Thursday, May 29, 2008

A few more good workouts

A few more workouts closer to Worlds and I'm feeling good. I actually took Monday off since it was a holiday and I wasn't on my normal schedule. Considering the pool's flakiness in being open on holidays I decided not to waste the time and gas to even go see if it was open. Instead I enjoyed the warm, sunny day and packed in a little extra MCAT studying.

Which brings us to Tuesday. I had Monday's workout to make up and Tuesday's usual workout to fit in. My swim was fairly strong, especially now that I'm trying to practice breathing out under water. Surprisingly, swimming is a whole lot easier when you don't try to hold your breath. For a long time I didn't even realize I did this. When I would come up for air I'd try to breath out really quickly and then suck in as much air as possible before submerging my face under water again. I would usually be wheezing after 200m and I really don't think much oxygen was making it around my body. Breathing out through my nose underwater seems to be helping with this.

So that was Monday's workout that I pushed to Tuesday. And then I got right out of the pool, quickly dried off, and changed for my usual Tuesday run. 10 min warm up, 30 min tempo run, 10 min cool down. I didn't have any water, Gatorade, or food in between so I started feeling weak about half way through this workout. Not exactly what I wanted, but my body will be subjected to this state in the future so no matter, I pushed through it as I would in a race and finished out the 30 min tempo run as best I could. The cool down brought me right back to the place I started so my pace hadn't dropped off much from the beginning of my run despite feeling like I was running in jello.

Wednesday is normally a recovering day for me, but this week I decided to play off the exhaustion from yesterday and went out for a (fairly) hard bike and short run. My brick was surprisingly better than expected considering the run I did on Tuesday and the condition of my legs. I think I'll have to start getting used to putting in 2 hard workouts in a row and hope that my legs adapt accordingly. And my 20 min run after my 20 mile bike felt a whole lot better than expected. All good stuff.

Monday, May 26, 2008


This weekend was one of my hardest (highest intensity at race distance) training weekends yet and I have to admit that I am quite happy with how it went. I deviated a bit from my training plan because I just didn't feel like I have enough bricks included in the weeks prior to Worlds. So Saturday I went out for a 30 mile bike followed by a 2 mile run. It went well. I was a bit weak on the run, but that's what happens when you don't hydrate well on the bike (nor the morning of your workout). So it was no surprise that I wasn't sweating after being out in the 80 weather for 2.5 hours. The sun can act like an energy theif on those kinds of days so I didn't argue with it and threw in the towel early, went home, and recovered.

Sunday came around and I was feeling recovered. Off I went on a 10 mile bike and then a 6 mile run near race pace. I thought that I'd have been more affected by my bike the day before. But the run went well despite the heat, blazing sun, and lack of water on the run loop that I picked (I picked it because of the relative shadiness compared to other loops around my house). And so I am thrilled to say that my workouts seem to be paying off and I might just be ready for Worlds in 2 weeks with the goal of PRing significantly. It's just not always easy to get everything in while holding down a 45 hr/week job, studying for the MCAT, and applying to medical schools. I sure hope it all pays off in the end!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Braving the open water...again

Yesterday was the second Monday this season that the Elite Triangle Triathlon Team has scheduled an open water swim practice. It was also my second open water swim practice of my entire triathlon career, and perhaps one of the better workouts I've had in the past month. Since my swim last week in Jordan Lake was a bit abbreviated (I arrived late and missed going out in the water with the majority of people), I made sure to get in a solid swim at the pool on Sunday.

Stacey, Nasrin, Monett, Danny, Duncan, Paul, Alysia and 4 team friends also showed up for the open water swim, making a total of 12 of us. The guys fishing down by the water were amused as we wiggled our way into our wetsuits and took off across the lake. The slow kids started first so I was sure to get out at the front of the pack with a nice headstart. The first swim was about 600m across the lake to a tree that was slightly bent (there were many trees making sighting a real b$*@h). I kept an eye out for brightly colored swim caps and splashing. That was how I sighted my way across the lake.

We treaded water there until everyone had caught up (namely, until I reached the point where everyone else was already waiting) and then picked another point along the shore to swim too. This time my distance calculation was way off and with the way the sun reflected off the water I could barely see the swimmers in front of me. I was giving it everything I had and the other swimmers were still steadily getting further away. I tried long, powerful strokes and quick, speedy strokes, neither of which seemed to get me any closer to the rest of the group. I kept picked different trees along the shore to sight; all of which must've been the wrong one since we just kept swimming and swimming. Finally, when I was nearly out of breath, I caught up to the others who were treading water in the middle of the lake. They were ready to start the next part of the swim out to the bridge. I was not.

