Monday, May 28, 2012

Grind those Gears

Enter week 2 of whatever it is I'm doing.  We'll call it biding time.  I ran once this week, 4 miles, real, real easy.  My pesky right leg is showing absolutely no signs of trouble.  I can't "find pain" by pressing on it, and that short run didn't do anything to aggravate it.  Nonetheless, I'm going for another week off from running.

In the meantime, my cycling muscles have been getting some work in:

Tuesday: Hilly 24 on the AFC B course.  I feel like I'm just about ready to actually join their group rides again.

Wednesday: 13 miles total, commuting to and from work

Thursday: 30 miles mostly flat, easy-ish pace, but it felt really, really good

Friday: Run: 4 miles, extremely easy

Sunday: 51 miles, mix of hills, mostly easy.  This was a real, real hot one.  I was out early to watch a race going on in downtown Baltimore, meaning my ride would not start until midday, with temperatures forecast in the high 80s, and an air quality alert, I knew I was in for one.  I ended up riding with one other guy that I train with on and off, and for the most part, survived.  My legs were fine, but I was dehydrated, hungry, and had trouble breathing by the end.  It didn't help one of my water bottles popped out of its cage and fell down a ravine 20 miles into the ride.  But, it certainly helped with the heat acclimation process.

Cycling total: 118 miles
Running total: 4 miles

Next week, long ride is going to be 60 and I'm adding a 4th ride to the mix.  I may get another really easy run in, but no legitimate testing will occur until at least the following week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Body Asks, and It Shall Receive

If anyone who reads this blog regularly recalls (and if anyone does, you should probably spend more time being productive and less time reading my ramblings), right around the National Half Marathon, I was slightly concerned with some all too familiar pain in the area of my right tibia.  This was the same exact place I gave myself a stress fracture last year, but on the other leg.  For all intents and purposes, the pain was identical, though significantly less severe.

I then got sick and took 10 days off running.  When I restarted, I could not detect any pain and continued running.  Maybe here and there I could feel it, but overall everything seemed ok.  By Monday of last week, that was no longer the case and I couldn't deny that the pain was progressing.  After Tuesday, I made the decision to take at least 2, and more likely 3 weeks off running to let whatever is going on down there heal.  I'm guessing it is the beginnings of something worse, and I've caught it soon enough that a little down time should fix it.

Somewhat surprisingly, I am not the least bit upset or disappointed.  There are a variety of reasons for this, and I'll share two of them:

1.  I've got nothing important coming up in the near future, and fall marathon season is still pretty far away
2. It gives me more time to ride the bike, which is actually starting to become a bit more enjoyable.  When I first started last year, I could never get into a comfortable pace on the bike and was almost always miserable.  For one reason or another, that seems to be changing.  Perhaps its some combination of me figuring out how to pace myself, and my cycling muscles starting to develop.

Either way, this gives me an opportunity to focus on some bicycle base miles, something that I am sorely lacking.  My running base is to the point that I can do somewhere between 10-13 miles on a whim if I wanted to, regardless of how I'm feeling on any particular day.  The bike on the other hand, does not come that easily.

Hopefully a steady buildup of easyish to moderately paced rides will help fix that.  I'm avoiding doing anything super hard on the bike, save hilly courses until I've got some serious mileage on my legs.

So for now, I'm more of a cyclist than a runner, but it's ok!

Last week....
Monday: 7 miles with the Fed Hill crew

Tuesday: Somewhere around 8 miles, easy with some people around Gilman

Wednesday: 38 miles on the bike, got caught in a nasty rain storm in the last few miles but navigated the winding downhills of York Rd at 30mph, the slowest I could go without excessive braking (which means crashing) successfully since I'm here and not plastered on a guard rail.  Those road bike tires certainly get thin fast when the coefficient of friction between them and the road decreases.

Thursday: 7 miles, moderate pace

Friday:  Rest

Saturday: Cascade Lake Du, 6.8 miles total running with warm up, 15 miles on the bike

Sunday: 14 miles, easy with some TWSS runners

Run mileage: 42.8 miles
Bike miles: 53 miles

This week....
Monday: 7 miles, Fed Hill

Tuesday: 10ish miles around Gilman

Wednesday: 30 miles on the bike, flat save a couple of hills, pushed it a little more than usual

Thursday: 24 miles on the bike, on that horrid WsW course that Adventures for the Cure has; their B course anyway.  Hills, hills, hills.  You know its good when you are in your lowest gear, out of the saddle, and are still grinding away just to get up a hill....

Friday: Bike to work day!  8 miles in the AM, 6.5 miles on the way back, 14.5 miles total.

Saturday: Rest. I hate rest on the weekend, it always feels like a waste, but my room is a lot cleaner than it was, so I guess I accomplished something.

Sunday: 52 miles on the bike, from my apartment in Baltimore northbound, before finishing in Timonium and Light Railing it back.  Lots of hills, and a couple of detours thanks to road closures.  I started getting tired after 35, which makes sense since 40 was previous long ride, and I got really, really hungry after 45, but managed to hold it together.  More food next time...

Run mileage: 17 miles
Bike mileage: 120.5 miles

A bit of a jump, but the 10% rule doesn't apply to bikes anyway.  My legs have a habit of getting real, real tight if I overdo the bike, so that is going to be my barometer for what I can handle.  I'll stay at 50 and 120 for next week too, and maybe the week after.  No rush right now.

I'd like to get to the 160-180 range, but only with a diligent buildup.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cascade Lake Duathlon

Since I felt like getting on the bike again, but could use some motivation for such, I decided to sign up for Cascade Lake, a sprint duathlon/triathlon held today.  The event, 1.86 mile run, 15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run looked like a good first duathlon of the season.

After a few weeks of riding where I got my longest to 40, and was averaging 2 rides a week, I figured some was better than nothing.  Of course, without any brick workouts, or for that matter, any mixing of disciplines whatsoever, I didn't really know what to expect going into this one.

So, at 4:30AM I woke up for the third weekend in a row early to head out to Hampstead, MD.  I knew the bike course was going to be rather hilly after driving it the previous week, so I was actually looking forward to see what I could do on a course slightly more geared towards climbers.

After a slight delay because the state police were too busy guarding the parking lot instead of the roads, we started our first run leg just as the first of three triathlon waves went off in the nearby lake.  A bunch of people went hard off the line, but after 0.25 miles, it was down to one guy and me, whom I quickly dispatched somewhere around mile 1.  I wasn't quite going as fast as I could for 1.86 miles of running, making sure to go hard but smart.  After a quick turnaround on the out and back course, I made my way back to transition up a really steep, but short lived hill.  1st run split...


Since I had a low bib # (5), my bike was racked right next to the bike in/bike out chute.  After a quick 48sec transition, I was out towards the mount line.  The ground immediately outside of transition was terrible, sloping downward and covered in gravel.  Perfect for running with a bike, wearing speed play cleats...

I ran past the mount line and actually pulled off a smooth mount, left foot first on the left side, then swing over the top and get the right in.  Immediately after the mount line, the road was in terrible shape with gravel and massive pot holes.  After quickly clearing that, I was off onto the course with a motorcycle ahead of me.

The course had its ups and downs.  I mainly focused on just keeping the cadence high, something I usually get away from in races.  I also tried to avoid grinding the hills too hard, opting to stay seated as much as possible.  Thanks to all the ups, downs, and sharp turns, I stopped using the aero bars after the first couple of miles.  Without staying in them most of the way, their benefit is nil anyway.  As with all my duathlons, the bike is essentially just a "wait and see when someone passes me."  But, mile after mile went by, and there was no one.  By about mile 8, we hit a very sharp hair pin turn which allowed me to get a clear view behind and I could see absolutely no one.

Of course, I knew not to get complacent and kept spinning away.  I was certainly working, but for the first time ever actually felt comfortable on the bike.  Somehow, I was riding a pace that made sense, keeping it smooth and even.  It almost felt like I knew what I was doing!  As the course started to near its end, I did finally get passed by someone (aero helmet, aero Hed wheels, etc).  He actually passed, real, real close to me; and we almost brushed each other.  Regardless, I made him earn his overtake, only backing off when he finally did have me overtaken.  That's what he gets for trying it on a hill...

That was at nearly mile 13, so I pounded out the last 2 miles, almost all downhill, and flew back towards transition.  I had to pass over the crappy gravel pot hole road again and this time, almost crashed as my wheels slid over the gravel.  Great place for a dismount area...  After recovering for that, I hit the "cyclocross dismount" perfectly, still going pretty fast, but never skipping a beat as I hopped off the bike and ran back to transition.

My legs felt pretty shitty running the bike back, but the uneven gravel I was running over and slight uphill probably made it worse than it was.  Bike split...

46:52, just a hair over 19mph.  6th best bike split in the duathlon, and top 15 in the tri.  Not too bad, especially compared to the junk I used to put up.

While in transition the second time, my left hamstring locked up on me.  Of course, knowing I was probably in the lead for the Du, and at least wanted a fighting chance to catch the guy that passed me, I wasn't about to stop.  After pounding the hammy with my fist a couple of times, it cooperated and I did something that could pass as running out of transition, all in 41 seconds.

The run course ended up going down the massively steep but short hill we came up after the first run.  I thought I was going to die running down that thing, as my legs were none too happy.  Once I hit the road though, I started to settle in.  Generally on these second runs, it has been my legs and not my cardiovascular system holding me back.  I'd be out there running, feeling like shit, but barely getting my heart rate up.  But finally, this time, I was able to coax myself into a legit 5K pace.  I realized I wasn't really catching the overall triathlete, as our two lap out-and-back course clearly showed.  However, I could see I had a massive lead on the second place duathlete, and knew I probably had it locked up.

I poured it on, because I always like to shoot for fastest runner out there, went back up the hill and crossed the finish in 1:17:46 with an 18:58 5K split.

Any other year, I would not have won.  But this year, with the people who did decide to show up, I won by over 3 minutes.  Either way, I'll take it!  I was the fastest runner (no contest) in the duathlon, and the third fastest on the 5K when looking at triathlete times.

Most importantly, I felt like I ran a really well paced race.  I worked hard on each leg, but never killed myself on one at the expense of the others.  Each one felt like a good, solid, honest effort.  I was spent after crossing the line, but not a moment sooner.

Overall, a pretty successful day!  This was also my first win at a USAT sanctioned event.  Not bad for someone who actually has an elite duathlete license, earned only because 1 cyclist crashed and 2 others went off course in my final race last year, which ended up big enough to count as a qualifier (Note: I did still have to outrace someone in the last leg, and finish close enough to the winner to qualify).  It probably makes me the slowest elite duathlete on the roster, but hey, they accepted me!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Frederick Half Marathon + 5K's

Enter week 2 of me just running for "fun."  The mental break has been helpful, but already my thoughts are filled with possible answers to the question of "what's next."

Mileage was a bit higher this week, but I felt pretty good overall.

Monday: 7 miles, easy/moderate
Tuesday:~8 miles, easy
Wednesday: 21 miles on the bike, good amount of uphill
Thursday: 7 miles, moderate with a fast finish
Friday: 40 miles on the bike, steady, flatter

Saturday...  I came up with this wonderfully great (or stupid) idea to run two 5Ks in one day.  I had already signed up for the Fiesta 5K, a local 5K in downtown Baltimore that raises money for ALS research.  I've got a friend whose Dad has ALS and was a sub-2:40 marathoner in his heyday.  Being that 2:40 is my (now) elusive goal, I feel a connection.  But anyway...

By the 8AM start it was hot and humid as crap.  Since it's now May, it's time to get my ass in gear for hot running anyway, so it was time for a trial by fire.  All the mile markers on the course were off, so I don't know what my splits were.  But, when it was all said and done, I ran a 16:54 and puked after crossing the line (I came close in the race too).  I had the lead for about 1.25 miles, but had no answer when I got passed by the eventual winner (16:35).  Not an unexpected result, given my complete lack of workouts in the last month or so.  The group I ran for also got a huge shout out at the awards ceremony since I managed to place, which was really cool.

Fast forward to the afternoon.  I had to drive out to Frederick for a pre-pacer meeting for the half I was doing the next day and figured I might as well do the twilight 5K since I was out there anyway.  Last minute entry and a few hours later, I was standing on the horse track at the Frederick Fairgrounds.  A whole bunch of kids approximately 11 years of age were also on the start line wearing matching singlets.  Being on the far outside and wanting to take the rail for the 3/4 loop on the track before hitting the roads, I could only hope I wouldn't knock anyone down.  To make a long story short, after all the rif-raff faded, there were four of us left who took out the first mile in a rather slow 5:30.  That track did not help one bit.

The pack broke up after that, and when the dust settled, I ended up second in 17:20.  Clearly not a very good time, but I think I was still dehydrated from the first race and although it was a little cooler for this one, it was still a bit humid.  I stayed relatively consistent at least, and got what I considered a decent workout in.

Total Saturday Miles: 11 (with warm up, and thanks to Sara B, a fellow Falls Road runner and 2nd place female a cool down after the second race).

After a drive back to Baltimore and another out to Frederick (it's a good thing I enjoy driving, especially on roads like I-70 when there is no traffic), I lined up at the start of the Frederick half to serve as a pacer for the 1:40 group (7:38/mile).  I woke up dehydrated, shockingly and it definitely took 4 miles to work out some nasty cramping I had.  But, the pace was chill and I was good at hiding it, so I did my job of being calm.  We took the first mile out way too fast (7:09) but dialed it back after that and ended up getting a good eight or so people under 1:40 and a few more right at 1:40.  The last 0.1 threw us off as we had 10 seconds in the bank and jogged it in, only to end up 24 seconds over thanks to the longest 0.1 miles in recorded history.  1:40:24, still within our 59 second window.

The guy I paced with was planning on riding his bike back from Frederick to the Baltimore area (50ish miles) and said he thought about convincing me to do it.  It's a good thing he didn't ask, because it sounded like an awesome idea..  Maybe next year, if I don't run two 5Ks and bike 40 miles in the two days before the half!

Weekly Miles:
Running: 46
Cycling: 61

It's almost time to decide exactly what the heck I'm going to do with the summer and fall.  Maybe by my next weekly post I'll have something together.  For now, it's just a duathlon this coming weekend, 1.5 mile run, 15 bike, 3.1 mile run.