18 June 2011

The Friday Top Five

The Top Five Things I've Learned After Falling Off My Bike Going Over 20 M.P.H.

5) You're a Long way up! :  You don't really realize that you are atop a small pony on your saddle. Instead of legs that could carry a grown man down the side of the Grand Canyon, you are praying that your 23 cm tires can withstand that small pebble for a few more seconds on your way down a hill going 40 m.p.h. with nothing between you and your chiclets but five feet of air which you catapult through at a speed that can only be calculated by a high-tech NASA computer that has yet to be invented.

4) Road Rash Sucks: Holy Burning Flesh Batman!  I remember getting road rash as a child, but never to quite the degree that I received from my fall this week. Road rash can only be described as feeling like your skin is on fire for several days. Showering was dreadful all week. In fact—as gross as this sounds—I managed to avoid showering for a couple days following the crash. The first time I did, I thought that I would have rather have been subjected to listening to Lady Gaga for 12 straight hours (minus the apparatus to keep my eyes open like that scene in a Clockwork Orange. That was just weird.)
The good news? I was coaching my son's LL team just hours after the crash. The wifey came up to me and said "... you are so macho" and gave me a little wink. I thought... "hell yes... hell yes, I'm macho." I then cranked some Justin Beiber on my stereo when I got home.

3) Get Back Out There Right Away: When I was playing Little League as a kid (I am now coaching my son's Little League team—that is a WHOLE other post!) I got hit by a pitch right in the ribs. I did not think I could breath for what seemed like hours. My father made me get right back out there the next game and stand in the box. I am glad he did. It took a little bit of time before I felt truly comfortable hitting or catching a line drive hit 60 feet away, but I eventually managed to conquer those fears. I got right back on my bike the very next day and rode... slowly.

4) It's Okay To Be Scared: I have been a tad tentative on my rides this past week. You know... when the wind blows I am thinking, "Oh dear Lord, please don't let me fall off and break something." Nothing really hampers your season like breaking something.

There should be signs like this one warning
unassuming cyclists of unmarked potholes!
5) It Will Happen Again: Look, I am no moron. I do not welcome death. No one does, but we all cheat it. Everyday. I am smart enough to realize that it is not a matter of "if" I am going to take another spill, but "when." The best I can do is minimize the amount of damage I do to my body by making sure that my bike gets regular service (it is a good thing to check those brake lines and pads occasionally), and realize that going 45 m.p.h. down a hill when you have five children is just not necessary. Honestly, 35 m.p.h. is fine. Every once in a while I think about how fast 40 m.p.h. is on a bike and think about falling at THAT speed. That scares the hell out of me. I am still a bit tentative after the big fall, but I am sure that I will lose some of those inhibitions soon enough. I have been a lot more careful about looking well ahead of me for debris and unmarked potholes all week. The blood has almost stopped seeping from my knee.

THE KNEE: I may have finally had a bit of a revelation about my knee. The thing about an injury is that you really have to determine how the pain started developing. Post to follow.

Train Smart!

12 June 2011

Hitting The Pavement...Literally!

It does not matter how careful any of us are. If you ride, sooner or later, you are going down. I have been really fortunate that in the five years I have spent riding road bikes, that I only went down twice. Both times were borderline catastrophic. The first time I went down was three years ago. I was getting my road bike out for the first ride of the season. I was psyched. I put on my tights, my new Louis Garneau fall jacket, and my helmet. I then put my shades on and was moving my bike out of our garage with one clip in when I hit my son's Razor scooter and was catapulted to the floor. In my attempt to make sure I did not scratch my brand new Trek Madone, I threw out my arm and dislocated my shoulder. On the way to the hospital in an ambulance, the EMT's asked me to describe my pain on a scale from 1 to 10. I felt like breaking out with my Spinal Tap reference and saying... "but my pain is an eleven." Then I remembered that anytime  I complain about pain, my wife is there to modestly remind me that she birthed five children. So, after a couple of seconds of thought, I literally said to the EMT's "Well, the pain is not as bad as childbirth."

