Posts Tagged ‘race prep’

2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher's medal

2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher’s medal

Yep, here it is folks.  Another runner that I follow on Twitter posted this pic of the finisher’s medal for this year’s MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.  I finished my last long run yesterday for my training plan and only have a few short easy runs and some rest days before race day on December 9th.

In addition to getting ready for this race and thinking back over all the training I’ve done, I thought some this week about my cross-training.  After having several injuries mostly relating to over-used or inflamed muscles and tendons, I learned about cross-training.  Of course, as a cyclist, I was cross-training already, but since then, I’ve added in swimming as well.

My cross-training with running really helps with my muscles.  I can always tell after riding, spinning, or swimming how much looser my muscles feel.  This has to be good for my running and I think it has helped.  Along with remembering to stretch after long or hard runs, I haven’t (knock on wood) had any issues this year after my swimming injury healed.

I’m getting just a little bit excited to run come Sunday.  Now the really obsessive part of racing takes hold.  Checking on the weather every five minutes.  Pouring over the race map to visualize the race neighborhoods and where I’ll be at about what time.  Figuring out six days in advance what I’ll wear and need, then changing it several times. Fretting over meals and calorie counts.  If I forget anything to be obsessive about, please send me a comment and remind me.  I don’t want to miss even the smallest obsessive detail you know.

I pulled the marathon card on my algebra teacher this week.  I signed up to take college algebra this semester as I need more discipline hours in order to be able to teach on the college level someday.  Wouldn’t you know I’d pick math, right.  I have this saying, “Dave always has to do it the hard way.”  And, I’ve proven it with math.  I’ve really struggled this semester with this course, which shouldn’t be all that hard.  I took algebra in high school, right; thirty something years ago.  Mostly, I seem to have some kind of numerical dyslexia.  My difficulties are often in getting all the numbers written down without transposing something.  In any case, I spent all day yesterday doing two tests, and I do mean all day.  I’ve been close to giving up and withdrawing.  Instead, I sent my teacher an e-mail and told her I was a marathoner.  We don’t give up.  And, I wont’.  Might go down in flames, but I wont’ give up.

If you already have a follow for me on Twitter, I’ve set up tweets while I’m running next Sunday.  If you haven’t and if you’re really that bored for tweets on Sunday, I’m @abigmanrunning over there.  Strangely enough I do have followers on Twitter as well as here on WordPress.  I thank you for that.  I started writing this for practice, but I realize it’s writing and we do like for folks to actually read what we’ve written.  I found out how important that was this week when I helped out another writer.

Discovered a new app to use this week.  Another friend messaged me about using Strava for cycling and running.  My garmin has been broken for all of this Fall.  I just haven’t wanted to spend the money on a new one nor mess with it while training.  Mostly, I just need an easy way to record my miles, times, and paces.  I’ve been using another app on my android phone, but it’s really a power hog.  Strava so far doesn’t seem to be.  I’ve only gotten to use it once, but it’s really simple.  It works while my phone is in airport mode.  The GPS signal still receives during that mode, but it really lowers power usage.  I’ll keep everyone posted on it.

Well, I told you it was going to be a bit random.  It happens every now and then.  I just heard today there are chances of rain showers for next Sunday.  I don’t need to hear that after last year’s race.  I sure hope that goes away.  I’ll be updating on the post race recap next week, after I rest up a bit.  Remember, the first 20 miles is a training run.  The last 6.2 miles is the race.  I think I said that somewhere before.  Merry Christmas, and Happy Running!

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It seems that this new cold front is getting here just in time.  Tomorrow is the Cool Run 10K/5K in my town.  It’s held each year at the end of October by a local foundation to help raise money to fight cancer.  It was the first race I ran four years ago in 2008.  I have run the 10K each time and have improved each year.  Last year was my best at 1:06:10.  I’m still looking for that 1 hour or less 10K.

It’s a really fun race and the organizers put on a good one for the runners.  It’s local, but it does bring out some of the better runners from around the area as well as a good showing from the high school cross country teams.  I run it with a group of runners called Jo’s Team which honors a person we all knew that we lost because of cancer.  In addition to good running, it’s got the best food I’ve been to for any race of this size.  A local pizzeria named I Fratelli’s is right next door to the race and always brings out some of their great pies.

I’ve been fond of this race for a number of reasons.  It was my first and that is special.  It is also a good benchmark for where I am at in just running improvement.  I’ve been able to observe that I have gone from someone just barely able to finish the 10K to actually thinking I can compete, sort of.  Finally, it is also a good warmup for whatever I’m doing in December, whether it be a half or the full as I’m doing this year.

bikeirving screenshot

Test Site for the new BikeIrving.Org web site showing first tests of Google Maps API

However, I want to take a little while today to talk about a large (I mean really) project I am working on with a friend.  We are trying to build a web site for our city that will help us provide road and path data to the city on where cyclists are riding and commuting.  With this data we can help inform the city on where infrastructure and enhancements are needed because of known traffic patterns.  It will be a little similar to a site like mapmyride.com except that it will focus just on our city and we’ll be able to pull reports out of the database for presentation work (we hope).

To do this site, I had to start learning some new skills.  I had to begin learning the Google Maps Javascript API.  It is a geomapping extension born out of Google’s work on it’s maps.google.com site.  Though it’s free; easy it isn’t.  I’ve had to really extend my knowledge of Javascript in order to just make this small test work. And, I’ve still got a lot to do.

Currently, the only thing you can do at the site, which you can access here, is to select a starting address, plot a route on the map, and you can print out a list of the latitudes and longitudes from your route.  Probably none of this will be quite the same in the final version.  But, I am interested in getting folks’ reactions to it.

Though there are still many things to do just on this portion of the mapping, I will have to turn it aside for a bit to start working on the database portion.  The concept is that cyclists will be able to come to the site, register and provide a little bit of demographic data, then map the routes they often use for commuting or other reasons.  Then, on the back end, we can pull up common maps showing multiple routes and where these intersect with roads.  To do that, I will have to build a database of users and a database of routes, plus a content manager to help us use the site.  It will also be a place to post events about and for cycling in our city.  Because it’s a public site, we’ll also need to put a privacy notice in place and establish means to keep folks information private.

I have no idea how long it will take to finish such a site, but I am making progress.  I’m going to be getting some help on it soon, I think.  Currently, I have it hosted on my own server.  I don’t yet know where the final location will be, just yet.  In the meantime, I’m still job hunting.  Still trying to be patient and wait upon God‘s timing for how things will go.  I am encouraged by seeing where He is working in the process this week.  So, this afternoon, I’ll spend some more time on the web site and tomorrow, I’ll just go and have a Cool Run in the morning.  Happy Running (and Cycling)!

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It’s Monday and I just finished up a “marathon” session of algebra homework.  Yes, yours truly has returned to school yet again.  I discovered at the end of Summer that if I were to simply beef up my credit hours in math or another subject that I have a good chance of getting to teach at the college level eventually.  So, starting with College Algebra, I am back into the groove.  Let’s see how that does with my marathon training.

This past Saturday I finished up my first 20-miler of this round of training.  Last year, my training plan from Runnersworld.com only had me do one 20 mile run before tapering.  This year, I stepped the plan up a notch and it has me doing the 20 three times before taper.  Two of these will come in back to back weeks very soon.

I am also still being amazed at my times.  Now, I’m still not a speed demon by any means, but my long-er long runs have taken considerably less time than I was doing them in last year.  For example, this weekend, I ran my 20 miler in 4 hours, 14 minutes.  That is a full 45 minutes faster than last year’s 20, and I still have two that I can improve upon.  If I can hold up to this, I have a chance at finishing nearly an hour earlier than my first marathon.

I know that part of the factor in my first marathon was the weather.  It was brutally wet and cold.  It slowed a lot of people down.  However, I didn’t run my training runs any faster, and those were run in good weather.

Early last month, my garmin died so I have been using known routes to run for my long runs.  I have a set 14 mile route around South Irving and I’ve added some of my shorter runs to that in order to make the distances.  This Saturday, I ran a 6-mile route first, picked up my stash of Gatorade at it’s usual finish, then took off and ran the 14-miler to gain 20.  I have even double-checked my mileage in my mapmyride.com route and it’s accurate.

If there is anything I know that I have done differently this year, it is in consistent Summer mileage, strength training, and working on getting the weight down.  This past Summer, I regularly ran an 8-mile long run each week, plus tried to keep my weekly mileage near 20.  I’ve been doing strength training at the Senior Fitness Center since January.  I know it’s been an added bonus.  Working on the weight is still a struggle, but I am down to 244.  If I can take off a few more pounds before December 9th, it’ll help.

I think I’ve worked harder on this marathon than last year.  I am hoping that it will prove out come race day.  I’m still injury free and running well.  If the weather will cool off a little more, I think we’ll keep running well round here.  That makes me hopeful for a good 2nd marathon.  But, I still have to remember, job one on race day is just get across the finish line.  I’m working on a solid pacing strategy in my long runs to get me at the right point.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the middle of all this I am still job hunting.  However, I have two appointments tomorrow.  One is with a recruiter about an IT job.  It’s not ideal, but I need to get in front of someone.  I am almost at the point of giving up on IT work for a living at this point, though.  My second appointment tomorrow is with my old job.  There are a couple of positions open that I can do and I’m going to see if they will work out.  It’s work I know I can do with people I know.  Both of those would be good right now just to get me going again.

I am enjoying my algebra homework by the way.  I do like math.  I’m just sloppy at execution.  I make little mistakes that miss the mark.  I could use sharpening up on those and continuing to improve.  That’s something that running and cycling has taught me.  We make mistakes in our training.  But, we evaluate our training and then we make changes to correct those.  We add practice on the new stuff until it works.  Then we can put it into our knowledge base for use on race day.  Because I know I can do the work to run a marathon, I also know I can do the work to reach whatever goal I set, whether it’s job-related, or just life-related.  Happy running, folks!

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It was quite good to come home from Hotter-n-Hell to a week off.  I took all that was left of my vacation time this week instead of leaving it on the books.  I figured I could use it as a buffer between having a job and having to look for a job.  I also thought I’d get some stuff done before starting new tasks.

The weather had conspired to keep me from any yardwork for a few weeks because of on and off again rains.  It’s not too weird to get rain in August, but we got a little more than usual in the past few weeks.  The spacing was just enough to throw off any catch up in the weeds.  I only have one really bad weed nemesis; stickerburrs.  The front yard is fairly well under control, but our back yard along the fence is just over run.

I have tried chemicals to no effect (not my usual choice).  I also have been using bagging on the lawnmower, but that only seemed to have a slight effect.  Currently, I am digging up individual plants before mowing in the attempt to cut down on seeds.  Each stickerburr plant puts out at least 8 to 10 burrs.  Each of these are a seed for a new plant.  Hopefully, by removing the plants, I’ll catch up on them.  However, that will be a trick.  This week’s take is four yard bags of plants.  Each bag was about half full because of the weight.

This week also began the first week of Dallas Marathon training.  For longer races, I usually generate a Smart Coach plan from runnersworld.com, then I add in or take away as needed.  Since this is my second marathon and I ran pretty good this Summer, I set it as a ‘moderate’ level of training.  Therefore, it has me running long runs up to 20 miles three times before taper starts.  That should be fun (sure).

Monday’s run called for five miles easy.  I figured after a very hard 100-miler on Saturday that I would not at all feel like doing that many miles on Monday.  If I got it up to 3 miles I would be doing well.  However, I surprised myself.  My tendonitis in my right foot wasn’t hurting at all and I did not seem to have dead legs.  Since I didn’t have to get up uber-early, I got to Running Bear Park at first light and decided to go around the whole loop and see what I’d get.  Turned out to have a 4.7 mile morning.

Wednesday also called for my first tempo run.  If you’re wondering what that is, check here.  This would be my first real speedwork since last season, so I strapped on the heart rate monitor and decided to run the tempo going more by heart rate than by pace.  The runnersworld.com plans still tend to run slightly behind what I can do now, so heart rate should give me a better idea of true tempo pace.

For the tempo run, I had to warm up, then hold tempo pace for four miles and cool down.  The total for the day would be 6 miles, which is 2 shorter than a normal Wednesday.  After a half mile warm up, I stepped the pace up to 12 min/mile.  That should be enough, right?  My max heart rate should be around 168 (220 – my age = max heart rate).  After a little bit of 12 min. pace, my heart rate went up to…145 bpm.  OK, that’s not doing well, and I could tell by my exertion level that I wasn’t at tempo either.

The general rule of thumb on tempo runs is to hold a pace that you can hold, but really, really would like not to hold.  With HR and exertion level in mind, I stepped up a little better.  We were  heading down to Running Bear park by now.  Turning out of Running Bear, I checked again and my heart rate was 165 bpm.  Good one!  My exertion level was holding, but just; so that was OK too.  My pace now: 10:50 min/mile.  Not bad.

The next mile carried me up two pretty good hills and as expected, by the time I hit the peak, the HR monitor alarm went off.  I was exceeding 168 bpm now.  I slowed a little to let it go back down, but not much.  And, what do I run into…a red light.  Not just your ordinary red light, but the one from Hell that never changes.  Down, down, went the heart rate.  At about 118 bpm, the light changed.  It was probably only a minute and a half, but I didn’t like losing the tempo HR.

After the red light, I picked things back up to speed and the HR came right back into line.  Through the next couple of miles, I had to slow just a bit, but my HR remained steady and I was still doing 11:15 to 11:30 pace.  I turned the corner at the next red light and saw I had finished up all four miles of my first tempo.  I could now slow back down and go easy for the rest of the miles.  It felt really good to finish up the first bit of speedwork.

