Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Traditional Polish Marriage Blessing

As many of you may know, I am currently vacationing in Poland at my brother's wedding, also known in these parts as a 72 hour vodka fest. Lastnight, I delivered my dear brother a toast, which I shall now share with my blog readers in a diversion from my usual race report postings...

To my brother Zach:

Marriage has not always been the way that it is today, in this present day. And so today, since it is your wedding day and you probably don’t have anything better to do, and since I am something of a marriage historian, I want to give you a brief history of marriage.

Marriage first started out sometime in the 2nd century. We as historians are not sure whether this was A.D. or B.C., but traditionally, historians do not find this important. It was during this time that men realized that rather than just jumping out of a tree and tackling the woman who they wanted, or dressing as a bush and tripping her horse, or dressing as another woman and sneaking into her special women-only village parties, that it may work even better to figure out a way for her to like him.

And so most of the men in that very first 2nd century village had a special meeting. During this meeting, they passed the first law of history, if you don’t count the law about running people over in your chariot. And what this law said was that if you liked a woman, and you wanted lay with her, in a biblical sense, then you need to avoid resorting to violent or deceptive tactics like tree-jumping, dressing up as a bush, or dressing up as a woman, and instead you would need to have a more diplomatic approach.

Because these early men were so wise and had many more brain cells that our current society men, who have smaller heads and walk upon two legs, they designed three different diplomatic approaches that were much less violent and deceptive:

The first approach would involve lighting a large fire in the front yard of the woman’s house who you wanted to marry. Dousing yourself with a bucket of water, you would then run through this fire and barge through her door. Wait, go back. What I forgot was that you also had to hold flowers in your teeth. So you come through her door screaming with these flowers in your teeth, and she right away knows that she wants to be with you for the rest of your lives together, because what she doesn’t know is that you doused yourself with water before you ran through that fire.

The second approach would involve catching three wild baby coyotes and raising them in your house. Each day, you would feed them with a bottle of milk and brush their fur. You would do this every day, for two, and sometimes up to seven years, depending on the breed of the coyote. Then, when all was ready and those coyotes were just as tame and lovable as could be, you would take them over to the house of the woman who you wanted to marry, and you would throw them into her window. Then you would run around and burst in through her front door and you tackle the coyotes and strangle them one by one. Right away, she would want to be with you, because you saved her from the wild coyotes. Make sure she is home first on this one, or you’ll just have a bunch of coyote poop to clean up before she comes home.

The final approach would be the very approach that has stuck to this day. In this approach, you would not even worry about the woman, but you would instead target her parents. One day, when her parents are having a picnic out in the countryside or when they are perhaps making love out in a little meadow, you would quickly get your shovel and dig a giant tunnel all the way out to underneath them, then you would pop up out of this tunnel and surprise them. For greater emphasis, when you pop out of the tunnel, you can throw some gold coins up into the air. Then you tell them that you have just come from the other side of the world, and you came all that way just to be with their daughter. Typically, this is enough to make them go get their daughter to give to you, but if for some reason they hesitate, then follow up by saying, “You can have those gold coins too.” A good strategy as they scrounge around on the dirt picking up the coins is to quickly run and fill in the other side of the tunnel, so they don’t see it when they go to get their daughter for you.

Well, that’s about it for the history of marriage. I performed most of this research while I was on the airplane on the way over. It was an official government airplane, so this is trustworthy information. Most of the people on the airplane were actually certified marriage historians, which I am not, and so I learned one final traditional wedding blessing that I would like to end with:

“May your marriage be like that of the great kings of old, so that all of your wives love the other wives that you have, your strongest children survive and the weaker ones die off, and on your gravestone it is written, ‘He loved naturally, he lived naturally, and we’re pretty sure he died naturally, but please don’t open the coffin’.”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ironman Canada

The gorgeous city of Penticton plays host to one of the best Ironman events in the world, and I was excited to not only compete in a race I've always wanted to be part of, but also to see my new acquaintance Bryan Rhodes try for some redemption after pulling out of Coeur D' Alene with a calf injury.

While we're talking about things we find exciting, I was also excited to drive a 34 foot RV (courtesy sponsor Markham Homes) to Penticton from Spokane.

Excited! Excited! Excited!

Filling aforementioned RV with gasoline. Not excited!

Getting to poop while the transport vehicle is still moving. Excited!

Wife trying to breastfeed while vehicle is still moving. Still trying to interpret!

I approached Canada with an entirely different philosophy that previous Ironmen. I just wanted to have fun. Since I've already qualified for the Big Momma down in Hawaii, I wasn't too concerned about staring at people's calves for their age. Mostly, I just wanted to enjoy the day.

And I say "Mostly" because...DUDE! IT'S AN FREAKING IRONMAN. You can't just clip your heels together, give a little whistle, and skip merrily along. You have to take these races pretty seriously.

The race started at 7am, and I woke a bit late (5am) and didn't eat my sweet potatoes until almost quarter to 6. Typically, I eat two hours prior, but was just lollygagging. As it was, I also came out onto the beach very late, and didn't warm-up at all. But I was very calm and relaxed as I waded to the front of the pack prior to the start. Even after the cannon, I didn't experience the usual racing heartbeat and fleeting breath. Aside from an couple elbows to the face, I found my rhythm early, and just sat on the feet of a pack of 4 swimmers until buoy 12, which I think is about 70% in.

At that point, I felt some extra steam and pulled away from this group, swimming solo for the remainder of the swim, which turned out to be 56 minutes and change.

Despite only a one and a half week taper (another way to make sure I didn't lose fitness for Hawaii), I felt very strong, stronger than usual. My dinner the night before was a glass of merlot, lettuce/yogurt wraps, and Souvlakia, a traditional Greek meal of lamb, rice, and potato. Perhaps that did the trick.

Or perhaps it was just the fact that I was relaxed...

Or was those fins I was wearing...or the snorkel...or the giant submarine attached to me with a rope that quietly and effectively pulled me along. Gotta love those submarines.

Transition was smooth, and I mounted my trusty steed and headed down main street in Penticton. About two blocks down, I freaked out and realized I was riding a horse and galloped back to transition to get my Specialized Transition Pro. Trusty steeds can't get carrots at the aid station, so they're useless after a couple hours.

The bike felt very nice, until about mile 75, when my hamstring started to feel slightly achy, especially around the knee and IT band. I didn't think much of it. Prior to this point, I was amazed at how good I felt. Richter Pass, a difficult climb, simply flew by, and I kept wanting more gears on my bike! At this point, I had ridden up to 4th place (age grouper). I had *absolutely* no plan for this race, so I was just riding hard and loving life.

My fuel was a bit different than usual. Although I *love* my new Avia race kit, I realized the day prior to the race that is has no pockets. So my fueling plan, which worked very well, went as follows:

-One Powerbar taped to the side of my bike frame. Not a huge fan of Powerbars, but I followed a Peter Reid trick and ate it as I ride out of transition. This keeps me from going too fast or getting my heart rate too high. You ever try to exercise hard and simultaneously eat a Powerbar?

-One GU every 20 minutes. These are alternated between GU Plain and GU Roctane (branched chain amino acids and caffeine). The GU is kept in a sawed-off water bottle on my downtube, and in a ziplock bag in special needs.

-One half bottle of water at each 10 mile spaced aid station (for the equivalent of just over 24oz/hr if traveling over 20mph)

-2 Hammer Gel E-caps every 30 minutes

-One handful (approximately 75 calories) of Sharkees (kinda like Clif Bloks) whenever I reach a special mark, like top of Richter Pass, turnaround at Keremoes, top of Twin Lakes. These were literally stuffed up my shorts!

And that was it. I sailed up Twin Lakes, again barely feeling any burn, and cruised at a breakneck speed back into town, pulling into Penticton and dismounting with a bike split of 4:55 and feeling fantastic.

However, my hamstring still felt funny. Really funny, and not ha-ha funny. As soon as my feet hit solid ground, the pain radiated down into my lateral knee, and I couldn't run, much less hobble to my special needs bag. Hell, I couldn't freaking *breathe* without it hurting a little bit. Cleats and pedals are vastly different than running shoes and ground, apparently.

After stretching for 5 minutes, I tried to run. No dice.

Hit the massage tent for another 10 minutes. Tried to run. Not happening.

Iced, saw the doc, and wrapped it. Tried to run again. Nope.

So an hour later, after 3 attempts, I decided it wasn't worth it, and enjoyed the rest of Ironman Canada with wine, pizza, and tasty banana frozen yogurt from the Beach Store!

Final thoughts:

-Great swim/bike confidence booster for Hawaii, and ultimately DNF'ing was probably good for my body, my life, and the rest of my season, which still includes US National Olympic Distance Age Group Championships on September 20th.

-Realized I could take in close to 375 calories on the bike and still feel great. Better than usual, actually. My body must be getting better at absorbing calories during exercise as the season progresses.

-48 hours out, my knee is nearly pain-free. Dr. PZ Pearce suggest possible cortisone injection when I return from Poland (where I'm currently headed), but we'll see. The injury was probably just too much time on the bike, too soon after my races. In other words, I need to stay off my feet a bit more after these shorter races I've been throwing down. It appears to be inflammation of the lateral hamstring.

-On that same note, I swam 3000m yesterday and felt faster than ever (hey, I said stay off your feet, not your shoulders!).

-I'll be giving updates from Poland via my twitter page at Twitter is not porn, you pervert. But it does sound a little dirty.

Cheers, or as they say in Poland, Qzwxdyjnvcfxkllh!

Ben Greenfield

P.S. Vowels are a rare commodity in old Poland, or as they call it here, Plnd.

P.P.S. Bryan won the race! Nice work, Rhodesy! Check out my interview with him in the podcast section of

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Couer D' Alene Triathlon

With a super-stacked field of pros and top age-groupers, I knew this year's highly popular Coeur D' Alene Olympic distance triathlon would be tough. It has turned into a bit of a Who's Who event for Inland Northwest triathlons, and guarantees a tough day for any type of podium finish. So I grabbed my Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit and a slick set of Element goggles (thanks for the new specs, John!), my Specialized Transition Pro, my Avia race kit, and even threw in my wax ear-plugs to keep the lactic acid from blowing out my orifices.

By the way, the new Avia race kit is going to be pretty sweet. Check it out.

I had my usual sweet potatoes for breakfast while driving to Coeur D' Alene. Popped two Impax Delta-E mega doses of vitamin B and caffeine 30 minutes prior, took 3 Cordygen VO2 Max capsules, zipped up the wetsuit and headed down to the water. Because of the large crowd, it took awhile to find "the fast guys", meaning the dudes whose feet I wanted to be on. One ITU Pro, Kalen Darling, was rumored to have a 17 minute swim, and I knew I couldn't hang with him, but wanted to be on the feet of the likes of Matt Seeley, Roger Thompson, and Jeff Smith.

And I was, for about 300 yards. But I strayed just a bit to the left and THUMP. Ran right into a surfer/lifeguard (you'd think they'd try to stay out of our way!) and had to literally body crawl over his surfboard.

The rest of the swim, I was alone. It felt halfway decent, but it turns out I was more than a minute off the lead pack, and nearly 5 minutes back from Darling coming out of the water. That's a big deficit for a short distance race! My 100m pace was about a 1:14. I don't even want to know what his was.

My T1 was smooth, but I dropped my TN sunglasses while heading out. Funny how you feel naked when missing something as simple as optics. By the way, if anybody found these out at the race, holler at me. I miss them! You're probably off trying to find out if you can really tie them in a knot without breaking them. You can, but please first remove the lenses.

The bike split was solid, and I posted a 1:01:50, which I was happy with on a technical, hilly course. The first bit of the bike I really had to push myself mentally, knowing I had that large of a deficit. I fueled with 350 calories of GU20 Sport Drink mixed in 20oz of water in my aero tube bottle. That's all I took in for the whole race, because I was too focused on the run to eat or drink.

Knowing that I had a 4 minute deficit on the leader (Kalin Darling) at the top of the bike course, prior to the descent into Couer D' Alene, I knew he'd have to have bricks strapped to his feet for me to take the win. Seeley had flatted, but I knew he could run fast and was still a good 45 seconds up on me. I wasn't really sure about Roger and Jeff, but estimated them at 3 minutes up. Joe Byers and Bryan Hadley were pretty close behind, as well as a guy named Michael who can run a 33 minute 10K. Yipes!

To my surprise, I passed Jeff Smith just before T2, but found out later that he crashed. And here I thought I was just that fast. The roads were slick from a light rain early in the race.

Thanks to the sunscreen lotion I squirted into the bottom of my run shoes, my T2 was fairly quick at 48 seconds, and although I felt like my 10K was at a good pace, I was only able to reel in Roger Thompson, and just barely, with about 1/2 mile left. I was, however, passed once by the hella fast fella Michael (Messina?). You can check out all the results at, but here are mine:

Total: 2:03:55 S: 21:32 B: 1:01:50 R: 38:30

So I ended up 2nd division, and 5th overall. Going in, I knew I'd need a perfect race for top 3, and a really good race for top 5, so I was happy with this showing, especially with Ironman Canada just around the corner. The post-race watermelon was ripe and I even invented a new post-race fueling tactic - a banana sandwiched between two peanut butter granola bars.

Eat up. Thanks to my sponsors.