Tuesday, September 20, 2011

30 for 30

On Sunday I ran perhaps what may have been the best race of my life.

Wait...what?  A race report that is positive?  Actually being pleased with a performance?  No way, not here.  As rare as hen's teeth, or packs of Marlboro menthols, that's exactly what is about to happen.

I love the Philly Distance Run, even if it did sell out to the evil Competitor Group and become a Rock n Roll event.  I love the course, I love the weekend, I love racing in that city - something about Philadelphia is just phast.  I first ran the race in 2006, running alongside Chima as he ran his first ever half (and potentially one of his first road races, I don't think he had run in the years following his collegiate running).  We ran 1:30:xx.  I thought the race was just awesome, and I signed up for it the next year (for something like $50).  That was the year that we were blessed with Arjun and Melissa, so the two of them joined myself, Ben and Hollywood (and Terence) for the 2007 edition.  I ran terrible, I had been having some issues with my piriformis and sciatic nerve and after 10k just completely broke down.  I was in pain from early on, but the pace was fine - 29:49 through 5 miles and then after 6 I had to stop and stretch, and then go to the bathroom.  I was in agonizing pain after 9 miles and walked a lot of the rest of the way, ultimately finishing at 1:35:36.  Not indicative of my fitness, I was disappointed and frustrated with how it had gone.

I came back again in 2008, and once again was a little dinged up.  But, I was fitter, and felt like I could still have a good race.  My goal had been to run something in the 1:16 range, which seemed reasonable.  I ran most of the first 10k with or just behind Arjun, but then the mile splits started creeping up and up.  I held it together as best I could, but by mile 10 I couldn't keep it up and faded to 6:18 miles 12 and 13, and ultimately finished at 1:18:42.

And that's where my half marathon PR has stood, and it's the last PR I had recorded, as that following summer I was knocked out of commission.  I still went to PDR in 2009, on crutches, and hobbled around the course as much as I could.  It was exhausting.  In 2010, unsure whether I could run that far or not, I decided to not sign up, and instead bandited to a 1:28 and change.  When it came to running this year, I wasn't sure what I would do.  On one hand, it was just three weeks after the Ironman and I didn't want to put the pressure of racing on myself, but on the other hand it's one of my favorite events and I could just do it to run 13 miles that day.  Ultimately I decided to just sign up - for the outrageous cost of $95 - and plans were set.  Making it even more significant, it was the day before my 30th birthday, so it was going to be the last race as a 20-something for me.

Having run a 1:21:49 at Miami Half earlier this year, and the just-over-an-hour Club Challenge 10 miler in February, I felt like 1:20 was a reasonable goal.  I feel like I'm in at least that good of shape, but I just didn't know how my legs would respond to the effort.  Additionally, I'd raced a 5k the Sunday prior (17:47) and then ran a medium-hard 13 miles on Monday, and then broke my legs even further doing my favorite track workout - 10x1000 with a minute rest - on Tuesday.  That workout boosted the confidence a little bit.  I ran all of my 1000s in between 3:29 and 3:25, with most between 3:26 and 3:28.  Generally, under 5:35/mi for 10k of intervals with short rest.  I felt good about it, but I was also cooked.  I took it easy on Wednesday, and on Thursday I attempted to ride up to Oregon Ridge to ride with Alyssa.  20 miles, uphill, into a storm that was ripping me to shreds.  It was a terrible decision, and when I got there, Alyssa and I decided to bail on the ride and just go home.  Friday morning was rough, I felt sluggish on our 7 miler through the hood, and then my parents and brother came down later in the day for a little birthday celebration.

Alyssa's dad had given her his tickets for the Orioles game, and in turn she gave them to us to use, so we went to the game.  It was a great night for it and they appreciated it a lot.  Saturday was a bit cool and drizzly, and I didn't have a chance to run before we headed up to Philly.  Traffic in the city kept us from getting to the expo until 15 minutes before it was set to close, and I was too tired to run at that point.  Ed, Alyssa and I hit up my favorite PDR pre-race dinner spot, Continental Midtown, and then called it a night.  Unfortunately, thanks to the Penn State game in town that day, all hotels were booked or absurdly expensive, so we had to stay 15 minutes outside the city, near the airport. 

Morning came and we drove in, dropping off Ed as soon as we could.  Ed was running his 23 miler, so he had done 6 miles at the hotel, and then hopped in the car for the short 15 minute drive, and then continued on to run another 9.5 before the start of the race.  Alyssa took care of parking the car while I went to jog over to the start.  It was cool - the first time in a while I've had pants and a long sleeve on.  I found Pat, and dropped off my stuff at his car, and then continued warming up.  Along the way I spotted friends Dave Berdan and Jake Klim, and chatted briefly with them.  At 7:45 I hopped into my corral, and was surprised with how few people were trying to barge their way to the front.  I took a reasonable spot and as the National Anthem was being sung, I heard a loud "O!" - looked to my right and sure enough it was my main cholo, Ed.  Frank Shorter shot off what I guess was supposed to be a gun, although it sounded like a cap gun, and we took off.  In other years I've really had to be aggressive in the first half mile, pushing my way and weaving through the masses, but this year was pretty easy, and pretty soon we were in the clear. 

