Pub Run


A random stop at Point2 Running Store to buy some shoelaces led me to talking to Peter Wolf.  From there I joined the Wingnutz Running Team for the Sandy Bottom 24 Hour Run for Cancer in April. This in turn led to several new Facebook friends, which culminated in a message last Friday about a ‘Pub Run’ being organized. I couldn’t miss this.  The plan was to meet at Newport News Park, run 7-8 miles to Yorktown Pub, have some refreshments and run back.  We ran a nice easy pace just talking and enjoying the scenery on an unseasonably warm day.

The pub was a little more crowded than any of us would have preferred, so 2 beers and we were off.

All told it was a great day, met a lot of good people and had a lot of fun.  We discussed an upgrade of sorts, taking in most of the Peninsula to include a refueling every 5 miles or so.  I ended up logging just over 16 miles.

Today, however, game over and time for some serious running.  21 miles at a hard effort.  The heart rate monitor I have always seems to read crazy numbers for about the first mile and a half so I’ve become accustomed to ignoring it in the beginnning.  I always run marathons at an average heart rate of 165 – 167, so my plan for today was to run at near race pace effort.  As Kilian says, “50% physical, 50% mental”, so also on the agenda was to run long and hard, alone, to simulate those dark miles of the marathon when you can find yourself alone but still have a long way to go.  I slacked a little near the end.  This may be due to drinking very little.  I had a bottle of coffee flavored Perpetuem but didn’t finish it.  I don’t know why they make it taste like vomit.  I WILL NOT be drinking this on race day!

I dug out some test results from November for comparison.  The results are promising; I’m running the same pace at close to 8 bpm slower heart rate.  I take that to mean training is working!

Some days you just run faster

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I can’t explain it.  I’ve been mostly doing easy triathlon training.  I try to get in 2 workouts each day with neither being that long.  Trying to improve my swimming, finally get comfortable on a bike, squeeze in a little running.  A couple weeks ago I hit 55 miles running for the week.  Ok but nothing worth writing about.  Earlier this week I got on a treadmill and it was all I could do to hold a 6:15 pace for 2 miles.  I took that to mean I’m in pretty lousy shape and need to get to work.

Then today I went out for my lunch time run.  I planned to just do an easy 4 miles with a pushup set every mile.  Get in a good swim later.  After a quarter mile warmup, I clocked my first mile in 7:40 and did some pushups.  I was a little surprised at the pace and decided to just go with it.  Mile 2 split was 6:22 but still felt easy so I kept pushing.  Miles 3 & 4 came in at 5:50 and 5:39.  I was breathing by this point but still felt pretty good. Took an easy quarter mile cool down and went back to work.  Changed my swim to an easy 30 minutes focusing mostly on stroke count and cutting a clean line through the water.

I keep wondering what happened.  Maybe all the sugar I ate this morning?  Everyone at work decided to bring in sweets today and I woke up late, skipping breakfast (meaning – ate my share of the cookies).  Did I hit one of Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow states‘?  Do I just hate treadmills for the miserable apparatuses they are and run better outside?  I don’t know.  I lost my heart rate monitor strap for a couple weeks (found it under my desk later today) so I don’t have any rpm data.

I don’t know what happened.  Some days you just run faster.

Setting Goals

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Its the time of year when I plan out my racing season.  I typically have a rough idea of what I plan to do two years out.  This is kind of a necessity when participating in endurnce events that are hard to get in to, quite expensive, and sometimes require training in multiyear cycles.  Perhaps this is, in part why I like these events.  My goals for 2011 were

  • March – Virginia Beach Marathon – goal to gauge fitness. Finished in about 2:59.
  • April – Sandy Bottom 24 Hour run – goal > 100 miles.  Completed 101.25 miles with heavily blistered feet.  Missed an opportunity for a win.
  • June – Bighorn 100 mile ultramarathon – goal to finish close to 24 hours, or at least under the cutoff time of 35 hours.  Finished in about 33:24 in good shape physically but with feet so blistered I was reduced to walking.
  • September – Savageman 1/2 Ironman – goal to make it up the wall and finish well. Made it up the wall.  Final time was ok.  I don’t recall the number.
  • November – Richmond Marathon – goal to run best marathon, under 2:50 but hopefully closer to 2:40.  I didn’t show up.

