Category Archives: fitness

Tri Again – Mystic YMCA Sprint Triathlon 2016

This morning I finally returned to a triathlon after 3 seasons of no races.  I chose the Mystic YMCA Sprint for my return since that is where I did my first Tri in 2010.  The weather predictions for today were rain and storms, so I almost decided yesterday not to go.  However, Anna said “you paid for the entry, you better get up and do the race.”

When I got up at 5 this morning, the weather looked like we would have a nice clearing in the rain.  In fact, there was only a 10% chance of rain during the racing time frame.  When I last did the race in 2012, there were 169 people at the race.  Not large, but the venue is small so it can get crowded and parking is tight.   When I arrived just after 6, it was definitely not crowded.

Transition area at about 6:15

I got a great surprise this morning that my friend Natalie Edwards decided that she would come and race as well.  Natalie and I used to do a lot of cycling together and ran tris together in the past.  Yesterday, Natalie did an Olympic distance race at the Rev3 Quassy and placed 11/46 in her age group.  That race had 799 racers.

Natalie surprised me by deciding to join the race this morning!
Natalie surprised me by deciding to join the race this morning!

The water was calm and probably in the mid 60s.


My entire goal for the day was to complete the race.  I knew I was not nearly as fit as in years past, but I was sure I could complete the 867m swim, 14 mile bike, and 3 mile run.  It did start to lightly rain during the swim and continued through  the bike, but with air temperature in the upper 60s, it was a great morning to race.  In the end, the much smaller field of only 106 competitors meant my overall time of 1:34 was sufficient for 3rd place in my age group and I got a gift certificate to Mystic Cycle Center.

3rd place in my age group
3rd place in my age group

I am really glad that I signed up for the race and I am looking forward to spending more time on my bike this summer (my weakest performance of the three phases today).  Natalie ended up finishing as the 5th overall female and 2nd in her age group!


Family Fitness

This afternoon, we headed to the Mystic YMCA for some swimming time.  All the kids did lessons over the winter, but with our summer horse schedule, we decided not to do lessons right now.  Instead, we will do 1 or 2 evenings a week at the pool as a family and I will coach the kids.  The kids have an event coming up in June that we are specifically training for, so stay tuned.

After plenty of lap work, we headed out and stopped in Mystic Cycle Center so I could replace me helmet (the padding was worn out from age, not damage from an accident).  On the outside rack, there was a used bike in awesome condition that was a good size for Alex.  Just a hair large, but he will fit it great in a month or two.  Alex had seriously outgrown his previous bike and the price was unbelievable based on the condition, so we decided to get it.  By the time we were done, everyone was hungry and we didn’t have anything planned for at home.  Five Guys was on the way home.  We all worked out.  Five Guys uses real potatoes for their fries, so it’s healthier than McDonald’s.  We love Five Guys and to quote Amanda “Five Guys has THE BEST hot dogs.”

We finally got home and it wasn’t dark.  What do you do when you bring home a new bike?  That’s right.  Alex, Vicki, and I went out for a short ride while Anna fed the horses and Amanda watched a show (swimming was enough for her).  I meant to do a short loop.  I underestimated the length of the short loop and how long it would take with Vicki on a small bike.  I missed a turn, realizing it as we cruised by the turn.  The kids were doing fine, so the “short loop” got a little longer than planned.  However, light was fading fast, as in, the sun was well below the horizon.  We made it back to the house just before dark.  The limiting factor on the ride was definitely the bike Vicki was riding.  She was working at least twice as hard as Alex.  So now we are watching for a used bike upgrade for Vicki.  In the end, we rode 7.7 miles in 55 minutes.  They should sleep well tonight.

Along the way, I spent time teaching the kids about safety when riding along the road.  We talked about safety in a bike group, marking hazards for other riders, maintaining your line when cars pass, announcing passes, etc.  We did have 1 scare when a large SUV decided to fly around us on a curve, into a blind hill, with a guard rail on our side and high bank on the other side.  As the SUV came around, a car crested the hill and discovered the SUV in his lane.  Now, the car appeared to be speeding as well (common on our road) and instead of hitting the brakes, he swerved to the side and hit a large rock on the embankment.  The sound of the loud pop was his tire blowing out.  Of course, he was well over 1/4 mile down the road by the time he was able to slow enough to stop and check the damage.

