Friday, December 2, 2011

1972 Olympic 800m

They are flying along the backstretch, 150m into the race.

American Dave Wottle is behind. Way behind. There is a shot of him running alone, with no one else in the picture.

Announcer: "We don't know if Dave is seriously injured or sliding back to stay out of trouble." Cracks me up; of course, I know what happens next.

The field comes through in under 51; Dave is back at 53 or so. He starts pushing at the 300m mark, slowly gaining. Off the last turn, he's still 7-8 yards back, but the Russian is slowly coming back. Dave's strides are long and quick, while Arzhanov's are choppy and short. Wottle cuts down two Kenyans and keeps going, nailing the Russian with 5 yards to go.

Wottle came from way behind, but he ran back to back 53s laps. Dead even splits. No wonder he had a big kick when he needed it. But can you call it a kick if everyone else is dying?

Sure, why not?

Then he commits a minor indescretion by forgetting to remove his golf cap on the victory stand. Not intentional, he just forgot. Which, of course, gives birth to maybe the best nickname ever:

The Cat in the Hat.

1964 Olympic 5,000m

Here I am, in the Somerset County Library at age 10, reading about a race that happened a year before I was born. By now, I was a fairly decent runner, having won my third grade cross country race at my school's annual Field Day. I had run enough to know that sometimes, running hurts a little.

And I knew enough to know that Olympic races hurt a lot.

So why is this guy smiling?

One lap to go. Frenchman Michel Jazy, WR holder in the mile, takes the bell and blasts off. By the end of the first turn, he has a gap and keeps flying down the backstretch. Behind him, American Bob Schul gets out of traffic and takes off in pursuit. For 100m, there is little change in their positions.

Then they hit the turn, and Jazy hits the wall. Coming into the finishing straight, he's tying up. But Schul isn't. Our guy pulls even with 80 remaining, then doesn't hesitate. He's gone. And he's laughing as he crosses the finish line.

German Harald Norpoth comes up on Jazy and also walks him down. "By then, the disheartened Frenchman was so disorganized that Bill Dellinger of the US snatched the bronze from him with the last stride." Disorganized? Not a term you normally hear when someone describes a race. Thank you, Arthur Daley (NY Times writer).

By the way, Schul ran a 38.7 for the last 300m. That's on a rain-drenched cinder track almost 50 years ago. That kind of finish puts him on the podium's top step in many races today.

With Schul's 5000m and Billy Mills's 10,000m, this remains the only year in which the US has one both distance golds. Or any gold.

There must have been something in the water that year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1992 Olympic 1500m

This one always cracks me up.

Barcelona Olympics, 1992, and the men's 1500m race. Lots of Africans, an American, and a non-descript hometown Spanish boy named Fermin Cacho, definitely the crowd favorite.

I had never heard of this guy, but I had been away from track for a decade. Before the gun, he looks like the kid in the neighborhood who always wanted to play but was never picked for a team. I could just see him with his hand in the air, yelling "Me! Take Me!"

He's looking around, wide-eyed, floppy head of hair, the token Spainard in his hometown Games.

The gun. First couple of laps are slow, as the 1500 usually is. No one wants to lead, everyone is biding their time until 600m to go. Then it heats up. But our hero is stuck on the rail, absolutely buried in 4th place with a guy on his right hip, a guy just behind that, and 3 guys ahead.

He's screwed. He's absolutely screwed.

They pass the finish line, one lap to go, and the pace starts screaming. 300m left, the poor guy is still pinned on the inside with a handful of guys to his right. No path, no escape. And he's over-striding like a madman, knowing that he's about to get gapped.

Now he's the little brother trying to keep up with the older kids, and they are about to leave him behind. You can almost see his eyes get bigger, and you can't help but feel for the guy. It's no use trying to keep up with the best African runners in a middle distance event, especially at the Olympics. 250m left, and there's no hope.


The leader begins to tire and begins a slight drift to the right as they approach the turn. A small alley opens along the inside.

Cacho is fairly thin. He basically turns sideways, squirts through the opening, and keeps going.

Did I mention he's a Spanish guy running in Barcelona? Around the last turn, the crowd is going nuclear.

This is what always cracks me up. He takes the lead, he's still over-striding, yet he's pulling away ever so slightly, with a look on his face like he's late for school or something.  How do I know he's out of his league? Because he looks over his shoulder at least 9 times in the last 150 meters!! He knows they're coming back at him.

Except they're not.

This is a guy scared for his life but not waiting around for the wolves to attack. He's gone. With 10m to go, the game is over and he throttles down with his arms in the air. The stadium implodes.

I still don't believe it.

But every time I shake my head, I check the clock. This unknown overachiever ran a 50-second last lap, and his last 700m were at 1:46 half mile pace. I guess he earned that medal.

And he came back 4 years later to win a silver. Nice set of hardware, Senor Cacho.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things I like (and things I don't)

  1. Running in crappy weather
  2. Running in good weather
  3. No longer getting injured by forefoot striking
  4. Negative splitting
  5. Keeping pace with my trusty Garmin 305
  6. Running by feel without a watch
  7. Knowing I can run after two back surgeries and 30 yrs off
  8. Finding a kick at age 45 (triathlon training helped a lot)
  9. Running 32s on Hayward Field for the final 200 of a Half Marathon
  10. Seeing #9 on; smoke, baby
  11. Negative splitting
  12. Getting up early
  13. Planks, lunges, plyometrics
  14. Learning how to really swim for the first time in my life
  15. Getting bumped up to lane 2, then 3, then occasionally 4 in the master's swim group
  16. #15 translation; faster swimmers are in higher lanes
  17. Running at 4am; no cars out there, just quiet
  18. Laughing through my disastrous 1st marathon
  19. Cutting 78 minutes off my Half Ironman time in one shot
  20. Running a HM PR while on a tempo run (it was a really nice tempo)
  21. Learning how to do flip turns
  22. My annual visit to The Nike Employee Store (it's like Disneyland but half-price)
  23. Setting a BHAG like qualifying for Boston at age 47 (BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
  24. Swimming in a 51F reservoir as a veteran among newbies
  25. Running much farther at 46 than I ever did before that age
  26. Blowing past people in the late stages: see #4,8-11
  27. Fast friends who encourage me to run faster without saying anything
  28. Getting rejected 3x by Annapolis and still getting in (and finding out that Douglas MacArthur was rejected 3x by West Point and still got in).
  29. Having a buddy tell me that his brother applied to Annapolis but got rejected. "Me too," I said. "So how did you get through?" buddy asks. My reply, "I kept asking until they got tired of saying no."
  30. Going from a class rank of 982/1300 to 504 by graduation
  31. Picking an engineering major with 49 others and doing so with a lousy 1.89 GPA
  32. Finishing as one of 18 in that major and getting my best grades in my last semester
  33. Knowing that #s 28-31 are another form of negative splitting
  34. Realizing I really don't need to find a harder activity than running, swimming, or nordic skiing
  35. Realizing decisions made at 18 don't have to be permanent, even if many years have elapsed
  36. Did I mention negative splitting?
(Disclaimer: you might like some things I don't. Doesn't make either of us wrong)
  1. Excessive consumption and greedy pigs
  2. Black Friday: better than syrup of ipecac
  3. Treadmills: I'd much rather freeze or get soaked
  4. Realizing that the 8 minute pace that used to be recovery is now tempo
  5. Second-guessing
  6. Hills: I used to like them, and I'm again trying to, but they just suck right now
  7. Staying up late; doesn't work anymore
  8. Draft-dodging politicians who are quick to send others' kids to war
  9. Giving up on running when I was 17 and not yet an Olympian
  10. Not realizing that the best runners are 28 or so
  11. In other words, lack of patience
  12. Not questioning whether I could run after back surgery and letting lots of time elapse
  13. Never winning a race in high school and thought I just didn't have what it took
  14. Never knowing that Kenny Moore didn't win a race in HS but later ran in 2 Olympics
  15. Going out too fast and dying late
  16. Disengaged people
  17. Doing what others wanted without really thinking about what I wanted
  18. Learning that stones aren't as valuable to most as Mensa brains (See #28-33 above)
  19. Cable TV: we disconnected it, and I'm spending the time better
  20. Politicians who make preferential rules for themselves
  21. Career politicians: it's not supposed to be a lifetime appointment
  22. Politicians who make an amendment for presidential term limits but not for themselves
  23. I think I'm talking about Congress: Throwing them all out = a good start
  24. Incentives to agribusiness for not growing food
  25. Incentives to agribusiness for ethanol when it produces less energy than gas
  26. Loopholes in general, and lobbyists
  27. Bonuses for lousy work: 'but we need to retain our employees.' You mean the ones that lost all the money in the first place? Nah, cut 'em loose.
  28. College football coaches who are the highest paid employees in the state. Something is inherently wrong with this.
  29. Cottage Cheese:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's just good...

