Biking is not as easy as it sounds

Two weeks till Ironman.

I bicycled a lot as a kid.  I lived in a rural area.  I’m from New York.  However, it’s not the NY of subways and bus transit.  Heck, there weren’t even sidewalks on the road I lived on.  If you wanted to get someplace and couldn’t get a ride from a parent, you cycled.  I had a red, ten spree bike as kid.  I cycled everywhere.

Then I turned 16.  And got a car.  I had not biked in thirty years.  Still, because my son and I were doing his cycling merit badge, I had to go out almost every Thursday and cycle in May and June.  In the summer, I did a few rides, including 42 miles as part of the “Tour de Goshen”, 50 miles with my brother in law, and then, in mid September, 62 miles (they call it a “metric century”) in the Country Roads bike tour in Warwick.

Keep in mind my lifeboat – Ironman – had 116 miles in Chattanooga, TN into the hills of Walker County, Georgia, and back to Chattanooga.  My longest bike ride to date, just a few weeks before Ironman would be the Country Roads bike tour.

The good news is that it is 62 VERY HILLY miles.  Almost as much elevation gain as I will find at Ironman.  The bad news it is it is only 62 miles.  And because I’ve had to spend so much time learning to get my 2.4 mile swim in before the swim time cut off, I haven’t biked as much as I needed to.  Still though, I got my 62 miles done this week, through the hills, and I hope it’s enough.

If you’re gonna swim, do it in Hawaii

I found myself in the pool a few times a week.  Ironman was calling.  My distances were getting longer.  Fighting that single lap led me to swim tens of laps.  However, 173 laps is a long way.

Then a breakthrough – one mile.  I was two and a half months out from Ironman and finally I got to one mile.  Did it help that I left the confines of my pool in the Hudson Valley to swim in the place where I learned to run?  Probably didn’t hurt.

But there, in Ko Oling Hawaii, where I had taken my first tentative steps as a runner just over four years ago, I swam my first mile.  Then my first mile and a half.  Then swimming day after day I made it – 2.4 miles in the pool.

Slow, agonizing sometimes (ok, it’s Hawaii, so “agonizing” is probably the wrong word).  Sometimes with legs full of cramps. Sometimes having to pause and stand up (which will not be viable in the Tennessee River on September 30 I know).  But I made it.

The lap pool below is where I swam my first 2.4 miles.  There is magic in Hawaii.  I am on my way to reaching my lifeboat.E1A34413-D6B5-42FE-AFC4-D4DE4011C5F7.jpeg

Time to Swim – Really

This pool would become my nemesis.  How hard can swimming be?  I’ve run dozens of marathons.   I’ve run them several weeks in a row.  Me – the guy who was a cheeseburger away from a heart attack thinks nothing of running 26.2 miles.  Swimming – piece of cake.

So this morning at 6 AM, with my work colleague who had been prodding me to swim (ya know, since I was going to do Ironman in about 4 and a 1/2 months), jumped in this lap pool with me.

I nearly sank.  I could not swim a lap without stopping.  Swimming is COMPLETELY different than running.  Not even close to the same thing.  “So, (we asked the lifeguard), how many laps to a mile?”  YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE ANSWER!  72.  There are 72 laps to a mile and Ironman is 2.4 miles.   I would need to swim 173 laps for the Ironman distance and I cannot swim one without stopping.

Oh and the worst part, Ironman costs $750 and I was already signed up.  My only choice: swim more.



How hard can biking be?

While I continue running everyday, and despite my claim that swimming starts soon, have not yet swam, I have a massive incentive to bike – my older son.

My son is working to become an Eagle Scout.  To become an Eagle Scout, you have to earn one of the following three merit badges:  swimming, cycling, or hiking.  Hiking is not offered by his Scout Troop. Therefore it’s really either swimming or cycling.

The bad news is he is not in love with cycling.  The worse news is he truly hates swimming.  So cycling it is.  We bought two cycles at Dicks Sporting Goods and were off.  My cycle was a red, Nishiki Maricopa model as shown in this picture.  His was a mountain bike style bike.

The culmination of the cycling merit badge is a 50 mile ride.  I had other plans for my own culmination – a 116 miles ride through Chattanooga, TN and Walker County Georgia on September 30, 2018.  My culminating ride would be Ironman.  CF20B098-6622-4BBF-9E2E-3DB25E032556

Do I tell anyone about my new lifeboat?

A few people read this blog.  I don’t generally have comments on it.  I have a much more active Facebook account.  I have a semi-public job.  I did not tell many people about my first marathon.  I rarely even post about marathons anymore unless there is something special about them.

