Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ironman Florida Report

Yes, this is a long report, but it’s a long race.

I had a great day, I never stopped smiling, and I am an Ironman.  I learned that you don’t offer your time; you’re an Ironman; that's enough.  Yes, it's kind of a cult, but now I'm part of it.

Things could have been much, much worse.  My foot issues started to clear up in October, and I could run, but it was too late to do much run training.  I also managed to get sick Tuesday night before the race, making my first chore in Panama City Beach Thursday morning going to an urgent care clinic to get checked out and see if there was anything they could do.  I didn’t sleep well all week, not just the night before, and I think I had a slight fever the entire time.  The weather wasn’t perfect – but then the next two days, the weather was terrible, so we still lucked out.

But never mind the problems, or potential problems.  It was great, and I had a ball.  When you cross the finish line after 14-and-a-half hours, the announcer calls your name, and says, “You are an Ironman,” and for a couple minutes, you’re a rock star.

I had a very good swim, especially considering the surf, waves 1-2 feet and maybe more by the end.  The picture may make the waves look worse due to foreshortening by the camera, but we had to duck under the waves until we swam past the breakers to the main course.  The race was wetsuit optional; water temperature exceeded the level where you could wear a wetsuit and have an official time.  Everybody else with TriScottsdale wore a wetsuit, but I was fine without (and in fact next time, won’t wear a tri top, even a pre-worn top and Glide didn’t stop all the chafing in salt water.)

The bike course was flat, and I had to stop a few times for supplies (the Gatorade the volunteers were handing out just didn’t taste good to me, and I thought I had a mechanical but it was just a leaf stuck to my tire, making a very loud noise due to the tight clearance with the frame), but I was very pleased with my time and enjoyed the first 100 miles, singing to myself for much of the time; the last 12 miles, however, the wind shifted into our face and the songs went away.  For the run, I tried to jog at the start, but got concerned that I wouldn’t have enough left for the finish – and a stiff walking pace kept me up with people my speed who were running, then walking, so I walked all but 2, maybe 3, miles and still finished ahead of my projections.  I took my sweet time in transition, including a wonderful 5 minutes in a port-a-john, so there’s clearly room for improvement – if I ever do one again.  For now, I’m happy with a great day.


Here are the numbers:

Overall 14:32:19
Swim 1:29:12
T1 15:55
Bike 6:24:02
T2 13:35
Run 6:09:37

That put me overall 1174/1636 non-wetsuit; men 902/1180 non-wetsuit; 26/41 division (M60-64) non-wetsuit; overall 1566th, men 1223rd, and division 31/50 both wetsuit and non-wetsuit.  About a third of the competitors wore wetsuits, and a slightly higher percentage of non-wetsuit competitors finished: wetsuit started 782, finished 687; non-wetsuit started 1636, finished 1513.

And, of course, there are pictures; and full results.  And if you go to the finish line video, and cue it up to 4:00:01, you can see me cross the line.  Not that I haven’t watched it a couple of times myself.

None of the other TS people said they were interested in doing another IM.  I won’t for a while, but I could see signing up again in 5 years, when I graduate to M65-69.  It’s good to be the youngest guy in an older guy division.

I said that when I turned 60, I would shave my beard and do an Ironman.  And now I have.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

AZ Open Water Masters State Championships

The event (4000 and 2000 meter open water swim at Lake Pleasant) was called the state championships, but it was a pretty low-key and not-very-crowded event.  Scheduling it the day before a major half Ironman in Tempe probably kept turnout down.  But if only 2 people show up to swim in your category, finish and you podium!  (I finished 11 minutes behind the winner, so even that felt good; it's not like there was anything I should have done differently).  My TriScottsdale group used this as a IM FL training opportunity, riding our bicycles 40+ miles to the swim, then swimming the 4000m distance (most in wetsuits, but I went without in 77-degree water).  I'm pretty pleased with my 1:28 time for a distance slightly longer (by 0.1 mi) than the IM distance with the 40 mi on the bike beforehand, and IM FL should be wetsuit-legal.  Getting pretty psyched.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lifetime Tempe Triathlon

So: 90 percent of life is just showing up (at the finish line, anyway).  There were only 5 entries in my age group, but I finished third, and got "a podium" and a medal the size of a salad plate.  3:17:15 isn't a very good time, and I've done basically this course in 30 minutes less, but not when it was that warm or when I was more worried about recovery from an injury than my time.  So good!