Today was the first “official” long run at 10 miles.  I had already done a 9-miler a couple weeks ago, so I was pretty ready.  We’ve been in a cool streak, but expecting more heat.  Still, I was surprised to see the 79degF on the outdoor thermometer this morning.  I set up and got my stuff on and left the house…without my hydration bottle.

Oh, I had put on the belt, but didn’t grab the bottle out of the frig.  When did I figure this out?  A half mile down the road.  Now what do I do?  I couldn’t run out a whole ten miles at this temp without fluids, so running back to the house I went.  At least the jog back to the house made sure I had ten miles done this morning anyway.

On my long runs, I keep close to what the plan states, at least somewhat.  It called for a 15 min/mile pace, but that’s almost walking speed now.  I kept it between 13 min/mile and sometimes 14 min/mile.  Those paces felt pretty easy for me.  For a mile or so, on flat section, I put in a 12:30 pace.  The 10 miles went by decently, but not real fast.  It took a couple of hours plus this morning and I have been able to do 10 miles in two hours even, but not today.

I am sitting here this afternoon waiting on a friend that’s just gone through the job search routine recently and we’re going to go over what I’m going to do.  I also have a list of things to do next week; some related to job search and some related to keeping something going for now.  It’s kind of weird not having to worry about each day right now.  I know that can grow as time drags on, but right now it’s not a big deal.  That’s new to me.  My biggest problem will be making sure I stay productive and busy while the search goes on.  As my sweetie tells me, I don’t sit still very well.  That’s probably a fault of mine.  As I recall, my grandfather was a bit like that as well.  So, here’s to next week and getting things done.  More miles on the books and things to do.  Happy running!

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It is that time again.  I am not certain why I anticipate the wait so much for this one event each year.  It’s not necessarily one of my best at finishing.  I’ve only completed the 100-miler once, but it still is the one I anticipate each year.  It’s time to get ready for riding the 100 miler in Wichita Falls, TX again.  It’s time for the Hotter-n-Hell.

One does have to admit, for cycling in TX (and OK, NM, and other parts as well) this is the big party.  North Texas does not have a lot of century rides.  There are a few more down south, but still not a lot.  There are also very few rides around that can boast of a turnout between 12,000 and 14,000 riders nearly every year.  But, there you have it, 100 miles in 100 degrees.  It’s a really big cycling party.

However, if you don’t wish to, you don’t have to ride 100 miles.  You can choose any ride between 100K (62 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles).  You can ride a mountain bike trail and you can even run a trail race.  Why, if you’re really adventurous, you can do all three (NOT!).

Enough of the advertising, I don’t get paid to do that.  I like cycling and I’ve liked it for a long time, much to the chagrin of my family.  Cycling is both speed, endurance, and work and the HH100 is all three of these put together.  I’ve practiced all Spring and Summer to get ready for this one trip.  I am hoping that it will pay off and I can do well.

My experience at the HH100 is kind of spotty.  In 2008, I rode it for the first time and finished in 8 hours.  That was great and though the miles from about 75 to 95 were painfully slow, I counted it a good time.  I had to miss 2009, but in 2010, I took out way too fast.  I did a personal best of averaging 17 miles per hour in 20 miles and then 15 in 30 (get where this is going).  When I turned the corner at Punkin Center, I hit wind.  By Hell’s Gate (the cutoff point for being allowed to finish the 100), I was wasted.  I made the gate, but I bailed after that.  Last year, I was ready and my mind and plan were ready, but my bike wasn’t.  10 miles or so out from the start, I broke a spoke and had to turn around and come back.

So, in my off time this year, I spent it learning about wheels, spokes, truing, tensioning and all that stuff.  I rebuilt the rear wheel on the Trek and fixed it to withstand the rigors of my weight.  Then, in the Spring, a friend gave me new wheels and parts for my 1986 Fuji.  The difference has been very good.  I have always liked the Fuji’s ride, because it was a steel bike.  However, it was always slower because it was a steel bike.  The new parts for the Fuji were all lighter and more durable (Camagnolo crankset, Ambrosio wheelset, DuraAce rear derailleur and freewheel).  With the weight change came a better speed and an easier ride.  I did end up having to buy a new brakeset for it because the old ones just weren’t up to snuff.  A near accident on one Spring ride made me cough up some bucks for that upgrade.

Fuji after upgrades

This is the Fuji just after the upgrades, but before the new brakeset.

I’ve been actively comparing the two bikes for a few rides to see which one really was going to do better.  In the end, I have to go with the Fuji. The ride is just more solid and with the newer crankset, I can pedal nicely and hold 16 mph.  This should really help out.  I know that I will have to get to 60 miles out and still feel like I’ve got another 40 in me.

We are also getting a new 100 mile route this year.  When my sweetie and I rode in 2008, she really liked getting to go through the rest stop that Sheppard Air Force Base puts on.  And, I’ve heard that from several other friends that ride.  This year, even the 100 mile route is fixed to go through the Sheppard AFB rest stop.  I can’t wait to visit.

There’s not a lot left to do.  I took the Fuji out yesterday afternoon and cleaned it up real well.  I put new chain lube on and got things spiffied up for the ride. Tonight, after dinner, I’ll load up the bike in the Kia along with as much else as I can.  Fill up and freeze my polar bottles and then remember to go to bed REALLY EARLY!  We drive up to Wichita Falls because you have so much difficulty getting a room.  That means we need to leave out by 2:30AM to be there in time for a good parking spot for sweetie and to get my packet.  The ride starts at 7:05AM, just after sun up.

It’s like this with lots of things we do every day.  We do our best to prepare and to get ready.  Yet, we have to wait until the right time for something to happen.  It’s not possible to force things to go your way and even when you’ve done everything, there is a lot that is just out of your control.  I think that’s why to marathoners, the journey up to the start line is just as important as getting across the finish line.  I hope that tomorrow I will have done everything just right so that I can do well and get across the finish line.  That will be job number one all day long.  And, if I’ve done everything I can and things go right (Lord willing), maybe, just maybe I might be able to shave a half hour or so off that 2008 time.  Happy cycling!

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It seems that my Fall training time for the Dallas Marathon may be fairly flexible.  I received recent notice that my job of the last four years is ending this month.  That happens, though I was still unprepared for it.  I was rather liking what I had been doing the past four years.  Now, I have to decide what is next, which is just not that easy to accomplish.

I will do alright for a while as I did receive a good severance deal from my employer.  So, I have a little time in which to formulate a good plan.  There are lots of choices but no clear direction or answers.  I am toying with the idea of doing some tech work on my own.  I’m not a web designer, but I do know a lot about setting up the systems and technologies so that companies can communicate with their clients and customers (I will not argue with folks on the most effective color of purple).  It doesn’t really take a designer to get an organization’s presence and message clearly out onto the Internet.  Yet, many don’t really know what to do with some of the newer things like social media.  To paraphrase what I read today in an article by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC, organizations are being told they need to be in social media, but they don’t know how to use it effectively.

I have taken a little time to finally get off my duff on one of my personal pet projects.  I now run my own Linux Server, with a real name.  I kept it kind of low key for a long time but I got a good deal on a domain name this week and decided it was time to push things out there.  My server can be reached at http://www.tardisgallifrey.com.  I’ve called it the T.A.R.D.I.S. Server Project II, after my favorite BBC character’s transportation device.  It is a big blue police box on the outside, but it is much bigger on the inside.  I kind of see servers in that same light, bigger on the inside than on the outside.  It doesn’t do a whole lot just yet, but the web site is functional and I can receive e-mail via the address I have posted there.

I missed my 8-miler on Wednesday because of thunderstorms.  I literally woke up at 4AM and before I left the bed it was FLASH, BOOM…and oh well, back to bed.  I got caught out once this Spring in a thunderstorm and they aren’t that nice for runs.  So, instead, tomorrow I will run a 9-miler on my “usual” long run day as the prequel to my marathon training, which will start in earnest the very last Saturday of August.  Additionally, a very hard project at work had me on my feet most of the week and I even missed running Thursday just for an extra rest day.

After the run, hopefully, I’ll get on the bike for my last training ride before Hotter-n-Hell 100 2012!  Probably no more than just an hour on the bike after the long run.  Yes, I believe I am ready for next Saturday’s ride.  Or, at least as ready as I can get.  It’s been four years since I made the hundred the last time.  It’s time to do so again, and this year, we get to do it on a different bike and a different route.  This year, all the riders will get to go through the Sheppard Air Force Base rest stop.  I understand it’s better than cool.

I’m going to take my 1986 Fuji to this ride.  After the work I did in the Spring, new wheels, beefing components up and putting on new brakes, it feels like a new bike.  I’ve ridden it the most often on training rides and I can hold a good pace without working too hard.  That will be key in the first 60 miles of the ride.  You really need to hit 60 miles feeling like you have another 40 in you.  You don’t really, but you need to feel like you do.

Changes are coming around my house.  Fall will approach soon and with it will be a whole host of new things and events.  I have already signed up for almost all my Fall races, so at least I do not have to decide on those.  I know I’ll be busy, but my training does not stop.  I have to do just what I’ll be doing for my marathon training, put a plan together and then follow it out to its conclusion.  Been there.  Done that already.  Happy Running!


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I waited an extra day to write this post, just to be sure.  I thought I felt this way last week, but haven’t experienced “the training groove” in a while; so, I waited to see if it would pass.  But, it didn’t.  I’m in the “groove”.  It’s a dorky term, but I don’t know a better one.  Training grooves don’t happen often, and if you’re new to running or cycling, they may take a while to show up.  The training groove is a little similar to the ‘runner’s high’ except that it happens over a period of weeks (months if you can make it last).  It’s that phenomenal kind of time when all your effort and persistence starts to pay off and instead of tiny little gains, you see big ones start to happen.

During most of the Spring, I was rebuilding my running and riding mileage; mostly due to an injury in January.  I have finally cleared that hurdle and have made some adjustments to my training schedule to work with Summer heat and get ready for Fall races.  I just finished signing up for the Dallas Marathon in December and I have the Hotter-n-Hell 100 that happens in late August topped off with a tri in September.  Therefore, I needed to get my running mileage back to 20 miles per week and make sure I had at least one good, long ride each week as well.

To accomplish these short-term goals, I changed my workout schedule about three weeks ago to more aggressively work on running mileage during the week and leave my Saturdays for rides.  That meant more running days per week than the three I had been doing.  My schedule went from the following:

Mon: 5K, Wed: 8 miles, Thur: 5K

to this:

Mon: 4 miles, Tue: 5K, Wed: 8 miles, and Thurs: 5K.

At first, it might appear that looks like too many miles to add.  However, I didn’t do it all in one week.  I added the extra Monday mile during one week and then hit a ‘cut back’ week where I didn’t run.  After that week, I added the extra 5K to Tuesday.  Because my routes aren’t perfectly measured on those runs, I was then at about 17-18 miles per week.  That left me with all morning Saturday to devote to riding.

I started getting up early on Saturdays so that I could be on the bike at first light, just when it got light enough to see.  I rode with a tail light and a bright yellow jersey.  The roads at 6AM were almost bare and by 6:30AM, the sun was up.  I also went north in my city to a long trail called Campion and rode there to cut down on road miles.  Campion is a 12 mile round trip on the bike.  Combined with getting there and an additional extension, I can do 40 to 50 miles easily before traffic builds too much.  However, with Summer getting later, the sun is also becoming tardy.  I’ve cut my ride back to 40 miles or so to compensate and will probably have to move it lower as time goes on to the Fall.

Two Saturdays back, I got a little bored on the bike and came home a little early.  I didn’t feel the workout should be over, so I put on my shoes and went for a short run.  At 10AM, it’s starting to get hot here, but I’d already been out for three hours and was acclimated.  I put in a good 5K that morning and decided it’s time to add in the brick miles.  In addition, I’ve moved my weight training up another notch, so the whole week goes something like this:

Mon: 4 miles running, Tues: 5K morning, weights and swim in evening, Wed: 8 miles running, Thurs: 5K morning, weights and swim in evening, Fri: Rest, Saturday: 40 mile bike/5K run brick, Sunday Rest.

Weights and swimming I was already doing and with no events until late August, I have a good long time of just working out.  So, where’s the groove, right?  I’ve felt it mostly in my runs.  My paces are picking up even though I am still running easy most days.  I mean, really picking up; like a minute or two of faster pace.  Additionally, the running is getting easier even with better pace times. And, this is all happening during a warm Summer (average morning temp 79 degrees).

On top of things just in general being better, I am also more ready to work out when it happens.  I do admit that last week was a struggle some days because we were working extra hard at work.  However, over the past three weeks, I have been more ready for my runs and rides than previously.  These things are the ‘groove’ that I am talking about.  I have noticed it mostly in connection with my running, though I also feel it when riding or swimming.  I have the feeling that improvement is really happening instead of just keeping up with the motions.

I have no idea if anyone else experiences these training grooves.  This is at least the second one I can remember and I think there have been others.  The most recent groove I felt was late last year when I was doing my marathon training.  A training groove probably isn’t an official term or phenomenon, but I know they exist and they are nearly as good as a ‘runner’s high’.  Possibly they are even better since they last a while.  I am hoping this one carries through at least until it turns cooler and I am working on my marathon training.  Tell me if you have experienced a similar groove in your training.

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This past Saturday, I ran in the first race since Bold in the Cold 15K in January.  I have been rebuilding my running since shortly after that race because of a swimming injury.  The Beat the Heat 5K was my first race since the injury and I think I can count the injury “under control” at least.  In addition, I had a good time at a small, quite new race in my town of Irving.

This was the second year for the Beat the Heat 5K and fun run.  They added a 10K and hired a local race director to oversee the racing.  Both were good choices to keep the race improving and getting runners to come out.  The normal time for the race is in late April and that’s where I think it gets its name.  North Texas heat sets in early in our neighborhood.  The race benefits Family Promise of Irving, a chapter of Family Promise that seeks to overcome homelessness among families in our area.  The organization partners with local churches to provide temporary shelter and day services to assist families that are recently homeless to get back on their feet.  My church is one of the partners as well as many others in Irving.  This race is one way that Family Promise of Irving raises funds for their mission.

I chose to run the 5K at this race because I wasn’t sure where I would be in mileage at this time.  However, my longer runs are up to 6 miles and I have begun to build some speed also.  Since this would be a 5K, I was hoping to see how well I could run.  My goal was to see if I could break the 30-minute barrier.

The morning was cool, but not too much; yet, the wind was fairly strong.  The race was held near Las Colinas Elementary in north Irving.  There are some  pretty good hills around the school area that would give us a challenge.  The race organizers invite the churches involved with Family Promise to set up booths at the race and my church was well represented.  We have a good group of older guys that do a lot of cooking for different things and they came out to help serve goodies for the runners.

We had a good selection of goodies for the race.  Chik Fil A had donated chicken biscuit sandwiches and Einstein bagels provided…well…bagels.  There were also fruits and pastries as well as a good supply of coffee.  The guys were trying their best to peddle the chicken sandwiches and other goodies before the race, but with little luck.  They weren’t aware that a lot of runners won’t eat much before a run or race, especially shorter ones.  I had a banana just to make sure I had something in my stomach, but I was waiting until after the race for the better stuff.

There was a little disorganization evident with the race start and the sound didn’t work out.  However, they got the kiddos off on their fun run on time and got set up for the 5K/10K.  We would start at 8:30AM after the kiddos were finished.  The little guy that came in first ran his mile in 6:05.  Someone should keep an eye on him.

We started just a little after 8:30, I think, but close.  The gate narrowed us down a little, but the field wasn’t huge so we all got out quick.  I took off too fast, but tried to hold it as far as I could.  I had to back off at about 3/4 of a mile.  I could still hold a good pace, but it was slower.  We went down a long hill on Kinwest Parkway right off the bat.  This looked like it would be our “demon” coming back up for the finish.  We turned a corner onto a side street at about a mile out.  By then we were at our second water stop.  I didn’t stop at this one and at the first, I barely slowed down.  I got a little bit in me and some on me.  I still haven’t’ figured out how to drink and run; just not that coordinated.

Our turnaround came up fairly quick and not too long after I saw the leader going back.  There were several friends from my church that were running.  One of our preachers was about a half minute in front of me at this point, so we saw each other on the turn around.  There was a lot of uphill going back, but I kept my pace pretty well.  On a side note, this was my first race to use my Android phone instead of my Garmin.  It worked well, but with it in my back pocket, I don’t really know what my pace is.  In the future, I should probably stick with my Garmin for races since it lets me see the pace and control it better.

I didn’t see a sign for the second mile.  Yet, I knew where I was since “the hill” was here.  I kept my pace as well as possible up the hill, but had to slow down near the top.  It was…large.  However, I made it over and that left only a short run up to the finish.  I saw a shadow of a couple that kept pace with me near the end coming up from behind.  That was all I needed to put in the kick to get to the finish.  I could see that the gun clock was just barely over 31 minutes.  Not the goal, but still a PR.  Now for that chicken sandwich.

I waited around and talked with other folks and watched to see one friend come in from the 1oK.  When I left, I stopped by the table to see the postings for the 5K.  My final time was 31:14, but I was sure the counter was wrong since it listed that I was the 19th runner in.  I chalked that up to technology and just went home.  When I checked the web site posting later, I was amazed.  I finished first in my age group (50 -59) and was 19th across the line of 97.  So, not just a PR, but a win as well.  That was still hard to believe.  My preacher had also finished first in his age group.  And, for the naysayers, we weren’t the only ones in the division either.

This is a great little race with lots of good volunteers, a challenging course, and for a great cause.  They are still going through birth pains and learning how to do things, but for just their second year, they are doing great.  I had a good time and got to run with friends, which I don’t often get to do.  The goodies to eat were exceptional and our swag bags weren’t bad either.  It’s a race I will certainly sign up for next year; maybe the 10K next time.  Happy running!

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Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving for those of us in the good ‘ol US of A.  We will celebrate our nations humble beginnings, our connection to our families, our thanks to our God, and some among us will also deign to worship at the altar of football.  So it is appropriate on this occasion to note what I am thankful for in this past year.  However, before I get to all that, it is important to note that it was somehow comical to someone to place a marathon at just such a date as to cause its runners difficulty.  Why?  Because we must go through taper at Thanksgiving. (more…)

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That’s a pretty good number, I think.  731…it’s the number of meters I swam last evening WITHOUT STOPPING!  Yes, I finally crossed a huge hurdle in my triathlon training.  I plan to sign up for the Rose City Tri in Tyler, Tx come September, and it was getting close to crunch time (at least I thought so).

Cycling–I had that down.  Sprint tri’s are pretty short, cycling wise; though a 15-miler won’t be the same after swimming for a while.  Running–same thing; a 5K is not a big deal, normally.  I have done duathlons and the run after biking for a while takes a good effort.  But, I have not been worried about those two legs.  It’s the swimming.

I was never really a good swimmer.  The only good part I knew about swimming was that I would not drown under normal circumstances.  I began working on my swimming last September by going twice a week to a local pool.  I also starting trying to read or watch as much as possible about how to swim.  My first attempts last September were laughable.

I couldn’t swim a whole length of the pool (and it was only 20 yds.) without gasping for air.  Even after weeks of effort, I had begun to swim longer periods, but still only one length at a time.  Months later, I still had trouble with gaining any distance.  Occasionally, I could put two or sometimes three lengths together, but the extra effort would require so much I had to stop for a while before beginning again.

About a month ago, I started to consistently work on my stroke and breathing.  I changed my stroke enough so that I could roll out of the water long enough to really take a good breath.  I also  began slowly breathing out during the stroke rather than blowing all the air out at once.  Finally, I also gave up on the idea that would swim freestyle strokes continuously.  I began alternating freestyle with breaststroke as it gave me a respite on breathing.  And, things began to change.

I started to gain distance in my workouts.  Fairly quickly, I went up to swimming 200 yds. at a time before resting.  With rests between sets, I could put in 800 yd. workouts in about 45 minutes or so.  I was stoked enough just being able to do this; yet, I also knew that I needed to do much better.  There aren’t any rest stops in the swim leg of a triathlon.

Now that it’s May, I had been swimming regularly for almost nine months.  I was a little worried weather I would be able to cross the “great divide” of swimming long distances in three months.  Then, it happened.  Last week, I got in the water one night and started my laps.  I had turned onto my last length of the first set and didn’t feel bad.  I thought I would keep going as long as possible until I really felt wasted.  Then I would quit.  I thought I might get 15 or 20 lengths before having to quit.  I was surprised.  I finished up 30 lengths before quitting.  Not because I was really tired.  I was out of time.  I had gone a little over 500 meters.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train.

This week, I tried to go over that and see how far I could get.  Tuesday night, I swam 35 lengths.  I quit because I was done and had gotten a late start.  When I started that evening, the pool was really busy and I had to wait a long time for a lane.  When I finished 30 minutes later, I was the only one left.  When I tallied up the distance, it was 640 meters; 10 meters shy of the distance in the Rose City Tri.  I had only needed one length to make the full distance.  Last night, I got to the 35 length mark and kept going.  I stopped at 40 lengths which turns out to be 731 meters.  Well over the distance I need to swim in the tri.  I done it!

Some folks may be saying, “So what?”  It’s no big deal to swim that far.  Maybe not, but it did seem that far for me.  I read quite a while back that the swim event in the triathlon is the toughest part.  In cycling and running, one can often practice at distances close to the race length and make up the shortage on fitness and effort.  The warning in swimming is that one needs to know they can swim the whole distance you will be racing.  As I said earlier, there are no rest stops in the swim event.  You can’t stop.  You can’t take a breather.  You have to be able to do the whole distance or else you are out of the whole race.  I was finally glad  that I had crossed what was to me a pretty serious mark.

Now that I can hit the distance, I can work the final months on improving my work.  800 yds. (731 meters) took me 35 minutes.  I don’t know if that is slow, moderate, or the speed of a leaf on the water, so I need to see if I can work on picking up the pace.  I currently do best when I alternate one length of freestyle to one of breastroke.  I can work on adding extra lengths of freestyle and improve the efficiency.  I also have another thing to work on during these months.  It’s pretty easy to switch strokes when you can bounce off the wall.  It’s a whole different thing having to switch in mid-stroke.  So, I need to swim sometimes by switching strokes half way down the pool instead of at the wall.

It’s taken a long time (by my reckoning) to be able to swim well and for distance.  I still have a long way to go.  I want to do longer tris (assuming I finish my first one), and I’ll need to be able to swim longer and longer distances.  My freestyle stroke is still pretty choppy and rough.  I need to become smooth and quick with it in order to improve the efficiency.  There is much more to do, but it does feel worth the effort and glad that there has been improvement.  Happy swimming, or running, or cycling, or whatever.

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