Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago Marathon - A 12 minute PR!

Boy this race sure seemed to show up in a hurry.  When I started training last spring it seemed like I had forever to get ready.  Next thing I knew it was October and I was ready to run my first Chicago Marathon.  I found myself arriving in Chicago likely a little under trained due to the latest Ragbrai incident, but still with a goal of running a 3:05, which would qualify me for Boston.

My parents and I rolled into town Friday. Saturday, all I had to do was hit up the expo. The rest of the day was spent watching football in order to stay off my feet. I woke up at 5:30 on race day to down some breakfast then rocked out to some tunes while letting that digest. The hotel was just a couple of blocks to the start so that helped a ton. We got there with plenty of time to spare, but I chatted with my parents until about 10 minutes before the corrals closed. This was a mistake as there were lots of people heading in at that time and it took 10 minutes to get to the actual corral. I barely had time to try and move up and probably started back a little further than I wanted to. Oh well. Before I knew it we were ready to go.

Ooh baby, marathon #4! I was ready to run and the people of Chicago were ready to cheer. The start of the race was nuts with all of the spectators lining the route. There were a couple of times I found myself smiling in awe at the sight of it. When I wasn't smiling, I was working my way around people, although it was tough in the packed streets. As a result my first 5k was a little slower than I wanted it to be. Things started to thin out a bit after that and I settled in near a 7:00 pace. For all the fans that were on the course I was disappointed in the originality of the signage. Laughed a bit at the the "Don't poop you pants" sign but that was about it. Thankfully the bowels were cooperating.

I took stock of how I felt at this point. The pace felt easy. The heart rate wasn't up and I wasn't breathing too heavily. The weather was great and I felt quite comfortable in my lightest singlet and shorts, even though I was sweating quite a bit. If I could run in 40 degree weather all the time I would a happy man. I made a brief mental note of all the old injuries that kind of cropped back up after forcing too many miles in September after my bone healing hiatus.

Achilles....that feels good. Right hip.....nothing there. Left shin.....good as gold. Shin splints had reappeared the last week of taper out of nowhere so I was particularly worried about that. I had to take a few extra rest days, but as I got going it felt great. All good, all right, let's run.

The pace felt easy, even in to the slight wind as we headed north. I was shooting for 7:00 miles so as I passed each mile marker the math was nice and easy. After the slow start I saw my times dropping. I was slowly catching the pace groups that started ahead of me. By the time I passed the 3:10 group I knew I was right where I needed to be. I stuck to my nutrition plan for the most part: Gu and salt tab every 45 minutes, but by the time I was nearing the halfway point I was already starting to feel some soreness in the ol legs. That did not bode well.

There were lots of spectators around that halfway mark so that was exciting. Crossed the checkpoint at 1:32:02 so I was right on track at that point and really not too far off my PR at that distance. At that point I started taking in some Gatorade at each aid station to help stave off the cramps, but it didn't do a lot to slow them down. I was in pretty much "go hard or go home" mode from the outset so the goal was just to survive as long as I could at the pace I was at. Whether that was 15 miles or 26.2 miles so be it. The cramps started slowly getting worse, but thankfully slowly enough that I managed to get in a few more miles at seven minute pace.

My first two marathons I started blowing up around mile 18-20 so when I got past those miles I was relieved. Mile 21 came and I was hurting, but I was so focused on mentally exceeding those efforts that I was able to ignore the pain. MCM last year was the first marathon where I didn't have to walk and knowing that I kept myself going. There is no backtracking, only progress. So while I was probably cramping the worst I ever have in a marathon, I was still running, and I was still holding out on the hope that a BQ was in the cards.

But I was starting to breath heavy and the legs were so hard to turnover that I knew I was starting to lose some time. I was keeping a good eye on the pace and when I started losing ground to some of the people I had been running with the last 10 or so miles with I knew things were in danger. I knew this was a possibility from the start so instead I started concentrating on how I could still set a huge PR if I just kept on running. I thought back to all of those ungodly early morning runs and running one armed in a sling. I didn't want all that hard work to go to waste so I kept pushing.

At mile 23 I remember thinking if I could crank out 3 sub 7 miles it just might still be doable, but the legs were having nothing of it. I was running hard, because I wanted it so badly, ignoring the pain, but the body just wasn't cooperating. I was resigned to running the fastest pace I could and seeing how things would play out. It was kind of a blur running up Michigan Ave. The 3:10 pace group passed me, but I knew if I stayed in contact I'd still run a sub-3:10. Then, before I knew it the turn on to Roosevelt came and I knew the end was quite close. I pushed hard up that stupid final incline and then rounded the corner. There's the finish! I staggered across the finish line in a time I was quite proud of, 3:08:43, but just short of a BQ.

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 07:54:50AM 00:22:21  22:21 07:12 8.35
10K 08:16:39AM 00:44:09  21:48 07:02 8.55
15K 08:38:11AM 01:05:41  21:32 06:56 8.66
20K 08:59:44AM 01:27:14  21:33 06:57 8.65
HALF 09:04:32AM 01:32:02  04:48  07:03 8.52
25K 09:21:30AM 01:49:01  16:59 07:00 8.58
30K 09:43:26AM 02:10:57 21:56 07:04 8.50
35K 10:06:12AM 02:33:42 22:45 07:20 8.19
40K 10:30:53AM 02:58:24 24:42 07:57 7.55
Finish 10:41:13AM 03:08:43 10:19 07:35 7.92

Time: 3:08:43
Overall Rank: 1429/37314
Age Group Rank: 289/3502

After running that hard walking takes a little getting used to. I stumbled around a bit then found some food and drink and then BEER! It seemed like a crazy long walk to the post race party/meetup area. Waited around for my parents who were on Roosevelt but failed to see me come in. Facebook updates let them know I finished. We sat at the park for a bit while my dad and I enjoyed a few post race beers.

Overall I thought this was a fantastic race! It was extremely organized, and had tons of volunteers and spectators. The course was crazy flat as advertised and should have been prime for BQing. Although I didn't quite manage to BQ (Dang lower standards!), I was still extremely pleased with the result. A 12 minute PR is nothing to sneeze at and once I shape up race goals for next year I know I will easily put up a qualifying time. I'll just have to make sure to avoid broken bones in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pre-Chicago Marathon Update

Okay, it's been awhile since I stopped by here and a lot has happened since then.  Here's the short short version for those who don't want to read on.  After Dam to Dam the official marathon training plan started.  I ran a lot in June.  I ran even more in July.  Did a couple of local races.  Went on RAGBRAI.  Got drunk and wrecked my bike and broke my collarbone.  Got depressed while I took some time off to heal.  Got better and ran a lot in September.  Now I'm ready to go run a marathon.

Whew.  Okay now for the long extended version.  Let's cover the good stuff first.  After Dam to Dam I took about a week off to recover and get ready to start an 18 week focused plan that would get me to the start line of Chicago.  The plan would be a bit of a departure from what I had been doing up to that point.  Essentially that spring I had gotten my legs to the point of tolerating 50 mile weeks.  The plan would add even more miles, along with focused speed work and marathon pace long runs.  I was excited to get started.

The first few weeks went well.  I had a great week while vacationing in Holland, Michigan.  I love the variety of running somewhere new.  It didn't hurt that there were trails galore there.  I was able to sleep in, go knock a workout off, then either relax by the pool or go hack around the golf course.  By the next workout I was nice and recovered and able to get a good run in.  Coming back to Iowa though was a bit of a wake up call.  Back to work and back to being on my feet all day.  Not to mention this was about the time that we started hitting our streak of 90+ degree days.  It compounded together to give me a streak of poor workouts.  I knew I needed to change something and that meant waking up early while it was cool(er) out before work.  Now I'm usually at work by 6 or 7 in the morning so early morning runs started sometime between 3 and 5 depending on how far I had to go.  Waking up early was never easy, but it was a necessity, and something about running 15 miles in the wee hours of the morning before most people wake up just makes you feel good about yourself.  Speed work was a little difficult in the dark, but the workouts definitely got better from there on out.  I was seeing improvement from week to week and completing my key workouts with success.

My next race rolled around on the fourth of July.  It was a 5k held at the park I do a lot of my running at so I couldn't pass it up.  Plus I wanted to see what kind of 5k speed I had because I wasn't particularly training for that.  I got left in the dust by a couple of high school kids, but still managed a respectable 19:50 finish for a 6:23/mile pace.  Not bad.

Midnight Madness, Ames's annual 5k/10k race was just around the corner a week and a half later.  I've run this race a few times, but this year I was crazy enough to run both the 5k and the 10k race.  The 5k was up first and I took it a little conservatively knowing I had to run another race shortly after.  Surprisingly I finished in 19:40 for a 6:19/mile pace and a finish of 99/1634 people and 4/62 in my age group.  I wasn't really too keen on running another race at that point, but 40 minutes later I was at the start line for the 10k.  That races started okay, but I couldn't a fast pace and faded hard the last half.  I managed a finish in 41:56 for a 6:44/mile pace and a finish of 58/488 overall and 5/32 in my age group.  They kept track of combined times so when compared to other insanos that did the double I was 18/145 overall and 2nd in my age group (out of 11).  All in all a pretty successful night of running.  I'm not sure if I would ever do the double again because that hurt.  I think I would prefer to just go run a half marathon.

Little recovery time was needed after that I was back to training.  Soon enough the week of RAGBRAI crept up on me.  I squeezed in one last long run the morning of departure (21 miles at 4:30 in the morning) before meeting up with the Butt Ice bike team to take me to the start at Sioux Center.  The original arrangement was for me to ride with my friend's dad in their gear truck.  I was looking forward to napping and recovering after the workout.  Instead, they had extra room on their team bus and they invited me aboard.  When you get on a bus with a bar in the back and four or five coolers full of beer in the middle it's hard to not get a little sauced on a five hour bus ride.  My hosts were nice and made sure I always had a beer in my hands so by the time we rolled into town I was pretty well obliterated.

Details get a little fuzzy here, but I know I called my friends I was to be riding with to come and pick me up and take me to camp.  They laughed at me while I struggled to put up my tent and it was at that point that my drunk ass should've just crawled into said tent and called it a night.  Instead we decided to go ride and find some food.  At some point I got separated from our group and in an attempt to pull a u-turn I hit some gravel and laid the bike down, landing on my shoulder hard.  I was bleeding a bit from road rash so I found my way to the medical center (thankfully close by).  They cleaned up the scrapes, but my drunken machismo was talking for me and I played off how hurt the shoulder was so no x-rays at the time.  I finally made it back to my tent later and promptly passed out only to wake up to one stiff and sore shoulder.

I was getting sharp pains with certain motions and it generally just hurt like hell so I opted to drive the van for our group.  Driving wasn't too bad.  I got to meet the guys halfway through the day and then go find a campsite and sit around and drink beer while I waited for them all to get in.  After drinking all night I would talk big and say I was going to ride the next day, but by morning the alcohol numbed pain would have returned.  So I drove all week and only rode a little bit one night to test it out (even with beer painkillers it hurt a lot). When I got back to Ames I schedule a doctor's appointment right away.  It had been 5 days with little reduction in pain and still swollen as hell.  I was about 95% sure I had a broken collarbone at that point, but just needed to confirm it.  One quick x-ray later and yup, I was right.

It was small hairline fracture that ran pretty much perpendicular along the end of the scapula.  It was a little hard to believe that small little crack caused that much pain.  The good thing was no surgery and no chances of it healing incorrectly. The doc said six weeks in a sling and no running. Yeah right.  After a small protest she got on the phone to an orthopedist and came back with a much better number: 3 weeks no running.  Okay, I thought, 2 weeks it is.To be honest, those two weeks were not a whole lot of fun.  I was down on myself for doing something so stupid and generally just irritated at all of the training I was missing out on.  Eventually I got to the point where I knew it was pointless to keep dwelling on what happened and instead look to the future and focus on what I could do to maximize my return on training and give myself a shot at my goal of qualifying for Boston.

So two weeks after the crash I went for my first test run in my sling.  I made it four miles.  The shoulder didn't hurt too much, but I was cramping badly in one of my quads and calf.  Having that arm stuck by my side was really screwing with my form.  It's funny how you take for granted how much your arms are used for balance and propulsion.  Turns out my shoulder got really sore in the days after that run so I decided the doctor might be right and waited another week before attempting another one.  I kept the runs short at first and made sure I took a rest day in between each one.  Eventually I lost the sling while running and I quickly found out how weak my shoulder had gotten during all those weeks in the sling.  After four or five miles of running it would cramp up so bad I would have to stop and rest.

At that point I was 5 weeks post break, out of the sling completely, and starting to regain a bit of range of motion.  The cramping got better and I was able to stretch the runs out a little longer.  Once September hit I was pretty much back on a regular schedule.  In hindsight I may have ramped up the mileage a little too quickly.  A few of my old nagging injuries have cropped back up in the last few weeks, but hopefully the reduced workload of the taper will wipe those away.  Aside from that it was a good month.  I ran around 230 miles, including one long run of 20 miles and some successful speed sessions that have gone a long way to restoring some of my confidence.

I know I didn't just lose a month of training.  I basically lost two months as this month September was used to get me back to where I was in July fitness-wise.  Will that be enough for me to run a Boston qualifying time? I don't know, but I at least feel that I've done the best I can given the circumstances.  If anything it's taken a bit of the pressure off of myself.  I'll show up on race day and run as hard as I can and see what happens.  I'm hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised like I was at Ironman in 2010 when injuries wiped out my last month of training. If not, it's still looking to be a fun weekend in Chicago. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dam to Dam Race Report

Well this report is long overdue.  The race was over two weeks ago, but due to an extremely busy work week and then a nice relaxing vacation in Michigan I'm just now getting around to this.  Dam to Dam is a 20k race (12.4 miles) that starts at the Saylorville Dam and ends in downtown Des Moines.  I haven't been able to run this race since 2008, which was when I first started doing the running/triathlon, so I was pretty excited to run this.  Plus the 2 weeks leading up to the race the training had been going fairly well.  I felt due for a good race.

I was upp at 3:30 for this one. Ugh! I had to make the drive to Des Moines and the shuttles started taking people to the start at 5:00. I always like to give myself plenty of time. Probably more than necessary, but I've done races where I've had to scramble to get to the start on time and I really don't need that stress. So I kind of hung out and tried to time my last bathroom trip so I could get out of there and make my way to the start close to when the gun would go off. As I started wading through the sea of people in the corral, I realized that it was going to take far too long to get there so I hopped the railing fencing everyone in and jogged along the embankment up to the front of the line. I made it with a few minutes to spare so I chatted with a coworker of mine until the gun went off.

I went out fast. It's hard not to. My coworker said he wanted to hang with me for a while, but I didn't wait around for him to keep up. Such a nice guy I am. The legs felt good and the slight downhill sections in the first few miles were fun to cruise on down. I was running 6:40-6:45 pace for the most part and kind of in shock at how much easier this felt than the last half marathon I ran when I tried to hold the same pace. I was working hard, but not overly taxing the system. Maybe the training is starting to pay off?

There were plenty of spectators along the route to keep things interesting so the first half went by pretty quickly. There was a slight wind out of the south in our faces so I tried to tuck in behind a couple of people running about the same pace. I hit the 10k mark at 41:36 and was satisfied with the split, knowing that the second half would have a couple of climbs mixed in whereas the first half was mostly downhill or flat.

I took the first climb pretty well and the next couple miles still felt good. Around that point in time some guy caught up with me and said, "Let's go pick some people off." "Sounds like a plan," I replied. We did just that and ran hard together for at least a mile. Turns out he was friends with one of my old college roommates (who ran a blistering 1:20:26) and they both ran Boston in April. So we talked running and triathlon for a bit until he started to pull away. I tried my best to keep up, but my legs couldn't move any faster. I told him to go on ahead and I did my best to keep the pace as high as I could. There was only a couple of miles left and I gutted them out. When that finish line came into view I sprinted in as best as I could, happy to cross, and thrilled with the time. 

Time: 1:24:36
Pace 6:48 min/mile
Overall Place: 177/6895
Age Group Place: 36/589

Afterwards, I had a chocolate milk and beer (not together) and walked for awhile. Chatted a bit with the coworker I left at the start (he finished less than a minute behind me) and my late mile running buddy and my old roommate.  It ended up being a pretty darn good day for a race.  I can't believe it has has doubled in size since I last ran it four years ago. It's still well run and I liked the slight course change and the finish area is much better than before. First race this year where I've felt like things came together and I've been really pleased with the result. It was a 4.5 minute PR for me and nice to finally see some payoff with the high training volume. Now I just need to get to work the next 18 weeks so that pace feels easy in Chicago

Friday, June 1, 2012

Records, Recovery, and Racing

Well it's the eve of my fourth race of the season.  Tomorrow is Dam to Dam, a 20k run that is Iowa's largest road race.  I'm excited to run because I haven't done this race since 2008.  That was the year I started in endurance sports so I'd like to see if all the miles in the past four years have had any sort of positive impact.  I did take a look at my time and I ran a respectable 1:29 so if want to PR at this distance then I am going to have to run pretty hard.  It's an overall downhill course so if I have a good day it's doable.  I think I'm recovered from my debacle last week so that helps too.

So a little more on that debacle.  I once again learned (I guess maybe "again learned" is not the proper phrasing if since this happens from time to time) how important recovery is.  I had my race on Sunday and started to feel a sore throat coming on at that time.  The sore throat lingered around during the week.  My Tuesday run did not go well.  I had a hard time at the end of the run and chalked it up to the not being used to the heat.  So Wednesday was a recovery run, but I tacked on a couple of extra miles because I wanted to hit 55 miles for the week.  55 is the starting point of my official training plan for Chicago which I start next week and I wanted to make sure I could handle that volume.  Well the recovery run was nothing of the sort and I was forced to walk at the end.  The Thursday morning run to work was just as bad.  My legs felt overly fatigued, my heart rate was way up and more walking ensued.  The run back wasn't any better.  I finally took a much needed rest day on Friday.  Slept 9+ hours instead of 6 or 7 that night.  I had an easy Saturday with a short 5 miler that actually felt like a recovery run.  By Sunday I was feeling much better and hammered out a 16 mile long run around the lake that felt phenomenal.  In hindsight I really needed to focus on working that recovery and rest into the middle of the week instead of cramming crappy miles in.  All the signs of fatigue were there, but I got caught up trying hit that 55 mile mark and ignored.  Lesson learned hopefully.

The only good to come out of that was that my junk miles helped contribute to a record month of running.  I logged 184 miles in the month of May, despite a week of recovery after the Cap City Half the first weekend of the month.  June should be even bigger once the official training plan gets under way so that should be fun.  I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bluff Creek Triathlon

Last weekend was the first triathlon of the season for me.  I started the year with Bluff Creek, a race that has been on my schedule every year since they started running it 3 years ago.  It's a local sprint race that consists of a 546 yd swim, a 15 mile bike, and a 5k run.  This year's approach was much different than year's prior, as my focus have been on building up the run mileage and not focusing on the swimming and biking as I normally would.  So I really had no expectations going into the race, which was refreshing approach for me.  I was just going to have some fun and see what happens.

I woke up early Sunday morning and assessed the sore throat situation. I had felt one coming on the day before but it really didn't feel any worse so I figured I was good to go. I had some breakfast and then got on my way to Ogden. Transition setup was easy peasy and soon enough I was shuttled over to the swim start. The beach was freezing. The wind had picked up quite a bit and it was blowing right at us. The water temp was actually warmer than the air temp so getting in the water seemed like a good idea to stay warm.  I figured since I have only swam a whopping two times all year I might as swim a few yards to make sure I remembered how. It didn't take too long to feel a little fatigued. Okay, Mr. Twoswims lets call that good and save it for the race.

The Swim:

This was a good old fashioned swim start. Ran in, got kicked and punched around a bit and then eventually got into a bit of a groove. It didn't take too long for me to start wishing the swim was over. Fatigue set in pretty quickly and I couldn't keep up any sort of speed. Luckily it was a short swim and it really didn't take that long to get out of the water. After that I just had to contend with the super long run to the transition area, during which my mom snapped this attractive picture of my trying to get the wetsuit unzipped.

Swim Time: 11:20
Swim Pace: 2:04/100 yds
Age Group Place: 9/22
Overall Place: 54/196

I was in and out of transition in 55 seconds.  Nice and speedy for me.

The Bike:

Alright, bike time! Like the swim I had been neglecting my bike training as well. In fact, I had just gotten around to taking my bike off the trainer the weekend before. The couple of rides I had gone on felt good so I wasn't overly concerned with getting through it. I was more worried about how my legs would respond after a hard ride.

Made it out of the park and headed north. Passed a few people right and got passed once or twice. The wind was out of the NW and blowing pretty good. Not nearly as bad as two years ago, but still enough to make a guy feel slow. I at least didn't have to leave the big ring and was able to keep things moving forward. As I neared the turn around I started counting racers coming back to see if I was having a good day or not. I lost track around ten when I saw some guy wipe out up ahead of me when one of his tires slid off the road and onto the gravel shoulder. It looked painful, but he hopped right up and was getting back on as I passed. I asked if he was okay and got a grunt that resembled a "yes" so I kept moving.

Soon I hit the 180 turnaround and started the way back. The semi-tail wind was glorious and I was able to crank a big gear all the way. I think I only passed one more person on the way but still made great time. Got slowed up a bit by a car at the entrance to the park. He was being held up my the cop, but there were Oly racers coming out of the park and I didn't want to encroach on their lane too much. I eventually squeezed by then popped my feet out of my shoes before getting slowed down a bit by and ambulance navigating its way out. It's never good to see an ambulance in use on race day. I jumped off my bike and ran it in.

Bike Time: 41:57
Bike Pace: 21.45 mph
Age Group Place: 6/22
Overall Place: 16/196

Transitions are second nature now.  Although they did add in a little switchback on the way to the exit this year which surprised me, because it didn't seem like it served any real purpose. "This is new," I told the volunteers. "We like to keep you on your toes," one guy replied. Thanks dude. Still in and out in 28 seconds.

The Run:

I was looking forward to the run because that was essentially the only discipline that I have been training for. Granted I wasn't training for 5k speed, but knocking out 50 mile weeks can't hurt either. Now I knew a hard ride could potentially render all that training useless so I was hoping my legs would respond favorable.

They were pretty sluggish to start, especially navigating through the grassy and dirt parts before finally hitting the pavement. Once I got out there I could see a couple of guys a few hundred yards ahead. Might as well see if I can catch them. My legs were starting to feel better with each stride and I closed a bit of that gap on the way to the turnaround.

Once I hit the halfway mark and was on the way back I picked it up another notch, figuring it was only 10 minutes of pain. I caught one of my rabbits just before the big hill with about a mile to go, but the other one was staying just out of reach. I was closing the gap, but not quick enough. He kept glancing over his shoulder to see where I was at and running harder. By the time we reached the final turn I knew I wasn't going to catch him and finished just a few seconds back. It was okay though, the chase probably made me run a bit harder.

Run Time: 20:51
Bike Pace: 6:42 / mile
Age Group Place: 4/22
Overall Place: 14/196

Final Time: 1:15:32
Age Group Place: 6/22
Overall Place 16/196

After the race I found my parents and walked a bit to cool off.  I was a little surprised at how well the legs felt.  It was alright with me though as I was able to go home and run another 12 miles that afternoon.  I really enjoy this race and it is a good season opener.  As far as my performance goes I was extremely pleased. I did fairly well on minimal training. A few minutes off my personal best here, but I crushed my horrendous time from last year's race by 8 minutes so that felt good to make up for that mess. I also had my best 5k split in a sprint by a few seconds so that was another good take away. All that running may be paying off.

My next race is just around the corner on June 2.  It's a 20k run that I haven't done since 2008 so I'm pretty excited to see if I've made in sort of progress in four years.  As far as training goes this week was my last build week to get my weekly mileage up to 55 miles, the distance my official marathon training plan starts at. This week is a recovery/taper week and that aforementioned training plan will be enacted the week after.  Then it's just 18 hard weeks until Chicago.  I bet they fly by.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Going Vegan?????

On my lunch breaks at work I like to read to pass the time and this past week I was perusing the latest issue of Runner's World when I happened upon an intriguing article.  It was about prominent ultra-marathoner, Scott Jurek, and his Vegan diet.  Now, I've always been in the camp that a Vegan diet and endurance sports just didn't go hand.  Where the hell do you get get all the protein you need?  The article went on to dispel that fear and other myths that are associated with such diet.  I started to think maybe there is something to it and started doing some research online to gather a little more information.

In doing so I stumbled upon a "diet," for lack of a better term, developed by professional triathlete Brendan Brazier.  It's called Thrive, and is essentially a vegan diet catered to endurance athletes. I browsed the website for a bit and then decided to pull the trigger on the book (Thank you Kindle!).  I spent last weekend reading through it and a lot of the concepts within made sense to me.

The premise behind it is to eat nutrient dense "one-step" foods.  This includes fruits, veggies, beans, and seeds that are fueled directly from the sun.  Meat would be a two-step food since the animal has to get it's fuel from plants.  The reasoning behind this was to limit the body's amount of stress.  As athletes we put our bodies under more stress than the average person and by limiting the amount of stress from our diet we are promoting health and well being.  Highly processed "multi-step" foods put the body under additional stress due to the difficulty to digest.  More stress = more cortisol production = more fat storage.  By limiting the nutritional aspect of stress and eating one step foods, we can lower our overall stress and fat storage.  Additionally, if the body is not working as hard to digest the foods we are taking in, it can get to work repairing all the muscle damage we've done.

He threw in plenty of science to back up the claims, but as much as it seems to make sense I always remain a bit skeptical.  It was his anecdote about his weight gain during Ironman training was what really resonated with me.  A few years ago before adopting the diet he was experiencing wait gain during a his training.  The natural assumption was that he was taking in too many calories so he cut back calories and he started gaining the weight at an even faster rate. So what was it then?  Overtraining? Some would call it that, but instead he reasoned that if he could eliminate the other stresses in his life that he could continue to train at a high level.  So he started to tweak his diet and eventually the Thrive diet evolved out of that.

As someone who struggles with their weight, even with some insane training volume, this struck a chord with me.  Over the years I've tried a variety of diets, from strict calorie counting to the Paleo diet, all with mediocre results.  For me, I've found that it's just not as simple as calories out > calories in and frankly I always get a little pissed off when dietary experts tout that adage. I'm living proof it's not true.  I always (like since high school) have carried an extra ten pounds (or more) around that midsection that seems to never go away, regardless of diet and training volume.  I like to joke that I have the largest gut on the podium at races.  It seems I'm always the chunky guy doing well at these race because of a little natural talent, a determined work ethic, and a heightened capacity for suffering.  Still, there's always a part of me saying ,"just imagine what you could be doing without that spare tire."

I'm going to cut myself off there to avoid turning this post into more of a rant than it already is.  Simply put, it's time for a change with the diet.  There was an article in Bicycling last month that calculated your ideal body weight based not only on height but body frame as well and I should be around 152 pounds.  That is the goal racing weight for Chicago.  I have dropped over 20 since the first of the year, but have since been stuck at my normal plateau of 160-162 for the last month or so.  I am going to start incorporating parts of the plan in the next few weeks in order to get my body used to the transition with hopes of being fully committed in a month.  I have a few vices that will need to be weened off like cheese and peanut butter (which I probably abuse too much) and I don't know if I'll ever be able to give up my post long run steak (it was delicious tonight by the way). I've already tried a few recipes and started stocking my cupboards with all kinds of weird ass stuff like amaranth and dulse and tahini and hemp protein that I had never known existed until just a few days ago.  There's nothing like starting a new diet to coincide with the start of marathon training.  This should be fun!

Oh, I also had my first triathlon of the season today, but that will have to wait for another post 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Capitol City Half Marathon

So before I knew it the second race of the season was upon me.  After my longer than anticipated recovery from the last one I had only managed really just one good week of solid training before tapering a short week before this one.  All in all I felt pretty good leading up to it though, and I thought I had a legitimate shot at cracking the 1:30 mark given my performance in Hollywood a month prior.

This was another travel race for me.  Since my brother moved to Columbus last spring I have been meaning to head out there and pay him a visit.  I figured as long as I was traveling that way I might as well schedule my trip the same weekend as a race of some.  What better way to explore the city of Columbus than by running 13.1 miles around its city street, right?

I got into town Thursday night.  The drive was a relatively easy 10 hours from home.  I wasn't too sure how the legs would like being cramped up for that long so I made sure I did plenty of walking on Friday around the expo and downtown Columbus searching for a brew pub to eat lunch at.

Race morning went smoothly. Got up and had a bagel then drove and found a parking spot near the finish line with plenty of time to spare to walk to the start. I got up near the front and watched the guest speakers come on stage.  Soon enough the gun was going off.  They were cranking some Volbeat at the start so it was easy to get pumped up and go out fast. For the first mile I was up near the front and by a couple of guys who said they were shooting for a 1:30 pace. Perfect.  I hung with them for a bit and it didn't feel too hard the first few miles so I was pretty surprised to hit the 3 mile mark at 20:20. So far so good, but I decided to dial it back just a touch. Got to see the horseshoe around mile 5, which was really neat. I'm not a Buckeye fan, but still cool to see. Hit mile 6 at 41:40. Oops, didn't need to dial it back that much. At that point I decided holding 7's would be adequate, but that soon became a struggle. I watched my time slowly drop the next few miles and when the cop at an intersection stopped a bunch of us to let an ambulance and fire truck across I knew a PR was out the question. A few people continued to dart in front of it as it was turning, but I figured my time wasn't as important as someone's who may have been getting transported out of there.  Once I got going again I tried to get back to pace but the legs just weren't cooperating with me. I could not get them to turn over for the life of me. Feeling fatigued, the last couple of miles ticked by pretty slowly as I tried to finish best as I could. Eventually the finish line showed up and I was just happy to get across at that point.

Total Time = 1h 36m 43s
Pace = 7:23/mile
Overall Rank = 236/8056
Age Group = 30-34

Age Group Rank = 39/549

I walked around and found some food and scored some chocolate milk. Yum! I found my brother and his girlfriend and we hit up the post race concert so I could get my free beer, which unfortunately was a Michelob Ultra. I did pass on the free sparkling wine though.  The band was playing some LMFAO covers so we didn't stick around too long.

All in all, this was a well run race, with plenty of volunteers and entertainment along a nice route through Columbus. Just a top notch effort. So while I am disappointed with my results, I have really nothing to complain about regarding the race itself and how it was run. I was just really surprised to start feeling fatigue around mile 7/8 especially when I held solid 7s at Hollywood for 11 miles before that hill at the end.  Compound that with the fact that come October I'll need to run 7:15 miles over the course of a marathon it's got me feeling a little down.  I realize that race is still 5 months away and there's plenty of time for improvement and that I can't expect to have a great race every time I go out.  Still, there's a bit a disappointment, but luckily I have the drive to turn that into fuel for the training fire.  The next 5 months will be a lot of hard work, but I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Back to Normal.......Finally

Well recovery from the Hollywood Half Marathon three weeks ago took much much longer than anticipated.  One week after the race I was scheduled to run a 10k but a short run that morning sent shooting pains up my calves so I wisely pulled the plug on that one.  A couple days later I tried again on Boston Marathon Monday.  I couldn't not run on that day, seeing as the whole goal of this season is to qualify for that race.  It wasn't a pretty run, but there was no shooting pains and I was able to grind out 5 miles. 

I took it slow the first week back as my calves were still protesting a bit, but by the time my long run rolled around I was feeling pretty good.  I knocked out 15 easy miles and discovered that peanut butter flavored GU is by far the best gel I've ever had.  It was good to feel normal again.  This week I crammed in 50 miles for my highest mileage week to date.  Along the way I had to make the tough choice of dropping out of the Drake Relays Half Marathon which was supposed to take place today.  After the slow recovery from the last one and the Capitol City Half marathon looming just a week away I didn't want to risk not being ready for that race. Turns out the weather was spectaculalry crappy this morning so I felt a lot better about the call I made.

This week will be a nice, easy dial back of the mileage before I depart for Columbus on Thursday.  The race itself is looking to be a fun time.  13,000 runners for three different distances.  Their website is touting 52 different musical along the way.  That's a lot to cram in!  The best part though, no 2 mile hill to end the race.  With that in mind I'd like to think that beating my time from 3 weeks is quite possible and I'm looking forward to trying to do just that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hollywood Half Marathon

The first race of the 2012 season was last weekend! I had been looking forward to this for some time now. Not only was I running a half marathon, I was heading to sunny Los Angeles to do so. A little vacation time, a little running. It was going to be a good weekend.

I got into town late Wednesday to give me plenty of time to enjoy myself. Did some touristy things like head to six flags and Universal Studios. Here I am nerding out in front of the Green Lantern ride at six flags.Race morning came soon enough and I was psyched to get going. Training has been going well and I was eager to see how "race ready" I was. This race had an crazy early start time of 6 am so the wake up call came early. Had time for a bit of breakfast which consisted of a banana and half a danish since Melissa and I forgot to pick up breakfast supplies. Seriously, after all of our race experience we forgot about breakfast. We cobbled together what was left over from the previous day's continental breakfast and it worked well enough for me. After that we made the short walk to the race start near the entrance to Universal Studios. Staying at the nearby Sheraton was worth it just to make that part of race morning easing. I waited with Melissa until just a few minutes till the race start and then waded through the sea of people to get next to the 7:00 pace sign in the corrals.

So it turns out the group near the 7:00 pace sign was running nowhere near 7:00 miles. We ended up being the third group out and the first part of the race was through the narrow city walk so I spent the first half mile finding gaps to dart around slower runners and the people stopping in the middle of the street to take pictures (I seriously nearly plowed over more than one person doing this).

After getting out of the city walk and out on a normal street things cleared up a bit. Soon the downhill portion of the race started. My original plan was to take this part conservatively. I figured bounding down a two mile hill would be detrimental to my legs later on, but after a mile of that approach I said screw it. I knew coming back up was going to suck later no matter what so why not bank some time now? Probably not smart, but I had gravity on my side and flew!

After that the course leveled off and miles 4-11 along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard were some of the flattest I've ever run. The sun was up now and it was a great morning to run. Starting further back in the race allowed me to have plenty of targets to pick off so heading out to the turnaround I just concentrated on getting by as many people as I could. My calves started cramping early on and I blamed the downhill charge. I've been running 40+ miles a week in training so a four mile run shouldn't cause cramping. I started a search for sports drink at the next couple of aid stations but came up empty and cursed myself for not wearing my compression socks. Hit the 10k point and saw I was around 42 minutes, which was right where I wanted to be pace wise.

The aid station at the turn around had some sports drink. Score! I was happy to have over half the race behind me at that point. The cramps were getting a little worse but I was holding my pace. In fact those middle 8 miles were all within a few seconds of eachother.

Mile 10 had a clif shot station. I thought it was a little late in the race for that but grabbed one anyway. Raspberry...mmmm. I was looking for a water station shortly after that to wash it down with but had to wait another mile to get some. Poor planning there.

I didn't have time to fret about it too much because the "hill" was about to start. Although hill may be a bit of an understatement. I've done plenty of steep climbs in my day, but 2 straight miles of climbing a 4-5% grade at that point in a race was a new experience all together. Of course at that point I could feel the wind in my face to for the perfect storm of "suck." I decided to embrace the suck and just keep the feet moving. Lots of people were resorting to walking at that point, even at the front end of the field. I took some solace in the fact that my legs still felt good enough to run and that there wasn't much race left.

I somehow managed a 7:53 the first mile and an 8:23 the second so the hill was definitely doing some damage. After what seemed like forever the ground leveled off, revealing the finish line, which was quite a welcome sight. There was even a bit of a downhill leading up to it so I was able to come through feeling strong.

Total Time = 1h 33m 26s
Overall Rank = 114/6099
Age Group = 30-34

Age Group Rank = 18/401

I grabbed my sweet finisher's medal and scarfed down some food. They had protein shakes which made my day! Then I waited for Melissa to finish before taking the "party" limo bus back to the race start. We celebrated with post-race beers, a day at Universal Studios, and more post-race beers at a local brew pub that evening where I tried my first ever Beer Float. A red ale, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup. It was surprisingly tasty.

All in all I was pretty pleased with the result. Not my speediest, but that hill wreaked havoc on a lot of times that day. I was surprised with how high my overall placement was. Not only did I beat nearly 6000 people, but also a couple of minor celebrities like one of the New Kids on the Block and Rudy.

I've got a local 10k this weekend in Clear Lake and I'm hoping that my legs have recovered by then. The hill did a number on my calves and I'm still waiting for them to come around. They should be back under me by Saturday. If not, it could be a fun day

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a record!

Well March has come and gone already. Usually we are just digging out of the snow, but this year's weather has been a little different. I was able to ditch the tights and sleeves months ago and it's been a definite factor in piling up the mileage. Even so, I was surprised when I looked at the monthly totals:

March's totals:
Bike:12h 00m 05s - 224.86 Mi
Run:23h 09m 21s - 172.02 Mi
Swim:23m - 1200 Yd

I'm including all three sports to give it some perspective (and to prove that I did in fact make it to the pool once this month). Time-wise the bike and run are probably flip flopped from years past, and just goes to show how the focus has shifted this year.

Still, I'm quite proud of that 172. My previous best was 140 miles back in July of 2010. I probably would have hit 170 that month but I took the last week off to ride RAGBRAI and promptly smack my head into the pavement.

The best part about this is that I've managed to keep my nagging injuries at bay. That was my biggest concern bringing the mileage up. Now the racing starts in just 5 days (3 half marathons and a 10k in the next 5 weeks) so it will be just as interesting to see how the body holds up. I've surprised myself thus far and I hope I continue to do so.

I leave for L.A. in just two days for the Hollywood half marathon on Saturday. I'm looking forward to see where my fitness stands compared to years past, and more importantly to see just how many celebrities I can beat across the finish line.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Cheyenne Vapor Running Backpack

Last week I wrote about how I started run commuting into work as a more efficient use of my time to get some mileage in. Well, aside from dealing with missing key hallucinations, I had a few other issues to contend with. One of the big ones was logistics.

Let's say I wanted to run to work on Tuesday. On Sunday night I would have to pack a bag with Tuesday's work clothes, Tuesday's run home clothes, and both Monday's and Tuesday's lunch and massive amount of snacks I consume throughout the day. Lunch\snacks would get put in the fridge and clothes in the locker on Monday when I got to work. This was maddening to me because having to plan for a run two days in advance was just too much for my short term memory.

The solution was to find a suitable backpack to run with so I would only have to think one day in advance, which is much more suitable for my attention span. I visited several forums, read product reviews, and weighed that in finally making a decision. What I landed on was the Nike Cheyenne Vapor Running Backpack.
Normally I don't do Nike for running because I believe several other companies cater to the niche better than they do, but the product had gotten good review, the Livestrong version was 40 bucks off, and I had a gift certificate to the Nike Store. So for a little under 40 dollars I snagged this $90 retail puppy, which seemed like a steal to me.

When it finally showed up on my door step I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't too big and bulky, which I was afraid of, but had just enough space to hold a change of clothes and my bag o' food for the day. In addition, there was a separate compartment for wet storage, which was a bonus to keep my sweaty stuff away from everything else. Also there is a rainfly that comes out of another zippered pocket. I haven't had to use it yet, but its seems handy to keep clothes and a phone dry should the weather turn nasty. My favorite feature though was a small pouch on one of the arm straps to hold my work keycard and apartment key, giving me easy access without having to take off the backpack to get to it. In fact, I can hold my shoulder up to the sensor at work and it recognizes the keycard inside without me having to remove it.

The only negative I've found is that the pack chafes a little. This may just be an unavoidable side effect of having something strapped to your back. I've got the back and side straps as tight as I can comfortably tolerate, but there is still just a bit of bouncing that I can feel on the sides of my neck after 5 miles. Now, I have no idea if this is typical or not, but it was definitely noticeable to be. I'll keep playing with the fit to see if it gets better or maybe I'll just develop giant neck calluses once it gets broken in. Either way, the pack seems to be serving it's purpose. I no longer have to long term plan for a run. I can just throw all my stuff in the night before or morning of and set off on the road. And like I said last week, run commuting just makes you feel incredibly cool, much more so than bike commuting. The looks I get from coworkers when I tell them it's 5.5 miles each way, not roundtrip, is priceless.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Run commuting seemed like a good idea.....

So with my new focus this year my approach to training has had to change. If you compare my training to years past you'll see that my time spent swimming (admittedly nonexistent right now) and biking is dramatically lower than usual. I've come to realize that I'm no longer a triathlete who does marathons, but rather a runner who does triathlons. My weekly running mileage is ramping up steadily so I'm looking for new and inventive ways to get it all in, while still leaving time to do a little biking and swimming (soon, I swear).

In a moment of brilliance I realized I could traverse the 5 miles to and from work on foot. 10 mile mid-week runs are popping up on the schedule so why not do them as a commute. I eliminate 25-30 minutes of sitting in my car a day and replace it with a quality workout, effectively freeing up extra time in my day that than be put towards other workouts (or lounging in front of the TV).

I quickly worked out the logistics of it. I didn't own a backpack suitable for running with (I do now) so I had to bring work clothes, breakfast, lunch, snacks, and afternoon running clothes with me the day before I planned to run in to make sure it was all there waiting. I was sure I would forget something since it was actually a fair bit of planning, but was pleasantly surprised come commute day when the only thing I didn't have was a pair of sunglasses to run home with. No biggie.

The run to work that morning was great. It was nice and cool out at 4:45 in the morning and I made it to work without a problem. I waved hello to the morning smokers who were looking at me weird and went inside and showered and ate my ginormous breakfast. First half executed perfectly.

The run home, on the other hand was a near disaster. It started out alright. I set off on my merry way after getting more strange looks from the afternoon smokers and the gaggle of people that had congregated outside to watch emergency responders deal with a semi that had overturned while attempting to turn at a nearby intersection.

About a mile in I reach down and feel for my apartment key, which I always slip into the inside pocket of my running shorts. This is a nervous habit that I've developed over the years. While I've never had a key fall out of the pocket, it's still just a pouch with a cloth flap over it. Although the pouch of these particular pair of shorts is better constructed than others that I own. Still out of habit I feel to see if it's there every once in awhile. So I reach down and come up empty!

Crap! I stop alongside of the busy road and have a good look down my shorts to try and find it. Nothing. Well, no key that is. I assume it fell out somewhere along the way and decide to retrace my steps back to work in hope of sighting it. As I run I can think about what to do if I can't find it, something I've never really pondered before. I realize I'm actually in a better predicament than I would be if I was running a normal run. I have my phone, which I usually don't carry with me so I can call people. Not sure who that would be since I don't think locksmith's will open apartment doors without ID (I don't think my work badge counts). Also, I'm awfully close to my realtor on this side of town. I figure if I make it back to work and haven't found the key they are only another mile or so away and they may have an extra key.

I make it back to work but find nothing. As I head in the direction of the realtor (around the jackknifed semi) I start to think that the brief liner in the shorts is fairly snug and it would take some time for a key to work its way out of there and in doing so there's no way I wouldn't feel it. So I stop again (along another busy road) and shove my hand down things. Meanwhile I'm hoping the semi serves as a distraction so no one notices my digging and count myself lucky that I'm not within a hundred yards of school because I'm pretty sure what I'm doing would be construed as illegal. Lo and behold my rummaging pays off and I find the key! I'm not really sure how I didn't feel it down there while I was running along. It doesn't matter though. I breathe a sigh of relief and continue on my way back home. My five miler turned into a little over 7, but I can't really complain about the two bonus miles.

Upon arriving home, I immediately dug out a little zippered pouch that can attach to the shoe for key stowage and tested it out over the weekend. I could feel the key flopping around inside and that bugged me so I'm investigating other option for keeping the key safe. I really don't need to repeat that experience anytime soon.

Needless to say, today's run commute went much smoother than the first. I did sleep in a bit in an attempt to miss the rain, but it started in anyway during the run with about two miles to go. I got more weird looks as I arrived sopping wet, but I'm getting used to them now. At least the run home was drier.

Despite the hiccups, the run commute is going to remain a staple of my training this year. It seems to be a very efficient way to get miles in (I was home by 4:30 today with plenty of time for other workouts). My running backpack just arrived in the mail today so I'm excited to experiment with that next week in hopes of cutting out some of the planning that goes into this. My only regret is that I didn't think of this sooner (ie. last year during IM training).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Back from the Dead!

Time for a revival of sorts. Of the blog that is. I haven't posted here in over a year and frankly, let's just pretend like last year never happened.

Oh I trained and I raced, but there was nothing really to write home about (or to post online for a select group of readers to dissect). 2011 was a year of mediocrity. Plain and simple. I focused on other areas of my life and the training volume/intensity just wasn't there to replicate or improve upon my 2010 season. I did finish my second Ironman race, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, but it was a tough race and I just really wasn't satisfied with the result. There's a race report on BT somewhere if you want the gory details, but in short it was undertraining + GI issues/cramping = slow result.

I also finished my third stand alone marathon at an awesome venue running the Marine Corps Marathon in October. It was a really fun race, but being overweight and out of shape made it quite difficult to finish under 4 hours. The funny thing was I was pleased with the result. Not so much the finish time, but the fact I was able to run the entire thing and not walk at all, something I hadn't accomplished in the previous two, faster marathons. That sort of thing boded well for my next undertaking, which I will get into a bit later.

After the marathon, the off season was upon me. For most this a is a time to cut back on training and rest and recover from a long season of training. For me it was time to eat and drink and get even more out of shape than I already was. By Christmas I had ballooned up to 185 pounds, my highest weight since dropping 50 pounds 5 years ago. Things had gotten out of hand.

At the same time I was evaluating what went wrong the season prior and what I wanted to accomplish. It was clear I didn't want to race Ironman again (yet). The hours training had burnt me out. While I hadn't trained as much last year, it still takes quite a bit to just scrape by at the Ironman distance. I was sick of swimming, sick of my bike, and I really just wanted to run. At the same time, after resuming mild training after MCM my achilles of all things was acting up and I had to take a running hiatus in November and December. It was at that time that I realized I really just wanted to run. It was the only of the three disciplines that I truly missed.

I started to think about goals and things I want to accomplish. Tri-wise I still have goals out there, but with the burn-out I need to recover from maybe I needed to focus my efforts elsewhere. One of my non-tri goals is to qualify for the Boston marathon. So I started to think, if I could get healthy and really focus on running what could I do? In the past I've bookended my marathon training onto the latter part of long course tri training, more of an afterthought than anything, and still managed a 3:20 PR at the Twin Cities martahon in 2009. A 3:10 (the time I would need to hit to qualify for Boston) with proper training seems entirely possible.

I started to get excited again. I had a clear cut goal that my heart was actually into achieving. The possibility was exhilarating. So as cliche as it sounds, the first of the year brought about a change for me. A conscious effort at a diet plan, an execution of a running schedule that took care not to get me re-injured. I was a full fledged resolutioner. And it's paid off.

I'm down 18 pounds since the beginning of January. I ran 68 miles in January. I've run 75 in the first two weeks of March. I'm excited. I'm focused. And I'm ready for a fun 2012.

The blog is back from the dead in part because I'm excited to share in the journey that accompanies this new challenge. Aside from that I also took some time to examine what made 2010 so successful versus 2011. I tried to look at habits contributed to that success and I deemed that this blog was one of them. There's nothing like being held accountable to family and friends to motivate one's self. That and I just like to write.

So that said I'm happy to be back. Feel free to yell at me if I go more than a week without a post. I already have the topic of the next post in mind as I'm set to relate my trials and tribulations of run commuting to work. Till then take care.