Saturday, May 28, 2011

AEP/Festival in the Park 10k Race Recap

     I kept the streak of progressively faster asphalt 10k races alive with a final time of 41:25. This race went like so many others where I just give it all I got at the beginning and then try to run out of steam at a very slow and controlled rate. After we all got spaced out, around mile 1, I held my own for about 2 more miles then over the last 3 miles about 6 or 7 people were able to pass me. Eventually I will work on holding the 6:23 pace for longer durations so that I can run a 10k at an even pace, but for now I got what I trained for.

     I had a streak of pacing in the 7's going with the RNUTS trail race series, but I lost it with an 8:09 pace at the Trail Nut Half Marathon a few weeks back. Right now I'm at a place where I know my days are numbered for being able to keep my 5k and 10k asphalt streaks alive. Eventually I'm going to run one and it will be at a slower pace than the one before it and that's when I'm going to have to do targeted training plans if I want to see another PR at these distances..., but for now it's still coming easy, so no worries.

     Next week is the Conquer the Cove 25k and I have to admit now that I chose to focus my training this week on today's 10k. Consequently I was unable to maintain a mileage base that would allow for me to be competitive next week also. No, I'm not throwing in the towel, but I am lowering my expectation for myself. Since this is the longest trail race of the year for me I had it worked out in my mind that if I could pace it in the 7's that it would somehow make up for pacing the last one in the 8's. In light of how my training has been going I think I'm just going to take it somewhat easy next Sunday and just go for something in the high 8's.

     For the rest of June I'm looking at maybe doing another triathlon and other than that taking it easy. July is the 4 on the fourth race and hopefully a century ride, then the last week of July is when targeted training for the Richmond Marathon and my 2nd attempt to Boston Qualify starts. Good things on the horizon. Being 40 rocks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 Storming of Thunder Ridge

     The Storming of Thunder Ridge cycling event was my introduction to group riding. Over the past few years I have developed a passing knowledge of street and trail running culture, but cycling has always just been that cross training thing I do on Tuesdays and Fridays with no goals unto itself except put the miles in and get it done as fast as possible. When the Angels Race Triathlon introduced me to one aspect of competitive cycling I wanted to dig a little deeper with it and try some cycling events.

     So when a friend told me about this ride I looked into it and knew it would be a great choice for my first organized group ride. I live 1/2 mile from Mile Post 105 on the  Blue Ridge Parkway, and I go there to run or bike 3 to 4 times a week. Typically my cycling routes take me South to Mile Post 121 and North to Mile Post 85. Anything North of Mile Post 85 has been outside of my cycling range, but still well within my curiosity range, so having the chance to add 20 parkway miles to the lengths of parkway that I've cycled while simultaneously having food/aid stations and mechanical support (should I have needed it) was a no brainer.

     Just arriving on the scene I knew I was in for a treat. I unloaded my bike, gave it a good inspection and cruised the lot to see what kinda rides experienced cycling enthusiasts take to these types of events. I was encouraged to see so many Trek Bontragers getting ready for usage. I had been putting off purchasing a road bike for some time and only recently decided on a used Bontrager myself. Seeing so many others on the scene was like a shot of positive reinforcement that I had made a good choice.

     As the ride started it was great to hear the sound that so many of my friends have described. The sound of several hundred people clipping into our pedals all at once. Hearing that was like a shot of adrenaline letting me know that for the next 67 miles weakness would not be tolerated. Then just in the first few miles I quickly learned how to read the sound of gear changes in the riders in front of me to let me know how to prepare my own gear changes. As a solo rider it was just more feedback than I was used to and I welcomed it.

     After a few miles I found myself settled in with a pack and the routine of it all began to feel comfortable. I hardly ever take breaks when I'm out cycling so I was hesitant to incorporate the aid stations into my adventure, but I was doing this with an open mind and I had read somewhere (maybe the SOTR web page?) that taking 5 minute breaks at the aid stations would help me to finish strong. My previous longest ride, a 64 miler on a hybrid between Explore Park and Peaks of Otter with only 2 bottles of water and an energy bar, had exhausted me almost to the point of despair. I didn't want this ride to be anything like that and besides SOTR isn't a race, it's a social ride, so a few short breaks seemed a good idea on many levels.

     Aid station #1 (mile 13 maybe?) was like a courtesy stop. I really didn't need a break, but it seemed a good time to fuel up for the next segment. I grabbed a banana and some gatorade then got back on my way. A few miles later and here comes the Parkway and the infamous 13 mile climb with 3100 ft of elevation gain. Now, I may be new to group rides, but I'm no rookie climbing hills, still I had some question going into it if this climb was going to be painful or merely formidable. At an elevation of nearly 4000 ft this was without doubt my highest ride and I didn't know if that would effect me somehow. Fortunately it was well within my ability, but WOW! I will remember that one, 13 miles of slow, steady effort (with another brief break at Aid Station #2 half way up). I stayed in the first gear of the middle chain ring for most of it.

     Did I mention the rain? About half way up the 3100 ft climb, right before I got to Aid Station #2, a torrential downpour fell from the sky. A fellow cyclist had just finished saying how glad he was to not have to climb this under a hot sun and next thing ya know WHAM! Torrential downpour for 30 minutes while I climb 1500 ft over 7 more miles. Still, it wasn't too bad and it had about quit by the time I got to the top and Aid Station #3.

     I grabbed a quick bite at AS#3 and took off down the mountain. Unfortunately I was to be denied the full reward of a fast descent due to having some inexperience with wet brakes and this section of road. Better to play it safe so I coasted some and kept my speeds down. Even though I wasn't pedaling downhill much, just coasting alone had me going into some blind turns faster than what I thought might be safe, so I ended up riding my brakes rather hard for the descent. Fortunately they held out and I made it to AS#4 at the bottom of the mountain in one piece.

     After absorbing a few more calories at AS#4 I took off for the 12 or so miles of rolling hills to the finish. By this time fatigue was setting in and I was ready for it when i got there. It was unfortunate that I had to be at work at 3 so I had to hurry home and get ready and couldn't stay to socialize and enjoy the provided massage, I did make time for the included post race pizza though. All in all a great ride! Hope to do another soon!

Final Results: 67.07 miles in 4 hrs 24 min 59 sec (15.2 mph) excluding 16 min 9 sec at Aid Stations
                                           4 hrs 41 min 8 sec (14.3 mph) including 16 min 9 sec at Aid Stations


Friday, May 20, 2011


     Things change over time, and what better time to reflect on the past than an anniversary. May 17th was my lovely daughters birthday, She turned 10 and she is still excited to officially be a tweenager. May 17th was also marked my 1 year anniversary for maintaining a healthy body weight. After researching what constitutes a healthy weight I took AMA guidelines and added 5 pounds to accommodate muscle mass (since I lift weights). I ended up determining that 155-170 is my ideal range with 160-165 being ideal. I weigh myself daily and log the results. May 16th 2010 was the last time I weighed over 170.

     So what does it mean? What, if anything, can be gained by reflecting on the anniversary of this one statistic? Well, being able to maintain a healthy body weight for one full year has some measure of personal satisfaction in that I know that I control me. I am not at the mercy of genetics, or heredity, or fast food, or a sedentary lifestyle, or any of a host of other factors that I might have used to excuse my former obesity.

     Ultimately though, I believe that the greater gift in all this is the lessons learned in the deeper reflection of the journey. Even as I would indulge myself in some manner of celebration, the truth is I am better off to temper any joy I may have with the same discipline that got me here. Fortunately, my value as a human being has nothing to do with body weight or athletic statistics or health statistics of any kind. The pursuit of health and athletic statistics could be called my hobby, my past time, perhaps even a calling. In the end, however, most of us have some goal that we are pursuing and all personal accomplishments merit equal consideration.

     For instance, when my 350 lb friend tells me "Were all gonna die anyway, might as well be with a full belly.", and then proceeds to celebrate his lifestyle of gluttony and overindulgence by scarfing down 3000 calories worth of fast food sandwiches. He probably sees my pursuit of statistical fitness in much the same way that I see his pursuit of a slow and painful obesity related death. The realization gained is not that I am better at choosing goals, or that he is, but merely that there are many ways to celebrate life, and that my friend is my friend because he has value to me as a human being even if he chooses to celebrate his life by committing a slow and painful suicide through the irresponsible, over consumption of food  and a largely sedentary lifestyle.

     I guess its easy for me to see things from alternating points of view on this because I have been there, I was clinically obese when I started living an active lifestyle so I know what its like. I would encourage others to pursue fitness related goals, as I have, because I know what a positive experience it has been for me. Yet, I must always be willing to keep a disciplined mind on this matter and be ready to help my friend celebrate reaching his 400th lb which seems to be his goal that he will reach later this year.

     When I first dropped below 180 lbs I thought my fat friends were joking that they were kicking me out of the Fat Boys Club. I replied that I will always be fat on the inside and that I would retain my membership. Its been a year now and I'm starting to think they were not joking.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Trail Nut Half Marathon Recap

     This race was an experiment to see just what I could do without training for it. After 3 weeks of tapering for the Blue Ridge Half on Apr 16th followed by 3 weeks of recovery based workouts my estimated finish time for this race was exactly where I ended up. My training would have supported a competitive effort for 8 miles so I would have fit right in with the 10k race, but I didn't do a half marathon on trails last year and it has been sort of a side objective of mine to try to do each of the 6 popular race distances (5k, 4M, 10k, 10M, Half and Full) on each surface (trail and asphalt) each year. Still, even though I was only at 92% of peak athletic capacity going to the starting line, when the starting horn sounded I gave it all I had and as always I had hoped to surprise myself.

     Sure enough I kept a good competitive pace for about the first 6 miles, then a cruising pace for about 3 miles after that and the last 4 miles saw me drop into something just short of competitive. The camaraderie out there was great as demonstrated by Randy B. who passed me around mile 6 and effectively pulled me up a rather steep hill as I sought to chase the rabbit and by David T. who tried to pace me to the finish, but I was too far spent after about a mile of the pace he was moving.

     Way cool too was my son, Chris, out there doing the 10k. He was on a section of trail in the woods that looked out into a clearing where I happened to be so we hollered out some motivation. He eventually finished 11th overall and won his age group! Yay Chris!

     So I had wanted to surprise myself by finishing with a pace in the 7's, but mathematically I knew going in that it was a statistical improbability. Still, this was a great race with regards to the course, medals, food, and people, so I will keep it on the agenda for next year. It also gave me a lot to reflect on too. I have 4 weeks to get tuned up for the Conquer the Cove 25k on June 6th. That's just not enough time to get up to 100%, but I should be able to get to 96% of peak athletic capacity by then and having fresh knowledge of room to improve will really add some fuel to my fire as I tune up for it.

Final Results:
The Trail Nut Half Marathon
2011-time 1:46:56, pace: 8:09/M, Place 23/118 overall, 2/7 in my age group, 20/68 among men

Friday, May 6, 2011

Moving Forward...

     What next? In order to answer that I have to look at where I am? This Saturday is a Mountain Junkie Half Marathon. I don't miss Mtn. Junkie events, but I'll be just finishing up 3 weeks of a recovery based workout schedule since the Blue Ridge Half and the 3 weeks before that was tapering for the Blue Ridge Half, so I'm not really looking to do anything special with it. I'll give it what I've got and hope to keep a pace in the 7's in order to continue my trail race streak of keeping the pace in the 7's range.

     I have a good feeling about the upcoming Festival in the Park 10k. I have done three asphalt 10k events so far and each one was progressively faster (52:56, 45:13, and 43:07). I think I can continue this streak. Even though I've been following a recovery schedule lately, I still kinda been pushing it on my weekly treadmill run and I've recently managed to hold my 5k pace for 4 miles instead of the usual 3.1 so in theory if I maintain  that level and maybe push it to 4 1/2 or 5 miles, then I might be able to get a 41:00-41:59 out of it on race day.

     Cycling is looking good for goal setting. Now that I've done a little bit of competitive cycling at the Angels Race triathlon, I've developed some additional enthusiasm for the activity. Cycling had always been more about cross training and not so much about an activity with specific training to target it's own goals. That's starting to change. I've signed up for a metric century group ride and even though I have one or two 65 milers under my belt I didn't finish 'em very strong. It didn't really matter cause I was just looking to get in the mileage, but I want to finish the Storming of Thunder Ridge strong when I do it on May 22nd. I'm also looking at a century ride later in the season maybe late June to early July.

     June comes in with the Mtn. Junkie 25k at Carvins Cove which I will do some specific training for. For the most part May, June and July are going to be about just maintaining a running mileage base in the 25-28 miles per week range, but I will build up a little in mid to late may to accommodate a solid effort  at this event.

     Mid June is also the inaugural Triadventure summer sprint in Christiansburg. I think it would be a worthy experience to swim competitively in a deep 50m pool as opposed to the 5-6 foot deep 25m pools that I've swam in up to now. Plus it would give me an opportunity to  document a good competitive swim. My swim at the Angels Race did NOT reflect where I'm at in that discipline and it eats at me just a little every day. I think just a ounce of organizational effort on the transitions would allow me some significant improvement in those times as well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Angels Race Sprint Tri Recap

     The history of the Angels Race is a story of loss and healing. The race was brought into creation by a man who lost his teenage daughter in an automobile accident and this is his way of promoting healing through friendship, community and the shared sense of loss that most of us experience to some degree or another at some point in our lives. Per tradition each participant chooses an angel and has their angels name written on their arm for the event. I chose Lauren Stewart, the young girl in my family who recently passed away of leukemia.

     After arriving at the race site and setting up our transition areas a prayer was held and then the event began. I was nearly last of 400 into the water and my lovely wife, Denise, was 130th. From where I was standing Denise looked like she was having a very steady swim, but after the event we matched notes and both of us had to admit that our swims were much below what we had been expecting. Both of us took in water and were slowed down by it. I also had to deal with passing people, being passed and not being able to do my flip turns because people had to rest at the walls (including myself after I tried breathing water).

     Made it out of the water and into the transition area in about 8 minutes. I had been planning on a somewhat lengthy transition to the bike and I think it was about 5 minutes. My lovely wife, who started 90 minutes in front of me was just getting back from her 15.5 mile bike ride and we hollered out as we passed each other in transition.

     As I got on the bike my race began to feel like a race. Deep breathes, lungs screaming, max speed all out. I knew starting back as far as I did with the swim that I was going to have to be aggressive about passing with the bike and I must have stayed consistent passing folks for the first 13 miles of the ride. The last 3.5 miles, however, found me in a stalemate with a cyclist who kept passing me back every time I passed him. He dropped me with about 1/2 mile to go till the transition area, but my race was with the clock, not other participants.

     Transitioning from the bike to run went smoothly. I would guess 3 minutes. Typically 3 minutes would not be a really great time to spend transitioning, but I hadn't practiced transitioning at all so my expectations were adjusted accordingly. Bike on the rack, helmet off, cycling shoes off, running shoes on, water bottle in hand and off to the 5k run course.

     The run course went amazingly like the cycling course in that I was passing people consistently until I caught up to the same guy who gave me such a good run for my money on the bike. The only notable difference was that I was running on dead legs and I couldn't quite find the sub 7 minute miles that I had thought I would find. (Again, I only blame myself for that because I only ever did 1 rapid transition bike/run brick in practicing and that was like 3 months ago.) So, I catch up to pass this same guy with about 1.2 miles to the finish, but we end up pacing each other for about a mile instead. Their is a steep hill just before the finish and I guess he wasn't used to it because he had to stop at the top and catch his breath. I train almost exclusively on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I eat hills for breakfast and then come back for more.

     Made it to the finish line feeling good and found my wife and son cheering me on. My lovely wife, who had been so worried sick about not finishing, ended up with a very respectable 2:23:11. I took a moment to congratulate her and collect myself and then we went to get our gear while we waited on the awards ceremony. I hadn't trained for this event so much as I just kinda stayed generally fit for it so I wasn't really expecting an award, but as the results got posted it seemed like I had a good shot at a top 3 in my category (Novice Male). I was thinking 3rd, but they called me out for 2nd so I took it!

     The Angels Race was a great introduction to the world of triathlon and I look forward to doing it again next year. I think I have one more in me this year, but I'm not decided which one or how I would schedule it in. If I can get my swim game in order and pick up the transition times I might do 3 or 4 next year, but thats a year need to get that far ahead of myself when I still have a full schedule of foot races to train for in the remainder of this year!