Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm Still Here? Can I Unpack My Car Yet?

So, where am I now?  I'm still in Florida.  I've lost all track of time, any sense of how long I've been gone or what time of year it is.  It's odd because for some reason I'm thinking back to last winter and how by now I was two thirds of the way through my Tucson adventure, ready to move on in one short month and yet this time it's like I've barely even gotten started.

That, and I'm still carrying my life around in the back of my little car.  But as of now it looks like this road lifestyle will all end on Saturday when I finally drive to Alabama and actually stay put for a month.  This nomadic lifestyle is definitely getting old.  As is keeping my dirty laundry in random grocery bags while awaiting my next washer/dryer opportunity. 

Where am I now?  Near Daytona Beach.  I spent the weekend in Lakeland, FL because, well, mostly because I had to go somewhere with open hotel rooms and with the NBA All-Star game in town that meant heading at least 30 miles west of Orlando.  It also worked out well because I randomly got an e-mail from a guy who I wrote a training plan for under QT2 who lived in the area and wanted to know if I needed anyone to ride with.  Um, yeah!  Sure, why not?  We went to the same trail actually that we rode at the training camp a few weeks ago, we just started at a point south of where I actually had ever made it to and parked right next to it so we got to avoid the annoying parts of getting there.  It has been very strange these past few weeks because while I've sort of been alone, there have been these sporadic meetings up with people, so it's been nice in that way, too.

There's not really a whole lot else to say.  I've spent more time in different Starbucks all over Florida these past couple of weeks than I have in my entire life combined until now.  See, it makes me feel like I'm part of civilization rather than hiding out in a hotel room on my lap top.  And I'm a little freaked out at the realization that April first, also known as the date of Texas 70.3, is getting really, really close.  I feel like I haven't raced a half ironman in about five years.  I feel like I haven't raced at all in five years.  I'm not even sure I remember how to get ready for a race.  This will definitely be an interesting season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Still Wandering Around Florida

This is where I did my swim yesterday.  Not bad, right?  I spent the weekend in Clearwater.  Well, more specifically, Indian Rocks Beach.  It brought back all sorts of not-so-fond memories of my two races there.  The bike course that gave you gorgeous views of Waffle Houses and KFC's, the run on random back roads and up and over that causeway, making it officially the hilliest run course possible given the area, and my own generally poor performances due to being stupid enough to race there after Kona, usually after no training.  In fact, in 2006, I shipped my bike directly from Hawaii to Florida.  That should tell you how much bike training I did in that span.

Anyway, it just worked out that Tara, QT2 teammate and coach, was coming back down after last weekend's Clermont camp with some friends and they had some extra room in a house they were renting, coming down to train.  Given that I am essentially living out of my car at the moment, I obviously accepted the invitation.  We were in a nice house right on the ocean in a little gated community.  That photo up there was taken about fifty yards from the front door. 

We got some running in and then later went out to ride, although it didn't go well for all of us.  Tara and I hung back to keep the ride as easy recovery while the rest took off on their own.  Upon our return we learned that two of our fellow riders had an unfortunate run-in with a car that pulled across two lanes of traffic to get into a parking space and just pulled right in front of them, and they had nowhere to go except into it.  It was scary to hear about, but when we went to pick them up nothing was broken, and given the fact that they were still with it enough to ask the EMT's to pretend to be doing CPR while strapped to the board so they could get a picture, it seems they were all right.  Probably no training for a bit, but no lasting injuries, so that's a very good thing.

Obviously I was also able to get in a nice swim in that lovely ocean pictured above.  It was probably only in the mid 60's, but lucky for me I'm traveling with every important piece of tri equipment I own, including my wetsuit, so it was quite comfortable.  Even if at one point for no reason at all the word "shark" started going through my head over and over again.  I'm not usually a worrier about that kind of stuff, not sure why suddenly I started to feel like Jaws was going to come get me.  Probably because I was the only one in the water and therefore the most obvious target.  Fortunately, I was left alone.  We did see some dolphins in the water on one of our rides, though. 

So, now what?  Well, back to Kissimmee.  I am a bit unsure of what the next few days will bring, but I had to go somewhere, and this place definitely has the cheapest hotels.  I'm spending way too much money to start this trip off.  Looking forward to getting to Alabama and not paying on a per night basis and as far as I know also not getting hit with a "resort fee" that nobody tells you about in the per night price.  How do they get away with that?  If everyone has to pay it, why is that not included in the per night price?  That makes no sense. 

