Friday, June 29, 2012

Torn Between Two Lovers

Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool. Lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules.

My blog name says it all, "Seeking Boston Marathon."  It started as an obsession and remains one after running "Baaahsten" twice. You only want more.  Last summer, overtraining and injury tossed me into the pool.  Just like I became obsessed with running, I surprised myself that I wanted to swim more and figure out how to get better at it.  Also like my marathon history, I figured, I know how to run, I am getting faster at swimming, and I know how to ride a bike, so "why not try a tri?" 

After three triathlons last summer, I was spoiled with hitting the podium in all three.  As a result, I'd made the decision, that I would make swimming and cycling a regular part of my cross-training and that I'd make it a part of my calendar rotation by switching to triathlons in the summer after a Spring marathon.

Everything has gone "according to plan" this year with a respectable race in Ft. Collins at the Colorado Marathon notching my first goal of the year by qualifying for Boston under the new (more stringent) qualification requirements.  Step number two in the plan was to switch into my swim and cycling gear and compete in the Denver Triathlon.  Mission accomplished at Denver with my "first first" with a 1st place finish in my age group.

Marathons are addicting, but I've learned that so are triathlons.  The differences?  A marathon is alluring and attractive, but you have a feeling that once you get into it, you're wondering "how did I get myself into this mess?"  Attractive, but you know they're bad for you..sounds like some old relationships or a bug zapper that draws you to the light, then kills you.  As far as triathlon's they are equally attractive, but your body doesn't seem to be as "trashed" after the experience.  There are still moments where you want to throw up, but if you "race" a 5K, same deal.

Four triathlons now under my belt with medals in all four...a trend...or an anomaly...either way, a decent batting average.

While I have drank from the BAA chalice on Boylston avenue in Boston (and there is nothing sweeter,) I have but one podium in nine marathons, but four BQ's.  Enough to be proud of, but not enough to keep me from trying to improve my marathon game.  Given all that, I'm starting to wonder if I'm not a better triathlete than I am a marathon runner.  While I sell software for a living, I dig the hardware, and I've had a lot of fun doing it.  My core is stronger than it has ever been with all the swimming and my run times seem to be getting faster...at least at the shorter distances.  I came in first (AG) for the first time in a five miler this year and I set a PR for a 5K.  Not in a 5K race, but in the 5K leg in my triathlon (after swimming a half mile and biking 15 miles.)

So what's the dilemma?  I had three goals at the beginning of the year with two "circle the calendar" races;

1)  Get back to Boston by running a qualifier at Colorado. Done.
2)  Qualify for New York through a fast half marathon at Georgetown.  See below.
3)  Improve my triathlon game. Off to a good start.

The dilemma lies on the calendar.  I had planned to run the Georgetown to Idaho Springs (GTIS) Half on August 11th which is a fast downhill race that holds my current PR.  Like Boston, the New York Marathon has "upped" the requirements to qualify in 2013.  I had previously "had it burned into my brain," that I needed a 1:35 to get in.  No problem...three minutes slower than my PR of 1:32.  The issue is after checking this week, the correct qualifying time now for New York at my age is a 1:29.  Gulp.  That's a 6:48 mile per minute pace.  On the GTIS front, I ran eight miles last week roughly at the pace that would hit a 1:29 and I'm running as fast as I ever have with my balanced training.  While it's a "stretch" to string that pace out for 13 miles, it's within range.

The second issue is the triathlon I wanted to REALLY race this summer was my hometown race in Highlands Ranch.  My youngest is a swimmer and budding triathlete that is "licking his chops" to try and beat the old man in a race.  The Highlands Ranch "Splash Mash and Dash" is on the same date as GTIS. 

Go for my original target race in Georgetown and try and qualify for New York, or go with momentum in triathlons and race in the Highlands Ranch triathlon and try and make it "five for five?"  Tough decision.  Torn between two lovers. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: State of Fire


Colorado Springs Air Force Academy in foreground of Fires

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peter Pan Workout

For every great run or "medal" race, there are a hundred ugly workouts. I had yet another ugly gauntlet of "work that interferes with running" back-to-back work weeks. I keep waiting for that Nike or Asics sponsorship to retire from the corporate world, but just like "Rudy" my mailbox is empty.

