Monday, November 26, 2007

Race Report: Berbee Derby 5k

I hope everybody had a solid Thanksgiving - mine was fantastic. Good food, good company, good pie. What more can one ask for?

So I got up early on Turkey day and headed down the road about 15 minutes to Fitchburg for an annual turkey day 5k. I've never done a 5k, it turns out. In fact, as I think about it, I've never done a 10k. Obviously I've done those races in context of triathlon, but never stand-alone. Huh. Anyway, we had our first snow the night before, big thick wet flakes, and there was a glaze of ice covering the earth, making driving a little slow and thoughts of running seem treacherous. I did think it a good sign when a gaggle of wild turkeys (herd? flock? pride? pack? murder?) were chilling out on the side of the road on my way to the race.

I guess there were 4000 people who raced either the 5k or the 10k that morning. Which is an insane amount of people. I got there early enough to park and have half an hour or so to warm up and stretch out, so I slowly jogged the first half mile back and forth a few times while others warmed up around me, all in various stages of attire, so that the "serious" from the "fun-runners" made themselves apparent. The running path was pretty clear, with just some icy patches here and there that were easily avoided.

I ducked inside a coffeeshop to warm up a bit (it was a cold morning - 20something degrees, but "feels like" 16 degrees) and while I looked out the window listened to two people chatting behind me. They were analyzing their entire year's race schedule, in preparation for Ironman '08, and chatting about how today's race fitted in. If it's any indication of my general sense of the topic at this moment (I am usually all kinds of down for any conversation, however lacking cohesion to the real world around us, of anything Ironman), I found their conversation boring and I wished they'd shut up. So see, I haven't totally lost perspective.

Which is a good time to recap the day's goals - sub 7:00 miles. When I finished my last triathlon, in September, where I was also chasing sub7 and finished with 7:04, I thought a 5k running race, free of the energy expenditures of a bike and swim beforehand, was in the bag. As I discussed in my last post, I haven't been able to nail this strategy down in training. (I appreciate everybody's comments to that post, by the way.) I knew going into this race that the likelihood of accomplishing this goal was pretty small.

As I sat in the midst of the rest of the gaggle of 5kers (herd? flock? pride? pack? murder?), I heard "X! There he is!" and turned to see my buddy RobbyB standing two feet in front of me, where I guess he'd been this whole time. We shared a greeting and chatted about the weather and the day and the race. Cool guy, that RobbyB. I forgot to ask him his opinion about the roundabout we ran through on the course.

So the gun goes off, and we're all trampling down the road. I tried to find my 7:00 pace and hold it for the first two miles, hoping if I did that, it'd leave me with enough in the tank for a push in the last mile.

I clocked mile 1 at a 6:45 pace, and felt good at the 1.5ish mile turnaround - this was encouraging, since lately after my first mile at pace I fall apart to stumbling uselessness. At the two mile mark I was starting to feel it, but clocked a 7:04 pace. Right on schedule. Alas, the road then shifted slightly uphill for most of the rest of the run, and as this happened about the same time I hit my proverbial wall, my last mile was considerably slower - 8 something. I finished in 22:56 - more than a minute off my goal time, with a pace of 7:23. Good for 12th of 68 in my age group (RobbyB was top 5! Whoohoo!), for those intently scoring at home on age group finishes of a turkey day walk/run.

So, that's that. The race was a ton of fun, and I did my very best, which is a good way to feel after any race. My pursuit of sub7 continues, and next time I try it it will be when I'm back on point, firing on all cylinders. And don't think for a second I won't chase that 7 down sometime, because I will, and when I do, it'll be sweet as wine. Sometimes I think: if I had a shred of natural speed in my body, this game wouldn't be so hard. But there's no point to that, and besides. More interesting this way. And, this is a good time to remind oneself that three years ago if one would have run a 5k on this side of a 7:30 pace, one would have peed himself in glee. So. Everything's relative.

