Sunday, March 28, 2010

Giving it a Tri

How many clich├ęs are there in the triathalon community that involve the word "tri?"  Tri harder, Gotta tri, etc? There must be quite a few.

I've been tossing around the idea of training for a triathalon the past few months and finally decided to take the plunge. Not an Ironman, mind you, but I'd like to start out with a sprint tri and then go from there. So, a few weeks ago I went out and bought an entry-level Trek 1.2 from my local cycling shop, Chain Reaction. A very good experience, I have to say. In the time since then I culled together some bike shorts, shoes, pedals, gloves, spare tire tubes, tools -- the list goes on and on! Finally, I got everything I needed and today the stars aligned for an inaugural ride!

Now, I've ridden bikes a lot in my lifetime, but never an actual "road" bike. When I was a kid up until the time I could drive I went everywhere on my 10-speed.  I'd bike back and forth from home to the pool, or home to work and back.  It was just a natural extension of who I was at that time. If I needed to get there, I'd pedal. After I got my license, though, I really didn't ride much until I moved to Utah in the early 90s. That area is mecca for mountain biking, and for a couple of years I rode a lot on my trusty Mongoose. I left there in 2008 though, so it's been over a decade since I rode with any regularity.

Today's ride took me around some local county roads, and I had a great time. There were, however, a couple of memorable moments that made it... well, interesting.  At about 3 miles in I was stung by a wasp on the inside of my right thigh. It hurt, but the funny thing is that a voice in my head immediately said "hey, I have something to write about on my blog now!" Fortunately, the road was empty at the time and I didn't flinch into oncoming traffic. Only the squirrel's ears were worse off for my cussing. :) The second event occurred a few miles later when a couple of dogs charged out and started giving chase. Fortunately, their bark was worse than their bite and they lost interest before forcing me off the road. I felt fortunate when they were gone though, because their bark was anything but playful.

I did take away a couple of things from my first ride. First, I could tell the motion was working different muscles in my legs. I expect to feel it a little tomorrow, if not the next day. Second, I didn't much care for the hills. Not because of having to climb up them, but because going up and down (some were really steep) prevented me from maintaining a constant aerobic level. I think I would prefer to cycle on a flatter elevation for that reason. Finally, I realized I know nothing about how to best approach this facet of my training! I feel I need to do a little research and at least come up with some kind of training outline. How far, how long, what cadence, etc?

Next up, at some point, will be swimming. I'm not sure yet where and when I'll fit it in, but I know the 50°F / 40' pool behind my house is not the answer. I may end up getting a YMCA membership and dodging the Prattville Swim League kids I coach in the pool. :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Patty's Day "Unlucky" 7K

I normally like to look for the positives in a race, but this morning's St. Patty's Day "Lucky" 7K made it very difficult.  What started out as a promising morning slowly, but surely, spiraled out of control into a full fledged fiasco.

I thought things were off to a good start when I walked up to the pre-registration table and they actually had my entry.  I wasn't expecting that because I registered late last night (about 10:00) on  Anyway, this small miracle was the highlight of the organization's efforts.  The student behind the table gave me my bib and, in a barely audible tone, said "we don't have any more safety pins." No big deal, I thought, since I have a whole bag full in my car.  I stood there for another 10 seconds waiting for my schwag bag, observing there were dozens lined up on tables behind him.  Seeing me standing there he asked if I needed anything else.  I asked about the bag, and he informed me they were all out.  Again, no big deal. I don't expect anything for registering so late. However, it would have been helpful if he'd offered that information without having to be asked. Strike 1.

I got my bib pinned on and then Kym, Duane and I headed out to warm up. We ran for maybe a mile, and at the tail end it started raining. Not enough to ruin the race, but there was a chill in the air and it didn't make things any more comfortable.  We still had about 15 minutes until the advertised start of 8:00, so we found cover under an awning near the start line. While passing the time and chatting I bent over to stretch my hamstring. At the same time the guy next to me also started stretching something, and managed to knee me in the head. It didn't hurt or anything, but it did seem to be foreboding. :P

A couple of minutes before race time everyone started crowing around the start line. After 8:00 came and went I walked over to a student with a stopwatch and who the race director was.  He said he was, so I asked what was going on. He informed me the 1-Mile Clover Trot would be starting at 8:15, and the 7K at 8:30. I asked why, since the registration information said 8:00, and he replied "no, that's when we stopped taking registrations." Clearly this hadn't been shared with the runners.  I informed Kym of the new schedule and she took off to find her daughter, Jenna, since she wasn't expecting to race until after the 7K had been completed. No races around here do this, you see.  While she was gone I wandered through the crowd and passed on the news of the "schedule."  There was, understandably, lots of grumbling because a) people want to start at the advertised time and b) it was cold and rainy. Strike 2.

The 1-mile started unceremoniously at around 8:00 and a few of us joined in.  Jenna started out strong, and despite a couple of short slowdowns in the first half, turned it on the second half-mile and never stopped running. She's run in a few other 1-mile races, but in this one she really persevered. I remembered to time her, and she turned a 10:29 over 1.03 miles. Most impressive!

Between the end of the 1-mile and the beginning of the 7K Kym decided to quickly run to the bathroom. Since I planned on pacing her I stayed where she left me so she could find me when she got back. A couple of minutes later the race started and she was nowhere to be found! I looked around, expecting her to run out from between the buildings, but she never came. I gave it about a minute and a half, and then figured she must have started.  Looking back at my Garmin splits, I ran a 6:40 first mile trying to catch up to her. Along the way I asked people if she was at the start, and finally found someone - Kathy - who said she did make it. At about the 1.3 mile mark I finally caught up with her.

The rest of the race itself went very well. Well, except Strike 3.  At the 3.2 mile mark as we were getting ready to cross a fairly busy street, Fairview Avenue, we noticed there was no traffic control. The woman just ahead of us even came to a stop not knowing what to do. I had to sprint ahead a little and put some of my basic training "road guard" skills to use, stopping traffic. Argh!!!

Without droning on about the inadequate post-race refreshments or general lack of communication, it's fair to say I wouldn't attend this race again in the future.  The batter's out!!!

Despite everything that went wrong there were some positives to take away from the morning.  Jenna's outstanding 1-mile performance, of course, rates high.  And Kym ran a great as well, achieving her goal for the day.  Finally, it was nice to stand around, chat and shiver with good friends. So, in all it wasn't a total loss! :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I was looking for something in my closet the other day when I noticed tucked in a corner a pair of old Nike Free 7.0 running shoes.  When I started back running a few years ago they were what I wore on my weekly 3 x 3 runs (three days, three miles).  I didn't know much about shoes at the time, so I went to Hibbett sports and just tried on a few pairs.  The high school sales girl suggested I try them, and when I put them on I decided then and there they were the ones for me.  They were light, molded to my foot and seemed like a good choice.

Looking back in my running log I see that I put about 200 miles on them.  I remember I stopped wearing them after sustaining an injury to my right hip flexor.  Maybe I was just in the mood for new shoes at that point, but I blamed the shoes and conducted a search for the shoes I've worn ever since, Brooks Adrenaline GTS.

A lot has changed in the last few years.  For one, I'm a lot lighter than I was at that time.  Probably about 30 pounds.  Another thing is that I'm a runner now.  Back then I was most definitely a jogger.  Maybe they just weren't the right shoe for me back then, I thought?

Anyway, the past 6 months or so I've been trying to get off my heels and transition to a mid-foot strike.  I've been struggling with the change in form, and have chalked it up to lack of concentration.  When I saw the Free's though, I wondered if maybe my shoes weren't part of the problem.  After all, they have a traditional, thick heel pad.  So, I laced up the Free's and headed out the door for a 5-mile run.

The first thing I noticed when I put them on was just how snug they were on my feet.  I know better now that my shoes need to be at least a half, if not whole, size larger.  Still, I figured it was safe to take them out for a few miles, considering I did so for a few months a while back.  I hit the pavement and the second thing I noticed was that I could 'feel' the road beneath my feet.  I could sense the imperfections and pebbles on the surface, but it was cushioned enough where it didn't bother me.  I got a little excited!

After a mile or two of getting reacquainted I noticed how much easier it was to consistently strike mid-foot.  The thickness of the heel isn't that much different than my Adrenaline's, but it was definitely enough that I noticed.  For what was supposed to be a recovery run from yesterday's 10K, I effortlessly maintained about a 7:40 pace the last 4.5 miles.  Amazing!

I took a quick look online and it doesn't look like Nike makes the 7's any more.  They do make the 5's which are supposed to be even less supportive, but I don't know if I'm ready to go there quite yet.  In the coming days I'm going to do some more research and see what my options are.  I've read lately with the whole barefoot running craze that more manufacturers are designing minimalist shoes.  Maybe there's some out there that are a good fit for me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Resurrection 10K

This morning I ran in a local 10K, the Resurrection Run put on by the Prattville FUMC.  I met up with the scoundrel, James, and we warmed up for about 10 minutes before the start.  He said he didn't have a particular goal in mind so I suggested off hand he should pace me.  He said he wanted to "take it easy" the first couple of miles by running 7:15 - 7:30, so I knew I could stay with him for at least a few miles.

Sidebar: Gordon once referred to James as "that scoundrel," and ever since that time that's how I think of him. :)

The race started on time and sure enough we went out faster than the "easy" pace.  I wasn't too concerned though, because I knew I needed to bank some time for Gin Shop hill around the beginning of the sixth mile.  For the most part I'm pretty happy with my splits, though looking back it looks like I lost focus on the fourth and fifth miles leading up to the hill.  There's no way I should have dropped 15 seconds on that stretch, especially when that's where James started pulling away from me. Argh!

1 - 7:01 / 2 - 6:58 / 3 - 7:05 / 4 - 7:20 / 5 - 7:19 / 6 - 7:17 / 6.2 - 7:04

I almost caught up to James at the top of Gin Shop, but going down the other side he started pulling away again, and when we hit the flat home stretch he put down the hammer.  Around the 5.75 mile mark I could hear footsteps behind me.  After the race I learned they belonged to Barry.  I figured it was a matter of time before he caught up to me, so I decided to let him and then dust him in a sprint at the finish. That plan never materialized, however, as I didn't have as much in the tank as I thought. He beat me by 5 seconds and was in my age group! Double argh!

Anyway, my goal going in was to break 45 minutes, and I that I did finishing in 44:25 - a new PR.  The best part about this race is that is erases the Wallahatchie 10K debacle from last August. I don't even want to talk about that day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Training Update

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks since the Mercedes half marathon. After taking it relatively easy for a few days afterwards, I joined Barb, Duane and Kym in running the inaugural relay of the Breast Cancer Marathon in Jacksonville, FL. The four of us "passed" our good friend, Dave, along the course as he ran the entire thing himself.  Other than emphasizing how much fun it was I don't have much to add to Kym's excellent recap.  My leg of the race, miles 5-10, were partially along the beach, where it was beautiful. My only complaint is that it all went by too quickly. The photo to the right is at the 10-mile mark where I turned Dave over to Duane.

After getting back from Florida my training partner, Kym, and I tentatively decided to start training for the ING Georgia Half Marathon on March 21st in Atlanta.  After her unfortunate illness and withdrawal from the Mercedes Half on February 21st there was unfinished business to attend to.  So, we took a look at the Hal Higdon training plan we adhered to for Mercedes and picked it up at a point that would terminate on the ING weekend.  Since starting again we've had really strong tempo and interval runs, and one long run that didn't meet expectations.  Still, I think we're effectively carrying over our conditioning and will be prepared should we pull the trigger and sign up.

This next week should present some minor challenges.  I will be training on my own just north of Atlanta, where I will be on business.  I hope to find some good places to run and look forward to blogging about them.  Until then, happy running!