9/11 – A Day for Remembering

The sound of an airplane…I’m sitting on my porch this morning, September 11, 2016, and I hear the sound of an airplane taking off from nearby Dulles. A sound that was noticeably absent 15 years ago. For a week, the only jet sound was of the occasional military jet which sounds very different. 15 years…can it really be that long ago? So much has changed, yet the memories come flying back, from even further than 15 years ago.

I remember being in the backseat of the family car as we drove to Brooklyn to see my grandparents and staring up in awe at the two immense towers being built.  A pair of buildings that would dwarf the Empire State Building and be the tallest buildings in the world.

I remember my father telling me that his mother’s husband, Joe, was doing air duct installation on that project before retirement.

I remember staying with my grandparents in the city as they would take me and my sister, via subway, to various sites including the Twin Towers.

I remember driving over the Verrazano Bridge going into Brooklyn and always looking to the left and seeing the Towers and Empire State Building and the Statute of Liberty on a clear day.

I remember being in college at Drew University in northern NJ and driving to some park near Montclair with a few friends and taking pictures of the Towers off in the distance. (I also remember waiting for the film to be developed to see if the pictures were any good.)

I remember the terrible day. At work in Tysons. Knowing my pregnant wife was safe and calling my parents who were in a time zone 3 hours earlier to tell them we were OK.

I remember being pregnant and wondering what kind of world we were bringing a child into given that so many families had been destroyed by this unimaginable act of terror.

I remember driving over the Verrazano into NYC for my grandmother’s funeral which was my first time seeing the city skyline I grew up with differently. There were no Towers which somehow made it more concrete that the world had changed. I was actually glad that my grandfather hadn’t lived long enough to see the skyline without the Towers as it would have been very painful for him.

I remember visiting the 9/11 Memorial with my family and grieving for the fallen while holding my kids close.

Today, I remember all those who suffered instantly from the tragedy and those still suffering today, victims, families, first responders…HEROES.

USAT Must Take Stance Against Draft-Legal Age Group Races

The issue of draft-legal races has been coming to the forefront of triathlon for a few years. The International Triathlon Union (ITU) allows riders to draft, like traditional cycling races. However, USA Triathlon (USAT) has not allowed drafting but is moving in that direction.

This is a BIG MISTAKE for age group races and will result in injuries!

Triathlon is the fastest growing adult participant sport in the USA. This is a wonderful fact as many adults, myself included, are trying to improve their physical conditioning and have turned to our sport as motivation. However, we are amateurs. We are not trained cyclists who have the requisite skills to handle the many potential dangers of tight group riding which is what draft-legal races will result in. I fear drafting will lead to a significant increase in the number and severity of accidents on the bike course in age group races.

Do you think I’m over reacting?  I prefer to think of it as being proactive.  Just this week, a competitor in an amateur bike race died as a result of an accident (2 others are in critical condition). Reports have indicated that a blown tire led to a chain reaction crash.  The chain reaction and severity of the injuries can be attributed, in part, to this having been a draft legal race with riders in a tight group. Sadder yet, the participants were first-responders competing in the World Police and Fire Games.  This was an amateur event. However, even the best riders in the world have crashes resulting in chain reactions because the riders are tightly packed to draft. Don’t believe me, just watch the Tour de France this week.

Please join me in having our voices heard and help reduce injuries.  At the risk of not being in step with the ITU for age-group races:  Drafting should not be legal in age-group USAT races. 

PS. I am a member of USAT and will publicize any response received from them.

Smile or Wave, You Might Make My Day

When I left for my ride this morning, my wife (racingtales.com) reminded me to be safe. This was odd as she usually doesn’t say things like that but noted an uptick in drivers threatening to hit cyclists. So it got my attention and changed my course. Instead of going for a ride in the country, I stayed in the neighborhood.

While riding in the neighborhood, I came across a number of people who were out and about riding, running, or walking…why not, it was a beautiful day.  Most people seemed happy.  I was happy to be out.  When I’m riding or running, unless I’m doing an intense hill or time trial I waive or say hello to everyone. When I grew up, it was called being friendly or neighborly.  Why not? It really puts a smile on the faces of most people.

So when you see someone riding around the neighborhood, give them a quick wave or smile. It is much better than trying to run them off the road and it may even make you feel good too. If you do it to me, it will make my day!

It is Called “Past” Because It is Behind You

Apologies to those are looking for a blog on triathlons.  My last race ended up being in August (why not close out the year with an AG win, right?) and I’m running more now to prepare for a few 5K/10K fall events like the Stone Ridge Race for Education, maybe a Turkey Trot and the recently announced Jingle Bell 10K in South Riding.  But this blog is about the past…or why I’m not going to my 25th college reunion and living in the present.

