Thursday, January 28, 2010

Taper Madness

You have to learn to pace yourself. Pressure!
You're just like everybody else. Pressure!
You've only had to run so far, so good.
But you will come to a place, where the only thing you hear
Is the starting gun in a race, and you'll have to deal with pressure! Pressure (w/ slight modifications to last line)- Billy Joel

The Miami Marathon is this weekend, so I've been in taper mode the last 3 weeks. For those uniformed on marathon training, you run your longest run (20 miles) 3 weeks out from race day. From there on in, your long runs get successively shorter (16 miles, 10 miles, 5 miles), so that you show up race day well rested and ready to run.

I used to follow what was the accepted theory in running circles of a 2 week taper. I could deal with that OK. A couple of years ago, I adopted the 3 week taper plan based on a series of articles that recommended it as a better approach. The only problem with this slightly longer taper is that by this final week, I start to question my fitness. It just seems so long ago since I ran really long. Do I still have the fitness level to run 26.2 miles? My higher brain and experience tell me that all is well and I'm prepared for the event, but my primal brain just wants to get out there and run. Primal brain wants me to go out long and hard. Now! I'm one twitchy bunch of bottled up energy & nerves. Sunday can't come soon enough.

I guess that's the whole point of the taper. Get you to the starting line rested, fresh and a bottled up bunch of energy ready to explode. But the reality is, you don't want to explode off the start of a marathon. I've sabotaged too many marathons going out too fast early in the race and have it come back to haunt me in the last 10K. The theory is to run even splits, or the holy grail of running, the negative split, in which you run the second half of the marathon faster than you ran the first half. Thus, I'm stuck in this quandary of being itching to go out fast knowing that it's a bad idea to do so.

I usually tell my running buddies that I love taper time, but that's only true for the first 10 or so days of taper. After that the nerves and energy start to build up the internal pressure. I think this is why race expos are so fun. Everyone is so keyed up for the race start, giddy with excitement and anticipation. The result: unnecessary purchases that 2 months later you ask yourself: "What was I thinking?" My brother calls it the "Leopard Skin Running Shorts" purchase. Not that either of us ever purchased leopard skin running shorts, but most runners make clearly unnecessary purchases at expos. I blame pre-race jitters for this phenomena. Don't get me wrong: there is great stuff to buy at expos and I spend more than I budget. But its like selling cheap drugs to a jonesing junkie. We are an easy sell. Thus, if I show up Sunday in leopard skin running shorts, you'll know the pressure got to me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Going Back to Miami

"Got to get back now to Florida; lay out in the morning Sun.
Got to get back to Miami; have a whole lotta fun.
Going back to Miami; going back to my girl." Going Back to Miami-The Blues Brothers

Its taper week before next weekend's Miami Marathon. I've signed up for either the full or the half every year since the inaugural event in 2003. When the marathon course was first announced in the Sun Sentinel back September, 2002, what struck me about the course was its great layout. It was the exact route I drove out of town guest to show off the Miami area. Starting off in downtown Miami, going over the MacArthur Causeway past the cruise ships, past the beautiful Art Deco buildings of South Beach, then looping back to downtown before heading south for the second half of the marathon through the tree canopied streets of Coconut Grove and back up Brickell Avenue to the finish at Bayfront Park. Just beautiful scenery.

I consider this course the most beautiful marathon course in the State of Florida. Yes, the A1a Half in Fort Lauderdale is also gorgeous, but that's basically my training route. Disney is nice through the parks, but is kind of barren between the parks. Tampa, with its run along Bay Shore Drive is also pretty. But for my registration money, Miami has the most interesting and diverse landscape to keep a runner's mind occupied over the whole 26.2 miles.

The past two years, I paced my paralegal's daughter through the half marathon. This year, triathlon buddy Tony was going to attempt his first marathon. Coming off the Ironman in November, I wasn't planning on a full marathon this soon. However, as Tony was doing the Galloway run/walk method, I figured I could do the training without beating myself up. Unfortunately, the marathon mileage placed too heavy a training load on Tony's hip and knee joints. He realized its was better to back down to the half marathon distance than risk injury. However, by the time Tony made the decision to back off the full, I'd already run a couple of 20 mile training runs, as well as a few 15 to 16 milers. What's a guy to do?

