Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jordan Lake OWS

The 2017 edition of the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge really happened a few weeks ago. These Jordan Lake swim races are usually some of my favorite events of the year. This year these will likely be my only races, so I should enjoy them more. This year I was signed up for the 1.2 mile race, there was also a 2.4 going that only had one guy in my age group. Se la vie

It was a beautiful day to swim open water. A bit chilly for the drive out, what you would expect for May. Water was wet suit legal, around 70* and the air temp was much colder than that.

Nice calm water & sunshine

Had a good crowd

ready to swim, I guess
I felt prepared coming into this race. It is the only time this year I get to break out the wetsuit, which is still fairly uncomfortable. I got the wetsuit on just in time to head over to the start area for the prerace meetings.

The 2.4 milers took off first, then the 1.2 mile men started 4 minutes later. I was kind of in the middle of the width, near the front of the crowd. Before I knew it we were swimming!

I took off too fast. Lately I've been working on keeping a wide stroke, it's very efficient for moving water, but my arms aren't used to the workload yet. I looked around and was actually leading the race at one point, then saw some other people pass me to the left. So I must have started out like a mad sprinter.

It totally caught up to me quickly. There are two sighting buoys before the first turn, and by the time the first sighting buoy got there, I was getting dizzy and felt my throat closing up like I was having trouble catching my breath. For the first time in years, I had to turn over and backstroke for a bit just to get my heartrate down. THIS WAS NOT COOL. Mentally it sent me into a downward spiral. I'm hanging onto my "athlete" card by a thread anyway since I haven't been able to run this year. The way I felt in the first part of this race made me want to cut up that card and move on entirely.

Eventually I did settle down into a more consistent rhythm, but all the way into the first turn I would still have to backstroke every now and then just to keep my calm. After the first turn everything went smoothly. No trouble sighting, never had any kind of body traffic getting kicked around or anything. I just tried to be consistent and finished strong.

Finish 1.2 miles: 39:02, 74/196 overall, 47/146 men, 5/15 M40-44

My goal time in 1.2 miles is always under 30 minutes. New year, new water, new conditions, new competition. Based on the overall results I am relatively pleased with my time. Four minutes faster and I was into an age group award, that's usually the secondary goal. Anytime I finish in the top third of the field there's no reason to complain. Well, my wetsuit has a hole in the crotch, I can still complain about that. My breathing problems and shaken mental state, sure. But I feel good about the end result.

Recently, I convinced one of my friends from work to join my Masters team. She joined a relay team for Ironman Raleigh as a swimmer and wanted some open water practice races, so this was her first race in open water. Jennifer did really good. There were lots of other RAM members out there, but I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted.

Me and Jennifer, she's only 5'2"

The finish line scene

Pretty open water

KC always has her eyes closed when we face the sun for a picture
Overall this ended up being a good day. I put the top down in the convertible for the drive home, then looked down and the car said it was only 55*. Oh well, I was still comfortable. Super proud of Jennifer for finishing her first open water race, she had some wetsuit trouble as well. KC finished 2nd overall in the 2.4 mile, plenty of other RAM teammates won overall and age group awards. Since I did not take an award, I skipped out in time to make it to church to sing. Put this one in the books, I'll try to start out slower next time.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

April was fast!

I mean, it went by fast. There was a lot going on.

Swim: 28,550 y, 10 swims
Bike: 23.2 miles, 2 rides
Run: 0
Strength: 5 times
Yoga: once

It was a pretty good month in the pool. Still no running. Got a bit of cross training on the bike, but it's a small step towards getting back. Makes the knee and foot feel stronger.

One cool thing happened on the strength training front! In 2003 during my crazy weightlifting phase my bench press maxed out at 205 lbs. I only got it pressed once, testing my one rep max, never heavier and never again. A couple of weekends ago, I put 205 on the bar and got it up twice!  New bench press PR! So cool. Last year I totally blew a goal to increase my bench to 225 lbs, but now it's starting to look like that goal is in sight again! Very exciting. Maybe not as exciting as the 50k I was supposed to be running in Delaware that day, but still very exciting.

At the end of the month Kelley and I had a nice getaway to Boone. It was the 50th anniversary reunion gala for the App State chapter of my fraternity. Phi Mu Alpha is a professional music fraternity, and we got to meet some of the charter members and hear stories about how they got the ball rolling. The coolest part was getting to hang out with my boys, some of whom I haven't seen in over 20 years!

Me, Neal, Shawn in Boone together for the first time since around 1995

Kelley in front of the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis listening to live bluegrass

Bridget (Shawn's wife) and I enjoying a pint of guiness with lunch

On the blue ridge parkway

With Neal and his wife Lorena at Cone Manor

Suprise selfie

Dressing for the gala

a real player only needs half a grey head to work a table

Kelley, me, Jon, Bridget, Shawn, Lorena, Neal

Chad was there under an assumed name
The whole weekend was incredible. We all went out drinking after the gala and it got a little nuts. Again, it's just good to see everybody and their wives, and get to share the common bonds we created so many years ago. This was a time that I will really treasure.

bunch of drunks


LOTS of other stuff happened in April.

Evil Genius and her best friend shared a necklace

Ella has fun with props

EG tries to use the selfie stick as a prop

it was hot as shit out there. EG's school had a carnival fundraiser. I absolutely hate large crowds of people on a hot day where people yell at you for money. Nobody yelled at me this time, but it was the most uncomfortable I think I have ever been at an elementary school. And we still won tickets to Tweetsie Railroad in a silent auction.

European Invasion side 1

European Invasion side 2
We had visitors in the office last week, a crew of 4 came over from Europe - 3 from London and one guy from Amsterdam. It was incredible having them onsite all week. We've been working closely together for most of the year. And we were able to negotiate us going to Amsterdam for the product launch if we make it on time! These pictures are from a dinner we hosted to show off the local brewery & pizza house, Trophy Brewing. I literally ordered the entire menu, there was 14 of us so we got all 8 specialty pizzas listed on that board on the wall. Nobody went home sober or hungry (well, the drivers were sober).

So overall April was a great month. Like I mentioned in the last post, I got to go to the Masters, the beach, had the Umstead 100 day volunteering, and got a bench press pr instead of a trip to delaware. Top it off with an amazing reunion in the mountains, nothing could be better.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weekend Happy Fun Times

There is a lot going on this weekend! It has been really hot here in Raleigh. Like into the 90's hot already, and it is still April. This summer is going to be miserable again if this keeps up. Yesterday I swear it was 91* in the afternoon heat, and today only got up to 53* and felt amazing (but it rained all day). Here's what's going on this weekend:

1. My awesome brother Michael is playing in a HUGE festival in Charleston. The headliners are The Avett Brothers, Jump Little Children, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Dawes. There's about 15 bands, he's playing in his own band (Slow Runner) and on keys for another band.
2. The Swim Around Lido Key is going on just south of Sarasota, Florida. 7 miles in clear gulf waters. KC and some other RAM teammates did this one, it's the US Masters Open Water Championship. Looked like an amazing time.
3. Last year I chose to knock Delaware from the 50 state list by doing the Trap Pond 50k, which happened this morning. My choice for this weekend was to do the race. My last state was Alabama last February, so it's been over a year and I was ready to get back out there.

Of course, my right foot is still busted. Can't run a step. Needless to say that between choosing running of those 3 options, not being able to run, then having that heat kick it I was a bit depressed this weekend. The cooler temps today really helped, and my boat is really coming along nicely.

In fact, all I could do was volunteer this year at the Umstead 100. It's always one of my favorite days of the year and I had several friends lined up for my pacing services. I had to turn them all down at the last minute, but I did get to volunteer at aide station #2.

Umstead was hot and angry that day, like an old man trying to send back soup

Tammy Massie! My ultra bestie

Brian! Cledawg finished in 21 hours
Tammy finished her 10th Umstead 100, getting her 1000 mile buckle. It was an amazing time and I wish more than anything else that I could have been out there running trails with her after dark.

The next weekend, I got to go to The Masters golf tournament again down in Augusta Ga. I took my friend Taylor from church, and we had an incredible time. He had never been to Augusta National before. The weather was cool but I ended up getting sunburned anyway. We were just in Augusta for the day on Friday, and spent a couple of nights at my parents house too. Taylor is a real craft beer aficianado and I'm also quite beer-friendly so we had a blast.

ready for some live golf!

After a hot day watching assholes hit a ball with sticks - I got a new hat
The next weekend was Easter, and we had a major production going at church. Easter music is my favorite, and if Umstead 100 day is one of my favorite days of the year, then Easter is also one of my favorite holidays. [other favorite days are the first day of the college football season, any marathon day, and usually thanksgiving day]

Easter family portrait in front of the flowered cross

The garden! I planted tomatoes and peppers from Mom
I came home from the Masters trip with plenty of tomatoes and bell pepper plants that Mom had started from seed, and had previously prepped the soil in the raised beds for a garden this year. Now is the time to plant, so I got those in the ground after church & brunch stuff. We actually got to give the Masters tickets to Kelley's dad for Thursday of the tournament, then Taylor and I went on Friday. Taylor came back with some plants as well for his garden.

That brings us back to this weekend. Umstead 100, Masters, Easter, Trap Pond 50k, then next weekend we have something special planned to wrap up the month. What was supposed to be 3 full marathons in March and 2 50k's in April has now become just the one half marathon. What's come out of my busted foot has been a lot of fun. Maybe not as much fun as actually being able to run around all of these other activities, but fun nonetheless.

After we got that much of the garden planted, Kelley's mom wanted to put some other plants in to fill out the beds a bit so we went to the farmers market. I got a ghost pepper and a carolina reaper, the ladies all got something else that they wanted (namely cucumbers and okra) and the garden filled up. Also you'll notice the muscadine vines are fully leafed out and looking great this year behind those beds. And since I have been leaving the boat pictures and progress on my other blog, I'll wrap up with finished garden and boat-in-progress pictures.

Just the sides! It looks like a boat now

Plant haul from the farmers market - $19

Got the bottom on the boat

Happy boatbuilders

All the plants are in the ground

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Truth

Well it was a March this year. All month long was a straight walk through time.  Here's how it broke down:

Swim: 14,900 yards, 6 swims
Bike: 11.8 miles, 1 ride
Run: 13.1 miles, 1 run, 1 race
Strength: 5 times
Yoga: nada

The storyline for this month centers around the foot injury. I was in physical therapy at Raleigh Orthopedics for 4 weeks. Funny thing was, I didn't actually see much improvement while in PT. The guy was great! I made him watch me run during the last appointment. He did find a flaw where my right knee is collapsing in, signifying a hip weakness on my right side. When I can actually run again, this will be useful information.

The half marathon at Myrtle Beach is still my only run since January. It was a complete disaster. If I can't do what I want to do the way I want to do it, then it's time to move on. 3 full marathons in march and 2 50k's in April have become the MB half and volunteering at the Umstead 100. So my entire spring plan is scrapped. I still have about 4 more weeks before the fall plan falls behind, but I haven't worked up a training plan yet.

My swim volume is a bit lower than I expected, but I have been getting busy towards the end of the weeks. The real story is the strength training. It's been going really good. Last year I set and failed at a goal to bench press 225 lbs, but I think I'm really close now. Haven't gone for the 1 rep max lately but it's about time to try. Last year when I was trying, I was completely unable to lift as much as I am now. In particular, I tried 185 lbs for 7 sets of 3 reps last year, and bailed after the 2nd set. Last week I finished that lift and added a few extra reps in there for good measure. Weightlifting good.

Yoga still hurts my foot. I haven't even unrolled the mat all month. Now in April, my foot is finally starting to feel some relief, as in it doesn't hurt all the time. Every day, yes, but I'll get an hour here and there where there is no pain. So I know it's just a matter of time. The PT thinks starting yoga now would be a good idea.

If I am done with running, I can still swim. Signed up for the 3 local open water swim races this year already, that's going to be a fun time. Also, I can move on to other hobbies. So next, I'm getting into a more specific facet of woodworking, boatbuilding. I've been making sawdust for about 20 years now, usually furniture of home repairs. But building a boat is a completely different endeavor. Using epoxy and fiberglass tape or cloth, getting straight clean lines and a watertight seal, designing a boat that's light enough to carry yet strong enough to hold people. It's a very daunting challenge that I have been looking forward to for a long time. It's so challenging actually, I started a new blog to document my boatbuilding adventures - ncboatbuilder.blogspot.com. Fortunately, I'm just as behind in blogging there as I am over here. ha!

So I'm making the best of this tough situation and doing whatever I can to stay sane. My first boat is coming along nicely, so that's really fun. There was some other fun stuff that happened in March too:

Camilias came into bloom and fell off

They actually make a beer called Stupid Sexy Flanders! The Simpsons for the win!

I drank a beer. Bottle Rev has become one of my favorite spots in Raleigh

We got snow! First snow this year was March 12


This was my company's big March Madness party. yes, I was alone.

Got me on Tybee Island!

This hair is all gray. Getting old sucks!

I went to Bottle Rev again

Snow is gone and the muscadines are starting to leaf out! Spring is here!
 This is post #800 for me on the old smoke trainer blog. When I started this on a whim in 2008 I had no idea I would still be here over 8 years later, documenting my growth, successes, failures, and family time. I've written out what I've learned as an athlete (well, I still have a few more of those posts to write) and learned what I like. And what I like is open water swimming, 4 hour marathons, and trail ultras. Just because I can't do what I want to do right now doesn't mean this is the end of my athletic pursuits. Open water swim season will be here before you know it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tybee Vacation

This spring for the kids track-out we planned a family vacation. It started with Kelley's mom taking them down to the lake for a weekend, then my mom picked them up on Monday to head for the coast. Kelley and I are always grateful for a few kid-free days! Tybee Island is outside of Savannah GA, and our story begins on Wednesday.

Funny Faces

Giant German Beer

and cookies & Innis & Gunn for St Patricks day
Ok, fine, we spent the kid free days enjoying ourselves a bit.

It's about a 6 hour drive from Raleigh down to Tybee. I took off W/T/F from work, so we headed down wednesday morning and got there in time for dinner at AJ's seafood. It was amazing as always, they really do have the best shrimp on Tybee.
The path from our house to the beach

Kids were happy to be at AJ's as well
After dinner we made it down to the beach for a bit before sunset. We saw some kind of strange sea ducks floating around, but it never flew away. Also I got a really cool picture of us with the Tybee lighthouse in the background.

Evil Genius loves those magnet earrings because she refuses to get her ears pierced
Thursday was a bit cold, so we opted to go to a nearby park instead of going to the beach first thing. Then we quickly realized that our kids are now too old to typically enjoy going to a park. ha! Didn't see that one coming. Every other kid there was half their size.

Ella's as long as the slide!

She still fits on the swings

This super-creepy tree was full of birds
Later we went into downtown Savannah. Sav is an incredibly beautiful city that's always a lot of fun. We did some shopping on Rivers street, played in the squares, and enjoyed the spanish moss in the huge oak trees. Amazing.

Ella stopping that ship from reaching the harbor

Savannah's waving girl statue

Those trees! This is downtown in a big city?

Playing in the historic squares
Ella loves all things pirate, and mom's birthday is coming up so we decided to take everyone to dinner at the Pirate's House. This is one of the oldest historic homes in Georgia. Supposedly there was a tunnel that Blackbeard the Pirate used to get from the water into the house where he kept some treasure. It was also heavily featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's book Treasure Island! So the atmosphere was unique and the food was amazing. We all had a blast in there. Ella was in her natural habitat.


she's too funny

a fireplace full of skulls! argh!

Friday was quite a bit warmer, so we ended up going down to the beach for a bit in the morning. The kids got in the water but it was a bit too cold for me. Still good to just walk around and get some time in the sun listening to the waves and talking to this beauty


and that was the last picture I took! Strange that I didn't get a single picture of my parents. Dad got a wild hair and came down on Friday afternoon. We went to his favorite place on the island for dinner, they pass out free shots to salute the sunset every day! We ate a bit early for that, but still got to enjoy a few cold beers with my old man, then watched the NCAA tournament games at the house afterwards with a few more. Dad's parkinsons disease is really starting to limit his mobility, it really makes me treasure the time we get to spend together just sitting around drinking beer and talking shit about sports.

My plan for Saturday was supposed to start with my running the Skidaway Island Marathon, but unfortunately my foot is still too busted so that didn't happen. It was also supposed to end with another massive platter of fried seafood, and that didn't happen either. The kids started back to school on monday, so we decided to head back to Raleigh on Saturday to save Sunday to recover from the road trip. The drive back was uneventful. Not being able to run the marathon thanks to an injury was really depressing. I want to be healthy and out there doing what I love to do! But overall missing the race did not put a damper on the overall vacation.

Turns out the wife of one of my fraternity brothers ran Skidaway, and I had no idea they were in town until we were almost back on the road home.  My friend Charlotte ran the Wrightsville Beach marathon, her 100th overall. There was a big party that we missed, but I'm super proud for both of them. Shanti had a nice PR in the skidaway half and Charlotte had a killer party with lots of running friends there.

Another fun trip to Tybee is in the books! We all had a blast. The kids didn't want to leave. Mom and Dad stuck around another night to get everything cleaned then headed back to Greenville. This is why I really enjoy the year-round school schedule. We get to do this kind of thing in the spring when it's actually pleasant to be there. Actually it could have been a bit warmer but everything else was really perfect.