Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: By The Numbers: Mileage

     2011 has been stellar looking at the big picture. There has certainly been highs and lows, but that is just the way it goes with endurance sport competitions. Its like a sine wave, you take the peaks with the valleys and when your peaking athletically it feels real good and the competition results are amazing, then its time to recover and the stats start looking not quite as good. I like to participate in events year round weather I'm high on a peak or down in the valley, because for me its more about being healthy and active than it is about race results.

     That said, I do want to end 2011 here on Cardioholics Anonymous with a year end activity report. Not only is it important for me to use this post for reference material when I devise my next training plan, but some who might read this might get inspired to do something similar. Monitoring and logging activity data is a great way to help understand why as an individual I might be in the particular shape I'm in. One website, dailymile, helps me with this a lot. All of these charts are generated from the dailymile site. It is important for me to post this on the last day of the year, but fractional data may change some final numbers when dailymile updates the data tonight. If that happens I'll update this post.

     All: Total mileage for this year including run, bike, swim, walk, hike, and elliptical machine is coming in at 4259 miles. I didn't keep records for 2010, but I'm almost certain that 4259 miles is a qualifier for the most active I've ever been.

     Swimming: My goal of swimming 104 miles in 2011 turned out to be the most consistently challenging fitness related activity that I participated in this year. I don't like to makes me sad...but just getting to the pool 3 and 4 days a week and working on getting better at something that I truly don't enjoy proved to be incredibly rewarding. I'm still below average with my speeds in the water, but at least I'm not way below average anymore.

     Cycling: I originally started 2011 intending to ride 2011 miles, but I hit that target sometime in the late summer, so I bumped it up to 2400 miles just to keep me motivated.

     Running: My race schedule determines my run mileage, so I didn't set an arbitrary goal to run a set number of miles. I run 3 times a week (usually 4, 6, and 8 miles) when I'm not training for a half or a full marathon, and I run 4 times a week gradually escalating the weekly mileage when I'm training. Knowing in January that I was going to train for one half and one full marathon in 2011 I roughly figured I'd run about 1200 miles. Turns out I ran just under 1400.

     All in all it was an exhaustive year of training. I'm glad I did it. 2011 will stand out as a high mileage year in all 3 disciplines. I'll probably try to beat it someday, but I can't say what the long term future holds. I don't see me putting this much effort into training in 2012 though.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is a NO CAN'T ZONE...easily defeated need not proceed!

     Maybe it was my fault for not making it clear. This blog is about what IS possible. We all have about the same capacity to make ourselves healthy, but some of get bogged down with life and literally let ourselves go, like I did. That's fine, and maybe some folks enjoy their obesity, that's fine too...I myself wasn't too concerned about being obese. My motivation for fitness primarily revolved around health statistics and avoiding pharmaceuticals.

     Certainly not everyone who might read this blog is going to be like minded, that's fine, go do your your thing. This blog is about what you CAN also do, IF you want to. (I also enjoy the occasional creative writing exercise, but thats neither here nor there.) I usually spend 60-90 minutes a day doing some combination of running, swimming, cycling, lifting and/or stretching. I'm also known to use an elliptical machine from time to time. Nothing super human about that. I do it, and you can too.

     Granted, I seem to possess a certain capacity for finishing races with above average results, but can to...if you want to.

     The raw facts is that from age 38 to age 40 I got faster, stronger, leaner, and healthier than I ever dreamed possible when I started this whole fitness bit. That is what the human body is capable of when it is conditioned properly. You CAN run, you CAN bike, you CAN swim, you CAN get strong, you CAN get flexible, you CAN eat right, you CAN lose weight, and you CAN get healthy. If you do enough of it then eventually you CAN win your age group in a race or even win the whole thing! (If you wanted to that is)

     So in conclusion, while I usually refrain from the profane, I do just want to say that if you happen to read this blog and think some weak ass lame shit like "Wow, that guy sure is athletic, but I can't do those things, so he shouldn't talk down on unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity so much.", then carry that weak ass lame shit on to some other source of reading material.

Monday, December 12, 2011

(Re) Establishing the (run) Base.

     Defeated, deflated and dejected by the lack of performance at his recent asphalt based running events, the fitness enthusiast responded in the only way that he knew how. Recalibrate, start over again from ground zero. A full month had now passed since the Richmond Marathon and in that time his fitness strategy had been mostly concentrated on strength building. Yes, their was a 5k thrown into the mix too...just to keep things from tightening up, but for the most part he had only ran short distances with little to no intensity.

     The first 4 weeks of strength training had proven to be invigorating. His goals had been simple, meet intermediate standards for 5 key power lifts. One of those lifts, the Bench Press, had proven to be of minimal challenge since his routine training had kept him somewhat proficient year round. The other 4 lifts, the Military Press, Squats, Deadlift, and Power Clean were new territory and his expectations were based on much less certainty. Ultimately, the Power Clean had been abandoned due to concerns about technique and safety, but the other 3 were progressing quite well and a growing anticipation of successfully meeting the standards was undeniable.

     Strength training was essential to his overall fitness strategy, Body Building, however, was not. The "need for speed" was his primary motivator and with 4 weeks remaining to get tuned up for the Frozen Toe 10k it was time to adjust his routine accordingly. Strength training had left him powerful, perhaps powerful beyond measure, but strength alone was a peripheral consideration when seeking to yield a high quality finish at a 10k trail race.

     Goals for the Frozen Toe, however, had not been established yet. A "high quality finish" could mean many things and for now the idea was simply to establish a solid running base so that when training for the Blue Ridge Half  started in February that he would be ready for it. The Frozen Toe would be an important event for him to gauge his fitness strategy, but it was not an "A" race.

     Still, a race is a race and goals would have to be established. Recent statistics from his last 2 asphalt based races suggested he might be entering a plateau with his running performances. Pushing past a plateau was not something the fitness enthusiast had a great deal of experience with. For almost 3 years faster times and higher placed finishes had been something of a given. Now he would have to learn to measure success by  more abstract standards. Regardless of what numbers he would come up with he did know one thing...on race day he would give it all he had and as long as he did that then he knew it would be enough.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011: By The Numbers: Vital Signs

      If you've looked at this blog before you may have noticed a tendency of mine to ramble on about numbers. I do get a certain satisfaction from pushing my limits and testing my boundaries with the whole swim, bike, run, lift and stretch routine, but the numbers that matter the most to me are the numbers that got me interested in active living in the first place. That would be weight, BMI, Fat %, and blood pressure. I'd say cholesterol too, but I only check that once a year, so I don't have enough collective data to include that one.

      A few years ago my health statistics didn't look so good. I was obese and my cholesterol was getting to a point were I was going to need medication. I decided to skip the whole pharmaceutical racket and opted to give clean living a try instead...lets see how thats working so far,,,

Weight (click to enlarge)

BMI (click to enlarge)

Body Fat (click to enlarge)
Blood Pressure (click to enlarge)

      Looking at the charts I'd have to say I'm statistically perfect. Getting these numbers with zero pharmaceuticals is icing on the cake. If you want results like these, I have a suggestion...Ask your doctor if eating right and getting off your ass is right for you!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marathon Recovery/Strength Training Progress

     July 25th 2011 was the day I started training for the Richmond Marathon and Nov 12th was the day of the event. During this 16 week period one of my main goals was to not lose any significant amount of upper body strength as measured by my bench press stats. Previous marathon and half marathon training cycles had diminished my upper body strength by roughly 15% (estimated since I didn't keep good records back then).

     I decided to do my 12 Exercise Free Weights Routine with a Heavy Weights/Low Reps strategy 2x a week on Thursday and Sunday with a hope that it would be enough to maintain my base strength (meaning that I would be able to perform the same routine over the course of the training cycle without reducing the weights). The only exception I made to this was the bench press itself where instead of 12 reps I decided to take it to failure and I alternated between 120 lbs on Thursdays and 130 lbs on Sundays. (Starting out in July failure occurred at 12 reps @ 120 lbs and 10 reps @ 130 lbs).

     For the first 10 or so weeks the failure rep stayed about consistent, then I was completely amazed when sometime around week 10 of the 16 week training cycle my bench press failure rep started kicking in later and later until I was eventually doing 22 reps @ 120 lbs and 17 reps at 130 lbs. Having nearly doubled my muscular endurance for this exercise at a time when I was running 4 times a week for 40-50 miles was not something I had thought possible. The fact that I had about given up cycling during this period may have played a role, and I was still swimming roughly 2 x week just for the record.

     With the marathon just weeks away I knew it would be ill advised to change up my strength training routine, but I knew something good was happening with my arms and chest so I was looking forward to using my post marathon recovery period to focus on strength training with an emphasis on discovering my 1 rep max for 5 popular power lifts. I already had done a bench press 1 rep max at 160 lbs back sometime in the early summer and I had a good idea based on the one rep max calculator that a big improvement was on the horizon for my bench press 1 rm.

     What I discovered was that the 1 rm calculator gradually becomes more accurate as the weights increase and the reps decrease as I progressed closer to the calculated target. Based on 22 reps at 120 lbs the calculator estimated me capable of a 288 lb lift. My first 1 rm attempt after the marathon was at 190 lbs and that failed so I knew I had to reevaluate the dependability of the calculator.

     Since I was having such great results lifting 2x week I stuck with that to some extent, but I started adding 10 lbs to my bench press each time and I also started doing a few lifts on non lifting days for testing purposes. A few days after I took 160 lbs to failure at 9 reps I was able to complete the 190 lb lift and a few days after taking 170 lbs to failure at 7 reps I was able to complete a 200 lb lift making that my new 1rm! In theory I suppose I could keep progressing this pattern to a 220-225 lb lift, but I have 4 other lifts I'm working on and I'm happy where I'm at with the bench press for now, so I just don't see a need.

     With about 1 week remaining in my post marathon recovery/strength training cycle, I won't be devoting as much time to lifting since I need to get my run base built back up in time for the Frozen Toe 10k on Jan 7th, but I plan to keep doing some testing until training for the Blue Ridge Half starts sometime in February, then I'll let it plateau again.


Friday, November 25, 2011

RNUTS 2012

     I love shifting gears. Especially at 30 mph on a bicycle heading down a mountain. One movement of the thumb puts a whole new range of speeds firmly in my control. Now that the 2011 Drumstick Dash is history, I can lay my 2011 road race season to rest and shift my training over to a new gear. That new gear is going to be the 2012 RNUTS series of trail races.

     My 2010 and 2011 race schedules had a lot in common so I made some significant changes for 2012 in order to avoid the monotony of just doing the same thing every year, year after year. One change I don't anticipate ever making is eliminating the RNUTS races from my agenda. The transition from road races to trail races is perfectly timed since many of the area trails are not going to be seeing as much recreational use over the next few months and that leaves them wide open for us outdoor enthusiasts to train on.

     Not only does this trail series do an excellent job of showcasing a large number of the fantastic trails in the Roanoke and surrounding areas, it gives the local running community something to focus on during a time of year when many areas have little to offer in the way of road races.  I will have to direct you to the Mountain Junkie website to learn more about the individual races and the series in general, but here is the 6 race schedule:

       Shifting gears from training for road events to trail events is not difficult, but it does require some preparation. One thing I have found is that the relationship between speed and terrain is much more of a factor at trail events. This area in particular has very technical trails and if the sharply contrasting elevation changes don't slow you down then the rocks and roots should. So I'm prepared to give up some speed.

     Another thing I'm preparing for is the development of athletic skills to replace the speed. These races are no place for a smooth even stride. We run, yes, but we jump, leap, maneuver, and use strategy too. So I'm prepared to put a lot of focus into increasing my coordination,  flexibility and dexterity.

     I run trails as part of my weekly routine year round, but I will be kicking up my trail running intensity and since I usually run solo I'll need to be prepared for a lot of things that can happen. I need to be sure to let people know where I am going to be. I'll need to watch out for wildlife too. I've never had any problems with deer, squirrels, snakes, bears or possums, but I have seen each of them more than once and I am prepared to see them in the future. Fortunately much wildlife is dormant during the peak training months for these events, so wildlife will be much less of an issue.

     If any readers of my blog are looking for something fun and active to focus on for the months ahead, consider giving the Mountain Junkie events a try. The events can be done individually or as part of the RNUT series and many actively encourage walkers/hikers to participate. The race directors, Josh and Gina, put a lot of effort into making the events a positive experience for the trail running community by doing trail maintenance, adequately marking the courses, providing good quality and ample amounts of post race food and appropriate door prizes...including my Garmin 305 that I won at the 2010 RNUTS banquet.

     For more information, please visit the Mountain Junkie website for all the details.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Drumstick Dash

     The stakes were always. The consequences of failure would be harsh and severe. Over 14000 people would embark on a 5k course through the streets of Downtown Roanoke this morning and for many it would be an opportunity to socialize or to have a nice "fun run" or perhaps to share in the sense of community that is such a deeply interwoven aspect of the annual Drumstick Dash 5k. For most, it seemed, it would be enough just to be a part of something a little bit bigger than themselves.
All 4 of us tackled the course this morning. Denise and Faith walked it while Chris and I ran.

     Off to the side, however, a solitary figure was preparing for what could quite possibly be the run of his life. Loosening up his muscles, checking his shoes for that ever so perfect fit, the lean yet muscular fitness enthusiast was scanning the scene for the ones he considered the local elites. Some of them would disappear almost as soon as the race started, but others might be holding back just enough to catch a ride in their draft. It might only gain him a second or two, but every second counts when the goal is to go sub 19 in a 5k.

     The enthusiast had done four separate asphalt 5k events over the years with each one faster than the last. Drumstick Dash '09 *BOOM* 23:11, APCO 5k '10 *BOOM* 20:54, Vinton Fall Festival  '10 *BOOM* 19:43 and finally one year ago to the day at last years Drumstick Dash '10 *BOOM* 19:21. That last one still etched in his memory, not so much for the accomplishment, but for the sheer brutality of the energetic expenditure. Always looking to out perform his past, the fitness enthusiast knew this morning could very well bring him face to face with a pace so violent that Death would cringe. Others had done it and survived. Survival is not, however, a given when sub 6 minute miles are involved.

     12 days earlier the fitness enthusiast had just completed his 2nd marathon. The results of which still puzzled him a bit. He wanted to say he had over trained and paid the price by finishing with a less than anticipated performance on race day, but there was more to it than that. The whole experience had left him empty. Lacking the motivation to keep his fast twitch muscles tuned up and firing, he simply retreated to his weight room and focused on power lifting. The 2011 Drumstick Dash 5k was coming, however, and NOT doing it was NOT an option. So the fitness enthusiast solemnly accepted the inevitable paradox. How to keep the streak of faster 5k's alive while simultaneously making only insignificant efforts to maintain any sort of cardiovascular intensity?
Locomotive passing through just prior to race start.

     The answer, of course, was Magic! Running a sub 19 5k usually requires intensive training, but not if you catch a magic leprechaun and he grants you a wish in exchange for his freedom! So the fitness enthusiast had stayed up late the night before the race with the hope that a magic leprechaun would present itself so he could just reach out and catch it. That didn't happen..., so with the power of improvisation the enthusiast settled for wishful thinking and now here he was at the start line looking at  3...2...1...GO!

     Violence was the answer. Every step had to hurt and every hurt had to be embraced. Mile 1: knocked out in 6:10, not a sub 6, but on par for a PR, Mile 2 knocked out in 6:31: unacceptable, only a strong push on mile 3 can save the day, Mile 3: 6:33 = failure. Final Time of 19:47

     Content to know that failure is only a temporary situation, the fitness enthusiast dusted himself off and vowed to never forget that wishful thinking is no substitute for good, hard, safe training. It was also of measurable consolation to know that even as the streak of progressively faster 5k's was being laid to rest another streak was rising up to replace it...he now had 3 5k's in a row going sub 20. "Perhaps" he thought "The next time I try to go for a 5k PR, I'll have something more than residual fitness to offer, perhaps I'll implement a 5k training plan and follow it and see what that yields."

     When he started running several years ago, improvement was rapid and constantly faster times was practically a given. Now, it seemed, the days of "low hanging fruit" were behind him. No more taking PR's for granted. From this race forward a different type of runner would emerge, what form that would take is still a matter of speculation...

    The Drumstick Dash 5k: Garmin stats
2011-time: 19:47 (chip) 19:49 (gun), pace: 6:22/M, Place 97/3763 overall, 4/187 in my age group, 92/1877among men.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011 Suntrust Richmond Marathon

     I admit it. I've been holding back. I wasn't trying to be deceptive, I just didn't want to jinx myself. Now that the race is over I can finally throw it out there. The truth is...I haven't enjoyed running very much in over a month. I stayed optimistic about my training and this race itself right up to the end, but I've known for weeks that things weren't going exactly as I had envisioned when I devised my training schedule all those many months ago. It started around week 8 with the fatigue issues that resulted in me ditching almost all of my cycling. Then weeks 11, 12, and 13 (my high mileage weeks of 47, 50 and 47 miles) had exhausted me again and had me entering the 3 week taper with almost no enthusiasm and maybe even a little sense of dread for each run. Fortunately, marathoning as a whole, is so much more about the journey than it is the destination so I'll be able to chalk it up to lessons learned and make better decisions for future attempts.

     And what a great journey it was. Over the past 16 weeks I've completed a trail race and a road race in the top 5, I ran the 10k run leg of a triathlon with a great results, I've set new PR's on my 6, 8, and 10 mile dedicated training routes, and most importantly I've stayed active, healthy and uninjured. This 16 week journey does end on a something less than stellar note since I didn't achieve the result that I had set out training for, but even on that downward note there is still the glimmer of the one statistical achievement that I did take home from the Richmond Marathon...a nice new PR for this course and distance.

     Now if you had asked me on race morning about goals and strategy I would have said "I've got to win this thing. Just get in front and stay there." That would have been a programmed response. I knew at the starting line that my taper had been lethargic and never resulted in that enthusiasm for the big event that usually accompanies the taper period. I also knew I would be fortunate to find the energy or will to achieve any of my goals which included a BQ time of 3:15 or better, the pre-rule change BQ time of 3:20, and then just a 3:25 which seemed statistically likely based on my better training runs. The idea of beating last years time of 3:35 seemed like such a given that not doing it never really entered my mind at all.

     So with the race starting at 8am I begin my pre-race traditions around 6:30. The Holiday Inn we were staying at offered a typical breakfast assortment of foods including my pre race standards of oatmeal and coffee. Denise and I then walked 6-8 blocks to the race start where I consumed a muscle milk at 7 am followed by 1/3rd of 2.2 ounce Raw Revolution food bar at 7:30. We watched the 8k'ers and 1/2 marathoners take off, I did some warm up exercises and that left just enough time for a good luck kiss before taking my spot in the starting corral.

     Even though I was skeptical of reaching my goals, I was intent to stick to the strategy of holding a pace in the low 7's. As the race got underway, I quickly established a 7:11 pace and held it for a good long while. I hit the 10k split at 44:58, just a few seconds slower than last years 44:46. I wasn't racing last years splits, but rather took this as a sign that I was doing a good job holding back and pacing myself. I hit the 13.1 mile mark at 1:36:02, again just a bit slower than last year when I reached it in 1:35:45. At this point I couldn't have asked for a better race and I was starting to feel some optimism for my chances at a 3:15 finish.

     However, the similarities with last year did not stop there. Actually, the similarities with last year are somewhat remarkable. Both years mile 17 sees my per mile pace drop into the 8's and sometime before mile 20 the 3:20 pace team has to breeze on by and leave me scratching my head. I hit the 20 mile split at 2:33:25 compared to last years 2:33:17  Knowing at this point that a BQ was off the table, I just didn't see any reason to push for anything more than a PR. My feet felt ready for some relief so I decided to take long walk breaks through the aid stations. I figured at a minimum if I can walk 2/10th of a mile and then run the other 8/10ths fast enough to take my pace for that mile into the 9's, then a PR would be a sure thing.

     My new, less ambitions, race goal seemed to be working for the first two miles, then, just like last year, I started getting some involuntary muscular responses.I had thought the NUUN tablets would have prevented this, and maybe they did help some because it never did get as bad as it did last year, but every 1/2 mile or so my calves would spasm for 15 seconds or so. It was enough to make me want to stop, but I pushed through it although it was slowing me down. My last two miles dropped into the low 10's and I was in danger of not even getting a PR.

     As I turned the corner for the final downhill to the finish I looked at the clock and saw a 3:32 and change and knew I was a roughly 2/10th's away. If I had seen a 3:35 I probably would have walked it for no better than I was feeling, but knowing that a deep push would give me a PR I went ahead and pushed it for a 3:34:12 finish. I don't know exactly what the nurse at the finish line saw in me that made me seem needy, but she identified herself as a nurse and propped me up enough to get me through collecting my finishers medal and getting through the food lines until my family could get to me.
                                                                    Finishers Medal  

     I was literally thrilled to walk away from this race with a PR. PR's are gold in this business. I know that my long term goals as a runner include something a bit faster than what I did at this race, but I wasn't going to let that diminish my accomplishment. Learning a lesson is a step in the right direction and getting a PR, even if it was only by 1 min 18 sec is confirmation that I am still learning and improving.

     Garmin statistics comparing Richmond '10 to Richmond '11

Last years race recap

The Suntrust Richmond Marathon
2011-time: 3:34:12 (chip), pace: 8:07/M, Place 527/3787 overall, 68/327 in my age group, 446/2140 among men

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 16: Race Week

     Recovery: 6 miles (Mon): Just gettin in a few comfortable miles before the big 26.2 on Saturday. Today's 11 laps around my block has almost the same elevation profile as the entire Richmond marathon. Statistically that's encouraging.

     Recovery: 4 miles (Wed): Well, that's it. Training's over. Jostled the bones around just a bit this morning to keep the rust at bay and now the only thing left is race day!

     Race day: Race Report

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 15: Just Maintenance

     Tempo: 8 miles (Mon): Faster than what I really should have been doing, but I just wanted to push it a little and do something in the low 7's. After not really pushing at all last week it was kinda taxing pushing it on the treadmill for this one, and for being in the taper period it was probably of questionable wisdom to be running faster than marathon pace. Still, I got off the treadmill feeling better than when I got on it, so that's worth something. It is such a nice day out, I only used the treadmill because I don't know if I'll be able to swim tomorrow, I wanted to be able to swim some laps right off the treddy today.

     Intervals: 6.5 miles (Wed): Results was typical, which is about all I could hope for. Targets were 6's and 8's, lap 8 has always been the lap that first misses the target, and today was no exception. I didn't try to get back to speed, it's taper week so I just kept it in the 7's and 9's from lap 8 on.

     Recovery: 3.5 miles (Thurs): Jostling the bones around on my favorite out and back trail. No push at all. Garmin data is blemished because it mysteriously started recording again for part of the ride to the gym. I fixed it as best I was a trifling exercise anyways. It's a worthy note to mention that this is my "go to" 4 mile trail run location and that I have decided to alter the standard route by just a touch. Previously, I start at the trail head and run 1.5 miles to the parkway, then 1/2 mile on the parkway, then turn around at a large sign just past the rt 24 ramps and then return from whence I came for a full 4 miles. Upon deep reflection I have decided that adding 1/2 mile before the trail and another 1/2 mile after the trail at the overlook parking area is a much better location to pick up the extra mile since it will keep me off the main road. This will make past data less than 100% comparable with future data, but I think it's a good trade off. I look forward to garminizing the new route next week.

     Long: 10 miles (Sat): Just kickin' it around in the 7's again today. Pushed a little on the uphills and took it easy on downhills. Ended up with a pace just shy of my target marathon pace. Great run, but probably a little faster than what I should have been doing 1 week before the marathon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fitness Defined

    Everyone should develop their own ideas about what constitutes being healthy and/or fit. I'm using this post to present my idea of where I think I need to be for me to consider myself a healthy and fit individual. Right at the moment, I am quite a ways off from where I think I need to be. As a matter of fact, I'm so far from healthy that I probably have one foot in the grave already. Thats why I'm taking the time to write that I can identify and work towards specific goals as they apply to my 3 main fitness goals of strength, speed and endurance.

     1) Strength Standards- I believe a man needs to be able to move heavy objects. In preparation for such an endeavor, I try to keep a minimum amount of strength available by lifting weights and eating foods that promote healthy muscle. For now, I just want to look at the weight lifting aspect. 2+ years ago, when I started lifting, I had no defined goals except to establish a routine and stick to it. That has worked out well for me for the most part, and while I have tweaked the routine from time to time (to add weight or increase reps), I'm not really doing anything different since I started lifting.

     Well, I'm at a point now where I need to define what is acceptable strength and what I need to do to get there. After a quick google search for "Strength Standards", I found this web site and decided that the strength standards for an intermediate to advanced level weight lifter for the 5 different power lifts would be a good place to start. Fortunately, I have been diligent with bench presses since I started lifting, so I'm already at intermediate strength for that one. That means I can mostly just focus on the other 4.

     2) Speed-Q) How fast is too fast? A) It depends on the distance. I have a general goal of doing 12 foot races per year, 2 on each surface (asphalt and trail) of the 6 most popular distances (5k, 4M, 10k, 10M, 1/2 marathon and marathon). I believe fast enough is going to be finishing most events in the top 10% in a given year. Of course the marathon has that golden ring that I have to keep reaching for, the Boston Qualifier. Boston Qualifying would certainly be a nice annual goal to work towards, but with the differences in elevation profiles from one course to another I believe for fitness definition purposes that top 10% is the better parameter.

     3) Endurance. Although running, in and of itself, is a great endurance activity, I prefer the triathlon as a barometer measurement for endurance. I like the way it challenges the whole body in different areas and at different times. I think for my own purposes that an activity that challenges my endurance needs to be more about the challenge of overcoming the distance and less about speed. For me that distance is 70.3, the Half Ironman. I'm no where near ready to try one so this will be like my ultimate life time challenge. In the meantime, a 50 mile ultra marathon would probably make a good substitute.

     So there you have it. My idea of what constitutes "healthy" for me. If I should ever reach each all 3 targets for strength, speed, and endurance in a given year, then I will feel like I've done something. In the meantime...gotta keep on gettin' it.

     [Update: 5-14-12]: A 100 mile century ride is just as good of a  substitute for an endurance activity as the  ultra marathon. The Half Iron is still my lifetime goal, but as an interim activity a century ride works out as well as and possibly better in some ways than an ultra.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 14: Let the taper begin

     Recovery: 4 miles (Mon): After about 10 steps into it I knew my regular Monday morning tempo just wasn't going to happen. Even for recovery miles they were kinda slow. Glad that tapering has started. Energy levels should be in high gear by this time next week.

     Tempo: 10 miles (Tues): Energy level still a little low, but I ended up with an average time for this course. Kicked it around in the 7's for awhile, then finished up in the 8's. The hay is in the barn. All I need to do is maintain it till Nov 12th when it goes to the market. I doubt one slow tempo will have much effect in the grand scheme of things.

     Intervals: 8.5 miles (Thurs): Physically I was ready to get back at it, but mentally I just didn't want to push the paces. My initial taper strategy, to maintain intensity while decreasing mileage is somewhat controversial in that many plans actually call for decreased intensity during the taper. Now that I've had 5 days of reduced workload I'm just loving it so much that pushing the pace past anything more than a slight effort seems beyond consideration. I'm just gonna play it by ear rather than force anything right now. Typical interval paces at the Explore Park beginner trail are sprints in the 7's and recoveries in the 9's, today was 8's and 10's. Its been a long 13 weeks of base and endurance building, so I guess physically I'm just soaking up the reduced work load this week. Time will tell.

     Long: 14 miles (Sat): Felt really good out there today, never really felt like I was pushing it, but still had a solid pace of 7:37 and felt like I could have kept it up all day. Two weeks before Richmond last year I ran my dedicated parkway 12 mile route with a 7:11 pace and I had debated trying to beat that today, but the more I read up on tapering last night the more I felt like leaning to the cutting back intensity and mileage route instead of just mileage. I guess we will see how it all plays out in two weeks.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Greenway Memory 10 Miler Race Report with BONUS Into the Darkness Recap!

     That's right! I don't know what other blogs you may follow..., but today Cardioholics Anonymous is practically giving content away by offering TWO (Count 'em 1...2...) reviews of two different races all for the unbelievably low caloric expenditure of ONE mouse click! If you can find a better deal anywhere, just leave a comment below and I'll MATCH IT!!!

                                    Greenway Memory 10 Miler

     What a day! The Greenway Memory 10 Mile race was to be my 3rd and final warm up race heading into the Richmond Marathon on Nov 12th. I often plug numbers into THIS calculator to determine a ball park estimate of what my finish time in Richmond might look like. My hope was that race day adrenaline would push me to a max performance and give me some confidence boosting numbers to put in the calculator.

     To be fair, the Roanoke River Greenway is a very flat location to run on and with my experience evaluating elevation profiles, I had expected some good numbers. A few weeks ago I had come out here and ran the bulk of the course as a 10 mile tempo run with the goal of kicking each mile in the high 6's. I couldn't quite pull it off that day with my 9th and 10th miles dropping into the low 7's, and this race seemed like a good shot at a 2nd chance. Also, I wanted to test a theory about pacing and determine if their might be any benefit to holding back early in a race in order to finish stronger in the later miles.

     I'm not going to go into much detail about the race itself, it was very flat, I established 4th place during the 1st mile, I eventually got passed around mile 4, and I held 5th place from that point on. I took in water at a rate of 1 sip per mile using what I was carrying plus what little I could splash towards my mouth as I ran past the aid stations, and I used a gummy type snack product from Kellogs for during race "nutrition" which I hit rather hard during miles 5 and 7.

     Crossing the finish line, I once again had no idea what my overall time was since I tend to get so focused on sprinting to the line, that I can't actually get any bearing on the remainder of the surrounding environment, including the time clock. Come to find out that I finished with a 1:07:39 and when you plug that into the calculator above, you get 3:11 for a marathon finish time, which is exactly what I was looking for! Interesting note is that I used a mathematical ratio in a previous post on Oct 18th and came up with that exact same time for hour and minute...hopefully its a sign.

     As for my pacing theory, well, Garmin statistics for this race prove to me that there would have been no benefit at all to starting out slower that full speed. This does fly in the face of conventional wisdom and after a post race conversation with James I., I deemed it likely that the idea of running slower in the early miles in order to run harder in the later miles is probably a valid strategy for folks who racing distances on the high end of their range. If I were to break it down to a formula I'd say to start running at max effort, then determine the distance you can run before fatigue starts to limit your pace to about 80% of what your first mile was, multiply that number by .65 (rough estimate) and then I'd call that my "max effort" distance where pacing has limited to no benefit.

     That said, I do think that for training purposes pacing can be a fun way to introduce variety into a training run, and in a sport with as much repetitiveness and monotony as running has we need all the fun and variety we can introduce into it.

  Ok, to keep a long post short...I had a lot more running to do today, so after the awards ceremony (5th overall, 1st among 40-44 yr old) I went home, changed into trail shoes and scooted around the Chestnut Ridge Loop trail for 2 laps to get a total of 23 miles running. My daughter, Faith, and I were going to hike the Anthem Into the Darkness 4 mile night trail race that evening, so I knew I wouldn't be able to use those miles for training purposes, but they did serve a valuable purpose.

                               Anthem Into The Darkness 4 Miler

     I had been wanting to see my daughter, Faith, take a little more interest in the cardio disciplines for some time, so when she expressed an interest in hiking the Into the Darkness 4 mile night race with me I jumped at the opportunity to drop down out of competition mode and enjoy the Roanoke Valleys premier "fun run" as just opportunity to mix some more fun in with my past time/passion.

     As a guy who usually trains solo, even on trails, I have had to pick up on a few survival skills in the event of an emergency. One of those skills is that "mentally" I have to be ready to wrestle a bear in the event that one should present a threat. I have literally ran across a few bears over the years, but they all either ignored me or became intimidated by my speed, stamina and/or endurance, and they ran away. My daughter, being a bit of a cautious child, decided that since my bear wrestling skills had not been tested that she might benefit from wearing "bear bells" to scare away the bears. (Pictured above is Faith wearing her dalmatian costume with at least 4 "bear bells" sewn into it.)

    As a strategy Faith and I decided we would alternate between running, jogging, and walking every half mile. I felt this might be a bit ambitious given her lack of specific training, but I knew with her cheering practices that she was getting good conditioning for an hour or two of physical activity at a time, so we went with it.

     Faith and I had registered as walkers, so we watched the racers take off and waited for our run/walk wave to start 10 minutes later. Finally the horn sounds and were off! We quickly establish a comfortable little "scoot" and make our way along the long downhill section of the route, after about 1/2 a mile we switch over to walking speed and keep on movin' down hill for the remainder of the first mile.

     Just before the one mile mark the course switches over to single track trail and stays that way for the remaining 3 miles. At that point I ask Faith if she's ready to pick up the pace, but she says we need to take it easy a little longer so we walk a ways and chat about school, Halloween, forest animals, and a trail hike she did with her cousin a few months back.

     Then, just as we were getting past the 1 mile pumpkin marker, we ran into a mother/daughter team who were moving right at about the same pace that Faith and I had settled into. The two girls hit it off really well and just got to chattin', so without even saying a word we just moved along at a good hike pace as a group. It was very dark out or I might have recognized the child's mother as Pam R., whom I had very briefly met at another race I did a few months back in Damascus. After the formal introductions were made the girls just kept up their conversations and it turned out this was Sophie's first trail event too, and both girls like to read, and have similar tastes in TV, and animals, so the miles slipped right on by without even one word of being tired, or wanting to stop, or something hurting. Here are their pictures at the 2nd and 3rd mile markers:

     So, we finish our night hike, and the girls are thrilled with their accomplishment. We head over to the main building where the Mountain Junkies have laid out an excellent assortment of post race food that included two types of pasta, bagels, peanut butter crispy treats and hot chocolate. Here are some pics of the girls eating and lounging after their meal:

     In summary, a good time was had by all. Faith is still excited about her accomplishment and she is happy to have made a friend that she is likely to see at future events. As for Daddy, well...I got to finish an event in last place. This was an important accomplishment for me because at the last 2 events I went to I overheard random people say they just don't want to finish last, now that I've done it I just don't see what the big deal is...finishing last IS finishing...I just don't want to be the guy that never started!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 13: *The Hay Is In The Barn*

   *The Hay is In The Barn* is a Hal Higdon expression refering to the point in training when you can't get any faster or increase your endurance before race day, but you can still get injured or lose fitness. In other words...Let The Taper Begin! 

     Tempo: 12 Miles (Mon): I guess I still had some lingering fatigue issues from Saturdays 20 miler cause I never really could find my target paces out there today. I pushed where I could, but for a tempo run it was really just sluggish. Still, the final overall pace of 7:44 does represent about a better than average time for me on this course, just not an excellent one like last Mondays 7:11. Here is the comparison data:

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Steady cold drizzle outside influenced me to take the interval routine to the treadmill for a 2nd week in a row. Sticking with last Wednesday's template, I through a 1000yd indoor pool swim into the workout after mile 6. I'm not certain what influence the non-continuous running routine is having on my interval training, but at this point the "hay is pretty much in the barn", so I'm not gonna stress on it too much. Compared to last Wednesday R1 was considerably faster, T1 was twice as long, S1 was slightly longer, T2 was about the same, and R2 was a good bit faster. The main thing is the running was faster on both ends, so I'm not overly concerned with the rest of it.

     Long: 22 Miles (Sat): Split my scheduled 22 mile long run up into 4 segments with a good 2 hour break between the 3rd and 4th segment.Not sure how splitting it into segments compares with continuous running, but I really wanted to do the 10 mile race figuring it to be my best chance to run 10 with no miles slower than a 7 min/mile. Happy to say I did succeed in that goal. After the race, I ran 2 laps of the Chestnut Ridge Trail at a very comfortable pace to get my mileage in. Then I hike a 4 mile night trail race with my daughter at the end of the day. All in all it was a 27 mile day, with 23 running and 4 hiking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Richmond Marathon Mindset (where I'm at mentally heading into next weeks taper)

                                                           The EVENT

This year will be my 2nd running of the Richmond Marathon in 2 years. My first running of this marathon last year became something of an enigma to me and in the back of my mind almost everyday since I've felt a calling to come back and make a more definitive statement about what I'm capable of at this distance. Last year's running of the Richmond Marathon was certainly an accomplishment to be proud of with a 3:35:30 finish time, but I have never really gotten over what happened to me at about mile 19-20. I was holding my own with the 3:20 pace team and then I just stopped digging. My feet had been hurting, my speeds had dropped from the 7 min/mile paces into the 8's, and mentally I gave in to fatigue and ended up walking about half of the last 6 miles. For my own peace of mind I have to come back..., and finish strong!

