Monday, July 29, 2013

Week Review: July 29, 2013

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs.

Training Update:

Tour de France in Corsica, July 1, 2013 (source:
After almost three months of  little to no running, the past few weeks have been about increasing the run volume and getting back some run fitness. On Saturday I got my first actual long run in the books since the calf injury. As we do on most weekends, we hit the tow path from Sand Island. All was normal and, with just 2 miles left to run, I headed down the Bethlehem side for a short out-and-back. This was right around 9:15 am.

There was the yearly tree trimming being done and the path was blocked off. When I got to the temporary fencing there was a runner thinking about running through it. I talked him out of it and we headed back to Sand Island, and he onto the Allentown section. Really, really glad it played out that way. Long story short there was a fatal accident that occurred within the next 15 minutes, followed by the fire trucks, police cars, and the ambulance. You can find all the deets here.

The rest of my week went as planned, with the exception of my Sunday ride. Ever have one of those days where it just wasn't happening? Or how about one of those days where you get caught in a huge thunder storm? That was my day on the bike - I wasn't feeling all that great and the sky opened up on me. The only saving grace being I was close to Wegmans and this cookie:

Still managed to get in a bit more than 50 miles, powered by butter and chocolate chips.

On a More Personal Note ...

Away from training, I spent Saturday night at The Meadowlands with The Queen. On tap was her favorite band - Bon Jovi - with the J. Giles Band opening up. The only thing more Jersey would be if Springsteen were there. And what a great concert. The opening act was everything you would have expected - played their hits Centerfold and Love Stinks (but not Freeze Frame) and a whole lot of blues. The Queen was not impressed, but I enjoyed the show.

And then there was Bon Jovi, who played for three hours. It was just the right combination of new material, older hits and a few cover tunes. Richie Sambora hasn't been with the band for a while, which had The Queen quite concerned. Didn't even miss him. The new guitarist was great, keeping the integrity of the music while adding his own style. My only complaint: JBJ is a Giants fan ... not a Jets fan.

Speaking of the Jets ... now that the 2013 Tour de France is in the books (I hate when that happens), NFL training camps are up and running. As a long-time Jets fan and a season ticket holder I have to have high hopes for this year ... just as I did last year ... and the year before ... and the year before ... man I hate the Pats. If the defense can do what I expect hope they can do, and the offensive line becomes respectable again, we have a real good chance this year.

Please don't burst that bubble for me. Seriously, please just let that be.

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

"Winning" can be defined a number of different ways, depending on the person and the situation. Running Shoe Guru does a good job of laying out how to do that, whether your goal is to win a race, complete a distance, or something in between. (Running Shoe Guru)

Looking for a motivational speech before a big event. Own. This. Race. (Travelete)

Or if you are motivated and just looking for a little more speed on the bike and you already have the aero helmet, the aero wheels, the $6k bike ... look to your tires. (Slowtwitch)

And speaking of the bike ... 101 bike maintenance tips from Bicycling Magazine

We train for hills, we love hills. Steepest race in Europe:

And here's our song of the week - Pompeii by Bastille

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Taking Care of Your Community

When I started this blog the intention was to keep a focus on a part of my life - swim, bike, and run. But if you take note of the blog's name, "The Complex Triathlete," the implication is that there is a bit more beneath the surface. And while there are some who would argue that there really isn't a whole lot under my surface, I would argue that they were wrong. What you will not see here is a political argument or some discussion of Shakespearean writings, or anything of such a highbrow nature. And there will be large parts of the personal life that stay personal. But from time to time there will be issues I think are worth a discussion ... or at least a diatribe on my part. Let's just call this the "Complex" side of this little piece of the web. With that, let's get started.

Last weekend I was back in my hometown of Lakewood, NJ for a wedding. Due to less traffic than expected, we had some time to drive around town, something I haven't done in a long, long time. I've been back in town visiting family, but never more than a quick in-and-out. On Saturday we took the tour.

After more than a decade you expect things to change ... some for the better and some for the worse. The hope is that overall it will be better. And more than 25 years after my high school graduation, there should be huge changes. Lakewood, NJ in 2013 should not be Lakewood, NJ in 1987. I assure you, it is not.

