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...


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.


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