Last week, I had three (literal) twenty hour work days in Philadelphia followed by a flight home to visit the ortho. No...I'm not a "Woody Allen" hypochodriac, but a giant bruise around a history of a stress fracture lead to a visit to the bone Dr. Green light..."don't be a pussy, rub some cream on it, and get your ass back out there was basically what I heard." (verbatim) So the week ended good.

This week was a trip to the opposite coast in California. Imagine a pre-scheduled "ass chewing," and you still booked the flight, to show up and take it. "Thank you sir, may I have another!" Not that I'm complaining.

After taking five days off after the Denver Triathlon I had a saturday bike ride followed by a sunday speed run and swim. The good news was that the pain in my leg was gone, but the bad news was that it moved to my back. Why don't you get on a plane?

The "tweak" in my back prior to my last race had turned into a knot the size of an walnut. The walnut turned into an apricot by Tuesday. Not enough Ibuprofen in my briefcase to knock that knot out. I was lusting after the emergency Vicodin in my medicince cabinet at home. No, I'm not Brett Farve, but this was some serious pain.

Once in the bay area, I figured a swim might "loosen up" the apricot so I plotted a workout at the local 24 hour fitness with a one mile swim. Good swim, but the apicot was not going away.

I pumped a combination of Ibuprofen and Tylenol with little relief. It did not help that I spent the day in meetings sitting in chairs. The apricot was growing into a "flank steak"...larger...covering more mass. I was daydreaming about my chiropractor back home who could tweak this back into a happy place. This brings me to the decision of "do I work out, to work it out" or "do I rest this knotty thing?" I'm an "Alpha Male" so you know the answer. I couldn't rise out of a chair without wincing earlier in the day, so why not go out for a goal pace or tempo run? #moron #bullheaded

Okay, "I'm gonna do this," I told myself. I have a Nike bag in my suitcase that always has my swim stuff, and my routine is to always pack what I need for running. Shoes? Check! Shirts? Two, check! Garmin(s)? Check! Socks? Check? Running shorts?....running shorts?...shorts? Forgot them. #WTF I'm determined to make this run happen so I pull out my "Dolphin" swim shorts and combine with a singlet to head out for a run. Good thing I'm in San Francisco because I looked like "Peter Pan" in this outfit. "You think I got where I am today, dressing like Peter Pan here?" (Rex Kwan Do)

This rivals the time I forgot running socks and ran in my black dress socks (nerdville USA.)

I pretended I was wearing compression shorts or I was a triathlete and went about my run. First mile was painful as the apricot/flank steak was twitching like crazy. I picked up the pace and moved towards sub seven minute pace in my "Peter Pan" outfit.  "No pain, no gain," should be "No shame, plenty of pain, questionable gain" as I got 'er done.

It's now Wednesday morning as I write this and I'm still out of town and feeling still feeling knotty.  Please God, give me a seat on an earlier flight and pray that my chiro has an opening today.  Peter Pan needs some "pixie dust."

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Father and Runner Lost

Oh Michael, we hardly knew ye. I accepted a Facebook friend request this month from Michael. I recognized his face from my local running club and clicked "accept" on the request.  I don't think I ever had a lengthy conversation with him. We likely exchanged friendly glances before and after a lot of early morning runs. I would see him often on our "out and back" routes either coming or going. He always seemed to be surrounded by running friends who enjoyed running with him. He looked like he loved the sport as I do. With a sore leg and a race last weekend, I skipped my running group's saturday run. In the coffee shop that morning, we overheard talk about someone who died working out earlier that day. I shuddered at the thought and went about my day without running.

