Archive for March, 2011

I’m headed back to Charelston, SC on Thursday morning.  A trip that will hopefully end with me powering down the Cooper River Bridge back into downtown from Mount Pleasant and across the finish line of the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K.

It will be the largest (by number of runners) footrace that I will have ever participated in.  Close to 40,000 athletes.  What once was going to be a “feature race” for my 2011 year, is now one that after five weeks of no running, I am just hoping to make it to the finish with my knee no worse for wear.

Cooper River Bridge Run Start

Perhaps this will be the “run” where I start my way back to full health and with 8-9 months left in the year, I can still salvage some of the key races I was hoping to participate in.  Most notably the ING NYC Marathon in November.  What should be my final event of the year.

But heading back to Charleston also means a chance to see my Parents for the first time since they came out to Austin in December to meet their granddaughter Landry.  I’ll be able to see my Niece and her two daughters as well as connect with my good friend and amputee runner Richard post race.

All great stuff.

This will also be my first trip back to Charleston since I traveled back to be with my best friend Keith after his wife passed away suddenly last August in an accident.  Just a few short weeks before I would become a new Dad and two weeks to the day before we lost Dom.  That August 4th trip is one I will never forget.

I’ll have a chance to spend time with Landry’s Godfather Keith and his two boys Garris and Fuller.  Instead of services and sadness – hopefully this trip will be filled with Soccer practice, joy and laughter.

Last August was a tough, tough time.  A lot of questions were raised with very few answers.

As a matter of fact, I’m no closer all these months later to knowing why those things happened to people that I care about deeply, and what it all means for the rest of us left behind.

Running provides me with a lot of things.  Clarity, renewed spirit, sense of self, accomplishment, self-evaluation.  Sometimes joy and happiness.  Sometimes it provides me with a feeling of defeat.  Even failure.

All very powerful emotions and experiences that as we get older come along with less and less frequency.  I think that is one of the reasons that I feel so “alive” when I am running and racing.  It is a moment when you are truly “living”, not merely watching life tick by.

Sadly it sometimes takes the loss of something very dear to you that makes you realize just how much it meant to you all along.

117 of 40,000 for Cooper River Bridge Run 2011

So perhaps it is fitting that I am not 100% locked and loaded for the CRBR this year.

Maybe, just maybe this race is supposed to be difficult for me.

It could be that by racing it at less than my best I am going to be humbled on Saturday morning – like only this sport can do at times.  It may be that I won’t know what this trip is really all about until I crest the top of the bridge more than 200 feet over the Cooper River Below and glance over my left shoulder to the rising sun in the East.

Maybe that is the moment when it is all going to make sense.  When the events of last summer finally come into focus.

I hope so as answers thus far have been pretty tough to come by.  One thing is for certain, no matter what the clock says when I cross the finish line – it will be the very best that I could do that day.  In the end, if that is the litmus test that we use to judge ourselves day in and day out – we have no choice but to call that a “win”.

Off to Charleston we go.  Can’t wait.

Sunday morning I climbed on my bike and headed out along my “12-mile hill route”.

This is the same 12 mile running route that I take on Sunday mornings before I swing back past the house and then “tack on” whatever the required mileage for the day calls for.  When I am running my longest of long runs it might be 8 or 10 more miles during marathon training.

When I am not in a training cycle it might only be 2-4 miles to finish off my Sunday long run.

I had never ridden the route on the tri-bike before and I was curious to see the % elevation of the largest hills.  One of the cool features on my new bike computer.  I was going to be riding about 30 miles on Sunday, and thought what better way to warm up.

The first part of the ride was smooth and steady, I held my own through the hills and ticked off my opening five miles at 18.5, 20.8, 20.7, 20.1 and 20.9 mph.  It turns out that the toughest hill along the route represents a 4-5% grade for a little more than 6/10 of a mile.  Try setting your treadmill at 4% and run for 4 minutes or so.  That’s a tough hill – no doubt about it.

Traveling the route on my bike however it was amazing how fast the miles flew by.  I typically run between 8.3 and 8.5 mph, at least I did when I was healthy, so covering the same ground at nearly 3X the speed grants a much different perspective.

I got back to Parmer Lane and headed into the wind for the next 9 miles or so before turning back around and heading for home with the wind at my back for a change.

I covered 30.8 miles in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 40 seconds.  18.9 MPH with a top speed of 31.8.

I’m comfortable down on the aero-bars up to about 30 mph, when I start to get a little “nervous”.  I’m hoping as the weeks pass and I get more and more time on the bike I will also gain more confidence.  But for someone very new to cycling, it appears that I am taking to it pretty quickly.

I had not thought too much about the race that I was missing.  The Capitol 10K here in Austin.  A few fleeting thoughts bounced around my head from time to time, but for the most part I was able to concentrate on my ride.

I got home, threw the bike back on the trainer, peeled off my riding gear and hopped into the shower.  Dawn and Landry were waiting on me to go out for Sunday breakfast, and I was hungry with a capital “H”.

When I walked back into the bedroom however the TV News said, “Today’s Capitol 10K is now underway!”  With a shot of the runners leaving Congress Avenue.

Sunday's Cap 10K - Austin, TX

My heart sank.

I was missing the 3rd largest running of the event in the 34 year history of the run.  Many of my good friends were out there on the course and my knee had relegated me to the sidelines.  Ugh.

About the time I was staring down my Belgian Waffle and two scrambed eggs – I would have been coming through the finisher’s chute.

I know it’s not healthy to “what if” things, but I was very curious as to how I would have fared if I had been able to run on Sunday.

5th place in the Male 40-44 AG went to a runner with a time of 38:23, 17 seconds slower than the 38:06 I ran back in October.

Now, race days are all different.  Temperatures, conditions, course elevations etc. – there is no way to say I would have been able to match my PR from earlier in the year.

My good friend Scott Birk who got the best of me at the Resolution Run 5K in January ran on Sunday.  I paid him back at the 3M half Marathon in December.  Scott and I run pretty similar paces – I wonder how he did on Sunday?  Turns out Scott ran a 37:23 good enough for 82nd overall.

Michael Ford, one of my competitors in the Austin Distance Challenge who finished just behind me turned in a 38:52, good for a top 10 finish in our age group.

So bottom line, I’d like to think I would have run sometime around 38 minutes on Sunday and taken home a little hardware for a top 10 finish, which was how far down the race rewarded participants this year.

Too bad.

Well this Saturday in Charleston, SC another large 10 kilometer road race is going to be held.  The Cooper River Bridge Run.  The race that I trained so hard to earn a seeded entry in last summer.  Culminating in that 38:06 at the IBM Uptown Classic.

I haven’t run in 4 weeks.

It will be 5 weeks this coming Saturday.

I’m racing.

My knee is going to be as good as it’s going to be on Saturday morning.  I’m going to pin on that bib and run the best race that I can.

If I finish strong – good for me.

If I have to slow to a walk – it will be the first time I do so on a race course, but it won’t be the last I’m sure.

I realized that what I missed most this past weekend was the spectacle of race day.

Race Start - Cap 10K 2011

I missed competing.

I missed being a runner.

So Charleston, I’m headed your way this week.  I won’t be bringing my watch, but I will be bringing my heart.  I know that my good friend Richard Blaylock understands. 

I’m a runner.

It’s time to run.

I went to packet pick-up on Friday for the first time ever knowing full well that I wouldn’t be running the Cap 10K on Sunday.

I went for a “test run” on Thursday and for the third consecutive week, I had to cut my run short as the knee pain returned just as I approached the two mile mark.

Unless I decide to become a miler, I will have to really back off the “test runs” and give my knee the time it needs to get right so we can get back to training.  In the meantime I have been spending more and more time in the saddle of my tri-bike and I am starting to see some real improvement.

This week I rode three times with the bike up on the trainer.

I can already see the benefits of both trainer rides and road riding on the weekend.

Last Sunday’s 30-mile ride out in the wind and hills on Parmer Lane really taught me a lot.  I battled the elements, worked on staying as low and aerodynamic as possible and tested out which gears allowed me to maintain my leg turnover or “cadence” consistently as the inclines got steeper and steeper.

One thing I realized pretty quickly is that comparing that 30 mile ride to another 30 mile ride in the future will be tough to do.  Shaving :30 seconds or a minute off of that distance very well may have more to do with conditions such as the temperature and wind than any improvement I may be making on the bike.

The trainer however is a very controlled environment.

The same bike, same incline (none), same wind resistance (none) – the only variable is me and the gear(s) that I select.

I decided this week that I would stick in the same low gear for the duration of my three rides and see what kind of improvement I made – if any.

I covered the same 15 miles distance based on the mileage displayed on my Garmin Edge 500 but with each ride my time improved:

Tuesday:  46:53

Wednesday:  46:36

Friday:  45:57

My mile splits were much more consistent on Friday and I was able to lock my cadence in at 85 RPM with a high of 93.

So it would appear that as I get more comfortable with the bike I am getting stronger and faster.

I think back to when I was making huge gains a few years ago in my running.  Shaving literally :30 at a time off of my mile splits over the course of a few months.  I may be approaching the time where my run times are as fast as they are going to get.

Which is why I have so much excitement about taking swim lessons and competing in my first triathlon hopefully before the end of the year.

It is in those early stages where you see the most improvement when you take up a new activity.  It can be very invigorating and exciting.  I can hardly wait to meet with my Tri coach this Wednesday and start plotting our strategy for my swim education.

I would be lying if I did not admit that I was disappointed to miss this weekend’s Cap 10K.  I will be even more disappointed next weekend when I more than likely have to pass on the Cooper River Bridge Run.

So why did I go to packet pick-up to get my bib?

Because that Bib and the Cooper River Bridge Run Bib are going on the wall in my office.

117 of 40,000 for Cooper River Bridge Run 2011

I am going to look at them each and every day until I leave for NYC and the ING NY Marathon in November.

I am going to pin them to my board and stare at them.  Letting them mock me until it is once again my time to race.

When I pin on that NYC Marathon Bib I’ll be healthy, rested, focused and fully trained.  I am going to allow today’s disappointment serve as tomorrow’s motivation.  It will fuel me to push even harder when I prepare for and race my next marathon.

You can either let life happen to you or make life happen for you.  It’s time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself, hike myself up by my bootstraps and do what I can do right now to train and prepare for races down the road.

As for those two bibs?  I might not have been able to race in them, but they’re still “mine”.  They deserve a better fate than to simply be discarded after all of the race packets are picked up and a volunteer casually casts them aside into the trash.

I trained hard in 2010 and raced well enough to be seeded in both the Cap 10K and Cooper River Bridge Run.

Nobody can take away those past accomplishments.

I thought a lot about Boston as I was debating whether or not to bother picking up my race packet Friday.

If I am not able through the registration process in September to gain a spot in the 2012 Boston Marathon, does that diminish my 3:15:01 Boston Qualifying time I posted in February at Austin?  Did I not BQ by just under 5 full minutes on a hilly course in hot and humid conditions?  Was a 128th place finish not a great accomplishment?  Of course it was.  So Boston 2012 or not, I ran the best marathon I have ever run a month ago.

To gain my spot in the Cooper River Bridge Run I had to run my PR of 38:06 in the 10K.  I’ve never been so excited crossing a finish line.

IBM Uptown Classic - 38:06

For the Cap 10K my spot was secured by posting my PR in the half-marathon of 1:23:55 at 3M.  Another tremendous day and effort.  The best that I have ever been.

So yes, there will be one fewer runner at each of those races the next two weekends.  But I will be there in spirit, knowing that I belonged.

For now, that is just going to have to be enough.

Last year when I was working on my goals for the year I was extremely close to listing:

Complete my first triathlon.

I left it off of the list as with the Austin Marathon serving as my “A” race where I would hopefully earn another “Boston Time”, followed by the ING NYC Marathon in November, I was not sure that I would be able to really make an honest effort at learning to swim before 2011 draws to a close.

I know that the swim for me is going to be a tough transition.  Perhaps the most technical of the three disciplines for Triathlon success, the swim is a new frontier.

All of us have ridden a bike before.

All of us have run.

Certainly there are “technical aspects” to the bike and the run.

On the bike I am working hard on staying in the most aerodynamic position as much as possible during my rides.  I focus on keeping my legs in tight to the frame of the bike, and not allowing my legs to “wander” outside of my shoulders.

I have been trying to perfect my cadence – or the revolutions per minute that I turn the cranks, staying smooth and steady changing gears to match elevation inclines and declines, all the while ticking off 90-92 revolutions per minute.

I have been improving and I have been getting faster.

On the run over the past year I have spent hours and hours and hours, miles and miles and miles running hills, tempo work, fartleks, pace runs and long runs to get speedier and speedier.

I have transformed myself into a strong hill runner only one year after the Boston Marathon exposed that weakness in my game.

But the swim?  I know that I am going to need some expert advice and coaching.

I am comfortable in the water.  In fact I really love being in the ocean.  I surfed quite a bit in College, love to wake board and feel comfortable around the ocean and lake.  But being “unafraid” and being “technically proficient” are two entirely different things.

Thankfully my 6 years of running has taught me a few things, the first of which is that bad habits are hard to break.  It is better to start out with the proper technique, equipment, training regimen and coaching than trying to “figure it out on your own”.

So this week I believe I have found my coach.  Coach Claudia Spooner here in Austin, TX who is a USA Certified Coach in the Triathlon, Cycling, Swimming, and Track & Field.  You can see visit Claudia at:  http://irunitri.com/

So this injury of mine which on the surface has been extremely frustrating with plans to race this weekend’s Cap10K and next weekend’s Cooper River Bridge Run all but certainly scrapped.

Like most things that happen to us, you just have to take a breath, stop feeling sorry for yourself and look for the silver lining.  It is almost certainly there if you look hard enough for it.

For me, I have found the next challenge, one that will allow me to continue to improve as an endurance athlete and maybe, just maybe make me a better runner as well.

The Triathlon, Swim, Bike, Run.

New experiences, new adventures, new friends, new successes and most certainly new failures.

They will all be mine however – each and every one of them.

Now I won’t just be running for Dom.  I will be swimming and cycling for him as well.

Each October there is a half ironman here in Austin.

1.2 mile swim

56 mile bike

13.1 mile run

Half-Ironman 70.3

In October of 2012 a first time half-ironman participant will wade into the water and wonder if he has what it takes to finish, the same athlete who stood in front of the Art Museum in Philadelphia in November of 2006 wondering the same thing about the marathon.

Those race days provide great memories; I can remember every single one of them like they were yesterday.  But it is the hard work and training that goes into those race days that I am most proud of.

We’ll just be taking it up a notch or two as we take to the Triathlon.  

Air, Land and Sea.  I can hardly wait.

It’s race week …. maybe.

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Motivation

This coming Sunday more than 35,000 runners will toe the line at the Cap 10K here in Austin TX.

10 Kilometers, just 6.25 miles. The very same distance as the shortest runs I travel during my training. A distance that I normally would be able to cover without batting an eye. I might have been in good enough shape after training for the Austin Marathon to make a run at my 10K PR of 38:06.

I’m registered.

In fact, by virtue of my sub 1:25:00 half-marathon time at this year’s 3M half – I have a spot in the seeded starting corral just behind the elite men.

A race that I was looking forward to as a tune-up for the Cooper River Bridge Run 6 days later in Charleston, SC looms in less than a week and I am still hoping for some magic this week. Without it, I will be spreading mulch in my backyard while those 34,999 runners are racing.

I am holding out hope that when I go for my trial run on Thursday morning, the pain on the inside of my left knee will be gone. If I am able to cover a pain-free 4 miles on Thursday, I’ll run a short 2-3 miles on Saturday and give it a go on Sunday morning.

If the pain is still there on Thursday, we’ll have to punt and look toward the following week in Charleston to perhaps race again.

I have not had a legitimate “run” in over 3 weeks, since my final leg at the Ragnar Del Sol race in Arizona back on February 26th. I have been diligent in my rehab by icing the knee three times every day and taking my anti-inflamatory meds. In the hopes of keeping my leg strength and cardio in order I have been hitting the tri-bike hard. Logging 90 miles of riding this past week, including my first ever 30 mile ride on Sunday morning.

I’m doing everything that I can right now to give myself a chance at racing next weekend, but with each passing day, the likelihood of that occurring becomes more and more slight.

I am reading a book right now written by the 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot. It is titled “The Runners Guide To The Meaning Of Life”.It showed up on my doorstep the very day that I walked home from my latest attempt at a run on my injured knee. As I began reading I had not even made it through the 14th page when I was greeted with the following:

Patience –

I’ve never known a runner who had as much patience as he needed, but any and all amounts of this precious quality are invaluable. We runners simply don’t get better fast enough to satisfy ourselves. Like the hare, we blast away from the starting line with visions of glory. We should be more tourtiselike. For that is the path to success.

Every runner gets injured at some point (always the wrong time). Every runner catches a cold or flu just before a big race. every runner has to deal with marriage squabbles, job pressures, schoolwork, too much travel, or something related to these issues. When the frustrations and obstacles seem too great, every runner is tempted to quit.

This is when you most need patience. This is when you need to tell yourself that tomorrow or next week or next year is soon enough. Distance running requires you to take the long view. It takes weeks and months, at the least, to get in shape. Give yourself time. Don’t make hasty and unnecessary mistakes. Remember: You’re in it for the long run. Life is a marathon, not a sprint; pace yourself accordingly.

Amby, I know that you are right. In fact, if I miss the next two race weekends, I am more than at peace to set my sites down the road to the third Saturday in June. That will be the day when we will hopefully be running the Holland, TX 5K – going for our third straight age group award at one of my favorite races.

If we can’t race until June, I’m fine with that. All I know is the next time that I am healthy and trained standing at the starting line of a race – you had better look out. I will be leaving absolutely everything I have out there on the course and will cherish every single stride.

It may be in Holland, TX – it may be in New York City next November at one of the largest and most prestigious marathons in the world. Whenver and wherever, make no mistake, we’ll be there ready to go Mach 1 with our hair on fire.

I will be a smarter runner, a stronger runner, a healthy runner. In fact, I will be better than I have ever been.

That is what this injury has taught me. I have found my passion once again to compete against the only runner who matters.

Me.

Thanks for the reminder Amby. When that race day comes, I wouldn’t bet against me.

Knee Test = Fail

Posted: March 17, 2011 in Training

Well, we gave it the old College Try this morning but there was no joy in Austin as my wonky knee continues to hurt when I run.

I was hoping that the tightness that I was feeling while I stretched would somehow magically disappear when I warmed up.  No such luck however as when I reached the top of the neighborhood at the 1-mile mark the pain was back.

I shut things down after 1.18 miles and walked back to the house.

I can feel some improvement since last week, but not enough to allow me to push through and keep running.  I’m fighting the urge right now just to suck it up and run through it – knowing full well that if I didn’t have a race or two on the calendar rapidly approaching, I would just shut things down entirely and wait until I was back 100%.

Next week we’ll give it another try and see if we can still make it to the starting line of the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 2nd.

The irony of the situation is not lost on me as I trained all summer long leading up to the IBM Uptown Classic 10K to set my PR at 38:06 and earn a seeded entry to the Cooper River Bridge Run.  Now I am just over two weeks away from the race and I can’t even run a single mile.  Sometimes life just isn’t fair, this sport tends to reveal that to you more times than you would like.

So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, which for this Italian-American usually doesn’t mean too much to me.  A good stiff drink sounds pretty good right about now though.  Perhaps today I will channel my “inner-irish”.

Photo Compliments of ManoftheHouse.com

Below is the eleventh and final weekly contribution to the:

Whole New Dad Couch to 5K Series featured at www.manofthehouse.com

Welcome to week 11 of the Whole New Dad couch to 5K program. It’s race week!

Now before we dive in to race day strategy, the type of things you are going to run into out there and the obligatory “rookie racing mistakes” to avoid, we do have a couple of workouts to talk about. This week is the final formal week of our training program. It includes two training runs and then your 5K race this weekend. If your race day is still a week or two away, not to worry. You can simply duplicate the workout this week for all three of your training days.

In fact, you can make this your baseline weekly training plan for the next few weeks until it is time to start talking about your next challenge. Perhaps your goal will be to safely add a fourth day of running to your weekly regimen, or to start shaving seconds or minutes off of your average mile time.

Who knows, after your debut at your local 5K you may want to race at another 5K event to lower your time or chase a longer event, such as a 10K. That is what is so great about where you are today. You have safely managed to increase your fitness level and running experience gradually and hopefully without injury.

You have established a great base from which to work and have built a consistent, sustainable exercise habit. Your options from this point forward are limitless. Each goal or training plan to follow will be born from these same principles. But let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves, let’s stay in the moment and enjoy this.

Click HERE to read the rest of the article.