AuthorGreg

HomeArticles Posted by Greg (Page 3)

Race Report: NUE Wildcat 100

Wilcat Epic 100 NUE Series
The forecast for Wildcat 100 was about as promising as the forecast had been for Cohutta 100 two weeks before. It was strikingly similar: early in the week things looked semi-promising for us optimistic types and the forecast was worse every time I checked it the rest of the week. By Friday the forecast was 70% rain all day.

weather for wildcat 100 MTB race

This was going to be a weather rematch. After the dreaded Cohutta 100 DNF, I was going to be prepared for this race.

I drove up midday Friday after getting the last of the Blue Ocean Ideas work I needed to finish done for the week. It was a four and a half hour drive from Baltimore to Rosendale. I arrived around 6:00 pm, checked into the Williams Lake staging area, and pitched my tent before the rain came.

Packet pickup and the pre-race dinner was at the Rosendale Rec center. It was a great meal: bowtie pasta with chicken, salad, homemade cornbread, iced tea. Perfect night before race food. I finished eating at 7:00pm and was torn between heading to the Rosendale Theater which was giving racers free admission and popcorn for Where The Trail Ends and getting a quick pre-ride (openers) in. I opted for the openers and headed back to Williams Lake.

After a couple of miles in the woods to wake the legs up, I headed for Stewarts Shop for some ice cream. I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before NUE 100’s. Like any good cyclist, that’s all I need to hear to make it a ritual. By 9:30 I was in bed fading off into neverland.

I sleep like a rock in a tent when it’s raining out. There’s something very soothing about the sound of rainfall on a rainfly over my head. I had an exceptional night of sleep. I awoke at 4:30 feeling rested.

Lying in the tent listening to the rain drench the course around me I decide to adjust my expectations for the day. My original expectation was to finish under ten hours. I decided my “this course is going to be muddy as hell and it’s going to rain all day long” expectation was just to finish. That would be a successful day.

I didn’t want to be writing another DNF blog post for my second NUE attempt.

My iPhone rang at 4:50 and it was my teammate and friend Pat Blair who, in typical fashion, had woken up at 12:00am and left Baltimore at 12:30am to get to the race.

I love Pat. He makes me look moderate about things like cycling. Not many people do that.

I had picked up Pat’s race packet the night before and he was calling to let me know he’d be rolling in around 5:30. We decided to meet at the Stewarts Shop.

When Pat and his dad pulled into the parking lot I was chugging Stewart’s coffee and packing my drop bags. I gave Pat his race packet and drop bags and we carpooled over to the start area.

After feeling under prepared for the Cohutta 100 weather, I decided to be very conservative for Wildcat. My drop bags were filled with dry gloves, socks, arm & leg warmers, cliff bars, gel flasks, and drink mix.

I headed back to my campsite to suit up then spun the two miles downhill to the start line. I got to the start at 6:30 for a 6:45am start, found Pat and his dad, wished him well, and then moved toward the middle/back for the start. Pat was starting in the front row.

After the gun went off we headed out of Rosendale and up the hill I had just ridden down and back to Williams Lake area. We entered the woods after a couple miles of moderate riding. Conditions were already muddy and unfortunately this created an instant conga line of riders walking their bikes for much of the next four miles. Thrilling start.

We left the woods and rode back through Rosendale and up our first short climb. By then things had spread out and I settled in at a moderate pace. We went back in the woods for a rocky, fun, downhill, single track, section eventually dumping onto a rail trail path headed towards the town of New Paltz.

It rains. It stops. It rains. It stops.

On the rail trail I see a Kelly/LSV rider, Becky Frederick, and jumped on her wheel. We were passed by a strong looking dude in a Garmin kit and we both hopped on his wheel. He was happy to pull and I was happy to sit in so that’s what we did the next five miles or so to the base of the first real climb.

The first big climb of the day was about 1,000 feet around mile 17. It was long but not steep. Just had to keep grinding away. This section of the course was beautiful eastern mountain forests, grassy double track, waterfalls. It was raining but it was warm enough (around 60) and this was mostly fire road so the wet didn’t matter.

I dropped Becky on that climb but after a downhill section and another climb she was back and passed me on the climb up to the first aid station. I caught up and we hit the aid station together at about the three hour mark.

Leaving aid station one we had a long downhill and then some flat road before hitting Lippman park. This was my favorite part of the day: twisty single track with wooden bridges, rocks, and a little mud. It was all rideable although we walked a few sections that were muddy and steep enough to make you think about self preservation. For a guy that lacks technical skills this was a great section to get some technical practice in. Becky is an experienced rider so chasing her around was great for my confidence and gaining more technical expertise.

I made one great equipment decision for Wildcat: when I saw the forecast Wednesday I changed my tires from the Maxxis Aspens to Maxxis Ignitors. I love the Aspens for a dry day but they are a challenge in the mud. The Ignitors have a little more rolling resistance but were terrific in the mud. It’s a wonder what a little confidence will do for you.

We left the woods and headed back the country roads and up the longest climb of the day: 2,000 feet over ten miles back up the mountain to the Old Minnewaska Trail. Long climb but again not terribly steep. We crest the mountain and arrive at the aid station just at the six hour mark.

