Sunday, December 25, 2011

Brrrr...and Happy New Year

We're not quite settled yet, but things are starting to come into place. As my living/life situation is calming down (and I think about the copious amounts of food I've eaten this holiday season) I can't help but want to get back to my training.

Over the last week or so I've managed to squeeze in some workouts despite still moving in and taking a family vacation in the Poconos. Mostly I've been running, but there's been a swim, a spin class, and some miles on my new trainer mixed in. Acclimating to the cold is going better than expected (aided by an unseasonably mild start to the winter). It's also been fun to have some hills to run on which is a new thing for me (and my dog).

Geared up for a 33° run!

The new year will bring lots of new adventures as I start a new chapter in my life and continue to plan for Ironman Arizona.

Wishing you and yours a happy and a healthy!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quiet Around These Parts?

Well, not really. This week we made the big move from Miami to New York. It's been super hectic but things are finally starting to settle down.

Workouts have been at a minimum these last few days with only a run and a final OWS sprinkled in, but now that things are returning to semi-normal I'll get back on the horse.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Goodbye Sunshine & Palm Trees; Hello Snow & Ice (and family)

One week from today, my wife and I (graciously accompanied by my sis-in-law and her bf) will begin our caravan drive (consisting of a ginormous U-Haul - with motorcycle inside & a car towed behind it - and our other car connected by walkie-talkies) 1,321 miles from Miami, FL to Long Island, NY.  While we enjoy our lives in Miami many of our family members and friends live up in the northeast; having both grown up in tight-knit families we want to raise our own family the same way.  We've been preparing for the trip for a while, but we are still far from ready (i.e. not fully packed yet) and it's going to be hard to say goodbye.

I'm going to miss a lot of things about my hometown for the last 11+ years; Miami has been great to me.  I can still remember the day I decided that I'd head south for college: I was a senior in high school visiting the University of Miami campus strolling around Lake Osceola.  As we cruised past the outdoor pool (where students were laying out during school hours) I remember thinking, "yeah, I can definitely do this!"  And so I did.  I figured I'd leave after a few years, but that's how the story of most Miami residents begins.

I guess since this blog is supposed to be about my training, I might as well get to talking about that.  Living in Miami gave me an opportunity to discover the sport of triathlon.  While there are active multi-sport communities in many other cities, Miami (of course due to its great weather and easy water access) is among the biggest.  Our “local” triathlon club (The SFT Hammerheads) is one of the largest at over 600 people.  As I eased my way into triathlon, beginning with my first duathlon last September, I met many other athletes along the way.  Among them were long-time veterans with years of knowledge and advice, as well as newbies like myself with whom it was easy to talk about first-time jitters or other challenges.  

Among the obvious things I’ll miss like the weather, which is generally pretty cooperative for training year round, and my easy access to various bodies of open water, are my training partners.  I’ve mentioned the Tri Locos in this space before and I’d be remiss to not offer one more set of thanks to those who have helped groom me from a triathlon hopeful, to a semi-accomplished age grouper just beginning to tap into his capabilities.  Without them, and specifically Coach Tim, I’d never have made it this far and certainly wouldn’t be signed up for an Ironman (which sometimes I still can’t believe).  I know I will never replace them but I hope that when I get to NY I can find a group to train with that is even a fraction as supportive as the Locos.  On that note, I am now taking applications for the Tri Loco Northeast Chapter!

Now that I'll be living in a place that actually has a winter, training will take on a different look for part of the year; long bike rides and open water swims will certainly be off limits for a while.  This winter I'll get to know the joy of riding on a trainer (and maybe catch up on my list of movies to see).  I'll also be a regular at spin class and the LA Fitness pool.  I despise the treadmill, so I hope to keep running outside despite temperatures and wind chills which make me cold just thinking about them.  But, where there is a will there's a way, and I'll make sure to continue my base training so that I am ready to ramp up in the spring as I get in gear for IMAZ 2012.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Another thing that I'll be forever grateful for about my time in Miami was the opportunity to spend more than the last decade living about an hour from my grandparents.  I'd always had a great relationship with them, but being here, so physically close to them, has been amazing and something I'll cherish for the rest of my life.  Not everyone is even lucky enough to even have living grandparents, and I am blessed to have two great ones with whom I have a close bond (they must be doing something right: all their children, and their children, keep in regular contact with them).

The nature of our relationship has of course changed in the time I've been down south.  When I first arrived they watched out for me, driving down to Miami for dinner (once I eventually figured out where we were going and how to get there), helping me with laundry at their house, and just generally being there for me.  Now, the tables have turned.  As G & G have gotten older our get-togethers are more often up in West Palm Beach.  I'm usually greeted with a "to do" list of household tasks, including the one which is never written, but always understood: giving my Gramps a buzzcut.  Having had my grandparents at many of my adult milestones, including my 1st Half-Ironman, has been wonderful.  I even shared the NY Giants 2007 Superbowl victory with Gramps and my cousins (watch us celebrate).  As I said goodbye to them at our farewell party on Saturday, I’ll admit that I was caught up with the other festivities and the moment failed to sink in.  I will of course still see them plenty (they travel to NY a couple of times a year, and we will fly down to visit), but over are the 3-day notice dinner plans which we've had the luxury of making.  

Miami 70.3 (October 2011)
I came to this city as an immature 17 year old college freshman and leave it as a (semi)responsible 29 year old man.  Along the way I've met many great people, made lots of memories (some nights harder to remember than others), and met my beautiful wife (who of course grew up only 15 minutes from where I did).  I can't say I loved Miami from the very beginning, but this city really grows on you.  I stayed longer than expected and if not for having most of our family in the northeast, I'm not sure I ever would leave.  But, our time has come.  And so with a heavy heart, I will go back to packing my boxes and preparing for our long journey across the eastern seaboard.

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. ~ Dr. Seuss

And...Today I am Sore!