Last year I trained to run the full marathon for A1a in February. However, race weekend ended up forecast as a hot day, so I ended up switching to the half instead. It was frustrating to train for a full, then only run a half. Its like loading a musket with gun powder. You kind of feel a need to aim the thing and fire. You don't want the powder to go bad. Plus, I've made a commitment to run an ultra in November. Its like my buddy Wayne says, "Train hard, run far." I feel I should run the distance I trained to run. Thus, I've decided to run the full in Miami.

As for pace, buddy John will tell you I can make a promise on pace and go rogue while on the course. Stupid is a stupid does. Like in Seattle, I'm probably not speed trained for anything much faster than about a 4 hour run. I'll try to keep it smart. Perhaps I'll pace with John or run across fellow triathlon blogger Chloe, who is scheduled to run the full. Then again, if the weather is cool and I'm feeling, no, no! I promise to keep it smart. Really. Honest. Scout's honer. Cross my heart and hope to...wait; better not tempt fate. Anyone know a good sport psychologist?

Anyway, this weekend's training schedule is an easy 50 mile bike ride on Saturday and an easy 10 mile run on Sunday. After that, its off to coach my son's basketball game and watch some playoff football. During the week, I may even get back to the pool for a swim. That would be good cross training. Then, next weekend, I'm going back to Miami.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Long Run

People talkin' about us, they got nothin' else to do.
When it all comes down, we will still come through.
In the long run. Ooh, I want to tell you, it's a long run." The Long Run-The Eagles

After doing a warm up swim in Tempe Lake a couple of days before Ironman Arizona, I was talking to an seasoned Ironman woman. One of the bits that I throw into triathlon conversations is how doing marathons opened the door to doing sprint tris, which opened the door to doing half ironmans, which opened the door to doing the full Ironman. I ended this bit by asking, "I don't know what the Ironman opens the door to doing?" Its meant to be a rhetorical question. As in, "Can you believe how I got myself into this mess?" But the woman had an immediate response. "The Ironman opens the door to doing ultras."

When I got back home, I ran across my ultra running friend Mandy. During some long runs, she gave me some of her running history which included several Ironman events before she started doing some ultra marathons. Now, if you've ever read up on or viewed any of the videos of the various ultra marathon events in existence, you know there are some pretty crazy sounding events. There are several hundred mile trail runs (Western States, Vermont, Leadville), multi-day races (Marathon des Sables: a six-day, 156 mile event), and outrageously long and hard continuous events (Badwater: a 135 mile course run mostly in Death Valley in July!; the Spartahlon: a 153 mile race between Athens and Sparta). I read books and articles about these events, and watched videos of some of them. I follow them as an interested spectator only. Whenever I forwarded a DVD of one of these events to a running buddy, I always get a follow up call asking, "You're not planning on doing this event, are you?" My answer was and still is "No, I just find it interesting to follow these events and know that there are athletes that can do them." Like my friend Mandy. She's done the Marathon des Sables and intends to do Badwater one day. I've offered to help crew, but that's as far as I go.

There are a couple of shorter ultra events that I've had my eye on for years. One of my running buddies, Demetri, has an uncle in South Africa who runs the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town (35 miles) and the Comrades Marathon run between Pietermaritzburg and Durbin (56 miles) each year. Two Oceans is reputed to be the most beautiful course in the world. Comrades is the oldest of the ultra marathons and one I've looked at as one I'd like to do one of these years. The other ultra I've always thought about is the JFK 50 mile run. JFK is run the weekend before Thanksgiving each year. JFK starts in Boonsboro, MD, follows the Appalachian Trial for about 15 miles and then follows the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to Dam #4 on the Potomac River, and finally follows roads to Williamsport, MD.

As I'm getting congratulatory e-mails from triathlon and running buddies for doing IMAZ, my friends Bob and Melissa inform me they are doing Comrades this coming May. That really caught my attention. I met Bob and Melissa while doing the Dublin Marathon three years ago. They are a really nice couple from Ohio that do both marathons and triathlons, including several Ironman events. It was in listening to their stories that got my wife Salome, my training buddy John and me to start into the whole tri scene. Now, here they were announcing they were doing another of my dream events. However, being no fool, I know I should try another ultra before tackling Comrades which is known to be a tough event. Perhaps I should try an ultra that doesn't have such a tough reputation. Like my other ultra dream event: JFK.

