Peak of Fitness

Mercifully, my recovery time from recent hernia surgery turned out to be shorter than expected.  A week after the procedure, I saw the doctor who gave me the ok to commence some light running.  It took me a couple of more days to get myself to lace up my sneakers, but finally I did and slowly began to reset myself back into training mode.

This time around though, I am going to make a conscious effort to make sure my training is complete, in order to better realize my athletic potential.  I am going to start from the ground up and include all aspects of my life.  This not only includes making sure I get my training it, but also making sure I get my diet right, my personal life right and even my professional life right.  I want to make sure that I do everything as correctly as possible, and to the best of my ability.

In order to do this I need to have a healthy mind and body.  If the body is healthy, it will make it easier for the mind to follow.  Feeling and looking good gives you confidence to tackle almost any challenge in life, so this is where I am going to start.  Fortunately, I have the support of my friends and children.  They offer me advice and encouragement and in the case of one particular friend a rock solid diet plan as well as accountability.

The most significant change I am going to make as I head into 2012 is to eat properly and eliminate that which I know does not belong in my diet.  Foods with excess sugars, artificial sweeteners, empty carbohydrates, high fat content and other junk foods are going to be banished.  This will take a great deal of sacrifice and self-control, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

I’ve said before that the desire to look good and feel good is all a matter of pleasure.  Either you get more pleasure out of being in the physical shape you want to be in, or you get more pleasure out of stuffing your face with every conceivable kind of junk.  It really boils down to that simple sort of decision.  When confronted with something to eat, all you need to do is say to yourself “will my short term pleasure of eating this piece of junk, be greater than my long term pleasure in knowing that my body is fit and healthy”.

I told a special friend today about how I got started on my now ten year fitness streak.  During this conversation it came to light that pictures exist of me being fat and out of shape.  I keep those pictures as a reminder of where I once was.  I also have a picture of my peak of fitness, which is now about 5 years old.  The two pictures are polar opposites.  Over the past 5 years I have been waffling back and forth between wanting to be like the guy in the peak of fitness vs. the guy who was fat and out of shape.  It is time I cut the bullshit and get back to the person I was when I had reached top fitness.  I will never forget the confidence I had in myself at the time and wish everyone could achieve that.  It is hard to reach and hold onto that level, but I am going to do it again.

December 17, 2011   Comments Off

Reaching My Full Potential

A good friend of mine once told me that I have so much potential and that it pained her to see me squander it.  For some reason, I was reminded of this comment tonight.  I wasn’t doing anything more than simply going for a walk and stopping into a local bar for a refreshment, when my friend’s comment came back to haunt me.

It is not like I am a failure, but in many areas I have not lived up to my potential.  I can cite fear, laziness, conflicting commitments, stubbornness or just plain stupidity for reasons that I have not lived to my full potential.  In the end, my failure to reach my full potential really just lays within myself or more specifically my mind and its willingness to push myself to a place that is beyond my current comfort zone.

I have on occasions reached my full potential in narrowly focused areas.  It would be better though if I could free my mind to allow myself to hit my potential in a much broader spectrum.  I need to let/force/cajole myself to do the things that I know I want to do deep down inside.  I only have one life to live and if I don’t make the most of it, then I am going to fail no one but myself.  I will not have made a mark on this world worthy enough of remembering.  Actually, it is not even about having done things worth memorializing, it is about going to my own grave satisfied that I lived a life worth living.  One that is not full of regrets, remorse and could have should have and would haves.

So what am I to do to allow myself to reach my full potential?  I do not want to get caught up in a philosophical discussion, nor do I want to seek out therapy to find out what is holding me back.  All of that takes too much time to do and by the time I got anywhere, I would have already lost a bunch of time to accomplish those things I wish I could be accomplishing.

So I am asking you dear readers…  What have you done to set yourself free to reach your goals, dreams and desires?  Which magic elixir did you take that transformed you into the person you wanted to be?  What are the first steps you took to free yourself from things that unnecessarily encumbered you?  Lastly, if you were able to do any of these things, was it worth it at the end?