This was a test race, to see if my foot would hold up on an Olympic run, and it did.  I took transitions very slowly, no running out of the swim or with my bike, and started walking before I felt comfortable enough to run.  OK swim (34 min; I think that includes walking from the water exit to transition, the swim felt faster than that); good bike (1:22 overall, with a slight negative split, 17.9 mph on the first loop and 18.1 on the second), and a 10K run-walk in 1:13, which is better than I thought it was (with the heat, it felt longer), and with a slight negative split as well.  All in all, a very satisfactory day, and a necessary-but-not-sufficient test for IM Florida in not quite 6 weeks.

Monday, July 20, 2015

New York City Triathlon 2015

I wasn't a competitor this year; instead, I volunteered so I could have automatic entry for the 2016 race.  I lugged around equipment for the TV crew, which meant getting to the swim start at 3:30 am, which meant leaving from Brooklyn an hour earlier, and stumbling around the Upper West Side looking for the streets in the upper 90's that let you cross under the Henry Hudson Parkway--something that would have been hazardous in the 1970's but worked out fine this year.  But I had amazing access to the start and finish with the pros.  (The amateurs, not so much; the TV production wasn't much interested in the amateurs.  They found the amateur athlete overcoming personal difficulty/tragedy or supporting a family member, taped that in advance, and that was pretty much it.)

I made Kristen Marchant, a Canadian rookie pro, my favorite athlete of the day.  I got a selfies with her at the start and at the finish, and she was incredibly gracious about it:

She finished 8th among the pro women; came out of the water 7th, having lost the lead group (the women started 11:37 ahead of the men to allow for a grand prize for the first finisher, either male or female) and basically held that place the entire race; her results are here, and her blog post on her race is here.  She's only 24, so I'm hoping she's a rising star and someday these photos are "I knew her when" items.  The men's pro race was unusually exciting, with 6 lead changes, which rarely happens, but which we never saw because it was happening out of the bike course; we'll get to see it when the TV show is on (only on SNY, which we don't really get here in Arizona), because the camera-person (who rode on back of a motorcycle on the bike and run course) reported how much fun he had watching the battle.

But for NYC, there were very few spectators.  It was a very hot and humid day, and during the race, organizers cut short the run for the last amateurs for safety reasons.  I only stayed at the finish for the pros and the first few elite amateurs as the TV crew didn't need me anymore, but when there are more competitors than spectators in New York City, you're clearly a niche sport (especially when compared to the absolutely packed NJ Transit train from Penn Station that afternoon, filled with fans headed to MetLife Stadium to watch Mexico-Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup match).

But I now have guaranteed entry for 2016--see you there, where I hope to do better than in 2009 in my two-steps-up age group.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Two Found Items on the Internets

First, Anton Ego's restaurant review from Ratatouille (the great Peter O'Toole):

Thanks to Vulture. I'd forgotten this.

Next, courtesy of AdWeek, it's Wes Anderson and Claremont, California: two great tastes that taste great together:

Also much fun, even if you hadn't been to those places while visiting your kid in college.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

AMBBR 2015: The Gordon Invitational at Lake Tahoe

A wonderful day.  The weather report a few days out was not so good, but as we got closer to Sunday, it kept improving and was about as good as it gets.  The Brews Brothers acquitted themselves very well; almost 30 people finished, and I'm not aware of even one flat tire.  99 miles, 6:06 riding time, approximately 4,900 feet of climbing, about 8 hours total (you don't want to miss the rest stops, and one of our group said that the new red potatoes were as good as I had said).  A great day, considering that AMBBR was the first time I was able to get back on my bike since my crash last month.

