Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding Your Playground

For myself and for most people who have yet to set sail on their 2010 training programs, this time of year is all about finding the joy in what you do. The rest of year was drawn out through a schedule which was tied to a series of races. Now that it is over, my motivation to get out the door is driven by whether or not something I do will be fun. When it stops being fun, I have to find something else or take a break. For some, that is focusing on other sports outside of the swim, bike, run regimen we all know so well. For me, if you couldn't tell, my fun lies in just running.

Unlike other sports, running allows the freedom to go wherever or whenever you want. One of my goals this time of the year has been to discover new places to run. I know my immediate neighborhood pretty darn well by now, since I have been using the trails and roads around it exclusively over the past season, since we moved in February. So sometimes when I need to find that "fun factor" again, I need to explore something new. After some searching around online, I came across a website that provided an excellent description of some areas I had never known existed, many of which are within striking distance of my house.

So recently, I set out on foot to explore one of these routes. Turns out, this trail begins only a short distance from my house! I've been driving past this road for nearly a year and never once noticed a trail. Shame on me! But thanks to this handy website, I've found a new place I like to call my playground. This route offers everything one could ask for in a trail. Parts of it are paved, while most of it is soft dirt or gravel. It offers fun "obstacles" such as creek crossings where you have to jump. In other cases, you have to focus while you cross (or else, you will get wet!). And lastly, it follows the path of a creek, leaving you with constant scenery.

On my initial outing, I set out following a pretty intense couple of days of rain. Though this made crossing some areas a bit tricky, it also made for a flat out fun time. When it was all said and done, I had traveled 12 miles and was craving more. If I had been training for a marathon, this run could have easily been pushed to much further distances. When I reached my turnaround point, it wasn't really my planned point. I thought the trail continued to meet up with another trail, but on this initial run, I got a bit "lost", so I just turned around and came back the way I went out.

In the future, I hope to link up to another trail network and continue to explore these parts. Running in the woods into unknown territory brings back a sense of unknown, which is rare after you feel like you've explored every possible option. It's encouraging to know that there are so many places I have yet to explore. Add to the fact that each time you return to trails like these, the conditions and scenery will be different depending on the season.

I think its safe to say I've found a trail I'd like to call my playground.

I'd encourage everyone to re-evaluate your typical routes you use day in and day out and find something new to change it up and have a little fun. This can be done simply by using GoogleMaps or any of the number of sites that allow users to post routes, such as MapMyRun or TrainingPeaks. I know there are a ton more sites out there, so these are just a few to get you started.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ok Winter, You Win

Seriously. That was fun. But let's move on. Everyone loves snow. See I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with the mountains of it covering the sidewalks and any resemblance of a trail. I can't even think of running outside until the 3 ft deep aisles of snow have melted. And while we're at it, a high of the upper 30s isn't going to make that process happen any time soon, so can you please make it a bit warmer?

So you know what, winter? I give up. You win. You are the best season of them all. But how about you show some compassion and let some warmer weather in so we can melt a bit of that snow on the sidewalks so some of us can enjoy running again and not dread doing it on the treadmill. Comprende?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Weekend That Was...Snowy

Wow, what a snowy mess of a weekend this was. (That is a chair that is half covered and a loveseat that is fully covered to the left of it in the picture!) This weekend forced you to remain inside, since the roads were just not usable at all. I was frequently amused by the news coverage though, showing all these people driving around in their rear wheel drive sport cars, thinking they could drive around in a blizzard. I can then only draw the logical conclusion that people who drive sports cars are not smart.

The snow started Friday night and didn't stop till very late Saturday night. After playing a few rounds of snow flipcup outside at a party on Friday night, we decided it would be smart to leave early to avoid the major issues on the road. After only an hour or 2 of snow, the terrible DC area drivers had already begun crashing their cars. Along the way home, we saw probably 20+ cars either involved in an accident or stopped along the side of the road. I still don't quite get how people stop learning how to drive once the snow starts falling, but that is what happens here. Its best to just avoid people in these situations by not driving at all.

In total, our last measurement on Saturday night registered 25 inches! By mid morning Saturday, with a solid foot of snow, we decided to venture out and start some shoveling, since it would be nearly impossible to dig ourselves out with the totals we were anticipating. After about a solid hour of shoveling, I was tired, sweaty, and sore, but the driveway was covered in a new blanket of snow within minutes of finishing. It was coming down at rates between 1-2 inches an hour. Oh well. It would eventually make my job easier when I went to finish the job once the snow stopped on Sunday.

After shoveling, we decided to venture out and ended up grabbing the ski gear and tried for the short slope of our neighborhood street. There was already a solid base of powder, so I was able to get a decent amount of speed going and made a couple of runs out of it.

video
The cross country skiing back up though, was tough! No chairlifts on this slope!

With not much else to do, I was really looking forward to watching the Ironman World Championships, which was set to air on NBC. Well, thanks to what is now being called the "Snowpacalypse", it did not air :( All NBC channels were showing special local coverage of the storm. I tried everything, but there was nothing but coverage of the snow. Ugh. I'm sure it will be aired again though another day this winter.

Sunday morning, we awoke to clear skies, but just an endless blanket of the white stuff. I got cracking on the shoveling again and managed to get the driveway, the stairs, and the sidewalks all done within about 1.5 hours. But man was I sore! I couldn't run due to the weather this weekend, but I sure was able to cross train!

It is now Monday and we are still kinda snowed in. The driveway is all shoveled but our street is still a mess of slush and ice. Hopefully the sun will melt it all, just in time to freeze again tonight. Hope everyone else had some fun in the snow!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Photos From Jingle All The Way 10k

The photos just came out from the 10k on Sunday. Though I am not particularly happy with the way mine turned out, I plucked some of the good ones scattered throughout the race that I considered worthy.

But first - me
Crossing over the small bridge near Mile 1 (in the background)

Back over the same bridge near Mile 6

And now I present to you the highlights (they get better further to the bottom)

Running Snowman

Ugly Sweater Guy


The Joggler


The Penguin

Santa and His Reindeer

Speedy Santa

Xmas Gnome

Not sure what is better - the girl riding the elf or the guy carrying his bike helmet to the right

Monday, December 14, 2009

Race Report: Jingle All The Way 10k

I know...I was "officially" done for the year. But, with the prospect of another free race entry sponsored by my company at the Jingle All The Way 10k, I decided to throw in another race to cap the year off and get a good baseline on my very Base type of training I have been doing over the past 2+ months. It also served as another opportunity to show I can pace myself, unlike the last 10k, where I failed miserably.

Despite the very questionable weather (winter weather advisory with ice in the forecast), I decided to run rain or shine, if for nothing else, the free t-shirt. Sunday morning came a bit earlier than I'd prefer for a Sunday (5:45 am) in winter, as I was worried about parking with the pretty large crowd expected (about 5000) and I still needed to pick up my packet. I ended up getting to the race about an hour early, which was perfect, allowing me time to check in, take care of business, and warm up, just in time for runners to begin corralling at the start line.

I set myself a solid 10-15 rows of runners back. I know there were a lot of fast runners there, so I didn't want to be that guy. After standing around for a few minutes and listening to a bunch of people talking about their expected pace before the start, I knew I was in the right place. Before I knew it, the gun went off and the race had begun.

My goal for this race was to not start off too fast and just go out at a steady effort that I could hold over the course of the race. I think I largely achieved that goal, or at least showed some improvement over my last race. My Mile 1 split was 6:34, which was in sharp contrast to the 5:58 I ran in the last 10k I did.

As we passed Mile 1, I found myself running next to DC Mayor Fenty, who I know is a fair bit faster runner than me (he finished in 39:17). Still feeling like I was moving at a comfortably hard pace, I stuck with him. Then, I found myself actually making sense in my head during a race for a change. Since I knew he was a faster runner, I probably should not use him as a pacer, as it will only burn me up early in the race, leaving me grasping for the finish line toward the end. So, with my competitive ego at my side, I sadly let him go and forced myself to slow as we neared the Mile 2 marker. As I crossed, my watch read 6:46 for my split.

Miles 3 - 4 were spent cruising along with a same 2 other guys, all of us nearly stride for stride the entire time. I came through mile 3 with a consistent split of 6:47 and passed the 5k point in 20:55, which was pretty darn close to where I figured I'd shoot for (21:00). At some point during Mile 4, I grabbed some water from the water stop, only to find the cup was filled really high. As I squeezed the cup to pour it in my mouth, the water jumped into my nose, causing me to cough quite a bit. I stopped coughing by the time I hit the Mile 4 split, which was 6:52.

Mile 5 is always the place in a 10k where my mind plays tricks. Here I was, cruising along with pretty consistent splits (on PR pace) and my mind is starting to tell me to just jog it in. I told it to shut up several times, responding with a few surges, but I just couldn't get out of the funk. I knew if I could hold any reasonable pace at this point that I was going to PR and scored my slowest split of the day with a 6:58. I decided that I would not allow there to be a split over 7:00, so I picked it up.

With only a little more than a mile to go, my mind started to get back on track. We crested a very short bridge, which left just a straight shot of about .8 mile to go to the finish. I could even see the finish line all the way in the distance and I knew I had more effort in me, but I just kind of ran fast, without pushing the pedal all the way down. Mile 6 came through back on pace in 6:48. In the last .2 to go, I kicked it up a notch to bring it home. It took 1:20, which is a 6:40 pace.

I crossed the finish line and looked down at my watch as I stopped it and saw that it read 42:05. This was yet another 10k PR of 35 seconds, bring down my 10k time a total of 1:41 this year without actually training specifically for a 10k. Not too bad a way to cap off the year!

Here are some of the overall stats:
Pace: 6:47/mile
Overall Place: 158/3700+
Gender Place: 137/1508 Males
AG Place (25-29): 34/355

I saw race photographers out on the course, so I may have some updates of the photos as they become available.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Benefits of a Head Lamp

Let's say your season is over (or maybe it is just starting up again) and you just need to get in a workout. BUT, your job holds you captive till it is dark outside, forcing you to either suck it on the 'mill or become a weekend warrior and make up all your workouts on the weekends. But then you have this great idea that you'll wake up early and go for a morning run (brilliant!). You set out your stuff the night before, slap the alarm when it goes off the next morning, and get out the door only to find yourself enjoying the morning run. Then you declare, "morning runs are awesome, I should do this everyday!". So you set everything out again, only to find yourself hitting snooze all the way through that hour run you had planned for the morning.

Sound familiar? This happens to me all the time. I've learned from my mistakes though. Every once and a while, the morning workout is a good idea, but it cannot be trusted consistently. The bed is simply too warm and the pillow too soft to convince myself to get up early to get my workout in.

So, what do you do? Hit the 'mill? Become a weekend warrior?

Well, anyone who is continuing to workout this time of year surely knows that it gets dark early. Here are the 2 options I consider realistic:
1) Drag yourself to the gym and run like a little hamster on a treadmill
2) Continue to run outside, but in the darkness

Your choice - but being the sane person I am, I choose option #2. And here's why.

I present to you - The Head Lamp in all its glory!

I have been running with a headlamp for a few years now and I am no longer afraid of running in the darkness (yea, I said it - afraid...). In fact, I think I enjoy it more than running in the daytime. When it is dark, you have to pay closer attention to everything around you, like cracks in the trail, rocks, etc. Personally, I feel more focused on my body and its movement in the darkness. Things all appear more quiet and you can focus on yourself and just running. All of this is thanks to the head lamp, which shines a nice little 5 ft or so circle of light around me.

Headlamps come in all different shapes and sizes, but most of the lightweight ones give you enough light from their bright LEDs so you can find your way. The one I have has 3 lights (1 bright main light and 2 side lights to help with peripheral vision), similar to the one pictured.

I originally got my headlamp for just general use, but it has proved to be pretty effective for use while running. When it is on my head, I rarely feel it and it does not make any difference in my ability to run as I would in the day time. I also use it to help with setting up my transition area at triathlon races because it is frequently very dark for early races and some extra light goes a long way in eliminating anxiety on race day to get things set up properly.

***BONUS BENEFIT***
The one other significant race-related reason to go out and get yourself a head lamp: porta-potties! You know as well as I do that those early morning races do not provide significant lighting over the porta-pottie area. I don't know about you, but I prefer to know what is going on when I am in there and a head lamp can help you figure that out ;)

Happy running!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snowman Fail

Saturday morning while it was still snowing, Rebecca and I were watching some kids building up giant balls of snow to make a snowman. Well, it didn't go quite as planned. I watched one kid try to add the 2nd ball on top of the 1st ball, only to fail and the 2nd ball crumbled off to the side. By the end of the day, this was the final result.
Snowman fail or snowman-turned snowball fort? You decide.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

I should have taken more pictures. Oh well. My bad.

Thanksgiving this year was local, as it always is, with plans to go to my parent's house for turkey and more. But the day began with the annual tradition of running the Alexandria Turkey Trot, which is 5 miles around these parts. Per our tradition, Rebecca and I ran it together. This year, we also con'd a coworker to join us, even though we were all up past 1 am the night before rocking out on Rock Band (while enjoying some alcoholic beverages) in honor of her husband's 30th birthday.

We rolled out of bed sans alarm at 8 am and headed down to the race. Weather this year was cool, but perfect for running, which brought out a large crowd of approximately 2500 people. The gun went off and it took us about 1 minute to cross the starting line. The plan was to do some run/walking, but typically, I am just along for the ride and run when I am told to run, and walk when I am told to walk. I don't call the shots! The race actually seemed to go by extremely quickly and before I knew it, we were at the half way point! It was right around that point, that we took a brief walk, ran another mile or so, and then took another walk break at the water stop. With the one last hill in sight, it was decided that we'd walk up the steep part and run on in for the last mile of the course. Once we started running again, Rebecca decided to take off for the last mile, while I stayed back to run my coworker in for the last mile. Turns out, Rebecca finished almost a minute ahead of us...that was one fast last mile!

With the race over, we hurried home to start cooking up the items we signed up to bring over for our feast. First up was to make the pie crust for Rebecca's homemade gluten free chocolate chunk pecan pie. After the crust was made, it sat in the refrigerator for about an hour and half, while we worked on the gluten free stuffing. The stuffing action began the day before, when we made a loaf of gluten free "wheat" bread (it tasted like regular wheat bread, minus the wheat). So we took the loaf and cut it up into chunks to be toasted in the oven. There were so many chunks we had multiple rounds of 2 trays going in the oven and one in the toaster. While that was going on, we were boiling chicken stock and sauteing celery, onions, garlic, rosemary, and thyme among other spices to make up the mixture once the bread chucks were ready to go. Finally, we mixed them all together and put 2 big casserole dishes full into the oven to bake for a bit. In the meantime, we went back to the pie crust dough and rolled it out, before fitting it to the pan. Once the crust was in, it was into the oven to bake for a bit, before adding the filling. In only a few hours, we managed to have both items done, with plenty of time to spare to shower, get ready, and head over to my parent's for food!

It is safe to say that both the stuffing and the pie were big hits. And I'd even be so bold to say that the pie was the best pie I have EVER had. It was nearly impossible for me to stop eating the leftovers of it this weekend. I'll just have to add that to the reasons for why I have been gaining some weight.

The next morning, I realized that we had a LOT of stuffing left over, so I decided to turn it into a breakfast meal by making this:

I call this magical creation: The Stuffing Omelet (creative, I know)

This was also made the following morning...and we still have a ton left ;)

The rest of the weekend was kind of a blur. Saturday, we went on a photo exploration to the US Botanical Gardens with my sister (of course all the photos are still on the camera and not here) and had a lot of fun trying to take good shots between the crowds of people. I failed miserably, with the exception of a few photos, but I think Rebecca took a lot better ones. Maybe she'll post them one of these days ;)

And Sunday, we did some shopping around, before heading out the door for a great run in the unseasonably warmer weather. I was planning to run long, and fortunately Rebecca joined me for the first 5 miles, which was awesome and made the time fly by! After we returned back home, I set out into the darkness for the next 7 miles of pure enjoyment with me and my headlamp. Legs felt good, pace was quick, and my HR was low. What else could I ask for!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Get Fat On 30 Miles a Week

This is the time of the year, known as the "Offseason", or as others call it, the "Outseason", where workouts taper down, diets come back to normal, and the mind and body have a chance to recover. It's also known to many as "The battle of the bulge". Most experts say it is safe to put back 3%-5% of the weight you lost while peaking for that last "A" race over the course of this period. This is NOT the time of year to to just sit on your A$$ and gain that 3%-5% in the first few weeks though! Let me explain.

The end of October brought Halloween. The beginning of November brought our Anniversary (hooray!). The end of November will bring Thanksgiving. And the end of December will bring about the holidays and New Years. What do all of these holidays have in common? You guessed it, FOOD! And typically, lots of it.

Now, I'm going to be honest here for a second. I COULD be stronger and control my intake of crap. But sometimes, you just have to let it happen. I've learned that if you force yourself to omit something, eventually you will just end up binging and eating more than you would have if you didn't limit it in the first place. So, I let it happen from time to time to keep me sane.

Halloween is annually a weakness for me. There is always an endless supply of candy brought into my office, of which happens to be some of my favorite varieties, such as: Nerds, Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls (I'm a role model for nutrition, I know). Add to that, homemade baked goods that people have left over and you have a recipe for disaster. AND, we haven't even started yet with Thanksgiving (I loves me some Thanksgiving food!).

But before I get ahead of myself, there is also something else. Since Rebecca and I celebrated our 1st Anniversary, we managed the time-honored tradition of eating our wedding cake. The top tier of our cake, which was gluten free so Rebecca could have it, had been wrapped up and stored for the past year. So you can imagine our excitement to celebrate by eating 1 year old cake! It was actually pretty darn tasty and you never would have known it was a year old. However, we believe that the frosting on the cake may not have been gluten free. Well guess what that means? More cake for me!

So let's do the math. Candy from Halloween + a whole wedding cake all to myself = weight gain. However, I'd also like to point out that I have been putting in a solid 30 miles of running a week, so its not as if I am sitting on my rear all day and just eating this stuff. I just find it amazing that I can still gain weight while putting up some decent mileage.

I just know that I've gotta get through these next couple of months and keep up the solid miles, or else I might have to (gasp) watch what I eat...

Anyways - Have a Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to eat well! You can burn it all off by running in your local Turkey Trot. I know we will be ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Ad-Hoc Long Run

I apologize for the recent rash of enthusiastic running-related posts. Its just that for whatever reason, my run mojo has been found and I'm going with the flow. So indulge me for a bit, while I continue on my ways of being one with the road/trail.

3 posts ago, I talked about the benefits of flexibility in training. This week's long run was a perfect example. I set out Monday night with the intent of pressing my luck at my first dark longer run of the fall, now that daylight savings time has passed and running after work is essentially all in the dark, unless you run on a treadmill in the gym. But that wouldn't be fun, now would it?

As I began my run, my legs felt shockingly fresh, with an extra sense of spring to them. I figured the feeling would pass, like in most cases as the distance increases, but this time it didn't. As I neared the last mile of my planned route, I started to think my legs were feeling too good to stop now. So I began a different run route that would nearly double my planned run. Of course, before deciding, I made sure to do the math in my head that 1) I didn't have any hard workouts within the past 24 hours prior or planned for tomorrow, and 2) This distance wouldn't be outside the abilities of which I have been running. Once I confirmed that such as decision would be safe, I was good to go and thus began my ad-hoc long run!

Once again, the glory of not being on an official plan resulted in an amazing run. Not only did I finish it feeling fresh like when I began, but my pace was faster than any of my long runs I've done in the past 2+ months. I found myself settling into the quiet of running in the dark. The benefit of this is that very few others are out there, so it truly does make for a quiet run. I should note that I do run with a headlamp when it is dark so I know where lies in front of me. However, not knowing what is too far ahead allowed my mind to melt away from being focused on anything other than thinking about the next place my foot will land based on the restricted view of what my headlamp would light up. It was a fun feeling not knowing what was 20 ft or 1 mile ahead. And before I knew it, my run was done. It felt late, since I had been running for quite some time in the dark, but I checked my watch and it was still pretty early...at least there is something to enjoy about it being dark this soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Little Alma Mater Pride

Its been a long time since my college hay day, but I have to be a bit prideful. No, not from the 3-6 football team, or from this exhibition disaster by the basketball team...but from the rugby team I used to be a part of. Specifically, this story. Syracuse is only the 2nd team in the history of the Upstate NY Division 1 Rugby League to qualify for the USA Rugby National Sweet 16 Championships in California. This is a huge accomplishment. I'll be headed up there this weekend for our annual rugby alumni pilgrimage, where we play each other (alumni vs college team). For the first time, I think the college team has a chance at winning. We'll see!

Posted in: College
By Brian Lowe
Nov 14, 2009 - 2:22:34 PM

Col_KUvSyracuse_i__1.jpg
In what is unquestionably one of the biggest upsets in years in college rugby, Syracuse has stunned Dartmouth 6-5 in the Northeast Rugby Union semifinals Saturday at West Point, NY.

The Big Green led 5-0 at halftime, but a couple of second half penalty goals proved to be enough to get the Hammerheads home.

Syracuse went into the semi as the underdog, but as a consequence of their win, they have qualified for the national Round of 16 for the first time ever.

Constant rain caused a string of handling errors and there were a slew of penalties, although in the end Dartmouth’s focus was off and that is primarily what led to their downfall.

“Syracuse was the better team on the day,” Dartmouth head coach Alex Magleby told ARN. “They made the right adjustments and we didn’t adjust too well.”

Syracuse will face the winner of the late semifinal between Army and Fordham in Sunday’s NRU championship decider.

NRU men’s DII semis:
Vermont 15-10 UMass
Middlebury 11-0 Stonybrook

NRU women’s DI semis:
Brown 26-10 UMass
Army 46-0 Syracuse

Elsewhere on the east coast, Delaware capped off a perfect run in the Mid-Atlantic Premier League by dropping Virginia 38-3.

UD led 12-3 at the main break. Delaware captain and #8 Mike ‘Chief’ Levin (3) again led by example.

UVA had to scramble to find an alternative field due to the heavy storms that lashed the coast late in the week and eventually a multi-purpose field was secured for the game.

UD’s support play was exceptional on the day, as it has been all season long, and that is what paved the way to the win.

“It was a good game for the guys and a nice way to end the regular season,” said Delaware head coach Bjorn Haglid.

“We went through undefeated and now it’s about getting ready for Kutztown in March.”

In the Friday night match, Penn State held off a late charge by Navy to post a 20-10 victory in Annapolis, MD.

It was 13-10 at halftime to PSU and the Nittany Lions did a good job on the positional play aspect of their game in the second half to hold on for the win.

“It’s always a tough game,” Penn State head coach Don Ferrell told ARN. “I thought it was a pretty good performance by our guys.”

As a result of the final round of the regular season in the Premier League, Delaware finished on top of the standings ahead of Penn State, Navy and Kutztown.

The MARFU championship will be played next March with the two top finishers going through to the national playoffs.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This One Goes Out To The One I Love

It seems like it was only yesterday that we celebrated our wedding and were whisked off on our honeymoon. It has now been one year since that wonderful day. We've grown closer together, bought a house together, and most importantly, shared the past year together. I can only hope each year will be as good as this one has been.

Happy anniversary!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Flexibility in Schedules

One of the glorious things about not being on any plan for a specific race is to do things by feel. My running lately, though not scheduled through an actual plan, is still somewhat structured. I'm not going to try and mash up a speedwork session the day before or after a long run just because I feel like it. I still have my principles!

But, what I've noticed about these past almost 2 months of just running without a plan, is that some days you have it and others you don't. While on a plan, you may feel guilty about "only" running 4 miles, when you were supposed to run 6. Or that you were supposed to do a tempo run, but you just ran an easy pace. Take away the perception that "I must do x, y, and z or my season will be ruined", and workout seems to be fun again. I think its that freedom to choose what I WANT to do today, rather than knowing I HAVE to do something, that I enjoy most about this little deal I have with myself.

And I am starting to think I am on to something here. A few seasons ago, I took training and sticking to my schedule a lot more seriously. This year, I took a more hands off approach, allowing for a bit more flexibility. I enjoyed my training a lot more because of it. Did it allow me to maximize my potential output? Not necessarily. But then again, I am not trying to win anything outright. I am trying to improve, but still have fun.

However, depending on the distance you are training for, flexibility is all relative. The longer the distance, the less flexible you can be with your schedule. For example, long swims, rides, or runs, are a critical part of any training plan, whether training for a marathon or an Ironman. You can't necessarily just run 6 miles, when you need to hit up a 20 miler. Its kind of hard to get around doing that. But some of the other stuff in between should be able to have some flexibility, like swapping out a tempo run for an easy run. If its not there that day, don't force it.

As long as there is consistency in training, I think flexibility in the schedule is a good thing. And that has me continuing to do what I WANT to do, which is what motivates me to get out there each time and have fun.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Race Bling

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I placed 2nd in my age group at the Home Run 10k. Despite the chip timed race, they were unable to post results and/or determine age group awards at the race. So when I found out that I won an award, I was told that I'd receive it in the mail. Well, I finally did!

I just have to laugh at the message in the letter. If you can't read it, it says "Please find the enclosed prize for being first or second in your age group...." Really? They couldn't have printed 2 different versions of the letter - one to send to 1st and one to send to 2nd? Strange. Anyways, my "prize" is a gift certificate to Potomac Pizza. How much is on the card? I haven't a clue. But I'll find out one of these days when I venture over to Maryland to find out!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feature on Michael Wardian

I found this little segment on Michael Wardian that was posted yesterday. Its a little cheesy, but its a nice piece on him, his family, and being part of the local community (Arlington, VA) where Rebecca and I USED to call home. Gotta love that even elite runners push double-wide strollers with their kids. Of course, its no surprise, since he set the world record for "running a marathon while pushing his kid in a baby stroller" - 2:42:21 for those who are counting!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sometimes You Just Gotta Run

Despite the nasty weather this evening (low 50s and rain), I felt the urge. It doesn't happen very often, but a few times a year, nasty weather brings out the enthusiast in me. Normally, dreary weather has the opposite effect, causing me to either schedule an indoor gym session, or scratch any plans all together. But not this time.

As soon as I got home from work, I quickly changed clothes, suited up in some rainy running gear (including a new Brooks skull cap/beanie I picked up at the Marine Corps Marathon expo this past weekend), and hit the trails. One of the wonderful things about working out in weather like this is the silence. There are nearly zero other people out there on the trails and all you can hear are your own footsteps and the sound of rain. Its peaceful and calming.

A little less than an hour later, I returned home, with my mind at peace from the exhausting work day. No plan, no purpose. Just running. Now that's the way it should always be.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go see the premier of This is It with Rebecca...later!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 Marine Corps Marathon Expo

Anyone running Marine Corps? If you are, I'll be at the expo working at the Clif station all day Friday and Saturday (with Rebecca on Saturday too!), much like I did last year. Come stop by and say hi. We'll have lots of products to sample and give out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is It Really Necessary?

I already know the answer before writing this, but I just thought it was an interesting observation.

As I'm sure most of you already did, you've poured over the results from the Ironman World Championships, including all the photos and videos from the various sources of coverage. There is a ton of cool stuff out there, with all access coverage from inside the race. It was only after reviewing a bunch of photos recently published by Competitor, that I realized something:

Both the Men's AND Women's champions didn't wear aero helmets. Interesting....

Now that isn't to say that I don't believe they provide any benefit. Plenty of scientific studies have shown that the aero advantage over the bike course of an Ironman race is pretty significant. But why then, did they choose not to wear them? One thought is the heat. Most aero helmets provide less ventilation due to fewer vents, and being that the race was in Hawaii with temperatures in the 90s, the added heat impact on one's body could have minimized aero advantage one would gain on the course. Other than that, comfort? Anything else I'm missing?

But then that got me curious - do they ever wear aero helmets in other races? And it appears the answer is mostly no. I found a few shots of them wearing aero helmets, such as the one to the side, but the majority of the photos show them wearing regular helmets. I mean, if aero helmets provide "free speed", why wouldn't they wear them?

One other observation is that neither triathlete posted the fastest bike split, so it is pretty clear that aero helmets do help post faster bike splits, as they were worn by each of the top cyclists in the race. But then again, triathlon is much more than a long bike ride, sandwiched between a swim and a run. Contrary to what most people say, it ISN'T all about the bike. This year, it was all about the run. The differences in the bike splits this year weren't significant enough to create enough separation between the faster cyclists and the faster runners. It came down to the run, much like it usually does in Ironman. A good cyclist can post a solid lead, but a strong runner who is a solid cyclist will catch them on the run, such as what happened this year in the men's race.

I'm not trying to draw any conclusions from this, because I'm not qualified to, nor do I care to get into too many specifics. I just thought it was interesting that they both don't wear aero helmets and I wondered to myself why. No matter what the strength of the triathlete is, the winner in the end is the man/woman that swims, bikes, and runs that fastest over the course of the race.

Anyone else have any other thoughts on this?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Race Report: Home Run 10k

This was my last "official" race of the season. The Home Run 10k is a small, local race that goes right by my parent's house, making it an easy spectator course for them to come out and watch. It is also a relatively short drive to Maryland from my house, so why not run it?

Last year, they had about 200 runners in the 10k and 175 in the 5k. So this year, I was expecting similar numbers. Well, anyone who lives on the east coast knows that a HUGE cold front just pushed through, which sent temperatures plunging. Last week's 70 degrees became 40. Oh yea, and its rained constantly for 4 days. So I was a bit skeptical that this year's race would have as many people. I went to sleep to the patter of rain drops and feared the morning's weather. I woke up to raw temperatures in the upper 30s, but no rain! So at least that was something positive. Except it was freakin cold. Especially since I haven't had a chance to adapt yet to this recent cold spell (I've wussed out all week by running inside on a treadmill). After a 20 minute warm up, I headed toward the start line/ From the looks of it, there was about 200 total runners (10k and 5k runners started at the same time).

I seeded myself 3 rows back, 1 row too far back in retrospect, but those other people got there first and it was hard to tell who was for real and who should be starting way back, especially with the 5k runners mixed in, so I stayed where I was. The race marshal did a simple "Go!" and we were off.

Only my first 5 steps seemed like I was fighting for position. After the first few steps, we made a sharp, 90 degree left turn (a very poor way to start a race IMO), which created some open road, so I was able to settle into a pace once I hit that. My pace was....a smidge fast. Let me explain. [When 10k and 5k runners start off together, it is very difficult to differentiate between who is running which distance. Especially since anyone can go out hard in either race. Some keep the pace, while others slow down, but you just try to find a pack to go with. So I just tried to go at a "comfortable" pace with a pack of runners.] Well about a half mile into the race, I started regretting my early pace and those who I chose to pace off. My legs felt like lead (no, not iron), and I seriously thought about dropping out of the race...BEFORE MILE 1! So I figured I'd just stick with it to see what my split was. Uh...5:58. Oops! So yea, that would be why I didn't feel so good. Running a 5:58, while base training with no speedwork = automatic blowup. The truth is, I knew going into this race that I hadn't prepared to run a hard 10k. I've been keeping up with my running, but with a few aches here and there, I've taken speed work out and just focused on quality running.

I knew that some of Mile 2 and all of Mile 3 would be much hillier (see between minutes 6 and 20 above), so I knew my pace would slow down, but I was mentally about to give up after passing the 5k turnaround point. Seeing all these people I had been pacing off of turn around, whereas I had to go twice as far to my turnaround point, made me not want to continue on. But then I realized that the only way I was going to get back fastest was going to be by finishing the race. So I pressed on. I never saw a sign for Mile 2, so I recorded miles 2 and 3 together. Mile 3 was pretty much all up hill and my split for the 2 miles was 13:59, which I was pleasantly surprised with. I assume Mile 2 was in the neighborhood of 6:40, because I was still moving well, but tiring very quickly. That was short lived though once I hit the long up hill toward the turnaround. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, but I hit the 5k turnaround in just under 21 minutes.

I knew with Mile 4 going down the hill I had just run up, I have a shot at cutting into some of the time I had lost during Mile 3. The rest of the way to the finish was up and down a whole series of tough hills, so any free speed I could use now on the down hills would pay off later. I pushed through Mile 4 in 6:52, which felt faster, but at that point, I was willing to take anything under 7.

Mile 5 would prove to be the toughest on the day (see between minutes 27 and 35ish above). Not only were my legs trashed, but it was nearly all up hill, with just a few short down hills mixed in. Oh yea, and I almost got hit by a car. I was approaching one of several segments of the course were cars were allowed to cross the street, per directions from a volunteer at that intersection. Well, the volunteer motioned to the car to stop, but apparently dads driving minivans don't listen to traffic directions, so he proceeded to enter the intersection. I had 2 options at this point: 1) Continue to run hard in the hopes that he'd see me and stop before making the cross, despite not following the volunteer's direction; or 2) Slow down so I don't get run over by an oblivious, minivan driving dad on a mission. Since I appreciate life, and don't trust oblivious, minivan driving dads, I chose option 2. With little life left in my legs, I can to a near stop, narrowly missing the minivan. However, I did give it a good slap on the rear bumper as I passed my to let him know of my displeasure with his decision to be oblivious...and drive a minivan. Sadly, I crossed Mile 5 in 7:28. Ouch. Goodbye decent race time I thought.

With a little over a mile to go, I crested that last challenging hill and tried to open up my stride to see what I had left. I looked down at my watch a few times, because believe it or not, I actually still had a chance at a 10k PR. I felt like I was moving at a good clip and finishing strong. I finally got my pace back under 7 for the last 1.2 miles, which split out at 8:20, a pace of 6:56/mile.

My final time was 42:40, placing me 21st overall. While this wasn't the prettiest race, and it was a complete disaster on my part in terms of pacing, it was a PR for me in the 10k by 8 seconds! Who PRs in a 10k race when they have 2 splits that are 1 minute 30 seconds apart from each other? This would be the definition of banking time early in the race and I do not recommend it, as it makes the last 5 miles SUCK.

And guess what else? I placed 2nd in my Age Group (20-29), so, a "medal and prize" will be on its way some time in the near future. Want to know why I don't have it now? Well I'll tell you.

Begin rant
...After the race, I waited 30 minutes in the rain, wind, and cold for them to announce the results. I knew I had a chance of placing, because at the turnaround point, I looked for people that would be in my age group and didn't think I saw many, so I figured I'd wait around and check the results. Well, the first announcement was that results would be announced in 15 minutes. So I waited... Then, the next announcement was the top 3 males. So I waited some more... Then, the announcement was the top 3 females. So I waited some more.... In total, this is now a hour after the race was done. Then, I finally asked the woman making the announcements if they were going to announce the age group awards and she said they would be announced shortly. So I waited some more. Then, she made an announcement. Age group results cannot be determined at this time due to "technical difficulties", so results will be posted later in the day. End rant and major suckage.

So, they finally posted the results online and I see that I placed 5th in my age group, but the top 3 males were all in 20-29, so the age group awards fall to the next 2. Therefore, my "medal and prize" is TBD, because I don't know what it is. Stay tuned...

