Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Training through the holidays

After CIM, I wasn't sure if I still wanted to run the Houston Marathon or not.  I have already paid to register, but there's not much point in running a marathon if I'm not motivated to do it.  After a few weeks of post-CIM recovery, I decided that my weakness at CIM was insufficient training for the hills (and not excessively aggressive pacing, which may or may not be true), since my slow-down was associated with my glutes giving out.  I then decided that, assuming I can ramp my training back up effectively, that I still have a chance to PR at Houston.  So I'm running Houston. 

I eased back into my training plan on the third week after CIM, but missed the tempo workout, then went home to see the family for Christmas (and also missed the tempo workout that week).  I ran my long run (intended to be 20 miles) a day after playing two hours of basketball with my family and a group of guys with whom my dad typically plays.  The long run ended up being 18 miles of hilly misery.  My feet had been aching immediately after the basketball game, and they were pretty painful throughout my long run.  In addition to being painful, the run was ridiculously slow (but I didn't worry about it too much, since I didn't have a target pace).  Not a confidence builder.  I then had 3 full days of inactivity associated with Christmas and traveling, and then jumped on my bike yesterday at lunch.  For some reason, I was really weak on the bike, and my heart rate vs. power output was way higher than for the same ride last week.  I was pretty frustrated.  I went out and ate a heavy lunch of mexican food, then went back to work.  After work, I went to run my track workout, and found that I had no motivation to run.  I went out on the track and ran my 1 mile warmup.  Then I decided I was done for the day- my lunch was not sitting well, and I felt very unmotivated and slow.  On my way off the track, I decided that it was silly and a waste of time for me to bail on the workout, and turned around and set off on my first set.  About 100m into the set, I decided that, indeed, I would bail.  And I did.  I'm not sure if I did the right thing or not, but I do know that letting myself bail is a very slippery slope.  Discipline is key to success.

Today it is rainy and nasty outside, and I still have a track workout that needs running.  Here's hoping I'm man enough to show up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

California International Marathon

We arrived in Sacramento Friday evening for the Sunday race. A and I met my sister and some friends from Houston at the airport, then crammed into a tiny rental car and headed for our hotels. We dined well on Italian food and went to bed.

Throughout the night we were entertained by the drunkards next door, and were relieved to find in the morning that they would be checking out. We got up, had breakfast, and headed enthusiastically to the expo. There's nothing quite like a race expo, packed with vendors selling running/tri paraphernalia, and with other athletes. It's guaranteed to get you excited for the race!

After the expo, we walked over to Old Sacramento and had lunch overlooking the river. We wandered through the shops, then headed back to the hotel to watch the VT game. At halftime we walked to a nearby brewery, where we ate and watched the end of the VT game. Then we went back to the hotel and got our stuff together for the race.
Race Day: we got up at 4am, grabbed some breakfast downstairs (I had oatmeal), and went to meet the buses departing for Folsom at 5am (the CIM is a point-to-point from Folsom to the Capitol in Sacramento). The day was much warmer than we'd expected (uh-oh), with temps starting in the low 50's (instead of high 30's, as predicted). I spent the 45 minute bus ride with my head on the back of the seat in front of me (just like in school!). We arrived in Folsom, took advantage of the longest line of porta-potties I've ever seen (the race organization was flawless), and lined up for the start. I lined up next to the 3:10 pace group, and planned to run 7:06 pace for as long as I could, with the goal of finishing below 3:10.
I may have gone out a little fast (I was still with the 3:00 pace group after a mile), but I felt pretty good, and resolved to just take what the course gave me. The course was way hillier than I had expected, and judging the pace was very difficult when always running uphill or downhill. I finished the first 6 miles at just over 7:00 pace, and finished the Half at 7:06 pace (a 1/2 Marathon PR... Uh-oh!). So I went out a little fast, and I slowed down a good bit between miles 10 and 13. After the halfway point, I started having issues with my left glute/IT/piriformis (not sure exactly what it is, but it's been bothering me on both sides on and off for the last six weeks (although it's been improving of late). Anyway, the one on the left stopped working, and where I had been effortlessly holding 7:00 pace early on, I was now struggling to keep it under 7:40. I had a surge of energy and another fast mile at mile 19, and then the wheels were completely off, and I was running over 8:00. The day had warmed up considerably, and the sun was out for most of my race, which certainly didn't help (at mile 3, a spectator yelled:"the sun is coming out for you guys!", and I thought: "not for me!!").
I ran the last few miles pushing as hard as I could (but not getting much speed for the effort). Nonetheless, I was passing people by the scores. As I rounded the last corner and the finish line came into view, the guy I was passing decided he didn't want to be passed, and we both accelerated into a wild sprint to the finish (just how I like it!. I'm pretty sure I won by a nose, but will have to await the finish photo to be sure. I finished in 3:13, nit good enough for a PR.

