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.