Friday, February 29, 2008

Reviewing the Numbers

With the 5k coming up tomorrow, I've been comparing my training now to the training back when I set my PR of 17:25. I was expecting to see major differences. I was expecting to see a lot of training under 6 minute miles. I was expecting to think "Damn, I was in a ton better shape then!"

Not the case.

I had some quick runs back in June, no doubt, but my tempo pace was still hanging around 6:20 to 6:30/mile. I didn't have one mile under 6 minutes in training. Not one. Not even when doing intervals.

There's one big difference. Racing experience. Back in July, that had been one of many 5k's in the past several months. I had more of a racing mindset back then. I knew from experience how I responded to breaking my body down to nothing just to get across that finish line as soon as possible.

The result? I have no idea what to expect tomorrow.

I can tell you I'm going to push like hell from the start. I'm going to risk it all from the time the gun goes off. The numbers tell me I might even have a PR in me, even after taking several months off. I lost relatively little speed over my break, everything I lost was from the endurance end of things.

Maybe all I need to do is trust my body. Trust that it can handle the speed, the lactic acid storm, the oxygen deprived muscles, the screaming lungs. Maybe, just maybe, I can PR tomorrow.

But it's gonna hurt. Hurt so good.

Game on.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Triathlete Meets Computer Scientist

I've said it in the past, but I'll say it again: I love my numbers with running. I like being able to look not only at a specific run, but also long term trends. It's a great way to see what works, and what doesn't. What yields improvement? What causes injury? Am I pushing my limits or stagnating? Looking at the numbers can help training tremendously.

You know the problem with numbers, though? Most people have a hard time visualizing them. Someone might see the numbers, but not be able to see what they mean unless they have a background in math; which most people don't. It's great to be able to see a week, month, or year of training at a quick glance.

Another problem, though, is that it can be a real pain to set it all up. I have an excel spreadsheet I took some time to set up, and it helps me track my training pretty well. I also used Motionbased and Training Center to look at the details of an individual run. But for me, the problem is that I use Linux, and both Motionbased and Training Center only work in Windows (and maybe Mac?). I hate rebooting into Windows.

Time for a solution.

Just recently I decided to start up a personal project. It's huge, and I might be getting in over my head. But by now you probably know I like being in over my head. I like seeing what I'm capable of in all areas, not just in running.

Here's the idea.

I'm planning to write some software to track training across any combination of swimming, biking, and running. With options to see workouts, weeks, months, or years in detail. This is a key idea not just tracking workouts, but also tracking trends. I'm going to do a little research to see what numbers people use to track their progress, and make some useful graphs out of it to gauge progress. The user can look at them or not, the point is they'll have access without needing to a) put together a complicated spreadsheet and b) put all the information in by hand.

Wait. Not put the information in by hand?

Bingo. Thats the crucial part. Just like Training Center and Motionbased talk to your Garmin to get the information, my plan is to talk directly to the Garmin, and pull the information right into the program to save it on your computer. There are some open source projects out there which do exactly that, but they don't have a good graphical interface.

I'm also going to make an attempt to make it cross-platform. If I have that goal from the beginning, and choose the correct methods it may be possible. My main concern is talking to the Garmin regardless of the operating system (i.e. Windows, Linux, Macintosh).

This will combine my passion for training with a lot of topics I've learned in graphics, databases, and perhaps animation once I get the groundwork done.

Here's where you come in. I want ideas. What do you like to track with your training? What features do you think would be nice to have? What WOULD you track if it was easier to do?

This project is as ambitious as some I've done in the past (face recognition, 3d graphics engine, game development), but combines topics from several areas of Computer Science and tie it in with my biggest passion of all. This is just the idea. Hopefully it's doable. Theres only one way to find out, and it'll take time. Expect updates as to my progress.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Confidence Building Exercise

No, I'm not talking about a breathing technique, or some cheesy mental trick to make me hold my head higher. I'm not talking about an exercise that builds confidence, I'm talking about exercise that builds confidence.

That was precisely the goal of my run this morning. Build confidence for Saturday, without demolishing my legs. My confidence had been waning a little bit, since I hadn't really run hard since 9 on the 9th. Most of my runs have been either easy or moderate since then, so I had to check I'm actually capable of pulling off the time I want.

Well, let me tell you. It worked. It worked big time. I can confidently tell you I'm going under 19 minutes on Saturday unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Hills? Please. My legs will eat those hills for second breakfast. I'm ready for the lactic acid storm. I'm ready to run down a victory.

The run this morning was pretty simple: 3 miles warm-up, 2 miles hard, 1 mile cool down. Just enough to wear me down without killing my legs for a few days. Here's the numbers. Just a warning: they're scary fast.

7:34 (Get ready for it....)
5:59 (GO!)
(and some change)

Thats right, I'm breaking out of six minute land. The second hard mile had a good uphill, too, it really pushed me. However, the good news (or bad news for those running the race on Saturday) is that I had enough left in me for another mile, and this is also after yesterday's ride.

