28 April 2011

ECCC Championships: TTT, Road Race, Crit

My first (and, sadly, last) collegiate race weekend - well at least as an undergrad - was at Penn State this past weekend. It also was my first Criterium and Team Time Trial! Being Class D has its perks and its downfalls. The major downfall is early ass races: now this wouldn't be so bad in warmer climates - but in the northeast is usually wet and cold. Saturday we had the TTT @ 8:45AM, which was followed by the Road Race @ 10:10AM. Both races were at the Black Moshannon State Park, definitely the most awesome cycling area to which I have been!

As the races were so close together and Kevin, Chris, and I were doing our first TTT the plan was to use it as a solid effort warm up, but by no means to go balls out and hurt our chances in the RR. The real plan was to beat RIT, by whatever margin. It was a 9.5 mile course, with two pretty long, but not too steep, climbs. We hit it from the start at a solid tempo, but definitely not too taxing of a pace. We only needed two finishers - which would allow for the eventual drop of one of our three. Surprisingly, in an extremely short time, we caught the team that started before us - the starts were separated by 30 seconds. Sadly RIT was starting after us so we wouldn't have a good gauge of how far ahead/behind they might be. We came up the first climb at an okay clip and then hit the downhill. Chris took a massive pull for nearly the entire downhill section, which ended up being his last pull. Coming to a bit of a flat, we crossed a bridge and hit another uphill. We started to drop Chris and decided we should let him bridge back so he could give us another pull - but he was pretty toast from his massive pull and the climbs (he's a real solid sprinter, but Kevin and I are much more of climbers) - and we dropped him when we hit the next incline. From here on out Kevin and I took pulls at a solid tempo, neither of us caring to really push the pace. We finished feeling good about the fact that we were so smooth for having only practiced TTT once before. Later we realized we were only 6 seconds behind the winner (Bucknell) and about 2 minutes ahead of any other teams. So had we not waited up for Chris that first time, or actually treated it like somewhat of a race, we likely would have had the win. Oh well, it was fun and a good experience. Oh yeah...and we beat RIT by about 3 minutes.

Now, for the REAL event, 21.5 mile Road Race. Two Category 5 climbs, and one (AWESOME) Category 2 climb! I was pretty excited for this race, as I am a big fan of big hills (aka mountains). The race was split between D1 and D2 - for school sizes, as the road conditions were slick at best and there were some very intense descents with hard turns. And, frankly, D's are not nearly skilled enough to be trusted in a pack of 60+ on such a course. So the race went out, immediately into one of the smaller climbs, at a pretty conservative pace. Once we got a mile or so in people started to actually bike, and some of the guys who didn't ride all season were probably getting strung out already - poor souls. Lots of hills to go solo. We came to the first descent, which seemed to last forever - and at mid-30's MPH that's a long distance. Once we got to the next climb Kevin said, "Oh wow, we get to use our legs again". I was spinning a little during the downhill without actually accelerating, just to keep my legs moving. The second climb broke up the pack some - but mainly strung out some of the riders, many of whom were able to reattach on the following downhill as riding along was very beneficial in our race as no one was crushing the downhills and being alone you had more freedom to cruise. The third climb, as we expected, provided the separation of the field that was purely inevitable. About two-thirds up the climb, Kevin started to work the pace a little - but still within his comfort zone. Many people responded, but only a Lehigh guy and myself pushed the front with Kevin. We came down the next descent still the three of us having a noticeable lead. It was really foggy and we didn't have good visibility. So the hard left leading into the Cat 2 climb came as a surprise, despite knowing it was going to come eventually. I was pulling at this point and barely slowed enough to make it through the turn - I went probably an inch onto the gravel, but only did so because I could use it and the pavement-gravel transition was smooth. Had it been a drop off I could've cut harder to stay on the pavement. However, I heard a wheel lock up and bounce behind me and I turned around just in time to see Kevin go straight into the guard rail and flip over it! While I was still watching in concern/shock I saw he was already on his feet, thank god! He definitely was going to be a little way back, but appeared to be well collected. Apparently he dropped his chain and shifted his handlebars - both pretty quick fixes. And he was 300-400 yards back, on his bike, and hauling ass to get back with myself and the Lehigh guy. I was pretty sure Kevin would be able to make a good effort and catch up, so I made sure to go as slow as possible. Every pull I took, I slowed the pace down. And sometimes I went to take a pull and very slowly decreased my speed so the Lehigh guy didn't notice. Eventually he started taking pulls as he may have thought that I was going to get dropped. But he signaled for me to pull, and I flat out said, "Dude, my teammate crashed and I want him back up here. So I'm not going to put in any work, go ahead and do what you please." So he pulled for a while, but didn't make any moves whatsoever. Shortly, Kevin caught back up - but was toast - as it was over a mile of him kicking it in pretty hard just to get back to us. I pulled for a little while to ensure Kevin some additional recovery. He came up by my side and I told him to tuck his ass in and recover. He didn't come up to take a pull though. He told me to go ahead and surge, that I'd cleanly have the win if I made a good move. I told him I was waiting for him to recover, but he insisted. So I jumped and put in a good 15 seconds of work, gaining 20m or so. Sat back down and kept the tempo up until I couldn't see Kevin and the Lehigh guy anymore as they were lost in the fog. At this point I was pretty sure I had the race in the bag, but made sure not to take it for granted. I continued to ride steadily and comfortable to and though the climb. At this point I started passing an absurd amount of riders from the D1 race, pretty surprisingly just blowing past them. Once I crested the peak - that was about 4.5 miles into my solo break. I just cruised the downhill, enjoying that I had the pace car tracing out my line for me. I hit 45.2MPH somewhere along the way, which is moving along quite good, but was comfortable every bit of the descent. Finally I came around to the last turn - a hard left about 600m from the finish. And figured I'd kick it in and enjoy putting in a solid finish. I cruised home easily to victory by a margin of 70 seconds, over my teammate Kevin, who recovered from his crash and surge - and dropped the Lehigh guy by one minute! Well done by him, for sure. Chris had a good race overall, especially consider climbing is not his forte, finishing 11th.

Now for the exciting race: my first Criterium ever. I was nervous for this race in the sense that I really didn't know how it worked except for off-hand accounts. I had never seen, nor been to, a crit before. So I was both very excited and a bit nervous. I had a lot on my side in that I had two solid teammates with me, some great tight riding work (Portland Velo Club rides, specifically the sprint at the end of the Saturday ride), and was sitting on a win from the day before against pretty much the same field. The course: 30min race, 1K, 6 turn (L,L,L,R,L,L), pretty flat, only one decent straightaway on the start/finish. Turn 1-2 was a little down-up, 2-3 was false flat, 3&4 were a tight S-turn, 4-5 was flat, 5-6 flat, then the slight downhill straightaway 6-1.

The Race: I wanted good position to start the race, so I made sure to get on the front line. I screwed this up when I didn't get my clip completely in, but only lost a few spots. I wanted to be 100% sure I would be within the top 10 the entirety of the race, regardless of pulls it required me to take. I settled in a lot better than I expected to. I took quite a lot of pulls during the race, but I never left my comfort zone - so I figured I'd have the gas to put a real strong effort in late race. I totaled 8-10 laps of pulling, which is WAYY too much had I been in any other race besides D's. The race moved along smoothly - a good chunk of the field got dropped due more to lack of comfort in tight quarters/cornering than actual skill. There were two primes: both of which the Army guy won, neither of which I worked for (although I made him work for the second one just to mess with him). There were no real solid attacks in the crit, but once or twice a few of us got 15m or so off the front and nothing came of it. Slowly the laps ticked away and despite pulling a lot, I was still feeling fresh with 10 to go and started thinking about when to make a move. I didn't want to do anything too early, so around 6 to go I started calling to Chris Jensen (my teammate) to come up and talk to me. I told him I wanted him up in the top 5 as I wanted to 1) give him good sprint position and 2) maybe break away with him. A couple of the guys in the race kept swinging in front of me just before turn 1, which ruined my attacking plan with 2 or 3 laps to go: I wanted to go HARD into and through turn 2, stand sprinting into 3, and take 3 & 4 extremely tight and hard. Then bust my ass to hold it. However, due to people jumping in front of me I had to resort to making my move on the last lap. Hamilton and RISD jumped in front of me going into the last lap, but I made a good turn on 1 and set myself up for 2. The typical line was to blow outside coming out of 2 to set up for 3. I noted this and cut hard into 2 (getting very tight on the wheel ahead/next to me) and just cranked out of the turn. This won me a solid inside position coming into 3, which I took at an uncomfortably fast and tough angle - this resulted in me going onto the 2-foot concrete gutter that separated pavement from curb. But was still in control. I settled and set up for 4. When I got through turn 4 I looked back and saw that I had a comfortable 20m+ lead. I kept the throttle down and comfortably had the win! Best part was, that despite getting pushed back on the later laps - Chris came out in third, thanks to his solid sprinting skills. Army took second - not surprising as he was notably strong in the field.

