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.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

4/14 & 4/15 -- Colonies Zone Swim Meet

Thursday and Friday were pretty big days for me.

Michelle and I assembled at the base of a steep hill for a 40mi ride / 15min transition run. Weather was perfect for the 2nd time in as long as I can remember. I chose Sicar as my stallion for this ride. I didn't want to sit in aero position for a long period of time as that can make my shoulders ache, and I didn't need that bothering me before the Colonies Zone meet. It was a hilly ride as usual and I added in Rt. 121, which heading out is a scenic flat leading into long-ass hill. It was nice, I wish the flat went longer though. The hill is perfect, I love accepting that challenge every time. Ride totaled 39.82 miles and an average of 231w, which is one of my best averages for a long ride. I ran right after, scaling hill after hill to simulate the Columbia race course. One of the hills, which I went up twice, is about .15 miles long from base to summit and presents a decent challenge. It was an enjoyable workout and this time I made sure to hydrate more than sufficiently on the bicycle, which led to a exponentially better post-bike run than what I did on Sunday. What a difference!

Friday was race day/evening. Colonies Zone swim meet. I signed up for the 1000y with Dirk, but he opted out of the race, so it was just me. Matias was there (swam a 11:16 in the 1oooy), but in a faster heat. CUBU/Ward friends and teammate Maryellen was there to swim the 1650 (and a 24-second PR of 24:16!) and Sara came along to cheer and help with counting. I had David Cascio and Eric Sorensen, top area triathletes, in my heat. These are guys who beat Dirk last year, so their level is LEGIT. I figured if I could beat at least one of them, that'll really be a good gauge as to where I am at coming into tri season. I know my run is solid and my bike has gotten better... but how about the swim? Sorensen is/was a 20minute 1500 guy and Cascio close to that as well.

Race started and I went out fast. 1:09 and 1:13 for the first two 100s. I settled down and focused on maintaining pace from here. I settled into 1:17s and 1:18s for the middle 500. When I hit the 700 I started making efforts to pick up the pace. I didn't do it quite as dramatically as it may have felt, but I did shave off a second per 100 to hit 1:16s and 1:17s over the last 300, coming in at 12:46, 1:16.5 / 100y! Just what I was hoping for. I had an epic goal of 12:30, but 12:46 is right where I expected and wanted to be at this point. I would love to be able to hold that pace with a wetsuit for an open water 1500m and with the way I felt, I think it's darn near possible! Oh, and I beat Sorensen by 2 seconds! That felt pretty cool. I lost to Cascio, but he was moving, hitting around 12:36. It was neat to compete and finish with guys who have been at the sport for a long time and have plenty of experience. I hope that on future race days (triathlons) I can be just as competitive with them. I kind of expect it now. Anyway, I'm getting really pumped for triathlon season. The training continues to pay off.

That was a lot of fun. First swim meet was a success. I learned lessons though... I still need to work on flipturns. Jason with CUBU, who was counting for me, noted I still lost time on the guys because my flipturns were a little slow and I came off the wall too shallow. I need to streamline better also. It's wasted seconds, essentially. If I'm looking to continue to compete in these swimming races, which I am, I need to improve my skills in the pool.

I watched this before the race. It was the motivation, and perhaps the model of my swim... strong start, level middle, strong finish?

Friday, April 15, 2011

4/11 & 4/12 & 4/13 -- Keep Rolling

After Sunday's leg smashing, one would expect that I could use a few days of recovery. I could! But I wasn't getting any.

Monday I was off my legs, "just" attending a masters swim practice. It was a taper practice, preparing us for Zones on Friday (or, tonight as I am writing this post Friday!). Nothing really of note for this practice, except that I swam a :27 off the blocks, which matches my previous best during the dinky DC Tri swim meet. That was pretty cool. Maryellen even complimented my flipturn! I've never heard anything positive about my flipturns before (only that people are glad I'm doing, or trying, them!).

For Tuesday I moved my bike threshold/strength workout on the trainer from Thursday since it was raining and was forecasted to be really nice Thursday. Might as well be indoors on the yucky day. Workout was 25min warmup, then 5min @ 250w+, 5min recovery, then 6x3min @ 285w w/ 2min spin recoveries. I hit and exceeded the power requirements for each interval. I found myself not looking much at the tv but a lot more at the power computer, as I wanted to really nail my numbers. I did feel a little fatigued since Sunday's ride was only a couple days prior, so the last two 3min intervals, although my most powerful, weren't easy at all. I'm glad I got this done Tuesday though.

Wednesday had an AM swim at GISC, with some long intervals, including 2x600 at varying speeds and a 6x75 build set. Nothing really special, and I focused mostly on form. I'm a little worried however that I'll focus too much on form at the Zones meet. I want the form to emerge, but I don't want to think about it. We'll see. In the evening I ran with GRC at track practice. Did 6x800 (2:30, 2:32, 2:28, 2:26, 2:24, 2:22) but dropped out of the next two because my calves were aching up. It happens on the shorter stuff, as I and TOWPATH, in a comment, have explained. But I feel now that I should have continued with the workout. If I will have this calf ache often, I might as well keep running for a bit more. I felt like I wimped out a bit here. The next morning I had zero calf pain, and that validated my feelings. I need to toughen up a bit more. My body will respond to a hard effort, and I need to recognize better if it's a real pain or just a "I'm tired" pain.

I'm getting excited but of course am really nervous about Zones. First swim meet since, like, before I was 10 or something. I've only recently been a "swimmer," or something like that. And there will be lots of fast and experienced swimmers... here are the psyche sheet and heat sheets . I just want to swim strong, not have my form fall apart 750y in, and average 1:15s-1:18s, which is around where I want to be in a 1500m open water swim. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4/9 & 4/10 -- Another Weekend Clash of the Powers

This weekend was another one of heavy training with Hendrik de Heer, aka THE BEASTMAN. Also, The Lordman, since his last name DOES mean Lord. It was destined to be another weekend where heads would be butted and clashes of competitiveness in all 3 sports would take place frequently. Who would emerge on top?

We joined forces for an easy 10mi on Capital Crescent. About halfway in though, Dirk's stomach yearned to do it's own thing, so the run required a couple pit stops. Still, 10mi is 10mi and it felt pretty decent, legs felt pretty good, but I had a bag of popcorn for lunch so they weren't exactly ready to fight. I followed the run with an easy hour spin on the trainer, 102-109 rpm, L1/recovery power. Just to, you know, shake out that junk. I had to be fresh and ready to end a soul or two for the next day which laid in wait.

We reunited Sunday morning for masters swim at Prep. Mark divided the group into 2 -- those tapering for Zones, and those not, which included myself, Dirk and a lady who once swam 12 miles if I heard correctly. I'm actually racing at Zones, the 1000, but it's not as much a priority to me as it is to the swimmers in our masters groups. The workout today included a main set of 20x50 (10 on :50, 10 on :45) followed by a wicked 4x500 descend. That went pretty well, and I averaged 6:20 for the 4x500s, a 1:16/100y average. That seems to bode well for both Zones and triathlon season. I would LOVE to average 1:15-1:16/100y in a long distance swim. I didn't descend very well this workout, but I'm pleased with the effort and times.

After practice we rocketed to Centennial Park for a Columbia course ride/run. There, to my utter fear/terror/horror, was MICHELLE, who was waiting patiently for our arrival. I wasn't surprised to see her as this was the original plan, but the sight of her always causes me to shiver in trepidation, as she could end my life at any moment in time, and she knows it. Ronald McDonald McGrath, some of his Baltimore triathlon/running pals were there too. Lindsey and SNOW showed up soon after as well. It was around this time that we discovered that DIRK forgot his front wheel... when we were stuffing his bicycle into my car we both failed to notice that the front wheel had not gone in with it. OOPS. Fortunately he was able to borrow a wheel from a local bike shop, so the ride went on as planned.

The course ride was very solid. I did 8 miles out and back (to the homewood circle) while waiting for Hendrik and when we reunited, we started the course ride in earnest. We pounded the hills both up and down. I was told by Todd to elevate the effort on the hills, and so I was pushing close to 400w on some of the shorter ones. We finished the 41k in 1:10 or so, which is barely slower than what I raced on the course on race day last year! I think this is pretty cool. And this was with several stops or slowdowns. Added on another 10 miles to get to 41mi total on the ride. Averaged around 227w for the ride, which is pretty strong, maybe my highest ever for a 2 hour ride.

The run afterward wasn't so hot. Actually it was hot. I was hot, and not in a good way. 12min into the run I started dehydrating and feeling overheated. Because of the wheel mixup I didn't get Heed in my body until we finished the course ride, about 31miles after we started. That didn't work well for my body. I waved Dirk ahead and trundled in a minute or two after. I'm not sure of my pace, but the first half must've been under 6:45 pace... the second half probably was closer to 8:00 pace. Oh well. The most important part was that we charged up the first hill at the beginning of the run... that one is pretty brutal. I need to be smarter and have more foresight about my nutrition. It seems like a small deal but it's NOT!

I feasted well afterward. That was an intense weekend. My body craves rest... but an even more brutal week is ahead, finishing with TWO races. The 1km at Colony Zones swim meet at George Mason on Friday, and the Pike's Peek 10k on Sunday. Good lord. This is the most crucial training period and I need to answer the bell.

Friday, April 8, 2011

4/6 & 4/7 -- Revived

I was still feeling kind of tired by Wednesday morning, but went to swim practice. Nothing hard fortunately, just some pull and build sets. The toughest of the set was a 2x250 build and 4x100 build, with the rest being drills and pull. I like these workouts because I REALLY concentrate on my form. When it falters I do whatever it takes to get it back in line. Friday practices aren't as easy to do this sort of thing as I'm more removed from Monday's masters practice/lesson.

GRC track practice in the evening. I went in with achy calves and heavy-feeling legs. The workout wasn't as easy as I hoped, 2400-2000-1600-1200-800-400 (79s for the 2400, 78s for the 2000, 77s for the 1600, 76s for the 1200, 74s for the 800, 70s for the 400). It was a smaller B group, with Dave W and I pushing the pace. Dickson joined for the 1600 and down. I dropped out of the last 400 as I didn't want to stress my calves more. They were still sore and if I did a 400 at the end, I would assuredly run too hard out of excitement of being almost done. Splits (by mile pace) were:
2400 -- 5:08/mi (my bad, took it out too fast, should've been 5:16)
2000 -- 5:12/mi
1600 -- 5:08/mi
1200 -- 5:05/mi
800 -- 4:52/mi (I kicked it in for this since I dropped out before the 400)
It was long, but a fine workout nonetheless. I was able to keep paces comfortably, so my body is recovering fine from CB. What I was worried about was how my already hurting calves would feel the next day, considering I ran in my flats for practice.

Much to my surprise, I woke up Thursday with barely any calf pain at all! Huh? I guess that the workout wasn't too fast so my calves weren't stressed too much? Did the track workout help the healing process? Whatever the reason, I'll take it! I like no pain better than pain (except during a workout of course!). In the afternoon I had a bike strength workout on the trainer. 10min @ 245w, 8min @250w, 6min @ 255w, 4min @260w, 2min @270w. I felt pretty strong through the first two intervals, so I pushed the last 3. All Todd wanted was for me to get stronger with each interval. I did just that, hitting 10min @ 250, 8min @ 257, 6min @ 269, 4min @ 281, 2min @ 314. And I felt smooth. The data chart shows it, my cadence slowly went up with each interval and my power numbers did not spike or fall during each interval.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

4/4 & 4/5 -- My Apologies, Calves!

I woke up Monday morning just as I expected: tired and with pretty sore calves. My calves, instead of my quads, seem to always be sore after a race or any hard run where I am wearing flats. Michelle says it must be that I run on my toes a little more, which is possible. Just part of racing! My upper back/lower neck was sore as well, probably a result of my bunching up when I developed the cramp. However, these are just consequences of racing hard. No injuries and no excuses not to get right back into training.

Monday and Tuesday however were easier days. On Monday I went to masters practice for a decent workout, another one with plenty of speed work. Highlights were some pretty fast 50s, one under :30 again, and a 1:02 100 at the very end of the practice, when I was quite tired. It surprised me as I thought I would put in a 1:05 at fastest. My new form techniques are working, I just have to keep implementing them. The practice also stretched out my sore back/neck muscles, and I felt better the next morning.

Tuesday I ran and rode easy. The 35-minute run was just to check and shake out the legs. My right calf felt fine, but the left one was a little more sore (hey, I rhymed). Rest of the body and legs felt ok though, even with some short hills I surged up. The ride was also pretty basic, 75min of 206w, low-mid L2 zone. Again, legs felt tired but responsive enough. My quads didn't hurt but they felt a little more tight right (hmm, I rhymed again) after the ride.

Monday, April 4, 2011

4/3 -- Cherry Blossom 10-mile Race report

April 3rd finally arrived. The Cherry Blossom 10-miler! I had been waiting for this race since watching it last year on a bicycle. And I had been really anticipating it since my failures at the Philly Distance Run and Veteran's Day. I wanted to prove I can indeed run longer distance races well and conquer Hain's Point. With a new coach who puts emphasis on racing and my new attitude toward races, it was time to do or die. My fitness was at a high level leading up into today and my training has been going really well. No full taper, but Todd felt this wasn't necessary.

The race started and I sought out Matias to pace the first mile together. He's a solid pacesetter and even if we went out faster than our planned 5:40, it wouldn't be bad. We did go faster, 5:32, but that is still conservative and sustainable. The next 2 miles were solid, 5:26 for both, and I tucked in behind the taller Karsten Brown, a solid racer and windshield. Mile 4 was placed on the wrong side of the Ohio Drive turnaround, so the times appeared a lot slower, but I didn't panic, and estimate a 5:20 split. Our group of Dave, Karsten, Matias, myself and a couple other guys stuck together on Independence Avenue leading into mile 5 (5:18). This was my favorite part of the race. Just a long straightaway heading into the sun. I had felt a little off in mile 4, and this refreshed me. I got my legs back to full strength and started to put away Karsten and a Howard County strider, Mark Buschman, leading into Hain's Point. Matias had put out a bit of a surge and got about 10 seconds ahead by the time we got to parking lot A on the Point and crossed mile 6 (5:21), and 10k (a 33:40-:50 estimate, which would be a 10k PR!).

Matias and me... next time he should lend me his calves, or at least a piece of them.

At this point I found myself in a bit of a no-man's land. Matias was too far ahead to group with him, and Karsten, Dave and Mark were 10+ seconds behind me. I didn't want to be in this situation, but I just focused on Matias and the guy he had just caught... that guy was my next prey as well. I caught him about half a mile later, and hit mile 7 in 5:20. Mile 8 included the turnaround at the end of the Point, and by now I had TEXAS PAUL, who was barely coming back from injury, in my sights and was gaining ground back on Matias, with a 5:16 split. By mile 8.5 I was 4-5 seconds back of Paul, when I felt the cramp develop in the bottom-center of my chest, diaphragm area. Suddenly breathing became more difficult and painful. My pace leveled out and I knew this wasn't going to be good. I hung onto the pace as best I could, but the headwind + cramp began to take its toll, and came into the 9mile marker in 5:28. The RED FOX came up beside me and shouted bloody murder at me, reminding me I was on pace for under 54 minutes. I knew this too... but I was merely hanging on now, the cramp had gotten worse. I was right on Paul's shoulder but I couldn't muster up a pass. My pace dropped quite a bit, into the 5:40s. I pushed up the hill and gave it what I had for the last 200m... but I saw the clock tick 54:07, 54:08, 54:09, and I was disappointed I wouldn't get under 54.

The struggle against the cramp
BUT I had a chance to meet my epic goal of the day, 54:29, and I did, crossing the line in 54:22, a 7-minute PR off my last 10-mile race and a 3-minute shave off my 10-mile split in last year's National Half. Happy with the time and placement, 40th overall (I expected top 60), but a little disappointed, as if I had drank more before the race, perhaps I would have been under 54. Splits were -- 5:32, 5:28, 5:26, 5:20?, 5:18, 5:21, 5:16, 5:20, 5:28, 5:50.

It was a really fun race, and I look forward to getting into the 53s next year. GRC won the team competition and everyone ran awesome times. Michelle was the 2nd American female with a 59:20, Matias ran 53:45 after predicting a 55:20, Lindsey was 14th with a 60:48 and established herself as one of the elite area runners, and Dirk showed the world he's back with a 51:40. Training is going according to plan, and now it's time to get back to work.

Up next is the Pike's Peak 10k.

Friday, April 1, 2011

3/28 & 3/29 -- I see you, Jan

Monday was a nice recovery day from the double tempo weekend. Just a swim lesson with Coach Ward and masters practice afterward. The lesson was pretty darn important as it really altered my stroke in a good and surprisingly immediately comfortable and powerful way. Open the hips, extend the arm, and a more powerful catch/pull results. I put it to good use at practice that evening, with some good fast sets of hard kick and 200s with at least 85% effort. The 200s included a 200, 2x100 and 4x50. I swam the 200 in 2:18, which is a practice best for me; the 100s in 1:05; and the 50s in :30 and the last one in :29, the first time I've broken :30 in practice. It was a great session, and I really felt the new stroke working wonders. I felt faster and more powerful. I'll have to keep the lessons up to improve on it even more.

Tuesday was another shakeout day with a pretty solid aerobic ride. 90min, at least 200w on the trainer. I felt surprisingly strong this ride, considering how bad I felt Sunday, and averaged around 219w. I was really pushing into tempo for most of the ride and had to lay off multiple times to prevent myself from going too hard. It wasn't just because of fresher legs... I was watching a REALLY INTENSE 2004 Tour de France stage: Stage 16, the uphill time trial. Lance was chasing after Ivan Basso, Andreas Kloden and Jan Ullrich, and made up a huge amount of ground on all of them, eventually passing Basso... which sucked for him! But what got my attention was Ullrich's intensity. He heard in his earpiece that Lance was gaining and coming after him hard. MAN, did Jan get SWOLE. It was really inspiring to see the twisted looks of pain on his face as he pushed up the grade and made a last-ditch burst effort across the line. He lost a good :40 on Lance, but his mighty legs, increasing effort and his AGONY sure made an easier ride more exciting.