Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Not About The Bike...

As a kid I went through the usual variety of bikes. Kick brakes, banana seats, baseball cards in the spokes and all. Eventually somewhere in my early teens I graduated to the big leagues and I got a Schwinn Deluxe Varsity 10 speed. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere. I don’t know how many times I completely stripped it down as far as I could to thoroughly clean and lube it and then put it back together again. I enjoyed every second I spent on it. But, by my late teens it lay unused and virtually forgotten in my parent’s garage. I had moved on. I was now a long distance runner and had no more time for it.

A couple of years after graduating high school a friend brought me back to bikes. He was an avid cyclist and convinced me to start riding with him. I bought his old Raleigh touring bike, cleaned it up and painted it, and took it out on the road. I did a lot of riding with him, regaining my joy of being on a bike. I eventually did a number of weekend bike tours on it and a couple of biathlons as well. I started to get better and faster and even tried a couple of criteriums. Unfortunately after several years of this I somehow cracked the frame and had no money for another bike. Again, I stepped away from the bike.

Every summer I would watch the Tour de France, and miss the bike. I would start to save to buy one, hoping to get back out on the road again. A couple of weeks after the Tour was over I would forget about it and spend the money. Running was cheaper, I was good at it, and that was enough for me.

I eventually graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree and then with my master’s. I found my first job as an athletic trainer and moved to Texas. I quickly found that I didn’t have the time to even run anymore, much less ride. Besides, I was barely able to pay the bills, I didn’t have money to waste on a bike that I couldn’t even ride safely on the roads where I lived. But, three years later, during the summer of 2000, I moved to New York.

I found the time to start running again and the area was perfect for riding. I was still scraping by financially, but I managed to dig up enough money to buy a Trek 4500 mountain bike. I justified the purchase because I needed it for work. I started riding that around campus, using it as a way to get from field to field providing medical coverage for games. As the year progressed I found some trails and started riding them as well.

The following school year I signed up to do a 60 mile ride for MS and knew that I didn’t really want to ride a mountain bike that far. Again I felt I had justification to buy a bike and scraped together enough to buy a Trek 1000 road bike. My first ride on it was in the MS ride, but soon after I was taking it out fairly regularly for rides. I was still putting in my miles running, but I was supplementing with my bike and loving it. That winter when the weather prohibited running outside I put road bike on my trainer and got my workouts in that way.

The next summer I started riding a couple of times a week. Never big miles, but decent rides of anywhere from 20 to 45 miles. I felt great and I was loving the bike again. But, as the summer wore on the rides grew fewer and shorter and by the start of the school year disappeared totally. I would still pull out the bike and stick on the trainer on the winter days when I couldn’t run, but that only lasted a couple of winters and then both bikes just got left in storage.

For some reason when we got out of school in June of 2006 I pulled out the Trek 1000 and loaded her on back of my truck before setting out for my usual summer of wandering around visiting family and friends. My first destination was my parents’ place in Michigan. I had couple siblings and a handful of friends still living in the area as well. I was about midway through my 10 hour drive when I got a call from a friend that lived ‘near’ my parents. He had just done his first triathlon, a sprint, that last weekend and wanted me to do one with him in the upcoming weekend. We discussed it for a while and I told him I would think about it.

The triathlon bug had actually first bitten me back in the 80’s when I watched The Wide World of Sports coverage of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. I already knew that I was an endurance athlete and after watching the race coverage I decided someday I would do Ironman. As with many other things, that plan was soon pushed to the back of my mind and virtually forgotten, but the hooks had been sunk in me. As I drove on it came back to me and the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something I still wanted to do. A sprint triathlon was much, much shorter, but I had to start somewhere. So by the time I pulled into my parent’s driveway I was determined to become a triathlete.

The next morning I pulled out my bike, cleaned and lubed the chain, inflated the tires and took off on my first ride in a couple of years. I was already in pretty good shape because I had been running regularly, so I was able to hold a pretty good pace. I didn’t go very far that first ride, only about 15 miles, but it was a start and it was the distance that I would be riding in the upcoming triathlon. My butt was a bit tender, but it felt great to be back out on the bike again.

Despite a horrible swim I went on to have a good first triathlon that weekend. I managed to make the podium, finishing 3rd in my age group, just nipping my friend at the end. The hooks were now fully set and I continued to ride and train for triathlons the rest of the summer. I would do one more sprint a couple of weeks later and started to dream of Ironman.

As the summer ended and I headed back to work my triathlon training started to taper off and I soon was just running again. Fortunately we had a new coach working at the school who was a 6 time Ironman finisher and the fires were soon relit. The two of us hit it off and we were soon riding regularly together and it was only a couple of weeks later that I signed up for and did my first half ironman triathlon. In the race I rode my low end 1000 and found myself passing bike after bike, many of them 5-10 times the value of mine. I wasn't setting any records, but I was definitely holding my own. I ended up posting a 5:08 in my first 1/2 Ironman and even though I would have a couple of faster bike splits, it would take 9 more tries before I would surpass that time.

After completing my 3rd triathlon I knew my distant dream was doable. Ironman! I soon told my new girlfriend of it and my plans to register for Ironman Lake Placid the next summer. After she stopped laughing and explained the race was already closed out, as were all the rest, and how hard it was to get into them I was crushed. I continued to train and ride my bike on a regular basis, but my motivation was slipping and the bike was in danger of being put back into storage, but fortune struck.

About a month later my girlfriend told me she had just heard that they were going to have a new Ironman race the following summer in Louisville, KY and that registration would soon open for it. I made plans and shortly after registration opened I was on the computer hitting keys with desperation, I was going to get in! I was successful but it was many months before the race closed. Which on hindsight wasn’t too surprising. Louisville in August was not going to be pleasant. It is normally very hot and very humid and swimming in the Ohio River is never a real pleasure. But, it was an Ironman, and I was going to do it.

I continued to ride all fall and winter with my girlfriend. She started suggesting that if I was going to stay with triathlons and especially since I was doing an Ironman, that I might want to upgrade my bike. There was nothing wrong with the bike, but it was heavy and not really meant for speed. She was certain I’d be much happier with a better bike. She wasn’t suggesting I needed to jump up to a high end, but that I should at least consider a midlevel bike. She made sense, but I loved my 1000 and I pretty much ignored her for a while. The thought did roll around in my brain occasionally, and I would even look around online at different bikes, but I wasn’t ready to give this one up, yet.

