Ironman Lake Placid Race Report – A Pleasant Nightmare

ironman-lake-placid-banner

A lot of race blogs have a tag line in the header, “It’s about the journey” for example.  When I was considering one for myself I settled on “This is my year” from the total commitment I decided to make toward training in 2013 and the departure from some of my usual antics of the past.  I made a conscious choice that I would give everything I had to Ironman Lake Placid, teaming up with QT2, and starting down a regimented training path in June of 2012.  To conform completely to the plan I had to make some sacrifices, giving up soccer (for the first time in over 20 years!), snowboarding, late nights with friends, and hopes of a normal social life with a full time job and 20+ hour workout weeks, including up to 14 hours on the weekends.  I knew that there would be no promises, but with the countless hours of training came tons of progress, and I grew increasingly excited to see how it would translate on race day.

Placid Sticker

In 2011 I went 10:46 in my first Ironman.  I rode one century ride, rarely ran off the bike, and peaked in the high 18’s before Placid.  This past year I averaged 5 bricks a week, running sub 7’s in zone after 7 hour bike rides, and completed 10 century’s leading up to the race.  I cut down my swim TT’s from 2:00’s to 1:30’s/100y.  I ‘d been eating right (having consulted with a dietician for a specific nutrition plan and ideal BMI), fueling with race day supplements in every workout and recovering better than ever before.    I gave up alcohol 2 months prior to the race, and was seldom going out anymore, or leaving early, to be sure I could get the right amount of rest after some LONG workouts.  When the offer to move out to the west coast came about I had to make a list to prioritize my time, #1) Work, #2) Training, #3) anything else, but I rarely got past the first two.  When things became rough, sometimes barely manageable I thought, ok, I’ll get to this after Placid, just need to make it to Placid!  Still, even with overtime and hours in traffic daily, somehow I managed to get my volume in, or very close to it.  I bragged on Facebook earlier in the year when I completed my 100th workout in a row, exactly as prescribed, without missing a minute, but that was under some very different circumstances.  Survival became the theme these last two months, but I felt despite the adversity, relocating cross country, starting another job, having my car broken into and gear stolen, moving to a city with freakishly trafficked roads (not ideal for driving or riding), and being on my own I was able to get in what I needed for a breakthrough performance on race day.

The thing that I admire about Ironman yet despise at the same time is that in competition, as in life, there are no promises.  People get sick, injured, experience major events, races get canceled last minute (NYC Marathon), and on the darkest side of the spectrum you have this past year’s Boston Marathon.  Equipment fails, the weather turns, a driver tries to cut around a road closure barrier, all things outside of one’s control.  There are a million ways to have a bad day yet only one way to have YOUR perfect race.  It’s a lot of pressure, and to add to things for a guy like me it’s generally a single opportunity as in one A race a year.  I derive a lot of worth out of my performance.  I’m not like some of the big names I learned this past season but I still feel I have it in my potential to be good, even if not great.   People have started asking me questions like I know what I’m talking about and it feels good.  I put a lot of weight on Lake Placid and there was nothing that I did that was wrong, still in the end it wasn’t to be my day.

Race Recap –

View from our hotel room of Lake Placid

View from our hotel room of Lake Placid

I started the weekend well, getting picked up by my mom in Albany after a 6 hour flight with only a couple hour drive to Placid.  She rented a room at the Comfort Inn, right on the Lake for us and the rest of my family to stay (I can’t express how appreciative I am for this, thanks mom!).  Unlike 2011 where I walked around touring the area up until very late pre-race night, this year I made it my duty to limit time on my feet as much as possible.  The day before the race, after checking my bike, I spent in a chair on the lake listening to music, loading up on carbs and only getting up to pee.  As lame as it sounds I even kept my HR monitor on as a game to see how low I could get my heart rate.  When dinner came around my family went out to a nice restaurant to eat and despite not seeing them in a long time and it being a beautiful night I opted to stay at the hotel to keep off my feet.  I slept like a baby both the night of the race and two nights before, perhaps only waking once in 8 hours, a pre-race first!  The morning of I ate the protocol QT2 breakfast, got dropped off at transition and even brought a chair so that I could stay off my feet until the very last minute.

Mirror Lake Pre-Raceday

Mirror Lake Pre-Raceday

Pre race rituals

Pre race rituals

At an Endurance Nation meeting I attended with friends they talked about hitting mile 18 on race day, and depending on how you executed your race plan it being literally at mile 18 of the run, maybe not until the 20’s on a good day, or even in the single digits if the bike was handled poorly, going out way too hard.  I knew it would come and was hoping it would be toward the last few miles, since I knew I was experienced enough not to make the rookie mistakes they described.  Unfortunately, this race day my mile 18 occurred before the gun even went off on the walk up from transition to Mirror Lake.  As I was putting on my wetsuit, my last step before heading to the swim start, I bent down and experienced a sudden jolting pain in my lower back, as if someone had hit my tailbone with a small hammer.  I couldn’t believe how painful it was hobbling up toward the water, thinking the whole time THIS ISN’t HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!   It’s almost as if someone had a Welby Voodoo doll and was sticking it with needles directly into the lower back. I prayed it would go away after the swim, after all there was nothing else to really do but hope.

The pain diminished slightly, from a 7 to a 2 or 3 before getting in the water.  I couldn’t sense it slowing me down but when I got out after my second lap and saw the clock showing a 1:10+ swim I knew it wasn’t going to be my day.  The run down to transition was painful so I took it slow.  By the time I got on the bike it had migrated down from my lower back into the top of my glutes.  My number to hit on the bike was 153bpm, which I averaged consistently through 112, but where I was hitting wattage in the 200’s at 10bpm lower in my training rides with the pain I was now only capable of 180’s at 10bpm higher!  A similar thing happened to me at Muskoka 70.3 where I placed 2nd in my AG but in a 140 mile race it was too much to push through.  I was targeted to go 5:30, having gone 5:36 in 2011, but was expecting to have much more strength off the bike to run a fast marathon.  I got off the bike in 5:41 with pain so intense I questioned whether I would even try or just throw in the towel.  Then I saw my coach, pointing to my back and grimacing, he told me to keep going and that it would loosen up.