There was a moment of silence. Then, the woman in the ambulance said "Yeah, we're going to go ahead and give you something for the pain."  They probably thought I was delusional. The other really funny thing I remember about that day was when they came to take my pulse inside my house. The woman taking my pulse said, "Wow, your heart rate is really low. Are you a runner?"  I looked at my wife and said "...well, I run, I mean someti...." My wife interrupted "Yes!  He runs... You run! My gosh Mark, how difficult a question is  that?" Ah, wifey!  I can see it now. Me on my deathbed slowly answering questions about if I ate my jell-o that day, to which my wife responds "My goodness, yes!  You had your jell-o you old fool. Remember?  You took your teeth out?"

Yesterday, I bit it hard. Real hard. I am here to tell you that I am lucky that I did not break a single bone, let alone die yesterday. I am not trying to sound overly-dramatic (although I have often been told that I have a real flair for Dynasty-like melodramatic stories.

I really can not say I know how it all went down, except for the fact that I went down. Hard. I was riding down a road that I am really familiar with. I was about five miles from my house. I had ridden on this road more times than I can count. I was on my Kestrel in the aero position and working a nice little steady clip back home... maybe 21, 22 m.p.h. All of a sudden, I was on the road sliding on my body. Within seconds there were a couple of cars pulled up beside me asking me if I were alright.

I sat there for a second and assessed the damage. It is amazing were your brain goes in stress. I looked down and said "Yup, I can move my legs, that's a good sign." All of a sudden I felt severe burns all over my body; my wrists, my knee, my elbow. I sat there in shock for a couple of seconds—maybe a minute. Oh, I completely shattered the glass on my second Garmin 310XT. The ironic part is that my HR monitor has been acting... "funny" and I just contacted Garmin. They are sending me a replacement 310XT. Of course, I will have to notify them that their watch probably withstood more impact than my wrist took. Miraculously, it still works!

I guess all things considered, my spill yesterday could have been much, much worse. I mean, I could have hit my head, or broke some bones. What the hell is going on with my season? First my knee, then this!

AND, I ripped my Trakkers kit. I am almost scared to ask, "Could it get any worse?" Don't answer this semi-rhetorical question.

Seriously, after emerging relatively unscathed by my impact with the pavement, I felt pretty badass, but I am no hurry to meet that fate again.

Friends, be careful out there! What I learned from yesterday is just because you have ridden a route a hundred times, that does not mean you can take a second off from focusing on everything ahead of you.

Be safe out there.

10 June 2011

Rev3 Quassay Race Report

Is driving 7 hours through three states to run an Olympic triathlon worth it?

It is if it is Rev3 Quassay.

I met up with my Trakkers teammate Kelly and her husband—whose name is also Kelly— about two hours outside of Quassay for lunch at a diner on the way there. Kelly, er, female Kelly and I both had the pumpkin pancakes.

The race day expo was pretty cool. The Covert's and I decided that we would go out for a ride after heading to the Rev3 store and meeting and saying hi to some of our Trakkers teammates. We went back to the parking lot to prep for a ride. It was there that I realized that I forgot to bring my bike shoes. HOW DO I FORGET TO BRING MY BIKE SHOES??!! The funny part about that—if you can call it funny—is that I have an extra pair of shoes that I normally keep in my trunk, but for some reason, they were not in there.

Exasperated, this father of five ran back to the All3Sports store—wearing jeans on an eighty+ degree day—at the Expo and purchased a new pair of Louis Garneau tri shoes. Only problem was I had to put cleats on these puppies and make sure they were comfortable. I spent a good half an hour at Geneve Bicycle with my homeslice Chad getting my cleats squared away on my shoes. I brought my shoes over to Dave and his crew from Elite Bicycles in Philadelphia—the gang working support for the race.

Race Morning: I use to never be able to sleep before a race. That has all changed. I can sleep pretty comfortably the night before a race. I sometimes wake up a few times during the night for fear that I might sleep through my alarm. I set my alarm for 4:30, and requested an automated wakeup call from the hotel desk. As it turns out, I did not even really need one. It seems that my neighbors on the other side of my head board, through the thin wall of the hotel decided to wake up and have plenty of loud sex at 3:00 a.m. They continued their sex marathon for about an hour and a half. Needless to say, it was very difficult to sleep through the "Oh my God's," and "Yes... yes... yeses.," not to mention the insistent creaking of the bed. You would have thought that they were filming a sequel to Boogie Nights in that room.

