Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend and 5K

Thanksgiving for us generally means having a lot of family around and this year was no different. We rented a lakeside condo and had 18 of us together for the holiday. It was very nice to have so many us together for this time.

However, I also took time this weekend to run a small local race. Just as I did last year I ran the small local Run The Woodlands 5K. It is a small, no frills, local race that costs $1 and features stopwatch timing and clipboard record-keeping of runner times.

Today turned out to feature cool weather with a steady light to moderate rain, which was quite out of places in this very dry year we have been having. In spite of that I was resolved to go out and give my best in search of a new 5K PR. I ran this race last year on Thanksgiving weekend and set a new PR of 27:05, given all the training I've done this year I figured a new PR was close to a sure thing today.

My goal was to get under 25 minutes and possibly even under 24 minutes with my finishing time. There's not a lot of detail to write about for this race which is a single loop 5K along bike paths in the local neighborhood. I ran hard and steady, trying to run as hard as I could maintain without faltering over the distance and saving just enough to have a finishing sprint. I was able to following this plan to success for the day and I was the 12th finisher of the 65 or so runners today. I found my time to be quite a surprise as I would not have anticipated that I would have been able to run a 22:43 5K, but I did it. In fact, as of thirteen hours later (as I write this) I still have trouble believing it--but I did do it! Who could have guessed this would be possible back on March 3, 2007, when I entered my first local running event with a 38:45 time in the Spring Fever 5K. Interesting is that, although I did not know anyone else there at the time, now when I read over the race results from that day I see so many friends included among those names.

With this finish I have to admit that I have come a long way and achieved one of my long sought-after goals. This time puts me back in the finishing range that I had for most of my time in the Marines many years ago (20 years out as of next month). In recognizing this I finally have come to understand that the last few years of feeling like I was haunted at times by the long-lost faster times of my youth have been misunderstood by me. Perhaps, all this time, those times were not sad reminders of lost youth, but foreshadowing of a bright future that just needed some dusting off and polishing before I could realize it.

I heard a song yesterday with some words that sum it up nicely for me (Life's a Happy Song from The Muppets):

Everything is great, everything is grand
I've got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect, it's falling into place
I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face

Also, I highly recommend the movie....go see it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Off-Season "Training"

Finally, I have reached a week of off-season non-training. What did I do this week? Let's see....

I spent more time in the hot tub than the swimming pool. I think I swam a total of 900 yards in 2 separate swim sessions of 450 yards, whose sole purpose was just to keep me loose and retain some semblance of muscle memory. I spent 10-15 minutes on a spin bike for the same reason on one day. Finally, I ran an easy 4.26 miles this morning and felt pretty good at that, I felt even better enjoying breakfast with friends afterward.

I also took some time to spend some extra quality time with my Golden Retriever, Coco, who has had to put up with less play time with me during some of my extra training periods. We hung at the Woodlands Waterway for awhile yesterday afternoon along part of the Ironman Texas run course.

Then this afternoon I had a 3 scoop waffle bowl sundae at Marble Slab Creamery to celebrate the end of my tri season. So maybe I did eat pretty freely this weekend, and maybe I did pack on a few pounds. I am no longer afraid of that anymore.

Up for me next week is easing back into some training and returning to a normal diet for me.


188 days until Ironman Texas.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oilman 2011

Oilman Triathlon is the renamed version of the Iron Star Triathlon that I did last year, with a blog post here.

While packing for race day I watched the online feed of Ironman Florida, as well as Facebook posts, to follow a couple friends in the race. One of my friends, Chris Gause, was competing in her first Ironman race. Most notable about her entry, which neither she nor her friends knew previously, is that no female of her age or older had ever completed Ironman Florida. Chris had a steady and consistent race effort all day and became the first female in the 70-74 age group to complete Ironman Florida with a time of 16:45:40, and qualifying for the Ironman World Championship next year in Kona, Hawaii, as well! With my motivation complete, I got some sleep for my race the next day.

Pre-Race: I had written down a nutrition plan about a week before the race and followed it pretty closely. Overall, I thought it did OK for me, other than if I could have done more to prevent the cramping that I experienced. I will be giving this a lot of thought in the near future since, as you will read, cramping did become an issue for me like never before.

Swim: Thirteen months of drought had taken its toll on the lake and a new swim course was created to account for the low lake levels, which included about 75 yards of walking/running up to shore in addition to the swim distance. I started in the front and outside, though this ended up putting me in the middle of the action fairly quickly on this course. For about the second 100 yards I thought it was rougher than IMTX. I made an effort to try to go at a strong and steady pace, but not too hard. I think I found my rhythm about 1/3 of the way into the race and tried to stay with it. I could have gone faster although that might have cost me later. Overall, I was happy with the swim. Swim time was 39:20.7, which included running out of the water and back to shore (the real shore, not the drought-effect shore).

Bike: This ride became my new longest bike ride on my new Orbea Ordu tri bike by abiout 8-10 miles. I tried hard not to go too hard and stay around an average heart rate in the mid 150s for the first half of the bike ride, after that I allowed myself to push it a bit harder. My average of 151 for the entire ride includes the periods where I was under less effort on downhills. I generally sipped on my nutrition about every 15 minutes and I tried to sip water more frequently. This was my first race with my new Speedfil A2 bottle (mounts on aero bars) which I found easy to use and refill and made it easy to take on water periodically. (I also drank several ounces right before leaving T1.) The bottle holds 24-28 oz of water and it never emptied, though I did refill it every time I could. I estimate that I drank 18-20 oz each hour on bike, especially a few times when I though my mouth was feeling a bit dry. The most surprising things about my bike ride were that I felt I held back some so I could have a good run and that this bike climbs hills very well. It wasn't that I was trying to push really hard to pass people on the hills, it just seemed they all slowed down a bunch when we got to a hill. (Did that make sense?) Bike time was 3:01:17.6, I could have pushed to get under 3 hours but that was not my goal so I did not do so.

Run: In addition to my previously stated nutrition, I was carrying 1 endurolyte capsule to take each mile in addition to a handheld bottle with enough liquid calories for the distance.. The run was approximately three 4.35 mile loops, which I will report to you individually. I started off watching my heart rate to try to keep it in upper 160-low 170 range for the first 2 laps and go from there for lap 3.
Lap 1: approximate time 44 minutes, I felt good but knew I was pushing myself today as I followed my plan, I think it was near the end of lap 1 that I could feel the little twinges of possible cramps hiding out there. I did have a moment around mile 3.3 where a cramp tightened up my right leg, but I loosened it up and it did not bother me right after that.

This photo appears to have been taken at the very beginning of lap 2.

Lap 2: approximate time 48 minutes, My Garmin gave out about halfway through this lap, the previous 3 miles before that were 10:58, 11:03 and 11:06. I was making more of an effort to stay on pace and watch heart rate. After the Garmin gave out I went on how I felt and how my pace felt. I think I pretty maintained my pace for the rest of lap 2, though it was definitely getting more tiring and I could feel more of the cramps to come that were hiding below the surface, which I had been managing by trying not to go at a pace that would not cause them to act up. About halfway through lap 2 I made an effort to drink some extra water at each aid station.
Lap 3: approximate time 61 minutes, early in the lap I could tell the cramps were more likely to be an issue. Up until now I only stopped to take in water while walking aid stations, now I also walked a bit at the miles to take in endurolytes each mile. I think I might have even pushed myself a bit harder pacewise to keep going in my determination, I can't really be sure. Around mile 10 I walked up one hill to avoid a possible cramp issue and took in the 4 endurolytes I had left.. After that I pretty much maintained myself until around just before mile 11 where I could feel the cramps starting to come. At this point I just tried to keep going as best I could. At the aid station turnaround at mile 12 is when my leg cramps spasms really became bad. At that point it seemed I could only get a few yards after one cramps subsided and another spasmed, even while walking. Another runner stopped and gave me a band to wrap around the cramp to help alleviate it--I asked her number as she ran off and she told me not to worry about returning it. I remember thinking at that moment she was like an angel sent to help me. The band did help with the cramping, however that led to cramps in other areas stopping me momentarily. So, for the next mile I ran as far as I could and switched the band between right and left legs, and between positions on the upper and lower legs. I made the last tenth of a mile on sheer determination that I would not let my legs buckle out from under me. Run time was 2:33:33.6.

This photo was taken just yards before the finish.

Overall: I improved in each area from last year, including both transition times. This year's time was 6:21:22.5, 46:20.7 ahead of last year's finishing time of 7:07:43.2.

In the end I obviously could have done better, but there is no way I consider this race anything less than a major success. In time I hope to take some lessons forward and think about something that was once truly unthinkable for me at this race distance: finishing with a sub-6 hour time next year (especially when you consider the two previous attempts to last year's 7:07:43 time were 7:52:07 and 7:58:38).

This ends my triathlon season for 2011. I expect to write an end of year post to sum up my 2011 experiences, however for now I will just say that it was a great year of triathlon for me in more ways than one.