Monday, April 30, 2012

On running a race

Yesterday, I participated in the James Joyce Ramble, a lovely 10K out in Dedham, MA which has actors in period dress reading Joyce along the course.  This 10K didn't really fit in with my prep for tri season, so my coach and I decided to use it as a training run.  The plan was to do a nice Zone 2 (easy) run and to not get too caught up in the competition.

We had a gorgeous day for it:  plenty of sunshine with a cool breeze.  And I got to run with my friends A and R and new friend D, who all set new PRs, so definitely worth it.  Still, there are benefits and drawbacks to running a race, but not racing it.


  1. That is the best I've felt at the 4 mile mark of a 10K run, ever.  The thought that went through my head was "ooh, 2 more miles" instead of "ugh, 2 more miles."
  2. I got to really enjoy the spectacle of the race.  The Joyce readers were fabulous.  There were a set of elderly twin women, in matching pink shawls reading in unison and a guy with a thick Irish brogue.  It was hard to really hear what they were saying, but it was still cool.  Then there were the three guys running with mullets sticking out the bottom of their headbands and American flags sticking out the top of them, singing "I'll ramble for you" to the tune of Culture Club's 'I'll tumble 4 ya.'
  3. No pre-race nerves.
  4. Water stops

  1. The urge to pick people off is strong.  I started at the back of the pack, with the intention of running through and picking up my friend for the latter half of the race (which didn't work cause it was too small of a race).  So I got to pick people off for a few miles, but then I caught up to my pack, and it was tough to just hang and not go too hard.
  2. $40 for a training run is a bit steep (though the free beer afterwards did help with that).
  3. It's been a long time since I've run a 10K on its own (like 4 years).  As I was nearing the finish line, I realized that my training run was getting very close to my PR, and that if I could just pick it up a bit there at the end, I would beat it.  But I was already at the top end of my heart rate zone, so in the end I was 9 seconds slower than my PR from 2008.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Notes from Houston

We're down in Texas for Paul's sister's wedding this weekend, so that means more exploring the town via running for me. Here's what I've learned:

1. Despite being called a "speedway", the Buffalo Speedway had a speed limit of 30 mph. It was actually very pleasant to run down and had a well protected side walk on tree-lined, residential street.

2. Said speedway is also visually interesting. Maybe due to the lack of zoning, every house is different. Not just like different colors either. You get a low, brick ranch next to a stucco McMansion next to a southern charmer with big columns, a modern concrete slab and corrugated aluminum unit, and the occasional colonial. Really a pleasant distraction.

3. Despite my "hi"s and "good morning"s, the people of Houston out this morning were not very welcoming. Compare that to last weekend at lake George where all 11 people I came across said hi. Where's that southern hospitality?

4. I ran 7.5 miles this morning. My longest run since the stress fracture!

5. Finally, while I was out on the bayou, I heard a cyclist approaching behind me. I pulled to the right, and this guy on an elliptical with wheels rolled past. Seriously, I thought those things were just an Internet meme. Tey really do exist.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Return to elite hydration

This year, like last, I volunteered at the 10K elite hydration stop of the Boston Marathon.  I love Marathon Monday so much, getting to be out on the course helping the pros run their best (especially in a scorcher like we had on Monday), cheering on the amateurs as they reach their goals and riding my bike all over the course on a gorgeous Monday when most other people are at work.  It's just fabulous.  I won't go into the whos and whats and wheres and whys this time, since I covered that last year.  Here are the highlights.

1.  Losing my bottle cage.

Ok, this is less of a highlight.  I was riding my tri-bike, trying to make a workout out of my ride to the 10K mark, and I went over a bump.  I heard a crash, and looked back to see my rear bottle cages in the middle of the road.  I pulled over, and went back for them.  What I found was my cages and this small mustache-shaped brace.  If you look carefully, you'll see that the screws that were holding the brace in place have been snapped clean off.  Fail.  I had a back pack, so I chucked the cages in there and put the bottle in a side pocket.  Not as easy to retrieve, but better than nothing.

2.  Wearing spandex gives people license to talk to you

We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts on the way out, and every one was asking how far we were riding and if we were running.  Putting this in perspective:  on any other day, I would assume some one approaching me was either selling something or crazy.  And the idea that some one who presumably drove to the Dunkin would have anything to say to me other than abuse about being on their roads, well it just doesn't happen.  This is the magic of Marathon Monday.

[my table]

3.  And the cyclists were out in force

We saw hundreds of riders heading out to the start and back again while the roads were less utilized.  Perhaps it was just the warmer-than-usual weather, but it was great to see so many people out, and to get swept along with a group or two.

