Monday, March 28, 2011

Square One

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying the stairway to heaven. – Led Zeppelin

In many ways, I feel like I am starting over.  I guess a lot of us feel that way coming off the “off season”.  In many ways, I’m fitter at this point of the year than I ever have been before.  I’d like to think that I am confused, but we all know that isn’t true.

After the Georgia Half Marathon, it was definitely time to unwind.  Other than put the pedals back on my bike, I did nothing at all Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday, I spun my delayed onset sore muscles out on the bike for half an hour, even though it took me till 9 PM to finally climb aboard.  While my body was sore, my mind was not handling the lack of activity very gracefully.

Thursday, it was time to get back in the pool for the first time since, oh, November.  After my trip to Savannah earlier this month, I developed a very much real pain in my left shoulder.  It was so bad, I couldn’t really use the arm at all, much less lift it over my head.  It was rather perplexing to say the least, since I really didn’t do anything with it all.  I started out with my usual 500 yard warm up, then I did 5x100 at a comfortable pace.  I was careful not to hurt my shoulder, even though I felt it often.  At the end of the swim, I dare say that it even felt a little better.

After taking Friday off, I decided Saturday that I wanted to both run and swim.  I got up around 8 AM-ish and had my coffee while waiting for the rain to come in.  Not wanting to get wet, I thought I would do 3 miles on the treadmill at the gym, then hop into the pool for a swim.  On my way to the gym, I saw some guy running in the rain and his VFFs.  Doh!  Why is it there is always somebody more HTFU than you are?  LOL….

When I got to the gym, I noticed that the pool was empty.  The aquaerobics class had abandoned ship at the first flash of lightning.  Taking this as a sign/gift, I quickly changed into my swim trunks and hopped into the pool.  The water was much warmer this day for some reason, and I hope the reason wasn’t THAT obvious :)  I basically repeated the same workout from Thursday, but I added some intensity for the second 50 yards of every hundred, and I as a reward, I finished the same workout five minutes faster.

I quickly showered and headed upstairs to the treadmill.  I was looking might fine in my Bikilas, but I always feel so short.  LOL…  I took my time warming up before settling into a 6.5 mph pace.  I’m getting pretty good at this treadmill thing.  I hit 1 mile in almost exactly 10 minutes.   Then, it was time to switch over into my new K-swiss Blade Run Lites.  I could immediately tell the difference between the K-ona Cs, the Vibrams, and the Lites.  The cushioning, the heel angle, the form, it really does all change based on the shoe, or lack there of.  I put in 2 miles at 9-9.5 minute pace, and I really like the Blade Run Lites.  I can’t wait to put more miles on them.

Dee Dee and a nice breakfast was waiting on me at home.  After which, she and I changed and headed out to Chateau Elan for a delayed 22 year anniversary celebration.  Despite some rather nasty weather (or maybe because of it!), we stayed busy at the Chateau.  Let’s just say what happens at Chateau Elan stays at Chateau Elan :-)

More (and longer) workouts this week!  The first 4 weeks of this 12 week block is all about getting back in the groove of things, then its on to West Point Oly distance and the Callaway Gardens Super Sprint!

Let’s make it a great week, y’all!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Veni. Vidi. Vici.

A Georgia Half Marathon Race Report

It’s kind of hard to believe that I am starting my sixth year of training and racing.  For all of those years, I have been training to see what I could do.  I never felt compelled to set goals and train towards those goals.  My simple accomplishments were enough to keep me going.

Then, I had a breakthrough.  I remember the exact moment.  It was at the start of the run for the Cohutta Springs Triathlon in 2010.  I hit the ground running, and I was running hard.  Look at me, Dad, I’m flying!  More importantly, I wasn’t dying.  That moment, more than anything else over the last five years, opened the window to possibility.

I came off my 5K race at the end of February with a huge confidence boost.  My race simulation on the fifth, while not going exactly as I wanted, showed me that I needed to back off my expectations a little bit, but the fitness was there.  I managed two training runs the week of the race, both of them with a little tempo.  I DID NOT run in my Vibrams.  There would be time for play after the race.  I wanted to run Friday, but Daddy duties got in the way, and I was totally cool with taking another rest day.  The knot in my calf was almost healed, and I still had some residual soreness from reffing the weekend before.