Now, to take it halfway (sorta, kinda, maybe...) easy for a couple days to get ready for my first race in five months.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Conquering my Fears, Pushing my Limits

This morning my alarm decided to go off right in the middle of a REM cycle. The result? I woke up feeling groggy and slow. I checked the weather, since yesterday it was forecast to be about 40 degrees and sunny. Not so much. Try 31 degrees and cloudy. Now, normally I draw the line at 35 degrees for riding outside, but I decided to suck it up. What's four degrees?

I was loading the bike up on my car to head out to the country to ride, when a prissy looking sorority girl walked by me. She gave me a look that distinctly said "Oh my god, don't you know its totally like the arctic out here like?!"

Once I got out there, the ride started out like any other. The game plan was 21 miles, as usual. I had a strong focus on cadence, I worked a little bit on riding with one hand to learn better balance to make nutrition easier, I tried to keep my heart rate below 160. You know, the usual stuff.

Right when I was finishing up, though, something happened. The parking lot was to my left, but there was all this road ahead of me.

Forget it. I'm not done yet. Not today. I have unfinished business out here today. I have fears to conquer. I have limits to beat into the ground. I'm not turning in yet.

That decision was huge. Why? Let's recall the last time I rode 30+ miles. I bonked. Hard. At points I was debating calling someone to give me directions back to town, because my group had dropped me ages ago. After somehow finishing, I was demolished for the rest of the weekend. My legs were dead, my ass hurt like nobody's ass should ever hurt, my energy was completely drained miles before I even finished that ride.

I've had every reason to fear the distance. It left me raw and exposed to the elements, and left my limits laying all over the road. I knew the moment I decided to keep going, I might be in for the exact same mess all over again.

I was ready for it.

It never happened. I stayed strong the entire time. Not once did I feel like I was in over my head. Not once did I consider stopping.

Afterwards, my legs feel fine. My ass doesn't hurt. I've been completely functional all day; it had no effect whatsoever on my energy level. If this isn't progress, I don't know what is.

Here are the numbers for the day:

Distance: 30.99 miles
Time: 1:49:29
Speed: 17.0 MPH
Cadence: 96 rpm
HR: 157 bpm
Garmin Data

It's good to be back to my healthy self.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekly Recap 02/18/08 - 02/24/08

Monday: Rest day. Canceled my bike ride since I was sick.

Tuesday: Ran in the morning, canceled swim.

Wednesday: Ran in the morning, finally started to feel better in the evening

Thursday: Planned to do my swim-bike brick in the evening, but an ice storm shut down most of Lexington.

Friday: Rest day. Finally feeling 100%!

Saturday: Ran 8 miles on my own in the morning. Planned to jump on the stationary bike but my apartment complex decided it would be a great day to close up unannounced.

Sunday: Swam in the morning, ran fairly hard in the afternoon. I didn't feel like focusing on running slow today, so I ran however I felt. Ended up averaging 6:53/mile for 5 miles.

Total run: 23.06 miles
Total bike: 0 miles
Total swim: 1 mile

Weighted total: 27.06 miles


Pretty pathetic week by my standards, but I'm not being too hard on myself because (a) I was sick and (b) several factors were out of my control. Although, I will admit to feeling very fresh at the end of the week. Nothing hurts, my energy is back, and I'm ready to rock! That is the purpose of rest weeks, right?

School-wise, I was insanely busy, hence the relative lack of updates around here. I don't see any signs of it winding down, either, since midterms start this week, yikes! Also, I gave my first exam this week and just finished grading them. Apparently I'm doing more than just talking to the walls in there, because my exam average might be (significantly) higher than the other section's average! A good sign that I might be cut out for this teaching thing.

Next weekend is my first race since the disaster that was the Chicago Marathon in October. It's just a 5K, but I think it'll be fun. I'm talking most of Team in Training into coming out to run the race, since most of them haven't done many races before. Here is an interesting fact: Last year the race was won in 20:21. Note my 5K PR. Discover my plans. I think it's doable, unless some (other?) hot shot shows up!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lazy Week

This has to have been the most low key week that I've had, workout wise, this entire year. Everything is encouraging me to take it easy, so I have been. I'm not going to lose that much fitness by going extra easy on a planned easy week. In fact, I might even gain something!

I skipped biking on Monday and swimming on Tuesday. Last night I had every intention of doing my bike-swim brick, but then an ice storm hit and everything got canceled since a quarter inch of ice was on the forecast.

Because of all this rest, though, I'm back to feeling back to normal. No more sore throat. No more being drugged up all day long. No more blowing my body weight in snot out of my nose every day. Although, I will admit to feeling a little bit lethargic since I haven't worked out since Wednesday morning. Seriously, how do those non-runners do it? No exercise = no energy.

Despite my apparent laziness on the workout front, school has been keeping me crazy busy. Between giving my first exam and having some seriously challenging programming projects, my free time has whithered away to nothing this week. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this weekend; it's gonna be a good one!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How I Got Sick

Being sick sucks. There's no doubt about it, and you won't find anybody that disagrees with that statement, unless they say it blows. You can't sleep because of having your face clogged with snot. You're not as productive because you can't sleep, and what energy you do have goes towards blowing the previously mentioned snot out of your face.

