Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miami Marathon Weekend

Warning: This is an overly-long entry. I promise to keep it shorter in the future. I haven't got time for this and training.

Sunday was the 7th annual ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. Flying into South Florida for the full marathon were our friends Kieth & Sheila who we met on our Dublin Marathon trip last year. Keith had previously coaxed me into signing up for the Vegas Marathon in December before life scheduling conflicts forced him to cancel that trip. In the exchange following our e-mails regarding his conflicts, I suggested he schedule Miami instead. Sheila had BQed in Dublin and Keith was attempting to BQ to join Sheila on her Boston Marathon run.

As for me, coming just 2 weeks after the Disney Marathon, I had little business running the half marathon. However, I had previously agreed to pace my paralegal's high school cross country running daughter Daniel ("Dani") through her second run of the half marathon. We decided to try for a sub 2 hour half, but neither of us were trained for the effort. Dani was studying for the SATs and that was her main focus the last couple of weeks. However, she decided running the half would be a good way to get in some base training for spring track season, so we decided to run.

"Half-Iron (for now) John" decided to pace our friend Victor to a sub 1:50 half, but John too was under trained for such an effort. Somehow we trick ourselves into thinking that because we are not running at PR paces, that we can gut out an event like the half marathon. In fact John is so not paying attention to conventional running wisdom that he decides to pace a high school cross country runner in a 5K event the day before the half marathon. No one has ever accused us as being the smartest runners in the area. Enthusiastic to the point of stupid maybe; but smart, not so much.

Saturday afternoon, I pick up John to ride down to the Expo together. I drive around South Beach like a lost tourist for an hour trying to find the convention center. I don't think we hit any pedestrians or cars before we parked, but as the band Boston sang, "Don't look back." Once parked, John seemed grateful to be out of the SUV.

At the Expo, we split up. I meet up with Dani and her entourage, consisting of boyfriend Josh and father Oscar. We agree again that neither of us feels up to a PR pace and decide to enjoy the race at whatever pace feels right on race morning. After we split up, I locate John who has met up with several of the JFR women runners from Ft. Lauderdale. We talk running and triathlons, comparing notes on who is signed up for which events over the next year. They all seem to be shooting for near the 2 hour mark for the half. I review the race course with the ladies and warn them about the false sense of being at the finish line with about a half mile left to run. John takes some group shots of the JFR runners and they depart to their pasta feed.

We continue to cruise the expo. I am on strict instructions from wife Salome to bring home lots of free goodies that they typically give out at these events. However, with the economy in the drink, there appears to be few to no goodies at the booths. We stop at the Rock & Roll Marathon booth and I do manage to finagle a second free T-Shirt for John by signing up for the Seattle Marathon. With little to bring back to the cave, I see a "Life is Good" grocery bag that I decide to buy for Salome. Its good for the environment, and its only $5. She should love this. John, being more astute than I in the gift giving department, advises that I stop off on the way home to buy flowers to put in the bag before I present it. "Don't forget to execute on the plan," John advises me as I drop him off Debbie's condo. "Sure thing. Thanks for the good advice," I reply. Unfortunately, as I drive north on I-95, I get a call from Salome telling me to hurry home as we will be late for our dinner engagement. "OK, so no flowers," I think, "Its still a great bag. Utilitarian, economical, ecologically sound." Did I mention it had that nice "Life is Good" smiley faced dude on the outside? Of course, when I present it, Salome is not so impressed. Note to self: next time, buy flowers before going to expo.

John meets up with several of the Tony & Tracy branch of our extended athletic family for a pasta feed. Keith & Sheila join them. John introduces them as Dublin Marathon friends, but something is lost in translation and the group somehow ends up thinking our Michigan friends are from Scotland. Keith rolls with it stating he left his kilt is in the car.

In the morning, I decide to wear an Alaska tech shirt in honor of buddy Wayne, who is still coming back from triple bypass surgery. I drive to Miami and pick up John. He guesses that I will get a lot of people shouting out "Go Alaska." We park the SUV and walk to the start. We meet up with Dani, Victor, Demetri, and Randi. Dani & I agree to start out with John & Vic and see if we can hang with them on their quest for a sub 1:50. As the gun goes off, the race officials shoot off a bunch of flare guns to simulate a fireworks display. Nice touch.

