Blog

BK Bulletin: July/August 2019 – A triathlon, a Great Adventure and the loss of a legend

A lot has happened over the past few weeks. I completed my second-ever Olympic-distance triathlon, I made what is apparently now an annual trip to Six Flags Great Adventure with my son Graham, and I lost one of my musical heroes with the passing of legendary South African singer-songwriter and activist Johnny Clegg.

Read on to find out what’s been going on since June… Continue reading “BK Bulletin: July/August 2019 – A triathlon, a Great Adventure and the loss of a legend”

2019 Atlantic City Triathlon recap: So…apparently, I’m a swimmer now*

4A2B9594-4363-475F-8220-D2F770A31366This past Saturday, I competed in my second-ever Olympic-distance triathlon, the Atlantic City Triathlon—or Tri AC—for short. Now, I had done this same event in 2014. In fact, it was my second-ever triathlon, after a sprint-distance tri about a month earlier in Hightstown, N.J. But I had not done an Olympic-distance triathlon since then.

Also, five years ago, the Olympic Tri AC featured a 20-mile bike ride and a 5-mile run following a 1-mile swim. The current configuration has a 22.5-mile bike ride and a full 10K (6.2-mile) run.

I finished the 2014 incarnation in 3:04:34 with a 52:17 swim, a 1:08:53 bike ride (20 miles) and a 50:21 run (yes, my transition times were—and still are—terrible). Going into this year’s event, I set a mental goal of 3:14:00 and that was really based on a simple formula that the added 1.2 miles of running would add about 10 extra minutes (I figured any improvements in the swim, bike and transitions would cancel out somehow).

Well, about that. I swam my fastest mile ever in a pool and that was still about 44 minutes. In open water, I covered a mile in about 48 minutes a couple of weeks ago during training—and that was still with some breaks and floating. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I would never break 40 minutes in a mile swim.

That brings us to Saturday morning’s triathlon. After I was set up and done in transition, I went over to the back bay of Atlantic City to size up the mile course. It looked pretty daunting and I started wondering why I had signed up for an Olympic-distance triathlon.

When the Olympic-distance triathletes started lining up in the swim staging area, I immediately went to stand behind the volunteer holding the “40:01+” sign. I mean, as far as I was aware, I was not a strong swimmer.

Finally, at 7:47 a.m., it was time for me to start my swim. And right from the start, I felt strangely comfortable. Usually, I expend a lot of energy and immediately lose breath control, which means I wind up keeping my head out of the water gasping for air. But this time, I was moving smoothly and mostly efficiently through the water. Race organizer DelMo Sports put a floating timing device at the halfway point of the mile swim (a time didn’t register for me even though I definitely went under it). After I got through that little bottleneck, I checked my watch. It said 8:01.

As I continued on, I was dumbfounded. I thought to myself, “I’ve only been swimming for 14 minutes and I’m halfway through? That can’t be right!”

But it was! And not only that, I was still feeling strong and moving well. Yeah, I paused a few times to clear my goggles, but I immediately went back at it. I never rested. Strangely, I was catching and passing people in the groups that went ahead of mine and that meant there were more swimmers around me than I’m used to. I was getting kicked and bumped a lot. What slowed me down the most was the congestion I inexplicably found myself in.

When I made my way out of the water, I looked at my watch as I made my way to my bike and saw that it was 8:15. At this point, I knew I bought myself a ton of time in finishing under that 3:14:00 goal time.

*Later on, I found out my official swim time was 28:43, which is at least 20 minutes better than I had ever done in open water. However, two days after the race on Monday morning, a cryptic social media post by DelMo Sports and the subsequent comments implied that there was some kind of offline discussion about the swim course in the hours after the race. Apparently, the course was set up short of a mile. Unfortunately, as I write this, no one online that I can see has mentioned how short the course actually was. Somebody made a comment alluding to a difference of 300 yards, but I don’t know if that’s accurate.