2013 vs 2011

The rest of the run was bad, but not as bad as I thought, a testament to my durability and training that I was still able to run a 3:30 through the pain (not the 3:09-3:15 I was targeting).  The reason that I described this race as a pleasant nightmare is that it was heartbreaking to know it was over with 138 miles to go but the crowd make it impossible to not at least smile, especially coming up Rich Clark Hill and all the way into the oval.  Seeing my family and hearing them scream my name brought great momentary happiness and took me out of the pain cave for a short while.  It was great to finally meet a friend, Alyssa Godesky, on the course and run with her for a few miles.  She had her game face on but she was still super encouraging, I’m glad she did so well!  From the pictures I think it’s clear how different the experience was this time versus last.  My face shows a far different expression from my first time –

Placid 2011 - Happy and pain free

Placid 2011 – Happy and pain free

Placid 2013 - Complete sufferfest

Placid 2013 – Complete sufferfest

So why did I have a debilitating back issue only in the few minutes leading up to the race??  Was it putting on the wetsuit that did it? I don’t think so.  Sitting upright on the plane for 6 hours a couple days before (never volunteer to sit in the emergency evacuation isle!  Lesson learned), sleeping on a couch and not a bed for the weeks leading up, driving the clutch for hours in traffic around workouts, overtraining, not doing enough core??  Any one or combination could be to blame.  I will surely figure it out moving forward.  I’ve already seen a specialist who suggested getting a massage a few days prior and warming up with some prescribed exercises.  I’m confident that I will figure it out.  The greater question is is this really what I want to be doing to myself? I put so much of my identity into one event and feel no resolution.  Now I am left with an additional year and a possible reoccurring outcome at the cost of another 1000 hours and thousands of dollars invested.  Is it really worth it??  I feel I have some sole searching to do before I decide but would argue that it would be a terrible waste to not continue after all I have put in.  In addition training is who I am.  It’s not all about what happens on race day but what you go through and overcome to get there.  Anyway, material for another blog post I suppose.70.3 Worlds

Next up 70.3 Worlds, my shot at some redemption in 2013.  Some good words I appreciated from Jessie on race day (paraphrased) – expect the worst, prepare for it, be ready for it.  Not just pertaining to my recent back issue but with killer climbs and temps in the 100+ in Vegas I’ll be certain to prepare for the worst to in this next 5 week block.  I am excited more than anything else to race with the Hansen’s after qualifying with Dave almost a year ago and to see how well Jennie does coming off her big win.

1st Annual Placid Speedo Run

1st Annual Placid Speedo Run

East Coast to West Coast in 2 weeks – My LA move

No one would argue that it isn’t hard starting fresh in a new place.  Now add to that moving 2500 miles solo, on 3 weeks’ notice, in the prime of Ironman training and in the midst of the Jeep getting broken into and most of my gear getting stolen, and add a 70.3 into the mix and you’ve got yourself a real challenge!   Sitting here at my new place off Hollywood Blvd, with all possessions scattered around intact, I still really don’t know how I did it, but to be  truthful the effort was not on my own as it took a contribution of many friends to make all this happen.  Looking back I am incredibly grateful and would like to use this post as an opportunity to express my appreciation to some truly wonderful friends.

Timeline

LA Timeline

Saying goodbye to 137 Livingston was a little tough.  It’s been a good home for me and my intermittent roommates over the last 3 years.  Harder was packing up and emptying over 1000lbs of its clutter in preparation for the new tenants.

Lots to move in one day!!

Lots to move in one day!!

Thank god for Nick, one of my most recent roommates, borrowing his company’s truck so that we could transport all the clutter, including couches, desks and other large and difficult to carry objects to the dump.  I planned to pack/clean/move in the morning and be done in enough time to leave and arrive in Lake Placid at a reasonable hour for one last east coast training trip with tri friends before heading west.  I did not anticipate the close to 10 hours it would take to transport waste, have the carpets cleaned and tidy up, so by the time I left it was pushing 8pm.  Still, coming off of little sleep the night before from my going away party at Pearl Street, with Nick’s help I managed to get the move out done, drive the 6 hours to Lake Placid (arriving just after 2am) get up in the morning to ride 3 loops (125 miles and 8,260 ft of climbing in just under 7 hours) before packing up and driving back in the morning.

Lake Placid Training Trip 2

LP Training trip set up by Charlie Watson with Joe Drees, Kristina Marquez, Joe Rosati and others

LP Training trip set up by Charlie Watson with Joe Drees, Kristina Marquez, Joe Rosati and others

Beautiful Lake Placid bike course

Beautiful Lake Placid bike course

By the time I arrived at my friends in EA it was pushing 7 so it felt like a race jumping out of the car to get my ride and run in, hitting Subway minutes before their 10pm close.  And, from there I traveled back to 137 to load what was left of my possessions into the rental car, which I had borrowed while my Jeep was in the shop getting repaired from the break-in, just barely fitting it all.

This picture doesn't do it justice

This picture doesn’t do it justice, felt like a game of packing Tetris!

What a weekend, this was just the beginning!!!

The following week was one of the toughest in my life.  There was the obstacle of finishing up at work and tying off lose ends, arranging for all last minute moving ordeals, preparing for my half Ironman in MD over the weekend, saying goodbye to friends and fitting in training on top of a nagging calf strain that had me very worried.  Monday I pick up the Jeep at the repair shop and met a friend to install the soft top under the hard one (special thanks to Mike Lundeen).  Tuesday I met a friend to pick up all my books (thanks Jay Armstrong) and dropped off my bike at another friend’s for transport to Eagleman (thanks Jon Bottoms), narrowly missing a deer on the 219 that night. Wednesday with the help of Corey Vickard we managed to box up all remaining possessions and drop off at the Depew Amtrack station.

Everything just barely fitting

Everything just barely fitting

I still remember an eerie feeling when the teller said the total for 400lbs transported from Buffalo to LA was only $250.  I asked him “are you sure this is safe” to which he replied “we don’t advertise this service, but we do it.”  I told Corey I’d be happy if 70% of my stuff made it to LA, he said “try 50%.”  Thursday I got the call for my Jeep with the relocation service I had arranged.  The man I met at the drop spoke very little and was wearing flip flops in the pouring rain.  He had me drive the jeep up a very steep and slippery ramp and explained in broken English “forvard good, backvard VERY VERY BAD!”

Note the flip-flops

Note the flip-flops

He had me sign a waiver expressing that the transportation service was not liable for damage caused by the driver, weather, road, transport, acts of God or basically anything else.  Before leaving with the Jeep precariously placed on the bed I said “I am very anxious, should I be nervous” to which he just laughed and drove off.  I presumed that was the last time I’d ever see the Jeep again.

Jeep 2

Friday after a nice goodbye at work I was dropped off at the airport (thanks Colleen) and a short flight/train/walk later was at my friend’s apartment in Baltimore MD.  I cannot begin to express how kind and thoughtful my friend Carly and her boyfriend Brian were for not only housing me but reducing all the stress I was feeling by being as pleasant an accommodating as can be.  Saturday afternoon I took a brief rental car ride down to sunny Cambridge to meet my friends Jon and Aubrey to register and rack bikes.  Thanks again Jon for not only transporting my bike but tuning it as well, which I’m sure was the cause of a new bike split PR of 33.7mph.  I spent the night in an EconoLodge outside of town and in the morning completed Eagleman in 4:32 (6 out of 120), not a great time but decent considering everything I was going through (race recap to follow).

