Thursday, May 28, 2009

Team Cack Punch

The wife signed us (and Drew, our resident cabana boy) up for the team competition of the Accenture Oly Tri on Sunday, August 30! We are Team Cack Punch, and I'm guessing that Drew will swim, Cath will bike and I will run us home. Should be fun. We've done this race a few times in the past, but never as a relay, so I'm looking forward to a new (read: full-on, heart-about-to-explode, dying inside, suffer-fest) challenge.

Good times!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Plans are made to be...modified?

Well, I had a nice four-day weekend, filled mostly with training and napping. Friday, I started my day in the pool with 2200 yards (600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 100 CD) and then went over to the LBS to have Cathy's tire fixed (i.e., source of the Galena fiasco). I was supposed to do some strength training after the swim, but I was starving and ended up going to Starbucks instead. (Perhaps an omen of what was to come over the course of the weekend...).

Saturday, Drew and I started our 90-minute run with Cath and her running group (she leads a marathon training group for work), and then finished it up by ourselves. Nothing very remarkable about the run - we kept a nice pace, and I felt good the whole time. Sunday, the Plan had us down for a 3 1/2 hour bike with a 30-minute brick. Based on the lengths, we decided to drive out to Palos (about 25 minutes out of the City) where the roads are generally in good condition and less crowded than the lakefront path. We parked at the old Tobaggen slides, which have recently been demolished in favor of a sledding hill, see photo), and started our ride.

Sadly, we got off on the wrong foot by getting a bit lost and ended up following a bunch of pothole-filled roads with a ton of Sunday-morning traffic. It was also pretty windy, which just added to a general feeling of "this-isn't-very-fun-and-not-at-all-what-we-were-expecting." Anyway, after a couple recon stops (thanks, iPhone!) we found our way to the tried-and-true route and completed our 35-mile loop in just under two hours. By that time, though, Cath's neck was feeling lousy - she threw it out a bit during a rest stop - and Drew wasn't feeling all that great on the bike, so we voted to modify the training day by ditching the rest of the ride and extending the brick. So, we racked the bikes and hit the trails. About an hour later, I had done the 8-mile loop and was pretty spent (I had forgotten how hard trail-running really is). All told, we did about three hours of exercise, but, somewhat inexplicably, it really felt like a ton more.

Monday, feeling a bit disappointed in Sunday's adventures, we traded in our regular rest day for another ride, this one just around the lakefront. Again, the wind kicked our asses, but we did another 35 miles in just over two hours (different terrain, but same time/distance...weird). Cath bricked the ride for 30 minutes, but I was spent and headed straight for the ice bath.

Today, I'm still feeling a bit worn out, but I hit pool this morning for 2200 yards before work (10 x 200, 200 CD). I felt pretty slow in the water, but otherwise not too bad. I'll wait until after work to see if I feel like doing the 60-minute run (with two, 6-minute pick-ups) that the Plan is calling for. I'd hate to miss the training, but I'm also a bit concerned about the idea of not having a rest day this week, so I guess I'll just go by feel.

That's it for now - hope you all had a great Holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Memorial Day

Well, I'm off work tomorrow (Friday) and Monday, and I'm looking forward to a nice balance of training and relaxation time.

Last night, I busted out the trainer (because the winds picked up and I wussed out on battling them) and did my hour ride with three 5-minute pick-ups. Specifically, I went 20 minutes, did the first 5-minute interval, then spun easy for five minutes, and then on to the next interval. Felt good. I think the intervals are really going to help my overall fitness. Or kill me. One of the two.

This morning, I did 45-minutes on the Keiser bike and bricked that for 15-minutes, and I felt great the whole time. Tomorrow I'm going to swim a bit and do some strength stuff afterward (which I've neglected of late), and Saturday is our long run day - we're supossed to do a 30-minute warm up on the bike, then run Z1/Z2 for 75 minutes. Sunday, we're to ride 3 and 1/2 hours (with a 5-minute pick-up at the 3:20 mark) and brick that for 30 minutes. Whew.

Should make for quite a weekend. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back on track

After taking a day off on Monday, I was back in the pool Tuesday morning for 2500 yards (4 x 600, 100 CD) and ran in the afternoon after work. The run workout called for an hour, including two 5-minute pick-ups. My legs were feeling pretty stiff from the weekend, so I modified the pick-ups as follows: at the 20-minute mark, I did a series of five 1-minute pick-ups followed by one minute of easy jogging. I then ran easy for five minutes, and repeated the cycle.

Yikes, that was hard. Intervals are no joke. The wind was blowing something fierce, and an 11th pick-up would not have been possible. But I felt great afterward, and my legs feel good today.

Today, I'm supposed to do an hour on the bike, with two 5-minute pick-ups tucked in somewhere. The weather is spectacular today, with highs in the 80s, so it should be a nice ride. I'm going out to the same place I did the run intervals last night (Northerly Island), so the wind might be an issue, but should make for some good fitness gains.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of our roadside debacle in Galena, I ordered a sexy little carbon pump (see above) from REI as a back-up to the CO2 I ususally carry on rides. It's probably not the toughest pump on the block, but it's made of carbon fiber, so what else really matters?!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Race report...well, kinda.

