Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Road to Wellville

Dr. Tim Nokakes, the author of the bible on running, "Lore of Running," gives running injuries 4 grades based on the severity of the injury. A grade 4 is an injury so severe it prevents you from running. Grade 3 is an injury causing pain to the point that it limits your training and impacts race performance. A grade 2 injury causes discomfort, but not pain, while running. A grade 1 injury causes pain only after running and is often only felt some hours after running. The trick is to catch an injury at a stage 1 or 2 and treat it before it becomes a stage 3 or 4 injury.

I've got a stage 1 injury. I feel fine while running, but end up with soreness and stiffness behind the knee several hours after running. I believe I know the cause of the injury: over-striding coming down those 8 bridge crossings at the Miami 70.3. A running friend, Jen, from "Yeah, I Run Like A Girl..." blog, was able to give me the diagnosis the hard way: she's coming back from the same injury. Jen ignored the grade 1 signs of the injury until it became a stage 4, forcing her to take several months off from training. Jen's diagnosis: an injured hamstring tendon.

The trick is treat an injury properly in order to get back to normal training. First step, rest and and relaxation. Easier said than done. As regular endurance athletes, it's very hard for us to give up our regular training routine and sit on the sidelines/couch while our regular training buddies participate in events or text you to join in the next workout. Not only are up a bundle of pepped up energy with no outlet, but you have to keep reminding your buddies that you are coming back from an injury and can't join them. This makes you sound like your looking for sympathy, which you are not. You want nothing more than to get back out on the road with your buddies to bike and run. Thus, it takes discipline to do the right thing and rest.

After taking what you think and hope is enough pure down time, you start slowly returning to the road. You go for short distances and don't push the pace. Well, I gave it 10 days of pure rest. Hopefully, with my stage 1 injury, this is enough pure rest. I've started back with an easy 10 mile ride. I did an easy 3 mile run, a 20 mile ride, and today a 6 mile run. On my return run, I stopped by St. Bart's cafe, a sidewalk cafe on A1a near the Swimming Hall of Fame popular with a lot of our training group. Buddy Tony is sitting having a coffee. Having seen me on the outbound run, he ordered me up a class of ice-water. As I stop to chat, Tony asks if I feel better. I tell him: "I'll know this evening if it stiffens up."

Anyway, so far so good. I hope I stay on the road to Wellville and don't end up in the ditch by doing too much too soon or going too hard. I hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend and training just enough to balance out all the good eating going on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Given that Thanksgiving is upon us, I thought I'd list some of the things I'm thankful for over the past year related to triathlon and running:

I am thankful that it didn't get any warmer or more humid during January's Miami Marathon. The heat and humidity of those last 3 miles made me ask to my friends on finishing: "Remind me, why do we run these things?"

I am thankful for the great venue that is Miami Marine Stadium, where I did two Olympic distance evens and one sprint. With its protected bay for swimming and shaded run path, there isn't a better venue in South Florida for triathlons.

I am thankful for the company of good friends Wayne Crayton, Bob Bowker, and Jacques & Christine Watters who were part of the Paris Marathon trip in April. That was a wonderful adventure shared with good friends.

I am thankful to Marathon Tours for putting together these international marathon trips. They not only make your foreign marathon trip easy and fun, but they create an environment where you get to know other interesting athletes from around the U.S.

I am thankful that ultrarunner Bill Andrews allowed me to crew for him at the Keys 100 in May. During the course of this event, Bill taught me a lot about both crewing and running an ultra.

I am thankful that buddy Tony Whittaker, out of all my tri buddies, decided to join Salome & me on the Vineman 70.3 trip to Sonoma Valley. Not only could I not have found a more enthusiastic fellow athlete for the event, but he brought along his expertise in wine and fine dining.

I am thankful for TriBike Transport for once again allowing me to travel across the country without the hassle of a giant bike box. While they charge a pretty penny to transport your bike, they do it professionally and with a smile on their faces.

I am thankful for the water stations, well stocked with water and ice, at the Miami 70.3. These well placed stations a quarter mile on both sides of the Port of Miami Bridge made an impossible task of 8 crossings over this beast of a bridge tolerable torture instead of life threatening.

I am thankful for my virtual training buddy and coach, John Clidas, for his keeping me focused on my workouts even though they were mostly separate workouts during his busy work travel year in which he was imitating the George Clooney character from "Up in the Air."