I'll admit that I didn't know what to expect as far as soreness or recovery time from a half-marathon.  I'll take it as a sign that I must have left it all out there, because today my legs (calves mostly) are pretty damn sore.  I'd go as far as to say they are as sore as after Miami 70.3, except my quads and hammies are in much better shape this time. 

I tried to mostly take it easy yesterday after the race, but not only does that not come naturally to me, I also have a lot more to do to finish packing up my apartment for our big move to NY (more on that soon).  Compression sleeves and lots of ice helped mask the race's aftermath, and I even went to the gym for an upper body and core workout.  But, this morning I was reminded of yesterday's effort with my first wobbly step out of bed. 

I'll ease back into some workouts over the next couple of days, with some light swimming and biking, and probably an easy run later in the week.  I'm sure by Sunday I'll be ready to go for my trail run 10k. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race Report: Miami Beach Rock & Roll (Latin Music) 1/2 Marathon

This morning, joined by over 3,000 other runners, I took to the streets (and causeways) of Miami Beach for the inaugural race of the Rock & Roll Marathon Series (aptly renamed for Miami as the Latin Music 1/2 Marathon). It was a beautiful race course beginning on Miami Beach's Ocean Drive and ending on the sands of the beach. Temperatures in the upper 70s, high humidity, occasional wind, decent spats of rain, and the four bridges, made for a challenging, yet exciting and fun day.  

My cousin and I arrived on the Beach at about 6:00am, found a great parking spot, and began our pre-race preparations.  Setting up at the car was when we first noticed the throngs of SoBe partyers who hadn't yet gone home after a night out.  Several years ago, that might have been me, but instead here I was lacing up, getting ready to give it my all for 13.1 miles.  We took an easy jog to loosen up, dodging packs of staggering drunks, who seemed fascinated by our presence.  

The next order of business was to find a place to do our business!  We knew there would be portalets at the race, but honestly who wants to mess with that.  We debated which store we should attack and settled in on Pizza Rustica; a place where I'd spent many a late night grabbing slices during my formative college years.  While the smell of the street out in front (and their bathroom) was nowhere near what I experienced on my long run through New Orlean's Bourbon Street several weeks ago, it was most certainly pungent.  We hurriedly did what we had to do and made our way to the starting corrals.  

This was my first race with corrals (based on pace) and I was amazed at the difference it made.  My other events have mostly been short runs which have congested starts and often remain congested throughout the race.  We found our place in Corral 2 alongside a coworker's husband (who recently completed his first NY marathon) and made some small talk until the starting gun.

Corralled and ready to go!

It was apparent from the start that today's runners were much better at pacing than those at the 5k and 5m races I'd done.  At those events hordes of runners charge out at the beginning, only to fade immediately thereafter and clog the course up for everyone else.  Things were much more comfortable today which made for a much more pleasant day.  

With my cousin at my side I mostly stuck to my pacing plan for the first 8 or so miles and I felt great; my body working hard for sure, but it was totally sustainable.  As always the bridges were challenging, but all in a day's work.  Between miles 8 & 9 we said our goodbyes and I settled in for the final 5 miles.  I was able to maintain pace, with only one minor slowdown as I tackled some rain, the final bridge, and some unexpected wind.

I was hoping to run the final 5k a bit faster than I did, but I think minor dehydration held my body back.  Regardless, I plodded on, encouraged by the fact that I was continuing to pass tons of runners along the way.  An additional boost came from fellow Loco Andrea, who once again brought her great cheerleading charisma; this time with about .15m remaining.  I kicked it into high gear and busted it the rest of the way to the finish line, using every bit of gas left in the tank.  

I finished the race with a time of 1:49:51 and a pace of about 8:20/mile.   My time was good for placing:
  • 24/142 in my age group
  • 224/1456 among men
  • 298/3680 overall

I'm really happy with my time and places among the other runners. I refuse to use the phrase PR, because this was my only R for a half-marathon.  Now I have a time to beat for my race and pacing to guide my future training.  

For this year I have one more race on the calendar: the Down2Earth 10k trail run at Oleta Park.  After that it will be odd to have no currently scheduled races (except of course for IMAZ 2012), but I'm sure that will change before too long! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ready to Rock n Roll: My 1st Half Mary

This Sunday I will run the Miami Beach Latin Music Half Marathon (known as the "Rock and Roll" events outside of Miami), my first half-mary, well...sort of.  Forgive me if I sound snobbish here, but since my first real 13.1 was after I had already swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles, I feel pretty confident going into Sunday's race.  Whereas Miami 70.3 was a long endurance event, in which I was worried mainly about finishing, this half marathon is about leaving it all out there and putting up the best time I can.  

When I signed up for the race about 4 months ago, I was just beginning to ramp up my running mileage; I had no idea I would be doing a 70.3 event this year and simply running 13.1 miles was beyond comprehension.  The application asked for my anticipated finish time, and I put 2:10, which at that moment I thought was attainable, but ambitious.  Needless to say, I have since seriously upped my training-load, and the speedwork has led to substantial increases in my pace. When I check in tomorrow I'll be updating my projected time so that I can be placed in the proper starting corral.  My new goal is to break 1:50.  As long as the bridges don't wreck my pace too badly I should pull it off. 

I'm pumped to give Sunday everything I've got, and am glad that I'll be running with lots of familiar faces out on the course.  In addition to a handful of Locos, I also will be joined by my cousin who signed up a few weeks ago.  An athlete her whole life, who runs regularly for fitness, she had no plans to run this race.  In a few weeks time she upped her volume and is ready to go.  She makes it sound and look easy, and I'm looking forward to running alongside her for a good bit of the race.  

While Sunday will be a day for going all out, tomorrow on the other hand will be an exercise in self-control.  After race check-in (to pick up my number) my wife and I are hosting a party to celebrate her birthday and our departure from Miami (we have a week and a half remaining in Miami, more to come on that soon) with about 40-50 people.  I'm certainly sad that my time in the MIA is wrapping up, but what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than with all of our friends and family.  While I'll certainly be joining in the festivities, I'm going to do my best not to get too festive (read: not too much sangria or churrasco).


