Monday, January 24, 2011

XC Skiing (continued)

Been getting up to Mt Bachelor or the nearby snow park twice a week so I can get this damned sport down.

As a runner, I always knew that running was the hardest sport there was.

Until I decided on triathlons. Swimming is just nasty.

I would never drown, but also would never get anywhere quickly or in a hurry. Triathlons force you to become efficient in the water. But, it's sooo hard. Must be the hardest sport out there, even harder than running.

Until I found cross country skiing. Specifically, skate skiing.

For the Pole Pedal Paddle, my third time on Nordic skis, many who know better suggested I stick to classic style, staying in the tracks. It's slower, but easier. And I have less chance of blowing up.

Slower is right. I could have gone faster backwards.

So this year's goal was to really learn skate skiing so I can get fast. And it's coming along, especially after taking a lesson.

Last weekend, I hit the Nordic trails at Bachelor for a workout. Since the Par for the Course race trail wasn't marked, I did a couple of 4k repeats over the bulk of the trail. The goal was to stay a half-step below red-lining and see if I had improved at all.

Concentrate on the glide, glide, glide. Stay in low gear and keep going.

Lap 1: 18:03. Not bad, but really hard. Next rep, go a little easier and keep it together.
Lap 2: 18:20. I thought it was going to be a few minutes slower.

I took 4-5 minutes between reps to recover. On the second day of racing a month from now, if I can maintain this pace, I'll finish in about 45 minutes. Over the 10k course, that would be a cool 29 minute improvement!

And since the most improved skier takes home the bacon, I might have a shot.

More to come.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

1979 Golden Mile

I was 14 years old and a huge track fan. Loved watching Steve Scott run: he ran against all comers, he ducked no one, and always competed with his guts on his sleeve.

Scottie was one of the favorites in this ridiculously fast field that included John Walker ('76 Gold Medalist, the WR holder, and only man under 3:50), Eamonn Coghlan of Ireland and Villanova and a monster last 200m, Thomas Wessinghage the fastest Doctor alive, et al.

The one who stayed home was Steve Ovett, who was in the middle of a multi-year undefeated streak in the 1500. The Brits instead sent youngster Sebastian Coe, an enormous lad at 119 pounds who recently broke the 800m world record.

This race was televised on NBC; I clearly remember watching.

Steve Lacy does the pace work for 2 laps, then drops out. He is timed in 1:54.5, perfect pace. My man Scottie bulls his way forward, running as fast as the future day when he completed an 18-hole round of golf in 29 minutes. I'm on the edge of my seat, urging him faster. He is on pace to hit 1200m in 2:52, even though the skinny kid comes by at the bell.

Huh? Coe is a lot of things: a future member of Parliment, a soon-to-be knighted Lord Coe, but he's no miler.

Someone forgot to tell him.

Around the 7th turn, he's gone. Scottie can't hold on, and the rest of the pack is far back. Coe keeps striding, not an ounce of pain or tightness in his face, and he rips a half second from Walker's world record.

I guess he is a miler after all. Oh yes, he also ended his career as the only 2-time Olympic 1500m Gold Medalist.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Goals

Might as well write them down and make it official.

1:45 half marathon (Eugene): an 11 minute PR
4:00 marathon (Portland): a 30 minute PR (seized up last time)
6:10 Half Ironman (Lake Stevens): an 80 minute PR (last one was first tri of any length, so I throttled way back, just wanting to finish in one piece)
Survive Hood to Coast Relay

Things I'm doing now to make these happen:
Twice a week core/lower body strength classes
More stretching and yoga
Monthly massage (and not just when I'm hurting)
Cycling on rollers
More intensity, less often
Modifying diet to drop 10-15 pounds
XC skiing

I'll do several sprint/Olympic distance triathlons in early summer for fine tuning.

Non-fitness goals:
Finish tricking out the garage
Find a publisher for novel
Take an occasional nap
Don't think so much
Don't be so hard on myself or on others

Runner's Burnout

I mentioned to a friend Chris Solinsky's ridiculous 26:59 10,000m, not to mention the last 800m in 1:56. My friend asked if high schoolers  would be inspired or discouraged upon hearing of a pro runner’s extraordinary times?

Speaking from experience, I became very discouraged at that age when my progress wasn’t as rapid as I felt it should be, especially given the strenuous workouts and intervals upon intervals. So I burned out and didn’t run competitively for 20+ yrs.

However (Key point), NO ONE told me that the best runners hit their peaks in their late 20’s, or that many, many top runners don’t show much promise until college or even later. Kenny Moore never won a race in HS, Frank Shorter didn’t become a top American runner until late in college when he started doing twice-a-days, etc…

The Rupps and Prefontaines and Adam Gouchers of the world are the exception rather than the rule.

Maybe advise the young runners to enjoy the sport for its own sake and not worry/obsess about results. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen, but only with the right amount of easy workouts and adequate recovery. It’s not always a linear progression, so you can’t gauge progress based on how quickly or regularly the improvement comes. And for God’s sake, don’t measure yourself against anyone else; it’s not fair to you, and it doesn’t help. If you can only do 6 repeat quarters at 70 and someone else does a dozen at 62, it’s better to gradually build over time rather than try to get it done in one season.

I always thought 3 mile easy runs were for the birds. Now I know better, 30 years later.  

To wit: last yr I ran up to 12 miles at a shot in training for the Eugene Half Marathon, with a base period of 3 months, before I got injured (too much too soon). I seized up in the race and struggled mightily in the last 4 miles. This year, I did 3 months of 3 runs per wk, none more than 3 miles until late Feb. Then I built up SLOWLY to a whopping 6 miles. I think I did 10 miles total in my biggest week.

I was very apprehensive at my relative lack of fitness on race day. So I started slow, picked up at 9 miles, and tore up the track in the sprint to the tune of a final 200m in 32 seconds. Ended with the same overall time as last year, but in a MUCH better physical/mental state.

Oh yeah, I was sick for the two weeks prior to the race and ran maybe twice. Tapering is not a myth.

Lesson learned: the build phase must be gradual, low stress, and it cannot be rushed. Extrapolate over several years, and great things can happen. If it works for a 45-year old, then a high schooler has very few limits.

Meanwhile, I’m starting my 7 yr old daughter on a steady diet of squat thrusts and mountain climbers. If she builds up the locomotive muscle groups now a la Sebastian Coe, it can only help later. J