Sunday, April 29, 2012

Race Report-Flower City Double Version 2.1

It seems that the multi-sport racing season has snuck its way upon us. Winter is sprinkled with all sorts of running events. Since I'm not much of a runner, I tend to skip these sufferfests. Then, the good folks over at Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket Racing had this brilliant idea: Let's host a race weekend. They called this weekend the "Flower City Challenge" because Rochester is (for some reason that I've never understood) called the Flower City and the races are, umm, not easy.

The highlight of the weekend is the 1/2 marathon, for which I have signed up and will be discussing at a later date. There are a couple of reasons I call it the highlight:
  • It really is the main event
  • Thousands of people sign up for it
  • It's only one of two of these events in the area
  • I hate it with a passion, making it all that much more popular with the masses
There are 2 reasons I got involved with the weekend. One- a couple of athletes I train wanted to do this race 2 years ago. I joined them for the race weekend, because, (and this is a direct quote), "Why the hell not?" Two- the race directors are marketing geniuses. On their flyer, which is really their website, they post a triathlon and a duathlon on day 1. I, in case you didn't know, love triathlon. I'm in. Except that I'm not. See, the triathlon, in this situation, meant to paddle a canoe, ride a bike, and do some running. Since I had already made up my mind, I checked the 'duathlon' part of the form, which means run, bike, run.

In the past, I would have written up a full preview of the race. One of the nice things about the race director is that they didn't change much, meaning I don't have to re-write a preview for a race I previewed in the past since that preview would probably have been exactly the same as the last preview. You can read it here.

I am kind of a procrastinator. And, since I don't have a lot of money coupled with loosely doing the paycheck-to-paycheck thing, I didn't actually sign up for the race until this recent Tuesday. They shut down online registration allowing me to forgo the fee in exchange for gas money.

I show up, fill out the form, and hand it to the nice girl responsible for taking forms. She reads it over and checks my data. Then she looks at me and says, "Please give me money in the form of cash or check." I was dumbfounded. Not because I am used to women asking me to give money for services rendered. I normally pay by credit card, don't carry that much cash, and didn't bring the checkbook (I may not even know where it is). After a big hubub in the shop about ATMs, I grabbed my form and went out to buy cash.

Finally, with real money in hand (I had forgotten what that felt like), I was ready to start over. I hand my form back to the same girl, show her the cash, and she goes to work. She re-checks everything,  asks for my ID and fills out her required information. This is complete with misspelling my name on my bib and the race results had a second spelling, still incorrect, of my name. I, however, was not tricked. I still believed that the bib was mine and the race results sort of matched the Garmin.

The Swim
It was a bit chilly at 7:00 am race morning. Last year, I remember complaining about the sub-40º temps at race time. The normal overnight low is 41 so I shouldn't have had much to complain about. This year, the temps were 29º, very near the record low set back in the Ice Age known as the late 70s.

I saw several people walking with life preservers towards the river. There are a few races that I have done in the past aided by a river current but I suspect that life preservers will not make you a faster swimmer. Wetsuits do that. I saw no one with a wetsuit. That's when I remembered that there was no swim for this race. Duathletes don't like the water.

Run 1
Honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing in these events. I've done a grand total of 3 du's in the past. The first was a triathlon that canceled the swim due to unsafe weather. Rather than skip the first leg of the race completely, they forced us to run. It did not go well. The second was a race in the fall of 2010 which was a Formula 1 duathlon, which meant R-B-R-B-R. I did that race at the encouragement of the Wife, who wanted me to join the trail run. When given the choice to multi-sport or not to multi-sport, I'm picking an event with a bike. My third du was this race last year.

They let the paddlers, teams, and ladies start in earlier waves saving the Banter and the rest of the boys for last. Disclaimer: I <think> I understand why race directors do this. I still don't like it. I'd prefer to start the fast people first, then the medium people, followed by the slow people. Races don't seem to do this format. One on the reasons I don't like it was that there was this awkward 3 minutes when the race was just a bunch of dudes standing around in the cold wearing tights. Again. Awkward.

I decided to follow Alan and Keith. They looked like runners. We meandered through the running path, which was a great!! place to hold a race. There were a couple of bridges and many, many people from the earlier waves to navigate around (a sore point from both the passers and the passees). Keith and Alan were nice and kept me at roughly a 6:45 pace. My run time was a 21:29 or roughly a 45 second improvement on a year ago. Thanks guys.

Transition 1
This is where the trouble started. See, I am a selectively pansy athlete. I don't mind 30º and running. In fact, I rather enjoy it. Now that I'm all sweaty and gross, I have to bike. If it were in the 70s, I wouldn't think twice about it. Today, I thought long and hard. "I'll take care of you. I have my ways." said the Ego Gene. The Pansy Gene relented.

During the Pansy/ Ego negotiations, the two genes compromised that I would be allowed to put on a jacket and gloves during the bike ride. I don't really own a nice riding jacket, so I did what every warm-blooded American would do in my situation... I stole one from the Wife. She doesn't really have one either but she has several running jackets. Since she is a bit smaller than me, her clothes fit tightly. I did struggle getting her jacket on. No, not because of the fit, but because women's clothing is backwards. The zipper was on the wrong side.

The extra clothes, a wardrobe malfunction, and the team duathletes blocking space next to me caused for an exceptionally slow T1 time. My 45 second lead on last year's race was negated.

The Bike
Went well. I was faster than last year. It was cold. There's not much more to say.

Okay, I did pass many, many people. I got passed by no one. Now, there's not much more to say.

Fine. The roads were awesome. So were the cops and volunteers. Satisfied?

Transition 2
Someone moved my shoes and placed a bag in front of my bike spot. Taking off sweaty bike gloves was more complicated than anticipated. Stripping out of the Wife's jacket proved just as difficult as getting in to it. My running shoes were kicked (possibly by me or my bike, I'll have to check the video). After all of that, it didn't do too bad. No where near the debacle that was called Transition 1.

Run 2
The second run of the day sent us out in the opposite direction as the first. As a bonus, it was a different course than Run 1. That fact kept the course new and fun. As a double bonus, it was shorter. Only 2.8 miles of the proposed 3.1. Last year, I was a bit grumpy about shortened distance. I'm a year older and able to look a gift horse in the quadriceps (which is where I was felling the pressure).

Around the 1.75 mile mark, I developed a stomach problem. Let me give you an idea on what I was going through. Take your left hand and place it on your belly so that your thumb is right in the middle and touching your ribs. Now, notice where your pinky finger is located. Lastly, take a sharp object, jamb it into your flesh just below your pinky finger, and twist it repeatedly. I had that except that the sharp object was working its way out instead of in.

I got passed by 4 people on the run, which wasn't bad considering the circumstances. I was able to run through the embryo scene from Alien and still manage a decent run time. Sure, it was a little slower than last year but I am not unhappy.

I was tied for 26th place overall and 25th individual. There was a team competition and one teams beat me and one posted the exact same finish time. In my age group, I was 8th. Last year, I was in 25th place (posted pretty much the exact same time) and was in 4th place AG. People my age are getting better. I'd better get to work.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WW- New Bike Technology

It's been a while since I've thought about my bike. It is 6 years old and still, I'm convinced, the best bike for me. There are a couple of reasons I won't switch my ride for a new one...
  1. I have not reached my potential on this bike. Getting a new bike would mean that I am just as slow on newer technology.
  2. I don't have additional thousands of dollars to spend on an full upgrade.
  3. I'd prefer to install gadgets, such as a power meter rocket pack or disc wheel.
  4. I'm too lazy to research a better bike
Just because I'm not going to change my ride doesn't mean that there aren't any viable options out there. Check out some of the stuff soon to be available, compliments of I wonder if any of these set-ups will make me more aero.

Plus, some of these images give me an idea as to what to do with some of the crap left over from my recent move.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Selectively Pansy

I am known as, and this is a scientific term, a selectively pansy athlete. Selectively pansy athletes will cry like a little girl during certain activities yet will be willing to brave even the toughest conditions during others. Scientists are still working on identifying the pansy gene but it doesn't seem to show much consistency from one individual to the next. Plus, it may be heredity, but this hypothesis seems to open up a new nature-vs-nurture can of worms. Some of the leading the experts believe that selectively pansy is a polygenic condition making the exact cause much more elusive. Even without the DNA evidence, selectively pansy is completely real and I have it.

