Friday, October 28, 2011

NHPR's Keith Shields Talks with Danny and Amber Ferreira

Amber and I met Keith Shields at Sean Snow’s Winter Spin Class. Amber and I were getting ready for Ironman St. George while Keith was preparing for his first Ironman, Ironman Lake Placid.

Welcome to the blog.

Thanks Danny and Amber. I’m a HUGE fan of the irongirlandultrarunningboy blog.

You have a background as a runner, but relatively recently made the conversion to triathlete. What brought about the change and how does it impact your overall training?

I actually dabbled in triathlons about 10 years ago and did 2 ½ Ironmans but did it in regular bathing trunks (for the whole race), a 20 year old ghetto bike (complete with bike rack) and minimal training. Then I developed bad allergies in the water and couldn’t repair a bike tire to save my life. So, I quit the sport resigning myself to the fact that I’m just a marathoner. Then in January of 2010, out of nowhere, a thought re-crossed my mind “I want to do an Ironman!” Three days later I bumped into my future coach Sean Snow at Dos Amigos Burritos and the rest as they say, is history. As for its impact, I’ve run 26 marathons and started feeling the strain on my body. I was very happy at how much triathlon training kept my general fitness up with far fewer miles on the road. I was able to run a 3:08 marathon 2 weeks ago on only 2/3rds of the amount of running I usually do.

What’s a typical training week look like?

When I’m training for marathons, I try and max out between 70-80 miles a week. This year’s Boston Marathon training I did that and 4 spin classes/week which at the age of 42 gave me a marathon PR of 3:05. This summer for Ironman training I swam about 4 miles a week, biked between 175-250 during the peak weeks and ran only 30-40 miles. Now that I know a little more I’d like to step that up a bit for the next Ironman and I have big goals to try and flirt with the 3 hour mark for this Boston marathon which means more running miles, more spins, snowshoeing and getting in the pool earlier. Like many people, I’d love to do so much more but keep a pretty busy schedule

Wow! You do that in addition to taking an anatomy and physiology course and working full-time? Anything else that you’ve got brewing on the side?

I teach a course once a year at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester which is a blast. The course is called “Fundamentals of Audio Production” which my students learn how to record, mix and edit sound along with using the medium of sound to tell a story. I’m working on my first full-length radio documentary which will air this May on the History of Immigration in New Hampshire and I’m the very proud Race Director of a 5K road race in the West Roxbury section of Boston called “Walter’s Run”. It’s not only a competitive race with mile timers, a water stop, awards 3 deep and FREE RUNNING GLOVES to the first 250 runners but it’s got something for the whole family. We have a ton of delicious food provided by local vendors, a huge raffle of prizes, a free kids race, a visit from Santa who will hand out candy canes, temporary holiday tattoos, and Christina the Clown who makes balloon animals!!! All proceeds go toward 3 local charities that give back to the community. The Boston Globe Globe Santa, which provides gifts to children whose family can’t afford them for the Holidays. Also, the YMCA of Boston Reach Out Program that helps those of need afford the valuable programs that the YMCA offers and the Walter Burgess Scholarship Fund which assists local teenagers of need by providing scholarships for them to attend a local running camp. So it’s a great race, a fun day for the whole family and all for a good cause.

And who is this Walter Burgeese of which you speak?

Walter was a member of my running club in Boston, the Parkway Running Club. He was a good friend of mine. Walter had completed 25 marathons and finished his first Ironman in Florida. Three weeks after the Ironman, Walter passed away of an undetected heart condition at the untimely age of 40. In fact, I competed in the Timberman ½ Ironman this year. It was 10 years before that day that Walter and I stood on the shore of Ellacoya State Park with our toes in the water waiting in anticipation for our first major triathlon race. When we finished, I wanted to die, while Walter came up to me with a smile on his face suggesting we should run a slower friend of ours in (I declined). That’s the kind of guy he was, he waited to cheered on every last runner who crossed the finish line of a race and no matter what adversity he face he always had a smile on his face. We really hope to capture the spirit of Walter in the race we named after him.