Most of the time, I'm not really particular about food. Since I re-booted my diet into something paleo-like, it's a lot of salad, nuts and the like.


My wife's college buddy Mike came down for a visit and did us right by making some superb meals.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How not to recover...

All races for the year are finally done.

I'm pretty burned out, physically and mentally, in need of a break. Next year's goal is the 29 April Eugene Marathon in 3:26, which will be good enough to qualify for Boston.

So my plan was to:
  • Take the month of September easy so the body can recover,
  • Build run mileage in Oct-Dec while taking core/plyo classes like last year
  • Begin hardcore run training in January

With Hood to Coast done, and a slight calf strain to boot, it's time to slowly rebuild.

A friend told me there are only two things that are never bad for you, yogurt and swimming. Except somehow I thought he said yoga.

It's easy stretching, right?

Sure. Except when the class is called "Power Yoga."

It's been a year since I've been on the mat. After yesterday, just call me Shaky. Could barely hold most poses; balance seemed fine, but the muscles just weren't there. And today, the glutes were questioning my sanity. Very, very sore.

Anything with the word "Power" in the description really isn't a good recovery exercise.

Dumb. Just dumb.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hood to Coast Relay

Starts at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. Ends at Seaside, 197 miles away. 12 runners and two vans per team, 1250 total teams, a separate walking event, 20,000+ competitors, and lots of Port-a-Johns.

Jeez, I really need a new hobby.

The Sandy (Oregon) Safeway, site of the first van exchange, is an absolute mob scene. I look for (and find) Kim, the woman who hosted me at the Lake Stevens Ironman. I promise her more beer after this disaster is finished.

Runners began from the mountain in waves at 3:30am amid a nice hail/lightning storm. And the road downhill was recently paved. So by 5pm, the new asphalt was smokin' hot.

Fun, fun, fun...

We rented a monster van for the trip. 4 bench seats plus bucket seats for driver and passenger. Lots of room to lie down. We also had two drivers. Some teams had an SUV and no dedicated driver. Must be hard to concentrate on the wheel when you've got 15 miles in your legs and no sleep.

Or maybe I just need to be pampered.

The first 3 legs are side roads, very little shade, with the mercury pushing 90. Lots of rolling hills, too. I see Kim and get my whole van to cheer for her; she looks perplexed until she recognizes the culprit. Yes, I'm a sneaky SOB.

Now we hit the Springwater Trail, a paved path thru southeast Portland. As the sun drops, the humidity rises. I need to revisit the psychometric charts, the ones that plot temperature vs relative humidity. It feels like we're wearing a wet fur coat out here.

I get warmed up by trotting around the exchange parking lot. "Uh oh," I mutter. "What's wrong?" our driver asks. I grin and say, "I feel fast."

The handoff at 9:30, now it's really dark. The Trail has no lights, just the bobbing ones that each runner wears. I start way faster than I wanted to, but we ain't playin' here. After a few miles, we're on the trail that parallels the Willamette River into downtown Portland. Again, no lights. And really humid, but at least it's hot.

That's called 'irony,' people.

Booking along on the ragged edge, and that Marquam Bridge sure isn't getting closer. Near the end, there are 4 people running together. Since I don't know our next runner by sight, it'll be worse than a Nascar pit stop jam if I don't break free. So I hit the gas and pass them, arriving in the exchange zone solo. I see Van 1's leader jumping up and down in the dark and pointing to the next runner. Done.

15 roadkills. That's the # of runners I passed, though each one cost me portions of important internal organs. Good news: I was no one else's kill. See if I can keep that up. But that leg, about 6.4 miles, was basically a personal best for 10k. Great. And stupid: I have 2 more legs to go, and on no sleep.


Our first legs are done. Come to find out that the other van, instead of sitting and waiting for us, passed the time by enjoying dinner and aperitifs at the Deschutes Brewpub in the Pearl District. Nice touch!

Drive up to St. Helens and the fairgrounds. Nice mile-long procession of vans trying to get into the parking area. Oy vey. And we're directed to park adjacent to the runner's exchange, complete with its prerequisite hooting and hollering. We net about 90 minutes of sleep, all fitful. Up at 0230, collect the teammates who vanished into the mist with their sleeping bags, and get ready to roll.

Our first van arrives. They're looking a bit peaked, having now been up for almost 24 hours. It takes them another hour to drive to the next sleep area, so they get maybe 60 minutes of down time.

Repeat: new hobby needed.

At the next exchange; COFFEE!!   Bless you, my son.

Two sections of gravel road at 4am, out in Nowheresville. One of our women gets harrassed by a couple of locals in a pickup, but she flexes her muscles and scares them off.

My second leg approaches; I'm stiff and feeling clunky. Warm-up jog helps. I start slower, then pick it up after 10 minutes. I kill 4 more people, but can't get to the fifth. Legs won't maintain a faster pace. So I surge for 200 yards, then recover, then repeat several times. Now I'm on him, but he takes off with the exchange in sight. I let him go; a sprint now means more lactic means crying on the last leg.

No one passed by. That's 19 kills for me, none for them. Even though I had to have been slower this time, I wasn't. About 7:50 pace, following the first leg's 8:00.

Only two weeks since my half ironman, when I cut 78 minutes from last year's time. And last year, it took me 6 weeks for my body and head to recover. This time around, I know I'm not quite in sync, but I can't tell by the times I'm putting down. I'll say it again, diet is huge. The right fuel let me work harder and recover faster.

Traffic becomes horrendous in northwestern Oregon. Narrow roads and lots of vehicles. Our other van's last runner goes chugging past. This is a problem; he is going to hand off the baton to someone who is currently sitting in our van. So Superwoman jumps out, runs the last mile to the exchange, forcibly pushes people out of the PortaJohn line (well, gently), and then begins her journey.

Final leg. I'm ready for this to be done. Really, really stiff now. Legs want no part of another 5 miles.

Tough beans, pal. You signed up for this. You even paid good money!

Here comes Jen, sprinting home after 8 miles uphill. Nice job. I start with a mile on dirt, slightly up, then it's a two mile plunge into town. The van passes and asks how I'm doing. Good, I say, see you at the finish. They take off, and I devour a half dozen more folks.

Then it happens.

Clomp, clomp, clomp. It gets louder and louder. Some guy comes flying past. Absolutely flying. There's no way in hell I can match him.

First roadkill. I hang my head in shame. Then I realize my vanquir has no 5 o'clock shadow after 30 hours out here. He probably can't even vote.

I deservedly give myself a mulligan.

2 flat miles in town, and now I'm on fumes. But there's more kills to do. Try the surge again and it works. Get another couple before making the turn onto the Promenade. And the finish line should be right there.

Except it isn't. No, the tents are about a half mile down the beach. You cannot be serious! (thank you, John McEnroe).

A quick look behind: the lady I followed for a mile and then passed is not hanging close. I should send her a nice fruit basket. A couple more people ahead; what the hell, it's time to finish. But now a calf muscle is suddenly making noise, more with each step. Since I don't have anymore races this year, I don't care.

19 more kills, so my record is 38-1. Not shabby. Disclaimer; if I had been one of the first six runners, I'd have been dead meat for many.

Stumble across the timing mat and stop my watch: 7:50 minute pace once more. The reason for these nice times on a set of 46-year-old legs is due to an extraordinarily vicious massage therapist who makes endurance races seem like a picnic compared to 60 minutes on her table. How she inflicts such pain while smiling seems unlawful, but she keeps the wheels rolling. Many thanks, JJB.

Unbelievable: people were actually complaining about the weather and the lack of water along the course. Uh, you sign up for a Northern Hemisphere race in August and the heat is a surprise? Have some foresight, people!

Or study Darwin.

One woman complained that "for $110, I expect to be taken care of."  Fine, go to a spa. But don't enter an all-night relay and expect it to be no more strenuous than a trip to Whole Foods.

I remember a guy on the radio, circa 2002, complaining about high gas prices after he bought a Suburban. He was asked, "didn't you plan for this?" His retort: "This is America! We don't have to plan!!" 

This is why I drink.

Next morning at the Lazy Susan in Cannon Beach for breakfast. A woman dining upstairs is nearly crying as she descends to the ground floor. "You did the first leg, didn't you?" we ask. She nods, "way too fast leaving Timberline." Murder on the quads.

