Monday, December 31, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 10!

Sufferfestukah Day 10 at last!

Webb: Day 10 promised to be a big one. One-hour and 45 minutes of "Hell Hath No Fury" and "The Long Scream." The titles alone should have told you to stay under the covers and keep the trainer hidden away. But wait, what's this, no "HHNF?" 

Technical what?
It wouldn't be Sufferfestukah in our household without some technical difficulties. For some reason, our "HHNF" file would not play on this occasion. I'm not getting into it now. I'm saving my energy for a long talk with Apple. (In other news, I recently have had music files stop playing partially through the song. My guess is this the same problem. So when you buy something on iTunes and it says you should back-up your purchase, well, yeah, back it up.) We've done HHNF several times and were more than just a little disappointed that it was not going to happen.

Being good minions that we are, the next step was choosing a replacement video. There could be only one other option: "Local Hero." The purpose of the workout after all was to be on the trainer a long time. "Local Hero" plus "The Long Scream" would give us nearly10 minutes more than the original plan. After a frustrating delay, we were back on task.

Pulling out the racing kit for
Day 10 of Sufferfestukah
Elle: Wouldn't you know the one video that would be a problem would be the last one, and of course, one of my favorites. Wait, I say that about all the videos... At least this year it wasn't due to Sufferlandrian error. Since we've already done Local Hero this Sufferfestukah, I won't re-hash, but you can read all about it here.

Webb: I felt good today. My fatigue and overtraining were behind me and I was ready to take this workout head-on. I did a good job of following the instructions, Suffer, Obey, all the way through the sprints at the end, momentarily forgetting what lay ahead. 

"The Long Scream" is brutal, especially after nearly an hour and twenty minutes of racing. Imagine being in a race and breaking away early on, then getting caught by a chase group and working together to keep the peloton off your backs. Then you start taking longer pulls up front only to be attacked again and again even though there is lots of road between your lead group and the finish line. Tired of these shenanigans, you attempt to breakaway and solo the final 30 minutes of the course. That is about as close as I can get to describing what it is like to do these two videos back-to-back. 

Celebratory ice cream with
hot fudge - yummmmm
I suffered a great deal during the first 20 minutes of "The Long Scream." I stayed with Phinney. I hung onto Sir Wiggo. But it was Cancellara who proved too much. It took a monumental effort to remain relaxed and stay in time trial mode. Sufferlandrians do not simply drop back, so I soldiered on. With no Day 11 tomorrow, I left it all on the bike. There could be no better way to end Sufferfestukah. 

All in all, in nine out of 10 days, I rode almost 185 miles over more than 10 hours and drank at least  274 oz. Not a bad way to end 2012. 

Elle: Holy saddle pain, Batman! I nearly emptied my Chamois Butt'r tube during this year's Sufferfestukah, but apparently it wasn't enough. My body is ready to take a break from the bike for awhile. I need to get back in the pool anyway. And I'm ready to embark on my 2013 back-to-running program. It's a pretty conservative plan, designed by SEAC running club leader, Dan. But I guess that's what it takes to come back after an injury. But I digress...

We survived Sufferfestukah 2012!

Thanks again to TheSufferfest, Marion, The Rat Snake and Scott for joining us. To all you lurking minions, the Festival of Suffering will return in 2013. We hope you join us next year. In the meantime, The Tour of Sufferlandria will begin in late January. Visit TheSufferfest's Facebook page for details.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sufferfestukah Day 9: There is No Try

Day 9??? Didn't we only do eight days last year? What is wrong with us? It doesn't matter because "There Is No Try."

Inside the SMOD
Webb: Sufferlandrians do not tire as the race goes on, they get stronger and faster. That is the essence of "There Is No Try." Each interval is a four-step progression building from threshold to all-out effort. Not only does each interval progress in effort, each interval is longer than the previous up to  an 8:00 interval (4x 2:00). After that bit of hurt, then intervals descend. Oh no, they still progress in effort, they just reverse order in terms of length. By this point you are so burnt, while you are thankful for the shorter intervals, you can't really say they are easy.

Elle: This was my first time doing this workout and it was a special treat for me because this year (like last year), I watched the Tour de France live, every day. I'd get to work, put on my headphones, and watch the live, streaming feed on my huge, studio display monitor. And after every stage I posted a photo of the stage winner up on the wall in my office. So doing this workout was a crazy, cool experience, since I remember watching it all go down: Wiggo's inspired TT, Froome pulling Wiggo up the mountain, Sagan's victory celebrations, Jensy on the Champs Elysee, and who could forget...... TACK-GATE!!!!!!! The only thing missing was that big, black dog that tried to take out Philippe Gilbert (they had to hold him back when he started yelling at the dog owner, it was crazy). Oh, the drama of the 2012 Tour de France!

Webb: Even with yesterday's no-show behind me, I had no plans of jumping right back into the fray. I'm saving myself for the final day's 105 minutes, including what could end up being the most painful 30 minutes of all of Sufferfestukah. Day 9 was about getting the legs back. So I reduced my effort by at least a factor of one for each interval. That was a good idea. In fact, on one of the final intervals (i.e., 2:00, or 4x :30) I attempted it as prescribed and was pretty gassed after it. That told me I was not quite ready for another hard day.

Elle: This is a tough workout, lots of good, hard suffering. And I'm starting to wonder if 10 days of Sufferfestukah is too many...

Next up:  Hold tight to your self-esteem boys, you're about to get chicked in "Hell Hath No Fury" followed immediately by the torturous "The Long Scream."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 8


Elle: Ok, so this one has my favorite warm-up - there are the cool bridges, the best warm up song ever (Italo Surfing), stopping to look at the cool graffiti, and of course, the bicycle with the basket on the front.
Elle time trialing
If you love relentless attacks that just keep coming and coming and coming, you'll love Fight Club. And oh, the time trial - you just have to go deep inside yourself for this one. And just when you want to quit, there's Sparatucs. Then Cadel Evans. And you just have to dig deep. But you are rewarded at the end with two women on bikes who defy gravity and physics. Gawd, this is a good workout.

Webb: <heavy sigh> I sat this one out. I had about four symptoms of being sick without actually feeling ill, other than the general sense of being rundown. All day long I rested and relaxed with hopes I'd have energy by the time Elle came home from work. Once home she looked at me and told me I need to lie down. When I woke from an hour nap I realized I was dangerously close to breaking The Rules.
New swim gear

In retrospect - as in, I literally reviewed my numbers - I increased my average speed over each of the days of Sufferfestukah. So I didn't follow my own recommendation to scale the workouts. This is the price I must pay for being an idiot.

Elle: Meanwhile, my order came in, woohoo! Can't wait to show up at the pool with this sweet ensemble....

Next up: "There Is No Try", there is only getting faster.

