Sunday, October 25, 2009

Goals, pt. 1

It's about time I got around to setting some goals. Some are new, some are carried over from last, but either why they are going to guide how exactly I approach the off-season, next season, and beyond. First up are the immediate goals (ie. off-season goals)

During the last few weeks of my unstructured training I managed to scrap together a rough training plan for the next few months. And by rough, I mean it's very free flowing. There's no "you must run x miles on Thursday and ride the trainer with 16' LT intervals on every Monday morning following a full moon." I figured this way I can keep my sanity this way by not being overly anal about missing workouts and not getting the distance in. I'll have plenty of time to freak out about the plan once the official Ironman training starts.

That said there are some definites. For instance the swimming has got to improve. I'm tired of seeing guys finish ahead of me in my age group only because I was out-swam. It's no secret that it is my weakness and probably one of the areas I can most easily improve upon. So, as things get busy, these workouts will take priority. How will I improve? Well here's the off-season plan:

4 swims/wk with an optional 5th. I have gotten a lot of good information from and will be using a 12 week plan from there. The fourth day will be a light drill-focused 1500yds and the optional 5th would be a long steady swim. The workouts look fantastic and I'm looking forward to working on my stroke rather than just putting in the yardage.

3 rides/wk with an optional 4th. One of the members of BT is running a 14 week "Improve your power" workout group. He is a very knowledgeable individual and having never really followed a structured biking plan I am looking forward to hopping on the trainer and not just putting in the mileage. The optional workout would be a 2 hour steady effort ride. The DVD collection is stocked and I'm now the proud owner of a PS3. Hopefully that will make the long steady rides fly by.

4 runs/wk. One day of speedwork and a one minimum long run of 10 miles. In the past I have allowed my longest run to drop to around 5 miles over the winter. It makes for a long build up in the spring. I gotta suck it up this year and brave the elements for longer periods of time. More frequent running has definitely helped my speed this fall, and I'd like to keep these gains over the winter. I think 4 days a week will do wonders to maintain that speed.

And last but not least, stick to the strength and flexibility plan. I am notorious for letting this slip, mostly because when I do it, it's at 8-9:00 at night. It's hard to not convince myself to veg out at that point. So this will consist of 3 core sessions, 2 circuit training sessions, 3 foam roller sessions, and 1 total body stretching session per week. It seems like a lot, but they are short sessions (even more reason to not skip). And I may add in a day of yoga too, but we'll see how things go first.

It seems like a lot to handle in the off-season, but if I want to improve its what is needed to be done. If enjoyed the last few weeks of unstructured training, but it's time to get down to business. And after some much needed R&R, I'm ready for it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Season in Review

Well, I am now a few weeks into my off season. I think I have managed to escape the blues that usually accompanies this time of the year. I've allowed myself a couple of weeks of unstructured training. Initially I was going to take 2 whole weeks off, but I think I may have been kidding myself. I had to get off my butt and do something. But the lack of structure has been a welcome change. I haven't been worried about the mileage, I've just gone out there and moved, and there has been a sense of freedom I've come to associate with that.

But like any good triathlete I have become reliant on a good plan to improve and progress and make myself race ready. So I have been laying the bricks for a focused 3 month off season plan and in doing so I have had to think a lot about what I want to accomplish in not just the off season, but next season as well. So as I contemplated that, I realized that I needed to take one step back and look at this past season and what goals I have accomplished before moving forward. Thus, the title of this entry.

So I have decided to dissect each race to find at least one positive that came of it, as well as what goals were achieved and what goals I fell short of.

The year started with a 5k in February. We had gorgeous 40 degree weather and I PR'd by 29 seconds. Next up was another local 5k in March and I set another PR, this time going under 20 minutes and crossing that goal off my list. I ran my first ever stand alone half-marathon in April and finished well under my goal time of 1:35.

Next up, tri season. I did a chilly sprint up in Minnesota mid-May, and despite an incident where I almost ran into a parked car and fell on my bike I managed to put up a decent time and place 3rd out of 14 in my age group. That race was a real confidence booster and the first time I thought that I could really compete in my age group.

Next up was the Bluff Creek sprint. I had a great race and cracked the top ten overall and another 3rd place finish within my age group. One week later I finished a much larger sprint 5th out of 44. I was especially proud of my swim time which was 14s/100yd faster than the previous weeks.

Six days after that last sprint I raced my first half ironman on the year. I completely blew away my expectations of myself and finished in 5:01:46. The goal was to break 5:15 and I shattered that, setting a 33 minute PR in the process.

Hy-Vee was next and this was the first time that I would repeat a race from the year before. The course was a little different but I beat the previous year's time by 7 minutes and that was without a wetsuit. Next up was another sprint and another repeat course at the Iowa Games triathlon. I beat that time by over 5 minutes and had my fastest bike split and run split pace-wise of the year. Also, it was my fourth hardware race of the season with another 3rd place age group finish.

My second Oly of the year was Big Creek. I ran a 2:22:09, a PR by 2 minutes on the same course as last year. The Pigman half was an entertaining race this year. Massive rainstorms combined with raging winds made for a fun race. While the weather made it impossible to come close to a PR, I relaxed and truly had fun with this race while still managing to beat my previous year's time by 11 minutes.

My last tri of the year was a Olympic-ish distance that came in the thick of marathon training. That led to a super fast run split and allowed me to beat last year's total time by ten minutes. And last but not least was the marathon I ran two weeks ago. Obviously the 22 minute PR was the icing on the cake there and it ended my season on a positive note.

So I really didn't know how much progress I had made from year one to year two until now. They say the biggest gains are made early on and while I really don't expect to move by the same leaps and bounds between this year and the next, I will work hard to make sure I keep moving forward. That's all I can do, right?

Now it's time to decide exactly what I want to do with next season (besides becoming an ironman, that's a given) and how exactly I want to do it. Just a few short months before ironman training begins. I better make the most of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Twin Cities Marathon

Sunday I completed my second marathon ever, another stepping stone in the ironman journey.

I arrived in the twin cities Saturday night and did the whole expo / packet pick up thing. I managed to sleep okay at the hotel even with some rowdy neighbors. Ate a couple of clif bars in the morning and walked to the metrodome. It was chilly and they were letting us inside the dome to warm up so that was handy. Soon enough it was getting close to race time so I dropped off my sweats bag and headed to the race start. I got to start in corral 1 and that was not nearly as packed with people so that was nice. With a race this long I was going to warm up in the first few miles. No sense making this any longer than it was going to be.

So I'm at the starting line of my second ever marathon and I couldn't be happier. I'm injury free, training was near perfect the last 7 weeks, and the weather is as good as you could ask for on race day. Excited may be an understatement.

A little pre-race hoopla and then there's the gun and we're off. Starting in the front corral was a bonus. Things spaced out very quickly and I settled into my own pace fairly early. Okay, quick check. Does this feel too hard? Nope. How's the breathing? Under control. Alrighty then. Let's run.

I was wearing my Garmin but I told myself to ignore it. I didn't want to get too caught up with what pace I was running. I just wanted to run and as long as things felt easy and I wasn't getting carried away with an absurd effort I was just going to run. It seemed like a simple approach. Did it hurt me later on? Maybe. Who knows.

Crowd support at the race was amazing. Hardly a block went by without someone out there cheering for all of the runners. That alone made it easy to keep going. I smiled, waved, high-fived when appropriate. Random spectators calling you out by bib number and telling you good job never gets old.

I hit the 5k mark at 21:36. A little fast. Tone it down a shade, mmmkay. I tried. Hit the 10k at 43:18. Holy shnikies that's a PR (yeah, I haven't run a stand alone 10k in awhile). So that toning down thing, were you listening? I think so. This is feeling effortless right now, let me enjoy it while I can okay.

Those miles flew by early on. I was enjoying myself, soaking in the atmosphere, loving the crowds. Spent a mile behind some excellent pace booty. Mmm, baby blue shorts. It was a good day to be running. Sadly though, I had to leave her behind. I started taking in nutrition at mile 5. Popped a gu and then had one every 4 miles from then on. Water at the aid stations and I was good to go.

When the halfway point hit I happy not to be having dreadful thoughts of having to run another one of those. I saw my time (1:31:46) and was ecstatic, but kind of scared at the same time. Ecstatic because I was on pace to go under 3:11:00 and fulfill my semi-delusional goal of BQing. Scared because I was only 3 seconds off my half mary PR. Way too fast my friend. Tone it down or you are going to crash and burn!

I dialed it back a notch. Really, I did this time. The next few miles went by and slowly but surely I began to notice more people passing me. I began to sneak a few peeks at the watch and saw the pace was dropping too much. That and the effort level was rising. Oh, and pain increasing in the left hammy and right calf. The wheels weren't falling off yet, but I definitely felt a few lugnuts loosen up and go tumbling away.

The fan support continued to be amazing. I wish I could remember all of the great people and cool signs. I liked the one that said "toenails are overrated." Then there were the people dressed as nuns (or maybe they were real nuns) with the one sign that said "run like hell" and another that I couldn't make out. I flashed them the devil hooks and stuck out my tongue. Yeah, could be going to hell here.

Where am I? Mile 19. Ugh, too soon to be falling apart. Suck it up. Hey, I recognize those blue shorts passing me. I tried my best to stay behind her, trust me, but couldn't. I reached the giant inflatable wall at mile 20. Yup, I'm definitely hitting the wall. Nicely placed symbolic balloon fixture. I managed to keep running until the mile 22 aid station, where I stopped to walk and take in some powerade to help with the cramping. I stopped again at the next aid station, but this time had a much tougher time getting going again. Move feet. Feet? Are you listening? Come on. We are running! No? Okay a few more steps. How bout now?, now! Dammit, get moving!

Eventually I mustered up the energy to get moving again and as punishment I told myself that was the last walk break I was allowed. Miraculously I stuck to my guns and ran the last few miles in. At least it was a pretty good imitation of a run. It felt so disjointed and painful at that point. I was pretty sure that it wasn't pretty.

Soon enough, I had the finish line in my sights. I realized I was going to be really close to 3:20:00 so I started running harder the last half mile or so. The mileage was off on the garmin so I really had no idea how much further it was. When we started the final downhill I was flying past people like they were standing still. I guess there was a little juice left in the ol legs and it was coming at a very painful cost with each stride. In my mind I kept alternating the words "ow" and "3:20" until I pounded across the finish line.

Woohoo! I'm done! Did I go under 3:20? I don't care, get me one of those heat blankets and some food!

I am envious of those people that can go out and run an evenly paced marathon. I am hoping that as I continue to lay on the mileage year after year that becomes a reality. Seriously though, I went out at a pace that would have gotten me a BQ and I couldn't hold it. Simple as that. Am I disappointed? A little. But this was another valuable learning experience and a heck of a confidence booster. Boston is in my future in the next few years, I am sure of it. This was an awesome, awesome race. I would highly recommend this marathon and if I ever plan on repeating one, this would be high up on the list. Missed my BQ, but you know what? I don't care. It was a huge 22 minute PR!