Racking bikes with Buffalo friends at transition

Racking bikes with Buffalo friends at transition

After the race there was hardly any time to appreciate the accomplishment as I received a call from the vehicle transportation service claiming that my Jeep would arrive in LA the following morning (12 hours before I would) and that I would have to be there in person to pick it up and pay in cash otherwise it would continue down to San Diego.  This was particularly alarming because I was told that it would take 7-9 days (only 4 days had passed) and promised I would be kept up to date on its whereabouts however this was the first notice I received.  The transportation service was very threatening, claiming they were in their rights to do whatever they wanted, and that the person I negotiated with was a middle man who just wanted my money.  The person (middle man) I spoke with who was very friendly up front would not answer any of my calls and it took my Dad calling from a different number to finally reach him.  I plan to write the better business bureau on this guy, never do business with Envision Auto Relocation!!  As a silver lining, while all of this was taking place my friends Jon and Aubrey both received roll down spots to Vegas, sticking around until 8pm to receive them.

The next day I packed up all my stuff, bike neatly packaged and prepared by Jon Bottoms (thanks again!) and boarded a plane to LA.  Between my $10k bike getting handled by the TSA in a soft case and the whole Jeep fiasco I have never been so stressed in my entire life, but still managed to sleep a couple hours on the flight.

Bike Box

The second I landed in LA I received a call from the transportation service.  Even though they had offered to move the drop off date to the following morning they were wondering if I could pick up the Jeep right away and a location near the airport.  Since I didn’t have a bank in LA this meant I had to take out the maximum $800 from an ATM and ask my friend who was picking me up from the airport to front the rest (thanks again Jeannine!).  The shady pick-up location was in the parking lot of a K-Mart.  The K-Mart lot was well lit but the driver had moved his truck to a completely dark corner.  Not only couldn’t I see the vehicle, which I was supposed to inspect for damage, but the driver was almost completely hidden in the darkness as well.  I am pretty certain had I not been with my friend as back-up I would have been murdered that night.  Anyway, I gave the man my money and drove off in my seemingly ok Jeep.  Somehow after all the stress it had worked out alright, and my bike was in one piece as well.

I tried to take a picture of the $1150 in my hand like it might serve as documentation of the transaction

I tried to take a picture of the $1150 in my hand like it might serve as documentation of the transaction

So, after a couple insane weeks I have finally arrived in sunny southern California.  There’s still much to do, figure out training in the new area, meet with some new people, find more permanent living and start my new job, however I am happy to have made it this far.  I hope to have some better more exciting and less stressful adventures in the near future.  For now I am content with excitement of discovering a new place (although Hollywood isn’t all that it was cracked up to be, not quite sure why young girls come here to become famous – stay at home!).

Landing in LA

Landing in LA

Surfs up!

Only 2 weeks to go!!!

It was about this time last week I was really starting to get excited about all the cool summer activities I had coming up.  First Boston to see my sister graduate from Law School, then Placid for a mini training trip, Eagleman shortly after, and I had just signed up for QT2 Lake Placid camp in June which I was very happy about.  The details of Vegas for Worlds were getting buttoned up plus I had enough in savings for Nationals in Milwaukee and was just about to pull the trigger on a training bike from EBay when I got the call about LA.  I had been holding back for months, afraid to spend money or make plans so it figures things would happen just as I commit to a summer in Buffalo.  But I’m not complaining, that’s just how life is and I’m more than happy with the outcome.

The timing on the other hand could have been a little better (still not complaining).  I have two weeks now to get my life in order, on top of back to back 22 hour training weeks, and a full time 40 hour/week job (which also happens to include multiple full day training sessions), before packing up and leaving to Eagleman 70.3, then straight to California.  If you do the math on a 24 hour day, take out 7 hours for sleeping (which should really be 8-9 with the amount of workouts I am doing), 3.5 on average for training, 8.5 for work plus transit and meals that leaves about 17 minutes/night that I’ve had to stare at my mess of a room and think “ok, I’m going to do something about this tomorrow”

The mess just keeps adding up!

The mess just keeps adding up!

I’ve learned, despite hearing the contrary from athletes and coaches in the past, that it isn’t very hard to work a full time job on top of 20+ hour training weeks.  What’s hard is doing anything else!  My life is like water in a pot and as long as I only have to focus on the same key things (work, training and friends/family) there’s enough space, but add anything else, such as recently, and it all starts to spill over.  The scary thing is how at peace I am with it.  Perhaps I’ve conditioned my mind to deal with the stress or maybe I’m just disillusioned, but honestly I’m not one bit scared about the future.  I’m a little nervous of, for a brief time, having everything I own in transit, my Jeep on a flatbed and my bike in storage on the plane.  I’m upset to leave friends, colleges and teammates on the East Coast, and a little anxious about tossing the majority of my worldly possessions, but apprehensive about the move, not one bit!

I have friends with homes and so many possessions.  When I go over to visit I get nervous about how much they have and me at 29 with seemingly nothing.  I recently placed everything that matters to me in a room and was shocked to realize it only represented a couple large boxes.  But at the same time I consider it freeing that all I need are a few personal items of emotional significance to get bye (in addition to pictures which reside on thumb drives and the web).  I’m not saying one way is better than another but it’s nice not to have much to lose, after all you can’t take it with you, figuratively and literally in my case.  The one item that I am undecided on is something of significant personal importance, a display model of Spike the Ultimate dinosaur, the first product I ever worked on as an engineer  –

Fisher-Price Spike the Ultimate Dinosaur

Fisher-Price Spike the Ultimate Dinosaur

It means a lot to me, and will have to if it wants to make it to LA because I’m guessing it will cost a TON to transport 2500 miles.  Everything else I won’t lose sleep over.

Speaking of losing sleep I’ve been up real late every night recently.  Last night I finished my run at 11pm, the night before after midnight.  But despite investigating moving options, booking flights, arranging temporary living, canceling utilities, memberships, etc I haven’t missed a minute of workouts so far, going into a long 15 hour weekend.  These next two weeks will be interesting to say the least but I welcome the challenge.

Bring it on!

California: The Next Chapter

Beach View Cropped

I began writing this post in my head September of last year when I first went out to visit my friends in LA and absolutely fell in love with it.  Today, almost 9 months later, after some close calls and an emotional rollercoaster ride, I am happy to announce that I will be taking the next step in my life having accepted a job in El Segundo California with Mattel.

