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6.1 miles in 1:04:12 @ 10:31 pace and 163/177 bpm for 895 calories

Today was my long run of the week.  I’m increasing the target length of my long run by 10% every week as usual, but starting from scratch in January and those few weeks I missed in February set me back, and this was the first real run longer than an hour in quite a while. Still, beautiful early evening weather in Dallas and my first break from a long work day made it really nice. My right calf tightened up a bit at the end and it still has a small sore spot I can’t seem to massage out, but other than that I did fine. I took it easy for the entire run (as evidenced from the average heart rate) and the day off yesterday helped me recover well from Sunday’s race.

6.20 miles in 59:10 @ 9:31 pace and 174/187 bpm for 907 calories

There’s something about running on race day that allows you to push the pace a bit.  Whether its adreneline or tapering or whatever, I enjoy racing almost as much as I enjoy training.  (And I’m slow!  I can’t imagine how fun it would be if I were actually competitive.)

Today was the run stage of the 2009 Texas Tough series, and it was a blast.  As I wrote a few posts back, the race benefits Children’s Medical Center.  The run stage is a 50K ultrarelay, with teams running four 5Ks and three 10Ks to make up the total.  Our team, called Hearts of Fire, was made up of employees and friends of the Heart Center at Children’s, the actual unit where my wife works.  All of the money we raise not only goes to Children’s but directly to the Heart Center, and as of this writing we’ve raised over $2,000!

The race itself was beautiful.  It was held on the field at the Cotton Bowl, with the run route winding around the Texas State Fairgrounds.  It was really cool to walk onto the perfect-green grass of the Cotton Bowl field and imagine the couple of times I’ve seen UT play OU there.  But today the field had been transformed for race day, with tents and a finish line and a well-marked route leading up the tunnel and out of the stadium.

The relay started at 8:00a, and it was sunny but just under 40 degrees.  Everyone was cold waiting for the race to start, but once it began we all warmed up.  The race was originally structured to have each runner take a baton from the previous one and run our routes serially.  But because the race is in its first year, it was sparsely attended (maybe 500 runners or so) and there just weren’t enough teams to make it worth stretching out the event for 4-5 hours. So the organizers decided to “collapse” the relay and let anyone on the team run after the first leg crossed the finish line.

Now although this decision seemed logical, it caused quite a bit of confusion. See, most people had planned to show up just before their leg of the relay began. Mike Bryan, one of my friends that ran on our team, was scheduled to run the sixth leg, a 10K. It would have normally started at around 10:30a, but since four of the other legs decided to run simultaneously that morning, I had to call him at 7:45a and see if he could get downtown sooner.  He’s a trooper so he rushed down and arrived just five minutes before his leg started, but not every team was so lucky. Most spectators, including my family, also decided not to come for the same reason: they didn’t want to watch four hours of distance running—they just wanted to see their runner’s leg and now it was impossible to know when each one ran.

The end result was a beautifully set up but near-empty Cotton Bowl for the race. I was scheduled to run the 5K leg before and after Mike’s run (for 10K total), but since we were allowed to start at any time, Mike and I ran together.  I use that word loosely, of course, as he was already ahead of me by the time we exited the tunnel and he finished over 12 minutes before I did.  But my run was great.  My pace was near the best 5K race pace I had last year, with the improvement due to focusing on the run during the winter and learning how to push myself harder on race day without worrying about “blowing up” (i.e. going too fast, running out of steam, and walking the rest of the race).  I definitely look forward to the swim and bike later this year and to a great race season.