I had to tell someone about my lifeboat other than my wife.  I told a swimmer I work with about my desire to do an Ironman, and my fear of having not swam or biked for decades.

Thankfully, she volunteered to swim with me.  I’m not sure I would ever get in a pool without someone pushing me in.   Swimming makes me nervous, embarrassed, and a bit fearful.

So now two people know about my new lifeboat.  My spouse is nervous but supportive, and my colleague at work thinks its fantastic.  Swimming starts soon.

What is Ironman?

”Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, brag for the rest of your life.”  That is the Ironman mantra spoken by Ironman founder John Collins.

Ironman was born out of a contest in Hawaii where swimmers, cyclists, and runners argued who was the fittest.  They decided to combine all three races and whoever won would be called the “Ironman”.  Sounds reasonable.

Well I can swim.  I swam as a kid.  I can backstroke, side stroke, crawl.  I can swim.  NO PROBLEM.  I can run marathons and feel little pain after I’m done.  How hard can swimming be?

Biking – I loved to bike.  I can run 26.2 miles – how hard can biking be.

These are my assumptions but I have no reason to believe they are true.  They are private thoughts put down on electronic paper.  But it is calling me.  My new lifeboat – Ironman.

I’ve eyeballed a couple of potential races.  Ironman Maryland is one.  Ironman Chattanooga is another.  Maybe even Ironman Florida.  I’ve settled in my mind that Ironman Chattanooga is the one for me.  It has a river to swim in, you swim downstream even, so that makes it a bit easier.

There are decisions to be made, but before I do that, I’m going to take a long weekend, find an indoor pool and see if swimming is as easy as I remember it to be.

I need a new lifeboat


I started off looking to become healthy.  I latched onto a medical provider as my lifeboat. If I followed her advice, I could fix my life.  Simple premise.  Diet and modest walking became modest running, became marathon running.

I needed a new lifeboat and found them:  let’s run 12 marathons in 12 months.  Done.

I needed a new lifeboat.  Push yourself to run under a four hour marathon.  Done.

I needed a new lifeboat.   I became hungrier for a new challenge.  A sub-three hour marathon would never happen.  I needed a lifeboat I could actually swim to.

I found it.  I want to be an Ironman.


No Sleep till Brooklyn!



The Beastie Boys told us “No Sleep till Brooklyn” but my motto today was “no sleep in Brooklyn”.  I didn’t “win” the lottery to get into the NYC Marathon at the beginning of November, so I decided to run The Brooklyn Marathon toward the middle of November in its place.

I’m not a “city” person.  I graduated with 34 kids in my class in upstate NY.  I live in a Town in Orange County with no traffic lights.  There is a giant field across the street and cows just a few houses down.  I’m not a city person.  So when I run a City marathon, I usually stay overnight near the start before so I don’t have to navigate the City traffic.  Unfortunately, my weekend was a complex weekend of basketball games and boy scouts so overnighting on a Saturday to run Sunday morning was not happening.  So I left the house at 5:30 in the morning and drove and hour and 45 minutes into Brooklyn, parked the car and then ran The Brooklyn Marathon.

My past experience in Brooklyn has been going to the Appellate Division to argue some cases.  So going to run a marathon wasn’t something I had even contemplated there (although an enjoyable part of the NYC Marathon, which I did last year, is spent in Brooklyn).  The Brooklyn Marathon is entirely in Prospect Park.  It consists of 6 loops on the outer part of the park and two smaller loops.

One of the great pet peeves of Marathon runners is people about 3 miles out yelling “you’re almost there”.   Three miles may not sound like a lot, but when you’ve already got 23 miles under you, you are tired, and three miles is still typically another 30 minutes to go for slow people like me when you are marathon running.  Here, however, on the very first loop, just a couple miles in, there was this guy trying to be funny yelling “you’re almost there”  “Keep going”  “you’ve come this far, just finish” “the finish line is right around the bend”.  Collectively, we all wanted to laugh since it was just a couple miles INTO the race – it was all still fun then.  HOWEVER, when he  was there loop after loop saying the same thing, it became less funny.  I decided on my last loop I would take a “selfie” with him, but alas he disappeared.

Prospect park was beautiful in the fall, the race was well organized.  I had only run one multi-loop course before (my “midnight marathon” in July of 2015).  This course was much more enjoyable and the crowds were nice.  One other thing worth mentioning, there is a long but mild hill – but it IS long, on some part of the course.  It was a very windy day today and as three of us were running under a tree, I heard “crack” and a ten foot branch came down.  I sometimes wear ear phones in races – today I opted not to.  It was a good thing as the other two people next to me had earphones on.  I grabbed one who was oblivious and the other was far enough away she was out of the line of fire, but that branch came right down, and I am glad not to have been hit.  Scary stuff.