Map

For those of you that know me this should come as no surprise.  I have had some great times with friends in Buffalo over the last ten years but started to question whether this is the right place for me.  Other than the world being a large place, having traveled around it to China and back a few times for work, I have grown to understand myself more than ever lately and what’s important to me.  I value passion and the pursuit of bettering one’s self which I’ve found a great avenue for with work and in triathlon, and as always seeking fun with friends and family.  That is all I need really!  But recently running laps around Delaware Park late at night in the freezing cold, spending hundreds of hours riding thousands of miles in my living room, and searching the bars after hours for fun but only finding regret have begged me to ask the question what am I doing to myself??

I appreciate all the opportunities I have been presented with over the years.  I am fortunate for all the great experiences I have had from high school to college and after with athletics and friends.  In life I don’t believe it’s where you end up but the choices you make and opportunities taken advantage of that matter and I believe this is one of those opportunities.

I do not expect to move out to the West Coast and turn pro-athlete, become rich and eventually settle down with Katie Perry.  But I do expect to train year round in an environment that is accommodating and supportive, drive my Jeep on the beach with the top down and doors off, and spend time with other young active professionals outside instead of at bars or in their homes.  I have nothing but good things to say about Fisher-Price and look forward to furthering my career while staying at Mattel and continuing to provide the world with toys, a profession I can be happy and proud of.

My first time looking into the Pacific Ocean at my new home

My first time looking into the Pacific Ocean at my new home

I am old enough to know that life is short but young enough to have my whole life ahead of me.  I am anxious and excited to take this next step.  And if you are ever on the West Coast remember me because you’ll have a place to stay in my cramped closet of an apartment on the beach.

Bassman Half Ironman Race Report (It’s About Time!)

It’s about time I wrote this race report, going on a week since I participated in my first triathlon of the 2013 season, the Bassman Half Ironman.  It’s also about time I wrote a race report for an actual triathlon, as I was beginning to forget what all this training was for.  Reading friends recaps of San Juan and Galveston had me worried that I was getting behind, but Bassman turned out to be an excellent introductory experience to get the rust off and see where I’m at after a dedicated winter training with QT2 Systems.

It was an interesting weekend for sure.  The race was located in Bass River State Park in NJ, which is pretty far north for a May race, while most are traveling south to Florida, Texas or further to get early season competition.  One positive is that New Jersey is drivable, as I continue my poor man race calendar of triathlons within driving distance (excluding Vegas).  I was also able to use this as an opportunity to visit friends and family stopping in Philadelphia on the way down and Westchester after to spend a day with my parents.

I rented a car from Hurtz to prevent putting over 1000 miles on the Jeep.  The difference in gas mileage, 40mpg compared to 20mpg almost covered the rental cost.

I rented a car from Hurtz to prevent putting over 1000 miles on the Jeep. The difference in gas mileage, 40mpg compared to 20mpg almost covered the rental cost.

Only in triathlon should you pack a car for a weekend with what seems like enough equipment for months where any one missed item can ruin the trip

Only in triathlon must you pack a million things for one weekend where any one missed item can ruin your whole trip

As I drove down to Philly on Friday I noticed my drive time creeping up, from 3 hours to 3:15, 3:50, 4+, and as I got closer I found out why, a Winnebago had caught fire closing down the thruway, so my restaurant dinner with friends turned into a fast-food rest stop instead (not the best prerace carboload option).  I made the best of it though combining slimy old pasta from a pizza place with Roy Roger chicken tenders and tomatoes from the condiment isle, along with pretzels and Gatorade from the gas station.

Not the best options

Not the best options

Yum

Yum

I decided to camp to save money.   The park which was the race site had lean-to’s that were inexpensive and far closer than any hotel.  Only problem was although the weather had been nice that week at night it got VERY cold and I had to wake up multiple times to throw more wood on the fire experiencing several cycles from sweltering hot to freezing cold.  In addition I somehow failed to realize while packing that when camping you need a light source at night, which prompted a forced bed time of 8:30pm.

My Lean-to

My Lean-to

Pre-race Dinner

Pre-race Dinner

Even with a super early bed time and frequent wake ups to pee and change the fire I somehow managed to sleep until 6am (almost 10 hours!) which ended up providing nowhere near enough time to pack up the car, eat breakfast and drive over.  I didn’t enter transition until after the race was supposed to have started with the sprint but fortunately everything was behind and my wave was delayed by almost an hour, which was particularly great because I had forgotten my gels in the car.  It was a surreal race start as people were walking in and out of transition throughout.  Even at the end no one checked my number as I walked away with thousands of dollars of equipment, presumably my own.

Race Recap

The temperature at the beginning of the race was in the high 40’s to low 50’s with a water temp of 62, which felt pretty warm.  My instructed swim plan was to go out hard the first 400 yards then settle into my pace for a split of 31:30-33:30, my previous swim PR being 34:19.  This was my first open water swim of the season and although I am pretty comfortable in the water I ended up getting a little flustered at the start, having difficulty breathing, and even had to stop for a few seconds to regain my composure.  After that I started passing people pretty easily.   It always bothers me when people go out too fast.  In the entire race I was only passed by one person, an intermediate distance racer on the bike, which means many people were doing something wrong.  I exited the water in a time of 31:37 (I guess the course was a little short but I’ll take the PR).

My bike goal was to maintain an average HR of 159 and lock into my power after 15 minutes or so.  It was my first time racing by HR and I loved it!!  I experienced an issue at the start of the bike, the same as in my last race where a muscle in my hip felt like it was pulled, making it very difficult.  At first I thought it was the end of my race but the pain diminished over time and eventually went away.  I think it might be tied to the cold weather conditions as they were the same as Muskoka where it happened last time.

Bassman Bike

Overall I was pleased with the execution of the ride, although not so much by the pace.  It was a flat course but there was a good amount of wind.  I had gone faster in my century a week earlier at a Z1 effort but who knows, that’s racing.  I managed to pee 3 times, at the same downhill on each lap, also coincidentally the same part where my coach passed me each time in the opposite direction.  My least favorite part was a section of road with consistent pavement separations, bumps, which are not fun on the crotch.  Otherwise it was a nice scenic ride.

The run was my desert in this race.  I had been itching for an opportunity to push 13.1 miles, coming off some really good training runs, and was dying to see what I could do on a flat course.  Unfortunately running off the bike was very difficult, for more than just me on this morning.  The cold combined with being in aero tightened up some muscles and reduced my stride significantly.   The plan was to go out in 6:15 and hold a HR of 169.  I went out in 6:09 but with an average HR of only 155bpm and from there decided to go solely on feel.