My plan is to try to keep Dani on the 8:20 min/mile pace if we can hold it with John & Vic. At the 2 mile mark, I note that Dani is falling off pace and tell John & Vic we are dropping back. At the bridge crossing onto South Beach, I note the 3:30 pace runner going by with his balloons and a pack of runners. Dani and I drift to the left of the road to allow the bunch to pass. Realizing that this is probably where Keith & Sheila are running, I shout out "Sheila." Sheila sees me and calls back "Bill." I look over to spot Keith & Sheila and make eye contact. What I fail to notice in doing this is that the race course officials decided to place a 3 foot cone right in my path. I whack into the cone, knocking it over and almost doing a summer salt. "Um, Hi guys. You didn' t see that, did you?" The huge grins on their faces give me my answer. "You guys look great. Hang onto the pacer for that 3:30 finish," I say as they go by.

Dani looks good, but keeps tucking in behind me. A good strategy for drafting, but I keep having to do Linda Blair head turns to make sure I'm not dropping her. At the 10K mark, we do goos with a water chaser. "Yuck," Dani says as she spits a few times. A mile later, we alternate to Gatorade, which was an overly strong mix. We both start feeling a little nauseous. I'm trying to figure out if we did bad goos or if the Gatorade is the culprit. I advise that we stick with water for a few miles. Dani is also starting to feel some blisters, but declines an offer to stop and adjust her socks. The mile 11 cheering zone psyches us up and we pick up our pace. Just as John predicted, I get a lot of shout outs of "Go Alaska." By mile 12 Dani starts asking me for distances to the finish. We have been off pace for the last couple of mile to do a sub-2 hour run. I can tell Dani's near the end of her endurance, but try to keep her going by not stressing splits. "Only a mile to go," I tell her. Then I start breaking the remaining distances down into laps of a track. With a quarter mile to go, I tell Dani that if she wants to do a kick, she should start accelerating now. I state that coming off the marathon, I don't want to risk injury. However, as she picks up speed, I try to accelerate with her. I keep up with her for a while, but Dani has great acceleration. She pulls away at the finish to best me by 4 seconds.

John had a similar experience with Victor. Vic has lost weight recently and started to up the pace over the last couple of miles. John, in an effort to both keep Vic from blowing up and from pulling away at the finish, tells Victor he has the sub 1:50 in the bag. "Don't blow it now, Dude." Victor, feeling light on his feet, pulls away anyway to a 4 minute improvement on his PR, coming in at 1:47:52. John comes in a second later. Later, John & I agree that no good pacing deed goes unpunished. Of course, we are thrilled for Victor. Randi comes in at 2:03 and Demetri runs a 2:12.

I reunite Dani with her entourage that now includes her mother Val. I later hear that as I ventured off to meet my other running buddies, Dani sat down and tossed her cookies a couple of times. Too bad, as the cookies they gave out at the finish were delicious. As Dani is spaying the grass, Val puts Dani's metal around her own neck. Just for safe keeping, mind you. I understand Dani eventually got the metal back after Val received a few compliments for running a half marathon in jeans and a sweatshirt.

The JFR girls hit their marks, but we fail to see them finish and don't run across them. Kelly makes a 10 minute improvement on her PR. Congratulations to Kelly, Nora, Anna, Cassie and Marci. We look forward to seeing you gals burn up the A1a Half Marathon in February. We also don't see our friend from Delray, Jen, who was also not running at full speed this day. However, Jen's time at reduced pace still makes our times look anemic.

We meet triathlete Carrie, Tracey and her brother Lane, his wife Theresa, and daughter Ali. Carrie ran under Tracey & Lane's mother, Myrna's racing bib. Myrna was unable to run, so 30-something Carrie stepped into her shoes so to speak. Fortunately, Carrie omitted the timing strip from her shoe or she she might have had some explaining to do at the age group awards ceremony.