Last comment – the medal (pictured above), has the names of all Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.  I absolutely love the medal.  The race shirt is very similar.  Nice day!

3 Marathons in 3 Weeks, but Marine Corps Marathon stopped us cold.


They way you having both quantity and quality can be hard.  Three marathons in three weeks plainly meant my body would not be in the position it needed to be to run my best.  I’m not one to ever think I’m “entitled” to be under 4 hours – it’s only happened twice.  Still, having run the Clarence DeMar Marathon on September 24, then booking one weekend off but then three weekends of marathons in a row, plainly meant I would not be breaking four hours again this year.  I didn’t, but that’s ok.

I had run all three of these marathons before – Steamtown in Scranton PA (home of the show “The Office” as well as where former VP Joe Biden was born); the Hambletonian Marathon – my hometown and first marathon three years ago, and Marine Corps.    Thankfully, the last one, Marine Corps, would be a “walk run” with my wife.  I take personal pride in running marathons, but my wife enjoys a more casual pace – and I enjoy her company, so that’s fine.  We did the Disney marathon at the start of the year, and now were winding down the year with the Marine Corps marathon in Washington.

Marine Corps would be my 30th marathon.  It was particularly touching though not for our slow time or being the third in three weeks, but because of who it honors.  As you reach mile 12, you see pictures of soldiers on both sides of the running path.  They are fallen soldiers.  They are part of the Wear Blue – Run to Remember program.  That program was founded by “Ironman” Lisa Hallett.  Ms. Hallett’s husband was killed in action in Afghanistan.  She was a runner and built the Wear Blue initiative to help runners overcome grief and remember those soldiers to made the ultimate sacrifice.  She is also, as noted, an “Ironman” – having competed in Kona.

As we made it through mile 12, my wife stopped – hard.  She saw a familiar picture.  A Marine, who was a former student of hers was one of the soldiers pictured.  We had known of course he was killed in action seven years ago.  Every face of the dozens (hundreds probably) of pictures was unique.   They all had their own story.  To see though the face of the young student my wife had taught – with a giant smile on his face, certainly brings our wars home.  The young man, and I’m not saying his name on purpose as I don’t think I can give it the respect for his story that he deserves, was pictures, as I said, with a giant smile on his face – having fun.  My wife was as happy about that as you can be under the circumstance.  She remember him as such a happy kid.  Families have to choose our images when we die, and often times they are serious portraits in these tragic situations.  Here, we saw a picture of a local “kid” with a huge smile on his face, just as he had lived life.

We did finish the race of course.  The pain you sometimes feel in races though when you see the hundreds of pictures of the fallen on the side of mile 12 at Marine Corps can sure put things in perspective.


Air BnB and another State down

Clarence DeMar was told by his doctors that his heart was not strong enough to run long distances.  In response, he won seven Boston Marathons and an Olympic medal.  He became a teacher in Keene, NH – undoubtedly teaching students perseverance.

For a couple of years I had been eyeballing the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, NH but scheduling had not worked out.  This year I was able to change that.   I’m not convinced I will become one of those “50 State” marathoners, but I’m sure trying.  I’m up to 11 so far, so I will just keep plugging.

The hotels in Keene were crazily priced and as my family would not be coming, I decided to try Air BnB.  What a great experience I had.  I stayed at a solar powered house “off the grid” with several other runners.  The race was a point to point race starting in Gilsum, NH and ending at Keene State College (in Keene, NH).  Keene is a great New England Town – think “Newhart” just larger because it has a college there.

The race organizers moved the race start time back an hour – which meant getting up super early – around 4:45 AM (which is super early for me).  I had to drive to the finish line and park.  Then we had to be bused to the start line for the 7 AM race start.  We had to sit around in a gym for about 45 minutes pre race start.  The people were nice, but the “point to point” races – where you have to be bused someplace to start, are not my favorite.

Every Marathon is unique of course (this was # 26, and while many more people have run many more marathons, with 26 done, I feel like I can speak with a bit of authority on the various types of marathons).  However, this marathon added some extra incentive – a cemetery and the threat of zombies.  My older son – who caught the “zombie” craze, questions my intelligence for running marathons (“you pay money to run a long distance and become really tired” – yup).  However, I thought the zombie training course within the marathon’s real cemetery may impress him (it didn’t, he’s 15, very little I offer impresses him).