by Ironman Louisville 2014, I had done this successfully over 40 times.
(But on that race morning...)
Nothing, nada, no word from the plumbing.
Until we heard, "Swimmers, line up".
Thats when my plumbing said, "Now."
"Now?" I asked myself in bewilderment
"NOW!" A voice came back with a Satan like growl.
(What did you do?)
I lined up for the porta-potty.
(Long line?)
Two minutes felt like two hours, as I stood there in fear.
(That you wouldn't make it to the race? )
That I wouldn't make it to the toilet.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Final Twist 140 Days to GO

No one likes to stretch, that’s why so many of us don’t do.
(Present company included?)
Guilty as charged. I have the second biggest file at the physical therapy practice I use. 
(Because you don't like to stretch?)
The problem is that what starts out as just a 30 second stretch becomes a 30 minute ordeal my wife calls  “Pretzel Time”?
(Pull & twist?)
Very much so.
(What could you be doing for 30 minutes?)
Stretch. I stretch everything. 
Let me explain...
When I started this journey 10 years ago, I developed leg pain.
(Which part of the leg?)
Every part.
Quads, hammies, the knee.

(The knee has many parts. Which ones?)
All of them.
(All of them?)
Do I stutter?
Pain landed me in physical therapy (PT). I soon discovered that I needed to stretch after my workouts, so guess what I did?
(You stretched before your workouts?)

(Why is that bad? Isn’t that what you are supposed to do?)
No & here’s why:
The muscles are like rubber bands that expand & contract when you exercise.
If you stretch them before you train, they are so elongated that they cannot contract.
This can cause injury.
(So what are you supposed to do before you train?)
Dynamic stretching
(But you just told us not to stretch)

Static stretching is holding the leg while leaning against a wall or table.

Dynamic stretching is what Michael Phelps does before a meet when he shakes out his arms.
(You mean when he does the gull wing)
(So how do you do that for running?)
Jumping jacks or climbing stairs.
You just want to get blood flowing into the muscle.
Stretch muscles, not joints
(No ligaments or tendons?)
Tendons are part of the muscles.
Patellar tendon, Achilles tendon
This is why I spent so much time in physical therapy.
Exactly. Everytime I master a stretch, my body finds a new place to knot up.
(Pretzel Time?)

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Where is your bike?" That's what my coworker asked me as we left work for the day.
I stared at her like a deer in the headlights.
"Didn't you ride to work?" She inquired.
It was 50 degrees that day. For January in New York it was considered exceptionally warm for that time of year.
She was asking a totally reasonable question, since I have a reputation for spending all day on the bike.
"I have it here in my trunk, but I only spin indoors this time of year."
Now it was her turn to stare at me like a deer in the headlights.
Triathletes talk in a language all our own and we regularly forget that rest of the world does not.

  • Spinning
  • PR
  • Cadence 
  • Aero position 
Anyone of these tend to elicit a visual facial reaction the legal equivalent of
"Just how far back down the road did the spacecraft drop you off?"  
I proceeded to explain to my coworker that between January and the end of March I do not ride outside.
Before she could ask about where the spaceship was actually going to land again, I showed her a picture me on my bicycle connected to a stationary bike trainer & that is called spinning.

If the air temp is 40, it feels like 20 on the bike.
In snow or ice, you have zero traction.
Carbon road bikes 
(& human bodies)
snap, like twigs on impact with cars trucks 
(or buildings).
Hence, spinning indoors.
(You could take a spin class?)
A. Why spend ten minutes re-adjusting the seat when you have a bike at home that already fits you?
B. Who says the class will be targeting you race season goals?
C. The instructor at my gym sings along with the workout music...& she is way off key.

I used to dread the 12 weeks when I could not ride outside. Then I discovered instead of staring at the walls of my garage, I could be watching movies or Netflix episodes of West Wing. Once I spent so much time on the bike that my family set a table setting on my back to tell me to stop for lunch.
So the next week, I took the bike outside & did a 30 minute set while my neighbors shoveled themselves out.

