Monday, December 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Pictures

My cousin Suzie came out to watch my Ironman endeavor last month, and by all accounts was the most vociferous supporter of everyone wearing a racing bib. I can certainly vouch for the support I got from her, loud and awesome. Aside from being a professional cheering machine she's also a talented photographer. Check her out at Here are two pictures she took that pretty much sum up the run portion of the Ironman for me.

The first picture is of me taking off for the marathon portion of the Ironman. If you couldn't tell from the picture I felt pretty darn good. The second picture is of me about 50 yards from the finish. If you couldn't tell from the picture I was about fed up with the whole running thing.

Thanks Suzie!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Finish

I could hear the roar of the crowd, I could see the lights of the finish area, I could see it in the faces of the volunteers I passed. I was close. Running again (if you can call it running) the finish sped towards me. The last aid station, the end of the loop, the fork in the course where I turn towards glory and leave those still running behind. It all fed my motion. 200 yards to the finish a speed bump, a volunteer tells me to let them see my number (I had thrown on a long sleeve T-shirt during the third lap). Let who see my number? Will I be DQ'ed if they can't see it? OH MY GOD GET THIS SHIRT OFF OF ME!
Stripping mid-stride is no small feat after 140.something miles, and it kept my mind occupied long enough to totally miss the bleachers flanking the home-stretch I was about to turn onto. Successfully dislodging myself from the long sleeved disqualification trap (note: nothing would have happened except me looking harder for my finisher photos, piece of shit volunteer) I round the last turn.

I've been taken aback by a crowd only once before, my very last collegiate swimming event. The 4 x 100 freestyle relay my senior year at Patriot League Championships at Navy. It is the last event of the last day, and often the final places of most of the 8 teams hinges on the outcome. The spectators sit above the pool deck at both ends, and every swimmer and diver and coach line the sides of the pool, and the resulting noise is deafening and oh-so-beautiful. The last race of my college career and the culmination of 15 years of competitive swimming surrounded by teammates and family members and coaches and strangers and opponents all screaming their brains out took me a second to adjust to. This felt greater than that.

You round the last turn onto a flood-lit stretch of 50 yards or so flanked by hundreds of wildly enthusiastic supporters, who don't care who you are, they just care that you are about to be an Ironman. Pain is erased, footsteps don't touch the ground, everything is almost over, and there is only one thought.

"Worth it"

I am an Ironman, a year of sacrifice (kinda), structure (sorta), serious work-outs (you betcha), and pain boiled down to One. Final. Step.

Miles covered:

Swim: 2.4

Bike: 112

Run: 26.2

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Run

The first few steps you take following biking 100+ miles (really 40+ miles) are some of the most awkward feeling steps you'll ever take. #1 bike cleats are not easy to walk in, but you've been wearing them normally for 6.5 hours and totally forget about that. #2 your legs are tired, but not the walking/running muscles so much, so they feel worn out and not worn out at the same time producing a very unmistakable al dente spaghetti leg feeling. And #3 your testicles are probably numb. I don't know about everyone else, but I have found I'm never more aware of my testicles than when I can't feel them. With that in mind...

I hop off the bike and a volunteer is johnny on the spot to go rack it for me (I'm not sure if I've given enough props to the volunteers at this race they were AWESOME). Another hands me my running gear and into the change tent I go. Look what I packed in my run gear bag, a towel. That's about 112 miles late, and mostly useless as I've just been through mother nature's equivalent of a blow dryer on meth. Sock change, shorts change, and sadly shirt change. Throw on the Coors Light hat and the scraggly beard I've been "growing" all month and I've transformed from the classiest guy on a bike to redneck marathon man.

Transformation Complete

Leaving the tent it dawns on me I haven't used the bathroom since 6 am or so. It's about 2:30 pm, time for a well deserved pee break. Being surprisingly hydrated (according to the color of my pee) I take off for the first of three loops of the run course, and I feel pretty good. Scarf a banana and some water at the first aid station and settle into a solid pace.

The first lap is great, I see my supporters 3 separate times, my little brother runs a few tenths of a mile with me, I find #206 (Jonathon from Boise). My legs warm up, I'm right on pace. I get confident. The aid stations feel perfectly spaced, I don't want for water or sports drink. I take down some gels, I destroy some hills, I finish the first lap cruising. I get cocky.

Finishing the first lap through a throng of my adoring fans jazzes me up, I am fully confident that I'm never slowing down. I remember thinking how silly I was to train as hard as I did for such an easy race. I'm really cruising now, there's a line up at the aid station, skip it! I feel too good for water, or food, or gels. Coke? Don't be ridiculous. I see my adoring fans again around mile 10-11. Do I need my special needs bag? Nope, maybe I should carry some of these poor walking bastards on my back to get them out of the way. Hills don't bother me. Another line up at an aid station, skip another one! No time to waste, I've got dinner reservations. I come to the finish of the second lap and don't see my fans, hahaha that's ok they're already waiting for me at the finish line! Be there soon amigos! Nothing can stop me now.

Except possibly 9 more miles of running. The Greek dude that ran from Marathon to Athens probably felt pretty decent around mile 18 also, the end of his jaunt was not as pleasant. Neither was mine.

At mile 19 I passed, for the last time, Aid station #2. Some of the aid stations had themes, two had emcees, one had music and dancing girls, one was cops and robbers, and aid station #2 had a "tune-up" theme. They had water and food and the like, but they also had a tent with in-race massages and a pain reliever cream (like ben gay or something). My legs had been a good sport about the whole finish-this-absurd-day-of-working-out-with-a-marathon thing until I blew right through aid station #2 without a second thought. Then they went on strike.

If you've ever run a marathon before mile 19-20 is about the area of the race where most athletes hit the "wall". It is not fun. Your legs are shattered, you walk like an 80 year old man with a peg leg, and mentally you hate the world, the stupid race, and yourself for getting yourself into this situation. It is a pretty rough self-loathing spiral that takes a little doing to get out of. After about a mile of walking I had to get going again. Finishing the race was a sure thing at this point, regardless of how I covered the last 5-6 miles, but I was getting passed by septuagenarians... who were walking... and getting passed easily. So I got some Coca-Cola, and Chicken broth in me and took off again, feeling surprisingly OK.

This feeling lasted 3 more miles. Through the throng of cheering fans near the transition area/finish line, across the bridge to the part of the course sparsely populated by spectators, and to the top of the steepest (and only) hill on the run course. Here the wall hit me back. I returned to my turtle-paced hobbling, and got mentally lost in an emotional black hole of hate for another mile and a half. Volunteers took one look at me and wisely decided against offering an enthusiastic "hang in there buddy" when I passed. Other racers didn't look at me twice. I had snapped, the race had beat me. I thought seriously about swimming back across Tempe Town Lake to get to the finish line faster. I tried running a few times and couldn't keep it up. I was lost. Until the first person to talk to me in a mile offered this, "It'll come back, be ready when it does."

I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but that bit of sagely advice came from somewhere in that dude that knew exactly where I was. That nugget stayed in the back of my mind until about a mile left to the finish line. My hobbling had sped up just a little, and I didn't have far to go...

Miles covered so far:

Swim: 2.4

Bike: 112

Run: 25.2-ish

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bike

The volunteers at the Ford Ironman Arizona were really amazing, I was informed yesterday that for 2,800 or so competitors there were 3,000 volunteers throughout the day. I wanted for nothing, I was catered to the entire way, I barely had to think during the entire race (which is probably a good thing cause a thinking man would've stopped somewhere along this section of the race). But I digress, leaving the water was the turning point of the race for me, from here on out my dominance would not be on display, rather the next portion of the race is my weakest. The bike.

