Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Faster Than a Speeding Bu.....g???

We all know that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, right?  I mean, its practically scientifically proven.  But did you ever wonder what YOU were faster than?  Nope?  Neither have I!  So truth be told, when I set out for my run today, it was never my intent to find out what I am faster than.  So science didn't really play a role here...just sayin...

So I'm out there doing some mile repeats at around 6:30 pace and while I'm running my cool down, I look down at my arms only to find a lot of black spots on them.  Often times when I run on some trails, I pick up my fair share of road grit, especially after/during rain.  Today's weather was sunny, but pretty warm and humid.  Kind of stuffy relative to how it has been.  But with all the rain, it seems like there are a lot more bugs out there.  So imagine my surprise when I look a little closer only to find that it isn't road grit on my arms, but a whole collection of little bugs!  I counted 17 in total between both arms!

Apparently, I was running fast enough that bugs could not get out of the way in time.  So look out Superman...I can claim I'm faster than a speeding bug.  Hows that for cache!  Now, I'd be lying if I said didn't have some sense of satisfaction out of seeing this.  I mean, I was a bit disgusted at first...but in a bizarre way,its kinda cool too!

Have you ever discovered later in a run that you picked up something interesting?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Ramblings

I started thinking that sometimes I have a few stray thoughts, but not enough to comprise a full post, so I might as well go bullet point style and get it out there...so here goes nothing:

  • Last week, I put in more miles than many of my marathon training weeks.  Of course, many of the miles were easy, relative to some of the similar weeks I was putting up while marathon training.  I did this for 2 reasons: 1) To get an immediate fitness boost, and 2) To build some durability.  Quick spikes like this can be useful IF you've been there before and are just looking for a bounce back.  Otherwise, it can be pretty risky to suddenly jump mileage by a lot.  But don't worry, this week is back to something resembling my normal mileage.  I'll probably do another bump like this soon though.  I got a nice kick of about 10s/mile faster for my easy long run pace, so it can be pretty effective when done properly. 
  • Now that I am back into a regular routine, I am struggling with what to do.  I want to get faster (ie 5/10k speed), but I also would like to run something between a 10 miler of a half marathon this Fall and time is quickly running out before I need to make a decision.  I'm not expecting to PR just yet, since I'm still a fair ways from my fitness of the Spring, but it would provide a good indicator of where I am.  I was also thinking about doing a trail race, which happens to be held only a few miles away.  That would be purely for fun, just because I haven't done any trail racing since my last Xterra race.  Decisions, decisions...
  • Last weekend was the culmination of the perfect running weather.  After dealing with rain and heat for much of the summer, temperatures finally dropped into the 50s with minimal humidity.  I rocked a sweet long run of 10 miles, with 7 at my long run pace and the last 3 at or below 7 min/mile.  It felt really good to hold a solid pace on tired legs, being that it came at the end of a much higher mileage week.  Of course, that good long run got me thinking more about my second bullet even more.
  • This weekend, on the other hand, is looking to be wet, warm, and humid - bleh.  Like a quick punch back to reality.  I did some intervals last night on the track and the humidity was just nasty.  However, the workouts itself went pretty well, so all is not lost in nasty running weather.  Just makes you appreciate the good days.
Alright, I think that's about it.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Be That Guy

I just had to post this video, because I think it is hilarious.  If you've run on the same trail or been in enough races, I think you'll have seen all of these guys.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

7 Links

Though I'm not a particularly big fan of these kinds of things, I do feel obligated to at least take part in it, since I was nominated by It's all about Pace.  I thought it would be interesting to read some older posts in the process of doing this, so why not?  Here we go...

Here are the rules:

1. Blogger is nominated to take part
2. Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category
3. Blogger nominates other bloggers to take part.
4. These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate more bloggers
Most beautiful post:  While I wouldn't consider many of my posts "beautiful", I do consider the photos that were taken by Rebecca in this race to be among the best I have, so I think that meets the criteria here.  (FYI - I see that some of the photos aren't showing in the post, but if you click on them, you will see them).  Bonus entry: I also really like this post on a Tour of Clifton - a great little town nearby that I cycle through often.

Most popular post:  My most popular post of all time is this one, simply because I did a product review of a major nutrition supplier and I'm pretty sure people continually see that it comes up in searches.  As far as my most popular non-review post, it happens to be my 2nd post popular post of all time about whether or not to heel strike, which seems to be awfully popular these days.  It is short and sweet (unlike most of my posts), but the point still holds today.

Most controversial post:  Maybe not the most controversial as a topic, but I think this post might rub people the wrong way.  I know a lot of people love their Runner's World magazine and don't want to hear people put it down.  I do enjoy flipping through it (notice I didn't say read, because there isn't really much to read), but I can get through a whole magazine in less than 30 minutes and STILL find a way to walk away in frustration over some of the advice in there.

Most helpful post:  I consider this one of my post helpful posts to others.  I've gone through a number of posts aimed at trying to help others figure out what it is they want out of training/racing and this was one of them.  My hope was to get people thinking long term, rather than just focusing on short term immediate thoughts.  Not sure if it worked, but I like to think that at least the seed was planted ;)  Bonus entry:  I also think this post deserves some credit as being a helpful post.  I took a lot of great information away after attending this event and hoped that the post helped convey some of the key takeaways.

Post whose success surprised me:  I obviously didn't write this post for others, but ended up finding satisfaction from the contributions from everyone in agreeing that some people Are. Just. Idiots.  It surprises me that with a title like that, the post is among the heavily read posts I've written.

Post I feel didn't get the attention it deserved:  I obviously wrote this series of posts (you can find links to each part from this link if you so choose to read them) for myself, but also in the hopes that others might learn from it.  And while it never really got many comments, nor does it show up as being frequently read by many people, it was a pretty epic effort of writing to get that all down to a series of posts that I am pretty proud of.  I've read through it several times and I still feel pretty much the same way.

Post I'm most proud of:  While I didn't end up with nearly the result I was hoping (and was trained for), I couldn't have been more proud of the way in which I approached this race.  Knowing the weather wasn't ideal, I faced this marathon head on with everything I had that day and fought as hard as I could.  I wouldn't have changed a thing, because now I know what it is like to truly attempt to race a marathon versus survive it.

And now for the nomination process for this to continue.  I really do hate this part...but those are the rules...  With that said, here are a few people - of course, if anyone else out there feels compelled to write one up, have at it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Proposed Solution to Crowding/Drafting at the Nations Tri

As many people who have witnessed and/or raced the Nations Tri know, it tends to get a little crowded.  And by a little, I mean A LOT.  There are nearly 6000 racers, spread out over a 25 mile course, some of which consists of a single lane of road with both out and back bike traffic each way, separated by cones. With crowding comes a whole host of other issues, the least of which includes (at minimum), the following:
  • Cases where it is nearly impossible to prevent drafting from occurring in the vast majority of people racing
  • Cases where passing large groups of riders all moving at similar speeds within a single lane becomes a game of tetris to find out where your little piece of a bike can fit between the other objects
  • Passing on the right, other times between people, and worst of all, crossing over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, simply because there was no room to successfully execute a pass
  • No room for officials who are on motorcycles trying to observe what is going on to safely ride within the same course as participants
  • An inability to issue any penalty violations due to the aforementioned issues with the course and resulting crowding on it - you simply can't fault someone for drafting if they have no other option for where to go
To make matters worse, this year's race was forced to cancel the swim.  The race was unable to secure an additional run course to start to race, so it became a Bike --> Run race, with participants running into transition with their assigned swim waves.  Separation out on the course was based on how quickly one would transition onto their bike.  Needless to say, large packs were both leaving transition and racing the course together with minimal spreading of the field.

I realize little could be done at the last minute to make this any different and I applaud the race for adapting quickly to the changing environment.  However, I still feel like this race leaves so much to be desired, based on the way it is currently structured.  So I came up with a few ideas that I feel could help improve the race experience and minimize many of the issues that cause others to make the same complaints:

  • Make the race draft legal:  Doing so would not only establish this race as one of the few unique draft legal races out there, but it would negate the need for everyone and their mother to complain about how much drafting was going on and how little control over their race they had as a result of trying to stay out of the draft zone of other riders.  While you can try to stay out of trouble by avoiding packs, I find it nearly impossible to do so in the current design.  With 5000+ participants, I find it highly unlikely that this race can create a method where participants are not forced into draft packs out on the course.  Despite most people's best efforts, unless you are in an early wave, you will be on the course surrounded by others.  And once you get to those single lane roads, there is nowhere no go, which forces participants into a situation where they are drafting, but in most cases unintentionally. Making the race draft legal provides an opportunity for people to ride however they wish.  If they choose to ride solo, they can do it.  If they want to jump on the train of riders coming by (which I observed many people doing anyways), then have at it.  Making it draft legal gives people the option to ride within their means of comfort, whatever that may be.
  • Change the bike course route:  While I am not a fan of looped courses, I feel like changing the course to remain almost exclusively on Independence and Constitution Ave would result in wider roads to minimize some of the crowding, create an enhanced spectator experience, and offer a true tour of DC monuments and sights.  I know they tried to get a permit for use of the GW Parkway this year, which was ultimately denied, but I still feel like this option would provide a better race experience.  The current course barely covers much of what I consider "recognizable" parts of DC. You do a quick loop out and back on Independence and then head out to Clara Barton Parkway, which is a nice tree lined road, but not (in my opinion) something that would draw people from all over the world to come experience.  And neither would riding on GW Parkway, although it could potentially provide wider roads.  If I were traveling to DC, I'd want to be on a course that showcases the best of DC and to me, that is the notable monuments and sights.  Rather, I'd propose a 3 looped course, such as the one shown, that covers the entire Mall, passing by every notable monument and Government structure, while on much wider roads.  And since we've now made the race draft legal (see point above), there are fewer issues due to the likely crowding that would occur as a result of a lopped course.  However, there are also a number of hills to keep the race honest and not just turn into a super flat cycling crit.  3 loops is sure to cause a number of its own issues with crowding from earlier/later waves as more people are out on the course, but having much wider roads would negate that somewhat in my opinion. With the wider roads, slower riders can remain to the right, while faster riders continue to pass on the left as they normally would.
I think these are the only major changes that I would  make, but I believe they would drastically improve the race.  Would this create other issues?  Probably.  But I truly believe that the safety and enjoyment of those that participate in these events is what keeps people coming back.  While I realize 3 loops of a bike course is not not appealing at first glance, I think it is pretty darn cool to be able to bike that route on a closed road.  And for someone who comes from out of town to do that, I can only imagine it is even cooler.