After the finish, I hobbled around cheering for the finishing runners until the rest of my crew trickled in. No one was happy with their race (it's hard to be happy after a marathon), but post-race Mexican food lifted our spirits!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nov 2 - 14

Boy, was I sore after that aggressively paced 20 miler on Sunday!
Tuesday: I was having a tough week at work, and I was exhausted (residual jet lag?), and I showed up at the track honestly wanting to just go home without running. I spent most of the warmup mile thinking about skipping the workout, but I didn't let myself off the hook.
Goal: 1 mi wu, 3000m @ 6:45, 2000m @ 6:26, 1000m @ 6:12, 800m @ 5:58, 1 mi cd.
Achieved: I beat my target pace on each interval.
My calves were already sore immediately after the workout.
Goal: 1mi wu, 8mi @ 6:45, 1 mi cd
Achieved: 1 mi wu, 8 mi @ 6:54, 1 mi cd
It was really humid, and thus was a really tough run. It took a lot of focus to stay on pace (more or less), and I wasn't sure I'd be able to hold it. I was pretty proud of myself for sticking with it, even I missed target pace by a little. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 1 - 7

Monday: arrived in Pau, France for a training class. I spent the afternoon walking around town and checking out the sights. The town has some monster hills, and I actually got a pretty good workout just walking around.
Tuesday: Goal: mixed intervals, as usual
Actual: I was still running my warmup and looking for a good place to do speedwork, when I came across a group of runners. I followed them for about a mile (not particularly inconspicuously), and ended up talking to the guy leading the pack. It turned out to be the triathlon club of Billere, on their way to do a speed workout. So I joined them. Their workout was a series of "fractionnes" (intervals) on a 330m course. The idea was to run 10x 1 min hard, 1 min rest. The coach told me that the course took about 1 min to complete "if you're good". There were about 15 of us. Needless to say, I went out hard on the first one, and blew everyone away. I finished first on the second one, too. On the next three sets, the coach finished ahead of me, and on all of the sets after that, another guy did, too. I finished each set gasping for breath (and, I dare say, in worse shape than some of the others). After the workout, we did an acceleration up a half mile hill (8-10% grade), which Coach and I finished way ahead of everyone else, and I headed back to my hotel. Total distance: >6 mi.
PS: I checked out their website, and both guys who beat me in the workout turn out to have run 1:15 half marathons this year, and one had finished the London marathon in 2:33. No wonder I got my arse handed to me! PPS: the pace of our 330's turns out to be 4:50 min/mile (the slowest one I ran), slightly faster than my typical target pace.
Wednesday: I am ridiculously sore. Like it hurts to walk. It's mostly calves, but seems to hurt at least a bit everywhere. For some reason, its a different kind of pain than typical lactic acid soreness- it hurts!
Thursday: Goal: 1.5 mi wu, 5.5 mi @ 6:45, 1.5 mi cd.
Achieved: 1 mi wu, 5.25 mi @ ~6:50, .75 mi cd. My legs still really hurt. I wasn't sure if I should still run, but it seemed to get better once I was running (except the left calf, which I felt constantly, but which didn't seem to get worse). I stopped twice during the tempo, and both times getting myself going again was like pulling teeth. My legs are still really sore, and walking to dinner was an ordeal. Hopefully I'll be recovered in time for Sunday's run. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oct 18 - 24 (Aftermath)

So...  I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from my idiotic pacing during my 19 mile Saturday run.  I pulled something in the middle of my right calf, and spent the weekend wearing compression socks to (hopefully) aid recovery.  We drove to Austin to cheer on some friends in the Longhorn 1/2 Ironman, so I had plenty of time in the car to unobtrusively wear my silly looking socks (I don't have the sporty looking sleeves; mine look like knee-high black dress socks). 
Monday: HRTC Beerathlon (chug a beer, run a mile, chug a beer, run a mile, chug a beer)
Averaged 6:10 min/mi, even counting the beer chug in the middle
My right calf was hurting noticeably afterwards, so I decided to take Tuesday off.  Since I had a 1/2 marathon coming up on Sunday, I wanted to give myself some chance at recovery. 
I missed the group ride at work on Tuesday (meeting/injury), so I went out for a ride on my own on Wednesday.  I took it relatively easy, but did manage a 15 minute effort at around threshold power.  (probably not clever)
Goal: 1mi wu, 6.5mi @ 6:45, 1mi cd.
I made it through about 3.5 mi of my tempo interval (6:48), and suddenly felt something give in my right calf.  It hurt.  It felt suspiciously less pleasant than the "good" sore-muscle hurt.  I slowed up, and the pain wasn't nearly as prominent.  I ran about a mile at a slower pace (8:25), then gutted out 1.5 miles at a moderate pace (7:08). 
I am now very, very concerned about the calf injury, because it is clear that it has the potential to completely derail my marathon training, which had been proceeding so well.  Aaagh!
Rode the bike at lunch with my Thursday group (didn't want to miss riding with friends).  I took the ride pretty easy, but still was faced with pretty much constant calf pain.

I spent the rest of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday being nice to my calf.  Stretching, compression socks at night, the works. 

Sunday: Houston 1/2 Marathon.  Goal: 6:50 pace and/or finish without season-ending injury.  I went into this race very concerned about how my calf would hold up, and concerned that I would run through any issues that did arise, eliminating my chances of training well in the upcoming weeks.
Result:  It was hot and humid (78 deg, 90% humidity), and I started out on pace, but my speed quickly tapered off, and I found myself running consistently above 7 minute pace.  At mile 8 I developed a mean side stitch, that dropped my speed dramatically (I averaged 8:25 over a mile, pushing through it).  It took a significant emotional toll, as I felt my hopes for a great run completely shattered.  Eventually the stitch eased, and I finished out the last 3-4 miles at a 7:26 pace.  Result: ~1:36, 7:23 pace avg.

This actually was a PR for me, since I've only run one other half, and I ran it injured.  The real bright spot in an otherwise miserable race is that I finished with my legs feeling healthy.  This bodes well for the upcoming week of training, and I can't help but feel fortunate to have made it through the race without aggravating the calf injury or injuring something else.  I'll take being healthy over having a kick-ass race in this case.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oct 11 - 17

Monday: 1000m swim
20 mile bike at lunch
Goal: 1mi wu, 2000m @ 6:45, 1600m @ 6:26, 1000m @ 6:12, 800m @ 6:02, 1mi cd
Achieved: 1mi wu, 2000m @ 6:38, 1600m @ 6:16, 1000m @ 5:58, 800m @ 5:48, 1mi cd (7:00)
Felt great. Killed it!
Goal: 1mi wu, 6mi @ 6:45, 1mi cd
Achieved: 1mi wu, 6mi @ 6:48, 1mi cd
Felt good! Huge sense of accomplishment from managing to maintain pace.
Goal: 18mi @ 7:40 - 8:20
Achieved: 19mi @ 7:55.
Today I was really, really dumb. First 4.5mi @ 8:48 (with the group), then was feeling pretty good; decided to aim for 7:15 pace, so 4.75mi @ 7:17. Slowed down to 8 min pace for 4 miles to talk with a guy in our group, then ran the last 5.6mi @ 7:35. Ran way too fast for my longest run in months, and regretted it the rest of the weekend. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oct 4 - 10

Boy, is it hard to recover from a race!

Wed: ran 3 miles; Goal: <7:00 pace
Achieved: 7:13 pace (and it was s struggle)

Goal: 1mi wu, 5 mi @ 6:26, 1mi cd
Achieved: 1 mi wu, 3.5mi @ 6:42, 1.5mi @ 6:36

This was tough. Somehow towards the end I found my stride (even though my legs were tired!), and running this pace didn't seem so hard. Early on I was working hard but never really found my stride.

Saturday: Long run/recovery run with A (14 miles).  We ran the first 8 miles together, averaging 8:30 pace, and I did a pick-up for the last 6 miles (7:06 pace), of which the last 3 were at sub-7 pace.  This run was a huge confidence booster, and the cool weather and low humidity definitely helped!

Sunday- cycling at park
Intervals- target power 95% - 105% FTP (213 W)
Achieved: 2 laps (2.36 mi @ 223w), 3 laps (3.5 mi @ 218w), 4 laps (4.7mi @ 216w), 3 laps (3.5mi @ 205w)

I noticed (during cooldown) that changing my hip angle made a difference in the feel of the pedal stroke (it also flattens out my back). I feel like I may be using my calves too much- I can pedal heel-down when I try, but it doesn't feel very natural.  I think I need to start getting in more time at threshold power- that will be one of my goals for the weekday rides going forward.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Halfmax Championship

Sept 27 - Oct 3
Race week: I had a massage on Monday (after a short swim). I'm not sure that this was a good idea, as I ended up feeling some strange twinges in my knees and calves during the week. I rode Tuesday and Thursday on my backup bike. The fit of the bike is pretty different, so I did my best to take it easy. I couldn't ride in the aerobars, as that setup is too aggressive to ride comfortably. Both days my left calf felt on the verge of cramping on the most anterior part- worrisome. Tuesday I did 3x 1000m @ 7:15, with 1.5mi wu & cd. Thursday my legs felt achy, and I decided I'd be better off without the run.

The race: We flew into Myrtle Beach around noon the day before the race, and went to the race venue and checked our bikes into transition. I had pasta for dinner, prepped my transition bag, and crashed early (~8?). On race morning, we arrived on site, and I realized that I had mistakenly racked my bike in the wrong section (I was surrounded by 20 girls). Aha! My race number is 105, not 150! So I moved my bike to the appropriate rack and got the last available spot. I got my spot organized (it was pretty roomy, since no one wanted the end), grabbed my wetsuit, and headed for the race start when the announcement was made that the swim would be cancelled due to high concentrations of bacteria (apparently a week of heavy rain had taken its toll on the intracoastal waterway). So... My best event: cancelled. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. The race would now be a bike-run, with a random time trial start. A and I were near the front of the mass of starters, so we started near the beginning of the race.

Bike: It was a windy day (15-20 mph), Which made the bike more of a challenge. Two miles into the bike, I dropped my bottle of nutrition on the road (I used my half-size Performance bottle, which I'm not used to handling). I coasted on a bit, considering abandoning it, but eventually pulled a U-ey and picked it up. My goals for the bike (based on my dry run 2 weeks before) were to keep my power between 165 & 175 W, and my HR between 145 & 150. I started the race a little hot, and my first 12 miles or so my HR was well over 150, but I managed to rein it in. I was strongly hoping to average 21mph or better.

Bike result: 21.1 mph, 179W, HR 149 bpm. Right on target. (I'll have to look up what my pace would've been without the dropped bottle).

