Tag Archives: fitness

Training Tuesday: What I learned from my gait analysis

Like most runners, I’ve gradually accumulated a catalog of minor aches and pains as I run. Distance, pace, and terrain all influence how you feel during and after a run, and so do accumulated injuries– once you sustain an injury, you’re generally going to be more susceptible to re-injuring the same part. One solution: quit running. HAHAHAHAHAHAH I know, right? Not gonna happen. Another solution: see a professional to figure out what’s causing my issues, then fix them. I liked that plan better, so I embarked on a two-pronged strategy.

First, I visited Andrew Walker at PhysioWorks HSV to address a problem I’ve been having with my left Achilles tendon. Andrew put me through a battery of static and range-of-motion tests and told me, in summary, that I am a hot mess: poor left ankle mobility (which explains the foot cramps I get on long swims), excessive external rotation of my right foot, and some muscular imbalances in my glutes and hamstrings. Now I’ve got a set of targeted exercises to address the muscle imbalance (more on that in a future post). He also said “you know, your running cadence is low”. He then explained that increasing your running cadence significantly decreases the dynamic load on the ankle and knee joints by reducing impact forces– I was sold.

The following week, I took advantage of my coaching team at CHP to have Nickademus Hollon do a video gait analysis. Matt shot video of me running towards and away from the camera as well as left- and right-facing lateral views. Nickademus sent me back a 20-minute annotated video pointing out several issues with my running:

  • Too much external rotation of my right foot. this is caused by the same issues Andrew spotted with my right hip and glutes.  The excess rotation is putting extra stress on my right knee and IT band, which explains the soreness I often have after long runs.
  • My cadence is low (but I knew that already). Apart from the impact-force increase caused by the slower cadence, this also causes me to “overstride”, or take steps that are too long. The longer your stride, the more you’re in the air, which means the harder you land and the more energy it requires for you to push off again. Because I’m pushing off so hard, I’m putting too much energy bouncing up instead of forward– so write down “excessive vertical oscillation” on my list.
  • I’m crossing my arms over the midline of my body. When my arms swing, my hands are crossing close to my bellybutton, which causes my torso to twist. This both wastes energy and imparts extra torque to my hips, which is contributing to the right-foot rotation.
  • I’m heel striking.

While this seems like a long list of problems… well, actually, it is. The good news is that there are really only two things I need to work on to improve my form. First, I need to raise my cadence. The standard value that most runners aim for is 180 steps/minute. I normally run at about 150, which explains the overstriding problem quite nicely. I’ve started running with the iSmoothRun app, which includes an audio metronome that will warn me when my cadence drops below my target of 160. After a week or two at 160, I’ll move to 170, thence 180. Second, I need to concentrate on keeping my arms from crossing over the midline. This just requires mindful attention; there’s no real technique involved other than “don’t do that.”

Once I start to ingrain those two changes in muscle memory, and after a few weeks of PT exercises to strengthen the underprivileged, I’ll do another gait analysis to see if anything’s changed. I am betting that these changes will pay off, though, and I look forward to seeing the results. Ne

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Training Tuesday: Rocketman 2016 Olympic race report (28-Aug-2016)

The fine folks at reddit’s /r/triathlon have started using the format below for race reports, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Race information

  • What? Rocketman
  • When? August 28, 2016
  • How far? Olympic

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A < 3:15 No
B < 3:30 Yes
C PR bike, swim, or run Yes

BLUF

PR’d the bike and swim. Had a craptastic run. Beat my time on this course but didn’t get the Olympic PR I was hoping for. 3:23 overall.

Race strategy

My first season, I tried to relay this race and DNF’d due to a bike mechanical. Last year I straggled in at 3:30. Earlier this year I PR’d Renaissance Man at 3:17, so my goals were to PR again, or at least beat last year’s time, and to PR at least one of the events.