Now 3 times a week for about an hour each, I'm doing bike workouts after the kids go to bed.
(Hopefully inside the house).
The advantage of becoming a "triathlete hamster wheel" is the ability to reproduce workout results in a controlled environment.
There are 5 zones, ranging from 1 to 5.
Zone 1 requires so little amount of effort that it's practically "checking for a pulse".
Zone 5 on the other hand feels like "I'm going to die at this pace".
Each of the three workouts I do, require me to hold at a different zone for an extended period of time.
For example:
Zone 1: 5 minutes
Zone 3: 2:30 minutes
Zone 6: 30 seconds

(Zone 6????)
This is the plan. This is how I am going to get faster at the 112 miles of cycling for Ironman Lake Placid.

Here are a few Triathlon terms:

PR is Personal Record, your new fastest time. 
We want to be so faster, that we shortened the term for it.

Cadence is mph, but we are measuring how fast you make the wheel spin when you pedal. If you are pedaling too fast, you are in the wrong gear. The bike is a machine & it should be working harder.
Aero position, bent over the handlebars being aerodynamic. The lower you are, the less wind resistance slowing you down.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Demons in Our Minds- 180 days to GO!

4 Ironman triathlons
4 times I have been unsure if I could finish.

(The Day After foot bandaging by Janet Roher)

2010-Ironman Cozumel- 2 miles from the finish & it hurt to move any further. 
2012-Ironman Arizona-2 miles from the finish & I'm running out of time.
2014-Ironman Louisville- 6 miles from the finish & I’m afraid I’m going to pass out from the heat.
2016-Ironman Lake Placid- 22 miles from the finish of the bike & it hurts too much to keep pedaling.
(So why do you keep coming back?)
I like to challenge myself.
(Well, yeah. When you put yourself in jeopardy, you persevere or you perish)
Those are some big words. Did you google them?
(I asked Alexa)
Each time my completion was in doubt, I instinctively went to a place where I started to reconcile the failure I was sure was coming.
“Well, I tried my best.”, but I hadn’t. 
(You copped out)
I got scared & I stopped trying.
My parents raised me in an environment where I knew they were always there to catch me if I fell.
(I don't understand what that has to do with Ironman)
I didn't learn to read & write until I was almost 10, but they wouldn't let me quit.
I tried to drop out of college, because it became overwhelming, but they wouldn't let me quit.
(An athlete who acts as his own therapist, has a fool for a client)
Something like that.
As coaches, we tell our athletes to bank those breakthrough workouts. You need them for those moments of darkness, when it your success appears to be in doubt.
Each race presents its own challenges, and I am reminded each time that crisis hits, that I have been here before.
Your entire life has lead to this moment, so look back, and draw strength from every challenge you have overcome.

Like the song says, 
"We are dancing with the demons in our minds."

In triathlon, you can have the largest support team, but on race day you are the only person who can rescue you.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why the Swim Matters-230 Days to GO

"I could totally do the swim at the Ironman. How long is it?"
"2.4 miles."
"How many meters is that?"
"Almost 3,900."
" many pool lengths is that?"

169 pool open water.
"How many days do you get?"
"2 hours & 20 minutes."
"Oh never mind."

That's why they say that you cannot win on the swim, but you can lose.
If the race starts at 7 a.m., you have to be out of the water by 9:20 or you get disqualified.
(So arrest me.)
They take your timing chip.
As you run past the crowds on your way to the finish line, that chip tells the announcer which athlete is approaching. 
Imagine being stopped at the finish line and being told that you're disqualified.
(You've given this a lot of thought)
The fear of missing the time cut off is why I swim every Monday morning.
(Do you swim that distance every week?)
For the first three months of training I will swim 1,500 meters sets and focus on my form.

(Who cares about what you look like?)
Form is where people lose time. The more streamlined you are in the water, the faster you go.

This was the picture that explained why my swim time dropped from 1:50 per 100 to 2:06 per 100 in August of 2015.
(What am I looking at?)
The bubbles as my hand was dropping. My form was collapsing, because I wasn't keeping my arm outstretched.
Triathlon swimming is all about your form, not your strength
(Don't you strength train?)
I do but, being physically strong will help you maintain your form.
(Does it work the other way around?)
No, it does not work the other way around.
(Won't having big muscles get in the way?)
I'm not building muscle mass, I'm building endurance strength. The longer I can hold my fore arm straight out, the less drag I create.
(The faster you swim)
You are learning.
(Thank you)

You're welcome. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Just a Marathon - 250 Days to GO

The original marathon is a legend.
No one is really sure if in 490 BC, Pheidippides actually ran all the way from the Battle of Marathon, back to Athens.
No matter, at the first modern Olympiad, in 1896, it was decided that the run should be 25 miles. 
(Thanks guys).
That was the olympic distance until the 1908 olympics in Great Britain.
(Uh oh, I don't like where this is going)
That year, the finish line was 1.2 miles ahead of the King's viewing box & you had to finish in front of the King.
Hence, the modern marathon distance of 26.2 miles was born
(Thanks guys).
For the 3rd year in a row, I competed in the NYC Marathon.
Each year that I have run this race, the distance has seemed a little shorter.
(Compared to an Ironman, running just a marathon must have been easy for you)
Thanks, thanks a lot. 
Truth is, any race is difficult if you actually race it.
I grabbed a bus from the Meadowlands Sports Complex at 6 a.m.
I was at the race start compound by 7 a.m.
(Is that when you started running?)
No, my wave wasn't scheduled to start until 11 a.m.
(What did they expect you to do for 4 hours?)
After morning prayers, I hung out with friends. 
(For 4 hours?)
I had celular reception.
At 10:30, they started lining people up in front of their corrals.
From there, each wave started the short march to the start line at the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge.
Most triathlons have 2-3,000 competitors, so there are 4-6 starting waves.
The NYC Marathon has 50,000 runners, so the start requires funneling groups of runners in waves, based on their run speeds.
You enter the gate of your wave. You follow the flow of the crowd around a bend at a shuffle pace. It's like exiting a concert or game at Meadowlands or Madison Square Garden. One minute all you can see are the people in front of you, the next, you are suddenly at the entrance to the Verrazano Bridge. You are running across this massive structure where cars normally travel.
Mile 3 - I was across the Bridge & running in Brooklyn. That was when I started to overheat in the Ironman costume
(You didn' did)
I did. I wore the costume again.
Kids dig it.
Mile 6 - The suit had cooled down & I was in the zone;  I was focused. Then I heard, "Go Ironman". The kid must have been 8 years old at most, so I ran over & hi fived him. I heard the chant from a few adults too.
For the next 6 miles, block after block. White kids,black kids, hispanic kids, even Hasidic kids.
"Go Ironman."
I made sure to hi five them all.
I even let the little kids tap the helmet.
Brooklyn became Queens, Queens became Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Mile 15- I saw this sign & I had to stop:
After the sub 6 hour marathon at Ironman Lake Placid 4 months ago, I knew that I could beat last year's finish time.
So, naturally, I announced before the marathon start, finishing under 5 & 1/2 hours was my goal.
I was making good time according to my watch as I crossed into the Bronx. I was averaging 12 minutes per mile.
That was the pace I needed to keep to finish in less that 5 & 1/2 hours.
(How do you run for 5 & 1/2 hours ?)
Question for another time. I have a story to finish.
A few blocks passed the 18 mile mark I looked down at my watch.
Blank face. My rechargeable Garmin Fenix 3 was dead.
I was flying blind. I no longer knew how I was doing on time.
As I crossed back into Manhattan, I asked a few runners,
"Hey what time is it?"
They kept telling me how long they had been running.
So 50,000 people did not start running over the Verrazano Bridge at 11:02 a.m.
With 5 miles to go, I was going to have to gauge my pace on my memory of what a 12 minute mile felt (Feels?) like.
At mile 24, I got my answer: it was 4:08.
I was going to have to run 2, 11:45 minute miles to make it before 4:32 pm.
By the last mile, I was going all out. I was nearly spent, but I wasn't leaving anything on the course. I sprinted across West 59th & back into the Park towards the finish. I was sucking air as I headed north.
I saw the clock as I crossed the finish line & I was 4:34. I was 2 minutes late. 
I tried & I failed to finish in under 5 hours 30 minutes.
But, that's ok. I did my best & ... 
I looked down at my phone. 

Somehow, I thought I had started earlier than I actually did.