The incident highlighted for the kids the fact that you can never trust drivers to do the safe thing and you have to be vigilant on the roads.


Colchester Half Marathon 2016


For the first time in 4 years, I returned to Colchester for the half marathon.  It is a hilly course with over 800′ of elevation change. The temps were in the mid – upper 30s and the wind wasn’t too bad this year.  My “minimalist training plan” showed with my slowest time on this course of the 4 times I have run it. I ran a 2:06:31 and that’s fine with me. I’m happy to be back in the groove and look forward to more races this year.
It was great to see my fitness friends. The picture is with my co-worker and friend Hank Brightman. The “tree pose” is a yoga pose that is his trademark after a race. A special shout out goes to my friend Chris Calhoun, who isn’t a runner, but came out anyways. With a 1:56 debut for a half marathon,  I think we might have to upgrade him to runner status. Now it’s on to a weekend full of horse activities.  Maybe right after I stop for a cup of coffee.


For the past few months, after a long day of trimming I was noticing my right hip would be quite sore.  In some cases, I was able to slip on my running shoes and go for an easy jog to straighten everything out.  In others, heat, ice and Motrin were required.  Over the Christmas holidays, I went a week and a half without trimming any horses, and I didn’t have any hip pain.  When I returned, I trimmed only 3 horses in one day and the pain had returned.

As a hoof trimmer, I frequently see horses that have a twist in their leg, an abnormality in their gait, or are not able to stand with their feet square.  In some cases, you can look at the hoof from above and see that the horse is wearing the toe unevenly or the hoof has an asymmetrical flare.  In other cases, everything looks fine from above, but an inspection of the hoof from below reveals uneven heel height and/or length.  All of these issues are due to a lack of Balance in the hoof.  Sometimes, I am able to restore Balance to the hoof and correct the problems.  Sometimes, the horse has lived with the imbalance for so long, restoring Balance actually causes pain because the horse has adapted to the imbalance and relies on it.

Initially, I believed the pain in my hip had something to do with my stance while working on horses.  But then it occurred to me, that my body was simply out of Balance.  Furthermore, the boots I wore to trim in sat idle during my vacation.  A quick inspection of my boots revealed that the soles and heels in particular are worn unevenly on the boots I wear when trimming.  To further determine if this was the source of my pain, I wore a new pair of hunting boots when trimming 12 horses on Saturday.  I came home without any hip pain.

Balance is important in our lives.  Imbalances in our body lead to pain.  If you live with the imbalance long enough, your body will compensate with a limp, uneven shoulder height, twist in your seat, or some other mechanism.  An imbalance in our body leads to an imbalance in the saddle, and negatively affects our horse.  Balance is also important in our relationships, finances, and mental health.  As we start the new year, many people are making resolutions, but frequently do so without Balance, which is not healthy.

This year, I will strive for Balance.


My struggle with fitness

Anna thinks I have hobby ADHD.  She is right.  I also tend to get obsessed/addicted to the current focus.  I definitely have a problem wavering back and forth when I don’t have a clear goal.  I am a goal oriented person, and without a goal, I get despondent and lazy.  There are always reasons excuses.  2 years ago I suffered what turned out to be a rather severe concussion.  I’m not sure I will ever be completely the same again (note I didn’t say NORMAL).  However, in the last 2 years, I have gained about 15 lbs and I’m really starting to notice the effects of my reduced fitness.  In particular, in my trimming career, I don’t hold up to a day of trimming as well as before.

My blood work numbers have been creeping up, and I really want to avoid all the bad that comes with that.  I would much rather do it working out than with meds.  It is time for my obsession to take a health focus again, like it did from 2009-2011.

Therefore, I have set some tentative goals for this year with regards to my fitness.