We raised over $61K, making us (well, Andy) the #2 fundraiser nationally.  Non semper est rectus, sed nunquam in dubium!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tempe International Triathlon 2015

I had a good swim and nice bike, but when I got off the bike, my foot didn't feel right.  I decided to walk the first mile and see if my heel would loosen up and stop hurting, but it never completely freed up.  Rather than risk injury for no reason, I walked the 3.1 mile loop and didn't do the second loop to risk further damage.  My time would have been 3rd in my age group, but I emailed the race director and DQ'd myself this morning.  It looks like I need to figure out a different way to do Florida unless something changes footwise over the next few months.

Tahoe Info (for Team Andy only)

I’m posting this list of Top Ten Tahoe Tips early, so you may want to check back once or twice before the ride as I may remember some additional items, or others who have ridden AMBBR may have different thoughts:

1. It’s a ride, not a race.  There are no timing chips, nobody cares (or will be able to find out) how fast you finish, if you finish before the guy with the car keys, you’ll be waiting anyway, and if you don’t stop frequently and enjoy the scenery, you’ll miss a lot of what makes the ride fun.

2.  In fact, there are benefits to starting slow and finishing strong.  The ride attempts to split the field into 4 different starting blocks, every 15 minutes between 6 and 7 am.  However, nobody pays attention to their starting group assignment, and everybody tries to leave between 6 and 6:15 am.  This means that the road is crowded at the start, and even more so about 15 miles in when volunteers and the county sheriff deputies check ride credentials of every rider, single file.  (Also, make sure you have your AMBBR sticker on your helmet and your plastic AMBBR bracelet available for the checkpoint.)

3.  After the checkpoint, you almost immediately enter the switchbacks climbing up to the top of Emerald Bay, but the road up the mountain is filled with multiple riders abreast, with tremendously varying skills.  You will not be able to maintain a consistent pace up Emerald Bay, and will have to watch out for slower riders who, despite trying as hard as they can, can’t avoid weaving and can’t stay out of your way.  It’s just the way it is; you’ll have to spend 20-30 minutes avoiding other riders while climbing.  Don’t gripe about it, or you’ll be the jerk, not them.

4.  The summit atop Emerald Bay isn’t a rest stop, but almost everybody stops there anyway to shed layers and use the park restroom facilities.  If you have a spouse or friend who wants to be an illegal SAG wagon, that’s a great place to meet them.  (The other great place to meet is the Truckee rest stop.)  Even if the day is cold at the start, you’ll have warmed up by the top of Emerald and want to shed some clothing.  Just don’t drop everything; there’s a significant drop after Emerald summit, and you may wind up going the fastest of the day on the ride back down to the lake, and you may wish you had kept your jacket and/or arm warmers.

5.  Don’t miss the Homewood rest area, at mile 25-30; the new red potatoes boiled in salt water are probably my favorite cycling food ever.  However, at Homewood – and every other rest area – don’t wait in line for the port-a-potties, where there’s always a line; the line is always shorter for some reason at regular rest room facilities, which at Homewood are the restrooms for the ski area, and at other rest stops, look for the restrooms at the supermarket at Truckee and the public park restrooms just before the lunch stop at Kings Beach.

6.  The turnoff for Truckee is at about mile 35.  You can make a game-day decision whether to go for the century or limit your ride to 72 miles.  It’s a slight downhill to Truckee, but that means a slight climb back to the Tahoe route, and it can be windy.  The scenery is nice, you pass the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and the route to and from Truckee is a great paceline opportunity.  So if you go to Truckee, don’t go alone, or find other riders to work with or it can be a long ride.

7.  They serve a regular lunch – sandwiches, chips, cookies, fruit – at Kings Beach, at about mile 65.  Make sure you don’t vary your nutrition (in terms of amount) too much, because about 5-10 miles after Kings Beach is the 1,500-foot climb up to Spooner Summit, which is 7,000 feet.  It’s not a steep climb but it’s about 15 miles long; if you did Nine Mile Hill, you shouldn’t have any problems.

