Ahhhhh, the age old debate, is running a marathon harder than doing a century ride? Is the triathlon run harder than the triathlon bike? Guess what buddy, they both suck and I am going to list the reasons why each suck and why each are brilliant.
- Flat tires. Unless your running shoe has spontaneously exploded off your foot and you had to stitch it back together to finish your run, runners have no understanding of what a flat tire is.
- Hills. OK, hills are bad for running too, but in a bike it is entirely possible to actually go backwards. Also, trying to reclip on an incline, getting out of your clips on an incline etc. When you are running you can simply stop, maybe sit down and have a break. When you are biking if you don’t get out of your pedals fast enough you will fall over.
- Bonking. OK, bonking is bad for runners too. However, there is nothing as heartbreaking as hitting “the wall” and realizing you are 30 miles away from your car.
- Helmets. Not sexy for anyone.
- Wind. Wind is your enemy and it hates you. No matter which direction it is blowing it is always right in your face.
- Money. Incredulous stares from your friends. “How much did that bike cost, like a grand?” Try $3600 and the shoes/pedals are extra.
- Equipment volume. Bike, car rack, custom saddle, pedals, shoes, cleats, shorts, bibs, jerseys, helmet, helmet liner, arm warmers, arm coolers, leg warmers, leg coolers, sunglasses, fingerless gloves, fingered gloves, saddle bag, spare tube(s), CO2, snack bag, bike lights, rain jacket, water bottle racks, cadence counter, bike computer, water bottles, and if you are lucky – a bike trainer.
- Slow progress. Even fast runners don’t have the endurance and speed of a Segway.
- Sweat. Even an easy jog in warm(ish) weather will drench your shirt.
- Chaffing nipples. This needs no explanation.
- Chaffing thighs. See above.
- When people yell “you are almost there!”. Listen pal, unless the finish line is 100 meters away, I am not almost there.
- Fuel belts. Sexy for no one. This includes all the other brands of belts that carry little water things.
- As you get more serious, you get dorkier. When I started I wore long shorts and a tee shirt. Now I have tiny shorts, tight nike running shirt, visor, sunglasses, and of course, a fuel belt. I am an embarrassment to my future children.
- Headlamp imprint. Headlamps are of questionable coolness anyway, but what is certainly uncool is the sweaty mark on your forehead.
There should be a chorus of agreement on these things. None of them sound particularly pleasant. If you look beyond them though, there are some highlights.
- Downhill. Needs no explanation
- Blowing past runners. You won’t hear the end of “on your left” until I am way past you.
- Using the word “cogs” and “gears” correctly. We have our own little vocabulary.
- Drafting. No matter how close you run to the person in front of you, you will not pick up 20% efficiency. You might pick up a charge though.
- Friends you just met. Cyclists form one massive team on the road. Difficulty changing a tire? Someone will help you. Need a tool? Someone has it. We don’t leave people behind.
- Equipment volume. Shorts, shirt, shoes. Go. Sometimes you don’t even really need shoes, or a shirt for that matter.
- Social acceptance. More people run than cycle, by a lot. If you say you average 7:30 mile splits – people can relate. People assume 25 MPH average on a bike is easy…and everyone does it.
- Marathon. How else are you supposed to know the precise distance between Athens and Marathon?
- Losing weight, getting fit. I can think of no other single activity that sheds weight like running.
- Running tights. Without fail these make peoples legs look better. Men and women.
As I wrote this I couldn’t help but notice that the suck is more than the brilliance. So why do we do it? Simply put, there is nothing good on TV. Compared to the alternatives, which include a lot of laziness, exercise makes us better and is a transformative experience. It is a treatment for disease that you don’t have to go to the doctor to get a prescription for. If you look at the diseases that kill us or make us miserable – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, reproductive issues, low testosterone, high cholesterol, low bone density etc. These are all things that are treated with regular exercise. To this I say – run and/or bike on!
I have a little to catch up on since my last post (I need to start posting more than once a week!) which cover a variety of topics. Firstly, my mother had her PET scan and the cancer is isolated to the breast and immediate lymph nodes, which is good news. Things get more complicated if it spreads. I left her a message on Saturday insisting that she make regular visits to Colorado. She lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York and I live in the Denver area of Colorado. We have a certain…herbal remedy…available since January 1st which is still illegal in New York.
