Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sick Day and Half Marathon post mortem

I'm sitting at home today, off work for the second day in a row. I haven't done that in a long time. However, I've been sick twice in the last three weeks and my body must be telling me something:). I got my first upper respiratory infection and then sinus infection just a couple of days after the half marathon. I got my present upper respiratory infection at the end of a pretty brutal week of training as well as a pretty brutal couple of weeks of life. It just goes to show that stress plays a big part in our health. So, staying home today seemed like a good idea. Besides, I'm taking tomorrow off for my daughter's 18th birthday and want to be well enough to go near her! I'm using my resting heart rate to keep me in check. On Sunday it was 56! That may sound low to most people, but when I'm well rested and feeling good, it is as low as 36, and normally runs between 38 and 40. I was all set to do my workout prior to checking my resting HR. Mind over matter:) Fortunately, I checked and ended up spending almost the entire day in bed, I think I slept 14-15 hours! That's another random thought. Sleep. If I don't get 8 hours a day, I'm in trouble. My resting HR went down to 47 yesterday and is 42 today. I'm on my way towards a good recovery, but have to be careful, California 70.3 is less than 6 weeks away.

Now, I never did my post mortem on the Surf City Half Marathon. I felt good the morning of the race, although I have to admit I was only feeling fairly good the day before. I felt like I got off to a good and well paced start, keeping close to 6:50 pace for the first few miles. This is what I would need in order to break 1:30.

It was foggy and therefore humid at the start, and I was aware of the humidity almost immediately in the race. Really tried to pace myself at the beginning, went out breathing every 4 steps, effort was solid, but not too hard, At mile 3, in my haste to drink some water, I splashed it up my nose! Felt like I was in the pool, and just laughed it off. Did fine up the main hill in the race, and was feeling ok coming down the hill, although glasses were fogging up by now. Breathing came up to every 3rd step in the middle miles. Effort gradually increased, but I noticed feeling slightly "sluggish" around mile 5-6, had head wind to contend with, hit the 6 mile mark just under my goal pace; but at mile 7 realized that I wasn't going as fast as I felt I was going. Kept trying to pick it up, especially when someone passed me, but just didn't have an extra gear. By mile 8, I realized that I wasn't going to achieve my goal, but kept pushing, and really tried hard to pick it up at mile 10, effort was there (was breathing every 2nd step by then), but the pace just wasn't. In the back of my head, I thought about taking it easy, but the front of my head said no, keep pushing, keep the effort up. So, I was 4 minutes short of my goal and 1 1/2 minutes slower than my PR. The weather may have had some impact, but no reason to overthink this one, I really gave it a good effort and it was a very respectable time.
Mile Time
1 6:39
2 6:50
3 6:53
4 7:13 (uphill)
5 6:57
6 7:03
7 7:03
8 7:16
9 7:16
10 7:23
11 7:29
12 7:29
13.1 8:17
Final Time 1:33:54
22/529 in age group
219/4230 of men
257/10743 overall

The comparative results were pretty similar to my race two years ago, which was faster but had better weather conditions. That said, it's still pretty remarkable for someone who would have been in the middle of the pack just 5 years ago. Maybe next year, when I'll be in the next age group.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Flashback and "honorable mention"

The 2008 USA Triathlon rankings will be official soon.  Ironically, until yesterday, my best race from last year hadn't been loaded.  One of my goals in 2009 is to achieve "All American" status in my new age group.  I have never thought that I was capable of achieving "All American" or even "Honorable Mention" in my previous age group.  But, once the Tri4me results were loaded in, my ranking moved me up into the "Honorable Mention" category.  Goals are clearly relative.  When I got back into triathlons six years ago, my results were in the bottom third of my age group.  My goals were clearly just to do better each time.  In fact, my wife would joke about my new wheels and how they would save me a couple of minutes of time, for what?  So I could move from being 88th in my age group to 84th?  While she was right to an extent, I guess the lesson is that we all need to set goals and work to improve and achieve them.  Five years ago at the then named Ralphs Half Ironman (now the California 70.3), I placed 154/227 in my age group with a time of 6:08.  This year I hope to place in the top 10 with a time under 5 hours.  So much for getting older!

Anyway, my age group ranking for 2008 in the 45-49 year old age group presently stands at 531/7040, not bad for an asthmatic kid who never ran a mile until he was 32 years old.  I have to say, this is an unexpected bonus to 2008 that reinforces how I qualified for Long Course World's.  I've learned that even if your #1, you still have self doubts and you still have to work hard to achieve the goals you set for yourself.  In some ways it's really nice to continue to move up the ladder, I don't know how I'd actually handle being at the top!

So, back to my flashback to the Tri4me, the race that gave me my Honorable Mention.  It was last April and it was cold.  In fact, the weather report was calling for light snow.  I think it may have actually snowed during the run, but my face and hands were too numb to remember.  The swim was a 500 yard pool swim.  It was a small race and as I stood in line for the swim, I saw George Dallam.  George is one of the best in my age group and usually beats me in a sprint by at least a few minutes.  He's also an incredible individual (as I learned talking to him after the race and buying his book, Championship Triathlon Training, shortly thereafter) and just a nice guy!  Anyway, I immediately knew I wasn't going to win my age group, or so I thought.  

I had started taking swim lessons about month earlier and promised myself to really focus on keeping good form during the swim.  I started 10 seconds after George in the next lane and could see him lapping me towards the end of the swim, which meant he was already at least a minute ahead of me.  Nevertheless, I came out of the water in a little over 7 1/2 minutes, an excellent time for me, and actually felt pretty good.  It was close to 35 degrees outside and I had brought arm warmers to put on when I got out of the pool.  Forget about that idea!  As I ran to the bike transition, trying to put arm warmers on my wet arms didn't really pan out (just try to picture me trying to do this).  So, wearing just a one piece tri suit (2XU elite, a great suit by the way), I got on my bike and took off.  The bike course was a somewhat technical 4 loop course, it was cold and windy and I was trying out my new PowerTap Power meter.  I actually managed to keep my wattage between 200 and 220 watts, with a reasonable amount of time over 220 watts.  As I look back, I realize why I had to good race, this was one of my best bike efforts ever.  Maybe, I was able to focus in order to avoid thinking about the cold weather and the wind.  In fact, there were times I was lucky not to be blown off the sidewalk (yes, a sidewalk was part of the course).  Of course, there were plenty to opportunities to slow down with multiple turns and my normalized power was closer to 190 for the race.  

I came into the transition and quickly put on my running shoes and grabbed my gloves and took off.  Transitions are one of my strengths and it certainly helped as someone yelled that I was in second place and that the guy ahead of me was just about 30 seconds ahead.   This was cool!  I'd never been in this position before.  It didn't take more than 400m before I could see him and I just kept a steady pace and gradually reeled him in after about a mile or so.  That's when I realized that I'd caught George.  This is where one of the most interesting experiences I've ever had started to occur.  I could feel the adrenaline flowing and my confidence building, despite the probable wind chill temperature of 25 degrees.  My lips were numb, my hands were getting numb.  My toes had been numb (coming off the bike).  But none of that mattered.  As we approached a long gradual uphill part of the run course, George sped up.  Now, one has to picture this.  I'm about 5'10" and 150 lbs and George is probably 6'2 (no clue as to his weight, but certainly more than mine).  As he tried to push past me, all I can remember is laughing (inside, of course).  I thought to myself, "there's no way he can beat me going uphill".  And with that, I sped up and stayed in front of him and he backed off and didn't try again (until the end).  

One of the things I realized early in the run was that I had started 10 seconds after George, and I just needed to stay within 10 seconds of him to beat him.  I found out afterwards that he didn't realize this.  As we got to within about 100 yards of the finish, I sprinted ahead and he actually caught me right at the finish line.  But, I still had my 10 seconds!  So, I had won my age group, and beaten someone that I didn't think I could beat.  It turned out that I had not only one my age group, but in fact had come in second place overall in the race!  Granted, it was a small race, but you take your victories where you get them.  I remember that my lips were so numb at the finish that I couldn't even talk for several minutes.  That's also an interesting commentary.  I hate training in cold weather, but if it's race time, I put it out of my mind and go for it!

So, that's the flashback on how I got my Honorable Mention status in 2008.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Pre" Workout

No guts, no glory.  Steve Prefontaine always said he ran on "guts".  That's what todays workout was all about.  Yesterday afternoon, my hips and low back were really tight.  I stretched last night but was still tight upon waking up today.  It was quite cold out, but I decided to do my workout outside (wore long skins on both top and bottom).  "Warmed up" running 20 minutes to the track, my legs felt fine, but my hips and low back were aching and tight.  I stretched a couple of times at the track, then did 2x200 in 50" each and stretched again.  The tightness and discomfort improved to a manageable level, but I still could feel it during the first couple of mile repeats.  Yes, that was todays workout 4x1mile with 2' rest in between each.  Mentally, I have to admit, I was only about 80% into doing this workout, probably because of my aching hips.  That said, here's how the workout went:

The first mile I started off with my legs feeling very good, kept my pace even, looking at my watch to keep on track for running the mile between 6:40 and 6:50.  I was ok for the first 800m, the next 400 harder and the last 400 was harder yet, but doable, but tough, I even began wondering if I really wanted to do 4 of these.  My time was 6:43
The second mile I didn't look at my watch, just ran by feel and tried to keep a good pace.  My hips and back still were hurting, my legs felt ok, and the first 800 was fine, while the last 800 was progressively harder, so that by the time I finished down the final stretch I felt like I couldn't push any harder.  I was wiped out after this mile, looked at my watch and amazingly enough, it was 6:47.
At this point I decided that I probably would only do three miles and did the next mile on the trail back home, going progressively harder so again, at the end, I couldn't have pushed any harder.  Remarkably, my time was 6:47 again.
At that point I decided, what the heck, what would my coach think if I wimped out.  In fact, I'd done the 3rd mile not really believing that I could do it.  What was one more mile.  So I did the last mile going as hard as I could and finished it in 6:56
This was hard, but another incredible confidence builder.  
Sometimes you have to run of guts and ignore what your head is telling you.