Monday, April 27, 2009

St. Anthony's....Duathlon????


So, this weekend was the St. Anthony's Olympic Triathlon. I traveled to Clearwater on Friday to visit my folks. That night, my younger brother, Dave, who was also scheduled to do this event, met up with me at our favorite local pizza parlor/sports bar for some brews and pizza. Tri buddies, John, Tony & Keith drove up to Saint Petersburg Saturday morning.

Since I had to wait on brother Dave, who is perpetually late, before heading down to St. Pete for the Expo, we got to the race site about an hour after John & Co. We arrange to meet down by the water. There is a pretty good chop in Tampa Bay. We all exchange nervous talk about the swim as we watch other athletes doing practice swims on the course. The 1500 meter course looks huge. With the first 1/3 of the course running next to the Bayfront Pier, I am wondering if the tide will be pushing us into the pier the next day. Since swimming is not any of our strong suits, we agree that we will swim to survive on Sunday morning.

After doing our number pickup and bike drops, Dave & I peruse the expo. We meet up with another Ft. Lauderdale buddy, Jacques and his lovely wife Christine and his two kids. We now have our personal cheering section for the race finish. Dave tries on and buys a wet suit to get any advantage for the rough water we expect the next morning.

That night at diner with Dave and my parents, I note that I've never seen a bigger transition area. There are approximately 4,000 participants doing the event. That is a lot of bikes. Luckily, I've got an easy to find location along a fence near the swim/bike entrance. Dave too has a good spot. I insist that Dave get his gear together Saturday evening and spend the night at my folks house so I don't have any unwanted delays Sunday morning. He promises to be at my parent's house around 9:30 PM Saturday evening. That night, I watch the Miami Heat beat up on the Atlanta Hawks. The game ends around 10PM. No, Dave. I call him and tell him to be sure to get to the house that night. I head to bed.

That night, I don't sleep well. My subconscious is not comfortable with the water conditions. However, like the rest of my buddies, I decide that if the race officials decide it's safe, I'm in the water. When I awake at 3:45 AM, I find my brother Dave in an adjoining bedroom. He tells me he got in at 1:30 AM. I'm glad I didn't wait up. As we drive down to St. Pete, Dave explains that the proper strategy for the swim is to give it maximum effort on the outward leg since the tide will be against us.

As we park and start to head to the bay front, the winds are kicking up pretty good. I note that the stop signs are shaking. I comment that this could make the bike ride tricky. As we get to the bike transition area, we take a look into the dark surf. It looks about like the day before, but with just the slightest of whitecap tops. We go in, pump up our tires and set up our transition stations. Dave & I return to the SUV to drop off the pump. On our return we meet up with John & Tony who tell us that the race officials just announced that they were canceling the swim portion of the event for everyone other than the pro athletes. At first, I think our friends are playing on our fear of the conditions and messing with our heads. But, soon we notice that everyone is buzzing about this unexpected news. What does this mean? How are they going to handle the rest of the event? Do we care?

Apparently, the tide and waves were bad enough that the kayaks that patrol the swim area are unable to stay stable on the water. What choice do the race officials really have? Apparently, there was one death in the water at St. Anthony's in the last couple of years. If the conditions were bad enough that the guys looking out for our safety can barely take care of themselves, we lost our margin of safety. The news accounts of the pros at the St. Pete Times website make it sound like the swim was a struggle for the pros. Thus, I am grateful the officials made the call.

On the other hand, I've now lost my edge. I totally relax. The portion of the event keeping me on edge has been canceled. As 4,000 participants wonder around the swim exit area, we all ask each other how they will send off the age group waves. We are told that we can wear our bike helmets to the swim exit area and that we will be sent off individually in 2 second increments. So, we get our bike helmets and line up by the seawall. We watch the pro men and pro women waves take to the water. Boy, are they fast swimmers. Watching the pros come out of the water and sprint through transition is inspiring.

