Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reflection on The Boston Marathon

For elite, amateur, and recreational runners, The Boston Marathon is a rite of passage, a distinct honor that runners who qualify to run or run for charity purposes will cherish forever.  Monday, the horrific attack at The Boston Marathon overshadowed the accomplishment for some and completely took away the opportunity for others.  Qualifying runners and charity runners alike spend countless months training for a race like The Boston Marathon.  They pour in hours of sweat, hard work, determination, and for some, fundraising, to be able to board the school buses that take them out to the start line in Hopkinton.  Along the iconic route, runners encounter all the things that make this race so revered, famed, and memorable - the downhill first half of the course, “Screech Tunnel” at Wellesley College, the Newtown Fire Station, a statue of salute to Johnny Kelley who ran 61 Boston Marathons, the infamous Heartbreak Hill, cookouts with thousands of college students at Boston College, the notorious Citgo sign noting 1 mile left to go, and ultimately the feeling of excitement that overwhelms runners when they make the final left hand turn onto Boylston Street with thousands of people screaming in support and admiration.  In an instant Monday, the pain and gratification of running 26.2 miles was taken away by a cowardly and hideous act of violence, and replaced by dismay and a different type of pain for everyone in Boston and across the country. 

Unless you live under a rock, everyone knows who Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, and LeBron James are, but hardly anyone in the United States, or world for that matter, has ever heard of the two winners of The Boston Marathon on Monday.  You won’t catch national sports networks devoting hours to covering marathons and endurance events like you would the Super Bowl or March Madness.  In local sporting news, endurance events are briefly covered and might get a segment on the 6 o’clock news or an article in the newspaper, but are soon after forgotten by the general public.  Monday however, at the site of the world’s most renowned running event in the world, a marathon was center stage in the world for the most unfortunate reason.  Distance running and endurance events are not main stream sporting news, and the athletes that pursue these endeavors are not looking for the recognition and limelight of stardom, yet they push themselves to often unthinkable boundaries for the satisfaction of personal triumph.  It’s not only for personal satisfaction that some runners and endurance athletes compete in a marathon or event.  For some competitors, they choose to compete to raise awareness and funds for causes such as cancer research, wounded soldier support, hunger initiatives, and the list goes on and on.  They make calls and send out e-mails to family members and friends, knock on doors of strangers, and have fundraisers to raise money for charities that are close to their heart.  Every year, millions of dollars are raised in endurance events across the world to support charities.  The people who participate in honor of those charities are special individuals who don’t receive the notoriety they deserve and often times they don’t want the recognition, they just want to do their part to make a difference.  Every year, the runners in the last starting corral of The Boston Marathon are those who gained entry into the race by raising enough money to support their charity.  Monday, the majority of those runners didn’t even get a chance to fulfill those promises they made to the donors because of this unthinkable act of violence.

Personally, I am in complete shock, heartache, and amazement by what took place on Monday in Boston.  Marathons and endurance events aren’t just something that I do by myself and for myself.  Of course I enjoy them and the training involved, but I also compete in them because my friends do them.  I enjoy the camaraderie and friendly competition that a marathon or triathlon encompasses, and while I am out there to get the best out of myself, I also want the best for my friends and competitors.  I don’t have a wife or children, but a lot of my friends do, and I’ve seen how events like The Boston Marathon or an Ironman requires an entire family and friend “support network” along the way.  Long hours are spent training for events like these, often taking the person preparing for the race away from home for hours upon hours just to make it to the start line prepared, and it takes a whole family’s commitment.  Once event day rolls around, the whole “support network” of family and friends can celebrate the accomplishment of their spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, friend, co-worker, etc.  Monday’s tragedy didn’t injure any runner directly, but it did injure the “support network”, wounding and killing friends, family members, and complete strangers that were standing on Boylston Street to celebrate the accomplishments of the runners.  Locally, a coach and member of the Charlotte running and triathlon community, and her family were there to support a family member and they were severely hurt during the attack.  While I don’t know personally know them, the outpouring of love and well wishes from the community in Charlotte praying for their quick recoveries and asking what they can do to help just shows the true support that everyone needs in times like these.  Whether you participate in events or are just there to watch and cheer on friends or a family member, we have all at one time been a part of that “support network” that was attacked on Monday. 

