Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WW- Non-Tri Approved Automobiles

When you sign up for a race, meaning triathlon, and there are several steps before you are an official entrant. All of these steps are on a different screen, making the process to sign up for a triathlon about 1.5 times the actual event. They want to know...
1. Demographics (name, address, phone, measurements T-shirt size)
2. Emergency contact info (name, address, phone, measurements)
3. Promotional data (how'd you hear about the race, can we send you hourly copies of our newsletter, can we sell your soul demographic information to others who will send you hourly copies of their newsletter, would you like to buy some socks)
4. Official Business (USAT number, age group competition, measurements waivers)
I'm not sure exactly when it started but it is rather commonplace now. And, for some reason, it is triathlon specific. They've added another step...
5. Carbon emissions offsetting
During step 5, they ask you about your car and what how many athletes you are bringing to the race. Then, by the magic of the internet, they already know how many miles per gallon for your vehicle and how far you have to drive to get to the race. (Aside: I think they are padding the numbers. They list my SUV hybrid at 25 mpg but the dashboard thingy says I get 30.)

Through some simple math, roughly 1 cent per mile, you can opt to pay money to off-set your carbon footprint for the race. This is completely voluntary. Like an idiot, I always click "Sure, please take more of my money." I have no idea what happens to the $0.37 that I just handed out. I do know that I now feel better for the carbon free day I am about to enjoy.

This only happens in triathlon. None of the running races I have done offer carbon offsetting. Maybe it's because runners are naturally better people than triathletes. Maybe it's because someone out there heard that triathletes are gullible losers who are willing to spend large amounts of money on useless items. Maybe its that triathletes are leading the charge towards environmental responsibility.

One thing that's for sure, the algorithm cannot possible account for all of the makes and models available to the consumer. Sure, they have the major brands, but they don't have these fancy cars on their list. Granted, I don't have any of them either. Maybe one day I'll own a car like these (thanks to for the inspiration).

As if the VW bug needed any more awesomeing. Now, more people can get smacked at rocket speeds.

For all of your triathlon needs, a truck that will not only haul your bikes to the race, but give you something to do while the race director covers the rules. Yes, that's a flat screen TV and a gaming chair.

 It's a jet. It's a limo. It's a limo jet.

Whether your a fan of the old Tron or the new Tron, it really doesn't matter.  This bike screams coolness.
I used to think that hovercrafts were the only amphibious vehicles. Man was I wrong. This is a car/ boat/ General Lee convertible. Not pictured... Daisy.

I will own the sofa mobile if I have to sell everything. Excluding my tri-bike

(Okay, I'd probably sell my tri-bike too)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Crappy Pacing

I've been obsessing over this for a while now. I am just not satisfied with my half marathon results. And there's no reason I should be.

There are a lot of people out there who don't like to do the same race year-after-year. For them, racing is about the experience. There's a 'new' craze about destination races. People have bucket lists. Their schedules are constantly changing. I, for the most part, am boring not one of them.

One thing I like about doing a race again and again and again is that I can use this as a fitness assessment. That's what races are anyway. They measure your training. However, if you only do a race once, the value of the data gets diluted.

I have done the Flower City Half Marathon 3 years in a row. The course is exactly the same, turn for turn. This race serves as a good metric for my fitness and, in theory, I should see improvement as time goes on.

Data (all times listed are Garmin times)
2010- 1:41.44
2011- 1:38.43
2012- 1:43.35

Not getting much better. By simply looking at these numbers, it would be easy to blame my fitness or my speed. Well, I have another metric to help out. There is another race that I have done 3 years running called the Spring Forward 15k.  Here is the data from those races:

2010- 1:15.46
2011- 1:09.18
2012- 1:06.50

Within the second set of data points, you cannot conclude that my fitness level was digressing. Both races show marked improvement from 2010 to 2011. The 15k shows continued improvement that matches my perception of my training. The 2011 half marathon time suggests that something else must be amiss.

Pace data
Here's what I did. I took the Garmin files and dumped them into an excel spreadsheet. It is simple. I have the watch take splits every 1 mile and have been doing that for, pretty much, ever.  Then, I asked excel to make me a nice graph.

As you can see, the 2010 file is in red, 2011 in green and 2012 in purple. My goal here is to figure out what went wrong in 2012 and I get some glaring results based on this simple analysis.

