Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Finding new running routes

A few weeks/months ago, I wrote about how the wife and I bought a house and are moving out of NYC.  Well, that day came about 2 weeks ago and we are now living in our new house.  While there is plenty to get excited about, one thing that I am most freaked out about is now I have to find new running routes for all of my workouts.  Most people love to go and find new routes and explore, but I am the exception.

For over 11 years, Central Park in NYC has been my "home course".  I did the math and figured out that I have done over 2000 training runs there, 50 plus races, 2 marathon finishes in the park, a few triathlon/duathlon finishes in the park.  What this means is that I knew every step of that park and every way I could possibly train.  My training was dialed in for that day specifically and I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I can customize my route.  Now, I need to find new routes near our house.  Not exactly something I'm looking forward to.

I have been out on 5 runs since moving in to the house.  Not knowing the landscape, it has been a true try and find approach.  For example, my street is at the bottom of a hill, so that automatically means that every single run that I go on starts with a pretty decent uphill.  Bad for a warmup and first mile of a run and also not great for the finishing mile since it's all downhill.

Also, now I have to deal with streetlights, stop signs, cars, and pretty much what everybody has already figured out how to deal with over the years.  But this is all new to me.  Central Park is closed to traffic, has no lights that runners have to abide by and once you start, you don't have to stop unless you want to.  Now, I have to deal with all of this constantly.

Let me say that when on vacation or in new areas, I really do love to run and explore.  It's great to see a new place, see the views, get a feel of the culture.  But when I have to rely on all of these things for structured training, I think it's going to take a long time to get used to.  I said to the wife the other day that I just need to find my "go to" route.  Meaning the route that I can do whenever I need to get a run in, or if I need to judge my fitness.  Whether it be 5-6 miles, or 10 or whatever it is.  I need to have a fall back route that I can go to whenever I need it.  Because right now, it's just explore and find, and I'm not liking it.

It's funny what runners consider problems when compared to the other things going on in this world.

Friday, June 12, 2015

I Escaped From Alcatraz...barely

This past weekend was my "A" race for the year.  Well, kind of.  I thought it would be, but looking back, I probably could have done more considering it was my "A" race.  Either way, over the past weekend, I Escaped From Alcatraz.  At least I tried to.

Escape from Alcatraz is one of the bucket list races for every triathlete.  The fact that we swim from the fabled island of Alcatraz is something that every triathlete wants to do.  This year it was the 35th year of the race and I somehow got into the lottery back in October.  Given how hard it is to get into the lottery, I figured there was no way I was going to turn down this chance to race the course.

Being stupid and jumping in to the water with no wetsuit for a practice swim
So last Friday, the wife and I packed up and flew across the country to San Francisco for the weekend.  After spending Friday walking around and site seeing, Saturday brought a practice swim in the Aquatic Park and then race check in.  Swimming in the Aquatic Park was a necessary evil.  The water temps was 52 degrees so I wanted to see how cold it was going to be the next day.  Yeah, um, it was cold.  Like cold that I couldn't feel my hands.  After 10 minutes thought, everything was numb enough that I enjoyed the swim.

The race expo was a big long disappointment.  I thought with how big this race is that there would be more there but only a few exhibitors and it took 2 hours to wait on a line to sign 4 waivers that I wouldn't die by getting eaten by a shark, freezing to death, piss off a seal, or have my sperm count lowered permanently and everything in between.  I planned it so that I would be there for the race meeting which also turned out to be a let down.  Given the difficulty of the course, I wanted there to be more explanation on how to navigate the swim/bike and what to expect.  All I got was "watch the videos on the website", which I have done countless times.

After the expo, it was time to have dinner and get some sleep.

Race Morning:
Waking up at 4am is not fun.  But that's whats required to get to transition, to get on a bus, to get on the ferry, to wait.  I set my transition up pretty quickly and got to the ferry about 530 am.  So I settled in my seat on the floor, made some friends and hung out for the next 2 hours.  Its amazing to hear stories from other athletes. What is also cool is that most of the pro's hang out in the common folk section so we get to talk to them and hear what they have to say.  I had a chance to sit with Andy Potts who was looking to go after his 8th win.  It was also pretty cool we were wearing the same exact race kit.

At about 7/7:15 they start making announcements about the start so it was time to get my wetsuit on and get ready for the start of the swim.  Once 7:30 came around, it was go time.  There is no hesitation at all.  Gun goes off and they shoo all athletes off the boat.  Over 2000 athletes are off that boat in less than 6 minutes so it's a free for all and if you are scared to jump off the boat, you get pushed so you better do it yourself so you can at least expect when to go.   Looking down at how deep the the water is from the boat, I thought it would be worse.  So at least those fears were quelled once I got outside the boat.  I got out on the boat deck and was ready to jump.

Once on the boat deck, you have about 6 seconds to jump before either someone pushed you aside or fear gets in the way.  I waited for neither and when I saw clear space in the water, I went for it.  The good news is that it wasn't as cold as I thought.  Nice.  One thing went my way. That's about it for the swim.

Knowing swimming isn't my strength I just wanted to get through it and thought the current was going to help.  We are told to site at a few landmarks, but it was so foggy that it was hard to do.  I finally got my bearings and my first landmark and started to go.  The first few minutes were great.  I had a great rhythm and thought this might be my day.  Then I just had no idea what to do. I lost my sighting, realized this is a long swim, and didn't think I was going to finish it.  I had a panic attack without the attack.  I never thought I was in danger, but I kept wanting to stop.  I would swim for a few minutes, stop and tread water, think I couldn't finish and then start up again.  But I kept saying this is not a race I want to DNF on.

The one question a lot of athletes have in the swim is when to move on to the next site marker.  I had no idea so I was going after my first one for probably too long before changing my direction to the next one.  This probably cost me a few minutes but that didn't matter.  My swim sucked regardless.

I really thought I was going to DNF but I finally got my wits about me and made it to shore.  It's a half a mile run to transition area and I couldn't be more thankful for that.

Swim: 44 minutes.  Horrible.  Nothing positive to say about this.  This could and should have been 10 minutes faster.  No excuses but I really need to improve my swim.

Grabbing my stead and heading out to the bike
(in the far right in the white/yellow speed suit)
I got on my bike and just went.  I knew I had a serious deficit to make up but I also knew this was a tough and hilly course.  Once on the bike, I was going after it.  Surprisingly, the hills didn't bother me at all.  Maybe it was because I was behind so many people that I kept passing everyone who I am naturally faster than.  I thought the hills were going to be hard, but I was rocking them.  This really impressed me as it shows that my bike training paid off.  I was killing the hills and so happy on the bike.

What goes up, must come down.  San Francisco is not a flat town, so these huge ass hills I was going up, I had to come down.  Usually not a problem, but they were some steep hills and technical turns on them.  Let me say that I have NEVER been so scared on a bike before in my life.  EVER. not after my crash 2 years ago, not any time.  People were bombing down these hills at like 40 plus miles per hour.  I was not comfortable with this but in order to not get run over, I had to do this.

It's weird that I was looking forward to going up hills since I knew I could pass people, but I also knew I would be the most safe.

After 16 miles, the course became flat again and I made my way back to T2.
I saw the wife as I was entering T2 and she said I rocked the bike course.

Very happy after coming back form that rough bike course
Bike: 57 minutes

This is the only part of the race I enjoyed.  The run was just awesome.  You get some amazing views on the run.  Like the bike, it was extremely hilly, but I loved the hills and they didn't bother me either.   At the 1 mile mark, I saw Andy Potts running with the eventual winner Eric Lagerstorm and that was cool.  A few minutes later I saw Lauren Goss (my triathlete crush) and Miranda Carafree in the 2nd and 3rd positions on their way back in.

The only part of the race I actually enjoyed
The run course takes you on streets, trail, stairs, steps, beach and the infamous sand ladder.

I was cruising on the run.  I felt good and was pushing the pace.  The only thing looking back on is I probably could have pushed a little harder but not knowing the course, I didn't want to bonk so I stayed within a good zone.

After running on the beach under the Golden Gate Bridge, you get to the Sand Ladder, which is a 400 step ladder consisting of, you guessed it, sand.  Everyone is told to walk it, but I tried to do my best to run it.  The problem with being so far back is there were so many people on the ladder when I got there that it was hard to pass people.  I did my best and ran and walked the ladder.  After living in NYC, it wasn't as bad as I thought.

After the sand ladder, its basically 2 miles of downhills and flats to bring you home.  I really enjoyed this part and found myself running with another racer until I pulled away with about 3/4 miles left.

Coming into the finishers chute, I couldn't be more happy this race was over.

Run 54 minutes (including the sand ladder)

Total Race time: 2:44- goal was 2:30-2:35, so if I had a decent and normal swim I would have hit my goal

Overall thoughts:
This race was supposed to be enjoyable, but with me being miserable during the swim and the bike and scared on my bike, this was a total let down for me.  I thought I could do well, I thought it would be great, but all I wanted it to be is over.

I do recommend that anyone who wants to do this race should try and get in.  its a once and a lifetime event, and though I didn't enjoy it, I am glad that I got the opportunity to do it.  Swimming from Alcatraz was cool even if I hated it.  Not many people get to say that they did that.
Post race pic
Now that I survived Alcatraz, the wife and I are heading to Napa and Sonoma to enjoy some time off and drink this race away.
Enjoying some relaxation after a long race weekend

Monday, May 18, 2015

Great Six Flags Triathlon Race Report- When everything goes perfect...until

Yesterday was my first race of the season.  I was super pumped for it.  I couldn't wait to see how all the hard training I did this past offseason was going to pay off.  Having Alcatraz coming up in a few weeks, I knew I needed a prep race to get all the kinks out.  I signed up for the Great Six Flags Triathlon, which as the name implies is held in Six Flags Amusement Park.  Pretty cool, right?

The Kingda Ka as a backdrop for our race is pretty cool
Going into this race, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to podium somehow.  Either overall or at least in Age Group.  I have raced this series before and knew that I could really go after the top prize.

So how'd it go?

I got to the venue at 5:30 am, which is really weird.  Think about walking down Times Square or the Vegas Strip at like 5 in the morning.  Everything is on, but no one is there.  To see all the roller coasters and games all lit up with no one around was pretty cool.

Minimal transition ready to go
I checked in, racked my bike and set up my transition.  Looking at my transition, I realized I was completely minimal for the first time in a while.  All I had laid out were my Skora's, race belt, and Rudy Project Sunglasses.  Everything else was on my bike and ready to go.

The race directors warned us that we should bring a second pair of sneakers to the swim start since transition was literally gravel.  Not soft gravel, like hard gravel, plus the run from the swim to T1 was about .5 mile and it was on that bumpy type of amusement park surface.  Did I listen?  Of course not. I brought 1 pair of shoes and walked timidly to the swim start.

The swim was held in the lake in the amusement park where they do all the water shows, fireworks, etc.  It was cool, but since it wasn't a lake that had access to fresh water, it was the cleanest.  It made swimming in the Hudson River feel like I was in the Maldives.

After changing my stroke this past offseason, I wanted to see if I really got faster.  Or even if I didn't, did I swim easier.  We got to warm up for a few minutes which was cool, and then then got us all ready in a time trail start.  I'm liking the new time trial start most races are doing now so everyone doesn't get run over.

Once I crossed the timing mat, it was on.  I got into a rhythm and went out to the first buoy.  Once I got there, a bunch of us realize the race director didn't tell us about the "hidden from view" buoy so instead of taking a smart route to the buoy, we now how to redirect and go in a different direction which probably added some time.

The swim was a 2 lap swim, so once I got the first lap down, I actually picked up pace and had the proper route so it seemed like I found something in my stroke.  I used this to pass a lot of people on the 2nd loop.

Coming out of the swim and the run from T1, I realized the shoes were probably a smart move.  I passed a bunch of people who were looking for their shoes and I didn't lose any ground, but it was a hobbled and hurtful .5 mile to my bike.

