Monday, July 27, 2009

Between Tris: Training, a Stomach Virus & the Tour

Last weekend was a sprint tri; next weekend is an Olympic tri. Thus, this weekend was a bridge to keep in general good shape and step up the training to the next level. With my calf issues, I didn't want to overly push the training during the week. Jacques & I hit the pool on Tuesday increasing our training session from 20 minutes to 30 minutes. My theory is to have the time in the pool as long as I think I might be swimming at an event. That way I can tell myself during an event that a swim portion of a tri is no more demanding than my workouts. Thursday, I did an easy 10 on the bike just to test out the calves. No problems, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to crank out a hard 10 either.

The whole week, I was suffering from a minor stomach virus. Wife Salome's supposed food poisoning turns out to be a stomach virus which she graciously shared with me. It was one of those annoying viruses that's not bad enough to keep you in bed, but troublesome enough to make you wonder what you ate or drank that disagrees with your stomach. We awoke daily with headaches and our stomach's feeling full of nothing. No gastro intestinal stuff, thank God, but you feel sightly yucky. We tend to think of viruses as a winter phenomena, but I think they are as common in the summer, just not as sever.

Before our Friday morning pool session, Jacques drops the bomb that he and his wife Christine are relocating to North Carolina in August. Fortunately, in this period of layoffs and business failures, Jacques move is a good one. He is merging his business with one based in North Carolina. Its a good deal for Jacques, but I'm losing a training partner. Oh well, I guess we'll all be doing events in North Carolina after Jacques get the lay of the triathlon and running scene. After our 30 minutes in the pool, I do a couple of miles on the treadmill. Still no problems with the calves. The several days off seems to have done the trick.

Saturday morning was an 30 minute open water swim off Ft. Lauderdale Beach. It felt good. Jacques had planned a 5 mile run, but I was saving my run for a Sunday bike/run brick. I go home and do 3 miles easy on the treadmill before sitting down to watch the Tour de France. Lance rode very smartly up Mont Ventoux sticking with Frank Schleck and not letting brother Andy draw him away and burn him out. Way to defend the podium finish Lance.

On Sunday, Salome, Jacques, Tony and I were joined in our ride by Miranda, a transported Canadian triathlete of high skills. Tony, Salome & Miranda were doing a 60 mile ride, while Jacques & I would do 30. I planned to tack on a 4 to 6 mile run. Other than the classic early ride flat by Jaques (it seems someone flats in the first several miles of a Sunday ride), the ride was great. Jaques & I turned after the Boca Inlet Bridge and hopped onto the back of a group until they started to ramp up the pace a little too high. My run was OK to start, but the temperatures started climbing fast. I ducked into Brich State Park and did 2 miles in the shade of the park to make a total of about 5 miles. By the time Salome came in from the 60 miler, I was showered and watching the peleton make its way into Paris. I was blown away by the way Team Columbia'-HTC launched Mark Cavendish to the largest lead sprint finish I've ever seen on the Champs Élysées. Sweet revenge by George Hincapie over Garmin-Slipstream for denying him his day in the yellow jersey.

As my brother Dave said to me: "Its always bitter-sweet seeing the last stage of the Tour de France. Its always great seeing the riders sweeping around the Champs Élysées with the monuments in the background and a guaranteed interesting finish and awards ceremony. But as the Phil, Paul, and Bobke hinted at: its going to be even more interesting next year with Lance and Alberto on different teams openly competing. With the Schleck brothers in the mix, it going to be very interesting. Its hard to think we have to wait a whole year to see this great race again.

Co-blogger John returned from his week long dive trip to Honduras. The photos look like a good time was had by all; however, its time to get back into training buddy. With Jacques leaving town, I need a training partner to force me to show up at the pool.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


A strange week coming off last weekend's sprint triathlon. I feel like an ER doctor doing triage. First, I appear to have injured myself in running after cramping up during last Saturday's sprint tri. At the time, I felt fine. I started running slow and increased my speed as I felt the calves loosen up. I felt fine after the race. I was more concerned about taking care of Salome. It was the first time I actually looked for the medical tent. We couldn't find one, but I felt like I needed to observe the patient while she recovered. Later that day, my right knee was a little sore, but not too big of a deal.

