Sunday, October 29, 2006

No such things as a little race...

Squeezed in between last week's big races and next week's big race- Ironman Florida- I wanted to take what's probably the last chance I'd have for a 3rd sanctioned duathlon in 2006.

Believe it or not there were actually 2 duathlons in Massachusetts today, and the one that was 110 miles away was the closer one. It was also a FIRM race, so I pretty much knew what to expect and was comfortable driving two hours each way (give or take 15 minutes) to do a one hour race.

Still, as they say, perspective informs everything you do. This season's been about long races- the Ironman and the marathon. Although there have been a few shorter races, they've mostly come after the big races. I had a month off from racing between the Hammerfest and the Hartford Half. There were no races between the July 4th 5K and the Ironman. When I go through and log my races at the end of the year (I did this afterthe first year I started working with Eric) it's going to be an historical low- and as EH has always suggested, I should consider that I had at least one good A race using that strategy.

So I'd been kind of thinking of today's race as a 'short' race, and although I started training for it in my active recovery on Monday by spinning, I wasn't thinking about it as very important either. I'm not sure what makes a person spend four hours in a car for a race they see that way...still, I'd made some effort. I'd bought new toe clips and worked out with them for two days, tested sneakers with them and had a really good workout yesterday- treadmill, spin, treadmill. But I was kind of thinking of the race as a throw-away, a chance to get in a little racing of my own before turning my attention to helping Margit have the best possible race in Florida.

The funny thing about sprint races is that, they aren't really short. Again, it's a perception thing. You do a few Ironman races and you get spoiled. I don't want to say jaded. I wouldn't pay 40 or 50 dollars to do these sprints (some of the tris are actually 75) if I didn't like them. But I think a lot of us look at these as short, as not big deals. But I went into today's race expecting that it would take just over an hour- 5 miles of running and an 11 mile bike. The equivalent road race would be a ten miler- no easy race.

It's the obvious that gets you- the fact instead of a measured, sometimes even patient effort, you have to go all out, or close to it. I tend to take it easy on the first run of a duathlon, especially when I'm competing against people I don't know, then hammer the bike and give the second run everything I have. That strategy worked for me today- I was 11th off the first run, had the third fastest individual bike split, and the 6th fastest individual run on the second run. I had to work to run down the the #1 guy in my age group, who left on the second two mile run with a 23 second lead, not that I knew he was my target. All I knew as I ran the last 1/4 mile, where I finally passed him, was that he was wearing #1 and he was running way slower than me.

But this isn't about how I did. It's about the day. I tried to remind myself as I warmed up that a sprint isn't so much a short effort as it is a hard effort. It didn't take much warming up for that to sink in. I rode out with the wind at my back and back in against it and decided this was one of those days you don't turn on the computer. I then reversed my run- didn't feel good starting into the wind, which was how the race would start, so I went on the grass and did some stride outs first with then against the wind.

I can honestly say that I have rearely raced in this kind of wind. And by rarely I mean, well, on the bike, I'd guess never. There were times when I could not stay in the aerobars and I consider myself a pretty high-risk areo rider. My calves (a week off the marathon), started to hurt a quarter-mile into the run (and not the good way). Even when the wind was at your back on the run it was uncomfortable because of how hard it was pushing you. And the people on full-disc wheels- if you know you can't corner on a disc, why pass someone right before a turn (the second guy in my age group, who was the second fastest bike) ?

At the end of the run, into the wind, up a hill, I felt like a mime, running in place. But the wind wasn't imaginary. I'm not sure I have ever run so slow in a race.

And yet- a beautiful day. The wind, although stiff, wasn't really that cold. I was in bike shorts and only needed bike gloves. I didn't bother with a hat- it would only have blown off. Although it got bitterly cold later in the day when we were just standing around, it was actually more than warm enough for the duathlon, and certainly we were all running and biking in the same wind. It was also a nice day for a drive. Sure, my car was a little harder to handle in that wind, but bright sun. All in all a great day.

I had fun, and now I'm ready for Florida, if only as a spectator.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Final Multisport Hurrah, 2006

Sandwiched between last Saturday's Ironman World Championships and next Sunday's Ironman Florida is a Saturday full of rain and believe it or not, a few Sunday duathlons in Massachusetts.

I'm on my way to Wrentham for a Firmman Sprint Duathlon. I treated myself to new toe clips- my toe clips were at least 12 years old, the plastic was broken on one of the cages, and the rust- ! I still rode in them for a month this year when I thought I was training for the short course Worlds in Center Brook (I qualified, but trying to get there would have been a misadventure I'd have regretted twice as much for having missed Lake Placid).

It's a good question why I would drive two hours to do a sprint duathlon at the end of what my coach says has been a productive season. I'm not sure either. The part of me that likes to race is the same part that has been missing my bike the last three weeks and this is going to be one last chance for that- I may be a little overweight- kind of Apollo in BSG at the moment- I may have a marathon in my legs, but I'm ready to try one last time to produce a little speed.

I'm looking forward to Florida, and I think I've proven a decent Ironman spectator. At the same time, I'm not always thrilled about (by always I mean ever) watching other people race. If someone handed me a number I'd step out into the ocean next Sunday because that's how I am. I spoke to Dave from Elite bikes and he says their truck was broken into- major bumer. These guys are great- they have always been there for me with the last minute tweaks (or complete recabling) my bike has needed before the Ironman.

Time to get that 'two nights before the race' sleep everyone talks about...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fall and Down Time

I was out running today- my first run since the marathon. I'd struggled walking up and down stairs the last two days (often carrying a small boy), so it was nice to get out, even if it was a little cold and a little windy.

Marathons are a big deal, whether you want them to be or not, and there's no better reminder than not being able to do much more than sit and spin on a bike in your basement doing a little active recovery.

It was actually a beautiful day. I was on 139, north of 34, and it was snowing leaves. So thick I could reach out my hand and leaves would fall right into it without trying. Bright sunshine- stiff wind, a little chilly, but for the last full week of October, a great day. It made me feel a little guilty. I'd been at the New Haven Road Race Board dinner last night and John Courtmanche, always gracious, made a comment to me about what a good marathon I'd run, and made my usual denial. Sure, it wasn't a perfect day, I didn't quite resurrect my marathoning career.

But you know what ? I was able to train for a marathon without interfering with Margit's training for the Ironman. I'd got to take Ian out on some long runs. I was rained on only two or three times during the whole three weeks that I focused solely on the race. It's been a fantastic October, and it really waited to start getting cold until after the race was over (literally, it seems a little colder every day since).

I can't say that running every day like I do getting ready for the marathon is my favourite thing. But it's still enjoyable, still rewarding. How can you complain about getting outside for anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours every day, in the sun, with your music- and I'd found some great music to train with for this race.

And hey- you run a marathon and you've got a great base. I'm off to my last duathlon of the season Sunday- and then next Wednesday I go Florida and I get to run an half marathon training run on a great, flat, well marked course five days in a row, I get the beach, the sun, and I get to watch an Ironman, which is, well, it doesn't beat doing one, but there are worse things, that's for sure.

It turns out there really is a journey out there, and even after you get to the destination, it's possible to enjoy the trip. I know there's some down time coming in my future, but not quite yet...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's Over !

I had two sets of goals today- realistic goals and the out there goals. I missed all three of the out there goals- PR at the marathon (2:45), win my age group (first master), and top ten.

My realistic goals were 2:49:59, place in my age group, and top 15. I ran a 2:55:40 (course PR), was 2nd in my age group and 14th overall.

It was a weird race. I was determined to go out easy, aiming for a 6:30 first mile. But somehow I got mixed in with the top three women- the same group I've run with, had my feet repeatedly clipped by and acted as a wind break for in the past. We stayed together and hit the mile mark at 5:55. I was devasted- until I look at my watch- it was closer to 6:10, still fast, but not sub-six crazy fast- the clock was wrong.

Somewhere around 2 miles, all hell broke lose. What I've heard to this point was that Eric Blake went the wrong way in the ten mile race and took the entire field with him. The result was chaos. We literally crashed into the 10 mile field just as they were being told to turn around. I was excited for JB that the 10 mile race had record numbers, but I was not planning to have to weave through them. I yelled 'onto the grass, boys' and led a group through the skimishers. Finally though, we had to cross over to the right, so I picked the best path I could, hoping I wouldn't have to dodge too sharply. The craziness made it hard to keep to a steady pace because of the adrenaline rush. I got back on the back of the two lead women, with the number three woman running beside me. The race loops back around the start at a little over two miles and then we head back out for the real deal.

There was a little deja vu here. I know these three women and how they run. I know that the faster two women are too fast for me, and I know the third woman will hunt me down and use me as a wind shield for miles 7-14. Then she lets me go in town, only to run me down later. There isn't anything I can about the later (Elvira), but at about 5.5 miles I started to back off. It's amazing how quickly people go away from you, even when you let them. Charlie Iselin, the two lead women, a relay guy and someone else all were soon 15 seconds ahead of me.