As spring started to roll around I was still riding regularly. I loved being out on my bike. Running was still my first love, but my heart had found room for a second one. Around this time I also started noticing that bikes were going on sale and I soon found myself exploring the internet more often looking at what was out there and watching the sales. I started finding myself going back and checking out the 2006 Trek Madone 5.9 almost daily and eventually, I fell in love and bought her.

When my new bike arrived I was excited and couldn’t wait to take her out for a ride. She was so light and felt very fast and I was ear to ear smile the entire first ride. I came home and my 1000 was put back into storage. I decided to keep her as a backup bike for use in bad weather or in case something happened to the Madone. I still had a soft spot for the 1000, but she had been replaced.

I kept putting on the miles all spring. My longest ride though had only been about 65 miles. I needed to get in some longer ones if I really wanted to succeed at Ironman. Shortly after the school year ended I did an 80 mile ride followed a couple of weeks later by my first century. We stopped for lunch about 60 miles into the century, but I still completed it in one day, so I was getting closer to ready.

Around the 2nd week of July, 2007, I found out from my girl friend, via a friend of hers, that there was a group of triathletes that were planning to ride from Westchester, NY up to Lake Placid the week before Ironman and then stay up there and watch the race. I had ridden once early in the summer with a couple of them at one of their regular tri club rides and they seemed like a good bunch, so I asked for contact info to see if they would allow me to tag along. The ride they were planning was going to be about 300 miles over a two day period. It would be a huge step up for me, but I felt I could handle the challenge. I was riding well and feeling very strong and confident on the bike.

When I got a hold of the guy that was leading the ride he told me that due to a lot of people dropping out of the ride that he had decided to make it a one day ride. It was going to only be him and couple of other riders. He asked me how much experience I had and I lied telling him that I had done up to 160 miles in one day. I felt if he knew the truth that I would surely be left behind. He reluctantly agreed to allow me to join in.

I showed up at his place around 1am the morning of the ride. By this time the group was done to me and him and one other person who would only be riding about halfway with us. We set out through the dark and started our journey. It was a long ride and it turned out to be quite an adventure (which hopefully I’ll write up some day). The last half of the ride was in a cold, pouring rain with high winds. There were several times where I felt like I was done and could go no further, but somehow I’d get another wind and claw my way back into the ride. It took us 19 ½ hours to complete the 300 mile ride, which included our stops for food, drink, mechanical issues, etc. Our actual riding time was 18 hours and we averaged 16.5 mph for the ride. I was exhausted, cold and hungry by the time we reached Lake Placid, but I now finally felt I could call myself a cyclist.

We stayed and watched the race and I cheered my girlfriend on as she completed her 7th Ironman. The next morning after the race we headed to the fairgrounds to register for next year’s race. I was soon signed up to do my 2nd Ironman and had yet to do my 1st.

I did several ½ Ironman races over the course of the summer and completed my 1st Ironman in Louisville in a very respectable 11:40. I was now officially in my mind a runner, a cyclist and a triathlete. My love affair with the bike continued to grow. I continued to run, ride and do triathlons. My girlfriend moved away after that summer and went back to school. We continued to date for a while, but eventually she broke things off. I continued on with my new passions, despite losing my best training partner.

This last summer as I was in final preparation for my 4th Ironman (3rd at Lake Placid) I took my Madone in for a tune up and new tires and tubes to make sure everything was perfect for the race. While I was at the bike shop I started admiring a Cervelo that they had on sale. As I was talking to the guys that worked there they couldn’t help but notice were my attention was focused and one of them eventually told me that if I really liked that bike they should see the one they had in the show room. He took me over and showed me a 2009 Cervelo P2 tri bike with Dura Ace components. Since this was 2010 and the bike was still there, it was marked down pretty low. We talked, and talked and finally I said that I couldn’t afford it at the time and I finally left.

I got home and found that I couldn’t get my mind off of the bike. I kept telling myself I didn’t need it, the Madone was a great bike and besides, I really couldn’t afford it. The next day I went to pick up my Madone and I was feeling confident that I had dismissed the idea of buying the Cervelo. I got to the shop, paid for my Madone and took her out and loaded her on my truck. But, before I knew it I was back in the show room looking at the Cervelo. It wasn’t long before they convinced me to take it out for a test ride. I fell in love in the first mile. She was fast! And I felt super comfortable on her. When I returned from the ride they could tell from my smile that I was buying her. We haggled a bit and they came down a bit more on the price and soon she was mine.

It was the weekend before Ironman when I bought the Cervelo. I knew it was crazy, but my intent was to ride her in the race. I’d done no training on her and it would break one of the big rules of racing, don’t change anything race day. I managed to get in about 150 miles on her over the course of the week and felt confident that I could do Ironman on her. I took along the Madone, just in case, but the day before the race it was the Cervelo I put in transition.

I would go on to set a couple new PR’s in the race. I finished in a time of 11:20, which was 20 minutes faster than my PR in Louisville and I did the bike course in 5:45 breaking my PR, once again from Louisville, by several seconds. Several seconds doesn’t seem like much, but Louisville is very flat and fast and Lake Placid is a very challenging course and it was over 20 minutes faster than I had done the bike course at Lake Placid. I again had found a new love. I would continue to ride the Madone for most of my training, but the Cervelo was now my go to race bike. I stripped the Madone of her aerobars for the first time since I bought her and made her into a true road bike again.

This fall as the tri season came to an end and winter started approaching I decided it was time to put the Cervelo away for the season. I continued to ride the Madone, but after having spent more money than I really could afford on the Cervelo, I was all the more concerned about damaging the Madone. I had been riding her the last few winters, but in the back of my mind I knew that if something happened I could scratch together enough money to buy a new bike. Maybe not as high a level of bike, but a decent one. This was no longer an option.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was time to break out the 1000 again. She hadn’t been pulled out of storage in a couple of years, but I figured with simple adjustments and cleaning I could have her ready to ride. So out she came, but unfortunately I soon realized that it was going to take a lot more work than I expected. The chain was rusted solid, the brakes weren’t working, the cables frayed and the tires were rotten. She looked so bad, I almost just took her straight out to the dumpster. But, I still had a bit of a soft spot for her and I really didn’t want to continue to risk the Madone, so I got to work.

I went online and ordered all of the parts I would need. When they came in I spent several hours tearing her apart, cleaning, installing the new parts, lubing and getting everything adjusted. It was hard work but when I was done she looked good and I couldn’t wait to get her out for a ride. The next day we went for 40 hilly miles together and with each passing mile my smile started to grow. I was falling in love again. She was old, she was heavy and she was low end, but I loved her and found resurgence in my love of riding. I hadn’t fallen out of love with riding, but it felt like falling in love again for the first time. I couldn’t believe that I had left her in storage for so long, but that was now corrected and I know she won’t be going back.

