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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FAST and STRONG

I have been having success after being away during spring break. After the high volume cycling over the weekend I did a recovery trainer ride Monday morning and then biked to work. It was cold in the morning but the temperature climbed into the 70’s later in the day. At lunch I swam with Sam and he pushed and gave me form tips. I always swim better and faster when someone is watching. It an easy 500 warm up followed by 10 x 100 on 1:45. I never do them that fast – I always give myself more time to recover than necessary. These were some of the best 100’s that I have ever swum! I did some abs after the swim.
The commute home was nice. The sun was out but it was straight into the wind. I needed the ride home – it cleared my head. I have been having a little bit of apprehension with my sister and her family moving to Australia – maybe even some jealousy thrown in. I am going to miss them but on the bright side I will be travelling to Sydney in the very near future!
Tuesday brought about an interval session on the bike trainer. I have been struggling with the tempo trainer rides so I dialed in a moderately hard interval session – and I nailed it. I felt strong! The legs were recovered from the volume over the weekend and had bounced back. The cycling is coming along.
STADIUMS were on hand at lunch and we took 10 seconds off of the recovery. Once again the working set was 15 seconds but the time to get across and back down was now 1:25. The first 3 or 4 reps were hard on the legs but they some came back and the session was maintainable. We were all successful. My heart rate was much lower than the same session last year. After the STADIUMS we did 2 reps at the back of the Cochran building. This is very demanding. I would like to add a rep of these each week until it just kills us! That might only be 3 reps – we will have to see.
Back at the gym there was the bench press. I have actually been enjoying the strength training. I loaded up the same weight as last Tuesday – just 2 45’s – approximately 87% of my body weight. Last week I did 4 sets with very little recovery as 15 / 15 / 15 / 12. I was determined to improve upon this!

I started off and felt strong again. I owned this workout and was able to put up the following: 16 / 16 / 16 / 14 / 15! I am not sure where the strength is coming from but I will definitely take it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Working late and bike volume PLUS BRICKS

I rode the trainer Friday morning. I had wanted to ride the bike into work but it would be a late night. We were performing maintenance at work and I would probably not be home until 7 or 8 PM. So I jumped off of the trainer and drove to work. I was successful on the trainer only because I dialed the workout down to ‘recovery’ level. At lunch I ditched the swim workout – not a good idea – and played racquet ball instead. Three quick games and then it was time for some abs. I took Friday easy with the purpose of racking up some real mileage over the weekend.

Work got rough on Friday night. Working in computers, anything can happen. Although my stuff was fine it was directly effect by some stuff that was not okay. To make a long story short – I was planning on getting out of work around 7 or 8 with 9 PM being the latest. Instead, I wrapped up and started heading home at 9:30AM. I guess I could have ridden my bike into work after all – just not the way that I had planned. I got about an hour of sleep at my desk on the floor sometime during the night and the work was not taxing – it was just a whole lot of waiting around for support. My big training day was definitely compromised. The big mileage bike ride turned into an hour long ride. The bike was a conservative effort averaging just under 20MPH. Considering that I was holding back I felt strong on the bike. Having done so many rides on the trainer – I now realize that the trainer is much harder than outside. This makes me feel a little bit better.

After the ride I did get a solid brick – I transitioned quickly to the run and debated how far to run. I need to predefine these distances. If not I will sometimes cut them short. I originally thought 5 miles but shortened it to 3 miles at a good pace. Running fast is the challenge I have during bricks. I have adapted to the muscle imbalances of the brick. I can get off of the bike and run almost any distance. It is just the getting off of the bike and running ‘any distance’ fast that is the problem. I programmed the virtual trainer for 3 miles at 7 minutes per mile pace.

The run was hard from the get go – there is a slight hill leaving my drive way. I dropped a few feet behind my nemesis but quickly made up time on the downhill. I could feel the tension in my hamstrings but I was strong. I clicked off the first mile in 6:46 and decided that I need to back off a little bit. The next mile came in at 6:50. I was still feeling strong and finished the last mile at 6:37 for a total time of 20:14 at an average pace of 6:44 minutes per mile.

I napped for a little bit after the ride. I tried to stay up and enjoy the day but I knew that I was not long for the world. It reminded me of countless weekends when I worked a graveyard shift. You just went through the motions – it was like being a zombie.

I got a good night’s sleep on Saturday and got some of the planned volume back. I headed out for a ride with Jodie on Sunday morning. For the first 2 miles I took it easy and we chatted. At Clyde Depot I got into my zone 2 and rolled on. The wind was bustling a lot but I was feeling strong. I was not sure of the distance that I wanted – I thought about 30 miles or maybe 40 miles. I continued to fight the wind. Knowing that my run fitness is superior to my bike fitness I pushed on. I stopped at Bassfield – I have not seen Bassfield in forever. This is the 25 mile turn around for me. I looked at my watch and it had taken me 1:20 minutes for the ‘almost’ 25 miles. This was about 5 miles off of my normal pace. I took a slow water and bathroom stop knowing that I was off of my pace – I was not overly concerned about the time. I filled my front water bottle and mixed some Gatorade type stuff in my other water bottle. While taking care of business the wind knocked my bike over – spilling the contents of my front water bottle. Now, I know how to prop my bike up. I can’t remember when my bike has ever fallen over. The wind was really blowing that hard – maybe this could account for some of the loss of speed.

I remounted the bike and headed home. My quads were hurting from the lack of bike fitness but I was keeping my heart rate in zone 2. This was a controlled ride. The back portion of the ride ended up being 12 minutes faster than the out. Wow – the wind was substantial (also I did the first 2 miles at a warm up pace). I ended up with the ‘almost’ 50 miles at ‘almost’ 20 MPH (the 4 minute pit stop did not help). I felt good about the ride.

My legs were hurting more than the previous day but I wanted to duplicate the BRICK. I was going to go a little slower and try the 3 miles at 7 minutes per mile. I failed this time but I was able to make the best of the effort. As soon as I started running my feet were killing me. I am a fore footed runner and while on the bike I also use my fore foot to apply pressure to the pedal. This is hard on my feet. After about half a mile I was hurting and did not want to maintain the 7 minutes per mile pace. I stopped for a fraction of a second and then immediately regained my mental fortitude. I might not be able to run 7 minute miles right now but I definitely did not need to stop. I just slowed the pace a little bit and maintained. I turned around at less than a mile. This was a failure – I should have stuck it out. Soon, I clicked off the first mile at 7:21. At this rate I would be home in about 1 ½ miles total. I lengthen the run just a little so that I got 2 miles total. By doing this I did get a little more hill action. Hitting home, mile two clicked in at 7:26 minute per mile pace. So, although this brick did not go as planned and I failed (actually I failed several times during this run – just in quick secession) I was able to regroup. And by the time I reached mile 2 my feet were feeling better. My cardio endurance was fine but my feet and muscular discomfort were limiters. But, feeling better at mile two gives me some confidence for 70.3 NO. My feet were the issue in that run also.

With the bike coming along and a few solid bricks under my belt I think that my half ironman goals, although lofty, just might be attainable. Looking at my race bike I realize that I still need to take the ironman race number off.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Treadmill Intervals and bench press

I tried the bike trainer again on Wednesday morning. My legs have been dead all week. I am actually not sure why they have been like lead. When they are tired I can almost always pick them up for a run – they can and do respond – but on the bike it is a different story. I dialed in a workout on the trainer that I thought I could handle. I got about half way through it and I just had to dial it back. I am not sure if this is a mental or physical failure. Anyway, I got 40 minutes on the bike trainer.

 
At lunch I hit the pool. I was concentrating on my stroke count and the swim came along well. I started with a 500 WU and then 10 x 100 with 20 seconds recovery followed by another 500 cool down. I was not focused on the speed but just the form and stroke count. I think I was a few seconds slower but I was pleased with the effort. Stroke count was right at 17 per 25 yards.

 
On Thursday morning I 86’ed the bike workout. I just did not need another failed training session. The legs needed a break from the bike. But lunch would bring a new running workout.

 
Like I said, my legs are tired but they almost always seem to be able to “bring it” when I ask. I was looking at a 10k interval training session on the internet and I charted out a couple of sets. After a short warm up I would do 3 times each of the following:

 
3 minutes on / 3 minutes recovery
2 minutes on / 2 minutes recovery
1 minutes on / 1 minutes recovery

 
The intensities would be a little faster than 10k pace (actually quite a bit faster than 10k pace). I had been doing those Yasso 800’s a month ago and I was successful at a 6:00 minute pace (give or take a second or two). So I decided to do these intervals at 9.9 MPH (6:03 minutes per mile). Why 9.9 – it is just easier to type it in on the treadmill. The sets of 3 minutes on / off went by pretty quick and they were not as challenging as I had hoped. I played it conservatively and only increased the 2 minute sets to 10.1 MPH (5:56 minutes per mile). My heart rate was still dropping nicely with the 2 minute recovery. On the 1 minute sets I increased the rate again to 10.3 MPH (5:49 minutes per mile). The 1 minute recovery was not sufficient to reduce my heart rate but I was able to complete the entire workout of treadmill intervals.

 
Soaked in sweat I headed to the bench press. I am still trying to add a few reps to my 70% body weight max rep lift. My arms were a little bit sore from Tuesday’s workout but I decided to see how many reps I could get. Success again – I was able to press out 36 at my 70% body weight cold – no warm up. This is an increase of 4 reps from the last time I attempted the lift – or 80 seconds off of my total pump and run time! I did two more sets with only 60 seconds recovery and completed another 15 followed by 14. 65 total reps with 60 seconds recovery between sets. My goal is 40 reps by mid-May.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Success and Failures

Getting back to the routine brought my weight down. I lost 3 pounds from the previous day. I know that the weight is not real but I am glad to be getting back into the swing of things.
I jumped on the bike again on Tuesday morning. I dialed in a tempo workout which consisted of a 10 minute warm up followed by 3 x 10 minutes at intensity with 2 minutes of recovery and then a 10 minute cool down.

I failed again. I only completed the first 10 minute interval and a couple minutes of the second interval. However, I did not end the workout there. I reloaded and completed another 20 minutes at a little less intensity. I have never really trained like this before – at set intensities. Most of my previous cycling has just been volume with some aggressive group riding thrown into the mix. I think I am just getting caught up in the numbers and wanting more than I can accomplish. I only rode for 40 minutes.

At lunch we did the STADIUMS. I lopped off 10 seconds from the recovery and then had to add two additional reps to the session for a total of 17. The round trip was 1:50 – 15 seconds up and 1:35 recovery. Next time I will deduct another 10 seconds from the recovery. My legs were screaming at me for the first three reps but then they settled down. Fortunately, the repeats never got harder – I was able to just churn them out. It felt good to succeed!

I checked the last time that I did this workout (October 22, 2009) and my average heart rate was 149 BPM with a MAX of 178. This week, with the same workout my average heart was 128 BPM with a MAX of only 165. I do not remember what the temperature was and everything but I will take it (but my blog says that the day was beautiful)!

After the STADIUMS we did just one rep of the stairs at the back of the Cochran Center. These steps are about 50 percent longer than the stairs at the STADIUM. My heart was racing much harder doing just the one rep!

Back at the gym I continued to work on the chest for the “pump and run” challenge. I had some intel come through and I believe that Robin is able to squeeze out about the same number of reps that I can – somewhere in the 30’s. And being that Robin has a good minute or two on me in the 5k I need to get to work. So I did four sets of flat bench press. I only put the 45’s on the bar so that equated to about 87% of my body weight – well my hope to be body weight. I am counting on 155 on competition day. For some reason I felt strong and was able to increase my reps by a couple. I did not doing any max outs but I did get 3 sets X 15 with a fourth set X 12. I was only working out with one other person and we purposely kept the recovery short. To win this competition I believe endurance is the name of the game.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Routines ...

Although I enjoyed visiting my sister and her family I was ready to get back into my routine. I am a creature of habit. I also gained a bit of weight while I was away. Even though my sister and family eat a very good diet I was still out of my element.

At my sister's, very little comes out of a box and she is actually eating a gluten free diet. However, there are many grazers in the household. This does not work well for me. I have to have my portions controlled. While I was boxing up dishes or moving furniture I would pass through the kitchen and grab a hand full of almonds. Nothing is wrong with that unless you do it several times a day. The calories quickly add up!

So once I was back home I weighed 7 pounds more than when I left. I realize that the weight will come off but it is disheartening. So back to the routine it is.

I woke up early and jumped on the bike trainer. I dialed in the workout from the week before and started to churn out the miles. It was hard. I did not complete the workout. I had told myself that these next few weeks would be very bike intensive. Well, I 86'ed the first workout.

At lunch I did a good tempo run on the treadmill. An easy 1 mile warm up and then 3 miles at 6:30 pace followed by a 1 mile cool down. This run was not super difficult but my heart rate climbed a little higher than I wanted it to climb. After the run a did a couple of sets of chin ups.

With 70.3 New Orleans less than a month away it will be difficult to get into my racing shape. I think the swim and run will be where I want them but the bike is another story. I have to really rack up the miles the next few weeks.

I just wish the weather would participate a little better. The low 40's in the morning are too cold for me!

Friday, March 19, 2010

packing and loading - with some fun thrown in


Remember, I am still in Austin helping my sister and her family pack up the house to move to Australia.  In between the packing, boxing and loading (we are taking a load of furniture to my Dad'd house) I have managed to get in about 4 runs.  This is Ausitn and it is the hill country.  The runs have been solid.  Also, we have been able to take a few breaks and go to the gym.  I had a good swim session consisting of a warm up / cool down with a 10 x 100 meters working set.  In addition, I was swimming with my brother-in-law who is a bit faster than me.  This always makes me work harder.  I also played around and practiced drafting off of him.  It is amazing how much of a difference that can make.  I would lose him in the turns and have to go all out to catch back up and them I could sit in his wake.  Another turn and all out once again.  These were great intervals with in the intervals.

We went rock climbing last night - just my brother-in-law, my nephew Dan (5 years old) and me.  We climbed for more than a hour.  Now, that is a heck of a workout. As always it is more of an upper body workout than it should be but fun was had by all.  After the shower and a quick visit to the steam room it was back home to more packing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sea World and the zoo

I have been in Austin the last couple of days. With my sister and her family moving to Australia at the end of March (two weeks) there is a lot of stuff to be done. But first, we went on a mini vacation to Sea World and the Zoo.

Before we left for Sea World my brother-in-law and I went for a 7 mile run. Due to the time change it was very dark but we were able to meet our goals. The entire run was conversational for me and I enjoyed the change – Austin is very hilly. After the run we loaded up the van and the six of us headed south to San Antonio.

I have not been to an amusement park in about 5 years. The shows were fun and the rides were good. The Shamu show was slow and there was a brief mention of the trainer recently killed. Because of this, none of the trainers out in the water at all. There were no great human / whale acrobatics. Still, it was neat seeing the whales.

Now the roller coasters were a lot of fun. Even though the park was crowded (spring break) the lines for the big rides were short. I road “The Great White” and “The Steel Eel” at least a dozen times with my oldest niece Isabelle. We had a blast.

We left the park and had dinner in the hotel room then went swimming. They have fire pits outside in the courtyard at the hotel and the kids could roast s’mores. My brother-in-law, Isabelle and I went back to Sea World to ride a few more roller coasters. This time there really was no line at all. We could ride each roller coaster and not even have to get off – we could stay seated and ride it again and again.
We rode the rides until we were sick. Riding a roller coaster back to back to back, etc – takes its toll on the stomach.

I did some light strength training at the hotel fitness center and then we headed to the San Antonio Zoo. I was fun seeing all of the animals. It has been a prolific year in the monkey houses – there were babies everywhere. After the zoo we did the river walk and ate lunch.

Once we got home it was time to start sorting, packing, moving and disposing.  The real work out is just beginning.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Easy trainer rides

I jumped on the trainer again on Friday morning. This time I did an interval workout – one that I have done several times. It hasd been about a month since I had been on the trainer. During and after the workout all I could think about was how much harder this seemed the last time I did it. Not that it was easy or anything but it had definietly been harder last month. Now I do know that there are a dozen or so different variables involved but I will chock this up as my bike fitness starting to come back on line.


After the trainer workout I switched bikes and rode to work for the first time this year! It was a little cool outside but nothing like it has been and I was, afterall, still quite damp from the trainer. Even though my feet were cold I had forgotten how much I enjoyed riding to work. I love days that I do not have to get into a car!

At lunch I went on a very easy 5 mile run outside. It was very much conversational pace and enjoyable. My heart rate was in zone 1 reecovery the entire time.

After work I got to ride home again – this time into a head wind but it was not a big deal. I ran into Chris at Jackson Station and chatted for a few minutes.

With the start of spring break I will be out of town for a full 9 days and away from my bikes. (I did get another training ride in this morning – a little hard intensity. Although I am going to be very busy this week I am going to try to turn this into a mini swim / run camp. After holiday I will only have a month to prepare for 70.3 New Orleans – which, unfortunately is just when the taper should start.

As a side note I have started working the chest for the pump and run!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring time BRICK

I woke up to rain failing. However, I had no worries since I had already planned on jumping on the trainer. I pulled up a new workout. It would not be anything too stressful but it would be challenging. I would warm-up for 15 minutes and then go up to approximately zone 3 for 15 minute and then a cool down. I had the internets up and was watching hulu – the time went by relatively quick. I was soaked when I finished.

Even though it was not planned I had extra time to spare. It was not a quick transition since I had not set anything out but I was out the door with my running shoes on within 5 minutes. This would be the first brick in about 6 months (since ironman Louisville). I had no idea what pace to run but knew that I only had time for about 3 miles. I thought that 7 minute miles would be a good first brick. It was warm out and very humid – the rain had just stopped. As I ran I was looking at my paces. I was quickly under 7 minutes and slowly increasing the pace. The first mile went by at 6:33. I always go out too fast.  Although I think I could have toughed it out I pulled up and slowed the pace down. My heart rate was not too high but the effort was challenging. The next mile clicked in at 7:30. That mile allowed for me to regain my composure and I completed the final mile at a very comfortable 7 minutes. So, although I threw the plan out the window (the plan that I had just thought of a few minutes ago) I did finish with a 7 minute average pace.

At lunch I did some more swimming. A warm up and cool down of 500 yards with a 1000 yard time trial I the middle. The 1000 time was a little slower than last year’s bests but I was still working the drills with the zipper and continuing to counting strokes. I am trying to get this into my muscle memory.

After the swim it was 6 or 7 sets of 70% body weight bench pressing. I am not sure of the best training protocol to increase my max reps of 70% body weight. I believe that this is much more about endurance than maximum strength. Anyway, the previous time I tested myself at this weight my triceps were the limiting factor.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring time STADIUMS

I have gone back to basics in the swim. Being self taught (you can read that as slow) I have never been huge on drills. I understand the importance but it always seemed like I was sinking when I attempted them. I did do the finger tip drag for almost every swim for about 6 months – this was because I was wind milling wildly.

Well, someone recently suggested that I start doing the zipper drill because of this windmill problem. I had thought that I had that one licked a long time ago. Granted I took a bit of time away from the pool last year but I did not realize that my swim would break down as much as it has. On that note I have started to do the drills again. Mostly I have started with high elbow recovery, either finger tip drag or zipper. That is going well – no problems.

But in addition, I have started to count my strokes on every length. This is something that I have gotten away from. The same someone also noticed that I was in the 20 stroke range and then on of non-breath strokes I was shortening them and not rotating. This is a high stroke count and not efficient.

I have worked on these skills. Swimming being such a skill sport has been tough on me. It seems like there is always something that you have to remember. My mind simply cannot remember the 15 or so things that need to happen for good, fast swimming. After about two things I start to break down – most of the time I stop breathing. Oh well – it is getting better.

I have had two high quality swim sessions this week and not a length has been swum with more than 17 strokes! I am starting to feel the water better and the rotating is more even. The swimming is coming along!

On Wednesday, for the first time since late November, we did the STADIUMS. Due to the weather and marathon training I had suspended the STADIUMS. While I believe that these ‘hill repeats’ are a valuable strength training exercise I was not sure how they would fit into my higher volume marathon training. Therefore they were nixed. I was careful pulling these back in – in the past when I have started them back up after a break the recovery was brutal. Brutal recovery - like not being able to walk up stairs for a couple of days. I am trying to be better in all of my training and not just look at the individual sessions but actually looking ahead. Yes, a reoccurring theme – training smarter. I do not want any one session to have such an impact that I cannot successfully complete the next session. I guess I have never fully understood this mentality. I only want to break myself down enough that I get the adaptation but not so much that I cannot do it again in a short amount of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe in smashing it sometimes – breakthrough sessions if you will – but I have to have the recovery scheduled. In the long run it does not do me very much good to cripple myself in the short term.

That being said, I took the STADIUMS easy. In the past I had worked up to a 0:15 / 1:15 interval. That is all out for 15 seconds up the bleachers and then a minute and 15 seconds run across the top of the stairs and back down to get ready to do it again. This is a challenging workout out. My heart rate drops great for about the first 5 repeats but then it starts to fail to recover as much. I was successful in the workout several times – by successful I mean I was able to do the last set in the same amount of time as the first set and I think I did this 22 times.

This time I increased the recovery interval to 1:45. This was maintainable – almost easy. My heart rate recovered after each repeat. Next time I will trim some time off of the recovery. I got 15 repeats for a total of 30 minutes.

After the STADIUMS I took off my socks and shoes and ran around the football field 4 times. This field is turf. I am not a big fan of the bare foot running – I have seen a lot of people hurt themselves – but I do believe it can provide some foot strength. I am already a fore foot runner and this bare foot running felt good. It actually felt almost the same as running in shoes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pump and Run Competition

I got an email from friend (super fast guy Robin) last week.  He was throwing down the gaunlet.

I want to lay down a challenge to anyone interested. I will be training for a pump and run competition that will let everyone know who is the strongest AND fastest athlete in Hattiesburg.
All competitors will bench press 70%(males)/50% (females) of their body weight as many times as possible. For each rep. completed the competitor will be able to deduct 20 seconds off of the 5k time that is run 5 minutes after the final press has been completed. After the run we will tally the overall time and have a winner.

I did a dry run with my teams and was amazed at some of the results. I did 20 reps of 120 lbs and ran 18:40 for the 5k. My overall time after the deduction was 12 minutes. A girl on my team did 40 reps of 55 lbs and ran 22:40 for 5k. After the deduction she ended up with 9 minutes 20 seconds. So, I found out that I need to work on both my 5k and bench to be able to beat a 110 pound girl.

I plan on doing this about 10 weeks from now in May. Let me know if you are up to the challenge.

Thanks,

Robin
I love this stuff. Doing some initial testing - if you want to win this you had better be sub-7.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Marathon Recovery Week

The week following the marathon has been easy. I played racquetball and swam and did a P90X video one day. I did not do anything grand. I have been careful to try and recover before putting in any big training. Last year, one week after I did 70.3 New Orleans I did a century ride. Although everything seemed fine at the time it set me back. So this time I tried to stay off of the legs. The racquetball was probably pushing it but it seemed okay.

The weekend was a different story. I met up with a couple of guys early Saturday morning for some running. I met Keith and Phillip at the gateway of the Long Leaf Trace. Keith had already done 4 miles around campus. We did another slightly hilly loop and then headed out on the trace. We ran at a conversational pace and the miles flew by – I ended up with 14 miles. To be honest, my legs were a little tired towards the end.

A few hours later I met up with Lance and JD at Jackson Station for a ride. This ride was not too difficult but I was on the back of the pack. I would really like to get some of my bike fitness back. I just don’t have my ride right now.

Sunday was an easy run down to Jackson Station with Jodie to do some pull ups and stuff. I ran into Sheryl and Don and chewed the fat a while. We talked about Sheryl’s new time trial bike that she has been building for a year. Don was also selling a single speed Fetish Attack. I was tempted but I need a new “road bike” like I need a hole in the head.

I knew that there would be a fast group ride at 3:30 and I also knew that the regular Sunday group ride would be leaving at 1:30. Silly me, I decided to do both.

I put on my Ironman Louisville bike jersey. I got it on clearance in the fall. I normally do not buy anything with logos or pictures. All of my prior jerseys are just plan solid colors – no graphics or funny sayings or anything like that. In fact, I don’t like to wear anything that has large or blatant logos. I do not want a little horse emblem on my breast or someone else’s name written across my chest. But, this jersey was a little bit different. I bought it for me. It was to remind me of the race that I did in Louisville. I bought it to bring back those memories.

So I wore my Ironman Louisville jersey today for the first time. I was running late heading to the gateway to meet the group ride. I saw the group coming towards me so I made a quick u-turn. I jumped on the front of the pack and tucked in behind Steve (the postman). He congratulated me on the marathon and we talked about racing. It was a comfortable pace and the weather was fantastic. This was the first time that I did not need at least arm warmers (most times I need a whole lot more).

I rode with the Sunday group for 15 miles to Sumrall. It was fun and I was having a good time. I took a couple of good pulls and I was feeling strong. My effort was high for the speeds that we were going but it was acceptable – I was not going to blow up or anything. I turned and headed back towards Jackson Station to meet up with the faster group ride. I had a couple of extra minutes and swung by the house to trade bikes. I knew that most of the guys would be on their time trial bike so I wanted to grab mine. I got to Jackson Station right at 3:30. We left immediately.

The warm up pace was high but sustainable. After a couple of miles we left the Trace. We were going to do a rolling hilly loop around a lake. After we left the Trace the paced picked up some. I was off of the back but I was able to keep up. Jersey or not, I did not feel like an Ironman today.

Once we hit the loop I was doomed. I got dropped early, often, and hard. With my legs having 30 miles in them before meeting up with the group did not help matters. Everyone was riding well and fast – I have not been dropped like that in years. This is exactly what I needed. I know that to ride faster I need to ride with faster people. I am ready to get my bike legs back under me. I knew that a build up marathon would hurt the cycling. I just hope that I can build them back quickly. I have signed up for 70.3 New Orleans – 7 weeks away.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mardi Gras Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Race Review

About the race. The EXPO was well run. It was crowed but that was to be expected. However, the Competitor Group has refined this process. It took all of 2 or 3 minutes to get processed. This was the largest race that I have ever participated in and this was the most efficient check in! When I did my ironman it literally took hours. Yes, there was a lot of hand holding for the ironman and regulations and rules and stuff but there were only 3,000 people participating – the marathon had 16,000. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Series has this down to a science.


The EXPO itself was pretty good also. There were several booths doing what appeared to be brisk business. You were also able to show your ID so that you could have beer at the finish line. If you checked in during the EXPO you would not have to show ID at the finish line. You could also sample the MGD 64 in Dixie cups at the EXPO. But, there was a rumor that you were only allowed 2 beers at the finish. That must be a dirty joke – this is after all New Orleans. The New Orleans Track Club almost starts serving beer prior to the start of their races. Now, don’t get me started on Baton Rouge – many races have food and drink the night before the race (included in the fee) as well as food and beer immediately following the race. This two beer limit must be a joke.

The race started near the convention center. The corrals were well marked and each corral had several port-a-loos. This was done very well. When I first got to the start line there were no lines for the potties and I hopped in and did my business. A little bit later I needed to go again and this time there was a line but it was acceptable. Even with a line it took only a couple of minutes. I don’t know how many corrals there were – twenty something I would guess – and there were a couple or three port-a-loos in each corral. I appreciated the amount of facilities that were available. There was a VIP area near the start that had heaters so you could stay warm. This area also had food, drinks and VIP bathrooms. However, you had to have purchased $150 worth of stuff at the EPXO. That was not for me.

The start was in the warehouse district, an industrial part of town. I have started at races here before and it is as good as anywhere to start. The course went east and looped around Audubon Park. This was a nice run even though the pavement was less than ideal. After the race I heard several stories of people falling. I hate to hear that but this is New Orleans and the roads are just that bad – there is no way around that.

Prior to the race I was looking over the course map and I was immediately concerned about the Half and Full marathoners branching off from each other and then merging back. I was concerned because the two groups would merge back together at mile 4.5 for the half marathoners and mile 8 for the full marathoners. I was afraid that there would be two groups of runners at very different paces. Worrying was all for not. The groups never actually merged – instead they ran side by side separated by a median or a line of cones.

As the name of the race suggests, there were a lot of bands. They were place at every mile of the race. This was not as motivating as you might think. You ran by the bands and heard them for about a minute. I do not remember any of the bands specifically. Maybe the bands are for the spectators?

The volunteers were plentiful and enthusiastic. There were cheerleaders from area schools everywhere cheering the runners on – they were competing for monies for their schools. Water and sports drink was every mile. I prefer to take gels and wash them down with straight water. It might be prissy but I do not want to spill the sports drink all over me and have to lose the mental concentration fussing with the stickiness. Anyway, I always take my own gels so this is not an issue for me (my gels are looped into my race belt), but I believe that there were only two water stops that had the gels. The map of the race indicated that gels would be available but it did not say where they would be available. If I had not had my own gels I might have been out of luck. As it turns out I did take 3 gels from the course. I combined this with the 5 that I had with me. Yes, that is right, I had 8 gels during the race (1 before and 7 during). Not having gels at all or most water stops seemed, I don’t know, I guess a little bit cheap. Once again, this did not pose a problem for me.

The finish line was lined deep with spectators and you could see the clock from a hundred yards out. This was well done and it definitely encouraged me to ‘sprint it out’. Once you crossed the finish line you were given your medal and a sports drink. The area immediately after finishing was well stocked with bagels, bananas, sports bars, water and sports drink. You were also given a solar blanket. There were speakers at the exit of this area that told you that once you left you would not be allowed back into the area. The notification system was well done. There was no doubt that you would not be let back in – they also had security standing there to ensure that no one came back into the area. I was spent when I finished and did not feel like eating much of anything – after all I had just finished a marathon. I did eat a bite of a banana and grabbed an additional sports drink as well as two sports bars.

I left the finishers area and found my group. I changed clothes in a port-a-loo. The park was huge and you had to walk a good distance to the reunion area. They had letters posted in a field that allowed for you to easily meet up with group. I thought this was done well. We ventured over to the letter P (for Pine belt Pacers – our running club) and met several of our group. The ground was damp so we used our solar blankets to keep us dry.

I went over to the beer area and my race bib procured me two beer tickets. They marked the bib to show that I had received my tickets. Each additional beer would be $2. Now, this race cost well over $100. I wonder how much money was saved (or made) from limiting cans of cheap beer? This did not affect me too much but there was a lot of grumbling amongst the finishers. In addition, who carries money with them on a race? I guess you could have packed it in your finish line bag – but …

After a few more people finished we started to get a little bit hungry. There was no food available outside of the finisher’s area. I take that back, they did have food for purchase. Now here is the rub, they have a captive audience of 16,000 people that have just run several hours and they charge them for food. That is just wrong. I have been to a lot of races and there is always food for the racers. That is just how races are done. There was a national chain restaurant serving food for free if you jumped through some hoops the day before. I was not aware of this and I did not jump through the necessary hoops. Anyway, they ran out of food.

This was also a point to point race and you had to take shuttles back to ‘near’ the start. There was no parking at the finish. You had to walk about a mile to get to the shuttles. I am not sure why they could not have been closer. I mean, we did have to walk along a road to get to the buses. But the number of buses was plentiful. There was no wait once you made the trek. The buses took you to the Superdome which is where most of participates had parked for the race and the second stop was close to the French Quarter. But if you were staying in a hotel near the race start you had another mile to walk. I knew where the shuttles were dropping off and was okay with the walk but I did hear of many people being upset – especially if you did not know the area.

I am aware that you cannot make everyone happy. And I did have a great race (I am signed up for next year already – I signed up prior to running the race for about a 50% discount). But there are a few things that need to be done better. Having done a number of triathlons I often hear of people being upset with WTC (World Triathlon Corporation - the ironman company) and talk about how expensive their races are. Both of these companies put on an efficient race and sell an experience. And I am perfectly fine paying for these experiences. At the end of my ironman, there was a ton of food (cheap food like pizza, bagels, cookies – but who cares at the end of an ironman) and even complimentary massages. My ironman and my marathon were both wonderful. But the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series seems to be rather greedy. After all, it is just a marathon. If you charge a premium you had better deliver. With just a few changes to the amenities these events would be spectacular. I believe that the cost of the race should cover post race food. For crying out loud, no one would have complained if they charged an extra $5 and gave you a hamburger (although the race is already at a premium). There are a lot of marathons around. I am not sure if the Rock ‘n’ Roll experience is the premium.

The Good:
Fast easy check-in
Nice EXPO
Start Line facilities
Nice course
Volunteers
Ample water stations
Festive Finish line

The Bad:
Expensive Race
No FOOD
Limited Beer
Limited Gels at the water stations

All in all I had a great race and many of the CONS just did not have an effect on my experience. Most of what I am reporting on was from other racers. However, I do see their points. As I have previously mentioned I will be doing the race again next year. It will be interesting to see how the race grows.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mardi Gras Marathon Race Report

I had brought 5 different shirts for the race. I had a contingency for everything. I had 3 sleeveless shirts, a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve shirt. I knew that I would not be wearing the long sleeve shirt but just in case.

I knew that it would be cold / cool prior to the race but I was planning on running hard. I did not want overheat in the later stages on the race. Race morning would be in the high 30’s / low 40’s.

I decided on a triathlon Zoot sleeveless jersey because it had a ½ length zipper. I had also brought a pair of tube socks that I had cut the ends out of – these would be my disposable arm skins. In addition I also had disposal gloves and a disposal long sleeved cotton shirt.

After walking the mile to the starting line I milled around corral number one for about 45 minutes. I used the bathroom twice – I was nervous. The first time there was no line – the second time I only had minutes to spare. I was cold and nervous and shaking. I was not as anxious as before my ironman but there was a lot on tension in the air. I wanted to do well. Like I said, there was no fear just a heck of a lot of anxiety.

When the gun fired the elites, corral 1 and corral 2 started. It was crowed at the start but I crossed the timing mat within seconds. I had my ‘virtual partner’ going on my left wrist and a regular stopwatch on my right. I got passed by hordes of people in the first 2 miles. I stuck to my plan. I kept to my paces. The half marathoners split off early in the race. I saw many people making the half / full decision. The split was between mile 3 and mile 4. I thought to myself that you had to be having a bad day if you jumped ship this early.

I continued on with the full marathon. My paces were maintaining. In fact, they were maintaining easily. However, I was running about 10 seconds slower than my last 30k race. I had some doubts start to creep into my mind. How could I have run 10 seconds faster for 18.6 miles? I am not sure how I did it three weeks ago but this was a different race.

Anyway, I was sticking to my race strategy, I was going to try and run even splits for the entire race. If I had more at the end (yeah right) I would pick it up. I ran with a couple of older guys for a couple of miles and I was chatting up a storm. We were swapping race stores left and right. I saw Becky from the running club around mile 7 or 8 – she yelled at me and I was sure she was going to tell me to shut up and race (I would see Becky and Holly a couple of more times during the race – they are fantastic cheerleaders!) The older guys started to drop off of my pace a little bit so – I had made this decision earlier – I was not going to slow down at all to talk. It would be okay to talk but I had to keep to my race plan. I dropped the older guys and picked up with a guy that I had met that morning. He needed a 3:10 to qualify and we were running similar paces. I ran with him and another guy for about 8 more miles. At times it was tough to stay up with them. They would drop me at the water stops and I would have to quicken my pace to catch back up. I am not very good at running and drink at these water stops. However, even though I had to quicken the pace to catch back up, I felt it was worth the effort to ride along with them. Although I was pushing it my ‘virtual partner’ kept was telling me that I was a little slow. I tried to catch back up to him but I just did not want to get into any danger zones.

At this point we were entering City Park. The half marathoners broke off to finish their race. I had run about 15 miles and I was still feeling strong. The course had the half and full marathoners break apart and come back together twice– after the first break we never actually intermingled – there was always an island or cones separating us. We, the full marathoners were running up the west side of City Park. I recognized this section from the Ole Man River Half that I had run back in December. This was a long flat straight section. I crossed the 17 mile marker at 2 hours and thought to my self, no scratch that, I said it out loud, that there was only about an hour to go. I proclaimed “That we could do anything for an hour.” Even though there was very little wind I had been tailing these guys for several miles. I was starting to push past them. It was time to move out on my own. I left them – I would not call it a pass, definitely not a pass with authority or anything I just got in front and kept going. We rounded the north section of the park and I was worried. I still felt strong but I knew that “The Wall” would be lurking. The temperature had climbed into the 50’s. This should not have been warm much less hot but most of my training has been in the 30’s. I had to take off my sweat band a couple of times to wring it out. I passed mile 20 and there was such a relief. I was past the first 20 miles and just had a 10k to go. There was an out and back for a couple of miles and then the course would come back into the park for the finish. I ran mile 20 on schedule (7:08 minutes / mile) – just as I had planned. I actually felt really good. I passed several people during this mile and kept to the plan.

This little out and back section turned 180 degrees at mile 21. That is when it hit me. I was running strong because of the tail wind. I don’t think the wind was that strong but it did not have to be. Running into the wind I was still passing people but it was hard going. These next 3 miles would be the slowest miles of the race. I lost 59 seconds during these 3 miles. It got hard in this area. And I was alone. I was trying to sight up ahead and reel runners in but they were getting few and far between. In a race this large it is amazing how many people I saw that I knew. At about mile 24 and a half I passed another runner. He knew my name and I looked up. This was a guy named Michael that I had run with at the 30K race 3 weeks ago. He needed a 3:10 to qualify for Boston and I told him to jump on – to finish this race strong. I don’t know how it made Michael feel (he finished in 3:11:xx – heart breaking) but it was encouraging to me. I knew the finish was within my grasp and I knew that I could push harder / push farther. I picked it up and my times got back on track. Mile 24 was the absolute slowest of the day (7:32) but mile 25 was back (7:07). I would continue to push hard until the end. Mile 26 felt like it took forever but I was on – it clicked off at 7:13. Down the finisher chute I kicked it up. I saw the clock and it was ticking up – I was damned and determined to not allow another minute click past. I sprinted the last minute and finished by a clock time of 2:08:5X and a chip time at 2:08:44.

When I finished I was spent. I was hurting – not a bad hurting like something permanent just sore from the effort. I received my finisher’s medal and got my photo taken. I did not feel hungry but ate a banana and a bar of some kind. I also took some sports drink. My face was crusty from salt.

I only needed a 3:15 to qualify for Boston so I knew that I was safe several miles back. This probably let me slip off of my paces. I had wanted to finish in a low 3:07 (as per the running calculator). I have become a better, more patient racer over the past 3 months. During the fall of last year there was no way that I could have come close to qualifying. Now, both the first and second halves of this marathon would have been half marathon PR’s in early December.

I am indebted to many friends that have allowed for me to experience this race. As I have said, I would not have even taken on this challenge without the encouragement from so many Pinebelt Pacers (special thanks Charles and Jim who talked me into running all of the build up races). I also could not have done this without the constant encouragement of Jodie who had to put up with all of the talk – the training this / the racing that. I am sure it has been tough on her for the last 3 months (not to mention all of the ironman stuff from last year).


Splits for the race - slowest - mile 24 - 7:32 / fastest - mile 15 - 6:59 average - 7:11
Average Heart Rate - 169


So, this is the race report. I would also like to put together a lessons learned for this marathon and a race review - a review of the Rock & Roll Mardi Gras Marathon itself. Stay tuned.

My race - by the numbers.

2 Cliff bars for breakfast
8 gels during the race (1 before / 7 during)
7:09.00 pace 1st half (1:33:57)
7:13.81 pace 2nd half (1:34:47)
7:11.90 pace Total

Qualifying for Boston in my first marathon … pretty sweet!

On yeah, at the expo I already signed up for next year’s race.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Mardi gras Marathon - Boston Qualified!

First marathon down and a Boston Qualifier (3:08:44). Full race report to follow.

Before and after.