My wave is #15 out of 30. Buddy Keith & I are in the same wave, but the last wave of our friends. As the waves get called up, we cheer our friends on like we are spectators. Eventually, wave 15 gets called up and Keith & I line up along the seawall. Since Keith is much faster than I am at each event, I have him get in line ahead of me. When Keith gets to the start official, I think I hear them exchange words. What did they say to each other? Do I have to say something to this guy? He looks me in the eye and counts "One, Two, Go!" Oh, shit! My race has started.

Off I run through transition. As I pull my bike off its rack and start running towards the bike out exit, I realize I forgot to hit the start on my watch. I could try to reach over to start my watch, but I would most likely drop my bike. I decide against starting the watch. I get to the mounting line and get on the bike.

The winds blow, but the course has many turns, so its about a neutral effect. I look down to my bike computer after a bit and notice that its not registering. I think about reaching down to the wheel to try to correct the sensor, but decide against it. I hit the computer button to run see if that helps. Sure enough, the speed starts to register. So, I now know my speed, but the mileage is slightly off.

The wave just before my wave was the Clydesdales. Thus, I'm getting passed by the strong bikers, but passing a bunch of big and tall bikers. I'm hitting 20s to as high as 24 mph with the wind and down to 16 to 17 into the wind. I feel I'm holding my own, except when a faster biker goes by and says something like "way to go." While this encouragement should make me feel good, it actually makes me feel bad. For a biker to go by me offering encouragement must mean I look really slow to him. If not, the guy would shut up and try his best to blow by me. In any event, I come into transition averaging 18.9 mph.

Coming out of transition and into the run, I finally start my watch. I start repassing all the strong bikers that passed me in the bike. This makes me feel great. Vengeance is mine. I start off with a couple of 7:30 miles before slowing down to low 8s. It's gotten warm, so I douse myself with water at each water stop. Near 2 miles, I high five buddy Jacques. He looks strong. Around 2 1/2 miles, I come across brother Dave. He waves me on. Shortly after, I see John. He is too far ahead for me to gun for him, so I just concentrate on reeling in those directly in front of me. Near mile 4, I pass 4 guys in their 30s running as characters out of "Joe Dirt." Thank God! I hate getting beat by stunt runners. With one mile to go, a guy goes by at a good clip. The dude was in great shape. I use him to pick up the pace and pass a few more people to move up through my age group before the finish. Before I know it, I turn for the finish. My run time was just over 50 minutes for the 10K.

My run time was 5 minutes faster than my run 5 weeks earlier at the MIT Olympic tri. However, without the swim, I don't know if I would have run this fast. My overall time was 2:12, but I don't know what to make of it. I'm just into the upper 50th percentile for my age group, so I'll take that as a passing grade. My buddies greet me as I come out of the finish area. They all completed in the low 2 hour plus range, except for Keith who is in a whole different category from the rest of us. The dude is fast at whatever event he competes in. Everyone heads to the refreshment tent while I wait for brother Dave to come in. We walk over to the beer tent and get our reward. The refreshment tent had good food and we hung around with our buddies a while. All in all, a good event, but I have no way to measure this effort without the swim. Oh well, there is no controlling nature. It was still a fun time. The bike and run courses were very nice. I can see why this race is so popular.

Well, better safe than sorry. The race organizers did the right thing in canceling the swim. It did throw me off my game though. We will all have to come back next year to see what the full event feels like.

Next week, buddies John & Tony do the MS 150 bike ride in the Keys. John came through St. Anthony's in good fashion (2:17). Thus, if he does OK in next week's ride, we will officially cease any mention of his recovery. Hopefully, he will post an interesting report after next weekend's ride. Me, I'm chilling for the week before returning back mainly to running in gearing up for the Seattle Marathon on June 27th.

Other friends' finish times: Keith - 1:49, Jerry - 2:08, Tony (the Tiger) - 2:09, Jacques - 2:16, and brother Dave, 2:30.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Boston Marathon

So, both Ryan Hall and Kara Gouhcer fell short of winning the Boston Marathon yesterday. They both ran very well, each taking 3rd in their category. You just never know with the marathon, particularly Boston. I for one am extremely proud of their achievements. We can expect good things to come from each of these runners in the future.

