Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blossoms of Hoop

I say it every year, but I hate March.  If it weren't for the NCAA Tournament, I would gladly tear the page off the calendar.  This year was deja vu, all over again.  There was a weekend where it was warm, teasing us with the promise of outside riding, and then it dropped back to unseasonably cold temperatures.  This past Sunday I had to ride inside!  I thought the days of trainer rides were over, but I was sadly mistaken.  Additionally, now that I've moved to my spring/summer schedule of Tuesday Night Track and riding on Weds/Thurs, it continues to be cold and rain on W/Th, nixing my rides.  But, March has provided some pretty memorable moments over the years, and they haven't been all bad.

March 14, 2009 - I finally made it to one of the Pub Runs.  It was a lot of fun. 

March 15, 2009 - Shamrock 5k.  Didn't run as fast as I had the year before, but I still managed a 16:56. 

March 21, 2009 - National Marathon.  Went to spectate Brennan, Arjun and I tried to run with him for a few miles.  He was ripping into the race so hard I could only keep up for 5 miles from 14-19.  Arjun made it another 2 or 3. 

March 13, 2010 - Pub Run again.  I couldn't run, so I helped out.  It rained.  150 people had a blast.

March 14, 2010 - Shamrock 5k.  Couldn't run, but watched as everyone ran real quick.

March 15, 2010 - Surgery #2.  I don't generally buy into the Ides of March stuff, but it seemed a little eerie this day. 

March 20, 2010 - National Half Marathon.  Probably was pushing it trying to drive just a few days after surgery, but wanted to get down to spectate the race again.  And there I was, at mile 10, on crutches, as everyone ran by.  And they ran super fast. 

March 12, 2010 - Pub Run.  This year, Ed and I put it on.  Another awesome event.

March 13, 2010 - Shamrock 5k.  Didn't sign up in time, so did another race instead, and won money for the first time.

March 15, 2010 - Strides of March.  Track comes back with an appropriate theme.

You'll notice the trend, that sweet spot week of March.  The Pub Run, Shamrock 5k, National (although it was a week later this year), March Madness, and this year it was truly mad.  My bracket looked great on Thurs/Fri, was busted by Saturday.  Then it came roaring back, only to fall flat again.  I had an opportunity to win my pool, but VCU had to go all George Mason on that ass, and UNC couldn't get shit done.  Now I'm disheartened because I don't think 3 of the 4 Final Four teams "deserve" to be there, so I have to root for UConn.

St. Patrick's Day, of course being one of my favorite holidays, is also another plus for March.  So maybe March isn't all that bad. 

As much pain as I've been in lately (foot), it beats where I was last year, which was, to say, coming off a second knee surgery and severely depressed.  It is always better to be able to do something, than to not be able to do anything.  Last March seems impossibly long ago.  I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Amsterdam, for one last visit with the Sgrizzis (they're back in Baltimore now), and by that point I had not swam, run or ridden in over a month.  I would continue to not do anything through March, and even into April.  I guess from that perspective, I'm automatically ahead of where I was this time last year.  Unfortunately I don't feel very comfortable.  My foot is going on over 3 months of pretty bad pain.  My swimming is just not there.  On the bike, I feel okay, but I haven't ridden as much as I'd like in the last two weeks. 

One of the things I always appreciated about living near DC in the month of March was the Cherry Blossoms.  There really is no better time to be down there (actually, it's the only time I enjoy going there).  In college, I would drive or metro down during the week, when the visitors were few and the blossoms were generally in full bloom.  I love how they have the Cherry Blossom Festival, of course it's got to be on the weekend, but it's almost always a week late.  The fake warm days trigger the blossoms early, and then they wind up popping.  It was great to be able to jump down there on the days you knew were going to be full bloom. 

Saturday I headed down to DC for the National Marathon once again.  I met Nina at Judiciary Square - she had already put in 7 and change and we were running by 6:50.  We headed out on the course around mile 3.  It's awesome when the wide avenues are completely shut down.  Of course it didn't look much different than a normal Saturday at 7am down there.  There are very few spectators, and, for this race, no mile markers.  But it was a nice, calm morning down along the Mall, and we were enjoying the adoration of the few spectators, who thought we were in the lead.  We made it around the course back to mile 16, and then I ran back to my car, which was parked at New York and N. Capitol.  I figured for the 2h15m of running I probably got in just over 17 miles.  Sunday, Pat and I were stuck inside in the morning for a 1h45m ride, chased with a 45min run.

This weekend looks to be cold still, and of course there's rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow, which may impact my riding.  Sunday is another spring tradition, the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  With the exceptions of the years I've not been running, I've made it down there for the past 12 years.  We started running down from College Park in college, and have kept that going.  I did run the race one time, in 2009, and it was terrible and I don't anticipate doing it again, but I do like running down TO the race.  Run down, metro back, Bagel Place afterwards, home before noon. 

Go UConn!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Keep the Juice Rolling

One of my favorite card-playing movies starring Matt Damon is the film Rounders, and one of the central themes of the movie is owing money to loansharks.  They refer to the interest as "juice," and this interest compounds seemingly hourly.  The comparison I want to make is interest, and how it works in the science of sport.  As it pertains to my own training, there have been times I've been in debt, and there are times I've lived off the interest.  Across micro and macro cycles alike, we all start somewhat in debt.  Do you remember your first run?  I do.  When a track program came to my grammar school (6th grade), I joined and was the fastest white boy since Jerry Seinfeld.  100m.  200m.  Long Jump.  4x100m.  Those were my events and I did not deviate.  I may have run either a couple of 400s, maybe an 800m and possibly a 1600m at some point, but they were races and not runs. 

No, my first run was when I was in 8th grade, and our coach instructed me to do 2.5 miles on the Count Basie track.  20 minutes sticks out in my head as the time, but looking back and I don't know if 8 minute miles is conceivable.  I thought I was the most BAMF on the planet, running that far, in my white t-shirt and gray cotton shorts, and presumably my shitty Reeboks.  When I went to high school later that year, I was in debt each and every day.  Going for runs and getting dropped before we even got off school property, getting lost because I had never been to that part of Middletown, basically walking half of every run.  The first time I ran the Freshman (2.1 mile) cross country course, I ran over 18 minutes.  Two weeks later, I ran 14:51.  By the end of that season, I had run a 13:50 or something.  Each week I deposited my training pay check into the account, so that I had something to withdraw from on race day (twss).

Over the course of those 4 years I made improvements, but it wasn't until I really started running more miles that I saw truly signifcant benefits.  When I transitioned over to triathlon in college, the 85 miles per week I was running dropped to 50, 55, and for the first time in my life, I was living off the interest.  I had accrued such fitness that I was immediately competent at riding a bike, the running I was doing felt like a cakewalk and I was still one of the fastest triathletes, and my swimming was...well, it was. 

I raced that way for a while.  I didn't see much time improvement on the run, largely because I think I was running about as fast as I was going to in general.  I rode and swam reasonable amounts, and kept pretty detailed training logs during college.  When I shattered my ankle in August 2003, it was back to the drawing board, and once again, training in debt.  This ebb and flow continued, and as any athlete can attest, there are times when it's your lungs that can't keep up with your legs, and times your legs can't keep up with your lungs.  I began to find that, even though I had this injury, my fitness was still there, and could come back quickly.  In other words, the juice was still rolling.

As the second half of the 2000s rolled around, and I moved to Baltimore, I watched as I once again started in debt.  I was not in good running shape.  I swam 3 times of the span of 3 years.  I was getting hammered by the significantly tougher terrain of Baltimore on my bike.  But just like that weak freshman in 1995, I kept going.  And now I had 10 years of knowledge behind me.  How hard can I go and finish this ride?  How much can I run today and still be able to do something tomorrow?  I've learned exactly what my body has in it for that day, week or month of training.  By 2009, I was flush, living off the interest and making a killing.  Every day I went out, I felt stronger and better than the day before.  When that market crashed, I felt flat broke. 

I described last year that when I was able to resume training in June, things came back quicker than I expected, which led to me feeling confident enough to race Arizona.  It was weird though - like I was racing off the interest but training in debt.  Then I discovered that it's entirely feasible.  There are plenty of people I know who are able to race well, training at levels that would indicate they'd race much slower, and that comes from knowing how to get the most out of your body.  For me, when I did Luray last August, I had done one or two runs over the distance of the race (10k) and I had only done a handful of "speed" workouts that were done at or just under 6 minute pace.  Yet somehow, off the bike, on a rolling course, I managed to average 6:22/mi.  Later, in October at the Red Bank Tri, I managed a 29:24 5 miler off the bike.  I don't think if I had gone to run 5 miles that day I could have run that fast. 

How was this happening?  My knee never feels good, never feels fluid.  I click and creak and crack whenever I take a step.  My knee is sometimes so tight that I can't bend or straighten it at all (not that I have full range of motion with it anymore, anyway).  My volume of training is good, my aerobic fitness is excellent, but my power, my speed and my anaerobic capacity are entirely limited.  It's not secret that every person has a bottom-line capability, the "worst" they'll do on an given day.  I think I had found mine.  By setting the right expectations, and being smart, I was squeezing the juice for all it was worth.

And now, here we are in March, just a few weeks away from the beginning of 2011 tri season, and after this particular weekend, I feel good about the outlook.  If I were selling futures, I would say that I'll be back to at least where I was in 2009.  My body feels broken every day, but it's build Ford (Ironman) tough now, and I know that I have a ton of volume that I can live off of from last year.  That's how I was able to do what I did this weekend, without any indication that my body should have allowed me to do it...

Friday - Took advantage of the 80 degree day and rode for 4 hours with OJ.  Put in a few real hard sections, and came back feeling good.  Ran 9 miles later in the day at a comfortable pace. 

Saturday - Led the expedition to Frederick.  Talk about living off the interest, Ben came out for what was to be his first group ride and also longest ride ever.  As I've explained, Frederick is no joke.  And Ben rode extremely well.  But when you've been alive as long as he has, you don't just have interest, you've got a fully vested pension and 401k to draw from.  Alyssa also rode real well, again using the interest she accrued from last summer and the work she's done this winter to keep the juice rolling.  We ran 20 minutes off the bike, where Pat and I pushed the last 5 minutes.  Got back to Baltimore, felt wiped but got in the pool for a Super GT Saturday.

Sunday - Knew it was going to be tough today.  It's not often that I'll go 3 days in a row on the bike, and this was to be day #4 (rode easy 75min outside on Thursday).  After 10 hours in 3 days on the bike, I wasn't sure how my body would go, but in honor of my late homey, Nate Dogg, I was determined to "rock it til the wheels come off."  The nice temperatures were gone, and in their stead was cold air and cold, stiff wind.  As a result, I waited until later in the day and rode once again with OJ.  He defines "keeping the juice rolling" - because I call him Juice and because he was rolling.  We departed Meadowbrook and headed north, dropping into Hunt Valley and splicing together a number of rides, hitting some of the nastier climbs in the county (Greenspring, Caves, a 4:14 trip up Bellemore).  At just under 4 hours, this marked a 13 hour 4 day bike binge, and an approximate 200 miles. 

You can go hard until your body tells you to stop.  Then you recover.  Then you repeat.  That's what makes champions.  Most of the time, I just get excited to see what my body is capable of doing.  I think that's why we all do it. 

For the week, on the strength of the bike volume, I was nearly at 20 hours.  Hard to believe that I didn't drop below 20 for most of the 5 months I was training last year.  I was going to run Sunday, as with only 3 miles on Saturday my week mileage was 35, but then I thought the better of it.  If I was going to run 35-45 minutes just to get over 40 miles, there wouldn't have been much point.  My legs were cooked and the riding was the focus of the weekend.  The pool was 3 swims at 3k each for a total of 9000m. 

Today is all about making deposits; in this case the deposit is the respite of a day of recovery.  An easy swim, an easy run.  It's a critical time of year now, where I'll start to transition away from slower, easier efforts to a few precise, harder ones.  When you begin to introduce racing, plus the harder efforts, your body gets thrown for a loop and you can overdraw your account without knowing it, and then TD Bank will allegedly fix the problem but then they didn't tell you that you had to sign something, and then for some reason your mom is still on the account that you set up when you were like 5 years old and because TD Bank doesn't have a big presence here, they have to mail it to you and then you have to mail it back and then your mom has to go in and sign it, but that's neither here nor there.

Just remember every day that you do something, the juice will keep rolling.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hammers and Nails

Lance Armstrong is generally pretty good for a sound byte.  One-liner here, short quip there.  He wasn't always this way, but after a few years Touring around France in the summer, he opened up to the media and has provided some great clips.  One of my favorite lines was from last summer's Tour, when he rolled up to the finish line a broken man.  He said, "some days you're the hammer, some days you're the nail.  I've been the hammer before.  Today I was the nail." 

Now, of course it's impossible to compare the best day I've ever had to even the worst day Lance has ever had, it wouldn't even be a competition.  I also am not trying to say that finishing 2nd place in a race, even if there are just 60 people, is the definition of being "the nail" - but yesterday's race for me was a reality check. 

The last time I did a duathlon was in 2002, the LaPlata Duathlon, put on by Brad Jaeger's Triathlantic Association.  It was in March.  It was cold.  It was windy.  So it was with a certain sense of deja vu that, 9 years later, I was standing on the start line of a duathlon.  In March.  In the wind.  Temps were pretty chilly.  And there, on the sidelines, was Brad Jaeger.  The only difference is that it wasn't his race.  Oh, and instead of being the flatlands of Southern Maryland, it was the hilly hinterlands of Hampstead, Maryland.

I was not looking forward to many aspects of this race.  It was early in the morning - a 7:30am start - on the day that we lose an hour of sleep.  Which also means it was pretty darn dark on the way up.  It was in Hampstead, which is 45 minutes away.  2.5mi run/14mi bike/2.5mi run, so pretty short.  It was chilly, but not cold.  What was the appropriate attire for the event?  It was also a $95 race.  That's hefty. 

But, there were some things I was really looking forward to - namely the prize purse for top 3 plus the bike prime for fastest bike split of the day.  While I am generally the first to want to be in the most competitive race, against the most competitive people, I'm also not generally in a position to win money.  Ever.  In fact, I've only ever won money one time, for my race win at the 2002 Terp Trot.  It wasn't even real money, it was $75 that could only be used at the businesses on Route 1.  So I took my friends to get ice cream at Baskin Robbins and then we went out and I paid the tab at Bentley's.  When Alyssa alerted me about the race, I did my best to not tell anyone I felt would jump in the race and do it, potentially leaving me out of the money.  I figured I would find out if anyone was going to do this race and so I waited to sign up until just a few days before the event.

I get to the race and sure enough boom - immediately see 4 people I know, including Double K, aka Kevin Kendro.  One of the nicest dudes of all time and a really talented guy.  I see Woody, who I know from the running circles in Baltimore, and I see this dude whose name we never quite seem to catch, but he runs with us at FHR and is generally pretty quick.  Also spot a guy who looks familiar, like maybe I've seen him at the pool or something.  So I quickly realize, this race is going to be on.

The field was small, and there was a 5k running simultaneously on the same course.  5k runners were supposed to follow the course, while duathletes were going to have some kind of turnaround at about 1.25 miles.  From the whistle, 5 people jumped out front, with two appearing to be in the 5k, Double K, familiar guy and some other dude.  If the mile mark was accurate, and I think it was because it was downhill, I came through in 5:36 and had moved up to 3rd.  I sat in this position, not wanting to go into the red on this first run.  I approached a water stop, and the two women there just watched me go by.  Some seconds later, I hear Kevin yell up - apparently, despite no indication of any turnaround, the water stop was it.  I correct my error, and quickly catch and re-pass everyone who was now in front of me, but one guy who was definitely in the duathlon continued on the 5k course and we couldn't get him back on track.

I finished the run in 16:13, with an added minute I felt like, maybe more.  Kevin was 17 seconds back.  I got out onto the bike, wearing my arm warmers, toe warmers and long-fingered gloves.  I felt okay at this point, but there were times on the course that it got real cold.  Kevin passed me fairly early in the race.  I tried to keep him in sight, but soon he was gone.  Later in the ride, another guy passed me, and then another.  I kept those two in sight and around 38 minutes realized we were almost done.  Kevin was a half mile into the run when I passed him on my bike, so I knew he was out of reach.  The only thing I could do was run down the two guys in front of me.

I passed them in the first mile, but at the turnaround I saw the guy who had gone farther out of his way on the run, and he was running well.  I managed to hold him off and ran it in to finish 2nd.  My 2nd run time was 14:28, and the way it was run was a little shorter than the first one, so I figured my estimated minute loss was about right on the first run.  Kevin finished two minutes up, probably having ridden more than 2 minutes faster than I did.  The guy in third - Marc - had indeed run the entire 5k course, and started the bike two minutes after we did.  Great ride for him. 

I was pleased with the effort for the day, running two solid runs and putting together an okay bike split.  While it was the type of course that, due to its hilly nature, one could have done okay on a road bike, I'm still giving up too much without a time trial bike.  This won't cut it for the races coming up.  Plus, while my road bike was top-end in 2005, it's now 6 years later and I've ridden the shit out of it.  It's coming apart at the seams.  I need to definitely have a solution in place by Columbia.

Back in the school - which was, incidently, the site of my first ever (and only) bike race in 2007 - I ate a cookie, drank a Coke and then the pizzas rolled in.  40, by my count, way too many for the number of people.  Then they announced the awards and, as 2nd place, earned myself $100.  The good news is that it means I only spent $2 on the race (after the Active fees it was over $100).  So I felt better about at least getting to race for (basically) free. 

In 2009, the last year I raced against Double K, I put some time into him on the bike.  This year, he got me.  I'm sure he's in very good shape, but, as alluded to in the beginning, I used to be the hammer.  I used to be able to show up to any triathlon and put down a very solid bike split.  Now I'm on the receiving end.  I'm the nail.  Some of this may change with a new bike, but I also need to race more and get in more hard efforts.  As always, I'm now bound by the limits of my range of motion and my knee's ability to generate power, so I've got to find a way to bring that back.  There are now 12 weeks until Columbia, and another 3 to Eagleman.  That's a lot of time to find form, and more importantly, to hold it.  Additionally, as always with goals, there are some that are more important than others.  I never put a place goal for myself at Columbia, because it could be (actually, it is) seriously stacked and I might go faster than I've ever gone and finish in a lower position.  Same with Eagleman.  My goals are for later this year, and those are what I'm working toward.

For the week, it ended pretty well.  A good trainer ride on Thursday for Pat's 30th birthday, and a decent ride on Saturday - so three days (albeit short ones) on the bike; 3 swims (2 weren't great, 1 was okay) and 4 days of running for 41 miles, including my return to the track (Tues) and the race (Sun).  Just over 12 hours I think.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Game Changed

Nah, the game's the same, it just got fierce

March is a tough month.  For the first half, it's still dark.  The temperatures fake you out each day; sometimes they're quasi warm, sometimes they're cold.  The wind is mean.  The only thing that gets me through each and every March is, naturally, the NCAA Tournament.  So much basketball you can't even handle it.  And there are a few fun events, including Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day (which means Pub Run, and the actual day), and more very quick races.  It is the gateway to spring.

I have a severe seasonal mood disorder.  I truly struggle to make it through the winter, moreso every year.  And a few years ago I began to develop what appeared to be little blisters all over my hands and feet.  They show up in the winter, and usually disappear in the summer.  I went to a dermatologist, who was almost surprised at what he called "chilblains", and referred to it as a condition present usually in cold, damp countries (like the Netherlands) where people are wearing gloves and, generally, sweating in them - like when they ride bikes.  Makes sense then, that I should also suffer from this.  I've always had poor circulation, a gift from my cold-blooded mother, and since I began riding more outside in the winter, it just developed.  Basically the capillaries in my fingers burst or something, creating a blister-like condition that sometimes cripples my hands as bad as arthritis.  I'll live, obviously, it just gets annoying.  Winter.  I hate it.

But March allows you to get a little excited.  I made it out to Frederick for the first time this year on Saturday to ride.  OJ and David Lee joined and we had a fun little ride.  Conditions weren't the worst I've experienced out there, but they were far from the best.  I rode very well for the first 45 miles, and then was not as psyched about the last 10.  We faced a headwind as we rode back from Boonsboro to Frederick, through Middletown, and my lack of water bottle cages (seriously, I'm too lazy to put them back on my bike) meant that I was using a (borrowed) water bottle that I stored in my jersey pocket.  Which, in turn meant that I didn't have enough water, and I was dehydrated before the ride.  My bike is riding like garbage, and, I found out after the ride that somehow I knocked out 3 of the 4 screws in my right cleat.  Don't know how I accomplished that. 

I feel like this winter's trainer sessions are helping.  Until last year I had avoided the trainer like the plague.  I relied on getting outside for big rides whenever I could, which usually meant a 70, 80 or 90 miler on a warm-ish weekend day in January or February, followed by a week or two of no riding.  This year I've been on a good schedule of riding on Tues/Thurs for 90min, and getting out the last few weekends now that the conditions are getting a little better.  When I get outside, 3 hours is the minimum ride time.  With ambitious goals (I only call them ambitious because I haven't raced in a while, otherwise they're exactly what I rode two years ago before I got hurt), I know I need to spend time on the bike, and focus on the principles of riding that helped me be successful in the first place.

Running-wise, I've followed the principle of "get out the door."  My last four weeks have been (in order) 48, 50, 46 and 45.  Generally this is on 4 runs, with one of the weeks running 5 times.  I have been dealing with not only the knee issue, but now this foot problem, and I'm just trying to do what I can, when I can.  I run on the days I know I'll have people to run with - so Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and one of the weekend days.  On these days, I usually get out for 10-12, with Friday being an easy hour, and then I've actually been doing good on the long run tip, getting in 14+ in 9 of the 10 weeks of this year.  I'm usually running pretty slow, other than the two races and two workouts on Club Challenge course, haven't done any "workouts" - until tonight.

We are starting our "official" TNT workouts next Tuesday (Strides of March, copyright Dustin Meeker), but I took the opportunity tonight to get up there for a little pre-workout workout.  I believe it's the earliest I've done a track workout since college.  A good sized group met to do varying numbers of 800s.  I haven't felt very quick lately, and I got worked by just about everyone.  My splits, with about 1:45 rest, were 2:47, 2:42, 2:43, 2:44.  I heard the girls ran 2:44 on their 5th one.  I did 4.  Then I did 4x200, running 37.6, 36.4, 35.6, 35.6.  I remember the days when I was able to run 10 of these in 2:30 or better and get a minute rest. 

So, where to go from here?  Well, for one, I always take a look at the goals of the year and really try to figure out what I value most.  In this case, I have a very tri-heavy year, and most of these races I'll be running more than 10k.  I have some of my tried and true favorites (Columbia, Eagleman) and a host of new races to look forward to.  It's going to be a long season - the longest tri season I've ever attempted - and I know that my body only has so many efforts in it.  I think I need to cut my running mileage a little bit, not that it's even all that high, but I think I need to get away from the 10+ mile runs and move more to a 6-8, and start running a little quicker, adding in some harder efforts.  This may mean moving up to a 5th day of running to maintain at least 40mpw, which I don't want to drop below. 

On the bike, I plan on heading out to Frederick two of the next 4 weekends.  That ride is the truth.  If you are having a bad day, it will be one of the worst days you'll ever have.  But if you're riding well, you'll feel a confidence like no other.  On the weekends in between, perhaps a trip to Columbia, or maybe a pass at the Lineboro ride. 

Brennan ran 3 of my 4 runs with me last week, including our 11 mile Friday night run to "the stroll".  Friday nights have become a very random run, and that's been helping me also get out the door.  We have deviated from our normal routes, so we're only running for time.  This run is also extremely easy, so easy that it led to us coining the term "Friday pace" for when we're really running slow.  We've come to the conclusion that, for now, at least, we are just glad that we're doing something.  When we're ready for harder efforts, we'll know.  It's also been nice to explore parts of the city, although some of them are parts I wouldn't recommend exploring.  That was the case for our Sunday long run where Ed, Harvey, Tom Stott and I ended up in some less-than-savory parts of Baltimore.  In just 2 hours we canvassed all of East Baltimore, including a cemetary, Clifton Park, Lake Montebello, Waverly, Charles Village, Druid Hill Park, Reservoir Hill, Mt. Vernon and again to East, and ultimately Southeast Baltimore.  We saw someone getting jumped (10am on a Sunday) on Preston St.  We saw kids slinging rocks from the stoops.  It was, much like my quote at the beginning of this post, straight out of The Wire. 

For today, I'm glad I can do this again.  This time last year I was getting ready to go under the knife again, and hadn't run since January, hadn't ridden or swam since early February.  So if I look at it like that, I'm way ahead of where I was this time last year.  The exciting thing about not knowing what you're doing is exactly that - not knowing what you're doing.  You try something and see if it works.  See how your body responds, and then make adjustments. 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to" ~ Bilbo Baggins

I'm just glad I can still get out the door.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Time for my monthly post, I suppose.  Once again I waited until the penultimate day of the month to race, and once again I went into the event lacking confidence.  This time it was the RRCA-MD 10 Mile Club Championships, aka Club Challenge.  Without a doubt, this is the most important event on my calendar each year, not so much for my own personal goals, but for the team.  It is a cruel event; a hilly 10 miler in Columbia in the winter, very early in the year.  It is brutally honest, however, and can either serve as a huge confidence booster, or a rude wake-up call for your fitness. 

I've been on both ends of that truth.  In 2006, racing in my first Club Challenge, and wearing Nike 360s I might add, I got served.  1:04:10, and I think it was short.  Jake Marren, Ryan Schmidt and I went down to the race and ran through 5 together, splitting something under 30.  The two of them slowed in the back half, ultimately running times in the 1:01:xx range, but I suffered.  Thank God I've done worse than that in other races over the years, so I've put that one behind me.  I swore I would never race it again, but a year later I was prepared and actually excited to race.  An alleged snowstorm, however, canceled that year's edition, and I would have to wait another year to exact my revenge. 

Now it's 2008 and, thanks to an injection of new blood (Ben, Arjun, Alex, Justin, Steve Levin, to name a few), I thought we had a solid shot at the team titles.  That was the winter I was racing some indoor track meets, and I felt like I was in decent shape to put forth a good effort.  The result was a 59:25 - not too bad!  It was a 10 mile PR and I felt pretty good.  Unfortunately for the team, we got smoked.  You know you're not going to do well when a 59:25 is your 5th or 6th scorer.

For the newer guys, it was their first CC, and they all swore they'd never race again too, but, just like me, they came back a year later, ready to crush butts.  It was a much better sign that I ran a 58:55 and was one of the last scorers.  We didn't win the men's or women's team title, but when the scoring had been finalized, we had won the Overall Team title, and, to quote Miley Cyrus, it was "pretty cool."

2010, of course, the year I miss, winds up being the Falls Road Clinic on winning.  That created high expectations for this year, but we definitely took a hit by losing a number of our scorers from last year.  We ended up racing with just 32 people, down from 50 last year.  Up front we had a number of truly amazing races, but in the end the numbers just weren't in our favor.  The cool thing was there wasn't a poor performance among the whole group.  There were something like 20 PRs run by our 32 people.  We came in 2nd in the men's team by just 24 points (very close when you score 12) and scored almost the fewest amount possible for the women on their way to a team victory.  For the third year in a row now, we also came home with the Overall Team victory.  Another great day for the team.

My own personal race was fine, I ended up running 1:00:12 for 39th place.  Disappointed I was just 13 seconds away from cracking 60, but more disappointed that I couldn't close the gap on Old Man Berardi.  There he was, running with another Strider, and about to catch another (I know their names but so they don't google themselves and wonder why they're on here, I'll leave them nameless).  I couldn't shut it down, and Berardi got me by 6 seconds.  From a race management standpoint, I was pleased.  I went out more responsibly, and was very comfortable through the first 4 miles.  I was running under 6 minute pace without being overly aggressive.  I hit their mile 5 marker in 29:16, but I'm certain that is an early mark.  Where I believe the 5 mile mark to be I crossed in 29:41.  Even there, I still feel like it may be a little shy of where it actually is.  But seeing as in our workouts I use this mark as the halfway, I will just call it 29:41. 

The neighborhood was expectedly tough, and I tried to stay "in it" until we crossed over the highway again and reached the 7 mile mark.  I had ridden my bike for 4 hours the previous day, and it definitely left me feeling it.  I was approaching the point where my legs weren't going to move any faster, I could only hope they wouldn't slow down too much.  As each mile ticked by I watched my pace creep up.  35:47 at 6, 41:50 at 7, 48:01 at 8.  Could I run under 12 minutes for the last two miles?  I sure was trying.  Clipped through 9 at 54:10, and thinking I could surely muster a 5:49 last mile, I believed I could do it.  I made the turn onto Hickory Ridge and was able to pass one Strider, but couldn't reach Berardi and the other guy ahead.  I disappointedly watched as the clock turned over the hour mark, gave a quick look behind and crossed the line. 

Along the course I realized I was our 11th person, and needed to hold position.  It was nice to be a scorer again, I think the only time I haven't been was that first year.  I was really excited for my friends' performances, and I think they were too, as most of them reveled for the entire remainder of the day, even into the evening.  Monday's run was predictably slow, as most of us had no pep in the step.

As another month has gone by, I'll once again grade myself on how my training has gone:


Swimming - C.  Once again I just did not make it into the pool enough.  Like I've said, I no longer feel like I need to put in the 5000m days I was doing all last year, because I don't think the additional volume is making me swim any faster.  If anything, I think those long days, day after day, were just making me more tired for the runs and rides.  Total for the month was a mere 24,000 meters, but was accentuated with a few decent workouts.

Cycling - A.  I gave myself a B+ for January, and February actually went pretty well.  Almost double the amount of time as January, and some really solid workouts on the trainer.  I also managed to get outside 3 times for 3+ hours, including a near 60 mile ride with Ben Winterroth on the warm Friday, and 4 hours just this past Saturday.  I'm feeling pretty strong, and that's a good sign.  I called it 394 miles this month.

Running - B+.  The first week of February started off pretty weak, following the Miami Half.  I went up to NJ that weekend for a basketball game, and due to the heavy volume of snow, it was nearly impossible for me to run (got in just 4 miles for a 25 mile week).  But after that, things got better.  I still only get in 4 days a week tops, with one week being 5 days, but my runs are generally in the 10-12 mile range.  10-12 on a Monday, 10-12 on a Wednesday, 9 on a Friday, long run on Sunday.  We did a great workout on the Club Challenge course two weeks ago, and the following week I put in a 17 mile run with Kris, Harvey and Brennan.  My last 3 weeks were 48, 50 and 46, for a total of 167 miles this month.  And I've been enjoying the runs more, running random routes for time instead of the same old standard routes knowing how fast I should be at each split.  Club Challenge average pace was 6:01, or :14 per mile faster than my race at Miami.  My foot has not felt much better, particularly after the harder efforts, but I'm getting through it.

As a result, hours per week went up.  Just under 14, then 16.5, then 15.5.  Back to some more normal volume. 

I'll probably start posting a little bit more now that I'm back to doing things, but today I'll leave you with a quote, from Bad Boys:

"Fuck you, and fuck them, and fuck everybody that got a problem with Mike Lowrey."

I've grown quite weary of hearing my name brought up in a complaining fashion in conversations.  It's real old.  If there's a problem, bring it up to me.  Otherwise, leave my name out of it.