Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sand Traps

Fellow blogger and training buddy John went to Ireland for his annual golf outing with his buddies. The pictures he took of Ireland's golf courses blew me away. The landscape is both beautiful and treacherous from a golfing standpoint. Too much wild grassy areas and rolling country-side make these courses look extremely difficult. Pictured above is a sand trap. You literally have to walk down a flight of wooden steps to get down into the thing. I can't imagine trying to hit the ball out of one of these things.

Our training for the Seattle Marathon has been very much like hitting into one of these sand traps. Both John and I got behind the curve in our long runs. I was supposed to do a 15 miler 2 weeks ago, but only ended up doing a 12 miler with John the night of my son's graduation party. John planned to try to get in a 14 mile training run in Ireland, but never managed to get off the course in time to allow him to put on his running shoes. Meanwhile, back in South Florida, it has rained about every day for the last 10 days. Don't get me wrong, we needed the rain, but it made it hard to get outdoors for a run. With all the rain, the humidity has stayed above 90% making for slog runs. Neither of our base mileage totals are were where we wanted them. We were in a training sand trap.

What do you do when you're in a sand trap? Get down in it and try your best to hit out of it. That's what we did. While John was away in Ireland, I dropped all cross training and started doing treadmill runs almost every day. Last weekend, I did a 20 mile long run on the treadmill. A chore indeed, but it had to be done. The following week, I alternated between 10K recovery/base mileage runs and 5K speed work runs...all on the treadmill. I would sing "Rain, Rain, go away," but as I said, we needed the rain.

Today, John & I returned to the outdoor long run by doing a 17 miler. With all the mileage and the prior weekends long run, I somehow tripped the switch in my body that tells me I'm marathon ready. The long runs go from being a bit of a chore, to feeling nice and easy to complete. I get in that "Little Engine That Could" mode and just plug away at the mileage.

John, having done nothing but walk the links for 5 days, had it a bit harder. He had a leg muscle hiccup about mile 13, where his foot started bothering him a little and he fell off pace a bit. But by mile 14 he was picking up the pace and was just off to my left back shadowing me. It was supposed to be a 15 mile run, but John had upped the ante to 16 on the outbound, and decided to tack on another mile at the end of the run to get back to the 17 he had on the calender he made for himself at the beginning of training. Not bad for someone whose last long run was 12 miles two weekends prior.

So, it looks like we've gotten ourselves out of the training sand trap and back onto the fairway. Of course, this will only take us through the Seattle Marathon hole of the 18 hole course that is our training for Ironman Arizona.

I'm already getting a little anxious about ignoring our swimming and biking the last couple of weeks as we focused on our running. But that's the next hole. I can barely see the tees for the next hole from here. I'm still trying to hit onto the green of landing in Seattle on June 25th.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Slogging Through Marathon Training

The Seattle Marathon on June 27th looms over the horizon. Coming out of St. Anthony's in late April, I've turned primarily to getting my run mileage up to marathon distance. I had gotten in a couple of 10 milers and a 12 miler prior to last weekend. I was scheduled to run a 15 miler last weekend, but had to cut it down to a 12 miler to make it a buddy run with John and get back to my son's graduation party before it went overboard (it rained every day). Thus, I looked at my training schedule a little concerned as I missed my 15 miler and was staring at a 20 miler on the training calender. From 12 to 20: that's a big jump.

To add another monkey wrench into the mix, it rained the whole 3 day weekend. On top of all that, I've been up late watching the NBA playoffs about every night the whole month of May. I tend to be a night owl. With some great basketball to watch each night, it's not easy getting up at 4 0r 5 AM to get in a 20 miler before the South Florida heat sets in. I sleep in Saturday morning after seeing the LeBron James 3 point shot late Friday night. As it's either raining or threatening heavy rain, I delay going outside to run. I drop young son, Alex, at a friend's house and realize the temperature at 1:30 PM is around 78, downright cool for South Florida in May. Normally, I would not consider running outside in the afternoon in May, but the overcast skies and the relatively low temperature is tempting me. I get home and gear up to go out. In the 20 minutes it's taken me to get geared up, the sun comes out. I pull the plug on an outdoor run. Not wanting to risk getting further behind the training curve, I opt for the dreaded treadmill 20 miler.

