Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Return to the Desert

My wife, Salome, planned a long weekend trip to Scottsdale, AZ for my young son, Alex's spring break. We stayed at our friends' house near Carefree in the Northeast part of the Phoenix megalopolis. Our friends' son, Mike is our son Alex's best friend who moved out to Arizona last summer. The two were inseparable for the four days we visited.

Saturday morning Salome & I drove down to Tempe, the sight of my Ironman last November, to do a long run in preparation for the Paris Marathon. The Muscular Dystrophy Association was holding a 5K walk around Tempe Lake that morning, so there was some maneuvering around the crowd of walkers at some points. I ran as much of the marathon course around Lake Tempe as I could remember. The course twists and turns through some neighborhoods and crosses over the Lake at the midpoint. A little confusing. In any event, Salome ran 13 miles and I ran 15 miles. The temperatures were cool and the course brought back some memories of my Ironman experience.

On Sunday, we drove up to Flagstaff and went skiing for the day at the Snowbowl Ski Resort. While Snowbowl is a fairly modest ski resort, it was nice to get in a day of skiing. We normally like to ski the moguls, but kept off the bumps due to their steepness and iciness. Neither one of us wanted to risk an injury and blow our Paris trip. It was Spring skiing conditions, so I wore my light AZ Ironman jacket. Both stylish and right for the conditions. Having missed ski season completely last year with the full ironman training schedule, it was nice to get back to the slopes.

Early Monday morning, we ran the roads heading west from Carefree towards Tonto National Forest. Salome turned to make a 5 mile run. I kept going to make it a 10 miler. Running these beautiful desert roads, I decided that, at least during the cool months, there may be no better place to run.

In addition to the runs and skiing, we did several hikes with the kids. I also managed a dinner Monday with my sister and brother. All in all, a fun long weekend. Of course, Tuesday was a total loss with the return flight to Ft. Lauderdale.

This morning, I woke early to mid 50s temperatures. I decided to skip my planned group ride and got in a 12 mile run. Thus, my long runs over the last 2 weeks were: 20, 7, 7, 15, 10 and 12 miles. Not the best marathon prep, but not bad for coming off a stomach virus induced hiatus from training. Hopefully its enough to get me through the Paris Marathon 10 days from now. Buddies Wayne and Bob have been posting lots of pictures on Facebook of their travels through Italy since running the Rome Marathon 10 days ago. It looks like they are living the good life. I can't wait to join them next week in Paris.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Body Blows

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame:
"I am leaving, I am leaving," but the fighter still remains. The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel

Last weekend, my nephew and his family flew down from Alaska and spent the weekend with us. Unfortunately, someone on the last leg of their several flights must have been sick with the Norovirus. This is the highly contagious stomach virus you occasionally hear about infecting passengers on cruise ships. It's only a stomach virus that hits you in about 24 hours from contact with an infected person, but man it packs a punch. As explained at Wikipedia: "The disease is usually self-limiting, and characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; and in some cases, loss of taste. General lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache, and low-grade fever may occur." Yep, that about sums it up.

From Sunday night and throughout the week, it was Gatorade and chicken soup for me and the rest of my family. Feeling weak and feverish throughout the week, workouts were out of the question. My planned running cram course in preparation for the Paris Marathon was dealt yet another severe blow. As this was the scheduled weekend for our 20 mile training run, however, Salome & I decided to give the long run a go Saturday morning.

We did the Galloway method, walking for around a minute for every mile run. At about mile 10, I felt about done for the day. However, we picked a distracting route through the tree shaded Rio Vista neighborhood and finished with some laps around the also tree shaded Birch State Park. My calves ached and started cramping about mile 17, and my hips felt sore the last 8 miles or so. But, ignoring the pain and discomfort the best we could, we got it done. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't overly horrible either. Thank God the cooler weather persisted through this weekend.

Of course, Sunday was a much needed day of recovery. Leg joints and muscles were pretty sore. More so than they usually are the day after a 20 miler. Given that I was coming off my second de-conditioning sickness forced layoff in less than a month, the soreness is no surprise. I feel like a boxer that got knocked down in the last two rounds of a fight. I keep getting up off the mat, but I'm beginning to feel the body blows. I weighed myself yesterday and I'm down to 175. A good fighting (and running) weight for me, but getting sick is not the ideal way to lose weight. So, if you are suffering from a cold or some highly contagious skunk virus, please keep your distance from me for the next 3 weeks. I'm not sure I could get back up off the canvas if I get knocked off my feet again.

