Pull Out All the Stops

Swimming is my weakest discipline biggest opportunity to improve when it comes to triathlons. We could really dig in and do some research to determine why, but here are a few reasons that come to mind right away.

  1. You need a pool. Unlike running and biking, you can’t just walk outside and go.
  2. People were invented to be on land, not water. Otherwise we’d all be fish.
  3. I hate it.

Those are just a subset of the infinite reasons why swimming is unquestionably going to be my downfall.

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You Don’t Have to Go Home…

…but you can’t stay here etc etc. As was previously mentioned, I’ve been mentally making the transition into triathlon-ing. Well, not wanting to let my brain get too far ahead, my body decided it was time to hop in the pool. Now, anybody who’s anybody knows swimming isn’t exactly my jam. For me it isn’t even a matter of “swimming” as simply “not drowning”. But all irrational fears aside I knew that in order to commit to surviving completing a triathlon I’d have to get my swim on. And so I did.

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Week 3 Recap

Now we’re really getting into this training thing. It’s week 3 and I’ve upgraded to 5 days per week. The 40 39.93-miles-per-week boat has also set sail.

I see a theme developing with the Monday runs: uneventful, middle-distance, snooze-fest.  I have a feeling the updates for these are going to be brief and uninspiring.  Or nonexistent.

Tuesday: more boring, lack-of-update update.  It’s early in this Weekly Recap thing, but I definitely think it’ll evolve into brief, heart-warming snippets, rather than forced, lackluster summaries.  Like this one.  Sigh.

We ran to work again on Wednesday.  This time I held my own a little better.  I felt like I was running with the group instead of just trying to keep up.  It turned out to be Tim’s last run to work before he relocates to Malaysia.  The skeptic in me thinks I was brought in as a replacement, but I’m ok with that.

Friday showed me exactly how close I can get to skipping a run but still pull myself out of bed.  So close, in fact, that while I was taking the dog on her pre-run walk, I was scheming how I could go back to bed and run later in the day.  To be honest, this very post is what gave me the final kick out from under the covers.  I didn’t want to have to explain why I didn’t run to you all …you.

And finally Saturday.  Oh Saturday, you hurt me good.  Tempo run?  Hill workout?  Long run?  Check. Check. Check.  Running with this group of guys is proving intense!  We headed out for 14 miles (per my request) and, as most of the routes done with the group, I was unfamiliar with where we were going.  I should have known Mount Bonnell wasn’t going to be a party, unless your idea of a party is running up a steep hill, followed by a steeper hill, followed by stairs to the moon… all after having already run 8 miles.  Woo.  Needless to say, I was spent after that.  Good stuff.

Actual Stairs

As you know, a founding principle of this blog is to innovate.  That actually doesn’t sound right, but let’s go with it.  I’ve linked each day of the week in the table to provide an onslaught of data at your disposal.  It will even show a map of where I went, though none will be as amazing as this one.  Just click the day of the week and hold on with all you got.  Week 4 here I come!

Distance Time Pace Heart Rate
Monday 8.17 Miles 1:07:55 8:17 min/mi 155 bpm
Tuesday 4.00 Miles 38:51 9:42 min/mi 137 bpm
Wednesday 9.70 Miles 1:17:01 7:56 min/mi 158 bpm
Friday 4.03 Miles 38:31 9:34 min/mi 141 bpm
Saturday 14.03 Miles 1:48:20 7:43 min/mi 164 bpm
Total 39.93 Miles 5:30:38 8:16 min/mi 155 bpm

As the Saying Goes – Week 2 Recap

It’s that time again.  Keeping with the theme of summarizing “Mike’s Week in Running” I present to you Week 2 of the San Antonio training plan.  Since two is greater than one, week two was better than week one, and it brought some new trials and tribulations*.

Monday started out in much of the same fashion as the first Monday, but without all of the difficulty.  A little sluggish at first, I was able to gradually speed up throughout the run and finished comfortably.  Boring, I know.

New tribulation #1 was on Wednesday when I met up with some coworkers way before sunrise and we ran to work.  It took some planning ahead to leave clothes and other necessities at work the day before, and meeting between 5:42am and 5:43am was not part of the original plan.  Chris, Tim, and I met at a central point, all arriving within 3 seconds of each other and not needing to break stride.  Pretty impressive if you ask me anyone.  Along the way we picked up Erik at his house and meandered our way (“meander” may not be the right word considering the pace that these guys hold.  More on this later.) through neighborhoods and across busy streets until we arrived at work.  My total distance was a half mile shy of the training plan, a fact that wasn’t lost on me, more on that later, too.  Overall it was great to run with the group, but they sure are fleet of foot**.

Friday didn’t have much in the way of excitement.  I did go at a glacial pace for my recovery, so that deserves a big thumbs up.  The schedule said 5 miles, so what did I do?  5.4.  Clearly I needed to do something about that missing half mile from Wednesday, so why not add it to the recovery run, am I right?  And… breathe, all is right in the world again.

Saturday offered the second trial by fire that pushed me to the limit.  From last week’s late start-related heat issue, I sucked it up to get up very early on very Saturday to run with the group at 6:30.  Seven of us launched onto a pretty technical trail at an insane speed.  Immediately I was at the back of the pack and losing ground fast, and I couldn’t help but think of getting lost in the forest and being found by a group of shoeless hippies… so I turned around after a couple miles and finished up the run at my own pace on my own path.  The rest of the run was the bee’s knees***.

All in all it was a good second week of training.  Next week is the first 5-days-a-week week, so we’ll see how the cookie crumbles****.

Distance Time Pace Heart Rate
Monday 8.11 Miles 1:09:02 8:31 min/mi 158 bpm
Wednesday 9.51 Miles 1:16:42 8:04 min/mi 163bpm
Friday 5.42 Miles 52:46 9:43 min/mi 146 bpm
Saturday 13.15 Miles 1:47:10 8:09 min/mi 160 bpm
Total 36.19 Miles 5:05:40 8:27 min/mi 158 bpm

*Trials and Tribulations is, in fact, a real idiom, for any skeptics out there that think I’m making stuff up again.
**So is Fleet of Foot
***Just threw this one in here for good measure
****And this one too 😛

Let the Training Begin – San Antonio Edition

I’m going to try a new approach to keeping you, my lone reader, up to date on something more boring than watching paint dry on growing grass in a not-yet-boiling pot of water.  During my training for my upcoming race in November I’ll try to write up a “week in training” that gives a run down (pun? of course) of how things went.  So fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna get a little bumpy.

This week kicked off training for San Antonio.  The short version: it was hard.  At least so far.  Leading up to this week I flat out hadn’t run enough.  I think I needed a pre-training training plan.  Without any structure I ran without any regularity or motivation.  It became too easy to say “I’ll just run tomorrow” and sleep in.  I justified not running by distributing my activity to racquetball and some weight lifting.  But it simply boils down to not running enough in preparation, and so this week began a bit shaky.

I’m sticking with the same training plan that got me through Chicago successfully.  That means a fairly aggressive first day of 8 miles, four of which were at half marathon race pace (read: 7:15 min/mile).  Well, that wasn’t happening.  Between the humidity, hills, and out-of-running-shapeness, it was a painful day 1.  But a bad first day means things can only go up, right?

Let’s not mince words.  The second scheduled run was brutal.  Certainly worse than the first day (which really doesn’t seem fair).  Due to an irregular work schedule this week, the morning was unavailable for 9 miles.  The alternative?  Running after work.  July + Texas = Insane Not Ideal.  At 96 degrees and a small water bottle, the stars (and by “stars” I mean “the sun“) aligned for a difficult run.  I got through it.. barely.  But it didn’t kill me, so I guess it made me stronger, or at least I think that’s what they say.

Friday was a gift.  A 4 mile recovery run is about all I’d be physically capable of want to do, and that’s exactly what was prescribed.  Even better, I was scheduled to get to work late, so I got to take my time with this one.  I actually tried to go as slow as reasonably possible, and I tell you this: it was nice.  For all my upcoming recovery runs I’m going to make an effort to exert no effort and run easy.  I need you to hold me to it.

The long run on Saturday said “Mike, you are going to run 12 miles.”  Who am I to argue?  Remember what I said earlier (for all the goldfish reading this: July + Texas = Insane Not Ideal.), and Saturday was certainly still July in Texas.  I went through two full water bottles on this one, and probably would have had a third if I had enough hands (damn you evolution!).  One thing I learned is that starting at 8:30am is too late for anything over 6 miles.  I have a feeling this training plan is going to see an underlying theme of good Mike vs. evil heat.