But, this time, it's kind of like a hangover. I think everybody will agree hangover's suck (or blow), too. Except with a hangover, you have good memories (most the time) and if not your friends will fill you in later. The point is, you feel like crap because you did something enjoyable, knowing you'd probably end up paying for it!

I did NOT get sick because of eating like crap.
I did NOT get sick because of a poor sleep schedule.
I did NOT get sick because of lack of exercise.
I did NOT get sick from living in a pig sty.
I did NOT get sick from a lack of hygiene/washing my hands.

I got sick because I broke my body down to nothing, only to let it rebuild stronger. I got sick from taunting mother nature when she gave me bad weather, then taunted her even more when she gave me her worst. I got sick by doing everything I could to make myself better. I got sick from doing something I love just a little bit too much, and now I'm paying for it for a few days.

Maybe it was worth it. Maybe it wasn't. There isn't much to do about it now, except make as many healthy choices as I can to get my immune system back into overdrive.

Live and learn. Learn and live. Sometimes, thats what its all about.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Unscheduled Rest Day

Yeah. Thats right. I did it.

I took a day off when I had workouts planned. I needed it. Rather than waking up early to sit on the trainer, I decided to sleep in and try to kick this cold. I won't actually lose any fitness over it, and it's an easy week anyways, right?

I definitely feel better tonight than I did last night, so tomorrow will be a go on the running! My resting heart rate is back down where I like it, so the day off helped big time with my over training issue. The illness is all above my neck, too, so running shouldn't make it any worse. Working out usually clears out my sinuses anyways, and should get me ready to go for the day.

Also, I have the RMA to send in my Garmin, but I haven't actually done it yet. It keeps working on runs, and hasn't really given me issues for a few days. Maybe I can just wait it out and it will go back to its old self? It's hard to believe live went on without it.. *sniff sniff* Sorry.. that was just the cold. Honest.

Here's some responses to comments I've been meaning to get to but have continuously slipped my mind.

Nancy - My swim coach really isn't that stingy with the compliments, the main point was that it was a bigger compliment than I originally thought. Susan rocks!

Bill - Not sure on the Michigan thing. I can give you a maybe for spring break, which is the second full week of March, or sometime in the early summer. Hopefully I can make it out there sometime soon!

Marcy - You were right about Garmin's customer service. Once I got through the buggy website, they were great!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekly Recap 02/11/08 - 02/17/08

Monday: Biked on the exercise bike for 75 minutes in the morning.

Tuesday: Ran 6 miles in the morning. Pace was whatever I felt like since legs were still kind of dead from 9 on the 9th and there was ice everywhere. Swam in the evening.

Wednesday: Ran 6 miles, still icy outside. Ab workout in the evening.

Thursday: Hour on the exercise bike in the afternoon, swam in the evening. Usual swim-bike brick canceled because of Hallmark.

Friday: REST DAY! Started feeling kind of sick in the evening. More sick people in class and maybe over training.

Saturday: Ran 10 miles in the morning, biked 21 miles outside in the afternoon. Finally. Real biking! I felt pretty fresh at the end, too, which was a nice surprise for my highest volume day of the year!

Sunday: Swam in the morning, ran in the evening. Still kind of sick, but its above my neck so I decided to push through it.

Total run: 27.98 (+2 from last week)
Total bike: 66.22 (+21 from last week)
Total swim: 3 (+0.5 from last week)

Weighted total: 62.05 miles
RHR: 65 bpm (!)


I think I pushed a little too hard this week. I started feeling sick these past few days, and my resting heart rate is up about 15 beats which is a sure sign that I'm over doing it. Luckily, next week is a step back week and I can heal up! Even though several signs point towards over training, my legs feel great. I have not been fighting off any injuries, just illness, although if I pushed another week I would probably run into injury.

I also threw a weighted total in the numbers today. Its a combination of all my activities where a mile swam counts as 4 miles, and 3 miles biked counts as one mile. Not a perfect representation, but I think its a good way to track total volume.

If you missed my last post, almost everything is going my way lately, minus the over training bit. After a week of healing up, I'm willing to bet it'll all be back in my favor again!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Double Digits!

Lets take a trip down memory lane. Two months ago I ran 10 miles in one week for the first time in ages. I was absolutely pumped about it, actually being able to run again! Since then, the post-injury firsts have been coming left and right. Bam, bam, BAM!

Today another one: my first 10 mile run post-injury. The amazing part about it all, is that it wasn't a challenge. No struggle. No praying afterwards that my hip will somehow hold itself together. No worrying that I overdid it and would have to take time off. It was just another run.

The realization that it felt like 'just another run' was almost as rewarding as the run itself! This hip thing is in the past. Completely. 100%. It is out of my mind.

This morning I ran to the Arboretum to meet up with Team in Training, ran four miles with the Tri team, and ran back. With TNT, I ran with Anna who was able to keep up with me better than I thought! I honestly had anticipated running alone once I got out there.