[here come the ladies]

4.  It was a smaller elite field

Organizers told us beforehand that because of the Olympics in London this year, they had a smaller crop of elite runners registered.  Pair that with the blinding conditions and my women's table only had 2 bottles on it, my mens table had none.  :-(  Some one suggested that perhaps because World Records cannot be set on this course that pros were less interested, but it's still Boston.  WR or no, it's still a significant line on your resume to win this race.

5.  No taste testing this year

With fewer athletes, hotter conditions, and a better organized strike of the water stop, there wasn't much opportunity to try out the elite's drinks this time around.  I'm curious if they would have been more salty this year.

[the men approach]

6.  A desolate, post-marathon wasteland

Once the majority of the race had passed through, we packed up and rode out to Heartbreak hill for a little cheering.  As we rolled through the amateur water stops, the road resembled some post-apocalyptic scene.  The street was strewn with cups rolling around, a few dazed runners staggered through.  Looked like a scene from a movie.

7.  Lost and found

Just as we were packing up at the 10K marker, a runner came up to me and thrust his balled up jacket my way.  He said, "Here, take it.  It's from Chile."  It's a very nice jacket, and I'd like to return it to the runner.  I've googled the team name, and they appear to be a race organizer from Chile.  I couldn't find anything on their marathon team itself.  There are only 24 males from Chile who raced Boston, and based on the time, I think I know who it was.  I'm going to try to contact the BAA and see if they can put me in touch with him.  If you have other ideas for how I could find this runner, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Multisport Expo Swim Relay Race Report: Sparkle Motion

Last weekend, I got to race in my second ever swim meet.  Just like last year, I swam in the Multisport Expo Swim Relay.  But unlike last year, it was only a 300 yard swim, and I was wearing a matching sparkly, gold and pink swim suit.

[we couldn't find the same pattern for Brendan]

Before I get to the actual race, I have to point out, I had some awesome support.  Paul was out, along with a few friends from my old team, and R, her boyfriend, her roommate and a friend.  They made signs!  Just as I was about to hop in, I looked up and they were doing the wave.  Awesome.

Over the last month, my coach has had me swimming 3x300 once a week.  The first 300 is moderate, the second is moderately hard, and the last is very hard.  Here's how those times have shaken out:

My best time over the month was a 4:41.  I figured I could swim a 4:30 (1:30/100 pace same as last year) with all the excitement of the race.  

The other excitement for the race was that I bought a Garmin 910XT.  This is the latest, top-of-the-line Garmin triathlon watch.  There were two major factors in deciding to purchase this device.  1) It computes swim stats.  Not only did my old Garmin not give you data for swimming, it voided the warranty.  New Garmin counts laps, calculates splits and generally loves the water.  2) Since I train with my coach virtually, having a watch that keeps track of my swim and generates a file that I can just upload and send to him (just like I do with my Garmin on the run, or my SRM on the bike) just makes things easier.

The biggest surprise with New Garmin is that it is not a watch.  I had read reviews of other GPS watches that talk about them "being a watch."  But I always assumed that was just because it's not very stylish to wear a graphing calculator on your wrist.  Nope.  Turns out, this watch does keep track of the time, but it doesn't have a "sleep" mode where it's just displaying time.  Either you are training with this watch, or you have it turned off.  Let's not pretend it's a watch.

Ok, so we've got sparkly, matching suits, awesome cheering friends and a new watch.  Now we're ready to race.  It was a bit chaotic at the beginning with 18 teams, volunteer timers and lap counters, people doing a swim clinic and folks trying on wetsuits all trying to get organized.  We got there early, warmed up, dried off, registered, watched the first heat, then re-warmed and finally got to racing.

[just before the start- we're in the third lane]

In a year's time I still haven't learned to dive off the blocks.  Until I'm racing ITU races, I doubt that I will, so I started in the water, and swam second for our team.  Last year things felt serene.  This year, not so much.  I felt like I was going hard on the first hundred, but my form was good, I was cruising.  That didn't last long though, things started to feel a bit flaily in the second hundred and the third was spent just trying to hold on for dear life.

New Garmin created this not very helpful graph:

[I don't love that they invert the pace axis, so that 0 is at the top, I feel like that should mean that I'm swimming "negative" splits (which I was not)]

The graph shows the pace per hundred for each length of the pool.  That first length is 1:17, next is 1:20, then 1:22 and 1:24.  And the pace just got worse from there.  The good news:  I swam the first 100 in 1:20.8, my best time EVER for a 100.  The bad news, my average ended up being closer to 1:27 per 100.  Still, that's 3 seconds per 100 better than last year's relay AND:

[Training and racing 300s]

WAY better than my training 300s.

 The rest of my team are better swimmers than I am, and we placed a solid 6th out of 18 teams.  Not too shabby.

Finally, a post script.  R checked out the expo while waiting for the relay to start.  She came away excited to try out her first triathlon this summer!  I didn't even have to coerce her into it.  I am thrilled to get to expand my "coaching" role with her and to share my enthusiasm for the sport.

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