Pre-race

In the week leading up to the race, I had an unusually tiring business trip– I averaged 12+ hour workdays and had no juice left for training while on the road, so I wasn’t well rested (plus a big “screw you” to the hotel I always stay at for putting me on the noisy I-5-facing side of the hotel this trip). I rented a pair of Reynolds Strike race wheels from the gang at Blevins Bicycle to see how I liked them. Because of travel Thursday and epic thunderstorms Friday, I wasn’t able to ride them until Saturday, when I took them out for a 40-minute ride with Dana. It was supposed to be an easy Z2 cruise but it was more like a mid-Z3, and then to top it off we added a short brick. Probably not a great idea in retrospect, but I didn’t want to go into the race without having ridden the wheels at least once, and I didn’t think the brick would tire me out too much.

Race day prep

I packed everything into my car the night before and went to bed at a reasonable time, after having eaten sensibly and hydrated pretty much nonstop (I probably doubled my normal fluid intake on Friday and Saturday). I’d previously volunteered for body marking, but the RD told me he needed help with parking, so I got up at 0415 to get to Hobbs Island and start directing traffic. That went well, and I had plenty of time to get set up in transition, say hello to my friends, and see the athletes I’d been working with in Fleet Feet’s Tri201 Olympic tri coaching program. It was clear, 78 degrees, and about 80% humidity when I got to the venue before dawn– an omen of how the day’s weather would develop.

Swim

The Tennessee River is warm this time of year– I heard the race morning water temp was 85 degrees, which wouldn’t surprise me. I actually like river swims, so that didn’t bother me.

Because of the swim course layout, the race uses a wave start– you go down a slide (which is covered with carpet, so you don’t slide, you sort of scooch) into the water, assemble near the start mark, and then swim. I purposefully stayed near the back of my wave when getting in the water, both to minimize the amount of time I’d have to tread water at the start and because I didn’t want to get run over by all the faster swimmers behind me.

The first swimmers went into the water about 30min late because, for whatever reason, the buoys weren’t out on time. This was really strange because normally the RD and staff at Rocketman have everything down to a science (this is the 23rd year, after all) and stuff happens promptly when it’s supposed to. Turns out that this delay was important later.

The course is about 500y upstream, then 200y or so cross-current, then the remainder on a long diagonal back to a pier. Partially thanks to the current, I swam a 1:46/100 pace, which for me is stupid fast– but it wasn’t all current; I was working harder on this swim than usual and I felt it when I got out. Unfortunately, because of poor sighting technique, I swam an extra 400y, so my swim time was 35:xx. That was a PR, though, so I’ll take it.

A quick jog into T1 and I was out again on the bike in 2:xx. For this race, I wore a tri top into the water instead of putting on a bike jersey. Thanks to Dana for suggesting that– between that and the tri bucket she suggested I use, my transition in this race was half what it was at RenMan.

Bike

First: I committed what should be a USAT foul when exiting: I started my bike computer but forgot to hit the lap button on my watch, so now Garmin shows my t1 as having an average speed of 16.x mph. Oh well. You may remember I did the same thing at RenMan. Maybe next race I’ll remember.

The bike course is fairly flat L-shaped out-and-back, with a few rollers, but it’s all two-lane and mostly on a busy segment which isn’t closed for the race. At various points I got stuck behind a landscape truck, nearly wiped out by an asshole in an SUV (right in front of a parked sheriff’s deputy, who ran out into the road yelling, pulled the guy over, and ticketed him– thanks, MCSO!), and saw one each dead possum, skunk, and armadillo. The outbound leg on the long part of the L had a quartering headwind, which was fine; I was able to stay in aero most of the time, though I did have a few scary swerves when wind caught my wheels. I finished in 1:27, which was a PR, so yay me. As usual, when I was looking at my times after the race I thought “dang, I should have pushed harder on the bike.”

The run

I thought this was the worst 10K I’ve ever run (I was wrong, but more on that later). The run course is flat and has some shade, but not much: you run out and back along the river for about 2mi total (with an aid station at about 0.5/1.5mi), then take a shadeless leg through the marina, then onto a local greenway for the remaining distance. I couldn’t sustain any kind of run pace; it was more of a shamble, with frequent walk breaks. My arms and hands were tingling by about mile 3, and I was barely sweating, so I slowed way down and tried to drink as much as I could, knowing that there was no way I was going to PR the run or the race. Selah. I saw lots of other tough athletes suffering on the course, too, including many locals who I know are acclimated to typical temperatures– but thanks in part to the late start, it was 95 degrees when I crossed the finish line, and God only knows what the heat index was. Not a great time. (Turns out I was still faster than my time last year but it didn’t feel like it!)

