Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Evolving Through Cancer

14 months ago I finished an Ironman
13 months ago I was diagnosed with cancer
12 months ago I went through surgery and radiation
Last year we lived and loved, waited and hoped...
1 week ago my doctors said they were pleased with my progress
3 days ago I signed up for Ironman Maryland
Yesterday I built my training plan
Today training began
Today I stopped looking back
Today is Day 1...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Today's Routine ... anything but routine

I staggered from bed in the heavy darkness this morning and headed out for my usual run ahead of the sun.  It’s what I do, and what I’ve done for the last 4+ years.  Just part of the routine.  Unfortunately it didn’t feel very routine this morning.

So much to process.  So much sadness.  So much anger.  So senseless, and brutal, and cold.  Such a stark contrast to the warmth and support the permeates the running community that I’ve come to know and embrace through this blog, and training, and races.  Although circumstance makes it feel that way, yesterday wasn’t an attack on running, it was an attack on people, and celebration, and freedom.  If the timing wasn’t an accident, it was an attack on innocents and innocence, intended to optimize damage and maximize terror.  When my kids ask ‘why?’ I wish I had an answer.  Instead, I find myself asking the same question.

The true impact of this on America, and on society, and on events like marathons remains to be seen.  Big-city marathons will never be the same.  They will go on, and people will likely be even more motivated to participate, especially in the Boston Marathon, but the ‘feel’ of the races will be forever changed.  I think of my family waiting for me in the stands near the finish of the Marine Corps Marathon a couple years ago, and don’t imagine I’ll ever be comfortable with that scenario in the future.  Sadness and anger well up again.

There was so much good, decency, and heroism to see in the aftermath of yesterday, and I choose to focus on that.  People offering help, food, and their homes to strangers in the midst of chaos.  There is so much good around us, but it’s hard to miss the darkened bulb in a sea of light.  Unfortunately extremism in the pursuit of attention is far too effective.

I pray for the injured, and the families of those injured or taken from this world.  I hope for swift justice, and the discovery that this is an isolated incident.  I hope for the return to normalcy, but not complacency.  Until then, I run.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slacker Redeemed

Just so I don’t create the illusion that it’s all sticking-to-the-plan and never a missed workout in my world, I completely blew it two weeks back while on business travel in San Jose.  I went from my two-a-day triathlon training, to one 8-mile run in the span of 5 days.  Yes the days were long, and yes the time-change was messing with me, but there really wasn’t any excuse.  I packed all my running gear, the weather was nice, but I got lazy and embraced the sloth.  It was both guilt-riddled and glorious.

Thankfully once I got back to NC I got back down to business.  Running is going well, biking is good and I’ve been able to get off the trainer and on the road for the last couple weekends, and swimming is slowly getting better.  I’ve started studying the videos for Total Immersion, and it seems to be helping.  Still don’t feel like my form is great, but I’m able to go more than 200 meters at a time without sucking wind, and I’m disliking trips to the pool less with each outing.  I ordered an Xterra wetsuit yesterday, so hopefully I’ll be heading out for an open-water swim in the next couple weeks.  Not a fan of cold water, so it’s not going to be pretty.  We’re running about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year, so even though I have little room to complain compared to most of the folks up North I’m still crossing my fingers that Spring will hit soon.

Signed up for the Monticelloman Olympic Tri in Charlottesville, VA on May 5, so right now that’s the first official triathlon on my calendar, and of my life.  I may sign up for a local sprint in late April.  Undecided, and not really excited about yet another race fee.  Outer Banks Flying Pirate Half coming up in 3 weeks, and I think I’m going to run it hard to see what kind of a half-marathon time I can do.  I’ve only run one other half-marathon, and I was pacing a friend in that one and really just passing the time until the Irish Pub opened on St. Patrick’s day.

Honestly … most of my races end up being about passing the time until the bar opens. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap - All Good

I decided to let this race sit for a couple weeks before putting together a recap.  Immediately after the race I felt great about the whole experience, but I wanted to look over the data and break things down to find those things I would have done differently.

After some reflection, there really isn’t much of anything I would change.  Based on my preparation and training, I think I squeezed out about every ounce of effort and performance I could have on race day.  There’s no such thing as a perfect race, but I truly felt like I didn’t leave anything out on the course.  It took 6 marathons and 2 ultras to finally feel that way at the finish, and it's a nice feeling.

I’ll try and recap the race as succinctly as possible.  The weather was outstanding – about 40 degrees and clear at the start, with some wind, but not enough to really have much of an effect.  We got to the race about 30 minutes before the start, and were able to stay in the car and stay warm, which was a nice change from my usual routine of 2 hours early and walking around freezing.  I settled in just behind the 3:35 pace group, since that was around the time I was hoping to post.  I hadn’t done a specific marathon plan, but had kept my mileage fairly high while doing a triathlon training plan, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  My long runs had gone well, but I hadn’t pushed the pace in a long time.  I figured I’d hang around the pace group for the first few miles, and see how things felt.  Great anthem, strange pre-race appearance of an elephant (some sort of wild animal theme this year), and we were off.

First half of the race - flat and fast
As usual, the first mile was pretty congested, so I hung behind the 3:35 pace group and tried no to trip anyone or be tripped.  By mile 2 the crowd was thinning, and the 3:35 group felt a little slow, so I moved out ahead of them figuring I’d see them again later.  I never saw them again.  I settled in at a pace between 7:45 and 7:55 a mile, was feeling good, and fell in with a group that was holding that pace consistently.  After about 6 miles my legs were feeling good, and I was starting to think this might be a solid PR day.  I also really needed to pee.  Decided I’d hold it for a bit since there weren’t a lot of options to take care of business.  I was running without a Fuel Belt or an iPod for the first time in a race, and although it felt a little naked, it was forcing me to pay attention to how my body was feeling, and so far it was all good.  I kept the sub-8-minute pace going until the half-marathon runners peeled away around mile 12, and then the bathroom and nutrition could wait no longer.  Bathroom, gel, water, and powerade at the mile-12 marker, and then I was back at it for the always eventful second half.

Second half - beach views and getting warmer
Miles 12 through 17 continued right along the beach, with nice views and lots of sunshine.  Spectator support was kind of sparse, but enthusiastic.  The volunteers at the water stops were great.  Lots of them, and very supportive.  I’m a fan of having names on the bibs.  It adds a lot when people are cheering for you by name.  After my pit stop I was able to get back to sub-8 pace pretty quickly, and continued to feel good until mile 21, when I took another quick stop for a gel and some hydration.  I was still feeling pretty good, and knew at this point I was looking at a PR.  I also started upping the game a bit, and thinking about going under 3:30.  I decided to step the pace up and roll the dice.  Worst case I would flame out in glorious fashion.   Better to burn out, than fade away.

The last 5 miles, like most of the race, were nice and flat.  This is the point in most races where I turn up the music to try and distract myself from all the people going through various types of distress, especially cramping.  With no music to turn up, I just focused on the pace and my breathing.  Once I hit mile 25 I knew I had a shot at sub 3:30.  I didn’t want it to come down to the wire, so I stepped up the pace for mile 26 and ran a 7:18 split.  Finally, I broke into what felt like a sprint for the last .2 miles.  I’m guessing it didn’t exactly look like something out of Chariots of Fire, but I did manage to pass several people down the finishing chute, and crossed the line feeling completely spent.

Final time: 3:27:00.  My favorite part of the race is my splits for the last 5.2 miles.  I finally had something left for a ‘kick’ at the end.  Not much, but something.

My friends and I also set a significant PR in the beer tent after the race.  This wasn’t the usual “here’s one watered down low-carb, gluten-free, organic, almost-beer, and now you can get more for $10 each.”  This was 5 different kinds of beer, no tickets, no rules, just right.  We rehydrated in style, went home for a quick nap, then met up with some more friends for good food, good drinks, and much poker into the early morning.  Easily the best marathon day/night I’ve ever had.  Thankfully the race was Saturday morning, because by 2PM Saturday the beautiful race weather had turned into pouring rain, and by 8PM the rain had turned into a rare snowstorm in Myrtle.  The next morning it was 28 degrees, with an inch of snow on the grass, and howling winds.

I would HIGHLY recommend this marathon to anyone, new to the sport or a seasoned veteran.  Very flat course, outstanding organization of the expo and the race, awesome volunteers that really seemed like they wanted to be there.  Swag included a nice tech shirt, a toasty fleece blanket with the race logo, and a very nice finisher’s medal.  The beer tent was a winner, but they also had pizza, and bagels, and muffins, and pretzels, and Smartwater, Powerade, chocolate milk, Krispy Kreme, etc.  They didn’t mess around with the post-race refuel.

I’m guessing I’ll be back to run this one in the future.  I managed to catch a monster cold right after getting back home, so I took a full week off from all activity, and I’m back into triathlon training again.  2013 is still my year to give tri’s a try, but a 3:27 only puts me 12 minutes off of a BQ time, so I’m thinking 2014 might be the year I try to get a BQ.  Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but it never hurts to start thinking about new goals and challenges.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Myrtle Beach Marathon - 18 minute PR

Great weather.  Great course.  Great friends.

Some days the racing gods smile on you.  You don't ask why, you just say thanks.

Here's the email I got this morning:

18 minutes and 25 seconds off my PR.  I think I may have set a personal record at the beer tent afterwards as well.

Now .... so much sore.  My quads are not amused.

Time for more Advil.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

January, Hokas, and Myrtle Beach Marathon

2013 is apparently running on fast forward.

Somehow we’re almost halfway through February, and it barely feels like the new year got started.  Stepped up training has swallowed up my calendar, and the days are just flying by.  A little too fast for my taste, but there’s definitely not time to get bored.

January marked the beginning of my first-ever triathlon training cycle, and it has definitely been tiring, but overall I consider it successful thus far.  I’m still a little too run-heavy on my plan, but that is by design with a marathon that is now just 5 days away.  Twice-a-day training is not easy to schedule, but I didn’t really expect it to be.  Here’s where I ended up for the month of January:

Running – 19 runs, 178 miles
Cycling – 9 rides, 188 miles (2 outdoors, 7 trainer – lousy weather)
Swimming – 7 swims, 5 miles
Lifting (upper body, core) – 8 trips to the gym

Running continues to go well, with a couple of nagging minor injuries, but generally overall good health.  Bad weather meant more trainer rides than I would have liked on the bike, but I expect to get outdoors more as the weather improves.  I really like riding the bike outdoors, and enjoy speed entirely too much.  Swimming is getting better, but still not great.  I need to work on my stroke and building my lung capacity.  Or else grow fins and gills.  I’m open to either approach.

In my continuing tinkering with my footwear, after much research I added a pair of Hoka Bondi B shoes to the rotation.  I’ve only worn them on one 10-mile run so far, but I was very impressed with the maiden voyage.

There really was no break-in with these shoes.  They are designed for ultra-cushioning, and they deliver.  Despite the maximum cushioning, I still put a part of Superfeet Green insoles in them, and they felt great.  I’m planning to make these primarily my devoted long-run shoes, so they won’t get a lot of use in terms of volume of runs, but they will get a lot of miles.  I’ll keep providing updates as I get more experience with them, but first impressions are VERY promising.  Unfortunately these shoes come with a non-trivial price tag, so I’m also curious to see how well they hold up.  If I’m only getting 300-400 miles out of these like most of my other shoes, then I don’t know that the ROI will be worth it.  We shall see.

This coming Saturday I’ll be lacing up the shoes for the Myrtle Beach Marathon.  I’ve tried to maintain a fairly heavy marathon-training plan within the triathlon training I’ve started, and I think it has worked fairly well.  The obvious test will come Saturday when I see how my legs respond.  I’m tapering this week, with only 2 runs, no bike rides, and primarily just focusing on swimming.  I’m not entirely sure of my strategy yet for the marathon.  I ran two marathons, and 50k, and a 50-miler last year, but didn’t really ‘race’ any of them.  I haven’t ‘raced’ a marathon since the Marine Corps in the Fall of 2011.  I’d like to give it a go this weekend, and see if I can’t pull a PR.  I’ve been nursing a minor groin strain for a couple months, that some days doesn’t factor at all, and other days really starts talking to me at around the 10-mile mark.  Right now I’m leaning towards starting out the race with the 3:35 pace group, and just seeing how I feel.  If things feel good, I’m going to see if I can hang with that pace for the whole run.  This race will have a few new twists for me:
  • No support team – my family won’t be making this trip, so I’ll be running this one solo.  Two good friends of mine will be running the half, and I’ll be staying with them for the weekend, but I’ll be on my own once the gun goes off.
  • No Fuel Belt – I’ve always run with my own drinks, gels, etc., and my family has helped me swap out my fuel during the race.  This time I’ll be relying on the fuel stations to get me through.  I’ll carry two Gu with me, and that’s all.  Will feel a bit naked out there, but we’ll see how it goes.  I’ve learned that I require a lot less food and drink during races than I used to think, so I’m not too concerned about this as long as it’s not freakishly hot.
  • No tunes – iPods are prohibited for this race, so no motivational music for me.  I usually try to run the first half of races with no music, and fire up the iPod for the second half, so I don’t think this will be a big deal.  Would have liked to have had the option, however.

Looking forward to the weekend, and looking forward to reworking my training plan post-marathon to more evenly work on the three disciplines.  Still need to sign up for some shorter triathlons between now and the 70.3.  Also need to win the lottery.

Monday, January 28, 2013

That Escalated Quickly

There must be some sort of name for it.  Kinda like Murphy’s Law, only from someone not named Murphy.  Or perhaps just a different Murphy.  Begs the question of what would have happened had Murphy come up with a second law.  The basic theory is that as soon as you convince yourself that there’s not enough time to handle whatever your current schedule is, something else will come along that will make you long for the schedule that you thought was impossible.  Maybe it can be my law.  I’m definitely living it right now.

I thought my running schedule to train for an ultra was near my limits in terms of duration and intensity for what my mind and body could handle while still staying employed and actually seeing my family on occasion.  Then I discovered triathlon training.  Kinda putting a beating on me right now.
Admittedly, I’m pushing the boundaries a bit on the tri training since I was already signed up for a marathon in the middle of February.  I’ve created a Franken-plan combining a 24-week Ironman training plan, and a moderate-level marathon training plan to get me to the line in Myrtle Beach in 3 weeks with the potential to try and race the marathon and see if I can put together a PR.  Net result is for 6 weeks each week consists of 2-3 strength-training sessions, 2-3 bike rides, 3 swims, and 5 runs.  Trying to get enough sleep to support this as well, which is equally challenging.  It’s been pretty fun so far, but I won’t be terribly unhappy to get past the marathon and work out a more sustainable model.

My recent tinkering with my running shoe mix has me going the opposite direction of the wave of minimalist-shoe momentum, and looking at Hokas.  For those that aren’t familiar with these shoes, they take the approach that more-is-more, and offer more support and cushion than just about any other shoe on the market.  I finally saw one of these shoes in person at a tri store last week and I’m thoroughly intrigued.  Rockstar Emz uses Hokas for much of her prodigious treadmill running, and if they help her put in 4,000+ miles a year, they certainly have potential for me.  With the amount of training I’m pushing right now, these might be some more insurance against overtraining injury.  I’m always looking for ways to slay the injury dragon.
Swimming remains my main nemesis right now.  Apparently water has gotten much thicker since I did swim-team as a kid.  There can’t possibly be any other explanation for the degree to which the pool owns me right now.  Water and I are starting to work out some sort of tolerable agreement, but it’s still pretty contentious.  In the meantime, I’m stepping up my sprint workouts at the track in hopes that I get fast enough to just run across the water like this guy….
Seems like a reasonable plan.