Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Starting is the hardest part...

One thing I've always noticed about training is that starting is the hardest part. Getting up in the morning and driving to the pool, standing at the edge and thinking about the cold water and all the laps to come; pumping up the bike tires and filling water bottles, getting dressed and ready for that long bike ride; putting on the running shoes and fuel belt and driving to the running trail for a long run... It's that part of the workout that is always the hardest; where you start asking yourself why in the world am I doing this? Once you get into the workout and settle into a groove, life is good. Maybe a little less so towards the end of the workout when your mind begins to drift to thoughts of wanting it to finish; but it is still much more enjoyable and less of a mental issue once you are underway. And of course, when you finish you feel great!

A similar thing happens when starting a new training plan or phase of training. You look at the schedule that you are about to begin, and all sorts of doubts creep in about what you are doing and why. Do I really need to do that many workouts? How am I going to handle multiple workouts a day? That's where I'm at right now. I am still training, but at a relatively light load, allowing myself to physically and mentally recover from the 1/2 Ironman and marathon earlier this month. But the training plan shows things about to pick back up, and that little nagging voice is starting to ask all those questions and raise the same old doubts and concerns. I'll shut it up and start following the plan, I always do... but people that think this comes easy for me should be able to read my mind as I look at what is in store between now and November 29th...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

PoppyFest bike ride

I wasn't sure that I was going to do this one, so I didn't have it as part of the originally published race schedule. But I did a short trainer ride on Thursday and felt fine, so I decided to go ahead and do it. This is a 62 mile supported ride through some off the path county roads... fairly small but well run and organized. My friend Barry rode with me, and we just treated it as a supported training day. Stopped at two of the rest stops, and kept a steady but moderated pace. It was a nice way to start getting back into things after the marathon. The next few weeks will have a pretty heavy bike focus, since I've been concentrating more on the swim and the run up until now.

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Please see this website to read more about the HFK program and to make donations:
RMI Hope For Kidz Website Link

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Race Schedule:

January 11: RunTex 20 Miler (20 mile run) -> COMPLETED

January 25: Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon (27.2 miles run/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


February 15: Austin Marathon (26.2 mile run)-> COMPLETED


April 5: Lonestar 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


April 20: Boston Marathon (26.2 mile run) -> COMPLETED

September 19: Redman ironman distanceTriathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

October 25: Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run)

November 29: Ironman Cozumel Triathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boston Marathon Race Report

Wow, what a great event! It truly was a memorable experience to participate in the Boston Marathon. Just being there with all the history that surrounds Boston is fun, and then you add in all the excitement around the marathon; it makes for a tremendous atmosphere.

The race doesn't start until 10 am, but the day starts much earlier than that. I was up by 5 to get ready and eat some breakfast, and then myself and some other runners staying at the same B&B headed out at about 5:45 to catch the subway (the "T") and head to the bus area. Since the start of the race is 26 miles away in Hopkinton, most of the athletes are bused to the start from downtown Boston. We got on the bus with no problem, although I did make the mistake of not using the port-a-potties that were available before getting on. Let's just say it made for a very loooonnngggg ride :)

Once in Hopkinton, they have an "athlete's village" set up in a local schoolyard. Basically a big tent in the middle surrounded by port-a-potties. There is some light food and drink, and people mainly hang out waiting to for the race to start. After a couple hours, it was time to start walking down to the starting corral. Didn't have long to wait once I got there for the race to start, although it did take about 8 minutes to make it to the actual start line. Crossed the start line and the race was on!

I had read about course and determined that I would take the advice of the experienced Boston Marathoners and start off nice and easy. For the first 5 miles (which are mostly downhill), I stayed with the crowd and didn't push the pace. I was immediately impressed with the crowds that come out and line the race course, and that continued the entire way through the marathon! That first 5 miles I averaged around 8 minutes/mile, which is right about where I wanted to be, and I knew I had to keep some reserve for the hills that were coming.

After mile 5, things level out somewhat; and it was time to just keep up a good, steady race pace. I was running a little under 8 minute miles at that point, and feeling pretty good. At each town along the way, it seemed like half the town would be out there cheering us on, giving us high fives, etc.; and that would always make me smile and give me a boost of energy. Just after mile 12, I started hearing the "Wellesley scream tunnel"; where the girls from Wellesley college line the street and cheer so loudly that you can literally hear them from about a mile away. Running through it was a little deafening, but it's also a nice boost to get you through the halfway point.

At the 13.1 mile midpoint, I was at 1:45, which meant I had a good shot at breaking 3 1/2 hours; which was my goal for the race. The Newton hills would be coming up just before mile 16, but I felt strong so I picked up the pace just slightly as I got closer. There is a big downhill after mile 15, and then you start into the Newton hills section, ending with the infamous Heartbreak Hill that crests around mile 21. Going up the first of the hills, my legs felt strong and I started passing by quite a few people, and I knew right away that following the conservative strategy was going to pay off. I kept running through the rest of that section, and actually got through it at just under an 8 minute mile pace; felt great to not have to give up any ground :)

After that, the race became more downhill again, and I was excited to get back into Boston and see that finish line. I kept running faster as I got closer, since I felt great and didn't want to leave anything on the course. The last couple of miles, with all the excitement and the crowds, I got under 7:30 min/mile, and ended up crossing the finish line in 3:28:00; which was a new personal best for me :) I beat my time at the 2008 Austin Marathon (which was my Boston qualifier) by 45 seconds, and was pretty happy about doing that in Boston!

So, I never thought I'd be thrilled with coming in 6634th place in a marathon, but then again I never thought I'd get to Boston either. Quite the experience, and I am really glad that I was able to participate.

Now the question is do I consider going back next year? My time was good enough to re-qualify, and my wife and I had a great time while we were there, so we'll see if it fits into our plans for next year. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the memory and a little bit of rest and recovery...

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Please see this website to read more about the HFK program and to make donations:
RMI Hope For Kidz Website Link

*****************************************************************************
Race Schedule:

January 11: RunTex 20 Miler (20 mile run) -> COMPLETED

January 25: Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon (27.2 miles run/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


February 15: Austin Marathon (26.2 mile run)-> COMPLETED


April 5: Lonestar 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


April 20: Boston Marathon (26.2 mile run) -> COMPLETED

September 19: Redman ironman distanceTriathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

October 25: Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run)

November 29: Ironman Cozumel Triathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boston Marathon tomorrow

Went to the race expo this morning, just an amazing mass of people. Everyone in Boston is very friendly, considering all the chaos the race causes. Took a Duck Tour around Boston in the afternoon, then got things ready for race day. I'll post a couple pictures here of Boston later. For now, time to get some sleep and then participate in the 113th running of the Boston Marathon!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Getting ready for Boston

Gearing up for the Boston Marathon next week, pretty excited about that! Not much going on right now training wise. Got back from a weekend trip into Mexico, finished up the taxes, and finished off and mailed my exam for the USAT Level 1 Coaching certification. Doing some light running, and a little bit of biking and swimming.

Oh, and in case my wife is reading this - no I haven't forgotten about your birthday! :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Snake! (or "pay attention while running...")

Went out for a lunch time run today. Cruising along the shoulder of the road, listening to my ipod; when all of a sudden my SEWS (Snake Early Warning System) went off and I realized I was a few feet from running on top of a snake! Pretty good size, about 3 1/2 feet long, maybe 1 1/2 inches in diameter or so. I don't think it was a rattlesnake, as there were no rattles and the head was not that large, triangular head. It had similar brown/black markings, and didn't seem to be real happy. I'm used to seeing smaller snakes on the road, but they are usually dead from cars getting them. This one was bigger and definitely alive :)

I must have jumped pretty good when I saw it, as a guy pulled over to see if I was OK. This being Texas, he was in a pickup, and he did complain that he didn't have his gun with him... Too bad I didn't have my Heart Rate Monitor strap on, would have been interesting to see the HR spike as I realized I was almost on top of a live snake!

Ah well, gotta pay attention folks, gotta pay attention.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Train your weakness, race your strength

Just back from Galveston, where I competed in the Lonestar Half Ironman Triathlon. Had a great time, and was able to beat the 5 hour mark by almost 10 minutes, finishing in 4:50:12! The short version is that I had a good swim, kept a fast (but controlled) pace on the bike, and then had one of the better runs that I can remember. Finished 3rd out of 35 in my age group, and 63rd out of just over 600 competitors in total. The title of this post (Train your weakness, race your strength) is an old racing cliche that I learned is very sound advice. I've worked pretty hard in the last few months to start improving my swimming, and get a little stronger on the bike. But in the race, I made sure and kept within myself for those two legs, especially the bike, and then was able to really make the most of the run. Longer version of the race report follows here, but first I just want to remind folks to visit the RMI Hope For Kidz link below and check out what they are doing for the kids in Haiti. Truly an important and meaningful program that you can be part of!

Now, on to the long and gory details (feel free to skip and just look for the RMI link...).

It was a nice day for a triathlon, with morning temps of around 70 degrees and highs in the mid-70's, and some good cloud cover for part of the day. There were some strong winds that kicked in later in the day, but most of that was during the run, which actually helped cool things down a little.

My swim wave was supposed to start at 8:27 am, but there were one or two stragglers still swimming from the Quarter Iron event that started at 7:30; so it ended up being closer to 9:00 when we got started. When the race started, I was able to take a good line along the buoys with minimal contact and thrashing around, so that helped me get into a good strong rhythm right away. I focused on using my upper body and used the buoyancy of the wetsuit to keep my legs floating with minimal kick, so I could save the legs for the rest of the day to come. The last few months of masters swimming seemed to pay off, as I was able to keep up a good pace the entire swim and never felt too fatigued. I also drafted off of other swimmers as much as I was able to, which saved some energy. I finished the swim in just over 35 minutes, which was a very good swim time for me. One guy in my age group swam in just under 29 minutes, but nobody else in our group beat 32 minutes. For me to be that close in a long swim was a great feeling!


My plan on the bike was to go with a high cadence (90+ rpm) and keep my leg muscles from burning out. I wanted to average over 20 mph if I could, but I know my strength is more the run than the bike, so I was determined to keep the bike under control. That became a tough mental battle when a few people started passing me, especially if they were in my age group! But I've learned from past experience that I tend to see many of those same people again on the run, so I stuck with my plan ::)

Heading out on the bike there was a little bit of a headwind, but I was still keeping up the pace that I needed in order to break 5 hours; so I just kept the cadence up and trusted that I would be even a little faster when I turned around and had some wind behind me (or at least no headwind). At the turnaround, I noticed that effect right away; as I picked up the speed without changing my level of effort or cadence. 5 miles into the return leg, we actually had to do a mini-loop and go back to the main turnaround point; due to some road washout caused by last year's Hurricane Ike. Once I hit the main turnaround point for the second time, I had about 20 miles to go, and the winds were now in my favor. That stretch is where I really had to fight the urge to hammer the bike and go faster, as a flat, straight road and favorable winds can really allow you to fly. I ended up just over 2:35 on the bike leg, which was 9th out of 35 in my age group. Normally I'd try to finish higher in the bike rankings, so now it was time to find out if holding back a little would pay off on the run.

The run was 4 loops of just under 3.3 miles (13.1 total). My strategy was to start off with a controlled pace, which I knew would be a little fast just from the thrill of finally being off the bike and the adrenaline rush; and then gauge at each subsequent loop how I was feeling. I checked my pace after about half a mile and I was close to 6:30 min/mile pace; which is a little faster than I could sustain, so I backed off a couple of notches to just over 7:00 min/mile. By the second loop I was running about 7:15 pace, and it felt great, so I kept that going. By the third loop I knew that I was well within my ultimate goal of beating 5 hours, so I pretty much just maintained as well as I could. The final loop is where it was time to just let go and run for the finish line. I finished in just over 1:35, which was by far my best Half Ironman distance run, and ended up being the fastest run split in my age group :) I attribute having that kind of run to a combination of the bike strategy, and the fact that I'm still in training for the Boston Marathon (coming up in just two weeks!). Some good lessons learned that I'll try to remember...

So, 4:50:12 for the day, and 3rd place in my AG... nice way to start the tri season :) It felt really good to break the 5 hour mark, and gives me a lot of confidence for the two ironman distance triathons coming up later this year.

To wrap things up, here's a nice short video that my wife shot of me crossing the finish line:

video
*****************************************************************************
Please see this website to read more about the HFK program and to make donations:
RMI Hope For Kidz Website Link

*****************************************************************************
Race Schedule:

January 11: RunTex 20 Miler (20 mile run) -> COMPLETED

January 25: Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon (27.2 miles run/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


February 15: Austin Marathon (26.2 mile run)-> COMPLETED


April 5: Lonestar 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run) -> COMPLETED


April 20: Boston Marathon (26.2 mile run)

September 19: Redman ironman distanceTriathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

October 25: Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run)

November 29: Ironman Cozumel Triathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Computers Hate Us

Other than my computer hard drive crashing and the hours of misery that goes along with trying to get things restored (backup your files people!), it's been a pretty quiet week of getting ready for the Lonestar Half Ironman in Galveston. Heading out this evening, and the race is on Sunday. I am hoping to get close to 5 hours, maybe even break that mark; although it would take a really good day to beat 5 hours. I'll be happy with anything close to that, just have to see what the day brings. You never know about weather, mechanical difficulties, how your body is going to act that day, etc. I'll post a race report early next week with the results.

Funny thing about the "Computers Hate Us" reference. That was my screensaver message a while back (after a different crash), and I'd since changed it to something else. Part of the weirdness of restoring from backups is that sometimes things revert to a previous state; and one of those was my screensaver; which once again started displaying "Computers Hate Us". Ironic, eh?