Wednesday, February 28, 2007
After just 4 years, I am saying goodbye to my Trek 1000. I bought the Trek about two months before my very first triathlon. It was either ride my mountain bike (which isn't really wise in the hills of Galena), borrow someone else's bike, or purchase a road bike of my own. With that, I went to the closest bike shop and bought the most entry-level road bike they had. After all, how did I know I was going to become so addicted to the sport? I didn't want to plop down a small fortune on some fancy-schmancy bike that might end up sitting in the garage collecting dust (like the mountain bike).
I bought the bike, slapped on some aerobars and was happy for two very short years. But as I started to become more involved in the sport of triathlon and started hanging around with other triathletes who had the latest and greatest bikes that money could buy, it was only natural that after nine long months of research and homework, I ended up purchasing a nice triathlon (or TT) bike. I then kept the Trek (with it's triple ring, a.k.a. "granny gear") for the indoor trainer and hilly rides.
Even still, I was not happy. I decided it was time for a new road bike. This time, a "nice" one. One that would fit. One that was smooth. One that wasn't quite the TANK that my original, yet very functional, entry-level road bike was. Well, I found it. And as quickly as that, the Trek will be no more.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
It's a question I've been asked lately on a regular basis. But here's the problem: I'm not really training. Or, at least I don't feel like I'm in training. Sure, I've been trying to get those long runs in every Saturday. And I say trying because there have been more than a few long run days that I've just bagged it after about half the suggested mileage. It can be pretty hard to be disciplined enough to get in a long run when it's -2 degrees outside with a windchill of -18 degrees. But it's either that or the treadmill, and I don't know what's worse.
I'm coming off a 17 miler this weekend (thanks, BC!) and I was just looking at the program and I'm off a week...should've done 18 miles this weekend. OK, not like that one mile is going to break the bank, but it does hit me mentally a little. So does the fact that I haven't been running hills. Someone just asked me that during the run this weekend, so now I have a little paranoia going on. Not only am I not putting in the necessary miles to have a strong marathon, I'm not training for the course! Uh oh, am I setting myself up for disaster?
Did I also mention I'm not really running during the week? I've been swimming a lot. Great, I'm working on the one thing that I probably can't improve so much. I went through the stroke analysis clinic, so I've been trying to make my improvements on that (the second session was this weekend, I'll talk about that later), but I'm thinking I probably shouldn't be neglecting the other parts of my training. Yeah, I think it's time I put together a training plan...yeah, since I have a half ironman coming up in 8 weeks! Not worried about that swim, though!
I think I fall into a funk every year around this time. December/January seems to be my time off. That gets me all fired up and thinking about goals and toward the middle of January I start getting back to a plan. But here we are, about a month later and it feels like races are so far off, it's easy to lose sight of what I'm trying to accomplish. And once the weather starts to improve, then I seem to get some of that motivation back. It will be so nice to run outside again with only ONE layer of clothing instead of the 2 (sometimes 3!) layers I currently wear to keep warm.
Just a few more weeks...we change the clocks, it will be lighter out and I will start to train for Boston!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It sure would be nice to say what the heck and just blow off any running for the next week. However, with my upcoming marathon just about 9 weeks away, well, I can't afford to blow off too much running. So I opt for the treadmill. I don't know what it is, but my pace on the treadmill is much slower than when I'm out on the open road. I typically put the treadmill on a 1.0 incline at a minimum, just to simulate the outdoors, but it always feels more difficult. Maybe it has to do with the fact that there is no wind so the sweat just drips down your face. Maybe it has do to with the fact that the faster you make the treadmill go, the harder you can hear the motor working. Or maybe it's just that the treadmill is so boring. A 30 minute workout can sometimes feel like 90 minutes! You glance away for a little while, waiting for time to pass, then look back down and see that a little less than a minute has gone by! Sometimes it feels like torture.
One nice thing, though, is that one of the clubs I belong to has 8 different televisions you can watch. You plug in your headphones and can change the channel to hear which show you'd like to watch, and that can help. Sitcoms are good to watch, although I laugh out loud at the funny parts and the people around me tend to give me funny looks. Another club has it even one step better, with individual television screens attached to each treadmill so you can watch any channel you want. Very nice. But I still get bored during commercials.
A few months back, a friend suggested this treadmill workout. Don't try this at home, kids.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
The Midwest Indoor Tri-Classic Series (http://www.mitcstriathlon.org) is held about this time every year. It consists of 4 races at various premier clubs in the western suburbs of Chicago. To compete for series standings, you must participate in at least 3 of the 4 events, each of which is a 10 minute swim, 20 minute bike and 15 minute run. The athlete that covers the most distance wins.
There are a couple of problems with this format:
- Calculating total distance equally among disciplines strongly favors the strong cyclist. If you're a really good biker, you can skip the swim entirely and still win this event. Some events use a weighted formula that corrects this discrepancy.
- The bikes used are stationary bikes that cannot possibly be calibrated equally. Therefore, someone pedaling at a much higher level (i.e., gear) sometimes gets no further than the athlete who leaves the bike at an easy level, even if cadence is equal.
Then why enter an indoor triathlon, you ask? Well, it's fun. I did this series a few years ago and thought it was well-organized, the clubs they use are awesome and I thought an indoor triathlon was a good indication of my fitness. I no longer feel that an indoor triathlon is any great indicator of fitness level, but it was nice to see that I was able to run more laps this year than in years past. My favorite part of participating in the event this year was to see so many familiar faces I haven't seen in a while. I also was able to meet some really great people.
Even though I'm not a huge fan of the indoor triathlon, I do feel it's a good way for a newbie to become acquainted with the sport. I know there are some pretty strong opinions of indoor triathlons out there. Do you participate? Why? Why not? What would you change to improve them?
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
So, I attended one of the seminars given by fitness guru, Ruben Rocha. Ruben is from Australia and has a pretty cool accent. I'm not going to go into all the details of our discussion, but we talked about the 3 basic components that affect body composition: Exercise, Nutrition and Detox.
Well, I went on a tour of the gym/spa and they tell you about all kinds of classes, seminars, treatments, services and packages and whatnot they have available to you throughout the week. In the past, I haven't really spent much time in the gym or spa, unless, of course I was actually working out. However, this time, something caught my attention. It was this "Metabolism Test".
We did a Body Composition test in which little electrodes were hooked up to my hand and foot and a reading was given to me that tells me what % of my body is fat weight vs. lean weight currently and what I should be shooting for. What was most important to me is the reading on the Basal Metabolic Rate, meaning, how many calories I need per day just to exist. It was actually much higher than I anticipated!
We discussed nutrition (he told me to quit drinking diet Coke - OUCH!), exercise and toxins, about eating organic and such things. So I walked away with a game plan of what I need to do to reach some goals. There were things we talked about that I have heard many times before, but there were also things that were new to me. Some of it was like a light bulb going on in my head and some of it was just affirming what I have suspected but never wanted to believe.
Not entirely sure I can give up the diet Coke, but I will try to cut down. Baby steps, OK Ruben?
Sunday, February 04, 2007
It was great to be in the nice weather, but it wasn't quite as warm as I had expected. It was mostly sunny on Saturday afternoon, but by early evening, it was a bit chilly and I didn't dare change into shorts. We had a nice pasta dinner outside, overlooking the water, at a restaurant at Bayside Market (you got it, lots of Super Bowl banners...merchants selling jerseys, t-shirts and everything you could think of with the Super Bowl XLI logo on it) just outside the Port of Miami. The food was excellent, however, there wasn't very much of it!! On the walk back to the hotel, I insisted we stop at the Walgreens to pick up a little pre-race breakfast, but also a little more food for that night...I was still pretty hungry!
I woke around 4:50am on Sunday morning. The race started at 6:10, so I wanted to make sure we were lined up by 5:40. As soon as I got up, I walked over to the balcony of our room and threw open the door, expecting to be greeted by cool air. However, it was quite warm. So warm, in fact, I decided I wouldn't even need to wear my "throw away" shirt I planned to wear until I warmed up. It had to be upper 60s already, though I couldn't be quite sure. We met some non-running friends in the lobby to walk over to the race start. Immediately when we walked out of the hotel, little sprinkles of rain began to fall. The rain was a little cool, which gave me goosebumps and made the hair stand up on my arms. Damn, wish I had brought along that throw away after all! One of my friends asked if the rain bothered me when I ran. "Not really, " I replied. "Only when it's POURING and it soaks my shoes does rain really become an issue." How ironic that statement would be....
I think that the rain began to fall steadily harder with each minute it took for us to walk to the start of the race. I was very thankful that I had decided to wear the race hat they gave us because it kept the rain from pelting me in the face. This was no longer a sprinkle, this was a solid rain now. As we lined up in the corral for the half marathon (the full marathon runners lined up in the corral to the right), the rain started coming down in full force. My clothes were already soaked through, but now I started to feel my feet getting wet through both my shoes and socks. The only dry area of my entire body was now a small part of my face that was protected by the visor of the race-provided hat. I crossed my arms in front of me and held them close to my body in effort to keep warm. I was thankful it wasn't very windy, but the rain was coming down in sheets. Some runners were yelling and cheering, getting louder when the big rain drops seemed to come down harder. Sort of like they were taunting the rain, letting it know that the rain couldn't ruin this run for them. Other runners were groaning each time the rain came down harder. These were the biggest raindrops I had ever felt! The rain was dripping off my hat, arms, shirt and shorts, running down my legs soaking my socks AND shoes! This was definitely NOT the picture I had in mind when I signed up for this race! Later, I learned our spectator friends immediately went back to the hotel when they left us. The rain bummed them out so much, they didn't even stick around for the start of the race.
For a split second, I thought about just bagging it and going back to the hotel. I was just doing this race for fun, anyway. I had no time goal in mind. I was just out there to have fun and get in a fully-supported 13.1 mile training run. However, I already got up early, was dressed and waiting to go, so I might as well just run now. I hoped that my sopping wet feet would warm up, as would my hands, already pruny from being soaking wet, once we got started.
The national anthem, the gun, and yet another race had started. The race was a nice size. Not the gigantic event the Chicago Marathon is, but not the tiny little race that the Tucson Marathon is. Kinda like the Flying Pig, this seemed to be a good, sizable crowd. The first mile did seem a bit crowded. I forgot what it's like to start running with all these people....my last few running races were quite small. And in triathlon, everyone starts out running at different times. So it was fun to run with a bunch of people again, however, it made me realize maybe we lined up too far back. I felt like we did a lot of zig zagging to get around people.
About a mile into the race, the rain subsided. Go figure. We're already soaking wet, it might as well keep raining now!! Now I just waited for the sun to come out so I could warm up a little. Before we hit mile 2, we went over the first of 3 bridges. It was still dark when we were at this point, but later, I would see this bridge we ran over and it must've looked really cool to see a bunch of runners crossing it. We ran past all the cruise ships in port and that took my mind off the run for a bit.
With the strong rain that came down in such a short period of time, there were LOTS, and I do mean LOTS of places along the course with standing water. It was deep enough to get your shoes wet, even if you didn't splash, so I had do pull off some quick maneuvers to try and get around those places without stepping in the water. But I also had to be aware of the runners who didn't care and just ran through the deep puddles, because if your feet landed near them at just the right time, the water they were displacing would cover your feet worse than if you ran through the puddle yourself! Why did I care, my feet were already soaked!! I don't know, I guess I didn't want to be any more wet than I had to be at this point. My hands were so uncomfortable and there was no way to dry them off. My clothes were soaked through. My shirt stuck to my body which made it pretty uncomfortable until I focused on thinking of other things. My shorts, loaded with Clif Shots and Aquaphor and soaked with rain, kept falling down! WTF?!!?!? This was going to be a long 13 miles....
By mile 4, I started to warm up. The sun was trying to break its way through the clouds. I tried chatting with a few other runners here and there, but it was a pretty quiet crowd. I tried to focus on keeping my turnover high, since I wasn't really worried about pace. The course was on a few busy streets, a cozy little residential section and closer to three-quarters of the way through the race, we went through the town of Miami Beach. It was the only section where there were actual spectators gathered (well, aside from the finish). I'm guessing the rain scared off many people, but by this point, the rain was gone, the sun was out and the temperature was quite comfortable. True, it was more humidity than I was used to, but back home, I would be freezing, so I wasn't complaining!
Somewhere along the line, I felt a blister developing on the arch of my right foot. Oh well, that was to be expected with the amount of water I was carrying in my sock and shoe. It was going to take days for these shoes to dry out! I tried to run on the outside of my right foot so as to not make the blister any worse, but that wasn't very comfortable, so I just returned to my normal gait and hoped for the best. I think it was around mile 12.5 where the marathon course went straight and the half marathoners turned to the left. You could hear the music and the crowd at this point and I couldn't believe it was almost over already.
I crossed the finish line and made my way through the runners to collect my medal. My clothes were still entirely soaked through, in fact, I literally wrang out my shirt. They gave us "spinner" medals, which were pretty cool. Big medal for a half marathon! I snagged a banana and half a bagel from the food line, went to have my chip snipped off and immediately wished I had gear checked a dry shirt. Within minutes, I was chilled with no way to warm up.
I found several friends from Chicago at the finish line. We shared a few race stories and everyone was smiles at the end. Though it wasn't the picture-perfect Miami weather we mid-westerners were hoping for, it was not so bad. The race was well-organized, the course was flat, however, the aid stations needed a few more volunteers. I saw several stations that had no full cups as we ran by. The volunteers were frantically trying to keep up, but their efforts were futile. The runners drank more quickly than the volunteers could pour.
It was nice to get away and run in a t-shirt and shorts in January. Might just have to make a "weekend getaway race" an annual event...