When I first heard that there were some companies coming out with power meters for running, I couldn’t wait. I love to be able to objectively quantify my workouts. Knowing how this works for cycling, being able to add this to running would be a bonus. Then I thought about it a bit and realized it would probably be best to hold out a bit. The technology was new and Still evolving. Also, none of the training watches or software would pick it up anyway without some hacking involved.
I had played around a little bit with running power by using my Cyclops PowerCal Heart Rate Monitor which was kind of interesting. The problem was I had to run with my Garmin in biking mode all the time. Not something I really wanted to do since I would miss out on the other running-specific data. Then Garmin came out with the HRM-Runs’ running analytics which I thought was better data than just having power.
The Stryd Running Power Meter
The Stryd unit seemed to be the one that was getting the most attention and it had gone through a few iterations of its product already. It started out as a little widget that you clip on your shorts, then it turned into a heart rate strap and now it is a little foot pod. It finally seemed like they were stabilized a bit, so I decided to “pull-the-trigger” and order one. It took a few months to arrive.
I am glad I waited because the HR strap looks like it sticks out a bit and would look very strange bulging out of your shirt. One advantage of the HR strap one was that it measured power in 3 planes, vertical, horizontal and lateral, whereas the footpod only measures the first two. I don’t think this is a big deal for me since I think I am a pretty efficient runner thanks to my Chirunning practice.
I have had the Stryd footpod now for a few months now and feel I have some initial impressions of it. I say few months because I had to send it back to be replaced already since the tab where it clips to its back clip broke off. It doesn’t seem like there is much really to grab onto there. While it still held in place on my laces, I was a little leery it was going to fall off sometime. The folks at Stryd quickly replaced the unit and got me back and running again. Pun intended.
Collecting the Data
I started reading Jim Vance’s “Running with Power” book while I was training with the unit. I had already read Vance’s previous book “Triathlon 2.0” which I really liked, but I felt the Running with Power book was not quite as good. Most of it was just a re-hashing of the other books’ concepts on Power for cycling. While there were a few new metrics, namely Efficiency Index or EI, that are different from cycling, I feel this book is a little premature at this point since the technology is still being figured out. Hopefully the “Running with Power 2.0” will be better.
One of the recommendations in Vance’s book was to just start running with the power meter and start collecting data. For the next couple of months, I just ran with it and checked in on the numbers post-mortem of my runs.
After finally collecting several months of data I decided it was now time to analyze it. Well despite the fact that Jim Vance’s book stressed how essential the Efficiency Index (EI) metric was, none of the training sites, except for SportTracks even implemented it! Not even Training Peaks or Stryd! This is even though they published blog posts(here and here are just a couple examples) about Vances’ book and the metric itself. WTH? Also, SportTracks implemented only for individual activities so there was no way to track this metric over time.
Analyzing the Data
So what is a data geek to do? Start tracking it myself I guess. I started by downloading my workout summary data from Training Peaks and then crunching the numbers in my favorite analysis tool, Qlikview. Below is the running results for the current training season in regard to Efficiency Index(EI). The formula is V(M/min)/rPwr(watts).
Efficiency Index EI by Month
Efficiency Index Components by Month
As you can see in the first graph, my EI has dropped a bit from December to February and then pretty much leveled out from there. Is that good or bad? Pretty hard to tell without looking at the components of it. Personally, I think EI, by itself, is pretty meaningless.
February was pretty much a wash month for me. I was pretty sick for a solid 2 weeks of it and spent the next couple weeks getting back to normal again. Looking at my average velocity for each month it has been increasing steadily, which I would say is good. My power numbers have also gone up too. April increased significantly due to having a 4-mile and a half-marathon race in there. So if both the components are increasing, then I am getting faster and stronger I guess. This leaves EI pretty much staying the same. See what I mean by EI being meaningless by itself now?
One other variable is that my weight has dropped a bit during the training months. I was surprised that this didn’t affect EI at all. I would think I would have gotten faster while using fewer watts and am not seeing that happening here either.
Looking my average heart rate versus the increase in speed and watts does show that hasn’t changed too much. This would indicate that despite those increases in output, my aerobic “engine” doesn’t appear to be increasing. So I guess I am getting more efficient.
Another running power metric has recently come onto the scene called Runner Effectiveness. This is outlined in a recent post by Steve Palladino on the Training Peaks Blog. This metric, while similar to Vance’s EI metric, uses Watts/kg in the denominator instead which brings the athletes weight into the mix. It also uses Meters/second for velocity in the numerator as opposed to Meters/minute in the EI metric.
Running Effectiveness = (m/s) / (w/kg)
Palladino shows how this metric can be calculated in Training Peaks’ WKO4 client software program as well. I actually have a copy of this program haven’t had a chance to really delve into it yet. Perhaps the EI metric can also be calculated here too.
For now, I calculated this one too in my Qlikview app. As you can see below it pretty much shows a similar trend, just not quite as drastic as EI above.
Running with power is still new territory and there is still some data gathering and analysis that needs to be done to get anything valuable out of it. One thing that is valuable now is that it is a good way to quantify your individual workouts for calculating TSS. Is it necessary though? I don’t think so. It is a lot of money for something that is just a “nice to have”. I think training with pace, heart rate and time is still just as good and will save you a couple hundred dollars. If you have one of the watches that track the new running dynamics metrics, I think that they are more worthwhile for those looking to improve their efficiency. High cadence, minimal ground contact time and vertical oscillation will help you track that.
Yesterday, I ran the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA for the 4th time. Last year I had gotten a new personal best time of 1:45:10 since the first time I ran the race back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:41. 6 years older and over a minute faster.
This year my plan was to start out a little slower so that I had a little more energy for the last half of the race. The second half of the race runs through the Lehigh Parkway which has some crushed stone paths and this short, steep little hills that seem to suck the life out of my legs.
I also planned to down a caffeinated gel around the halfway aid station so I had a little extra energy too. Last year I didn’t eat anything and I thought that may have left me a little depleted at the end.
The race started out well. I was running in the 7:45-7:55/mi pace and was feeling quite comfortable. Heading into the Parkway I kept my cadence steady and slowed a bit on the uphills to try to save my legs a bit. The hills still took their toll on my quads but I managed to keep a little quicker pace than last year.
At around mile 9, I looked at my Garmin virtual race partner and it showed I was about a minute ahead of last year. Hold steady now! Next thing I hear someone say the 1:45 pace group was coming up behind me. WTH?
The pace group passed me on one of the final little inclines and it kind of took some wind out of my sails. I never looked back at my Garmin to see if I really was over 1:45 because I thought it would depress me more. Now I wish I would have.
So I crossed the finish line in 1:45:20. I didn’t realize until I got home, but I had finished 10 seconds slower than last year. It is a bit frustrating to think that a little extra effort and I could have beaten last years time. Well, one thing is for sure I am pretty consistent I guess. Next up, Ironman Boulder!