But I wasn't thinking about that as I was getting dressed, or as I was trotting to my bike. My outfit was awesome, and I dare say that I had more fans than anyone else on the bike course. Tip to future ironmen, if you want fans and lots of them wear a hilarious bike jersey not some stupid one showing how knowledgeable you are about bikes or other races you've done or the current race you're doing. Go with something like this:
Boom, tuxedo jersey. Not only are you classing up the joint, but you will have fans from start to finish because everyone goes crazy for a well dressed man. For 112 miles I was "tuxedo man" or "bow tie guy", and I even overheard one group of supporters decide that despite not knowing who I am they would cheer for me the entire race because they liked the way I was dressed. Looking good, feeling good.

Getting my bike and running alongside it to the bike mount line (tee-hee) I was all energy and confidence. "I crushed the swim, this race is cake, these roads won't know what hit them." This bravado was soon tempered by three failed attempts to clip in while getting passed by 4-5 serious bikers. Then was only further tempered by a general disregard by the rest of the competitors for my awesome biking prowess. But still the race was progressing smoothly, the course was relatively flat, my legs felt great, and I was humming along. I had my water, the aid stations were stocked, and peanut butter and graham cracker sandwiches have never let me down before.Three 37 mile loops? No problem.

Until the first turnaround.

Sidebar: I grew up playing tons of different sports besides just swimming so the land is not as treacherous a place to me as it is to many other swimmers I know. I have a modicum of coordination, and believe myself fairly competitive in most endeavors on land. However, biking is a horse of a different color. Sure, I'll perch myself up here for 112 miles making my 6' 1" frame into a tiny speck of an aerodynamic pedalling machine. What's that? I'm as aerodynamic as a parachute? My torso is way long for a biker? I look like I stole that bike in the picture from a kid half my size? Oh yeah.

Wind. 15-20 mph sustained in my face gusting up to 35 mph, bringing with it what desert dwellers consider rain. Note to Arizonians (Arizonans?) that wasn't rain, but it was a little painful (also, did I know it was going to rain? Of course I did, I was on my bike, it was bound to rain. 200 years ago I'd be a travelling salesman through the prairie offering rain wherever I biked, at two bits an acre). This cycle of riding out with the wind at my back, and turning right around and back into it continued for the remainder of the bike portion. In the meantime I talked to my bike, made up stories about competitors that passed me, did simple math in my head, and generally went insane trying to stay sane. The wind didn't let up until towards the very end of the last loop, when it began blowing across me instead of straight at me, this was welcome news.

Until I realized the last few miles now would be directly into the wind, as the last loop veers off towards downtown Tempe. Did this surprise me? No. Wind in Houston tends to blow counter clockwise, why should a wholly different climate offer up a different menu. I make the turn for home right back into the driving wind. But that doesn't matter because 2/3 of the race is down and I feel great. Finishing this thing will be a breeze (get it?), you're going to crush this little run ahead of you.

What's that? It's a full marathon? Oh yeah.

Miles covered so far:
Swim : 2.4
Bike: 112

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Swim

In my opinion there is only one good reason to be awake at 4:15 in the morning, and this was not it. But, the transition area opened at 5 and I was not about to waste a year of training to show up late for a day-long triathlon. So awake I was, quintuple and sextuple (tee-hee) checking my special needs bags (which I ultimately largely ignored), waking my body up, and trying not to freak out.

I was not the first person to the transition area, not by a long shot if the lines for the port-o's was any indication. Drop off my special needs bags, check. Ascertain the road worthiness of my bike, check. Join one of the port-o lines, check. The time counting down to the inevitable, but I am blissfully occupying a timeshare in denial land as I don my wetsuit, cap, and goggles and join the gaggle heading towards the water. Not sure what everyone else is doing here, must be cool. I reach the edge of the water, spot some of my adoring fans, the pro start cannon sounds, I hop in the water...

and reality hits me like only 61 degree water at 6:50 am can. Holy Shit, I'm about to do an Ironman! What am I thinking? No time to think now fool, move or get jumped on by 2,000 eager beavers.

From here on the worst part of the swim was the waiting. Because of the location of the swim event this Ironman had a floating start. Which is exactly what it sounds like. 3,000 people crammed up as close to the starting line as possible, treading water, and most of them doing a pretty terrible job of it. I'm having a great time though, this being my first time in a wet suit I find the buoyancy positively delightful. Almost zero movement on my part keeps me afloat, and the faces of nearly everyone else in the water (most triathletes are not as comfortable in the water as former collegiate swimmers) was priceless. The cannon goes off, and so do we. Avoid getting kicked in the face, check. Avoid getting kicked other uncomfortable places, check. Swim zig-zags to the turnaround buoy, check, wait...

It is real easy to lose your bearings in an open water swim. I learned this in my half ironman as I watched some poor soul miss the first turn by 500 yards or so, but it bears repeating. After some early corrections though I made a beeline for the turn buoy. And run directly into my training/racing companion Greg. Which is impossible. I can't see my hand in front of my face, but I can find Greg among 3,000 other competitors in open water. We exchange excited "Hey!"s and continue on. I don't run into a single person the rest of the swim and just cruise to the swim exit. There are a TON of bikes still in transition, that is a good thing. I realize wet suits live up to their name and I forgot a towel in my bike gear bag, that is a bad thing. But, thousands of screaming spectators make me quickly forget or not care about that as I run to the change tent in my banana hammock. Time for the real test of the day, the bike portion.

Time to get to work.

Miles covered so far:
Swim: 2.4

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ironmandom Attained


A year of training, over 3700 miles covered by bike, foot, and speedo, and 13 hours of working out in the desert, I am an Ironman. I finished the Ford Ironman Arizona Sunday November 21 in a time of 13:02:27. Finishing the 2.4 mile swim portion in 59:10, the 112 mile bike portion in 6:37:03, the 26.2 mile run in 5:05:57, with my transitions accounting for the difference. I am very thankful for everyone who came out to watch me tackle this task, each cheering spectator, and every encouraging word offered. I'm going to break down my thoughts on the race as a whole and each part over the next few days, but for now...

Miles Covered:
Swimming : 2.4
Biking: 112
Running: 26.2

Mission Accomplished

Saturday, November 6, 2010


That's my number ball and chain.

Two weeks to go sports fans. Two weeks until an entire year's worth of training is boiled down into a dozen or so hours of racing. Two weeks until I'm an Ironman, and as the inimitable Tom Petty once said, 'The waiting is the hardest part." I'm physically ready, I've got my affairs mostly in order, but this is still a little terrifying.

In other news my partner in crime Greg VanVolkenburg and myself crushed a century ride this weekend. There are days when you just don't have it, and the workout can become a mental liability and cause you to doubt your ability to even finish half of what we're asking ourselves to do. And then there are workouts like the one we did on Friday morning. The weather was beautiful (if a bit blustery) and our spirits were high from mile 1 to mile 100 (ok maybe from mile 20 when we started feeling our fingers again). I got off the bike with a ton of confidence, and as it was the last real-long ride I'll get in before the race (I have to turn my bike in to tribike transport Friday) it was a great way to cap off the serious bike training. Also this weekend we learned that Tempe Town Lake has been refilled and reopened to the public. Amazing news because, despite my slacking off in the swimming department, I plan on giving myself quite a time-cushion in the first leg. I've also decided to participate in "No-shave" November (also known as Movember in some circles) in order to raise awareness for Prostate cancer (read: to grow facial hair without Jackie being able to get too angry). The progress is slow and patchy, but I love it. So at the finish line look for the Forrest Gump look-a-like, "I'm pretty tired, think I'm gonna go home now".

The time is now, now is the time.