I don't recommend this to anyone. I prefer getting out and seeing the world for my long runs. But the rain was scheduled for the whole weekend (which it did). So, I popped in Disc 1 of Season 2 of 30 Rock and watched 9 episodes over 3 hours. That's a lot of comedy. It was a nice distraction. In any event, I got the run done. I also ended up indoors for my 10K run this morning due to rain. Hopefully, I can run outdoors for my remaining long runs.

Running buddy John is away in Ireland on a golf outing. He's supposed to try to sneak in a long run, but I have my doubts as to whether he will get in much of a run. He'll have his work cut out for him on his return.

My son John's graduation was this past Tuesday. Turning 50 didn't make me feel old, but having a son who is a high school graduate sure does. At this moment, he and wife Salome are up in Gainesville, Florida for orientation for summer session at the University of Florida. As a UF alumnus, I couldn't be happier for him. Go Gators! Go John!

By the way, I highly recommend you read my buddy Wayne's blog this week. He had to fend off a moose attack on his daughter. He gets my nomination for father of the year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Concerts, Parties, Training & Planning

What a whirlwind of a weekend. Older son, John finished his last day of high school on Thursday. Friday we went to see Coldplay in West Palm Beach, Saturday was a graduation party at our house, and I was supposed to get a long run in this weekend at some point. How did it all work out? Here goes.

Coldplay. I had turned son John onto Coldplay when I discovered them with the release of their second album. We've all been fans since. John suggested that tickets to the Coldplay concert would make a great graduation gift. I orginally bought him 2 lawn tickets, but decided to get him better tickets, figuring he could sell the 2 lawn tickets to friends. When he heard this, he suggested that we take the better seats and join him and his date, Becka at the concert. We were glad it worked out this way, because the show was amazing. Chris Martin and his bandmates put on a fabulous show. He sang songs from all of their albums with most of Viva la Vida played. The crowd couldn't help but chime in on many of the songs. The band came off the stage for twice to play on small stages in the crowd. The first time was about 15 rows in front of us, giving Salome & me amazing seats. The second time they played a small stage on the lawn, so John & Becka got a close up view also. The crowd stood, danced and sang the entire show. To top it all off, at the end of the show, Coldplay gave away a live CD with 9 songs from the first leg of the tour. Thus, the fun continued on the drive home from the concert as we listened to more live Coldplay. Sweet.

Saturday Graduation Party. The party was great. Lots of nice kids and music. John has friends that form several bands. They bands played great, but my wife & son decided to have the bands outdoors again. The last time we tried this, the cops came and forced us to move the band inside. The cops showed up at the house as did way too many kids. Let's just say the party reached a tipping point. The cops made us shut it down. I guess that makes it a memorable graduation party.

Fortunately for me, buddy John had agreed to join me in an evening 12 miler and was in attendance. Thus, when I had to act the bad guy and start forcing reluctant party goers to head towards the exit, I had help. Now, that's a friend. Someone who will not only train with you, but join you in doing the unpopular, but necessary act of shutting down a party gone out of bounds. Thanks John. I don't know if I could have gotten it done without you.

Training. The 12 mile run earlier in the evening was a strong one for John. He definitely pushed me to my capacity on the return 6 miles. Impressive, given he had done a 30 mile bike ride in the morning. He is setting the standard high. I've got my work cut out for me in catching up to his fitness level. Yes, that injury is history.

Planning. On the planning front, we are trying to figure out a Half IM to do sometime in the August to September range as a checkpoint for the late November IM. We are considering both the Steelhead Half in Michigan in early August and the Clermont Half in late September. Steelhead is supposed to be a popular race, but it would be a major travel event. It's also only a month from the Seattle Marathon. Clermont is more of a drivable local event, being located near Orlando. Both are under consideration, but I'm thinking it will be Clermont.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm...For Vitamins

I've never been a big believer in supplements. Growing up, my mother always made us eat right and we never took vitamins. Throughout my life, I've tried to eat a varied diet. That and exercise has keep me in good health.

As reported yesterday in the New York Times in an article entitled,"Vitamins Found to Curb Exercise Benefits," a recent study seems to indicate that taking supplements may be working against the benefits of exercise. I quot the meat of the article:

“If you exercise to promote health, you shouldn’t take large amounts of antioxidants,” Dr. Ristow said. A second message of the study, he said, “is that antioxidants in general cause certain effects that inhibit otherwise positive effects of exercise, dieting and other interventions.”

The effect of vitamins on exercise and glucose metabolism “is really quite significant,” said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, a co-author of the report. “If people are trying to exercise, this is blocking the effects of insulin on the metabolic response.”

The advice does not apply to fruits and vegetables, Dr. Ristow said; even though they are high in antioxidants, the many other substances they contain presumably outweigh any negative effect.

I find it ironic that the biggest advocates of dietary supplements tend to be those people most concerned about their health who are eating proper diets. I think they view vitamins as a form of insurance. They aren't sure whether they're getting what they need, so better pop some vitamins to make sure. This "insurance" view contrasts with my "medicinal" view of only taking vitamins if there is a known deficiency you are trying to correct.

It now looks like many vitamin supplements, as opposed to being unnecessary insurance, are actually working against the training effect. By avoiding unnecessary vitamins, our workouts may be more effective. So, you may want to clean out those cabinets this weekend. Be sure to have an apple, orange or banana while you toss out supplements.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To Moms: Who Make Everything Possible

Well, It's Mother's Day. We've officially given up on a ride report from John on MS 150. Since I've received run training updates from him, I know he made it back alive. Oh well, this blog thing isn't for everyone. Onward we go.

It's Mother's Day today, so it's fitting that we reflect on all our mother's and wives do for us and our children. Clearly, without you, we wouldn't be here. But it not simple biology that gets you the great appreciation we feel for you today. It's all the love and caring you provide to us to allow us to be the best that we can be. It's the meals you made for us and the admonition to eat the right foods. It's checking in on our day to let us know that you care about how we are doing in school, with our friendships, and later, in our jobs. Our mothers are our own personal cheer leaders in life.

The attached picture is of my son, Alex, proudly wearing his medal from the field day held at his school. Of course, you know who was there helping out the teachers: his mom and my wife, Salome. Salome is always looking to volunteer for events to assist with the our kids' activities. She plans extra curricular programs to further their education and other enrichments.

Then we have my wife's mom, Kiki, who lives with us. In Greece, there is a tradition of multiple generations sharing the same house. It's usually a multi-story townhouse, with the yaya (that's Greek for grandmother) on one story and the family on another. When Kiki's husband was sick with cancer, I told her right away that if something happened to her husband, John, that there was no question that she would come to live with us. Kiki moved in with us when John passed. We've never thought twice about it. She is an integral part of our lives and I feel doubly blessed to have two moms in our home. The love and caring that these two wonderful women provide to me and my two sons is a gift that can not be measured. Thank you ladies for being part of our lives and being our cheer leaders. You provide cheer in our home.

After my 12 mile run this morning, I got breakfast for son Alex, always an early riser. Then, I got busy making breakfast for my women. They like my Greek eggs (scrambled with feta cheese and spinach). Coffee, toast and juice were prepared. It's my weekend ritual. Oh, I do my man stuff: cut the yard, help with the wash and dishes, fix things around the house. But its the weekend breakfast they seem to appreciate the most. I'm glad that there is something like this that I can do that feels more than just doing my duty. I serve them this breakfast in appreciation for all they do for me and my sons.

I also have to give a shout out to my mom. Although I don't think she reads this blog, it doesn't matter. My mother has had a tough life, losing a very young son to a drowning and an adult son to cancer. No mother should have to witness a child they gave birth to die. I know she has been heavily burdened with these losses. However, these pains never caused her to pull back on the love and care she gave to the rest of my brothers, sisters and myself. She always tried to nurture the cultural side of us. She is a life long musician, playing the violin in various local orchestras her entire life until she recently retired from playing. A large part of my love of music came from the osmosis of listening to her records playing on our home stereo as I grew up. Thanks Mom for all you gave me.

Not to be left out, buddy John's mom, Molly is our adopted quasi-Mom. She just turned 80 last month, but you wouldn't know it to see her. Her pep and smile make all of us know the love she has for all of us. From knowing two of her sons, I can say that she did a great job raising two fine men that I have the honor to know and call friends. She is a loving mother and yaya. Happy mother's day to you too Molly.

To all of you other mothers out there that read this blog: we may not show it often enough, but we love you and appreciate all that you do for us. You deserve this special day of recognition. You are our mothers.

To you blog readers out there: be sure to call your mom today and let her know what a special person she is to you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let's Be Careful Out There

Well, the MS 150 ride occurred this past weekend on May 2nd and 3rd. Cinco de Mayo has come and gone and still no ride report from that other “Wild and Crazy Guy,” John. Yes, he’s a busy guy, and I’m sure he’s plumb tuckered out from 150 miles of riding over 2 days. So we’ll have to wait a little longer for that report. While we wait, I figured I’d post a bicycle related entry.

I read a news blurb from over the weekend. “Florida once again leads the U.S. in bicycling fatalities. In federal statistics just released for 2007, 119 cyclists were killed in Florida, 10 more than in second-place California, which has twice the population. Florida had 28% of all cyclist fatalities in the U.S. and a rate of 6.52 cyclists killed per million population, nearly 3 times the national average of 2.31.”

Living in South Florida, there are 3 news stories that you read about once or twice a year: 1) A child drowns in a pool at home or at the beach; 2) A scuba-diver diving without a dive buddy drowns; and 3) A bicyclist is hit and killed by a car. Whenever I read one of these articles, I can't help but think these are avoidable tragedies. Someone should be keeping a better watch out for the kids near water, divers should never dive solo, and drivers should have a better awareness of bicyclists sharing the road.

My first quality road bike was a Fugi S10S road bike. I purchased that bike while in college and put countless miles on it riding all over Gainesville, Florida. After college, I road it all around the Clearwater/Tarpon Springs area with my older brother Jim, who introduced me to road riding and running. Back in Gainesville for law school at the University of Florida, I road that bike all over town again for transportation and exercise. I loved that bike and I loved riding.

When I moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1986, however, I quickly decided against riding a road bike. The main streets in the city that I've lived in for the past 23 years are six lane congestion pipelines filled with SUVs and elderly people of questionable driving skills. I remember trying to go on a solo ride early on and getting frightened to death by the oblivious drivers surrounding me. I got home, put my bike in the garage and let it slowly turn to rust over the next several years. I bought a couple of cruisers for the wife and I to go to the beach with and focused on my running.

A couple of years later, our neighbor Sam, a regular road cyclist who road A1a on weekends, got thrown from his bike when a Canadian tourist pulled out of a condominium parking lot without looking. Sam got pretty banged up and has had back problems ever since. I considered Sam lucky to be alive and swore off serious South Florida riding for several more years.

When Salome saw the local sprint triathlon a couple of years ago and decided she wanted to try the tri, we bought a couple of bottom of the line road bikes and started riding A1a. As we soon discovered, this is the route all Ft. Lauderdale riders take. There was a feeling of safety in numbers. We later stepped up to carbon fiber frames and started riding with other cyclists on a regular basis. Thus, I’ve gotten over my fear of our local drivers, but have heard way too many stories of cars turning into whole groups of riders to let my guard down.

I assume that the majority of drivers neither see us or give us the space we deserve. I also assume that these same drivers will always assume the right of way whether they have it or not. This is not to say I’m a nervous rider, I’m not. I just assume the knucklehead in the car either does not see me or will make a bad judgment call for which only I pay the price. Do I yell at the driver who makes a bonehead move in front of me? No. No need to piss off the guy driving the lethal weapon. I do wave and point at drivers coming out of side streets and parking lots. I also try to make eye contact whenever possible. But there are no guarantees. I’ve heard of too many incidents of riders doing everything right and getting bumped into or worse.

I envy those of you that ride in communities where you can get out to un-congested country roads. Perhaps as we become more populous, the land of open roads is becoming more myth than reality.

May 20 at 7 p.m. local time worldwide is an annual Ride of Silence. The event honors cyclists that have died in accidents with motor vehicles and it seeks to raise awareness of cyclists' right to the road. Participants ride no faster than 12 mph for no longer than an hour, and they maintain silence as in a funeral procession. The movement has grown to include more than 300 rides in the U.S. and 17 other countries. All cyclists who ride the road are welcome. There is no charge. For information, go to Even if you don’t go on an organized ride on May 20th, think of your fellow cyclists that have died in what are most often avoidable accidents. And as the Sargent on Hill Street Blues used to say: “Let’s be careful out there.”