Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Athletics Books (Ever?)

Here's what is on my shelves:

The Perfect Mile, by Neal Bascomb. Fantastically written, it does a phenomenal job of documenting the lives of Santee, Landy, and that British guy, Dr. What's his Name.

The Four Minute Mile, by the aforementioned Doctor. Plain spoken, less technical, more nuts and bolts. This man did it with 30-45 minutes of running on his lunch hour while finishing medical school. Today's so-called 'multi-taskers' are mere posers in comparison.

Running with the Buffaloes, by Chris Lear. Follow the Colorado XC team through a trying season, while their leader, Adam Goucher, brings it home with an NCAA win. I saw Mr. Goucher run at the 2008 Trials; the man is iron.

Better Runs, by Joe Henderson. Good advice for relics like me who think they can run again.

The Perfect Distance, by Pat Butcher. Breathtaking depiction of the rivalry between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. For those who saw their races, we won't forgot the talent and power of these two men. I'd love to add these gents to my list of people to see at the 2012 Trials, but:
  • Coe is a bit busy planning the next Olympics
  • Ovett lives Down Under somewhere (watch his kick in this race)
  • Neither are American citizens.
Best Efforts, by Kenny Moore. A compilation of articles he wrote for Sports Illustrated back in the day. I never knew this book existed until I found it in 2008, and I got chills re-reading words I first saw in the 1970's.

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, by Kenny Moore. The book that prompted me back into running after 20 years. Not enough adjectives to describe the prose. Brilliant writing, just brilliant.

Out of Nowhere, by Geoff Hollister. While not a professional writer, he tells amazing stories of his days in field support of Coe, Ovett, Henry Rono, and (!) Elton John.

Run with the Champions, by Marc Bloom. Training secrets from the fast, faster, and fastest.

The Olympics' Most Wanted, by Floyd Conner. A compilation of Olympics trivia that only a track hack could love.

The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City, by Frank Murphy. A telling biography of a tough, tough man.  He ran 6 races in 5 days, a brutal schedule for a 400m runner, and set two world records along the way. The running may have been easier than his desire to make a valid statement in the face of massive opposition.

Gold in the Water, by P.H. Mullen. Heart-wrenching true story of Olympic dreams tainted with chlorine.

My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy. The man can write, and the boy could dribble a basketball.

Dead Solid Perfect, by Dan Jenkins. While I'm not sure about golf being voted into the Olympics, this has got to be the funniest book I've ever seen.

Please give your recommendations. I always look for more quality reading.

Par for the Course: XC Ski Race Part 1

Coming from the world of road racing, I always figured the winter was for watching the diet and recuperating.

Then I moved to Central Oregon.

If you don't get used to the cold, you're losing a couple of months each year. Not that I mind harsh weather; last year, I did a run at 0530 one morning with the mercury reading minus 20F. Had a great run except for a couple of problems:

1) My feet. Two pair of socks weren't enough.

2) My eyes: I forgot to wear my contacts that morning.

Was smart enough to wrap a scarf around my head, so all skin was covered. But every exhaled breath condensed on my glasses. Functionally blind! And since I'm beyond 20/400 on a normal day, I'm not exactly seeing the fine print. Or any print. But it was pretty cool to be running down the middle of Wall Street without any traffic to get in my way.

The Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation has a great menu of winter events, both Nordic and Downhill. And with my rapid advancement into GeezerHood, I'm thinking that Alpine is the quickest path to a shortened outdoor season (torn ligaments and the like).

Now, I've always read that cross country skiing is probably the hardest aerobic activity out there. Being a hard headed long distance runner/plodder, every other cardio sport has always been a second class sport. But then I began swimming. And then I tried XC skiing.

Classic technique is tough enough. Problem is, it's also slow if you're clueless like me. But it's not nearly as taxing as skate/freestyle. Back at the Pole Pedal Paddle, I went classic so I wouldn't crater too soon. Good advice, but man was I sloth-like. So this year, I committed to learning how to skate effectively.

Then my pal Scott tells me he can't ski with me on Dec. 11th because he's doing a race. "You should try it," he says. "It's only 10k. Piece of cake."

Scott's a guy who recently ran from Bend (elevation 3400') to the base of Mt Bachelor (elevation 6300'), 22 miles uphill. THEN he ran from the Sunrise Lodge to the Summit. Lunatic.

Anyhow, I looked into the race. It's a two-part event, with the second part in late February. And the overall winner is the person with the most improved time.

Now I'm interested.

So my second day on skate skis, I'm sliding up to the starting line. Just glad to be there; for the 20 mile drive, I left home 45 minutes before registration closed. And of course, the road uphill is clogged with people driving 20 mph. I finally make the parking lot and sprint into the Nordic Center with a cool 45 seconds to spare.

As a result, I'm the third-last skier to start. 6.2 miles over two laps, with racers starting every 30 seconds. And it's been raining 38F all morning. So I'm standing in soup on the starting line.

Skis are very slow in soup.

Good thing I work with some great skiers. The day before, friend Veronica gave me a 30 second crash course; glide on one ski with all weight on that ski, then push sideways with the abductors. And she showed my the timing for poling with V-1 technique, which she called 'the small ring.' As in a bicycle's small chainring, as in the fallback gear.

After 5k, I'm all alone. Heck, after 300 yards, I was all alone.

The last kilometer of the first lap was mostly uphill, just brutal. I got to the starting line, coughing up my toenails, and told the timers that I wouldn't be upset if they wanted to close it down. "No, you're doing great!" they said.

"Make you a deal," says I. "I'll keep going as long as you find someone to do a cool down lap. I might need a little help." They laughed.

But they also didn't send any help. I was serious, guys.

Oh well. I slogged through, got back to the line, and somehow it was still daylight. Dead last by a country mile or 3.

Turns out my poles were way short. Yeah, that was the problem, all right; bad equipment. The next week, I took a lesson.

I'm gonna win this sucker. The final segment is on 27 February.