My build week went about as well as expected. I ended up working until about 2 in the morning on Wednesday night so that threw a monkey wrench into my schedule and I missed one of my swims. I have long since gotten over missing workouts. If you are scheduled for 2-3 hours on a weekday any scheduling change will result in conflict, a conflict that is always won by the activity that pays me cold hard cash. My long run on Thursday was 10.1 miles which I completed in 1:37 which averages to nine and a half minute splits. Not excellent, but not all together terrible either.
This leads me into my rant, soapbox, or whatever you might call it. I have been considering converting to a single sport athlete after this 70.3 business is wrapped up. I workout 2-3 hours a day 5-6 days a week. You wouldn’t know it if you saw me run. I am not a terrible runner, and even if I slap out 5 miles at zone 5 (as I did on Sunday) I am still able to remain standing and have a conversation with people, no finish line dramatics, but also not terribly fast. Running is a demanding mistress and she doesn’t play well with the other two in my life, swimming and biking. After the 70.3 and the triple bypass, I may spend 1/2 a year solely on running to put down a respectable time at an open race.
Last week I posted this picture to motivate my training partners who are either full ironmen or ironman hopefuls.
Honestly though, I might be one of the people to “just” do 26.2. Long distance triathletes say stuff like this to motivate our buddies, but we realize that a marathon is still a big friggin deal. It is only marginally more achievable than a full Ironman. In fact, one of my coaches was a marathoner for 10 years before she ever did a triathlon – the same, determination, and discipline is required for either activity.
Here is to another build week, it is a crazy schedule again, I should be able to make 90% or more of my workouts this week which is very good. On Saturday I am going up the magnolia road trail in Boulder which is between 9-10K feet for some nice altitude abuse. Keep in mind pilots need supplemental oxygen at 10K! Oxygen, who needs it?
This past week was confidence shaking, I am not going to lie. Almost every workout except my hill climbs on Tuesday was not very good. I had pains in my shin (specifically the muscle that goes over the shin), my IT band, and my calves. I think my muddy half marathon beat me up a little harder than I realized. I had done a 5 mile run on Thursday that was terrible and a swim on Friday morning that was worse. Taking my cue, on Saturday I ran for 2 miles and on Sunday we biked for 25 miles. Both distances are about half of our normal training distances. Today is Monday – my normal rest day – and I am beginning to feel normal again.
These are the Newton Distance S III in lime green. If you find the lime green distasteful, the women’s shows are worse, they are a big bird yellow. These are different shoes than last years because they added another lug.
This does make a difference, the outer lugs now provide a stabilizing platform when the ball of your feet hit the ground. With the fifth lug, it feels like you have one bar across your forefoot instead of a couple of smaller ones, which is more comfortable. It took me about 100 meters to appreciate how much better these are than my Sir Isaac Newton S shoes. When a coach says “shorten your stride” or “faster cadence” these shoes encourage this behavior. I will hold on to my Sir Isaac S shoes but will transition these shoes over the next couple of weeks. I did try the Men’s Motion shoes which also have 5 lugs but I found the ride on the Distance S III to be more comfortable.
With these shoes I am now, officially, a lime. I am not kidding.
I had previously purchased the tri kit based on the fact that it is just the rebranded kit from Sugoi who I like for my cycle gear. Notice the lime color in the shoes matches the lime in the singlets, I am happy to see someone was paying attention to detail. I would have bought the shoes regardless of color, at least they are consistent. Unfortunately for the women the shoes are bright yellow but the tri suit is a pink color, so that is a bit of a fail.
This week starts another build phase and it is a doozy:
Tuesday – Bike Hill Climbes 7×5 minute climbs with 5 minute active recovery (1:30) and 2KM in the pool 7×100 moderate and 5×100 maximum intensity.
Wednesday – BRICK one hour moderate cycle with a thirty minute run at threshold intensity. Strength training.
Thursday – Log run, 1:40. 2.5KM swim at moderate intensity. Run first.
Friday – Moderate bike 1:30
Saturday – Long bike (3:15) with a 40 minute transition run.
