Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter returns

On Monday it was about 50 degrees out. On Friday it was about zero. Windchills below zero, and the past two days haven't been much better. Oh, well. The good news is that the weathermen are saying the bitter cold is keeping the snow off to our south, so I guess that's a good thing. At least my car can make it up my street in ridiculous cold, which is more than I can say for when it's snowing out.

So yesterday morning was yet another long ride in my basement. I also watched the movie The Right Stuff because Netflix told me I'd like it (they were right) and it also happens to be about 3 hours and 15 minutes long. Perfect. Afterwards I had a not-so-pleasant transition run in the bitter cold and wind. I miss those summer transition runs where all I do is change my shirt and shoes. Transitioning between an indoor bike ride and an outdoor transition run in the freezing cold is a lengthy process that involves a lot of heavy layers sticking to sweaty skin as you try to pull them on. Today's 2-hour run involved ice forming on various articles of my clothing, as well as my eyelashes. The drawstring of my tights was surrounded by ice, a layer of ice had formed within the insullation of the front of my jacket which left most of my torso bright red and frozen. But, well, there's not a cloud in the sky, so I suppose that's something.

On an unrelated note, I must comment on another stupid product I saw advertised yesterday. It's some at-home soap dispenser that you don't have to actually touch it to get the soap out because of course the soap pump is usually germy. Um, ok, but what's the first thing you do literally the second you touch the soap pump to get the soap out? You wash your hands! Seriously, who cares if there are germs on it? Typically you are washing your hands at that moment because there are already germs on them, so a little bit more isn't going to matter, you're just going to wash them off 2 seconds later anyway.

Friday, January 29, 2010

No more base phase

This week marked the beginning of what we in QT2 world refer to as the "vertical" phase. No more endless hours in zone 1, some more interesting workouts, tempo work, and back to running and biking 6 days a week. In a bizarre twist of events, suddenly swimming is going amazingly well. However, I believe that this is simply due to the fact that I started wearing a new swimsuit. It's not like it's some super slick-skinned suit designed to make you 10% faster. As far as I can tell, the only special power it possesses is that it fits correctly and doesn't drag. So, apparently the suit I was wearing before should be burned because it was obviously dragging me down to a ridiculous degree I didn't realize was possible. As a result of this new suit, I did a swim set on Wednesday that I've done many times before, but this was the first time this year. It was by far the fastest I've ever swum that set. I had no right to be swimming that fast. I didn't feel great or especially smooth and in all honesty I didn't feel like I was pushing all that hard. It was just... easy. As a comparison, in my old suit the day before I swam the slowest 800 yards I've swum in as long as I can remember, and 24 hours later swam the fastest one. Old suit Tuesday, new suit Wednesday. If I had known it was that easy I would've done it a long time ago.

Now, normally this would also be the start of the bike strength training workouts, but given my lop-sided abilities between biking and running, we're skipping that in favor of more hard running. In my case, "hard" means running most people's recovery paces, but for some reason I keep trying. Yesterday was the first bout of hill bounding in something like 10 months. I can't really explain why, but I really like that workout. Sure, towards some of the later repeats as I approach the crest of the hill maybe I start to feel like I might throw up. But when I was thinking about it yesterday, I decided that maybe I like it because it's a tough workout that makes me feel like I worked hard and got a lot out of it, but it isn't demoralizing like my other run workouts. There's no pace I'm supposed to hit but can't, no other people running circles around me while I struggle to the top, it's just me against the hill with no frame of reference other than how fast I made it from the bottom to the top last time. I was exhausted when it was over, but I enjoyed it on some strange level. It was lightly snowing, but luckily not blizzard-like.

Today, after another swim that was definitely enhanced by a new swimsuit, I did something I almost never do: I ran on the treadmill. I hate the treadmill, which is funny because when I started running in the first place I'd say I probably spent roughly the first year running almost exclusively on the treadmill. But now I vastly prefer outside. But today the wind chills are supposed to be below zero for the entire day. Not that I've never done that before (I even made the horrid mistake once last year to go out on my bike under such conditions, but that is an error that only gets made ONCE) but today I just couldn't stand the thought of fighting not just bitter cold (maybe 15 degrees tops, if we're lucky) and bitterly cold, gusty winds. So, off to the gym treadmill I went. It was actually pretty cold there, too. My skin was all cold and clammy the whole time, but at least I got to wear shorts and didn't nearly freeze to death. I ran on the treadmill once last year, on the day of an ice storm in which half the trees in the state fell down. So it wasn't so much due to the weather that I opted for indoors, it was the fact that it was fairly likely that I would get killed or seriously injured by a falling tree branch. The year before that my one treadmill run was when I was coming back from an injury and I wanted to test the running without winding up miles from home without a way to get back.

