Monday, June 29, 2009

Lessons Learned from an Open Water Swim

Last month, I ran into Kelly from the Blue Dawgs group at one of the local races. It was right after my '(Re) learning How to Swim' post from May 12th. She asked me how things were going with my tri training. As we were talking about the training, she mentioned about that post. Basically, she advised me that, the method of swimming I am being taught is correct, but, in reality, it's not like that at all. It's great to be taught that in the pool but, a lot of times, style goes out the window when you are racing against people in the tri. Her advice: do what comes natural to you in the race. Eventually, think about the Total Immersion method but for your first one, just relax and do the best you can in the swim.

As we were discussing this, I wasn't sure what she meant by it. It seems to be a much better method than I was doing. The way I was swimming, my shoulders were aching after 100 meters. I was physically exhausted as I had so much wasted energy in each of my strokes. This way felt so much better. Then last Sunday, I participated in an Open Water Swim Clinic at Lake Nockimixon. It was light bulb moment.

An Open Water Swim Clinic is just as the name implies. It is a reality session. We're not in the pool any longer, Dorothy. There are no sides to cling on to after 50 meters. There is no chlorine to swallow. There are no lines to follow. You are in a lake and everything that comes along with swimming in the middle of the lake. Meaning, there is no bottom of the lake that you can see. Heck, you can barely see your feet treading water. You can barely see 10 feet in front of you. This is as the race is. Still want to do a tri?

For the first 30 minutes of the session, we were being taught how the morning was going to unfold. Questions were being answered. But, you could see on most everyone's face, can I do this? We were all nervous. People were talking. But, no one took their eyes off the water.

Finally, we got in the lake. Now, I was going to be brave and go in with just my tri suit on. But, it was rainy, sweatshirt-type of day so I was talked into wearing a wetsuit. Thank you for whomever talked me into it. I was grateful as I swam around and others teeth were chattering.

The instructors took us out in groups to swim around different buoys. I started out and decided to go slow. Then I thought of Kelly's words. I wasn't Total Immersion swimming. I was swimming to swim to the next buoy. Technique was not considered. Getting to the next buoy was my only concern. I didn't care how or what I looked like. And, I was gassed after 75 yards.

Now, don't forget, I was coming off of a long holiday and a bout with the flu. Still, it made me nervous that I was this tired for such a short distance. Me being a guy thought I could just go out there and swim. Tail between my legs, I joined the newbie group and listened to my instructor.

She said to go slow. I was. No, go even slower. I readily admit, I didn't think that was possible. So, I tried to go slower. I felt I was going nowhere at all. But, I did get to the buoy without too much effort spent.

Finally, we were sent out to do an approximate 1/4 mile distance. Perfect. This was the distance in the race. I want to see what it was going to be like to do this distance in the lake.

Coming into this tri training, I really thought that swimming was going to be an asset for me. I have to admit it has been humbling for me as I am just a very slow swimmer. And, even though we weren't racing that day, they wanted to show us how it would feel when people are trying to beat you. So, we pushed and jostled with each other with lots of 'sorries' thrown in. As a matter of fact, I was swimming along when I punched a woman in the face as she was floating on her back. She wasn't hurt but valuable lesson for both of us.

As the day ended, I was so thankful to have that opportunity. It would have been a shock to the system to try to do the triathlon just with pool experience. And, it also gave me confidence that, in fact, I can do that distance in the open water. And I thought about Kelly's words as I was out there, swimming around, trying to get to the next buoy and feeling I was going nowhere...just do what comes naturally and I will be fine. Thanks, Kel.

(Notes: There are two more sessions left in my triathlon class before the Lake Lenape triathlon on July 11. I can't thank enough my classmates, who I know we will all do well in our triathlons, for their support. I especially want to thank Sharon, Skip and Chief for the wonderful job they did as mentors and teachers. I have learned so much from this class and about myself. They were patient in answering all our questions and have helped out so much in preparation. Thank you for being great teachers.
I thought about writing a completely different subject for this entry but was afraid where it was going to take me. I couldn't help but notice that, recently, two celebrities died at the age of 50. One, of course, is Michael Jackson and the other was the pitchman, Billy Mays. I'm not saying I'm anything like them in health and well-being. But, it did make me pause and think. I've been asked time and time on why I do these marathons and triathlon things. I can keep telling myself, if I don't do it now, I may never have the chance to ever do it in my life. You just never know.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Extra Innings

