Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Mackinaw Peaches Day

I had a great day, and I've come up with a term for it- it was a "Mackinaw Peaches Day." Seinfeld fans know what I'm talking about. For those that don't, or those that want to see the skit again, click here:

The day started with a two hour trainer ride. My goal was to include a one hour TT effort and average over 240w. I took that from TrainingPeaks WKO+ which showed that my best one hour effort since August was 235w. Now don't get me wrong- two hours on the trainer and a one hour TT both fit squarely in the category of serious misery. But after lots of intervals recently, I felt a desire to crank this out. After 25 min of warm up, I started in. My countdown timer went off every 10 minutes, getting me to stand up for about 2 minutes. This went on...and on....and on.... for an hour. I hated it after 15 minutes. I moved the towel to the side occasionally to check on my effort, and generally saw it between 240 and 260, so I thought I was doing fine- not feeling fine, but doing what I set out to do. As it turns out, I averaged 247w. The only single day that was better since 1/1/09, including races, was the Crank the Kanc TT last May. Three other days were within a few watts, including Mooseman which registered 246w. So this was one of my best long steady-state rides ever. Given that last week was my first week this season with more than 2.5 hours of biking in a single week, I'm thrilled. Woot!

After the ride I went for a short 3 mi. run with our weimaraner in the warm weather (38*). I didn't worry at all about the pace, and didn't hit the first mile until about 8:15. But near the end, still without effort, I was down to about 7:10.

I then moved on to a great breakfast sandwich- two eggs, salami and american cheese on oatmeal bread. While I'm on the subject of food, I finished my smoked mussels for lunch, and had a great homemade clam chowda' for dinner.

This afternoon I caught lightning in a bottle when Leah asked to "build something" out in the garage. We had a great time designing and building a rack for Nick's snowboards. I got her to use her math, taught her about countersinking, and she was a master with the drill. After a while she moved on to her own project- I'm not sure what it is, but it was all hers. We both had a great time.

Then the two of us went to the basketball game between the school where I grew up, (Cape) and where we live now (Falmouth). This was the third game between them this year, splitting the previous two, which were each other's only losses of the season. Falmouth won, sending them to the state title game. While I won't admit it too loudly, I was pulling for Falmouth. I will say, however, the Cape fans are far more enthusiastic.

Today wrapped up a huge training week for me. For a couple of years now, I've made this week a sort of "training camp" with lots of volume. I find it vaults me to a new level. I'll probably put in a few more this year, but always 6-8 weeks apart. I started on Monday, a holiday, with a two hour ride and 3 mile run. My elbow and swimming are improving, and I put in three 1,500 yard days, still without any intensity. I've also "graduated" from PT. Total hours were 10:45, about 50% more than what I've been doing. Biking went from 2.5 hrs to 6.2 hrs. Next week I'll take the volume back down, somewhere between this week and what I was doing.

To be honest, this electronic age (blogging and FB) acts as an incredible motivator. It seems like everyone around me is training really hard and already putting up some good early results. I feel more pressure from folks around here than I do thinking about Worlds.

"The Mackinaw peaches, Jerry, the Mackinaw peaches!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Race Report: Mid Winter 10 Miler- Welcome Back

The 2010 race season kicked off today, and I'm thrilled with the results and how I got there. But to get the full story, lets back up for a minute....

1. My broken elbow got me out on the road much more than last year, starting about six weeks ago. In the last nine weeks, I've logged 205 miles, including snowshoeing. That compares to 137 miles last year. That's all good, except for the possibility I have an injured achilles tendon. 2. On Tuesday this week, I had an exhausting two day, one night trip to Orlando. I was up at 4 AM Tuesday, and back home at 11:30 Wednesday night. I did get one warm run in outside, which felt great. 3. On Thursday, the mass of airport germs beat my immune system, and I went downhill. I briefly wondered if I should race, especially considering it was 10 miles, but come on, it's just a cold. 4. Our dog Jasmine woke me up at 3 yesterday morning, and I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up at 4 to get all kinds of work done. So in summary, this has been a tough pre-race week- I'm tired, didn't train much, sick, but the last two months of training have been good. Needless to say, I wasn't quite sure how this would all work out.

Last year I hadn't run more than 6 miles at once before this race. I used the first 2-3 miles as warm up, and proceeded to descend each mile, finishing in 1:14:53. At the time, I was happy with the time considering my base. My competitive spirit, however, noticed a slew of friends were all tight together, and about 3 minutes ahead of me. It seems like everyone has been working really hard, 3 minutes is a lot to make up, so again, I wasn't sure how it would work out.

Given it's early February, the weather was about as good as it could be- somewhere around 15 degrees and a bit of a cold NW wind. Once the race started, the entire bunch I wanted to stay with shot out and had 50+ yards on me within the first 1/2 mile. A peek at my Garmin told me I was going 6:50 pace. Way too fast for the start, but I didn't want to give up too much distance. So I backed off a bit and tried to relax. A bit later, I noticed Jeff behind me, and I happily dropped back to join him for what turned out to be seven miles. We hit the first mile in 7:05 and agreed that was plenty fast enough. The second mile got into some hills, but we stayed around 7:20. These hills were by no means huge, let's call them four big rollers, and my HR was well over 160. Given my HRmax is about 174, I knew I shouldn't go any harder so early.

I should also note I have never raced with my Garmin (I bought it last March), and haven't raced with a HR monitor in several years. I just don't need it for Oly (or shorter) triathlons. The data really helped, and I feel I was still able to run my own race using feel- the watch was a guide, not a dictator.

Jeff and I continued on, likely each thinking the same thing, "Man, I'm working hard, I hope I'm not holding him back, I really should slow down." We saw Mary about 50 yds. in front of us, and she stayed right there. Bob and Mark were together, about 200 yards further up. My plan was to stay at this pace, and not worry about running them down until mile 7 or so. Starting with mile 3, we split 7:16, 6:54, 6:52, 7:04 and 6:51. I'm willing to bet that if the course was flat, each mile would have been within 5 seconds of each other. We are similar runners- swimmers, really- big for runners, not a lot of experience, overstriding and heel striking.

Just before the crest of the last meaningful hill, just before mile 7, I saw I was catching Mary. I kept up the pace and figured it was time to start to move up in the field. After the top of the hill we had a long gradual downhill- perfect for me- not too steep, not too shallow. Then the road was flat until another long down hill just before mile nine where I caught Mark and Bob who were still shoulder to shoulder (mile 8 was 6:36). It took considerable effort to catch up given the pace and headwind, so I decided to tuck in and stay behind these two for as long as possible. Ideally, I didn't want them to know I was there, but that idea didn't last long. I stayed tucked in behind them as we headed back up a gradual hill, and planned to stay right there until we reached the Fowler Rd. intersection, about a 1/2 mile from the finish (mile 9 was 6:55). Just before that point, Mark started moving out, so I got up to his shoulder. I couldn't afford to give him an extra step at this point. At a 6:33 pace, I knew I was at my max. We turned into the High School, and Mark was able to accelerate away through the three turns enough so I knew that race was over. Now I just had to worry about Bob. I couldn't hear him, that was probably due to the headwind. I actually wondered if he was willing to turn himself inside out for this. With 50 yards to go, I heard the announcer say Mark's name, then mine, then someone else- the guy I just passed. That told me Bob wasn't close, and I thankfully backed off just a tad. The last mile took 6:38, but the last half mile was 3:00. I had nothing left. And as it turns out, Bob was willing to turn himself inside out- he vomited just as we turned into the school.

With a finishing time of 1:09:25, I improved by 5 1/2 minutes over last year. My average HR was 163, much higher than I thought I could handle. I was very consistent, with the difference between my fastest and slowest miles just 44 seconds. I owe a great deal to Jeff who kept me consistent for the first 7, Mary who had a lovely target on her back, and Mark and Bob who dragged me to the finish. It probably would have been a different story without those motivations. It felt great to have those pre-race butterflies again, see and chat with all of my friends, and dig deep at the end. I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Showshoe Heaven

While I don’t recommend it, breaking my elbow has its benefits. Sure, I haven’t been in the pool at all, and it’s going to really suck getting back in. However, my combined run and bike volume has expanded from about 4 hours to almost 7 over the last six weeks. On the bike, I doubled my time from 1:15 to 2:30 per week, and my results are showing it. For running, I went from 20 to 28 miles, which is perfect timing for the Cape Midwinter 10 mile race this Sunday.
Even better, I’ve been out on my running snowshoes a bunch of times. These shoes are made for running- they’re narrow, shorter and lighter. Here’s a picture from the internet:

So far, I’ve been up to Sunday River, Blueberry Lake and Ole’s in Warren, VT, and the Mt. Washington Hotel. I’ve found I enjoy trails much more than open fields, which tend to be tedious. Trails are constantly changing. I head out with a Camelback waist system that holds a water bottle on my left hip, and has three pockets that separately hold keys, iPod and a gel flask. I typically stop about every 15-20 minutes for nutrition- it’s awkward to drink while on the move. These frequent stops also allow me to go for a pretty good distance. Three of the runs have been between 1:30 and 1:45. At an average speed of 6 mph, that’s 9-10 miles, a worthy workout. I also have a feeling that this is doing some good for my run mechanics- my stride tends to be shorter, and I’m striking the front part of my foot.

Importantly, the trails are just a great place to be. Nearly all of the trails are groomed, which lets me move along at a good clip. It’s all new, quiet, changing, and there are only a few others out there- just enough to keep things interesting. I’m surprised I haven’t seen any other snowshoers- they’re all on XC skis.

Last weekend we went to the Mt. Washington Hotel with three families from Winchester, MA. On Saturday, I headed out on the trails around noon, after waiting for the temperature to finally get over minus 5*. Even with that cold, I only had on a thin long sleeve shirt and my Team Nor’Easter biking jacket. For gloves, I have a fleece-like underglove and shell-like overglove. On the bottom, I wore compression tight shorts and pants that are looser and thicker than tights, but aren’t baggy. On my feet, it was just short socks and trail running sneakers, topped by gators. This was all topped off with a beanie hat. In other words, even though it was frigging COLD, I don’t need to wear that much. It’s probably a sign that it’s a good workout.

As I headed out, my f-ing Garmin told me the battery was dead. Typically, I like to know how long I’ve run, and want the data uploaded to the computer for tracking purposes. So I stated the stopwatch on my iPod and resisted throwing the 305 into the snowbank.

If you haven’t been to this resort in the winter, put it on your list. The trails are great, and there are many views of the mountain- which is spectacular on a clear winter day. Here are two:

Near the end, things started going downhill. I was gassed and had a bad blister on my toe. I finally got back, and had this view of the back of the hotel-

Along the way, I noticed my jacket collar was frozen solid and my earphones seemed to be iced to my ears-

The next day was even colder- by 10 AM, it had warmed up to minus 9*. That didn't stop the kids from enjoying the outdoor pool-