People I'd like to see in 2012


For kicks, I created a list of people who I'd love to see giving the awards at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Some of these people might have presented at previous events, and some might be passed away for all I know. But what a thrill for people like me to see these heroes one more time (or for the first time). And these people deserve some recognition for paving the way.

Anyone that I know attended the 2008 Trials is marked with an asterisk.

Here we go:


Head Coach: Ed Temple, the legend from Tennessee State. His teams won more championship medals than most countries. Mae Faggs, Willye White, Wilma Rudolph, Madeline Manning, Wyomia Tyus, Edith McGuire, Martha Watson, et al....In a race between San Jose State and his Tigerbelles, it's too close to call.

100m: Lindy Remigino, 1952 Olympic Champion in a huge upset, and was admittedly the third best American sprinter. Stan Floyd*, 1980 Olympic Trials winner. I heard he won the Trials in a time that would have won the Olympic Gold by 2 meters. Mel Pender, twice an Olympian and 1968 4x100 Gold Medal. In 1964, he tore cartilage in his chest during the semi, but ran the final regardless. That's iron. Jim Hines, 1968 Gold Medal and WR. Evelyn Ashford; won bunches of medals in the 1980s and was smooth like butter.


Lucky Lindy

Evelyn Ashford

110HH: Harrison 'Bones' Dillard. Missed out on his specialty in 1948, so he took the 100m instead! Nice to have a backup race. Then he took the hurdles in 1952, along with the sprint relay both times.
Harrison Dillard

Renaldo Nehemiah, 1980 Olympic Trials winner, WR holder, and first to run under 13 seconds. Graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High in NJ, right down the road from me in Somerville; my sister saw him run the 300IH in high school, and said he pretty much walked the last 50 yards while winning by a furlong.

100HH: Gail Devers. Missed a shot in two Olympiads, but made up for it by reading Dillard's 'Book of Contingency Plans' and won back to back 100m sprint Golds plus a relay. Stephanie Hightower*, 1980 Olympian and current USATF President. She recently married Ian Stewart, the guy who ran down Pre for the 1972 5000m bronze medal. Way to keep it in the family!
  
200m: Bobby Joe Morrow. He won both sprints and the 4x100 in 1956 at Melbourne.  Valerie Brisco, 3 Gold Medals in 1984 at Los Angeles.

Bobby Joe Morrow
400m: Lee Evans. When the kids in my neighborhood were memorizing Joe Namath's completion percentage, the number I cared about was 43.86, Evans's 1968 world record time that stood for 20 years. He was a key figure in the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and he tells the story with the conviction of the man whom history determined to be absolutely right (see Black Power Salute). He raced like a runaway diesel going downhill, just pure power.  Otis Davis, 1960 Gold Medalist and UO hometown hero. Fred Newhouse*, 1976 400m Silver Medalist and 4x400m Gold Medalist. Jearl Miles-Clark, gutsy anchor leg on 1996 4x400 Gold Medal relay team.

Larry James, Lee Evans, Ron Freeman

Note: I had the absolute privilege of meeting Mr. Newhouse at 2010 NCAA's (I'm a new official and he's one of the national officiating kahunas). What a thrill!! I told him I was convinced that Juantoreana (400 gold) was on the juice, and that I know who really won that race; nobody weighing 190 pounds runs a 1:43 half mile without pharmacological help. Then I rattled off the names of Fred's three relay teammates from a 34 yr old memory; only missed one, but begged forgiveness by saying I was 11 years old at the time. He was impressed, before he admonished me for revealing his age. He burned a 43.8 anchor leg in Montreal, and second place was in a different time zone by race end.

400IH: Kevin Young, 1992 Gold Medal. Long, looooonnnng stride. He nearly smashed the last hurdle in half but somehow kept his balance. The camera showed him slowly breaking into a knowing grin, then raising his arm in triumph about 15 yards before the line. Yet he still broke the WR by several yards, and his record has outlasted all others.

800m: Tom Courtney, 1956 Gold Medalist. He made a huge push on the last turn to take the lead, then got passed. No one has two sprints in the last 150 meters, but he reached deep and won. Dave Wottle, 1972 Gold Medalist. Watch his Munich victory, just stunning. 15 meters back on the first lap and still pulled it out. He ran perfectly even splits while everyone else developed rigor mortis. Madeline Manning Jackson, 1968 Gold Medal on top of an incredibly long career.

Tom Courtney

Dave Wottle, the "Cat in the Hat"
1500m: Dyrol Burleson and Jim Grelle*, Olympians from the University of Oregon. They raised the roof at Hayward Field many times.  Mary Slaney*, runner from another planet. If you want chills, watch the replays of her 1500/3000 double at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki. In both races, she was tag-teamed, jostled, elbowed, cut off, and basically mugged. Regardless, she took both races at the wire with ridiculously gutty sprints. I think she ate nails for breakfast that week.

5000m: Bob Schul, 1964 Gold Medal. There is a famous photo of him crossing the finish line in Tokyo with a huge grin on his face. As a kid, I remember looking at that picture and wondering how someone could be laughing after such a hard race. Sub-39 second final 300 meters on a cinder track in the rain over 46 years ago. Mind boggling. Bill Dellinger*, 1964 Bronze Medal. Nearly stole the race with 600m to go, and later became legendary coach at UO. Lou Zamperini, 1936 Olympian at 5000m and WWII Prisoner of War; read his amazing autobiography, "Devil at My Heels," and "Unbroken," his new biography by the author of "Seabiscuit." Doris Brown Heritage, WR holder and women's running pioneer.

10000m: Gerry Lindgren, an Olympian while still in high school. He ran huge mileage (200 mile weeks) for the same reason many of us run; to get away, even if we eventually have to come back. Billy Mills,  1964 Gold Medal. His amazing finish is best described by the word "gallop." Lynn Jennings, 1992 Bronze Medal in Barcelona.

Sidebar: 1964 was the only time we won the 5,000 or 10,000, and we got 'em both in the same track meet. What was in the drinking water that year?

