1/2 Iron!

Posted: October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


So usually my updates here are about injuries and setbacks– this one will be a positive. Last month I completed my first 1/2 Ironman! On Sept 28th, I raced in the Mighty Montauk, out at the very tip of Long Island. Overall, I had a positive experience; my first major concern was allayed when we arrived to warm 80 degree weather. In the weeks leading up to the race, fall had descended in full force and I was concerned that the swim would be very cold. When I slipped into the lake race morning however, it was comfortably warm, which was a great way to start.

During the swim, I felt good. I’m not the fastest swimmer, but fortunately I’m not the (absolute) slowest either. However, I did have significant problems with sighting– I kept veering off-course on the return portion of the out-and-back 1.2 mile swim, and am fairly confident I tacked on to up an additional 1/5 of a mile.. I was feeling frustrated by this, and so was very pleasantly surprised when I emerged from the water in just under 48 minutes, which was more or less what I had been shooting for.

I’ve never really taken transitions seriously. In my mind the race is so long that if I take 1 or 2 minutes extra to catch my breath and change clothes, it’s ok. That being said, I probably should be a bit quicker– my T1 was just over 5 minutes, which is pretty long. Once I was on the bike however, I felt good. The course was rolling, with a couple of climbs. Ultimately I think I prefer this sort of course to a flat one, since a flat course requires consistent, all-out effort for the whole time, whereas on a rolling course, there is a bit variation in effort, and reprieve on the back sides of climbs. I did the vast majority of the course in a road position instead of on my tri bars. This was a result of my primarily training in this position, and as such, I didn’t develop a preference for, at least comfort with, that position over extended periods of time. That wasn’t a mistake on my part though. With all the pedestrian traffic in Central Park (where I do 99% of my riding), and the uptick in accidents, its just not feasible for me to train in an aero position.

Coming off the bike, my legs felt a bit heavy, and I knew I would be in for a tough run. I finished the bike in just over 3 hours, which was much quicker than the 3hr10 to 3hr30 I had anticipated. What I didn’t realize however, was just how much I was going to pay for that on-the-bike speed (avg of 18.5mph). The first mile or two out of transition were absolutely brutal. I was barely able to muster more than a shuffle, and the thought repeatedly crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to finish, that I should just drop out. Mental toughness is undoubtedly a part of triathlon, and I had to dig deep to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

From the suffering in those initial minds I knew I couldn’t focus on the full run length that remained before me, or just how much longer I had to be on my feet. I decided to buckle down, adjust my expectations of race pace and finishing time, and take it one slow mile after the other. Making matters worse though, the course was tough. There were lots of steep climbs and I felt no shame in walking up the inclines. I’ve always been a purist in racing, feeling that I had to run every step of a marathon, that I had to push as hard as possible every step. At this point though, I realized that this was about finishing a race, not about time, and walking up the hills was the most practical way to save myself for the rest of the course. From several books about ultramarathoning I’ve learned that the athletes often walk up hills too. It turns out its not that much faster to run uphill (unless you burn all of your matches taking them fast), and in saving yourself, you are able to bomb the downhills and the flats, ultimately resulting in a faster performance.

The run was a two-loop course, and it was pretty demoralizing that the end of the first loop, to be just feet away from the finishing line. Knowing what you just went through, and that you were so far from the actual finish while being so physically close, was rough! Anyway, by this time I was feeling better. I think the first couple of miles were about getting my feet back under me, and loosening up from 3 hours on the bike. After that it was just grit, and a commitment to keep moving, no matter what. When I finally brought it home, 2hrs11 later, I was absolutely thrilled that I had beaten my expected finishing time. It turns out that even though my run was 13 minutes longer (a bit over 1 min per mile slower) than I had predicted, since my bike was so much faster, my cumulative time of 6hr09 was about 15-20 minutes faster than I had expected at the outset.

Just yards from the finish line I saw Brisa, which really perked me up, and she was able to snap this perfect picture:


In the immediate minutes, hours and days after the race, I could not possibly conceive of doing double what I just went through. But deep down inside I know I’ve already set myself on that course, and will next year, be able to call myself an “Ironman”.



