Thursday, December 13, 2012

Planning Ahead

Now that my 2012 race season has come to a close it's time to start thinking about the gameplan for 2013.  Though I had company during some of my workouts this past season (and had the Miami Tri Locos alongside me in spirit), on the whole I trained on my own. 2013 will be a different story.

A couple of nights ago my buddy and I huddled up to plan out our race season.  It was a long process, full of lots of distractions and sidebars, but in the end we have a decently laid out schedule for the year ahead.  I was initially unimpressed with the race selection, but once we expanded our searching off of Long Island and into a larger area we had more than enough options. Our race planning session was an exercise in balance; among the factors were race scheduling, distances, locations, courses, and last but not least race fees.  With our Timberman 70.3 registrations on the books (and designated as the year's "A"' race) our goal was to fill in the season with variety of other races both triathlons and other types events.

Next up is a 10-mile race in January and then our next event will likely be the Prospect Park duathlon (in Brooklyn) in March.  Now it's time to start saving up for the race fees!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stay Hungry my Friends

The first week or so after Ironman Arizona was all about recovery (both mental and physical); the soreness disapated in just a few days but it was a few days after that before I began to feel myself again. Training hours on end had become the norm for me during IMAZ training.  In the race's wake I found myself completely out of sorts, a funk if you will; my energy level was noticeably down and I even bordered on irritable. Not until after the first few workouts did the fog begin to lift and I began to return to normal.

My training over the past few weeks has been a major shift from what I was doing before the race.  For one thing the northeast has settled into the early stages of winter, complete with short daylight hours and temperatures trending downwards. The days of riding outside are over for several months, as are open water swims (except for the upcoming Polar Bear Plunge).  I'll keep running outside through the winter, but the rest of my workouts will be moved indoors.  Without the pressure of having to log countless miles I've already begun to get back into the weight room and the yoga studio is next.

With Ironman Arizona behind me, and no imminent race plans, I can't deny that I've been slightly less motivated during my last few weeks of workouts.  Perhaps there is still just some lingering fatigue but I think I can attribute it mostly to reaching my lofty goal. I ate, slept, and dreamt for months about crossing that finish line (it still seems surreal that it actually went down).  Because so much of my energy was spent taking the necessary steps to help me reach my goal I guess I can't help but think: "what now?"  In fact, many family members, friends, and coworkers have asked that very question. 

For now I have my sights set on some new short- and long-term achievements: drastically improve my swimming, running a sub 20-minute 5K, qualifying for the Boston Marathon (this one is probably years down the road, if at all), improving my climbing ability on the bike, besting my previous PRs (I'm likely not alone with this one), and continuing my progression as an athlete/triathlete.

My next immediate step is to lay out next year's racing/training schedule (which already includes Timberman).  I'm sure that once I start looking ahead to next season it won't be hard to bring up my energy and intensity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I am (an) Ironman!

The final weeks before Ironman Arizona and the post-mordem period after the race were sadly lacking in the writing department, but this is my attempt to ease back into the ink-flow. A full race report for IMAZ is in the works; in the meantime here's what happened:

In case you didn't get the memo, see the skywriting, or here Brian Williams announce it on the evening news: I am an IRONMAN! 

I can still remember those first persuasive arguments about why I should triathlon and clearly recall thinking that I'd just do a couple of sprint distance races and call it a wrap.  Umm....yeah.  Not so much.  Even after those first few events (what with their agonizing, breast stroke-filled swims) I had no intentions of making the leap into long-course events.  It wasn't long though before I signed up for my first Olympic-distance race (which I'd ultimately have to skip because of a business trip) and then for Miami 70.3.  It was after I completed the half-Iron that I began to set my sights higher and had my first thoughts of taking on an Ironman. 

As the Tri Locos began to plan for Ironman Arizona as their big 2012 race I wondered whether I would be up for the challenge.  I was assured by Coach and the other Iron Locos that a year was plenty of time for me to ready my body for the monumental task.  I think it's fair to say that the year of training (6 months on a formal plan) for IMAZ was physically and mentally the hardest thing I've ever done.  It was also the most rewarding of my life.

As I reached the peak training phase I pushed my body and mind further each week.  My weekends consisted of grueling workouts (often by myself) and I made many sacrifices in other aspects of life.  Monday mornings though were filled with pride.  As I settled in to work each Monday, I couldn't help but think about the miles I'd logged on Saturday and Sunday.  Hardly removed from being a drowning, anti-runner, I had been reborn as a passionate triathlete.

I'll dole out some specific "thank yous" in my race report but in the meantime I'd like to throw out a general thanks to all those who helped me along the way.  Whether you were a training partner, someone who donated to my cause, a random runner on a trail who made me work just a little bit harder, a family member, or a friend, everyone I've come in contact with has helped me in some way.  Triathlon may be an individual sport but without all the help and support of those around me I'd never have heard Mike Reilly say: "Andrew Zitofsky, you are an Ironman!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So...This is Happening

What seemed like a fantasy, an unimaginable pipe dream off in the distant future, is actually here.

Today, in Tempe, AZ, I will swim, bike, and run with about 3,000 other crazy fools. I've worked hard to make it here and to cross that finish line. I am ready.

Throughout this hectic week I've been repeating a simple mantra (whose source I can't recall):

Have the day you have!

Today, I WILL have the day I have and it's gonna be freakin awesome!

Good luck to all the other Locos (both the Miami Tri Locos and the other crazies).

See you at the finish line!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Locoman 70.3

The past few weeks have been filled with lots of hours training (and plenty more at work).  I've complete my longest workouts of my Ironman training (and my life): two 100+ mile rides (1 with my Uncle), a handful more that were 90+, swims over 2 miles, and several 15+ mile runs including a near 21-miler. 