My goal of 1:20 predicated an average pace per mile of 6:06, but I was really not confident in running that fast.  I was hoping to run under 6:10 for the first mile, 6:15 at the slowest, and go from there.  As we pass what may have been about a half mile, Ed said he felt like we were running slower than 6:15.  I disagreed, and said if it is that slow, so be it - I'll adjust from there.  Sure enough, the mile comes up and I realize we are going to be way fast - 5:57.  Surprised, but not shocked.  I must have let up a little in the second mile, as we came through in 6:02, and this was where the day's booty highlight came in.  Straight from a wet t-shirt contest at Senor Frogs, this girl did not look like she should be running this far up, but she was, and I commended her effort.  She was racing in navy blue bunhugger/bikini bottoms, and was wearing a white Michelob Ultra singlet type thing that she had then tied up so her abdomen and back were both exposed.  It was cool.  I passed her, and then passed the mile 3 mark in 5:56.

5k - 18:32

I was running comfortably, but when the pace was upped in miles 4 and 5 (5:53, 5:54; 29:43 at 5), I was a little concerned that the pace was slightly suicidal.  We had gone back over the start line and were now careening down the north side of the Skully-kill River (thanks Alyssa for that gem).  Mile 6 was tough for me, and was my slowest to that point at 6:02.75. 

10k - 37:01 (18:29)

I was now sure that I was going to see the times creep up, like they normally did for me at this point of the race.  As fast of a course as this is, I don't like running the same stride the whole time.  Ed peaced out at 10k, so I was now on my own.  And literally, on my own, as I seem to find myself running solo in the middle of a 17,000 person race where I am literally running within a second or two of the same 6 minute miles each mile.  But then something happened - mile 7 was just under 6:00.  Whoa, really?  It was a mental boost, and just as I was finishing a little Gu Chomp, a group of bandits ran by me, super easily, out on their Sunday run.  I felt like it would be prudent to run with them for as long as I could hang.  Which wasn't tremendously long, but long enough to come through mile 8 in 5:54.  I was focused on making it to the bridge, as I knew mile 9 was going to be on the other side.  The bridge has always been tough for me, and since I couldn't see the clock, I thought it was going to be a slow split.  Fortunately, the clock was really just on the other side, on a little downhill, and I came through in 6:03. 

15k - 55:33 (18:32)

Now I've strung three even 5k's together, and have 4 miles left.  I'm all alone, with nobody passing me and nobody to pass except the odd fast chick who is now slowing down.  At this point, I'm focusing on one mile at a time, each little 6 minute section by each little 6 minute section.  I had eaten another Gu Chomp, and decided I really don't like trying to eat them while running.  I made it to 10 in 59:43 (5:58) which meant a 30 minute 2nd 5 miles.  5k to go, 5k to go.  I had made a conscious effort to surge in this mile, which lasted just a few minutes and then I was pretty tired.  Now the shade was starting to disappear and we were going full on into the sun.  I still had two Gu Chomps left in my little bag, which I was just holding in my hand, and I ate the last one around 11 (6:08).  Shoot, 6:08?  Was this the end for me?  I knew that I was going to be under 1:20, barring a major meltdown, but now I could see the real light: the possibility of a PR.  I ditched my last little Gu Chomp so that I could have free hands, and passed mile 12 in 6:08, which meant I was at 1:12:00 with 1.1 miles to go.  I've go to basically run a 6 minute mile and then sprint 160 meters (I also mistakenly though my PR was 1:18:40, which probably helped).

I am working hard, and now it's like the wind wants to blow hard in our face just to ruin my day.  I can now see the art museum, and with every foot strike I get closer and closer to what could be an awesome moral victory.  I see my friends on the side of the road - Alyssa, Klim, Ed and a half sober Z - who are yelling at me to push.  I click my watch - 6:00 for mile 13 - so I am right on 1:18:00 and have just a tenth of a mile to run...uphill.  Normally not a problem, except when you're trying to run as fast as you can and you've been in the same stride pattern for miles.  I got across the line and stopped the watch - 1:18:38.  I was full of emotion, not even for the time, but for what the small 4 second PR represented.  I didn't expect to run this well, and "for all intents and purposes" I shouldn't have.  I ran even splits, and when I was slowing down, I managed to limit my loss.  I was even able to pick it back up to the pace I had been running in the last mile.  Even in other races I've run that were much faster, I've never been able to do this.  I had run a smart race, and I was finally rewarded.

Maybe it was from all the suffering I've done, I can just endure it a little better than I once could, or maybe it was because I was turning 30 the next day.  Either way, I needed that one.  I needed it for so many reasons, but it helped me realize that maybe my time isn't over just yet.  On that day, I ran as fast as I could have.  I could not have squeezed and extra second from anywhere.  There is no me, saying that if I had run smarter, maybe I could have run faster.  I could not have.  If I had actually run 6:10 for the first mile, I think I would have just run slower.  I had to go out at that exact pace and keep the pressure on. 

Needless to say, I'm really pumped. 