After all of these years I’m 100% hooked on cycling. I regret all of the years that I let slip away without the bike, but nothing I can do about it except to keep on riding. Every time a new bike comes along my passion is renewed and I fall back in love with the sport again. I even now have plans to get my 4500 back out of storage and get her fixed up as well. However, it is simple to figure out that it is riding that I truly love and that it’s not about the bike.

But, yet, it is…

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's All About The Pace...

On the upper east coast we live at a fast pace, on the west coast it's a bit slower. When we run 3 miles we run it at a certain pace, and use another for 10 miles, and yet another for 18 miles. We have a pace we run whether it's for weight loss, general fitness, for fun or for competition. No matter what we do and why, we have a pace for it.

Most of us never set foot on a track. We pound out mile after mile on the road or on the trail or on the (shudder) dreadmill and feel good about it, as we should. We enjoy it and it's good for us. We lose weight, get fitter and faster, at least for a while...

Eventually it all plateaus. The pounds no longer melt away. We no longer feel like we are getting better, stronger, faster. Our workouts and pace remain the same but the gain is gone. Sure we still enjoy, but what about the rest?

Simply put, it’s our pace that is doing this to us. Yep, that same pace that got us to the point we’re at, is now the blockade that keeps us from continuing on. After a while our bodies adapt. We may still feel like we’re working hard, but physiologically we’re now on cruise control. Our bodies aren’t stressed the way they were before and we need to give them a jump start to get them going again.

The easiest fix is to start hitting the track a couple of times a week and cranking out the intervals. Mixing up the workouts and forcing our bodies to respond to new stresses and demands. If we stir things up enough we’ll find that we are once again improving. However, for many, like me, the track takes the joy out of running and makes it work. I do enough work that I get paid for; no one is paying to run laps around a track. I don’t enjoy it and I’m not going to do.

There are alternatives though. Interval training on the track may be one of the best and ‘easiest’ but there are ways to continue to improve without going anywhere near one. All we have to do is change our pace. I don’t mean to simply run everything faster, as many of us have found, pushing the pace on our runs only works so long. We just simply need to change the pace. Mix it up and keep our bodies from adapting to it.

There are many ways to do it. Go on 4 mile run, but at a 5k race pace (basically a Tempo run). When you can no longer hold the pace, let it go and find a pace to carry you to the finish. Try going on a 15 mile run at a pace significantly slower than your marathon pace. If you run an 8min pace for a marathon, try running those 15 miles at a 9:30 pace. Sounds silly? See how your legs feel in those last miles and see if you still think it’s silly. Chances are your muscles will be getting sore and your legs feeling tight. Why? You’re using your muscles much differently than normal. Your stride is shorter, and you’re spending more time on each leg bearing weight on every stride. I doesn’t seem like running slower will make you faster, but yet it does help. Our muscles strengthen from using them differently. Our body has to adapt to a different set of motor function parameters which causes a positive form of stress.

Another way to change the pace up is the old classic fartlek (Swedish for speed play, as if you didn’t know) run, where you keep throwing in changes in pace. There is no set distance for the total run or any of the changes in pace which may be anywhere from 50 yards up to ½ mile or more with no exact number to how many you throw in. Fartlek runs are very effective, but not really much fun (at least to me).

I know none of this sounds exciting and most of us have tried these and others as ways to improve, but unless we keep at them, their effectiveness is minimal. I know I will realize I’ve gotten to a plateau and I’m just logging miles at the same old pace day after day and I’ll start adding in Tempo runs and Fartleks for a while. They get old quickly and soon I’m back to just cranking out the miles, unless I find ways to make them interesting. As far as I’m concerned, intervals, tempo runs and fartleks all suck. But, they don’t have to…

This is where the more creative you are, the more you can start having fun with things. You may still be basically be doing a tempo run or a fartlek, but it doesn’t feel that way. One of the ways I’ve found to help mix up the pace and keep things fun is to race everyone that passes me. Granted, I don’t get a lot of runners passing me when I’m out a run, but I don’t limit it to runners. If someone on a bike passes me I chase after them for as long as I can or until I lose sight of them. Same with rollerbladers. Best part? If you actually hang with them for a while or better yet, pass them back, it drives them nuts. I actually went back and forth for over 2 miles once with a lady on a bike. By the time she finally broke free of me she was talking to herself, called me a name and probably rode harder than she ever had before. Did I feel bad about it? Heck no! We both got a better workout, even if she didn't like it.

Another tactic I've used is any time I see someone on foot I chase them down like it's between me and them for the win at Boston. It doesn't matter if they are walking or running, toward me or away. I chase until I catch them, lose sight or we go seperate directions.

When running with a friend I've made a challenge of it. We each get to pick 5-10 sprints of any distance during the run. They can be called at any time and for any distance. Loser of each sprint owes the other runner some prize to be determined. I used to do this with a friend on Sunday mornings during NFL season. Local bar had wings for 25 cents. For each sprint lost, you bought the other guy a chicken wing. If you don’t call all of your sprints before the end of the run, you owe the other guy a beer. It brings some strategy into the runs and can keep focus on what the other guy is doing. Notice that they aren’t paying much attention and call a sprint and take off before they know what happened. If other runner hasn’t called all of his sprints and you’re nearing the end of the run you can try to hold one of yours back and use it at a point that will block the other runner from calling their last before end of run. My friend used to call his last one about 50 yards from end of the run and one day I held my last one to the end and called for one remaining 200 yards of run. Got a free beer out of the deal and made future runs more interesting.

There are many other things you can do to keep things a little more interesting. Every time a Corvette (or other vehicle or color vehicle of your preference) passes on any and all runs, it’s a 200 yard sprint. Doesn’t matter if you’re already doing a tempo run or a fartlek, Corvette passes, sprint. If already sprinting, add it in. This one overrides all.

Another one I like is to do a 6+ mile run and start out at a 5k race pace. I have to hold 5k pace until I see a car with an out of state plate or I absolutely can’t hold on any longer. Some days this may mean a ½ mile, others 2 miles, and some until I crash and burn. But not knowing the distance ahead of time keeps things interesting and by focusing on passing license plates, I’m no longer focused on how hard I’m running.