Hood to Coast is addicting. Next fix in 12 months.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

Pal Sean signed us up for this race 10 months ago.

Tip: never sign up for arduous activities while relaxing on the beach in Hawaii, as Sean was. But it sounded like a good idea at the time.

As with any Campbell event, this one was filled with screw-ups. Like the water bottles and Accelerade I left behind, 7 hours away. I was frantically working thru my checklist before departure while Zoe was dancing and singing around the house. Finally I asked her for 3 minutes of quiet so I could concentrate on the list.

It would have been more helpful if I had actually put those water bottles on the list in the first place. Oh well, easily replaceable on the fly. The main items were the bike, bike shoes, and wetsuit. Everything else is minor, sort of.

Drive to Seattle, meet Sean in Everett: he drove 14 hrs from his home in SF, and had pre-booked a massage to work out the stiffness. Smart.

We went over to Lake Stevens for  packet pickup; this was my first 'Ironman' brand event, and it was clearly a polished show. Very well organized. Then we rode our bikes over the run course; Sean noted the hill at 5 and 10 miles, figuring that people would be starting the run too hard and putting themselves in the hurt locker on the incline.

Sean gave me some electrolyte replacement mix to try; not wanted to experiment during the race, I drank the stuff on our recon ride. Then I got massively sick; had nothing to do with the half-pound of bacon I had for breakfast. Post-script: Sean, I found your stuff in my car afterward. Seems I used some other drink mix, not yours. No harm, no foul.

Bike course recon: the hill profile looked challenging but not brutal, with the hardest climbs appearing to be in the first 15 miles and repeated on the second lap. We're driving along, and the road is climbing, but it's really nothing dramatic. We're getting pumped, the profile I found was from MapMyRide, and we figured someone used a weak GPS to get inaccurate data. Sweet.

I'm driving along, looking at the (flat) landscape and congratulating ourselves on picking the right race, when Sean says...

 "Oh crap."

I look up. And up, and up. "Hey, it's really steep," I say, "but at least it's long."

Then we come to another couple of rollers that will cause more problems. New strategy; Don't empty it all on the second lap; those hills will sap the legs prior tot the run, and we both want to finish strong.

Now we head over to my home stay; volunteers offered to take in wayward triathletes as a hospitality gesture. Since we were staying 40 miles south in Seattle and the race begins at 0630, it made sense to stay nearby. Kim, my host, is an avid runner and a heckuva good cook. That pasta hit the spot.

What we noticed as we drove up was the cacophony from across the street. Seems that dad and son are both drummers, using their garage as a studio. Of course they are. Sean and I look at each other and burst out laughing. How could this not be happening?

Race day; we're setting up at 0530. 1200 or so competitors, and the area is very well laid-out.

Then it's time to swim. The buoys are all roped together and the anchors are connected by a rope about 5 feet down. It's the perfect runway to follow, and everyone is fighting for position above the rope for 1.2 miles. I make the turn at halfway, and somehow do a 270 degree turn around the buoy, not a 90. Then it's back on track, and I'm actually picking people off on the back nine. Jeez, I feel like a real swimmer!

Swim Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
    38:00            39:46                    5:00

Top half of my age group on the swim. That has NEVER happened before. Thanks much, Coach Bob and Coach Marti.

On the bike, I pick up a red card infraction. Really? For drafting? On an uphill? I need to speak to my attorney.

We were right. The rollers are leg-zappers. It hurts.

Bike Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
   3:25               3:20                   35 min

Michelle, those Honey Stinger bars you sold me were really good. No bonk, no stomach problems. Thanks! And no problems with the mounting/dismounting with shoes on the pedals; I was afraid of taking a header. 4 minutes total in transitions, much faster than last year.

The run started a bit too fast, so I pulled it back and settled in. Sean was flying when we passed in opposite directions at his 5 mile point, looking good. Then I see him at about 9 miles, walking and white as a ghost and not sweating. He thinks he might have to drop out; now I know it's serious, because he never does that. Later he said he probably didn't eat enough. So hard to get it right. When I saw my wife and family, I told them to give him a big shout-out; hopefully that will help.

Sean, at left, hanging tough and gutting it out

On the sidewalk, I see Kim from our local tri club; her husband Frank is competing. She spots me and gives the verbal equivalent of much cowbell. Kim, thanks, I needed the boost. And I'm glad your voice carries!

Meanwhile, during the run I drink about 20 oz. of flat coke and plenty of disgusting coffee-flavored gels that just happen to have lots of caffeine. I'm worried about upsetting my stomach, but I'm more worried about running out of gas.

It starts to hurt. I reconsider my idea of ever trying a full Ironman, but I'm sure I'll change my mind in a week or so.

One mile at a time. When I can't see out that far, I try to get thru the next half-mile, then 100 yards, then 10 steps. Wash, rinse, repeat. Hey Bretagne, remember my constant leg cramps last year? This time, nothing. Just a few hammy twitches, but no work stoppage.

There's a guy with a prosthetic leg.  And a woman with no forearm. How the hell did she swim? Suddenly, I don't hurt so much anymore.

Down the last hill. Gather myself. Look fore and aft; plenty of room between me and the next runners, so I do what comes naturally. Speed up, fist in the air, a hootin' and a hollerin'.
My Tim Robbins/Shawshank imitation

Of course, there's an uphill at the end. Thanks a lot, Mr. Race Director.

Run Goal    Actual     Improvement over last year
   2:00           2:02                32 min

Overall: 59th in age group out of 98. Last yr, I was 38 out of 39. And my overall time dropped 78 minutes.  I'll take it.

Dinner included a vodka martini, as if I'll need help sleeping.

Game, set, match. Later that night, it hurts. Bad. Or good.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You know you're a triathlete when...

Someone asks how old you are, and you say "30-34."

You go for a 5 km cool-down run after a 5 km race just so that you can call it a training session.

You need a picture for a job application and you only have race pictures.

You use excess race T-shirts to clean your bike.

You take more showers in a locker room than at home.

6:30 am is “sleeping in.”

You can't change the oil in your car but you can completely rebuild your bike in 45 minutes.

You spend more $ on training and racing clothes then work clothes.

You've been stung be a bee inside your mouth but continued your workout because "my split times won’t go down by themselves."

When asked to mow the lawn in 90 degree heat, you say that it’s too hot to do that (and you mean it) and then an hour later you go on a century ride because it’s so nice out. 

You consider Clif Bars as one of the four food groups.

You like wearing shorts or swimming the day after a race because your race #'s are still prominently displayed on your calves.

You have absolutely no idea what to do with yourself on your off day.

You are walking along a street and you signal left.

You feel a sudden urge to spit while running but suddely realize you are indoors on a treadmill... at the gym.

Everything you eat is all natural, but none of your clothes are.

The airline wants to charge you for overweight baggage so the first thing you toss are your work clothes. You can always get new work clothes...but good training outfits are worth their weight in gold

When driving over a bridge or past a body of water, your first thought is, "I could swim that".

Sometimes you have to slap your doctor...

A good friend was getting back into shape with a hilly 7-mile run thru Shevlin Park. This was easily his longest run this year, and he was grinding it out.

Halfway up  a long hill, he felt a sharp pain in his calf. Not incapacitating, just significant. Of course, he did what we all would do; kept running.

Next couple of weeks, the pain wouldn't subside, so he finally went to a doctor.

MD (spoken verbatim): "It might be a blood clot, so we need to do an ultrasound."


A guy doing a long-ish run that he wasn't in shape for, on uneven dirt trails, in the heat, up a hill, and the first reaction is to check for a blood clot?!?

No wonder our health care costs are prohibitive.

The ultrasound resolved nothing, except raising everyone's insurance costs and providing the doctor with funds for another boat payment.

So Shawn goes to a physical therapist, who discovers (gasp!) a spasming muscle. Ya think? Meanwhile, $1100 from the insurance company to the doctor.

I swear, there are times that homicide should be legal. Like for doctors who run up the bill without legitimate justification. PT should be the first course of action, not the second, unless there's a bone sticking out or something.

Another friend began having major foot problems after working out like a bandit for 4-5 months. She posted on FB and asked for advice. Everyone and their mother screamed "plantar fascitis" and "see my doctor" and "your foot is falling off."

I swear, this is really why I drink.

Somehow I resisted the temptation to post on her FB wall that all these people were idiots. Instead, I sent her a msg directly: Ice, Ice, baby. 20 minutes on, 20 off, all day. Get absolutely psycho about it, and take ibuprofen like candy. If it doesn't improve after 3 days, THEN consider medical intervention.

It worked. Not a surprise, to me anyway.

80% of physical ailments when a person is exercising are simple strains due to overwork. These problems can feel severe, but it's just a clump of inflammation that is very effectively and cheaply treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).

And KISS; keep it simple, s*******.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: The Rest of the Story...

With apologies to Mr. Paul Harvey about the title....

Friday's stage was the trip around Mt Bachelor. About 70 miles, brutal climb at the end.

At least I call it a brutal climb. The racers all said, "it wasn't bad at all."

Sigh. It was plenty bad during my first triathlon.

At the start, I caught a glimpse of the wonderfully huge Mt Bachelor Sports Education Foundation van; the same one I've rented for our team entry in the Hood to Coast Relay.

Hood to Coast is 200 miles, 12 runners, straight through the night. Experience dictates that a larger vehicle is much desired over a mini-van. A few more bucks, but this sucker has 4 bench seats behind the driver. If I'm going to run 6 miles 3 times in 30 hours, I'd like to stretch out a bit in between.

We hosted a great rider from Boulder, Dr. Julie Emmerman. A sports psychologist with a growing practice, and she still has time to train as a pro rider. No grass growing under her feet. She spent the first 30 miles of the Cascade Lakes stage chasing down every breakaway, with no team support at all; she was racing unattached. Very hard to succeed in bike racing when going solo.

Saturday: oy vey. First it was 3500m in the pool with my master's swim club, that's over 2 miles. Then a nap, then meet Kristen downtown for the criterium. Zoe and I played Sherpa so racer Julie could ride the bike to the course; we carried the backpack and stationary trainer to the library entrance, where we met Julie in a nice shady spot near the book return. She set up the trainer and did a brisk 45-minute warm-up.

Saw the pace car gunning the engine before the race.

Nice enough, but I prefer a different kind of wheels.

A total of 7 bikes in our garage this week, very cool. The 416 and the other white one are Julie's, complete with pro-level components. I couldn't stop drooling; serious cycle envy.

Julie does some support work for Garmin Cervelo, the guys who just won the team competition in the Tour de France. That's big-time.

Our rider woke this morning very tired, what with Mackenzie Pass, the Cascade Highway, and two time trials already behind her. She figured on simply sitting inside the pack today and not doing much work.

Sure, it always turns out as planned. Except for most of the time when it doesn't. She was doing fine in the crit until all of a sudden, she's several hundred yards behind the pack. Not from fatigue; she got trapped behind a crash and was gapped in a hurry. She ended up in a small group but was doing most of the work.

Afterward, she said she felt fine, even while doing the majority of pulling to regain contact. "That's racing," she shrugged.

Meanwhile, Ed from Pisano's was out practicing his craft.

And MBSEF gave all drivers and volunteers free entree to their VIP viewing area, where we could watch the race and nosh. We were right in front of a pothole that the city graciously marked with orange paint, so that 200 racers going 30 mph would easily be able to avoid it. Uh, Mr. Mayor, it didn't work; there were at least a dozen flats from direct hits. A little asphalt patch might have been in order.

Next day, last day. My warm-up was a 3.5 hr cycling ride of my own, out the Powell Butte Hwy east of town. Bachelor, the Sisters, Broken Top, Black Butte, all clearly visible on the horizon. We members of the triathlon club decided on the spot that this road needed to be the bike course for Ironman Central Oregon 2013.

Then it's back to the bike race and driving the final stage, all 67 miles worth. That's 6.5 hrs in the saddle or the car seat today. In competition for the IronButt award, I had no peer this day.

Julie rode tough, stayed solidly in the pack, and finished 28th on the day, a nice finish to a hard week. The next day, we took her to lunch and convinced the non-beer-drinker to try a sample of Black Butte Porter. Not sure we converted her, but at least she didn't go all anaphylactic on us.

Great week, and a busy one. With 21 days until my half ironman, it's time to cut back on all extra-curriculars and finish peaking. But I'm already thinking about trying out a real bike race someday.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: Mackenzie Pass Stage

In 2010, I was asked to drive one of the race vehicles in the women's last stage. This year, I'm driving every road stage.

Very cool. My next license plate should read "COM2."  For commissair #2 (referee); my car is the one immediately preceding the peloton. "My" car is slightly inaccurate: I'm driving a rig from a local dealer/sponsor.

The stage begins up in the sticks. A half hour before the start, I'm standing five feet away from the car waiting for something to happen. A woman I don't recognize walks over to the car, opens the driver's door, sits down, and starts rummaging around. Curious, I simply watch. After more fumbling around the dashboard, she pops open the hood latch.

Now I'm really curious. I'm also responsible for the car. So I ask if she needs some help.

"Yes," she says, "I want to put my bag in the trunk."

"Oh," I said while raising the hood and shutting it, "I thought you wanted to check the oil."  Turns out she was another official. I pop the trunk and all is right with the world.

The official assigned to my car cautioned me to stay 30 seconds ahead of the pack. Distance and time are hard to judge when you're going anywhere from 10 to 50 mph. Tonight, I need to break out the slide rule and do some math.

The route goes from Santiam Pass, down 126 toward Eugene, then a tortuous 20 miles up and over Mackenzie Pass. For those who have driven to Mt Bachelor, today's climb averages a third steeper. Gawd.

Up, up, forever up...

Intrepid rider #416 drops off the lead pack when the hammer drops. She is thereby sentenced to climb the last 6 miles all by her lonesome while trying gamely to regain contact. The descent on the other side will be much easier if she pulls herself up to the lead group. But it's next to impossible when you have to bridge a gap alone.

A tough day at the office.

Up at the summit, 11 riders are at the front. Under orders, I bring the car behind them; now it's time for a ripping descent. 50+ mph, tight curves, and white knuckles. On me, that is. The riders look way too happy up there.

I'm really glad it's someone else's car. But I'm taking car of it, Mr. Dealer.

Team cars can hand out water bottles to riders under the watchful eyes of race officials. The riders quickly pass their empties to the car. Then they do a subtle maneuver; they turn their hand thumb-down and palm facing back as the driver hands over a fresh bottle.

And there it stops. The bottle transfer halts mid-stream, the rider stops pedaling, yet miraculously they maintain speed or even accelerate. Yes, they are getting a free pull from the car. Anything more than about 10 seconds earns them an angry honk from the COM2 driver. Some of them also received fines at race end.

You can run, but  you can't hide. Gamesmanship is a subtle art.

At the finish, an 8-year-old boy climbs out of a team car to greet his mom. 20 minutes later, another team member struggles across the line. He sees and runs over to her gasping form.

Innocent Boy: "Why were you so slow?"
Patient Rider: "Because it hurt."

After I stop chuckling to myself and nodding in sympathy, I hear another rider groaning. She says, "The whole way was pain, and not the normal kind."

I'm not sure what that means, and I'm not sure I want to know.

CCC: The Group Ride

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cascade Cycling Classic: the Group Ride

The CCC is the longest continuously running stage race in America, and it just happens to be right here.

Mt Bachelor Sports Education Foundation organizes the race, a huge undertaking. They do a great job in controlling the chaos at an acceptable level. The night before the race started, MBSEF organized a group ride with the Garmin Chipotle Development Team; sponsors and volunteers were welcome.

The guy in the blue/green shirt figures prominently. Read on...

I asked, "will it be a hammerfest?"

"No, no," says Molly, "a comfortable ride." She is MBSEF's events/finance guru and "All Knowing" one. Seriously, that's her title in the race manual.

I'm still recovering from my triathlon two days prior, legs are shot, and the weather looks questionable. But I'll take it easy, and riding in light rain is no big deal. About 25 of us meet at the MBSEF office for Molly's world famous chocolate chip cookies washed down with Gatorade. Then we're off.

Notice the foul-weather gear
I hadn't ridden in a peloton in, what, 18 years? Old habits die hard; you have to pay attention, but it's fun.

Did I mention the rain?

After two or three miles, it's absolutely dumping on us. Oh well. I hope that camera in my pocket is staying dry.

Climbing out of Shevlin Park, it starts to get hard. Who's up there pushing the pace? None other than The All-Knowing One. I comment that I'm not liking her very much right now (but I am).

I'm feeling ok, so I decide to tuck behind the front guys and see what happens. Soon, the Garmin guys are laughing, talking, having a grand old time. I'm dry-heaving, scratching and clawing to keep up.

Still pouring. I can imagine the camera short-circuiting.

The rise from Tumalo State Park was tough but manageable, and much faster than I've done it before. At the crest, I'm still there. We pick it up on OB Riley, riding fast and on the ragged edge (that's me; everyone else is bored).