FYI - The last time I ran this course, my time was 43:46, resulting in a race PR of 1:06. I have to be happy about the result. This is a very challenging 10k course and if I were to run a 10k on a flat course, like I did for my previous PR, I know I can drop my time by a lot. Plus, I ran this race in the cold, wind, and misty rain, which is never a good combination. So I still have a lot of room for improvement. Which is good, because it will keep me focused throughout the winter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Entering the Land of the Grasshoppers

Until now, I never realized that grasshoppers hang out in packs. Usually, I'll see a random grasshopper in a field somewhere and think, "Look its a grasshopper", and continue on my way. Sometimes it is before a softball or flag football game, when running warm up laps. But never have I seen packs of them. And when I say packs, I mean hundreds of them. What they are all doing together, I could only take a guess...




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A recent weekend evening turned out to be a really nice day - temperatures in the high 60s, low humidity, sun still shining, but not too hard. It was one of those days that forced me outside for a run because how could I not enjoy nature on a day like that? So I set out for a medium distance run of about 8 miles. Typically, I begin my longer runs by hitting up the Fairfax County parkway trail, which is only .25 miles from our house, because it serves as a gateway to connect me to other trails and areas, rather than just running out and back on the same trail.

So I set out like any other run and quickly found my way to the trail. The route I usually take brings a slight downhill in the first mile of the trail, which always ends up in faster early splits than planned. However, as my pace picked up on the downhill, I suddenly became very cautious and was forced to slow my pace. The trail was lined with grasshoppers! And as I neared them, they would all jump out of the way. However, there were so many of them that it was like the parting of the seas and was really scared they were going to go after me for interrupting their...ummm...."fun"! Fortunately, they understood that in order to get rid of me as quickly as possible, they would have to open up a clear running lane for me, so there was no collateral damage on my part, resulting from the clash between man (shoe) and insect.

For nearly 4 miles, I was constantly amused by the sheer number of grasshoppers, until my run course took me onto another road that was not much of a grasshopper night club. It is something I've never noticed or witnessed before. Just an interesting side story that got me through my workout.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's Next?

With my tri season now over, I'm struggling with what to do. As athletes, we are always looking down the road at what's next. Normally, its a triathlon, and bike ride, or a road race. Lots of people already have their 2010 schedules filled out due to key races filling up. Signing up for any one of those key races will motivate us to continue to pursue our athletic endeavors, whatever they may be. But suddenly, with the lack of a "goal" race, we (or more specifically, I) tend to fall apart from a training perspective. That isn't to say that I'm not working out currently - in fact, my running volume is very solid these days - higher than it was during my half ironman training, now that I can spend more time running when I want to. Its just that working toward a goal helps to determine "The Plan". And without "The Plan", training becomes less consistent and more casual (not that there is anything wrong with that!). I haven't hit that wall yet, where training without a plan becomes stale, but I'm sure it will happen. For now though, I am relishing the joys of running when, how fast, and how far I feel like running. Simply put - when I get the urge to run, I think about what kind of run to do, throw my shoes on, and go. Now that's my kind of training!

But let me back up for a second. I am a planner. More specifically, I like to have a known plan, not an open, go as you will approach to things. Myers-Briggs said so, so you know I'm not making this up. I like to know what's next and have a plan of attack. I'm sure most of you do too. For me, it's always been a challenge to just go with the flow. Typically, I am either training for something , or preparing to train for something. It's been a while since there has been NOTHING in my outlook.

So naturally, after finishing my latest race, I am faced with the question of "What's next?". The reality is that I do have one more race - a local 10k race that I ran 2 years ago where I grew up, which goes right by my parent's house. So I'll probably do that in less than a month. But besides that and the annual Turkey Trot (which Rebecca and I always run together), there is nothing else. No big "A-Priority" race on the horizon, like there has been for the past years.

I haven't signed up for anything next year, nor do I plan to at this point. Next year (at least the majority of it) will be a "play it ear" kinda of year. There may be races (in fact, I'm sure there will be). But after dedicating my season this year to a strict marathon and a half ironman training program, I'm just going to go with the flow.

I'm ok with that fact that I will enter next year not knowing what's next on my race calendar...its good to mentally stretch our comfort zones from time to time. And this is one of those times for me to just go with the flow and see where it ends up. Of course as a planner, I'd sure love to know...but then again, that wouldn't be the point.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Race Report: Patriots Half Iron

Well, my big race for the year is in the books. I completed the Patriots Half after a long six months, pretty much focused on this race. I raced no other triathlons this year, but did a handful of bike rides to keep me focused on my training throughout the season. This was a drastic change from seasons before, where I would race 4-6 races. It kept me focused on one goal, so my training priorities never shifted. At the same time, without a true race to test my progress, it was a challenge to stay motivated at times.


With that, I give you the executive summary, because someone I know, doesn’t like my long reports. So without further ado for you attention deficit folks, here ya go. For everyone else, continue on reading.


Swim – 47:30

Felt good throughout first half, got off course in 2nd half due to not being able to review the changed course (current shifted) before the race, and probably swam a good bit extra.


T1 – 3:40

LONG .3 mile run up hill to transition area. Took wetsuit off after getting out of water so I could run easier to transition. Due to difficult mount line set up, pulled the plug on flying dismount, so I hopped on at the line.


Bike – 2:41:02 (21.6 MPH)

Fast, mostly flat course with a few rollers and false flats. Had an amazing ride and passed tons of people even though I was in the 1st swim wave. Kept my nutrition plan on pace until I got sloshy in stomach with 10 miles to go.


T2 – 1:12

Stomach started cramping a bit as I slipped on my shoes and headed out


Run – 2:01:29 (9:15/pace)

Ran first 3 miles faster than expected - pace based on my HR. Tried gel at mile 3 and after taking first squeeze, nearly threw it back up. Stopped for a few minutes at mile 5 to remove any and all contents that I had eaten in the past day. Ran/walked the rest of the way, but started feeling better by mile 7 at the turnaround. Crossed the finish

line and lost any additional liquid that I didn’t lose at mile 5 or took in since then.


Finish Time: 5:34:52 (PR by 32 minutes 54 seconds over last half IM)


OK, if that wasn’t enough information, here is the full version. Just as a side note, all pictures in this report were taken by Rebecca, while out on the course. There are also a few pictures I added from the race photo company because I actually found a few of them that they took worthy of making it into this post.


Pre-Race


Rebecca and I drove down to Williamsburg Friday morning so we could take care of some of the day before details like packet pickup and driving the bike course. After seeing the way the race was set up, I decided to scrap the planned swim/bike/run. The swim was too far away from transition, the tide was coming in (against the way I’d be swimming), the race site was still being set up so there was no way to do it, other than use my car as the transition area, and I just didn’t feel like messing with anything and taking any chances.


I was able to get to bed by 9 pm and with an expected wake up at 4:30, I wasn’t feeling so bad, since that would work out to 7.5 hours of sleep. Except for one thing. These fire alarm in the building went off at 11:30! I woke up thinking the alarm clock was going off, so I tried shutting that off first. Then Rebecca told me it was the first alarm. We were faced with a big decision – do we take all my tri gear (including my bike) with us as we leave in case we won’t be able to get back in, or do we just leave ASAP since it IS a fire alarm and usually those are pretty much urgent? Well as were deliberating (not a good idea in an emergency), the alarm stopped. Rebecca called the front desk and we were told there was no emergency. Phew! However, it took me another 1.5 hours to fall back asleep, so there goes my big night of sleep.


DSC_0852 by Scurry&Whirl.

Race morning came and we zipped off to the race site. Once there (in nearly pitch black darkness), we took all my gear and headed over to transition to begin setting up. Except I forgot my floor pump, so I had to go back and get it. Then I forgot something else, so I went back to get that. Before I knew it, after I had been body marked and gotten my chip, I only had like 20 minutes till I needed to head over to the swim start (which was moved the morning of the race due to a shift in the tide, so it was a solid 10 minute walk away). I quickly finished setting up my transition area with 15 minutes until the race start time, but I needed to make a pit stop at the wonderful porta-loo first. Fortunately, most people had headed over to the swim already, so the line wasn’t anything too bad. We then quickly walked to the swim start, where I put on my wetsuit and jumped in the water for a quick stroke or two. Following the national anthem, they suddenly began the 10 second countdown! And off we went in the 1st wave…


Swim


Quick, someone guess how many open water swims I had done this year prior to the race? And one more - How many times did I wear a wetsuit prior to the race? If you guessed zero, then you are the winner. I just had to laugh about that fact AFTER the race (during the race, I think I repeatedly asked myself "why?, why?, why?"). I honestly don’t know why. I planned every detail leading up to this race, except for making sure I got in enough open water swim time. I guess I figured that I am going to be slow-ish regardless, so I didn’t want to commit a perfectly good weekend morning to a swim, when I could be running and riding long. I had planned on doing some open water swims during the summer, but my schedule never worked out. My focus this summer was bike (and it showed in the results) and I participated in long bike rides over an opportunity to get in an open water swim. Given the lack of open water swims in the area (that also have to fit my schedule), it just never happened. My bad. I'll do better next time, I promise.


So, back to the swim. They reversed the swim course the morning of the race, due to a change in the direction of the tide. I just figured, great, so long as it was advantageous to us, which they assured us it was, because we’d be swimming with the current instead of against it (I always prefer that option). However, while standing on the beach shortly before the swim start, I was unable to see all the buoys, due to glare and the placement of support boats out on the course. I knew what it looked like on the website, so I figured it would be close, only reversed. I lined myself toward the inside and was rather close to the front of the pack. This was not by choice. I found myself there, as did many others, when they started the 10 second countdown after the national anthem. With the current pushing the left (turns were on to the left), most people were offset to the right. I wanted to avoid contact, so I stayed where I was and let the sprinters take off first before getting into my swim zone.


DSC_0823 by Scurry&Whirl.


I was actually swimming pretty well through the first turn buoy. I was getting pushed a bit left, but I stayed right on course the whole way out. There was a little contact at each orange buoy, but especially the first yellow turn buoy, but that’s expected. The turn brought us diagonally out to the furthest point on the course, where we were to go straight across for the longest stretch of the course, before hitting the next yellow buoy, which would turn us back to shore. Read that last sentence again - That’s what I THOUGHT the course was supposed to do.

But after the orange buoy, the course turned back to shore. (Note – yellow buoys were the turn buoys, orange was supposed to mean no turning.) Anywho, I proceeded straight (while still sighting) after passing the orange buoy. It wasn’t too much further that I realized I was no longer seeing other swimmers (or buoys). I paused to tread for a second so I could get a good look at the course and came to realize that the course took a pretty hard “turn” toward the shore. So I swam off course a bit and had to swim back to the right and against the current, which was pushing left. This is where my swim turned sour. But eventually, I reached a point where people were standing up (it was still a good 100 yards from shore). In my now frustrated state, I stood up and dolphin dove a couple of times, while also walking a bit. I started taking off my top, but wanted to get in one more drive to get some water in my suit so it would be easier to take it off. As I dove, both hamstrings started cramping up and I started to worry. I walked the rest of the way out of the water like a robot so I didn’t cramp anymore, which worked, but made my look like a robot in the pictures Rebecca took of me.

DSC_0835 by Scurry&Whirl.

(walking like a robot, but happy to be done with the swim)


Time: 47:30 (1:22 WORSE than at Eagleman)


T1


With such a long way to transition, I knew it was going to be much easier to take my wetsuit off right after getting out of the water, than waiting until I ran .5 miles with it on, likely making it even tighter and more difficult to take off.


DSC_0837 by Scurry&Whirl.


It came off in only about 20 seconds and I jogged the rest of the way back to transition. This long run actually helped quiet my hamstrings by the time I finally entered the physical transition zone. With my shoes already on my pedals, the only thing I needed to do was put on my socks, helmet and sunglasses.


DSC_0841 by Scurry&Whirl.

The bike out was on a short uphill piece of grass, with the mount line being an immediate 90 degree turn onto a small asphalt path, which was then another 90 degree turn about 20 feet later headed up hill. No thanks to the flying mount this time, so I just straddled the bike and got cooking on the bike.

DSC_0846 by Scurry&Whirl.


Bike


After driving the course the day before with Rebecca, I pretty much knew where to keep an eye out for things. For example, there was a“climb” on the course came at mile 5 and again at mile 50 to go over a bridge. It wasn’t long or steep, but something to be prepared for, because it had a few grates in the pieces of concrete connecting it together, plus it was under construction, so I knew to look out for stray nails or anything that might cause a flat. There was also a 5-7 mile section of road that was on packed pebbles, which made for quite the bumpy bike ride. Nothing I could do about it, since everyone else had to ride the same section, but it was nice to know so I didn’t ruin my focus out on the course.


My goal for the bike course was to push it comfortably hard. I’ve done more cycling this year than ever, so I knew I could post a good split. My mid zone 3 HR on the bike was right around 148-150. Fresh off the swim, my HR was pretty high for the first chunk of miles out on the course. I didn’t push too hard out of the gate, per my plan, and just took the first 30 minutes to settle my body into a solid pace/HR (see green HR line below).

The first 10 miles, with the exception of the bridge (little blip toward the left in red), were a very slight downhill (think false flat), so I was pushing some good looking numbers early on. I figured that I’d be a good bit slower on the return, since I’d be tired and on the up hill part. I felt like I kept my pace steady almost the whole ride. Every 3-4 miles, or when we came to a turn, I got out of the saddle to stretch out of legs and use some different muscles. Other than that, I stuck in my aero position the whole time and flew.


About half way into the bike course, a peleton came up on me. Seeing as how I was in the first wave of the swim, there weren’t THAT many triathletes out on the course yet, so I found it interesting when a pack of 12 tri-geeked out people came up on myself and another guy who had been passing and re-passing each other. Normally when I see something like this, I just stick to my own game plan and don’t worry about them. But the problem was that they were taking up the road and definitely not following USAT rules, hence the drafting. I was hoping an official would come by, but there was no such luck at this point. It was basically 4 rows of 3 riders abreast riding on the left side of the lane. But what made it worse was that they were going the same speed as me, so it wasn’t as if I could avoid them. I was essentially boxed in (which means they were both blocking and drafting at the same time). I did my best though, by getting out of the saddle to get in front and waving through them, so I couldn’t get busted for drafting (it sure beats slowing down, which was the only other option). A few minutes later, they’d come up on me again. We went back and forth in this manner for the next 5 miles. It was quite frustrating. But then, there was redemption! An official finally pulled up and literally rode right next to the pack for at least 2-3 minutes while they continued illegally riding. One guy in particular got busted twice I believe (I confirmed it in the results), as I watched this all unfold from my safe (and legal) distance of just over 3 bike lengths back. The official was shaking his head, unable to comprehend the stupidity of the group. As a spectator to this whole event, I witnessed AT LEAST 10 penalties committed over the course of my interaction with the group (one of the benefits to being an official is officiating the race in my head while I’m out on the course, so it takes away from having to think about being tired while on the bike).

