Tag Archives: life

New York Aftermath

So, much like Danny*, I did the annual withdrawal from the NYC Marathon this weekend. There’s a long and tragic series of events leading up to not running; the short summary of which goes:

  1. This was probably my best summer’s training ever. July and August were AWESOME, and I PR’d New Haven, breaking a streak of really, really tough runs. September started great.
  2. September at the office turned into a zoo. After New Haven, I averaged one (1) run per week from Monday-Friday. And those were all about 3 miles, due to a combination of being time-crunched, on travel, or sore from the long run.
  3. Long runs – I made about 60% of them, with an absolutely disastrous 20 miler 3 weeks before NYC. One of my Sunday Schoolers (High School Junior) mentioned to me that she almost stopped to give me a ride that day.
  4. I mis-trimmed my left big toe about 2 weeks ago, and it’s a nasty, sore, oozing mess. I’m tempted to put up a picture, but man, is it grooody and painful.

In the end, what put the nail in the 2009 Marathon coffin was coming down with the Flu a week ago Wednesday. I spent 3 days completely in bed, and still am not quite right. But, I decided to bag the race. I don’t have the cool cancellation message, as it was the 29th by the time I was conscious enough to realize I wasn’t going to run, and you can’t withdraw electronically after the 28th. No huge deal – I think that I’ve realized that I need to do my big race focus in either early September or after the New Year from now on to allow training to mesh with work.

The flu kind of ended up being a relief. I could have finished NYC, but there was no way it was going to be a good race. Not having to go through with the race just ’cause I’d paid (through the noise) for it made life a bit easier.

But there are positives – I dropped the 5 pounds I’d put on over the summer thanks to 104+ degree fevers and not eating for a couple days. And I had an awesome weekend with my parents and kids – Ma and Pa Jank had come up from Texas to watch the youngn’s, and I got to spend a delightful weekend with them, including a trip to Clyde’s Cider Mill on Sunday for kettle corn, donuts, and hard cider.

So, RBF, there you go – true confession, I blew it for this race.

* I mention Danny only because we’ve been swapping emails with sob stories for the last week. Misery, turns out, really does love company.

Fat Cyclist and Susan

Cancer took another wife, mother, and apparently phenomenal human being from us last night.

I’ve followed Fat Cyclist’s blog for a good long while – first because it was the funniest bike blog on the planet, but lately I’ve been drawn in to the battle that Elden and his wife Susan have been fighting with a recurrence of Susan’s breast cancer.

Courage is an underrated virtue these days, but listening to how FC struggled and continued in his roles as husband, caregiver, father, and worker gives us all a high standard to try to achieve. I’ve found myself continually wondering if I could continue to function in the same scenario. Of one thing I’m sure – I could not continue to write about it with the clarity, and wit that FC maintained.

I’d go on, but I think the only thing I can do is to recommend that you Fight Like Susan.


Hey, blog-o-folks!


I’m still here, and life is pretty good. Summer has been very, very good to me, though, to tell the truth, I’m ready for a little vacation from summer vacation.

I’m recovered from Mooseman (Physically, at least – Mentally, I’m still not over it. No more Halfs). Recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought it would be, and I was back up to about 20 miles/week running in 2 weeks. I haven’t really hit the bike again much (I think 2 or 3 rides) since, but that’s fine – the next goal is the NYC Marathon. And I’m going to crush it. (Maybe)

We did the annual vacation in Vermont, which was awesome, but wet. This summer, in general, has been miserable weather-wise. But it was great to hang out with the kiddos and wife, to get some good eats, and to mentally regroup.

I’m busy at the office, traveling a bunch. But it’s the good kind of busy, and I’m mentally ready to make sure that training doesn’t suffer.

I started using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I training program. It seems to fit me pretty well: cross train on Monday, run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, rest Friday, tempo run on Saturday, and long run on Sunday.

Well, it worked well until today – long run #4 blew goats. Part was humidity – swear to gosh that it must have been 75 degrees and 99% humidity. Which, I’d usually love, but I think that Beer on Friday watching The Rivergods and delicious wine (with a surprisingly compelling website) on Saturday didn’t help. Neither did doing Saturday’s tempo run at 4 PM and 85 degrees before a 6 AM long run.

