Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Breakthrough I've Been Waiting For!

Just when it seemed like things were down and out...the knee bothering me, lack of swim mojo, etc...things have come full circle this evening. Tonight's swim was a 1500 yard straight swim, capped off with five 100 yard sprints. It started good with the 1500 yard swim. After the first 500, I went to hit my lap button (I count up to 500 yards - about as high as I can go without losing track) and saw 9:46 on the watch. For me, anything under 2:00 per 100 pace for longer swims is a good thing. Then I swam another 500. This time, my watch read 9:36. I felt great...something I haven't felt while swimming in a while. The last 500 split came in at 9:35. By far the best swim I've had since starting my swim training. Then came the 100s - 3 hard, with 2 easy mixed in. Even the easy 100s came in well under 2:00. And the hard 100s were well under my PR. I was ecstatic.

I'm pretty sure it was a combination of a few things. For one, I slightly changed my recovery and pull technique. Not sure how to explain it, but apparently it worked. Let's see if I can replicate it next swim. For now...its a happy time in swim land.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Change is Good

After being convinced to find a less crowded pool by Rebecca than Washington and Lee, we ventured another few miles down the street to the other area pool, Yorktown. While walking through the doors, I felt like I was back at W&L. Same entry, same lockers, same pool layout. Since they were both built at the same time, I guess that makes sense. It was just weird. I knew I was somewhere different, but it felt the same. Only, there were less people. Woo! Sometimes I like swimming with more people in a lane though, because it forces you to take fewer breaks and makes you swim faster if there are faster people than you in your lane. This time, Rebecca and I were able to share a lane to ourselves, which was nice for a change.

After a couple hundred yards of warmup, I did a set of 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 increasing effort on each set. I still don't feel like I have my swim mojo back yet, but its getting there. While my endurance is there to swim 1 mile +, I need to work on my speed. I'm just not cranking out splits close to what I was hitting last year. One of these days, I'm going to make it to a Masters session, where they have stroke clinics. I'm pretty sure I just need some (probably a lot) of stroke mechanics to be fixed and all will be good.

In other news, my knee has been kind of bothering me from my 20 miler on Saturday. It started hurting a bit from miles 5 - 12 on my run, but then seemed to go away (or I stopped feeling the pain). Once I finished my run, the pain came back and I've been trying to ice it. Its not a contact thing from striking the ground, so I think that is good news. Its probably just tendinitis from all the running. I'll continue to ice and see how it feels in this recovery week.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

20 Miles

I did it. 20 miles this morning.

Time - 2:48:00
Pace: - 8:17

My body hurts. Ouch.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Times Are A Changin

I've always been a speed person. My mindset has been, go hard and go fast....get 'er done. In high school, I was an all state sprinter. I was blessed with a higher proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers. For anyone who cares to know more about my history as a sprinter, my PRs from high school in the various events were:

- 100m: 11.2
- 200m: 23.00
- 300m: 37.8
- 400m: 51.2

In order to stay in shape for indoor and outdoor track, I also ran cross country. While I loathed cross country (what sprinter wouldn't!), I'll credit everything I learned during this time with the success I've had becoming a longer distance runner. My coaches taught us so much about proper form, nutrition, and training. It wasn't just about showing up and doing the workout, as much about learning how to train one's body. It has played such as significant role in my ability to train as a triathlete. For cross country, although I wasn't a top runner, I was still fast enough to be on the varsity cross country team and run in most of the big state meets. My high school 5k cross country PR was 18:48. Not bad. However, if you asked me if I would ever run longer than 5k when I was in high school, I never would have imagined doing what I'm doing now. I always said 5k was my limit.

One day I'd like to beat that 5k time. But that day isn't today. As I'm sure you know from reading about my training, I am focused on longer distance endurance events, such as the Sun Trust National Marathon (yes, they just got a title sponsor recently) and Eagleman 70.3. Needless to say, speed is not my focus these days. However, the mindset of ever having a limit has been thrown way out the window.

Something hit me yesterday, while I was running my recovery 5.5 miler. It takes me almost 4-5 miles to START going and feeling good on my runs. The first 3 miles or so of my run were a bit of a struggle to loosen up. But once I got to about the 4 mile marker, everything opened up and my running was just fluid, the way you visualize yourself running in your head. The first half of my runs are basically a warm up.

What amazes me is that I used to just get up and run fast and go. Ahhh...those were the days. But you know what? To me, it shows signs of progress. Progress toward the endurance athlete I strive to become. It takes time to train your body to go from utilizing exclusively fast twitch muscle fibers, to mostly slow twitch. It definitely doesn't happen over night. But that feeling is gone. No longer do I feel like a sprinter trying to be an endurance athlete. I AM an endurance athlete.

But here's the good news: I am just about as fast a sprinter as I always was, despite the changes. When not living the life of an endurance athlete, I find myself playing flag football and softball with my friends in a variety of work/fun leagues. Anytime I step on the field, I do so knowing that I am faster (and in better shape) than almost anyone on the field. I need to play every so often, just to make sure those muscles are still there. Whether its playing wide receiver, or returning kicks, it would be a shame to lose those muscles. For now, its the best of both worlds.

And one day, my fast twitch and slow twitch muscles will call a truce and I WILL BEAT THAT 5K TIME!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

B-Fit B-Day Challenge

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow could keep me from completing the B-Fit B-Day Challenge. Whatever Mother Nature or Father Time seemed to throw at me today, I threw it right back at them. I turned 28 on February 12, so that means a 2 mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 8 mile run for the plan for the day to go for GOLD.

Seeing as it was my birthday, I took the day off to make sure I had the time to get everything done. First on tap was the bike. Since it was wet, cold, and ugly outside, I opted for a trainer ride. I gave myself 1:45 to get through the 28 miles, which should be more than enough. I set up shop, watched Jaws 2 (hey, not much is on at 8:00 am on a Tuesday morning).

Its been a while since I had seen any Jaws other than the original. I'll say that the 2nd one isn't bad. There is still plenty of suspense and since the characters are largely the same as the original (minus the kids), you get the same cast. Of course it all goes down hill with Jaw 3D and then the last one, which takes place somewhere in Jamaica or something. Nonetheless, riding the trainer is a good time to catch up on movies. Oh yea, the movie was also periodically interrupted by an occasional happy birthday cell phone call. Also, notice the effective use of the bento box...aka official remote control holder.

Once the bike portion was done, it was off to the pool for swim #1. You see, I had planned to do the entire swim all at once, but then I wouldn't be honoring the birthday tradition of being taken out for lunch. So instead, I chose to swim 1.2 miles, take a break to have lunch with Rebecca, and then continue my quest on the day. My swim took place at Washington and Lee HS during the noon swim time. Not too many people, which was nice, because I had the lane all to myself. To me, the swim was going to be the most difficult part of the day. I'm just not an experienced swimmer, so I wasn't sure how my shoulders would hold up over 2 miles. 1.2 miles went by really quickly for me, in a time of 41:32 and I was off to lunch.

Next on the agenda was the 8 mile run. I was most confident about the run, since I am in the middle of marathon training, and 8 miles is my typical Wednesday run. Only interesting thing about the run today was the weather. Now if you paid attention in the beginning of my post, the weather was not good for running. Freezing rain and sleet to be exact.

You know the old saying "bridges and overpasses freeze before roads". Well, I'll add to that, hills as well. Here I am running along, going over numerous bridges, overpasses and hills and I'm practically skating on ice at times. Check out what the ground looked like:

I started out with a conservative pace, not knowing how my legs would feel, since I had already biked 28 or so miles and swam 1.2 miles before, and with the hazardous conditions. At the turn around point, I picked the pace up a bit, while remaining cautious on all the hills, since I know I was only one step away from disaster if I slipped. I ended up finishing the run in a good time, especially considering the weather: 65:48.

After the run, I made a brief stop at the polling station to go vote, since we had primaries. Fortunately, it wasn't crowded, so I was in and out in a matter of 10 minutes. I did almost slip on the sidewalk through, walking back to my apartment.

Last up, the 2nd part of my swim. I knew this was going to feel great, since I was freezing from the run. Once I stepped back into the pool, it felt like a sauna. I swam through the remainder of my distance at a much better clip than I had swam the first part. Not sure why, but it just felt good. Oh yea, and I actually incorporated flip turns into the swim, something I rarely, if ever, do in my workouts since I am still learning to do them correctly. But, as was the case with the rest of swim, my flips were very fluid. I swam the last 100 hard and was out of the pool in a time of 26:17.

Overall, I had a fun day getting through everything. A well deserved reward for my birthday. Here are my final totals:
- Swim: 2 miles - 1:07:49
- Bike: 28 miles - 1:45
- Run: 8 miles - 1:05:48
- Total: 3:58:37

Saturday, February 9, 2008

One down, two to go...

Here I am in the peak of my marathon training. Oh the long runs. They just keep getting longer, don't they? I remember way back (almost 2 months ago) when my long runs were "only" 13 miles. Now I'm into the big stuff. 13 milers are run on my off weeks, which I am certainly looking forward to after my longest run to day: 18.13 miles. See the course below:

With this run in the books, I only have 2 more long runs left. Unfortunately, they are both 20 milers, split apart by off weeks. That leaves about 6 weeks till the big day. I definitely feel ready. Today's run was solid to say the least. I kept the pace steady for the first 10 miles and then opened it up a bit to the end. Add the fact that I swam 2000 yards last night after work, and thats a sweet start to the weekend.

Here are the states from the run:
Distance: 18.13 miles
Time: 2:26:40
Pace: 8:05/mile

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Glimpse of Things to Come

This weekend was the most active weekend I've had thus far for triathlon training. Taking advantage of the "rest" week from my marathon training, I added some cycling to the program. The combination of the two leads to a long bike ride on Saturday and a long run for Sunday. As I look at my triathlon training plan for a bit later in the season, this is going to be a typical weekend workout. It was nice to be able to shift my focus, at least for the weekend, from marathon training to triathlon training. Up till now, my training has revolved around getting in my runs, and fitting in some swim/bike cross training in between. Well now that I am getting up in mileage on my long runs, I have recovery weeks built into my marathon plan following long runs (18 miles +). This will allow me to get back to focusing on some of the tri stuff that has been neglected.

Saturday's workout included 2.5 hours of spinning (2 classes plus 30 min between each class). This was the first time I've done back to back classes, and Rebecca joined me as well, so it was double the fun. Our butts need to build up those callouses early so we can enjoy some fun rides out in the country this summer!

Sunday's "easy" run was 12 miles at light pace. I included what I consider the most challenging part of the National Marathon course. Its about a 2-3 mile steady up hill climb from the National Mall up to Adam's Morgan, with only a few short flat sections to break it up. The steepest part is almost at the crest and lasts for about 3 blocks, but after climbing for a while, it burns. This section comes around miles 4-7 of the marathon, so it shouldn't be too too bad. Of course, this section used to be a downhill going the other way in the previous version of the course. Once through that section, my course looped back toward Virginia by running along Georgetown and over the Key Bridge. Once back in Virginia, the finish home included the whole nasty hill I use for my hill repeats. I took my time since this was my first long run AFTER a long bike ride.

Overall, my legs feel great with minimal damage done. Nothing a few beers while watching the Super Bowl won't take care of ;) I hope so, because next week its back to the marathon focus with an 18 miler scheduled for next Saturday.


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