Monthly Archives: April 2011

4/27/11 Bike Bliss

Wednesday.  Today’s “Well” blog in the New York Times discusses whether or not exercise boosts mood.   I really don’t think you need such fancy studies, go exercise and come back and see how your mood is.  Is it better?  Probably. NY Times Does Exercise Really Boost Your Mood?

I don’t get the same kind of “high” from all kinds of exercise.  In fact I have never experienced runner’s high.  Probably because I don’t run hard or fast enough.  I experience runner’s “serenity.”  I feel running or jogging or whatever you call what I do elicits a more meditative state.  I don’t get swimming high either.  In swimming I get a feeling of  feeling stronger and more powerful the longer I’m in the water.  But I don’t feel a mood elevation.  I do think running and swimming make me feel better — they make feel calmer and therefore happier but I don’t feel a mood elevation.

But the bike.  That’s a different story.  I get bike bliss. I miss bike bliss.  I want more bike bliss. Bike bliss was the best part of training for an Ironman for me.  I would come back from practice on Thursday mornings and I was high.  I felt like I could conquer the world.  Give me any problem and I could solve it — with a smile!!  Even long rides, coming down Riverside drive heading home I would always get this feeling of all is right and my mood would be lifted.  I was also hungry about that time but it was a great feeling.

I haven’t had any bike bliss in a long time.  Haven’t had any coached rides since last year and I really stunk up the paceline last year anyway.  I did come home with my bike bliss but it was always flavored with a sprinkling of exhaustion or dizziness or sadness that I just couldn’t keep up any more.

I’ve been having a really good time working out with Jen the last couple of weeks.  I can’t keep up with her but just getting back out on the bike and sucking wind up State Line and Tallman hurts in a good way.  Every time I make it up I feel a little better or stronger.  I’m not riding my tri bike Tina now, I’m riding my road bike Betty as that will be closer to what I ride for Alcatraz.

Today I finally got a coached workout in with Coach Adam.  I had to go for the 6 a.m. slot because daytime hours were just not working out.  Somebody’s work would get in the way.  I had a 1 hour workout this morning.  We just repeated Harlem Hills.  I think it was six times.  I lost count in my breathlessness.  Pushing as hard as I could only to have Adam tell me faster feet, push harder.  I felt a little embarrassed that I couldn’t push any harder.  I was just sucking wind.  But I can say without a doubt I gave it all I had.

My only complaint about biking these last weeks is that I’ve been experiencing knee pain on every ride.   I didn’t remember knee pain on my tribike.  I was just chalking it up to being out of shape but I finally broke down and contacted Coach Jay about getting my bike fit looked at.  He was kind enough to take me at 7:15 this morning after my workout with Adam.  I told him I didn’t want anything fancy (I heard tell of video tape analysis etc.)   I had done my initial bike fit myself and I thought it was pretty good.  Maybe I just needed to move my seat back an inch (which turned out to be the opposite of what I needed.)

He took some measurements and I was happy to see that he wasn’t making any changes to my seat height or position.  I knew that I had done that right. When I sat on my bike my knees were at the right angle, I felt my leg extension was good.

He had me ride my bike for a bit.  He nodded a few times and mumbled something about “as I thought.”    He noticed my hands were on the front part of my handlebars and not on the hoods or in the drops.  No too uncomfortable I said, unless I’m trying to catch someone then I get down in my drops and push.  But the pressing my hands on the front of handlebars  was causing numbness in my hands.

Then he showed me the shocker.  He showed me the video tape.  I didn’t know he was video taping me!  At first I was a little upset but as soon as he showed me the red lines it was fascinating.  The red lines show the proper angle and if your fit is right your knee will fall in the red line.  When I was just sitting on my bike and holding the front of my handle bars the fit was correct.  But as soon as I had to shift or go into the drops, I couldn’t quite reach so I scooted forward and my knees jutted out past the red line.  He explained it was like doing hundreds of squats with your knees going out over your toes.  That’s why my knees were hurting.  And that’s also why I wasn’t getting the extension or power any more. It made total sense.

So he adjusted the handlebar height and angle so I didn’t have to reach to get to my hoods or into the drops.  It was an immediate miracle!  I started to pedal and it seemed effortless.  I could rest my hands on the brake hoods with no discomfort.  My Drops were just as easy.  Well I’ll be!!!  I felt an immediate and marked difference.  Wow.  He also suggested that I invest in orthotics for my shoes because I pronate and when I push down I could be torquing my knee ever so little.

I left the bike fit and rode home.  I couldn’t believe the difference.  I felt like I was flying.  There was my old leg extension I used to feel on my tri bike.  There was a little power (not a lot) but definitely more than before.  I felt comfortable!!  It was great!!

So now I’ve got my bike bliss back.  I feel happy.  Ready to ride even more. I’ll alert the NY Times….


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4/21/11 A Good Coach is Hard to Find

Thursday. Not much news to report on the fitness front. Nothing bad. Nothing great. Had a few big social obligations to fulfill and now I have a month where I don’t have too much on the calendar. In an interesting space. Not worried about anything. Once I get through Alcatraz, I’m done for awhile. No other big goals — yet. I think this is how normal people live. Just an hour or two of exercise a day and then they live their lives… I’m not up at 4 a.m. every morning any more. I sometimes sleep all the way to 6 a.m.   I know!  Shocking!

Training has been going okay I guess. Been swimming and riding with Jen two days a week. Taking a spin class once a week and doing some core with a trainer.  He’s okay, nice kid but he’s green.  Been running on my own (more walking than running) twice a week. I feel terribly guilty riding only to Piermont and then I have to remind myself that my race is “only” 18 miles and Piermont is 30 round trip from the bridge. I feel terribly guilty run/walking only 90 minutes or 2 hours and then I have to remind myself that the run is “only” 8 miles. I feel terribly guilty swimming only 1 hour and then I remind myself that the swim is only 1.5 miles and I’ve been doing 3,000 meters twice a week. I don’t feel particularly in shape — in fact I know I’m not but the weirdest part of it all is I’m not particularly worried about any of it. I’m just not revved up. I feel fine but I don’t have any of that race angst I’ve come to know and live with for the last 8 years. It’s a weird feeling to not go out for longer than 3 hours for any workout. You can actually fit a life in there. Imagine.

I was hoping to report on my new coached bike sessions but I got stood up!!! I have to say not many things bother me (lol, yeah I know that cracked me up too) but I especially cannot stand being stood up for appointments. What is so hard about using a calendar? I got myself dressed and dragged my butt to the park and waited like a dork for the coach to show. It was apparent after 15 minutes he wasn’t coming. Of course later he apologized profusely but seriously? You couldn’t let me know before? I did some lame Harlem Hill repeats. It was hard to keep my motivation up and my annoyance down.

So I called one of my other former Trilife coaches and set something up for him on Tuesday. He got called into work but at least he let me know the day before that he had to cancel so I was okay with that. We’ll try again next week. Frankly I don’t even know if at this point bike coaching is going to help me. I think going out with Jen and just going up and down Tallman a bunch of times is just as good.

I’m aware a good coach is hard to find. I’ve been very lucky in my life. I’ve had some amazing coaches. In my adult life I’ve come to really value my coaches as life guides. In tennis I’ve been blessed to have Marlie in my corner as chief mentor and psychotherapist who still tries to help me get out of my own way. And of course Bogie – the Bulgarian golden arm who taught me that it is okay to be aggressive and attack (like I needed permission).  And she was the first one that made me feel that 40 can be competitive!  Then of course triathlons and all my amazing coaches there. All the wisdom they have shared and drama they endured with me. Coach Shifu is legendary to legions of athletes and at one time actually used my name and the word “athlete” in the same sentence.  It made me cry (that was a long time ago — before the end). I call Lisa Smith-Batchen my dream coach because there is nobody on this planet who will make you believe you can do anything in the world more than Lisa.  Marathon on Saturn — absolutely — you can do it!!  We’ll train you to run without oxygen!

Of course I realize that my friends have been just as influential in my training. They are coaches too. Pushing me and believing in me even when I have had doubted myself in the darkest moments. I’ve been blessed.

All of my coaches and friends have helped me see a different perspective of me.  And sometimes that different perspective leads to dreaming a little broader.  Really?  You think I could do that?  You think I have some dormant skills?  I’m not the worst you’ve ever seen?  Suddenly you start to look at your goals and belief system and start to question.  Maybe I can do a marathon.  Maybe I can do an Ironman.  Maybe I can run across the desert…  Nah, that’s ridiculous even for me.  I think that is one of the blessings of coaching — professional or otherwise.  They push you just ever so gently out of your comfort zone.  Sometimes you fall on your ass, sometimes you get a medal.   Either way you’ve grown a little.

Last night I went to my first meeting of the Galloway runners. I joined the group and plan on running with them on Saturday mornings. I ran with them once last summer but I got in with a group that was too fast.  It will be nice to start at the beginning with them and find the right pace group. The meeting was interesting. Jeff Galloway was actually there and that was my first time actually seeing him live. My first reaction was “Man he is Skinny!!!” I realized I had been confusing him with John Bingham aka “The Penguin.” I had been thinking Galloway was just an average guy who took up running. No, he’s been running his entire life and was very competitive in his youth. He was on the 1972 Olympic team for the 10k.  I have to admit my second reaction was “great another skinny guy telling me how to run.” I’m not going to be a 4 hour marathoner — it’s not going to happen and I don’t even care about that. I just want to have some adventures and spend time out on the trails. It’s just a social activity for me.

But he turned out to be a kind man and a real coach. You could tell by the way he talked he was one of those rare people who can actually look at a six hour marathon and consider that a legit result and he’ll work with where ever you are.  It’s all in the numbers and the training plan. The calculated pace, the science of run/walk breaks. I liked him. I think it is hard once someone goes into the world of marketing themselves as a product to keep it real. But I think he somehow manages it. At least for me, I thought he seemed genuine.  I’ll admit, he has his spiel down, but really, don’t we all?

After he left, the local NYC chapter had their intro meeting. About 25% of the room were returning Gallowayers. The rest of us were newbies. First the head gal named De spoke and she told about the program. They run every Saturday morning. They have a bunch of pace groups from 8 minute milers to very slow (even slower than me!). Once we start running more than 13 miles they have one aid stop on every long run.  They run all over – not just central park.  They run in all 5 boroughs and try to mix it up.   Nobody gets left behind, one of the group leaders will always stay back with anyone hurting.

The best part was at the end when all the group leaders got up to talk. (There are two group leaders for each group so there were about 15 people up there speaking.) That’s when it got fun — they all told their stories of couch potatoes to marathoners. Apparently a good number of these people joined the Galloway NYC Group back in 1999 and have stuck together. Some of them just finished Boston some of them are volume marathoners and back of the packers. One gal is 46 marathons into her a marathon in every state goal. One guy is at 58 marathons and was saying that’s nothing, there are people out there who run a marathon a month. It’s all for fun and adventure. They do the Galloway method and they are never injured. Some of them were kooky, some were cool, some I thought would drive me nuts but then others seemed really nice. I think it will be a group I will enjoy getting together with. They seemed like a fun group. Okay, a little overzealous but I wasn’t feeling that well so that might have influenced my opinion.

When I left I felt motivated. Hmm, maybe I’ll do a marathon this fall. Maybe I’ll do NYC or try for Marine Corp or Hartford. I think a half marathon sounds more fun right now — definitely Hartford half. But we’ll see. I’ll train for a marathon and decide later which race(s).

I paid my $169 for the year of training (that’s quite a deal). They gave me my Galloway training program book which is filled with charts and numbers. I’ll get a weekly workout schedule from them (they only meet as a group on Saturday mornings).  See Their Website.  Yes, you are welcome to join me. Sign up.


So Mr. Galloway said that he has a bunch of training videos on this site.  They are not bad:

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4/7/10 April is the Cruelest Month

Thursday. Days of the calendar just flipping by. Almost daily I get a different friend saying something to me along the lines of “I just can’t get any motivation going to train. I’ve lost my mojo. I just don’t want to do it.” I think my count is up to six friends who have said something like that to me in the last couple of weeks. I think of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”:

APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain….
Making it harder for mortals to train…

Okay I added the last line but I’m sure Mr. Eliot would have put something similar in there had he been an athlete in New England after one of the longest and harshest winters I can remember. For those friends I say, just hang in there. It will be Spring soon….

Everything is going just fine. Had lunch with an old friend yesterday and I was commenting that I’ve really been feeling pretty good for awhile now. I would say for about the last couple of months I’ve really felt particularly even. I’m not having any big swings up or down. No real problems. I’ve been sleeping okay and not feeling exhausted. I don’t seem to need the extra naps anymore. I seem to be recovering from my workouts better. I have to say really no complaints. This morning I was thinking to myself that although I didn’t have a good race out in LA I did manage to stay out there for a long time and I didn’t feel weak. Cold and border-line hypothermic, yes, but weak no.

Just when I think I’m feeling good I get a call today that the doctor wants to see me for another round of tests. My appointment is not until end of May I mumble. Doctor wants to see you now. We compromise on two weeks from now. Why does the assistant sound so cheery? Phhht. I don’t have any time to lose weight before seeing her. She’s going to look at me and shake her head. Ugh. What is this? A pop quiz at the endocrinologists? Since when do doctors call you in six weeks before your next scheduled appointment? I’m going to get into an argument with her over treatment. I feel fine. Let’s not rock the boat. I’ll let her take blood tests and that’s it. Until after Alcatraz then we can talk. I can’t afford a couple of weeks of feeling crappy. End of June, I can feel crappy then. Too busy right now. They can’t make me do anything I don’t want to… right?

Finally got on my bike out onto 9W (the major biking road over the George Washington Bridge). I can ride my bike all I want in Central Park but until I go over the bridge I don’t really feel like it was a long ride. My dear patient (and I mean PATIENT) friend Jen rode with me and although I didn’t have a prayer in the world keeping up with her I felt okay (in my best shape and her worst shape I can’t keep up with her so this was definitely a charity ride on her part). All I really remember from last year was feeling dizzy and tired on the bike all the time. This time it was different. Sure I was sucking wind going up each of the hills but I felt okay. I wasn’t fighting through anything. I just felt out of shape as I should feel. I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over or pull off and have to take a nap. I have a lot of work to do but I was okay. My hip flexors had a few choice words for me and I don’t have pedaling endurance yet but it was much better than I thought it was going to be.

Swimming has been going okay. I’ve been making poor Jen go to the pool with me too. She’s my motivation for right now. While she is recuperating from a couple of injuries I’m making her train with me. She has also done Alcatraz before and sprinkles our workouts with little memories about the race always ending with what a fun race it was. She has a bad ankle and a fracture in her hand and I still can’t keep up with her. But just having the appointment together has helped me tremendously to keep it going. We’ve swum a couple of times now and just knowing someone else is there doing their own workout get’s me to the pool twice instead of once.

This morning I dragged Jen to a spin class at my gym. It was fun because in the spin class I can almost catch up to her. Next time I am going to make sure I pick a bike in front of hers. The interesting part was it turns out our instructor is a personal trainer and a triathlete (and a baby, he looks like he is 12). We all got to chatting about races and Jen and I went down to the basement of the gym where they keep all the weight training equipment. I got to talking with Tony the spin teacher/trainer and I signed up for 5 weeks of 1/2 training sessions. I figured no time like the present so I started right then and there. I told him we need to find my core. I can’t seem to find it underneath all the fluffernutter I’m carrying around my middle. I told him we are starting at zero and working from there. It seemed like a short session because we talked a lot but I was able to do everything he asked me to do and here’s the one thing I am sure of: I absolutely would never do those exercises on my own. So if I go to his spin class once a week and then do 30 minutes of core, that’s something.

One week from today I also start bike training with bike coach Dave Jordan. One-on-one kick my ass sessions for six weeks. I’ve been trying to cram to get ready but alas time is up. Only two more bike session before I get my ass handed to me. There will be nowhere to hide but I have to do it. My plan is to ride 3 days a week until Alcatraz. 1 day bike coached. Then I’ll still run 2 times a week. Swim 2 times. I should swim 3 times but the reality is I don’t get down there more than twice a week. But I’m doing a lot of yardage in the pool. I did 2,800 and 3,200 meters this week. That’s not chump change. If I can manage two core sessions a week I will feel good.

I alternate between feeling nervous about Alcatraz and then okay about it. I just have to keep reminding myself that the distance is not that long. Yes it’s a hard swim, a hard bike and a hard run, but I just spent 7 hours and 40 minutes in a monsoon in LA — how much worse can it be than that? And there is no way it will be harder than Rev 3. ‘Cause even if it is harder than Rev 3, it’s not as long.

I still reserve the right to pull out of the race if it rains. I’m not racing in the rain again, for now.


Picture of the sand stairs — 400 steps. Oh yeah, I have to start climbing the stairs in my building once a week. No twice a week. Somehow this reminds me of the Marathon des Sade I mean Sables.

I randomly found this picture on the internet but I think that is a Trilife uniform — I have no idea who it is though.

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