After the race, I caught up with everyone else.  Ed had ended the day with 24.5 miles and said he felt great, which is awesome.  Berdan ran a 1:05:53 - a PR but short of his goal of sub 1:05.  A few other people we know had great races too.  The fastest times for a half marathon by both genders were achieved, with Matthew Kisorio running a 58:46 (1 second ahead of runner up) and Kim Smith of NZ running a 1:07:10.  It was just the day to run fast, I guess. 

We rolled out of Philly, cleaned up at the hotel and headed to Newark, DE, for breakfast/lunch.  Then it was back to Baltimore, where I rewarded myself with the rest of the day off. 

I woke up on Monday, officially a 30 year old, and was determined to make it a great day.  Originally I had thought about riding my bike TO Frederick, doing my ride out there and riding back, but the prospect of 130+ miles on tired legs seemed a little much.  Instead, I decided to drive to Frederick and do the ride.  It was cool, 66 degrees maybe, and overcast.  I had ambitions of a course record, but understood that I was a) doing it solo and b) tired.  I made good time to Hamburg, and made decent time up (19:38).  I think this is within 40 seconds of what I rode in early May there.  I blazed to Harp, and that was hard.  I didn't think I was going to make it.  I descended into Boonsboro, greeted now by a headwind for the 17 miles home.  That was going to make it even tougher.  I climbed South Mountain in a respectable time, and tried to go as fast as I could, but knew that it was likely out of reach.  As I crested the day's final climb and dropped into Frederick, I saw the time go by, but rode hard to make sure I got under 3 hours (2:58:07) which is pretty fast. 

I zoomed back to Baltimore, and had just enough time to get into the pool for a splash (1500m).  Then it was over to Fed Hill Runners for our Monday night jog, and I felt surprisingly decent, although my legs did feel like bricks.  40 minutes for 6 miles there, and the day was done.  We got back home and I was going to go to eat with Alyssa and Ed, and when we got to the place, I was surprised by some of my other friends, who had come out to celebrate (thanks guys!).  It was really nice of them to come out, and it was a fun night.  Alyssa and I then went and I SHUT IT DOWN at karaoke.  It was a really great day, and an excellent weekend.  I now feel a lot more confident in my running for this fall, and am excited to see how training goes from here on out. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Ridiculous Rising Cost of Racing

I've always said that I would keep doing my sport until my body gave out.

Or the price became too high.

The second one is rapidly approaching. 

Eagleman 2012 opened a few weeks ago, and after conferring with my CYB teammates, the decision was that we weren't racing.  Benda said no way, never again.  David Lee said nope, not next year.  Pat was a no.  Alyssa was a no.  Zero was a no.  OJ didn't respond, because I don't think he knows how to read or write.  So there I was, no Eagleman.  Weeks went by.  I didn't think twice.  It was time for some new races anyway.  After racing 9 times in July and August, from track meets to triathlons, time trials to 10k's, I figure next year I need to take the summer to just chill out. 

Then I found out that CTR had signed up for Eagleman, his first attempt at the distance.  Still, I resisted the urge to sign up.

Pat said I should sign up for Bay Swim, the 4.4 mile race crossing the span of the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis.  Benda and OJ have done this race many times before, with Brian having won 4 or 5 times in a row (and in the process, narrowly edging out OJ).  As my proclivity towards distance swimming seemingly supercedes my other endurance skills, it wasn't a bad idea.  But the race entry process is a lottery, and let's be honest, I probably wouldn't get in because it would require me winning something.  Additionally, it's almost as expensive as Eagleman.  That's because it raises money for charity.

I continued to hem and haw, before I finally gave in and said screw it, let's fill it up and do it again.  Unfortunately, it's a big race, and it's close so I don't have to really travel.  I went onto The CTA website to register and went to the page.  $290 with processing fees.  Alright, that's a little more than it was last year, but within reason.  I recall in 2008 it cost me $225, so maybe a little over $230 with processing.  That's $60 over 4 years.  I began to question, why such a considerable increase?

Then my friends started emailing me about Columbia's registration, which opened last week.  I went to look at it.  $150.  Holy shit.  Who the fuck do you think you are?  When I did that race in 2001 it cost $65.  Every year the price goes up and up, way beyond the scale of what is reasonable.  Last year I think it was $135.  What, praytell, are they changing that makes it cost that much more?

I'd like to do a breakdown of what I get out of the race.  First, I go to the expo, where I get my generally hideous shirt and, this year, a satchel of some kind and a hat.  I then have a handful of glossy index cards promoting other races that I have to recycle.  I go over to the park and I rack my bike, where overnight security guards care for them.  In the morning, I don my timing chip and my little swim cap, and get in the water.  I come out of the water and volunteers are there offering me water.  I go on the bike.  Now, in fairness, this is the only Olympic distance race I've ever seen that has a water bottle exchange.  I've never taken a bottle, because it's a fucking Olympic distance race, who needs an extra water bottle.  Along the way, cops man the intersection leaving the park, and the two intersections on 108 where there are traffic lights.  They are also at the two traffic circles, and at the three left hand turns you make along the route.  They are generally not paying attention and have to do very little work. 

I come back into transition and I head out on the run.  I am offered water and Gatorade on course at 6 locations, two of which are the same, so it's really only 4.  I finish the race and am handed a medal that I will inevitably throw out (although now I simply refuse them, I don't need more shit in my house) and potentially a mylar blanket, although I then realize that it's not a marathon in November, and I am not dying so I don't take that either.  I look around for some poorly mixed Gatorade, I drink some, and then I go up to the top of the hill to get some food.  The cookies are those fake Oreos, and the food selection is pretty terrible.  It is the same disgusting pasta salad that they think everyone loves for the 10 years I've been doing this race.  And, since it rains 98% of the time at Columbia, everything is soggy. 

The awards are pretty nice; I will never win one of course unless I race in my age group at some point.  Then you leave and realize that the parking volunteers jammed the cars in too close and now you can't even leave.  It's like New Year's Eve: a whole lot of buildup and then a ton of disappointment.

It all begs the question: where does the money go?  I understand that costs go up, and if it followed inflation, that would even be acceptable.  But to go up as much as it does, year after year, I have got to question.  It makes me want to yell, from the top of my lungs: Enough is enough!  I am sick and tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!  And then it dawns on me.  This race gets most of its shit paid for through sponsors, after all, it is a pretty high profile event.  The race director pays himself, and quite well, but he puts on good races and has even earned that right.  It's going to charity.  Fucking charities. 

Now, 99.9% of people in the world will think I am in insensitive human for saying that.  But please - don't misconstrue.  I have nothing wrong with charities.  In fact, there are plenty of charities I think are more than worthwhile, and I have donated money over the years to them.  My issue is with the association of racing to charities.  Why do races automatically have to be for charity?  Why is it that when people hear that I'm doing a particular race, they ask if I'm "doing it for charity"?  Why can't we just race...to race?  It's like Ivan Drago says in Rocky IV, "I fight to win...for me!"  Similarly, I just want to race to race. 

But I think the over-charitization of running and triathlon has come to a dangerous point.  More people are doing more races every year, but they are less prepared than ever.  If you go to any triathlon right now, the number of overweight - even obese - participants is staggering.  And I am sure to say participants rather than competitors because that's exactly what they are.  Yeah, I'm an elitist asshole, but it's got to be said.  They are slow and dangerous in the water, which is where, if you noticed, most people who are underprepared are dying.  Heart attacks can happen to anyone, but when you are dangerously overweight and frighteningly unprepared for swimming in open water, your odds of a problem increase exponentially.  Then, they are slow and even more dangerous on a bike.  If I ride 25 miles per hour for 56 miles, it means I am putting together one of the 30 fastest bike splits in the race of nearly 2000 athletes.  I clearly know how to ride a bike.  Why is it, then, that I am scared to fucking death when I'm on that course?  Could it be because not a single person out there can ride in a straight line?  Or knows to stay to the right?  Or can pick up a water bottle while riding and not fall off? 


For that, I blame these organizations, for not teaching simple safety principles and basic knowledge and rules of the road.  Triathlon isn't hard, it really isn't.  You swim, you bike, you run.  If you can't do these three things, you can't (or shouldn't) be doing triathlons.

Now, as terrible as I may sound, I would never discredit the reasons why someone is out there racing.  As I've said, I race to race, but I know that not everyone is trying to do that.  Some people are out there to change perceptions, to honor a loved one, or just to show they can.  The only thing I care about is getting through a race safely, and as I would respect someone else's reasons for racing, I would expect they too would respect mine and not try to crash me out. 

How does this tie in with the cost of racing?  Well, direct cost is insurance premiums.  I'm sure these races are getting dinged right now to the tune of a pretty penny for insurance.  A 59 year old competitor died of an apparent heart attack at this past weekend's Nation's "Triathlon", which had canceled its swim so it became merely a 40k bike and 10k run.  He had a problem within 5 miles on the bike.  Situations like this inevitably mean that race directors have to pay out the yang to insure that they are not going to be sued when participants get hurt or worse. 

I've noticed, too, that RDs have become lazier and lazier.  Races have taken for granted that people are so enthralled by the notion of doing a triathlon that they put together shitty races and charge whatever they feel like charging, and people will pay it.  I will probably be blacklisted if anyone ever reads this, but who cares.  Piranha Sports is probably the worst.  They have uninspired courses at the same venue all summer long, just repackaging the race under slightly different distances and calling it a different name.  Shit by any other name is still shit.  For a sprint in Delaware to cost over $100 is appalling.  I already voice my opinions on SetUp Events' Rumpus in Bumpass, and in general I actually like SetUp races.  I have always enjoyed Kinetic, and I love Luray.  But again, Kinetic is virtually the same race as Rumpus, is the same race as Acorn or whatever they hold there in the fall.  Luray is on pretty quiet roads with a total of literally 4 cops out there on the bike course, no on course support, and I just don't understand how they charge so much for these races. 

CGI, CTA, they're all the same.  Honestly, I don't even have a problem with paying $600 or more to WTC for an official Ironman race, because at least I know what I'm getting, and they generally have their shit together.  1.4 volunteers at IM Louisville for every 1 competitor. 

Alyssa tweeted something the other day at Columbia Triathlon Association, about the registration fees being ridiculous, and they tweeted back something about how it goes to their ongoing support of charities. 

I haven't signed up for Columbia yet, but if I do it will be $450 to race two races for next year.  I have raced 21 times this year so far.  Some have been lower or no cost, but I did do Eagleman, Columbia, IM Louisville and have IM AZ coming up - totaling some $1600 in race entry fees alone. 

So here's what I feel needs to happen - of course nobody reads this so nobody will ever see this:

1. If it's permit fees and police costs that are driving the rate increases, RDs should really do a better job tallying information of how much money these races bring in for the community.  Look at Louisville.  Nobody is from there, everyone is staying at a hotel.  We stayed 4 nights.  We ate all our meals out in the town.  Multiply that by 2000. 

2. Make the "swag" better, or cut it altogether.  I don't know about you, but I don't give a shit about receiving a medal to commemorate my Olympic distance race, particularly when that medal is a piece of shit.  Or, in the case of my friend Mike's races, a recycled trophy with a new sticker on it to acknowledge my 2nd place finish.  Don't even spend the money.  Everyone has 10,000 t-shirts at home, so unless it's going to be particularly unique, maybe make it a separate option.  The nice thing about signing up a year in advance for races is you have plenty of time to order the shirts.  So how about you make that an option on registration, CTA, whether or not I want a shirt.  And the hats they gave us at Columbia and Eagleman, great idea, terrible execution.  If you've worn yours, you know what I'm talking about.

3. Make competitors feel like they're getting their money's worth.  I have yet to do a Rev3 but I am going to make sure I do one next year.  I hear people are treated like relative royalty.  Columbia, don't be cheap, it's not pretty.  CGI, don't think that you're in Columbia's league and expect $140 for your terrible NJ State Triathlon is a fair price.

4. Do something about the terrible state of participant fitness.  Have physicals or something, I don't know.  If you've never done a triathlon, maybe they should all be in their own wave - the last one.  In other words, be more selective about who you're letting in to your races, if you would consider them a risk if YOU were selling them insurance, then you should consider that before you let them into your race.

5. On the same note, there needs to be more "expert" or "open" divisions.  Columbia has an open wave, as did NJ Tri.  Luray used to.  I understand why it would be tough to do at a race like Eagleman, but they really should flip it around so that men between 25 and 44 are going relatively early.  They are the fastest ones, and more significantly, the fastest ones on bikes.  I probably wouldn't do Columbia in an age group, I'd honestly be too scared of riding past everyone on the bike course.  I don't trust anyone.

Pros don't have the same concerns, generally, as they get to start a few minutes (or many minutes) early.  But races need to acknowledge the existence of semi-pros, people who legitimately are fast and can and will finish high on the overall.  I have separate ideas on this, maybe another post.  Additionally, if you are fast enough to be a pro, and have qualified as such, you really need to stop sandbagging and just fucking do it.  It used to be what everyone was working towards, and now people seem content to be considered an amateur, despite going to Colorado Springs to train with professionals for the whole summer, then coming back to be #1 amateur and 4th overall at Ironmans. 

Triathlon, don't worry, it's not just you, it's running, too.  Boston Marathon opened the other day.  That went up in price.  NYC Marathon is now well over $200.  And that's a race that draws 45,000 people, with a quarter of the field filling from outside of the country, all descending upon New York to spend money.  I just paid $95 for the race formerly known as Philly Distance Run.  Granted, I signed up just the other day, but I think it was at least $75 when it was early registration time.  Rock 'n Roll/Competitor Group is the absolute worst, whores among whores for money.  They make money hand over foot and put on really annoying races.  Unfortunately for me, PDR is the fastest race I can run.  They are steadily taking over all marathons.  Does anyone really care about the number of loud, shitty bands on the course?  Or all the moms and their friends who buy all the matching clothes they can get their hands on? 

Racers of the world need to unite, and remember that the only thing necessary for great races is a distance and a clock, and perhaps a great field.  That's the spirit of the RM Classic.  We'll start our own races.

It's just so odd to me, how racing is at an all-time high yet the economic climate could not be worse.  Maybe it's because races seem so much less expensive than doing other things?  I don't know, but to a person that spends $2000+ each year just on race entry fees, it's looking like it might push me out of the sport sooner than I thought.  What will the breaking point be for a race like Columbia - $200?  $250?  I hope I'm not here to find out.

And yes, I wholeheartedly realize that I am complaining a lot when there is a simple solution:  don't race so much.  I choose my races, I make the conscious decision to spend that much money on these races, so I shouldn't complain.  What I'm really asking for is an explanation.  I just want to know, where does the money go?  If you give me a breakdown, I'll be satisfied.  I can do other races, I can do no races.  But racing is in my blood, and I'll keep doing it until I can't, and will likely just keep paying.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Never Forget

I will never forget where I was two years ago. 

Fresh off my ACL surgery following getting mauled by a Ford Taurus over the summer, I had my dad drive me from our home in NJ back down to Baltimore in order to put on the RM Memorial 5k.  We had assembled a very competitive field, with a couple of guys coming up from DC, and pound for pound it became the fastest 5k in the area.  It was a Saturday morning, September 12th, 2009.  We held the race at Goucher College amidst cool but overcast conditions.  I marshaled the race from my crutches, and as soon as the race was done I had no energy left and had to head back up to NJ to continue my recovery.

A year later there didn't seem to be a convenient time to host this race, so on an whim we held it on a Tuesday in mid November.  The conditions were quite good for a nighttime track 5000m, and again the results were pretty good for being essentially a time trial on the track.  We held this version at Gilman, the site of our normal Tuesday Night Track Workouts, and we changed the name from RM Memorial to RM Classic.

The 2011 version worked out in a way that enabled us to host the race on 9/11, our own version of a Remembrance Run.  The gun went off at 7pm, so it was a true twilight race.  The air was rife with moisture, and it had just rained so the track was quite slippery.  This year I was finally able to compete in my own race, so after we sang the National Anthem, 12 of us hit the track for what turned out to be an extremely competitive race.  At least 5 track 5k PRs, and one all-time 5k personal best, were recorded.  The average time for our 11 men was 16:58, and we had everyone (including female winner Meg McNew) under 19:30.  Meg had run a 1:27 half marathon that morning, so the 5k time was even more impressive.

For me, I had originally hoped that today's post would have been a glorious celebration of my great triathlon result from Saturday, but alas, the weather had other plans.  The days of hard rain and flooding caused the cancellation of the Lancaster Family YMCA Triathlon, and I was pretty pissed.  Obviously there's not much they can do about the conditions, and safety first, but I'm allowed to be bummed.  It's a race I love to compete at on a course I love to do.  The bike course is hard, the run course is hard.  It's a nice place to race and has always been one of my favorites, but unfortunately, I think I'm probably done with it.  Next year I have alternative fall plans that will not include it, and I have been let down by this race now two straight years. 

But, all wasn't lost, as I had a pretty good week last week nevertheless.  My feeling good finally ran out, about mid-week, so I returned to the reality that was soreness and tiredness.  Could be that I don't really sleep well anymore, or could have been that I ran 45 miles - one of the higher weeks I've had this year, and just a week after ironman.  I probably overextended myself a bit by doing the Tuesday workout, which I did 4x1600 with just over a minute rest.  I started off conservative, hitting 5:56 on my first and second, and then picked it up to 5:51, and then a 5:35.  That made me a little tired, but some of the girls were still running (doing 5, 6 or 7 repeats) so I jumped in the second 800 of each, running about 2:50-2:53 and getting about 4 minutes rest.  I was tired by the end, but 5.5 miles of intervals was more than I was originally looking to do, and I was pleased I could do it at all.

With the comical amount of rain we were having, that prevented me from getting outside on the bike, and I refuse to hit the trainer just yet (plus it is still living at Pat's house from last winter) so I didn't get outside until Thursday, when I managed a mere 21 miles after the roads dried up a little.  I made it into the pool 3 times for 7k, and felt decent, but also got kicked out one day after 200m due to thunder and another day just didn't bother going because it was thundering all day. 

When I found out the race was canceled on Friday (courtesy of Ed), I decided to change around my weekend plans a little.  I ran up to the running store on Friday afternoon, which took a surprising 85 minutes (I think it's at least 11 miles).  The humidity really shut my body down, and I was not psyched running uphill for that long.  I got to the store, pretty depleted, and hung out there while the Brooks Cavalcade was doing their thing.  It ended up being a later night than I've had in a while, so I was not up tremendously early on Saturday.  Then, I wasn't real motivated to do much on Saturday, so I finally got into the pool in the afternoon and then ran with Ben for 35 minutes when he got to town.

Sunday, following the actual Run to Remember 5k (where Ben finished 2nd and Carly won!), I rode just under 60 miles with Ben on my sunflower loop - only there were no sunflowers.  Just dead, brown sticks.  It was just my third or fourth ride I guess since the race, and the others were just short rides, so I was actually a little tired by the end, and still had to race that night. 

We headed up to the track and were immediately greeted by a level of humidity not often seen.  It was misting like we were in the jungle or something, the air was thick and after warming up, I was already dripping.  The track was pretty wet, too, from the rain.  We lined up and got going, and immediately I found myself in 9th place.  Dustin, Tristram, Conrad and Ed were out quick, all gunning for sub 16 minute efforts, and Arjun and Seth were looking to be under 16:40.  Caught in between were Berardi and then Zero, and then myself.  My first 1600 splits were 84, 84, 82, 84 for a 5:35.  I had bridged up to Z and we ran together for the 2nd mile.  On lap 5 I was just a little slow (86) so I decided to back off (visions of BRRC meet flashed through my head) and regrouped.  The 3200 was split in 11:23 so a 5:48 1600, and then I felt a little better and was able to pick it back up slightly to a 5:46 last 1600, and then brought it home with a 37 second last 200 to finish in - 17:47.0.  Mike and I literally tied, totally not on purpose. 

The takeaway is that, two weeks after the ironman, I was able to run the same time for a 5k as I was just 10 days prior to it.  So over the course of less than a month, I managed two 17:46/7 5k's and an ironman - not too bad. 

