Yesterday was the 2011 running of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

It was the first time in three years that we were not there slugging it out with the Pittsburgh course.  Instead I ran a nice, leisurely 15 miles in near perfect conditions here at home in Austin.  7:44 pace, 1 hour 56 minutes and 1 second.  The run came on the heels of our very first “brick” workout on Saturday which was quite a workout.  More on that in a little bit.

I had a lot to think about on my Sunday long run as my friends Jason, Brendan, Mark, his wife Tammy and Maddy were racing in the Steel City.

The conditions in Pittsburgh were very similar to the last couple of years since the race returned after a hiatus from the city.  Windy, humid and rain falling once again, made for some tough sledding.  Tammy and Brendan were able to battle through the elements and achieve their first ever Boston Qualifying times.  So happy for those guys.  Maddy and Jason dug deep and finished the race with gutty performances on a tough day.

Me, I just cruised at an easy pace, enjoyed the sights and sounds of our local trail and thought about Dom quite a bit.  How many things have changed since the 2010 race, and yet there I was, still logging miles, thinking about training and racing.  More determined than ever to chase down another goal.

22,000 runners participated in the Pittsburgh race in 2011.  It was just too soon for me to return to that particular marathon to be completely honest.  The emotions of marathon day which are always tough for me to keep in check would have been over the top for me this year.  The Pittsburgh Marathon used to be, “where I qualified for Boston” when I reminisced about the event.

Now it is, “the last time I saw Dom”.

I know that I will return to run the event again.  It may very well be next spring depending on the deck of cards that life deals us.  But I know that I need to write another chapter at that race.  One with a happier ending.

This week is going to be another step forward in gauging our fitness level and determining where we need to go from here with our run training.

We will be participating in Wednesday night’s Summer Sunstroke Stampede 5K Race #2 of the season.  This week the race moves to the Town Lake Trail, a course I have never run before.  I’m hoping for a faster track than the one we have out at Brushy Creek.  If nothing else, the hill and the dam will be absent.  But we should also be a bit further along after last weeks race, and this weekend’s workouts.

On Saturday we will be participating in our 2nd consecutive Congress Avenue Mile.  We ran our first timed mile last year at this race in 5:26.

I am hoping that we will be able to shave :10 seconds off of that time this year as our stretch goal.  Before our injury back in March I had illusions of running something in the 5:10-5:12 range, but I think that is just a bit unrealistic given the time we had to take away from training.  But make no mistake, we’ll be letting it all hang out for that mile on Saturday morning.  It is a great event put on my RunTex, also serving as the High School Boys and Girls State Mile Championships.

Saturday brought something a little bit different to the training table as I conducted my first “brick workout” – these are the staple of triathlon training where you include two disciplines during the same workout, one after the other with minimal or no interruption in between, just as you would do during a race.

Usually when people refer to a “Brick” they are talking about a bike workout, followed by a run.  This transition is the most challenging physically during the triathlon, much more so than the swim to bike (or so I’m told).  The muscle groups utilized during the bike and the run while slightly different, are still closely related.

Fatigued legs from the bike, used to spinning at a high cadence are going to feel very “strange” when you transition to the run.  Learning to run in this state is going to be critical for me to post a good time in our strongest of the three disciplines.  To this point I have always started every footrace with legs that felt “great”, no matter the distance.  For me, to take off out of the T2 transition area for the 3 mile run will feel like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Learning how to deal with this in training will be a critical piece of our triathlon training as we prepare for July 31st.

On the other hand, we’ve yet to conquer the swim aspect of the triathlon, so for me, everything after the swim will seem easy.

Before I left for my 15 mile bike ride I brought my Running Watch and my running shoes and placed them in the garage.  I would go for my bike ride, return, pop off my helmet, glasses, riding gloves and bike shoes.  Put on my running shoes, strap on my running watch and head out for a 5 mile run.

The idea was to limit my transition to less than 2 minutes if I could.  The time spent tying my run shoes should be decreased on race day as I will have a pair of quick zip laces in my race flats.  But for Saturday, I had to quickly tie my shoes while standing on tired legs.  It was an education.

The 15 miles on the bike was very solid as I hit the hills out on Parmer Lane.   I covered the ride in 44:39 (20.1 MPH), climbing up 479 feet of elevation and racing back down 482.  I topped out with a cadence of 98 rpm (how many pedal revolutions I was able to make in one minute), with an average of 75.  My top speed was 31.8 on a nice long downhill stretch leading up to mile 10.

When I got back to the house I clipped out, leaned my bike in the garage against my workbench and changed into my running gear.

I rode in my triathlon race gear, which has a slightly padded seat, not like the large chamois in my bike shorts, and my tri-top.

I was surprised that the tri shorts actually had plenty of cushioning for the 15 mile ride.  I was hoping they would not bother me during the run.

I hit my watch and headed out of the driveway on foot after only 1:55 in transition.  Not bad I thought.

Over the first 2/10 of a mile I had absolutely no idea how fast I was running.  My legs felt incredibly strange, almost like I had never used them before.  A mixture of numbness and soreness that is hard to describe.  I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was running at 6:40 pace.

No possible way I thought, the watch must be recalibrating itself over the opening distance, I decided to just fall into a comfortably hard pace and hold it right there.  It would be similar to what I would do in a longer footrace, just run by feel, so it should be a good “test” for our first Brick Run.

I climbed up to the top of mile 1 and glanced down at my watch at the beep – 7:06.  Not too bad for an opening uphill mile.

I decided to ratchet up my breathing and leg turnover just a bit and rattle off four really solid miles in:

6:52, 6:42, 6:49, 6:46.

Total time 34:17 at 6:51 pace.

For my first triathlon on my birthday I will need to Swim 500M, Bike 13.8 Miles, Run 3.

On Saturday we knocked out a 15 M bike and 5 M run in pretty impressive fashion.  If we are able to get our swim down around the 12-13 minute range, we may have a pretty solid triathlon debut.  From there, who knows?

I know that when I ran my first 5K back in 2005 the thought of one day qualifying for the Boston Marathon seemed as likely as me walking on the moon.  Now, that is the absolute minimum expectation I have when I run a marathon.  So who knows.  We all have to start somewhere.

This week it’s all about speed, which is a great place to be.  Everybody loves to go fast.

  1. Andy Bitner says:

    I’ll see you out there at the Mile on Saturday. I’m running the Masters heat, but just for kicks. .

  2. Cortney says:

    Brick runs are the weirdest feelings ever when you get started. Its all about not burning out on the bike so you have something left. They say to spin it out as you are finishing up the ride up to the dismount line to get blood flowing back in your legs and get you ready to run. You are doing so great. Good job!

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