Here are just a few of my pictures from last week's baseball trip. After this entry, it's all about running again. Hope you enjoy them.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh

Fireworks Display at Progressive Field in Cleveland after the game

Outside Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati

Me outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago

Me at Busch Stadium in St. Louis with Gateway Arch in background

Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day Six and Seven of the Baseball Road Trip

Day Six--This was going to be the easiest driving day. Thank goodness for that. We were tired and weary. I still had not fully regained my appetite back so, as much as I wanted to sample the local cuisine, I was just trying to eat to stop me from getting too bad a headache. The heat in Midwest wasn't helping much. But, this was the last long drive of the trip. St. Louis to Kansas City straight across Missouri on I-70.

We got there in less than 4 hours and the hotel was directly across from the stadium. We had our tickets. No need to worry about parking since we could walk to it from the hotel. Needed to find something to do for a few hours before game time. So, off we went to Independence, MO to go see where Harry Truman lived.

Independence was about a 15 minute drive from the hotel. It was a neat little tour of his house. It takes about 15 minutes to go through it and, for me, brought back memories of how my father's relatives used to live. Very homey, kind of dark inside, but you can picture ol' Harry and Bess muddling around the house. Harry's hat and coat are still there by the side door where we last left it. Fun experience. Afterwards, back we went to the hotel, parked the car and off to the stadium we went.

Now, for Phillies fans, Kaufmann Stadium is a bit historic as it was against these Royals that the Phillies won their first World Series. Since, then, Kaufmann Stadium has been refurbished and a nice job they did in refurbishing.

This was the most kid-friendly ballpark I've ever seen. Beyond centerfield, there is a kid zone where kids could play mini-golf, they had a mini-stadium for kids to hit balls, they had a speed gun zone, a carousel, and much more. The stadium looked good too though, if you had a ticket way upstairs you are walking a distance to get there.

And, as quiet as the Cardinal fans were at home, they were that loud on the road. Cardinals took a 10-1 lead and made sure the Royal fans were aware of the score. They were so sure they were going to win that they took their best player out (Albert Pujols) halfway through the game and let the pitcher bat and not use a designated hitter the rest of the game!!! The Royals staged a brief rally but still lost 10-5. After the game, there was a brief fireworks display to round out the evening and the trip. 7 games in a week. We were done.

Day Seven--We were going home today. But, not without a 5k race in the morning!!!! Thanks to Jennifer, author of the blog Life is a Gift. RUN, I found a race in the Kansas City area that she recommended (she lives in the area so that helped). (Unfortunately, Jennifer was out of town so we couldn't get together to do this race).

The race was the Terri Tough 5k in Olathe, Kansas. The race was dedicated to Terri Mathis Zenner, who was a social worker in the area and was killed while visiting a client. It was held in Heritage Park. The course was mainly around the lake. But, it was another hot, muggy morning.

Still not feeling 100% because of the remaints of the flu the week before, I just wanted to take my time on this race. The first mile was on a path through a grassy field making a turn to run next to the lake. I was feeling alright at this point having gone out slowly for a change. The first mile was around the 8:40 mark.

Nice flat course. If I can maintain this pace, I should be good. At a mile and a half, someone threw in a hill. What? Where the heck did this hill come from? It wasn't a speed bump. It was a genuine hill. As genuine as a mid-80s degree (F), 90% humidity type of morning that I was in. UGGHHHH!!!!

When I got to the top, there was a water station. I was ready to take two cups and throw all over my head. Except the water was orange. WATER?, I yelled. 'No, just Gatorade', they yelled back. Good catch by me.

The second mile was a little over 10:00/mile pace. But, then the wheels came apart. My legs were jelly. The sun was out. My not eating right for the week had caught up with me. I was toast.

The third mile was on the other side of the lake from the first mile heading back to the start/finish line. As much as I tried to will myself to run, I was gassed. It wasn't worth any hospital visits as I was going home that afternoon, so I took my time going in. Unofficially, I came in around 30:56.

After 5 cups of Gatorade and some Chris Cakes (the pancakes served after the race), I was feeling a lot better. Actually, probably the best since the trip started. I was starting to get my appetite back. Great. Just in time for work.

I stuck around for the awards ceremony just in case. I didn't see a lot of men my age so who knows? Good thing I did. At the awards ceremony, I was announced as the winner of my age group. Only problem I was announced as winning the female 50-59 division. Which I would have been very proud of if I was a female. (Do they do things differently in Kansas that I'm not aware of?). Obviously, a mistake was made and, as it turns out, I didn't place in the top three for the males 50-59 (though, if I ran my 'usual' race of 25-26:00, I would have been in the top three).

After the race, it was time to go back to the hotel and back home. Our flight was delayed for two hours, so I didn't get home until 11p that night. The next morning I had to get up for an open water swim clinic for my triathlon training.

The trip was great. I didn't 'find' myself or anything like that but it was nice to see parts of America I wouldn't have seen otherwise. We met a lot of nice people along the way. We had a lot of fun at the ballparks and saw some great games. But, it was tiring. I don't think I'm going to turn 50 ever again. It's too exhausting.

(Notes: Below is a picture of where the Teri Tough 5k race was held. This is Heritage Park in Johnson County, Kansas. On the opposite side of the lake, right-side, is the first mile of the race. The left-side of the picture is where you came back for the third mile.

Also, below is a short-video of part of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' in Wrigley Field. )

Friday, June 19, 2009

Days Three, Four and Five of the Baseball Trip

No internet access for the past few days (well, free internet access anyway)

Day Three--We arrived in Cincinnati by mid-afternoon. Not knowing what to do before the game starts, we decided to take a one-hour riverboat cruise on the Ohio River. This killed two birds by a) giving us something to do before the game and b) having the opportunity to go to Kentucky, which is where the riverboats were on the other side of the river. You see, there were two states east of the Mississippi I've never been to--Kentucky and Michigan. Cross Kentucky off the list.

The cruise was nice. I enjoyed it a lot. As we were cruising, we saw a sign, on the Kentucky side, advertising about parking there for the game and taking a boat to the stadium. Well, we were already there, so why not? So, after the cruise, we parked in their lot, and took a boat across the river where it dropped us off at the foot of the stadium. Perfect.

We got tickets to the game and they were by far the best tickets we got so far. It is going to be a great night for baseball. Until the third inning. Because that's when the rains came. Not a little sprinkle. A deluge. For two stickin' hours.

We had to be in Chicago for an afternoon game the next day so we decided we had to ditch the game. The problem was we didn't know when the boat was coming back to pick us over. And, we didn't have a phone number to call. So, we waited down by the river and prayed it would soon come. Talking about feeling out of control of a situation.

We waited about 10 minutes and the boat did arrive. On to Chicago.

Day Four--We had to get up early to get to Chicago for an afternoon game. This was the day that our timing was perfect. We got to our hotel before noon and checked in. Got our bearings for the subway uptown to Wrigley. And off we went.

It was a city series game between the White Sox and Cubs. The atmosphere was electric. Good nature razzing between both sides. And, we finally made it. Wrigley Field.

I've been to Fenway Park in Boston and expected something similar. I wasn't disappointment. Wrigley doesn't have the amneties as other stadiums. But, it does have charm. From my perspective, I think you either love it or hate it.

The White Sox won the game 4-1. It was a quick game. Too quick as I wanted to drink in the atmosphere some more. After the game, we walked around in the stadium until we were thrown out. Then, we walked around outside on Waveland and Sheffield to look at the seats on the roofs across from the stadium. I didn't want to leave but it was off to St. Louis.

Day Five--We are getting tired at this point. It's been a long week. From Chicago to St. Louis was the longest drive of the trip and I'm still trying to recover from my flu.

When arrived in the afternoon, we headed to the Gateway Arch because it was always something I wanted to see. So, off we went following the directions of our Garmin GPS to head on I-64 East into the city. Except its closed. ARRRRGGHHH!!! How do we get into town? Well, thank goodness for the Garmin because it has a detour feature. So, it took us down Forest Park Drive, which was a road parallel to I-64 and got us in no problems.

There was a huge contrast between our day in Chicago and St. Louis. The Chicago game, I was wearing a coat. In St. Louis, it was hot. Stinkin' hot. 92 degrees (F) hot. So, I did get to see the Gateway Arch but no time to go to the top. And, it was hot just walking around.

