Sunday, July 29, 2012

What I do in an 'easy' week...

Big running mileage last week, so I'm taking it easy.

On the legs.

Elk Lake Swim Series. Races at 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m.  Compete in individual events, the 'Short Series' consisting of the short three races, or the 'Long Series' in the farthest three.

Added Bonus; do all five races and earn the coveted 'Survivor' Mug.

Enough incentive. I'm all in. Swim 11,000 meters, or about 7 miles, in three days.

Except I've completed exactly two 2k swims in my life. Now I'm going to do a 3 and a 5 plus three others? In three days?

Typical NBC. OCD on steroids.

On the way out of town in friend Mary's RV, I pop open a quart bottle of warm water while running my mouth and not paying attention. That's when I learn the difference between water and club soda. I was soaked in seconds.

Not much can shut me up that quickly.

Arrival at my accomodations, the Elk Lake Hilton:

First night, 3000m. Choppy surface, windy. Started too fast and never felt comfortable, but got 'er done in a little over an hour. Goal for all races was steady pace, not hard. I want that mug.

Here's the race venue, with South Sister in the background.

Nice, huh?

5am, and about 36 degrees
Next day; run into Don, a fellow track umpire. We're both wearing Olympic Trials (track) gear at a swim meet. Figures: guys can't keep their sports straight.

500m: no wetsuit, so that was one cold warmup. Then 10 minutes waiting in the chilly air for my start time, hence the running in place.

Didn't like this race; I tangled myself in the buoy cord a bunch of times and never got into a rhythm.

90 minutes later, the 1500. This went a little better. Started easy, then jumped a gear at 600m and began dropping people. And I sprinted through the finishing chute again; being a better runner than swimmer, it's a cheap way to pick up a few places here and there.

Trying to get the suit off...

Later that day, I was beat. At least Zoe had fun on the inner tube.

Then I was volunteered to help another friend put up two tents, and then to gather firewood. Really tired, so I ate a big dinner and went to bed before s'mores. Big sacrifice on my part.

Sunday morning and the big boy looms (the 5000m); feeling much better after 7 hrs sleep, though my shoulders are tired. At the race venue, wary of attempting a swim 2.5 times as far as I've ever gone before, I see an experienced swimmer squinting at the far buoy and saying, "Oh my God." Not exactly reassuring to me.

See the cluster of white boats in the distance? The 1000m buoy is the orange speck to the right of it. That's a long, long way.

3 laps; I start very slow, and the whole field goes ahead. I don't care: my goal is to finish in one piece. Just easy spinning in the small ring. I get to the far buoy at 1000m and sneak a peek behind, knowing I'll see no one. Instead, there's at least a dozen people. I'm not last! And I haven't even started.

So it's into the next gear, still not hard, and I keep it smooth. 1st lap done, 2nd lap done, I'm feeling fine. Runner's high? Now I've got the swimmer's high. And I'm starting to smell the finish.

This is where I thought I'd be getting emotional. You know, a big personal best in distance, swimming with the big boys and girls, all that.

Uh uh.

I was LAUGHING out there. Just a grinning, Tarzan-like fool. I even kicked hard for the last 300m, and did a celebratory backstroke across the finish line.

Is it possible that my favorite race would be the longest one?

Final event was the 1000m; this was my slow victory lap. Not that I had a choice; arms were gone. But that still didn't prevent me from walking down one last swimmer in the final 200m.

Game, set, match. 4 podiums in 5 events, including a bigtime 2nd place in the Long Series for my age group, earning the coveted ceramic coaster.

Except for the last race when I was shot, the other four were pretty much on the same pace. I don't have many gears, but I can hold the ones I have.

And that Survivor mug?

All mine, baby. All mine.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gruppo Compacto

Cascade Cycling Classic, the longest continuously running stage race in the country.

I'm driving one of the cars again: COM 2, Commissaire #2. This is a neat gig; I see the entire race in my rearview mirror. And if there is a breakaway, we duck right behind them. Team support cars have to ask my official for permission to talk to their riders, or to hand over water bottles.

My car is the law out there. Pay attention or suffer the wrath of Belvert the Enforcer.

After my morning swim, I made a quick stop downtown for breakfast before the race. On the menu: The Cardiac Burger, which consists of:
  • Hamburger Patty
  • Sausage Patty
  • Fried Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • American Cheese
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Pepperjack Cheese
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • No veggies
  • Calories: You don't want to know
Uh, not today.