I knew the day was going to be long but I am pretty excited at this point. We’ve done most of the climbing for the day and more than half the mileage. I’m still with my new friend Becky and I’m thinking we can hammer out the next 45 miles in about 4 hours and finish right around 10 hours.

Becky Frederick and I at Wildcat 100

I know the general profile for the rest of the course and it is a lot up and down, double track, rail trail, then some single track to finish the course. I’m feeling strong and so is Becky. Things are looking good. The sun is even peaking out a tiny little bit (this was short lived).

Great plan. Just failed to take into consideration the mud.

We leave the aid station climbing gently then hit a long beautiful downhill past a mountain lake, ride some big moon rocks, and then gravel fire road. At the bottom of the mountain, we are on roads then we start going across farm land, orchards, through a nursery.

This might be the most beautiful part of the day if it were nice out. Wandering around New York Apple orchards on a mountain bike? Heck yea!

Instead it’s stop and go mud hell. We ride 500 feet then hit five inches of mud and walk.

It rains. It stops. It rains. It stops.

Repeat that for about 3 hours. We see other riders walking, riding, walking, riding. Each time we pass or are passed everyone says the same thing: this sucks.

In every endurance event I have a dark moment. Can’t always predict when it will be, but there has always been a point at which I say to myself, “Why would ANYONE do this?”

In a marathon, it’s usually miles 22-25. At Wildcat it was miles 60-82. It’s wet. Muddy. Boring. My bike isn’t shifting right anymore. It sucks.

Finally at mile 82 we hit the rail trail and the last aid station. We refuel and try to work together to make time. Becky is doing most of the pulling…she’s strong that way. I’m sitting in getting pelted with mud from her tires. After 8 miles or so we leave the rail trail and are doubling back on single track that we covered earlier in the morning.

Most of this is rideable even with the wet conditions. This is my second favorite part of the day after Lippman park. It’s rocky and technical and generally uphill but mostly rideable. My legs still feel remarkably good (mostly because I’ve been getting walk breaks the last 3 hours every few minutes).

Mile 92 we cruise back into Rosendale, past the starting area, and back into the single track that will take us to Williams Lake and the finish. Again the mud is ridiculous and we are forced to walk at times.

At this point it is comical. Every inch of our bodies is covered with mud. My shoes are hauling an extra 10 pounds of mud to weigh me down. We reach the top of the single track section and then are spit out onto the road for a mile or two back to Williams Lake.

11 hours 20 minutes after the start we cross the finish.

Believe it or not, the sun is shining. Pat’s long gone but I find out he nailed 2nd in the single speed race. Between the two of us, Adventures for the Cure averages 33rd place on the day (you do the math).

NUE Series Wildcat 100 Finishers Medal National Ultra Endurance Series

I bagged my first 100. Pretty great day all things considered. Not the conditions you want but we survived. It’s the longest time on the bike for me by far and I still loved it. There is nothing like covering that much ground, seeing the sights, smelling the forest, challenging yourself.

Big kuddos to Becky Frederick for helping me through. It’s amazing what some good company will do on a miserable day. I was so grateful not to be alone.

After a quick shower, bike rinse, and throwing everything into the car I headed home. Arrived at midnight in time to down most of a small pizza, kiss Elise good night, spend 20 minutes watching the tube with Josh, and collapse in bed.

Can’t wait for the next NUE 100 Race: Mohican 100 June 1.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Links:
Strava ride
Pat’s race report
MTB Race News

Wildcat 100 NUE race

Continue Reading

Fat to Fit: The Ironman Story

Kona Inspired 2013The older I get the more I realize how important every moment is.

February 21, 1982, 11 year old Greg Rittler watched the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on NBC’s Wide World of Sports. My favorite childhood television show.

I was in awe of the athletes I saw on the 19″ big tube TV in our small family room. My eyes were glued to it and my ears took in every word the announcers said. I couldn’t believe anyone could actually complete the Ironman. In my 11 year old mind these heroes were the greatest athletes in all the world.

Fast forward 28 years.

December 18, 2010, 39 year old Greg Rittler is sitting in a lazy boy recovering from a simple gallbladder removal surgery. In my case maybe not so simple. What should have taken 45 minutes took four hours and the surgeon gave it to me straight when I woke up:

Greg if you get healthy now you’ll live a long life. Keep going the way you are going and your life will be dramatically shortened and you’ll be looking at a liver transplant within a few years.

I hadn’t reached 40 yet and I was overweight, my blood pressure was high, and my liver was damaged. That was the awakening.

Four days after surgery, I watched the 2010 Ironman World Championship while I was recovering sitting in that lazy boy. 28 years after my first viewing, I was still in awe of the iron athletes on the screen.

A switch flipped inside of me in that moment.

At the time, I could not have imagined becoming an Ironman. But I knew I needed to change. So I began making changes. Slowly but consistently I changed.

Fast forward 2 years.

I’m in Stone Harbor, NJ with my family on vacation. Sunday July 22, 2012, I track my new Strava & Facebook friend Courtney as she competes in Ironman Lake Placid. 30 years later, I’m still in awe that anyone can even finish an Ironman event. Late in the evening, I see Courtney crosses the finish line. She’s an Ironman now.