In the afternoon, I saw a Facebook post from my running friend Donna about the loss of a runner. I learned that Michael was struck and killed by a car on the return loop of an out-and-back around Downing and Speer in Denver. A father struck down the day before father's day.  I was shocked and didn't know how to process this news. Why does someone have to die doing something that's supposed to improve your health and quality of life.

Michael loved to run and had qualified for Boston. A divorced dad who had run New York and Chicago Marathons. He was certainly looking forward to lacing them up in Hopkinton. Like me, he was in technology working for Comcast.   He lived in my childhood home of Littleton, Colorado. As my wife read the posts on Facebook from his loved ones, she cried. His story read like mine. I can't understand why someone had to die before his time.

Shoe memorial at the scene
I'd ironically been thinking about writing about the dangers of running, but it has been tough to put thoughts into words. In April, Michael Sanders was hit and killed on Hampden in Denver. Thirteen miles from my house...a half marathon away. Images of his running shoes on the side of the road burned into my brain. Be careful I told myself. Less than two months ago, Sherry Lynn Peters of Highlands Ranch was killed while running when she was caught in the crossfire of a multi-car crash one mile from my house. Flowers still adorn the traffic signal post at the fateful intersection I drive by nearly every day. I've stopped and left a note. I didn't know Sherry, but I know she left behind a family. She was merely 54 years old. Too close to home. Too young to die. Tragic. I can only assume that she too died doing something she loved. Senseless.

Most runners have had close calls as we all run on the sidestreets where we live. I've "tapped" many a car's right rear quarter panel as drivers pull into traffic only looking for cars. Drivers turning right onto a street most often only look to their left for oncoming cars. Cars run red lights and speed through yellow lights. Too many people can't set down their phones while driving. Texting about life's mundane bullshit. Nothing worth the cost of a life. I've been guilty of texting and have trained my kids to "call me on it" if they catch me trying to work while driving.  I have also run into intersections that I probably shouldn't have. 

On Facebook, posts of admiration and love are flooding in for a a man who touched many lives.
"I will miss you."

"I have been truly blessed to have you in my life."

"You always believed in me more than I ever could."

"What a genuine guy!"

"I so appreciate the faith you had for me about getting into Boston."

It's ridiculous to think of any words that can make sense of this. Michael's passing makes you realize how precious life is and to try to make the most of time you've got. Even though I didn't know him well at all, he's made an impression on me as clearly a great man that died doing something he loved. It makes me wish I got to know him better. I'm sure he will influence me and many others to be as careful as possible when we walk out the door for a run. I'm also sure that should I run Boston next April, I will wear his name or say a prayer for Michael although I barely knew ye. My thoughts and prayers are with Michael's loved ones who are coping with his passing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mile High Magic

I started going to Broncos games in grade school.  I'm old enough to remember Floyd Little's last home game.  He ripped off a long run which would have been a touchdown earlier in his career, but he got chased down from behind.  I was lucky enough to witness plenty of John Elway highlights in the old stadium and the christening of the new stadium the night before 9/11.  Ed McCaffrey had his leg broken playing against the Giants on Monday Night football that night.

Series of cycling course turns ahead
As I entered my second triathlon season, the Denver Triathlon jumped out as a great first race finishing at Mile High...I mean Invesco...errr...Sports Authority Field (at Mile High Stadium.)  How could I resist a race where I had so many sports memories.  The course was a bit different in that there are two transition areas with T2 (transition two: bike to run) and the finish line on the steps of the infamous Mile High Stadium.

While I have tried a number of marathon training plans (including Higdon, FIRST, local running club coaches plan.)  I have never had a triathlon training plan per se.  The advantage I had building up to the race was that my last marathon was in May so I certainly had the run leg figured out.  Advantage number two was that I used a FIRST training plan for the may Colorado Marathon which included three cross-training days a week so I've been swimming the last four months.  That covers two of the three disciplines. 

