Monthly Archives: May 2011

Icing on the cake

Back before my first ironman, I remember being worried about being sick or injured or something, and mentioning it to my coach. The response was that racing was icing on the cake, and the training was the cake itself. Probably not the right thing to say to the guy who always has Sour Patch Kids sitting at home (seriously, I ought to try and get an SPK sponsorship).

I noticed an interesting thing yesterday after I finished racing Boston’s Run to Remember 1/2 Marathon (16th AG, 44th OA). I set a PR (pretty big improvement), didn’t have stomach issues that required me to stop, and came close to hitting my goals. I’m guessing that if I tapered for the race instead of training right through it, I probably would have made more of an improvement on my time, but I’m happy as it is. The interesting thing, however, has nothing to do with how I raced that race (though I think I did an OK job of pacing), but rather what my thoughts were.

If you haven’t seen it (and you probably haven’t cause I hid it for reasons that are probably stupid), I wrote in the beginning of May about motivation. What I’ve found is that what motivates me in training (stupid shit like feeling inadequate as a human, boredom, frustration, etc) plays no role in my motivation for race day. On race day it is all about putting in the maximum possible effort over the distance. During the season opener race, I never once looked down at my arms and said, “ayup, I need to go faster because I suck”. On race day, I enter my own personal hell/pain cave and that is where my mind stays (unless I am having a very bad race and then there is no need to motivate as it isn’t a race anymore). All of the shit that I had been thinking of before the race yesterday (and believe me, there was plenty that I was thinking about that had nothing to do with racing), disappeared with the start of the race.

In any case, I think it’s notable that what I need to go out and train is totally unnecessary on race day.

As for the 1/2 marathon yesterday, here are my thoughts: I lined up in the front row (I figured I would finish in the top 40 or so, and I’d be ok up front) and took off a bit harder on the first mile than I should have (6:22 instead of mid 6:30s). After that mile, I tried to settle down into a good rhythm, but had a hard time with pacing as the GPS was being wonky with the buildings downtown. Once we got onto Memorial Drive I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing (I don’t normally run on the street but I know that part of the run pretty well). I was still getting passed here and there, but it was at least motivation to keep the pace up. Once I hit the turnaround, I still felt pretty good so I started picking off people who had passed me earlier. It’s a shame that coolrunnings doesn’t have the turn-around time; it would be neat to see how many people I caught/was caught by after the turn-around. Once we got back into Boston, we rejoined the 5 mile course and I was a bit surprised by how few people were left on the course (I expected more walkers I suppose). Once again I lost a lot of the pacing information but just kept plugging along as best I could. I got passed by the first place woman at probably 11.9 miles and then the second place woman passed me in the final half mile or so (she was really booking it at that point). The race was a good checkpoint for how my running is coming along, even if I’m untapered.

Race pace

I can’t sleep. I can’t say that’s unusual: my mind is at race pace and once it gets there there’s no shutting down. I know why it’s there, I know that it’s stupid that it’s there, but I still can’t shut it down for the night. I was able to sleep for an hour earlier, then I woke up again with the same thoughts in my head as before I had fallen asleep.

Had my first mental fuckup with regards to my increased training load this yesterday morning. We have a thing called mustache May-hem at work on Thursday, which is usually my 10 mile tempo run afternoon. To schedule around that, I swapped the tempo run and recovery run (usually Wednesday lunch) so that I could have some fun with my coworkers. I couldn’t find my Garmin this morning so I looked inside my gear bag (I knew I had already picked my Garmin and put it somewhere, I just didn’t know where that where was). In doing so, I took my goggles out of my bag and when I finally found my watch, I headed off to morning masters, late and sans goggles. The morning masters crew ain’t the most friendly bunch, so when I showed up 15 minutes late without my goggles, I decided that meant swimming was off for the day. Probably means that I’ll do evening masters after mustache May-hem, and will have to be responsible. Probably should watch what I drink now anyhow, what with CdA being only a month out (to the day now).

All that being said, my run today was pretty awesome. Really feel like it’s coming around. Today was on tired legs (track workout and 15 minute FTP intervals on the bike yesterday — that should have been 3×15 but I lost focus after the 2nd interval), but I didn’t really feel it while I was running. So far for the week that’s 32 miles of running, but after the 4 today I’ll probably shut it down to save my legs for the half-marathon on Sunday. Also realized tonight that I have a 3.5 mile race on Thursday of next week, which would have been my long run day (20 miles?), so that’ll either have to be Tuesday or Wednesday (leaning towards Wednesday evening). There’s only 1.5 weeks left until I need to taper, but there’s so much to do in that time frame.

No shirt, no shoes, no service.

My knee is still hanging in there. Not feeling normal, but holding in there. Got 15 miles in today once I got back to Boston, and the pain kicked in about 5 miles into the run. It’s just a dull pain and doesn’t really appear to impact my stride too much, so I think I’ll be able to work with it. I’m curious as to what I did – I remember a couple of times extending my leg slightly more than normal when I stepped off a curb, but that was never followed immediately by pain. In any case, it’ll be an easy day on the knee tomorrow.

That’s not what this is about though. If you’re not a runner, if you’ve never tried to cut a corner and almost ended up in deep shit, don’t read on. Continue reading

Home is whenever I’m with you

On vacation this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not training. Been struggling with a sinus infection (among other things) and it’s a hard balance between trying to rest and getting ready for CDA. I’m fairly certain that the weather in Boston (rainy and mid-50s) hasn’t been helping. Florida has been a bit nicer…  Today’s run was hard due to the sickness and travel today, but I got through it. Knee is a bit sore which is a bit troubling, but it doesn’t appear to be an ITB issue (the pain is constant). Hopefully whatever it is will just go away.

The rest of the week includes some running, some core, and a lot of golf. My swing hasn’t left me despite having not played in 6 or 7 months.

29 going on 20

It was my birthday this weekend. My body feels younger now than it did 9 years ago (I might be more mature now, but that’s debatable). In celebration of my parents deciding to have another kid almost 30 years ago, I went out and did a race rehearsal Saturday morning/early afternoon. There’s not much to report. Aside from it being incredibly boring to ride 112 miles alone with nobody cheering you on, it’s incredibly boring to discuss it. And there really isn’t all that much that happened during the ride.

Here are the interesting things:

  1. Despite feeling sick the night before the ride and morning of, I felt pretty good on the day.
  2. I had no back pain.
  3. I appreciate the other athletes and volunteers who are out on the course. They make the riding 112 miles doable.

Here’s the data. After the ride, I went out for 3 miles on foot. It was supposed to be 6, but I was just bored and the loop near the bike course was only 1.5 miles long.That night, I went out and had some dinner with my running buddy Matt, his super-athlete wife Emily, my brother and his girlfriend, followed by drinks with a bunch of the friends I’ve made since moving up here. The drinks, and the exhaustion from the past week, made Sunday a rest day with only a 30 minute run at around 6:30PM.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome birthday weekend. Shared it with some people who are very dear to me.

I want to break you

Or at least your piggy bank, a little.

I’ve done a couple of “contests” this year that allowed people to guess my time in races and then I would donate to the charity of their choice. It wasn’t really a motivator for me, but it was fun to see where people guessed I would finish.

I’ve been thinking for a while about Ironman Coeur d’Alene and wanting to do something a little different for it. I’m not going to qualify for Kona (my delusions of grandeur are grand, but they’re not THAT grand), but an extra little push on race day helps. So here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • You pledge a certain dollar amount for every minute under 11 hours I go at Coeur d’Alene
  • You pledge said monies to the charity of your choice. I’m not going to force you to donate to the things that I find special to me.
  • If I don’t go under 11 hours, you don’t owe anything to anyone (but you can still donate to your charity if you want).
  • You don’t have to let people know how much you pledge.
  • Guess a time too (it can be over 11 hours).
  • I may do something for a few random people who pledge (gift certificates, etc). I haven’t thought that far ahead (I just thought about it like 3 minutes ago, otherwise I probably would have thought about it).
  • I’ll keep you updated here as to how my training is progressing (there’s only 6.5 weeks to go, but I’m feeling pretty fit at the moment).

You can sign up here (if you want to change your entry, each time you submit the form a time stamp is added so I’ll just take the last one for each person). As I know people will ask, I finished Arizona in 11:38:38 (2008), Canada (2009) in 11:17:41. Any other questions can be asked in the comments.

In memoriam…

It was a bad day today. If you’re a cyclist, or interested in sport, you’ve heard that Wouter Weylandt died today during stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia. Many better writers than I have written poignant pieces on his life and the impact of the crash on even recreational cyclists and fans. There’s not much too add. I’ve had goosebumps all day. I was going to write about motivation today and then the news came across twitter that there was a rider down and he wasn’t moving. I’m not a huge pro cycling fan by any stretch (I’ll watch the grand tours as time allows and I remember) and I had never heard of Wouter before. It didn’t matter. He’s a professional cyclist – and he’s gone. Another rider said it appeared that he clipped a wall while looking behind to see when the chase group would catch him. And that simple act, done by every cyclist everywhere on probably every ride, ended his life.

How many times have I risked the same thing? How many times have I looked over mys shoulder and veered off course? How many times have I almost lost control on a downhill? I had a near scare in November on a downhill on a 2 lane road… had I gone down, what would have become of me? We get lucky. I try not to think too hard on the near misses… of being hit by a car while walking across the street. It’s hard and depressing to think too long on our own mortality. We measure the things we love to do: weighing the risks with the benefits. We may not be able to eliminate the risk, but we can try to limit it. Even then, it’s possible that despite all of our best intentions, we may lose. There’s no solace in that. Just a reason to live in the moment, be with the people you want to be with, do the things you enjoy doing.

Ted King said it best this afternoon:

Rest in peace Wouter. My thoughts are with your family. To my friends, and especially to my family, you are loved.

“I don’t know how I can explain to friends and family who worry about me when I ride that I worry too but I can’t stop riding” – Joe Lindsey

Season “Opener”

Before I get to the race report, here’s a before/after photo of the bike fit:

Shoulders higher, back flatter

Race report

Short story is that I defaulted onto the AG podium (finished 4th, but 1st in the AG was also 1st OA, so I became 3rd AG). Pretty excited that I got a new pint glass (with a green base!). Also got green lock laces, which is pretty funny because I had replaced the laces in my Avi Bolt IIs with… green lock laces. Yesterday. Coincidental.

Pretty psyched about that given that this was my third race in 21 days. Now I’ve got 7 weeks until Couer d’Alene.

Woke up at  6 am. Given how short the race was (.25 mile swim, 10 mile bike, 3.1 mile run), I decided that the only water I’d bring with me was my handheld bottle for the run. Other than that, I’d just carry a water bottle around before the race. Got there pretty early and had the prime spot on my rack (close to the center aisle). Hung out with some of my teammates from Wheelworks, went for a short jog, and then suited up (this over 1.5-2 hours).

Swim

Not much to say about this one. Kept getting cut off by a few of the other swimmers and just generally felt a bit slow, despite trying not to be slow. I suppose that’s a given in a race as short as this. Just go hard, etc. Oh the water was also really fricking cold.

Of note though, T1 was really slow. Couldn’t get my right wetsuit leg off. Probably lost 30 seconds there. Not a huge deal for iron distance races where they’ve got wetsuit strippers, but for olympics and halves (and sprints), it’s kind of important. I’ll need to practice it at some point.

Bike

Felt really strong. Passed by a couple of guys, but passed a lot more. Felt like the course was really crowded. New position felt really good but it’s really hard to tell over a race that short. T2 was pretty quick. Not as quick as some other people’s, but I’m ok with the speed there. Slight issue getting my bike to sit in the transition rack.