Through the peak of my training I've stayed strong both physically and mentally but I suspect few make it through this kind of training volume without any minor discomfort. The challenge is identifying the difference between injury and normal wear and tear; my body is looking forward to the taper and I'm confident that come November 18 I'll be ready to bring it to Arizona.

Before I can get tapering I've got one more hurdle to clear.  Tomorrow I'll tackle my second 1/2 Ironman; I'll be racing solo in New York, but 1100 miles away will be ten of the Miami Tri Locos joining me in the two-state inaugural Locoman 70.3.  The Locoman is our homegrown, $0 race fee, half-ironman. 

I'll begin my day with a 1.2 mile dip in the edge of the Long Island Sound, continue a 4-loop (to avoid traffic lights) bike course, and concluded with a 2-loop run.  Transition area will be based in the beach parking lot where I will create my own aid/refueling station.  The loops will allow me to swing through transition for additional hydration or nutrition.  The race course I've laid out is pretty scenic but it's got a few serious hills and a handful of small rollers.  Over the 56-mile ride I suspect I'll cover somewhere between 2-3K feet of elevation (my Garmin will be the judge of that) which is totally different than what I'll encounter in Arizona. 

It's been almost a full-year since my first 1/2 Iron and there's no doubt I am a much stronger athlete than I was when I took on Miami 70.3.  I've put in a lot of hard work to make it to this point and tomorrow will be a good test of where I stand.  I'm doing everything I can to simulate race conditions including my pre-race meal and preparation.  I'll treat the morning as a race morning with an early wake-up and typically race-day breakfast.  That said, it's time for some rest so I can race hard tomorrow.

I know it's going to be lonely out there tomorrow but I'll channel the strength I've built up in the last year and think of my fellow Locos down south.  I know that Locoman 70.3 will serve me well in Arizona.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who Am I?

Son. Husband. Grandson. Brother. Brother-in-law. Cousin. Uncle.  Nephew. Friend. Coworker.  Triathlete. Tri Loco.

Five weeks from today, I'll hear Mike Reilly say:  Andrew Zitofsky, you are an IRONMAN!

There are times I struggle with the fact that triathlon and being a triathlete have become such a big part of my identity. More often though I am proud of what the sport has helped me accomplish both physically and mentally.  Triathlon has helped me shed about 20lbs and I am undoubtedly in the best shape of my life.  I have more energy than ever (even after most long workouts) and I feel like my motor is always running.  Mentally triathlon has helped increase my focus and provided me with a level of discipline I've never had before.  The discipline was born from staying on track with my training, but it's spilled over into the rest of my life as well.  At work I am more organized and on top of things than I can ever remember being.  Triathlon has truly made me a better all around person.

There's a lot of time for soul searching when you are out training for hours on end (many of them alone).  Five years ago I don't think I could have handled all the solo hours; though I can't deny that sometimes it gets lonely out there, I generally find myself to be pretty good company.  My training gives me a lot of time to think (about anything and everything) and I've become increasingly productive during my long workouts.  Of course I focus on the goal of each workout but I also take the time to be mindful about other aspects of my life. 

Triathlon also brings me a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.  Whether it's crossing a finish line or simply completing a hard workout, I've accomplished something that day.  Even if I struggled through my run, fought every pedal cycle on a ride, or labored through each stroke in the water, I didn't quit.  Triathlon has taught me that the only limits we have are those which we place on ourselves.
 I'm grateful to be a triathlete and look forward to being able to call myself an Ironman.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thorn Bushes Have Roses: A New PR

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
-Abraham Lincoln

Fitting in my longer runs and rides has grown increasingly challenging as temperatures have dropped and daylight hours have shortened. In turn, on occasion I've had to push the limits of early awakening. Throughout the course of my Ironman Arizona training I've begun workouts at some ungodly hours, but today takes the cake.

I woke up at 4:30am, was out of the house by 4:45, and departed the LA Fitness parking lot for a 2hr 30min run at 5:10am. The morning was off without a hitch until the rain began. It was by no means a Florida rain but it was just enough (and just early enough in my run) to make me not want to go on if I didn't have to.

To make the most of the morning, I headed back to the gym and had a great stretching/yoga session (a part of my training which is sorely neglected). I wish I'd been able to complete my run and not have to do it this evening or tomorrow, but I'm glad the morning wasn't a waste.

Now I'm off to work for an early start to the day. Another bonus to the change in plans is that getting in before most others gives me some quiet time to get things done before it gets busy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gear/Store Review: Finis Tech Toc Trainer &

Full disclosure: Several weeks ago I was contacted by the folks at who offered me a store credit to use towards any of their merchandise. In exchange it was requested that I share a review of both the product and their site. The terms of this agreement have no bearing on the review below; in no way is my review tilted because of the credit I received.

Having read more than my fair share of books and articles on the subject and watching countless videos on swimming form I know the importance of proper hip rotation in the water. Rather than swimming with your back parallel to the surface of the water, swimming on your side helps increase hydrodynamics allowing you to cut through the water. Throughout the course of my swim training I have spent many laps working through Total Immersion drills focused on body rotation and positioning.

The Finis Tech Toc Trainer was created to help provide feedback (that you can feel and hear) to a swimmer that lets them know whether their rotation is up to par.  I suppose I may have had unrealistic expectations for the device (although I’m not sure what I was thinking it would do) because after my first swim with it I was rather underwhelmed. Let me break it down:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy and a Healthy Jew-Year

For those that don't know, last night marked the start of the Jewish high holy days: Rosh Hashanah ("Head of the Year") followed by Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement").

This afternoon's Jewish education lesson will be on two Rosh Hashanah traditions:

The round challah: Typically challah is made in a braided fashion (except when I'm lazy and don't bother pulling it from the bread machine pan, but for Rosh Hashanah it is in a spiraling round shape. The shape is symbolic of the cycle of the year.

