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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions - how about 13

I am constantly reading self-help books. I read nearly every diet book at the new release section at the library. All of the exercise books - running, swimming, cycling, triathlon, juggling - I mean everything. I can not get enough of these, however, I rarely implement the plans that the books call for. I do incorporate small parts of each book into my specific philosophy. I'm not sure if this is really working out.

I even read self-help books about self-help books. I read the book Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone last year by Beth Lisick. It was a fun read. I am in the process of reading a similar book - Practically Perfect in Every Way: My Misadventures Through the World of Self-Help--and Back by Jennifer Niesslein. I'll let you know how I like them.

So I have decided to track my resolutions. I have had a lot of success in the past. Blogging about them will 'up' the accountability factor even higher. Not all of my resolutions will be fitness / athletic related but obviously this will be a major theme - It's what I do. I am going to pick a new resolution every 4 weeks for the next year and document them here - 13resolutions.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Trace intervals -

A little stir crazy and not prepared for my New Year's Day race (Steam Whistle 12K Run/Walk)I decided to do some intervals. I ran a few on the 1/8 mile inside track at the gym the week before Christmas break with Vic but not really any speed work since then. Where I live out on the trace there are only mile markers, nothing smaller than that. Little orange cones in hand I set out for the trace. My plan was to do a slow warm up jog for about 8 minutes - about a mile. Drop a cone and continue for another 2 minutes and call it a quarter. I was wanting to do 10 1/4 mile repeats with 90 seconds recovery. While jogging on the trace (battery in the heart rate monitor replaced - FYI) I saw that there was a stenciled mark on the pavement that read 1 1/2 mile. I dropped my first cone. I jogged for longer than 2 minutes but no new marks. I finally came upon a 2 mile stenciled mark. I dropped the second cone and my water bottle. My 1/4 mile intervals turned into 1/2 mile intervals. I thought I might do six. There is a very slight gradual slop in this area of the trace. It would be interesting if my times would vary much.

The first interval would be up the slight slope. I completed it in 2:54 - a good sub 6 minute mile pace. To make an uneventful story shorter I ended up doing 8 1/2 mile repeats and each one got slower. The last couple were at a 6:30 - 6:40 minute pace. There was no correlation between the runs up hill or down hill. They just got slower. My times seem so slow compared to last summer. I guess that is why they call this the off season. However, I was pleased at how well my heart rate dropped after each interval.

A slow jog home put the cap on the running session at about an hour. Tired but not exhausted I decided to put a few miles on the bike. I have trouble keeping the rides slow - my heart rate was up and I was reeling in the few bikers out on the trace. I did pass and slow to talk with Mike V. - a local triathlete that lives in my neighborhood. He did Ironman Switzerland last year. I noticed that he was on a new bike. He said that the BMC fit him much better than Cervelo. I slowed down and rode with him to Sumrall. Mike is a fast runner and biker. The only reason that I had to slow down to ride with him is that his new bike (the BMC - not sure which time machine) also had a new power meter. Mike was trying to keep his power in zone 1-2. He is new to training with power and it will be interesting to see the progress he makes this year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Training - this is not hard work - it is hard play...


Back from travelling and spending time with family. Got home late Monday evening feeling a bit sluggish from little to no exercise. About all that I got over the weekend was a long walk with my sister (good talk but it was about 30 degrees outside).

On Tuesday I went for an hour long run followed by an hour long bike ride. Nothing too taxing or strenuous. It was good to get back to the grind. On Wednesday, Christmas eve, I went for a slow one hour and twenty minute road bike ride followed by a 30 minute mountain bike ride. I do not posses much mountain bike skill. This was actually the first time that I had been on a trail in a couple of years. It was about 65 degrees and the sky looked like rain. After a slow warm up just getting used to the trail I found a challenging loop - challenging for me anyway. A single track trail that weaved up and down some slight hills. I was tentative the first time I did the loop. As always, I decided to time the loop the second time. Just over three minutes. With no rest I did it again. It had now started to rain pretty hard. There was pine straw strung all about the trail. With the rain the trail was getting slippery. Riding hard I cut about 8 seconds from my time. I knew in the back on my mind - subconsciously - that I would continue to get faster and faster until I hurt myself. That is my general modus operandi. Sure enough, on the forth loop I slipped off of the pedals in the rain and busted my right ankle. I had to push the bike up one of the hills. Demoralized I called it a day.