Overall it was a rough week of training, but looking back I didn’t exactly put myself in the best situation to succeed.  We’ll see how next week goes with more miles and more heat.

Distance Time Pace Heart Rate
Monday 8.11 Miles 1:05:59 8:08 min/mi 165 bpm
Wednesday 9.00 Miles 1:16:00 8:26 min/mi 167 bpm
Friday 4.02 Miles 38:30 9:35 min/mi 145 bpm
Saturday 12.06 Miles 1:44:42 8:41 min/mi 163 bpm
Total 33.19 Miles 4:45:12 8:35 min/mi 162 bpm

First Date, Part 2

Picking up where Part 1 left off, the other concern I had with a new running compatriot would be pace.  I mean, who knows how fast someone named “Ben” would run?  Is a Ben faster than a Mike?  Where does that compare to a Colin, or even, say, a Derrick??  Oh boy, what had I gotten myself into?  At least his name wasn’t Mebrahtom.  Mebs are fast.

What? Ok, so we met up at the water fountain and started up some treacherous hills.  As one astute reader noted (Colin), the pace of yesterday’s snow-filled hill run wasn’t exactly slow.  And that’s what I want to talk about.  While we were battling up hills and dodging abominable snowmen, I talked about how I just finished the Miami Marathon, which was my 8th.  He mentioned he was targeting a marathon in his hometown in NY in September, and said there was a $100 prize.  ???  I asked Ben if he had run any marathons and he mentioned just one.  When he was 17… I’m thinking, “wow, are you going to say how you fell apart?”  Not so much.  I asked his time in his one marathon, when he was 17 years old.. 2:38.  What!?

That’s almost an hour faster than my fastest!  He is confident he’ll win the marathon in September.  I then realized something that hadn’t crossed my mind.  Ben is faster than Mike.  He explained that he was a member of his D-1 track team for the last 2 years, and ran a 4:08 minute mile.  He wanted to meet up to run because he finds he goes out way too fast.  Like, his first mile of a typical training run is in the ballpark of 5:20 min / mile.  Wow, so as it turned out, running with me would be like walking in a tar-filled sandpit.  So I not-so-jokingly said that we could get together when I’m doing tempo runs and he has recovery runs.  Ouch, my pride, it hurts.

So, we’ll see how long this running relationship lasts.  It may come down to a “it’s not you, it’s me” and him running away from commitment slower people like me.  It’s definitely worth meeting up a few more times, but I think that we’re looking for different things from a running relationship.

First Date, Part 1

Admittedly I am no pro at first dates. In fact, where it matters, I’ve really only had one 🙂 In other contexts, there have been a few here and there, like a “first date” playing racquetball or a “first date” with destiny. Anyway, Tuesday I had a rendezvous with a fellow DC runner, we’ll call him “Ben”. I put out a “Anyone need a running buddy?” on MapMyRun.com like 11 months ago, and he responded last Thursday. Fashionably late, I guess. We ultimately decided to meet Tuesday morning at 6:45am at a mutually known water fountain. I had two concerns from the outset: Snow and Pace.

For the snow, I wasn’t

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sure how clear the paths would be after the snowpocalypse snOMGasm snowmaggedon winter weather we’ve had over the last 2 weeks. As I set out for the 2 mile journey to get to the water fountain, I opted for the road more traveled, fearing that my usual path would be under 18 inches of packed ice. It was a good choice, though it involved more traffic lights and slow-moving pedestrians (read: walkers). Made it to the water fountain only 2 or 3 minutes late, but Ben was there waiting. Feeling bad, I didn’t want to make him wait around any longer, so we shook hands and immediately discussed where to go. Quick agreement about most paths probably not being passable, we decided to go up.

From the outset, it was uphill seemingly forever. Having only run once on a treadmill for 2 miles since the Miami Marathon (which didn’t require much hill training itself), it would not have been my first choice. But hills ranked higher than uncleared ice shelfs similar to what sank the Titanic. Between dodging patches of ice and climbing hills, there wasn’t a lot of small talk. I learned he graduated high school the same year I graduated college (yikes!) and that he pulled an all-nighter writing a paper the night before and came straight from the library to meet me for a run (hardcore!). We followed the roads, letting the amount of snow dictate where we turned. Seemed like a good idea until we got a little lost… so my 5-6 mile run turned into almost 8.