Which brings me yet another couple I met doing the Dublin Marathon. Keith and Sheila from Michigan. Readers of my prior blog may recall Keith & Sheila from my Miami Marathon race report from last year (Be sure to read the comments for "The Ballad of Keith & Sheila"). Keith ran the JFK 50 Mile Run several times a few years back. When I raised the prospect of doing JFK next November, I received back an enthusiastic reply of "Yes, yes, yes!" I hope he still feels that way as the year goes on.

Getting back to Mandy, during one of our runs together, I brought up the idea of doing JFK this year and Comrades in 2011. She expressed interest in doing Comrades. Thus, if JFK goes well, Comrades may well be in store for 2011. Hopefully Bob & Melissa have a good experience and provide an intriguing race report on this year's race. As Comrades is run the opposite direction every other year (its the harder downhill run this year), perhaps they'll consider doing it a second time next year (the uphill run).

As you can see from my 2010 race schedule, I'll keep involved in the triathlon scene, but its time to give the short ultra a try before I get too much older. I hold no one to these proposals, but if anyone else is interested in working towards either JFK this November or Comrades in May, 2011, let me know. I figure that if I can spend 14 hours doing an Ironman, I can survive a shorter ultra. So, how about it? Anyone else interested in walking through that next door?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dodging Frozen Iquanas

One of the peculiar and unwelcome species to populate South Florida is the green iguana. A natural species in South America, the green iguana was introduced to South Florida by another unwelcome species living in our tropical environment: the stupid pet owner (SPO). SPOs are that subspecies of homo sapien that buys an exotic pet, keeps it for a while, gets tired of it and ultimately releases said exotic pet into the great outdoors. Usually, the SPO gets tired of the exotic pet at the point in time it got too big to sit on the SPO's shoulder as he cruises the beachfront. Having no natural enemy, the exotic pet species grows rapidly out of control resulting in a nuisance population that knocks our ecosystem out of kilter. This is how we have an out of control population of Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park.

Living on the water in Fort Lauderdale, I've got a personal peeve with stupid pet owners. The green iguana population was introduced to South Florida in the mid-90s and has been out of control for years. These exotic lizards that range from six inches to up to five feet. Some people love seeing these exotic creatures in their yards, but most South Floridians, my wife and Florida wildlife officials included, wish they were gone from our environment. They eat your yard vegetation to death, poop all over your dock, are not particularly afraid of humans, and they bite. You can chase them away, but only temporarily. They simply move to another yard and come back later.

The recent cold snap has created an interesting phenomena: frozen iguanas dropping out of trees. Being warm blooded reptiles, when the temperatures drop into the 40s, these creatures go into a type of hibernation. All body functions but the heart switch off and blood flow is cut to a minimum. They lose their grip on branches of the trees they hang out in and fall to the ground.

When I heard it was going to be in the 40s and dip into the 30s this weekend, I decided to sacrifice my Friday evening and knocked out my last 20 mile run before the Miami Marathon on Friday night. It was the day before my birthday, so it was also the last long run for my 50th year. Dang, I'm getting old!

In any event, Saturday's weather was miserable. Cold, wet rain the entire day. I took the family out for breakfast, went for a session with my trainer, took down the Christmas decorations, then settled down for an evening of playoff football. Not a huge celebration for my birthday, but a nice day given it was wet and cold outside.

Sunday, the temperatures dipped well into the low 30s. Wife Salome went running on Sunday at 1 PM when the temperatures hit the upper 40s. There were some pretty strong winds, but she was well dressed. With the temperatures in the 40s, the iguana's went into their temperature induced coma. As she ran long A1a, she hears a plop. Sure enough, an iguana fell out of a tree. Apparently, this has been happening all over South Florida for the past week. So, while I complained about the cold in my last post (my feet are still cold), there is some good coming from this unusually long cold snap. You just have to be careful where you run.

Living in South Florida, even the iguana falls have a bizarreness to them. See, it is legal to kill iguanas in Florida, but only if it is done humanely. Thus, some people looking to trap iguanas are out collecting them in their dormant state. One guy was collecting them off the street and throwing them into the back of his station wagon. Unfortunately, the guy didn't think through that his car was warmer than the outdoors. As he's driving down the street, these nasty tempered creatures start to come around and start crawling on his back. The driver narrowly avoided wrecking his car. I used to think that Carl Hiassen was a gifted writer, weaving absurd nature twists into his mystery novels. I now realize he's just taking notes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, Its Cold Outside

Living in South Florida, I know I'm not going to get much if any sympathy from my friends in northern climates, but damn, its cold outside. It was nice for the last couple of weeks. The weather has been cooler, but not cold. The day before New Year's Eve I did a long run starting at 5:30 AM in running shorts and a long sleeve Coolmax shirt. Here in South Florida we start all of our long runs an hour or two before sunrise to not die in the heat. Once the sun comes over the horizon, the temperatures start to rise quickly. It normally gets too toasty to run by about 10 AM. However, on December 30th, it was in the 60s, just right for a long run. So right, that I extended the run to a 21 miler.

