Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Get Around

Now, the Beach Boys were MY generation (actually, also the generation a bit before me, as well). I spent thousands of worthless summer hours cruisin' to their songs and since I lived near a beach (of sorts--Galveston is no Palm Beach) their songs were considered home cookin'. I was a lousy surfer and remain so, but I can belt out Surfer Girl with the best of them.

I'm getting around to my first race of the season--this Saturday is the Texas Half half marathon at White Rock Lake in Dallas. It's a B race for me this year as I'm still focused on my 70.3 in early April, but it's still a race, and I plan to run it smart, well, fairly fast and without getting hurt (I might have those priorities in backwards order). I do not expect a PR this time as my training has been triathlon focused, but then again, you never know (for the uninitiated, PR = personal record=or, Pass out Rather fast. You pick).

This week is a taper week. I love taper weeks. My long run on Sunday was only 7 miles (but it hurt for some reason--it was late in the day and I was tired, and surely the 3 glasses of red wine Sat night had nothing to do with it), Monday was a 1900 yard swim (I remember when I thought those were long, hahahahaha, funny how things change), yesterday (last night) was a brisk tempo 3 mile run at a 10 min mile pace chasing the stars, and this morning was my 5:45 wake up call with Brutal Bob at spin class (no really, Bob, I love your class. Still not sure about the choice of your tunes though). Tomorrow is a short, easy relaxed run and Friday is all about rest and a bit of yoga, maybe a short walk, to keep the system limber and primed. Going to try to get a good night's sleep tonight and tomorrow night as the night before a race (this one is on Saturday, unlike most races which fall on Sunday) I never sleep all that well; too busy thinking about the race and all the things I forgot to pack.

My Patient Spouse, my daughter Sarah, and our rockin' neighbor Terry (same name, different sex) are joining me to run the 5K offered at the race, and will wait patiently for me at the finish line to whisk me off to Cafe Brazil afterwards for a Chicken Brazilian feast (yum!). The race is pretty much all around White Rock lake, and because the trail around the lake is only 9 miles long (actually, a bit less), the race backtracks a bit here and there to make up for those lost four miles (plus one tenth). It's a fairly flat course with a couple of minor uphill sections (you really learn where those are when you are on your bike!) and some small bridges and short uprises. The weather says its gonna be sunny and not too breezy (please God) with a high that day of 70 degrees (this is still January, I think) which probably means a start temp of about 40-45 and hopefully the temp won't climb above 65 during the race or it's going to start getting too warmish for me.

I've been running long runs by running 8 minutes walking 2 minutes and that's how I plan to do the race. It's always hard to walk the first time your watch beeps at 8 minutes (assuming I figure out how to make the new Garmin, which does everything but a load of laundry, and may even do that, beep at 8/2 and still keep track of my pace, time and mile laps). The new Garmin has a charming mode that allows you to track your average pace per each mile (or whatever segment you pick), instead of your current pace (or it can go back and forth--I think--the owner's manual is very long). In this manner I have it in my head what average pace I want to run each mile for the entire 13, slowly getting faster each mile so my second half is faster than my first half (negative split, if you really want to know). Sometimes a hill or wind or a potty or water break can throw the plan for a loop, but you generally can make up for those without killing yourself if you are careful about it.

The biggest thing on long races for me (over a 10K) is to make sure that I don't go out too fast at the start, which is so easy to do for anyone, what with all the crush of people speeding by and your eagerness to get 'er done at full gallop. I have to remind myself that I will pass about 50 percent of these rabbits at mile 10 (the other ones will finish the race before I get to mile 6). When I do my 2 minute walk, I politely move over to the side of the trail before I slow down so no one crashes into me or has to weave around me. I'm packing my race belt with Acel Gel, gummy bears and my own sports drink (I may partake of what they offer, but I've been to races where they offered nothing but water and where they have run out of stuff when us slower runners get there). The gel gets inhaled (there really is no other way to eat a gel than inhale it, I'm sorry to say) at mile 7 or 8, and the gummies are little rewards for each milepost I pass (they also add a sugar rush). Nothing says hooray it's mile 6 than three yellow gummy bears, IMO.

Because this is a B race, if at any time I get hurt or injured, I'm done. I can't let injuries get in my way of the 70.3, so if the old hamstring starts to sing too loud, or something else goes whacko, I'll bear the Walk of Shame. I've never had to do one before in a race, but I'm no longer too proud to stop if I hurt.

And the iPod gets charged up (iPods aren't allowed at triathlons, so I will enjoy using one here). So many choices to start the race with: Danger Zone, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Born to Run, All She Wants to Do is Dance....(hello, Brutal Bob? Great classic rock tunes?).'s nearly race day. What all the training is for!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spinning Wheel

Another song that I think is not exactly the best and brightest of the rock n roll generation (Blood Sweat & Tears--who get my vote as one of the best band names of all time--did a much better job with And When I Die--IMO of course). However, every time I go to spin class the song lives in my head until the spin instructor manages to overplay it with some hip hop or something even worse like rap (hello, Bob? Hip Hop bites).

