Memorial Day Weekend

These days, as a recreational athlete, I, like others, look forward to a few weekends every year: July 4th for the Firecracker Runs, Halloween – not necessarily a weekend but great for wearing costumes, the weekend before the third Monday in April or Patriot’s Day when you know the most majestic of all marathons will be run in Boston, and Memorial Day weekend.

Living in Southern California, Memorial Day weekend features the trifecta of running races. It begins on Saturday morning as runners head to the Santa Monica trails for The Tough Topanga 10K.

On Sunday, Brentwood shows off its Mercedes, Range Rovers, kids, dogs and a few thousand runners in their 5K and 10K races. Yes, if you are brave enough, the timing is such that you can actually run both the 5K and 10K back to back. And on Monday, we head south of the orange curtain for the Saddleback Memorial Half Marathon (used to be the Flo-Jo Half Marathon). The goal is simply to see how much racing you can compress into a 72 hour period and whether you can set PR’s all weekend long. Each race is distinctly different from the others and bragging rights for completing all of them last an entire year.

Now living in New York, I found myself missing the Memorial Day Weekend masochistic rituals so this year I decided to create my own, beginning on Saturday with a few Race with Purpose teammates as we set out on a brick workout of a Harriman Park 50-mile ride followed by a 10-mile run from 9W at the bottom to the top of Bear Mountain, some 1500 feet above.

RwP'ers at the top of Bear Mountain

We had another great weekend of firsts with Avi learning how to change a tire and use CO2 to freeze his little fingers off, Deana learning that the phrase joined at the hip should not be used when referring to her body and the pavement and that after 3 hours of cycling, Perkins Drive is challenging enough without doing the extra mile of climbing caused by missing the turn clearly marked with the words, “Exit”. We did get to swim with the fishes afterwards – I’ve always wanted an excuse to say that, in a little pond on the edge of 9W.

Deana picking herself off of the pavement

Road Rash

Sunday, I actually took it fairly easy swimming 3,000 yards including a timed 1.5 miler just to see how far behind Erin, Michelle, Stella and the other fish I would be when exiting the water at Tupper Lake this year. I then scurried upstairs at the JCC of Mid Westchester to lift chest and back before heading to my house where we had visitors from LA waiting for me. They now live “on” Long Island but like me they’re still in denial so it’s out of respect that I’ll refer to them as my LA friends. In general for my friends, waiting on me to get back from a workout has become a regular occurance.

After our dinner under the stars, our “friends from LA” decided that sleeping in their own bed was preferable to staying with us even with the 11:00pm departure and the two hour drive to their place just a little further east from where the earth ends on Long Island. That was actually cool with me because I was trying to figure out how I was going to be able to duck out of the house early the next morning to get a ride in before doing the mandatory house guest breakfast. So on Monday, I headed out to hook up with the Westchester Cycle Club and get in another 50-mile ride, followed by a 6.2-mile run afterwards in the 90+ degree heat.

WCC Riders

Given that for many, goals help people to stay focused and do things they might not ordinarily do, I should mention that this season’s goal – the Tinman Tupper Lake Half Ironman – can be particularly nasty as it was when I raced in 2005. The temperature was 98 degrees and the run portion was in name only, resembling more of an exodus of refugees than a road race.

There is one place on the course where a family placed their water hose out and race participants were stopping there for 5 to 15 minutes like elephants wallowing in cool mud.

But this is how we train. We train in the weather and conditions that are placed before us because that’s exactly what will happen on race day. This year at Tupper Lake, if it is 65 degrees and overcast, we’ll just race that much better. If it isn’t, we’ll be able to look back on this year’s Memorial Day Weekend and know that we’ll be ready for anything.

Weekend of Firsts

Coaching is like parenting only that your kids, for the most part, aren’t much younger than you are, which probably means that for that to have been true as a parent, you would have had to have successful relations with their mother while in high school, which probably shows poor judgment but may ultimately get you the “coolest parent” award or perhaps on an ABC Weekend Mini Series or an episode of the E! True Hollywood Story.

In any case, this weekend was definitely a weekend of firsts and as a coach, these are the days that make is all worthwhile. First Avi and Bob L, knocked out their first triathlons on Saturday at the Harryman Mini, under pouring rain.

Avi’s Race Report

Bob L’s Race Report

They weathered their first experience of getting beat up in the swim, finding themselves too far back and expending too much energy to try and catch back up, learning how to swim in a straight line, riding on a bike in pouring rain, and running in wet sloppy shoes all to finish and dig into waiting boxes of pizza. Bob and Avi, welcome to triathlon!

Javier 10 miles in with his new tires

Sunday also brought about firsts as a group of us from Race With Purpose and the WCC Cycle/Tri Club met at 6:00 am on Long Island (apparently you’re not supposed to say, in Long Island) to begin the Montauk Century. We began the ride with about 10 riders and finished the ride with four, which is probably pretty good odds for a Century ride.

Aero Javier 90 miles into the ride

Of the four that finished together, Michelle’s previous longest ride was 56 miles, Javier’s 65 miles and Jackie’s 75 miles. We celebrated pushing through and riding past those very real achievements on our 6-plus-hour-ride. Beyond these accomplishments, we experienced and learned a number of other things for the very first time. For example, we found the roadie equivalent to P-Diddy, riding his blinged out gold Orbea with matching custom gold rims. Bike-porn all the way around. We learned that perhaps the most important question to ask a group of riders with whom you’ve never ridden is “Will you wait around for me if I have a flat?” We learned that after a ride the only safe place to touch a bike is the handle bars, because peeing on your bike really can help to remove the sticky Gatorade that accumulates on your frame when the sponge keeps falling down inside your hydration system. We learned way too much about ischial tubes including a demonstration on how to massage them with Bio-Freeze at a rest stop, that TriScoop member Rambonie, will eat ice cream 75-miles into a ride but only if it is free, that your’s truly can sustain 29.5 mph on the flats, and that Jackie has an uncontrollable competitve streak in her that others can exploit for their own amusement regardless of where she is in a ride or race. Jackie executed the perfect attack and breakaway 90-miles into the ride simply because I egged her on, only to find that the lady she beat was riding the entire time on a flat rear tire. Jackie also learned that, oh by the way, after executing said breakway during the last 10 miles of a Century, it’s almost certain that you’ll run like Jerry Lewis.

Jackie's Aero Attack

We learned that a $19 bike computer that doesn’t even tell you the time can be as effective as a $250 Garmin. We also learned that the Montauk Century is more than 100 miles and that cyclists still look at triathletes as complete freaks when we jump off of our bikes and head back out onto the course to run, while telling ourselves that it really will make our legs feel much better.

Most importantly, we learned that bicycle helmets should not be worn inside communal showers and mascara is probably not the best option before, during or after a Century ride. All in all, a great weekend of firsts.

Bill Refueling

Bill refueling

The Training Room Is Open

Trust me; I'm a coach
For the past twenty or so years I have been devoted to spending my time on this planet in some meaningful way. Along this journey I lost a lot of weight, gained a little bit too much attitude, became competitive and then collaborative, learned a few worthwhile things and developed into a runner, a triathlete, a coach and an athletic trainer. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve developed into a student. In point of fact I really became not much more than an avid people watcher with a point of view and the willingness to express it.

Many people are content to live their lives by doing what is expected of them, they go to work, do their job, pay their bills, take care of their family, go to barbecues and perhaps even go running, or play tennis. They’ll keep doing this until something or somebody tells them to change or until they retire or die. They will have been fulfilled, have left some sort of a legacy and will be remembered fondly by friends and family.

Alas, I never got that gene. I think I was tossed out of the womb already wondering how I could possibly improve the process of childbirth. “Do the lights really need to be so bright?” “If only the doctor had put himself into my shoes, he would have been able to do a better job.” If I had known PowerPoint, how to create a placemat or walk the obstetrician through a process flow, I would have been reviewing various options with him before the chord to my mother had been cut. I know what you are thinking, I also would have had to know how to talk. That’s just a minor detail that would have gotten in the way of communicating effectively through gestures, head bobbing and drooling. After all, ninety percent of communication is non-verbal, even as adults. Because I also see life as one big game for someone elses amusement, I also would probably have been tying knots into the chord on my way out just to confuse the poor doctor. Never mind that it would have cut off the flow of oxygen to yours truly, I’m a trusting guy and I believe he’d have gotten me breathing on my own soon enough.

This means, as a child and young adult, I was categorized as “special” which is nothing more than a euphemism for “big pain in the ass”. Not much has changed except that I get paid for my point of view, I continue to act like a salmon most of the time, swimming upstream trying to champion ideas that often seem to be just a bit too ahead of their time while avoiding bears that would rather have me for dinner. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked the color of salmon, or coral – whatever it is; it’s not pink.