Pride a little damaged I made my way home - just another 10 minutes or so and I was home. While washing the bike off I noticed the nice red stain that was produced on my sock. A little older and a little (very little) bit smarter I was able to call it quits before any serious damage done. In past years the carnage would have been much worse.

Exchanged gifts on Christmas eve and everything that I received was training related - go figure - this is a lifestyle. I got enough GU gel packs to get me through my 1/2 Ironman in New Orleans and a really cool TYR triathlon transition bag. This bag should allow for me to pack every possible item and in addition each item will have its own specific space. Should cut down on pre-race packing stress. In fact, I am going to use the bag to permanently store much of my race gear - like my race number belt, transition towel, etc.

Christmas day I decided to go for a bike ride. The temperature was in the 60's and overcast. I started off and soon noticed that my heart rate was all over the place. It was reading much too low and then at times reading zero. Must be time for a new 'watch' battery in the strap. I hate these little specialized batteries but they are so much better than having to send the entire strap back to the manufacture for replacement. So, no heart rate to gauge my effort. Passed Sumrall (the 10 mile mark) and because of the cool weather I did not need to fill any water bottles. Pushed on to Bassfield ( the 25 mile turnaround ). I had thoughts of riding a little further - maybe 70 miles total. About 2 or 3 miles out of Sumrall my bike started to get a little squirrelly. The back tire was losing air quickly. I stopped on the trace near a small house. I thought about simply filling the tire with CO2 and heading back - the tire was not completely flat. While removing the wheel and getting my tube, tire levers and CO2 out of my seat bag I noticed that the tire was completely flat. I examined the tire and sure enough there was a very small flat sharp rock embedded in the tire. These little rocks are every where. Every time that I have had a flat these rocks are the culprit. They look like very small shark's teeth - I will have to get a picture next time - and I am sure that there will be a next time. I put the new tube in the tire and and puffed it up with the CO2. All was well with the world again even though the tire was a little under inflated with just the 12 gram cartridge. I keep an extra cartridge on me but I though to myself that I might need it if I have another flat. I never filled the tire completely up to pressure even though I knew that I was all out of tubes. I used to carry a frame pump with me. The pump would allow for me to put a little air in the punctured tube to locate the hole so that I could patch the tube. Now that I have a different bike - and a bike that the frame pump just does not fit I will have no way to find the puncture. I better reevaluate my repair procedures.

Anyway, I pushed on to Bassfield which was another 12 miles away. I had visions of doing this 50 mile ride on bonk (well not complete bonk since I had a small bowl of oatmeal earlier for breakfast). I'm not sure why I think like this. What is the benefit of not taking any nutrition in and is it possible to really come back after bonk? At the 1 hour 30 minute mark into the ride - past half way with an hour to go - I start to lose power and feel funny. I put some Gatorade sugar water in my water bottle and took a big swig. I did not feel better immediately. Soon I had some of my strength back but not like I should have had. I started to get a little cold. The ride was hard. I stopped again with only 20 minutes left in the ride and put some more calories in my water bottle and drank the entire bottle. I was pretty slow getting home but I persevered. I am glad that I did not just turn around an call it a day after the flat. The 50 miles did me good. All things considered this was a very good Christmas ride.

Later I went to PBJ (Paul B Johnson) state park and walked around the lake. I thought about bringing the wetsuit and trying out the lake. Glad I did not bother. The park service was in the process of draining the lake. Not sure why but the lake was too low to get a swim in. It actually looked really bad. I am ready to get back in the pool before all of my swimming endurance is gone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I am the motor.



When I was a kid I dreamed of having a motorcycle. Specifically the Yamaha FZR600 that was winning all of the superbike races while I was in high school. I read all of the magazines and lusted after all of the pictures. These sport bikes were in my dreams. I read the reviews over and over. There was no way that my mom would let me have a scooter much less a super powerful, break any speed limit motorcycle.