1. Get back to 175 lbs or less (Jan 1 weight 183 for accountability).  I want this to be a reasonable and achievable goal.  I found 175 to be a good maintenance weight for me.  Racing weight is under 170.

2. Ride at least a metric century (100 km) bike ride this summer.  This may be a training ride instead of an event.  Maybe CHUCK CURTIS will join with me on this goal!  In 2010 I rode the 100 km Tour de Cure for Diabetes.  I MIGHT do that again this June.

3.  I have a specific event in September that I want to do.  But I need to tri some working out for a little while before I commit.  I have found forking over $$ to be a good motivator for goals, so stayed tuned for the final goal.


Alex’s first 5k

Today was the inaugural Colonel Classic 5k in Ledyard.  Alex and I signed up and this was his first ever 5k.  The course wasn’t exactly flat and it was about 42F when we started.  Amanda came along for a ride in the stroller.  Alex still needs to grasp the concept of pacing, because he tended to sprint for a few seconds, then walk.  Eventually (around the 2 mile point), I gave up on convincing him to run a steady pace and we fell into a run/walk routine.  1:00 run, 30 sec walk.  That worked well for keeping him moving.  I also threatened that if he gave up, we would eat okra soup for lunch, but if he kept the 1:00/:30 routine, I would let him have Subway.  About 1/4 mile from the finish, his friend Jack (who was watching his Dad run) met us along the route and ran back to the finish with Alex.

Alex’s first 5k was a time of 42:14, which equates to a 13:37/mile pace.  Not too bad considering the hills.  Best of all, he said he actually had fun!

Tri again

After sciatic nerve problems and a concussion that took 11 months to resolve, I was finally able to resume training. On Thursday of last week, I competed in an indoor triathlon at the gym on base in Newport.  The transitions between events didn’t count towards the totals, only the events themselves.  Here is how I fared:

8:40 for 450m swim

22:33 for 10 miles on a spin bike

13:04 for 2 miles on an indoor track that is 12 laps to the mile

Overall, I was 9th out of 53 participants and, while my swim needs work, it was great to be able to Tri again!

Biking in the house

We finally got motivated to bring the CycleOps bike trainer out of the basement and into the den.  A little Pandora for music and we are all set to ride the bikes inside.  Last night I took mine for a test ride.  Vicki was begging to bring hers up too, so a quick adjustment was made and she got to ride.  Given the tire doesn’t reach the resistance flywheel, so she is just spinning with the resistance of the gears on her bike.  That said, she rode on the trainer for 40 minutes while listening to Kids Bop.


Then we adjusted the setup for Anna’s bike.  She plans to get comfortable enough on the trainer with proper riding attire and the clip in shoes so we can ride outside in the spring.


Just a short run

Yesterday afternoon, as the holiday stand down was coming to an end, and the new week loomed, we needed to do some chores.  I was short tempered with the kids and snapping at everything because I felt we had not accomplished as much as I hoped and the kids were not moving fast enough.  Anna looked at me and suggested I take Mack for a short run.  I snapped back that there was no time for running, we had things to do!  So I grabbed my coat and went out to the barnyard to get things done.

In the evening, I realized, it had been a week since I had worked out.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, it was that I didn’t make time. This morning, after getting up at 5:30 as I scrolled through FB, I noted a friend who posted about a workout and I scoffed, thinking, that doesn’t even really qualify as a workout.  But then I realized, I had done nothing.  Who was I to judge another for what challenged them, when I was doing nothing.  So after working on some chores around the farm, I grabbed my gym bag and tossed in my running shoes, some shorts, and a top appropriate for the 50F weather that had surprised me during chores.  Off to work I went.

When lunch came, I was hesitant to go to the gym.  Maybe I should skip the workout and work on a project over lunch?  No.  I left the office and headed to the gym.  Before I arrived, a massive rain storm started.  I was planning to run outside (I hate running on a treadmill).  Oh well, no workout today.  But then, it stopped.  Ok, no more excuses – I picked up my bag and headed in.  Once at my locker, I realized, I forgot to grab socks this morning.  Oops.  Guess I will have to just hit the pool instead.  No.  My shoes were designed to run without socks, and I had run without socks almost as much as with socks.  So, I changed into my running clothes and went outside.

It was clear from the humidity and clouds in the sky, the odds were not in my favor of making it through the run without getting overtaken by another rain squall.  I started out at a steady pace.  About a quarter of a mile into the run, I encountered a puddle on the gravel path.  As I started to weave around the puddle, I discovered the grass was a mushy, muddy mess.  So, I went through the puddle in my sockless, minimalist trail shoe.  And I resolved, that no matter what I encountered on my path, I would go through it, not around it. I was hit with spray from the water as waves pounded into the rocky shoreline.  But I ran on.  It started to rain.  But I ran on, through every puddle I came to.  In fact, I went straight into a puddle that was slush mixed with ice, water, and snow over my ankles (my feet were not really cold until that one).  And I ran on, hoping to regain the feeling in my feet lost from the ice bath.  Then it was over.

This wasn’t a huge run.  It was 3 miles that took a little under 30 minutes.  But this run was significant.  On this run, I got back what I had been missing since my concussion, nearly a year before.  I have had very few headaches over the past 2 weeks.  And today, I found the mental release I was missing that lets me ponder everything, and nothing.  The clarity to analyze my life and recognize what I’m doing wrong.  And when it was over, I had the feeling that I’ve missed.  I can’t describe it, but if you run, you probably know what I mean. Somewhere between accomplishment, calmness, zen, and the urge to run some more.

Tomorrow it will be in the teens, so maybe I’ll just ride my bike on the indoor trainer.  But maybe I’ll take some running clothes to work, just in case I stop making excuses.  Just a short run makes a big difference.

What fixed my sciatic nerve pain

At the Naval Academy in the late 90s, I ran a lot.   I ended up with a double Achilles injury at one point. I also ended up in PT (physical therapy) for sciatic nerve pain. Then I went to the fleet, gained weight, quit working out, etc. In 2009, I got into triathlons and lost 30 lbs. For about the first 2 years, everything was great. No real injuries or problems.
Then, in 2012 injuries started. Subtle at first. More tightness than normal. Then the sciatic nerve pain returned, in particular, after a fast run like a 5k race. I started stretching more and tried to get around the problem. By the fall of 2012, I was back in PT and completely off running trying to fix the now constant sciatic nerve pain. The PT didn’t really help. The stretching provided only a short duration of relief. After 3 months of no running, I was given the OK to return to training, SLOWLY. I did. But 1 month later, I suffered a serious concussion and running was put on hold again.

Fast forward to recently. While I am not over the concussion, I have decided to give up on waiting and just run anyways. The intelligence of that approach can be debated. However, I was still having sciatic pain, and I wasn’t even running. Then, one day in the gym, I was on a treadmill with a mirror in front of me. I noticed my right foot turned to the outside at about a 20 degree angle as I ran. For the next few minutes, I forced myself to twist my foot straight. When I got off the treadmill, I could feel how dramatic the difference was in the improvement of my sciatic nerve pain. So I started trying to understand what was going on. I was already in the process of listening to “Born to Run” on an audio book and then followed that with “Running with the Kenyans”.  The more I read about “barefoot” running, the more I thought I wanted to give it a try.

So, I went to a local store and found a pair of Merrill M Connect shoes, which are a minimalist shoe that encourages a forefoot strike instead of the heel first strike. I took them back to the gym and ran for a few minutes on the indoor track. It was amazing. I immediately transitioned to a forefoot strike. And it felt awesome. It felt easier and faster. I was careful not to overdo it, but over the next couple of weeks, I kept doing some easy runs of 20 minutes or less. However, the most amazing realization was, my sciatic nerve pain was gone. The first day I ran in the new shoes, I had NO sciatic nerve pain for 48 hours. Since then, I can actually feel the stretching in my right hip as my foot is realigning with the natural motion it had lost.

What fixed my sciatic nerve problem? Forefoot running.