Monday, July 27, 2009

Just another manic Monday...

I had an interesting run at the park tonight. It was supposed to be a recovery day after a couple of long workouts over the weekend (allow me to digress).
Saturday morning I went out for my typical "long run" with the usual crew. We had one member of the group who has been running with us for a few runs, but who hasn't been around long enough to know all of our routes like the back of his hand. We also had a couple of slower runners who were good to hang with our average pace, but who were unlikely to hang if we pushed the pace. The plan for the run was a 15 miler, with a 2-3 mile pickup starting around mile 9. The first part of the run was fairly moderately paced, and the group held together nicely. Since the pickup was scheduled to take place in the River Oaks neighborhood (where it's pretty easy to get disoriented and turned around), I told the slower runners that we'd wait for them at any turns. So four of us picked up the pace a good bit, eventually dropping the new guy by a couple of hundred yards. At the first real turn, I doubled back to make sure the slower folks caught the turn, and, as I passed the new guy, told him to take the turn that was coming up. I went back about a mile, and never found the slower folks (they apparently had found a porta-potty on a construction site), so turned back around to catch up with the group. I continued on the agreed-upon route, and then fortuitously ran into the slower folks running in the opposite (wrong) direction (they had managed to miss a turn and get turned around). We ran to the next water stop where the rest of the crew was waiting... except the new guy. Apparently the guys in front had neglected to wait for him at the next turn, and he was somewhere off in the neighborhood. What to do? We were on foot. We eventually designated one guy to run around the neighborhood for an hour (we had about an hour left to run) while the rest of us ran back to the cars. When we got back, the new guy's car was gone. Apparently he had cleverly realized that he didn't know where he was going and had retraced the route. So I drove back to call off the search party. Overall a fun day (minus the drama and confusion), and I ended up with 17 miles at around an 8:30 average. My feet were killing me afterwards, and for most of the rest of the day.
On Sunday I did a 55 mile bike ride. I stopped to help one guy fix a flat (a good thing, too- his inflator didn't work), and ended up pushing pretty hard for the rest of the ride to catch up with my group. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful route, and I finished happy to have had the opportunity to push myself a bit (since the IM I've been long-riding a lot more socially rather than trying to see how close I can come to destroying myself. Both are fun; just in different ways). Afterwards I felt a nice burn in the quads when ascending or descending stairs, which is a sign of a good workout.
So, back to tonight... :)

Usually after the long workouts of the weekend, Monday is a recovery day. Somtime between the ride on Sunday and Monday morning my feet ended up feeling much better. I went to the park to run 6 miles, not really intending to run easy (I've been having too much fun lately running hard), but not really intending to kill it, either. I finished the first loop of the park in 20:35 (not too terrible, but a full 30 seconds slower than in my run last week), and then, noticeably disgusted at myself for my laxity (although, to be fair, I fully intended to run at least the first loop easier than last week), proceeded to run the second loop in 19:32, which is ~6:40 pace. The latter time may well be a PR for me for that loop (it helped that it was cooling down a bit from the 94 degree heat in which I started). I don't know whether to be impressed with myself (for the speed) or disappointed (in the lack of self-discipline). Either way, it was fun! So my total time for two loops ended up very nearly matching my total time from last week. It's time to set some goals for these hard runs. How about...
Before the Chicago Marathon (Oct 9), I will run one loop in sub 19 minutes (sub 6:30 pace), and I will keep my average for all of these two-loop runs to sub 7 min pace. Since I'm aiming for a marathon at 7:15 pace in October, I need to do something to get my speed where it needs to be...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The need for speed

Going fast is fun!

Two nights ago I rode my typical 15 miles at the picnic loop in a 22.3 avg pace (no race wheels), not too far off of my PR. It was downright exhilarating. I'm pretty happy with that- if I could get two workouts a week in at that intensity, I'd be faster in no time.

Last night I ran two loops of the park; the first loop in 20:03, and the second in 20:06. The park loop is slightly less than 3 miles, so I figure my pace to have been around 6:50 min/mile. Not too shabby! We'll see what a couple of weeks of speed work will do...

Work has been pretty stressful this week, and I think having a massive need to burn off some steam has probably helped my performance. On the other hand, generating intensity has never really been my problem.

This week I've been sacrificing swimming for a little bit extra in the run and bike department. The plan is to shift into maintenance mode on the swimming (which should involve more than the zero swimming I've done this week), and to focus on getting my speed back (and then some) on the bike and run.

Health status update: the knee is OK (nothing like an Ironman to try it out). The plantar fasciitis is still bothersome, but isn't stopping me at this point. I stretch between 6 and 10 minutes a day these days (focusing on calves and hamstrings), pretty religiously, and I think that that helps. I'm also alternating shoes- Newton's for my shorter weekday runs, and a pair of Asics (more cushioning, better arch support) for the weekend long run (currently ~13 miles).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jeff & Brede's Intergalactic Triathlon

I just competed in Jeff & Brede's Intergalactic Triathlon (a sprint tri), 3 weeks after the Ironman. For fun! I had been recovering pretty well, and so wasn't too worried about injuring myself. I have a particular affinity for this race, since it's the race in which I got my first age group place (and win) two years ago. The race is also put on my my triathlon club (Houston Racing), so the race competitors and volunteers are all friends and acquaintances.
It had been a long time since I'd done any cycling or running for speed, so I knew I wasn't going to be setting any records, but I also knew that it would be fun to compete and fun to hang out with the triathlon community.
My swim was pretty bad, though my time was pretty much identical to the last two years. I had some really awful turns, and was reminded that I really need to start doing turns in practice. After all of those years of water polo and open water swimming (neither of which require turns), the flip turn is not exactly second nature. True, the first couple always go OK, but once I'm tired everything devolves pretty quickly. On this day, that started around 200m into the swim, and I'm pretty sure the last couple of turns would have been much faster if I'd opted for an open turn instead of the tired, awkward, floundering, wall-missing, bottom-scraping monstrosities I was throwing in towards the end.
Swim: 4:35 for 300m, 1:32 pace