Marathon: Frank Shorter. Brought running to the masses after Bill Bowerman started the movement. Kenny Moore*, twice an Olympian, 4th in Munich, and the best track writer ever. Joan Benoit Samuelson: first Olympic Gold Medalist, scary fast, and still breaking legs on the road (others, not her own).

Note: my wife's uncle Jeff Shelley, an incredible golf writer, was a 1972 Army MP in Germany. He was outside the Olympic Stadium at the end of the marathon when Mr. Shorter came gliding by. Around the same time, that turkey German imposter was circling the track as a bogus runner. The spectators were jeering loudly, and Jeff said it sounded like it was directed at Shorter, who had just the strangest look on his face. As in, "what the heck?"

Steeplechase: Horace Ashenfelter, 1952 Gold Medalist and FBI agent. Trained by jumping park benches in NYC.

FBI Agent runs away from Communist

Combined Events: Milt Campbell, 1956 Gold Medalist. Also lived down Rt 22 from me in NJ. Hellacious hurdler, too. Jane Fredericks, two-time Olympian and WR holder.

Long Jump: Ralph Boston, Gold/Silver/Bronze winner. Another key member of the OPHR. And the guy who taught Bob Beamon how to convert 8.90 meters into something understandable. Martha Watson, 4-time Olympian, Pan Am Games Gold Medalist, and legendary Tennessee State Tigerbelle under legendary coach Ed Temple. Legendary, I tell you, simply legendary.

Some other guy with Ralph Boston
Pole Vault: Don "Tarzan" Bragg, 1960 Gold Medalist. If you never heard of him, his nickname says it all. An absolute original. Yet another Jersey boy; please forgive the home state bias that's clearly evident in the list. Here's a great article from Sports Illustrated; how do you not like a guy named Tarzan? He was the AD at Stockton State in south Jersey, where he had a guy named Larry James working for him (Larry was a small step behind Lee Evans in 1968). Stacy Dragila, first female gold medalist. You gotta be first, you gotta be best, or you gotta be different: she was all three.

Shot Put: Bill Nieder,  1960 Gold Medalist. He was 4th at the Trials, then added to the team as a late substitute and won in Rome. Brian Oldfield,  1972 Olympian, TV Superstars Champion, unabashed smoker and wearer of swim trunk-like briefs in competition. According to his website, he once dunked a shot put through a basketball hoop. Al Feuerbach, twice an Olympian and a WR holder. Maren Seidler, 4-time Olympian and AR holder.

Brian Oldfield

Speaking of bizarre athletic achievements, Steve Scott* (he of the 136 sub-4 minute miles) once played a full round of golf in 29:30. Not many practice swings there!

Javelin: Al Cantello, 1960 Olympian, WR holder, and currently in his 48th year coaching at the US Naval Academy. Kate Schmidt, 2 Bronze Medals and WR holder.    

High Jump: John Thomas, 1960 Bronze Medal and WR holder. Franklin Jacobs, WR holder (and jumped 2' over his own height!). Alice Coachman, 1948 Gold Medalist.

Alice Coachman


All right, that's my list. Completely biased and a wish list, to be sure. But I'm entitled to my opinion once in a while.

In Memoriam: RIP Bud Greenspan. No one captured the sport better.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Training, Indoors and Out

Last winter, while training for my first triathlon, I found myself riding the stationary trainer many times on the deck.

As in outside.

As in Central Oregon.

As in 25F on a warm morning.

Before a 90 minute spin, I told myself that the feet should be ok; since I'm not moving forward, the lack of relative wind should keep the toes warm.

Bad, bad assumption.

After 45 minutes, I had to stop and put on the neoprene booties. But cold feet don't become warm that easily. I grunted through the last 45 minutes and got 'er done. No frostbite, just wooden feet for about an hour afterward.

Fast forward 8 months. Sold the condo and bought a house with a monster garage. Paradise!

First order of business was to get a set of rollers. Actually, that was the second order of business. First was my wife's request for a kegerator. Found a mint condition Subzero for a hundred bucks (from a friend for whom I had done a favor), then bought the dual tap kit and borrowed a hole saw.



Tip: when cutting thru a fridge wall, be reasonably sure you know where the refrigerant lines are. I'm just sayin'.   And, no, I didn't puncture anything that didn't need to be punctured. Now we have two of Deschutes Brewery's finest on tap.


Life is good.

Anyhow, back to the rollers...

I've been told that my cycling stroke appears very uniform, as in a perfect square. That's not a good thing when trying to pedal in circles. All my power is at 2 o'clock, and I'm wasting a lot of energy by being inefficient. Hence the rollers. Conventional wisdom says that I'll achieve balance and a smooth stroke within a month.



It actually happened sooner than that. The trick was to let go of the ladder next to the bike. And that's a hard, hard thing to do.

Rollers are the best simulation for riding a bike on a frozen pond. Insanely slippery. I probably pedaled for 15 or 20 minutes before I got up the nerve to put both hands on the bars. You achieve better balance with time and by pedaling faster. Problem is, when you start wobbling, the inclination is to stop pedaling and coast.

Resist the temptation.

Put your rollers in between two objects that you can easily grab. Some people use a doorway. I used the back of my car on one side and a ladder on the other.

Goethe: "Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid." So true.

Now I'm doing intervals on the rollers, and loving it. Cautionary note: either fold up the rollers when not in use, or leave the bike on them. While spackling the garage walls, and walking backwards, and not seeing where I was stepping...Suffice to say, I'm better on the rollers with a bike than with feet. Slapped the melon off the floor really nice and hurt like hell.

Reporter (after the first fight with Apollo Creed): "Hey Rocky (Balboa), do you think you have brain damage?"
Rocky: "I don't see any."

Yo, Adrian.