I am thankful for my spin instructor, Dorota Porazinska for getting me to break out of my habit of a steady pace and learn to change it up. It was enormous help help in the hills of Sonoma Valley and all of the turns in Miami.

I am thankful for my trainer, Penn Ivanov for both strengthening my core and upper body, but also for his sound advice in balancing aerobic training with weight training.

I am thankful for all of my training buddies and friends that give me a reason to keep the training social and fun, provide mutual encouragement at events, and give me a reason to follow an event over the internet as they do events at out of the area "away games."

I am thankful for my fellow bloggers who read my entries and write good blogs of their own to keep me both interested and amused. I get more from these blogs than I ever get from magazines devoted to the sport.

I am thankful for any of my Facebook friends that read my blog entries, especial those that leave comments or click the "Like" button. Sometimes its the only way I know anyone reads these posts.

I am thankful for my sons, Alex and John, who keep me feeling younger than my years by making me play like a 10 year old and socialize with a bunch of college aged young adults.

I am thankful to my mother in law, Kiki, for her fabulous cooking, the care and devotion she gives to my son Alex, and constant concern she expresses that my wife & I may be overdoing it with all these athletic events.

I am most thankful for my wife, Salome, who not only understands and puts up with my passions for running and triathlon events, but also participates in them herself. I can't think of a better formula to stay young at heart than to go jaunting around together to various athletic events.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Congratulations Bob & Melissa...and Tom &Chrissie

Ironman events take a long time. Watching large parts of Ironman Arizona today was the first time I watched the live feed from the WTC. My impressions in watching online are that it's great to watch the mass swim start, the pros coming into and out of transitions, and of course the finish. Of course, seeing your friends finish is very cool. Other than that, WTC does a good job of keeping it interesting by having other pro athletes talk about the competitors and how the pros handle these events. Thus, you could spend a full 10 hours that they have commentary, but that's a long time. So, I caught the start, transitions, the finishes, and some chunks in between. All in all, very interesting. I picked up some tips and got to know some of the background of some of the leaders. I also did chores around the house and stepped out to Home Depot for some supplies too.

As for the event, a few of us that know Bob & Melissa followed them throughout the day. As we expected, they did well on a challenging day that included rain, wind and cold. Not exactly what they expected for a race in Tempe Arizona. Congratulations to both Bob & Melissa. Bob finished in 12:44; Melissa in 13:03. Way to go guys! It was great to watch you cross the finish line.

Other than following our friends, it also was an exciting day to follow Chrissie Wellington and her boyfriend Tom Lowe. Tom was running his first Ironman event having done three 70.3 events previously. Tom comes in third overall in 8:11,with the fastest marathon time of 2:41. Not bad for a first timer. Chrissie, 3 time Kona Champion from 2007 through 2009 had to miss this year's Kona due to a virus. In order to not let her season end in a scratched race, she decided to do IMAZ. She absolutely killed the course. Not only is she the first woman, she breaks the woman's world record in Ironman by 11 minutes by finishing in 8:36. Congratulations to Tom & Chrissie. Nice way to end the season.

Go Bob & Melissa!!!

It's always fun to have a rooting interest in an IM. Today, I'll be following two of my friends, Bob Kazar (#1932) & Melissa Johnson (#2494) as they compete in Ironman Arizona. I met this couple from Akron, Ohio when I did the Dublin Marathon in October, 2007. It was probably Bob & Melissa that got me to think that I could do an Ironman event. During our first meeting at a pub social mixer for the Marathon Tours running group, Bob & Melissa talked enthusiastically about their past Ironman experiences. "Don't you need a tri bike?" I asked. "No, just put some aerobars on your road bike," they replied. The rest, they say, is history. The next summer, Salome, buddy John & I did our first sprint triathlon, followed that fall by our first half ironman, and culminating in my first (and to date, only) Ironman event, last year's Ironman Arizona.

What goes around, comes around, I guess. In following buddy John's and my progress, Bob & Melissa got excited enough to sign up the next morning for this year's Ironman Arizona. I'm glad that we could return the inspiration that this couple gave to us to get involved in this great big ball of fun that is "triathlon." I'm sure these strong athletes will once again inspire me with their efforts today.