The next afternoon, I’m sitting on the beach looking at the Ironman Lake Placid website on my iPad. Ironman Lake Placid is notoriously difficult to get in to. The race sells out in a few hours and I’ve heard it is very difficult because of all the web traffic to register when they open registration. Here I am sitting on the beach and there’s a “Register Here” button staring at me from the middle of the screen.

A few touches on the screen and I’m in. I emailed my registration confirmation to Elise with a simple message:

Officially insane. Now we just need to find a VW bus for the trip.

July 28, 2013, 41 year old Greg Rittler will compete in the Ironman Lake Placid. Pinch me. A couple of years ago I was a fat guy looking at a pretty dismal future.

Every moment matters. String together a few (with a lot of hard work in between) and life can change dramatically.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

P.S. I have a once in a life time opportunity to compete in the same Ironman race that 11 year old Greg Rittler watched in 1982, The Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. I’m entered in a contest called “Kona Inspired” where they select a few athletes that have demonstrated the Ironman mantra “Anything is Possible.” If you want to help me get to Kona there are three ways you can help:

1. Watch my story here: http://gregr.it/ironman
2. Vote by clicking “Vote for This” below the film.
3. Share this link with your family and friends and ask them to do the same: http://gregr.it/ironman

Thanks!

Continue Reading

My Inbox Challenge

Inbox zero-2

Yesterday I received 177 emails by 5:00pm. I haven’t counted today but I’m sure I’m pushing that number already. I’ve received 1101 in the past seven days.

That’s a lot of information.

If I work 50 hours per week (fairly typical) that means I had 3,000 minutes of working time in the last week. That’s one email every three minutes. If it takes me one minute to read, think about, and respond to each email that means 1/3 of my working time is spent simply managing the inbox. Many of these messages take much longer than 1 minute to respond.

And here’s the crazy part: I am RUTHLESS about what I allow to hit my inbox. I use RSS and Twitter to manage the news and other informational content I want to read. I unsubscribe from everything that I can and receive my information via others means. That means that 95% or more of those 1101 emails are real people sending emails to me, not marketing emails or news information.

I have another 500-1000 emails per week that come directly from Basecamp, our project management system.

Many have it far worse than I do.

I understand that a HUGE part of my job is to manage the flow of information in my organization, with clients, with family and friends, etc. I don’t think the problem is email itself. The technology is great.

Ten years ago I loved email. It enabled me to get work done quickly and efficiently from anywhere. It enabled me to communicate to clients in ways that made everything work more smoothly. It gave access to information I wanted in terms of newsletters and email updates.

But today it seems that inboxes are a problem for all of us.

The problem, as I see it, is in the expectations that email has created and the misuse that has happens in the process. Here are a few of the more obvious issues:

  • Email makes it too easy to assign work to people without any discussion or clarification that needs to happen before work begins.
  • Email creates expectations of response without acknowledgement from both parties that they even want to have a conversation.
  • Email is easy and free so when in doubt we just send another. We don’t even realize we are adding to the noise.
  • Email makes us feel like we are accomplishing things when we aren’t; answering an email just to answer isn’t doing anything.
  • People treat email like it is a discussion platform. This might be the worst problem. Email is great for conveying information and answering specific questions. But as soon as you need to discuss something back and forth it’s a lousy tool.

And before I get too high on the horse: I can be as guilty as anyone. I haven’t mastered email. I fall into every one of the traps above.

So I’m trying to implement a few things myself and with the Blue Ocean Ideas team that I am hoping will help:

  • Trying to be very judicious about what I send and why. Am I helping to solve the problem, answer the question, or contribute in a way that’s going to be helpful or am I just adding to the noise? Am I just sending a message to get something off of my plate or am I adding value.
  • Encouraging our team to pick the right mode of communicating. If you are getting into a long email chain that is getting more confusing with each new email just pick up the phone. It will save time but also relational capital.
  • Developing awareness of when I am working on projects that will add value and when I am just managing the inbox. If I’m spending too much time managing the inbox I’m not getting to other higher value work that I do.
  • Clarifying with clients how important it is that we have some ground rules with communication and that we try to hold a high standard for how we communicate. I can’t solve my inbox challenge with work on my part alone. I can help reduce it but I need help on the other end as well.
  • Using email for follow up and execution but rarely if ever in initiating new projects via email. For me, that takes talking.

These might seem simple but they are difficult to actually practice. We’ve been dealing with email for a long time now. Habits are hard to break.

What are some of the communication challenges you face when managing your inbox?

Keep moving forward,

Greg

 

Continue Reading

Cohutta 100: UnRace Report

Cohutta 100 NUE Series RaceHere’s a synopsis of the race report I wanted to write about the 2013 Cohutta 100:

“I had an awesome time at the Cohutta 100. It was brutal but I endured and finished in xx:xx time [insert a time under 10 hours]. The conditions were terrible and it was the hardest day of my life but I finished my first National Ultra Endurance series race. I can’t wait for the Wildcat Epic in 2 weeks!”

Instead, I’m begrudgingly writing this report with the three dreaded letters I have refused to even conceive of since I started riding a bike 16 months ago:

DNF

Those three letters stand for “did not finish.” I failed to complete the Cohutta 100.

Ouch. That definitely was not the plan.

The days leading up to Cohutta the weather forecasts went from “not too bad” to “worst case scenario” in my mind. I guess it could have been colder, but if it had I probably would have been more prepared. It was looking like rain all day with temps in the 50’s.