December 5, 2011   Comments Off

Hernia Surgery

Since the NYC Marathon, I have been training steadily.  This included doing the Knickerbocker 60K in Central Park only 1 week before I was schedule to have hernia surgery.  I wanted to make sure that by the time I got onto the cutting table, I would be physically tired and ready to rest for the required 4 weeks of recovery time.  I even made sure I rode my bike to the hospital for surgery, just to get one last workout in.   However, only 3 days after the surgery, I find myself filled with a nervous energy, wishing I could go out for a run, so I would at least be tired when it was time to go to bed.

As I am faced with another 3.5 weeks of recovery time, I am not sure how I am going to spend my time in the evening.  I suppose I could do some reading, take a closer look at my personal finances or just watch TV and movies.  None of the options are appealing to me.  I am craving the pursuit of physical fitness and the endorphins that are released from a good hard workout.

All I can say is that taking off for the 4 weeks will be tougher than any workout I would have put myself through.  Hopefully, I will recover well and be able to get right back into training come January.

December 1, 2011   Comments Off

Am I Too Hard on Myself?

So I woke up this morning with the good intention of running 3 miles to the pool, swimming 2000 – 30000 yards and then running 3 miles home.  I had even woke up earlier in the night to eat something so I would be fueled for the approximately 2 hours of working out.  However, when my alarm clock rang, I had a fit of weakness and self-pity and said to myself, “What is the point”?

I figured with only 2 weeks before I am to have surgery to repair a hernia, followed by a mandatory 4 week recovery period that there was really no reason for me to be working out.  Any fitness I would gain from today’s workout would be lost in the 4 weeks following the surgery.  This led to a philosophical debate in my mind.  I thought to myself, if I really enjoyed training shouldn’t I just get up and do it for the pure joy of it and never mind the fitness boost it would give me?  At 4:30am though, the potential good feelings that would come from working out was negated by the thought of leaving my warm bed for the cold darkness that was just outside my door and the thought that I would lose the cumulative fitness gain over the next 1.5 months.

Of course, after the sun rose and my clock struck 7am, I became aggravated for not sucking it up and getting outside.  This is almost always the case when I blow off workouts.  I guess deep down I do find the joy of putting a good workout in, just for the sake of it.  Otherwise, I would not be filled with self-loathing for blowing it off.  Yes, it is going to be doubly hard to maintain focus and continue working out for the next 14 days, but I do not really have a good reason to stop right now.  I guess I should take it a bit easier than normal, but I should still get out.  I just have to view this two week period and the 4 week recovery and just another process in my overall training, fitness and good health and make the most of it.

As for today… It is not too late for an evening run and I did get to the pool yesterday.  So I will try to give myself a break, although I don’t think I will succeed.

November 14, 2011   Comments Off

The Joys of Getting Older

I am the Yin and Yang of ageing.  On the one hand I am in close to the best shape of my life, I am always mistaken for being 10-15 years younger than I really am and I have the maturity level of my children (did I mention they are quite mature for their age?).  On the other hand, I recently find myself stricken with a large variety of ailments; one would think I am almost close to death.  It has gotten to the point where I am starting to feel bad for my health insurance company.

In the past month I have been told by doctors to:

  • Get a cat scan to diagnose a deviated septum
  • Get a blood test to check for proper liver function
  • Have a sleep study conducted to see if I suffer from sleep apnea
  • Schedule surgery to correct an Epigastric Hernia
  • Take antibiotics to clear up an ear, nose and throat infection
  • Have procedures performed to remove fatty deposits under my skin

I am seriously getting sick of doctors.  Of the above procedures, I have already conducted the sleep study (I am sick of having dreams of suffocating), scheduled the hernia surgery (it will only get worse), and taken my antibiotics.  The worst of it is of course, the hernia.  I have no idea where this came from.  All I know is that if I don’t get it taken care of, it will only get worse.  Once it was diagnosed, the doctor told me it wasn’t an emergency to get it done.  However, I told him to schedule it immediately as I want to get the recovery process over with.  I am told I will have to cease training for at least 4 weeks.  If that is the case, my feeling is to have it done before the end of November, so I can take it easy over the Holidays in December.

