Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Wonderland 5 Mile Road Race

I haven't raced since Disney, and I was really on the fence about doing a 5 mile race instead of stick to my long Sunday run.

I emailed Maureen Terwilliger, who was having the same thoughts as me. The long run is definitely always the best option, but if you never get in any real speed work, you have to race, both to keep up your confidence and to well, build your speed. It's one of those balancing act things.

For me, I'd just come off three days of training in Florida, running about 40 minutes a day in the heat, with two runs the middle day, so I was feeling pretty good, because I've come into a January race off three days of training in Florida, well, never. Add in Eric's strength training regimen every day and the fact I'm a good seven pounds under my normal winter weight and well, I wanted to race.

So Maureen and I agreed to race rather than do a long run It is a USATF championship race after all...

Racing on a Sunday is such a mixed bag. The race was going to start a good hour after my long run is usually in the can, and with a bib-timed race, who knew when I'd get to leave. It was also the opposite of the carefully planned Disney Half-Marathon. I'd done about 2:15 on the bike the day before and was just going to jump into a race at the last second.

Fortunately I got Eric's strength training and was able to get that done before I jumped in the car and drove out to Milford. My plan was to run in shorts and singlet, with arm warmers, but it was still a shock how cold it was.

After warming up by myself and running a little with Maureen I was ready to go. The wind and the cold was interfering with my plan to be warmed up and ready to run, especially because unlike all the hardcore runners, I had no gloves on. But a few strides fixed that and eventually we were off. I had no real plan, except to switch my iPod back on as soon as we'd gone a few hundred meters, which I did. One guy jumped way out in front.

Then one guy jumped out into second. That guy was me.

So there I was, running frak all, just going hard but not crazy hard or anything. Knowing that there were still maybe ten guys behind me that had the wheels to leave me eating their dust. I threw my hands out as if to say where is everyone but I didn't back off. We were running into the wind and I just didn't care. I was waiting for the swarm, and it came, and it included a woman training for the Irish Olympic Marathon team and I just kind of weathered it.

I went from second to about 15th, but I ran a 5:38 first mile, so I was happy with that. If I can be happy. Which I can't.

Anyway. Some people went by me, but I felt like I was running steady. The goal was now to run the next 4 miles in under 20 minutes.

The course seems to have a lot of downhill in the first 1.5 miles or so and then you hit a hill up and that was when I really got a look at the people in front of me and an idea what to tuck away for later. The @Evanescence was pounding away in the headphones and I felt like I was suffering a little bit.

I went through two miles at around 11:30 or so. I was already reeling in some of the people who passed me, and although I was running alone, there were people in front and behind me that were in contact. I felt like I was really racing, not just out there running. I felt the same way at Disney, but overall it's been a long time since I felt like I was in the thick of it, really not until I came back from Florida in November after the Ironman and really started racing more seriously.

I went through three miles at 17:18 and that's easy math. I had to take one headphone out of my ear at each marker to hear the the call out, but I knew I just needed to hold to around 6 minute miles just as the fun began. I mean, I wasn't planning to drop off to 6s or let anyone by me but with the hills there was no question of a drop off.

I didn't change my cadence. But when we got to the hills I didn't attack all out. Maureen and I talked about this during our warm-down and I think we both have the same strategy. Station-keep going up the hill, a nice steady 90%, and then hit people cresting and going downhill. I mean, you spike your heart rate up the hill, max out at the top, and you will get beat coming down.

I hit four miles at around 23:24. I'd fallen back to 15th but then I surged and as we crested the hill and hit the turn towards the finish I really tried to pick it up. I felt like the last mile was short, because I was running hard, not because it was actually short. I knew this guy from BRanford who is in his 30s was hot on my heels, so I really tried to focus. I pulled the headphones out of my ears as we hit the Platt Tech parking lot and managed to hold the guy off by 4 seconds.

13th overall, but a disappointing 4th in my AG.

Oh well.