Bassman Run

Where most half distance triathlons have me counting the miles down, wishing for it to end and constantly questioning if I can do it, this was very different.  I was actually looking forward to the next mile, in my mind thinking ‘ok, after 3 I’ll test the legs’, ‘after 10 I’ll open it up’, and finally ‘I wonder how fast I can go in the last mile’.    It was as if the whole course was a downhill.  I’m happy to feel like I am finally recognizing my speed potential in the run and excited to see where it will go from here, sub 6’s???  My only complaint on the run was that the course was not clearly marked.  I went the wrong way more than once and there was a moment in the race where I had to ask a traffic cop “is this where I go?” to which he replied “I think I saw some runners go that way” (very encouraging!).  I also despised running in sand for part of the course, twisting my ankle when I looked up to wish a fellow QT2er good luck.

Transitions – These were simply terrible.  I took a combined 4:30, much of which spent putting on arm warmers and gloves (2 minutes slower than the competition), but for this race I wasn’t concerned about taking my time in transition.  This race was more about data, on the bike and run, and I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed out there.

Results2

In the end I was very pleased by this performance.  It’s a 13 minute PR from last year, a sign that I’m headed in the right direction, but there’s still plenty of work needed.  I consider myself a good runner and aspiring triathlete yet I wasn’t the fastest runner out there.  It takes a solid swim, nasty bike and holding it together for a strong run, the complete package, as was demonstrated by Matt Curbeau with a winning time of of 4:10.  I’m a long way away but I feel this race shows I’m headed in the right direction.

IMAG0841B

Post Race Birthday Dinner

Post Race Birthday Dinner

I should also add that this was my first race since joining QT2, a team race, and a very good experience.   It was nice to have so many teammates on the course and supporters in the crowd.  In addition it was an awesome first to race along side my coach Vinny Johnson who absolutely crushed it, just seconds behind Curbeau!

Bring on the next one!! #QT2

Progress

People often ask me, “What’s your goal time for Placid?” My response continues to be the same. I don’t know. I think it’s foolish to make a prediction on something with so many variables out of your control and that’s so far away. I’ve seen it before, and in the end no one remembers what you say you should have done, only what you did. My goal for 2011 was simple, to make it to the start line healthy and uninjured. For 2013 my goal is a little different, but not by much, to do every workout in prescribed zones, practice proper fueling always, remain diligent on nutrition and let my training speak for itself on race day. With less than 3 weeks now until the start of race season 2013 I’d like to take some time to reflect back on these last 6 months and the progress that I have seen through QT2.

Swimming

No one ever said, when referring to Ironman, it’s all about the swim.

As a triathlete swimming is my Achilles heel. It’s what separates me from the next level and serves as a short course barrier to the podium. A conscious decision was made way back at the end of 2012, with this in mind, to limit my volume in the pool to allow more time to build strength on the bike and run, the heart of Ironman. I would love to have been getting in laps with my coach 6 days a week, like the Hansen’s and Coach Mary Eggers in Rochester, but that simply wasn’t in the cards. Instead we traded quantity for quality and the results, though mild, have been better than I expected –

 

Swim

I purposely didn’t include any times because to be frank I’m still embarrassed by my swimming ability.  I’d like to focus on how far I’ve come, not necessarily this point in time. The fall after Lake Placid 2011 where I swam a 1:10 I got in the pool and struggled to maintain 2:00/100m on a 1000 meter TT.  Today I swim faster on my easy recovery swims and thanks to dedication to form my stroke has progressed significantly (still much room for improvement).  Bottom line is I don’t have to swim ‘fast’ to achieve my goals, as the swim is roughly only 1/10th of the event.  If my improvement in the last months translates to my time I will be more than satisfied with the few minutes saved.  As encouragement I will be thinking of QT2 Pro Athletes Jessie Donavan and Jennie Hansen as I go into T1, who were the last pro’s out of the water in Placid but finished 1st and 2nd respectively overall.

Biking

Biking has undoubtedly been my main focus this winter.  Tabata intervals, high zone work, long rides (with an emphasis on the LONG) and running off the bike.  I can clearly remember a conversation I had last season when I was bragging, having just completed a 3 hour ride on the trainer, which at the time was a significant accomplishment.  I was told by a rodie that you don’t need 3 hour rides to maintain fitness on the bike through the winter, and perhaps my coach was in tune with this advice because I wasn’t prescribed any 3 hour trainer rides on my long days in 2013.  Instead my calendar was replaced with 4+ hour rides, my shortest being 3:31 and longest 4:42 (8 out of the last 10 at 4+ hours).  Of course there’s a little divisional factor for trainer rides vs. rode but for the purpose of Facebook and blog posts I prefer not to mention this.

In 2012 I rode 3 days a week and did one brick a week, if that.  In 2013 that number was bumped up to 5 on average (some fewer, just completed my first 7 day brick last week).  In addition, every one of my long rides was preceded by a run.  Here’s a small snapshot of what I’m talking about with the month of January –

January 2013

I’m not sure exactly how much my biking has progressed.  It is difficult to tell for sure having been indoors and with variance in equipment and power output.  Below is a comparison of a power test data over my last 10 months –

Power

I’m not quite sure where I stand today as a time trialist but I am overly confident that it is leaps and bounds from where I was this time last year.

Running

I find it a little shocking but not so surprising where my run is having been prepped in advance by a fellow QT2 athlete who told me after a season with the team she was running faster through the half marathon in a 70.3 than she was running open in college (at a D1A program).  My mileage has decreased substantially since college, but my times are just as competitive.  Unfortunately I don’t have an exact race to show this progress but I have many sources of data to support the claim.  I ran a cold and blustery off season 10 miles at the Y10 in 0:57:57 (5:48/mile) compared to 1:01:12 last year.  Despite a late start I finished the Shamrock Run in 26:48 chip time (1:12 late to the starting line of a 5,500 participant race!), which is comparable to what I was racing in college.

But my main source of encouragement is a trend, not a race, as I’ve learned very quickly that it’s not about running fast, it’s about lasting in the endurance world.  A sub 16 min 5k means nothing at mile 23 of the marathon almost 10 hours into a race.  What I have seen is a drastic swing in zone performance.  Here is a comparison of Sunday long runs over a period of just 3 months –

Pace

At the tail end of my 3/24 run I was holding 6:05 pace at the same HR as my 1/6 run when I was only holding 6:44’s!

This winter the run has been all about building durability.  Unfortunately I won’t know exactly how I stand until July 28th but I am confident and anxious to finally recognize my true speed potential at this distance.

Nutrition/Fueling

Fueling has been one of the easiest adjustments to my training, hitting my wallet harder than anything else.  It can be expensive to take in performance drinks, gels and recover fuel the way you would on race day in every workout but the effect has been monumental!  I used to be exhausted after a three hour ride, often bonking, whereas today I can get off the bike after 4+ hours and go out for a 50 minute run, feeling perfectly normal afterward.  I’ve been told that for true Ironman training it is not just the work but recovery that truly makes the difference and I know I could not do this without the proper aids.