I won't make a habit of it, but as I sit indoors with heat I'm quite glad that I already ran on the treadmill and am not currently dreading going out to face the cold and freeze my face off.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Talk about a low-key race

Today I ran a 10K. Well, sort of. Let's not talk about my "performance", except to say that it has been decided that I really do need to see a doctor this week. And if there is nothing conclusively medically wrong with me, then you may soon find a whole bunch of tri stuff up on craigslist pretty soon for very reasonable prices just so I can get it out of my sight and stop deluding myself.

Anyway, the race was to start at 1pm, obviously a very reasonable time. It sort of messes with the whole pre-race breakfast thing, so I had a granola bar and some Powerbar Endurance for breakfast and then at 11 I got to have the season's first applesauce/banana/protein powder pre-race meal. I had forgotten how much easier a cup and a half of applesauce is to get down than 3 cups is. Especially when you didn't spend the prior two days carbo loading. I was actually concerned that between the granola bar breakfast and the later meal I'd be kind of hungry, but I needn't have worried. I forgot that I haven't been especially hungry in general lately, oddly. So no issue there.

I was quite happy to spend the morning reading the Sunday paper and not so happy to head down to Danvers at about 11:15. I tried to remember the last time I didn't dread a running race. The directions were simple enough and it took me less than an hour to get there. I turned onto the road I was supposed to, and on all we were given was an address. It seemed like a pretty residential area, so I started to wonder if maybe the address on the web site wasn't the address of the start but maybe the address of the race organizer. I passed a park, thinking maybe that was it. Then I saw a church but there were no cars parked there and I wasn't at the address yet. Then I finally spotted a timing clock standing by the side of the road and a white spray-painted line on the pavement. I glanced off to the right to see that apprently this race was due to start from some random person's house.

I parked in the street and went in to register, which consisted of walking into the strange person's house, handing over $5, writing my name on one piece of paper and getting a sticker with my name on it to run with. We were told that at the end of the race we'd be given a popsicle stick - much like the elementary school cross country races I've seen - and we'd turn that in at the end. Needless to say, there were no bib numbers, water stops, post-race food, goodie bags or race announcers. After wandering down the hall to use the stranger's bathroom, I went outside to await the start of the race.

The pre-race instructions involved an old man saying some things like, "I usually run facing traffic, but if you all just stayed on the same side of the road together, that would probably be a good idea." So apparently the roads weren't going to be closed - not that that was a surprise. Nor were there any police, just occasionally a person standing on a corner. I'm wondering if they even legally had a right to be holding this race. He also told us that the race was "about" 10K... which of course means, it's just however long it's going to be. The last bit of instructions as we lined up to start went something like this: "I guess I'll just say ready, go. Okay? So, ready, go." I felt more like I was in a relay race at summer camp or something.

Amazingly, each mile was actually marked with a sign. Whether or not they were accurate may be a totally different matter, but considering the other race "amenities" this quite surprised me. There was one stretch of road that was downright scary with no shoulder and lots of cars, but then we turned off on some side streets and the course itself really wasn't too bad. It was just such an odd experience overall. I crossed the finish line all alone and got my popsicle stick, and against my better judgment I turned it in with my name sticker. I think there were about 35 people who raced, maybe. Imagine if the Patriots had been playing today, there would've been nobody! And each participant got to pick their prize out of the prize box. I got some gloves, but I could've also taken a beer glass, a mini flashlight, or some random t-shirt.

So essentially, this was barely a step up from inviting some friends over to run a "race" around the neighborhood. A far cry from my next running race, Hyannis, which will have thousands. You know, if I don't sell all of my running shoes on e-bay by then. I've still got the bike that won Lake Placid. Do you think I could get a decent amount for it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rest week and time for more snow

I'm usually pretty good at keeping up with the weather reports. It's sort of important with all of the outdoor training. Ok, so there is a lot less of the outdoor training going on in the winter, but I'm still outside running at least 4 days a week. This past Saturday I probably could've even ridden outside if it weren't for the fact that I'm trying to get proficient on the Powercranks and I'm scared to death of riding them outside. But Monday all I had to do was swim and lift, so what the heck do I need to know the weather for? Oh, maybe because you have to drive to the gym for those things. So when my alarm went off on Monday morning and I looked outside to see about 5" of fresh snow and plenty more coming down I was just a little bit surprised. I guess maybe I should've checked out the news the night before instead of watching the Golden Globes. But hey, I actually saw a whole lot of the nominated movies, so it was just more fun to watch that instead.

