Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Exercise Hangover

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with, nor was it inspired by, the bad movie currently being sequeled on the big screen. This is an unrelated Hollywood post.

The Symptoms
If have to tell you, I currently feel awful. I've got no energy. I'm sluggish. I've got a headache. I can't get comfortable. Even quiet noises are too loud for me. The bright light hurts my eyes. I'm constantly thirsty. My heart rate is elevated. I'm having issues walking. I'm even typing more slow than usual (which means that this post, upon completion, will have taken me roughly 16 hours to complete). It's torture.

Luckily we live in a world where going to the doctor is completely unnecessary. First, I'm a guy and it's anti-ego to go to the doctor for anything less than a missing limb. Second, I have the internet. Google knows all and sees all. I did some research and according to the Mayo Clinic, I have all of the classic symptoms of a hangover.

The Causes
According to the geniuses in the near-Arctic called Minnesota, I've had a bad run in with booze:
  • Alcohol stimulates your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration — often characterized by thirst, dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. In particular, your immune system may trigger certain agents that commonly produce symptoms such as an inability to concentrate, memory problems, decreased appetite and loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach, increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
  • Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness and mood disturbances.
  • Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headaches.
  • Alcohol can make you sleepy — but your quality of sleep will decrease. This may leave you groggy and fatigued.
  • Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients called congeners — which give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and which can contribute to hangovers. Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy and whiskey, than in clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.
The Problem
I had nothing to ethanolic to drink. I'm coming off an intense weekend of training. And, these were the first workouts in heat surpassing 70º F (21º C if anyone is reading outside the US because 70º C would be ridiculous Oklahoma weather). Humidities were over 80%. The body is not acclimated to such tropical blasts. I have not calculated my sweat rate so there is a good chance I did not drink enough. Further, I ran out of good sport drink mix and was stuck with over-the-counter Gatorade mix. My guess is that I was concurrently sweating more than normal while under caloried and under hydrated. I estimate that the weekend's activities pulled 2 pounds of adipose right from my belly.

The Substitution
Yet, I think the Mayo people may be on to something. There's absolutely no reason I could not recreate the conditions of drunken stupor without imbibing. It's like exercising is immaculate boozing. For those of you who have met me, this is completely within the realm of possibilities, at least behavior-wise. If you exchange the word 'alcohol' with the word 'working out' in each of the above, it makes sense unanimously. Check it out:
  • Working Out Alcohol stimulates your body to produce more urine. Certainly applies for me. Given a run or ride of longer than an hour, I inevitably have to pull over for a pit-stop. Never mind what happens when I submerge my hands into the excessively warm pool water.
  • Working Out Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. How else would you explain the redness and irritability of my skin? When I finish a workout, I am warm, flush, and lobster-esque. The sun may also be involved. Classic inflammatory response.
  • Working Out Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach. For anyone who has had GI problems during a workout (which includes me), many of these problems are related to digestion and absorption. Clearly this is an irritation of the lining of the stomach. My stomach is rock solid until I add the bounce and jiggle of a good run.
  • Working Out Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall. Duh. This is one of the major consequences of working out. Your body uses its sugar which inherently causes the blood sugar to fall.
  • Working Out Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, I have a headache. According to Mayo, this is caused by big blood vessels. Through deductive reasoning (or is it inductive, I always confuse them) the evidence of a headache is proof of expanded venules.
  • Working Out Alcohol can make you sleepy — so tired. Can't keep typing. Will sleep soon but toss and turn all night thinking about something else witty to put in the blog and failing miserably (as evidenced by this post).
  • Working Out Alcohol beverages contain ingredients called congeners — Should you actually read the ingredients of Gatorade powder mix, congeners lie under salt on the list. Sometimes, they mask congeners and call it 'dextrose'. They give G-ade its color and some of its tacky flavor.
The Solution
Of course, the boys in the Land of 10,000 Lakes have very little to say about how to prevent exercise-induced hangovers. They do give some tips to lessen the blow. They are quite insistent that eating before drinking helps. They also believe that mixing water with your booze is a good idea. Certainly I could battle my headache with some drugs, namely ibuprofen. They also suggest an extra long night's sleep.

If you read what the exercise experts say about recovery, it is almost verbatim. Take in calories during workouts of longer than 90 minutes (which I did, but to a lesser than ideal extent). Eat plenty of low GI carbs post-workout (which I did not as I opted to go to the Rib Fest). Drink plenty of water (which I did, but to a lesser than ideal extent). Post-workout, an anti-inflammatory helps to reduce swelling and speeds recovery (which I did). Sleep encourages the body to release Human Growth Hormone, which builds muscle and promotes feeling better. Therefore, more sleep is better (I had average, at best).

This is not the first time I have experienced the exercise hangover. It normally happens right around the first big heat wave of the year (which tends to be early May but this year has been special for us). As the body becomes more accustomed to the heat, humidity, and the need to force my flesh through the atmosphere, the hangovers decrease. That is, unless, I open that next bottle of wine. At least then I'll have an excuse for my stupidity.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Working With My Hands

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men (and women) stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Some attribute this quote to George Orwell. Others to Winston Churchill.  (I'm pretty sure both Orwell and Churchill were triathletes, I might tell you about it later). Others say that the quote was fabricated. Well, somebody said it and they were a genius. So, a big thank you to all of those rough men and women who stand ready on my behalf. I will sleep peacefully tonight and I know I owe you a great debt that I will never be able to repay except in the gratitude and pride I have for you and my country.

Happy Memorial Day to all of you!

Now, on to less serious matters, your regularly scheduled blog post...

As I go through the blogging experience, I am learning what I am good at and what I suck at. I have learned, so far, that I can run down hills. I have also learned that I suck at planning. My most recent revelation is that I can put things together, with my own 2 hands.

Roughly a year ago, the Banter In Law left his coveted Oklahoma in route for Upstate NY. He is a triathlete and we took advantage of our shared interest to hang out, train, and eventually race. None of that is remotely important to this post. The important part is how he noticed my rudimentary tools for bicycle maintenance.

I guess that triathlon has allowed our relationship to grow. He decided that the medical tray, which the Wife purchased at the YMCA fundraising garage sale, was not the greatest venue for working on your machine. I simply balanced the saddle on the end of the tray. It has a crank allowing me to adjust height. All I had to do was brace the front wheel to keep it from slipping. The BIL, noticing the limitations of this set-up, was over generous and bought me a bike repair stand for Christmas.

I spent my entire winter training in the basement leaving the bike repair stand virtually useless. In the midst of Helheim, I had no need of a stand when I had the trainer. Now that the weather has eased up a bit, I've gotten outside more often. Still, more times than not, Mother Nature has taken it upon herself to remind me who's in charge by raining on my rides repeatedly. Now, the BIL's clairvoyance has made itself incredibly obvious. Rain begets grub and grime, which begets a broken bike. I don't want a broken bike. It's time to bust out the repair shop, only 6 months after the gift was received. 'Nothing like doing things in a timely manner,' I tell myself.

Of course, receiving this gift from Oklahoma, means that it arrives un-assembled. Which means that some assembly is required. The BIL absolutely refused to come back to NY with the intention of assembling it for me (I didn't actually ask him, but I'm pretty sure I know his answer). Which means that I had to do the work myself. I do hate work.

Here are the instructions on the left. These directions are perfect for visual learners.  Just pictures and schematics. I had to make sense of these shots, with these parts on the right.

As you can see, the makers of Park Tools bike stuff expect me to build an entire bike repair rack in 4 steps. I was not sure that it could be achieved, but I was giving the PT people the benefit of the doubt. I settled in and got to work.

The great people at Park Tool also predict that a majority of their customers, myself included, are morons. Based on that data, PT takes no chances. They not only make sure to include directions that require zero literacy skills, but they also expect that you do not have the simplest tools. They want you to build your bike rack and have no excuses against it. Let's see how I did.

Part 1
Yup, no words. Simply take the claw thingy, pull it apart, plug it in to the T thingy, smash it together, and continue pushing on the claw thingy.

My creation even looks like the picture. I am 25% of the way finished, but I bet the more challenging steps are yet to come.

Part 2
Now, take the straight pole and remove its top. Slide the feet thingy all the way down to the bottom and put the top back on. This didn't seem too hard. And, once again, I nailed it. Either the people at Park Tool underestimated my talent or I am a freak of mechanical nature. Before I get the ego in full swing, I'd better see what's up next.

Part 3
I must admit that when I looked at the instructions for parts 2 and 3, I was a bit confused. See, both parts featured straight poles. I was concerned that I might mix them up and biff the entire project. That would mean I'd have to write the BIL and beg for an entire new kit. I closed my eyes and took a stab at it. Maybe I'll add 'lucky' to my skill set (although I don't think luck actually counts as a skill).

Here, I took the 2 remaining straight poles and attached them with the nuts and washers. Casey the Newfoundland seems most unimpressed. What does he know?

Part 4

Take the result from Part 1 and slam it down into the result from Part 3. Tighten the hex nuts. And then, [turning the page over and back], nothing. The instructions stop like a dead end street. That's all she wrote.

As I step back and look at the product, I think to myself, 'This looks exactly like the drawing on the front of the box!' I am an engineering master.

So, with my own 2 hands and 6 hours of labor, I turned this:

into this:

Now I am set for all of my garage repair needs. The BIL, knowing that I am a mental midget when it comes to mechanics, went so far as to include Park Tool's big blue book of bike maintenance. With the bike rack and bike book, I may cut down on my trips to the LBS to only once a month. I'm gonna miss those guys and gal.

I admit that I am a bit freaked out at the end of this process. Not because I am having post-mechanical depression (you know, the kind that shows up at the culmination of a large project and you don't know what do do with yourself now that it's done). I am a bit worried because I don't know what to do with the un-used parts. 

Are they extras or did I misread the instructions? Will this thing come apart on its own? Granted, it's just the free tools and a couple of washers, but this thing didn't have many parts to start with. Should my creation come crashing down, I doubt I would tell you. Pride and the ego will force me to act in a manner like nothing had happened. Deep down inside, I'll know the truth, and isn't that enough?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Race Review and Results (?)- Corporate Challenge

Here's the thing about hanging out with a group of above average intelligence runners who also know that you write a blog and have written about them... They start to predict what's going into the blog. Then, for some reason, they start to behave in a manner that becomes blog worthy. I am not sure I can get them all in or do them justice. That won't stop me from trying.
  • Unbeknownst to me, but knownst to other people in The Cast, there was more than adequate chitter on what kinds of clothes we were going to wear. The location of said conversation, FaceBook. For some reason, the Cast seemed to believe that we needed to match. "Everyone else is going to match," they chided. As teachers, I thought we'd be above peer pressure. I guess not. Even after all the conversation, we failed. Pic to follow.
  • Captain PE wanted to meet at our 'corporation' 2 hours before the race time to carpool. I had 2 separate problems with this. 1. Corporate headquarters are in the opposite direction from my house and the race. 2. I have never shown up for a race 2 hours pre-start (This includes every triathlon and the Ironman). I made the mistake of changing the location of the meet up place to my driveway (I am lazy), which was met with no fewer than 10 new email messages discussing this option. The Cast is really into clarity.
  • Finally, everyone met up and we were off. In transit, Captain PE got a hoot and holler from 2 inappropriately young but cute chicks. As he explains it, they were on a bridge and H&Hing at anyone who passed under. I'm pretty sure that's fallacy. He's just that awesome.
  • I was reminded of the numerous errors I made in my post about the Cast. Specifically, the Little Red Haired Girl reminded me that I grossly underplayed her athletic accomplishments. In her defense, she's absolutely right and I find myself a bit intimidated by her. Not only has she done a 13.1, she was a member of the marathon relay and she has done numerous 5ks. To top that off, there are rumors that she has climbed Mt. Everest, walked the entire Appalachian Trail, raced in the Iditarod, and Biked Across America. She's a machine.
  • On our way to the race, the Real Runner was trailing the lead vehicle whilst we were on our way to pick up the Soccer Mom. The plan was to drop off all cars in one place, then drive to the event in a single vehicle, thus allowing the Cast to arrive together and take full advantage of the single parking permit allotted to the corporation. At one point, Captain PE was unsure if the Real Runner knew the plan. Doesn't the Cap, at a stop light, stick his body out the moon roof  in an effort to tell the guy (who is following us) that we will be parking soon?
  • Upon meeting up with Soccer Mom (whom I haven't seen in months), I walk right up to her with her matching race jersey. The first words out of my mouth were not, "Hi," "How are you?" or "Nice to see you." I choose, "Take your shirt off," which she dutifully obeyed and started to disrobe, no questions asked. How's that for Jillian in-your-face instructions (part 1)? I may try this approach on other women just to see if it works.
  • Captain PE lost his bib. Not sure how. Not sure where. He was responsible for handing out bibs to the rest of the cast, which he fulfilled perfectly. Yet, hanging on to his own proved too challenging.
At the Race Site
There were just under 400 companies represented this year. Most had experience from years past and planned ahead. They had tents, grills, food, beer, volunteers, support crews, athletic trainers, and cheerleaders. We had a tree, which was nicely provided by the Rochester Institute of Technology campus.
That's our tree on the left
No trees here

We were all standing near our tree when Pondering had the great idea of taking a team picture. Since we had no support crew, only each other, we had to solicit a volunteer. There were many nice people in the race and finding someone willing to hang out near our tree proved rather easy. Here's his best shot...

 From left to right: 
Soccer Mom (Christine), Pondering (Laurie), Captain PE (Scott), Real Runner (Randy), Little Red Haired Girl (Jen), The Banter (the Banter), and the Tree

Take a closer look at the picture. One of these things just doesn't fit in here. Can you guess which one? If you guessed Captain PE, you'd be right on multiple levels. The leader on the team didn't want to match. First, for some reason, his captain's status removed him from wearing one of the track jerseys. I guess being captain has its privileges.  Second, take a good long look at his bib. Let me give you a close up, just in case you missed it.
Sweet deal. Hand-written. Out-of-sync number. Proud captain indeed.

The Race
Not to disappoint, the race featured roughly 9000 participants this year. We lined up in a coral which was supposed to be seeded by minute per mile pace. They had flags indicating 6 minutes, 7 minutes, etc. I firmly believe this is a great way to organize a race. So did many other people, especially the guys and gals who grossly overestimated their running ability. Based on the number of people I flew by like they were standing still, they may have misread the seed flags. How do you turn a 3.5 mile run into a 3.6 mile run? Zigzag back and forth through a crowd of people. No running the tangents for me.

I had estimated that I could achieve a 24 minute run. Taking on extra distance is counterproductive towards the goal. I learned that lesson at the Flower City Half Marathon. That could only mean that either I was destined for failure or needed to pick up the pace. After deciding that 3.5 miles was well within my range of endurance while running hard, I went for it. I kept my heart rate near my lactate threshold (top of Zone 4, if any of my athletes are reading). Even with the extra distance, I nailed it. I really enjoy making my goal times.

Please keep in mind that this is an unofficial time. Or is it? Here's the deal about the Corporate Challenge and one of the aspects that I did not enjoy: We were on our honor system to report our times to the team captain. But, all 9000 runners were supposed to have the same start time. LRHG and Soccer Mom didn't cross the starting line for 4 minutes as they lined up at an appropriate seed flag. There were that many people in front of them. How disgusting for them that their time started long before they crossed the line! It only took me 20 seconds to cross the line, making my official time 23:19, which is still goal killing. In a world of cheap technology, I would have paid the extra money to have this race chip timed. Lots of other I chatted with agreed.

As predicted, the course was relatively flat. I thought that there was little to no hillage. Right around the half-mile mark, there was a larger than expected incline. Since this was early in the run, my energy was still high and tackled the hill with ease.

Upon completion of the run, I met up with Drew, the Vibram Five Finger's guy, whom passed me in the final half mile of the Half Marathon. In the Corporate Challenge, the tables were turned and I buzzed past in the final 1/4 mile. Revenge is sweet. It's now 1-1, although I'm not sure when we'll have the rubber match.

Post Race
Upon completion of my run, I made it through the water trough and went back out on the course looking for more of the Cast. I never saw Captain PE or the Real Runner. My guess is that they finished not far behind me. I did meet up with Pondering and we shared the final 1/2 mile of the course while she ran her way in. I appreciate how she unplugged her iPod from her ear in an effort to make conversation. We shared whatever chit chat that she was capable of, but she was having a good run rendering chatter difficult.

Upon Pondering's finish, I went back out on the course again in search of LRHG and Soccer Mom. They were looking good and trucking along at the (ironically) 1/2 mile-to-go, almost at the same point I found Pondering. They were running together and enjoying the afternoon. I settled in and the chatter was much deeper. With about 200 yards to go, Soccer Mom announces to the world, "I think I'm done." I have never been more pissed at one of my runners in my life. I yelled at her, literally. "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? NO ONE IS FINISHED WITH THIS MUCH LEFT!" She took off and sprinted to the end. LRHG could not keep up and I struggled as well. For a woman who was done, she sure had a lot left in the tank. How's that for Jillian in-your-face instructions (part 2)?

Here's a picture of us post run, as taken from an involuntary volunteer in the parking lot...
From Left to Right: 
The Real Runner, Soccer Mom, Pondering, Captain PE, Little Red Haired Girl, and the Banter. 
Not Pictured- The Tree

After all of this review, I find that there was not much discussion about the Real Runner. He finished second on the team and was my big fear. In reality, he hadn't spoken much all day long. Of course, he's Deaf and does not normally 'speak' in the conventional sense of the word. But, I do find him a joy and like sharing triathlon/ training conversation. Not trying to be condescending to him, but I hope that when I achieve his level of life experiences, I am as active as he.