These 3 races show 3 distinct different race strategies.
1. Start slowly and build into the race (2010)
2. Start steady and hold (2011)
3. Start quickly and bonk (2012)

There's a significant hill area around mile 6.5, which explains the up-and-down motion in the middle of the graph. 

Focus on the first 6 miles. 2010 started off slowly and got faster. 2011 was a steady state. 2012 was the fastest of the 3 through the first half of the race.

Now, look at the hill section. In the green line, the slope is much flatter over and past the hill. The purple line actually shows pain. The red line shows that I was conservative (as evidenced by the recover speed on the backside).

The final 5 miles show the story. 2010 shows that I negative splitted the race and got faster towards the end. The 2011 data show that my pace went right back to pre-hill speeds. The 2012 folly shows that I left everything on the hill and had nothing left to give.

So, let this be a lesson to all you youngsters out there, and to Future Banter... Pacing is just as important, if not more important, as fitness. A steady state race, one where you are able to run consistently from start to finish is far superior than positive or negative splitting the run.

(Either that or be less of a pansy. Since I don't know how to be less of a pansy, I'll stick with working on my pace.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WW- Hydration Ideas

After a warm winter and a mostly cool spring, temperatures here in the New England area are starting to rise. And, with the homestead being on the shores of the mighty Lake Ontario, we are are no loss for humidity.

Let's be clear, the heat/ humidity has not reached the critical state yet. I know that race directors all across the great north are canceling, deferring, or postponing running races. This just does not happen in triathlon. Heat is not a factor in multisport. If you don't like the conditions, it's up to you to drop out.

Since a majority of racing in the area is dead smack in the middle of summer, we can pretty much plan on there being hot conditions. Instead of worrying about the heat, it's best to get out and train. Get your body acclimatized to the conditions. One aspect that MUST be worked into your training is hydrating during exercise.

There are many ways to hydrate. Here are a couple of my favorite hydration ideas.

Hydrating for the Swim- You could wear one of these belts, which also doubles as a flotation device.

Hydrating for the Bike- Take advantage of the resources that Mother Nature provides you.

Hydrating for the Run- There really is no need to carry liquid with you once you master this technique.

Addendum- Just be sure not to go running with friends.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ask the Banter- Peeing on the Bike

I recently got this email from the BIL. I haven't responded to him directly via his specific orders:

You need an "Ask the Banter" weekly Q&A session. I have several questions of course, but I think that others can generally be enlightened by your humorous treatment of these problems. Each week I'll send you a question. If you have time banter me the answer.

I like the BIL a lot and he seems to be as motivated as anyone I have ever met in triathlon. He uses me as guidance and we compete in sport (albeit at a distance). I've also come to learn that he is very purposeful in his ways and that his purpose is not always on the surface. Maybe this message is the BIL's way of telling me that I'm running pretty thin on material. Even if that is true (I won't show my cards now), this "Ask the Banter" idea is a great one and I'd be a complete doofus to pass it up (currently I'm only mostly doofus). 

Now that we've laid the canvas, it's time to paint the picture:

When do you pee? I know it's basic, but there are a lot of complications involved. If you are pedaling past a store and you are 3/4 full do you pull over and pee there, knowing that it's the last one for some time. Are you manly enough to pee by the side of the road? Do you actually pee in your tri-suit? (do you practice this as well I mean on race day I can see it, but it's got some Ick factor) I thought that maybe you would have more insight than I because you pee more often.

This is a fantastic question. Okay, there are many questions involved here so I will do my best to explain what is going on in the Banter World in hopes that the BIL, or anyone else out there, can take advantage of my genius. 

When do you pee?
It should be noted that there are different answers to this question based on different situations. Therefore, I have a very complicated, calculitic formula for peeing during a bike ride. I'll do my best to break it down into middle school level pre-algebraic portions.

First situation, if ride is not a race, but a training ride, and if the training ride is more than 90 minutes, and if I am less than 75% finished, and if I have a run scheduled after the ride, and if...
Okay, I could go on for another couple of weeks on the scenario, so I'll middle school it down. If I am riding and I know that I'm not going to make it back home before I start to have a bladder-pressure induced whimper, I will stop and pee. 
How do I know it is time to stop? This question was not asked, but implied. I hate stopping a workout for trivial things (because I errantly believe that stopping will ruin my workout) so I never plan ahead. I've also learned that my bladder does not have an accurate gauge. What I think is 3/4 full may actually be as much as 7/8ths full or as little as 7/16ths full. I suck at guestimation. Therefore, when my desire to pee is greater than my ability to enjoy the ride, it's time to go. Symptoms of this include:
  • Looking at available trees as potential urinals
  • Rationalizing that some farmer's barn would provide great cover
  • Not caring if I take my tri-bike off-roading
  • Wishing that my Garmin had a searchable GPS feature
  • Trying to remember the exact location of that 7-11 that saved me in the past
Once it gets to this status, it's only a matter of time before pee will present itself.

Are you manly enough to pee by the side of the road?
Yes. Never question my manliness.

Plus, I have done so many, many times. Often I will find a spot that has some coverage or seclusion. Trees are nice. A hill works well. If you are in luck, and this happens once in a long while, there will actually be a convenience store or a Starbucks in the area. Just be careful walking on waxed tile in bike shoes.
Remember: Make goofy face
Also, before taking care of business in Mother's nature, you must do the 'glance around guiltily like you are trying to get away with something' look. Mainly you are looking for cars or other cyclists. Most of the time, you won't care about their presence. You just what to know who your main witnesses are. 
Some people will stop, stay on their bike, and lean a little to the side (see graphic to the left). I, for the most part, will lean my bike against a tree, walk a couple of feet to seclusion, and take care of business.
Do you actually pee in your tri-suit?  
Disclaimer: I'm kinda glad that this post is getting long. Hopefully, all of those who are going to be grossed out by this answer have stopped reading by now. If you are still reading, please ready yourself for what happens next...

Um, sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean only in a race situation in which stopping will ruin my chances of achieving a race goal. 
Translation: I have peed many, many times on my bike. (If you just went, "EW!", please remember that I kindly told you to stop reading.)
See, we triathletes are a different breed of moron aggressive. Over the years, we have invented things to save 20 seconds over the course of a 2 hour ride. 20 SECONDS! These inventions include time-trial bikes, aero-helmets, and velcro-laced shoes. We will spend copious dollars on deep-rimmed/ disc wheels, bike computers, and training guides. We simply draw the line at race catheters.
Is there an 'ick' factor? 
To the unenlightened, sure. Let's put this in perspective:
  • We already smell
  • Our fat, hairy, sweaty butt has been in contact with the seat for hours
  • Sweat is composed of water, salt, and, yup, urea (among other things)
  • A bike ride can yield several liters of sweat
  • Your bladder only hold roughly 2 cups (~500 mL)
  • Most of the liquid misses your bike
See, you are already dumping large amounts of pee on your bike. Yet, for some reason, people tend to get grossed out when you apply it in concentrated form.
A few riders have mastered the stand, pull it out, and pee (look right). This may be less gross, but in my opinion, also less safe. There is the on-going argument on whether the over the shorts or the under the shorts is the better route.  Note: This technique is significantly more challenging for the ladies.

Do you practice this as well?
I have in the past. Not anymore. Once you've learned how to pee, there's not much left to practice. I can give you some tips. I had planned on making a training video, but the Wife simply refused to participate as the camera woman. Further, there were a couple of lines in the script that she had a moral objection to. That left me to do all of the videography myself and it's really not safe to pee on the bike, one-handed, while holding a video camera.

Peeing on the Bike Tips.
  • This exact topic is the main reason triathletes don't wear socks on the bike
  • Practice while riding in the rain. It makes things 'flow' easier
  • It's easiest when going downhill
  • Don't pedal. Leave your legs in the 6 o'clock/ 12:00 position (This provides a nice path for the stream down your leg, into your shoe, and out of the holes purposely built into the soles.)
  • Learn how to relax
  • You may need to stand a little bit to remove some urethra pressure
  • Use your water bottle to rinse off afterwards
  • If you must pee a second time, use the same leg
  • If you still choose to ride in socks, ALWAYS have a back-up pair in transition or near your running shoes
By now, I suspect that I have sufficiently answered the question and lost a few readers in the process. If you have successfully mastered the 'pee' on the bike, you are now allowed to wear this shirt in public, brought to you by
If anyone else wishes to take advantage of my omniscience, by all means, please ask. Leave a comment on any post and I'll do my best to answer any and all of your needs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WW- New Wetsuits

My new house is pretty dang close to a big lake. It's so close that I could take a 5 minute walk down a private road, gawk at all of the pretty houses (of which I do not own) and hop in. And I have every intention of doing so once the water temperature slides up a bit. I guess I am selectively pansy about more things than I thought.

 Here's the thing about swimming in the lake, the Wife insists that I not drown. I don't normally plan on drowning, and I haven't done so in the past, yet the worry still creeps up. My main defense against drowning is my kickass swimming skills. That and often wear a wetsuit in non-bath like water environments.

With this new access to a large body of water, I am going to put a lot of wear and tear on my wetsuit. I may need to consider backup options. Alas, there are so many out there. There are sleeveless, full sleeves, ribbed arms, smooth arms, high knees, and the super-sexy slit-down-the-back. Or, I might consider some of these...

Even if they don't help me swim faster, they might do a good job at distracting the competition. Either way, I come out in front. Hey, a win is a win. I just need to make sure to control myself and set myself up for success. This includes being prepared for the conditions, eating right, and for heaven-sakes, I must not practice flatulence in my wetsuit.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do you train enough?

Every time I go to the hair cut place, I tend to sit around waiting for one of the girls to call my name and finally cut my hair. Since I don't do a good enough job at planning ahead, I am stuck sitting in their super-small waiting room reading some of the old, disgusting, bacteria ridden, magazines that they have on their racks. Most of these magazines are geared to 10-17 year old girls. Perfect for my mentality.

These magazines seem to have a formula for success that they all follow (possibly because each is written by the same 4 people). They all have these sections:
  • Make-up and beauty
  • Relationships
  • Exercise
  • Health
  • Make-up and beauty
  • Nutrition
  • Celebrity make-up and beauty
  • Hair (the reason the magazine is in this establishment)
  • Clothing
Almost always they will have a quiz. In my experience, 92% of the quizzes are titled, "Is he really into you? Take this quiz and find out." Upon further review, I have learned that he is indeed into me and that these highly scientific quizzes are generally spot on.

Once in a while, they have a quiz that seems to diverge from the usual. Therefore, I have created my own quiz in hopes that Cosmo, 17, or National Geographic will pick it up and run with it.

"Are you training enough? Take this quiz and find out"

1. Are you slower or fatter than you think you should be? (Regardless of the reality)
     A. No
     B. Yes

2. Have you ever gone outside for a workout and noticed that cars seem to pass you in groups of 4 or more followed by long periods of no traffic followed by cars passing you in groups of 4 or more?
     A. No
     B. Yes

3. Have you ever approached an intersection or a driveway while training outside to have a vehicle pull out in front of you and completely overlook the fact that you are attempting to share space?
    A. No
    B. Yes

4. Do you own any of the following: a bike trainer, treadmill, stair stepper, row machine, weight set, BowFlex, or other piece of athlete equipment?
     A. No
     B. Yes

5. If you answered yes to question 5, do you use any of these as a crutch in the event of crappy (via your own personal definition) weather?
     A. No
     B. Yes

6. While exercising outside, have you noticed that traffic in both directions will pass you at the exact same time, making it difficult for the vehicle closest to you to move over and grant space?
     A. No
     B. Yes

7. Have you ever considered ridiculous activities, such as stretching, Pilates, yoga, crossfit, PX90, or any device that can be seen on Saturday morning infomercials because you think it will make you a better athlete?
     A. No
     B. Yes

8. Does researching drills, skills, techniques, as well as reading semi-entertaining, loosely- based- on- sport blogs take up at least 75% of your internet bandwidth?
     A. No
     B. Yes

9. Do you have any coworkers or colleagues that think you are a tad bit wacko due to your 'obsession'?
     A. No
     B. Yes

10. Do you have a useless collection of shirts, trophies, medals, mugs, pins, posters and other gunk handed out from events that you don't want but can't seem to bring yourself to get rid of?
     A. No
     B. Yes

11. Have you ever taken a personal or sick day off of work because the weather was too perfect NOT to workout?*
     A. No
     B. Yes

12. Do you have a budget allowance for sport related expenses, such as gear, shoes, gadgets, race fees, race travel, etc?
     A. No
     B. Yes

13. Have you ever had a fantasy about one of the professionals in your sport that didn't involve sex, such as a nice 1-on-1 training session? (You are still allowed to have the sex fantasy if you want, but that is on a different quiz.)
     A. No
     B. Yes

14. Do you own at least 2 weeks worth of workout apparel just in case you don't have time to do laundry?
     A. No
     B. Yes

15. Has your spouse or significant other ever complained that training has interfered with couples time?
     A. No
     B. Yes

If you answered A to more than 5 of these questions, you definitely need to train more. Get to work.

If you answered A to 1-5 of these questions, you probably need to train more. Get to work.

If you answered B to ALL of these questions, you are really into the Banter you have found the sweet spot in training. Keep up the good work!

(*Um, just in case my boss is readying this... My official answer to this question is 'no'. By default, I have to train more.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WW- May the 4th

I seriously had no idea. And I feel ashamed about it. Star Wars was on a TV in my life once a week for several years in a row. The original trilogy is on my go-to list as "Netflix has nothing I want to view right now". So, when my mommy sent me a "Happy Star Wars Day" text, I was dumbfounded. I wouldn't call her a fan. If she a fan, she's certainly not a geek. How did she know this and I did not?

Well, that point is rather moot. I am grateful for being given a small tidbit of knowledge that I will take with me to me grave. May the 4th is now implanted into the useless bits of crap my brain will never forget.

So, in honor of Star Wars Day 5-Days-Late, I am trying to regain some of my geek points back. Therefore, I bring you a couple of illustrations that only a Star Wars fan would appreciate. I did. A bloke named Jeffrey Brown wrote a book called "Darth Vader and Son".

What would life had been like if Darth raised young Luke, as opposed to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? It might have looked a little like this...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Highly Personal Questions- Running Shoes

So, here we go again... Several of my runners asked me about shoes. It's as if the word coach is synonymous with "answer man". Just like running watches, I don't have the answer. Nor should I as shoes are highly personal.

A Brief History of the Running Shoe
The concept of the running shoe started back in the early Roman times. The shoes had evolved from sandals, which is the main reason the Romans were able to overthrow the Greek empire (other than extremely advanced war tactics, better sanitary conditions, kickass architecture, and reduced emphasis on communal bathing). The Greeks, as part of their military training, all read the book, "Born to Run" and had accepted barefoot running as the dominant form of exercise. Sadly, the Greek battle fields were cluttered with large, sharp cobble stones which caused the Greek soldiers to bounce up and down. Their phalanx fell apart and the Romans took over, mostly due to their foot coverings.

AKA Monkey Feet
As time went on, army leaders started learning that they could encourage their politicians to spend money on military research. Guns and nuclear weapons had not been invented yet. Scientists were already bored with trying to reinvent the spear (there's only so many combinations of shaft length to head weight that can be done). Engineers went on to focus on clothing and footwear. One early incarnation of the shoe had a soft rubber sole and toe pockets that fit the feet like a glove. Soldiers didn't like these shoes because their wives told them that their feet 'looked rather Simian' (umm, this exact conversation has not, err, actually happened in the Banter's household. Nope. I swear.) The lead scientists grew frustrated with the attitudes of the men and women. But, there's really no use in arguing over the beauty of a man in uniform and the effect it has on his lady. They filed the prototype. It was later discovered in an old museum and became the template for Vibram 5 Fingers.

The engineers, desperate for government funding, decided to expand on the sandal. Initially, the scientists thought that they could gain extra support and speed by adding leverage over the calf region. This was also considered decorative and the wives approved. Even though, no measurable improvement could be found, the style caught on. One day, while watching the Roman soldiers spar, they saw one bloke bring the spear butt down on the foot of another bloke. Ding ding ding. The top of the foot could use some protection too. So, they took the existing cork sole and simply added more leather. This became the template for all shoes for the next 2000 years. Engineers went back to the spear length to weight ratio without much success.

In the early 1960s-70s, some dudes noticed that some people rolled their feet while running. Some people rolled to the outside. Some to the inside. Some to the middle. As this was a new age of peace and sharing for runners, they believed that the middle was the best despite the fact that they had no evidence or data to confirm this belief. Didn't matter. The went on to build shoes that corrected pronation "issues". Then they set an aggressive marketing campaign stating that pronation control shoes will help reduce running injuries. There is still no real evidence that these shoes prevented any kind of injury. But, just like the electrolyte people's gibberish, people bought in and we've been forced to run in over-engineered shoes ever since.

So, where does that leave you and picking a running shoe?
Remember my answer about a running watch being very personal? Running shoes are worse. Everybody has different feet and different running styles. Plus, I am not, by any means, an expert on running shoes. I ran in HS in Nike Air Pegasus. Then, for some stupid reason, Nike canceled the shoe and I was forced to change. They realized their mistake and later re-introduced the shoe but it wasn't the same. Since then, I have run in Asics and Mizunos. Asics was my shoe for a long time until they increase the arch support (which hurt me badly). I switched and haven't strayed from Mizuno since. The problem is that I haven't experimented much with the different shoe companies or the different styles to give an informed recommendation.

Here's what I can tell you:
  1. Don't go to Dicks, or the Sporting Authority, or other national chain store (not yet, anyway). Same with using the internet.
  2. Go to a running store. (For local athletes, the Rochester area has a few that I have used in the past. Fleet Feet in Brighton. MedVed in Pittsford. Tri Running and Walking in Victor. They are all good.)
  3. Bring in your old running shoes. Ask them to analyze your running gait. They will put you on a treadmill or run around the store. They will see what type of runner your are and have options.
  4. Since you are probably not a sprinter, you don't need 'racing flats' or cleats. Since you are running a bunch of miles, get a regular running shoe. I prefer lighter shoes. Every shoe company makes a variety of shoes with varying levels of support. (I personally don't believe that the support does much for you. I also don't think the support hurts you either. Some people swear by it. I tend towards 'neutral', lighter weight shoes.)
  5. Try on the shoes. Walk around a bit. Get on the treadmill and run in them for a couple of minutes. Pay attention to how your toes, heel, and arches feel.
  6. If there is any discomfort, try a different shoe.
  7. Your shoe should have a little room for your toes to wiggle. Feet can swell during a run. That means you need a little extra width and length. It should also feel snug, not tight, around your ankles.
  8. More expensive shoes are NOT better. The best shoe is the one that fits you the best and is most comfortable.
  9. BUT, be prepared to pay between $80 and $110 for this shoe.
  10. After you have spent some time in the shop, buy the shoe from that shop! They have done you a great service and you should reward them with your business. In the future, you may decide to go to Dicks or shop on the internet for the exact same shoe. Not now. (FWIW, I refuse to buy shoes on the internet. There is so much variation in running shoes and I prefer to try each shoe on before I buy them. The internet does not give you this opportunity. Internet shopping does allow for cheaper prices and you can always return the shoes, I just don't like the hassle.)
I am a firm believer that running shoes are at least 90% independent of running injuries. That means that the shoes themselves neither promote nor prevent running injury. Most injuries can be related to training injuries (over-use, stress, repetitive, ankle rolls, bad coaching, etc). Just as there is not much data that pronation control prevents injuries, there is also not much data on it causing injuries.

The best advice I can give you when deciding on a running shoe is to get the shoe that will encourage you to run. Or, at the very least, won't discourage you from running. The other details are relatively minor. I have been known to pick on older model over a newer model simply because I liked the color better.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Highly Personal Questions- Running Watches

I coach a few kids. I coach a few adults. It's kinda funny how age doesn't really change the questions exchanged between athlete and coach.

In a recent email, the Frankenrunner posed this question:

What type of running watch should I buy? I went to the store and there are so many options. Some are more than $200 dollars. What should I do?

I've had this same question posted to me by the Soccer Mom, Pondering, the Little Red Haired Girl, the Real Runner (these people are members of the Cast and some of the awesome people I've had the pleasure to know). I honestly cannot answer this question. There is good reason for this: running watches are very personal. In much the same way that I will not recommend a specific sports bra, there are lots of different options for lots of different prices that fill lots of different needs. Plus, my personal experience in wearing sports bras is quite limited and I wasn't even sure that I was getting the appropriate level of support.

To make matters worse, you don't even need a watch for running. Hell, you don't need anything. No shoes. No shirt. No shorts. No nothing. If you decide to go all natural, start slowly. When you've perfected it, send pictures you'll know how simple running is.

So, the big question for you, and for the Frankenrunner, is, 'What do you want the watch to do?'

Watches can tell time, give pace, take splits, do distance, show heart rate, calculate elevation, measure calorie expenditure, impregnate your wife, and much, much more. In the end, you know your budget and desires much better than I do.

If you really NEED advice, start small. Get a watch that does total time and has a 'lap' feature. These are very cheap. I have had good luck with Timex Ironman brand. If I wasn't married, I'd walk down the aisle with my Garmin. There are very many other watches out there that are just as good. And, just like the sports bra, my personal experience is very limited to say which is the best for whom.

In the end, when selecting a watch, you need to know what type of data you want and how you will log the data. That's the reason I gravitate towards my Garmin. I am incredibly lazy. The Garmin will log the data for me with very little effort on my part.

For all of my runners, I want them to have a watch that has a chronometer, does laps, and has a lap recall function. For my adult runners, I prefer that the get a watch that also does heart rate. The difference? My kids tend to run while I am watching them. I can put my own stopwatch and control their pace. Since most of my adult runners (historically) have been female, they get kinda creeped out when I watch them too intently. They prefer to run on their own and I can advise their pace via heart zones. That's the data I want from them.

For myself, I prefer a much greater amount of data. This makes the Garmin 310xt a good fit for me. Plus, I use my running watch to gather data while biking.

In the end, my advice is to get whatever watch you want, that will collect the data you want, for the the price that matches your budget. Just be careful with the watch around your wife.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WW- Don't do the treadmill

There are lots of athletes that prefer to train indoors. Why would you want to appreciate the fresh air, the beauty of the world, and the serenity that can only be found in mother nature when there is TV to be watched?

I concede that the treadmill can give consistency to your workouts. You get to control speed. You get the control the slope. You get to remove any weather-related excuse to not workout. I still can't do it. I have tried. I don't want to do it again. And I think that you should avoid doing it too.

I believe that part of the reason I am so anti-treadmill is that I fear for my own personal safety. If you are a treadmill lover, I also fear for your safety too. These death machines will eventually take you out. Don't believe me? I have proof. Check it out...

Please be safe. Run outside and avoid being one of these people.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Flower City Half-Marathon- The Bonk

There's nothing like selling a race report when the punchline is handed to you in the title. In case you didn't know, it didn't go well for the Banter. For the most part, this is a tale of agony of which I don't want to relive. Given my shame of the race, it would seem to make sense to preserve the effort in blog form. Here is the tale of my dismay...

Morning Ritual
I have a tendency to not want to eat before these events. Some call in a nervous stomach. I call it, "Nothing sounds good." I know this, so therefore I got up early to force some food down my gullet. A latte or two, batch of leftover pasta and a peanut butter sandwich meant that I was running on about 800-900 calories. This is much greater than my norm. Feeling satisfied beyond my means, and with more calories than I've eaten in the past pre-race, I was ready to take on the Flower City Challenge- Half Marathon.

Upon leaving for the race, I noticed that my legs were a bit sore. I had done some speed work with my track kids on Thursday. Saturday's Duathlon was harder than expected. My legs were pre-tired. This should have been an early sign that the day was not going to get better. I have, in the past, had several experiences where I've felt crappy before a run only to feel great during the run. I was banking that this would be one of those days.

In the early stages of the race
The race started at 7:30 am. I parked about a quarter mile from the race site and showed up with a good 7 minutes to spare. This gave enough time to use the facilities, look for the Soccer Mom. She was also running the race with her husband, whom I guess I'll call 'Soccer Dad' although I'm not so sure he's ever touched a soccer ball before. Anyway, I failed miserably at finding the happy couple. I joined the +1100 people at the starting line. I had noticed than even with the swarming masses of human flesh, the ~30º start temperature was still quite chilly.

I arbitrarily picked a spot and jumped into the bunch. Almost immediately, a guy looks at me, remembers my name and shakes my hand. I admit that I had never actually seen this guy before. He snarfs at me. Apparently, he's a once-and-future triathlete going out for a run. His name was Peter (which I remember now and not on race morning). He claims that we have battled in triathlon in the past. We tend to be close in the water, then I smack him in the bike, only to have him run me down at the end. This scheme has worked on occasion for him but, more times than not, I am the victor. Maybe this guy does know me. That seems like my style of triathloning.

Since I gave myself a matter of 2 minutes to chit chat in line before the gun, Peter and I didn't have much of a chance for a reunion. He told me that he just got emburdened by triathlon. He's lost his desire to train. He has become my living nightmare in the world of sport. I loathe the day in which the SBR loses its appeal and I become a runner. I cannot imagine the hell he is going through. Luckily for me, this has not happened. Good luck to you, Pete. I hope to see you again and maybe I'll remember you.

My pre-race plan stated that I wanted to run 7:20s. This pace would give me a PR and validate my training program. My strategy was to run the first mile at whatever happened. I have done enough races to know that mile 1 is a lost cause. I cannot control this mile and thus I have given up. I wanted to control miles 2-12. The idea is to hold at 7:20s. If I had anything left, I'd give it up at the end.

Mile 1 went exactly as planned. The Ego Gene was in full throttle and the running came very easy. My pace was actually slower than expected with a comfortable 7:07. Mile 2 was when I was supposed to start controlling the pace. Of course, I came in at 7:01. After the Garmin chimed in for the second mile, I dedicated myself to pacing. Mile 3 was a 7:17. Mile 4 was a 7:15. Mile 5 was a 7:24.

At no point did yesterday's soreness subside. I carried my aching quadriceps with me every step of that race. I was a bit uplifted that I was able to hold the pace that well. Having done this course a couple of times in the past, I knew the bliss would be challenged. Towards the end of the 6th mile, we entered the cemetery. My legs were already dead (pun intended).

The problem with the cemetery is that it sucks on multiple levels. It is hilly. It is on an uneven surface. It winding. There was this awesome guy, dressed in a kilt, playing the bagpipes. For some reason, he was belting out "Amazing Grace". I'm pretty sure this is the greatest tune every done on the bagpipes..."how sweet the sound...". I wouldn't put it on my list of greatest pump up songs. I regretted not bringing some sort of music player now. I ran the next 6 miles with "...that saved a wretch like me..."

Maybe it was the dead people. Maybe it was the pain in my legs. Maybe I'm a pansy. Maybe I'm under trained. The rest of the race got progressively slower. My PR was blatantly obvious past it's prime at the 10 mile mark, when my pace had slowed to a 8:05. Mile 11 stung at an 8:18. This is when I started to bonk.

The Bonk
Mile 12 was 8:48. My pace is slowing almost exponentially at this point. The pace does not tell you the emotion involved. If you have never experienced a bonk before, it is something otherworldly. In all my years of racing and training, I have only bonked once before. That was during the Ironman Lake Placid 2010. I did not finish that race.

Bonking is more than getting tired during a race. Bonking is more than having your legs hurt. Bonking is more than a failure to be able to work hard. Or the inability to speed up. Or progressively getting slower. Some people think that bonking happens when your body runs out of usable carbs. Or when you hit the wall. Or run out of your second wind. Bonking is all of these things and much, much more deep.

Imagine being in the middle of a run and your overall focus is on finding a nice spot to stop. Now, you don't want to stop and walk. You don't want to stop and sit. You want to stop and sleep. You have no pain anymore. You are not breathing hard. Most of your body is completely numb. You yawn. Look, there's some grass in the sun. You can sleep there. Ooh, check out the concrete. You could nap there. If a car were to hit you right now, you would not be upset because that would mean you'd finally get to sleep. Your very existence is focused on becoming unconscious as soon as possible. This is bonking.

I did not give in to this phenomenon. Nor did I once stop running. I held on to exactly one thought that kept my legs moving. In the very recent past, I have done an awful lot of yelling at my athletes for walking during a workout. Chances are that most of my athletes were still in bed at this time. Chances are that they didn't even know that there was a race going on. Chances are that there would never be any evidence of my pansiness. But, on the outside chance that someone would take a picture or video of me not running and that maybe one of my kids would see it-I kept running until the finish line..."I once was lost, but now am found..."

The Results
Despite that fact that my first 7 miles were the fastest of my 1/2 marathons, I did not PR. I actually ran my slowest Flower City Half Marathon to date. My Garmin clocked in at a 1:43.35, making it slower than my previous slowest by a 2 minutes. I have not had the courage to look at the official race results.

I grabbed some water and a gel. The main race venue is indoors with flush toilets (one of the greatest aspects of this race!). I went and plopped myself down in a stall, partly to use the facility, partly to get off my feet, and partly to warm up. Despite my urge to sleep, Soccer Mom and Dad were still out on the course. I had told her that I would come back and find her. I hate disappointing her so it was back to running for me. Okay, it was more like a fast walk. And by fast walk, I mean slow walk. But, I was heading in her direction which is all that counts.

I found the Soccer Parents about 0.75 miles away from the finish line. The Ego Gene jumped back to life and I started running again. We ran. We chatted. About 200 yards before the finish, I veered off the course and let them finish on their own. My work here was done.

Later reports show that Soccer Mom beat Soccer Dad. She is quite competitive by nature and busted out into a sprint at the end. I missed it. Not Soccer Dad. He was shocked by the move and couldn't keep up. Soccer Mom set a new PR by a couple of minutes, even without the sprint.

When I analyze my Garmin files, I see the pace drop off. I did have the courage to look inside of myself to try and learn what went right and wrong. My speed is up. However, I think my overall endurance is down. I now know where my next couple of training blocks will be focused .

"...Was blind but now I see.."