Swim: 28 minutes
For me, not bad. Would have liked 26 minutes or so, but also first open water swim and didn't know about one of the buoys

The bike was great.  The course had a lot of stretches of roads that didn't have a lot of turns, so any time you can stay down in aero and go after it is really fun.  The course had some rolling hills, but nothing super bad or anything that I thought was that hard.  Maybe that's a good sign for Alcatraz.

I was wearing my new Rudy Project Wing 57 helmet with the visor.  I love the visor.  It's awesome and cool looking.  However, for the first 6 miles or so, there was so much condensation on the visor that I was basically riding through a fog.  After taking my finger and wiping the dew from the inside (why didn't I think of that earlier), it was clear sailing.

Since the course had both Olympic and Sprint going off on the same course, whenever I passed race volunteers and asked them how many people in front of me, I kept getting different answers.  One time, I was told 25 people ahead of me, the next I heard 5, then 10, and so on.  It was until about mile 22 that I only saw people with "S" on their legs so I knew I was in pretty good shape when the race director told me I was in 5th.

The only bad part about the bike was that my Garmin Vectors weren't reading power on the left pedal so I was getting half data so I have no clue how hard I was riding other than by feel.

As I was coming into T2, I was feeling good and happy.  I started humming the theme song to Jaws since I knew I was going out for the hunt on the run.  I made a few people laugh when they heard me

1:10- 21 mph avg. Wanted a little higher but it'll do

Now it was time to have some fun.  I threw on my Skora's and went to town.  I got into a good rhythm and my file mile was tracking at 6:16 pace.  A little faster than I wanted, but I knew I could hold it and calm down for the next 5 miles.  At the first mile marker, there was a water station and once I got there, everything just went.  My left hamstring cramped up, and I couldn't move.  It was just one big knot in my leg.  I tried to rub it out, I tried to hop, and make it relax.  But nothing.  I was stopped for a good 3 minutes.  3 FREAKING minutes. I was really contemplating calling it a day right then and there.

After the cramp subsided, I continued on the run.  I stopped feeling great and now just wanted to get through the race.  I didn't know how many people passed me, but I kept passing people on the run and thought maybe there still might be a chance for an AG podium.  I really had no clue what to expect, but there was only one way to find out.

I crossed the finish line with a 10k time of 46 minutes.  I was pissed.  I felt like I could have gone under 40 minutes that day, and then boom.  My race blew up.

I checked the results and looking at them I found out I finished din 13th Overall place and 4th in my AG.  The difference between me and 2nd place in AG was 36 seconds.  36 freaking seconds.  I would have easily had this and probably a 7th place finish without that damn cramp.

Overall, my race was good.  I'm both happy and mad at how it went. Without the cramp and my stoppage time, it would have been a very good day at the office.  But, not everything happens in a vacuum, so I have to take what I can get. I'm not bummed I missed out on a small little trophy, but I'm upset for not doing well for all my partners.

Thanks HoneyMaxx, Skora, Cobb Cycling, and Rudy Project for being there with me.  The results weren't there, but I'm thankful for all the support.

Next up is Alcatraz.  Let's hope there are no setbacks there and I got them all out of my system here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What all the fuss has been about

Over the past few weeks and months, I have posted about things like how to deal with stress, who to go to when making decisions,  and a few other things like that.  So why all the cryptic posts and messages?

I am happy to announce that the wife and I have purchased our first house.  It was kind of like announcing we are pregnant or not.  At first, we could only tell a few people, and then once we finally closed on the house, we could announce it to everyone.

With the closing happening yesterday, I can't believe that I actually own a house.  I really never thought I would own one.  I always loved renting, and never bought into the idea of how owning a house is a good investment.  But things just happened so quickly that it was a great deal, so now the wife and I are homeowners and have all that pressure on us that comes with owning a home.

But none of that talk for right now.  Give me a week to enjoy this. Right now, the wife, the kid, the dog, and I are going to be moving to the suburbs and out of NYC.

This is the American dream right?

Standing in front of our new family home 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How do you deal with stress?

Over the last few weeks, I have had some stress in my life.  Nothing huge, but last night the wife said out loud that "you just can't deal with stress".  I completely disagree with her, while also agreeing with her completely.  Does that make sense? Well, it shouldn't.