I left Friday morning with my friends Andrew Dunlap and Jerry Jackson. Andrew is a friend and fellow Adventures for the Cure teammate. Jerry was one of the first guys that I rode with and I’ve put in hundreds of hours with him the last 16 months.

I’ve got high quality company.

We had a long, uneventful, ten hour drive to the thriving metropolis of Ducktown, TN. Ducktown is the quintessential one horse town: a stoplight, a restaurant, a hotel, a grocery store, and a fast food joint all at one intersection of highway 64.

Dinner Friday night was at Brothers Copper Kettle. The kind of place where 50% of the food is fried and the other 50% is drenched in some kind of gravy. We had popcorn shrimp, popcorn catfish, and fries. I’m not sure whose idea that was but it worked. I felt like I had a brick in my stomach when we were done but it didn’t seem to bother any of us the next day.

We woke up early for the 7am start and did the normal dressing and obsessing that goes with an endurance event: what to wear, what to bring, etc. Although this would normally be automatic the weather made it a bit more of a process, at least for me.

The forecast at 5:30am was 70% chance of rain all day. Radar was even more promising:

Weather for Cohutta 100 in Ducktown TN

I had two objectives starting Cohutta: have a good time and finish. I did really well on the first one until I didn’t do well on the second.

It was a mass start. Jerry and I lined up towards the middle/back. We weren’t too worried about being up front. It would be a long day. Andrew was right behind the row of elites at the front. Jerry was snapping photos with his iPhone when the starting gun went off so we stuffed the iPhone in a pocket and took off pedaling.

100 miles to go.

Cohutta 100 NUE fresh at the startThe start was uphill on road for about three miles. I stayed on Jerry’s wheel while we passed others riders climbing the hill. I soon realized Jerry was eager to get a much better position going into the woods than I was. This was my first 100 and I didn’t want to work too hard in the opening miles trying to stay with him. So I let him go. I could see him turn into the woods maybe 50 back from the start. I was more like 80 or so back. Andrew told me later he was in the top 15 entering the woods.

My coach, Pat Blair, had given me three words of advice the morning of the race: pace, nutrition, and do not give up. They were great reminders in the very early stages of the race. It was going to be a long day so I took a sip of my camelback and focused on spinning at a moderate pace.

We entered the woods and the single track began. This was the most fun part of the day for me. It was a bit muddy but the trails were still not too bad considering how much it had rained. I was right in the middle of a pack of about 20 riders and we were moving at a good pace but not killing ourselves. I was happy with where I was, how I felt, and was optimistic that a number of these riders would be great to be around all day. They were quick but they weren’t the hammers that I often ride with back home.

The fun part of the day soon became a bit more of a challenge as the mud increased. I quickly realized that the tires my friend Chris had recommended were going to be a challenge for me in the mud. Chris had recommended the Maxxis Aspens because of their high volume and low rolling resistance. I had ridden on these tires for two very short rides the days before the race. They felt great and I knew they would be great for Cohutta. At least for a dry Cohutta.

A muddy Cohutta was a different story. For someone with master bike handling skills like Chris these tires wouldn’t be a challenge in the mud. I felt like I was ice skating with roller blades.

I settled in knowing that the single track was only about 30 miles of the 100. If I could stay upright for those miles I would be great on the fire roads that make up the rest of the course.

At mile eight we hit a flat rooty section that was very slick. A few of the guys I was chasing went down on the roots. I tried to pick a decent line and just get over that section as fast as possible. It worked and I rolled through the roots without a problem. But less than a minute later I heard a painful hissing coming out of my rear tire. At this point I’m still in good spirits and I practically laugh out loud.

If you knew how much time I had spent obsessing about getting my tires just right for this race you would know why it was funny. I had asked Chris and Andrew what they would ride. I had been to multiple bike shops looking for the right tires. At one point I had 5 tires in my car because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I returned all but the Aspens.

So getting a flat less than an hour in was humorous. I laughed it off and thought: It’s going to be a long day so I can’t stress about a flat. Fortunately my Stan’s seemed to seal the tire so I pumped it up a bit and kept riding. However within five minutes the leak was back and I was off the bike again. This time I knew Stan’s was not going to seal it so I had to stop and put a tube in my tire.

The worst part about getting a flat so early is that the field is still tight so by the time I was done changing the tire the entire field had passed me. I’m still keeping my spirits up. Re-starting behind everyone else means I should be passing riders all day and that can be fun. I’m thinking I can catch the group that I was with if I really cruise through the rest stops and move at a good clip.

Cohutta 100 course mapI’m alone crossing the Ocoee River and starting a long single track climb. There are few things I like more in life than being in the woods on a mountain bike. I like to ride with my friends but sometimes the solitude is perfect. This was one of those times. I settled in for a very long, enjoyable time alone in the woods.

I ride for half an hour or so and start passing riders. I’m still having a good time. At mile 16 the single track dumps out onto a fire road and the course drops into the first fire road descent.

Then the rain starts in earnest.

Things become a bit more challenging but I’m still moving at a good pace. Passing people and playing catch up. I cruise through aid stations one and two grabbing some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a cookie or two. I spent 2 minutes at each tops.