A passenger in my vehicle is Amanda, local sports reporter and celebrity. Also a lifetime swimmer, so I'm peppering her with questions about the pool. Here she is...

Wait for it, wait for it...

Today's stage started and ended at Mt. Bachelor, which appears to be lacking its winter coat.

So was I; it was a windy 52 degrees up there, and I was in a t-shirt.

When a rider jumps off the front, it's a breakaway or attack. When the main group catches the break, the officials say, 'gruppo compacto.'

It's nice to learn another language.

On the 5 mile climb to the finish, there are two riders left. One is in the polka dot jersey, given to the rider who is the best overall climber so far. I'm thinking she's going to blow the doors off the other woman.

Nope, she hangs out. Riders call this 'wheel sucking,' letting someone else do all the work. The other woman motions for Polka Dot to take the lead, but it doesn't happen.

Maybe PD is wasted and just hanging on. The other rider looks tired, too. It'll be a crapshoot in the sprint.

Except it's not. PD jumps gears and takes off, winning the stage easily. The poor girl in 2nd had nothing left.

I mentioned to my official that this was beyond rude. Sit back, let someone else do all the work, then steal it. Mr. Official chuckled and said, "Yeah, the loser brought a knife to a gun fight."

Think Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones looks exhausted (Harrison Ford actually had the flu), and an Arab ninja with a big sword is about to cut our man into pieces. Indy pulls out his revolver and drops the schmuck without delay.

Such is the world of pro cycling.

Being a driver with much responsibility, I get passes into the gated VIP area for the weekend's criterium downtown. Good food, good drinks.

Then there is this thing.

It's a Cycle Pub, even though it looks like something out of Willy Wonka. 6-8 people sit down and pedal, while one person steers and pours drinks. Nice idea.

Spanky and I hung out for a while, then headed home. 

It's been a long week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Food, glorious food...

Outdoor concert in the park. Thunder clouds approaching, so it's a quick trip through the food vendors, then we're outta here.

I keep telling Zoe she needs to stop growing, but she never listens.

Tonight's goal was to eat: I've been hungry all day. And 'Healthy' was not a primary concern. The wasabi fish tacos were fairly decent, not horribly decadent, and they were gone in a hurry.

Then Zoe had fish and chips. A little greasy, but not bad.

The piece de resistance; deep fried Oreos. Sooooo good.

Diet? I'm tired of salads. Besides, I'm running 26 miles this weekend, and I've been looking a bit thin. Time to replenish.

However, I can only loosely include this post under the label 'nutrition.'

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon

Interesting week.

I'm training through this race, preferring not to taper. This event is a great one here in town, with over a thousand competitors over the weekend. At the same time, my focus is the Portland Marathon on 7 October, and I don't want to lose time by concentrating on a mid-season race.

But that doesn't mean I don't want to shave as much as possible off my time. Or my body.

Game On!
Less resistance, you understand.

The Riot and I make a great team; I do the mile river swim, he hauls his bike toward the mountain and back for 25 miles, and I run a 10k along the river.

He's bringing his custom Greg LeMond vintage bike, just a gorgeous ride.

I warned everyone ahead of time: if they come out to watch, be sure to wear protective gear. The Riot will be driving the train uphill with a bayonet in his teeth and malice in his heart. The meek are hereby advised to take cover.

The Riot is also the host of the fabulous annual Crayfish Boil.

Naturally, our team name became The CrawDads.

Day before: we're prepping his bike and going over the game plan. Then we notice a car stopped in the road near a traffic circle. No shoulder; not a good place to stop. We push her out of the way, turns out she's out of gas.

Technology and expensive Mercedes SUVs will do a lot, like tell you when you're running low. What they won't do is actually steer you to the gas station.

Darwin, people. Read Darwin.

A quick run to the bank drive-thru; as I'm filling out the deposit slip, the teller notices my race bag on the car seat and asks about the triathlon. Then, as she enters the deposit, she tells me I made a mistake on the entry. "I'm not good at math either," she laughs. Then she turns red when I tell her I'm an engineer.

"Wow," she replies. "You must have the race on your mind."

Yeah, something like that. LMAO.

Later, I help set up my triathlon club's tent at the transition area.

We'll be selling race kits, so we got some helpers to model them:

I would have volunteered for this job, but I'm not anatomically correct enough.

