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.