The most upsetting part of this is that a month of inactivity will really set me back.  I’ve been on fire with my training lately and I was looking forward to going into the New Year, healthy, motivated and in shape.  Now I have to be extra diligent with my diet so as not to gain weight and I will lose a great deal of aerobic capacity.  I guess I will just have to work harder once the new year arrives, but not so much so that I rip my stitches and cause my guts to fall out.

November 13, 2011   Comments Off

NYC Marathon 2011

So the 2011 New York City Marathon has come and gone and I am already looking forward to next year’s event.  Well, not so much as looking forward to it as much as concerned with how I am to get in it.  I don’t have the 9+1 required to get in the race, so my only option is to pray for the lottery or to raise money.  I am not one to leave things to chance when I can be assured of something, so I have decided to go the raise money route.  So for the next year, my fundraising project will be for Team For Kids; an organization whose mission it is to:

“provide free or low-cost school and community-based health and fitness programs to children who would otherwise have no access to regular physical activity. Currently, their programs serve nearly 100,000 children each year in more than 400 schools across New York City, the nation, and South Africa.  With obesity still on the rise, NYRR’s youth services equip children with the tools they need to become physically fit for life, while also incorporating goal-setting, character-building, and nutrition education.”

Basically, they keep inner city children from becoming couch potato diabetics, encourage social and physical well-being and give direction to children who otherwise may just get lost in the system.  It seems like a worthy cause to me.  If you are interested in helping me raise money for this cause, please visit my donation link here:

http://www.runwithtfk.org/Member/PublicPage/7402

Anyway, onto my 2011 NYC Marathon race report…

I hopped on the Prospect Park Track Club bus to the Marathon start around 6am for the usual journey to Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island.  It was a bit cold out in the morning, but not too bad and I didn’t really suffer while waiting for the race to begin.  I hung out with several friends and we passed the time away idly chatting, napping or snacking.  The sun felt good and with about an hour before the race was to begin, I stripped down to my running shorts and a short sleeve running shirt.   After stowing my bag in the UPS baggage truck, my friends and I headed our separate ways to the appropriate corrals to line up for the start.

After entering the corral, I found myself next to a young woman named Carley, who told me that this was her first marathon and she was concerned about her feet because she was wearing borrowed shoes.  It turns out she forgot/lost her running shoes in the taxi that she took to the start and managed to borrow a pair from some volunteers in the Athlete Village.  It was quite the rookie mistake, but she kept a good attitude about it.  I wound up running with her for the first 6 miles, after which I stopped to see my family and she continued on to where her family was going to meet her with a brand new pair of shoes in her size.  I saw my family, dumped some clothes off on them, and then got back to the business of running.  I was hoping to see Carley again just to have some company and also because we were running compatible paces with the same marathon goal in mind; that is 4 hours.  It was not to be however and I ran that that point forward on my own.

My plan was to run the first 13 miles at slower than goal pace and then to speed up.  I stuck with this plan and began to increase speed at the Half-Marathon mark, which is the bridge leading into Queens.  I was careful not to go too much faster as I know the race doesn’t really start until you make it into Manhattan and begin the trek up First Avenue.  My pace did increase, although not too much because the field was so crowded that it was slow going most of the time as you tried to push through all of the runners.

When I got to First Avenue, I made my way over to the right hand side of the road, where I knew my mother would be waiting for me on 63rd Street.  I had warned her earlier in the day, that if I was running well, to not expect me to hang out for very long.  When I arrived there, I still thought I had a shot at breaking 4 hours, so I just quickly said hello and then kept moving on.  After this point, my only other planned stop was around 84th Street where my daughter was volunteering for the marathon with her teammates of her high school track team.  I could not manage to find her and this was my only disappointing part of the day.  I did stop to look around and to text her from my cell phone that I had passed by our meeting spot and that she should no longer look for me.

Having lost about a minute to find my daughter, I renewed my sense of urgency to get moving and beat 4 hours.  I did the math in my head and I realized that I was cutting it very close and that I really needed to step up my pace.  I started to give it my all and held nothing back.  Unfortunately, I was just too undertrained in terms of running to be able to muster a much faster pace and the best I could really do was between an 8:30 – 9:00 minute mile pace.  It would have been sufficient had I run the entire race at this pace, but it wasn’t going to do the trick at this point to break 4 hours.  I then set my sites on breaking 4:05.