UPDATE:  7A.  I forgot to add that after lunch at Kings Beach, you cross into Nevada and shortly after the apex of Crystal Bay, the ride leaves NV-28 to follow Lakeshore Blvd. through in Incline Village.  There are a series of 4-way stop signs on Lakeshore, with IV residents in lawn chairs who monitor that cyclists stop at each of them.  It's a waste of time and energy but you have to obey traffic laws here or face the everlasting scorn of rich retirees. It's only about 6 miles, so grit your teeth and pretend you're smiling.

8.  The rest area atop Spooner is a good place to get the group back together for the last 20 miles, generally downhill to South Lake Tahoe.  The key word is “generally”; you’ll drop back that 1,500 feet over the last 15 miles, but not uniformly, and there will be some relatively short climbs that can totally frustrate you because you’ve already ridden 90 miles and what’s with the uphill?

9.  At the finish, you need to check in with the Team in Training tent; they track all riders doing a TnT event, and need to know you’re off the route.  You’ll get a TnT finisher’s medal, and they’ll take your picture.  There also are commercial photographers; they take your picture climbing up Emerald Bay.  You need to remember the time or batch number that they call out when you pass the photographer, so you know which group your photo is in; otherwise, you’re reviewing thousands of photos to find the invariably unattractive one of you grinding up the hill.  TnT doesn’t have much in the way of food for free at the finish; there are vendors selling food, but you’ll need to have cash with you.  Instead, we may try to organize some drinks and snacks in the parking lot where bikes will be picked up after the ride.

10.  Weather can be highly variable, so bring layers.  It’s usually cool at the start, but one year it was in the low 40’s and wet, so you needed leg warmers, multiple layers, and winter gloves, and another year we started at 65 degrees in shorts with arm warmers only.  The high never usually gets above 80, and the problem usually is on the cold end, like the year it sleeted for the first 2 hours, and the fog was so thick you couldn’t see across the lake even after the sun came out.  So be prepared for highly variable conditions that can change dramatically during the course of the day.  And wear sunscreen.

That’s your day.  Starting shortly after 6 am, most people doing the century and visiting almost every rest stop should finish by 3 pm, although the sun is up until 8 pm and there’s no shame in finishing at 5 pm, and if you finish at 2 pm or before the bulk of the group, you may wind up waiting for us because the slower riders will have the necessary car and house keys anyway.

Other tips and thoughts:

Don’t forget to bring rags to clean your bike, especially if it rains.  The rental house won’t have them, and while in past years, the Marriott has made old towels available for their riders, that’s not guaranteed and those of you staying other places shouldn’t count on having bike rags available.  You also may want to bring an old sheet or bedspread, which could may be useful if we have to transport your bike in a rental car with others to or from the start or finish, or to meet the trailer for pickup or dropoff.

It will be hard to do a team photo, though we’d like to have one.  Most times you have to do one at the start, but then people are in layers and you can’t see the kits.  It usually never works to take a photo at the end, because people are doing different distances and some need to leave as soon as they finish.  Whatever we do, some people will be left out, and my apologies in advance.

UPDATE 5/19:  AMBBR requires that all riders sign in individually, there's no way to register everyone for the ride in advance.  However, riders who signed up early enough to have TnT handle your registration will pick up ride ID and sign waivers at a special TnT distribution, which is usually very efficient.  Riders who had to register personally have to go to the regular AMBBR registration, at Tahoe Sports in the Raley's shopping center in SLT.  The line can be long at Tahoe Sports in the morning, so if you have to sign in yourself, I recommend going in the late morning or early afternoon to avoid the rush.

Finally, I’ll be sending around information on bike pickup and dropoff next week, and also will ask if anyone is interested in a short spin on Saturday morning or afternoon.  Some riders want to warm up the day before by riding from South Lake Tahoe to the top of Emerald Bay, which is about a 30-35 mile ride and helps you understand what you’ll face on Sunday.  However, I’ve never managed to get to Tahoe early enough in the day on Saturday to ride, and it’s never seemed to diminish my enjoyment on Sunday, so a Saturday spin is truly optional; it just depends on whether the timing would work for you and the bike transport Brews crews.