     Now the nature of marathon training is a bit different than with shorter events in that typical training routines only take you up to 4/5ths of the distance being trained for. (That would be a peak 20 mile training run for a 26.2 mile event). Whereas most other shorter distances, say a 13.1 mile half marathon, typically call for weekly long runs in excess of the distance being trained for such as 14-16 miles. A few mathematical calculations and the truth becomes almost evident...I didn't respect the distance and I didn't anticipate for it very well.


     This year I have tried to take a more disciplined approach to my training without following a prescription training plan. Part of the appeal of running for me is designing my own training plans in a way that combines fun, hard work, variety, and challenges. Last year my training and the race itself were basically just following the "run the distance as fast as you can" technique. This has worked remarkably well for me overall in that I typically finish street races in the top 10 or at least in the top 10%. This technique didn't work so well at the 26.2 mile distance, so I've made some changes this year.

     Each week typically has 4 running days with a tempo day, an interval day, a recovery day and a long run day. During the first 8 weeks of the 16 week plan I also cross trained with roughly 40-80 miles of cycling over the 2 days that I didn't run and about a mile of swimming after the recovery run. After 8 weeks of that I started seeing a decrease in running performance, so I dropped the cycling down to once a week for short mileage and added more swimming and resting and that seems to have helped get my results back on par with my expectations.

     Also,this year I'm maxing out my training with a 50 mile week as opposed to a 40(ish) mile week last year, I'm focusing more on pacing in the low 7's and less on maintaining my low 6's 5k pace, and as I write this paragraph (during week 13 of training) my intention will be to taper with a lot more emphasis on maintaining intensity as I decrease my mileage base.


    Too many variables make statistical predictions somewhat less than accurate, however here are some number patterns I'm seeing based on the first 13 weeks stats. A) Last years fastest 20 miler was done with a pace of 8:32 and I finished the marathon with a pace of 8:13, using a mathematical ratio with this years best 20 miler pace of 7:36 we get 8:32/8:13=7:36/x, where solving the equation would make x=7:19. This statistical comparison would indicate that I will finish with a time of 3 hours 11 min which is 4 minutes faster than 2013 Boston Qualifying and 9 minutes faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying.
     The above ratio however does not take into consideration differences in last years 20 miler elevation profile and this years which was an easier route. Last years 20 miler had roughly 3x the elevation change that Richmond has and this years best 20 miler had about 1/4 as much. Now my elevation change handicap is roughly a loss of 15 seconds per mile for every 1000 foot of elevation change over a 20 mile distance. Factoring the elevation handicap into the above equation we get 8:32/8:13=7:51/x where x solves to equal a pace of 7:33 which is 6 seconds per mile slower than the 2013 Boston Qualifying pace of 7:27, but still 4 seconds per mile faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying. This number is also strikingly close to my 2nd best 20 miler pace of 7:58 when you consider that it had 2.5 x the elevation change of Richmond AND I held way back on the downhills.

     What about heart? You can't measure that statistically, or experience either for that matter. Knowing what to expect is invaluable and knowing my determination and aptitude for focusing on a given task I think I'm going to call my race day finish time in at 3:10 for a perfect race, 3:18 probable and 3:25 for a good bet.

     In summary...beating last years 3:35 and getting a PR is likely barring unforeseen circumstance. Qualifying for the 2012 Boston Marathon, which is already full, with a 3:20 or better is a 50/50 shot, and Qualify for 2013 Boston with a 3:15 or better is a statistical long shot, but within the realm of possibility.

     Did I mention I love statistics and number crunching? This is fun for

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 12: Peak Mileage Week (50+)

     Tempo: 12 miles (Mon): This was my first of 3 attempts at a 12 mile tempo run for this training cycle. I try to set new PR's on my Dedicated Parkway routes during my tempo runs and I had been somewhat pessimistic about this one because I set it during the taper period of marathon training training last year when I was truly at my best for this distance. In my first attempt today I missed the course record by 3 seconds. I can be happy with that even if I don't beat it during this training cycle. Here is the today-vs-course record Garmin data: I'm undecided if I will use my other two 12 mile tempo runs to try and beat the course record. In this instance close enough may be close enough and I may use at least one tempo on a level course for variety's sake.

     Intervals: 12 miles (Wed): Used the treadmill again for this interval run. The numbers aren't really good for comparative purposes because I threw in a 1000yd swim right after the 6th mile. I really like a good treadmill run when its 4 miles long, but 12 miles on a treadmill sucks so I had to break up the monotony with something. I just can't evaluate this workout from a marathon training perspective, but I'm sure it was beneficial on some level.

     Recovery: 6 miles (Thurs): Emphasizing comfort and just staying active. This is going to be my peak mileage week for the current training cycle and I want to get as much out of my recovery miles as possible by not pushing the pace at all.

     Long: 20 miles (Sat): At this point in the current training cycle every run seems like its some kind of critical, all defining referendum on my chances of achieving a specific goal pace of 7:27 in Richmond next month. If that is so then I'd have to say that this week and this run in particular have been very encouraging. Even though my pace today was an avg of 7:36 and I was fading, I know that race day adrenalin can push me to exceed my best training run. This week was my first week of running 50+ miles and most miles were clocked in the low 7"s. Today was also my fastest 20 miler to date and with 1 more week of hard running and 3 weeks of tapering to look forward to I feel great about my odds of a PR and relatively good about my odds of Boston Qualifying!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Randomness...(with a side order of sarcasm)

1) Overcoming negative thoughts. Sometimes a negative thought can creep in while trying to maintain a challenging pace. Usually it says something like "slow down", "this is too fast", or "your not ready for this yet". At times like that I think the best approach is just to grab a baseball bat and whack myself in the shins real good. After awhile my mind will start to associate negative thoughts with pain and eventually it will suppress negative thoughts altogether in order to avoid pain.

2) Pacing. Last year while running the Richmond Marathon I "bonked" after about 19-20 miles and had to walk/run the remainder of the race. In all the miles I've ever ran, that and GU energy gels, are the worst memories I've got. As a rule of thumb I like to give it all I got right from the word go. Start out with a violent pace and hold it till I cross the finish line. Unfortunately that strategy didn't work out so well over 26.2 miles last year so I've been playing with pacing myself a little bit during this current training cycle. I think I may try to just run with one of the pace teams from start to finish this year in Richmond and just see how it goes.

3) Listening to your body. In athletic circles I tend to hear a lot of talk about "listen to my body" as it refers to avoiding injuries. Thats all good, but what about when my body is lying or saying mean things like "Ouch! This hurts!" or "I need a Doctor! QUICK!" In times like that I think it's best to revisit random thought #1 and possibly modify it by applying the blunt force trauma directly to the head...because nothing says "Stop lying to me!" like a blunt force trauma wound to the head. Incidentally, if my body continues with the same chatter even after my self guided therapy, then I would have a good idea that maybe their actually is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Training for Richmond: Week 11

     Tempo: 10 miles (Mon): Happy to see this tempo run finished with an overall pace under a 7 min/mile. I wanted to see if I could keep all 10 miles at a sub 7 pace, but mile 9 saw me needing a recovery mile and mile 10 I was on the verge of a comeback, but not there yet. I believe if I had been due another mile or 2 I probably could have got back in the 6's. Oh well, it was a great very flat run on the Roanoke River Greenway and it was my fastest 10 miler to date. Last weeks 10 mile tempo was a course PR, but I was a little disappointed with the avg. pace. This week I effectively eliminated the elevation gain and loss and that seems to have made a significant difference. Here is the Garmin comparison data:

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Even though I was due for an interval workout on one of my asphalt courses, I wanted to see if I could detect any significant week to week improvements by swapping my regular Tuesday x-training over to swimming from cycling so I went back to Explore Park to run interval laps on the beginner trail. Week to week comparison data looks reassuring that I did the right thing. I held target paces of 9's and 7's for 11 laps this week vs 9 last week and I kept the burn out paces in the 8's and 10's versus 9's and 11's a week ago. Think I'll stick to the more swimming, less cycling x-training strategy for now.

     Recovery: 5 Miles (Fri): Just jostling the bones around to get in the miles and not burn myself out for tomorrows long run. Intended to do it all on the Chestnut Ridge trail, but my gas tank was low and I didn't have my wallet so I went to the closer trails at Explore Park. That didn't work out so well for a trail run either as I thought I smelled a bear on the beginner loop and ended up running most of the 5 miles on the streets. I ran it progressively with a slow cool down mile at the end. Not really a challenge since I started out so slow.

     Long: 20 Miles (Sat): I went out looking for just a comfortable 20 mile route, but I didn't feel like driving somewhere flat, so I decided just to run 5 laps of my primary 4 mile loop. I intended to run every mile in the high 7's which translates into a downhill slow/uphill fast strategy. I pegged it for the first 18 miles, but the 18th mile was tough and I knew I needed to fall back on my paces to finish up. Ultimately content that I still pulled off an average pace in the high 7's for my first 20 miler of the current training cycle. Interestingly enough, my first long run of this training cycle from week 1 was 3 laps of this same route and my final pace ended up in the mid 8's... you say "massive improvement" ? I knew that you could!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weight Management

     My journey from a life of pseudo foods, pharmaceuticals, and obesity to one of health has mostly been motivated by a numbers game. It's not like I was just sitting around one day and said "Hey! I think I'm gonna train for a foot race or a triathlon!" No. For me it was about weight management. Everyday I step on the scale at least twice. Once after breakfast and once after my exercises. Then I reflect on what I did over the past 24 hours. Gradually over time I figured out that the simpler I made my routine, the easier it would be to tweak for changes so that I could determine what works for me.

     The above chart (Click it to Enlarge) is one year of entries using the Garmin Connect software, but there are many options available including pen and paper for those so inclined. I think the most startling thing that I have learned on this journey so far is that maintaining a statistically perfect ideal body weight is only slightly easier than losing excess weight in the first place.

     Looking at the chart over recent weeks I can see that my weight is trending up slightly. I can conclude several possible reasons for this. A) I'm gaining muscle mass, which my recent bench press PR would support. B) I'm eating too much ice cream, which I do tend to consume to regulate my weight upwards whenever I regularly drop below 160 Or, C) Too much processed foods, including meats, since marathon training can make me a bit ravenous and indiscriminate with my food choices.

    All in all, it's some combination of the 3 and if I start trending above 170 I know exactly what to do to bring it back down. A) Stop lifting weights and/or increase cardio intensity so as to burn muscle mass. B) Ditch the ice cream. Or C) Decrease my percentage of processed foods. Again, the course of action would undoubtedly be some combination of the 3.

     The idea I'm wanting to present here is just that if weight management is important to an individual, then it requires monitoring and actions to regulate it. It's kinda easy really and it just takes a few minutes a day. I learned what works for me and I believe everybody can learn what works for them. Some people may be able to do it with little to no exercise and almost all with dietary adjustments, others may be the opposite. Probably, I believe, it will be some combination of the two and you just have to establish a routine then tweak it to get the results you want.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 10

     Tempo: 10 Miles (Mon): Established a new PR for this route by just under 2 minutes. Content, but not incredibly happy with todays effort. For some reason this particular 10 mile course challenges me in ways that other 10 mile courses can't. Recent statistics would support me running a 72 min to 74 min 10 mile tempo run. I'm going to be content with this PR and just let it ride, but next weeks 10 mile tempo will have a flatter elevation profile.
     Here is the Garmin comparison data for todays new PR versus the old PR set on July 16th 2011

     Intervals: 12 Miles (Wed): Maintained the same target paces of 7's and 9's as was the case the 2 other times I did my interval workouts here during weeks 4 and 6. I just missed the target 7 on lap 10 and then I just took the last 4 laps at much slower targets of 9's and 11's. Consistent with weeks past, I just don't do as well on Wednesdays probably due to the vigorous cycling that I tend to do on Tuesdays ( As compared to week 6, where I hit all targets for 12 laps on a Monday, I faded out early. Yet, as compared to week 4, where I barely hit any targets over the 9 laps, I did exceptionally well.
     Recovery: 4 miles (Fri): I done good. Sometimes it hurts to hold back when I really want to let loose, but tomorrow is long run day and I don't want to go into it with any fatigue. Also worth mentioning is that I'll be tweaking my cross training routine towards less cycling and more swimming. I had hoped the 60-100 miles of cycling per week would go a long way towards conditioning me for longer and longer workouts, it seemed to be helping for awhile, but at this point it seems to just be burning me out instead. Besides now that my weekly running mileage is higher than its ever been I need to take extra precautions to not over do it. This blog is called Cardioholics Anonymous for a remind me and others not to over do it with training and end up injured or neglecting other aspects of life.

     Long: 18 miles (Sat):  The first 12 miles of this course is the south bound version of the 18 miler I ran 2 weeks ago and the last 6 miles are identical. My mindset was that I wanted to toy with the idea of pacing in mid 7's. Ultimately pacing is not a practical idea where I run because of the huge differences in elevation gain and loss from one mile to the next, but I seem to have done ok with it. I was also experimenting with nuun electrolyte tablets and breaking in new shoes. The new shoes did cause some discomfort, but after the run was over I felt a lot stronger than what I can describe as typical, so maybe the electrolyte tablets helped. Interesting that this 18 mile run was only 2 seconds faster than the one I did 2 weeks ago, I guess thats what they call consistency. Final avg pace of 7:42 is 15 seconds slower than a Boston Qualifying pace, but conventional wisdom suggests that its nothing to be discouraged about. 3 more long runs to go...2-20's and 1-22 miler. Here is the comparison data from the 18 miler 2 weeks ago, I'm omitting the 18 miler from last week since it was intentionally slow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Big Lick Triathlon: Race Recap

     When future archeologists begin researching race results of 21st century athletic type people they will undoubtedly look to the 2011 Big Lick Triathlon as the pinnacle of human achievement in the realm of endurance sports events. Actually, err, maybe not so much..., but still I had a great time out there today and I was thrilled to be a part of this event as the runner on a relay team. In acknowledging that my open water swim skills were too unreliable for me to make an effort as an individual racer, I had about written this event off. As I was finishing up a treadmill workout a few weeks back I guess Larry S. saw some potential in me and tapped me for a run spot on his relay team. I was more than happy to oblige.