As for running, here's a surefire way to fight bad weather boredom on the treadmill; don't use one. Go outside. Dress so you're a little cold for the first 10 minutes, then you'll heat up nicely. Keep the feet, hands, and ears covered, and everything else will be fine. Some people talk about cold air burning their lungs; I've never had a problem, and I've run in -20F darkness.

Git after it.

Incidentally, a former cycling racer friend told me to buy a small TV and set it up in the garage. Priceless! No better time or place to watch 20 year old Tour de France races or NASA Apollo videos. Mindless fun while getting better technique.



And it's easier than cross country skiing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Moving (finally!)

At long last, we found a buyer for our condo, and immediately signed a contract for a house. It's been a long 42 months....

Anyhow, we're now in town. 3 houses to Zoe's school, 2.5 miles to work. Plenty close for commuting by bike or by running.

The relocation, all of 15 miles, was harder than the marathon.

A buddy agreed to help me load the U-haul; we had a tiny, TINY two bedroom condo to move. When we moved from the East Coast, we brutally downsized ourselves from a 4 BR house and basement into a 2/1 condo which the vacuum could cover without unplugging. Literally.

So the morning of the move, I had packed about 15% of the truck starting at the crack of dawn, when I realized I'm still alone.

Me: "Hey man, where are you?"
Him: "I'm about to take down a buck." As in hunting, as in 200 miles away.

Pause: "I thought it was NEXT weekend."

Hmmm.

A couple of friends in town said they can help unload if need be. Yes, I need be.

Okay, our neighbor is here on vacation. He helps me move the big stuff. 7 hours later, it's packed full. We'll have another trip to finish up, but we can do that with the Subaru. Drive 15 miles, meet the guys, and an hour later the truck is empty. Sweet.

Return the truck, then drive the car and a borrowed pickup back. And back. Last trip ends at midnite in a freezing downpour, and we're still not done.

6am next morning, it's up and off for a McMuffin and what I hope is the last load. More rain, and I'm exhausted, so the last bit of stuff just gets thrown under a tarp.

Done. My feet are toast.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. All unpacked, finally able to breathe, and it's time to do what I've wanted to do for 12 years; organize a garage.

And the first project was the most important one:

Then it was time to build storage. 


That green thing is a tandem kayak, something every family should have. Unless you don't want one. The skis are slid below the cabinets and above the bikes; life in the Navy gets one accustomed to creative storage.

More shelves, and everything is finally put away.


First carpentry project in 12+ years, and all fingers are still attached. Score!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Portland Party 10/10/2010 (first 26.2)

2010 Portland Marathon.

Some party  J

Complete downpour during the 20 minute wait for the gun. I was in a singlet, started shivering a bit.

Then we get going.

Plan for sub-4 was to start slower, then go past the pace group and build up a cushion. Trouble was, I couldn’t catch up to the pace group without my heart rate skyrocketing. Then I started cramping at 8 miles.

What?  I did two 17-milers here on the trails at altitude, a great HM PR, and I’m hurting at 8 and at sea level?

Backtrack one day; we went out for dinner, and I ordered the most benign thing on the menu, chicken and mashed potatoes. Then I spent the next 3 hrs with major GI issues. Forgot to tell them no milk in the potatoes, I’m lactose intolerant. Uh oh.

Drank a little water before bed, got a good night’s sleep. Next time, I’ll forgo sleep in favor of staying up and drinking all night.

Major, major dehydration.

Flexors were nagging from the beginning, but didn’t feel like they were the problem. No, the legs started quitting at 13 miles on the climb toward the St John’s Bridge. That leaves a long way to ‘run’ on no legs Was still hopeful that I could recover on the bridge downhill and slowly get time back, as I was about 500 yds behind pace at this point.

No dice.

At the bottom of the bridge, it’s a sharp right, then another incline. Game over.

I stopped to stretch, hoping to loosen the flexor by pulling my knee toward my butt. Instant hamstring-lock and hopping around like on coals.

BTW, it was still pouring. The whole way. But every step past the bridge was a distance PR for me.

Hammys and calves were hitting me indiscriminately and without prejudice. At one point, I put my toes on a curb, then bent down to pull the toes up some more. A very painful and all-inclusive cramp started at my calf, went through the hammy, continued up my right pec at lightning speed, and terminated in my tricep. My tricep!

What moron gets arm injuries running a marathon????? Same moron who passes on the French dip in favor of lactose-laden potatoes.

At this point, I’m just laughing. And there’s still 7 miles to go.

But I start getting glimpses of downtown.

Now it’s just one foot in front of the other. Bummed that I couldn’t take advantage of a long downhill and just freewheel.

Head down, punching the time clock, just grinding it out. At mile 25, ready for this thing to end, I see a 6’4” guy in drag on the street corner in a Marilyn Monroe pose. Nice diversion.

No bonking in the low-energy sense, just had to deal with someone disconnecting the wheels. Head stayed clear, didn’t get crazy or emotional or pissed. This race wasn’t on my radar until just before the triathlon in June; after that, it took me a month to get motivated again, which basically left me 6 wks. I’m very glad that I didn’t get injured by ramping up the mileage too quickly.

Back at the in-laws, I iced down, then had a hell of a time standing up. Also didn’t think to bring my overnight bag upstairs from the basement bedroom before I left for the race. That meant I had to go down the stairs and come back up. Hurt worse than the race.

Very, VERY cool tech shirt. Actually two of them. But the prize is the one that says ‘Finisher’.

Funny thing is, I don’t hate running right now. Don’t feel like selling all my gear and taking up needlepoint. But, for the next week, I perfected a whole new style of walking.

If you could call it that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Next American Miler

Ok, this is getting ridiculous.




Wheating just ran a 1500m in 3:30.9  in Monaco, beating Lagat and Lomong. He was third in the race.
4th fastest American of all time behind Lagat, Sydney Maree, and Webb.
My friend Skip, a guy who ran for Brutus Hamilton at Cal, flattered me by asking my prediction for Mr. Wheating at the London Olympics.

Prediction for Wheating? That’s a tough one. I’d say silver.