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 7

"A Very Dark Place" (AVDP)

Webb: This is my favorite video. There is no question about it. It gets more out of me than any other. And there is no better ending. (Although, I think Elle may make an argument for "Angels" on that bit.) The main thrust of the workout is 5 x 4:00 above threshold intervals with 3:00 recovery. I'm tempted to describe them as fairly classic power intervals, except that is probably not entirely true. These are not lock-into-a-gear-and-cadence intervals. Each has a character that sees changes in resistance and RPMs. I prefer my power intervals this way, because it is rare to be in a race where you can truly settle in to a steady-state effort. There will be hills, wind or both.

Unfortunately, I just didn't have it for Day #7. I may have put in too many consecutive hard efforts over the preceding six days. I made a valiant attempt in the first interval but knew straightaway it wasn't there. For intervals two and three, I tried to give it a moderate-hard effort. Still, it was a struggle. Interval #4 is the one that usually gets me to dig deeper than I think I can. It is something about riding with Spartacus that motivates me. I had nothing left.

Elle: Ugh, it just doesn't get any easier! And at this point there is NO spot on the saddle that doesn't equal pain. We've already spoken much about this workout, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Just when I think I've pushed as much as I can, I look up to see Thor, or Spartacus, or Cadel, and I just can't hold back. And if the Schlecks only knew how much time I've spent on my bike trainer looking at their back-sides...

Webb: Later that night I had a planned track session with the SEAC run club. The weather was cold with a 25F wind chill and intermittent freezing rain. The workout was designed to keep us moving (i.e., staying warm). Instead of hard hard efforts with easy recoveries, we did a fast pacing workout. Into my first 200m, my legs felt heavy. It was then I accepted the fact that Sufferfestukah was winning. I pulled back the effort and went through the motions rather than running myself in to injury or illness. (Remember the Rules of Triathlon.)

Elle: Back to AVDP. One of the most emotional feelings you will have is the warm-down for this workout. You've been beaten down - all the way, to a really, very, dark, dark place. And then it's over. You're done. And the best possible song comes on - Romina Arena's Ricordi. A song that musically expresses all the feelings that you can't, because you're so freaking exhausted. It's just something you have to experience.

Webb: Funny story. This past summer I purchased Ricordi on iTunes and didn't mention it to Elle. Several weeks later I played the song for her while were hanging out in the apartment. Elle's superpower is that she can hear a song and tell you what movie it was in and sometimes even name the scene. So I asked her, "Do you recognize this song?" She definitely recognized it but was having a hard time nailing it down. She then asked, "It's after something violent right?" I laughed. Yeah, you could say that.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 6

Day 6: We all admire the soloist, the breakaway artist, the fearless cyclist who tries to escape the peloton because whoever they are, whenever they attempt it, they become "The Hunted." 

Webb: What a wonderful piece of work this is. The first 20:00 fly by with a warm-up and tempo ride where you free yourself from the pack to ride alone. What follows is 20:00 of big gear above-tempo riding. You are hunted, yet you are also chasing Robert Gesink. At the 15:00 mark, I swear I felt the need to pop my ears from the altitude gain. A fast descent greets you on the other side of the summit with RPMs over 110.  I made a point not to relax as this segment is not a recovery, it is merely a reduced effort.

As tired as I am, I have been happy with my numbers. I think all the pelvic and lumbar posturing exercises I have been doing have allowed me to be more efficient with my pedal stroke, putting out more power even though my overall fitness is not where it was in October.  Do the little things, they pay off.

Elle: So by this time in the Sufferfestukah celebrations I find myself running low on Chamois Butt'r. Because when you do 10 back-to-back days of trainer rides like this, you need lots of Chamois Butt'r, trust me. "The Hunted" is a good workout (aren't they all?), you get to ride with the ever-so-controversial Lance Armstrong - and be on the lookout for Hincapie's cool U.S. National Champion kit.

Webb: Once you recover from the descent, it is back to being prey. You must tempo ride for 10:00. Well, 5:00, then 5:00 of maybe what has to offer. I don't even know who to describe the madness the final 5:00 entails. I'll put it this way: Those 5:00 minutes are broken down into 5 x 1:00 segments (intervals would be too kind a word). I did four of them. I honestly had nothing left for the fifth. I nearly had enough lunch left over to leave it all over my front wheel though. No joke. No hyperbole. Just the hard, nauseous truth.

Elle: I always get a kick out of the cyclists getting stopped by the train. Even though I know it's going to happen...and be prepared for a Schleck to launch an attack up the climb. As usual....

Next up: Grab your teddy bears Sufferlandrians, we're going to "A Very Dark Place."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 5


Elle: Today we did the most vomit-inducing of all the Sufferfest videos (in my opinion). Even though it's the shortest of the workouts, I think it's the most brutal. But it also has the best warm-up music ever.

Webb:  "Revolver" remains the standard-bearer for suffering. All of the videos are difficult and have a specific purpose. "Revolver" and "Downward Spiral" seem to have the sole purpose of hurting you. I mean really hurting you. And whereas DS is unbelievably painful, "Revolver" takes it to the next level ... delirium.
Dinner on day 5

This was to be one of my key sessions. Instead of hammering each of the <ahem> 15 intervals, I decided to put forth the maximum effort that I could sustain throughout, roughly an 8.5 RPE. I estimated - quite rightly it turns out - my speed and cadence thresholds. (We still do not have power meters.) When my eyes weren't squeezed shut, they were fixed on both fields making sure I did not drop. My secondary goal was to keep a 100 RPM cadence during the recovery minutes. My discipline during recovery intervals has failed in past "Revolver" efforts. It is too easy to soft pedal at 80 RPM and let the lactic acid settle. I must say I think this was my best overall effort at "Revolver." Although I dipped below the thresholds on several occasions, for the most part I exceeded them on each interval. I'll do it again and again until I can push that effort to a 9.

Elle: I was glad to have this one under our belt, as it's one of the hardest days of Sufferfestukah in my opinion. And also because it meant that it was time for dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, on the edge of the Theatre District and Chinatown in Boston. After a delish meal and some drinks, we went to the movies and saw "Argo." I predict an Oscar....
Dinner companion
Webb: We hope this is the most you have ever suffered on Christmas. Happy Sufferfestukah.

Next up: "The Hunted." We're past the half-way point, don't look back.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 4

O what a wretched, wretched idea SufferFestukah was ...

Day 4's assignment was to do "The Wretched,"'s newest installment in the Suffer Catalog. Neither of us had done this video before.

Webb: How bad can 49 minutes be after Day 3's grueling hour and 45 minutes? It'll be over before it starts. What is that? The actual work is only like 35:00? Piece. Of. Cake. Cue it up and let's start rolling.

For the love of everything that is good and clean in Sufferlandria and on this Earth! This workout is about perseverance. It is about climbing and descending with speed.  It is about fast flats. It is about keeping your pedals moving and responding to attacks. Think of a concentrated version of "Fight Club" and "Extra Shot:20."