Carrie "Myrna," Ali, Theresa, Lane & Tracey

John, Debbie and I make our way over to the stands near finish line to watch for our full marathoners Keith & Sheila. We see the 3:30 pace runner come in with 2 male runners struggling to keep up with him. We fear our friends will not make the 3:30 cut off. But, no, around the corner comes a guy and a girl pushing to make the cut-off before clock strikes 3:31. "Go Keith! Run, Sheila!" we yell and start to get the people around us to also cheer our friends in. As they come close to us with only 25 yards to the finish, I turn to John and say, "Hold on, I don't think its them." Sure enough, its a nice couple pushing each other to the finish, but its not our friends. After a couple of false sightings, we see Sheila, but are doubting ourselves. As she passes we finally start shouting her name. "Well, I hope that was her," John says. Sheila finishes in 3:40:56, a new PR. We promise to cheer better next time Sheila.

Keith comes into view several minutes later looking like he is ready to be done with the marathon. As we start shouting his name, he lifts up his shoulders and picks up his speed to cross the finish in 3:47:42. No BQ; but, as I say, any day you finish a marathon under 4 hours is a good day.

That night we have a gathering at my house for a post race celebration. The event was initiated in part by Keith & Sheila's visit and in part by running buddy Keith Seago and me turning 50 within a month of each other. Keith & Sheila meet up with John and Debbie and come over by boat. They bring a copy of a picture of me astride a broomstick in Dublin on Halloween night. My mind drifts back through the haze to that drunken night and I vaguely remember goofing around with that broom. Suddenly, I realize I'm a prop comic. I'm freakin' Carrot Top. OK, let's not drink too much Guinness tonight. Better start with the Harps.

Grill chef extraordinaire Peter cooks up lamb, chicken and salmon, while Salome & Kiki work the salad, vegis and spinach pie in the kitchen. I keep pushing the various Irish brews on our guests. We gather to talk about the Miami Marathon and our upcoming spring triathlons. Tracey had let me know that its was her husband Tony's birthday, so I had gotten a birthday cake and candles for him. But the event was supposed to celebrate Keith Seago and me turning 50. So we all sang happy birthday to Tony, Keith Seago and me. Well, Keith and my wife Salome discover that their birthdays are both on February 11th. OK, so we sing an early happy birthday to Salome too. Someone asks the date of my birthday. "January 9th," I say. Tracey announce that her birthday is in early January. "Happy birthday to you..." John says, "Hey, my birthday is December 30th. That's close." "Happy birthday to you..." We soon realize that most of us are either Capricorns or Acquarians and we've sung happy birthdays to almost everyone present.

As the evening comes to an end, John takes Keith and Sheila (along with the Debster) back to John's condo by boat so Keith and Sheila can pick up their car and drive back to my place to spend the night in our guest room. After a pleasant boat ride to John's place, John gives Keith and Sheila simple directions back to my house. They start off following John's directions, but decide to use the trusty Garmin GPS system. They put in my address that they have from my e-mails and start off. Unfortunately, they had my office address from my e-mails and are now steer off course to my office address, which looks nothing like my house. I get a call a good while later asking where the heck I live. I give them my home address and go back to cleaning up the house from the party. After a while, I start wondering where they got off to. I call to find out they are on the west side US 1 and I have no idea where they are in order to guide them back to my place. They finally get my zip code correctly entered into the GPS and make it to my house. There is a lesson here: follow the directions given first. Use the GPS when you don't have a clue.

The next day, Salome & I play hookie and give Keith & Sheila a driving tour of Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, and South Beach. We stop at Monty's on South Beach for sea food and margaritas. Meanwhile, John arranges to get tickets to the Eagles concert that night. After dropping off Salome at the office and doing a quick change at home, we pick up John and Debbie and head to the Bank Atlantic Center. On the way, we call running buddy Wayne to speak to him for the first time since his triple bypass operation. Wayne sounds in some discomfort, but we have an upbeat group conversation. We all eagerly await his return to good health and the road. Follow Wayne's recovery at http://atrampathonabroad.blogspot.com/

We've got nosebleed seats, but the show is good. We like the sound of the Eagles' new songs and love the hits. Back at home, I promise to wake my guests at 7 AM to drive to Miami for their 11AM flight back to Michigan. Its well after midnight when we all head to bed and I am asleep in a couple of minutes. I am awoken at 3:45 by my cell phone which is charging in my bathroom. I rush to pick it up and see that I missed a call that was from Keith. I figured I must have gotten cced on a text reminder for their flight. I don't want to wake them given the lack of sleep we've all had over the last few days. I decide I'll let them sleep until 7 AM and discuss it then.

Little did I know that Keith had checked on his flight before going to bed and found out that his flight was canceled. He and Sheila stayed up, dialed up a Delta representative and were finally re-booked on a 6 AM flight out of Miami. They had packed, left our place and were driving to Miami to return their rental car and get to the airport in time for their flight. The call had been meant as a voice-mail explaining their predicament. I only hope they were able to awake for their transfers.

I think Keith & Sheila had a good time in South Florida. But I get the feeling they felt a bit like the guy in the Eagle's song "Hotel California." They can check out, but they can never leave.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Disney Marathon: I'm Not Dead Yet

Then the one day you find, ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun. Pink Floyd, "Time"

The week before the Disney Marathon, I received an unwelcome gift in the mail. Someone needs to tell the people at AARP that the last thing one wants to receive the week they turn 50 is an invitation to join an organization that "fights to strengthen Social Security and make health care affordable for older Americans." They might as well just send a birthday card that says: "Welcome to the old persons club. Enclosed is your discount card to matinees." Of course, my wife eagerly opens the envelope that I would just as soon throw away. "Its funny," she says. "I'm not dead yet," I reply (a la Monty Python's Holy Grail) .

On Thursday, I get a reminder that we can only put off that aging process so far with all of our fitness training. Good friend and marathoner, Wayne from Anchorage, Alaska calls me to tell me that he went in for a stress test after feeling dizzy during a training run. Wayne was starting to gear up for a 3 marathon tour of Europe in the Spring. It turns out Wayne has major blockage in 3 arteries and will have to have triple by-pass surgery the following Tuesday. I now have a person to whom to dedicate this marathon. This one's for Wayne. Follow Wayne's postings as he undergoes the trials and tribulations of surgery and recovery at http://atrampathonabroad.blogspot.com/.

Later that night, the University of Florida Gators give me the best present one could ask for in turning 50: the BCS National Championship. We whoop and holler the evening away with some of my and my son John's friends. Everyone was decked out in Gator gear, a requirement to gain entry to the theater room. The game ends just before midnight, so I ask everyone to stay a few extra minutes. Training buddy John does the honors of opening up the bottle of Champagne I bring out (sparkling cider for son John and his friends) and we toast the Gators and my old bones.

Saturday morning, I drive to Orlando ahead of my brother Dave who agreed to run the Disney Marathon as a return to marathon running after a 3 year lay-off. I hit the race expo to pick up my number, race chip and tee-shirt. Of course, the large cool-max shirts (nice) are cut for a giant (sucks) and they race officials will not allow exchanges for a smaller size (doubly sucks). If you know anyone with really large arms looking for an over-sized Cool Max shirt, call me.

I check into the hotel and direct my brother to the hotel when he arrives a few hours later. We get together for dinner with co-poster John and a few other friends at a restaurant in Celebration, a town developed by Disney that eerily reminds me of the stage-set town in The Truman Show. John says, "Que the moon" and sure enough, we have a low horizon full moon that is so big it looks unreal. At diner, we are advised/directed by a friend to stop eating meat, avoid flour based products, and start taking lots of different dietary supplements. As I continue eating my pasta with meatballs, I decide to take the advice "under advisement." That's judicial-speak for "I'm postponing a decision now, but will decline your request at a future date."

We return to the hotel to try to get to sleep. One of the problems with the Disney Marathon is that is starts at 5:50 AM and there are traffic delays to get to the staging area just outside Epcot. Thus, the race director advises leaving for the start at 4AM, which equates to a 3AM wake up. As we watch the first half hour of Saturday Night Live, I realize I will get little to no sleep. We cheat on the wake-up by setting the alarm for 3:15AM. When the alarm goes off at 3:15AM, it feels like you are coming to after being knocked unconscious. I state this without ever having been knocked unconscious, but I'm pretty sure this how it would feel. You awake not knowing where you are or why you are being awakened. We drag ourselves out of bed and get dressed.