Last season I had to bail out on the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on the morning of due to a nasty stomach bug. I was looking forward to putting that behind me and getting another result here under my belt.
To make things a little more interesting, I also challenged a friend from work, who we’ll call “Stéphane” to protect his anonymity, to this race. Stéphane is a much younger, lighter and naturally faster runner than I am, but I hoped that the longer distance may help level the playing field a bit. Also, the added competition may help motivate me to a new personal best time.
This race had given me my current standing half marathon PR back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:47 at a 8:06min/mi pace. I was also about 20 lbs lighter(165lbs) and 6 years younger(41) back then. Could I really beat this 6-year-old PR carrying another 20lbs and being over a half a decade older? I felt like I could, but who knows.
The weather turned out to be perfect running weather. Sunny, clear and in the mid-50’s. I made it to the starting line without issue and with plenty of time. Stéphane and I chatted a bit as the 5k-ers took off. We were lined up pretty close to the front, so not to get caught up in the herd. I had got caught up in this the first time I did this race and suffered 2 of my slowest miles until I got past this group.
The gun went off and we were on our way. Stéphane was off and quickly out of site into the leading pack. I stayed back and tried to settle into a somewhat comfortable pace without getting caught up in the start of the race over-eagerness. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace was in the low 7 min/mi. Whoa…nelly!
My first mile was a 7:15 which is more like my 5k pace. I toned it down a bit and settled into around 7:30min/mi pace. While this seemed a bit fast for me, it was feeling right. I pretty much maintained this pace for the first half of the race, which runs along Martin Luther King Blvd and is mostly flat.
As I approached the first turnaround near South 4th St., I saw my coach, Todd Wiley, flying by very close to the leaders of the race. He would end up finishing 6th overall!
I soon saw Stéphane, heading back as I went by the Parkettes Gymnastics gym. He was about a quarter mile ahead of me, but still not out of reach if he had issues later on. But could I keep up this pace and catch him.
I hit the 10k split timer just past the 15th street bridge which read 46:57! This would be a 10k PR time for me??? WTH?!
I made the left turn over the steep little bridge into the Lehigh Parkway. As I hit the gravel path things started to slow down a bit. Was the loose gravel stealing my energy or was it the steep incline of the bridge and the little hill that followed taking the wind out of my sails? My legs were starting to rebel a bit.
As I reached the next two steep hills before the red covered bridge turnaround my pace was slowing to a 8:30 min/mi pace. I could feel the fatigue really starting to hurt now. I was starting to question whether I could sustain the personal best time I had started with.
I tried to hit most every water stop and get at least a mouthful of water in at each without stopping. I know that I don’t need much hydration a race of this duration. Getting a swig every 15 mins or so is good for me. I stuffed down an Amrita Bar right before the start and had another one broken up into pieces in my Spibelt if I needed more. The problem is getting the bar out of the Spibelt seemed like it would take more time to get out than it would be worth, so I pressed on.
After a couple slower miles in the parkway, I was able to pick things up a little during the 11th mile. Miles 12 and 13 were a little slow again as my legs were really hurting. I knew there was no catching up with Stéphane unless he was having a really bad day. The thought that that may be a possibility kept me pushing on.
I finally made the last turn down along Cedar Beach and up into J. Birney Crum Stadium. I was so glad to be almost done. My Garmin was reading 1:44 and some change so I was pretty sure I had a new PR, but not sure where my speed co-worker was.
As I crossed the line, I grabbed my medal and saw Stéphane standing there already finished. Ahhh! I got so caught up in trying to catch him that my PR seemed to be of no significance to me. I was also a bit disappointed that I slowed as the race went on. A sign that I probably went out too fast.
Ok, I just PR’d my Half-Marathon time by over 2 freakin’ minutes??!!! What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn’t until a little later when I met up with my coach who asked how I did. My initial reaction was that of disappointment but then followed up with I PR’d by over two minutes. He was like what? He was then like “that’s awesome!” I thought huh, yeah what am I disappointed about? I guess sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Last week I was talking about it with my strength coach, Fernando, and explaining how I was able to PR that race being 6 years older and 20 lbs heavier. Fernando said you are “older and faster” and I added “and fatter too”. Hence the title Older, Fatter, and Faster! Pretty funny.
I have actually dropped about 15 lbs so far since the beginning of this season and am on track to lose at least another 15 by Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Getting down another 15 lbs will only serve to make me that much faster. I have PR’d both races I have done this season, so I am off to a good start and the sky is the limit here.
Next up is the French Creek Olympic Distance Triathlon in late May. This will be a good indicator of where my triathlon fitness lies by putting together all the disciplines. I am anticipating some improvement in the swim with some of the changes in technique I have made that have improved my times in the pool. Running off the bike will be interesting to see if I can sustain my improved pace with some bike legs. 2016 is proving to be off to a good start to a hopeful season.
Six weeks ago I had this compulsive idea to sign up for the Blues Cruise 50k Ultra Trail run. I found out about the race through a friend who had done it a few years ago and it has always been floating around in my mind. I really didn’t have any real intentions to do another race after finishing the Steelman Olympic Tri in August. I always wanted to try doing an ultra-running event and something finally jarred me to sign up for this one. I had already fallen pretty deeply into off-season mode at this point and had already gained about 13 lbs, so getting into greater-than-marathon shape would be a bit of a stretch. I changed my goal to basically building up some longer than marathon endurance and not really focus on speed. Instead, I would just enjoy the being out on the trail for the day.
My weekly training for the race consisted of more difficult hour trail run, a bit slower less technical run, then one longer LSD run on Saturday, followed by another hour run the Sunday to shake out the previous days run. Rest days would be sprinkled in between. The long Saturday runs started out at 2.5 hours and worked up to around 4.5 hours before tapering a week out from the event. I have to say I really enjoyed getting off the road and into the woods for my training runs. I am fortunate to have a ski area a couple miles from my home that has some pretty technical mountain biking trails that make for serious trail running. Along with a few face plants and turned ankles. Trail running will quickly teach you to lift your feet.
I also had a week of vacation in Asheville, NC thrown in there which was a help. If you are not familiar with Asheville, it is a very outdoorsy and active place. There are vast amount excellent mountain biking trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest just outside of the city which make for fabulous trail running. So I was able to log some good miles down there trail running and mountain biking. We had planned this trip before I signed up for the race, but it could not have worked out better. I would also recommend picking up Trish Browns’ book “Asheville Trail Running: Taking Bent Creek and the Mountains-to-sea Stride” which is a great resource for the trails down there.
On Sunday, October 4th I headed down to Blue Marsh Lake near Reading, PA for my first trail ultramarathon. I hadn’t overly advertised that I was doing this event since I didn’t have any great expectations about my performance. I just wanted to complete it in whatever time it took. It is the off-season and this was to just be something fun and different to do. I heard that the ultra running scene is a bit more laid back and fun compared to the typical road running scene where people are obsessed with times and pace. That sounded a bit more my style and I was looking forward to it. Also, the thought of running in the woods all day sounded like a lot of fun. Wow…running just for the fun of it? What a concept?!