It is one thing to travel to a location and race in that city to see its unique characteristics (and sometimes, there aren't even any unique characteristics!).  DC offers a unique experience no other city anywhere can offer - to race among the historic landmarks representing those that that helped found this country and continue to influence it today.  Placing a race smack in the center of it all would be the epitome of a race worthy of the title as one of the premier triathlons in the world.  And adopting these principles to achieve that would, in my opinion, put it well on its way to achieving that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lesser is More

You'd think by now I'd have written a post that was titled something similar to the name of my blog...or at least explained much of the reasoning behind the title.  So I figured it is about time to do so.

For anyone who has been reading for a while, I'm sure you can gather that part of the reasoning for the name has to do with a play on my last name.  And that was pretty much the reasoning why I went down the path of the name I ultimately decided on many years ago.  But that wasn't the only reason...

After having been involved in sports for a long time, I've come to analyze and interpret the various training methodologies that I have been coached under and implemented myself.  And having started competing in triathlons and having been a runner for much longer before I started the blog, I also began studying and testing out the different training techniques to see which ones work best.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is that over the course of my history as an athlete, I've found that a "less is more" approach tends to work well.  Of course, a simple statement like that starts churning gears in people's heads which leads to assumptions about what that means.  When I say "less is more", I don't mean not training a lot.  It is just relative to what I consider "most" people do.  I just tend to believe that you can achieve more efficient and effective results that way, as opposed to some other approaches out there.  And I'll explain a bit further down more specifically how.

Now, what you'll find if you scan around the interwebs long enough are a whole bunch of people posting about epic this and epic that.  And then you come to find out they are training for something shorter, relative to the workouts they are putting themselves through.  Overdistance training is one thing, but even if you are training for an Ironman, there is no need to run a marathon and/or ride 150+ miles as part of your build up.  There is a law of diminishing returns and at a certain point, all you are doing is creating more stress, but without the equivalent benefit coming to your for that effort.  And for people that are training for an Olympic distance triathlon, riding a century is something I'd consider excessive as well.  In order to ride 25 miles hard, training for 50 mile rides seems more reasonable if you feel the need to go longer, but centuries offer very little benefit to someone who will be racing 25 miles.  We call this the volume approach or, to play on my motto, "more is more"...or for another explanation - nuts if you ask me.

The theory here is that by scaling every mountain and leaving no stone unturned, your body will be prepared to handle anything.  And that may be true to an extent, but you are also leaving yourself without much preparation for your actual race.  You may be fit, but you aren't race fit.  The key here being specificity in what you are training for.

Training philosophies should be determined by what you are training for and focus on specificity for that particular event.  However, killing yourself through epic workouts that are either way too much for a particular distance or way too early to serve the intended purpose of such a workout and the reasons where I think a lot of people go wrong.  And while this isn't to say you can't get by with that kind of approach, you certainly can.  But you risk injury, burnout, and a lack of specificity that isn't going to get you race ready.

What will get you race ready? A logical approach that allows you to put in hard workouts consistently, relative to the event you are training for, so that you can stress, recover, adapt, and improve over time.  One that doesn't require epic workouts for 6-8 months to train for one event.  Seriously.  If you are training for a marathon, running 20+ miles with 4 months till your race isn't going to do anything other than prevent you from getting in a ton of quality training.  Instead, you'll be spending a fair amount of time recovering, or worse, pushing through continued fatigue for months on end, only to find yourself injured or burnt out by the time your race actually happens.  Think this sounds silly?  It isn't.  I see it a lot and when people explain how awesome their training was going and how bad their race was, I can usually point to something like this and say why..

I also get that some people enjoy the journey and that the race is only part of the equation.  I'd call these people endurance lifestyle athletes.  To some of them, the race doesn't matter.  It's the epic workouts that do and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  So if that is you, keep doing whatever makes you happy.  We do this to make ourselves healthy and happy, right?  However, if you are trying to train your best, you better hunker down with your workout log and look at your approach, because you may be falling victim of an excessive training approach for your race.  More is not always better.  Sometimes, lesser is more.


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