Friday, September 30, 2011

Light week...much needed

Mileage has been light this week as per my plans.  That killer workout on Tuesday made this a little bit less of a step back week as far as intensity goes, but mileage is still in check.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: roughly 10 miles total, see 6 X Wow post

Wednesday: AM: 4 miles,
                     PM: 8 miles

Thursday: AM: 5 miles

Friday: AM: 9 miles

I'm about to go on a 60 easy bike ride, sadly my first of the week.  I just did not quite have the time the rest of the week thanks to the shorter days, my need to rest my left quad Monday (its all better now), and the fact that I had to go to Cleveland and back on Thursday for work.

This weekend is going to be "interesting."  At the last possible moment, I got convinced to fly up to New Hampshire to run in a half marathon.  This is more just to experience fall up there and see a couple of friends.  I also have some airfare credit up for expiration from missed races this Spring, so I figured, what the heck.  Now as it turns out, I may very well be that out of state jack ass runner that comes in and sandbags the shit out of this race.  There is a cash prize for the winner, yet the winning time last year was a 1:28.  I'm planning on just cruising at marathon pace unless someone decides to make a race out of it.  For now, this will just be a glorified workout.

Sunday, I'm running the half marathon leg of a "half" triathlon.  I was originally supposed to do the bike leg, but they needed runners, so I decided to be a good sport.  The race is free for me and I get a triathlon top which I desperately need since I only have one.  I will DEFINITELY not race this one and just do it for the miles.

So although it may appear I have two races this weekend, in actuality, they are just awesome runs, one of which I may score a pay day for.  I'm excited!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The World Record Debate

Since all the cool people are talking about it, so will I!

Very recently, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the world governing body for running decided to change their requirements for what constitutes a world record in a road race.  They already have very complicated rules about what constitutes an eligible course and conditions.  This is why Geoffrey Mutai's time of 2:03:02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon is not considered a world record, but only a "world's best."  Since Boston is a point-to-point course, the start and finish lines are too far apart, making the course ineligible for producing world records.

Though it certainly complicates what should be a rather simple sport, there is certainly logical thinking behind the IAAF's world record eligibility rules.  All road races are very different, even ones of identical distance.  Some marathons are known to be tough, while others are known to be fast.  It has everything to do with the course profile and the prevailing conditions at the time (wind, temperature).  Track races on the other hand are much more controlled.  Though track surfaces and weather play a role, all track races are run on the exact same "course," an oval with specific dimensions.

With that said, the IAAF has handed down a very curious decision.  Paula Radcliffe is (or should I say was) the world record holder for the women's marathon with a time of 2:15:25 set at the 2003 London Marathon.  However, the IAAF has deemed that any women's race run in conjunction with a men's race and/or any women that use male pacers cannot be awarded the world record.  Furthermore, the IAAF is going back and rewriting history, taking away any women's road racing world records that were done with the aid of male pacers.  Radcliffe actually still has the world record because she has also run the 2nd and 3rd fastest marathon times ever by a woman.  Her 3rd fastest time of 2:17:42 is now the record.

The fastest women in the world do have an interesting situation.  In a mass start race of men and women, the fastest women will usually be surrounded by 2nd tier men who run near those times.  Low 2:20s in a marathon is lightning fast for a woman, but for a man, it does not even give you a shot to run at the US Olympic Trials.  I have sort of experienced this first hand at the Philly Distance Run a few weeks ago.  My 1:14:44 is decent for an amateur, but I was running alongside women who were going for a spot in the Trials.

The debate is endless as to whether male pacers give women too much of an advantage or help them too much with running faster.  The problem for the top women is that there really are not enough other fast women to help pace them, hence the use of male pacers.  However, the men do not really have this same problem.  The top men will be out front in a mixed race.  Additionally, it is common practice for men to use pacers in their races as seen in the recent world record set in Berlin by Patrick Makau of 2:03:38.  In fact if you watch video, this guy had a literal army of pacers for well over half the race.  The final pacers broke off at the 30K mark, a little over 6 miles before the finish.

It has been pointed out that this is a double standard of sorts.  Women are no longer allowed to use pacers (essentially since female pacers are almost non existent) but yet men are when pursuing world records.  Some of this trouble has been taken care of by many of the large races which these days have the elite women start 45 minutes ahead of the men.  This allows them to run the "women's only" race that the IAAF now requires for world records.

The debate of the fairness of all this and whether a faster male pacer offers too much assistance to a female runner is quite a complicated one.  As a purist, I think it is all BS and it should not matter who paces who.  The bottom line is that the runner still has to be physically capable of running the required pace whether they have a pacer or not.

Regardless, what I truly don't understand is the IAAF's decision to go back and rewrite history.  At the time of Radcliffe's world record, these rules were not in place and everything she did in running that time was legal.  So how can someone rewrite the rules now and then go back and decide that the world record no longer applies?  Had this rule already been in place, I highly doubt Paula Radcliffe would have used a male pacer on a world record eligible course at the pinnacle of her running career.

If the IAAF wants to put this rule in place going forward, then fine I can live with it.  Everyone understands what the rules are and if they want a world record, they have to do it without male pacers.  But, how can you go back and change what was already done?

I guess what we need is another female runner to go and beat Radcliffe's 2:15:25 without male pacers on an eligible course to rub it in the face of the IAAF.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

6 x Wow...

For anyone who has actually read this blog consistently, you may have noticed that I had gone away from posting about individual days, opting instead to reflect on individual weeks at a time.  This was by design, a way for me to keep my eye on the bigger picture rather than getting so hung up on each day.  That is part of the reason why I got into trouble and overdid it in the Spring.  I was so adamant about getting in each and every mile that I lost sight of the purpose of training.