As an adult, I pursue this innate combination of irreverence, curiosity and condemnation for the status quo by stepping into my phone booth every morning and putting on the appropriate outfit for the particular task at hand. Sometimes it is that of an endurance coach, and while wearing this costume I have had the pleasure and honor to help thousands of every day people achieve the extraordinary by completing a marathon or triathlon or some other challenging physical endurance event.

On other days, I will step out of the phone booth wearing a slick Donna Karan suit helping a not-to-be-named and yet distinctive professional services firm further its strategy to be a preeminent provider of services to the healthcare industry. In this role, I help a great group of people to establish our identity in the marketplace, develop our capabilities to serve our clients and build a sense of community within an organization that is overwhelmed with complexity, contradictory incentives and rewards, and bureaucracy. Essentially, it is an organization with a lot of really smart people that are all trying to be personally successful, solve their clients issues and make money for the firm with an undertone of anxiety and insecurity because the possibility does exist that you won’t. Don’t get me wrong, this is an important part of any very successful group mentality, and there are some fantastic people in this organization. Every now and then I get to unbutton my shirt just far enough to show just a little bit of my Coolmax coach’s shirt underneath and by getting the ear of a few muckity mucks, drop a few thoughts as to how developing the passion and purpose of the community of professionals is as equally important as developing their technical skills. Oh yes, there is indeed a difference between determination and inspiration, but I’ll write about that in a future post. On the best days, I get to feel that I am helping to push the string a bit further uphill because maybe, just maybe, the associate working on improving the supply chain function of a healthcare provider feels that somehow her work is contributing positively to improving the quality and sustainability of the US Healthcare system. Perhaps she might work just a little more effectively, or be a little more creative or do a little bit better job knowing that her work may actually someday benefit her family, her friends or even herself if she is ever in need of medical services from a hospital. Because maybe, just maybe her work will help to reduce the 1.5 million injuries and 7,000 deaths that occur each year due to medication prescribing errors alone. That’s the equivalent of one 727 airplane crashing each week for a year. Thanks to Greg Tullman for that sobering factoid.

And then I run, or I cycle or I swim, or I do whatever it is to get outside and recreate myself under the canopy of sky, sun, trees, squirrels and birds and all of the things that so many of us that work in big cities take for granted. Sometimes I’ll run while listening to podcasts like Zen and the Art of Triathlon, Simply Stu, Pheddipidations, Get Your Geek On, The Leonard Lopate Show, Which Way, LA?, and The Loh Life and through these intimate interactions have established virtual friendships with people with odd names like Texafornia, Simply Stu, JetPack (or JetSack depending on who you are asking), Steve Runner, Dr. Monte, IronWil, and Kahuna – most of whom, I’ve never personally met. Sometimes, I’ll run while listening to nothing but my own breath and the sound of my Asics hitting the ground. Because for a person like me, running above all else is the one thing that quiets the voices in my head. No I’m not talking hide your children and lock your doors voices, I’m talking about the ones that simply cannot see things for what they are. Rather they see things for what they could be. Yeah, you guessed it – try living with me – sorry Cindy. Some people are envious of this quality, others are outright frightened or feel threatened, but I can tell you that that I relish the times when I can just be without thought, when I can listen to a podcast or music like Five for Fighting or Counting Crows and simply be. But for those who find value in what these voices say, I think I’ll use this blog as an outlet of sorts to give them their due.

This blog, therefore, will be a compilation of not so deep thoughts mixed with a hint of irreverence, a dash of unnecessary sarcasm, an infrequent observation or two and just enough technical knowledge and experience to create opportunities to improve human performance. Because I’ve never been a fan of duplicating something that is already being done well, I’ll try to include insights and information that you might not find elsewhere. I’ll also try to include links to podcasts, blog posts and weblinks that I find to be particularly valuable. Finding relevance to triathlon, running, endurance sports or just to your own life, I’ll leave to you.

Special thanks, as always, goes to El Professor, Erich Hafenmaier who dedicates his free time to helping active schmoes like me to get up on the web. Shameless plug of appreciation: If you are a wildly successful game producer/developer with tons of money to throw at someone, he’s the guy to throw it at.


-Coach Adam

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” R.W. Emerson