Now What...?

Been a while. Yeah, I know. But the dearth of updates to this blog in no way should be interpreted as a lack of progress or activity. To the contrary, in fact. Despite a busy two months and a whole lot of crap at work, after a brief running break post Two Cities Half (all of about three days), I once again found myself hitting the pavement in the 'hood.

Several friends declared "good riddance" to 2009 rather emphatically. I found myself puzzled by this. Sure, from an economic and global standpoint, 2009 was a tough one for many, but their laments seemed to be much more personal in nature. I lost my mom in April to the scourge of our existence known as cancer, but for me 2009 was actually pretty good when all was said and done.

When the year was about to begin, I targeted running 500 miles for the year. Notice I said "targeted." That seemed less daunting than than calling it a resolution or establishing an actual goal. Believe it or not, I wracked up 660.6 miles during the year! Absolutely frickin' amazing! And most of that came in the last six months or so. Also amazing was the miles I put on my butt on the bike. I started logging my bike cross training in July. Through the end of 2009, I had put on 277.4 miles on my Trek mountain bike. All told, I invested almost 140 hours in training during the year--and that's not counting all the yoga classes either. Even with a demanding job that takes me on the road several days a month, I still managed to squeeze in an average of 3+ hours of training each week.

Other accomplishments? Ran my first race--the Cross City 10k. Ran the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure 5k. I also committed to training and racing my first half marathon this past November--and I did better than I could have hoped for. During it all I managed to stay healthy and injury free. Oh, and did I mention that this was accomplished by a 47 year old introverted couch potato?

So now what? For 2010 I'm upping the ante. New year, new approach. The annual training plan! I've already looked at the entire year and identified my training goals and objectives. Notice I'm not using the word "target." I've identified several races that I definitely want to train for and participate in. I also plan to take my cycling from something I do to cross train, to something that I'm actually training to improve. And since I have some level of fitness already in running and cycling, why not go for the ultimate in endurance tests--triathlon?

OK-that triathlon thing has not risen to the level of a committed training goal yet--but certainly the components of it have. I've nailed down my run and bike training for the next several months. Once all the craziness of the new year subsides, my next mission is to track down a swim coach to give me some lessons on technique--and I'll take it from there. Who knows--I'm thinking a late summer/early fall tri competition might be just the ticket! We'll see.

The start of a new year is always a time when the topic of resolutions surface. I've never liked the idea of identifying resolutions. It always seems like such a zero sum game to me. Once you fall off the wagon, you're done. Instead, I prefer to establish intentions. One continually renews an intention. Even when there is a failure or backsliding, you can renew the intention. Wipe the slate clean and start fresh. For 2009, the intention I identified was to seek balance. In looking back over all that transpired in '09, I believe I found balance more often than not. Work, home, family, personal obsessions--all seemed to mesh just as they should with no one focus assuming dominance over the others.

My natural tendency is to go balls out on something to the detriment of something else. For 2010 then, I have renewed my intention to seek balance. To that intention however, I am adding the intention to seek connection with others. The older I get, I'm finding it increasingly important to shed the 'lone wolf' in me and to connect with others on a regular basis. Finally, I'm adding one more: 5 - 9, and lots of colors. That's five to nine servings of fruits and veggies per day, and in every color of the rainbow whenever possible.

2010 here I come!


Two Cities Marathon and Half Race Report...

What can I say? What an absolute blast. I couldn't have asked for a better 'first' race. Time? Believe it or not, an amazing 2:15:17! And achieving that result did not come by way of a Suffer-fest either, nor was it a piece of cake. It came through a strong and focused effort the entire race. Well, that and 16 weeks of strong and focused training too.

Arrived at the start around 6am. The half was scheduled for a 7am start and the full for 7:30. It was pretty chilly out there--maybe 45 degrees. It was a little tough keeping warm before the start, but nothing you couldn't manage through. Once we started piling into the starting corrals, it was definitely better--being in close proximity to all those bodies definitely upped the temps a few degrees. I was at the front of Corral C. My brother was somewhere in Corral B (he was anticipating finishing somewhere around the 2 hour mark). The walkers were all in D, and well, the usual amazing suspects were all in A.

I never really did hear the starting gun, but suddenly we were moving forward in a wave. My race strategy was to go out slowly at an 11:00 pace for the first couple of miles, to both warm up, and find my rhythm. Then, depending on how I felt, I planned to pick up the pace--shooting for a steady 10:30ish. No rookie mistake here, but there was no way I could have done 11:00 even if I wanted to. I would have been mowed over by those coming from behind. Somewhere about two miles into it, I glance at my Garmin and note that I was running at about 9:30 and feeling good. Decided I was tempting fate, so when the hoards started to break up a bit around mile 3, I slowed my pace to around 10:15 and settled in. Turns out in the end, I averaged a 10:14 pace for the course.

The race was very well organized. Decent race expo (not that I had anything to compare it to as it was my first). Plenty of accessible parking the morning of the event. Sufficient porta potties at the race start. Beautiful (for Fresno) course heading northeast toward the foothills and by the river. Enthusiastic race volunteers and supportive crowds. Live bands played at several points on the course. The weather also cooperated--almost like it was planned. That brisk morning warmed up to about 52 degrees by the time I finished, and there was plenty of brilliant sunshine. Perfect running weather.

Again, not that I have anything to compare it to, but it sure seemed like this race had superior swag. Overheard more than one runner commenting on the nice long sleeved technical tee, the hooded sweatshirt and the hat as being some of the best they have seen. Sure seemed that way to me, as well. At the finish there was a full breakfast waiting, and there were plenty of ice cream sundaes if you were so inclined. Oh, and a beer garden too with two free beers per finisher!

My brother had a great race as well. But by his own admission, he was definitely hurting the last few miles. In the end, he came in better than expected at 1:53:06. Considering he hadn't done any consistent training for the last six weeks or so, he did very well. I wonder though, how much better he could have done had he gotten some regular training under his belt. At the very least, he probably wouldn't have been hurting so much in the end.

What's next? We're already talking about an early spring half in Sacramento--the Shamrock Half Marathon, or possibly the inaugural running of the Oakland Marathon and Half. We're also looking forward to running the American River Parkway Half in Sacramento in early May. My brother really wants to do a marathon. I told him I would be up for it, but am shooting for an early 2011 event so I can take advantage of the cooler training temperatures next fall. DisneyWorld in January, 2011? Just maybe...


Pre-Race Thoughts...

Well, it's finally here. Well almost, anyway. The Two Cities Marathon and Half--the event I have been training for these past 16 weeks, will start tomorrow morning at 7am. In usual fashion, I'm neither 'stoked,' nor apathetic. I just am. I suspect as today wears on, anxiety will mount. Something tells me I'm not going to sleep very well tonight :)

I feel really good about my training. I have no doubt I will finish the race, and finish it strong. Not sure about my time though. Last Saturday's 8 miler was fairly easy at about a 10:30 pace. Eight miles is not 13.1 though. Of course, it should be a little cooler than last week (although some weather reports indicate we could have some wind. Wind! Really? Fresno only gets windy in big storms or about three other times during the year. But of course, one of those windy days would have to fall on November 8!). I'm also reasonably well rested. Very light week at work--surprisingly. Slept reasonably well most of the week. Tried to honor the taper by sticking to my training plan with one session of speed work on Tuesday, and then only three miles, easy, on Thursday (it feels really funny right now not to be gearing up for a Saturday morning long run and at the same time, it seems like such a luxury). My diet during the week? So, so. I could have eaten less fat and more of the green stuff, but it just wasn't meant to be. One thing's for sure, I stayed very well hydrated all week. And healthy, too! Can't forget about that. Everyone--and I mean everyone--I came in contact with the last couple of weeks seemed to be harking up a lung or coming off swine flu. Must have been all that hand washing and hiding out in my office that kept me germ free :)

So anyway, back to my time. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, 2:45 is absolutely no problem. I would be happy with breaking 2:30, and ecstatic with anything remotely close to 2:20. I do think 2:20 is in the realm of possibility if I'm feeling good. As for race strategy, I plan to go out at about 11:00 for the first couple of miles to get my bearings and warm up. Depending on how I feel after that, I plan to pick up the pace--or not--until the finish. Oh, and my mantra? "Don't eat the paste." Just because Little Jimmy is eating paste (blazing by me and because I feel good and fresh, I feel like I can keep up) doesn't mean that I need to eat the paste. Jimmy will get sick from all that paste eating at some point and I will too, if I'm not careful.

Pop and Bro are coming to town later this afternoon; Pop to spectate and support, Bro to run. It will be nice to have a friendly face in the starting corrals with me--even though Bro hopes to run it in 2:00 and I probably won't see him much beyond the start, and at the finish.

Looking forward to a nice pancake breakfast when it's all over. Race report to follow at some point.


Race Report: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k

Beautiful morning for a race--especially a race to benefit such an important charity, finding a cure for breast cancer.

Arrived at Fresno State just shortly after 7am to watch the men start their race. Roosevelt Cook, the guy with the fantastic 10k times at the Cross City Race in September was introduced as last year's winner and race record holder. If I remember correctly he ran it last year in a 5:04 pace. Needless to say, I was at the finish line when he crossed...at 14:47!

I was pretty pleased with my own race. Felt good and strong. I think I much prefer the shorter distances, even though I have been training for (and am more than capable of completing) the half marathon. I think it's the mental thing--the 5k is short enough and fast enough that you don't really have a chance to let negative thoughts creep in or to notice how tired you are. The longer distances leave plenty of time for mind games.

Came up short on my Garmin at 3.05 miles in 28:30 for a 9:21 pace. I'm very interested to see what my official race result will be. Either way though, it looks like I ran negative splits with the first mile at 9:27, the second at 9:25, and the third at 9:11. Not bad for a 47, soon to be 48 year old!


Doubts And Adjusting Expectations...

I've been doing a lot of reading lately (perhaps too much) on what it takes to succeed in one's athletic goals. Setting aside the genetic component that leads to superior performance, it does seem to come down to trust in one's training and confidence (maybe attitude is a better word) in one's ability to succeed.

Ran 13 miles on Saturday. Thirteen frickin' miles! That's a half! The first eight or so, no problem. After that, the doubts started to creep in. I was tired. The weather was starting to warm up more than I anticipated. I kept going though. I was supposed to do 15 actually, but at 13 I pretty much ended up on my own street, and running past my house and on for another two miles just didn't seem that appealing. After all, I need to run 13, I don't have to run 15--especially not when I was struggling and it was getting warm out there. The genetics? Not so much. I do trust in my training. I have been consistent. I have put out the effort and with rare exception, have completed my scheduled workouts as prescribed. The confidence part though?

Let's be honest. I know I can run the 13. I am confident I will complete the race without any undue issues. But I'm not entirely confident I will complete it in the time I want to complete it in. All the calculators put me somewhere in the 2:16 range. I know I can run it in the 2:30 +/- range. But 2:16? Granted, it should be quite a bit cooler out there by November, which is definitely going to help. And I will have that much more training under my belt by that point. And then there's the taper--I should be well rested and ready to go. But 2:16?

In the interest of staying positive, I do have something kind of cool to report. Although my Garmin foot pod has been giving me wonky readings on the treadmill, I've left it clipped to my shoe when running outside. Didn't realize this until after this Saturday's run, but even though I was using GPS outside, apparently the foot pod continues to send cadence data to the Garmin. Uploaded my run when I got home and 'lo and behold, my cadence averaged 90 steps per minute! Right where it should be. Even better, I looked more closely at the data from my last few outdoor runs, and sure enough, there has been a steady improvement in cadence from the low 80's to this 90. W00T!

Observed: Four shiny pennies. One knit fingerless glove. One dirty navy blue mens' dress sock. WTF? How do you lose one dress sock out on the road?


She's A Brick House...

She's mighty, mighty... well not really. And truth be told, it wasn't a true brick anyway. I've been intrigued by workout strategies used by triathletes for some time, and the brick is the most interesting of all. As I understand it, it's a back to back workout of moderate duration, starting out with bicycling and then transitioning to running. The key is in the transition--helping your body to move as smoothly as possible from cycling legs to running legs.

With all the business travel the last couple of weeks, and just my general "it's Fall out there and I need to prepare to hibernate" slacker mentality, I haven't ridden my bike as much as I should. But I knew that I had a 14 miler on the schedule for Saturday morning. What to do? A brick was in order. But this was the brick of a runner, not a triathlete. Got up around 6:30 while it was still cool out there (believe it or not, we're experiencing one of those famed Indian Summers around here with temps upwards of 100 degrees--although, isn't an Indian Summer where it has cooled off and then you have a late season rebound? That just never happened this year. Anyway, I digress). So, where was I? Oh yes, got up early and logged six miles on the Trek. Came home, fixed myself some breakfast, read the paper, and mentally prepared myself for what was ahead.

I've given up running outside when the temps are like this. I'm too tired to get out the door in sufficient time before the heat kicks in. Yes, I know--I did get up to ride my bike at 6:30, but here's the deal. That would only take me a half hour or so. A 14 miler would take 2.5 hours minimally. And by that point we'd be looking at 80+. I know in my heart of hearts that come November when I run that Half, race time temps will top out in the 60 to 65 degree range, and if they don't then the Apocalypse is upon us. As such, I'm just done with running in anything but a comfortable temperature range. So how did I get that 14 miler in you ask? Treadmill.

Now I know that most would rather put a pick axe through their eye than run on the treadmill for any longer than about a half hour. I certainly prefer to be outside, but it needs to be on my terms and right now, Mother Nature is just not giving in. Still, I find running distances on the treadmill to be, shall I say, therapeutic? Something about the controlled steady pace, no sights to distract, no exhaust to smell. It has a calming effect on me.

If you look at the workout over there on the right, you'll see that I went a little longer than scheduled. 15.88 miles. That's to make up for the wonky pace readings thrown out by my Garmin foot pod for the first six or seven miles or so. It was making me crazy. There was no way I was running that fast (a sub 8:00 min. mile in many cases). That in turn, would throw off the mileage. Magically, after mile 7, Gar got with the program and my pace readings leveled off in the 11:00+ range (that's more like it). I feel pretty confident that that last leg of the run was accurate, but I threw in an extra 1.88 miles to compensate for earlier screwiness.

The point of this post, however, is to highlight the value of the runner's brick. Lesson conveyed.


Popping The Race Cherry...

How apropos that this morning's Runners' World 'Daily Kick in the Butt' quote would be a commentary on race performance made by Jack Daniels: "Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute." Truer words were probably never spoken.

Sunday, September 20 marked the popping of my race cherry. Long ago I decided that I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure 5k on October 24 as a prelude to the Two Cities Half on November 8. I felt I needed to get a race under my belt before the big race so I would have an idea what to expect. When I learned that there would be a local 10k benefitting cancer research at St. Agnes Hospital to be held on September 20, I decided that there was no time like the present to get that 'first' under my belt. I was told that I would "have a blast" by a friend who ran it last year.

I'm not sure I would characterize what I experienced as a blast. Not that it was bad, mind you. Maybe surreal is a better word. I had my race strategy down--back of the pack, go out slow, maybe run that first mile at 11:00 to get warmed up and then gradually increase my pace to around 10ish, and finish strong.

The starting gun went off, the pack began to move, and before I knew it, I was swept up in the large crowd, jockeying for open space and listening to the sound of all the footsteps hitting the pavement. Bottom line, I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast. Not that it felt too fast. I was feeling good. The morning was relatively cool. I latched on to a group and kept pace with them for about three miles--at about a 9:30 pace.

Next big mistake I made was at the water station at mile two. I didn't see it coming and blew right past it. My mouth was dry and I could have used a quick drink. I surmised that water stations would be at miles 4 and 6 thereafter and decided I would just have to hold on.

Mile 4 was a little slower at 9:58. And then Mile 5... The first three quarters weren't too bad, that is until I turned the corner on Stanislaus and saw this giant overpass in front of me. Not that I wasn't forewarned, but sheesh! Straight up hill over the freeway for what seemed like an interminable distance. I ended up walking about the last third before the crest. I had company though, so I didn't feel so bad. The ride down was swift, but not enough to salvage the lost time on the way up. Mile 5: 10:44. Mile 6 was mostly in the sun and it was getting quite warm by that point. I walked through the water station as I slurped down another cup. 10:24 pace. That last little bit as I ran into Chukchansi Park to the roar of the crowd (well, there was clapping and encouragement at least) was at a 10:14 pace.

Total race time was 1:01:26 with a 9:58 average pace. I was hoping to break 60 minutes, and probably would and could have had I not walked up that damned overpass. Oh well, live and learn. That's me coming into the chute with the bright pink top and sunglasses.