Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race Report: CELT Sprint Relay- and a Poetic Full Circle

Today was the CELT Sprint Triathlon, a local race that started in the pool that I spent many, many hours in in the 80's. Last year we entered a family relay. This year, Leah and I recruited Nate to take the bike leg. Like last week with Jeff, Nate's effort not only allowed me to participate, but he also gave it 100% knowing that for us, performance was taking a back seat to participation. That means a great deal to me.

Before the race, a woman came us to me and said, "You probably don't remember me, but...." I'm terrible with names, but I did recognize her face. I couldn't remember the context, however. "I was the CT scan technician when you came into Maine Medical." Bingo. Back on June 25, perhaps the worst day of my life, she was the one that ran the CT scan that showed I was in deep trouble with multiple and extensive pulmonary emobli, or clotting. I asked her what went on behind the scenes that day. Technicians aren't allowed to give evaluations to patients, but they do enough of them to know when to raise the red flag. Apparently, a great big red flag went up that day as they immediately called a radiologist in the hospital who was able to look at the scan, then ordered me to the ER. She was very pleasant, helpful, caring and professional on that day. The fact that we then bumped into each other today, at a race, seems incredibly poetic. That scan symbolized the end of my real season back in June, and here was the technician introducing herself as we prepped for a race.

My swim went fine. They sent all of the relays in the first heat. In this race, it's common to get some fast high school swimmers doing relays. I had no idea how it would play out. I was somewhere between "get near the front from the start and hold on," to "stay under control so you don't fade at the end." For nearly the entire 425 yards, a high school swimmer in the next lane over was the only one in front of me, about two body lengths ahead. When I got out of the pool, however, I heard I was the first one out of the water. Huh? Apparently, he swam an extra 100 yards. Whoops. Here's the run to T1:

While Nate was out attacking the 14 mile bike course and riding in front, Leah and I got ready for the run. We ran the first part of the course, then she threw in some stretching:

3 miles is a good distance for a 10 year old. I warned her about the adrenaline rush that we all get at the start of a race and to keep it slow and steady. She didn't exactly remember. This is Leah heading out as the FIRST runner on the course:

The run was all on a great trail system, and included a "bridge":

She struggled with side stitches and a knee she hurt in ballet this week, but kept fighting the whole way. With about 1/3 of a mile to go, a 12 year old girl passed us. According to plan, Leah then told me to run ahead to get a picture of her at the finish. So I ran up to the other girl, passed her, and glanced back. Leah was much closer than I expected. So I ran harder. And looked. She was still there. With about 100 yards to go, I looked and saw Leah with a huge lead on the other girl. Unbelievable. There was no way I could get to the finish line and prepare for a picture, so this is what I got:

It wasn't an easy run for her. She fought pain and fatigue, walking when she needed to, and beat it all to have a strong finish. I'm very proud of her! Here's the team:

So that's it for the 2010 triathlon season. It sure didn't play out the way I expected, and I have no idea what to expect for next year. But I do have great memories from these last two races, and am very appreciative of the support shown by friends.

Let the offseason begin.


You know the rules....keep yourself safe, put a little joy into your life and those around you who you think may merit it, and never ever- that's never ever- pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Race Report: Lobsterman

This RR should really be called a participation report. The goal wasn't to go fast, but to be there, see everyone again, and enjoy the whole experience. Check, check, CHECK.

To give a full story, I should back up a bit. Due to the coumadin (blood thinner to prevent clotting), I can't ride a bike on the road. If I crashed, I'd be in a heap of trouble because the bleeding wouldn't stop easily. So I decided to do a relay, and was fortunate to get Jeff Fisher to take the bike portion. We've gotten to know each other over the last couple of years, partly because we're very close in triathlon ability. He's a great biker. My swim and his bike cancel each other out, and we're similar runners.

Getting ready for the race was humorous. Everything was packed away from early June, so Friday night was occupied by digging all of it out. Later on, I discovered that I forgot a bunch of stuff, like my mixed water bottles in the fridge, etc. And that was without bike preparation which has the most stuff.

Driving to Freeport was filled with excitement and anticipation. The music was loud, the sun was dawning on a beautiful (and cold) morning, and I couldn't wait to get there. When I turned onto the access road, Rocky's Eye of the Tiger was playing and I could hardly hold it all in. I hadn't been a part of a race since early June- in other words, nearly all of the season.

The best part of the day was reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen for so long. I knew how they raced this summer, but that's weak. I wanted to really catch up. I was also touched by all of the concern ind interest people showed about my ordeal. The support makes a huge difference in how I deal with all of this uncertainty and change.

