Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hi, my name is Rob and I'm trying to remember how to be a competitive swimmer.

Well after focusing on running and setting PR's at Goshen and the Hartford Half, I cut back on training and decided to do enough to keep fitness through the holidays. I've been a pretty regular fixture at the pool and after watching some of my fellow teammates swim their respected alumni meets, part of me got that itch to get back in the pool and compete.  Now I've swum masters before back in 2006 and 2007, when I was coming off of swimming at Fordham, CCSU didn't have a men's program but I was still in ok swimming shape. Hell I was swimming 3 times a week with Sunoco Masters at CCSU and then at the Waterbury Y twice a week on the nights I didn't have classes. My times were pretty comparable to high school so I wasn't the quickest yet I wasn't the slowest either. Fast forward nearly 6 years of just doing tris and open water and my times have sort of slowed. I used to be able to hold 100's on 1:20 like it was my job and now it's been tough just to try to maintain 100's at 1:25 on a regular basis. Part of it has been technique, part of has been lack of training ( 3 days a week going 3k per practice is different to 5 days a week average 5k per practice.) and fellow swimmers to push me. So after searching the web to see if some of the old CT master's meets were offering entry I didn't find any, however I did see a meet in Wellesley MA. After checking to see if I needed to throw down $40 for a USMS membership ( which thankfully I don't) I ran the idea past my perpetual training partner Alexei. Well Alexei was on board and one of my high school teammates jumped on as well so on Jan 27 we'll be shipping up to Boston ( well ok Wellesley College) to try to prove that we've still got those skills that made us deadly in the pool years ago.

So in sets the adrenaline and panic. I've started ramping up my pool time and yardage. This week I've swam 4 times and my shortest swim was a 2400 yard practice on Thursday. All the others have been over 4000 yards.  I've starting analyzing my stroke and trying desperately to get my speed back up. After all in 07 I was still swimming a somewhat decent 6:08 500 Free. If I'm holding what I'm doing now I'd be lucky to go sub 6:30. So I'm hoping some drills,and beating the unmerciful crap out of myself in the pool will get me back into respectable shape. If things go well maybe I might try to convince myself to swim New England Championships in Boston, but right now I just want to see if I can get back some of my old skills.

Let the beatdown begin.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chasing a 10 year old PR or the 2012 Fischang-Cicchetti Race Report

Let's rewind the clock . Let's go back to a time before my first marathon, before Ironman, before my first 10 mile run come to think of it, before College, before mounds of insurmountable student loan debt. Let's go back to my Senior year of high school. In November 2002 I signed up for the Fischang Cicchetti 5 mile road race in Waterbury, CT for the second time. I showed up wearing my Holy Cross High School Track Jersey, my XC/ road race flats and not a prayer in hell against a fairly stacked field. The year before in my first attempt at this race, my first race over 5k, I had puked green Powerade all over East Main St. as I had drank too much before hand and at the aid station at mile 2.5. In 02 I went in on an empty stomach, took one cup of water at the aid station, and collapsed into a painful bout of dry heaving at the finish line 32min. and 55 sec later.  I had PR, revenge and I didn't puke. I finished in 49th place and would not race the Cicchetti again until a frigid day in 2008.

In the three years since when I have raced, I haven't come close to that 32:55. The first year in  balmy 15 degree F weather I did a 33:56,  I didn't race in 09 and in 2010 did a 33:50, last year I did my slowest effort here a 34:36. So after throwing down a big PR in the Hartford Half I figured it was time to bitch slap my high school PR.

I bummed a ride from my friend, training partner and nemesis, Alexei. I proceeded to foam roller my leg as my glutes were tight from a 7 mile training run on Friday. I went for a 15 minute, mile and a half warm up jog and did another bout of stretching before tossing my warmups in my locker and making my way to the start line in a singlet, shorts and gloves.

As I do every year I lined up on the front row so I could get my picture in the paper and a clean line around the first turn. The gun went off at slightly after 9am and a pack of 400 runners made their way through downtown Waterbury. We went around the Civil War Monument then down Church St. and the onto Grand Street past City Hall. I was getting passed like it was my job, but the guys going around me were no joke. Well except for one kid in a pink long sleeve shirt holding his i-pod. I managed to pass him as I got owned by the top 3 women, one of them was Cervelo Chick, aka 2 time USAT collegiate triathlon national champion Jessica Broderick. Even in the year when I got passed by a future Olympic marathoner (Waterbury's  Lisa Stublic, who would race for Croatia 2012.)it took almost a mile. They passed me this year in the first quarter. We cut down a side street and then up East Main St. I could hear Alexei huffing and puffing behind me. Part of me started to wonder if this was going to be another disastrous day as I could feel my sides cramping as we hit the first mile in 6:18.