Meanwhile, there were three people on my back who caught me by Mile 7. Two guys in red who I would see again and again, a shorter guy and taller guy who was running better than the shorter guy but who also veered towards the side of the road several times and looked to be struggling with some upper body problem. The guys in red went by me. Elvira glommed on and so it began. The only question was how long she would stay with me.

Charlie started coming back to me, so I pulled Elvira along and we passed him at around 11 miles. The race gets hard for a while as you run by the starting area of the Niantic Bay Triathlon. I pulled Elivra into town and then, because she's smarter than me, she let me go. I had the shorter guy in red in my sights and I ran him down. By the time we were on our way back out of town, he was only 50 meters ahead. I eased into a pass going by the Niantic Bay start the other way.

Things started to go a little wrong here. The runner I passed did not fade at all and I never got more than 50 meters on him. This is the fifth time I've run this race and what happens is that at around Mile 18, when there's some climbing and wind, I start to subtley fade. I try to just get a little tougher and gut out the next two miles because to me, 20 miles is a big deal in the marathon. There's also the fact that the achilles heel of my Mystic race has always been Miles 21-22, so getting to 20 feeling as good as possible is tremendous.

I never saw the Mile 21 marker. The shorter guy in red came back on me and passed me. Elivra started to close in. Then something strange happened. The taller guy in red was ahead of us, but he went to the side of the road and doubled over. He looked to be throwing up or something. He started up again after the guy in red passed him, then went back to the side of the road. I went wide around him- there was clearly some kind of train wreck going on and I've learned that especially when you are not feeling 100 %, you have to sort of not look, not get engaged unless the person is hurt and you can help. It turned out he was running the race with a sublimated shoulder and dropped out at 24 miles. I felt bad for him- after the race.

Elvira passed me at maybe 22 miles and then we worked our way back to Route 1, three of us, me in the rear until we hit the last (big) hill before Route 1. I amazingly caught the short guy in red again, who said as I went by him 'These hills are going to kill me.' They didn't but they did finish him off. At the same time a guy went by me and said 'Relay', and 'just one more hill'. I appreciated one more than the other. I wanted to drop the guy in red the same way Elvira was dropping me.

I missed the 23 mile marker- two misses in three miles ! 24 came up before I expected it and I tried to hustle back to the park. One last guy overtook me and I asked him his age- 34. I said 'sweet' and tried to stay with him as long as possible. Probably should not have asked his age. He ended up beating me by 20 seconds.

I turned into the park and as I ran the seemingly endless last mile plus point two back, I was glad just not to be on the verge of throwing up (last year I almost had to stop on the course in mile 26 to vommit). I did look back once, determined I was not in danger of being caught by anyone, and finished up with a 9 second PR on the course.

So, what did I learn ? Mystic is not an easy course. I'd spent the last week, and started this blog, to encourage myself and get psyched. I think one of my consistent problems with marathons in general is not appreciating the 'big deal' nature of the race for me. I see a marathon as one of the most difficult challenges I'll ever face- in many ways as hard or harder than Ironman, but less rewarding. I also do not have a positive attitude about what I can accomplish inmarathons. I've run Mystic 5 times in 6 years and always have had to work to break (or fail to break) 3 hours.

The more I run my own race, the better off I am. In the past, Elvira has actually made me mad by shadowing me. This year I offered her water at one aid station and waited for her at mile 11 when something went wrong for her at the water stop. Anyone who knows me, knows just how hard something like that is for me to do.

Patience pays off. I got beaten by two people late, but also beat five people that had been leading me at various points in the race.

Time isn't everything. I PRd the course, placed in my age group and beat my number (21).

I'll take it- with thanks to my coach who got me ready, to Margit, who pushed Ian for 90 minutes instead of her scheduled workout so I could run today, Jenny and JB for giving me an entry into the race, and Chad Brown, who spent a couple minutes at the starting line taking my mind off the fact I was about to run a marathon.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Here we Go

I just finished watching my coach finish Hawaii, and now I'm ready to get a good night's sleep and earn a few beers with my best Mystic yet.

I looked up my times and they are all between 2:55-3:01.

I just need to stay steady, relaxed, but be ready to work hard when it counts.

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rain, Rain Going Away

Well, today it finally really is raining. A good hard soaking rain that is supposed to be followed by high winds. Eric's reports from Kona indicate little or no rain (5 minutes in a rented convertable) despite Big Rock's seeing rain all over the report.

Better now than later. Running easy for 30 minutes in the rain is not an issue. Slogging through rain in the marathon is not fun.

The worst rain I was ever in during a marathon was at Lake Placid three years ago. Lake Placid is old-school Adirondacks. It might be cloudless brutal sun now, but that doesn't mean it won't dump on you an hour later- or vice versa. This year the swim started in the rain and the run- what a beautifully perfect day.

I spoke to JB again yesterday and we were commenting on how awesome the weather should be. There have been some cold, windy Mystics, and I think the race has moved up a week to try and avoid that. With a leisurely start time- 10 AM, you get the benefit of the weather if it's good. I don't think it's going to be a sunscreen day, but still pretty nice.

I think I'm actually looking forward to the race now, getting it started, thinking about staying calm. Over the years I've learned that after a few miles in a marathon I start to react the same way I do when I crawl out of the swim in a tri- a little panicky, a little manic in attempting to 'get back into' the race.

With the ten mile race sharing the first part of the marathon course and the relay teams, you can't tell who is in front of you and who they are, so as people pull away, you do have a tendency to panic a little, as it looks like you are being buried. Margit suggested after Hartford that people in these long races should be body marked so we know what we are up against. I think it's a great idea, but what race director can we sell it to ?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Qualified Success

I received an email last night from Dave Parcells that one of our teammates had qualified for Boston at the Prince Edward Island Marathon. Congratulations were due and it made me think about the idea of the goal of one race being to qualify for another.

This was always kind of an abstract idea for me with marathons. Running a qualifying time for Boston (which I ran once) has never been a consideration and if I were planning to run Boston, qualifying wouldn't be an issue. While I may swim like a drunken goat, I'm able to skate by on my running and put up a qualifying time on even my worst day. I have to be honest, it's not usually a consideration either. In 2007 I'll be doing Ironman Arizona, so I'll be half a country away from the BAA.

Of course, Ironman is the same way for most people. To get to Saturday's race you have to qualify at some other Ironman. I've only had the opportunity to do other Ironmans, and well, Saturday's, but that's not where I'll be. I had, in a way, the easiest task of it this year in that qualifying for Hawaii wasn't a goal. And the disadvantage of qualifying in that unlike Boston, you have to make a decision within a few hours, which I was not prepared for.

It does make we wonder if sometimes people lose the enjoyment of the race they are doing in striving to achieve the goal of qualifying for the race that is their real goal.

On the other hand, I remember a few years ago, someone close to me missing the Boston qualifying time by one minute and bursting into tears at the Hartford Marathon. I wrote a letter to BAA supporting that athlete- that's like whizzing into the ocean, or at least that's the impression I got. Qualifying for Boston is a big deal, isn't easy.

While setting a goal of running a Boston qualifying time isn't appropriate for me, it's a reminder that a marathon is always a big deal, and not just an extension of my Ironman training.

My goal should be big- for a big race, as far out there as I can put it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What a Difference a Day

Makes, that is.

Boy, for someone in their taper, it could not have been better running weather, especially for October. 65 degrees and sunny with a light wind for an easy run? Just warm enough that you could actually get a little sweat going.

I'm going to be running the marathon in a Saucony shoe which escapes any attempt to identify it (short of looking at the box). The roads were still damp which is exactly what I was hoping- you can never trust a shoe until you've tested it out on wet road, preferably slick road. With the leaves coming down, the roads get a little slippery and there are no shortage of turns in Sunday's course. I'm going to this shoe for the marathon. I would have liked the Mizuno Idaten better, but Mizuno is out of 8.5s- I can't even get them straight from the source. That's the shoe I ran the marathon portion of Lake Placid in and it was very comfortable.

I'll probably try to sneak out on my bike for a short, easy ride after work. While not on my schedule, it really is a rare day out there- get out and get in a run or bike if you can- days this beautiful are on the decline until next year.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Word from JB

I know the race director, JB. He called me up today because someone messed up the paperwork on the sanctions- I do the USATF sanctioning in the state of Connecticut. After assuring him we could get that taken care of, I asked him how the numbers are this year.

He told me the marathon numbers were running around even and the 10 mile numbers and the relay numbers were up. Not only that but the out of state numbers are up.

I was psyched. Mystic may be something I sometimes grumble about because I see that season-ending marathon as a burden to be borne, but at the same time I like having it to count on to be there for me if I need it.

The Rain Game

A little bit of luck today. Although the rain started half an hour before my run (or I started my run half an hour late), it was just a steady drizzle, not enough to do more but make me feel confident that yes, if it rains Sunday, it won't be a big deal.

Rain is funny this time of year. During the day, a good thin rain boosts the humidity and gives the illusion that it's actually warmer, not colder. Of course, if it pours it's miserable, and it gets nasty fast on the bike, but for a run, it's really not so bad at all.

