Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Journey to a Place I Never Thought I'd get to

I remember reading about Mark Allen going to another place to avoid or get away from pain and suffering during a race.  I've never thought that I'd be capable of doing that, but today I may have found that place, at least for a little while.  I did a hard bike workout and then got on the treadmill for a run and began practicing my "brain training" to keep the twinges and pains and spasms at bay.  Well, about 10-15 minutes into my run, I realized that it was almost like I was somewhere else, in a way outside of my body, and just running.  I really tried to lock this in from the perspective of how I will feel towards the end of the California 70.3.  So, instead of responding to pain, spasms, discomfort, like I did at Boulder City (slowing down a little in order to keep the muscle spasms at bay), perhaps I could learn to override them and go to another place where there is no pain.  Anyway, something to practice.  

The irony is that all of a sudden, the injury that I suffered 3 weeks ago is now looking like a godsend.  I've not only trained through it, but I've learned new mental techniques to allow me to do so.  If I can transpose these techniques on race day, look out!

Another stressful day at work, but I was committed to leaving early and getting my workouts in this afternoon.  I managed to get out (leaving a pile on my desk for tomorrow) and get home in time to get in the bike and the treadmill workout.  I was supposed to play poker tonight, but my daughters have friends over and it was actually an opportunity to take my wife out to dinner and have some time together.  Couldn't miss that:)  Speaking of which, that's what I have to get back to:)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Who's smarter? My Brain or my Back?

Woke up this morning with some back soreness, nothing unusual for the last 2 1/2 weeks, but it always makes me wonder, why do I train so hard? Well, one reason is that if I were a couch potatoe, my back would be worse.

As I'm standing and brushing my teeth I get the dreaded middle low back "twinge from hell". This is a twinge that actually predates my piriformis spasm of 2 1/2 weeks ago. I've had this intermittently for some time. It lasts less than a second, but has an almost indescribeable feeling, like, if it lasted for even a few seconds, I'd be flat on my back without even an opportunity to prevent myself from going down. It's arguably the worst pain I've ever experienced, but for less than a second, I can live with it.

Now, as I'm a doctor, I have to analyze the situation. There is no pain down my leg, no numbness, no weakness. Check that. It shouldn't be my disc (I have a herniated lumbar disc). Hopefully, it's just a rogue muscle. I felt the same twinge two or three times during my treadmill workout yesterday, each time when I mistakenly landed on my heel. I ignored it during the treadmill run. That said, if I get the twinge while standing and brushing my teeth or on a 111 minute treadmill workout, if I'm going to have it, I'd rather it happened on the treadmill!

In reflection, I spent the morning after my workout helping to clean up the house prior to having a discussion group about our health care system at my house in the afternoon (for change.gov) and went to a family friends for a Hanukkah party last night and didn't get home until after 10pm. What I missed out on was a 30-60 minute nap that would have solidified a great workout in the morning. I really find these days that such a nap really helps me. Otherwise, I really am dragging by the afternoon/evening and the next day I'm not as fresh.

So, only time will tell if my brain really won yesterday or if my back is going to win this "battle":)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brain Training

Haven't blogged in a month (I realized when I went on the site today).  That's what my life has been like.  2 1/2 weeks ago, after a really hard effort doing muscle endurance work on the bike, my low back felt really tired and my piriformis went into spasm.  It's been a challenging time since then, alternating low back pain, buttock pain and iliotibial band pain and tightness.  on Wednesday at precisely 50 minutes into my treadmill session, my left IT band tightened up on me.  This is a little scary, as IT bands have a tendency to lock up at a fairly precisely appointed time.  On Thursday, it was tight and sore after 40 minutes.  So, it was with some trepidation that I began my treadmill run this morning.  The goal for to go 100 minutes, that's what my coach set for me to do.  However, any pain was supposed to get me to stop immediately.

With that in mind, not really, but it sounds good, I started reading "Brain Training for Runners" last night.  The idea that pain is something that starts in our brain and not in our muscles was fascinating.  So, as the inevitable twinges, tightness, and spasms would come about, I overruled them with my brain.  I literally visualized melting the spasm, relaxing the muscle, ignoring the pain. 111 minutes later, I completed my 13.1 mile treadmill run.  This was pyschologically important as I have a half marathon in 6 weeks.  Now I have no doubt about my ability to run the distance recovering from my latest physical malady.