Since I didn't get to run Boston this year and I'm waiting on my friend Jen's race report (she ran a 3:23:59), I figure I'll post my race report from my 2006 running of Boston. This is a tough course, but in hindsight the memories are always fond ones. Perhaps it's the trill of being in the Mecca of running. Perhaps it's the shared fun and pain of doing it with other running friends. All I can say is: if you ever get the chance to run this event, "Just Do It."

In any event, here is a reprint of my 2006 running of the Boston Marathon.

Pre-Race. Since the 2006 Boston Marathon fell during Spring Break this year, I took along the family for Spring Break. We stayed at the Park Plaza on Arlington, which worked out great as the gear bag retrieval area put you right outside our hotel at the finish. We arrived on Friday in time for running buddy, John Clidas, son John and I to see the traveling production of “Spamalot” at the Colonial Theatre, a gorgeous theater off Boston Common. The show was everything a Monty Python fan could hope for and more. We liked it so much, I made my wife Salome go see it the next night. I also picked up an “I’m not dead yet” button that I put on when I turned on Hereford Street during the marathon.

On Saturday, John Clidas and I did an easy run on Bolyston Street to the finish line and followed the marathon course as far as a 3/4ths of a mile on Commonwealth Avenue. After breakfast, I took the family to the observation deck at the Prudential Center for an overview of the city. We hooked up with my brother, Dave, his wife Dianna, and daughter Katelin for the trip out to the Expo. As expected, the Expo was a madhouse of shopping and excitement of the coming event. I get slightly claustrophobic at this expo due to the sheer number of people. Talk about your running Mecca. You can feel the excitement. Of course, we loaded up on gear. For dinner that night, we went to an unexpectedly nice Irish pub, M.J. O’Conner’s for ribs and salmon. OK, I had a pre-race Guinness.

Sunday morning, I went out for a Boston Globe and to pick up some Easter candy for my younger son, Alex. After a compted breakfast at the hotel, I sent the family off to the Museum of Science. Brother Dave and I went for a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts. Nice Impressionist and Colonial collections. For dinner we went to the official pasta feed. It was a little windy and cool, but the organizers gave out nice Easter candy and we got to see a mini-show from the “Big Apple Circus.” We returned back to our hotel for an early bed time.

Race Day. Awoke Monday morning, slipped into the bathroom to get ready, and was out the door without waking the family. I made my way over to the Weston hotel to have breakfast with running buddy Chris Howard who was running his first marathon as a fund raiser for the Liver Foundation. It was your basic bagels and fruit breakfast, but I met a few nice people and was able to score an inflatable raft to sit on at the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton. It was nice to ride out to the start in the tour bus with bathroom, which came in handy. At the village, Chris and I bump into John Clidas who immediately disappears into the crowd after exchanges of good wishes. Just because he was in the last corral of Wave 1 and we were in the first corral of Wave 2, you’d have thought he couldn’t get away from us fast enough. John was going to pace with running buddy, Costas Liatsos. Soon thereafter, we locate Dianna who was hanging out in the Wave 2 part of the village while we were in the Wave 1 section. Who knew we were in the wrong place.

Since Chris is a better runner than both John and I, I walked down to the Hopkinton town square to arrange for him to get upgraded from the last placed charity corral into my corral so we could pace each other. In the town square I came across Dick and Rick Hoyt, an inspirational father/son team from the Boston area doing their 25th Boston. They were busy greeting the crowds, so I snapped off a cell phone photo and made my way to the help booth. On my way back to the village, I got a call from brother Dave, who had taken the train out from Boston. We located each other and walked back to the village to play the waiting game before the start.

