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?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Building towards Boston!

In 12 weeks time I will be toeing the start line in Boston. Not exactly toeing the line, but maybe 100 yards behind the line in the first "normal person" corral. The last 3 weeks have been moderately consistent...46-52 miles a week with a couple of tempo runs, two interval workouts, and a very high volume of swimming. As my Boston plan begins to unfold, it is time to "kick it up a notch" as Emeril would say, a man who certainly shares the same fondness for food as this guy. In sticking to my guns, I am going to max out around 65 miles a week and keep the swimming and biking incorporated in the training. However I need to focus a little more on my running schedule and let the swimming and biking complement that when time allows.

The weekend long run wasn't exactly what I was hoping for due to the volunteering at the Charlotte Running Company Trail Race and then running the trails afterwards to clean them up, but it was fun and definitely worth the sacrifice . I was shooting for a third straight weekend long run of 16 miles, but only managed 13 on the trails as my hip flexors are never happy diving into a long run on the trails when I haven't run trails in while. After a good minuter workout on Friday evening, the trail run felt nice and relaxed until the last couple of miles as I was solo for the last 3 of the 13 and I couldn't convince my brain nor my legs for another 3 treacherous miles on the slick trails. My legs were getting heavy, my hips tight, and I didn't want to risk a fall or turning an ankle on the roots so I decided to cut the run short. It was a cold, early morning and a long day, but definitely worth the fun volunteering at the water stop and supporting Donny's race. The rest of the team was gathering for lunch at the WWC restaurant and if I had tacked on 3 additional miles I might have only gotten to clean up their scraps from lunch and I didn't want to miss out on the good food!

On Sunday James and I rode over the Bicycle Sport in the balmy sub-30 degree weather for a long, easy paced ride on the infamous 65-mile Spamerton Route with a good crew. There were some spurts of moderate effort once we all warmed up and seeing as it was my longest ride since Clearwater I felt surprisingly spry. Sunday afternoon James, Selle, and I had a good swim workout and I ended the day with a good deep stretch yoga class and dollar tacos with a fun group watching football.

This week will be a bigger mileage push on the run while still incorporating a high swim volume and a couple of bike rides. I am going to try and blow the rust out of the system with the Winter Flight 8k on Saturday. It's been a while since I have raced and even longer since I have done a stand alone road race so I am excited about pushing the envelope a little early in the training cycle.

On another note, Packers vs. Steelers in the Super Bowl in two weeks. I am conflicted on who to root for as the Packers knocked out my Falcons a week ago and my good buddy being such a huge Steelers fan, but I think I'm leaning towards the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. The guy is a hell of a QB and after being dissed on draft day by so many teams it would be nice to see him get some vindication.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Long Awaited Burn.

First track workout of the year accomplished last night and so the lung burning begins. Took it nice and easy with a 6 x 800m workout sandwiched inside of a 10 mile easy run. Outside of a couple of short tempo runs that last fews weeks I have had a hard time motivating myself to get to the track for intervals. Last night Chris and I finally bit the bullet and started the progression towards Beantown, about 12 weeks away. I like track workouts for two reasons:
  1. The more quality track workouts or hard intervals I do, the more fluid I feel running hard for long periods of time. Don't know if there is any correlation there, but it certainly makes me feel more efficient if I have a few workouts under my belt.
  2. The mental challenge of the track. Sure, 6 x 800m goes by pretty quickly, but come March when I am starring a longer workout in the grill, the mental aspect of trying to hit the same splits for say, 10 x 800m, is more of an epic mental struggle with your mind to keep pushing. Sure, it's easy to bag it at 8 because you are tired of running around in circles, but imagine how much better you will feel if you finish all 10.
So in summary, in my un-expert opinion, I believe mental toughness is half the battle for endurance racing. Your mind can be a demon at mile 22 of a marathon or halfway through the run at a half Ironman or Ironman. It's almost like a cartoon you used to watch as a kid where there is a little red devil sitting on your shoulder telling you that if you just slow down it won't hurt nearly as bad. In my experience, once I slow down, it's hard to start pushing again, so why not just weather the storm and push harder?

Back to the track it is next week. It will be a steady mix between track and speed intervals, long tempo runs and long runs from here on out. Missed the swim today due to work obligations, but that is all something I have to take into account with my scattered job. One day I'm in Texas, another I'm traveling to odd projects, and sometimes I'm in Charlotte. Each week tends to bring a different adventure and balancing that with training is all part of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rabbit Food

A couple of weeks ago 2011 began, the year of the rabbit according to the Chinese. The Chinese New Year doesn't begin until February 3rd, however here in the States we are already kicking this New Year. All triathletes and runners eagerly await the beginning of the year to set new PR's, tackle mileage goals, finish an epic race, or just simply continue improvement. Just like the hare (rabbit), some athletes tend to get way too excited, way too early, about diving into a new season. Instead, I tent to take the tortoise approach to signing up for races and beginning training cycles. Of course I pick out my "A" races like every other endurance junkie, but my tune-up races and other races through the year I like to formulate a list of races that I am considering and just sit tight until the first couple months of the year shake out. I don't like to stick to a definitive schedule because I think you can get too wrapped up in the "next race" and for myself, I like to be able to train and see exactly where I am before I sign up for something.

Due to the nature of some races it is necessary to sign up for them months in advance, especially Ironman races. So this week I went ahead and pulled the trigger on Ironman Louisville at the end of August. It is a race I have done, it's close to home, and the course is magnificent. Of course the temperatures can be dicey, but you take the good with the bad. Additionally, the Boston Marathon is on tap for the middle of April. Again, I've done the race, but this time I'm coming back for some redemption. Sure, my marathon PR is in Boston, however I think I left a lot on the table by going out to hard and not obeying a strict taper schedule. I never felt comfortable and in my qualifying marathon, 2007 Austin Marathon, I was never really working hard until the last couple of miles and that is to be expected. I just want the same feeling as I had in Austin, my first marathon. For the Atlanta Marathon in March 2010, I toyed with 75-85 mile weeks in my build-up to the race and found out that just isn't for me. I was sick twice during my training cycle and I never felt like my body was recovering properly. So for Boston, I'm capping it at 65 mile weeks, less workouts per week, and more focused workouts. I also plan to keep my cycling and swimming numbers much higher than I did before Atlanta and hopefully the results work. Good news is my swimming is at an all-time best and I'm putting in a lot of time in the pool and more riding on my bike. I'm also sleeping more to help the recovery process, which always seems painfully slow for me. Hopefully this will set me up for an easy transition from marathon training to Ironman training, as the turnaround between races is a little less than to be desired.

Signing off for now,
The tortoise