(one of the pictures not taken by Rebecca that I particularly liked - and am actually considering purchasing one for the first time)

With that whole peleton ordeal over, I had about 10 miles or so left in the course. Though I was looking forward to getting off the bike, I started to feel the rumble of something not good. My stomach was sloshy and I could tell that the run would not go as I would have hoped. I did not take in any more liquids or Shot bloks for the rest of the bike, in the hopes that it would help settle down my stomach. I was still able to keep my effort strong through to the bike finish. After going over a 10 ft long really rough patch of road (quoted by the Race Director pre-race as “the worst stretch of pavement you will ever see” in his pre-race speech) that resembled the moon craters, I came to stop with my flying dismount and entered T2.


Time: 2:41:02 (15:04 PR over Eagleman)

Avg Speed: 21.6 mph

Avg HR: 151


T2


I was able to make a pretty quick transition, though it could have been faster, based on some T2 times I have posted from previous races of a similar size transition area. I only had to put on my shoes, rack my bike, take off my helmet, and grab my run hat (which already had my race belt and nutrition sitting in it), so it was pretty simple. I think I got a stomach cramp (the first sign of trouble) as I began running out of transition.


Time: 1:12


Run


I started off at what felt like a controlled pace on the same up hill that we had to climb out of at the start of the bike. After about ¼ mile, it flattened out, where we continued on for a short out and back section, which we only had to do once, before entering the first of 2 laps. I hit mile 1 in 8:20 to my shocked amazement. I felt alright and kept checking my HR to make sure I wasn’t going out too hard too soon. Mile 2 came through in 8:40, as I forced myself to pull back some on the pace, because I just wanted to play it safe so early into the run. Per my plan, as I neared mile 3, I was to take a gel. I went to grab for my first squeeze of it and within seconds of hitting my mouth, I wanted to yack (see drop in HR shortly after Mile 3 - ie walking). No gels for me. I spent the last ¼ mile before the aid station with a nasty bit of gel just kind of hanging in my mouth, because I was too nauseated to swallow or even spit it out. So I finally got to the aid station and washed it down with some water. Mile 3 came through in 8:45. Around Mile 4 is where I started to get the bad stomach issues that I knew were coming while I was on the bike. I was still holding a decent pace (8:50 mile split)I had to take a short walk break (about 20 seconds) to compose myself. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to take in any more calories as planned from gels, I tried something different at mile 5 – flat coke. Only, the coke wasn’t cold. So my stomach didn’t like it and I proceeded to empty all contents of my stomach for a solid 2+ minutes (see giant gap with lower HR during Mile 5). Plenty of people offered salt tabs, etc, but the only thing that I knew would make me feel better was emptying my stomach. I forced myself to continue the release of everything with my trusty finger. I took a few steps, and found out I hadn’t released everything, because I went through 2 more heaving episodes. And THEN I was done with that.


I started with an easy jog and progressively felt better. I passed by Rebecca and a friend who came down from Richmond to watch the race around Mile 6 and though I was running well for them (and the pictures I knew they were taking), I still felt kinda crappy. I rambled something to them about my body falling apart when I passed by and just heard our friend go “That doesn’t sound too good.”


DSC_0882 by Scurry&Whirl.


I finally hit the turnaround for lap 2/mile 7 and actually started to feel alright. A very short while later, I was in much better spirits and I passed by them again and told them I’d see them soon at the finish. I even smiled for the camera.

DSC_0872 by Scurry&Whirl.

The next several miles were kind of a blur. I felt ok running, but for some reason I continued with more walk breaks. These only happened at the aid stations, but a couple of them got longer than I should have let them and cost me time. I was very diligent at first with only walking for 15-30 seconds, but I found myself in a few cases on extended 1 minute walks. I’d tell myself “I feel fine and there is no reason to be walking. The quickest way to finish is to run.” And I’d start running again to the next aid station. My last couple of miles were back on pace with my shorter walk breaks, but to be honest, I am regretful that I continued to take walk breaks in those last few miles, because there was no reason. I should have just pushed through.


DSC_0891 by Scurry&Whirl.
I ran the last 1.5 miles and began picking up the pace once I could hear the announcer. I finally entered the path to the finish line, when a guy came up on me from behind and encouraged me to pick up the pace even faster and we’d push it to the finish.

DSC_0904 by Scurry&Whirl.


I didn’t really want to, but I was only about 50 feet from the finish, so we pushed it hard, coming in at 5:34:51, a PR by 32:54 minutes!


Happy to be done :)


Time: 2:01:29 (PR by 17:13 over Eagleman)

Pace: 9:15/mile

Avg HR: 151


Once I stopped moving, I felt another wave of stomach issues coming ASAP. The volunteers were handing the medals, taking our chips off our ankles, and giving us water. I needed it done much faster than they were moving, so I grabbed mine and ran off to the side about 3 feet from the finish line. Everything else that I took in from Mile 5 – 13.1 was released onto the grass. And I think some internal stuff too, because I saw some colors coming out of me that I know didn’t come from any food I ate. I had an extended session with nature for a solid 5 minutes, while Rebecca, my parents, and our friend (and all the other spectators) looked on. It was WONDERFUL. (sorry, no pictures!)


After I was finally done, I grabbed a regular coke in the hopes of taking in some calories and having the carbonation help to settle my stomach. And it did. I took in a little bit of the mac and cheese they had as part of the post race food and began feeling much better. After that, I didn’t feel sick again.


On our way headed out of town, we stopped to get gas, and I noticed this sign.


Are there really hot dogs that AREN't all meat?


Summary


This race was the culmination of nearly 6 months of training for a single race. I rode my bike more than I ever have, completing my first century several weeks earlier in the process. My run training wasn’t quite where it should have been, and my swimming still sucks. Bottom line is that I need to have help with my swimming. I put in a lot of time in the pool, and despite being able to cover the distance with relative ease, I am still way slower than I am, when compared to how I fare in cycling and running. Something has to happen with my swimming for me to think about improving my times. But that’s the good news – there is still plenty of room for improvement, despite the huge PR.


So with that, I’d just like to thank Rebecca for her support of my training throughout this summer. I really wanted to hit this race hard and race close to my potential. I feel like I accomplished that goal, but I couldn't have done it without her support. I know it was difficult not having me around as much on the weekends, while I was off on my long bike rides. It means a lot to me that she supports this crazy lifestyle and all its demands. I couldn't have done it without her.


Now that my season is unofficially over, we have lots more time to explore all the fun things we (I) had to put off over the last few months.


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