I got my gear, went downstairs and enjoyed my race morning breakfast of granola, a handful of gel blocks, and Lemon Lime First Endurance drink. I got a ride in with the Kelly's in the morning. We all seemed pretty relaxed and ready to rock and roll. I think what kept me pretty even keel is the fact that I knew my knee was going to be a nuisance and not allow me to really push it on the run. I was not thinking about running fast, but rather, trying to minimize the pain I knew was coming.

THE SWIM: I got in the water about fifteen minutes before the swim start and swam about half way to the first marker. I felt pretty comfortable. Although, the morning of the race was the first time I tried on my new TYR Hurricane wetsuit. The lake that I usually swim in—Canandaigua—is not even open for swimming until Memorial Day. I felt pretty good the whole swim. It took me a little bit to get in a groove, but by the first buoy, I felt comfortable and relaxed. I felt like I probably could have pushed the swim a bit. The one down side was that my knee was hurting and I could not even manage a small kick. Who needs to kick?  Swim Time: 28:44:616

T1: I had a great spot in transition. Because I downgraded from the HIM to the Olympic, the transition queen ended up giving me a place right at the end of the bike racks in the middle aisle. NICE!  I ended up having a longer transition than I would have wanted—about 2:00. I think I spent too much time trying to get on my socks. I will go sockless the next race. (2:44)

THE BIKE: I absolutely love my bike. Have I mentioned this? I will say this about the Quassay course... it is hilly and challenging. My knee was a little sore from the start, and getting on the bike and pedaling did not help. I tried to put myself somewhere mentally to disconnect from the unpleasantness. I went out pretty conservatively—at least I thought so—which ended up being a mistake. I mean, in an Olympic distance triathlon, you pretty much have to put the pedal on the gas and go all out. I guess in the back of my head I was thinking, ".. hey, if you just don't go out real fast, maybe your knee will feel okay the entire race." FAIL. Bike split: 1:21:32/18.89 mph average.

T2: Yeah, did not even lace up my Avia's with speed laces. That was a mistake. It took me a little longer to tie my shoes, but I got out there. (2:07)

THE RUN: There first mile felt weird. The knee did not immediately hurt, so I was thankful for that, but it felt like I was still running on my bike clips. Transitioning to the run is always a weird feeling. Halfway through the first mile—mostly downhill—the knee started to hurt.... A LOT. My first 2 mile split I was running 7.46 min/miles, then I slowed way down to 9:19's the second half. This brought my run split for the 10k to 8:48. There was an enormous hill to climb at mile three. Between my knee and my run fitness suffering the last month, I could tell that I was not going to have the run I wanted. It was then that I immediately started thinking about cheeseburgers and cold beer.

POST RACE: Rev3 did an awesome job with the post-race goodies. There was a line to grab cheeseburger and hotdogs straight off the grill with all the fixins', macaroni, veggies, ice cream, drinks. I love watching some of these really fit women grab three cheeseburgers and pile up there plate and mow down everything.

My favorite part of the post race was sitting in the Recovery Pump tent. If I did not have to get up to go to the bathroom and had a beer in my hands, I think I would still be sitting in there. The pump was awesome. Here is a picture of teammate Kiersten enjoying some Recovery Pump therapy!

I made it to the pro meeting at 1:30, where Michael Lovato was MCing. The cool thing about Lovato is that he is a pro himself and he asked a lot of really good questions of the pros, as well as some that received more than a few chuckles from the audience. There, I ran into Magali Tisseyre. My boy EJ over at crankskins.com did a cool custom number on her frame. I managed to steal a picture with her. I wanted to steal a picture with Miranda Cafrae as well, but as you can  imagine, when you are the reigning Ironman world champion, there is a long line, and I did not feel like I wanted to to make her pretend that she was my best friend for one more picture. Although, I did not mind doing it with Magali:

Saturday night after the race, I met my Trakkers teammates and their significant others for some good eats at this place called Carlito's. I was so hungry the evening after the race that I ordered a giant antipasti plate AND my own personal pizza!

Here is a picture from our dinner at Carlito's. Chad's son is crashed on the lap of his wife Janet. Long day for the little man.

A BIG congratulations to all my Trakkers teammates for a fantastic race. Kelly ended up getting third in Athena (Woohoo!), and everyone had a terrific race. Looking forward to seeing many of you again at Cedar Point in September.

More soon. Stay tuned.