Moving on: "Phase 1" of the 3 Phase training regiment that will bring me and 'Zilla into the Racine Half Iron this summer is over. The point of Phase 1 - just to stay active, healthy, and not get out of shape, finish with a strong 5k: Done and done. Next up - Phase 2, which is base training. Now we start concentrating more on long slow running, getting our systems in shape to hit Phase 3, later next spring, in solid form. I'll be looking for an early spring (late March/early April) 13.1 as the goal race for this phase, and the objective is to P.R. that race, or have very clearly understood reasons for why a P.R. wasn't possible (note - gluttony at the plate of one's mother-in-law's cookies is not a valid reason). The attitude now is less "just glad to get a workout in", and a bit more with the gameface on.

State of the union: I feel great. Not burned out, Phase 1 didn't overtrain me, nothing like that. Looking forward to getting back into endurance-minded training, as I've really been doing short speed stuff since late this summer. I have some weight to lose, but not too much and who cares, we all do, it's November. And starting today, all the bad-for-you stuff is out of the house, and nutrition is back on point.

Well. At least until Christmas.

I Need A Bra

I'm thinking a 46B will suffice. My man boobs are back in full effect.

Holy lord, where to even begin. I'm going to try and keep this short and not make it a pity party, my apologies if I do. The last three months have been an absolute disaster to say the least as far as working out, training, triathlon, fitness etc go. On the flip side, I couldn't have squeezed more fun into that time while keeping the fast food business and liquor sales up in the metro area of MN.

Today was the first time in over two months I made it to the gym and got any sort of activity in let alone a workout (if you can even call it that). Although, I did play a one hour touch football game 6 days ago and was still quite sore on Saturday, 4 days later. Other than that, it's been straight couch potato the entire time.

Have I told you about my love for food? I hopped on the scale today and it wasn't pretty. I'm not going to sugar coat this so brace yourself: In exactly 3 months and 4 days since my last race, I've put on exactly 50 pounds. That is not a typo, I repeat, 50 pounds. This means I'm currently a Clydesdale! Hopefully not for long. So there you have it. The hole I've dug for myself is deep to say the least. I'm not sure there's a light at the top but I'm going to climb like hell and find out.

As Bill Murray's character said throughout What About Bob?: "baby steps." Today is day one of my journey into the unknown. My fitness has been erased and I'm starting from ground zero. I made it to the gym this morning and dabbled with some weights followed with a trot/walk combo on the old dreadmill. My HR was of course through the roof and it was close to the most embarrassed I've ever felt physically speaking but I powered through.

This week, the goal is to try and acclimate myself back into a healthy/active lifestyle without over doing things to the point I need help to sit down on the throne.

This Saturday morning there is a race called the Reindeer Run. It's a fun 5K in Minneapolis. I'm planning on doing this with a really good friend of mine. Whether I'm able to run/jog/trot the entire thing remains to be seen but that's the goal. This is a special race for me as it was my first ever "race" I did two years ago. If I can break 30:00, I will be stoked.

So, that's my story. In due time, hopefully my clothes will fit comfortably again and I'll stop sweating profusely. In the meantime, pass the Kashi and get out the way, CHOO CHOO!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Just Listen

So, as I sit here slightly buzzed on an uber early Saturday morning, I saw this video on VH1 while channel surfing. I'm not here to judge or preach especially on politics but this song, it's lyrics and video struck a chord with me, so much as to get out of my warm cozy bed to post this....

PS, it's on like Donkey Kong starting today (later).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not Promising.

Not sure just what else I should expect, with the scattering of purposeful workouts, the reckless face-stuffing of my mother-in-laws tasty complex carbohydrate creations, the less-than-ideal amount of sleep, but I really suck.