Patriots Day 2014 – you can find me in Boston for a third time.  Whether it’s spectating, volunteering, or participating, I’ll be there to show my support.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tri Season Update - Installment 2 of 2

Stumpy Creek International Triathlon (7.16.11), Mooresville, NC - 2:14:53, 9th Overall

Ahhh...the dreaded race.  I have been purposely avoiding discussing this race and it was a terrible display of my capabilities.  No, I'm not disappointing in finishing 9th, but I'm most frustrated in my attitude and also the way I felt out there on the course.  I've never won any kind of race in my life until this race last year, so I put unnecessary pressure on myself to do well this year.  The competition was stiff as this race was selected to be the double points race in the NCTS.  I wasn't racing for any points, but seeing how you stack up against the best in the series is a good barometer of your shape.  My attitude all year from Boston up until this race was to have fun, race to the best of my ability, and see where the cards fell time wise.  From the moment I jumped in the swim in Lake Norman I didn't want to be there.  I had a good swim, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I was ready to be done with the race and how I didn't even want to be there.  I came out of the water with Jenny, Frank, and Mark Carey so I was happy with my swim, but I definitely didn't want to ride my bike.  This was one of the first times in my life I actually wanted to just stop and pull a DNF.  I reluctantly got on my bike, hoping that I would snap out of it.  I hadn't had my bike "properly" fitted to me and it had been causing me a lot of problems, but this put it over the top.  I was so frustrated riding my bike again those thoughts of pulling out of the race were creeping in.  My quads had this deep dull pain in them and I thought of a million reasons why this could be.  Was I overtrained?  Did I jump back into training too soon after Boston and cook myself?  Alright, enough of the pity party, but the bike ended after what seemed like everyone in the open division passing me.  I set off on the run hoping to save a little bit of face, but I was solo off the bike with no one near me.  So I basically just ran to run, in frustration.  No one passed me and I passed no one over the 10k.  Even if I could have seen someone ahead of me I don't think I would have been mentally able to push it to catch them, and if someone had been breathing down my neck I sure as hell wouldn't have fought off the challenge.  I was in a bad, bad place.

The good thing about bad races is that there is a lot to take away from them.  The day after the race I took a complete day to myself, got my first massage on my shredded quads, and basically just sat on the couch all day and reflected on my training.  After the race I had convinced myself that I wasn't doing IM Louisville, that I was done with triathlons.  I was frustrated with myself for my attitude, the way my body felt, and where I was in my training for Louisville.  It took me a couple of days to get over it, but in the end I decided that it was time to have a little attitude (re)adjustment and it was time to go back to having fun and not putting any pressure on myself. I have blogged before about how terrible I do in races where I put too much pressure on myself and when I put too much emphasis on hitting a certain time goal.  That pressure and the time goals are unnecessary because in the end I do triathlons because they are fun, the training with friends is fun, and racing should be fun (although it should hurt too!).  After Stumpy Creek I decided it was time to have fun again and forget about my experiences at the race.  Everyone has bad races, it's a part of the sport, so I decided to put the race in my rear view mirror it was time to have some fun again and enjoy training and racing!

Phew...that wasn't so bad after all.  Oh, and I did get a more "professional" bike fit on Monday to hopefully help out with some of the quad pain!  I concluded also that I had only been on the new tri-bike for a couple of weeks so my body was probably getting adjusted to the new position after ride a road bike for the past 7 months.

Lake Logan International Triathlon (8.6.11 AM), Canton, NC - 2:01:11, 7th Overall

I signed up for Lake Logan shortly after the Stumpy Creek failure in hopes of accomplishing 2 things, having fun again at a race and getting in a last good workout before IM Louisville.  I went into the race with the attitude of not caring where I place and not caring what my time was, but instead I intended to have fun and have a good race doing it.  After spending the night in a cheap motel, I went and picked up Kevin at the motel he and Linden were staying at and we headed to the race site.  We showed up in plenty of time, but for some reason I was dilly dallying in the transition area and ended up have to run over to the swim start.  As the open wave was already in the water at the start line I was just finishing getting my wetsuit on when the announcer said "20 seconds".  I ran around the other waves waiting on the dock and basically jumped off the dock as the gun went off and just started swimming!  Spent the swim trying to get comfortable in the wetsuit, as I hate wetsuit swims!  I was trying to sit on some people's feet, but there was a little fog over the lake that morning so I swam solo most of the time.  I never had thoughts of not want to race like I did at Stumpy Creek so at least that was an improvement!  I probably didn't push as hard as I should have, but I was just happy that my attitude adjustment had been a success!!!!  Out of the swim and onto the bike I found my legs quickly on the little uphill out of the lake area.  I could tell my legs felt much better than they did a couple weeks before, likely because of my weekly massages.  There was a little of a false flat on the second half of the course and I didn't have the best bike ride, but it sure was better than the way I felt at Stumpy Creek.  Up and over the one mentionable climb and I was back in transition and ready to run!  I felt great on the run and was able to pick off a couple of other guys, but with there being money in this race I knew the couple of other guys ahead of me were pro's and it was highly unlikely I would catch the.  At the 5k turnaround point I saw one more guy that I had a chance of picking off, which I did, but the other guys were just way too far ahead.  Not really anyone threatening from behind me, but I continued to push the rest of the run as I was hoping to get in under 2 hours, but to no avail.  Overall, I was extremely happy about my attitude and the way I felt out there racing. I needed another race before IM Louisville to at least re-instill my confidence and begin my taper!  3 weeks till IM Louisville and I was content again in my triathlon glory.

