Friday, August 30, 2013

Vegas Baby!

I was going to start this blog out with a quote from Swingers, but then I got started thinking about some of the other great quotes from movies set in Vegas, that I decided to compile a list of them modified, of course to be triathlon appropriate. Here goes:

"We had two bags of protein powder, fifteen pounds of bike, five high powered CO2 cartidges, a salt shaker half full of electrolyte mix, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored GUs, tubes, goggles, race belts, and bibs... and also a quart of gatorade, a quart of EFS, a case of bottled water, a pint of raw talent and 70.3 miles to go.

Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious triathlon collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can."
--- Hunter S Thompson is probably rolling over in his grave. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

"I don't know if my wife left me because of my triathlon or I started triathlon 'cause my wife left me."
  ---Sadly, more than one triathlete on their failed marriage –Leaving Las Vegas

"If the syrup is on the table after the pancakes, then it will definitely be too late."
-- Amber(and RAINMAN) on the big breakfast the morning before the race.

"Running a triathlon is like robbing a bank with no cops around. For guys like me, Las Vegas washes away your sins. It’s like a morality car wash."
---Time for a little bath… Casino

"Drafting isn't illegal, it's just frowned upon, like masterbating on a plane[awkward silence] Errr that is also illegal." ---Triathlete's cheaters' version of the Hangover. 
"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten."
---You can't win the races you don't start. Let's get out there and see what we can do. Fear and Loathing

"Las Vegas. A city built of hot sand, broken dreams and $5 lobster. A city where you can get a happy ending, if you pay a little extra. A city home to a sporting event greater than the World Cup, World Series and World War II combined."
--- The 70.3 World Championships! Or Dodgeball

"I haven't seen a beatin' like that since somebody stuck a banana in my pants and turned a monkey loose."
---My prediction of Amber doing some serious beat-downs Vegas Vacation-style.

Sooo. Now that that unpleasantness is behind us. As you can tell, Vegas is coming up. Amber will be competing against the World's best long-course triathletes at the 70.3 World Championships. It has taken her all season to prepare for this race. Her fitness and race preparation is exactly where it should be and it all comes down to guts.   Unlike when the World Championships were in Clearwater, Vegas promises to be a fair and challenging course. In addition to the heat(and boy is it hot!), there bike ride has many steep climbs on it. St. George was actually an excellent prep race for Amber, as it had a very competitive field and will be very similar in temperature and terrain.   On September 8th, click on the Ironman live coverage link and send Amber your thoughts and support and we may just turn that monkey loose:)  
                                                           A video of monkeys from Costa Rica  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Danny's Extreme Weekend

I had originally planned to be racing the Mesa Falls Marathon on the border of Idaho and Wyoming this past weekend in order to lower my Boston qualifying time a bit to ensure that would get in. However while I was dilly-dallying trying to get a cheaper flight, my brother Matt informed me that his wife, Cindy, was pregnant. This was really exciting for many reasons. One reason was that I was going to be an uncle to, what I expect to be, a very cute little niece. Another reason, almost equally exciting, was his wife's inability to go sky-diving with Matty. My sis, Marilyn, had bought them sky-diving adventure which expired this year. What was Cindy's loss was my gain. So instead of flying out to Wyoming, we decided to do an adventure weekend.

I already had scheduled time off Friday through Monday so I spent my Friday riding to and from my parents house and stacking some wood in between. I don't think I've ever bonked like I did on those rides. While neither ride was terribly long, they added up for someone not used to riding much more than an hour. It amazes me how Amber can do rides longer than that on a nearly daily basis. Not coming as much of a surprise, I slept well that night. 
A muffin stop was needed on my ride home

I awoke early the next morning to get down to Pepperall Mass for some sky-diving. Despite the ground being the hardest ground of sky-diving, the paperwork takes a close second. After signing our lives away(and watching a video of a lawyer explaining just that) we spent about thirty seconds reviewing what we were supposed to do before getting in a plane. Plane is a generous term. This plane was only slightly larger than those gliders without engines. We ascended at a steep pitch for about ten minutes and suddenly the plane leveled off, the rear door opened and it appeared that they were just being thrown out the door. Matty and I were the last two jumpers and I can tell you that when you're over 10 thousand feet off the ground in a plane, your body does a good jump trying to convince you it would prefer to stay in the nice comfortable remote control sized airplane. And yet suddenly you are out the door. For about 2-3 seconds, it felt similarly to a roller coaster but suddenly your body acclimates and it feels more like flying. Moments later we deploy the parachute and the scenic ride begins. Despite being quite a bit a ways from the ocean we could clearly make it out as well as Boston's sky-line and the mountains of New Hampshire. The whole thing lasted about 10 minutes and was definitely worth it. 
"Literally Thousands of risks"

After landing, Matty and I got back in our cars and made our way north for the second part of our adventure. My parents had gotten me gift certificates for a ropes course and ziplining tour which we were going to do on Sunday. That left the rest of Saturday to golf, dinner and staring at the beautiful stars that can only be seen in Northern NH. 
Matty golfing
After Matt beating me handily(I had two boogies and everything else was worse!), we spent the rest of the day leisurely hanging out with my parents and uncle Billy. 

We awoke early to drive to Lincoln, NH for the ziplining. After being weighed-in and ensuring that neither of us was taller than 6'5" we took a very bumpy ride to the top of the zipline course. This course has zip and "zap" lines which we didn't quite understand until we were out there. The zaplines are ziplines that don't lose any elevation so you have to give yourself a really good start or you can get stuck halfway across. They were fun but the real fun of course was the ziplines that carried you through the tree line sometimes over 200 feet off the ground. We would often take off and land on little platforms 100 feet off the ground. We spent the majority of the morning going from one to the next which did work up quite an appetite. 

After the zipline, we decided we'd stop at the Woodstock Inn. I had assumed the adventures were over by now but I was in for a surprise. For lo and behold on the menu was the "Double Death by Burger Challenge". The death by burger was an 18 ounce burger on a BLT set-up. As the name implies the double death by burger was double that. 36 ounces of burger? No problem! 

Matty: Come on you can do it. Look you get a t-shirt if you do it.
Danny: Errr. I'm really not all that hungry.
Matty: Danny, you're wearing your VT100 t-shirt despite DNFing it, it's time to make up for that.
Danny: Errr. I actually DNF'd in twice. 
Matty: See. You definitely need to do this.
Danny: Well, I will get my name on the hall of fame if I can do it.
Matty[to the waitress]: I'll have the veggie burger and he'll have the Double Death By Burger.

If you never have participated in an eating contest, the closest thing I can liken it to is a marathon. The first few bites(and miles) seem easy and you get confident. You quickly pay for this over-confidence in the mid-section of the contest where you realize that you're only half-way through the burger(or marathon) and all that effort you put in for the first half has to be replicated. And with me, the last stage in apathy where I no longer care about the outcome of the contest... This thing was so big that I ate it as two separate burgers and after going strong came up one bun short of completion. So in addition to two VT100 DNF's I now also have a DDBB DNF under my belt. 
An over-confident Danny

The size of Danny's head. Which if you have seen it in person, is REALLY big. 

Just a huge bun left of the challenge=fail
And that left Monday which started with a nice trail run with Amber. I had no intentions of anything remotely extreme so I headed to the Y for a little pick-up basketball. Well, apparently the college kids haven't gone back yet so I ended up playing probably the most competitive games I have in several years and ended up with a rolled ankle. Of course. 

I think my body will be looking for to me going back to work tomorrow. 

Up Next: My cousin's wedding this weekend and then IRONMAN 70.3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS  for Amber on September 8th. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Amber Ferreira Podiums at Timberman 70.3

This past weekend Amber raced Timberman 70.3 which was her first race back since the European Ironman Championships five weeks before. Amber had only did the swim-bike of last year's edition because her hip was bothering her so this year was particularly exciting for her since she would actually be able to race. Additionally, since it's so close to home, it was nice that she wouldn't have to pack up her bike and fly to a race for once. And the Timberman course is kind of like her home field so she definitely wanted to take advantage of it. So, suffice it to say, she was READY TO GO! 

Also Audra, the race director, invited Amber to be on the pro panel this year. Below you can hear most of the discussion:
In the pro panel discussion, she was accompanied by the World Champion, Melissa Hauschildt(nee Rollinson) and Amanda Stevenson, also an Ironman Champion and amazing swimmer. When Amber was asked how she expected to compete, she noted that she wanted to hang on to Amanda's feet during the swim as long as she could "about ten seconds" and then just race her own race. In addition to these two ladies, Mandy McLane who has been having a great 2013 season, the speedy Miranda Tomenson, the IM South Africa and Mont Tremblant champion, Jessie Donovan and the ever-competitive Heather Leiggi amonst others were also toeing the line to get some early points for next year.

I was volunteering at T1 so I didn't have an opportunity to see Amber start the swim but I imagine that she must have hung on to Amanda's feet a little longer but she took off. Amanda got out of the water almost a full 3 minutes ahead of the next three women who were: Amber, Heather and Mandy with Melissa only seconds behind. This is a video of the transition from where I was volunteering:

Amber's Swim Time: 27:18 good enough for 4th place

I stayed busy for the next few hours volunteering with T1 and making sure everyone had their helmets on(pretty common), buckled(fairly common), and in the right direction(I actually saw FOUR people with their helmets on BACKWARDS!).

Myles Chase, owner of MC Cycles, was out of the bike course helping out with mechanicals and he kept me abreast of Amber's progression when he could. As you can see Melissa had already caught and passed Amber and Miranda out of T1 and she was went on to pass Amanda as well. Amber rode within sight of Mandy and Miranda until Miranda suffered a flat tire, which when you're riding 650 tubular wheels pretty much means your race is over.
So Amber arrived into T2 in third place about 7 1/2 minutes back on Amanda after Amber rode an average of 22.5mph!

As you can see from the below video and was coursing on the run course:

The Timberman course is a two lap run so I was able to see Amber on multiple occasions. She looked strong throughout the half marathon. She ended up cutting a few minutes off of Amanda's lead but just didn't have enough distance to catch her. However, she was able to hold off Mandy and the fast feet of Jessie Donovan who had given up just too much time on the swim. Amber ended up running a 1:27:17 for a third place finish time of 4:26:54! Not bad!

All in all, it was a great race to watch and it is nice that Amber has already netted some points for next year's 70.3 Championships. Speaking of which.....


Amanda, Amber and Melissa at the finish

Friday, August 16, 2013

Retirement and Training

After the longest hiatus between races that Amber has had all season, with the exception of little old Top Notch, Amber will be racing this Sunday up in Gilford, NH at Timberman 70.3. This race will be a great indicator of how well her training has increased her fitness and will be a great prep race for the 70.3 World Championships a mere three weeks later. The more I think about it, triathlon is a lot like life and, in particular, like saving for retirement. There are usually two types of people in regards to retirement: the live like each day could be your last and the delayed gratification people who would rather not spend now so that they have enough money for later.

The first group has the more obvious problem of typically not having enough money to retire safely and happily. In respect to triathletes, I fit this mold-finding plenty of things other than training that prevents me from ever acruing enough fitness to get the desired race outcome. My lack of training is obvious but what is less obvious but just as nefarious is the frequent withdrawers. You know the type. They race every weekend which is fun and could be used to build fitness but usually does the opposite as it nevers allows for enough fitness to build to reap the benefits that training affords. Just like if you save for retirement but frequently withdraw from your 401k to make short-term purchases.

The second group is usually the one that people aspire to become and why not, right? If you can put off making any withdrawals now, you can have plenty of fun later, right? The problem with this for retirement is that you are a)missing out on a lot of good times now and b) may not be able to do the things you love to do by the time you retire. Similarly, if you never ever race except for that one big A race of the year, you may run into problems because you haven't worked out all the kinks, haven't necessarily prepped your body to go hard, and haven't gone head to head with your competitors. And just like in retirement with a recession, you may find things out of your control like the swim being canceled that may prevent you from enjoying the one and only race that you have prepared for. An almost bigger problem though isn't the snafu's you may run into, but rather the investment strategies in place. If you put aside all your money into Gold and it deprecates in value, you aren't any better than if you haven't saved. Same with training: only do long, slow runs and preparing to run a fast marathon off the bike? Well your investment strategy is not meshing with your plans and I wouldn't expect a great outcome.

Therefore, for life and for triathlon, I would recommend a compromise between the two ends of this spectrum. Put aside money(training) for races or retirement(financial specialists recommend a minimum of 15% of your salary) but still take time to enjoy your life day to day with retirement previews, like a fun trip somewhere (or a smaller and less important race). If you dread your work or training, you're missing the point. This is our only chance to live this life and we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible while still staying responsible so we can meet our goals. If you can have small little goals that help do this, you may come back to your work(or training) feeling invigorated and ready to perform better than ever.

Amber has certainly been doing a good job saving for the 70.3 World Championships and I think she's ready now to make a small deposit for Timberman this weekend. If you're in the neighborhood, swing by and cheer her on. I know she'll appreciate it.

Up Next: Timberman 70.3 -August 18th.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Women Get No Respect

Both my younger brother and sister were spectacular basketball players, each scoring over 1,000 points in high school on the "pass first, pass second and only shoot as the last resort" principle. They both also went on to play successfully at the collegiate level. What I noticed with them and what I am seeing now as Amber gets to become a better and better athlete, is the disparity between men and women's sports. My sister games wouldn't get nearly the attendance of the men's games despite the fact they were oftentimes far more exciting. It seemed that she also didn't get quite as much of the newspaper coverage as the men's teams nor the acclaim.

The reason I bring this up is that I've seen this happen to Amber several times in the last few years, most recently this past weekend at the Top Notch Triathlon. For the second year in a row, Amber broke the female course record, placed in the top six overall and yet no one made mention of her course record demolition. In fact, this year in the men's race, the course record was also broken and they couldn't seem to stop talking about it and then for Amber-crickets.

I read a quote once that said that women have to work twice as hard to get half the respect and I think that might just be about right.

Just looking at qualifying for the 70.3 Championships, 50 males qualify while only 35 females do. Why is this? The argument could be made that there are more male pros then females but that argument is limited as when you look at the depths of the two respective fields, it is the women's field that has more athletes who, race in and race out, vie for a podium finish. As opposed to the men who have some superstars and then a lot more of the also rans.

Amber placed as the fifth US women at the Mount Washington road race which was the qualifier for the US mountain running team a few years ago. The team took ten runnners. Five males and five females? Nope six and four. In that instance, the men's field was far deeper but still it would be great to see even numbers at some of these races. 

Other than Zoot providing apparel and shoes and, of course, the awesome help of MC Cycles, Amber has not been approached by any sponsors while we see male pros who haven't had nearly her caliber of season, receiving substantially more sponsorship help.

When you think about all the things up against women, a)physically (higher percentage of body fat, less testosterone, less oxygen carrying capacity, less lean muscle mass and density PLUS increased risk of injury), b) physiologically(women pros often have to make the choice of being a mother or an athlete-or at least a reduced volume athlete), c) economically(collegiate women only receive 33% of athletic recruitment dollars and many sports are drastically different in salaries[this is where triathlon and tennis are the exceptions]) and d) socially(I know I never have to worry about running alone in the woods, vans passing by on a back road, or getting cat calls[which I'm not sure I would mind;)], it's amazing that so many women do so well. 

And even when women do well, it seems like society is up against them. In addition to the lack of mention and uneven distribution of team allocation, there are artifical contrivances to make it even harder on women. Just take a look at Paula Radcliff'e's amazing marathons and how the IAAF tried stripping her of the records because she "benefitted from faster male pace-setters". Ahhhh, kind of like every time a guy runs a race when he's not the fastest one running it? Most races even have official(and far more often unofficial) rabbits to take the pace out fast with no expectation of winning. And yet when a woman does it, it's cheating? There hasn't been a single woman fast enough to race in the Tour De France? Really? Or how about when pro female triathletes often have to start with the corporate athletes(like at the European Championships)? Not quite the same as the men who have a clear field to swim through.
He runs(throws, punches etc) like a girl. This pejorative statement isn't really used as a compliment but I know many girls that I would like to run like.

Where are all the female sports on television? How can young girls decide to play a sport, or race if all they see are men doing them? I think my sister did so well at basketball because she had three older brothers who modeled the behavior but also included and encouraged her to play basketball. If you don't expose females to these activities, how can we expect there to ever be equal participation? Amber(and maybe Marilyn) will probably get mad at me for complaining, saying that look at all the good things that have come out of sport and that there is far more positive than negative. She'd say that who cares if no one knew she broke the course record. She'd be right that it doesn't really matter if she got recognized, and she did qualify for the 70.3 Worlds and she wouldn't have been able to compete in the World mountain running championships if she had made the team. BUT STILL. Things are not equal and I hate to see Amber not get the recognition or the sponsorships that she deserves just because she's female.

We have made great strides towards inclusion but if you happen to be a race director and a woman breaks the course record, give her the props that she deserves. Because she does certainly deserve them.

Amber picking and passing a male competitor at Top Notch Tri

Addendum: After posting this article, Paul Kirsch the US Mountain Running Director and Cranmore Mountain Race Director, clarified the reason for the disparity of the team. In his words: "the reason it is 6 and 4 athletes for the mountain team is because that is what is allowed at the World Mountain Running Championships for teams. I am not saying that it should be that way but our focus at that race is to mimic what would occur at Worlds and the WMRA only allows teams of 4 women at this point so us picking 5 would have no purpose. In years it is not a qualifier, you will notice that men and women do the same exact distance. Not trying to defend the disparity but I wanted you to know it's not something the Cranmore Hill Climb or the USA Mountain Champs is trying to do, it's to mimic Worlds. I should also mention- prize money for men and women at Cranmore this year was evenly distributed- top 5 men, top 5 women got the money as I think that is important to be done evenly."

Up Next: Danny returns from Costa Rica just in time for Amber to compete at TIMBERMAN 70.3!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hiking, A Float Down the Merrimack and the Bear Brook Marathon

Upon returning from Germany, I've dedicated my summer to getting outdoors as often as I can. After Amber and my hike with Michael Wade, I have had several other fun outdoor excursions. The following Wednesday, my childhood friend, Barry, and I headed back up north to do the Lafayette-Little Haystack Loop. For a peak that typically brings with it some pretty lousy weather, I have been getting very lucky this year on top of it. We had a great day of hiking and catching up. I still have not gone left at the fork in the road on Falling Waters Trail to "Shining Rock". I am usually tired enough after the nearly three miles of straight up that I opt for the summit. I posited this option to Barry but he, like me, wanted no part of it. We will have to save it for another day. He and I are pretty evenly matched hikers so most distances don't feel like a lot of effort just more of a good workout while enjoying the beauty of the Whites.

 The following Wednesday brought  a very different type of adventure with my cousin, Joey. 
Danny: What do you want to do today?
Joey: I'm up for anything
Danny: Wanna buy some inner tubes and float down the Merrimack River?
Joey: Sounds like fun.  
That's the cool thing about Joey, he really is up for almost anything.
Danny: Hey Joey, wanna drive to Cincinnati and run a marathon?
Joey: I haven't run in several months but sure thing.
Danny: Hey Joey, wanna spontaneously fly down to Atlanta for Hotoberfest?
Joey: Sure thing.
Danny: Hey Joey, wanna pick me up at midnight in Boston?
Joey: Errrr. Not so much. [but then he does it]

And so it goes.
And so we went to the store to buy inner tubes but apparently they don't sell adult sized inner tubes very many places and rather than try to fit our bodies into child sized rubber ducky inner tubes we ended up going to the camping section and buying inflatable camping mattresses. We packed ourselves some fruit, wore our running gear(because we had to somehow get back to the car after) and proceeded to float down the Merrimack River. Despite suffering  from a pretty bad sunburn, it was well worth the trip. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see the less industrial side of the Merrimack at a slow meandering pace. Just bring bug spray for the walk to the river and sunscreen while on the river 

 That weekend I spontaneously decided that I would run the Bear Brook Marathon.
The Bear Brook marathon is put on by aR's Ryan Welts and he sure made it a day to remember. My buddy Rich had been training for this race for a while and I decided to run it with him for moral support. To get a good summary of the race, see Michael Wade's blog. To get a good idea about a secret stash of blueberries read on.
Rich and I ran pretty much the whole race within 400 yards of each other and found some pretty cool areas that we will have to explore more. There looked to be a good amount of boulder-able rocks in one section of the run and as we came upon mile 21, we found a HUGE field of ready-to be picked blueberries. And they were ready to be picked by us. Then. During the marathon. Yes we, in fact, did stop and pick several handfuls of the delicious treats before continuing on. Ryan is a sneaky devil hailing the marathon as slightly longer(26.7 miles) but then adding on ANOTHER 1/2 mile after the fact. So we ended up running a 27.2 mile marathon(or ultramarathon). The blueberries did make it worth it. 
I would definitely recommend this marathon again not only because it was a cool venue with a great group of people but also because it was offroad which allowed me to recover considerably faster than a typical road marathon. I actually went for a six mile run with Amber the next day and felt fine. Which is unusual for me running with Amber. She was probably just taking it easy on me.  

Rich and Danny at the finish of the marathon
Rich coming in strong-Danny pulling up the caboose

Danny and Barry at the Summit of Lafayette

Amber and Danny on Guyot

As if that wasn't enough fun outdoors for one weekend, that following Wednesday, I met up with Myles and a few of his friends(I'd like to think mine now too) for the Presidential Traverse. The Presidential Traverse is a beast! You immediately start by ascending over 4,000 feet in under 4 miles to get to Madison(we went from Valley Way). As if that's not bad enough, it's all small to mid-sized boulders that you have to scramble up, over and around. Descend down to Madison hut then back up to Adams then Jefferson, Clay, Washington. After a pit stop at Washington, we continued on with Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce. Over 9,000 feet of elevation gain for the 20+ miles of hiking. Our feet were certainly sore for the rest of the day. But to use the term Michael Wade coined, we probably had nearly 8 lpms (laughs per mile).
Brett, Myles, Chris and Danny

Up Next: Oh, a little thing called TOP NOTCH TRIATHLON tomorrow morning for Amber, Deidre and our friend Sarah Morris doing her first EVER triathlon! Amber has the women's course record but she's going for the MEN'S! Watch out Chris Freeman!