The one criticism I have of the 2 wave start is that there wasn’t much time for the Wave 2 people to get to their corrals. Grove Street leading from the Athlete’s Village to the corrals was a jammed up mess. Chris and I had to go around houses and jump hedges to get to corral 11 in time for the start. Other than that, being in the 1st corral of Wave 2 was kind of cool. I never thought I’d ever be that close to the start line of the Boston Marathon.

At the gun, we took off with the crowd. Chris, knowing my propensity to let the crowd carry me away, held the pace back. I am so well known for going out too fast that I sometimes joking tell people that my name is “Rabbito Andropov.” For the first couple of miles, I high-five the young kids on the right side of the road. Chris keeps drifting slightly back, forcing me to take the pace down to a smarter speed. The cool mid-50s temperatures and the cooling slight wind in our faces made the first few miles feel great. Little did I know I was probably over extending my energy. We hit the 5K mark in 24:11 and the 10K mark in 49:09, all on course for a 3:30 type marathon pace. However, after mile 7, I start to feel my body flag a bit. I tell Chris I’m going to fall back on the pace a bit and for him to soldier on. With an exchange of good wishes, I back off the pace from 8 minute miles to 9 minute miles.

Just before I get to Wellesley, I see a 6'6" guy in outlandishly flamboyant drag doing a faux Wellesley girl imitation. Too funny. I’m not sure what’s funnier: the outfit, or the deep voice. I remember seeing the guy last year and wonder how many years he’s been doing this act. At Wellesley College, I high-five the girls. Their excitement really recharges the batteries. While I don’t stop for kisses, I high-five as many as I can. I hit the half mark in 1:50:15, now averaging 9:15 miles.

I decide I’d better take some short Galloway walk breaks before I get too tired. This seems to work fine until I get past mile 16. I’m really feeling tired and just before mile 17, I get a twinge in my right hamstring. Oh, oh! Not my weak spot showing itself so soon. I normally don’t have hamstring issues until very late in my marathons. Here I am just starting the Newton Hills and I’ve got a serious issue. Just up the first hill and BAM, the right ham locks up. I hobble to the side of the road and message out the cramp. From here on in, I will have either my left or right hamstring lock up every mile or so. With each lock-up, I hobble to the side of the road and stretch it out. Each stop adds a couple of minutes to my time. My pace must also slow in order to avoid bringing on more frequent lock-ups. I decide to stop taking my splits.

I start to wonder: maybe my body is just not designed to go 26.2 miles. Perhaps I should stick to the 10K distance. The next thought is: How the heck am I going to get to the finish line. I am miles away with plenty of distance to go. This is the worst experience I’ve ever had in my 14 marathons. It know hits me why Boston is so hard: It’s not the hills from mile 17 to 21 that get you. It’s the rolling 17 miles before you get to the Newton Hills that soften you up like Mohammad Ali has been constantly punching at your hams and quads getting you ready for the knockout punch in Newton. Last year, it was my quads that were a problem. This year, it’s the hams. Choose your poison.

So, I’m wondering what to do. However, on the realization that if I don’t finish, I do not get the medal, I decide to “Keep on Truckin.” It’s funny the difference that little piece of metal can make in motivation. I also notice that many people are starting to walk these hills. I refuse to do this. I will run the hills. So now its run to the top and lock up. Message the leg and hit the next hill. Surprisingly, this seems to work. At mile 19 I happen to glance around my left shoulder and catch the John Kelly statue. By Heartbreak Hill, it’s like “Night of the Living Dead.” It seems like 90% of the runners are walking up Heartbreak Hill. I choose to run. I somehow make it to Boston College. Yes! At least I’ve got the hills behind me.

My troubles, however, are not behind me. Last year the B.C. crowd seemed mostly guys smashed on beer. This year, there seems to be more girls and they are more enthusiastic than drunk. It has more of the Wellesley College feel to it. I start the high-fives again and pick up the pace. Oops! Ham cramp. Just after, Boston College, I meet a woman runner from Nova Scotia who is having quad cramps. We decide to try to run together. However, with each down hill she cramps and with each up hill I cramp. We keep separating and rejoining like some cosmic yoyo.