Apples Dipped in Honey: This one is pretty straightforward also; the snack is intended to remind us all to have a sweet new year.

That concludes our session class. Time to get with the family and feast on my mom-in-law's amazing food. 

L'shanah Tova ("Happy New Year") to anyone who stops by this site - Jewish or not.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

They Said It Would Happen (But I Didn't Believe Them)

I remember awhile back talking to some Locos about workout duration and one in particular (who shall remain nameless) scoffed at talk of any bike ride 1 hour or less. In my mind an hour ride is still exercise and though I was assured that the time would come when I'd feel similarly, I found it hard to believe that there'd be a time when I too would dismiss short workouts.  

It's not too long ago that running for 30 minutes straight or biking more than 1.5 hours was a big deal. How quickly things have changed. As I made the transition from budding triathlete to an aspiring Ironman finisher my workouts have become both more frequent and more significant (in intensity and duration). In turn, I have become so much fitter and stronger and my perception of what's considered a daunting workout (or race distance) has shifted significantly.  I'm grateful for where I've come as a triathlete and for those who've helped shepherd me along the way.  I say all this to qualify what comes next and hopefully prevent myself from sounding snobby or elitist.

As last weekend approached and I checked my workout schedule I was surprised to see Sunday's typical long ride replaced by a shorter than expected one. Of course the logic in our overall training make sense (in Coach I trust); last week we had the longest ride yet and Saturday's run was 2 hours and 20 minutes (I ran just short of 16 miles). Nonetheless, when I saw Sunday's brick workout on the schedule (a 2.5 hour ride followed by a 20 minute run) I actually thought to myself that I was in for an easy day of training.  Almost 3 hours of training is by no means a walk in the park, it was just less that I had been training on most Sundays.  On the heels of Saturday's run the workout was still challenging and I totally understand why we didn't have a 5 hour ride planned instead.

I've got a few more weeks of increasingly challenging workouts before things begin to taper for the big day.  I'll do my best not to look past any workout (no matter the length) because you never know how you're going to feel on a given day. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Brush with Disaster

By now I know that I am a quick healer and have a knack for avoiding major catastrophe, but boy do I wish I'd stop testing it.  
The Situation
I could see the light ahead as I came churning down the hill.  The light in my direction was still red but I could see the other side changing and knew I'd be getting a green.  What I didn't account for though was the SUV that was trying to catch the tail end of the light cycle.  Glancing up from the aero position I saw the blue Jeep enter my path.  I reacted quickly, posturing up and slamming on the brakes (several witnesses couldn't believe I didn't crash).  I made my best effort to stop but because of the speed (I was traveling about 30mph) I ended up dumping the bike and hitting the deck.  I narrowly avoided the disaster of broadsiding the car and came to a rolling stop about a foot from its side.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Energizer Lady

There she goes again; she keeps going and going and going.  Stroke after endless stroke the mystery senior swims, inching ever so slowly forward, but never pausing.  If I had to guess (which I do because you just can't ask a lady her age) she must be at least 80 years old.  I don't know how long she swims, but I do know that most days she’s there before I start and still going strong when I leave.  At first I didn't take it well, feeling as if her consistency and stamina was mocking me.  Now though, I've come to realize that it’s a remarkable sight and I just take in (albeit it's still humbling to say the least).  

Just a peek at the ageless wonder doing her thing!
I tried to talk to her once or twice (it's rare that she isn't swimming the entire time I'm at the pool) but due to the swim cap over her ears - and what seems to be a minor hearing deficiency - my accolades and inquiries have gone unanswered.  Of course it's possible that she's just pretending not to hear me; I'm sure she already knows that she’s nothing short of amazing.

There's nothing pretty about her swimming form, in fact the word that comes to mind is atrocious.  But who cares!  Day in, day out, she heads to the pool and puts in her laps.  I don't know a thing about this woman other that what I see at the pool, but that's enough for me. If the devotion and commitment that she brings to her swims tells you anything, it's that she has a passion that I can only hope to emulate.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fare Thee Well

Over the last several months I've built a small militia of running shoes and the time has come to give an honorable discharge to one of my long standing foot soldiers.  My first pair of New Balance MR1400s (reviewed here) have served me well - if I had to guess I've probably put over 300 miles on them.  Though it pains me to retire a pair of shoes, today's run was all I needed to make clear to me that the end has come.  

No, those shoes are not on my kitchen counter...

 The wet conditions and continued drizzle made me think it'd be a good idea to wear my oldest sneakers which are well past their prime.  Not only is the sole completely worn down on one side but they just felt dead; running in them reminded me of trying to hit a forehand with a washed up tennis ball.  I almost went back and changed my shoes but I figured I'd give them one last spin around the block (I should say many spins) and bid them a proper adeiu.  In retrospect it was probably a dumb move (risking injury and all) but luckily after the run I'm no worse for the wear.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Aftermath

8 O'Clock!  AM.  That's when I woke up today.  As my wife pointed out it was easily the latest I've slept in months and I have no doubt it was directly related to the 88 miles that I rode yesterday.  I'm jealous that I couldn't be in Sebring, FL with the Tri Locos who were doing a supported Century ride, but it was up to me make the most of my Sunday long ride.  With company for the first 1.25 hours and then solo the rest of the way I made my way from my apartment all the way across to the eastern end of Long Island.  My parents were heading to my cousin's in Riverhead and it was the perfect opportunity to make a one-way destination ride rather than the usual out and back. 