The first aid station had cold towels, which felt awesome, but sadly most of the other aid stations had room-temperature water and Gatorade. I had brought a Headsweats visor, but sort of wished I had a hat. And some ice. And cooling sleeves, like my coach suggested. Some more sunscreen would have been nice too.

Post-race

The post-race expo at Rocketman is always fun, and I enjoyed catching up with my friends who’d raced. This year, the Renaissance Man and Rocketman RDs offered a challenge: complete both races and get a custom transition towel (I’ll try to post a picture later). Along with the excellent Rocketman visor and shirt, this completed my swag haul since I certainly didn’t podium. I visited for a while, then headed home for some Advil and a nap.

I can’t wait for next year! PR, here I come. Thanks to RD Mike Gerrity and his wife Debbie for their many years of making Rocketman such a great race for athletes!

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Training Tuesday: “The Hybrid Athlete” (Viada) review

Fitness is a huge industry in part because it offers the promise of self-improvement. Look better! Be thinner! Run faster! There are low barriers to entry; anyone can hold themselves out as a fitness expert, and (much like weathermen or stock analysts) no one ever checks back to see if the promised results were actually delivered. One result of this combination is that there are a lot of people who uncritically accept some principles that turn out to be completely false. One example: “cardio kills your gains.” Another: “if I lift weights I’ll be too blocky and slow to run or cycle fast.”

Alex Viada has addressed this lack of knowledge rather neatly in The Hybrid Athlete. The book’s landing page defines a hybrid athlete as “a unique breed who can excel simultaneously in both strength and endurance activities.” Examples might include firefighters, members of military special operations forces, or even people like me who want to be unusually strong and have unusually good endurance. I bought the book sight unseen, although I had the benefit of being coached by Alex and the team at Complete Human Performance, and seeing his unique approach in action, for a few months before it came out. Sadly, I didn’t get around to finishing it until last night, but I’m glad I buckled down— I learned a ton. A few of the things I learned:

  • what causes rigor mortis (page 34)
  • the stomach isn’t an absorptive organ (page 170)
  • swimming burns 10x as many calories per mile per pound compared to running (2.9 cal/mi/lb vs 0.29 cal/mi/lb, page 173)
  • The average hard-training, non-steroid-taking man can gain between 1 and 1.5 lbs of lean body mass every 2 months— far below what I would have expected (p176)
  • That thing you’re doing that you think is Tabata? It probably isn’t (page 66)
  • Trappist ales are perhaps the finest recovery beer yet known to man. (page 232)

The book’s divided into 13 chapters. The first four are primary introductory material, covering hybrid training philosophy and the physiology of muscles and metabolic pathways. There are specific chapters for the critical components of strength and endurance training and chapters covering sport-specific training (along with an appendix listing sample hybrid programs for various combinations of sports, such as a powerlifter who wants to run marathons). To me, three of the chapters were particularly valuable, so I want to dig into those a little more.

First is chapter 7: “Cutting Out the Noise: Eliminating the Waste.” This might seem like an odd chapter title, but when you consider that consolidation of stressors is a fundamental part of hybrid training, it makes perfect sense. The question poses a simple question:  

“Will performing this particular part of my workout routine improve my final performance more than any other potential component?”. If the answer is yes, include it then move on to the next. The answer will go from a firm “yes” to a more general “yeeeeeees” to, eventually, the dreaded “I think so”, or “the internet said so”. Any primary component of training should be both necessary and sufficient to improve sport performance in one particular component of a given sport. For a powerlifter, the squat, bench, and deadlift are all primary. For the triathlete, the tempo run or time trial. For the ultra runner, the long slow trail run. For the Weightlifter, the Snatch and C&J.