Over the years the big change has been in the population's composition, which is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. People move in and people move out. Communities change over time. This includes the businesses that are in and around town. Ottmer's Iron Den, a place I spent a lot of time at in my teenage years, hasn't been there for more years than I can remember. In a way, this is a good thing, in another, it is quite the shame its no longer around. We passed the lake where I learned how to swim; we swung by the old firehouse; we saw the downtown.

I'm thinking the drive around town was not a great idea. To me, things have changed for the worse. In general, the area appears more run down ... like there is less pride in what Lakewood was/is. I felt very little connection to the area as what was there didn't represent what I grew up with. Change happens, I get it. But this was not the change that makes you smile and say, "yeah, they got this right." No, this was the shake your head, what the heck has happened kind of change.

Just as important, the town didn't have a feel of a place that was progressing. It didn't feel like it was moving forward. Heck, it didn't even appear that the roads had been repaved since I last lived in town. Maybe stagnant is the word I'm looking for. Given a choice, I'm not sure I would want to live there. I find this sad.

Out on my run yesterday morning I was thinking this trough and making the comparison to where I live now. Bethlehem and the surrounding area is nice, growing area (I actually live in the Township, not the City). When I moved here more than 20 years ago the city was in transition, suffering from the demise of Bethlehem Steel. Since then I have witnessed incredible change in where I live. Not all good IMHO, most of it positive, just about all of it expected. There are three factors I believe differentiate the two cities.

Looking back, the "powers that be" in Bethlehem had some forethought and vision. Back in the 1970s - at the peak of "The Steel's" domination over the area's economy - the leadership realized that there might be a time when The Steel might not be as mighty as it was at that time. A series of industrial parks were developed in the coming decades that have led to a more diversified employment picture, taking over as the local growth engine as The Steel was having problems. Certainly not a smooth ride, especially in the 1990s when the real transition was happening. In the end, the transition was made and the area is thriving.

There is also a sense of community. Like Lakewood, Bethlehem has a deep-seated history as well as  many people who have spent their whole life here. This is both a positive and a negative in my opinion. But, outsiders like myself, while not embraced (at least at first) have been able to move into the area and become a part of the social fabric of the area. As you would expect, it has not been a happy, happy, joy, joy lovefest all the time, but over time those of us from NY and NJ have been able to fit into and make a positive contribution to the local culture. We became a part of Bethlehem. Things have changed, yet are still very recognizable as being Bethlehem. What you have now feels more like a continuation of what has always been, not a break from the past.

{Funny little side story. When I opened Body Dynamics in 1993 I was viewed as an outsider by many. By 2000 people forgot that I was a Jersey Boy. I know this because many would come in and complain about  the influx of people moving across the border. When I gently would explain that I did the same thing myself, the response would be "you're different. You're one of us." I wasn't, other than I came a few years earlier.}

There is an investment in the community as well. Bethlehem is more than just the city, but in many ways connected to the smaller communities that surround the city. One of the best examples of investment beyond just the roads and businesses is in the trail system.  Like other areas we have a park system and ball fields for the kids. But we also have the D&L Trail that runs through Bethlehem is 165 miles of connected trails around the Delaware and Lehigh Canals. Over the past few years there has been a trend of greater care and maintenance of what is there, as well as more areas connect onto the system. Eventually, the system will connect from the Scranton area all the way down to Philadelphia. What we have here is truly amazing.

My point is not to talk down my hometown. I am really glad that I am from Lakewood, and couldn't think of a better place to grow up at the time that I did. There is a lot of history associated with Lakewood, and a wonderful, diverse population. Honestly, there are other factors that have affected my hometown that are beyond the scope of this little post.And not really relevant at this point.

My point is, wherever it is that you live, make sure that you are a part of something that is growing and moving forward. Get involved, be it at your local school or helping your local food co-op get the doors open. At the local level politics is more about getting things done - roads paved, garbage collected, zoning issues - than politics. Pay attention to elections and make sure you understand the issues; Make sure your local officials are doing what's right for the community. Whatever you do, make sure that the changes in your community are for the better, not the worst.