I use some of these same tactics while cycling. See other bikes and I give chase. Or I may decide every time a red car passes I have to sprint. I may do a mile sprint of first one, half mile on second, and a quarter mile on third and then reset to a mile. If another passes before I’ve completed my sprint I tack on appropriate distance. If sprinting a quarter mile and it suddenly becomes a mile and a quarter, it really shakes things up. I usually set limit only one additional distance can be added on to a sprint already underway and will put a cap at max number of sprints on a ride. Some days I may only see a couple red cars and others it seems like every car is red.

There are so many different things you can do to mix things up. The important thing is that whatever you do forces pace changes, doesn’t allow runs to be the same time after time, and makes things a little more fun and interesting. Keep the body guessing, don’t allow it to adjust, and keep your mind distracted from the actual work out and enjoy. Before long you’ll find the miles melting away and that plateau you reached a thing of the past.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Do Race Directors Hate Me?

Well, maybe they don’t, but it sure seems like it at times. It is like they’ve banded together and decided, hey, what can we do to make it impossible for this guy to run our races. We don’t like him, we don’t want him, make him go away…

I guess a little more explanation and background would be helpful. I work as an athletic trainer at a private school working with athletes in grades 7th-12th. And, for those that don’t know, an athletic trainer works in the field of sports medicine. We’re often confused for coaches, personal trainers, fitness trainers, etc. If you’ve seen a college or pro football, basketball, baseball or other game on TV you’ve seen an athletic trainer. Someone gets hurt; we’re the first one on the field to take care of them. There is more that we do, but that is relatively unimportant to this. What is important is that even though I get 2 months off during the summer, I usually work 6 days a week and occasionally on Sunday. I am the only one at my school that is qualified to work with injured athletes, so if I leave, I put my athletes at risk. I need to be here for all contests.

Believe me I’m not complaining about my job, or my hours, what I’m complaining about is how hard it is anymore to race during the school year. Trying to find a ½ marathon or full marathon (or triathlons) that I can do is almost impossible. It’s not that there aren’t any Sunday races or there aren’t any on my few Saturdays off, it’s just that they’ve become impossible for me to do, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

Every time I look for a race during the school year I check for days that I will have time to get out of town and get to a race. Granted it would be nice to race locally and save travel expenses, but how many ½ and full marathons are in your neighborhood? So, when I find a date that works for me, I look for races that I can get to in my limited travel time and budget. There are many places online that make it easy to look for races and just about every time I have several to choose from. Unfortunately, most are closed to me.

This is where the crux of the problem arises. I will find a race that looks like a possibility and check out the info for it. The first thing I look for is if they offer race day packet pickup. I’ll check, and nope, no race day pickup. Next I’ll look at when pickup closes the day before. Most of the time it is too early for me to get to due to work. Strike two. Finally, I check to see if someone else can pick up my race packet for me. NOPE! Strike three! I’m out. I got to the next race site, same thing. The one after that, again, same thing. The next, yep, no go.

It gets frustrating as hell. I need these races. They help provide motivation for my training, allow me to see where I am physically and it gives me a release that training alone can’t do. But race after race, I am blocked from doing. And the trend is growing. Ten years ago this was never a problem for me, but each year there are fewer and fewer races that allow same day packet pickup or allow someone else to pick up your packet for you. And, it makes no sense.

Is the Taliban really going to target the Podunk Corn Fest Marathon and strap a bomb to a runner and make him detonate it at the finish killing 4 people and 2 cows? I don’t think they’re really interested in it. Am I going to sell my race number to the Small City ½ marathon for a huge profit? I don’t think so. So why can’t someone else pickup my packet? What’s the big deal? Is it because I registered online and so didn’t actually sign a release form? Hell, I’ll download it, sign it and either mail, fax or email it in. What’s the big deal?

Like I said, I’m sure I’m not the only one that faces this difficulty and I’m sure that many of you are able to work around it, but do you really want to? Who really wants to give up a vacation day or personal day just so they can make it to packet pickup on time? I’ve known people that raced locally and had to take a ½ day off to make it to packet pickup on time. This is a trend that really makes no sense and needs to end. I’d gladly stop by a booth race morning to show ID, sign form, whatever to prove that it really is me racing with the number I was assigned. Ban me for a year from all races nationwide if someone else ever races with my number, whatever it takes, but let me race!

Why do race directors hate me?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance Triathlon 2010 - The Next VFF Step

I arrived at the Quassy Amusement Park early Friday (6/4/10) afternoon. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The amusement park was much smaller than I had expected, but it looked like a great area for a triathlon. It was on a pretty, but small lake with clean clear water which would be ideal for the swim. The parking lot wasn't very big but they were in the process of clearing the field next to it readying it to handle all of the race day parking.
I wandered over to the registration area to check-in and pick up my packet for the Olympic distance race the next day. When I walked up to the table at registration they asked which race I was registering for, which gave me a momentary surprise, I had thought I would have to come back after Saturday's race to pick up packet for Sunday's 1/2 iron distance race. So I told them I was doing both and the problems began.

I should start off by saying that even though this race would prove to be one thing after another for me, the volunteers and staff at the race were incredible. They quickly took care of me, and made this as easy and pleasant as possible. The problems that occurred that were under their control were all computer glitches that were taken care of very promptly.

When I told them I was doing both races they checked their lists but could only find me listed for the Half and not the Olympic. I told them they I had definitely registered for both. Without questioning me or placing any blame they got me my stuff for the Half and went to work getting me set up for the Olympic. I was given my numbers, swim caps, t-shirts, etc. and then personally escorted over to the timing chip area where they explained the situation and made sure my timing chip was set up for both races.

While getting timing chip taken care of I was asked to check my info they had on the computer. Half of it was correct, but my address and birth date were wrong (I would find out later this was a common problem as there was some glitch between registration site and race site that scrambled that info). When I told them they corrected that and had me on my way to transition to check in my bike.

Checking in my bike and racking it was quick and simple. I did have two young female racers that asked me to switch rack spaces with them because one of them had a hybrid bike that didn't fit in their assigned spot. We made sure it was ok with the person in charge of the transition area and I put my bike in the new spot. I put my race numbers on it and before I left I let a little air out of the tires because I didn't want to risk them blowing from sitting in sun on hot pavement.

This done I made the short drive to my hotel. I got checked in, moved everything into my room and went after pizza. I brought the pizza back to my room and spent the rest of the evening relaxing, eating pizza and slowly getting everything ready for race morning.

The next morning I got up extra early. I almost missed the start of my race the previous weekend and didn't want to make that mistake again, especially since I was in the first wave. This time I vowed I would be on the beach and ready well before the start.

I got dressed in my race gear while eating my breakfast pizza, grabbed my gear bag and headed out the door. It was only a 15 minute drive to the park and it was raining lightly. The forecast had been for scattered showers most of the morning and they were here. The light rain didn't affect the drive and I was in transition a short time after leaving the hotel. I grabbed my gear bag and trudged off to setup my transition area. I had plenty of time, but I wanted to get it done and relax and maybe even warm-up a bit before the race. A short swim would be nice.

During my short walk to transition the light rain stopped. The sky looked ready to dump some more, but for the time it was done. When I got to my space I started unloading my gear and setting things up. I pumped up my tires to full pressure. Then I pulled out my helmet put and put it on my aerobars. Then I pulled out my bike shoe bag and went to put the shoes in their correct place. Unfortunately, I had grabbed the wrong shoes. These were my old ones that really, really hurt my feet. I could use them, but didn’t look forward to torturing myself. So I ran back to my truck hoping that I had my new ones with me too.

I got back to my truck, dug around in the back a bit, and there they were. Whew, as much as I didn’t look forward to do any Olympic distance race in the old ones, I was really afraid of having to come back the next day and do a ½ Iron distance in them. That might have been too much.

I ran back to transition and put the bike shoes in their spot. I dug into my bag for my sun glasses only to find that they weren’t there either. Back to the truck!

I ran back to the truck grabbed my sunglasses and ran back to transition. Put them in my helmet and then pulled out my gloves and secured them to the handle bars. I quickly looked over everything and felt confident my bike setup was complete.

I then focused on my run gear. I dug in my bag for my Vibram Sprints and, yep, they weren’t there! WTH! Did someone slip something in my pizza last night?!?! I swear I had everything set and in my bag ready to go. So, once again, I ran back to the truck, dug through it, found my Sprints, and ran back to transition. I put them in place w/ my run hat, and gel packs.

Gel packs? Shit! Forgot my nutrition bottles! I finally remembered that I had stuck them in a separate bag from the other gear in case they leaked. So back to the truck I ran and back to transition again. All this extra time I thought I was going to have before the race was quickly being eaten up. So much for a warm-up swim I thought, at least I’d done enough running to and from the truck that my legs should be ready to go.

Finally, I had everything in its place. I checked the time and saw that I had a few minutes left before I needed to grab my swim gear and head to the beach. So I sat down to relax for a bit and sip some water and munch on a granola bar. About 10 minutes later I got up, grabbed my wetsuit, dug in my bag for my goggles and timing chip and they weren’t there. Now I was really starting to get mad at myself. I’ve done probably somewhere over 1000 races in my life and I was making every beginner mistake possible. I didn’t have a single thing ready.

Calling myself derogatory name after derogatory name, I ran back to the truck for what I was hoping would be the final time. I quickly found my goggles, timing chip, swim cap and my number belt with my bib numbe
r on it. Oh yeah, swim cap and bib number, kind of need those too! I ran quickly back to transition. Now I was going to really be cutting things close.

I stuck my bib number with my Vibrams, slathered myself in body glide, stuck my timing chip on my ankle, grabbed my swim cap, goggles, wet suit and sprinted for the beach. They were giving final instructions as I ran up. I rushed into my wetsuit, pulling the legs on as quick as I could, and then the arms. As I was pulling on the second arm I felt the wetsuit give and sure enough, I had torn a hole in it. Perfect! It wasn’t a huge hole and it was repairable, but just one more thing to add to the list. This day really wasn’t getting off to a good start.

I was finally zipping up the suit as they were starting to line my wave up on the beach. I hurriedly pulled on my swim cap and got my goggles positioned correctly as I ran over. I had all of about 5 seconds before the gun went off and we were plunging into the water.

I was slightly winded from all of the running around so I struggled the first 100 yards getting my breathing under control. After that though, things smoothed out and I started to swim well. I’m not a fast swimmer, but I am a strong swimmer. It is always hard to tell during a race, but I seemed to be holding my usual position toward the front of the middle of the pack fairly well.

The water was like glass it was so smooth and it was crystal clear and cool. Perfect conditions for swimming and despite my normal dislike of this part of the race I was actually enjoying myself. I was holding a good line and moving past the buoys steadily. It seemed like no time before I was making the final turn to head in to the beach and the swim exit.

The muscle milk swim exit was next to impossible to see. It's brown and white coloration blending into the trees and the sky. Fortunately there were a couple more buoys and I focused on them, but soon I was past them as well. I tried to get a fix on a point on shore straight ahead and kept going. However, as I neared shore I started hearing a lot of shouting near by that I knew had to be out in the water. I popped my head up for a better look and found myself about one stroke away from swimming directly into a swim raft. Thank you kayaker! That would probably have hurt.

I veered around it and was finally able to make out the swim exit and I raced quickly through the final stretch. As I reached shore I pulled off upper part of my wetsuit while I ran for transition. I wasn't sure of my swim time but felt I had put in a decent one (for me that is).

As soon as I reached my bike I jerked and yanked and tugged the rest of my wetsuit off. I quickly pulled on my cycling shoes, helmet, sunglasses and number belt and took off with my bike.

As soon as I reached the bike mounting area I jumped on my bike and almost wiped out. Both feet slid right off the pedals. I tried clipping both in again and again both slid right off. I tried the right one, nope. The left, nope. Right, no, left no, right... I was swerving all over the place like a drunk on ice skates. I couldn't get either foot to lock in. It was like I had a cover on my cleats...

Shit! That was exactly what it felt like and I was sure I knew why. When I bought the new shoes I got new cleats for them as well. And, I figured I would get some some coffee shop covers for them to help them last a bit longer. I fricking forgot to take them off!

Sure enough, reached down to bottom of right shoe and grabbed a cover. I pulled it off, locked in, pedalled a couple strokes and did the same for the left. It only took about 100 yards but I was finally off and riding. Over the next mile I pulled my gloves off the handle bars and put them on. Finally, I was fully on the hammer.

The roads were a little damp, but were drying quickly. The clouds had started to part and it looked like the rain had given up totally for the day. There were almost no riders on the road (I was 12th in my wave in the swim, so I really was almost alone out there), which felt very weird, but was not surprising since I went off in the first wave. There was nothing to slow me down and I cranked away at the pedals.

The bike course turned out to be much more challenging then I had expected. There weren't any hills that I considered tough, but they just kept coming at you. There was virtually no flat anywhere on the course. That coupled wiith the lack of other riders in visual range most of the time made for a tough ride, but I kept the speed up pretty well.