It was a fairly relaxed run, and Gimpy held up so here's the stats:

Distance: 10.27 miles
Pace: 7:44/mile
Avg HR: 155 bpm

I was glad Gimpy held up and didn't turn off during the run, although he did a few times before I started. I have an RMA to send it in soon, but I want to see if I can at least get this evenings bike ride done before I send it in!

Afterwards there was a nutrition and hydration clinic with Team in Training. I expected most of it to be old news to me, but maybe pick up a tip or two. It ended up being a waste of time, but I'll get over it. The lady talking gave the presentation as a "do as I say, not as I do" since she constantly told us habits about the bad things she does. If I was a beginning athlete, I don't think I would have listened to her advice.

Everything has been going absolutely perfect for me lately, although I'm hoping not to jinx it. I got my first project wrapped up and aced my Compilers exam. Then the other day my cousin and I finally patched things up (we hadn't spoken for nearly a year, something small had snowballed). Running is going great. Constant breakthroughs in swimming. Making progress on the bike. Some other stuff too. Basically anything that could go my way, is going my way. I'm not sure what I did to deserve it, but I'll take it!

Finally, I almost forgot to mention, Bill has the Myrtle Beach Marathon today! It looks like he has absolutely PERFECT weather: high of 61 degrees, party cloudy and a light breeze. He's finished by now, but they haven't posted the results yet. I'm sure you rocked it Bill!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Garmin Malfunctions

Last Wednesday I wrote about my tour of Lexington and the aftermath of our storms. During that run, it started to rain pretty heavily. I've ran in worse, but this was still a pretty heavy rain. But, I forgot to mention one detail.

My Garmin filled up with water.

So I did some digging. According to Garmin's site, it is IPX7 waterproof. Wtfunk does that mean?! I looked a little more and found it means it has been tested to go in one meter of water for 30 minutes. That site says about another Garmin product with the same waterproofing: "thanks to it's IPX7 Waterproof Standard too, so you needn't worry about it getting wet in sudden downpour."

After my watch filled up on Wednesday, I turned it off and let it dry out completely. When I used it Thursday night for spinning, it worked fine. Mostly. At first the heart rate monitor was acting strange. It gave accurate readings, but the number only updated every 30-60 seconds. No big deal, I thought, the heart rate functions started working after a while anyways.

But these last few days, the frustration starts. Gimpy the Garmin decided he likes to turn off at random now. For a while, it would only happen before a workout started and be fine throughout. But today Gimpy decided to gimp out on me like the gimpster he is during my date with the stationary bike.

Yesterday I tried using Garmin's website to send something to them about it, but their website was kind of buggy. I filled out the form complete with a full description of what I basically said here. Every detail. I submitted it: nothing. Maybe I missed the button. *Click* Nothing. No confirmation email or webpage. I tried closing my browser and doing the whole thing again. Nothing. Maybe it just doesn't like Firefox (even though its one of the most popular browsers in the world). I'll give it a shot with M$'s Internet Explorer later, I suppose.

I really would rather not send in my Garmin, because then I'll be without it for several weeks at the least, but it is going to come down to it. I'd rather go without it for a few weeks than deal with Gimpy for the next few years, or worse, buy a new one.

To end on a positive note, I just finished my first major project of the semester and aced a test this morning. I'd show off the project like last time, but this one isn't for Graphics so I guarantee you guys would think its boring!

Also, assuming this isn't another Garmin malfunction, my heart rate seems to be responding to the training lately. I just got done with 24.5 miles on the stationary in one hour, and my heart rate never went above 150. I checked it a little bit manually, but that isn't the accurate either. And even if it is just a malfunction, I've been feeling GREAT these past few days. And sometimes, isn't that what this is all about?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snow Day, Swimming, & Progress

Okay, so its not an official snow day with the university, but its close. This morning class was canceled, and the corresponding exam was postponed due to the insane amounts of sleet/ice we got last night.

The snow started around 6 last night, but then close to 11 it switched over to ice. All. Night. Long. It is still spitting ice right now, but it should be switching over to rain fairly soon according to the radar and temperature.

My run this morning is going to get postponed a little bit, as well. Rather than slipping, falling, and breaking my hip I thought I'd wait a few hours and let the rain melt some of this stuff off. Sounds like a good idea, right? I think so! Although even if it doesn't switch to rain, you'll find me out there running in a little bit. I am NOT going to be a gerbil for 6 miles today!

In other news, my swim on Sunday was absolutely amazing. It started out so-so, with my coach telling me to work on the usual things: Don't turn so much to breathe, arms at 11 and 1, smaller breathes, relax your arms, etc, etc.

Then, it clicked. I don't know why or how, but I stopped turning so much to breathe; I didn't have to turn so far, it felt natural, I wasn't worried about swallowing water. My arms were relaxed, I was relaxed. I was finally confident enough to start an interval even when I was out of breathe. I was able to push myself in the pool, just like when I'm running.

