Monday, February 25, 2008

Pass me the fork please

Some rides just etch themselves in memory, yesterday being one of those. The weather was sunny, but a little crisp. This had me bemoaning the fact that I cannot find my other bootie to cover my shoes, with holes in the bottom for hot weather it made for a certain amount of tingling towards the end. Especially dumb moment coming when nearly home as it occurs to me that the tape I had wrapped around my pump could have been put to better use covering those holes...doh !

It was really the first ‘spring’ ride, trees are in bud, as can be seen in one of the pictures some crops are in the ground and calves are being born, the start of the re-birth of life after the winter hibernation.

The ride itself was 3 hours through west Montgomery County, from Gaithersburg up to Damascus then down through Laytonsville, Brookeville (which was the US Capitol for the Day once) and Olney before hooking back. The countryside reminds me of why I love this area, as can be seen all country roads allowing me to just roam, alone with nature and the solitude of my thoughts, my only company for much of the ride being the whir of my tires on the hardtop.

The treat on the way home was the line of Rolls Royce and Bentley cars outside Dave’s Bistro, absolutely gorgeous, I loved the juxtaposition of the boots on the running board of the oldest, the Smart car at one end, and not picture the Ferrari F430 parked the other end.

So 3 hours in the saddle, then topped off by throwing off my helmet and lacing on my shoes for a 1 hour run. Much like the swim it was encouraging to be able to complete that level of workout with no issues. It also topped off my longest week yet of 12 hours training. This week is a recovery week of around 7 hours training to allow my body to recover and rebuild from the increasing efforts of the last three weeks, and prepare for the next three week build.

The body is a remarkable machine :-)

More ride pictures here

Friday, February 22, 2008

Barren Tundra

Despite training and work (and eating) filling almost every waking hour of life, there is also a huge void. In life, sometimes things you hope to always be there disappear, much like a mojo. When it was there, it was not just a case of taking that comfort and support, but went both ways, proving that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

I’ve noticed the effect across the board, in that though I am motivated to work out, it takes a good 15-20 minutes to truly get my head into the workout, and that I usually procrastinate starting the workout itself. Maybe its just that it takes that long to get fully warmed up and the intensity finally blocks out the ability to focus on everything else, much like an alcoholic and booze.

But the void is always there, creating a vacuum where its presence used to be, the presence of that gap almost comforting in a crisp round the edges way as if acknowledging the existence of something that was pure and good in its place. Truly though nothing could or should replace it, so that gap in my life shall stay where it is, a constant reminder and a chill for something valued almost above anything else that has chosen a different path.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Grunt, strain, grunt.

I always feel a little awkward in a gym, as there are the farms of treadmills/ellipticals, then two sections of weight machines. But up at the back are the free weights and racks, the grunters gym. That’s where I need to be as I only ever use free weights, all my training calls for it. But that’s where all the big meaty guys are, and I’m just a little 180lb needle necked triathlete. When I first went there you could see the looks out of the corners of their eyes, or some outright stares, sizing you up, measuring muscles, whether you are fit to enter their domain.

What. Ever. I’m there to work out, currently on a maximal strength month (4 body parts per day, different parts each work-out, 5 sets to failure in 4-6 reps), one more week of this and back to circuits, but lifting 20-30 lbs heavier than I was 6 weeks ago. So I head there, iPod already switched on and cranked and basically ignore them, though I guess much like the wilds of Africa I get acknowledged now, as they are used to my presence in their midst. There are a group of 4-6 hispanic guys always there, they pack around a pair of stations and monopolize them for 1/2 hour at a time, one finally looks at my triathlon t-shirt and asks "you do those things", I unplug my headphones and go "huh" so he repeats it, yeah says myself, look of amazement on his face and much talking between them and then the looks changed afterwards. I haven't the heart to tell them that all my t-shirts are sprint or International short distance tri's not the monster Ironman they see on tv each year. ;-)

It doesn’t bother me as I know I am in great shape for what I do, but some stations face the mirror, each time I think I look ripped there is some ape with muscles fit to burst standing beside or behind me. Oh well.

