Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lobsterman Olympic Distance Triathlon - Race Report

Exactly one year ago, I stood on the beach at Winslow State Park (Freeport, ME), just minutes before my first Olympic Distance triathlon with a huge lump in my throat.  As always, the swim appeared to be ridiculously long.  I said, "Wow, this swim seems so long," the man next to me said "don't sweat it, just think of it as a regular 1500 meter swim at your pool."  There was one problem: I had never completed a 1500 meter swim before.

What a difference a year makes!
Last year (my first season in triathlon) was always about "covering the distance."  Now, with a full year of training under my belt and an actual training plan, triathlon is about racing!

Swim: 1.5K (.93 miles)
Adrenaline pumped through all 46 competitors in the Men's 30-34 age-group, as we bobbed around in the water before the start.  The siren sounded: GO!  Everyone pushed hard, lots of contact, I felt very alive: feeling so fortunate to be able to do something like this.  I swallowed lots of salt water, and knew an upset stomach was in my future.  I reached the mid-point and thought back to last year and how I had to turn over onto my back to rest at this same exact spot, unsure if I'd be able to finish.  There would be no stopping this year - all those early morning swim sessions at the Y, had given me the confidence/ability to go hard the whole time.  I found some open space & settled into a great rhythm.  The salt-water was cloudy, so I couldn't see much - BANG!  I swam right into the kick of the swimmer in front of me.  Felt like I got hit in the nose with a baseball bat.  You know that feeling when you get hit in the nose & your eyes start to tear up?  I checked for blood, but there was none to be nose felt like it was in its normal position, so I started back up.  I kept pushing until my hand hit the sand; disoriented, I ripped off my goggles & swim cap and headed up to transition.
Swim Time: 26:33 (1:37/100 yards)
AG Rank: 18/46

Transition has always been a weakness for me, as I have a tendency to take my sweet-a$$ time.  My training partner is a master of transition and has helped me appreciate how much "free" time can be saved in this area.  The day before the race I actually practiced transitions.  During the swim, I mentally prepared for T1.  Once I got out of the water, I ran up the hill to transition & executed a near flawless T1!
T1 Time: 1:26
AG Rank: 4/46

Bike: 40K (24.7 Miles)
For the first time in a race, I ran out of T1 barefoot and hopped on the bike with my bare feet on-top of my shoes and begin pedaling.  Then I eased my feet into the shoes and tightened the straps = success!  I started pedaling & came to a hill, so I downshifted into the small ring & hit the chain bounced off the small ring & pinched between the frame & the crank.  Down goes Charlie!  I hit the pavement hard, banging my hip & elbow against the training partner checked to make sure I was OK, as he rode by me.  I just got a power meter and changed-over to a compact crank set.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to use it outdoors prior to the race.  Obviously, I'll need to practice shifting with this new component.  From my data file, it appears I lost about 2min 30sec due to the fall.
Now I'm pissed - fury fuels my biking effort over the next 10 miles.  It began to rain, I barely noticed...I was trying to make up for lost time...I hammered flats and downhills as the rain beat down.  I hit mile 16 and descended down a rolling hill - at the bottom of the hill there was a sharp incline, so I shifted quickly to the small happened again.  FAHK!  This time I coasted into the gutter and fell into a ravine on the side of the road.  I got up, fixed my chain, and hopped back on the bike (lost another 1:30).  Thankfully, the last 9 miles were uneventful and I rode into transition very frustrated.
Bike Time: 1:14:02 (20.1mph); Avg. Power: 191 Watts
AG Rank: 18/46
Uneventful...rack bike, throw on running shoes, grab watch/nutrition & go.
T2 Time: 1:08
AG Rank: 13/46

Run: 10K (6.2 Miles)
I set out on the run & everything in my body was hurting: nose, hip, elbow, knee, foot, - but for as physical as a triathlon is, I think it's even more mental.  My goal for this race was to break 2hrs 30minutes (which I had made very clear to my friends & family supporting me) and I was determined to achieve it.  I was hurting, but honestly no one cares/remembers if you were hurting or not feeling well - all people remember are the results.

The run course tested us early, with several rolling hills over the first couple of miles.  I settle into a comfortable pace, but had to keep reminding myself that racing isn't about being comfortable, it's about giving everything you have.  So I pushed and pushed - continuously quieting the negative thoughts that tried to creep into my head.  I reached mile 5 at (total race time) 2hrs 21 minutes, meaning I had 9 minutes to run the last 1.2 miles (7:30 pace).  GAME TIME!  I committed to pushing as hard as possible to the finish.  I ran mile 6 in a "give-it-all-I-had" 6:26 & pushed up the final hill (.2 miles) to cross the finish line in 2:29:08!  I collapsed to the ground physically exhausted, but mentally satisfied.
Run Time: 45:59 (7:24 min/mile pace)
AG Rank: 11/46

Total Race Time: 2:29:08
AG Rank: 13/46

Today, I literally woke up feeling like I had been assaulted last night.  My entire body aches and random bruises & scratches appeared overnight.  Despite the pain, there is nothing I would have rather done on a beautiful Saturday morning in September!