The warm-up is just grand. It features a music video, "Box Hill" by the band (of apparent cyclist(s)) Redados. You remember Box Hill from the London Olympics, right? I loved the tempo and the video's story line of a cyclist, perhaps a weekend warrior or triathlete age-grouper, taking a shot at the Hill.

My workout was marred by some technical difficulties, both electronic and mechanical. For some reason, iTunes froze up a few times for a minute or more each time. I kept working at the same effort level because while the video was frozen, the audio kept moving along. All of a sudden the video would speed up until it caught up with the audio track. I could see that I missed a few cues here and there.

Then my chain dropped. I'm growing tired of this. In the year that I have owned this Cervelo S2 I have dropped my chain more than possibly all my cumulative years cycling. I am not exaggerating. It has been to my LBS too many times for adjustments. My initial reaction was that I should have paid extra for Shimano Ultegra rather than go with the stock SRAM Rival. I had one mechanic tell me that Cervelo's internal cable routing could be the problem. I'm not convinced. Elle has the same bike and gruppo. She too drops her chain a lot. I need to figure this out if we are going to do more cycling races in 2013.

And then my Garmin 500's speed and distance took a nap on me. It is probably time for a new battery.

I'm tired and we are not quite half-way through SufferFestukah.

Elle: I decided to sit this one out. After every workout I ice my knee because I was determined to make it to the end of SufferFestukah. After Sunday's long workout I decided the best way not to break Rules #2 and #3 was to skip "The Wretched." Besides, since we have not done this workout I really wanted to give it my all the first time. Even though I knew I was being smart, and not making my knee injury worse, I still felt guilty watching and listening to Webb. I could hear him laughing in the beginning while he was spinning along with his headphones on. Every now and then he would tell me to look at the screen. I didn't want to because I wanted to watch it fresh the first time. I can't wait for my knee to be fully recovered...

Next up:  "Revolver" The one that makes suffering suffer.

Monday, December 24, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 3

Ahhhh Sunday, a day for rest and relaxation. The morning crossword puzzle, perhaps brunch and maybe lounging around on the sofa watching a bad movie on cable TV...

This is the first Sunday of SufferFestukah. First up was the trip to the pool. Second was, of course, Day 3 of the Ten Days of Torment.

The Swim

Webb: What started out to be a maintenance swim, a simple workout to retain our feel for the water, became something else. Something a little more suffer-y. Readers of the blog know we particularly love what we call the 3x500 workout: 500 swim, 500 swim w/ buoy, 500 swim w/ buoy + paddles. (Later in the season we add a fourth 500m of swim at the end.) Just get in and go. No official warm-up or cool-down. Just go. Elle wanted to include some strength work, so we tacked on 400 at the end as 8x50 descending pull-outs. Basically, you swim one 25m length (to the deep end) and perform 8 pull-outs, turn around swim 50m returning back to the deep end to perform 7 pull-outs. Continue this pattern until you do one pull-out and swim the final 25m. It is great because it builds strength in your lats and rear deltoids and, more importantly, it definitely helps you think more clearly about how your muscles engage throughout the stroke. So the simple workout became a 45:00 muscle-endurance session.

Elle: I actually felt good in the water today. I guess joining CMSC (Cambridge Masters Swim Club) is really making a difference! I actually, do I dare say, feel that I'm staring to get better in the pool. The 500 meter set with paddles was tough, and I may have pulled something on the first or second set of pull-outs, but overall, I felt good. And with the sun streaming in from the high windows, glistening off the water, throwing highlights around the pool deck, there was a serene air to this workout. What a total contrast compared to the workout we were in for later that day...

Day #3 - "Local Hero" + "Extra Shot:20"

Webb: From the moment I sat on the saddle I knew it was going to be rough. Thing are a bit ... tender down in them there parts. I lathered on the Chamois Butt'r expecting as much. Still as our friend Ben says, "There is a difference between being told you are going to be slapped in the face and being slapped in the face." So true.

Once I started pedaling my quads resisted. I maintained a steady effort through the warm-up and reminded myself that we cannot, must not, do all of the workouts as prescribed. Right into the first set of TT pyramids my legs were reluctant but getting the job done. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I have this workout in me. And so it went for the next 50 minutes or so. By the time each interval was nearly finished, I was hurting, I'd then recover well enough to start the next interval. At least that was how it was until the sprints at the end. I'm satisfied with my strong, if not reasonable efforts.

The "Extra Shot:20" was a different story. If you are going to do it after a video, let's say, something like "Local Hero," then it should have a new name. I suggest "Quadpocalypse." The first half o is just merciless - ten minutes of  relentless lactic-acid building tempo. The second half brings the bergs. (Is berg Belgian for "dig deep or get dropped?") At first you welcome the change of cadence and bigger gears. It doesn't take long though for your quads to respond: You are an idiot; get off the bike. Once the workout was over it took some time to dismount. I just sat there on my saddle, blinking and breathing.

Elle: Holy frites and mayonaise, this was a tough day. I was nervous about the long bike workout, no lie. And that made me anxious to get going. I decided before I even got on the bike, that, if I could finish the workout, I'd celebrate with pizza and beer. Incentives! I didn't let Webb know about the plan, best to leave him in the dark until absolutely necesary...
Oh, climbing with Cadel & Gilbert, what a "treat". There was a nice shout-out to Jens Voigt in the road at one point - huge chalk letters, 'SHUT UP LEGS'. I didn't actually catch a glimpse of Jensie during the workout. We must have been going to fast....
As soon as I was off the bike I announced the pizza-beer plan. Webb was 100% on board....

Webb: Just seven days remaining. Seven. Days.

Next up: "The Wretched"  Oh dear.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 2

SufferFestukah: Day 2 - "Angels"

... and on the second day they climbed.

Max does not know why Ffiona loves SufferFestukah
Webb: "Angels" Three 8:00 climbs, after a warm-up and 10:00 of over-unders. I decided from the outset I would not respond to the attacks - which is pretty hard to do when you have developed a Pavlovian-response to the Sufferfest cues. 

Climb 1 was most notable for the <ahem> sit bones. Having not been on the bike in awhile, the sit bones were letting me know that they did not appreciate back-to-back days right out of the box. The next eight days could get ugly, especially with Day 3's double-session.

Climb 2 has a special place in heart. "A Very Dark Place" is probably my favorite video with "Hell Hath No Fury" not far behind. Climb 2 with its subsequent recovery segment might be my favorite 12:00 of all the videos. There is something about the camera shots, music and nature of the workout that puts me in the mindset that I'm actually racing with the guys. The recovery music and video is sooooo good and well earned. Just brilliant.

Climb 3 is just so hard with increasing effort over the final 8:00. Even though I was supposed to scale back, I found myself pushing and pushing and pushing. I even tried to respond to a few attacks. Yes tried; I failed. Instead, I dropped my head and dug deep. 

Elle:  Why Angels is my favorite Sufferfest workout (I hope I'm not giving anything away here):

1. Watching the peloton chew up and spit out Contador
2. Getting smashed by riding with Contador up the Alpe d'Huez (*shudder*)
3. Woman on the right side of the road wearing the fluorescent pink jumpsuit
4. Riding with Andy Schleck
5. Getting the thumbs up from Frank "the other Schleck"
6. Guest stars Sagan and Voeckler
7. Bonus animation at the end of the workout

Next up: "Local Hero" immediately followed by "Extra Shot." One-hour and forty-five minutes of racing. Your Sufferlandrian citizenship is at stake. Sleep tight minions.

The SufferFestukah set-up

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 1

And it has begun....

Always a fan, Ffiona prepares to celebrate.

Day 1: Downward Spiral

Webb: Let it be written. Let it be done. SufferFestukah 2012 is here. First up was "Downward Spiral." Eight descending intervals, twice, separated by a mere 5:00 recovery. One hour of quads burning and lungs bursting.

This definitely broke off some of the rust. The last couple of months I've been focusing on my running and improving my core strength. It turns out I have had a herniated disc in my lower back for at least the last five years. That probably explains the difficulty with my hip and developing meaningful bike strength. So my bike work lately has been to work on my core, or more specifically the pelvic posture, which not surprisingly can affect the hip flexors, hamstrings, etc. I recently stumbled on which has some great exercises.

Elle: I'm loving the re-mastered 'Downward Spiral'. Great new footage, and of course some new snark. And I'm pretty sure there was some new music too. It was almost like we were doing a whole new workout. You can read our review of this workout when we did it on day 1 of Sufferfestukah last year.

Webb: Right. So one might take it easy his first time on the bike in more than a month. And that was my intent, except ... I love this workout. I went moderately hard on the first set of descending intervals to shake out the legs and see what I had. All indication was to go hard on the second set. Most of the time I could not look at the screen. My head hung over my handlebars while I muttered incoherent encouragement to myself. Wow I missed this workout.

Elle: 1,2,3,4 I can't take it anymore! (Anyone who has done this workout knows what I'm talking about...)

Webb: We are thrilled that @thesufferfest himself is joining us this SufferFestukah. I hope the Architect of our Agony enjoys this celebration as much as we do. We also want to issue a big welcome to Marion, Scott and @TheRatSnake, and anyone else who is joining us. Let us know if you are, we'd love to hear from you.  Next up: "Angels."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Evening with Crowie

Elle launches her competitive swimming career and then the team meets up with many more triathletes to hear Craig Alexander speak.

Saturday was going to be a big day for us. Elle was going to swim in her first swim meet ever and then we were going to see Craig Alexander speak about his new book.

The Swim Meet

Elle's 100m Freestyle Heat
Elle: After countless suggestions that I improve my swimming by joining a Masters Swim group, I finally gave in and joined the Cambridge Masters Swim Club. I was nervous to go, but luckily one of the swim coaches is a triathlete, and has been helping me along. But after only a week, he strongly encouraged me to compete in a swim meet that was only one week away! I've never even been to a swim meet as a spectator. I thought he was crazy, but since I'm prone to doing things that scare the crap out of me, I found myself signing up! I was terrified. It would be one of the scariest thing I did all year.

Webb: Jealous. Envious. I was 100% in support of Elle racing at the meet. Once there, I totally got into it. Even though I had no feelings of regret or desire to grab some jammers and jump in, I definitely want to take part in a meet. One of the swimmers was in total domination mode. She set the World Record for Masters Women 55-59 in the 200 IM and then set the National Record in the 100 BR. I was wowed by her butterfly efficiency during the IM and her age! She looked maybe 40, strong and lean without being wiry. I may need to swim more.

Elle looked great. Even though she has only been swimming with the masters for a short time, there is real improvement in her ability. She looks more relaxed, smoother and she is gliding farther with each pull. I was on the fence about joining the program. After seeing her improvement, I don't see how I cannot join.

Nerves? What nerves?
Elle: Since it was my first ever swim meet, I only signed up for one event - the 100 meter freestyle. I figured just showing up and doing anything would be a success. But apparently everyone on the team who comes to the meet also gets added to a relay team. Crap. There were a lot of rules and protocols that I wasn't familiar with, so the night before I was furiously Googling "swim meet for first timers." Long story short, I got to the meet, stood up on the starter block for my swim heat (shaking!), and raced. My goal was to not come in last. And out of 10 lanes, I came in 4th. It was one of the slower heats, but I didn't care. I did it.

When the time came for the relay I was equally nervous - there are more rules for that - if you jump off the block before your teammate touches the wall, all 4 people get disqualified for that heat. Since I was swimming Freestyle, I went last of the group. And because I was with an equally slow group, I saw that our third swimmer was finishing her 4 laps when all of the other teams were finishing up their entire set. That meant that when I jumped in, I'd be the only person swimming in the pool. All eyes would be on me. Arrgghh! Needless to say, my form went to crap in my efforts to just get it over with. But it was nice to hear everyone cheering for me.

Crowie Talks about his Book and Answers Questions

Crowie (Craig Alexander)
Webb: Later that day 3-Time Ironman World Champion and 2-Time 70.3 World Champion, Craig "Crowie" Alexander stopped in Boston to promote his new book "As the Crow Flies: My Journey to Ironman World Champion." We arrived at The W Hotel with more than 75 other triathletes to learn about the book and maybe ask him a question or two. I can't really say how many people where in attendance. More than 200? (I think there were more than 20 rows of 10 chairs with even more people standing in the back.) The publisher provided the organizers with 75 copies of the book, which sold out quickly. (We got one.)

Elle: It's always fun to be at an event surrounded by a bunch of people with the same interest as you. Some people were wearing Ironman shirts, or other garments that advertised a race they had done. But that's what triathletes do, and it's cool by me. It's a big deal deal to finish an Ironman, so go ahead, wear your stuff proudly. I was looking around for people I recognized, and there was Greg, of Zoom MultiSport. Nice. We went to the room where Crowie would be speaking and sat in the front row.

Webb: At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was the GREATEST EVENT EVER!!!!!!! Just kidding. A little. Seriously though, I was grateful how thoroughly Crowie answered the audience questions. His answers were complete, candid (without being inappropriate) and showed a lot of respect for the person asking the question. He epitomized professionalism. I think my favorite question-answer moment was when someone asked him how he balanced humility (he is clearly humble) and the competitiveness it takes to be a world champion. Crowie's response "Hey, you have to be an ass to win." He went onto to make it more clear that you can still be close friends with your competitors off the race course. 

The inevitable question about Lance Armstrong came up. I bet people were surprised by his answer, but accepted it as a well-considered, reasonable opinion refreshingly devoid of the drama found with most of Armstrong's champions and detractors. The other inevitable question asked him his thoughts on Chrissie's retirement. Again, his expressions were honest in his disappointment that she would no longer be racing and in his admiration and support for her making such a gutsy decision.

Elle: What Webb said. Crowie is a real professional.

Webb: While waiting in the autograph line, I began reading the book. It is different. In a good way. It is a cross between a coffee table book and training summary. First, the photographs are wonderful. (I had more than a bit of envy looking at photos of people lap swimming outdoors. I guess people really do that.) Second, and I've only glimpsed at the book, there are examples of his workouts and short descriptions of how his training and life balance. Based on the Q&A, it is sort of like him: professional, efficient and no B.S. It is a very clean book in both appearance and content. 

World Ironman champ,
Craig Alexander
The night rounded out with a raffle and autograph line. I won a RoadID, which is good because I have one of the original ankle bands that is now in near tatters. Buying a new one has been on my to-do list for too long. Every time we went open water swimming I would curse myself for not having one of the new silicone wrist bands.

As it happened, I was the last person in the autograph line. It took a long, long time to get our book autographed. When the line got down to about 10 of us, the PR team decided to give a signed promotional poster board to whoever could answer a trivia question: What was Crowie's time at IM Melbourne? Crowie said he didn't think he even knew. I immediately thought 7:58, but had no real desire to take home a poster board. After hearing a couple of wrong guesses, my trivia-competitiveness compelled me to speak up. As the words left my mouth Crowie looked at me with a look of half- "Wow, you know that?" and half- "What is wrong with you that you know that?"

When I finally reached him for the autograph he apologized to me for the wait. I of course didn't care, otherwise I would have bailed. More than anything I wanted to tell him that I have found one of his bits of training advice to be invaluable and people with whom I have shared it have also claimed it has helped them: Always start the workout. Once you are out there you will likely find that you are ready to do it, and if not, then you can change it.

Final thoughts: Elle pointed out a door to me that I had never noticed in function rooms: The "Talent Only" door. (Yes, I rolled my eyes.) Crowie entered the room from the same doors we did: The Plebeian Doors.

ElleCrowie entered through the back like everyone else. He then sat down in front of us in the row of chairs that had been put up last minute, that no one was sitting in. He casually said to no one, "Is anyone sitting here?", to which I replied, "Actually, that seat's taken...", and without skipping a beat, Crowie got up and moved the the next chair over. What a guy...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: The Schedule of Suffering

SUFFERFESTUKAH - The Most Sufferful Time of the Year!

Home Sweet Home - Sufferlandria
Welcome to the 2d annual Festival of Suffering. Last year we hit upon the idea of doing all eight of's cycling workouts on consecutive days. Thanks to our dear Dictator of the Federation, Sufferlandrians have two new workouts for 2012. As such, SufferFestukah has been similarly extended. In addition to the new workouts, we'll be adding the two supplemental sessions (i.e., "Extra Shot" and "The Long Scream").

This year the suffering begins on 12/21/12 (or for our non-American readers: 21 December). Some of you may be thinking, Is this not the end of the world according to the Mayan Apocalypse? To that we say, It will only feel that way. And the Dictator laughs at you. muhahaHAHAHAha

As you look at the Schedule of Suffering, always keep the "three rules of triathlon"* ever present in your mind:

                  1. Do not get sick;
                  2. Do not get injured; and
                  3. Do not break rules #1 or #2.
*We cannot remember who the wise author of these rules is.

Be sure to scale the workouts accordingly so that you do not break any of the rules. What we learned last year is that day-in, day-out of Sufferfest workouts will accumulate enough fatigue to give you a mini-camp in your home, even if not done as prescribed. That said, you may want to identify some videos as key workouts that you will hit at 100%. Enough prattle!

The Schedule of Suffering

21st -   Downward Spiral (speed = 60:00)
22nd -  Angels (climbing = 62:00)
23rd -   Local Hero + Extra Shot:20 (TT & race + race = 1:45)
24th -   The Wretched (race = 48:00)
25th -   Revolver (speed = 45:00)
26th -   The Hunted (climbing = 60:00)
27th -   A Very Dark Place (speed = 55:00)
28th -   Fight Club (race & TT = 58:00)
29th -   There Is No Try (speed - 55:00)
30th -    Hell Hath No Fury + The Long Scream (race + TT = 1:45)

We hope all of you will join us for part or of all of this, the most suffering sufferdays of the year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A story about Greg & Sandy

Here's a story about our friend Greg and Hurricane Sandy.

Greg is a fellow triathlete and member of Zoom Multisport, a tri team in Boston. We first "met" Greg via Twitter, when Webb became his 300th follower. (He is near 1,000 now; get on there and follow him.) Since then we've run into Greg at a number of races, he's a super fast runner and an all-around nice guy.

Greg is an endurance athlete. In addition to completing his first Ironman race this year, this past weekend he rocked the World's Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour obstacle race.  This is a long way to say he was ready to run the NYC marathon. When Bloomberg announced that the race was still on after the hurricane, Greg, like many others, traveled to NYC prepared to run. Then, as you all know, the day before the race, Bloomberg came out and announced that they were canceling the marathon. Greg decided he was going to do the run he had trained for, so he got on the computer, created a fundraising page, and then went to social media and made his own announcement: he was going to run in Boston, 1 mile for every $10 donated to his page (with all proceeds going to the Red Cross to help the hurricane victims). And at the bottom of the page he dared his friends and family, "Make me run!"

And with that Greg got back in his car and drove home to Boston. Meanwhile, his friends and family were clearly up to the challange. Greg thought it was possible that he'd raise somewhere in the area of $600, and may have to run 2 marathons. What he didn't expect is what happened: by the time he got back to Boston he had already raised over $1,000. Now Greg is a good runner, but he wasn't planning to run 100 miles.

So he put the call out to his friends to help him cover the miles. And he set up a schedule of runs throughout the day, starting at 6am and going all day with the final run at 7pm. As the donations kept coming in he declared that the miles would be run.

A beautiful day for a run along the Charles
Despite Elle's knee injury and Webb's very bad cold or flu, we felt the need to step up and help Greg. We signed up for the 2:30PM run which was supposed to be an easy 5 or so miles. Greg had started the day with a 20-miler and had been out for more miles prior to our appearance. You should really check out his own account at We arrived and there was already about a small crowd of six or seven people. It was chilly, but the sun was out, warming things up. Finally it was time, we all put on our Red Cross "race numbers", and headed out. Greg led the way at a nice, easy pace. He had run over 30 miles at this point, so he wasn't breaking any speed records, which was good for both of us. With Elle's bum knee, she was only supposed to be doing 3 miles at a time. But since it was such a good cause, it had to be ok. It was a nice run and a gorgeous day. We ended up running almost exactly 6.2 miles (a full 10k). After 5 miles Elle's knee was feeling it, but she soldiered on. It felt good to do something important like this - it really shows you that so many times, and so easily, one person really can make a difference.
The 2:30pm crew

Friday, October 26, 2012

Race Report: Cambridge Oktoberfest 5K

Elle: So, we did this race last year. It was notably not well organized, but then again, it was their first year doing this race. Race packet pick-up was a  mess, and race morning no one knew where the start line was or which direction we were running. But in the end, the glorious beer garden after the race helped us forget all of the bad times as we got wasted on Cambridge Beer Company's brew.
Breakfast with
Senor Cheeseburger

Webb: Last year's race was so utterly disorganized that I had no interest in running it again. This year, however, one of our SEAC friends put together a team and invited Elle to join. Everyone was signing up and I was holding out. All I could think about was just how annoyed I was last year. I finally relented and joined the team.

Elle: The day before the race was the Ironman World Championship in Kona. We turned it on at noon, when the race started and streamed from the live computer feed to the TV. Around 5pm Dan showed up and we started drinking. And we didn't stop until 2am.

Webb: Watching the Kona coverage was obviously motivating. Our experience was amplified by tracking our friend (one of Dan's besties), Nate, debut there. Nate had qualified at the Eagleman 70.3 and had not actually done an Iron-distance race or even run a marathon before.
Seeing Ed at the race.
He. Crushed. It.
His overall time was 9:17 in conditions former Ironman World Champ Faris al-Sultan described as among the harshest he's raced. Apparently the legendary heat of the lava fields was as impressive as ever. According to Nate, the temperatures don't do it justice. It was just oppressive. Many believed the conditions added 15 minutes or more to finishing times. He came in 5th in his Age Group. Unfortunately, due to the delay on the Athlete Tracker we missed Nate crossing the finish line. Dan had been pointing his phone at our TV for several minutes hoping to capture the moment only to get the call that he'd already crossed. Bummer.

Elle: Cut to race morning: the weather was baaaaaad. It was chilly. It was rainy. It was dreary on all accounts. But we had promised Natasja, so we got our
Starting to feel ill...
gear on and headed out into the cold, rainy morning. Completely hung over.

Webb: And don't forget we had slept for maybe 3.5 hours. Originally we were going to bike over. Then we were going to take public transportation. Then we were going to take a cab. When I saw the rain and realized that there was a 95% chance I wasn't going to have even a sip of beer, I decided to drive. We were there in a matter of minutes, found a good parking space and were probably the first runners to arrive. Since we were really early, we went to The Friendly Toast, a sorta funky diner with punk playing softly in the background. It had all these crazy things all over the wall, including Señor Cheeseburger.

Elle: Finally the time had come, so we stripped down to our race clothes, dropped off our bags at the bag check, and stood around, chilling. Literally.
Soon enough we started seeing folks we know: Jason, Ed, Natasja, Mike, Nicole, Emily, Paul, Bridget.
Webb lookin' strong
I was still feeling pretty hung-over, but started strong anyway. That all went downhill after about halfway through, at which point I was in great danger of losing it on the race course. And I figured the other runners probably didn't want my vomit all over their shoes, so I had to slow down. And after I crossed the finish line, I felt the danger again. But luckily, I was able to keep everything inside, where it belongs. However, at the beer garden afterwards, when someone walked by with a pint, I felt ill.

Webb: I did not feel good at all. Well, that's not entirely true. My legs felt oddly springy. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just ate at a Brazilian BBQ joint. Regardless, I stuck with my plan to go for a PR. I took off fast. I did not have my Garmin or a watch (which didn't matter because I did not see any mile markers) so I did my best to keep the pedal down. Somewhere around the half-way point I nearly quit, or at least pulled over to take a break. Even though it was chilly, I was burning up. I decided it was better to get the race over quickly than to prolong it by stepping off the course. I slowed down a bit and hoped I had enough for a strong finish. I crossed the finish line with a new PR (by :08). So the question is: Did the 8 hours of drinking and 3.5 hours of sleep improve or diminish my performance?

The winning team!
Elle: We had a good time hanging out with everyone, even though the weather was kinda crappy. We stuck around for the awards ceremony because Natasja thought we might actually have a chance of placing. And what do you know, our team came in first place! After we collected our award (a cool mug) we all headed to the South End for brunch at The Gallows. Good times...
post-race brunch

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Public Body: Work Hard Play Hard Weekend

Elle: This summer I signed up for Public Body - a bootcamp-style class in the South End, sponsored by SEAC. Every Wednesday we would spend an hour in a different park, sweating our butts off doing cross-training and strength work. It was challenging and fun. And the group was great. Chad Flahive, the creator of Public Body decided it would be a good idea to have a fall weekend - 3 days of workouts in a row. In Provincetown. That sounded like a dream mini-vaca to me!
It was tough to find an affordable place to stay in Ptown, even in the fall season. But luckily I found the Sunset Inn, a B&B right near the center of town. It offered free parking, got good reviews on, and when I called, the owner was very nice, so I booked right away.

Webb: I took the day off from work (which basically meant I worked from home) to finish my packing and make sure I picked Elle up right at 5:00PM for our drive to Ptown. It has been several years since we drove to Cape Cod. In the summer it can take 3 hours to get to Ptown for what should be a 2:15-2:30 drive. We weren't sure about early fall, so we tried to give ourselves time. We almost made it. It took nearly 3 hours.

Elle: The traffic getting out there was tough, so by the time we arrived, we were running late. We checked in, quickly changed into our workout clothes, and ran down Commercial street to make it to the 1st workout of the weekend.

We walked onto the dance floor space that the Crown & Anchor was letting us use as a temp gym studio. Chad announced that I was the only woman there for the weekend. I looked around, and indeed, not another woman in sight. Good? Bad? I didn't care, I was just excited to be there. And the first workout of the weekend was on! Andy, Chad's co-conspirator, led us through what he described as an elongated 'warm-up', not too hard, but enough to get a sweat on, that's for sure.

Webb: Um, I got a sweat on. In fact, I was fairly disgusting.

Elle: After sweating for almost a solid hour, most of the group went out for dinner. We didn't stay up too late though, we had a big day ahead of us.

SATURDAY: From A to B.
A is for amphitheatre, B is for beach

Webb: Saturday's itinerary was a doozy.
We met at 9:30am at the bike rental shop for a nice little ride on paved paths among the dunes. First stop: repeat Friday nights warm-up tutorial. You know the one that had me sweating all over the dance floor without all the boom-boom-boom and lights? Second stop: The amphitheatre. If you don't know what it is, it is an architectural marvel in acoustics that allows people all the way in the back row to hear your whimpering during the workout. It is pretty incredible. Then a return trip on the bikes for a lunch and then a beach workout.

Elle: Earlier that week Chad had us email him our height so the bikes were all ready for us when we got there. Sweet! The hybrid bikes had the biggest, cushiest seats I've ever placed my butt on, quite a departure from the bikes we own! Biking amongst the dunes, along the ocean was truly awesome - if you could have taken a snapshot of my face, I would have had the goofiest smile. I was in heaven. We did a 'warm-up' workout in the beach parking lot, then back on the bikes for a rolling ride through the beach dunes, it was fantastic.

Webb: After our warm-up, we headed to the amphitheatre for a workout I like to call "Sweet Mother Of All That Is Good And Clean On Earth what has Elle got me into?" First we did something Chad likes to call accumulators.  I like to call them "Chad is a Sadist." I'm not going to try to describe them. Here is all you need to know: we did a continually increasing series of structured exercises using body-weight, elasto-bands and plyometrics. Once we accumulated massive fatigue, we descended those same interval sets. [Insert expletive here.]

Breaking down the Push-up
Andy then led us through a workout that utilized the stadium style benches to focus more on form and function. The attention was primarily on how to perform movements and, perhaps most importantly, why we were doing them. For instance, we did push-ups where we broke down the movement and focused on joint movement and safety. Among the other exercises were single-leg squats and explosive  step-ups.

We also did some friendly group competition. Chad divided the group in half and sent us to either the left or right side of the amphitheatre. Each race was two minutes long. The first had us running to the top while snaking among the benches, then descending on our hands and feet in a prone position (spider-walking?) down the benches. The second race had us shuffle laterally, butts down/heads up, again winding our way down the rows, and then once again descending the benches on our hands and feet, only this time in a supine position (crab-walking?). In each race, our goal was to complete as many laps as possible.

Elle: After a pretty tough workout at the amphitheatre, it was back on the bikes to head into town. I'll be honest, I was glad that workout was over!

Is this how spiders walk?
We all rode back to the Crown and Anchor, just in time for lunch and another workout, this time on the beach. By now we were pretty sapped. But Chad and Andy had us working hard in the sand. And to top it off, we had a chorus of random people on the beach watching, laughing at us/cheering us on.

Webb:  The beach workout was ridiculous. Once again we started with our warm-up doing some dynamic movements to prepare our bodies for the work ahead. We added some other exercises like inchworms and moving laterally in push-up position with elasto-bands around our wrists. If that didn't make sense to you, it made less sense to me while I was doing it. After that we did some partner-based workouts and then the punishment came. We finished with a three exercise, three-round set with descending reps each round. I barely survived. I think I was the last one done.

Drop it!
Oh wait, we weren't done. We then did a short ab workout featuring sit-ups and planks. Yay! <grumble, grumble> And just when we thought we were finally done, we still weren't done. Chad had a little competition for us. He was going to buy drinks for the person who could hold a plank (in push-up position, not forearms) the longest. I was tapped. There was no way I was going to win drinks. In no time we were all up and going to our very own quiet places. I focused on my breathing and contracting different muscle groups to attempt to rest some while activating others. I was shaken from my focus by my shaking legs and arms. Several seconds later I crashed into the sand, apparently in third place a half-second before second place. I laid there for a moment with sand in my mouth knowing I was done, even if we weren't finished.

Elle: Finally all the Saturday workouts were done. We all went to our respective accomodations, showered, and met back at the C&A for dinner. Which was followed by drinking and dancing in Ptown. Perhaps too much. That's all I have to say about that...

SUNDAY: Just can't get enough

Webb: I can't say I slept very well Saturday night. Every time I rolled in my sleep the soreness in my lats, shoulders and chest would wake me for a moment. So much for a delayed onset. I awoke a little more than hour before our first workout. I forced myself out of bed to get some blood flowing. Everything hurt. Everything. With each small step around our room, I felt a little more flexible. Mentally, I didn't know where I was going to find the motivation for the next workout. Knowing there was a group of people waiting for us was my sole motivation.

Post Sunday morning circuit
We arrived at the C&A to see implements of self-torture ringing the dance floor. I think there were nine stations. My memory is more than a bit blurry on this experience. At each station we had two exercises to do for 90 seconds each, twice: A, B, A, B. After a quick warm-up, we each picked a station and awaited the go signal from Chad. It was a total body onslaught: burpees, push-ups, arnold presses, multi-planar lunges, speed skaters, bicep curls, squat jumps, split squat jumps, side squats with elasto-bads, medicine ball toss, foot fire, etc. ad nauseum.

Elle: The Sunday morning workout was b-r-u-t-a-l. I've never drank so much of my own sweat. But no rest for the wicked! After a short break, it was back out to the beach for another hour technical session with Andy on form with some kettle bell work thrown in.

Elle working on her posterior chain
Webb:  I couldn't believe we were headed back out to the beach for more work. Thankfully it was to be less of a workout and more of a technique session. Andy put on a clinic on muscle engagement. Once again we would do an exercise and then break it down into its parts, engaging each muscle group at the appropriate time. One of the exercises involved the squat-to-press movement. Using medicine balls, allowed us to feel the energy moving from glutes through the hip drive, up through the torso and shoulder to fire the ball up.

From there we moved on to a short introduction on kettlebells. I have used KBs in the past, without any instruction. I've had enough experience with strength training to understand the movement of KB swings and to know that I really needed proper instruction. Andy taught us the fundamentals by starting at the bottom and working us through the movement bit by bit. The fun part was when we began flinging the KBs up and out. Just like with the medicine balls, it was less about trying to fling them and more about driving with your glutes and simply letting go. If done correctly, the hip drive will do the work for you. I can't imagine a better way to end the weekend. Actually, yes I can. Later Andy and I hit the foam rollers. Ahhhhh ...

Elle:  It was especially good for me, considering my knee injury and form issues. The fun part was flinging the kettle bells onto the sand.

And then the 'Work Hard Play Hard' weekend workouts came to an end. I was glad, due to the intense soreness all over my body, but sad too. It had been so fun. We all ate lunch together by the pool, and sat around, chatting. The sun was out and oddly strong - we were in shorts. I even got a light sunburn! I give this weekend an A+.

Webb: I'm looking forward to another instalment of Public Body. Both Chad and Andy clearly know what they are doing and bring a lot of energy. There is no question their love of fitness is infectious, which is critical for Sunday mornings after they have kicked the crap out of you. And of course, this review would not be complete without showering our fellow Public Body people with compliments. All the guys were fantastic people. We all came with different levels of fitness and different goals and we all had a blast together. I think all the triathlon clubs should contact Chad about doing a fitness camp. It doesn't need to be triathlon-focused because you will get fit and it will bring your teams closer together.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Race Report: Buzzards Bay Sprint Triathlon

RACE REPORT: Buzzards Bay Sprint Triathlon

Swim: 1/3 mile ocean swim
Bike: 15 miles
Run: 3.1 miles

Elle: I have to admit, I wasn't crazy about doing this race. I hadn't been working out, and I was feeling burnt out, mentally and physically. But we signed up, so we were doing it. I had been watching the weather, now that fall is here, I was nervous about facing cold, possibly nasty weather conditions. But we woke up race morning, although a bit chilly, no clouds, no wind, and a sunny forecast. Alright then! We packed up the car and headed to Buzzard's Bay. Something that we've been doing is making race CD's to listen to on race morning, which I'm loving. The music gets me all revved up, and then I have good tunes going through my head for the bike and run. And I have to admit, this most recent mix I made is a gooooooood one.

