Friday, December 28, 2012

Hot lap around New England

A lot has happened since my last post and as usual, I didn't manage to capture any of it here.  Anyways, life happens I guess, so I'll drive on.  Nancy and I are currently in Connecticut visiting our friends Natalie and Shaun and meeting the recent addition to their family.  From here, we're driving up to Hartford to visit my old college buddy Luke and from there, we're headed to Boston for a NYE/house warming party at my buddy Colin's new house.  So, should be an exciting end to 2012.

Here are some pictures of Natalie and Shaun's 2-week-old baby - Olivia.
 I'm still pretty nervous holding new borns.
 Nancy seems like more of a pro.
Little smile.

So, we'll finish up this lap around southern New England on Tuesday, then it's back to reality.  We do have a lot of snow in the Rochester area right now, we just got about a foot two days ago, so I've been able to ski quite a bit in the last week.  I'm definitely looking forward to some racing coming up soon.
This is my neighbor's car yesterday morning...that couldn't have been fun to dig out.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Free Fall...

It’s been six months since I updated this blog.  I started this blog to capture the craziness of what had, at the time, seemed like a unique journey of attempting to live the life an international sales guy while also trying to live the double life of a competitive endurance athlete.  I say “at the time”, because at that time, it did seem frantic and chaotic, but I have come to see over the past three years, that I hadn’t seen anything yet. 

Here’s a bullet-point list of the activities/events that that have occurred since my last blog post:

  •           Flower city duathlon – had OK race, then got a flat about ¾ of way through race, then Nancy saved the day with a spare so I was able to at least finish.
  •           Work trip to Netherlands, Belgium and Germany
  •           ½ marathon in Brooklyn – awesome race all around, ran with Jamie and Andy Schild, set PR by three minutes, then hung out with Nancy and brother-in-law Doug in Brooklyn.
  •           Memorial day trip to Ocean City, MD with Nancy’s extended family where we laid Nancy’s Grandfather to rest in the dunes near the beach house that he owned there.
  •           Corp. Challenge in Rochester – really good race for the people that ran, lack of my companies involvement was a huge letdown, team finished 2nd, missing a trip to Germany by 3 minutes
  •           3-week work trip to Netherlands, France and Georgia – Nancy met me in Paris which was awesome all around – we celebrated our 2nd anniversary there, not too bad at all!; Trip home from Georgia took a bit of a left turn as they say and ended up taking 35 hours
  •           Eight hours after getting home from that trip, drove to Buffalo for my buddy Drew’s bachelor party
  •           Went to Adirondaks the week of July 4th with Nancy’s family, rode up whiteface, ran up marcy, drank a bunch of scotch with Doug, Mitch and a few other friends
  •           Went to Colin’s bachelor party in ADK’s – went white water rafting…that was interesting…we also found an interesting way to utilize a wheelbarough…
  •           Went to Chicago with friends - went to Wrigley Field for first time, great city, great DEEP DISH pizza!!
  •           Our friend Mitch’s wedding in Canandaigua and my niece Megan’s 1st birthday.
  •           Colin’s wedding and associated events 
  •           Work trip to Netherlands, Belgium and Georgia
  •           Drew’s wedding in Buffalo, then chicken wing fest, then LL Cool J – you read that right – all in one weekend
  •           Foot injury – again, but a different area of same foot
  •           Work trip to Netherlands and France
  •           My buddy Berger’s bachelor party in Syracuse
  •           Bourbon Chase relay running race – 12 person, 200 mile running race through Kentucky-  Foot injury made for a little more stress than I would’ve hoped, but overall, it was an amazing experience.

All of these events are worthy of their own blog post, but given the quick succession of all of them, and given that throughout this entire period, there was the matter of going to work on the few normal days I had and trying to keep my head above water , there wasn’t much time to reflect.  After spending last weekend in Rochester at home, dog-sitting for a friend and spending an actual weekend afternoon doing nothing, no obligation other than watching football, I came to a realization – I can push myself beyond what I ever thought possible in terms of lack of sleep, insane work trips, ski/bike/running-type stuff, making it to important events with friends, etc - but the pace I’ve been on is unsustainable and just isn’t making me happy or healthy in the long run or really good at anything. 

I’m not sure where the next few months will lead, but I’m proactively trying for for a few less stamps in my passport and a lot more days in one timezone.  Hopefully I’ll be updating this more frequently and hopefully I can re-cap some of the events above in more detail, because a lot of that stuff (LL Cool J withstanding) was pretty awesome and extremely memorable experiences.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Training vs. working out

I haven’t updated this blog in a while and it’s been even longer since I wrote about anything sport-related, so I figured I’d break silence on that front.  The main reason, as mentioned back in February is that I have been recovering from a foot injury called Plantar Fasciitis.  I had never heard of this before I went to a foot doctor, but it turns out that it’s common among people from all walks of life.  Many of whom, incidentally, all wanted to provide guidance to me on how to get rid of it. 

Thankfully, there are a few guys I know who have had issues with this and also happen to be skier/runner/cyclist types.  In fact, three guys I know through skiing have all had this issue, are all doctors, and one of them is actually a foot doctor.  So, in that respect, I got some really sound advice right away from people who knew where I was coming from.  So, I was able to attack the issue directly.  It started with resting it - no weight bearing workouts for the month of February.  This was awful, nothing but a spin bike for an entire month in what is usually my favorite time of year (ski racing season).  Meanwhile, I took a slight leap of faith and registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May hoping this would be straightened out by then (more on that later).  In March, I started to mix some easy runs 3 times a week and gradually increased mileage and frequency over the last 6 weeks.  Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been able to do some intervals and tempo running, and last week managed to log about 55 miles for the week along with a couple easy bike rides.

It’s still not 100% from a pain standpoint and I’ve been taping my foot before every run.  However, I have been able to get back to training again and not just working out.  It may seem like a subtle difference in wording, but it’s a big difference from a mental standpoint.  When you’re just working out, you have to force yourself to workout, when you’re training for something, I find myself having to force myself to take rest days instead.  Every workout has a different purpose at this point whereas in February and early March the only purpose for working out was to burn some calories – I was just going through the motions trying to be patient.

This Saturday will be my first competitive event since Eastern Canadian Champs in early Feb and I’m beyond amp’d about it.  I’m doing the Flower City Duathlon, which I did two years ago.  I’m not really sure what to expect from a result standpoint.  I am definitely not at the fitness level that I usually have after ski season, but it will be nice to put a race number on and see what happens. 

My big goal this spring is the aforementioned half marathon in Brooklyn.  I agreed to do this race with Andy and Jamie Schild a few months ago.  Jamie just moved to NYC and the three of us decided to do a half marathon in the spring and a full marathon in the fall (the first for all of us).  Until about 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what goals/expectations to set for it since I hadn’t run more than 6-7 miles at any given time and hadn’t done any intensity at all.  However, after the last few weeks, I feel like I’m on track from a training perspective and am hoping to have a good race there.  I guess “good” is relative, but to put it in quantifiable terms, I feel like a 1:23 half marathon is within my reach at this point.  This time would also automatically get me into the 2013 NYC marathon without having to rely on a lottery entry, so I guess maybe it’s a little arbitrary, but since I’m writing it on the internet, I guess that makes it an official goal.

After the half marathon, I’m not really sure what my next goals will be, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to bike due to the travel, but I would like to get some bike racing in and definitely want to try mountain bike racing this summer, so we’ll see.  For now, I’m just happy to be training again and not just working out.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sleep comes at a premium sometimes

Last week may have been the nuttiest, 8-pounds-of-sh*t-in-a-5-pound-bag, week that I've had to date. My week went as follows:

- Sunday - woke up at 4am to go to airport. Flight cancelled, and rescheduled for red-eye to London. Went home for a few hours and was back at airport at 11am. Thanks to Nancy for shuttling me back and forth!
- Monday - Landed in London at 5am after sleeping for maybe 25 minutes while sitting upright, washed face, brushed teeth and tied tie, in airport bathroom, and went directly in to all-day meeting, went directly from meeting back to airport and flew to Dusseldorf, landing around 10pm local time. Slept in hotel room slightly bigger than a closet and it was glorious!
- Tuesday - Customer meeting on Tuesday morning, after which, I managed to pay a speeding ticket (yes, apparently it's possible to get speeding tickets in Germany and I am now a veteran of one), then was back at the Dusseldorf airport at 4pm. Flew to Munich, then Tbilisi.
- Wednesday - Landed in Tbilisi at 5am local time, slept for about 90 minutes and went back into a round of all-day meetings, workout, typical Georgian dinner. Slept a full night in hotel.
- Thursday - meetings all day. went back to hotel at 5pm, thinking I had 2 hours before dinner, went to gym, 35 minutes into workout, got phone call that a very high ranking customer wanted to meet me and to be ready in 15min, did my best superman impersonation and was back in a suit 14 minutes later ready to go. Went right from meeting to dinner. After dinner, packed and slept for 1.5 hours, left for airport at 2am local time (5pm Thursday EST).
- Friday - flew from Tbilisi - Munich - Newark - Rochester and was back in Rochester by 530pm.
- Saturday - woke up 5am, went for run, drove to Buffalo to meet some friends for a tour of the Southern Tier Brewery, which was a blast.

I think I've been recovering from all that for a full week, but am starting to feel somewhat human again. I guess the positive of the insaneness of the itinerary above is that I don't think I ever adjusted to any timezone because I basically slept every other day. Not something I'm looking to repeat, but I did re-adjust quickly.

On a different note, my foot is starting to recover and I've been able to run a little and may try riding on the road outside this weekend (since it's supposed to be 60F), so not much to complain about here.

The "dash"

First, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who sent e-mails, texts, notes, phone calls, tweets, facebook messages and any other form of communcation that we're using these days to express condolences. It really meant a lot to me to have such a great group of friends and family.

One final note - at my Grandfather's funeral the pastor mentioned something I hadn't thought of previously. When you look at a tombstone, there's a lot of information on there (name, hometown, date of birth, date of death) and he brought up an interesting point - a person doesn't get to choose his/her name, hometown, date of birth/death, there's only one piece of information that's typically printed on a tombstone that's within the control of the person it belongs to, that's the dash ("-") between the year that person is born and the year they died. In part, it makes you realize that there are a lot of aspects of life that are completely out of your control and there are aspects that are 100% within your control. Then, there's a gray area where the right decisions given the right circumstance presents an outcome that could have been vastly different otherwise. I had a baseball coach once that told me once 85% of life is just showing up on time and seeing what's going to happen (which was hugely helpful when I was going to grad school using the "just keep showing up" motto). However, that other 15% of life is a pretty crucial piece. One of the lessons I learned from my grandfather was that you don't always get to choose the challenges that you are faced with, but you always get to choose how you react to those challenges. Perhaps successful people are successful in part because they're better at compartmentalizing what's in their control and what isn't. I'm probably not making much sense with this nonsensical rambling, so I'll wrap it up...I guess the main philosophical point that I took away from the pastor's speech that day is this - don't waste time and energy on the things you can't control, but instead focus on making the most of your "dash". Easy to say I guess, but something to think about...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A life to hang your hat on

This morning around 930am my grandfather passed away. Words cannot describe what he meant to me, even some of my closest family members probably don't know how close we were, and as I type this post, there are tears running down my face, and I'm not going to try to hide it as I write this.

I had a history professor in college who made us read the NY Times obituaries everyday for a week and do a report on that. At the end of the week, he started the next lecture by reading the eulogy that he gave for his own father and it began with "my father's obituary won't be in the NY Times, but for the people that knew him and anyones life he touched, it was worthy of it, so I'm going to read to you what should have been in the NY Times this morning..." With that in mind, here we go:

My mother's father lived a tremendous life. He went to Niagara University and was a graduate of the first ROTC class from that school. He became an officer in the US Army and was a proud veteran and married my grandmother in 1951. After his ROTC commitment was up, he left the service and became a career chemist. He and his wife had two daughters, who each married and had three children, a total of four grandsons and two granddaughters.

Some variation of that will probably be in the local paper in Lewiston, NY tomorrow. What isn't captured there is the true legacy he left behind...

When I was growing up, I always looked up to Grandpa Fulson as the toughest man I knew, a "man's man", the type of guy that generated respect and deserved it. Some of my most distinct memories of him were:
- I think I was 8 or 9 and he took me out deer hunting on a really cold day. He must have fed me a candy bar every 20 minutes that day and we were making a ton of noise. In hindsight, he had a better chance of winning the lotto than he did of shooting a deer that day. He had clearly made a choice that day to be a grandpa instead of hunting. Today, I still love hunting and a lot of it is because of him.
- The first time he saw me catch in a baseball game he told me, "you catch a great game, but you'd be smarter if you stuck with being a shortstop, that gear's the tools of ignorance." I could tell by the tone in his voice though, that he was really proud that I went the "tools of ignorance" route. He made the trip to Rochester for my senior day at RIT and that meant so much to me, more than I ever told him.
- Most importantly, when he met Nancy for the first time, he pulled me aside and said -"Well, she seems really smart, so I can't figure out why she's with you, but you better not be an idiot" - again, I knew he was really proud, and when I called him to tell him we were engaged, hearing the pride in his voice was one of the greatest moments of my life.

So much of me is from him, other than my terrible sense of humor, if I can be half the man he was, I think I'll be doing great.

My view of him has never changed, but my view of what toughness was changed as I got to know more about my Grandfather.

At first, I thought he was so great and tough because he was an army veteran and loved to hunt and fish and loved the Buffalo Sabres. While he still always loved all those things, I then saw what real toughness is and what it really means to be a man. When his wife of 55 years fell ill with Alzheimer's and ultimately forgot everything, he never complained, or asked why this was happening. He just had the attitude that "this is what I signed up for". He was being a loving husband to the very last second. He was truly the most courageous and compassionate person I've known.

So, while, his obituary won't be in the NY Times tomorrow, he led a life to hang his hat on and that's enough for me and everyone who knew Frank.

I'm positive that he'd be pissed off at me for making such a big deal about him. I'm pretty sure he'd just have anyone that reads this do the following - the next time you're in a bar, order a martini with olives, the next time you watch the sabres, make sure to shout extra loud at the TV when they're not back-checking with "toughness", and the next time you think of "the greatest generation, you think of remember his friends that didn't come back from Korea".

Here's to finding peace and solace. I love you Grandpa. And the Sabres won 6-2 today.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Big league racing in Quebec

Last weekend was supposed to be my 3rd crack at the Lake Placid Loppet. Due to snow conditions, that 50km race was cancelled. Given that almost every race we were planning on has been cancelled to date, Jason, Chad and I scrambled to find somewhere within driving distance to salvage something out of what's been a brutal winter for snow. Anyways, we were delighted to find that Eastern Canadian Championships were being held last weekend in Gatineau, QC, which is about the same drive time as Lake Placid. The events would be a 15km individual start skate race Saturday and a 30km mass start on Sunday. Due to work travel and the abysmal weather, this would be my first time on snow in two weeks. Not exactly the preparation that you'd like to see going into a race with some guys that were racing on the World Cup in Europe a month ago. But, if there's one thing I learned in my years playing baseball in the Northeast (and it took me almost all of my 21 years of competitive baseball to figure this out) is that you can't control mother nature and the sooner you deal with that, the better. We were the only Americans that ventured north of the border for the races and the organizers and volunteers definitely went out of their way to make us feel welcome. When I lined up for the start in the 15km skate race, the annoucer introduced me as "Marty Maynard from Rochester Nordic Racing in the US, put your hands together for our first international competitor", then repeated the same in French. Or at least I assume he did, for all I know, he could have said "look at this idiot American, he's about to get destroyed by this course and our fast skiers!". I digress.
Chad and I after the 15km skate race.

The skate race went pretty well considering everything, I felt like I skied pretty solidly for the first two laps (we did 3 x 5km laps) and faded a little on the last lap, but overall, it was a pretty decent race on a legit certified world cup course. The course was hilly, there was one climb that was about a full km uphill followed by a terrifyingly fast downhill, other than that, the rest of the course was a lot of rolling hills, it was almost never flat, but it was a fun course to ski. On the big downhill, I hit 34 mph during the race according to my GPS. That might not seem fast compared to alpine ski racing, but when the skis on your feet are about 50% the width of your feet, not attached to your heel, and you're also trying to step around a turn, it can get a little hairy.
This is not a staged photo, this is from the aforementioned downhill. This is the sh*t that happens when you get one of those downhills wrong kids! Anyways, I managed to stay upright, on Saturday and finished ok. I also had a nice ego boost due to my starting position - because I have no ranking at all in Canada, I was seeded well before all of the fast skiers (at the back of an interval start). I think I caught and passed the entire McGill Nordic team of 8 skiers in the first 8km. I hear it's a good school, but not so sure they're really putting in the training hours based on what I saw. Of course, if I were to start at the back of the pack, the top skiers would be saying the same thing about me, so it's all relative!

Sunday was a 30km classic mass start, which is the longest race I've done this year and the longest classic race I've ever done other than the Tug Hill Tourathon several years ago, which I wasn't really racing, more trying to finish. Anyways, I have documented several times on this blog that I'm not exactly a master tactician when it comes to classic skiing. On top of that, since none of us were Cross Country Canada members, we had no points and were stuck on the very back row of at the mass start. With like 100 guys in front of us, some of which looked a little sketchy (they types of guys that if it were a bike race, you'd make sure you were never following their wheel), the focus for the first few kms was simply not to break any equipment and get some open tracks to ski in.
I'm on the left, Jason's on the right in the same RNR uniform on the back row of the mass start. Right after the gun went off a guy in front of me went down, which would be one of several pile-ups on the first lap (we used the same course as the previous day, but 6 laps this time). On top of the bad starting position and suspect classic technique, I've been having some serious issues with my foot and classic skiing seems to irritate it thoroughly, so I wasn't overly enthusiastic when people started crashing everywhere, but was able to settle in eventually.
Here's a picture of me during the classic race courtesy of There were parts of the course that I felt I skied pretty well and some other parts where I was a little "trainwreck-ish". Oddly enough, there were a lot of sections that I felt pretty strong with my classic striding and actually tried to drop the group I was skiing with about 22km into the race on one of the long gradual hills. The last two laps were really painful however and I never was able to put out maximum power with my lower body due to my foot. I managed to drag myself around the course 6 times and probably even looked like I knew what I was doing at certain times, but I know I'm capable of a lot better given the right circumstances. For example, there were guys that I beat by 2-3 minutes in the 15km skate race that were over 5 minutes ahead of me in this race, so that's ridiculously frustrating on a multitude of levels.
Left to right - Libby, Nancy and Anne. These three were out support staff in feed zones and ringing cowbells. It really helped to hear the cheers amidst all the "allet allet allet" calls from the French Canadian coaches.

Overall, the weekend was a great in a lot of ways. First, it was great to finally get a full weekend of racing in, and the atmosphere at these races was outside of anything I've experienced in ski racing except for maybe West Yellowstone. They had more volunteers dedicated to parking cars than we have for total volunteers at races in the US, even the big races in the US. Everything was very professionally run and well supported. Additionally, as I mentioned above, the courses were legit and impeccably groomed. Probably above and beyond all those reasons, it was great to race with Jason and Chad this winter in that type of setting and it was also great to have a weekend with the full crew of wives/girlfriend. We definitely lucked out to be able to do these races and I'd absolutely go back next year or to other events at this facility.

Unfortunately, the downer of the weekend was the realization that my foot isn't getting better and this isn't going away. Especially in the classic race, I was essentially racing against a big league field at 80% and that's a recipe for getting your arse handed to you in any sport, and xc skiing is an especially painful sport when you're not at your best. I'll write about my foot in a separate post because this one is getting too long.

This weekend definitely made me realize once again how much I love skiing and ski racing and appreciate the experiences I've had over the years and look forward to more experiences down the road, even if that has to wait until next winter.
This was a very positive weekend and I can't stress enough how awesome it was that Nancy decided to come up and see me race. We also batted .1000 on the feed zone hand offs!