Entertainment last night was this geeky, puny little guy walking in, square black framed glasses, grubby sweats and t-shirt that has seen better days, you could almost see the bristling, until he hopped to the pull up bar and proceeded to nail out 50 wide grip pull-ups. Wanders off to the free weights and does lateral shoulder raises with 30 pound plates then comes back without rest and peels off another 50 pull ups, perfect form and almost without effort. Eyes were popping out of heads, he was still repeating this when I headed for the pool…:-)

The pool was very encouraging, its only my third time swimming, or rather swimming to train in years. The first two I just focused on swimming drill after swimming drill, trying to re-develop my balance and feel for the water, which will come back with time, when I learnt how to swim freestyle properly (and more efficiently) it took a month. But last night I decided to aim for 2,000 yards, just swimming easily, as a l.s.d. - long slow distance – I do one workout per week in each sport like this to build aerobic endurance). Even though my form was going to the dogs after 1500 yards, if I concentrated I could hold it together and the yards kept ticking off. Total time was a shade under 60 minutes, which I know is slow, but will improve rapidly with more swimming. Even so that would scale up to a swim time of 1:54 for the 2.4 miles of the Ironman, well under the 2:30 cutoff. I would like to go under 1:30, which I think is possible, but we’ll see how my l.s.d. times come down with more drills and anaerobic sets.

Adding things up, given I’m still 8 months away from the race based on l.s.d. times (other sessions are much faster) would be

Swim (2.4 miles) – 1:54
Bike (112 miles) – 7:00
Run (26.2 miles) – 4:46

Total 13:40.

I would actually be happy with that. Though I know both in my head and heart that those times will come down. Lets see what the projection is at the end of March.

Weather still looking decidedly dodgy, snow forecast overnight changing to sleet and freezing rain tomorrow morning, which is supposed to keep going until Saturday morning. Dang it. So the pic above, that could well be how I spend my Saturday morning :-(

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Numb nuts

Two hands, three was never going to end well.

Hand one - document I'm reading
Hand two - cup of tea.

Add an urgent IM from my CEO, oh dear gosh it was a mess. I managed to nail both laptops, both ipod docks, a USB hub, three phones and my wireless router. Oh, and the window. Thank heavens for having a towel to hand from when I was drying off after my ride. That and a washcloth/hairdryer to get the tea out of this keyboard.

I see my little google "scarlettbueller" searcher from Verizon internet is back..same IP but Olney instead of Gaithersburg, so between those two ISP servers, I have a pretty good handle on who. Why come here regularly to read, instead of just making contact, if you are curious enough to keep checking the blog out, why not write, eh ?

I'm always amused by the people searching on 'makka pakka costume' or 'tombiloo lawsuit' that find their way here, must not be quite what they are looking for. This title should result in some merriment. Lord only knows what they think viewing a couple of Steve's posts on shaving for triathletes.

Frozen winky

Those living in the DC area know two things right now, its sodding cold, and its snowing. I had lunch with my CEO and one of my colleagues, so of course having missed riding early this morning due to a project taking longer than I anticipated (I ballsed it up first time round) I cycled down there. Hey 30 mins there, 40 mins back (different route), its all training miles in the bank. It looks like I timed it well as now the snow is settling outside. Also looking at the forecast for the weekend, Friday is supposed to be a wintry mix early, turning to freezing rain at lunch time, this is enough to seriously get my goat as this is a NJ weekend with the munchkin (number one son), and won’t happen if that weather comes to pass :-(

One of the great luxuries of training when its this cold, having sweat pants and a sweat shirt in the drier, nice and toasty, next stop was the microwave to heat some water for a cuppa tea. Ahhh life is good.

I added a new blogger to the roll at right, Steve Stenzel, after he left a comment yesterday on my aquarium pictures. He has two blogs, his photography really is absolutely stunning and his triathlon blog…well there are bits that are hilarious, check it out for yourselves.

I read an article the other day that caused me to sit back and think a little. The crux of the piece was asking whether you live your life in accordance with your own faith. At the heart of life our actions and behavior is defined by a set of beliefs; but how many of those beliefs are our own, and how many are as a result of taking on the beliefs, values and behaviors of others around us, not realizing that they may be the opposite of what we believe to be true about ourselves.