After I became an adult I still wanted a motorcycle. By this time the FZR was a little long in the tooth compared to the latest and greatest (GSRX’s, CBR’s, Ninja’s, etc) but it was still my ’65 Mustang. I frequented the dealerships often and fantasized a little more. I ran the numbers and I could just barely float the payment if I cut out every non essential expense – include food, housing and books for school. I could always sleep in my Fiat Spider with the motorcycle parked next to it. Then I got quotes for a sub 20 year old, unmarried, male rider for a sport bike. If I remember correctly, just about 3 years of minimum coverage would pay for the bike. Yeah, the insurance monthly payment would be more than the bike payments. Dream dashed for good.

Or was it? Scroll forward about 5 more years and I found the exact make, model, year and color of my dream bike. I was living in Indiana and some kid had the bike and a baby on the way. It was January and there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground. I couldn’t test ride the bike but I did load it up in a truck and take it to the local Yamaha dealership to have a mechanic eye ball it. He started it up and said a few things and he asked me how much. I told him the incredibly low price and he said ‘How can you lose!’ The deal was sealed. Regarding insurance – what a difference a few years can make – for both me and the bike. Full coverage was $110 a year. Wow.

I rode the bike a lot for the first couple of years – several thousand miles. The bike was extremely uncomfortable at any sane speed. The pressure on your wrists would eventually lessen at ‘just a bit more’ than highway speeds. As a stop-light-to-stop-light vehicle it was nearly unbearable. On top of that it got pretty old always having to carry a backpack to have anything with you. I mean, nothing fits on a motorcycle. I was having to bungee cord softball bats and gloves to the seat.

I did have an adventure moving the bike to Mississippi. It was touch and go as to whether it would make it but there was just enough room in the back of the biggest U-Haul truck. I felt like Fonzie having to ride the bike up the ramp and several very sharp turns to wedge it in between a dresser and a mattress.

Now two years into Mississippi and the bike sits in the garage. Sure I have ridden it a dozen times. But my mentality has changed. If the weather is nice enough to ride the motorcycle then it is nice enough to ride the bicycle. I get a lot more satisfaction from the bicycle with so much less risk. The bicycle provides so much more than the motorcycle – mental and physical.

I guess I got to the point with the motorcycle that my health is just more important than a 10, 15, or 50 mile pleasure ride on the motorcycle. Bad things happen. I don’t think I could accept damaging myself in a way that would not allow for me to do the things that I now enjoy so much. A quick trip to town and a minor fender bender could put you out of commission.

So the motorcycle has been retired. I gave the bike to a friend at work (Tina – what a cool mom) whose son is of that age that he thinks of motorcycles. My dad will be happy that the bike is gone also – he does worry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unscheduled off day and kittens revisited.


The company holiday party threw a wrench in the training plan. Wednesday was supposed to be my off day (the first in about 12 days). The volume has been high and after a so-so run on Saturday and a bike that I probably pushed too hard on Sunday I just went with the flow. Had a good time, played 'Dirty Santa', and ate too much. Fortunately I did not eat 'Way Too Much' like I can do at these events. It is pretty hard for my body to adjust from 6 small meals a day to 2 large gut busting meals. Since last Friday my weight is up just about 10 pounds - that's about 7 percent. I know that it is not real weight but I do feel the bloat.

No holiday party today but snacks abound. We will, however, have another holiday party (departmental) tomorrow.

The good news is that with the holiday break I can get some real volume in training wise (in between the travelling) of course. I should only be gone for 4 or 5 days have have another 14 or so days at home. Too bad the pool is closed.

I almost forgot. When we found the kittens a few weeks ago I had to rush home for a bag. Its seems that every other race gives you a nylon bag to hold the race numbers and swag. I grabbed one of these bags off of the shelf and rode back for Jodie to put the kittens in something. If you look in this picture there is a card in the bag. I am sure I would have never seen this card had we not found the kittens. It is possibly the best swag that I have ever received. The business card is from a great local tavern (and now ultra-micro brew pub)the Keg and Barrel. And on the back of this business card -

Monday, December 15, 2008

Working the plan...