I reviewed the map and planned my route when I realized that my cousins were only 50 miles away.  My path would take me well past their house and then I'd have to loop back around for a total of about 80 miles. I made one or two wrong turns and missed my turnaround but otherwise it was mostly smooth sailing.  The minor detours along the way took the ride up from the planned 80 miles to just short of 88 miles.  I deliberately started the ride late so that I would be out during the warmer part of the day (I'm running out of time to train in the heat) but it ended up being a pretty cool ride.  Aside from some mild saddle soreness I felt great both during and after my ride.  My legs felt strong throughout and I certainly could have gone 24 more miles.  I guess all the brick work is paying off because in a weird way I was actually disappointed not to have a run. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burnt Rubber

Don't be blinded by my pasty-whiteness,
but do take note of the red specks
which are actually pieces of the track
that I kicked up!
Through a mild (and refreshing) morning rain, yesterday I completed a grueling track workout.  It had been awhile since I had been on a track in (lately I've had more hill work than straight speed intervals) and I forgot how fun it is to circle the oval (over and over and over).

The workout consisted of a warmup followed by an interval of 1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m, & 200m, each followed by a 200m recovery.  Coach worked up a detailed time target chart for each interval which had us aiming to increase the pace for each subsequent distance.  By now I've completed a variety of speed and hill workouts and this was by far one of the toughest yet. 

At about 35 minutes long the workout was one of my shortest runs in a long time, but maintaining the prescribed speeds over those distances was super challenging.  I definitely began to tire throughout the workout but I was still able to increase my speed and finish strong. 

I think that what I enjoy most about the track is that it makes me think of how hard it was for me to even run a mile growing up (think presidential fitness test).  I was always reasonable fast, but in very short bursts.  Through my triathlon training I've been able to build my endurance but also cultivate my ability to run fast. I can't wait to see what's planned for next week!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

When the Lights Go Out

As the days continue to get shorter -and the workouts longer - it's going to become harder and harder to fit my training into the daylight hours. Swimming (with the exception of open water swims) and running are less of a problem, but the bike rides will be a challenge. A two-workout day with a 2-hour ride (not to mention my day job) leaves precious little daylight for cycling. If only I could become a professional amateur triathlete.

Good planning is the key to any major training; I'll need to stay on top of sunrise/sunset times and structure my workout accordingly.  This past Wednesday's ride was a refresher course in what not to do. A swim and ride on the same day means I train both in the morning and the evening. On these days I try to get out of work a few minutes early and get training (not only do I want to catch some daylight but I try not to push dinner too late). I made it out of work early enough Wednesday but due to some golf-tournament-induced traffic that my buddy hit and some unnecessary tinkering with the bikes, we started riding way too late. Never fear though, I was assured that the sun was to set at 8:30pm. 

For future reference, here's what that does not mean: it will be completely light out until precisely 8:30pm, at which point it will become dark.

The tree-laden back roads of Long Island's North Shore didn't get the memo about staying lit until  8:30 and it began to get dark rather quickly. We pressed on with our hill intervals, hoping to squeeze in all six. By the 5th climb, things were starting to get dicey, so we called a meeting. The decision was to start heading back and work the last interval into our return trip.

It was too late though; we'd let the sun completely disappear and now we were stuck riding in the dark.  Normally I am an ├╝ber-prepared triathlete, but not thinking we'd be out in the dark I had only a small front light and a Road ID led in the rear.  Knowing that at home I had a variety of gear to both increase my visibility and light the roadway only served to make the situation more frustrating.  My fellow rider was about as ill-prepared as I; hopefully our little blinking lights were enough for the cars to see us.  On top of the fear of not being seen, we also had to worry about our ability to see.  Between my slightly tinted lenses and the lack of a proper lamp, seeing the road was a nightmare. Removing my glasses improved things marginally but I was basically holding on for dear life and hoping not to hit any big bumps or grooves in the pavement.

The ride home was nerve-wracking and I'm quite sure it shaved some time off my life.  Fortunately we made it home safely and we'll take the experience as a reminder to be more prepared in the future.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wide Awake (and the World is Still)

I couldn't help but start thinking about the changes in my life this morning as I settled into the driver's seat to head out for an OWS. While the car antennae rose and the radio found its signal, the station went from a commercial directly into the song Wide Awake by Katie Perry (note to self: no more Z100).  Listening to the words of the song (for the first time) I realized that Ms. Perry is likely referring to a broken relationship (oh what a poor millionaire rockstar) but I began to relate the song to my own life.  I was indeed wide awake at a time (much too early) when I once would have been fast asleep. I won't go any further dissecting the lyrics of a pop song; I will say though that it was a friendly reminder to look at how far I've come and the changes that I've made in my life.  To steal one more line from Katy:

I wish I knew then what I know now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fun in the Sun (Race Report: Key Biscayne Trilogy)

A pre-race meal like no other; Serendipity baby.
Yesterday was a great day; it was a beautiful morning and a perfect day for racing (if not downright hot).  Being that I'm on vacation, I let myself break from my typical pre-race routine and just went with the flow.  Like I said in my pre-race post, Saturday night was anything but the norm.  It was the first time I have not taken a race seriously and though I of course gave it 100% once I was out there, it was nice to be so relaxed for a change.  That doesn't mean I didn't analyze my performance and wonder what could have been.  Given the circumstances I still had a decent race and finished 7th out of 30 in my age group.  Had I not been cramping awfully during the run, I think I could have come out as high as 5th.  After reviewing my splits and comparing them against the group it is once again clear that I just need to get stronger in the water to compete.  My run and bike times, as well as my transitions, have improved drastically and are letting me stay in the race, but my swims are putting me at such a deficit right off the bat. 

Awesome shot by the Wife!
The race featured a wave start and for the first time I got right in the mix with the rest of the pack.  I figured it'd be good experience for Arizona to get in there and fight it out.  Things can get ugly in the water and I just don't see why people need to grab other people's ankles.  My hand sometimes brushes someones leg but I never grab it; when mine is grabbed I can't help but kick just a bit harder.  

