Monday, April 29, 2013

Flower City Duathlon 2013 RRR

Welcome to the first official multisport Race Report and Results (RRR) for the 2013 season. Just like several years in a row, I started my non-running racing with a duathlon.

Once upon a time, they (whoever they are) invented this ridiculous sport called running and made it infuriatingly painful. Later on, they tried to solve this problem by inventing a bicycle. Finally, someone came to their senses and took to the water. Hence the sport swimming. When combined, swimming, biking and running become the holy trinity of all sporting events know and the "triathlon".

The problem is that there's a segment of the population (read: majority) who don't have crazy good swimming skills. They still want multisport but can't swim a lick. Somehow, they convinced a race director to forgo the aforementioned swim and replace it with another run. (Aside: They also convinced him to host a 13.1 mile running race on the following day. They are gluttons for punishment. I, like an idiot, signed up for both. End aside.) Basically, they want a triathlon without the tri. For those not in the know, or for those who happened to forget, duathlons are the bastardized little brother of triathlon.

One of those RD's just happens to be in charge of Fleet Feet, Rochester edition. They put on a pretty good show.  Much to their credit, late April is not normally a good time for open water swimming. Since I'm not a fan of open water swimming in a pool, I'm pretty pleased they decided to keep the race outdoors. As a consequence of that sage decision, race time starting temperature was roughly 42º. Brr.

Run 1
I really want to make a fair comparison. I really want to tell you that I ran faster or slower. Alas, I cannot. Sadly, they changed up the course this year. We used to play on the paths and trails near the Genessee. Apparently, the people doing the paddle tri wanted to run with the big dogs. We hug the riverside. 

They started me in the last wave. They heard a rumor that I was going to crush the field. I'm not sure what idiot thought that was funny as they were clearly wrong. I'm sure at some level, there is a valid reason for the chosen starting order. It's rarely popular amongst the masses. I set out at what I thought was a comfortably hard pace. Somewhere near the 1.5 mile marker, I overheard a lady (who started in an earlier wave) how she "wished the boys started earlier so she wouldn't have to be passed by so many people. This is demoralizing."

Of course, she looked directly at me. I don't blame her. Anytime I out run someone in a race, regardless of gender, religion, disability, or pre-existing mental condition, it has to be a slam on their athletic ability. Poor lady.

A year ago, I did this run in 21 minute and 29 seconds. This year, I came into transition after 20.42. Again, I have no idea if this is better or worse than last year but I was pretty happy with the performance as I had clearly broken the 7 min barrier. That pace was good enough for 42nd place.

Transition 1
It was still rather chilly. Temperatures were rumored to climb later into the mid-60ºs. You wouldn't have known it by the crispness of the air. If this weren't a race, I'd have put the bike on the trainer and biked indoors. I'm selectively pansy like that.

This year, I wanted to be a little more competitive. I decided not to put on a jacket. I kept my shoes clipped in to my pedals. I did need to put on ear coverings, helmet, glasses, and gloves. My fingers had a bit of an issue clasping the helmet closed, which is required by USAT rules. Of course, I removed my bike from the rack and got a pedal stuck on one of the cross bars of the racks. I suppose this is the reason you do these early season races, to work out the kinks.

I pranced out of transition after 1.19. Last year, my T1 time as 2.09. This is a fair comparison as the transition area was exactly the same. Not great but not bad, comparatively speaking. Oddly enough, I was again the 42nd fastest T1er.

The bike course is/ was spectacular. The roads were well groomed. Traffic was sparsely populated. What little traffic there present was nicely controlled by the happy volunteers and dutiful police officers. Thank you sincerely to both groups for a job well done!

This year, due to the late afternoon heat wave, the wind was steady out of the south. The bike ride, already chilly, kept you cool in the first half of the ride but pushed you back home.

I failed to check the hill profile ahead of time. I errantly told one of my co-conspirators that the course was pretty flat. I supposed that is a matter of perspective. The Garmin reports nearly 400 feet of climbing over the 20 mile course.

The bike course did not change so I can make a fair comparison to the 2012 race. Last year, I revolved the ride in 57.37. This year, I bettered my pace and finished the bike in 55.24, or about 21.8 mph. I'm pretty happy with that time and pace. My bike ride was good enough for 13th place overall.

Transition 2
I have a pretty good skill on dismounting my bike and running into transition. I am pleased to report that my skill had not diminished much over the winter. I hit the dismount line running. I found my shoes rather quickly and racked my bike. This was a bit of a challenge as the dude on the opposite side of the rack had beaten me into transition and crowded my rack space. I solved the problem by moving my bike 2 feet south of my expected location, which I hope did not cause any issues for anyone else.

My running shoes were exactly were I left them nearly an hour ago. I slipped them onto my feet and headed my way towards the exit. Before I got to the half way point in transition, I promptly stopped. mind you, stopping mid-race is not that effective of a race strategy. Neither is attempting a 5k with a sizable stone in your sole. I paused, removed a pebble, which I believe was limestone based, reapplied my shoe and continued out of the corral in exactly 1:00. Even with the stoppage, I was the 17th fastest second transitioner.

Run 2
Having passed a large chuck of the racers on the bike, the second lap around the course was a little bit more lonely. I passed one bloke almost immediately. He would be the last person I passed on the run.

Run 2 is nearly a carbon negative of run 1.

As we ran a good chunk of the run immediately adjacent to the river, we were able to see some of the tri-paddlers in their kayaks as they navigated the relatively calm waters. For them, the current was at their back on the way down and in their bows on the way back. For us, we had a mostly flat run. The Garmin posted an elevation gain of a whopping 17 feet, most of which came from the bridges over the river.

I admit that run 2 was borderline evil. First, it was the last work of the day on pre-fatigued legs. Second, it was a little bit further that the advertised 5k by about a quarter of a mile. Third, it involved yet more running.

I was passed by 3 people during the run. The first 2 passed my around the 1 mile mark and they were pretty much together. The last guy came by about the 2.5 mile mark. I'm pretty sure they were all in my age group.

I finished the 5+k run on a 7:15 pace and a time of 23.46. This time was good enough for a surprising 20th place over that stretch.

My overall time was 1:42.13. This put me in the top 20 (I.E. exactly 20th place). In my age group, I was 8th.

Just to compare, had I been in a different age group, say the M30-34 group, I would have been in 2nd place. Or, perhaps the M40-44, I would have been in 4th. Tough age group. I raced hard and am not at all upset with my results.

Good show by the guys and gals at Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket racing. They posted results online before I was able to limb back to transition to change my shirt. Some dude with a Guiness and an iPad confirmed that I was not in the awards banquet. I went home to collapse from my effort and begin to ready myself for the second half of this race weekend. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WW- New Bike Ideas 2

Racing season is right around the corner. And by the corner, I mean it starts this weekend. Sort of. 

See, I've already done one race that didn't go so well. It was a running race so I couldn't have expected much.

This weekend, I get to add a discipline. On Saturday, the Flower City Duathlon takes center stage. I have done this race in the past and I previewed it here. For those too lazy to check, a duathlon is a run-bike-run. The bike gets to get out of the pain cave and out on to the open road. I hope it's up for the challenge.

On Sunday, Rochester will host the first big running event in the nation post Boston tragedy in the form of a half-marathon called the Flower City Half Marathon. They've upped security and made it abundantly clear that riding my bike during the race is absolutely forbidden. Sigh. Because I had some pretty good bicycles all set up and ready to go.

This bike has multisport written all over it! 

Note: My lawn mower is actually broken right now making the above much more appealing.

Note 2: The bikes below are just in case something happens out on the road and I may need to replace the bike with something more efficient. These are multi-purpose bikes.

Okay, I don't actually know what the function of the bike nor the beard in the above. I'm pretty sure the bike below violates the laws of thermodynamics as a perpetual biking machine that also makes electricity.

And, the most applicable bike of them all, solving both nutrition and hydration problems at the same time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Random Thoughts on Boston

As most of you are aware, some bad things happened this week in Boston (which is putting it lightly). I'll refrain from most of the details as there has been so much misinformation been circulating. Internet news media has been attempting to challenge Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity by trying to report happenings at or near light speed, which inevitably leads to errors.

Here are the majorly important facts:
-A couple of bombs went off very close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon
-3 people died and a 100+ were injured (as of this post) as a direct result of the bombs

Even as I write this, there are reports that one of the 2 suspected bombers has been shot dead and another has been captured. I remain optimistic that the authorities have the right guys because I am hoping for closure on the situation.

I, like many others, am still trying to make sense of the situation. I remain skeptical that I will ever be able to understand the motivations or thought processes of people who attempt or commit such acts. There are just so many things wrong in the scenario.

First off, they attacked endurance athletes. Here is a group of people that actually paid money for the right to torture themselves over the course of 26.2 miles. These people voluntarily suffer for the pure joy of suffering. They are, however, of no danger to anyone else. They provide pain and discomfort only to themselves and no one else. There is nothing to gain by attacking these people.

Secondly, the only people stronger than the athletes are the family members of the athletes. I recognize the fortitude and sacrifice that the Wife deals with on a daily basis from the semi-obsessiveness that is the Banter. The Boston Marathoners are the cream of the crop of the endurance world. The families that put up with runners of that dedication are something special.

Third, they picked Boston of all places. This is a city that lead the rebellion against the evil British. This city has a boat sitting in the harbor called "Old Ironsides" just waiting for someone to piss them off. This is a city whose baseball team decided that Babe Ruth wasn't good enough to play on their squad. They're kinda badasses.

There is no training that can ready you for this situation but I think the city of Boston rose to the occasion. As I watched the race day horror unfold, I admit that I couldn't be more proud to be an American. I am impressed with the emergency response teams who put themselves in harms way to protect and serve others. I saw how quickly the people of Boston opened their hearts and homes to displaced athletes and families as they tried to make heads or tails of the situation. The outpouring of support was overwhelming even from a distance.

Almost immediately, the endurance world responded. Charities to provide for the victims have been established. On Wednesday, large hosts of people went running to honor the sacrifice and the fallen. Whereas I didn't join a group. I went for a run. I'd be lying if I told you that the Boston bombing wasn't on my mind.

On Thursday, I went for a run. I'd be lying if I told you that the Boston bombing wasn't on my mind.

On Friday (today), I went for a run. I'd be lying if I told you that the Boston bombing wasn't on my mind. This time, I even decided to run a route that sort of looked like a "B". Here's the map of my 6.5 mile run, trying to add another layer of symbolism as it was roughly 1/4th of a marathon...

A few people this week have asked me if the event has affected my desire to compete in such events. I can say with full certainty that it has. It has made my desire to compete in these events greater. I have a couple of races scheduled for next weekend. The RD's have announced that the race will go on. Which is exactly the way it should be. Even if they canceled the event, I'd go for the run anyway. I, like many other endurance athletes and Americans alike, refuse to be intimidated by such acts of cowardice.

To those who put themselves in harm's way- Thank you!
To those who suffered due to the bombings- You are in my thoughts always!
To those who will still show up on race day- Right on Brothers and Sisters!

I'll see you out there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moment of Silence

Your regularly scheduled Wacky Wednesday post has been postponed this week to bring you this moment of blog silence...

In place of something semi-witty or amusing, I went for a run to honor my running brethren and all of those impacted by Monday's Boston Marathon tragedy. More thoughts on this later.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dear Garmin Calendar,

I didn't realize things had gotten so bad between us. I thought we had a good relationship. I used you on a semi-daily basis. I used you to keep track of my workouts. I used you to keep track of my progress. In turn, you kept me organized. Kept me honest. Maybe that was the problem, I was using you and giving nothing in return.

Recently, I noticed a difference in your behavior. You changed. And not for the better. Sure, you told me that you were new and improved. You told me that you had my best interests in mind. You even wrote me a positive, upbeat letter...
If you haven’t used your Garmin Connect calendar for a while, it’s time to take a second look. We’ve completely revamped it and added a ton of features. The calendar is a great place to plan your workouts, or simply keep yourself on a schedule. You can now drag and drop workouts, activities and notes; see your weekly, monthly or yearly totals by activity type; color code your activities, training plans, goals and events; and so much more. If you’re a member of a group with a group calendar, you can show or hide that on your own calendar, too--that way you'll never miss a group run or ride again!
I didn't even notice you needed improvement (which may have been part of the problem). I went in to the new You with a touch of excitement. You even sent me a sexy picture of what you looked like all dressed and ready to impress.
I'm sorry Garmin Calendar, but I seem to be missing something. I don't normally use the calendar to plan my workouts, making the drag and drop function obsolete to me. I've always been able to see weekly, monthly, and yearly totals by activity type, so no real benefit there. My activities have always been color coded. I even wrote about your use of color coding in the past. I'm not even sure what a 'group' means in terms of triathlon training. I'm pretty sure such things are discouraged, maybe even prohibited in the rules, so it's not clear why you even bothered adding that accessory.

Still, after reading your letter and seeing your picture, I went into Garmin Connect with an open mind. You told me you were sexy. You told me you were better. Who was I to disagree? Here's what I saw...

Basically, the calendar viewing screen has shrunk to make way for the left side menu, which has virtually no function. Therefore, the available viewing information inside a specific date is less, forcing me to click on the date if I want to know anything other than the distance of the workout. The default color of light blue is strenuous to read. I did figure out how to change the default color from your limited palette. But, it changed each and every color since the beginning of time. Remember how you said I could "color code my activities"? Nope.

Garmin Calendar, I am not happy with the new you. You sent me a picture and description of a sleek, new you all dressed up in silky lingerie. Then, you showed up in frumpy sweatpants and a disgusting top.

In a nutshell, I miss you. The old you. The real you. I hope you get better soon and we can go back to enjoying the relationship as it was. Because, that was a great relationship and a good calendar. Or, at least, it was better than the one who showed up on my doorstep the other day.

I'm sure that things will get better. One day, you and I might look back on this message and laugh. You may get motivated and actually implement the changes you described. We'll be able to add make-up and a firming halter top.  Remember, those changes were your idea, not mine. Either that or I will start looking for a new relationship with a different calendar. And I really don't want to do that. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings on this. I look forward to your response.

Love you,

The Banter

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Baseball Training Lessons

Despite that fact that I am pretty much the only one in a 200 mile radius with this attitude. Despite the fact that I live in an area dominated by American League East supporters. Despite the fact that they, at least on paper, have only an outside chance at making the post-season. I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan. I'm not ashamed of it.

There are lots or parallels between my triathlon training and Chicago Cubs baseball:

Both are fair weather sports
In much the same way that I whine all winter long about crappy weather, bad training conditions, eating too much, and a lowered libido motivation to put in the miles, baseball is pretty much on hold during the winter. Warm weather breeds exercise motivation as well as a return of pill ball to the diamond.

When I go out for a run in December-February, I share the road with a few cars and snow. Scarce are the other athletes. When I go for a run in March-October, there are actually other people out exercising! Pasty white skin that hasn't seen a lick of vitamin D for months now reappear to share space on the road. The shoulders of the road are littered with amateur athletes pounding the pavement and putting in the miles.  Bicycles are added to the mix. I am no longer lonely.

Sometime, when the weather officially warms up, racing will return. It will continue right up until the same time that the baseball season ends. Such a depressing time of year. Until then, I've got both triathlon and Cubbie baseball to keep me entertained.

Consistency is King
The regular baseball season features 162 games in roughly 185 calendar days. That's 23 days off over the course of 6 months. I checked the Cubbies game schedule. April has 2 scheduled days off. May has 4. June has 3. July has 5 (4 of which are the scheduled 'All-Star Break). August has 3 days off. September has 2 days off.

This is similar to the average idiot's triathlete's training schedule (read- my training schedule). Sure, you can take days off. They are not absolutely necessary and can be few and far between. We have 3 disciplines in which to vary our training.

A quick note on this topic- This does not mean you need to have hundreds of days of HARD training. Running, in particular, rewards easy efforts. You can work on your weakness and build on your strengths without killing yourself day in and out. However, you won't achieve your best without putting in the time.

Take it One Day at a Time
Once in a while, I'll listen to the post-game show. They have really bad interviews with athletes who have been coached on how to answer monotonous questions. Here's a typical conversation:
Broadcaster: Good game today.
Cub: Thanks
Broadcaster: How'd if go for you?
Cub: We did some good things and some things that we could do better. I'm just happy to do my part for the team and glad that (or wish that) we got the win.
Broadcaster: So, what's next for the team?
Cub: We'll go back out there tomorrow and try to get the win.
Both the Cubs and I know that you can't really look past tomorrow. Sure, your mind's eye is on end-of-the-season success. That success is only won by focusing on today. A win for me is measured in nailing my workout goals. Sometimes those goals are easy on purpose. Sometimes they are hard. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail. But, when I fail, I (in theory anyway) put it behind me. I want to go out there tomorrow and try to get the win.

Lastly, and maybe leastly,
Both the Chicago Cubs and I typically suck on an annual basis. And that fact changes absolutely nothing for my love of myself triathlon nor my love of the baseball team.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More for the Dogs

The PRP and I went for a run today. It was an easy run for me. Borderline boring for him. Whenever we go for a slow run, he figures out how to waste additional energy (pisses me off). He'll chase a squirrel, bunny, and/or a leaf blowing in the wind. He really doesn't care, he just wants to run at near light speed paces and needs an excuse. Apparently, tossing the his bouncy ball with the fling-a-ma-jig isn't enough work for him either.

On one stretch during the jaunt, small mammalian wildlife was surprisingly scarce. The dog was not happy and he felt the need to share his thoughts with me. It's always a surprise when he starts venting for several reasons. First, he's generally a happy-go-lucky kind of dog. Negative emotions are not his strong suit. Second, I don't think that he was giving the hunt his full attention. He has a tendency to completely ignore birdies, which I think is a tremendous error. Third, he's a dog. I typically misunderstand his conversation tone. Go figure.

So, we got to talking about his current woes- lack of tail on the trail. In order to keep him talking, I asked him what he really wanted to stalk. "Cats," he replied. I don't see the appeal (admittedly, I'm not a cat lover) but I do sympathize with his plight. We moved out to the country. In our old neighborhood, cats were abundant and he had several opportunities to force them up a tree. In our current area, all the kitties have been replaced by possum and coon. That is, of course, except for the black and white striped kitties that I refuse to let him chase. He tends to sulk at that order.

In his honor, I have found the perfect solution. He likes balls. He likes kitties. He likes athletics. Here's some athletes that have combined all 3.

Sadly, he seemed mostly indifferent to this concept. There's just no pleasing some dogs.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Over the Hump

As promised, here is an update as to how ReLenting is going this season. Today marks the halfway point of my ReLenting Days. The worst part is over.  It's all downhill from here. My palms are getting hairy. I'm on the back 9. I am officially over the Hump.

This whole Lenten Challenge thing for me has historically been rather difficult. Every time I've tried, I've failed. Much the same as my Ironman marathon run. I just haven't figured it out.

Here's the way things have gone in the past:
  • Make huge goals
  • Start off strong
  • Fizzle in the middle
  • Never quite make it 
  • Hate myself in the end

Here's the way it's gone in 2013:
  • Make huge goals
  • Start off strong
  • Get the flu
  • Resume before recovered
  • Relapse
  • Feel guilty
  • Start over
  • Take the new program mile by mile
On March 16th, I scratched the original plan and tried again. I rationalized that there was no real reason Lent had to end on Easter. It's not like anyone else in the world was Lenting and ending on Easter anyways. I have completed 23 days of the self-required 46. The program will end on Tuesday, May 2nd.

Here's how things have gone so far in March. You'll notice the break in activity on the 14th and 15th, which is what caused the controversy in the first place. You'll notice the addition of the evil color yellow.

Here's how April has been shaping up. You'll see some running. And some biking. And you'll notice I forgot to swim.

Despite recent race results, I feel good. I feel confident. I might even start doing some speed work.

That should be fun.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Finishing Wasn't the Goal

So, I've had a week to digest the results of my last race. The results are conclusive: I sucked (really, there isn't much else with me and a pure running race. Sucking seems to be the only option.) I might have to change my alter-ego from the Banter to the Hoover. I can see it now, when I suck only a little- it could be a 'hand-held vac race.' If it was a big time sucking job- 'shop vac'. I'll ponder on that some more. Now, on to this particular race...

Here was the scenario:
  • 15k race (or 9.3 miles for those who don't speak metric and are too lazy to google the conversion)
  • Previous PR at that distance- 1:06.50
  • Pace PR at that distance- 7:07
  • Pansy factor for the race- high
One of the big benefits of doing a race many years in a row (this was my 4th attempt to conquer the Spring Forward 15k) is that there are really no surprises. You have an intimate knowledge of the course and can learn how to race it.

Before every race, I try to develop a race plan. Unlike many people, I don't feel the need to commit the plan in writing. The commitment is in my brain, which is where 2/3rds of the race takes place anyway. I know that this particular course is easy in the beginning and ends tough.

My race plan dictated that I needed to go out a bit faster than a 7:07 pace because the hills at the back 5k indicate that holding that pace would be near impossible. I calculated that I could hold 7:00 over 7 miles, I would have a much needed ~50 second window of cushion. In all reality, that's not a big window. One can easy blow 50 seconds in a race on a particularly large hill when the wind in moderately blowing in your face and the your legs are pre-fatigued.

Here's how my splits looked for the day:
As you can see, hopefully, I was pretty much on target through 5 miles, or ~8 k (for those of you who don't speak miles and are too lazy to google the conversion). It was quite apparent at that time that my legs had had enough. Maintaining a PR pace for the end game was going to be an impossibility. I slowed and gimped to the finish line.

As I do the mental recap, a lot of questions and second guessings come to mind:
  • Q: Could you have raced faster? (I tend to hold these conversations in the 2nd person) A: Probably. If I had taken out the beginning of the race at 7:10s, I might have been able to hold that pace through the end.
  • Q: What were some of the reasons for the breakdown? A: Hard training the week before. Relenting. General hatred of running
  • Q: Why did you sign up for this race, yet again? A: Several possibilities- 1. Test my fitness, 2. Penchant for wasting money, 3. I miss racing and there aren't many other viable options, 4. I'm pretty much a certified idiot.
  • Q: What did you want out of the race? A: Finally, an easy question- I wanted to PR
Therefore, I set my self up for success. Granted, I failed. I ran hard early in the race knowing that I needed that pace to cross the finish line at a PR-worthy time. Yes, running that fast eventually caused a running breakdown. However, going any slower would have guaranteed failure, hence the reason I didn't try and hold 7:10s. I risked success. 

After the race, I had breakfast at my parent-in-laws. The FiL asked me about about the race.
FiL: How'd it go?
The Banter: I sucked.
FiL: I find that hard to believe.
The Banter: Why is that?
FiL: Well, you finished
The Banter: Finishing wasn't the goal
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to start learning more about vacuum cleaners. Or, at least, the science of suction, on which I should be an experiential expert by now.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Regression Data

I admit it, I'm a little brain dead right now. I don't think that I've recovered from this weekend's lousy 15k. My brain tells me that I should take a day or two off to allow the old bones to heal but my heart tells me that I'm Relenting and dedicated to that sort of success. To make matters worse, we are on "Spring" Break (quotations indicating that spring is just an honorary title and not remotely close to the actually weather conditions).

So, now I'm slower due to fatigue. Grumpy due to the cold chill in the air. And stupider for lots of reasons but most specifically due to not needing to think much while not working.

What's one to do?

I did try and use my brain to learn stuff. For example, suppose I wanted to go out and talk to intelligent people, where would I go?

My town is #13 on the list. Therefore, I wouldn't have to venture far. Where's the fun in that? Note: we were 9th on the list until I moved here. Coincidence?

I did spend some time re-reading some of my old posts. I have to tell ya that, after all of these years, I'm a funny guy. Seriously, I have to tell ya that. Here's the data to prove it.

As if to show you how far gone my brain has become lately, here's more proof of real-life items that I find absolutely hysterical.

Thank god I gave up pop years ago

Now, with extra bile

This is a Norwegian beer AND a prediction
And, last but not least, I have to tell you that I have a chip problem. It's true. I eat way too many of them. If I lived in Finland, I'd probably have 2 problems. Observe the chips with a bang.