As I got in The Bronx, I knew that a 4 hour marathon was dead and I saw that 4:05 was slipping away.  My pace wasn’t decreasing, but it wasn’t fast enough to get to the mark.  I decided to just go for whatever I had and see what the marathon gods would give me this day.  I ignored the knots that were forming in my quads and just kept on pounding away.  As much as I thought the running field was crowded, I thought that the crowds this year lining the roads was much less.  Perhaps because it was such a beautiful day, people thought of better things to do than watch a marathon; or perhaps, everyone was in the marathon itself.  The last few miles were spent expending energy bobbing and weaving amongst the walking dead and those who were still able to run, albeit slowly.

It was an uphill battle to Central Park.  I had forgotten how long and steady of a climb this section was.  Actually, I was reminded of it, as I heard someone on the bus earlier in the day talking about it so I was prepared for the long slog up it.  I made it into Central Park and knew I was home free.  It was just a few short miles to the finish and I kept my pace steady.

Eventually I crossed the finish line and proudly reached for my phone and did a Foursquare check-in to announce to the world that I have completed yet another NYC Marathon.  I then proceeded with thousands of other runners through the Death March that is the trek to the UPS trucks that held our bags containing warm clothes.  Once I got my bag, I took my time to change into warmer running gear and began the preparation to run home, back to Brooklyn.  Yes my plan for my transportation home was to run another 13 miles home with my friend Larry and Willie.  Larry started a tradition a few years ago of running home from the marathon, and for the first time in a while, I felt good enough to join him.  However, this year as fate would have it, Larry and Willie were feeling the effects of running 26.2 miles and declined to do so.  Instead I wound up at the Prospect Park Track Club reunion area, drank a beer and had a snack.  Then I made it to the subway home, where I later ran into Larry and Willie.

Once home, I took a lovely Epsom Salt bath and then joined some friends at Larry’s house for some beer, chicken and pasta.  It was a lovely post race feed, but after a while I started to get tired and soon headed home.  The very next morning, I signed up to be a member of Team For Kids, as I knew I wanted to insure that my current streak of NYC Marathons remains intact.  Next year will be my 8th consecutive and my 9th overall.

Here are my splits:

November 11, 2011   Comments Off

Fatherly Pride

This past weekend saw my children being very active.  The highlight for me had to be watching Pie (my daughter) participate in her first High School Cross-Country Meet.  I am not sure who was more excited (me or her), and we both waited with anticipation for the race to begin.  Pie executed herself amazingly well, coming in 9th overall (out of 51) and first for her school.  I swelled with fatherly pride and could not be happier.  I was also a little smug, when I thought back to just a few short months ago, when I practically forced my daughter to try out track.  She didn’t want to go at first, but once she discovered it, I could tell she liked it a lot.  Since she has been on the team, I could tell she has so much more energy, many more friends and simply exudes and enthusiasm towards life.

Beast Jr. was also no slacker over this weekend.  He had two games of Flag Football, but the highlight for him was the exceptional pitching he provided for his travel baseball team (he had two baseball games as well).  He pitched 3 strong innings and only gave up a few runs due to some shoddy defense.  The highlight was when he struck out the side in his second inning.  He then went on to cover catcher for a couple of innings, when the current catcher got hurt, even though he was tired from pitching.  He did it without complaint and played flawlessly.

I am very happy and proud my children are leading a healthy and active lifestyle.  I could only imagine that my own active lifestyle has somehow influenced them into pursuing athletics.  I truly believe that this will not only pay huge dividends to them in the future, but it is paying dividends to me right now.  Having come off a less than satisfactory Furnace Creek 508, I have found myself beginning to get that itch to get myself back together.  My children are inspiring me as well as I see the pure enjoyment in their eyes as they participate in their sports.  This enjoyment and enthusiasm is pouring over into me and I find myself on fire this week as I restarted my training.

This time around, I am dedicating myself to be a complete and all around athlete.  I am making sure that I incorporate multiple disciplines (specifically swimming, cycling, running) as well as core fitness in the form of Boot Camp Fitness.  Already during this past week I ran to the pool 3 times, swam over 6000 yards and have run 23 miles.  I still need to setup my bikes again, but I’ll probably wait until after the NYC Marathon which is in only 2 short weeks.

