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