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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Racing Weekend: Great Lakes Plunge & North Shore Triathlon



It was a great weekend for racing.  On Saturday at Clark Street Beach in Evanston, we had the first annual Great Lake Plunge.  While the water was a little cold it was a great event.  Those swimmers are crazy.  Most of the folks who signed up were planning to swim without wetsuits (not me).  But because the water temp was only 53 degrees the race officials decreed that wetsuits were mandatory.

I signed up for the 1.2 mile distance. There were also 5 mile and 2.4 mile options, but because of the cold temps, the distance options were reduced to 1500 and 750 meters and I jumped on that 750 meter option.  About 25 meters into the swim I was wishing my wetsuit had sleeves, but by 100 meters my brain was too cold to wish anymore and the rest of the swim was okay. 

On Sunday we had the 3rd annual North Shore Triathlon at Gillson Beach in Wilmette. The North Shore Triathlon is the creation of Craig Strong and J. P. Bordeleau of Precision Multisport where I train.  Craig and J.P. and a host of PM volunteers did a great job organizing the event. 

Two years ago at the first North Shore Tri I entered the race as a relay team with my daughters. I swam, Christie biked and Nicole ran. It rained for the entire race and whenever I have asked them if they wanted to try it again, they just give me a look. Not a good look. 

Last year the race was a month after my surgery and I couldn't bike so I had my friend Zeev Saffir do the bike segment and I swam and biked.  Unfortunately last year the temp on race morning was 42 degrees. 

This year the weather was perfect. I did all three segments.  And despite swimming slightly off-course (which is hard to do on a straight line course) I had a great race.  Averaged 20 mph on the bike and ran the 5K at a 7:33 pace. Took 1st in my age group. 

This was my last triathlon of the year. Next race is the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee which I will be running with my coach Heather Collins.  Our goal...is to make it to the starting line.

Check In for The Great Lake Plunge

Waiting for the water to warm up (it didn't)
Beat the crowd to Transition

A half hour later
Cold water





Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Time is it Anyway?




I started this blog in July 2009 with the stated purpose of chronicling:
  •  My writing endeavors; I was working on a novel which I was confident would be published to huge acclaim in no more than a year.
  •  And my triathlon training; my goal was to finish in the top 10 of my age group at the USAT National Championships in 2011 when I would be the youngest in the 60 to 64 age group.

It is hard to say which goal was more unrealistic. I think it might be a tie. Which shows that at least I am consistent.

The novel took six years and I’m still waiting for it to be discovered by Oprah or maybe HBO.

And I have now competed in five national championships without finishing in the top 50% to say nothing about the top 10.

But I have improved my tri performance each year. One of the problems is that the old guys I’m competing against keep improving too. 

I wouldn’t have been able to improve at all if I hadn’t had great coaching – first with Craig Strong from Precision Multisport and these last three years with Heather Collins who works out of Precision also.

The 2015 USAT Nationals were held in Milwaukee last Saturday. It’s a great venue. I wish the USAT would keep the race there permanently – even though there are way too many guys walking around there with Packer jerseys.

I finished 52nd out of 85 in the 60 to 64 age group. 
BUT...
 ...next year I compete with the REALLY old guys (65 to 69)  and my new more realistic goal is to finish in the top 25 (but my secret goal is top 20).

I also plan to publish another novel next year.  Please let Oprah know.  
And here are more photos of me.  They look very similar to the race photos from the last twenty races, except I keep looking a little older.


 


 
 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Shoehorn Made the Difference



A shoehorn cost me third place (for my age group) in the Lake Zurich Triathlon yesterday.

On June 25th, in a freak accident, which I am not going to blame on my coach even though it happened because I was waiting for her to catch up to me, I fell off my bike and cracked a back rib.

The injury, while minor, made it difficult to maintain a normal training program.  It hurt to run and I couldn’t swim because I couldn’t raise my arm over my head, but ironically, I could still bike without difficulty. However to be prudent and avoid the possibility of another freak accident I trained on the computrainer (pretty hard to fall off a stationary bike).  J.P. Bordeleau of Precision Multisport set me up on a series of rides called “Sufferlandia”.  Those training rides hurt more than falling off the bike.

So I was able to maintain a fitness level, but it was still doubtful I would be ready to race on July 12. 

A week ago, I went back to the pool to see if I could swim.  I could dog paddle, but it would have taken me an hour to finish the course.  I also tried to run, and I was fine for the first ten yards, then not so fine. 

But as they say, time heals all wounds.  Last week I was feeling much improved. I still couldn’t roll over, but I could tie my shoes and feed the cat and do other important household chores. Wednesday I went for a slow jog and it didn’t hurt.  So the Saturday before the race I went to Lake Michigan with my wetsuit – which is like wearing a life raft on your body. Lots of buoyancy which I figured might make it easier to swim. My theory was correct and once I took a few strokes my back loosened up and I could extend my arm so that my stroke was almost normal. It was a little hard to lift my head to spot for buoys but I thought I could manage it and decided to go ahead with the race.  By the way – Lake Michigan is still really cold.

It was perfect weather for the race: cloudy and cool. And Lake Zurich was 75 degrees – wetsuit legal, but comfortable.  This is a small race (about 500 competitors) and the waves were only about 60 swimmers at a time so I wasn’t too worried about getting kicked or mauled during the swim.  I didn’t quite have my normal stroke – but I just took it easy and completed the swim without incident in about 35 minutes.  In my last race I covered that distance in 32 minutes.

I had an easy transition. I had decided not to wear socks so I didn’t have to bend over and struggle to put them on. I had no problem on the bike, although as a concession to the injury I didn’t ride in aero position– as I promised my wife I would be careful. I also slowed down a lot on the corners.  Even with all the caution I averaged over 20 mph (it’s a pretty flat course). I had a good ride and it was way easier than the computrainer rides.

It was on the transition to the run that the shoehorn did me in.  I had a two part plan for managing the transitions with my limited mobility and that was to 1) skip the socks (which worked fine except that I ended up with blisters on the tops of my toes); and 2) use a long shoehorn to get my quick-tied running shoes on.  

It almost worked great.
The problem was that my sweaty sockless feet stuck to the tongue of the shoe and when I pried it on with the shoehorn – the tongue got all wrinkled. I couldn’t fix it so I had to take the shoe off and put it on the way I always do.  That escapade with the shoehorn, cost me at least twenty seconds.

Full disclosure requires that I point out that my coach (the one who IS NOT IN ANYWAY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACCIDENT EVEN THOUGH IT HAPPENED WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR HER) has always suggested I not try anything during a race that I have not practiced beforehand (like using a shoehorn).  I almost always follow her suggestions because
1) she tends to be right MOST of the time and
2) her suggestions don’t really sound like suggestions;

I had a great run. Maybe because my legs were fresh from not running at all for two weeks.  I did the 10K at a 8:10 pace which is better than my other two races this year.

I finished in 2:45 and thought I had really good chance to make it to the podium. But I finished fourth – just .93 of a second out of 3rd place. 

I blame the shoehorn. 

Next race:  The USAT Age Group Championships  August 8, 2015 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin