Monday, May 30, 2011

How do I get myself into these things?

Encountered a software problem while signing up for a local race; couldn't get it to work, so I called the race organizer. She figured out the problem, got me in, and then dropped off last year's race visor for my trouble. Cool.

Then she asks if I knew anyone who would want to pace an upcoming race? Basically, run 11 minute miles for a half marathon.

Sure, I'll do it.

BTW, she says, it's a women-only race.

Not a problem. 6 guys and 700 women, that's my kind of odds.

BTW, she says, we want you to dress up. As in sparkly skirts.


What the heck.

It looks a lot warmer out there than it really was.

And a Los Angeles woman in my running group took one look and proclaimed me "Laker Girl." I suppose I've been called worse.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rolling down the highway...

Kinda broke a promise to a buddy today.

Not really, but....

CDH mentioned that he's primed and ready to break spouse BDH's marathon PR of 3:11 and change. Since she ran it over 5 yrs ago and they're both quickly approaching the ripe young age of 33, time is short. He ran a 1:24 half marathon on little training last June; with a concentrated effort, he could probably bust a sub-3.

Sorry, BDH. If he stays healthy, I think he's got you.

Anyhow, C is also a solid cyclist, having dragged my sorry tail up Mt Bachelor many a time,  not to mention Mt. Washington Drive. Short, steep, and a bastard. The hill, not him.

Since we finally got a nice warm day on Friday, I took my rebuilt road bike out for the first time. Up until now, it's been getting a workout on the rollers in the garage. Friday it was about 15 miles around the Butte, including a personal best up Mt Washington. My first time out this year and I'm setting records!

I'll say it again; Nordic skiing is the best cross training. Ever.

C had some knee problems that now seem to be resolved, so I asked if he's ready to bike again. "Sure am," says he. I mention that our triathlon club is putting together a 50-80 mile ride from Wickiup Reservoir up toward Mt. Bachelor. "Slow down," he tells me. "Let's do our 1 hr rides for awhile." Sheepishly I agreed.

Until yesterday, with my volunteer slot at the Pole Pedal Paddle, watching all these people busting butt in the rain. The race didn't fit into my schedule this year, but it got me thinking.

Later that day, I check the weather. What was supposed to be a rainy Sunday was now partly sunny. And I was trying to decide if I should drop six hundred on a lightly used triathlon bike.

Softride Power Wing

Funky looking, all right. The upper beam floats in space, giving a nice measure of shock absorption. Good news for those of us who are missing a couple of lumbar disks. The guy selling it owns Pisano's, a local pizza place. Awesome food, great guy. I make some small adjustments to see if it'll fit ok. He says it's really fast.

Ed let me take the bike on an extended test ride; with a bad back, I need to know if I can handle hours in the aero position. So off I go to the reservoir, with Michelle, Nan, Shellie, Kevin, and Riley, all charter members of the local triathlon club. Pretty soon, we're truckin' up the Cascade Lakes Highway, miles from anywhere. And no cars in sight, just us 6 crazy cyclists.

Just gorgeous out there, isn't it?
Lots of snowpack roadside at higher elevations, too. Michelle is training for her first Half Ironman, Shellie has done a bunch of long races and is monster strong, and Riley, Nan, and Kevin just flew down the road and were out of sight fast.

Incidentally, trying to eat energy gels while riding is a losing proposition. Sticky goo all over the place. Pretty soon, I looked like my daughter sampling the cake on her first birthday.
One big sticky mess...

Soon I hear an ominous rattle, rattle, clunk. Remember when I said I made some tweaks to the bike? Seems I didn't quite tighten everything down.

I couldn't make this up if I tried. The seatclamp was a little loose, and the seat was tilted down in the front. When I leaned forward in the aero position, the net result is a backward push from  my forearms, which means a backward force against the seat. And the whole thing just slid off in mid-flight.

I can exaggerate a lot of things, but not this. Fortunately, I brought every wrench in my arsenal. Problem resolved in minutes.

Then I remember that Ed had told me that the bike is fast.

How fast?

I answered my own question today; it's stoopid fast. We're talkin' filthy.

Ed put a ridiculous 64-tooth platter-sized chainring on the bike; just insane. Most bikes have a 53 or so. 64 teeth need a lot of torque to spin; the gears help you go fast, of course, and the bike frame itself has the aerodynamic footprint of an F-14. Very slippery, and less effort needed, so it's awfully fun on the flats and downhills. Ed has hit 57 mph on this sucker.

Did I mention we were riding toward Mt. Bachelor?

Going up was ok, long and gradual. Coming back was pure nuts. Heart rate about 10 beats per minute lower than on the same course last year, and much higher speed. 56 miles total; sorry, CDH, couldn't help myself. And my grand total for the year is 71, with those two rides in three days.

I already knew the motor was better than in 2010, and now the equipment is, too.

Game, set, match; I'm buying the bike. Thanks, Ed.

Now I'm really looking forward to racing season.

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Eugene Half Marathon

Third time's a charm?

Or three strikes, you're out?

I love this race, now three yeas in a row. Eugene is such a great place to run, superb organization, great logistics, insanely motivated volunteers. And a (mostly) flat course.

Got a late start this year; my daughter had a concert on Saturday afternoon and did her dance recital debut to "The Bear Necessities." Not exactly Swan Lake, but you gotta start somewhere.

So I didn't leave home until after 5pm, and the pre-race packet pickup (t-shirt, number, other swag) ended at 6pm. I'm fast, but I'm not doing 130 miles in 45 minutes without Mr. Boeing. But this time, we could pay a couple of bucks and pick up the swag at 0515 Sunday morning before the race. Deal.

None of this would have worked without the generosity of fellow track umpire Dr. Nate, who graciously allowed me to camp at his house. Nice to have a place 10 blocks from Hayward Field. Much appreciated, Nate. I arrive at 8pm, stretch a bit, then crash.

Then wake at 0100. Ugh. 2 hrs later, I finally fall asleep again, just in time to hit REM status prior to my planned 0400 wakeup. Wasn't nerves, upset stomach, or anything. Just couldn't convince the bod to slow down. At least I brought the French press and espresso blend.

Factoid: it's not the night before that's important. It's the night before the night before. Anyone can gut out a race (or a workday) on a lousy night's sleep.

Pre-race was chilly, maybe 40 degrees and perfectly clear. It'll warm up soon enough.

Plan of the Day: start ssssslllllloooooowwww for 5 miles, then do a brisk 8 mile tempo run. I have no more than 30 miles in my legs this year, a ridiculously low amount going into a half marathon. And only 7 of those miles were in one shot, hence my caution. Way too early in the year to destroy myself, and as much as I love Eugene, I'm not willing to risk injury so soon.

Basically, I'm writing off this race and hoping just to get a good workout. In the week or so prior, my knee had been making very slight noises. Nothing huge, didn't hurt, more a signal than anything else. But I told myself that I can drop out without repercussion at any time, and the course goes close to Nate's house: I'll walk in if need be.

First 5 miles, really casual. Not breathing hard at all. Top of the hill at the turnaround, time to start working. Pace comes down, heart rate comes up. Get comfortable. Make the turn at South Eugene High and see the 19th Street Hill. Don't maintain pace and blow up; instead, slow down and maintain effort. That advice was courtesy of Max King, world champion trail runner and near-Olympic steeplechaser.

Max knows what he's talking about: it works. Coming down the hill, I pick up the pace while recovering. Past Hayward, 4 miles to go. Now it's going to get tough.

Spectator to foreign-born goalie: "Were you in pain?"
French goalie: "No, it hurt like hell."
(from the movie "Slapshot")

It hurt just enough to make it interesting, and about an inch short of making me wish I liked checkers or crossword puzzles. Use the arms, keep the hands loose, drive. Into the last mile, it's almost done. Now the track is in view, so it's time to pull back for a few hundred yards and let the nitwit collect his wits.

Then it's onto the track and time for the explosion, like last year. Hayward Field demands nothing less than a smoking finish. I don't know what it is about that track, but it makes me go.

Remember I said this was a training run? Sure was. Except it was also 4 minutes faster than I've ever run the distance before.

Things I did right:
  1. Started slow
  2. Recategorized the race from a 'must-have' to a 'nice to have' and gave myself permission to bail out if needed.
  3. Absolutely nailed my splits once I picked it up; except for the hill, those last 8 miles were within 10 seconds of each other
  4. Post-race: went to the medical tent and iced my knee just in case
  5. Got a massage next day
  6. Traded winter running for Nordic skiing and built big cardio while adding zero orthopedic damage
  7. Blew off the pre-race festivities in order to catch Zoe's dance moves.
Things I did wrong:
  1. Thought I grabbed my Body Glide (anti-chafe gel) and instead applied liquid Right Guard to my inner thighs. Didn't chafe, and my legs didn't stink, either.
  2. Nothing else comes to mind
That was one good weekend.