Friday, December 29, 2006

A few miles to go...

So, it is official. I contacted the race director for the Marathon and made the switch to the 1/2 Marathon. At first it was such a disappointing decision to make but with a little reflection I have found that my race schedule for next year is more important than this one race.

I added the New Orleans Marathon to my race list but I have not signed up for it yet. I will run it for fun instead of time and use it as one of my last LONG runs as the Triathlon season rolls into view.

My plan to qualify for Boston is still very real and still very attainable. I am happy with the way my running is going and I am confident I will be able to reach my goal in Houston 2008. That will still be 3:10 or better. By then I will be going for sub 3:00!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Training Summary

This has been another week of lack luster health. I'm turning the corner on what was once a severe case of strep throat. The lungs are still filled with something thick and disgusting and the cough has started to annoy all those around me. Needless to say, I am ready for this to end!

I am still undecided at this point concerning my Marathon in two weeks. I've been off the training path for a couple of weeks now and I DO NOT want to risk injury. I'm leaning towards the 1/2 Marathon but will make my final decision tomorrow.

One more rest day...

The past two weeks have been rough on my training plan. First there was Thanksgiving, and that meant a trip up to Dallas with little time to lace up the shoes and run. Then there was the cold I picked up somewhere along the way that completely sidelined me. And of course Christmas came and went faster than I could get over this cough and/or cold which meant even fewer time out on the road.

So, here I am two weeks later with less than a handful of miles on my feet. Luckily I have made a few minor changes to my race plans which means I will be running the 1/2 Marathon in 2 weeks and then the 1/2 Marathon in New Orleans about 1 month later (unless I get back into the short course mode... and then I would once again change my training plan).

If there is one thing I have learned over the past few months of running is that no matter how hard you try... no matter how many blogs, logs, or plans you put together... something is bound to come between you and the road. When that happens you need to learn to change your stride, take a deep breath, and remember that when two roads diverge in a yellow wood... don't be the person who was sorry (s)he could not travel both. Pick up the pace and turn those two roads into a couple of out and back routes...

Happy Miles

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Decision to Run

This is a copy of a post that I wrote back in September of 2006. As the end of the year approaches I can't help but reflect on some of the thoughts I've had while training. This is the first blog post I wrote on my old site, and I'm happy to say my running has continued to develop over the past few months. Well... here it is:

My recent efforts as a runner have shown a steady
decline in form, pace, and overall performance. Because of this, I thought it
would be a perfect time for me to change my training habits and work on a new
goal. So, after long deliberation over various race events, I have decided to
put aside my triathlon training and focus on the run in hopes that I will
qualify for the Boston Marathon by running the 2007 Austin Marathon in less than
3 hours 10 minutes 59 seconds.

In my past, I gave the Marathon distance
a try, but it was based on the flip of a coin and I had ZERO training. I
finished in about 3:30 so I feel with some added focus to the training plan I
will be able to knock off 20 minutes.

To do this, I have consulted the
aid of a local running coach who provides online training. I have paid my dues
and acquired a training plan meant for someone much more athletically inclined
than myself. At any rate, the purpose of this blog will be to keep a close watch
on how my training goes from pseudo couch potato (as compared to my Ironman
friends) to Boston Marathon Qualifier.

A few words from Steve Prefontaine

I read a quote recently from Steve Prefontaine that is both terrifying and motivating. I've taped a copy of it to my computer monitor at work. Here is what he said:

"The best pace is a suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." - S. Prefontaine

That makes me want to run.

2006 Webster Duathlon #1 Re-Visited

Race: Webster Duathlon Race #1
Date: March 12, 2006
Weather: Overcast

This Webster Duathlon was more than just a chance to get out and push ourselves through a couple of run segments with an additional bike leg tucked in for good measure. It was a clear opportunity to race without racing. To enjoy the company of friends instead of enjoying the feeling you get from redlining your pace.

Jordan came out to watch the event and was happy to see how much we were enjoying ourselves. The same can't be said for the rest of the players out on the course. In fact, as we ran at a leisurely conversational pace (6:45 - 7:00 min per mile) we were given some pretty ugly stares from those we passed.

It was a good run/bike/run and though Philip and I didn't set any records, it will be remembered as the duathlon when we were able to talk about all things unrelated to the race: before, during, and after crossing the finish line.

The 2006 MS150

Ride: MS150
Route: Houston to Austin
Date: April 21-22

Ride Summary:
The ride was amazing. We started out at 6:45am from Houston and after 1 large pickle, 5 Powerbars, 7 Water Bottles of Gatorade, a 6 inch turkey sub, and 6 hours of pedaling my bike 99.5 miles, we were at the halfway point in LaGrange, TX. Jordan drove up to LaGrange ahead of our team and was patiently waiting for us to arrive to capture our photo finish. The weather was hot and the sun was relentless. My skin got it's first burn of the Summer and I've got the tan lines of a Fruit Stripe.

Our team had a tent at the fairgrounds where we relaxed with ice cold towels around our heads while eating fajitas, shrimp kabobs, and fettucini alfredo. That night we camped out on the fair grounds and got just enough sleep to forget the monotony of pedaling the bike. At around 11:00pm you could hear a few snores coming from random tents, but by midnight it was a full on choir snoring in rounds. I'm happy to say I was lulled to sleep by the rhythm and at 4:30am it was time to break camp, pack up the tent, and hop back in the saddle for a few more glorious hours in the hill country.

The final day was everything we could have imagined and more. It was hot, hilly, humid, and hard. It felt like my inner skeleton was exposed to direct sunlight and my bones were hardening in the heat as the rest of my body baked to a nice well-done texture. I'm actually happy the heat was so intense because it made me want to be at the finish line at any cost, which ultimately meant... pedal faster. So I did. In fact, my speed through the hills reached over 40 mph on the down hills.

Pulling into Austin that afternoon, the first person I heard was Jordan as her voice carried over the white noise of cheers from the crowd. The feelings of wet noodle legs were eclipsed by her encouraging words as I crossed the finish line, conquering the distance, the hills, the heat, and the little voice in the back of your mind that sometimes questions your strength, your sanity, and your dedication to set a goal and achieve it.

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time on the ride. I plan to do it next year and Jordan is convinced she will join me along the way either as a rider or as support. I'm happy to say my friends and I were safe throughout the journey and we all learned a little bit more about ourselves, and direction we're all heading.

Happy miles.

The Cinco Ranch Triathlon

Race: Cinco Ranch
Date: Some Hot Day in 2003
Weather: Hot, Sunny

Race Summary:
This was one of the first races I did after moving to Houston from Austin. I had been training pretty hard all Summer which means not really all that much and it might have still been Spring. I do remember not placing in this race which wasn't much of a shocker due to the competitive field of racers.

Race Highlight: I got to wear my new Rudy Project team issue sunglasses that I bought off some guy on eBay. Those glasses were later stolen that following Memorial Day by a few guys who hotwired my Tahoe. I don't have that Tahoe anymore either.

America's Triathlon

Race: America's Triathlon
Location: Austin, TX
Date: Memorial Day Weekend, 2006
Weather: HOT

Race Summary:
This was one of those races you replay in your mind but what you really wish you had was a delete button so you wouldn't have to think of it ever again. Here's the story...

I had not been training too consistantly which for me means I'm willing to race whatever distance you put in front of me as long as the race director is prepared for any meltdowns/explosions might occur. This race was a pretty big race so I was confident if I was going to bonk there would be plenty of witnesses to tell my family I went out with a bang.

That morning I woke up to a nice glass of V8 along with a Powerbar. I didn't realize at the time this combination of carbs and sodium are similar to Pop Rocks and Strawberry Soda.

Once the race got underway, I noticed I felt great on the swim. I was out of the water in my average time and on the bike with time to spare. Unfortuneately I used that time to take in some calories in the form of some expired Carboom. This is when the fuse was lit.

As I headed off into the first mile of the run, I was cruising at 6:30 per mile pace when that carb and sodium combination began to churn. I ended up hurling the contents of the calories I was able to get down during the bike. This was in front of a few lucky onlookers. The screams only encouraged me to run harder, which looking back didn't make much sense.

As I headed into my third mile the expired Carboom took its toll on what was left in my stomach. I tossed a few more "cookies" on the side of the road and then had visions of bright lights and felt cool breezes.

Visions and hallucinations are only good in Indian Sweat Lodges and bad 60's Trips revisited. I would have kept going had I not felt the urge for a warm blanket. The very thought of finding pleasure in something warm on that HOT day set off an alarm in my subconscious I didn't think I had... (see the following pic)...

This is not a good look. Normally I'll try to at least smile for the camera during a race. You know how it is. However at this point I was just about ready to throw in the towel when a couple of A&M Corps guys pulled me into the medical tent.

Needless to say, I finished my race in the arms of a couple of our Country's finest. I can honestly say I wouldn't mind if that never happens to me again. Where's that delete button...

The 2006 Heights 5k

Race: Heights 5k
Date: 2006
Weather: Hot

Race Summary:
You ever have one of those race days when you can do no wrong. When you know the miles you've ran during your training, the nutritional advice you have taken from your friends, and the psychological conditioning you have undergone all come together to form some sort of perfect world where the water tastes like wine?

Well, this was not one of those days. Instead it was like all of those things I thought I had done correctly came back to haunt me as some sort of evil genius plot to destroy what would have been an otherwise enjoyable Sunday 5k.

My plan was to run 18:00 or better. Sadly this turned into something closer to 6:30 per mile with the first mile being 5:45 and the last being... well something much worse.

I'm turning over a new leaf after this race result. I am going to train for the Austin Marathon and qualify for Boston. 26.2 miles at that pace will be much easier than trying to maintain 5:45 for 3.1.

The Motorola Marathon

Race: Motorola Marathon
Date: February 2004
Finish Time: 3:30

Race Summary:
The choice to run this marathon was decided on the flip of a coin with two of my good friends. Heads, I get to run the 13.1 and Tails I get to run 26.2. The coin landed tails and had a day to prepare for the race.

My training up to this point was... for lack of a better word... random. I had not ran this distance before and the longest run up to race day was about 15 miles. I figured that was good enough to get me home but I had no idea how the lack of training would ultimately feel.

Of course I ran with the 3:10 pace group. I mean, why not? No training. No experience. No clue. Three perfectly good reasons to step up to the front of the line with the guys trying to qualify for Boston.

The race felt great up to about mile 20 or 21. I could hardly believe I had made it this far without a total explosion. We were on pace to finish in 3:07 which put me well into Boston Qualification territory with room to spare for the upcoming hills but just as the thought of running in Bean Town entered my mind, my legs began to take on a mind of their own, spazaming and locking up in tandom. It was the beginning of the end. However, I made it to the finish line in about 3:30 which is not a bad time, but is no Boston.

I plan on doing this race again in 2007. I have ran the 1/2 Marathon twice since then but it is about time to revisit the Marathon distance and see if I can knock out that Boston goal.

Austin Freescale 1/2 Marathon PR

Race: 2005 Freescale 1/2 Marathon
Time: 1:28.55
Pace: 6:47 per mile

This was an enjoyable race. My goal was to finish under 1:30. Not for any real reason, I just thought that would be a nice place to set the bar for the next time I came out and ran this distance.

My training had been going well and that morning was perfect for running. It was raining, cold, and showed no signs of letting up. However, once we toed the starting line everything changed. We found ourselves in bathed in sunshine with a cool Feb. breeze. Luckily that breeze was a tail wind and the race course was downhill!

The most memorable part of the run was Jordan. She and her brother drove the entire 1/2 Marathon course, stopping along the way, to cheer me on. That was a great motivator, keeping me focused on the race but also on having a good time.

I crossed the line in 1:28.55 which was great. I met my goal and more importantly I had a blast. This race was a turning point for me on distance running and converted me to a lover of the long run.

The Gonzo Duathlon

Race: Gonzo Duathlon
~ 5k Run - 19:05
~ 40K Bike - 1:24.05
~ 5k Run - 22:47

This was my first Duathlon and turned out to be a great race even though I flatted during the first 5 miles of the bike. I went and stayed with Friends in San Antonio and had a Cheese Steak Sandwich with fries the night before the race.

Not the best pre-race meal I have ever had, but it did not seem to interfear with my race.

My first 5k was solid and my legs felt good in the hills. The route was a large 5k loop with rolling hills. The bike route was much of the same and I got a flat during the first few miles. I probably lost 5 to 10 minutes waiting for someone to offer me a pump (my CO2 was out). It turned out to be a great ride. All the slower riders had passed me so I had a lot of catching up to do. After finishing up the bike split, the second run was a little slower than anticipated due to the punishment I put myself through to make up for lost time on the bike.

Overall, this was a great experience even though the race didn't go exactly as planned. But overcoming the unexpected is why we get out there in the first place...

Remember the Heights 5k

Race: Heights 5K
Date: 2003
Weather: Hot

The Heights 5k was one of the first races I ran in after moving to Houston back in 2003. I had been training pretty consistently as a by-product of not knowing anyone in Houston and looking for something to do to keep me busy. Lucky for me, a buddy of mine from college was interested in running this race and I agreed to help pace him to a personal best.

So, the goal was to run under 24 minutes and the first mile was well under 7:40 which was at or near where we needed to be to hit 24 minutes. The pace was probably closer to 7:30, maybe a little less, so I was pretty confident we would have some breathing room if needed.

Mile number 2 was just as fast and I could tell we were going to need a little focus if Shelby was going to keep the pace up for the last mile. I started talking to him about how easy that final mile was going to be and tried relating it to the 2.9 mile training loop we ran.

I think that tactic might have worked, although I got a lot of evil looks from him as we crossed the finish line. I would later learn those looks were because I was able to maintain a lengthy conversation during the run with little to no effort while he was suffering. I was lucky not to be strangled in the final few meters of the run.

The good thing was that Shelby finished the race in 23:31. That was a solid finish at just over 7:30 per mile. We ended up running a couple of other races together that year, but none as rememberable as this one. Well maybe one, the Canaan Baptist 5k... but I'll save that for a later date.

  Sunday run in the rain.