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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Final Race of the Year - 70.3 World Championships

This Saturday is the last race of the year for me. The one that I have had on the calendar for more than a year now. Although work threw a wrench into my training this past month, I still feel as ready as I ever have for a half Ironman. And I better be! The competition at this race is going to be unlike any I have ever faced. A PR is not going to be good enough to crack the top third in my age group. I'm finally racing with the big dogs. Does that make me a big dog? Because for some reason, I don't quite feel like one yet.

Ryan (who will be making the trip to Clearwater to watch!) told me before Coeur d'Alene this year to "Race like you belong, because you do." I made the mistake of not truly believing that last June when I had all the problems at Coeur d'Alene. I'm still not fully convinced. Sometimes the only way to truly believe that you belong with the big dogs is to get out there and run with them. That way you at least find out one way or the other. And that's what I'm going to do.

You can watch the coverage of the race at here. Just find the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, click on "athlete tracker," and you can follow me throughout the morning (I apologize for not having a link directly to it, but it wasn't up when I wrote this. It should be easy to find on Saturday.).

Thank you to everyone for their support this year. I will post a full report when I get back to Texas next week.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coming Up For Air

Yes, I'm still alive. I've been crazy busy at work lately (two days off out of the last 30, and stayed at the office past 10:00 most nights). But that case has now settled, so . . . I'm coming up for air! With a demanding career, a two year old boy, a wife I love, and my athletic goals, this blog (unfortunately) has to take a back seat to everything else when I get swamped. But I'm back! And I promise I'll catch up on all the fun things I've been meaning to write about. As soon as I get back from Clearwater!

That's right, next weekend is the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. This will be my first trip to a World Championship. I'm very excited and honored to be a part of it. And if I'm not humbled, I'm sure I will be next weekend. I wonder how many of my competitors have spent the last month neck deep in a lawsuit?

I ran a solid race at the U.S. Open a few weeks back. It was a typical short course triathlon for me. Awful swim, first place on the bike, and a 38:22 10K for third place in my age-group. I missed the win by about a minute. But the two guys that beat me were about 5 minutes ahead of me out of the water. Ridiculous. If I could just keep up, I would win by several minutes.

As soon as I get back from Clearwater, swimming will be a VERY high priority in my life. Over the next few months you may notice a strong smell of chlorine whenever I'm around. Please excuse it. If you don't smell it, you have my permission to send me back to the pool. I've got lots of work to do!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ironman at Law: Sensored for Content

Well, the poor attempt at humor in my last post has apparently gotten my little blog banned in at least two offices. And since blogs are way more fun when they're read at work, I have given in to "the Man" and have sensored my own writing. From now on, no more references to [SENSORED] or [SENSORED]. And no matter what, I will definitely not refer to [SENSORED]!

By the way, the new bike is not yet ready. It arrived yesterday, and I should be able to pick it up tonight. The maiden voyage will likely occur on Thursday morning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bike [SENSORED] - Specialized S-Works Tarmac

What a beautiful bike! (Click on the picture for the "centerfold" sized version!). Yes, I am sick. But if this stripped down frame doesn't get your blood pumping, then you have no soul.

I am no longer coveting my neighbor's bike. I finally ordered this frame yesterday. And if all goes well, I will be riding it this weekend. I can't wait! I will report back on Monday with my thoughts.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Injury Prevention – Part 1 – Consistency is Key

This is a re-post (sort of) of a blog I wrote almost a year ago for the team site. I never finished what I started, so I decided to try again. I've updated it to reflect my thoughts/experiences in the past year. But for the most part, it's the same. Here goes . . .

When Billy asked me to share my thoughts on injury prevention, my first thought was “But I’m injured all the time!” In fact, I had skipped my run the morning he asked because of lingering pains in my feet since the Longhorn 70.3. But here I am, just a few weeks later, with little or no foot pain, back to a somewhat normal training schedule, and realizing that I really haven’t had to take any significant time off from training in several years. I think this is due to the numerous lessons I learned after the even more numerous mistakes I made when I first started in this sport more than seven years ago. So maybe I am qualified to give advice on the subject. Or to at least tell you all what has (and especially what hasn’t) worked for me.

But first, let me start off by saying that I am not a doctor. I am not a physiologist. Or a chiropractor. Or physical therapist. In fact, unless it is engineering or law related, I have had absolutely no formal training whatsoever as it relates to anything that I will write about on this blog. This is all based on my own reading and personal experiences (which, truth be told, I have probably done more studying of this subject than I ever did as an engineering student! Sorry, Dad.). It’s basically going to be “Here’s what I do and why.”

Ok, on with the show . . .

It’s important to note from the start that we are talking about the so-called “overuse injuries” not injuries that you get from traumatic experiences such as twisting a knee or crashing a bike. So why do we get overuse injuries? Put simply, we do more than our bodies are ready to handle at the time that we do it. Breaking it down even further, we do more than certain parts of our bodies can handle at the time that we do it. We’ve all heard this, but it bares repeating . . . Doing too much too soon, or going too hard too often, will eventually lead to injury.

I had an engineering professor that used to say that “In a perfect engineering world, all the parts to your car’s engine would completely fail at the same time.” His theory was that if our cars were perfectly engineered, then one day you would be driving along and every part of your car would break at the same time. In his mind, we don’t live in a perfect engineering world because certain parts wear out faster or at different rates than others.

Or more appropriate for this analogy, certain parts of the engine can handle stresses that other parts can’t handle. If you always drive 100 miles an hour, there are parts to your engine that will be able to handle the stress, but others that won't. Unfortunately, because the bigger, more powerful parts of the engine can handle those stresses, you won’t know that the smaller, more delicate parts, can’t handle it until it's too late and they fail.

This is a good analogy to our bodies, and I think describes overuse injuries in an easily understood way. Anyone who has had an extended lay off from training (and especially weight lifting) and then goes too hard or lifts too much their first trip back to the gym understands this phenomenon all too well. Sticking with the weightlifting example, if you haven’t lifted in a while, your bigger muscles will allow you to lift A LOT more than the smaller, more delicate, connective tissues are able to handle. This is why the days after your first weight training session, you generally feel like you've done some MAJOR damage to your muscles. You did too much too soon, but your body didn’t tell you until it was too late. Remember this feeling!