Crossroads Classic Road Race (8.6.11 PM), Salisbury, NC - 1:43:14 (41ish miles), 3rd Overall Cat 5B

Somehow I thought it would be a good idea to do this bike race in the afternoon after doing Lake Logan in the morning as a good kickoff to the taper.  So after getting some food up at the triathlon I got in my car to head to Salisbury.  I put on my compression gear in hopes of getting a little recovery and tried to drink as many fluids as possible to help.  After our first bike racing experience at the Piedmont Triad Omnium the same group of guys decided to hit this race too.  The race started around 3pm and I got there just in time for a little warm up ride with the crew.  I didn't feel great, which was too be expected, and it was a weird feeling getting on the road bike after riding the tri bike in the morning.  I was hopeful once the race started I would start feeling a little better and get the blood flowing in order to mix it up with the roadies.  Unfortunately the race directors had let too many people sign up in Cat 5 so they had to split the field into two groups, with the lead group being guys that were racing the overall omnium and the second group being the guys who were only doing the road race.  I was a little disappointed, but decided that I was just there for the workout and the points to hopefully move out of Cat 5.  In the end I think that we ended up riding just as fast, if not faster than the first group anyways.  We (Chris, Lat, Troy, and I) started pretty much on the front line this time instead of being in the back and having to fight to get to the front.  It was another 3 loop ordeal and the terrain was pretty rolling with a couple of good spots to try and get away on the backside of each loop.  Unfortunately there were only a couple of us willing to do any work, with everyone else sitting in, so it was almost like an accelerated training ride with a group.  Nothing really significant until the end of the second lap when Lat and Chris tried to get away, but the group ended up closing them down.  It was looking like everyone was content with just sitting in until the finish.  I tried on the third lap to at least make things interesting, but could never get a solid group together to make a break.  Mark, a guy that I have road with before from Bicycle Sport, and I tried one final attempt at getting a break on the last major hill, but the group shut us down quickly.  So as we lined up for the sprint finish I was a little nervous about the Cat (aka Crash) 5's reputation at the sprint finishing and I had bigger fish to fry at IM Louisville so I definitely didn't want to end up hitting the deck.  Lat took a real strong pull on the straightaway leading to the finish and I quickly jumped on his wheel.  As he started to give out a little I jumped around him and got onto another guys surging wheel.  About that time a guy came over into Lat, they touched wheels and I thought I was done for.  Luckily I stayed up and even though it killed my momentum trying to get away from Lat I was able to hang on for 3rd behind Mark and the guy that had touched wheels with Lat.  I don't know how Lat kept upright, but I sure was happy that he did.

A great double race day and I was happy to have two solid workouts in the book before beginning the taper for Louisville.

Next up is race reports from Louisville and Kona!!!!  I know the excitement for my one faithful reader (James) is keeping him on the edge of his seat...errr...I mean the edge of the couch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tri Season Update - Installment 1 of 2

Tri Latta Sprint Triathlon (6.11.11), Charlotte, NC - 1:13:42, 2nd Overall

The World Championships of Charlotte (aka Tri Latta) is a race I haven't done since 2006, my first season doing triathlons, so I was looking forward to mixing it up with the local triathlon champs.  I had been riding all winter on a road bike due to my crash in Clearwater ruining my Cervelo.  My new Scott Plasma had arrived a week before Latta and luckily Bob and Greg had it assembled by Friday for the race the next day.  I wasn't too happy about Latta being my first ride on the new bike, but I decided to just roll with it and see how I could fare on the new steed.  I had a good swim as I was 3rd out of the water behind Brad Perry and Jenny.  Tried to stick on Jenny's feet for the swim, but ended up losing her at the halfway point and couldn't jump back on.  The bike ride was interesting as my bike wasn't quite fitted to my needs and I ended up losing about 4 or 5 positions over the course of the ride.  I spent the whole ride frustrated as I couldn't get comfortable on the bike and it seemed like anyone that passed me was just riding away from me with ease (James, Selle, Donny).  I tried to keep them in sight at least, hoping that I could close down some time on the run.  I had a super quick T2, passing Selle in transition, and set out to track down Donny and James.  By the first turnaround I was on their heels and started pressing a little more to pass them.  I passed Donny about mile 2 and as he stuck on my shoulder I tried surging to get him off, which finally happened.  Those old guys are tough to break!!!!  Rounding the last turn I was sitting on James shoulder and put in one final surge to pass him and luckily he wasn't having his best run so I was able to pass without him countering, which most likely would have broke me!  Overall, I was happy with my swim, run, and overall race, but knew there was a lot more work to be done on the bike.

Mountaineer Half Iron Triathlon (6.26.11), Morgantown, WV - 4:59:44, 2nd Overall

Since I wasn't able to race any early season halfs due to Boston, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to do a half about 9 weeks before Ironman Louisville and also a good way to go up to Pittsburgh to visit Keith and Lynne.  The had their first baby in May, so Kevin and I headed up to Pittsburgh on Friday to meet Sydney and also spend some time with them.  We got there Friday afternoon and went for a nice 9 mile trail run with Keith through some Pittsburgh parks and then got to spend Saturday hanging out and visiting.  Kevin and I left Saturday evening for Morgantown in time to pick up our packets and drive the bike course.  Due to some mudslides and road closures they had to make a last minute bike course change.  Driving the course I soon realized the front 808 and rear disc was going to be a really bad decision; the course was amusingly hilly!  Sunday morning Kevin and I headed over to the race site and the temperatures were nice and cool with overcast skies, quite a contrast to the Charlotte weather in late June.  They had numerous other race distances that we starting before us so we stood around and waited for the half to start.  The swim was a wetsuit legal, time-trial start, 2 loop swim in the Monongohela River.  I was the second person to jump in the water and had a pretty traffic free first loop, but by the second loop we were running into lap traffic.  Had a decent swim for a wetsuit swim, but the course was either a little long or the current was stronger than it felt.  The bike was another 2 loop affair and it was ridiculously hard in my estimation.  I would have been better off on the road bike and I don't think I was in my aero-bars for a tenth of the race.  According to my Garmin, the course had 7100 feet of elevation change over 56 miles, it was ridiculous.  That's more elevation change than Lake Placid and St. George,some of the hardest Ironman bike courses, which cover 112 miles, not just the 56 of this half.  By the start of the second loop I was frustrated and not at all looking forward to another loop of hell.  It got done (slowly), and it was time to hit the run on a flat greenway along the river.  I found myself in 7th place off the bike and started the run feeling pretty good.  At the turnaround on the first loop I saw Kevin trucking along and giving me rough splits of the guys ahead of me.  By the end of the first loop I had caught 4 of them and was maintaining a solid pace just a hair about 6 minutes per mile.  I ended up catching the second place guy right at the final turnaround and kept the hammer down all the way to the finish, clocking the second fastest run split of the day, 1:20:xx.  I was again frustrated about my bike split and how I felt on the bike, but happy with the run and my overall race.  We stuck around for some food and then began the 6 hour trek back home.  Overall, it was an enjoyable low-key race atmosphere, hardest bike course ever, a good chance to do a half before Louisville, and a great trip.

Piedmont Triad Omnium Road Race (7.10.11), Lexington, NC - 2:23:19 (57ish miles), 2nd Overall Cat 4/5

Having never done a bike race before I talked a couple of teammates into coming up to Lexington and trying our hand at riding with the roadies.  I was looking for a good bike workout and since my job had been shifted to Columbia, I wasn't getting in enough quality tempo efforts on the bike.  The course was 3 loops and it was hot out there as we didn't start till around 4 in the afternoon.  Unfortunately Watkins, Chris, Lat, Everett, and I rolled up to the start line pretty late so we were stuck in the back to start.  We tried to formulate some tactics on the warm up, but since it was our first try at bike racing we didn't really know what to expect.  We all spent the first lap trying to get up to the front and by the end of the first lap I had made my way up there and was sitting on the front or around the front for a good majority.  I felt good, a stark contrast to how I felt warming up, but I didn't want to over-cook myself in the beginning because the temps were soaring around 90+ and it was still a long way to go.  The first lap was really jumpy as everyone was trying to test each other and near the end of the first lap I attacked on a short steep hill and got a break with a couple other guys that was shut down after a couple of miles.  Oh well, still a long way to go, I was just trying to make it interesting.  At the beginning of the second loop Watkins took a long flyer, with no one responding.  The group never really made an effort to bring him back as everyone started riding a lot more conservative than the first loop.  Nothing exiting on the second loop, but I stayed near or on the front just in case anyone tried to make a break.  By the third loop we had caught Watkins and everyone was really starting to press, however no one got any breaks.  On the same hill where I attacked on the first lap, I attacked again.  I turned around and there was only one guy sitting on my wheel.  He asked if I thought I had enough to stay away and I told him we might as well try.  We spent the next 7ish miles rotating through and sharing the work.  I had to stop and wait for him on the last little hill as I had rode him off my wheel, but I knew if I was going to have a chance I needed someone to share the work with.  He was hurting more than I was so I was taking a little longer pulls than he was, but unbeknownst to me I think he was just setting me up for the sprint finish.  Every time I rotated to the back I would turn to see if the peleton was coming for us, but I could never see them so with about 2 miles left I knew it was going to be he and I, mono-e-mono, for the sprint finish.  At the 1k mark to go line we were sitting next to each other talking about the overall omnium points.  If he had needed the points I would have let him take first and the points, and he said the same to me.  After our chat he snuck in behind me, a tactic I should have fought, but I didn't want the peleton to catch us so I basically provided the lead-out for him to sprint around me.  When I stood up to sprint I felt my right quad start to cramp so I just sat down and pedaled in for the second place finish.  I wasn't overly upset with coming in second, as I definitely got the good workout I was looking for, but it would have been nice to come home with the W.  I learned a little about bike racing and also what kind of shape I was in, but it stung a little bit to get duped by the guy.  Lesson learned!  Ended up with $40 or something which basically paid for the entry.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Update #1 - Running Races

So in an attempt to update the blog, I am going to provide some short (and sweet) recaps from February, culminating with long race report from IM Louisville and the IM World Championships in Kona, HI.  I didn't do a good of a job updating everything as I get a little long winded in my blogs, so I'm going to just provide short recaps of each race.

*Charles Harris 10k, Tucker, GA - 34:22
Chose this race down in Atlanta after my buddy Keith was making the trip from Pittsburgh to Atlanta to visit his family, so I made the trek down from Charlotte to also visit my family and race with him and his brother Kurt.  It was a early morning as the race was point to point and we had to park at the finish and get bused to the start line.  It was a pretty chilly morning and with the race start at 7am we really had to get down there early to pick up our packets and get in a good warm-up.  After a couple of laps around the Tucker High School track and some good stretching we headed to the start line to begin.  Not too much to report as the details are a bit fuzzy, but after reviewing my training log I remember feeling better as the race went on and my splits ended up showing a negative split on the two 5k sections.  I passed a couple of other competitors in the last mile and was pleasantly surprised with my result.  Haven't run too many 10k's so this was definitely a PR and after vowing to race more before Boston, I was very happy with the result.

*Corporate Cup Half Marathon, Charlotte, NC - 1:16:57
I didn't head into this race with any expectations of a PR, but wanted a good hard tempo run and possibly give myself a chance to PR.  I incorporated the half marathon in the middle of a 20-miler and I ended up missing a PR by 2 seconds on a much tougher course than the flat New Orleans Half Marathon in 2009 where I ran a 1:16:55.  This gave me a lot of confidence heading into Boston, 5 weeks away.  My splits were very even as I never faded at the end, but the run up Morehead St. is always a killer at the end of this race.  I was happy about my 4th place overall finish and staying strong throughout the race as I was solo pretty much the entire way.

*Boston Marathon, Boston, MA - 2:42:11
I raced Boston in 2008 and set some lofty expectations, even though it would be my first real race since hip surgery in July 2007.  In 2008 I faded up the Newton Hills and even though I ended up with a PR of 2:47:53 I still wanted some revenge on that course.  I knew that I could tackle those hills and run an even split if I played my cards right.  Previously I ran a 1:20:03 over the first half of the course and 1:27:50 over the second half.  I knew that if I took it out a little more conservative this time I could take advantage of the second half of the course and set myself up for a good race.  I put a lot of pressure on myself in 2008 and this year I said my overall goal was to have fun and enjoy the race.  Whenever I put too much pressure on myself I end up putting on blinders and internalizing everything.  This year I never felt great throughout the whole race, but I also never felt terrible.  Sometimes your best days come when you aren't feeling your best.  I held myself back the first mile (6:37) as it felt like everyone was passing me, but the first half of the marathon is basically downhill so a lot of people end up blowing themselves up by the time they get to Newton.  The first half I really kept myself in control and by about mile 16 I was feeling in a good rhythm, which was perfect time for the Newton Hills.  Up and over the hills, as I came through Boston College and was nearing downtown I got a little over zealous and dropped a couple of sub-6 minute miles because I knew as long as I held it together for the last 10k I was staring at a big PR.  Coming down Boylston Street I went over to the crowd and started giving some high fives because it was something I didn't get to experience last time as I had bonked pretty hard.  In the end it was fun to be out there with so many other Charlotte friends who had made the trip.  Some had good races and some left with that same feeling that I had in 2008, that they wanted to come back for revenge on the course, but in the end we all agreed that the Boston Marathon is magnificent.  The support from the crowds, the energy of the competitors, and the history of the race all make it such a great experience.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cupid's Cup

In continuing to honor my commitment to racing more before Boston, I participated in the Cupids Cup 5k on Saturday for a little excitement and a good workout.  With no idea what to expect I threw on my backpack Saturday morning containing my racing flats and short racing tights and started a slow jog from my house, up Little Sugar Creek Greenway, and onto East Boulevard.  I felt so green and eco-friendly, neglecting the motorized transportation to travel to and from the race.  It was just a hair under 4 miles to get there and I left my house just at the right time not to have to stand around too long waiting for the race, as it was a cool morning, temps just below 30 degrees.  Arrived at the race, got my number and changed pants and ditched the jacket.  Denise was kind enough to let me store my bag under her table and about that time I heard them announce 5 minutes to race time.  Spotted J. Fish and took a quick jog with him and walked into the front of the field.  After a couple of pictures and the race director walking us up to the start line, the bullhorn sounded and we were off.  Aaron took off and gapped the field pretty good.  I settled into a small pack for the climb up East Boulevard.  I figured that I would just stick with that pack up the hill and then see if I could make a move later.  My breathing felt off and I thought it wasn't going to be my day.  Once we passed the Harris Teeter and turned right on Dilworth Road West I felt much more relaxed and in control.  The race turned left on Romany at the bottom of Latta Park and I made a concerted decision to push the hill and see if I could break up the group of 5 or 6 of us that were running together.  By the time we reached the top of the hill and turned left on Euclid the pack was split and I was sitting in 3rd place behind Aaron and the eventual winner.  Back on East, I just focused on my breathing and keeping a good turnover.  Before I knew it, Aaron was just steps ahead of me, but it seemed like every time I started pushing to get up next to him, he would push a little bit to.  I came down the hill on East, glanced back to make sure no one was in position to out kick me and put it in cruise control to the finish line.

Finish time: 16:19.  Place: 3rd Overall.  I think I not only surprised a few people, but I definitely surprised myself too.  It just gives me confidence that my plan is working and taking easy/recovery days is a good way to let my body recover and not try to run in the "grey zone" all the time, where you aren't exactly getting any benefit, but you are also not letting your body have a chance to recover.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I run a 6-mile loop from work at lunch, purposely slowing myself down and trying to keep the pace anywhere from 7:50 to 8:30 per mile, taking it easy and enjoying a break from work.  I think that is complimenting my workouts and long runs perfectly and allowing my body time to recover from Tuesday night workouts, Thursdays night optional workout or medium-longish run, and Saturday's long run.  All cycling has been easy, with a good 40 mile ride on Friday and a 72 on Sunday.  I think the increase in swimming is also affecting my running in a positive way.  Swimming is the best aerobic workout there is without any of the pounding and breaking down of the legs.  I've been swimming around 15,000 meters a week and I think that is helping my running more than I think it is.

On tap for tonight is another track workout, maybe 8-10 x 800m and then we'll see how the legs are for another workout on Thursday or Friday, followed by a long run on the weekend.  I'll be in Atlanta next weekend and Keith and I have signed up for the Charles Harris 10k, a relatively flat and fast race about 20 minutes from where our parent's live.  Looking forward to another race as these last two have been a lot of fun and that is precisely what I am looking for by doing more racing, FUN!

I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself and start thinking about Boston, just taking it a week at a time and making sure to get in my quality runs, as well as all the supplemental stuff.  Still have approximately 2.5 months until Boston and that is a lot of time!  Last week was a down week in relation to mileage and I'll take another one in two weeks when I head to Utah for some snow skiing.  Really looking forward to going out there and skiing, as I didn't get the opportunity to go last year, but it looks like I might be setting up to go twice this winter.  Of course that will affect marathon training, but it will be a perfect excuse to take a down week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winter Flight + Updates

Blogging is hard.  Tough to justify blogging about myself, my workouts, and random stuff.  So here goes a good compilation of the last week or so.

Last Saturday, Jan. 29th, I traveled up to Salisbury for the Winter Flight 8k in hopes of testing myself a little bit.  It had been a while since I had raced an open running race and I was interested to see what type of shape I was in.  Chris and Adrian made the drive with me and we all enjoyed some trash talk along the way (there AND back for those two).  I got out to a fast start and was quickly all alone in 5th place by the first mile.  I held there for the entirety of the race as Paul was a little more than a minute ahead of me at the finish and the 6th place guy was more than a minute and a half back.  Lonely race, but exactly what I needed.  Finished it in 28:04, a vast PR from my 32:37 I ran in 2005, my first year of serious running.  Track workouts and speed work have been great so far with a 6 x 1000, 4 x 200 workout last Tuesday and some 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 minute fartleks on Thursday.   A solid 18 mile run on Saturday and a good group ride from Bicycle Sport on Sunday sealed off the week.  58 miles of running last week combined with 14,000 meters in the pool, 55 miles on the bike, and some yoga and core thrown in.  Last night was a ladder workout, 400, 800, 1200, 1600 x 2, 1200, 800, 400.  Finished the second half of the ladder stronger than the first, the goal of the workout.  More of a "plateau" workout as Murph coined it with the two miles at the top.  It's a relatively short turnaround to Saturday's Cupids Cup, but just some easy running for the rest of the week and I am looking forward to a good 5k, my first open 5k in a couple of years.  More racing is hopefully going to lead to a better result in Boston!

On the subject of the biking...my intentions from the beginning of the year has been to keep on the bike at least twice a week until the marathon is over, however I keep having bike issues!!!  In Clearwater I was wrecked thanks to a pack of over-zealous drafters and ended up with a cracked triathlon bike.  Last week as I was preparing to ride the rollers on a rainy Friday afternoon I noticed my road bike (well, I guess technically Kevin's road bike) had a sizable crack in the titanium downtube.  I mean what the heck?  My bike luck this year couldn't be much worse!  Ilan hooked me up with a sweet loaner bike for the time being and hopefully I can continue to keep my miles up over these next couple of months to maintain some sort of biking shape for the transition to triathlon season.

Changing gears a little bit and moving into the college sports arena.  Last Wednesday was National Signing Day for College Football, a day eagerly awaited by many in the south as a decisive day for the future of your respective team.  Seeing as I went to Clemson and I grew up a Florida State die hard (thanks Mom and Dad), I watched as the letters of intent poured in for both schools.  Clemson made a huge splash on signing day, picking up numerous highly rated recruits and turning an otherwise bleak football year into something to look forward to.  According to many "experts", Florida State wrapped up the #1 class in the nation, and it seems they are headed back to the storied program we all watched in the 90's and early 00's.  Clemson eked into the top 10 and left many scouts wondering how a 6-7 program can get such quality talent.  With the recruiting classes for both schools, I think the ACC is going to start moving back into a quality conference and I wouldn't be surprised to see both schools battle pretty tough over the next decade.  Although, as my Dad has always said, don't bet with your heart, but still, my bet is on Clemson!!!!  Still the number one recruit in that nation yet to decide his college choice and it's between Clemson and South Carolina so that could greatly impact Clemson's ranking.

Another Clemson note...the basketball team was picked in the pre-season to be near the cellar in the ACC thanks to a new coach and the loss of Trevor Booker to the NBA.  After last night's victory over Boston College, we moved to 6-4 in the ACC, the first time in Clemson history that a new coach has won more than 5 games in the ACC in their first year at Clemson.  Pretty impressive given the new offense that Brad Brownell installed and the departure of a couple of players that didn't think they fit into his motion offense.  The team is aggressive defensively and a couple of guys have stepped up and fit in well to the new offense.  I admit I was a little pessimistic the way the beginning of the year started, but the development of the team and offense over the season has been impressive.  Big game Saturday at home against a ranked UNC team could prove to be a solid victory on the road to hopefully the NCAA tournament!!!

This is getting mighty long, but one more thing to note sports related.  The Lakers have been in preliminary discussion to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets.  Adrian is a front runner and somehow this year became a Heat fan after they picked up Lebron and Chris Bosh in free agency.  We have a running bet for a pair of Newton running shoes if the Heat win the title.  Needless to say, if the Lakers get Carmelo he might as well concede and buy me a pair!!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking the Line

Staying in between the lines, Chris and I hit the track last night for a simple workout prior to this weekends Winter Flight 8k. Nothing too long, yet good quality work. In moving the workout from Tuesday to Wednesday given the rainy weather, the recovery to Saturday is short. I was leaning towards 4 x 1600m with 4 x 200m to follow, but Chris convinced me into knocking that down to 3 x 1600m with 4 x 200m. Seeing as this was my second interval workout since Clearwater training, and with the short turnaround to the race on Saturday, I think it was a smart move. Didn't set too many expectations on the workout after last weeks 800's, but I was pleased to negative split the repeats at 5:42, 5:33, 5:23. All felt comfortable and smooth, giving me confidence in my fitness right now. The 200's were done at "holy crap, my lunch is about to come up" pace and provided some good turnover following the miles. They stung a little bit, but that was the point. Looking forward to racing on Saturday and the above 50 degree high temperatures over the weekend!

An issue last night that really got me fired up was in regards to the Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) system and their proposed budget cuts. I watched the first couple minutes of the 10 o'clock Fox Charlotte news broadcast, something I rarely do. Given the board meeting on Tuesday night, one of the opening pieces was the proposed CMS budget cuts. The following excerpts are from a Charlotte Observer article and detail the proposed cuts in the budget:

Class size: Increase classes by an average of two students in grades 4-12. Savings: $15.1 million.
Support staff: Eliminate one support position, such as counselors, facilitators and librarians, from each school. Savings: $11.2 million.
Teacher assistants: Eliminate them from first and second grades. Savings: $9.3 million.
School maintenance: Cut more than 50 custodians and other areas of building services. Savings: $8.1 million.
Teacher bonuses: Cut incentive, signing and critical-needs bonuses. Savings: $4.3 million.
Career tech: Eliminate unfilled career-technical education jobs. Savings: $3.2 million.
School protection: Eliminate more than 20 campus security staff and make other cuts to school law enforcement. Savings: $1.2 million.
After-school: Reduce money for after-school and weekend programs. Savings: $1.1 million.
Middle-school sports: Eliminate them, with money from high school sports that covered the cost this year shifted to supporting high school athletics. Savings: $400,000.

I understand times are tough and money is tight, but in my opinion, some of the proposed cuts are ridiculous and CMS is walking the fine line of disaster. First off, the school district has a 1 billion dollar plus budget for 2011 and they are proposing to cut middle school athletics to help save $400,000. What is this saying to kids in middle school? "Hey, our budget is over 1 billion dollars, but we don't want you playing sports after school. Instead go play some video games or get into some trouble, we are saving 400k!" Secondly, support staff, teachers assistants in first and second grades, and school protection staff are being reduced. Maybe this is just me, but those seem pretty important. So with news reports weekly of kids bringing guns to school and harming other students and teachers, who makes the call that we should just reduce school security and make it even more likely for these events to happen here? Maybe it's because, luckily, none of those news reports have been in Charlotte, but when does that time come? This year, next year? Third, in my opinion, teachers assistants in first and second grade are important. I have a high regard for teachers, maybe because my mom was a teacher, but it seems that in those grades it is of the utmost importance for a teacher to have some help. I can't imagine having 25-30 first or second graders in a room all day and not having a little help. What a great way to burn out a good teacher, stick them in a room all day with 25-30, 6-7 year olds, and tell them to manage. Lastly the incentive cuts, I get that. In today's time, many people are taking pay cuts, accepting lower paying jobs, not getting bonuses or raises, which is understandable given the economy.

I guess it's time to get off the soapbox, but I think this is completely ridiculous. The reporter even said that CMS is a model school system and is looked upon as being a leader in education by other school systems around the country. Peter Gorman and CMS is quickly becoming a laughing stock of many school systems. His inability to manage the school district and making outlandish budget cuts is affecting kids, the future of our county, state, and country. I don't have a child, but I think education should be the biggest focus, outside of the economy, of the county and even the nation as a whole. Kids should be given every opportunity to succeed in life. Education should be the top priority followed by sports and after school programs. Kids are our future and no corners should be cut in order to save some cash. Of course school played a huge role in my childhood, but so did sports. It teaches you discipline, teamwork, develops friendships, and most of all, kept me out of trouble and away from the TV, video games, and the computer. I have so much more I can shed on these subjects, but this is already very long and jumbled, so I am going to end the rant by saying that I think CMS is walking a fine line with the direction of the school system. If the school system isn't going to invest in kids and give them a chance, who is?