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How About a Running Tip?

I while back I stumbled upon a user-generated list of some great (some not as great) running tips.  Having learned a ton over the last year or so about run training (among other things) I used their form to share a tip of my own.  Alas, I am responsible for tip #69 on the list:

69. Tempo Runs
Mix in higher speed tempo runs once a week to vary your workouts.  You'll be amazed at the impact it can have on your pace.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Excuses are Easy, but Making Lemonade is Better

Today began as one of those days (you know the type): the ones where things get off to a rocky start and you feel as if everything will go wrong all day. It would have been all to easy to accept the fact that my car not starting at 5:40am meant I should go back to bed and skip my track workout. In the past I might have done this, thankful for the breather and a chance to spend more time under the covers. Then I would have gone about my day with a cloud over my head, feeling bad that I let a little thing (like a tired car) ruin my morning/day.

Instead, I called an audible, dumped my duffel in the car, and did my speed workout near home. A quick trip to the gym for some stretching, home for a shower, and now I'm off to the office.

The next time something out of your control happens, remember that you still control what happens next. You can let yourself get down, or you can forge ahead and make some lemonade.

My Morning as a USAT Race Official

On race morning at the Miami Speed Triathlon I unknowingly broke the rules by taking my bike out of transition for a spin around the parking lot.  In my final preperations I was trying to ensure that my saddle was adjusted properly; the previous day I'd been messing around with it and it had slid on the rails over night.  The head official called me out and let me know I needed to get my bike back in to transition and get off it immediately.  This was only my third race and even now I am still a bundle of nerves on race day; I admit to being less than courteous to the official, albeit he was only doing his job.  

I didn't think anything of it at the time, but later on after I'd finished I realized how much I appreciated his demeanor, in spite of the attitude I likely threw his way.  After the race I sought him out and offered a sincere apology for my behavior; he graciously accepted and we each went on our way.  At the next couple of events I raced in I continued to run into the same official.  Not that we had a history, we said hello each time and even exchanged in some small talk.  

I mention all of this to explain the reason that when the South Florida Hammerheads (tri-training group) forwarded a message from USAT looking for anyone interested in becoming a race official, I replied yes.  While it wasn't something I'd thought about doing, the email reminded me of my recent positive experience with a USAT official.

On Saturday (12/3/11), at the Miami Marine Stadium, I joined about 6 others for a 3-hr clinic on becoming a race official.  I'd read the rulebook cover to cover and completed the agonizing fill-in-the-blank quiz.  The clinic's instructor armed us with the ins and outs of officiating and prepared us for the next day: our first of three volunteer efforts as a category 4 official.

My USAT Certified Official's SWAG

Sunday morning I arrived at the Marine Stadium for the 2575 Triathlon at 5:30am along with about 400 participants setting up their transition areas.  I'd wanted to go to this particular race anyway to root on fellow Loco Carlos (who I train with and with whom I took some shared swim lessons), and officiating gave me another reason to be there.  Donning my red USAT shirt (fyi, people with red hair rarely choose red shirts!) and blue hat, I didn't know what to expect (despite the thorough clinic the previous day).  

I spent the early part of the morning walking around transition checking for bar ends and proper transition set-ups.  Looking all official in my uniform I was approached by several athletes with a variety of questions about the race.  Shockingly I had the answers to all and was able to provide the necessary help.  I even spotted a few athletes having issues putting their wetsuits on, and, while I am far from an expert, I've had the advice of others to help me get on.  Only 8 months ago I was the one with all the questions and now I was answering them; it was a great feeling to be able to help the athletes along and their thanks were always enthusiastic and sincere.  

The rest of the day was pretty easy.  We watched the swim start and the swim exit of the Elites and then hooked up with the motorcycle drivers who would help us patrol the bike course.  I'll admit that I wasn't thrilled at the idea of getting on another man's Harley.  Having my own, I am much more comfortable as a driver (preferably with my wife's arms wrapped around me) than sitting behind a dude that I'd just met.  Bill turned out to be a real nice guy though and we took our cruise along the bike route as most riders were wrapping up their ride.

I scanned for violations (not because I wanted to, but because it was my job for the day) like drafting, blocking, illegal passing, etc., and only found one culprit.  I could tell he was drafting and put him on the clock to make sure it was for more than 15 seconds.  When the stopwatch got to 25 seconds I began to write down the violation info.  Black trek, red helmet, drafting for 25 seconds, race number!  WAIT, WHERE WAS HIS RACE NUMBER?  Turns out this guy was drafting big time, but, guess what?  You're permitted to draft when you are out on a Sunday ride with your buddy!  I'll bet he got a good rise out of watching me taking down all his info only to realize that he wasn't even racing.

In the end, I enjoyed the officiating experience and will definately be looking to help out at some more events.  And, lastly, Kudos to Carlos and Rafael for their strong showings despite an absolutely hellacious wind.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

We Are Born with Running Shoes

Barefoot running, blah blah blah.  Forefoot striking, blah blah blah.

I'm not going to bore you with all sorts of information you probably already know about the semi-recent (last few years) idea about how we are meant to run.  If you are a newbie to the subject, there are many great resources, some are even listed over on the right.

Here's what I will say:
I had the fortunate opportunity to learn to run, and establish my form at a time when forefoot running was already being widely touted.  Books like Barefoot Running, ChiRunning, and Born to Run were already written and what seemed intuitive to me on my first run, was being declared the way to run.  Many long-time runners are not so lucky.  They have been running for years a certain way, striding long and striking/pounding the heel (also known as putting the brakes on) with each bound.  To reverse course and retrain their body is much more difficult than developing your form from your first run. 

Why do I tell you this?  Well, there are lots of studies appearing around the country telling us that the new form of running, and especially barefoot running, is bad for us and is resulting in more injuries, not less.  I don't purport to have scrutinized the findings of each of these studies and I am not writing this to denounce them.  I simply believe that the majority (but certainly not all) of injuries associated with either barefoot or forefoot running are related to doing too much, too soon. 