A few weeks prior to the Richmond race I got a call from an agent I work with.  He had a gig for me from 2:00-4:00 the day of the race.  The client had requested me.  I got a good laugh when he said, “You can make it from Richmond to Yorktown..”  I actully considered trying it, but sanity prevailed and I skipped the race.  Training had not gone well due to a hurt foot and there was no way I would have run a fast race so I let it go.  From a more practical standpoint, I earn more money from playing the guitar than from running.

So for 2012, the year I turn 50, I am thinking about 2 marathons, a mountain ultra at 100 miles, and possibly an Ironman in September.  I won’t know until early next year which races I am able to get into, but am mainly doing triathlon training.  Last weeks training was a bit thin:

  • Swim – 2.7 miles
  • Bike – 43 miles
  • Run – 18 miles

But I did get in a threshold test on one of my runs so I have a benchmark as I close in on the half century.

Test Day

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Like most people I suppose, I was never fond of test day in school.  Even if I knew the material and would likely get a good score, it was only about getting a grade.  Crossing another class off the list.  Never about understanding or long term retention.  After my last exam in college, it was so cool to know it was over for the testing.  Except for the two tests for my engineering license.

Funny thing though, is that now I test myself daily.  Really.  Because a test is no longer some dreaded thing that proves I am barely passable; it is a tool that tells me if what I am doing is working.  If I practice / train / study, and I don’t show positive results on my testing, then I’M DOING IT WRONG!  No more discussion, start doing it differently.

So how do I test myself?  Actually several ways.  I use an SRS (spaced repetition system) for learning Spanish and Russian.  The software I use, Supermemo, isn’t necessarily the easiest but give lots of cool statistics on the learning process. Charlie sometimes likes to help, but usually preferrs to attack my mouse hand.

 I do ear training exercises and log my results in a spreadsheet.  And of course there is the running, biking and swimming.

For biking I have a computrainer that links my bike with my computer for real time measurement of power, heart rate, rpm…  It even shows the balance of torque between left and right legs.  Right up my alley.  Tonight I decided to do an anaerobic threshold test on the bike so that I can have a benchmark to gauge the effectiveness of my training over the next few months.

This test starts out at 50 watts and the load increases by 20 watts every 2 minutes.  During the test I maintain pedal rpm and gearing.  At the beginning there is little effort required and the load increases are almost imperceptibly.  After a few minutes I realize I am breathing a lot harder, beginning to sweat.  The test progresses into sweating buckets, heart pounding and legs screaming. When does it end?  At failure, when I can no longer continue.

The results never cease to intrigue me.  While exercising aerobically, there is a linear relationship between heart rate and power output.  Just like driving a car in one gear, rpm ≈ speed.  But then you hit the threshold where output increases yet heart rate stays the same.  This is the point where the body changes from aerobic to anaerobic.  The relevant thing here is that once you cross this point, you will be slowing down very soon.  The key to running your best marathon is to know where this point is, and run just below it for the entire race.

So for me, right now, aat on the bike is somewhere 245 watts.  Certainly not elite ironman material, but that isn’t relevant, its where I am today.  It is solely up to me if I want to move this number to the left or to the right.

I told one of my coworkers I wanted to get a kit to measure lactate, then run intervals at descending pace, taking blood samples every quarter mile.  She suggested I might be taking this a little too far.  Perhaps, but what else am I going to do, watch tv?

Crossing the Divide


N35 29.345 W82 21.522,  2937′ msl

When you see this sign, and you are on your bike,

and then you see this…

you know you’re about to have some fun.