Bike: 10.5 miles in 35:00 @ 18:00 mph for 585 calories (on rollers)
Swim: 2,500 yards (50 laps) in 54:55 for 536 calories
Run: 4.64 miles in 45:58 @ 9:54 pace and 167/179 bpm for 705 calories

I had three good workouts this week, and each one had a small breakthrough.  First, on the bike, I had my first long ride on my new set of rollers.  When cyclists want to get a ride in but can’t go outside (e.g. too windy, too cold, too much traffic), they have two options.  They can ride a bike trainer, which attaches to the back wheel of the bike and creates resistance via fluid or magnets.  Or they can ride rollers, an alternative to a bike trainer where they have more freedom of motion but have to concentrate on balance a lot more. I tried out both options and decided to buy the rollers. They are so much fun to ride!  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them in future posts. They’re actually quite hard to explain, but this YouTube video of a guy trying them out at a cycling conference is worth 1,000 words:

Second, I had a great swim this week. I got my own lane for almost an entire hour and I got to do some drills to see how few strokes I needed to get across the pool.  I was able to swim a length in 12 to 14 strokes—about 2  less than I was averaging last year—and in under 30 seconds per length for a mile straight. I found that my limiting factor was actually breathing.  I was breathing every third stroke, but as I reduced my number of strokes per length, and thus breaths per length, I was getting tired from lack of oxygen (as opposed to tired muscles).  When I started breathing every other stroke, I suddenly had extra energy and was able to “coast” between strokes a bit longer.  All that means my mile swim using an slow-but-efficient stroke should be consistently at or under 35 minutes, which would be great for me.

Third, I had my best run of the year. I only had 45 minutes to squeeze it in, but I decided to run it at race pace before the Texas Tough event happening tomorrow. Now, my run wasn’t a full 10K, but I did manage to run about 75% of the distance in just under a 10-minute pace.  If I could run tomorrow at that pace I’d be thrilled.

2,350 yards (47 laps) in 52:06 for 510 calories

This afternoon I squeezed in a swim both figuratively and literally.  Figuratively because Joanne and I dropped off Emma at her grandma’s house and decided to go exercise during our free time.  The pool closed 15 minutes before I finished and I think everyone else had the same idea I did.  That’s where the literal squeezing happened.  The pool was crowded!

Public lap lanes are really hit or miss. There is always a wide variety of speeds and talent levels in the pool at any one time, and in order to cater to everyone, lifeguards typically mark lanes as Slow, Medium, or Fast.  The thought is that since we are all circle-swimming (up one side of the lane and down the other side), it would be nice if everyone in the lane swam at a similar speed.

But lifeguards need to watch for people drowning and can’t get involved in managing swimmers every minute of the day.  That means when it gets crowded, slow swimmers often end up into the Fast lane on accident.  Now swimmers and triathletes are generally a supportive crowd, but when you’re churning out a mile or two of laps, you need to maintain decent form.  That means looking down at the bottom of the pool, and not in front of you for a slower swimmer.

The fun typically starts when your hand hits his toes.  You’re mildly surprised and you slow down a bit, but being a newer swimmer, he’s freaked out that someone just tickled his foot while he’s deep in concentration.  If he stops suddenly the lane ends up like a multiple-car pile-up on the expressway, with everyone treading water and trying to remain polite.  If he thinks you’re invading his personal space and feels challenged, he increases his speed. Now you might think this is the better of the two options, but at this point you want to pass him before the girl swimming in the opposite direction gets in your way (much like passing a truck on a narrow two-lane road with oncoming cars).  He’s sprinting and sputtering and making a lot of waves, and when you do finally pass him he’s so tired that you catch up to him again in about three or four minutes. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this problem, and I never get so frustrated that I forget that I’m swimming in a very nice, very close, and very inexpensive city pool, but I can’t help but wonder if people swimming at private gyms don’t have it just a little bit easier.

27.83 miles in 1:46:35 @ 15.67 mph and 152/177 bpm for 1,491 calories

I normally swim on Saturday morning and bike on Sunday morning, but today was tax day for me.  As usual, taxes took longer than I planned, and pretty soon I had missed the best time to swim at the pool (before family time begins).  So I decided to swap my workouts and ride today.  I finished up the taxes around 4pm and headed out on the road. It was really windy, so half of the ride was torture and the other half was a eternal sprint.

