My heart bleeds for Lake Tahoe, Residents and Triathletes

There was a wild fire in lake tahoe that resulted in the cancellation of the Half Ironman.

My heart bleeds for the trees that are probably getting destroyed because of a century of excessive fire fighting, and for people’s homes that are at risk and for the area that is getting hurt…

And as a triathlete, my heart bleeds for those who trained for this race and it was their first half. Working that hard for that long only to have it go up in smoke is painful.

For my scoffers

Four years ago, a doctor looked at me and scoffed when I suggested that I might be able to get my health under control

Two years ago, I scoffed at myself that I could get my weight below 200 and keep it there.

Kostadis 2 – Scoffers 0

Oh okay, the scoffers do get 1 point - I didn’t do the Athens Marathon in under 5 hours.

Week 80 – Long sleep and updates

First updates… unfortunately life has once again intervened pushing out my ironman, AGAIN! That’s okay. Opportunity to do more half-ironmen. And remember the purpose isn’t to get to Ithaka, the point is to get there when you have accumulated the wisdom and experiences of a lifetime.

One of the indirect consequences of this inability to get an Ironman done, is for me to refocus my thinking on whether my long term 20 year goal should be to finish 150 marathons… Marathons have the nice property that they require less training and less equipment …

On Friday (Aug 8, 2014), I went for my first long run after my return from Greece.

And I learned something that it is, indeed, possible to go running and fall asleep while running.

This was shocking.

I had no idea this was possible. To be so sleepy that you find yourself wanting to just curl up on the ground and sleep… Worse you’re so sleepy that you can’t see straight or run straight.

I figured that if you’re that sleepy you shouldn’t be able to run period.

Maybe you aren’t … Maybe it was a sick dream.

The first three miles were surreal. My running partner,

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basically dragged me around the neighborhood.

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Figuring my diminished capacity was unsafe with my dog, I decided to finish the run solo.

Unfortunately, that’s when I discovered the dry heaves.

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Turns out when you are that sleepy you can only go so fast. Every time I tried to pick up the pace I stopped on the side and executed the dry heave maneuver. Fortunately it was late at night and no one saw that. Really.

Because I am that obsessive triathlete, instead of just stopping, I pushed on some more.

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The problem then was that the slower pace was just simply not comfortable. And yes I managed to re-tweak my calf! Ice-packs here I come!

Finally reaching my house, took a shower and crawled into bed. I do not remember the part about crawling into bed. I am just certain it happened because I woke up there.

My wife is an amazing tolerant person.

 

 

 

Week 79 – Scaring the locals edition

For my second long run in Santorini, I decided to tackle a long standing ambition of mine to run around the airport and back to my house.

Why?

Because it was there.

And so I set off.

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The route is pretty similar to the route from last week’s run to Monolithos, except that I don’t turn down to the beach but instead continue around the airport.

What I had not realized was the elevation profile of this run.

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Notice that long painful climb. Notice that drop in pace. While I was running, I felt like I was stuck in some kind of relentless endless climb. I thought I was insane.

I was.

Not for thinking that this was a long relentless climb, but because I was insane enough to do it.

My cousin who is studying Sports Science, when she heard what I did – derisively told me – you shouldn’t combine mileage and climbing… Yeah. Useful feedback, not so much half way through a run.

Because I anticipated an epic disaster, I brought two water bottles and picked my route such that there were plenty of places I could refill if I had cash.

The first refill occurred at a bakery at the turn from the airport to Kamari

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I run into the bakery wearing sunglasses, running shoes and go straight to the water cooler and buy myself a powerade wearing my vineman half-ironman t-shirt.

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The Albanian (?) woman behind the counter was a little bit taken a-back. This was not her usual customer. This store is somewhat out-of-the way and you need to drive to the store. Not exactly the kind of place that gets foot traffic. And definitely not the kind of place that gets runner traffic.

She looked at me and asked politely: Do I speak Greek? I think this was her way of asking: Are you some kind of insane Xenos? I turned to her, spoke in Greece and then quickly paid for my powerade. She smiled, and wished me luck.

I don’t think I convinced her I wasn’t some kind of insane Xenos. Maybe she decided I was the worst kind of Xenos – an Ellino-Amerikanos!

