Friday, August 17, 2012

Shifting gears... but not on a bike

I decided a couple weeks ago after my Riley's Rumble workout to change my training/racing goals for the rest of 2012. I'm going to drop triathlon training for the rest of the year and focus on running and running only. My intent is to build a big base over the next few months, culminating in (hopefully) a big PR at the Philadelphia half marathon in November. I will race several times over that timespan as well with a couple longer races to use as hard tempos/tuneups. I also plan to race at USATF XC Club Nationals, depending on how I feel after Philly, but I will be in decent shape to help the team (that's the idea at least).

I believe this is the best course of action for several reasons. One, I have been completely dissatisfied with my running this year. It demoralized me and I want a reason to believe I am a decent runner still. This should get my confidence back to where it should be. I want to feel excited to race off the bike in 2013 and a key is feeling like a fast runner, having a reason to be excited and confident. Two, the lack of miles from tri training was the main factor in my poor running this year. I was putting in tempo/track workouts... however without a mileage base I have nothing to fall back on when the going gets tough in races. My endurance suffered as well. Three, I think this will really positively impact me as a triathlete. I've focused so much on cycling and swimming the past couple years I've really neglected the run. With my swim and bike improved, if I can get my run to where it was in early 2011 and 2010, I believe my overall performance will be greatly boosted.

Plus, I have grown weary of tri training... I've been doing it for about 3 years straight without much letup. Simply put, I miss running. I'm happy to hang up the bikes for a little while. I'm just so pumped and excited to run again. That's what it's all about, having fun, not forcing it. I look forward to my runs now since they feel GOOD. No tired legs from cycling or swimming earlier in the day (although I intend to keep swimming 2-3x a week because I enjoy it... just no hard masters workouts) leads to higher quality runs. I did a 6x1000m speed workout this past Wednesday in the nearby park, and it went awesome, went at or under 3:10s for all 6 with 90sec recovery. And it was FUN!! Long runs feel nice and I look forward to afternoon aerobic runs. It's going to be nice to run with my friends much more often now and join GRC long runs again. I think I will also come into 2013 excited to ride and train for tris (going after Eagleman and a longer season) again. I just need a break, and get back to doing something I really enjoy.

Yeah, so that's what I'm up to now. Pretty excited for the next 4 months!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

CTR vs. The Sun: An Eagleman Story

Goal race of 2012: Eagleman 70.3. I got to Cambridge at 11am Saturday. Met up with my favorite race-buddies, Ryan McGrath and Alyssa Godesky. We swam, rode, ate, rested, ate, went to sleep... and they dealt with my incessant nerves. Good people to deal with a jittery rookie. Race day was sunny, hot, even at 8:15 when I made my way to the water for the swim...
SWIM: 29:13, 1:28/100m, 158th (9th AG) -- Pretty average swim for me as of late, which is all I wanted. I had no trouble as I rarely ever do with being beaten by other racers, but I let the lead group get away early, which stunk. About 400-500m I noticed a guy swimming alongside me so I slowed up a touch to get behind him and behind him I stayed for a long time, I think until the final right-turn to head back to shore. It was helpful as he was also a good navigator, specifically going around slow-moving or still bodies of the older men/women in the two waves before us. I got out of the water and saw 29:XX on my watch and knew the swim was mission accomplished. My goal was 29:30 and I think thanks to the draft I was pulled a few seconds faster, although really the guy I was swimming behind was the same speed as me. The current was weaker although it made the swim a touch slower I bet. Never worried about arm ache or bad form as my Xterra Vendetta suit always feels really good, even in 75.5 degree water.
Ed called out that I was near the front of my age group, so I was pleased but also worried I'd lose spots during my weakness, the bike. Transitioned fairly quick but dawdled near the end and lost 15-30sec.
BIKE: 2:22:47, 23.5mph, 102nd (4th AG) -- This part of the race made me the most nervous leading up, as I had never raced on a truly flat course before and therefore had no idea what my target wattage would produce speed-wise. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself holding 24+mph in the light crosswinds. I was even more pleasantly surprised how good it felt! In the meantime I nailed my nutrition, taking in 2xbottles of EFS, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and 3.5 Strawberry Clif gels w/ caffeine, the best gel out there! Lots of drafting and blocking out there too. Funniest part of the ride was when I was drafted off of by some old guy for a while and on a couple more occasions by guys in my wave. Me?? Drafted off of?? For real, me??? Hhahaahah! About 35mi in I reassessed and felt good and thought about turning up the power a little but decided not to... I really had no clue how I would feel off the bike, so I stuck to what was working. Around 40mi I turned into the headwind, which while not strong, was enough to slow me down a little. I was holding 24.1 up to that point, and was brought down to 23.7 with 2mi left to go, which I guess was expected. Nevertheless I held a very even wattage, rarely ever seeing my power average go over 222 or under 218. I couldn't have asked for a better ride! I was expecting 2:25-2:28, so to get under 2:23 was great to see. With a good swim and even better bike, I was setting myself up for a good run!
Totally bungled T2, had everything right until I was leaving transition and a kind volunteer asked "Hey man don't you want your number?" Oh yeah, that would be a good idea, since I don't want to get DQ'ed. Ran back to the other side of transition to get it. Wasted minute!! What a nonsense.
RUN: 1:34:01, 7:11/mile, 80th (5th AG) -- Well, it started according to plan, 6:15-20s for the first 5k and it felt pretty good, just like I thought it would. I love my shoes by the way, K-Swiss Kwicky Blades, EA$ILY the best running shoes I've ever worn. No joke. Then like a switch being flipped my body's cooling systems shut down. Fuel cells OFF. I suddenly felt like I was in an oven. Well, I was. It's pretty exposed out there and then without a cloud in the sky and 92+ degree heat... trouble. I soon found myself walking through the next aid station... then the next aid station... and then the next. And then every aid station until the finish. Just walking through them to get down as much water/gatorade/pepsi as I could during the walk. Ran between them, which was helpful, held 6:30-:45 pace, but those 30-50sec walks were killer for my pacing and time. I saw some 25-29 AGers pass me but I caught a couple as well. Unfortunately I began counting and soon I counted myself out of top-5 podium. RATS.
O well, just gotta finish respectably from here. I wasn't cramping so not all was bad. I was just really hot. Some stud kept passing me when I was walking through the aid stations, only to get re-passed by me whenever I started to run again. Got tired of it. I threw down an epic miracle final 2 mile straight run at 6:30 pace to put him behind me for good. SLAAAAM DUNK. I just preserved ... 7th place in the AG. Well it's something.
O hey, there's the finish line! DONE.
4:31:37, 73rd OA (7th AG), 97 seconds off from what I wanted, but goal #1 was finishing and feeling "good". Well, I didn't feel that good, I was hot and blistered and sore as hell. But I got the primary objective done. Not so bad for a first half, I reckon. And oddly it was the bike that got me in contention (makes all that bike training seem worth it huh?)... and the sun run that put me out. Next time I'll get that top-5 AG and maybe a Vegas spot. Oh, big ups to fellow Sidwell alumni Ken-Ichi Hino on the 25-29 win. HUGE day for the guy. Good to catch up with him.
That was hella fun. Can't wait for the next 70.3, and that is fo $ho.
Big thanks to DC Tri Club and Team Snapple (Bart Forsyth is the MAN, I'm telling you) and their sponsors (Xterra, K-Swiss, Clif, Elite Bicycles, Hed, Rudy Project, Champion Systems) for the gear and support; Coach Todd for his usual bang-on coaching and Matias, Ryan, Michelle, LJ, Alyssa G and (coach) Alyssa M for their advice and wisdom that I desperately needed. Can't forget my Dutch boy friends Dirk and Paul who support and keep me honest 24/7. And Brian Shea at Personal Best Nutrition, man knows nutrition and he got it right... he does the job so well he doesn't allow the athlete any nutrition-related excuses. Shout out to Elite Bicycles for building me the coolest bike in the world and Smiley El-Abd for squeezing me in for some emergency fitting leading to the race. Oh, and Martina for dealing with all this triathlon hooey, of course!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cherry Blossom 10mi race report

First, a little recent history. In the weeks leading up I raced in a couple 5ks and had been cycling a ton. First was Shamrock 5k in Baltimore. This ended up feeling a lot harder than expected, partially due to a hard ride the day before, but also because I expected to be in 5k PR shape without any real speed training... just one hill workout that same week. I ended up with a major positive split, coming in 16:23 and 13th overall. I was in much better shape to run fast last year so it was foolish to think the same this year, when I've approached training much differently. 2 weeks later I raced at the Multisport Expo in a XC 5k on the Prep campus. Matias and I cruised through the course, coming in 1-2. I ran 17:15 for the win (first and probably last time I'll ever beat Matias in anything!) and despite taking it a bit easier I easily had a much better race than Shamrock. Smarter racing and a little more run-specific hill training led to that. I had my first track "workout" the following Tuesday, which was short 5k-pace intervals. Nothing strenuous, just waking the legs up for this past Sunday's Cherry Blossom 10-miler, without a doubt my favorite local running race.

I had a hard bike workout Thursday which made me worry how my legs would feel by Sunday but on Saturday I ran for 20min and knew all systems were go. 100% full capacity. I warmed up with teammates for about 15-20min and still felt good heading to the start line. I found myself lined up behind... who else? Dee Nelson. Elbows at the ready, my first task would be getting by her without knocking her down and running with the burden that I roughed up a 68 year old woman. I managed to get by with minimal contact and the race was on. I sought out Matias but he got out to a faster start than I would've liked so I let him go and linked up with Bain. We came through mile 1 at 5:35, a little slower than both of us wanted, but we agreed it felt a little tougher than expected! Bad sign? But half a mile later my legs settled into pace and picked up speed a touch. The next few miles were consistent as I stayed on Bain's feet and slowly my small group began to reel in Matias' pack. We joined back up a little past mile 4 where I remarked to Matias "I finally caught you!" From there we made our way together down Independence Ave, catching and dropping a few other runners.

Following Matias, somewhere between 4 and 5, pain starting to set in. Photo by Jimmy Daly.

We got to mile 5 in around 27:34, but then I started to hurt. It was time to get tough and hold on. I didn't hold onto Matias though, as he picked it up heading into Hains Point. I waved goodbye as he and a PR fellow went after Bain. I forget my 10k time but it must've been somewhere between 34:20 and 34:35. It was also about that time that I began to suffer. It didn't help that the DJ around mile 7 was playing a song I was wholly unprepared to add to my mental playlist "Do The Locomotion" by Little Eva. A fine song otherwise, it wasn't what I needed on repeat in my head with 17 minutes of racing left. But on I soldiered.

Right around mile 8 I think I was beginning to slow mentally and physically as I heard a pair of footsteps draw ever nearer. Then a turning point! I saw a group of 20-30somethings suddenly erupt into a cacophany of cheering. They all shouted "YEAH!!! GO DAD!! GET HIM, YOU GOT IT!"

Dad and me with 1200m to go. Photo by Michelle Miller.

....DAD?!?!?! Oh hell. I can't lose to a guy named DAD. So my legs, reawakened with a competitive vigor, picked up steam and increased turnover. I felt like a different runner. Running away from an old man (I learned later he wasn't just any old man, but 56 year old Norm Larson, who is/was recently the 6th ranked masters runner in the US). His footsteps grew a bit fainter and stayed that way until mile 9.25, where I ran into a spot of difficulty again. It was quickly dispelled after I got some support from my friends from Falls Road. I came into the final hill and was able to finally reap the benefits of my recent hill work, putting a final cushion on DAD and rolling into the finish in 55:31, good for 44th overall and a 5:33/mi avg.

Scaling the final (and really, the only) ascent of the race, feel the pain. Photo by Jimmy Daly.

I'm very satisfied with this result. I fought for it and raced for it. And I did it with really only bike/swim and 40mpw run mileage. So being able to hold 5:30s for 10mi at this point has me very excited to start the real run training alongside an increase in bike mileage and intensity. I also paced fairly evenly, so it's nice to feel more experienced running longer distances. I start track work regularly this week and long tempos each weekend. Hopefully I'll get faster!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fish heads fish heads roly poly fish heads

My legs feel awesome. I'm surprised because my left calf is a little sore from Club Challenge, but Wednesday's and today's runs were without a doubt the best (aside from CC) runs of 2012. Before I felt like I was just going through the motions on each run, but now my stride feels fluid and my legs feel very responsive. It's like the race woke my legs from a several month slumber. Whatever it is, I like it, obviously. Good thing, because I have some races coming up and more intensive run training (finally).

I also had my longest swim of the year yesterday, a 3700y master's practice with Germantown Masters. It's a good group, and it seems the practices earlier in the week focus on speed, which I can do better in a group. I'll probably make Friday or an extra weekend swim more distance-oriented. But 3700 sort of out of the blue didn't feel any different from 2700. I did do a 3100y workout last week with Germantown Masters. Anyway, swimming is going just fine. Sort of picking up where I left off when I last swam masters in September. Although I think I'm a little slower at the moment... probably due to less yardage overall to this point.

Biking is going pretty well also. It took a little while to feel comfortable on the road, but an easy ride Monday, which turned out to be almost 2 hours, showed me I'm rounding into a better form. My easy rides last year weren't that long, so good to see I'm finally gaining some endurance. I've been doing well in my workouts, power is going up.

By the way, before I forget, I want to reveal to you two videos. One, the song I had in my head for all of Club Challenge. Not sure how I ran as well as I did with it clanging in my head (OR HOW IT EVEN GOT THERE), but... body over mind?

Second, a special dedication. This video is for you, Thomas Stott, for your excellent physical therapy guidance and help. Make your time. hahaha.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

RRCA Club Challenge 10mi -- Back to racing

I ran this morning in the Club Challenge 10-miler, a popular race among MD/DC running clubs. Ryan McGrath was a big factor in convincing me to do this race, and Todd went from encouraging me to do it as a workout to telling me to race it. I wasn't in great run form heading in as I've done 3 total "speed" workouts which really were only 22 total minutes of pick-ups... no tempos/hill/track work, just 30-35mpw and bike/swim workouts, so I tempered my expectations and simply aimed to get out there, run hard and see what my strong aerobic fitness could do for me.

I had previewed the course a couple times with the Falls Road team within the month leading up to the race and knew I had work cut out for me... it's a very hilly and technical course, with many sharp climbs and descents and turns to make it hard to keep a rhythm. I wanted to go out feeling conservative the first couple miles and then hold a solid tempo effort while racing for placement and thus helping my club, MCRRC.

My legs weren't fresh race morning as the day before I rode some hard miles in the strong winds preceded by a 30min run, but I felt better than I expected. Tom, Conrad and I warmed up for a couple miles, got my act together and headed to the start. I saw a lot of friends from MCRRC and Falls Rd and lined myself up a few rows back so I could commit to my conservative start. Race went off and I settled in, aiming to hit 6:00 for the mile, but instead found myself holding 5:45 but very comfortably... I kind of expected that to feel a little harder, but I just went with the conservative feeling rather than thinking about the pace.

And actually that's how the rest of the race went, even through the hills. I checked my miles just to be sure I wasn't getting TOO comfortable, but I felt I was putting in a good effort and passed at least 22 people, which was thrilling! My legs were strong on the harder climbs in the middle, which I was worried about as my previous hip/quad injury was magnified on hills. But today I didn't feel the injury once. Put in a little extra effort for the last mile since I didn't feel awfully winded at that point. Finished in 57:59 (I bush-league sprinted to the finish just to get under 58) and 23rd overall. I think that's not so bad for being out of run shape, also goes to show my bike/swim training has made me fit overall, which will hopefully make it easier to get faster in running. Splits were 5:45, 5:45, 5:46, 5:41, 5:43, 5:49, 5:50, 5:53, 5:56, 5:45. Conrad got a big win and other training pals / honorary teammates had great races too.

That was a lot of fun, a really enjoyable race. Competition with friends and foes. Paced myself well and had lots of energy and leg left after the finish. And both the result and effort has gotten me really excited for the Spring. Whereas last week I was worried about where I'd be by Cherry Blossom, I'm now confident I'll still salvage a strong running season.


Ok, maybe I was having too much fun, thanks Michelle

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Load the Spaceship with the Rocket Fuel!

Training is picking up and the quality of my workouts IS getting better, which means they are getting harder, especially in biking. Two long trainer interval workouts Tuesday and Thursday, in addition to my first run workout since early December (2mi easy, 4mi @ no slower than 6:15 with 6x1min pickups every 4 minutes, 2mi easy) left me feeling pretty weary by the weekend. But no rest, I had a 2 hour ride, 10mi run and swim meet scheduled.

The ride on Saturday was probably supposed to be somewhat relaxed, Michelle and I joining Snapple mates near Sibley. Pretty early on it became evident that it wouldn't be relaxed. Bart pushed the pace early on and the rest of us just tried to hang on... it was all we could do! He eventually pulled away with John Chambers in tow. The rest of us picked up the pieces and reassembled and just rambled to the end of the ride. Wow. We were absolutely crushed by Bart. But it was still a quality ride, I was able to take plenty of pulls and locked my legs in the cellar of pain. Nah, it wasn't quite that bad but it was a good wake-up. I need a little more fitness before I rejoin the roadies. Ride data:

Sunday was the DC Tri Club swim meet at Catholic U. I signed up for the 400free, 100free, 50fly and both relays, the 200medley and 200free. I wanted to really do well in the 400, but I started way too fast... I was just off of Matias in the lane next to me after 100. That was too close! I fell apart in the second 200, averaging about 1:22s in the second half. Bad Andy... I thought I was past that. 13 seconds slower than last year. I did fine in the shorter distances, a touch slower overall than last year, which I attribute to swimming about a fifth of the total yards this year that I swam in December/January combined last year. No speed work either, so I think my performance was pretty decent despite that. Aside from that poor pacing job in the 400, it shows my speed hasn't left me despite training much less. It's encouraging me to increase the effort a little in each practice, even if I'm not going to increase yardage. I will start masters practice 1-2 times a week in the next week or so... that'll help my speed. I also notice my form is really solid at the moment. My strokes are long and smooth, so I'm glad I have that covered and I can think more of building strength and endurance... lots of paddles and pull buoys in my future.

Right after the race Matias and I went for a 10mi run through DC. We started out a little quick, settled down and then dropped the hammer somewhat in the last 2 miles. A good run, made better by the fact that my hip did not hurt at all... despite swimming beforehand (flutter kick aggravated my hip woe) and lots of start/stop at intersections (which was a cause of hip problems during runs). It's great that I can start putting in more miles and quality together and not worry about injury anymore. I don't even think about my hip when I run anymore.

I have Allie at Schrier Physical Therapy to thank for that... she pointed out lots of weaknesses and really made things right with my hip. I know more about how the legs work as one unit and will keep working to make them stronger so they stay as one. So, anyone reading this who has unresolved or curious aches/pains, go to Allie, she's fantastic at what she does.

Swam Monday AM and ran with Wiggy Monday PM. Legs were tired but it was a good shakeout to wake them up.


Monday, January 30, 2012

I love this kind of training

I am back in the swing of harder training.

I am currently swimming only 3x a week, but that's ok as my speed is more or less back and my endurance is a lot higher than it was a couple weeks ago, averaging about 2400y per practice now. I'll be back at master's practice in a week or two, but that will just replace a swim I'm doing now. It'll add some endurance and harder efforts to my usual swim schedule. I really enjoy swimming. I found this out early last year when I started finding my stroke and got faster. They're probably my favorite practices each week. I can let my mind go blank each time I'm in the water... I can't ever recall what I was thinking about after each practice, only running numbers through my head to keep track of recovery and intervals.

I'm cycling 4x a week for now, a spin, 2 harder tempo/threshold workouts and a long ride. I really enjoy the trainer workouts. It's usually 30-35min of hard cycling total, with another 30min of combined warmup/cooldown, with wattages staying within tempo and lighter threshold effort. It's fun on ZeroZeroNine, the name I gave to my TT bike (after Cyborg 009, who has the power to accelerate and move so fast everything around him looks motionless) and to watch TdF stages on the TV while listening to music on my iPod. The workouts mix up cadence and power output to confuse my legs. It's working as my longer outdoor rides have become somewhat easier... more endurance and strength for climbs or tempo efforts.

I was running 3x a week for a total of 25 or so miles, but will increase that to 4 runs per week and around 35mi, including some shorter speed work on Wednesday. I think after the next 2 weeks I will add in hills and tempo to begin building strength and a solid base. My hip is so much better now... I ran 10mi on the towpath, which has been a thorn in my side, literally, it makes my hip flare up. But I ran painfree Sunday and even felt good after standing around for a few hours handing out water with teammate Phil and Laurel at the High Cloud half-marathon. I ran 45min with Jordan today, which was another good test as consecutive running days test my hip, but it felt fine. I no longer focus on my hip when I run, so I can run more relaxed and just focus on good form.

I feel so good running I added in a new race to the schedule, the RRCA Club Challenge 10mi at the end of February, but will do that more as a workout... maybe aim for 58-59min. It's pretty hilly and will be a good workout a month out from Cherry Blossom. I ran there a couple weekends ago with friends from the Falls Road running squad, and have been fortunate to get to know Tom Stott aka Scotty Doesn't Know, who lives a mile away from me. Hopefully we'll get to running and cycling more as we have somewhat similar races on the docket.

Mmm, the joy of running healthy and loving training... this kind of strength-building training is the best. I'll be unemployed tomorrow as HSUS can't afford my position anymore. That's depressing, but the fact that training is going well and I am having so much fun doing it takes my mind off my unemployment gloom. Searching for a job is stressful in these times, but knowing I can fall back on a good swim/ride/run keeps me on the happy end of the spectrum.

Or I can just watch Arnold talk and I'll feel better instantly.