I've had, all things considered, a pretty quality fall (I'm speaking of training now, not my real life, which is infinitely glorious beyond measure). I haven't fallen off of the wagon entirely, I've not gained any significant weight (despite my gorging - how this is possible, I have no idea), and I've really only had one 10-day stretch where I did no training at all, and that was just after the baby was born and is fully allowed in all the rule books. So if my self-prescribed purpose for the fall is just to keep active, maintain some fitness for "real" training, not get fat and lazy, then I guess mission accomplished or whatever. And, as Amy reminded me tonight, I really should just be thankful that I'm running at all - baby's arrival has not, as far too many fear-mongers promised - ended the days of Becoming Ironman. I'm not really a "it's enough just to" kind of person, though. Which also flies in the face of some of the new philosophies I'm trying to adopt, where I'm not quite so OCD about every damn thing about this game. Alas.

My nutrition is, really, for crap. I'm not eating when I'm used to or what I'm used to. Most meals have been prepared for us since Dakota came. We've taken advantage of the neighborhood Culvers a few too many times (by the way, have you ever had the Jumbo Deluxe burger there? You're kidding me with the half-a-cow-on-a-bun. Good Lord). And, as I've mentioned, way way way too much snacking. It is what it is. I can't bitch about it now if I'm going to go up and grab a cookie on my way to bed.

Which, probably, therein lies the crux: I'm not behaving in ways becoming of myself. Amy's mother leaves after Thanksgiving, and all the special treatment will come screeching to a halt (which is not to insinuate she is to blame for any of my nutritional nightmares; nobody's holding the spoon to my head, as it were). So in my mind, I've conveniently made all of this "temporary", and so allow myself the splurge. Blah blah blah, etceteras, and here we are: I suck.

And by that I mean, I've had a goal since way back for a 5k race I'm doing Thursday morning to go sub 7:00/miles. True that the training hasn't fully been there, and I've just discussed how the nutrition really ain't been there. But I do think I've done "enough", where I should be able to at least take a shot. Maybe get close? Ha - not if my workouts lately are any indication. I am, it seems, unable to "unhitch the plow", as my old football coach used to say. I just have no speed. I get tired too soon. I'm solid for the first mile, then it becomes folly. Every run I've had this last week has ended with me generally kicking stones as I approach my house, hands on hips, breathing hard and pissed off. Bah.

So it is. I don't doubt that when "real" training starts, and the schedule becomes more organized and the nutrition comes back on point and the mindset isn't one of "this doesn't really count until after Christmas at least", my ducks will position themselves nicely in a row. Fine. Sounds like excuses, though. It doesn't take the bad taste out of this. Feeling like I'm capable of more.

I don't wish to feel capable of more. Ever. In anything. I wish to just do more. Do, or do not. As Yoda advises. Which, I was just going to make a joke that maybe at least I could outrun him, but then I remembered he's a Jedi. And a freakshow with the lightsaber, which probably wouldn't bode well for me. Probably, once, Jabba the Hutt was a runner, and it was precisely these kinds of realizations that made him say, "Ah what the hell", and just go get fat.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today's Moment of Zen

For all its predictability - you already know how this one's going down - here is much to like about this one. The rusty Chevy. The hilarity of owning a bike worth more than that your car (which probably we can relate to). I enjoy conjecturing how the whole process took form in this driver's mind - from, "Geez, I got ta git mah motocicle acrost the way" to his Aha! moment of thinking how he could rig this thing to the back of his sedan to his actually physically getting this thing atop his ride. Did no one in his atmosphere suggest this might not work? I wonder where on earth he was going, anyway.

But probably the best part, which you may have to watch twice to catch, is the righteous irony of the redneck driver giving the cameraman the finger. Just moments before.

File under: Karma is a bitch.

Monday, November 12, 2007


So in what I conjecture is the result of a couple of bored cyclists over several beers, somebody invented Cyclocross. Do you know what this is? Because I have to be honest that when I first heard about it, I thought motorcross, which I think involves jumping motorcycles and wearing neon green. So naturally, I assumed a passing interest in neon green was required for Cyclocross. Turns out, I was wrong.

Cyclocross is the bastard mutated child of road biking, mountain biking, weight lifting and running. On the surface it makes less sense than when those guys said (also bored, over several beers), "Hey! We should get up tomorrow and swim! And then ride our bikes! And then go for a run!" Cyclocross involves riding a road bike that's been outfitted with big knobby tires. You ride the road bike offroad. By "offroad" don't think "mountain bike trails", because it's not meant to be that rugged, but still, you're not generally on asphalt (though you can be). But then, obstacles are placed in the path, either naturally in the form of stuff you can't easily bike over, or intentionally in the form of stuff that's just meant to get in your way. When you approach these obstacles, you get off your bike, pick it up, and carry it over said obstacle before safely mounting up again on the other side. Right, so altogether it looks like: Ride your 700C wheels over rough terrain, look out for stuff in the way, pick up your bike and carry it over the stuff, then carry on riding your road bike over terra firma.

Seriously, who thinks this stuff up?

So my buddy Brazo noted in his blog how he was doing a Cyclocross race, and how it was right here in the same town we both live in. Well that sounded interesting, so I emailed him with a few questions (basics here people. "Can I ride my mountain bike? Do I clip in? Should I carry water with me?"), and thought - if the kid sleeps well through the night, I'll get up on Sunday morning and check it out.

I got there and registered in the morning. The lady handed me my number and said, "This goes on the right side." I said, "Of my bike?" And she looked at me like I'd just eaten a poop sandwich (poop sandwich copyright TriSaraTops, all rights reserved). I quickly recovered with a smile, "Just kidding." And we laughed together at the stupid funny man. Ha ha ha!

So I pull into a parking spot and observe people, typical of race-day, in all manner of preparation. Some were even warming up on trainers. What the. Before me, laid out around the fairgrounds in our fair little burg, was an intricate path laid out with posts and red tape, twisting and winding all around, disappearing across the street in the distance, coming back later to this side of the road, winding over to a sandy beach and back. I saw people picking up the bikes and running across the beach, like crazy people. I set to pinning my number to the right side of my jersey. Don't you know.

Just then Brazo and his son wheeled over, and we shook hands and evaluated the morning before us. Seems his son had taken first place in the earlier youth division! Yeah baby! Unimportant to mention that he was the only one in his division to show up, because hey. As we all know, you can't win if you don't start. So with hearty congratulations, we all spun our way to the starting line with a gaggle of 20 or so other spandex clad crazy people.

The modus operandi seems to be - find a beater road bike, one you loved in 1989 or bought at a garage sale for 20 bucks. Put fat tires on it. Commence craziness. I think Brazo and I were the only ones on mountain bikes (so, it is accepted, but not preferred). The general attitude seemed to me very relaxed, a departure from the Type A personalities that pervade even the smallest local triathlon. The race director got up and gave us some instructions. I listened intently for any idea on just what the hell I was supposed to do. He said things I didn't understand, talking about "pits" ("There are pits?" I turned to Brazo and asked. He shrugged.), and "wheel in-wheel out", and something involving long division about when you hear the bell (there is no typical "finish" line, everybody rides for 30 minutes, then a bell rings, then you follow the leader in to the finish. Who makes this stuff up?) you should note where the leader is and this is your final lap, unless you get lapped by the leader a moment from the finish line, at which time you are already finished, and there are pits?