Luckily, the stadium was close by but it was hard to get out of the A/C of the car to watch the game. Busch stadium is nice. Very fan-friendly. Easy access to bathrooms and food. And, the hamburgers at the Hardees stand on the third level were delicious. It was a good crowd, though rather on the quiet side. We sat in the upper level third base side. Out of the sun. But, it was still hot. And, the Cardinals lost 6-3. We are now off to Kansas City for the last game.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Second Day of the Baseball Trip

We had a chance to 'get to know' a little bit of the Cleveland area, so, in the morning we took an hour's drive to Canton and see the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I asked my friend, George, what should I do next as I have now seen all four major sports halls of fame? (Basketball, baseball, hockey, and football). He said, well, there is always the golf and tennis halls of fame? True, very true.

In the afternoon, we went to the Rock and Roll HOF. Now, we said, without knowing the cities in detail, we were going to make stupid mistakes along the way. Yesterday's was a beaut. We found a great parking space right next to the museum on the street. It was only for max four hours long but didn't think we were going to take that much time. As it turns out, we did and expected to possibly see a ticket on the windshield. Which we did. To the tune of $250. Now, both of us, I swear, did not see we parked in a handicap spot. So, we didn't get the ticket because the meter ran out but because we parked in a handicapped spot. Still fee guilty about it.

If I was an Indians fan, I would be really mad at my team last night. It was a very looooooonnnngggggg game last night. 4 hours. 26 hits. 26 runs. The Indians were up late in the game 12-7 and blew it. Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a grand slam in the 7th inning and the Brewers went on to win 14-12.

But, night wasn't a complete lost as we got a 'Rick Vaughn' bobblehead doll (a character from the movie 'Major League' which was a movie about the Cleveland Indians) and a wonderful fireworks display after the game. On to Cincinnati.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day One of the Baseball Trip

We started off from my house Sunday morning at 7:30a. We had to get across the state of Pennsylvania into Pittsburgh by 1:35p gametime. Plenty of time. Or so we thought. As one Pittsburgh pedestrian told us as we looked for a parking space, 'we arrived on a nightmarish day.' You see, Pittsburgh is going through major renovation in the downtown section which are closing main arteries. On top of that, there was an Arts Festival around the area we were looking for parking. And on top of that, we thought there might have been a parade in town because the hometown Penguins won the Stanley Cup in hockey. Well, we were wrong about the reason but right about the parade. Apparently, a gay pride parade was tying up the traffic as well (not that there isn't anything wrong with that!)

We did eventually find parking in downtown and crossed the Roberto Clemente Bridge to PNC Park. The game was starting so we were anxious to get in. But, it was a beautiful day and so were a lot of other people waiting in line to get tickets. So, we waited. And listened to the game. Finally, we got the tickets (discounted to $11 a piece because the game started) and got in.

A beautiful stadium. Just wonderful. And we had a good time there though it was weird as it was 'Turn Back the Clock' Day to 1909 and there were no music at all during the game. It was kind of nice to be able to talk between innings.

We left a little early to get to Cleveland as we found out there was a game there that night as well. We made it. In plenty of time. And almost saw a no-hitter by Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians. He took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Gave up a hit on the first pitch of the inning. But, he pitched a gem shutting out the Cardinals 3-0.

Off to the Pro Football and Rock and Roll Hall of Fames today and back to the Indians tonight.

Pictures later.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back Home Just To Go Back On The Road

I'm back in the US now and ready to head out for my baseball road trip. This past week, something happened to me that never happened before. I got sick on a business trip.
I have been sick since Tuesday night when we were on our way to Plymouth, England. Woke up next morning with no energy and feeling sick to my stomach. I was like that the rest of the week which made for a painful flight home yesterday. I went to the doctor today and have been diagnosed with an unspecified flu-like virus. Not likely it was swine flu but not totally ruling it out. My luck. Anyway, luckily, I'm starting to feel much better since I leave for Pittsburgh tomorrow.
To the right is me on the London Eye with Big Ben in the background.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Postcard from London

I must be in England because I am sitting in my hotel watching Australia-Sri Lanka cricket highlights.

This is going to be a short entry as I am tired and my wireless internet connection is not the best. The 5k I did was an experience. Very similar to US events but there were subtle differences. Truthfully, not sure if it was US-UK differences or just this event was a little different. For instance, they did not have a water station but handed out water bottles that you took and handed to perfect strangers watching the event. Also, they had a men's and women's changing area before the start of the race.

The day started out with tremendous rain and was tempted to rollover in bed for an extra few hours of sleep. But, by 8a when I left the hotel, the day was filled with brilliant sunshine and remained so for the event.