However, in my case, it didn’t really matter because I still crushed that swim by my standards. Even if the swim was short by a quarter-mile, at the pace I was going, I was still going to swim a mile in about 38-39 minutes, which would still be my best mile swim time by far. Again, I was passing people in the water…and that literally has never happened before.

Anyway, after such a strong swim, I knew I had a lot of time to work with to finish under my 3:14:00 goal time. Going into the triathlon, I was assuming a 48-minute swim, a 1:15:00 bike ride and a 1:02:00 run with transition times of 5:00 and 4:00. Well, I still blew my transition times (more on that later), but after the swim and nailing the bike ride with a 1:15:15 time, I knew I had a lot of leeway going into the run.

Initially, I felt pretty good on the run, although I was taking it slow. But about 2.5 miles in, the sun really started getting to me. I started mixing in some walking at that point.

Now, just before the four-mile mark of the run, I realized that if I had pushed it a little bit more, I could have finished in under three hours. But at that point, I would have needed to go all out the final 2.2 miles or so in order to have a chance at a sub-3:00:00 finish. And that was not going to happen. I decided that would have to wait for a future race.

So 1:12:15 after starting my run, I crossed the finish line for a 3:07:32 finish, which was 6 1/2 minutes better than my goal time. However, my goal time was based on the bike ride being two miles longer and the run being 1.2 miles longer than in 2014†, when I finished in 3:04:34. But if I had known the swim was short, I probably would’ve pushed it more on the bike and on the run. And, honestly, I kind of suspected something was wrong at the time, but didn’t dwell too much upon it during the heat of the race.

(† Oddly enough, some participants back in 2014 speculated the course was longer than a mile that year because a lot of the times were so high, but we were all going against a rather strong current for a majority of the swim so it could have just been that.)

Here are my results from Saturday’s triathlon. Now, there are some issues here as well because my elapsed time from race start (7:47:47 a.m.) to race finish (10:55:20 a.m.) does come out to 3:07:33. However, my official result says 3:07:32 and all my component times are one second better than shown here. If that’s the case, five seconds would come off 3:07:32 for a 3:07:27 finish. But when you add up all of my times (swim, T1, bike, T2, run), you get 3:07:29…so I don’t really know what’s going on.

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 9.21.04 AM

With all the varying discrepancies between the 2014 and 2019 editions, I’m probably just going to have to resolve to be happy with my effort this year. And I am. No matter what happened with the swim course, I killed it in the water…and that has always been my weakest element of triathlon. I really need to work on transitions and, especially, getting my legs back for the run after the bike.

Yeah, speaking of transitions…ugh. In 2014, I struggled to get out of a wetsuit and get on a bike and my T1 (first transition) time was 6:18.20. This year, I swam in just my transition suit and just put on a bike jersey, bike gloves, helmet, glasses, socks and shoes…and only improved my T1 time by 11 seconds (6:07). Even worse was my T2 (second transition) time. All I did was rack my bike, change shirts, replace my helmet with a hat, and take off my gloves…and that somehow took me 5:10 (I also downed some Gatorade and an apple sauce pouch). Now, a small part of this had to do with where my transition spot was, which was at the extreme end of the transition area from both the swim in and the run out. The good part about it, though, was that my bike was on a rack end, giving me some extra room to change gear, etc., and that also meant my bib number was on the signs at the end of the rows so I knew exactly where my stuff was coming into transition (I have gotten lost in transition areas more times than I am willing to admit here).

Anyway, now that I’m more confident in my swimming, I’m kind of rethinking my whole “never going to do an IRONMAN 70.3” mindset. I mean, I need to take training a bit more seriously, but I’m pretty sure I want to do IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City in 2021. I’ll be 50 then so I think it’s appropriate for that milestone. I already have a target goal of 6:40:00 in mind.

Before that, though, I want to do the Tri AC for a second straight year in 2020 with a goal of under 3 hours. If I can do that, I’m definitely doing IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City in 2021.

Here are some photos from the 2019 Atlantic City Triathlon.