I will be forever grateful to Michael Sandler, who, in his short talk and clinic in South Miami, emphasized and pleaded with the audience to take things slow.  Painstakingly slow!  He knew that many in the crowd were running enthusiasts who simply wouldn't be able to resist a nice long run to test out their new lack of footwear, minimal footwear, or revamped stride.  He implored us to start completely barefoot, with the logic that the soft, tender skin on the bottom of your feet would tell you when to stop before your muscles and limbs did.  While I no longer run barefoot, Michael's approach allowed me to gradually add on, making sure my body was ready each time I increased distance or speed.

How should you run?  I can't tell you the answer, but I believe that in the coming years, and in future studies we will begin to learn more and more about the benefits of good running form.

Or just run like one of these guys:

 Thanks to and SwimBikeMom for the link!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Routine of Recovery

Myself included, most endurance athletes don't know enough about proper recovery techniques.  I am constantly tinkering with what to do on an off day, or how to wind down after a long workout.  This common mistake is evidenced by most available training plans; in contrast to the detailed descriptions of each workout, usually the plan simply says "recovery" for an off-day.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with Bryan Huberty of P.R.OJECT 305, and a certified ChiRunning instructor.  While I had already been running with a similar form to what ChiRunning promotes, Bryan helped me to refine some minor issues to increase my efficiency.  As part of increased training and working with a triathlon coach, the techniques Bryan provided have helped me achieve greater speeds and distances while staying injury free.

Yesterday, on his blog, Bryan describes (in immense detail) various recovery strategies, including his own protocol as an elite athlete.  Check it out.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day to Be Thankful & Trotting for Turkey

I'm writing from NY where I'm glad to be with my extended family to share Thanksgiving dinner.  I have many things to be thankful for: a wonderful wife, awesome family, good health, and a successful career are among the ones that come to mind.

In order to justify the copious amounts of food I will eat tonight to show my thanks, I joined a good friend of mine (and some of her friends) for a 5 mile Turkey Trot this morning.  Before I headed out for the run I woke up super early to finish the prep on our holiday turkey.  After a final rub of sage butter it was off to the races.

The weather was beautiful (if not a bit cold) and there was a great crowd.  I was hesitant about the run because of a sore calf, but once adrenaline kicked in I forgot all about it.  I had a great run and was really happy with my time.  I finished the five miles in 38:20 at a pace of about 7:40/mile.

Now it's time to eat turkey.

My handi-work: the ultra un-kosher turkey!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Way to Ironman Arizona 2012

I had heard that Ironman Arizona would sell out fast, but 10 minutes?  That's madness.  Think of the thousands of people (those that made it and those who sadly didn't) scrambling at their computers to pay hundreds of dollars to have the privilege to enter a 140.6 endurance event.  

Thankfully, due to some good planning, I made it through the registration process along with about 10 other Tri-Locos.  In advance of registration I had secured a form from another event and completed the entire application in Word.  Once registration opened I simply copy/pasted my answers and was through the process in just a minute or two.  Seems like this may have been the difference between making it or not.

My hand was shaking before that final click of the mouse as I pondered the year to come.  There will be a lot of hard work and sacrifice between now and IMAZ, but I am committed (maybe I should actually be committed) and am confident that I'll prevail.  

Here's to 361 days of staying healthy and strong, and a good showing in AZ!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Running in Louisiana Paradise

I'm currently on a business trip in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana - a small town on the bayou about 15 miles south of New Orleans.  Despite getting down with some great cajun/creole food (a much heavier diet than I'm used to) I've stuck to my training and have yet to miss a run. 

Out on the Bayou
My first run in JF was a tempo run of about 7.5 miles.  There is some great scenery around here, but running on the main road - a narrow two laner - was a frightful experience.  It was clear from the expressions of those driving by that they don't frequently see joggers around here, especially ones with water bottle waistbelts!  Thankfully the varied pacing of the run helped me pass the time and I had a great workout.

As my weekend long run approached I couldn't fathom running 13 miles starting from my cabin.  Instead, I opted to take the 45 minute drive to New Orleans simply for some running scenery.  I think this is a sign of a great city or town: people will go to extraordinary lengths just to spend time there.
  • I began my run from the French Quarter,
  • Headed for a long loop through the Garden District (running along the street car path in the neutral grounds - you call them medians - on St. Charles, along with dozens of other runners was a cool experience)
  • Came back through the quarter,
  • Zig-zagged through the Marigny,
  • and, finished at Cafe Beignet on Royal

My New Orleans long run was a great way to spend Sunday morning off and was well worth the drive.  I'm looking forward to having another day to explore NO on Friday. 

I've finished icing my balky calf for the night and it's time to catch some ZZZs.  Hopefully I'll be feeling rested enough to complete the ambitious interval workout I'm supposed to do tomorrow morning.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Upcoming Miami Beach Latin Music Half Marathon

It’s been almost two weeks since Ironman Miami 70.3 and by now I’m fully recovered. My speed has crept its way back into my runs and Coach Obi-wan has crafted a varied plan to prepare me over the next month. The plan features short tempo runs, weekly long runs, and lots of my favorite workout: speedwork! At Miami 70.3 I ran a 2:10:03 half marathon (my first time running that distance); my goal for the upcoming half is to break 2 hrs. I think it’s pretty attainable – especially considering that I don’t have to swim and bike first!

As I wrote the other day I’ll be out of town for the next 8 days on a business trip. It’s going to be hard to get any workouts other than running in, but since my next event is only a half marathon I suppose it’ll be alright to let my biking and swimming slip a bit; hopefully I’ll also find time to get in some light core work.
Our lodging for this trip is a bit unique; we’ll be staying in fishing cabins down at the edge of town (2 per cabin). This certainly means that any thoughts about a hotel gym can be flushed out, but the basic kitchen in each cabin means I’ll have the means to whip myself up a good, healthy breakfast on a daily basis.