Run: I have spent the last several weeks reminding myself how to run fast, and over that time my pace goal for the run has crept downwards from 7:45min/mile to sub 7:30. I ran the first 3-4 miles at a sub 7:30 pace, fighting a side stitch the whole time, and eventually my pace slowed to ~8:15 (by that time the side stitch was gone, but it was hot, and I didn't have much kick). I had a few miles that were slower still between mile 6.5 and mile 10, then managed to pick it up a bit over the last few miles (still >8:00 pace). I finished with an 8:08 avg pace.
All in all, not too bad. With a swim (even a slow swim), I would have PR'd and had a good shot at qualifying. Without the swim, I wasn't even close to qualifying for Worlds.
Next time: Train better- more time running fast would've done me wonders. More runs after long rides. Bike pacing was good. Rode race wheels with latex tubes; no issue. Next time put Teflon tape on spare tube valve for extender. Avoid race week massage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sept 20 - 26

Monday - 2000m swim (No major back or neck pain this time, but did need heating pad to relax back muscles afterwards)

Tuesday -

Bike: 20mi (noon)


Goal: 1 mi WU, 5x 1000 @ 6:12, 1 mi CD

Achieved: Nailed it. I ran this one at the track. Garmin data was lost, but I was very happy with this run. I started out planning to punk out on the last couple 1000's, and the first 1000m was very tough, and my legs felt like lead. And somehow, they got easier and easier. I ran my mile CD at a comfortable pace, with the first lap at 7:45, and finishing at 7:15. I felt strong. It's amazing the degree to which speedwork reinforces your body's ability to comfortably run fast(er).

Wednesday - 2200m swim. Felt pretty good; didn't overdo it. Swam 10x 100yd on 1:35 (finished each around 1:25).


Goal: 1 Mi WU, 5mi @ 6:26, 1mi CD
Achieved: 1mi wu, 5mi @ 6:53, .5mi cd. First 2 miles were @ 6:35; after that the wheels came off. I stopped for water 3 miles in, and finished off the tempo feeling noticeably slower. The effort was there; it was just a tough morning.

Friday: 2200m swim. 10x 100yd on 1:35, finished each at/under 1:25. Felt pretty good.

Goal: 13-15 miles @ 7:25-8:25
Achieved: 2mi wu, 11mi @ 7:33, cd. Total: 14.75
This run begins my taper for next week's Halfmax Championship. I wanted to prove to myself that I could sustain sub-7:45 pace (my goal pace for the race). Had a great run- felt great and finished strong! I ran into a guy training to run a 2:30 marathon, and ran a couple of miles with him, chatting it up. It was nice to have some company, and good to get some confidence running comfortably at 7:20 pace. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Long ride- dry run for Halfmax

Sunday, Sept 19.
The ride I planned for today was a 56 mile ride in the hills of Montgomery, in conjunction with an organized ride sponsored by my tri club, HRTC.  I had decided to use this race to test the pacing strategy for my upcoming half ironman.
I started out riding with a couple other guys, and I faced the typical group-riding challenges that are generated by my refusal to ride pace-line or draft.  I'm found myself out front pulling until we hit an uphill, when I would be passed by the entire pace-line (which I would then re-pass on the next downhill).  My goal for the day was to ride at 170-180 W (assuming 213W for my threshold power, which I admittedly haven't tested in half a year), and keeping my HR below 160.  I rode the first half of the ride with this goal in mind, but somehow ended up averaging 190W through the first half (avg HR ~155).  I made a pit-stop at the halfway point and rode the rest of the ride by myself.  I continued the second half with the same goal in mind, but my wattage for the second half was much lower relative to my HR.  I struggled a bit through the second half, and my average wattage for this section was closer to 155W.  This ride was not really a perfect dry run for my upcoming race, since this ride was quite hilly, and my upcoming race will be flat and windy.
Conclusions:  For this distance, I should probably lower my wattage target (165 - 175W) and try to hold it consistently throughout the ride.  I definitely should not exceed a HR of 155 in my race (with no hills, there should be no reason for such surges). 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week 2 on the wagon

Tuesday, Sept 14
Goal: 1mi WU, 4x 1000m @ 6:12, 1mi CD
Achieved: 6:11, 6:15, 6:14, 6:14
Apparently the speed is still there; I just have to use it.  I am pumped to come so close to hitting my targets!  I've definitely been a little sore after the last week of speedwork, but I'm gratified to find myself coming up to speed so quickly.  Hopefully I can find some speed to take with me to the Halfmax Nat'l Championships (1/2 Iron distance) on Oct 2.

Thursday, Sept 16
Goal: 1mi WU, 4.5 mi @ 6:26, 1mi CD
Achieved 1mi WU, 4.5 @ 6:34, walking CD (with friends)
I was pumped to be able to maintain this tempo run through the entire distance.  The cooler weather helped, as did the presence of my friend Stuart, who is on the same plan with the same target pace and the same target race (CIM), and who is a machine- he surged ahead of me early, and was my rabbit for the rest of the run

Saturday, Sept 18
Goal: 16 mi @ 7:35-8:25
Achieved: 16 mi @ 7:55
I pushed the pace a little today, and was surprised to find that I had the speed in my legs.  I'm can tell that just by expecting my body to run faster, it's responding and I'm pulling it off.  It's interesting that the last few months of lowered pace expectations actually resulted in my getting slower, and gratifying that the converse actually works.

Back on the speedwork wagon

I'm training for the California International Marathon, and have put together a run-training plan culminating in that race.  First week back:

Tuesday, September 7
Goal: 1 mi WU, 3x 1000m @ 6:12, 1 mi CD
Achieved: 6:08, 6:24, 6:22, and 800m @ 6:20 (I was confused and thought I was supposed to do 4x 1000m, and I punked out on the last one and only ran 800m, but it turned out I was only supposed to run 3)
I ran these at 8pm in a driving rainstorm (coolest run in Houston in ages), and really struggled to maintain the pace.  I could feel, however, the difference in my stride when running fast versus the "base" pace I've been running for the past several months.