The disappointing realization is that, in 2008, before I got hurt, I split 17:50 for the first 5k at PDR, and came through 10k in 36:05 and it was very easy.  I don't expect to run that fast this weekend, but if I can keep it to low 6's, and ultimately run a little faster than I did at Miami, I'll be pleased.  In my favor is that the weather should be pretty good, and I generally run pretty well at Philly, so I'd like to be under 1:20 (1:21:49 at Miami).  I wasn't going to do it, I figured I didn't need to do it just to do it, but then I sadly realized it will be my last race as a 29 year old and I haven't missed it since I started going in 2006, so I'd like to keep that going for now. 

The cancellation of Lancaster knocks me down a little bit from my attempt at 11 tri's for 2011.  With it, I was only going to be at 10 anyway, so I was going to have to look for another one to do in the next few weeks.  Now without it, I'm at 9, so I have to decide if I can feasibly do it or not.  I just saw that there is a small race in NJ the first weekend of October, when I was planning on going home, so I may jump into that.  With the next two weekends out of commission, and October 8th already going to be a race, it doesn't leave me with many options - so I may crap out just one short.  Oh well.  I've raced a lot anyway, and if I can get to 10, that's pretty sweet too.  Maybe I'll actually be able to do good in one of them...

In other news, I am having a chuckle at some of the Google search words that have landed people at my blog this week:

dave chappelle jesus juice
drowning death of ryan mcgrath
erin feldhausen ironman wisconsin (brennan's sister)
old bud lite commercial antibiotics taste loss
rathbones ryan mcgrath
rumpus in bumpass triathlon virginia registration fees
ryan mcgrath umd

The internet is funny.

Monday, September 05, 2011

College Park, Where They Flip Them Birds

Unfortunately, I feel pretty awesome this week.

I say unfortunately because I would not have expected, or hoped, to feel very good a few days after an ironman.  But when you get sick and don't end up running a marathon (opting to walk and just take longer), you tend to recover much quicker.  That was the case last week, as I got back into the (reduced) swing of things:

Monday - OFF. 

Tuesday - 1 mile, easy.

Wednesday - 1000m swim/7 mile run.  I intended on swimming a little bit more, and when I got into the pool I felt awesome.  But it was really cold, and I got a really bad headache so I just got out.  Found out later that the pool's heater had been broken for 3 weeks.  My run was a little longer than I anticipated, but I didn't want to make Ed and Pat amend their run too much so I just sucked it up.  Just about 50 minutes, I was ready to be done by the end. 

Thursday - 2 hour ride.  I felt pretty good, I don't think I could have put in any kind of real effort, my left quad in particular was still a bit sore, but I was also generally surprised I felt at all good.  It was a month before I got on the bike after Arizona, although more of that was related to it being cold, and having to ride the trainer when I started back up. 

Friday - 6 mile run/3000m swim.  I ran early with Pat and Ed, and I was tired, probably more from it being 5:30 in the morning than anything.  It was so dark, and it was really humid.  When I got in the pool later in the day, I felt awesome again.  I ended up doing 3x200, 6x100, 10x50 and then 600 pull as my main set, and just felt really comfortable.  The heater had been fixed so it was much better. 

Saturday - 2000m swim.  I had to drive to Connecticut today so I knew I'd only have time to get in one thing, and I also didn't really care if I took the day off.  But, it worked out that I was able to get in the pool so I swam, and felt good again.  Whodathunk that the week after IM I would feel better in the pool than I did all summer.

Sunday - 7 miles at Hartshorne Woods.  This is one of my favorite places to run at home (NJ) but also a spot of great peril, as I broke my ankle in there back in 2003.  The Hurricane last week had messed it up pretty good, but it was runnable, so I took Alyssa in there and put her through the wringer.  She had a workout of 20min w/u, then short fartlek intervals of 15sec-30-30-45-60-75-90 and back down with 1:1 rest, then 20min c/d.  This is a really hard place to run, so it wasn't ideal for that type of workout, but I think she had to run a bit faster overall on the run than she would have on her own so it all worked out. 

For the week, that meant 6000m in the pool, 21 miles of running and 34 miles on the bike for just under 6 hours.  I feel like that's a pretty good post-ironman week, not too much but not so little that I wasn't doing anything.  Tonight (Monday) I ran 9 miles in the hardest rain I've ever run in, courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee.  I'm racing again this coming Saturday at the Lancaster Family YMCA Triathlon, one of my favorite races of the year.  It's every bit as challenging as Columbia (course-wise) but a lot more low-key, and it's a great time of year to race.  I was disappointed to hear my buddy Andrew Yoder wasn't going to be there this year, but it's also kind of nice that someone else will get the opportunity to win!

With August firmly in the rearview mirror, I'll take a minute to grade myself:

Swimming - A.  Had Louisville not gone as well as it did, I would probably be giving myself a D right now, but because it went well, I'm in a better mood.  I swam like absolute dog shit at Luray, and every day I dragged myself into the pool was terrible.  I was so unmotivated and so unhappy about the state of my swimming, but apparently it wasn't as bad as I thought, or I cut the course.  Either way, getting under an hour was a big deal for me and I feel much more confident now, and that's even begun to show just this week in the pool.  I was close to getting to 40k in the water for the month, but ended up with just 34,000 meters.  Very little by anyone's standards.

Cycling - B+.  By August I had mostly stopped going to Wednesday Night Ride, and instead opted for the slightly easier Thursday Night Ride instead.  I tried to keep my miles per ride high, but I think I rode less times per week.  I finished up the month with 572 miles.  I was going to try to ride Tuesday or Wednesday of last week to get to an even 600 but I didn't really care.  If I were grading myself on my races, I would probably give myself a lower grade.  Luray went bad, but it was more a problem with the bike.  I had a good race at that Pine Grove TT, but still had bike troubles.  I finally got it settled for Louisville, and then getting sick removed the chance of having the ride I expected.  But, I still rode 18 minutes faster than I did for the distance last year, and I know that over the next few months I can tweak a few things and should be able to be closer to that 5 hour mark. 

Running - B.  Again, looking at the races and I had a so-so run at Luray (compared to some it wasn't too bad, but it wasn't great), I had a decent track race (17:46 5000m following a 5:19 warmup mile) and then a stupefying 5:52 marathon that included more sitting than running.  But, I know that one was a little out of my hands, and, just based on how I've been running this week, I don't feel bad at all about my fitness.  I ran 142 miles for the month, which was a little less than last August, but of course I was trying to get my mileage up that month in order to be able TO race the ironman in November.

This summer has been one of the most sports-filled summers I can remember, with so much being televised.  It also helped that in early August we were gifted with Universal Sports - it finally came to DirecTV!  For me, that has meant I've been able to watch the Vuelta, Diamond League Meets and every event of the World Track and Field Championships.  The US had a great meet, with some truly great performances.  The Vuelta stands as the most boring of the Grand Tours, only because the roads are so shitty and the scenery is so heinous, but the race has actually been quite exciting.  Tom Boonen broke his hand the other day as he crashed out of the Vuelta, and now is unsure of his ability to start the WC race later this month.  But I was laughing when I read that it had been painful for him to ride as it was because of an open wound on his perineum.  AKA his Taint.  I know your pain, bro.

Then, the news filtered through that LeoPard Trek might be folding/joining forces with Team RadioShack, and it was confirmed - only it's RadioShack that is folding!  RadioShack and Nissan will become sponsors of the LeoPard team, which holds the UCI license, so the new team will be something like RadioShack-Nissan-Trek.  The roster is sick.  Between that and Omega-Pharma-Lotto-QuickStep it's a battle for the super team.  I don't know if it's good for cycling, but at the very least it will be interesting. 

At Track Worlds, I felt bad for my girl Allyson Felix, who despite earning 4 medals (becoming only the 4th person in history to do so) did not win either of her individual events, and I'm sure it was a result of having to run the 400 heats and then the 200 heats.  I think she'll be better off focusing on one for next year.  She needs that Olympic Gold in the 200!  Maggie Vessey ran three solid 800s, and Jenny Barringer Simpson had a great win in the 1500.  For the guys, Matt Centrowitz (a native Marylander) won his semi-final heat with gusto, the kid seriously ran like an old pro as he fought and maintained his position, and went into a stacked final where he picked up an unbelievable bronze medal.  Our field events, minus the shot putters, were really good - including our Jumpers (triple, long and high - all gold).  There is one more Diamond League meet on this weekend and then track disappears for a while, but Cycling WCs is soon and it's also marathon season, so there will be plenty to watch during the fall.  INCLUDING Ironman Louisville, end of September on Universal Sports.

Around here you can tell that marathon season is approaching, as everyone has been getting in their long runs and there seem to be many tired legs.  The first one up is Chicago Marathon (Ed) and then Baltimore Marathon (Pat).  After that it's Marine Corps, then NYC (Brennan, Joel, Carly, Nina, Suzanne and Diane), Richmond (Kris) and Philadelphia.  Of course, I have my own marathon to run, again after the bike, in November, so I'll probably try and get in a few longer runs over the next two months.  This Sunday, we will once again host the RM Classic 5k, a race that started after I got hurt in 2009.  We run it on the track and it usually sees some pretty fast times. 

I'm just pretty pleased that I've recovered this well.  I remember back to last year when I felt terrible for a while.  More than feeling beat up, I was definitely not feeling training for anything serious.  Now, it's a different time and it's still early in the season, but I am really ready to go again.  I have been gradually getting over this sickness, although I still have a lot of gross stuff in my nose, which is annoying.  Alyssa and I went to my friends Jay and Mona's wedding in Greenwich CT over the weekend, which was a lot of fun, and got to spend a little bit of time at home and check in with a McGrath family function on Sunday at one of my uncle's. 

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that the World Champion Green Bay Packers kick off the NFL season on Thursday night against the Saints, in Green Bay, where Brennan will be a communicant of the holiness that is Packer football. 

But for now, I can sleep easy as the TERPS just beat The U in their first trip ever to College Park.  A sign of changing times in Terpville?  The uniforms are crazy, the helmets are crazy, but a win is a win.  Even if 9 players on Miami were not allowed to play tonight!