Sunday – 5 mile run (cherry creek sneak) 2.7KM swim.
Wish me luck, I am going to look a little more haggard come next Monday!
Originally, when I started this blog, I did not intend for it to become an issue driven blog. My purpose was to document my journey from being little more than a couch potato to an ultra-distance triathlete. Largely this will remain the same, but as with many things in life, things evolve unexpectedly. Last night I found out that my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
From the prognosis viewpoint she is in very good shape. Breast cancer deaths have been steadily declining over the last twenty some odd years and stage 2 cancer generally responds well to treatment. However, we shouldn’t sugar coat the affect this will have on my mother’s (as well as all other cancer patients) life and well being. The treatment for cancer is long, arduous, and unfortunately, not easy to hide. Even though the drugs have gotten better, they still ravage the body in order to treat the disease. Of course, it isn’t a one week, 1 month, or even 2 month treatment regimen. It takes the better part of a year and it is burdensome in time and money.
If you have a form of cancer, or survived a cancer, you have my heartfelt sympathy – and probably more importantly – my respect for your experience. Compared to chemo and radiation, I would take two a day weekday workouts ten times out of ten.
From time to time I may mention my mother’s progress in her treatment and generally pontificate on the state of the medical system in the United States; something I have a strong opinion on.
My mother in late 2012
This is my first ever race report, the reason is simple, this was my first ever race! It was a personal record by default because not only was it the first half marathon I have ever done, I am fairly certain it is the longest distance I have ever run ever in my life! I am happy to have the experience under my belt.
This was not an A race for me, in fact, it was the culmination of a 3 week build phase in my training. Brian, Sarah, myself, Don, Kaira, and Sabrina (Sabrina did a different half) did this with the opposite of a taper. In the work week and Saturday leading up to Sunday’s run, this was our workout schedule:
Tuesday: Swim – 2200 meters Bike – 7×5 minute hill climbs, negative splits
Wednesday: BRICK – 1 hour bike @ moderate intensity, 20 minute run at threshold intensity
Thursday: Run – 12×1 sprints with active recovery Swim – 2000 meters (done back to back)
Friday: Swim – 2500 meters
Saturday: Bike – 3 hours (61 miles) Run – 30 minutes (I skipped the run)
Sunday: Long Run – 13.1 miles
If your legs are a little sore (as mine were) from the previous days bike ride then you haven’t tapered properly.
Sunday morning, race day, I am a little nervous because this was my first ever half marathon and only second organized run I have done since the 90s. The weather was not favorable. It was about 32 degrees and sleeting. If you are unfamiliar with sleet, there is a precipitation between straight rain and nice fluffy snow. When snow falls (or rain depending) and there is a mean temperature difference between origin and ground, the snow turns into a frozen ball of ice/water which, when picked up with even the slightest amount of wind, stings the face.
Even considering the weather, a good many souls showed up to brave the conditions to do one of the three (5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon) runs available. As a quick aside I would like to mention that we had great community support from Arvada and a good many volunteers who stood in the freezing rain to hand us slushy Gatorade and oddly thick power gels. Arvada is an older suburb of Denver and often overlooked in favor of newer communities. A few years ago they widened their roads and put in generous bike lanes (where we ran when we were on a road) and many running paths, which we took advantage of. The Arvada Apex Community Center (where we started/finished) is a nice facility with a full workout facility and 4 pools.
If you come from a warm climate and wonder how you equip for a run like this, there are solutions. I wore a pair of Pearl Izumi multi-sport pants (good for breaking the wind since they are designed for cycling), a Nike hyper-warm turtleneck running shirt, an Eddie Bauer BC-200 rain shell, Pearl Izumi thermal cycling gloves, a Swix winter hat, and a Newton Running branded Headsweats visor. I also carried a fuel belt with 2 water containers with Skratch secret drink mix and a GU Gel (I meant to grab a honey stinger gel which I like better).
The course was not overly aggressive but the longish climb required some personal race management to make sure I wasn’t prematurely burning myself out. One thing to note, those little spikes in elevation seem quaint enough on the profile but when you running up that grade (some oddly placed high grade hills in residential neighborhoods??) it can be spirit breaking. In fact, there was a sign at the beginning of the highest grade one which said “It’s a hill, get over it”. Clever race people, clever.