This is a really powerful concept once you understand and embrace it. Doing more miles on the bike, more time on the treadmill or road, or more laps in the pool will not necessarily lead to better sport performance. It sounds heretical, but Alex provides a really concrete example in the training template for powerlifting plus triathlon— the swim and bike distances are short relative to traditional triathlon training programs because swimming 5000-8000 meters are “very counterproductive to upper body power production.” Plus, they take a great deal of energy and focus, and it’s questionable whether swimming 8000m to prepare for a race distance of 3800m (in the Ironman-distance swim) is better preparation than spending the same amount of training time on other activities. Alex refers disparagingly sometimes to “junk miles,” referring to distance for distance’s sake, but intensity is a critical element too— for me, perhaps the most valuable single sentence in the book was found on page 66:

…many endurance athletes go entirely too hard on their “aerobic” or “low intensity” days, and end up gaining neither the discrete training benefits of higher intensity work nor recovery benefits of the lower intensity work.

He might as well have started that sentence like this: “HAY, PAUL, PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE THIS IS YOU:…” 

Chapter 11, “Strength for the Endurance Athlete,” pulls no punches in calling out how awful most strength training routines in the fitness press are for triathletes. He points out, rightly, that no matter how much time you plank (to cite one example) it’s not going to help you stay aero on the bike as much as actual resistance training for your core muscles. This chapter (and its companion, “Conditioning for the Strength Athlete”) clearly lays out the specific adaptive benefits of strength training— improved ligament and tendon strength, better bone density, and improved sport-specific fitness.

Finally, Chapter 13, “Nutritional Support for Hybrid Training,” exploded a lot of false knowledge I (thought I) had about the process of feeding my body for the best possible performance. I haven’t worked all the way through the (simple) data gathering and associated math, but essentially I am eating roughly the right amount of calories but in the wrong proportion of macronutrients. This is easy to adjust and should give me better endurance and perhaps a little bit of weight loss.

Overall, this is a superb book. Alex’s writing style is clear and direct, with occasional flashes of his extremely dry wit. The degree of research he’s done, and knowledge he holds, is evident (and bolstered by the bibliography and recommended reading in appendix C). I strongly recommend this book for any triathlete or distance runner; I’d recommend it for powerlifters and Strongman competitors too, but all the ones I know are fellow CHP athletes and they know this stuff already. At $47, it’s cheaper than a jar of good protein powder or a new pair of bike shoes, and it will have much longer-lasting impact on your fitness, health, and performance.

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Training Tuesday: 2015 in review

All right, so it’s not Tuesday. I’m running behind because oft the holidays.

So far in 2015, if I trust Strava’s numbers, I’ve cycled 896 miles and run about 471 miles. That doesn’t count time on my bike trainer, and it’s probably missed a few activities here and there. I don’t know how many pounds of weights I’ve lifted, but I bet it’s a lot.

Competitions

This was a busy year for competitions. Maybe I should say “organized events,” since at my level I am not truly competitive in most events. Still, I had a great time racing with, and against, friends and strangers.

In 2016, I will complete my first half-Ironman: 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, followed by a half marathon. IRONMAN North Carolina, here I come! Depending on how the offseason goes, I may give IRONMAN New Orleans a shot in April too; I’m still waffling on that. I’ll fill in my schedule with other events as they appear (for example, I already have lifting meets planned in January and February).

Performance

Thanks to the excellent coaching I received from Alex Viada and the crew at CHP, I am much stronger and faster than I was at this time last year. I cut nearly 30 seconds off my best time for the mile, a minute off my 5K, nearly 3 minutes off my best 10K time, and ran my first half marathon in 2:15– then shaved nearly 15 minutes off my best time before the end of the season. My bike endurance is greatly improved, although I’m still not where I want to be speed-wise. And my weightlifting… holy cow. I’ve put 70 pounds on to my maximum bench press, just under 150 pounds on my deadlift, and 80 on my squat. I am looking forward to more speed and power gains in 2016, that’s for sure. I have some specific time goals for Rocketman and Renaissance Man, and my goal is to join the 1000-lb combined lifting club before the end of 2016. (Notice I didn’t say anything about swimming? I will keep hacking away at it. Gradual improvement is still improvement.)