Sloan's Lake
With a big birthday coming up in July that put me into a new age group, my early birthday present was a new bike.  Last summer I borrowed my brother-in-law's 25 yr. old bike which was good enough to deliver podium performances in my first three (ever) triathlons.  Logic told me, that a "real" bike could only enhance my game and the third discipline--the bike leg.  Only issue there was that the bike was bought within three weeks of the race so I had little time to adjust to the new Trek Speed Concept 7.0.  Race day would literally be the fourth or fifth time on the bike using clips which I've never used before.  Only good news there is there would be no tipping over at a stoplight, but transitions with rubbery legs would be interesting.  The day leading up to the race was uneventful except for the bib/timing chip pick-up at the expo.  There were also mandatory triathlete meetings to cover the slightly confusing course.

The briefing was "worthwhile" in that it helped clear up some of my confusion over the two transition areas.  The swim start was two miles away at Denver's Sloan's Lake.  Not exactly a white sand beach with crystal clear azul water.  More like my Grandpa Godwin's tobacco farm pond which was a dark brown muddy murky ordeal.  Think "french onion soup."  The sprint course had a 1/2 mile swim at Sloan's, 15 mile bike loop that would end at Mile High, and a 5K run.
Cooling off at the finish

Race day weather was perfect unlike the day before which was one hot mutha.  The water temp at Sloan's was around 72 degrees so the wetsuit was "optional."  I borrowed a wetsuit from my buddy Ted and figured the warmth and bouyancy would outweigh the fact that this would literally be my third time in a wetsuit.  Transition set-up for T1 (transition from swim to bike) was fairly straightforward as I set up my bike and prepared for the swim start.  As the Olympic athletes started taking off, I waded through the gravely sand complemented by broken glass (vs. seashells) for a warm-up swim.  My second warm-up with the first being the bike ride from Mile High where athlete parking and T2 was at.  The swim felt quite comfortable.

The start of a triathlon can be quite frantic.  Imagine "Black Friday" as Walmart opens the doors for people looking for a $40 dvd player the day after Thanksgiving except it's in water.  With my swim confidence fairly high, I didn't line up front and center, but not far from it.  Just like a run race where the small kids or parents with strollers think it would be fun to be in the front, you don't want to be a slow or average swimmer up front as you will get pummeled by faster and more experienced swimmers.  The half mile swim was fairly straightforward...swim beyond two orange buoys straight out and swim straight back to shore.  The first half went quite well although there were quite a few collisions and at least one guy who wanted to punch me.

On the swim back to shore, I clearly didn't look up enough as halfway there, I was WAY off course to the West (my left.)  Crap...was hoping this didn't kill what I thought was a strong start.  I picked up the pace to make up the lost time and was a bit gassed as I exited the water.  Goggles off, and I started to unzip the back of my suit and peel down to the waist as I made my way to the bike.  Swim time was 11:48.  I think that was short of 800 yards as advertised.
Bling

Hopping onto the bike and clipping in seemed smooth considering what little experience I had doing this.  As I took off, my Garmin screen was blank.  Dead battery.  Despite bringing both Garmin's, the one I put on the bike had no charge.  I would be guessing how well I was doing from that point on.  Naked as it were.  Transition 1 time was 2:13.  The course was relatively flat (If I had a Garmin working that day, I could tell you how flat.)  We took off going south, then east on 17th into the sun with three turns around Mile High to head south again on Zuni.  A "tricky" part of the course went over I-25 on the 8th avenue viaduct.  A bit of a climb with a u-turn at the bottom of the viaduct.Fundamentally, we reversed the course and wound up back where we started for a second loop. 

I had a good sized family cheering section along "lower Colfax."  I got into a groove on my new ride, but struggled a bit with my timing going into some of the corners where slower riders went even slower into the corner with much wider turns.  Fortunately, I watched some YouTube videos on cornering and applied what I'd learned.  Did I mention I'm new at this?  I passed quite a few cyclists, but got passed myself by those more experienced with even fancier bikes.  I felt good passing someone fifteen years younger than me that looked much faster.  After my second lap, I pulled into transition and dismounted without tipping over on the new clips.  Whew! Fifteen miles took 47:49...just under 20 mph I'd later find out.  My T2 transition time was understandedly quicker at 1:28.  Off I went on the last leg of the race.

