Friday, February 27, 2009

Another long day

Ah, the rest week. Although up until today, aside from the day off on Tuesday, it hasn't necessarily felt like one. First, I am one of those people who is typically sore for several days after a race, so I've been dealing with that. Even a little 5K, my legs are sore. Tuesday's rest certainly helped that aspect, even though two days after the race is typically the worst for soreness, but Wednesday's activities didn't really help. My father asked me if I wanted to go skiing with him on Wednesday. I enjoy skiing, but I haven't been able to do it a whole lot the past few years because it gets in the way of training. The only way I will go is if I can manage to fit it in around the training, and of course if the conditions are worth it. Well, 33" of new snow over the past few days, predictions of no wind, clear skies and temperatures right around 30 told me that it was probably going to be worth the trouble.

So what did I need to do aside from skiing? I had to swim first. 4900 yards. If I were Michael Phelps I'd be able to knock that out in probably 50 minutes, but since I am me, I knew it would take about 90 minutes. Ski area opens at 9. Have to drive to my parents lake house which takes an hour, then to Cannon Mountain from there takes maybe 40 minutes. Gym opens at 5, although they do tend to let you in a tad before, so I was there when the doors opened and in the water at 5, 6-lane pool all to myself to get my workout done. The good thing is that the sense of urgency, knowing you have to get somewhere as early as possible tends to make you swim a bit faster than you otherwise might. I finished up the longest swim workout I've done in about 8 months by 6:30, had to skip my post-swim sauna, showered, dried off and was in the car on my way at about 6:45. Made it to the lake by 7:45 with just enough time to eat something and get in the car with my father and my aunt to head north to Franconia.

The day did not disappoint. It was as clear as I've ever seen it and there was no wind, which anyone who skis at Cannon will tell you is a rarity in and of itself. I wish I knew what mountains I was looking at off in the distance, but I was told we could see Jay Peak in Vermont. We skied for a good three hours and I only occasionally thought I might fall asleep on the chairlift, only to be reawakened on the way down. When I ski with Dad we almost never ski past noon, which is why I figured I'd be able to get through everything in one day. We packed up and got some lunch on the way home. At that point all I wanted to do was lie down and take a nap. But I still had some work to do. I set up my bike trainer and pedaled for an hour. Luckily just an hour, otherwise I might not have been able to stand it. Oddly, I didn't sweat much, which is weird because I honestly can lose like 3 pounds of sweat in an hour on the trainer, and that includes drinking water.

That was when I really, really wanted to lie down. But nope, not done yet. I put on some outdoor clothes and headed out for a little run. Luckily a mere 35 minutes, but honestly, if it was possible to fall asleep while running - Dean Karnazes claims he has, but I am skeptical - I probably would've. The first half mile was brutally slow and shuffling, and then the middle part felt a little better, and the last half mile reminded me that I had had a very long day. But hey, at 4:30pm, 12 hours after I had gotten up, I was finally finished. That's how I get through things a lot of the time, I just tell myself that by the end of the day, I'll be done and I can relax. I was thankful that at that house there is a seat in the shower and I might not have ever come out if I wasn't so hungry and tired. I somehow made it through dinner out with Dad and was extraordinarily happy to be in bed at about 7, even if I didn't go to sleep until 8. It was definitely one of those nights where I had no recollection of being awake at any point during the night.

After all of that, I had a whole lot less physical exertion on tap for yesterday, but that almost made it harder to get through. I did it anyway, and today and tomorrow involve a 1500-yard easy swim and a 30-minute easy bike ride. If that doesn't leave me recovered, then nothing will.

On a totally unrelated note, I have come across a fun web site: It is several pages of ridiculously indulgent food, most of which you can't believe that anyone really eats. The major theme seems to be that people love to wrap things in bacon. Given that I have never been a fan of bacon, I certainly don't find those particular items appealing. However, if someone put in front of me a peanut butter-covered brownie that has been battered in cookie dough and fried, I might just have to try a bite. Luckily, I can't imagine a circumstance in which I'd actually come across such a thing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Proof of progress

I am hoping that later on in the season I can look back at this past weekend as the turning point in my triumphant return. Only time will tell. But for now, I can at least look at it as a step in the right direction and the first race that has surprised me in a good way in probably at least a year and a half. I might even dare to say that I had fun. Ok, I did have fun at one race this past September when I managed to win, but it was a tiny little local sprint with mostly first-timers, so you really can't take that one too seriously.

Winter made a little return at the end of last week thanks to some sneaky little snowstorms that gave us just enough to ruin riding outside again for a while. Saturday started out kind of nice because I did not have to spend nearly 6 hours going nowhere in the basement, but rather a mere hour and ten minutes in preparation for my race. Then came the best part: carbo-loading! Most of my favorite carbo-licious treats have been out of the rotation for the past three months in favor of trying to get rid of this pesky excess weight, but it was determined that due to the race and the long ride I'd be doing afterward, I could finally indulge in the non-Atkins-friendly goodness. (I am by no means on Atkins, by the way.) So after my ride I fired up the griddle, mixed up some batter and made myself some pancakes. I sliced up some bananas and added those in, which for me is the only way to go. My true specialty is chocolate chip banana pancakes, but there was no need to go overboard.

After my delicious breakfast I spent some time in front of the TV with a fire in the woodstove debating whether or not I'd rather fall back asleep or just get the drive down to the Cape over with. Unfortunately, when I know something needs to be done, I can never relax enough to sleep. So I packed up the car and headed south. Well, after I had a cinnamon raisin bagel around lunch time, another sorely missed treat.

The original plan had me riding my bike outside after the race with several of the QT2 teammates, but the weather had other plans. Instead, we would all ride our trainers together in the Snow's basement given that it was going to rain. Of course then it was determined that in New Hampshire it was going to snow, and given that every time it has snowed this winter there seems to be a 30-50-car pile-up on I-93, I knew I was probably going to have to finish the race and jump in the car and drive straight home, especially given the awesome handling of my not-so-winter-adequate Nissan Sentra in the snow. I'm luckly to get out of my own driveway with an inch or two on the ground, so you can imagine how my car would do on a long drive through the heavy snow they were predicting. Still, the weather forecast tends to change quick around here. I mean, just a few days earlier it was going to be partly cloudy and in the 30's on race day, so who knew? I decided to pack my bike and trainer anyway, and even clothes to ride outside. Of course, now I wish I hadn't bothered.

After a pretty painless ride down through Boston with minimal traffic and staring at the crystal clear sky and wondering why it wouldn't stick around for just another day, I made it to Hyannis in just over two hours. In spite of my New England upbringing, I have minimal experience on the Cape. I had been in September for a race that wound up being canceled during a hurricane, so instead spent the weekend with some friends playing mini-golf in the rain and knocking some pins down at what we determined is the oldest bowling alley in the United States. Or at the very least the one that has gone the longest without a little makeover. Before that I hadn't been down there since the summer before my senior year in college when I spent a few weeks with some friends shooting a movie and surfing. That is actually where I celebrated my 21st birthday. It wasn't too interesting though because I never cared about drinking, but my friends brought me out anyway, but since it was just a little early in the season almost nothing was open and I wound up ordering a mud slide at a chinese restaurant, taking one sip and letting someone else finish it. And before that I hadn't been to the Cape since my grandparents owned a house down there. I have a few vague memories of seeing their house, mistaking my Nana's pills for candy, and riding on the back of my Dad's banana yellow ten-speed in one of those baby seats. If you don't know me, you will learn that my memory is a little bit ridiculous.

So anyway, I went to the expo to pick up my number. I checked out a few of the expo things and they had some good shoe deals, but nobody ever seems to carry women's size 12 for my giant feet. And truly I am an 11.5, which nearly doesn't even exist. Oh well, I've learned to deal with it. So it was back in the car and another 30 minutes east to Orleans where I was staying. My friend Kevin offered up his parents house that we all stayed at in September for that race that never happened since nobody was going to be there, so I figured driving 30 minutes on race morning would be better than over two hours and I am happy with that decision. It was a little bit lonely there with nobody else, but also made it very relaxing. For some reason people seem to think it would be kind of spooky to stay alone in a house like that, but I don't see it that way at all. You wouldn't believe how quiet the Cape is in February. It was pretty nice, actually. For dinner I had a turkey sandwich. I could've had pasta, but that would've required cooking and dishes, and given the fact that one of my goals for the weekend was to leave the house as though I had never been there, I opted for the less-messy sandwich and its equally adequate carb/protein content.

I slept great, but I suspect even if I had been required to sleep in my car that might've been the case since I was just that tired. But the comfortable bed certainly helped the situation. The good thing about winter races is that they tend to start later in the day, so unlike a triathlon where you often have to actually be there long before a 7am start to set up your transition area or whatever, I just had to show up about an hour before a 10am start, which sure made things easier. If the race hadn't had 4000 competitors I wouldn't have even gotten there that early. I was able to sleep in until 6:30 and had plenty of time to erase all traces of my existence, drink plenty of water, eat my pre-race breakfast and use a private bathroom with running water long before arriving at the race site. Much better than leaving really early, driving two hours and trying to eat breakfast on the way.

I got myself dressed and tried to decide what I should wear, opting for shorts in case it rained because really your legs are no warmer if they are covered with sopping wet running tights, even if it did mean showing off my pasty-white legs. I made it to the race in about half an hour and found myself a nice parking space just a short walk from the convention center where the race started. I used to go to races by myself all the time, but in the past couple of years I almost always go with someone I know, but lately have been back to arriving alone, so I'm getting used to that again. But it didn't take me long to spot some of my teammates who I don't really know all that well yet, but at least I recognized them. This was after I waited in a very, very long line for the bathroom, but at least it wasn't an emergency and I knew I'd be quick. After more aimless sitting around I decided it was time to get out of my nice, warm clothes, stash my backpack and head out into the cold and get into another long line for a porta-potty. There were definitely not enough of those for a 4000-runner race. And of course I seemed to pick the worst possible line, because there was an individual line for each unit, and everyone in mine seemed to be in there for a while. I propose an express line for these races, #1 only. The clock was ticking and I figured I could run the race while having to pee, but why would I want to? I got in just in time and snuck into the front area of the start line, somewhere in the middle between the signs for 7 and 8-minute miles rather than getting into the back towards the 12+ in the sea of people that stretched on forever.

This was it, time to race. I was sort of indifferent. Lately I have had no idea what to expect from myself in these races. My body has been unreliable to say the least. I had been given my goal time, a 1:41. I thought that was going to be a serious stretch... or, maybe I actually thought it was completely impossible. In the past my half-marathon times are usually around 1:34, typically coming off some ridiculous bike ride the day before. My fastest was 1:32, but that was at the Mooseman half ironman, and although I have inquired and been informed that the course is certified, I have serious doubts that is the case. So you'd think I'd have no problem with a 1:41. Well, things change. The last half marathon I truly ran was a year ago at Hampton in which I ran a 1:40 after crashing and burning halfway through. I was incredibly disappointed. Little did I know how much worse it would get. It wasn't long after that race that I got injured. My first race back was the Big Lake half marathon. My sacroilliac joint still hurt, but I could finally run after 6 weeks off. I had been running for about 10 days with a "long run" of 6 miles. But I couldn't stand the thought of not running. I finished in 1:56 or 1:57 with my legs screaming at me because they weren't ready for that. I had been passed by hordes of people and wanted to cry at the end. Oh, but I bettered that one with a 2:17 "run" split at Mooseman in June where I melted in the heat. And the ultimate, my 2:50 at Timberman where I spent more time on the run course than the bike course and spent the last 6.55 miles walking slowly with my head pointed down in defeat, glad to be wearing my sunglasses to hide the embarrassing tears.

So yeah, a 1:41 seemed a little out of my reach as I set up on the start line. But I was just going to do the best I could. I saw my teammates lined up at the front and hoped that when they finished they wouldn't waste time waiting for me, and knew they'd do well. If nothing else at least I've got some people to inspire me. They counted us down and finally the race set off under overcast skies and temperatures in the low 40's.

Hey, after all of that, I finally got to the part where I'm running. There's probably not going to be anyone still reading, but here it is anyway. I was told to do the first mile in 7:33 and no faster, then settle in to 7:35-7:40 the rest of the way. For someone who just recently started running under 9:00/mile in training, I have no recollection of what a 7:33 mile feels like. I honestly didn't think I was capable of running a single 7:45 mile anymore, let alone 13 in a row. But I was more rested than I'd been in a very long time and I had some extra carbs in my system, so I just ran at a pace that felt comfortably hard. It was tight in the first mile or so since there were so many people, and I got to pass Dick and Rick Hoyt in the first mile. I checked my heart rate monitor and it said 55. Um, I don't think that's working quite right. Either that or I am really, really aerobically efficient. Or about to die. So I just continued running until I finally saw the little orange sign on the side of the road that marked mile 14. The marathon would be two loops, so just after that I passed mile 1 and checked my watch. 7:20. Well, I guess I can run sub-8-minute miles and not make my lungs explode in the process, but wow, that was much faster than I was supposed to go.