Fuel

Practicing proper nutrition is another story completely!  To maintain the correct caloric intake I’ve reverted to eating the same things day in and day out for as long as I can remember.  Pork/asparagus/potatoes, turkey/brussel sprouts/yams, chicken/brockly/pasta, and on Friday afternoon Zetti’s pizza, my only junk meal.  The meals aren’t that bad as I look forward to them every night at 11pm post workout.  What’s hard is my breakfast smoothie every morning, can of tuna every afternoon, drinking enough water and my least favorite of all triple strength fish oil, not for the taste but fear of death every time I have to swallow another mammoth pill.  I’ve upped my protein amounts 3x that of a normal person yet am still struggling to maintain weight (goal body composition being 8-9% body fat at 160lbs).

Weight

This category is a little hard to gauge but to do so I look at my reaction to the volume; uninjured, feeling strong and maintaining weight.  I don’t look as muscular as I used to but in the endurance world power/weight is key and excess muscle provides no benefit other than picking up athletes at the post race party.  I’m actually very happy with my body composition compared to where I was previously, but still look to build lower body strength in the following off season.

Summary

Where do I stand going into race season 2013?  I have no clue!  I am very excited to see how all the hard work will translate.  A few months ago my coaches made a prediction where I would be in Placid based on performance indicators and today, 14 weeks out I am already ahead of all three of their projections.  It’s a nice feeling at this point in the year to be completely reassured that I am headed in the right direction.  Thanks Vinny, Michelle and QT2 for getting me to where I am, and best of luck in taking this all the way to the finish line!

Shamrock Run

We’ve all had those freakouts, real or imagined of oversleeping a final exam or showing up late to an important job interview.  In my case, most recently, they’re usually race related; realizing my goggles are missing moments before the swim start or getting into T1 to find my bike has been replaced by a unicycle, etc.  Fortunately these events are way more delusions than a reality, although I did oversleep Calculus and half of a World Civ midterms in college once.  Unfortunately, this year’s Shamrock Run was one of those real world exceptions.

Everything leading up until the race went fine.  I finished my 3 hours of workouts Friday early enough to catch the Conference Championships in swimming at UB, had my protocol QT2 pre-race dinner, got plenty of sleep, and showed up to the race almost 90 minutes prior to start for a proper warm-up.  Even though I was ending a 17 hour week I felt pretty good and watching swimming the night before had me so fired up I was beginning to contemplate my college PR of 26:15 as not so entirely out of grasp.  It was a very cold day and despite low 20 degree temps I had decided to race in shorts and a shirt.  As such I wanted to spend as little time outside before the race as possible.  It was so frigid when I exited the Old Ward to head to the race start I decided to stop by my Jeep for some warm-ups.  It wasn’t until I rounded the corner to a sea of 5500 racers that I heard it, “POP” the sound of the gun firing to signal the beginning of the race, and me almost entirely in the back!!

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I’m not proud of what I did in those following moments.  The sound of the gun caught me completely off guard and my competitive nature had me seeing red.  I ran through the crowd as best as I could, hopped a barrier, ripped off my warm-ups and crossed the start about 2 minutes into the race (still a minute before noon according to my Garmin).  From there I yelled, shoved a little, and may have accidentally spit on an innocent bystander (spitting for me is an involuntary race mechanism that I don’t even think about and for that poor woman who just wanted to catch the race start I I’d like to give my deepest apologies!).  I had a goal of going out in 5:20 but I was surrounded by thousands of runners some going as slow as a walking pace, so it seemed like any hopes of a successful race were gone.

It was at that point, in the midst of winding my way through a crowd of racers that I started to think about why I was doing what I was doing.  My PR was out the window, gun timing precluded me from any awards and I was in such a rush I didn’t know if I had started my Garmin, so I wasn’t even expecting data out of the deal.  The fast guys were all uncatchable.  For a moment I thought about racing oldschool, to relish in the pain but to that point abruptly argued, what’s the point of pain without reward??  Fortunately that’s when my Garmin beeped, “0.50 miles, 5:08 pace”.  Even with all the chaos, zigzags and nudging I had hit my target start pace!

The rest of the race is your typical 8k with the exception of start to finish I estimated passing about 2000 people.

Shamrock Run Race Report

I was upset about losing the opportunity at my “fast time” considering this will likely be my last road race of the season.  The feeling was accentuated by the knowledge that I only get about 1 hour of competition for every 100 trained and it will be months until I get my next shot.  28:00 gun time, 26:48 chip time, 26:17 Garmin time and even with the late start 2/294 in AG.  I feel ashamed for how I handled the start of my race, pushing, shoving and even spitting, but I still question if it was the right thing to do.

I feel I gained from this race a better understanding of why I do what I do.  People race for all different reasons and none are necessarily less important than the rest.  Some like the social aspect, some the afterparty, some the pain (I refer to these guys as the tough mudder’s) and some just want to finish.  I’m something of a blend of do my best and win.  I don’t expect to win an 8k of 5,500 runners, especially with college athletes running 100 miles to my 40 tops, and I don’t want to settle for the “do your best” of kindergarten PE.  What attracts me the most to racing is the concept that if you train like the best, pick your race and are dedicated enough why shouldn’t you win races.

Anyway, lesson learned, tomorrow’s a new day, full steam ahead!

Shamrock Finish

Failure

“There is no failure except in no longer trying”

                                                                 – Elbert Hubbard

In 2002 as a college freshman I had two significant goals and I wrote them on a dry erase board next to my bed so that I could see them every morning when I woke up.

1) Graduate with a bachelors in mechanical engineering

2) Play Division 1A Soccer for the University of Buffalo

Engineering seemed challenging enough. On my first day they sat us down in a lecture hall and said “take a look to your left, now take a look to your right, statistically one out of three of you will not be completing this program.” Soccer was much harder. On the first day of compliance I remember hearing only 1% of high school athletes ever make it to the D1 level and unfortunately even in high school I was never that great. But, I was always very passionate about playing. There’s a reason it’s referred to as the “beautiful game”. I first tried out in the fall of my freshman year as a walk-on and was invited back to second tryouts but nothing after that. In the spring of that year I was brought on to work with the team in the offseason. At the end of the session, right before break a team meeting was held and summer training packets were handed out which included lifting, running and agility training that we were required to do leading up to preseason. I wasn’t certain if I was expected to do it because I didn’t know if I would get called back but I did it anyway and when fall came around I never heard anything. This continued for 3 more years. I played club ball in the fall and would participate in spring training and games but when preseason came around I would never hear a word.