Basically, I have decided that for normal things that stress us all out, I do extremely well handling my emotions.  To those who know me, I basically don't have any emotions, so it seems like I can handle stress very well.  Typically, I'll just throw my stress into my workouts and have a killer swim, bike or run.  I won't take it out on anyone, I won't let it affect my everyday life, and everyone will be none the wiser.

Where I become a crazy lunatic is for things that I find just ridiculous and I can't control.  Note that this is very different than normal things that I can't control.  I learned a while not to care about those things.  If I can't control it, then no point in getting stressed over it.  But for things that are plain out ridiculous and they affect me in any way, then I lose my sh#$t.  Like really lose my sh#$t.  This past week while on the phone with a friend who is helping the wife and I with something (and is doing an amazing job), he is explaining to us about something and I don't like what he has to say.  It's not his fault and I never once thought it was, but I threw the phone at the wife and said I can't deal with this, "you do it".  The problem is that my friend didn't know I wasn't mad at him so he felt I was taking it out on him.  I wasn't, but I just couldn't listen to anything anymore.  I didn't care about anything.  I wanted off the phone, I wanted to stop hearing anything, and I wanted things to be different.  I was screaming at the situation but not at that.  If it was possible, then my skin would turn green, my shorts and shirt would get torn off, and I would turn into the real life Hulk.  That's how bad I am.

It usually is caused by something that has to do with money, but there are other triggers involved.  Riley has known to cause a few of my Hulk-ings, the wife definitely has, yet Thunder and work have never (weird).

So when it comes to handling stress, I would say that I do a very good job of handling the normal day to day stress that we all have and is unavoidable.  But when things happen that affect me that I can't control and is just so insanely annoying, I freak out and do a bad job handling emotions.

How do you handle stress?

Friday, March 20, 2015

SKORA Tempo Review

SKORA Tempo's
photo credit: Steven Stam

One of the benefits of being an ambassador for SKORA is that I get to wear test some of their shoes before they are released to the public.  I get sent either a pre-production style and ask for feedback on how the shoe can be better or they send out shoes right before they are released so if any questions come up, I have experience running in the them.  About 2 months ago, I got my hands on their new style the SKORA Tempo.  Realizing that I love most of the SKORA styles on the market I was super excited.

Before I get into my review, I want to say that just because I am a SKORA Ambassador, I do not have to say that I love the shoe if I don't.  In fact, SKORA wants honesty because they want to get the most accurate information out to help runners make smart decisions.  Their ultimate goal is to help runners run and be comfortable.  So if a shoe isn't right for someone, they understand that. If you have read my reviews in the past, you know that I am brutally honest, even if I don't like something.  All I want to do is help runners get the best possible shoes on their feet.

Let me say that what first brought me to SKORA a few years ago was their bright yellow SKORA Base style.  I loved how yellow the shoe was and had to try them out.  Let's be honest, we're all vain when it comes to running gear and want to look our best.  Yellow is my favorite color so I'm always drawn to shoes that are bright.  So when I opened the box containing the Tempo's, I was immediately in love with the love of them.  They were BRIGHT YELLOW.  Just the way I like them.  Taking away from their color (though it is hard to do), the shoe has a wider toe box than normal, the upper material is a very light mesh, and there seemed to be more cushioning than other of the SKORA styles.

I honestly think the shoes lasted less than 2 minutes from when I opened them up to when they were on my feet and I was out of the door for my usual 6 mile Central Park loop that I test all shoes for the first time in.

How did they fit?
Tempo in action
In one word: comfortable.  Like super comfortable.  For those who are not a fan of shoes that essentially have zero cushioning, these are a far cry from them.  They aren't as cushioned as other shoes on the market, but they feel like they are.  The new material on the sole of the shoe is extremely hard, unlike other SKORA models.  I could instantly feel the difference between the Tempo's and other styles.  I have worn the SKORA Fit's for about a year now and those feel like slippers on my feet.  The Tempo's are a little harder when my foot came in contact with the ground, but not in a bad way.  They have a different design and material on the sole than what most people are used to so it took about 10 steps to get used to them.  Everything after that was just amazing.