Monday was also sort of a holiday for some people, so needless to say, when I arrived at the gym after driving very slowly on many roads that hadn't even been plowed yet, I was just about the only person there. No interruptions for anything. It was nice to get it all done. More slow driving on the way home, and then it was time to turn onto my street. The thing about my road is that you turn onto it and go straight up a hill. There is zero possibility of getting any kind of momentum going for this ascent, which means that my no-snow-tires little Nissan Sentra does not do so well on it. Attempt #1 was the best one. I made the left hand turn and the car slowly skidded off to the right side of the road, but I managed to straighten it to point up and slowly but surely made my way closer and closer to the top before finally it was nothing but spinning tires and no forward progress.

Great. Back up and let's try this again. Attempt #2 was another no-go, only this time I didn't even get nearly as far up as I had on the first try. For attempt #3 I decided to maybe try coming in after taking a right onto my road, but the momentum just carried me straight over to the left side of my road and hardly up the hill in the slightest. I tried from that side again. Nope. I went further down the road to get some more momentum going to try and make the left again. Nope. I'm not sure how many times I tried to get up that unplowed street, but it finally did become apparent that it just wasn't going to happen. It should be noted that it was like 6:30 in the morning when all of this fancy driving was taking place, so I had a lot of room to work with and didn't have to worry about lots of cars. I finally decided to give up, which meant parking my car at the supermarket around the corner and walking home the half-mile through the unplowed streets and driveway. It was at that point in the adventure that I sincerely wished I'd worn socks that morning.

So anyway, that was my Monday morning. It continued to snow all day and then it snowed again all day yesterday. Yesterday I was able to make it up my street because it was actually plowed, but I couldn't get up the hill into the garage. Yes, my car is awesome in the snow. Fortunately, I'm ok in the snow on my feet so I was fine to run yesterday. I just could've done without the people driving by and splattering me with slush.

This week is my rest week, and I am sincerely thrilled about that. It also marks the last week in base training, which means I've already been at it for 10 weeks, which seems almost impossible but true. Just in the last few days I've finally started to feel a lot better. I don't know if it's because I finally pretty much got over my cold or if the training is just finally kicking in, but probably a combination of both. But we'll see how things go once we add in the intensity. I am way too close to my first Ironman of the season. It doesn't seem possible yet!

Oh, and thanks to my rest week, today was my monthly rest day. I decided to just sleep until I woke up. The result? 11 hours of sleep. Nicely done.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chafing, chafing everywhere

Most of us who participate in endurance events are bound to experience chafing to some degree at one point or another in their training. The more hours you go, the worse it gets. Past experience can lead you to be more prepared, being aware of certain spots that have been vulnerable in the past and taking precautions with body glide or vaseline or simply by not wearing that one specific shirt that gets you every time.

For some reason this past week, the chafing has attacked me almost everywhere. It hit me on the leg grippers on my bike shorts, which somehow didn't bother me the first 9 weeks I've been training this year. It hit me where my heart rate strap goes against my rib cage - again, not that that had been an issue for weeks and weeks before. It got me under my arms when I wore this one base layer shirt to keep me a little warmer but also managed to tear me to shreds. That particular spot hasn't healed in a week, which is ridiculous. Perhaps it is partly because my skin is so dry I feel as though it might turn to dust, but who knows for sure?

Aside from that, it as been the usual. Lots of training, lots of wanting to stay in bed for a much longer time each morning. I seem to finally be getting rid of this cold that has been with me since before Christmas and a few of my runs this week didn't make me feel like I wanted to die before the end. The best part of the week was these past two days when the temperature finally shot up into the 40's. It feels practically tropical. Yesterday was the first time I got to run without my big jacket and also went with the regular hat instead of something to cover my ears. It made me feel 10 pounds lighter.

I might have even ridden outside today if it weren't for the fact that I have to keep going back and forth on my bikes to get used to these stupid Powercranks. But it did give me the opportunity to finally watch the movie Braveheart. Hey, it only came out 15 years ago, I got to it eventually. And it was far, far, far better than the movie Year One which I suffered through earlier this week on a trainer ride. That was one of those movies that had kind of a cool concept, but it just turned out absolutely terrible. This is the problem with trying to watch movies on the trainer that you haven't seen before. You run the risk of putting something in that you are going to wind up hating and it might even make the ride seem to take longer than it would if you had instead opted to stare at the wall. Like I said though, at least today was much better.

Now only 1 day, a 2-hour run and a 1:45 ride stand between me and my rest week. I can't wait.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Week 1 almost done

The first full week of the new year is almost behind me. Wow, it has not been easy. I still can't shake this cough. Got some blood work done and found out that my iron levels are not even close to low, so that's a good thing. Doesn't help to solve the problem, though.

I also really just felt the need to amend something I wrote in my last post. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who decides to take control of their own health and go to the gym and start exercising. A lot of the fittest people among us were once afraid to go to the gym and felt out of place going there for a while. The thing that bothers me are the people who so predictably show up literally for three weeks of the year and then completely disappear again, maybe to return next new year's or a few other random days in between. We all have to start somewhere, but it's just annoying this first week when you know so many of these people are just taking up space before their inevitable return to hitting the snooze button.

Really that's about it. It's 7pm on Saturday night and I'm seriously thinking about going to sleep. I've got the first 2-hour run I'll have been on since I think two weeks before I got my awesome stress fracture, so it should be interesting. It was a heck of a lot warmer back then, though. I also need to figure out a solution to this issue I've been having on my cold-weather runs. I keep wearing this Gore-tex shell jacket that is pretty much warm enough to handle anything. (I've run in it down to -18 actual air temp) But lately, since it hasn't been super cold, I'll just wear a regular long-sleeve run top underneath it and then the jacket. It will get too hot under there if I wear something thicker. Except by the end of runs lasting close to the 1-hour+ range, it seems the sweat all collects on the front of the shirt and winds up literally turning to ice. Let's just say my tummy is a bit chilly by the end. Is winter over yet?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 begins

So here we are, it is 2010. Do you know what that means? It means that now it will only be 5 more years before we all find out if the world as depicted in Back to the Future Part II becomes a reality. We only need hoverboards, flying cars, thumb print scanners for our front doors and paying for stuff, jackets that automatically dry themselves, and robot gas station attendants. I think we can pull it off.

Ok, really what does it mean? Not a whole lot. It mostly means that the holiday fun is over and now we're just facing the harsh realities of a long, cold winter. Although I suppose we've actually been pretty lucky around here in that it hasn't been abnormally cold as it has been for much of the rest of the country. Sure, it snowed for like 3 days in a row this past weekend, but it didn't snow a lot and we haven't been well below zero. I even heard that the temperature in Disney World is in the 40's. Heck of a time for a Florida vacation.

I personally rang in the new year by going to bed at 10 and staying asleep until 8:30, which to me is like noon. You see, every year right around January 1st I tend to get my annual cold. So I definitely wasn't up for partying the night away (I never am, really) and staying up until midnight. This year my cold has been annoyingly persistent, as I'm still kind of a wreck and I've had it since before Christmas. So I've been a ton of fun lately, but hopefully it will all go away soon.

What else? Training, training, training. This being the first week back after the new year means of course that the gym is especially crowded. It's almost comical, really, how predictable it all is. Every single year for probably merely three weeks it is more crowded than you've ever seen it, and then they all just seem to disappear. My strategy is to beat them all there, because while many people resolve to go to the gym, most don't plan on being there at 5am.

I would say that 95% of the time at my pool I do not have to share a lane. There are even those rare mornings where I can do a whole swim workout and never even have to share the pool. So far this week I've managed to avoid sharing, but I will say that the pool has been by far more crowded than I've ever seen it, minus the times when the swim team has practice. Yesterday when I got out, of the 6 lanes I was the only one who wasn't sharing. Apparently I'm just that intimidating... ok, that's probably not the real reason. I'm sure most of them will go away soon, but it does get kind of annoying. And really, guys, if you're not willing to invest in a real training swimsuit and insist on doing your "workout" in your board shorts, I'm really not sure that the pool is for you. Like I said though, most of them will be gone soon, except for the few other people who I do see there all year round. You people can stay.

I've been running in the cold, although fortunately it hasn't been quite as frigid as it was earlier. I even got to run in the sun yesterday. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a bit of a tan. Only on my face, of course, since everything else is covered in layers. On the bike I've been trying my Powercranks which are supposed to actually make me a better runner, or maybe find that runner that was inside of me for a year or so before she went into hiding starting sometime in 2007. We got off to a very rocky start when there was a part missing, only I didn't know there was a part missing, so I thought I was just doing something wrong when I would spin the cranks right off the bike every few revolutions. But now that they are actually attached maybe I will get somewhere. Right now it just feels like we've taken the one thing I'm actually kind of good at and made that really hard too.

Lots of trainer time also means lots and lots of movie and TV time. I'm still on the fence on what TV series to watch, and find myself leaning towards Lost for some reason. I've never seen a single episode, even though it seems like it's something I'd really like. I've mostly been doing movies lately, as well as using my Netflix subscription thanks to my brother's Christmas present. And needing to kill time I even find myself watching the DVD special features. You know, when you watch the deleted scenes and almost immediately think to yourself, "Yeah, I can see why they would've cut that out." But hey, it kills the time, right? I also sometimes watch old favorites that I haven't seen in a long time. For my last long ride I went with True Lies. That movie is GREAT. If you haven't noticed yet, you will not usually catch me watching deep, meaningful movies. I really just like them fun and entertaining.

Speaking of entertaining, I'm guessing reading this isn't anymore, so I'll leave it at that. Time for more Airborne to try and fight off my cold.