Eating healthy on the road is always a huge challenge; but, at least now I know exactly what is in one meal each day. I’m looking forward to some good Louisiana cooking for breakfast and lunch; I just have to worry about keeping my snacking in check!

Off for some much needed rest; I'll be up early for a pre-dawn (cold) run along the bayou.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All You Need is a Pair of Shoes

One of my favorite things about being a runner (I think I can actually call myself that now) is that not only is running by far the easiest workout to sustain when traveling (for business or pleasure), but there is no better way to experience a new place than at the speed of a long run.  The pace of a run (my runs at least) is perfectly suited to taking it all (the buildings, streets, people, public spaces) in, in a way that driving in a car or even being on a bike can't replicate.  It’s become routine now that in anticipation of each departure I log on to Google Maps and plot my course; sometimes I even check out others’ running routes.

For the past two days I’ve been in St. Thomas of the United States Virgin Islands as my company wraps up a Vision and Code for the historic Charlotte Amalie.  This was my third trip to St. Thomas and another opportunity for me to lace up (elastic triathlete laces of course) my shoes and take to the streets.  Despite my hotel being located up on one of Charlotte Amalie’s hills I wound my way down to the waterfront and back for an easy few miles.  I didn’t feel great through the run (probably a combination of the mental and physical exhaustion of all that’s going on for me right now), but nonetheless the run gave me a chance to see the town in a way few get to - I was out before the cruise ships had emptied their passengers onto the historic downtown.

On Thursday I will hit the road again, this time traveling to Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, a quaint fishing village south of New Orleans.  I’ll be in Jean Lafitte for a little over a week as part of a team studying the town’s urban fabric and helping craft a plan for its future.  My days will be full of touring the town, conducting site analysis, holding community meetings, and creating maps & diagrams to guide the City; but, before I begin each day I will aim to rise before most and see the Town from a runner's eye.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Always Check Your Bike

As I sit here writing this, I know I am guilty of an offense that most triathletes and cyclists likely commit weekly: putting blind faith in our bikes and assuming that all will be well.  It only takes one SNAFU to remind us how fickle our two-wheeled machines are and that one screw loose (not counting the ones in our head) is all it takes for things to go terribly wrong.  At speeds from 18 - 40 mph there is little margin for error. 

Coach Obi-Wan, who is more diligent than most at staying on top of his bike's maintenance was fortunate to avoid mishap today when his handlebars detached from of his bike.  Yep, you read it right!  He had been dealing with a bit of a stem/fork issue over the last few weeks and was lucky that his Felt waited until after Miami 70.3 to rebel.  A reputable bike shop had worked on the bike and assured him that it was good to go - umm...not so much.  Thankfully there was no ensuing crash or other tragedy and both he and the bike are safe; this can only be attributed to the force being with him and his strong bike handling skills.  

What's the point of this story?  If you - for even a second - think that something might be up with your bike, don't ride it; instead, take it to a trusted shop and hope that they know what they are doing.  Unfortunately in this case the shop steered Coach wrong, but on most accounts a good mechanic will help you work through the issue and get you back on the road safely.  Also, make maintenance a habit, not a nuisance.  Remember to conduct a few basic checks (brakes, gears, etc.) before each ride and once a week or so do a more thorough review of the main components/connections. Here's a good bike cleaning and maintenance 101 guide.

Ride safe.

Recovering from Ironman 70.3

Following the Miami Ironman 70.3 I took back-to-back days off from training for the first time in months; it was a respite that both my body and mind needed. After finishing the race I was surprised at how sore my body had become and how quickly it happened.  My wobbly legs and unstable gait were reminiscent of a boxer who'd just been nailed with a combo but hadn't hit the deck yet.  I'd never been that sore from any training (even long brick workouts), but I guess it's unlikely that my workouts ever matched the intensity of race day.  Even sitting down during dinner that evening I was reminded of my achievement by the most painful hamstring cramp I've experience; it actually felt like someone had stabbed the back of my leg.

I didn't plan on it, but I ended up taking the day on Monday and slept for about half of it.  I hardly ever nap or sleep during daylight hours, so I guess it was my body's way of telling me that it needed some rest.  The soreness remained on Monday and began fading Tuesday.  I'd compare the feeling to the type of sore you get after a serious leg workout (squats, calf raises, presses, etc.)  in the gym, after neglecting your lower half for way too long. 

By Wednesday I almost had my legs back, my energy level was back up, and my body began asking for a workout.  I obliged with a short core session, followed by a light swim.  As I swam my laps I couldn't help but acknowledge the irony of me going for a swim (and wanting to) when I didn't need to - I have no tris remaining this year.  This morning, with my legs almost 100% back in business, I went for a casual 2 mile jog.  My dog was none too impressed with my sluggish pace, but nonetheless it felt nice to get back out there.

I'm looking forward to some longer workouts this weekend as I begin to prepare for the upcoming Latin Music Half Marathon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Blanche-ing to Remember: An Experience in Masochistic Massage

As I wind down my recovery from Ironman Miami 70.3, I am eagerly anticipating an upcoming massage to help flush my muscles and refresh my body.  Much has been written and studied about the positive effects/benefits of deep tissue massages as part of an intensive training/racing schedule.  Since I am only a dabbling triathlete (now half an Ironman) and not an expert of any kind, I won't repeat any of that here.  What I will share with you is the story of my first time with the infamous Blanche of the South Miami, FL Massage Envy. 

Blanche is well-known amongst my training group (the Tri Locos) for delivering extreme amounts of pain that we somehow view as pleasure.  Here's the recap I sent to my group after my first Blanche-ing:

Recap originally written on Thursday, August 4, 2011
After all the emails, warnings, and words of wisdom, I headed to my “Blanche-ing” with a calm confidence. Surely there couldn’t be that much pain involved. It’s “just a massage,” I told myself. I will never utter (or even think) those words again. As I type this, the mild throbbing on my legs and back remind me of what transpired in that dark room on Red Road.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How about this Tri-mantra (to be hissed or groaned at any unfriendly hill)

I'm currently reading You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World's Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg.  So far it's a great read and I'll be sure to post a full review once I've finished.  For now, here's a great poem that I came across in the book.  Enjoy the inspiration!