By the way, Happy Ironman Anniversary to tri buddy John Clidas. He was my partner in crime last year in training for and completing Ironman Arizona. John has already completed his second Ironman event, having done Ironman Florida earlier this month. As for me, once I give this hamstring injury a couple of weeks to heal, I'll start slowly gearing up to Ironman Coeur d'Arlene in late June, 2011. The circle of inspiration continues.

Meanwhile, I've bookmarked the live feed from Ironman Arizona and will be watching my friends on-line throughout the day. Go Bob & Melissa!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Down & Out In South Florida

I think those 8 bridge runs during Miami 70.3 took their toll on me. I don't think it was the heart rate killing uphills that did me harm, but the recovery runs on the downhills. Not having trained for hills, I think all that downhill over-striding left me with ligament damage in the back of my right knee.

Of course, like most injuries, you're not even aware you've injured your self during the event. In fact, I took it easy that week and only did an easy 5 mile jog the following Friday. It was only after a Sunday 10 mile run, that I felt soreness in the evening. So, I take the next week off of running. Saturday, I go with my group for an easy 30 mile ride. No problem. Sunday, Salome & I do an easy run out on A1a along with the runners finishing the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1. Thus, we ran 3 miles, hung out at the finish, then ran 3 mile home. All run at a comfortable, easy pace. That afternoon, after sitting for about an hour during lunch, the back of the right knee was stiff again. Yesterday afternoon, getting up from my desk at work, the knee was very tight again.

OK, I am forced to admit it to myself. I'm injured. Of course, now that I know I'm off the road for a couple of weeks, my friends are texting me to do speed work. As I get more messages, I make more calls explaining that I'm injured and out of the workout loop for a while. It's almost like admitting you're addicted to something. First, you have to acknowledge to yourself that you've got a problem. Then, you've got to announce your problem to your friends. After I'm recovered, I guess I'll have to make amends to my friends that I had to skip workouts with by making up workouts with them. It's like a freaking 12 step program.

The shame is that we Florida athletes are entering our sweet spot in training. All of our Northern friends will start to put away their bikes, swim suits and running shoes until the spring. We Floridians get to keep training in what is the coolest, driest time of the year. Worse still, I'm signed up for the Goofy (1/2 on Saturday, full marathon Sunday) at Disney the second weekend of January. If this injury doesn't heal in the next couple of weeks, I may have to scratch that event. :(

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Say What? Free Entry Into a 70.3 Event

Apparently, I was not the only one to voice complaints and criticism about Saturday's Miami 70.3. Another tri blogger, Courtney of Speedy CB's Ironman Journey, left a comment agreeing with my criticisms. When I later read her race report on the event, she did an even more thorough dressing down of the race organizers. Then, tri buddy, Jerry Busbee, e-mails me a link to a race report by an elite female competitor that again goes over similar criticisms of the race organization.

Well, the folks at WTC must have been inundated with complaints and criticisms about the event. Late last night, the WTC issued a press release acknowledging the race set up was a problem, distancing themselves from the race organization, vowing to take over the race for next year. In addition, they announced a complimentary race entry into any of the 70.3 races in 2011 listed below:

Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, Ironman 70.3 Florida, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, Ironman 70.3 Mooseman, Ironman 70.3 Boise, Ironman 70.3 Kansas, Ironman 70.3 Muncie,
Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, Ironman 70.3 Racine, Ironman 70.3 Boulder, Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens, Ironman 70.3 Timberman, Ironman 70.3 Branson,
Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Ironman 70.3 Austin, or Ironman 70.3 Miami.

This was probably a good face saving thing to do. I know I feel somewhat better about the whole thing. Now, I've got to decide which race to do. Of course, I have to keep in mind that with travel costs, a free entry is like offering me an opportunity to spend that entry fee several times over if I go to an event outside of Florida. So there is no free lunch as they say.

I'm already registered for Ironman 70.3 Florida in mid-May as a step up to IMCDL in late June. Texas and New Orleans are out due to the fact that I'm running the London Marathon the 3rd week of April. Hawaii, Mooseman, Boise, Kansas, Muncie, Rhode Island, and Racine are all out of the question due to their close proximity to IMCDL. I really can't see doing Miami a second time unless they redesign that run course. So that leaves Boulder, Steelhead, Lake Stevens, Timberman, Branson, Syracuse, Augusta and Austin.