Well, I'm making an exception today since I really seem to be hitting my stride at a new level now, and I wanted to make sure to record the moment.  Of course, you are never as good as you are on your good days, and never as bad on those bad days.  However, these Tuesday night track workouts I've been doing have been getting better and better and on the whole, I can feel myself getting stronger.

The workout today...6 x 1600 meter with a 200 meter jog in between.  Doing workouts with a group of people adds a different dynamic and can completely change the workout depending on who you try and run with.  Today I ended up trying to stay with people that are much faster than me.  Though the pace may have been easier for them, it was certainly tougher for me!

The first three were relatively easy; 5:48, 5:45, 5:38...half marathon pace or "slightly slower than tempo" pace.

It was a blur of pain after that...5:32, 5:24, 5:13

Based on my Philly half, the 5:32 was still theoretically in that tempo zone, but those last two were basically 5K pace.  By the time we did the 5:13, it was so dark I couldn't see the splits on my watch.  It was probably better that way.  That 5:13 was not easy to keep and I was glad it was the last rep because I was done after that!

I managed to survive and though it certainty felt like a workout, I'm not completely dead right now.  My left quad is also completely fine after taking a day off yesterday.  If this won't bother it, then it is healthy!  I'll have to see how I feel tomorrow (only an afternoon run), but I'm expecting to feel pretty good meaning that this workout was dead on.

I guess I must be doing something right!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Naylor's Beach Duathlon...These Races Hurt as Much as Marathons!

I already knew the day was going to be interesting when I left my hotel at 7:20 in thick fog.  Thankfully, most of it had burned off by the race start at 9am but it was still overcast, muggy, and wet out.  I believe this race ties for the largest multisport event I've done, though in this case, it was because there were so many different races going on at once:

-An Olympic Duathlon...2 mile run, 26 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
-An Olympic Triathlon
-A Sprint Triathlon
-An aqua-velo (swim, bike)

The only thing that mattered for the duathletes was to make sure to ride the olympic bike course (26 miles) and not the sprint course (12 miles).  At about mile 5.5 or 6 there was a turn off for the sprint course.  As it turns out, knowing that would be very important.

The field for this race was rather small, proving to me that I need to get into triathlons!  There were about 40 people total, though the top 5 or 6 people in any of these races always make it a good race.  We started at the same time as the Olympic Tri, meaning the fastest duathletes would get to transition before the fastest triathletes, but it was open season on the roads as there were certainly a lot of fast bikes racked in transition.

At 9AM we were off for a 2 loop 2 mile run.  I took the lead easily and managed a 10:50 as I ran into transition.  I'm not sure what my lead was in time, but I managed to get out of transition just as the next runners were finishing up their last lap.  I've got transition almost down to a science though I'm not very graceful mounting the bike.  I kept it simple this time, I'm just not coordinated enough and am usually too tired to do something fancy like jump on the bike.  I figured I had a minute or more on them.  Not bad for only a 2 mile run..

It was definitely still wet out on the roads, and my tires were rather soaked since the transition area was on grass.  It only took 3 miles for someone to pass me on the bike.  As it turns out, he basically rode a record time for the bike course, doing 26 miles in 1 hour and 2 minutes.  He averaged almost 26 mph on a course with 3 good hills, truly amazing.  No wonder I thought it was a car passing me at first.

A couple of "interesting" things happened on the bike.  First, at that sprint/olympic break off, the volunteers at that intersection apparently didn't know duathletes were supposed to do the 26 mile course and were trying to direct people onto the sprint course.  I ignored them and continued on the olympic course as most people did, though a few did go the wrong way.  Moral of that story, always know the course.

A minute or so later I went to take my first drink.  As I've done way too many times in training, I botched putting the water bottle back in my cage and dropped it.  In USAT events, leaving any equipment on the course results in a 2 minute penalty for the first offense...........

if you get caught

I immediately decided to just leave the water bottle.  By the time I stopped, turned around, stopped again, dismounted, picked up the bottle, remounted and rode off, I would have lost way more than 2 minutes and all my momentum.  I also happened to notice that I didn't get caught, so I just kept going.  Even if I did get docked, it would not have changed the outcome of the race.  I did have a second bottle to drink from, so my hydration still went as planned.

The excitement was far from over.  As I continued to ride, I could hear a dog barking and next thing I knew, a medium sized dog that was not leashed came sprinting out of someone's yard on my right side.  It was kareening towards me rather quickly and lunged out just as I came even.  That freaking dog must have been inches from hitting me.  Thankfully once I got past it, the dog couldn't keep up as it chased after me for at least another quarter mile.

I'll go off on a slight rant.  I HATE DOGS.  I know, I should be blaming the owners (they suck too), but this is the second duathlon in a row that a dog nearly caused me serious injury.  If I got knocked over by that dog at 22mph, that would be the end of my carbon frame and probably a broken bone or two for me.  To all dog owners...keep your DAMN DOGS UNDER CONTROL...

Anyway, after the dog incident, I got into a pretty good groove.  I'm glad I rode the course ahead of time and knew what to expect.  I could ride the downhills all out knowing what was coming up and take the corners real fast since I knew what was on the other side.  Taking fast turns doesn't help a whole lot in races like this, but its fun and my bike is designed for it, so I do it anyway!

At about mile 15, I got passed again by another duathlete.  My road bike with clip on aero bars and 53 mm wheels was serving me well, but this was the second triathlon bike to pass me.  The first guy had a rear disk, this guy just had deep rims on the front and rear.  However, this particular rider never put significant distance on me, so I rode as hard as I could to keep it close enough.

After cresting the biggest hill after mile 18, I knew the rest of the course was flat and fast and decided to drop the hammer to put myself in the best position possible.  The only time the guy who passed me gained distance was on slight downhills.  Any time we made a turn, I gained a ton of ground because he slowed a lot while I flew around those suckers without even tapping the brakes, and only coasting just long enough to keep my inside pedal from scraping the ground.  I love the sound my bike makes when I take fast turns...

As we flew towards the end of the bike leg, I got passed by another disk wheeled rocket triathlon bike.  However, he had a black bib on (instead of the red duathlon bib), so I knew he was an olympic triathlete.

I flew over all the speed bumps in the last half mile of the course, coasting only going over the bumps, then sprinting between them.  As I went to dismount, I didn't realize I was holding the drops instead of the hoods of my handle bars, so when I jumped off, the rear wheel came up.  Talk about an adrenaline rush...

The duathlete that I had kept in sight was having trouble finding his stuff.  I ran right over to my rack, switched into my running shoes and was out rather quickly.  I was shocked at how smoothly it went.  I didn't even need the run to pass that guy.  My bike time was around 1:12:30, somewhere in the 20's for average speed.  Certainly not Earth shattering, but apparently good enough...

The 10K run was positively awful.  Though I've done my share of run-bike-run workouts, they are just not the same as racing.  Part of the problem is that you cannot mimic the quick transition of races since you have to stow your bike during a workout which takes time.  I certainly was not running as hard as I could, as my breathing rate was not very high, but my legs were just completely dead from the bike, so there wasn't much I could do.

I managed to pass the triathlete who passed me; he was very impressed with my running when we spoke after the race (so I guess I was running fast enough).  The first duathlete that screamed past me early had way too big of a lead on me, though I had cut it down to 6 minutes by the finish.

Regardless, I managed to cross the line in 2:03:31, 2nd overall.  Third place was almost 5 minutes behind me.  My legs were done, I was completely drenched in sweat, but aerobically, I had more left.  In fact, I was really hitting my groove on the second half of that 10K.  I don't have mile splits for it, but clearly, I need to get into events with longer running legs (like triathlons....).

Overall, I'm pleased and certainly look forward to reduced mileage this week.  My left quad has been a bit tight the last few days, so I'll give it at least the morning off tomorrow.  If it still feels tight in the afternoon, Monday will just be a complete day off.  I'm trying to make Thursday my day off since I may need to take a day trip to Cleveland (from Baltimore) for work, but we'll see how that goes...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week in Review...and Awaiting Yet Another Race

I am currently writing this from a hotel room in Tappahannock, VA, about 1.5 hours east of Richmond.  Tomorrow I will be competing in a duathlon put on by Richmond Multisports.  It consists of a 2 mile run, 26 mile bike ride and 6.2 mile run.  There will also be sprint and olympic distance triathlons going on at the same time.  I rode the bike course today at about 20.6mph and overall, its a pretty fast course.  It is one giant loop which means no lap traffic to worry about and there are some decent hills, but they are so spread out that they don't really wear you down.

Some of the roads appear smooth, but cause significant "chatter" on the bike and there are about 8 speed bumps over the last 0.5 miles of the course (complete overkill for cars...).  Overall, I'm excited about riding this course in the race!  Looking at results from this course last year, either the run legs are long, or the people out here are terrible runners.  No one in the duathlon posted a 10K run under 41 minutes, and only a handful of people in the Olympic tri managed mid-30s.  As usual, the top cycling times are much better than what I can expect to manage.  So once again, it will come down to how well I can run.  The plan is to kill the first run in about 10:45 or so and just try and stay ahead on the bike for as long as possible.  If I'm within a couple of minutes of whomever passes me, the 10K should give me enough time to gun them down.  With two Gu shots and lots of water on the bike, I should be on my game for that second run.

Now for my week of training.  This is my second consecutive mid-70's mileage week.  Next week I'll dial it back to about 60 miles.  I can feel it a bit in my legs, so this step back is coming at just the right moment.  It also follows my anti-stress fracture more than two consecutive weeks above 70 miles.

Monday: AM: Easy 3 miles...all I could manage after my awesome half marathon
               PM: 31 mile bike ride, could feel the tired legs even on the bike (meaning uphills suck!)

Tuesday AM: 8 miles...started to feel a bit recovered.
              PM: Track workout with my new running group....~11 miles total with 3x15 minutes @ tempo pace with 5 minutes easy in between.  The pace was mostly right under 5:45.  The last 4 minutes on that last rep were a struggle.  I was surprised I managed anything at all on this run, but I'm glad I got the work in.

Wednesday: 5 miles moderate pace followed by 3 miles at easier pace...definitely could feel Tuesday night's workout

Thursday: AM: 8 miles, once again started to feel slightly recovered
                PM: 40 mile bike ride at a solid clip, felt strong

Friday: 20 miles.  This was supposed to be a progression run but it turned into a survival run.  A torrential downpour in the second half did not help.  I ended up averaging 6:48 pace, just over 2:16 overall.  I just couldn't get my pace under 6:40.  I felt kind of flat.  Two factors probably contributed...still needing some race recovery, and not eating enough the night before.

I find it amazing that it matters less what I eat the night before a race/long run, but rather just the total amount of calories.  If it isn't enough (and I usually know when its not), I suffer.  I've consistently had better runs the day after stuffing my face at Chipotle than I have had carbo loading on pasta.  Pasta fills me up quickly but doesn't seem to actually satisfy me long term.  That will be the last time I deviate from my "just eat to be full" strategy!

Saturday: AM: 10.8 miles in sweltering humidity.  My clothes were as wet as they were Friday after running in the rain.  However, I felt a lot better than I did Friday.  I had about $15 worth of Chinese takeout the night before this run!

               PM: 26 mile bike ride on the Naylor's Beach Duathlon bike course.  After driving 3 hours to get there and picking up my stuff, I was able to ride the course which was already completely marked so I didn't even need to use my map.  It made it a lot easier since all I had to do was ride.  It's been cloudy the whole day and the roads were occasionally slick, but overall, no rain.  I'm hoping it stays that way!  I don't want another USAT sanctioned duathlon to have the bike leg cancelled...I need to move up in the rankings!

