Friday, June 24, 2011

Month of Multisporting Madness

I haven't updated this blog in ages. But during that time, I've been super busy with my multisporting adventures, I have so much to write about.  To spare all of you from having to read a million pages worth of me being on a bike and in the water, I will do my best to keep this short, heavy on the pictures, and light on the text.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Mike, Rachel, Jeff, Joe, Aneesh and I did a repeat of last year's crazy bike ride from Newark to Asbury Park.  We took a slightly different route this year, but still, the 55-mile trip took us about 7 1/2 hours.  The route we took this year seemed a lot more rideable than the one last year, except for a 2-mile stretch in South Amboy on a busy road with no shoulder.  

Also, I did not get any flat tires this year (compared to three flats last year).  Jeff, however, did manage to get two flats on the way down.  And I had the privilege of teaching him how to change his very first flat tire.

You might recall that last year, Rachel, Mike and I were led astray by a by a friendly motorist; we were told to veer off of the Henry Hudson Bike Path onto Route 36, a scary, shoulderless, busy highway, with no streetlights in the middle of the night.  This year, we stayed on the bike path through the Highlands, and I was so happy that we did!  We were rewarded with a gorgeous and tranquil bike ride along Sandy Hook Bay, where we took the picture below:

A funny thing happened when we took that picture.  Well, actually, about 20 minutes after we took it.  As we were riding up biggest hill of the whole ride (Miller Street in the Highlands), after we were all struggling for about five hours of biking, just dying to get to the finish, Aneesh realized that he left his backpack at the scenic spot where we took the picture. Inside it was everything he needed for the weekend, his wallet, his phone, his non-biking shoes...  Meanwhile, Jeff and Joe seemed like they were miserable from all the riding, and I felt bad for dragging everyone on this disastrous trip.

Long story short, Mike biked back down to the spot where we took the picture, didn't find the bag, and kept biking, until he saw a guy literally walking away with the bag over his shoulder.  He got the bag back (minus the cash that was in the wallet), and met up with me and Aneesh somewhere in Long Branch (Rachel, Jeff and Joe had pulled ahead).

Anyways, we finally made it to Old Man Rafferty's in Asbury Park after 7 1/2 loooong hours of biking, where I rewarded myself with a nice big steak and some beers.  Yum.

*                                   *                                    *
The next morning saw part two of our weekend of multisporting fun, as we all went to Rumson, NJ for the Nav-e-Sink-or-Swim in the Navesink River.  The swim was a 1.2-mile or 2.4-mile swim.  Mike, Rachel and I did the 2.4 (joined by Alison and Tom Malcolm), and Jeff and Aneesh did the 1.2, and we were cheered on by Joe and George.  I was a little nervous, since 2.4 miles is longer than I've ever swum in the open water before.  But the way the course was set up actually made it pretty easy.  The 2.4 mile swim was two 1.2 mile loops, and between each loop, you had to run a few yards on the beach (where I posed for the picture below).

Also, the turnaround point for the 1.2 mile loop was on a little sand bar, so you could actually stand up as you went around the buoy.  So the race almost felt like four 0.6-mile swims rather than a 2.4 miler.  Anyways, it wasn't too bad, and I ended up finishing in 1:20:40, which I was pretty happy with (even though I was in the bottom 15% of men.  Whatever.).

After the swim, George treated us to a lovely brunch at his home in Little Silver.  It was a great day.

*                                          *                                             *

And the the next day, the five of us boys (Rachel had to leave early) took a nice 17-mile bike ride up to the northernmost point of Sandy Hook, where we took the Seastreak Ferry back into Manhattan.  That ferry ride (which only took 45 minutes) sure beat having to spend 4-5 hours biking through Newark and surrounding areas. I think I found my favorite way to get to and from Asbury!

*                                          *                                             *

The following weekend, I had some more crazy sporting antics.  On Saturday, I joined some of the FRNY ladies (plus Aneesh and Giordano) to do the Spartan Race.  It was a three mile adventure race with military-style obstacles mixed in with running. We had to climb rope ladders, go across monkey bars, haul loads of rocks, scale walls, crawl through mud pits and under barbed wire, and jump through rings of fire.  The one challenge I hated the most was where we had to fill a 5-gallon bucket 3/4 of the way with gravel, and then haul it like a quarter mile up the ski mountain, and then bring it back down again.  It weighed like 100 pounds, it was hot and scary.  It was honestly pretty miserable.  But I ended up having a ton of fun hanging out with the gang (our team name was "FRNY Outdoor Carpet Munchers"...  I think the other teams might have been a little confused by our name...).  And when we finished, we all rewarded ourselves with lots of beer.  So worth it!

*                                          *                                             *

And then the next day, I ran the NYRR Celebrate Israel Run.  I had really wanted to get a good time on this race.  You might remember that I had skipped the Brooklyn Half in May in order to do Reach the Beach. Although I had loved being on the RTB Team, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything, I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to post a fast time in the Brooklyn Half at a point when I felt I was in pretty good shape.  So I saw the Israel Run as possibly my last chance to run a fast race before the summer came and the heat slowed me down .