Which one should I do? Anyone who has done any of these events that would highly recommend one of these over the others. Or should I simply finish the WTC events I'm signed up for and walk away from a free entry? You thoughts are appreciated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Miami 70.3 Race Report

Well, the inaugural Miami 70.3 has come and gone. Boy, am I pooped. Thumbnail sketch: the swim seemed overly long, the bike was a joy, and the run was like doing hill repeats in Dante's Inferno. Following is my race report.

Friday Expo: Tri buddy Jerry and I arrive at the Miami Hilton around 11:45 AM for our number pickup at the Expo. While this is a first time event, WTC should have their act more together for registration. I end up waiting in a line for about 45 minutes before I'm told that this was the line for participants without USAT cards. Worse, there appears to be no line for people with USAT cards. Then, you have to go through 3 lines to get your number, pick up your bib, then get your chip. Kind of ridiculous. In any event, Jerry needed to pay his $10 for his temporary license, so I would have wasted the time anyway.

While waiting in line, I start up a conversation with a guy named Ricardo. It turns out he is also from Fort Lauderdale. As we chat, up walks another couple of tri buddies, Ellen Itzler and her friend David. Turns out Ellen and Ricardo are training buddies. Small world. Ellen tells us the manditory pre-race lecture didn't reveal much other than the fact that the revised run now calls for 8, yes 8, bridge crossings over the road to the Port of Miami.

After getting our numbers, I buy a "Miami 70.3" bike jersey and decide on the spot to wear it for the bike and run portions of the race. Jerry & I listen in on the course review, then head over to drop our bikes at transition. My spot is right under a large tree and I wonder if this will be a hassle in transitions. Jerry, who got his race entry through a buddy whose company was one of the event sponsors, has a sweet spot near the front of the swim in/run out entry/exit with a spectacular view of the fountain and waterfront. After dropping the bikes, we grab a quick bite for lunch at Bayside.

Race Day: I pick up Jerry at 4:55 AM and we have an uneventful drive down to Miami. After parking at Bayside, and getting by the security at the Bike Out gate, we set up our transition areas. Knowing it was unlikely to be wetsuit legal, we left our wetsuits in the SUV. My area under the tree becomes less crowded as other competitors decide they don't like begin crowded by the tree and relocate. Great, now my transition area has plenty of room. After pumping our tires and doing the Port-O-Potty thing, Jerry & I chill on a bench in transition until just before swim time. As I'm in the 4th wave, I head over to the dock we will jump off of ahead of Jerry.

At the dock area, I spot Ellen and give her last good wishes. She is off in the wave ahead of me. Since it's her first 70.3 event, I wonder if I'll see her again before the finish. I get in line in the group of 50 and older age group. Of course, the race organizers once again give us the silver/gray caps. They must think this is so funny. Before I know it, it is time to jump off the dock. When I hit the water, I go fairly deep. As I finally surface, I get hit by another competitor being pushed into the water by the organizers. Hey guys, no need to injure us before the event.

The Swim: As the gun sounds for my wave, the water feels good. It's still dark out, but I can see the first buoy up ahead. The current, which I can't feel is with us, so I get to the first buoy with ease. Thus, I think the swim will not be so bad. However, after that first turn, I can't see the second buoy. It feels like I swim for long periods without making the headway I believe I should. Apparently, the current is more than I can feel. It seems to take forever to reach the second buoy. Likewise, on the next leg, it seems to take much longer than I expect to sight and get to the third turn. Worse, I think that the 3rd turn must be the finish as I've been in the water 45 minutes already. Nope, there is another leg to complete. I come out of the water in 1:06. My worse time at this distance ever. Not sure if the course was long, the current was worse than it felt, or I was under-trained for the swim. Probably a bit of each.

T1: As I run to transition somewhat dispirited, I take solace in the fact that the bike is next. As I fumble getting on my socks, shoes, bike shirt, helmet and arm bands (I need the sun protection), the announcer tells the spectators to watch the athletes in transition. He comments that "Some athletes go through transition like a Swiss Watch, other like Swiss Cheese." I look up at a female athlete who is waiting nearby as part of a relay team and say, "I guess that makes me Swiss Cheese." T1 time: a pedestrian 7:15.