I enjoyed this event. After the race was finished, it was inspiring to hear the ladies discuss their plans for next year. We are so ditching the tree, getting a tent, bring a grill, and possibly some fermented hops. The ladies, upon their running high, started talking about their exercise plans for the summer. I thrive on this sort of talk and I was proud of my team. Should the Cast want to do this race again next year, they can count me in.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Race Preview- Corporate Challenge 3.5 Run

A casual glance to the information bar on the right side of your screen (you may have to scroll down a little) will show you the line-up for my season. Earlier this season, the events were run focused, because, well that was pretty much all that was offered. Now that its getting warmer (so some extent of the word), the multisport events are gradually taking over. Next up, assuming you can read (an easy assumption since this blog doesn't contain many pictures), would be the Keuka Lake Intermediate Distance Triathlon. Yet, further continuing my 'you can read' hypothesis, you'll remember that the title of this post says 'run' and notice that it does not indicate a triathlon. This is a surprise race preview post. What gives?

I'll tell you what gives. Pondering. She gives. She gives lots of great ideas mingled with some sketchy ones. Check out the pictures on my followers (and, by all means, add yours). Pondering is the cute-brunette chick, third from the left, holding some sort of male human (unconfirmed as of this writing). A few weeks ago, Pondering had this "great" idea. She floated an email to a select few of her colleagues stating that we should run the Corporate Challenge 3.5 running race. There are a few runners in my school, most of them students. And, does a po-dunk school like ours qualify as a 'corporation?' After some research by someone not me, sure enough, we qualified.

There is a good possibility that the 'challenge' portion of the event has nothing to do with exercise. My guess, which was confirmed in our case, was that the real challenge was two-fold: 1. Finding at least 4 gullible morons to do the event. 2. Finding someone to be the team captain. We almost failed at both. I qualified at item 1, but was wholly too busy for option 2.

Based on the original response to Pondering from those on the list, we had a verbal commitment to satisfy challenge 1. After much cajoling, the PE teacher of the group took the reins and created a team. I, personally, procrastinated in paying the fee for the race, in hopes that they (the others qualifying for challenge 1) would forget about it. Sadly, Captain PE was persistent and I signed up on the day before the deadline. I was teammate number 2 (behind Captain PE). Two morons were paid up and might have lived up to the word should the others not anted up. We needed 4 for a team. Captain PE is smart and he expanded the list of potential runners to include the entire working staff. Even closer to the deadline, there was a fury of activity and our team expanded to 6, most of whom were on the original email.

Cast of Characters
Captain PE- As a former wrestler, he's turned runner. He has a 13.1 and a few turkey trots on his running CV. He's an avid reader of Tri-Banter but has not joined the site nor commented on the web-based forum. He has sent in comments directly to me via email, which I've always appreciated. His emails rarely include his training plan so I have no idea what kind of shape he's in. Since he's a PE guy, I can calculate that he walks around a lot more than me, which may aid him in his quest for corporate gold. That and he owns many more swishy pants than I.

Pondering- She is possibly the busiest woman I know coupled with the highest aspirations. Balancing between 2 children, husband, work and graduate school, she still finds time to host 3 blogs (here, here, and here) while keeping in shape. She takes advantage of my pro bono coaching services as she tries to sort out her running dreams in conjunction with all of the rest of her life obstacles. Pondering will once in a while comment on the blog.

Little Red Haired Girl- If Charles Shultz had ever actually drawn the affection of Charlie Brown's desires, he could have use LRHG as a template. She had formerly taken advantage of my coaching services, which enabled her to complete her first 13.1 a year ago (not that she actually followed my advice or plan). Since she ticked that item off her list, she hasn't done much structured running. Her most intense workouts involve chasing her children, whom are adorable (they've got their mommy's genes). She is an avid member of her local fitness club's Boot Camp.

The Real Runner- The guy looks every part of the runner. Further, he wants to be a triathlete, but allows things like his lack of real swimming skill to get in the way of awesomeness in that sport. It doesn't bring him down and he's always curious about my training in hopes that he'll resume his. He's well over 6 feet tall and roughly 160 pounds (granted, I've never asked him to weigh in). The RR, when he's in shape, puts me to shame. He's currently coming off an injury which has limited his personal training schedule. Even in his out-of-shape form, I am still concerned that he'll smoke me on the run. 

The Soccer Mom- You know those hyper-competitive women that play soccer on the weekends. That's her, umm, without the soccer. I don't know if she's even interested in soccer but she looks the part. When I coached her, she wanted a Jillian in-your-face attitude that she thrived on. She's not in that great of shape compared to a year ago. In her defense, she's been working a lot harder on the 'mom' portion, having recently given birth. This race will be the come back to running race post pregnancy in a way that will put Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliff to shame. Soccer Mom has one 13.1 and several 5ks under her belt.

The Banter- This guy is a multisport fanatic and a horrible runner. It is unsure why anyone would want this snail of a clod on their running team. With a few Ironman races and many triathlons, he has forgotten how to run fast at short distances, or long distance. Okay, he's forgotten how to run fast. The Banter is coming off a long weekend of training, his legs are ready to fall off, and will probably go for a bike ride before the race. At most, this is a C-priority with the sole intention of having a good time.

The Race
Now, the CC run is a national event, possibly coming to a city near you. It's coming to mine on a Tuesday night. More races should be held during the week with a race time of 7:00 pm. Screw this Sunday morning before 8:00 business. This is the way and time to have a race!

The event raises money locally this year for the Child Care Council. The course is USATF Certified 3.5 miles located solely on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus. According the the race site, the course is "subject to change." I'm not sure how that fact impacts certification.

Gleaned off the picture and description of the event, it seems that the run will be held mostly on roads and feature, based on rough estimates, somewhere between zero and 8 feet of climbing. A year ago, there were just over 9,000 runners representing over 400 companies. There are 3 main competition categories: Men only, Women only, and Mixed. We are in Mixed Competition.

As I look over the results from last year, I see that the woman who beat me in Flower City Duathlon and Flower City Half Marathon finished 3rd amongst the ladies. I thought she was unbeatable, by me and in her gender, evidence that there are bound to be some fast runners in this race, and bringing out the area's finest. There were many men finishing under 19 minutes. I cannot do that for 3.1, let alone 3.5 I'm not sure I'm worthy.

I know that I have no chance on winning this race, or being competitive. My only hope is that I can record a decent time. Upon registering for the event, the race director asked us to submit a possible finish time, rounded to the whole minute. I chose 24 minutes, which is just faster than 7 minutes per mile. Do I think this is possible? Yes, but borderline. I have not held that pace for an extended period of time for many years but I plan on going for it. I'll let you know how I and the rest of the cast did. Wish us luck.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Hoot and the Holler

What do all of the following have in common?
  • 70+ year old lady holding an umbrella getting her mail
  • 4 screaming teenage girls in a limo
  • A (roughly) 9-year-old girl waiting in line for ice cream
  • A Brittany Spaniel running around in circles

If you took the easy road and answered that they were all female, you'd be correct. Then again, except for the dog, I gave you that information. Therefore, the answer is probably a bit deeper than the obvious. The response that I am searching for was, 'They were all heard hooting and hollering at me during my past 3 workouts.'

Brief History Behind the Hoot
The hoot was invented during the Roman Empire Era, roughly 200 BC. Roman soldiers were under strict orders by the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator to show that they were not uncivilized dotes. Aside: His name was rumored to be stolen, divided into 2 separate characters, and then modified for the movie Gladiator.  His position wholly was misunderstood by Hollywood. End Aside. The Roman soldiers (with or without wristwatches) were the best in the business at that time, but had a negative reputation amongst the masses. Maybe it was because they had a penchant for raping and pillaging. QFMV (as he was affectionately called by the boys) wanted to change the image of the army. Pillaging was still acceptable but raping was now considered 'most unsoldier-like'. The soldiers had to resort to name calling and slander to replace their barbaric tendencies. The overall opinion by the masses remained relatively unchanged.

Brief History Behind the Holler
The holler, oddly, was invented much later. One would think that the Romans, in their frustration, would have hooted much louder. It had never occurred to the soldiers that they might gain more attention should they raise their voices. The holler first found its way into the history books around 800 AD in England. Alfred the Great, King of a divided island, was busy fighting Danish warriors for the rights to the land. The Danes were fierce warriors but quiet. They let their swords do the talking. Alfred learned that the Danes were easily disturbed by loud noises and ordered his soldiers to yell as often as they could. Having inherited the hoot from the Romans, Alfred's troops added in volume, which is still the norm in the barracks today.

Jump to the Near Present
The H&H from the 70+ lady happened midst my brick run on Wednesday. Having already completed a 27 mile ride, I ran out into the neighborhood readying myself for the hill repeats on the schedule. It was raining, which should come as no surprise given this season. The lady and I just happened to cross paths as I was heading up the backside of the hill that I was going to repeat on the frontside. She had an umbrella and was walking to the mailbox. Her hoot and holler went something like, "Looking good young man. Nice form!" Granted, it wasn't much of a holler, but she gave it her all and the meaning was still there. Before her comment, my legs were screaming and I was tuckered. Post comment- I was smiling. I must tell you that I picked up my pace as the fatigue melted away. I was encouraged by her attention and completed my hill workout energetically.

The H&H from the teenagers happened on Friday. Normally, I would be using Friday as a recovery ride from a Thursday long run. I took Thursday off to have a date with The Wife, who had a rough day. I rescheduled the long run for Saturday and used Friday as a brick day. Just embarking on a 30 mile ride and roughly a mile and a half from my home, I was perched on my bike at one of the many stoplights that I must endure before finding open road several miles away from my current location. A limo drove by with young women in expensive dresses, fancy hairdos, flowers strapped to their wrists, and their heads out the window. Apparently, it was prom night for said girls who had no problem taking advantage of their youthful voices. Their garble was a bit less intelligible than the 70+ woman. If I remember correctly, their exact quote would be, "Woo Hoo!" from one. "Yeah, baby!" from another. As the limo sped away, more verbal spew came from the window but was scrambled on the wind before the words reached my ear. Good ride that day.

The 9-year-old girl was waiting in line at a local ice cream parlor on Saturday. I was mid-long run. My schedule called for 2 hours. I hate bringing beverage with me as I'm too lazy to carry 8-16 ounces of fluid (too much work and I'm rather weak).  I opt for really long laps. I leave a bottle in the drive, do a 5 mile+ loop and return for a drink. This procedure allows me to use the facilities at home, should the need arise, while concurrently relieving me of my hydration-carrying obligations. The ice cream shop is walk-up only and roughly 2 miles into the loop. The girl saw me prancing by on lap 2 of 3. Her H&H, "You rock!" Who am I to disagree?

The Brittany Spaniel also happened on Saturday's long run. I was now on lap 3 and nearing the 1:40 minute mark of my day. I was tired and in need of some external motivation. I ran past the ice cream stand for a third time, hoping for attention. I got nothing. Mind you, I had my shirt off by this time. Didn't matter. I think most people are completely intimidated by my massive pecs disgusted by my sweaty, smelly self whilst I run topless. Either that, or they are distracted by my heart rate monitor resting below my nipples, its black strap in stark contrast to my white-boy skin. Regardless, no one yelled and I felt myself slowing. About a quarter mile up the road, the Brittany was hanging out with her owner. He was a beatnik sitting on a lawn chair and strumming a guitar. The dog was running in circles to the tune of the music, clearly enjoying life. Once the puppy eyed me, she stopped. Her H&H, "Woof. Grrrr. Woof woof."  She then resumed her own personal lap-laden workout. Worked for me. I smiled and picked up the pace.

Often times, I chat with the Wife about her workouts. She will complain that some bloke, kid, or other idiot yelled some nonsense at her. Well, she's pretty hot, so I can understand the appeal of directing a H&H in her direction. She, however, is less than appreciative. I have a feeling that many XXers agree with her, along with a couple XYers. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that most dudes are like me, they enjoy the attention. When I asked the Wife why she'd prefer silence over the H&H, she links it to upbringing and culture. In her defense, boys have a history of not treating girls with respect. Take the elementary school boy, for example. When he likes a girl, does he buy her flowers or write her poems? Nope. He hits her and pulls her hair. Such behaviors are counter-productive and completely misunderstood by the objects of his affection. My guess is the aggressiveness of his gesture as a young'n ruined the effectiveness of the H&H in the later years, which is still deemed counter-productive and is completely misunderstood. (Should a girl show any sort of physical attention to a boy, cha-ching.)

Four times in three days have I experienced the hoot and holler. And you know what? I liked each and every one. This may be because no one hit me or pulled my hair as a lad. Today, I find the H&H positive, motivating, and uplifting. I view the H&H in the same light as I view the crowds of people cheering at a race. They only want to encourage. That's how I see the 70+ lady, the teenagers going prom, the adolescent getting ice cream, and the doggie running in circles. Their H&H screamed, "I see you and I'm happy about it!" What's not to like about that?

So, should you happen to see me out and about, by all means... Hoot. Holler. Shout. Scream. Ogle. Yell whatever you want.  I'm into it. In fact, you'd probably be doing me a favor and give my workout a boost. Show me your Uvula!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Get Out of the Pool

There are only a few things of which I am absolutely certain. For one, keeping the women in your life happy is a sure-fire way to keep yourself happy. For two, the Magic 8 Ball has some wicked good power. For three, water has three main reasons for being put on this Earth:
  1. Necessary support of life (you can think of water as the hydrogen donor in photosynthesis, which provides us with 100% of our nutrition on the planet (by rough estimates))
  2. Impossibly wonderful thirst quencher (with or without your favorite sports drink)
  3. Opportunity to swim back and forth repeatedly
If you've read my stuff for any time now, you'd likely know that I have a swimming strength and background. I swam in high school. I swam in college. I swam on a club team. For those of you who have not had the pleasure to experience life on a swim team, let me tell you... there wasn't much difference between hs--> college--> club. There are certain aspects of practice that you can expect.

Ode to the Swim Coach
First, swim coaches are extremely lazy. Workouts are never written long hand. Coaches have all sorts of abbreviations. The list includes, but is not limited to: S=swim. K=Kick. P=Pull. Coaches also have an odd distributive property for recording sets. A typical warm-up looks like 200 SKPS (commonly pronounced 'skips'). This means you will do 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull, and a 200 swim. Coach made you swim 800 yards, lasting roughly 15 minutes by himself/ herself only penning 7 characters.

Second, most coaches have allowed chlorine to kill some to most of the gray matter in their skulls along with the bacteria in the water.  If your coach is sane, you have afternoon practice 5-6 times a week. Yet, this is not the norm. These idiots feel that 4-6k yards in the pool is not sufficient for a day of training. They will often force swimmers to get up in the wee hours for a morning practice and a few thousand more yards. (This is also the probable reason that I am reluctant to wake up for morning training now.) All of this to prepare for a day of racing which maxes out at 2000 yards for the longest competitive day with the average swimmer completing his/ her day in well under a thousand. To compare, if runners followed the same philosophy, an average sprinter would train 6 to 9 miles per day (or 30-50 miles per week). Five-kayers will be triple that. Will it work? Probably. Is it overkill? Definitely.

Third-With all of that practice time, coaches generally have about 2-4 hours daily to kill. They've over booked themselves. They know their swimmers cannot handle 20 hours per week of focused swimming. Yet, they don't want to not have practice. All the other coaches are having practice. The thought of ending practice early never occurs to the average coach. Therefore, swim coaches are expert time wasters. Their favorite time killer? Drills.

Don't get me wrong, drills are an essential portion of a swimmer's life. When done correctly, a drill can isolate a specific movement in the swim stroke and repeat it until your muscles remember exactly how to do the motion without involving your brain. Coaches can get quite creative with their drilling as though they were auditioning for a role in Full Metal Jacket. Most motions in swimming can be accomplished in roughly 5 drills (fodder for a future post). But, with all the excess time to kill, coaches never take that into consideration.

Flip Art
When coaches run out of drills, they get obsessed with flip turns. A flip turn is a relatively simple motion. Unfortunately, it involves roughly 90% of the muscles in your body to fire in a specific order. Screw up the sequence even minorly and your turn looks like a spaghetti noodle trying to push off a bowl of jello (not pretty). Remember, simple does not mean easy.

When I first started on the swim team, I was reluctant to flip. First, it was hard. Second, the order of operations was not highlighted in a way I understood (even back then I wasn't so bright). Therefore, I cheated. I refused to flip in the deep end, but not for why you'd expect. See, in my suckiness, I faked the turn in the shallow. I'd actually dive down, do a handstand on the bottom, and push off with my hands into the wall. I did a gymnastics front hand spring and disguised it as a flip turn. The deep end floor was far too distant to make an efficient vault so I skipped it.

I did not fully develop an efficient turn for about 4 years of practice. Four. Years. Remember, swim coaches are neurotic with psychotic tendencies. We practiced turns OFTEN. Either I'm a slow learner or flip turns might actually be more complicated than I originally advertised. And, because I did all of those repetitive, lousy, good-for-nothing drills, I find that flip turns are as natural as breathing. In fact, flipping at the wall seems easier that hitting it with my hands, bringing my feet together, turning around and pushing off. Maybe those idiots knew what they were doing after all.

Having had all of the drilling and training, I will tell you with the utmost honesty and with none of the conceit that I am prone- I've got a pretty good flip turn. Actually, I've got a great turn. Swimmers pay attention to what is happening in the water around them. Their immediate environment is only 25 yards by 11-15 yards meaning it's quite easy to see what others are doing. If you are competitive (meaning me), you know when you hit the wall at the same time as another swimmer. I have not lost a flip turn in years. Mind you, I have lost tons of time and distance in the middle. On the wall, I'm gold. Anyone wants to test this, bring it on! (Eggers?)