So the bell tolls, and we're off. The race is deceptively difficult. Most of it was on grass, with a street or two thrown in, then some gravel, more grass, a bit of sand, more grass. No climbing or descending, and pretty technical with lots of tight turns. One thinks to himself, looking at the course beforehand, that this won't be terribly difficult, unless one falls in a pit. One is wrong however, because within minutes one is sucking air. Brazo and I started in the back of the pack, his son joining us. Brazo would edge up in position throughout the race, where I would hold a pretty steady lock on 3rd or 4th from last all day. I felt like the guys who have mountain bikes at sprint triathlons - everybody on 700C wheels just looks like they're working so much less hard than I. We careen around a tree, whiz through a picnic shelter, zip over a curb and around a series of buildings. I check my watch, sure I've been out here for 20 minutes, dismayed to find it's been 3. I decide I need to pace myself a bit, so I back off. Also, I'm confident the field will return to me later in the race. This hardly ever happens to me at any race, but I adopt the strategy to feel better about backing way off, which I like to do. It's a strategy I have locked down and well practiced, backing off. Should pay off for me anytime now. Anyway, we turn a corner and there are red hurdles, less than knee-high, plopped in the path, a series of 3, one after the other. These were the proverbial pits - just a word, I guess, not a real pit. Thank God. So I approach the pits, do a pre-T2-riding dismount with my legs tossed over the side of my bike, then get off at the last minute and pick up my bicycle and jump over the hurdle and run to the next hurdle and jump over it and run to the next one and jump over it and then put my bike down and then get back on it and start riding it again. Who thinks this stuff up?

I cannot possibly be this badly out of shape, I'm thinking as I round several more corners and bounce my way over some more hurdles with my heart rate in the low 300's. And, I don't think that I am. This is just really hard. And totally foreign - when else would you have cause to even think of jumping over stuff with a bike on your shoulder? I wend my way back around the course, now towards the beach. Some unhelpful spectator yells, "You have a mountain bike! Plow through this!" so I drop into gear and I start mashing towards the beach, sure that here I'll make up some time on the roadies who are carrying their bikes through. I get 15 yards into the quicksand and teeter to a stop before having to hop off and run through the sand with my bike. I get back on my bike on the other side, turn a corner, and there's more sand. Oh, Come ON! This sand is wet, though, and if I stay low, towards the edge of the small pond the sand borders, I can ride through it. On the other side I think my lungs are going to explode. There is no way I haven't been out here for at least an hour. About 11 minutes had passed.

So, we start another lap, and this time my pace is more reasonable, but the field, alas, is not returning to me anytime soon. S'okay, I'm just happy to be here. For while my lungs are clawing themselves out of my chest and while I'm stuck in some kind of time warp that is causing 20 minutes to take an hour, I'm also having a blast. Probably because I'm surrounded by crazy people, and so one has that liberation that crazy people must feel while in the presence of other crazy people - that nobody will look at me funny for talking to my imaginary friend, because they all have one too. Everybody out there knows this is theatre of the absurd, so it's impossible to take anything about it too seriously. I smiled most of the way through the whole race, I think.

Anyway, at around 27 minutes I heard the glorious words from behind me, "On your left!", and the leader blew by. This meant that when the bell rang, I'd just follow him in, instead of having to do another lap. I did not want to have to ride through the beach for a 3rd time, even though I was starting to get the hang of when to get off the bike, the best way to carry it, when to push it instead of lift it, that sort of thing. Soon the bell rang, and as I crossed the finish line (really a stake in the earth next to a shelter where the race director yelled in my direction, "You're Done!" I was thrilled for it be over. I pulled up next to Brazo, got off my bike and leaned on it, and together we breathlessly discussed how freakin' hard that was.

Apparently they do this Cyclocross thing throughout the wintertime, and I think that would be a blast, to ride in the snow. If I do it again, or with any kind of regularity, I'll probably get my road bike rigged up for it. But it will have to be convenient - maybe right inside Madison, or very nearby - I don't think I'd travel much further, or get really organized to go do Cyclocross. But, it's a great workout, and would be a fun thing to have on the calendar. Oh, and God bless 'em, this race ended with a keg of beer in a picnic shelter. Any race that ends in beer is a good race, says I, and as I downed my well-earned brew, I tipped my cup to the crazy people who thought this up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Well it's now the first week of November and I'm not any closer to firing things back up again triathlon related or otherwise. I'm not sure what my deal is but am perfectly content right now doing nothing. It just so happened I came across Erin's blog this morning and even though I have not done an Ironman, I couldn't relate more with her and this post. So since I can't get things across nearly as well, enjoy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bits & Pieces...