The race was two laps around Battersea Park which is near the Thames River. Dummy me forgot my GPS watch so had no idea of the pace I was doing. I had an inkling of what it was as the clock was running at the finish area and you had to go through the finish for the second lap of the race. Another difference is there are no mile markers. Kilometer markers yes, but no mile markers.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Below is a video of the start of the race. I was going to post other videos and pictures of the race but, currently, as I stated, not the greatest internet connection. I will later. Plus, it's midnight. Time for me to go to bed.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Testing 1,2,3...Is This Thing On?

This is just a test video from my new Canon Powershot SD1200 IS. This camera is about the size of my cell phone but a little wider. I realized the resolution of the video from my camera phone wasn't that great. But, the pictures from my other Canon digital camera were great but it is a little bulky to carry around and the video feature wasn't that easy to use. I am hoping to use this camera to replace the mini-cam (farewell, mini-cam) and to do some video shooting around different races and runs that I will be doing. Chances are I won't be in the video as I like to shoot pictures but not be in them. Oh, from time to time, I may pull a 'Hitchcock' and make an appearance. But, only when necessary.

Anyway, the video below is a typical day around the house for three (of my four) dogs. Ellie Mae is the one who is missing in the video as she was at a dog show at the time.

I wanted to test what the quality of the video would be after I posted. (And to make sure it works). I saw the video on my computer and it looked great, especially in comparison with the video from my phone. Nice thing is this camera has video stabilization. Of course, I will test this video stabilization feature when I do my 'Where I Run' features.


Monday, June 1, 2009

June is Bustin' Out All Over!!!!

The next few weeks should be (to quote Artie Johnson) 'very interesting'. (If you don't know who Artie Johnson is, well, go look it up in your Funk & Wagnall).

On Saturday, I will be leaving for England for a week. Next Sunday, I will be participating in my first 'international' 5k. A race in Battersea Park in London. I've been wanting to do this for awhile now. But, in never seemed to work out right. The times that I have gone over never seemed to coincide with a race that was near where I was staying over there. But, this time the timing is perfect. Battersea Park is not far from where I am staying in Kensington.

In truth, it's just another race, right? Probably. And, people from England speak English, right? Just like Americans. Right? Well, wrong. Winston Churchill once said that America and England are two countries separated by a common language. It is so true. That's why I am very much looking forward to finding out what the English do differently than an American 5k. I hope I will have time from work to give you a report. And, maybe a few pictures?

The week after that is my baseball trip with a friend of mine who also turned 50 this year. To view where I am going, there is a link to the 'Websites I Often Visit' on the right side of this blog. Under 'June Baseball Trip'. If you are wondering, this trip will take us to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City to watch a baseball game at those cities. Plus, we will be seeing a part of the US that I haven't seen before.

It will be Thelma and Louise. Except we're males. And, we don't plan on driving off a cliff in the final scene. (Maybe more like Dumb and Dumber?) At the end of that week, I plan on doing a 5k in Kansas. Thanks to Jennifer, blog author of Life is a Gift.RUN, I've been able to narrow it down to two choices for June 20th in the Kansas City area. The one that Jennifer recommended the Teri Tough 5k looks like a great race and is the one I will be aiming to attend. However, it's a bit further to get to from where I'm staying and starts a little bit earlier than Run the Good Race 5k which is the other race I'm looking to do. So, depending on the Friday before, which is our last baseball game, I will decide which race to run on Saturday before I fly back home to the Philadelphia area.

What about my tri training, you say? Well, that should be interesting as well. Yesterday, I tried to simulate the bike/run portion. I rode my bike for about 11 miles and then ran 2 miles right after that. I felt pretty good. (Of course, I went home to cut the grass in the afternoon and my riding mower went on me. I wound up cutting an acre of lawn with a push mower. Don't mind doing it. Just not after a training run.) So, I expect to be doing very little training on my bike for the next few weeks. And, probably very little swimming (of course, I have the whole English Channel to practice in). So, it will have to be running to keep me in shape.

So, my intention is to update this blog more than once a week while I'm gone. With pictures. Or, it will be the exact opposite and you will hear crickets from this blog for the next three weeks. And, then LOTS of stuff telling you what happened. It will be very interesting.

(Notes: One of the people I know, through the Bucks County 5k Spring Series, is riding a bicycle across the country following the Lewis & Clark Trail starting in Oregon and heading east. He left over the weekend and starts today. His name is Ed and you can follow his adventure on his Crazy Guy on a Bike website. I also have a link to it on the websites I often visit. )