 

Track me during the 2019 Atlantic City Triathlon

Just wanted to write a quick note here to say that I am competing in the Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance) this Saturday morning (August 10) and you can track my progress in real-time. Even cooler is that thanks to the DelMoSports Elite Events Mobile App (Apple App Store / Google Play) and MyLaps timing technology, you can (supposedly) get a picture sent to you whenever I hit a timing mat.

Once you download and install the app, find the Tri AC event and click on “Live Tracking.” Look me up by name or by bib number (463) and hit “follow” next to my name. The Olympic-distance triathlon (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride, 6.2-mile run) is scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, but I probably won’t be starting my swim until around 7:45/7:50.

If you want to track me without an app (and without the fancy photo feature), it appears you can track me online at http://live.sporthive.com/event/6033/live?

It looks like you will be able to look me up on that site and track me on race day.

I haven’t done an Olympic-distance triathlon since completing this same event in 2014 (see pics above), but a conflict with Miss America weekend that year led to the race being shortened to five miles so this will technically be my first.

2019 New Jersey Marathon recap

IMG_0714Well, I was hoping to write and post this a few hours after last Sunday’s (April 28) New Jersey Marathon, but I caught my 4-year-old son’s cold about three-quarters of the way through the race and I just didn’t feel up to it until today.

First things first…I finished the race in 5:00:26. That’s much better than my 2017 NJ Marathon finish of 5:14:25 (which was my first-ever marathon) and a little better than my 5:01:29 finish in the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon last November. But it was still a tick over nine minutes more than my personal-best marathon time of 4:51:22 set at the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon.

IMG_0720Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 4.00.32 PM

I really didn’t have a goal for this year’s New Jersey Marathon. I suffered a non-running-related herniated disk in mid-August 2018 that I worsened during Labor Day weekend to the point where it was nearly impossible to sleep, let alone stand up or walk. So that limited me to just one 16-mile long run prior to the Philadelphia Marathon last November, which was frustrating.

Then, as I was preparing for my long runs to train for the New Jersey Marathon, I started feeling a pain in my right hip during a five-mile run in early March. That wound up being diagnosed as trochanteric bursitis, which sidelined me for close to a month. Once again, I was limited to just one 16-mile long run before the New Jersey Marathon — and that came with less than a week to go before the race, which should be “taper time.”

With these injuries during back-to-back marathon training cycles, it’s probably an accomplishment that I made it to the starting line, let alone the finish, in both of these races. Still, coming so close to finishing in under 5 hours at Philly and in last Sunday’s race — and failing to do so — is just as frustrating as the injuries.

Sunday’s experience was made even more frustrating by two critical mistakes I made in the final 2.2 miles. But, first, a few positives…

Last Sunday marked the first time in four tries that I have ever run through the first 21 miles of a marathon. Granted, miles 17-21 were at an extremely slow pace…but it was running. I didn’t actually start walking until I hit the mile-21 marker. Even then, I only walked about three-quarters of a mile before I went back into a slow jog through mile 24.

Also, part of my strategy was to at least cover the first 16 miles in three hours. I wound up running a little over 17 miles in that time, something I had not done in over a year. That gave me two hours to cover the final 9.2 miles if I wanted to finish in under five hours.

Of course, this is where things went a bit south. Once I got through the first three hours of running, I decided I felt good enough to run through mile 21. I decided right there that I would walk a bit when I reached that point. My left calf and hamstring felt a little tight and my right hip (the one I hurt during training) was a little uncomfortable. I figured I would give my legs and hip a rest for a mile and start running slowly again.

But I started feeling better at about 21 3/4 miles so I started running slowly again a little ahead of plan. I continued at this pace for the next two miles. As I approached mile 24, I went back and forth in my head if I should pick up the pace at that point for the final 2.2 miles or hold off until mile 25. I decided to go for it at mile 24 and soon realized that was a big mistake. A half-mile later, I pulled back and started walking again. I thought that burst at 24 would still keep me on pace to finish in under 5 hours, but when I hit mile 25 the race app gave me an estimated finish time of a few seconds over 5 hours.