Then, my swim coach said five words to me, "You look like a swimmer." I thought nothing of it. I'm in the water. Swimming back and forth. Of course I'm a swimmer.

Not so fast.

The two people in the lane next to me heard it too. They told me thats one of the biggest complements she gives. Both Ruth and Treacy can recall the first time Coach ever said those words to them. Pretty huge, huh?


You know what progress does.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Recap 02/10/08 - 02/10/08

Monday: Put in 75 minutes on the stationary bike in the morning, counted as 25 miles. Did an ab workout in the evening.

Tuesday: Ran an 'honest' six miles in the morning, swam in the evening.

Wednesday: Rainy run in the morning. Started an ab workout in the evening, but bailed out. I was started to feel some sickness coming on.

Thursday: I felt like crap. Completely drained. Biked on trainers with TNT then swam. The swim was awful.

Friday: Felt a little better after 10+ hours of sleep. This was a much needed rest day! Canceled my ab workout to make sure the illness was gone.

Saturday: Ran a HARD 9 miles in the morning for Nancy's 9 on the 9th. Canceled the evenings ride because my legs were completely shot.

Sunday: I had a GREAT swim in the morning, and a good, but windy, recovery run in the evening.

Total run: 25.81 miles (+2 from last week)
Total bike: 45 miles (-17 from last week, missed a ride)
Total swim: 2.5 miles (same as last week)

RHR: 52 bpm (Taken Wednesday night)


I have mixed feelings about this week. If I could just get rid of Thursday, all that would change. We all have off days, though. Even me. I'm glad I made the right decisions after getting a little sick. I didn't get all my workouts in, but I did stop the sickness from really taking hold on me, I'll call it a success! Maybe it was partially due to over training? I wouldn't be horribly surprised.

My run for 9 on the 9th showed me the kind of shape I'm in, which is honestly a lot better than I thought it was, and a TON better than I thought I would be if you asked me a month ago! Obviously I'm doing something right. Great race, Nic! I'm still in disbelief how insanely close we were!

Also, I signed up for the Racine Half Ironman just now. I finally made the decision. Several people from TNT are also training for this race. Every time I brought it up to someone lately, it turned out they were already planning to do it. So I sucked up the $165 registration fee and signed up. For the first time I feel like I might really be in over my head after signing up for an event!

Finally, I spent a lot of time this week getting my letters out for Team in Training. Nic, Bill, and Nancy, your letters should be there sometime this week! If you still want one but forgot to let me know, get in touch with me and I'll get one to you ASAP! If you don't want me to know your address, theres always my donation website!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

9 on the 9th -- Race Report

Waking up this morning was an experiment. The last few days I've had a bit of an illness going on, so I was nervous to see what today would bring. The verdict: I'm feeling 100%! Good timing, too, since this is the biggest race of the year so far!

I beat the sun to waking up this morning, in fact I had time to eat breakfast, get ready, drive 30 minutes to Todd's Road, and click off a few miles before the sun even stuck it's head out! Not a bad way to start the day, although to continue the day I do believe a nap is in order.

The race this morning started out pretty nice: about 40 degrees, slight breeze, and a few clouds in the sky. There was a good showing at Todd's Road this morning, although I had a hunch I'd be running alone. I was mostly right.

We all headed outside, and I swore I saw Nic warming up a couple (hundred) miles down the road. The gun went off (aka, George started running) and I took off. The first few miles I was shaking out the cobwebs and slowly building steam for the rest of the run. And building steam is exactly what I did.

The hills out in the country here always keep me honest, though, because they never stop as you can see in the elevation profile, although SLB more than likely eats hills like those for breakfast! After the 4.5 mile turnaround I started seeing all the other runners, which really gets me going for some reason. I clocked off a few miles in the 6:20's before finally running out of steam at mile 7. I still held a decent pace, but I was feeling those quick miles from before!

Finally, the hills stopped and I was finished. Here's the breakdown:

6:36 (Here we go!)
6:40 (Finally had to back off a little)

Total time: 59:35
Avg. Pace: 6:36
The proof: Garmin Data

All in all I'm really happy with this run. I was able to build up a lot more speed than I thought I would be able to, and held on for quite some time!

After finishing, I found out I wasn't alone up there. We had a new guy this weekend (actually, we had five new runners!) who was trying to chase me down the last couple miles, but the hills were getting to him as well. He's one quick guy, and I bet he'll give me a run for my money next time I'm out there. From what I can tell his focus is on half marathons, and he has a 1:18 under his belt. Sounds like I might have a new training partner this year!

Biking this afternoon is looking iffy, because my legs are still completely dead. I'm thinking I'll take the rest of the day off and let them rest after that all out effort.

Thanks for putting this on, Nancy! I hope everybody else had a great 9 on the 9th!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Staying Positive & Nutrition

Its amazing what 10 hours of sleep can do! I'm feeling quite a bit better today, although I still have a lingering headache, and I usually never get headaches. Hopefully it goes away sometime soon.

Last night I left out anything positive in my post, because, well, I was grouchy. So now, let me tell you about my ride that came before my hideous swim!

As usual on Thursday, TNT does a back to back bike-swim workout. It can really kick you in the face if you're not careful (I suppose I wasn't)! The ride (although on trainers) was outstanding. I was just in the zone. Jimbo, the guy leading the spin class, is a very experienced cyclist. I don't think theres many people who can keep up with this guy. He's full of tips that really, really pay off.

Last week he told us to take some time to spin with just one foot on the trainer, just to see where our 'dead spots' are. I started my workout this way so I knew what aspect of my spinning to focus on. It helped a lot. Then he told me to stay 'light on my feet.' Again, it helped me out big time. Another tip: 'drive your knees towards the handlebars,' again, my pedaling got smoother.

Towards the end I was pushing a cadence of 110 while staying completely smooth. A few people even commented on it, including Jimbo and my friend George who has completed several Ironmans. I'm hoping these skills will carry out onto the road when it really matters!

On a completely different note, I'm getting ready to send out letters & donation forms for Team in Training. Nancy, Bill, & Nic are already on my list. Does anybody else want to join the cool gang that gets letters? If you do, send me an email: TheRelentlessRunner at gmail dot com

Thanks everyone for your encouraging words last night and this morning! It definitely helped kick my funk!

Update: Rather than making a new post and continuing my posting frenzy, I thought I'd just append some nutrition stuff.

Friday is my shopping today, which means its my day to decide on new foods to add to my diet! From last week, I'm liking everything new I mixed in: raisins, tuna, eggs, and almonds. This week I went all out on new foods. Here's the list:
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Luna bars - Chuck has been talking about these lately. They're completely natural health bars. I noticed after I got home that they say "for women," but I ate one and everything is still in tact. Nothing new has sprouted either.
  • Apples - I ate apples a lot last year, but I got a few bad batches in a row and stopped. Time to start again.
  • Carrots - Needed veggies of some sort, I'm not a huge fan of carrots but I should be able to acquire a taste for them
  • Real chicken breasts - As opposed to the pre-cooked crap I was getting before
  • Taco stuff - Had to look everywhere to find tortillas without hydrogenated crap in them
  • Organic eggs - Suggested by someone, thought I'd give them a shot. They're brown.
  • Peanut butter and Jelly - Picked up some without high fructose corn syrup, that stuff is Satan's spawn. It's everywhere.
We'll see how this goes! I'm starting to have quite the variety in my diet. And yes, Marcy, this should make you feel guilty. Very guilty. Family Guy's evil monkey is trying to make you guilty too!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Computer Scientists make me sick

Today I was going to post something about half marathons for Runner's Lounge, but I've opted out. I feel like crap. You will find very little insight on running in this post.

Computer Scientists make me sick. Literally.

I'm becoming convinced that the average student in my department is sick a strong majority of the time. There is rarely a day in class when half the class isn't coughing, sneezing, gagging, or making a miserable moaning "please pity me!" noise.

Why are they sick? I know why. It's because they ran in the rain. It has nothing to do with:
  • The fact that they'll only eat a stick of gum up until dinner time
  • The majority of their exercise coming from pressing the 2nd floor button in the elevator
  • The 4-5 hours of sleep they claim to get every night
Being around them every day has finally started to take a toll on me. I don't think I'm sick, yet, but my energy is getting sapped, which really made tonight's swim suck.

My coach kept telling me everything I was doing wrong, but for once I really didn't care. I was counting my strokes, I knew it was taking me 4-5 more to get across the pool. I just wanted to get to the 3/4 of a mile I promised myself I would do. I made it, but I wasn't happy about it. You might even say I was anti-happy.

Sorry for being a downer. It happens sometimes. Hopefully I'll feel better after clonking out for 10+ hours. For once I'm looking forward to taking full advantage of my rest day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Aftermath

Last night some serious storms ravaged Kentucky, along with nearly every other Southern state. I had heard that Tennessee got hit really hard about the time I was going to bed, but as much as I love a good storm, I told myself "I'll just go to sleep, if the storm is worth watching, it'll wake me up!"

Was I right? Yes. Very yes!

Around 2am I woke up to one hell of a storm. Lightning was closer than I'd like (especially since my bed is by the window), it was raining like I've never seen, and the wind was blowing about 50 MPH with gusts around 70.

The power was out when I woke up, but came back on shortly. When it did, I fired up my computer to see what sort of warnings we had. Flood warning. Tornado watch. Tornado warning.

Wait. What? In February? A tornado warning? Yep. A tornado was spotted 15 miles north west of Richmond, which is a roundabout way of saying "right outside of Lexington." Luckily it stayed outside of Lexington, and I haven't heard anything much about it. But just because the tornado didn't hit us, doesn't mean there wasn't damage.

During my run this morning I took a little tour of the area to see what went on. The first thing I noticed was the tree just down the road (100 feet away) was uprooted and laying on its side. Then I head around town.. most of the stop lights weren't working. The wind tore them apart, I guess? They all had crews working on them, with police guiding the traffic.