Miles covered so far:

Swimming: 108.85

Running: 644.31

Biking: 2922.41

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The October

The Good

Check this shit out:Yup. That's the weather for the next 10 days here in Houston, and it's been like this the past 10 days, and most likely will be like this for the foreseeable future (if foreseeable future means until December). Weather like this makes training easy. Here's a scene from "Rob's Ironman Training Adventures." (working title, open to suggestions).

(Our hero returns home from an 8-ish hour work day, his energy level is low, his feet are dragging and his back is stooped as he walks through the door and up the stairs to his room.)

"Man that was a looooooong day" He thinks to himself, "Do I really want to train today? 2-3 hours of isolation and punishment sound a bit much..."

(Opens the curtains and the sunshine blinds the screen for a second before revealing a Utopian world of cloudless skies and smiling faces, music pipes in from a passing car "It's a beautiful morning" by the Rascals, odd because it is actually evening, but just go with it. Our hero's face brightens)


It's kind of like that right now.

The Bad

The changing weather is also a sign of the changing seasons. Houston has seasons? Kind of... Here's a quick rundown of Houston's seasons and corresponding months.

Mid-February to Late May - Awesome

Late May to Late September - Hell, also Hurricane

Late September to Mid December - Awesome

Mid December to Mid February - Slightly less Awesome

But, I digress. With the changing seasons the days get shorter and the sun sets a little bit earlier every day. This is bad for two reasons, number one training in the dark is obviously less than ideal, number two Houston drivers do not drive better at night. I've got lights for my bike, and a reflective vest to run in, but these are not helpful when posted signs are completely ignored.

And, I'm not talking about the stupid "Share the Road" or "Bikes are Vehicles Too" signs which only infuriate Houston drivers more by informing them they may encounter a biker in their frantic race against nobody to get to wherever they are headed. So they are primed when they pass me. Nope, not those signs, I'm talking about the important ones. The signs that say "Stop" or "Yield" or "No Turns", in all the fancy shapes they come in. I'm half convinced Houston motorists cannot read, or at least don't know the meanings of these words. So I'm here to help with a handy guide to street signs.

STOP - these signs are everywhere it seems, totally getting between you and your all you can eat fajita buffet (I'd be in a hurry too if that's where I was going, totally understandable). But, they're also important. They are red with white lettering telling you what to do. Can't read? This guide won't be much help to you then, but the clever road sign makers have you covered, they are also octagon shaped, and they're the only signs out there shaped this way. So if you come across a red Octagon stop moving. Don't know what an Octagon is? It's got 8 sides and looks like a pointy circle.

Yield - This one is like a Stop sign, but not. So I can see where the confusion lies. Plus, the word "yield" you probably don't use in everyday conversation. Argggh what does it mean? Well I'll tell you what it means. It means be cautious because you're about to enter another roadway, and you don't have the right of way. Outrageous isn't it? That you wouldn't have the right of way, but it's true. So your ass needs to be sure no one is in the lane you're entering before you enter it. Don't blindly drive straight through the ting at speed, because as long as you're going the same speed as the other traffic you'll be ok, or if they hit you it's their fault, or because I'm on a god damned bike! I still have the right of way, Toyota Camry! Your half ass apologies at the red light that you barely made don't make up for the fact that you almost hit me going 45 mph in your car. Can't read? that doesn't surprise me because you are an idiot, it's an upside down triangle with a word that starts with the letter Y (the chromosome you lacked by the way). Don't know what a triangle is? Get off of the road. Mentally retarded people know what triangles are, all of them do. So next time you're blowing through that yield sign merging from Memorial to Waugh just take a teensy weensy peek in the direction of oncoming traffic and then try to resist the urge to hit whatever you may see with your car. Idiot.

NO TURNS - This one is more of a bother for me when I'm running than anything else. And really these sometimes don't even have words (just like your favorite books). Just a pictograph of what you can't do, turn left. So don't do it, and don't look pissed at me when you do and have to stop short because I'm running through that intersection and you're dumb. Sorry to embarrass you by stopping and pointing at the sign that forbids what you are in the middle of doing, actually no I am not.

With that guide you should be on your way to better driving, for more guides to better driving look for the bestsellers "Stop at Red lights", "Turn Signals; Their purpose and how-to guide" and "There's a completely wide open left lane on this road, who knew?"

The October

October is here, and the training has stepped up accordingly. A little over a month until the competition, and I really wish it was sooner. 10 months of serious training have me ready to go, so let's get this thing over with already.

Miles I've covered so far:

Swimming: 95.35

Biking: 2361.41

Running: 553.41

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Two posts in two weeks, what's going on here? A Lot.

Last weekend kicked off a whirlwind autumn that culminates, hopefully, in ironman glory. It was Jackie's birthday last weekend, and we celebrated in grand style. Wednesday trivia as usual, Thursday a trip to the Continental Club (my first, but certainly not my last), Friday getting lied to by the Internet and winding up at the Porch Swing, and Saturday dining in style at Brennan's (One of the top ten meals I've ever tasted) and finishing up the night at Nouveau Antique Art Bar. I managed to get some decent work in during the weekend despite the distractions, and I only hope I'm as lucky moving forward. Here's a glance of what's going on the next three months.

Sept. 5th - Jaryd and Lindsay's Wedding - Ocean City, NJ

Sept. 10th - Tubing - New Braunfels, TX

Sept. 17th - Vegas with Jackie

Sept. 22nd - The Black Keys

Oct. 2nd - Daniel Tosh

Oct. 9th - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Oct. 16th - New Orleans Bachelor Party

Oct. 23rd - Tobe and Jo's Wedding - Raleigh, NC

Oct. 29th - Interpol

Oct. 30th - Halloween

Nov. 13th - Matt and Staci's Wedding - Here in Houston

Nov. 18th - Leave for the Ironman

Nov. 21st - Complete Quest for Ironmandom

Whew, but not to worry most of those weekends I'll be in Houston and training hard. I'll just be having a ton of fun as well. Also anyone in the Houston area looking for a DD you can contact Greg VanVolkenburg, as my partner in Ironman-crime has gone dry until after the event. Except for the wedding that happens the week before apparently...

Miles Covered So Far:

Swimming: 83.55

Running: 466.41

Biking: 1957.41

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blood in the Water

It has been a little over 4 years since I stepped up to blocks for the last time. A little over 4 years since my competitive swimming career came to an end. Not an abrupt end, nor an unforeseen end, but a logical conclusion to a campaign spanning a decade and a half of swimming. Starting with 1 lap in early June and ending with 66 in late February 15 years later it was not so suddenly over. The next morning wasn't the beginning of yet another off season, it was the beginning of THE off season. No more cramped locker rooms, no more 4-5 hour bus rides, no more 5 am wake-up calls, no more Saturday morning sessions, no more training, no more competing.

But the competitive fire doesn't switch off quite as easily, and I found myself training, and racing again. Competition is inherent to all of us, and there is really only one reason that I can see; overtaking another competitor. There are few feelings that rival overtaking someone. Whether you are training or racing, in that moment when you realize you're gaining ground on the person ahead of you, nothing else matters, you need to catch them. The pursuit is gripping, I've run extra miles chasing someone down, and stopped talking mid-sentence to mount an attack on another group of bikers. It's primal, it's the hunt, you can smell the blood in the water, and you care about little else.

Three months to go, I hope I'm the Shark.