Justification:
  • He’s made tremendous improvement since the beginning of 2008.
  • He’s still growing into his running legs
  • He’ll be 24 or so in 2012, still 4 yrs away from his peak as a middle distance runner



 

He evidently has no fear: in 3 major international meets this yr, he hasn’t been intimidated. There’s a postrace interview on Flotrack after his 3:30 1500m; he’s just giddy. He’s like an overgrown kid who just hit his first home run in t-ball. It’s still new to him, and I suspect he’s got much improvement to go.


Compare to German Fernandez; major national records while in HS, running huge mileage/intensity, then he goes to Okla State and is injured all year.

Wheating hadn’t run competitively at all until something like his senior yr in HS, so burnout isn’t a factor. He’s relatively new to competition. And given his natural ability and the fact that he had great success virtually as soon as he started a structured program, he didn’t have the emotional grind that so many runners have had (years and years of toil before seeing results).

Back to the burnout issue: a friend’s son has a running buddy who just set the mile WR for 14 yr olds at 4:19. I looked at the list of age group WRs; the only names I recognize are the 3 oldest groups, 17-18-19; it’s Cram, Webb, Ryun. The rest of the record holders are unknown to me, not that I am the end-all for all running knowledge. My point is that younger record setters rarely become older record setters; their bodies and minds break down too soon. Hence the comparison of Fernandez to Wheating. Disclaimer: I may be cherry-picking here, but Fernandez got MUCH press coming out of HS, and no one had heard of AW.

Wheating is mature enough (or goofy enough) not to take it all too seriously. It helps that his home state of Vermont is not exactly a hotbed of running talent.


Then he goes to London for his last 800m of the year. He's right up there with 200 to go, on the outside of lane 1, and he has the second place guy boxed. The guy starts throwing elbows, trying to make room. AW is planted on the lane line like a block of granite, absolutely cemented in position and not afraid to hold his ground. He keeps the guy on the rail, then busts out and drops a half second off his PR while taking the runner-up slot. Huge, huge race, and not just because of the time. Tactically, he hit a home run by getting into position and staying there. The previous race, he ran a perfect first 600 and was ready to strike when one of the pacesetters stopped right in front of him. AW had to completely break stride and by the time he recovered it was over. But it was great to see the guy setting himself up to win.

This guy is scary good.

Oh yeah; he didn’t race until May or so this year (mono or something). Lananna didn’t rush him back onto the track. Results from his slow start? 800/1500 NCAA double (first since Cruz in 1985), sub-1:45 800, sub-3:31 1500m. I imagine Vin will back him off at some point very soon and start building strength in preparation for 2011 Nationals and Worlds.


Remember that Kenny Moore wrote a RW article about AW not long ago, wondering if Wheating is the next great American miler. I think that question has been answered.



Monday, June 28, 2010

Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon

Race Report: Pacific Crest Half Ironman Triathlon 6/26/2010

Common sense says that if you’ve never done a triathlon before, you don’t start with a long one at altitude. Or one that climbs around a mountain.

I’ve never had much common sense.

Last year, I finally figured out my knee problems. Once resolved, I decided on two goals for this year. The PPP was first; the last goal was the Half Iron. In deference to my recent orthopedic history, I was woefully undertrained for the running leg, on purpose. I didn’t want history to repeat itself.

What, I’m finally learning?

So, starting last November, I could be found at one of three places. Home, work, workout (swim, bike, run). Okay, that’s five places. Shoot me.

Note to anyone raising a child; start them on swimming lessons at a young age. I had  never drowned (would’ve been hard to write this), but I could never get anywhere quickly if water was involved. Time to remedy that.

Mid-December here in the Cascades brought us a -20F degree morning. Yeah, I ran in it. Toasty except for feet; 2 pairs of socks wasn’t enough. And I forgot to wear contacts; with a scarf covering my face, every exhaled breath landed right on my glasses. Disfunctionally blind. But at 0500 on this ridiculous day, I had no competition for the road, so I just ran right down the yellow line on Wall Street. Or where I imagined the yellow line would be.

Biking was tough this year, with the extended winter and chilly spring that lasted through May. Tough to ride when it’s 35F and blowing sideways, but I did what I could. Rode to work from Sunriver down the highway one day, then took the long way home toward Mt. Bachelor. Awfully lonely up there, especially the 4 times it sleeted on me. I didn’t see another person, car, anything for 15 miles. On an uphill climb, that’s over an hour.

My last big workout was scheduled for the day I returned to town from Eugene (I officiated at the NCAA Track and Field championships). The plan was for a swim in South Twin Lake, a bike ride up to the top of Bachelor and back, then a 4 mile run. Trouble was, I strained something in my lower shin while running on soft bark trails in Eugene. But once more, I showed my newfound intelligence by stopping the workout and skipping the final tuneup. They always say it’s better to be undertrained than overtrained. We’ll see.

Race week; slept in each morning until 4am, no alarm clock. Nah, not nervous at all.

Plan for each segment:
1.2 mile swim: 45 minutes
Transition #1: 5 minutes
58 mile bike ride: 4 hours
Transition #2: 5 minutes
13.1 mile run: 2:20
Total: 7:15

Weather forecast: mid-80s. I was hoping for rain. Really. It’s cooler that way, though the on-bike food gets a bit soggy.

In order to feel more like a triathlete, I shaved my legs down. Made me look the part at least. Nice calves, too, especially with my race number on one and my age on the other. Race organizers mark each athlete so they can identify you when you pass out face down.

Race morning; actually slept until the alarm at 0500, felt like a vacation. Final check of gear. PB&J on a bagel for the last meal. Don’t condemned people get lobster?

Took an early morning jog down the last ½ mile of the run course and stared at the finish banner. I hope I get to see this thing again, but it’s going to be late afternoon if at all.

Lost track of time, and the shuttle bus for the lake leaves in 10 minutes. Hustle over there in a near panic. No need, buses are running continuously. Time for a half hour ride and the Walkman, I mean Ipod. Zoe, my 7-year-old, asked me what a Walkman is. Oy vey.