A Perfect Storm

Posted: September 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

fatigue-cartoonComing into the home stretch leading up to my first ever 1/2 ironman, a perfect storm came together. First, I think I began to push my workouts a bit too hard/long in the closing weeks. The 60mi bike/10mi run brick probably should have occurred one or two weeks prior, and it probably shouldn’t have been followed up by a 1/2 marathon effort just a few days later. The very slow pace I had on that run should have been a warning sign.

Second, the summer drew to a close. Gone were the days of workdays ending at 5pm with plenty of daylight, early Fridays, and Monday’s off. As the sun went down earlier and I left work later, I started finding myself completing, then starting workouts in the dark, which was a major mental bummer, and really limited my riding for safety reasons- whipping through central park at 20+ mph in the dark isn’t the best idea.

Third, and probably most significant– I began a vegetarian diet. Without getting into the why, I pretty much went cold turkey. Around the time of all these changes I began to lose all motivation for working out. For months, since the spring, I’ve been swimming, running and riding my way across the City in preparation for this race. And while of course there are times when I just didn’t feel up to it, it wasn’t an insurmountable task to get out the door. Recently, I’ve felt 0% motivation to get out and do anything, which is uncharacteristic for me. My training suffered greatly the last three weeks, with very nominal efforts.

It was only when I went to the doctor to get my baseline nutrition readings (to set a benchmark against to measure my health 3-6 months into my new vegetarian lifestyle), and the results came back showing low iron/possible anemia. Pretty much everything I’ve read online since says the lack of motivation/energy I’ve experienced is a risk for endurance athletes in general, and vegetarians. Combining the two would seemingly put me at significant risk of anemia, and given that I sweat much more than the usual athlete, I was probably losing even more iron.

So here I am, 1 week out from my first 1/2 iron, and my training pretty much blown up for last 2.5 weeks. Its a major bummer, and since I’ve learned of the issue, I’ve been trying to eat iron-rich foods (pumpkin seeds, etc), as well as have orange juice which can aid in absorption, but it can take a long time to restore iron levels. I was warned about switching to this diet so close to a major race, and I guess I should have listened.

We’ll see how I do next week I guess, and since this is a long-term change, I’ll make sure to figure out how to get appropriate nutrition for my active lifestyle moving forward.



Posted: August 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

sore_thumbNot really sure what is going on here, but less than a month after my first (and only) real bike crash, I had another incident this weekend, fracturing my thumb. It was absurdly silly how it happened– after stopping at a police barricade to confirm the roadway was open to pedestrians and cyclists, I clipped in, took half a revolution, looked over my shoulder and realized I was too close to oncoming joggers to safely merge. I quickly swerved away from them…and directly into the barricade. I guess my mind only had time to process either breaking or unclipping, and it chose the latter.

I continued on to the park afterwards, embarrassed and annoyed, not really thinking anything of the pain, figuring it was just smashed so of course it hurt, until many hours later when Brisa realized my hand and forearm were cold and the finger was turning very purple. So I went and checked it out– and it turns out I have something called a “tufts fracture”. My thumb is pretty useless, and at the doctors suggestion, I reluctantly pulled out of the olympic triathon I was supposed to participate in next week. The risk of getting it further banged up in the swim is too great given my real goal for the season is the 1/2 Iron in September.

So I’ll take the next week or so off from swimming and focus on running (and cycling when I have enough control in the thumb to safely ride). Not the end of the world, but annoying. I would love to be injury free for like six months.



Posted: July 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

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It happened going heading into the top of a descent, in a corner I’ve taken hundreds of times, and not at all at high speed– maybe 15-18 mph. I don’t really remember exactly what happened– I think I was overtaking a slow recreational rider but in getting back on my line, my rear wheel slipped out. There’s that instant or two where you are aware that you’ve lost control, and then it fast forwards to your face smacking into the pavement. Bruised and bloody, I hailed a cab home. The bike was a little scratched up and the hoods of the handlebars and derailleur bent, but otherwise the bike seemed okay. As for myself, I checked my teeth repeatedly, and was relieved none of them were knocked loose


The most painful symptom was my wrist which I must have stuck out to break my fall, and quickly became swollen. I got it checked out the next morning and they said it wasn’t anything more than a sprain, but three weeks later, and its still sore. As it so happened, the night before the crash I stayed up pretty late researching triathlon bikes, and convinced myself I needed one to complete my half-ironman later this year.  Combined with the damaged road bike, that pretty much sealed the deal, and within the week I went out and purchase a brand new, beautiful triathlon bike.