Saturday, I got up relatively early, after sleeping for 10 delicious hours.  Having abstained from beer for much of the week, my sleep was deep and sound.  I ate breakfast and watched me some Premier League soccer on ESPN before heading downtown to the expo.  For some reason, I thought the expo was in the World Congress Center.  I walked the length of the building, through the little girls waiting for their cheerleading competition, all the way to the back and out the doors.  I realized I needed to check my consent form, and sure enough…  The expo was at the Georgia Dome :-)   I walked to the dome and found the expo.  Packet pickup was all the way to the back, and there was no waiting in my line.  The helpful volunteer tried to give me somebody else’s packet, but another volunteer caught the mistake immediately.

The expo was fairly nice.  There were quite a few vendors.  I managed to walk out with one new pack of socks.  LOL…  I did try on the K-swiss Blade Light Runs, and I loved them.  As a matter of fact, I ordered me some online.  I found the same shoes for $25.00 off AND free shipping.  I like to support my local running store, but that was just too good of  a deal to pass up.

I stopped at Publix (Georgia Marathon title sponsor) on the way home and picked up some hamburgers and chicken burgers for dinner.  I made four of each, and since the kids weren’t excited about the chicken burgers, I ate two!  They were surprisingly good, and they hit the pre-race dinner sport just right.  I got the kids situated and went to bed at ten.  I figured six hours of good sleep would be just about right.

My slumber was disturbed one time, around 1 AM in the morning.  Other than that, I slept well.  Everything was coming together so well, it was almost spooky.  The alarm went off at 4 AM, and I jumped right up and got ready to rumble.  After breakfast, I enjoyed two cups of coffee while I waited for my friends to come down from Canton and ride with me to the rest.  The idea was take care of all pre-race business BEFORE heading downtown, and it worked well…  sorta….

Jenn and Lamar showed up right on time.  We all piled into my car and headed downtown.  We made good time until we got to the exit for the race.  Cars were backed up a bit.  Note to self:  next time, leave earlier.  Once I got up the exit ramp, I hopped over into the car pool exit lane and made a quick left away from the race site.  I went about 50 yards when I noticed an open parking spot on the street.  I slipped into it and parked my car.  The signs even said it was free parking on Sunday.  SCORE!

Did I mention this was going so smooth it was scary?

With an hour before the race start, we mosied on over to the race site.  This was Jenn’s first half marathon, and she was nervous.  She wanted to go to the port-a-pots.  This made me nervous.  I had visions of the forty deep line at the first Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon I attended.  I was pleasantly surprised to find port-a-pots a plenty, and the lines short.  I even hopped into line myself for one last visit before being “race ready”.

Did I mention this was going so smooth it was scary?

We made our way out of the park and onto the street.  We came out at corral “F”.  I was in corral “G”, while Jenn and Lamar where in corral “M”.  We said our good byes, and the waiting began.  I was one of the few people in the corral already.  I moved around, jigged to the music, and stretched a little to warm up my muscles.  As the corral began to fill, I noticed some Japanese runners with “Pray for Japan” shirts on.

After the national anthem, the dignitaries spoke a few words, and the wheel chair race started promptly at 6:50 AM.  The count down to our race went by pretty quickly.  The race starter counted down from ten, yelled “go”, and we were off.  Given that I was in the seventh corral, we didn’t move very fast.  We all started walking, and after we crossed an intersection, we came to a screeching halt.  Still, no one was fidgety or impatient.  The crowd started moving forward again.  It took me five minutes to cross the start line.  I pressed “start” on my Timex and my Garmin.  The Garmin would be auto-lapping, while I would have to manually hit the lap button on the Timex.

The race started out on a small uphill before hitting a long 2-mile downhill stretch with a few rollers.  As expected, it was crowded at the start, but it was perfect for getting my pace under control.  Everybody was running fairly close to my pace, and I only had to weave a little bit to create space for myself and keep my pace where I wanted it to be.

Since I was heading downhill in this stretch, I opted to allow my pace to settle in the lower end of my starting range of 8:30-8:45.  I only had to remind myself twice to slow it down.  Somewhere in the middle of mile 2, I came up on my friends Steph and Nat (who is a great marathon runner) who were running the marathon together.  Nat asked me how I felt, and I said, “Good!”  We had a nice little conversation for a quarter of a mile or so.  I don’t think I’ve heard had a conversation running an 8:30 mile!  LOL.  The road then split into two with an island in between.  I opted to take the high road, and the girls took the low road.  After that, I was on my own again.

My Garmin had been beeping a couple of hundred yards ahead of the mile markers.  I fully realized that this would affect my pace, but I wanted to use the Garmin for pace control, and I accepted the fact that my actual pace would be slower.  I hit my first three miles right on pace:  8:33, 8:27, and 8:30.  It was here that we began a long stretch of flat with rollers.  For the next six miles, I wanted to keep my pace in the 8:15 to 8:30 range.  I would allow my pace to fall into the low 8’s on the downhills, then watch it climb back up in to the 8:20s as I climbed the small rollers and went through the aid stations.  At the aid stations, I would walk if I grabbed Gatorade.  If I grabbed water, I kept running and drank it down the best I could.

My body had now reached its rhythm, and the real work began.  As I ran past the Martin Luther King center, through Inman Park and Little Five Points, my mind registered the sites and buildings that I had seen before.  My body still felt really strong, and I admit to being a little surprised, although I shouldn’t have been.  I knew the pain and hard work was still ahead.  The last three miles or so were mostly uphill.  I felt like if I could hold this pace for 9, maybe 10 miles, I would have accomplished all that I wanted to accomplish.

Shortly after mile 9, we passed through the gates of Piedmont Park.  I had used a long downhill stretch to turn in my fastest split of the day:  8:05.  I knew the hills commeth, and I wanted a bit of padding to prepare.  We exited the park on the south side and were immediately rewarded with the start of a mile or so long uphill stretch.  I reminded myself that I only had to do this once, and I still managed to turn in a sub-8:30 mile.  So far, I had been following the game plan to a “T”.

We all enjoyed a nice downhill stretch that took us to the campus of Georgia Tech.  We ran right by the football stadium before starting our long uphill climb to the finish.  Approaching the finish, I heard one spectator say we only had a “couple of minutes”, only to find out we were still half a mile away.  Grrrrrr!   Still, I heard the finish line up ahead, and I kept working hard.  At the entrance to Centennial Park, we made a left, and I could see the finish line up ahead.  I saw 1:52 on the clock, and I was just ecstatic.  I crossed the finish line. pressed stop on the Garmin and Timex, and started walking.

I was tired!  That last 5K was hard work, but I managed to hold my pace for the most part.  I picked up a bottle of water, my medal, and a space blanket, then began to make my way through the finisher’s area.  There was a long line of volunteers handing out food and drink from Publix.  It was TOP NOTCH.  I got chocolate milk, trail mix, pretzels, bagels, and yogurt.  I can’t heap enough praise on Publix, the race, and all the volunteers.  They were simply wonderful.  There were bands on the course, cheer leaders, and cheering sections.  Overall, the race was very well done, and I can’t wait to get back.

An online friend of mine, Fred “The Cube” grabbed me at the gate to the park, and we chatted while we waited for my friends and his wife to come in.  It’s always fun meeting old friends and new faces at race sites!

Here are my splits from the race:

Spli Garmin Timex
1 8:33 8:50
2 8:27 8:33
3 8:30 8:36
4 8:26 8:31
5 8:27 8:34
6 8:25 8:57 (late)
7 8:16 7:57
8 8:23 8:41
9 8:05 7:50
10 8:28 8:41
11 8:30 8:36
12 8:31 8:33
13 8:44 9:47
14 2:20  
Total 1:52:14 1:52:14

A 15+ minute PR.  In retrospect, I learned so much from this race experience.  I knew going into the race of what I was capable.  I had done it in training.  I put my plan together, and then I nailed it.  I believe that is a first as well.  It has a lot to be said for it :-)

and now?  The hard work is over.  I still plan to run a fall marathon.  I mean.  There’s a PR that needs to be corrected there as well!  In between now and then, there’s triathlons that need to be done.  All of them will be “for fun”, but I want to set some new goals and see if I can keep the momentum going.

but for now, we rest.  I’m really tired….


Friday, March 18, 2011

The Plan, Stan

Ya, ya, ya…  I too debated the wisdom of trying out the Vibrams before my race.  What could a half mile hurt, right?  It was a reasonably beautiful day.  Temps were in the 50s.  Sun was shining.  I was actually a little embarrassed to run around Hobgood Park in them, fully realizing that I just needed to get over that, fast.  I heard a couple of comments as I ran by the walkers, but nothing to be embarrassed about :-)  It didn’t take very long to realize that running in Vibrams on one’s heels is not an option.  I ran a little bit on the pad, and then I switched to a light full flat footed landing.  Overall, I was very pleased with this first half mile.  It was definitely, just like running barefoot.

Back at the car, I switched over to my K-swiss Kona-C(s).  Back when I purchased these shoes, the salesperson told me they would probably last about 300 miles, due to wear and tear.  I’m happy to say I have now surpassed 400 miles with them, and they are still going strong.  Even though I was supposed to run “easy” that day, I finished up the three mile run at an 8:51 pace.  My legs felt well rested after two consecutive days off.

Arriving back home, I felt a long forgotten knot in my left calf.  That night, I gave it some self massage.  I wasn’t too worried about it, but these kinds of cramps have a way of biting you in the arse in the latter stages of a race.  I held nothing back on my tempo run on Thursday.  Knot be damned.  I ran negative splits:  9:20, 8:39, 8:30, and 8:13, for an overall pace of 8:41.  I could still feel my calf, but it hasn’t bothered me.  I’m hoping after Friday and Saturday, it will be long forgotten.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up early and go to the expo.  I wanna be home before my beebee wakes up from her beauty sleep.  She’s not going to be able to go with me to the race on Sunday, at least she shouldn’t, but you never know with The Bug.  I’m looking forward to browsing the expo.  I want to try on those new K-swiss Blade Run Lights and Kwickys….

Race morning, we’ll do our thing.  My plan is to start off the first three miles at an 8:30-8:45 pace, then settle into my race pace of 8:15-8:30-ish for the next six miles.  Somewherez around mile 9 is where the uphill battle begins, and I intend to just give it everything I have left.  Everything I have done since IM Arizona points to a PR, and a big one, provided my body cooperates.  As I always like to say though, the proof is in the pudding.

Have a great weekend, y’all!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh Noze! (2x)

A Shamrock and Roll 5K Spectathlete Report

I’m going to go out on a limb and just say it.  Dee Dee is taking the racing bit too far.  I mean.  She just finished one 5K, and the very next day, she signed up for another one.  What’s the matter with this woman?  One would think she didn’t race at all last year :-)  Then, to make it worse, she rope a doped our daughter into doing the race with her!  What a bad influence!   I, on the other hand, managed to fend off the evil mental persuasion and declined to participate.  With my race coming up this weekend, I just felt like it was a bad idea.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 001 Medium Web view

The clocks sprung forward an hour Sunday morning.  Lucky for us, this race’s start time was 9 AM.  That was a blessing.  We got up at 6 AM-ish, ate breakfast and left the house at 7:15 AM for the 45 minute drive downtown.  The race is held at Atlantic Station, a development right off the interstate near downtown Atlanta.  Unlike previous races, this year, they opted to put packet pickup, the race start, and the finish lines out back in a parking lot.  Still, by the time we had picked up Dee Dee and Jessica’s race packets, we had fifty minutes to kill.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 002 Medium Web view

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day.  Outside, the sun was shining, and the temperatures were brisk.  We decided to wait near the car.  It was noticeably warmer in the parking deck.  About twenty minutes before race time, we headed back down to the starting line.  I gave Teh Bug a kiss, then walked down the street to position myself for pictures.  After the GetFit Atlanta peeps warmed everybody up, the race director counted down and set the runners in motion.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 003 Medium Web view

There were twenty-seven hundred registered participants in the race this year, a thousand more than last year.  This little race is also getting big!  The first runners came sprinting by, and I began the unenviable task of trying to identify Jess and Dee Dee in that sea of humanity.  I smiled as a seven or eight year old girl came sprinting by, just behind the lead runners.  Me thinks she was starting out too fast :-)  By the time the dogs and walkers arrived, I pretty much admitted defeat.  I never saw either one of them come by.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 004 Medium Web view


Shamrock and Roll - 2011 007 Medium Web view

Given the shortness of the race, I went ahead and walked to the finish line. I picked out a good spot.  I was one of the only people there, except for the race crew.  I didn’t have long to wait.  The same guy that won the Guns and Hoses 5K finished first in this race as well.  His time was a little longer, but I understand he took a slight detour, and still, he finished first!  LOL…

I pretty much figured that Jessica would come in around thirty minutes, and given Dee Dee’s time from last week, she would come in around forty minutes.  Around the thirty minute mark, I’m relaxed, biding my time, checking out the runners as more and more begin to cross the line.  Here comes this dad, pushing his 2 year old son in a jogging stroller.  He’s pushing pretty hard, and the stroller begins to veer while good ole dad continues to push it straight.   One thing leads to another, and the next thing I know, the stroller tilts forward, and baby is doing a face plant over the finish line, to be followed up by dad crashing into and over the stroller.

Mesmerized by the whole affair, I just stood there, unashamedly looking on in amazement. Some woman yelled “OH MY GOD” behind me and took off to help right the stroller.  I was fearful that more people would get hurt, as the finishers were coming fast and furious.  The helpful spectators up righted the dad and the stroller and quickly moved them off to the side.  Fortunately for all involved, the dad and the stroller had taken most of the damage.  I don’t believe the child had suffered a scratch, although he registered his displeasure in a loud and appropriate manner.

Not two minutes later, I’m off in la-la land, watching the runners, and the finish line gate comes crashing down, almost on the head of one of the runners.  Evidently, one of the dogs had decided to take a short cut through the gate, and the leash had pulled the poles down.  UNBELIEVABLE!  This was prime example of how NOT to conduct a race.  UGH!  The poles were quickly up righted, and THEN the sand bags were put into place.  They were lucky that more runners were not underneath the finish line when it came down.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 009 Medium Web view

At 34:50, Jessica came across the finish lines. I was able to pick her out of the crowd and snap some pictures as she came in.  She didn’t see me standing there until I said something to here, and she bent over at the waist, quite intent, I believe, on barfing into her shoes.  I patted her on the back and told her to keep moving.  She came back to join me and wait for Dee Dee, who crossed the line in 39:52, a little better than her time from last week.

Shamrock and Roll - 2011 013 Medium Web view

The girls drank water and rested up a bit.  We then walked back to the car and headed for home.  We managed to stop at the Waffle House on the way home for a traditional southern breakfast, and still made it back to the house by lunch.  Now that’s what I call a great day at the races!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Troubled Times

My heart goes out to the people of New Zealand, and now Japan.  Let's keep them all in our thoughts and prayers....

Join me in celebrating life and remembering our kiwi friends down under.  The website for this is here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Instilling Confidence, sorta

Priorities.  I love that word.  Priorities depend on one's value, and everybody's values are different.  I'd go so far to say that if you find two people with exactly the same value, then you've found an alternate reality!  LOL...  As far as training goes, my referee activity and training are about on equal footing.  I'm not going to give up time on the pitch this year for training.  That's kinda how this race has sneaked up on me.

You see.  I have two (or less) weeks until race day, and I wanted to do two half marathon race simulations.  The first one, obviously, to see what went wrong, and then second one to nail my pacing.  Three weekends of reffing in a row infringed on this, and I only managed one race simulation.

We've been having some really nasty weather here in the south lately, which is fine.  BRING IT!  I need water back in my lakes.  But yea, I know...  It's nothing like the blizzards my friends up north have been experiencing.  Just wet, soggy, and cold.  I don't mind running in the cold.  I don't mind running when its wet.  I do mind running when its wet AND cold.  Brrrrrrrr!

After much thought, I surrendered and went to the gym.  I always hate driving to the gym to run on the treadmill, only to see some overachiever out there braving the elements :-)  The thought of 12 miles on the treadmill did not excite me.  It helps to prepare one mentally for the boredom.  I arrive at the gym to find the treadmills pretty empty.  The middle of the day on the weekend is a great time to run at the gym.  I pick out my treadmill, key in my stats, and off I go.

The idea was a 1.5 mile warm up, then 3 miles at 8:45, 3 miles at 8:30, then 3 miles at 8:15, followed by a 1.5 mile cool down.  I knew this was going to hurt, but that's all part of the preparation :-)  I do my warm up, kick it in, and the Garmin reports I'm running a 8:20 pace.  Fine.  They are never in sync anyways.  I bang out my 3 miles and everything is fine.  I up my pace and start my second 3 miles.  I'm a little sore, and it was starting to get hard.  People come and go around me on the other treadmills, but I am a fixture this day.

I complete the second set of 3 miles right after my 60 minutes was up.  I got a short short break while I reset the treadmill and took off again.  I groaned as I upped the speed again.  Garmin reports an 8:10 pace.  Half way through the first mile, I'm dying, and the negotiations start.  At the end of the first mile, I finally give in and slow down.  I finish up the last 2 miles of the third set at a sub-9 pace.  The warm down...  meh...  it was a warm down.  I did whatever I wanted.

Overall, I ran 12 miles at 9:03 pace, well below what I need to go sub-2 at my race next weekend.  In this regard, I am pleased.  I would have liked to match my buds that have been turning in some impressive half marathon times/PRs.  Reality is that I'm not quite ready for that pace.  I want a healthy PR in this stand alone half marathon.  There will always be time later, for harder efforts.

Happy hump day, y'all!