I finally hit Beacon Street and can see the Citco sign off in the distance. Last year, it was a mirage that I couldn’t get closer to. This year, I have an idea how far away it is. I keep reeling it in. At least its getting bigger. Since Boston College I keep passing and being passed by a guy running in a gorilla suit. I wonder how much sweat he’s got pooled in his feet. He appears quite hot in the suit.

I cramp one last time on Beacon Street looking like a Keystone Cop hoping over to the left side of the road. This causes an old Boston Woman to laugh hysterically. After she stops laughing, she tells me to “Get back out there.” I figure she came out of Fenway Park and has a little chatter left over from the Red Sox game. I dutifully obey.

At the one mile mark, I again find the Nova Scotia runner and I encourage her to run again. Shortly thereafter, we hit the downhill side of the underpass tunnel, she cramps up, and I lose her again. However, I tell my body I refuse to cramp in this last mile. I actually pick up the pace. On the turn on Hereford Street, I remember the button from Spamalot reading: “I’m not dead yet....” and put it on.

I turn onto Bolyston Street. Ah, sweet Bolyston Street. Its like a victory parade. I’m not moving very fast, but the pain and the cramps are a thing of the past. I spot my older son John and yell out to him. He sees me. I turn back to him for a picture and then move forward. About 100 yards on, I see my wife Salome and younger son Alex. She yells my name and the ten people surrounding her repeat my name at the top of their voices. Now, this is sweet. Total strangers cheering you on by name for the fun of it. Salome shoots a picture and I move on for the last few hundred yards to the finish. I cross at 4:14. Nowhere near the pace I was on, but 20 minutes better than last year.

I turn back at after walking about 50 feet past the finish. I want to find the woman from Nova Scotia. We meet, hug, and thank each other for the mutual assistance. I come across Gorilla Man waiting to get my medal. He had come out by train as far as he could and ran the last 10 miles. I tell him I’m amazed he ran 10 miles in a gorilla suit. He tells me he’s amazed at me for running 26.2 miles.

Brother Dave, coming off a leg injury, was pleased to come in at 4:30. He realized he was cutting it close and had to pour it on the last mile. His wife Dianna came in just behind me in 4:18. Newbe, Chris did the amazing and clock a sub 4 hour 1st marathon in 3:55. The ever stalwart John Clidas came in at 3:42. Ironman, Costas Liatsos bested us all with an even 3:30. It figures our Greek runners would be our best finishers. Nike, brothers.

During the race, I was thinking of burning my running shoes or throwing them in the trash. This was the hardest marathon I’ve ever run. It is clearly the hardest course I’ve ever run. Perhaps it is due to being a Floridian and training in the flat lands of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The only hill work we get is a causeway bridge that I’m sure others would laugh at as being hill work. However, we get no pity from New Englanders. Two days later, visiting my aunt at the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass., another guide asks me how I did. I tell her I had trouble. “Was you time in the 3:30s?” she asks. “No,” I reply, “my time was 4:14.” “Oh,” she says, “you came in with Curt Schilling’s wife.” OK, I get it. I’m not an athlete. I’m only as good as the wife of a real athlete. Boy, you New Englanders are a tough crowd.

Like many before me, I have yet to figure out this Boston course. I’m sure Chris will tell me to go out slower. I’m also pretty sure I need higher mileage to do this course justice. But, I’ll probably return next year. I previously passed along to John and Chris a quot from Barron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics movement: "The important thing is not to win, but to take part; just as the most important thing about life is not to conquer, but to struggle well."

So, there it is. I hope I didn't bore you with this dated report. I really want to run this event again. However, I would not be able to do both the Boston Marathon and St. Anthony's Triathlon in the same year. This year is for St. Anthony's.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Once & Future Kings

Ryan Hall with Bill Rodgers posing just before the finish line for the Boston Marathon.