• So I scratched the LTH test I had tentatively planned for last weekend, because my body was clearly telling me it wasn't ready for it, and the last time I tried to push harder than my body was ready for I lost a triathlon season out of the deal, so. More slow running for awhile, and hitting the road when I can on the bike, otherwise the trainer or mountain biking. I am planning to "race" a 5k on Thanksgiving morning, so that's my focus right now. I was on 'Blue for awhile this weekend, and generally had a consistent week of training -and any time you're on a bike in November, it's a good ride. So says I.

• As sporadic as it's sometimes been, though, I'm glad to be training. Last year at this time I absolutely was not - pretty burned out from Ironman, etc. I'm not being all OCD about it, and one part of why I'm training at all is just to know I can do it, with Dakota at home and all of life's new adventures. So far, so good. We'll see this spring, though, when things get long.

• I'm glad Macca won Ironman. I was rooting for him. I think he's arrogant in an honest way, and I'm amused by that. I can't ever get over how Stadler melted down in '05 because he didn't know how to change a tire, and so I think he's a dandy and I cheer against him at Ironman. Macca's new Specialized bike is one weird looking ride, no? Glad Chris Lieto had a good race too. I cheer for him because he's Paul's brother - the Trifuel Jedi.

• How dope was it that the female winner - I don't even know her name - came out of the blue, a total unknown. On a borrowed bike. With a regular cycling hat, not one of those aero gumdrops. Awesome.

• The blogosphere feels lulled. Myself included. Zilla too. Everybody's bored of themselves, maybe. People are posting to their blogs just to have known they posted something lately. This also amuses me. The offseason is weird. It's like we all need rest, but we don't want to miss out on anything, so we don't rest quite as much as we should. Or something. Case in point is this post, which is really pretty useless. I was thinking yesterday about how insane the energy was around here during Ironman. That next year, when the days are hot and the sun his high and the road is long, we'll all be fired back up again. Back on the proverbial bike. Ebb and flow I guess. Such is life.

• Closed circuit to Steve in a Speedo - kickass on those 5k's, dude. Well done.

• Amy's mother is staying with us for a few weeks to help out with Dakota, which is awesome. Also awesome are her triumphs in bakery. Brownies and cookies and desserts and all things glorious such as these. I keep telling her that if I keep up this total lack of discipline and combine it with her cooking, I'll hit 250 by March.

• Closed circuit to Bubba - 50 miles? And it seemed like almost an afterthought. You are an Ironman, dude. Oh, and be careful on the bike. Lest you crack a hand.

• I hate the indoor trainer. It's like a treadmill for me. Sucks all the fun out of it. I'll be outside on 'Blue until the snow falls or my face freezes. I try to do strength training on mountain bike trails. When the snow does fall, I'll try and ride Fyr outside, like I did last winter. Still, at some point I'll have to ride the indoor trainer. Feels wrong.

• Solid running lately. Some speed work yesterday that made me think I'm not a total hack. Good.

S'all from me for now. Hope all is well with everybody out there.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Back on Fyr

This week I was finally able to get back into a routine, and have been running every day. If by "running" you mean "trotting aimlessly", or "shuffling helplessly", or "walking and then bouncing a bit before walking again". Sheesh with the endurance that goes out the window. And it's not like I've been a sloth - I ran 15 miles on October 14th, and was on my bike the day Dakota was born (still trying to figure out how to tell you that whole story), but with taking about 10 days mostly "off", it takes a pretty immediate toll.

Yesterday I headed back to the scene of the crime -the mountain bike trail where 5 weeks or so ago I broke my hand. I had a good, fun, 5 mile, 45 minute ride. I have to say, I was a little gun shy at first to be back on the trail, which surprised me. But, felt good to be back, and I got a good workout in. I snapped the photo above of the sign bewaring all travelers to take caution - the one I ignored last time.

So. My mother's in town this weekend to meet Dakota, which is fun. I do hope to get another couple solid workouts in, and I've pushed a lactate threshold test into the weekend - we'll see how, or even if, it goes. For now, it's just good to get back into the mix.