Miles Covered So Far:

Biking: 1839.41

Swimming: 79.75

Running: 441.64

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Survival Guide: Houston Summer

Nearly three and a half years ago I moved from Central Pennsylvania to the quaint metropolis of Houston, Texas. It was during the month of March, the weather was perfect, blue skies, 70 degree weather, rarely a drop of rain, and I thought I had moved to paradise. Then March turned into April and April turned into May, and slowly my paradise became a sticky, oppressive, concrete broiler. My first taste of summer in Houston was a wet hot mess. Heat and humidity and relatively unpredictable storms make training for anything more physical than a chess tournament a tall task. This summer is no exception, with rain stealing weeks of training and the heat reaching record highs once the rain subsides, it's tough out there. I've been through 3 previous summers, training for various events, and I'm using lessons learned from those trials (by fire) to keep my training on track. The following is a short, but hopefully helpful, list of tips to survive the Houston summers.
  1. Stay Hydrated - This doesn't mean simply water, as you train you'll lose vital electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to sweat as well. Sports drinks can help you replenish those as well as many of your favorite beverages.

  2. Train Early in the Morning- And...

  3. Train Late at Night- Pretty much avoiding this part of the day is key..

  4. Train Indoors - Treadmills and Stationary bikes suck, but they are occasionally necessary, and sometimes fun.

  5. Swim - 71.11% of the Earth is covered in water, and if those dirty hippies are right that number is only going to increase. So stay cool and prep for the inevitable future.

  6. Use Common Sense - It's triple digits out there, but your mug is frosty. You can always run tomorrow...

Miles Covered So Far:

Swimming: 73.75

Biking: 1580.3

Running: 398.64

Monday, July 12, 2010

Things I Hate (Ironman Training Edition), volume 1

Finished a big ride this past weekend, an 89 mile test of wills Saturday morning, down nearly to Galveston and back again. Little John and G-money as my wing men we braved the dawn, the third ward, and Southeast Texas driving skills to make it 42.5 miles from home (Rice Village's Gingerman actually) and back again, but the true culprit was nutrition. Each one of us ,none of us properly prepared for the rigors of such a distance, fell victim to the slightly uphill and into-the-wind return ride from the coast on a literally and figuratively empty tank. Subway at mile 60 gave us the juice to power home, and a chance to reflect on the now shockingly apparent need for fuel during the ride. Reflecting on the endeavor it was a good ride, and honestly more enjoyable than the 56 mile bore-athon I endured in the half-ironman, but it also served to get me riled up about a few of the things that infuriate me during training. So without any more fanfare here's the list of Things I Hate (Ironman Training Edition) volume 1:

  • Houston Motorists- It is hard enough driving around this city of motorized lunatics, but biking around town can be downright terrifying. The worst offenders? SUV's. For whatever reason SUV drivers are always in a hurry, their vehicles are big but they don't seem to realize it, and the prospect of waiting 15 more seconds to turn into their church's parking lot is always less appealing than nearly killing a cyclist.

  • Houston Roads- Not surprisingly the top two both deal with cycling. The section of training that every triathlete is at their most vulnerable. Houston's roads are occasionally wonderful, but those occasions are few and far between. The majority of the non-freeway surfaces are a tire popping menagerie of narrow-shouldered pothole ridden asphalt and concrete patchwork with tire-sized cracks and uneven slabs keeping one on his toes.

  • Houston Sidewalks- Sometimes just stop, sometimes they are woefully overgrown with weeds, normally they are covered in mud or water or both, and rarely are they even. I'd go so far as to say the sidewalks are worse than the streets, which is incredible when you think about the pitiful lack of soles they carry day to day. The only reason roads is listed first is, despite the fact that I'm just as likely to fall, I'm less likely to be hit by a car. Not much less, but less.

  • Rain- Is intense on the Gulf Coast, and can last for weeks, but the worst thing about the rain is it forces me to use the next two on the list

  • Stationary Bikes/Treadmills- And by extension fitness clubs. The very essence of futility, literally going nowhere for hours. I realize my displacement at the end of an actual training day and one I have to complete on machines is the same, but I've at least discovered some hidden gems while running and biking the streets of Houston. The only thing being discovered at fitness clubs is the inappropriateness of jeans as work-out apparel (there's always one).

  • Pool Walkers- And anyone else using the pool for anything other than swimming. Get out of my lane!

  • Humidity- Making 95 feel like 120 and me feel like staying on the couch.

  • Red Lights- Making an hour and a half ride turn into a two hour ride.

And finally,

  • Panhandlers- I'm not sure how many other people run or bike carrying spare change, or what part of my outfit gives you the impression that I do, but seriously I'm busy.

Miles covered so far:

Running: 347.59

Biking: 1395.87

Swimming: 67.95

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Well, that went fast.

The month of June is about at its end, and my 25th year with it. The end of June also marks, I believe, the one-year anniversary of me cutting my hair. There are a couple of reasons it's lasted this long. Jackie liked it longer, then I started liking it, then my barber moved to San Fran (I guarantee it would have been at least trimmed by now otherwise), then it became legendary, then it became sort of a challenge to myself. How long will it last? Who knows, I still dig it, though it is starting to get hot, and Jackie may cut it in my sleep. Time will tell I suppose.

I've been doing pretty well training-wise, minus the past week that I spent golfing with my family in Maryland (awesome!), and having a lot of fun this month. Highlights include the kick off of the BGA season (ok it was May 30th, but I'm still taking it), seeing Greg Paluska's brother playing rockstar at a 3Oh!3 concert (along with the band's stuffed wolves with lasers for eyes and swivelling heads), celebrating the return of Bridger and Matt from their exile (complete with requisite hangovers) , My early birthday party at St. Arnold's (complete with Beer Olympics), 90 holes of golf in 5 days (complete with golf glove tan). But the training has also been there this month. And, very recently (see: yesterday) I got some new pedals for my bike. Some Speedplay light-action clips that are very awesome, and very different from what I'm used to. Red lights are going to become even more the bane of my existence, and I'll probably take a spill or two because of them. But, the feeling of riding clipped into your bike is incredible. I have much more control and fluidity than ever before, and going uphill is so much easier that I'm thankful I live in Houston and have so many to contend with (see: sarcasm). Hopefully this will make the bike section that much easier on race-day. That's all for now. Crazy July coming up, hope to stay fit.

Miles covered so far:

Biking: 1240.32

Running: 320.87

Swimming: 63.95

Friday, June 4, 2010

World Cup!

A week of rest and relaxation following the half-ironman was a much needed respite. I spent the entire week following the race doing no training whatsoever. It was beautiful, I enjoyed the extra time the day seems to hold when you're not doing anything, and a trip to San Fran. But, I'm back at it, and things down here in Houston are heating up. Hydration and sunscreen are going to become more and more important as the oppressive Houston summer bears down on me, but even more important will be my resolve. We'll see how I stand up to the heat.

But all of that is unimportant now. The World Cup is upon us, and I am excited. I love the games, I love the venues, I love the extreme nationalism wrapped up in enthusiasm for your team. Very few Americans actually like soccer, but give us a them against the world team format to cheer for and we'll get behind it. Just like we did with the Hockey Gold Medal game, congrats Canada you won a game in overtime that 95% of Americans don't know how to play, no one cares anymore. But during the game I'd be lying if I didn't say things and do things to Canadian friends of mine that outside of the context of sport would've destroyed our friendships, and possibly gotten me arrested. But, I digress. The World Cup starts next weekend, and if there's anything Americans love more than an Us against the world setting it's an Us against the Brits setting, and that's just what we get. England has spent the better part of four centuries (Jamestown 1607) looking down their noses at those of us across the pond for absolutely no reason. The arrogance is staggering, especially considering we've spent the better part of 2 and a half centuries kicking their asses in everything. So in preparation for the showdown next weekend I've put together a little presentation detailing the dominance America has enjoyed at England's expense. I call it The History of the World, enjoy.