Miles 25-50 are a long climb up to the top of a mountain far down into Georgia. On Strava the segment is aptly called the Cohutta Death March Climb. I leave aid station two and start the long grind. This climb goes on forever.

That’s when it starts getting hard to shift my rear derailleur. At first I couldn’t get into my largest rear cog. And it got worse from there. By aid station three I was unable to shift without serious effort from my thumb. Even then it wasn’t working. I tried for a while to leave it in the middle of the cassette and just use the front shifter as much as possible. I crest the top of the mountain at mile 48 and I can hardly shift up at all. I can go down but once I shifted down I couldn’t get it back up the cassette.

I’m cursing myself because going into the race I new my shifter/derailleur needed some attention. “What’s another hundred miles?” I thought. But 100 miles of dry conditions is one thing. 100 miles drenched in mud and rain is another matter. That’s just a rookie error.

At the same time I’m getting cold. The sub 50 temps and rain are beginning to take their toll. My feet are soaked through and my shoes feel like they are carrying ten pounds of extra weight each. My winter mountain boots that seemed like a great idea early on are now big buckets for water that won’t drain at all.

After a long, freezing descent, I roll into aid station four shivering. Jerry is there. He’s ten miles ahead of me at that point and heading back. The course is down and back with a couple of loops thrown in. Jerry is on his way back.

I hand my bike to a mechanic and ask him if he can get the shifting to work again. Meanwhile I change socks (I had packed socks in my drop bag). When I go to change socks I turn my shoes upside down and water pours out. The fresh socks are soaked immediately not helping anything.

Finally the mechanic gives me the bad news. He’s pretty sure my cable is going to break anytime. I can keep going but it’s likely that I’ll be hiking before I get to the next aid station.

Flat tires, shifting problems, freezing feet, tires that leave me sliding everywhere when on single track. Any three of those and I’m continuing on. I’ve got all four and I pull the plug. I do the walk of shame to the sag van.

I don’t do giving up well. I get in the van and I’m with a crowd of happy people that are excited that the miserable conditions have justifiably ended their day. I’m just angry and frustrated.

I don’t do “DNF.” I’m ok with taking forever to complete a race but I want to finish.

My happy new friends and I spend the next hour and a half driving back to the start in the sag. I finally loosen up a bit and start talking to some of the folks on the van. These are good people. It was a rough day. I need to let it go. We joke that the Cohutta 50 was an awesome race.

Cohutta 100 SAG WagonI get back to the start area in time to clean up a little and see Andrew finish the race. I know he is top 20. I run through the finish to catch up with him. He’s delirious. Andrew told me later he put in a heroic effort the last two miles to catch a couple of guys. He ended up being 18th overall. A dream day. I’m thrilled for him.

Andrew Dunlap at Cohutta 100Jerry rolls in not much later in 47th place. Awesome result. In a couple of years that will put him on the podium in the masters class.

Jerry Jackson at Cohutta 100I’m proud of my friends. Not feeling too proud of my result. I’m still not handling defeat well.

I found out today from the race director that 280 people were entered in the race and 138 finished. 49% finished the race. I can accept anyone bowing out under the extreme conditions.

I just don’t like when it is me.

I texted Pat and tell him the bad news. He reminds me that pros DNF at times. Everyone has bad races. A good race is around the corner.

My friend Greg texted me this Sunday night:

I’m a fan of failure. Losing is learning. Experience is king.

It took me a couple of days to shake it off but I’m over it. It was bound to happen. I made a couple of rookie mistakes: my bike wasn’t in top shape (I knew the shifting was messed up I just thought I could get through it), I should have prepared for the cold better (I know I can handle almost any temp if my feet are warm), and I should have swapped out my tires when I saw the forecast.

But often you can’t learn without mistakes.

This past Saturday I had an awesome ride in a beautiful forest in Tennessee and Georgia with some great people. I didn’t get the result I wanted but I’m already scheming my personal revenge at Wildcat 100 in ten days.

Acceptance is the key. I’m not good at it but it’s good practice for me to fail. Forces me to learn to accept.

I had a tough day. More tough days will happen. And some really great days are ahead as well.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

PS Strava links:

Continue Reading

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run: “The Runners Rite of Spring”

Christy and I at the start of the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run One of my favorite parts of running is spending time with people that I care about.

Today that was my cousin, Christy. Christy is a veteran runner. She holds the family record for the most marathons. She’s run eight. I’ve run four. Her brother, John, has run three. One of her goals in 2013 is to PR in every distance that she races this year. She smoked her previous 5k PR a few weeks ago and was trying to do that again today for the ten mile distance.

Christy’s inspiring to be with. We’ve run together almost every time I have been in New York City or she has been in Baltimore the last couple of years. At the 2012 Baltimore Marathon last fall, she ran with me about 18 miles and paced me to a personal record. Today I was trying to return the favor.

The resevoir dogs at the start of the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile RunChristy’s New York City Running Club, The Resevoir Dogs,  had 15 runners come down for the Cherry Blossom festival. The club is made up of great people and I love what they are about:

The Reservoir Dogs are people who all love to run. We are a NYC running club consisting of members who are lifetime runners, and some who are just beginning. We are a midsize club whose primary goal is to encourage each member to achieve his or her own personal goals, whatever those may be.

 

Christy wirh fellow resevoir dogs

Christy has a goal of running a race in all 50 states and Washington D.C. Today she checked D.C. off the list. After the Cherry Blossom, she’s completed 16 states in her quest.

I had two goals today: (1) enjoy being with my cousin and (2) keep up with her and help her stay on pace to a PR. I’ve only run once since Rock N Roll USA Marathon and I road a challenging training ride yesterday getting ready for Cohutta, my first NUE mountain bike race which is in three weeks. I was looking forward to getting into a good groove enjoying what looked to be a beautiful morning.

After a 3:45 a.m. wake up (ouch), I did my normal race preparation routine in an hour so I could get on the road by 5 a.m. I drove to Greenbelt and then grabbed the metro to Chinatown and walked the 4 blocks to Christy’s hotel. I was about half an hour early for the meeting which is both rare and very fortunate because I confused where the hotel was and ended up meeting Christy with only 25 minutes to get to the start and check my bag instead of the 45 minutes we had planned. Fortunately, that all went smoothly and I met her and two of her teammates back at the start with 5 minutes to spare.

The weather was slightly cool at the start but perfect for the race. Shorts and a light long sleeve shirt was all I wore and I was very comfortable The only thing I wished I’d had were a pair of throwaway gloves. My hands were a little chilly at the start but by the first mile marker I was very comfortable.

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run with ChristyWe were shooting for an 8:45 minute mile pace or faster and Christy wanted to start at around 9 minute miles and then settle into a little quicker pace the second half of the race. She’s a smart runner that way.

You can see our splits on the left. We were nearly perfect in terms of increasing our pace over the 10 miles. We slowly and steadily increased our pace from 9:00 minute miles down to an 8:00 minute final mile.

Mile seven on the chart was a blip for me because I had to stop at a spot a pot and then run a quick mile to catch back up. Because I was cutting it close at the start, I missed a last minute bathroom pit stop so when I got a chance during the race I took it.

Christy ran a great race. She crossed the line at 1:26, shaving two minutes off her previous ten miler record. I crossed one second behind her.

We had a great day. The course was nice, support services were great. It was crowded but manageable and the fans were enthusiastic, especially for the last mile which is always awesome.

I bolted soon after the race to get back to the family. After the four hour ride yesterday and morning gone today, I was ready to hangout with my kiddos and Elise.

Continue Reading

Struck By The Past

Maggie Henry RittlerI don’t think about Maggie every day. When I do, I’m usually reminded by a subtle, everyday event that triggers a memory. Other days I’m struck by a flood of memories. Today was one of those days.

It’s my brother’s birthday. Yesterday was eight months since Maggie unexpectedly moved through the thinspace and into the next life. So she and Timm were both on my mind.

A new friend that I met in Texas last week posted this on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 8.55.54 PMI know exactly what Maggie’s last post was.

I know exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was where I am today, in Stone Harbor with my family. And I went to the same restaurant tonight, Fred’s Tavern. They seated us at the same corner table. I sat in the same seat at that same table as I did on August 3, 2012. The last one against the wall closest to the bar.

Serendipity is that happy, surprising, accidental thing in life that happens to you when you least expect it. What is the word for that sad, surprising, accidental, thing that strikes you when you least expect it?

Whatever that word is, that’s how my day was.

I stumbled on this Dickinson poem tonight in a book that I just happened to download for my iPad last night. I smiled as I read it thinking about the unexpected Maggie.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

Emily Dickinson, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”

Continue Reading

The Gift of Resurrection

Alain Philippe Mountain Bike Ride Loch RavenHappy Easter

I started Easter with a pre dawn sunrise ride with my friend Alain. This picture wasn’t today. It was in January when we were out in the snow riding together. Today we circled Loch Raven on our mountain bikes (we call it “the tour”). It was beautiful (we beat the rain). We were high above the water on the northwest side of the reservoir by the time the sun was coming up in the east. It was a  soft orange/pink color that just seemed to paint the sky for us as we were pedaling along.

Riding four hours with my friend. Seeing the sunrise. Enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the trails. The trails even have texture you feel with your body as your wheels roll over rocks, dirt, sand, stones, and sticks. There aren’t many things that put me in a better mood than starting a Sunday with a ride like this.

An hour later I was sitting in church and this thought struck me: this experience is still new to me. I’ve been riding a road bike just over a year and a mountain bike less than a year. I have a new friend that I enjoy chasing on the bike (Alain is a much stronger rider than I am). I have dozens of new friends because of riding.

Then another thought struck me: things had to die to make this happen.

The Resurrection

The abbreviated religious version of Easter goes something like this: Jesus came to earth, died on the cross as a punishment for our wrongdoing, was raised again on the third day (Easter), and people that believe in him will live forever in heaven. In an orthodox sense that message is the Apostles Creed dating back to the second century in written form. The origins are believed to be from the Apostles of Jesus directly and handed down from generation to generation.

I think that’s only part of the story.

Death proceeds life in many parts of our lives. When I started my journey to become more fit things had to die. Some good habits had to die: I have some longstanding friends that I hardly ever see because I’m spending my time differently. Some bad habits had to die: I stopped drinking alcohol altogether. The calories alone much less other negative impacts weren’t helping me get healthy. Eating habits died: I’ve had a burger and fries twice in the last four months instead of twice a week prior.

In order for new life (resurrection) to happen in one area of my life things died in other areas (crucifixion).

The message of Jesus is an invitation to new life here on this earth. Right here. Right now. It’s not just about eternal destiny and punishment for sin. I’m confidant God can sort those things out. It’s about the grace to let things die and trust that new things will come. It’s about living a life more consistent with the lives we want to live today. Now.

It’s about heaven on earth today. I got a little slice of that today touring Loch Raven with Alain.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Continue Reading

The Gift of Resurrection

Alain Philippe Mountain Bike Ride Loch RavenHappy Easter

I started Easter with a pre dawn sunrise ride with my friend Alain. This picture wasn’t today. It was in January when we were out in the snow riding together. Today we circled Loch Raven on our mountain bikes (we call it “the tour”). It was beautiful (we beat the rain). We were high above the water on the northwest side of the reservoir by the time the sun was coming up in the east. It was a soft orange/pink color that just seemed to paint the sky for us as we were pedaling along.

Riding four hours with my friend. Seeing the sunrise. Enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the trails. The trails even have texture you feel with your body as your wheels roll over rocks, dirt, sand, stones, and sticks. There aren’t many things that put me in a better mood than starting a Sunday with a ride like this.

An hour later I was sitting in church and this thought struck me: this experience is still new to me. I’ve been riding a road bike just over a year and a mountain bike less than a year. I have a new friend that I enjoy chasing on the bike (Alain is a much stronger rider than I am). I have dozens of new friends because of riding.

Then another thought struck me: things had to die to make this happen.

The Resurrection

The abbreviated religious version of Easter goes something like this: Jesus came to earth, died on the cross as a punishment for our wrongdoing, was raised again on the third day (Easter), and people that believe in him will live forever in heaven. In an orthodox sense that message is the Apostles Creed dating back to the second century in written form. The origins are believed to be from the Apostles of Jesus directly and handed down from generation to generation.

I think that’s only part of the story.

Death proceeds life in many parts of our lives. When I started my journey to become more fit things had to die. Some good habits had to die: I have some longstanding friends that I hardly ever see because I’m spending my time differently. Some bad habits had to die: I stopped drinking alcohol altogether. The calories alone much less other negative impacts weren’t helping me get healthy. Eating habits died: I’ve had a burger and fries twice in the last four months instead of twice a week prior.

In order for new life (resurrection) to happen in one area of my life things died in other areas (crucifixion).

The message of Jesus is an invitation to new life here on this earth. Right here. Right now. It’s not just about eternal destiny and punishment for sin. I’m confidant God can sort those things out. It’s about the grace to let things die and trust that new things will come. It’s about living a life more consistent with the lives we want to live today. Now.

It’s about heaven on earth today. I got a little slice of that today touring Loch Raven with Alain.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Continue Reading

Food: My Nemesis

Food is my nemesis. I can beat my body half to death running or riding a bike. I will put my time in (and then some) exercising. But food can defeat me without lifting a finger.

My Nemesis - Food

An opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome.

I love food. I’ve always loved food. And I have a ridiculous capacity for it. I can eat a lot. That’s how I ended up 100 pounds overweight in the first place.

I have friends that aren’t like me. My friend Andrew has always been very thin. He eats moderately and he just doesn’t care that much about food. HOW CAN YOU NOT CARE ABOUT FOOD VERY MUCH! His relationship with food is healthy. I have a lot of friends like Andrew.

I’ve always wanted to over consume all kinds of food.

The Math

When I started losing weight I weighed a hefty 260 pounds. It takes about 3500 calories a day to maintain that weight. That’s a lot of food. You aren’t feeling at all deprived at that quanity of food.

It takes 3500 calories to gain or lose a pound. So when you are taking in 3500 calories a day it is fairly easy to:

a. burn 500 extra calories

or

b. eat 500 calories less.

At that rate you lose one pound a week. If you can do both you lose two pounds a week.

That’s a lifestyle change but one you can make happen with a little work. So I did that. And it worked.

The problem is that as you lose weight you reduce the number of calories you can eat and maintain your weight. This makes sense in theory but I don’t know that we realize the true impact. I used to think “If I get down to ________ I’ll be able to eat like a ‘normal’ person.”

That’s true. But a normal person has to eat a lot less than my old “normal.”

In rough numbers for men: at 260 pounds you need 3500 calories to maintain your weight. At 240 pounds you need 3300 calories to maintain. At 220 pounds you need 3100 calories to maintain. At 200 pounds you need 2900 calories to maintain. At 180 pounds you need 2700 calories to maintain. At 160 pounds you need 2500 calories to maintain.

So the more you lose the harder it is to lose and the easier it is to gain. At least for me. I hate that. There are a couple of other factors like muscle mass and natural metabolic rate that effect these formulas but the math is pretty accurate for most people.

Why it matters

There are a couple of reasons why weight matters to me. The first and most important is health. There are all kinds of issues related to being overweight and health. It’s well documented with research that weight seems to be the important factor when it comes to being “healthy.” Yada yada yada. We all know that. I did my own research and development regarding health impact so I have first hand experience on this front. I’m a believer: weight has a huge impact on health.