The bike course wasn't closed to traffic, but there were plenty of police and volunteers limiting cars and keeping things safe. About one mile from the finish of the bike I heard a car coming up slowly behind me. I glanced over and saw an elderly lady driving. She took over 1/4 of a mile to fully pass me. Just as she got slightly ahead of me, still in the other lane, we came over a hill and I saw stop sign right in front of us.

I start to brake, but not fast enough. She pulled over at an angle and came to a complete stop directly in front of me. I locked the brakes, but had no chance. My rear tire slid around to the left of me and I slammed right into the side of her car. I no sooner hit and she starts driving again. I'm leaning against the side of her car trying desperately to get my balance again while not sliding down the side of the car toward the rear wheel. I can see the volunteer that is working the intersection over the top ot the car. He was a teenage boy and his mouth is just hanging open in shock. He had no clue what to do.

I rode on the of her car almost 50 yards before I finally got enough control that I was able to push off with my shoulder and get off the side of her car. I'm positive she had no clue I had hit her or that I was still there. We turned seperate ways about another 50 yards down the road, but I was unable to really get going again. I just spun the pedals the rest of the way in.

When I got back to transition I slowly dismounted and jogged my bike back in. I was in no hurry. I pulled off my helmet, gloves and shoes and stuffed my toes into my Vibram Sprints. I took a sip of water and jogged out of transition.

It took me a good half mile to get anywhere near pace and longer than that to get my mind back into the race. At the first water station I yelled out for a couple of people I knew on twitter, so I could at least put a face with them, but didn't see a response. I found out later that they heard me and yelled back, I guess my mind was still too unfocused.

Somewhere between the 2 and 3 mile mark I finally got my game face back on and started pushing the pace. I still had the 1/2 iron distance tri the next day, but there was no reason to hold back and I emptied the tanks. I finished the last 4 miles at a strong pace and had a solid race, despite everything, in my first attempt at the distance.

I finished with a final time of 2:44:03 (swim – 24:47, T1 – 2:44, bike – 1:22:28, T2 – 1:33, run – 50:29). A lot went wrong, but it was a solid performance on the day and I was happy with it. The run was the only section that was completely problem free. My feet felt great in the Vibrams and I was confident they would work great for longer distances. Now it was a matter of getting ready for the 1/2IM the next day, things could only get better…

Monday, October 25, 2010

They're Just Shoes...

They're just shoes: minimalist shoes, barefoot shoes, toe shoes, gorilla feet, whatever, they're still just shoes. For something so simple they've taken me on a wild journey over the last 14 months. It was a journey that truly started about 2 months prior to my first sticking toes in them. They transformed me as a runner, an athlete, an athletic trainer, a biomechanist and just as a person in general.

The journey started with a simple discussion on twitter where I was talking about the benefits of orthotics and another person argued that they were actually bad for you. His argument claimed the muscles of the feet, if
 allowed to strengthen naturally would better do the job. We went back and forth, citing sources and examples, neither giving in. But the wheels in mind had started to turn.

I started nosing around on the internet and then read the book “Born to Run” that had been recommended to me by same person who had put me on this path. The more I read, the more I researched, the more I believed. Soon, I was ready to give “barefoot” running a try myself.

I started with a couple short runs barefoot around the grass athletic fields at the school I work for. I loved it! I loved the feel of the grass on my feet, the freedom of my toes, and even loved the acorns I stepped on, despite the pain from the last. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to get my first pair of Vibrams and hit the road with them.

By the end of August, 2009, I had purchased a couple pairs of Vibrams, one pair of Sprints and one pair of
 KSO’s. I started with a couple cautious, short runs, which caused some soreness in my Achilles and feet, but felt good enough I pushed for more.

This turned out to be a wrong choice and I found myself suffering back to back foot injuries from pushing too hard, too fast. My feet swelled and I could barely walk. Things had gone terribly wrong, but I was still convinced this was the right path.

I temporarily gave up running in Vibrams and gave my feet a chance to fully heal. I was wearing the Vibrams daily, just wasn’t running in them. After about three weeks of running healthily in running shoes I started back into the Vibrams. This time I was going to be very slow about it and build gradually. No more than two runs a week and no more than three miles. I was determined to stick to this plan until ALL discomfort running in them fully dissipated.

Somewhere in the following weeks I found the correct form, my feet and lower legs the strength they needed and things took off. The distances started growing and I was running in nothing but my Vibrams. I was soon up to 8 miles, 10 miles, 13 miles, 15miles... My legs and feet felt great.

I started racing in them. First a 25k, then a slight step back to a half marathon, then a full. Tri season hit and I wore them for a sprint, an olympic, a half iron and finally for Ironman.

There was no looking back, I was hooked and I hadn't felt this good in years. My running form had transformed. It wasn't fully ingrained in me but it was getting there. When fatigued or running on soft surfaces I found that if I didn't pay attention I would revert to a heel strike, but this was happening less and less.

Everything I thought I'd learned over the years about correct running mechanics had proven wrong or at least not fully developed. My approach to working with my athletes has changed. This has opened up new avenues for injury rehab and prevention. I'm not counselling my athletes out of shoes, but I'm adjusting their mechanics to correct for problems they are having. I'm having greater success with treating and rehabilitating shin splints, ankle instability, lower leg muscle tightness and more. My running is improving again and I feel rejuevenated and I look at running and runners in a different light. My custom orthotics and heavy motion control running shoes are gone. I no longer fit in any of my old shoes and I even had to move a size up in the Vibrams when I purchased new ones last week, the muscles in my feet have developed that much.

They may be just shoes, but they have made all the difference...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Rookie Mistake

Saturday, May 15th was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, sky was blue, air was warm and full of the scent of freshly cut grass and wild flowers and I had time for a ride. I wasn't going to be able to get in as long a ride as I would have liked, but a short ride is better than no ride. So, I pumped up my tires, changed my clothes, hopped on my bike and off I went.

I took off on a challenging 40 mile loop that I done many times. The challenge was not in the distance but in the number and size of the hills. On this route there was almost no such thing as flat. A number of the hills were some of the toughest I'd ever ridden. It is great training for Ironman Lake Placid because there is nothing on that course that can match a couple of the hills.