Nutrition

I worked with a nutrition coach for a few months but I did a really poor job adhering to his plan. This is something I need to work on in 2016— not necessarily for weight loss or body composition, but to make sure I’m fueling my body properly for what I’m asking it to do. Most of the nutrition challenges I’ve faced are self inflicted; they come about from failure to stock good things to eat as opposed to random crap, as well as failure to plan to eat so I don’t suddenly decide I’m starving and latch on to whatever’s within reach.

The mental game

If there’s one area where I feel like my 2015 performance was poor, it’s mental focus. I still haven’t learned how to consistently focus and perform. I have a few ideas about how to work on this, luckily enough. I tend to be extremely critical of my performance, and while a certain degree of this is healthy, too much of it is stifling.

I’m looking forward to another dynamic year— as long as I can stay healthy, I’ll see y’all out on the roads. But probably not in the water, because I’ll still be at the back of the pack.

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Training Tuesday: I am a swimmer

Some titles are granted by an external authority. We, rightly, are suspicious of people who decide to call themselves “doctor” or “colonel” without having earned those titles.

Other titles are ones we bestow on ourselves. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard accomplished triathletes demur the title of “athlete” or “triathlete”. The fact is simple: if you do triathlons, you are a triathlete, period. It doesn’t matter what your pace is. It doesn’t matter what distance races you compete in. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if you’re really competing or just entering the races because you enjoy them. If you do the work, you’ve earned the title.

I was thinking about this topic last night when I was busy swimming 1600+ yards in Lake Guntersville as part of my triathlon class. As I made my way back and forth along our marked swim course, It gradually dawned on me: I am a swimmer. Literally, I am a person who swims.

Am I a fast swimmer? No.

Do I have good swim technique? No.

Is there a lot of room for improvement in my performance? You bet your pool toys there is.

But do I get in the water and cover distance? Damn right I do.

Thanks to the madmen at CHP, I have the strength and endurance to swim a half-mile or more, in open water, without stopping. Last year I couldn’t swim one length of the pool without flailing. Six months ago, a 400yd swim would leave my upper body feeling wrung out and useless for the rest of the day. Now I actually find that swimming for an hour at my cruise pace is less tiring than running or biking for an hour at those cruise paces. (And yes, for you experienced swimmers out there, I know that means I need to go faster).

Sometimes I doubt myself. Many of my friends and competitors have years– or decades– of swimming experience. I’m in the water with people who swam competitively in high school and/or college, people who have worked as lifeguards, people who routinely swim miles in open water because they enjoy it. I may not be any of those things, but…

I am a swimmer.

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Training Tuesday: Pflugerville Sprint (6/21/15)

What’s better than racing a triathlon? Multiple choice:

  1. racing your first triathlon in a new place
  2. flying yourself to and from the race
  3. getting to see your mother, grandmother, uncle, cousin, and nephew en route
  4. turning a solid race performance
  5. seeing two of your oldest friends
  6. all of the above

The correct answer, of course, is “f”, and that’s exactly how this race went down.

Dana had told me that she had plans to go to Rock the South last weekend, so I found myself with an unexpectedly free weekend. I decided to see whether there were any races I could do– and sure enough, Trifind delivered the goods, pointing me to the Lake Pflugerville Sprint. It combined the potential to see a bunch of my Austin friends with an interesting-looking race so I signed up.

In the week leading up to race day, I had several schedule changes– first I was supposed to be in DC on the 18th, then I was supposed to be in Galveston, then I didn’t have to be anywhere. I decided that it would be a shame not to stop by Alexandria en route, so I left Friday afternoon after work, flew through a stiff headwind, and landed in Alexandria about 930pm, at which point I shot the required 3 landings needed to regain my night currency. After a delicious dinner of shish kebabs, I visited with Mom and my cousin Melissa (the same one who runs marathons!), then hit the rack. The next morning featured plenty more visiting; I left AEX for Austin Executive about 1130.

