Friday, December 18, 2009

Time to Hit the Trails

The Tucson marathon was an interesting experience. Lots of sand, cactus and headwind. Wasn't expecting that last one. All in all a good experience. Not crazy about Tucson though. The mountains were nice, everything else not so much.

But forget all that, its trail season! First trail run is tomorrow and it should be interesting. Getting some ice and snow right now. Hopefully that all goes away for my run tomorrow. I plan on doing more trail runs than last year in preparation for the big Uwharrie race in February. I'm also ramping up my biking and swimming in preperation for a big tri season (more to come on that soon).

And finally, signed up for the St. Louis marathon in April (or is that March). Anyway, busy busy. But the focus between now and February is definitely trails. Just need to remember how to run on them now. Its been a while...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chicago Down, Tucson Up

In retrospect, I think I may have put the Chicago Marathon on too much of a pedestal. Everything I did for about a year straight was in training for that race. What I always seems to forget is that conditions that are beyond your control often come into play regardless of how well you plan.

Through the first 15 miles, everything was going according to plan. The weather was cold which usually makes for really good running. The course was so flat that with an even pace, every mile is the same to the second. That was weird. But at mile 15, circumstances took over.

The night before and for the 5 days leading up to the marathon, i was fighting a virus. One day I would feel ok, the next i would feel horrible. The night before the race i had to take Nyquil and felt like crap. I felt better in the morning but that was probably adrenaline. Starting at mile 15 i started to feel it again. My last marathon, my last mile was 7:05. For Chicago it was over 8 and when i finished i literally had to lean forward so I would night fall back on my butt.

I've had the last month to recover and I am starting to feel like my old self again when I run. Good ol' Danville Half this weekend so lets see if i can mix it up. Then its on to the Pinehurst Turkey Trot, the Ridgewood Turkey Trot (on Thanksgiving), the Misetletoe half and then ending the year with a point to point, net decline marathon in Tuscon. No idea what to expect for this weatherwise, stamina wise, going down hill a lot, etc. Hopefully all good things. But conditions have a say.

There were some heavy rains this past week so we had to run the alternative course in Danville. This course was a mentally unnerving triple loop (with 3 out and backs each loop) course. Add to that an abusive series of hills in each loop and topped off with an 11am start in the heat of the day and that all equates to a tough day. I tried to go out fast and hit the hills hard which i think i did. Hopefully it helps for Pinehurst this weekend.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Had a Little Run-In

I was in the mountains this past weekend to do the Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon and had an interesting adventure.

The course was different this year from year's past. The race organizers decided that the hardest half marathon in the state was not quite hard enough and so they decided to add a half dozen new hills to the course. It was while traversing up one of these hills that our story begins...

It was around mile 8 and I was completely focused on the task at hand. Half way up one of the larger new additions, I had my head down and was leaning slightly forward. This technique of 'falling-forward' is my biggest secret for toppling large hills (I guess having 5 foot long legs doesn't hurt either). I find that there is much art to climbing hills. Many whither at the mere sight of raised earth but I pride myself on focusing in and conquering the obstacle. Such was the case when I felt the earth slowly arch upward to the top. My speed was good. I was running around a 6:50/mile pace as i reached the top where I was momentarily interrupted by the mass of an above average sized man who had just walked directly in front of me.

While it is true I was looking generally down, I could still spot what was five to ten feet directly in front of me. So no one was more surprised than I when I suddenly saw a large mass invade my soon to be space. My pure momentum was too much to overcome and I plowed into this man at 9 or 10 mph. The blur was wearing a yellow vest indicating he was one of the many volunteers to help protect us from the dangers on the road. The event took me by such surprise, I immediately blurted out "JESUS CHR!!!" - I remember not finishing the sin due to years of Catholic orthodoxy. But, as it turns out, it was not Jesus Christ. A fact that would be made very clear in the moments to come.

It was over in an instant and before I knew it I was already 10 or 15 feet past the unfortunate barrier. It was at this time when i heard a completely unmistakable sound emanating from behind me - rage. I heard absolute and pure energy ignite behind me. Piecing it together, I replayed the events of the previous 10 seconds to try to understand fully what had happened. This thought was interrupted by a new noise - Foot steps.

Now you would think such a noise would be common. And in a lot of ways you would be correct. I mean, this was a race after all. I knew there to be several runners in my general vicinity. But these footsteps seemed different. Heavier and more labored. These were not the footsteps of a person on their 9th mile of a half marathon. These were the footsteps of someone on a short distance mission. Now let me be clear: I cannot validate that the man with whom I just shared a massive collision with was in fact running after me. I did not turn around to view the face of death nor stick around to find out for myself what (if anything) was taking place behind me. I moved on. To the future. I am not one to dwell. One most always look forward. After all, there were races to run. So on I did go. Running.

Down the hill I went. Turning potential energy into kinetic energy, i picked up speed as the earth curved downward beneath my feet. I have never been a big fan of going down hills. If you pass me going down and I pass you going up, I always win. That's a rule.

The bit of unpleasantness was a distant 20 seconds gone by. I had re-focused and was looking to find and pass the high school aged girl whom was currently (inexplicably) ahead of me in 7th place. This thought was replaced by the realization that there was a vehicle approaching at full speed directly behind me. Breaking all rules, I turned my head to assess the situation. Running in the middle of the road, I did all I could to get over to the right to avoid being run down. As i swerved right, the car, police lights flashing, swerved left. Our motion a high speed tango, carefully coordinated after years of planning in many high budget action films. After passing me, the flashing vehicle swerved directly in front of me. Out popped a man. A pudgy, red-faced man, about 5'10" and no less than 265 lbs. On the front of his yellow vest read 'Police'. He had one message for me and was not shy in delivering it: "GET OVER TO THE SIDE NOW!"

To say the man in front of me was upset would be completely inaccurate. His mood, if i could characterize it, would be much closer to murderous rage. This truly was a kind of anger that I had never experienced before in my life. As I ran closer to him a thought popped into my head. An awful, wonderful little idea - 'Keep Going!' I knew full well it would be illegal to disobey a legal order given by a police officer (whom this man apparently was). But every runner has the fantasy that they, if need be, could outrun someone if they were up against it. A burglar, a thug, a cop? I know I have. And I always get away in that day dream. But the thought of checking the 'Convicted of a Crime' box and worse explaining that i was convicted of "collide and run while participating in a fun run" was a bit much for me to accept. I stopped and obeyed the order of the red faced, pudgy hulk in front of me.

He looked right at me (disgusted) and made a motion to the car. I honestly was just about to put my hands on his car, 100% certain that he would cuff me. Instead the man started in with what, in a normal situation, would seem like very relevant questions. However given the current context bordered on the absurd.

Officer: Did you not see me?
What I thought: Did you not see ME?
What I said: I had my head down going up the hill. I never saw you. And i certainly did not know you were a police officer.

Officer: Did you not see this? (pointing to the front of the vest saying 'Police', his rage not diminished at all)
What I said: You had your back to me. It was all a blur [laughing at this point]

Officer: You just KEPT ON GOING!
What i said: It's a race. [I then looked down at my watch]

Officer: We are out here protecting you and this is how you repay us?
What I thought: You almost killed me twice
What i said: [No longer piss my pants afraid of the red faced member of Asheville's finest nor the gun he had full access to] I'm sorry, I never meant to run into you.

All told he yelled at me for more than a full minute. Finally, he looked at my race number and told me to "Get out of here". His thoughts transparent. 'I've got your number buddy'. With a thankful smile, I continued on my way. No longer falling forward, I returned to turning potential energy into kinetic energy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Coming to an End, Time for Running

This week marks my official start to training for the fall running season. I plan on continuing to swim and bike for cross training purposes, but i am now done for the year with triathlons. I gotta say, i can't wait until spring so i can do some more. I did 2 sprint tri's and the Spirit of Morgantown half ironman. I still think a marathon is tougher (because you just don't stop for 3+ hours), but the half ironman was a challenge of a different kind.

First off, the swim. I felt great the whole time. Having a wetsuit makes a big difference and i am now proficient enough where i can siwm a couple of miles without much problem. Doing it quickly is a different story. But when i finished the 1.2 in Morgantown, i could definitely have done another 1.2. In fact the biggest issue i had was equipment related. My goggles were so fogged, i ended swimming about 1.5 miles or so. Was out of the water in under 45 minutes which was my goal.

The bike was brutal. Several sustained 5-7% grades with one super nasty 12% grade hills. Why i chose West Virginia for my first half i really don't know. Met my goal of finishing in under 3 hours though.

Next, the run. a super dull, super hot/humid experience. i spend every water stop (every mile) dumping 3 large glasses of ice water on my head and trying to keep the will to keep going. Me + 90 degree heat + 90 percent humidity + running = not fast. Had some cramps too, but i know i can break 1:45 if its cooler.

All in all i broke 5:45. If i ran what i wanted to, i would have broke 5:30 (which is my goal). What a challenge though. The marathon will definitely be the toughest part of an ironman if i ever get there. Maybe in a few years. I already have 3 or 4 half ironmen for next summer lined up. Besides, if i can do half marathons (regardless of the bike/swims) in the summer, i will definitely help my running season times. In fact, i've done more long runs this summer (by a factor of 5) then i ever have before.

But now its fall and its time for Asheville in less than a month to kick it all off. Then, the big event comes early (in less than 2 months). Chicago!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lay Back Because It's the Summertime

So I have been biking for a little over a year now and started swimming a couple of times a week. Naturally, i decided to sign up for 2 triathlons, 2 bike touring events, and a half ironman. What the heck is wrong with me? I've completed the first tri and have another one this weekend. And i gotta say, i really love it so far.

The half ironman will be held in the beginning of August in Morgantown, WV. I feel pretty confident in the bike and the run. The swimming is slowly coming to me. I just need to relax and try not to die (literally).

The fall is looking busy as always and I can't wait to start the half marathons. I plan on starting in Asheville in September just like every year and will be capping off the fall training season with the Chicago Marathon. I plan on making a vacation out of it and know at least 2 other people who will be at the race. I'd love to get a PR on this course, but the possibility of high heat and the earliness (October) may prevent that. We'll see.

Then I plan on doing either the Mardi Gras or Little Rock (in late Feb or early March), the Hatfield/McCoy in June, and maybe (MAYBE) the Ironman in Madision WI a year from Sept. Oh man that is ambitious. We'll see how this weekend goes first. Then if Morgantown doesn't kill me, i'll start thinking about it seriously. But for now, I just like thinking that i've got an ironman in my future.

Oh yeah. Forgot, I think i may do the Mississippi Blues Marathon in January too. We'll see if conflicts occur though.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Flying Pig Down, Season Done

Just got off the plane from Cincinnati, OH fresh off of running the Flying Pig marathon. First, it didn't really dawn on me until I nearly started the race that I was running the Flying Pig marathon during the height of our swine flu hysteria. Happy to report that i didn't catch that (at least I hope i didn't).

With many apologies to the natives, the city of Cincinatti is not America at her finest. The city itself was dull, drab, and lacked character for the most part (with the exception of a nice village around mile 16). The 2 worst parts were the water (which was the worst i have ever tasted and i have to tell you that i am NOT very picky) and the smell. Everything in that city smelled bad. From the hotel and lobby all the way through the race, through the industrial part of town (aka the entire city), etc. We did run past a bread factory and that smelled like wonderbread. That was the only reprieve. Needless to say, what i lack in pickiness as it pertains to water, i more than make up for in the pickines related to smells.

All that complaining aside, the race was fairly well organized and fairly flat after the first 8 miles or so. It was no where near the most organized, friendly or any other characteristic people judge marathons on however. So the good reputation is very much overstated as far as i was concerned.

As for the race, i did well. I PR'd in fact. For the first 20 miles, my legs didn't feel particularly strong however. It was strange. I went for a 3 mile walk up some hills the day before and i think that had some ill affects. But at the end of the day, my training and strategy kicked in. In fact, the key to this race for me was consistency. My first mile was 7:11 and my last mile was 7:09.

I definitely felt slow the entire race. This is no doubt a result of a lack of half marathons in the last few months. I feel like next fall, i should be able to add a little more speed and maybe do well in Chicago. But doing Atlanta just 1 month before this race most certainly helped me on the last 10k. So hopefully i can train to get the best of both worlds next October.

On to biking season! Just 3 months until next running season!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Georgia Done, Now on to Ohio

Just got back from the ING Georgia marathon in Atlanta. I did ok with a 3:11:42. I wasn't expecting to break 3:09 like in Alabama but was hoping to still break 3:11. It was not in the cards though.

Had an interesting night the night before the race. I stayed at a really posh hotel (the Omni). Problem was, my neighbors decided it was a good night to stay in their room and yell until 2:30am. When i went to ask them to stop, i was confronted (literally) by two of the largest men i have ever seen. They were both easily each 6'9" and about 280lbs. I bet they were NFL linemen. So that was fun.

But that certainly wasn't the biggest problem i had with this race. Problem #1 was that it was a tough course. I trained pretty well for hills, but there were a lot (one guy i spoke to counted 43 hill). In fact, i was feeling great at mile 23. I felt strong and was well within pace to break 3:10. But then i hit the wall before 24. Mostly because of 3 large hills in a row. After that, i just tried to finish.

I hear that Cincinatti is hilly too, but not as tough. I think i need to train on hills after mile 21. That may help me out. After Cincinatti, i'll be looking forward to Chicago in October. I really want to blow the doors off of that one. It may be the last fast marathon i run for a while.G

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Done With Trails For Now

Late December through early February has typically been my 'Trail Season'. This season ended on Saturday for me when i ran the Uwharrie 20 miler in Ophir, NC. It was my 5th time running it and 4th time finishing. This race in 2007 was the beginning of my year of injuries and is the only race i ever DNF'ed.

It was a warm and largely uneventful race (unusual on both fronts). I couldn't overcome cramping enough to beat my old time from 2006, but didn't miss it by much. This race is more Man vs. Wild than endurance race. At the end of the race, i was not at all winded (being able to only manage 10 minute miles through the tricky trails, crag, and resulting cramping). My trail conditioning was adequate, not great - highlighted by my 4 falls and 2 stumbles (slightly higher than normal). Shockingly, all my falls were onto dirt or leaves, so i escaped cuts and bruises completely.

I've decided to forgo any other trail races this season, and get back to road races. Trail races make me feel like Bear Grylls, but road races are where i get the most joy. Two or three races this spring ahead of a very busy six months of marathons: Atlanta, Cincinati, and Chicago. Can't wait!