Buddy Wayne Crayton and his travel buddy Bob Bowker ran the Rome Marathon on Sunday morning. They looked good in the post-race picture Wayne posted on Facebook Sunday evening. As I commented on their post, they've now earned 3 weeks of vacation in Italy. Not a bad reward for running a marathon. Come to think of it, I'll earn a short vacation in France after running the Paris Marathon on April 11th. Sweet motivation indeed!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pulling It Off: The MIT Report

The week before the Miami International Triathlon, I knew I was behind the 8 ball in training. I had gotten my wife's cold and was unable to train at all for about 10 days. I had decided to cram for my preparation. My workouts the week before the event were as follows: Saturday, a weak 10K run, Sunday, a 25 mile ride; Monday, rest; Tuesday, a 25 mile ride; Wednesday, a 10K run; Thursday a 30 minute pool swim, and Friday, a 5K treadmill speed workout. I hoped this was enough to allow me to finish.

Conditions at the Expo, bike drop and number pick-up at the Miami Marine Stadium site did not look promising. While the swim takes place in a somewhat protected bay, the surf looked pretty choppy. It was also pretty windy along Key Biscayne. This should have been enough to scare me off, but just being on the site of a triathlon transition area got me excited about the sport again.

Long story short: on race day, I felt crappy on the swim, not having done an open water swim with a wetsuit in over a month. It was pretty windy on Rickenbacker Causeway making the bike difficult. End result: a PR in 2:58. Why? Because I didn't cramp up and break down in the run. This may be due in part to this being my first Olympic distance race using the tri bike and this saved my quads for the run. Another possibility is the cooler temperatures kept me from dehydrating and cramping. I suspect it's a little of both. In any event, I was able to cram for this event and finish. It may not be an impressive time for other triathletes, but I was previously frustrated in my inability to break the 3 hour mark at this distance. As I always say: any day you get a PR is a great day. Thus, I give myself an A- for the event. The A for the PR; the minus for the poor swim and the fact that I know I can do better on the bike.

Hopefully, I'll be able to pull off the same cramming stunt for the Paris Marathon in a little less than a month. Time to ramp up the running. My buddy Wayne, whose 3 marathons over a 6 week Trampathon Abroad I'm joining for the Paris portion, left Anchorage yesterday to visit his mom in New Jersey. Tomorrow, he is off to Rome. Best of luck in Sunday's Rome Marathon Wayne. See you in a little over 3 weeks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cramming for Finals

During a dinner with friends Monday night, our friends relate a story of their son Josh, who is in his 4th year of college studying engineering. According to our friends, late every term they receive nervous calls from Josh. Course demands, end of term projects and reports are all coming at him. The last day to drop a course is approaching and Josh is seriously considering dropping a course in order to avoid a feared failing grade. The advice Josh's parents consistently give him is to not drop the course, but buckle down and get the work done. Josh then buckles down, skips out on some of the fun his fellow students are partaking in, and pulls out decent grades.

It reminds me of my undergrad days taking a cost accounting course. The class was taught by a tough professor. The mid-term exam was brutal. I remember sitting with 15 minutes left in that exam thinking: "Well, that's all I can do. This is going to be ugly." I think I ended up with a C-, not my normal A. I clearly had not mastered the material. Lots of my classmates did the same or worse. Many dropped the class, opting to take the class again with an easier professor. Not me. I used the fear factor to motive myself to try harder to master the material for the final. I went into the final fearing that I could fail the class. However, the redoubled efforts allowed me to pulled out a B for the course.

What both I and Josh learned from these experiences is that you can drop out of a difficult situation, or stick with the task at hand. The end results almost never turn out as bad as you fear. It is perhaps the fear factor that makes us focus and give the extra effort to succeed.