Going in, I told myself it was about participating, not racing. The docs have told me I won't have clotting issues, but warn me not to go to hard and get injured. It was also about a certain mindset. Call it a result of a new-found appreciation for the gift we have in being able to be a part of this great sport in the beautiful surroundings of Maine.

All of the relays and aquavelos started in the fourth wave. I figured it was better to try and stay wide of the crowds so I maintained the enjoyment factor. Normally I start in the front row and quickly get clear of the masses. This day I started in the second row and had to swim with my head up while the group got sorted out. Finally I was able to get to the right side and clear water. I maintained a comfortable pace, one I could stay at for a long time. I only accelerated around the buoys to get clear of the pile-ups. After the first leg, it seemed like everyone took each leg in a wide arc. While I could be wrong, I think I was fairly straight and in clear water the rest of the way. And I enjoyed every minute of it. As it turned out, my time, while not where it usually is, was better than I expected.

When I stood up at the end of the swim, my instincts took over. I started stripping my wetsuit off down to my waist while running up to T1. I know I didn't need to because I was just handing the timing chip off to Jeff, but it was reassuring that my instincts are still there.

As for Jeff and his bike.....whoa. Mr. Sandbagger had the fastest split of the day among all of the relays and triathletes. 25 miles (or so) in 1:00:19. He gave it everything he had, even though he knew that wasn't my objective. That's just the kind of guy he is. Thanks, Jeff!

I started the run nice and comfortable. Even though the first mile has a long uphill that I took my time on, I was very pleased to see my split of 7:35- about 35 seconds faster than I've been training. That pace held very steady for the first half. Finally, friends doing the triathlon started catching me. I sped up to run with them (6:45ish) for about half a mile, then would back off until the next one came along. This repeated three times, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. It felt great running shoulder to shoulder again. I was also really impressed with how hard Chris, Jared and Bob were working. They stayed strong, but there was nothing extra in their tanks. Now that I think about it, I saw that with many of the 800 athletes out there. They left everything out on the course. Very impressive. Hours after finishing (about 4 1/2 hours after the start), I saw a guy trying to finish the "run" and dealing with leg cramps. I stopped to talk with him, asked if he needed anything, and reassured him that he was close and there were no more uphills remaining. He worked just as hard as those who won.

If you can forgive a momentary detour from this feel-good report, I need to rant a bit about the drafting. As I was running out over the first two miles, I saw three different groups, each with 5-15 riders, tightly bunched together. Give me a break! They know damn well what the rules are, and blatantly break them. It's cheating. There's no other way to describe it, other than cheating. I'm not talking about a small bunch with a few folks passing others so there's a temporary overlap. These were two wide, eight long, a just feet between them. I was so pissed at them I yelled. I wondered if I was being a jerk, maybe I should just focus on the fun day and let it go....But I didn't. I've heard a few too many stories about races in Maine where this is happening. It isn't safe, and it's cheating. The other thing I don't understand is that as triathletes, we derive satisfaction from an inner feel of how we did on the day. How can they look at themselves in the mirror and give an honest assessment of their performance? Drafting is faster and easier. And it's cheating. I did see two official motorcycles out there, but not in the right place. Looking at the results, I see 11 athletes with penalties. The first male with a penalty finished in 107th. Sure, penalties will happen, and drafting sometimes happens. So my guess is these 11 fall into the category of what typically happens in a "clean" race. I'm not sure what needs to happen to stop this trend. More officials? Is there anything we as competitors can do? It's really frustrating.

Phew. Got that off my chest.

I finished the run in 47:46, a 7:42 average. I was thrilled with that. I know I can get back into good shape now. It was a great day, and I'm still filled with the great experience. We ended up 6th out of 62 teams. Given the objective, that's very satisfactory. It was also great to see so many teams entered.

Next week.......the CELT Sprint. I have Nate Smith biking and Leah is running. I'm not sure who else will be there, but I'm thinking there's an outside chance that Leah could start the run in first place. I can hold my own in the pool swim, and Nate's a strong biker. That would be fun!

Again, thanks for all of the good wishes!


You know the rules....keep yourself safe, put a little joy into your life and those around you who you think may merit it, and never ever- that's never ever- pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Speed Golf: Two Sports Collide

A few weeks ago I launched into an uninformed, impromptu game of speed golf. I ran around the 9-hole Castine Golf Club with a full bag of clubs in about 47 minutes. The next day was 42 minutes. Upon returning home, I looked up the rules of speed golf, and was pleased at what I saw. The score is the sum of your time in minutes and shots taken, you play with between one and six clubs, and you don't pull the pin.