I picked up the pace again and was feeling strong. I was about a half-mile from the finish line and thought I had done enough to get in under 5:00:00. But about 3/10th of a mile from the finish, there is a turn onto a narrow pathway to get back onto the Long Branch, N.J., boardwalk for the home stretch. And, of course, as I get there going as hard as I could at that point, some bigger dude is right in the middle of the path going at a much slower pace. Maybe I was too polite, but I decided to wait it out and stayed behind him until we hit the boards. But I have to tell you, that 30-foot stretch felt like it took forever to clear. I was finally able to pass him on the boardwalk, but I couldn’t get back into the same gear I had been in until I got into the chute before the finish line.

My initial finish time was 5:00:08 before being revised up to 5:00:26, so the estimated finish time the app had been telling me was apparently misleading me all along. Still,  that way-too-early push at mile 24 and my decision not to pass a slower runner in the final 3/10th of a mile probably cost me a sub-5:00:00 finish. And, really, if I had been able to get in a couple more long training runs, I likely would have set a PR.

After the race, I decided I’m probably going to pass on any marathons over the next year or two. I have some fitness goals I would like to reach first. Maybe at that point, I’ll revisit 26.2-mile races.

Next up is Sunday’s Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Yep…for the second time in three years, I’m running a 10-mile race the week after a marathon. Two years ago, I PR’d at Broad Street with a 1:27:03 finish the week after running my first-ever marathon. Hopefully, I can do it again.

However, it appears I’ll be running in rain with temps in the 50s for a second straight Sunday. Actually, it only rained lightly at times during last Sunday’s New Jersey Marathon. Current guidance has light-to-moderate rain — with some isolated heavier rain at times — falling throughout the entire Broad Street Run. So, yeah…fun times!

A few random thoughts on the 2019 New Jersey Marathon:

  • When I ran this race in 2017, I was shocked at the traffic at 6 a.m. on Route 36 between Eatontown and Oceanport (the race starts at Monmouth Park there) as runners made their way to the parking lot — and that was even with police directing cars to make a direct left turn on Route 36 toward the start area instead of having them use the jughandle. I spent about an hour in that traffic jam two years ago and wound up peeing against a tree because there was no time to wait for a porta-john. This year, I went the back way to the parking lot and reduced my traffic time to 15 minutes…leaving me plenty of time to use the proper facilities and get to my start corral stress-free.
  • About two miles into the race, I hear Donna Lewis’ 1996 hit “I Love You Always Forever” emanating from another runner next to me. I never start conversations with runners during races. Actually, I generally never start conversations, period. But, to me, this was the most random thing ever so I turned to her and said, “I have to say, I totally did not expect to hear Donna Lewis this morning.” She said that she came across the song while putting her race playlist together and decided to add it. I then shocked her when I let her know that I actually saw Donna Lewis live when she played the first Riverfest at then-Mercer County Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J., back in 1996 or ’97.
  • Many signs that spectators hold up for runners have a variation of “Touch Here for Power” messages with some kind of target on it. Well, at least one guy on the course was holding a blow-up Donald Trump doll with a sign saying “Punch Trump.” Well, I hit the shit out of that thing and you know what? It actually did pump me up for a good half-mile.
  • So the narrow walkway that cost me a few seconds with 3/10th of a mile to go? Well, I really don’t understand why the course is set up like that. If you look at the picture below, there is a much wider path (green line) just a few feet beyond the narrow path (red line) that also bypasses restrooms on the boardwalk, which also makes the course a bit narrow in that spot. Why not just send the runners along the green line into the final stretch along the boardwalk? It might mean moving the finish line a few feet, but it wouldn’t be a major shift. So weird.
    Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.15.12 AM

BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…

Issue 9 (April 13, 2019)

Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…”

BK Bulletin – March 2019: Welcome Bryce Harper & RIP Mark Hollis

Issue 8 (March 19, 2019)

Even though I sent February’s newsletter with about 2 1/2 days left in the month, A LOT has happened in just the two weeks or so since then, so here are some musings about a huge loss in the music world, a huge win for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans, and a whole lot of odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – March 2019: Welcome Bryce Harper & RIP Mark Hollis”