I made it the 5 miles to downtown Mystic, but had to call it quits. Not quite a full-on bonk, but I couldn’t keep running. No pacing, no ability to control temperature, and I just really wanted it to rain. (Which it did as soon as I got home).

Breakfast and church helped – I took the kids canoeing on the Mystic River after lunch, and we caught the tail end of the Seaport’s classic boat parade – my favorite (and I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture) was a yacht straight out of The Great Gatsby, complete with flappers and bathtub gin. Only thing missing was jazz on a Victrola.

Anyway, I think I’m going to modify Hal’s plan a bit. Instead of running short (3-5 miles) on Tuesday and Thursday, I think I’m going to do the longer midweek run on Tuesday, and do the weekly tempo run on Thursday, so I’ve got a day of recovery before the weekend. I’m going to flex the long run between Saturday and Sunday depending on my schedule. The remaining short run will either be a recovery run on Sunday (If I went long on Saturday), or will be time on the bike on Saturday. (Man, I loved the Tour this year)

This is marathon 4 (Really?). My takeaways from several go-rounds, and from watching Melissa train:

  • Hit the long runs. More than anything else, having miles in the legs and a little bit of endurance is the key to finishing the marathon.
  • Be consistent in training. Even if you’ve got to cut a midweek run short, it’s important to do SOMETHING, otherwise the legs get tight, and tight legs get hurt.
  • Shed weight. I’ve got about another 6 weeks where this is possible, and it makes a HUGE difference once the 20 mile runs come around.

So, that’s my plan. I really don’t want NYC to suck.

Other stuff:

  1. I hit up the XO last drill weekend to see if we could do the Newport Naval Station Triathlon even though it’s drill weekend. He said “Sure.” I didn’t ask for followup, so that’s on tap for this weekend.
  2. New Haven 20K. Best race of the year. One of these years, I’m going to have one that doesn’t suck.
  3. Friday nights are Family Fun Runs over at Bluff Point. We’re hitting about 50% of them, but they’re a blast.
  4. I’ve pretty much written off the Terramuggus tri series this year – too darn busy.

Hope everyone else is well. Hopefully, I’ll actually use this blog again, and not end up on Jon’s “Dead Blog” list. I’ve been using DailyMile – best mileage tracker since Nike+, but without all the Flash overhead. I’m also using Nike+ again, but not entirely pleased.

Thoughts on Mooseman

I think that the most telling was Jeff, Warren, and I sharing the same thoughts pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line, which was something along the lines of “Well, I think full on Ironman is never going to happen.”

Which wasn’t an acknowledgement that it wasn’t within our capabilities, but was more of an acknowledgement that the commitment to 140.6 was light years beyond our willingness to commit to the training, time, and suffering necessary to do the race right. But more on that later. Specific race observations that might be useful to someone else approaching the 70.3 distance:

1. The swim base is pretty easy to get. I was swimming 3 times a week between 1.5K and 2K from January to March, and dropped down to twice a week from March through the race, as it was nice outside and I swapped a swim for a bike each week. While the Mooseman swim was in a pretty sheltered bit of cove, I’m not sure that more open water swimming would have helped much with the lake swim. Maybe if it’d been an ocean swim, which I think the Hip would corroborate.

2. If could go back to February and redo 10 workouts between then and the race, I’d cut out a couple of my 10+ mile runs and do them as bike/run bricks. The transition between bike and run just plain sucks if you haven’t been doing it – the back needs to learn to go from completely stretched on the bike to vertical on the run. The first time I realized I had lumbar muscles was about 400 yards into the run when they seized up.

I did several run/swim bricks, but, frankly, I don’t think the transition from swim to run is really that tough. Swimming’s low physical impact. Although it’s critical to do a lot of it to build good form and not blow all your energy in the swim, I don’t think there’s much other than making sure you’re under LT to make going from swim to bike difficult.

On the other hand, instead of the 10+ mile runs, I’d like to do many more workouts of 60-90 minutes on the bike followed by 3-6 miles of running. I think that the individual bike and run workouts during the week (40-90 minutes bike and 4-7 miles running) built and maintained enough of an aerobic base to get through the race, and that bike/run bricks, starting with 15 mile/5 mile goal in February (1 hour on the trainer, 5 miles bundled up on the road) lengthening to a 40 mile/10 mile brick 2 weeks before the race would have been immensely useful.

3. I think Warren’s approach to transition was brilliant. Even if I’d been shooting for 6 hours (or 5.5 hours like Zipper), the difference between 7 minutes total in transition or 14 minutes in transition translates to minor, minor performance improvements in each event. Stretch, fuel, and move out. Plus, I would have had sunglasses on the bike, and wouldn’t have squinted or worried about catching a rock in the eye.

4. Mooseman was exceptionally well supported. In hindsight, I wish I’d considered nutrition more. I don’t know what I would have done in a less posh race situation. Much of my bike training relied on cash and convenience stores.

5. Wish I’d taken Actafed the night before to help sleep/ease congestion, and a Claratin the morning of the race. Snot sucks.

I suppose I could go to some good number like 10 tips, but that’s about all I really learned in the race that I didn’t capture in last week’s post. There are a couple of personal observations to make, though:

Initially, I’d approached Mooseman as a chance to really get in shape; a chance to go to the next level in training. But, as the race approached, and as life continued to intrude, I realized that I was spending a lot of time training in order to just survive 70.3 miles. Training for peak performance would have required at least twice as much time as I had to commit, and just wasn’t going to happen.

So, in my mind it became fine just to finish this race. And I’m thrilled with the outcome.

This is my last half ironman for quite a while, though. After 5 years of relative dedication to fitness (WOW – really? 5 years of being pretty consistent with running?) I think I ought to move past ‘finishing’ as a goal and actually try to improve. Improve weight and BMI, improve finishing times, and generally go from being a guy who runs to support poor eating habits to just being a guy who runs well.

The best long-term outcome from this race is that I’ve realized that I LOVE a 6 day training schedule, and love doing a run and a swim on the same day (or a bike and a swim) at least twice a week. I remembered why I love cycling – the symphony of person and machine, the animate and the inanimate merging like yin and yang into something greater than the two parts, and will not be happy unless I’m doing it more this summer.

But I’m not committed enough to give more than 3 hours of my weekend over to training. I love the time with the kiddos, I love the time with the church, and I love puttering around the yard instead of being alone training.

A good (for me – shooting for around 4 hours) marathon can be done on a schedule of 7-9 hours a week. A good Olympic triathlon can be done. And great sprint tris can be a part of that training schedule.

But, unless I can come up with some quantum breakthrough short of HGH, EPO, and crystal meth, there’s no way that schedule is going to support anything beyond finishing a half ironman for me (as has been proven).

I’m trilled to have done Mooseman, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the first race I’ve done for which I think I’ve accomplished something significant by training for and finishing. I’ve written before about my letdown with finishing marathons and not hearing choirs of angels while I crossed the finish line, about not feeling “changed” by completing a marathon. Mooseman did show me that there’s a whole other level of potential I haven’t tapped in my psyche. That’s one reason why it’s the first medal I’m really proud of.

But it’s going to be a long, long while before I do 70.3 again. The kids are going to have to start ignoring me on the weekends, and I’ll have to have the HoneyDo jar cleaned out.

So, I figure some time around 2050 or so,

Planter Boxes

So, Missy and I are going to try to raise vegetables this summer. However, we’ve got kind of a tough yard – mostly shaded, pretty rocky. The only real flat spot has the boy’s playscape on it, though once they get a bit older, I think we’re having a bonfire and converting it to a garden.