Thursday, September 9
Goal: 1 mi WU, 4mi @ 6:26, 1 mi CD
Achieved: I broke the 4mi up into smaller bits: 2mi @ 6:42, 1.5mi @ 6:35, .5mi @ 6:41
This was a tough run.  Hopefully next week I'll come closer to hitting my goals

Friday, September 10
Long run in 98 degree heat of afternoon.
13.5mi @ 8:42 pace

Post-Ironman epiphany

After wallowing in funk for several days, I went for a recovery run after work, and suddenly realized that my Ironman result was directly a product of the training I had done.  I had hoped to maintain my speed from the Houston marathon all the way into the Ironman, but found that as the weather got hotter and hotter (and my training volume got higher and higher), it became increasingly difficult to hit my pace targets when doing my run speedwork.  At some point (I think it was in June), I stopped doing any structured workout at all, and just did general "tempo" workouts with no pace goal, no obvious progression, and no accountability.  This is where I lost my speed.  Without realizing it, I slipped into a training complacency where training distance began to trump intensity (this happened to me in 2006, as well, with IM Florida).

The structure and accountability of the run training that I did leading up to the Houston Marathon were directly responsible for the speed gains that I made during that period, and I would definitely want to incorporate that (and stick to it) in training for my next IM.

When I do my next IM, I want to be prepared to race at my goal paces, not to just idly hope that I can hit them.  Where I failed in this IM was in my preparation- I was prepared to complete the distance, just not at the pace that I wanted.  Next time I'll know better.

Post-Ironman funk

I spent the first week and a half after the Ironman in kind of a funk.  It's really difficult to structure your life around a goal day-in and day-out for a year, and then to suddenly find yourself wandering aimlessly.  This post-Ironman funk was maybe a little more pronounced than the others I've experienced, since I was somewhat disappointed in my performance.  I'm not sure that this disappointment is reasonable, or rational, but I spent the last year planning (and training) to obliterate my PR, even on a much tougher course.  I did execute my race plan flawlessly, but the fact that I didn't blow up on the run has left me wondering if I couldn't/shouldn't have taken more risks and pushed a little harder on the bike.

The funk was exacerbated by the fact that I have gotten so much slower over the last several months.  Where I once was running my long runs at paces in the low 7's, a comfortable long run pace for me has turned into a pace in the high 8's and low 9's.  Even aggressively paced long runs lately have yielded at best an 8:30 average pace.  What the heck?!

Quick Update

So what's happened since February?  Good question!  Leading up to Worlds, here were this year's races:
My next "A" race after the Houston Marathon was to be the Cooper River Run 10k, where I wanted to break 40 minutes.  I built a run training plan easing me into the tri season, with this goal in mind.
Feb 27: Rodeo Run 10k:  I ran this race with A and her mother, and finished in 40:52, well short of my sub-40 goal with one month to go...
Mar 27: Cooper River Bridge Run 10k:  I went home to SC to run this race with my family, with the goal of breaking 40 minutes firmly in mind.  We got dropped off a little later than usual, and a little further away than usual, so we had to run a mile or so to get into our start corral, and got there just before the start.  This had two results; 1) we were nice and warmed up when the race started, and 2) we had a lot more people in front of us than usual.  Since this race has 30,000+ participant, even being at the back of a seeded start corral can mean quite a few people to pass at race start.  My brother and I started out pretty fast, dodging, bobbing, and weaving around the slower people in front of us, and probably running 20% farther in the process.  A mile or so into the race we got separated, and I pounded the mile or so up the bridge, trying to keep from pushing too hard, and surging past all of the people who had overextended themselves.  I lost a lot of time off my target pace on the uphill, and heading over the crest I feared my chances of breaking 40 minutes were already gone.  Regardless, I pushed the downhill (just like my brother taught me the first year I ran it with him), and my pace went down to a minute or more below target pace.  I was flying!  A guy pulled in behind me and made a remark about me looking fresh, still running on my toes.  I lost track of my time in the second half of the race, but pushed as hard as I could and finished strong.  Result: 40:00.  That's right- I missed breaking 40 minutes by one second.  I still felt pretty good about my finish, since I don't think I left any extra seconds on the course- that was all I had.

Apr 24: Lone Star Olympic Triathlon (Galveston, TX):  I was really looking forward to this race, as I thought I had a pretty good chance of placing (and I was excited about my cycling improvements).  It was an insanely windy day, and they ended up canceling the swim.  My enthusiasm for the race waned somewhat with my best event removed, and I found myself struggling to get any sort of push on the run.  I felt like I let up quite a bit from miles 3-5, and then still finished pretty strong.  I finished a disappointing 11/92 in my AG, knowing that a swim leg would probably have put me on the podium.
May 16: TexasMan 1/2 Ironman (near Dallas, TX):  This race was hilly and hot!  A and I drove the course the day before and were amazed at how hilly it was!  This was my first race wearing a HR monitor, and I set some target ranges to maintain on the bike (140-145 bpm).  I finished the swim 1st in my AG, and headed out on the bike course.  I went slower and slower on the bike, but couldn't seem to go slowly enough to get my HR to come down.  It stayed over 160bpm for the first 10 miles of the race.  The bike was challenging, but went pretty well, and I think I could have pushed a little harder (though the best measure of a good bike leg is in how the run leg goes).  I had a good run, and stayed strong despite a hilly run course and blistering conditions.  There was no Gatorade on most of the run course, so I used the "emergency" electrolyte tabs that I had tucked in my jersey pocket.  I finished strong, in 5:12 (short of the 5:00 to which I had idly aspired), good for 4th place in my AG.