UPDATES 5/19:  AMBBR riders, especially TnT riders, have been coached to call out road hazards and always call out "on your left" when passing, even when the hazard is "Asphalt!" and there's absolutely no point in calling out passes.  Be aware that even schlubby riders will expect you to politely say "On your left" when passing, even if there's no safety issue involved, and you'll often get yelled at for not calling out passes even when it doesn't matter.  Just call it out every time you pass a rider with a TnT jersey, or one of those funny/stupid team logos on their helmet.

Rest stop strategy:  Stop at the top of Emerald Bay, at the park restrooms, and not at the first official rest area about a mile up the road.  You also should skip the rest area halfway up Spooner and instead just keep spinning until the rest area at the top.  Otherwise, you want to stop at Homewood, Truckee, Kings Beach, and Spooner, if only for the views.  You'll also finish with more food than when you started if you do.  And if you can, it's good to regroup at Spooner, and then wait for stragglers about a half mile from the end, at the right turn to the back of the finish line parking lot, so everybody on Team Andy (who can) can finish together.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Gordon Invitational at Lake Tahoe 2015

Have you seen Andy Gordon's Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) video yet?  If not, here it is; watch it right now, we'll be here when you get back.

(If the embed doesn't work, use this link instead.)

Now that you've watched, please join Team Andy (motto: Non semper est rectus, sed nunquam in dubium).  Here's how.  For the last four years, our friend Andy has raised money for LLS by doing a century ride (100 miles) on his bicycle around Lake Tahoe.  Andy has become an inveterate cyclist, but more importantly, the mission of LLS is to fight blood cancers.  Andy signed on with LLS because his first wife, Sue Gordon, died of multiple myeloma, a form of incurable blood cancer, in 1997.  Then, in 2009, Andy himself was also diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  After a stem cell transplant in 2010, he went into remission and became a member of Team in Training (TnT), one of LLS’s primary fundraising arms, and serves on the board of the Arizona chapter of LLS.  He’s raised over $60,000 to fight cancer – not just his and Sue’s, but all blood cancers – through the Tahoe ride.

Andy is also a leading member of our Phoenix-based bicycle group, a coed bunch of generally middle-aged cyclists known as the “Brews Brothers.”  He started riding for the exercise as part of his recovery, but he can’t help himself, and has moved into leadership (a pretty loose category with this group).  He helps organize the rides, pushing us to ride better and drink better coffee.  He was getting ready for his fifth consecutive Lake Tahoe ride, but life intervened.  After nearly 5 years in remission, his cancer has returned.  He’s in chemotherapy now, and scheduled for a second stem cell transplant in early May.  So this year, he can’t fight cancer by riding and fundraising; he has to fight it much more personally.

Some of Andy’s fellow riders thought it might be a good thing to take his place at this year’s ride, and to help him keep his streak of being one of the top national fundraisers going, so he can pick up where he left off next year.  We threw out the idea to the group, and amazingly enough, over 25 of Andy’s friends have volunteered to raise money for LLS and bicycle around Lake Tahoe not just in his honor, but because we all want to cure Andy’s cancer.  We’ll do the riding, but we need your help on the cure.

Please join Team Andy for the Gordon Invitational at Lake Tahoe by contributing what you can to help fight blood cancers and find a cure.  We’ll finish riding around Lake Tahoe in a day, but we’re hoping for additional years for our friend and colleague.  Can we count on you?  Click on the donation link, and give generously.  Remember, it’s not just in honor of Andy.  He’s fighting his cancer, and he’s counting on us.

So click on Donate Button for Team Andy, and please contribute.  Thanks.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Podium Finish!

Desert Classic Duathlon at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  3.51 mile run (photo!), 25.17 mile bike (photo!), 3.51 mile run (same course) in 2:39:34 (finish photo and photo!)  Third, and last, finisher in my age group (the other 5 racers registered either didn't show or DNF), so a medal, a picture on a podium, and a second pint glass (plus other podium photos!).  It's true, 90% of life is just showing up.  Surprisingly tough, so I'm not sure how this Florida thing in November is supposed to work for me.