For example, if the temperatures are even remotely close to uncomfortable, I refuse to bike outside. I used to think that I could handle 40º temps on the bike. This is still true as long as it is sunny, no wind, no rain and I am riding for less than an hour. If ALL of these conditions are not met, it's off to Stockholm for me.

As it turns out, I haven't found conditions that are anti-running. I have and will run in rain, snow, sleet, hail (true), high winds, cold, hot, or any combination of those conditions. I have lots of strategies to deal with weather patterns. I only need to add an extra layer of clothing, take off my shirt, drink a little more water, slow my pace a bit, etc. I cannot remember being uncomfortable during a run due to the outside conditions (I have been uncomfortable due to the workout many, many times but that's not the same thing).

Not all runners have this attitude. Some people hate running in bad weather in much the same way I hate biking. They are selectively pansy too. Runners have this device that is supposed to do for running what the bike trainer does for biking. This device is officially called a hamster wheel treadmill, but I have other words for this machine. Since this is typically a pg-13 type-blog, I will not emburden you with some of my choice words. Yes, I have gotten on the treadmill. I have learned that it is significantly more painful than anything Mother Nature can toss at me.

I own all of the cold weather biking gear. I've got the tights, bibs, lobster-finger gloves, toe covers, booties, thermal socks, ear warmers, skull caps, wind breakers, shell jackets, etc. I, at no time, look forward to donning this equipment again (making it that much more ludicrous of an investment).

Here on the east coast, we are being barraged by a late April snow storm. The temps are expected to be significantly cooler than average for the rest of the week. The runner portion of my personality couldn't care. What's a little bit of rain, snow, and wind when there are miles to be run? The cyclist portion of my personality looks at the forecast with trepidation.  There's absolutely no way I'll be biking in that. Period. End of story.

(Or is it the end of the story... There's always pool temperatures to consider.)

Anyone else out there got the Selectively Pansy gene too?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Might Be a Lab Rat

This most recent week has gone by in a blur. I'm pretty sure I accomplished everything I had hoped for. I had a good week at work. My track team got their miles done with only a few complaints. I got lots of biking done on the trainer. I made it to the pool a couple of times. One issue was that my running mileage was down this week but nothing too detrimental.

Maybe that last little bit is one of the reasons for my forgetfulness. According to a recent NY Times article, exercise is good for your brain. Here's what happened: Scientists enlisted the help of some volunteers. We'll call these volunteers "lab rats" for the simple fact that they were lab rats. After a series of tests, the rats that were runners did the best on intelligence. It's possible that a few of them could have passed some of the New York State Standardized tests. That hypothesis, however, was not tested. The non-running rats did not show any significant improvement.

So, as I sit here typing these words, I am still pummeling my brain trying to ascertain what was missing from the most recent week. I admit that I 'forgot' to go running, but this doesn't tell the whole picture. Like the average bloke, I have this non-training life. The Wife refuses to let me become a professional triathlete. Of course, there are several reasons that she has wisely forbidden this.
  • I'm not that great of a runner (another reason why the not-running this week was detrimental). Pros handing out 7 minute miles don't normally make the cut.
  • I'm kind of old. Very few triathletes become professionals in their late 30s. Sure, Lance did it but he was a professional triathlete in his teens and early 20s before he switched to cycling. You could say that he's been a professional triathlete on sabbatical. Since I have not had an amazing cycling career, the chances of me tapping the professional ranks go way down.
  • Professional triathetes don't make a ton of cash unless you are really, really good. Money is not all that guaranteed. Pros in our sport don't normally sign long term contracts with a team for millions of dollars. They rely on sponsorship, which is not all that easy to come by. Even if they do well in a race, the race reward goes significantly down. A 4th place finish (which is much more than I could hope for) might yield $750. This amount may not cover the race registration and travel.
  • I kinda suck.
Well, something was lost in my most recent week of life. Maybe I'll come up with it at a later date. I'm going for a run.

Edit: Run finished. I went on a 7 mile loop with the PRP. I descended miles 1-6. Mile 1 was on the 7:39. Mile 6 was on the 6:28 (my fastest mile of the season!). As it turns out, the Lab Rat people were right. I'd like to add to all of the neural science that went in to their report that I believe the scientists missed. Even with the added neural connections, blood flow, and increased oxygen to the brain, running gives you freedom to get lost in yourself. 