Miles covered so far:

Swimming: 55.95

Biking: 1057.47

Running: 281.26

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Here's some pics from the recent conquest, courtesy of Karen Thibodeaux and Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Half-assed Ironman Training

Apparently equals Half-Ironman training. Sunday morning/afternoon I raced in and completed the Amica Texasman Long Course Triathlon up in North Texas. Which consisted of a 1.2 mile swim in Lake Ray Roberts, a 56 mile bike ride through the ranch country of Valley View, TX, and a 13.1 mile run mostly through the trails of Johnson Branch State Park. I finished 33rd overall (5th in my age group) with a time of 5 hours and 34 minutes, way under the 6 hour goal I had set for myself. I was very pleased with the results, but ultimately this was a training race for the Ford Ironman Arizona (Nov. 21, Tempe) and a learning experience. So what did I learn along the way?

  • There is a gigantic statute of Sam Houston about 70 miles north of the city on I-45

  • Sam Houston had awesome Mutton Chops

  • Everybody loves Buc-ee's, everybody.

  • When a Texan tells you that a place has the best lasagna they've ever tried, it probably doesn't mean much.

  • BBQ Chex mix is not as delicious as it sounds

  • A pre-race dinner of Lasagna, a Greek Salad, and BBQ Chex Mix is apparently satisfactory

  • Falling asleep at 8 or 9 is difficult for a 25 year old

  • Staying asleep when you're worried about showing up late and you're staying in a cheap motel just off the interstate is impossible

  • Showing up early is definitely the way to go

  • I need a better way to transport my gear

  • Doing the swim portion of the race in a Speedo makes you a crazy person

  • But doing a half-ironman is a completely rational pursuit

  • I weigh 79.4 Kg

  • Lake Ray Roberts tastes smoky

  • I should avoid drinking the water

  • It is easy to get lost in a lake

  • It is crazy difficult to change into biking gear wet and tired

  • Hills suck

  • Bananas are awesome

  • Having too much water is impossible

  • A mechanical problem during the bike portion would be the worst thing ever

  • I need new pedals

  • Hills suck

  • The bike portion of the race is mentally devastating

  • Long-course triathletes are incredibly supportive of one another

  • At mile 50 I would have run an extra 6 miles just to get off of my god-forsaken bike

  • I need a new saddle

  • Changing into running clothes from biking clothes is a snap

  • Mentally gearing up for a 13.1 mile run, less so

  • Race supporters and volunteers are amazing

  • Some people are machines

  • I am not a machine

  • Long-hair, headband, aviator combo was a hit with the crowd

  • kids think you're awesome if you let them spray you with water

  • kids that spray me with water are awesome

  • Sport gels are not delicious, but they work

  • Hills suck

  • Seeing an athlete succumb to the heat/exhaustion is distressing

  • Being handed water by an overweight volunteer smoking a cigarette is quite possibly the most extreme juxtaposition I've ever been involved with

  • At mile 12 I'd have given anything to be back on my godforsaken bike

  • That joke killed at mile 12

  • Finish line announcers can make anyone smile, even after 70.3 miles

All in all I was incredibly pleased with my performance. My hydration strategy worked to perfection (I didn't lose a single pound during the race), but I need to consume more calories on the bike, and be better prepared for the isolation the bike portion demands. The more reps I get in transition the better, and again the biking portion is the most important for your overall finish. Don't believe me? I had the 11th overall best swim time, the 31st best bike time, and the 40th best run; I finished 33rd overall. Link to results below.

Miles covered so far:

Swim: 52.2

Run: 257.16

Bike: 891.12

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dead Weather Advisory

Admittedly, I am a Jack White fan. Thoroughly enjoy the White Stripes and love the Raconteurs. His newest venture is a little band called The Dead Weather. They came to Houston this weekend at the House of Blues (my new favorite venue to see a show). I was a little skeptical at first, especially once I heard Jack was the drummer, but that quickly changed. That night I saw the greatest concert of my life.

Read that last line again, and know that I'm dead serious. Anyone dubious of my credentials or curious as to what weight to give such a bold statement here's a short list of the acts I've seen. Aerosmith, Beck, Counting Crows, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Kiss, Fuel, The Bravery, Crash Kings, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Flogging Molly, Simon and Garfunkel, Better than Ezra, Everclear, Cowboy Mouth, Rush, Run DMC, Pearl Jam, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bruce Springsteen, The Kings of Leon, and plenty of other less heralded but no less talented musicians. All of the shows I've seen were good, but only a few of them approached what happened Saturday night. I suppose now I'll throw together a short top five of concerts I've been to.

5. James Taylor - I don't remember if there was an opening act for this show, but I do know JT didn't need one. Rain fell for nearly the entire set but the waterlogged faithful had enough enthusiasm to coax Jimmy out for 3 encores causing him to wonder aloud, " I don't know if I should love you, or be afraid of you".

4. Cheap Trick opens for Tom Petty - Standing 14 rows from the stage would help the ratings of just about any act, but I would've loved this show from the nose bleeds. Cheap Trick was great, and the Heart breakers were on fire. Something magic was in the air that night that made sure all of us had fun, my little brother described it as "cigarettes and burning leaves" which isn't too far off.

3. Robert Plant opens for The Who - This show had potential to be the best I would ever see it doesn't get better than this I can die in peace type concert except for one thing. Robert Plant. To say he disappointed that night is an understatement. He played a few Led Zeppelin songs between his own mindless drivel, but he was so out of it no one recognized the tunes until they were nearly finished. To this day I doubt he remembers the show, because though he knew he was in Central Pennsylvania he didn't seem to know where. The Who, however, were the cure to Robert Plant's wails. They were phenomenal, especially considering John Entwhistle had died only a few weeks before the show. A touching video memorial, and an inspired performances by Daltry and Townshend were a fantastic tribute to John, and made for a truly remarkable night.

2. Beck opens for The Rolling Stones - Worth the price of admission. This show easily quadrupled the cost of any show I had been to previously, and stretched the budget of a college student, but I couldn't in good conscience miss the Stones. So I bit the bullet, got in line, got decent seats, and waited. Beck was great, though nobody in Hershey seemed to care, and I left the concert that night knowing two things. 1) Beck is great, 2) Age is a number. The Stones were on all night. Rocking hard through the entire set and quickly dispelling any thoughts I had about them being too old to blow me away. The songs were great, the stage was cool, the show was awesome, and despite being close to 300 years old (in rock star years) Mic, Keith, and company showed everyone that "senior citizens despite being slow and dangerous behind the wheel, are still good for something."

1. The Ettes open for The Dead Weather - You've probably never heard of The Ettes, but they played an opener that was good enough to headline most shows... just not this one. As for The Dead Weather show I have never been completely transfixed by a band for an entire show. Moving or really doing anything other than watching slack-jawed and stupefied was out of the question. The music was great but the performance as a whole was mind-blowing. I would not shell out the money to see the Stones again, even after 4 years. I would shell out three times as much money to see The Dead Weather again tomorrow, in a heartbeat.

They fall into a short list of shows I will drop almost anything I'm currently doing to get to no matter the inconvenience along with Bob Schneider, and Rebirth Brass Band. Check all of them out, but seriously check out The Dead Weather. Awesome.

Oh yeah I've been training too.

Miles Covered so far:

Running: 220.56

Biking: 697.96

Swimming: 44

Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning Curve

Despite the fact that I have been a competitive swimmer since age 7, involved in running races starting in high school, and have owned a decent road bike for 4 years I have rarely put the three together. Normally training in one discipline for a single sport goal (swimming championships, marathons/half-marathons) or, in the case of my bike, because it is fun. I know how to do all three things pretty well, with varying levels of mastery, but I'm working my butt off to learn how to do all three things at once. Along the way I've learned several lessons from my training (how important good tires are, how important sunscreen is, how important stretching and yoga are, and how annoying old Chinese men who take up an entire lane in a three lane pool swimming horrifyingly slow breaststroke are) but this weekend I think I learned one of the most important lessons of the year. All of the training is for naught, if something happens on race day. Let me set the scene.

I signed up for the Gateway to the Bay Olympic distance triathlon held in Kemah, TX over the weekend as a way to ease (jump) into the tri season. Olympic distance for those not in the know is a 1 mile swim followed by a 24.85 mile (40k) bike and a 6.2 mile (10k) run. Kemah is about 40 minutes from Houston, and the swim was to occur in the Galveston Bay. Because of the distance and triathletes are apparently early risers it was slated to start at 7:00, with the boats taking the contestants into the bay leaving at 6:30 AM. To reduce confusion on the morning of the race officials wisely decided to have packet pick-up, race marking, bike-racking, and all informational meetings the day before. The weather did not feel like cooperating and a soggy morning prompted the officials to forgo bike-racking until the morning and further stating an extra half-hour would be granted to get this done. Meaning the race would start at 7:30 and the boats would leave at 7:00. Asked if this would change if the weather improved (as it was going to) this triathlete was told it would not change. Apparently I should not have taken this to heart (30 minutes extra sleep sounded better than 30 minutes of standing on a cold dock). The bike-racking did indeed occur the morning of, but the times were not changed (or changed back depending on your point of view) and I was unpleasantly surprised to find the transition area closed when I arrived to rack my bike at 6:30. Told an email had been sent out, and a maybe had been used the day before (I heard no maybe, I heard you'll be given an extra half hour) I was less than pleased with my options of going home, or simply competing in the bike/run portion without a timing chip. However, after an hour of simmering I calmed down and realized I didn't really want to swim in the Galveston Bay anyway and the bike/run portion of the tri was my weakest so the more work the better. I set out with the first wave of swimmers to enter transition and completed a wildly successful (in my opinion) duathlon. Finishing the bike leg in 1:19, and the run in 0:48 with a 30 or so minute swim (completely reasonable) I would have been very competitive, and I was quite pleased with my performance. Talking to the officials after the race I found out I wasn't the only one confused in the miscommunication and several others had simply gone home. The take away lesson from all of them was to show up early. Lesson learned, show up 30-40 minutes earlier than you think you need to and bring more water than you think you'll need were my take aways. I will be sure to do both from now on knowing how much it sucks to be turned away at 6:30 in the morning and seeing how badly some people were cramping on the run.

Miles covered so far:

Swim: 41.5 miles

Run: 177.95 miles

Bike: 547.65 miles

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March Madness

I used to like March, it was a pretty good month. Swimming normally wound up finishing at the end of February (giving me an obscene amount of free time), St. Patrick's day has been one of my favorite days of the year even before I began drinking, and March Madness continues to be my favorite sporting event in the world. Then I moved to Houston, and now I freaking love March. Everything that was good about March got better. Swimming ended with college, St. Patrick's day is still in March only now I can spend it drinking on a patio in 72 degree weather in shorts and a t-shirt or poolside getting a tan, March Madness is still around and Houston routinely gets to host one of the regional's and may stand to get the final four in the next couple of years. March in Houston is an awesome time to be outside, and should be a great month for training.

In an unrelated note, I saw Shutter Island this past weekend. It was pretty good, a little over the top (visually) from the beginning, but a great story, fantastic acting, and a killer ending. Checking it out in the theaters isn't really necessary (translation: there aren't fantastical landscapes, awesome shoot-outs/explosions/ car chases/ kung-fu battles where you'll miss something by not seeing it in the theaters) but check out the movie.

Miles Covered so far:

Biking: 338.8

Running: 132.95

Swimming: 31.5

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Of Puppets, Bad Movies, and Actors

I found myself watching "The International" the other night, I stumbled across it mid-way through and decided to watch it On Demand from the beginning. The movie was not that great, the writing was poor and the acting seemed forced. The shots were often really beautiful, lots of cool locations to shoot in, and that's what really kept me tuned in. I began to think about how terrible a job the actors did, I mean very few of the emotions were believable, the lines were delivered over the top or way way under the top (if that makes sense), but then I wondered if it was their fault. The dialogue was atrocious (cliché, cliché, cliché, predictable response, cliché), the plot wasn't really that great either, and actors are really not much more than puppets, needing a master puppeteer (great director) to get the best out of them. Some actors are better than others (See Daniel Day-Lewis), able to adapt to different roles and make you forget that they are Joe Hollywood making millions of dollars and not the starving artist/drug addict trying to care for his two children with music and bread stealing as he wins the heart of a beautiful heiress to a fortune (etc. etc.). Matched up against Paris Hilton, this is no contest, though to be fair I think Paris is only rarely considered an actor. In the same way some puppets are better than others. Take off your sock, insert hand, draw eyes, boom goes the dynamite you've got the Paris Hilton of Puppets. With some great direction and incredible lines your sock puppet can probably captivate an audience of a few kindergarteners for a while, but no adult is going to forget that you are merely a wierd, possible perverted, man with his sock on his hand and only one shoe on standing a little to close to their child. On the other end of the spectrum are the Muppets. Watch a Muppet's Christmas Carol sometime. Shortly into the film you begin to forget that Kermit is a puppet, the dude is articulate, shows feeling, and moves fluidly. Keep watching and you begin to forget that he's a walking talking frog married to a walking talking pig, he's Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine turns in his greatest acting performance of all time working and interacting with these puppets. Is this because Kermit is a great actor, no he's a great puppet, but the people pulling the string are some of the best in the world, and the adaptation of Charles Dickens's masterpiece is a masterpiece in itself. So I'll put the blame on the writers and the director for The International, for now.

Got in a good ride last weekend as the weather finally turned for the better, and found a nice little loop to ride on. I have been critical of riding in the city of Houston (the drivers are dangerous, the roads are awful, the bike lanes are narrow and laughably maintained) but biking in the Heights is pretty awesome. The 2.5 mile stretch of road on Heights Boulevard between Washington and 20th street, is lovely, and then from 20th back to Washington on Studewood/mont is also a treat. This loop is only about 5.75 miles, but it's the most enjoyable 5.75 miles I've biked in Houston yet.

Miles Covered So Far:

Biking: 303.7
Running: 84.85
Swimming: 23.2

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mardi Gras leads to Len-(ien)-t training

Went to Mardi Gras last weekend, which was great fun, but a terrible blow to my internal organs and training. The weekend before, Superbowl weekend, I had a pretty good training weekend despite the festivities (mini-tri, good miles on the road bike, and a swimming Sunday). Watching the game knowing I was headed to New Orleans for Mardi Gras the next weekend I had to cheer for the Saints, and the greatest Mardi Gras ever, despite the fact that I was pretty sure they were destined to lose. But after the first quarter they got their legs under them and didn't look back. The following week was full of pretty lax training, dreams of Mardi Gras dancing in my mind, picking up folks from the airport, and then Mardi Gras (which did not disappoint). So I'm dedicating this post to helping those thinking of hitting up their first Mardi Gras to do it, and do it right.

Dear Mardi Gras Virgins,

Everyone needs to experience New Orleans at least once before they die. The architecture, culture, cuisine, music, laissez le bon temps rouler attitude can be described (poorly) second-hand but there is nothing like seeing the city for yourself. I first saw New Orleans during Jazz Fest (A music and heritage festival spanning two weekends that is a total blast 3 years ago, and immediately fell in love. Any weekend with decent weather (Spring or Fall would be best, it can get stifling hot and sticky there in the summer) is a good weekend to go, but to truly appreciate the heartbeat of the city is to participate in one of its festivals (Jazzfest, VoodooFest, and Mardi Gras to name a few).

There are some great cities across America, and some great places to celebrate life, but none of them can touch NOLA. You're not celebrating until you celebrate in New Orleans. Vegas is a great town to party in, but Vegas lacks something that is prevalent in every restaurant, every bar, every street corner in New Orleans. Soul. You'll leave Vegas with more or, most likely, less money and you'll judge your trip upon that. Friends will ask, "How'd you do?" you'll reply with your winnings or losing and maybe a tale of one kind of debauchery or another, but the trip will have left you empty. A trip to New Orleans will only leave you richer, no matter what you spend, with memories that come to life when you close your eyes. Having said that Mardi Gras is when the true heart and soul of a city that is back from the brink is on display, so here are some tips to enjoying your stay.

Plan early, get your shit together and just do it, the less you have to worry about leading up to the trip the better. That will allow you to get into the proper frame of mind, let the good times roll. Pack accordingly, get the weather reports and bring whatever you need to be comfortable, the more time outside in NOLA the better. Also, bring shoes that you wouldn't mind throwing away, all the revelry causes quite a bit of refuse and I wouldn't want you losing a pair of blue suede shoes over a Mardi Gras puddle.

I advise getting in Friday morning and staying until Monday, at the very least Saturday morning to Monday, that is if you can't stay through Fat Tuesday. If you're driving leave as early as possible, if flying grab a few drinks on the way in. Stay near the quarter, and spend whatever time you have on Friday seeing the city, Bourbon street, The riverfront, Garden District homes, and cemetery tours. Immerse yourself in the music, food, and fun of the city. Friday night, Bourbon street, just do it. Find a bar out of the multitude of places that suits your style and enjoy yourself, or bounce around the street looking for buxom lasses that will bare their chests for you with a hand-grenade or hurricane in your hand. Get to bed eventually. Saturday morning/afternoon grab some grub at any of the amazing restaurants around the city Mother's Cafe, Elizabeth's Cafe, and Cafe Du Mond have some pretty good breakfasts. Get whatever you need to refuel the party machine and hit up Harrah's, or the Quarter for some afternoon distraction, but keep close eye on the clock. Find some place to watch Endymion (Saturday's big parade) by 5, I suggest getting a little out of the city. Have a cab take you up to Carrollton and Orleans, and find a hospitable group of tailgaters to make friends with. CCR said it right "People on the river are happy to give" tell them it's your first Mardi Gras and you will be shown the time of your life. Just remember to try to catch some beads as the parade rolls by. Afterwards getting back to the Quarter will be difficult/impossible so find a neighborhood bar to throw a few back in before making the trek back to Bourbon street. If you don't mind crowds of epic proportions, "walk" bourbon, otherwise use the side streets to get to a bar down there (Laffite, Pat O'Brien's, Gold Mine, etc. etc.) and party until you can't. Or, head to the Warehouse district and hit one of the bars down there (the Red Eye is one of my favorites). Wake up Sunday, recover, grub, gamble, and find a place to watch Bacchus (the coolest of the weekend parades). I'd stay closer to downtown for this one, but anywhere really where you can see it go by is good. Repeat Saturday night's performance and get yourself to bed eventually. Monday, if you have to leave, try to make sure someone else is in charge of getting you from A to B, the trip is much more enjoyable that way.

Hopefully you make it one of these days, and if you do, call me, I'll probably be there.



Miles covered thus far:

Running: 84.85
Biking: 250.2
Swimming: 17.5

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Movie Review - February

The weather in Houston recently has been uncooperative as of late, and after I found out my game was cancelled yesterday evening I couldn't bring myself to do anything. Which hopefully is not a recurring theme, but in any case I got to check out a decent sushi joint and a terrible movie. Which makes two terrible movies in as many weeks, so if you're thinking of seeing a movie this month. Don't.

The Book of Eli

Denzel Washington as a bad ass, Gary Oldman as a bad guy, Mila Kunis as a cast member, what else needed to said. I was in, and excited even for the somewhat ridiculous premise (Denzel as Eli protecting the last copy of the bible from falling into the wrong hands ,Oldman as Carnegie, in post nuclear-apocalypse America) I was excited on the way to the theater, getting the tickets, finding a seat, excited. Then the movie started, and lost me immediately. I'll give you the movie in a nutshell, Eli has the last bible on earth and is on a journey with the protection of God to go somewhere with it, Carnegie runs a town but dreams of more and wants the bible to control people (most of whom seem to be illiterate) through religion (the oldest trick in the book). They cross paths, Eli gets the best of Carnegie, then Carnegie gets the best of Eli and the book, but Eli continues on and completes his journey.

Glossed over a lot there, here are the more ridiculous parts of the movie. Eli basically killing people at will if they attack him, despite being absurdly outnumbered (becoming even more ridiculous with the twist at the end). Being able to cover an amount of ground on foot that motorized vehicles couldn't cover in the same day (really the part of the movie that I lost all hope, they can't track him down in their cars despite the fact that he's travelling on roads and through areas they know well). The cannibals not just devouring Eli and Mila Kunis once they are trapped, but inviting them in for tea, and then the arsenal they keep under their couch cushions. Then Eli, after evading Carnegie and his men for two days and having an epic standoff against them with the help of the cannibals gives up the bible to save Kunis's life. Turns out he's been reading it long enough to have it memorized (why didn't he just give it up earlier? I don't know). He continues on his path after being shot in the stomach with no medical care around and makes it from a Desert to San Francisco on a single tank of gas. This goes along with him being able to cover immense distances in too short a period of time throughout the entire movie, ridiculous. Continues surviving the abdomen bullet wound, and finds a rowboat (miraculously) and rows to Alcatraz (on a whim and against some very strong currents in the San Francisco Bay) to find the cradle of civilization (a group of folks trying to restart civilization one work of art and book at a time). Then the twist of the movie (skip down or stop reading if you don't want to know) Eli is blind, and the bible that Carnegie got his hands on is in Braille and is therefore worthless to him. Which just opens up more questions like, how is Eli such a good fighter/hunter (don't give me that echolocation bullshit), why didn't he give up the bible sooner if he knew it was worthless to Carnegie, how had he survived initially following the blast, how did he find the guy to recharge his battery, how had he not fallen into a hole walking around for 30 years, how did it take him 30 years to find San Francisco. Stupid. I don't care if you think it's a good message about how faith and religion can be used for good or evil depending on how you use it, this movie was bad, waste 2+ hours of your life doing something else.


Going in I had really low expectations for this movie, really low, but I thought it would be entertaining. Rogue angel defies God and tries to save humanity from the apocalypse by ensuring the safety of an unborn unwanted child of a relative loser in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like it could be fun. I'll save you my analysis and give you Jackie's. "I wish I had lit my $20 on fire." You've been warned.

Miles travelled so far:

Biking: 173.7

Running: 58.85

Swim: 13.25

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time is Fleeting

There are not enough hours in the day to train for an ironman, have a job, have a girlfriend, and have a life. At least it seems that way, an unemployed friend of mine joked about being lucky because he can hit the gym whenever he cares to, which would be really nice, however I think my biggest hurdle will just be to give up a little bit (or a lot) of fun on the weekend and get myself in gear with some long training rides and runs. The week just holds too many things that need to get done, and not enough time to do all of them.