Anyway, that's about it.  Nothing really exciting.  Just roaming around randomly.  Who does this?  I must be crazy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Where Am I and How Long Have I Been Gone?

At some point yesterday I suddenly had to stop and try and remember how long it was I'd been in Florida.  Did I just drive down last week?  What time of year is it?  Where am I going next?  This early part of my travels has been somewhat all over the place, and not exactly carefully thought out.  But for some reason these things always seem to work themselves out. 

After the final frigid days of QT2 camp I hit the road and headed to a hotel in Kissimmee.  I utilized Priceline.com for the first time ever and had set up a room in a pretty decent hotel for a scary, meth-lab attracting hotel price.  Well, maybe not quite that low, but close.  Why Kissimmee?  Why not?  I just needed to stay in the general area to get some training in, it's fairly cheap, and should I have the opportunity, I could pop over to Disney World.  Which I did.  I even went to Universal for the first time since I was ten.  They've certainly improved things since then.  There was nobody there and I may have gotten slightly brain damaged from that Hulk rollercoaster, but it was pretty well worth it. 

The weather has been pretty nice, after Monday was chilly the weather here in Florida started to feel... well, a lot more like Florida again.  I had set up the hotel until today, with no special reason that I did it that way, although it worked out well because I forgot this is a holiday weekend.  Where was I going to go next?  I had no idea.

Well, then last weekend Tara, my roommate at camp and fellow QT2 coach, mentioned coming back down to Tampa for a running race and asked if I wanted to come stay with her and her friends.  Well, why not?  Stuff like that has a funny way of working out for me for some reason.  So for the next few days I'll be staying over on the beach near Clearwater.  Sounds like a pretty good deal. 

The only not so great thing about all of this traveling is essentially driving all over the place with three-months'-worth of stuff in my car since I can't quite settle in anywhere yet.  Oh, well, I'm sure I'll be in Alabama before I know it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

QT2 Florida Camp

I swear I would've written more intermittent updates but we just barely had time for anything in between all of the training so I'm just getting to it now.  I made it to our hotel in Florida on Wednesday afternoon after a mere four hours of driving.  After the day before, this wasn't too bad at all.  Though in spite of the fact that I'd slept in and didn't even leave until after 10:00 in the morning I still spent some time in the middle of the driving thinking how nice it would be to just shut my eyes and fall asleep.  Nice, that is, except for the whole crashing and dying part.  But I survived and made myself at home.

I was rooming with Mary and Tara, teammates, fellow coaches, awesome triathletes and friends.  Our room situation worked out quite well when without really talking about it we all just sort of settled into our own little corners where we'd pile our stuff quite haphazardly.  Poor Mary once again had a messed up flight and didn't get here until about 1:30 in the morning the first night.  I was exhausted the next morning after having gone to bed at 9:45, so I can't imagine what she must've felt like.  It was also the first time I've ever known Mary to actually sleep in, which in this case was about 7am.

Day one started off with a nice 4000-yard swim over at the National Training Center.  We divided up by ability and it's always very nice when your group really works out just the way those groups are supposed to, which was the case in my lane of five.  It's amazing how a 4000-yard workout seems a lot less painful when you're not by yourself.  We had some time off after that before going out for a two-hour easy ride, which was spent in the warm sun. 

After that came the part of the weekend I was probably most dreading, and that is a 5K time trial on the track.  After riding we changed and headed over to warm up.  We were, as usual, running a little late so this didn't even start until 5:00 or so.  We split into two groups and fortunately mine was going first so I could get it over with!  Trying to run "hard" for really almost any amount of time is not really my thing.  But, the good news is that I survived without any lingering damage.  I wasn't expecting much and I got pretty much what I expected.  I was mostly just glad to be done.  But it was fun to watch the really fast people head out and run after us.  It never ceases to amaze me how they can so often make that kind of thing look effortless.