Yes there is tons of information coming at you. Potholes. Motorists. The feel of the road under your legs. Debris on the route. While running, I pretty much ignore all of that. My brain is at its most active (translation: roughly 3% more active than my normal according to recent Banter experiments or 83% less active than the average person).

As it turns out, I forgot to blog last week. You'd have thought that fact would have been obvious. Then again, you are probably 83% smarter than me. I have just laid credence to the Lab Rat Runner Hypothesis. Next week is scheduled to be a higher mileage running week, so maybe my brain and blogging will be back on track. Either that, or I'll have to buy some more cheese.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Swimming with Kryptonite

Have I mentioned before that my YMCA makes me feel like a superhero? I thought so. For the most part, this is completely true. In the 8 years or so that I've been dipping my feet into their overheated bathwater that doubles for a swimming pool, I've not been bested in a set. Granted, there's a lack of competition but the fact remains, I am the king of the pool tend to be the fastest guy in the water.

Recently, I went for a lunchtime swim. I think someone spiked the water before I got in. It wasn't the good, college-fraternity type of spiking. It was the kryptonite in the water a la the movie Superman type of spiking. It rendered my swimming ability useless. Allow me to paint the picture:

Swim Sets Decoded
I was doing a set of 3x5x100s, negative sets 1-3. For those of you who do not speak swimmer, I'll interpret. To decipher this code, you read starting in the middle and moving to the left. Once you get to the left most words, you go back to your starting point and then read to the right. Dead smack in the middle of the description, you'll find the distance, 100 yards. This is 4 lengths or 4 laps or 2 laps, depending on which system you feel is appropriate. Moving to the left, you'll notice that I had to do 5 of these things. Then, moving further to the left, you'll notice that I had to repeat this set 3 times.

Why in the world didn't the set simply say '15 x 100s'? Good question. Because, there's more to the code. Go back to the starting distance and see that, now reading to the right, that I had to negative. This may mean to keep a grumpy, pessimistic attitude during the entire set. However, it really means that my first 5x100s was to be the slowest, the second 5x100s was to be a bit faster, and the last 5x100s was to be the fastest. I did the first set on the 1:40, the second on the 1:35, and the third on the 1:30.

Enter the Ego
Now, despite my superhero comparison, my swimming this season is in better shape than a year ago. I have been flowing through the water more efficiently than in the past. Once I hit the final set of the workout, I decided that I wanted to hold 1:22s. There were several reasons for this:
  1. The Wife was sharing a lane with me. This always means that I'm going to swim faster than normal due to the Male Ego Gene. We were swimming in lane 5.
  2. There was a second hottie, New Girl, who just entered the water. On a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being the fat, old guy water floating with a noodle in the deep end and 10 being the Wife, I'd place the NG at around a 7 +/- 1. She could have been a notch up or down, but keep in mind that I did not get a good look (see item #1). Even though I was mid-set, the Ego Gene caught her scent and bumped the effort up a bit. She was in lane 6, nearest the wall.
  3. Right around the same time that the girl from item 2 got in the water, a Dude got in the pool. I had about 8 seconds to notice him in lane 4. He was to my left while the deck clock was to my right. The Wife was also to my left while the NG was to my right. I'd rank the Dude at around an 8 +/-1. He could probably go up a notch, but keep in mind that I was in mid-set, didn't get a good look as he was behind me, and, well, he's a dude. 
Game On
Here's the thing about the Dude... Even in the menial 8 seconds I had to take in all of the data happening in the pool, I could tell the guy was a swimmer. First, he had that chiseled, v-shaped body that swimmers are prone to sporting. Second, he did not look at either of the women in the pool. His eyes were glued to the same place as mine, the deck clock. Third, he pushed off at the exact same time as I did, on the 60. My Male Ego Gene was in overdrive.

This was #3 of 5 in the set. Number 1 was on the 1:22. Number 2 was on the 1:22. As I analyze that specific 100 yard swim, I felt like I did everything right. I powered off the wall in perfect streamline position. I held my line for 7 yards. I pulled straight-armed with my bottom arm first. I kept my head-hips-and-heels (commonly called the 3 H's) in a tight formation. I was efficient, making it from wall to wall in 14 strokes (my normal is 15). As I rotated on to my left side, my body was facing lane 4. Time to check on the competition. I was behind by about 1 yard.

I hit the flip turn hard and perfect. When I flip, I naturally spin on my left side. Since we have switched directions, I was now facing lane 6, where the NG was swimming. She was there for my viewing pleasure but the landscape was wasted. The Ego Gene dictates that now is the time to impress. Later is the time to gawk. After my stroke rotated me back towards lane 4, I took note that I had not taken the lead on the Dude. He was still about a yard ahead. At least I didn't lose any water on the turn. As he stroked, his lead was beginning to widen.

The Wife was waiting for me at the wall. I had done 50 yards of the required 100 in this interval and the Wife was Cat and Mousing me. This was going to be my chance to come back on the Dude. As I started my flip, the Wife pushed off giving her a head start on our lane 5 race. She can be pretty dang quick when she wants. I noticed that I had started to kick, which is something that I do not normally do while swimming. I also notice that she was between me and lane 4. I had no idea where the Dude was but I was confident that I had closed the gap (perhaps passed) due to the extra effort.

The Wife hit the wall at the 75 first, which was normal for this type of set. She, however, has not had years of abuse in flip turn practice. I can normally pick up 2-3 body lengths on her just on the turn (which also explains why she gets a head start). This was the case and I had some clear water. I peeked at lane 6 and, yep, NG was still there. As I swung to the right, I didn't see the Dude. I assumed that I had smoked him. I didn't have too much time to contemplate pool positions as the Wife was coming back off her turn into a nice sprint for the finish. I stroked hard to stay in front.

When I hit the wall, I immediately popped up and looked at the deck clock. This is what swimmers are trained to do. Your first look is always at the deck clock. Your second look is up to you. The clock posted a 1:12, a full 10 seconds faster than my goal speed. Having cataloged that number, I was free to look around. I had 18 seconds to gander at my surroundings. The Wife hit the wall about 1 second behind. The NG was mid-pool, heading in my direction swimming breaststroke. The Dude was also mid-pool but he was outward bound. He had about a 10 yard lead on me.

Excuse me?! I had the fastest 100 yards of my season. I had the fastest 100 yards of the past 2 seasons. I was in MY YMCA. Yet, here this pretty-boy swimmer Dude came in and made my interval seem like chump change. As I reflect on the set, I'm pretty sure that there was something horribly wrong. I wasn't fast at all. I only thought I was fast.

The Results Explained
One of the many, many consequences of the Male Ego Gene is its ability to rationalize failure into a positive light. It will work the system, find loopholes, and spin scenarios into whatever direction it can in an effort to replace unpleasant situations with more amenable outcomes. My Ego created a new reality and it found an alternative-fictional explanation for this inexplicable phenomena.

The interval was not a 1:12 but a 2:12. Yeah, that's it. The Dude wasn't fast, he was just normal. Perhaps, he was, dare I say, slow. If he was slow, then I swam super slow due to the 'kryptonite' in the water. Granted, I have not officially identified the specific substance that sucks the speed out of my arms but it is blatantly clear that something was in the water (which had nothing to do with the deposit I made right before the set).

Oddly, I had not been back to that pool for ten days. I even tried a new YMCA (which, sadly, had pool temperatures even warmer than my Y). I am afraid. I don't want to get super slow. I don't want to lose my superhero swimming ability. I don't want to face the Dude, only to lose again. I, just like most superheroes, am a great big cowardly, pansy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WW- Fueling Up

As you may or may not know, I have changed houses. There are several consequences that are blatantly obvious when you move:
  1. You have too much crap that you don't need.
  2. Putting all of that crap in boxes makes you grumpy.
  3. Carrying all of those boxes filled with crap you don't need makes you grumpier.
  4. Finding a spot to display all of your crap you don't need in the new house makes you confused.
  5. Trying to figure out why you didn't move the crap you don't need to the dumpster makes you even more confused.
Now that I'm coaching track again, there are more subtle consequences of the move. My old house was a plush 3.8 miles away from my workplace. Since the Wife and I work at the same joint, we ride together (or, as she puts it, 'I chauffeur her'). This gives me more time with the Wife and saves fuel. Since the move, my commute has expanded to about 14 miles. This is not too painful. But, the Wife has no patience to wait until practice is over. I traded in my chauffeur's hat for running shoes and we drive separately.

Our second car is a truck, which has the fuel economy on the bottom end of the spectrum. The truck's only usefulness is when someone needs moving or when I have a coaching gig. The rest of the time, the truck just sits in the driveway sunning itself like a lizard on an asphalt stone.

To make matters worse, gas prices are creeping their way up. I'm pretty sure, when the season is over and I get that huge check school's are prone to hand out to their employees (sarcasm should be obvious here), the coaching job may actually pay for the commute. That's all I can do is hope to break even. Therefore, I'll leave you with my thoughts and feelings on the gas prices as they pertain to my new, longer commute.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


In the 1800s, a young woman was sick and tired of the snow (who could blame her?). One night, she had a dream. This dream, of course, was after reading and discussing recent scientific experiments involving electricity and the prospect of bringing the dead back to life. See, back then, television was called books and people actually read for entertainment. Such an awkward time to be alive. Anyway, as a result of the dream, Mary Shelley created the novel, Frankenstein. The premise: take raw materials, add a little bit of energy, and the heart will start beating.

Grouping Runners
There are generally 3 types of runners:
  1. Those that know running is good for you but refuse to do it because it's either hard or just plain more convenient not to run.
  2. Those that know running is good for you and that's the only reason they go.
  3. Those that know running is good for you and couldn't care less. They absolutely love it regardless of the health benefits.
Despite the fact that I pretty much suck at running, I still belong in group 3. Running gives me peace. Gives me freedom. Gives me kick-ass leg muscles.

The biggest problem with being a member of group 3 is that I have a hard time convincing people in group 1 to run and getting people in group 2 to love it.

The Making of a Monster
I recently started coaching my school's track team. Coaching people in running is an uphill challenge. Very few kids get excited about the prospect of track. Here in America, runners are not really celebrated, despite the fact that it's the single most participated sport in the country. All the kids want to be basketball or football players. Runners? Not so much. I don't mind.

My guess is that the reason most anyone even joins the track team is for lack of better things to do (which is the exact same reason I started running way back when). I won't fault them for being in Group 2. I still like coaching the team regardless of the attitudinal challenges.

What's nice about track is that I get to run with them. Nothing motivates a bunch of pansies like hanging out with the lead pansy. At one of our first practices, we did some light and easy distance running. I went for a jog with one group of kids, came back and took out another group. On the whole, I was holding roughly 11 minute mile paces over the course of my 4 miles. Not at all taxing. The kids, on the other hand, were sore. It'll be an interesting season.

One thing about being a coach is that you can never tell how your athletes are going to respond to your philosophy and training methods. There are certain aspects you can predict, such as the soreness, whining about a hard workout, the lack of motivation to do the work, or the wincing at the smell of their coach. Then, there are some things you could never predict that make this whole job worthwhile. I got this email the other day...
I did run for 2.6 miles with 1 mile pace of 8:22 this morning! :)

I love it!
This was one of my track kids. I had my doubts about being able to transfer my joy of the run on to other people. Truly loving running is a challenge. I have a feeling that this kid is going to be a lifer. Here's why. He sent me a follow-up message...
I just ran 2.6 miles again with my sister!

5.2 miles in 2 days! That's good, right?!
And then another...
I just ran 3.2 miles! With 1 mile pace of 8:45 minutes! 
And then another...
I just did 2 miles run with sister and it started to rain after 1 mile and we were little wet. It started to rain more soon as we just arrived home.
I started with nothing more than a lump of raw flesh, added a bit of energy, and now his heart is beating. It lives and it runs! It clearly has a mind of its own and there doesn't seem to be much I can do to stop it.

What I can do is apologize to his parents, sister, girlfriend and future spouse for the creation I have just made. Good luck to you in living with the beast that has just emerged into the Group 3 of runners.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wacky Wednesday- Ode to Good TV

See, even when you are Stockholmed into the bike trainer, you cannot go it alone. Spinning your cranks in 170 cm circles is not good enough to pass the time. You must, seriously, must do something else. I would really love to have some sort of live entertainment. Perhaps there could be some scantily-clad, double x chromosome-type figures and a large pole mounted in my workout room. In this fantasy life, which I could not pull off in any universe, we'd both get a workout.

Alas, it's just not bound to happen. Therefore, I've got bad movies. I have this internet receiver that allows me to stream Netflix to my TV all through the air. Once in a while, my wireless signal goes askew. Having experienced the spinning pinwheel of death on multiple occasions, I have a backup plan.

In case you didn't know, popular culture used to have entertainment on shiny, silver discs called DVDs. DVDs magnetically record data, which can take the form of Excel spreadsheets, audio, and/ or video files. One major problem with the DVD is that it requires the use of a DVD Player. You cannot interpret the DVD information without one of these contraptions. They really have cornered the market here. I confess that I actually own a few of these DVDs and a DVD player.

Understand that these DVD players can be rather inexpensive. Mine cost $30. It's the DVDs themselves that gouge you. Each one can cost somewhere between $5 and $20. Some people buy these things on a regular basis and have vast collections. I, on the other hand, own, um, Ok, I've never counted. I have 12 different Star Wars discs. (I know, there's only 6 movies and 2 of them are barely worth watching while another... not so much.)

After the galaxy far, far away, I have the first 6 seasons of the Simpsons (I'm not rich enough to own more). I'm a big fan and watch the show as much as possible via syndication or live. If you ever get the chance to watch the Simpsons on live TV, do it. They don't broadcast live very often as it puts a tremendous strain on the animators but it's always amazing when they pull it off.

As I understand it, there are some who don't appreciate the cartoon genius of a show. Most people cannot get over the yellow hue of the character's skin. Plus, there's a stigma about the show. Some folks believe it's  _________ (I'm not going to pretend to know what people think. I barely know what I think.)

I implore you, if you are not a Simpsons fan, give it another try. They are currently on their 22nd season and you are way behind. You've got a lot of catching up to do. I'm here to help. There are 2 ways to go about incorporating all that sarcastic goodness. You could either buy/ rent the seasons one disc at a pop. This is a really good option.

If you are time constrained, might I suggest another avenue? You could watch the first 100 episodes simultaneously. This should get you started on your path to the Light Side of the Force.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back to the Races!

The 2012 Race season is officially underway.

(On a side note: I finally got around to updating my race schedule. Even though my last race was in September, 2011, I left my 2011 season schedule in plain text on the sidebar for all to see. It's sort of like the blogger version of leaving Christmas lights on the house. In both situations, etiquette calls for the stuff to be taken down long before April.)

Up here in Rochester, there are a couple of organizations that put on some really great races. There aren't many non-5k races in the area. In town, we've got a couple of half marathons and one full marathon. So when Yellow Jacket Racing puts on a 15k race like the Spring Forward, lots of people show up. I have done this race 3 years in a row and plan on doing it again in the future. Cheers to Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket for keeping me coming back now and in the future.

Ghost of Spring Forward Past
The real reason I even got involved in this race was due to some of the ladies I coach. Two years ago, they were motivated to start running and were interested in the half marathon distance. They, rather cheaply, hired my coaching services and then found this race. Sure thing, I'll join.

The 2010 version of this race didn't go so well. I actually thought I was in good shape but I ended up walking several times during the run. I crossed the line at 1:16.02 for a 9.3 mile venture. The ladies in my troop were a bit slower but significantly more successful than I.

Then, in the 2011 version of this race, I found myself running solo. That's right, something happened to the Running Girls. They just didn't show up. I ended up running with Bob, who taught me that I actually had a running skill. I made it under the large, inflatable arc in 1:09.20. That's better than a 4 minute improvement with none of the support crew there to see it. Bummer.

Ghost of Spring Forward Present
This year has been rather kind to me as a runner. And, since it is early in the year, this could only mean a favorable winter. The Running Girls are getting motivated again. When this year's Spring Forward run came out and about, many of the girls jumped up and down, waving their hands going, "Ooh, ooh, I'm in." (That may or may not have actually happened.) Despite all of the initial interest, only one the ladies actually ponied up for the run.