Don't Do It in the Pool
There are a few races, translation: triathlons, that are done in pools. The most likely format is a 300 yard swim. The average pool is 25 yards by 6 lanes. You swim down in lane 1 on the left, back in lane 1 on the right, down lane 2 on the left, back in lane 2 on the right...you get the idea. This format is perfect for a 300 yard swim. Transition out of the water, bike some, then run some. Given that I have a strength in swimming and that I am the best in the world in flipping am a better than average flipper, you'd think I'd be all over a pool swim triathlon. Imagine the time gain versus the less-savvy flippers. Yet, I am not remotely interested in this race format.

I think that, had I been introduced to triathlon in the pool, I'd appreciate the pool race triathlon. I lost my triathlon virginity in open water. Since then, I developed a vision on how the perfect day of triathlon should go. Open water swim, bike on the roads, then run. I'm rather conservative/ old fashioned in a triathlon sort of way. I also cannot see competing in a race with a stationary bike or a treadmill run. It just doesn't match my vision of the sport. By this same token, Xterra style races (which pretty much means off-road if you didn't already know it), is also not on my list of desires. I was tri-born on the road and am happy with it.

So for me, despite my background, I view the pool as a wet, stationary trainer. Because of my background, I actually enjoy the pool (as opposed to the bike trainer or treadmill, both of which I loathe). I enjoy the water. I enjoy the chlorine. Aside: I actually view chlorine as 'cologne'. End aside. From a triathlon perspective, even though I would actually increase my advantage compared to myself, a pool swim just doesn't seem right.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Edison Invents His Way into Triathlon

I'm pretty sure Thomas Edison was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 40 years before the sport was invented. A little known fact: Thomas Edison invented over a 1000 new products, most of which where to aid and analyze his multisport skills.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Having been born in Ohio, Thomas has aspirations towards winning the overall prize at the Rev3 Cedar Point, which never did materialize for him. But, many positives came from that race. Most of the history books fail to tell you why Thomas invented the items he did, they only focus on the what and the how many. Truth is: Thomas was a dedicated triathlete. He trained and worked hard on his technique, but he also wanted the entire family to enjoy the experience.

One of his earliest, non-inventor jobs was as a telegrapher. He immediately recognized the telegraph's potential towards using the device to report race splits and times to his peeps back home. In his early years, Thomas was poor and triathlon is an expensive sport. He just couldn't afford all of the gadgets and afford to bring his wife to the races. That was alright with his first wife, Mary. She, much to Thomas' dismay, was only interested in racing to humor Thomas. She supported without participating.

Thomas' first invention was the automatic repeater. For those of you who do not know what this does, it was the first incarnation of Twitter. Tommy was aware of the digital era that was soon to come and was ready and willing to aid in its delivery. Tommy would also want you to follow me on Twitter at  .

Next up- M-Dot Tatoo
Because Mary was reluctant to travel with Tom to various events, he didn't want her to miss out on any of the details. Thomas worked long and hard on a device that he could plop down next to Mike Reilly on race day. His invention, the phonograph, was originally to record the finish line comments.  Common known fact, Thomas first tested his phonograph with the child's nursery rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Little know fact, disk 2 contained, "Thomas Edison, you are an Ironman!" The first disk is readily available for all the public. The second was buried with him, at Thomas' request, for it was one of his most prized possessions.

Mary and Tom had 3 children. Thomas was so excited with his family and career. His first born was named Marion, but nicknamed 'Dot'. I don't have to point out the significance behind that name, right? (M-Dot, the symbol of WTC Ironman, just in case you didn't know). His second born was Thomas, yet nicknamed 'Dash'. Tommy, Sr was constantly impressed with Jrs running skills. The last kid was simply called Theodore. Not sure why.

I see the light
One of the problems that Thomas really wanted to tackle was that of the 140.6 events. Even though Tom was a sub-10 hour guy, he was empathetic to the plight of the less-speedy athletes. He would often go out on the course closer to the 17 hour cut-off time. Thomas really wanted to root for his IronBretheren, but he couldn't see them. He was overtly frustrated from his lack of ability to see his colleagues. Plus, he couldn't imagine being placed in the situation of competing in complete darkness. Thomas got to work and invented the light bulb so that his friends could find their way to the finish line.

Mary died and Thomas was distraught. He buried himself into triathlon, which eased his sorrow. In 1886, he met Mina while they were both racing at Cedar Point. It was not a particularly good race for Tom, and he was in a much older age bracket, but he was determined to give it his best effort. Mina was ahead in the final half mile of the run and Tom had a big ego problem. He worked hard and out sprinted her at the end. Luckily for Tom, women had a difference in appreciation for guys back then and Mina was attracted to Tom's effort to "show off just for her" (as she put it). They were married later that year.

Since Mina was only 20 at the time of their marriage, Tom recognized her potential in the sport but had a difficult time convincing Mina to make serious changes in her form. Thomas, ever the gentleman, decided that he would need to show her graphically her aero flaws on the bike and foot striking on the run. Mina did not enjoy this approach (some things were the same back then). Thus, Thomas hit the lab. His goal was to invent a device that would record her. In 1878, Thomas succeeded in inventing the kinetoscope. Still, Mina refused to be taped until he could prove it worked on sporting events. Thomas videoed a boxing match between Leonard and Cushing. Mina was convinced and she got considerably faster after that.

Thomas continued to be an inventor well after he retired from triathlon. Most of his inventions were sport focused, as Tom wanted to give back to the life that had given him so much. He invented a vote-recorder, which was originally used to record race finishers and times. Then there was electromagnets, used by Tom in cadence sensors. The telephone was a Thomas original so he could call and check in after an out-of-town training camp. He even invented the electric locomotive so he could relax on his way a race.

Thomas led a fun-filled full life. If it wasn't for him, many of the items in triathlon that we take for granted would not be commonplace today. Thomas amassed a great fortune through inventing and starting companies. One of his original plans was to monotonize the 140.6 distance, but he made a regretful decision early in the sport's history to sell the distance to the WTC. Undeterred, Thomas helped finance the Rev3 series, to which Thomas owed his second marriage. One of the many companies founded by Thomas was a coaching company, which was rumored to be willed to one of Thomas' grandchildren. The identity of this company and name of the owner were not released for public domain. After some research, I'm pretty sure I figured it out. You decide...

Young Thomas Edison
Endurance Nation's Patrick McCrann

So there you have it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Savings Account Problems

Out of Fuel
My family watched a lot of TV in my youth, myself included. Visit the parents today and one of the machines is constantly running. One of the major differences in the parents' house now versus a couple of decades ago is quantity of the devices. Back in my youth, people beat the electronics by 5:2. Currently, the number of televisions in my parents' house outnumbers the humans by 3:1. It's just the two of them and at least two picture boxes are on at any given time. You can count on an eerie blue-white glow to bathe you in its electromagnetic radiation in any room of their abode.

One of the mainstays in biology is the "competition for limited resources" concept. It basically says that when there are more organisms vying for the same stuff, someone wins and someone loses. This tenant is considered one of the driving forces of natural selection and has stood the test of time for over 150 years. However, contrary to popular Darwinian belief systems, my parents did not firmly believe in evolution. If they had, with me being the oldest and strongest, we would have had non-stop sitcoms and nature specials.

Sadly, I was subjected to the 'allow your brother/ sister to have a turn' mentality. Mom and Dad really need to read more on survival of the fittest. (They even have a copy of, "On the Origin of Species...," which I think has its spine still unbroken. Plus, I'm pretty sure Charles Darwin was a triathlete.) When it was the siblings' turn to pick a show from amongst the 6 channels offered, I had a decision to make. I had to pick between my brother's penchant for war movies/ my sister's desire for crappy Sesame Street-type shows (she's much younger, if you couldn't tell), OR I could find something non-TV to do. Naturally, I sat there, sulked about crappy TV and helped the boob-tube live up to it's name.

I remember a couple of the fighter plane movies that the bro would watch. They had some neat dog-fights with real men beating down the enemy in the face of oppression and unparalleled odds. There was a recurring theme in the movies that, for some reason, sticks to my brain. The hero-type pilots would remark about how they were "out of fuel". This struck me as odd because, as a kid, I knew that fuel was what kept the plane in the air. Yet here were the good ol' boys still flying their custom crafted war planes with no danger of going down.

As I reflect on this out of fuel concept as an adult, I get it. The term was describing the turning point of their machines' capabilities. You can only go so far on a tank of gas before you have to turn around and go home. Should you go further, you won't have enough fuel to make it back, which would ultimately lead to disaster. This is where I feel I am at in my training. Except of fuel, I'm out of time.