Right before the start I realized that my entry path into the water caused me to skip walking across the mat.  I hurriedly waded towards the start, across the timing mat and then back to my wave in the water. I had just enough time to make it to the middle of the group for the starting siren. I'd forgotten how nice it is to swim in Key Biscayne; the water is so clean and there's nothing like seeing the sea floor while swimming.  The swaying sea grass and little fish both had a calming effect on my swim.

Just like in Riverhead I started out too quickly ruining my chances at a negative split, but I felt like I was keeping a good pace. With as good as I felt I was surprised to see the time on my watch as I began T1.  I need to work harder at easing into the swim and being able to finish stronger.

Swim Time:  10:01     Swim Place: 23/30 (Age Group)

I hadn’t looked at the course prior to the race but I’d heard about the long run from the swim exit to transition.  As advertised it was a long trek in the sand and then onto the pavement but I handled it with ease.  I quickly found my bike, put my helmet on and headed for the exit.  I had my shoes on the bike which made for an easy mount. For some reason though I almost always have some kind of adventure in the mounting area.  Often it involves someone else not paying attention but this time it was me who didn’t look ahead as I began to jump on.  I realized my error and narrowly avoided rear-ending another rider before taking off. 

T1 Time: 2:59     T1 Place: 6/30 (Age Group)

The bike terrain on Key Biscayne is pancake flat with the exception of the bridge.  On my borrowed bike I definitely didn’t ride as hard as I am able; nonetheless I kept areasonable pace and, for the 2nd straight race, was passed by very few.  I was eager to climb the Powell Bridge and see how it compares to the hills on which I’ve been riding.  During the early part of the climb I was passed by several riders who were churning away out of their saddles.  Having mastered the bridge during my time in Miami (along with some great advice from the White Lantern awhile back) I waited patiently for my time to attack.  About halfway up the bridge I stood up and made my charge.  As I increased my pace on the climb I passed those early attackers and never looked back (nor did I see them again).  The same dance occurred on the return climb and I have Coach to thank for my increased power on the bike.  

The rest of the ride was uneventful until, with about .5 miles remaining in the ride,  I heard my name and then saw a quick flash of Tri Loco colors whiz past.  With just a little warning the White Lantern had closed the gap and passed me on the bike. I pushed hard to stay in his wake knowing that I could catch him (eventhough he started the race after me) on the run.  

Overall I was happy with my ride.  I had made a few adjustments to the bike I borrowed, but considering I didn’t have my own bike (which has been carefully tailored to my measurements) I can’t complain.  

Bike Time: 30:24     Bike Place: 8/30 (Age Group)

Now that I’ve had more practice with the rolling dismount it’s become one of my favorite parts of the race. I love riding in fast enough to slightly alarm both the crowd and the race staff member stationed at the dismount line before swinging my leg over the saddle and hopping off into a run.  Sunday’s dismount was a thing of beauty after which I jogged to my rack, got my socks and shoes on, and ran off.  My transition time was acceptable but I think I can still shave off a bit from T2.

T2 Time: 01:17     T2Place: 14/30 (Age Group)

I've finally mastered the "pinch & drink"
It wasn’t long into the run before I began to feel the cramps.  First on my left side and later on the right, it felt like I was being stabbed.  I tried to get as much water as I could but it was too late.  Not enough sodium and perhaps lack of hydration on the bike had taken its toll.  Luckily I was only stuck with the discomfort for 3.1 miles.  I did the best I could but I was frustrated when I saw some 30-34 year old calves pass me.  Again though I trusted my pacing strategy and knew I’d run them down.  As my run pace has increased fewer of my age group are able to pass me (those faster are usually well in front anyway).  I made sure to keep the couple of guys who ran by in my sights.  

The SoFla heat was more intense than I remember it being and it was during the run that I was glad I’d chosen the sprint distance.  Even though I was running out of gas, when I reached the 2nd mile marker I kicked it up; fatigue and discomfort be damned, I was going to get my negative split.   I started closing the gap on anyone nearby and poured it on during the final .25 mile to pass them all.  It wasn’t my typical sprinting finish but I gave it what I had that day.

Run Time: 23:40     Run Place: 6/30 (Age Group)

Total Time: 01:08:20:80     Total Place: 7/30 (Age Group)

I'm not sure how serious I should take my second cramping episode in as many races.  The issues could have been attributed to pre-race nutrition or hydration but it also could have been me forgetting how hot and humid it is in SoFla.  I'll need to talk to Coach and get a better handle on my sodium intake to see if I can get this under control before it becomes an issue.  I ran through it today, but it held me back and was just plain uncomfortable.  The run has quickly become my strongest sport but I won't be able to excel if I'm limited by nutrition issues.

Despite the cramping I still consider the race a success.  Each time I step out on a race course my #1 goal is to finish and take something positive away from the experience and each time I learn something.

On another note, seeing the other Tri Locos was awesome.  Though I hadn't trained closely with all of them when I lived in Miami I still feel like we all share a unique bond.  Those of us en route to Arizona are going through the same experience, even if I am 1,100 miles away.  Seeing the colorful Loco unis on the race course was uplifting and I can't wait to I get my new digs.  Congrats to all the Locos who raced today; special shout-outs to Mario & JoJo (third place in their categories) and the White Lantern (4th in his).   We're going to have a strong showing in AZ.

This recap would be incomplete if I didn't mention my awesome cheering squad:
Best cheer squad, ever!