I’ve never gone back to visit my old high school nor have I gone to any reunions, either at high school or college.  It is not that I didn’t enjoy those times of my life, in fact, college was a true coming of age time for me where I received a great education at Drew University and participated in many activities ranging from baseball to the orientation committee and learned about responsibility and leadership by co-chairing the concert committee (where is The Alarm now?), being Sports Director at WMNJ (I snagged an in-studio interviewed with Bob Hill two days after the Knicks fired him), and being managing director of the yearbook where I had to solicit advertising.  It truly was a wonderful time for me.  But it was a long time ago….

I was actually planning on going to Madison, NJ to connect with a few old friends and relive the past a bit.  However, I’ve changed my mind.  Here are a few reasons why.

  • One of my sons plays travel baseball and he would have to miss 2 games of a tournament for this trip from VA to NJ.  I don’t want to him to miss out.
  • There is a cost to the trip in terms of gas, tolls, hotel, food and time!
  • My son and I are traveling to a tournament in south Jersey the following weekend.
  • I contacted the university alumni office to find out that only 6 classmates had pre-registered.  They said there is on-site registration too…that didn’t leave me with a lot of confidence in a big turn out.

These factors had gotten me to teetering on the edge of not going.  Then, this past weekend we took our kids tree climbing at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School.  They have a wonderful facility that I’d recommend! It is near where I grew up in Olney, MD.  After climbing and dining at the Green Turtle, we drove past the house I lived in.  Nothing looked the same.  The house across the street was a wreck having suffered a fire in April and the house I lived in looked like the car port roof was collapsing.  Everything looked old and run-down.

My house from 5th grade through high school.  It looked MUCH better in the 1970's/80's!

My house from 5th grade through high school. It looked MUCH better in the 1970’s/80’s!

This was disappointing to see and really struck a chord with me.  When you try to go back, you can’t.  Things change and your memories get disrupted.  I will always have my memories of college as I remember them.  Unchanged by time. My past is behind me and I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the excitement each day brings.

I wish the best to my classmates from Drew.  Twenty-five years has gone in the blink of an eye.

Giant Acorn: A Split Nut

I’m on the fence as to whether I should race this.  My past experience in 2011 was fantastic.  Given my recent open-water experience, I’m hesitant.  On top of that, the local pools are now closed making even pool swimming opportunities difficult and I know that I can’t get into open water to practice….and there is the conflict with my sons’ sports schedules.

As you can see, I’m conflicted both internally and externally.

  • What if I’m not comfortable swimming in the lake?
  • Do I take basically a day for me?
  • Is it OK to miss my son’s baseball games? What if he does something really well…like hit a HR or pitch a few shutout inning?
    • I know he likes it more when I’m at the games, but learning more independence may not be a bad thing.

Finally, there is the competition.  I want to get better and not fall even farther behind my wife who just took 5th place at IronGirl Rocky Gap.

Advice?  I’m open to it!  Thanks !!

Nationals: My Failure to Execute…South Riding Tri: Much Better

My wife and I had a very good trip to Milwaukee for USAT Age Group Nationals.  The weather was good, the race venue outstanding, and the city…well, a pleasant surprise. Even the drive (all 1,630 miles round-trip) was enjoyable (special thanks to my now married niece Kayla and husband Aaron for watching the kids for a few days).

With my wife (racingtales) starting in the second wave and me starting in the second to last wave, I had the opportunity to watch her race.  What an amazing sight.  She was outstanding…strong word “outstanding” but when you qualify to represent Team USA at Worlds, it is an appropriate adjective.  You can read her race recap by clicking here. I get the photo credits🙂

For me, not so successful.  I had 3.5 hours to wait from arrival to wave start time.  I had planned my nutrition carefully and had a good night sleep.  I thought I was ready and felt good.  My training had gone well. I was a few pounds lighter than I was at last year’s race in VT.  About 20 minutes before my wave start time, I put my wetsuit on, checked my goggles and thought I was good to go.  Ten minutes before my wave start, I had my GU (peanut butter…mmm….). But then the waves stopped….no one was swimming.  People milled around while we were guessing what was going on.  As the life guard and rescue personnel activity increased, we figured it out…SOMEONE WAS MISSING!

