Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Getting excellent support on this project

I realized as I was planning my workouts for today that I have really amazing levels of support for all of this. The first, and by far the most important, contribution to this comes from my wife. First, she (somewhat foolishly) agreed to let me do this, and doesn't seem to have reconsidered that now that I'm actually signed up. Then, when I announced that today was going to be the first of my two-a-day sessions and thus I was going to need her to take our daughter to school so that I could leave for the pool immediately after breakfast she was fine with that too. None of this would be possible otherwise, so thank you, love! (And as I'm typing this she's responding to what our daughter is describing as a disaster).
I also have the good fortune to be working at one of the very best companies in the country, which has provided benefits I couldn't afford otherwise. We have a full-size indoor pool (complete with a free swim coach who has been helping me improve my technique), a personal trainer who has created extremely detailed, customized training plans for me over the past few years, a really excellent gym, yoga classes, and even healthy food at the cafeteria so I can get something to eat after working out at lunch. Go SAS!
Finally, I have come across any number of people who are also training for various endurance events who are willing to train with me from time to time, which helps keep motivation up. I have two colleagues that I swim with every Tuesday, my former coworker (we'll call her CK) who is on this Let's Do An Ironman journey with me, and a collection of other triathletes and runners who have provided helpful advice and encouragement. Thanks to all of you!


That's probably enough gushing about how good things are - those of you who know me will wonder what has happened to my normal curmudgeonly attitude. Here are the two workouts I did today:

2,300yd swim at a 2:20 pace


I did this from about 8-9 this morning and would have gone slightly longer but it was getting time to start work so I skipped the last 300yards. I got some on-the-spot coaching from the aforementioned swim coach which was an unexpected bonus. The workout was a descending ladder of a 100 warmup, then 600/500/400/300 yard sets with a 100yd skill set in between each one.

17mi bike ride at 17.8mph


Great day for riding - a bit windy, but sunny and in the 50s, so it's hard to ask for much more in December. I rode this one solo, and they're always a little harder when you don't get to draft behind somebody, but that's how the races work so it's good training. This is faster than I've done this route in the past, so I feel like perhaps I'm starting to improve my bike performance.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

What Would the Badger Do?

Today I went for a ride, and the balmy late fall weather we've been having suddenly turned to winter. I left the house around 9am and it was right around 40 degrees. About 20 minutes into the ride it started to rain, although not too hard. Normally when I'm facing tough conditions while out on a ride I try to ask myself "What Would Eddy Do?" (For those of you not versed in the history of professional road cycling, Eddy Merckx is a Belgian cycling legend, akin to the Richard Petty of the sport. If I have to explain who Richard Petty is I'm not quite sure what to say, except that you must not be living in the South.)

Eddy Merckx

Richard Petty

Usually the answer to WWED is "Pedal harder", which I try to do, with varying degrees of success. However, while Eddy was no stranger to riding in bad weather, when the challenge is bad weather I've always been taken by the following image of Bernard Hinault. He is a French cycling champion nicknamed "The Badger", and a certified Hardman. This is from the 1980 Bastogne-Liege race - as you can see from the combination of clothing and falling snow, the weather turned on a dime when they started up one of the mountains on the ride.

Bernard Hinault

So, deciding not to be daunted by the weather, I bundled up in various layers, including a scarf to keep my face warm. I did a pretty good job of guessing how much to wear, although it's always something of a lost cause as if you're warm enough on the downhill sections you'll be too hot when climbing, and similarly if you dress for the climbing sections. I picked out a simple out-and-back route, which is 19.5 miles in total, starting at our house and going to the southern end of Orange Grove Rd. I have a goal of being able to ride this particular course in under an hour, but I'm not exactly there yet. I averaged 17.3mph today, and that's about as fast as I can go for that distance.

Not Bernard Hinault

Note: I did wear a helmet on the ride, Mom.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Road cycling workout and start of marathon training

Just a quick update and some technology notes. If you've signed up for the email notices for new blog postings, thank you! When you get them you probably want to click on the title of the posting, as the Garmin links don't show up in the email but are visible through the blog. I've also heard that using Internet Explorer doesn't work terribly well either, so take that into consideration.
On to a quick summary of today's workout. I did a ride at lunch in Cary, and the weather was very nice for early December. It was windy in spots, but with long pants and a long-sleeve shirt on I was quite comfortable, which is better than it might be. I also forgot to turn on my watch, so I've cribbed the time and distance from one of the other people on the ride and entered it as a generic workout.

Next week starts the official training for the Tobacco Road Marathon, which is on March 19th, 2017. I did the half marathon last year, and I found the tagline of "Fast, Flat, and Fun" to be about 1/3 true, as it was flat. My time for that event was right around 2:30, so I'm looking for a marathon time somewhere outside 5 hours. As the goal is strictly to convince myself that I can cover the distance I'm not too concerned about the time, but it helps to have some idea how long it's going to take so I can compare it to other events I've done. An Olympic distance triathlon takes me a little under 4 hours, and the one Half Ironman triathlon I did was just under 7 hours, so this will hopefully be somewhere in the middle.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I used to be a cross-country runner


Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I ran Cross-Country at my prep school. I was never super good, although by the time I reached my senior year I was on target to make the varsity squad before I suffered a severe ankle sprain. So, when I saw that one of my Garmin Buddies had done a trail run in the nearby Umstead Park I thought I'd give that a try for my run today.
Having tried it, I've decided to stick to road running.