  • My supportive wife could easily send me on my own to races now but she's there yelling for me every time; her shouts never fail to motivate me. 
  • My sis-in-law and her Mike have also been at many of my SoFla races, including a surprise appearance at Miami 70.3.  There are much better things they could have been doing at 6:15am (like sleeping) but instead they were en route to Key Biscayne to show their support.  You guys rock!
Finally, hats off to Multirace.  For awhile they were the only race production company I knew, but now that I've raced in NY I have more to compare them to.  I'm sure I'll see a whole new level of organization in AZ but Multirace does a solid job with their events.  In particular their timing system is one of the best I've seen.  As soon as you complete the race you are given a receipt with your splits.  You can then head to a trailer which has at least 10 monitors constantly updating the results.  Within a few hours of the event you receive an email with your times and a link to the race results.  By comparison the NY races I've experienced leave you hanging and waiting for your times, left to hope you've done a good enough job with your Garmin.  Overall, Multirace has it together and puts on safe, organized races. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bienvenidos a Miami

After a couple of hours of delays our second attempt at a weekend in Miami was successful. Almost five hours on a plane was less than fun but with the help of my eye mask (no shame in my game) I easily dozed off around my normal bedtime only to wake up as we touched down in Fort Lauderdale.

This morning (after a later than usual wakeup) I headed down to Key Biscayne and scooped up a bike loan from a fellow Loco. I thought I had pretty much made it over the hump in terms of missing Miami (though I'm sure when the winter rolls back around that will change) but driving on the Key was a reminder of what I'm missing living in NY.  Save for a few other cities in the US, Miami is one of the premier meccas for triathlon. Just as I remembered the Rickenbacker Causeway was flooded with people: road cyclists, tri-bikers, roadies, mountain bikers, walkers, runners, racewalkers, etc. Though I've found some folks to train with in NY, and I'm grateful to have a great training partner, my current situation doesn't hold a candle to the SoFla scene.

I'm stoked to be part of the action again - if only for a day - when I race the Key Biscayne Trilogy tomorrow morning.  My pre-race routine won't be what I'm used to (different bed, probably a late bedtime, borrowed bike, different breakfast, etc.) but tomorrow is going to be a blast.  I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces and especially hooking up with the Tri Locos. 

The one downside of my trip being postponed to this week is that I am missing the West Point Tri. I had been signed on to officiate but more importantly I was stoked to be a cheerleader at my buddy's first race. Training with him and helping guide him as he becomes a triathlete has been awesome and I wish I could be there to watch him cross the finish line.  Despite never having been a runner or biker (swimming is his strongest sport) he has made rapid progress and is going to crush the race.  

Now it's time for dinner at my favorite Miami sushi joint (a departure from my typical Italian pre-race meal).  Bon apetit and happy racing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunrise Ninja

Okay, so I'm not hunting rabbit. I am being very, very quiet.

My eyes are open and I glance at the red digits on the clock.  If I'm lucky (so will my wife be) I've woken before my alarm has sounded.  On an off day it will go off once, but sometimes I'll doze off and it will ring again (three minutes later) before I'm up for good.  

Next I glide gently out of bed, the Tempurpedic mattress doing its best to isolate my subtle movements.  I softly unplug my phone taking caution to set the cable down without a sound.  I grab the flashlight off my nightstand and switch it on the low setting, shielding all but a sliver of light with my grip.  Being careful not to step on the dog I exit the bedroom; I'll return only once more for a kiss on my way out (or to fetch a towel if I've forgotten an extra).

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Heat is On (and so is the race)

“So I said to myself, “self.””  “Haste makes waste.”   “Don’t cut your nose to spite your face.” 

Those are just a small sampling of Mom’s many sayings; the combination of school teacher and Jewish mother make for a seemingly endless supply.  One of my favorites though has got to be:

“Everything happens for a reason.”

I’m not a religious guy; there was a point in my life where I felt differently (now is not the time or the place), but let’s just say that life has convinced me otherwise.  I do however like to think that there is ebb and flow to the world.  Every yin has its yang.  Every action, a reaction.  You get the point.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Longest Ride Ever (Barely)

By about 1.5 miles today's ride was my longest and while I'm undoubtedly fatigued it was a great workout.  I got off to a much later start than I'd planned (maybe good practice for riding during the hot part of the day), but lately I've been letting myself get a bit of extra rest when my body wants it on a Sunday morning.  Gearing up for the long ride also took longer than normal; I wanted to be properly prepared and have a good plan for my day's nutrition (not to mention enough sunscreen).  I left the house with plenty of Clif Shots, 32oz of water, and 6 scoops of Carbo Pro with 20oz of water in my other bottle.  I suspected I may have been short on water and as it turned out I was right - more on that later.  

As far as the route itself, today's ride was a straight shot along the service road of the Long Island Expressway.  I don't often ride the service road (as many other Long Island cyclists tend to) because in many areas there are traffic lights approximately every 1.5 miles.  On a good day you can keep catching greens but you are bound to get hung up every now and again.  There isn't typically much traffic on the cross-streets so I can usually get through by slowing down, shifting to an easier gear, and crossing after checking that the coast is clear.  Today though I went further than ever before and as I made it further east the lights were fewer and farther between.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012


"You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means." 

You're gonna do what? Why would you do that? Who's making you? How many days will it take? 112 miles on a motorbike?  You'll take a few weeks to recover, right?  How much are you being paid?  Wait, you're paying them? 

While some of my coworkers already knew that I was a triathlete the rest found out last week when I hung my wetsuit off my bike rack to dry it out.  Being that I work in a grown-up version of a boy's locker room, the comments about my aquaman suit began rolling in early and often:  I'll admit that the suit looked comical hanging there, dancing in the breeze; it reminded me of those inflatable dancing men used to draw attention to a store or car dealer. 