Jun 12: Corporate Track Meet:  This was easily my most fun event of the first half of 2010!  My company competes with a number of other major companies in the Houston area, and this race was a full-fledged track meet.  I'd never run a short distance race, and it was fantastic!  This race deserves a post of its own, but I did run a 5:20 mile (good for silver in the Team Mile), and ran about the same time or faster as the mile anchor of a mixed-distance relay, pulling my relay team from 3rd to 1st (GOLD!), and winning by over 30 seconds.  I also ran some ridiculously fast 800's in a few other relays, pulling my team from ignominy into contention.  Ah, the glory!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm back!

OK, the blog is back after more than a 6 month hiatus.  If I don't write race reports for the Long Course World Championships and Ironman Canada now, then I never will (or I'll end up with a cop out report like the one I did for IM Coeur d'Alene last year).  There are actually quite a few things that I want to remember, so reporting is back.  I'm also going to try to ramp up my reporting on my training progress to re-introduce a measure of accountability, but we'll have to see how that works out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I just had a fantastic run at the park!  This week's run was to be the same as last week's, with an extra mile repeat thrown in (1.5mi WU, 4x 1mi @ 6:26, 1.5mi CD).  I wore my heart rate monitor this week, just to compare with last week's punk-out.  I had a great run; I nailed my mile repeats (6:22, 6:23, 6:23, 6:19), and they felt smooth and easy.  For some reason, tonight I felt like I was running more like a gazelle than like a buffalo.  Maybe I'm evolving...

As for the heart rate verdict, my average heart rate on the last mile repeat tonight was 170 bpm, as compared to an average heart rate of 185 over the last .85 miles I ran last week on the treadmill.  So... I was definitely running too fast last week, and I was correct to back off when it felt like too much.  Yay, me!

This week:

Last week: (pace comes from my Garmin footpod- accuracy unknown)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Punking out

Last night was the first time I've punked out in a workout in a long, long time.  It was cold (low 40's) and monsooning out, so I opted to do my tempo workout indoors on a treadmill (which sucks).  The plan was to run 1.5 warmup, 3x 1mile @ 10k pace, and 1.5 mile cooldown.  I followed conventional wisdom and set the treadmill at a 1% grade to make the pace more equivalent to running outdoors.  For some reason, this workout was tough!  I made it through the first mile wondering if I would be able to finish the workout.  I made it through mile 2, and my heartrate was way higher than it should have been at 10k pace (I thought- I'm not actually sure what it's supposed to be).  On my 3rd mile, I was miserable just starting out, and on a treadmill you don't have the option of slowing down to cheat a bit (without making a conscious decision to do so).  I told myself to just run 1/2 a mile, and then if I wanted I could stop (knowing that at that point I would talk myself into going farther).  At 1/2 mile, I talked myself into running to 3/4 mile, but I felt like I was on the final sprint of a race!  I was gasping; I was dying!  At 3/4 mile I knew I was close to the finish, but really didn't think I could go any further, and I ended up pushing another minute or so to 0.85 mile, and then I hit "stop".  I hit "stop"!  I was dying; I was done; but I was so disappointed in myself for giving in.  (I did finish my cool down afterward)

I'm not sure why that workout was so tough.  My Garmin footpod said I was running 6:03 min/mile instead of the 6:26 to which I set the treadmill, but which one was accurate? (I'd guess the treadmill)  My heart rate when I hit stop was 190, which seems a little high for a training run, but I looked back through my run data from the last couple of months and realized that I haven't really been wearing the monitor for speed work or tempo work, so I have no real basis for comparison.  On my long runs at marathon pace, my heart rate topped out around 172, but that's not really a comparable intensity.  Maybe I was feeling the effects of accumulated fatigue from workouts earlier in the week?  Or maybe it was just a tough workout I was going to have to gut out to make it through.

Anyway...  I was pretty disappointed in myself for pulling the plug in the middle of the workout.  It sounds like such a minor thing, but in training it's the discipline to do what you set out to do that forces you into improvement.

Launching Triathlon Season

Well, lots has happened since the Houston Marathon.  I spent the first 3 weeks after the marathon mainly focused on avoiding injury (since I've managed to injure myself in the weeks after the Houston Marathon twice in the last several years).  At this point in the year, I typically have been in a running-only mode, and after the marathon start to shift into triathlon training mode.  I'm usually filled to the brim with both excitement and motivation, and it's pretty easy to write checks my body isn't yet ready to cash (three years ago I went out the weekend after the marathon, and rode 42 miles in hills on Saturday, another 30 miles on Sunday morning, and then ran 10 miles on Sunday afternoon.  That was my last run that year until April.  I did all of my run training for Ironman Arizona that year in a pool, which distinctly resembles a form of torture, particularly if you find yourself doing 2+ hour runs in an enclosed dungeon of a natatorium while your friends are all running outside in the sun on a beautiful spring morning.  Being injured did take a lot of the pressure off for IM Arizona, though, since I didn't really know if I would finish until I crossed the finish line.  Anyway...).