With each let down I remained determined but began to realize that my chances were diminishing. Freshman year the team was comprised mainly of domestic players, some from NY. Leading up to my senior year it had transformed to a majority of international players with very few from the area. In addition the team had improved significantly, from a losing record with very few wins to nationally ranked (I believe as good as 7th at one point) and a conference contender. Meanwhile, spring of my Junior year I had started making friends with some of the Cross Country guys and was joining them on long runs from time to time. I think they were less impressed by my ability to keep up and more so in my capacity to go out partying with them and still show up to 10 milers the next day ready and eager to run. Some suggested that I go out for the team in the fall, which I thought was ridiculous since I had never competed in cross country before, but I figured it might be worth a shot. So when spring ball ended and again summer training plans were handed out I made the decision that I would train for soccer in hopes that the 4th time would be the charm, but also put in the miles for cross country allowing I still didn’t hear anything by the time preseason came around.

Keep in mind I had that 1st goal to worry about and in order to satisfy a senior course requirement, and help further my career I accepted a full time co-op with an engineering consulting firm located in the heart of NYC’s financial district. To make matters worse I had to commute each day from my parents’ house in Westchester County; a 20 minute drive to the train station, hour plus ride on Metro North to Grand Central, subway to Wall Street and finally 3 block walk (2 hours door to door each way, on a good day!). Now, the soccer training plan consisted of 4 days in the gym and some running/agility training where cross country was more raw miles, up to 60 a week with some core, workouts not going into effect until late summer. Fortunate for me there were soccer scrimmages 3 days a week at a park in my home town which included some current and ex collegiate players. Unfortunately they started at 6pm where I didn’t get out of work in lower Manhattan until 5pm, so in order to have a chance at playing (since games were very popular and filled up quick) I would walk casually out of my office building then sprint down Wall Street in a shirt and tie to barely make it to the subway on time, gushing sweat from the sweltering summer temps, and if I could make my train in grand central, which often came down to seconds, speed to the park, changing at some point along the way I could somehow manage stepping onto the field by 7pm to get in a solid 2 hours of play time.

This was a Tuesday/Thursday ritual. On Monday/Wednesday/Fridays I would have a similar routine but would meet a friend to run 10 miles instead. Afterwards, each night, I would drive to my local gym for an hour lift. I remember being so exhausted from my game/run that I would get the bar stuck on my chest during the bench press often, too tired to lift it off, and have to wait for an employee to come upstairs to bail me out. The club stayed open until 11pm so I had plenty of time to get my workout in and take a dip in the hot tub to reflect on my day before going out to meet up with my friends for a couple drinks and bed by 2am to be up again by 5am. When I was asked to work overtime, since I was so busy in the evenings, I would get up earlier to pull more hours in the morning instead. Although I was getting only a few hours a night I could sleep on the train and had even mastered the art of sleep standing on the subway. Regrettably there were a few hazy mornings on the drive to the train station where I was awoken to sound of tree branches on the minivan, but somehow I managed to survive and stay on top of my training for both soccer and cross country. The burden of balancing my job, commute, training and social life was so overwhelming in the moment but in hindsight I now feel this was one of the best times in my life.

My senior year I had retained my on campus apartment through the summer and made the decision to get to Buffalo early enough to participate in preseason soccer, if invited, but if not I had planned to meet up with a friend and train for cross country tryouts instead. Having heard nothing for the 4th year in a row by the time I got there I had to make the difficult decision to switch gears and train exclusively for Cross Country. It was during a 10×400 workout on the track in Kuntz field, running repeats around a BDSL soccer game, that the varsity assistant coach who happened to be playing stopped me and said something along the lines of “you look fit Welby, would you like to come out to preseason with the team?” Even though I was committed to cross country at this point of course I said YES!! He told me he would let me know after 2 weeks if I had made it or not.

Where preseason was hell to some players, especially those who hadn’t trained adequately over the summer, it was paradise to me. Morning fitness at 7am on the track led to afternoon training sessions and evening scrimmages under the lights. My favorite was the Cooper test, a standard 2 mile on the track that had to be completed in under 12 minutes. I seem to remember only half the team making it that year on the first attempt, whereas I finished in about 10 minutes, a full minute ahead of the rest. Against my better judgment I continued my cross country training late at night after the last session to keep up my mileage in case things didn’t work out. As the days passed and players recovered their fitness I became increasingly more tired, but after 2 weeks I was still around. The 3rd week came and went. It wasn’t until almost the 4th week that the coach pulled me aside after a late night scrimmage session and said “Welby, we’re impressed by how far you’ve come and would like to keep you around, how does that sound?” Until this day that was the greatest moment of my life! I immediately called all my family and friends to tell them that I had made it and was congratulated, hearing from each of them how proud and happy they were for me. They all new how hard I had worked for it.

Later that night I received a call I wasn’t expecting. It was the assistant coach again. He told me “I’m sorry Welby. We have another player coming in from Trinidad, and no extra spots. We can’t pass him on for a guy like you.” I was crushed. I had to call everyone back to let them know the bad news. I felt I was letting them down almost as much as I had been let down. To make matters worse my apartment window was adjoining the practice field so the next morning, having finally been permitted the opportunity to sleep in, I was awoken by sounds of whistles and players instead of my alarm. Frustrated I eventually rolled out of bed, grabbed a different gym bag than I was used to, and headed over to the track for the first day of Cross Country tryouts. There were some hardships from that point on. I remember sitting back down in the same compliance room for a second time and hearing “what are you doing here again?!” in a condescending way in front of my new team. I remember going out in a 6k TT faster than I had ran my previous fastest mile. But I also remember afterwards, when approaching my new coach to thank her for the opportunity to be there hearing “We want to keep you around Welby.” And she meant it.

From then on I completed 2 years of competition for UB Cross Country (scoring every meet my super senior year), Mid-D training with track, and even another spring season with soccer (Thanks Vicki for letting me do that). The friendships I gained with close teammates are strong bonds I carry to this day. We still get together once a year to compete in the home meet, racing shoulder to shoulder with the college guys to prove that some of us still got it, and afterwards reminisce of the “good old days”.

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I consider the end of my competitive soccer career to be my biggest failure, but also my greatest accomplishment. I heard from the same coach years later that I simply “wasn’t good enough” and I believe that now, but the important thing is that your likelihood to be good enough or not should never impede your decision to follow your dream. Soccer is over, that chapter has come and gone, and I am very fortunate to have triathlon in my life, benefited greatly by my running background. I know very well that I will likely never get my pro card, may never even get to Kona. I am ok with that realization; however I am not ok with giving anything less than all of myself to get there. And if I fail then I fail. There is no one else better at failing in my mind. But if you’re afraid to fail you’ll never accomplish anything. My greatest fear is not falling short of my dreams but looking backing one day and wondering if I could have achieved them. I consider myself very fortunate to have had significant goals in my life and more so that my greatest ones are still ahead.