Out of Time
Every good training plan has a few caveats that are worked into the system. First, the plan must have at least one specific goal. The learned people would recognize this as a SMART goal. Whereas I'm not going to get into the details of goal setting process in this post, the goal should be the first step in the plan. No goal means the plan is pretty much useless anyway. Second, the plan should include training that is sufficiently challenging to satisfy the goal. You cannot run a 7:30 minute mile pace in a race if you haven't done it in training, especially when your prior season was set up for 8 mpm. Therefore, you must go out and train at a 7:30 pace. Third, you must give yourself adequate TIME to achieve said goal. Now, an intelligent planner (not necessarily me) works into the system some flex time. That is to say that you cannot be rigid and structured 100% of your season. There will be interferences along the way and that's alright. You might get sick or tired. You might need to take off for family reasons or work reasons. Therefore, when planning, you need to calculate how much time it will take you to achieve your goal(s) in a perfect world and tack on extras to allow for such distractions.

I think of step three as a savings account managed with a different type of currency. If you are ahead of pace in your training, you put time into the account. Should you need to take time off, you tap into your savings. Have a bad training session, you can draw from the account. The more often you tap into your account, the smaller your balance becomes. If the balance gets close to zero, you run out of flexibility. If your account is in the red, you won't (most likely) achieve your goals.

I am officially out of time. I am at the point where, if I continue on my current path without turning around, it will mean disaster in terms of my racing. These past couple of weeks, really since my last race, have been a time savings account nightmare. In January, my account balance was huge. I was able to beat my benchmarks, increase my speed, and was on task. With the track team that I coach, an illness, lack of motivation, chronic crappy weather, my pansy of an attitude kicking in full swing, a road trip tournament, blah blah blah, the balance is down to zero. Do I know this for fact. No. But I can sense it in a way that feels very real. In a nutshell, if I want to achieve my goals for the Ironman on July 25th, like the jet fighter pilot's fuel issue, staying the current course will not be pretty for my war engine.

I'm not making excuses here. I want to achieve my goals and I want to do well. I am not predicting a bad performance. I am simply stating what I know to be the obvious... If I can't bear down and do the training that I need to do, I will not achieve. Period. Hitting my training will in no way guarantee success. Not hitting my training from here on out will guarantee failure. If I am lucky, and I stress lucky, I will be able to build up a small savings balance. And I stress small.

Consequences of My Future
Understandably, if I miss my benchmarks, which include 20 mile runs, several 4+ hour rides, 5k's in the water, etc. I will be grumpy. I will know long ahead of time that I have doomed myself for failure. Do not confuse grumpy with defeated. I know full well what I am capable of and I know that I am not at full capacity. I also know that I enjoy doing what I do. I do not now look, nor have I in the past looked, at my lifestyle or decisions with regret. Quite the opposite. I am happy with myself and comfortable with myself.

Worst case scenario: I miss my Ironman goals in 2011, which are not guaranteed anyway. I know for a fact that I will be signing up for similar goals in 2012. I will actually sign up for 2012 before competing in 2011. That is the nature of IMLP. They allow this year's competitors the first chance at next year's race on the day before the event. I feel it's IMLP's way of saying thank you for your effort and training this year. IMLP sells out almost immediately. Signing up on Saturday automatically gets you in (while guaranteeing the race organizers and the WTC your cash up-front). Everyone else must wait until Monday. Plus, I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan. Our motto is, and has unfortunately been for more than a century, "There's always next year."

Even if I break 10:30 in IMLP (my current time goal)... Even if I qualify for Kona (my current IM dream)... Even if I take a podium slot away from one of the Pros (my current super dream)... I know I will be doing the Ironman next year and possibly years to come. Since I am enjoying myself and the lifestyle, I can't complain. Alright, I can complain, but that is the nature of the beast. I should say 'I shouldn't complain'. But, if I didn't have training and complaining, I wouldn't have much of a blog. I'd have to replace my current theme with training tips and real ideas. Not sure I'm ready for that commitment yet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Proof I'm Not A Runner

I have a preference for multisport events. Specifically triathlon. Well, I'll have to do the tri stuff later. The tri season in most of northern America is still at least a month away. And, from the way the season is heading, it'll be a cool swim start. The only option recently has been the duathlon, not my favorite, but still better than just running. At least I get to ride a bike. Plus, I've often announced that I'm not much of a runner. Thus far, this has been more of a hypothesis than a proven fact. I haven't had the numbers to back up my hunch.

Last weekend's races have given me an opportunity to put my hypothesis to the test. I did a duathlon and a half marathon. It gave me a unique way analyze results. And uniquely analyze I did...

Comparison #1- My Time versus the Overall Winner
Me= 1:42.09
Overall Awesome Dude= 1:28.11
Percent Difference= 14%

1/2 Mary
Me= 1:38.43
Overall Awesome Dude= 1:09.46
Percent Difference= 29%

Conclusion 1- I was closer to the overall winner in the Duathlon than the Half Mary. I need only 14 minutes to win the Du. The HM tacks on more than double. Even though the Du was longer in amount of time, the bike aided in my performance and kept the winner closer to me. So far, my hypothesis of being a bad runner versus a multisport guy holds up.

Comparison #2- My Place versus the Total Number of Entrants
Me= 25
Total= 373
Percent Difference= Top 7%

1/2 Mary
Me= 171
Total= 1839
Percent Difference= Top 10%

Conclusion 2- Compared to the total number of entrants, my multisport time was higher on the list based by percentage points. Granted, I was surprised at my percentile. Maybe I'm not as bad a runner as I think I am. Doubtful. I'm aweful. Still more support for my, "I'm a sucky runner" hypothesis.

Comparison #3- My Place versus My Gender
Me= 24th boy
Total Boys= 194
Percent Boys= Top 12% (there were some teams included in the overall results)

1/2 Mary
Me= 144th boy
Total Boys= 813 (Yup, more girls than boys in this event)
Percent Boys= Top 18%

Conclusion 3- Compared to the blokes, my multisport prowess is better than my raw running speed. There were some great runners in this race, my name not on the list. My "Don't make me just run" hypothesis is still un-refuted.

Comparison #4- My Time versus Top Girl
(This is a fair comparison as the girl who won the Du also won the 1/2 Mary. It was her versus me and she won both times.)
Me= 1:42.09
Her= 1:35.26
Percent Difference= 7%

1/2 Mary
Me= 1:38.43
Awesome Chick= 1:23.25
Percent Difference= 16%

Conclusion 4- Even when I focused, I mean really focused, on the woman who won both races, she won. But, my butt spanking was less when you tossed in the bike versus just running.

My hypothesis is rock solid. No matter how you look at the numbers, look at the times, or look at the woman who finished first, I am a better multisport guy than pure runner. Once you add the bike, I get closer to the winner. Imagine what will happen when you add a swim (assuming that I get back in the water, which will inevitably happen). It's possible that, once you add the swim, that I may actually beat the lady who won this weekend. Given a couple of more data points, my hypothesis will become an irrefutable, scientific theory. From there, all I need to do is publish my numbers in a major journal and I'm in the big money (thank goodness as my racing or blogging won't earn me much). If anyone out there has any connections to Science, Nature, or JAMA, please send them the link to my blog. This research is in desperate need of peer review.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Ego Blanket

Here's the thing: the more I think about it, the more power the Ego Gene garners. For those of you who are new to the blog, here's a review of the Male Ego Gene.

The Male Ego Gene Explained- Excerpt from a Prior Post 1
Midway down the Y-chromosome, they discovered the male-ego gene.  Later studies indicate how the gene works. The gene is automatically turned on in the presence of women. The hotter the female, or the larger number of females, the harder the gene works. The ego gene is also activated in the presence of children and other men whose gene has also been activated. The gene is inactive when you are alone or in the presence of your Mommy. Don't ask. I don't fully understand it either. But, I do know that since I live with a hot chick (AKA the Wife), am a teacher, and my Mommy lives 550 miles away, my ego-gene is running the equivalent of 20 hours per day, 7 days a week. 

The Competition Addendum- Excerpt From a Prior Post 2
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...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.
New Research
I remember, back in the years when I both was prone to imbibe and socialize, we could go outside when the temperature was lower than our normal threshold. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the "Beer Jacket". In reality, ethanol doesn't actually provide any heat. It acts as a vaso-dilator. This is good to know in case you need your vasos opened up. The hops only gave you the illusion of warmth, with your heme hanging out near the surface of your dermis.

Well, according to the Journal of Obscure Research (the leading source for Male Ego Gene knowledge), the Male Ego has realistic heating powers. According to the abstract:
In the presence of Male Ego activating factors, special proteins in the blood bind with adrenaline receptors inducing a hormonal response. In our study, participants were subjected to various response factors (hot chicks, blokes who may be better at sports, kids who look to them as role models, etc). Subjects were then placed in controlled environments with varying temperatures. In an overwhelming majority of instances (+90%) as compared to the control group (who where not subjected to said factors), activated Male Ego Geners were more tolerant to cold temperatures than their non-activated counterparts.
This research was proven by yours truly in a recent field test. As the winter refuses to fully go away, I was subjected to lower than normally tolerated temperatures at the Flower City Duathlon. The morning temperature was a blustery 38º. Normally, at that temperature, I would subject my bike to the basement instead of risking the cold. I'm pretty sure the carbon and the other components don't appreciate the cold. Therefore, the basement is less of a pansy move and more of a preventative move. I've checked the JOOR but there has not been much research on the performance of overpriced bikes in various temperatures. Anecdotal evidence indicates that under 40º is not for biking outside.

Unfortunately, the race organizers didn't take my pansiness into consideration and they let the race go on as planned. Here was my race outfit.
  1. Long Sleeved technical shirt (not the free one given with my entry fee)
  2. Long Sleeved cotton shirt
  3. Riding jersey (with convenient back pockets)
  4. Tri-shorts
  5. Biking tights
  6. Smart wool socks
  7. Shoes with toe covers
All of those were worn on the run. Now, normally during the runs near freezing, I would also include head warmers and running gloves. As I lined up near the starting line, I noticed the number of guys in my age group. I looked behind me and saw numerous ladies, too many to count. On the side lines were several kids, I'm guessing offspring of some of these participants. I admit that they could have been strays in the middle of the city on a cool Sunday morning, but I'm skeptical. Regardless of the reason of the youngins, they rounded out the trifecta of Male Ego activation.

Thus, I was not cold. I was actually comfortable bordering on warm. I might have been over-dressed. And this was before we started running. As the race was in its final countdown and transition was a few hundred yards away, I was forced to keep the outer layers. The ear covers and gloves were not needed and relegated to the back jersey pockets.

Once Run 1 was completed, I had planned on full gloves, jacket, and ear things. Because there were guys in transition and kids cheering (the ladies started 2 heats back and had not caught up to me yet), the Ego Gene was still running with the Competition Addendum in full swing. Temperature was of no consequence. I decided that the ear things were still a good idea (allowing logic to have a say in this race). But, I dropped the jacket and full gloves, opting for the regular biking gloves (you know, the ones with no fingers). The Competition Addendum kept me warm throughout the entire bike.

Run 2 was as good as it got. I was feeling good. I even passed a few guys. Once I got chicked, about 2 miles into the run and roughly three-quarters of a mile before the finish, I was completely warm. My warmth may have been created by all that exercise. It might have also been due to the embarrassment of said chicking (again, its genetic, don't blame me). The leading research says that the heat was a consequence of the Ego.

As you can see, the Male Ego gene is quite powerful. It increases heart rate, blood pressure, fat-burning, and now temperature tolerance. It encourages higher levels of competition and forces dudes to act in ways that they would not normally consider. Some women experience symptoms similar to the Male Ego gene, but science has just started to focus on that phenomenon. Still, the impact of the Male Ego gene is amazing. Take me, for instance. The Ego Gene was the sole factor I completed the race instead of hanging out in the car with the heater blaring or heading out to the coffee shop for my favorite chocolate flavored caffeine. Like it or not, I've got it and it's in control.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Race Review and Results- Flower City Half

This is the second installment of my race weekend series and of the Flower City Double. On Sunday, I 'raced' in the Flower City Half Marathon. The introduction and goals to this race can be found here.

And I say 'raced' because... well because I'm not that good. It's hard to describe what I did as racing. I might be more inclined to use 'participating'. Allow me to expound:

In the Duathlon, there was chit chat. But, all of it occurred pre-race. In transition, we chatted about the crappy training season thus far. One guy commented that this was his first ride outside. (I secretly felt proud that I had ridden out 3 times this season.) I helped one dude, who was now in his second multisport event, set up his bike, helmet, glasses, and shoes for efficiency. We even went through a dry-run so he could pop his bike off the bar with ease and understand the process. I thanked the woman in front of me who happened to have a bright pink bag and would serve as my spotter in transition (the bag, not woman). At the starting line, the guys in the first wave shared light comedy.

Once the race started, chatter ended. Focus. Run run run. Hit T1. Bike bike bike. T2. Run run run. All business. There were a couple of pleasantries but none too much longer than 2-6 words (that's all we had breath for). Granted, I was competing in this race and the other guys (and the girl who chicked me) knew the drill.

Once we crossed the finishers arc, chatter resumed. We recalled the fun stuff from the race. We bantered about who passed whom at what point, did you see the guy who _______, or the story about the dancing dragon that crossed the path during run 2 (at least I wasn't the only one who saw it).

That was the Duathlon. I raced. Day 2 brought the Half Marathon. There was the same pre-race chatter. But, from where I was standing, then running, the chatter never ended. The lady yelled go and the only difference was that were were chatting at a faster pace.

She was neither Frank, Dan, nor Drew.
I met Frank. Frank was in a couple of age brackets past me and a former triathlete. He doesn't like how expensive the sport has become. We were having this conversation with Dan. Dan was running with Dan, who was being paced by Dan. If you are confused, try absorbing all of that while keeping your HR in Z2. Dan runs a tri business in a nearby town. He was in full advertising kit and a good guy. I'm pretty sure I beat Dan but Frank may have passed me in the last half mile of the run. I ran for quite some time with Drew, the Vibram Five Fingers guy. Whereas Drew had done this distance several times, it was the VFF's first half. Their previously longest run was 10 miles. I ran with the VFF and Drew for many miles. He was jealous of my Garmin and actually appreciated it's beeping every 0.25 miles. He wants one now. He definitely passed me in the last mile.

That's a shot of me from the race. Stop looking at the lady, she's not the point of this blog. Plus, I don't want to brag, but, check out my awesome quads and mid-foot strike (both of which have taken years to develop).

The point is that, with all of this socializing happening, there was not much time to race. Sure I had a goal time but it's hard to ignore the guy who is in your personal space, sweating, panting, and, at times grunting, for the past 3 miles. Running has no drafting penalty so we all just bunch up on each other. Plus, I'm kind of slow. Even if I wanted to compete, it would have been a fruitless venture. I had no hope of bringing home any of the cash offered to the good guys and gals. I banished myself to somewhere in the middle between awesome and just finishing. Had a great time though.

My goal on the day was a sub 7:30 pace. I did this, depending on your perspective. See what the Garmin has to say about the run (simply look right). According to my GPS, I rocked the run. However, if you look at the bottom line, you'd notice that once again the run was longer than the expected 13.1 advertised miles. Since my Race Preview, I had a conversation with a couple of people smarter than me (granted, that could be close to anyone on the planet). Anyway, I learned that the USATF sanctioning people are meticulous in their race distances. If you go to the USATF website, they list the process in excruciatingly painful details. Apparently they use laser sighting, infrared technology and military choppers. (Okay, I didn't read it all but it seemed like they were heading in that direction.) If the USATF guy says the course is 13.1, then you'd better believe it's 13.1.

Then I was ready to blame the Garmin. After a bit more research, I was dumbfounded. Apparently, it is about 99.8% accurate. That extra 0.02% does not account for the additional 0.14 miles posted. This is the tough part. The culprit was me. Crap. I hate admitting that I cannot run in a straight line. I was much happier when it was the USATF or the technology. The legs seem to zig zap along the way. I had to do things like snatch water, dodge a moving bullet, or avoid being stepped on by a minimalist runner. All of the back and forth juking adds up.

None of this was really a problem until I got the official race results back. They list the same time but calculate the pace for 13.1 and not 13.24. According to them, my pace was 7:33. This is completely unacceptable. I had a goal. I do not like missing my goals. Therefore, I prefer to ignore the spreadsheet. If my 99.8% accurate Garmin says I ran 13.24 miles at a 7:27, I am prone to believe it. It ran with me the whole time. The spreadsheet wasn't there when I went up the cobblestone cemetery inclines. The spreadsheet wasn't there when I started to bonk at 11.5 miles. (See the data for yourself. Simply look up a bit.) The spreadsheet wasn't there when I skipped breakfast for the second straight day in a row, pre-race (more evidence that I am not that smart and possibly the reason for bonking). The Garmin held my wrist the entire time. In the Garmin/ Spreadsheet battle, the GPS wins the emotional vote and will be the focus of my goal achievement attention.