I even did a couple of bike rides where the temperatures dropped into the mid 50s. That's what we consider winter down here. Temperatures that go into the low 60s and down to the mid 50s is what we usually consider winter. Temperatures that I consider ideal for running. That's why all of the Florida marathons (Palm Beaches, Disney, Maimi, A1a, Tampa) are in the winter months from December through February. The rest of the year, its really tricky to run the marathon distance in Florida. Too hot and humid with weather in the 80s to start and quickly

The last week has been unusual. We've been getting daytime temperatures in the mid 40s and temperatures down into the upper 30s at night. I read that they've been getting similar temperatures in New York City. However, the same temperatures down here always seem to feel colder than those similarly temperatures in normally colder climates. I don't know if its that the houses and buildings are not insulated as well for cold, weather its the humidity making it feel colder, or if we just don't dress the way northerners do. Probably all of the above.

Again, I know I'm not getting much sympathy from anyone living north of Orlando, but I feel like I'm getting cheated of out of some of the really good running days that I get in South Florida. The scarce resource just got more scarce. If I get up early , its just stupid to run before the sun gets up. Its below 40. If I wait for the sun to get up, its hard to get a longish run in before I need to get off to work. In the evening, its getting dark and cold before I get home. And I refuse to go on the F'n treadmill at this time of year. I'm forced onto the treadmill when its too hot out; I'm not doing it because of the cold.

So, I did a 10 miler on Tuesday an hour after sunrise and got into work late. I'm going to leave work early today to squeeze in another run. It's a good thing I'm self employed. I'm may not get home before dark, but I'll be warmed up by then. I have a second 20 mile run scheduled for this weekend in preparation for the Miami Marathon at the end of the month, but I can wait until the sun is up and the temperatures are out of the 40s.

It all make me think of my buddies Wayne and Mark in Anchorage, Alaska. They not only have much worse temperatures to deal with this time of year, but they've go really short periods of sunlight to try to work around. I imagine there are a few lunches that get missed in order to get a daylight run in. That, and being forced inside to their rubberized track and treadmills. I imagine my running friends in other northern cities face similar hurdles to their winter training.

So, I'll shut up now, put on another layer of running clothes and be happy that I've got above freezing conditions to run in. These cold temperatures only last about a week to 10 days down here anyway. So, if any of my northern friends are looking to get away to a warmer climate for training this winter, give me a call. Just don't plan to come down for the next week. You would be disappointed.

Let the name calling begin!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Blog

First off, let me say: "Happy New Year!" 2009 was a good year considering the economy. It was the year I turned 50. It was that life milestone that got me to sign up and train for an Ironman event. I figured, if I was going to do an Ironman, I'd better get cracking. That adventure was chronicled in my prior blog "A Couple of Wild and Crazy Guys," a link for anyone who cares to view those prior entries is included on this blog. As I state in the penultimate entry to that blog, the story arc of that joint venture with my training buddy John is complete and our schedules diverge in 2010. Thus, the new blog. The new blog name is the moniker given me by training buddy John on our completion of Ironman Arizona.

Its a new year. Time for new adventures and new challenges. The new adventures for the coming year are a couple of half ironman events and a travel marathon. I'm registered for the Vineman 70.3 in July and the Miami 70.3 in October. A 70.3 event is a half ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run). The Vineman was chosen as an away game event where some wine touring can be incorporated post-race. Miami 70.3 was chosen as a home game on a great course. The travel marathon will be the Paris Marathon in April. The new challenge will be doing an ultra marathon. I'll get into how I came about this decision in the next couple of blog postings.

I had a total of 13 registered followers on the prior blog. Not a large number in the blogging world, but John & I knew we had a larger reading group following us than were registered. With the convenient linkage of the blog to Facebook, that number was even larger. I will link this blog to Facebook as that seems to be were the blogging world is headed. Besides, that's were all of my friends hang out. If you enjoy the posting of this or my prior blog on Facebook, go to the blog site listed in my profile and officially register as a follower. It helps to know I have regular readers.