With the Boston Marathon coming up tomorrow, you strict triathletes will have to indulge me for today. Coming from a running background, nothing gets me more excited than the running of the Boston Marathon. This proud tradition dates back to 1897 after the event was essentially invented the year before at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

American had a proud tradition in this race going back to seven time winner Clarance DeMar in the '20s and early '30s, John A. Kelly and Tarzan Brown in the 30's and 40's, John J. Kelly in 1957, Runner's World writer Amby" Burfoot in 1968, Alberto Salazar in 1982, and Greg Meyer in 1983. On the women's side, we had the great Joan Benoit Samuelson win the women's race twice in the late 70s and early 80s on her way to win the first Women's Olympic Marathon title.

But probably the greatest American runner of the Boston Marathon is Bill Rodgers, who won the event in 1975, 1978, 1979, and 1980. During this same era, he also won the other great marathon of the time, the New York City Marathon, four times. After Bill Rodgers no American dominated the marathon like he did.

In the late 80s the Kenyans and Etheopeans started owning the world major marathons. They pretty much do to this day. We got a resurgence in American marathon running the last six years or so with the major win being the double podium finishes of Meb Keflezighi (silver) and Deena Kastor (bronze) in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Deena went on to win the Chicago and London Marathons in the next few years, but the Kenyans pretty much dominate the sport. Bill Rodger's 4 time modern era streak was recently matched last year when Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot won last year for the fourth time. He runs again this year and threatens Billy's record.

Coming up the ranks in the last few years, however, is Ryan Hall, an American runner who also trains at altitude like the Keyans. He broke the American half marathon record several years back and has run competitively in London Marathon the last couple of years. Ryan trains in Mammoth, California like Meb and Deena, so the advantage of altitude training the Keyans and Ethiopeans naturally have is matched. Ryan is young for a marathon runner and very dedicated to his faith. Can he match the Keyans tommorrow? Bill Rodgers thinks so. I also think he has a shot. Let's hope he can run smart and dig deep into his faith in God and in himself. It would be great to see an American win the Boston Marathon again.

On the women's side, there is also renewed hope of an American women winning the race. Deena took a shot at it 2 years ago, but had some unfortunate intestinal problems that took her out of contention. This year we look to Kara Goucher, a 5k and 10k racer that moved up to her marathon debut at the New York City Marathon last November. She finished in third place in a time of 2:25:53 becoming the first American on the podium since 1994.

Here is a preview video from Runner's Word:

Runner's World Boston Marathon Preview Video

On the home front, I'm in taper mode for St. Anthony's Olypmic Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida next Sunday. I did a sprint distance brick (10 miles bike/3.1 mile run) on Saturday as a tune up. Buddy John did an Olympic brick (25 bike/6.2 run) to verify his recovered calf muscle can hold up. I did that for the MIT Olympic tri last month and I fear it may have taken out too much from me for the event. So, I cut it back a bit and hope to break 3 hours at St. Anthony's.

Speaking of "Once and Future Kings," my young son Alex had a field day at school last Wednesday. I tried to get my older son, John, into the running and biking thing, but he doesn't seem interested. Perhaps Alex will take over from me when I can no longer do these events.

I attach a video of his hurdles event.

video

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is it Possible We Have Nothing Interesting to Say?

Yeah, it's possible. John's comeback from his calf injury is pretty much complete. He was able to keep up with us on a 45 mile bike ride 2 weekends ago and he is back up to running the 10K distance. Thus, he looks good to go for completing the full St. Anthony's Olympic triathlon on April 26th. He's just too busy to update the blogosphere about it. Me, I've been riding and running and swimming. Putting in my time. Waiting for St. Anthony's.

Outside of training, tons of stuff is going on. Taxes, breakups (not John, and not Salome & I), Samoli pirates. Oh, I could go on a tear about the Samoli pirates, but it would be so off blog as to be ridiculous. Easter? Yeah, it was nice. Greek Easter this weekend? Should be fun. My sons respective Spring breaks? OK. I took young son Alex to the Kennedy Space Center. That's always cool. Older son John went to Key West with his friends. They had fun. I just don't seem to have too much interesting to say about any of it, or I can't organize it in an interesting way. Perhaps it's writer's block.

Oh, here's something. Best of luck to any of you running the Boston Marathon this coming Monday. That's always a blast. The expo is the best expo I've ever attended. Be sure to hit the Runner's World speakers series. It's like going to fantasy baseball camp. A bunch of past and current elite American runners speak. This year Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher give us a real shot at having an American win this thing again. The great Bill Rodgers is running again for the first time since the centennial year of 1996 in celebration of 30 years since his forth Boston win in 1979. That should be cool.

Maybe that's it. This will be the second year in a row that I don't run the Boston Marathon. Maybe my head's in the wrong place because I didn't have the Boston Marathon to get psyched up for this April. I'm trying to get psyched up for St. Anthony's. But, I have to admit, it's not Boston.

So, sorry it's not more interesting or enlightening this week. I'm just plugging away. Time for me to go for a 10K training run. Maybe I'll go a little longer tonight. You know, for Boston.

Best of luck to Jen. Remember kid, this is a training run for you; not a race. Hopefully, you will have an interesting blog entry for me to read after Patriot's Day. Make it inspiring. Someone has to pull the load around here.

P.S. I ran 11 miles tonight. It felt great to go long again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who Reads These Things Anyway?

When tri-buddy John & I started this blog, we didn’t know who, if anyone, was looking at this thing. We have a half dozen or so people that are registered as “Followers” of the blog. That’s not a great number in the blog world. Other triathlon blogs I follow have much bigger numbers. I don’t know if these people have more friends than us, if they are younger than us and their friends are more technologically keyed into the whole blog thing, or if they are just better bloggers then us.

In any event, we tend to think that just a couple of people are looking at this thing. Occasionally, I’ll be at an event and someone will tell me that they read a particular entry. I get somewhat taken aback at this, but I am generally pleased at the fact that anyone is checking it out.

When I was setting up my Facebook account, I realized that I could link my blog entries to Facebook. So, I linked it up without giving it much thought. The week after I posted my entry entitled: “On Death & Dying...and Being Alive,” I got several comments on FB about the entry. I also had people bring it up in conversations the week or so afterwards. When I brought this up to co-blogger John, his comment was “You have to treat any of this stuff on the Internet like it was being published on front page of the New York Times.” Little did we know.

After my ride on Sunday, I make it to the Greek church John & I attend. John is Greek and I happen to be fortunate enough to have married a beautiful Greek woman. At the social hour after services, I see John’s mother, Molly at a table with my mother-in-law, Kiki, and their friend, Penny. As I chat with them, Molly says to Penny, “Oh, you have to read their blog.” “What?” I say taken by surprise. “You read our blog?” Molly then explained to me how she was interested in whether her grandson, Matt, a high school cross country runner, had any published road race results on-line. She was aware that John had gotten his brother Mike and his nephews Matt and Andrew to run a 5K in late December with us.

So, she Googled the name “Matt Clidas.” Up comes our blog name in her search results. “What’s this?” she wonders and clicks onto our blog page. I had blogged about the race and included Matt’s full name in the entry. (Is that a blog "no no"?) Thus, Molly found our blog. Fortunately, she had very nice things to say about the blog, so all is well. How she managed to keep this under wraps from both her son John and me for four months, I’ll never figure out. Molly is a very gregarious woman who likes to talk. I now know I can tell her any secret and it will be safe. With all the nice things she had to say, we my have to hire her to market our blog. As for you other bloggers: Let’s be careful out there. You never know who has your blog book-marked in their Favorites folder. As for Molly: you keep on reading and we'll keep on writing.

Finally, our friend Linda Paige completed her first triathlon last weekend. Way to go Linda! Congratulations and welcome to the fold.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Watching the Wheels

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go. "Watching the Wheels" John Lennon

Sometimes you have to stop trying to force the square peg into the round hole. Stop trying so hard and things fall into place. The events leading up to this weekend are a case in point.

I’ve had the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in Washington DC on my radar screen for several years. It is a race in that takes you around the sights in DC during the Cherry Blossom bloom period. It attracts world class runners and is supposed to be good race to run. It has always been a hard race to get into. This year, I vowed to run it. I got online at the earliest possible time and scored registrations for both me and my wife, Salome. I figured it would fit in with my younger son, Alex’s spring break and I could visit my friends, Kate and Jim, who live in the area. Then, life got in the way. Salome’s injured right ankle was not getting better soon enough for her to run a 10 mile run. The thought of paying to fly 3 of us up to DC and then have her foot be too sore to walk around the museums kept me from booking the flights. We got busy at work. My older son wanted to tag along, but his spring break didn’t match up with Alex’s. I kept looking at air fares after getting the come-ons from the airlines e-mail pitches, but never found cheap flights. I don't know if it has to do with being from a Spring break location, but we never seem to get those cheap air fares you keep reading about here in Ft. Lauderdale. As we got closer, the fares climbed. Finally, I threw in the towel. The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler would have to wait another year.

Similarly, buddy Wayne in Anchorage was somewhat lamenting his not being in Paris this weekend to run the Paris Marathon. After coming back from bypass surgery, he is just getting back to running the 5K distance. Hang in there Wayne. You will “get back to where you once belonged” and run the streets of Paris next year. Besides, you would be missing the “volcano watch” if you were away in Europe. Reality TV isn’t this good.

I just don't think these races were meant to happen for us this year. Once I stopped trying to force the trip that wasn't meant to happen, other options opened up. I went on to run a local event: the Kids in Distress 5K. A 22:30 effort. Not a PR, but the first 5K I've done in a while and good for 2nd in my age group. It wasn't a big race, but the weather was nice, the after race celebration had good food, and you can't knock any race in which you place. A fun time at a fraction of the cost. On Sunday, we had a great group ride of 45 miles. All in all, a great weekend.

Oh, well, maybe next year in Paris...or Washington, DC for the cherry blossom bloom.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Graduation Day!!!!!!

----- from physical therapy that is. And I'm now on my way baaaaaaaaack!

Who would ever believe that it was possible to get a "runner's high" from a 5 minute, 5.2 mph jog on a treadmill? Well, I sure didn't. But today, that's exactly what happened. For the first time since running the ING Miami Half-Marathon on January 25th of this year, 9 1/2 weeks ago, and 8 weeks and 2 days since my snow-boarding injury (torn calf muscle), I finally got to go for that short and slow jog on the treadmill. Wow! I can run again!!!

After that little "slow jog" test, along with a "strength test", my physical therapist announced that he was done with me and that I was cleared to start running again. Of course, with some limitations for right now. For the next week, I'm cleared for 10 minutes every other day (either outdoors for two 5 minute segments with a brief walk break in between or, 10 minutes straight through on the treadmill). And the following week, I can go out for 15 to 20 minutes straight through. If all goes well over these next two weeks, I can then start back on my normal ramp up toward marathon distances once again.

Refections: At 48 years old, getting injured plain old sucks -- and that's the only way I know how to put it. Getting sidelined and not being able to do the things I had become so accustomed to doing really took it's toll on me. Now I didn't break down or turn into a basket case, but I'd be lying to say that not being able to get my regular cardio fix from running didn't reduce my energy levels and didn't depress me a bit. It did. But I will say that with the help of an awesome physical therapy team, treatment and recovery plans were made, I stuck with those plans not missing one PT session, and thankfully, with the great support of my training buddies (who regularly called me names like "vegetable" which quickly, at my request, turned into Mr. Broccoli Rob -- thanks Tony!) am now back on the road to running again.

So, enough said. I'm on my way back and looking forward to once again being able to experience the true joy of some of the simplest and pretty darn inexpensive things in life: going out for a run, bike ride or swim. How cool is that! It's not the "economy stupid". It's good health and good friends that makes for a great life.