The Bike: The bike is my favorite portion of long triathlon events. You're on the bike for a long time, and you're still pretty fresh. This was no different. I felt good on the ride, except for the fact that some of the streets were pretty narrow and it got a little dicey when large groups of fast riders with Zip Wheels came by en-mass. While I imagine it's hard to get separation in the early miles on the bike, these groups of 6 to 10 riders were clearly and massively violation the "No Draft" rules. I saw one rider who was drafting so technically beautiful off of another rider that I admired his drafting technique. The lead rider was not going to get separation from this guy hugging his wheel. It reminded me of some of the climbs up Alp Duez in the Tour de France. They lead guy would cross to get the guy off his wheel, but this rider (#2025) countered his every move. As I noted that most of these guys were in their mid 30s to mid 40s, I decided it didn't effect my "old guy" age group ranking, so I should stop worrying about these mass "No Draft" violations. With the narrow streets, there was no room for any course monitors to ride a motor-cycle. I just can't figure out whether the violations are intentional or not.

There are lot of turns on this course, so there was a lot of braking and accelerating work to be done coming out of the turns. My biggest concern was running out of fluids. My stomach doesn't handle Gatorade well in long endurance events. I brought two water bottles with a mix of Heed, which my stomach does handle. I left my third water bottle position open for hand-offs at the 3 aid stations on the course. When I got to the first station, they only had Gatorade. I grabbed it and noticed that the plastic wrap was still on the bottle top. After failing to pry it off with my hand and my teeth, I tossed the bottle away as too much trouble. The second station was so small, I blew by it before I noticed it. After the turn around, I realized I was getting to the end of my second water bottle of Heed. By the time I got to the last aid station, I'm borderline dehydrated. I grab what they have, which is again Gatorade. I drink some and note that the stomach will not be handling this well. However, as I have no choice, I keep the bottle and take small swigs when I can.

As an aside, my friend Ellen apparently did dehydrate on the bike course. She apparently stopped at an medical station and was given 2, yes 2, IVs and was advised to go to the hospital in an ambulance. She somehow got back on her bike and completed the race. I've got to arrange a luncheon this week to hear her complete story. I later saw Ellen on the bridge and she looked fine. Way to hang in there Ellen!

The winds were supposed to be around 13 mph out of the NE, so I thought the return portion of the ride would be a struggle. Luckily, it was more of a cross wind most of the way and I was able to ride in the mid 18s most of the way. My ride time was 3:02:24 and an average of 18.4 mph.

T2: T2 was pretty uneventful and a lot quicker, given that I only had to change shoes and restock energy gels. T2 time: 2:44.

The Run: When I originally signed up for this event, the run was supposed to be 2 loops over the MacArthur Causeway. Thus, I knew there would be 4 uphill bridge runs. I didn't know until the week of before the race that the run course was redesigned to go over the Port of Miami bridge 8 times. While a slightly shorter and less high bridge, it's not that much shorter. I don't think anyone looked forward to this run. While I was able to run the flat parts of the run, I and just about everyone else had to walk at least part of the uphill of the bridge. I ended up running until my heart rate couldn't handle it, I'd walk a bit, then run, then walk again until I reached the top. I would recover on the down slop side of the bridge, but every time I had to go up that bridge, I'd wonder if I could finish the race. I felt like I was bonking on each climb. To make matters worse, the bridge was totally exposed to the sun and it was hot. To the race organizer's credit, they had well stocked water/ice stations about a 1/3 mile after the bridge on each side. Thus, it was a battle to keep hydrated and from overheating on each climb. As I said in my summery, it was like running through Dante's Inferno. I saw most of my friends on some portion of the bridge climbs, and we cheered each other on. But it was not fun. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think a half ironman events are crazy because you end up running in the heat of the day. This event reaffirmed that belief. I just had no idea I had signed up for a hill workout to boot.

Once I was finally done with my 8th bridge run, I knew I was home free. I zipped up my bike jersey, took a last water cup about a 1/3 mile before the finish and was able to pick up pace for the finish. Just before the finish, I hear buddies John and Tony on the sideline and reach out to high five them before I finish. Run time: 2:33:18, Final overall time: 6:52:10. Not my best, but not my worst half ironman event. It is in the books and my triathlon season is over for 2010. Not sure I'd recommend this event based on the 8 bridge repeats, but otherwise it was a good event. I'd hoped for cooler weather this late in the season, but it is South Florida.

Now, I get to sit back and watch my tri buddies, both local and in blog land, do their Ironman events. Count me as one who will be glad to be a spectator for a while. Best of luck to John, Bob, and Chloe in IMFL this weekend. Best wishes also to Bob & Melissa in IMAZ later this month. I'll be following all of you via computer.