I've actually done a number of training runs in Umstead, as well as two distances of the NC Road Runners Classic 10K and half-marathon, but all of that takes place on gravel fire roads. This run was on single track through the woods, and I'd forgotten how many exposed roots and rocks you have to deal with. I spent much of the time convinced I was either going to fall on my face from tripping (which I nearly did twice) or twist an ankle from landing badly, except for the part where I got off course and had to walk straight up a hill until I found the trail again.
So, I'm glad I gave it a try, but I'm going to count this as a reminder that I'm a road runner and the challenges of the woods are more than I need right now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Training log: Riding the Big Hill

So, it turns out that Borland Rd. isn't the only serious hill in the area. We also have a the section of Orange Grove Rd. that runs from the top of a hill almost straight down for a good half mile. Unlike Borland, it is completely straight, but there are also no flat spots on the way up - the highway engineers drew a straight line from one level to the other and bulldozed it into shape. The net effect is that this is the only road in the area I ride on any kind of a regular basis where I think about just stopping and walking the rest of the way up the hill. Fortunately it's never actually come to that, and today I actually managed to pace myself a little better, so I could still breathe and move my legs once I got to the top.

I'm working from home today as my daughter has developed a fever overnight, so part of the point of the ride today was to get something healthy for lunch. After starting off riding down a road near my house I headed into downtown Hillsborough and the Weaver St. Market co-op grocery store. You have to imagine me walking in with somewhat wild gray hair dressed in skin-tight Lycra and with cycling shoes that are not fit for walking, but I'm sure I was quite the sight. In any case, I got a vegetarian burrito from the deli section (and a Get Well Soon chocolate-chip cookie for my daughter) and headed to the checkout, where the woman working the register asked me if I had a co-op membership. I'm standing here in Lycra, needing a shave, and holding a vegetarian burrito, and you want to know if I have a co-op membership?!? Of course I do!
When I got back outside, happy to see my bike hadn't been stolen, there was another guy with his urban bike getting ready to head out. He was about my age, but had sketchy tattoos on his arms and the general look of someone half-way between a homeless guy and an unsuccessful artist. I said "Hello," and his response was a cheerful "Hi! I'm glad I'm not the only one!" I spent the rest of the ride home wondering what that meant. "I'm glad I'm a) not the only guy who doesn't seem to have a day job, or b) not the only one in strange clothes here at the grocery store, or c) not the only one forced to ride a bike while I work off the DUI conviction."
All in all, a pleasant diversion from the rest of the work day, and way better than fighting traffic on a ride in Cary.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Borland Road: Putting the Hill in Hillsborough

This hill may technically be in Chapel Hill, but in either case the point stands; the Piedmont is not flat. Before getting to the workout, I just wanted to post this picture from the middle of the ride. It was a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day here, even though it started of sort of wet and gray. By the time I left for the ride most of the clouds were gone and it was an excellent day to ride.

Now for the ride. This is the same route I did a few days back, but since the roads were wet I decided to do it in the opposite direction. Going down Borland Hill I routinely hit 35mph without pedaling, and I wasn't sure I wanted to try that on wet, leaf-covered roads, so I decided to make it a hill climb instead. Borland Road isn't really much of a climb compared to something like Alpe d'Huez, but for those of us not getting paid to ride it's still a pretty good effort.


Overall the ride was 15.2 miles long at an average of 16.9mph - I'm not entirely sure where the speedy downhill portions were, since it seems to be more uphill than not when you ride it in this direction. In any case it was good to get out and get a start on working off the Thanksgiving Day Feast.

I skipped a few days of blogging, but not of exercising. On Wednesday I did a 4 mile run at a 10:30/mile pace, which left me more winded than the previous 11:00/mile one, but which still felt good. Tuesday was swim day, and I got in 2,200yds. at an average pace of 2:06/100yds. (The workout included 250 yards of kicking, which my watch doesn't record. Given the speed at which I kick I think that's all for the best). This was faster than last week's swim, but it also consisted of all short segments of 200 yards or less; most of them were just 2 or 3 lengths of the pool. I think that practicing on a consistent basis is slowly helping my technique.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Workout log: well-paced run

Sunday I went out for a 6-mile run in 1:05:44, which is currently at the long end of the distances I've been doing. The last time I was running longer was back in the spring when I was preparing for two half-marathons; since then I've been doing runs of 3-5 miles generally. One of the things I've been trying much of the year (since the end of the second half-marathon, in fact) is to use a more structured run/walk approach. I'm not currently able to run more than about 3 continuous miles without starting to huff and puff, so adding in short walk breaks lets my heart-rate settle down a little.

I've gotten to the point where I'm running for 6 minutes and walking for 1, repeating that until I'm done. Previously I'd been doing these more as intervals, where I'd run pretty fast for the 6 minutes, and then spend the minute gasping for breath, slowing down a little on each subsequent interval. That's ok for a limited distance, but since I'm starting to train for a full marathon I need an approach that will match the distance. At my level the question is not how fast I can run a given mile, but how many miles I can run at a consistent pace before I start to falter.

All of this is a long wind-up to the fact that I was successful at hitting a very consistent pace during my run yesterday by deliberately doing the run portion at at slower pace than I was capable of. The result is that I ended up with 9 almost identical intervals, where I was running at a 10:20-10:30/mile pace during each of them. Coupled with the walks the overall pace was 10:57/mile. That's a little slow compared to what I've run 6 miles in recently, but not a lot, and at the end I could have run several more miles at the same pace without too much difficulty. So, I'm counting this as a success, and hopefully as I start to increase the distance between now and March this will continue to work well for me.