Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The need to race more

So I'm in the middle of my race season, and I am about one month removed from my last race and one month away from my next race.  What I've found out is that I need to race a lot more than I do now.  I feel like I've lost my edge with so much time in between races.

When I know a race is coming up I know I have a goal in mind and I am always pushing my training hard.  I look forward to all of my workouts no matter how much pain I know I'm going to put myself in.  My workouts feel sharp and crisp and I can feel them working.  Having the race as an end goal is extremely motivating every single day.  However, now with basically 2 months in between races, I feel my workouts are slipping.  I'm not as motivated to go out and swim, bike or run every day.  And since most of my swim workouts come in the mornings, I seem to want to sleep in a little more since I can't see the end result.  Then as the afternoon workouts roll around, I'm less and less motivated to push myself or spend the amount of time I need to in order to get ready for my Maine race. 

When we have races coming up, it fuels everyone's competitive fire.  I know it really pumps me up and in the 2 weeks before a race that's all I can think about so I have such a laser focus.  What I've found out is with this 2 month period in between races, I need to do a race every month.  By having a race every month, it breaks up the monotony of just training.  Now it feels too much like it's my off season.  Workouts tend to become stale and I can't practice the "little things" that occur in races.  I know it sounds weird, but I'm not someone who loves to workout.  I do it as a necessity.  I love to train and compete.  So when I have too much time in between races, I lose my competitive juices.  Which in turn, affects my training.  And once it goes down hill, its hard to stop that train.

Don't get me wrong, my training isn't going horribly.  For example, I was on the bike for 2.5 hours over the weekend, and the next day pumped out a solid 13 miles in a really good time.  My weekday workouts are still going well, but they aren't going super and that's what bothers me.  Maybe its I peaked too early in my season and therefore I need to regroup and focus the next month to make sure I can achieve my goals.  I just want to be able to push myself a little harder like I'm used to.  With one month to go for Maine, I really need to get mye dge back

Another factor in this might be my wrist.  It still bothers me a little bit from my crash a few weeks ago and I'm still petrified on my bike.  As a result, I am probably making too many excuses for my training and I should just go out there and hit the road on my bike.  I just don't want to fall again and either hurt myself more, or possibly bruise my ego any more than it already is.  I know I raced the week after my crash, but that was a month ago.  Just like I said before, without the competitive juices blinding me, I am thinking too much about my bike.

So going into next season, I learned my lesson early from this season.  Race often.  That might not sit too well with the wife, but a race a month definitely sounds like something I'm going to be doing.  I already know my 2 big bookend races, so I'll just have to fill the slots with smaller ones to make sure I can continuously have the fire inside of me.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Skora base 1000 mile review

Last month, I hit a huge milestone for a pair of shoes.  It’s the first time that I’ve ever hit this milestone so I was really excited.  The milestone was running 1000 miles in one pair of shoes.  The Skora Base to be exact.  I started running in the Skora Base’s in early December so it took me about 6 months or so to achieve this mark.  Normally shoes get “retired” between 300-500 miles so this was one pair of shoes that truly stands the test of time…and miles.
My initial review of the Base’s can be found within the first few posts on my blog and it was extremely positive on the shoe.  As it’s mentioned multiple times, I love these shoes and think they are the most comfortable shoes that I have ever worn.  I can’t believe that I ever worn anything other than them.  After putting 1000 miles on these shoes, I can safely say that my thoughts have not changed one bit.
My overall impression of the shoe to date is the following:
-The Shoes are extremely durable.  Obviously putting that many miles on them and still being able to comfortably run in them today shows this.  But it’s not just that.  Because I got them in December and was training for the Boston Marathon, a lot of my runs were done in all different kinds of weather.  I ran in snow, slush, rain, mud, sunny conditions.  I ran on road, trail, concrete, and even mixed a little bit of treadmill running in there.  No matter what conditions or ground I run on, the shoes are comfortable everywhere.
-The shoes are fast.  This is something that I mentioned to Kyle from Skora when I first started using the shoe.  For some reason, my stride turnover increased significantly when I was wearing the Base’s.  I had no reason as to why and no control over it in some ways.  In my second run in the shoes, I had my second fastest time of the year for a 10k run.  It was supposed to be an easy day in the shoes, but my stride turnover was so quick that the run felt so easy and my pace kept getting faster.  My guess is it has to do with the sole and material being able to “spring” my feet off the ground instead of more cushioned shoes absorbing the contact and slowing me down. Either way, I’ll take getting faster any day.
-The shoes are extremely comfortable, with the insole or without and with socks or without.  I started running with the secondary insole in the shoe because it felt like there were little massage beads on my feet.  After a few months, I took the insole out and ran like that for a while because I wanted to feel the impact of the ground a little more.  Both ways are extremely comfortable.  I have switched back to wearing the shoes with the insoles in as my preference.  I have also worn the shoes both with socks and without.  Training for Boston, I always wore socks.  That’s my normal inclination when I run.  Now that I have switched disciplines and am concentrating on triathlon season, a lot of my training is done without socks.  I am even racing without socks.  I have never had this ability before.  These shoes are so versatile and comfortable either way.  You can’t go wrong. 
-They are still really bright and garner a lot of attention.  The first thing that attracted me to the shoes was the bright yellow and no shoelaces.  After 1000 miles and countless runs, the shoes still have somewhat of a shine to them.  They aren’t as bright as they were brand new, but no shoe ever is.  But they aren’t as faded or dirty and they could be and as other shoes get after even a quarter to the mileage on them.  So even after 1000 miles, I’m still having runners look down at my feet and get interested in what shoes I have on.
Now that I am over 1000 miles in the shoe, it’s getting down to that time of wondering how much longer I have in them.  It’s a bittersweet thought.  Kind of like the end of summer feeling.  You want to look back on how great your summer was, but you also want to enjoy the last few days of it.  That’s how I feel with the shoes.  The soles of the shoes still look great and I still have the bounce in my step when I wear them, so I know that I have at least another 200-300miles left in them, but I just don’t want to let them go.  I want to enjoy every last mile I have with them.  Soon I’ll turn into John Travolta and start singing “Summer Lovin” from Grease.  That’s how much I have loved these shoes.
Below are the stats that I have downloaded about my training in the Skora Base’s.  Not bad for a few months work.  Can’t wait to start a new relationship with my next pair of Base’s. 
Miles: 1376
Average pace: 6:43/mile
3 races: Boston Marathon, Red Bank Triathlon, Stamford KIC Triathlon
Fastest mile 4:54
Average run distance: 9.4 miles
Number of times thinking how awesome the shoe is: countless
Baby Births: 1 (January 1st, 2013)

Skora Base after 1000 miles and a lot of sweat

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's hot, hot, HOT

So now with a break in between races for a while, it's time to rest a little bit, enjoy some things, and work on specifics parts of my training that will help me down the road.  However, last week was the 4th of July and it was time to enjoy the long weekend.  The only problem was that it was too damn hot to do anything or enjoy being outside.

The heat wave that blasted the eastern part of the U.S. definitely affected training.  Typically on holiday weekends, I like to get 2 really good workouts in and a few really hard ones.  This way it counters all the bad food and drinks that I put into my body.  Unfortunately, it was so hot that I really couldn't do that.  I was scheduled to run 14 miles this weekend then have a 2-3 hour bike ride.  However, with the heat being 95 degrees with humidity of about 80%, there is no chance I was willing to do either of those outside.  So Friday night, I headed down to the treadmill in my apartment building and rocked an hour and half treadmill run.  Let me say, running that long on a treadmill is possibly the worst experience you can have.  It is sooooo damn boring.  Thankfully, Wimbledon was on and I could watch the match live.  I'm not a huge tennis guy, but there wasn't anything better on.  I can only watch SportsCenter so many times.  To get me through the run, I would have to play games with myself.  I would see if I could run half a mile before a game was over.  So when someone was up like 40-0 in a game, I was rooted for a few lost points so the game would continue and take longer.  Or if there was a tiebreaker for the set, I would want to finish a mile before it was over.  Little things like this helped get me through the run...barely.  It was so boring, I couldn't help myself.

Then on Sunday, I was forced to go indoors for my bike ride which I went to my gym and spun for 2 hours.  This wasn't as bad as the treadmill, but it was definitely bad.  I watched the first 7 innings of the Yankees game so at least it was something to do.  In some ways it was a better workout than just a normal 2 hour ride so I'm happy about that, but there was a pool of sweat under me, my socks and shoes were soaked, and people were looking at me as to say "how is this guy on the bike for that long".  I went through 3 bottles filled with water and HoneyMaxx and a few gels, chews, etc.  Just not an enjoyable workout, and really really boring.

At least on Saturday, I braved the heat and ran for 6 miles outside.  Not exactly a fun time to be outside but at least I was outside and not stuck on a treadmill.  After that, it was pool time.  We brought Riley to our neighbor's pool and hung out with him, the wife, my sister, and my brother-in-law.  Normally, I can sit outside and relax, but not Saturday.  It was just so toasty that being outside, even in the pool, was just uncomfortable.  I couldn't take it so I went inside and let the rest of the group hang out.

Hanging out in the pool

Riley hanging out in his watercraft
I'm hoping for a return to normal summer heat so I can start training the way I like and not having to feel like I'm running or biking through  fog of heat.  Summer is more fun when you can be outside and enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

KIC Triathlon Race Review- How can I be both happy and sad at the same time?

Sunday was the Olympic distance KIC Triathlon. Based on what has happened over the past 8 days, I wasn't really sure how this race was going to go.  I wanted to do well, but I was also scared out of my mind about the bike after the crash last week.

I decided that I was going to race conservatively because my wrist was still hurting, and I didn't want to get hurt even more during this race and risk more important races later in the year.  I also only rode my bike 1 time since the crash happened and on that ride I was averaging about 2-3 mph's slower than normally because I was just too damn scared to push myself.  This didn't bode well for me having a great race, but I think I accepted my fate and came to peace with it before the race even started.

I stayed at a hotel in downtown Stamford literally a 3 minute walk from T2/finish line.  It was great to be able to wake up, get ready and walk over to the transition area to get set up. Normally, it's a drive to the race site, park, then the constant unpacking and getting everything ready.  Because of that, I always feel like I forgot something.  Not here. I grabbed my 2 race bags and headed out.

Since it was a 2 transition area race, we had to drop our stuff off at T2, get body marked there and then ride our bikes the 2 miles or so to the start of the race and T1.  As I was setting up my run stuff, I kept seeing this one guy who looked really familiar. I finally said hi to him and it turned out that it was my ex-girlfriend's friend who I became friendly with.  We used to do some of the same races so there was always friendly competition. Better for me since I would usually beat him.  But we said hello, asked how each other is and caught up for 5 minutes.  He saw my cut up arms and I told him about the crash and how I'm going to be scared on the race.  We then parted ways and I headed out to T1 on my bike.

To say that I was scared on my bike riding to T1 with a group of other cyclists would be an understatement.  I couldn't believe how scared I was.  Just absolutely horrible and I started thinking about how I didn't want to race.  Too late now, it was go time.

Once I set up my bike transition area, the racers were allowed to get in the water and warm up and swim. I warmed up for a bit and realized how happy I was that the swim felt great.  It felt easy and I started getting confident.  Up until a rogue swimmer who wasn't looking decided to crash right into me and head butt me.  I had to check to see if I was bleeding, which, luckily I wasn't.  But my nose hurt so much, and still does today.

Once the warm-up was done, all the swimmers were brought on the beach and put into the corrals for the start of the race.

Much like my warm-up, my swim felt really easy.  There were no issues, freak outs, nothing.  I took it out a little too slow for me since I wanted to make sure I didn't push too hard and not be able to finish or would need to stop, but I still had a nice rhythm to the swim.  As I was making my way past each bout, I internally high fived myself and how well the swim felt.  So as I got to the beach and looked at my watch, the readout said 26:40.  In my mind it was good since I figured I would be a little slower than that.  However, after thinking about it more and thinking how easy I thought it felt, I realized that I should have pushed myself a little harder on this swim.  Not crazy hard, but just enough where it wasn't so comfortable for me.  This time would end up biting me in the butt later on.

Once I got into transition, I had to strip my wetsuit off, pack up my transition bag for them to transport to the finish line, grab my bike and go.  I knew I wouldn't be doing a flying mount so I had to get my shoes on and run in them.  I hated this part so much.

Just getting out of T1.  I'm going to see a lot of the guy in the picture for the rest of the day
Once on the bike, I still didn't feel comfortable.  My first mile was slower than I wanted, but as time went on, I started getting more comfortable and picking up the pace.  I started averaging around 20-21 mph through the first few miles.  Pretty happy with them.

Next up came the hills.  Miles 6-17 were in a really nice part of town and the course was beautiful.  There were a few killer hills which I found myself passing a lot of people.  But when there is an up, there is always a down.  This would be my nemesis for the day.  I would pass so many people going up but since I was so scared on the downhills, I kept holding myself back and not going as fast as I could or should have.  So everyone I passed going up would come right back and pass me going down.  I lost so much ground to everyone on the descends.  Racers would fly past me and I just couldn't keep up or felt comfortable enough that I wouldn't crash.  I found myself out of the aerobars a fair amount due to the technical course and significant rolling hills which would bring my time down.  Once we got to mile 21 or so, it became a very flat section of the course and also coned off so there were no cars.  It was finally here where I found myself comfortable and going at the speed that I'm used to.
Still not comfortable, but at least I'm going at normal speeds

As the bike course came to an end, all I could see were spectators and volunteers telling us to turn left and slow down.  Nowhere did I see the dismount sign or notification so when I finally came to the dismount line, I didn't have time to unclip my shoes and jump off the bike with my shoes still in the pedals.  I kind of came to a screeching halt and dismounted slowly.  I ran my bike into T2 with my bike shoes still on and racked my bike.

A little too late to jump off my bike so had to coast into T2

Final bike time was 1:16:29.  Before the race I wanted a 1:08 or under bike split, but I realized this course was too hilly and there were only 8 racers who had a split under 1:10 so I can't be so upset with my time.  I raced it the way I said I would; conservatively.  As a result, I probably left about a minute or so on the course.


Once I racked my bike, I grabbed my Skora Base's, slipped them on and ran out of T2.  The second I got out of T2, I heard my mom and sister yelling and screaming for me.  This was a nice rush.  I saw the big camera my sister had and tried to make a funny face but realized I should probably be a little more serious for the camera.

Trying to be funny, but this just makes me look scary

Once on the course, I fell into a nice rhythm on the run.  I said I wanted to go out in a 6:20 mile, and I started that way.  My first mile was 6:17, but then I realized it was extremely humid and I was probably going to have to slow my pace as a result.  I started passing a significant amount of people on the course and ultimately caught up to someone who was running at about the same pace I was.  We started talking over the race and pushing each other which was nice.  We kept picking off people in front of us who clearly were suffering from the heat. 

The course was a 2 lap course so after we completed the first loop we knew exactly where to pick up the pace and where we needed to slow down.  I liked the run course a lot.  It felt a lot harder than I thought it would, but definitely a nice loop.

I finished the run in 40:40, strong enough for the 6th overall run split of the race.  Definitely not something to be upset about.

Finishing the run strong

Post Race:
Once the race was over, I met up with my parents, waited for Leo to finish and went to the stretch tent.  After a while, I looked at the race results and got the best and worst feeling ever.  Knowing I raced this conservatively, I really had no expectations for myself.  Clearly, I wanted to place and do the best I could but I wouldn't be upset if I didn't fare well.  That's all nice to say, but it's all full of crap.

My race time was 2:27:18 which was good enough for 25th overall, and 4th in my Age Group.  That's good right?  I should be happy with this.  I should be saying, I raced the way I wanted to no matter what the outcome, my swim felt good, my run was very good and I didn't do so bad on the bike.  However, 4th in my Age Group?  What do they say, that second place is the first loser?  That's exactly how I feel right now.  I missed the podium because of how I raced.  I missed the podium by a minute.  1 minute.  That's all.  That's 30 seconds or so on the swim, which I could have easily done, and definitely 1 minute on the bike due to my "safe" riding.  If I was like 6th in my Age Group or worse, I would be happy right now.  But I'm not.  Looking back, I really wanted that podium finish and feel like I cost myself that spot. 

Overall, it was a good race.  The race was extremely well put on, the course was challenging enough, and the spectators were amazing.  I'm happy that I raced how I said I would going into the race and I stuck with my race plan.  But I'm really pissed at myself for not pushing myself hard enough for that podium spot.  I know I could have performed better if I needed to.

One other thing to note is how great my HoneyMaxx performed on the bike portion of the race.  I ended up mixing the HoneyMaxx solution the night before the race in a water bottle and keeping it in the hotel fridge and then transferring it to my bottle on my bike.  This was a really good idea.  By the time I put the mixture on my bike, it was fully dissolved, tasted great and ready for drinking.  I even had some left over so that came back to my apartment and has been in my fridge waiting to be polished off.  I didn't have any cramps or digestive problems during the race and felt strong the whole time, so I'm proud to have HoneyMaxx on my bike with me.  I know it is going to give me all the electrolytes I need and keep me going strong for the entire race.

So with all of that, this race is in the books and next up is Rev3 in Maine.  Look out Maine racers, I've gotten the mistakes and kinks out of my racing for the season so I'm coming to get all of you. 

Congratulating Leo after he finished
(and after I grabbed the microphone from the race announcer
as he was finishing to cheer him on)

Post race stretch felt good

The obligatory post race pic with Leo