Being stuck in the traffic on the way to the parking lot is both good and bad. Its good in that we don't have to wait in the cold early morning air. Its bad in that by the time we get in the porta-potty line, I'm shifting from side to side to keep from soiling myself. The lines at the porta-potties seem extremely long. I'm sure one of Einstein's unpublished theories of relativity reads: The worse you have to go, the longer the porta-potty lines seem.

After taking care of business, brother Dave and I head to our separate corrals. I've provided prior marathon results and have gotten placed in the first non-elite corral, Corral A. Dave, not having a prior race result with which to get properly seeded, is place in the absolute last corral, Corral H. He later informs me that he looked at the enormous crowd lined up ahead of him, then looked behind him to see that there was no one behind his corral. As the race starts, he is forced to bob and weave through the newbie runners and walkers of all ages, shapes and sizes that make up the back of the 15,000 people doing the marathon.

As the gun goes off and fireworks are shot off, I'm having the opposite issue from Dave. I get pulled out at an 8 minute per mile pace. I find the pace runner holding a balloon that says 3:30 (predicted finish time) and start off with the large number of people running with the pacer. Its too crowded behind the pacer, so I run slightly ahead of the group to keep from getting tripped up. As we run through Epcot in the dark they play The Cars song "Let's Go" that contains the lyric: "I like the night life baby. Let's go." A nice beat and a nice thought. A girl running with a guy near me turns to him and asks: "Do you like the night life, baby?"

As has become my new norm for marathons, I am able to hold this pace for about 10K (6.2 miles) before I start to fall off pace. As I stated in my Las Vegas Marathon posting, the only problem with this is you end up getting passed by a lot of runners as you drop pace. This is a psychological blow that is only paid back in the second half of the race as you start to re-pass runners that went out too hard and end up walking or stretching their cramping leg muscles.

As I run through Disney World around mile 11, I start thinking about being at Disney as a kid, which starts me to thinking of the times I've brought my own kids to Disney World. It makes me feel young and old at the same time. Then, I remember that my buddy Wayne is facing a serious operation on Tuesday and I start thinking of his youngest daughter, Hannah. I hope that all goes well and Wayne is able to take Hannah to Disney World in the near future. I think my eyes got a little moist here. With every official photographer I run by, I start to hold up 3 fingers to make a "W" for my buddy Wayne.

As we run through Animal Kingdom, an announcer on a stage sees a couple of runners near me in Gator running shirts. He calls out, "Go Gators" and a bunch of us start doing the Gator chomp as we run by the announcer. Outside of Animal Kingdom a large crowd of spectators cheer on the runners and call out names. I hear people shout out "Go, William!" and realize the Disney people printed my formal name on my racing bib. So, I start to shout out thanks to people calling me by a name I've never responded to in my life. My buddy Dean, whose formal name is Constantine, heard all different kinds of names shouted out to him. As he said, only the speed readers got it right.

Around mile 15 I start to think about the Ironman in November. I'm going to have to swim 2.4 miles and bicycle 112 miles before running a marathon. How in the world am I going to do that? Its hard enough to do the marathon by itself. I realize I have a lot of training to do before November.

From about mile 16 on in, I start passing runners instead of being passed. I think that this is my new persona. I used to be the rabbit; now, in my older incarnation, I've become the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race. Nice to see you, bub. Take care of that cramp. See ya! For the last 10K, my pace slows from 9 minute miles to 9:30s and near 10 minute miles. I'm tempted to take a walk break, but don't dare to with my estimated closeness to a sub 4 hour finish time. At mile 26, there is a black church choir in golden robes singing, clapping and swaying side to side. Very appropriate. I clap in rhythm with the choir as I run by. A couple of minutes later, I finish in 3 hours 57 minutes.

Holding up the "W" for Wayne. Get well buddy.

After getting my medal and a massage, I meet up with my friends. First timer Dean finishes in an impressive 4:03. I teach him the secret handshake. It involves reaching out your hand, then grabbing your calf to work out a cramp. Brother Dave tells me he felt he must have had to pass about half of the entire race crowd. He wasn't too far off, coming in 7061 out of 14,940 finishers. His worst moment was being caught being a group of run/walkers at a narrow area near mile 11. He hears a pace group leader shout out "Walk!" and the entire crowd in front of him comes to an almost complete stop. He looks up at the balloon and sees the expected finish time of 5:30. He manages to pass this group and many others to finish in just over 5 hours. Welcome back to the marathon brother!