I’ve noted the deaths by men in my age range (45 – 54) during triathlons, and while my rational side knows that I get annual check-ups and am in good health without a history of heart trouble in my family, my non-rational side thinks about it every time I race. We waited almost an hour before the race restarted …apparently the guy was fine but failed to tell an official know that he was out.  I had been sitting for an hour in my wetsuit and didn’t realize how much I was sweating….a bit of a cold sweat.

My wife got me some Gatorade, which I promptly spilled into my goggles.  Even after the restart, I was still 4 waves out.  With 7 minutes between waves, that meant another 21 minutes.  But wait…my wave was gathering at the bottom of the dock.  Maybe I miscounted.  I grabbed my stuff…zipped up…went to the bottom of the pier.  Waited a minute and jumped in.  The water was colder than I expected and I couldn’t see well out of my left eye…darn Gatorade.  I rinsed the goggles to not much improvement and swam about 10 M before getting shuffled to the start…..WHAT WAS GOING ON?!?

Because of the delay, the waves were starting 3 minutes apart instead of 7.  That meant that the kids behind me (24U) would catch me on the swim…oh well….oh…they would swim OVER me.  I moved towards the back to rinse my goggles again.  I had them back on and the race was ready to start. I generally stay toward the back and was hanging on the dock.  There were guys all around and the horn sounded.  We were off..or not…

For some reason the guy next to me thought he could use me as a wall and kicked-off me…right in the gut.  I was OK and started my swim.  I realized I wasn’t breathing well and stopped.  I was fine, everything was fine and then I continued.  I swam about 75M and stopped again.  I was done.  My mind said – “Not Today!” Too much going through my head. I swam back to the pier, handed my chip to an official and made sure they documented that I was out of the race and took the walk of shame, partially clad in my wetsuit, up the pier.

The swim area was great for spectators as there was a bridge on which you could stand while the swimmers went below.  That was where I found Alison. I scared the heck out of her when I tapped her on the shoulder as she thought she just saw me in the water.  I was mad at myself, frustrated, disappointed.  Alison gave me just the right amount of space during our 1 mile walk back to the hotel.  While she showered, I scrubbed the numbers off my arms and legs. I had to make the break.  I called back to the house as my sister was with our kids now and I knew they may have been watching.  I wanted them to know I was fine.  Then I pulled myself together over the next 30 minutes and decided to focus on  Alison’s accomplishments.  We had a celebratory dinner in Toledo, overlooking MudHen’s Stadium.

When I told my younger son what had happened, he got emotionally distressed and was worried that I wasn’t OK.  I did what every father would do and told him that we all fail and the best measure of a man’s character is how he overcomes personal challenges…then I put it in terms my 9-year old son understood:  When a pitcher knocks you down, you get back up and swing at the next strike and try your best to get a hit.  You come back stronger as a result.

I realized I had to listen to my own advice and looked for the next triathlon I could find.  It turned out to be our local race: South Riding’s Sprint Triathlon.  This was Alison’s year to race it while I watched the kids but she was able to convince our sitter to come over at 5:20 in the morning (Thank you Owen!!).  So I bought a bib and I was in!  I will do a race recap later, but the result was good.  I won my AG and was 18th overall….Alison was 2nd overall.

My lessons learned:

  • Don’t race your first race of the season at a National event
    • I hadn’t raced as I was recovering from knee surgery
  • Practice open water swimming prior to your first open water race
  • Expect cold water – even if it is not, your nerves may make it feel cold
    • I am debating a full-sleeve wetsuit as I’ve felt cold a lot lately – any advice is welcome
  • Have confidence in your health and training (assuming you see the doctor regularly as I do)
  • Finally – remember to enjoy the experience!  While it is a race, there is nothing like the camaraderie experienced at a triathlon.

Now I have to find my next race…l am looking at the Giant Acorn at the end of September. It is a fun race that I’ve run before.  Hope to see you there!

Nerves Kicking In, Must be Nationals!

Getting ready for a race always brings a bit of nervous energy.  I call it energy because I try to make it a positive.  I get nervous because I care and want to do well.  I know I have trained as best as I could and I feel pretty good.  But still, it is my first race of the year…wait, positive…

I’m really rooting for my wife (racingtales) to do well.  She has been training and racing very well this year.  In the theme of positivity (not a real word), her start time is almost 2 hours earlier than mine so I’ll be able to see her entire race.

If you are interested in watching live, go to the USA Triathlon Sprint National Page.  By the way, I’ll be wearing this:

2xu Trisuit

This will be my first time in a “one-piece”…not flattering, but more comfortable than a 2 piece!

Let me know if you’ll be there too!