As a volunteer at Lake Placid this past year, I was able to see you get out of the water into transition. While it may have taken you a little while longer than some of the pro’s, you probably seemed the most excited to be out of the water. My recollection was you saying “thank god that’s over!” How did it feel knowing that you had your least favorite part of an Ironman done?

Photo of Keith taken by Danny as he exited the water at Lake Placid.

It was a huge weight off the back. Despite hours of lessons, practice, videos and even a Total immersion course, I still am a horrible swimmer. Once I train I can go forever but I’m just really, really back of the pack slow. I’ve never been able to figure out why I can’t get faster. So it was my fear that after all that training I wouldn’t make the swim cut off of the Ironman. The day before the race the swim course looked SO much longer than what I had been swimming in the practices. So when I got out of the water with 20 minutes to spare before the cut off, I knew I would become an Ironman. Maybe team Danny/Amber can teach a Jersey auqa-flailer how to be at least a mid-pack swimmer.

That will definitely have to be Amber as I don't think I would be too far ahead of you. As impressive as that Ironman completion is, I was actually more impressed with your 42 miles at 7:40 pace for Reach the Beach. How did the two races compare?

The RTB was nothing compared to the Ironman. Running long distances is my comfort zone. I’ve lucked out to be given a body that seems to be ergonomically made to run long distances without that many problems. Plus that’s under 5 ½ hours of working out with some rests in between. The Ironman was the greatest challenge of my life. I couldn’t fathom working out for 13+ hours. I’m a slow swimmer, still somewhat unsure of my biking abilities, didn’t have a ‘tri-bike’ and every time I ran a marathon I was completely tapered and had not already covered 114.4 miles. Hearing “Keith Shields, you are an IRONMAN” was one of the best experiences of my life.
S2's Keith Shields exultant as he becomes an IRONMAN!

I know you have Ironman Mont Tremblant coming up next year, any Ultras?

Funny you ask that. I was thinking of doing my first Ultra right before I got the ring back in my ears to do an Ironman. The original plan was to get these Ironmen (mans???) out of my system then do an Ultra but a friend has been hounding me a bit to do one. Growing up in the asphalt and brick Jungle of Newark, NJ then spending my formative years in Boston, I’m exclusively a road runner...trails scare me (and I’m clumsy) and a crack in the pavement is my version of ‘off road”. Being that most ultras are on trails I was thinking this may be a problem, but my friend introduced me to this run around the lake in Wakefield. Now there is possible talk of running it next July. My thought is to either 1) Run 50 miles or 2) see how long I could run for 12 hours. That’s still less time than my 1st Ironman.. stay tuned!

So you will be using snowshoeing again to cross-train this winter?

Heck to the yeah! Last year was a total humbling experience for me. Again, I run only on the roads so running on slippery snowy trails was a brand new experience. There was lots of falling (face and back), I ran most of the time with my arms pin wheeling in the air, I used a lot of 4-letter words out on the race course. The last race I ran was the one at night at UNH [aR's Kingman Farm], that was the one that got me hooked, running down those hills with a little headlamp was a huge boost of adrenaline. I will do more snowshoe races this year... a bit of unfinished business.

Keith, as the executive producer of NHPR’s The Exchange, you must hear and get exposed to some of the most interesting (as well as mundane) stories. Tell us a little about one of your favorites.
NHPR's Keith Shields

Hmm, We did do a show a while back on New Hampshire having a larger than average cremation rate. I decided to do a ‘set up piece’ for the show and visited a crematorium in Manchester and had one of the people there walk me through the process. What I didn’t know was that even after being in the oven for a few hours, parts of the major bones (femur, os coxa, humerus) don’t completely ‘ash-ou’t. So what they do is shovel the remains into a very high powered ‘blender’ and hence... ash. I was able to record that and put in on the airwaves..l a little disgusting but definitely not mundane.

After the huge floods that devastated the Southwest corner of the state in 2005, we decided to do a show the next day on it. A guy who had to be evacuated called in live as he had pulled up to his house. He was still on the air as he walked through his home that was now submerged in several feet of water... It was ‘amazing radio’ as we like to say. Those things can’t be planned.

Also when Senator Joseph Lieberman came on the show I told him that I’ve lived for the past 20 years as a Yankee’s fan in enemy Red Sox terrorist and got a full-on, both arms around the back hug from the Senator.

Okay, serious question. We know you’re a Yankees fan so: Who would win in a fight? Mike Dikta or Derek Jeter? How about Jeter versus a Hurricane? What if the Hurricane’s name was Dikta?

Well Jeter was born in New Jersey, not too far from where I grew up so that gives him magical powers... He could totally take Ditka, especially with a bat in his hand. As for the Hurricane... it depends I guess. The storm... I’d totally put my money on Jeter, if he goes against Hurricane Rubin Carter (“Here comes the story of the Hurricane...”), Well Carter is from Jersey as well so that cancels each other out... a tough call. If he went against Danny and Amber... another tough call as they are the Jeter and Jeteress of the New England multisport world.

Thanks for being on the blog!
Thanks so much- this was fun!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If you run a race and it's not posted on Cool Running, does it count?

When I first started running in 2007, Amber had given me a link to Cool Running where I could look up races throughout the country based on distance or location. Immediately I found a 15k, 20 miler and a marathon that I signed up for as my first three races ever. Since then, I have been hooked. No plans for the weekend? Check Cool Running. How did your friends do at that half-marathon they'd been training for? Check Cool Running. Need a cool homepage? Use Cool Running. Need training tips? Check Cool Running.  Now as a race director I use it to post my upcoming events. AND will post the results.

But what happens if those results don't get posted?
Every great once in a while, I enter a race that does not post the results of the race. When this happens I go through several stages of coping:

First it's perseveration- I check multiple times every day on the Cool Running website to ensure I didn't miss it. I try going from the race's website, from the races/results page of Cool Running, from the event's calendar page. I try everything.

When that doesn't work, I move to ambivalence: I didn't want to see my results, anyway!

Quickly, I move on to pseudo-acceptance: Well, I do have my time on my watch and I know what place I came in so it's okay that it's not online. It was a stupid race anyway!

That soon changes to exaggeration:  I won the race and ran a sub-15 5K! Piece of cake!

As soon as I get called out on that, I move along to panic: Nobody's going to believe me( see above to see if they should) and they won't even know I did it!.

Eventually it turns to acceptance: While I'm not happy about this, it's okay since it's only a race. When I become a race director I will make sure I always post my results.

Everyone's coping strategy is different with some more helpful than others. The thing to remember is that we aren't (or shouldn't be) doing these races for other people or even for the results themselves. There are so many things that are out of our control that if we are only focused on time we will be disappointed time and again. Races are for us to test our fitness or training plan, and to have a fun time being outside with like-minded individuals. Maybe to go somewhere exotic or to be amongst friends. So next time you find out that race you entered didn't post the results, don't fret. Just remember all the fun you had that day and the world record you (supposedly) set, and you should be alright.

Up Next: Granite State 10 Miler Oct 22(Danny), Cape Cod Marathon Oct 30th(Danny), and Ironman Arizona November 20th(Amber)

Monday, October 17, 2011

China Trip

After an eventful late summer and early autumn of my munich trip, white water rafting, deep sea fishing, a marathon, and the Pocono 69.1, time for my Shanghai trip had arrived.

The trip to china started out well. I had stayed at my brother, Matt's, house the night before and he drove me to Logan without issue. I made my connecting flight and Newark and began my first sixteen hour flight of my life.

How did I pass the time? Very easily when they have movies on demand. After not one, not two but three superhero movies(Captain America, Green Lantern, and X-men:First Class) and the Hangover Two I only had another eight hours to fly. As the movie choices got slimmer, I decided to pass my time the best way I know how: sleeping.

Apparently, I can't sleep on a turbulent plane with people yelling across me speaking various dialects of Chinese, and pumping into me as they walked by. No worries. I decided to watch JJ Abrams' Super 8. Kinda reminded me of a 2011 sci-fi Goonies. Got bored of Bad Teacher and Zoo Keeper so ended up just reading. Those last few hours were spent reading "Reading Judas" a non-fiction interpretation of the "Book of Judas" which gives a very different perspective of Jesus' infamous betrayer. Interesting book.

Finally getting off the plane, I was met by a VIP guide arranged by the people I was staying with. He walked me through customs(managed to cut the large line of people waiting for some reason) and out to a car to take me to my apartment.

The drive from the airport to the apartment was an experience in and of itself. Not once did I see a directional in use: everyone merging, braking, and accelerating with what seemed, at first, abandon. After a while I realized that it was more like a well rehearsed dance as all the drivers knew there parts swaying on four lanes of concert at 100 km/hour.

I didn't know what to expect from Shanghai but my sister, Marilyn, warned me that I most likely would not be able to run outside due to the traffic and smog. That makes marathon training pretty challenging. I dislike treadmills enough after one or two miles but definitely am not able to do a long run on one. I had to find another way to train. I decided to take it outside. I made it about thirty minutes, twenty-nine of which was spent dodging scooters, motor-bikes, bikes, vendors, pedesterians, and, once, a car that had gotten up on the sidewalk. I got back to the apartment, thinking that it wasn't too, too bad and I would be able to manage. Only later was I told that it was a national holiday- National Day(which is actually a week long celebrating Mao's famous speech made on Oct 1st,1949) and that only one tenth of the population was out during this week.

It gets busier than this? Apparently much so. The next day I went out for another run, this time shooting for an hour run. I made it about five minutes before feeling the odd sensation that I was having an asthma attack. Not to be too over-dramatic it really felt more like the last .1 of a 5K but definitely not a feeling that I enjoy having, especially not so early in a relatively mild run. I slowed my pace further still and was able to pull off 30 minutes but I had had enough of the smog. Treadmill running it was for me at that point. Luckily the gym at the apartment I was staying at was excellent and my sister and I worked out together almost everyday. While not getting in any long runs, I was able to get some speed work(or it may have just felt like that with the speed in kilometers/hour).

Some artifacts from the Shanghai Museum
The trip wasn't about running though but visiting a country in a continent that I had never been yet read so much about. "The Joy Luck Club", "Chasing the Monk's Shadow", "The Good Earth", the biography of Genghis Kahn, Tao Te Ching and the Tao of Pooh all left me with expectations of what China would be.

I should have kept up with the reading. None of the books were written in the twenty-first century so the authors wouldn't have known of the transformation China had undergone. In 1990, Shanghai had no skyscrapers and now it currently has the second and third highest in the world and has so many that it is difficult to determine which direction is towards the center.
View from the River Boat of the Pudong side of Shanghai
Where tea houses and opium dens once stood now stands massive buildings each trying to outdo the next. Shanghai was nothing like what I predicted of China. We spent a day viewing this new city from the second highest building which looks very similar to a bottle opener and the night viewing it by boat along the Bund River.
The building in the reflection, when completed, will be the tallest in the world.
The way the city was lit up at night was amazing.

Despite the visible changes to the city, it did retain a lot of the "old time charm" that I had expected. Once out for a walk with Marilyn, we came upon a market place with live eels,chickens and ducks as well as hot peppers, nuts, seeds, clothing and a barber shop amongst other things. Also we were able to find some off-the-beaten path tea houses where we sampled teas ranging from the popular oolong to the aged fermented puerh teas. While surprised with how developed Shanghai was, its blend of new and old, and east/west styles(a large part of the city was conceded to various countries in the early 1900's) made for a pleasant "home-base".
View from apartment illustrates how the old and new live side by side

My sister and her boyfriend, Matt with whose parents we were staying, treated me to a trip to Bejing. This trip was amazing. Not only was I able to see the Summer Palaces and Forbidden City for the Emperors of the Ming and Ching dynasties, as well as indulge in local delicacies at some very local eateries and taste all the various teas, was I able to see the Great Wall of China. While being built too late(200CE) to be considered one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, it now holds its rightful place on an updated list.

The Great Wall really holds true in name. How many times have you had the Greatest Cup of Coffee or the World's Best Pizza and it ends up only being pretty good or fairy decent if not downright bad? This was not the case with the GW as I like to call it. Pictures can not capture the steepness of the stairs, the tortuous curves to connect the mountainous peaks, or the immensity of a wall this great.

Most tourists take a gondola to reach the wall from where the road ends, but I decided to run up the steep stairs. Our tour guide said she had once done it in an hour but thought I could run it in thirty minutes. I shot for twenty-five. I made it in eleven. Nothing but step after step to meet my rising feet as I was finally able to breath the clean mountain air I so missed in Shanghai. Gasping for air and with my quads screaming for me to stop, I could imagine ancient warriors having to scale these mountainous cliffs without the aid of the steps, only to be met by this Great Wall that held warriors there to beat back any attack.

After those days in Beijing and the five hour, 1,266 kilometer high-speed train ride back to Shanghai, it was time to take it easy. We went shopping, which against all expectations, I actually found enjoyable.

If their driving is a well-rehearsed dance, a day shopping is an improvised one-act play. Going to a market of high-end products(which we speculate may be "over-produced" at the factories so that there are "extras" to be sold at these markets) is nothing that I had ever seen. I have read about bartering at markets and coming up with a counter-offer somewhere in the range of 20-40 percent lower and then working to a middle ground. Here, however, the vendors would give an outrageous price( 4,000 RMB or $600) and I'd come back with something like 400RMB or 10 percent.

Vendor: Impossible! Give me your best offer!

Danny: That's it that's my best offer.

Vendor: Okay okay, how about this(holds up calculator showing 3,000 RMB).

Danny: I can end this in the States for cheaper than that. 400.

Vendor: I am here to make friends not money- you're killing me! 2,000!

Danny: Actually I don't think I want it at all- look that this right here. Doesn't look like good quality.

Vendor: No, no, no! The best quality. Only the best. Real leather- look( holds a lighter to the product(cannot divulge what it is as someone will be seeing it under the christmas tree)). 1,200!

Danny: (starting to leave) I can maybe go as high as 425 but that's it.

Vendor: You joke! Best offer,best offer!?

Danny: 425.

Vendor: 500.

Danny: 450.

Vendor: Okay.

This was how it went at every single spot we stopped, and I knew I paid too much when the vendor would immediately accept my first counter-offer. The whole experience, while extremely different from the spiritual one on the GW, was very enjoyable and made me feel like I had gotten a little more of an authentic Chinese experience.

Overall, I had an amazing trip but was glad when I arrived back in Boston. The best trips are made like this- where you see and do enough to get the sense of a city, experience its true nature but not so busy that you arrive back so exhausted that you need another vacation to recover. Now back, I've got one week to pick up my mileage again before it's time to taper for the Cape Cod Marathon.

View from the glass observatory on the top of the second tallest building in the world

The Drum Tower

Inside the bottom of the Drum Tower

The Summer Palace

Up Next:  Granite State 10 Miler this weekend, Cape Cod Marathon next weekend for Danny, and IM Arizona November 20 for Amber.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pocono Mountains 70.3 Race Report

As noted in last blog, the swim was canceled due to substantial flooding on the Delaware River. After seeing the river for myself, I could appreciate that they canceled it. This river typically runs at around 4-5 feet of water and it was at nearly 18 feet. The flooding was immense and the water looked like it was going very fast. The course required that we swim upstream to the first buoy, then downstream until the last few hundred yards which would go back upstream. I could just imagine myself getting pulled out of the water due to the time cut-off without ever having made it to the first turn.

I expected that the lack of a swim, the predicted rain and cold temperatures would deter some racers but come race day, close to the 2,000 pre-registered athletes showed up. All except one pro female triathlete made the start.

Without the swim, the race became a time trial with the pro's taking off every 30 seconds followed by the age-groupers every 3-5 seconds. As a pro Amber started out almost an hour ahead of me as my bib number of 1919 put me almost all the way in the back of the pack. Both starts had their advantages and disadvantages. For Amber's part she had an unimpeded ride on the course, but was second guessing herself at several road junctions where she wasn't sure on which way to go and also couldn't necessarily pace herself off any other riders as there were none around. I, on the other hand, had the benefit of the draft of 1,900+ previous riders, but also had to continuously ride around many of these riders; some of whom appeared to never have gotten on a bike before. There was passing to the left of me, passing to the right and here I was stuck in the middle with you. Not YOU, but the ubiquitous you embodied in the form of the sluggish, mountain or hybrid bike rider who must have at the last minute decided a 56 mile bike ride would be fun. Lots of braking, skidding, ducking and dodging ensued for my ride.

As much as I like to say that all those people blocking my way was a disadvantage, I actually believe that it may have helped me, because there was never a time that I could just leisurely ride as I was always coming into people's drafts. This forced me to be continuously picking up my pace to get past each group. Also, since there was so many people around me all the time, I couldn't do my typical "I'm the king of the world" riding which involves no-hands and upright sitting while singing various show tunes.

I got off the bike feeling strong and ready to run. Elapsed time: 2:37:00- 21 mph, 100th overall.

The night before I had decided that I waste too much time in transition tying my shoes. Apparently in kindergarten I learned how to tie laces with two bunny ears and to this day that's the extent of my knot tying abilities. As such, I end up struggling to get out of transition with my age-group(and otherwise age appropriate) peers. I, thus, came up with this ingenious plan to tie my shoes the night before and just slip them on for the run. Fool-proof. Except: Apparently I hadn't tied them tight enough because within the first mile my feet were killing me as I tried with all my might to keep from kicking off my shoes with every step. I finally resolved to stop at which point my ape hands prevented me from untying the double knot that I was fastidiously tied the night before. After about a minute or so fumbling with the laces, I finally was able to untie, tighten, and re-tie my laces. And I was back!

Prior to untying my laces, I had seen Tim Snow and Ryan Kelly pass me going towards the finish. Ryan yelled over to me to watch out for the hills. "Oh great, Adirondack Marathon all over again." I thought. Rather than beat myself up over the impending hills, I just settled into a comfortably hard pace, picking off runners as I ran by. I got to the turn-around averaging slightly under 6:30 pace which was about 15 seconds off pace but with all the hills I had just climbed I was pretty happy with. All downhill from here, right? Well, apparently not. Although I thought I had been climbing the whole way out, I had missed all the downhills that I had also covered. Now as uphills, I definitely did not miss them. I slowed a little over the last few miles, which I blame on the lack of people running a similar pace. It is really easy sometimes to get into other runners' paces and not push yourself as hard as you could. Despite the slightly slower second half, I finished up with a 1:25:28 which brought me to 45th overall finish for the day with a time of 4:03:56. An excellent time if there was a swim involved.

 Amber had a tough race, having picked up the cold that I gave her, racing somewhat blind to her competitors as well as not having the advantage of a swim to get a lead on some of the other pros. Despite a bike best described as below her abilities, she did manage to have a solid run on a very hilly course against some very strong competitors, including Desiree Ficker, a pro triathlete that Amber used to follow before she even got into the sport herself.

So while Amber may tell you that she was disappointed with the final outcome of the day, I would say that she gained a lot of insight of the importance of pacing and sighting on the bike and how never to give up as she, on another day, could have run herself back into top five. As it was she finished with  a solid 4:16 for Top Ten Female.

Up Next: Danny's off to China, then back for the Granite State 10 Miler with Am on October 23rd.