The one thing that I had to get used to was how light the mesh was on the upper material.  Being that it was in the middle of the winter when I first got the shoes, running outside in them often left my foot freezing.  I had to wear warmer socks with them.  Not that big of a deal, but it was something I noticed, especially in this past brutal North East winter we had.  The flip side to this is that in a few months during the hot summer months, my feet wont be as hot.  They will be well ventilated and will cool faster than other shoes.  It will take some getting used to, but that's the only thing I could say was out of the norm for me.

One of the strangest things that I found with the shoe is how fast I am in them.  Since it's my "off-season", I try not to tax my legs so much and try not to do really fast runs.  Well, this is actually impossible in the Tempo's.  Because of the harder soles, I feel like I "bounce off the payment" and my stride was so much faster than normal.  I noticed this on hills.  My cadence was faster going up the hills, but on my descents, I felt more controlled, while going faster than normal.  I thought maybe I was just excited for my first run, but as I have put hundreds of miles in them over the past few months, it still continues to be the case.  I have even asked other SKORA Ambassadors on their opinions and they feel the same as me.  This shoe is ridiculously fast, even when I'm not trying to be fast.

The Tempo's are designed for putting high mileage on them and long training runs.  But for every run I go on now, I'm constantly reaching for the Tempo's.  They can be the for everything shoe if you want them to be.  I used to wear the PHASE's for speed work, but the Tempo's are allowing me to have faster runs, so I'm using them for that now.  The FIT's were my everything shoe last year and I worn them in the NYC Marathon.  Having the Tempo in my arsenal complicates things a lot for me because I think SKORA has hit it out of the park with the Tempo's.  When I am rotating my shoes for my runs, I find myself missing the Tempo's if I am not wearing them.  The wider toe box, the cushioning and the increased speed that I am getting from them are very noticeable when I don't have them on.

If you want a little more cushioning than a traditional minimal shoe, the Tempo's are perfect for you.  If you want a shoe that has a little less cushioning than a traditional shoe than the Tempo's are for you.  The only person this shoe is not perfect for is for the person who doesn't want to enjoy their run.

I really can't find a reason that someone won't enjoy this shoe.  It drops on Monday, April 6th, so be sure to get yourself a pair

Check them out for yourself at www.skorarunning.com

RunReal everyone

Fact Sheet for the Tempo's to get you familiar with this awesome shoe

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What do I wear?

One of the many benefits of having partners, sponsorships, and being a brand ambassador is that you get race gear to wear.  However, when you have more than one company to help promote and you have more than one race outfit to wear, how do you decide which race kit to wear and when?

For example, on the right of this page you can see how lucky I am to have some great product and company partnerships.  Out of that group, I have race kits for HoneyMaxx, Cobb Cycling, and Fusion Sports USA which I am expected to wear during my races this year.  So how do I pick which race to wear which race kit?  Do I put their names in a hat and then decide that way?  Do I rank my partnerships and then compare to which races I am doing and then have the more important races get the more important race kits?  There really isn’t a way to make this easy?

Some products are easy.  Since I only run in Skora’s, these will be on my feet regardless.  My sunglasses and helmet are all Rudy Project, so that solves that problem.  Headphones aren’t allowed on the course, so I can’t wear my X-1 audio gear.  Likewise, I can and still will be promoting all of the products since my fluids will be HoneyMaxx and my saddle is Cobb, as well as I have visors for all of these brands which I’ll be wearing.

But the big question is how do I pick which race outfit to wear for each race?

Right now, my schedule includes an Olympic Distance Tri in May, Escape from Alcatraz in June, and Challenge Pocono Half in August.  I’m sure there will be one or 2 more added this season.  In terms of importance, Alcatraz is a bucket list race so I am excited for that, and Poconos is a Half Iron distance so I can call both of these my “A” races this season.  The May tri is a prep race for Alcatraz, but I am expecting to be on the podium for it. 

So where does that leave me with what I should wear?  I want to get as much publicity for each brand as possible, but I also want to be as comfortable and fast as possible in each race.  It’s a great problem to have, but it still begs the question:  What do I wear and when?