     Unlike the Iron Mountain Trail Race from a few weeks back, this race didn't actually fit into my training plan for the Richmond Marathon, but it was was worth it to me to make the adjustments so I eliminated cycling workouts for the week to keep my legs fresh, did my interval and tempo training on consecutive days early in the week on Monday and Tuesday to allow for more rest at the end of the week, did my long run at a recovery pace on Thursday so as conserve intensity for race day, and used Wednesday and Friday as rest days except for the fact of swimming a few pool laps to keep things loose.

     Also for this race I ran into fellow triathlete, former classmate, Northside High School athlete, and just all around good guy Neil B. I took to living actively back in Jan. 2009 and I discovered Facebook shortly after in May or June of that year. As FB connections with old friends and classmates started becoming the norm at about the same time that I was figuring out what "being athletic" means to me (no, I had never been athletic before 2009, never, not even in High School) I was inspired that a good handful of people began to offer me encouragement. I looked around for one former track star, just to see how she was doing, and was saddened to learn Christina C. had passed away at a very young age. On the mens side, however, Neil B. was active with triathlons and suggested I try one. I explained how I can't swim and nothing more was said (posted) about it, but in the back of my runners mind the words "I can't" just weren't sitting well with me anymore. I had a gym membership, the gym had a pool, and when my daughter presented me with the opportunity by wanting to spend a lot of time at the pool...I slowly learned how to swim.

     Swim, yes, in a pool, and many who might read this know I already did a couple of pool swim triathlons, but open water is not where my comfort level is right now, maybe next year. Which brings me to this race....Our swimmer, Bobby B. , a year or two out of High School is phenomenal in the water and setting school records at his college while he's just practicing. Larry S., our cyclists, is a regularly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so with that kind of experience tackling elevation I knew he could hold his own, and I'm training for the Richmond Marathon, where I'm looking to go under 3 1/2 hour and I've picked up masters awards in my last 2 races. I thought we had as good a shot as any at a good overall finish time.

     We made our introductions, got our gear in order and waited for the start. Seeing a nearly 1 mile swim course laid out was memorable. I can look at the pool and say "30 laps" but its just not the same visual picture. Watching the swimmers take off and swim was also quite the experience. Swimming is a comparatively slow activity among the 3 triathlon disciplines and even the best swimmers took a few minutes to firmly establish a lead. With all the swimmers all in the water and the distance that I was from the beach I couldn't tell Bobby from anyone else, so I just stretched and waited around the transition area.

     Turns out it's a lot of waiting involved with being on a triathlon relay team. Bobby got out of the water, Larry took off to do his cycling, and I waited some more...eventually Larry got back, and from my point of view that is when the action started!

     Running a 10k as part of a triathlon is different than with a traditional road race because with a triathlon slower runners can get way out in front by being  better swimmers or cyclists. I knew the best I could do would be to not become complacent with the pace of whoever was in front of me. Just get out there and pass people. Do it aggressively and get it done. In a road race I might tie a rope around a faster runner and let them "pull" me to their pace, In a triathlon its more of a bungee cord and I sling shot myself past whoever is in front. I couldn't count how many people I passed, but the great thing about the athletic community is all the encouragement we give each other, especially runners, the whole time I'm out there passing people all I'm hearing is "good job", "way to take that hill" and "go get it".

     As for the terrain, Mile 1 was a slight uphill. The Garmin will say 6:11, but I started my watch in transition so I'm gonna call it 6 minutes flat. Miles 2,3 & 4 (6:24, 6:41 and 7:05 respectively) were just finishing the incline started in the first mile and some moderate rolling hills. Mile 5 took us down a steep hill to a turn around and then right back up it, I felt like I made good time running down the hill, but I lost more than I gained coming back up it, 7:27 on that one. Mile 6 I took a few 10ths to recover from the uphill and then picked the pace back up to the mid 6's (6:41 to be exact). As the finish came into view I thought I was running solo, but a volunteer called out to a participant in such a way that I figured he was right behind me. Rather than take a chance at getting burned at the finish line, I summoned up every ounce of speed I could and finished strong for the final 10th. The Garmin registered 13 mph for my sprint to the finish, but there could be a margin for error. I was late, as always, turning my Garmin off, so I don't know time to call for that section.

     Oddly, after the race, I wished it had been another 2 miles or so. I guess it's all the long distance training I've been doing, I just felt like I had  more to give. Never the less, the cold water bottle handed to me by the volunteer was welcome and I enjoyed a little cool down walk. Larry kept an eye on the results sheet and informed me that it looked like we had 3rd place locked up for the male relay. We ate the post race meal of spaghetti, corn, green beans, and a roll, then we collected our 3rd place trophies at the awards ceremony and headed back to our homes.

     Great way to spend the morning...Official race results Big Lick Triathlon (1500m/40k/10k) Time-2h34m27s, (S-20:12, T1-1:04, B-1:30:54, T2-0:36, R-41:43) here is the Garmin data for my 10k run...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Training For Richmond: Week 9

     Tempo: 8 miles (Mon): (Pre-run psych up) Ok, this is it. Final attempt to set an 8 mile PR on my Dedicated Parkway 8 Mile training route during this training cycle. Time to beat is 57:06 and I aim to make it look easy. No meat yesterday, oatmeal this morning, trying Muscle Milk as a pre-run experiment. :) I did it. I suspected a little pre-run blogging would help me focus. This was my 3rd and final 8 mile tempo run in the current training cycle and achieving the PR today is a huge confidence booster. I had a strong 8 mile on the treadmill 2 weeks ago, but when I tried to repeat that performance on asphalt last week I came up a little short. Ordinarily I would have done this weeks 8 mile tempo on technical trails, but I needed a 2nd chance at the PR for this route. Here is the Garmin comparison data for all 3 of my 8 mile tempo's in this training cycle..., Garmins record treadmill data a little differently, so please disregard any confusing data on that one.

     Intervals: 10 miles (Tues): Raining this morning so rather than get out a muddy trail where my ability to hit target paces would be hampered by the mud (and to avoid overexposure to asphalt) I took it to the treadmill. First time doing intervals on a treadmill...I didn't like it a whole lot. I like treadmills for short distance tempo running, but with intervals I was always having to watch my distance and change up my speeds at specific intervals and it made it difficult to get in the "zone". I cant remember my exact statistical breakdown, but it was 1/2 mile increment alternating between high 5's and low 7's for the first 4ish miles, then high 6's and high 8's for the last 6 miles. Having not done intervals on a treadmill before I'm not certain how this compares to other interval workouts, but it was a good overall pace of 7:23 min/mile.

     Long: 18 miles (Thurs): I have a 10k race this Saturday so I wanted to get my long run in a few days early. I went to Explore Park and just started running. I had entertained thoughts of pre running the Into the Darkness night trail race course, but the road was posted No Trespassing, so I ran around the beginner trail and the down to the Roanoke River and back and then thought it would be a good idea to run to the Stewarts Knob Trail head and back. I didn't estimate the mileage very well and ended up 2 miles from my car after the run was over. My intention was just to set a pleasant pace and enjoy this as a long recovery run, but the humidity was high and having just ran a 18 miles 5 days ago I really had to dig deep.

     Tempo (Race Actually): 6.2 miles (Sat): As a tempo run this was slightly above par as compared to recent statistical data. For a full evaluation of this run feel free to read my race report for the Big Lick Triathlon.