There was only one real problem spot for people. Up until the lake the trails were paved. The trail around the lake was not paved or grated in any way so somehow the mud was both sticky and slippery at the same time. While out there, some of us joked that this was our first half marathon survival run.
Not only was the lake practically dangerous to run on (a lot of people walked for safety) it coincided with a time where mother nature decided that freezing rain was better with a bit of wind. This was the only time I ran with my hood up which blocked most of the freezing rain from hitting my left/right cheek). I passed people here who were better runners than I was, but not as sure footed and without the mountaineering class jacket I was wearing.
Fortunately, once you finished this the course was essentially out and back so that gradual climb in the first half was a gradual downhill on the way back in. There were not a ton of runners out there so I found myself either alone or within sight of one or two other runners. By this time the 10K people had all but cleared the parts of the course they shared with us. We were on wooded trails so line of sight wasn’t great, if it had been a sunny day this would have been a relief because the trees would have provided ample shade.
The finish line was not lined with people, too cold for that. The organizers had space blankets for us, which was nice. I found my co-runners and waited for my wife to come in who was a few minutes behind me. When I saw her I jogged in with her.
I averaged 9:45 a mile, which isn’t brilliant but my run plan was actually to be paced at 10:00 a mile so I was well within my planned pace. It would have been faster but the trip around the lake cost me (and many other runners) minutes. Not a huge deal, it wasn’t as if were were competing for money.
My fueling and electrolyte plan was spot on. I had begun hydrating the night before (a combination of preparing for the run and recovering from the bike ride that day) with an amino-acid electrolyte supplement. Morning of the race I had an english muffin with peanut better and jelly, a cup of coffee, and a KIND bar. During the race I hydrated from my fuel belt every 10 or so minutes and took the race water twice. Halfway and three quarters I had a gel, the second gel was probably unnecessary but a nice race volunteer handed me one so I took it. Sarah and I took a potassium supplement post race and besides some soreness in the calves (not uncommon with Newton Running shoes) we haven’t had any cramps. Our attitude during the race was positive and we didn’t have any emotional drops or feelings of “Can’t this run be OVER!” which are common signs of glycogen depletion and electrolyte depletion.
This was supposed to be the last organized race before I went on to do the Boulder Sprint and 70.3 in June but we may run the Colfax 1/2 marathon in May which is flatter – maybe I can improve my time. Realistically, I will probably do it, I have enough friends who are running it so they will bully me until I sign up .
I came across an article that has absolutely fascinated me for the last couple of days. In the 1989 Ironman World Championships (often called the iron war) the first two finishers, Dave Scott and Mark Allen, finished the marathon at 2:40 and 2:41 respectively, a marathon record that no one has beaten in Kona. There is an iconic photograph of these two guys that has been widely circulated.
Keep in mind that there were two key differences in the marathon during this era. Firstly, the total time on the marathon included the transition time, so they were probably running a little faster than their posted times. Secondly, the marathon course was slightly harder back then.
With all of our advances in technology and nutrition, no one has been able to beat these two guys at Kona in the marathon. To be very clear, their pace is not easy to achieve for anyone. They were between 6:00 and 6:10 splits which is the elite of the elite. Most runners won’t see that pace during an open marathon let alone after biking for 112 miles. This is even more impressive considering the bikes used in 1989 were junkers compared to today’s superbikes. In fact, every time you read about triathlon specific bikes they include some sort of reference to the idea that these bikes “save your legs” for the marathon. There may be some truth to that but that technology has not helped anyone beat the course record at Kona.
There have been a lot of ideas floated around as to why no one has beat the marathon record. Some say that it was because it was an unusually cool and calm day. Mark mused that it is because modern tri bikes might actually hurt the run. Also, he mentions that in his day, on the bike, people were allowed to fan out to avoid drafting. Nowadays people bunch up and drop back to avoid the drafting penalty. One might think that even though they were able to fan out, the super light bikes of today would more than make up for that.
When you read what Mark and Dave have said about their competition with each other and about Ironman in the late 80s there is an undercurrent of theme that I think should be mentioned out loud. They were tougher back then. They trained as long and as hard as they needed too and when it counted (at the end of the marathon) and they set records. It isn’t just that Ironmen were tougher, I think almost everyone was tougher back then than they are today. Do you think the average person (let alone athlete) would even mutter the words “gluten-free” or “low-carb” in 1989? Yes, this is a commentary on modern society and how we have generally become both physically and mentally weaker than we used to be.
Think about your professional life, how many people take unscheduled time off to handle their personal business? How often do you hear your coworkers talk about the drama in their lives? Could you imagine your parents or grandparents doing the same thing at their jobs? I am not suggesting that we have to “Man Up” (don’t get me started on that) more, what I am suggesting is that we need to evaluate our general levels of resilience in our culture.
At the end of our second build week (which left us exhausted) we had a very successful weekend of training. Saturday was our usual routine, an hour in the pool and an hour on the run. My run Thursday morning was garbage so I was happy to have a smooth run.
Sunday morning’s weather was nice enough that we could do the whole workout outside. The Lifetime and Endurance House crew met in Boulder to start our ride. We all tool different routes but most of them start the same way so we left as a group.
Sarah, Kaira, Sabrina, Don, and I did a combination of the Boulder Peak 5150 and Boulder 70.3 courses. Some of the full Ironman trainees went up to Carter Lake and others did the whole 70.3 course. On our plan was a 1 1/2 hour ride and a thirty minute brick run.
The Boulder 5150 course goes over a road called Olde Stage Road which is a 1000 foot climb (give or take) over a very short distance with grades that reach up to 15%. When you include the climbout you do from the Boulder Reservoir you end up doing a fair amount of climbing.
I have ridden this climb before but I don’t remember it being so terrible! Those “hill climbs” on the spin bike just are not the same thing as staring up the abyss of a 15% grade where your options for bailing out are all bad. I admit that I bailed out and took a rest – which was needed but this is never fun because you have to kick the crank around fast enough to get your other foot clipped in and delivering power so you don’t fall over or roll backwards. The first time I did this was on a triple crank so my lowest gear was 30/28 which is lower than my current lowest gear of 34/28. I wanted one lower gear that I didn’t have. I am not going to run off and buy the 11-32 cassette (too much cross-chaining chatter) so this climb is going to have to become a weekly occurrence to build my leg strength.
As an aside – there is a video floating around on you tube showing people doing this climb as part of the Boulder Peak 5150 triathlon; it focuses a bit on the people who stop and some who walk their bike up. After doing this climb twice, I totally understand.
There is still snow on the ground but the weather was great while we were out. The ladies finished the Boulder Peak course while Don and I rode another 10 miles beyond that and did a little tempo work on the way. This marks the first time that “serious” riders fell in behind me and formed a pace line. After embarrassingly stopping on old stage I felt better about myself.
The ladies were waiting for us, we said we were only going to go 2 or 3 miles out of the way and ended up going 10 miles out of the way. I was criticized roundly for changing out of my cycle jersey into a running shirt (which took all of 3 seconds) for the run. We got through 5K within the thirty minute time frame with Don (as usual) leading the pack.
It was a nice training day. We don’t train with our friends during the week so it is nice to hang out with them.
Like almost every triathlete that I know, I have a Garmin FR910XT triathlon watch. Those that don’t have it, want it. Some people have a SUUNTO or the Garmin Ambit2 or the Tom Tom but in my experience not a one of those is as ubiquitous as the 910XT. One of the absolutely cool features of the watch is the ability to set-up your multi-sport activity to roll to the new sport with the press of a button including the time you spend dithering around between disciplines. In the dashboard it looks like this:
It even fills in handy information like what you were doing and what you are expected to do next. In case you forgot, when you hit the button to advance to the next activity, the watch tells you what you should be doing – “Begin Running” with an arrow and a little picture of the event.
What truly shocked me was that while you are are in transition (or “dithering”) it still tracks your every move. Even if that isn’t a good idea. I had to pee in the middle of this workout.
Want to guess where the potty is located? In fact, if you zoom in enough you can even tell where the sink is that I used to wash my hands! Somehow the thing can’t track GPS when it is centimeters under water but it can track my every movement in a toilet that has a solid roof over it.