I felt good running today. My stride is longer, like a runner's stride rather than a triathlete's stride and I feel like a things are coming together. In one of life's little senseless ironies, I received an email that my last chance to order pictures from the 2005 marathon was Friday.

Looking at this pictures I can see I had a bad day. I'm leaning backwards in one of them ! Backwards ! Good thing I wasn't skating !

Going Positive

My coach has a rule- 'No whining'. Eric's an incredible guy- always finds the positive, even when the world is literally shaking like it was in Kona Sunday. No whining isn't about improving his comfort-level, either. It's about a skill athletes, especially endurance athletes, need.

I was watching the Bears-Cards game last night and after the Bears returned a punt for a TD with about 3 minutes left, erasing a 23-3 deficit to take a 24-23 lead, they showed Cardinals QB Matt Leinart on the sideline, head down, on one knee. Joe Theismann gave him the benefit of the doubt and said that he was gathering his thoughts, but he struck me as dejected. However, Leinart went back in, moved the team downfield and set up a field goal attempt that Neil Rackers was unable to convert. The quarterback did his job, hung in. he might have been dejected on the sideline, but in the moment of the game he found a way to go positive with his effort.

Whining is one of those things that can take on a life of its own when you're training for long events. There's a lot that can wrong during a six-hour bike ride or a 2 hour run. Those things can either be part of the fun and the challenge, or part of a snowball that rolls over your best hopes for whatever you're training for.

I haven't exactly been whining, but the circumstances that find me running a marathon on Sunday, October 22nd have definitely dampened my enthusiasm a little.

So I was determined to get up this morning and find some positives for Sunday, so here goes:

Weather- the temperature is supposed to rise to 59 degrees, hopefully 60 if the rain holds off, with a thin breeze of around 7 mph. Now, some marathoners (most ?) would say 60 is too warm for a marathon. Not me. I like the heat- the hotter the better, and 60 degrees would be a major bonus.

Scenery- JB sells Mystic as a very scenic race for one reason- because it is. Fall came late this year and this coming weekend is likely to be the best weekend for colour in our area. Now, while I don't expect to be gawking at the trees during the marathon, that scenery is a great.

Field- After running 1:22 at the half, I have a number in my head, and a place in the field that I want to finish at or above. I think I can do both.

Preparation- I have a good nutrition plan, I think I am finally ready to go out and run a steady pace, and my coach has me prepared well.

It really has been a spectacular fall weather-wise, great for people doing late-season races. This is the year I should run well at Mystic...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Road to Mystic

I'm actually sitting hear listening to Steve Colbert talk about running a marathon and I'm blogging a post about the same.

I can remember when a marathon was a big deal to me, and now I have to say that is not the case. That's probably not such a great thing to say, especially when I'm staring one down in just 6 days, a marathon that in fact was a pretty humbling experience in 2005, when I failed to break 3 hours.

I have mixed feelings about this, to be sure. I ran the Hartford Half-Marathon as a tune up and was up at registration in the Civic Center the night before. I heard people talking to one another at expo- about how excited they were, about how they were looking forward to the marathon. There's a certain energy and excitement at a marathon, but I have to say, it leaves me unaffected personally. I am more interested in getting up on the line, getting started, and getting finished.

Maybe it's the fact that the number of Ironmans I've done (4), is starting to feel close to the number of marathons I've run (7?). I have to say that as emotional as the start of the Ironman is, as much energy as is there, I mostly just want to get the race started. Don't get me wrong. I think the Ironman crew does an awesome job from 6:30 am to midnight and you'll usually find me in the stands until the race is over, but when I'm staring down that crazy mass-start in Mirror Lake, I just want to get from the extreme right-hand corner to the far turn alive.

What does that have to do with a marathon where I can start in the front or second row if want ? Not much. It's been hard to get my head out of triathlon. The day before Mystic will be Kona, the race everyone else wants to go to- a race I passed on going to this year for family reasons. When we got back from Lake Placid I knew I had to commit to Mystic, get my long runs in, have some focus.

Now, less than a week away from the race, I feel a little guilty about how I'm looking at it. Is it a big deal ? Of course, it's a marathon- and let me be clear, running 26.2 miles as hard as you can is extremely hard- the run in the Ironman is a break for me in comparison. Mystic is not as easy a course as some people make it out to be. Not a ton of hills, but the big hill is late and there's wind every year.

Still, when I think about people who train all year for a marathon, who hold it out as their goal race or A race- I feel a little guilty heading out there to basically run the race because I think I need to do, because it will help- hopefully- prepare me for Arizona 2007 next April...

I hope everyone has a great day and after running every day for about three weeks, I am looking forward to the taper...

Thursday, October 05, 2006