Since I dipped below the 190 pound mark (roughly a year ago) I’ve been happy with the status of my health. My blood work shows all my numbers are good. I feel good. And I’m able to live the life I want to in terms of activity. The health issues that were eminent in my life are gone. I’m a satisfied person on the health front.

The second reason that weight matters so much to me is performance. Extra body weight is the enemy of speed when it comes to running and riding a bike. I’ve got plenty of muscle and endurance to ride a bike and run the distances I want. In fact I excel at doing either for a long time. But I have a long way to go to get faster.

When you are carrying extra weight you can only improve on speed so much without getting lighter. Carrying an extra 20 pounds probably won’t hurt you in a lot of sports but for running and especially riding it makes a world of difference.

Thus you have “weight weenies” who try to shave pounds off their bodies and their bikes in order to go faster. So now I’m a weight weenie. I swore a year ago I would never be a weight weenie. Here I stand: weight weenie Greg.

The Plan

So here’s my plan:

I’m going to eat a net of 1200 calories maximum a day no matter what until I reach 165 lbs (I’m hovering between 175-180 right now). Net means that I can eat more calories if I burn more but my calories after burning will be no more than 1200. So if I eat 2,000 and burn 800 then I’m fine. But I can’t eat 2,500 and only burn 800. I’d be over by 500.

When I get to 165 my goal is to maintain that weight. Period.

I will be posting my weight every morning on the sidebar of this site until I get there. Every morning. Period.

I am going to de-nemesize this nemesis.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Continue Reading

Food: My Fitness Nemesis

Food is my nemesis. I can beat my body half to death running or riding a bike. I will put my time in (and then some) exercising. But food can defeat me without lifting a finger.

My Nemesis - Food

An opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome.

I love food. I’ve always loved food. And I have a ridiculous capacity for it. I can eat a lot. That’s how I ended up 100 pounds overweight in the first place.

I have friends that aren’t like me. My friend Andrew has always been very thin. He eats moderately and he just doesn’t care that much about food. HOW CAN YOU NOT CARE ABOUT FOOD VERY MUCH! His relationship with food is healthy. I have a lot of friends like Andrew.

I’ve always wanted to over consume all kinds of food.

The Math

When I started losing weight I weighed a hefty 260 pounds. It takes about 3500 calories a day to maintain that weight. That’s a lot of food. You aren’t feeling at all deprived at that quanity of food.

It takes 3500 calories to gain or lose a pound. So when you are taking in 3500 calories a day it is fairly easy to:

a. burn 500 extra calories

or

b. eat 500 calories less.

At that rate you lose one pound a week. If you can do both you lose two pounds a week.

That’s a lifestyle change but one you can make happen with a little work. So I did that. And it worked.

The problem is that as you lose weight you reduce the number of calories you can eat and maintain your weight. This makes sense in theory but I don’t know that we realize the true impact. I used to think “If I get down to ________ I’ll be able to eat like a ‘normal’ person.”

That’s true. But a normal person has to eat a lot less than my old “normal.”

In rough numbers for men: at 260 pounds you need 3500 calories to maintain your weight. At 240 pounds you need 3300 calories to maintain. At 220 pounds you need 3100 calories to maintain. At 200 pounds you need 2900 calories to maintain. At 180 pounds you need 2700 calories to maintain. At 160 pounds you need 2500 calories to maintain.

So the more you lose the harder it is to lose and the easier it is to gain. At least for me. I hate that. There are a couple of other factors like muscle mass and natural metabolic rate that effect these formulas but the math is pretty accurate for most people.

Why it matters

There are a couple of reasons why weight matters to me. The first and most important is health. There are all kinds of issues related to being overweight and health. It’s well documented with research that weight seems to be the important factor when it comes to being “healthy.” Yada yada yada. We all know that. I did my own research and development regarding health impact so I have first hand experience on this front. I’m a believer: weight has a huge impact on health.

Since I dipped below the 190 pound mark (roughly a year ago) I’ve been happy with the status of my health. My blood work shows all my numbers are good. I feel good. And I’m able to live the life I want to in terms of activity. The health issues that were eminent in my life are gone. I’m a satisfied person on the health front.

The second reason that weight matters so much to me is performance. Extra body weight is the enemy of speed when it comes to running and riding a bike. I’ve got plenty of muscle and endurance to ride a bike and run the distances I want. In fact I excel at doing either for a long time. But I have a long way to go to get faster.

When you are carrying extra weight you can only improve on speed so much without getting lighter. Carrying an extra 20 pounds probably won’t hurt you in a lot of sports but for running and especially riding it makes a world of difference.

Thus you have “weight weenies” who try to shave pounds off their bodies and their bikes in order to go faster. So now I’m a weight weenie. I swore a year ago I would never be a weight weenie. Here I stand: weight weenie Greg.

The Plan

So here’s my plan:

I’m going to eat a net of 1200 calories maximum a day no matter what until I reach 165 lbs (I’m hovering between 175-180 right now). Net means that I can eat more calories if I burn more but my calories after burning will be no more than 1200. So if I eat 2,000 and burn 800 then I’m fine. But I can’t eat 2,500 and only burn 800. I’d be over by 500.

When I get to 165 my goal is to maintain that weight. Period.

I will be posting my weight every morning on the sidebar of this site until I get there. Every morning. Period.

I am going to de-nemesize this nemesis.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Continue Reading