I was about midway through the ride when BAM! I blew my rear tire. This caught me as a shock because despite all of the riding I do it had been years since I'd flatted. I'm always very good at making sure I replace tires and tubes regularly before they get too many miles on them. I don't know whether that is part of why it had been so long or whether it was blind luck that I'd rode thousands of miles since my last flat.
Anyway, here I was 20 miles out on my ride, just having started my turn back and I had a flat. No big deal. I popped my rear wheel off, opened my bike bag, pulled out my multi-tool and slid off the nothing… My tire levers, which were supposed to be on the side of the tool, weren't there. I dug back into my bag, pulled everything out and still nothing. I searched the ground around me hoping I had dropped them and didn't see them. I frantically researched through everything, and still nothing.

Now I started to get concerned. How was I going to fix a flat without tire levers? And, where were mine? I sat there in the grass pondering what to do and turning my wheel hoping it would give an idea.

About midway through the first turn of the wheel I realized getting tire off was my smaller problem, I had a huge hole in my tire. It looked like the tire had literally disintegrated on me. As I looked further I found a second smaller hole. Even if I got tire off and repaired or replaced the tube it wouldn't matter. I would only be able to go a very short distance before the tire would blow again.

I started to realize I may have to do what I'd never done before, call to be picked up. After literally thousands of miles running and cycling I've always made it back in on my own. Distances may have been shortened and creativity pressed, but always I did it. But now it was starting to look like the streak was at an end. What was I to do? I started thinking about who might be around and able to help me.

While sitting there an idea came to me, it might render tube unrepairable, but I might be able to pry tire off with my keys. I also had a patch kit and could try and use patches to repair tire enough to get me home. I wasn't sure idea would work due to size of hole and the fact that the rest of the tire looked like it could disintegrate at any second, but it was worth a try.

Prying the tire off with keys wasn't that bad. I got it off almost as quickly as with tire levers. I quickly took tire fully off of wheel, stripped the tube out of it (which I stuck in jersey pocket so I wouldn't forget it) and set about patching the tire. I put 1 patch over the smaller cut and 4 over the big hole and another patch inside the hole. For a little extra protection incase patches didn't work, I folded up a $1 bill and stuck it on inside of tire covering hole.
Patching done, I put tire back on wheel, put in a new tube and finished mounting tire. I slowly and cautiously inflated tube with my CO2 checking carefully for leaks and signs of a problem. Once tire was fully inflated I put wheel back on bike, packed my tools and cautiously got back on my bike.

I rode slowly and tentatively at first and with each mile got a little more confident that my patch job would hold. As my confidence grew my pace quickened. I knew that even if patch held another part of tire could give way and leave me stranded, but I decided to make the most of whatever ride I may have left. As it turned out patch job and tire held the rest of the way home, almost 20 miles. In fact the patch was the strongest part of tire by the time I finished. In the remaining miles most of the remaining rubber bubbled up and was ready to go.

Over the course of the remaining miles I was slowly able to figure out what had happened. The previous season I had bought new wheels for the bike. The tires on the old wheels were due to be replaced, but since I took them off of the bike and put on the new ones I saw no reason to spend the money on them. Then, at the end of the season, I put the old wheels back on, to save wear and tear on the new ones if I did any riding over the winter. I never took the bike out all winter and over the 5 months I was off of the bike I forgot about changing the wheels back. When I started riding again, I assumed that it was on the fairly new tires and not the old shot ones. The fact that I had got any rides in without flatting to that point was actually pretty incredible.

As for the missing tire tools, the previous week I had used them to change the tubes on my girl friends bike. I wasn’t positive until I got home, but I realized that I must have left them on my coffee table after I was done, a simply, but almost costly mistake.

As far as mistakes go, the two I had made were rather simple, but both were something that I have enough experience with that should never have happened. I know to make sure that I do proper and regular maintenance on my bike and to check it before every ride. I know to replace worn part before they become a problem. I also know that I should always put my tools back when I’m done and that I should have everything I need with me when I go out on a ride, especially when I’m going solo. Despite this, I still found myself out in the middle of nowhere, and in danger of not being able to get back in. Fortunately, experience and a little ingenuity got me home, but it was a nice reminder to never just take things for granted and to make sure everything is set before heading out on a ride.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ironclad Sprint Triathlon 2010: My First Tri with VFFs

The morning of the Ironclad Sprint Triathlon arrived way too early. My alarm went off at 4:30am and I slowly dragged my butt out of bed. I got dressed, prepped my water bottle for the bike and a bottle for the drive, walked the dogs, grabbed my gear and stumbled out the door. At this point I was only running 15 minutes behind schedule.

In my truck I quickly programmed my Droid phone to use as my GPS and pulled out of the driveway. It was a 1 hour drive to race sight and the bulk of it was uneventful. As I neared the race sight I started to see more and more cars loaded with bikes, obviously going to same place as me.

As I neared the race I had a growing line of cars with bike behind me. However, just before I got there everyone disappeared. As I noticed this I realized I had goofed. There was no parking at the race site, we were supposed to park a mile away at a school. I had programmed my Droid incorrectly and I was going to lose even more time. I searched for a place to turn around and doubled back to where I had last seen the other cars and followed the cars I saw with bikes to the parking area.

Once parked, I pulled out my pumped, got my tires up to pressure and took bike off of rack. I then gathered my gear out of the various bags it was in and stuffed into one bag for transport to transition. I put numbers on my helmet, bike, and race belt. All of this I'd meant to do night before and never got around to. I took my time and once everything was set I got on my bike to ride to the transition area.

About midway to transition I glanced at the time and realized transition closed in 5 minutes and race started in 20. I was running way behind and cutting things a bit too close. I sped up on bike and rolled up to transition as they were starting to push everyone out.

I hurriedly racked my bike, and set everything up. I put on a liberal application of bodyglide to both legs from knees down and both arms from elbows down, but, as I realized later, forgot my neck. This done I picked up my wetsuit and goggles and started to head for the swim start. As I was leaving transition one of the volunteers came through yelling out a reminder to the athletes to pick up their timing chips and swim caps.

Oops, I knew I was forgetting something...

I sprinted to the nearest tent and got my timing chip. Unfortunately that was all they had. The swim cap was at another tent over 200 yards in the wrong direction.

I quickly ran to the tent to get my swim cap. When I got there however the volunteer who was there was just watching the tent. He had no idea where caps were and once found what color I was to get. After what seemed like ages, but was probably about 5 minutes the correct person showed back up and gave me my cap. It was 2 minutes to start of 1st wave and I was in 3rd wave and had yet to put on my wetsuit.

I dashed off for the swim start about 300 yards away. I got there as the first wave was lining up to start. I hurriedly pulled on my wetsuit, causing 2 small tears in the process, put on my cap and got my goggles ready. By this time 2nd wave was starting, I had managed to get ready with a whole 3 minutes to spare. Not a good way to start things off.

A few minutes later I entered the water and off we went. The swim took place in the Long Island Sound and when I had checked the water temp online a couple days before it was only 54 degrees. It definitely hadn't warmed up much since then, and my face was hurting from the cold before I had reached the first buoy. The swim, other than the cold, was uneventful. I exited the water with a swim time of 16:42 for a half mile.

Coming out of the water my feet were numb. This was probably a good thing though because the beach was very rocky and full of broken shells. I ran as fast as my numb feet would carry me to transition. The top part of my wetsuit I had shed as I came out of the water and I had taken my goggles and cap off as I ran.

When I got into transition I struggled out of the bottom part of my wetsuit which got caught up on my timing chip. Once free of the wetsuit I got my cycling shoes on, put on my number belt, sunglasses, helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. I jumped on the bike and off I went.

The first loop of the bike was uneventful. I was flying by other riders on a regular basis. It seemed like no time before I was starting on the second loop and this was a little more difficult. On the second lap we started mixing the faster racers with the slower novices that really didn't know what they were doing. High speed passing the slow and erratic made things a little dangerous and crazy.

I completed most of the second lap without incident when ahead of me I saw my friend who was doing his first tri. I caught him quickly and I glanced over to say hi and encourage him on. As I did this I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. There were people rushing into the road to slow us down. I had to lock my brakes and went into a slide barely missing a couple other bikes. (I would find out later that I had torn most of the rubber off of a section of my tire as a result, but it held long enough for me to reach the finish.) There had been an accident and they were trying to keep us from running into the downed rider.

I was quickly around them and finished the final miles without incident. I slipped my feet out of my shoes as I approached transition. My odometer told me I had only rode 12.5 miles instead of the 13.5 they had told us. I hopped off of my bike and ran into transition. Despite my toes being numb making it difficult to feel toe holes, I quickly pulled on my Vibram Sprints, grabbed my number belt and hat and was off and running.

The run course was mainly off road, with a good portion of it being on well groomed trail. There was a lot of gravel in opening stretch but my feet had become well adjusted to it and this caused me no problems. The trails themselves were a bit of an adventure. There were a couple mud pits we had to run through and at the first I hesitated a bit. If had been running in shoes I would have just jumped in but for some reason I paused a moment and contemplated my alternatives. I quickly realized I was being silly and just plunged through and didn't slow for the remainder.

The only other concern was the sections of trail that had large roots crossing them. They were a concern for any runner because they were an easy way to trip or twist an ankle. But, with VFFs I was also concerned with injuring my feet if I stepped on them incorrectly. I just carefully watched my step and danced my way through them.

The run was over before I knew it and I found myself sprinting for the line. The race itself wasn't much of a challenge because of the short distance, but I still felt like I had made a huge accomplishment. I had run longer distances in my VFFs but this was the first time I had used them in a triathlon. My feet felt great in them and they made running the trails a true joy. I found myself anxiously awaiting my next tri in them (the next weekend).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Arubian Misstep

I came out of the Celebrate Life Half Marathon back in March feeling pretty good about my progress in running in Vibram Five Fingers. Even though I ran the race slower than what I'd hoped to, I felt that I was getting better at running downhills in my VFFs. Besides, it wasn't due to my choice in foot wear that caused the slower time, it was a combination of training and a GI issue during race that resulted in an unplanned pit stop that were to blame.

My feet felt great during and after the race and I was starting to feel a little cocky about it. I had a great week of running following the CLHM. I didn't do a lot mileage but the runs were good quality. That next Saturday I flew to Aruba for spring break.

Arrived in Aruba Saturday afternoon. I was very fatigued and it was very hot so elected not to run that day. The next morning I woke up bright and early and set off on a 7 mile run. I quickly got absorbed in the scenery and weather and hardly even noticed that I was running. I had been a bit concerned how well my feet would do in VFFs running on hot pavement, but I didn't even notice. This was literally a run in heaven.

On the second morning I again woke early and headed out for a run. It was another absolutely perfect day. Weather was fantastic, sun was glistening off of the beautiful blue water, there was scent of sea air and tropical flowers in the air and life was good.

About 1 1/4 miles into the run I was running along looking out at the sea. Because of an oncoming car I moved to the side of the road and was about to move into the dirt beside it when I felt a sharp pain lance through my right foot. It took a couple hopping steps to come a complete stop, each one, despite barely putting pressure on that foot, hurt more than the last.

It took a few moments to figure out what had happened. I finally realized that I made a cardinal sin of running, I'd stopped watching my footing. As a result when I attempted to leave the road I didn't get a good placement on my foot and stepped with only outer edge on pavement and the rest came down on dirt. To make it worse the dirt wasn't flush with the pavement, there was about 2 inch drop in that particular spot.

I hobbled around for a moment trying to decide how serious it was. The initial piercing pain subsided somewhat, but it was still pretty high on the pain chart. I debated with myself whether to keep going, turn back, turn back and walk or to try and hitch a ride. The last option being quickly dropped. After a couple minutes I decided to try and slowly continue on. I'd been able to run through most of my injuries and now that I'd learned how to correctly run in VFFs I figured I could continue without making things worse.

After about 200 yards I was able to limp under a 10 minute pace, but could go no faster. The pain had just become a steady, throbbing ache, the sharpness had gone. I continued on for a little over another mile before giving up. I had hoped the pain would go away or at least become very faint, but it wasn't. I was still limping and realized I was just going to injure something else if I kept it up, so I turned to head back to the hotel.

The 2 1/4 miles back were less then fun. I could no longer appreciate the paradise I was running in and had to focus instead on running as correctly as I could. After what felt to be an eternity I finally found my self in the hotel parking lot. I went up to my room, grabbed the ice bucket, filled it and spent the next 25 minutes trying to numb my foot. Fortunately I had cold beer close at hand.

I struggled to walk the rest of the day and all of the next. I tried to run again 2 days later, but barely managed 2 1/2 miles at a very slow pace. The flowing day it was a painful 4 miles, the next 3, and the final day I was there an uncomfortable 4 1/2 miles. One careless moment of being too wrapped up in looking around me instead of where I was going cost me a great week of running in a virtual Garden of Eden. I still got some miles in, but they weren't enjoyable and my foot affected the quality of everything else I did while I was there.

I still had a great time while I was there but was disappointed with myself for having made such a simple stupid mistake. However, I'm still alive, I've had worse and there was no permanent damage. Lesson learned, enjoy your surrounding, but always watch your step.