So, our only real option left has been to build boxes and do some intensive container gardening. As it’s not yet May in Connecticut yet, we’re not completely behind the times. So, here’s today’s batch:

Planter Boxes for Veggies

I designed them to use standard 8′ lengths of lumber without much waste. The planting portion of each box is 7’x1’x1′, which let me use standard 8′ lengths of lumber. The sides are 1/2″x6″ roughcut from a local lumber store that sells them cheap in 16′ lengths. I cut a foot off of each board, and used that to make the ends of the boxes. I also cut a 2″x4″ into 1′ lengths and used that, with another 2×4 on each side, to brace the bottom of the boxes. Each box has a 4×4 at the corner, cut to fit a slope. I’m lining them with 5 mil plastic with some drainage through holes in the boards, and once they’re full of dirt, we’ll put in a soaker hose for watering.

The installed prototype is here:

Planter Boxes for Veggies

Missy started seeds this weekend, and I’ve got another 4 or so boxes to build. I think I’ll do an Instructable about putting the boxes together when I do the rest of them. Until then, it’s store-bought fresh veg.

Life lesson #2 – Dad is fallible

Man, I love to go camping. One of the joys of fatherhood to me has been teaching the boyos the ways of the backpacker – tread lightly, leave the woods cleaner than when you arrived, and sleep outside as often as possible. We try to make at least 7 outings a year (April through November). I’ve pulled chocks about midnight on one full-moon November night thinking Jake was too cold. And we’ve done the “roughing it” out of the back of the car with the Cub Scouts, who are surprisingly hesitant to go backpacking.

Tonight (I’m blogging from my iPod touch while the boys sleep) was supposed to be our triumphant return to the woods for 2009. Melissa had a supper group of girls coming over, so I called up the DEP, and got the permit for Peg Mill, their favorite spot. Loaded the bags, last night, picked up the kids after work, and stopped for stove fuel on the way to camp.

Thought everything was wired. Last night I’d checked and rechecked all the gear – stove, replaced the filter in the water purifier, made sure we had the match container. I was set.

So, we hike back into the woods, set up shop, and commence to camping with about 45 minutes of effective light left. I got the tents set up, arranged stuff to start supper, hung the bear bag, and life was good.

Until I went to start a fire in the fire ring.

Turns out the match container was in the bag. Just NO MATCHES.

Oh fudge. And I did say fudge.

So I put it to the kids. We had just enough time to pack up and hike back to the car, or, I coils try to start a fire with the magnesium fire starter and a can opener. Against my better judgement, but with the kids enthusiastic, we voted to stay.

First attempt almost worked, but I wasn’t quick enough getting enough tinder on the fire. Second attempt was thwarted when Jake dumped a handful of twigs on the flame, smothering what I’d been slowly working. Third attempt failed because I didn’t have enough twigs handy. Fourth attempt failed – well, probably because it was supposed to.

We had supper of apple sauce and chocolate bars.

As we watched the last of the light fade (new moon is F’n dark), it hit me that I’d been collossaly dumb the couple of times I’d had either twigs or the limited amount of paper or cardboard burning. Instead of trying to light more twigs, I should have started the fracking stove. Or lit the candle lantern. Or done Something instead of trying to light uncooperative twigs.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve got to wonder if I ought not just try to spark the stove tomorrow morning instead of worrying about shaving magnesium with a k-ration can opener.

Man, sometimes I’m dumb. Like collossaly dumb. Hopefully the boys take away that dad is fallible. But that it’s wrong to quit trying.

Ps- the breakfast got cooked – one spark and the stove roared to life. But we did stop for second breakfast with the runners from the church.

LATE ADD: For the record, we survived


Stupid wired after late swim

Y’know that endorphin buzz one gets after a good workout? Keeps me awake when I work out at night.

This week’s been very, very good to me. Actually, the last two weeks have been great. I’d gone off about the Houston runs – man, that’s still a high.

Monday, I was on travel but still managed to squeeze in 7 miles in the rain at BWI. If you’re ever staying near the airport, there’s a GREAT trail that runs around BWI. Part of it goes right under the flightpath for one of the runways, and it was great watching the SWA flights drop out of the scudding clouds with huge trails of vapor blowing off of their wings, woosh overhead, and go land. It might feel like riding a bus when you’re in the airport, but it’s still amazing that those things can fly. Witchcraft, I tell you.

