Thursday, April 28, 2011

Race Preview- Flower City Double

Up next on my calendar includes a whole weekend of racing. 

The Duathlon
First, on Saturday, is the Flower City Duathlon. This multisport event is a 5k run/20 mile bike/5k run and my first attempt at this race. Truth be told, I really dislike duathlons. For 1, I am perplexed how they are sanctioned by the USAT (rant on this topic later). They should be governed by the USAD, but alas, this organization does not exist. For 2, my perplexity leads to my real distaste, no swim. In the Flower City defense, it's a tad bit chilly here and not many of us are willing to do an open water swim at this time of year. We could swim in a pool, but not me (again, later rant). Regardless, my multisport strengths are swim, bike, run, in that order. Remove my top strength, replace it with my worst leg and my athletic edge drops significantly.

Despite my emotional state, I look forward to the race. I made the goal of hitting 7:30 mile pace for these events and my recent training tells me that this goal is achievable. My fear in this race, ironically, is focused on the bike. Since I do not recommend cold weather biking, I haven't gotten the bike out of the basement much this season. I have no barometer as to my bike fitness or speed. I haven't allowed a lack of data to stop me from setting goals in the past and I can't see why I'd let it start now. Therefore, based on last season's data, I want a minimum of +20 mph (originally I thought 22 mph, but seriously, I have no idea and I'd prefer to set myself up for success).

I am hoping to finish the entire RBR in 1 hour and 45 minutes. This gives time for 7:30s all around, finishing the bike under an hour, and transitions. I am allotting time for putting on gloves and cold weather gear. The overnight low is projected in the upper 30s- low 40s. With a 7:30 am start, I doubt it'll be much warmer than that race time.

The Half-Marathon
2010 Race Splits
On Sunday, the Flower City Half-Marathon is slated for its second appearance in on my race calendar. The race is sanctioned by USATF at 13.1 miles. My Garmin, a year ago, placed the jaunt at a bit longer, confirmed by several others with Garmins. Apparently, the USATF santioning guy uses a non-Garmin GPS type technology. Loser. Last year, I had an average pace of 7:39 over the course of 13.3 Garmin miles. 

The run hits several of the communities of our town. The most challenging hitting around the 6.5 mile mark through the 8 mile mark. The challenge of this stretch is 2 fold. First, the hills. It's got some steep rollers going up quickly to more than 125 feet (horrifying). The rest of the run is almost completely flat. Second, the stretch is through Historic Mount Hope Cemetery. If you are not creeped out by running through the graveyard, you might be tempted to stop and look for the famous dead people. Some of the infamous resting here are Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb (the Bausch & Lomb guys).
There's a cemetery buried in those hills.
I hope to improve on my time from a year ago. At 7:30 pace, I hope to finish in under 1:38 or a 4 minute gain. Last year, only 2 spits chimed in at under 7:30, not including the sprint to the end.

The Plan
If you read my last race preview and results post, you'd know that I had a plan and totally biffed it. Despite not adhering to my plan, I still achieved my goals. I am hesitant to make a new plan for this weekend but habit is trumping good sense. Since practice makes perfect and I'm not one to allow a minor failure to barricade me from trying, I'm going for a more strategic and less prescriptive approach.

In the duathlon
  • Focus on my goal pace and ignore the others around
  • Don't hammer on the bike. (Ok, hammer a little, I might will be cold)
  • Even if I'm feeling great and people are passing me, focus on my pace
  • Just in case this wasn't clear, pace not place
In the Half
  • Conserve early, focus on pace (see a theme yet?)
  • Remember, my skills are downhill not uphill
  • After the cemetery, go for it
FYI- there is a funky triathlon associated with this weekend. Should you wish, you could opt out of the duathlon and do a run/ bike/ paddle. Not the fraternity house kind of paddling, but the canoeing/ kayaking kind. It's seems like a good time that I will not be doing. Mostly because I do not own nor have I trained on a canoe or kayak. Plus, the event still does not involve swimming. The race site is unclear if a run/ bike/ paddle is sanctioned by USAT or it's phantom, sister organization called the USAP (for paddle).  It is also unclear if you are allowed to bring your fishing pole on the boat.

Note: The race organizers are concerned about the volume of water passing through the Genessee  River. For those of you not living in the area, this may illustrate the kind of spring we are having here. A quote from the boss:
"Currently the water flow situation is as follows:
a. Average river flow for this time of season is 4620 cfs (cubic feet per second, which is about half a million pounds a second).
b. River flow for the event last year (April 24, 2010) was 1880 cfs.
c. Today’s flow is  up to 10,000 cfs and is expected to continue to increase. (to 11,000 or 12,000 cfs) (about 3 ft per second velocity)"
So, my weekend of sleeping in will be replaced by 19.3 non-Garmin miles of running, 20 miles of biking, and no swimming or paddling (which may not happen anyway). The race organizers promised a separate award category for participants who compete in both the Du and the Half. They call it the Double. I have absolutely no idea how many people this applies to or what sort of award they are offering. I'm guessing it'll be akin to a couple of slaps on the back, handshake, and a "Job well done!" which would put them near the top of the list for coolest race prizes. Check back in later, I'll give out a full review and let you know how things went.

Monday, April 25, 2011

And on the 47th Day- He Rested

It's been 48 days since I started the 40 Days of Working out. I took Easter Sunday off as a recovery day and an opportunity to eat a week's worth of calories and burn them off by beating up my nieces and nephews. You can find the initial post and self-imposed rules here.

My original plan for the 40 DOWO was simple, I needed to ensure motivation during the month of April to continue training. April has a history of greatness. There's a few things that have historically occurred during the glorious 4th month.
  • The Revolutionary War started
  • George Washington was elected president
  • Hank Aaron tied then broke Babe Ruth's home run record
  • The Apollo space missions got started
  • The Boston Marathon
  • Earth Day (which has multiple meanings for some)
  • Opening Day of Baseball (go Cubs!)
  • Tax Day (glorious does not necessarily mean good)
  • Track Season/ Coaching starts
It's that last one that really eats into my time. I like coaching and would not give it up. The rewards far outweigh the burden. Plus, the extra money helps pay for my triathlon fetish, including financing extra gear, toys, etc. I will keep coaching, despite the impact on my training.

In April, 2010, I logged just over 36 hours of work (ignoring the final week on April). Not fantastic by any means. See chart below, click to enlarge...

As you can see, I was a pathetic swimmer, getting in the water a grand total of 5 times, then nothing for the next 2 weeks.

The week of the 19th-25th marked a big bike week as it was Spring Break and the weather was as perfect as you could expect from the New England area in April.

Notice the lack of consistency. Up and down in my training hours. I took a total of 9 days off in that month (6 during the comparison time)

Now, let's gander at April, 2011. Comparison disclaimer- the 2010 data table includes one additional week than the 2011.

Notice that my laziness has increased in that I stopped naming and defining workouts. The total number of training hours had dropped compared to a year ago from ~36- ~30. If I were to apply causation to this, I'd probably blame the colder than average temperatures for this season keeping me on the trainer, limiting my motivation to get outside and put forth the really big miles on the bike. Either that or I'm a big pansy. I suspect both actually apply.

But, I was more consistent in the weekly distribution of training (still not perfect though). I took less days off (1 as compared to 6).  My long runs were longer. And, what's not shown on these graphs is my average running pace, which is drastically faster in 2011.

Pros for the 40 DOWO
  • Total number of workouts
  • Long runs
  • Run/ bike speed
Cons for the 40 DOWO
  • Total training hours
  • Hours on the bike
  • Stress created when tired and not yet worked out
  • Long ride endurance
As I reflect on the experience of exercising a total of 45 out of 47 days during the Lenten season, I would probably not do it again next year. I now fully understand why God rested on the 7th day. It was a superior recovery plan. I believe that there were several times when my body was saying, "Skip it," but the mind was droning, "must meet 30 min criteria". In the long run (no pun intended), I might have been better served by taking a day off and really attacking my workout versus stringing together a few of mandated sessions that my body wasn't interested in.

However, I am enjoying the additional running speed I have incurred. I also suspect that my biking is actually faster this year as compared to last year, despite my obvious lowered level of endurance. Since the forecast continues to be bleak, I might not know until sometime in August.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Biking Naked

I had that dream again. I don't have it often but it's ingrained. The details can change but the emotions are the same.

I'm going through normal life. Normal behavior. I'm getting ready to go for a bike ride. I grab a 20 ouncer and fill it with sport drink. I check the tires and inflate to 100 psi, the recommendation for my trainers. I put on my road shoes, saving the tri-shoes for races. I grab my helmet, where inside I find gloves and sunglasses at the ready from my last ride. I shove off and glide the incline down my drive out into the street. I clip in and spin a bit to ensure a good connection. After a few houses, I turn the corner onto the longer road. I bring my cadence up to a comfortable 92 rpms. That's the sweet spot and I get settled in to the ride. That's when I look down and notice something is wrong. I'm biking naked.

And I mean in the figurative sense, not the literal sense. It's much the same as people who leave the house and forget their watch. They are so used to wearing a watch that not having one feels wrong. They say, "I feel naked without without my watch."

However, in this dream, it's not about the watch. This problem is worse: There are no aerobars on this bike. See, I only feel like I'm biking naked, again, in the figurative sense. I'm riding my road bike and the clip-on areos are also not there. I've got the bullhorn type handlebars. I have hoods and drops. Neither are cutting it. Then I blink, only to realize that this is not a dream. I would scream out but I understand that yelling would do me no good.

I've been riding my triathlon bike for so long, it just seems right. I reserve my road bike for only a few occasions.
  • Crappy weather
  • Salt on the roads (post crappy weather)
  • Group riding (which has actually not happened yet)
  • Commuting to work
  • Casual riding with friends
  • Tri-bike in the shop
Cornering not a problem
Right now, I've got the good bike in the shop, matching the criteria of pulling the roadie off the rafters and getting it out into traffic. There are rumors that say the road bike has a few advantages over a tri-bike. Some think that it accelerates, climbs, and corners more efficiently. Others think that it is more comfortable.

I'm not buying it. I prefer to lie down while exercising. I do not enjoy holding myself up by my wrists. I am quite comfortable, even after a century ride. I never get hand tingling anymore. I'm working on the hills (which suck on both bikes). How many corners do I really encounter anyway?

When my tri-bike got back from the shop, apparently my rear hub needed an overhaul. When coasting at higher speeds, the cogs would spin at a different rate than my wheel causing a nasty vibration. It was an easy fix and they had it done in a jiffy.

The road bike is nice but I prefer biking with all the right parts in all the right places. Public nudity, like it or not, is not currently allowed on the roads and neither should be my road bike if I can help it. I only had to do one short ride on the roadie. And I missed my aerobars.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worst Pre-Workout Foods

I've been inadvertently participating in a scientific n=1 sort of experiment in food. As with all experiments, this one started off with an observation... I've come to notice that there are certain foods that enhance your workout. Other foods are neutral. Some foods just plain ruin your chances of having a good training day. It's the latter that I've been mostly concerned. Here's the philosophy... I know for a fact that I can't have a great workout every time. It's only natural that some workouts are going to suck. I'd at least like to remove food from the list of reasons that I biffed a good opportunity.

To be fair, I'd like to offer some definitions. First, this is about food, not about drink. I may experiment later on beverages, which sounds completely hysterical. I'll probably withhold that until after IMLP. Second, 'pre-workout' is defined as the 3 hours immediately preceding  the event. I am purposefully excluding breakfast (since I can't get my lazy bum out of bed in the morning) or yesterday's dinner (my brain is not capable of such long-term analysis). Third, I recognize that any food, when eaten in copious amounts, can be workout debilitating. I'd like to focus on normal, non-competitive eating.

Here's my personal top 5 Worst Pre-Workout Foods, in random order:

Not sure why. They are loaded with complex carbs. Simple carbs. Protein. Fat. Butter. High Fructose Corn Syrup. They have absolutely no additional nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals. There's nothing extraneous holding this food back. This seems to be the kind of food that is screaming energizer bunny. Yet, every time I've attempted the pre-workout pancake breakfast/ dinner, my performance has been as flat as the proverbial flapjack.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
I am completely uncertain how to 'corn' meat, but I doubt there is actual corn added to the beef. This St. Patrick's Day favorite is quite tasty and really should be common at more times in the year. Often served with potatoes, it helped the Irish survive long periods of winter and cold. It should help you survive a long run. But, it's long term effects continue for an entire season of training. The concoction of meat and vegetable stays with you from St. Patty's until Easter like a concrete block tied to your ankle and dumped into your stomach.

Not the processed, lunch meat kind. I'm talking the real deal, the delicious feathered friend that Ben Franklin once wanted to be our national bird. It's long been thought that there's a chemical in turkey called tryptophan that induces a sleep-like stupor upon eating the fowl. Whereas turkey does have this amino acid, the sleep-aid hypothesis has long been since refuted. Still, people cling to archaic ideas like a two-year-old clings to his bah-bah, refusing to let it go. Doesn't matter. Despite the evidence negating tryptophan, turkey induces a culture of post-consumption fatigue. There's a reason Thanksgiving doesn't feature any turkey trots after noon. We have been trained since our youth to eat turkey, sit, and nap. Even without football on TV, turkey is best reserved when for when your workout goals include not moving.

Mexican Food
Instead of a single food, the entire genre of foods apply here. The most famous ingredient in Mexican dishes is called capsaicin. Capsaicin is a long acknowledged antibacterial, allowing our Latin-American brethren to consume without risk of food-borne illnesses. It is also what gives salsa that burning feeling as you swallow and is rumored to put hair on your chest (not good, especially if you're female). Add in beans, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions and you ensure that every 5th stride on a run with be met with a burped-up version of what went down. Let's not mention the after-burn that happens on day 2 of the Mexican food experience.

The Garbage Plate
Originally introduced on this blog here, it seems that I can't stop picking on this dish. This food physically frightens me. In my defense, I have never actually attempted the test in-vivo. In-vitro experimentation, meaning that I have only thought of eating a Garbage Plate then attempted a workout, has yielded sloth-like results. I have been slow, sluggish, and absurdly bloated. This food is so powerful, it ruined my workout without actually putting a single morsel into my mouth. Garbage Plates may be deities in the diet ruining arena.

This, in no way, suggests that I do not eat these foods, except for maybe the Garbage Plate. In fact, I recommend eating them, except for the GP. I have eaten them all many times, except for the GP, and will continue to invade my weekly calorie count. As an aside, if you are competing in the Ironman Lake Placid, in my age group, and can beat me, I highly recommend you eat a Garbage Plate the night before AND the morning of the event. Send me a note and I'll bring a few for you to experiment with towards the end of July. For the rest of you, my advice is to savor them post-workout when the burning, bloating, and sluggishness does not impede performance.

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greatest Swimming Advice Ever

What I'm about to tell you has never before been put in print by a swimmer or a triathlete. It is a secret that has been handed down from generation to generation of swimmers. The only people who know this sacred bit of wisdom are swimmers or former-swimmers. Coaches will pull only the lucky few aside and share this with only the best of the best. The elite get eliter and the others get brushed by the wayside.

"Well then," you ask, "how is it that the Banter knows?" Whereas it's true that I was a former swimmer and have had many a coach over the years, it's also quite well known that I was not considered great. Elite was definitely not an adjective used to describe me. I may have been good. Fortunately, the word 'good' encompasses a spectrum of possibilities in which I might have snuck in at the end. I would accept that, at one point in my life, for a short period of time, I was something close to good.

Anyway, how do I know? It just so happened that one day, back in my days as a swimmer, as opposed to my former-swimmer present self, I had a coach who was privy to the secret knowledge. Or, at least I think he was. How he got it I was unsure. He had something and he was willing to share. Just not with me. Awkward on multiple levels. There was also a guy on the team who fit the description of the inner circle (translation, he was good, not marginally good). Truth be told, I had beaten that guy in a set on more than one occasion. And, since I'm writing truthfully, he was doing sculling drills and I was in a sprint set. But, a win is a win and I had won. So I got that snippet of bragging rights over this guy.

Well, one day I happened to be walking past coach's office on my way to class. This was in college and even though I was a Division I, NCAA Student Athlete, general education requirements forced me to take a physical education class. Our school offered the most ridiculous PE options, such as weight lifting and theory of sport. Seriously? How do those classes have practical world applications? But, requirements are just that, required. It was obvious at that stage of my life that a career as a professional swimmer was likely out of the question. I did not even bother retaining an agent nor entering my name independently into the Pro Swimmer's Draft, a decision that I regret to this day. You never know. Regardless, I was requisitioned to a PE class.

As I was heading towards the weight room (I opted not to take theory), I noticed that Coach's door was slightly ajar. I had full intention on wasting time before class by talking theory with Coach (I know, the irony). I could hear Coach talking in hushed tones. Now, if ever you want someone to listen, you should drop your voice and whisper. People will think it's important and strain extra hard to hear what you are saying (that was a free tip and not the intention of this message). Through the crack in the door, I could see that he was talking to one of the guys on my team. I was waiting for the right moment to knock and announce my presence. I am ashamed to admit that I was satisfied in my eavesdropping at the time.

"Here's what all the great swimmers know. All of them. Mark Spitz, Pablo Morales, Jenny Thompson. Hell, even Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps know this." Coach said.

I could plainly see that Coach had my teammate's attention as well as mine. I was even more surprised at the naming of Phelps and Coughlin. Not because of their swimming status but because this was the early 90's, Michael was only about 5 years old and Natalie was 8. Sure, they could still have beaten me in the water but that's getting a little off topic.

"There is a life of swimming after swimming," Coach continued. Then he launched into a tale of epic proportions. I am not a detail-oriented guy and some of the exact words are lost in the jungle of brain rot I have swishing in my cranium. I am, to the best of my knowledge, a good paraphraser and generally get the gist of the message even when the specifics are blurred.

Coach's story told of adults that joined adult teams at non-competitive pools. They had community pools and these things called "YMCAs". (Aside: I had to look up the latter only to realize that the YMCA was synonymous with the Y. Apparently, the national governing body had decided that YMCA was too long to write and to pronounce resulting in a name change to just one letter. End aside.) There's also a good chance that this pool is not within walking distance from campus (although, he may have said house). You have to drive. And, there's a good chance that you'll be swimming in the morning because the afternoon times are controlled by screaming children. And, there is also a good chance that your suit will be semi-wet upon changing. Finally, there's a chance that you don't like donning a cold, wet suit. Coach was taking a lot of chances here, which turned out to be true on all accounts.

Here's the Ancient Swimming Advice:
Place your suit on the dashboard of your car while commuting to the pool. Turn on the heat to defrost. By the time you arrive at the pool, the suit will have absorbed and stored some of the heat making it wonderfully pleasant to your boys or lady spot.

Up until that point, I had been putting on a cold, wet suit which was not fun for my boys. I can't imagine it would be good for your lady spot (assuming any ladies actually read my blog, swim, and have sensitive lady spots). So now, I faithfully drive to the Y, happily dropping 3 letters from my vocabulary, place the suit on the dash, and defrost set to full heat and high. Upon arrival, I look forward to pulling on that warm, fresh-out-of-the-dryer lycra jammer. My lady spot boys have never complained since.

Now, if only I could remember what Coach said about staring at the water for 10 minutes before jumping in, out of fear that the water may be cold, especially when you know that the water temps are super high. That would be a good story to tell too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Skill Searching

I am jealous of people who have skills (use your best Napoleon Dynamite voice here). The Wife, she's got crazy good computer, problem solving skills. The BIL, he's a genius in meteorology and quite the skilled brewer of ales. My dad can fix things, a real handyman of sorts. (Granted, he's lazy and unmotivated, of which I have inherited, but has fix-it skills that I did not inherit). Me? I've got nothing. I've been long searching for a skill that can set me apart from the average man. Something that I can say, "Yup, I can do that better that the average bloke." After my first race of the season, I think I've found it...

Get ready to laugh

I'm relatively good at running down hills. I had no idea that this was in my skill set. I have been doing hill repeats since I can remember. I don't like them but I recognize their benefit. And, after all these years, I have been focusing on the uphill. My progress on the ascent has been stagnant at best. I never thought that there was a collateral benefit of developing any skill on the other side. How did I miss this? Or, rather, how do I know? Race data.

Two weeks ago, I competed in a 15k hilly course run. Having lost all of the important data to the mythical Garmin Never-Never Land, I got none of the heart rate, speed, distance, hills profile, pacing stuff that I wanted to analyze. Not that I am all that great in data analysis (remember; not many skills), I really wanted to look at the graphs as pretty little pictures of a day's work well done. What I got was a big void for the morning's run. I had to look at the anecdotal evidence to help. And the anecdote that repeats in my brain was a story told by Bob.

As a warning, I am not good with names. Bob may actually be this guy's real name. On the other hand, it may not even be close. I remember what Bob looks like. I remember that I beat him in the race. I also remember him being one of the older runners that passed me around the 9.2 mile mark in a 9.3 mile race. You can go back to my original tale if you want the full(er) story. If I checked the official race results, I am sure I could find his real name. But, I have not downloaded the official results as of yet (see note above on my dad and inheritance). Alas, his name is not all that important in this ditty, only his recap of the event to his other friend, during which I was present.

We were walking down the path towards or respective vehicles with smiles ablazing. Bob was reciting how he thought he was going to beat me in the race because it was quite obvious that he was better on the uphills but I smoked him on the downhills.

Bob's Tale

Fade in:
It's a blissful, crisp spring morning. About 500 idiots gathered on a park road to go for a run. Just a run. No swim or bikes present. In the background, there's a woman announcing various race related garble-de-gook voiced-over a musical mix of supposed pump-up tunes. The starting line, where I was standing, was just a white-chalked vector with the word "start". It was roughly a quarter mile away from where the woman's chatter and music seemed to be sourced. Nearer the starting line, a man with a bull horn shouted out the ever-important race instructions with such authority and intensity that no one was listening. The crowd knew the drill and was singularly focused on a spot about 800 yards ahead, to which they would soon be running. Suddenly, there was a yell that stirred the people into action, hundreds of watches beeped to life, and we were launched forward into our human Pamplona.

The first mile was a bit chaotic. The mass of flesh and spandex was being hurdled southward. To stop was to die underneath the pitter-patter of all sorts of colorful shoes developed for every kind of pronation imagined. After the first gradual uphill and some distance away from the chalkline, the shoulders of my neighbors thinned from about 15 across to about 3 across. We had dropped into our paces. The biggest hills loomed off in the distance begging to be conquered.

I was running in a mixed pack of about 6 or so. We'd be together on the flats hitting the same pace for the past three-quarters of a mile. As we turned the corner, there she was like Olympus laughing at the Greeks, the first real hill of the day. My pack and I start going up. Based on the views of their butts, they were gapping me. These men and women with relatively nice, runner-type figures were ascending the hill. They showed me no mercy. They tackled that hill with ease and grace, leaving me behind to wallow in my own self-struggle for precious oxygen. They were gone and I was betrayed. I made the crest and they were still in sight but I started the descent alone.

Then, a miracle happened. I caught my group roughly halfway down the slope. I was not happy to see them. I was seething with vengeance. "How dare you leave me?" I wanted to shout! But, I held it in. I let gravity work its magic and widened the gap between me and my now-former running mates. The slope was long enough for me to catch a new pack and run with them, my old allegiances forgotten.

That's the way the morning went. I'd go searching for a new group on the downs and flats only to be betrayed on the ups. I was making good time and had yet to develop any true adversaries, except for Bob. Bob was in the original pack and had his sights set on me. Why he chose me I did not know. It's just that in Bob's eyes, I had a target painted on my back and he just got his hunting license renewed. Bob was not only older but wiser, more experienced, and had run the course several times before. He knew exactly when to fire his shot.

I, of course, was completely oblivious to all of this. I didn't even know Bob existed until that morning. And I, in my arrogance, did not pay him any attention. I was the prey on an island in which I believed existed no predators. Therefore, I kept running. I'd limp up the one side and fly down the other ignoring all those that I passed. Up slow and down like a flash flood.