It’s so painful riding up a steep hill with the wind in your face.  My route today has four hills, and the two worst ones had headwinds.  Below is an elevation map of today’s ride.  The second climb, the longest and steepest one on today’s route, was painful but it’s early enough that it still feels good.  Of course, the gradual 6-mile incline that follows definitely takes a measure of confidence out of me.  And that last climb at mile 25 was directly into the wind.  It was bad enough that I actually had to sit back down in the saddle about 75% the way up the hill because I completely ran out of leg strength.  I think I was going 9 or 10 miles an hour at that point.  Very sad and very painful. 

Elevation chart

Elevation chart

But it’s so fun riding with a strong tailwind!  After that 6-mile incline, I got to ride north up Parkwood for quite a while.  It really felt like I had a small electric engine on my bicycle.  I was pedalling just as hard as I had up the previous incline, but I had added at least 10 miles per hour in speed—which on a road cycle feels like the difference between driving a car at 20 mph and 40 mph.

Anyway, hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a chance to swim and then next week is a slightly reduced training week to save some energy for the Texas Tough relay.

5.69 miles in 59:31 @ 10:26 pace and 168/185 bpm for 832 calories

I woke up early this morning and ran outdoors for the first time after a couple weeks of hotel treadmills.  It was windy and a bit cold but it warmed up as the sun came up.  I decided to push the pace a bit during the second half of the run and I felt pretty good, getting up to an 8:30 mile as I finished.  I’m racing in the Texas Tough Run Stage this Sunday up at the Cotton Bowl, the first of three stages throughout the year (swim in June, bike in September, and run in March) all benefitting Children’s Medical Center of Dallas where Joanne works.

4.33 miles in 51:04 @ 11:46 pace and 170/185 bpm for 643 calories
4.22 miles in 46:11 @ 10:54 pace and 170/185 bpm for 646 calories
1,400 yards (35 laps) in 30:00 for 294 calories
5 miles in 60:00 @ 12:00 pace for 755 calories (treadmill @ 1% incline)
2,350 yards (47 laps) in 50:00 for 490 calories
20.45 miles in 1:18:13 @ 15.7 mph and 143/175 bpm for 1,094 calories
4.15 miles in 50:00 @ 12:00 pace for 629 calories (treadmill @ 1% incline)

After my little disease vector Emma brought home a particularly nasty rhinovirus, I took two weeks off from training.  Since then, I’ve been on the road a lot—Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis just this month—and barely squeezing in time to exercise.  But I have managed to stay on track, even if I’ve been skipping blogging about my workouts until tonight.  Here’s a quick recap of some highlights:

  • I’m back to running in my Brooks shoes, the ones that gave me blisters during the Houston Half-Marathon.  I searched dozens of different running Web sites for a cure that would keep me running in them, and I finally found it: duct tape!  That’s right, I loosely wrap the arch of my foot in duct tape before each run.  I sweat enough that it doesn’t stick to my foot, and I’ve completely eliminated my blister problems.
  • I swam in the hotel pool in Seattle on my first morning there.  My local pool is a saltwater pool, and this was my first time in chlorine in a while.  It was nice to be able to swim on the road.
  • I ran on treadmills in Seattle and Minneapolis, 1% incline for about an hour each time.  I read that 1% incline makes a treadmill run roughly equivalent to running outdoors.  It was a lot more boring but it felt good to squeeze in early morning workouts before my meetings.
  • My first real bike ride in a while went nicely, although I had to cut it short to make it to church on time.

I had a great dinner with Debbie and Tim while I was in Minneapolis.  They took me out to Craftsman and I had an incredible meal—perfect Midwestern with a bit of a twist: an incredible cheese plate with a really good local guyere, a spicy lamb sausage with kale and chickpeas, a couple glasses of Rose, and 2.5 hours of catching up with my sister and her fiancé.

Milestones

  • Highest weight: 228 pounds
  • Lowest weight: 187 pounds
  • Current weight: 216 pounds
  • Started training: March 17, 2008
  • First Sprint: June 26, 2008
  • First Olympic: May 17, 2009
  • First Half: TBD 2011
  • Longest swim: 2.05 miles
  • Longest bike: 63.57 miles
  • Longest run: 13.33 miles

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