There was a young blond kid with the front group, maybe 16 or so, and shaped like a defensive lineman (see first photo, back right). His dad works at Bend Memorial Clinic, the main sponsor, so the son decided to come along. His rig had mountain bike pedals and all-terrain shoes, not as aero as the Garmin outfits. Hey, it all works. What's really cool is that this kid had been riding maybe 2-3 months, and here he was, hanging with the pros for the better part of the ride. Nice job, guy.

I don't know who Archie Briggs was, but he could have picked a flatter road to name after himself. This one hurts. First climb, I'm still there, 2nd one, hanging by my fingernails. They finally drop me within 100 yards of the summit. Fortunately, they stay together on the downhill, so I recover and pound away until I'm back.

Then there's one last short steep climb near the college. I'm done, toast. The enamel on my teeth is gone from an hour's worth of grinding, but heck, these guys are half my age. One of the racers cannot drink beer legally; I have socks older than him.

Good showing to keep up this long. And no one would fault me for simply cruising in.

However, there's this thing called pride...

They're pedaling at a steady clip down to the roundabout. I put my guts on my sleeve (figurative, not literal) and it's back into the big ring. I rip around the curve and catch them one last time.

Sure, they are all sitting up and beginning to cool down, so bridging the gap might not be considered an heroic effort.

I don't care. It was a win for me.

CCC: Mackenzie Pass Stage

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Race Volunteering is cool, most of the time...

2nd day of the Deschutes Dash; I'm offline and glad to help at an aid station. We're just past T2, which also happens to be T1.

It's that minimalist thing, I suppose.

T2 empties onto a riverside walkway awash with spectators. Ok, fine, but come on, people. Give the runners a clear path. Pretty quickly we dispatch some loud guy to get people out of the way.

Yes, my voice carries.

Most of the spectators are great. They wait until a break in the action before crossing.

Then there are the ones completely unaware of their surroundings. Like the woman parked in the middle of the sidewalk, 10 feet from the 90 degree transition exit. After yelling three times at her, including once from spitting distance, she finally turns and looks bewildered.

Then there's the guy who basically does the same thing until he realizes he's in the way. He turns and laughs. I shake my head; he says, "dude, don't look at me like that."

Dude, are you always that oblivious, or are you just an inconsiderate jackass? More of that, and I wouldn't be surprised to see triathletes lowering a shoulder and playing fullback.

The day got better. Runners are very happy when you give them something cool to drink, even if they don't say it. Anyone who has been on the other side knows what it's like.

I almost stayed perfect; literally one single drop of HEED spilled on me all day. Keys to success from Michelle, DMC Kahuna:
  • Hold the cup at the top with your palm facing down
  • Tilt the cup in the direction of travel
  • Jog a step or two while passing the juice to reduce relative speed between you and runner
Pitched a nice fit when I got 'splashed.' Everyone laughed.

A woman stopped me with a question.
Her: "What's the difference between yesterday's races and today's?"
Me: "24 hours."
She didn't appreciate that very much.

One guy (not a runner by any stretch, given the 250 pounds he carried) took a cup and splashed it in his face. Too bad he grabbed (sticky) electrolyte and not the water he really wanted.

A woman did the sprint tri dressed like she stepped out of a patchouli shop. Beaded hair, halter top, flip-flops. How do you run a 5k in flip-flops? Dunno, maybe the same way you ride a bike 12 miles in them.

A big guy with  a shirt that says, "Running Sucks."

A guy who finished the swim, jumped on his mountain bike while still in transition, then entered the run course.
Me: 'Dude, are you in the race? If so, you're going the wrong way."
Him: 'Oh s***.'

One tough athlete in the kid's tri who braved the swim course with no wetsuit. And lots of kids who did the backstroke or breaststroke the whole way. No rule against it, and a good way to get used to a bizarre activity.

The fastest kids got through transition in less than a minute. The adults are somewhat methodical in putting their gear down. Michelle noted that the kids do what they do best; namely, throw stuff everywhere and without concern. Spoken like a true parent.

A good day. Volunteering is payback. The race organizers always appreciate it. And you get a free shirt without having to sweat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon: the Big Bonk

Or as Al Capone (DeNiro) said to Elliot Ness (Costner),


Hey DeNiro (aka Travis Bickle), you talkin' to me? I think you are. I had nothing today.

Hey, at least I was the water to warm up. 60F, not bad in the sleeveless. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of triathletes on the bank not eager to get in. The downstream river swim is fun; you go under bridges and think that you're a real swimmer when you see the relative speed.

After 200 yards with the field spread out, some guy literally crawled right over me enroute, going from my right hip to my left shoulder. Was that really necessary, dude? Then I took a kick to the jaw. Interesting.

Came to shore feeling strong.

On the bike after hitting a gel. Still working on getting into shoes on the fly, though this was better than last time. Then it's straight uphill toward Mt. Bachelor.

Already blown; legs are dead. No big, this is training race #2, with my target day coming in 4 weeks. It's ok to feel bad today. And I've been feeling really tired the last 6 weeks; training, work, volunteering, home, etc... And last night I spent 3 hours helping the organizers set up the transition area, getting home at 8pm.

Tip: if you're setting up fencing and bike racks, bring heavy gloves. Major blisters. And it poured on us.

Tip redux; don't set up fencing the day before a race if you want a good result in the race.

Anyhow, I just figured all the extra work will simply make the race harder, which is fine for training.

I was right. The race was harder. But I really need to throttle back on my recovery weeks.

Lots more rain uphill. Joseph and Kevin (fellow club members) crank past, and I wave goodbye. I was able to keep out of my lowest gear (23 cog), with a decent spin rate in the 21. I hit the turnaround 2 minutes slower than last year; didn't understand why.

Oh yeah; last year was a relay leg. This time, I was doing the whole thing. A little easier to ride when you didn't swim a mile beforehand. Selective memory?

Coming downhill, wet and cracked asphalt. Stay off the aero bars and take it easy. Nothing to gain and everything to lose by pushing hard now and wiping out. Never been as petrified on a descent like today.

Push the last flat four miles, out of the shoes without wrecking, into transition. Running shoes on, a drink of water, and we're going.

Except we're not.

Crashed hard/immediately, absolutely no energy, and I just started the run. This isn't going to be enjoyable, and it turns out I was right about that.

"Calories! I need Calories!!!"  At every aid station I'm screaming, to no avail. Water and HEED, no sugar or carbs. Later, when I tell my 8-year-old, she says, "Daddy, you should have eaten a chocolate bunny." No doubt.

After one loop, I'm on fumes. Okay, don't think. Just do. I cannot recall ever feeling that lousy in a race. I'm sure I've been there before, but it's been over 25 years.

BTW, only the last 4 years count. The previous 21? No races at all.

One aid station has half a banana. Not anymore. It's no magic elixir, but at least it doesn't get worse. How can it? I'm at rock bottom.

One nice thing about tri training is that it's given me a race-end kick. At least I can finish hard, sort of.

Had a free cosmopolitan afterward, courtesy of the race organizers. Nice touch, although an IV might have been more apropos. Then Joseph, Kevin, and I got back in the water for a bit.

Turns out Joseph took 2nd in our group! He had been dealing with a leg problem for a while, and this was his first race of the year. Nice way to come back, JB. Meanwhile, Kevin went for double-duty, with the sprint tri tomorrow. Today he was 13th OA (postscript: he was 1st AG in the sprint and the overall 2-day winner). Huge effort, Kevin!

Overall: good training day when taking the accumulated fatigue into account. Great workout for the carbo depletion effect, maybe my tired bod will start burning more fat like the books say.  Last tri of same length, I pounded about 5 ounces of gel underway. This time, 1 ounce and a major bonk. Hmmm, me thinks me sees a pattern.

Glad it was today and not at the Half Ironman in Lake Stevens next month.

It's all good. Now I'm taking a nap. For about 4 days.

Post Script:
didn't look at results until the next day. My first ever tri last yr, I was 36th out of 37 in my age group. Yesterday, 6th of 17 and an 8:28 run pace. Now I'm confused; it felt like 10+ minute miles. My Half Iron goal pace is 9:00; if I can go substantially faster while on vapors.....

Holy cow. I'm right where I need to be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Amazing Disappearing Blood Markers

Cholesterol has always been a problem with me.

Ever since I can remember, I've been above 200 for total cholesterol. Never understood why; I don't eat a lot of red meat or fatty stuff. Being lactose intolerant, I don't do alfredo or Benedict or any cream in quantity. And I've been working out like a madman, which should help, right?

But it didn't. The doctor put me on Crestor to help get it under control.