Of better note, the run was entirely done in zone 1 and 2 and I managed to keep close to 8:20 pace.  This bodes well for my race goal of running just at or under 7 minutes/mile.  But, too early to start thinking about that.  

Years ago I went running with an ultramarathoner.  He talked about regularly checking every muscle in his body throughout a race and literally making sure that he would alternate different muscles throughout a race.  I kind of did this today as well, varying my speed by 0.1mph with regularity, thus assuring a very slightly different gait.  I would occasionally focus on my toes and feet and how I was landing.  That said, heel striking was NOT GOOD.  The few times I landed on my heel, my low back immediately felt like it was going to spasm.  This brain signal was probably good and instead of ignoring it, I focused on landing on the balls of my feet. Downhill running (while running on flat ground), like downhill swimming, is not a bad idea.

When I look back at the last 2 1/2 weeks, I can be quite happy.  I missed one workout (the day after my back was set off).  And while my coach adjusted my workouts, I put in more time than I ever have for this time of the year.  My HR and pace are going great in all three disciplines.  It's been a huge mental challenge, however, especially with end of year work issues (I need to take some vacation time).  But, that's what triathlon is all about to me, being sharp mentally.  Today's treadmill was all about the brain.  You don't run on a treadmill for 111 minutes without being focused ("The best of the Beach Boys" helps, but only so much).

Friday, November 21, 2008

A good week

Had a pretty good week of both work and training. Especially good with my daughters in California for a Sci Fi convention and three days alone with my wife. We figure that we've had time away from our kids (just the two of us) for somewhere less than one month over the last 21 years! It's been a great 21 years, but it is nice to spend some time alone together.

I swam this morning (3000 yards) and really feel like my swim is right back on track, even more than on track. My volume is starting to regularly approach 3000 yards, something that I've never done before. This will serve me well for the 1/2 ironman distance of 1.2 miles, but will prepare me for upping my volume to closer to 4000 yards in preparation for the Long Course next October (with a 1.8 mile swim). I'll have to pay close attention to my shoulders, but they seem to be handling the volume thus far. I've now told several people of my goal to get my 1/2 ironman swim time down to close to 30 minutes. If I tell enough people, I'll have to do it!

Finished work at noon today and went to lunch with my wife, followed by a 35 minute walk. We talked about life in general. I still need to get control of my work life so I can enjoy the rest of my life! Came home and played a weird game of Scrabble (started off with 4 "O"'s) and then did 45 minutes on the treadmill.

Hillary Clinton is going to be the next Secretary of State. "Team of Rivals" is also one of my favorite books (I even got it autographed by the author). I think that this is a great choice. OK, so I let myself introduce a little politics into my blog.

Time to watch a movie...we're watching "A Beautiful Mind"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

California (70.3, that is), here I come

It's been two weeks since my last blog. I've thought about writing things down a number of times, but, I admit, I've just been either too busy or too tired. It is now four weeks since the Halfmax in Nevada. The time since then has been a mixture of ups and downs. Obviously, the excitement of qualifying for World's has been a lot of the up feeling. The end of the season "rest" has probably contributed to some of the down feeling. I'm not sure if the lack of endorphins has contributed significantly to how I've been feeling, but it certainly has had an impact.

The last couple of weeks have been a microcosm of the issues and challenges that I face in life. Owning two businesses certainly has its stresses and I've had a lot going on in terms of both in the last few months. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling an incredible amount of fatigue. I get this "sick" feeling that I think I can relate to fatigue, and it was really strong. Ironically, I did a good swim about a week ago and felt much better afterwards. Yesterday, I swam 2700 yards in the morning and realized that I was much more relaxed at work. Things that would have set me off a week earlier, didn't even make a dent yesterday!

It's interesting how the balance between work, family and triathlon training comes about. For me, triathlon helps me relax, keeps me grounded in some level of normalcy, and keeps me fit and healthy. That said, my family is the most important thing to me. Work is not a job for me, which is both a good thing and a problem. I don't know how to do anything at less than 100%. I put all my energy and effort into everything I do. This creates a lot of challenges.

When my stresses at work are high, training helps me to deal with it, but dealing with the additive fatigue puts further stress on me. At this point of my life, I would rather work less and train more. My rest break has helped my mind. That said, I'm ready to start thinking about my next race, the California 70.3 in Oceanside the first week of April. I've done the race three times in the last five years. In 2004, just getting back into tri's I did 6:08, the next year 5:49, two years ago, with a year of good coaching under my belt I did 5:13. Can I go under 5 hours this coming year? We'll see. I really like the course and can pretty much visualize most of the race having done it three times.

A few weeks ago, my coach told me to take my mind off training and to not think about my upcoming race season. Well, my rest "break" is over and it really feels good to be able to start thinking about California. I know what I have to do to be successful. I can definitely improve upon my swim from past years. The Halfmax and recent training suggest that I can get my swim time down to somewhere between 30 and 33 minutes (best previous time has been 36). My running improvement in the last couple of years tell me that I can break 1:40 on the run (best time 1:45). My biggest challenge will be the bike. It continue to be strong, but I haven't had a major breakthrough in the last two years. I really want to get my bike time down closer to 2:38 (it's a hilly course, my best time is 2:45). If I achieve all of these goals I can actually get down to 4:57. That could make me fairly competitive in the 50-54 age group. Well, there, I've written it down and said it. Now, I have something to shoot for. Ironically, it doesn't really matter what I do at the race. It really is all in the journey!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

10K for fun

I've really wanted to just get out and run, so that's what I did today.  With permission from my coach, I entered a local 10K, gave it everything I had and actually had a pretty good time.  I even managed to get 10th male overall and got a medal.  It wasn't my best 10K time ever, but it was yet another hilly course.  I wore my heart rate monitor but covered the heart rate reading.  I just tried to keep running as hard as I thought I could run.  I only looked at the heart rate results afterwards.  Typically, my lactate threshold is right around 166.  I hit 174 at the end of the first mile (a little downhill, and I did it in 6:40), and then maintained a heart rate between 172 and 176 the rest of the way.  My pace for the last five miles ranged from 7:20 to 7:35, but it seemed like it was either uphill or downhill.  I did pretty good going fast on the downhills and backing off the effort slightly and going hard on the uphills.  My average heart rate for the entire run was 172.  So, truly a lactate threshold workout.  My final time was 45:36, good for 10th male overall and 2nd in the 40-49 age group.  I'm still fighting some residual fatigue from the half ironman, but probably more so from work related stress.  Mentally, it felt really good to race.  This is my challenge right now.  I know that I'm mentally ready to get back into training, but I still feel like my body is trying to tell me something.  What it's trying to tell me I don't have a clue, as I tend to feel worse the less I do.  I'm supposed to alternate exercise with rest days this week before getting back into training.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting back to "work"

I have to admit, I've been too tired to write in my blog for the past week or so. Work has been pretty busy with long days and feeling too tired to do anything by the time I get home, which some nights has been close to 8 or 9 pm. My body has been feeling terrible, my shoulders and joints and neck have been aching. So, what did I do?

Last night I got home and ran 3 miles at a pretty hard pace. I didn't warm up, which I wouldn't suggest to anyone, but I only had about 25 minutes before a dinner meeting. That said, running hard allowed some of those endorphins to kick in, which made me feel better!

I met with my coach last Friday and planned out the coming year. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back to work

Although I put in a full day yesterday, today was exhausting. I left the house at 6:30am and got home at 7:30pm. Now, that's rest! Not really, and in fact, I was pretty exhausted by the time I got home. I finished my day doing a political campaign talk to a group of seniors. It was fun. It's always interesting how I can keep going and have the adrenaline keep me full of energy, but the moment I finish, I'm pretty much ready to collapse. There are probably some racing/training corrolaries.

So, no training at all this week. I have to say that I'm kind of enjoying it. I'm eating a lot, a little weight gain probably won't kill me, and I'm just trying to do what my body seems to be asking me to do.

That said, I can't help but start thinking about next year, but I'll wait until I meet with my coach later this week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Race Post Mortem

My coach (www.joghard.blogspot.com) doesn’t like spending a lot of time obsessing over what happened during a race. My obsessive compulsive nature always pushes me to rehash my races and delve into every aspect and detail. I’d say I can do this more easily because triathlons are my hobby, but the fact of the matter is, I’m the same way about my work. I find that it’s probably healthier for me to be this way with triathlons, however, as the end result is greater fitness.

So, there are a number of things that are of interest to me in looking back at the race. The first thing is that I am very happy with my swim, but know that I am capable of continuing to get better. One can never be sure about swim race times, but Dave Clark, who finished second in my age group did the swim in 27 minutes. He’s done the 5430 long course with me and consistently swims 10 minutes faster. At Halfmax he had one of the best swim times and I was only 6 ½ minutes slower! My swim effort was quite solid, and I finished the swim feeling good, so I know that with continued hard work I can continue to improve. I know that I can continue to learn to swim harder and continue to dial in my effort.

The bike was notable in terms of good pacing. There’s no question that I paced myself well, insofar as only a few people passed me after the first 10 miles or so, and I passed a number of people towards the end of the bike. That said, my quads were obviously not ready for the hills and so I need to be better prepared for my next race (California 70.3), which has some significant hills in the middle of the race. In the first 18 miles I did a good job keeping close to my goal wattage efforts. While I don’t know what my wattage was for the rest of the race, the fact that I passed people and that I felt my pacing to be similar tells me as much as the power meter. Of interest, most of the people who finished behind me had slower bike times.

Starting the run with quads that felt like they were going to seize up was an incredible learning experience. While the “fear” of my quads going into spasm may have kept me from going faster, it also forced me to stay within myself and really look at my whole body as I ran. I kept checking my stride, my form, my legs, and tried to adjust them to keep from getting into trouble. I’m pretty sure that my pace for the first 5 miles was pretty reasonable, probably under 8 minute/mile pace. Almost no one passed me, and I passed a number of people. Since my breathing corresponded to my effort, I’m pretty sure that my effort was on target. Interestingly, when Rich passed me with a mile to go and I sped up, my legs felt surprisingly good, but it was way too much exertion for my body to handle. I’m pretty sure that the energy I needed to expend due to my quads ultimately kept me from going faster. In a way, I really learned a lot. Again, looking at the race results, most everyone after me had slower run times. I know that I’m capable of running faster (based on my training). I think what I’m proudest of is that despite the pain in my quads and the “fear” of them locking up, I kept going and actually had a decent run.

Finally, as I look at the other times, I was only 15 minutes out of 5th place in my age group. In terms of my future goals, this gives me a lot of confidence. I know that the time is there for me to make up with further training and improvements.

So, I now get a week of no training or exercise whatsoever. My coach says that this is as much necessary for my mental state as my physical and he’s absolutely right.

That said, after being away from the office for a week, my work day today was pretty brutal, although not nearly as tough as the race:). It’s
therapeutic to “obsess” a bit on my race:)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Halfmax Race Day

What’s most amazing about today’s race is how my week went. Drove 4 hours Monday night, worked all day Tuesday and drove another 4 hours. Drove 5 hours on Wednesday and got to Boulder City. Felt like I was coming down with a cold, which makes sense, as my whole family came down with colds on Wednesday! Rested on Wednesday and Thursday (did get in a solid swim). Still, wasn’t really feeling good at all. On Friday, woke up feeling better, did my bike and run workouts and somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck. I spent the whole day trying to work out this pinched nerve! Also, my left low back was sore. I was beginning to wonder how I’d feel on race day, although I knew that none of these things would affect my ability to have a solid race! Got to bed early on Friday night (about 8:30 pm) and had a good night’s sleep.

Woke up at 4 am with my neck feeling better and my legs feeling fine. Overall, felt pretty good this morning after having a good night’s sleep. Was ready to try to achieve my goal coming in within the top 10 in my age group in order to qualify for 2009 Long Course Worlds.

Went out solidly on the swim, able to draft 75% of the time, really kept my focus on form and really felt smooth and strong. Did not take it easy, but felt like I was working reasonably hard. Didn’t kick hard at all, although did a little towards to end to help me come out of the water. I felt good coming out of the water, had my ground legs almost immediately and went through transition quickly, as usual.

The bike was brutal, that’s all I can say, there were hills the whole race. Of course, being a point to point race with a net elevation gain of over 1,000 feet, it was bound to be challenging, but this was ridiculousJ. Coming out of the transition, there was already some uphills. Focused on my wattage and really tried to be careful, keeping my wattage in the 150-200 range (upper end with uphills). Quads did have a little burning, but breathing was always fine the entire race. At mile 16 my power meter stopped working (I really have bad luck with my sub9 disc powertap). It didn’t bother me, however, as I really felt dialed it to my effort by this point of the race. It was interesting, people would pass me going uphill (as I was watching my wattage), but I would catch them and pass them on the downhills and flats. It was pretty clear by mile 20 that there were several of us racing at a similar pace. I would get passed, and then pass the person later. At about mile 40, I passed Rich Kylberg, who has very similar race times as I do (although he had an excellent race at 5430 long course this year, 5:05). Rich beat me at Boulder Peak by a couple of minutes. For awhile he would pass be on the downhill and I would pass him on the uphill. My goal today was to beat him (more on that later). As we got to mile 46, Rich had not caught up with me and we began the 10 mile and 1,000 foot elevation gain ascent (8% grade in parts) to the finish. Since my power meter wasn’t working, I have no idea what my wattage or speed was up this hill. I wouldn’t be surprised if I average 10-12 mph, but I passed a ton of people, some doing the half and others finishing the Olympic bike race. I tried to keep from pushing too hard, but really kept a very good cadence the whole way up. Only a few people passed me (two of them were women). I did stand up occasionally throughout the race to stretch my back, when I stood going up this hill, my quads started to hurt a lot, so I avoided that the rest of the way.

Forgot to mention my nutrition at this point, which I think was stellar. I filled up my quickfil with 40 oz of a mixture of maltodextrin and fructose and salt, for a total of about 450 calories. I took in 3 chocolate powergels during the first 1 ½-2 hours of the bike for an additional 330 calories. I added water to my quickfil a few times. I figure I took in 70-80 ounces of fluid and 700-800 calories.

My bike time ended up being about 3:03, my slowest half in a few years, but understandable and probably pretty good considering the course. In fact, if you assume the last 10 miles took somewhere between 45-55 minutes, the first 46 miles (net elevation gain=0) would have been done in ~2:10 and if the rest of the course had been flat, I’d have been looking at about a 2:40 bike (similar to what I’ve done at 5430 and Harvest Moon, both easier courses). Plus, I have to be happy knowing how many people I passed going up the hill. I don’t think I pushed it too hard, something tells me the run would have been tough no matter what!

So, I made it up that last hill and went through transition quickly again. The first mile was slightly downhill and I felt good, keeping a good cadence and breathing every 4-5 steps. I took another powergel at the end of the mile and some water. Then there was a mild uphill and that’s when I knew the rest of the day was going to be a challenge. My quads wanted to seize up on me almost immediately. I have to say, this feeling almost never went away the rest of the race and by the end was there for both uphills and downhills. I think I kept a good pace (no watch), and good cadence for the first 5miles, which was generally downhill, but with uphills interspersed, but the the fun really began. At mile 5 was a 1 ½ mile uphill stretch that was challenging to say the least. Again, my quads were not happy, especially as I reached the end. That said, up until this point, only a couple of people had passed me (both were women I think) and I passed a several people. One to the people I passed, Chris, 51 years old, immediately passed me back and I never caught him (until the ice tub at the finish lineJ). I got to the turnaround. Mentally, I was hanging in there at this point. It was hot out and my quads were still on the verge of giving up, and now I had a 1 ½ mile downhill to manage. I think I kept a reasonable pace, but I’m sure I was slowed down at this point by my quads. From this point on it was all uphill. Mentally, I just tried to stay focused, and in fact passed several more people. It was interesting, I would maintain a pace with them for quite some time, catch them and then pull away.

Unfortunately, at mile 12, Rich finally caught me. He made up 5 minutes on me during the run. I increased my pace to try to stay with him for about a minute, but it didn’t feel good. In fact, for the first time in the race, I started to feel a side stitch come on, so I decided not to push it. I was still worried about my quads. The last thing I needed was to have them completely seize up on me. To this point, I’d managed to run almost the entire time, only walking 2 or 3 water stations. I took in Gatorade and water at each station, up until the last one. I actually managed to catch a couple more people the last mile, but Rich flew ahead, finishing more than a minute ahead of me and leaving me in the dust. My final run time was about 1:58, again slower than last years 5430, but almost as hot and far hillier. I was very happy with my perseverance.

Until I got to the finish line I had no clue what my time was. When I saw the time reading 5:43, I was surprised. The race did not feel that long! That was interesting. Until the last few miles of the run, I really felt in control and didn’t feel like I was suffering (other than my quads) too much. I will say, that for the last 4-5 miles, my breathing would increase to every 2 steps on a number of occasions, so I was definitely putting out the effort.

They were late in posting the results and I happened to see Rich’s result first, he had gotten 9th in our age group. I knew immediately what this meant, as no one had passed me in the last mile, that meant I was 10th! Since there were 10 qualifying slots for 2009 Long Course Worlds per age group, I was going to Austrailia! I will say, the adrenaline rush I had after seeing this pretty much made my legs feel a lot better!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Time to rest

So, five days to go before the race. I had a one hour bike and 40 minute swim scheduled today, but I listened to the advice of my coach and cut them in half, as work and life got in the way (amazing how that happens). Did get a massage before leaving town and the spasm in my back is gone. Now, it's just time to try to relax and let everything come together over the next few days.

I had a 3 hour drive today to Rifle and worked at the State Veterans Home for a couple of hours before having dinner and watching Heroes (ok, so I admitted that). The folks at the Veterans home are always fun to talk to and they are truly amazing people. This is a generation that will truly be missed. I can't share their stories in a blog, but suffice it to say, they are the true heroes of our time.

Tim sent me a nice e-mail today reminding me not to stress over workouts this week and just make sure I get enough rest. The endorphin taper is amongst the hardest! I sometimes feel, however, that that is one of the things that allows for amazing things to happen to race day. When the endorphins hit suddenly, we can accomplish anything!

I've got my strategy mapped out, my week planned. I think I've decided not to wear a watch for the race, I can only give it everything I have, the result really shouldn't mean anything. It's the effort that matters. That's what I tell my kids.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More pain

I realize that over the last seven weeks I've actually had very little time that has been pain free. Yesterday, while running, I reached across my body to uncover my Heart Rate Monitor and tweaked my right lower trapezius muscle where it attaches in my mid back. I've done this before and it's not fun. I hurts when turning or breathing. I felt it during my entire run but didn't let it bother me (good practice), and felt it during my 3200 yard swim this morning and didn't let it bother me. It will be better in a few days, as it always is. It's funny how these little things pop up in the most odd ways. I rarely seem to hurt myself while running, biking or swimming, but will tweak my back picking up a newspaper, twist my ankle walking from my car to the house stepping on a crack in the driveway, etc. I'd like to think that pain builds character, but all it probably tends to do is add stress and fatigue. Oh well, I'll live with it.

Six days to go until race day. I'm now officially in full rest/taper mode. My swim today was actually great, as it was my longest swim workout in years. I'll do a recovery swim tomorrow and should have the opportunity to swim a little on Thursday, so I'll be raring to go come race day. Other than that, my legs feel good today.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aches and Pains and Goals

So, I spent a few hours standing yesterday and, as usual, my back acted up. Such is the impact of living with a herniated disc:). Anyway, I slept 10 hours last night (yea!) and woke up feeling pretty well rested. However, my left lower back was still a little sore. I realize that at the age of 49, I rarely go through a day without some ache or pain. The neat thing is that is doesn't affect what I do. I should know this, as my dad has trouble walking too far due to spinal stenosis, yet can play a fierce game of ping pong or basketball. It's all in your head! Well, not really, because there are consequences at times, but that's the balance we all have to figure out.

So, today was my last major brick workout prior to Halfmax. I had 75 minutes on my bike/computrainer, including 2 x 20 minutes at Halfmax power/heartrate. That went well and then got off the bike and quickly changed and went outside for my run. The idea was to do 8 miles, starting at presumed Halfmax pace (7:45) and alternating each mile back and forth with a slightly slower pace (8:15). It was cold out, so I wore my long pants and long shirt and gloves and went for it. I was really looking forward to this workout, as it would show me where I am for next weekend.

Well, I went out at what I thought was Halfmax pace/effort, but went a 'little' too hard and actually did my first mile in 7:12. The next 'easier' mile was in 7:37. After that, I settled in pretty well to alternating my paces and did the last three "hard" efforts in 7:34, 7:33 and 7:24. The last three 'easier' efforts were 7:58, 7:46 and 7:41. What was interesting was that the "hard" efforts, albeit breathing harder and running faster, felt easier than the 'easier' efforts. Go figure! So, in the end, I average 7:26 for my Halfmax efforts and 7:45 for the 'easier' efforts. My HR also held up through the workout, starting at ~156 and ending at ~158. I visualized next weeks race throughout this run, especially at the end.

With that in mind, what are my goals next week?

My best half ironman swim ever was just under 36 minutes. I'm swimming much better than ever and I'm hoping to do the swim in between 32 and 34 minutes.

The bike is hard to judge. I'm biking well, my wattage is up, but I don't know the course. The First 46 miles have a lot of rolling hills and the last 10 miles is uphill, apparently with a mile @ 8% grade at the end. I will be happy with 2:40, but figure I could go as fast as 2:36. I've done 2:31 at the 5430 long course and 2:45 on the hilly California 70.3 course. So, I'll hope to go between 2:36 and 2:45.

Now for the run. Originally, I was aiming for 8 minute pace, but todays workout must give me pause. Despite the fatigue towards the end of the race, the realization that running slower seems harder than keeping a quicker pace is something I want to focus on and hold on to. The first five miles is mostly downhill, and I should be able to run easily and fast, perhaps keeping a 7:00 to 7:30 pace. The next three miles are rolling hills and I think that staying close to 7:30-7:40 pace here is reasonable. What I then don't know, is how I'll handle the last five miles of gradual uphill running. I know that I can give the effort, but don't know what kind of pace I'll actually keep. I'm now hoping to stay close to 8:00 pace on this portion. If I average all of this out, I think that maintaining 7:40 pace for the run is doable. This would put me right about 1:40 for the run. I'd love to go under 1:40, as that would mean I've really arrived at being competitive in my age group (especially next year when I turn 50). So, I'd like to aim for a run between 1:39 and 1:45.

I don't know the make up of the Transition areas, but will assume 4 minutes for T1 and 2 minutes for T2. Transitions are 'my thing', where my obsessive compulsive behavior comes in handy. My transition times are always amongst the fastest.

So, what does that add up to? It puts me in a range between 4:51 and 5:10. My original goal was 5:05. I'd love to break 5 hours. Actually, I think that any time in this range gives me a good chance of a top 10 finish in my age group and a trip to Austrailia next October. If I can break 5 hours, my confidence for next year racing as a 50 year old will be sky high:)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Giving back

I spent almost two hours today speaking to a group of high school students. While I was there to talk to them about health care and being a doctor, I found myself (as I often do) talking more about what it takes to be successful in life. One of my favorite statements when I speak to students is that if you can focus your time and energy on anything you do for a finite period of time, you can be successful in life. I believe this with all my heart. When I see my youngest daughter spend hours editing video on her computer, or hours practicing her latest song, I know that she will be successful in whatever she ends up doing.

One of the students asked me at the end what I would want to be if I wasn't a doctor. At this point in my life, I told her, I wish I could be a professional triathlete! Obviously, I'm too old and too slow to be competitive, but the idea is there. I would happily take the opportunity to devote my full time to training. Why? I think for a few reasons. There is no doubt that I have a competitive streak, but I think I am more fascinated by the possibility of what can be done if one sets there mind to something.

I'll use thought when I write tomorrows blog, where I'll set my goal for Halfmax, which is just 8 days away. I'll preface that blog with a little history. My first Half Ironman was California in 2004 (6:08). I followed that twice in California, 2005 (5:50), 2007 (5:13). I also did the 5430 Long course in 2005 (5:29), 2006 (5:18) and 2007 (5:07). I wasn't planning on doing a half this year as I felt last year that it was doubtful that I could be competitive in the 45-49 age group. I obviously have changed my mind and my first and foremost goal is top 10 in my age group at Halfmax. That gets me qualified for Long Course Worlds in Austrailia in October 2009.

Standing and speaking for 2 hours is actually far more difficult than running for two hours! My back is always a constant reminder of that fact.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fatigue and Stress

I've learned so much about my body over the last year. One of the main things is how so many aspects of our life affects our fatigue level. Certainly, training for four hours can induce fatigue, but so can lack of sleep and a lot of stress.

The last few months have been amongst the most stressful of my life. Running a large business that by its very nature must run on a very narrow margin is difficult enough. Add on the daily personnel issues and throw in a few unexpected curveballs and you have a prescription for a very high stress level. Before I used to train so much I actually think that I just tended to keep the stress bottled up. My training has not only put me more in tune with my body, but does make me a little more sensitive to the increased stress. That is, the fatigue from four hours of training can certainly be magnified.

On the other hand, the fact that I knew I had three days off this week did wonders for my overall stress level and yesterday made me feel like I could train all day! Ironically, I only had six hours of sleep on Tuesday night (I really need eight), and today I probably felt the impact of the lack of sleep (plus the four hours of training). That said, I did sleep 10 hours last night. This actually proves two points about sleep. The major affect of a bad nights sleep is probably two days afterwards. You don't completely make up for lost sleep in a linear fashion. Losing two hours and then getting two more hours does not completely make up for the lost sleep. So, I think that after another good night's sleep tonight, I'll be back on track.

The good news is that I have a coach. Tim (www.timluchinske.blogspot.com) picked up on my fatigue level today and moved Friday's workout to Saturday. I was already thinking the same thing, which is why it's good to have a coach. Without one, I'm not sure what I would have done, and would have expended additional energy and increased stress trying to figure it out.

Nine days to go before my race. As Tim always reminds me, the work is already done, I can't get any more fit. As my family knows, I do tend to obsess a bit (ok, a lot) about my races. Again, another good reason for a coach. I can only do what I'm told from here on out. That said, it's time to start getting in the right mental state for the race. For me that means getting locked into the effort I want to put forth on the swim and then again on the run. The bike tends to take care of itself. More on race strategy another day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Swimming Breakthrough

My dad has been bugging me for years to keep a journal. My dad has been keeping a journal every day for many years. It is inspirational, but in some ways has been daunting. So, this will have to do. As of late I've been inspired by regularly reading my coaches blog. So, this seems like a good idea.

I'm 10 days out from doing the Halfmax National Championship in Boulder City, Nevada. If I place in the top 10 in my age group, I'll qualify for the Long Course Worlds in 2009 in Austrailia. That's my goal. I'm getting over an injury to my right 12th rib that seems to have left me biking, running and swimming better than ever!

I had an incredible breakthrough swimming today, getting my stroke count for 25 yards down to as low as 10, but averaging 13-14/25 yards for my 100's. I actually managed to do these in ~ 1:20. For some, that might be slow, for others, it might be fast. It wasn't that long ago (perhaps as much as a couple of weeks), that my stroke count was closer to 18/25 yards for my 100's. For me, it's been a continuous improvement. What continues to amaze me is the difference in speed between easy and hard efforts. But I finally seem to be learning how to bridge that gap and not to focus on going hard, but on having solid form.

I'm off work for a few days, and really feel relaxed. I'm sure that doesn't hurt. The mental aspect of training becomes more apparent to me every day. It is probably not a coincidence that I had my best swim ever on a day that I was totally relaxed and at peace with myself. My stress level from work has been at an all time high for the last month. I sometimes want to add hours to my training log to account for this!

So, yet again, I'm in search of the perfect taper. Ten days to go. Monday was a recovery swim and bike. Tuesday was an easy swim in the middle of a 14 hour work day that included almost 4 1/2 hours of driving, giving two lectures and attending two meetings. Today was a 2 hour ride on the Computrainer in the morning, and an easy 5 mile run. Then, the swim! Ten days to go. We'll see what my coach gives me to do, I always follow his instructions and it has almost never led me astray. I tend to set a PR at over 70% of my races for the last three years.

I'm already looking forward to Friday's workout, which starts with a 2+ hour half ironman bike with a brick to 4 miles at race pace alternating each mile with a mile at race pace + 30". I'm excited about this, especially as I've become more aware of how my effort for these paces feel. My latest epiphany is that running easy is different than "jogging" for me. In fact, trying to "jog" slowly, seems to actually be harder on my body than running easily. I can't wait to put this into effect on Friday!