For the first time in a while, I am seriously looking forward to training for my upcoming events.  I could see the differences in my body as I’ve finally got my diet under control.  I can’t wait to fill out that entry form for next year’s Furnace Creek 508 and pray that I get in.  I have unfinished business, both in regards to the FC508 and IMLP.  When those races arrive, I am going to eat them up.

October 21, 2011   Comments Off

Furnace Creek 508 2011 Race Recap

So I was not successful in completing this year’s FC508.  I managed to struggle through 309 miles of the course, when my team and I decided it would be foolish to continue.  I was already at the 28 hour mark, which just left me 20 hours to complete the remaining 200 miles, which would show me some of the toughest climbs of the day.  I had suffered enough at this point and it did not make any sense to struggle another moment just to make it to the next time station.  The point where I got off the bike was the bottom of the descent of the Jubilee Pass, just before the 2,300’ 9.5 mile ascent to the Salsberry Pass.  I had barely managed to hold onto my bike during this descent and I wasn’t willing to risk crashing during the next descent had I even managed to make it to the top of it.

Furnace Creek 508 Elevation Profile

Furnace Creek 508 Elevation Profile

As I got off my bike and sat down in the support vehicle, I looked into my crew chief’s eyes (@gregbarnett) and I could tell he did not think I should go on.  Greg had been discussing my progress with the rest of my crew (Jeff – @blahspam and Bill – @williamrozner) and they all were more concerned for my health than completing the race.  Jeff was keeping track of my time and constantly reminding me that I had to move on.   While listening to him I was on a seesaw in my mind; on one end my brain was telling me to suck it up and keep going and on the other end the growing realization that I was running out of time and soon would not be able to finish no matter how badly I wanted to or how much further I rode.  Eventually, realization grew so fat and heavy that it could not be ignored and with the confirming opinions of my support crew, I knew it would be useless to risk injury or worse, just for the sake of a few more miles.

Perhaps couple of factors affected me this year.  I went into the race sick with an Ear, Nose and Throat infection.  I was on antibiotics for the week before the race, and just on the day I flew to California, I came down with a terrible ear ache.  I saw an ENT specialist to make sure it was ok to fly, and he gave me antibiotic drops to put in both ears.  The flight from NY to Burbank was awful on my body.  The dry air decimated my sinuses and I was in pain throughout the flight.  When I landed I was congested and couldn’t sleep.  For the three days before the race, I got very little sleep and my appetite was less than normal.

The second factor was I had a lot fewer cycling miles this year.  I got a late start towards training and I hoped to make up for fewer miles through strength training.  The strength training didn’t really help my aerobic capacity though, and I noticed while I was riding that my HR seemed to be higher than it had been in the past.  This just reinforces my past belief that strength training should only supplement my endurance training, not be a substitution.

Despite my cold and fewer cycling miles, the race started off good and I did the first 100 miles averaging 15.5 mph.  For the first 25 of them I wore a helmet cam to capture part of the race.  I hope to have clips of that video here sometime soon.  When I reached Stage 1, I was only 5 minutes slower than I was the previous year.  Perhaps, I should have gone slower and conserved some energy for later.  The second miles did not go nearly as well and my digestion started to shut now.  I was on the climb into Death Valley at the 209 mile mark when I really started to get into trouble.  I needed to take many breaks during this climb and my digestion completely shut down.  I would pull off the side of the road and vomit in order to try to clear my stomach.

Without being able to get anything into my stomach that might help wake me up, I began to get tired and slept for about 30 minutes in the support vehicle.  The nap refreshed me and that allowed to me to go another 100 miles.  However, all during that time, I wasn’t able to take in any substantive nutrition.

I guess my first feelings upon immediately sitting in the support vehicle while my crew packed my bike was relief.  I couldn’t imagine at this point going on any further and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep.  I was completely out of it.  We drove into Shoshone, which was the next time station and reported that I would not be continuing on due to illness.  We briefly discussed going to a hospital to get an IV, but I decided that I would see how it would go for a while and see if my digestion recovered.  In the meantime, we waited for a friend @speakofthedevil to come meet us.  She was driving from several hours away to cheer me on.  I was feeling somewhat embarrassed that I was sitting in the support vehicle as a race dropout and didn’t have much strength to get out of the car to interact with her or her son.  I hadn’t seen her in a few years and I really wished it was under better circumstances.