After a protein packed brunch at Denny's, we return to our hotel to lounge around and watch playoff football all afternoon. In the evening we meet up for dinner with friends Demetri and Effi who worked a water station on the course. Demetri is interested in doing the Goofy Challenge next year, which is doing the half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday. It sure sounds goofy to me.

The next day, as I drive back from Orlando, I key up Billy Joel on the iPod to get ready to attend his concert the upcoming Friday. I feel good about my performance and decide the age thing doesn't bother me. One of Billy Joel's songs ques up that kind of sums up my feelings on turning 50, so I finish with a quot:

If it seems like I've been lost in "let's remember;" if you think I'm feeling older and missing my younger days. Oh, then you should have known me much better, 'cause my past is something that never got in my way, oh no. I'm keeping the faith - Billy Joel

I'm also keeping the faith with regard to my buddy Wayne. See you on the other side of your surgery. During recovery, we can plan that trip to Disney for Hannah.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

39th Annual Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim

---- and how much work I need to do on my swimming!

Background -- Good friend and 7 time Ironman, Carl Rosen, lets me know about this annual swim that will be taking place on January 3, 2009. I quickly agree to join in. Sounds like a great training swim and after swimming a mile in the pool with training buddy Carrie this past Monday, I feel ready to go. Saturday morning, Jan. 3rd, 2009 -- it's a beautiful morning. Temps in the low 70s, sunny and winds at about 8 mph out of the ENE. A slight chop where we would be swimming, but overall, pretty good conditions for the ocean. 9:50, and our group (masters swimmers, 25 yrs and older doing the mile swim) is off. After about 2 minutes, I was swimming all by myself -- because everybody else was already way out in front of me. No worries for me about getting kicked by another swimmer -- one of the small benefits of being the slowest person in the water.

Well, I'm going to quickly note some of the lessons that I learned today during this humiliating STDFL (second to dead _ _ _ _ _ _ _ last) performance and then I'll let an e-mail exchange (below) between me and a few good friends/training buddies, Chris and Tony, describe the rest of the day.

Lessons learned:

1) Don't trust the website re: whether or not you will be permitted to wear a wetsuit. I was the only one wearing a wetsuit. Normally, a wetsuit will give you an advantage with increased buoyancy. Even more humiliating is the fact that I had this advantage and still came in STDFL!

2) If you're going to wear a wetsuit, put body glide on your neck and underarms and possibly other areas as well. My neck was rubbed raw by the chaffing of the wetsuit and my underarms stung like hell when I showered afterwards.

3) Try really hard to swim in a straight line. I'm certain that I swam at least an extra quarter of a mile with my "serpentine" like pattern. On 4 occasions, "bay-watch looking" kayakers redirected me and saved me from swimming across the pond to Europe. I must admit, the third and fourth times I swam off course were on purpose just so that I could better get to know these ladies that might wind up having to save me from drowning --- just kidding, I really never felt like I was in any trouble at all.

4) Know the landmarks on shore so you can gauge your progress along the way. Also, focus on smaller landmarks and use them as intermediate goals. If you choose larger buildings for intermediate goals, you can see them from a much further distance and it takes a really, really long time before you feel like you're making any progress. There were times when I felt like the current might possibly be pushing me backwards.

5) When you finally do make it to the finish area, stay focused and don't let any of your buddies that either weren't swimming or, had already finished a very long time before you, distract you so that you run in a direction that takes you away from the official finish line allowing others who you legitimately beat, to finish ahead of you.

With that said, this mornings 39th Annual Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim was a great way to start off the New Year and an awesome training experience.

Caption: John Clidas, 48, from Fort Lauderdale gets directions as he heads to the finish of the 39th Annual Fort Lauderdale Roughwater Open Water Swim.

Now, please enjoy what I think is an incredibly funny e-mail exchange between a few good training buddies about this morning's event:

Tony: How was your swim?