I started to settle into a comfortable pace as this mile was slightly up hill to Hamilton Park. I was keeping Alexei behind me but I was getting passed by other runners, including that kid with the pink shirt and the i-pod. We hit the mile 2 split in 13:18 I had done a 6:59 mile. I had to pick up the pace, I had run my half marathon at a faster pace for crying out loud. There was a guy in front of me with red racing flats I focused on keeping him in sight as we made our way through the flat section of the park to the turn around. I hit the aid station neck and neck with Alexei and I took a cup of water. My mouth was feeling dry as I was spitting loo-gees every 2 minutes. I decided I couldn't let Alexei hang close because if it came to a sprint in the last mile he would flat out destroy me. I had to gap him and fast. I closed the gap to red shoes and tried to surge.
I could still hear Alexei on my tail as we went back through the park. I surged and caught red shoes and I could hear Alexei faintly in the distance. Was it enough? Red shoes and I started to pace one another I would tried to surge, he would catch me, he would surge I'd catch him. We went through the 3mile in 6:45 and hit the 4 mile mark in 6:26. As we made our way past the mall and back down East Main, red shoes put in one last burst. In my head Phil Ligget was making the call " He's stretching the elastic and the elastic has snapped." my body didn't have the effort to go with him. He got a few feet which turned into a few seconds in the matter of 100 meters.

Now my thoughts went back to the race behind me I could hear someone catching up and Alexei's breathing was starting to enter my ears. Did I have the gap? I  tried to keep my pace high as I passed the police station, then went through the intersection and hit the bricks on the lower part of East Main. Less than half a mile. I looked back to see a  kid in a red long sleeved shirt zoom around me as he was going full sprint.  Alexei was still a ways back. I looked at the finish line clock: 32:25...this could be a PR day. I started to sprint as the seconds started racing by agonizingly fast. 30...35....40...45....50... I was almost at the line and then *cough *cough* uggg. No not now! Not again! I slowed up hoping not to lose breakfast I came to a dead stop on the timing mat as 32:59 came and went as I stepped over it and started coughing and gagged up the mother of all  loo-gees. Then walked forward Still bent over I didn't even hit my watch until I felt Alexei pat me on the shoulder. "Nice race." he panted "yeah it was" I gasped trying to wipe the spit from my mouth. The timers had me at 33:02 which put my last mile as a 6:36 not bad considering I slowed to a coughing, gagging jog in the last 20 feet.

So 17 year old me still has the last laugh, by 7 measly seconds, granted I did top 25 and I had gone faster here than I had in years so it still was a good day. Now off to Goshen on Thanksgiving for a 10k before the turkey.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is revenge a dish best served hot?

Well I'm in my rest week after Hartford and already my mind has started racing ahead to next tri season. The big thought on my mind a return to Ironman. While Josie and I were down in Maryland tearing up the Chesapeakeman course and cussing out Apple Maps for their inaccurate directions, the discussion of Ironman came up.
 Josie hasn't raced one and is coming off of solid training 2 years post baby.  She's had solid results and for the first time actually has a chance to put two consistent seasons together. So the game plan was this: 2013 Ironman Florida, we book the rooms for her hubby, future ITU World Champion/Supreme Court Justice, and my girlfriend/future suffering wife and support crew through Ken Glah and the fine people at Endurance Sports Travel the other thing was since Ironman Florida sells out like EPO in a French Pharmacy in July, we could book our race entry slots as well. That was until I saw the price.

The price to book a race entry slot with the travel package is about a 70.3 entry shy of an Ironman Foundation slot, not that I'm complaining it is a coveted race slot.  Likewise researching the flight options part of me is like screw Panama City I could chill in Taupo with Ken and the gang for two weeks for the money I'd be spending for a long weekend on the Gulf Coast. This got me to thinking; Should I go back to Louisville and seek to erase the dark mark on my Ironman career?