My next pit stop was a fortuitous coincidence. An old friend of the family has a flower shop. She was across the street at a house pictured below…

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She was sitting with some friends eating a snack. She called for me to come by, and I ran up to say hi. There she offered me a variety of snacks to – which before I could say no to – a gentleman told her to be quiet because well she was a woman and didn’t know what athletes required. He then proceeded to give me a tomato drenched in olive oil and garlic.

And before I could say no, this thing was in my mouth. And then I started running fast in the opposite direction.

And the treat was super tasty. But unfortunately tomato is acidic and garlic makes me fart. For the next little while I was farting and experience burning sensations down my throat… This made the run more … interesting I suppose.

As I headed back down into Kamari, I was running short of liquid having drank the two water bottles I started with and the powerade I purchased. Desperate for one more powerade I turned into a Gyros joint – Minas Peinas ..

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This is the kind of dive I love to eat at. This place has got good food, that has more fat and grease than is healthy even in our newly found fat is good universe.

I turn into the place, and run straight past the smokers and the serious eaters wearing my vineman jersey and asked for a bottle of water. The lady behind the counter looking like she’s had smoked more cigarettes in her life than she should have, smiles and points me to the cooler. Paying, I start to run out, feeling annoyed that there was no powerade. And then I remember, the juice of champions – Coke! And I turn right around a buy a can of coke and pour it into my water bottle. At that point in time the lady had the: A crazy Xenos has come into my store. This time I decided to not confuse the issue and speak in English.

As I ran out, I saw a foreign couple smile. They knew what I was doing :-)

A little bit more running to make the run a full 2:30. And yes the Coke made everything better. Except for my water bottle that still is stubbornly dirty. Apparently Coke + powerade + Num doesn’t clean that easy.

After 2:21 minutes, I made it home. Safely.

My little run was supposed to be fun a little jaunt, and yet the interaction with the people on the way made it feel a little bit more memorable than it had any right to be.

 

Week 78: Crushing bad runs

After finishing my first half-Ironman, whose race report is conspicuously missing, there was a week long lull. After the week long recover, my coach sent me running.

After all there is some unfinished business between me and a certain Marathon in Greece.

This week I was vacationing in Santorini. Often thought of as an exotic isle, the reality for me, is that it’s where I am from. Kind of like people from Hawaii, Santorini is just the place I go to, not some magical mysterious wonderful place.

And yet Santorini is that place.

Santorini is also the place where I had the most miserable long run experience of my life.

While getting ready for my first ever Marathon, training using the Hal Higdon method, I ran a 14 mile run that turned messy.

It all started with hanging out with some friends that were bragging about how fast they went.

And since I had no coach, but a spreadsheet, I decided that I too would go as fast as they had.

Let me observe that they were thinner than I was …

Let me observe that they had a much better fitness base than I did…

Let me observe that the route was one I had never done before.

The net outcome was calamitous. I ended up overheating, getting dehydrated,, drinking too much water to compensate and puking.

When I came back from my run, I collapsed in my parents yard: exhausted, dehydrated and ashen. Sitting down in front of me was some random older woman. I had no clue who she was. The poor woman saw my ashen coloured face and asked: Are you okay.

And I responded: Tin poutsisame.

Go ask your Greek friends for a translation. This is a PG rated English speaking blog.

Turns out the woman was my sister’s soon to be mother-in-law.

Yup, the first words to my sister’s mother-in-law were… colourful.

Two years later, many pounds lighter, much fitter, I decided to give that route another go.

Armed with an understanding of how to use heart-rate monitors, and a better appreciation of dealing with the heat, I was able to complete the run without getting hurt.

Only downside, that epic 14 mile run was only 9 miles long.

Here’s the route in relation to the whole island: 2014-08-09_1947

Here’s the route zoomed in.

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What the straight lines don’t convey is the very steep rollers. The total elevation gain isn’t that large, only 338 feet, but there are are some brutally steep climbs. I am choosing to not show my speed over those climbs. I do believe I saw a snail zoom past but I may have been confused. 2014-08-09_1949

 

Just for comparison purposes the Athens marathon had an elevation gain of 900 feet …

 

Jumping from the Kamara or How I relieve frustrations

Change is a constant in life. And coping with change is the only constant. Last year in the midst of professional churn, I decided to complete a swim I had been longing to do for a lifetime.

This year, in the midst of a new set of challenges, I decided to jump from the Kamara. A jump I had been longing to do for a lifetime. The jump is very safe. People do it routinely, but the first time you do it there is this moment half way down where you realize you are STILL falling.

My sister took the video.

The commentary is Greek.

Funniest moment is when she calls me ‘half-ironman or cast-ironman’ …

Still think the Ferrari may prove to be cheaper …

Vineman 2014 Race Report – Getting Ready

As we get older, and as moments come and go, we appreciate the passage of time with a certain melancholy that can be infuriating. Vineman was such a moment. And that melancholy makes writing a race report harder. To write about this event is to transform the memory from an event to an orderly set of words that describe a sequence of events bereft of the emotion … After all I am a computer scientist not a writer.

And there is this temptation to not write. But memory is fleeting and just writing the stuff down makes it last a little bit longer.

Let’s dive in then…

The day before

The one really useful thing about Vineman is that it’s pretty frigging close to my house. A modest two hour drive, this makes it possible to overpack without having to worry about the space issues.

And did I pack my little honda fit. Here’s the list:

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And I got it all into that tiny little car… Although there was no space for anyone else to sit in the car.

Packed and ready to go, I headed out to Vineman…

Along the way, I got stuck in a horrible traffic jam. Something about the Breast Cancer, I presume given the pink, the gender and the walking. You’d think Google Maps could provide some insight into that but … No.

The hours piled on, the drive continued, and finally I arrived at my destination: Windsor High School.

When you do a sprint triathlon, unless it’s some ultra competitive thing, you meet a lot of people whose body type is – well – not ultra skinny.

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When you do a half-ironman, even after losing 40 pounds you feel  like a conformation lab surrounded by whippets…

The scrawny emaciated scary fit looking people that were surrounding me was amazing. If I was into men, the eye candy would be reason enough to do half-ironmen.

What was scarier was the plan that they could take 2500 of these scrawny looking people, all simultaneously going through taper crazies and talk to them …

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Wait … this is a high school normally full of teenagers with raging hormones …

The folks at Vineman gave us our marching orders, wished us good luck and sent us on our way.

To wait in another line:

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Where we had to get our race packet.

Doing a race with so many people really is a case of hurry up and wait until the damn thing starts.

After collecting my race packets, I headed to my hotel, picked up my bike gear and tri gear and headed out to the beach in Guerneville to get a feel for the swim.

The other gentrification 

When I arrived in Guerneville, I parked across the street from an over the top alternative hippy location.

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The building across from where I parked was devoted to some new age religious theories tied to the Goddess. Honestly, I can’t recall.

When I was done with my swim, just down the street from there, I was super hungry and decided to go get a bite to eat.

I figured it would be local diner food.

Boy was I wrong.

There are some pretty frigging swanky places to eat.

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Guerneville is caught between the low rent district it was and the place the 1% are turning it into.

Can’t wait to see the protest rallies here. Maybe I don’t want to do Vineman next year…

After a remarkably tasty diner, I drove off to my hotel in Healdsburg.

Eating

I have this long and sordid history of not eating enough for long distance events. I once decided to diet during the Sequoia double metric. I forgot to eat lunch during the Death Ride. I had a buddy who wanted to buy me this electroshock collar that he could zap every thirty minutes to remind me to eat.

Bonking and me were like this partnership of evil that could never be broken.

This time, I swore I was going to eat enough.

And so after eating a non-trivial meal in Guerneville, I also had some really kick-ass pie in Healdsburg…

My plan was to eat so much, that there was no hope in hell that I didn’t go hungry…

Although I was struggling finding something to eat for breakfast the next day … But with all the food I ate this should not be a problem. At all….

One last check

Back at the hotel, I did one last check of my equipment. And of course, I couldn’t find anything, unpacked everything three times, forgot to take things… I was sooo pissed off.

And then my wife calls, and I sounded … well … let’s just say the word pleasant doesn’t necessarily come to mind…

But her call managed to get my brain focused on the task at hand, and somehow I managed to correctly pack everything this time.

And now for some sleep

One thing I’ve become a fan of recently is Mindfulness. There is a lot of stuff in that repackaged yoga, but one thing it does help a lot with is getting your brain to focus on the task at hand and to deal with the stray thoughts that distract you. Before I learned about Mindfulness, it was impossible to sleep before a high stress event like a half ironman. Now it’s possible. Not magic, really just a way to get your brain to focus on the immediate thing at hand instead of every random thought that comes through your head in a high stress environment distract you from sleeping.

Overcome with sleep… I got ready for my race….