Throughout the run there were branches all over the sidewalk to avoid, the wind really demolished a lot of trees. It also started to rain again during the last few miles of my run, really, really hard. It just added to it all, really, since a few of the roads were flooding during the last couple miles of my run; I'm sure the drainage systems were still backed up from last night.

On campus I ran past several trees that took a direct hit from lightning, huge trees split in half; these were just a few hundred feet from where I go to class. Towards the end of my run there were a few roads blocked due to trees laying straight across them; all with workers trying to cut them apart as soon as they could to open the roads back up. All of this just a couple blocks from home.

Despite all of the damage around town, it was a very enjoyable run. Nobody (that I know of) was hurt during the storm, and it was a great display of what mother nature can do when she means business! Also, running in the rain is always a plus, right?

On my way to teaching tonight I may take pictures of some of the trees that were hit, since words can't even come close to describing what it all looks like! Update: Pictures added!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Staying Honest

Yesterday I posted that I'm scratching my ultra-fast tempo runs. I'm replacing them with 'honest effort' runs where I run relatively hard, but still far from being an all out effort.

I know everybody is still going to call this "ultra fast," but I swear its not! The difference? Heart rate. On my previous tempo runs my heart rate would be 180-185 bpm; indicating I'm past my lactic threshold. Today, however, I kept my heart rate lower, 170-175 bpm. As a result, I still felt surprisingly fresh at the end, as opposed to wanting to keel over!

Call that my disclaimer. Call these the numbers:

7:37 (152 bpm, warmup)
6:43 (170 bpm, lets rock!)
6:28 (173 bpm)
6:23 (170 bpm)
6:11 (174 bpm)
6:58 (170 bpm, cooldown... sort of)

'Honest' HR: 172 bpm
'Honest' pace: 6:26/mile

Things I noticed:
  • Perfect negative splits. Every mile got faster. Right on!
  • Very similar to my tempo run a few weeks ago, but I didn't have to work as hard!
  • Running fast is fun!
  • I always get 'velocitized' on quick runs, unless I go 100% all out. Its like getting off the express way and accidentally speeding through town. I tend to do that on cool downs. And when I get off the express way.
The bad news? I think I could run like that for 9 miles. On the 9th.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Nutrition & Training Plans

Lately nutrition has been a big topic on a lot of blogs I read. Chuckie V really drilled it into the ground a couple weeks ago, and The Everyday Athlete had a great series of posts recently. The main emphasis? Eat simple.

Avoid foods with huge ingredient lists. Your body has to process that crap. Generally, if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. In other words: If it can't come out of your mouth, don't put it in your mouth! Chuck has been on a rather extreme (but convincing) caveman bit recently. The idea is to eat the foods that we evolved on. It's more extreme than a lot of people would go, but sadly it does make sense. Heidi had a great list of Ten Super Foods recently. Her list is simple too, foods like: cottage cheese, apples, fish, eggs, almonds. Simple foods.

Recently I've been trying to revamp the way I eat once again. I'm taking it in steps, though, otherwise I have a feeling I wouldn't stick with it. Every week, a few new foods to add to the mix. This week I added eggs, almonds, raisins, and tuna. So far, I'm enjoying the variety. More filling food for breakfast and healthier snack choices -- its so incredibly easy to grab a handful of almonds on the way out the door!

I'm not sure what I'll add next week, but I'm open to suggestions and will be trying at least one or two new foods. What healthy foods can't you live without?

On a completely different note, I've decided to make some changes to my training plans this year. Remember the goal for a 1:20 half marathon in May? I'm throwing that out the window. It isn't that I don't think its possible, I do, but I don't think its smart. Going for such a fast time so soon would be absolutely begging for injury. I need to keep building my base. I can't be stupid.

The result for my training? I'm getting rid of my ultra-fast tempo runs. Faster runs are staying on my agenda, just none of the six minute pace stuff. I'm going to back it off a bit and train below my lactic threshold for a while; the goal is to keep my HR under 175 on my hard runs. Once I no longer see any benefit from this, I'll start working in faster stuff. For now, though, I'm noticeably improving every single week, so why risk the injury? My major races are ages away!

My race schedule is getting altered a little bit as a result. I'm only going to run one of the half marathons (St. Louis, April 6th) and then focus on triathlons through July. In June I will have my tri for TNT, then in July I'm strongly considering the Half Ironman in Racine, WI. After I survive that, its back to a focus on running to Hammer. Like. Hell. At. Chicago.

Two major peaks for the year: the Half IM and Chicago. Everything else I'm mostly going to train straight through.

Sound like a game plan? I think so!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weekly Recap 01/28/08 - 02/03/08

Monday: Biked 21.23 miles, finally able to ride outside! Ab workout in the evening.

Tuesday: Tempo run (5.5 miles) in the morning, swam in the evening.

Wednesday: Ran a very easy recovery run (4.5 miles) in the morning. Swam in the evening with TNT.

Thursday: Rode on the trainers with TNT in the evening, then went to the pool. Cramped a little at the pool, but all in all it was a good workout.

Friday: Rest day!