My legs felt wobbly as they adjusted from swimming to cycling to running.  Without a Garmin, I felt slow, but I must have been "pushing it" as my typical measuring stick for a 5K is you're not running fast unless you feel like you have to throw up. 

The run course was kind of cool as it circled Mile High then hit the Platte River trail running by Elitches amusement park.  I could hear the roller coaster climbing as I grunted out the 3.1 mile out-and-back running leg.  The good news on the run was I passed a number of folks and never got passed (as far as I can recall) by anyone else.  The advantage of an out-and-back is you can potentially see someone ahead of you or right behind you as you both reverse course back to the finish.  As far as I could tell, no old guys.  That could be good or bad--"were they all ahead of me, or behind," I wondered.  I thought my run felt slow but my "vomit measuring stick" I mentioned above told me I was running fast.  As I approached the finish at Mile High, a Clydesdale was in front of me (category for "heavier" male.)  He was much younger than me, but true to form, I always try and pick off a runner(s) in the final kick.  Final 5K time was 20:09.  Was that really 5K...that seemed fast, but I'll trust the timing mat.
Not a runner's purple toenail, but a purple leg

After crossing the finish line and debating whether or not I was going to hurl, the ice towels squeezed atop my melon and smiling faces from my family were a welcome sign.  No Garmin, but my delirious mind figured I came in around an hour and twenty four minutes (1:23:24 to be exact as I'd later find out.)

After milling around and hitting the massage table, they finally started posting the sheets.  Athlete's swarmed to the white folding table as I wormed my way to the front.  Twenty second overall finisher and 1st place in my age group.  My first first in a triathlon.

"The Day After."  Not sure if it was in the swim fracas or  during transition, but I have a beauty of a bruise on my lower left leg.  If a purple toenail is a "badge of honor" for a runner, this must be the equivalent for a triathlete.  Ouchie Mama!

Overall, not exactly a "Mile High Miracle," but definitely some "Mile High Magic."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pre Lives: Sweet Mail Monday

Mondays can tend to be the toughest day of the week but I don't write about work here.  If I did, readership would likely spiral downwards.  Monday can also be a "treasure trove" when it comes to the "old fashioned" mailbox.  More below on what arrived in mine today.

Last week was the 37th anniversary of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine's death.

I didn't know who "Pre" was at the time of the '72 Munich Olympics.  What I remember was US vs. USSR in basketball, Mark Spitz' historic gold medal run, and the tragic terrorist attacks on the Israeli athletes.  Steve didn't have the Olympic moment he was looking for in Munich and little did he know that he wouldn't be back in four years.

Pre died three years later after those Olympic games at the age of 24 in an auto accident.  His reputation and lore grows stronger each year.

As I got hooked, then addicted on running I started to become aware of who "Pre" was.  Early on as I began running, I didn't know why runners were wearing shirts that said "Stop PRE" or "Pre Lives."  I likely pretended to know why they were wearing those shirts.

Every September, Coos Bay, Oregon hosts the annual Prefontaine Memorial Run.  This fall will be the 32nd running of the 10K race.  If you don't know about Pre, there are some good films including Fire on the Track, and Prefontaine which stars Jared Leto.  I had a secondary motive to watch the later as  I wanted to know why my wife keeps threatening to leave me for some guy named "Jared Leto."

Let me admit, I violated a basic runner's rule by buying a t-shirt for a race I didn't run in, but figured this one was "retro."  For $5, I picked up a "bitchin" Memorial Run t-shirt from 2007 which my mailman delivered today.  Pre Lives!

Follow SeekingBostonMarathon on Facebook or comment on my page if you are already one of my misguided followers if you want the link to the $5 gem. #notaspam link nor do I make money off the $5 shirts...I just feel guilty for not sharing.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine