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.

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