Webb: I was ambivalent about doing this race. For two years I have been dealing with a nagging hip/glute injury. This is going to be my off-season of finally giving it the attention it deserves and I wanted to start right away. On the other hand, this is a beautiful course by our favorite race director. As a bonus, this was Elle's first race in 2009. It would be fun to compare her results.

Elle: As usual, Max Performance put on a well organized race, so check-in, body marking, and transition area were all organized and efficient. The sun was out and shining, and as I set up my transition area, the vibe all around was pretty chill and friendly, everyone chatting and happy to be there. And of course I ran into Beth, winner of races, and, more importantly, in my age group. It's always good to see Beth. Even though I know she's going to beat me handily, her smiling face and friendly personality always put me at ease. Her cool, calm demeanor totally belies her kick-ass race performance. But that's one of the things I like about triathletes, they're a friendly bunch.

Webb: We also ran into our friend Ed who was on his way to buy a race belt. I usually have two race belts and two pairs of goggles. I loaned him one my belts, cuz that's how we triathletes do. Like us, he had not done much since his last race, also a month ago, when he had a good day at the inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant.

Elle: I had been on a swim low, but as we were standing in our waves, waiting to head into the water, I overheard a girl behind me saying how she was a swimmer, not a triathlete, and she was just here for the swim. I turned to her and said, "I'm the worst swimmer here, do you have any tips for me?"
She thought for a second and said, "Don't lift your head."
And I'm telling you, as I swam, I thought about that. A lot. And I think it really helped! I knew that, but to have her remind me right before the start seemed to make a difference. I didn't end up having a stellar swim, but I felt good about it, and that's a big plus for me.

Webb: Meanwhile, my swim times over the past three years have consistently improved. It was time for a new mindset, so I planned to swim hard. I positioned myself on the inside just after the first third. When the air horn sounded I jumped in behind a fast group and tried to stay in the slipstream. That worked until the right side of my goggle filled with water. I tried to ignore it but I kept drinking seawater when the waves would hit my face on the left side. Not being able to breathe to the right side compounded the problem. Twice I stopped to empty my goggles and twice I failed. This was the first time this had happened to me so I doubt I exhibited any clear thinking or grace in my attempts. At any rate, I swam through it and took in a bit more of the  salty Atlantic Ocean.

Elle: I'm always happy to be on the bike, because it means the swim is over. I passed a bunch of people, which I have to do in order to make up for my poor swim performance. And the bike was fun - a scenic route with a couple of hills thrown in.

Webb: I finally got to the shore and started working my wetsuit off. This season I have made significant reductions in my T1 times. Still, I felt like I was moving in slow motion. No matter what I was trying to do it felt slow and awkward. Once on the bike I started out and up the hill that greets you after exiting the transition area. Immediately I played leap frog with a guy in the 50-54 age group (damn him for passing me in the swim!).  I moved past him and moments later was passed by someone in my age-group. He was going too fast to try to keep up. But then a few minutes later I saw him up ahead; I was gaining ever-so-slowly on him. I picked up the pace a bit and kept my effort steady. In a couple of minutes I was on him and passing him. For the next mile or so, I could hear him behind me (far enough not to be drafting). He then overtook me and I fought to keep him in sight. We would replay this for the next 10 miles, pushing each other.

If T1 felt slow, T2 took an eternity. My shoes were difficult to get on because my calves gave every indication they were waiting for the slightest provocation to cramp up. Through all of this one thought was ever-present: Elle was still in front of me.

Elle had started in the swim wave before me and it was well possible that we would come out of the water at the same time. I didn't see her on the bike course but that did not mean much. I could have passed her in the water. Or she was kicking ass on the bike. Yep, she was kicking ass on the bike. As I jogged my bike to my rack I saw her bike and knew she was out on the run course.

Elle: I rode into T2 feeling good, and headed out for the run - the course out of transition starts with a pretty gnarly hill. And wouldn't you know it, at the top, I got a side stitch that pretty much spelled out 'no run PR today' for me. Oh well. I still passed a good amount of people, but not enough to make my way onto the podium. Which, by the way, was super competitive today! Even on a good day, I don't think I would have had a chance. Beth, who usually comes in first, even came in second. It was rough out there. But what can you do - it was a gorgeous day of racing, I had a good time and I was glad that we signed up for it. I had been feeling down about racing, and today's triathlon rejuvenated me. And even though we have a much needed recovery month ahead of us, I'm excited about next year's race plan.

Webb: The run course follows the bike route for 1.55 miles before it turns around and heads back. That hill you run out of transition? Yeah, you get that going back down into the finish. My strategy was to run the first  2.5 miles of the 5k hard and let the hill deliver me to the finish line.

The guy I had ridden with passed me going up the hill and left me behind. I let him go with hopes I would catch him like I did on the bike. Even though my plan was to run hard, there was no reason to blow up before I arrived at the top of the hill. By the time I reached the top the sun was out and on the cusp of being too warm for my tastes. My breathing became rapid and had no discernible rhythm. I calmed my breathing while keeping my pace fast and steady and then began looking for Elle on the other side of the road. I finally saw her near the 1.5 mile mark. She had maybe 400m on me.

After the turnaround I really let myself have it. I had no way of knowing what my pace was. It didn't matter. My effort was going to be the same no matter what. I needed to give the hardest I could for 1 more mile before the big descent. Every time I felt like slowing down I forced myself to run harder. Most times I would focus on my foot turnover. Other times I would think about driving my feet through the pavement. I knew if I could just get to that downhill, I could let gravity take over and fall down the hill if I needed.

Finally I made it and let myself go, thinking of the Road Runner's feet as I flew down the hill. Halfway down I began hurting badly. I didn't care. Sure I misjudged how easy the downhill would make it, but hey it was going to hurt no matter what.  I decided to get it over with and kicked it up a notch. At the bottom of the hill I took the right turn to the finishing arch and kicked again.

As soon as my timing chip was off, I was sitting down with my feet in a kiddie pool of ice cold water. I sat there for several minutes catching my breath, cooling down. Meanwhile, Elle was standing nearby looking as fresh as ever chatting it up with Jorge and some others. I looked and felt like death. She looked like a fitness model on a photo shoot.

Elle: Watching Webb try to collect himself after a super hard effort just reminded me of how I don't push hard enough. Although today I really couldn't, due to the cramping, but still, this is something I've struggled with for awhile. So in 2013 I need to make a change - I'm really going to start working on giving it all I've got, I need to look like Webb did today at the end of all of my races next year.

Webb: Overall I had a faster time in 2012 than I did in 2009, but not by much. My swim time was slower - that can't be only because of my goggle problems. My T1 time had a big improvement, as did my run. T2 was about the same. I was shocked to see that my bike time was only slightly faster. I had expectations of taking minutes off my 2009 time. Since I am undoubtedly a better cyclist than I was three years ago, I'm not going to read too much into it. I'm ready for the off-season.