Soccer Mom was ready to rumble. After having yet another child, which put a damper on her 2011 running series, SM was making her come back. She has plans to repeat her 2010 season with a 13.1 run in the near future and was the original motivation for my race registration. She crossed the 2010 finish line at just over 1:41. But, her resolve and motivation for training are at an all time high.

Soccer Mom and I hooked up before the start, after several text messages and phone calls. It was not that big of a race venue but we kept missing each other anyway. Where did we finally meet up? In the line for the lady's room (seemed like a great place to pick up women). I, being a polite gentleman and a coach, happily provided her with several sheets of toilet paper. As a rule, I never show up to a race without my own materials. SM is not as experienced a racer. I was doubtful that the natural TP supply was able to withstand the onslaught of the never ending line heading into the stalls. She had a small cold anyway so if it didn't get used down south, it was available for use up north.

The Race
Here's the thing about me and racing: I'm a procrastinator. I hate making it to the starting line early. These habits seem to be rubbing off on my athletes. SM and I made it to the starting line with about 1 minute to spare. We were early. I made my way towards the front while she diffused her way towards the middle back.

Lately, I've been doing my tempo runs on or around a 7:30 pace. I went in to thinking that I could hold 7:20s based on that data. This race has a hilly profile so the key to a good race is early conservatism. My first mile from last year's race was faster than expected. In 2011, I clocked a 7:08 first mile. This is way too fast. In 2012? 6:50. Apparently I haven't gotten any smarter after a year's time.

Just like Bob from last year, I leap frogged with a couple of runners. Mainly, it was Bill and Wendy. Okay, I am not gentleman enough to ask their real names. The boy looked like a Bill, whatever that means. The girl looked like a Wendy. (See note on Bill.) Bill and Wendy were accidentally running together as a consequence of their similar running paces and strengths. And, just like Bob, they were rather good on the uphills and in the flats. I, on the other hand, excel on the downs. We flip-flopped positions at least 6 times in 9 miles.

As the race went on, my pace grew slower and slower. My 6:50 turned into a 6:54. Then a 6:55. Then a 6:45 (mostly dowhill). Then a 7:00. Then a 7:05. And so on and so on. The hill profile shows a nice, extended incline near then end.
Running on overworked legs and faced with this uphill battle, my pace did not have much hope. At one point in the race, I was thinking that I could go sub-7:00 per mile. Your brain plays horrible tricks on you when things are going well. Right around that hill near the 8 mile mark, I just wanted the agony to be over. Bill and Wendy, having better skills than me, went on ahead.

The only saving factor of this race is that it finishes downhill. Sure, this decline is on some sort of pot-holed, gravel path. These details pale compared with the pull of the Earth's gravity. I was happy to have the 9.8 m/s time the cosine of the angle of the slope advantage. Since I don't have an efficient way to measure the angle, I can't give you the exact details of the pull. Plus, I didn't have the brain power to actually do the calculation during the run. I was just happy to be heading down again.

When finally I finished the race, I had a time of 1:06.5X (the official time was not available as of this posting). I grabbed some water. I found Bill and shook his hand. I found Wendy and shook her hand. Gladiators in the ring deserve each other's gratitude. They earned mine and I happily gave it out.

Since I skipped my long run for this week, I went back out onto the course. I needed to add some miles. Plus, I promised Soccer Mom that I wouldn't let her run the whole thing alone. Plus plus, I was getting cold. The running killed 3 birds.

I hooked up again with SM about a mile and a half out from the end. She was feeling the effects of the hills and the distance as well. Still, she's a warrior and was not willing to give up. When she finished the race, the clock sported a nice 1:33.xx. Apparently having children is good for your pacing as she had a nice 8 minute PR.

Ghost of Spring Forward Future
As I foreshadowed earlier in the post, I will probably do this race again. It has several great positives:
A. Good time of year
B. Good distance
C. Good stepping stone race
D. Good measure of fitness
E. Extremely well organized event
Here's the real reason I'm looking forward to this event next year... I really want to break that 7:00 mark. My time this year equated to a very well done 7:07. I think I can do better. A year ago, I didn't think that a sub-7:10 was possible for a sloth of a non-runner like me. Despite my agony near the end of the run, I remain optimistic and motivated for next year. (Note to self: re-read this post in December when the weather sucks and I hate it in the New England white hell.)