Lockport Y10

I’ve been itching to race more and more these days, not just from a lack of competition, having done nothing significant since Ironman Muskoka 70.3 other than a Halloween 5k in the pouring rain, but from a growing excitement due to recent workout results to see where I am at after so many hours of training invested.  No surprise that following a relatively calm Buffalo winter New York has to issue a state of emergency for Winter Storm Nemo running from Friday night into the hours leading up until the race, calling for 12 + inches of snow, and some very poor road conditions.

winter-storm-nemo_61

I would love to use the storm as an excuse for going slower than anticipated but unfortunately I can not.  By morning all the roads were surprisingly clear, a far departure from last year.  I give a lot of credit to the race directors who apparently did work to get special attention from the plows to the race route.  Snow was falling but lightly and 19 degrees, even with wind, felt surprisingly warm.

The plan, based on recent workout paces and heart rate, after careful calculations, was to go out at 5:30 min/mile and do my best to hold on.  The conditions were expected to add 10 seconds to that pace but because everything was so improved by race start I had no reason not to go for it.  Here’s how things went –

Y10 Graph

I always love to see a race start when a group of novice runners go out way faster than possible to hold and inevitably blow up.  I find this happening particularly among young runners.  A little advice, if I pass you in a road race than you’re doing something wrong.  Through the first half mile I was only 10th at a 5:30 pace with at least 5 runners going sub 5:20.  By 3 miles in I was in 7th, 5th at the half way mark and tied with 3rd from mile 6 until 9.5.  I knew after a few exchanges of place that it would be a race for 3rd.  My strategy was to either blow by my competition at mile 9, to give me enough of a lead to break his confidence going into the last long hill or sit on his heals until the hill so that he could set the pace than I could surge up the hill ahead of him.  I went for the first option, but it backfired when he kept with me and as I started the 0.25 mile hill tired he ran past, for a finish 10 seconds ahead of mine.

I am very glad I did this race, if for nothing else to remember that feeling of doing your best and still seeing your competition slip away.  It’s easy to think you’re on top of your game when everything you do is by yourself but that all gets put into perspective when you go toe to toe on the start line again.  Part of me wants to think that I am in a good place considering that I’m training to be a triathlete now, not a runner, and that I don’t run these paces (sub 6) hardly ever.  But the other part of me says there is no excuse, you need to be better.

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I feel a greater sense of determination going into this next build phase.  No complaints, no interference, no excuses.  But tonight I’m going to have a little fun to celebrate a well executed 6 weeks of training.

Overcoming “The Wall” in Training

It is impossible to stick with something unless you derive more satisfaction out of it than pain and suffering.

For a period of time after graduation I joined UB masters swim which met Tues/Thurs mornings at 5:45am and Sat at 6:45am for workouts.  On these days I would crawl out of my warm bed to trudge through deep snow and get into a freezing car, drive to campus in the dark, then muster up the motivation to jump into frigid water to begin another long and arduous swim workout.  The only reason I did it was the feeling of walking out from Alumni to a generally beautiful sunrise and sense of accomplishment, ready to start my day (and fight sleep at my desk hours later).  That feeling lasted for a while, and I stuck with practice for a couple years.  As time progressed I began getting out of bed later, wasting more time getting ready, and performing worse in the water.  On a few occasions I remember getting to the pool, putting on my speedo and doing a lap of the pool deck before changing back into my dress clothes and passing out in my car for 30 minutes until I had to drive to work.  My will was strong but there was no desire to keep at it and at that point wasted effort outweighed any benefit.

Today there is very little that fazes me.  Five days a week I get off my bike and go running in the blistering cold, often times late at night, with very little resistance.  It doesn’t bother me, I usually enjoy it, but I can’t help but notice some people out there, especially resolution runners lately, and wonder what are they thinking?!?  Yesterday, as the temperatures hit zero in Buffalo I observed a runner out in shorts while driving to the gym to start my treadmill workout.  It’s one thing to be headstrong (I learned a lot about this from my years with UB XC, doing long runs outdoors year round and going shirtless the first time temps hit 65 degrees), it’s another to want to purposely torture yourself.  This type of activity will never promote longevity.

There are two important components that encourage working out in my mind, incentive and enjoyment.  As long as you have enough of these in any proportion to outweigh the misery you inflict you will join the minority that makes fitness a lifestyle and not just a trend.  At this point in my life I consider myself incredibly motivated.  I’m very aware of the fact that over the years I have rarely finished a workout and thought “that wasn’t worth it”.  In addition I rely heavily on coaching to keep me on task with my training.  I don’t know how people can commit seriously without at least some system to keep on track.  I give a lot of credit to my new coach for responding to every session I do (15+ times a week!).  Another important element is to never lose focus of why you are doing what you’re doing.  It’s hard to envision wading into water to start a race when all the lakes and ponds have frozen over, but warm weather will come, whether you’re ready for it or not.  I find something as simple as a picture, phrase, medal or calendar, purposefully placed, to do wonders for motivation in the off-season.

Through the years I’ve learned there are certain ways to make even the worst conditions or tedious workouts a little more enjoyable.  It’s impossible to overcome the monotony of a 4 hour trainer ride or 90 minute treadmill run completely but there are definitely ways to improve your experience.  #1 is music.  With the right play list, even on the hardest days, I often find myself craving another lap, especially in the winter while running lit snowy trails late at night.  The right beat can influence pace dramatically, which is good for road races but bad when certain songs come on, such as nostalgic music from my college days, and I start going sub six on a recovery run.  #2 is people.  Unfortunately I can’t do much outdoors with others because of individualized workouts but I’ve recently been getting trainer partners for long rides and it’s definitely nice to have someone to watch movies with and complain to for a few hours.  For the majority I think finding an exercise partner or club can be the most significant decision toward sticking with a routine.  #3 is the right clothing.  Anyone who knows me would say that I have a tendency to dress like a complete idiot for training.  I like to think of it as less of a taste thing and more to do with resources.  I have one or two cool race outfits (they’re usually done by Tuesday).  Then I dip into my reserves which includes old sweats and anything heavy to stay warm.  By Saturday I’m usually down two full loads of sweaty athletic apparel and have to move on to what I’ve vowed never to run in less absolutely necessary, my old college spandex, most of which is either uncomfortably shrunken, warn out or see through.  The last time I tried running in one of these outfits at work I was nearly called into HR.  The bottom line with clothing is if you’re comfortable you’re happy and will only suffer the pain of the workout, not having to worry about the misery of the conditions.

In Organizational Behavior we learned that it’s not the happy worker that’s the most productive, it’s the employee that feels their effort has purpose, and is meaningful to the success of the company that goes the hardest.  The most driven individuals I know are the ones that understand the benefits of their hard work and are able to demonstrate it with their accomplishments, racing or other.  I am certain that my hard work will pay off and it continues to drive me to be better in everything I do.

Happy winter training!

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