Special shout-out to my training partner Dan, who raced his heart out to post an incredible 2:18:50 result.  Tremendous job buddy - I appreciate how much you've helped me improve as a triathlete this year.

Great to see my QT2 friends Steve/Mel/Dave out on the course - great job guys!

Last, but certainly not least - thanks to my Dad, Ann, Michele, & Natalie for being the best race support crew out there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nahant Sprint Triathlon - Race Report

Last Sunday, I participated in the inaugural Nahant Sprint Triathlon.  The race was organized by B&S Event Management, a group who really knows how to put on a multi-sport event because they themselves are triathletes.  The event went off without a hitch and all the participants & spectators had a great time.

Due to the short/shallow swim course, my wife decided Nahant was a perfect venue for her triathlon debut.  Primarily a runner, she added swimming/biking to her training regime in preparation for the race.  An admittedly difficult pupil, Michele likes to do things "her own way," and much like a hippie, she likes to train based on "feel," rather than following a training plan.  But apparently this strategy works for her, because she finished 2nd in her age group & was the 9th female finisher overall.  Very impressive.  Now it's a family affair!

SWIM (1/3 Mile Ocean Swim)
Ocean swim = BRRR.  I wore a full-sleeve wetsuit, but didn't get a chance to warm-up in the water before the race.  I was in the 1st wave and executed a run/dolphin-dive strategy into the water.  Once submerged, the cold water ripped at my lungs, causing me to gasp for breath.  Due to the cold/traffic in the water, I never really got into a rythm during this short swim and I was concerened the entire time about how Michele would fare in these conditions.  I was thankful to see the last buoy.
Swim Time: 9:35 (1:39/100 yards) 

BIKE (11.5 Miles - Rolling Hills)
Tried to execute the bike start while keeping my bike shoes clipped-in on my bike, this did not go smoothly.  I had to stop & make some adjustments - I'll need to practice this.  Historically, the bike has been my biggest weakness in triathlon, so I've been really focused on turning that into a strength since IMLP.  Lots of trainer sessions focused on building bike strength & muscular endurance.  I started hammering the pedals & the thrill of ripping through the field kept me motivated for the full bike leg.  No one passed me on the 2-lap course!  The ground was wet and there were several sharp turns, so I had to be cautious, but I really pushed it on the bike.  I came flying down the last hill into T2, so I didn't have a chance to pull my feet out of my bike shoes - I slammed on the brakes and jumped/fell off my bike - fortunately my shoes unclipped in mid-air!
Bike Time: 33:38 (20.5MPH), Avg. Power: 197 Watts

As I ran into transition with my bike, spectators began telling me that I was in 5th place overall...wait...WHAT? 
It turned out that the leader was already out on the course, 2nd & 3rd place were just leaving T2, & 4th place was still in the transition area. 

RUN (3.5 Miles)
As every triathlete knows: it all happens on the run.  I started running out of T2 and up the first hill, clocking a 6:48 first mile.  Solid, but it came at a price...I was gasping for breath and my HR was through the roof.  Since my return to training after IMLP, I've been focused solely on getting my aerobic base back - I haven't done any speed work at all, so holding this pace for long was unlikely...I was on borrowed time.  I battled, but started hemorrhaging time...I was passed by three people during the run and had several more on my heels.  At mile 3, I told myself "that's it - no one else passes you in this race...if they try, make them earn it."  A pursuer was coming up on me - I could hear him breathing - I gave it one last burst and dusted him...I turned the corner to the finish chute, gave my nephew a high-five, and coasted across the finish line.
Run Time: 24:28 (7:00 min/mile)

Total Race Time: 1:09:52
9th Place Overall
3rd Place 30-34 Age Group
*In full disclosure, this was not a deep field - there were tons of races going on Sunday, so there were only 162 competitors - but you can only race who shows up, so that's what I did to earn my 1st top-10 performance in my brief triathlon career!

Triathlon: Now it's a family affair!

The Misunderstanding

Over Labor Day weekend, I went down to Washington, DC with a group of friends.  We visited the monuments & museums, went to a Jimmy Buffett concert, and caught a Washington Nationals baseball game.  All in all, a great time.

My good buddy Craig organized the whole trip and arranged for us to meet-up with some friends of his who now live in DC.  His buddies were great guys, who happened to be gay.  Now let me be clear: I have zero issues with gay people.  I have several gay friends & I honestly don't care one bit what your sexual preference is.  In fact, I firmly believe that 20yrs down the road, we'll look back how we currently handle gay marriage with the same type of regret that we have when we look back on other historical injustices (i.e. segregation, etc.)

Anyway, we had dinner with the DC crew, did a little pub crawl, and had a blast as one big group.  The next day we rented a large van and headed over to the Jimmy Buffett concert.  Lots of boozing ensued and we ended up making friends with two girls parked next to us.  The girls asked my new (gay) friend Andrew: "are any of you guys single?"  Andrew replied "oh honey, you've picked the wrong group to find a man...there are eight guys in our group and six of us are gay."  Now, I had been drinking, but I was pretty sure that there were only four gay guys in our group, so I figured maybe he just misspoke.  But later I overheard my wife telling Andrew "my husband hates concerts," to which Andrew replied "is that why he didn't come to DC this weekend?"  Confused, my wife pointed over at me and said "my husband is right there." 

"Oh. My. God." Andrew let out...and he proceeded to tell my wife that he had thought I was gay...WITH my friend Mike (also married & not gay).  He explained that he thought this because I was "into my body" and that I "take care of myself."  He thought Mike was gay because he was very well-dressed.  (It's true - his wife dresses him)  He thought we were a couple because we had been "inseparable all weekend and both wearing wedding bands."  Part of me was actually flattered since most of the gay guys I know are in great shape, dress well, and take good care of themselves; however, I do lack the one obvious prerequisite!  I suppose I understand his mistake, but man this dude's "gaydar" was way off.  LOL

Mike & Chuck (not being gay) w/Jen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Age 30: The Birth of My Endurance Sports Career

Today is my 31st birthday.  On this date last year, I had yet to complete any of the following races:
  • 10K
  • Half-Marathon
  • Marathon
  • Olympic Distance Triathlon
  • Half-Ironman
  • Ironman
However, over the course of the past year, I have successfully completed them all!

I have no background in endurance sports fact, up until a couple of years ago, I HATED endurance sports.  I was always a team sports guy: couldn't run two miles, but could chase a ball for hours.  Name a sport and I've played it; however, after multiple knee surgeries, I wasn't able to bounce back from the pounding of jumping & cutting.  An afternoon of pick-up basketball would take me 3-4 days to recover from.  Mornings consisted of me sitting on the edge of my bed, using my arms to push myself up onto my feet.  Not helping matters was the fact that I lifted weights all the time and was fairly heavy for my height.

I decided to start running, which was extremely humbling at first.  While traveling on business in April '10, some co-workers invited me to run with them one morning.  I agreed and set out with them for a 3-mile run.  I suffered the entire time.  I couldn't keep up.  I wished for it to be over with every step I took.  When my Timex GPS watch hit 3-miles and we weren't back at the hotel yet, I began to panic: "I can't do more than 3-miles...where is the fu#$&ng hotel???"  I survived, but more importantly - I kept at it.  Pretty soon I was able to cover 3 miles, then 4, then 5, etc.  Once you establish a certain ability base (say running 3 miles comfortably), running starts to become enjoyable.

Every run is hard, whether it's 2 miles or 12.  But no water tastes as good as the water you drink after a run and no shower feels as good as the one you take after a run.  You feel empty, drained, clean.  My enjoyment from running led to triathlon, which had a similar effect on me.  Honestly, I've never felt better!

So here's my advice:
Whether your goal is a 5K or an Ironman, consistency is the key.
Stay focused, take care of your body, and the results will come!

Age 30 was a tremendous year for me - very excited to see what age 31 will bring!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ode to Brady Bear

On November 22, 2008, after months of debate, The Wife and I took a ride to our local animal shelter to "look" at the dogs.  A new shipment of yellow Lab puppies had garnered the interest of most of the shelter visitors; however, we elected to bypass that area and make our way to the back room.  Honestly, it was love at first sight when this cute little guy looked up at us with his warm brown eyes, while his sister absolutely mauled him.  We were able to bring him to a private play room and he was slipping & sliding all over the floor.  He ended up falling asleep in The Wife's lap...I looked at her excited face and told the shelter volunteer "go get the paperwork."

Meeting Brady at the shelter

1st day at his new home
This was a totally new experience for me, as I never had a dog before.  I had been the one holding-out on getting a dog, because I like things orderly & neat.  We trained Brady to use the doggy-door to take care of his business, which still amazes me to this day.  I told The Wife, "if we can get him to become self-sufficient going to the bathroom, I don't care if he doesn't learn another thing."  I think he took these words literally.

As a pup, Brady was quite the collector...he would frequently gather up all the shoes in the house and bring them back to his dog bed.  Another time, he had stolen my wallet that I foolishly left on the coffee table & took it out to the back yard, chewing-up all my cards and leaving my license unrecognizable.
Quite the collection!

Once I finally decided to make an honest woman out of Brady's adoptive mother; we of course had him in the wedding.  He made a charming groomsman in his lilac bow tie and the crowd loved him!

There is a saying "cousins are often our first friends," and for Brady that was no exception.  His cousin Sadie taught him many things, including how to climb up stairs (though to be honest, this may have been more motivated by fear.)  Of course his next friend proved to be the love of his life: Sofia.  They first met on a snowbank at Forest River Park and mouth-wrestled for hours, while the humans shivered in the freezing cold.
"Playing" with cousin Sadie
At the beach with girlfriend Sofia

Holidays are Brady's favorite time of year, he loves to get dressed up for our annual Halloween party and loves drinking Christmas tree water whenever we're not looking.

Mommy & "Dogula"

1st Christmas
Many dog owners brag about how smart or brave their dogs are, well you're not going to get that in this blog.  Now, I won't say Brady is "slow," but let's just say "Lassie he is not."  He eats sticks, grass, really anything in our backyard, prompting those awkward phone calls from the Vet detailing the results of his latest stool sample.  Loud noises, including (but not limited to) thunder, fireworks, slammed doors, and fallen objects scare the beejesus out of him.  During thunder storms he insists on human contact and will sit on your feet or lean up against you for the duration of the storm.  I know you're not supposed to cater to this type of fear, but selfishly I like the affection...does that make me a good or bad dog father? 

As an only "child," Brady is very spoiled...he's definitely a "momma's boy," as The Wife takes him to the park every weekend for swimming and play (while his father trains for races he likely will never win).  The Wife operates on the assumption that "nothing but the best is good enough for my dog."  Natural dog food & treats...check!  Glucosamine for joint health...check!  Seasonal & Holiday themed dog collars...check!  I could go on, but I'm started to get aggravated just thinking about it.
Such a tough life.
Daddy's 1st open-water swim
He never listens.  His shedding is a nightmare.  I have to sweep the floor 2x a day and it still looks like a Barber Shop in here.  I find random sticks & tree branches in various rooms around the house.  And many of my favorite gym t-shirts/shorts have little holes chewed in them.  But for all that trouble, he pays it back ten-fold in humor, love, and affection.  Someone recently asked me what is the most I would be willing to pay to help Brady if he was hurt or answer: "what wouldn't I pay?" 

Monday, August 13, 2012


Now that the Olympics are over, we return to the boring Summer television programming schedule.  During the Fall, the Rodrigues family DVR is working overtime, but during the Summer - only one show has been deemed worthy of a coveted DVR slot and that show is "Suits" on the USA network.

I suppose the show would be classified as a "legal drama," but calling it that wouldn't do justice to the comedic back & forth between main characters Mike Ross & Harvey Specter, not to mention the hilarious interactions with office outsider Louis Litt.

The show has it all: a smooth, successful, charming main character (Harvey), his witty, brilliant, charasmatic protege (Mike), the resentful antagonist (Louis), and of course hot chicks (Rachel & Donna). 

The interplay between Harvey & Mike actually reminds me of my relationship with my boss.  I remember when I was a young guy entering the work force, my boss used mockery (his preferred teaching tool) to advise me on the proper way to dress in the office environment.  Lessons included: don't wear graphic t-shirts under a dress shirt, always button your collar buttons, and most important: always use collar stays to keep the collar lying flat and looking crisp.

While the foundation of the show's plotline is a bit far-fetched (Mike Ross is a genius with a photographic memory, who never actually went to law school, yet works at a top New York law firm), the show has great characters and is highly entertaining.  If you're looking for a fun show, give "Suits" a shot.

Back At It

So three weeks have passed since my epic Lake Placid experience.  I took some time off from working-out in hopes that my body would forgive me for all the abuse I put it through over the last eight months.  During my time off, I ate and drank whatever I wanted (basically, I lived like a "normal" person), but honestly that got pretty old pretty fast.  I love training and everything that goes along with it; for me triathlon is a lifestyle.  Most people don't get that, but for those of us that put in the time and effort focusing on training/nutrition/recovery, this really is a lifestyle.

It sounds crazy to say, but due to my extended lay-off - I'm out of shape!  I went out for a few easy runs and apparently now 11:00/mile is my new pace.  Also, I've reintroduced weight lifting to my training (since so many people have felt the need to call me a "skinny bastard" over the past couple of months); however, my return to the weights has been incredibly humbling to say the least.  It's funny when your mind expects you to be able to do what you've always done before, but physically your body just can't make it happen.  To make matters worse, all the jacked-up college kids are home for the summer & back at the gym, so now I feel old & tiny!  LOL

This weekend is the Timberman 70.3 (Half-Ironman) in Gilford, NH.  I'll be making the trip up north to cheer on my training partner Dan & the rest of my QT2 teammates!  I really wanted to race in this one, but honestly my body is just not ready.