A few rides uncomfortable rides later though, and buyer’s regret setting in, I returned the bike. The ride just felt too uncomfortable and unstable to be worth the money I paid for it, even if it was an amazing deal. Once I returned the bike, I felt much better about my bank account, and felt good getting back on the road bike, which I had fixed. I do think eventually I will need to get a triathlon bike; essentially everything I’ve read confirms that the tri bike geometry is necessary to preserve the leg muscles for the long run to come off the bike. For now, I’ll keep with the road bike, see how it feels in the half-iron, and maybe buy a tri bike at the beginning of next year as I begin training for the full iron.

Probably one of the most frustrating things about all of this is the lingering hesitation I feel cornering now, and especially in the corner where I crashed. I’ve partially addressed that issue by replacing the rear tire– a few weeks ago when replacing the flat-prone, worn-out rear tire, the local bike shop convinced me to go with a racing slick, which had no tread pattern, but they assured me the tactile grip of the tire was solid for gripping the road. I’m convinced the skid was partially due to this slick tire, and moved it to the front, and put a new tire, with good tread, on the rear. I’m sure eventually I’ll get over it, but for now, it sucks.



Posted: May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

imagesSo I’ve been doing everything right for the past month- doing weight training to strengthen the muscles around my knee, not scaling up my running more than 10% a week and forcing myself to follow the three weeks up/1 week down model in training volume. Everything was going well– I managed to complete my first race since last year (a 5k- and in decent time!) and was on target to do a sprint tri in early June, when all of sudden I started experiencing significant pain in my lower abdomen/groin. I realized that  I must have overdone it when lifting weights the day before, but am pretty bummed that now I’ve had to cut back my training again- I can’t walk very well right now, much less train. Another lesson to be learned, I suppose.



Bum Knee

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

imagesNo matter how many times I overdo it and think I’ve learned my lesson, it never seems to stick. Since early January I’ve been experiencing pain in my knee.  I tried to back off, do a bit of stretching, but really didn’t take enough time off, or see through the physical therapy as much as I should off. Now, as the spring arrives and I really need to dig into training for races this year, I’m making the hard choice of pulling out of my May 17th Half-Marathon. If I’m being honest with myself I probably should be taking at least 4-6 weeks off and focus on getting strong and building a deep, comfortable, injury-free base, before I think about racing again.

Its hard a thing to acknowledge, especially when this was supposed to be a big year for me- a 1/2 Ironman and a full marathon. I still harbor those goals, but am going to do it the right way, meaning if I’m not healthy and ready, I’m not going to do it. I want to be healthy and strong for years to come, and every time I ignore the warning signs and push through I do myself no favors. By all accounts I have runners knee- not serious, but requires intervention (rest, strengthening) to really get better. Sigh.


New Year, New Troubles

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

runners-knee-injury1Just a couple of weeks into the New Year, and I’m already looking at some potential issues. In late December I went for a few runs in a new pair of sneakers- the Nike Lunarglide 4, and both times I felt some discomfort. The shoes forced me to land flat footed, and resulted in lower back pain, and worse, forefoot pain in my right foot- right where I’ve previously fractured it. I decided to shelve the shoes for running, and return to my old sneakers, but unfortunately my last two runs have resulted in significant knee pain.

After doing some research online it seems I have “runner’s knee”- a common overuse injury. I decided to take a week off- including missing a 10k I was signed up for. It’s not easy to do, but I’ve been down the road of ignoring early signs of overuse and have always paid for it. I have too many goals this season to start off the wrong way, so I’ve been trying to do the right thing- not run, rest, ice, elevate the knee etc. After a week I’m going to start stretching and strengthening my lower body- something I’ve typically neglected, like a lot of endurance athletes, with the mistaken belief that the running and cycling in and of themselves were sufficient strengthening.

I’m excited about two books I recent bought: “The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga”, which will help me do stretching at home, and a book I’ve eyed for a long time- Joel Friel’s “The Triathlete’s Training Bible”. The only question at this point is how long I’m going to have to lay off running. However long it takes though, I’ll wait. Still plenty of time left to get in shape for this year’s races.