As far as food goes, I certainly had a sufficient amount today:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich before the 10 miler.
2 packets of instant butter flavored grits and some fruit afterwards.
A grilled chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and an 8 piece chicken nugget meal at Chik-Fil-A while driving down to VA
4 tacos with pulled pork, a 9oz steak, peppers, a baked potato, and just a bit of chocolate moose for dessert at AppleBees after the bike ride.

Even after all that food, I don't feel stuffed.  That engine is burning real hot right now, my appetite has never been this crazy!

Time to once again have the runner with a bicycle face off against a bunch of cyclists who occasionally run...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon Race Report: The Next Level

Words cannot begin to describe how awesome this race was.  When I was slower, I hated big races because the logistics were annoying and the race itself offered nothing better than small races.  I could still race people at small races and not worry about all the headache.

Then I got a lot faster and stopped getting consistent competition at the local level.  I realized earlier this year that I needed to start doing big races again.  My spring injury caused me to miss every single big race I signed up for, leaving me to wonder just what I was missing.

But finally, the stars aligned!  The R&R Half promised to be a big and competitive race with thousands of runners, a deep elite field, and a deep amateur wanna-be field (this is where I fall).  I barely got my packet in time Saturday night, stayed at a friend's apartment in Delaware, requiring a 50 minute drive, and had a hell of a time parking and later getting out.  However, absolutely none of that mattered because "between the lines" (Start/Finish) I had an awesome running experience.

On a beautiful day with temperatures in the Mid-50s and very little wind, I lined up towards the front of corral 1 for the start of this huge race.  I had put 1:15 down as my time, and would try and shoot for that.  At 8am Frank Shorter started us off and the elites and corral 1 were off.  I crossed the start line in about 9 seconds and was already quite happy to be surrounded with runners of similar ability for a change.

I actually felt rather terrible for the first 2 miles of the race.  It was probably a combination of the 20 miler from yesterday, and the fact that it has been a while since I've run with so many people at one time.

Mile 1 and 2: 5:56, 5:47

By Mile 2, the pack had thinned out enough that I could pretty much run where ever I wanted on the street.  I also started to feel a little better.  The first couple miles of the course ran approximately eastbound, away from the start until it turned around and came back towards the start.  With so few turns and a flat course, this sucker was fast.

Mile 3: 5:44

Around here, I hit an equilibrium of sorts with the people around me.  It was clear that I didn't start far enough up front early (probably good to keep myself from going out too fast), but now I had caught up to people I could pace with.  There were two runners in particular that I gravitated towards, a guy in a Hanson-Brooks jersey (though not an elite of course!), and another guy with really long hair.  I stayed in their vicinity as we sort of traded off pushing the pace.

Mile 4: 5:40

I was really starting to feel good here.  With the cool temperatures, I was barely sweating at all, and really felt like I was hitting a groove.  With all the crowd support, and our growing pack of fast runners, I was even having fun (which usually doesn't last long in races!).  As we continued to advance forward, our growing pack was running faster than most of the people around us, but others latched on as we passed by.  I tried to trade off running in the front and backing off a bit.

As we passed by the start again, it was clear we would be running into the wind (very light but still noticeable) for a while until we crossed the Schuylkill River.

Mile 5: 5:38
Mile 6: 5:50
Mile 7: 5:45

To this point, I had actually taken water from all stops, only getting a couple of sips, but it was keeping me sharp so I kept taking it.  Being a big race, the water stops were huge but since the pack is thin up front, you could literally grab water without even breaking stride.  Of course the poor volunteers looked like they were getting soaked as grabbing water at this pace is really hard!

I took the lead for most of this section as we ran along the river.  Through mile 7 I was still feeling strong.  At this point, we were catching up to some elite women right on the cusp of 1:15...the standard to qualify for trials for the US Olympic Marathon Team.  It was kind of awesome to be running in the vicinity of some of the faster women in the country, even if us men were just a bunch of nobody local runners!

Mile 8: 5:49
Mile 9: 5:43

Right around Mile 8.5, things were starting to get tough.  Mentally, I was still fine as I continued to ignore the fact that there were over 4 miles remaining.  Physically, my breathing was still under control and I was "with it."  However, my legs were starting to get heavy as the pace was clearly taking its toll.  We did also just run up the only hill on the course as we ran over a bridge to cross the river to run back on the other side.  I knew these last 4 miles were going to hurt even with the wind at my back.

Our pack had largely broken apart at this point, the guy with the hair and the Hanson Brooks guy were both around, one ahead and one behind, though eventually they would both put decent distance on me.  Regardless, I continued pushing on, passing who I could and keeping them in sight.

Mile 10: 5:42

That one hurt, bad.  I was clearly running out of steam.  However, I had a couple of things going for me.  First, I knew I was on pace for a great time and second, I knew there were no hills remaining.  I had two choices at this point, try and hold on at my current pace, or step on the gas, put the pedal to the floor and make an all out 5K run for the finish.  My instinct told me that every extra second I lingered on the course brought me one second closer to imploding.

I didn't just run 10 miles in under 58 minutes to fade in the last 3.  I kicked it up a gear and ran as hard as my heavy legs could carry me.  Mile 10.5 would be my last water as I skipped the final stop.  It took me 7 tries to get water, knocking over all the other cups.  I'm sure it looked ridiculous!  The guy in the Hanson-Brooks jersey started fading back to me while the guy with a lot of hair was moving out of sight.

Mile 11: 5:33

I didn't really acknowledge that I had sped up, but just that I had 2.1 miles to go.  I caught and passed the Hanson-Brooks guy, though he did hold on for a little while.  Every stride was harder than the last as my steam continued to run low.  I kept pushing.

Mile 12: 5:33

My watch recorded these splits within 0.33 seconds of each other.  Despite being on top of each other, Mile 12 was exponentially harder.  Moments like these are what it is all about, refusing to give up even when all hope has faded, ignoring the pain and trusting in your training.  Talk about feeling alive...

Mile 13: 5:32

I was surprisingly coherent at this point.  Maybe it was the water.  Regardless, I had never been so relieved to see a mile marker before.  I ran the last 0.1 with everything I could manage and crossed the line in 1:14:44 for a 5:43 average pace.

I had what can only be described as a runners high to the third power.  I just PR'ed by over 1 minute and 20 seconds, but there was something more going on.  I was surrounded by like-minded people, competitors yes, but ultimately, a collection of people who together, can make everyone faster.  I realized at that moment that I need to be doing races like this to get better.  If this is where the fast runners are, than this is where I will go!  I went to shake the hands of people that I helped or helped me throughout the race, but got hugs instead.  I don't think there is any better way to spend a Sunday morning than racing through the streets of a city in a giant pack, pushing yourself to the limit.

Regardless of the logistics or cost, I am certainly planning on doing a few big races a year now!

I am a firm believer in the half marathon X 2 + 10 minutes formula as a predictor for a marathon time assuming proper training.  That gives me a sub-2:40 prediction, so I am right where I need to be.  I have now regained my LT/Tempo pace that my time off had robbed from me.  The final piece of the puzzle is the endurance.  Come November, everything should be where it needs to be!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Half Marathon Time!

After a rather eventful day, I am currently relaxing about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, counting down the hours until the R&R Half Marathon.  I decided rather last minute to sign up for this race mostly because I didn't have the money!  Thanks to my 2nd place in the 20 miler though, that race no longer cost anything, so I decided to throw my name into the mix for this race.

The course is flat, there will be a ton of competition, and the weather should be perfect for running.  I am looking forward to shooting for a PR and based on last year's results, maybe a top-100 finish.  Based on my training and racing as of late, I think I'm in great shape, so this should be an exciting race.

For the week, I've done about 60 miles of running and 75 of biking.  The bike rides consisted of an easy 50 miler, and a 25 miler with two all out sprints about a mile or more each and one hill climb; I'm trying to get myself prepared for next year's competitive group rides.  I also did a 10x 1000 meter track workout with 1 minute rest between reps on Tuesday night, certainly a killer workout.  My times started at around 3:29 but I inched down to sub 3:20 by the last couple, doing it in a progression style.  Being that all my reps were comfortably under 5:40 pace, I don't think 5:45 for the half is out of the question, especially since I ran a couple of sub-5:50s in my 20 miler race without completely killing myself.

Of course, I won't be 100% fresh for this race since I did a 20 miler today, 6:34 average pace with the last 5 miles at marathon pace or better.  It was a great progression run, and much needed for my confidence.  Overall, I feel pretty good considering!  I made sure to eat up and hydrate afterwards, and a good shake out during my warmup tomorrow should have me good to go.  I call this training through the race, which I do all the time.

Back in March when I ran my 1:16:12, I had run 84 miles in the week leading up to the race, with a speed workout on Friday and a 22 miler on Saturday.  So if anything, I'm much fresher for this race.

Time to get it done!

Friday, September 16, 2011

R U Able Duathlon Splits and Pics

The splits are in!  I am extremely pleased with my run times, that's for sure!  All pictures are courtesy of my dad, who got some really awesome pictures of me in action on the bike, which I have been lacking for some time!

Yes, I drive a yellow car.  Anyway, I'm sporting the brand new Adventures for the Cure Hincapie gear, a tri top and tri shorts.  I was already rather familiar with tri shorts, but the top was new to me.  It is much, much lighter than a cycling jersey, making it wonderfully more comfortable to run in, and it sure came in handy.  The padding on these particular shorts also proved much more comfortable than my other pair (less chaffing!).

Here is the start of the first run leg, the 5K, as well as the finish.  If only actually running it were that easy...  First, 5K split: 16:54.  Not too bad considering I had to go ride the bike for a while and then do another 5K.  1st individual duathlete to finish, 2nd overall including the actual 5K race and the relay.

Transition 1 went quite smooth.  Of the 6 straps on my cycling shoes, I had 4 of them completely strapped and 2 just loose enough to slip my feet in.  That saved a ton of time.  Of course, I had all kinds of trouble trying to get on my bike and probably looked like a damn fool doing it!  The trouble getting on my bike slowed my bike leg time though, not my transition time.  T1: 49 seconds, 34th overall.  I still don't know how people are getting out 10-15 seconds faster, but whatever.

A few bike pictures.  Note the clip on aero bars and the new wheels compared to pics from other duathlons.  They certainly help!  The bike course was actually a lot of fun since I could go so fast on the flats.  Only part of the course was freshly paved.  If it all was, man, that would have been sweet.  Bike Leg: 40:03, 6th overall.  Now, the results say my average speed was 23.1 mph.  My bike computer got me at 21.5mph and measured the course slightly short of 14.5 miles.  The calculated average in the results is based on a 14.5 mile course.  Bike computers (unlike Garmins) are rather accurate at measuring distance.  The computer also counts running with the bike as part of the overall speed, which will make it lower.  I won't give myself credit for 23mph, but I'll say my average speed was around 22.

 Transition 2 went well.  I got off my bike by unclipping the right foot, swinging my leg to the left and jumping off just how the "cool" triathletes do it.  If you have the balance to pull it off, it's actually a lot easier to get off a road bike that way when you are tired.  The more traditional way of coming to a complete stop and standing over the frame requires a real high leg kick and some coordination of which I lack.  Transition 2 time: 37 seconds, 31st overall.  Some of the relay teams may have faster transition times since they have less to do than an individual, but still, I am slow!

Approaching and crossing the line.  I never do much celebrating after crossing, even if it's for a top spot.  I don't show boat a whole lot; just leave the bragging for Facebook and this blog!  Second 5K: 17:38, second only to the same relay runner who beat me on the first 5K leg.  I had a 50 second lead going onto the bike, was behind second place by 50 seconds coming off the bike, then won by over a minute.

I am definitely still a runner with a bike!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

R U Able Duathlon Race Report

For this weekend, I traveled to Wyomissing, PA to participate in yet another duathlon.  After the weather screwed me out of trying my bike upgrades in my last Du, I had to make up for it with another one.  My training for the week was completely derailed by the weather, but mostly consisted of easy runs and a few bike rides.  I made sure to give myself the week to recover from that 20 miler because it was certainly taxing.

By mid-week my running legs were back under me, but it took until Saturday before I felt good on the bike again.  The race was on Sunday, so it gave me a chance to run and bike in Wyomissing on Saturday.  I'm glad I did because the scenery is awesome up there.  I ran a hilly as crap 13.8 miles at an average 6:44 pace and later that afternoon, went for an easy 35 on the bike at around 18mph.  A lot of roads in the area were closed due to flooding from all the rain and I nearly got lost on the bike as a result.  However, after riding through one of the closed roads (which was barely flooded) I found my way back!

But anyway, on to the race....

This one was set to be a 3.1 mile run, 14.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.  The race was put on by the I am Able foundation, which empowers people with disabilities to lead an active lifestyle.  They had divisions for athletes who ride push rim and hand crank chairs, and it is always awesome to see chair athletes out there, their arms are usually 2-3 times the size of my legs!  The best part of this race was the ratio of cycling to running miles.  At a 2.3:1 ratio, this race by far had the most running of any one I have done to date.  That would give me, the runner with a bicycle, a huge advantage for a change.

I got there early and made sure to rack my bike right at the bike out/in area of transition so I wouldn't have to run far with my cycling shoes on.  All the other fast bikes (mostly faster than mine) were on that rack too.

After the push rim athletes were sent off, they started the main pack which consisted of individual duathletes, relay teams, and a 5K race.  A whole bunch of kids blew out the first downhill along with 3 other people.  I just went out at my pace and kept it steady waiting for the inevitable "return."  Everyone dropped out of the picture save 2 runners: a guy in orange, and another in blue who actually passed me during the first mile.

As we approached the turnaround, I was feeling decent and had managed to pass the guy in orange, leaving just me and the guy in blue.  It turns out guy in blue was doing the relay, handling all the running for the day.  He was definitely a legit runner.  I let him go towards the end as he powered into transition.  My first transition was pretty smooth, a couple of minor changes made everything go quick.  I can also run pretty fast in cycling shoes now.  I did have significant trouble mounting my bike though.  I was still breathing hard from the run and couldn't really focus, causing me to lose all kinds of time trying to get on my seat and clipping in.  After what felt like forever, I finally got out onto the course with a 50 second lead, rather massive for a 5k.

The bike course proved to be very unique.  It all took place on one two lane road that had a grass median in the middle.  Each lane was wide enough for about 3 or 4 bikes.  At the end of each road, you had to hit a sharp U-turn to go back up the other side.  The course was 6 laps total with 2 hair pin turns per lap.  I got real low to the ground on some of those turns.

There were a couple of small hills that mixed up the pace a little bit, and some dicey sections with rough roads and manhole covers.  They also had a timing mat (aka speed bump) to help keep track of laps and I definitely almost crashed once running over it while in my aero bars.

Regardless, I tried to keep my speed over 21mph on all flats and as high as I could on the hills.  The lowest speed I saw was 17.6 mph and as the laps wore on, I fought harder on the hills to eek out a little more speed.  I took a Gu shoot on the bike and 2 big swigs of water.  I had also taken water twice in the 5K, so for once, I felt rather hydrated.  I knew from experience all of that intake would keep me strong for the last run.  My body accepts more intake on the bike, so I've started taking advantage.

Once all the riders were on the course, things proved interesting with all the crowding.  It was crazy around the turns, but I just kept pedaling as much as I could to keep my momentum going.  With about 3 miles to go, guy in orange (who placed 2nd last year) caught and passed me.  I was expecting someone to pass me, even with my massive lead.  I was figuring to be only the 5th or 6th fastest cyclist out there, and I was probably right.  It's still frustrating to be so much weaker on the bike!!

I rode the last lap and a half as hard as I could to stay somewhat near guy in orange.  After my last lap, I flew off the course towards the dismount area and was practically sprinting to the line.  I unclipped my right foot, swung over the side and jumped off probably still going near 15mph and just kept running as I sprinted into transition.  Just as I was entering, I saw guy in orange running out.  That meant he probably had about a 1 minute lead on me.

T2 went very smoothly, I calmly racked my bike, switched out my shoes and took my helmet off.  I did bash my right knee on the ground during the process and drew some blood, but I didn't even realize until after the race since I was so hell-bent on getting back into first.  Without hesitation, I blew out of transition to try and run down guy in orange.

It took 3/4 of a mile, but I caught him running hard but controlled.  It only took a minute or two before I could feel my running legs under me again.  In the past, it had taken upwards of 5 minutes or in one case, my legs never came to.  A combination of all my training and that Gu shot probably made the difference.  After I passed guy in orange, he made an effort to keep pace, but I knew the race was mine at that point.

I kicked it up a notch and finished hard, nearly a minute ahead, meaning I got my minute back, for a 1:16:02 overall.  I don't have splits or pictures yet, but that's coming soon!

