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!