I'm also a big fan of sports leagues, currently playing in a flag football league and a basketball league, however I'm not sure how to quantify the training benefits of such activities (if there are any). Which is giving me trouble, and will most likely result in me dropping them after this season, or maybe after the next, or the one after that, but definitely at some point. This same inability to quantify benefits is making it hard for me to decide to buy a Triathlon Bike. Here is a link to a decent article explaining the differences:

Well written, and semi-informative but the claims just seem vague to me. So my fellow ironman cohorts and I went to a bike shop to talk to some experts. I got pretty much the same sort of vagaries from him as I did from the article. This exchange summed it up pretty nicely:

Me: "So all in all, does a tri bike make a huge difference in a triathlon."

Bike Guy: "I wouldn't say it makes a huge difference."

Me: "Ok"

Bike Guy: "But the difference is drastic, you'll definitely notice"

Not sure how to quantify the difference between a drastic change, or a huge change in performance, but I can say that having a perfectly good road bike already is making me hesitant to drop about 2 grand on a tri-specific bike. Maybe I'll just train on the road bike and rent a tri-bike, or pull the trigger later in the year. At the distances we'll be covering a drastic improvement may be what I need to complete the event.

In other news, New Year resolutions continue to piss me off, my basketball skills are improving, and I'm enjoying bike riding around this city so far. Stay tuned, 3 weeks down 45 to go.

Miles covered:

Biking: 154.7

Running: 38.8

Swimming: 10.25

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just Like riding a Bike

Just like riding a bike is such an incredibly true statement that many of us take it for granted. "Just like riding a bike huh?" one quips to a friend as they sink a ball in pong, or beat Super Mario Bros. 3. I never really thought about it all that much until I got my bike back from the shop and went on a ride over the weekend. Wow, it really does come back quickly, after 2 miles it felt like I hadn't been away from my bike for nearly 2 years, but more like 2 days. Immediately comfortable jockeying for position against the ghastly driving skills of most of Houston as I made my way to the bar to watch the NFL playoffs over the weekend. Aside from some minor seat height adjustments I need to make I'm about ready to get some serious rides under my belt.

On the other side of the coin, do you know what is not just like riding a bike? Playing basketball. Being away from that sport turns you from a potential globetrotter into a 4 year old girl. Seriously one of the most difficult sports to pick back up after being away from it for a while. In my case it had been three and a half years since I played a serious amount of basketball, and it showed. Playing with a few other guys who've been away for about as long as myself didn't help matters any. Long story short we got trounced by a group of guys that had no business playing in a rec league, getting run out of the gym (in some hilarious cosmic joke being in half-marathon shape does not equate to being in basketball shape) and having the game basically decided at half time. In this situation "practice makes perfect", or at least "practice makes better", hopefully this proves true as the season progresses.

2 weeks down 46 to go

Miles covered so far:

Biking: 109.2

Running: 31.05

Swimming: 4.8

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Warrior?

There are so many fun things to do on the weekends. Movies, sporting events, dinners, drinking, dancing, sleeping, etc. did you notice what is not on that list? That's right, training for an Ironman.
Not a fun weekend activity.
Which made this weekend, and I'm assuming every weekend from here on out, a serious test of willpower. On Friday my willpower won out, and I hit the pool for the first time, banging out an easy 2 miles (after standing on the pool deck for 10 or so minutes debating whether or not to get in), and hitting the sack early for a possible Saturday mini-triathlon. Saturday was, by training standards, a complete failure (though I had a lovely time failing). St. Arnold's recently moved to new digs north east of downtown Houston, and a few of us decided to check out the place. For $7 you get a free 8 oz. St. Arnold's glass, and 4 drink tokens to sample their delicious brews (tokens apparently can be saved if you flirt with the old man slinging suds, results may vary). After the tour picking up a dresser sounded like a good idea, and after a few more beers during the construction training was out of the question. Inglorious Basterds and a couple of cold ones won the day. Sunday, by contrast, was an unmitigated success, 18.5 miles biking and 4.75 miles running (while watching the NFL playoffs and some college basketball simultaneously, say what you will about huge fitness clubs, they have nice TVs). The moral of the story? Saturday was way more fun than Friday or Sunday, but a 2 out of 3 ain't bad attitude won't get the job done.

One week down. 47 to go.

Miles covered:

Running: 15.05

Biking: 61.5

Swimming: 2

Friday, January 8, 2010

Double Down on New Year's Resolutions

Yesterday evening was the first time I doubled up in a workout. Biking 23 miles and then running 3 was not as hard as I imagined. I was quite pleased with myself until I realized that I was happy about running 11% of a third of the race after biking 20% of another third of the race. Not exactly ironman material yet, but 10% there.

New Year's resolutions are great things. Everyone wants to change something in their lives' and the new year brings to everyone a sense of renewal, and hope that this year will be the year they quit smoking, or learn Spanish, or learn the guitar, anything to better themselves. These resolutions have varying degrees of success, some studies showing around 97% of resolutions will not be kept. Personally, a few years ago I resolved to stop drinking soda which was a great success, I haven't had soda in 5 years (unless there is liquor in it), however nearly every other resolution I have made I have broken. With Americans' waistlines expanding every year weight loss resolutions are becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly a pain in my ass.

It must be a great thing owning a gym, or fitness club and knowing that one or two weeks into the year and you'll have nearly filled your membership quota for the year. And, with 67% of gym memberships going unused and a majority of the rest being underused, those making resolutions to lose weight by joining a gym might as well just send a stacks of bills to the owner. But, the real pain in the ass is the one or two weeks that these helplessly hopeful fools actually follow through with their resolutions, and get in my way. Packed houses everywhere, all over the gym, all over the yoga studio, everywhere. Exercising in jeans, in khaki capris, in ridiculous get-ups because they don't have workout gear for the very same reason their resolution will inevitably fail, they don't work out and never have. Starting with small goals and working towards a healthier lifestyle will be more successful than blindly joining a gym. Set goals for yourself, attainable goals, and once reached set another. Most people set unreachable goals for their resolutions without expecting to accomplish them. Instead, for at least a few weeks, they just make life difficult for me and my quest for ironmandom.

Miles covered so far:

Running: 10.3

Biking: 43

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Biking is the Hardest Part

Hopped on the bike yesterday evening, and because I broke my bike chain about a mile from home last time I tried riding (a good thing that it didn't happen 5, 10, or 15 miles from home), I used a stationary bike at 24 hour fitness. Nothing too crazy, just a little over 20 miles, which I thought was fairly easy... until I got off of the bike. The marathon after the 115 mile ride will definitely be the most difficult part to get through. So I've decided to really focus on the biking in order to have my legs as much as possible for the finishing run. Now I just need to get my bike fixed.

Also I'm going to start tracking my miles covered in training as the year wears on.

Running: 7.3
Biking: 20.25
Swimming: The new year starts tonight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Begin the Beguine

There was always the thought of it, always the nagging little idea of how cool it would be, how absolutely bad-ass we would be if we did it, how difficult but ultimately rewarding it would be to tackle it.

There were drunken pacts to run it before we were thirty, or within the next few years.

There was absolutely no way it was actually happening.

Until it did.

Hindsight is 20/20 and never is it more so than after doing something so stupid so easily. With a click of the mouse I've undertaken a quest. A quest that was always discussed, but never fully grasped. A quest that will push me to my physical limits, and test my mental toughness. A quest that should have been a hell of a lot harder to undertake than a god damned mouse-click.

A quest for Ironmandom.

I'll be chronicling my (mis)adventures here as I train for this insane undertaking, daily, weekly, monthly, I don't know. So follow along, or don't, and lend any advice/encouragement/discouragement you can, or don't. Just enjoy.

It all goes down Sunday November 22, 2010 a mere 11 months away. I don't know if I'll make it to the end but I do know this is the beginning, and as Buddha said "there are two mistakes one can make along the road... not going all the way, and not starting."

Step one, Check.