Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fat Guy in a Fatter SUV

Tuesdays are Contes Hill Rides, as I previously mentioned. Unfortunately, last week's ride got rained out (for the first time in 2 years!), due to thunderstorms that rolled in just at the time people were showing up. My weekday workouts revolve around this day, because it is by far my favorite workout of the week and gives me the most bang for the buck, so to speak, workout wise. It is more or less 1 hr straight of HR spiking intervals of climbing the steepest hills around and flying down the backside for recovery. Nothing I can think of builds more strength than these workouts. And, since it is a group environment, I always feel compelled to work a little bit harder. It is just a great time and I recommend everyone try it.

This week's ride was pretty well attended. I'd guess about 50 people showed up, so we rolled out in a large pack before splitting up into 2 groups - A group - really, really fast (mostly people on racing teams) and B group - typically moderately paced, but since there were only 2 groups, it included all ranges of speeds.

The first segment of the ride hit the crit loop, which is basically a .8 mile loop that consists of a long downhill to hit speeds around 30 mph if you push it hard and then you turn the corner into a super steep but short climb. In order to make it up the hill successfully, you have to 1) Make sure your gearing is tuned correctly to shift when you need it to so you don't get stuck in a tough gear and fall over; 2) Know the best time to shift so you don't get stuck in a tough gear and fall over; 3) Have a heart that won't break before you make it to the top, because by the time you get to the top, you'll find out your max HR. So we did that for about 20 minutes, or 4 loops.

The second segment was the Military Rd loop, which is out and back on Military Road, and includes 2 long climbs on each side - out and back for a total of 4 long hill climbs per loop. These are great for muscular endurance building, because they keep you climbing for longer at a steady effort. After regrouping at the end of the first side, we began the ride back to the start of the loop. While descending down the first hill, I started hearing some constant honking.

As a side note, for the most part Arlington (specifically north Arlington) is extremely bike friendly, with nice wide bike lanes specifically for cyclists. 99% of encounters I have with drivers includes either patient drivers waiting until there is an opening to pass, or just go into the lane over (if in a 2 lane road) to pass. No honking, kicking, or screaming.

I think you know where this is going.

So we hit the up hill and the honking became louder. I was in the 2nd pack of riders heading up the hill , with the first pack about 50 ft in front. The honking was soon right next to me as a giant Ford Excursion began slowing down to try and intimidate the large group of cyclists climbing the hill. I will note that we were all STILL IN THE BIKE LANE. He passed by my group and slowed to the same speed as the lead group. Words were being exchanged and then the SUV hit the gas to move ahead of the riders and then slammed on his brakes as he turned INTO the bike lane in an attempt to assault the group of cyclists! Fortunately, since we were riding up hill, their speed allowed them to move around the stopped SUV. With cyclists on all 4 sides, they surrounded him, in an effort to prevent him from leaving the scene. It was at this point that I climbed to the spot where this all went down. Many more pleasantries were being exchanged now between both sides and I got my first view of the driver: A very fat and very sad man, who clearly had no appreciation for life or anyone else that day. I don't know what set him off, but he had no reason to act the way he did. Perhaps jealous of people living a life he never could? We'll never know.

All I know is that I believe there was a cop or someone in the law enforcement industry as part of our ride, who began taking his information down. As I passed by, I overheard him explaining to the driver that what he just did is a felony and is considered assault with a deadly weapon. Not wanting to get involved, I continued on my way and the rest of us who continued on, all still puzzled at what had just happened, climbed the next hill. I hope they did in fact press charges against the guy, because people who act like that do not deserve to be on the same roads as everyone else.

By the end of the ride, I was spent. This was my first serious hill ride and though I consider my ride a success, I did fall back a bit further than I normally do within the same group of riders I usually hang with. It will come in time. I just have to remember that I haven't been riding much this year, so my cycling mojo will come back eventually.

Hopefully the next ride won't have as much drama!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Schedule Changes Part Deux

In March, I provided an update to my schedule posted on the right. Basically, I decided to sign up for the Patriots Half, rather than he Luray Double, since my credit for last years Patriots Half couldn't go to the Luray Triathlon. At that time, I also signed up for the DCTri HIP program (we call ourselves HIPsters).

So after much debate (well, not really), I've made a few changes based on some recent developments. First, the Battle of the Boulevard 10k race was renamed the Pacers Running Festival and no longer contains a 10k option (its now a 5k and a Half Marathon). I took a look at the Half Marathon course and all I can say is that I hope they have a lot of volunteers to make sure runners don't get lost. That course is confusing! So I won't be doing that.