Anyways, I ended up having a great race.  Splits were 6:13, 6:19, 6:30, 6:10, for a total of 25:12 (6:18 pace).  Not quite a PR, but only 3 seconds off of it (and that PR was from over three years ago!).  I was really happy!  After a long year of being injured, and even though I'm three years older, I'm just about as fast as I was back in 2008.  The only thing I was annoyed about was Anthony C. passing me in mile 3. That was a tough mile. I tried and tried but just couldn't keep up with him, and he ended up finishing 6 seconds ahead of me.  FRNY was the second fastest men's team in the city for that race. But, alas, I was 6 seconds short of being in the top five, so no medal for me.  :-(

*                                          *                                             *

And then the next weekend, Aneesh and I went back to Asbury to the the Asbury Park Triathlon (formerly the Metroman Triathlon).  I now, officially, hate this f-cking race.

Two years ago, I did it and it was a disaster.  I was the second to last swimmer. I got lost, got scared, freaked out, everything. It was my first ocean swim ever, and it was pretty much a failure.

And then last week happened, which was even worse.  I completely choked.  I don't know what happened, I just couldn't get into the water.

They had changed the course so that it was no longer an Olympic distance.  Whereas before, the swim was a mile long, this year it was only supposed to be 750 meters.  But then on the morning of the race, they shortened it again, to about 300 meters, because the current was too rough and they didn't want swimmers to be pushed into a jetty.  So the whole swim course just involved swimming out to a buoy and turning around back.  Only about 300 meters; barely even enough to get warmed up.

But as soon as they sounded the starting horn, it seemed like the waves became huge.  I tried to get into the water, but with the waves getting bigger and bigger, I found myself unable to get out past them.  I kept trying, but then this huge wave came in and it just seemed like it was gonna crush me, so I freaked out, and went back to shore.  I saw a group of maybe 15 other guys there, standing there, also trying to get into the water.  And then this guy next to me seemed like he was becoming delirious, yelling that he lost his goggles in the wave, but they were just hanging around his neck.

I thought about keeping at it, waiting for the waves to die down a little, but they weren't letting up.  Before I knew it, people were starting to come back in from the swim.  Everyone was finishing, and there I was, still standing on the friggin beach.  That's when I decided to just screw it. It wasn't worth it. The ocean will always be there, but if I'm not in a place where I felt comfortable swimming in it, it wasn't meant to be.

I went on to do the bike course, and then the run.  When I got to the finish line, I walked around the timing mat and handed in my chip. In my five and a half years of doing races, this would be the first time that I would not finish what I had set out to do. It was disappointing, and I was embarrassed.  But, my inability to do this one swim gave me the determination to conquer ocean swimming. I knew I was going to be back, and I was going to kick some ocean butt next time.

*                                          *                                             *

So, this past week, I returned to the Jersey Shore, this time to do the Long Branch Sprint Triathlon.  It was a 600 yard ocean swim, 20 mile bike, and 5 mile run.  And, I'm happy to report, I finished the swim!!! 

Swim 600y: 10:53
Bike 20M:  1:05:03 (18.4 mph pace!)
Run 5M:  34:10 (6:50 pace...including a pee break)

 *                                          *                                             *

And...  since a tri with a 20-mile bike ride wasn't enough for AJ, Rachel and me, not only did we bike to and from the race from Asbury Park (12 miles round trip), but then later that day we embarked on a 70-mile bike ride down the Jersey shore.

It was a very nice ride. We basically just went as far south as we could go. It was fun going through all of the beach towns along the way. From Ocean Grove with its Victorian houses; to Spring Lake with its big stately mansions; to Point Pleasant, home of the Jenkinson's Boardwalk/Amusement Park; to Mantoloking, where we rode along the Barnegat Bay; and Seaside Heights of Jersey Shore fame.  At the end was Island Beach State Park, where we had nine miles of nice riding. There were some trafficky/scary parts, like the bridge from Brielle to Point Pleasant, and Point Pleasant itself.  And the entire stretch on Route 35 was on a shoulder that really, really needed to be repaved.

But in the end we were rewarded with a nice big beach and a great view of the Barnegat Lighthouse across the inlet on Long Beach Island.

Well...actually we couldn't find the lighthouse.  I had promised Rachel and AJ a great view of the lighthouse the whole weekend, and it was nowhere in sight.  Apparently, it was about a mile further down the beach, where you can't ride your bikes to. So we didn't get to see the lighthouse. That was a bit anti-climactic.  Next time I do this ride I'm gonna bring a cable to lock up my bike so I can see that damn lighthouse.

*                                          *                                             *

So my big news of the month is that I decided to register for the 2012 Ironman NYC.  Eeek! 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and then 26.2 miles of running.  All under 17 hours, next August.  I'm a little bit terrified....  But I don't think I've yet fully registered how much of a huge commitment this is going to be. For the moment, I'm trying not to think about too much.  But I'm going to have to do a loootttttttt of training next year....

*                                          *                                             *

PS: Tomorrow is my favorite race of the year, the 30th Annual FRNY Lesbian and Gay Pride Run, with my favorite people in the world, Front Runners New York. It's going to be a great day, and I'm really excited. HAPPY PRIDE!!!