Sunday morning, I awoke feeling tired, but not sore. About what I would expect from giving a hard effort during the race. I started to feel my calves a bit as we had a few people over watching the Tour de France. It was after cutting the lawn in the evening and sitting down for a while that I notice a tightening of my calves. By Monday morning, they were very sore. Sore as in "Muscle Repair Mode: Do Not Stretch!" Triage time! What is hurt and how do I treat it? I realize I probably tore micro-muscle fibers on Saturday. Its amazes me that it can be two days out from an injury before the body lets you know you are injured and starts repair work. I decided to go into recovery mode and canceled my next few day's workouts.

After resting the calves for several days, I was able to do an easy 10 miler on my bike this morning. Tomorrow evening, I"ll try an easy paced run. I hope to do a bike/run brick on Sunday morning to get ready for next weekend's Olympic tri. Yes, my limbs are intact and functioning. I'm not bleeding. Triage can also be a check just to make sure nothing is wrong.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Anniversary! The Fort Lauderdale Sprint Tri

It was this race a year ago that marked my entry into triathlons. It was also the one year anniversary race for wife Salome and buddy Jacques. Thus, we approached this race with a bit of excitement. Not the usual pre-race keyed up excitement; more of a party, let's have some fun, kind of anticipation. The race gave us a one year anniversary gift of good weather, calm waters, and lots of friends participating in the party.

At the package pickup at the Parrot Lounge on Fort Lauderdale Beach, we ran into several friends and met a number of new ones. The pickup situation was a little complicated by long lines and cloud bursts of rain forcing people under awnings and me into the bar. A happy hour beer would help pass the time waiting for the rain to stop. Buddy Tony had already worked his way through the packet pickup and had staked out a seat at the bar talking up a couple of first timer triathletes. I ordered a beer and started running into tri friends old and new. I spy Jerry McFarland and a group of his friends who were ponying up to the triathlon scene. I gave what little advice I could for transitions, but mostly encouraged Jerry and his group to simply enjoy their first triathlon.

After a couple of calls from Salome, I step back outside to wait in line. Jacques and his family soon arrive and we all process through number, cap, and chip pickup. Jacques mentions that he and his wife Christine had an early date at the Parrot Lounge years ago. Tony comes up pressing another beer in my hand, so I insist that Jacques split it with me in celebration of this anniversary tri.

Salome is suffering from what ends up being food poisoning (undercooked fish from the prior evening) and decides to decline Tony's invitation to go out for a pre-race pasta feed. I suggest Franko & Vinny's Pizza Shack around the corner. We call co-blogger John to meet us. John is back in town from a business trip to the Northeast. He is in Ft. Lauderdale just long enough to do wash and repack for a week long dive trip with buddy Roger and another friend to Honduras. As we catch up during diner, John expresses a bit of envy about our participating in a tri the next morning without him. No sale dude. You're the one going on a week long dive vacation. The envy goes the other way round.

As I get home, Salome is feeling worse. A bit nauseous. She goes off to bed after getting her gear in order. I work the bikes getting them ready for the morning. Next morning, she seems a little better. We gear up and bike over to meet up with Jacques. Its so cool to be close enough to a race start that no car is needed. We arrive around 5:50 to get a good rack placing since its an open racking event. First come, best spots. Jacques is cited for a missing handle bar cap and is forced to improvise with a quarter and tap. We agree that we should all carry spare end caps because you never are aware when one of these suckers falls off. We also agree that we could have make a few bucks selling caps to all the other participants who were also surprised to find they were missing a cap. There must be little pixies that steal these off bikes in the night.

We get our stations set up and run into buddy Ken Merkel and his wife Ana. Ken was into the triathlon scene years before us and was the guy who talked us into getting into this whole madness. Unfortunately, Ken was forced to take time away from the tri scene for the last year. We were thrilled that he was returning to the fold. However, no effort to get back in goes without a hurdle or two. Ken had signed up for this event and the next day's tri in Key Biscayne when they were scheduled a week apart. In addition, the prior evening he tweaked a back muscle that had him in real discomfort. However, Ken wasn't letting this stop him. He would get back on the horse/bike.

As we wait at the Ocean front for the start, we keep running into more and more friends. There is simply nothing like a local event to bring the local community together. We take group pictures and warm up swims. The water could not be calmer. Its warm and clear with no perceptible current. Tony is off with the first group which includes the elites and the 45-59 age group. Next up, Iron Carrie goes off with the blue caps. Jacques & I are both in the 3rd wave and line up. The starter counts down the last 5 seconds and we are off.