This is a common problem of mine. In my better days (you know, way back when I was like, 27 instead of 29) I would often start out half marathons at a 6:45 pace and even hold 7's for a while. It never got me any better than 7:10 average, so you can see what I'm up against. Maybe one day I'll learn. It just feels so good at the beginning. I didn't really know what to do. For a brief moment, I thought maybe I will just shatter my goals and be able to hold up the whole time, but that thought was fleeting. I just tried to settle in and find something that was comfortable, but not too slow, but not too hard. I hit mile 2 in 7:26. Hmmm... slightly better, but still too fast. What do I do now? At that point I just kind of hung in there and tried to do whatever I could do at the given moment and going back and forth between thinking I was going to crash and burn by mile 5 and thinking that maybe, just maybe I'd actually be able to hang on and have a good race.

The course was pretty flat, although it did have a few little hills to break things up. We ran a bit along the ocean and actually got a little boost from the wind early on. Anytime we passed a mile marker in the double digits representing the marathon second loop I was more and more grateful that I only had to run the loop once. I lost track of each individual mile split, but started doing the overall math and by mile 6 I think I was still holding a 7:30 pace overall, but my quads were starting to get mad at me. I haven't done any speedwork and I really don't remember how to run fast, and even though I wasn't running fast, to my legs it felt that way. Initially I actually felt strong running up the few inclines on the course, but those were becoming more and more difficult. I just wanted to hang on. The miles continued to tick by and I was more and more happy to get closer to the end. It was the first time I've felt like I was really running in a very, very long time. I got passed more and more often by people who are much better at managing their race paces from start to finish, but I hadn't yet completely collapsed, so I considered that a good sign.

Somewhere around mile 8 or so my legs were really starting to burn and I opted to walk through an aid station just enough to clear the lactic acid, get some water and be ready to go for it again. I hate walking in races, but it is a tactic I have unfortunately had to utilize lately just to get through them. The strategy seemed to pay off as I was able to get running again. One particular later mile I really lost some time, but I was determined to keep going. The wind seemed to turn into a headwind after about mile 10, which is sort of a mean thing to do, not to mention the general trend toward upward inclines, so subtle that you might not have even noticed had you not just raced for 10 miles. The miles certainly got slower and slower, but the further I went the more confident I was that I was not going to completely melt down. A check of the watch told me that my 1:41 goal was shot barring some major miracle, but I wasn't going to be too far off. I certainly wasn't going to be anywhere near two hours, which is probably what I would've expected for myself given my recent awesome running ability.

Mile 12. Almost home. I didn't feel too bad. At the outside I maybe had to run for 8 more minutes. Surely I could hold on for 8 more minutes. When I was about 10 miles in I figured most of my teammates were probably about to be finished, but last year I'd've thought that at mile 9, so at least I was improving. I turned a corner and heard someone say that we had half a mile to go. I actually found a little second wind and maybe even sped up a little... or at least felt like I did. I saw Tim and Cait Snow running towards me in the opposite direction on their cooldown run, both having just taken the overall win and they cheered me on which gave me a little boost. I actually smiled. I can't tell you the last time I smiled while running in a race. Lately it's just been trying to hide my embarrassment.

The finish line was cruelly set at the top of a little hill, but at that point, I didn't care. I crossed the line in 1:43. A year ago I would've thought that to be a disaster, but this time, I was thrilled. It's nowhere near a PR. It's nowhere near where I should be. But I ran hard, I felt better than I have in over a year and I actually did better than I thought I would. I haven't done better than I thought I would since I won Lake Placid. In fact, lately it has been taking my worst nightmare finish and actually making it worse. I ran a time that would embarrass most of my friends - slower in fact than their training pace, let alone race pace - but I was happy. It finally made me feel like I'm on the right track and that I actually might be able to get faster again. Like I said, I am hoping this was the turning point.

I headed inside and ran into my coach and had to confess my poor race management and that I had gone out too fast, but he seemed happy and had figured I'd go out too fast. I threw on a jacket and went out for a cooldown run, the first few steps of which were only slightly faster than walking, but once I loosened up I was ok. It started sprinkling at that point and I was glad to have finished before it started raining. Unfortunately I had to almost immediately get in the car and leave to beat the snowstorm that we were supposed to get north of the border, so I said goodbye and hit the road.

After driving through the rain and easily beating the snow, I had to unload the bike and trainer and ride for four hours. I've never done that before, and it wasn't much fun. I actually had a headache for about the last hour, but at 7:30 I was finally done. The snow had begun and I was glad to be home, but too tired to have dinner so instead I had a banana and went to sleep.

I was actually excited about training. I might just be able to surprise myself in a good way this year. The impending "blizzard" that had been talked up left us with about 1-2" so I had no trouble making it to the pool Monday morning, I just had a little trouble walking down the stairs to get there. Well-earned post-race soreness. And finally, after a 90-minute ride, day 14 on the bike, I could relax, for today is a total REST DAY. You know, by the end of the day on a rest day I get antsy, but in the morning, when I'm lying comfortably in my bed and I roll over to look at the clock before the sun comes up and know that I don't have to get up, I think it is better than Christmas. I mean, on Christmas I had to ride my trainer. It would get old fast, but once a month I will gladly take it.

So there you go. Finally a good race, a positive experience and something to show me that I'm headed in the right direction. And obviously I've gotten better at keeping things in perspective, because you can't magically run your old times when you're way fatter and more out of shape, but you can continue to move back towards the fitter, faster you. Now it doesn't seem quite so impossible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I guess I'm racing this weekend

There is something about waking up to another unexpected coating of snow that makes you forget that you might actually have to do a race soon. It snowed on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, but nobody told me that I should expect more snow to sneak up on us in the middle of the night and make things more interesting this morning. And then, oh yeah, I'm running a half marathon on Sunday. It sure doesn't feel like race season.