It was almost dark by the time we finished and we didn't have a ton of time before we had to meet up again for a Q&A session back at the hotel, so we needed to grab some dinner.  I suggested the Ruby Tuesday's just down the street because they have that fantastic salad bar which meant that we could begin eating from almost the moment we sat down, so Mary, Tara and I had a nice dinner over there and made it back for the talk.  Once we went to bed we spent way too much time talking before falling asleep and woke up pretty tired again. 

We had some breakfast and then got ready for the long ride.   Six hours and a little transition run.  It sounds like a lot to some, but really, I enjoy the long rides, so I was looking forward to it.  We were going to set off in three separate groups since there were a lot of us and Jesse told me to ride with them (them being the really fast ones) so I was interested to see how things would go.  Overall I was really happy with that ride.  Eventually we sort of split into two groups and I was in the second one but much like the swimming our little group worked well and kept a good pace (mostly thanks to Cait tugging us around for 60+ miles) and I was really, really happy with the overall pace. 

After one last fuel stop we sort of regrouped again and I wound up riding back with Duffy and Charlie while those other guys rode out a bit further before turning back so they could really, really go at it on the way back.  I still felt decent, but I definitely didn't feel like I was in a position to hammer the final 25 miles of the ride.  Ours worked out perfectly.  I was really, really exhausted at the end, and definitely pushed my limits though not to the point of destroying myself at the end, which was perfect.  It's nice to have a really solid and encouraging workout like that.

Unfortunately, I still had to run.  The first few steps sent pain radiating through my tired quads but I did eventually loosen up and while it wasn't fast, it was at least not the worst thing I'd ever tried to do.  So it was a very good workout day.  After we all got cleaned up we had a big group dinner at Carrabba's, which is conveniently located pretty much in our hotel parking lot.  Definitely had an enjoyable dinner there and then went back for a nutrition talk before collapsing into bed.  Once again, we just couldn't stop talking.  It's very strange to suddenly have people to talk to before you fall asleep.

Then yesterday afternoon we had a 5000m swim in the NTC pool that had been switched to long course.  That's a lot of swimming, but once again, it went by much faster than expected and my lane worked out perfectly.  We even did something fun for a change and at the end of the whole swim workout we split into random 4-person groups for a 4x50 relay race.  By that point in the day I was pretty shot, but I must say as I took off the wall to swim the second leg I felt like I was flying.  Of course, this all ended very quickly as after only about twenty yards my arms completely shut down and I swear I thought I was never going to finally get to the wall at the other end of the pool.  But, of course, I did.  My team did not win.  But Mary won her 50-meter kick-off against Pat Wheeler, which really was the most important thing.

Last night we had dinner delivered and then watched people's run analysis videos before once again trying to go to bed early but failing.  Well, to be fair, we get in bed at a reasonable time, it's the falling asleep part that happens way too late.  So this morning was a bit rough getting up but we were almost done.  For some reason, even though I'm in Florida, it was really, really cold.  I'm not talking about cold compared to what Florida normally is, I mean actually cold.  Like low 30's and windchill in the 20's.  The plan today was 2-hour easy ride and then a 2-hour long run but most people here don't have the kind of gear you need to train in temperatures like that.  So a lot of people went back to the NTC to use the treadmills and spin bikes.

I, on the other hand, have everything.  But of course this has a lot more to do with the fact that I'm going to be on the road for three months and figured I'd rather have everything for the chance of almost any weather rather than getting stuck without something I needed.  I did at least decide to go run first and let it warm up a tiny bit.  The run wasn't really that bad.  Sure, my legs were really cold, but I never felt overwhelmingly cold while I was running.  The only times it wasn't so great were when the wind was once again blowing harshly in my face.  But hey, at least the sun was out.

So I spent the run thinking that it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be, and then when I suited up and hopped on my bike I spent a good chunk of that thinking it was a lot worse than I expected it to be.  I was so cold!  I think it was also because the ride starts out with a lot of downhills, which when it's cold is pretty much the last thing you actually want.  But, like always, I survived and it felt so good to be done.  Not to mention finally getting to hop into a nice shower.  But I even had to turn on the heat in the hotel room.  Hopefully this doesn't last long!