Race day:

The Riot, Hase, and NBC pre-race
Wearing my favorite white Nike hat; seems to bring me good luck.

Then it was time to saddle up and head out.

Our wave starts at 0820; I'm in the water at 0745, swimming upstream to warm up. No one else joins me; they know the water will be cold, so they huddle on the shore looking at each other. Look, folks, I know that this river is mountain run-off (as in snow melt). It's not that bad. Besides, I'm in a sleeveless suit, and most everyone else has full sleeves, parkas, long johns, etc...

I feel quite superior. Maybe not the fastest, but definitely hard core. "Tanned and fit and feral."

I position myself upstream about 50 yards, then start drifting downhill with 30 seconds to go. My version of a running start. Everyone else is stationary until the gun. Then it's off, with every fiber of my being.

Lots of jostling and contact, but nothing malicious. People are trying to be polite while digging hard.

Good swim, I think around 16 minutes for 1500m. Remember, it's downstream. Still, I'll take it. Felt very smooth, and I left it all out there.

Done with the first shift, and onto the second...

The Riot is off like a light, and I now have some down time. I change out of the wetsuit into my running clothes, then take it easy for an hour. It's time to get a gel and some water down. When The Riot is about 30 minutes out, I start warming up. I want to have a good sweat going before I start, so I won't have to spend any race time getting up to speed. But it's getting hot, so I curtail the warmup a bit.

Stretch goal is to break 48 minutes for the 10k, and I want to be destroying people in the last two miles. Without the swim, it shouldn't be a problem, but I'll be a bit tired today. However, I've got a lot of miles in my legs the last 6 weeks, and they are the right kind of miles. Long and slow to build stamina. Let's see what happens.

One last trip to the bathroom and then....

Banzai, baby. Here comes The Riot, lots of bugs in his teeth from the screaming descent. He killed the ride, cutting 5 minutes off his best time, and he said it was a lot easier than ever before. Guy's just an animal.

I take off, already feeling the heat. First mile a bit brisk, and I settle down.

Roadkill scorecard (runners passed):
Me passing others: about 40
Others passing me: 2

Most of the runners did the whole tri, whereas I skipped the bike. But most of them are younger, so it's almost a wash.

Regardless, keeping score isn't really healthy, right?  Just do the best you can, Nick.

No one goes by in the last three miles, so I'll call that a victory. And my last mile had to be close to 7 minutes. Set my sights on a woman way off in the distance; she was looking like she was on a long distance run with no end in sight. Then I reeled in a couple within about a quarter mile of the finish; wasn't sure I'd reach them, but I had enough left.


Really nice sprint in the last 200m, driving the legs high. The finish line was a bit elusive, but it finally succumbed. As did I after crossing.

If anyone got a picture, they would have seen a guy completely spent, nothing left, but willing to put it all out there. Kinda like those would-be Olympians from several weeks ago.

Nick and The Riot, gladiators all. And an unexpected 3rd in the Relay Division! Every other team had 3 members; we had a guy brand new to cycling events, and an older/tired guy who nearly overdid it a week ago.

I vowed to make a good workout out of this, even if it was only a rehearsal.

Great day. I promise.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A nice, relaxing weekend. Not so much...

Tough, tough couple of days.

Saturday morning; 11 mile run, felt easy and smooth and springy while maintaining a crisp pace. Those long, chill runs are really helping out.

Quick shower, gather up Zoe, and off to the Region 13 Junior Olympics. Huge track meet for kids, and the top qualifiers go onto to Nationals.

Trouble was, I agreed to help officiate for all day Saturday. 1200 kids competing, And hot: 90 degrees. Not East Coast sweltering, since we don't have much humidity out here. But still hot.

After I had finished my early run, I saw 155 on the scale. Haven't seen that since college. Great, but also not so great. Some of that was water weight, so I headed to the track meet already dehydrated.
Water, please....

I ran the Turbo Javelin area; this is basically a lawn dart on steroids, and a nice soft rubber tip. Thrown like a regular jav, it's a great learning tool for kids.

Turbo Javelin

The runway is basically the same surface as the track. And it's like a radiator; early temperature readings on the surface went from 119F to 142F to 150F.

Doesn't look hot, but trust me...

I was chugging water like a bas-ackwards camel. I guess it helped, but there were many head rushes going on. And I was assigned to be there all day. On the field. No shade.