Instead, my work's running club is sponsoring entry to a race near our house. The race is called the Patriot's Cup 8k Corporate Challenge. Best of all, its free! And you know what else? My work's cycling club is sponsoring entry to a cycling race (non-competitive) in Crystal City called the Air Force Classic Crystal Ride. The Air Force Classic is part of the Pro Am cycling tour that also stops in Clarendon for what used to be called the CSC Invitational, and is now called the Air Force Classic Clarendon Cup. The Clarendon Cup is held in Clarendon on Saturday May 30 and the Air Force Classic Pro Race is held in Crystal City on Sunday May 31. The Crystal Ride, which is the amateur component is held before the Pro Race on Sunday, offering options of 25k, 50k, or 100k distances. So I signed up for the 100k option...again, for free!

Sadly, my work's running club did not get their info into the Army 10 Miler early enough this year, so they missed out on the entries we've received for the past years. I found this out after race registration closed, so this will be the first time in 5 years that I haven't run the race. Boo hoo. Patriots Half will be my last official race of the season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Conte's Hill Rides are Back!

It's that time of the year again...head for the hills! Conte's Tuesday Hill rides start up again today at 6:30. below is the information from their website. I went to these rides all last year and they really helped to improve my cycling. Nothing like 1 hr of constant hill climbing! Hope to see anyone that lives in the area there!

Tuesday Night Group Ride Starts April 21st
Weekly Hill Workout and Monthly BBQ hosted by Conte's and Teamz

Conte's and TeamZ are again hosting the Weekly Hill Workout. The Arlington Group Ride will be held every Tuesday night starting on April 21st through September 8th at 6:30 p.m. The group rides will last approximately one hour. The first Tuesday of every month Conte's and TeamZ will host a post-ride BBQ in the Conte's parking lot beginning May 6.

The ride will leave Conte's at 6:30 p.m. and head to the Custis Trail for a short warmup. The hill workout will take place on the hilly roads and neighborhoods between the Key Bridge and Chain Bridge. There are three hill routes riders can pick and choose from. The Weekly Bike Hill Workout is open to everyone and riders of all levels are encouraged.


The Crit - a short, 0.8 mile loop with one steep hill in the residential neighborhoods.
See cue sheets below.

Military Misery - a 5 mile run of steady climbs and descents on Military Road between Key and Chain Bridges. This road has a wide bike lane, no stop signs or traffic lights, and is excellent for steady hill training. See cue sheets below.

Westernport Wall Wanna-Be - the closest parallel Northern Virginia has to the Westernport Wall. For those who are concerned about SavageMan's Westernport Wall or like steep climbs, this hill starts at the base of the Chain Bridge and goes up steep 41st St into residential neighborhoods, culminating at Military Road. See cue sheets below.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Training Motivation is Back

And as a write this, it is pouring rain, while I stare out my office window and think about not working out. But oh well, at least the end of the week was nice!

So, in the beginning of last week, I continued my anti-motivation crusade, as the temperatures dipped back down into the seasonably cold range, and constant rain for days on end persisted. My week's workout plan was thrown by the wayside.

But then came along nicer weather, starting on Thursday, and my training resumed with my motivated self. Thursday's plan was to hit the pool and then go to Pacers for their group run, because they were giving away free Brooks tech tshirts. Free stuff always motivates me! Then Friday came, with even nicer weather - sunny in the low 70s. I couldn't sit inside and not do something, so I took the bike out for a quick 30 minute spin. Just enough to make me feel like I didn't waste a perfectly good day.

Lately, the weekends are where I seem to have been getting most of my training in. I've been a bit of a weekend warrior these days. The typical pattern is for bad weather the ruin the likelihood of weekday workouts and then reality setting in on the weekend that I need to get my arse in gear. So after a few weeks of this pattern, I've noticed a difference - I've been pretty sluggish in my workouts. So something needs to change.

Saturday, DCTri was holding the annual BrickNic out on the Columbia Triathlon course. I was really looking forward to this weekend, because it was the first chance I'd have to ride in a group setting and see where I stack up, versus my times on the course from last year. Of course, let's remember that last year I was training for Eagleman and Columbia and this year....well...I gots nothing really till Patriots Half in September. So I'm taking things a little slower this year. After a bit confusion with the location of the set up area, I finally sun out of the park ready to hit the course. I found out slightly before I left that about 90% of the attendees (approx 150 people) were already out on the course. Crap! I was hoping to find people of similar speed to ride with, but ended up rolling out with whoever was left. This turned out to be a group of people much slower than me. And since one of them led us out, the first couple of miles were slow, because we had to ride single file on the shoulder due to car traffic.

We made a right turn off the main rode and I punched the engine to the next gear, which I'd try to hold for the rest of the ride. Something close to race pace, but not quite. A few minutes later, I glanced back to see if they were with my and I couldn't even see them anymore. I pressed on and passed a ton of people. There were so many others out on the course, not just DCTri peeps, either. People from all over the area came to pre-ride the course. The course was exactly as I remembered it last year. Relentless hills, with barely a moment to sit idle in one gear. I managed to pass probably close to 50 people out on the course...I felt great and was really hauling!

Looking back at my race report, it took me 1:19:15 to finish the course for an average of just under 20 mph. Saturday, I rode the course in 1:20:55, but that also included the first miles of slow single file riding. I can say pretty confidently that if I were in a race, I could have put up a similar time. I finished the bike course with a great confidence, because my first several rides this year have been pretty miserable. Its good to know I'm not that far off from last year's paces.

After a quick hop off the bike, it time to brick it. I decided not to run the full 10k course, because I have been having some residual achilles pain from the Monument Ave 10k several weeks ago. Since the Columbia course is famous for its most challenging 10k run course, I decided to stick to the flatter sections around the lake. I did 1 lap, which was about 2.5 miles, which was enough to give my body that adaptation to running off the bike. Still high off the bike ride I just had, I ran pretty hard, averaging something in the 7:15/mile pace. Not sure where that came from, but it felt easy.

After that, it was time to eat! I grabbed some grilled chicken, pasta salad, and some sweets and got me some sun. In all, a great day of training and enjoying the weather.

Sunday (yup, the fun didn't end with a productive Saturday), it was time to hit the bike for another 20 or so miles. I was still feeling great and I wanted to get in as much quality bike time as possible, since the weather was still warm. I rode on a newly discovered area, easily access from our new house. After 4 miles south on the Fairfax County Parkway bike trail, I turned off the begin the bike loop. Hilly, through country roads and large plantation style mansions, the bike course meanders around and eventually loops back. In all, I came across 2 cars in the 12 or so miles of the loop. It was great.

After my ride, it was on to house obligations. Rebecca described it best, so I'll save you the repeat of that. Needless to say, my legs are sore from all the mulching and the battle with eliminating the underground and embedded roots of the ivy plant. BTW - I won that battle ;)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ukrop's Monument Ave 10k Pictures

Better late than never, right? I completely forgot to post these a while back. Here are a few of the shots taken from the race. You can't tell from the pictures, because I was fortunate enough to be in one of the first several waves, but this race was huge! I think the official number was something around 32,600. Glad I was able to get a bunch of photos, because if I was further back, there is no way. And yea, I'm sportin' the super cool compression sleeves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Having a Office Window Sucks

When I didn't have an office window at work, things were so much easier. Was it raining, lightning, windy, or snowy? It didn't matter. I couldn't see outside. Because when I was in my inner office without any windows, I always considered it sunny, unless otherwise noted. I'd sit at my desk and daydream of riding my bike along the trails. But then I moved office locations to a nicer, more spacious, outside office with a view, giving me the ability to see outside.

Like most people who are in the workforce and also enjoy endurance sports, the part of my day that I look forward to the most is stepping out of the office and heading off to hit my day's workout. When I think about it in my head, I walk out to 70 degree sunny skies, ready to hit my workout hard. But when I look out my office window today, all I see is gloom, and depression sets in. Its been this way a lot recently. Like last week and so far this week. It provides absolutely no motivation do to anything. Work. Swim. Bike. Run. Nothing.

What does give me motivation is the forecast for warmer weather toward the end of the week and the hope that this mood will go away and I'll find myself gazing out the window again in the anticipation of walking out the door to hit my next workout hard.

Unfortunately, that won't be today, because it looks like crap...which is what I feel like.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wet, Soggy, and Sore

To atone for my sin of going four (gasp) days without working out, I decided it was time to end the streak. What better way than with my Pacers running buddies, right?

I woke up this morning to pouring rain. Looked out side...yep, still pouring. I figured I'd check the weather first before deciding one way or the other whether to stick with the run or bag it and continue the streak. First, I checked the radar, which showed that the end of the rain was near. Then, I checked the hour by hour forecast, which called for the rain to stop around 8 am, which happens to be when my run group meets. Perfect!

I hopped into my car and drove down to Roosevelt Island for this week's meeting place. Still raining. It will stop soon I told myself. We started our run to just some slight rain. About 3-5 miles into the run, it seemed to pick up a bit. And never stop! Actually, I'm pretty sure it never got lighter and stayed consistently steady throughout the rest of the run.

By the end of our 10 mile run, I was wet, cold, and wet. And sore. Partially due to the weather, and partially due to running a bit shorter than we have been running on the weekends, we ran a brisk pace, in the end averaging just over 8:00/mile pace. I still have some lingering soreness in my Achilles from the 10k a couple weeks ago, but it stayed in check and has just seemed to get a little sore toward the end of my longer runs.

Considering my near donut on the weekday training plan progress, save for a Monday bike ride, I'm just happy I sucked it up and got out there today. On tap for tomorrow, is a nice bike ride, which will hopefully shake out the residual soreness in my legs...and keep me dry.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Fought The Wind and The Wind Won

Saturday was a busy day for me - especially in the morning. It was busy, because I am in the midst of a battle between what I want to do and what I need to do, according to the program. I am torn between my weekend training routine. Since I had been training for the marathon, I've been running with the Pacers folks and really have enjoyed my weekend long runs with friends and company. However, my half program typically calls for a long bike on Saturday, followed by a run on Sunday. I sort of have a plan to negotiate my schedule, since the days are not set in stone on the half program, but let me get to the details of the day first and then I'll talk about the plan moving forward.

The program called for us to do our first baseline test - a cycling time trial, consisting of 30 minutes, recording speed and HR data for the last 20 of those minutes of riding all out to get a baseline of our anaerobic threshhold HR. I'll be honest though - since November, I have physically ridden my bike at a count of about the number of fingers I have on my hand (no not both - ONE hand). Of course there was that 4 week stretch in January when I was hurt and I went to spinning at the gym, but since then - zippy riding until this past week or so when it started to warm up above 50 degrees.

But back to the time trial. I got up at the crack of the morning and raced down to Haines Point for the flat setting perfect for a time trial. However, there were 2 problems: 1) Tourists trying to catch sunrise on the tidal basin for the cherry blossoms and 2) The Wind. Oh the wind. I quickly got set up and headed out for my warm up lap, before starting to trial. I was interested to see how I would measure, since I haven't done too much training (read: none), but felt I'd still be able to hold a high speed easily above 20 mph for only 30 minutes.

The west side of Haines point was more or less protected from winds cutting across the Potomac. It was more of a crosswind than anything else. Didn't impact my riding too much, other than a slight lean to balance out the breeze. That was until I hit the edge and began heading back the other way. Probably the stiffest headwind I've ever rode into. I was able to average about 21 mph on the west side, but my watch was showing speeds of 15-16 mph on the east side. I was literally leaning into the wind to keep from getting blown off the street! So much for the time trial. It still did yield me numbers to base my heart rate on, but certainly not the speeds I was hoping for. The other challenge was the battle with the cars driving along the road. Normally Haines Point is as desolate as they come. Around this time of year, tourists flock there and ride in their cars along the road. However, they ride at about 5 mph. I found myself lapping the same car twice, while also having to dodge others, who would just stop in the middle to snap some photos. Didn't exactly allow me to ride consistently hard the whole time, but it was close enough. Final numbers of the 20 minutes measured yielded me an average of just over 19 mph and an avg HR of 158. I have a feeling my next baseline test will provide a much faster speed, assuming I don't ride into a tornado, but the HR allows me to find my training zones for now.

Once I finished the ride, it was quick transition to lock up the bike on the bike rack, hop in the car to drive down onto the VA side of the Potomac and throw on my run gear with the run crew. I was only planning on doing 7 miles, since I knew my legs would be pretty trashed from riding hard for 30 minutes (and they were), but peer pressure sucks and I was guilted into running about 11 miles. The first 4 miles sucked as this was the first time I had run off the bike. Shortly after though, I was quite comfortable. And since I wasn't on windy Haines Point, the weather was quite nice for a run. And, to be able to ride hard at my max for 30 minutes and then go out and run a relatively quick paced 11 miles (with a lower HR than planned), was pretty encouraging.

I just know that as my triathlon training picks up, I'm going to have to change my training habits to fit the plan better. I am just starting the official training plan, so I won't be able to just do whatever too much longer. My possible compromise will be to swap bike and run workouts so I run on Saturday and ride on Sunday. The only issue is that a bunch of my tri group workouts will likely be on Saturday in direct conflict with the running group. I'll probably just alternate which group to do my group workouts with. It may just be a wait and see kinda thing. I'm starting to enjoy the group atmosphere for workouts more and more, although riding/running alone has its benefits too.

Anyways, let's just hope next time I decide to do a baseline test it isn't nearly as windy. And for that matter, anytime I plan to go for a ride, it better not be that windy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marathon Training Year to Year Comparison

Since last year I posted about my mileage totals at the end of the marathon training, I figured I'd look back and compare my training history year over year. Strangely enough, the totals were roughly the same. I guess when injury strikes, you end up with the same result - a whole lot of donuts (no, not that kind of donut) in the training column. But let's try and look at the positive.
  • Last year's training total: 330.33 miles
  • This year's training total: 350.2 miles
A slight improvement over last year. Of course, the plan for both years was to include a solid 100 miles more in my training than I actually accomplished, but what are you going to do? It is what it is.

Slicing the data another way, we can see where my mileage peaked by month each year vs where it dropped off due to injury.

I think you can guess, based on my times from this year versus last year. when the "better" time to get injured is.

Bottom line is that I had fun training and racing. That is what it is really all about anyways, right?

Speaking of training, Marine Corps Marathon registration is at noon today! Anyone thinking of running?


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