Breakthrough workouts are how we get stronger, faster, and build more endurance. But just because your body will allow you to run 15 miles when your longest run in the past 6 months was only 5 miles, doesn't mean you can pull it off without injuring yourself. It may not happen at first, but don't be fooled. You are setting yourself up for disaster.

I finish almost every workout feeling like I could have done more. There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part, you should not be pushing yourself to the brink of failure a majority of the time. There is a time and a place for this type of training. But not until you are ready for it, and even then, not too often. If you do, there will be muscles that can take it, and you may be able to train this way for a while. But eventually, this type of overload will lead to injury.

So how do we make sure we aren’t overdoing it? Patience and Consistency. Patience to wait until the time is right to tackle that Ironman/Marathon you've always dreamed of. And consistency to gradually build up your body to the point that it can handle the training and intensity necessary for tackling such an event. I'm talking about years, not weeks or even months. The more consistent you are with your workouts, the more consistent you are with your recovery, and the more consistent you are with your nutrition, the less likely you will get overuse injuries, as long as you are also paying attention to your body. And as long as you are patient.

It took me 5 years before I was finally able to attempt an Ironman. I signed up for one just one year after I got into this sport. But injuries kept me from doing it. I was injured more in the first few years of my involvement in this sport than I have been in the last 5. I now train harder, longer, and have raced more and more every year since. Be patient! I'm not saying you can't complete an Ironman or marathon your first year in the sport. But I am saying you will definitely be faster, stronger, and enjoy this sport a lot longer if you are patient and don't rush into racing longer than you are ready for.

Some people say that there is no such thing as "overuse." They argue that in reality, you are under trained for the training/racing you are doing. It's really just semantics, but the point is, you have to train in order to train more and/or at higher intensities. I can handle the 20 hour weeks at the intensities that I put in because I have been consistent for years. The pros put in 30+ hour weeks at even higher intensities because they have been even more consistent for even longer. If I were to go out and put in 30 hour weeks for the next month, I would injure myself (if I could even last a month!). I could handle 30+ hour weeks only if I were to slowly increase my training (and quit my job so that I could spend time recovering properly!). Know your current limits.

As for the here and now, don’t take extended lay off periods (I hate the term "off season" because it tends to make people think they shouldn't be doing anything). Try to do something (even if it’s just a 20 minute easy run) 5-6 days a week (AND ALWAYS TAKE ONE FULL RECOVERY DAY no matter what time of year it is – but more on this in a later post!). Don't try to bite off more than you can chew. You'll get there. It just takes time.

Don't overestimate what you can do in the short term. But more importantly, don't underestimate what you can do in the long term if you are patient and consistent.

Consistency is key. You’ll see this theme throughout my thoughts on this subject. That’s all I’m going to write today. The rest of the posts will be themed around what I do at different times. So I think I’ll do a post on how I prepare for a workout/race; things I do during a workout/race; things I do immediately after a workout/race; and then just recovery in general since that’s all the rest of the times of the day. Of course, like any good training plan, this could all change as we go along, especially if you ask questions, like I’m hoping you will. If what I write doesn’t make sense, please tell me using the comments section, or shoot me an email and I’ll be sure to respond.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Agra Strikes Again!: Dangers of Soy

If you eat or drink soy products--and especially if you feed them to your children!--the link below is a must read. But first, a little background on the soybean . . .

In a nutshell, soy was originally used to help put nitrogen back into the soils that were depleted from the less than sustainable practices of modern American agriculture. The soybean plant is very good at enriching soils with nitrogen, which is necessary to have a healthy soil. That led to the soy being the second most abundant "crop" in America (behind corn, which is NOT A VEGETABLE, people. It's a grain. Yes, that matters, but that's for another post!).

So what do you do when you're Big Agra and, by necessity, you have a lot of soy? Well, apparently, you market it as a healthy alternative to meat. Those folks at Big Agra are geniuses. But if the following is true . . . they are Evil Geniuses.

Dangers of Soy

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Friday, August 14, 2009

5430 Long Course Results - PASS!!

For all of you that have been eagerly awaiting a race recap from the 5430 Long Course in Boulder, here it is: I had fun. So based on my goals for the event, I passed. Yes, it was the slowest half-Ironman I've had in years. Yes, the altitude affected me more than normal, so every time I tried to increase my effort I felt like my lungs would explode. Yes, I think I was more dehydrated than I've ever been in my life (first time I've considered asking for an IV at the finish). And yes, Ryan, my Ironman protege, beat me by 7 minutes (nice job, Ryno!). But I had fun, and that was the goal.

It's really hard not to have fun when you're training or racing in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is where triathletes go when they die. The really good ones live there already. For example, Chrissie Wellington was in the race, among many other outstanding pros. The reigning men's Ironman World Champion, Craig Alexander, was also there, but not racing. I saw him training during the race. About eight miles into the bike course, I looked over and saw him RUNNING. Yes, running down the bike course on highway 36. And I was only eight miles in, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't hallucinating yet. You hardly ever see pros of that quality in Rockwall, Texas. And by "hardly ever" I, of course, mean "never." Since I'm not going to Kona, that's the only time this year I'll get to race/train on the same roads as the reigning men's and women's Ironman World Champions. At least I did it once this year. Pretty cool.

I took the above picture while walking around at the race site the day before the race. This is the view that you have about 500 meters from the finish. Like I said, it's hard not to have fun when this is the scenery. The bike course is even better.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Arkansas to join some fellow Tri-Prosoapers (and my sister) at the DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon on Sunday. Then next week, I'm racing in Rockwall at the annual Tri-Rock (another sprint). That will be three races in three states in three weeks. Should be fun. And fast. Like I said in my last post, time to get fast.

Friday, August 7, 2009

We Don't Get to Pick Our Bad Days

Sunday will be seven weeks since I finished my third Ironman--Ironman Coeur d'Alene. It will be seven weeks since I had the worst swim I've ever had in an Ironman. Seven weeks since I spent 20+ miles unable to shift into the big chainring. Seven weeks since 96 miles into the race my crank came off my bike while going 22 mph, which then caused me to break my aerobars and somehow avoid having the worst crash of my life. Seven weeks since I sat at the side of the road waiting on a mechanic to come make my bike ridable again. Seven weeks since I secretly hoped it couldn't be fixed so that I would have an excuse to quit. Seven weeks since the first time I've taken longer than 4 hours to run 26.2 miles (only one minute longer, but still, longer). Seven weeks since I decided that, for me, the reward of just finishing is not worth the sacrifice it takes to get there.

See, I've "just finished" three Ironmans, three years in a row. I'm tired of "just finishing." I keep telling myself (mainly because Lindsay keeps telling me) that it was only one bad day. And we don't get to pick our bad days. But when our bad day happens to fall on the most important racing day of the past three years, that does something to your confidence. Before I even finished the bike leg, I started wondering what all of this is worth. In order to race (and I mean, RACE, not finish) an Ironman you have to make incredible sacrifices to your other goals. I'm not talking about the sacrifices of everyday life that it takes just to compete in an Ironman. I'm talking about all of my athletic goals.

For example, I've never run the Boston Marathon. I've never done as much cycling road racing as I'd like to do. I've never made a 70.3 race an A-race. In fact, in the past three years, no race other than an Ironman has been an A-race. 70.3s are my favorite distance. But I've never focused on doing one right. Ironman makes you slower at everything. You can still be relatively fast. But you will never be as fast as you could be as long as your focus is on the Ironman distance. So for me, the rest of this year, and at least the first half of next year, is focused on getting faster.

The rest of this year is totally dedicated to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in November. I have no goals of winning or qualifying for anything. I just want to see how fast I can go. Lindsay and I will figure out a more specific time goal over the next couple of months. But for now, we're just focusing on making me fast.

Ironically enough, I leave for Boulder today for the 5430 Long Course Race, which was my "bad day" last year. Ryan is racing again, so I'm eager to see his progression. And my goal is to just have fun and gain back my confidence. No time goals, and no goals that can be affected by anything that is out of my control. My goal is simply to PASS. If I have fun and enjoy the day, then I PASS. If I get frustrated, angry, pouty, upset, etc., then I FAIL. Either way, it will be a good training day and a good time with a very good friend. Once I get back to Dallas, it's time to get busy getting fast.

I may still do an Ironman next year. But if so, I'm going back to Arizona in November. No Spring Ironman next year. That will give me lots of time to focus on speed before we start the long haul back to Arizona. And it will allow me to concentrate on that other race that I've been putting off for way too long . . . the Boston Marathon. Anybody want to meet up in Boston?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Typical Monday

Monday is usually a rest day for me. I'm usually pretty tired by Monday morning. As most age-groupers can appreciate, the weekend is when I train the longest. Not always the hardest, but definitely the longest. So by Monday morning, I'm usually tired, sore, and ready to rest.

I have a routine that I have done almost every Monday for the past several years. At lunch, I pull up my previous week's schedule on my CTS personal page. I take this time to reflect on the week. I download my power files, update my training log from the weekend, and reflect on how everything went, how I'm feeling, what questions/concerns I have or expect Lindsay to have, etc.

Then, I put that week away. No matter how good/bad it went, it's over. What's done is done. Time to move on and prepare my mind for the week ahead.

So I click the "next" button and pull up my schedule for the current week. I look at all my workouts for the week, specifically picking out the key workouts that I know are the most important ones to focus on that particular week. These are often my weekend workouts, and reminding myself what's in store helps me get my head around what's to come. The workouts are written out with lots of detail. Time, intensity, intervals, rest intervals, power, etc. There's even a section for coach's comments where Lindsay will fill in any details that might not be apparent from the listed workout. It's very descriptive, and I like it that way.

I like routines. There are almost never surprises when I check my weekly schedule. Monday at lunch is never the first time I've seen what's on tap for that particular week. But some Mondays the schedule looks a little different than usual. And some Mondays it puts a knot in my stomach that doesn't go away for hours.

Today was one of those Mondays.

Today, I put in my comments from the past weekend: ". . . went a little faster on this run than you wanted me to, but I felt fine afterwards. . . . Felt good on the bike today . . . . the heat index today was over 100 and I didn't get on my bike until after noon . . . . " Then I turned my focus to this week.

Immediately, I noticed Sunday. The only thing it says is: "Race-Ironman." No intervals. No prescribed workout duration. No coach's comments. Just "Race-Ironman." Not much else to say about that.

There's nothing else physically I can do to prepare for Sunday. But I have six more days to get prepared mentally. Time to get my head in the game.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Slowest Sixteen Days of the Year

I have sixteen days left until Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I am therefore in full taper mode. Yuck.

This is the time of year that I don't sleep well, I'm irritable, hungry, my muscles ache, and self-doubt starts to creep in. The only time I feel really good is after 10-20 minutes of running or riding. I'm starting to feel refreshed, which scares me because it's too early to feel this good (there's that self doubt again!). But I'm not allowed to open it up on the bike or during a run. "Save it for race day," Lindsay says. If race day doesn't come soon, I may explode.

In other news, I've had two races since my last update. I raced the inaugural Rotary Classic Rock Sprint Triathlon in Rockwall (where I live), and then one week later we made the trip down for the CapTex Olympic in Austin. Last year, I never felt like I raced well leading into the Ironman. This year, I haven't peaked yet (which is good), but I'm off to a much better start than last year.

I've been reasonably happy with both results. I ran 5:44 pace off the bike and finished second overall at the sprint. At the CapTex, I was over 3 minutes faster on the swim, only 4 seconds faster on the bike (although the course changed a little and some say there was an extra hill or two), and I was close to 4 minutes faster on the run. I wanted to break 40 minutes on the run, but was only able to do just over 41. Still, in one year, I had a much better swim, a faster bike split, and then ran a solid, steady pace, which was also faster than last year. That should mean that I'm ready to have a good day in Idaho.

Last weekend was my last long ride and run before the race. I felt good and had better results than in years past. This weekend I'll be doing a long(ish) bike/run brick on Saturday (40+mile ride followed by a 10+ mile run), and a swim/bike brick on Sunday (3800 meter swim (i.e., ironman distance) followed by a 40 mile bike).

I'm looking forward to these workouts. For one thing, I have some extra energy to burn, and this is my last chance to really wear myself out before the race. But the best thing about this weekend's schedule is that it looks fairly easy compared to the weekends I've had for the past several months. That tells me that my taper is going well, and more importantly, my mind is ready to race an Ironman. Hopefully, my body is ready as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First Race of the Year: Blah!

Sunday was my first triathlon this year. 13th overall and 2nd place in my age group. Glad that one's out of the way because that was not my best effort. I didn't really take this race seriously, and it cost me.