So this year, I resolved to be careful in the weeks following the marathon, and, even though it was very tough, I succeeded.  It is nearly a month after the marathon, and I am healthy, and have even established a routine of sorts, combining my cycling and run training (I did sneak a couple of swims in there, but it would be a gross exaggeration to imply that I've established any sort of routine on that front).  My main goals for the next couple of months are:
a) to improve my cycling threshold power by 20% (my starting point is pretty low)
b) to break 40 min in a 10K

My planned weekly routine looks like this:
Monday: swim, recovery run (optional)
Tuesday: bike trainer workout (am), run track workout (pm)
Wednesday: bike trainer workout
Thursday: run tempo workout, masters swim workout (pm)
Friday: off
Saturday: long run, swim
Sunday: long bike ride

So far I've been doing all of that for the last couple of weeks, except the swimming.

I'm excited about triathlon season!  I'm especially excited to be starting this triathlon season healthy!  (my first time since 2006).  I hope to improve significantly on the bike this season (narrowing the performance gap with my competitors), and to maintain some of my new-found running speed throughout the season.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Houston Marathon

Houston 2010 will be my 10th marathon since I ran my first marathon at Houston 2006 (not counting 3 Ironmans and 3 50k's), and this will be my 4th time running Houston (I ran the Houston 1/2 marathon in 2009, injured- not a great idea).  I like this race.

On Saturday I went to pick up my race packet, and as usual, it was fun to be swept up in the city's collective excitement about the race.    There were lots of good deals on running apparel, but I managed to escape without buying anything (running is pretty simple- there's only so much gear you really need).  I had toyed with the idea of getting a short "warmup" run in, but I ended up relaxing and watching football.  Not a bad thing, really.  I went out for a pasta dinner, and the restaurant was packed with people running the marathon (which resulted in a painfully long wait, but that's another story).

Sunday- RACE DAY-
Weather:  Perfect!- 45 degrees at race start, warming up to mid 50's by noon.
Woke up at 4:45 am.  I had 2 bowls of cereal before leaving the house (breakfast of champions!).  Agustina, her mother, and I picked up a friend and headed to the convention center, arriving ~5:30 am.  This year was a little different from most years for me- typically all or most of my running crew are running the marathon with me, but due to differing goal races and varying degrees of injury, I had no one to meet up with before the race.  So I headed out to the start corrals a little earlier than usual on my own.  I easily got to my spot in the corral by 6:30, and took advantage of the time to remove some gravel from my shoes (the mesh in the tops of them tends to allow tiny bits of gravel to enter the shoes when running at Memorial Park, so I often end up taking just a little bit of the trail home with me).  I found the 3:10 pace group, and lurked inconspicuously behind them.  I don't know if I've elaborated here on my goal for this race, but here it is:  I decided when I started running that I wanted to qualify for Boston before I turned 35 (when the qualifying time goes from 3:10 to 3:15), so my goal for this marathon is 3:10.  Note: my PR for the Houston marathon after 3 races is 3:31, and my overall marathon PR is 3:18 at St. George (a hilly, but net downhill course).  Considering that I struggled in running a 3:39 marathon at Chicago just a few months ago, it's a pretty aggressive goal, but it's what I've been working towards.  Anyway, I saw another triathlete from Houston Racing who was aiming for a similar time, and we hung out together until the start.  Mayors speech, inspirational prayer, national anthem, and then BANG- and we're off.

I had decided that I wouldn't necessarily stick with the pace group, which I assumed would be running even 7:15 splits the whole race.  I wanted to run just a little faster on the early miles to build a little bit of a buffer for my inevitable deceleration late in the race.  Interestingly, they stayed right with me through 12 miles or so (they ran two ~7:00 miles early on, and ended up finishing a couple of minutes early at the finish).  At some point, I just let them go.  I was pretty convinced that if I kept running that aggressively early on, I'd regret it later, so I continued running my own race.  I kept a pretty good handle on my pace through mile 15, or so (running at or better than target pace).  Mile 15 contains an overpass (the "hill" in this race), and I had a pretty slow split for that mile, and didn't seem to really regain my stride in the subsequent miles (they're headed directly away from the finish, and are pretty mentally tough).  At this point, I was running pretty much as fast as I could, and I was only getting 7:30 miles out of my legs.  I had my watch set to give me 1/4 mile splits, so I knew every couple of minutes how I was doing, and I knew that I was starting to bleed off a little of the time buffer that I'd built up.  I did my best to hold it together, and did manage to pull my pace down between miles 15 and 18, actually getting pretty close to target pace for mile 18.  Not coincidentally, during that mile I saw my buddy Greg (who has faithfully made it out to cheer me on in every Houston Marathon I've run), and some of the folks from my running group who weren't running the race.  It sure helps to have supporters!

Me looking particulary dopey, but very happy to see Greg at mile 18

At mile 18, we turned back towards the finish, and it was an 8 mile run for home.  I knew that I needed to bring my pace down if I was going to finish in my target time, but a side stitch I developed gulping water around 18 lasted for a several miles, and I pushed my pace as hard as I could without making it worse (it's a fine line), and now I was hemorrhaging time.  I was pretty confident that I had burned through whatever buffer I had built up, but I had some consolation in knowing that technically the BQ target time is 3:10:59, so I did have 59 seconds more than I had allowed myself to consider.  Still, at the rate I was losing time (I didn't really slow down that much- I ran miles 21-25 at 7:30 pace instead of my 7:15 target), it was going to take a heck of a kick at the end to come anywhere close.  Encouragingly, I was passing people left and right who had completely blown out instead of just slowing, and I kept pushing, and ran through to the end with everything I had left, running every 1/4 mile as aggressively as I could (but losing time the whole way).  On the home stretch I used up whatever may have been left in the tank, running a 6:04 pace over the last half mile.  The crowd was cheering, I was dying, and I crossed the finish line in 3:11:53, good for a 7 minute PR over my St George time, and nearly a 20 minute PR over my best Houston time.  When I stopped, my legs collapsed, and I toppled backwards like I'd been hit with sledgehammer (stopping after all those hours of running isn't nearly as easy as it sounds), but a friendly medical team caught me, and walked me until I could walk myself.  My track coach from my early days in Houston Racing was in the finishing chute, and clapped me on the back and said, "That was a hell of a race".  That meant a lot- he's known me since I started running in late 2005, and I've come a long way since then. 

