Monday, December 26, 2011

Okay Hip, Let's See What You Can Do

Thanks to my hip flexor issue, I chose not to run for about two weeks since XC Clubs. And even with a short weekend run, I'm still not going to run again until New Year's Day, just to be sure I'm giving my body ample time to recover. But Saturday's run was a big step in the right direction.

I met with Klim by the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda for a 45min Capital Crescent run. I quickly skimmed through a book on the WWII Pacific Theater, studying mostly some pictures I hadn't seen before of CV-2 USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that was attacked and sunk during Battle of Coral Sea (the prequel to Midway), a somewhat under-reported sea battle that has always intrigued me. Anyway, I was hoping I wouldn't suffer a similar (or a simile?) fate as Lady Lex while testing out my legs. It felt a little odd to be running again as 13 days off will give the legs some pop back but the running just felt weird. The good thing is that I felt really no hip ache during the run! It was indeed a little weak and tight but that should be expected. I did my stretches afterward and then the Red Fox and I scurried into the Dunkin' Donuts for some gross but essential breakfast sandwiches.

So that was good. I passed the first test. The hip did tighten up more as Klim warned later in the day, but still none of the persistent dull ache I had before. Nor did it feel like it was going to pop whenever I coughed.

Sunday AM I clambered onto the new TT bike for a 90min trainer spin, decked out in my brand new SIDI T2 triathlon shoes. Those silver-scaley ones I linked to in the last post... my main Christmas present. They fit perfect and feel wonderful on my feet. The ride was fun, I tucked into aero position for most of the ride, which is good because that means I'm getting used to my fit. No power meter, just going by time and cadence, which I kept between 92 and 100 rpm. It was also fun because I cycled to one of my now-favorite stages in the Tour de France, 2009's stage 18, the last individual time trial, which Contador won triumphantly (and sealing his 2nd overall Tour win!). I like the guy. I'm glad he punished the Schlecks and Cancellara. But more than Contador, I enjoyed watching Bradley Wiggins crank, his form is so flawless and smooth. Lance was also in this one, but wasn't very impressive in the ITT... guess he was getting old or something.

Here's a very short version of what I watched:

Friday, December 23, 2011

(Slow) & Steady As She Goes

I returned to "regular" training this week. Nothing intense, it's still too early for hard rides or swims... I'm really going to try to stick to the easy start, stronger finish strategy. These were pretty easy workouts, and I still haven't run for almost 2 weeks, but will go for 30min on Xmas morning and then another 5 days off before the next run. Then the training begins to pick up after next week and I get to run more.

Swam 1500y on Monday with a mix of 200s and 400s and some drills. Very simple, just to get back in the water and get some sort of feel back. I was actually surprised how good I felt. Clearly I have some... ok, a lot of muscular endurance to get back. At least I remembered how to flipturn.

Started my new strength regimen Tuesday AM, which consists of all body-weight exercises... no dumbbells. Will gradually work medicine balls and extra weight to my exercises but for now I need to get the muscles ready for the work ahead. In the afternoon I got back on the bike (wow, it's been 7 weeks!) and just spun easy for 55min while watching the final ITT of 2009 TdF, which was a really good one. Nothing really to report on the ride, it was just a small chain-ring, high-RPM ride.

Wednesday I swam again, only 1600y but again a mix of drill and swim. I felt a little better than I did Monday.

Thursday was another AM strength routine. I was a little sore from Tuesday since that was the first strength work I had attempted since the Spring. I'm going to have to keep it consistent in 2012. In the PM I had another spin, this time on the TT bike. I'll need to get used to TT position again, as this ride felt just wee-bit harder than Tuesday's. But I'm not worrying about power or anything now... just getting the legs turning in circles.

I swam this AM and went around 1900y, so I'm slowly bringing the distance back up. I did more pull/swim this time and some extra kicking. My legs actually responded a lot better to kicking now than they ever did earlier in the year, and I think that's due to all the stretching I've been doing. Really have been focusing on getting my hamstrings, calves and hips loose.

So for Christmas, I'm getting these from my family:

Pretty sweet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

USATF XC Club Nationals: Well, at least I wasn't last place

The title sort of gives this one away. XC Clubs didn't go so well. The past 2 weeks leading up to the race raised several red flags -- sickness and several little injuries -- that I felt I would be able to totally fight through. But by race day, I still had a pretty heavy cough and my hip flexor rang with ache every time I coughed or took a long stride. But I would do what I could to get through the race and somehow finish around PMurph or Shredder.

Didn't quite work out that way though. By 2.5mi into the race, my hip started hurting quite a bit and more importantly started feeling weak, like I was running on one good leg. I came through the first 5k in 16:50, but knew that I wouldn't sustain. At that point it was a matter of just finishing somewhat respectably, but it became quickly apparent that I would have to be content with simply finishing. 6k in people started passing left and right and I found it very difficult to keep a high cadence and pull my right leg from the goopy sections of the course. I finally got myself through the finish in around 35:30, placing 234th out of around 300 (damn, that's a fast race). OUCH (referring to the hip and the time). That's a good 90sec slower than I thought I would finish and an 18:40 second 5k. Slowest 10k I've run in over 2 years. That was a pretty miserable experience. I limped to the team area and stretched it out. Fortunately the pain went down a bit in the last 2km so I was able to slowly jog a cooldown but it was very tight still. I indulged in a good evening of beer drinking and that took my mind off the misery.

Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

The next morning a group of us went for a 5mi run through some of Seattle, finishing with donuts. Hip was stiff but not too painful. It was not until the plane ride home that it really hit me... not the pain, but how upset I was about the race. It was something I had trained hard for but unfortunately fell apart just before the big day. I got pretty frustrated and angry about the whole thing and continued feeling that way for a few more days. It was a pretty depressing time for me!

Then I thought about what led up to the race that caused my body to collapse in on itself so. At the time I didn't think I had overtrained or anything of the sort, and I may not have, but after talking to Dirk about the race and training, I realized that I just simply had not been training like I should have. What I refer to is the fact that I had a very successful Spring this year, with all 3 races being big PRs. And what led to that spring was indeed triathlon training, but also very little track work, as opposed to what I did for 2 months leading to XC, when I hit the track every week (for 8+ weeks!). I only started track work 2 weeks before my first race in March and even after that I ran the workouts controlled and not as hard as I could. I didn't really think much of it in the Spring or after, but it was the tempos and hills and strength/endurance building I did during my training that made me strong and ready to run well and healthy. I did none of that leading to XC (I did a couple tempo-y workouts, but they were short and too fast). Also, bringing up my mileage from 20 to 35 to 45 to 50 to 60 was probably way to quick of a jump. Doing that with no recent tempo/strength meant it was only a matter of time before my legs gave up.

Lesson? I should train the way I know helped me succeed in the past. Rattling off 2:20 800s at track workouts are bullets I should be keeping in the chamber for race day... and anyway, that's not the kind of speed I'll be using in a 10k! That's not to say the training was incorrect... it was just not the right training paces for me. Too fast for 10k training for me. Do more tempos and longer tempos at that... that's what increases the endurance and strength at the same time, which are essential together at distances longer than 5k.

I'll also keep the mileage much higher during triathlon season... whereas I ran 30 at most during the tri season, I will regularly hold 40-50 this year... I'll be much better prepared therefore when I eventually just focus on running later in the year, and it will help keep my endurance high for Eagleman in June.

In addition, I have a new respect for the training I did earlier this year. I aim to really nail my workouts this coming Spring, now knowing how effective they are when done correctly. Once I realized this, the passion and excitement that I usually felt when racing (that I did NOT feel the past few races) came back quickly... I am really motivated and psyched to get back into my training. And I hope to apply the same methods for when I train for XC Clubs next year as well (this will include ending triathlon season a few weeks earlier), as I want to make the race more of a priority in 2012.

I took this past week completely off from exercise to allow my body to heal. I have been starting a new stretching regimen to help ward off future joint injuries. This coming week I only have 3 swims, 3 rides and 3 strength sessions, and an optional Xmas day run. Will keep the focus on recovery but also getting my feel again for the water and the bike. At this point last year I was crushing my body in the water and on the saddle after very little/no recovery period from the previous season... I aim to be more conservative at the start of my training so I can hit the important workouts effectively and also have a lot more energy left to burn by the end of the year. Hope it works!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Turkeys and Getting Sick

Thanksgiving Day I raced in the Turkey Chase 10k in Bethesda. I hate this race. A lot. It's really hilly and I always get stuck running with the UMD XC team. In the first 2 miles they do nothing but chit-chat amongst themselves. This leads to half of them dying off before halfway, and the other half zipping ahead. That leaves me in the middle with 1-2 other confused souls. It wasn't a BAD race but it wasn't great either. I eased off the gas way too much when we got to the city, worried I was pushing the hills too hard and lost the group I was with. I ended up having to run Old Georgetown Rd pretty much alone, with no one in sight behind me and the next guy about 10sec ahead. It was a little uphill and windy, so it wasn't amenable to catching anyone. I passed Jerry and he later noted it didn't look like I was working/racing hard. I think he's right. I did enjoy my time out there, which I never do when I'm running hard. The main thoughts in my head when I'm running fast/hard are "wow, this hurts" and "I so badly want to stop NOW"... those have been my thoughts in fast or PR races. I certainly wasn't feeling like that at Turkey Chase! I ended up with a 34:32 and 11th overall, certainly not an impressive time by any stretch, but I'll take an improvement over last year's Chase, when I was cramping and dying.

The lesson? I need to get competitive at Clubs. No more being passive and afraid of going out hard. I just have to go with the race. No being conservative. I need to be aggressive. Fitness is good, but I need to just get my mind in the race, like it was in the Spring.

Friday I ran an easy 6 with Jordan on the trails, legs felt pretty loose after the 10k, which leads me to believe I held back yet again.

Saturday I took the day OFF, completely. First day off in a long time. And another first in a long time... I started to get sick. Sore throat - here comes a cold! Is that what happens when I take days off? Geez. I immediately went on a vicious offensive, gulping down zincs, tea, yogurt and broth. I hate being sick.

Sunday I woke up with a pretty sore and dry throat, but still went out for a 13mi run with PMurph, Matias and Jimmy. Probably not wise to go 13, but did it anyway. Couldn't swallow at all but put in a decent effort in the last 3 miles... although really just because I wanted to be done. My condition got worse throughout the day, and I was pretty uncomfortable by the evening.

Monday the throat was a little better, but still quite dry and sore and being replaced by pressure in the sinuses. I ran 6.5mi in the evening and actually started to feel a little better.

Tuesday AM I ran too much again, 10 with Jake, Karl and Sam and an extra 2-3mi going from and to my car. I initially felt good and the sore throat was virtually gone but started feeling worse later in the day.

Wednesday I felt pretty yucky during the day, lots of pressure in the sinuses, coughing and sneezing a lot at work. Felt a little better by the evening, but it definitely affected my track workout with GRC, 4xmile (5:15, 5:05, 4:55, 4:45). I knew the 4:45 would be really tough healthy, but still feeling sick I wasn't sure of what would happen. Strangely enough I felt really (and I mean, REALLY) good for the first 3 miles, in which we hit paces exactly. I was surprised. But 400m into the last interval I felt tired pretty quick and felt like my breathing became very restricted. I went for another 800m and dropped once I hit the 1200 (was on 4:45 pace through 1000m). Legs felt fine, but I was struggling to breathe properly. I chalk it up to the cold, and it was also pretty chilly out... it had been pretty warm here during the week so it was a bit of a shock, coupled with still feeling under the weather, I think I was going to suffer. But at least I got most of it done, that I feel good about.

Ok, so I need to focus on a few things. The hardest workouts are done, it's time to think about resting, getting fully healthy and making sure my mind is in the right place. I have to admit, I am really excited about Clubs. Zwama told me on the phone tonight that an XC 10k is one of the most painful races one can do, but that got me even more stoked. Just have to make sure I arrive in Seattle all systems go.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holding my own again

Sunday I took it easy under Jerry's orders. I originally planned a 10-12mi run but ended up doing 6mi since it was between two hard workouts (Saturday's XC and Monday's early track workout). Again, I'm learning my body is adjusting pretty well to the mileage increase. It felt comfortable, as all of my recovery runs do now. It's a different feeling from my recovery jogs in the middle of tri season. I hit 62 miles for the week, which is possibly the most I've done either ever or for the past couple years.

Tonight (Monday) was an early week track workout since many people would probably be traveling home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Workout was 1600-1200-800-400 with 3min recoveries, a good pre-race workout but also with some tough paces. Made a little tougher by a somewhat stiff wind and annoying mist. Not to mention it was a little chilly! Not a fun night to run in. This workout's B group consisted of myself, Dangerous Dave and THE SHREDDER (Jason's new nickname, because he can shred on his trusty skateboard). Tender, Danger, Shredder. It's a good group, especially since I can finally hold pace with them in workouts again (something I was able to do in spring but not during the summer/early fall). We went 4:55 (74s), 3:36 (72s), 2:20 (70s) and 65. I led the 1600 and 800, and was able to hold an even pace just like last week. Another very solid workout that I was actually able to contribute to. I cooled down a little longer than usual since the workout was a little bit short. Probably about 9mi total

That makes 3 fast workouts in 5 days. And my legs feel great. I'll run medium distance easy the next couple days before Turkey Chase 10k on Thursday. If things go fine at the 10k I plan on taking my first day off in a while on Friday (or just spin for 30min).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Running well in the grass

I ran a little bit too long on Thursday with 3 J's (Jake, Jordan, Jimmy), aiming for only an hour but ending up running 80min, for probably 11-12 miles. That gave me enough reason to slice off 20min off my Friday run, going for 40min on my neighborhood loop, probably about 6mi since I picked the pace up a little for the last 20min.

Saturday AM was another XC workout with the team at the cell phone tower fields. Larger group this time, and I had a larger B-group contingent to work with this time (Dave, Jason, Jimmy and newcomer Will). The workout was 8x1km w/ 2:30 recovery jog. The idea was to cut down pace by 5sec every 2 intervals, but after we went out in 2:58 (4:46 mile pace, huh) for the first kilometer, that cutdown probably wasn't going to happen. And it didn't! But the good thing was that we stayed consistent. Dave and Jason gained 3-5sec on me for each interval, but that's the good news! I set a goal to keep Jason within 5 seconds, and I did just that. Our paces stayed even, 2:58, 2:56, 2:55, 2:56, 3:00, 3:02, 2:57 for the kilometers. It was a little slippery out there and we nearly bit it a couple times, but it was good practice without spikes.

So this would surpass Wednesday's track workout as my best workout yet of this current run build. I don't think I've ever been able to hold a sub-5 pace for 8km of a workout, so that was pretty neat to do! And that it was on rolling grass/dirt terrain was even more constructive.

Will run shorter than planned tomorrow because of an early-week track workout planned for Monday. I also need to watch my homedawg Michelle try to qualify for the trials in Philly and Ryan take on Ironman AZ tomorrow. Less running, more time to track them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I don't understand the body

My body is reacting oddly to the increase in running mileage. When I made the 3-week initial jump from 30-40-50 from early October I picked up a few minor knocks mainly in my feet, including an ankle/achilles ache and a strange swelling in the base of one of my toes. This was expected because a 20mi total increase in 3 weeks is a leap, especially by my standards. I was a little worried after a couple weeks of 50mi because the issues didn't get worse, but not much better. The toe stopped hurting but still swells a little bit (no redness or anything), but the achilles area still ached when walking or before warming up during a run. Leading into Vet's Day I felt it getting a little better, but of course I worried that I would just aggravate it during the race. I've been wearing trainers for all runs and workouts so I could protect my feet a little, so wearing flats during the 10k might have caused issues.

To my pleasant surprise, the race effort did not hurt my feet, but actually seemed to accelerate the healing! Including last night's workout I have run 25mi since the race and each day my feet feel better. I'm going to hit 60mi this week, so it's nice to see my body is indeed healing, even though I'm not decreasing effort or mileage. It's really weird how the body works!! Michelle knows what I'm talking about.

Monday AM I ran 8mi or so with Sam and Jake, feeling no fatigue or soreness from the 10k. Tuesday AM I ran 6mi around my neighborhood loop nice and easy, and it felt quite relaxing. Last night was probably my best track workout since the Spring. 2x1600 (5:04, 5:05), 2x800 (2:26, 2:24), 4x400 (67, 67, 65, 65) with relatively short recoveries. Led the 2nd mile (first was a little quick for the group), and the 1st 800. That was something I hadn't done since my Spring season. To be honest, that is what I've wanted to do most of all in workouts during this run build. I used to be able to lead and pace the B group earlier in the year during workouts. I haven't been able to since. The past few workouts have been good, but I was just sitting in and keeping up. This workout felt comfortably tough and I was able to take control of parts of it. Progress! The 67s and 65s at the end were pretty important to me, considering I want to work on my turnover/leg speed in the coming weeks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Veteran's Day 10k and COOKIES

I'll get it out of the way first. Best part of the Veteran's Day 10k, above the "best part" that is most appropriate for this running/multisport-related blog, were the chocolate chip cookies that were provided at the race. MAN, they were great. Chewy but not overly so and with chocolate chips the size of Montana, I must have eaten at least 8 of them and even shared some with Charlie, who can do a good Cookie Monster.

About the race, it was pretty good too. Great morning for racing at Hain's Point, mid-40s at start time, so I was able to go jersey and my new half-tights, which Chris "SURPRISE" Sloane sold me, with no winter gear. A little bit windy, which one could definitely feel on the Point.

Race started and I did my best to hang back, but this also made life difficult as a big gap immediately opened up between me and my to-be main competitor in the race, PRR's Andy Ciarfalia and the front pack... about 8-10 seconds by the time we got to the point. Andy C got about 10 seconds ahead of me by mile 1, so aside from a Riadha girl I had just passed, I was alone, my least favorite way to be at HP. Came through mile 1 in 5:10 according to my watch and Jerry, who reminded me to relax. I was feeling pretty relaxed though, so it must have been a short mile. I do remember it being a little bit further down the road. The positioning stayed the same up to and around the turn at the end of HP, and came through mile 2 in 5:50, which also didn't feel right, so miles 1 and 2 definitely weren't measured correctly.

Made the turn to head down the other side of HP, and was greeted, pushed rather, by a tailwind. We had been running into a headwind from the start so this was refreshing. Came through 5k in 17:00, which was my plan. I went through in 16:40 or so last year and fell apart, so at least this year I could say I took it conservative and smart, so the race was shaping up well so far. I also had caught up to Ciarfalia and a young guy from Falls Road team, Alex Weldt, who had fallen way off his 33:low pace. I caught both at the turn to head home, at around 3.5mi. Weldt couldn't keep pace but Ciarfalia nestled behind my left shoulder and I knew it would be a race from here. We exchanged leads for the next 2 miles, giving each other momentary breaks from the unexpected headwind (yeah, it felt a headwind going both ways, must have been a crosswind).

I passed by Jerry at mile 5 and he gave me some encouragement and I realized that I was well on my way to getting close to 33:45. Ciarfalia then asked me if I was Andy as well, since all he had been hearing from guys like Charlie, Max and Jerry was encouragement for "Andy" (or fish-stick, Captain, Chicken Tender et al.). We exchanged chuckles and resumed the competition. I tried at this point to pull away and for a second I did, but strangely enough my legs weren't agreeing. They didn't hurt, they just didn't want to speed up. Aerobically I felt great... regular breathing, controlled/tempo HR, but my legs just didn't want to spin any faster or harder than sub-threshold. We sped up a bit as we came within half a mile to go, but I really couldn't get my legs to go faster, despite feeling like I had a lot of energy to expend. Finally hit mile 6 and I knew I'd hit my B goal of 33:45 or better, but Ciarfalia launched his kick and my legs didn't respond. Hit the line in 33:45 and 18th overall, 5:26/mi. My best finish at Veteran's Day and any HP 10k. And my first non-disaster at Vets Day! Sweet! And my best 10k not named Pike's Peak (which is an absurdly fast race). Also got a gift certificate for 3rd in the 25-29 age group, so that pays for a new pair of half-tights that Chris Sloane will enthusiastically sell to me.

So what about that inability to speed up? I talked to Jerry and expressed my concerns. He presented a logical explanation: I need more speed work. I agree. I've had 3 straight weeks of good speed work, but that's not enough. A months-worth more of speed and I hopefully will be able to increase my turnover and leg speed by XC Club Nationals. But this race was quite the positive experience and was good practice for me to finally race smart and strong the whole way through. Plus, it was a lot of fun and to me that was the BEST part of all. As I wrote before, my competitive spirit had been quelled after Columbia, but running MCM around Emily in October reignited that fire. I felt it today and it made racing a heck of a lot more exciting. Running with the team and seeing them succeed as well (we won the team competition, no thanks to me who always runs too slow to be counted) makes it even better.

Here's to some more speed and fun in the next month.

1 mile in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Godzilla likes races too


Another solid week of running leading into Veteran's Day 10k this Sunday. Ran about 10mi on Monday with Uncle Buttweenis, a spin on Tuesday, hard but short track workout Wednesday, and a pair of shakeout runs Thursday and Friday (today).

Wednesday's track was another success, but good golly it was hard. It seemed shorter and therefore easier, but this would end up being only half true. I felt really light and loose in the warmup, which is great news to me, as I've been feeling a little better each week. This was definitely the best I've felt while running since I started focusing on my run training again. The workout was 2k @ 77s, 2x1k @ 73s and 72s, 4x500 @ 67s. We really were closer to 75s on the 2k, hit the 1ks on time and then I started to fall apart a bit on the 500s. First one I hit 67, but really lagged on the second, coming in at closer to 70. I was ready to call it quits then, but PMurph (almost literally, I fear) slapped some sense into me and convinced me to finish the workout. Hit the last two on pace, in 67 each, so I still have some mental demons to defeat apparently since my legs clearly weren't finished. Thanks to Patrick for somehow knowing this.

So it was a hard workout with short recoveries that was about the edge of my abilities, but it apparently was the right workout as Thursday's recovery run felt really smooth. No stiffness or aches, but rather my legs felt loose and ready to go faster. That's the idea, I think?? One more easy run tomorrow with strides and then it's time to race again!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cross weekend & new friend

I met up with some GRCers on Saturday AM at the "Cell Phone Towers" field for a cross country workout. It was mostly A groupers but fortunately Jimmy showed up so I had a workout partner... and it's really good he showed as the A group ran away from me in the first interval!

Ah, the Cell Phone Towers field. Last time I did a workout there was during high school, as the Sidwell XC team often went there for workouts. Funny enough, they were out there Saturday AM as well doing some sort of time trial workout. That was actually a bit annoying to me, as it brought back memories of being held back in order to "run as a group"... it certainly didn't help my development that season, and I don't remember doing workouts in the offseason as a team. The same coach I had then is still the coach and he was out there shouting times... it would have been nice to have that back in my day. O well, that's the past!

So this workout was 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 minutes @ 10k pace, with recoveries being half of each interval. It was a cold morning, barely above freezing. I like the cold though, and I think it helped as I had a great workout. Was holding around 5:20-5:30s for the intervals... my best estimate based on what Jimmy was clocking. That's good enough, because I want to hold that at both Veteran's Day and XC Club Nationals. It was an effort that was tough but didn't hurt, and was long enough that I got to see if my goal paces are realistic... I think they are.

I was down and out for the rest of the day because of this workout. It was practically a 10k race on terrain I'm not used to running on! Sunday AM I went for a shakeout jog and it really helped loosen my legs, especially my feet, which have been picking up random knocks since I've been building up my mileage. The good running continues! Hopefully a good sign for Sunday's Veteran's Day race.

Oh, I got a new bike! It's a custom-built TT bike from Elite Bicycles, with full-Ultegra spec (except for pedals and wheels) and a comfy (and complimentary!) new ISM Prologue saddle. The bike of my dreams. The name is almost decided but will be unveiled, uh, soon. Not to build suspense, but because it needs the absolute perfect name possible. Plus, no one other than me cares. But it's really important, you know.

Hmm, what to name you?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hi again

Yeah, that Nation's FLASH never really became more than a FLASH. Oops. Chalk it up to laziness and a small side of disappointment. But now I think I'll start blogging again. The triathlon season is long over and I'm in the midst of a short running season, attempting to regain some of my Spring 2011 glory, culminating in hopefully a good race at USATF XC Club Nationals in Seattle on December 10.

In a couple weeks I'll be racing at Veteran's Day 10k, and I don't really know why. I always do terribly at that race. 2 years in a row, in fact. Both were attempts at big PRs, and both were colossal failures. But I like to think I'm older and wiser (?) and this time I'll succeed... but this time I'm not going for a PR, just to get some practice in and hopefully a confidence boost. I guess I'm going for a Veteran's Day PR, which currently stands at 34:06, my 3rd best 10k time to date. 11 days after that I'll run the Turkey Chase 10k, another 10k I haven't had much luck in, but I'm doing it for the same reason as Veteran's Day, practice and hopefully a confidence boost. A course PR might be good too.

And I suppose I have reason to be confident going into races now, as I've had 2 fantastic track workouts, and hard ones at that. Last week it was 2x2000 + 4x1000, all at the prescribed paces (which going in I thought were too fast) and yesterday was 6x800 + 6x400. Both workouts I was able to not only FINISH (with Patrick Murphy, the first time in a long time we were able to do that with the souped-up B group) but also hang onto the group through all intervals. So, I have all that going for me. It's been really helpful having Coach Jerry getting involved with my running. I'm taking a break from swimming and only cycling easy 2-3 days a week, so Todd is giving me some freedom with my running. I'm turning to Jerry and he's been very supportive and helpful, as have my GRC teammates.

I also had an out-of-nowhere 17-mile long run on Sunday. I jumped into the Marine Corps Marathon at mile 8.5 with my pal Ryan McGrath, and we planned on running together until mile 20. We decided a mile or so later to stick with Falls Road runner Emily Hurley in her quest for sub-3 hours, so my long run now had purpose. Around the 18-mile marker, I made a decision to stick with Emily for a little longer, to maybe mile 23, since the course would only get tougher, and to be honest, I was feeling really good! I hadn't run longer than 11 miles in a while, so why not get to 14? Ryan hopped off at mile 20, his long run complete. I stayed just ahead of Emily, and within the next couple miles, the 8th, 9th and 11th place girls (Emily was 10th at this point) all came within 15 meters of each other. I could sense the competitive tension and spirit and I got really pumped up from it, getting visions of my races in the near future. In those moments I felt really excited to race again. I hadn't felt such fire since before Columbia! I was so excited in fact that I totally forgot I was going to jump out at mile 23 and ran with Emily to mile 26, a 17.5 mile run for me! Holy cow. I jumped out as she powered her way past some competitors and through the last .2 miles to a 2:56 and 10th overall finish. A mighty effort. As for me, I felt no worse for the wear, despite that being my longest run by at least 5 miles in the last 2-3 years.

I guess if nothing else, it made me a little stronger, more confident in my stamina and most importantly, excited to race again. So yeah, running is going well. I hope it shows in the coming race weekends.

Me, Ryan and Emily just past 13.1 at Hain's Point during MCM.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nation's Triathlon FLASH

4th Elite, 6th overall at Nation's Triathlon. 35:20 run and 57:15 bike. Very pleased. Will update later. Just wanted to do one of those FLASH results to satisfy what interested parties there may be.

Monday, August 22, 2011

No race? No problem.

This was my first weekend since mid-July without a race or double. I welcomed it as I had started to feel pretty fatigued and possibly overtrained! I originally planned to race in the Church Creek 40k time trial, but decided against it when Todd assigned a 40mi/3mi hard brick for Saturday. I thought I'd be better served to get in a longer ride and quality brick workout, especially since I've recently become concerned about my run, which seems to have weakened a bit as I've focused more on my cycling. I took Thursday OFF save for a 30min ride, and Friday I only swam, forgoing the 45min run I had planned. I think that helped me greatly as Saturday AM I felt strong again!

First part of Saturday's brick was a 40mi ride with tempo. I chose to ride a 20mi out/back on Rt. 28. Another goal of this ride was to practice hydration/nutrition, as my inability to properly do either reared it's uuuuugly head at Luray. Ride went well, although it felt awfully hot/steamy outside. I was sweating buckets, must've been really humid or something. My aerobar armpads were caked with sweaty foam. Yuck. Avg'ed around 220w for the ride, which is just about a low-tempo wattage, and I threw in several high-tempo efforts throughout the ride. However, I don't think I drank enough. I had 2 bottles but I only drank about one and a third of them... For 40mi on a humid day I should be polishing off both 16 oz. bottles. Oops...

The run started off well enough, hitting 5:40 for the first mile that was slightly downhill. I wanted to make the first mile a fast one, but that was a little slower than I wanted. Then I turned around and the uphill 2nd mile started to hurt. I wasn't cramping for once, thanks to the EFS shot I took (thanks to my man Matias who recommended it), but I felt pretty dehydrated. I definitely didn't take in enough water for the heat (it was up to 90 at this point). Mile 2 clocked in at 6:20. Oof. Should've been closer to 6:00. Mile 3 was half up and half down... and a way too slow U-turn in between. I took this mile a little easier as I didn't want to knock myself back out like earlier in the week, so I jogged in a 6:30. I was a little more tired than expected by the 40mi tempo and didn't hydrate properly, but I'll accept a 6:14/mile effort for training. Good workout, but I still have work to do with properly hydrating myself.

Sunday "just" featured a run, an 8mi build, starting easy and finishing hard. I wanted to do part of it with my GRC teammates, but they run too fast for my easy pace, so I ran the first 4 with PMurph from Old Anglers Inn (the eventual finish destination for the main GRC group) with the intention of meeting GRCers at the 4mi mark and finishing with them. We ran smooth, building from a 7:30 mile to a 6:58 by mile 4. After waiting a couple minutes I saw Texabama Paul screaming down the towpath, announcing his 5:50 pace to me and Patrick. I decided to jump in with him and we bombed (well, that's how it felt to me) down the canal. The next 4 miles went by quick, and we hit all 4 miles between 5:50 and 6:00. It wasn't easy, as running fast on the towpath never is, but my HR was stable, maintaining a comfortable tempo. I started falling off a bit in the last half mile but I pushed myself back up as I felt slightly ashamed.... This guy Paul has been running this pace for nearly 18 miles!! Surely I can do it for a measly 4.5!! Christ! Ok, he's a potential US Olympic Trials qualifier, but still! But I finished the run strong and didn't kill myself to do so. After being unsure of my run strength a few days ago, I'm feeling much better about it now.

That was a good and hard weekend. An even tougher week (this one) lies in wait, starting tonight at Masters practice. It's only a couple weeks until Nation's!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Luray International Triathlon race report: The bike breaks through

On May 23 I wasn't really looking forward to this race. I had just come off an incredibly disappointing bike split at the Columbia Triathlon and Luray was only hillier and longer. The only reason I decided to do it was because it fell on a good calendar date and was several weeks out from Nations, a good tuneup. Then I visited the Czech Republic, biked, thought lot about my biking and once I got back to the USA, I paid a visit to Elite Bicycles in Philadelphia, and that would change, well, a lot of things. Several bike races and a solid race at Culpeper later, I was pumped for Luray. My bike legs had, overnight seemingly, realized the training they did over the winter and spring and were strong and much faster than before, and I felt pretty confident going into the race I challenged a couple years ago (the sprint, that time)... of course the legs were always strong, it was the bike fit that was holding me back. No more, thanks to Max at Elite.

Pre-race -- This was pretty important. The group of people I was staying with rented a cabin on a mountain, which required a nearly half-mile walk up a steep dirt road that 2-wheel drive cars could not get up (my hardy 2-door Civic, for as many bikes as it can carry in it's innards, cannot tread anything but road). I had to walk up this mountain road twice on Friday evening. We were all sweating and tired after each walk up, so I considered this my Friday run, but it was too much.

SWIM (1500m) -- 24:03, 14th. This went fine, I was slowed a bit by the 2 waves in front of me (3 and 6min ahead). Within the first 200m i caught up to 40-49 men and by halfway I was catching and going by 30-39 men. This wasn't helpful in keeping a good draft or a straight line as I had to dodge or give up drafts in order to move out of the way. This kind of sucked, but my time didn't suffer by all that much. Managed to keep a good tempo without crushing myself, stayed calm. Came out of the water feeling pretty good. Judging by time vs. effort, the swim may have been a little long, as Matias swam only 22min.

T1 -- 1:55, 80th. I totally blew this. It was going ok until I was about to leave transition when my aero bottle popped loose from its bracket. I panicked and stopped to fix it in transition. Should have just got on the bike and tried to fix it while moving. After fumbling around with it, I still wasn't able to fix it, so I just wasted all that time. Also took too long to take off speed suit. Need to really nail that down, lost 40sec to Eric Sorensen and a couple other guys I wanted to beat.

BIKE (42.1km) -- 1:09:13, 7th. This went great. I was picking off people and really using my power on the steep hills. Was able to stay in aero the whole time thanks to the new fit, which is a major help. I put myself in a good strong tempo and just focused on that effort. First time I felt really in control on the bike during a 40k and without a doubt my best bike split rank in a competitive race. It's clear the training is finally being put to good use thanks to the bike fit. Rode the same time as Columbia, except this was over 1km longer and a slower (read: much hillier) course. Beat Sorensen's split and just behind Mike Harlow's, which are good benchmarks for me. Only problem... I didn't drink nearly enough. I was scrambling for water from my aero bottle after I drained it (which was loose the entire ride, had to hold it in place with wrists), and was empty 4mi from transition. I should've put on a second small bottle on the frame. Dumb mistake that I'd pay for on the run.

T2 -- 1:00, 51st. This doesn't look good either. Not sure what went wrong here, I think I racked my bike and then it slid off so that wasted a few more precious seconds, I forget.

RUN (10km) -- 39:03, 10th. First 2 miles were just fine, good pace and turnover. Then I hit the gravel/loose rocks for the middle half and it just progressively got worse. My flats didn't do too well on the gravel and around mile 4 I started feeling my calves cramp up. I know this was a combination of not enough water on the ride (and being unable to drink properly/enough while running), and the climbing I did Friday night. I had to slow up within the last 2 miles or so at points to shake out and prevent cramps, and this led to a pretty slow final mile... Not happy with the time, but I am glad I avoided calf cramps... need to hydrate better and avoid excess work the day before a race. This run should have been much better. It cost me at least 2 placements, compared to what I can run on a course like Luray's.

2:15:13, 7th overall. Happy with the time and overall placement, another good result in a race I wasn't rested or taperedfor. This would've ranked me higher in previous years but it was a more competitive race this particular year. Really pleased with my bike and cool with the swim. Very disappointed in my lame transitions and how I set myself up for failure on the run. Nevertheless, this instills a good deal of confidence in myself. I know I can now bike with the better cyclists. I just need to make sure I'm setting myself up well for the kind of run I am capable of. Zero and Pat finished 8th and 9th, so it was cool to line up with them in the results. Alyssa was 2nd in the ladies race and Ryan shook off a frustrating bike mechanical to finish respectably, although he'll disagree. Triathlon rookie Ben had a fine race too.

The next day we went out to Skyline Drive... Pat and I rode for 2 hours and then followed with a solid 45min run, with the pace picking up considerably for the last 10-15min. What a weekend!!

Big shout out to MATIAS and his fiancee Katie, who went first and first overall in the olympic, and 1-2 in the sprint the next day. What better wedding gift can two triathletes ask for?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Culpeper Sprint Triathlon race report

This is a little late, but I got lazy. Culpeper Sprint in... Culpeper, VA... was to be my first triathlon since Columbia, and despite it being really just a training opportunity as I was in no way rested or tapered (not after 2 straight weekends of race doubles and the typical weekly training schedule), I was quite hungry to perform well. Especially on the bike... now that I have a perfect bike fit there are no more excuses for me! Matias was racing as well as his fiancee Katie, so a Snapple podium sweep was possible, but I would have to hold up my end of the bargain (something I didn't do in Fallston earlier this year with Dirk!).

750m swim, 16.8mi bike, 5km run.

The swim was pretty uneventful. I got out ahead of the crowd quickly and after 250m or so I settled behind two pairs of feet swimming side-by-side. I felt the pace was little easy, but that's probably a benefit of the mega-draft I found myself in. I stayed on the feet until about 100m to go when one of the guys appeared to pick up the pace. I stayed relaxed and left the water in 6th place, 11:26. Was surprised how calm I felt, my HR was low but I was pumped up!

I had a slow transition thanks to once again being unable to quickly find my bike. The rows all looked the same and I didn't have the concentration to focus on the aisle signs. Finally found 002 and ripped off my speedsuit and got on the bike. One of the guys who came out before me was leaving transition next to me and his dad or some guy said to him "Good job! Only a few guys ahead of you, you will quickly catch up to them and win!" Wrong thing to say around competition! I got on 002 and pretty quickly got ahead of him and 5th place. 2 more people to catch! I found myself moving quickly on the bike through a VERY hilly course. No flats, as opposed to what was advertised, which was a good thing! Just up and down. Within the next couple miles I passed #3 and around mile 6 passed #2. Only Matias ahead, but I knew I wouldn't see him until we pass each other on the run. Fine. I just focused on building a gap and keeping that tempo effort, which I did. Came back to transition feeling pretty good still in 2nd place (3rd overall bike split, 44:52, 22.6mph).

Hit the run and kept looking back toward transition to see where #3 was... I got about .3 miles out of transition until I saw him just pulling in. So it wasn't going to be a very close race. I settled into a good pace and went through the first mile. A race volunteer mentioned to me that "there's only one guy ahead of you, and he's wearing your jersey." I said "Cool, I know." Coming back past the mile 1 marker I finally saw #3... looked to be at least 2min behind me at this point. A little past this point Matias and I almost ran into each other (on his way to the finish of course). Knowing he was about 4:30 ahead of me, I didn't have much motivation to hammer the run. I settled into tempo pace and held it, all the while opening the gap further on #3 (3rd overall run split, 17:42) I cruised into the finish 2nd overall, 1:16:09. Matias won handily and Katie D. was the 2nd overall woman (11th overall in the race if I'm not mistaken). That made the result quite a bit cooler.

Despite what I consider largely slow splits, I am very happy with this race, especially with how tired I was coming in. The swim had to have been long, since Matias was about 90sec slower than last year's top swimmer... that's not realistic. And I was a good minute slower than what I am capable of swimming (and have swum) for 750m. The bike split I am actually very pleased with. It was hillier and slower than Columbia, yet I averaged quite a bit faster and had the 3rd best split, which is the first time I have had as good a bike rank as run rank. Compared to splits from previous years, I rank near or better than guys who I have considered superior cyclists, so that's cool. Granted, I didn't take the run very hard, but it shows the Elite fitting is finally letting me use the power I've developed since the winter months. In all I feel this race was great practice, I didn't have to dig deep or crush my legs, and the result built my confidence a good bit.

And I got a sandwich

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hell of a weekend

That's what it was, or perhaps a weekend of hell? It was darn hot, but I had lots to do. Another race double and a long run Sunday.

It wasn't an easy week leading up into the weekend. Wednesday's track workout was my worst of the year, I felt lethargic and was unable to get in the whole workout, which may have been the smart thing to do anyway since it was so humid and I was just coming off that previous weekend's double. Instead of a 5-4-3-2-1 of around 5:00/mile pace, I ended up doing 5-3-2-2-1, which is better than nothing, but I wasn't pleased with how I felt. Swimming went well despite swimming in water of at least 86 degrees. No major bike workouts, just some recovery rides.

Saturday started with the Lost River Classic bike race, in the mountains of West Virginia. Weather was actually decent, mid-80s and some cloud cover. Bart and Matias had given me ample advice on how to approach this race... be near the front for the first climb as it was sure to blow up the field. They were right. Into the first climb people quickly dropped back when we hit the first of two steep pitches near the top. I nearly got caught behind as a larger fellow who was directly in front of me came to a virtual stop, but I was able to swerve around him and quickly bridge the gap that he allowed to form between him and the front 5 or so guys. 2 others followed up the hill and just like that we had a 8-man break from the rest of the field. This group worked perfectly together and 10mi into our break we were 1:30 up on the rest of the field. We each had a role, I set the tempo/pace on uphills, a few guys took longer pulls on the 2 long flat sections, and another couple charged on the descents, which helped us increase our advantage.

I attacked a bit too late on the final sprint climb, about 50m too late... I should've started my sprint 200m out but I waited until 150m, and that was a huge blunder. It cost me podium for sure, but I ended up 5th as our little pack finished together. We all must have ended up at least 3min ahead of the rest of the field, which is a pretty big gap! It was a lot of fun and I felt like my legs got in a very solid workout.

That evening was the Crystal City 5km. I was sort of looking forward to it until I warmed up and realized just how yucky the weather was. So humid and hot!!! Absolutely miserable. I discarded my time goals and decided to just go by feel and try to beat the people around me. It was pretty awful, hard to breathe and I was just drenched in my own sweat, but I ended up racing well. The time wasn't good, 16:58, but I was able to start a little more conservative than normal and ended up picking off no less than 7 high schoolers who started out ahead of me, and exact revenge on Tezeta Dengersa, the mighty Ethiopian lady who beat me at Rockville Rotary 8km last week (part of another bike/run race double). She's really good... I can beat her fresh no problem, but she's good competition when I have a bike race in my legs. Nearly beat Edmund Burke as well, who I am sure ran long that morning... that guy is competition when I'm fresh. In all this was another good race/workout. I wouldn't have run that hard on my own in brutal heat, so this was great training!

The next morning I met my big brother Jordan at the Capital Crescent head to jump on a GRC train headed by Karl, Matias and Max, with Dirk riding along providing much-needed life-support (hydration). We trotted 10 miles to Matias' apartment in Alexandria at around 7min pace, and surprisingly it felt ok. It was definitely still too warm out and I was feeling Saturday's double in my heavy legs, but after a couple miles my legs loosened up and I enjoyed the run.

That made 3 hard or long workouts within 24 hours. Probably the hottest and hardest 24 hours of my life! But waking up Monday morning I felt fine, which is odd considering last Monday I felt terrible. I guess Todd was right, this kind of training is indeed making me stronger.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2x Race Saturday

This past Saturday I jumped back into racing (and starting a 5-week race binge) in a daunting way: 2 races in one day. I've never done that before, but it was more manageable/sane because it was a bike race and running race. Giro di Coppi road race (cycling) in the afternoon, Rockville Twilight Runfest 8km (running) in the evening. Todd agreed this was an excellent workout opportunity and I wanted to get the most out of both races while at the same time not embarrass myself at the 8k late in the day.

The cat 5 wave of GdC set off around 1:05pm, which was quite a bit later than I would've liked with an evening running race looming. I sat in for the first of three laps with the mindset that I wanted to improve on my 3rd place finish in 2010 with a win this year. However, sitting in meant that I would do very little work until the last 200m to go. I got a bit frustrated once we finished lap 1 because I felt I was doing no work. I made up my mind at that point that I would make the race harder for me and potentially sacrifice an easier chance victory by moving to the front and leading or pulling for multiple stretches... and that's what I did. I pulled for about 3 miles of lap 2 and led a short break on lap 3 before taking the lead 2 more times, choosing the hilliest portions for my leads. I felt like I was working a lot more. However, it left me a bit drained for the final sprint climb, and once we hit the 200m to go mark, I was quickly passed by most of the 15-or-so man pack that broke away, ending up 12th overall when I crossed the line. The placement was a bit of a disappointment, but I just had no pop for that short sprint. I was very satisfied with the effort and work I put in, and Todd agreed that was the takeaway from this race. I did try to win, but did so the hard way and I think that was more beneficial to me and my triathlon training than simply sitting in and working for only 200m.

I relaxed a bit and ate some Honey Stinger waffles (my new go-to energy snack) in the few hours before the 8k, discussing race strategy with Paul Zwama. We correctly locked the door to Dirk's apartment and made our way to the race. We met up with Texas Paul at the invited athlete room (where I felt rather insignificant, surrounded by Ethiopians, a Dutchman, a Texman/Alabaman and other area legends) and warmed up for a sweaty 2 miles. I was drenched before the start. It was so humid. But I was quite surprised how good my legs felt. I figured, as long as there are no hills, I'll be just fine. So I was quite disappointed to look to my right about .25mi from the start and see a hill as part of the course. My quads quivered at the thought. O well, it's time to race.

The 8k begins and people blast off from the start. I tried my darndest to go slow and conservative, but there were too many people practically sprinting toward the first turn, so I found myself caught in the crowd. PMurph and I joined forces and made our way through a short mile 1 in under 5:10... too fast for me. I eased up a bit and took it slow up the hills. Yes, there were plenty of those... taking it slow up them was the only solution if I wanted to live through the entirety of the race! We hit mile 2 in around 10:30, so my pace did indeed slow, which was fine, but I was starting to feel really hot. Only 3 miles to go... geez, I was already looking forward to finishing. My pace slowed between 3 and 4 and the gap I had opened on PMurph had closed a bit, but I ignored the clock at this point... just finish strong. The last mile was a desperate effort to get to the finish. I was passed by a couple people, and heard footsteps catching up, but finally crossed the line in 27:39. Not a great time, but a 40-second PR nonetheless, and not terrible considering I raced beforehand... around a 34min 10k equivalent, which I'll take after a ride! And I ranked quite bit closer to my usual race rivals and I expected.

Apparently I was moving slow enough to make the camera blur out of boredom.

So that was one heck of a day and a great workout overall. I'm doing it again this coming Saturday, with Lost River Classic in the late morning and Crystal City 5k in the evening. I'll aim to run a bit smarter in the 5k and sit in a little bit more at the bike race. I would like to show up a little fresher for the 5k than I did for the 8k as it should be a flatter and faster course.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prague, week 2, o the hills

I didn't really have any chances to post while I was in Prague (I am back in USA now), but plenty happened last week.

First off of course the riding. I rode a lot. It was absolutely perfect weather for the first 4 days of the week and I took advantage of each day. An 80k on Monday, a tempo 38.2k on Tuesday, a solid brick on Wednesday and a recovery ride Thursday. The 80k was pretty hilly, with a 5mile climb thrown in... the scenery was majestic, as I rode along a glistening river with houses and churches placed atop hills on the other side. It was sunny and the sky was blue and it was quite pretty. I am not a scenery person when I train, but I really enjoyed it on this ride. The tempo ride was solid, totally unplanned but 15 seconds into the ride I felt really good, so I just rode hard, hitting around 22mph average, which I feel is pretty decent for a rolling course on road bike and no aerobars. There was a neat cobblestone section in the middle I had to go over twice which slowed things down but most importantly it jarred my water bottle loose before the halfway point and I had to ride in thirst. I think that actually made me ride faster as I really wanted something to drink.

The brick is a segue into running for the week. As I touched on last post I had been running a little more than planned and that carried over into this week. I ran an hour after the Tuesday tempo ride and Wednesday had a brick run, a fast run right off the bike. The ride wasn't hard, a 200w effort over 75min, but the run was tough. 2mi at a hard effort, final 20min settle and build pace. I ran the first two miles in 5:30, 5:19, and settled into the 20min build, going 7:09, 6:26, 5:50. It felt great! Especially the first two hard miles. My goal for Nation's is to run a 34:30 10k off the bike, and being able to comfortably hit 5:30 right off the bike and then get faster will go a long way toward helping me realize that goal.

I had a bit of a failed tempo run on Thursday, but I chalk that up to 5 hard workouts in 3 days... I suppose I was due to have a bad one. I put in several tempo miles but 2 less than I wanted. Still put in 7.5mi for the workout. A 70min run Friday to shake out the legs ended my training in Prague. Total for the week including today will end up being around 40mi, which is the most for me in a while. Best part is I feel like I am getting into really good running shape, which I didn't expect so early into the summer. The 2 weeks of training at 1100 feet and all those hills and hitting nearly 40mi both weeks really boosted my run fitness.

Swimming of course was not great as I only got in two swims this week. It is just tough to get motivated to swim so many laps in a tiny pool. Only notable swim was the end of Tuesday's workout, when I swam 800m in 11:16, which is just slightly slower than I was at Columbia. I made sure to make my wall turns slow and gentle, so it couldn't have added much of anything to my time. It is an encouraging time as it shows that I can swim a little less and still maintain my fitness. My goal for the summer is to maintain my swim speed, I will try to advance after the Fall season.

Well, that was a great 2 weeks of training. I ride 6 times next week, so I look forward to that. I also decided to add a couple running races to my schedule, the twilight races (8k and 5k) in July, but not as goals, but workouts after cycling races the same day. It worked for the 10k last week so these should also be good workouts.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prague, week 1, cycling, racing, 10m swimming

One week in Prague has gone by, and I wish I could be here longer. The cycling is amazing, few cars and lots of open road. No suburbs or secondary cities like Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Arlington, etc. Once you leave Prague, it's just a smattering of small villages that comprise of some houses and a few keystone buildings like the church, post office, grocery, etc. So the rides I have been on have been two of the best. I am looking forward to more rides next week. I have been on 3 so far since Monday. The weather is fine here, the temperatures stay between the mid-60s and high-70s, which is great, but it can rain often. CZ is not far from a permanent high over the Atlantic which just tosses rain clouds over Europe, and it is fairly active now. Unlike DC, it is hard to predict rain as it only takes a few hours for weather to travel this way, so only by looking at the sky can one make a reasonable weather prediction. Still, I will take the occasional albeit unpredictable rain shower over the humidity and heat of DC any day.

Here are two of my rides... the third was more of a test spin to make sure my bike worked properly. Speeds are a bit low as I have been riding with a guide who isn't in top shape at the moment, but I am still able to break away and get some good power in. But check out those climbs... it is no wonder the best cyclists come from or train in Europe. Today is a day off but tomorrow is another long one.

Running is good as well. I have a great place to run, Hvezda park, a building shaped like a star, that has several trails and dirt paths that can total over 12km if one is to cover the entire park, plus the trails and roads to and from.

I even participated in a race. If you may recall, I raced twice when I was in CZ two years ago and won both, earning a banana in one and wine in the other. I guess I have a reputation to uphold? Well, it wasn't upheld well this time. I raced in a 10k just hours after finishing a 2 hour hilly ride and the weather was humid at that time of day (6pm). I was glad to see some competition there, as they would help me make the race into a good workout, as I could feel this was not going to be much of a race, for me at least. I ended up 6th, with a time somewhere in the mid 34's. Nothing remarkable, but after a long hill ride, this was a great workout. I would love to run that fast after the bike leg at Nation's. The course was similar, relatively flat, but half on dirt.

Best part of all was that the race cost about 2 dollars.

Swimming hasn't been great as all I have is a 10m pool at my disposal, but I've taken advantage of it for one swim, putting in a 400m warmup, 2x (6x50 drill). 1000 hard, to total 2000m. 200 laps is about all I can stand. I'll get in some more swims, but it isn't too important. I can do some extra when I get back to the states after next week.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heading to Prague

I'm leaving tomorrow for Prague. I'll have Sicar in tow and a 10m pool at my disposal. This should be interesting... at least the riding and running will be good. Average temperatures at this time of year are high 60s to mid 70s, with occasional rain showers. I'm looking forward to some good long rides and continuing my bike training.

Speaking of that, it's been my June so far. Lots of cycling. All at least aerobic effort. And it's been quite good. I had a decent workout yesterday of 2x12min at high tempo effort. Couldn't use power meter because the battery in the hub died early into the ride. Lots of miles and efforts each week now.

Running is getting back there, I had a very solid track workout Wednesday after some pretty difficult (for me) Wednesday workouts where I suffered from a combination of fitness that wasn't quite completely back and the heat. Now I feel great on my long/recovery runs and strong at track. Also, I've been adding in an hour ride right before track practice. It warms me up a little but it also seems to be teaching my body to run fast even when the legs are a little tired. I hope this will really help me at Nation's.

Swimming, similar to running, hadn't been great since Columbia. I've been practicing a bit irregularly, but since last week I've returned to my normal swim schedule plus my lesson with Coach Ward. And my fitness has returned, as I put in 15x100 on 1:30, coming in at a 1:12 average. Granted this is not a terribly difficult interval for me, but it's nice to have the speed back.

So I'll try to post some "interesting" training that I do in CZ. Byebye.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

6/1 -- Welcome to Dickerson

As I stated in the last post, this summer will be dedicated to cycling and building some form of mental fortitude for those times when I will be isolated from competition on the race course. I made Tuesday's ride the first solid solo effort.

Sicar and I (as I have racked ZeroZeroTwo for the foreseeable future) set out from the Rt. 28 Safeway and headed north toward Dickerson for a 75-80min ride. It was just us, some passing cars, the trees and a 8-10mph crosswind... and blistering heat! Not a cloud in the sky above, just the brightly shining sun. But the heat would be combated with 2 bottles of liquid and fierce determination to expunge a weakness that was revealed all too dramatically at Columbia. I focused on maintaining an aerobic (197-221w) wattage throughout the ride, and it wasn't too difficult, as Rt. 28 has lots of long rollers but no dramatic spikes in elevation. Kept around 209-212 for the duration (28.5 miles, made it to Dickerson and turned back), and it felt quite good albeit a bit warm even by the turnaround. In fact, the whole riding alone thing was the best part. I really got to pay heed to my own effort (via cadence and power) and to nothing else, save for staying out of the way of passing autos. It can be a little lonely, but I'll get to defeating those feelings altogether.

So if this ride was any indication, I'm in for a great summer of training and cycling, and I'm sure Route 28 and I will become quite familiar and close... the rides will only get harder, but if I can MAKE myself work in isolation as effectively, then I will be much better prepared come race day. I want to bike as furiously as I swim and run!

I'll be seeing that sign many times in the coming summery days.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5/31 -- The Dream

The week since Columbia has been relatively light, with the exception of the weekend, where I biked kind of hard on Saturday, ran and rode for a few hours in the brutal sunny heat on Sunday after my first swim in 7 days (wow... there's nothing quite like having tired arms after 100y and then using them for 3900 more). It was a fine recovery week, and maybe I needed it more mentally than physically (my bike muscles were unaffected from Columbia, a fact which has bothered me greatly). I was ready to get back into regular training by yesterday, sure... but I seemed to be lacking some of the fire and vigor I had in the months leading up to Columbia.

That is, until last night.

I went to sleep and began one of the best dreams I've had. I can't believe I'm blogging about a dream, by the way. It was the Luray Triathlon, which I did a couple years ago (the sprint) and am signed up for this year (the olympic). After some flip-flopping pre-race as to whether I'd wear body glide I decided to slather it on and zipped up my wetsuit. Dirk was there too, just like at Columbia. I don't remember much about the swim other than that it seemed VERY fast and I was at the shore before I knew it... in 4th place! Dirk right behind me. We set out onto the bike course and quickly passed the 3 fellows in front. We had the lead... and kept it into transition. We went out for the run and after a couple miles I started picking up speed and ran away from Dirk for the win! I woke up shortly after with Oscar purring into my face and in frustration that he ended my dream, I flailed my arms at him and bounded out of the bed... he seemed unaffected by my display of fury.

But anyway, the point is that this was an awesome dream (Apologies to Dirk, but he was indeed a casualty of my subconscious). What happened are some things that have never happened or would only happen in exceptional circumstances (high swim finish, winning the bike, passing Dirk in a run, winning a decent race). But it seemed so real, somehow.

MAIN POINT: It got me really excited to train and race again... at the same and even greater intensity than before. I will be spending much of the summer on the bike and as a result a little less time running and possibly swimming (as my level at Columbia indicates I've done well with my swim... but the bike still needs a lot of work all around). I needed something to reignite the passion as it was before Columbia, and this dream was just it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/22 -- Columbia Triathlon Race Report

I wrote it on the Snapple team site... so might as well just use it here too.

It was ideal conditions for a race... quite unlike last year, where I arrived at Centennial Lake with a really bad sore throat in pouring rain. It was low-60s and sunny this time, so the race would at least be more enjoyable! I also had pretty much all of my training pals racing with me in my wave, including Dirk de Heer, Michelle Miller, Matias Palavecino, Lucas McCollum, Ryan McGrath and also Lindsey Jerdonek in the pro wave. Coach Wiley was making his return to the race where he is a legendary figure.

I was really looking forward to the swim... lots of early morning swims and masters practices led to this day. I pushed hard for the first 400m or so, finding feet early on but losing them after not too long. I had to swim without a draft for about 1300m, which kind of sucked. Even so, I focused on not stopping and continuing to keep the tempo effort going. My arms felt good, due in part to my Xterra wetsuit which fit perfectly. With 200m to go, I saw a figure slide up next to me. I took a breath to my left to see a familiar face breathing to his right... DIRK! We made eye contact and swam together the rest of the way in. Not surprising, as we've been swimming together since last year and making each other work in practice. It was really cool though to finish the swim with him... it seemed almost appropriate. Lucas emerged from the water right behind us and we hopped into transition. TIME -- 20:50, a 3min PR over last year's swim, 65th overall!

I was not aware of my swim time though, and thought it was much worse as I saw a lot of bikes missing from our rack... then I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off of my right leg as Lucas and Dirk left transition. Dirk and I are about even on the bike so it would've been great to start with him, as I got off to a very sluggish and weak start to the bike. Aerobically I felt great... but my legs were unable to push out any power. I had no speedometer so I had no idea what I was doing, but I definitely was going SLOW. I just had no power. I became distressed and pretty demotivated, especially after Ryan McGrath flew by me halfway through. I tried to pick it up, but my legs would not respond. I came into transition to find that I barely matched my bike split from last year... TIME -- 1:09:13, 22mph, 109th. Pitiful and far weaker/slower than what my training indicated I'd be able to do... I had ridden a whole minute faster in training on that course as part of a 40mi ride!

FURIOUS, I racked my bike and sprinted out of transition and up the first switchback hill. I had to make up a LOT of time now. I saw no one except some pro women who I passed leading into mile 2, at which point I saw Robbie Wade, heading into his last mile. He shouted at me "RUN WITH DIRK!" to which I responded with confusion and a "huh?" That made no sense, until I looked ahead and saw Dirk at the top of the next hill... something was wrong with him. He had no jump in his stride and I definitely shouldn't have been catching him on the run. I passed a half mile later and focused on Ryan and a couple other guys ahead. I caught them and focused on staying ahead for the last 2 miles. TIME -- 37:07, a very average 10k for me, 18th overall. I had no desire to run much faster after I passed the last couple guys as I saw no one ahead... and was still pretty discouraged and confused after that awful ride.

Total time -- 2:10:19, 35th overall, 13th amateur. A 5min improvement over last year's Columbia, but I'm not really happy about it. I felt like my bike legs failed today and I don't know why. Part of it might have had to do with not biking in a group, which means I have lots of work to do on my mental game. The power is there... I just need to be in the right frame of mind to utilize it properly. Very happy about the swim and the general direction my development as a triathlete is headed. Lots of work left to be done... I'm ready to attack my weaknesses again. Thanks for reading.

-Andy Sovonick

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5/2 & 5/3 & 5/4 -- I hate the number 400

Well, I woke up Monday really tired! I was up from 3:30AM to 11:00PM on Sunday, racing and driving. And I had an evening masters swim. I wasn't soon to receive any rest.

The Monday masters practice was HARD. They are always tough, but this one really had my number. The number of the beast, perhaps... as you'll see below. It also caused me to hate the number 400. This workout was ALL 4s and 400s. Warmup was 400swim, 400kick, 400pull. Main set appetizer was 4x(4x50 varying drills/builds). Main set was several sets of 400s on different tough intervals... 16x25 on :20, 4x100 on 1:20, 4x75 IM + 100 IM on I forget what interval, I was so tired by that point. Add in 2x400 on 5:30. There were at least 2 other 400s that I can't recall. All I know is that I was hurting. Breathing hard and feeling a numb tingling in both arms, I didn't care what we were doing. I just went with it. Totaled like 4400y for the workout. But wow, it was terrible. I mean, I swam pretty well, but it definitely took me to my aerobic threshold and beyond.

Tuesday morning was a tough one to wake up to. A grand total of 16 hours of sleep over the previous 3 nights had to take it's toll at some point, and Tuesday was it! Fortunately the workouts were easy... but still, I wanted to just sleep. 35min easy trail run followed by a windy but recovery-level 74min ride with Michelle, and I made sure to stay in UTTER COMPLETE control over this ride. Stayed well under 200w and it felt nice. I slept well that evening...

Wednesday morning unfortunately I had to wake up early to swim at GISC. Second-t0-last swim there as they are conveniently CLOSED for the summer to paint a roof. I guess the heat and evaporation from the lava pool was too much for the ceiling paint to handle. Maybe they'd be best served to TURN DOWN THE TEMPERATURE BY 4019251285 KELVIN. Then they wouldn't have a paint peeling problem!!!!!!!! Ah, the swim was fine, fine indeed it was, longer sets and one 4x100 sprint set. Michelle was there. She would concur.

And then in the evening we reunited and rampaged through 270, River Road and Massachusetts Avenue to arrive at American University for GRC track workout. My prescribed workout was 6x800 at some pretty fast paces (2x2:24, 2x2:20, 2x2:18). Myself, Dave W, Pmurph and a new fellow named Matt Logan, who I wrongly accused of torturing cats, made up the B group. We hit the 800s almost all on pace, and ran strong, 2:24, 2:24 (my lead), 2:22, 2:20, 2:20, 2:17 (first half my lead, :67). I added on 2x400 in 74s, as a pacesetter for Michelle (see the Monkey Business blog for more information on my superior pacesetting abilities). I suppose my success surprised me, because my past 3 track workouts have been underwhelming and equally uninspiring, due to the fact that I'm tired and fatigued before each workout. I felt a lot better for this workout, so that was neat. I think an improved diet and taking it much easier on Tuesday helped make this workout better. My legs just felt a lot stronger! I slept really well afterward, indeed.

All this talk of numbers made me watch this video, the best music video of all time. GODZILLA MAKES SEVERAL APPEARANCES and they are amazing, of course. I'm surprised a certain Beastman wasn't included, but maybe it's for the better... of peoples' lives.

Monday, May 2, 2011

5/1 -- Fallston Duathlon race report

About 13 months ago, I crossed the finish line at Doylestown Duathlon and wondered "Why is Dirk not here yet?", only to see him cross about 8 minutes later. Turns out he missed a poorly marked turn and rode at least 3 extra miles. I felt badly for The Lordman, but at the same time I chuckled because it seemed like such a goofy thing to have happen.

Well, I finally paid for that chuckle.

Michelle and I gusted our way to Annie's Playground in Fallston to participate in our multisport season opener, the Fallston Duathlon. A 5k-19mi-5k du, it was a perfectly timed training race for Columbia in a few weeks. I got Dirk to race in it as well, essentially voluntarily eliminating my chance of victory. Competition was pretty unrecognizable, except for one fellow with an Army singlet who vocally assumed he would be in the front of the race. Never overestimate the competition, I always say, but golly don't underestimate it either!

The first 5k was pretty comfortable, despite already feeling heavy and still sluggish from a hard week of training, and I came through in 16:31, 2nd best run. The course starts downhill for a mile, a rolling 2nd mile, and the last 1.1 is all uphill. It didn't tire me out, as I kept a tempo-ish effort and started the bike with warm legs.

I had one of my best rides. I started out 45 seconds or so behind Dirk, but slowly gained seconds on him. Around mile 8, a guy who has averaged close to 25mph in half iron races passed me and went after Dirk. I kept him in sight and elevated my effort a little so as to not lose them. By mile 15, I had gained 10 seconds on Dirk, according to a bystander. There was no one in sight behind me for over a mile. I was on pace for a 23.1 mph average on the hilly course, which was going to be strong for me, considering my lack of taper. However, right around mile 17.5, it all went for naught. I temporarily lost sight of Dirk and the other guy as they crested a hill I was climbing. I passed through an intersection with a police officer stopping cars. I didn't see any signs or course marshals, so I kept going straight... off the course. A mile past, I came upon Route 1, which I knew was never on the course. I thought "GODDAMNIT" and plenty of other angry expletives, as I knew I was lost. I practically sprinted the mile back to the turn to get back on the course, nearly fishtailing in desperation and hammered down the last hill into transition to find the guy who was pretty far behind exiting transition to start his run. 6 unnecessary extra minutes on the course will do that...

Flustered but committed to finishing the race strong I jumped out of transition and practically sprinted through the first mile of the 2nd run, hitting 5:07. I had 600m of a gap between me and the current #3, and I was doing my damndest to close that gap. I came upon Dirk as it was an out-back course, and he understandably looked mighty confused when he saw me. Anyway, I closed the gap to about 75m, but then I ran out of space. 16:47 for run 2, and 2nd fastest run split again. Finished 4th overall.

Well that sucked! Getting lost on the bike is never a good way to lose a race or lose placement in a race. But I salvaged 4th, and had the pleasure of seeing Dirk and Michelle win their genders. Most importantly, I discovered that my speed and strength on the bike has increased markedly from last year. My run off the bike is better too. I'm really pleased with my performance and progress. I can't wait to do this racing thing fresh and fully rested.

I did and still do however, feel just like this...

Friday, April 22, 2011

4/18 & 4/19 & 4/20 -- Racing hangover

It's hard to give your all in a race and then get up the next morning and get back to work. I gave lots of physical and emotional energy to the Pike's Peek cause. But Todd didn't allow me any rest before or after the race. I had to reset quickly...

I woke up Monday AM but I really didn't want to wake up at all. I had a headache from all the excitement the day before. Because of spring break at Prep there was no master's practice, so Michelle and I agreed to meet at GISC that evening for the swim. It wasn't the best idea, as we were stuck in the LAVA pool. The workout had a lot of fast 200s and 100s, and the warmth certainly didn't make it easier. It doesn't bother me terribly however. What did bother me was the aquajogger who plopped herself right in front of me. I have a feeling if we collided it would have hurt her more than me, so after a few mean words I convinced her to hug the lane lines and watch out. Finished the swim pretty tired.

Tuesday included all 3 sports. I ran with Red Fox, Karl and an Ethiopian fellow named Ben. I haven't been able to join my teammates for the morning runs as masters practices and evening bike workouts make most mornings my preferred recovery periods. But since there was no masters practice, I was able to wake up to run. We totaled around 8 miles in a little less than an hour through some hilly neighborhoods. It's good to be running with Jake again, since he has been out for so long. I rode sort of easy for an hour in the afternoon on the trainer as the weather was sketchy. I spent the first 30min around 185w, and the last 30 at 215w. The run in the morning loosened me up and I was watching a pretty exciting battle in Stage 16 of the 2005 Tour de France and it got me motivated to pedal harder.

I then waddled into swim practice, meeting the Beastman along the way. We were finally swimming together again. Work got in the way of his training schedule the past couple weeks, but we'd finally put our fists together for another fight against the water. Workout was 30x100, with 10 on 1:35, 10 on 1:30, 10 on 1:25, and 3 more after that on 1:20. I led for the 1st and 3rd sets of 10 and the final 3, and we averaged around 1:18-1:20 per 100, with 1:12 average for the last 3x100. Just the kind of workout we like. Swim a lot and maintain a solid pace. Whew, that was a long day for a Tuesday!

Wednesday track workout was 5xmile (5:15, 5:10, 5:05, 5:00, 4:55), a pretty long workout considering I just raced a 10k, but I went with it, along with Dickson, Matias, PMurph and Charlie. I managed 4.25 of the 5 total miles, hitting 5:14, 5:08, 5:04 (my lead), 5:00, :73, and then a 5:26 as I followed Michelle for her last interval to keep her company. I felt heavy going in but got better around the middle of the workout, but got a little too much lactic acid built up by the last repeat that I just really didn't want to finish it. I thought I had done enough!

I found this picture from Pike's Peek. Apparently, Dirk and I have the power to intimidate Ethiopians. See how they cower in fear as they are surrounded by our game faces.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

4/17 -- Pike's Peek 10k race report

One thing I learned from the second half 0f 2010 was that I don't run enough miles to really run well. I had some poor performances, culminating in a very disappointing Veteran's Day 10k. I came in expecting a sub-33, but with low mileage and less time running than swimming or biking, I didn't even get under my then-PR. I have since set my expectations for myself pretty low. 20-35 miles per week won't get me among the best runners, and I had to fail to realize that.

This spring though has forced me to amend that thinking, with my big PRs in 5k and 10 miles on, once again, 20-35 miles per week. I now approach races with a conservative confidence. I CAN PR, but I need to be realistic. That's how I approached Pike's Peek 10k. My goal was to get under 33:00, with an epic day goal of 32:40. MacMillan suggested a 32:20, but that seemed crazy to me. Dave W and I formulated a plan to go out in 16:20 and try to hang on from there. We both doubted that it would be possible.

Sometimes though, a plan doesn't always work out quite the way it's meant to!

The race started and I let a large crowd of people sprint out. We had a bit of a headwind for the first 200m, and I just relaxed in, turning onto 355 behind a number of women and guys who I knew wouldn't last in front of me. Dave came up alongside me, Murphy too, and we began to settle in and cruise. About half a mile in, the crowd in front of me shrank and continued to shrink. We went through the first mile in 5:10, which was faster than the planned pace... but wow, it felt REALLY good. We kept it going, hitting mile 2 in 5:12. Again, really controlled and relaxed. At this point I decided that it was time to pick it up a little bit, and I put a tiny bit of distance on the group, hitting 5:08 for the 3rd mile. At this point, I was right around a 32:10 pace! And it still felt really good... I was quite astonished.

I hit the 1/5th mile long hill just after the 5k mark and didn't slow. Instead, I passed at least 2 guys and started to reel in Dave Miller, who I've made a point of targeting at larger races. Got to mile 4 in 5:08 again, still feeling solid. My aerobic fitness, despite my lack of running miles, is very high... probably due to the high overall mileage between the 3 sports. About halfway to mile 5 however, I began to feel a familiar ache -- my upper back. Oh no... this is what ended my race at Veteran's Day 2010! Why again?? It wasn't as bad this time though and I kept the effort high, but hit the 5th mile in 5:12, so I was starting to fade a bit However, my 5-mile split told me "Wow, you're really going to PR huge today!" and willed myself on. Dave and the leading Ethiopian ladies passed me and I made an attempt to hang on, but they began to put distance on me. I mustered a few words of encouragement to Dave and then focused on not losing any more ground. My back at this point was legitimately aching, and I began to breathe audibly. I hit mile 6 in 5:18, which really isn't so bad... I thought the damage was worse, but my legs were really carrying me at this point... my arms and upper body couldn't help much. I heard Jake tell me that I needed to really move to get under 32:20, which was a secret epic goal of mine...

Crossed the line in 32:16!! That's an almost 2min PR from my previous best of 34:05 in 2009. I also ranked 34th overall and won my age group and some cash (a rarity for me in large running races). I wish I had been able to stay with Dave, who nearly snuck in under 32:00, but he will be a solid training and racing partner for me moving forward, provided he doesn't get too far ahead of me! And I'll have to work on my running form. Todd seems to think I'm too tense up top. That is probably true. I lean my head back a little too much even when I'm not tired. That can't help me. This will be especially important in triathlon season as I may come off the bike with tense shoulders from sitting in aero position for an hour.

I'm pretty darn happy about this improvement, as I really believed that I was incapable of running fast over a longer race because of my triathlon training. With the right quality of training, coaching and teammates, anything is possible. This wraps up my running season for the first half of 2011, and I leave with 3 solid PRs and a high level of excitement for my running future.

My one picture from the race so far. See me? I'm the chump behind the winning lady. If you were to imagine that she's not there, I'm about to break the tape for my age group win. Eye roll.