The Lakewood, NJ Historical Society

The History of Lakewood (Video)

Historic Bethlehem Society

Bethlehem, PA History

Train hard. Stay focused.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Week Review: July 22, 2013

The week in review is a look at what I have been up to in training as well as a (sometimes) look into the other side of my life as well as links to some of what I have found interesting on the interwebs.

Training Update:

The last two weeks have been a move back into a short base period with lower intensity but greater volume. As I write this I have tired legs and somehow not totally dehydrated. Thankfully the heat/humidity is forecast to be breaking and we will be back to just the normal July heat.

After 6 weeks without running due to injury, followed by the Philly Tri, my run training had been lacking. Starting to rectify this situation with two solid weeks of mileage. Not a lot of speed, but starting to rebuild the base. Bike volume is back to normal levels and I did a long transition workout yesterday (Sunday) for the first time in a long time. Nothing like heading out to run at mid-day in July!!! At least the humidity was "only" 46%.

In the pool I like to try some different swim sets from time to time, usually "borrowing" a set from a blog or other online source. On Thursday I had a meeting with the Bethlehem Food Co-op and couldn't make Masters at Westend. With the heat we have been having the water there has been in the high 80s, fine for lounging around, not the most pleasant for hard intervals. Fortunately, I am also a member at LA Fitness and I hit the pool in Allentown for a new swim set in 80 degree water. It was a nice change of pace. Anyway, I did the following main set:

100Y, 200Y, 300Y, 400Y
100Y, 200Y, 300Y
100Y, 200Y

RI: 100 on 10 sec, 200 on 20 sec, 300 on 30 sec, 400 on 40 sec

The original workout can be found here.

Swam the set consistently, or as consistent as possible, losing 1-2 sec. per 100 toward the end of the set. Honestly do not think I went out too fast, just missing a little bit of fitness right now. 

On a more personal note, spent the afternoon and evening back in my hometown at my cousin Helen's wedding. Held at Casa de Bud, this was a laid back, outdoor affair. Food was good as was the company. Best part of the evening was the band. Well, not so much a band as it was Billy's (the groom) buddies. See, the groom is a musician who plays the Ocean County, NJ scene, with some really talented friends. Ended up hearing some great tunes. My personal favorite was their version of Rosalita. Congrats to Helen and Billy!!!

Told you it was laid back wedding!!!

Interesting Stuff From the Interwebs:

In my real life I am a partner in Magellan Financial, a financial services business in Allentown, PA. Our third quarter market outlook can be found here.

Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon, will be speaking at SteelStacks on Saturday, October 19 as part of the Runner's World Half Marathon and Festival. (LV Running Scene)

We spend all kinds of time worrying about training, but not so much about recovery. Maybe we should give  it some thought, because, you know, it might do us some good. (Running Shoe Guru)

And for your listening pleasure: The Boss at Wembley Stadium earlier this year playing Rosalita (YouTube)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Think ... Just Run

"I just have work to do; I just do it." - Ian MacKay

So this morning The Queen woke up early to get her run in before the real heat of the day set in. If you aren't in the Northeast right now, good for you. It is waaaayyyyyy too hot these days. Looking like it will be in the mid-90s all week, breaking by Saturday. Heading to NJ for an outdoor wedding so I hope the weatherman is right this time!!! (Note: I understand the idea of an outside wedding can be compelling but there is too much weather risk. Heat, humidity, rain, snow, hail ... none of that generally happens inside).

Anyway, so The Queen is mulling around the kitchen, clearly thinking about the weather outside. My advice to her: Don't think, just run. 

Lake Carasaljo in Lakewood, NJ
Physically getting started can be the hardest part of a workout. While I learned how to swim as a kid, I am by no means a "swimmer." I learned to swim by getting thrown off a boat in the middle of Lake Carasalgo, not in a pool with a coach on the deck. Staying focused on my own at the pool can be a challenge. And I
cannot tell you how many times I have sat on the edge of the pool just thinking about what I am about to do. Haven't talked myself out of a workout yet, but ... well ... haven't always done what I had originally wanted to accomplish either. I'm not talking about swimming a few seconds per 100M slower because I didn't have it that day. No, I'm talking about not doing all the work planned for that workout. Talked myself right out of whatever it was I planned for that session. Should have just jumped in the pool and got the work done.