Saturday: Ran 8 miles in the morning, biked 21 in the afternoon. Intended to do a core workout in the evening, but my throat was feeling sore and I've been around a lot of sick students/runners lately. I erred on the side of caution and opted for more sleep.

Sunday: Swam 1 mile in the morning (great swim!) then went out to eat with TNT. Ran 5 1/2 miles in the evening with Bluegrass Runners, went a little harder than planned.

Total run: 23.42 miles (+1 from last non-rest week)
Total bike: 62.46 miles (+2 from last non-rest week)
Total swim: 2.5 miles (+0.25 from last non-rest week)


Another great week! I really don't get sick of saying that, and I doubt I ever will. At the end of the week I feel surprisingly fresh, after a pretty grueling weekend. Somehow I'm not feeling Saturday's workouts at all!

As I mentioned above, my run today was a lot quicker than I planned on it being. But thats not all bad, because it taught me something: even more progress than I mentioned yesterday. I averaged 6:46/mile, but my average heart rate was only 164. A few weeks ago my heart rate would be that high when running 45 seconds slower per mile! Hells yeah, you know what progress does!

Finally, I'm really starting to think about this Half Ironman in Racine. I brought it up at lunch with TNT today, and one of the other members said she has 12 people who are carpooling to the race and renting a house for the weekend and that I could easily join them. That also means there are training partners. I only have one hundred sixty five reasons not to register now: the entry fee. It's probably going to happen. I just gotta roll it around in my head for a few days before I commit!

I hope everybody has had a great week; I know I have!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Progress Across the Board!

Yeah, thats right! I used an exclamation point in the subject line, you know you're in for it today!

These past few days have spelled progress in all three sports. All of them! Remember the Driven post I had a few days ago? Yeah, the engine is going full steam! Here's the breakdown:


Thursday night we did a bike-swim session with TNT. I rode my ass off on the trainer for about an hour, then headed straight for the pool (don't worry, I rinsed off!). I got in. It was just another day. Then my coach said five extremely obvious words that completely made things click: "relax your arms on recovery." Duh. Perfectly obvious, right?

Relax when you recover, so you can recover. As soon as I started doing this, it knocked my stroke count down to 14-15 per lap, even when I was swimming hard! The real kicker? Swimming got a lot easier. Its amazing how 5 words can change your life!


This morning I headed out to Todd's Road to run with everybody. Once again, a new post-injury milestone: 8 miles, 100% pain free. I finished feeling completely fresh. I could have kept going, easily! However, I'm increasing nice and steady just to make sure I don't have a relapse, or cause some new injury. This was also my first run that lasted more than an hour (barely). Here's the numbers for today's run:


Avg HR: 163
Garmin data


I also had a new high average speed for biking! The kicker? I did it just a few hours after an 8 mile run. I set out with the intention of just riding really easy. The result? I paced myself better because I was focusing on high cadence rather than high speed! The wind was killer on the way back in, too, but I managed! Here's the stats:

Time: 1:12:24
Distance: 21.23 miles
Speed: 17.6 mph
Cadence: 93 rpm
HR: 160 bpm

Garmin Data

Needless to say. I'm revved up. Progress feeds the engine, right?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Rest Day Randomness (Volume 1?)

Let me start by saying the number one thing on my mind: rest days suck. I may say this every Friday. Because they do! But they're oh-so-needed to help me recover. You know what I think about recovery!

Anyways, here's a bunch of random things in no particular order:
  • Team in Training rocks. I'm loving the team aspect of it, especially during cycling and swimming. Last night we cycled on trainers for an hour, then swam for about 90 minutes. It was nice to have friends to suffer with! I can also offer limited swimming advice since I've been at it for longer than the other TNTers.
  • If your cycling computer says you're going 50 MPH on a trainer, the trainer probably isn't set up right. There is also a good chance of your bike becoming disconnected from the trainer. I may or may not have learned this first hand last night!
  • Tuesday the pool closed due to bad weather, but I still had to walk home. When I left the pool it was raining. Nothing serious. Fifteen seconds later I got hit with a 50 MPH wind gust that was accompanied by a literal wall of water. I went from "kind of damp" to "soaked to the core" in about 2.74 seconds. At some points I couldn't move forward. It looked like it was straight out of hurricane footage. My cell phone didn't work when I got back to my apartment, but miraculously started working on Wednesday after it dried out!
  • I love my new schedule. I still have 4 runs, 3 swims, and 3 rides every week, but the recovery is much better! All my hard workouts are complemented by adequate time to recover; especially my tempo run and bike-swim brick!
  • I posted it last night, but I'll say it again: I registered for the Chicago Marathon last night. I signed up for Starting Corral B, although I am planning to run a half marathon quick enough to qualify for Corral A. So, Nic: 8am October 12th. Grant Park. Front of Corral B. Be there. But more importantly, 11am October 12th. You know where to be.
Thats all I got. Discuss!


Yep. I'm a dork. I stayed up to register for the Chicago Marathon.

But here's what counts:

Congratulations! You are entered to run in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12, 2008.

Three hours or bust.