The mountains of western North Carolina are among my favorite places, so when the opportunity presented itself to spend a week out here there wasn’t much of a decision.  I’m staying in a house with 6 women.  Maybe 6, I haven’t really counted.  It’s group of writers / bloggers that Charlene is involved with.  Nice people.  They spend the day doing… I guess I’m not really sure.  I spend the day running, riding my bike and playing my guitar.  I brought a book on the history of philosophy, but It’s hard to spend time with a book when the mountains are calling.

It was a bit chilly out this morning – 45 deg, but not really so bad.  Mainly all that has to be done is eliminate exposed skin and wear tight fitting clothing so the wind doesn’t sneak in.  I rode from the house to a town called Bat Cave.  It was less about having a good training ride than about a celebration of the mountains.  The racing is exciting and gives context to the training, but I think the real value comes from the time spent out doors, and from having the fitnes to find what is beyond the next curve.  To be just as excited about the challenge of the uphill as the exhiliration of the downhill.

Here is a tiny sample of what I saw.  Unfortunantely I couldn’t capture the sounds, the smells, the bracing cold of the descents, the thoughts, the feelings, the interactions with the people.  I can only hope to recreate them tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

Approaching Bat Cave

Covered Bridge.  I cropped the no trespassing sign.  Hard not to think of Woody Guthrie.  Especially the last verse.

 Why?  Why???  WHY!!!???

Why would someone feel the need to use limited natural resources, to pollute the air, and to make a lot of noise on such a pointless activity that could be more easily accomplished with a rake?  Last week one of the presidential contenders unveiled his proposal for an energy policy.  Basically drill the artic and continue blasting the Applacians to rubble.  I beg to differ.  Im my humble opinion, any sane energy policy should begin with a mandate that people stop being stupid.  I guess its a lot easier to drill.

I don’t really know what the witches cabin looked like when Hansel and Gretal first saw it, but I imagine it looked a lot like this.

Cool Dresses.  Not sure what possesses someone to do this, but I appreciate the effort.  I took several photos of these for all the ladies in the house.

Bridge.  This land is your land…

Nice lake shot

Barbed Wire.

I once read that a week after barbed wire was invented the entire country was fenced off.  Actually, it has been a while since I read that and I made up the week, but I suspect the essence of this statement is true.

Until tomorrow.

Savageman 70.3

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I think I started getting emails from the Savageman race the first year. It looked like a cool race, but I was more focused on the marathon, the full Ironman, and the 100 mile trail. The race never left my mind though, and on new years day 2011 when people were nursing hangovers and making resolutions, I signed up for Savageman.

Welcome to Savageman

Even though I knew it was a difficult race, I casually ignored it, being focused on running a fast marathon in November.  Well, life, and injuries, sometimes reset priorities and at the end of July I finally started swimming and biking only because I thought more running would be detremintal.  Good thing I at least pumped up the tires.

The Swim…

image copyright Savageman Triathlon Festival

This race is known for a cold swim and it was a bit cool this weekend.  At race start it was windy, the air temp was 48 and the water 64.  Everyone was in wetsuits then this lean, very white guy walks across the beach in nothing but a speedo.  A guy beside me screamed, “NUMBER 240… YOU ROCK!!!”.  I heard someone else say, “Must be from Norway.”  The swim start was in 4 waves with me in the last, male 40-49.  It was sort of an out and back swim.  At the gun it was a typical tri with swimmers all over top of each other.  I had trouble getting in a good spot and kept my breathing every 2 strokes, switching sides every 3 or 4 breaths.  After the turn around it opened up and I was able to relax, breathing every 3 strokes and minimizing kicking.  Swim split was 33:41, 28:00 / mile pace.  Not bad for me.

T1 was painfully slow.  I unzipped my wetsuit and a cloud of vapor escaped.  I wore my bike shorts & jersey under the wetsuit.  I put on a longsleeve running shirt, warmup jacket, half finger bike gloves and a Giro helment (too hot normally, but not so bad with wet hair and cold air) and was out in 8:51.

The Bike…

image copyright Savageman Triathlon Festival

First 5 miles on the bike were rolling hills, then we had a 10 mile blast down Savage Mountain to the town of Westernport.  This is where the fun starts.  We rode up a hill and turned left up a really steep hill. It was about 2 city blocks.  I rode the first half ok and the road sort of leveled out at the cross street.  I sat down and rode as slow as I could to catch my breath for a couple seconds.  Then I was on ‘the wall’.  Busted up concrete road at 31% up.  People lining the street like some Tour de France thing, bikes crashed all around, people trying to zig zag their way up, and a few people riding a beeline for the top.  I rode a straight line.  I was both pushing and pulling on my pedals with all the strength I had and barely moving.  By half way, my lungs were screaming and my heart felt like it would explode.  I could only focus on the pavement at my front wheel, ignoring the people dressed as devils taunting the riders.  Then it was over, the grade slacked off and I was still moving.  I screamed, “YEAH!  THATS WHAT I’M TALKIN ABOUT” and kept pedaling.  Up, for another 7 miles and close to 2000 ft.  It was brutal.

Miles 25 – 36 I met a guy from Colombia and we chatted  bit on one of the long climbs hablando a veces en espanol y usando las palabras sucias.   Nice guy.  I never got his name, I just called him Colombia.

Mile 38 they call ‘Killer Miller’.  It doesn’t look nearly so bad as the other climbs, but after the other climbs this may have been the worst.  22% grade.  More devils lining the road.  Beyond that is mostly a blur.  I remember at some point we took a right turn onto a road that that was really steep.  Steep up.  There were a couple people standing there and I said, “I was hoping there would be a hill here!”


The gps track is interesting.  The last time I tested max running heart rate was a few years ago, and I tested at 183.  At mile 18 on the bike in a half Ironman I hit 180.  Unreal.  The crazy thing is biking heart rate is lower than running heart rate.  For my last Ironman, I averaged 18 mph over 112 miles.  On this race I averaged 13.8 mph over 56 miles.  Bike split – 4:02:43.


All good things come to an end, and so did the bike leg.  T2 was pretty slow at 5:35.
The run…
image copyright Savageman Triathlon Festival
Started out really slow to see how my ankles  would feel.  No pain so I gradually sped up.  This course had some minor hills (everything minor compared to the 4000 ft climb at Bighorn 100) and one technical section of steep rocky dirt road that we ran twice.  I took the ultrarunners approach: power walked up it and hit the downhill at sub 6:00 pace.  Apparantly not too many ultraruners in the group, they looked at me like I was a nut case.  Run split 1:52:29.
 The finish…

image copyright Savageman Triathlon Festival

Final time 6:43:15 – 20th in my age group.  Pretty slow but not bad given my training.

Calories burned:  swim 500, bike 3144, run 1408 = about 5000 calories.  Enough to earn a Dogfather Stout after the finish, if only I had felt like drinking it.  Had to throw my wetsuit over the handlebars and ride my bike back to the b&b.  They don’t call it Savageman for nothing.

Up Vs Tuck


Still feeling some ankle pain so I am mostly biking and swimming.  About 20 minutes into today’s bike ride I decided to see if I could tell when it is best to ride in a tucked versus upright position.  It feels so much easier on the heart to be sitting upright, I have always wondered if there is some sweet spot to try for.  I picked out a 2 mile loop and decided to ride a series of loops alternating sitting position and speed.  I was riding a Specialized Transition tri bike and wearing a Giro aerodynamic helment.

My first lap was at 17.3 mph tucked.  As soon as I started my second lap sitting up, riding was instantly harder.  I completed four tests at about 17.3 mph, then a lap at 20.4 mph.  The best I could do sitting upright was 19 mph.  Then I decided to slow down and check out the other end where the wind plays much less role.  I ran a couple more tests at 15.3 and 13.8 mph.

So here are the results.  Basically anytime I am going faster than 14 mph I need to be in a tucked position.  Much slower than I would have thought.

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