I had a flawless transition, and headed out on the bike. For some reason, I felt really slow. My speedometer showed between 22 and 23 mph for the whole ride, but I wasn't able to dig out any more speed, and was pretty actively frustrated by it. One guy in my age group, whom I had beaten in IMCDA, passed me about halfway through the bike, and seemed to be going easily 2mph faster than me (he's a better cyclist than me, but it shouldn't look that easy!). I made it back into transition wondering just how awful my run was going to be, very cognizant of how little actual running I've done in the last 8 months, not to mention even less speedwork.
Bike: 33:40 for 12 miles, 21.3 avg (all of the race results showed lower avg's than we actually raced, but this was still disappointing)

I had a flawless dismount, another great transition, and was out on the run. I had a great run! It took me about a mile to get enough breath to start getting my speed up, but I eventually did, and my last 2 miles felt pretty fast, and pretty good. I had a very strong finish (as always!). I would estimate that I ran the first mile at around 8 min/mile pace, and the last mile at around 6 min/mile pace. I had a pretty good kick, for not having run fast in such a ridiculously long time.
Run: 20:27 for 3 miles, 6:49 pace
Overall: 1:00:28, 5th place in age group (only 30 seconds slower than the year I won my AG)

1) I need to start doing flip turns.
2) I need to continue to get stronger on the bike. I'm even or better with my competitors on the swim and the run, but tend to fall way short on the bike.
3) I need to get in some bricks. Somehow I need to improve my run speed coming out of transition; going 1 - 1.5 miles before I start feeling OK really slows me down.
4) It'll be fun to get back into doing some speedwork!
5) I have a couple more races this year against some of the same guys. Let's see who improves the most between now and then... :)

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

This is a placeholder for when I get time to actually write a race report. I hate to just half-arse it and not do it justice...

This is a pretty cool highlight video (my buddy William gets interviewed about 6 minutes in):

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a couple-thousand word race report:

Results of Houston Racing Triathlon Club participants in Ironman Coeur d'Alene, as posted on the HRTC forum during the race (click to see a legible version):

Yup- that's me in first.

It was kind of neat to go back and see the results as they were being posted on the forum; it kind of gives little snapshots of my race, showing who passed whom and when:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gulf Coast 1/2 Ironman

It seems a little silly to write a race report so egregiously ex post facto, but I'm afraid this year's chronology will suffer without it, so here it is:

On the weekend of May 9, a bunch of friends from Houston and I drove down to Panama City, Florida for the Gulf Coast 1/2 Ironman. I had signed up for the event some time in advance, hoping to be healthy, and, though I definitely was in no shape to run in a 1/2 Ironman (or run at all, for that matter), I couldn't stand the idea of missing out on all the fun, so I went anyway, resolved to do sort of an Aquabike. I had decided before the race that I wouldn't run (or that I'd run just a few easy miles out of transition), to minimize the risk of a setback so close to the Ironman, and, knowing that I wouldn't have to run afterwards, I resolved to really hammer the bike.

The conditions for the swim were pretty rough, and I had a good swim, but nothing exceptional. I came out on the water 10th in my age group, and then went out on the bike, and absolutely KILLED it.

I came out of the water 10th in my age group, and finished the bike still 10th in my age group. Read that again. (that never happens- at IMFL in 2006, I got passed by more than 900 people on the bike)

So, I didn't get passed too much on the bike, and passing other people was lots of fun! I finished with an average of 22.1 mph for the 56 miles, which is definitely a PR. I was pretty pumped coming into transition off of the bike, so I made sure to piddle around and waste time in transition so as to not be tempted to race the run. I took off my chip, and left it in transition (I was only going to run a couple of miles, anyway), and headed out on the run. Barely out on the course, I turned around and went back for my chip- who knows; maybe I would be able to finish. So I headed out on the run again. I ran very slowly and deliberately the whole time, focusing on the placement of my leg with every step. I decided to run until my knee hurt, and then to turn around and walk it in. At about mile 3, I decided that I wanted to finish. I couldn't stand the idea of my friends being out on the course suffering in the hot sun, with me having given up, relaxing in the shade. And I wanted a finisher's medal. So I decided that I'd run as far as I could, and planned to walk in the rest. I made it to the halfway point in the park still running, with no pain (but still running extremely slowly and deliberately), and I kept on going. I ran the whole race very focused, slow (10:40 pace average), and deliberate. Until the end. About a half mile from the finish a guy in my age group passed me (just as countless others had on the run), and I let him go (just as I had countless others). About two hundred yards from the finish, the guy was a hundred yards ahead of me, and I decided to give him a run for his money. So I broke into an all-out sprint, heading in to the finish at about twice the speed of the guy ahead of me (I was going fast, like the last 50m of a track workout). As I charged in towards the finish, a roar erupted from the crowd, and with 20m or so to go, the guy realized I was coming and accelerated into a sprint. But I caught him. With the crowd going absolutely crazy around us, we sprinted side by side the last 20m to the finish. It was fantastic! I finished with a huge smile on my face! I grabbed some ice for my knee, and settled in to watch my friends finish.

My overall time still wasn't that bad, even with my slow run; I came in under 5:30, which was good enough for first out of my group of friends. And I somehow ran the whole run, despite having entered the race with a 3 mile run having been the longest of the previous month. I was elated at my finish, but even happier not to have injured myself and jeopardized the upcoming Ironman.