Saturday's two hour run did not go as expected. I put the time and miles in but I had intended to run at comfortable pace of 90 minutes and then accelerate to a tempo pace for the last 30 minutes. I ran out for 65 minutes and then turned around. at the 90 minute mark I tried to pick the pace up but I was not successful. I just could not sustain the faster pace. I am not sure if I am not fully recovered from the 1/2 marathon two weeks ago or that my volume has been too high or that I am not doing the easy stuff easy enough. The run ended up being a little longer than 2 hours.

On Sunday I road 20 miles solo and then another 37 miles with the group. This could have been (maybe should have been) another easy ride but I am not disciplined enough to keep the pulls light. I have been pulling like I am doing intervals. I really am going to have to try and make the easy stuff easy.

The diet is still suffering. Three holiday parties this week at work and then the holiday with family. Good thing that there is a New Year's day race on the first.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Covers pulled tight.


I slept in today and enjoyed the rest. I generally do not like to waste the day but it was cold out and I decided to do my 2 hour run this afternoon. It was really quite easy to make that decision while under the blankets in the warmth of the bed. The run can wait.

I was playing around with http://www.wordle.net/ this morning. You can enter any text and it will create an image. Fun stuff.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in the Hub City



'The Rock'


Having lived in the midwest for more than a decade I am not as enamoured with snow as most Mississippians. A light dusting is very pretty in the morning but as the winter drags on that pure white snow becomes dingy and grey. Not for me. This snow that fell this morning actually closed all of the public schools and almost none of my co-workers made it to work. I would classify this as a wintry mix at most and possibly just a heavy rain. In fact, it has already turned to rain and will be gone in no time. I do, however, understand the mentality. My father lives in Texas and the area has been in a drought for many years. Therefore, my father will hardly leave the house when it is raining, storming or even a chance of precipitation. I guess that is just different perspectives.

I had a fair LT run on the treadmill yesterday at lunch. Not fast and my hamstring was still noticeable. I did a really, really slow first mile (10 min) and then 4.25 miles in the next 30 minutes (only 7.03 min / mile pace)followed by another really, really slow 10 minute mile.


Today I have an easy hour on the bike and an easy 45 minutes on the treadmill. I have heard and read that most self-coached athletes never go easy enough on the easy days and never go hard enough on the hard days. I am sure that my training falls right in the middle of this adage. I am going to make the easy days truly easy and work on pushing the hard days.
I do hate the snow.


This is my preferred commute to work (The Long Leaf Trace).

The last day of exams. These students are very proud of their snowman.


Maybe a 'snow' eagle.


Snow covered bushes in front of the 'Dome'.


This is about all of the snow that you can expect in southern Mississippi.


Not quite Lambeau field - I think that I have seen it just a little more snow covered. Still, this is where Brett Favre got his start.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Swimming through the holidays - NOT

I just noticed that the pool will be closed starting this Friday through the first of the year - something like 20 days! That is going to take a toll on the swim plan for the rest of the month. Over the holidays I may brave the open water with the wetsuit and see if this is indeed possible during the winter months. I’m not looking for the OWS to be toasty but it has to be tolerable. That being said I have been getting my swimming in just fine. Having a 'real' schedule plan is forcing me to 'work the plan' and nothing is being missed.

On Monday I swam for a full hour - this was the first time since OWS in August. I can’t say that I am enjoying the swim and looking forward to it but I am not dreading it either. I’m counting that as progress.

This morning I actually pulled myself out of bed to go to the pool. I can generally motivate myself for a bike or run but the pool is a little different. Part of it is that it is just so dark right now in the morning (and afternoons for that matter). To reward myself I opened a new pair of swim goggles that I purchased sometime last year on clearance. Little things do motivate me sometimes.

My training plan called for a slow warm up and then 500 yard time trials. I am not fast by any means but I gave it a good effort.




Warm Up – 300 yards (bilateral breathing)
1:00 minute Rest Interval
Working Set –
500 yards @ 8:48
1:00 minute Rest Interval
500 yards @ 8:49
1:00 minute Rest Interval
Cold Down –
500 yards @ 9:08

The cool down was much easier than the working sets. I felt like I could continue swimming indefinitely. With that time it should give me a slow but doable ironman swim (2.4 miles or 4000 yards) of swim time of sub 1:20. I am continuing to work on the swim and hope to see these times improve over the next few months. With the pool and gym closed for much of the holiday I believe that only the swim will suffer. The running, biking and strength training can all be done in and around the house. After all, the Long Leaf Trace is in my backyard.

Common Triathlon Swim Distances & conversions
25 YARD POOL

1 length = 25 yards (from wall to wall)
2 lengths = 50 yards
4 lengths = 100 yards
¼ mile = 500 yards = 20 lengths
½ mile = 800 yards = 32 lengths
1 mile = 1700 yards = 68 lengths
1.2 miles = 2000 yards = 80 lengths
2.4 miles = 4000 yards = 160 lengths

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back on the diet

Last week was the start of a new diet program. I was to loosely follow the 'Body for Life' program. It was a failure! I actually think that I ate worse starting the new diet program than when on my normal, everyday diet. I usually eat oatmeal several times a day, tuna or grilled chicken for lean protein and steamed vegetables for dinner. I can follow this diet fairly easily. It is the sweets and refined grains that kill me.

Anyway, last week I cut my portions down a little and as the week progressed I got into a major calorie deficit. This always happens. It becomes very difficult to control portions and stay on the diet. The holidays did not help the matter - Kyle and Tina brought cookies into the office last week and I had a get together at the house where Brad brought pizza. Friday night I stopped at the store and bought a cake - what was I thinking. Not much will power on these days.

So I have revamped the diet for this week. I am going to increase my calorie consumption and try to keep from getting into a massive deficit. I generally eat too little scheduled calories and that is when I get into trouble. I am trying to be smarter and account for the calories up front this week.

It has been a week since the Gulf Coast 1/2 Marathon and my legs feel completely recovered. I have also analyzed the data from the race. All things considered I am satisfied with my performance, however, I do see lots of room for improvement. Having not run more than 5 or 6 miles at a time for the past 2 months definitely is not the correct training plain. It was the correct action to take to allow my hamstring to heal but not the best plan for performance. I have ran much longer (20 miles) in training in the past just not much this fall.

I ran the race by what I thought would allow for me to finish the race without hitting the wall or having to struggle the last few miles. This was achieved. However, I really believe that I could have gone much harder for longer. My running LT is right around 170 - 172 so I wanted to keep my heart rate below 170. I did this for about 28% of the race. I picked up the pace and ran in the 170's for just less than half of the race. I did not take into account that my heart rate would be elevated in a race scenario. If I had brought my heart rate up into the 170's sooner I believe that I could have shaved a few minutes off of the total time of the race. In the race, I finished strong and passed a number of people in the last 3 or 4 miles. In reality I ran a 10 mile tempo run with a 5k finish. I did receive third in my age group for the effort, however, I was beaten for second by 5 seconds and by first by less than two minutes. I am having second thoughts about a spring marathon but I am strongly considering another 1/2 marathon. I would like to better the 1:37 time from this race.


It was cold and windy here in Mississippi again - cold for Mississippi anyway. I followed my training plan to the tee this weekend and got the long run in on Saturday and the long ride in on Sunday. However, I did have to split the bike up. I rode 25 miles on the trainer and then immediately headed out the door for the group ride where I got 42 more miles.

Total for the weekend:
RUN 12.5 miles
BIKE 67 miles

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Road race to recovery

I have read that recovery after a road race takes approximately 1 day per mile raced. This being said then the 1/2 marathon race last Saturday would take about 2 weeks to completely recover. This was the longest road race that I have competed in (I have done triathlons where the total time was longer - for example - The Heart of Dixie was 1/2 mile swim, 27 mile bike, and 7 mile run - 2:22). I do not remember the recovery for that race lasting more than just a few days.

So this week following the 1/2 marathon last Saturday my legs have been hurting and very tired. I only swam or rode the bike trainer until Wednesday (4 days after the race). On Wednesday I ran 6 miles into work at a very conservative pace. This run should not have had hardly any effect on me. It was probably one of my worsts runs ever. I felt as if I was dragging my legs every step of the way. My time was at about an 8 1/2 minute per mile pace - any average training run.

Later that day is when we got out on the field for a little football. This was humbling. I run a lot - long runs, fast runs, intervals, etc, but just running around the field was hard. There is a different intensity when you are chasing someone and even more so when someone is chasing you.

Everyone was sore the rest of the week. I stayed off of my legs. So at this point I am not sure if I was sore after the football because of the lack of recovery from the 1/2 marathon or if the intensity of the football was really that high.

My training plan called for 1:45 minute run today. I was not sure how this was going to go and I was not looking forward to it. The temperature was low for Mississippi at about 35 degrees. I bundled up and hit the trail. Surprisingly the run went well. My legs worked themselves out and I was able to complete the prescribed 1 hour and 45 minute run with few difficulties. My right hamstring did get tight at the 10 mile mark but it worked itself out. Total mileage for the run was 12.5 miles for a just under 8 1/2 minute per mile pace.

I have been planning a full marathon for the spring of next year. Considering the recovery I am now having second thoughts. The recovery for a full marathon could cause my fitness to suffer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kicking 101

Got a group of guys out to 'The Rock' during lunch for some fun and games. Did some field goals, punt returns and three on three. The place holder is Kyle from Atlanta while Kevin (also from Atlanta) watches on. Unfortunately some of the 'out of towners' are now hurting.

I have been riding the trainer indoors a lot lately. It is just too dark in the morning to hit the roads. I also believe that I am becoming quite Southern. This 40 degree weather is not very comforting. I still have all of my cycling clothing from living up north for so many years but the ride is just not very fun. I can not wait until spring returns and the group morning ride resumes. This adds a fun and aggressive 40 - 60 miles a week on the bike.

I am getting better about riding the trainer. I have my old road bike permanently set up in my office. The trainer hooks up to the computer and is challenging and motivating. My training plan requires several hour+ rides during the week. These rides can pretty much only be done indoors. I think that the trainer will be more entertaining once I get past the base build period and start doing more intervals and threshold rides. I do believe that the trainer will build my cycling this winter. The long rides will still be outside and generally with a group of people.

I am excited to see how my local Time Trials will improve this spring.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kittens no more and the off season has ended.

Well as cute as they were - the kittens have been taken to a better place (better than my house anyway). They were dropped off at the 'no-kill' shelter and I am sure that they will be adopted just in time for the holidays.

I started my 'official' 1/2 ironman training (I signed up for the plan at http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/ - I really like the site) this week with Monday being a day off - alright!

I did a strength training workout and let the legs continue to recover. They were not bad but still a little sore from the race. Today was just a 75 minute recovery bike ride. I got up in time and hit the trainer with a movie in the DVD player. Damn, an hour and fifteen is a long time. I was only able to complete 45 minutes of the ride. I think it would have been easier with intervals to break up the monotony. I will have to hit the trainer for half an hour this evening.

I have a strong swim session scheduled for lunch - I believe that structured swim sessions will allow for me to make swim progress faster.

In addition, we have started a diet routine to help with the holiday excess. It is a slightly modified 'Body for Life' plan. Basically you just try to eat clean and often and limit processed foods. I have been eating this type of diet for quite a while. I find it pretty easy to eat by schedule - especially at work. At home is another story. As the week goes on I find myself in a calorie deficit and go a little crazy. Jodie does not seem to have the problems with self control that I do. With both of us adopting this diet routine it should help me to stay on track. I definitely do not want to put on any extra weight this holiday season.

SWIM WORKOUT:

Easy swim
40 minutes - 2000 yards
Warm Up: 500
Main Set: 500 pull, then 10x50 on 1:05
Cool Down: 500 easy swim.

Pull Drill - Focus will be on learning to 'catch' the water with your forearm and pull yourself through the water. If you feel your lats (the muscles under your arm pits that go down the side of your back) engage, then you are starting to get it. If your shoulders are tired, then you are still using too much shoulder and not enough lats.