And the thing about swimming is that there are really no weather considerations, unless your pool is outside. For me it has never been a problem to get outside for a run if it is at all possible to be outside. There was a time, many years ago, I was meeting G-Boy and Low Jack on a very cold February morning for a long run. Jack bailed and hit the elliptical before I even showed up, G and me were too hard headed to stay inside. It was somewhere around 10 degrees outside, maybe ... not really all that bad ... until ... we turned directly into the wind. O.M.G. was it freakin' cold. Numb legs type of cold. Teeth hurting kind of cold. We eventually came to our senses and cut it short, but we didn't think, we just ran.

The other common excuse for bagging a workout is usually some form of  "I feel like crap" or "I have a pain in my calf/quad/hamstring/name your body part." At 43 years of age, if I didn't have one of these excuses on any given day I would be asking what's wrong. A real injury, of course, is not something to take lightly. But injury isn't what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the feeling of work in your legs.

Funny thing about this excuse, it tends to not show up when you have an easy 5 mile recovery run on the schedule. Not feeling your best, no big deal, its an easy run. No, this one shows up when I'm heading to the track for a fun, early morning 16 x 400 on the track or when I'm headed over to Applebutter Road for some seated hill repeats on the bike. I always make it out of the house and give it a go (assuming that the pain in my hamstring isn't a pulled muscle), committing to the first 20 minutes before I declare my legs unsuitable for hard work. Almost every time it starts this way, the workout is over before I remember how bad I felt pre-workout. No thinking, just gettin' it done.

Same thing goes for early mornings, late evenings, those horrible workouts in the basement when there is ice on the roads. Don't think ... just run.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss ... or Why You Should Stop Eating Processed Food

My reading list is always diverse, but has been filled with books related to food and the food industry for the past year or so. A few weeks ago I reviewed In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, whose main them is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That book helped lead me in a different direction with my eating habits. I have always been a fan of "real food" so in a way it was like preaching to the choir.

But what is "real food?" Yes we all know that an ear of corn or a piece fruit is real food. Here in the Lehigh Valley you can't go a day without seeing a corn field, and I cannot think of a place in this country where you cannot find some kind of fruit trees. But what about that Mango Fruit Bar? It sounds healthy. It sounds real. Even sounds like it comes from the ground. But ... it doesn't. Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss goes the next step and gives the insight into exactly how processed food is produced.

What Moss does over 264 pages is take you behind the scenes of the corporate food industry and shows the process of how the food they sell to consumers is designed, created, and then marketed to you and me. Based on extensive research and fist hand discussions with big players in the industry, the author paints a picture that is frightening. It is truly eye opening on so many levels. Here are five things that are surprising but that I didn't necessarily find a surprise:

1. The increase in obesity coincides with the increase in processed food consumption. This is not a coincidence.

2. The food companies have done extensive research on exactly how much sugar/fat/salt they need to put into a product to get you to the "bliss point," or the point where you will ingest the maximum calories. Essentially, they design foods that make you want to keep eating and eating and eating ... You would be amazed at the amount of sugar that is added to almost everything, and one of the main reasons salt is loaded into many foods (read the book).

3. Chances are you are eating something that you really don't want to eat and probably shouldn't.

4. Marketing:  Many of us are looking for the quick, easy solution and they use this to make sales. Also, they will do whatever they can to market a product as "healthy," because we all want to be healthy, right? Of course, what the food companies consider healthy and what actually is health aren't exactly the same thing.

5. Quantity: It is amazing how much of some products we as a people eat compared to what we did a few decades ago. For example, Americans eat 33 pounds of cheese and "cheese products" per year, three times the consumption rate in the 1970s.

6. Many of the people behind the creation of processed food honestly admit that they won't eat their own products. If you read the book this will not come as a surprise.

Needless to say I recommend reading this book ... but there is more to do than just reading. Making better food decisions creates change in a number of different ways. From a health perspective, eating more nutrient dense, high quality foods is better than ingesting man-made foodstuff. The secondary, and just as important change that can result, if the quality of food we are offered by the food manufactures will change if it is in their best interest to do so. And the more people who vote with their pocketbook by not buying their products, the quicker that change can/will occur. The American public has some responsible for what we have available in grocery stores simply because as a people we have bought into their products and marketing.