All in all - I absolutely love my first cycling race weekend. And now I really really want to do a stage race, especially if there is an ITT! The duathlon/triathlon season is now in session, but I hope to still get a few bike races in as they have been so enjoyable! Great job to Kevin Howard and Chris Jensen - going into races knowing your teammates are ready to kill it is a huge help and a massive boost to being comfortable and confident. And thanks to Drew Scoles and Ian Byrd for making sure I didn't get too worried about the minor details of races when it was most important to be confident and patient.

24 April 2011

MIA: In more ways than one.

It's been about one month since I last updated, and I was trying to keep it at 1-2 updates per week. A few weeks ago I started to come down with a little something, and instead of just taking it easy and recovering (water, sleep, etc), which I did, I added on a great deal of mental lapse and apathy that led to a rough(er) week than it would have been. On the bright side, I'm back at it and feeling great again (physically and - more importantly - mentally!). That week also showed me how critical proper nutrition and diet are to good performance. In response to my poor decisions nutritionally, I decided to buy the book Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan. So far (~60 pages) it's a great tool and I just want to get all the way through it so I can utilize the knowledge from it as a whole. However, it has been great as a read and reference (i.e. after my 50 mile ride today, it was good to see what exactly I should do to replenish my fuel stores).

Back to that last week of March: Thursday I came down with 'something' - I wasn't throwing up or miserable, but my body completely tanked it. I literally struggled on an 8:30 pace 2 mile run Friday. That made it very clear that I should bail on the cycling races last weekend (last weekend of Spring Giros...kinda bummed as I threw $30 for 2 races instead of 8. Oh well, health is more important...I suppose). It took a bit to recover from that, but the runs the next week resulted in total leg cramping. Then I got frustrated and had some additional mental lapse. I finally got myself fully back together about 2 weeks ago, losing a good nearly month of quality training. I recovered enough to feel mediocre going into a race last weekend: Bloomfield, NY. Cat 5 (29 and under) Road Race, 22.5 miles (2x11.25mi loop). Mostly rolling hills, but these were nothing compared to the snow and 40MPH winds...which sucked, to put it bluntly (and truthfully). The weather was ugly and not enough people came out to the race, so the two Cat 5 groups raced together, but were scored separately.

Going into the race I felt in far worse overall fitness than I was 3 weeks before at that first Giros weekend. However, I tried to put thoughts of this behind me and focus on the fact that I should be excited to race - not disappointed in my own faults and poor preparation. I didn't have the comfort I normally do at higher effort levels. For what hills there were I could seriously feel the 12 pounds I had gained. Normally I can cruise up a hill with a good rise of the heart rate, which falls pretty quick so long as no one tries to move hard out of the hill. But that day, I was struggling up the hills (rare) and my legs weren't coming back under me (more rare). I sat in most of the first lap, and was fine staying in the lead pack. On the second lap I tried to get my body back into the zone to feel speed, by taking a couple pulls and testing the field on some hills. But this was to no avail. Normally it would shake out the legs and get my confidence rolling, but at Bloomfield it actually cut me down. Nevertheless, I put in all I could as we came down to a field sprint finish. People sprinted out of the corner up the last hill, which was a fairly steep and short one about 800m from the finish. I went, hard, and as I crested the hill felt completely crushed. There were two guys (1 was in the 30+, 1 in my group) off the front by 25m, then myself and another 30+ guy who was just ahead of me, then my teammate, Kevin Howard. We were met with 45MPH crosswinds and snow. At this point myself and the guy with me were trying to battle the winds more than each other (especially as we knew fighting for position would not affect our placings). I pushed really hard but nothing wanted to go. We gained on the two leaders, but only closed the gap to about 1 second, or a good 10+ meters. I finished seconds in the 29 and under category. I was pleased with the result, considering my weight gain and fitness - but there was no reason I shouldn't have won if I were in the shape I was in March. The winner (and of the 29 and under race) was a strong rider, but I had beat him in both Giros that I raced.

Needless to say, I'm now back on track and working hard. ECCC (Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference) Championships were this weekend. Expect a race report mid-week. Races: TTT, RR, Crit.

22 March 2011

Giros Weekend 3: Sunday (My Second Race)

Last. Night. Sucked. I could not, for the life of me, fall asleep. I went into bed ready to rest up just before midnight, leaving a respectable 8 hours for rest (more would be nice but oh well). At around 2:00AM I gave up and played some Call of Duty: Black Ops to pass the time and hopefully get me into a mindless state in order to pass out. It didn't go so great and I had major food cravings at 3:00AM, eating about 1/3 of a box of Frosted Flakes and a bunch of dark chocolate covered almonds (yumm). Regardless, at the time I knew it was going to cause major stomach issues tomorrow but it was necessary to try to get me to sleep. All in all, I fell asleep at 4:00AM. OUCH!

I woke up, obviously surprised at how early it felt, at 8:00AM. Got a really small breakfast (1 packet Oatmeal and Banana) and just felt very not good. Stomach issues all morning...I will leave it at that. Got all my stuff together, trying to forget I was very tired and horribly under-rested. Hopped in the car, slightly surprised by the chill in the air: it was 28 at that point, going to be 32ish at 10:00AM and about the same at 10:40AM, when the ride out would be done and the race would technically start. Today I decided to wear the CW-X Tights, which I hadn't yet worn on the bike (I was planning on running immediately after the race, making for a pretty rugged brick). Drove out with a lot of time to spare - especially because of the stomach. I was gonna rock the Generation UCAN, but my stomach was too much in shambles to put anything else into it. WHich frustrated me, because it would been perfect.

Enough of the boring stuff. RACE TIME!! Apparently it was a rather hefty crowd for a Sunday race, but that was more exciting than a let down to me. More people = more fun, more fun = more competition, more competition = more experience. Nota Bene: Transitive Property, therefore more people = more experience, and the Giros thrive!

Wasn't sure how the race was going to go today, but one word can sum it all up: Annoying. It wasn't really so much a race to win or make a break (for a few of us it definitely was) as it was mostly everyone not wanting Tim (3x1st place, 1x2nd place) to win. This caused every break to get broken about as quickly as it started. A couple guys tried to solo pound it out - one had an awesome effort that I respected quite a lot. But none of it turned to anything. There was one break at lap 2.5 (~22.5mi in out of 28.7mi) that I jumped on that I really thought had promise. The were some hills on the back straight that we used to make a really solid gap. Had at least 40 meters on the pack at one point. But, all of a sudden, everyone wanted to do work when they had been slacking mostly otherwise. So we got reeled back in, which was fair. But SOMEONE should have counter-attacked. It would have made for a true break that likely could have sealed off the peloton for the rest of the race, which was only a bit over 5K at this point. But no one did anything. They were satisfied at merely pulling in the leaders, which I believe is weakness.

It was destined to be a sprint finish. And that it was. After we got pulled back in I was pretty tired having bridged and taken a couple really hard pulls to try to keep the lead (to no avail). I dropped back in the pack, pretty sure no real break would happen (risky move, I know - but if you were there, you'd understand how the race was going). I recovered enough with about 2 miles left to start moving up: this is where I realized I could navigate the pack pretty well for this early in the season. I was in the mid 20's for position to start. Got to the high teens without much work or trouble, this made me feel good about my comfort in tight quarters. My next move had to be legitimate, as it was tighter here. I jump on a guy's wheel on the left and passed a handful, which got me in the top ten: slight surge, but nothing that would have major lasting effects. Then it got interesting. One guy on Rogue Racing, to whom I should donate my rollers, wobbled liked hell and almost took out everyone except the top 10, When this happened I got my wits about me very quick and moved into the top 10, where I needed to be in order to prep one last positional move for the sprint.

The usual suspects were at the front. Monroe extinguisher guy, Tim and a couple teammates, and a few other strong guys without big teams. We ate up a guy who tried to jump off the front, but didn't have enough - noble effort though, despite not the most intelligent move. But I give him real credit trying to make something when no one else did...this is not Le Tour. We were about 800m out and ready to go. Three jumped. I went HARD to get on wheel. Settled in. Picked off the guy who went off the front too soon with about 400m to go. Then one guy fell back just a bit. So it was three of us. We somehow just lined up three wide going into about 100m left and then hit it. I got a decent jump but was in too high of a gear, so I sat back down and recovered to downshift 2 gears. By that time no one had jumped on me and I was able to cruise in for the win, not having to dig super deep and put myself into pain. I didn't mind this as right after I was planning on doing a brick - so it worked out.

I was pleased with winning this race but sort of bummed that the race wasn't all that exciting. I'm looking forward to some breakaways and killer sprint finishes, especially within the breakaway group. That will probably feel a bit more like a sprint finish in a running race, which is a more aerobically crushing feeling but not as murderous on the muscles. I haven't had one of those yet, so hopefully will get it soon!

I finished off the day with a solid brick run. It ended up being 10K @ 6:56 pace, which I was thoroughly impressed by. It was definitely tiring, and my calves/quads were rather shot after the two races this weekend. But it was worth it. Chatted up with a Duathlon guy after my run and we're doing a brick next Sunday with the race. Should be fun!

19 March 2011

Let the Cycling Season Begin!!

Today was my first cycling 'race' of the year. And it seriously showed (I mean it!). The series is called the GVCC Spring Giros, a Saturday/Sunday circuit road race that is every weekend in March in the Rochester area. The UR Cycling Team uses these as our tune-up races to get into the racing zone and get the cobwebs out...which is always necessary, especially in cycling. I missed the first two weekends due to spring break, but I'm back and pretty pumped. Only catch, my one cycling race of last year, lack of experience, and minimal group riding this year will make for a very slow start to the season. Not a worry though, I'm well aware and prepared for using these races to get into racing mode and gain a lot of much needed skill and experience.

Todays Race: Giro #5 (4th Giro - #2 was cancelled due to 4-7 inches of snow), 3 loops, which equals something near 27 miles, but that is a bit of an overestimate. RunPartner tells me 8.5 so 8.5 it is!

Going into this thing I knew it was going to be rough. But I didn't think I was going to make it so hard for myself. There were a bunch of small breaks early on (first lap or so) that didn't come to anything. I was in a couple of them, but realized they weren't going hard enough to make something useful. So I stayed up front, took a few pulls, and waited for an attack. A break (which ended up being the true break that won) went and a couple minutes later a few of us bridged the gap. People fell off, and it really looked like the peloton was going to overtake us. At this point I was getting pretty much toast and didn't want to blow up. So I allowed myself to fall back to the group. My judgement was very poor. The break did not fall back. A few guys bridged right after I dropped off, but I didn't have it in me at the time to go with them. My fatal error, falling off the lead pack just because I thought we were going to get gobbled up. Lesson #1, Check!: When you commit. Stay committed, unless you literally get popped off. This error led to me working my ass off to get back in it. Since the contenders had surged, there were only a few guys willing to work to get the leaders back. This was not nearly enough, at least as unorganized as we were. Had three of us committed and went for the leaders, we could have made a really honest shot at it and likely gotten them. I discussed this with two guys after (guy named Mike being one of them).

Because of my miscalculation I took it upon myself to work as best as I could to reel them in. The group was 5 people, and by the end was 2. Without my hard work I think we would have only caught 2 of them, leaving 3 off the front. Sadly, one of those individuals we caught was Ronan (UR Team), who made a great move to get up with the leaders when I dropped back. After realizing I wasn't going to be in the winning group I worked hard as hell and made the race an excellent workout and really pushed myself. Lesson #2: Make a very well organized and timed attack to catch the leaders, however this was nearly impossible without knowing anyone at all who was in the peloton (Kevin and Chris were in the following groups).

Coming into the finish, I was in the main group and on the hill with about 1 mile to go I dropped back. This happened solely because I literally had no feeling in my hands (numbness + thick gloves, not cold) and could NOT, for the life of me, get into my small ring. I was watching my hand push the lever, but couldn't get it to engage. So that caused me to quasi-blow-up on the hill, giving the group 10 meters on me. The next part was downhill. I gave it all to regroup with them, entirely solo. It worked, miraculously. Now I was in shambles, trying to navigate through 15 people to make a shot at the sprint that led to this finish about 800m away. I narrowly rode the edge of the pavement and got up in the top 8 of the group (places 3-10 at this point). With 300m I hit the pedal (too soon, but people moved here and I wasn't about to let another gap open). The intensity dropped a little from 200m-125m to go.

With about 125m to go I pulled out with two other guys and went for it. Three (#3-5) had already gotten some slight ground and were fighting each other. Myself, and three others (#6-9), went at it. We lost one guy, passed one of the three ahead, and it was now clear we were very very tightly fighting for places 5-7. I pushed hard, and was dying - just like my competitors. The three of us finished within less than one-tenth of a second. One guy was about 6 inches ahead of me and I had 3 or 4 inches on the other guy. I ended up in a somewhat respectable 6th place, considering all my wasted energy.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I have NO idea in the world how my legs will feel in the race. I'll be fine for easy/moderate riding. But hills and pulls could get very interesting. Gonna do a 20 min rollers spin just to loosen up and stretch. See ya tomorrow!

11 March 2011

Food, Beer, Life.

I love food. I love beer. And most of all I love life. But without food and beer, life would lose some glory. Food and beer are like that delicious crunch that perfectly supplements the softness of a spectacularly baked cookie. As I approach that major transition into 'real life', cooking is being put on the front burner (NPI, but I hope you liked it). Both my mom and dad have instilled a joy of food (good food) in me from my early years. My dad didn't cook all that much, but he's darn good at it. He'll look at a few recipes, brainstorm, and just go with it. From the hip, not by the book is his style. Something new, but delicious, every time. He's definitely got a really good hold on some tricky stuff, which is surprising considering his lack of care to follow recipes to a T. I like that part of it all. When I cook, it is for enjoyment - mine and others'. My mom also carries a very creative aspect, she could make the simplest dish and it would be an instant classic. Two things I absolutely adore are her ground turkey dip and American chop suey. Definitely my favorite appetizer dish and entrĂ©e. The kicker is, both of them are so simple, but can be doctored any way you imagine. Mild, spicy, extra veggies, different spices or cheeses: each change gives it a unique flavor, and it's wonderful to have something just a bit new every time.

With this approach to being out of college, I'm experimenting more and more. My brother has also been a good influence as I know he will someday have a successful career in the food industry. He's got the heart, the joy, and the head for it. And he's got the brains to set up and run such a difficult undertaking. Since I've been home on break we've been toying with Mexican fusion styled food, which I've never made before so it's been fun and delicious. We made a good quesadilla dish with a couple different salsas earlier in the week. Tonight we made burgers with a Mexican styled Tzatziki dip. My brother made some baked potato chips, which were great with the dip. That being said, my food endeavors have only begun and I can't wait to have my own full kitchen and new cooking supplies.

Check out my Facebook for pictures of foods and beer!

04 March 2011

Upping The Volume

Now, as a runner, doing a lot of mileage is something I discuss and come by very often. Especially knowing people training for marathons and doing up to 120 miles per week I know well of how rigorous that level of training is. Personally, I have never approached that level of training in volume. My biggest mileage week ever was 72.7 miles off of pure running, which totaled at about 8.7 hours and consisted of 4 (yes, 4) doubles. So not that impressive of a 70+ mile week seeing that this winter I was averaging about 10 miles per day of running for 5 days in a week on top of swimming and biking. Anyways, 70+ miles was a lot for me - it eventually led to my injury that fall (2007).

Today, I wouldn't consider dropping a 70 mile week as that would have no applicability to my current training. However, I have really amped up the training the past few weeks. I went from my typical 13-15 hours per week up to around 20 hours. I was on pace this week until vacation began and I had to make an early trip to Boston. I'm staying with my brother this weekend and maybe through mid-week. Got a lot of crazyness going on so training will be on the backburner until further notice. I'm not too concerned about it as a little downtime may actually be good for me as I did ramp up the volume pretty hard, and I was starting to feel a little bit of minor aches and what I think is just the effects of over-training. It was a real good 3 week test of what I could pump out for net volume and see how I responded. At this point I'm definitely tired and there were for sure some workouts that flat out sucked. I liked getting to that point of just grinding out a 2:15 long bike ride when I had no desire in the world to do it - just to know I could get it done.

So the volume build was successful: I found that I can handle about 20 hours per week, even if it resulted in a bit of overtraining. The rougher days were when I didn't get as much sleep as others. Whenever I got 9 or more hours I felt pretty darn solid, less than 7 was a bit tough. What I think is going to be critical to success is maintaining swimming volume (although I don't have access to a pool in Boston), making cycling workouts A LOT more intense, and keeping running about where it was - maybe add in a tempo as part of a brick. The cycling thing will come pretty naturally as the UR Cycling season is getting rolling along.

That's it for now - volume build was good and I definitely learn some stuff. And now the key is intensity and quality.

22 February 2011

And The Planning Begins

It's that time of year. Well, it's actually 'that time of year' all year long, as I never halt consideration for a race schedule. After speaking with Kurt, he asked I get on top of what I plan for my feasible 2011 race schedule. Sorry to disappoint everyone - I ditched a couple 'focus' running races and currently have no Half Ironman distance event on there, as the focus is Olympic Distance. Early season triathlon out in Rochester is a bust...but there are a few duathlons, which I can't complain about as they can actually act as a very good icebreaker for my multisport season. In addition, with being on the cycling team here at the U of R, I will have a rather full schedule of spring cycling races. Such races that could begin as early as March 5th. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is two weeks from Saturday. Yep...I'm saying holy crap to myself too. I'm keeping the ol' multisport schedule unofficial at the moment - but it'll be posted pretty soon. As a note, I'll likely be making a special section of the blog for my Recent Results/Upcoming Races.

Now that I've got a good chunk of the logistical stuff out of the way, the "goal" race of the season is USAT Age Group (AG) Nationals: August 20th, 2011 in Burlington, VT. This is obviously a qualification based race: either a top 10% AG finish in any USAT Certified Olympic Distance event, or top 33% AG finish in one of two Special Qualifier Races (one in CT - 6/18, one in VT - 8/7).

Monday was a great training day. Despite only getting 5.5 hours of sleep due to a midterm group assignment that we handed in at noon, the training went well. Woke up at 6:15AM and trudged through the fresh snow for the 0.75 mile walk over to the athletic center (no bus before 7:30AM). Hit up the pool and got in a fairly easy 2000yd (1.14mi) swim with some drills thrown into the mix. Finished up the assignment, had a meeting, then hit the gym to run inside - as the footing outside would still be miserable and it was a somewhat hefty training day. On the treadmill did a progression run: one mile @ 8:00, two miles @ 7:30, three miles @ 6:58, then a warm down mile @ 7:15. Felt really sluggish to start (likely due to lack of sleep/energy), but got pretty comfortable as it progressed. Took a 1.5 hour nap to recover from low sleep, then hopped onto the bike after a post nap piece of lasagna! This is where it got good. Over the past 3 days I have raised the seat on my bike about 1.5cm (0.5 inches), almost definitely due to my increased flexibility since I began some Hatha Yoga. Cycling today on the trainer felt orders of magnitude better than it has for weeks despite some minor calf twinges. And the best part was that I finally got my HR up above 140 and into the 150's without my legs feeling fried, which is impressive considering that it was the third workout today.

It's been a bit crazy here at school with a big team project: big paper was due Monday and a bigger presentation Thursday, which still needs some work. So I'm signing out for the night. Tomorrow: going to test how a track workout feels (6x400m @ ~5:00 pace on Active Rest = 2:00, maybe followed by a few 200's) on the huge increase in training volume. As running right now is not a key focus, if I feel like the workout is causing more harm than good I'll make it an easy 7-9 miles instead. But I'm thinking I'll be fine, just more tired than expected.

18 February 2011

I'm a 'Triathlete', it's Official.

It's been a while coming, to be honest. What, you ask? Officially accepting triathlon as my sport, over running, is a critical step that I have not (fully) accepted. Up until this decision I was a runner who did a great deal of cross training, which might appear like a triathlete - but there is a key distinction: mentality. I relied on running as a comfort zone, as my event to fall back on. When cycling or, especially, swimming becomes a burden I turn to running to get the comfort that it provides to me. But that needs to fade: I have to put the work in where it is needed, which would be swimming and biking. Obviously I will still continue to run consistently and keep doing the work to improve, I will just be dedicating more focus to improvements on swimming and biking.

I wish I could have come to such a significant conclusion on my own thoughts and pondering, but obviously this is knowledge from someone who knows the ins and out of the sport very thoroughly and can see it from the eyes of a coach and athlete. After having a really good chat with Kurt Perham (Personal Best Multisport) on Thursday, I was able to get a broader and better perspective of the undertaking that is triathlon. I made a rather brief mention of "...the synergy of three very different events..." in my last post A Wonderful Fusion of Things... But in all honesty, I don't have much to say about incorporating the three events besides my own trial and error, meandering-based experience.

In that regard, I am officially taking the offer to be on the Personal Best Multisport Team and focusing on triathlon. After speaking with Kurt and hearing his thoughts about where I currently stand in triathlon and the major concepts I need to adapt in order to succeed, I know I'm ready to be competitive. Right now I am quite a ways ahead of where I was this summer, and have an introduction year to triathlon under my belt. My capacity for improvement is as great as it will ever be, and I am going to exploit that aspect to its fullest. The PBM Team is a somewhat low structure team with a core group of athletes that are aiming for top finishes, but also is completely open to all who are interested in racing with an affiliation to a very solid Multisport/Run/Cycling coaching group. The uniforms are SICK! But I'm in a dilemma: Tri Suit or Tri Tank/Shorts? I've only used a tri suit before, but think it'd be really nice to have the tank/shorts combo. Any thoughts?
The conversation with Kurt was quite extensive despite my rather short recount of the chat. Additionally, as I get into a more evenly distributed triathlon training schedule you'll definitely be seeing concepts that can't be my own ideas! Sadly I don't have the cash (right now) to hire Kurt as my coach, which would be the perfect case. However, as I will be racing on the team I'll be getting some pretty basic guidance that will be a major help in improving my ability to represent PBM both on and off the course. Speaking with someone as experienced as Kurt showed me that I really do know as little as I had suspected - and that just simple guidance is really going to provide a much stronger framework than I could have established independently. These recent developments have added to my excitement for the 2011 Tri Season and for all the years ahead. As Kurt said, developing ability at triathlon is not something that spontaneously happens...it takes years of time. Luckily I am at a point where I am young and have great capacity to rebound and recover from the most taxing of workouts; which is, to say, I can begin creating an excellent foundation for the future starting with this season.

*Noteworthy: UR Cycling Team season begins the first weekend of March! So there will be some intro training-based races to speak of shortly - not just 'boring' (not in my mind :) !!) training. Also, a lot more to come soon by means of concepts, mentality, and physical aspects that I will be developing in the next few weeks.

16 February 2011

A Wonderful Fusion of Things...

As homo sapiens in this world where we demand multitasking from a device as (not so) simple as our cell phones, we too strive for the ability to multi-task better and better with everything we do. It could be our own way of trying to get as much done as possible, but inevitably getting in our own way. Or maybe it really is the most efficient method of working. Either way, we all do it - and many of us do it quite well. A triathlon is fairly similar: it could be some little hidden ADD or just a desire for more and more excitement; more events to spark our too-often bored minds and bodies. Personally, I think a triathlon is a beautiful event; even a work of art. Just referring to the physical undertaking of race day would be a gross misconception, I am talking about the synergy of three very different events into the culmination of a single, fluid effort.

What I'm also talking about is how you can meld a variety of ideas and concepts into a single entity. Recently I discovered an alcoholic beverage: Pinnacle Whipped Cream (and Chocolate Whipped Cream) Vodka. Obviously something so fantastic could be only be created in such a place as Lewiston, ME. That's not humor in my voice (text), Lewiston is awesome - home of the Lewiston Auburn Duathlon! I love beer, I like some types of alcohol, but honestly vodka is one of those things I am just not much of a fan of (excluding the White Russian)....until now. For me, a major necessity (I know, that is redundant) of drinking is enjoyment: no "Natty Light" or Bud Heavies. I love a good beer, a glass of wine, various mixed drinks, and few straight hard alcohols. I don't tend to drink too much quantity - I prefer quality - as my beers of choice are around $8.00 as opposed to the $3.00 pints. So anyway, this Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka is great (!!). It goes with OJ amazingly well, even better with hot chocolate, and even is good with those Vitamin Water Zero's. However, back to all this fusion/multitasking blabber. This evening I had lifted and then came home and hit the rollers for a good half hour with some solid high cadence work. After finishing I had some dinner but was neither satisfied nor refueled. A great idea came into my mind: Hot Chocolate, Whipped Cream Vodka, and Protein Powder.

I know what you're thinking...to quote my roommate, "That's a failure waiting to happen". Luckily I had some support from my neighbor who lifts and is a regular protein powder user, as the powder was the big risk factor in my conception. I went for it: 1 Cup Vanilla SoyMilk, 1 envelope Swiss Miss, 1/2 Scoop EAS Vanilla Protein, 1 shot (1.5oz) Whipped Cream Vodka, and a little water. Heated up the Soymilk and water on the stove and added protein powder. The powder didn't mix in too great as I didn't want to stir so much that it spilled. I put the Hot Cocoa mix and Vodka into a cup and then added the heated mix and stirred. Some of the protein powder clumped up, which was at first a downfall. But my neighbor pointed out that it actually tasted like little marshmallows! Excellent. The drink was definitely a success: I created the greatest Recovery/Pre-Game Drink ever!

14 February 2011

The Transition...not T1, not T2

So what sort of transition could I possibly be talking about, since this is all about triathlons?


Well, it's about that other thing: Life: the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power ofadaptation to environment through changes originating internally. I am now a Senior at the University of Rochester and, with a pretty low-key semester at the moment, there is only one thing (in terms of school related topics) of which to be concerned. That 'thing' would be a J O B. To me, this point marks the second big phase of life. College is definitely a completely different experience from high school and before; and it is surely a large increase independence and self-dependence. However, you still have most of that comforting shelter that is always there to fall back on. Once you're 'out there' in the world, it's entirely different. How do I know? How does a turtle know where to go when it is born...it just does.