In my world,
The water is cold,
The wind is hard,
And the road never ends.

In my world,
There are no losers.
Only competitors
still on their way,
And spectators
waiting to be inspired.

In my world,
Victory is not weighed in gold,
But in determination and courage.

In my world,
There are no boundaries,
No limits,
There is no end.
Every day is the last day of my life,
And the first.

In my world,
The word "can't" does not exist,
And nothing is impossible.


by Olivier Blanchard, Greenville, SC

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miami Ironman 70.3: An Unforgettable Experience

I'll aim for a full race report in the next week or so, but for now I'll say this:  today's race was epic.  

I finished with a time of 6:23:10.

Pushing past the physical and mental barriers that I thought I had was uplifting and invigorating.  I'll always remember my first big race and despite some pretty intense soreness (although I'm feeling better after a soothing Epsom salt bath) I feel like a million bucks.

Special thanks to a handful of people who had a huge impact on today's race:  
  • Wife:  For her never-ending support during months of training all the way up to race day; I seriously couldn't have done this without her.  Despite the thousands cheering today, when she yells out my name, I don't hear anything but her voice which provides a boost of energy that no Clif Shot packs.  They should have Ironman medals for "support crew."
  • Mom, Dad, Grandma & Grandpa: For their race day support.  Only a few grown men will get to meet their grandparents at the finish line after something like this.  Mom & Dad, who booked a flight on one week's notice, are the greatest.
  • Sis-in-law & BF:  Surprised me by coming straight from the airport early this morning and were the first to spot me and yell when I came in from the bike.  I am super lucky to have people like this in my life!
  • Tri Locos:  Maybe the greatest collection of people anywhere; the way the Locos support one another is phenomenal.  Whether you need a workout buddy, advice, a gear loan, or just some race day cheers, the Locos will be there.  Andrea and her junior Locos (her kids) were even there for body marking this morning.  The Locos helped cultivate my budding interest in triathlon into a life-changing experience (with many more to come)!  White Lantern (Victor) was my early inspiration into the sport and provided tons of helpful info along the way.
  • Black Devil (aka Andres):  There are a few other workout partners who have been a big part of my training, but the Devil and I have seen a lot of each other before most people are even awake.  It was great to get each of our first 70.3 medals on the same day.
  • Coach Tim:  Last but not least is the man behind the plan.  Coach's workouts helped give me the foundation (physical and mental) that I needed to tackle this huge challenge.  More than just giving me a plan, though, he gave me the confidence and advice I needed to succeed.  When I debated signing up for this race just nine days ago, he assured me I was ready.  While I at first doubted so, he was right.  Thanks for believing in me Coach.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Racked and Loaded!

This morning's preface festivities were awesome for a first-timer. There were tons of people, gear, and plenty to do. I resisted the urge to buy out the Ironman store, but will rush back in for my 70.3 sticker once the race is complete. I was to be with my training crew, especially Tim who has the calm swagger of someone who's been here before. After check-in and the expo we even drove the first part of the bike course which will help it seem more familiar tomorrow.  

Note to the tourists:  Miami is much nicer than the bike course will have you believe!

After all that I headed out for an early dinner and had a perfect bowl of pasta with my wife, Dad, and grandparents. Seriously, how many parents book a flight on a week's notice for something like this; my Mom and Dad rock. I can't wait to see my family again as I make my way through the transitions and ultimately cross the finish line!

The weather today was all over the place.  Hopefully Miami rained itself out today as it alternated between sunshine, slight showers, and torrential downpours. But, we've trained for this: rain or shine my confidence will not waver. I just feel bad for the out-of-towners expecting something nicer. 

It's been a long day of race preparations and it's time to get some last shuteye before the big day. I hope I can shut the old brain down and actually get some sleep!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neoprene: My New Best Friend!

What a great morning!  I had one of my best swims ever!  I know that at this point I am not receiving any physical benefits from this week's training, but, psychologically this morning's workout was a huge boost.

With the water temperature hovering right around the wetsuit limit for this weekend's Miami 70.3 Ironman, I decided it was worth testing out a wetsuit on this morning's open water swim.  While the water is not cold by any standards other than Miami's, I was curious as to the effect the extra bouyancy would have on my swimming (dis)ability.  I'd donned a wetsuit before, but only for snorkeling, and long before I knew how to swim.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What the *#$% Have I Done!

After a great weekend in NY, I’m cruising some 20,000 feet in the air thankful that the pilots are (hopefully) more awake than I.  As I think towards this Sunday I am still a mixed bag of emotions; I repeatedly bounce between being confident to being petrified.  And back.  And back again.    
This is normal right?  

While my mind is racing with thoughts of the impulsive decision I made last Friday, I’m encouraged by the accomplishments of my fellow Tri Locos; props to Gerardo, Mario, and Noemi,  for completing another 70.3, and a huge congrats to Danny on his first Half-Iron finish!  Their triumph yesterday at Austin 70.3 reminds me that the hard work will pay off, and, that I will accomplish a feat I could never imagine taking on. 

My training this weekend was mostly smooth and confidence building:  A great ride Saturday morning on Key Biscayne, powering through the strong winds to keep a solid pace for about 2 hrs.  Sunday morning included a 70 minute run in the brisk fall weather of suburban Long Island (well before most had awoken from their slumber).  Then it was onto the pool, home to my most challenging workouts.  I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy working to increase my efficiency (and stamina), yet I remain a major work in progress.  My longest open water swim is about .75 miles, but somehow I’m expecting to will myself through 1.2 miles. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

So...I'm Going to Try to Become Half (70.3) an Ironman, NEXT WEEK!