Most of you know that I am very meticulous when it comes to my race preparation (or anything else for that matter). In fact, I've been called OCD once or twice. Sometimes people refer to my little tendencies as "anal" which I find disturbing. I'm not sure where the term "anal" originated. It really makes no sense! Why anyone would use that part of the human anatomy to describe my tendencies toward perfection is beyond my comprehension. (Ironically, the fact that I just took time out of this blog post to decipher "anal" vs. "OCD" is probably a symptom of my OCD. Or would that be ADD? Never mind. Just don't call me anal!).

Back to Sunday. I didn't take the race seriously, and therefore failed to plan properly. I ended up trying to pull all my gear together at 10:00 the night before the race (when I had to get up at 4:00 to be there on time).

I haven't swam in a wetsuit since my last race last year (i.e., October . . . SIX MONTHS AGO!). I realized this when I pulled my wetsuit from the bottom of my closet, turned it right side out, and found that it was covered in mud from the Longhorn 70.3. I wondered then if my swim would be any good, or if I would practically lose the race in the water. As it turned out, my swim was no good and I lost the race in the water. I've had issues with this wetsuit since I bought it last year. I'm swimming significantly slower in that wetsuit than I am in training or in races where I'm not in that wetsuit. I don't like to blame poor performances on equipment ("It's the poor musician who blames his instrument!"). But after several consistent problems, I think it's time to find another one.

I had a decent bike ride, and this was the first time I have raced with a power meter. I averaged 23.6 for the bike course, and was the fourth fastest bike split. I managed to take back all of the time that I gave up in the swim to the eventual winner. But then, I took too much time in the second transition.

Generally, I don't wear socks on the run of any race shorter than a half Ironman (I never wear socks on the bike in a race). However, I have never run barefoot in the Newtons (bad preparation). So I decided to put on socks for the run. This took too long, and the winner passed me in transition. Actually, he passed me a few seconds after we left transition, and I never saw him. Even if he was running faster than me, he would not have passed me until a couple of miles into the run if I had just had an average transition time for me. And if he had passed me with a mile to go, I would have noticed, and would have fought to beat him.

As it was, I was not all that motivated to work any harder than I did. I only averaged 6:25s. I'm generally at 6:00 or faster per mile in a race this short, so I know I could have run with him if I had known he was there. I'm disappointed in myself for not running faster regardless of where anyone else was on the course. That's not me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not making excuses for my lackluster performance. I'm simply venting about the fact that I: (a) did not take a race seriously; (b) did not prepare properly; and (c) did not try hard enough. All of those things cost me a top 10 overall and another age group win. If I give it my all, and I get second place, great! That's a fantastic result! But if I don't prepare, I don't take the race seriously, I don't try my hardest, and I get second place . . . well that's disappointing. I can't help who else shows up at a race. But I can help how prepared I am and how much effort I put forth.

Silver lining: This was a wake-up call. I'm glad I got the first race of the season out of the way. Time to move on. And time to prepare properly! Like the title of this blog says: "The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare." That means more than just getting in the training.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fantasy (Tour of) Flanders; It's Going to be Scrum-diddly-umptious!

I've never played any kind of Fantasy Sports. My wife plays Fantasy Football every year, and usually does quite well. But I've never felt like I had the time to deal with it. Until now!

Don't get me wrong. There are not many sports that I don't enjoy watching (especially football). But no sport is as exciting as Professional Cycling (if you disagree, then you just don't understand the sport). And there is nothing more exciting than the spring, single-day classics in April!

So some friends of mine at work and I are having a little Fantasy Cycling pool during the month of April. Starting this weekend, with the Tour of Flanders. We have drafted three riders each. We will re-draft riders for the other two races in our pool (Paris-Roubaix and Leige-Bastogne-Leige). I got the first pick in our draft today since I was last place at our Tour de France pool last year (yes, I know, humiliating!). I ended up with "Big" Tom Boonen, "Big" George Hincapie, and "Perfect Size" (since he's only slightly smaller than me) Juan Antonio Flecha.

I'm hoping my team does well for me. Usually, when I pick riders for a team, they either crash out or get kicked out for doping (e.g., the last Rabobank rider I chose, Michael Rasmussen). Ahh yes. Michael Rasmussen. That jerk almost ruined my son's life!

You see, since I knew I would take time off when my son was born, I convinced my wife in September/October of 2006 that we should have a baby. That way, he (since I was sure we would have a boy!) would be born in July, just in time for the Tour! That turned out to be perfect timing for my "paternity leave" as I was then able to stay at home for most of the month of July in 2007 and take care of my wife and newborn WATCH THE TOUR!!! However, as I tend to get carried away with things when it comes to my excitement over professional cycling, this almost turned out horribly for my son.

Just before the Tour started, and just before my wife's "due date," I made a pledge to several friends that I would name my son after whomever won the stage the day he was born. As it turned out, my son was over a week late, so the Tour rolled along and he missed out on all the best names. We missed out on Fabian Cancellara Brooks, Thor Hushovd Brooks, Tom Boonen Brooks, and my personal favorite, Filippo Pozzato Brooks (I tried everything possible to induce labor on that day!).

But alas, he was born on July 15, the day that Michael Rasmussen won the stage. And while I can think of worse names than Michael to name a son--that's my cousin's and my brother-in-law's name--I can't think of a worse cyclist to name my son after (as he is a dirty cheater!). In the end, we decided to name him after my dad, John, who has, coincidentally, never won a stage at the Tour de France, but as far as I know has never taken performance enhancing drugs either. Oh well, maybe we'll have another child soon and we can name her (since we already have a boy) after this year's winner of this week's Tour of Flanders. I'm hoping that her name will be Juan Antonio Brooks, George Hincapie Brooks, or Tom Boonen Brooks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

SRM vs. PowerTap

A while back I mentioned that the CFO (aka, my lovely wife), had recently authorized a new purchase. Several of you have guessed that I was getting a new bike. Others thought it was new wheels. You were all correct that it is bike related. After a few years of riding with a PowerTap power meter, and racing without one, I am the new proud owner of an SRM power meter!

Yes, it's used. I haven't ridden it enough yet to cause that much crank rub. But I have ridden with it enough to know that it is WELL worth the extra price over the PowerTap. And if you want to race with the PowerTap, those $850+ hubs for all of your race wheels will quickly add up to more than the cost of an SRM.

So far, there are several things I like better about the SRM:

1. I can finally race with power. Because PowerTap measures power from the rear hub, you have to either race on your training wheel, or buy new hubs for every wheel you race with. And as you know, from my latest marathon adventure, I am an idiot when it comes to pacing during a race. The SRM measures power in the cranks, so it doesn't matter what wheels you are riding on. Now, I can race with whatever wheels I want (including a disc), and still get instant feedback, which should keep me from going out too hard in an Ironman or even a 70.3 race.

2. The computer displays more information. The PowerTap only shows Power, Speed, and one other reading, so you have to toggle to see distance, time, cadence, work, and heart rate. This is very distracting when you're trying to do intervals and you need to see, for example, cadence and time. You can leave it on cadence, but then if you want to know how much more time is left in the interval, you have to push a button SEVEN TIMES to get back to time! That can actually be dangerous if you're working hard during the interval. The SRM computer, as you can see here:

displays power, heart rate, speed, and cadence all at the same time, while time and distance toggles back and forth on its own. Much better for those intervals! Speaking of intervals . . .

3. Interval times on the SRM start over from 0:00 so that the time you are looking at during the interval is the actual time you have been doing the interval. The PowerTap will record splits, but you can only look at the overall ride time, not the time you have been doing the interval. In other words, you have to do math and remember what time you started the interval! This is very annoying. Let's say you're doing 8 minute intervals with 6 minute recovery intervals. You warm up for 15 minutes, and start your interval. That means you have to remember that your first interval ends at 23 minutes, you start the next at 29, then it ends at 37, and so on. With the SRM, you start the interval at 15 minutes, and the time goes back to zero. When the interval is over, the time goes back to your total ride time. Again, MUCH better than the PowerTap.

Some people complain that because the SRM is in the cranks, you can only use it on one bike. NOT TRUE. If you add a sensor to your second bike, you can swap the cranks back and forth to whichever bike you are riding that day. This takes less than 10 minutes, and is perfectly safe if you know what you're doing.

I can't wait to do some shorter races and find out what kind of power I can push for a sprint or Olympic distance event! It's impossible to push yourself in training as hard as you can push in a race. Now we're going to know exactly how hard I can work under race conditions. But more importantly, I'm going to know early on in an Ironman bike leg, whether I'm working too hard, long before it's too late to do something about it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Newton Project - "Adjusting" to My New Drug

It's been just over a month since the Austin Marathon. It always seems to take me longer than I expect to fully recover from such an event. What usually happens is I feel like I'm recovered but as soon as I try to pick up the intensity, my legs remind me that it's only been a couple of weeks and that they are still tired. I think that's what it must feel like to get old. I KNOW I can run faster than this! I remember when I used to. But I just can't make my legs do it anymore!

Just after the marathon, I received a box in the mail. The return address said "Boulder, CO" but I think that's just a cover for Newtopia because when I opened the box, this is what I found:

A brand new pair of (free) Newton running shoes. To recap, when we first discussed my foray into Newtopia, I had sworn them off forever! And then, just one week later (and still not recovered from the PAIN caused by the first run in them), Tory from Newtopia made me an offer I can't refuse, and I agreed to give them another try. The plan was to run in them for 10-15 minutes at a time and then switch back to my Brooks shoes for the remainder of my runs. In theory, over time, I would increase the time spent in the Newtons until I was running exclusively in them, recovering faster, running further, and generally enjoying life (hopefully, injury free).

My experience thus far:

I've run in them four more times now, and I'm getting more and more sold on them with every run. I think just running in them the first time (Dec. 26), pointed out the "flaws" in my running stride. I wasn't someone that you would consider a "heel striker" but I was definitely landing on my heels more than I thought I was (especially late in a hard run after I started to get tired). Since December, I've worked on consistently landing more on my mid to fore foot rather than my heels. So when I got the Newtons in the mail, I couldn't wait to slip them on and go for a run! But having learned my lesson in December (and after reading Linday's comments that "Athletes that meet their goals on time are the ones that don't make the same mistakes twice"), I decided to stick with the plan of only running 10-15 minutes at a time in them.

My four runs in them so far: (1) the first 15 minutes of a 40 minute treadmill run - after 10 minutes, I considered pushing it to 20, but after 15, my legs were tightening up, so I switched to my Brooks; (2&3) the first 20 minutes of a 50 and 60 minute run; (3) 25 minutes on the treadmill during my "rest" day this week.

At first, I was fairly sore the mornings after running in them. But this week, after my 25 minute run, I was not sore at all. In fact, I felt like I could have run a lot further in them than I did, but I called it a day after 25 minutes, since technically I wasn't supposed to be running at all that day. Regardless, I'm adjusting to the shoes faster than I expected to.

My thoughts thus far:

For all of my running life, the first 15 minutes of most runs was the worst. It just always seems to take at least two miles to get in a groove and feel like I can run. But for my past four runs, the first 15-25 minutes of running have been fantastic. I can't explain it, but running in those shoes makes me feel faster, lighter, and more comfortable than I have ever felt in a traditional running shoe. Now, the first two or so miles of running after I switch back to my Brooks are the worst part of every run. I eventually get the feel for them again, but I never feel as good as I did when I was in the Newtons.

One thing is for sure, the Newtons have completely ruined my Brooks shoes for me. After running in the Newtons, my Brooks (and a pair of Nike's I have) feel heavy, clunky, old, and even less cushioned, even though they are supposed to be MORE cushioned. The best way I can describe the difference is that the Brooks shoes feel "flat." My Brooks only have about 150 miles on them, but they feel like they have two or three times that. Imagine riding a bike on a smooth, paved road and all of a sudden you're riding on the beach. That's what it's like when I switch back to the Brooks.

The problem is, after too much of my Newtopian bliss, I still get a debilitating lower calf hangover if I run too far in them. If I don't (as they say) "adjust" to these shoes soon, I may go crazy. Patience has never been one of my strong points. And now that I've tasted what those Newtonian "drug dealers" have to offer, I want more! I've heard that drug dealers will often offer potential customers a free sample of their "product," knowing that the potential customer will soon be hooked and will then come back for more. But upon returning, the helpless addict will be forced to pay a premium to get his or her fix. Welcome to Newtopia, my friend. Yes, the lower calf hangovers can be hard to take at times (I'm still trying to build up my tolerance). And the premium you pay to get your Newtopia fix ($175 a pop), can be hard to swallow if your used to paying a lot less than that for running shoes.

Oh, but that spring in your step just 2-3 weeks after a marathon, that normally takes at least a month to come back. And the feeling I get when running in these shoes . . . well that, my friends, is worth the price of admission. I just hope my tolerance builds up soon before I decide I will never "adjust." I had a hard enough time finding running shoes I liked before I tasted Newtopian bliss. I can't imagine ever finding a shoe that feels this good. Even if it's only for 25 minutes.

I'll keep you posted . . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pie, Cadence, and Manipulation

Lindsay knows just how to manipulate me. She just sent me the above chart. It's a breakdown of my cycling cadence over the last two months. Honestly, I had no idea she had such capabilities. But since she knows I am motivated by numbers (and that I'm a huge dork), she sent it to me. It's hard to read, but all that is really important is that the green section represents the percentage of time that my cadence is 80-90 rpms, and the blue is the percentage of time that my cadence is 90-100 rpms. It would be much better if the green and the blue were reversed (i.e., I should be pedalling more often in the 90-100 range and less often in the 80-90 range).

This is really just Lindsay's way of telling me that I need to pedal a little faster. She knows me quite well by now, and knows that if she tells me to keep my cadence a little higher, I may or may not do it. But if she shows me a chart with a breakdown of my cadence, and tells me to make it look different, then like a monkey doing tricks for a banana, I will stop at nothing to make this chart look PERFECT!!

However, while Lindsay has taken into account my OCD in sharing this chart with me, I'm worried that she may not fully appreciate the extent of my obsessiveness. I'm now concerned that I am going to try to pedal at 60-70 cadence 75% of the time for the next 2 months. That way, the next time she sends me this chart, it will look more like this:

Maybe she should change 90-100 to yellow, just to be safe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Austin Marathon - Pacing for Dummies

Yesterday, a friend that keeps up with my blog on Google Reader informed me that I only post 0.5 times per week. My first thought was, "Wow! That much?!" But then I realized that once every two weeks is not so good if I want to keep any readership whatsoever. More importantly, though, is that I keep my job. And with how busy I am at work right now, I have been missing workouts. And I can't very well explain to Lindsay that I don't have time to swim, but I do have time to blog. Regardless, as my friend is aware, I am motivated by numbers. At work, it's the billable hour. With racing, it's obviously the clock that I'm obsessed with. And now, I have new motivation to write more on this blog: My Google Reader Rating must rise!!!

So last weekend my wife (aka, Krisha; aka, the CFO) and I went to Austin, Texas for the Austin Marathon. Before Sunday, I was unaware that there was a 26.2 mile stretch of road in Texas that has absolutely ZERO flat parts. I guess, technically, the very top and very bottom of each hill is flat, just before it starts to go back up or back down again, but you get my point. That is one hilly race! Luckily, or so I thought, I do lots of running on hills. The route I run most of the time has several big hills that come into play on almost every run. The hills at the marathon, however, were shorter, steeper, and there were A LOT more of them. All this to say, I screwed it up. Long story short, I started out too fast (as I always do!).

Lindsay's last bit of encouragement just before the race was, "I know you will have a good race. Just remember to be consistent from mile 1." Easy enough. The plan was to run each and every mile between 7:00 and 7:10, thus finishing with a Boston Qualifying time of between 3:03 and 3:08. Even if I slowed down after 20 miles or so, I would still have two minutes to spare! So with my perfect plan in place, the gun went off, and I started running. Here are my splits and my thoughts during the race:

Mile 1 - 6:46 (Oops, settle down there, Seabiscuit.)
Mile 2 - 7:02 (There we go, time to settle in for a while.)
Mile 3 - 6:51 (Um, slow it back down, tough guy!)
Mile 4 - 6:41 (Hey, moron, what are you thinking!? Answer - "Man, I have to pee!")
Mile 5 - 7:23 (I stopped to pee for a little over 40 seconds, which means this was another 6:40 mile)
Mile 6 - 6:46 (Ok, I tried to warn you. You will pay for this later.)
Mile 7 - 6:46 (Oh yes, you will pay dearly. You just wait.)
Mile 8 - 7:09 (Woo hoo! Back on track!)

Mile 9 - 7:01 (Now we're talkin. And I'm still feeling pretty good! Maybe I'll be ok.)
Mile 10 - 6:50 (Alright, whatever, let's see what we can do!)
Mile 11 - 7:29 (Hmm, that mile was pretty hilly. Maybe I'm still alright.)
Mile 12 - 7:32 (Another hilly mile. The downhills were really starting to hurt at this point.)
Mile 13 - 7:11 (Back on track. Strong first half. Hang in there.)
Mile 14 - 7:22 (This is going to hurt.)
Mile 15 - 7:27 (Oh dear.)
Mile 16 - 7:48 (That's ok. You knew this was coming. "Only" 10 more miles.")
Mile 17 - 7:44 (Alright, this hurts. But whatever happens, surely you can keep it under 8 minutes!)
Mile 18 - 8:01 (Hmm, maybe not.)
Mile 19 - 7:48 (Seven more miles at 8 minute pace . . . Ok, that's less than an hour, hang in there.)
Mile 20 - 8:06 (Just keep running.)
Mile 21 - 7:47 (Just keep running.)
Mile 22 - 8:58 (Uh oh.)
Mile 23 - 8:43 (Mommy!?)
Mile 24 - 8:18 (YOU WILL NOT WALK! You will pay for your idiocy!!)
Mile 25 - 8:53 (How are those two girls passing me and talking?! And one of them is wearing pink Newtons. Great.)
Mile 26 - 8:16 (Only 0.2 miles. Hey wait, is that another hill!? NOOOOO!!!!)
Last 0.2 - 1:40 (Must. Eat. NOW. Hey look! Doritos!!!!)

Total Time - 3:18.27. I'm not embarrassed with that. But I'm not really happy with it either. I know I would have done ten minutes better (at least) if I had just been able to start out smarter. I've run stupid races before, but usually I'm thinking "Man, I feel good! Maybe I can hold this pace?!" But I've run enough marathons that this time I knew from the beginning that this one was not going to end well for me. And it didn't. I could not get control of my pacing, and it finally caught up with me.

I will say that running those last four miles was quite possibly the most painful athletic experience of my life (at least the most painful one that I remember). So at least I learned that I can run for a LONG time in a LOT of pain. That's good. I think I'm going to need that in Coeur d'Alene this year if I want to get to Kona. As Lindsay recently said, "This is a good training marker for the Ironman. Remember, every day training and racing is important and makes you stronger for the next training session and race. It is all part of the bigger picture!"

Bigger picture indeed. Time to move on to Ironman training. Four months to race day, and I'm starting that four month block with a 3:18 marathon. I'll take it! And speaking of Coeur d'Alene, Kona qualifying, training/racing smart, and learning how to pace in a race . . . the CFO has recently authorized a new purchase that I can't wait to tell you about! But that will have to wait for another post. I need to increase my Google Reader status!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

After almost two years of intrigue, my recent experience had finally convinced me to give up on the notion that Newton Running shoes might be the perfect running shoe for me. If you have no idea what I'm talking about (first of all . . . where've you been?!?!), read this first (and be sure to read the comments).

As you can see, the Ironman at Law Blog is read way up in the land of Newtonia (either that, or those pesky spies at Google tattled on me). I haven't been able to locate Newtonia on my little "recent visitors" map, but I think it's near Boulder. Anyway, one of the Newtonians left a comment this week explaining that it was possibly the user, not the shoes, that were the problem. ("It's not me, it's you!") Yesterday morning, I spoke with the Newtonian that left the comment. Let's call her . . . Tory (since that's her name). And I must say that the Newtonians are very nice people. I wish more companies would take the time to talk with their customers the way Tory took the time to talk to me.

Two things in particular surprised me about our conversation. First, I expected the Newtonians to believe that everyone should be running in their shoes. This is not the case. "Nothing is for everyone" was one of the first things Tory said. And while Tory and I may still have different opinions about the percentage of runners that "should" be wearing Newtons, the fact that she did not say 100% was a pleasant surprise to me. The way I understand it, Newtons are designed to get us to run the way we were designed to run. Traditional running shoes are designed to keep us from hurting ourselves when we decide to run in a way that we weren't necessarily designed to do. Whenever we try to outsmart our Creator, bad things tend to happen (see, e.g., processed cheese and high fructose corn syrup).

This is why I've wanted to try the shoes for so long. Even though I was a candidate for motion control shoes, the more I ran in them, the more I was injured. Several years ago, I finally gave up on them, corrected my running form, shortened my stride, increased my cadence (I run with a 90-95 cadence now), and am now running a lot more miles, a lot faster, with a lot less injuries. This is what Newton Running is trying to encourage.

Tory also explained how to adjust to the shoes in a way that is somewhat different (or perhaps just more detailed) than the information found on the Newton website. The website says, "A general rule would be to take it easy for several runs. Enjoy the new feeling and do runs of 2 to 4 miles until you have about 25 miles total. At this point you should be fully adjusted and ready to go farther and faster." I had read this prior to trying the shoes, but like most people, did not want to decrease my mileage to only running 2-4 miles at a time until I adjusted to the shoes. I therefore planned to do one or two short runs a week in them, and do the rest in my traditional running shoes. You know the rest of the story.

Tory explained what sounds like a better approach to me. She suggests starting each run by running in the Newtons for 10-15 minutes, then changing into your normal shoes to finish your workout. After a while, you are able to increase the amount of time in the Newtons until you are eventually running all of your miles in them.

Ok, that makes sense, but I was still not convinced. That sounds like A LOT of trouble. "What's the benefit?" I asked, "Are you saying that if I take the time to adjust to these shoes, that I will be faster?" Her answer was the second thing that surprised me about the conversation. She said, "No. I can't guarantee more speed. But what I can say is that because of the technology, you will not do as much damage during your runs and you will recover faster than in a traditional running shoe." I followed up with, "So you personally notice a significant difference in your recovery time now that you run in the Newtons?" Her answer, "Absolutely."

WOW! Now they have my attention! I'm drinking the Newtonian Kool-Aid (or in my case, the Grape Soda)!

Every endurance athlete spends lots of time and even more money trying to figure out ways to recover faster. Just look at all the products out there (both legal and illegal) that are designed to get you back to training faster. We probably spend more money on recovery shakes than any of the other foods in our pantries. We wear compression socks/pants/shirts that promote blood flow to our muscles while we sleep and ride in planes. If recovery is what you're selling, endurance athletes (triathletes especially) are buying!

But how confident are they? Well, after my marathon in February, Tory has offered to send me a pair to try. I will then update all (or both?) of you, my faithful readers, about my experience. You and I will find out together if they will completely ruin me, or if the benefits outweigh the inconvenience of "adjusting" to the shoes. So far, I'm not yet convinced. My recovery time for my first 6 miles in them was a little over two weeks. But as the saying goes, "It's the poor musician who blames his instrument." This time, I will play it the way they tell me.

So that's where the Newton Project stands. After swearing to never run in them again, Tory served me up a nice tall glass of grape flavored Recovery Drink. And I'm preparing to drink it down with a huge smile. I may someday run in a blissful state of Newtopia. Or I may once again end up with a purple tongue, a stomach ache, and begging Lindsay for forgiveness. But either way, I will tell you all about it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Update - Bad Timing on Out-And-Backs

Well, I think it's safe to say that my self-induced calf injury is a thing of the past. I only have a handful of weeks (5 to be exact) until the Austin Marathon, so I had no choice but to get a quality long run in this weekend. Saturday was my day. It was cold and the wind was blowing over 20 mph, but I bundled up and headed out the door, hoping for the best.

I had planned to do a 2 hour run, so I was going out an hour and then turning around. That works well if you run EXACTLY the same speed on the way out as you do on the way in. I, unfortunately, NEVER do that. So I'm forced with either running past my house at the end of the run, or running longer on the way out and risking making a the run longer than it was supposed to be. At the 53 minute mark, I had a choice to make. Turn left, down a familiar path, and run out of road in less than two minutes, meaning I would likely get home early. Or turn right, down a road I had never been down before and risk upsetting the Drama Queen that is my brain since I wouldn't know EXACTLY where to turn around (YES, I am OCD!). There is not much I hate more than getting home early during a workout. It's worse on the bike because I basically have to soft pedal around the neighborhood just to get the last two minutes in so that my power file says 4:00 instead of 3:58 (again, OCD). But it's just as bad on a run. To me, my driveway is like a finish line. And I don't like to run past it!

So I took the road less traveled and turned to the right. DQ immediately freaked out ("What are we doing!!?? This isn't the right way!!). But, I somehow survived, and by the time the hour was up, I could see a big turn in the road. I was feeling REALLY good at that point, so I decided to keep going and turn around at the big turn. I turned around in 1:02, and then realized why I had felt so good. I had been running slightly downhill for the past nine minutes. Oh yeah, and remember that 20+ mph wind? Well, that was helping me run down that hill. All of a sudden, I was running much slower, and DQ was trying to convince me to just walk. So much for the road less traveled!

As it turned out, the wind was in my face for most of the trip home. I ran just under 17 miles, and I finished in 2:07. I.e., 7 minutes longer than I planned on running. That's practically a mile further. And it was SO WORTH IT!! Because I didn't have to run anymore once I got home. Unless you are a runner (and possibly OCD), don't even try to understand this way of thinking.

Sunday - Another two hour workout, but this time, 90 minutes of it was on the bike with the last thirty minutes being a run. Sunday was not as cold and the wind was practically gone, so the bike ride was uneventful. Then I had a 30 minute run. The first hard transition run of the season is always fun. And by fun, I mean ridiculously difficult. I felt like I was carrying a 50 pound pack on my back. I turned around after two miles (14:30) because I figured I would slow down on the way home. Most of the last mile back to the house is uphill, and my legs were pretty much toast at that point. But I wasn't about to give up with less than a mile left to finish the weekend! So I pushed on. I topped the hill, and knew I was only two minutes from home.

Two more minutes, and my weekend is over! Two more minutes, and I can EAT. Two more minutes, and I can take a hot shower!! I rounded the corner and headed towards my driveway finish line. I joyously glanced at my watch and realized . . . I made it home a minute too early.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I went to the kitchen in my office to clean out my giant Denver coffee mug so that I could enjoy a delicious afternoon Americano, and I saw this:

You can't read the note in the picture, but it says: Official "Clean out the pantry, I've Made a New Year's Resolution" ledge.

Apparently someone has made (at least) the following New Year's Resolutions: (1) No more little powdered donuts (or "donettes" according to the clever packaging); (2) No more iced biscotti; and (3) No more throwing away food. So they left it on the counter for all to enjoy.

And enjoy they did! There were only two little powdered "donettes" left when I saw the sign. So I left the orange. I'm not giving up on citrus fruits this year. I just wanted to offer the latecomers a healthier option than an iced biscotti and two "donettes". Mainly, I just want to see if the orange would last the day. If it does, I will take home and eat it. If not, then I have provided someone an orange that might have otherwise fallen to the "temptation" of a little powdered "donette." Win. Win.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Grape Soda, Isaac Newton, and Confession

Hello. My name is Barry. And I have an advertising problem.

It's true. I sometimes buy products I know are not right for me simply because the advertising is pure marketing GENIUS.

Take, for example, the time that I was pumping gas and there was a grape soda ad on the gas pump. It was a picture of an open ice chest, full of ice and cans of sweet delicious grape soda. At that moment, I decided that nothing would taste better than a grape soda, and I HAD TO HAVE ONE. Luckily, I was at a gas station, and therefore went directly into the store and purchased one. It only took one drink for me to decide I had been duped. But not willing to admit my mistake, and not one to throw away something I just paid for, I stubbornly finished the grape soda . . . which left me with a stomach ache, a purple tongue, and a sugar high fructose corn syrup high. Now every time I see an advertisement and suggest that whatever is being advertised looks cool, my wife will sarcastically say, "MMMMMMM, grape soda!"

My latest fall to the lure of advertising came a couple of weeks ago. After lots of marketing at Ironman events and in magazines, I decided that the Newton Running shoes looked like they could be just the thing to make me a super fast runner. Craig Alexander runs in them, and he just won in Kona, so they MUST be good, right!? I asked Lindsay about them, and she quickly said they were not right for me. Now, I know that she knows more about running shoes than I. And I know that she knows my running style better than I. And I know that she knows what is and is not the right thing for me to do/wear/have/try/eat/drink/etc. in training than I. But come on, Craig Alexander wears them!! And their website is really cool!! So the Saturday after Christmas, I ran in a pair of Newtons. And they felt GREAT!!!

. . . for about 3 miles. Then my calves started getting tight. And my ankles got tired. And my arches started hurting. In the span of about a quarter mile, I went from "Wow these are GREAT!" to "HOLY CRAP! What have I done!?" I only "ran" 6 miles that day. My only thought at that point was "Lindsay is going to kill me!" I couldn't wait to see what type of torturous intervals she would put me through to teach me not to blow her off again. No problem. Lindsay's out of town for the holidays. I can recover from this before she gets back. No more running in the Newtons until I have the time to adjust to them. Eight weeks out from a marathon is not that time!

The following Monday, I could barely walk because of the pain in my lower legs. Every single muscle from about mid-calf to the tips of my toes was screaming at me every time I took a step. Tuesday was a little better, so I laced up my normal running shoes and headed out the door. I made it 1.6 miles. Turned around. And walked home.

I felt fine on the bike, so I went on several long bike rides the rest of the week. Then Saturday, a full week after my little experiment, I went out for a long run. It was the most painful 12 miles of my life (it was supposed to be 16!).

I'm feeling better now after having confessed my sins to Lindsay, and running easy, massage, and stretching yesterday. Today is MUCH better. I actually think I will recover in time to get in a solid 2 hour run this weekend. We'll see. First, Lindsay prescribed the "someday you will listen to me" intervals for tomorrow morning. They are going to be tough on my sore, tired legs. Better take a Fuel Belt with me! Those look really cool! And Craig Alexander uses them! Sweet.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year; New Look

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are all off to a great start. I got the year rolling with a solid three hour ride this morning with the group from Rockwall Cycling. That's always a great ride, so if you live in the area, come out and join us!

I've changed up the blog a little to start the new year. Mainly, you'll notice the color is different. I have found the white background easier to read, so I'm switching it up. Let me know if you like it or not. Speaking of letting me know, I want to make this something useful instead of just a way for friends to keep up with me. But the only way for me to know what anyone out there wants to hear about is for you to leave comments at the end of posts. So if you like what you read, don't like what you read, want me to talk about something, want me to stop talking about something, etc., leave a comment. Otherwise, it's just me keeping a journal. Which I'm fine with, but like I said, I would prefer to make this useful for someone besides just me.

Happy New Year, again. And give me your thoughts!

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