My arms were still sore from the day before and I was breathing hard. Swimming is my weakest of the 3 legs, but thankfully it is also the shortest leg of the triathlon and so I make out okay. Also, thankfully, another girl wanted to swim back to shore and so we rested another minute and then took off in the opposite direction from the bridge, back towards the little beach, the fishermen, and our stuff. Nasrin was way ahead on the 1000m swim back to shore, but I kept her green swim cap in view and I felt pretty safe the whole time. I normally panic in open water, wondering what else is in there with me, but the more exposure I get, the more comfortable I seem to get as well.

Maybe I'll even go again next week.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Wow, tired. Two things I've been trying to do in my workouts. (1) Push the intensity much higher and (2) lift more. The effects: I'm sore, exhausted, and fatigued.

So today I made it to the gym for a lift and a 2500m swim. I haven't lifted legs in ages, but I've been wanting to get back into it so I figured why not start today.

Set 1: 6 X 95
Set 2: 4 X 115
Set 3: 3 X 1 X 145

Felt good, felt easy.

WU: 400m
Drills: 3X100m (one arm, deep swim, breathing)
Set: 3X500m (8:58 - 9:05 - 9:12)
CD: 300m

Breathing hard. Intensity was where I wanted it to be.

Need to work on hydration, diet, and sleep.

Friday, May 2, 2008

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

Another typical soldier ride morning. Up too early, head still hurting from the night before. It was a beautiful day though and once we got outside I felt a lot better. We were headed out for a 26 mile ride around Annapolis, the route chosen by the owner of a local bike shop. Our group was a little larger this day with the addition of Navy cycling team who were doing a recovery ride anyway.

I had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of the guys during the ride, all of whom had gone straight to college after high school graduation. They had a ton of respect for these soldiers and, like me, were honored to have this opportunity to ride with them. The wounded warriors had done what they themselves were preparing to do.

The day went as usual with frequent stops and lots of food. We had a nice stop at a small beach that looked across at the lighthouse and then we road downtown to celebrate the ride. I was even honored with the receipt of 2 navy jerseys, which I will proudly wear (even if the Army guys don't like it)!

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

The day started way too early. Breakfast was at 7:30, but since Fox news was doing a special on the soldier ride at 8:00 I lucked out since we hung around to see what they said. The news coverage was well done although the focus was mostly on the president rather than on the soldiers. But we got airtime and they posted the WWP URL at the bottom of the screen. By the way, it's

We started the ride at the Baltimore Harbor, probably the nicest part of Baltimore I've ever seen. Another day of riding took us along the Greenway (some of it very nice and other parts going through neighborhoods that were a little questionable). The local Park Rangers and some cops were leading the way, although it wasn't the escort service we had experienced the day before. They did their best and we filled in where needed to to block the road and keep all of our guys together. I again stayed near the back of the pack talking to a Sergeant Major with the National Guard. I have met all kinds of people on these rides and each person has a unique and interesting story. This particular guy travelled regularly and, like me, enjoyed the exposure to other cultures. We compared the places we'd both been and made suggestions to each other about other "must-see" destinations.

We hit our first stop around 11:00 in a beautiful wooded area with a large gazebo. There were people handing out snacks and Gatorade, and it was situated right by an old folks assisted living facility, where the residents had made "Thank you soldiers" signs. A group had congregated outside to wave and cheer as we road past on to our next destination, which was not far down the road. No, really, not far down the road at all. I had practically just clipped into my pedals when we came to another halting stop just down the street. Another community group had prepared a substantial lunch for all of us. It was already our 3rd meal of the day, but we were gracious and ate as much as we could.

The coolest part of this stop was talking to one of the soldiers about his experience in the handcycle. I really hadn't had a chance to try it out before so he let me take his around the parking lot a couple of times after lunch. My arms were burning, my shirt was covered in chain grease, and I swear I still have bruises on my hips where the handles would hit if you tried to turn to hard. It was rather difficult to maneuver, and just as hard to power. I can say that it was definitely a good upper body workout.

After lunch we continued our ride. I gave my arms a break and let my legs do all of the work since they're used to it. I moved up to the front of the group in response to some heckling from the some of the soldiers who seemed to think I was making a poor showing as a triathlete at this event. I was socializing, not racing, but they didn't see it that way. To some people, everything is a competition. So I road up towards the front and hung around these guys, dodging their antics (ie: squirting me with their water bottle and throwing leaves in my face) until I finally dropped back to socialize some more. I finished yet another ride at the back of the pack.

Exhaustion struck when we got to our final stop for the day. It was a nice little park off the highway in Annapolis and it was hard not to lie down and pass out. But we weren't there long and in no time the support staff had loaded up the bikes and we were headed to our hotel downtown. Again, another tempting place to lie down and pass out. My hotel bed was calling my name. Instead, I showered and dressed for the Officers Club, which was hosting the WWP guys that evening.

Although dinner came out really slowly, we passed the time with pitcher after pitcher coming to our table from some of the veterans at the club. It was an appreciated gesture although when the 4th pitcher was set down on our 6 person table we were started to lose interest. Hence, the picture below.

That picture says it all for the rest of the night really!

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

We were getting an early start to the day so I woke up at around 6:00 to pack up my things before heading down to the lobby. Once I got down there it was pretty much a complete anti-climatic scence since I seemed to be the only one down there. Plus, since we were all dressed up for the White House ceremony, I couldn't tell who was with WWP and who was not (we were at the Hilton, everyone was dressed up)!

I had been to Walter Reed once before, but it's like a maze from hell so I knew my way around no better than if I'd never been there before. If you take a wrong turn, you can count on there being a dead end ahead. Not just a dead-end though. A dead-end with so many cars parked on each side of the street that you have to back down the entire road just so you can turn around. Then once you've turned around you're no better off because there is still no parking. I watched as my gas gauge dropped an 1/8 of a tank (3 gallons) just looking for parking. That's about $12 these days in gas. And I didn't even go anywhere. But once I'd parked, I turned over the driving to someone else and didn't have to set foot in front of a steering wheel for the next 4 days.

We hit the usual traffic driving down to DC on a weekday morning, but we got to the Capitol in time for a decent tour. It was rather uneventful and my thoughts had quickly skipped past the tour and on to lunch since I had missed (chosen not to pay $12 for) breakfast that morning. Lunch was finally served out of the back of one of the vans on the lawn behind the Capitol building. A delicious boxed lunch with the typical tasteless sandwich, greasy chips, and tempting cookie. Yum.

At this point it was still only noon and time to head to the White House. Security was tight although compared to what I'd been expecting it was like walking into a public museum in New York. I have a harder time getting through security at most airports.

Once into the north wing we were escorted to Mr. President's private tennis courts where our bikes were waiting. We were asked to change quickly so that we could get the ceremony rehearsal underway, which was relaly just another way to ask us to hurry up so that we could then sit and wait. We did a lot of waiting. And rehearsing. By about 2:00 they were ready to begin the event. Condolezza Rice gave a very nice speech. Then there was more waiting. Then President Bush went up on stage to give a speech and shake each of the soldier's hands. I took pictures. Lots of them! Then the horn was tooted and we started the 2008 White House to Lighthouse Challenge.

The first ride took us through downtown DC with a police escort that stopped traffic in all directions. There were a lot of unhappy drivers, but it was pleasant enough. I hung out in the back and got to know a couple people as we road along through DC to our first stop, which ironically enough was back at Walter Reed. One of the guys was having real problems with his stumps, so unfortunately he decided to stop riding at that point. I tried to persuade him otherwise, but he was done. Everyone else was doing well even though, for most of these guys, this was their first time back on a bike since their limb loss. They had been unfazed by the hills we tackled just 20 minutes into the ride. One of the guy's handcycle's handle broke, but he managed to climb the hill with the only handle left and still stay near the front of the pack.

After our relaxing break at Walter Reed we started our ride again, making our way towards Baltimore. We kept up a decent pace and hit the final stop (at the top of a massive hill) just in time for dinner. Perfect timing since the U-Haul facility there was throwing us a huge BBQ party. I finally got to sit down and talk to a couple of the guys, hear their stories, and tell them why I had joined them on this ride. Yes, I am an amputee, yes, I have done Ironman (2X), and yes, I am still completely awe-struck at the resiliency of most of these guys who are ready to get back out on the front line even though they aren't even out of their check-sockets yet.

Not all of the guys were amputees. Some of them were in wheelchairs. Other guys had lost function in a limb although it was still intact and semi-functional. Although I couldn't provide them same resources and advice to them, there was still an understanding there, a connection, that we were coming from the same place. Every day they woke up they had to face the same challenges again; the same pain and the same limitations. Brian joked that he'd never been a runner before and after losing function in his leg he'd never be a runner in the future. But he had a passion for handcycling after just one day in the chair and was already talking about competitive handcycle events. One door may close, but another will open. Go find the open door and walk through it.

I was exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, but some of the guys were going out for a beer. I couldn't pass that up. That's soldier ride. Too much beer and too little sleep. So we headed out to a bar, pulling up in the wrapped WWP van. Who would've thought that would initiate a night of free pitchers and shots on the bar owner who wanted to show his support for the event. Thanks Pickles. You're the reason I drank a lot more than I planned on.