Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Score to Settle

A little less than two years ago I made my second effort at the half Ironman distance  at the Lone Star Half Ironman, aka Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston. My blog post from that event is here. I was starting my second year of triathlon and I thought I was really getting to know what I was doing and was primed for some big improvement on that date. However, I was wrong and felt a bit humbled with a time barely faster than the Longhorn Half Ironman four months earlier in Austin.

Next Saturday (April1, 2012) marks my return to that race two years after that marginal success (after all, though I felt down about my effort at the time I still had a PR and friends convinced me that any PR is a good day). That date also marks the fifth anniversary of my first half marathon, which was also the first of my approximately 35 finisher's medals and the third of my 70-80 some race events that I have done since I started in 2007. I generally regard that half marathon as the race that got my interested in pursuing this running (and now triathlon) lifestyle. So, for both of those reasons, the race this coming weekend is a big deal to me. Others around me see me training for Ironman Texas in less than two months--but for me THIS is my target race for now. Sure, I am not going to be entirely rested to be 100% for this race due to my IM training, but I will be close enough to make this a solid effort, and I WILL be planning to leave everything out on the course on Saturday.

A lot has changed for me since I last did this race nearly two years ago. I've lost a good bit of weight. I've since lowered my 70.3 distance PR time from the 7:52:07 on that day to my current PR for the distance from last November of 6:21:22. I suppose the main thing that has changed in that time is that while I thought I knew what I was doing on that day, I now know that I still had so very much to learn to become a decent triathlete. However, without that day playing out as it did I likely would not have sought the aid of Coach Michelle, and who knows just how many of my OutRival Racing friends and teammates would be my friends today. Although I was unhappy with the way that day unfolded, I believe it became a positive pivotal event for my future.

However, that day still leaves just enough of a bad taste in my memory that I very much want to go out and crush my previous time. I'll be back in about a week and let you know how it went.

(and just in case you thought I forgot about IMTX 2012.....there's just 55 days until that event!!!)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Two Moments in TIme

I've been wanting to try to make a good comparison between my training last year versus this year for Ironman Texas. I know that I've seen reductions in race times and I know I feel a whole lot better about where I am physically in comparison, but I have thus far avoided too much actual direct comparison--until today.

For the week of March 14-20, 2011, I had the following logged data:
Swim: 8,500 yards in 3:25:44
Bike: 104.3 miles (estimated) in 6:43:35
Run: 29.05 miles in 6:15:52

For the week of March 12-18, 2012, I had the following logged data:
Swim: 10,200 yards in 3:35:09
Bike: 100-110 miles (estimated) in 5:11:46
Run: 25.84 miles in 4:16:23

On the surface it sure looks like these numbers show real improvement in my fitness, but I wanted to look closer into the data.

Swim Time per 100 yards: 2011 - 2:25.2/100 yards; 2012 - 2:06.6/100 yards hat's an improvement of 18.6 seconds per 100 yards, which is a real solid increase in speed over the last year.I'm closing in on being able to average under 2 minutes per 100 yards for a long workout, which is a big deal to me.
Bike Time: Since most of the workouts for both years is on bike trainers and spin bikes, I don't want to make too much direct comparison, but I do think I can say well enough that my bike fitness has improved a good bit.
Run Time: 2011 - 12:56 minutes per mile; 2012 - 9:55 minutes per mile Wow! I knew my running was improving but I am stunned to see a time of 3:01 per mile faster this year.

Now, I will be the first to say that it is not necessarily fair to make a direct comparison of weeks that were not designed to be compared. However I do think this data quantifies how I have been feeling about my training, which is to say that I know that I am doing better across the board.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Woodlands Marathon 2012

Growing up in The Woodlands I remember the old marathon that I hoped to do one day as I grew up, however by the time I was in a position that I might have actually really done the race it had disappeared into the sands of time. However, starting in 2012, The Woodlands Marathon has come back as a new event and this time I made a point to be there.

Given that I am primarily in training for IM 70.3 in Galveston and then IM Texas, also in my local neighborhood of The Woodlands, my race preparation has been for those races and not for this one. I resolve to follow a heart rate based plan to help me get the most out of the race without overdoing things. I also set to follow a nutrition plan that I want to use for my 70.3 and full Ironman races, which is to take on a gel every 2 miles, plus a bottle of water each hour plus 4 Endurolyte capsules each hour starting 30 minutes into the race.

Seeing as how I set my PR of 5:30:45 in Disneyworld almost 2 months prior, I figure I should be able to run about 45 minutes to an hour faster without posing for Disney character photos and running at a faster pace. I had initially planned to start with the 4:30 pace group and see if I could keep with them. As the race got closer I figured that I might try a slightly more aggressive plan and start with the 4:15 pace group and drop to the 4:30 group if I needed to do so. The night before the race my friend Karen tells me she wants to try to go for a 4 hour finish and I decide to join with her for as long as I can hold the pace. We were running the entire race with an 8/2 walk/run.

On race day Karen and I meet up and get ourselves positioned at the back of Corral A just in time to begin the race. We leave at the back of the corral and head out feeling strong. I'm running without a GPS device to ensure I stay on my heart race plan, but I ask Karen what our pace is as we pace mile 1. Her response is, "You don't want to know." Actually that first mile went by in just under 8:50. We continue and stay on a solid pace. There is good crowd support and great racing weather this morning. I really enjoyed pushing a solid pace and having good company while doing it. We share occasional bits of conversation and use each other as a pacer. We pass the Mile 10 mark right at 1:30, on a 9 minute per mile pace, which is only slightly behind the time I had for the Ten for Texas 10 miler last October. As we turn back to complete the first loop we are just over 1:58. I've never run a sub 2 hour half marathon before today, and now I'm headed back for more.

We're still feeling strong and running in the low 9 minute pace through mile 14. This is where we begin to slow a bit. Mile 17 results in a 10:17 mile and we take a quick potty break in conjunction with our walk break and regroup. This must have helped because the next 6 miles ranged from the 9:30s to 9:50s.  Miles 24 and 25 were tough as (or at least I) were running on fumes and heart and each passed in 10:11 and 10:19.

Karen and I later in the race.

Finally, after passing the Mile 25 sign we're able to pick up the pace and average 9:19 over the final 1.2 miles. Karen is able to sprint ahead to the finish while I didn't feel up to it. However, just after she starts her sprint I do find the strength and I follow her into the finishing stretch.

I finish in a new PR time of 4:06:30. If you'd asked me a few days ago, I wouldn't have even thought I had an unreasonable chance of making a time that fast. Clearly I needed the help of a friend to open my eyes to the possibility of accomplishing more than I expected as I improved my PR time by 1:24:15. There are some days where I wonder where this road of activity is leading me, but, at least for now, I am enjoying myself along the way and I hope it always stays that way.

Post-race with Coach Michelle.