Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humpty Dumpty

Here are the footnotes from my "race" this past weekend:

1. What happened?

Sunday was the year's biggest race - the Club Challenge 10 Miler.  From a team perspective, this is the race we prepare months for each year, and this year's team was the best we'd ever assembled.  Expectedly, there were some beyond amazing performances, which I highlighted over on the Team BlogAlyssa ran a great race, running 3 minutes faster than last year and blasting through the 70 minute barrier.  But for me, this was not a good day.

Maybe I'm numb to failure, but I don't find myself getting upset, instead just taking bad days in stride.  They happen.  To me, they happen a lot. 

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I've re-tooled my approach to most races, and just find myself running slower and slower.  In the past, I would go out hard, and often times eat it in the back half.  Then everyone would make fun of me, say I go out too hard, why don't you go out slower, etc. 

Coming into the race, I was supremely less confident than I've ever been going into it.  Last year I ran 1:00:12, in 2009 I ran 58:55, in 2008 I ran 59:25.  I honestly thought I could fall into that range, but I was going to go out a little more relaxed than I normally would.  On paper I was maybe 20th-25th on our team's depth chart, and I knew who I should try to stick with.  The first mile is mostly downhill, and while they seem to change the location of the mile marker each year, the 6:07 I ran was undoubtedly the slowest first mile I've ever run in a race shorter than half marathon. 

I looked at my watch in disgust, but I was running with a good little pack, so I kept running with them.  Mile 2 was a shade quicker, and we hit the split in 12:02.  Mile 3 has a little dip - the steep downhill kills me, so I lose a little momentum there - but the split was again in line at 6:02. 

And that's where my day ended. 

Pretty much since I started running again, going back to 2010, I've had nothing but problems.  Foot, hamstring, piriformis, you name it.  I've always suspected that it's largely related to the muscular imbalance I perpetually face following surgery, and the fact that my right knee doesn't bend or straighten even close to as well as my left knee.  I've always just put my head down and barreled through, figuring that it's probably "just the way it's going to be" - but now I'm wondering if my body has had enough.

I can't remember a run, or ride, or even swim in the last two years now that has been completely comfortable.  I'm not fluid, I'm not smooth.  Building up to and following IMAZ in November, my left ham/piriformis started misbehaving.  This was exacerbated in January when I did the Charleston Marathon.  I've had a lot of problems since, and haven't had many good runs in the last 6 weeks.  As I got past mile 3 on Sunday, the familiar feeling of dragging a dead leg along was too much, and my options were going to either be keep pressing until I dropped out, or just slow down. 

The pace crept up to 6:30-6:40 or so, and stabilized there.  I was fine aerobically, but was wincing with each step.  Everybody was passing me.  Then the worst possible thing that could happen, happened: I caught up to Remus just before mile 8.  He had obviously gone out real hard, and was now just coasting in.  He was letting everyone else pass him, but when he saw me, he got excited, and then started running with me, and would not shut up.  I had to run it in to the finish with him.  I should have just stayed behind him so he didn't know I was there.

So I ran 1:04:54.  Yikes.  To call it a race, at this point, wouldn't be fair.  In 2006, the first year I ran Club Challenge, when I was not running that long, and raced stupidly, and wasn't prepared for the hills, I ran 1:04:10 or something.  Somehow, this day was worse. 

I'm not sure where to go from here.  It's the type of malady where you need to actively work on it rather than just take time off.  I can run, it is just aggravated when I'm trying to run faster.  This hampers most of my spring goals.  I had hoped to pop under 58:55 at CC at the beginning of the year, but I realized that was a little bit of a stretch given what I was doing.  My goal of running < 16:48 at Shamrock 5k in two weeks is out.

I'm frustrated because I obviously just bring it on myself, so I only have myself to blame.  So far this year I've swam too much, ridden too little, and run too slow.  It doesn't leave me feeling too good about the spring race season, or beyond, for that matter.  I'm not sure that all the king's horses and all the king's men could actually put me back together again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sick of Swimmin'

100x100m is the swimming equivalent of running a marathon.  Obviously, the two aren't exactly the same - but in terms of relative time and aerobic taxation, they're pretty close.  Much like riding a hundred miles, it's as mental as it is physical.  And, like any of those other activities, something you have to build towards.

Since my marathon last month, I have spent my training hours each week largely in the pool.  Over the last four weeks I have logged a shade under 100km in the water, which is about on par with the biggest month I've ever swam.  I'll admit, even I've had to ask myself: "why?"  And while the answer is largely because I felt it was a small contribution I could make help Alyssa get through it, it is also at least partially self-serving.  Even though I'm not putting a big focus into long races this year, I don't think a high swim volume, particularly in the early part of the year, can hurt.  And, if my workout yesterday was any indication, the proof may already be in the proverbial pudding.

Things I've noticed during the 62km last 14 days:

1. I absolutely despise swimming twice a day
2. I swim better at times other than 5:30am
3. I am not as hungry as I thought I'd be
4. I am always tired
5. My skin is melting off my body from the chemicals

At least twice a week we've had to get in the pool twice.  This is more mentally draining than anything else, particularly on the days that masters are in the pool in the morning, and then later in the day, the kids' swim team is in.  We are constantly fighting for one of the precious pool lanes in our tiny pool (4 lanes).  After our 75x100 dress rehearsal, I knew the 100 would be manageable, but would be pretty exhausting.  The intervals were not impossible, it was just the sheer quantity and time spent in the pool, that was going to take its toll. 

Since swim kids and masters Occupy the Pool until 11:30 on Saturdays, we had no choice but to wait until then to get in the water.  When we got out onto the pool deck, it was as if we were Mariano Rivera coming out of the pen in the 9th to take the mound.  See the other byproduct of us being at the pool so much is that we are now mini-celebs.  Of course, I've always been a favorite there, but now that all these people see Alyssa and have familiarized themselves with her CV, she has become like the Queen, and I am the Mayor.  She is awed and respected, I am just the funny guy who everyone likes.

We had told a few of the guards and the masters coach earlier in the week that we were doing the workout, so as we made our way to the lanes, we were greeted with positive encouragement and thumbs up from the people in the pool area.  This is what you get when you go to a gym that has a pool, rather than a pool that has a gym.  We are far from the fastest swimmers at this place, but we are the most consistent. 

The warmup was over pretty quick and before we knew it, it was time for Main Set A of 42x100m.  It was sliced into groups of 6, which made it go by a little easier.  Following that, it was 30x100m with the paddles, pull buoy, and band.  Normally I crush these, as I have the odd tendency to swim an average of 7 seconds per 100m faster with paddles than without, but on this day, my arms were pretty tired, and I kept the effort even.  After that was done, we had just 10 left, and poof - after a full 3 hours in the pool, we were done.  10,000 meters.  6.2 miles of swimming. 

It was, if nothing else, a cool accomplishment for someone who does not consider himself a swimmer.  Of course, OJ brought me back down a little when he informed me he did that set once in a little under 2 hours.  This was also when he was swimming 100k a week in college.  Whatever, this was big for me.

After the swim it was serious pizza time, and then, inevitably, falling asleep early on Saturday night to very sore, very tired arms.  I had run an easy 8+ miles prior to the swim, and Sunday's workout was a morning long run on the Club Challenge course.  Of course, it went from being reasonable weather to 22 degrees and biting, mean, angry wind overnight, so the workout was brutal.  14 miles, 6mi w/u, 3mi of fartlek, then 2.5 miles of tempo, before cooling down.  It went just okay - I was clearly tired from the week, and, believe it or not, STILL had to swim (again) Sunday afternoon.

Team CYB headed over to the pool, with Andy coming as our special guest, and Zero making an appearance.  On Thursday, when we were supposed to do 25x100, a kid threw up in the pool, which forced them to kick us out and close for the night.  We had only made it through 9, so we had 1600 meters to tack onto what was supposed to be a chill 2000 on Sunday.  We made it through 2500 and decided we would do 9x100 and then 100 cooldown to get the additional time in. 

Then, something happened that I can't quite explain: I swam FAST.  For me, at least.  We cruised to a 1:30 on the first one, and we had decided to go on 1:45, so had plenty of time.  Wow.  Normally I do not swim this fast, and I certainly would not have expected to swim that, comfortably, the day after such a big swim.  From there, I held, or went faster, on each one.  For the last four, we turned them into going on 1:40.  My last 100 was 1:25.  I felt awesome.  I fully realize that these times are a joke for anyone who swims, but for me, that's a very encouraging sign that the swimming I've been doing is paying dividends.  My 18+ hours of training last week consisted of a staggering 11+ hours in the water.

But, as Ariel says, she is "sick of swimmin'" and that she's "ready to stand," which is what I now need to do.  My running is a little off where I'd hoped, in terms of volume, and comfort.  I have run 45 miles each of the last two weeks, which is okay for me, but I need to run a little more than that now, and, get a little quicker doing it.

For a day, though, I did feel a little bit Phelpsian.  While they would certainly cover the meters much faster, it amazes me that anyone can spend that much time in a pool.  That's why I run and ride - you're outside, seeing different things, and able to talk to those around you.  So I am looking forward to resting a bit from the water, maybe not having to swim twice this week!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Hitting the Reef

We've all hit the proverbial "wall" in running, and perhaps the air's been "let out of our tires" on a ride before. But what happens when you are DONE in the water? On Friday night's 75x100m session, Alyssa coined the term "hitting the reef."

I loved it, it's great. If you've ever hit the reef, literally, you know how bad it hurts. Coral cuts and scratches, and then mixed with the salt it starts to sting. It is very painful, although perhaps not as bad as the sunburn on your back from snorkeling for 3 hours in the Great Barrier Reef.

For Alyssa, it was at 7000m that she hit the reef.  The final set of 10x100 was 25 sprint, 25 back, 50 free easy, and as she came off the wall on the back stroke, it was like POOF, done.  This 7500m evening was the "cherry on top of the ice cream on top of the cake" that has been her 2012 swim camp.  Alas, no rest for the weary, as this coming Saturday we embark on a Coach Hil staple: 100x100.  3 hours in the Merritt Pool = not sure if I will still have flesh by the end.

For me, since I am so "sexy at swimming" (refer to Ben's blog from last week), I was able to do it, but it took a lot out of me.  I swam 30,000 meters last week - the most I've ever done in a week by a couple thousand, and fairly close to what I was swimming each month last year.  Alyssa must have a clear lead in the Merritt 100 Mile Challenge as she sits at 74 miles.  I think I'm at 53.  My 100 mile projected ETA is the end of the first week of March. 

Meanwhile, I did manage to actually ride my bike once last week.  I realized I didn't miss it.  I'm honestly just not feeling the bike right now.  I did run 45 miles, including a very sloppy, very difficult 2 hours in Patapsco yesterday.  My knee did not like the constant torquing on the ice-like mud that coated the trail. 

From the world of running, there was a half marathon in Japan where 24 men were under 1:02:00, 47 were under 1:03:00, and 75 were under 1:04:00 - that's pretty insane.  You do NOT see races that stacked.  But in Japan, it must be the norm, after all, in the Fukuoka Marathon you need to have qualified with a 2:42, and if at any point during the race you slip below 2:46 PACE, you get pulled.  They have a van that scoops you off the course. 

I haven't watched the highlights of this weekend's New Balance Grand Prix meet from Boston, but I saw most of the results on Twitter on Saturday.  Seems like a pretty solid meet, big names going head to head.  Makes me ready for outdoor season to be here because it means we'll be one step closer to the Olympics!