I was proud to admit I had never taken a spin class in my life until recently. Nothing could convince me that sitting on an indoor bike for an hour could be deemed fun or even remotely useful. Once I started realizing that I had to bike as best I could, and as much as I could (biking being the weakest of all 3 tri sports for me, although it's hard for me to imagine another human being swimming much slower than my swim times), I bought a Computrainer and I've used it religously when the weather got bad or the day got dark.

The problem with the trainer is that I only go as hard as I think I'm going (weird words, but bear with me here--kind of like the words to Spinning Wheel). I know I need to improve speed on my bike without a doubt. So my patient coach Claire suggested I go to spin class. I pouted, whined, and moaned, but off to spin class I went, to meet Barbarian (some days known as Brutal) Bob and his hip hop(truthfully, he does play some modern rock and once I heard a Beatles song, so he's not totally past redemption).

Friends, let me tell you: spin class kicked my rear. From here to New York and back. I THOUGHT I was in good shape. Until Barbarian Bob showed me the error of my ways.

The first time I did spin class I kept telling myself that surely, I could not die from it, but I wasn't sure. Like a typical first time idiot, I dialed up my tension dial to what Bob said it should be, not realizing that not EVERYONE (in fact--probably not ANYONE) had it dialed up to what I consider a true 8 when he hollered for 8. I have since learned to dial back a bit, at least during the first 3-4 classes while I got my sea (spin) legs, now I am increasing the tension a bit each time and finding more power in my legs.

Spin class doesn't of course just work you for your bike; it's an all over workout and that is why it's so popular. It does, however, ensure that you are going to spin those wheels hard and fast during certain intervals, which is sometimes just impossible to do outside because of traffic lights, people, wet pavement, what have you. I've noticed a dramatic increase in my threshold speed and endurance since I've been going to spin class, and I intend to keep going even though some weeks I have to go to the 5:45 a.m. class (errgh).

You'll want to take hydration with you and a sweat towel because you WILL sweat. Also, most spin class bikes use a clip in pedal on one side and a basket on t'other so you can clip in with most bike shoes, which is helpful.

Be sure you look at different instructors and classes before you settle on one you like. Barbarian Bob is a bike rider himself so he knows of which he speaks, but I've tried a class with a lady that never rode the bike herself (Bob rides with us the whole way, so you can track your movements by watching him) and hey, if you are gonna talk the talk IMO you gotta walk the walk. Also make sure that the class is safe and they don't have you doing weird stuff like standing up and pedaling hard in the stirrups with your hands over your head or something. Spin class will generally consists of seated work--intervals and some areobic pedaling--and standing work, similar to hill climbing position--and some squatted work, just to work parts of you that don't otherwise get work.

Barbarian Bob's music is 90 percent okay and he's a cheerful kind of guy, while he's demanding you pour your guts onto the spin bike, so pick someone you don't mind listening to at dark thirty in the morning.

So I'm a convert to spin class for now. And by the way, just because you are a long time biker, don't think you won't work your fanny off in it. I watched a guy the other day dressed up in his fancy bike jersey and shorts with an awesome looking physique who had to quit 3/4 of the way through. PS you don't have to wear your biking clothes to spin class, and the seats are pretty padded, so I wear my tri shorts and a wicking T shirt.

Hope you will try a spin class out. But if you run into Barbarian Bob, be prepared: he's gonna work you to tears, and play at least one hip hop song in the process.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Take the long way home

Supertramp was really one tick past my rock n roll generation but the only really decent song of theirs was Long Way Home IMO. Then again, I'm more partial to the Beatles, Santana, and the Guess Who so now you really know how old I am.

Running and biking the same routes over and over can get, well, okay, really boring. Sometimes you have no choice (it's dark outside, and your familiar neighborhood run is the only safe route). Sometimes you have a choice, but choose the familiar (when biking alone, which I do a lot, I prefer the old familiar route of White Rock Lake, although truth be told I get a bit weary of seeing the same landmarks five times on a long ride--oh, here's the dog park ONCE again, whee....). However, if you get the choice and the comfort is there, picking a strange and new route to run or bike can be a lot of fun, and will often keep your mind off your aching legs and rear while you soak in something new.

I like to rotate my long runs between my neighborhood route (usually run this route when I'm short on time so I don't waste precious minutes driving elswhere, or when it's dark or getting dark), the local nature preserve (very pretty and fairly uncrowded, although it's a very short route of 6 miles if you get very creative, and 5 if you don't), White Rock Trail (good up and downs and interesting sights, but the path is pretty torn up), and White Rock Lake. Every now and then I've veered off my familiar route in the neighborhood to visit unknown areas and streets and parks. Sometimes--most times--this gives me new and interesting things to see (once I came upon people inflating a giant hot air balloon in an empty lot, another time discovered a cute little quiet park with a garden in it). Now and then, this becomes a Bad Idea (like the time I got caught on Parker Road trying to run the grassy median on a wet morning--don't try that at home--or the time I found myself running OUT of sidewalk on a busy street). Even when it becomes a weird or unpleasant place, though, trust me you are spending so much time trying to get back to a normal route that you have forgotten how far you have run!

Biking is more difficult as safety is the biggest issue. When riding alone, I prefer the monotony of the trail at White Rock Lake (White Rock trail, although pretty, is just too torn up and crowded, and the Katy Trail has always been too crowded and short for real biking, even before the unfortunate tragic fatal collison on it of a biker and runner last year). With the opening of the new Santa Fe trail off White Rock, you can add another 5-7 miles of riding now rather than the traditional 9-10 'round the lake and up Winstead. Other than that, there are no reallly good road bike areas in the Dallas area so you have to head for the streets. On the streets, you are best off in locations that are common for bikers and that of course have streets that are 2-3 lanes wide. Even then, you are smarter to ride in large groups if possible on the streets as you will just be more visible to those drivers texting and drinking Red Bull at the same time they are driving. Even though Los Rios Boulevard near my house is a big biking area (because of the killer hills on it), I swear I have nearly been decapitated by drivers on the Parker south side of Los Rios while headed for Renner (another big biking street because of the closeness of Richardson Bike Mart).

Still, I cherish the thought of riding different streets and locations. Sometimes I've tried one or two to find out they end in construction zones (bad) or narrow down to one lane (worse). I've printed off maps of local routes from but some of them are really meant for large groups as they take you down very busy streets.

When I do ride in different locations--like when we took our bikes down to Houston over Thanksgiving, or when I toted my bike to Colorado--it's always so much fun to see new things --trees, rivers, streams, mountains (not so much in Houston). You have to pay attention to any new trails very carefully since you are not knowledgeable about the bumps and turns, but that is part of the fun of discovery. I hope this spring and summer to get out and find new and exciting locations for bike riding around the entire state of Texas.

So, get out of your rut and find something new to see and watch on your routes--even if the new route turns out to be laughably bad, you'll have a great story to tell later.

Stay warm and keep trucking!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Feeling Stronger Every Day

That's one of my fav songs from the group Chicago. It's on my iPod as part of my jogging songs. IMO, this group also had some real duds, including the hit called "25-to 6 to 4." I can't make that math work no matter how hard I try.

Anyway, one of the things that frustrates me (and I suspect most of us) is that it's really hard to track progress when you are working toward an athletic goal, ESPECIALLY if you are doing long stuff. Training for short stuff sometimes gives you quicker progress because you are working on speed more than distance. But training to go long, well, takes a long time.

I've been doing serious triathlon training for a YEAR now--that means pretty much 6 days a week, every week for a year, with some very minor breaks for post race recovery, illness, travel and work. And for so many months, I just failed to see a lot of progress--I slogged through the miles of swimming, biking and running, but it was hard to see past my nose on progress. Part of that is when you are in the middle of training, you don't really see the final baked goods until you put yourself into a race after a taper, but part of it is that progress just takes time. And when you start out older and slower, it takes more time (sorry about that. I would change that if I was Queen of the world, you know).

For some reason, the last couple of weeks I have paid attention and noticed just how much improvement I have made over the last 12 months. For example, I had to do ten 50 yard hard swimming sprints on Monday. Six months ago, I promise you that I could barely sprint for 25 yards without needing a minute to recover from such pounding. Now, I can do a full 50 yards going hard at the same speed I use to churn out the 25 yards, with only a 20 second rest in between (TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: by the 9th one of these babies, I was cursing the water, the pool, my feet and my brain). Also: I did a short bike the other day and was cursing myself that I was only averaging 14.8 mph, but I looked back at Training Peaks and saw my average pace last year was only 14 mph, so I'm faster. Finally, and most fun, was my 4.15 mile this morning. My out the front door run starts with with a half mile uphill (no way to avoid this other that putting my house on stilts). For the last umpteen runs, I have huffed and puffed my way up this initial cruel uphill convinced I would crash and burn out before I'd even gone a quarter mile into my runs (I never did, but I felt like it). This morning (a beautiful morning to run, cool and clear and little wind, predawn and then a gorgeous sunrise--this is one of the reasons I run), I suddenly realized I was already at the top of that little uphill and I never even noticed running up it. I wasn't huffing or puffing or feeling wasted and the rest of the run was a sweet, easy lope through the sunrise.

So, there you are. It's really true. If you work hard, and persist, you will find improvement and success. My mom always told me that, okay, but it's sure nice to have it validated.

Many thanks to my patient coach, Claire Oliver, who has brought me to this point so far. Also a shout out to Patient Spouse, who puts up with so much crap from me having to spend 1-3 hours every day doing some kind of workout, sometimes to the detriment of time together.

Much more to do before my 70.3 in April but now I really and truly know I can do that race.