Last weekend we returned to Castine, and I couldn't wait to try again, this time using the real rules. I gave a great deal of thought as to how I should approach it. Sort of like a triathlon, the right equipment is critical. The first task was to choose a pair of shoes-

The golf shoes have a better grip while swinging and stay fairly dry, while the running shoes are the most comfortable and possibly the fastest. I went with the train running shoes, figuring they would stay drier than my road shoes. Good choice. Speed golf happens early in the morning when there is a nice layer of dew.
Club selection comes next. I wanted to take a minimalist approach, figuring 1-3 clubs would be easy to carry. A critical part of golf is choosing the right club for the distance required. That's why most golfers carry something like 14 clubs. Using only three obviously gives you far fewer options. I went with a 5-iron, pitching wedge and putter-

My 3-wood, an obvious candidate, just isn't reliable enough. Or better said, the guy using the damn club isn't consistent enough with it. If I ever get comfortable with it, I think that's the next addition. For some good golfers, they should be able to reach a par-4 with two 5-iron shots. The club is fairly versatile, working well in the fairway and slightly longer grass. Also, it's my club of choice on the par-3 second. The other par-3, the 4th, is a 7-iron for me, so I just hoped I could take something off of my swing to make it work. As it turns out, it worked well.
As for other equipment, I decided to carry 9 balls because I'm really not very good at the normally dumb game of golf. I can easily lose a bunch of balls in a round. I don't always lose them to the woods or water, either. Sometimes I just don't pay attention or lose sight of the ball on an otherwise good shot, and can't find it. As it turns out, because I was playing with a 5-iron as my longest club, the ball pretty much stayed in front of me, and I only lost four on day one and one on day two. For calories, I took a banana, which was completely smushed when I reached for it after the first nine holes. I included a small towel in the hopes it would cut down on the bouncing fanny pack. I think it probably made it worse, so I ditched it on day two.

So I got everything ready, warmed up with a bunch of swings, an teed off. Here's a view of the first fairway. Those white spots are seagulls hanging out. They actually posed a problem due the the feathers they shed here and there. Due to my aforementioned inability to follow a shot, little white puffs on the course look and awful lot like little white golf balls, so I ended up going around in circles a bunch of times trying to find my ball.

So I whacked the little white ball around the course, and actually played fairly well. Most importantly, I had a blast. Normally it takes over two hours to play just nine holes due to all of the waiting around for others to hit, etiquette, club selection and shot preparation. I finished 18 holes in 1:10. Day two was exactly the same. As I ran up to the ball, I looked at the pin, slope of the lie, etc, knew what club I needed, whether I needed to choke up, got my feet set, paused and took another whack. I'd watch the initial trajectory of the short, pick up my other two clubs, start running, and try to pick up where the ball was landing.
Sometimes I think all of the deliberate work golfers put in is counterproductive. They get psyched out. This way, there was no time for that. There was also no time to get really frustrated with my game. I wasn't dwelling on how lousy the last shot was because I was on to the next shot so quickly.
Many pure golfers think this whole thing is a load of crap. Something about the purity of the game. You need to think of speed golf as a completely new sport. A whole new paradigm. Then you can appreciate the fact that it's a great combination of aerobic activity, interval running, and calm, precise shot making. It's a lot like biathlon where they cross country ski and shoot rifles in the Olympics.
On Monday, day 2, I made a few adjustments. First, I was tired of fishing for tees in my pack during the round, so I loaded up my laces with what I thought would be enough. You can see here I started with six:

Unfortunately, I lost or forgot three tees in just the first five holes, so I had to start scrounging for leftover tees, most which were broken. As it turned out, I made it to the end without a problem.

Other adjustments included swapping the banana for a Powerbar, ditching the towel, and going with just six balls. My golf game was far worse on day 2 as I added a whopping 12 shots. When you look at the card below, you'll see I am obviously not much of a golfer. I just don't understand how people can play 18 holes, multiple times a week while doing everything else in life. Sure, triathlon takes some time, but it's generally just 1-2 hours. Anyway, I only play a couple of times per year. Having said that, I wonder how many shots I give up without a full bag of clubs.

The 37:47, 31:56, 34:40 and 33:51 are my times. The 178 and 189 are my speed golf scores.

So if anyone out there is interested, I'd love to do some more of this around here. Just let me know.
You know the rules....keep yourself safe, put a little joy into your life and those around you who you think may merit it, and never ever- that's never ever- pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love.