My disappointment in not being able to complete the race grew more profound as we made our way home.  Silently, I started to weep to myself as the realization set in.  I was as sad as I’d ever been and it made me think of the boys you see on TV that just lost the Little League World Series.  It was like I struck out with the bases loaded with the tying run on third to end the game.

All of my friends, relatives and family were very supportive of me and I am told not to look at not completing the race as being a failure.  It is hard to look at it any other way.  This blog entry however, is going to be the last I dwell on it.  I know I tried my hardest this year and the stars just did not align themselves properly.  In fact, during the entire night of my ride through Death Valley, the moon was slightly less than full.  Perhaps it was this missing piece that threw me off.  If anything, my inability to complete the race this year has given me a much, much greater appreciation for what I accomplished last year in finishing the race.  I know now that if I am allowed to go back to the race again, I will go with a fire in my belly and extract my revenge.  In the meantime, I have this year’s NYC Marathon to look forward and then I have only 9 months to nail Ironman Lake Placid in 2012.

I would also like to thank all of my Twitter and Facebook followers who send me messages during the course of my training and before, during and after the race.  Your support is so greatly appreciated and will be remembered forever.

October 13, 2011   2 Comments

Thoughts on the 2011 Furnace Creek 508

This morning as I got up, the day I am leaving for the Furnace Creek 508, I encountered a throbbing pain in my left ear.  I had the same pain last night, but I was hopeful that it would be gone by this morning.  No such luck however, and as I sat in my office later on talking to my boss, he asked me what was wrong as I winced in pain from a spasm.  Long story short, he recommended an ear doctor near my office and it turns out I have an ear infection and major irritation of my larynx and inside my nose.  The dry air on the plane as I write this entry is making me feel awful.  I can’t wait to land and get off the airplane.

But anyway, as I sit on the airplane and think about what to write, I remember when I first started endurance training, and in particular for Ironman, how I would always have something to say in a blog entry practically on a daily basis.  As time has gone on, I haven’t had much to say, especially as I have trained for the same races year after year.  I guess that is because I repeat the same training patterns, routes and routines and it feels like I have already discussed everything that passes through my mind.  After all, how many creative ways can you come up with to describe a 20+ hour, 200+ mile training bike ride.  It gets monotonous to keep writing about that.

If it wasn’t for my children I am not sure I would be doing the race this year.  They both wanted me to do the race, with the reason being that knew how much I enjoyed it last year.  In a way they know me better than I know myself.  My beautiful daughter was in shock early in the year when I expressed doubts about coming back.  She knows though, that I love everything about major endurance events; the training, the physicality, the logistics and the camaraderie of working with a team.  I do wish though that Beast Jr. was sitting here next to me as I fly across the country.  I feel as though he should be part of this race and I am going to miss him very much this year.  We talk about doing the race together as a team when he turns 16.  I can’t think of anything better than to race with him as my partner.

My son simply likes to play and it doesn’t really matter which sport.  This fall he is playing Flag Football as well as Travel Baseball.  He is not so good in the former, but totally excels in the latter.  This past weekend he had Flag on Saturday and didn’t get much playing time.  The coach was obsessed with winning the game, even though it was quickly turning into a blow out and gave the majority of the playing time to the stronger players.  This was very upsetting to Beast Jr. (to me as well), but there is really not much we can do about it.  After the game, I sat down with him in our car for a while and discussed how he felt about not getting much playing time.  I explained that we each have to recognize our strengths and weaknesses and also pointed out to him how in baseball he tends to play the entire games when the there are other kids who sit out for significant time.  My point to him was that he needs to recognize that he can’t be good in everything, but if he wants to get better (and get more playing time), he is going to need to focus on practice, training and preparation.  He also needs to make sure he is part of the team, even though he is not on the field, and needs to root and cheer for his team all the time.  He understands, but it is still a tough pill to swallow.   I also explained to him if he wants to get 100 percent playing time, then he should concentrate on endurance athletics, as the only person that he is accountable to in those sports is himself.  Beast Jr. is a much better athlete than I was as a kid and I so admire his heart for sport.

I know I talk about Beast Jr. quite often, but I must also say that I am very proud of my daughter.  Early this year, during the winter, I sort of coerced her into joining the local youth track club.  She wailed and complained about it at first, but I think deep down, once she got going she enjoyed it.  Since that time she started High School and joined the schools track team.  She hasn’t been to any meets yet and says how the workout they are giving her is so much easier compared to what she was used to doing.  She is looking forward to her first meet and trains with the school team four days per week after school, without a word of complaint.  Just to give the full picture, after practice is over she first has to take the NYC Subway for the hour long ride home and then start on her homework.  I love her so much and am so very proud of her.  She smiles as me when I talk about doing Ironman with her in just 4 years, but I think she will do it.

Getting back to the FC508, I am doing it this year for several reasons.  Probably none of them make much sense, but here they are in bullet point format:

  • I do not want to be a onetime wonder.  I know I did it once, but do I have what it takes to do it again?  This I need to find out.
  • I want to be a role model for my children.  To prove to them that you can do anything that you set your mind to.
  • That glorious feeling of accomplishment.  My mind fought me this year, but I fought back.  Someone tweeted a Mohammed Ali quote that said something to the effect that he hated every second of training, but there was nothing in the world like the victorious feeling he had after he accomplished his goal.  I crave that feeling.
  • Endurance sports are what I do.  It is my lifestyle.  I wouldn’t be who I am if I did not continue with ever increasing or challenging goals.
  • Deep down, I know I am going to have a blast once the day arrives.

It is too early to start thinking about next year, but if you asked me today, I will probably take a pass on next year.  My children have been asking to go back to Ironman Lake Placid and I signed up for it this past summer.  If I could put a two man team together, I think the likelihood of me being back in 2012 would be much better, especially if my teammate is a local person with whom I would train.  All of this though is too early to be discussing, as I still have the glorious task of finishing this year’s race.

October 6, 2011   2 Comments

Sufferfest 2011

My training for the Furnace Creek 508, 2011 edition is finally over.  I begin serious tapering starting today and I can honestly say that I am glad it is has finally arrived.  I didn’t enjoy the training as much this year and was plagued by serious cases of loneliness.  I spend many hours in the saddle alone, through all hours of the day, and it was getting to me.

It wasn’t so bad when my kids were in Spain for the summer and I was left home alone to train to my heart’s content.  Once they returned though and I still had to go out and train, I felt pangs of guilt knowing that I was spending so much time away from my children.  Yesterday was my last longish ride and after about an hour into it, I called Beast Jr. and asked him if he wanted me to come home so I could be at his Flag Football game.   Had he said yes, I would have turned around without hesitation and gladly sat on the sidelines watching his game with the rest of the parents.  Instead of telling me to come home, Beast Jr. said to me that I should continue training because it would help me.  He knew all that I put into preparing for the race and he honestly didn’t want me doing anything that would jeopardize my training or doing something that would not allow me to do my best.  My heart swelled with pride at having such a thoughtful boy and I was at least able to motivate myself to do what I had to do, if only to make my children proud of their father.

The riding was so much harder this year.  This is partly because I got a very late start on my training.  I really didn’t begin until June and did so without much of a base.  I was almost starting from scratch in the form of shotgun training.  I just went from no distance to doing centuries, then double centuries in just a few short weeks of time.

Another reason for the difficulty, especially during my longer solo rides is that my legs were always a bit fatigued.  Even after I ramped up my mileage (albeit quickly), I still did not do close to the mileage I did last year.  This year was a lot of strength training in the form of Boot Camp fitness.  I went to this class 2 – 3 times per week, but I must say I feel so much stronger this year that I did last year.  I don’t have the cycling mileage, but I am hoping the increased strength will help when it comes to the endurance and speed.

