Saturday, August 28, 2010

Long Time, No Blog

Well, it's been four months since my last post.  Here's the quick update on my life:


Still going at it.  This year was designed around getting stronger, and that's what I've been doing.  I've only raced one time this year at a local sprint triathlon.  With the exception of a long week in Boulder for a camp with Endurance Corner and Coach AC, I have spent the past 8+ months doing some long, sometimes monotonous, training.  Getting stronger.  Now I've switched focus to race specific training for my two races in October.  October 10 is the US Open Olympic Triathlon in Rockwall.  The following weekend is Ironman 70.3 Austin, where I qualified for the World Championships two years ago.  I'm not really shooting for anything in particular for either of those races.  My only goals are to run fast, have fun, and get some good benchmarking for next season.

Speaking of next season . . . After October, I recover for most of November to shed the 2010 fatigue.  Then, it's time to get serious again.  Ironman training.  Real Ironman training.  Ironman St. George is May 7, 2011.  Most believe it's the "longest" (i.e., "slowest") Ironman race in North America, which means for someone my size, we'll really have to pay attention to how to fuel it and pace it.  Should be fun!


So what's really been keeping me busy these past several months is my new law firm.  Yes, I quit my well paying, secure, paycheck-every-two-weeks job to start a firm with a good friend of mine in Rockwall.  There is a link to our firm's website to the right, and here, if you want to see what I'm up to now.  The website is still a work in progress, so check back often. 

We've been open for about a month now.  So far, so good, but setting that up, planning for it, and keeping up with training has pretty much killed this blog.  Even if it's just with short posts like this one, I'll try to keep this more up to date, as this is the only place a lot of you follow my training and racing life. 


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mad Men

 “Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”  –Don Draper, Mad Men 

My wife and I have been watching the AMC series “Mad Men” for a while now (we watch it at our own pace on DVD and are only on Season 2, so please, no spoilers!).  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it centers around a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the late 50s/early 60s, the schemes employed by them to create ads, and the lifestyles of the various characters.  The show is quite entertaining.  One of its funnier aspects (even though they tend to overdo it) is how the writers portray things that were  supposedly commonplace in America in the early 1960s, but that today we would all view as absurd.  For example, drinking hard liquor all day at the office, not wearing a seat belt, the way women are portrayed both in the office and at home, and in every scene almost every character is smoking (including a scene with a pregnant woman presumably very close to her due date having a cocktail and puffing away at a cigarette!).  There was even a scene with the main character and his family having a picnic in a very nice park.  As they were leaving, he throws his empty beer can in the woods, and his wife simply picks up their blanket, shakes off all of their trash (napkins, cans, etc.) and walks away.

I’ve always assumed that the writers are intentionally over the top with their portrayal of just how “stupid” everyone was in the early 60s.  I wasn’t around in the 60s, so I don’t really know, but I doubt we've gotten that much smarter in the past 50 years.  Most of the time I watch and think, “This must be a gross exaggeration.  It couldn’t have been that bad! No one would be that stupid!” 

But then I started thinking of the things that we did just a few years ago (and that a lot of people still do today), and I wondered:  What would a show about endurance sports in the late 00s/early 10s look like forty years from now?  People eating eggs but only after removing the yolk, which happens to be the most nutritious part; eating a gel just before a run because they think they need those extra carbs to make it through their 40 minute workout; adding more and more cushioning to their shoes and getting more and more injured in the process . . . ; the list goes on.

I bring up those three specific examples because, like a lot of you, I fell victim to the false thinking that led to those mistakes.  Mistakes that, looking back, I cannot believe I was stupid enough to make!  What was I thinking!?  I will touch on the nutritional examples in a later post.  Today, I want to discuss shoes. 

I’ve been reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.  It’s a GREAT book—well written, entertaining, and very informative (Thanks, Ryan!).  If you are a runner, PLEASE (!) drop what you are doing, go to the nearest bookstore, and read Chapter 25 (then you can buy it and read the rest later).  Don’t worry; it will not spoil anything from the previous 24 chapters.  But it will explain some of the problems with running shoes today.

Honestly, it made me angry.  Angry that I spent years running in products that were most likely the very cause of my running injuries.  Angry that I spent thousands of dollars over those years searching for the answer and trusting that the “experts” knew what they were talking about.  Angry that I assumed that those same experts were looking after my best interests.  But mostly, Angry at the Mad Men who came up with these products and swore to me that I would injure myself without them; swore to me that I needed to replace them as soon as the cushioning wore down; swore to me that the more I spent, the more protected I would be; and all along the Mad Men were reading study after study telling them they were wrong on all accounts.

I trusted companies that made money when I bought their shoes, when they told me that I would injure myself if I didn’t buy their most expensive shoes at least every three months.  They never cured my injuries.  But I kept buying.  I cannot believe I actually fell for this.  I thought I was smarter than that.

Thinking back on it, I am in disbelief that I fell into their trap.  All I can think is, “This must be a gross exaggeration.  It couldn’t have been that bad!  No one would be that stupid!”

Fortunately, I now know better.  I've learned from experience, not from a book and not from a shoe salesman.

Consider this: If you put your leg in a cast, the muscles will atrophy and become weak.  Shoe companies have been selling us casts for our feet and telling us that it was a design flaw in our feet that made their products necessary.  The weaker it got, the thicker they made the casts.  We bought it.  And the more we bought it, the more we got injured.

Regardless of your beliefs in God vs. Mother Nature, the human foot is a brilliant work of structural integrity.   When will we stop arrogantly assuming that we can outsmart our creator?

“The deviation of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases.”  –Edward Jenner

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Newton's Going Off-Roading!

Newton Running announced today that it is releasing a new trail running shoe in July 2010--the Newton Momentum.  We will finally have an off-road shoe with all of the aspects we've come to love about Newtons!  I can't wait to get my hands on a pair and head down to the Texas hill country for a weekend.  Or perhaps a summer trip to Boulder to really test them out right!

Here's what the Newtonians have to say about their latest creation:
The Momentum is an off-road guidance trainer designed for runners committed to a more efficient natural running style. It provides intelligent control for all foot types on all types of terrain, from groomed bridle paths to technical mountain trails.

My only concern right now is that I won't be able to get my hands on a pair until mid-summer! 

I'll get a review up as soon as possible.  In the meantime, you can read more about the Momentum here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cleaning Out My Closet

I had two main projects to complete during those two weeks of Christmas and New Year's where there's not a lot going on at work, and the training is a little on the light side.  Two things.  My wife wanted me to clean up "my" area of the closet.  And I wanted to do my annual cleaning/reorganization of the bike shop.  Guess which one I got done?

Of course, it was the closet.  Gotta keep the CFO happy, or I won't have a bike shop at all!!

Cleaning out the closet reminded me of the ridiculously difficult time I had finding a pair of running shoes that worked well for me.  By "worked well" I mean a pair of shoes that I felt confident in and that I could run in worry and injury free.

Consequently, I spent years switching from one brand and model to another.  Below is a pile of shoes that was hiding at the bottom of my closet from 2008.  I tended to switch them out before I really needed to because I was never happy with them after a month or so of running.  But I also never got rid of them because I was afraid I might want to try them again if they were "better" than whatever I tried next.

In February 2009, I ran the Austin marathon in one of the blue Brooks shoes pictured above.  In March, I started running in Newtons.  And I haven't looked back.  I have never run more consistently and more injury free since college (i.e., before I started listening to the "pros" in the running stores tell me what shoe I "needed.").

Consequently, below are the only three pairs of shoes that I have run in since February 2009. 

The pair on the left were my first pair.  The yellow pair were for racing and some interval training.  And the pair on the right are my current training shoes.  The most shocking part to me is that I only had two pairs of training shoes in 2009.  Two.

Last January, Tory at Newton told me that she couldn't promise that I would be faster, but she did promise that I would recover faster.  That's really what convinced me to give them a try.  And I am happy to say that I ran COMPLETELY injury free in 2009.  I have also been running much more often and more consistent than I ever have in my life (including college).  Oh yeah, and I'm faster than I was last year. 
Gone are the days of stressing about what shoe to try next.  Thank you Newton Running!  After years of foot problems, you have drastically changed my running life.  And for that, I am forever grateful.

Cleaning out the closet will be a lot easier in 2010!  Now, if I could just convince the Newtonians to come help me clean out the bike shop!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Five Dollar Shake

Vince:  "Did you just order a five dollar shake?"
Mia:  "Ummhh."
Vince:  "It's a shake.  That's milk and ice cream."
Mia:  "Last I heard."
Vince:  "That's five dollars?  You don't put bourbon in it or nothin'?"
Mia:  "No."
Vince:  "Just checking."
I just signed up for my first race of 2010.  The Dallas Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon on March 14.  The entry fee was $100.  Upon seeing the price, I immediately thought of the above scene from Pulp Fiction (the second best movie ever made), which takes place just after Mrs. Mia Wallace orders the "Five Dollar Shake" at Jack Rabbit Slim's.  Vincent Vega cannot believe that anyone would pay $5 for a milkshake.  And I cannot believe that anyone would pay $100 for an event that lasts less than 90 minutes.  But I did.  And I'm sure I will again.  And it will cost me approximately $1.15 a minute.  Hopefully my response after running in what I am now calling the "Hundred Dollar Half" will be similar to Vince's after he tried the "Five Dollar Shake."  (Look it up.  I'm not posting it because I was censored the last time I went above a G rating!).

The plan for the first part of this year was to spend time in the water.  I owe AC (i.e., New Coach--AC are his initials)  a 12 week swimming block, and we'll get to that.  But first things first, I need a solid qualifying time from a half marathon in order to get into a good starting coral for the Chicago Marathon this Fall.  I planned on just taking it fairly easy and going under 1:35 to make sure I'm at least in Coral B.  I have no worries that I can do that without missing a beat in my training.  To get into Coral A, however, I need to go under 1:25:59, which will require significantly more effort without moving me up that much further to the starting line in Chicago.  When I explained this to AC, he responded with:

"If you're going to race, then let's RACE!"

That sounds fun!  And a little scary, since I haven't done any really hard work for him yet.  And I've been complaining about how easy he's making me run and ride.  I've been warned that my time is coming.  And I'm guessing my days of complaining about easy workouts are quickly coming to an end.  Oh boy?!

In the meantime, today marks the halfway point for the 30 Runs in 30 Days challenge.  So far it has been easier than I thought it would be.  Leading into this, the most days in a row that I had ever run was probably five, and that would have been in college.  In the past few years I haven't even run a lot of back-to-back days, much less 30 of them in a row!  This had me a little apprehensive about how my body would hold up.  But once the first week was out of the way, I felt a lot more at ease with these runs.  Rather than getting more difficult as the month goes on, I'm finding that the runs are actually getting easier.  I feel like just 15 days of consistency has already made me more resilient.  Probably because I wasn't allowed to run hard, thus injuring myself. 

Thanks, AC.  I'll try to save my complaining for the whip instead of the leash.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Necessary Change

"Only the wisest and the stupidest of men never change." 

Just before the World Championships, I made a significant change in my training life, and it's time to share that with you.

After working with CTS for more than three years, I've decided that it's time to move on.  This was a very difficult decision for me.  CTS, and Lindsay in particular, have taken me from a slow, overweight wannabe, to a multiple marathon finisher, a top age grouper, three-time Ironman finisher (twice finishing just outside the top 10% of the field), and helped me set PRs in almost every race distance that I compete in (both in running and triathlon).  Those are very satisfying results in only four years of serious, focused training.  Thank you, CTS, and especially Lindsay.

But sometimes change is necessary in order for an athlete to get to the next level.  So I am now working with Alan Couzens at Endurance Corner.  Alan lives in the Promised Land (i.e., Boulder, Colorado).  I promise that has nothing to do with this decision--although the fact that almost all future training camps will take place in Boulder might have helped me make up my mind.  Just sayin'. 

If you know me at all, take a quick look around his blog, and you'll quickly understand why I am so excited to be working with him.  I am a big believer in his methods and his apparent willingness to tell his athletes what they need to do to get better rather than just allowing them to do whatever they want.  As Chuckie V said today, "athletes who train how they need to always beat athletes who train how they want to." 

Looking forward to many years of training under you, Alan.  Let the chlorination begin!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ironman World Championships 70.3 - This ain't your momma's triathlon!

This is a special race. Everyone is fit. Everyone is fast. And EVERYONE can run. I know I’m not a strong swimmer. But my cycling has come a long ways the past couple of seasons. And running has always been my bread and butter. In most races, if I can stay close enough on the swim, I can usually make up some ground on the bike, and then attack the run. Not in Clearwater. Not at the World Championships. Dropped in the swim? Guess what. GAME OVER! Enjoy your next 3+ hours of racing. Because you have no chance.

Not that I had a bad swim (for me anyway). But this course, and everyone’s ability to run well under a 1:30 for the half marathon, sets up to really punish the weaker swimmers of the bunch. You have to be balanced to do well at this race. And by balanced I mean, you can’t have any weaknesses. Lesson learned. You want to play with the best? You’d better bring something more than a strong run.

The swim started out fine. They moved it to the causeway water due to the conditions in the ocean from Hurricane Ida. That changed the start to a time trial instead of waves. Basically, you walked across the timing mat, and your race started. It got very crowded and people were fighting to get in the water once they crossed that mat. I got a great feel for how international the race is while waiting in the starting chute. Two German guys were confused as to how to get into the water. It was only about one foot deep, so the officials announced that you would be disqualified for diving in. The German guys didn’t get the distinction between jumping in the water and “diving” head first. “Everyone is diving, no?” Nein. Don’t go head first. “AHHHH!!! Danke.” No problem, dude. Have a good race.

FOCUS on the swim. The time trial start was both good and bad. It was less crowded than most wave starts are. But the faster swimmers would run right up on you and you would do the same thing to the slower swimmers in front of you. I got kicked in the head a few times. All in all, I would prefer a mass wave start. I’m sure the guy that took second place in my age group would agree, since he lost by one second. Four hours and two minutes of racing, and this guy loses by one second—probably with no idea that it was that close because of the time trial start. Unbelievable.

About 400 meters into the swim, I was starting to settle in and find a good stroke when I noticed that we were swimming through a bunch of seaweed. The water was so shallow that my hands were hitting the sea bottom. I tried to swim shallow to not touch bottom, but I ended up cutting my middle finger on something. Of course, my first thought was “I’m bleeding in the ocean. Great.” It hurt, but there wasn’t much I could do about it so I just kept swimming. I had trouble finding the turn buoy because we were swimming directly into the sun. I just followed the others and eventually saw a red buoy—time to make hard left turn. 800 meters into the swim, and I stood up and walked around the buoy in water that didn’t even come up to my waste.

The only other trouble on the swim was the exit. It was very difficult to see where to go. With no practice on this course the days leading up to the race, I had no idea what to look for as I was swimming in. I kept having to stop and look around to get my bearings. Finally, I exited the water and headed to the transition—35 minutes after I started.

CONCEDE on the bike. This bike course was all that was advertised. Flat, fast, fairly windy, and lots of big groups of cyclists. About 15 minutes into the ride, Michael Dawdy went by me. That man is a beast on a bike! And he had EIGHT guys sitting right on his wheel. They were lined up like he was leading them on a breakaway. I’ve never seen guys ride that close in a triathlon before.

Not much else to say about the bike. I stayed aero, followed the race plan, stayed within my power zones, kept up with my nutrition, ignored all the guys that were passing me, and finished with plenty of legs to run on (or so I thought at the time). One of the most uneventful, near perfect bike splits of any long course race I’ve been in. The most interesting thing that happened was looking down at my hands and noticing that I was still bleeding from the swim. My new, white Fizik bar wrap is now stained with blood (as are my new white shoelaces. I don’t think I stopped bleeding until I stopped racing.).

I averaged 24.4 mph for the bike and finished in 2:17.

STAMPEDE on the run. That was the plan anyway. In almost every long course race, my lower quads cramp in the first mile of the run. This race was no different. About 4 minutes in, the cramping started. I usually just have to slow down a little until my legs realize that we are now running, not pedaling, and the cramping will subside. Sure enough, just as I started up the causeway, the cramping stopped and I was able to run strong. Not as strong as I had hoped, but close.

Speaking of the causeway . . . that thing is steep! I knew we had a “bridge” to run across four times, but I failed to consider the size of the ships that have to pass under that bridge. The first trip over it wasn’t too bad. I found my legs pretty quickly and ran the first 5 miles in just over 35 minutes. The second trip over the causeway took a little bit out of me. I slowed a little during that sixth mile. It didn’t last too long and soon, I was running strong again. I think the best I felt all day was during the second half of the seventh mile. I felt as strong as I have ever felt in a half Ironman.

Then I went over the causeway for a third time.

I had been taking Gatorade at every aid station up to that point. Gatorade will often upset my stomach, so I try to stick with gels. But when I’m working that hard, it’s almost impossible to eat a gel and keep up the pace. So I was taking one drink of Gatorade, followed by a drink of water, at every aid station. Just after the eighth mile, I was coming off the causeway, feeling strong, with only five miles to go, and I decided to skip one aid station. I don’t know if it was the day, the lack of focused training the past two months, skipping the Gatorade, the causeway, running too hard when I started feeling good, or a combination of all of these, but at that ninth mile, someone flipped a switch, and I entered a really low spot. Every step was a fight.

I did everything I could to keep my pace up, but to no avail. And when I cracked, I cracked! I slowed by about a minute a mile for the next two miles. I started taking Gatorade again, and managed to pull myself together for the last two miles. But by that point, it was too late. The damage was done.

I had run the first half in 46 minutes (only one minute off my goal pace). The second half took me 51 minutes. And that was mostly due to the last four miles. My total run time was 1:37.

Overall impressions. My total time was 4:37, which is my fastest time at this distance. I can look back now and see where I could have easily gone several minutes faster (for one thing, my transitions were pathetic!). But even looking at where I lost time, I think the best I could have done that day was possibly still not good enough to crack the top half in my age group.

This is very humbling (humiliating?) for me. I never thought I would go there and win. At least not this year. But I didn’t think I would be 100th place out of 137. I don’t think I really appreciated just how fast everyone there was going to be. Now I know. And next time, I’ll be ready for that. That race is all business. One thing’s for certain . . . it made me want to experience Kona even more. There’s just something about competing with the best that appeals to me. And I can’t wait to do it again. I will be back. But not until I am ready to actually compete.

Right now, I’m just not fast enough. And if I learned one thing, it's that just because you're fast enough to get there, doesn't mean you're fast enough to compete there.

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