01 June 2011

Quassay Jitters

Well, with Quassay just days away, I think it is officially time to start panicking. Do you ever feel prepared as you need to be?  I am excited to head out to Quassay and get my first race of the season under my belt and meet all of my Trakkers teammates for the very first time. I am disappointed that, despite not running for nearly two weeks now, my knee continues to be a nuisance. So, I have decided to race the Olympic instead of the HIM. I think I could probably go out there and do the HIM, but I am worried about my knee the rest of the season. I still have some pain on the left side of my patella on my right knee. Since beginning training for triathlons four seasons ago, this is my first injury. I now completely empathize with people that have some sort of chronic injury that keeps them from performing at their optimum level. Jitters are good though. At the very least, you put yourself out there and race as a litmus test to how you may expect to perform the rest of the season. I feel pretty confident. The one thing I can say about Coach Mary is that she knew exactly what to throw my way... and at the right time. I have really improved my swimming this off-season. I have to constantly remind myself that four short seasons ago, I could not do a hundred yards straight! If I meet people who are in need of motivation, I tell them that. Then I tell them that in three seasons I did my first Iron distance swim. This usually inspires people, or they look at me and wonder if I have a few screws missing. Clearly, we know the answer to that one.

Look, I am not going to lie and tell you that I am wicked fast in the water. My official "T-time" at the beginning of my training was 1:50/100. I'd say it is about 1:45 right now. Although, I know I can swim 1:35/100 (or faster), because I catch myself doing it on occasion. The trick is how the hell do I maintain my form and not become exhausted 1000 yards in?  Seriously... any help with this would be fantastic. I just wrote in my training log tonight and asked Coach Mary if she could check out my swim here soon. I was suppose to swim for her way back in December, or January, but alas... life happened and I simply could  not commit to a meeting. My hope is to continue to improve my stroke. I am swimming twice a week right now which does not feel like a lot, although when I am doing it, it feels like plenty! I am excited about the prospect of getting into the lake here soon. I usually swim in Canandaigua Lake—one of central New York's beautiful Finger Lakes. We have had an unusually cold and rainy spring this year. There is a triathlon next weekend on Keuka Lake. It is the first regional triathlon of the season. A lot of really great athletes come out and do this race to gauge where they are. I hope—for their sake—that the lake is not freezing. I have it on good counsel that Quassay is well south of central New York and that the swim will be awesome.

It seems like my bike fitness has improved during the offseason. The other thing I did was get on a new ride this season. My new Kestrel, along with my bike fit from Chad down at Geneva Bicycle Center has made an unbelievable difference. In fact, I had no idea just how uncomfortable I was on my last bike until I was completely dialed in on this ride. What a difference. The screenshot on the left is from a Zone 2 ride on Monday. I prefer biking with the wind. Why can't we just do that in triathlon? You know... just bike one way to T2, run to a finish, and take everyone back to the start with a kegerator on the back of a bus. Wait... what a brilliant idea!  "When I'm Race Director....."

Speaking of biking, that is the one thing that has gone completely right the last couple of weeks. I have been really good about getting out there and completing my rides. Last night, I did something that I have never done before. I went out for a little night ride. I put a running light around my waist, and I clipped two flashing red lights—one in front, and one behind me—on my kit before going out. It was a little nerve-racking at first. I quickly learned where to ride in my town that had good street light. I went out around 9:30 to ride for an hour. About a half hour into my ride, I see someone riding towards me with what can only be described as a light as bright as the sun. Okay, excuse the obvious hyperbole, but this light was so bright that I thought it was a motorcycle. All of a sudden, I see someone pass me on a mountain bike. Lo and behold, it's EJ from Team Crankskins.  He was kind enough to ride with me a while providing his "sun-like" radiance for me to motor in for a bit.

I completely tanked two swims last week. I was tired and dehydrated. It is a sad state when you feel like you were swimming better at the beginning of your training than you are five months into it. I think I have a little bit of post-semester funkiness on me right now. You see, after my semester was over and I pulled two evenings of all-nighters to get grades in, I clearly thought that I was ready to start my professional triathlon career full force. I am kidding of course, but I did think I would have a bit more free time. Not the case. Then, a couple of days later, out of the blue, I have a kick ass swim. I have discovered that hydration is still the key to a successful swim.

Alright, Quassay race report to come soon. Train Smart!