Sunday, October 28, 2007

Strides 5k- Day after Hartford Marathon

I don't usually go out of order, but hey, it's my blog/private record of my races and training.

I really wasn't expecting to run a 5K the day after the marathon. Margit was running the Strides 10K for the Pfizer team, and there aren't too many opportunities for us to run back to back races. The 10K was at 10AM, with the 5K at 11:30. I needed the extra recovery time, every minute of it. I had decided after the soreness in my left thigh, my calves, and both hamstrings was simply too much, that even a slow jog was going to be too much and that I should just come home and spin (or take the day off). But Margit gave me an extra little push in the morning, so I threw my Hodska kit on under my race hangout clothes and we piled in the car and headed out to the eastern end of the Nutmeg State.

I should note right up front that all the talent- the Mohegan Striders- ran the 10K. No one would have even noticed me if I ran that race, stumbling in 5 minutes or more after the race winner. Ian and I stood about a quarter mile from the finish- he banging his cowbell and cheering 'go team pfizer' as the 10K unfolded. Margit ran a good time, finished second in her age group, and about twenty minutes before the race, I started warming up.

It did not go well. Aerobically, I was fine, ready to go. But my legs were so sore than after half a mile warmup, the beginning of which was unbearable, that I was pretty sure I was not going to race. It seemed absurd to try.

I did some strides. These felt a lot better than the steady running. I pulled out my Cliff Blocks, ate them, though about it. I'd paid my 15.00 and gotten my t-shirt. I decided, why not ? It's just, unfortunately, the way I'm wired. I can make smart decisions in cases like this, but I rarely do. The night my nose was broken playing dek hockey, I went out, unable to play goalie, but came back in the second half playing center. That just makes me, well, stupid, and not really the good kind of stupid.

I got on the line, took off the headphones, and waited for the two commands. I decided that if I couldn't be smart, I could at least run smart. I didn't go out all out. I worked my through the crowds, but I hung back until I could judge the field and figure out what if anything I could do to control the race. We took a quick left and then went up a fairly reasonable hill. We hooked a right at the top of the hill and a woman master I recognise started to pass me. That was it. I might be hurting, I might be trying to stay patient, but I wasn't about to get beaten by any female masters who don't run for Hitek. I opened up my stride and to be honest, it started to not hurt as the muscles warmed up.

We headed out of the park, hooked another left and there were four people in front of me. I picked them off causually, not speeding up, just doing my job. Then it was there- I was chasing the police car, everyone behind me, stamping out a nice pace. I just ran, hard, hard as I could. The police car finally came to a turn-around in a gigantic circular driveway. I wasn't even sure I should be following him, because he turned strangely in the driveway, looking almost like he was parking. As I passed the bulk of the field going the other way, I heard 'Nice marathon yesterday'.

I never looked back and while it got a little tough in that last mile, I just kept striding out until I broke the tap.

Really, this race is great family event, with two road races, a fitness walk/kids event (all at different times), food sponsored by Outback Stake House (they did have caesar salad), long-sleeve t-shirts. I really recommend this race as a nice way to combine racing and family hang-out time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Black Diamond Duathlon- Victor, NY

I'm going out of order here- it's been a long long week. First, I had to have one of my cats put to sleep on Tuesday. Then one Wednesday I did two workouts including a Spinervals, which made my coach think I was nuts. Thursday I dropped my son off at daycare and drove to Rochester. The luckier of my two friends landed an hour late, which was the only reason I made it in time to do the airport pick-up. The less lucky one spent the night in O'Hare airport.

Saturday morning came threatening rain. I'd been up late, had gotten wicked post-nasal drip the second I'd gotten to Rochester and woken up with a sore ear at 6:20 in the morning. I couldn't help but be frustrated with myself- yet another race on five or less hours of sleep, although I'd gone to Rochester to hang with friends, not race. I also thought about the article I'd just posted on Eric's site and reminded myself that like everyone, I've raced sick- one time I ran the Boston Build-Up 10K with earmuffs on so Margit wouldn't realise that my ear was swollen to twice its normal size due to a sinus infection (I ran a lousy time and was attacked by a dog).

I had to get on the internet and look up directions to the race, sneak my mountain bike out of the hotel room without waking up the guys, and drive to a place I'd never been before. However, packet pickup the day before had been in the same general area, and after being up there for races the last four years and actually driving places (something I never did when I lived there), I'm starting to feel like my sense of direction is starting to click.

Although it was very grey, it was about 60 degrees by race time (9 am) and I was a little incredulous to see some of my fellow competitors wearing full-finger gloves, tights, and light jackets. I mean you race in Rochester, you learn about cold- I think I've done as many races in the snow up there as I have down here.

It was an off-road sprint 2-10-2. Totally trail run, mostly off-road bike with about a mile of single track. I know there's one guy up there who owns me- that's a terrible thing to admit, I suppose, but the guy always beats me. Jason Urckfitz. Well, there he was, standing right on the line. While I'm not shy about standing right on the starting line at most local races, whether I belong there or not, and sometimes I don't, I didn't think I should do it there. I was already in my Force Five kit and was going to ride with my TT helmet. I didn't need to be trying to elbow my way into between people.

We started out and it was like every duathlon. I swear there were twenty people in front of me after 50 yards as we started up what would be a quarter mile of steady climbing, some parts steep and some shallow. I've thrown up all sorts of clunkers this year- Arizona, Extrememan, Marty's duathlon that I dropped out of, but one thing I have gotten much better at is being patient and not panicking. That certainly helped me at Brian's and again at Shamrock. I just needed to remind myself this always happens at duathlons.

I started moving up. Soon I was in the top ten, the top eight, then I worked quickly into fourth. I was watching Jason run and my evaluation was a simple as it was unfortunate. I was not going to be able to run down Jason and still be in any shape to get on the bike. I admit I was looking past the other two guys in front of me, but only because I was waiting for the right moment to pass them in the woods. I worked my way into second. I have to be honest, I'm not sure when, somewhere in the back during the grass loop. I came through the loop and promptly headed in the wrong direction. A course marshall redirected me and I started bushwacking- I was quickly back on course, headed downhill towards transition and came in second, but with third right on my back- he was in transition before I got out. The other guy that was in the mix I'd put thirty seconds on, but I'd see him again.

I was in and out of transition very quickly- toe clips, yes, I'm the guy who still uses them. I settled down on my aerobars- yes, aerobars, but at least I have a straight up Stump Jumper mountain bike with nobby tires, not a cyclo-cross bike. I even asked about the aeros to make sure they were legal for the race. Turns out so were cyclo-cross bikes, but i don't think anyone gets an advantage using one when there's any amount of single-track or mush. I started pedaling like mad but Jason was slowly pulling away. the trail we rode on is what you'd expect for a well-kept trail by a railroad track, hard-packed dirt with small crushed stone. Perfectly fine for aero work except for where larger stone was used to fill holes or at intersections.

Then we hit a section that was grass, like the run and your legs start to feel rubbery as you climb uphill on grass that's wet and kind of soggy (it had rained the night before). There were two-three inch deep ruts that you had to stay out of. Then it was back on the trail. Somebody yelled 'Go alan.' Still don't know who and I know they were talking to me. Then it was into the single track. I haven't been on single-track in a long time, months to years, depending on how strict your definition is. Halfway through I had to take my left foot out of the clip and it had to stay out until I got back on the trail. I rode well, but the guy that had been fourth on the run caught me after we got on the trail. He wasn't sure what to do- he sat off my shoulder about three lengths back and decided on when to make his move. That, well, I don't like that. But I'm sure it was clean. he went by and I went into 'no panic' mode. I'd beaten this guy on the first run, he had to change his shoes. I just needed to keep him in sight. I let him get four bike lengths and then tried to hold him there.

He was looking back, which was good. But four became six became eight. Ten. then we hit a wicked downhill with 'loose gravel' signs warning the bottom was dangerous. He went full throttle. I did not. I went into transaition almost thirty seconds down.

There was an announcer. He made a BIG deal about how much time I'd caught back in transition and as we ran out estimated that I'd make the catch within twenty seconds and he also said we were 1:38 behind the leader. I made the catch.