There are a couple of drawbacks to Louisville. The first is it's hot. It's not New England it's 85F in the sun with a breeze hot. It's 95F with 100% humidity and your shoe rubber will be melting to the pavement hot. It is nail your nutrition, hydration and electrolyte intake  or you will be suffering a very cruel, nasty, evil, horrifying, Dante-esque  punishment hot. It is the Kona lava fields don't have shit on this hot.
The second is I would not have a friend and training partner to push me through the race. Josie doesn't race well in the heat or the cold so Louisville is off her list.
Third, Ken doesn't sell packages for this race so it's on me to make hotel arrangements, figure out travel arrangements, find restaurants/ sources of healthy food/ bike mechanic..etc. Not a huge deal I did it in 2011 and I know guys who have done the race, but having someone take the guess work out of logistics is a huge help.  Likewise the fact that Ken sets up a spread for Ironman Widows/ Widowers, in a comfortable environment helps keeps spectators occupied and can give them people to chill with or find other activities to do with while their athletes do their thing, helps cut the boredom for spectators.
Fourth, it's in the middle of the summer. Not that this is huge issue but part of me would like to cap my season with an Ironman.  This race would fall dead center, as I would like to race in September as well.
The fifth, not that it's a huge worry I mean I'm fast but there are some real speed demons out there, but what if I have a bangout day and I make Kona. I always joked that I would just sell my kidney and go but what if I punch that magical ticket to the Big Island? Do I say yes like the 20 something year old kid without a care in the world? Or do I respond as a mature and responsible adult and decline something that I've wanted for so long, because I have other long term goals to focus on? Florida I would have a year to save up and plan, Louisville I've got 8 weeks and when Mike Rielly is taunting you with that paper all bets are off.

The pros to Louisville are also numerous. The first is I know the course. Sometimes knowing what to expect is a benefit. I know the temperature is between BBQ and Broil, I know I need Salt tabs, I know I need to training in long sleeves to acclimate. Likewise knowing the bike course I know where I could take risks where to hammer and where to ease back. I know that the Ohio River is not horrible and to get in line at 4am to have a Primo swim position. I know to hydrate and *gag* drink Perform on the bike. I know to build the run and cool the engine. Getting the unmerciful crap kicked out of me by this race in 2011 was a valuable learning experience and I plan to use that to my advantage.
Second, flights to Louisville are reasonable. I can book with Southwest, American, and most of the major carriers.  I know I'll get into Louisville at a relatively cheap and relatively easy. Likewise it's a quick and cheap cab ride from the airport to the hotels.
Third, is it is easy to walk around Louisville. Most of the hotels are in downtown. Fourth Street Live is less than 10 blocks from where I stayed last year. I can easily walk/ run to the swim start and train on the river walk. The YMCA is close and honors the AWAY program so I could get swims in. There are lots of dining options close by and there are bike lanes and fairly decent motorists, getting around is not an issue, and unless I was leaving the city no need to rent a car.
Fourth, the swim is not wetsuit legal, feel my wrath lovers of neoprene.
Fifth, running in  city means the roads are well lit ( if out after dark), there are large crowds of spectators, and no desolate stretches, which is motivating. Likewise it means there is plenty for spectators to do. Likewise the sun is still out until 8PM in August so if I finish in 13 hours or less it will be in daylight.

I have a lot to consider going into 2013, all I know is will be doing an Ironman, it will be in the South, it's just where and when.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

ING Hartford Half Marathon race report

Ok this year I had wanted to do the Hartford Marathon. A last minute entry into the Chesapeakeman Skipjack led to a lack of marathon run training going into early October.  After some conversations with my girlfriend and assessing my training; the full pull just wasn't in the cards this time around. I crushed out the mileage to do a half marathon and then some so I decided to "half ass Hartford." Part of me still felt like I was wimping out doing the shorter option especially when I went to the expo with my sibs to pick up my bib and goodie bag, but I figured if I was going to do the half then I was going to throttle it.

My PR at the distance was a 1:34 split in the 2009 Hartford Full Marathon , since then the best I was able to muster was a 1:38 at Savin Rock in 2010, I figured with the way I had been running in my half ironmans this year and with my Macca-esque chase down of Josie in the Chesapeakeman race ( where I made up 9:50 or a 10:00min deficit on the bike during a 10 mile run.) I was hoping for a sub 1:35 day, maybe even sub 1:30.

Race morning came early and it was cold. Steph and I drove into Hartford and when we made it to the Aetna garage the temperature was a balmy 30F. All week some of my friends racing with me from the Y tri club asked me what cold weather gear I would be racing in. When I responded a singlet and gloves I got the typical response of "you're nuts." I had a long sleeve tee in my bag but I had raced in colder without one so  I left Steph to unsuccessfully find a portolet. I did get a mini warm up in and figured I'd be fine. So I ditched my wind pants and long sleeves with the World's cutest gear sherpa, and made my way to the start.

As we queued up I looked for the 1:30 pace group and saw it was on the other side of the Orange netting separating the seeded runners from us Barbarians. In my haste to register I forgot to mention my race time and get a seed card. (For the half athletes looking to run sub 1:45 are placed with the elites where in the Marathon only runners who can break 3 hours are seeded.) Luckily I was right behind the divider and when the volunteers moved out of the way and took the fencing with them I was able to find the 1:35 pace group and got in front of it. About this time a guy named Pat in a black sweat shirt and tights came along side. "How fast you looking to run?" he asked  "1:30" replied, "Good I'll pace with you." We started developing our plan of attack as reps from ING, the State Police and Hartford Chamber of Commerce talked themselves up on the PA system.We were then joined by an elite looking chick with a nose ring and lime green shorts, I didn't catch her name but she joined the "unofficial 1:30 Pace squad." Essentially if the three of us could stay together we would go under 1:30.

The gun went off and the carnage began. The Half and full start together so the beginning of the race is mass pandemonium. runners with different paces and goals clogging the streets. Pat, green chick and myself darted through the crowd. I tried desperately to keep with them occasionally I was able to surge ahead. We hit the split mark about mile 2 and the marathon runners broke off and there was a lot more room to maneuver. I looked at Pat when we went through the first aid station. "I think we cooked that first mile." He nodded but was keeping the pace. As we made our way toward West Hartford he and green chick were history and I was left on my own. In my head part of me was like "well looks like I'm going to be running another 1:40ish half." I looked at the split at 3 miles 19:55 I decided to try to find a runner up the road and keep them in sight. The only one that had been consistently in front of me was a chick in a bright purple Block Island Sports jersey. So she became my first pacer. By mile 4 I looked at my watch and I was still going sub 7 so maybe 1:30 was still possible. I tried to focus on the fading runners to find targets I could catch and pass. I ran through one cheering section completely oblivious to anyone but the guy/girl I was trying to reel in. Mile 5 was slightly above 7 so I need to pick it up for mile 6. We went through the ING fan zone in this mile and as tacky as it sounds it actually was motivating. Having the screams of 100 plus fans can definitely get you to light the fire under your ass. I went through mile 6 in 6:44  then mile 7 in 6:47, I was starting to get passed by droves of runners but as I checked my splits it was because they were speeding up instead of me slowing down. Mile 8 was a little slower a 7:02 but it went slightly uphill and when we turned into Elizabeth park for miles 9 I managed to bring the pace back down as it was down hill but at mile 10 I was back above 7 minutes. I decided to push because I saw I went through mile 10 in 1:08, if I could hold 7 min miles 1:29 was do able. Mile 11 was our last in West Hartford as we made the turn onto Farmington Ave. I had tried to keep pace with Roger from HEAT ( Josie and I had raced with him at Chesapeakeman.) and it helped as I had gone 6:45 but now my quads and hamstrings were beginning to scream. In my head I kept saying to myself  "must go faster."  There were no mile markers so I didn't know how close I was coming to the finish. We ran past gas stations, the cathedral,  various shops, and more guys saying "you're almost there" than I care to count but it wasn't until he hit the train station that I knew we were almost there. I saw the the barriers and the mums in the dividers start, I saw the arch and I looked at the watch it was just hitting 1:29:30. I pushed and hit the line just after it crossed 1:30. No crazy arms in the air, or fist pump to celebrate, just a click of the watch and a well deserved PR official time was 1:30:28.... about 4 minutes faster than my 09 marathon split and 7 minutes faster than my best straight half.

I grabbed some water from the massive fountain and my foil blanket from the volunteers and made my way toward the far end of the finish chute. I saw Steph and we met up. She handed me my long sleeve T shirt and turned my foil blanket into a kilt. Doug from the Waterbury Y tri club came over, he had gone a little slower than expected but a 1:35 was still a PR for him. Alexei came in a few minutes later pulling a 1:38 on a sore knee in his first half. All in all it was a good day.  Now I have a few short road races coming up and 2013 to plan.


Friday, April 27, 2012

That light in the distance ain't the sun.. it's the A train.