The Numbers:
Press right here
  • I was 171st place overall
  • I was the 144th boy to cross the line (yes, I was chicked 27 times and it was awesome!)
  • Official (ignored) time 1:38.43
  • Official (ignored) pace 7:33
  • Unofficial (focal) time 1:38.43
  • Unofficial (focal) pace 7:27
  • Did anyone else notice how the Garmin's time was really close to the Official time?
  • Here's a picture of me demonstrating how to accurately stop your watch to match the official time. I am not looking at the clock.
The Goods about the race:
  • The race venue, hands down, was the greatest place to host a race (they used the downtown sports center). Indoors. Lots of bathrooms and space. They even had a band playing rock when we finished.
  • The course is about as good as it gets. Mostly flat, except for the cemetery portion. Very nice course for goal setting.
  • Post-race spread- one of the major sponsors was a pizza parlor that specializes in non-processed ingredients. Plus, they had the usual suspects of fruit and beverages.
  • Volunteers- if I've said it once I will say it again and again. They people are possibly the greatest on Earth. I've only volunteered once at a race and that was a fundraiser for my school when I was 14. There were tons of happy, smiling, cheering guys and gals of all ages doing all sorts of crap work that most people wouldn't want to be paid for doing. Thank you all!
The Bads about the race:
  • My pre-race preparation- If I'd have eaten breakfast, maybe I wouldn't have had to rationalize the Official Time versus Garmin Time thing
  • Post-race cups of water- this is a bit nitpicky here- the water authority brought a truck and handed water in customized cups. As a guy who was tired, it took way too much of my concentration to not spill that water. I was in desperate need of a lid. 
  • My attitude- I so don't like pure running races. Most anything else would be out of spite.
Thanks to Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket racing for their efforts. This race happens at a perfect time of year. It's close to home. It matches with my later season goals and is a good measurement of my training. The weekend proved that my running is on par. It also proved that I need a bunch more biking on my belt if I want to hit my goals. I should probably start swimming again but you can't really glean that info from the race data.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Race Review and Results- Flower City Duathlon

First- A public service announcement. You may have noticed that Tri-Banter has a new look. Every once in a while, I like to change things up a bit. This is normally externally motivated. In this case, it was a rant by The Wife. She was (literally) yelling at her computer about people who's webpages have black backgrounds with white fonts and how it migraines her. She may have blurted out something about, "... and that's the reason I don't read your blog." I'm skeptical. I am sure there are many reasons she not a follower, I can at least resolve the background problem.

Now, on with your regularly scheduled blog post.

This weekend marked the first time I've done 2 races in the same weekend. This is the first in the series, the Flower City Duathlon, Part One of the Double. I had some lofty goals for this race and I may have set myself up for failure. As with any failure, I need a scapegoat. Therefore, I thought of a list of reasons why I would do bad even before the race began. There are lots of reasons I came up with for a poor performance.
  • I've only ridden the bike outside 3 times this year.
  • 3 days ago, it rained while riding. 2 days ago, I had to clean off the rain gunk and goo. In doing so, I pulled a muscle in my back.
  • I was so distracted by the woman's race winner that I swallowed my tongue as she ran by in her pink shirt and lycra shorts.
  • The racetime start temperature was lower than my normal threshold for biking.
  • I was distraught that the race organizers had to cancel the paddle-triathlon. All those competitors magically became duathletes and my race grew in size.
  • I had not put on my race wheels.
  • I am a pansy
  • I was over-rested. Due to the back problem, I did not exercise on Thursday or Friday. My legs were not ready for the effort.
  • I was under-rested. I did not go to sleep until about 11:00 pm, which is a good 90 min after my normal bedtime. Couple that with the earlier wake-up
  • Still, even with the early wake up, I did not get out of bed until 5:30, which was only 2 hours before race time
  • Because I woke up so close to race time, I couldn't eat much. I didn't want my stomach bogged down with slushy goo. I maybe had 500 calories.
  • I hate duathlons. I miss the swim. Therefore, I had a bad attitude going into the event (especially when you add in the all the other bullets)
Each of the above is completely true. Each of the above is completely valid. Any one, or a combination (depending on the seriousness), of them could be used in the event of crappiness. Here's how the day panned out.

I did get up from a groggy nap at 5:30. I spent most of my evening neurotically packing the car with the necessities of the race. Bike. Race belt. Rubbing the pulled muscle in my back. Blah blah blah. Everything except for the clothes I was going to wear to the race and my bike shoes. The bike shoes were still wet from being stuck in a torrential down pour during Wednesday's training ride. I had hoped to get in a 20 miler but mother nature laughed at me in her own way with horizontal rain and winds on 40 mph gusting to 55. It was a good way to practice bike handling skills and get in a good forearm workout (IE hanging on for your life). The shoes were placed in the basement in front of a fan. They dried out by morning.

Race time temperature was a whopping 38º. If you ignored the thermometer, the day was as beautiful as it could get. Sunny. Slight breeze out of the north. A couple of fluffy clouds scattered in a backdrop of blue. Good running weather.

My run goal of the day was a 7:30 pace for the entirety. That meant hitting a 5k in under 22:00. The second wave of the race went off a full 3 minutes after mine. It took the lead runners all the way until mile 2 to catch me. Despite their awesomeness to my suckiness, I was able to hold a 7:20 pace. My time: 22:17. If you are good with numbers, you'd know that I'm giving you conflicting data. The problem was that the early session was not a 5k. It was more like a 5K + 400 yards. That makes my run 1 time all that much better. So far, so good. I'm on target and ahead of schedule.

I felt like I was painfully slow in T1. Run shoes off. Bike shoes on. Ear covers. Helmet. Sunglasses. Gloves. Run away. I accomplished all of that in about 90 seconds. I should have done it in under 50. I knew I had a few seconds to space on my goal time and therefore was in no real hurry.

On to the bike. Good mount. Good cadence. I was able to hold just under 21 mph for the ride (thank goodness I changed that goal). There was an unexpected stretch of about 7 miles that was straight into the wind the entire time. It was during this stretch when I was passed by 3 of the 4 guys that were going to pass me. They were all wearing aero helmets and had disk wheels. It's possible that they were better bikers than me. But, since I'm in the mood of making excuses, I'm blaming their equipment.

T2 was a bit better than T1. I had to undo everything I did on the way out. I left the shoes on the bike and did a flying dismount. I kept on my gloves and ear things to slowly remove during the run. With speed laces, I was able to slip on my Mirages. When I compare my T2 times with the field, I was rather efficient at 53 seconds.

Run 2 surprised me. Since I had very little calories on the day (I took an additional 100 calories along with some water on the bike), I was expecting to die at any time. Death did not come for me. In fact, quite the opposite. I felt great. There were a couple of hills that ascended up to 8 feet while going over river bridges. One of the hills may have been as great as 10 feet. They were intimidating. (I know that sarcasm is difficult to write, but you had to have caught that one, right?) It was near the last hill that I got chicked. She flew by and I was helpless to her prowess on more than one level. Still, I was able to hold a 7:00 pace. Negative splits on the day. YES! My R2 time was 19:28. Again, if you are an amateur mathematician, you'd get that there is something askew in my numbers. This 5k was a good 400 yards less at 2.81 miles. I guess they needed balance. Aside: The Garmin, in its infinite wisdom, had my average moving pace way fast. Maybe I'll start training for the record.
The Pros for the Race
  • Good time of year (woohoo, first multisport event!)
  • Well organized (good transition area, good finishers area, good venue, parking a bit further but plentiful)
  • Nice courses for both the runs and bike (good path, good roads, bad cow smell at one point but that's not their fault)
  • Food spread post race (cookies, fruit, and hot dogs. Seemed a bit early for hot dogs but I was ravenous)
  • Awesome volunteers (I can't say enough about these good people. They control traffic, hand out water, steal timing chips from sweaty, dripping monkeys. They are the heart and soul of these races and better people than me.)
The Cons for the Race
  • Temperature (When will RDs figure out how to control the weather?)
  • Different distances in the runs (I'd prefer the consistency)
  • Worst Swag Ever (Nothing. We got nothing except one lousy coupon and a bunch of advertisements for other races. Oh, and a grocery bag.)
  • Race Results (The pdf gave name, age, run, transitions, bike, overall time, and for some reason USAT status on the report. No places except overall. No paces. Better results include a breakdown in each category of your overall place, gender place, and age group place. They tell you the official pace in min/ mile for the run and mph for the bike.)
  • Tearing down transition before racers finished (Even though my bike was out long before this point, there were many bikes and such in the transition area when they broke down the fences. I understand that you guys want to go home, but how is that secure for the late finishers? Wait a little bit more, please.)
Springer's Banter's Final Thoughts
I will, most likely, do this race again next year. I am guessing that the race organizers will have figured out how to control the temperature a little bit better. Plus, if the record books have anything to say, spring of 2012 is guaranteed to be dryer, warmer, and more biking friendly.

I wanted a sub- 1:45 for the race. I clocked a 1:42.09, making this my Flower City Duathlon PR (yes, this was my first attempt, thanks for pointing that out). I finished in the top 25 overall (read, I was 25th). I was 4th in my age group. All of my excuses for a bad performance were not necessary and I hate it when I do unnecessary work. To live and learn. Due to that effort, they gave me a nice metal pail with a marigold (which The Wife is allergic and refused to accept). They also gave all those who crossed the line a nice "finisher's medal."
(Short rant here but I find that, for a race this distance, finishers medals to all is a bit silly. I don't feel it was that special of an accomplishment. By handing everyone who finished a medal, it sort of dilutes it. We all got t-shirts. Did we really need medals too? Sure, there are those that disagree with me. Personally, I think that making a reward challenging and not giving it to everyone makes it all that much more special when you do earn it. Either that or spend less money on medals and give out more swag, which for some reason, seems better. End Rant).

Stay tuned. The Flower City Half Marathon Race and Results soon to follow.