Posts Tagged ‘Holland 5K’

Next weekend we are going to be racing on back to back days, something that with all of the running and racing craziness that we have done over the last 5 years or so we have never attempted.

A lot of endurance athletes compete in more than one event a weekend at times. Doing so in and of itself is not necessarily a big deal. But for me it is a significant departure from my approach to racing which is to compete every single time I pin on a bib number and lay it all out there.

I don’t run races for T-shirts, finisher’s medals or just for the heck of it.

I “race” races to test myself. To see if I am able to lay down something special. Be the best that I have ever been at that distance or at that particular event. Doing so on back to back days does not lend itself to top performance. I am not going to be able to really “peak” for either of the two events next weekend as I know that I am going to have to save a little something at the Holland 5K on Saturday to be able to compete relatively well at the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon on Sunday.

Despite my best attempt at managing my energies on Saturday, I know that once the gun fires and the race starts, my body is going to take over for my mind and we are going to drop that first 1/2 mile in 2:55. It is just about a certainty. How that manifests itself over the rest of the race, and particularly on the run portion of the triathlon on Sunday will remain to be seen – but as my friend Steve Spiers said to me down in Florida last January at the Ragnar Ultra Marathon. “We go as hard as we can as long as we can, that’s just what we do.”

As I was thinking about next weekend on my mid-week 10-miler on Wednesday morning my mind wandered back to my discussion about “Breakthrough Moments” for runners on my flight to Dallas a couple of weeks ago with my new friend and three time Olympic Qualifier in the Marathon.

We spoke about races where an athlete prepares diligently for an event and is in peak condition. The weather cooperates allowing for a fast time and the course sets up well for that runner’s particular strengths. The runner is healthy, focused, well rested and on that one magical day it all comes together for them. They run a race that not only meets their expectations, but truly surprises even them.

They breakthrough to another level.

After that day, that race, the athlete is never the same again. The confidence gained and the feeling of that race stays with them. It fuels them to continue to train hard, look for ways to improve and raise the bar even higher. That “breakthrough” performance creates a new level of expectations. A new “normal” if you will.

The athlete then tries their hardest to search for the next breakthrough performance. The next time they can capture that feeling once again and continue to move forward. For some, they never achieve it again. For others, it is a constant ladder that they climb to heights that at one time not only seemed scary, they felt absurd.

An 18:12 5K?

A 10K PR of 37:30?

A 1:23:46 half-marathon?

Those are times that if you wrote them on a napkin and slid them in front of me back in 2008 I would have thought you were talking about someone else. Another person altogether who is a far, far superior runner than I.

Today, those are my current PR’s. All set at the age of 44. None of which given the right set of circumstances are out of reach. In fact, they are my new “normal”.

So how does it happen exactly? What changes for the athlete? After I came through the chute at the IBM Uptown Classic in 37:30 this past October, was I more “fit” than I was standing at the starting line moments before? Certainly not.

What changes is confidence. The feeling that if a pace feels right during a race of any distance, on that day, for that moment IT IS RIGHT.

You have to realize that the numbers on your wrist are simply that. Just numbers. They measure the speed by which your body is covering that particular mile at that particular time.

The numbers themselves do not control you.

You control them.

Running 6.2 miles at 6:01 pace is a notion that standing at the starting line of the IBM Uptown I did not even entertain. It was not my “goal” or my “pace” that I was shooting for. What I wanted to do was to go out and run the first mile at a “comfortably hard pace” and from there I would lock in and stay right there as long as I could. When I reached the 5 mile mark, with 1.2 miles to go, I would continue to pour on the energy so that when I found myself 2/10 of a mile from the finish I was essentially out of gas. Nothing left.

At that moment I would dig down even deeper and find the reserves. The absolute limits of strength and power that was left in my legs and sprint to the finish. At the tape we were done.

It is the recipe for Personal Bests as I know it. I don’t know how to race any other way.

Those breakthrough moments and races are out there for everyone. You just have to let go of your preconceived notions of what your training level is or what your potential is and pour everything you have into that race on that day.

You show the clock just how good you are.

Don’t let it be the other way around.

Shamrock Half Marathon – New PR March 2012

Last week I boarded a flight home late in the afternoon from Iowa.  It was a regional jet taking 26 of us or so into Dallas Fort Worth where I would connect to Austin and arrive home just before Midnight.

I had a long day, was facing a longer one to follow and was looking forward to a couple of hours with my phone off, no distractions and some time to rest and read a few chapters in my book.

As I settled into my seat two young athletes sat down behind me.  Just behind them were their two coaches who sat across the aisle from me and one row back.  I said a quick hello and thought about not talking running with them.  But I couldn’t resist.

I said to one of the coaches, “Looks like we’ve got a couple of fast runners on board this flight”.

The coach replied, “We sure do, we’re heading to a meet.  This one right here is a middle distance guy, the other is a hurdler”.

“Good for you both” I said, “I’m just an old marathoner.  I’m not too fast, but I can run pretty far.”

The second coach spoke up and said, “If you want to talk about marathoning, this is your guy right here” as he pointed to the first coach.  “He was really something else when he was a young man.”

My curiosity was of course about off the charts – I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I had to know.

I looked over at the coach and said, “Well, I’m new to the sport as I just started running back in 2006, but I’ve got 8 marathons under my belt, including a couple of Bostons.  I’m not done yet, still trying to break 3 hours.”

The coach looked over at me and said, “what are you 40 or 41?  You’ve got plenty of time to keep getting faster.”

“I’m 44 actually, will be turning 45 this summer.  I’ve got young legs though since I got such a late start.  Maybe only 12,000 miles on them to date.”

The coach said, “well, I’ve run 46 marathons and have about 80,000 miles on my legs.  I don’t run marathons anymore, but there was a time when I ran a whole lot of them.  My PR is 2:19.  I finished 5th in the New York City marathon in the mid 70’s, 12th in Boston a year later.  I made it to two Olympic Trials and qualified for a third, but of course with the boycott in 1980 I didn’t get the chance to run there.”

I was flying with royalty.

The next two hours went by in the blink of an eye.  We talked about training, running and racing.  What it was like to run with Bill Rogers, Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter.  How the sport of running has changed, and what it was like as an amateur back in the 1970’s not racing for prize money but for the love of the sport.

I soaked up every bit of advice and running philosophy I could and talked about my summer plans to prepare for my first Ironman 70.3 and of course chasing 3 hours in Houston in January.

Out of respect for his privacy, I will not share the name of the coach, where he works today or where he lives.  What I will say is that after spending half a decade of my life trying to improve, mature and progress as a runner – I learned more about the sport in those two hours than I did during the previous 5 years.

With the arrival of summer we are at a crossroads in our training and racing.  We have the formula to prepare.  We have the base mileage and health to the point where we can push our training a bit further, perhaps to that 75-80 mile a week level when the focus shifts from Iron Man to Houston in October and we have the fight and the will to go after the final chapter in our quest for marathoning excellence.

At least the level of excellence as we define it.  Sub 3 hours.

But to talk to a truly remarkable athlete and an even more amazing man was truly a gift this week.  A week that was full of challenges personally and professionally. 

After great runs on Wednesday and Thursday Landry had fallen ill.  My plans for a swim Friday morning and a long bike ride on Friday afternoon were scrapped as I stayed home with our little one and helped her over her bug.

I was able to make a 30 mile ride on Saturday morning before that bug reared its head a second time in our household.  I got it full-bore and could not keep any food down.  Couldn’t think of eating and could barely drink enough to stay hydrated.  Three days and 4 1/2 pounds lighter, I am now starting my way back.

What was planned as a 111 mile week fell far short at only 73.  Those miles were great quality – just not the quantity that we had hoped for.

But on this Memorial Day, the first day of summer we are feeling more like ourselves.

Confident, assured and powerful.  We have some work to do with nutrition right now to get those calories back in us – but Tuesday morning we start anew.  After Landry is dropped off at school with Momma Bear away in Germany this week, we will start to hit it hard again.  Pushing the limits of our training to prepare for our first summer races in Holland, TX on June 18th followed by the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon the following morning on Father’s Day.

Summer is here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets.

Next weekend our first full-triathlon season will kick off at “The Rookie” on May 6th.

Despite having to miss two of Austin’s major triathlons over the Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day holidays – we are still going to have a full plate of TRI’s this summer: 

May 6 – The Rookie Super Sprint TRI 300M swim – 11 Mile Bike – 2 Mile Run

June 17 – Lake Pflugerville Sprint TRI 500M swim – 14 Mile Bike – 3 Mile Run

July 15 – Couples Sprint TRI 800M Swim – 11.2 Mile Bike – 3.2 Mile Run

August 5 – Jack’s Generic Sprint TRI 500 M Swim – 13.8 Mile Bike – 3 Mile Run

September 30 – Kerrville Olympic TRI 1,000M Swim – 29 Mile Bike – 6.4 Mile Run

October 21 – Austin Half Ironman 70.3 1.2 Mile Swim – 56 Mile Bike – 13.1 Mile Run

6 Events which will take us from the shortest of triathlon events all the way to the Half Ironman distance of 70.3 cumulative miles between the swim, bike and run.

There are a couple of running races on the schedule as well where I hope to run well and look to Age Group.  In June we are going for our 4th consecutive AG win at the Holland Texas 5K.  Being my last year running in the 40-44 year old category, I’d like to make it 4 for 4 which would be pretty special.

In September perhaps the “A” race of all “A” races in2012, The Prefontaine Memorial 10K in Coos Bay, Oregon. 

An event I’ve had on my bucket list since I started racing more than 5 years ago – it looks like this may be the year where I can make that trip happen, visit the famous track at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR and turn a few laps before heading to Pre’s hometown of Coos Bay.  With luck we’ll be primed for a big day running along one of his favorite training routes, past his Mother’s house along the route and at the end of the race, turn a final lap on the High School Track that bears his name.  Pretty cool.

One thing that I have learned about “race days” over the years is that you should expect the unexpected.  Poor weather, winds, storms, high heat, cold temperatures, having an illness prior to an event, not feeling well on race day and even simply showing up properly prepared mentally and physically only to discover over the opening miles that your head and heart were “in it”, but somehow your legs were not.

I’ve had it all happen to me over the years and as Boston proved just last Monday – you really can’t count on anything to go exactly the way you hope.

All you can do is show up and give it your best.

When it comes to the triathlon, this is even a dicier situation.  Not only do you need to have the weather cooperate – you need to be “on” in three different disciplines.

Your swim needs to be solid.

Your bike needs to be there for you.

Finally you must race smart to this point, conserving enough energy to let it all hang out on the run.

Of course there are also the matter of the two transitions to deal with.

Jack's Generic TRI 2011

You have to come out of the water focused and calm, get moving to T1 (Transition One), remove your goggles and cap, put on your socks, shoes, helmet and glasses, run to the mount line and hammer away on the bike.


As you power to the dismount line on tired legs you need to run into T2 (Transition Two), rack your bike, take off your glasses, helmet and bike shoes.  Slip on your visor or running glasses, race flats and your number belt – grab a quick drink and you are off again.

We haven’t even started talking about any equipment trouble or heaven forbid a flat tire on the bike, which I had the joy of dealing with on Wednesday this week on a training ride.

It all has to come together for you with no hiccups or missteps.

Looking up at my race schedule for all that to go perfectly not once, not twice but SIX times is highly, highly unlikely.

That is exactly what has me so excited about this Summer and Fall.  Sometimes the excitement is about the “not knowing”.  At least it should be.

With any luck and some hard work hopefully we will find our way onto a podium or two – but if not – the real goal is to earn that Half-Ironman Finisher’s Medal with Dawn and Landry looking on in October.

We’ve been fortunate enough to earn a few of those medals over the past 5 years of racing, but that last one on the list above to a “runner turned triathlete” who quite honestly could not swim the length of a 50 Meter pool one year ago today will be something special.

I know exactly who’s little neck I can’t wait to put that one around.

Here’s to a summer of swimming, biking and running.