The only problem with a sprint is that the swim distance is so short that you don't ever find enough space to call your own. I get the classic kicks in the head and side as I try to find my way out of other swimmer's way. Before I know it, the swim is done and I'm running through transition. My friend's had talked me into running this long transition run in my Teva sandals. While I am now able to pass a lot of barefoot runners, I end up distracted in T1 trying to get excess sand off my feet. I'm so distracted that I initially forget my bike helmet. Fortunately, I realize this before getting to the bike out area, so no penalty. As I come out of T1, Jacques is right next to me.

I was pleased with my bike as I came circle Birch State Park in the 23 to 25 mph range. As I go along A1a, my rate keeps in the 20 to 21 mph range: good for me. Tony, meanwhile, is cooking with an average of around 25 mph. The police assisting with side street traffic are a little off their mark with several participants almost getting whacked by cars entering the course. I have to shout off an officer about to waive a car right into me. Salome loses her water bottle in her bike portion (we were able to retrieve it later). She, too, is almost clipped by a car from a side street.

As I come towards the end of my ride, my right calf starts to give me warning signs of cramping. I try to focus on have my left leg do most of the pulling. As I dismount and start to pull off my bike shoes, both calves start to give me warning signs. I slip into my shoes and take off out of T2. Sure enough, about a hundred feet into the run, my calves start to cramp. I curse and stop to walk about 10 yards. I'm able to start running again, but have to watch my speed in order to keep the cramping at bay. I think I did not have enough recovery time from the marathon and the pace of a sprint tri was just too much, too soon. I'm able to pick up pace a bit at a time and start passing people. The 1.7 mile run is over before I know it. My time: 56:40.

Tony's bike time gives him the best time of our immediate group in 53:27. Iron Carrie is up next as 56:23. Jacques is on my heals at 56:55. Jacques' wife, Christine was taking pictures on the run course. Immediately after passing by her, I hear her shout out Jacques' name. I realize he must be reeling me in. I somehow manage to keep him at a distance, but this is going to be a coin toss in the future. The guy is matching me at too many stages. For now, I'm still ahead in the run. But I've been beat by other friends using the stealth draft, so its going to get interesting. Ken had issues with his back, but was right on Jacques' and my heels. Thus, the friendly competition amongst friends is getting interesting. Better train on that dive trip John.

Salome comes across in 1:06:09. She was pleased with her consistent swim, but the food poisoning kept her from pushing too hard on the bike and run. At the finish, she really felt awful. I found her a bench to sit down. After a while she started to feel better, but she doesn't advise competing with food poisoning. However, as a "I can do anything" Greek woman, she would not give into a little thing like food poisoning.

Jerry came in around 1:13, but time is irrelevant for your first triathlon. He seemed to have enjoyed himself. We hope to see him at other events. I could go on and on with other friends' results, but you get the picture. It was a fun and social event. Publix put on a very nice after feed. A good time was had by all. Well, maybe not Salome so much, but she wouldn't have missed the anniversary tri.

Tomorrow, we watch Lance and Alberto battle it out in the Swiss Alps in Stage 15 of the Tour de France. Just a little competition amongst friends.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kicking It Back Into Gear

Taking a family vacation so soon after an away game marathon in Seattle put me a bit behind in triathlon training. The month of June was focused primarily on running. Post marathon, I had gotten in a 10 mile muscle loosening ride mid-week and a 53 mile ride over the weekend. My week in DC, however, yielded nothing more than walking my legs into the ground. Yes, Salome & I brought our running gear with us to DC, but we simply could not get ourselves out the door for a run knowing we would walk 6 to 8 hours that day. I also realize that I had not been for a real swim session since just before St. Anthony's in late April.

We had a sprint triathlon on the calender for the weekend of July 18th-19th, but which one to do? The Fort Lauderdale Sprint Triathlon scheduled for Saturday is part of a series throughout the State of Florida put on by the Publix Supermarket chain. Last year, this was Salome & my first triathlon ever, so this was the sentimental favorite. Besides, its our local event. Unfortunately, the organizers decided to cut the run portion from a 3.1 mile run to a 1.7 mile run. I was a bit put off by making the sprint event even shorter than what I considered a minimal distance. I'm training for a full ironman. How can they start shortening the course?