Please don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of chips (especially Fritos!!!), and have been known to make a bad food decision or two. It has taken time to get to where most of what I ingest is real food. Moss gives a clear understanding of where the products we eat come from, how they were developed, and how they have marketed the products to the American public. If you have even a remote interest in your health Salt Sugar Fat is worth a read.

Train Hard, Stay Focused.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mid-Season Training Break

Last year I tried something new with my training - the mid-season training break. At 43 years old I'm no spring chicken. With years of pounding on my legs, I was finding that by the time my late season races came around, my body was really beat up. The result: some pretty mediocre performances.

Not being the sharpest tool in the toolbox, it took me a few years of this to figure out what was happening. What was even harder was following through with the solution. See, I have never really believed in the need for rest and recovery. Yes, I know it is necessary, but I have lived in denial of this fact for years. See, in my world, I should be able to work my ass off day after day after day and just get fitter ... I have come to realize we don't live in my world.

The mid-season training break is exactly what it sounds like - a hiatus from "real" training. In my version, I bring the volume of training down AND the intensity of the training. This means no long bike rides, no long runs, and no intervals (except at Masters Swimming, where I generally will do the workout but seat myself back from where I normally would swim). I will also try and run/ride flatter courses than I would normally seek out (have to keep it easy, after all). The idea is to really allow the legs a chance to recover and heal.

To take what is essentially a training hiatus is a big step for anyone who suffers from "Type-A Personality Syndrome." While it may make rationale sense, it not only doesn't feel right (I need to do more, more, MORE!!!!), it takes a lot of belief in your personal fitness level. Because, you know, if I don't do those hill repeats I'll never be able to climb a hill again and my fitness will totally disappear.

The first time I did this I did it based on what I knew should logically/rationally work. In other words, I took a huge leap of faith. Last year I set my race season up with my "A" race being Ironman 70.3 Augusta on September 30. The first part of the season I built up to racing Ironman 70.3 Eagleman and the Philly Triathlon (Olympic) in June, followed by two very easy weeks of training. Over the Summer I raced a few shorter distances, building to Augusta. These races mattered, but only as part of the build for Augusta. The goal was a PR at my "A" race and solid, specific performances at the other races.

Long story short ... it worked. I did well at both the NJ State Triathlon and Steelman Triathlon, leading to a 13+ minute PR in Augusta. I believe it worked for a couple of reasons.

First, even though I took 2 weeks of downtime, in reality it is more like 6 weeks until my training is back full tilt. I knew it would be a mistake to just rev it back up immediately after the forced rest. After all, I'm not 23 or even 33 years old anymore. Even  though it was coming from a higher level of fitness and training, I built up my training in the next few weeks like I do in January, gradually increasing both duration and intensity.

Second, because I gradually built my training up again, I was able to really hit it hard in the 4-week build block for Augusta. My legs were good. Mentally I was fresh. Key workouts went well. My fitness improved.

Third, my legs were fresh for race day. Not having 9 months of residual fatigue in my legs made the two week taper work like it should. So good, in fact, that I thought I peaked too early, as my legs felt so good race week.

What is the downside of the MSTB - actually doing it. Seriously. Taking a break at the end of the year, after my last triathlon or a late season marathon is easy. For years I have basically taken a good month and let the body heal. To back off when things are going good, the weather is warm, the days are long is counter-intuitive to me.

Now's the time I should be on the bike until 8:30 pm. There is light at 5:30 am, perfect for a morning run. And the pool is outside. Yet, I forced myself to take that break.

And again this year I am doing the same ... right now ... it's killing me all this rest. Currently I'm in the middle of week #2 of unstructured training. I've done some running, biking and swimming. Heck, I even went on a real vacation, sleeping as much in 2 days as I do in some weeks ... I miss my bike ... but I stick with it because it is better than bombing my Fall races because I was too hard-headed to take some downtime.

If you are looking for some other thoughts on this subject, both Pro Triathlete Jesse Thomas and the crew at Endurance Corner have some thoughts on the matter.

Did I say I miss my bike?

Train hard. Stay focused.