I hate taking meds. Absolutely hate it. Maybe I'm a control freak. Dunno.

Long story short: cholesterol stayed level, and triglycerides actually went up. But the kicker was when I learned that this little 90-day supply of meds that costs me $20 costs my insurance company over $400.

Obscene. And it wasn't working anyway. So it's time to reboot the diet.

Kristen discovers Mark Bittmann, a food writer who used to have a weight problem and many health issues. He got mad, then made up a diet he calls "Vegan before 6." Breakfast and lunch were no meat, lots of fruit/veg, no saturated fat or processed food. For dinner, he'd have 'normal' food, just a little less of it. Goodbye, 30 lbs. Goodbye, high cholesterol and joint problems.

For the last five months, I've been the joke of the lunch table, with my biggest decision being whether to have balsamic or Green Lakes vinaigrette on my salad. No pretzels, no flour (ok, maybe a little). And eating a third less.

10 lbs lost and I'm back at the doctor.

                                                              Feb 2011            July 2011        Trend
Total Cholesterol                                      240                    241              Constant.
HDL (good chol, should be high)                49                     105              Excellent
LDL (bad chol, should be low)                   158                    125              Excellent
Triglycerides (blood fats, should be low)     167                     55               Excellent
Total Chol/HDL ratio (should be low)           4.9                    2.3              Excellent

The doctor mentioned that current thinking is less toward total cholesterol and more toward having a higher HDL and lower ratio. If I understand her explanation correctly: chol is produced/delivered by the liver as a response to inflammation of the blood vessel walls. That inflammation is caused by sugar, which is made from starch. More sugar/starch means more inflammation means more cholesterol means narrowed arteries and a whole other set of problems...

So, eliminate starch. No white pasta, cookies, or my beloved pretzels. Plenty of lean meat, avocados, nuts, and other stuff a deer would love. Not that hard once you acclimatize.

Interestingly, I haven't had a moderately serious training injury this year. Some minor kinks, but nothing that put me out of commission. And no colds.

The other big change is the shorter recovery time. Last  year, it took me about 6 weeks after my half-iron race before I felt like going hard again. This time, two weeks after my 78-min improvement over that distance, I ran the Hood to Coast relay and pretty much equaled my best 10k time in 30 years. Again, better diet means harder workouts and less recovery needed.

One other thing I changed; eating more eggs, not fewer. Nice trade-off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

US Nationals (the competitors)

When non-tracksters ask me what 'Nationals' are, I just tell them that it's the Olympic Trials without the Olympics.

Tyson withdrew, bad hip. Sigh. Better now than in London, I suppose. Justin Gatlin forgets to lean and is 2nd by a hair; he's happy just to be back.

Ashton Eaton in a romp. He's gotten better in the throws, and his running/jumping is superlative as always. Dangerous man for the next two Olympiads.

Watching Elijah Greer warm up the day before the 800 prelims, I'm reminded of a sports car. Very fast yet smooth, he runs the turns as if on ice skates. That's two UO sophmores in three years running low 1:45's; the other guy's name is Wheaties or something.

David Oliver, massive high hurdler, is practicing over three barriers. Vin Lananna, UO Head Coach,  stands in an adjacent lane. DO flies by at high speed, creating a suction that nearly flattens the coach. Vin laughs and says, "David, if you hit me, I'm finished."

Galen Rupp starts the 10k wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask for allergies. Halfway through the race, he tears it off and pitches it. An ovation from the crowd.

With 2 laps to go, Galen floors it. 1:52 for the final 800, and he looks like a jet fighter on full afterburner going down the backstretch. Nice job, Alberto (Salazar, his coach): you found the lad some late wheels.

Men's 1500: Lil' Centro follows in Dad's footsteps, and I missed the whole darned thing! Lagat takes the lead after the Bowerman curve, and I immediately start looking for Wheating's kick. Not there, not there, still not there, and now AW is 4th at the line. Then I see Centro dancing around. Can't be; no one walks down Lagat in the last 100. Wow. And Centro never broke form, while Bernard began to struggle.

Too bad for Andrew; then we learn that Bernard will only run the 5000 at Worlds, leaving his 1500m slot to the 4th place finisher. Andy should send him a nice fruit basket.

Women's 1500: God bless Cristin Wurth-Thomas. No kick, so she goes for it in a way Pre would have loved, building a 30 yard lead, then getting outleaned for 3rd place. Gut-wrenching, all right, but it wouldn't have been as close WITHOUT guts. That's one tough runner. Morgan Uceny stayed in form and unloaded at the right time with her silky-smooth stride.

Another college kid wins a US pro title, this time it was Wazoo's Jeshua Anderson in the 400 hurdles. A photo finish with Batman and 2-time gold medalist Angelo Taylor, and it's the rookie by a nostril. Nice celebration. Kellie Wells had a  similar dance after the 100HH. The other great hurdler/dancer, Lolo J, got stuck in the blocks and didn't qualify. Still another year, LJ.

Adam Nelson is still around? I thought he retired, got his MBA, and moved to Wall Street. Great that he's still throwing so far, and who doesn't love his psych-up routine? Monster shot put competitions on both sides.

Great meet. I think the team will do well in Korea.

US Nationals (the flavor)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anti Media Rant #2

Another media ‘expert’ on track and field. This one actually writes for an Oregon paper.

‘decline in relevance as a spectator sport (since the early 1990s)’ . Brilliant observation!! He’s basing his whole article on the well-known fact that TnF lost ground in the ‘90s. He does not cite the last 4-5 years and how much more exposure we’ve gotten.

“Difficult for the casual fan to follow…” ok, so pay attention!!!

‘It’s metric’; God forbid people actual learn what a meter is, and it’s easier to multiply by 10 than by 12, isn’t it?

‘Difficult to televise..too much happening at once…’ Are you kidding? The writer would rather sit through a 4 hr 1-0 baseball game with most of the time spent idling in between plays? The Prefontaine is an awesome meet because there is no wasted time for the spectators.

“The sport becomes numbers driven…a football game has a (more) definitive outcome…” Tell that to Khadevis, who lost an Olympic slot to Christian Smith by 0.06 seconds. Not a clear outcome? The writer  disparages the Hayward Crowd because they knew the significance of a high schooler running an 8:29 two mile.
And how can something be 'numbers driven' without a definitive outcome? I'm an engineer, and this one puzzles me.

“NCAA Prelims… treats the general public as an afterthought….the best athletes deliver throttled down performances to qualify with minimum efforts.” So, baseball/football/basketball players don’t do the same thing just prior to the playoffs so they can ‘save’ their best performances for when it counts most? They call them PRELIMS for a reason.

“…I tried to set up an interview with a local athlete…was told the athlete wasn’t doing interviews until after the championships.” More sour grapes; this sounds just like another writer who thinks the sport revolves around himself. Tough beans, Mr. Reporter, the athlete needs to keep his head on straight before the race. He’ll give you the world after the race, but leave him alone before. 

Let me make a suggestion; start a relationship with the athlete BEFORE you want something from them. Or do you show up only when there's something in it for you?

‘’…wouldn’t happen in the NFL with Media Day (reporters getting stiffed). Ok, Mr Reporter, pay T&F athletes what the NFL gets, and we’ll make sure they do your interview.

“Track and field is run by participants, for participants…a bubble of self-absorption."  Yes, it’s a sport that requires commitment and individual performance, with no one else to help you on Race Day. No, it might not a great spectator sport to the average guy sitting on his couch. if you’re not a fan. But a spectator who doesn’t know the sport doesn’t know what it feels like to negative split a race or to set a PR.

Athletes need to pick and choose their events. In T&F, you can't compete at a high level every week because the body doesn't work like that. In football and baseball, there is much downtime during competition in which to recovery. No rest to be had during a 3000m steeple.

I simply cannot stand ignorant people who think track should be more like other sports. It’s inherently different.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade Energy Gel

It's not that I mind the store-bought stuff, but a buck and a half for one ounce?
And I like doing things myself. But I'm also lazy...

So I do a search and find an interesting recipe online:

1/4 c rice syrup
1/4 c malt syrup
2 oz honey or blackstrap molasses
2 oz agave nectar
1 tbs peanut butter (melted)

Mix 'em up and taste: awfully sweet. To counteract, add a small amount of coffee grounds and sea salt. Not bad. Then I put a little bit of soy milk or water to thin it out; otherwise, it flows like 40 weight oil.

Enough to fill a couple of flasks. I tried the recipe during my first tri of the year and rocked it, no stomach issues and plenty of late energy.