That's how I've been feeling the last few weeks. Rev3 is about 6 weeks and counting away and I've only done one 50+  mile ride.
running is coming along steadily and I've really felt motivated in the tempo runs I've done over the past few weeks. I've consistently been putting in 20 mile weeks, so while I'm not in Ironman or Marathon Shape yet  a sub 1:50 half marathon split is definitely going to happen and if I have energy after the bike I might be able to break the 1:40 barrier again.
The swim is, as always, my strength. I've been putting 10k yards a week for the last month so I know I'll be in good shape out of the water.

The last two weeks have shed new light on why I have had a love hate relationship with the bike. Two weeks ago on went on a training ride with Alexei , Rinaldi and Neil. I was doing fine on flats and down hills. When we started the climbs my lower back would start flaring up as soon as we hit the inclines, and I was dropped like a bad habit. I had tweaked my bike seat during the winter so I wouldn't be so squashed on my aerobars.

But after hearing comments like , "Dude it looks like you're planking." and losing 5-10 minutes to the group on every climb. Apparently it backfired quite literally.  My back was doing all the work while climbing causing my relatively short rides to be painful ordeals. The thing is even before the tweak my back's always acted up on rides. I've heard the

 Last week after taking some of Rinaldi's comments into account, I moved my seat radically forward and pulled my aerobars back to try to find a more powerful climbing position. Well while my back was taking less stress, my bike handling went the way of the dodo. The Stomper felt like skittish when I hit the brakes and did not want to corner.  So I put my seat back a little bit further almost to the point where it was before I did my original adjustment and I have the areobars back but not to the extreme last week. I'm hoping that I can find the happy medium between bike handling and climbing power.

A friend has offered to take me for a bike fit, while I hate having to get help from others just because I hate feeling indebted to people likewise it will be at least two weeks before I can schedule any time to get it done. But if it can help me unlock my potential and get me to like riding again I'm all for it because I'm starting to get sick of my reputation of leading the swim, getting dropped on the bike, and despite valiant runs being too far back to be a factor.  But for right now I've got to keep making temporary fixes hoping I can stop the bleeding, and get myself into a powerful yet comfortable position before I can see the experts. So that's where I stand right now. I need to bike more but I need to bike comfortably so my other sports won't suffer and I can bike more consistently without having to take 1-3 days to unlock my back.

So here's to hopefully better rides

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Might this be the next thing from the wonderful minds of WTC

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Season's taking shape

Well Tuesday night was the Greater Waterbury YMCA Tri Club kick off meeting. Among other events going on that night was a raffle for free entries into the Rev3 Quassy Half and Olympic, The Pat Griskus Sprint and Olympic and the Hopkins Inn Triathlon at Lake Waramaug ( essentially the revival of the Lake Waramaug Tri on the original route.)

Let's cut to the chase my luck at raffles still sucks and I came up empty handed granted I really could have used that entry into Rev3. I was able to register for the Griskus and Waramaug Sprints with a one night only discount. So my season looks like this so far:

June 16 Patriot Half East Freetown, MA

July 11 26th annual Pat Griskus Sprint Middlebury, CT

July 21 1st Annual Hopkins Inn Tri Washington, CT

My hope is to register for Rev3 Half Quassy before entry fills up so hopefully that will be part of next week's pay well spent. As mentioned earlier all New England race directors decided to front stack all of their Olympic distance races before Age group Nationals in Vermont. So I'm not sure if I'll be doing an Oly this year. I've thought about Rev3 Old Orchard Beach but if I'm going that far North I'd rather race a half. If Quassy fills up then I'll definitely do Old Orchard as I want to do at least two halves this season, and if I have the cash and play my cards right, a full iron distance race to finish off the season.

Next year I'm hoping to either go back to Louisville or another WTC sanctioned event to try to punch my ticket to the big dance, but this year is going to be trying to rebuild to the level I used to be at. When I was hungry, when I could eat lightning and crap thunder, when my goal was clear, Big Island, Pro Card, Big Results. While the pro card maybe a stretch ( more of like a stretch, long bike ride and a plethora of performance enhancing drugs...I mean natural and legal supplements.) I'm hoping for some big results to get me moving in the right direction.

Training's been pretty consistent, the run miles are still a little low but I'll be putting up some big numbers in the next few weeks. But so far I have three races. They are pretty fast courses with pretty stacked fields so the training needs to stay consistent and my attitude needs to get back into that "I can do it because I'm hot fire. And I'll school your ass like Macca" mode instead of the "I'm a whiny coward trying to survive." mode. That's going to be the hard part.