Sunday, May 28, 2006

Oak Bay 1/2 marathon

Tough race today.

Recently, I picked up one of those angled water bottle holders that are supposed to make it easier to get the water bottle in and out. It seems that getting the bottle is so effortless that I don't even need to use my hands. 5 minutes into the race, my bottle did it's best superman impression and lept into the air. The sea of people behind me were not impressed when I turned around to collect it. Rather than face another escape attempt, I ran with it in my hand for the next couple k until I'd had enough to make it less top heavy. Ditching the bottle entirely did occur to me but I wasn't sure about drinking the Gatorade the y supply on the course (instead of the eLoad that I usually run with.)

Just for kicks, I thought I'd try the Gatorade and wound up with some pretty nasty stomach cramps. I was just about that over that when my knees went on strike for more walk breaks and less overall mileage. They hurt so much by the 11k marker that I wondered if I was going to DNF (did not finish).

I slowed it down, took some ibuprofen and walked whenever I had too. I started to feel better and thought I'd try some Gatorade again at the 18k marker since that's what they'll be serving at the 1/2 iron and I wanted to avoid carrying my stupid water bottle with me.

Bad mistake.

The stomach cramps came back with a vengance and I spent the next two kilometers just trying not to throw up. Carolyn, my coach, caught up to me on her bike and helped keep me moving for the last painful kilometer. I got to the top of the big (and did I mention, poorly placed) hill and got caught up in the noise from the finish line. I'd intended to take the end slow but I'm a sucker for a fast finish. I kicked it up and passed two people in the last 20m.

In the end, I was about 10 minutes slower than my 1st (and only other) 1/2 marathon but I quickly got over being bummed out about that and instead was just pleased to have a second 1/2 marathon under my belt.

It's a long road to a long race. But today, I got a little bit closer.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful individuals with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius Is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

~Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

First 20k of the season

I ran my first 20k of the season tonight. My schedule actually called for a 25k but hey, I've been sick...

It was a beautiful day and the early evening was equally spectacular. I started from Hamsterly Beach because I wanted to do the 1/2 Iron route. The plan was run two laps of Elk lake and then maybe another 2k and back, depending on how I was feeling. Given that my feet had been giving me a bit of feedback in earlier runs, I also was prepared to cut it short if that's what it would take to avoid an injury. Turns out, I did neither.

The 1st 5k were extremely easy. I was keeping my heartrate ~155 so I was a good 7 bpm off my aerobic max. I hit the 5k mark and wanted to kick it up a few notches but decided to hold off until I hit it a second time. After all, I'm only 1/4 the way into this. There were lots of people on the trail for the first loop and it was fun to watch the rowers on the lake.

I hit the 10k feeling strong and thought "24k, here we come baby!" However, I didn't seem to be running any faster and my heartrate had crept up to 160. There's a little hill just past the boatlaunch as you're approaching Pumphouse Road and my heartrate alarm was going off like a kid with an annoying new noisey toy. Looking down, I was at 170 (it was set to go off at 166) and there wasn't much I could do to get it to come down. Finally it quieted down but I realized I might be starting to get tired. My next walk break, I broke into the sharkies and would put two in my mouth to suck between each break. The weird thing was, my heart rate stayed pretty high for the next couple k, even though it was pretty flat. Suspecting that it was the sugar, I figuredI'd run without and just keep sipping on eload instead.

That seemed to do it.

Suddenly I found that I was really able to focus on my run. I hit the 15k mark and was excited to think that this time, I'm 3/4 done. However, I was getting a weird shooting pain in my knee and started taking more frequent walk breaks whenever it was bugging me. That went away but I was moving into the general joint pain that tells you, you're approaching that runs max distance. Checking the next marker, I'd gone 18k.

The next two were a bit of work as I was getting tired and sore. The funny thing was where I was getting tired. The various sorts of fuel were keeping my legs moving but my head was getting really heavy. I can't say that's ever happened before. 1.5k until I'd done two laps and it was clear that was all I was going to do tonight. Approaching the beach, I was out of water and finishing the workout so I could get to the fountain was what it took to keep me focused.

And just like that, I was done. I'm sure it's going to be a lot harder on race day but It's nice to have it under my belt and especially when I'd had a good time doing it. I would have liked to have run further but I still feel great about what I got done.

Life is hard. Fleeting moments of glory are often mingled with the sweat, tears and blood that it takes to get there. But at least you get there.

It's just work.

~Jon Stocks

Monday, May 15, 2006

I love this sport!

It was a hard ride on Saturday. Not because it was long (it wasn't) and not because I was going fast (I wasn't) and not because the weather was bad (it was pretty nice out.) I guess I was just tired and didn't have the patience for the careless drivers who were trying to kill me.

Whatever the case, I sure didn't feel like racing on Sunday.

My alarm went off at 7:30am and I dutifully got up and had some boost and a banana. I'd read the night before that your pre-race meal needs to be 3 hours before your race so that you don't have an excess of insulin in your blood stream. Since the race wasn't until 10:30am, that sounded about right. The in-house tri is a great place to try out new race day strategies. If it blows up in your face... who cares? They don't even time this race (though you can bet that I did!)

As usual, I thought I'd take it easy on the swim and just use it as a warm up. I was a little tired from not having swam for weeks but after a couple hundred meters, I found my rhythm. I was pretty impressed to see James jump out of the pool a full 50m ahead of me. Man, that guy's getting quick.

I had an ok transition and figured I'd forgo the shorts this time. As I was putting my gear on, I observed a guy in a full tri suit run in (and out) of the transition area in much less time then it was taking me. Note to self:

1) get tri suit
2) use a race belt (those freaking pins always up undone)

I hadn't thought too much about race strategy ahead of time but I got onto the bike and put the hammer down. In the past, I've always saved something for the run but not today. The only thing that mattered was kicking some serious ass on the ride. And I kicked hard. My stomach was in knots when I tried to take some eload but I forced it down. I didn't want to drink too much because that's when I got passed in sooke. It's a short race and I figured I'd tough it out. Note to self: use aero bottle so I don't have to slow down to drink!

For the most part, my aggressive riding paid off. Only two riders were able to pass me (on King George) and I played cat and mouse with them for the rest of the ride. One of those riders was just ahead of me as we entered the transition but I had already taken my feet out of my shoes before we dismounted our bikes. It was quite a rush to be starting my run and hearing the other guy undoing his shoes.

It was short lived.

I started running and I was sure I was going to bonk. My fine friend from the transition passed me as I struggled just to move my feet. Running has never been my strong event but I'm working on changing that. Right now, I just had to find some way to keep moving. Left, right, left, right, lengthen the stride and BREATHE. It's amazing what having friends on the course with cameras will do for your posture. Just when I'd be sucking some major wind, I'd see someone else I'd know and I'd straiten up and power past them. And every time I did, I gained speed and momentum. Before I knew it, I was throwing water on my face at the halfway point and was ready to pick it up for the last push.

Even though it was mainly downhill on the way out, I took 3 minutes off my split on the way back. By the time I hit that big hill on Quadra, I was singing Fatboy slim's Ya Mama to myself: push the tempo, push the tempo, push the tempo, push the tempo...

Around the corner, into the parking lot and through the IMC finish line! Nice touch.

God, that was fun!

You're only given a little spark of madness
You musn't lose it

~Robin Williams

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's not about the bike (yeah, whatever)

I've heard a number of times that it's not so much the bike but it's the engine that matters. In the words of Bill Lumberg, "I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on that one."

Just for kicks, I took the heavy bike out for my morning ride. It's funny that I think of it as heavy since it used to be my fast bike. In any case, I downgraded my KHS's status when I bought my (all Dura-ace) Cannondale that's 5 lbs lighter. Couple that with lighter shoes and helmet and it's quite a lot of fun. But I wasn't (entirely) after fun this morning. Rather, I thought I'd take all the heavy stuff out and have a bit of a strength training session.

Let me tell you, weight makes a difference! I was amazed at how much steeper King George Tce. had gotten since Wednesday. ~ 3/4 of the way through the ride, I could really feel the burn. Between the tired legs and a body that had been partially frozen from the wicked headwind, I decided to skip the short, brick run that I'd been planning and went strait to the shower. I've got a longer ride planned tomorrow and I'll be sure to do the brick then.

Train hard, fight easy

~ Alexander Suvorov

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I should be sleeping

It's after 11pm and I have a 6am ride tomorrow. Why am I still awake?

My body is tired but my brain is alert. So much to think about. I've been sick for the past couple of weeks and have been doing minimal training. I was once told (by a runner) that the only thing harder than running is not running. I may pretend that I hate running but that sentiment fades quickly when I'm not actually able to run. The worst part is I can hear the clock ticking on every workout that I miss. As of this Sunday, I only have 5 weeks left until the 1/2 iron.

Will I be ready?

Maybe thoughts like that are what's keeping me from sleeping. From there, it's very easy to think that not sleeping will lead me to being sick longer and having to miss more workouts. I have a hard time facing obstructions of any sort. I'll sometimes take the long way to work just to avoid having anyone in front of me who may slow me down. I don't care if the overall trip takes longer, that's not the point. What matters is being free to set my own speed limit. And that, dear reader, is why it's so difficult to have an illness slowing me down.

You can't ride with a flat or you'll damage your rims. It seems that the only way to pump up these metaphorical tires is to get more rest.

And if I die without saying goodbye
I give you this:
you'll have lost a friend.

~ Bruce Cockburn

Sunday, May 07, 2006

P is also for Pacing

My definition of pacing is to pull back in the short term in order to do better in the long. My favorite example is the year I decided slow down my swim and conserve my energy for the hilly run. It worked. I added 30 seconds to my swim time, held my expected bike time and cut 5 minutes off the run. I was pleased, to say the least.

Everyone has told me that the ½ iron is an entirely different race from a sprint (or even an Olympic) distance triathlon. Rather than going flat out, it’s more about knowing your pace and sticking to it. The distances are long and a pace that’s too fast will eventually catch up and drag you down. I’ve found that if I’m having an absolutely shitty workout (usually a run) then I’m probably going too fast. When I slow things down, I often find myself enjoying the workout again, which is ultimately the reason that I’m doing this.

If slowing down isn’t helping and I’m still completely miserable, it’s better to call it quits than to push on. While my body may not be getting the distance it requires, I’m far more likely to attend the next workout if I haven’t decided I hate the sport. Doing a short workout is far better than doing no workout.

A couple of years ago, my training schedule was so intense that I lost all interest in triathlons. I’ve just gotten back into it this year and have been frustrated by constantly being either sick or on the verge of illness. It’s at that point I need to remind myself that pacing also applies on a season by season basis.

It takes time to work up to these things.

Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.

~Author Unknown

P is for Pre-hab

In 6 weeks, I will be racing in my first ½ Ironman triathlon. And while I’d previously said that I’m going to wait and see how that goes, I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to do IMC next year (or bust!) That means that I have 16 weeks until I need to be in Penticton to sign up and another 52 weeks to get ready after that. 68 weeks in total. While the distance scares me, what scares me more is my body crapping out on me while I’m trying to get ready for it.

When I first started doing triathlons, I discovered something that was relatively unknown to me until that point: sports injuries! Sure, I’d had my share of bumps and scratches but never anything that a few days of R&R couldn’t fix. How life has changed.

Shin-splints were my delightful introduction to running injuries which were followed by knee problems, compartment syndrome and a torn quad. Good times! I’ve also managed to wear the sheathing off a nerve in my foot (biking) and hurt my shoulders (repeatedly) while swimming. Fortunately, this was not all in the same season!

Everybody knows that many sports injuries are related to tight muscles and can be avoided by doing sufficient amounts of stretching. This year, I acknowledged the fact that I don’t stretch enough and took up yoga as pre-hab (beats the hell out of rehab!) That’s been pretty helpful but I still found that my calves were really tight. Since most injuries below the knee tend to be related to / aggravated by tight calves, I’ve started seeing a massage therapist whenever I’m unable to loosen them by stretching. Net result? In spite of higher training volume this year, I remain injury free.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

-- Benjamin Franklin

The long road to IMC

Ancient Chinese wisdom tells us that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one footstep. Nobody - not even Peter Reid - just does an Ironman triathlon. You can do a sprint on a whim. I’ve signed up for a number of sprints a couple days before, taken my bike in to get checked and I’m off. My results were never great when I did that but I always finished the race.

IMC is a different beast. Anyone, who has any intention of doing the race, needs to be in Penticton one year prior in order to pay the $600 CDN registration that sells out in a day.

I’m an okay swimmer but I’m not ready to swim 3.8k. I’m an okay cyclist but I still consider 180k a loooooong way. We won’t go into my running but suffice it to say, I’m better at the other two events. So why do it? I’m not going to win any money; I’ll be faced heatstroke, dehydration and exhaustion; and I will be passed by countless people who will complete the event with a much better time. Worst of all, I face the possibility of something horrible happening that would keep me from completing the race. To put in all that work and not finish would be heartbreaking.

So why do it?

I believe that there is a primal instinct inside each of us that is only satisfied by wrestling with adversity. Our momentary enjoyment of any achievement is fleeting compared to the time spent in the struggle. Triathlon is not about the race. It’s about preparation. It’s about getting out of bed when you’d rather be sleeping to hit that morning workout. It’s about going home after a tiring day at work and throwing your shoes on for a run. It’s saying goodnight to your friends at 10pm on a Saturday night because you need to get enough rest. IMC is about having the discipline and the consistency to be ready when that terrifying beast is staring you down... and to face it with a smile.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years.

-- Abraham Lincoln