Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's the shoes!

When we last left our jogging to health hero, he was training his way to his first marathon in over 13 years.

By November and as we neared the holidays, I was humming along at about 35 miles per week, doing steady build weeks and resting as necessary. By this time, K who was due 12/04 with our second, A, had stopped coming with me to our personal training sessions at Timberline Fitness (awesome gym btw) which meant more and more of my exercise time was by myself. I was going a little stir crazy. So I looked around for a race to do. I was kind of aiming to do San Antonio, but it wasn't in the cards. We had to be in DTW the week of the S.A. race. But then I found the Seven Hills Huntsville Half Marathon. Having done a bike race a few years back, I knew this would be a good challenge. Probably hillier than I needed, but good practice nonetheless. So I signed up for it.

I get all concerned because my "training plan" called for a 16 miler on that day, and here I was "only" going to do 13.1. I reached out to some of my fitter buddies, Drew and Paul, wondering if this was advisable. BTW, this was the first time I came to realize, that despite indications to the contrary, common sense usually can help you decide what to do. In this case, shorting myself 3 miles probably wasn't a big deal since I was so maniacally following the plan otherwise.

Unfortunately, to get to this race, I'm going to have to get up at an absurd time to drive the 70 or so miles it takes to get to Huntsville. I prepare a bag the night before, leave my shoes out and handy because of course, I don't want to forget those, but I won't wear them since it's a long drive before the race. I figure I'll wear flip flops on the drive.

The morning of, I'm ready to go when I realize there are shower stalls available for a post race shower before I have to drive back, but I haven't packed a change of clothes. So after I've almost finished packing the car (not much, but not the shoes yet), I go and make a bag for a change of clothes for after the race.

As I'm racing back and forth, I get a vertigo attack (I haven't mentioned this yet, but I suffer from Meniere's Disease, a debilitating condition that strikes somewhat unpredictably) that almost makes me fall over as I'm rushing around in the morning. I can usually shake off lighter attacks, so I tried to do that with this one and headed out (probably not the smartest idea, but I was driven to do this race).

As I'm driving, I'm not feeling any better. I'm lucky there is zero traffic since I pretty much just had to stay in the right lane and keep my head against the window to avoid dizziness. About 50 miles out and 20 to go, I call up K and tell her I'm going to bail on the race, but I change my mind and see the exits for Huntsville. As I pull off at my exit, I look over to the passenger seat expecting to see my running shoes, and lo and behold, I remember, they were on the bench, next to the door to make sure I didn't forget them. D'oh!

So, 140 mile round trip for pretty much nothing. I get back in time to grab breakfast with the family and I decide, I'll just do my regular scheduled mileage. Of course, I don't leave enough time after breakfast and end up really feeling ill before I finish mile 8 of the 16 miler.

I've had better moments in my training days...but this teaches us to prepare better.

Next time, an actual race report!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Triathlete Training Question, Answers Welcome

This is my first Tri season. As part of training, I've finished two open water swims. One a swim only event of 1 mile, the other the 500m swim segment of a sprint tri. Both times, I ended up doing a LOT of breast stroke (like 60-70% of the race). I could never really find a rhythm. I tried a couple of tactics, like counting strokes and trying to push through it, but my breathing never settled and I had to revert to breast stroke. I'm working toward a Olympic length Tri in 40 days and am not afraid of the swim, just concerned I'm being inefficient and slow. Curiously, my splits for these two events, are pretty close to my pool times which are in the 2:10 to 2:30/100m range. The latter event was pretty choppy water, so I can understand that being slow, but frankly, I'm a little surprised at the 2:10/100m avg over a mile. I need to work on sighting as well as breathing, but I think that is not that big an issue. The psychological shock of zero visibility I think I can get used to as well.

I work out 3xweek at a pool. (Short/Medium/Long) I've had coaching and they have given me training drills that I do from 100 to 300m each depending on the length of my workout. I'm doing approximately 40 mins, 50+mins and this week a peak of 70mins workouts respectively for short/med/long. Technique wise, I think I'm good for this goal race, I feel efficient and when I've worn my wetsuit, I feel I'm gliding.

Phew, now with all that background, my question. I think one reason my race pace was good is that in the pool, since I don't do flips, I take too much time at the turns. It's usually at least a breath, and normally 3 quick ones before/as I turn around. Every 100m, there is typically a goggle reset meaning, I'm not really testing my CV to get into a rhythm. Since I've been training, I've reduced significantly my times as measured by distance to time elapsed. So, I know I'm improving in swimming further faster. But is this improvement without really improving my breathing technique/stamina to power through using only freestyle?

Will doing flips help me build up better CV conditioning (if that's the right term)? Will they help me to slog through changing and challenging open water situations without having to revert to long stretches of slow, inefficient breast stroke? I've never learned, but don't think it would be hard, just time consuming to get good technique in my precious training window time. Should I invest valuable pool time in incorporating flips into my swim workouts. Without a clear answer, I think I'll just try to minimize the time at the turnaround as much as I can without having to learn to flip.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marathon Training...or how to do 800 miles without leaving your neighborhood.

So, I had my mission, my objective, something to keep my eye on the ball with my running program. I love a good spreadsheet challenge, and this helped me come up with a good way to track my program. I'm not sure what the source was, but essentially I came up with a 25 week program that tacked an 18 week training program on the last 7 weeks of a mileage building schedule. I started at 25 miles per week, a distance I'd been pretty comfortable with and grew it to a peak of 43 miles/week 12 weeks before race day.

My previous marathon, gulp, 13 years earlier had been a 12 week program with only one long run of 20 miles. The current program called for 3 20+ milers, the first of which was more than 2 months before the race. This would be fun.

The other complexity to deal with was that for some unknown reason, pretty much any plan you find for free, comes with exercise and workouts scheduled for BOTH days on the weekend. Well, I didn't have that luxury. Perhaps we spoil our little P, but essentially, the wife's directive was get your weekend workouts done before 9am on Saturday. This meant getting up real early to get those long runs pretty close to completion by 9am. Yep, I remember one long run starting at 5am on a Saturday. There were a couple of 4am days too mid-week, since my runs were too long to squeeze them in after P had woken up and was ready to go to school.

I started off pretty slowly failing to complete the mileage for the first 3 weeks since I seemed to be stuck at 25 miles and the plan called for 30 by week 3. BUt I kept at it and got into a schedule.

Not sure if you're interested, but the breakout was 5 run workouts a week, Monday's were typically a 6 miler. Tuesday was half the distance of the long run on Saturday (so if the schedule called for 14 miles on Saturday, you could count on Tuesday being 7 miles). Wednesday's were make weights for mileage from 5 miles on rest weeks up to 7 miles on heavier weeks. Thursday was a rest day, Friday's were mostly a quick 4 miler in advance of the Long Run on Saturday. Sunday was another rest day.

I continued my twice weekly personal training sessions concentrating (or rather, without any specific focus) on overall body strength.

Once we had my routines (the royal "we" is used to denote the family since this pretty much became a family affair), the miles started getting consumed.

The most fun was taking P out for 4 milers in the B.O.B. "Dualli" stroller. That thing is awesome. I loved running down the road I run along regularly and seeing cars stop 100 ft ahead if the road narrowed to let me by. It's like the "wide load" carrier of jogging strollers. No one ignores that thing. It's a shame it's so darn bulky to put in the trunk. Or we'd use it more frequently.

My somewhat unreliable Nike+ helped me track the miles, but I pretty much knew how many miles were on each circuit. I've got circuits that I can run 4, 6, and 10 miles. The tough ones were the odd long runs, like 16 miles, or 22.5 miles. Those I sometimes had to make up as I went along. I ended up planning poorly on my 22.5 mile long run and ended up covering the distance still about a mile from my house. Shame on me, but I called K to pick me up. I'm sorry, I'd had it at 22.5 miles.

Another time, I remember I ran around the zoo one frosty morning at around 5am to add some mileage to a 12 miler. Even in the cold and in the dark of morning, you can tell when you're down wind from the zoo.

Next time, some more training mishaps and a Race Report!

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Year's resolutions to triathlete junkie...

So, when we last talked, I was gaining momentum on my New Year's resolutions from 2009. Part of the resolution by the way, was not just to make an effort with exercise, but to also cut down/quit drinking. I didn't drink much, but with a sedentary lifestyle a couple of glasses a wine a couple of nights a week were keeping the pounds on. Around March I was up to just under 25 miles a week when I discovered on my iPod Touch tried to sync up with a Nike+ pedometer sensor I had in my shoes from a Christmas present a couple of years before. When I figured out how to get it to work, I found new enthusiasm for running since I could run with my music (more podcasts frankly) and measure quite accurately what I was doing. Around this time, Kathy and I started going to a gym she had used previously for personal training 2x week.

Well, the snowball started to gain both momentum and volume. By July I was probably down about 20 pounds from my New Years weight and doing about 100 miles/month running. I was starting to get a little stale though and I was looking for something, perhaps a race to get me motivated toward a goal. I thought about the Marathon, but frankly, after doing a marathon 13 years earlier, I wasn't that keen on doing another one. Don't get me wrong, it's a great experience but my personality is such that I take the training VERY seriously. We'd just found out K was pregnant (due in December) so I didn't know how my training would be affected by this.

As an aside, a Marathon has special significance for me since my Father who died of cancer was an avid marathoner. He came to marathons the year he turned 50 and saw his pot belly as something alien to him. He took a training plan out of Runner's World magazine and started following it. What I didn't realize (until I recently discussed it with my Sister) is that he rarely complied with the plan more than about 75% of the proscribed mileage. He did do 5 marathons (4 of them NYC) always battling to beat 4 hours. He did it once in 3:57. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think he was gearing up for another effort when he was diagnosed with his brain cancer in May, 93. He died in March 94. I regretted not having run one with him. When I ran my first marathon in Chicago in 1996, I did it as testimonial to my Dad. I got a surprising 3:48. My Dad is buried in the suburbs of Chicago. I took an extra finisher's medal and laid it on my dad's gravestone. A memorable moment in my life.

So, one weekend in mid-July, I'm debating what race or objective to have when our neighbor rushes over and says the registration for the Houston Marathon has just opened up and the slots are going like hot cakes. She was going to run the half, and her husband who pretty much runs something every year was going to run the full race. Kathy gets caught up with the excitement and looks at me and encourages me to do it. Well, if my pregnant wife is encouraging me to do this, this is about as good as it gets from the support perspective. I tried to warn her it would be a LOT of mileage, but she was keen, even knowing that it could become a pain.

It became a pain, but more on that next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Do they still count as New Year's resolutions?

So, though my wife won't tell me, I've become a bit of a fitness freak. I know she thinks I passed the line of a healthy appetite for exercise and into obsessive compulsive. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's not too far off. I guess it's just a perfect storm of coming out of a tunnel of stress and difficulties at work, settling into fatherhood/parenting as well as having another child (our family, not me).

It all started with our New Year's resolutions for 2009. 2008 started as an awesome year, my eldest P was born, but things started heading south in the summer. I work in the utility industry selling electricity and the market went to heck in a hand basket forcing prices up. To make a long story short, it was probably the worst 6 months of my life which was capped by Hurricane Ike coming in as well. Actually, the Hurricane was pretty much the beginning of smooth sailing once we got our power back and the office restored.

The toll on my physical sense of self and health was pretty bad. I weighed about 235 pounds and wasn't doing anything to stop the weight gain. I ate horribly, drank a lot and didn't exercise at all. Well, toward the end of 2008, it was evident something had to give. Work finally let up a bit (perhaps a story for another day) and as the holidays wound down, K made us resolve to start the New Year right and start exercising.

Starting from 45 minute 3 mile runs and progressing to cracking 20 miles a week, we slowly made progress. (More on the fitness turnaround next time.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I wanna watch mooovies on the phone...

That's the line P gives me when K brings her to bed since it's too early to give her breakfast. It's the morning routine that usually involves K getting up, going downstairs to the house (which is in mid-remodel) to shower and get dressed for work. If I'm lucky, P stays asleep for about another 30 minutes so I can sleep more. But as is more likely, P wakes up before K has gone down for her shower. So she gets deposited on the bed and the only thing she wants is to watch movies on the iphone. So, we've downloaded a couple of movies (love Wallace & Gromit) and an episode of Olivia, but if they were on vinyl or VCR, they would have been worn out by now. So now, I've taken to surfing Youtube and finding child appropriate videos. Her favorite as of late is the hippo and dog singing the lion sleeps tonight. For some reason, I can't embed the video. Darn, so much for the cuteness factor. Anyway, if you have any recommendations, they are welcome. It doesn't seem like P has any chance of foregoing this ritual anytime soon, so I could use the ideas.

Mighty oaks from silly first posts grow..

Didn't expect to start this, so you'll forgive the brevity and uselessness of this first post. Just meant to look up someone else's blog and by reflex logged in since this is tied to gmail login. Before I know it, I'm picking out templates (anything with Dollar in it appeals to me!) and here it is. More later when I think about what this is going to be about.