John: STDFL --- second to DFL! But I finished! And chances are that I can only improve -- I can't really get "much" worse although I guess I could still slip to plain old DFL. The winner of the 5K swim was only about a minute behind me -- boy was that close. How embarrassing would that have been -- someone swimming 3.1 miles faster than it took me to swim 1 mile. Oh yeah -- another highlight ---- a Sun Sentinel reporter took my picture and asked for my name. I can only imagine what caption or comments he'll have to go with that picture ---- maybe "dazed and confused 1mile swimmer exits water just slightly ahead of the 5K winner". Oh yeah, another highlight --- I came in first or second in the un-official wetsuit division ----- did I mention that there were only two people wearing wetsuits one of which was me --- so I guess I actually could of come in DFL in that division. But wait, there's more. Chris Howard was there to misdirect me away from the official finishing mat (chip mat) to see if he could help me wind up DFL as opposed to STDFL --- with friends like Chris ---- you know the rest.

Tony: Breaking News: Sun Sentinel head lines,Special Needs Swimmer struggles but finishes swim without assistance!

John: That's a good one! It's kind of like one of those human interest stories.

I can't wait to pass Chris Howard on the run at St. Anthony's!!! I'll write that headline: "Special Needs Swimmer Passes Special Friend on The Last Leg of St. Anthony's Triathlon"!! This trash-talk should help to improve Chris' training and eventual performance -- it works every time.

Chris: Chris overslept. Never would have hung with you guys, anyway. 70 miles is way over my pay grade at this juncture. (this was a reference to the bike ride that Chris missed this morning)

Technically, I didn’t misdirect John, rather when he came out of the water and approached me instead of the two-time Olympic gold medalist waving a massive red flag in the middle of the exit shoot, I merely pointed out that if he wanted to go from good to great and be the best at being the worst, he’d need to wait a few seconds for the last place swimmer. This discussion nearly took long enough to process in his water logged head that he almost did it. Almost. It’s gotta suck, when you suck so bad you even suck at sucking.

I’m up for anything relatively mild tomorrow am (swim, bike, run or any combo thereof). Any takers?


p.s. Kidding aside, swimming against the current, dodging jelly fish, navigating a little rip at the exit point and that distance weren’t easy in rough water, so I’m proud of our short bus project, John. I’m certain I would have struggled to get through it (albeit with the dignity of trying it sans illegal wetsuit), and have the utmost respect for John gamely fighting the elements and what appeared to be himself for a good hour out there. You da man!!!!!!

p.p.s. By the way, was that other email a throwing down of the gauntlet for a gentlemen’s wager (one dollar plus bragging rights) re: St Anthony’s? If so, IT’S ON BABY!

p.p.p.s. The other guy with a wetsuit was legitimately over 80 years old. He couldn’t walk. They had to escort him up the beach, and frankly, the suit looked very thin (2 mil?) and perhaps was a neutrally buoyant poly pro suit. Conversely, not to cast dispersions on John’s efforts, but I’d wager he’d wear about the same thickness of wetsuit he was wearing if diving in the north Atlantic. I’m just saying. Anyway, he had the decency to ditch his water wings before reaching shore, so at least the pic of the twin caterpillars clinging for dear life onto his wet forehead as he exited the heavy surf as if he were a landing onto the shores of Normandy won’t be besmirched by the little duckies.


John: Hmmmm -- let me address your points in order:

1) Overslept, 70 miles is too long, over my pay grade at this juncture, I had to do laundry, my panties needed to be ironed, etc. etc. etc! Come on Mr. Howard --- man up already and get in the game dude! Remember, there are two things in life: 1) Results and 2) Excuses . Lately, all I'm hearing out of you is #2 (doo-doo ---- lots of it too).

2) Regarding me "sucking so bad that I suck at sucking" --- okay, I'll give you that point after today's performance. But heck, a year ago, I couldn't swim 50 yards in a pool without having to stop. Watch out buddy --- my improvement trajectory isn't really that bad. More instruction to develop some technique coupled with more time in the water and soon enough I'll be able to ride in your wake effortlessly and sprint past you at the finish.

3) Did you say that you're up to "anything relatively mild" tomorrow. Wow -- I guess that's a big leap going from spectator to "relatively mild" participant. Do you think you'll really be up to it??

4) Thanks for your effort in acknowledging my "effort". I knew you were capable of finding something positive to say --- even though every other sentence had a counterbalancing dig (i.e. "short bus project", "dignity of trying it sans illegal wetsuit", "fighting the elements and what appeared to be himself for a good hour out there"). Okay, these were funny lines.