Well, this certainly isn't how I planned it out in my head, but it's happening nonetheless. I'm not quite sure I've come to terms with my decision just yet, but on October 30, 2011, I will attempt to complete my first 70.3 (also known as a half-ironman) in Miami,FL.

I have been training hard over the last several months, with the Miami Man (November 13, 2011) Olympic Distance race marked firmly on my calendar. Unfortunately (although maybe it happened for a reason unbeknownst to me), today I encountered a scheduling conflict that will keep me from participating in that race.

All trained up with nowhere to swim, bike, or run, I quickly checked my local race options. Aside from the Miami 70.3, which many of my fellow Tri Locos were preparing for, I only found a nearby sprint race. Having completed several sprints already, I've had my heart set on something bigger to finish out the season. But could I really take on the 70.3? After quick consults with my coach/training buddy and another Loco, I was pushed over the fence I was sitting on, and have chosen to give my body and spirit its toughest test yet. Maybe it will actually be better that I haven't had weeks or even months to think/stress about this day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gear Review: New Balance MR1400

These shoes were sort of an emergency buy; and by emergency, I mean I lost one of my other running shoes (yes, just one).  How does a person lose one running shoe? 

My remaining ST4
While I was almost ready to replace my Brooks ST4 Racers, I wasn't exactly in the market quite yet.  But with no right shoe (literally, my "right shoe" was gone) for my Monday morning run, it was easy to explain to my wife that new shoes had become a need not a want.  I headed to one of Miami's best running stores, Footworks, to shop for a new pair. 

I talked with the shoe salesman (think: Al Bundy; wait, no, he was actually a cool guy who knows a lot about running) and he chose a bunch of kicks for me to test out.  After trying on - and testing on the pavement outside, as the store encourages you to do - about 6 or 7 pairs of mostly neutral and minimalist type racing flats I ended up settled in on the first pair I tried on.   I originally liked the New Balance MR1400s for their design and color combo, but it turned out they were a great fit for my feet as well as a perfect match for my style (running and otherwise).

New Balance MR1400

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Saddle Up: The Search for the Right Seat

I can pretty much guarantee that if the words "Andrew" and "saddle" are ever spoken near anyone in my training group, they will cringe on the spot.  As I began seriously training for triathlons, so did a saddle saga that lasted a solid couple of months.  Anyone who has dealt with saddle issues knows how difficult a situation it can be.  Instead of focusing on your form, pace, hydration/nutrition, or other aspects of the ride, all you can think about is what is between your legs (get your head out the gutter).

As I mentioned in a previous post about my bike I had switched from my stock saddle to a Nashbar F1 road saddle.  It was a good fit for me for traditional road riding, with just the right amount of cushion and an ergonomic design.  It supported me well on rides of any distance and gave me several good years of service.  After installing aero bars onto my bike, it quickly became clear that this saddle wasn't going to cut it for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Komen Race for the Cure® 5K, October 15, 2011

Downtown Miami was flooded with hot pink this morning as thousands of participants came out to run and walk in support of breast cancer awareness and research.  Many of the teams taking part went ultra creative with their team shirts.  One of my personal favorites was "these boobs are made for walking."  Others went the more serious route and wore touching (albeit less humorous) shirts in honor of survivors or those tackling the disease.

Unfortunately, my fellow Tri Loco was unable to join, but I was glad to get out there and run solo for a good cause.  Our training schedule didn't call for a 5K, but rather a 90 minute run; I opted to build the 5K in by doing a warmup run first and then a run of about 60 (sluggish) minutes after the event.  Despite not being the best race to aim for speed - due to all the walkers - I was determined to come out with a good finish time.  I beat my previous 5K best (25:28) by an even three minutes, finishing at 22:28!

I think my favorite part of the race was

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Upcoming Event: 2011 Komen Race for the Cure® 5K

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in the world and while there is no cure there is more hope than ever.  Most people have been affected by breast cancer in some way or another: maybe a family member, friend, or someone they work with has undergone treatment.  My family has had its fair (or unfair) share of brushes with breast cancer.  Several Aunts and Grandmas have battled with the disease.  Thanks to early prevention and improved treatment they are mostly cancer free and doing well.

The 2011 Miami/Ft Lauderdale Race for the Cure will be held this Saturday, October 15, at 8:30 am at Miami's Bayfront Park. The event is part of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series, which is the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world.  I will be participating along with at least one other Tri Loco.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cycling Accident on the Rickenbacker Causeway

This morning at around 6:45am four cyclists were hospitalized (thankfully it seems there are no life threatening injuries) and many more suffered minor injuries while riding on Key Biscayne's Rickenbacker Causeway.  The riders were part of a pack (or peleton) consisting of more than 50 bikes and were estimated to be traveling at 30+ mph.  Apparently, two riders made contact with each other, went down, and caused a violent chain reaction among the pack.

Living in Brickell, I am lucky to have immediate access to Key Biscayne (and a handy bike lane that goes from my adjacent cross-street all the way to the Key).  I typically ride the Key two or three times a week and I am intimately familiar with this pack; they whiz by me at least twice on each ride.  Without warning one bike will fly by and before I can blink, the group, like a school of fish moving in synch, is passing me with ease.  It's an uncomfortable feeling as they brush way too close to my left shoulder, seemingly pushing me off the road.

Tri-Miami Race Report: May 15, 2011

After months of preparation, learning to swim (sort of), and doing what I thought was a lot of training, my first race had finally come.  To commemorate my first triathlon, and to honor someone who has overcome real struggle and adversity, I set up a Firstgiving page to raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  To my astonishment I raised over $2,500 thanks to the support of my family, friends and colleagues.