The course was cruel. Between marks 8.5 and 9.1, there was a lot more ascending than the opposite. Despite having built a sizable lead over Bob, I was being reeled in. Step by laborious step, Bob was closing the chasm. Worse for me, he brought along the pack. They all followed his lead for he was the Alpha with a plan and I was a pawn just trying to survive the storm. At roughly the 9.15 mile mark, Bob and the gang overtook me. I saw their familiar backsides and became enraged. The emotion was wasted. There was still a smidgen more hill and it was pointed up. They were better than me but the event was not over. This was a 9.3 mile race, my adversaries were in the lead and time was slipping away. But, Pandora let Hope out of the box as well and I clung to that thought as I started the flat.

I came now where near winning the overall prize on the day but inside every race are many other races not reported in the newspapers nor covered on TV. Just because the media refuses to acknowledge the sub-races does not means they do not exist. I am sure there were hundreds of battles waged that morning and this is only the tale of mine. Had the race ended at the chalk line, I would have lost. But remember, the lady was announcing from a distance. She was camped near the finish line. Her voice was the one that welcomed the battle-hardened survivors. She was also downhill from me. Downhill. The battle-tide was about to turn for the last time this morn.

From mile 9.2 to the glorious arch labeled "Finish" was a sharp gradient leading to a lake. Fortunately, they put the arch several hundred feet in front of the beach allowing for plenty of stopping time before you took the plunge. A quick dog-leg right started the sprint. Bob's pack spent their wad on the last bit of ups and I surged for the victory buried in the 90'th places.

Bob was a gracious loser in our personal battle. He, after the conclusion of the race, walked right up to me with a big grin on his face, looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and said, "Wow, what a run!" Several members of the pack did the same. As it turns out, they had the same goal as I did on the run, sub-1:10. I had apparently helped them achieve their goal. Adversaries no more, rather we were allies in a war against a common enemy.

"Still," Bob said as we were heading towards our get-away vehicles, "I wanted to beat you. I thought I had succeeded too. I had forgotten about that last down." A member of Bob's gang, who had beaten us both, looked at Bob quizzically. "We'd go past on the uphills and this guy would fly right on by on the downs. I don't know how he did it. He was clearly better at running downhill than us."
Fade out.

After all of my skill searching, it took a keen observation from a guy who may or may not have been named Bob to identify my skill. So there you have it. Based on this race, I can finally say these words. I can run downhill better than the average bloke. It's not much and has very little real-world, practical applications, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not Competing in the 'Ironman' This Year

The Local Ironman?
I recently did a search for Ironman, hunting for ideas, tips, tidbits, or kernels of knowledge that I do not already know. (Okay, I was procrastinating life.) Granted, I know next to nothing so this sort of search should have proven lucrative. Not only did I come across some great info, blogs, tips, etc. I found an Ironman race here in Rochester, NY.

I was shocked. I am a proponent of the Ironman and have no problem with the WTC. I thought the nearest IronEvent was in Lake Placid, which I have been traveling and competing for the past 5 years and will continue to do so until I qualify for Kona, run out of money, or the Wife threatens divorce (whichever comes first). Even then, I might still have to think about getting out of the IronBusiness. Truth is, I am enjoying the lifestyle. There is a 70.3/ Half-Ironman in Syracuse- about a 90-minute drive. I may do that race, still undecided as of yet. How is it that I have missed an Ironman in Rochester? Surely I would have seen it on the website, seen it on the news, or read it in the paper. What gives?

Side Tracked with a Point
When I travel, which is not all that often, I make it a point to sample the local cuisine. Go to Florida, must eat seafood. Go to Maine, buy some lobster. Go to Indiana, eat some corn (as if you had a choice). Oklahoma is screaming for you to eat meat (I mean literally-there's a sign as you enter the state that actually says "Eat Meat"). Wisconsin has its cheese. Buffalo has its wings. Chicago has its deep dish pizza. Local food rocks. I went to a nerd science teacher conference in New Orleans. I ate something called a Po' Boy, which was a hoagie, which was a grinder, which was a sub. I also ate gumbo, alligator, goulash, crawfish, frog legs, oysters, and something really creepy called a "burger." Ahh, that was a pretty good afternoon for eating.

So often, other cities try to mimic by stealing some other city's idea and making a half-assed version. Take the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. You'd better believe that if I were ever in Philadelphia, I'd reward the local economy by sampling an authentic PCS sandwich. I've eaten plenty of them in my life time and I'd sure like to know what the template tastes like. Either that, or get other cities to use their whole ass when making the sandwich.

Sadly, I live in a city whose claim to food is even too extreme for my undiscerning taste buds to sample. We have what's lovingly referred to as a "Garbage Plate." Confused? Disgusted? Wait. Let me share with you the Garbage concept. Imagine going to an All-American Family Restaurant and ordering one of those burger things. You tend to get beef, bread, lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard and (for some reason) a pickle. As for sides, you can choose from french fries, coleslaw, baked beans and/ or macaroni salad. In most reputable establishments, these are separated on a dish so that you may sample each individually at your own beckoning.

Not the Garbage Plate. Take all of that aforementioned greasy goodness and pile it on top of each other. Form a make-shift casserole of greasy, gooey, fatty ooze. Allow the drip and splatter of each of the Atkins approved items mix and mingle into one larger, flowing blob of artery hardening nutrition. This is a Garbage Plate (or an old Hitchcock movie).

Now, I am not normally afraid of anything. (Well, except for spiders, snakes, bats, vampires, tiny pebbles, hot chicks, failure, making a fool of myself, rejection, stubbing my toe, public speaking, and writing a bad blog post.) My belly can normally handle just about anything. I have not been able to bring myself to eat this chemistry experiment of food.

Finally, the Point
Apparently, one of the local universities has stolen the triathlon spirit of the word, Ironman (who stole it from a comic book, but that's a different story), and used it to their philanthropic advantage. According to Wikipedia, the number one source for questionable knowledge...
A charitable Garbage Plate Run is sponsored by the University of Rochester's Sigma Phi Epsilon. Held annually in the spring, this three-man race begins at the U of R River Campus. The first of the team members run 2.2 miles through the city to Nick Tahou's. Once they arrive, the second teammate eats a garbage plate as quickly as they are able, then the final teammate runs back to campus to complete the race. In a race titled the "Ironman", one-man teams attempt to complete all three tasks alone.
The Fraternity Boys donate all proceeds from this event to the CURE Childhood Cancer Association.  I am not sure who pays for the projectile cleanup along the route. I am also unsure how to get a 'one-man team.' But, consider the source.

Notice how the wiki completely fails to tell you if anyone has actually completed the The Garbage Plate Ironman. Doesn't seem likely. I think they entitle you a success for even attempting the feat. Good luck to all of the IronGarbageMen. This event is too strong for me. I'm going to keep with the traditional Ironman (no, not the comic book guy) and allow the hills of Lake Placid to beat me up. Two point four miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running seems significantly easier than the Garbage Plate Run.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Art of Negotiation

I'd like to think that not only am I a triathlete, I'm also a good citizen.  I have a job. I pay my taxes. I volunteer. If I ever saw an old lady trying to cross the street, I'd at least think on helping her. Alas, old ladies don't do a whole lot of street crossing in my area making that thought rather moot.

Since my immediate vicinity lacks any desperate need, I decided that I would help on a much larger scale. Take, for example, the weather. It's no secret that I have been having a personal feud with winter. The cold and me just don't seem to get along. The longer I brood, the longer winter seems to laugh at me. Recently, however, I've come to realize that this approach has not been fair to you, especially if you live in the northern/ eastern/ midwestern... especially if you live. You have been negatively affected by my attitude and I decided that I would fix it, or at least try to fix it.

"How," you ask, "does one lowly scrub control the weather?" If you look in the right places, you can get the right email addresses. From there, it's only a matter of phrasing your perspective in a positive win-win manner. You must go into full-negotiation mode, speak sternly, and offer up something in trade. I took these concepts and sent a message right to the source of the problem. I have a sworn confidentiality agreement banning me from sharing these addresses. The agreement does not ban me from sharing with you the content of my message. The email can be seen below, in its entirety...

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Polar Ice Caps,

I don't want to waste your time and beat around the bush. I'm going to come right out and say it, "I AM SORRY.' I am sorry for all of the greenhouse gases that humanity has thrust into the air. I am sorry for invading your shores and setting up research facilities on your face. I am sorry for the immense carbon footprint currently being spewed into the atmosphere. I am sorry for the all of the factories. I am sorry for all of the forest burnings of both modern day and industrial revolution day. I am sorry for the developing nations who are repeating the emissions mistakes of the past. I am sorry for the developed nations who allow politicking to hinder common sense. In a nutshell, I apologize on behalf of the entire human race for any past, present, and future inconveniences that we may have caused you.

Now that I, as an honorable member of our species, have formally issued condolences for our misgivings, I want to tell you what I have personally done and am willing to do in the future.
  1. I am an avid recycler. I want my community to increase their recycling abilities. Until then, I try to put as much into my little blue bucket as possible. In fact, we actually have 2 little blue buckets. We stole the one from our last house in the move just so we could recycle more efficiently. A means to an end, right?
  2. I carpool to work. In a hybrid. That's a two-fer in environmentally friendliness.
  3. I have installed zoned heating and digital thermostats in all areas of my home. When not using an area of the house, the temperature is quite low to save energy. I've learned that the low temps keep the Wife out of those rooms, should I ever need to use that to my advantage.
  4. I have, and will do more often, ridden my bicycle to work. Yes, I understand that by riding my bike to work, I ruin my carpool. I am working on getting my carpool mate to bike too. (Okay, she is working on me to bike more. What's important is that someone is working.)
  5. I like to grow vegetables and will do so on a larger scale. Not larger vegetables. Just more of them (I want to make sure I'm clear).
  6. I will hang my laundry to dry, especially my workout clothes. And, since I'm a teacher, workout clothes constitute roughly 75% of my summer garb. This is a big reduction in dryer sheets.
  7. My home does not have an AC unit, preferring to use ceiling fans as our main means of coolant. Uncomfortable in the summer, sure. But, what do you care? It helps you out.
  8. The lights in my house are consistently off. Since I'm not that attractive, this works to my benefit. Further, we are in the process of exchanging the traditional bulbs to those spiral thingies.
  9. We did the energy assessment and completed all of the recommendations that the guy advised. He was a pretty good guy. Smart-like. Maybe I'll introduce you.
  10. As our appliances go bad, we will replace them with Energy Star quality stuff. Honestly, we started doing it a long time ago, mostly because we liked the way the star looked. We learned later that there was an energy savings to accompany the designer astronomical figure. Lucky, I guess.
Understand Mr. and Mrs. Caps, that I am willing to do more. Please- I am begging you- please tell me what you would like. You say it and I'll do it. You are the boss and I am your servant. Command me and I will be your slave.

I only ask that, in return, you let go of your grasp on my region. You relinquish your desire to send unseasonable cold weather to our area, day after day, week after week, with no end in sight. Ease up on your anger. I get it. You are mad and you have every right to so be. Revenge is not the answer. I feel duly punished and thank you for my new-found humility.

Therefore, please allow the sun to heat the surface of the Earth so that I might go outside without a jacket. I want to turn off my heat. I want to open the windows and breathe the same polluted air that enrages you. I want spring and, after that, summer. I want my my whitish hue skin to be replaced with a nice shade of pink. I want my deodorant bill to increase with the decrease in my energy bill. But, I cannot do it alone. I need your help. Encourage the jet stream to take its normal place in the higher latitudes and all will be well. Warmer temperatures will arrive and I can actually break ground on that garden I want to plant. Hanging clothes will dry before they freeze. Biking to work won't come with frostbite.

Again, on behalf of all humanity, I am sorry. Please accept my apology and return life back to normal. I look forward to your response in the near future.

Humbly submitted,

The Banter

So there you have it. I apologized to Mr. and Mrs. Caps. I am uncertain which lives in the north and which in the south. I am assuming that they got the message. They are notoriously bad email responders, choosing to speak through actions rather than digital print. Since this weekend is expected to be much warmer, I can also assume that they accepted my apology. As for the rest of you, you are welcome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Forward- Race Review and Results

This past weekend, I had my first race of the year. The word 'race' is used loosely as I knew going into the event that I had absolutely no hope on winning. I was competing against myself, the clock, and last year's performance.

Here's how the day went down:
The race itself was well organized in conjunction by the awesome folks at Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket racing. They have put on and will continue to put on high quality, low budget types of races. I like the event distance as there are not many 15k's in the area. They have a nice route and gather the nicest volunteers. Since the race was on a Sunday, the volunteers were as much as cheerleaders as there was not much work to do. I can't imagine getting out of bed at 7:00 am to hand out water to sweaty, smelly, gross guys in the cold. Yet, there where tables and lines of friendly faces yelling and screaming. I love the volunteers at such places. I fed off their energy and appreciate all the work that goes into such an event.

The race start was 8:30 am. I set the alarm for 5:15 with the intention of getting out of bed, getting in a morning beverage and eating in time to not want to yack during the run. This was pretty much what happened. I'm a bit methodical when it comes to race preparation, having made my mistakes years ago. Now, I pack the bag the night before and have everything laid out ahead of time. Experience has taught me that I'm not a good thinker in the wee hours. It has also taught me that the piece of mind that accompanies neurotic bag packing is far better than the middle of the night, 'Oh crap, I forgot to ______.' I slept easy.

Race time temperature was a blustery 37º with the wind out of the WNW. There was this weird anomaly in the sky, off in the east, creating a blinding yellow light. I have patches of memory of that thing but I was struggling to recall it clearly. I had planned for cooler and made sure to wear shorts under my jogging pants. I, at the last minute, chose to drop the pants and stick with the shorts. My legs yelled at me. Not because of the temperature, just because they had not seen the outside world in months. They were uncertain how to behave in an exposed environment and snarled like vampires being exposed to the sun's (?) harmful rays.

Review of the Plan
Having set specific goals for the race, I established a race plan with the hopes of beating a 7:30 pace (under 1:10). If you want to read the entire plan, along background and extraneous information, you can do so here. If not, I applaud your laziness and took the liberty of copying the plan. Comments for each layer of the plan can be found below.
  • Thoroughly warm up. I hate warming up for distance events. I would rather use the first mile or two as a warm up. But, since this is a non-priority race, I'll probably use it as a long run day. Warm up will probably happen before 7:00 and consist of about 2-3 miles on the treadmill (of which I also hate). It should get the juices flowing and adequately clean out the system.
Status of the Plan: Failed
The Wife did not get out of bed. Since it was the weekend, it was early, and the treadmill reverberates through the bedroom, I granted her the gift of sleeping in. And since it was cold outside at 7 am and I am a pansy I think that warming up in a cold environment defeats the purpose, I hung out on the Lazy-Boy until it was time to go. I arrived on site at roughly 8:05, had to pick up my chip then off to the potty. Then, I went back to the car to hydrate, caffeinate, and sit. I emerged from the car at 8:25 and made it to the starting line with about 2 minutes to go. This meant that I had much more running to do post race to achieve long run status. It also means that my motivation to warm up (displaced as it is) has gone way down for distance events.
  • Control the first 4 miles. Given that the race starts out mostly downhill, I need to keep my HR down. I don't want to see much of Z2 until after mile 2. I don't want to see Z3 until after mile 4. Build into the process.
Status of the Plan: Failed
The hill profile meant that there was an early hill which spiked my HR. My legs don't appreciate the morning and neither does the heart. Either that or the Garmin was playing the first of its evil tricks for the day. If it was physiological or Garminological, I was being mocked. The hazing was to ensure to give me n+5 kinds of numbers for comparative perceived effort. I was well into z2 by mile 2. Zone 3 found its way into my life by mile 3 with spikes into z4 on the uphills. I may have seen z5 on multiple occasions. Not at all what I planned.
  • Keep the ego in check. Yes, I want to beat that 5'4" girl running in pigtails and pink clothes. Yes, if that 11 year old boy beats me it will be a blow to my manhood. This is not about them. Let it go. Try and pass them at mile 9, not mile 2. Passing them at mile 9 still means I win. Remember that.
Status of the Plan: Fragments of Success
I was beaten by not 1, but at least 2 girls in pink. Sadly, they were not in pigtails but were sporting nice ponies. Since I was a gentleman this morning with the Wife and her sleeping in, I decided that I would continue this behavior and "allow" these women to beat me. I am sure I could have beaten them. I 'chose' not to. They were definitely not better runners than me. I swear. And, I did not see any teenagers on the course, so I assume that I beat them. I refuse to analyze the results searching for kids' times. (Sorry, I let the ego take over the keyboard for a while. I held it in check during the race and it demanded to have some computer time.) I will admit that a pair of older runners (not sure how old, but they had ample amounts of gray in their hair), one male and one female passed me at the 9.2 mile mark. The ego flared up. I may have sworn at them. I was required to out-sprint them to the line which I did so dutifully.
  • Accept that I haven't done much speed work lately and 7:30 is lofty. The biggest success will come from building on last year's information and using that to my advantage. I will not accept walking. I will accept beating last year's time.
Status of the Plan: Acheived
In this section of the message, I had envisioned a detailed play-by-play/ mile-by-mile recap of HR, pace, hills, etc. Fun to write and even better to read. I have an auto-beep every .25 mile and an auto-lap every 1 mile. The auto-beep reminds me to look at the watch and check for HR and pace. At 7:30 per mile, I need to subtract about 8 seconds off every beep to achieve my pace goal. This happened way more often than not. I was a bit concerned about the first mile. I wanted to start off slowly. Last year, mile one was 7:12, which I deemed overboard. I was thinking that 7:40 would be appropriate and build into my race. What happened at mile one this time? 7:08. I thought I was going to implode. Still, I only remember 2 split times being higher than 7:30 (one was 7:32, the other was much slower). When the race ended, I checked my time. Under 1:10 for the race (1:09.18 on the watch). Goal time achieved! I grabbed some water and some sports drink. I reset my watch and went for an easy 5-miles to finish off my long day of running. Then I got home, excited about the effort. I connected the ANT+ device and downloaded my data. Race data- Gone. Easy 5 mile run data- available. I tried to re-download, re-upload, and was very near tossing the device out the window. Quite grumpy. No race data. No HR. No laps. No new hill profile. Nothing. My Garmin failed me.
  • Caffeinate. Modestly. I do like the jittery feel and how it hides most non-bowel related pains during the peak. Since I plan on using caffeine later in the season, I should start experimenting now on how it will serve me. It's better to get the system on line now than on the big day.
Status of Plan: Inconclusive
I have 2 versions of caffeine at my disposal. Version one is hidden inside of my morning ambrosia (homemade mocha latte). The espresso and chocolate are both caffeine donors. Since I sipped this elixir around 6:00, the jittery punch had long since receded by race time. I needed a booster shot. I have a caffeine supplement. They are little, horrible-tasting yellow pills each providing about 125 mg of good-vibrations. I take them with me when I travel to races and when I camp for training. Because I am lazy and do not wish to carry a separate container for my multivitamins, I have mixed in some MV with my yellow pills of power. Two pills+one container= efficient. Looking back, I have a sneaking suspicion that I was still sleeping around 8:10 when I popped my stimulants and may have taken 2 light-pink vitamins instead. With the sun's glare, everything looked the same to me. I have no recollection of any of the usual side-effects of being heavily caffeinated. This may provide evidence that I don't need them. But, again, I have no idea if it had actually happened.

In Conclusion
I achieved all of my goals for the day. Sub 7:30 pace- achieved. Sub 1:10 race time- achieved. No near-death experiences- achieved. Despite the condition of the race plan, the morning was an overall success. I did not hit the wall at any time and I felt adequately prepared. I might just be a sucky planner. It was a good day and I will probably include this event on my next year's schedule.

This race just goes to prove that I am not much of a runner in terms of adult, amateur, recreational athletics. The guy who won the race (I did check his age just to ensure he was not the prophesised teenager) beat me by more than 20 minutes. WOW. I can even imagine going 20 minutes faster even if the entire race was downhill. I did not place in my age group. I 'allowed' several woman to outrun me. Out of 550+ people, I just barely broke the top 100. Still not bad. Also, not great. I, comparatively speaking, am a much better triathlete than raw runner. I have great respect for the guys and gals out there who can excel at these races. Come on summer, or spring for that matter. I want the water to warm up and start the swim-bike equalizer which transforms my race results from average to awesome.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Forward- Race Preview

The Race
On Sunday, the first official race of the Banter 2011 Race Schedule kicks off. The Spring Forward race is held in beautiful Mendon Ponds Park, one of the major highlights of life in the Rochester area. The race is a 15k road race that completely misses the park itself, preferring to take advantage of the nicely paved roadways and the decreased traffic flow accompanying a Sunday morning.

With the (unreliable)  forecast featuring overnight lows near the freezing line and rain a possibility, I am pleased that I have paid money for this event. Otherwise, I'd be prone to sleeping in and sulking about the crappiness of my existence in pseudo-tundraland. The forking over of cash is enabling and empowering, meaning. I will be at the starting line, rain or shine (or snow), warm or cold, when the starter blows his whistle.

The course is advertised as hilly and I'm not one to argue with the claim. I did this race last year. Here is the hill profile posted on their website...
Now, here's the one taken from my Garmin...

Not bad. Notice how the course is rolling throughout the entire run and how the biggest climbs tend to happen near the end. This is borderline cruel.

The History
A year ago, I was completely unprepared for this race. Some of the ladies I coached were gunning towards their first 1/2 Marathon. One of them convinced me that this run was a good idea. "Sure," I said. "No problem. I'll get up and run with you." The ego was flaring up again.

I had every intention of starting out the race easy. I was thinking that 8:00 per mile pace was doable. What I didn't count on was the race-day mentality. See, in addendum to the male-ego gene is a small portion on the end which controls competition. The competition addendum states that people are supposed to be behind you, not in front. Make sure it happens.

Now, couple the competition addendum with the hill profile and you get a fast start. Having had this race basically thrust upon me, I had not trained for a fast start. It didn't matter. The ego gene had taken over and logic was left in the car with my extra sweatshirt. Both would be important later in the day, just useless now. Right around the one mile mark, I beeped in at a comfortable 7:12 minute mile with the heart rate steady in lower zone 2. It wouldn't last.

I'll save you the details of the rest of the race and allow you to glean them for yourself.
Banter Pace Profile

Banter HR Profile

I will give you some highlights. As you can see, the pace profile has an overall negative slope and gradually drops below the 8:00/ mile line as the race goes on. The HR profile has a positive slope, start to finish, and hovers around the 180 bpm mark, which is borderline zone 4 for me. Since this race is early season, I've done near to no training in z4 and the heart was not happy. At the 1 hour mark, there is a distinct drop in both profiles. This had absolutely nothing to do with me walking. Honest. It was my second wind, however brief, kicking in.

In the end, I finished with an average pace of 8:04 and an overall time of 1:15. This year, I'm hoping to do better.

Plan of Attack
As stated before, I'd like to have a 7:30 minute per mile average pace. In order to achieve this, I must have a game plan for race day. My plan goes something like this...
  1. Thoroughly warm up. I hate warming up for distance events. I would rather use the first mile or two as a warm up. But, since this is a non-priority race, I'll probably use it as a long run day. Warm up will probably happen before 7:00 and consist of about 2-3 miles on the treadmill (of which I also hate). It should get the juices flowing and adequately clean out the system.
  2. Control the first 4 miles. Given that the race starts out mostly downhill, I need to keep my HR down. I don't want to see much of Z2 until after mile 2. I don't want to see Z3 until after mile 4. Build into the process.
  3. Keep the ego in check. Yes, I want to beat that 5'4" girl running in pigtails and pink clothes. Yes, if that 11 year old boy beats me it will be a blow to my manhood. This is not about them. Let it go. Try and pass them at mile 9, not mile 2. Passing them at mile 9 still means I win. Remember that.
  4. Accept that I haven't done much speed work lately and 7:30 is lofty. The biggest success will come from building on last year's information and using that to my advantage. I will not accept walking. I will accept beating last year's time.
  5. Caffeinate. Modestly. I do like the jittery feel and how it hides most non-bowel related pains during the peak. Since I plan on using caffeine later in the season, I should start experimenting now on how it will serve me. It's better to get the system on line now than on the big day.
So there you have it. The first event is soon underway. Spring has arrived in terms of racing if not in terms of temperature. Time to get the body used to performing in groups, in the morning, and (hopefully) in comfort. I'll check back in after the race and let you know how it goes.