I know in my past, I adopted many values because of those around me, that do not fit with my values today, nor did they match my personal ethics. Since 2001 I have spent a great deal of time examining myself, my thoughts, views, faith and beliefs to become a better person, and I would add a much happier person as a result. But until this article I didn’t realize how much of my behavior did come from taking on the beliefs of others, and how opposite to that I am now.

As John Mellencamp once sang “You have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything”. I stand for being the best person I can be in every way, and strive for that each and every day in all that I do. What do you do ?

Monday, February 18, 2008

A quickie...

Saturday was just simply an awesome day, poking around the boats in the Inner Harbor, six hours in the Aquarium, rays, sharks, frogs, dolphins, crocs. All seen through the wonder of a child’s eyes.

Absolutely exhausting but it really doesn’t get any better than this ! :-)

Pictures here

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Up at the sparrow's fart.

Another long run in the bank. One and a half hours just after dawn this morning, each key long workout like this now putting me one step closer to being completely prepared for my goal in October.

It is also runs like this, frost on the ground, in the chill of first light that make you truly glad to be alive. From the geese who were all uppity and being woken to get out of the way, to the first rays of sun appearing over my right shoulder and reflecting off the lake.

I made my way around the trials of the golf course at the far end of the run, not a single player out, no walkers, no runners, just the solace of me and my thoughts (And Whitesnake blaring from my earphones – “In the still of the niiiiyyyeeeeeeeeeettttt !”). Like a complete and utter muppet I decided not to take my camera, soooo many good shots this morning. My favorite definitely would have been the fountain on the golf course, from 100 yards away against the light it looked fantastic, then when I was closer an even better shot presented itself. Next to the fountain is a tree, which the water hits, of course with it being frozen, the last two feet of the branches are covered in icicles, the rest of the tree not, it looked like something out of Narnia. Next time, next time.

Now for the Aquarium ! :-)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dum Dum. Dum Dum. Dum Dum.

Interesting workout, it was on the schedule and I was motivated though it was my “B” workout for the day (“A” is weights and swimming this evening) but for some reason my head just wasn’t quite in it.

I completed it, and at the required training heart rate zones and effort, but I never really ignited into it. Admittedly there are a couple of work stresses, and I only slept around 7 hours fitfully last night so I’m perhaps not quite fully recovered, or maybe its knowing its just an interim workout to the key ones tomorrow and Sunday.

Oh well, can’t be fantastic every time, I’ll settle for great, or good in a pinch. This evening will be miles better as work will be over and can forget about it. As Stuart O’Grady put on wristbands for his team “HTFU” (definitely one of the hardest men in the peloton)

Tomorrow is very early am long run, then drive up to Baltimore Inner Harbor where I’ll be meeting my son for the day !. Aquarium, Outback exhibit, Rainforest, Dolphin shows, the submarine and coastguard cutter are all on the list. Any day out with a 7 year old is always an ADVENTURE.

OK, Sharks - now does the title make sense ?. Oh and that I'm swimming tonight, and as I try to be smooth in the water I cannot help but hum that to myself. Sadly Roy Scheider, the star of the Jaws films passed away this week.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stupid Fish...

Today was beautiful, sunny, no wind, blue skies, a little warmer (50ish). So of course I’m out for a run as scheduled after I made like a hamster yesterday in the basement/garage on the bike. I did keep looking outside thinking the rain will have washed away the ice accumulation, even going as far as to get cycling clothes out, but sanity prevailed, just one patch of ice coming down a hill and I’d be fairly hurt.

So its great, warmed up for twenty minutes, slipping and sliding away on the mud path on the rear of the lake to get to my interval place. It’s a gently sloping rise of 200 yards, so get to the bottom, ditch my jacket and take off like Winona Ryder with an armful of clothes in Saks, first interval fine and jog back down the slope, second one the same, third one my legs are slowing, not sore, or tired, or even that I’m out of breath, they just won’t turn over. The 4th one is the same - whiskey tango foxtrot guys, owner to legs, what gives ?