After a half-day spent on travel prep, slightly amplified because we had invited a couple friends of ours to crash at our place with their infant son during our absence, we blasted up to Galena on Friday afternoon. Perhaps as an hint of what was to come, it rained hard pretty much the whole way up there, but, because we were car pooling with Drew, the ride was fun and we got up there in plenty of time to get things situated.

Galena is an interesting race in that there are two separate transition areas, so you're forced to prepare both transition areas the day before the race. Luckily, T2 was close to where we were staying, and it didn't take long to get everything set up and head over to the hotel bar for some pre-race hydration. We actually rented a condo, which worked out great - plenty of space for Cath, Drew, and our two little dogs to spread out, complete with a little kitchen. We had a nice dinner in downtown Galena, and hit the hay pretty early.

The race, which is now up to about 1400 competitors, goes off in waves, and it worked out that Cath was in the wave right before mine, and Drew immediately after, with three minutes between each wave. When we got to the beach, it was every bit as windy as they predicted, and the temps had dropped overnight and sat uncomfortably in the low 40s. Cath and I put our wetsuits on early just to stay warm. Her wave took off at 9:30 a.m., and I hoped that the full wetsuit we just got her would keep out the chill of 60 degree water.

My own wave went off shortly thereafter and I was happy to not notice the cold water one little bit - the swim felt easy and fast, and, despite having to swim through a few very uncoordinated and thrashey swimmers, I made it to shore in what I thought was a pretty good time (just over 10 minutes for 660 yards). I saw Cath come into the transition area after me, and was happy that she made it through the swim and seemed in good spirits (she had been very afraid of how the cold water would effect her). I grabbed my bike and took off onto the bike course feeling good.

There's a pretty big hill leading from the beach out onto the bike course, and I knew it was going to be a challenging day when I saw all the riders being blasted by wind gusts as they crested the hill. But I felt fine - figured I'd just take what the day gave me, and keep moving forward.

About four miles into the bike course, I noticed someone who looked very much like my wife on the shoulder of the road, and immediately realized that she had a flat. I pulled over to help, despite her protests to just keep on racing. She had already identified the likely culprit - a huge gash in the tire that went completely through the tread. After a crazy long time trying to replace the intertube, none of which would take air, we gave up hope of being able to re-enter the race. Cath told me I should continue on, but the wind was whipping so fiecely and she was shivering so badly that there's no way that I could leave her on the side of the road. So, as she steered my bike, I threw hers over my shoulder and we started to amble down the road, hoping that a sag wagon would come along or we'd find a medical tent. After about a mile and half, we ran into a sheriff controlling traffic and a nice man waiting to cheer on his wife, who graciously offered to take us to the finish line. His car had a bike rack, and (more importantly) a good heater (by that time, I was also cold as hell), and we ended up finding Drew at the finish.

So, not exactly the race we had hoped for, but just one of those things that can happen out there. I'm just glad that Cath beat me out of T1, or else I never would have seen her on the side of the road. Hopefully, we've paid our due to the race gods and IM will be smoother sailing.

The weekend was not a complete loss, either, as we stayed an extra day to ride the amazing/killer hills in that part of the state. With Cath's bike still toast, Drew and I took off after the sun started warm things a bit and did 2 1/2 hours of hilly goodness, which I followed with a 20-minute (equally hilly) run. The ride was incredible - smooth pavement, few cars, calm winds, and (most importantly) I felt super strong the whole time, which was a great morale-boost after feeling not so great the day before. We've already discussed going back up there this summer for another training weekend.

Congrats to Drew for conquering Galena, yet again, and thanks again for riding with me the day after a very challenging race.

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Lookin' good so far...

A few clouds early, otherwise mostly sunny. High around 60F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.

Gulp. Thankfully, the bike is only 17 miles.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and thanks for the support!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three days

Our first race of the season is on Saturday, and it just happens to be my first race of any kind since August of 2007. Yep, my bum hamstring kept me from running, let alone racing, anything in all of 2008, so it really has been a long time.

Training is great and all, but there's nothing like the nervous excitment that comes on race morning, and how it all slips away when the cannon (or whistle) goes off. Doesn't even matter how the race goes - flat tire, flat day, mid-pack, first place - there's nothing like crossing the finish line. That hour or so after the finish is probably one of the best feelings you'll ever have - it's almost like time slows down and you're left with that overwhelming sense of relief and pride in having completed another challenge. Can't wait to get back to that place.

Monday I rode the Kesier for 75 minutes and bricked it for 15 more. Tuesday I swam 2500 yards (10 x 200, 5 x 100). Today, I'm going to run easy for 45 minutes, and tomorrow I'll probably do an easy hour on the bike. Friday we drive up to Galena, and the race is on Saturday. Sunday we plan on riding a bit more on the rolling hills before heading back to the City.

Hope your week is going well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

IM guilt

This is going to sound silly to the uninitiated, but probably draw a nod of recognition from most triathletes, when I admit that I wasted a good part of the day yesterday bummed out because I blew off my workout. Sunday is, of course, long ride day, and week 12 had us doing a two and a half hour ride bricked with a 15-minute run. This Sunday was also, of course, Mother's Day and the annual cancer walk around Chicago's Grant Park, which typically draws several thousand participants to our little neighborhood. I knew going in that Drew, who typically rides with us on Sundays, was out because of Mother's Day obligations, so that just left Cath and I to hit the roads. The night before was probably a good indication of where this was going, because we both kept asking each other "what are we going to do tomorrow?" with the response always being "I don't know - what do you want to do?"

Long story short, the ride was unceremoniously canceled and we went to breakfast and did some errands instead. But I felt pretty lousy about it. I obviously wasn't motivated to do the ride, but the weather was nice and I had really wanted/needed to get in one more long ride in before taking it relatively easy this week (in preparation for this weekend's race). But laziness took over, and we chilled instead.

I felt better as the day went on - I'll do a slightly longer ride today, and otherwise put yesterday behind me - but the guilt was a bit of a shock. I'm going to take it as a good thing - proof that I'm serious about the training this year, and won't be so willing/eager to cut corners - but still try to keep the concept of training and race preparation in perspective. One more or less long ride won't make or break my race. But I won't make a habit of skipping workouts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Small victories

After Monday's rest day, which went by way too quickly, I was in the pool bright and early Tuesday morning. I decided to avoid the humiliation that comes with swimming alongside the Masters group, and instead swim in our gym's indoor pool. And it was my best swim in a very long time.

Every once in a while, the stars align, and I have a day in the pool that actually feels like I think it should feel every time I swim - fast, smooth, bouyant, effortless. Needless to say, those days are few and far between. I usually feel like I'm dragging a bucket behind me. But not on Monday - it was nice to feel like I was actually swimming well, and I'll file that small victory away for the next time 2500 yards feels like a death march.

My afternoon, post-work, session was a 45-minute run with a 5-minute pick-up (Z4, fartlek) stuffed inside. I ran out to the old Meigs Field, which is now a quasi-nature preserve/outdoor concert facility with a paved running/cycling path around the perimeter. It's actually a very tranquil and scenic place to run, but a full loop is only about one and a quarter miles. Perfect for a shorter set, though. It took me about 15 minutes to get there from our place, and I began the pick-up at the 20-minute mark. Whew. Yeah, that was hard. The five minutes actually went by pretty fast, and it was great to mix up the run and really test myself a bit. Hopefully, this kind of thing is what makes you stronger. Or leads to an early death. We'll see.

Today, I'm either doing an hour ride with another 5-minute Z4 segment or a 45-minute ride bricked with a 15-minute run. I'm going to wait and see how I feel on the bike before I commit to the run part.

Hope everyone's having a great week.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Summer, is that you?

Wow, what a great weekend! The temps were absolutely perfect for exercise - a bit brisk in the shade, but wonderful when the sun hit, and there was plenty of sun. It seems like forever since we've had a day-ful of clear skies, and this weekend we got two (2) in a row. It's about time.

Saturday, Drew and I ran 90 minutes on the lakefront path (Cath had to work early, so we went stag). My legs felt a little fatigued for the first half, but the back end was great. Probably did 8:15 - 8:30s for most of it.

Sunday, the Plan called for a 2:30 ride, followed by a 15-minute brick, but Drew and I (Cath was, thankfully, unavailable to kick our asses again) decided to just do a straight three-hour ride and ditch the brick part. Again, I felt pretty flat for the first 15-20 miles (heart rate stayed firm at 129, despite feeling like I was working much harder), but additional nutrition along the way got me feeling a little more peppy. At least for stretches - it seemed like my energy was wholly tied to my gel-intake. Felt great after I had one, then would quickly sag again. Still need to do a better job of carb-loading the day before and/or getting a better brekky the morning of our longer training days.

The Plan backs off an hour of training this week, which is nice. Last week seemed to take a lot out of me. And it's a rest day today! And my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins play tonight!

Hopefully, it's the start of a very good week.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Phriday Phun

Nothing too exciting going on today - swam 1,600 yards this morning before work (ladder: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 100 CD) and did a bit of strength training afterwards. Tomorrow, Drew and I are running for 90 minutes along the lakefront. Sunday, the Plan has us riding for 2 and one-half hours and bricking it for 15 minutes.

I'm on the hunt for a new pair of running shoes. I was a devoted Asics guy for many years, specifically the DS-Trainer line, but they made a few tweaks to it over the years (don't they always!?) and I cooled on them. I currently switch off between a pair of Ascis Speedstar 3s (longer stuff) and Nike Lunar Racers (shorter stuff). Honesly, I'm not thrilled with either of them - they're fine, but not great. No pain, or anthing, just not "Oh, these feel so GREAT to run in!"

So, I poking around, thinking about changing to some other model/brand. I'd like to go back to Mizunos, which I had for time a few years ago, but the arches on those things were crazy high and ended up giving me plantar. Or I might go back to the DS Trainer (which went back to a former last, and is rumored to be much nicer than recent versions). Or the Lunar Trainer, which is just a beefier version of the Racer.

(See, I told you today wasn't very exciting).

Anywho, that's all I got - have a great weekend, peeps.