Yesterday, I didn’t sacrifice a workout. My flight got in just early enough that I was able to head over to the base pool to get in a good 35 minute workout – turned out to be about 25 laps at 70m/lap – just over a mile. Today, the best laid plans of running to the pool at lunch were turned over. But, things worked out anyway – I went back to the Y for the first time in a while and did 2300 yards in less than an hour, which may be my longest swim workout ever. I started with 250m of breaststroke, followed by a monster set of 20 laps (1000m) crawl, complete with flip turns. Caught my breath for a while, then set out to do another 10 laps easy – long, strong strokes, slow follow-through, easy breathing, and upright turns at the end of each length. The 10 felt good, so I did another 10 without stopping, finishing the last lap with an all-out, supper in the back of your throat sprint.

I’ve got a run (possibly) scheduled with the neighbor tomorrow at 5 AM. ‘cept he’s on TDY working 6P to midnight this week on short notice, so I’m guessing he won’t show. Wonder if I will. It’s also Bring A Child To Work day – Jake’s finally old enough to go, so I think we may have to put the bikes on the back of the car and let him take a quick spin around Jamestown on the way home and demonstrate “fringe benefits”.

Y’all rock. I cannot wait for Mooseman, even though my training hasn’t been what I hope it would have been. June will be all about endurance, suffering, and repentance.

Springtime – Time to think about camping again…

ThinkGeek never fails to amaze:

Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

[From Tauntaun Sleeping Bag – Will it Become Real?]

It looks like the boyos and I have a potential date for the first camping trip of the year in about 3 weeks – Missy’s got supper club, and we’ve got warm weather and worms to dunk. Cannot wait to sleep in the woods again.

Training has been good this week – on schedule for the first time in a while. Great run on Tuesday – finished 4 miles in under 8:00/mile. I was spent at the end, but for a change of pace it rocked. Nice to know I’m closer to being able to hang with the fit guys at work.

Colchester Half Marathon 2009 / Lent

I ran this over the weekend with a bunch of guys from the church.

Missy ran it last year, and had been warning me about how tough it was. I was kind of skeptical – our first stretch living up in Connecticut, we lived just off of the course, and I didn’t recall it being that hilly of an area.

Thing is, I wasn’t a runner then.

This is one of the toughest races I’ve run – up and down all over the place. TRCWTOH has said she wasn’t crazy enough to run it (though I’m guessing she could run anything. But won’t press it, as she volunteered to bring beer and chips to the finish next year). And we ran it this year in completely benign weather – mid to upper 30’s, not terribly windy. Missy keeps reminding me that there was a bizzard the day before last year’s running, and she still finished.

Anyway, I felt pretty good throughout the whole race. Set a pace and mostly stuck to it. I walked a bit of the last mile, just because I didn’t want to go all-in, as this was a training run and not a flagship race. I’d set a goal of finishing in 2 hours with gas left in the tank to keep training this week, and think I hit that goal well.

Almost too well – I finished at just over 1:54, which is within spitting distance of my 1:53 PR from the OKC half last April. Considering the degree of difficulty for the course, I’m over the moon with the performance. I’m still carrying at least 10-15 lbs more than I should be (probably closer to 20-25 lbs over optimal), but it’s a sign that the motor is working well.

And look at that effective transition to talking about Lent!

Since I’ve put on a few pounds since the New Year, I’m giving up (in order of priority):

  1. Drive-Thrus
  2. Deep-Fried Stuff
  3. Soda

Drive-thrus make sure that I’m going places with good food choices, and providing the ability to eat well. Deep-fried stuff eliminates french fries and onion rings, which, while especially delicious, are nothing but empty calories, and lots of them. And while I drink just diet soda, I’m beginning to buy the argument that it just doesn’t matter. Between the artificial sweetener and carbonation, there’s got to be lots of bad stuff going on in soda that the body doesn’t like.

I broke down and had a soda on Sunday, but that’s only one in an entire week, which isn’t so bad.