My flight to Austin was perfectly uneventful, although cloudy, so I was able to shoot the RNAV 13 approach when I got there. The staff at Henriksen Jet Center had a car for me, so I headed out for packet pickup, which was at Jack and Adam’s Bicycles. Frankly I was a little disappointed– given that Austin is such a bike mecca, I was expecting a bigger, fancier store with more stuff. Maybe the location on Lamar isn’t their biggest one? In any event, after packet pickup, I went to meet Erik, Chris, and Chris’ family at Takoba, where I had a truly excellent Mexican meal. (Having said that, I have yet to have a bad meal in Austin, so keep that in mind). Erik and I went around the corner to The Brixton for a beer, where we watched an epic thunderstorm ravage my bike while we chatted. Because I didn’t want to stay out too late, I headed over to Chris’ since he had generously offered me his guest bedroom. I got to meet all four of his dogs and hear about his recent adventures getting his EMT certification at Remote Medical International, which sounds like exactly my kind of place. I was sound asleep by 10pm.

Race morning dawned but I couldn’t tell; there was a heavy, low overcast. EDC was reporting a 700’ ceiling, and the radar didn’t look too favorable either. I retrieved my still-damp bike, loaded up my bag, and headed out to Pflugerville. After a quick stop at HEB, a local grocery store, I found the race site, parked, and got everything set up in transition, with plenty of time left over; the organizers delayed the race start for 15 minutes because of the weather.

Side note: I wish I had read this list of tips on how to deal with rainy races before the race!

The swim was 500 yards in Lake Pflugerville, a city reservoir. My goal was to swim at a steady pace that I could sustain without stopping, and I did. Unfortunately it was slower than I wanted. I had a good steady rhythm though. I was further slowed by the huge fields of hydrilla growing underwater along the return leg of the course. There is more weed in that lake than a Willie Nelson concert. I literally got tangled in the weeds on the return leg; they reached all the way up to the surface so it wasn’t just that my body position was poor. This was both disconcerting and aggravating. Apparently this is a known problem and the city cleans the weeds out every so often.

T1 was slow. I need to work on this. Part of the problem was that I spent some time trying to figure out why neither my HRM nor my on-bike iPhone mount were working. (HRM battery died, iPhone mount got water in it so the ANT+ key is apparently broken). As an experiment, I took 200mg of caffeine in T1, but didn’t eat anything else.

The bike leg felt really solid. The course had lots of little rollers, which were no problem. Not having cadence visible on the handlebars bugged me a lot for the first half but then I got used to it. We had a HUGE rainstorm from about miles 7-11 which slowed me down a bit, but overall I was pleased with my average speed. Despite my speed, though, I was getting passed left and right. Apparently Austin has a lot of really fast cyclists after all. Towards the end of the bike, I was having what felt like muscle cramps on the right side of my abdomen— not GI, but more like the feeling after you do a ton of planks. Not sure what brought that on, but it didn’t last; I am not sure whether it was temporary cramping brought on by electrolyte imbalance, bad posture, or just bad luck.

(For your entertainment, here’s a video of the bike leg. I shot it with a Garmin VIRB mounted on my aerobars, then ran it through Microsoft’s Hyperlapse Pro software to speed things up. For another time, a post on Garmin’s VIRB Edit software and how to make it work properly.)

In T2, I ate a Gu, drank a bit of Mercury, and emptied some of the water out of my bike shoes before taking off on the run The run was a packed gravel trail around the lake. I was really slow going out at first but settled in about halfway. For the first part of the run, I was running until I felt like I had to puke, then I’d walk, then when it passed I’d run more. I don’t know if it was the caffeine, the heat, or just bad luck; I’ve never really had that problem before. Luckily, it went away partway through, and I ended up with big-time negative splits: 11:22, 10:33, 8:51. The splits reassured me about my progress towards readiness to do an Olympic-distance race.

The race was very well organized and supported. Like many larger races, they had a professional announcer/DJ who played good music before the race and called out finishers’ names as they crossed the finish line— always a nice touch. I wasn’t hungry after the race, so I didn’t sample any of the post-race goodies. For swag, I got two hand towels, a bike bottle, and a small dog tag (plus my race shirt): not a great haul, but not the worst I’ve ever had. I can always use more triathlon-themed hand towels for the guest bathroom!

When I first saw my results I was pretty disappointed at my overall rank. However, after I plugged my results in to my tracking sheet, things looked a lot better. Austin has TONS of triathletes and yesterday, most of them were faster than I was, but I am headed in the right direction– I was faster on the bike than in New Orleans, my swim time was on par on a 20% longer distance, and my run splits were terrific. Onwards!

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Training Tuesday: Lake Guntersville Duathlon (4/25/15)

Continuing my series of catch-up race reports…

Summary: 4th in my AG—missed the podium by 0:51. Damnit!

I hadn’t planned to run this, but thought it might be fun to do as a light workout. Alex encouraged me to race it, and Dana decided to sign up for it too, so I signed up the week before. The day before the race, the local (and national media… I’m looking at you, Weather Channel) bombarded the area with dire warnings of high winds, strong thunderstorms, and maybe even a tornado or two late Friday night into Saturday morning. The race organizers decided to delay the start by an hour, and in the end none of the bad weather showed up here overnight– just some rain.

Race day dawned and we loaded up the bikes to head out. It was cloudy and in the low 60s as we drove down to Guntersville, but the forecast called for steadily clearing skies and a high around 80, so I wasn’t too worried about the rain.

This particular duathlon is pretty small; there were about 70 participants, including a few relay teams, and the crowd was full of familiar faces from the local tri and running community. That always makes for a fun race. The course was an 5K out-and-back loop along the lake shore, a 16.2mi bike ride around part of the lake perimeter, and another 5K on a slightly different lakeshore loop. The course organizers didn’t post a course map beforehand, which always annoys me a little, but from talking to others who had run the race before I was comfortable that there wouldn’t be too many surprises.

After the half-marathon, I’d been having persistent and unpleasant calf pain, in slightly different locations on each side. That was really hampering my runs– even when Alex had me doing slow Z2 recovery-style runs, I was really uncomfortable and felt super slow. I was worried about how my legs would hold up, but as it turns out I needn’t have worried too much. The first run went very well. I held an 8:45 pace. If it had been a true 5K distance it would have been a PR; as it was only 3.02mi, so not quite long enough for a PR. I had a little tenderness in my right Achilles on the first half-mile or so, but after that zero calf pain throughout the race. I’m not sure why, as I didn’t do anything different other than a bit of extra stretching and taking SportsLegs an hour before race time.

Transition went fast– less than 2min, which is lightning-quick for me. I tried really hard to keep a steady cadence for longer stretches () but was only partly successful. One thing I found was that on any kind of downhill I had to slow my cadence even in top gear to keep from bouncing. For some reason on the road it’s realllly hard for me to hold a steady 80. Part of this is that on the trainer, I can look at the TR display, see my cadence, and adjust accordingly. I handlebar-mounted my old iPhone and ran Strava on it but it didn’t see my cadence sensor—have some hardware adjustments to make. Nonetheless, my average speed and total time were both better than the bike leg at Heel & Crank 2 weeks ago.

On the second run, I paid the price, with a dragging 10:20/mi pace. In retrospect, I am angry at myself for not pushing harder given how narrow the margin to the podium was, but at the time I just felt gassed. Lesson learned.

Post-race, the organizers had a great spread of local BBQ, local beer from Rocket Republic, and homemade snacks. Dana and I had a very pleasant al fresco parking lot lunch while chatting with friends while we waited for race results– and she took 3rd in her age group! That put an excellent cap on an excellent race experience.

One thing I noticed right after the race (and ever since, ouch): I have a large pain in the butt because my saddle impinges on the top of my right hamstring such that I have a sore butt in that one spot after any more than 5-7 mi. I am going to head in to Bicycle Cove and get a new saddle and refit this week. Thankfully I don’t have any real leg soreness except for that one spot (and some residual burn in my quads)– a good thing considering that my first powerlifting meet is coming up in less than a week.

Onwards…

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