Maureen finished soon after and we did a nice easy warm down while finding her husband Gary, then a bunch of us shared training advice for our upcoming Ironmans.

Fun times. Glad I went.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Disney Half Marathon

Some races are automatically an adventure and I'd say the Disney Marathon weekend races definitely fall into that category. Let's face it, you have to travel to Disney to do them, and you don't simply go to Disney to race, then go home.

And that's not it. The races start at about 0530 AM, and my 1/2 had 22K+ finishers (who knows how many started).

So I got up at 0310, which is the earliest I've been up in a very long time and two hours earlier than what I am used to.

I couldn't get a banana at the cafe in the resort the night before so I went with an orange, because the three things I eat every morning are, in order, a banana, 1/2 to all of a grapefruit, and then an orange. Now I had never raced after eating an orange, but then again, I have never raced after getting up that early.

You have to get up so early because although you're probably only about 2.5 miles from the start, it's very difficult to get to the start on foot. You have to take a resort bus to the race, and they come only every 5 or 10 minutes. It was cold in the morning, under 50 degrees at the time I went out to the bus stop, around 0330. I'd decided no throw away shirt, no gloves, just the EH kit, arm warmers, my IM Florida finisher's cap and my Tifosi sunglasses with the red lenses.

They have transportation coordinators at each stop. This helped us not get a bus in a timely fashion. The first bus that stopped was empty and was supposed to be going to the race, however, someone from a previous stop had gotten off the bus and left a bag. Rather than taking the bag off the bus and letting us get on, one of the two coordinator sent the bus, empty, back to the previous stop to deliver the bag. We were all waiting at the designated event stop, which is purposely separate from the little cabana bus depots where you wait for buses to other parts of the resort. Some people who arrived at the back of the line we were in decided they didn't want to be at the back of the line and went on to the depots and when the next bus came, half full, the coordinator waved it past us and to the depot, rewarding us for staining by the Run Disney sign with more waiting.

The next bus was empty, but the driver he wasn't sure if was supposed to be going to the starting line, so the coordinator waved him on. The people in front of me said something to one of the coordinators, who responded with a law enforcement style 'Excuse me, what did you say to me ?' that conversation did not go well, and included the coordinator telling the people that a bus was guaranteed to come every 5 minutes even though we'd now been waiting twice as long. We all walked sullenly to the depot.

I was sitting cross-legged at the depot, eating my orange, willing myself not to be cold. Two buses came. One was full. The next one fit up to the four people in front of me. Finally I got on the bus after waiting half an hour.

It took the next 50 minutes to drive two and a half mile. Yeah. I spent the entire time from 0330 listing to Evanescence's latest album. As the bus pulled into the parking lot I slipped into the bathroom to, well, TMI. you know. I wasn't in there long but as I opened the door the bus jerked and the lights went out. It was the hydraulics being bled out. I went right to the front of the bus and sure enough the door was locked.

Long story short I think I was the last guy off a bus at this year's Disney half-marathon. The buses park a good mile from the start so I started running, and I passed about 5K people just too get to the A corral.

They started the wheelchair people, allowed the elite athletes to get right on the line, then let the A corral get right behind them. So I was within a second or two of the start line when the fireworks and the flames shot up from the starting arch. I went out hard. I had an ambition goal, to finish 3rd or better in my AG in a race with 22K people.

I worked my way up through the other A corral people and locked on to one of the elite women. I was soon well out in the front, maybe 40-50 people total plus the wheelchair athletes. The wheelchairs were kind of in the mix and at one point to hold my line with this woman, one of the two who would ultimately beat me, i had to execute a somewhat dicey shaving pass around 5 of them that had me about six inches from the wheels and accelerating hard.

I was right at 6:00 for the 1st mile...

Of course, no of my other miles would be anywhere near that. By two miles I was at 12:05 and that progression would continue for the entire race. My 5K, 10K and 15K splits are part of the result so even if I want dot exaggerate about what I accomplished, I couldn't.

The course starts out pretty straight forward. You're running on an highway and you run for quite a while. The miles are marked with nice big signs that make your life easy. I was back and forth with people a bit but I was trying not to lock in an compete with anyone because as my coach says 'Your job is to do your job.' I let the elite woman go. I let a few other people go as well. Because I went out fast, every once in a while someone would pass me. At five miles I was still under 31:00 minutes and I really felt like I was running fairly well. I took a cliff shot and actually drank some water from the aid station rather than just dumping it over my head.

I was running farther outside my comfort zone than usual but this was good because I was planning on that.

I kind of got into a little bit of a back and forth with one guy but in general I was running alone, in fact, in a race with twenty-two thousand people I was running in a large gap (50 meters in each direction) for at least three full miles, which more than anything tells me that I was truly running my own race. At some point we wound our way into what I think was the Magic Kingdom and the thought came into my head that I had no idea where in the Kingdom I was- and I didn't give a frak. All I cared about was the back of the guy in front of me and running my ass off.

I do remember running through the Magic Kingdom. The truth is the in theme park areas were the most treacherous. Because they don't turn off the sprinklers, the pavement is wet in a lot of spots in the parks and that where all the twists and turns are.

Back out on the highway, I just ran, hard and steady. I took more gel at 10 miles and really, there's not a lot to tell. I was chasing other people's back, being passed by someone every two miles or so. I had my sunglasses on and the Evanescence was keeping me in such a groove, such a steady sort of raw emotional frenzy, that I was able to just keep running with no real stress. Yes, it hurt, and yes, I was berthing hard, but I wasn't in any distress. There'd been a point where about half a mile in I was struggling to stay calm, one moment where I thought about the thousands of runners behind me, but then I reminded myself this wasn't a swim.

Somewhere around 11 miles a spectator yelled 'You can do it' to me and I have to admit I wanted to stop and scream at her. I can do it ? I was trying to run in the 1:20s. Doing it wasn't a question. Crushing it was the question. The idea that I would see a half-marathon as some kind of challenge that I might or might not conquer, or that I would need positive affirmations just to achieve, was as laughable as it was infuriating. I reminded myself that person was trying to help and maybe didn't relate to my motivation.

We hit an off ramp and then we were headed toward Epcot. I got passed by two guys and I knew instinctively that I was not going to hold with them. I hit 12 miles at 1:14:52 or thereabouts and knew my chance of breaking 1:21 was slim. I was chasing these two guys, one of whom I was afraid was in my age group, and we were winding our way back through Epcot's parking lot to the finish.

I caught the time in the arch and it was high 1:20, way too high so I started running my ass off, like you can see it in the pictures, in my face that I was giving everything I had, and I cherish that because in that moment I cared, so much, about how I was running, well, you cannot beat that. I crossed the mat at exactly 1:21:00 chip time, a big fat 1 second disappointment but hey, I busted my ass for 13.1 miles.

I was 52. I was beaten by 49 men and 2 women. I placed 3rd in my age group out of 1215 men, and how can I complain about that.

I want to go back next year, and if I do, I'll be second in my age group and in the top 30.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Spinervals Challenge Finish/Frosty 5K

So I'd been planning since Christopher Martins to run the Frosty 5K, but then I started backing off the idea based on the feedback I was getting from people around me...

I also was determined to get that last spin in the set in and what I had left was Have Mercy, a 2 hour compilation of some of the 'best' (hardest) sets from spinervals 1-8. Acceleration sets ? Both the 4 second on, 4 second off variety (joy!) and the 10/10 second variety (rainbows and unicorns). Sprints, tempo builds, plyometric squats. You name it.

I'd had one too many beers on New Year's Eve so I was not hungover but I was a little under the spell, definitely dehydrated. I was no longer doing the 5K. I was 'maybe' doing the 5k.

I had to go there, back it down to a maybe. Have Mercy is a hard spin and if I was going to do it right I could not have the certainty of a race- which started an hour and ten minutes after the spin finished- hanging over my head.

There were a few points during the spin where I really had to dig deep to go at the effort level that Coach Troy was demanding, largely because of the Hardcore 100 the day before. I really felt like this was one the best day of the challenge for me because I really had to go to a higher effort level, and I did. My legs were pretty toasty when I got done.

I hopped off the bike, downed some Recoverite, put on my racing kit, and the family headed to Guilford.

I got to the 5K ten minutes before it was supposed to start, registered, and then benefited from a 10-minute delay in the start...

I could tell I was pretty drained. But I was listening to Evanescence and trying to amp myself up for whatever I was worth. I lined up alongside the Guilford Cross-Country team kids, thinking I might benefit from their initial pace.

Finally the race started and right away it was obvious who the race winner was going to be. I latched onto his wake and ran my ass off for as long as I could, until about the first turn, after which he started to separate easily. No surprise as he was going to run in the 16s. I was not. I was back and forth with the kids and all of the sudden a woman went by me.

Like I was standing still.


Then JT (running as Juan Tolberto) went by my. Again like I was standing still. I kind of thought I must be running like, well, shit. But I didn't go into a hole at that point like I have in the past. I tried to minimize the damage as much as possible, watching JTs back, but I felt like I settled in really well, went up over the bridge, down to the turnaround, and headed back.

We humped our way over the same bridge going back and I pushed the downside as much as possible, worried I was going to be run down. But that never happened. Not only did no one catch me, but I managed to reel in one guy at the Fairgrounds.

Back after the turn I heard someone call out the time- 17:30. I had half a minute to run maybe hundred meters. Not really sure.

I ran my ass off, but then I saw the clock turn over to 18:00 and oh well, I wasn't there. I ended up running an 18:06. And while I was bummed that I ran over 18:00, let's face it, I started the day with a really hard workout, and had done another hard workout the day before.

After the race I shared some music with Kerry Arsenault, talked to several friends, and hung out long enough to pick up my and Juan's trophies. I had a chance to push myself to just a crazy level, see friends, and hey, beat 119 other guys in my ten year age group.

Not the worst way to start the New Year.

Eric's Strength Challenge/Spinervals Day 31

New Year's Eve.

I started the day the way anyone would. I got up at 0520, made some coffee, ate 1/2 a banana, and took a bunch of food and honey stingers downstairs to my bike. By 0540, I had started the Hardcore 100.

I'd done the Hardcore 100 one other time, prior to IM Florida, on a Saturday morning when Margit had a swim meet and I couldn't get out and do a long ride on the road. It was a little harder than I had expected to spend that long on the trainer. So I was prepared for it to be difficult. Still, starting in what still seemed like the middle of the night and being a little stressed out that I was kind of abandoning the family for the entire morning was a little stressful.

The workout starts off with a lot of SR15 work, which is good because it is a long day in the saddle. About an hour in, a stray cat came to our back slider and started antagonizing one of our cats so I had to get off very briefly to encourage it to leave. I also hit the bathroom. Then it was right back on the first bike. I was watching Facebook and waiting for the strength training workout to come in, and when it did, it was the 100 sit-ups and 100 pushups we knew were coming.

So I formulated a plan. I knew there was no way that I would want to do 100 sit-ups and 100 push-ups after finishing the hard core 100, so starting with 2nd break I used the 3 minute break to d0 20 sit-up, 20 push-ups, and meditate for 90 seconds. I know the idea of me meditating probably bring tears of laughter to everyone's eyes, but I actually do after long workouts sometimes sit down, close my eyes and just unfocus.

In this case I was simply trying to bring my heart rate down and allow my muscles to relax. The truth was that I was really feeling this workout and I wanted to actually give it a good showing.

Around the 4th hour parts of my butt cheeks started to get a little irritated and I did what I could to keep moving around on the saddle.

By the last hour, I was really, really looking forward to the soon being over.

And then I got to the end, hopped off the bike, jammed my way through 40 more sit-ups and push-ups and finished up Eric's challenge!

Let me say that the challenge was very good for me. I needed it.