If you follow this blog, you know I'm coming off a cold and my training has been sub-par to date. I gave serious consideration to simply dropping out of the MIT Olympic Triathlon this coming Sunday. However, I've decided to cram for this event and hope the results will not be failure. I've run or ridden each day since Saturday. I'm trying to do interval work and speed work in both my running and riding. I'll take Saturday off so as to be somewhat rested for Sunday's event. I may only get a C effort out of myself; I may fail to complete the course; however, I've decided against dropping out. Here's hoping you can cram for an Olympic triathlon final.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Things Fall Apart

The problem with setting up a race schedule with events about every two to four weeks is that your workout/race/recovery schedule simply falls apart if you get sidelined with an illness. Coming off of my late January marathon in Miami,, I found it hard to get emotionally psyched up for February's A-1a Half Marathon in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale. However, I managed to focus on race day, concentrated on my running form, and ran a (for me) respectable 1:43. Then, the wife got sick.

Salome ran A1a with the cold and felt the effects in the second half of the race. Worse, she passed the cold over to me. Not only did the cold make me achy and tired, but I got a double dip of this cold where it started on the left side of my nasal passages for 4 days before migrating to the right side of my head.

By Friday evening, I finally felt like I'm getting past this thing. However, now I've got the MIT Olympic tri in Miami next weekend and the Paris Marathon coming up fast on April 11th. I should have been running the first of two 20 mile runs this weekend, but only have the energy to run a 10K at about a 12 minute/mile pace on Saturday. I decide I'd better bag the idea of even an Olympic bike/run brick for the weekend. Instead, I rolled back to simply getting out on Sunday for a 25 mile ride. I get it done, but the energy level is not back to normal. I was able to do a 5K treadmill run this morning, but I'm a little sluggish this afternoon. If the energy level doesn't bounce back during the week, it could get ugly on Sunday. So, what should I do: show up and treat the event as a long triathlon workout, or scratch myself and focus on my long runs for Paris in April?

Note: Training buddy John Clidas was scheduled to run the Antarctic Marathon yesterday. No word yet as to how he did. All I can say is: "burr," and "no, thanks." I hope he had a good run, saw some penguins, and did not freeze any body parts.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fricking Cold!

Note: It seems the California state assembly passed a resolution last Thursday that would establish the first week of March as "Cuss Free Week" throughout the state. A news clip on the TV showed state legislators with empty cursing jars for fines next to their desks. In light of this well intended initiative, I will try to follow suit.

I wish these dang cold fronts would get the heck out of town. It's now officially March and I'm literally sick and tired of these winter cold fronts. I live in South Florida. We usually have a cold front or two in late December and early January. Other than that, we are supposed to be a refuge of warm pleasant weather during the winter season that the rest of you can come down and visit to get away from the months of snow and ice. Well, mother nature has not cooperated this year. We've had cold front after cold front, one following the other, pretty much all winter long. While this worked out well for my run training, it totally mucked up my early season triathlon training.

Wife Salome & I signed up for an early season triathlon, the Miami International Triathlon to be held March 14th. This was to be Salome's first Olympic distance triathlon. When we signed up for this event last November, we figured we would have a mild February to swim and bike ourselves into early season shape. Salome signed up for swim instructions and expected to be able to practice her swimming at a local outdoor pool and in the open water. Well, fiddlesticks! The weather has been too rainy, windy and/or cold; open water conditions have been mostly rough. Neither one of us has had much chance to ride or swim. Yes, we've done both a few times, but not enough to feel ready for an Olympic distance tri in less than 2 weeks.

On top of the weather, Salome came down with a fricking cold a week ago that tubed the week for her workouts. She returned to training in full this weekend, but not before passing the cold over to me. While fortunately not a chest cold, this virus from "H-e-double hockey sticks" made me feel weak and achy for the past 4 days. Starting with a vise like headache Friday afternoon, I had to bag my long run and long ride for the weekend. I did get on the trucking Fred-mill this morning for a 5K run, but the energy level wasn't back to normal.

Not having gotten sufficient swim time in, Salome decided to pull herself from MIT. She'll focus on her run training for the Paris Marathon in April. I'm not at that point yet. I'm hoping this schnitzel of a cold is on its way out and I'll have the energy to do an Olympic brick by this weekend. Hopefully, my sinuses will clear enough to allow me to get back in the pool. Either way, MIT may end up an event done for "completion."

I can't wait to hear the follow up story to the California legislature's week of civility. My guess is those sons of biscuits will pass a proclamation naming the first business day back in session "Blue Monday."