She let me borrow hers, so I’m enjoying the pink earphones while listening to Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy, Maynard Ferguson’s Birdland, and anything else to get me going. As if I needed help. Next time, choose mellow music. Adrenaline is not lacking today.

At the reservoir. All these athletic studs and me. One of these things is not like the others.

My blast off time is 20 minutes after the pros. I guess they want enough of a head start so I don’t run them down. They take off, toward the first of three red floats arranged in a diamond shape. Time to get ready.

Ever try to pull on a wetsuit? Ain’t easy. Lots of tugging and grabbing. Finally it’s in place. 10 minutes to go. I get in and enjoy the balmy 58 degree water. Then I walk out.

I don’t know what happens at this point, but somehow my nerves completely evaporate. Gone. All of a sudden, I’ve been doing this my entire life. My wave starts in 2 minutes and I’m standing on the boat ramp trading barbs with spectators. They tell me I’m going to be late. How? It’s 30 yards away. I stroll into the water as the horn blows, cool as a cuke.

This lack of tension completely throws me off. I’m supposed to be a jittery wreck, yet I’m 180 degrees the other way. Surreal. It helped that my friend Donna brought me out here this week and paddled her kayak so I could swim and get a little more comfortable while looking for gators, sharks, Loch Ness Monster, etc…

General game plan is to hold back on each segment of the race so I don’t go into oxygen debt. That would make for a very long day. Several times during the swim, I remember a favorite poem:
‘When the tide of life goes against you,
And the current upsets your boat,
Don’t waste your tears on what might have been,
Just lie on your back and float.’

So I do.

Not a cloud up there. Nice.

Halfway around, my shoulders are feeling it, but second wind arrives. Time to pick up the pace a bit. Andy (Donna’s husband) gave me great pointers on how to stay on course. I’m taking a straight line between buoys, dead nuts on. There are people 50 yards to my left as we swim clockwise. Those folks are going a lot farther than they need to.

God, I feel superior.

Up the ramp, swim cap and goggles off. Walk to my bike, peel off the rest of the wetsuit. Grab the race belt and put it on; an elastic belt which the race number snaps into. You have the number on your back during the ride, then simply spin the belt around so you run with the number in front. Anyhow, a spectator starts laughing at my belt, and I know why. Loss of electrolytes will be a big issue, so I decided to carry 10 Dutch pretzels by stringing them onto the race belt. They dangle like a candy necklace, but it works. Once an engineer…

Out of T1, clip into my pedals and get going. Problem is, a guy in front of me decides to stop in the middle of the road, and a low-speed crash ensues. He took the brunt of it. Sorry, dude, but I’ve got places to go.

To the Cascade Lakes Highway, the road around Mt. Bachelor. It also parallels the Pacific Coast Trail. Yep, it’s way out in the boonies, all right. A volunteer points up the highway as if I need directions. He laughs and says ‘there’s a little ways to go.’ Like 50 miles and a monster climb.

The world must be short of comedians.

I’ll see the mountain from the south, west, north, and east before the day is out.

Time to start eating, half a turkey sandwich down the pipe. I realized this morning that it wasn’t really turkey I bought, but turkey by-products. Whatever was left on the turkey after the good stuff was gone. Great.

People are flying by me, and I simply wave. Remember the plan; save it for the end of the run, and everything until then is just biding time. When the 1980 Olympic hockey team scored to lead the Russians, the coach implored his guys to ‘play your game, play your game.’ Forget the noise, forget the excitement, and stick to the game plan.

The other thing I notice is that people are grinding the pedals in hard gears, probably so they can go faster. Hard gears mean more wear and tear on the legs, not good when you have a major climb, then 20 more miles, then a half marathon. I’m spinning away, laughing to myself.

Up near Elk Lake, I see a stick in the road ahead. No need to risk a flat, but I don’t want to swerve into traffic.

Hey, it’s not a stick. It’s a snake, but it’s dead, right?

Uh.

Sucker pops his head up, looking for some flesh. Fortunately, he misses.

I really don’t like snakes.

Next up is Devil’s Lake, with the most amazing colors. Then it’s Sparks Lake, a huge meadow, and the mountain. Gorgeous panorama.

The only problem is, now it’s time for the bastard climb. About five miles, twisty, and up like an elevator shaft. I was smart enough to put some easy gears on the bike so I can save some juice for later. Everyone else is straining. Bunch of dumb-asses.

A young-ish looking woman inches past on the flats before the climb. She’s 24. I yell at her, “I’m twice as old as you. Get your ass up the mountain!”  She laughs in between gasps.

Then I drop her like a bad habit.

Then I come up to a 61-year-old woman. She has the good grace not to say a word to me. I am humbled.

Up what I hope is the final hill. Curving road with a caution sign that shows a 50 mph speed limit. I look down at my GPS; I’m doing 5. Thinking the sign is a bit unnecessary.

A guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt pedals by. Are you kidding me?

Finally up at the snow gates and passing the top of the climb. On my pocket recorder, I say, “passing the (gasp) Nordic Center … (gasp), I got this f***er.”

At the summit, grab another two bottles, then it’s 45 miles an hour downhill. Reach for the bagel in my shirt pocket; why is it toasted? Oh yeah, it’s been back there for 3 hrs.

My expensive heart rate monitor is having a stroke. It says I’m hitting 220 beats per minute. I’m barely pedaling on this descent, and 220 is a physical impossibility for an 18-yr old Olympian, much less a broken down guy almost 3 decades older.

Okay, now this is bothersome. I’m looking down at my front wheel hub, and I see something coming out of the side. A month ago, I repacked the hubs and bearings with grease; did I somehow screw it up? I’m still flying downhill and I would prefer that my front wheel stay intact awhile longer. At least until I hit the brakes. But I also don’t like the possibility of having to walk 7 miles in bike shoes. There’s nobody, I mean nobody, out here.

I pull over and stop. Again with the intelligent thinking? No waiting until disaster to check it out? Wow, I AM getting smarter.

Stick a finger down into the hub. It’s not a bearing coming out, it’s just excess grease that has spun out like clay on a pottery wheel. No harm, no foul.

But dammit, I must have lost a whole 30 seconds. Out of 7 hours. Tragedy.

20 more minutes and the bike leg is done. Onto the school’s playing field, park the rig, and put on the running shoes. The plan was to walk the first 200 uphill yards; no need to blow up so soon. Then it’s downhill.

Got 4 pretzels left, but am feeling fine. I snap them off my belt and leave them for a hungry bird. Must be doing ok if I willingly give up Dutch pretzels.

Now I’m running slowly. There’s Kristen and Zoe, standing by with much love and cowbell. And our friend Bretagne, who volunteered to run alongside for the half marathon. Sure, it’s against race rules to have a pacesetter. What are they going to do, make me start over?

Bretagne knows I don’t have much air to spare, so she does all the talking. Her husband Corey ran the half marathon as a single event that morning and won his age group. He’s on cloud nine, rightfully so. 1:24 for a half is ‘faster than a hot dog,’ as my daughter would say. 

Slow trot around the north end of Sunriver, it’s over 80 degrees now. Get ice every mile and stuff it under my cap. A brain freeze headache from the outside. But some major, MAJOR mugging for the cameras.

Two miles to go. We see 3 or 4 people ahead of us. Time to slowly squeeze it down and pick them off. The last guy is wearing bright orange; he sees us coming, but he can’t hide. I want to tear his legs off. Near the Sunriver Lodge, I sneak up behind him as quietly as I can after 7 hours, then I hit the burners. Why the quick pass? I don’t want him trying to hang on. I don’t want him to even think about it. I want to humiliate him. There’s pride, and then there’s racing.

A guy named Kenny Moore ran for UO, twice an Olympian, and became the best writer on running we’ve ever had. He called it, ‘the full savagery of my competitive heart.’

Wow. And apropos.

By the way, the macho crap ends at the finish line. Once it’s over, everyone has won.

Bretagne moves out ahead for the last quarter mile. She puts a finger up and points ahead. Yet one more victim to be devoured. Same deal, I pound past him, and he doesn’t look up. Surrender or die.  

Now I’m at the point where I counted on tears streaming down my face. My love of running since age what? Five? Right around a divorce and my personal train coming off the tracks. The lack of goals, the lack of direction. Never knowing where to go, but always taking the hardest path available. Getting rejected 3x by Annapolis but still making it through, then into nuclear power. Then the back surgeries, the missed opportunities. And now, after refusing to be defined as something I’m not, the (somewhat) triumphant comeback to the fitness world.

I imagined the first triathlon to be a religious experience. A revelation, the clouds parting. I joked that I’d be talking to Jesus on the climb up the mountain, but we must have missed that conversation.  

Nah, no tears, no lump in the throat. But with 200 yards left, it’s time to finish this bastard.

My friend Jay, a fellow track umpire, was at one of the cross walks. He demanded a final sprint worthy of an Olympian. Aye aye, sir. Whatever is left in the tank goes right into the shoes. Pick ‘em up, put ‘em down. Fast.

Crowds line the final turn, and no other runners in sight. Now it’s big strides, quick strides. As I hit whatever top gear I have left, there’s a growl coming from deep in my gut. What it means, I don’t know. But I’m moving, and people are pointing.

I want to jump across the line with my fist in the air. A statement of triumph, of awakening, of a second chance. But the idea of landing hard and dislocating something isn’t appealing. I’m still thinking clearly. Go figure.

There’s Kristen and Zoe, both yelling. It’s been a long eight months of training, and I tried like hell not to make it too hard on them. That’s why the 0500 runs in -20F snow, 0415 wakeup calls to go swimming, and bike rides from hell.

Across the line.

Done.

The next morning? People told me I’d be sick of the sport at least temporarily and possibly permanently. It burns people out. Strains relationships. Makes you one-dimensional. And it hurts a lot.

Reality? Very little soreness. Feels like it was simply a long workout. 2nd to last in my age group; the last guy was 4 minutes back. I think it was the man in orange. Thanks, Bretagne.

Results:
Swim 44 minutes (1 minute faster than goal, and with many short relaxation breaks)
Bike 3:55 (5 minutes fast, easy pedaling)
Run 2:35 (15 minutes slow, lack of adequate mileage in training, but I knew this going in)
Transitions: 12 minutes total (2 minutes slow)
Total: 7:30-ish.

And a good sprint.

Noon the next day, walking through the finish line area, wondering what to do next. The race numbers on my calves are already fading, so no more badge of honor. I feel cheated.

Almost a letdown. One of the astronauts returning from the moon said, “Is that all there is?” It’s barely been 24 hours, but I really want to go for a run right now.

It’s good to be back.










Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pole Pedal Paddle

author's note: the Pole Pedal Paddle is a multi-sport event in Bend, Oregon. The race consists of the following:
  • short sprint uphill in ski boots
  • downhill ski run
  • 5 mile cross-country ski loop
  • 22 mile road bike ride
  • 5 mile run
  • 1.25 mile kayak loop
  • 600 yd sprint
Most normal people do this race on a team. Not being normal, I went solo like the certifiable 5%. The following is the summary I sent to a friend.


Gail,

Thanks for the note. Race recap follows:

Friday night: kayak is staged, gear is inventoried, numbers are pinned to shirts. I'm ready.

I think.

At 0700 Saturday (race morning), one of my aero bar pads pop off the handlebars, and I can’t get the damned thing to stay on. I figure I can duct-tape the pad to my forearm if need be (seriously). The bike mechanic from Sunnyside grabs my tape and does a 30-second NASCAR pit-stop fix that would impress MacGyver. It works.

Sunnyside rocks.

Did you see me in my racing shorts up at Pine Marten (the lodge halfway up the mountain where the race starts, it was 50F)? Revelation: downhill skiing in thin shorts means a lot of snow on the legs and down the socks. Woke me up, all right.

I use two sets of boots for the ski legs; wasn’t concerned about time in my debut. I saw one of the elites jump straight up out of his DH boots (XC boots inside to save time), clip into the XC skis in about 5 seconds, and do an immediate face-plant. Nice!

You’re so right about the run uphill in boots. My quads actually got a little tired, even though I took my time. I did no alpine this year except for the single practice run, and was a little concerned about that. No need; most of the people were stuck in snowplow mode, so I go straight for the fall line. Doing fine until I hit a pile of slush and go airborne.

Warren Miller (of acrobatic ski movie fame) won’t be calling anytime soon. But maybe Wide World of Sports will (‘the agony of defeat’ ski jumper).
 
Someone told me about the year with all the snow on the road. Something like 22 degrees up top? Yeah, I’d still be there. Maybe. But not in shorts.

It's only been 3 months since I first clipped into a Nordic binding, and I really need some skate ski lessons; I went classic style just so I wouldn’t burn out. Good choice, but people with walkers and orthopedic shoes are passing me. I get ‘em back on the last hill, though.
 
Almost forgot about the telescoping poles I rented. Yeah, they telescope all right. Even when I don’t want them to. By the time I finish, I have an 18” difference between them. Ever see Marty Feldman (Igor) in Young Frankenstein? This is me schlepping up the last hill.

Another lesson learned: it’s surprisingly hard to eat a PB&J sandwich on the bike after XC skiing. No moisture at all in my mouth and I’m trying to eat/breathe/pedal all at the same time; it takes me a mile to get it down. Then it’s off to the races; I hit 44+ on my aero bars, with bugs in my teeth and a smile on my face.

I pass a bike chain laying on the shoulder. Someone had a bad day.

Get to the Century/Colorado traffic circle and encounter a huge wall of very silent spectators, so I yell, “Wake up, people, I’m workin’ here!”  Got a rise out of them.

Throw on my running shoes, start off feeling good at 8 minute mile pace. That lasts about a hundred yards. Then it just hurts. Gets a little better after the turnaround, but I’m pretty much blown by now.

Kayak? I’ll be fine. After all, my arms haven’t really worked hard yet.

Yeah, right.

At Riverbend Park, I swear there's about 3 boats left. Wasn’t hard to find mine, not with Kristen, Zoe, and Barbara standing behind it. I get in, take a couple of strokes, and realize I left my shoulders somewhere on Century Drive. Brutal. I was wishing your man Brian and his big arms would jump in and paddle for me.

Right about now, I really need more cowbell.

Halfway thru the boat leg, I realize my legs feel fine, although a little tired. They had a good 35 minute rest in the kayak, so I’ll salvage the day with a violent kick to the line after I beach this sucker. I get pulled out of the boat, take two steps, and realize it’s going to be another half-hour to cover the final 600m sprint.  The wheels are gone, completely gone, kaput.

Note to Molly, race director: ‘Sprint’ is not an appropriate term for that final segment.

In the last 200 yards, I pick off a few more people and somehow find another gear to finish fast. On the beverage table, I grab a Muscle Milk and it tastes pretty damned good. Right now, a frosty glass of bacon fat would taste pretty damned good. My 7-year-old daughter gets a Nathan's hot dog; I nearly chew off her fingers in pursuit.

My first PPP is in the books. Tomorrow, I’m joining the circus.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eugene Half Marathon

The race is done.

Goals:
Start slow, 10 min pace for 1st  9 miles
Accelerate for last 4 miles
Sprint final 200m (finish was on Hayward Field track)
Wanted to keep this strictly as a strength builder for the upcoming 70.3 triathlon and couldn’t afford to blow myself out.

Actuals:
First 9 miles in 9:45
Last 4 miles in 8:15
Sprint 200m in 32s (no typo)


Hadn’t run more than 6 miles in training (favoring the knee that gave me trouble last yr), so I was a little apprehensive going in.


It was a little tough being patient early. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel great at the slow pace (but not horrible either). Had to empty my head a few times to focus better, and I kept my stride low with hamstrings engaged (I blew both flexors last year on much more training volume ). Breathing was fine, no real effort. Flexors started to make noise around 6 miles (like last year) without getting too loud.


At 9 miles, I started squeezing it down. Stepped over my threshold at that point but kept it in check. OMG, I must have passed 400 people in the last miles. Talk about a motivator! Last year, I struggled to finish with 11-12 min miles and I was the one getting passed.


God loves negative splitters.


The final part was somewhat tough but my stride stayed light. Never felt sluggish or weak throughout the run. I hit every other aid station for water or Gator and walked about 50 yds each time. Big help.

We hit the track and I just exploded. We could only use the outer four lanes and it was crowded; could have cut another second or two if it was clear. Didn’t feel any lactic at that point, just my first time on that gorgeous track in a competitive situation. Was somehow able to keep cranking the turnover with bigbig strides

Gotta believe I’ll be showing a great ugly face in the race pix. Absolutely worth it! I’m hoping Runner’s Space recorded a full streaming video ‘cause I want to see that sprint. (post-script: Runner's Space rocks. I'm the guy at about 4:45 in the white shirt. haven't run that fast since high school).

Came home and sat in a cold tub 2 hrs later then stretched and hit the roller. Feeling fine now, but will reserve all judgment until Tuesday to ensure no collateral damage. If good, I’ll sign up for the tri (had been waiting to see how this run went).


Obviously, my down week and pre-race cold didn’t hurt me too much. I had also been eating lots more raw veggies consistently.


Oh yeah; race-day breakfast was a PBJ. Manna from heaven. Even more: the previous two days I had been officiating a meet at Hayward, so I was on my feet a lot. I grabbed every opportunity to get down and stretch.


Next up: a multi in two weeks (XC ski, bike, run, kayak). Can’t wait to get in the big ring and fly down the mountain.