Yesterday was a good day. There was the aforementioned extra sleep, which is always a good thing. Then in the late afternoon I headed out for a pretty regular little run, 1:05 at my zone 1 heart rate. It was "warm" by my current standards, nearly 40 degrees. That meant I could forgo the skull cap and could just wear a regular long-sleeved shirt without any sort of insulation. I felt lighter already. Adequate time had also passed for the roads to not be slushy or snowy from the evening storm. I contemplated what route I might take. For years I have run the same out-and-back on the same street for many of my runs, going further out as needed. But last year I started running this sort of figure-eight loop that I kind of like. The only catch: it's really hilly. Not much flat. Up for a mile, down half a mile, up another half-mile, down again... etc. But, it's just a nicer route and takes me through more back roads with less traffic, even if it means facing more difficult terrain.

So I went for it. Right away I just plain felt better than I have in a very, very long time on a run. That was certainly a nice change of pace. My legs didn't feel like they were screaming at me as I climbed the hills and I didn't feel like I was slowing considerably as the run went along. My pace wasn't stellar, but it was a whole lot better than it has been, and that was enough to make me feel like I'm finally on the right track.

So now I feel a lot better about running a half marathon this weekend. It's funny, for a long time I could've stepped up to the start line at a half-marathon at a moment's notice and not thought twice about it. It seems a bit more intimidating at the moment. Although I am not sure I have ever run a half marathon that didn't come the day after a 5-6-hour bike ride in the midst of Ironman training. I actually get to sort of taper for this one. The most exciting thing for me is that I finally get to carbo-load! I have missed pancakes desperately in the past several months, and now I finally get to have them again. Just for a day, but it's better than nothing.

So tomorrow I will head down to Hyannis to run a half marathon for the first time since last May, when I had a dismal showing after coming back from 6-weeks of not running, about 10 days of training and a long run of 6 miles. That one was not pretty. This one hopefully will be better. I am choosing not to count my overheating at Mooseman and my complete meltdown at Timberman in August, Have you ever had a run split that was longer than your bike split? I now know what that feels like. It is not fun. But hey, it's a new year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How I love sleeping

As someone who usually gets up in the 5-5:30am range (and a few times this week in the 4-4:30 range) you'd think maybe I wasn't such a fan of sleeping. Not true. I fully compensate by being in bed between 8-8:30 more often than not, and actually, almost ashamed to admit it, but on Sunday night I went to bed at 7:15. I think my 2-year old nephew goes to bed later than that. And I was asleep within minutes.

I hate staying up late at night. Really, I am almost physically incapable of it. It is a trend that developed a little later in life for me, but really it has always been more of a tendency of mine. When I first went away to college I remember that in choosing who our roommates would be one of the questions we had to answer was what time we went to bed at night. Throughout high school on weekdays I was usually in bed between 9-9:30 - you know, much later than I do now - but I think the earliest box you could check off was before 11:30. That first semester my classes either started at 8am or 9:30am, depending on the day, and I remember how my friends in the 9:30 class hated having to be up so early, where I was happy on those days that I got to sleep in. It sure beat having to get to high school by 7:15 in order to get a parking space. My friends only occasionally gave me a hard time about being in bed before Conan even started, and my roommate and I eventually got our neighbors used to not being quite so loud and/or participatory when they watched wrestling late at night.

However, when given the opportunity, I sure did love to sleep in. In keeping with the college theme I'll recall how I had two separate semesters in which I only had classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, which of course left me 4-day weekends, and plenty of sleep. Not parties, as I was not into that kind of thing, just lots and lots of sleep in between usual basketball games. I guess I kind of miss waking up at 11 on Monday mornings. Although in the general college population I was an amateur at sleeping in. I remember coming home from basketball games at maybe 4pm on Saturday afternoons and running into people in the dorm elevator who had just gotten up. Seriously? Wow.

My definition of sleeping in has changed quite a bit. Given my current training schedule, I usually have one day a week where I just let myself sleep as much as I need to. That day happens to be today, since I don't have to swim (my pool by far is easiest to deal with first thing in the morning) and don't have a large volume of training to get in. I guess I could sleep in on the weekends and start my training later, but for some reason I have a thing about getting the long training days started early in the morning so I have a big chunk of the day afterward to just relax and not have anything else to worry about. So last night I went to bed at about 8:15 and after a brief period of being awake at about 5:30 this morning since that is what time I usually get up, I finally rolled over at 7:15. Yes, my definition of sleeping in has definitely changed. I consider that to be a huge success and I feel a whole lot better for it.

Lots of sleeping means that you get in a lot of dreaming too. And lately, I seem to be dreaming about food. In a pretty comical way, actually. Given that I am in the process of trying to lose a pretty substantial amount of weight and am not eating a lot of deliciously indulgent things, apparently my subconscious is fixated on those things. Plus, I keep waking up in the middle of the night incredibly hungry. But I almost woke up laughing when two nights ago I awakened from a dream in which I was eating ice cream. But, it wasn't just that I was eating ice cream. I was eating ice cream out of a container the size of a huge trash barrel - you know, one of those big ones you'd find in your school cafeteria - and it had peanut butter cups and Oreos and who knows what else. Kind of like the way-beyond-gotta-have-it-size Cold Stone Creamery concoction. Think I might have been a little hungry?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Riding outside in February

You have to be ready to seize opportunities to ride outside in the winter around here. Sometimes the circumstances can be just right and you can sneak out. In this case, I probably made it with about 3 hours to spare and surely won't be able to ride outside again for at least a few days due to an approaching snow storm, but that didn't stop me today. The temperatures were in the low 30's, which is just "warm" enough to be tolerable - especially when you are going crazy riding in place every single day. It amazingly hasn't snowed in 3 weeks which has given the roads a chance to really clear of ice, sand and salt. It was a little windy, but not so much that the windchill got unbearable. So I decided to finally hit the road, for the first time since sometime around New Year's.

First, I had to find all of my cold weather riding gear, and of course it takes a whole lot longer to get dressed when you are going to brave the elements and when you haven't needed that stuff in a while. I still can't find my bike sunglasses, but I'm sure they'll turn up. Then I had to walk my bike down the driveway because there is still a large chunk of it that is complete ice, but it is a vast improvement over what it was before. But once I got past that, off I went. It was so nice to actually get somewhere when I pedaled. Today only called for a 2-hour recovery ride, but I may have gone a little bit harder than I should have, merely because I was just so happy to be outside and not in my basement. It seemed windier than I expected it to be, although considering the fact that I have not had to deal with wind in at least 2 months, my tolerance may be a bit low. The other thing was that my ears seemed to be incredibly cold since my hat didn't completely cover them, but other than that, yep, that was much better than the trainer.

Afterward I went off on a little transition run which was also supposed to be nice and easy. Somehow it wound up being about 20 seconds/mile faster than my much higher heart rate run yesterday, but I can never tell what is going on with my running anymore, so I guess I can be happy about that. Now, just have to wait for it to snow tonight for the first time in a long time and it will be back to the basement for the bike ride tomorrow. Oh, well. It was a nice little change of pace.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Watching other people run

After a whole lot of training of my own for the weekend - 10 hours and 24 minutes to be precise - I somehow managed to meet up with some friends and head to the coast to watch them run the Hampton Half Marathon. I ran this race myself last year - in fact, it was the last race that I've done that wasn't a completely embarrassing disaster, even though at the time I was disappointed with my 1:40 time - but this year it was not on the schedule as I have to wait another week to embarrass myself in Hyannis.

I have done more race spectating in the past year than I have I think ever. At least a half marathon is pretty low-key and easy to watch. It was also a beautiful day for February in New Hampshire -sunny, a slight breeze and temperatures in the mid 30's. The pre-post-race festivities were held inside of a hotel, so I had somewhere to sit and be warm while the runners disappeared for a while. It still feels strange for me to be at a race and not be doing that race. And in spite of the fact that I had gotten up incredibly early to squeeze in a 4-hour brick before I left, I still felt kind of guilty that I wasn't running, and like I was lesser than all of those racers who were there.

But anyway, at about 1:10 into the race I made my way outside because I figured that the winner would be coming across soon, and I was right as he appeared and crossed the line in a little over 1:13. It never ceases to amaze me how fast some people can run. The top runners were pretty sparse, and about at the time I expected came my friend Kevin, who managed 8th place in a time of 1:21. Once upon a time I used to do some of my run training with him. You'd think it was me who was the one in my 40's, and yet he keeps getting faster and I have gotten dramatically slower, but anyway... he seemed happy with his results, as he should've been. My other friends who ran were just doing it as an easy training run, so although under normal circumstances they would've come across somewhere between 1:24-1:26, they came in at 1:35 and 1:40, respectively.

In watching those runners cross, it always amazes me how fast some people can be when they don't really look like they are running that fast. Long strides, short strides, different body types and ages, you just can't tell by looking at someone if they are going to be fast. I was looking at the people who were coming in around what used to be my real half marathon time, 1:34, and I none of them even looked that tired, where I usually felt like I was going to die after a run like that. Then as the time ticked on, I saw more and more people crossing and they looked slower and slower. And yet we still hadn't reached what was likely to be my time for next week's race. It is still driving me crazy how slow I've gotten in such a short amount of time and how long it seems to be taking for it to come back. I honestly feel like I must have the sharpest, quickest rate of declining performance for any human being ever on the face of the planet who did not suffer some sort of horrible accident or come down with a debilitating disease. I feel like I am defying science. But what else can I do but continue to train and see what happens?

Anyway, after my 4-hour workout, watching the race, wondering what I'm doing wrong and finally getting home at about 4pm, I wound up going to bed at 7:15 last night, and I SLEPT. That is certainly not my normal bedtime, but I surely needed it in this case. A nice, easy day today of an easy swim and a 1-hour easy ride (day 7 on the bike, 7 to go) Maybe by tomorrow things will be better.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wind, but at least it's not so cold

Today I believe was the longest ride I've ever done on the trainer. Actually, now that I think about it, I know it is. At least I can start nice and early and be done early, as well as throw my Powerbar wrappers on the floor and not actually be littering. I also realized when I was looking at my training schedule that because things are being arranged a bit to accommodate the fact that I am doing a half marathon next weekend I am in the middle of what will be 14 days straight on my bike. I may finally be able to get outside for at least a few of those rides, but for the time being I will be inside, smelling the stale sweat that keeps accumulating in the unventellated basement. I'm also actually getting sick of watching so many movies. I like to try and watch things I haven't seen before so I am not so completly aware of the time and what comes next, but inevitably I have wound up watching some really bad movies that I think sometimes make the time go slower than if I just had nothing on at all.

For whatever reason, it seems that getting through the first half of the rides is always the most painful. No matter how long the ride is in total, that first half seems to take an eternity, but the rest doesn't seem nearly as bad. Except of course for the fact that I start to get tired of sitting on my bike in soaking wet bike shorts and jersey, as well as bike shoes that have become rather squishy. But now that I've been training for a while, the workout does not end when the countdown timer on my watch beeps. No, then it is time to change into something that may be dry for at least a few minutes and head out for a run. So I did.

Currently, I am getting really tired of it being really windy out as it has been for the last four days, all of which have involved me running outside and fighting through the strong breeze. And of course no matter what it seems that the wind is blowing in my face at least 75% of the time, even though that seems like it should be physically impossible given the constant changes in direction on my running routes. It has not exactly done wonders for my run speed. I also have this bad habit of picking really hilly routes for my runs. I live in a slight valley, so really no matter which direction I want to run in I have to go up. The flattest section of road, relatively speaking, involves crossing a highway at a stoplight and I sort of like to avoid going that way for the most part just because I hate having to cross. Actually, I hate crossing on the way back more, since it is less than half a mile from home and I can't stand getting stopped when I'm so close to being finished. Not to mention the fact that people love to run that red light, often semi-trucks, so I'd rather not take too many chances. The other issue is that the road I run on over there has no shoulder and is very heavily traveled, so again, not the safest.

So instead I hang back on my side of the highway, and inevitably wind up running up long hills that seem to go on forever. It is not rolling, it is up for a long time and then maybe if you run far enough, down for a long time. This is my least favorite kind of running to do, and yet I find myself doing it the most often. My running skills are severely lacking still at the moment, to the point where I think I might actually be starting to defy science in my lack of improvement, and by the time I have been running up a hill for a couple of minutes my legs almost stop working, and yet I might barely be halfway up, which is not helpful. All I need is a little downhill reprieve, or even a flat reprieve, and I might be ok, but they never seem to come soon enough. Oh, and did I mention whenever I am running up those long hills the wind is also blowing in my face? Because it is.

But, 50 minutes later and I was home, inside, sheltered from the wind and unbelievably glad to be done with my workouts for the day. The only problem is that in order to take a shower I have to spend at least a few more minutes standing up, but I handled it ok. I am lucky in that once the workout is over, I don't have any other pressing issues, so I head straight to the couch. Early in the season these long workouts always make me a lot more tired than they do later in the season. This may not wind up being the case this year depending on how much my coach decides to beat me up during those workouts, but that remains to be seen. But there is nothing like a good post-workout nap. I prefer napping on the couch as opposed to the bed, for fear that if I went to bed I might sleep for 3 hours and not be able to fall asleep tonight when I really need to, and I also like to leave the TV on a little low. Do you know what is especially soothing to nap to? The Food Network. The best choice is really any cooking show. It puts me right out. I enjoy watching the Food Network, but it is also useful for this.

Tomorrow is the dreaded long run where I am reminded once again how truly slow I have become, and it will only be day 6 on the 14-day stretch on the bike. I'm also going to watch some friends run the Hampton Half Marathon. I ran this one myself last year. It's funny, I ran a 1:40 and I was really mad, and I think I'd kill for that time now, which is just really sad. I'm trying, anyway. I guess that counts for something.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Intensity begins on the bike

Today was my first attempt at adding some intensity to biking for the 2009 season. Of course I have done this before, but I've never started this early. You know, usually by the time I start I can actually do it outside on the road, and in the past it was just heart rate based whereas this is cadence-based and I'm told to just do them all at whatever effort level I can maintain throughout. It's amazing how a basement that seems freezing cold when you first start can feel so much warmer once you get going. It is also amazing how pushing a certain gear can seem so simple in the beginning and so darn difficult once you get to the last interval. But it's kind of nice when your legs are burning, because at least that means you're working hard.

So I survived, and I think I'm going to need that extra work because in a few weeks I have to do an indoor time trial on the bike. I've never tried it before, but I'm told it is more painful than a 5K so I am really excited about it considering how much I hate 5K's and each time I line up at the start line I wish I was running a half marathon or something else that didn't involve pushing such a hard effort for such a short amount of time. I am all about the distance.

After my intervals I set out for a short transition run. T2 took a little longer than needed because of course I had to dry off the sweat and suit up to brave temperatures back to being stuck in the 20's, and then I was forced to walk down the driveway because it is a complete sheet of ice and I'm pretty sure I would've broken some bone had I tried to run down it. And the driveway is long, so that took a while. But hey, I had an ok run for once. Short, but ok. Except for the part where my heart rate monitor said my heart was beating at 33bpm, which I'm pretty sure was some sort of technical glitch. Either that, or I'm probably going to die soon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Temperature fluctuation

My last post had me nearly freezing my face off during an outdoor run. Friday's transition run was under similar conditions, although I only had to endure it for 35 minutes. I spent a long enough time on the trainer Saturday morning to consume 10 bottles of fluid, which is by far a new personal record, and made me happy that I only had to let it sit next to me on the coffee table rather than lugging close to 200oz of fluid up and down hills. Although let me tell you, I miss hills. At least then you know you're getting somewhere. And I never have to drink nearly as much on an outdoor ride as I do on the trainer. And I've got the lake underneath me at the end to prove it. Anyway, after all of that I got to run outside again, this time it was in the low 20's, but this time also with a lot less wind so it wasn't nearly as painful. Then again, after the first mile I was more preoccupied with the fact that I felt like I was going to throw up for no apparent reason, so the cold concerns took a back seat to the possibility of vomiting in front of passing strangers. Luckily, that did not occur. I think I was just feeling rather done for the day.

Then came Sunday. Long run day of course. To look outside and still see the mountains of snow you'd never have guessed that it was 45 degrees out. Considering the fact that it has been above freezing for probably 15 minutes total since the beginning of December, this meant that it felt awfully warm out to me, relatively speaking. I was forced to dig through my drawers and rediscover some shorts to run in. It also meant that I got to carry some water with me since for once I knew it wasn't going to freeze. It did eliminate the gloves that so handily housed the gels that fueled my runs and the wrappers after I had consumed them, but now I had a Fuel Belt for that, so good trade.

The initial run down the driveway felt the strangest because the snowbanks are now chest-high (and I'm tall, so that's pretty high) and the driveway is still a sheet of roughly 2" ice. Also as a trade, while it was really warm, it was also really, really windy. That can mess with you a little bit. Not only can it hold you back some, and at times even push you along, but when you are running near all of that snow it can often blow a lot of cold air at you. So I spent much of the time either feeling a really warm breeze or a really cold one, depending on which way the wind hit me. The other thing that struck me most when I first set out on that run was how pasty white my legs were sticking out of those shorts. Having not been exposed to the sun since October, I guess that was to be expected. But of course in a few months it will all be replaced by that multi-tiered tan line that goes bike shorts, tri shorts, run shorts. Sometimes you'll get the sock line, and the best of course is that little half-moon stripe on your lower back between jersey and shorts when you are bent over the handlebars. That one hurts like you would not believe if you forget to put sunblock on it!

The run itself was unbelievably crappy, for lack of a better term. There really is no other way to put it. I'm training hard and trying to do everything I'm supposed to be doing, but it was just plain crappy. You know when your legs just won't cooperate? That was me yesterday. I had 3 gels during the 2-hour run, and under normal circumstances I could go much longer without any, but I thought I might either collapse or have to flag down a ride home, depending on how stubborn I was feeling. Running continues to elude me. You know it's bad when you look at your watch and see the time and know that you used to be done with that same loop by then, only this time you still have TWO MILES to go! I just don't get it. It's not like I'm suddenly 65 or coming back from major surgery or a broken leg or something. I just can't seem to get it back. At least I've taken a fair chunk out of my weight loss for the season, although I still have more to go than I've done so far, it is all moving in the right direction.

But after the negativity and demoralization that was yesterday, for some strange reason I felt good this morning. Monday is the easy day and all I had to do was go swim an easy 3000 in the pool. Some people hate long sets, but I love them. I'd rather do 1000's than 100's. And I can't wait until I can do these Monday swims in open water, even if that time is still like 4 months away. Maybe it was just the fact that I knew I didn't have to run today for the first time in six days and that nothing could bring me down, or maybe a good night's sleep, but whatever, it was just nice to leave the pool and feel good.

On another note, I'd like to let you all know that in the future when you are at the supermarket purchasing your energy bars, be sure to inspect the expiration date. For some reason these simple grocery items seem to go unnoticed when the time comes to clear the shelves of things that are past their prime. My first experience with this was this past summer when I was loading up on some random bars to take with me on a training weekend with some friends. Luckily, I actually went to eat one of them before I even left on the trip, noticing right away that the thing was hard as a rock. I quickly discovered why: expired 3 months ago. As had a few of the others I had bought. At least I was able to go back and get non-expired ones.

So ever since then I have been diligent about checking the expiration dates on energy bars before I buy them. This morning I was picking up some stuff and wandered over to pick up a few items to get me through some workouts this week. First of all, Monday mornings, although nice because the supermarket is nearly empty, are not the best time to shop because you will often find the shelves ravaged of much of your needs from the rush of weekend shoppers. Also, currently there is that whole peanut butter scare thing so there are a few bars that have been pulled from the shelves. At least they paid attention to that. So I was sifting through the Powerbar supply only to find that almost all of them were expired. Some just a few days ago, several the beginning of January, one box from December, and one really good box from October. I guess I will admit that I am not a super-stickler for expiration dates when it comes to certain items. For example, I just had a Gu the other day that expired in July. But really, it just doesn't seem like that much can happen to Gu when wrapped in the package like that, so I decided to be daring and I lived. Oh, but just so you know, that rule does not apply to chocolate Gu. It kind of starts to get rather chewy. Vanilla is fine though.

Frozen foods maybe a little beyond the date, canned goods a little beyond, pasta way beyond. I don't make a habit of keeping things around long enough for them to expire, but I do have standards. Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, any kind of meat or eggs, salad dressing, um, no, I don't eat those once expired.

BUT, I do not think that people should be tricked into buying products that are already past their expiration dates just because the store wasn't paying attention. I'd probably eat a Powerbar I already had that was slightly expired, but I am not about to buy one that way.

Back to running tomorrow, so more opportunity for disappointment!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The hills begin... in the freezing cold

Today was my first time ever running hill repeats. You'd think that a triathlete who has been training for I guess 7 years now would've done them before, but I had not. There are hills everywhere on my run routes, so I just run one when I come to it. Well, this time hill repeats are a part of the schedule, so I did a few today. Aside from the obvious hills that run everywhere I actually have a really good one conveniently right on my own street. I live in a dead-end road that is merely half a mile long. My driveway is in the middle in a bit of a valley before it just goes straight up to the end at something like 10% grade, which is what I was looking for. Perfect. I was able to complete all of my repeats during about a 20-minute span of time and didn't have to deal with a single passing car.

What I did have to deal with was the cold. It was an exceptionally chilly day today. It was 12 degrees when I went out and it had actually gone down to 10 when I came back. I shudder to think how much colder it might have been if the sun hadn't been out in full force. But the worst part was that it was windy. Apparently the windchills were below zero, so that made things extra-fun. Remember when I said a Gore-tex jacket will take care of everything and it almost doesn't matter what you wear underneath? The key word there is almost. My legs were numb most of the time as I discovered I had finally reached a point where I probably should've worn some extra layer on my legs, but of course you never know that until you get going out there. Towards the end my face was absolutely frozen, as well as my mid-section. My eyelashes were frozen and at one point I blinked and couldn't get my eye open again without using my hands. By the time I was finished I took off my jacket to find that portions of my shirt were frozen solid, a clear indicator of just how chilly it was out there. Most of my skin was bright red, but it was nothing a nice shower didn't fix.

But hey, it's all part of training around here, and it was the one run this week in which I did not have to ride my bike beforehand, so at least I got to start out dry and relatively warm. And the other good news is that it is supposed to be in the upper 40's this weekend so I am guessing my long run will be done in SHORTS!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Transition runs in winter

For some reason I have decided I like living in New Hampshire. Usually those thoughts are more prominent from about May through October, maybe even November. I don't mind winter terribly, even though my car is so terrible in the snow that the slightest incline causes my tires to spin out and there have been a few times I've been unable to get out of my own driveway. I do ski on occasion and appreciate the snow under those circumstances, and someone once mentioned how winter was good because it sort of cleaned everything up and killed off all of those bugs and things, so we do at least get several months a year without having to deal with that. I don't even mind running outside in winter for the most part, or even if it is snowing. I do, however, miss riding my bike outside.

This week marked the end of my base phase of training and the beginning of the build phase. I don't think I've ever started a build phase this early with the exception of the time I did an Ironman in April, and at that point I was living in Phoenix anyway, so I didn't really notice. So with the beginning of the build phase comes the transition runs. Again, not something I have ever made a habit of doing in NH in the winter. In fact, I believe I can only recall one other time I have ever done a transition run after riding my bike trainer, and that wasn't even really winter but rather a day in which it was pouring rain and windy and I just couldn't stand the thought of riding for 5 hours in that, so I stayed inside. A lesser of two evils kind of decision.

The problem with this is of course the extreme temperature difference between the bike ride and the run. I'd love to be riding outside right now, but the roads are covered in snow, salt, sand, ice and water and it is just not happening. So for my rides I am in the basement, pedaling away and watching more movies than I ever thought possible. When I ride the trainer I sweat like crazy. If not for the bike clothing and the fact that there is no pool in the basement, you'd have a very hard time being able to tell if I'd just finished a bike workout or a swim. So I emerge from my sweaty dungeon and now have to figure out how to quickly change and prepare myself for the cold weather and not freeze to death while I'm out there. Of course in the spring, the transition run involves a change of the shoes and maybe a shirt change and I'm off. The winter transition requires a total wardrobe change, because if you set foot into the cold air in clothes that are already wet you are probably not going to enjoy it very much. Inevitably it is cold out there anyway.

Yesterday wasn't too bad since it was a toasty 32 degrees out when I went for my run. Considering the weather as of late, I'm not kidding when I say it actually felt warm. Today was different though. I emerged from the training lair to check out the thermometer and see that it was 18 degrees out. Nice. Not only that, but it was windy, a windchill of 5 as I later discovered. But hey, the sun was out. This is where Gore-tex comes in very handy. If you don't have a Gore-tex jacket and you live in a colder climate I would strongly recommend it. I swear, it's only a shell but it almost doesn't matter what I wear underneath because it always keeps me warm enough. So off I went to face the cold and wind, the wind that always blows in your face even though you are running a loop and running in every direction possible. But I'm getting used to it. I'd better, because I do believe I'll be doing these 5 days a week. Yikes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Nobody told me before...

There are a lot of things that nobody told me would happen to me before I started doing triathlons. A lot of strange side effects that maybe needed some forewarning aside from the obvious like, "your aerobic capacity will increase and your resting heart rate will go down." No, these are some sneaky little things that you might never even think of, and although all of them won't happen to every triathlete, I am pretty sure that they will happen to most who take up the sport after a lifetime as a non-triathlete.

-Food will become infinitely more important to you than it ever was before, and in several aspects. You will constantly think about what you are eating and if it is the best fuel for your workout. You will suddenly start caring about carb/protein ratios. You will be a whole lot hungrier, and it is the kind of hunger that most normal people do not understand. So if you are on a long car ride with several non-athletes and you tell them you are hungry, there is no way they can possibly understand the urgency of the situation.

-You will find yourself using an awful lot of porta-potties, whether they be at races or on a pitstop in the middle of a run or bike workout. It will become so normal to you that you will forget that most normal adults do not have occasion to use them very often, and they will likely look at you like you have 3 eyes if you should suggest they use one.

-You will suddenly have no problem discussing bodily functions around others. Normal people won't usually offer up a story about nearly crapping their pants in casual conversation, but for a triathlete it just becomes a story that we can all laugh at, and most of us, unfortunately, can relate to.

-Along the same lines it will suddenly seem perfectly acceptable to pee yourself when covered head to toe in a neoprene suit. Normal people aren't really into that kind of thing, but we just call it "warming up" *I will say though that I have met one triathlete who still chooses not to do this, but that is only one and the rest will happily admit it.

-Your time between laundry loads will shrink considerably as the dirty clothes will pile up faster than you can imagine. This is especially true in winter with all of those extra layers.

-You will start to plan vacations around races and with most social events that come up you will immediately wonder, "how will that conflict with my training schedule?"

-There's a good chance you are going to start getting up just as early on weekends as you do on weekdays so that you can get your workouts in.

-You will lose your ability to stay up late at night. And by late I mean 10, or in my case, 9.

-Suddenly a 7-day week will run Monday-Sunday and not Sunday-Saturday as the calendar might suggest.

-You will probably master changing clothes in your car without anyone noticing.

-It will suddenly feel perfectly natural to walk around in stretchy shorts.

-Several times a week you are going to smell chlorine in your nostrils all day long. This of course is dependent upon you actually doing your swim training.

-You are going to have to take a lot more showers. Or at least I hope you will.

-It won't seem weird to do a workout in the morning and then still have to do another workout when you leave your job at the end of the day. To a lot of people that is compulsive exercising. To us it is just training.

Well, there are a few things, anyway. I am sure there are more but those are the ones that popped into my head just now. These are the kinds of things that sometimes run through my head when I'm running and letting my mind wander. Careful, it might happen to you, too.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day

When was the last time you really sat down and watched the movie "Groundhog Day"? Because it really is a great movie. Highly recommended. And really, not just watching it in pieces when it is on TBS, but sit down and watch the whole thing.

Anyway, enough about that. The groundhog saw his shadow, surprise, surprise. All I can ever really think about on this day though is that it would be a miracle if there were only six weeks left of winter, and that's supposed to be the bad news. Although today it was in the upper 30's and I am not lying when I say that it honestly felt genuinely warm out. At one point I went outside in a t-shirt and I was fine. This is of course the only day this week in which I did not have any outdoor workouts, but the good news is that the snow storm we were supposed to get tomorrow night is instead blowing out to sea and sparing us from its wrath.

Mondays are my new super easy training day. An easy swim and that's it. It's kind of nice and gives me a reason to look forward to Mondays for the first time in my life, but it always seems to go by all too quickly. Mondays actually were my biggest training days for a couple of seasons. This was when I followed the less-standard training schedule that did not involve following up the Saturday long ride with the Sunday long run, but rather had the long run happen in the middle of the week. So Mondays would be something like, swim 5500 yards, lift weights, run 10-12 miles and then ride 60-70. Do I need to tell you that I was tired after all of that? And there is something about the fact that it was so many separate workouts that made it seem that much more daunting. Not the case anymore. Now on Mondays I only have to take 1 shower, which is pretty incredible.

I've also moved on from my initial 12 weeks of base training to the build phase. Things are going to get a lot harder and a lot more intense, and that can be pretty intimidating to me. I also really need to make sure I get my weight down since my first tri of the season is in 9 short weeks! Ahhh! Maybe at some point before then I might actually get to ride my bike outside, but in the meantime, I'm only on season 3 of "The Office" so at least I've got something to occupy my time.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Most appalling thing I've ever witnessed at a race

Today I ran a 15K race, or at least I was there, wore a number and made it from the start line to the finish line. But I don't really want to talk about my race. I'd like to talk about something I witnessed on the race course.

I was running along a little over 3 miles in up a slight hill. By then the runners were fairly spaced out so there was plenty of room for everyone. Up the hill a little ways I noticed two guys sort of veered out into the road while one of them was sort of going after the other guy. For a minute I thought that maybe they were old friends and the guy up front was surprised to see him. Then it became very apparent that they certainly were not friends. The first guy, who we'll call Psycho just to make it easier, suddenly started throwing punches at the other guy, we'll call him Bob. Psycho keeps going after Bob, throwing some punches and a few kicks while Bob was just kind of trying to block the blows and stay out of his reach. It didn't appear that any of the blows connected well enough to do any real damage, but I can definitely tell you that with the way that Psycho wound up and threw them they certainly would have if they had hit him just right. And Psycho just wouldn't let it go. Everyone who ran by would yell something like, hey, calm down! Which he would... for about 5 seconds until he'd go after Bob again and throw a few more futile punches. I kept looking back and Psycho was still at it. Finally we reached a turn and I lost sight of them, but I just couldn't figure out what the heck was going on.

At one point about the only thing I could make out was Psycho saying something about Bob being a "backdoor runner" whatever that is supposed to mean. Bob had passed me recently, and although admittedly he was one of those guys who groans loudly with every exhale of breath, I certainly never felt like punching him. And really, I don't care how many times someone steps on your heels, they don't deserve to get punched.

Now let's put this in perspective a little more. This is a race that had about 300 runners. It cost $12 to enter. At that point in the race we were all averaging right about 8:00/mile. What that means is that none of us were anywhere near winning any prize of any kind, and there was absolutely nothing at stake. Even if we were in position to win something, the race director had announced at the beginning of the race that the prizes this year were umbrellas. Is it worth punching someone over an umbrella? I don't think so. It just blows my mind that someone would start throwing punches at someone in the middle of a local running race.

I don't know what happened to Psycho, but I do regret not taking note of his number. The good news is that a couple of miles later I heard that groaning exhaling again and Bob had caught up, still running along. I asked him if he was ok, and he just smiled and said, "oh, yeah," and seemed totally unfazed, so I'm guessing Psycho didn't hurt him and he was obviously well aware of how ridiculous the situation was.

People amaze me every day, and it is definitely not always in a good way.