A few other recipes I found:

7 tbs honey
3/4 tbs blackstrap molasses
sea salt

2 parts rice syrup
1 part carob powder
sea salt

  • Salt (sodium) and blackstrap (potassium) will help electrolyte depletion
  • Agave nectar is among the best for long-term energy (low glycemic index)
  • Dates are good for quick energy, though they have some fiber. Will investigate further
  • You'll need to wash this potion down with water
Kinda fun to play around with this stuff. And it seems to work.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A model student

The wife of my daughter's 1st grade teacher just happened to mention wanting to complete a triathlon, with no racing experience or any idea how to train.

Nick (grinning): "I'll write a comprehensive and customized training plan, and it will cost you exactly.....nothing."

Boy, I can sell 'em, can't I?

The goal was the Pacific Crest Olympic Tri. She was hoping to finish in 5 hours. I wrote the plan, complete with bricks, tempo runs, and speed work. After 2 months of tracking her progress, I knew she would be well under 4 hrs. But I didn't tell her that.

In training, she went to the 51 degree reservoir, suited up, and got in. The pictures are priceless; her face is toward the sky, no doubt in agony. Then she's running out of the water like she has something better to do.

Then she went all in. Water that cold can do bad things to a body, and we're not talking about just being uncomfortable. She really, REALLY wanted to turn around and get out, but some stubborn coach got between her and dry land and convinced her to keep going.

It'll get better, he said. And it did.

So what does she do the next day? She goes back and jumps in again. And again. Just to be sure she could do it when it counted. Then she rode the bike course several times to get an idea of the hills.

I couldn't have asked for a better student.

Race day; she warms up in the water, and the nerves disappear. Sweet.

I'm waiting for her after T2, not sure what to expect. But here she comes, literally dancing and smiling while running a minute per mile faster than she's supposed to. Slow down, kiddo.

Bricks are the key. So is consistency. She nailed her training plan, and today it shows.

2 miles left and still smiling?

Now she tells me to get lost, she wants the last bit all to herself. I take off for the finish line, and here she comes.

All this, and a sprint to end it all...
She figured on sub-5 hr, hoped for sub-4, and got 3:37.

I wish I could say I was a genius in writing her training plan (and I was), but she did all the work in fine style. And she immediately started thinking about her next race.

6 hours later, she looked fresher than I did.

Nice job, Meg.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon

First tri of the year, and second ever.

My one and only marathon last October was a disaster due to a bad pre-race dinner that got me sick and caused me to cramp at 8 miles.

This time, we stayed with friends near the race. Before dinner, Karen laid out some great salami to nosh on. Couldn't help myself. Then dinner, corned beef sandwiches. Just one, please, since I have a big day tomorrow. Maybe all the sodium will do me some good.

If you're thinking that Campbell once again screwed it up big-time....

You'd be dead, dead wrong.

  • Work the 1500m swim hard in about 28:30
  • Cycle 25.5 miles in at least 16.5 mph, my half ironman goal
  • Run 10k in 8:30 pace, slightly faster than my 9:00 half iron goal
  • Hopefully sneak in under 3 hrs overall
 This race is one of two tune-ups before IM Lake Stevens 70.3, so I wanted to really nail the pace. And a much more accomplished friend suggested I negative split each leg to build strength. Good idea, Sean.

  • Swim 30:25   not bad, but thought I was going faster. 
  • Bike 1:16  averaged 20.1 mph. My, my...
  • Run 50:23, averaged 8:08 per mile
  • Overall 2:43 and change.
I didn't know my time or splits until late last night. You should have seen my face.

Race day:
Woke early, found a local Starbucks to get fuel and a newspaper. The day before was NCAA track championships, and the Oregon women were in the lead with the last events on Saturday. But the newspaper is the Sunday early edition, which I don't find out until I've bought it. No results. Arrrrgggh. PS Oregon lost by 4 points.

Drive to the race site, start unloading. Nice to be early, you get a good spot to park your bike in the transition zone. Then I discovered a bad thing about my new bike, having removed the seat cages the day before...

There's no good place to put the saddle bag without the cages attached.  The lack of a seatpost is suddenly a big problem. I spent probably 30 minutes doing a MacGyver fix and strapping that sucker down. Good thing I had some velcro with me.

Into the water for warmups. First time using a sleeveless wetsuit. I jump in, and the water is cool and comfortable. People around me are shivering in full length suits, yet the water temp was probably 65 or so. That trip to Wickiup Reservoir was definitely a huge help in acclimatization; thanks, Shellie and the Deschutes Multisport Club!!

My wave gets in the water for the start. People look nervous; I relax them by patting myself down and saying, "Oh s***, my wallet is still in here." Broke 'em up.

The organizers didn't let us warm up, and I got into slight oxygen debt once we got going. Roll, reach, relax. Things calmed down a bit. Sighting was ok, and I was able to draft a little bit. Thanks for the tips, Dr. John. Good segment.

Out of the water, grab the bike. Transition was 3:47, not horrible. Couple hundred yard run to the bike mount line, so I had the shoes already on the cleats and didn't bother with socks. Great idea, except once on the bike I couldn't get my feet into the shoes, and I was on the verge of pulling another fubar like last week. So I stopped and took care of things. Lost a couple of minutes.

Then we're rolling. The first couple of miles seemed hard for the speed I was pulling. Wanted to keep heart rate below 155 and see what that gives me; 155 is borderline threshold for me.

Is the term 'borderline threshold' a little bit redundant?

The course goes along the river and the PDX landing approach. I notice planes are going in the same direction as us; that means a headwind for now. At 14 miles, we'll turn around, so we'll be getting pushed. Plus, the planes waiting to take off will be dumping their jet exhaust onto our backs; even more of a tailwind!

I bide my time, keeping heart rate in check. A big guy goes past, he's in my age group, so I stay close. He's probably 6'5" and stout, I figure I can take him on the run.

At the 14 mile point, we turn back. I'm take a quick peek and see I'm averaging 18.0 mph, very cool. See if I can get up a little bit without blowing. Next thing I know, I jump one or two gears comfortably. And I switch back to mileage and heart rate display; don't want to obsess about speed, I just need to know what is comfortable.

Turns out I did the last 11 miles at about 23 mph. What??? And my heartrate stayed tight. Man, it was something to fly up behind another racer and just blow by them with a 5mph differential. Nice thing about being old; my age group wave was the 9th one to start, so I had lots of targets to shoot for.

And I was still keeping the effort in check. Big thanks to Kevin, Joseph, and Riley at DMC for dragging me along on the big weekend rides.

Dismount went ok, was able to unbuckle on the fly without crashing. Brisk trot to transition, then running shoes on. Now, the real test...

First mile felt good. No, great. 7:50 or so. ????? This is nuts. Ok, nice job, but it'll start hurting soon.

Except it doesn't.

I get smart and pull back anyway. Halfway through at 8:15 pace. Way ahead of schedule, but feeling ok. Take a drink, and now it's show time.

Picking runners off, one at a time...When it starts to hurt at 4 miles, do the Mark Allen thing and empty the head. Don't think. At all. About anything.

It works.

Mark won the Hawaii Ironman 6 times, once running the marathon segment in 2:40, still a Hawaii record. He knows what it means to be hurting and to hurt others; his nickname is The Grip, because he would just squeeze harder and harder until the competition imploded.

Into the park, a half mile to go. Three or four people within shouting distance, and I got 'em all. The last one was a 36 year old woman; I came up to her with a hundred yards left and absolutely hit the burners. She saw me coming and frantically picked it up. I swear I audibly said to her, 'no way,' and beat her to the finish.

Over the line to get the chip removed. Almost lost it here (not my cookies); I knew I had a good race, though I wasn't sure how good. There's that feeling of knowing you had a race plan and just nailed it. Pretty emotional without yet knowing the specifics.

BTW, now it hurt pretty hard for a couple of minutes. Breathe, you dumbs***, breathe.
My last three miles were right on 8:00 pace. Hey Sean, I did those negative splits you wanted, and on every leg. Thanks for dangling the carrot.

Great training day. Didn't blow coming off the bike, got great data in terms of pace and comfort level, and the late push on each segment was a huge confidence boost. Kristen and Zoe were there to record the finish: however, this was within several minutes of finishing, and I'm still not sure exactly where I am. Things soon became a bit less foggy.

  • A winter spent riding rollers is gold
  • A winter spent skate skiing is gold
  • Racing according to feel (not time) is gold
  • God loves negative splitters
 That was one good, good day. Must have been the salami.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another great (?) ride...

Super day of training, thanks the Deschutes Multisport Club. A dip in the balmy reservoir, a 50 mile bike ride toward the mountain, and a couple mile run to get the legs ready.