I went out to do several double centuries this year.  Not all of the attempts were successful and I found myself really hurting at times.  I rode well into the night on several occasions and wondered how I was ever going to get home.  On one trip I took, I began to follow the Englewood 300K Brevet route.  It goes through Port Jervis, Goshen, Cornwall, Harriman and other towns.  On my first attempt at this I was in Cornwall very late in the day and I was at serious risk of not making it to the George Washington Bridge before they closed the pedestrian path home.  I decided to take a short cut home, but wound up climbing Storm King Highway/9W, which was the biggest, most trafficked climb around.  Cars whizzed past me as the sun set and exhaustion set in.  At about the halfway point I pulled off to the side of the road into some grass to rest and have a snack.  I was literally melting into a puddle and suffering a major bonk.  If I would have lain down I could have easily fallen asleep – probably until morning.  By the time I got up again, it was completely dark and I still had hill to climb.  I finally made it over the top and flew down into Highland.  I am very familiar with the area and debated on just staying in a local hotel/motel.    I kept going until I reached a convenience store and loaded up on water and ice, drank a Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy.  It was around 8:30pm by now and deep down I knew I couldn’t make the bridge.

Mercifully, another cyclist came into the store and started to talk to me.  I explained my dilemma and he suggested that I just head over the Bear Mountain Bridge to Garrison and take the train home.  I don’t know why this didn’t dawn on me earlier, but it was a brilliant idea.  The cyclist even offered to drive me to the train station as he lived just a mile or two up the road.  I gladly accepted.

The next weekend I managed to successfully complete this ride and clocked in around 225 miles.  I still got home very late and was completely exhausted, but at least I finished it.  The weekend after that, I went up through New Paltz, New York, and then over the Mid-Hudson Bridge for a ride back home on the East side of the Hudson.  This was the first time I did this ride and it was an experience I am not likely to repeat anytime soon.  The roads on this side of the river are not that conducive to riding all the way back south, especially under cover of darkness.  At one point during the ride, around 12:30am, a driver pulled alongside me and asked if I was alright.  Physically I was fine, but I am sure he was questioning my mental faculties.   I assured him that I was doing just fine.  I only had about 26 miles left to home at this point and continued on.  Around a mile down the road, the same driver flagged me down and once again asked if I was ok.  We were right outside his house and he invited me in to grab a cold beer and to call a taxi to take me home.  Never was an offer for a beer so tempting, but I assured him I was ok, and that I was training for a very long race and must get used to riding through the night and exhaustion.  It was soon after this though that the ride started to get sketchy as I went through some rough neighborhoods, that being Yonkers, upper Bronx and various sections of upper Manhattan.  Eventually I made it home in one piece, having ridden for over 21 hours and 215 miles.

I did two more long rides after that.  A 160 mile ride through High Point, NJ and then to Beacon and a hilly 90 mile ride up through Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain and then to Cold Spring.  Both of these rides ended with a pleasant ride on Metro North back home.  Thankfully, my training is now complete and now I am concentrating on getting the taper correct.

I don’t know if I will sign up to do the FC508 again next year.  It is really too early to know, this year’s race hasn’t even arrived yet, but I really suffered during my training this year.  It wasn’t so much the physical punishment as it was the mental stress that I put myself through.  The loneliness was terrible this year.  So many hours on the road by myself was beginning to get my spirits down.  A few times I shouted out to myself “I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to do this”.  I guess though that is what shows the true character of the person as somehow I persevered and managed to do all of my training.

I definitely trained differently this year.  Whether it will pay off or not is yet to be seen.  I am a lot stronger overall, having done two days a week of Boot Camp Fitness training.  I am hoping that my greater strength will translate into increased endurance and speed on the bike.  I am nowhere near the mileage I had last year, but perhaps this is a good thing.  I’ll find out in almost exactly two weeks time.

A special shout-out goes to all my twitter followers who tracked me during my rides and offered encouragement, especially @Dean who was good enough to txt me the Metro North schedules so I could make the train.  All of your support made the rides less lonely, knowing that there were people waiting to see my progress and how I was doing.

And before I end this post, I ask my reader to consider donating to The Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  This is the charity for which I have decided to raise money for this year as part of my commitment to doing the FC508.  Please consider donating less than 1 cent for every mile I will be riding.  That is a donation of only $5.00.  If interested, please make your 100 percent deductible donation here: www.crowdrise.com/brooklynbeast.

September 26, 2011   3 Comments