With Mom and Dad - post race
When I spoke to my parents about the upcoming event, something seemed afoot.  I wasn't sure what was up, but I'd figure it out soon enough.  On Wednesday of race week, my wife said she had to tell me something.  Before she could speak another word, I blurted out "My parents are coming!  I knew it!"  Turns out I was right; Mom and Dad decided they couldn't miss my first event and flew down from NY to support me.  They were all a bit nervous that I'd be upset about the surprise or that their presence would get in the way of my carefully planned routine (I'm a planner, both personally and professional, and am not one for playing it by ear).  Nope, just the opposite: I was honored that they would come and thought it was pretty damn awesome.  The bonus of having my parents at the race is that my Dad is a phenomenal photographer; he took all the pictures in this post.

While my training program leading up to the race was somewhat ad-libbed, I had a careful plan (taken from Triathlon Magazine) for race week.  It consisted of mostly short workouts, a good amount of rest, and careful eating. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Honestly, Who Loses a Shoe?

In August (2011) my training partners and I had worked a 5K trail run into our schedule.  It was a first for many of us and seemed like a fun idea to spice up our weekend run.  The race was held at Oleta State Park, on the mountain bike trails.  The trails vary in terrain and incline/decline, but certainly a pair or trail runners with some toe protection would have been ideal.  Not owning any trail shoes I chose to rock my Brooks ST4 Racers (rest in peace foot soldiers).

While not constructed for this type of running my Brooks helped me off to a strong start. I was holding my own and hoping for a strong showing in my first venture into trail racing.  About 3/4 mile into the course I approached a water crossing with a group of fellow racers (since it was a singletrack trail there wasn't much room to pass and runners were traveling in single-file bunches).  As we surveyed the crossing we failed to notice the mangrove roots which we could have used to traverse the water.  Instead, one by one, we lunged across.

My Ride: Specialized Allez Elite 2005 (double)

After selling my mountain bike - which was deprived of mountains for too long - I began the search for my next set of wheels. After an exhaustive search, the combination of a lightweight aluminum frame, carbon seatpost, carbon fork, and a component group that far exceeded other bikes in the price range, I settled in on the Specialized Allez Elite.

My transition area at the Duathlon. 
You can't tell but this is
before installing aerobars.
Throughout its life my bike has gone through various periods of use: the early infatuation daily rides, sporadic casual rides, new girlfriend abandonment, and married life escape vehicle (I'm kidding honey); now it has its new identity as a triathlon bike.  As a road bike, my Allez has always been there when I needed it.  The reliable component group made up of Shimano 105 with some Ultegra sprinkled in has done its job and the bike has required few tuneups.  I've always found it to be a quick ride, well-suited to my frame (I'm 5' 5" and the bike is 48cm), and light enough considering its price.

One Stroke at a Time

As I mentioned in my duathlon post, I'd never been able to swim.  I used to say that "I could swim to save my life," but looking back I'm not even sure that was true.  How does a 28 year old, who has lived in Miami for 11 years, not know how to swim?

I'm not quite sure how I never learned to swim; I went to summer camp, the local pool, and the beach.  Surely I would have picked up something, but no.  It's not that I had a fear of the water, I just spent my time where I was able to stand and didn't venture much farther. 

At one point after college I even briefly took up surfing.  My first time out was in Hawaii with calm easy waves rolling in one after another.  In Miami our waves are generally part of a bad weather system which usually brings some choppiness along with it.  A couple times out in the windy conditions on Miami Beach and I realized that I had no business trying to surf without knowing how to swim.

Tri Swimming
Not being able to swim hadn't held me back from anything, but it was certainly going to make my venture into triathlon a big challenge.  Now that I was committed to completing a triathlon I needed to learn how to swim, but where to begin?  The bathtub, hot tub, kiddie pool, swimmies, a noodle?  A coworker mentioned classes that were offered at the University of Miami Wellness Center.  The classes were labeled "Adult Beginner Swim Classes."  A perfect fit for my lack of skills!

Do-what? Oh, a Duathlon

I had never thought of attempting - and hopefully finishing - a triathlon before, but had been exposed to the sport by the head of my company (also South Florida is home to a tremendous triathlete community).  Despite being the head of an internationally known planning firm, and a jet-setting road warrior, my boss had managed to become not only a triathlete, but an Ironman.

Now that I was regularly running and biking, my first thoughts of multi-sport events started to creep in.  There was just one problem: I couldn't swim.  I don't mean that I wasn't good at swimming; I mean I simply did not know how, and couldn't swim from one side of the pool to the other (25m).  Sure, I'd spent time in the pool (never the deep end) or at the beach as a kid, but it was usually just goofing around rather than swimming.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

The Backstory
I'd always enjoyed riding bikes and have fond childhood memories riding with friends around the south shore of suburban Long Island. I remember the first time I was allowed to ride alone to a friend's house on the other side of town (a whopping 1.5 miles away), and the feeling of freedom that riding gave me.

While growing up I mostly rode around the neighborhood, to the nearby 7-11 (I was always a sucker for a Coke Slurpee) or in the park near my house, but at summer camp (in the beautiful Massachusetts Berkshires) I came to know the thrill of mountain biking and was on board from the start.  We'd ride the hills at camp and also head into the backwoods behind the cabins.  If I thought riding around the neighborhood was a good time, this was like Christmas - um, I mean Chanukah.

The Road to Running

I have always been pretty active: lifting weights, rock climbing, rollerblading, etc., but running for me usually consisted of short distances - enjoy for a moment the mental image of someone who is now only 5' 5" running  hurdles in junior high school.  I’m great at running kickball bases (the adult version), but going 1st to home often left me more winded than I'd like to admit.  Becoming a runner would be a long road and I’d have to be patient.

On the journey to becoming a triathlete, running was my first stop (well, second sort of; I've had a road bike for years and dabbled here and there, but more on that another time); however, when I began running I had no thoughts of triathlon.  I had never enjoyed running and couldn't understand how so many people found it to be anything but boring and monotonous.  Anyone who knows me well will undoubtedly remember me saying at some point how much I hated running and following that up with a handful of reasons as to why - mostly I was just bad at it.  As I’ve gotten older more and more people I know run for fitness and pleasure, and it seemed to be a great way to stay in shape, so I figured I'd have a go.