I'm very proud of the fact my second 2 mile loop was only 3 seconds slower than the first loop. But the marathon and 5k double had toasted me and the second loop was HARD all the way to the final downhill. I ended up losing by over two minutes. Jason would have beat me if I'd trained a month for the race and gotten ten hours sleep and drank five less beers then night before, but again, I went to the reunion to hang out.

This was a great race with great sponsors. But when the race director talked about how he'd been trying for three years to get Jason to come do the race, i had to laugh. He'd actively recruited the only guy that beat me. Too funny.

If you're in upstate New York next year the third weekend in October, take the mountain bike and expect a fun, well-run race with great timing by Score-This, pizza after the race, and a good fair course...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hartford Marathon, Part II

20 people ?

I started hauling ass up through the ranks. My 'don't look back' rule had not served me well as far as a bathroom break went. I still had the guy in orange and the guy in blue and white in my sights, but they were pretty far off, and my immediate goal was to undo the damage my bladder had caused.

I caught the first fifteen, and I have to be honest, I was a little demoralised that there were so many more people hanging off my back. Worse, I had to work pretty damn hard to move back up and my whole plan was to not work particularly hard, but as I had in recent races, simply hang on, wait, then move up as people wore out.

I caught the last four guys. They were all post-college guys in their twenties, nine plus miles into the race and chatting it up, which was funny to me, but probably normal for them. One of the guys said that he'd run at UNH (New Haven). I otherwise would not have interjected myself into the conversation, as that would have been rude (and I had no desire to talk, another theme that would re-occur yet again). We talked about UNH's desire to move up to D one among other things. We ran as a group to the turn-around, and then started picking people off. At the same time, by the time we got to fourteen, the four-man group had split, with two in front, one in no man's land, and the other off the back. I tried to tuck in with the front two but they were setting a nice pace that was more than I had left in me.

We were all picking other people off. My left quad, or whatever that muscle on the front of your thigh is, was starting to hurt. With a long run of 90 minutes going into the race, I expected some things to ache a little. My left calf hurt, and my right knee hurts. But there were no bio-mechanical shortcomings in my stride, my breathing was good, the cliff blocks were helping me. I was dumping at least half a cup of water on my head at every stop, which I'd starting doing at mile 2- that's right, I went front to back pouring cold water on my head. At fourteen, I broke the race down into three mile segments and felt I ran 14-17 very well, and was running a good 17-20

But people were coming back to me. I took advantage of every 5-10 foot rise in the terrain and I felt really good- until some guy in yellow and black went breezing by me past 19. I thought he was going to simply bury me, and although he'd built up about 10 seconds at 20 miles, he never really pulled away.

I passed twenty, and except for this guy, I was feeling good. Here I was, untrained, cruising. No meltdown, no breakdown, no sick stomach or light-headedness or just plain feeling like shit. The course got as hilly as it was going to get and there was a little wind, but I could have cared less. People were coming back to me. I started using the guy who'd passed me as a barometer of my own pace, just as a check.

The older guy in the headband came back to us. The guy in blue and white, eventually even the guy in orange, who'd been out of site. Down by the field they use for Capital City, we went by a guy running in memory of an Iraq war soldier who'd been killed and he was doubled over. I'd just completed a pass of the guy in yellow and black and I clapped the guy that was struggling on the back and said 'You can do. you're doing great.' He started to run again, although it might not have lasted long.

I kept pulling away or closing ground on the short little hills.

My last pass was a woman just after the railroad tracks at mile 25. Someone was running with her and we exchanged 'you're doing greats' and then it was the long haul over that last mile, around the park, up the hill as you're doing it. I felt like I was blasting my way to the chute and who was there in the chute ? Marty Schiavone, with nothing but happy things to say and Margit and Ian were there as well.

I ran 1:27 and change going out, and 1:29 and change coming back, and wow, I was actually happy with that. Now if you'd told me I'd be running (and winning) a 5K the next day, I'd have laughed out loud

(more tomorrow)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hartford Marathon- Buy Low, Sell High

After missing the online registration deadline by an hour Tuesday, I also passed on chances to drive 50 minutes to Manchester Wednesday and 45 minutes to Hartford yesterday, leaving only race day registration.

Note to self (what this blog is one big one of, after all)- bad idea. Second note to self- check HMF website late the night before if I make this mistake again. At about 10:30 last night they posted a warning that only 20 spots remained for the half marathon. By the time I parked my car at 6:50, the half was closed. Fortunately, I'd decided on jumping into the marathon back on Tuesday for some very specific reasons, so there was no issue for me. The registration was- well, getting registered was not bad. Getting a t-shirt ? That was bad.

Bottom line, I was late to commit to the race, and on race day you take what you can get and get what you can take, especially when you're jumping into a marathon you didn't train for. I know I did get a medium long-sleeve t-shirt- reading one of the message board some people who pre-registered didn't.

After weeks of being spoiled with hot temperatures, today was the first truly cold weekend day of the fall. It was less than 50 when I left the house, and at 7:45 when I dropped my bag off and was committed to a singlet and bike shorts, it was still a little chilly. Bill Sheetz saw me and was surprised I didn't have gloves on. I'm kind of an all or nothing glove wearer. It has to be pretty cold then I don't mess around with those disposable hand-peds. I didn't even bother with arm warmers- I was confident that it would be 56-57 and pushing towards 60 by the halfway point. I saw people with plastic bags and heavy shirts and headbands that covered their ears and of course, whatever works for you works (even if it's a big ear-covering headband and no shirt).

I ran into a large number of people I know in the corral before the race. Most of them were running the half- Charlie Hornak, Frank Tirotello were two.

We traded jokes about how loud the sound system was and kept it lose until the race started. We headed out and the first person I saw at the bottom of the park was Rob Straz, outrunning me early. We traded some pleasantries and Charlie and I settled in and traded casual conversation about fantasy football and the race. After the initial downhill and a short uphill out on the highway, the race got pretty flat.

I was wearing the Elite kit again, and sure enough someone came up behind me and said 'Dave Greenfield'. That was back before 2 miles. We talked about bikes for a while- this guy is getting a new Razor, I think, after putting down his T-Class. I've rarely spoken with so many people about one guy and had everyone be so positive (my coach Eric is another one of those people).

I noticed they had a gu stop at 2 miles, which made no sense to me, but I carry my own nutrition...

I started gently suggesting to Charlie that he should pick it up. My plan was to run in the 6:40 range for as long as possible, with the idea that even if I slipped to 6:50, I'd still break three hours, which was the only goal I was willing to discuss with anyone. But Charlie was running about the pace he planned to run, so we stayed together until the 4 mile mark, shortly after which the two races split. During that time I moved up when I had to, passing people who'd gone out to fast and bringing Charlie with me. I really wanted Charlie to go for his own benefit, but I wanted him to go for mine as well- the 6:36s we were running were too fast for me.

After the split I considered slapping on the headphones. They were not illegal this year although they are claiming they will be in 2008. I think this is a bad rule for this race, given that they don't use USATF for insurance and headphones simply aren't dangerous on closed courses for road races, nor do I buy the complaint from running purists about them either. But it wasn't going to be that kind of day.

I ran up on one athlete in blue and white that would be back and forth with me for the next ten miles somewhere past five miles and he started a conversation- the usual marathon banter, what time are you looking to run, how your form looks at that point, what your goals are. I was willing to discuss breaking three hours, beyond that any explanation would not fit into a marathon running pace.

The bottom line is that I ran a pretty solid marathon within my LP Ironman in 2006. Since then ? Another meltdown at Mystic last year starting at around 19 miles. Despite running a 2:55:40, I was on pace after 15 miles to run under 2:50 and just couldn't hold it- and I was trained for the race, doing long runs and two-a-days specifically to be ready, and that was pretty much how every Mystic went- 2:55, 2:56, 2:58, 3:01. That was followed by my run-walk-run marathon at Arizona. Result- I needed to prove to myself that I can succeed at long-course events, and that means being steady. I wasn't trying to run fast- if I were, I'd train and look to break my lame 2:46 PR, which I believe I can do for the next few years. I wanted to run as close to a flat time between halves as possible. Why ? I want to have my best marathon at LP in four tries next year.

I separated somewhat from that runner, partly to get alone with my thoughts and partly to get away from some foot-slapping noise. Soon a guy with a headband who looked about 50 or so went by at around 6. This is where you ask yourself whether you need to be patient or show some intensity- it's easy when you are being patient to slow down too much. I decided that patience was in order, and also reminded myself that I would be beat by women (5), by guys 50+ (2), teammates (2), maybe even by people I didn't particularly like (0).

Another runner in an orange shirt came up and the same conversation issued. I did share with him that I really needed to use the port-a-loo. I'd actually needed to pee since before the race started and was not willing to do the urination shuffle I'd seen one other runner do. I can pee on the bike. While running ? Forget it.

At the next port-a-loo, I started to break across the road, only to watch a woman wearing two sweatshirts and baggy pants and carrying a purse start in. Someone must have seen that I wanted to go because there was actually an outcry from several nameless spectators (thanks !) but the woman didn't hear and I wasn't going to stop AND wait. I went on. I let the guy in orange pull away and focused on hitting the loo at approximately 9 miles. Since I basically refuse to look behind me, I ahd no idea what was going on but I had this ideal (false) that I was running in a vacuum. Why not ? I typically do.

I ducked in, peed, and timed it. Fifteen seconds was all I gave myself. Anything more I was not willing to try and make up over the next mile. That might be silly, but I figured I'd better have a plan, or I might regret letting nature call later.

When I came back out, at least 20 people had passed me. 20 people ? I was- unhappy.

(more later)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Half or Marathon

Hartford is in three days and here I am debating whether to run the half, the whole marathon, or nothing.

I logged on Tuesday morning around 9 am to sign up, having decided that despite my coach telling me to run the half and wanting to do well at an out-of-state duathlon the next weekend, I was going to do the marathon just to get one in this year.

Online registration had closed at eight- I know this is picky, but if you're going to say registration closes on Tuesday, at least make it noon...

I really don't like running marathons any more and have done Mystic out of a sense duty/because coach says to do it. The marathon is a very hard thing, harder in some very specific ways than an Ironman. I wouldn't say that the marathon is harder, but it is harder in some ways, and I haven't exactly enjoyed the last few. Running that far, as hard as you can, it's a lot of really, really hard work and the satisfaction I get out of it is just not like that of even a bad Ironman.

That's a very personal thing. Marathons are great races and the fact that I haven't really enjoyed the last few I've done doesn't mean it's not a great distance or that Hartford isn't a good race. But I have no intention of running Boston next year- I've run Boston and don't feel an urge to go back- nor do I think a spring marathon makes for a good summer Ironman (in my case). At the same time, I've run the Hartford half two years in a row and there's something a little, well, it's not the same running the other race at a big race. The half-marathon is actually just one of the other races Saturday (along with the 5K).

So, the marathon it is ?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

i in iPod for inDestructable ?

Last Sunday, after running the Niantic Bay Half-Marathon, my Force 5 singlet was tossed in the wash. I'm not sure how or who did it and it doesn't matter, but this particular iPod Shuffle has been through a lot. It's gotten lost twice, dropped repeatedly (with the dents to prove it) and used by my son. The shuffle is special, however because it was given to me with my 2006 Lake Placid Ironman time engraved on it- guess that's one way for me to always have a reminder of what I should be focused on.

The ipod was still attached to the pouch on the back of the singlet. It went through the wash. Mostly likely still attached, it went into the dryer. Now, the constant banging in the dryer, which is in a closet in my kitchen, should have been a tip-off, you might think. Not at all. While I gave up all my '80s era buckle-festooned clothes around 1990, I live with a two-year old and a woman, so I take it for granted that the dryer cycle is loud, large, and live.

So I was surprised when Margit handed me the iPod the next day and said, 'here, this came out of the dryer.' I was taken aback, and not in the good way. Still, I have had other 'soaked' Apple products continue to function, so I plugged it right into my Mac immediately.

It showed up in my iTunes straight away and was identified by name and I thought I was golden. But I know that a single mount is not a guarantee a piece of computer equipment will work. I gave it a minute, unmounted it and plugged it back in. The light on it flashed- first red, then yellow, then green, then red again. No ipod showed up in the list.

I left it plugged in, hoping it would charge overnight and then work- and it did.

I've done three ninety minute plus workouts since and it's made it through each one, and damn, I'm psyched. While I do have a spare shuffle, having my favourite audio workhorse still game for my workouts is a big deal.