"So and so is peeing on your wetsuit," I was told, "wouldn't be the first time," I retorted. 
"Aren't you supposed to hide your costume and change in a phone booth?" "If your calling me a superhero, thanks."  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gear Review: Specialized Echelon Helmet

I can't think of a better time to review my helmet than right after it saved me from what would in all likelihood have been a concussion (in a best case scenario).  Sure, "the what have you done for me lately" mentality could influence my opinion, but I honestly didn't have anything bad to say beforehand.  I actually liked the helmet so much that after splitting my old one I bought the same one again.

The bottom line is that helmets really only have one true purpose: SAVE LIVES. The rest, like looks, ventilation, weight, aerodynamics, comfort and fit (okay maybe fit is essential) are just bonuses. In most cases a $35 helmet will do just the same for you in an accident as a $250 helmet (presuming they were made at similar times and to the same safety standards).

That said let's face it, most of us do care how we look (whether going out for a night on the town or going out for a bike ride - although after a certain amount of miles any thoughts about one's appearance fall by the wayside).   It used to be the case that in order to have a good looking helmet you had to spend a sizable chunk of change.  Fortunately, helmet design has trickled down from the high-end models and there are many more options available at all price points.  

When it was time (probably overdue) to replace my helmet a few months ago I did some browsing to check my options.  I'm a sucker for matching, so being a Specialized guy (both my tri and road bike are Specialized) I wanted to stick with one of their helmets.  The Echelon is the most economical ($60 msrp) of the four models offered and is a great choice for any rider.  I'm sure the better models are a bit lighter or have better ventilation, but I haven't had any regret with the Echelon.  It breathes well, is affordable, lightweight, adjustable, comfortable and looks good (as far as helmets go).  One of the best features is the adjustable dial in the rear which makes it easy to adjust both before and during riding.  I'm also a fan of the easy-to-use side strap adjusters as well as the reflectivity built into the design.  Overall the helmet's design is well-thought out and it seems to share many features of the upper-tier models offered. 

As far as the helmet's main function, unfortunately I can now attest to its ability to cushion the blow related with a 23mph bike crash.  The Echelon did what is was supposed to do, splitting to absorb the impact, sparing my noggin from trauma.  What more can I ask for?

Overall the Echelon is a good choice for those not looking to spend a ton of money on a helmet.  If money isn't an issue go ahead and look at the S3 or the Prevail, but in my opinion I'd rather spend that money elsewhere (like on other tri-toys). 
Other Helmet Thoughts
At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon, while I was writing about helmets I couldn't help but be reminded of all the people I see riding without head protection.  I know that people have the power to make their own choices but I struggle to see the positives of this decision.  I just can't think of any good reason that anyone would choose to ride without one. 

What About the Children
When it comes to kids, the look of a helmet is paramount to any other features. If a child doesn't like their helmet one of two things will happen: he simply won't ride their bike as much or won't wear his helmet.  Neither option is good so do you and your child a favor and let him pick the one he wants to wear (assuming you can afford it).  If I recall correctly I once tried to have my parents get me a new (cooler) helmet by accidentally misplacing my current model. Uncool move on my part, but it does emphasize the point.

Ride safely and wear a helmet

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time to Make the Triathlete: Early Morning Workouts

There is no way around it, no matter what phase of training you are in, triathlon training takes up a lot of time; time you don't think you have!  In fact, most people who don’t get a chance to exercise (or do any other activity they wish they could) will probably attribute it to not having enough time.  Fitting in your workouts, and balancing them with work and your home and social life is an exercise in prioritization, organization, and often sacrifice.  For many triathletes the key is waking up early and doing your workouts while others (especially your family) are still asleep.  

If this seems hard to you, you're not alone.  I have been a night owl for most of my life (thanks for the hand-me-down Dad) and training in the morning always seemed like a non-starter.  In the beginning it was extremely hard to pull myself out of bed, but it got continuously easier and eventually became so routine that I hardly need an alarm clock.

In no particular order here are some of the things that helped me make the transition:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back on the Horse

Sunday's triathlon was a great checkpoint along my path to IMAZ; I'm glad I raced and had a chance to see the payoff of all my hard training.  I'm far from completely recovered (more from the wreck than the race itself) but that doesn't mean I'm not still following my path. 

Long before what happened on Sunday Coach had planned a rest day for Monday, which I gladly observed.  Tuesday it was back to the grind as I slogged through another tough (but fun) hills workout; it was far from painless but I put in some good work nonetheless.  

Wednesday morning though, was another story: with regret I had to bag my swim workout.  Instead of jumping into the pool I hit the weight room for some shoulder and upper body exercises (luckily over the winter I picked up Strength Training for Triathletes which has some decent triathlon-specific exercises). Rather than any major strength training, I focused on loosening up my shoulder (specifically trying to break up the tight, healing skin) and used mild resistance to simulate swimming motions. 

I’m always disappointed to have to skip a workout but if I have to miss one, better that it is a swim.  It seems counter intuitive that I’d be alright with missing a workout in my weakest sport but for now the swim is still something I feel I just need to get through.  I’m certainly getting faster and stronger in the water but I really just need to survive the swim and I’m starting to feel pretty good about my ability to swim the 2.4 miles (despite not having ever swam more than 1.5 miles).  On the other hand, biking and running are where I feel that I continue to make the largest gains and are what will make or break me in Arizona.  Plus I have neither ridden near 112 miles or run close to 26.2 and my long rides and runs are key to my reaching Ironman distances.

In preparation for last night’s interval bike ride I took a quick trip during lunch to buy a new helmet.  I figured that my previous skull cap (which was only about 2 months old) did a good job saving my brain so I bought the exact same one.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

No Pain, No Gain? (Riverhead Rocks Race Report)

Ever wonder where that phrase came from?

From Wikipedia:  A form of this expression is found in the beginning of the second century. It is an expression originating from the Faroe Islands. Rabbi Ben Hei says, "According to the pain is the gain." This was written in The Ethics of the Fathers 5:21 (known in Hebrew as Pirkei Avot) Pirkei Avot. Rabbi Ben Hei Hei was giving a spiritual lesson; no pain in doing what God commands, no spiritual gain.

One of the earliest attestations of the phrase comes from the poet Robert Herrick in his Hesperides. In the 1650 edition, a two-line poem was added:
If little labour, little are our gains:
Man's fate is according to his pains.
Hesperides 752
Unlike its main usage today, it seems that when the good Rabbi coined the phrase he wasn't directly referring to physical pain.  Whatever the case, today I felt pain (more than I would have liked and I'm sure there's much more to come tomorrow) and from the glass half-full department, I know my experience made me stronger.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Race Ready

Not much time to write a real post (I'm rapidly approaching pre-race bedtime) but just a quick check-in before my race tomorrow. I'm currently in Riverhead, NY enjoying the hospitality at my cousin's house, not to mention the proximity to the race site (I'm about 5 minutes from transition). Tomorrow morning I'll be racing the inaugural Riverhead Rocks Olympic distance (1500m swim/24-mile bike/6.2-mile run) triathlon. It's been over 7 months since my last race and I am ready to go.

Last season was all about just finishing races (as Ironman Arizona will be) but tomorrow is different. There's no longer any doubt that I will complete the race (barring the unforeseen), the question now is how fast I can do it.

This morning (after spending way too much time dealing with bike issues as I transitioned to my race wheels) I spent about an hour practicing my transitions and I'm glad Coach put that workout on the schedule. On the first of my 3 swim/bike/run sets my transitions were rusty and sloppy, but they got better and better throughout the workout. By the end of the session I felt like I made major strides, each time picking a few specific items to focus on. I'm less concerned about my transitions on the longer races but there's no reason to lose precious time on the short-course events.

Once I arrived in Riverhead I was escorted on a drive of the bike course (in reverse) and I'm glad I had a chance to see it. There are mostly rolling hills with the exception of one pretty serious downhill followed by what will be the hardest climb of the day. Luckily the hill is very similar to the one I ride weekly near my house and I feel confident that I will be able to attack the challenge.

My overall mindset today and tonight has been calm and focused (much different than my other tris). I have hours upon hours in my training bank and tomorrow I will cash my chips in. I plan to race harder than I have before; I know so much more about what I am capable of and the types of speeds and effort that I can sustain.

Now it's time for some final rest and relaxation; tomorrow will be an early morning and I'll need my sleep.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Over the Hill (and Again, and Again...)

It was eight times to be precise: 1 minute of all-out effort up the hill, followed by 2 minutes of recovery on the downhill.  Yes, it was as hard as it sounds, but hills and speedwork are among my favorite kinds of workouts.  In addition to being fun and challenging, they are basically money in the bank and I can feel the benefits on race day.  Not only am I physically stronger when I hit the hills but mentally I’ve been there before.  As many others fade on the inclines I have the confidence to charge ahead maintaining my pace and sometimes even increasing my speed.  

What I’ve noticed about hills in a general nature is described much more eloquently by the Brits in this article on RunnersWorld.UK (sent to me by my hill running partner).  Though the article is about 10 years old, I’m not sure much has changed about the way our bodies respond to running hills (I bet we even have some fancier studies to prove the points made).

Monday, July 23, 2012

And on the Fourth Week We Rested

Rest week is officially over (a point emphasized by today being a two-workout-day) and so is the Base Phase of our training. Today marks the start of the Build/Strength Phase of Ironman training. After reading The Triathlete's Training Bible I have a rough idea of what that means but I'm eager to see how it translates into Coach's prescribed workouts.  All I can assume is that if I thought I was training a lot before, I ain't seen nothin' yet.

I'm excited and nervous for the next step in my progression as a triathlete. I'll be going where I've never gone before (rides longer than 60 miles and runs longer than 14 miles) just as I will in Arizona.  Ironman training is more than just a physical endeavor, it is a test of determination and resolve, and I will prevail.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Best. Time Trial. Ever!

When I began my triathlon training my only goal was to do my best, beat my best, and then do it again.  As I have upped the ante on my training and have begun to see the vast improvements I've made I can't help but compare my race day performances to the other athletes in my age group.  While that may be the case with my shorter races, when it comes to Ironman the mission is simple: complete the race and do the best I can.

Yes, my run time trail route is boring, but there's nothing to slow me down!
My previous run time trials (May & June) left me a bit disappointed and I knew I could do better.  To be fair the first TT was hardly a week removed from a huge effort on the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, but last month I'm not sure why I didn't have a stronger showing.  This morning I made up for those weak TTs with one of the best runs I've ever had.  For the first time ever I sustained an average pace below 7 minutes (6:53 to be exact), running my final mile at a pace of 6:37.  Until today these were paces I'd only touched during speed workouts but this morning I just felt invincible.  The minor tightness in my calf eased up after my warmup and it was smooth sailing through the whole 5K.  Had this been a race it would have been my PR for a PR at 20:39. 

On another note: I just received my first email from the race director of Ironman Arizona.  I'm not gonna lie, seeing the subject line "Welcome to the 2012 IRONMAN Arizona!" gave me goosebumps.  In his letter he mentions the race seeming both "far too close and ...not soon enough,"  and I couldn't agree more.  I know I have a loooonnnngg way to go in my training but I am still so pumped for the race.  During my hours upon hours of training each week I can't help but take a trip to Arizona in my head.  I imagine what it will be like to be out there racing with almost 3,000 others and how it will feel to cross the finish line. 

For my final inspiration of the day, here's something that Tri Loco Gerardo posted on our Facebook page: