Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What The Heck Is Going On Outside!

This morning brought some of the most bizarre weather I have ever seen.  The DC metro area is under a wind advisory, which usually just means that it will be a bit windy for a little while.  Ok, I can deal with that.  Rebecca and I decided to go to CVS this morning to pick up some minor things.  Between our trip to CVS and home, we witnessed the following:
  • While getting in the car we saw all the trash cans on the street knocked over, with trash flying around the whole street
  • Thousands of copies of the Express swirling around the Clarendon Metro Station, with about 6 people and a trash bag trying to pick up all the paper covering the street and sidewalk
  • A giant trash dumpster that had been blown across the street and into a metered parking space (lucky no car was parked at the time)
  • A heavy metal chair from a local restaurant that had been blown about 20 ft from the outside patio into the middle of the street
  • A large 4' x 4' sign blowing down the street
  • More garbage cans knocked over
When I finally got home, I observed even more weird behavior:
  • Rebecca calling me on her way to work to tell me that a giant stick came out of nowhere to smack the windshield of her car
  • A giant gust of wind followed by intense snow flurries for about 10 minutes
And now it's sunny.  But still windy.  What a way for Mother Nature to end the year!

Figuring Out The 2009 Race Schedule

I've gone back and forth a million times over my goals for this year.  I'd love to have some time to focus on running, but I also miss the variation of training for triathlons.  However, the triathlon training does take a significant amount of more time and my New Years Resolution/Personal Goal is to have more time to spend with friends.  Because the Patriots Half was canceled due to Hurricane Hanna, I have a credit for either 50% off this year's race or full entry to a shorter event.  So this has me thinking that I should just do a shorter race, so I can 1) Focus on my running and 2) Have more time to spend with friends.  So, without further ado - I give you an early preview of my race schedule for 2009:

October 4 - Army 10 Miler

First, a couple of notes about this schedule:
- I've only signed up for the first 2 events in this calendar
- There may be a few other races thrown in as I see fit
- The Ukrop Monument 10k will likely be run/walked, depending on how I am feeling after the National Marathon.  Rebecca and I are going down to visit with some friends who are also running this race, so there is no personal goal for this race
- Battle of the Boulevard is literally 2 blocks away from me.  Rebecca has run in it 2 years in a row, but I have never been able to run in it.  I'd like to do that this year.
- For the past few years, I have either raced or spectated at the Luray Triathlons.  This is a great local race.  To up the ante a little bit, I will be doing the Luray Double and competing in both races back to back.  I'd urge anyone local to do this race.
- I'd like to do a fall marathon this year and have my eyes on the Marine Corps Marathon, since it is another local race that I have trained with people for and spectated at.  We'll see, but its on the schedule for now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekly Roundup

Another week, back at it with full on marathon training.  This week was finally a step forward, with my body fully rested from the down week last week.  Most of my runs felt sluggish till I did speed work on Thursday, which re-energized my body, just in time for my long run on Saturday.  The time leading up to Saturday was the toughest part of the week for me.  With holidays, parties, and family dinners going on, it was a challenge to stick to the plan.  But I did!  Friday night, some of Rebecca's friends were in town and going out in our neighborhood.  Naturally, we agreed to meet them out.  Rebecca had no reason not to, its just me any my training plan that is always in the back of head, reminding me that I can't go out too late, because I have a 14 mile run the next day.  And usually, 14 mile runs are not very fun hung over.  So, I had 1 beer and as 11 pm or so rolled around, I casually announced that I needed to leave.  Of course, this was after I had already pushed away a shot of Jager, so I already felt like a wuss.  I walked out of the bar and went home and was in bed by 11:30, so I more or less would get a decent nights sleep.  Its just always a constant battle between managing fun outside of endurance sports and the fun of endurance sports.  The battle will continue as it always does.

I made it to my running group on time and ready to go 14 the next morning.  The run this week was along the canal towpath and then up the Capital Crescent Trail toward Bethesda.  The problem with this run is that the first half is always uphill, so it is difficult to gauge my level of effort, since my heart rate is higher when climbing a hill.  In this case, more or less the first 7 miles were up hill and the last 7 miles were downhill.  In the end it all worked out, since my heart rate was right on target.  Overall, the run felt great and I managed to average 8:30/mile.

On tap for this week, my long run distance is still up in the air.  The plan called for 15, but the group I run with, which is also on a training schedule for the National Marathon, has a step back week of 12 miles.  Because I had to compress my schedule a bit, I am off a little, but will catch up in a week or so with theirs.  I guess I will play it by ear based on how my body responds from this past week's increase in volume.  15 or 12....we shall see.

Have a great week and Happy New Years!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Speedwork Begins

Now that I have laid a solid base of running in this first almost month of marathon training, it was time to begin incorporating some speedwork into my routines.  I have been feeling kind of sluggish lately, though I've still been hitting my paces.  I was hoping this workout would shake things up and remind me that I can still run fast.  On the plan was a short but sweet 4 x 800 set.  There is a general rule of running each 800 in a time that is the equivilent to the goal time of your marathon.  I took off on the first one at a comfortable fast pace that I felt I could do for all 4.  After I ran the first 800 in 2:59, I realized that I was probably going to run these 800s in a faster pace than my goal time in the marathon.  I am definately NOT going to run 2:59 in the marathon, though I wouldn't be sad if I did ;)  Thoughts of the workout took me back to the days of high school.  Only, in high school I ran these much faster.  My splits were:

1) 2:59
2) 3:08
3) 3:02
4)2:59

I tried to keep them somewhat consistent, but took the middle two a little easier because my gut said to hold back a little to see how my body felt at the half way point.  Turns out, I felt fine and ran the last one as hard as the first.  I still could have pushed much harder, but didn't want to blow my legs out too much, since I have my 14 miler coming up on Saturday.  I'm sure I'll be plenty sore from this workout, since I haven't run this fast in a while.  In all, I think the workout was a nice way of waking my system up.  I'll be rotating between these and increasing number of 800 and hill repeats every other week to build some extra speed and power.  I hope it translates into feeling much better on my future runs.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekly Roundup

This week ended Week 3 of marathon training, my first recovery week.  These are the highlights of how my week went:

- My normal easy Monday/Wednesday runs were just fine.  
- Tuesday was a tempo day, where I pushed a little for 5.5 miles, ending up with an average pace right around 7:45/mile.  The most notable thing of this run was my lower than normal HR.  Two weeks ago I did the same run, with only 1 beat per minute harder this time, but the pace difference resulted in 14 seconds per mile faster.  This tells me 2 things.  1) My body is becoming more efficient now that I am consistently training.  2) The effects of some slight weight loss are also adding some benefit.  You see, the honeymoon from a month ago added a good chunk of weight (not that I am complaining about eating too much of the amazing food in Mexico!) onto my body.  Since I've come back, I've noticed that running the pace I wanted too was a little harder than I rememebered.  So this week, I finally started turning the corner in the quest to get back to the weight I'd like to be at for the marathon.  I've now dropped about 2 lbs in these first 3 weeks, most of it dropping off this week now that my body recognized all this extra work.  And if I remember correctly, there is a correlation to the reduction of a couple seconds per mile for every pound lost.  Free speed!
- I used the Christmas Lights Run as my easy run on Wednesday, which forced me to keep the effort slow with constant breaks to sing songs.   
- The usual recovery week feelings of "I should be working harder" entered my head by the time I got to my long run on Saturday.  It was only 8 miles, which was barely enough time for my body to warm up and get into my running groove.  I started the run with Rebecca for the first 1.5 miles and then began picking up the pace, till I was near marathon pace for the last mile or so.  The rest of my run felt great.  Unfortunately though for Rebecca, things went down hill after we split up; I think she missed me too much ;)  Final numbers for the run were an 8:46/mile pace, which was good for a recovery week.  I did what the plan asked: took it slow, keeping in my mind that next week jumps to 14 miles and back to harder workouts.  So with that, the recovery week is in the books, and my body is ready to get back to building.

Hope everyone has a Happy Holiday this week!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Lights Run DC

Wednesday night was the Christmas Lights Run in DC.  Rebecca and I signed up a week or two ago, after finding out about this run.  Sounded like a blast, so we figured why not.  The run is definitely NOT considered a race.  There are no timing chips, no closed off streets, and no watch using of any kind.  Although I had my watch on, I resisted temptation to use it.  The course was a nice scenic (especially at night) run around downtown DC, starting at Union Station, down past the Capitol and through the National Mall to the Washington Monument and up toward the White House, where we stopped to sing a few songs.  After that, it was down Pennsylvania Ave and eventually over through Penn Quarter to finally end up at our destination: Union Pub bar.  Below are some pictures I took along the way.  Unfortunately, my battery died a few miles into the run, so I didn't get to capture all the fun moments along the way, like freaking random people out along the streets of DC, when a hoard of 500+ people dressed in red and singing Christmas carols comes streaking down the streets.  For the most people, bystanders loved it.  We stopped at the DC Courthouse for another round of singing and a few workers who were still in the building huddled around the window while we serenaded them.  We also ran by a homeless shelter, where everyone passing through was wishing each other Merry Christmas.  That was one of my favorite moments, because you could see the joy in their faces as we ran by.  Anywho, below are some pictures.

Rebecca and I with our song lists ready to sing

Rebecca tying on her bells

Singing before starting the run


Running by the Capitol

Horse and buggy

Can't wait to do it again next year!


Important Update:  As pointed out by Rebecca, I forgot to mention the REAL highlight of the run.  While we were running in downtown DC on the sidewalks, there were quite a few obstacles along the way.  Trees, cement blockades, bicycles, people...and feared most of all: PARKING METERS.  You see, while we were running, Rebecca glanced back for a second and ran smack into a parking meter, chest first!  It was a classic move that I'm sure a lot of other people did last night.  Look for a future post from Rebecca with pictures on the bruising of her...ummm...chest (just kidding).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Well not exactly.  I don't have a fireplace to roast them, so we baked them.  But let me back up a bit for a second.  Every year around this time, Rebecca and I get the urge for some roasted chestnuts.  Something about the cold air and the hot shell that makes it all that much more appetizing.  Plus, you get a nice reward for peeling back chestnuts with a large amount of nut meat (saying the word "nut meat" is funny), whereas you don't get much reward with other
 nuts like peanuts or pistachios.  Chestnuts are worth the effort.

So on an unseasonably hot day (60 degrees), Rebecca placed a whole bag of chestnuts in the ove
n to bake.  Some minutes go by and we heard a popping sound to go check it out.  Everything looked fine, so we went back to watching tv.  Then a few minutes later, we heard it again.  Rebecca took the chestnuts out of the oven.  Within seconds, 3 chestnuts exploded all over the kitchen.  Rebecca ran and ducked for cover, while I watched in amazement of the fireworks going on in the kitchen.  Then another one blew up and nearly hit me, and I was standing a solid 8 feet away!  We both stood in defense for the next minute or so until we could be assured that the fireworks show was over.  Finally, we surveyed the damage: A whole lot of nut meat (there 
I used it again) was splattered all over the kitchen and a few chestnuts were lost in the
 explosions.  


In all, the loss of a few was worth the excitement of the whole ordeal.  
Once they cooled, we finally enjoyed cracking them open.  Can't wait to cook the next batch!  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend Wrapup and Kona Viewing

This past week was the continuation of marathon training: Week 2.  I was a bit worried earlier last week as to how my long run was going to go.  I was sore from long run #1 and my legs just felt heavy all week.  I kept my effort steady to the plan, but I just felt tight.  Then, I finally had my rest day, which also happen to co-inside with my company's holiday party at the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum.  Per previous year's expectations, it did not disappoint.  Always good food, and tons of it.  My favorite food station of the night was the sushi bar, where they have 4 sushi chefs within a rectangular area constantly rolling sushi all night long.  They always have it and it is always the most popular area for guests.  So rather than one single sushi bar, this year they had 2, so the lines were not that bad.  
It was the first place we hit once they opened the doors and I stuffed my face with california, tuna, salmon, yellowfin, and eel rolls.  Mmmm.  The rest of the night was a battle between my stomach vs the bar.  To drink or to eat.  I think in the end, both won out and were satisfied.  Needless to say, I enjoyed my day off of training.

That brought me to my long run Saturday morning.  One more mile than last week - 13 miles.  It was cold, brisk (mid 20s), and a bit windy, since our run was mostly along the tidal basin and Potomac.  I knew I'd have to start this run off at a much slower pace than last week, because 1) It was pretty flipping cold, and 2) To shake the rust out of my legs from the soreness from the other previous runs.  The plan was to cut about 15s/mile off the pace every 3 miles.  In other words, I split the run into 4 quarters, each progressively faster, finishing at near marathon pace.  The plan sort of worked.  Except the last 4 or so miles of the run were on lonely Haines Point.  The group I was running with broke off to finish their 10 miles, when we split at the 8.5 mile mark, as I turned onto Haines Point.  It was colder, lonelier, and windier than any other part of the course.  I'd pass by a few people here and there, but not many.  Apparently at some point during the run, I passed Sarah, but we were both busy trying to stay warm and survive our runs to acknowledge each other.  I made it back to the Tidal Basin and cruised the last 3 miles at near marathon pace to finish my run averaging around 8:30 pace.  The best part was that I felt great.  I didn't push the pace much, and  I wore these for the first time on a long run.  My lower legs seriously felt like they hadn't even run.  Me thinks I need to get something for my upper legs if they are anywhere as effective.

After the run I washed up, and Rebecca and I headed to the DC Tri annual Kona Viewing Party at McFaddens bar.  We were a bit late, but were there in time to see blogger Jeanne win some sweet free training of something (not even she knew what she won).  Unfortunately, the tvs in the bar were not set on the HD channel and many of the people watching were talking so loud it was hard to hear.  But, being the smart person that I am, I DVR'd it in HD at home.  I just happened to watch it tonight in all its glorious visual magic.

So that was the weekend.  This week's training is a step back recovery week with a short 8 mile long run. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Structured Training

So I did some math while looking at potential spring marathons and realized something - Many of them are in March.  March is not that far away from a training plan perspective - only 14-16 weeks of training.  Depending on which marathon plan, that means that training needs to start ASAP.  So, in order to save money, Rebecca and I discussed keeping the chosen race local (within driveable distance).  Now that things are mostly settled at home, we have finally discussed our options.  There are basically 2 options that fit our requirements:

1) National Marathon - Washington, DC March 21
2) Shamrock Marathon - VA Beach, March 22

We haven't registered for either race yet (fees don't go up till the end of the month), but needless to say, I best be training now.  So that is what I started last week.  My first week of marathon training for the spring.  Because either race was only 15 weeks away, I had to do some schedule condensing.  The good news is that up until the honeymoon, I was consistently running, so I already have a good base.  Its just time to kick that up a notch and get into the formalized schedule.  Last year, I used Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide as my baseline and it seemed to give me the structure I needed.  I am planning on using that again.

Last week's long run went well.  I started off a little faster than planned, but settled into my goal long run pace and with about 3 miles to go, picked up my pace to marathon pace.  Surprisingly, I felt great.  I ended up doing 12 miles at an average of 8:20/pace.  I felt a bit of soreness in my upper and lower legs, but since Rebecca was nice enough to buy me this for my Hannukah present, my lower legs feel great!  And for the upper legs, I'm going the foam roller route to make them feel better.  So far so good.

This week's long run goes up to 13...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back to Reality

After nearly a month off for the wedding and honeymoon, I am back.  Oh life is tough.  It was so hard to go back into work on Monday.  Worse than that, was actually getting dressed for work.  So many days in a row, not having to dress up in a suit.  I was getting used to it.  Nearly a month of not shaving.  A MONTH!  I was getting used to it (and so was Rebecca of my mountain man style).  But all that is gone (including the scruffy facial hair).  It is back to the reality of life and work.

But don't worry, there is still time to have fun.  Rebecca and I are trying to figure out race schedules for next year.  I am planning on taking a less schedule filled season next year, to both save some money and give myself a slight break from the full season long training for triathlons. This will allow me to focus more on running, since it has always been my true passion of the three sports.  The plan so far is for a spring marathon, a 1/2 IM, and possibly another fall marathon.  Stay tuned...

Since all is back to reality, I leave you with some of the many lasting images from our honeymoon.  There are way too many good pictures to choose from, so here are a few.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Wedding Report: 11/9/2008

Well...its official:  Rebecca and I are MARRIED!!!!!  I'd give a full report, but the two of us are still giddy and I can't sit down and compose my thoughts for more than 30 seconds.  However, I'll let the pictures do the talking.  Don't forget to view the slideshow at the bottom of the page for even more great pics.  To sum it up - Beautiful day, beautiful bride, beautiful wedding.  Enjoy!




Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Things That Annoyed Me Today

It's only 9 am, but I've already been annoyed many, many times.  However,  I woke up at 5:30 to stand in line to go vote (polls opened at 6 am in VA), so I've had plenty of time to have things annoy me.  And surpisingly, I was not annoyed by the lines.  But let me go back to the start.

I actually jumped out of bed easily, so the alarm was not annoying.  Nor was the weather, since it was a good 10 degrees warmer this morning than it has been at the same time over the past week.  What DID annoy me was the following:
  • The people outside of the polls (supposedly 40 ft from the polling center).  They were no 40 ft away.  They were maybe 10 ft away from the doors and you couldn't get to the doors, without having someone yell at you to vote for "X" candidate.  And no, I don't need a sample ballot of one side's candidates.  Hopefully for anyone voting today, you already have done your research and don't need propoganda.
  • Loud talkers.  It is still early in the morning at 5:30 am.  No need to be yelling in my ear about who you are voting for or even about the sad Redskins game last night.  It is too early for that and I don't want to hear it.
  • Disrespect for the paper ballots.  I am guilty of this as well, so I'm annoyed at myself too.  Once you checked in with your voter registration, you had the option of voting by the computer on the touch screen or by paper ballot.  There was no line to vote by paper, but about 25 people were in line to vote by touch screen.  Why didn't anyone want to vote by paper, when they both will be counted the same way?  I don't know, but I chose to wait as well.  Lines probably would have moved a bit faster if people split the lines between voting by paper and by computer.
  • Door knob hangy things with political propoganda on it.  I don't care what political side it represents, but I have had 4 door knob hangy things (all from the same side) on my door knob within the past 2 days.  On Saturday, in a matter of 1 hour, I had 2 put on.  Not only is it annoying to keep having to take them off, but what a waste of paper!  It has little to no information on it, other than the candidate's name, so I'm not really sure what its purpose is, other than infuriate people who have to constantly check their door knobs to see if a new one has made an appearance.  I checked to see if it was from recycled paper, but alas, it was not.  So a big thumbs down on their part.
(Update:  It is less than an hour since my post and the total is now 5 door knob hangy things.  Ugh.  Not to mention, each time I have been here when they show up, they ask if "so and so" lives here.  "So and so" is a name I've never heard before.  I have lived in my condo for 3 years.  The person before me, not named "So and so", lived here for about 5 years before me.  not sure where this campaign is getting their info, but it is flat out wrong and is really annoying.  What are the odds that when I come home from work, I'll have another door hangy thing.)

I think that is about it.  It only took me about an hour of waiting.  I brought a magazine and by the time I got to the last page, I was next in line to vote.  By the time I left the polling station, there was a 3+ hour wait.  Glad I went when I did.  

Oh, and I stopped by Starbucks on the way back, because you get a free tall coffee if you show them your "I voted" sticker.  I've also heard you can get a free taco at California Tortilla, ice cream at Ben and Jerrys, and donuts at Krispy Kreme with that sticker (at least in the DC area).

Maybe this voting thing isn't so bad afterall?  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Loot!

As mentioned in the last post, I worked the Clif table this past weekend at the Marine Corps Marathon Health and Fitness Expo.  As always, I had a blast giving out products and wishing people well in their race.  I worked a full 12 hour shift and the time just flew by.  Part of that was due to the fact that it was so crowded, it was just a constant rush of people.  There was rarely ever a chance to think about time, let alone keep up with the pace of people in order to restock the various sample products we had.

The best part was at the end, when we realized that we had way more pro
duct than we could give out.  Not only did we get to take home tons of loot (see picture below), but we basically had a fire sale for the last hour of the expo, constantly handing out products to anyone who stopped by.  So many people were happy to get the products to use in the race, because it appeared that the stores that were selling them might have already run out. 
Sunday, Rebecca and I ran all over town watching the marathon.  We saw runners at mile 2 in Arlington, mile 10 by the Kennedy Center, Mile 12 entering Haines Point, Mile 16 by the Lincoln Memorial, Mile 20 on the 14th St Bridge, and Mile 23 in Crystal City.  It was like we were running the in the actual race, only we took shortcuts to get everywhere, so we cheated.  It was great though to follow the leaders the whole way, plus I got to see a bunch of people I knew who were running.  We took some pictures, but they are on Rebecca's phone, so I got no race shots for ya. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Be On The Lookout

For anyone going to the Marine Corps Marathon Health and Fitness Expo, I'll be working at the Clif table all day today.  Feel free to come by, sample some products, and say hi!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've Been Rescued!

If you remember from my last post, my Yankz laces managed to bust after many, many hard run miles and races.  They lasted more than 2 years through snow, sleet, and extreme heat. But alas, they ran out of oomph.  That is, until I was contacted my Yankz in response to my post.  The wonderful people at Yankz were nice enough to send me a replacement pair.  


And thankfully, they arrived just in time so I can go for my long run tomorrow morning.

See how happy my shoe looks now?


Thanks Yankz!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Day I Busted My Yankz

For several years now, I have been running with Yankz laces.  Love em.  They have served me well through training for many races and multiple pairs of shoes.  Never have I had to worry about a loose lace to tie, because they were always the perfect tighteness.  Until today.

While on my run, with about 1 mile up hill to go, I started feeling my right shoe loosening.  I just figured, eh, that's strange, I'll check it out when I'm done.  And then it happened.  My Yankz lace just blew up and out came my foot!  That last mile sucked.  I still managed to jog back, but it was difficult.  You know that feeling in your legs after you have run a little with flip flops on?  The tight calves and shin muscles from gripping your toes to the bottom sole so your foot doesn't slip out?  That was me and my right foot.  

See examples of what my shoe looks like below if you can make out any details from the grainy picture from my cell phone:











Needless to say, I need to get me a new pair of laces!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Race Report: Army 10 Miler

Sadly, its time for my last race report of the season.  I'll recap the season in another post, but I have really been looking forward to this race.  Due to my IT band injury following the marathon, I was unable to run in the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler, so this was my one and only chance to take a crack at my 10 mile PR.  However, I am well aware that the Army 10 Miler course is a more challenging course.  Neither could be classified as hilly, but the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler is a net downhill, while the Army 10 Miler has some gradual ascents and several bridge crossings, which could classify as hills.

Pre-race
Rebecca and I got to the race site right around 7 am, just in time to see the Canadian and US paratroopers jumping out of the planes and making their way toward the race site.  No matter how many times I've seen this from doing this race before, there is nthing quite like seeing someone freefalling toward earth and pulling up at just the last minute for a smooth and easy landing.  I get nervous everytime for those guys, but they are amazing.  Before we knew it, I had to go get lined up in my corral, since I was in the first of 2 waves to go off.  I placed myself toward the front of my green wave to give myself as much free space as possible, since the start of a race with 26,000 people can get kinda hectic.  After the national anthem, an awesome flyover by some helicopters in formation, and a few minutes of waiting in the packed corral area, we moved toward the start line.

Race
Even though I was in one of the first groups to go off on the day, it was still crowded enough that I was unable to begin running until after crossing the start line.  I can only imagine what it was like for other racers.  I know Rebecca said it was a little chaotic for her wave start.  Shortly after, I was able to find some open room and began my race.  Aside from a race PR, my only other goal for this race was to not do what I have done in the past years of doing this race: Go out too hard and crash and burn toward the finish.

I started the race at a moderate pace where I felt like I was pushing but not redlining it.  Just a little slower than 10k pace.  My strategy was to hold anything under 7:26 pace (my 10 Mile PR pace) and once I hit the 6-7 mile marker, let things loose and see what I have left.  Below are my mile splits:

Mile 1: 7:01
Mile 2: 7:04
Mile 3: 7:12
Mile 4: 7:04
Mile 5: 7:04
Mile 6: 7:02
Mile 7: 7:00
Mile 8: 6:58
Mile 9: 7:00
Mile 10: 7:02
Mile .6: 4:38 (7:12 pace)

The first thing you might see is wow, thats a pretty steady race.  And it was.  I stayed in the game the whole time and held true to my race strategy.  You can see where I picked it up right after mile 6 and even though the splits for miles 9 amd 10 aren't that much faster, keep in mind that this was while going over a bridge with the hilliest part of the course.  So while the times were only slightly faster, I can assure you that I was pushing way harder than I was at any other point during the race.

The second thing you might see is that little .6 at the end.  Kinda strange, huh?  I don't get it.  My watch has been spot on accurate for every run, race, bike I have done.  It would seem strange that this one time it would go a little off.  I've had it for almost 2 years.  I know that in longer races like this, runners have a tendancy to record slightly longer distances, due to not following the exact line of the race measurement.  However, in the past, this has been between .2-.3 miles, not .6.  Seems a little fishy.  I know it is the same course, so it has to be 10 miles.  Just a little strange that my watch didn't get it right.  This was also my first year running this race with my distance/pace watch, so I have no other data to compare with.  I guess my only other question goes out to others who may have recorded data on the race.  Did you also record longer distances or was it within the normal threshold of just running extra?  

Based on the official time, my overall time was 1:15:04.  This doesn't beat my 10 Mile PR of 1:13:49, but it crushes my Army 10 Miler PR of 1:20:07 from last year by just over 5 minutes.  So even if the course was just 10 miles, I still PR'd the race by 5 minutes.

Now, factor in my watch and where it recorded when I hit 10 miles and my time would be 1:10:28.  This would be a big PR overall for the 10 Mile distance by 3:20 and an Army 10 Miler PR by almost 10 minutes!  Now that would be progress.  Based on this, my average pace turned out to be 7:03/mile.  

So take from it what you will.  I PR'd either way.  Great way to end my season.

Overall Numbers:
Time: 1:15:04
Pace: 7:30
Overall Place: 1793/18857
Sex: 1553/10584
Division: 275/1309

And lastly, congrats to Rebecca for killing it yesterday.  She beat her expected finish time by nearly 9 minutes!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another Happy Customer

I saw this article in the Washington Post this morning.  Its part race report of the Nations Tri, part endurance sport analysis.  Mike Wise, a sports writer for the Washington Post, it seems, has taken up triathlon and endurance running.  And judging by his article, I think he is sold on the idea and has just become hooked like every other one of us.  Yep, another local advocate for endurance sports...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

1 Month To Go

No, not a countdown for a race.  Though, the Army 10 Miler is this weekend and I will be running in it for the 4th year in a row.  But I'll get to that in a minute.  

There is only 1 month to go till the wedding!  It has been a long time waiting, but we are finally at the one month countdown.  It has been nearly 16 months of planning and waiting and planning and waiting.  We are finally here...just a million small loose ends to tie up.  But at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  And what could be more welcoming to the one month countdown than some photographs?  Rebecca and I had a photo shoot with our photographer around town and it was a blast.  Here are some highlights from the shoot.  We can't wait to work with her again at the wedding!  We had a blast walking around DC and Alexandria taking those shots.

Back to the Army 10 Miler.  Every year, the Army 10 Miler has been my last "race" of the season.  And by race, I mean, whatever fitness is left in my body after spending nearly 1 month after my last triathlon sitting on the couch and eating real food.  Needless to say, this race has never produced a 10 mile PR.  Well except for the first race, because that was my first 10 miler ever.  I don't have super high hopes for this race, only because I haven't maintained my fitness as much as I could have.  I do expect to PR the course though, since I have been doing some training in between wedding stuff and being busy at work for the past month.  While my PR for a 10 miler is around 1:13, my PR at the Army 10 Miler is only 1:20.  Thats a pretty big difference.  Needless to say, my goal is to easily break 1:20.  And I should.  Anything more though will be a bonus.  I like this race, because it is fun.  There are so many people running and cheering, and some doing both, that it is hard not to enjoy it (unless it is 95 degrees, which last year).   In previous years, I wasn't in nearly as good running shape.  This year, the forecast is calling for cool temperatures, perfect for racing.  And there is the added bonus of having many more friends and soon to be family running the race, including my very own bride to be, who is running it for the first time.  Let's hope her blisters from this weekend's photo shoot heal in time!

To anyone else running the race, I hope to see you out there.  Come say hi if you spot me!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Sweet Tooth

I've never been a big dessert person.  I always prided myself on that fact.  I remember going to the Cheesecake Factory a solid 20 times before I ever tried a slice of cheesecake.  Desserts just never appealed to me.  Growing up during Halloween was probably the only time I ever chowed down on sweets.  Besides that, it just wasn't my thing.

Enter triathlon into my life.  All this training has flipped my body and my mind upside down.  Since committing to training for triathlons a little more than four years ago, I have developed the worst sweet cravings.  Go figure.  A change for a more healthy lifestyle and NOW my body says it wants sweets?  That's just not fair.  When I'm at work and there are
 leftover cookies or brownies from a meeting, guess who is the first person to jump in to grab one?  When Rebecca and I go to the store and get frozen yogurt, guess how long it takes before its gone?  Why all these sweet cravings now, when I've been an athlete all my life and never had a sweet tooth?

Some of it I'm sure comes from my body just changing over time.  I've also read that sweet cravings come from an imbalance in your blood sugar levels, meaning they are low, causing a sweet craving to balance things out.  Similarly, salt cravings come from low salt levels.  You ever find yourself eating something sweet (really sweet) and then craving something salty (really salty), only to find yourself craving sweets again?  The body is always trying to even itself out.  So I guess what my body is trying to say is that my sugar levels are constantly low.  I do try to eat frequently throughout the day and tend to eat pretty well (aside from those sweet cravings), and sometimes those cravings are just still there.  Not sure what else I can do about that.  I eat fresh fruit at work, rather than anything processed.  What I do know is that I am not the only one.  I have certainly read story after story about triathletes going through tubs of ice cream in a single sitting.  I am not alone.

What is it about us endurance athletes that makes us crave sweet things so badly?  What I do know is that it is one difficult habit to kick.  Which is exactly why I continue to constantly work out, and find the next race to train for.  All for the sake of keeping my sweets eating habit alive.  

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When Paparazzi Report on Triathlon

Check out this report from People about the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.  Of course, they were there to report on J-Lo and Matthew McConaughy, who were racing in the event.  I just had to share this quote from the description of McConaughy's preparation for the event:

"But for McConaughey, the event was all business. The actor (and fitness buff) had his game face on before the race as he stretched. He even had a friend rub deodorant on his neck to cut down on his friction from his suit. "

Deodorant, eh?  Dumba$$.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What To Do When Your 1/2 IM Gets Canceled

In lieu of the Patroits Half cancelation on Saturday, I spent Friday thinking about what I should do.  I mean, I trained a good deal for this race and I didn't want that fitness to be for nothing.  What to do, what to do...

First, let me recap the other things I did this weekend.  Note: Rebecca stole my thunder for much of this post and we didn't even mention it to each other.  I guess that's why we are getting married in less than 2 months ;)

- Friday night, Rebecca, myself and some friends went to a Jazz in the Garden, which was going on in the sculpture gardens by the National Gallery of Art.  It was great, with the US Army Jazz band playing.  Free to attend, with several bars and food options all around.  We opted for a pitcher of sangria, which resulted in a solid buzz before dinner.

- Saturday morning, we took Piper to the ICU, because he hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours and had been getting progressively worse over the course of week, since becoming ill.  The
 recommended step was to take an ultrasound to determine if something was in his intestines and causing the problems.  Sure enough, there was.  The only option was sugery.  So we handed him over and Saturday afternoon, Piper successfully underwent surgery to remove the foreign object.  When I spoke to the doctor following surgery, he was describing the object as something like a piece of a goggle.  While that wouldn't surprise us, since we do have a few pairs of them around, we realized that it was actually the rubber belt that wraps around Rebecca's computer battery pack to tie up the wires.  We had recently noticed that about half of it was missing.  Go figure.  The good news is that Piper is doing great and recovering well under the watchful eyes of the doctors.  We hope to be able to take him home
 tomorrow.

- While waiting for Piper to undergo his surgery, Rebecca and I stopped by Home Depot, since we were in the area.  $75 later, we left with a new fan for the broken one in the bathroom, paint for the kitchen, and a gutter pipe connector, because with all the rain from Hanna, we were having some issues with the gutter pipes connecting and needed an extra part.  By the end of the day, the kitchen was painted, the bathroom had a new fan (thanks to Rebecca), and the pipes were mostly connected (thanks to Rebecca).  Who says we aren't domestic!

- Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.  Since Patriot's was out, I decided that I needed to do something to cause equal pain to my body.  Something I really had been eyeing for some time this summer, but never got a chance to do.  I set out first thing in the morning for the Blue Ridge Challenge.
  After reading about Jeanne's fun times last weekend, I had to make that a part of my pain.  So I drove out to Marshall, VA and began the ride.

While the description of the ride says it's not for the faint of heart (and that's totally true), it also says that the first 20 miles are fairly easy.  I disagree.  While there are some flats and some nice downhills, its still pretty rolling, with 1 or 2 decent climbs by any other courses' standards.  I entered the town of Bluemont ready for the road ahead.  The next 2 miles average an 8% grade, but there are much steeper pitches.  First, is the 500 foot climb out of Bluemont.  This was short, but very steep.  I thought it was going to be longer, since I saw a switchback at the top, but luckily it was flat for a minute, which was a nice break.  Next, you continue up Rt 7 for about 1/4 mile at a fairly reasonable, but still challenging grade.  Then,
 you make a left onto Blue Ridge Mountain Rd.  Once you make the left, you see the reason why this ride is for the faint of heart.  It is pretty much straight up for as far as you can see.  And since the road is straight, it makes it look even worse from the bottom.  At this point, I mentally prepared for the grueling climb and got settled in my easiest gear and spun away.  As you near the top of what seemed like the summit, the pitch got a bit steeper (why does it always have to do that!) and I pushed hard to get up the hill thinking I was done, since I saw downhill.  The downhill was short, because I found myself climbing and thinking this HAS to be the top.  But no.  There are so many false summits. 
 I guess it is my fault for not reading the elevation map too closely, because you can clearly see that there are 5 "summits", with the real one being once you see the fencing for Mount Weather.  The next bunch of miles were spent whizzing downhill and hoping I didn't encounter and surprise wildlife, since I was breaking, but still having difficulty keeping it at 40 mph.

And then I made my one and only mistake of the ride.  I got toward the bottom of the big decent and thought I had to make a right onto Rt 50 to get to the bottom of the hill for the next turn (per the cue sheet).  What I mistakenly overlooked was that I was to go left onto Rt 50 (which was up hill) and then get to the bottom of the hill for the next turn.  It was a bit tricky, I swear.  So, when did I realize I had made this mistake?  Oh, only after I spent 2 miles flying downhill.  So I had to turn around and go back up that 2 mile hill.  Ugh.  Of all the mistakes to make on a ride, you never want it to be one that requires you to go back up a hill you just whizzed down.  So instead of 2 major climbs on the ride, I now had 3.  And instead of 56 miles, I now had 60.  4 extra miles doesn't seem like a lot, but those 2 up hill miles sure took a lot out of me.

The rest of the ride was nice and scenic through rolling hills along the mountains.  I passed by Naked Mountain Winery (and would have loved to stop there, but the whole fact that I had 20 miles to go and my legs didn't feel so good got in the way).  Finally, I reached what is normally the 2nd major climb, now my 3rd.  This wasn't nearly as long as the big one, but it was plenty steep and curved around, so I never knew when it was going to end.  Not to mention, it was only a few miles after I had just spent 2 miles climbing, so my legs were already shot.  At one point, I cramped up and needed to stop.  I stretched a bit and continued on.  The rest of the ride was mostly a blur, but I was able to keep a pretty good speed on the flats and there were only a few minor hills that required me to get out of my big ring.  Finally, I spotted a sign for Marshall, VA and I knew I was done.  That was one bad mother of a ride.  I'm sure there are others in the area that are bad as well, but this was the hardest ride I've done in this area.  Not that I want to, but I'm sure I'll come across one harder in the future.

- Rebecca made turkey chili in honor of the start of football season.  I LOVE me some chili.  It is my usual ritual during football season.

So that was my weekend in a nutshell.  While it didn't equal to racing a half IM, it was still just as crazy in its own right.

Note - I just wanted to point out that SetUpEvents has recently announced that they will be sending registered athletes from the Patriots Half their swag bags, even though the race was canceled.  After my initial disappointment, I think they have gone above and beyond what I actually expected.  So despite my earlier post about what I had hoped for, they are clearly doing as much as they can, given the circumstances.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Never Have I Ever Con't

So the big news is that the race was canceled this morning.  Its a relief that I won't have to be riding through 50 mph winds and torrential rains.  That, I am happy about.  I also got fully refunded on my hotel reservation.  Thanks Hampton Inn for being so understanding!

What I am not happy about is the refund policy of the race.  They have notified us that we will receive 50% of our entry toward next year's race.  While I know their policy is no refunds within 2 weeks of the race, I thought a reasonable compromise would have been credit to a future race or some cash back.  A FULL credit, not 50% though is what I expected.  I understand all the stuff that had to be bought way ahead of time, but the reality is that a lot of that can go toward other races held in the near future.  Water and other goods that were to be used will still be used for the Olympic and Sprint distances, assuming they don't get canceled, which they aren't expected to be.  There are also a few more races left in the season that are being put on by the company, so they could be used.  I just don't think 50% credit is reasonable.

So with that, I say goodbye to my triathlon season and hello to the fall running season.  Stay tuned.

I will end with: Never have I ever...had a race canceled due to threat of hurricane.  Drink up!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Never Have I Ever

I'm sure you know the game.  You know - you name something you've never done before and anyone in the room who has done that thing has to take a sip of the beverage of choice.  You learn a lot about people that way.  Probably more than you ever wanted.  Especially when alcohol is involved.

I can't serve you up anything myself, but here is my big reveal:

Never have I ever, raced in a triathlon when the weather sucked (ie torrential downpour).

So there you have it.  That's right.  I've always lucked out.  Clear blue skies abound.  I've certainly raced many hot ones.  Just no soggy wet ones.  Until now.

At least as far as I can tell, I'll be taking a big swig from my cup next time soneone says never have I ever...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tracking Hanna

Soooo, yea. Small problemo. I've been looking forward to the Patriots Half for a good month or two as my training picked back up after Eagleman and is now in full taper mode. Unfortunately, mother nature has had other plans for me this year. First, Eagleman brought all time record highs that made just finishing the race my ultimate goal rather than any specific time. And now? I guess my goal is to just START the race.

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico and Hanna in the wings to hit the east coast, there is a whole lot of uncertainty regard the weather. Right now, forecasts have Hanna moving into the North Carolina/Virginia area Friday night and into Saturday. My race is scheduled for Saturday; smack dab in the middle of this whole ordeal.

So...what will happen? Only time will tell. Does this mean the swim will get canceled due to rough waters? Patriots is a triathlon weekend, with the half scheduled for Saturday and an Olympic and Sprint scheduled for Sunday. I know someone would be happy if they canceled the swim and held the rest of the race. But not me. Can they hold the race at all if a tropical storm is churning through the area? I know this isn't the only race scheduled for next weekend, so it will be interesting to see how race directors throughout the area handle the potential disaster. So far, I haven't heard anything, so the plan is to go forward with the race. However, I hope to hear some type of update or discussion considering possible alternatives as the track and timing of the storm gets clearer.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Race Report: Luray International Triathlon

Alternate Titles:
- My first panic attack on the swim
- Man down on the bike
- Where did that time come from?
- Greatest post race meal ever
- The things I'd do for a free wine glass

The Luray Triathlon is actually a weekend long event, since there are 2 races; the International distance on Saturday and the Sprint distance on Sunday. I was racing the International distance and Rebecca was racing the Sprint.

Pre-race
To save a few bucks, we decided that we could make the trip down for the Saturday race the morning of. Unlike most of my races this year, the start time was 8 am, which is at least an hour later than the rest of them, so it gave me a little more time to get to the race venue, which is about a 2 hour drive. So you are probably doing the math in your head. Need to get to the race site at least an hour before, if not more, 2 hours to get there...yea, that's pretty early. The alarm was set for 3:30, with pretty much everything packed up the night before, except for the bikes and a few random things that could not be packed the night before. I prepared my breakfast, wrapped it up for closer to the race, loaded all remaining gear, and we were out the door by just after 4 am. The drive was going fine until we got a bit closer to Luray, when the fog was just terrible. It was dark still and visibility in spots couldn't have been more than 10-20 ft. I was definitely seeing things that didn't really exist, because for the next 30 minutes of the drive, all I starred at was white fog. Made me go a little crazy. But we finally made it and arrived at Lake Arrowhead Park just after 6 am, leaving plenty of time to check in and set up for transition. My rack was not in the greatest spot, since it was on 3 rows from the swim in and run out, and probably 30 rows from the bike out and bike in, but I got there early enough to be able to select a good spot on my rack, with plenty of transition space. With about 15 minutes to go, I headed down to the beach for the race start.

Swim
The first wave of the International distance consisted of male elites and all 29 and under males. I seeded myself a few people back and on the far left, since the swim was all right turns. The swim course was a triangle loop of 750m done twice for the International distance, once for the Sprint. Water temperature was 74 degrees, but felt much warmer since the air temperature at the time was only about 60 degrees. It was actually quite refreshing.

The countdown began and the horn sounded to start the race. I took it easy on the first loop, just hoping to get through the swim cleanly. After I made the turn for the first buoy, I was faced with my first obstacle of the day: the sun. This section of the course headed straight into the path of the sun, and between the glare of the sun reflecting off the water and the yellow turn buoys, it made it a challenge to sight properly. The other thing was that in my mind, I thought this section of the course was much more of a straight line, but it turned out to be a bit more diagonal, which made my swim pretty far wide about half way through the length. For a while, I was sighting off of people near me, but for a period of time, I couldn't find anyone, so I just kept swimming where I thought I should go. Eventually, I found myself about 25 yards wide of where I should have been and began correcting course and I neared the next turn buoy to make it back to shore. I finally made it to the end of lap 1, rounded the buoy, and then some person from one of the later waves swam on top of my to pass by. I've had this happen plenty of times. Usually, I just let them go, try my best to move out of my way, and go back to swimming my slow strokes. Not this time. This speedster decided that she (I believe - it's so hard to tell in the moment) would not only swim on top of me, but karate chop her stroke into my back. You'd think the neoprene of a wetsuit would cushion the blow, but it did not. I got hit so hard, it halted my breathing and I swallowed a big gulp of water down my throat. For what seemed like the next minute (probably less), I tried to tread water, while simultaneously coughing and gasping for air. It wasn't pretty and it felt worse. I nearly threw in the towel and swam to shore, since I was only about 50 meters away, but I just decided that this wouldn't be a great day, and I'd just continue on and see what happens.

The 2nd lap was much better than the first, in terms of sighting and contact. Maybe the sun moved, maybe I had more people to keep watch of on the bad part of the swim...either way, I was able to stay on a straight line with the course. The only thing I'd change about the 2nd lap was in the last hundred of so of the swim, I sighted way too often. I feel like I do that in every race too. I know I am going in the right direction, but I keep looking to see how much closer I am. It's stupid though, because if I just put my head down and swam, I'd save myself some solid time. But at least in this case, I wanted out of the water more than anything in the world after having the swim experience I did, so that is how I am justifying it. Once I got to the ramp, I looked down at my watch and was absolutely shocked at what I saw. I don't recall the 2nd two digits, but the 1st two read 28. As in 28 minutes! My PR on Olympic distance swim courses is 29:51 at Columbia this year and the mat was right at the end of the water. My official time was 29:22, but that was after a jog across the beach, so this was a huge PR for me by probably close to a minute. And after having gone through the swim I did, I was ecstatic to see those numbers. maybe this day wasn't going to be so bad afterall.

T1
After the run across the beach, everyone crosses the timing mat and then runs across some grass before heading up a long wood staircase. Some people walk this, others run. After looking at my watch, I decided to run, as I peeled down my wetsuit. I bounded to the top and ran over to my transition area. The one mistake I made here was that as I was peeling down my wetsuit, I forgot to use my feet to mash down the neoprene from my legs, before hitting ground to pull the rest off. I spent a good deal of time trying to peel of the wetsuit from my legs and eventually around my ankle. But once I did, I put on my socks, shoes, glasses and helmet and was on my way in 2:43. Not all that fast, but it included the climb up the stairs.

Bike
The bike course for Luray is hilly. Luray is set at the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains and the course contains mostly rolling hills, a long false flat, and 2 or 3 big climbs. Oh and there is 1 big downhill, but that is it. My watch measured the course at 26 miles even, with 1660 ft elevation gain, which is pretty significant for that distance.

The course starts out with a big climb, less than 1/4 mile out of transition. As I began attacking the climb, I came upon a guy I've casually spoken to a lot since we train at the same pool and go to the same cycling hill workouts. As I was chatting with him while we were climbing the hill, this woman came up on my left, but without announcing herself. Since we are on a big climb, her control was shaky at best and she not only came up on my without saying "On your left" so I could move over, but she rocked her front tire right into my, and forced me down. The good news was that were were only going about 10-12 mph at the time, so there wasn't any major damage. Just a couple of bumps and scrapes that looked way worse from the eventual dried blood that accrued on my arm. The bad news the fact that in the crash, my aero drink bottle spilled out all its contents, which was my planned calories for the bike. The other bad news was that the strap I used to hold the aero drink in the bracket in place tore, so when I made an attempt to just put the empty aero drink back into place, I pedaled for about 10 seconds before it fell off again. It was at this point that I had to make the executive decision to ditch the aero drink and tossed it into the grass on the side, so nobody would hit it while they were climbing up the hill. But that just means I now get to buy new gear! Following that ordeal, I was pretty raging mad, because the women that hit me, didn't even stop or bother to slow down to make sure I was ok. All I know is, is that it was 100% her fault. There is nothing else I could have done differently. Had she announced to me that she was there, I would have moved over or at least been more alerted that someone was right there. Instead she just rammed into me and left me for dead. Fortunately, I wasn't and plenty of people who were climbing past me slowed enough to give me room to compose myself and I can't even count the number of people that asked to make sure I was alright. Thank you to all the kind triathletes who weren't idiots trying to ram their bikes into me like a weapon. I appreciated your concerns.

Raging mad, I hopped back onto my bike after checking to make sure the bike was working ok, and climbed the 2nd half of the hill. The only positive out of this was that I probably rode a bit harder than I normally would have, because I was passing a lot of people to make up the time I lost due to the spill. Eventually, I caught back up to my buddy and told him about the ordeal and continued on my way. The course is in the shape of a lollypop, where you do 2 loops of the top part of the lollipop for the International distance and 1 loop for the Sprint. Once making the turn on the first part of the loop, there is a short, but steep uphill, followed by a nice long downhill where you can really pick up some speed. After I climbed to the top, I bombed down the backside, pushing speeds well into the 40s. The only problem at this point was that because this part of the course, went into a valley, the fog came back. I was wearing my sunglasses at the time, because the sun was out, but the fog was just really nasty and I was having terrible issues seeing well. I took them off and stashed them in my back pocket until later in the race, when I was riding into the sun. The rest of the bike course went pretty smoothly. I played cat and mouse with a few people and ultimately won in the last 8 or so miles, passing them both on a false flat leading back to transition. There was one final hill, the largest of the course, which gets you right back into transition, that was piled full of people when I approached it. Last year while watching Rebecca race the Sprint, I stood at the top to cheer on competitors and watched many people walking their bikes up the last 1/4 of it. I was well aware of the hill and just pushes as hard as I could, passing a bunch of people. I rolled back into transition, where I perfectly executed a flying dismount in a time of 1:22:16, for an average of 19.1 mph according to my watch. And of course, this included my spill, so I pretty stoked about this numbers even though I would have liked to come in closer to 20 mph.

T2
By far, my best transition ever. I rolled my bike all the way to the other end of transition to find my spot, slipped on my shoes, took off my helmet, grabbed my race belt and visor and was on my way in 50 seconds. After last race, where I forgot to take off my helmet, I made sure to nail it this time.

Run
One of my goals for this race was to go hard on the run. I've felt like with each Olympic distance race, I go out way too tentatively. In previous years, this was because I would always cramp up, but with better fitness, and the discovery of Endurolytes, I seem to have solved my cramping issues. I knew I could push harder on the run and with all the long runs I've been doing, I knew I could PR the run too. I just didn't know what that pace would be, having swam 1500m and biked 26 miles. The International distance run course is 2 loops of the 5k course for the Sprint race. The good news was that I'd know where to push hard on the 2nd lap. The bad news was that I'd be about 20 feet from the finish line when I would hit the turnaround for lap 2.

I took off hard out of transition to see how my body responded. Faced with my first hill, I pushed without much issue and found some runners to pace off. Once we hit the first mile marker, I made the decision to look down at my watch. In my mind, I felt that a run PR was definitely likely, and that I may even be able to pull out an overall PR if things went really well. My run PR in an Olympic distance is 19:55, which was on the hilly Columbia course. I was running just over 7:00/mile pace through the first mile and by doing the math in my head, I figured I'd need to run someone slightly under a 50 minute 10k, which if I kept any pace close to this, it could easily be done. Lap 1 came and went, with only a few short 5 second walks at the water stops to take a drink and then I'd pick up my pace again. The 2nd lap was pretty much a blur, other than it felt a lot shorter. With 1 mile to go, I was pretty sure I was going to PR both the run and my overall time, but I kept up the pace just to make sure. With about 10 feet to go to the finish, the course moved from a gravel road, slightly downhill to the grass. Just as the grass began, there was a bit of a ditch that was lower than the rest of the ground. Leave it to me to hit that square on as I sprinted toward the finish, only to find my leg hyperextended, which casued a hamstring cramp just before the finish. One of the catchers at the finish line said "way to push through to the finish" after I crossed the finish line, but I wanted to say "F U, there should be a cone there so people don't kill themselves." Sure enough, on Sunday there was a cone on top of the ditch so people didn't kill themselves. Though I still saw one guy hit a spot close to it and almost eat grass with his face about 2 feet before the finish line, as he tried to recover from the surprise of hitting the ditch. Rough times out there.

Anyways, I crossed the finish line with a run split of 47:09, and a big time PR of almost 2 minutes!

My final time was 2:42:17, also a big PR of 1:45! So in all, especially considering the trouble I had on the swim and bike, it turned out to be quite the successful race. I was shocked at the results to say the least, but happy nonetheless.

So I think that explains 3 out of the 5 alternate titles to this post. Let me explain the last 2. For dinner on Saturday, Rebecca and I went to this place called the Brookside Diner or something like that. We came across it in the hotel booklet of local restaurant and it was described as "a family restaurant with great home cooking." We opened the menu when we got there to find a large selection of burgers, steak, chicken, and salads. In my post race euphoria, it all looked amazing! But one thing stood out and it was one of the specials called the Bobwood Sandwich. This baby was topped with:
- Pastrami
- Grilled onions
- Coleslaw
- French fries
- Swiss cheese
- Fried egg - Thanks Rebecca for remembering!
All split between 2 slices of bread that was grilled to perfection. Oh was it delicious. And I would have taken a picture for you, but it looked too good to have to wait long enough for that to happen, so I just finished it in one bite. Yup. Open mouth. Sandwich gone. Ok not really, but if I could have fit it, I would have. Rebecca got a loaded baked potato topped with broccoli and cheddar cheese, along with a big bowl of salad. It was also delicious. If you are ever in Luray, go here. It was money.

The 2nd alternate title refers to what I could have won if I did both triathlons. Rebecca and I were fortunate enough to win free entry into this race, so had I known that althetes who do both races get a free prize, I would have reconsidered doing the Sprint as well. Turns out, the free gift was a really nice wine glass that was engraved with the race information on it. Pretty nice prize. Maybe next year.

Sunday was Rebecca's turn to rock the Sprint race, but I'll let her tell her story.

Back to the wine though...one of the things that we love about coming out to this part of Virginia is going to the wineries. Last year, in preparation for Rebecca doing the Sprint, we came out here to pre-ride the course and stopped by some of the many wineries on the way back. Whether its going for a ride or hike out in the Shenandoah Mountains, we always try to make it to at least 1 winery. After the Sprint, we headed out to 2 wineries. Well, actually we headed out to 4, but 2 of them didn't really exist. Thanks GPS! So with the 3rd time being the charm, we hit up 2 wineries that were close to each other and managed to buy 4 bottles of the ones we liked.

The drive back to town was a bit of a challenge though, because after 2 wine stops, racing a triathlon the day before, and getting little sleep 2 nights in a row, it all finally caught up to me. Rebecca was nice enough to pass out for the last 30-40 minutes of the ride, so I had to amuse myself by sticking various things up her nose while she slept. Just kidding. I wouldn't do that ;) Sure enough, she woke up about 3 blocks from home and conveniently said "Are we home already?".

Despite the rough drive back, we had an excellent weekend of racing and enjoying ourselves. Can't wait to do it again!

Pictures to come...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Winner

Yesterday was a day of victories.

First, I beat this. What's that? You've never played it before? Oh, give it a try. You'll spend the next couple weeks trying to beat it on hard. It was quite the accomplishment if I do say so myself. In fact, it would have made my day.

But...

I also played in my softball league's championship game yesterday and I am pleased to announce that we are the 2008 league champs! To toot my own horn, I play in a league with 34 other teams, all from my company (its big). Its a very competitive league, with many people having been former division 1 college players in baseball and other various sports. The playoffs are split into upper tier and lower tiers; the top 17 teams being in the upper tier. After going through the first 2 innings up 3-1, our team exploded and put up 17 runs in the 3rd inning. We almost batted around the order twice, AND 11 of those runs came with 2 outs. It was quite the inning. By the 5th inning, we were up by more than 15 runs, so we won by slaughter rule 21-3. IN. THE. CHAMPIONSHIPS. Holy cow!

So that, my friends...is a victorious day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Updates!

So ya...ummm...its been a while. I was going to wait the extra couple of days so it could be exactly one month since I last posted, but hey, its been long enough. Yea, I'm still here and yes I'm still training. In fact, the main reason why I haven't posted anything in such a long time is because I've been busier than ever. Turns out, training for a 1/2 Ironman and planning a wedding keeps you pretty busy. Who would have thunk it?

So, here is where I am at these days:

- T-minus 3+ weeks until Patriot's Half, which means I am in the middle of my build phase of training. Gone are the long bike rides and runs. Glad to be done with those. This past weekend was a hilly 65 miler out to Sugarloaf Mountain and a long run in Rock Creek Park. Now its about race pace and moderate distances. Just fine tuning the solid base I've been building over the past 2 months of training.

- Luray Triathlon is this weekend for both Rebecca and I. I'll be doing the Olympic on Saturday as a tune up for Patriot's and Rebecca will be doing the sprint on Sunday. Last year, I watched this race as Rebecca and her sister did the race. It is a great race, though on a challenging, hilly course for the bike and run. I'm up for it and can't wait. Plus, my race is on a Saturday for a change. I LOVE Saturday races. Makes the weekend much more enjoyable to get the race over with, instead of spending the whole weekend preparing for it. Now, I'll get to kick back on Sunday and enjoy watching Rebecca tear up the course and hopefully take some good photos of her in the process!

- T-minus 3 months to go till the wedding. Both Rebecca and I can't wait and the day couldn't come any faster. As much fun as we are having planning this event, it will be nice to have other things to do with our spare time. We just booked the honeymoon, so now we at least have something to really look forward to once its all done. Just have to get through these last few months, with lots of small little things to take care of. It seemed so simple many months ago when we were in the early stages of planning, but man, those details pull you into the weeds and won't let go until the wedding.

- About a month ago, we adopted Rebecca's older cat, Whiskey (pictured to the right), who she grew up with. We figured, Piper would no longer harass us for attention, and enjoy the company to have someone to play with, and Whiskey would enjoy the extra attention of being around 2 people and another cat. It was tough going at first, but the two have started to get along better, minus the occasional hissing Whiskey will do at Piper for just thinking about looking at him. However, the two have a playful relationship that seems to be working. Basically, Piper eggs Whiskey on to get him to chase him down the hallway and when he does, Piper runs as fast as he can until he gets to the end of the bedroom and hides. Then, Piper will tap Whiskey again to get him to chase him back and tries to do it again and again. Poor Whiskey is older and sometimes just looks back at Rebecca and I with a face that says, "Do I really have to put up with this crap?". But we know he likes it, and the exercise is great for him and he's already losing some of the extra weight he had on him. They wrestle a bit, eat each other's food/water, and more or less find a way to get along, since I think they have realized that they are stuck living together regardless, so might as well make the most of it. In all, they are a great duo.

So that is what is going on in my busy life. One day at a time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cyclists versus Drivers - The Debate Continues

Not that anything is going to be solved anytime soon, since both groups have such contempt for the other, but with the recent occurrence of 2 notable incidents, one of which resulted in a fatality, the debate continues. As someone who is both a driver and a cyclist, I like to think I have a somewhat unbiased view on the issue. Clearly, both sides are usually at fault for breaking everyday rules on the road, but in my experience the negligence usually lies on the driver. Why? You've got me. Cars/trucks/SUVs are all much bigger, go much faster, and are much more intimidating on the road than a measly bicycle. Most experiences that I have personally been involved in are the result of an impatient driver who can't stand losing 5 seconds of their precious time sitting behind a cyclist, while they wait for the passing lane to clear, so it ends in behind honked at or run off the road in the case of a road with no shoulder. I've heard some drivers tell me that they get scared when they see a cyclist on the road, because they don't know what they are going to do. My answer to them is to think about what its like when a big car rolls up next to a cyclist and what the cyclist must be fearful of with a big car bearing down on them.

I think if both cyclists and drivers had a little more patience - cyclists by following the rules of the road and stopping at traffic lights and not dangerously weaving through traffic - drivers by being patient and waiting for a safe time to pass and sharing the roads, we'd all be in a safer environment. I know its asking a lot and there is always going to be road rage (from both sides) incidents to ruin the reputations of both sides, but one can hope. Please try to due your best and be respectful on the roads, whether you are in a vehicle or on a bicycle.

Below is a good post about the issue that I think provides some good analysis on some of the myths of cyclists. Well worth a read.

The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist

Whenever you read an article about cycling in the city, or a discussion of transportation involving cycling it is highly likely that you'll read a comment like this:

"I will 'share the road' when cyclists start 'obeying the traffic laws.'"

and this

"I always see bikers disobeying traffic signals. They always run red lights going across R Street and Connecticut Ave"

and this

Before encouraging people to cycle and spending millions of pounds of our money in the process, the Government should have down some groundwork to make roads safer for all of us. [WC: Sounds reasonable]

Making cyclists observe a few traffic laws - such as stopping at traffic lights and zebra crossings - would have been a welcome start.[WC: Really? You'd START with cyclists?]

In fact after Alice Swanson's death, many comments on the post, DCist and elsewhere mentioned that something like this was bound to happen because of the illegal manner in which most cyclists ride. Despite the fact that there seems to be no indication that she did anything illegal.

Which leads to what I call "The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist".

Now then, I'm not trying to claim that cyclists don't break the law. Let me state clearly and upfront, they do. What I'm saying is that there is nothing unique about the frequency with which cyclists as a class break the law when compared with drivers or pedestrians. And even if cyclists broke the law more flagrantly, that would not negate the need to share the road.

Hello? Kettle? You're Black!

Implicit in all of these types of comments is that drivers (and sometimes pedestrians) constitute the law-abiding sections of society, but these scofflaw cyclists - with their Lycra-clad arrogance (you have to mention arrogance or self-righteousness for it to count) - are a menace to society.

Let's knock that down first.

Many drivers break the law. I would almost be willing to say that every driver breaks the law, but let's stick with many. How?

First of all, they speed.

Driver compliance with speed limits is poor. On average, 7 out of 10 motorists exceeded the posted speed in urban areas. Compliance ranged from 3 to 99 percent. Compliance tended to be worse on low-speed roads, better on roads with prima facie limits, or where the speed limit was based on an engineering study. Better does not mean good compliance; less than 10 percent on [sic] the sites had more than 50-percent obedience with the posted speed

In DC, speed cameras were set up at several locations. They were recording 170 infractions per hour (that's one every 21 seconds for all you poli-sci majors).

And they run red lights

From August 1999 through May 2008, the automated red-light enforcement program has, at 49 locations, resulted in 741,780 notices of infraction.

And stop signs

The overall compliance rate for stop signs was 22.8 per 100 vehicles, ranging from 1.4 per 100 for bicycles to 46.2 per 100 for commuter vans. Compliance increased to 53 per 100 vehicles when pedestrians were present in the crosswalk. [WC: Ok we're both guilty here, but the cars aren't even stopping half the time. More on this below.]

They illegally park

There were 1.67 million parking tickets written last year, up from 1.3 million in 2001, according to statistics provided by the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW).

They double park and park in the bike lane.

They ignore toll booths

Court records show that among the first cases in Fairfax County last week, five motorists each had fines topping $10,000. A dozen more face penalties higher than $4,000.

They drive drunk and distracted, this being a mere drop in the bucket.

Through October, officers issued 9,484 tickets this year to motorists driving with a cell phone in their hand, according to police statistics.

The number of citations already issued this year is 13 percent more than the 8,358 issued last year. In 2005, police issued 7,523...

and I could go on.

Pedestrians, of course, jaywalk.

My point isn't that two wrongs make a right or that drivers are worse than cyclists. My point is that it's hypocritical to call your neighbor rude, because his loud stereo makes it difficult for you to focus on your backyard chainsaw sculpting.

Do you think I don't know the law? Wasn't it me who wrote it? And this man has broken the law.

Riding on the road, riding on the sidewalk, riding in a lane when a bike lane is present, riding on the road when a bike trail is present, riding in the middle of the lane, riding two abreast, riding without a helmet, riding too slow, holding up traffic, riding through a crosswalk, lane splitting, passing on the right, locking up a bike to street furniture, riding without break lights...

What do all of these things have in common? I've heard or seen each held up as an example of cyclists' disregard for the law.

And they're all legal (not in every circumstance I note). Some are ill-advised perhaps, but all legal.

And cyclists know this. Cyclists in general know the law better than drivers (although Mike Debonis over at Washington City Paper is unsure about lane-splitting and sidewalk riding - both are legal Mike). And better than the police even. So much of the myth stems not from willful disregard for the law by cyclists, but rampant ignorance of the law by drivers.

Jaybiker Are you crazy, my brother could be coming the other way

As I said before, cyclists do break the law. There is no denying that. Merriam-Webster defines a scofflaw as "a contemptuous law violator". Do cyclists break the law with contempt? Perhaps, but no more so than drivers or pedestrians.

Sometimes cyclists break the law in the exact same ways that drivers do. They fail to signal. They fail to yield the right of way (especially to pedestrians - the three feet rule goes both ways). They catch an "orange" light. Etc...

Sometimes cyclists break the law in different ways than drivers do. Some cyclist ride at night without proper lighting. Some ride against traffic. Both of these are, IMO, ill-advised. [Though London is looking at making the second of these legal]

But the two biggies are red light and stop sign running. This is the most frequent criticism and the one that really gets the blood to boil. As mentioned above, cyclists run stop signs at much greater frequency than drivers do and I'm sure the same is true of lights.

I once heard Eric Gilliland on NPR asked the question "What can we do to get cyclist to obey stop lights?" He gave a very political answer of saying it was a problem, and that WABA supports education and such. But he never really answered it and I think the true answer is "Nothing." There is no engineering fix and probably no education fix (Let's face it, most jaybikers are experienced, well-informed cyclists - Not that foot-droppers aren't. Just that they've made up their mind). Enforcement would have to be off the chart and even then would probably have little impact. Seattle fought jaywalkers for years, writing thousands of tickets, as I recall, and finally gave up defeated. You could ban bikes - but I can't imagine any city doing that these days.

Then someone asked Eric a variation of "why do cyclists run red lights?" There are several reasons I've heard (safety in getting ahead of traffic and in-street sensors which do not detect cyclists, for example) but the basic answer is a classic risk/reward scenario. Jaybikers are calculating that the reward of keeping momentum or gaining the early start outweighs the risk of being caught or hit. People are notoriously bad at calculating risk and reward (sub-prime mortgage crisis anyone) so I won't weigh in on whether they're right or wrong, but I'll just leave it at that's what they're thinking.

This, coincidentally, is the same reason why drivers and pedestrians run red lights.

Let's talk about red-light running. There are two types of red-light running. "Catching an orange" - or running the start of a red light - which every class of users does. And jaywalking or jaybiking - waiting for the intersection to clear and then crossing against the light - which only pedestrians and cyclists do.

Therefore, a better question is "why don't drivers 'jaydrive'?"

Is it because they love the law so much? Did you skip the previous section?

It's because their risk/reward calculation is coming up with a different answer. And that makes sense. In a car you're several feet farther back from the intersection and you're often a foot or two lower, meaning you can't see as well (I bet those on recumbents don't jaybike as often as those on standard bikes). In a car you're in a soundproof enclosure so you have no stereoscopic hearing. And if you make a mistake you aren't as maneuverable as you are on a bike or on your feet. You can't just ditch to the sidewalk. Driver's don't jaydrive because, in their own estimation, they can't. But if they could, I'm sure they would.

Still, that doesn't explain the anger. Drivers get - I feel - irrationally angry about this. After wondering why for so long, an anthropologist friend of mine helped me to understand. Running a red light is so dangerous for cars that it isn't just illegal, it's taboo. You're breaking a social construct. Which means people find it objectionable and abhorrent. So if education is needed, maybe it's needed to explain why it's safer for cyclists to do this than for drivers.

Which goes back to the question of what can be done about jaybiking. I said there was nothing, but that's not true. I've told this story before, but here it is again. A college professor told me about this.

On campus they laid out the sidewalk to a building in the shape of an L. Students ignored the sidewalk to walk along the hypotenuse wearing a path in the grass. The school planted hedges to "guide" them. Students cut a rut in in. The school put up a fence. Students climbed over it until it broke. Fed up, the school got an architect to design a fix. She tore up the old sidewalk and laid another new one along the path. Problem solved.

The same can be true of red lights. The way to end jaybiking violations is to decriminalize them. As Lee pointed out

stop lights didn't need to be invented until there were too many cars in NYC, etc. leading to something new - car accidents, making streets a place to be feared. The purpose of all the traffic lights, signs, and lines - is to prevent CARS from running into everything else.

Idaho has changed its law - and California is considering it - to allow cyclist to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. This (and the article about allowing wrong-way cycling) is the same as moving the sidewalk. Streetsblog argues for this - and that the way to end wrong way biking is to get rid of one-way streets.

I'm not saying that cyclists should break the law. Nor am I saying they shouldn't. But we all know it's safer for cyclists to run lights than cars. Shouldn't we evaluate the need for theses laws? One of the best arguments for being a foot-dropper is " if bicyclists want to be respected like other vehicles, they have to obey the same rules." But if the law were to change how many cyclists would really sit through the whole light cycle when there was no traffic anyway? Would this make cyclists less safe?

Lee also talked of 'Naked Streets' and there is a lengthy article on them in the Atlantic.

Hey jerk, don't be a name-caller?

I try not to be a hypocrite. I try not to say that such-and-such action was wrong because it was illegal, but because it was dangerous. This is a philosophy that has evolved over the three years I've been writing this blog. As I've said before I don't care if you break the law (like driving without a license) just be safe and be courteous.

The premise that cyclists' behavior somehow voids their right to sharing the road is indefensible at face value. "Well officer I thought it was OK to hit this cyclists because several blocks back I saw another run a red light" is not something anyone could defend. This becomes an increasingly difficult premise when one considers that, as I've tried to point out, that cyclists are behaving any differently than drivers or pedestrians. They're taking liberties with law where they think it's safe to do so. Right or wrong, that is what every class does.

Once we clear up this myth, we can work on the one about how cyclists bring crime.

that basket on my bike is not just for groceries, it is for the goods that I rob from people while pleasure cruising down a rail trail.

This could be harder than I thought.

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