5) Regarding that "gentleman's wager" for St. Anthony's --- you're on! You don't know what you just got yourself into. You have all to lose and absolutely nothing to gain. Face it, you're the odds on favorite to kill me in this race. But I'm still going to give it my best to whoop your ass! And yes -- I have just thrown down the gauntlet!!!!

6) You're right about the (only) guy that I beat. He was wearing a neutrally buoyant poly pro suit which technically, is not a wet suit. So there you have it -- I did come in first in the un-official wet-suit division! By the way, can you provide evidence that this guy was 80? Do you even know who the last place finisher was and how old he was? I'm calling BULLSHIT on your race reporting!

Okay -- with all of that said, thanks so much for writing, and helping me to write the other piece of, what I think is going to be a most humorous and entertaining blog entry.

I still love you and I'm absolutely, positively just having FUN with all of this craziness.


P.S. Have you already come up with an excuse for blowing us off for the bike ride tomorrow morning?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year: The Scheduling-Go-Round

Sometimes life just gets too complicated. Take the whole New Year's Eve situation for example. Salome & I had no real plans. After a very busy holiday season, staying at home for New Year's Eve sounded like a nice way to unwind. Unfortunately, life doesn't let you off so easy. We get invited to a dinner dance, which we manage to decline. We then get invited to a friend's house for an early evening BBQ. Well, we've got to eat. Then, a second invite to another friend's house for another pre-midnight gathering. Finally, our 18 year old son, John asks if he can have a few friends over to the house. Great, now I've got three places to be in one evening. So much for chilling.

As for a New Year's group workout, everyone had a plan. It just happened to be different from everyone else's plan. I try to do an Olympic Bike/Run brick every Thursday. So, my game plan was to go out New Year's Day at 7 AM for the brick. Training buddy Tony always gets out his group invite first however. Darn those Crack-berries and iPhones. Tony wants to do a bike ride on Friday. Iron-woman in training, Carrie responds that she is looking to do a 14 mile run on Friday. John e-mails back that he wants to do a mile swim event scheduled for Saturday. My schedule is inflexible with the need to do my last long run before Disney on Saturday so I can go to the Dolphins playoff game on Sunday. Moving my brick to Friday would make for two hard workouts on back to back days. We do a couple of e-mail exchanges, but nobody budges. Everyone seems locked in on their scheduled day and programed training event. So,we all do our planned group training solo.

The New Year's Eve gatherings were all a good time. We end up at home for the ball dropping to make sure a house full of 17 to 20 year-olds don't bring the house down or the cops in. At 1:00 AM, I tell my son that I'm going to bed. As I hear one of his buddies ask out loud if its OK to go from the roof-top terrace onto the actual 3rd story roof, I leave John with the instruction that nobody goes on the roof. I go to bed with the hopes that I don't get awoken by a report of a broken leg from a kid jumping or falling off the roof. Fortunately(?), fireworks were purchased for the party and must be fired up. So, its off the roof and out onto the street. With the kids going in and out of the house all night continually setting off the "ding" of the front door alarm sensor, I had a fitful night's sleep. It finally quiets down about 5 AM.

I awake as scheduled for my brick about 7 AM. Cleaning up after the kids, I don't get out the door until 8:30 AM. Luckily, its cool, partly cloudy, and somewhat breezy out, so the late start isn't a problem. As I hit A1a biking north, the wind out of the northeast is blowing pretty good and I'm doing 15 to 16 mph. I hook up with a corporate pilot in from LA who is out for a morning ride and we take it up to the 18 to 20 mph range. After he turns around, I keep heading north to my turn around point. The trip south is payback time for the slower ride north. I finish the 25 mile bike ride around 10 AM. After transitioning to run shoes, I run South along A1a with the wind at my back. Its funny how you don't notice the wind when its at your back. As I turn at the 3.1 mile mark, the wind reminds me: "Its a rather blustery day." Oh, bother.

As I head back North to finish my 10K run, I think how sad that we all ended up doing solo workouts to begin the new year. Then, I think how great that we all have training scheduled to start off the new year. Don't worry if the group scheduling doesn't work out, just get out there and train. Happy New Year.