As I jog back down the slope I remember last night the 5 sets of lunges, at 4-5 reps to failure, and the 4 sets of single leg calf raises the same. Duh. So now I’ve moved my interval runs to Tuesdays, and a recovery/tempo run on Thursdays. It was weird, before and even after I could run at a nice clip with no problems, but as soon as I went to put power out..poof nothing in the tank.

The remaining 20 minutes home were awesome through the woods, I just love, love, love playing in the mud. The picture of the shoes, that was taken AFTER hosing them down :-)

Stupid Fish = Dumb Bass

Its not going to be a good day...

...I have just realized sitting back up here at my desk that I just put my used breakfast dishes in the fridge and not the dishwasher.

I might need to switch back to caffeinated coffee. Still I have a long run at lunch time to look forward to, its a teensy bit cold at the moment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And so the journey begins

"Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi

I saw the above quote on a Pro triathlete’s blog, and decided to ‘borrow’ it for here, as its very appropriate to this blog subject.

Ten years ago this year (August) I had the bicycle accident that was shown on an X-ray on this post, that’s only the femur, there was a lot more breaks and a heck of a lot of blood. Someone up above was looking out for me that day, as this was in Hong Kong and the car that found me in the middle of the road happened to have two British nurses in it, who were able to stem the bleeding and take the actions required to save my life.

There followed a lengthy stay in hospital and then 9 months of disability, including two more operations as I rehabbed and regained the use of that leg.

I have always had in mind to revisit triathlons and re-acquire both the lifestyle and love for training that I used to have.

Privately I started on this path at the beginning of last year, though I was working out 2-3 days a week I weighed a shade under 210 pounds (actually a little more in Dec 2006), and started on a 10 month plan I got from Men’s Health Magazine, mixed up with a lot of mountain biking and attempts to return to running.

Most just thought I was getting fit and working out, but even then I had in mind 2007 was a year to transition, workout regularly, lose weight and regain fitness. All this in mind to build a base fitness level to be able to attack a Half Ironman triathlon this year with much more structured training.

By the end October my weight was down to around 195, and I had significantly reduced my body fat %, all my measurements reflecting a much better shape. But I hadn’t quite got the nutrition right, see-sawing between too little, not enough and too much of the wrong things even though I thought I was eating a healthy diet. So I signed up with an online trainer, over the next two months I followed the plan almost to the letter (adding more running than the recommended, but more of that later.

This did the trick, I dropped to around 182, but became much leaner overall, the nutrition balancing out my workload and also fuelling greater gains both in strength and fitness.

On January 1st I set myself some tests to reach by the end of the month before making a decision on racing, by now most people close to me knowing my intention to race a Half Ironman. I then blew them away, with the result that I drew up a training plan for the year, and am entering not a half Ironman, but a full one.

Great Floridian on October 25th – 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike, 26.2 miles run (marathon). Based on a projection of my training times now I hope to go under 12 hours, but will be very happy with a healthy and safe finish (cutoff is 17 ½ hours).
Training volume at the moment is three sessions in each sport per week, plus 3 weights workouts, this week is 10.5 hours, next is 12, with the week after being a rest week down to 7 hours, then build up to 15 hours over the next few months.

Long runs which at present are around 1 ½ hours will rise slowly, later in the year, my focus now being on increasing speed and regular endurance, whilst the rides will build from 2 ½ up to 6-7 hours later.

Its going to be an amazing journey, already I am fitter and stronger than I have ever been in my life, more motivated and organized with work (I have to be to work long and productive hours and also fit in the training), happier within myself, with the added bonus that it creates within me almost by default and incredibly positive outlook on life, partly as I really don’t have time for negativity or having to sweat the small stuff.

I want that medal, the finishers t-shirt, and the nice mylar wrapping at the finishing line. I want to toe the line, to start a day that will test me not only physically but force me to look deep within myself to keep going, hour after hour, to keep moving despite discomfort, and that last 100 yards up main street in Clermont to cross that line and the finishers tape.

So now the journey begins…..

Personal Mission statement : “I will explore and enjoy the gift of fitness, seek happiness, laughter, integrity and love at every turn, not only for myself but also with others. I will take every opportunity to find joy in not only this journey, but also with life and all those around me”