I picked up my medal, and ran into some friends, who walked me around until I was better able to move on my own.  I was pretty torn between being proud of my PR (It turns out that since at the next Boston Marathon that I could run I'll be 35, all I actually needed to qualify was a 3:15), and being devastatedly disappointed that I'd put in so much training, and put so much out there in this race, only to come up short of my goal.  I'm still a little torn on that point, but my friends have been excited for me, so I'm probably more happy than disappointed.  And a huge PR is nothing to sneeze at.

Side note- I ran this race (and all of my training for the last several months) in my Newtons, and hopefully I'll find the time to comment on them in an upcoming post.

Here are my splits from the marathon (note the crazy 6:54 pace split at mile 11, run with the crazy pace group):

Official result: 3:11:53- Boston, here I come!

The taper

Tuesday, Jan 5:
Speedwork on a treadmill.  The weather outside wasn't even that bad; I just didn't feel like running on the track alone in the dark (nothing fun about that, really).  I took one of the usual segments out of my workout to make it a bit more taper-worthy (to back down the volume a bit, at least).
1 mi easy, 2000m @ 6:45, 1mi @ 6:26, 800 @ 6:00, 1 mi easy (Total ~6 mi)

Thursday, Jan 7:
Tempo run.  I backed the mileage at 1/2 marathon pace recommended by my plan (6), and opted for 4 (since I wanted to really enforce the taper this week).  I ran at a deserted Memorial Park in frigid temperatures in the rain, and I didn't struggle too much to hit my pace.  These actually felt pretty good.
2 mi WU, 4 mi @ 6:45, 1 mi CD

Saturday, Jan 9:
Easy long run.  Some of my usual crew showed up for this one, even though it was 28 degrees at the start (in Houston!), but it was a smaller group than usual.  On the other hand, since I had no real pace goal for this run, I was able to actually run and chat with my friends, rather than just starting with them and meeting them at water stops, as I've done much of this training season.  It was a nice change of pace.
13.4 mi @ 8:48

Tuesday, Jan 12:
Easy run at base pace.  6 mi @ 8:07 pace.  Again, a nice run, because I got to run with Augie instead of doing my own thing.  I need to appreciate these runs more, since if I expect to improve, I probably will have to do more and more running at my own pace.

Thursday, Jan 14:
I was scheduled for a speed workout on Wednesday, but skipped it to go to a dinner with other marathoners from my company.  It was a good choice; I had a good time.  Thursday I wanted to remind myself what it feels like to run fast (after all of these "easy" runs), so I went to the park (in the rain and the cold and the dark), and did the following:
1 mi WU,  3 mi @ 7:00, .75 mi CD
This was a good run for visualizing the race, and the 3 miles definitely gave my confidence a needed boost.

That's all I plan to do before the marathon on Sunday, unless I go for a quick 1 mile run on Saturday, TBD.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How do you like them apples?

I did it!  I had a fantastic tempo run and actually managed to hit both the distance and the pace!  Finally!  I am so pumped!

Plan: 2 mile WU, 8 mile @ 6:45, 2 mile CD
Achieved: 2 mile WU, 8 mile @ 6:47, 2 mile CD
I finally hit my Thursday tempo run!  It was one of my toughest runs ever, but I hung in there and tried to run each 1/4 mile in the moment; to focus on my form and pace at the moment and not to think about all of the miles ahead of me or behind me.  The turning point in the workout was the halfway point; after that the remaining miles seemed pretty achievable.  I was so exhausted by the end, and so happy to have succeeded, that I felt nearly as emotional as I do after a marathon.  Weird.  I was working pretty hard by the end- my heart rate at the end was around 183.    Then- off to a New Year's party!

Knees are still pretty sore.  It's a ligament (IT band?) on the outside of the knee that mostly hurts when I rotate on my leg (on both legs).  I've been icing a good bit.

Plan:  2 mi WU, 12 mi at 7:04, 2 mi CD
Achieved:  2 mi WU, 12 mi at 7:06, 2 mi CD
This was an awfully tough run.  I struggled to maintain pace throughout the run, which was pretty frustrating (especially since this was supposed to be marathon pace, and I was only running half of a marathon- should it be that much work?).  I even stopped once during the run with no good reason (and was very ashamed of myself for it, too!).  This wasn't as confidence-building as I imagine it was supposed to be, but I had a pretty tough workout on Thursday, and there may have been some residual fatigue from that.  But...  I did get the run in, and I think I even managed to hold pace better than my last "marathon pace" long run.  Maybe I was just a little disappointed because I was expecting it to be easy. 

My knees still hurt. I'm taking Sunday and Monday off.  Hopefully they'll feel better as I enter... Taper Time!