As for my concern about

pace, well that’ll have wait for another post.

It was fun to have someone to run with, and it definitely motivated me to get out the door in the first place. I think we’ll be meeting up again, though not sure when yet though, so stay tuned!

Distance: 7.77 miles
Time: 1:05:38
Pace: 8:27 min/mile
Average HR: 162 bpm

Colin Watch, Day 2

Well boys and girls, things are looking bleak. Most recently Colin tried out some sort of tape contraption that was going to help his IT

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Band issue. Alas, it was worthless. Some deep tissue massage is next on the regimen. Hopefully that will show promising results. We’re 11 days from Race Day, so we’ll see what happens.


p>Fingers crossed, or like I said yesterday, I’ll be running (solo).

Who Let the Dogs Out, Part 2

I guess there are two sides to every coin.  I went for a short run yesterday and at the fervent demand polite request of my sister, took her dog along for the ride.  He’s a coiled spring of energy, always looking to do something but usually denied and relegated to small spaces.  I was actually excited about taking him out, mainly because a) the dog’s name is Diesel; and b) Diesel looks like a badass.  My concern, having not really run with dogs, was how far could he go?  Like I had no clue on order of magnitude… 1 mile, 10 miles, 100 miles?  I assume that dogs would need to “train” to be able to run longer, but what’s their starting point?  To be safe, I decided to run around the neighborhood a few times so that I could drop him off half way through if he was struggling.

To my pleasant surprise, though not really surprising if you look at him, he did fine.  I picked him up about 1/2 mile into the run, and we just cruised for 4.5 miles, no problems at all.  Most impressive was how focused he was on moving forward, and less concerned with other dogs and small distractions.  At first he was excitedly looking around because, well, he’s usually relegated to small spaces, but he soon got the hang of it.  It actually made me feel bad that he was effortlessly trotting along while I was going through my normal routine.  Only when I took off into a full sprint did he need to try, and even then it was just to placate me.

Here’s a picture of Diesel himself, doing what he does best: looking awesome.  Definitely looking forward to my next run with him, especially because he’d be able to handle any miscreants who might bother me.  Thanks Diesel!  And for those of you who thought I was talking about Tuna, or just want to laugh, here is a side-by-side of both of my sister’s dogs.

The Details

Recovery Run with Diesel:

Distance: 6.00 miles
Time: 50:01
Pace: 8:20 min/mile
Average HR: 153 bpm

The Dreadmill

I can’t take credit for the clever term “dreadmill”, but it rings so true that I can’t think of something better. This morning I was faced with a dilemma: run inside or run outside. Normally this never crosses my mind. Wake up, brush teeth, bundle up, run. No muss no fuss. But today, it was a “short” run, a “recovery” run…something I just wasn’t geared up for. I stood by the window, peered out into the dark abyss of DC at 6am, and contemplated. I know, not really a deep reflection of existentialism or the meaning of life, but only so many synapses are firing at that time of the morning.

Anyway, the “Inside” vote won primarily based on not wanting to layer up or go out in the cold. I relished in the fact that I only needed a shirt and some shorts, and not two shirts, tights, shorts, gloves, and a hat. I gleefully stepped out of my apartment, got in the elevator, and walked to the gym on the ground floor of my building, cozy the whole way. Until…

…I realized I still had to run on the treadmill. I was almost hopeful that all 3 machines would have been taken, taking the guilt off of me if I couldn’t run today. As I peeked around the corner, the first treadmill in view was taken… #2: also taken. And the third?? Available. ::sigh:: Oh well, it’s what I came to do, so I shouldn’t be disappointed.

I hopped on, stuck it on 6.5mph, 1.0% incline, and just went. Boredom set in quickly. Time moves exceptionally slowly on a treadmill. I think it’s the “watched pot” analogy, where staring at the timer counting up 4:12, 4:13, 4:14, 4:15… knowing that it’s going to take almost an hour. Endless. Well, eventually it ended, and it was fine. Certainly not the end of the world like I built it up to be. But not enjoyable either.

It certainly wasn't this treadmill!

Needless to say, I’ll remember this day before I

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hop back onto another treadmill!

The Details

Treadmill Recovery Run:

Distance: 6.05 miles
Time: 55:30
Pace: 9:10 min/mile
Average HR: 142 bpm