The other alternative race on Sunday is in Key Biscayne as part of a series of true sprint distance events. When we were away, however, we receive an e-mail informing us that due to emergency repair work on a bridge on Key Biscayne, the venue would be changing from the usual staging area at the end of Key Biscayne to the Marine Stadium closer to the Powell Bridge. Upon further investigation, we found out that the bike portion is being shortened to 8 miles. Thus, neither event would be a standard sprint distance. Both would be short courses. We were also concerned about any logistical problems in moving the staging area to a new location, so we opted for our home course. Support your local races I always say.

Awakened from our training slumber, Salome & I did a sprint bike/run brick on Sunday. Man, did it get hot on that run. In the afternoon, we took our son Alex to the beach and traded off times to swim in the open water. Oops! I swallowed a nice gulp of salt water. My stroke rhythm was nowhere to be found. Not good. I put in a call to tri buddy, Jacques Watters and announced it was time to get back to the pool.

So this week has been "kick it back into gear" week. We've were at the pool on Monday and Tuesday mornings. On the second day, it felt like swimming again. A nice body roll and easy arm turn replaced the clunkiness of Sunday at the beach and an awkward first pool session on Monday. To that, I've added an 11 mile bike session at high effort and a treadmill speed workout. Tomorrow, Jacques and I will do an open water beach swim as a dry run for Saturday.

Yes, its time to return to the training fold. The events start to get longer and the bike and swim sessions will go longer. Two weeks out from this weekend's tri is an Olympic distance event. After that, John & I are signed up for a half IM in Clermont in late September. That only sets the stage for the final push to the full IM in late November. Yes, this weekend begins the long, slow uphill climb towards our ultimate goal. No more down cycles; its all uphill from here.

It feels good knowing I'm coming out of the solo focus on running and back into multi-sport cross training. This is why I got into the whole triathlon scene a year ago. I look forward to the slow build up in time and distance. I'm almost anxious for this weekend's sprint to be over so I can go longer in the pool and on rides. I may think differently come the month of October, but here we go!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In Cod We Trust

We are back from our trip to Washington, D.C. to tour the sights with Alaskan buddy, Wayne Crayton and his 11 year old daughter Hannah. We felt our 9 year old son Alex would get along well with Hannah and wanted him to see the capital. They did not disappoint us. Alex and Hannah kept each other and us grown ups in stitches.

Salome, Alex & I arrived on Tuesday morning around 9 PM. We were met at the airport by one of my closest friends from high school, Kate McCauley. Kate and her husband Jim graciously put us up in their home in spite of the fact that they had pretty busy agendas themselves between baseball playoffs for son David and a weekend camping trip. After a quick bite for lunch at Kate & Jim's we took the subway to meet up with Wayne, Hannah and Tammy. Tammy is a colleague of Wayne's from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a member of the running fraternity/sorority. Hannah gives me a big hug and I give her a twirl. Wayne looks great, which I was trilled to see given his triple bypass surgery in January. Now, I know my buddy is going to be alright. He looks better than pre-surgery and I've no doubt he will return to the marathon.

We spent the afternoon touring the American History Museum. Part of the museum had a tribute to the North American fishing trade. Since my family on my mother's side is from Gloucester, Massachusetts, I started telling Wayne and Tammy how important the Cod trade was to the discovery and development of our country. They were in a giddy mood and started laughing at my story. Knowing a losing battle when I see one, I started to expand on the theory of cod's importance theorizing that perhaps cod was so important that cod is the actual deity; that the idea of "God" was simply a miss-transcribing by monks in the middle ages; and that we actually are supposed to be worshiping the fish. Yes, I'm probably going to hell for this bit of sacrilegious humor. Later, as we wandered by the history of coinage, Tammy is scanning an enlarged microscopic image of a $20 Double Eagle Gold coin. As she scans the bottom of the coin, we note that the "G" is worn away to look like a "C." Thus, the inscription on the coin read: "In Cod We Trust." We were doubled over laughing. After leaving the museum and having ice creams and frozen lemonades, we walked over to the Washington Memorial.

Kate & Jim put together a fabulous dinner for all of us plus Tammy's boyfriend, Wess. Jim accidentally defrosted catfish instead of chicken for the fajitas he planned for dinner. Salome & I assured him that we would back his play and eat catfish fajitas if everyone else focused on the steak to the exclusion of the fish. My only request was that we tell our friends that its cod. Not a problem, the fish fajitas were delicious and everyone ate them. The rest of the meal was equally good.

Wednesday, we met up with Wayne and Hannah after their White House tour at the Smithsonian Castle. They and most of the Smithsonian museums had some reference to the "Night at the Museum 2" movie. The castle had the treasures and Archie Bunker thrown set up from the movie. We we glad we had taken Alex to the movie the Saturday before the trip. After that, it was off to the Air & Space Museum. Wayne & Hannah left us at lunch to go on their tour of the Capital. We toured the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and the Hirshhorn Museum. For dinner, we went with Kate, Jim & Sean to a nice restaurant in the hip new section of Arlington. gelatos for desert and a nice walk home. At dark, Kate & Jim drove us on a night tour of the capital. A great way to see the monuments and buildings.

Thursday, we were supposed to tour the Capital in the morning, but the Capital was shut down with a human chain war protest in the Rotunda. We crossed the street to hook up once again with Wayne & Hannah in the Library of Congress. After lunch, we toured the White House. By the time we left, about 3 PM, our legs were shot. Once we got to the Natural History Museum, however, we couldn't stop going from collection to collection. Too cool stuff. From dinosaurs to sea creatures and gems.

Friday morning, we met up with Wayne & Hannah for the last time. We visited the International Spy Museum. While not a free national museum, this is a very interesting museum. At lunch, I give Wayne a book I had picked up a couple of nights before. A history of "Cod." We all manage a short visit to the National Portrait Gallery before bidding Wayne & Hannah farewell. After leaving our friends, we head over to the Capital for our make up tour.

Saturday morning, Salome, Alex & I take a tour of the National Zoo before heading back on an afternoon flight. All in all, a fun family trip in which we got to see friends we don't get to see as often as we like. Thank Cod for good friends and good times.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On the Road Again

Flying back to the east coast from Seattle was a bit of a shock to the body. I never have a hard time going to a new time zone at the beginning of a trip. I think its all of the excitement of an event and the possibility of touring and having fun that keeps the time shift from hitting me. Its always on the return that I have a 2 to 3 day adjustment. Once I'm home and back at work, my body decides to deal with the time shifting in a not so pleasant way. I'm struggling to stay alert at work and can't get off west coast time at night.

I get home around 10 PM after being up all day flying and dealing with a 4 hour stop over in Houston. Luckily, I was able to have lunch in Houston with my buddy Rick Levy, so the time on the ground only seemed half as long. Unfortunately, the airline did one of those hostage maneuvers where they pull away from the gate "on time" and sit in the runway for a couple of hours. You know you are in trouble when the stewardesses start handing out cups of water and peanuts while you're sitting on the run way. In any event, we took off after only a couple of hours on the ground. There ought to be a law. In fact, I think there is now, but the airlines are pretty good about skirting those pesky rules. As far as the statistics go, we had an "on time" departure.

Wednesday morning, I'm so off track internal clock time wise that I sleep through my alarm. My wife does the kind thing and lets me sleep in while she goes off to our trainer, Penn, for a workout without me. Thursday morning, I manage to go out with Salome for a 10 mile, get some blood flowing back in the legs, bike ride. Penn allows us to grab a makeup workout on Saturday morning, so I felt somewhat back on track weight-training wise. Penn also offers to meet up with us Sunday morning for our planned 40 mile bike ride. I put in a call to buddy Tony to make it a foursome for Sunday. Co-Blogger John decided to work on his diving and swimming skills instead. Given that he's heading out soon on a dive trip in the Honduras, I understood.

Sunday morning we meet up with Tony and ride north along A1a at 6AM to meet up with Penn. Both Tony and Penn are the strong riders and its always a pleasure to ride with either of them. Thus, Salome & I feel double blessed to be riding with these guys this morning. We pick up some friends of Penn's along the way. The group of six to seven of us feel so good that when we get to the turn around point, I say, "Let's keep going for 5 more miles north." It just felt so good to be out on a long ride again.

Of course, the distance we ended up covering (53 miles) was a stretch coming off a marathon. Late in the ride, I almost cramp up in the left calf that froze up at the end of the Seattle Marathon. By the last mile, my quads start to twitch, just a threat of a cramping up. As we get off our bikes, I'm thrilled that Salome & I were able to handle the distance. I also realize that we need to get back riding in a serious way. The Tour de France should provide the inspiration needed.

Buddy Wayne Crayton was planning a trip to Washington, DC with daughter Hannah (yes, she of the "Great Moose Attack"). We were supposed to visit DC with our young son Alex in the Spring, but Salome had a foot injury. Thus, we saw an opportunity to give Alex his tour of our nation's capital and meet up with Wayne and Hannah. Its also an opportunity to visit our friends Kate and Jim in Arlington, VA. So, we decided to hit the road again. We lined up White House and Capital tours and went to see Night at the Museum 2 to get psyched. Hopefully, Wayne and I can arrange a training run around the mall. In any event, we're "On the Road Again."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mostly accurate -----

Well, Bill's latest blog entry is mostly accurate so I suppose I'll just let it stand as is and be thankful that he is willing to take the time to chronicle this ridiculous Ironman journey of ours. And anyone who reads this blog knows what a great job he does telling this story.

One very small clarification around the "Arrogant Bastard" references. Arrogant Bastard is the name of a microbrew that was on the menu at the Ale House where we ate dinner on our last night in Seattle. Bill ordered this brew all on his own. I never called him an "arrogant bastard" or even suggested that he order this brew that I guess, could have been named in his honor --- ooooops, did I just say that? Just kidding folks.

Nonetheless, I have great respect for Bill as an athlete, a friend, a family-man and yes, even as an attorney! The beauty of running with Bill is that we truly never compete with each other. I'm certain that we've both accomplished more in our athletic pursuits than we ever would have because of how much we've supported and pushed each other. There's nothing like a great training buddy!

Until the next time ----- this is the "other" Wild & Crazy Guy signing off.

Arrogant Bastard: the Seattle Marathon Report

My training buddy John is a wise runner. For the 2 days we lightly toured Seattle and attended the Seattle Marathon Expo, John proposed that we treat the Seattle Marathon as a training run. We had signed up for the event months ago as a way to keep our feet to the training fire for our long term goal of the Arizona Ironman in November. John was coming off his calf injury and was being somewhat cautious about re-injuring a muscle that the doctors had told him would doubtfully be marathon ready by late June. Yet, here we were in Seattle ready to run the inaugural Rock & Roll Seattle Marathon.

Our training leading up to Seattle was not ideal. It had rained a lot and we had record breaking heat in June. My first 20 miler had been a treadmill run in AC due to rain. My second 20 and John's only 20 miler was 2 weeks before marathon day. The heat just about killed me late in that training run. As John kept repeating all weekend: "Running slower in heat during training doesn't help make you faster in cooler weather." You trained slower; you simply end up running slower.

I am a stupid runner. If the weather on race day is cool and I feel light and fast, I'm going for glory. My theory is that if you start off slow, you will finish slow. I have never negative split a run in my life and don't think I'm genetically engineered to do so. My self imposed nickname is "Rabbito Andropov." I go out fast and drop off that pace. The question is weather the course finishes before I do. Some days my abilities are longer than the course. Other times, I run out of effort before the course ends.

We arrived in Seattle on Thursday afternoon on separate flights. Our first surprise is the cost of parking at the race host hotel, the Weston. $36 a day to park a car we don't intend to use until Saturday evening. We find out from the desk clerk that we can park at a secondary parking lot for $18 a day. After trying to drive across downtown Seattle in rush hour traffic, the desk clerk's statement that "You really don't need a car in Seattle" rings true. We find out it will cost us $39 to park near the expo and decide to drive back across town, park the car and go to the expo Thursday morning by public transportation. By the time we get the car back across town and parked for the next three days, there is just enough time for a pasta dinner and a stroll through a bookstore before turning in for the night.

Friday morning, we hit the expo. Nice official gear, but a little pricey for a recession. Not only are the prices not discounted, they are pushing the limits of consideration. After dropping about $200 each on shirts, jackets, caps, and souvenir mugs, we stroll the open vendors and sit in for bits of lectures. A doctor tells the crowd of a new study that says if you drink more than 200 milligrams of caffeine pre-race, it reduces the blood flow to the heart by 70%!!! Uh oh, I have been drinking a double shot espresso as a pre-race ritual for the last year or so. How much caffeine is in that? The doctor says you are safe with up to 2 cups of coffee.

After the expo, we go to Pikes Market and watch the fish tossing and pick up some fresh fruit. We eat a late lunch/early dinner at a hole in the wall pizza joint at the market. Two days of pasta. We should be good to go. As we do our pre-race gear set up and race number set up, John advocates running with the 4 hour pace group. I tell him I'm sticking with my higher placed corral number and will not go with a pacer. John responds that I'm going to jackrabbit out of the start and blow up like a pinata. Overnight, I decide that perhaps my wise friend is correct. Our training has not been ideal. I announce in the morning that I'll start with him in the pace group and go out at a 4 hour pace.

As we head by bus over to the race start in Takwila, a suburb south of Seattle, the atmosphere is light and fun. We line up in Corral 11 and meet our pacer, a women who is pacing for the first time. She will hand us off to a second runner at around the half way mark. The gun goes off and in about 15 minutes our group crosses the start line. One of the reasons I'm not a fan of pace groups is there is a clumpage factor. Everyone who want to or thinks he or she can run a 4 hour marathon sticks as close to the pace leader's flag as they can comfortably get. The net result: clumpage. Too many runners, too close together, darn near tripping over each other's shoes. I deal with this by running slightly off the front of the group. John, being what I call "highly social" stays a little further back closer to the pacer. He mixes it up more with the other runners. While I enjoy chatting up other runners before and after a race, I'm more of a solo, don't talk to me during a race, runner. I'll give you a dissertation on the state of the world during a training run; but during a race, I'm more in my own head than into social networking.

I stay within the group through the 6 mile mark, but I've been noting that we are behind a 9 minute per mile pace. Not having run at a 4 hour pace before, I mistakenly believe that we need to make 9 minute per mile pace. I've been checking my watch and see that we've been behind this pace since the start. This is starting to bother me. I start to get a little ahead of the group and John starts to call out for me to slow it down. He tells me to run an even effort and ignore the slope. We had studied the elevation chart prior to the race and I am keenly aware that the first half of the course is fairly flat. The miles from 13 to 20 have some real hills and elevation changes. I figure that its those second half mile that will slow us down. In effect, I lose confidence in the pacer. I feel she is putting us behind the eight ball and we are blowing our pace. I decide to go ahead based on John's statement of "even effort."

I am soon off the front and away from the group. I am aware that John will think I've broken a pact with him, but I don't trust this pacer. I go off at my own pace. I keep the mantra "even effort" in my mind and feel great. In fact I am in the zone. I've got that feeling you get when its all going right. It feels good to be alive and running. A very primordial feeling. I could be caveman running down a mastodon or an American Indian chasing a herd of buffalo for a kill. It is for moments like this that I run. As a species, we are meant to do this. We are evolutionarily designed for running; when you hit just the right stride, this is how you feel. You feel connected to the natural world.

The course has a number of out and back sections. As I cross the bridge over Lake Washington around mile 10, I realize I will soon be doubling back and will come across the 4 hour pace group and John. Over the last 4 miles, I pulled ahead about a 1/2 mile. I've not move up to another pace group, so I know I haven't over done it. But to see the look of disgust on John's face as we pass, you would have thought I had committed a high crime. I figure I'll ask for his forgiveness later. I never said that I would stay with the 4 hour pace group; I said I would start with it. I'm sure he would accuse me of being overly lawyerly, but it's not like I'm saying that it depends on your definition of what the word "is" means. And yes, after giving John this explanation post race, he threw every nasty lawyer joke at me that he could recall. And, yes, I'm an attorney.

As I come up to the 13 mile mark, I note that my watch is a 1:59. Ha, I know we were off pace. I think about the pace group and how the new leader will now start pushing the group to a faster pace for the more challenging section of the course. This section consists of a series of long uphill and downhill slopes in tunnels and on bridges just north of downtown Seattle. The course is along the double-decker State Road 99 that is just west of the downtown area. The outward bound section is on the lower deck. Here, I tuck into the shadows to keep the weather as cool as possible. Miles 18 through 21 are over a long sun exposed bridge. While I feel like I'm taking in enough fluids, I think it is during this section that I am getting behind the hydration curve. But I still feel great and I'm loving the course. On the return section of this out and back on a bridge over Lake Union, I again see John. He has fallen behind 4 hour pace group and looks like he is having a hard time of it. "Hang in there," I shout as we pass. It does not seem to cheer him up.

From mile 22 on in, the course is on the upper deck of State Road 99. Open, hot black top with no hope for shade in slight. At mile 23, I start to wilt fast in the heat, which seems to be rising quickly. Perhaps its my Northern European genetics, but I do not do well running in hot conditions. Perhaps no one does, but I seem to do worse than the average runner. I sweat pretty good in the heat. In this situation, I think the dryer air has caused me to not notice the fact that I've been slipping into dehydration. By mile 24, I've got classic signs of dehydration: my back aches, my leg muscles are starting to twitch, and my body just want to stop running. I go from having the time of my life to hoping I can finish this event. I go from an ever slowing jog to a walk and jog combination. My race is over, but I've go 2 miles left.

Its amazing how you can go from Heaven to Hell in a short time. "Why do I do this to myself," I think. More importantly: who am I kidding that I can even attempt a full ironman event? "Only myself," I respond in my head. I start watching for the 4 hours pace group leader coming up behind me. Sure enough, I see the new pace leader pushing the group at what appears to be a pretty brisk pace. There are only 3 or 4 people keeping with her. "At least I had that figured out" I think. There had been probably 40 people pacing at the beginning. I believe a pacer signed up to run the entire course would have run a more even pace.

Me, I'm starting to have muscle cramps. I'm past mile 25, and occasionally look back to see where John is on the course. With less than a half mile to go, he runs by me walking it in. "Come on Humpty," John says. While I'd love to pace in with him, my legs will not respond. "You go ahead," I say. Off he goes, probably with a nice grin on his face. I am paying dearly for my sin of hubris. No, I am not better than the running gods and I am paying a dear price for having overly enjoyed my earlier miles. With about 100 yards to go, my left calf muscle freezes up and I'm forced to stop and message the cramp out. I hobble over the finish line. I look towards the medical tent just ahead of me and for the first time ever contemplate going in for an IV hookup. "Walk it off," John says to me like a disgusted drill sargent to his new recruits after a long march. I try to keep walking, but I seriously want to lay down.

We go to the free beer section of the finish area and sit on the steps of Qwest Football Stadium. John climbs the flight of steps up the stadium to get us a couple of hot dogs. There was no way in Hell that I was going to climb those steps. John came back with the hot dogs which tasted like the best meat I've ever had in my life. Its amazing how good food tastes when your body needs the protein. I am of course humiliated with my last miles, but John is kind enough not to rib me about it. Yet. Over the course of the next few days, he lets me know how he really feels. Oh well, the guy knows my history. He really should not be surprised.

For the books, John ran a 4:08; me, a 4:11. Not a great result for either of us. We both are regular sub 4 hour marathon runners. But as John said, we ran as well as our training allowed. Its been hot and we were under trained for a good marathon result. As a waitress told us at a restaurant, "It's over, you finished, move on." Well said.

That night we drove out to a park in Redmond and saw Keb Mo, a great blues/soul singer. It was a free concert for everyone who ran the marathon. Your race number bib was your ticket in. Keb plays a great blues guitar. He was accompanied by a great keyboard player. If you get a chance to see Keb Mo, just go.

We finished our visit to the Northeast with a day trip to the San Juan Islands. We rode scooters around San Juan Island and went on an evening whale watching boat trip. Some Killer Whales from the L pod that feed in the area came very close to our boat. Captain Pete and his biology student assistant were both entertaining and informative. We spent Monday doing classic tourist stuff around the Space Needle: an IMAX movie on the Lewis & Clark Expedition; watching the kids play in the music fountain; going through the Music Experience Museum; and going up to the observation deck of the Space Needle, which is 605 feet tall. I know, it only looks to be about 300 feet; but really, its twice that high.

We finished our night at a brew pub/restaurant called "Roasters." I was going to order a locally brewed beer, but when I saw a California beer, I knew I had to order it. When the waitress returned with our drink order, she asked, "Who's the Arrogant Bastard?" I raised my hand and shrugged, "That would be me." I got no objection from my wiser running buddy John.

So, let the errata begin! I'm sure John will want to correct various misrepresentations of fact. But the fact remains that I got infinite joy out of the first 23 miles of the Seattle Marathon. Unfortunately, the race was 3 miles too long for me. I would run it the same way if I had it to do over. I may never find out. It too hot down here to train for summer marathons. The summer is for triathlons. I can't wait to get on the bike and hop in the pool and start serious bike and swim training.