So now we're just waiting for our last little camp wrap up and that will be the end of that.  It's been a good weekend and I think a good way to kick off the beginning of my travels.  It's funny that last year it was the end of my trip and this year it's the beginning.  Now will come a few weeks of bouncing around Florida before moving on over to Birmingham.  So this will be fun, I think.  Hopefully I don't get too sick of traveling with my entire life in my car! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day One of Driving: 1020 Miles

I'm currently at a hotel in... well, almost-Georgia.  21 miles from Georgia, to be exact.  Yes, I could've kept going last night, but after driving from a bit before 5am until 7:30pm I decided that I'd be better off stopping. 

I was in bed fairly early on Monday night but I stayed up a little later than I should've watching Family Guy.  Because yeah, I haven't watched that show enough.  Anyway, the day before I had set my alarm for 4:40 to go swim and decided to just leave that as my wake-up time to start driving.  As is my usual tendency, I rolled over at 4:33 after having been awake for a bit and got up.  Basically I brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes and was on the road just before 5. 

Last year I left the day after a blizzard and the roads were fine but there was lots of snow to watch disappear as I moved south.  This time I felt like I could've been driving in April.  It's just been so incredibly quiet around here.  I was certainly tired as I drove in the dark, and at one point I zoned out enough to not get on the Mass Pike off 495.  Fortunately I realized my mistake almost immediately, and was able to turn around at the next exit a few miles down the road and fix that problem quickly!  Like I needed to be adding time on a day like that. 

I had a GPS to tell me where to go.  It's mostly not that important but I am always interested to see which way it chooses to take me through/around New York City.  I feel like it chose a route that nobody would ever pick on purpose, though, and it was not the route it had me come back on last year.  I took 84 to 91 to 95 where of course I hit commuter traffic heading into NYC from Connecticut.  That was a little annoying, but overall I don't think I lost more than 20-30 minutes. 

After that, it was pretty painless.  The Jersey Turnpike was pretty quiet though very unattractive as it seems every inch of it is under construction so the sides are just lined with seas of dirt and sand.  Same in and around Washington, DC, lots of construction.  There was some more traffic there but not really enough to slow things down.  Once I got into Virginia it was all pretty simple.  Stay on 95 and just keep going, set the cruise control, enjoy the 70mph speed limits and drive and drive and drive. 

As is my usual plan, I only stopped when I needed gas so I could fill up, use the bathroom and get drink and/or food.  I had some protein bars in the car for when I got hungry and in case my gas stops didn't involve food that was desirable.  And by desirable I don't mean candy and chips, because of course those you can get anywhere.  And honestly I didn't buy any food and just survived on the bars because I just didn't feel like anything that was available and I wasn't going to waste time seeking stuff out.  So I only purchased Diet Pepsi, my caffeine of choice since I don't drink coffee, and was on my way. 

Last year my stopping only for gas plan involved fairly frequent stops since I could only make it roughly 240 miles on a tank of gas in the Xterra.  Well, my hugely efficient little Honda takes me at least 350 miles, so stops were a lot less frequent!  In fact, I only had to stop twice in all of that time.  Once when I was almost out of New Jersey, and I kind of wanted to get out so I could fill my own tank but then enjoyed the fact that someone did it for me.  And then I stopped again in North Carolina.  And just to further show you how much better the mileage is, the Xterra held 18 gallons of gas and the Honda holds 10. 

Not much else to say as it was mostly mindless driving as the time just kept on passing.  I had set an initial goal of making it to Florence, SC, just because when you look at a map it is written in big letters so must be fairly civilized, right?  But it was too early to stop, so I drove another 130 miles or so.  Basically so I could cross the 1000 mile mark.  I'd say around sunset I started hitting that feeling like I could just pull over and fall asleep, but fortunately it passed.  And at about 7:30 I arrived at my stop for the night.  I think I'm in Ridgeland, SC.  But honestly I don't know.

I know it sounds crazy to drive that far in one day, but the truth of the matter is that yesterday's efforts mean that today I only have four more hours or so to go.  I mean, instead of getting up before dawn to go and drive a bunch more I actually shouldn't leave before about 10:00 or I won't even be able to check into my hotel in Clermont for camp because I'll be there too early.  So I am quite happy with that! 

All right, but now I have to enjoy just a little bit longer being lazy before hitting the road once again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Off On Another Adventure

Have I ever gone a month without blogging?  I swear this is not like me and I hope to be much more consistent.  It may not matter much since people have probably stopped bothering to even check here!

So, what has happened in the past month?  I'd like to say winter, but the truth is, not really.  I'm not that anxious to leave because the weather has been incredibly mild.  I think I heard on the news that Boston has gotten five FEET less snow than last year by this time.  We only have snow left in those shady spots that almost never see sun.  We've had a couple of little 3-4" squalls but nothing beyond that since the craziness that was the October blizzard.  I was worried when it started so soon, but it seems instead of being a sign of things to come, it was just us getting it all out of the way incredibly early.

So I've been training, and riding the trainer, and running outside but never really in bed weather though at least some of the time it's cold.  Swimming, never having to worry about driving to the pool in the snow.  It's been really, really easy actually.  I don't mean the training, I just mean doing it in winter.  It's like the opposite of last year, so I definitely don't care that I haven't left yet.

But I didn't stick it out the entire time.  Southwest has a very nice policy where without penalty you can change a ticket as long as you use the funds within a year of when you booked it.  About the only good thing that came out of my broken foot was the unused plane ticket, and I was running out of time to use it.  The problem was, I wasn't flying anywhere.  I'm driving!  So I talked to my QT2 teammate and friend Michelle who recently moved from Boston to Newport Beach, CA and I decided to go out and visit to train, and the difference was $18 from my Idaho ticket.  Perfect! 

The weather was nice, though not that warm and it wound up pouring rain on my long ride day.  Pouring rain is not that much fun but it also wasn't that cold, so it wasn't too bad.  Certainly a heck of a lot warmer than the day I rode the Kanc with Jesse and Cait in the rain and we had to stop at the ski shop so they could buy more clothes to survive the ride.  Got to ride on the coast, run on some random trails, occasionally wind up on roads that scared the crap out of me once I realized the bike lane had disappeared and cars were flying right by, all good stuff.  It's just too bad that Michelle had to work a lot, so our training together consisted of two swims in the nice lap pool that is right in her apartment complex.  I also got to go and meet up with one of my best friends from college and her husband and kids.  They live in Santa Ana and yet I've seen them on three occasions in the past year.  Stayed with them last April to train for a week, then they came to stay with me in September for another of our friend's weddings, and then this visit now.  I do get around.

Then I got to train some more and now, somehow, it is the end of my winter training in New Hampshire as in the morning I'm heading down south until after Ironman Texas.  I must be crazy to keep doing this.  But I also sometimes stop and think how ridiculous my life is.  I didn't start packing until this morning, but if you think about it, it's not much more than packing for a race, you just need more clothes.  I was done by like 1:00, which was good because I'm exhausted!

I had gotten up at 4:40 this morning to get to the gym and swim right when they opened.  It was the first time I've ever arrived and there was nobody else there.  No matter how early I've gone in the past - and a couple of times I've been there like 20 minutes before they even open just because I had to drop someone off at the airport, which is right next to the gym, and had to wait for it to open.  And there has always been at least one guy, usually two or three, parked there reading the paper until it opens.  They must've all still been crying over the Super Bowl.  Stupid game.  I'm glad I'm not seriously invested in it.  I should check on my brother though, because he is probably not doing so well. 

Anyway, good to get things done early, and then I plan on getting up at the same time tomorrow and hitting the road.  It's just so strange to look around and think that I won't see this place again until almost Memorial Day.  Like usual I'm sure it will all go by very quickly, especially since first of all, I'll be moving around a bit instead of all in one place, and second of all, I won't be alone the entire time. 

First up is QT2 training camp, which should be a lot of fun.  It's easier to be leaving when I know I'll be spending the weekend hanging out and training with a bunch of my friends.  After that probably meeting up with someone else to train before I head over to Birmingham, where again, I won't have to stay alone thanks to some hookups from friends.  I'm looking forward to it.  All I have to do now is train like crazy and make this whole thing worth the effort.

iPod loaded up and plugged into the car, three months worth of crap piled up in there, so nothing left to do.  Hoping to make it somewhere in South Carolina tomorrow.  As far as I can stand, anyway.  Last year my one-day record was over 1100 miles.  But I got a boost from crossing a time zone, so it was like a drove an extra hour without losing that hour.  Not to mention those more open roads and higher speed limits once you get far enough west.  So we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Okay, 2012, I guess this is really where we get started...