Here I am, on the prowl for a job. But merely having a job is not something that will be satisfactory to me. I need a job a can immerse myself in and a job to which I can feel connected. I think that this aspect of a job is why most people are unhappy with their current job, and I really don't want to dread work. Even this semester is pretty tough for me to bear. I'm only taking 12 credits as opposed to my normal 16-18. And my classes are: Piano, Yoga, Economic Statistics, and Senior Design. The only class that is academically stimulating are small parts of senior design; the project is excellent but it's not the nitty gritty engineering that I love. Econ. stat is just plain boring. I really like piano, but it doesn't offer all that much. And yoga has been phenomenal, mentally and physically - but it's in a completely different way than any sort of course work. I picked up a research position two weeks ago, but so far it is just reading the literature and picking out experimental set-ups and methods. It will get more interesting as the project begins and develops. The lab is doing research on Diffuse Optical techniques to improve the monitoring of breast cancer. It offers physiologically relevant metabolic data in addition to visual information, and is non-invasive...and cheap! So it's pretty obvious that the research could get to be very very interesting, it's only in its infancy right now as the professor is new to UR this semester.


Anyways, I've been filling up all my extra time with extra training, visiting home, and allowing myself proper sleep and sleep schedule. Early mornings are the way to go is what I've learned. Rather than rolling out of bed at 10:40 to catch the bus to my 11:05, I get up at 8:30 and bike. I've noticed my energy is much more consistent and I just feel better (minus the getting tired a bit earlier part).


Oh yeah, jobs. I have been looking pretty steadily since this semester started: getting recommendations, applications, etc. together and ready to roll. I've put in five or so applications, three of which were more just to get apps out there than anything else. My sights are focus on the Northeast due to my family, but if a job in San Diego or Colorado shows itself - I'll bite.


I'm definitely ready to be finished with undergrad and get out there to 'life' or the real world. But there are about 89 (okay, fine, exactly) days until I graduate: May 15th, 2011. Pretty crazy, but I'm excited for it and everything that comes with it. Bring it on world!

08 February 2011

Starbunked.

I went back to Maine (home) and stole a long weekend to see my dad, bro, and pups. I was hoping to pick up Alexis on my way home, but apparently she has a job? She'll hopefully head home this coming weekend so it's all good. The weekend was excellent! The drive home went by fast and didn't crush me, and I got to enjoy the Superbowl with my dad and I can guarantee our food was far superior than at Rochester - no offense to anyone there.

If anyone knows me (or my Dad, or my brother, or my sister) at all, that individual knows that there is one constant: Starbucks. Ever since my early introduction in my pre-teen years, I have been hooked. It's not the caffeine addiction or, even, the need for the spike; although there have been times when each of those has taken control. It is the pleasure of it. I drink decaf just as happily as caffeinated, I just completely enjoy it. What I do not enjoy, however, is when Starbucks stores close at 9:00PM...all of them...when I'm driving 9 hours for the second time within 84 hours (that is just over 20% of my long weekend, for those of you who didn't waste your time calculating. This doesn't include many other hours driving around, back/forth, etc...probably making it about 25% plus of the weekend. Enough complaining. Basically I'm saying I'm awesome at driving). Speaking of which, I picked up the wonderful Taurus (victim of an accident on January 11th...negating being awesome at driving) and dropped off the Concorde.

The Starbucks stores on the thruway were closed, so I used my handy-dandy GPS to check for nearest 'Bucks' stores. I saw one nearby at a Target, bingo! I was sure it was set because I went to another Target where the Starbucks closed when the Target did (this Target was open until 10PM). At this point in the drive, 5 hours in, it started to snow pretty good - roads definitely a bit slick. So the Starbucks was going to be a perfect comforting addition to my drive. It was closed. I got 'pissed', bought a bag of Peanut Butter M&M's and a bag of Archer Farms Buffalo Wing Chips: the two of which totaled at 2880 Cal and 176g Fat (270%). Ouch. At my frustration with Starbucks I was on the phone with Rob and said "I am not going to Starbucks for two weeks". He called me out on not being able to go through with it and I said I was sticking to it. The difficult part is we have a Starbucks right on campus. Well anyways, here goes two weeks without Starbucks!

The kicker is, we brainstormed what my penalty would be if I violated said agreement. It came down to me having to miss a day of training. Now this may seem like more of a "favor" to myself, but that would be grossly incorrect. I have to first state that I am currently on a 229 day training streak, and more than anything I would go crazy taking time off for any reason (barring unforeseen injury). If I missed a day because I weakly gave in to buying a coffee based beverage at one specific store, it'd be really bad. Now the agreement was that I can drink tea/coffee elsewhere (although the other places on campus are flat out horrid), primarily due to the case in which I sometimes get withdrawal...and I have tea on occasion at my apartment. So there it is: two weeks without my comforting, wonderful Starbucks.



PS: I don't like the new logo as much either. Shame on them.

06 February 2011

Brick......House!

The simplest and funnest (okay, I give in: most fun...but 'funnest' is way 'funner') method of feeling like you're back in triathlon training mode is to do a brick workout or two. The word "brick" itself is interesting: who came up with it or after whom was it named or...you get it. My best bet, and from looking around, is that it is a more phonetic form of BR (BikeRun). Although, in looking on SlowTwitch I came across this response: "It started back in 3000 BC, when the ancient Sumarians hastily crossed the Tiberius and fled to Larak. During that time the scrolls revealed the term 'Bricanuis', which loosely translated means, 'Do I really have to run now? I just swam the Tiberius'." Posted by furiousferret. I'm not sure if I like the absurd, epic origin or his/her name more, but I'll take it. So anyways, I did an easy swim-bike on Friday: just a 1 mile swim followed by a 21 mile ride (first 25K tempo). It added a little excitement to my normally quite lack-luster swimming sessions.
But the note-worthy brick was this morning: I went over to my friend Coreen's house to catch up and get a solid trainer ride. It worked out great - the trainer most definitely has it's benefits, like bringing together people who normally wouldn't cycle in a group, but each want a good workout. Had I done this solo, it would have been 75 minutes real easy on the bike and then a steady 8 miler at 7:00 pace. Coreen was gonna do some tempo work, and it definitely was a good motivator for me - so made it a much better workout. It's always good to have somebody pushing the tempo with you...it keeps you in check. We did 75 minutes on the trainer with some tempo, some cadence, and some big gear work, with a good sprint with a couple minutes to go. The sprint was to simply get a little bulk muscle soreness in before the run. The only problem with bricks in the winter is you sweat like crazy inside and have to entirely dry off and change in order to go outside. Our transition time was a little longer than 15 minutes, but it ensured we wouldn't freeze on the run so it was fair. I headed out on the run and didn't get any real initial shock of "oh crap here comes the rough part", but it felt fine. I did about 200m going from 8:00/mi to 7:00/mi, and then something hit me - like Ricky Bobby "I wanna go fast" is all that ran through my head. Without care of dodging puddles, slipping on ice, or the cars that were annoyed I wasn't all the way off the shoulder, I just ran!


I dropped it down to about 6:30 immediately, and my mile average was 6:30 so I was definitely well under 6:30 for most of it since the first quarter was slow. I saw the 6:30 (which was within 20 seconds of my mile split of every tri I've done), shrugged it off, and finished with a pair of 6:10's. The 5K was a comfortable 19:24, despite deciding to run on ice/slush/snow for the last 0.75mi. Alas, I am not miserably slow as I had thought after training for the 22 miler. I made it 4.0 miles and then headed back, meeting Coreen at about 4.4 miles. Having some minor leg cramps from the ice and snow, we took the road all the way back (thankfully). I slowed down upon meeting Coreen but realized she was going right about my pace, so it worked out great. Coreen hadn't done a brick since her Half Ironman this fall, so she killed it for it having been so long: she cranked good on the bike, then negative split the run by a decent amount too! Well done for sure. Rounded out the run feeling good at 59:10.


After the run we both took some Generation UCAN. I love the product, so much so that this fall I contacted UCAN and ended up being a small-scale sales rep for them out in Rochester (if you have any questions, feel free to comment, contact, or email me: travis.b.kroot@gmail.com). I really like to have someone "just try it out" and get the opinion from the test with it. Coreen has a lot of endurance work, much much more than I. It was a bonus that Coreen also had battled with other nutrition products' GI distress, to see if this reduced the effects. She said she felt great after taking it! Another happy athlete :).


I love bricks (if you couldn't tell). A lot of people really battle that first 400m to Mile of the run, but when I get off the bike I feel primed...even better than a good 2-3mi warm up for a tempo. The title "Brick.....House!" is for (obviously) doing the Brick workout and (more obviously) for eating like a house for the Superbowl! Definitely did my work to enjoy the game, food, and a wonderful Stone Brewing Company Double Bastard Ale (22oz). Yesss!


Here's to my official beginning of triathlon training. It went great and feels even better. Can't wait for everything ahead of me this season. A brick shouldn't be something to be afraid of, it's just way too fun.

03 February 2011

Week Zero: Update


As previously mentioned, I resumed my training for shorter distances (i.e.: Olympic/Sprint Tri) on Sunday. After excessively over-indulging following my birthday and through the weekend in both spirits and food, I decided to begin my reset on Sunday. This wasn't anything major, just get back on the right track with a real low-key week of training and making sure I'm eating both right and well. Weighing in Sunday morning I was 160.6, a high for quite some time. My racing weight is somewhere in the lower 140's, probably 143 or so. So I'm just looking for a steady drop to get back into that range by, say, April?

I've never had troubles getting into the mid-high 140's, but the low 140's is a bit challenging. If I'm going to be lifting more, I'll probably settle with about 145 as a race weight. It all depends on the PBM Elite Team and also what sort of training schedule (if any) comes from that. I'm really excited about the Elite Team, especially with the caliber of coaches over at PBMC. I know Kurt Perham personally and have seen him crush some races, one of which I was second place, but by a rough 3.5 minutes. I should be hearing back about the official aspects of the team in the next couple of weeks, which I am very anxiously awaiting.

Aside from that I set up my entire week's schedule including: classes, meetings, my newly added research position (to be touched on at a later date), and, most importantly :) , the training schedule. I haven't included possible lifting times, but you'll get the idea.


Workouts for the Week:
  • 5 Running: 1 Long, 1 Workout, 1 Tempo
  • 4-5 Cycling
  • 3-4 Rollers
  • 4 Swimming
  • 3 Yoga
  • 3 Core
  • Additional Possibilities: 2 Lifting, which would probably push core to be attached to one of the other workouts.
It may look like a lot, but given my relatively easy class schedule this semester it is actually quite feasible. Once I hear back on the PBM Elite Team, that will dictate the specifics of the workouts and may alter scheduling a little.

This week is going well and will end up being: ~3mi swim, ~25mi run, ~115mi bike. All at a very easy effort, so it is a pretty light workload overall. Looking forward to amping it up in the coming weeks!

31 January 2011

An Anniversay, Of Sorts...

The most meaning that January 31st really had for me (up until last year) was that it was one standard work week after my birthday. However, after departing the great UR Track and Field (and XC) team on January 19th, 2010 I took a week and a half entirely off of training to both enjoy my birthday and recover from aches and pains I was getting from indoor track.

On January 31st, 2010 I resumed my training with two things in mind: 1) Triathlons, no more sad attempt at sprinting and 2) An extremely slow build, with a high concentration on injury prevention. The first is obvious. The second, I have battled ITBS (Illiotibial Band Syndrome) since early in college and any time I get to a solid training volume, my body rejects it. So I built up from a 2 mile swim/40 mile bike/10 mile run week on Jan. 31 to 2/86/20 (July) to 3/100/40 (October). This has gone smoothly along without any major setback or injury. After the 22 mile run, I took a few days to completely indulge and relax overall: this hurt on my run yesterday. This first week is going to be a sort of "reset" just to get back into training after my focus for the past month was the 22 miler and not getting injured from it.

But now, 1 year after my official beginning of being a triathlete, I am prepared for: a much more serious training plan, a successful season with some very strong finishes, and a lot of PRs. Looking back on 2010 I am very pleased; I was (and still am) new to the sport and have much to learn, but it did not go without some races that I like to call major successes. First was PRing in a solo 5000M time trial in pretty ugly conditions, then was the Pirate Tri - 9th Place overall, then I learned that riding a bike is nothing like cycling. The rest of the summer held a 2nd place in the LA Duathlon, a 1:30 10K PR, a 0:35 5K PR, and a 3rd place finish at the Concord Triathlon. Fall was not as successful as I had hoped for but it was an enjoyable XC season, during which I build from high 20's in mileage to mid 40's. Also, I have trained every day from June 26th, 2010 through today, and I have no intention of stopping that streak (220 Days).

Needless to say: 2010 had a lot of physical and intellectual growth and has set me up for a promising 2011, so long as I maintain the consistency and continue properly building. Year Two, here I come.




"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." - Bernard Berenson: 1865-1959 (Renowned Italian Renaissance Art Expert)

30 January 2011

2011: The Year of the Rabbit

Now, Aesop (Greek fable author; 620 - 560 B.C.) once said "Slow and steady wins the race" in his rather famous story, The Hare and the Tortoise. While I do greatly appreciate the meaning and purpose of the statement, I respectfully disagree. Speed and Endurance are not mutually exclusive, neither in theory nor practice. That is not to say that harnessing the two simultaneously is a small task by any means. This is my 2011: I am setting out with the goal of increasing my speed across the board while moving from the Sprint distance (approx. 0.5mi/14mi/3mi) to Olympic (1.5K/40K/10K). I won't be strictly racing Oly, as some tune up Sprint races will be key in evaluating where I stand early season and might be a good way to add some races without breaking myself down at all. Additionally, it looks like I will be running a Half Marathon as a running based endurance test and also to test what I'm capable of looking forward to the Half Ironman distance.

I have a full preliminary race schedule set up, as it was necessary in order to apply for a spot on the Personal Best Multisport (PBM) Elite Team for 2011. I'm pretty excited at the opportunity of possibly being on a real triathlon team in only my second year of competitive tri's (technically it will be my third year doing tri's but the 2009 Boston Urban Epic was off almost no training and just for fun: i.e. not competitive). I’m hoping that situation turns out well, especially because over 90% of my training has been self-guided. And while I know a fair amount about running training (up to 10K), I know very little of cycling and swimming. Also, the combination of the three events is a very difficult but very critical aspect of successful triathlon training. Hopefully being on the Cycling team at University of Rochester this spring will develop my understanding of effective cycling training and focusing on different systems. Depending on how everything goes I might be paying for a coach by mid to late spring so I can really get a solid schedule. Training a lot or at high intensity is not my major problem, it is effectively integrating all aspects of triathlon into an optimal schedule. For swimming I’ll hopefully be training a bit with my friend, Mike Hoffman, who was fifth out of the water at IM Lake Placid 2010. He was formerly on the swim team here at UR but is now getting his Ph.D.

All in all, 2011 is looking to be a solid year in competition and also a major year for my growth as a triathlete; physically, intellectually, and by experience.

28 January 2011

The Run For Glory

As a welcoming to my blog I think it is only fair to give an entry that not only offers an obviously expected physical aspect, but one that has a great meaning than just going out there and hammering. Between my recent endeavor into the longer distance runs and my newly found enjoyment and fondness of Yoga, I have gained a greater appreciation for the depth of understanding that can be derived from a seemingly simplistic and ancestral activity.

A brief background: January 26th (yesterday) was my 22nd birthday. I had come up with the idea well in advance that it'd be "epic" to run 22 miles to celebrate my birthday. A good friend made a spectacular running route that was a spectacular Tour De Rochester: my Run For Glory, so to speak. That word Glory grew from being a notion of physical undertaking to one of heightened understanding. Map of The Run For Glory.




I dedicate this run (and likely many others in the future) to both my dad and mom: who not only have instilled in me the ability to overcome obstacles, but also understand far better the difficulties and turmoil of a true endurance event than I probably ever will.

:::::The Run For Glory:::::

The preparations: I wanted this thing to go as smoothly as possible, and with some of the stomach issues I've had on longer runs I wanted to prep correctly. My intention was to not stop the whole run and just keep turning it over. While training last week was very heavy by jumping up to 15 hours from about 11 or 12, I thought an decent length but easy run/ride Sunday, real easy Monday, and easy ride Tuesday would give me sufficient rest. It was definitely enough, but I surely could have chosen a better time to amp up the training rather than last week. Nevertheless, last week was one of my more solid weeks of training across the board - even with all the rough temperatures and weather. I had my longest run ever (at the time) and am getting some proficiency on the rollers. Plus I got back into swimming even though it is only easy stuff and simple drills. So I woke up my usual 2.5+ hours before and got peanut butter jelly banana toast with honey on top. It was so delicious I considered a couple more slices of toast with it but figured that'd not be a good call. Drank some water and kicked back to a bit of COD Black Ops. I made sure my "quarterback" wrist direction card was set to go, without it I would have been quite lost after about 8 or so miles.
(About 110 turns that ensure the perfect route through Rochester)

I showered and got a little stretch/rolling of the ITB in and took a later than planned but 100% necessary pre-run weight drop that could have hit me hard about 10-15 miles in. At 7:20 grabbed my Generation UCAN pre run mix and had that by 7:35 when I left to pick up Chanse and head to the glorified and forever-established starting point of any run worth it's mileage. While this run can't hold a flame to The Roosathon (the start to the Bicentennial) or Pat's Journey to Adulthood (and Home), I am pleased to be part of an epic adventure.

When I got to the track house it looked barren. But I was pleasantly surprised by Tyler Socash and (HOLY !@#&^@*&#) BroBot!! Apparently he got in at 4AM and still mustered his drunken self out of bed to say a, albeit very incomprehensible, hello....but we all know he passed out at the door and thus was forced awake when I arrived. Anyways, Tyle's alarm clock and watch had broken within the past few days, but he managed a miraculous sub-10 preparation so we could depart exactly at 8:00:00AM. A quick piss (fourth or fifth of the morning) and we were ready to go.

The Epic Departure: With a quick tap of the watch, we were off: Tyler and BroBot holding hands (with us for 20m), Tyle, Chanse, and myself. And soon we found ourselves making our way towards the graveyard, moments after the 7:32AM sunrise (insert Ezra's mock-poetry about light and sunset/sunrise or whatever here).

Mile 1: (8:53) Probably the hardest mile, by quite a bit. The Mt. Hope Cemetery was buzzing this Wednesday morning, and the trek to see Ms. Susan B. Anthony was harder than expected as we dodged a couple snow plows (which, may I add, did not plow anything at all!). We circled Anthony's grave and headed back down to hit the solid hill toward Frederick Douglass' place of rest. Made another loop in his honor this time and were on our way to the hole in the fence by Phase.

Mile 2: (7:07) Definitely a LOT easier. Ran across campus, past Danforth, and through Wilson Quad and across the footbridge. Pretty uneventful but was rather downhill. Definitely made a little effort to get back onto pace but I guess the much more favorable running surface took care of that on its own.

Mile 3: (7:39) The entry to the 19th Ward. This mile was very eventful, only for one very contained occurrence. About halfway through (along Monica St. if I am correct) an SUV came along and nearly clipped Chanse's shoulder as it passed by. We were running 3 wide in the road, but there was no oncoming traffic and a trash truck could have safely made it past us. I'd just like to state that in all of my preparations for this run (about 30 miles roaming the 19th Ward) I had no bad experiences: some school kids made fun of me for running once but typically it's just 'man it's cold you are crazy' and a good chuckle from anyone watching.

Mile 4: (7:35) A bit along Chili Ave. - hit the sidewalks a good amount for safety. One of the longer turn-free sections of the Run For Glory (hereafter referred to as the RFG), which was only about .65 miles long. Ran past a store called "Baller's", which Tyle really liked.

Mile 5: (7:43) My last full mile with some company. Back into the 19th Ward and popped out onto Genesee St.

Mile 6: (7:49) At "about" 5.67 Tyle and Chanse headed down Genesee St. as I turned off onto Flint St. to connect back with Jefferson. I'm not sure if it was the sudden lack of conversation or company - but I got a little twinge here that my legs were going to get tired a lot earlier than expected. The first mile definitely took some out of me, but I also realized last week's training was a likely culprit. No problem though...I honestly didn't want to finish and think: "well that was kind of boring". I wanted a little bit of burn and something at least working a little bit against me, it keeps life interesting.

Mile 7: (7:36) A bit downhill along Plymouth and onto Columbia. Made sure not to get excited on the downhill as I really wanted to ensure a steady pacing, as 22 miles is a 4 mile record for me - and I wanted to enjoy it for the most part. I settled into being solo at this point and was actually quite appreciative of it. Snaking back through the 19th Ward I comfortably kept a free mind and a smart pace.

Mile 8: (7:51) Through the "Holy" part of the 19th Ward as I like to call it. Many religious offerings here along Dr. Samuel McCree Blvd: predominated by the Mt. Zion Church, the sign of which read "We walk by Soul, not by Sight", and also Zion Hill Church. Both of these Churches were banging on Sunday as I did my final course-preparation run. I felt a slight tinge of connection to the Mt. Zion Church's sign as I passed by...but it was as ephemeral as my 'pocketa-pocketa' in the quiet streets.

Mile 9: (7:45) Passed by St. Mary's, which was a nice (and unintended by Mr. Socash) addition, the location of my Senior Design Project.

Mile 10: (7:39) DANFORTH STREET!

Mile 11: (7:40) At this point I was faced with quite a dilemma. As I approached the Susan B. Anthony House I realized that my Garmin was going to be about 0.2mi short of 11.0mi. So, taking the GPS as the almighty ruler (and ensuring that all factors show a bare minimum of 22.00mi at the finished) I opted to double back at a couple points to add a total of 0.2mi on to make Ms. Anthony's House the perfected 11.00mi mark. Also, it's likely auto routing is slightly shorter than running, so it was fair to add on.

Halfway Point: 2:25:19.

Mile 12: (7:35) Pretty much straight out on Main St. West and W Broad. Ended at the 12 mile mark being the War Memorial. It was possible someone would be meeting me here, but I'm glad I had the extra miles alone.

Mile 13: (7:51) A little bit of actual city running. Sadly had to bail on the I-490 section...which was only due to the perilous aspect of the portion, not in any bit in concern if it was unlawful or not. Still feeling comfortable but that feeling I had at mile 6 definitely making itself known, albeit pretty low-key at this point. Was under the knowledge that I'd be getting a bit tired eventually, but satisfied at this aspect (still). The only major happenstance was that my IT Band at the hip started to tighten a noticeable amount. I imagined myself Tony Stark in the Ironman suit when he first attempts to break the fixed wing altitude record and his suit gets all iced up. I actually motioned the part where he cranks on his bionic hip joint to free the ice (me freeing my hip from tightness) so that he can recover somewhat before his power rebooted. I laughed a little at the ridiculousness, but wholeheartedly enjoyed the laxness by which I viewed a possibly painful upcoming 9 miles.

Mile 14: (7:29) Perfectly Maine St. East to Frontier Field (N. Plymouth). While this mile was very uneventful, I really liked the aspect that it ended up being unique. The 13th Mile ended at exactly the intersection of East and Main St. E, and the 14th Mile finished at exactly the end of Frontier Field (corner of N. Plymouth and Morrie Way).

Mile 15: (7:27) Crossed the ever-important footbridge that is part of the High Falls 6-Mile Loop. Now, to most people this is just a halfway point for an easy 6-Miler that is shortly followed by an underpass that often entails holding one's breath for its entirety. However, from the first run I did of the High Falls route this fall it brought a special meaning to me...one that makes me feel somewhat at home. The crossing of this bridge reminds me of two events I have done in the past. The first of which is the Lewiston-Auburn (Maine) Duathlon, in which I finished second place to a guy who hopefully becomes my coach in the coming year. It crosses over the Androscoggin River and goes through a pretty historic part of Lewiston, kind of like the stuff you see before reaching St. Paul St. Also, it reminds me of the portion of the Concord Triathlon where it did an out and back on the dam over the pond. This one was cool because it was my first placing at a tri. So this mile was pretty nice. Cruised through this mile really relaxed, noting I'd be seeing Mike in about 15 minutes.

Mile 16: (7:30) Joseph Ave: way less crazy than I expected. This was actually one of my favorite portions. Clean sidewalks for the first .25 miles and just smooth running (after the sidewalk it had a parking lane that was pretty empty). However it was not close to as nice as mile 16. Right after the finish of 16 (on the 'back' portion of Joseph) my right Plantar Fascia tightened up pretty good...something that tends to happen normally around mile 14-15, so it was relatively unsurprising. What was surprising was the DEAD BLACK CROW that I ran past inches from my left foot along the sidewalks of Joseph Ave. It was far too early into my run to come across such an ominous sign as this. I was in a zone cruising up Joseph Ave and this instantly snapped me out of my peaceful and mindless cruising state. There wasn't much to do about it, but I recalled the scene in Entourage (Season 3, the Episode where Johnny Drama is on the pilot for "Five Towns" and a bird crashes through the window and kills itself in his breakfast preparations for everyone, who had been impatiently waiting for Johnny to wake up. Johnny takes it as a horrible sign and feels he is doomed to failure. However, later on his escape from LA, he finds out the Five Towns pilot was a massive HIT! and has millions of viewers...16 million or so). So that lightened the potentially mentally distressful situation.

Mile 17: (7:38) Throughout this mile I was focused on making sure the right foot felt good. I just didn't know how the tightness of my plantar fascia was going to play out with 6 miles left rather than 1 or 2. I let the stride droop a bit and compensated by letting a little more heel contact occur than normal. By the time I got to Eastman (the 17 mile mark) I was able to get back to a fairly normal stride and was back being pretty comfortable - even though my stride wasn't 'perfectly' normal.

Mile 18: (7:40) The only point at which I actually stopped moving. This was due to not seeing Mike at the corner of East and Alexander - our planned meeting point. The VERY minor error was due to my slightly faster than planned pace and his underestimation of how nasty the sidewalks are (as he is coming back from some Achilles issues - so naturally sloppy sidewalks can cause some potential issue there). However - I stopped on East...looked around...crossed to Alexander...looked around. I debated continuing since I really didn't want to stop this far in, for fear of being unable to comfortably resume. By now the full effect of my pretty heavy training last week had kicked in (thanks in part to more than expected running on snowy sidewalks. I thought the mid-20's weather would allow stuff to clear, but I guess 'warm' weather has no bearing on snow melting...oh well. Actually it made portions worse than normal...since the snow wasn't as solid - refer to mile 20). Luckily at this moment I saw Mike coming up East and I did a mini loop to keep moving. Mike had a Nature Valley bar and some water for me. Food-wise I was completely set: my energy level was excellent despite my legs starting to crash. I took a swig of water and trashed the rest. Mike was pretty surprised when my demeanor was rather pleasant and perky - he said he expected me to be in shambles or approaching that point, so I guess I was holding up well. This was nice to hear as I had quasi-thoughts of this when contemplating the toll of 22 miles, regardless of intensity.

Mile 19: (7:51) Officially my longest run ever by distance (I hit my longest timed run ever at about 18.6). Long road on Alexander to Mt. Hope. This was officially the longest portion of the run without an actual turn of any sort (~1.6mi). Sadly Alexander was too busy to chill in the road on and it was a matter of jumping from sidewalk to road a bunch, but luckily wasn't locked on the sidewalks. Looped around the Genesee Gateway Apartments, which was a rough introduction back into the snow.

Mile 20: (8:14) While Mile 1 was definitely the worst mile of the whole run, mile 21 felt the worst...as it inconveniently fell 20 miles after that first one (interesting how that all happens). Man did this suck. I wanted to stay true to the route and hold onto the Genesee side of the path, but it was UGLY. I nearly fell half a dozen times, kicking myself on multiple accounts. Most of it was tracked out my a Gator or Nordic skiers or various walkers, but that just provided a deceivingly unstable surface to attempt to trace over. I sauntered to portions of 'freshies', as we say in the ol' skiing days, but it was too erratic with being crunchy and soft. Thus I stuck it out on the poorly kept and painfully unstable track of those before me. This mile ended up being horribly slow and really crushed my calves. It also took a chunk out of my quads and really disturbed my stabilizers (ITB included).

Mile 21: (7:48) FUN! This mile time I think is quite an underestimation as my GPS lost Satellite as Tyle and I blazed through the tunnels. The path of my watch shows us connected from Meliora (our entrance to the tunnels) to somewhere between the swimming pool and the Res Quad. So it definitely made a valiant effort at accounting for it's loss of location, but definitely short-changed our speedy, gopher-like tunneling skills. Popped out on the Wilson quad and came up on the 21 mark on Wilson.

Mile 22: (7:40) Looped up and around DKE, I yelled that I wanted beer and Four LOKO. But they were probably still passed out from the night before. So it was to no avail, thankfully. One brother stepped out of the house as we made our circle around the house and just looked at Tyle, Mike, and myself with a confused glare, most likely jealousy and admiration. Ha. Wasn't able to get into Psi U (I had my ID Card in my pocket in hopes of a swipe-entry, as the house is now residential. The punks got busted for hazing. Ha...yes, I said 'Ha' again). So we jumped off the front porch, giving my calves a bit of a rugged twinge. We hit the Riverway trail and did the "Cross-Country!!" section, while debating the foolishness of trying to rationalize the cross-country section versus the normal section. Tyle came to the conclusion that it would take an absurd amount of ingenuity to come up with some reasonable idea as to prefer one to the other. My first (sarcastic) response was 'Well, it prepares our ankles for the unstable terrain of the cross-country nature'. But, then I felt a moment of brilliance: 'I'll take the cross-country part because I have to do the hill later', which was totally reasonable at this point (at least to me). We hit up the cross-country section, because it is obvious there was no alternative: if you don't follow read the previous two sentences as many times as you need. Then we cruised up to the track (our ankles stronger than ever) and circled up past Fauver and onto the track ensuring that exactly a single lap - no more than, no less than - was completed on the track. At this point excitement took over and I 'cranked' the 400m to the end of my glorified birthday gift. A 1:30-1:35 final lap showed nothing but ferocity in my final trudge through the nasty, crusty snow ridden track. It that was it. Simply the end of yet another run, another day's work.

Final Time: 2:50:00 (Miles 12-22: 1:24:41)

I recalled a quote from Dexter that I saw yesterday while on the trainer. While it may be a detached and slightly pessimistic view, it was peculiar and very interesting. In Season 1, when Rita's daughter's birthday comes up, Dexter thinks to himself: "I don't get birthdays; the party, the song. Celebrating another year just being alive feels... forced". That was pretty interesting to me, in that people try to make others' birthdays more exciting than they, in all honesty are. This morning I didn't feel a year older, I merely felt a day older. But there was one thing that was for sure - I was 22 miles older once that run was over. While abstract to most, this has a lot more significance than one would superficially expect. This run wasn't just a "prove myself" sort of thing. It was highly personal, but I did greatly enjoy sharing it will all who may enjoy or feel some connection - whether running based or out of 'holy crap that's impossible' as some people have (incorrectly) said.

The run overall was so natural, except the very initial conception and presentation of the idea - as the outside support made it seem far more reasonable and less abstract. My first thought was it had to be forced: when I thought of this idea my longest run ever was 15.5 miles and occurred on September 2, 2007; well over 3 years ago. But over the preparation it quickly became simply an opportunity, something to be excited about. During the run I felt purely detached from the commitment of completion or the failure of coming up short: I just took it all in and experienced pure enjoyment of the moment.

I'd like to make a few shout-outs to some people who were major players today:

First, to Tyler Socash (and BroBot): He designed a truly perfect Tour De Rochester that lasted exactly 22.00 miles and hit pretty much every key component necessary to make a run epic (BroBot probably had his say in the loop around DKE and the concept of breaking into Psi U). I did everything in my ability to hold true to the original plan and merely altered a 1.5 mile section due to multiple life-threatening and unlawful (epic) portions. Also Tyler (who held hand with BroBot) trekked the first and utmost important 20 meters with me this morning from 2 Menlo Place along Mt. Hope Avenue. BroBot somehow managed the guts to wake up at 7:45AM for my arrival at the track house and get his lazy, still drunken, and not quite worthless self up from his 4AM arrival at the house to run a few meters (although everyone know he passed out at the door and had no option but to get out of the way of the door).

Also, to Chanse Hungerford, who ran the first 5.67 miles with me and was critical in ensuring I keep my spirits and excitement for glory in reasonable bounds. He did a great job at making sure miles 3-5 got me settled in to a good pace to set a good trend for the remainder of the run. Chanse nearly took a bullet...I mean CAR...for me today on mile 33 (see above), but made it out safe and sound.

To the "Professor" Tyle Stelzig: Who made the extremely speedy wardrobe change from waking up at 7:50AM, as to not delay the 8:00:00AM Sharp departure from the track house (okay fine it was 8:00:27AM, officially). Within the past few days both his phone and watch have died (the watch - his backup alarm - dying overnight), but he still beat the odds and came out for the visitations through the graveyard and ensured a safe entry to the 19th Ward. Tyle, who put in a good 7.6 miles in for that intro portion made a spectacularly and very surprising appearance for the final two miles of the run, the light after my miserable 20th mile. He ran to Intercampus and sat in a "holding pattern" for a brief time before Mike and I passed by from the River. Tyle was "sitting in the library doing work, but couldn't get anything done due to [his] fear of missing the final two miles of the Run For Glory" (I apologize for any butchering of your library based recount...I was 'tired': too busy demanding a Double Mel Burger and my battle up the relentless Intercampus Drive).

Mike Insler, who met me at mile 17.5 (a point at which had once caused some difficulties in my previous longest run ever - 18 miles). He came with a bottle of water, from which a solid gulp was just perfect. Also, he brought a granola bar (just in case), but thanks to the Generation UCAN my energy held surprisingly steady. With his battle coming back from some Achilles issues, Mike put up with some ugly surfaces and kept me some great company through miles that I had never encountered. A big thanks for coming out and jumping in to a much longer run than he had been doing in recent recovery training.

One last thanks to Seth Hasty: A good friend from home who is a marathoner, but has instilled in me that it's really "not all that bad". This 22 miler seemed forced and so epic to me initially, with my lack of physical and mental confidence in the distance...but also my inexperience of long runs. Over Christmas vacation, Seth dragged me along to complete 16+ and 17 mile runs with an unexpected ease. His chill mindset and just-the-right-amount confidence approach really rubbed off on me, especially as I hit 18 on my own just two Sundays ago. Those few longs runs were the turning point that made this Run For Glory an undertaking into a purely exciting and fun experience. Thanks to Seth, his attitude, and his confidence in me this run took on its true meaning: just another jaunt on the roads, only a bit more run and a lot more fun.

In Conclusion:

Over the past month this has become an exciting event to look forward to rather than the epic adventure I envision it as. Initially, I was hoping I'd have this awesome feeling of being on a road to, and eventually having done something amazing by the end. But that's not at all how it ended up: it was simply pure.

All in all this wasn't so much a physical undertaking as it was a peaceful and enjoyable mini adventure that was secluded from the forced events of our everyday life. I feel quite pleased I was able to start this little tradition for myself, and allowed it to take full shape in just being so purely enjoyable and natural. Mentally I got a lot out of the run - not in the sense that a marathoner says "you learn a lot about yourself", because that was not a point I reached nor planned on reaching - but that I was simply able to appreciate it and let go of everything. To quote my senior speech from high school: "When I run. I am what I am and I'm free".

The past month has been nearly asdifficult as I could have imagined it to be and it's been pretty much a rough time all along for me. While this hasn't done anything to directly improve anything besides the length of my longest run, it was quite a nice time to get some peace and time to reflect. While the last month may have been a nightmare, and today in no way made it better; I was able to realize that you have to accept things for exactly as they are and simply make the best and do your best regardless of the circumstance, otherwise your efforts are wasted.

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Challenges: A bump in the road is an obstacle to be fought or an opportunity to be enjoyed...it is all up to you.