Pretty soon, I was praying for some of that Olympic Trials prodigious precipitation. No such luck. But nice shirts.

Next morning, up at 0400. Ugh. Scheduled for a long run today, and was tempted to skip it. But I had added a few pounds of water weight and figured I was ok. So I carried 2 bottles and refilled many times at water fountains.

After 5 miles, I was heading into a prolonged section with little shade, so I decided to buy some extra water at a convenience store; you know, the stores with the sign that says, "No shirt, no shoes, no service." I left my shirt at home.

If I can't refill, I'm cutting the run short: not going to be stupid today. Right then, the kid who pumps gas walks out of the store. I ask him to buy me a couple liters, and keep the change, dude. He hooked me up!

Two liters is four pounds. That gets heavy after awhile, but it's better than running dry. The rest of the run was uneventful if a little long: 16 miles the day after getting cooked like bacon.

Feeling ok now. That was one nice shower afterward.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Olympic Trials - Day 8

Last Day.

It's funny; on Friday, I was exhausted and just ready for this event to be over, so I could return to the real world.

Today? Not so much. I could go another week. Maybe.

Photo: Nick ready to roll
Yesterday at the track, it became painfully obvious that Nike has an absolute lockdown on all marketing efforts here at the Trials. And why not? They wrote the biggest check, so they can make the rules.

Which makes it even more hilarious to see a plane pulling a banner high over the stadium; the banner reads, "Run Happy - Brooks." 

I had heard that Nike 'owns' the airspace directly above the track. Which is why this airplane was carving a path ever so slightly wider than Hayward Field's dimensions. Now there's another small plane up there, flying directly over the field and running interference. Must be Nike.

Thinking back to both steeplechase events: a huge amount of carnage at the finish line every time. Bodies everywhere. Steeple is allegedly the most difficult event in track, and I believe it. At least no one was throwing up.

Run this morning; 16.5 miles at 8:30 pace, starting and ending near Hayward Field. Ran with Dave, a sub-3 hr marathoner: I had all the water bottles, so he had to go slow. My feet were hamburger the rest of the day.

And predicted no rain today, which is why it dumped on us during the run.

Only one celebrity sighting, but a good one; Robby Andrews, 1500m finalist, on the River Trail near the Valley River Inn. He and his coach were in a heated, psych-up discussion for today's race. I gave him some words of encouragment, so if he gets in, it's because of me. And if he doesn't get in, it's his own damned fault.

Seen on the back of the homestretch stands:

Mr. Bowerman, Nike co-founder, and inventor of the Waffle Sole

Carl Lewis was recognized for his contributions to track and field. It was also his birthday, so all 20,000+ fans sang Happy Birthday to him. Nice!

Here's your all-star finish line crew. Great job keeping the meet flowing, everyone.

Can you name the guy below on the left? He's kinda important.

None other than Mr. Frank Shorter, 1972 Marathon Gold Medalist, winner of approximately four bazillion races, and the last man to see Steve Prefontaine alive. Frank looks like he can still run a 26.2, and I know he's been doing triathlons, too. No grass growing under his feet.

The women's 100m debate is not finished. They're having a run-off tomorrow at 5pm. NBC (the station, not me) is frustrated because they have to change travel plans for many of their folks. To me, it's just stupid. Allyson won the 200, so she should defer the 100 slot to Jeneba. If Allyson thinks that she can double, she should look at her own history; lots of experience in coming up 2nd when she tries to do too much.

You know, I wouldn't be surprised if they change their minds tomorrow. Not that a pro athlete would ever be prone to posturing and diva-like behavoir.

Best memories of the Trials (in no particular order):
  • Eaton's Decathlon: his coach told me that Ashton's throws were all shorter than his normal distances. And his high jump and 400m were sub-par. Holy cow; he's got more in him.
  • Kim Conley's surprise 3rd in the 5000m; 8th to 3rd in the final lap, and no designs on London, she just wanted third place. She got more.
  • Amy Hastings's 10,000m win: sweet redemption!
  • Max King: Central Oregon's stud trail runner blew out four years of rust in two heats and showed us all how to finish a race
  • Me nailing a race prediction and outguessing my childhood hero, a Gold Medalist, in the process
  • The three guys who sang today's National Anthem; a bluesy, harmonized version with lots of heat
  • Hanging out with friends. And keeping old friends updated on the happenings
 Great time. I have four years to recover.

Post-script: London 2012...