I do know my first 5K was sub-17, and my average speed on the bike was 21.5mph.  I've still got a lot of work to do on the bike, but my time in the saddle is slowly starting to pay off.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I have never spent too much time worrying about using fundraising as a means to get into races.  The whole concept certainly adds an interesting dynamic to the sport of running, but I have always preferred to pay my own way or qualify by virtue of my times.  However, that has really never given me an excuse to at least try some fund raising for a cause on the side while training for a race.  Of course, the training is hard enough. Regardless, I'm making a relatively modest attempt to at least raise some money for a cause I believe in.  I figure my blog can be one of a couple tools to try and encourage donations.

I am attempting to raise money for Back on my Feet, a nonprofit organization that uses running as a means to promote self sufficiency by those experiencing homelessness through running.  In cities with chapters, teams are formed with specific shelters and every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday morning, runners meet up and run with members of the shelter who have become part of the team.  By maintaining high attendance and participating in both races and events, members gain access to a variety of tools to help them advance their lives.

It certainly does not help everyone as many people experiencing homelessness find themselves in very complicated situations with many deep seeded problems that are not easily resolved.  However, I have also seen first hand how powerfully successful Back on my Feet can be in helping to change lives.  In those who have found success, there were a great many factors and Back on my Feet cannot take all the credit, but I can guarantee you that the network of support that the chapter provides certainly helped.

I am personally quite involved, first joining in Jan 2010, becoming a team training coach from April 2010 to Feb 2011, and I have been a team leader ever since.  I show up nearly every MWF morning and even some Saturdays.  Unfortunately, my current running skill level means that I get very little running-wise out of the group, though I get much more out of it than training miles.  However, this requires me to at times show up 45 minutes before our 5:30AM start so I can get my own miles in.  I have become quite notorious for my pre-run runs.

I wouldn't spend time making a post about this, or asking for donations if I didn't truly believe in the cause!  If you are at all interested in donating, check out this page:

My modest goal of $239 matches my goal time for Philly of 2:39.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2011 Charm City Run 20 Miler...A Chess Match in Sweltering Humidity

I rarely run races whose distance lies somewhere between 13.1 and 26.2 miles.  There are very few races out there in this range, and they are difficult to pace.  One exception is the Charm City Run (CCR) 20 Miler.  It is a yearly race put on by CCR, a running specialty store, event management, and timing team who help put on a lot of races in the Baltimore area.  This particular race is one done solely by them.

It takes place almost entirely on the NCR Trail, once for trains, and now converted into a running path.  It is made of crushed stone/gravel, has very shallow turns, and nets a 2% downgrade in the Southbound direction.  It runs from Papermill Road in Cockeysville, MD and goes nearly 20 miles North to the PA boarder.

This race is designed as a point-to-point race.  Everyone meets up at a shopping center on Papermill Road and we all get bused nearly 20 miles north to the start line.  From there, the only way back is to run!  This was to be my third time doing this race, and the first time I planned to truly race the whole thing from start to finish.  Here are my last two results:

2008, 93rd Overall, 2:59:12, 8:58/mile
2010, 19th Overall, 2:14:31, 6:44/mile

I wasn't always so fast!  Neither were some of the guys I ran with in this race as we discussed a bit early on.  A lot of local front runners were just average mid-packers who one day decided they wanted more and went for it.  That is certainly what happened to me.

The race was to start at 8AM, with overcast skies, 70 degree temperatures, and nearly 100% humidity.  I knew right away that the conditions were going to be tough.  Regardless, my plan remained the same: go out with the lead pack and make a decision by Mile 7-9 whether I had a shot at winning, then take it from there.  Based on who showed up, I knew I had at least a fighting chance.  There were no ringers at this one, just three of the stronger runners the area has to offer.

Due to the nature of the trail with its sparse road crossings, only 7 water stops were offered.  I carried some sports beans with me as well, but fluid replacement was going to be an issue.  I barely take anything as it is, and that humidity was just going to make it worse.

Regardless, the horn sounded and we were off, immediately in a pack of 4.  We had all agreed to try and keep it to around 6 minute pace.  Unfortunately, the humidity was making the pace more difficult to hold.  I was drenched in sweat by mile 3.

Miles 1-3: 6:06, 6:13, 6:04.

One of the runners in our group wasn't happy with the slow start and he picked up the pace.  I already had a decision to make, stay with him or hold back.  I opted to stay with him as per my strategy.  Miles 4-6 were a bit of a strain on me.  I could tell I was going a hair too fast but with first place on the line, I didn't mind sticking around and testing myself:

Mile 4: 5:58

Mile 5 and 6 were off, but averaged to 2 miles, the average split was ~5:56

We started to distance ourselves from the 3rd and 4th place runners.  I was neck and neck with my current running partner but two things were becoming quite clear: he was stronger than me, and I was really starting to feel it.  I knew that sooner or later, something was going to have to change.  Regardless, I pushed on as we really dropped the pace down for the next two miles:

Mile 7: 5:50
Mile 8: 5:48

And look at this, a picture!  I'm on the left, slightly blurry since the person taking it was running the other way.  You can almost see the moisture in the air.  The surface depicted here is pretty typical of the entire race.  It can be real taxing on the feet and legs if you are not used to it.  However, being that I do the majority of my long runs on this trail, the surface is just as good as asphalt to me.  This was somewhere before mile 8.  The whole trail looks roughly the same so it can be hard to tell!

 The nice thing about a 20 miler as oppose to a marathon is you can take chances with slightly faster paces without too much worry of a death march at the end.  However, this pace was definitely way too quick for me.  Physically, I could probably have held on for about 2 or 3 more miles before fading with very little left in the tank.  The only problem was that there would still have been 9 miles to go at that point!  With the other runner showing no signs of fading, and the pace approaching my 10K pace, I made the decision to back off and let him go.  There was once a time where I would not have done this, but I've been at this long enough to know when I'm beat (usually anyway).  If I stayed up on him, I certainly would have fallen out of the top-3 all together before the finish.  Now, if I caught myself soon enough, hopefully I could hold on to 2nd.

Of course, whether I caught myself with enough energy to finish was a big mystery.  There were other issues I was dealing with besides sweat that would not evaporate.  Besides the fact that I looked like I just went for a swim, my stomach was not 100% pleased with me, and not all of the water stations were manned.  Ultimately, only 3 of the 7 stops had volunteers handing out water.  With absolutely no intention of stopping since I would never hit my pace again, I just passed by the unmanned stops, and forced myself after the first one to never expect water at the next one.  Mind games, always mind games.  Despite "backing off" I still had a bit of the surge from mile 7 and 8 going for a little while longer:

Mile 9: 5:55
Mile 10: 5:58

The runner ahead of me had begun to fade out of sight.  You can see pretty far ahead on the trail, so I knew that the battle for first was most likely over.  I had no idea where 3rd place was and had no intention of finding out.  I couldn't hear anyone's footsteps, but every time I passed other people just out on the trail, I could hear clapping for runners behind me slowly getting closer and closer.  I started fading at this point but just kept telling myself to keep the pace under my current marathon PR pace (6:18).  I tried to just take it a mile at a time.

Mile 11: 6:06
Mile 12: 6:07
Mile 13: 6:04

Over these 3 miles I settled into a groove and just tried to stay at 6:05-6:10 pace.  I would learn after the race that the 3rd place runner had been closing the gap over this time and came within less than a minute of me around mile 13.  Thankfully, right before 12 I got a big, loud cheer from someone I knew (mainly out there for his girlfriend, but I'll take all the support I can get!).  It kind of awoke me from a daze I had been in.  Afterwards, I actually took a handful of sports beans, and the sugar/caffeine made me feel a little better.  I probably should have taken them sooner, but was very worried about getting sick.

Though I mentally felt refreshed, my legs were getting heavier and it was becoming a real struggle to maintain pace.  I kept thinking to myself how regretful and disappointed I would be if I let myself give up 2nd place after fighting for so long.  I decided that regret and disappointment was not going to catch me.  From this point, I told myself "just get to Phoenix alive."  This refers to the 17 mile mark in the race, which is the location where I start and end many of my long runs.  I know every step of the trail in this area since I'm on it so often.  I figure, just get to 17, then worry about the rest later.

Mile 14: 6:09
Mile 15: 6:10
Mile 16: 6:08
Mile 17: 6:08

You can see an ever so slight fade of just a couple seconds per mile compared to my last report for 11-13.  I knew it was happening, and I just kept trying to hold on.  Phoenix would be the last manned water stop, the two after that had no volunteers so that ended up being my last bit of water.  In total, I took water from 3 stops, got down at best 1-2 sips per stop, and ate about 1/3 of a packet of sports beans.  Not exactly ideal, but it beats getting sick and puking.  I was now on the last 3, hoping beyond hope that I could hold on.

Mile 18: 6:12

After running southbound on largely flat or slightly downhill trail we had to do something truly grueling...turnaround.  Turnarounds are painful in any race, but after being so locked in like a freight train traveling largely in one direction, a turnaround really kills any kind of groove you may have been in.  The turnaround did give me some intel on my current position.  The leader was comfortably ahead, though not quite as far as I expected.  3rd place was surprisingly far back at that point.  I would find out afterwards, he was close to me at 15 but just faded after that.  I knew I had 2nd locked up if I could just finish the race without collapsing.

After the turnaround, we left the crushed stone of the trail to run the last mile back on a winding, hilly, narrow road.  After nearly 19 miles of the NCR trail, the last mile proved to be absolutely grueling.  I knew it was coming though, since the course hasn't changed in the years I've done it.  I pretty much just completely ignored that it was there the whole race, opting just to deal with it when I arrived.  I could barely pick up my legs and wanted to walk so badly (the leader and 3rd place runner shared the same desire), but kept pushing forward.  Mile 19 was a bit off, so the average pace for my last 2 miles:

Mile 19-20: 6:37

I slowed on 19 no doubt, and 20 was just hell on earth.  Regardless, I finished 2nd overall in 2:02:03, less than two minutes behind the leader, and a couple minutes ahead of 3rd place.  My legs were done and I clearly used up every ounce of energy I had.  Overall, I was very happy with my pacing, decisions, and tactics.  I am rather certain that I ran the best race I could have given the conditions and competition.

Pictures of me on the final stretch, not looking too happy:

For my efforts, I pocketed $75 in cash, which more than pays for the $56 race entry and a free pair of running shoes.  That's certainly a pretty good deal!  This is actually the 2nd race where I have earned a straight up cash prize (instead of gift certificates..though running store certificates are as good as cash), but the first where I actually made a profit instead of just breaking even.

 There isn't actually cash in the envelope, I have to send a self addressed stamped one in so that can mail it to me.  Not quite like getting a paycheck at work, but close enough!

As far as what this means for the future, well that is quite interesting.  My pace, 6:08 overall is almost dead on for the pace required to break 2:40 in a marathon.  Of course, the only issue is that there was no way I was running another 6.2 at that pace.  However, I probably could have squeezed an extra couple of miles before fading if my race was more even (as it would be in a marathon), or if the weather was better.  Therefore, I think I'm quite close to where I need to be, and about at the level that I would expect.  A handful of 75+ mile weeks and some progressive long runs in the 20-22 mile range ending at marathon pace or faster should give me the last little bit I need to hold this pace the rest of the way come Philadelphia in November.

Overall, a glorious day!