One of my aero bar pads lost its sense of Velcro and flew off the bike while driving to the swim. No big.

Then I started putting my wetsuit on backwards before I realized it. Duh.

Did I mention the 51 degree water? Anything that cold should have the Titantic in it.

The bike ride: my water bottle cages are behind the seat, making it hard to reach for a drink. And a triathlon bike by definition is unstable when one hand is off the handlebars. And I've been on this particular bike exactly three times. And I was trying to keep up with strongmen Riley and Joseph.

You can see where this is going. An unplanned swerve off the asphalt.

That ain't strawberry jam...

Good news; no damage to the bike, and my brand new club racing outfit remains unscathed. Well, maybe a bit scathed. The 'no bike damage' part was really good, since we were 25 miles from nowhere and the car.

Kinda wish I took a picture of the trench I involuntarily dug in the gravel ditch. I was spitting rocks for miles, but all teeth are intact. Too bad no pix of me flying o'er the handlebars;  just as well, since I forgot to do the less invasive somersault. Instead, I used my face to slow myself down.

Kids, don't try this at home.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

2011 Prefontaine Classic

Awesome meet.

Had a friend flying in from Nashville on Friday night, but she was all in to see her first track meet. So I roused everyone at 0530 Saturday so we could hit the road (I needed to be there at 0900 to get lined up with the other officials).

Sat at a McDonald's for 15 minutes with no one in front of us while the help tried to harvest the last remaining McMuffins remaining in the world. Put us behind schedule.

Normally not a big deal except this is a huge meet on international TV. In the US, the Pre is second only to the Olympic Trials. So I call the head umpire and tell him I'll be about 10 minutes late, but still 20 minutes early for the march-on. "No problem," he says. "Now we're going on after the National Anthem, not before. Plenty of time." So I decelerate from warp speed and enjoy the drive.

Also wanted to get there early so 8-year-old Zoe could get a front-row seat. Last year, she and Kristen were way up in the nosebleed section. This time, 3rd row from the track. Not much better than that. And the head umpire positioned me directly in front of her, about 15 yards away. Since this meet was so important, I had to be subtle while making faces at her. Didn't want to cause an international incident, you see.


Mo Farah (GB) held the lead into the last lap of the 10,000, when the Ethiopians and Kenyans were poised to pounce. Then Mo just ran away from them, smoked 'em good. Something like 6 or 7 guys under 27 minutes, just insane.

Oscar Pistorius finished last in the men's 400, not notable except he's a double lower leg amputee. His time was under 47 seconds. No wonder they call him the Blade Runner. The winning time by a double Gold Medalist was slower than OU freshman Mike Berry ran this season. Disclaimer; it's early in the pro season, and it's not an Olympic year, so the pros are using this meet as a tune-up. But still....

Carmelita Jeter took the women's 100m, convincingly beating the Jamaican Olympic gold medalist and running close to Flo-Jo time.

Can't say enough about David Oliver (110HH):  he was undefeated last year while running all over the world. Today he was head to head with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Li Jiang and took him down. David was 0.07 off the world record in an awesome race. He's built like a linebacker, shoulders as wide as a car. And he sounds like a genuinely nice guy who is grateful to have such an opportunity. Go get it, DO.

China's Li Jiang is a HUGE celebrity in his country, and today he had a rowdy group of countrymen and women cheering him on, complete with indecipherable banners.

After Beijing, I had thought that Bernard Lagat was pretty much done. He was 34 or 35 in 2008, didn't have a good Olympics, and Father Time appeared to have him sewn up. So all Bernard does is hang close during the two mile, get into perfect position going into the last turn, and hit the jets while running smooth like butter to finish with a 54 second lap. He made it look easy, like he erased 8 years from the calendar.

But the story of the race was in last place. 18 year old Lukas Verzbickas, an incoming UO freshman, tore 5 seconds off the national high school record with an 8:29. He looked as smooth as Bernard did, no visible strain until the last lap. Lukas was a world junior triathlon champion or some such thing, but has evidently decided to do all his talking on the track. Lucky for us local folk.

The final event, the Bowerman Mile, is named after the former head coach at UO and co-founder of that little shoe company that sounds something like Nicky. Bill B was also the guy who convinced Steve Pre to run at Oregon back in 1969 or so, and Pre's mother received a huge ovation at the meet. In the Mile, pretty much everyone finished under 4 minutes. Nice way to finish.

Friend of a friend worked on the restoration of Hayward Field back in '74 (The Pre Classic began as the Hayward Restoration Meet). The friend remembers sawing away while Pre was doing a Bill Dellinger workout. Namely, 12 x 400m in 60s with 15s rest.  Pre would cross the line, jog a small circle, then hit it once more.

Read that again, track fans.

We found out that our daughter's second grade teacher Kay was at Pre's last meet, the night he died. And her husband was at the party where Pre was last seen alive. Surreal.

RIP Steve Prefontaine

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anti-Media Rant #1

Alan Abrahamson is a T&F blogger for NBC Sports, and he recently penned a diatribe entitled: Track and Field, going nowhere fast in the United States...
It's hard for me to take any professional critic seriously when all they do is comment on the alleged shortcomings of others while not pitching in to help the cause themselves. It's oh so easy to say what's wrong without being responsible for actually fixing the problem.

Much of Abramson's agita seems like it's concentrated on his belief that Eugene/Nike/USATF don't do enough to cater to the media!!! He says that we need more cameras on the infield to see the athletes up close. I don't know; I saw cameras literally 2 feet from the pole vaulters at the Pre, right in their faces. Hard to concentrate on clearing the bar when the cameraman won't give you any space.

Abramson also mentioned that he couldn't get a newspaper job in Eugene or Oregon when he left college. Is his entire premise based on sour grapes?

Now he wants a reality show based on sprinters all trying to make the team while living under the same roof? No, no, no. Part of the reason our country has lost stature is that we've become 'way too much sizzle and not enough steak.' I don't want the Kardashians on my track!!!

Then he says we should capture athletes talking smack to each other like in basketball and football. Two reason why I disagree completely:

 #1 see previous paragraph, that's just more of the dumbing down of America.

#2 Shawn Crawford already tried it and got blasted. In the Athens 100m semis, he and Justin Gatlin were side by side and blowing away the field by 60 meters. Shawn turns to Justin and starts talking smack in the middle of the race. Ok, fine. No put downs, no belittling of opponents, just two friends celebrating their success. I loved it. But who didn't love it? The NBC announcer on the telecast who said it was a classless act. That's the same NBC that employs Alan Abrahamson, the writer of the article.

Abrahamson complains about parking in Eugene. Dude, it's a college town. Park at the football stadium and take the (free) shuttle like the rest of the fans. Or bring a bike like I do, and ride to the track from South Eugene High. And is it really that big a deal to bring your own ethernet cable?
No, it's not the Super Bowl in Dallas, where the media complains about the weather because they can't play as much golf as they want. The New York/LA media didn't send anyone to the Pre? Darn. They're too busy watching the NFL and NBA self-immolate; billionaires and millionaires fighting about a couple percentage points. Good riddance.
Yes, USATF has its issues like any large organization. They looked outside the sport when they hired  Doug Logan. So how does USATF deserve derision for lacking 'out of the box thinking?' To have an outsider say that USATF is cursed with myopia and won't try anything new makes no sense.

Track/Eugene/Nike has always been about the athlete, not the media. According to Kenny Moore, Bowerman was on the infield during the '72 Trials when he heard the TV producer over a walkie-talkie telling the cameraman to get on the track and take shots of each 200 m runner so the network could run a commercial. Bowerman stood on the camera cord so the guy couldn't move, and ordered the race to start on schedule.

When we're comparing track to other major sports, consider this: USATF and Major League Baseball were invited to appear before Congress to discuss doping policies. Craig Masback, USATF CEO, arrived with a binder 4" thick, complete with testing protocols, verification requirements, adherence policies, etc...

The baseball lawyer had a 2 page memo.

So, which sport cares more about the sport itself, and which sport cares only about its image? If major league baseball and football had track's drug testing requirements, there would be no major league baseball and football.

And let's talk 'All Star' teams. Baseball, football pick their all-stars via popularity contest. It's not uncommon for players on the disabled list to get selected! USATF picks its Olympic and World Championship teams in a very democratic and straightforward manner: show up and place 1,2, or 3. No ifs, ands, or buts. It's put up or shut up, and 'reputation' or 'experience' don't count. It's who gets to the finish line first. Very clear criteria.

Now that I've got my blood pressure up....