Run

Stomach felt a bit messed up on the climb out of T2. Walked for a few seconds there to get my watch on, calm down my stomach and then continued on. Felt good after that until I got to the last hill where it started up again (hmmm maybe it’s a pattern). I think the lesson from both this race and Wildflower is that I need to spend some time down in the blue hills or doing repeats Beacon Hill. Fortunately, Coeur d’Alene is a pretty flat run (so I’ve heard) which should suit me very well.
Post-race

Came home and ate lunch. Rested for a bit and then went out for an 8 mile tempo run. Switched from 6 miles at marathon or threshold pace to 4 miles. Legs felt heavy but I was impressed with what I was able to get out of them this afternoon.

On motivation…

I can be my own worst critic1.

After I finished Wildflower, someone, and I can’t remember who it was (possibly a cousin), asked me why I would put two races right next to one another on my schedule. The easy answer is to say that I am competitive (though not overtly) and I wanted to improve on my time at Wildflower last year.

I’m not sure that’s the whole answer though. I’m also driven by the sense that what I have done is not good enough. Pretty much everyone will tell me that what I have done is fantastic and remarkable. And in a sense it is. I’ve gone from being a couch-potato to deciding  that I would complete an Ironman in a year to actually finishing that race pretty well (rejection is an unfortunately powerful motivator). But if I don’t feel I’ve reached my limit and I’m still enjoying getting there, then I’ve not done enough.

(It needs to be pointed out that the picture below was taken before the events of the Giro this week, and now the phrase seems incredibly insensitive and stupid. What I was communicating to myself was that the race was a hammerfest and I needed to leave everything on the course. I didn’t — I stopped twice on the run because I wasn’t feeling “comfortable”).

The season opener was the first race where I’ve been truly competitive and went in thinking that I had a chance to do well. In fact, I thought there was a chance I could win the thing outright. Looking back at my training load, that’s ridiculous, and given my abilities in all three disciplines, I’m still a ways away from being able to win a sprint, an olympic, or anything. Oddly enough, I thought there was a chance, once I got off the bike in New Orleans last year, that I was situated really well in my age group (I didn’t see many bikes on my rack). Turns out I wasn’t sitting too poorly and I ended up 15th, with a top 100 run split overall.

That taste of near success, and seeing others that I know and respect be successful, is helping to drive me now. And while it’s a (friendly) competitive desire and possibly shameful to want to be better than people I care about, I see it as a positive: I’m no longer only driven by the fact that I don’t consider myself worthy yet. I’ve already seen the impact in my training. The full impact might not be revealed by the time Couer d’Alene comes around, but by the time the Marine Corps Marathon comes around, I think I’ll be able to crush it and qualify for both Boston and NYC.

 

1I’m sure there are people I’ve wronged in the past, and people who are upset with me from time to time who could be far more critical, but thankfully that’s not too often.

A fit of desire


The video above is how my bike used to fit. Or how I used to fit my bike. It’s all a bit… fuzzy as to how to describe it. In my past two races, I’d been slowed down by back pain on the bike. Something needed to be done.

I spent the morning down in Warren, RI with Todd Kenyon of TTBikeFit to try and modify the setup of the bike to fit my body without, hopefully, losing too much aerodynamic advantage. When Todd looked at my initial position, his first words were: “I have good news and bad news.” The good news was that my body position was incredibly aerodynamic; the bad news (what little there was) was that there wasn’t much room to get my legs away from my torso when peddling on my current bike. We messed around for a bit with raising and lowering the front end, and it turns out that we could raise the front end without losing much aero (my chest went from parallel to the ground to… parallel to the ground). We also played around on the TTBikeFit’s proprietary fitbike and figured out , if I should decide to go with a new bike, what dimensions work (and ergo, which brands I should look at). It’s not really helpful for my case of bike envy, but after my race rehearsal next weekend, I’ll make a decision on whether to go forward with the ol’ condiment machine, or to get something new.

Best quote of the day: “You’ve got a Tour de France ready position. Which is great for a TT but not so much for an Ironman.”

I’ll update with photos and/or video of the new position once I get around to it.