When I arrived at the lake, I followed another car into the Dry Brooks Day Use area where the race start was located. I followed him down to a parking lot where people were setting up some tables and tents. I was surprised to see that we were the first runners there. This was really odd given I was only an hour earlier than the start of the race. I thought “Wow…this really is laid back!” After I made a trip to the port-O-john, the guy from the other car asked if I was running in the race. I said “Yes.” He said, “I don’t think this is for the race.” Just after the words left his mouth a lady below yelled “Are you guys here for the race?” She then followed up with “it is down below closer to the lake.” Doh! So we drove around the other parking lots and finally found the one with the race start on the other side of the hill. There was a race sign down the road with an arrow on it, but it was past the point where we had made a left turn. Not a great placement.
Despite being a little later now, there still was not a large amount of racers in the parking lot. I headed over to the bib pickup table to get my race number(#295) and some swag. We got a really nice, soft long-sleeved tech shirt and a running hat plus some race flyers and RoadId coupons in the bag. We would also get a long sleeve 3/4-zip pullover for finishing the event. A pretty good deal considering it was only a $70 race. I have done tri’s costing double that and got much less.
It was a relatively cool & cloudy morning ranging in the low 50’s(F) which was perfect for a run. We had recently gotten a ton of rain in the last week, so I had no idea how muddy the trails were going to be. Fortunately, it stopped the day before and was holding off for the day. The forecast actually showed a high of 60 and partly cloudy with a bit of wind. I hung out in the car and just chilled while more people rolled into the venue. I told my wife Denise not to come because I didn’t want her to have to sit around there for what would probably be about 6 hours or so and it was silly to drive two cars there. I told her I would post updates on my Instagram and also turn on the Live Tracking feature on my Garmin 920xt so she could watch my progress in real time. That is if it worked this time and I had cell coverage.
At 8:10 I started getting ready. I was carrying my running Camelbak which was stocked with a few Amrita Bars and some Osmos Hydration mix packets which I was trying out. I also had a drop bag that I would pickup at the 18-mile aid station. I packed a PB&J, some rice chips, Skratch hydration mix and a fresh pair of socks. I had purchased a pair of CEP compression socks a couple days before the race, which I got more for the protection from the elements than the compression. I packed the other pair of socks in case I didn’t like the high compression socks.
And We’re Off…
I headed over to the race start, dropped off my drop-bag along the way, and lined up at the back of the start line. I snapped a quick selfie to let my wife know it was starting. It wasn’t long before they were calling out the last few seconds countdown to the start and then we were off.
The herd of around 400 runners gently ambled up the road and then broke off onto the trail. We then were down on “all fours” as we maneuvered under a gate that kept motor vehicles off the trail. It was starting to feel more like a steeplechase run than an ultra. I quickly regretted lining up so far back in the pack as I got stuck in a long line of slower runners as we made our way through the singletrack trails. I kept trying to spot some passing area ahead while still maintaining some view of the immediate trail coming underfoot. In hindsight, getting behind some slower runners may have been a good thing since it kept me from going out too fast.
Trail running is a whole different animal compared to road running. Not only do you have to pay attention to the typical personal things while running but you also have roots, rocks and hills to deal with. Not to mention other runners in front of you, which only gives you a split second to make decisions or else you are doing a face plant in the dirt. If you are not focused and in-the-moment while trail running, you will be done pretty quickly. And not in a good way. In addition, you most likely have a few pounds of water strapped to you and anything else you need to carry along. The aid stations are usually a bit more spread out due to the inaccessibility to the trails.
The First 10 Miles
The first 10 miles were pretty easy. The terrain was fairly flat and once I got past the slower folks I was able to pick up my pace a bit. My mile splits decreased down to a 10min/mi pace by my 10th mile. I did get slowed down by a bee sting on the back of my right calf and I turned my ankle about 3 times. I thought my new socks had a tag or pin poking in the leg, but I eventually realized I had been stung. The socks did a good job of protecting me from the weeds hanging over the trail, but they don’t do much against bees.
I also have a bad left ankle that frequently rolls on my for no apparent reason. This usually happens on flat terrain too, so I can never blame it on something when it happens and I just have to look stupid. Well, it didn’t fail to happen 3 times on the flattest part of the race. The last one really hurt too and I wasn’t sure if I would recover from it. Of course, it happened when I was in the middle of a long line of runners and everyone was asking if I was ok. It did eventually shake out and I continued on.
I took in extra water at each aid station along with some pieces of boiled potatoes with salt on them. In between aid stops I would nibble on an Amrita Bar that I neatly stashed into the little pocket on my Camelbak strap. I would slurp some water from the hydration pack routinely as I ran along. I was eager to drain it to get some weight off my hips, but I guess that would require taking a pee which I only did once.
Things Start to Get More Difficult
So much for the easy stuff. At mile 10 I finally encountered the much-anticipated hill known by mountain bikers as “The Judge.” On Strava it is known as the Stump Ln Climb. I have ridden it, or should I say walked my bike up it before, so I knew what I was in for. It averages a 14% grade of 3/10’s of a mile but has sections that are almost up to 30% grade. Going down the other side was no treat either. It was a little more of a switchback trail which helped level out the steepness.
Things started to get a bit tougher from the “The Judge” on. We climbed about 1000 feet in elevation gain over the next 6 miles, where we only about 800 in the first 10 miles. My pace started to creep back into the 11-12 min/mile range. My plan was to walk fast up the hills, bomb the downhills and steady on the flats. I started getting some tightness in my hip flexors which was fighting for my attention. I tried to ignore it and figured it would go away eventually or just be replaced by something else that hurt more.
I hit the mile 18 aid station and they retrieved my drop bag for me. I was really that hungry for my PB&J but could feel some hydration setting in. I was starting to accumulate some salt which was quite visible on my black Amrita tech shirt. I poured a Skratch Labs Lemon-Lime Matcha pack into my hydration bladder and topped it off with some water. I crushed my bag of rice chips and funneled it down my throat. I also snagged some more potatoes which taste so good during an endurance event. The mile 18 aid station is the one with the ladies in the German Lederhosen outfits, so I was in no rush to leave.
Eventually, I left mile 18 aid station and pushed on. After mile 20, things started really tightening up and hurt a bit. The 1300 additional feet of climbing we did over the next 10 miles surely didn’t help at all. I was also starting to cramp up in my inner thigh/groin area which I thought was odd for running. This would be more expected playing hockey or something with a skating motion, but not running. I finally had to give in and stop to stretch it out. I watched a handful of people that I had passed earlier trot by me. One guy who I had been running with most of the day went by and held his hands up saying “what’s going on?” That was a bit heart-breaking.
In Familiar Territory
I finally reached the dam spillway that feeds the Tulpehocken Creek which is familiar territory. I knew I was only a couple miles from the finish at that point and I was relieved. I also realized that the sun had come out and it was a particularly nice day. The nice breeze kept the temperature in the perfect running temperature zone. We spilled out onto the road that leads into the parking lot for the dam but it was mostly uphill. Everyone in front of me was walking and I succumbed to the peer pressure and joined them. The pavement just hurt. My feet hurt with every step. I could have really used a pair of Hoka’s right now. I was now looking forward to getting back on the trail again. Never happy!
We came to a sign that marked the entry back to the trail and made a sharp left which led to another steep climb up a grassy hill. Ugh! I started to run again as I reached the top of the hill. It was a good thing too. As I made my way around the hill I saw a trucker hat with the Wyoming bucking horse symbol on it. My foggy mind even recognized that hat! Under it emerged my wife Denise who decided to surprise me by driving out and meeting me on the trail. It was the push I needed to get me through the last mile or two. We ran together back to the parking lot that she parked at and then I continued on.
As I crossed the driveway a few equestrians were coming up the drive as well. One tried to shortcut me to the trail but I managed to beat them to it. I pushed on and back into a more wooded section again. The equestrians caught up to me again and were running up my back. I decided to let them pass since it seemed like they were going faster than I. They were not very friendly when they passed me and they slowed down again after they passed me. I was coming right up the back of them and it was looking as if I would have to pass them. At the last minute, they sped up and then I never had to deal with them again.
We crossed another driveway and Denise was standing there snapping a couple more pictures as I slowly ambled by. I knew this was the drive that I rode in on the morning to get to the race start so I knew I was almost there. We ran along a farm field and I saw a couple guys standing along the trail with finishers shirts on cheering us on. We made a quick left after that and then I recognized the start/finsh line area. I passed one other guy before the finish who looked like he was struggling a bit.
I finally reached the grassy area before the finish line and there quite a few people there cheering the finishers on. Right before I got to the finish line, a little girl came running across in front of me(see her in pic below) oblivious that I was coming. I had to slow down and grab her by the shoulder so she didn’t run into me. Everyone got a laugh out of it though. I crossed the line in 6:29:25, which was a tad bit slower than I had hoped, but I can’t ask for much since I only started training for it 6 weeks before. I was happy just to have completed the distance and was able to enjoy the day. I am hoping my legs will keep that endurance in their muscle memory so the next time I do an Ironman Marathon it will seem short.
Given this was my first “ultra” distance running event, one of the first questions I thought to myself and my wife asked was “Will you do another one?” I think probably will. I already started searching on UltraSignup.com. I don’t know if I will do the same race or even the same distance, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. I like being off-road and in the woods and I like the more laid back culture of the people that participate in these events. I would like to do something in a place that is a bit more rugged and deeper forest. I would probably want to try a little longer distance such as a 40 or 50 miler. Even a 100k may not be out of the question.
Ahhh the old love-hate relationship with tapering continues. While greatly anticipated, this break in training and the general feeling of malaise that comes along with it I did not. I guess you can’t have everything.
The Ironman Lawn…
I was finally able to get my lawn looking somewhat manicured with some extra time on my hands now. I had been cutting the front mostly so that it at least looked well kept from the street. The back was another story. I had cut a few sections so the dog could go do his thing, but most of it had grown so high it was going to seed. When my dog ventured into that territory I would see him occasionally jump high into the air as of the long strands brush up against his belly. Kind of entertaining.
Training-wise things were actually going pretty well. The somewhat shortened workouts had high intensity and I felt good while I was doing them. I had one of my best tempo run workouts of the season on Wednesday with a solid 7:50 pace in Zone 3.
FTP Test Gone Bad…
I had a 3 hour bike planned for Saturday, but I decided to break it up into a 1 hour FTP test on the trainer followed by a two hour easy ride on the road. I wanted to get an accurate assessment of FTP before my race. I felt it was also a good time between resting a bit and race to do it. I was hoping for a little improvement over last year(253 watts), but what I got at the end was nothing like I could have expected.
Obviously a bug in the TrainerRoad iPad app. Despite this issue I was able to calculate my FTP to be around 248 watts based on this test. A little depressing that I lost 5 watts, but really 5 watts isn’t that big a deal really. Perhaps it will help me to chill a bit on the bike. The main reason I wanted to do the FTP test was so I could plug in accurate number on Best Bike Split and get an idea of my race plan for the bike leg. It looks like it will be just a smidge slower than my bike leg last year at Lake Placid. You can check it out here if you are interested…
Bon Voyagey Bike…
On Sunday I had to take my bike down to Keswick Cycle in Glenside to drop it off for the TriBike Transport pickup on Tuesday. I finished up some last minute maintenance, did a final cleaning and removed the pedals. I also ordered the additional gear bag option too, so I loaded a duffle bag with my wetsuit, aero helmet, spare tubs and some tools. The TBT website said only pack aero helmet if in a hard case, so I put it in a cardboard box with some extra packaging materials too. Hopefull that should be ok. I filled out a couple forms at the shop and handed my bike over to the guy at the shop. Bon Voyagey! See you in Coeur d’Alene!
I stopped at a nearby Chipotle for lunch before heading to Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting for our monthly stock-up on organic, frozen fruit. WF was rather crowded, so I was happy to get out of there.
I still needed to do a 1-2 hour run when I got home. It was brutally hot & humid and I was really not into it, so I decided to just run on the treadmill. I tried to load up this FitTrip app on my iPad which shows point-of-view(POV) trail running videos coordinated to your heart rate. Well it didn’t work so well. Downloading the videos took forever and then when they finished it would pop up a message saying it failed! WTF! I eventually got one to download successfully and then it would not connect to my HRM using the ANT+ dongle. Ugh!
I finally gave up and just watched some similar videos on YouTube which worked fine. I had unfortunately wasted a bunch of time trying to get that working. I ended with only about a 7 mile easy run, but I figured that was good enough.
Geekin’ Out on Training
Training volume this week was basically chopped in half. Still managed to miss one of my 3 strength training workouts though. No sense is cramming now right?!
A few red marks on the old HRV training guide this week. Body is recovering a bit so this is expected. Hopefully next week things will pick up a bit.
The PMC chart shows the plan for the taper. The pink line dropping is the fatigue withering away with the form(yellow) increasing. Fitness(CTL in blue) declines a little bit, but it will be worth it.
The HRV timeline took a bit of a nose dive during this first week of taper. It make sense since I felt a little crappy. Things ended on a high note on Monday AM so it looks like recovery/taper is working. Hope that continues until race day.
That’s all for this week. Next week things should get easier and hopefull start feeling great again.
I am going to double up here on the last two weeks of build before my 3 week taper into Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It has been a pretty brutal 2 weeks since I really never had a full recovery week since about 5 weeks ago. I did a couple little 3 day recovery before and after the Todd Wiley Lake Placid camp, but still managed a decent training load for the weekend in between. Despite all this I have been feeling pretty good. A few of my longer workouts were in some pretty hot and humid temperatures and were obviously affected. My performances during the workouts when the weather was cooler surely made up for it.
Swims…I am still using the Finis Tempo Trainer and feeling pretty settled at around 68-70 spm. This is up from around 58-60 when I started using this tool early on in the season. My paces have picked up along with it and I am hoping this carries over to a few minutes gained in my 2.4 mile swim. I did both of my LSD swims at around 1:13 for just under 4000 yards. Given that this is without a wetsuit and no flip turns I think I could manage this time in Ironman which would be a 4 minute improvement over the last two years.
Biking…I have been averaging around 145 miles/9 hours a week on the bike for both weeks. My long rides on the weekends were just over 90 miles long running about 5:30-5:50 depending on the terrain. Most of my weeknight rides were steady state rides in zone 2-3, but I did manage to get one good hill repeat ride in on some of my favorites hills: Dogwood & Centennial!
My long ride on May 20th started out a little rough when a large flying insect fly directly into my mouth while cruising along at around 20mph. Ouch! It partially lodged itself into my mouth since it was partially open. I had to actually spit the thing out and it tasted like crap too! My lip
immediately swelled up to what felt like having a gumball in my lip. Judging for the picture I guess it didn’t look quite as bad as it felt though. I didn’t know what kind of bug it was and wasn’t sure if it stung me or that was just the impact of it on my lip that hurt. Eventually, the swelling subsided and my lip resumed to its normal size again. Why do I always get pelted with creatures when I am riding?
I followed the Dream Come True(DCT) route for the start of my long bike ride June 6. This is a nice somewhat challenging route with a little over 4000′ of climbing over 64 miles. This ride was also not without some wildlife incident as well. While cruising a downhill section of backroad that contained some overgrown shoulder a large doe popped out immediately in front of me broadside. I made some kind of grunt or yell as I came within about 10 feet of the animal and it quickly dashed out of my way. Another close call. Not too long after that I came across a lone fawn standing in the road. He scampered in down the road, heading in the same direction, for a bit before he darted up the steep bank. He was pretty young and no mother to be seen.
Runs…My Sunday long runs consisted of a 21 and 20 miler respectively. The 21 miler was a hot & humid one that I did 4 loops of the Ironton Rail Trail(IRT). The IRT is pretty shaded which helped defer some of the defer some of the sunlight but it was still a hot one. I ended up averaging around a 10:00/mi for the run. The next week I ran at the Lehigh Parkway and it was about 10 degrees(F) cooler and much less humidity. The Parkway is also pretty shaded but has about twice the elevation gain as the IRT. Due to the more temperate climate I was able to average a 9:30 pace over the 20 miles while maintaining a Zone 2 heart rate. More on track with what I would like to do at Ironman this year and a good note to finish on before my taper.
Heart Rate Variability(HRV)
My HRV has remained fairly steadily in the 70’s during this last two weeks. I have been flirting with the low recovery and low activation ranges most of the time, but still in the “ok to keep going area”. This is pretty much expected from where I am at this point. I should be overreaching a bit at this point, with a good 3 week taper coming up.
Compared to Last Year…
Comparing this years training on the Training Peaks Performance Management Chart to last year looks fairly similar. You can see that the last month or so of this year(top chart) I have incurred a bit more fatigue(pink link) with consecutive build weeks and no full recovery week in between. My Fitness(CTL in Blue) has steadily risen to a value of around 112 during my last build week, whereas last year I was up to 120 or so.
Less than 5 weeks to go until Ironman Coeur d’Alene! Actually, if you are reading this post it is probably less than 3 weeks to go. With all the heavy training volume lately, I cannot find the time to get this post out and I didn’t want to just throw it out there. Anyway…I digress.
This was a bit of an odd week. I was ready for some recovery time after finishing up two solid build weeks, but with Todd Wiley’s Lake Placid Training Camp this weekend I could not afford an entire week of recovery. I did a light swim on Monday, took a total rest day on Tuesday, and then a easy run on Wednesday. It was a good amount of time to recover and be ready for a solid training block over the Memorial day weekend. My HRV Timeline chart below shows my recovery as well with a solid upswing into the mid-80’s by the middle of the week.
On Thursday morning I made the 6 hour drive up to Lake Placid for the start of Todd Wileys‘ Lake Placid Training Camp. Last year I had my own little solo camp, but riding alone up there leaves me a little uneasy. Especially when you get a couple flats and mechanical issues. When you are with a camp you have some extra support plus it is always fun meeting new people with similar interests. We were staying at the Olympic Training Center for the Todd Wiley camp which was really cool. This would be much more fun than staying in some hotel downtown by myself. I had driven past the OTC facility many times but never saw the facility from the inside, so now I could really check it out.
I arrived at the facility, checked in and unloaded my gear into the room. Eventually, my roomate Max came in and introduced himself. He was a really nice, mellow guy which I was very relieved about. It was kind of like the first day of college and meeting your dorm roomate. Everyone eventually met outside in the parking lot around 4PM for a group run after getting settled into their rooms. We then headed out for a nice 5-6 mile run into town, around Mirror Lake and then back again. I ended up running with Dr. named Howie most of the run. He was a super nice guy and quite a character too. The run went really fast since we were chatting the whole time.
The original shedule had a short 15 mile bike ride listed on the first day, but that got nixed since we got out later than planned. We then headed to the cafeteria at the Olympic Training Center(OTC) for some dinner. I was a bit apprehensive about eating in a cafeteria all weekend and whether they would have much for me to eat. I was pleasantly surprised. The OTC cafeteria food was awesome! They usually had several different options for each meal with at least a couple of them being veg-friendly. Another nice benefit of the cafeteria was that we didn’t have to deal with eating in town on a holiday weekend. This can be a bit of a challenge especially with a large group.
On Thursday night the group got together for some discussion with Todd about the plan for the weekend and some general training information. We also got a a bunch of swag including a t-shirt, a towel, and some sun/cooling sleeves. I was pretty psyched about the sun sleeves since I had wanted to try them but didn’t want to fork out the money for a pair. I also just happened to check the weather on my phone during our session and it was apparently snowing outside. That should make for an interesting ride tomorrow!
On Friday, we were up for breakfast by 7AM after a good nights sleep and out for group ride by 8:30am. It was a bit cool and very overcast as we waited to depart. It started raining as soon as we left the OTC making for a cold, damp start. We headed down Route 73 to River Rd and then down 86 to Wilimington and back again. The ride down to Wilmington is mostly downhill so I took it easy crusing the whole way. The skies eventually opened up and the sun came out. My plan was to give a hard push back up the notch to Lake Placid. It was a good hard ride, I turned around at Cobble Mountain right after the three bears climbs and then swung back down to River Rd. and then back to the OTC.
We then headed out for a half hour brick run immediately after we returned from our ride. I joined up briefly with Derek Fitzgerald, the only heart transplant and cancer survivor to complete an Ironman, and we ran across the street up Bear Cub Rd. past the entrance to Henry’s Woods. I went a little further up the road since I had never been up the before and was curious where it ended up. It was a gradual climb most of the way out.
We had a afternoon session with Fernando Paredes from Fusion Fitness & Performance on his strength training principles after lunch. I had attended Fernando’s workshop back in January so this was more of a refresher for me. The session was mostly just a overview of his methods and we didn’t get into any actual strength training. Fernando did a couple demonstrations with some of the campers which were pretty amazing. The one guy had really tight hamstrings and Fernando was able to have him touch his toes after just rubbing his jaw on both sides. That was pretty wild.
On Friday night we had a classroom discussion on triathlon rules and safety with Ken Modica. Ken is a USAT official who officiates many of the races in my area. It was a good review of the rules and some of the changes that have been made. I kind of lost attention though after everyone started their “airing of grievances” and bringing up their individual occurences of being unjustly penalized for things. I would have liked to have seen a little more discussion on overall race strategy and nutrition in the camp, especially for the folks who are doing Ironman for the first time. Troy Jacobson did this in his camp, which I attended in 2012, and I found it really helpful. The coaches here were very accessible though and I know my roomate had sat down with Todd individually to discuss some of these topics.
Saturday was our long bike ride for the weekend, so I was off early for a good nights sleep Friday night. We topped off our tanks with a good breakfast and then we headed out for our long ride. Some of the campers were only doing one loop of the IMLP Course, and then the rest were doing two loops. Both groups were skipping out on the out-and-backs to Ausable Forks and Haselton Road. I was considering doing one or two of them just to tack on a few miles.
I started out with a group led by Nancy Smith, an elite age grouper and multiple Kona qualifier. Nancy has an unbelieveably smooth cadence which never seems to change despite the terrain. She also had a very similar pace to me so I always seemed to be following her. She did tend to drop me a little on climbs, but then I would catch up on the downhills. My extra weight comes in handy sometimes! Thanks gravity! Also in our pack was my roomate Max and Jeff. We would stop every once in a while and catch up a bit.
It was a pretty brisk morning on Saturday, but I dressed appropriately with jacket, leg warmers and full finger gloves and it wasn’t too bad. It had gotten a little warmer towards the end of the first loop, so I swung back to the OTC for quick wardrobe change. The first loop went well and I was still feeling pretty fresh. The wind had picked up a bit on the second loop but it was mostly a tailwind from Lake Placid all the way to Upper Jay. There never seems to be a tailwind from Upper Jay back to Lake Placid which is basically all uphill.
I started to feel it a little in my quads as I made my way up to Wilmingtion. I had heard someone yelling my name as I rolled into Wilmington and eventually saw Todd parked across the street and my roomate Max taking on some hydration. I swung across an refilled my bottles and food. It was good timing because I was out of hydration and starting to feel it. After sucking down a bottle of Skratch Labs and eating an Amrita Bar I was ready to tackle the climb back to Lake Placid. I even hit the little out-and-back on Haselton Road just to get a couple more miles in. I like this little stretch too since it is pretty mellow with minimal traffic. It is kind of a break in itself.
I made the push back up 86 to Lake Placid, this time being a little more challenging than the first loop. The stronger headwind made things just a little tougher too. There is a short but steep stretch around the gorge area where the road gets very narrow with no shoulder and a stone wall guarding you from a rocky cliff into the Ausable River. I got behind another cyclist who was going relatively slow, but I was not able to pass him do to the car traffic and lack of a shoulder. As we reached the top of the climb, but not quite passed the stone wall he decided to stop! WTF!! I yelled “NO! Keep going!” He obviously didn’t even realize I was behind him. He managed to gather some more strength and pedal up to the turnout a few feet away. I patted him on the back and laughed as I went by. He smiled but was too exhausted to say any words.
I finished up the ride back into town after completing the Three Bears climbs for the second time that day. My legs were pretty tired by the time I got back and I only had food on my mind at this point. Fortunately the OTC cafeteria is open all day long for snacks and things and I headed right there.
Fernando had a strength training session in the afternoon, but I could muster up the motivation to attend. I was ready to just chill a bit. The plan for the afternoon was to go into town for a short swim in Mirror Lake. I ended bagging the swim since it was still pretty cool air temperature and very windy. I knew the water was cool which I can deal with, but the thought of getting out of the water not being able to get warm changed my mind. I knew Sunday was supposed to be a warmer day, so I will save my swim for then.
I ended up going to Lake Placid Pub & Brewery to get some dinner and have a couple beers. I ended up meeting up with some tri-friends from home, John, Ashley and Johns’ daughter Laura at the Pub. They were staying with some other friends, Brian and Mandy, from back home who have a house in LP and invited me to come over for dinner. I felt a little funny going over to have dinner at someones house that I never met, but they said it was cool. Brian and Mandy were really nice people and so accomodating. They are both REALLY GOOD athletes and Brian was into photography too so there was no shortage of conversation. I had such a great time with all of them and we had a ton of laughs too. It was like I had known them forever. Oh also they had rice and beans with side of kale for dinner so it was the perfect meal for me. I did cheat a little and had a organic chicken sausage too. 🙂
Sunday all the LP campers met up after breakfast at the front gate to the OTC. Todd debriefed us on the plan for the run since some folks were running different distances than others. I was planning to get at least 18 miles in but was hoping for 20. I would assess it as I went depending on how I felt. We then got together for group photo before set off on our run.
I realized that I forgot to put sunscreen on as we started down the road, so I headed back to the dorms to put some on. The zipper in my running shorts got jammed and I could not get my ID card out. I could not get the zipper unjammed for the life of me and I didn’t want to break the it on my favorite running shorts. So I had to go without. Fortunately it was fairly cloudy as the day went on so not really an issue.
I fell pretty far behind everyone with the zipper drama, so I was basically on my own for most of the day. I did catch up to a few people in the camp and saw the rest coming back on River Road. Todd was waiting at the turnaround on River Rd. with water and gatorade for us. He also said he would wait for me at the Ski Jumps, on the other end of River Rd. to restock me with water before I head into town. On the way back I stopped at the house we typically stay at on River Road to say Hi to our friends Dan & Wendy for a few minutes. I chatted with Dan for a bit and then continued on. I stepped up the pace a bit since I knew Todd was waiting for me.
The cooler air temps this day really made a huge difference in my run. I felt so good the whole time as opposed to the prior weeks run back home in hot & humid temps(see image above). My previous long runs were much slower and the courses were also much less difficult in terms of terrain. I can only hope for temps in the 60’s in Coeur d’Alene!
I made my way up into town, headed around the back of Mirror Lake and turned around at the Lake Placid Marina right before coming back into town near Saranac Ave. I was at around 16 miles when I got back to the OTC, so I decided to head up Bear Cub Rd, where I had done the brick run on Friday to get 20 in. I ended up finishing with only 19.3 but I didn’t feel like to doing filler runs just to get 20 in. Close enough! I was quite happy with the run at that point, so no point in continuing.
After some lunch, we headed into town to get a swim in at Mirror Lake. My friend John had told me to let him know when we would be swimming and he was going to meet me with his kayak. It was pretty nice having my own support crew. I stashed a water bottle on Johns’ boat and he took some pictures and video of me while I swam too.
The water was really cold! I was a little fearful of cramping up after just running 20 miles a couple hours before. My hands, feet and face were numb. I started out with a pretty good pace just to get some heat pumping. My plan was to swim 20 minutes out and then back again. By around 15 minutes I was starting to have enough. My toes were involuntarily curling up from the cold. I stopped at around 17 minutes, took a drink of water and chatted with John a bit and then headed back. Unfortunately, I forgot to stop my watch to get an accurate pace.
The wind really started to kick up on the way back and the waves were smashing into my right side. I took a mouthful of water and started choking a bit just like I did at Devilman a few weeks before. I eventually calmed down and restored my breathing again. I then started breathing only to the left for the rest of the swim back. I finished up with a mile swim, which was plenty considering how cold it was. It had to be at or below 50 degrees. When I reached the beach the rest of the people in the camp were already done swimming and they had started after me. Todd even said it was crazy cold and he bailed early too.
Sunday night I was pretty tired and just settled in early. I had a good dinner and then got a good nights sleep. We had planned to do a short bike ride early in the morning and then checkout by 9:30am. The forecast was for rain and I planned on skipping that if that was the case and get on the road early to avoid all the Memorial Day traffic.
I was the first one from our camp in the cafeteria in the morning, but Derek Fitzgerald had come in later and joined me. It worked out nice to get to chat with him one-on-one for a bit. He was telling me about his upcoming Tour de Cure ride across America which is starting on June 9th. He has a pretty amazing story which I would highly recommend you check out.
I then packed up after breakfast, said goodbye to my roomate Max and everyone I saw from the camp. I got to meet a lot of new triathletes from the are area while getting in some solid training. It was a really great experience and I would highly recommend it. Staying at the Olympic Training Center was very cool.
The ride home started out ok, but traffic got very heavy as I got past Lake George. Fortunately no major delays though. I stopped in New Paltz at the Taco Shack for a quick bean burrito along the way. It was crazy busy everywhere else.
Ok, back home with only two more build weeks to go! Thanks for reading!
While out on my long run of the week the other day, I was thinking about about all the times I have heard the long run referred to a “junk miles” lately. We have been innundated with all of these so-called experts who keep spouting out how to “hack” everything. People love to hear someone tell them that doing something that is difficult is not necessary. Rich Roll has a great blog post on this here. This is what gets people coming to your site and getting publicity too. It is like those crazy headlines you read in the checkout line at the grocery store.
Well, I hate to break it to you folks, but you are not going to run a good marathon or Ironman without putting in those rides and runs and the hard work that goes with it. Every weekend I push myself that extra 10-20 minutes further than the previous week until getting to or close to that ultimate distance I need to cover come race day. When I get to that distance, then I can step back and increase the pace a bit to try and cover it in less time.
The real “junk miles” are the ones done with no purpose. When you set out on a workout with no intention, you are just spinning your wheels. Literally and figuratively. Whether you set out to run a fast mile or a slow, zone 2 3-hour run, if you are completing the workout with an intention to accomplish a specific goal, then they are never junk miles.
I ran across this short post by Coach Jay Johnson called Stop undervaluing the Long Run the other day which kind of sparked some thoughts I had a about this topic. I love my long runs and bike rides and would not trade them for anything. It is one of the things that keeps me coming back to Ironman every year.
My old ProForm J6 treadmill is getting a bit tired these days. It actually just shut off on me during my brick run last Saturday. It has served me well for the couple hundred dollars I paid for several years ago, but we both agreed it was time for an upgrade.
I have also learned to embrace the treadmill lately. I used to be a bit more “macho” and run outside no matter what, but I am totally over that now. I have nothing to prove there anymore and I am more than happy to chug along for miles while watching TV or or some videos. I also tend to get this wheeziness in my lungs when I do any intense activity in very cold temperatures. My wife used to refer to this as my “hockey cough” when I would come home late at night after playing ice hockey and be wheezing and coughing in bed. I obviously inherited the athsmatic-ness of my mother and grandfather.
I started doing some research online and found a few brands and features that I thought were important. I made the rounds to several shops in the area and tested them out. The LifeSpan TR4000i was one model that struck my eye online. It had good reviews and was rated highly by Consumer Reports and Runner’s world, but no one had any in stock to try. One shop had a TR1200i, but it was not setup correctly, so it was making all kinds of noise running on it. Not a good sell. Their price was also a bit higher than the online price of the 4000i, so I bagged that.
I headed down to Quakertown to FItness Factory Outlet which states they have the 4000i on their website. When I got there he stated that he only sold that online. He did have a bunch of these Spirit treadmills in the showroom. I tried them all and was very impressed. The price was right too. I went home and did some research on them and it turns out Consumer Reports also recommended the Spirit 485 higher than the 4000i I was looking at before. It also had a little better warranty too. So after thinking it over for a few days, I made the call to purchase!
I was pretty excited to hear that they had the model I wanted in stock, so I figured they would deliver in a day or so. I was told that the delivery guy would call me later that day to setup delivery. When he called I was a bit disappointed to find out they were about a week behind on deliveries. We agreed on the following Saturday to setup and deliver.
The driver arrived promptly at 10:30am with my treadmill. They carried the large box in and started setting it up. Eventually they called me down to report that the main wire adapter from the panel to the motor was broken. They were very apologetic, but I knew it was not their fault. They said that the Fitness Factory Outlet guys would get back to me. I psyched when the called me in a couple hours and said they had a wire from another unit and would be up in an hour to finish assembling it.
Stay tuned for a future post on my actual review of the unit after I get some use out of it. So far so good though!
I immediately got online and started searching for endurance-related races after receiving word that I would be attending the Microsoft Build Developers Conference in San Francisco. Low and behold, the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was running the Sunday immediately following the conference on April 6th. The best part was, it was running back-and-forth over the Golden Gate Bridge. How could I pass that up? I would need to do a two-hour run anyway that day, so might as well.
Everything continued to fall into place with this too. The packet-pickup and expo was in one of the Moscone Center buildings, which was where the Microsoft conference was. The race ended in the Civic Center Square, which was only a couple blocks from my hotel. The race also provided bus transport from the Civic Center Square. Logistically perfect!
We headed over to the Moscone Center on Saturday morning after fueling up with some breakfast at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Dottie’s is reknown for their breakfasts and TripAdvisor had warned of long lines to get in. We got there early enough and we were seated right away. Getting to Dottie’s is a bit of a treat too. It is right in middle of one of the scarier sections of the city. If you go there, beware of having to walk amongst some of the street folk making random outbursts as you sneak by. The food was pretty good, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. That is until we left. They had some amazing looking baked goods in the case when we left. Guess I didn’t order correctly.
After breakfast we headed over to the Moscone Center to for Packet Pickup and the Race Expo. The packet pickup was a bit over-organized. They almost had too many volunteers because it was highly over-specialized. Each item of swag was handed to you by a different volunteer instead of prefilling the swag bags. Then they force you through the race store to try to persuade a purchase out of you.
The race expo was actually pretty good and a decent size. It was much larger than most of the Ironman triathlon event expos I have been to. We spent a bit of time there too listening to some sales pitches and even trying on some Hoka’s. I am still not up to buying a pair of these things yet, but there freakish looks are starting to grow one me. My wife is actually entertaining the idea of buying a pair since she thinks it may help her knee pain.
We walked through the Yerba Buena Gardens after the expo which is right in front of the Moscone Center. It is a pretty little oasis amongst the concrete jungle of the city. There are also a couple restaurants and shops that surround it too. It was getting to be around lunchtime now so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our road ride to Sausalito and Tiburon, which you can read more about in my previous post.
Pano view of San Francisco from Yerba Bueno Gardens. Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco
I woke up around 4:45am on race morning and immediately fueled up with a Vega Performance Protein Bar, an Amrita Bar and some Starbucks Via coffee. I had prepared and laid out all of my clothing and race bid the night before so getting ready was pretty easy. Running races are generally so much easier to get ready for compared to triathlons. Plus, this was a casual run for me, so not a lot of pressure here. I was tip-toing around the hotel room with my headlamp on the whole time so not to wake Denise up. She was actually sleeping quite soundly which is odd for this time of the morning. She is typically an early riser. Around 5:15am I headed down the elevator and out the main lobby towards the Civic Center Square, which was where the race transport was, to get to the starting line. The Civic Center is located right in the heart of the shadiest part of San Fran, so I was a bit anxious about getting there by myself. I was hoping I could join up with some other people that were going to the race as well. To my misfortune there was no one leaving the hotel at the same time. As I started into the thick of the scary sections I started jogging a bit. I needed to warm up and this would get me quickly past most of the folks lying about in the streets. I eventually located a couple a few blocks ahead of me, so I sped up a bit to try and tag along with them. I passed one homeless fellow sitting on a hydrant or something that looked at my as I scurried by and said “good luck!” I laughed and said “thanks man!” as it took me by surprise. There was also one street corner that had a bunch of homeless folks congregating on it and they were all yelling at one another. I found this a good opportunity to cross the street here. I soon caught up with the couple, but by then we had reached Market St. which is well lit and was pretty full of runners heading to the square. Whew…Safety at last! The lines were pretty long at the Civic Center, but they were rolling and loading the yellow & black school buses through pretty quickly. Before long I was on a bus headed to the start line. The ride was around 25 minutes or so and I had a seat all to myself to spread out. When I finally reached the starting line area which was situated along Ocean Beach on the west side of San Fran, I was in a B-line for the port-a-loo. There were a ton of them, but they all had huge lines. I walked down to the farthest one thinking the lines would be less, but no such luck. I settled into a line and waited. It seemed like forever. There was a couple girls behind me who did not shut up the whole time. It surely made my patience wane even more. I was a bit more disturbed when they continued to talk through the National Anthem. The race was a wave start, so each finish time-based corral would start every couple minutes. I didn’t realize this at the time, so I really wasn’t that concerned about starting with the race clock. I had my Garmin so that is all I really cared about. And…I had to pee really bad. I eventually got a port-a-john and let the floodgates release. I quickly dropped off my post-race gear bag off and headed to the start line for the 2:00 hour finish corral. I still had plenty of time will my wave went off.
And we were off. We headed down Great Highway and quickly made a right turn up Balboa St., were we encountered our fist hill of the day. It wasn’t terribly steep, but just kept going up and up. The first mile was pretty slow since I was dodging people as we ambered up the hilly course. I am also not one to start out too fast. I need to ease into my pace and sometimes it takes me a half hour to settle into a groove. Guess that is why I like the longer distances.
My times gradually increased as the crowd sorted itself out and I got into my groove. The exception to that was on Lincoln Blvd, right before the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a pretty healthy climb. This and the fact that there was a lot of picture taking going on with its unique view of the GG Bridge. This helped sort out the crowd for the very narrow cattle chute that we had to endure crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bunch of jugglers and guys riding huge unicycles too which helped distract you from the pain.
Each direction had one full lane of the bridge. As we made the first cross towards Sausalito, many were drifting over into the opposite lane since the fast runners had not made it there yet. I stayed mostly on the left side up against the yellow rope that separated us from the bridge traffic. Both directions on the bridge were tight and it was difficult to find any open running room. There was a girl running in some rainbow-colored hairy boots that I found myself following for a while. It was pretty cool running across the bridge though and I took the opportunity to snap a few pics along the way.
Once across the bridge, the crowd thinned out quite a bit with the wider road heading down into Crissy Field. We were now at least half way through the race and we finally encountered a band playing. I almost forgot that this was a ROCK ‘N’ ROLL event! The band was playing so quietly though that you may have missed them if you didn’t see them. We did encounter a few more bands after this which got subsequently louder after this.
We then headed through the city again on our way back to Civic Center Square finish. With the city came more hills again…ugh! On one of these hill I started getting so nauseated that I thought I was going to puke. I managed to keep it in though and it eventually went away. I also started getting down into the 7-8min/mi pace as the raced thinned a bit and we hit some flatter sections. I started to pick it up a bit too since I felt good and I thought I would try to negative split the race.
As we were heading down Polk St., towards the last mile or two, they diverted us straight where others had been making a left towards Larkin St. This was kind of cool because it felt like we were in the front pack of the race for a little while. Eventually we were sent left to Larkin and joined in with the rest of the bunch. The last mile was a downhill cruise to the finish where I was running in the low 7’s. My wife took a picture of me and it looks like I was severely putting the brakes on. I crossed the line in 1:55:11 which isn’t too bad considering I wasn’t really going for time. It was more of tourist sightseeing tour. I grabbed my finisher medal, a couple of waters and searched around for some decent food. I managed to find some banana’s and pisctachio’s among all the other post-race crap they call food. Some of the worst was the Cheez-Its and of course the worst of all…Chocolate Milk!!! Yuk!! The worst thing was people were grabbing it like it was going out of style. It kills me how they can push this crap off as some kind of health food. Why don’t they just hand out some Mountain Dew while they are at it!
I claimed my gear bag and we headed back to the hotel to pack and check out. The race was really fun with great views and a challenging one with the hills. I would recommend it as one to check out, but not if you are going for a PR. The lack of music along the course was a bit of a let down for a Rock ‘n’ Roll branded event. The local St. Lukes Half Marathon in Allentown is Far better with regards to course music. This race made me appreciate how good a race that is. I believe there was a concert and free beer after the race, but we weren’t going to be sticking around to find out. We were on route to Yosemite this afternoon. Thanks for reading!