Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Non-committal relationship with races

My running has been funky and I guess that's all I should ask for at this point. I feel tired every morning and it's hard to fathom doing anything but a slow jog. And even that seems like a thing I would only wish to my neighbors (of course they are idiots, this is NYC).

Last week I headed out to do a tempo run but quit after about half a mile because I felt completely sluggish. I forced myself to do a fartlek to at least get something done. Thankfully, a couple of days later when I tried again, I got it done.

And then again this morning.

I'm now looking at getting two "efforts" per week under the belt. They are certainly on the short side of things (4-5 miles) but it's still very nice and hot here (did I mention I love summer?).

I bailed on two more races though: first was the Harlem 5k. I simply didn't see a point to race without any training. The second was today's Rockland Lake Marathon. I was quite close to doing it but ended up not to for various excuses such as having to pick up a rental car the day before and parking it overnight etc. blabla. I did that thing 5 years ago and jogged - seriously! - through in 2:44. Completely unfathomable right now.

Saturday I emailed my buddy Michael to see whether he's still on for the New Haven 20k on Labor Day. It's usually a nasty hot slog but definitely an overall good event and even a US championship which makes for a good field (not that it would matter to me). Last time I ran it was 2010. I hung onto the women's lead pack but got dropped rather early. They make you run along the shore which sounds pretty but it's not and the sun just burns down on you. Even if you manage to convince yourself that you just ran a half marathon (although it is 1.1k less), your time will still suck.

Well, at least mine will.

Long story short, Michael actually signed me up because it seems he lost faith in my ability to actually do one of the races I keep talking about. Sad but fair enough.

At this point I am only also registered for the Rock 'n' Roll Half in Brooklyn mid October before NYCM. Let's hope I get other races done as well. I wanted to run the Bronx 10m but that has been sold out for a couple of months now.

My long runs have been decent so far. Nothing longer than 2:15 but one weekend I did two 2h+ runs in a row, one of them with my coach and his driver around the tip of Manhattan (see picture). One day I will run around Manhattan which is 50k and it sure would be good for me to do it soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Looking ahead unobstructed

My first run focus week since forever is in the book (not literally as I stopped my log last year after 23 years). Any normal person would know better than to assess one's fitness based on that but we're runners so we're stupid.

Apart from a few regular jogs, I did 
  • one tempo run. Something like 2mi and 1mi, who knows exactly. I didn't wear a watch.
  • one long run with the crew of 2:20h-ish
  • one fartlek
Takeaways:
  • anything faster than 6:45 pace feels FAST
  • running long is merely a question of specific muscular endurance. I have plenty of general endurance.
My original goal for NYCM was to get into the Top 100 once again. To achieve that, you usually have to break 2:39. 

For background, my recent history in marathons:

2008 NYCM 2:34
2009 NYCM 2:33 (trying to break 2:30 and failing)
2010 NYCM 2:45 (trying to break 2:30 and failing spectacularly)
2010 Fukuoka 2:42 (trying to break 2:30 in warm weather, ended up in hospital)

2012 Osaka 2:44 (backup race for the cancelled NYCM, was hoping to break 2:40)
2013 NYCM 2:48 (no longer in shape to go near 2:30, goal was a solid 2:45)
2014 Boston 2:58 (didn't train and melted so badly - walking - that I wasn’t even sure I’d finish under 3h)

After that Boston race, I decided that running marathons without properly training for them is not fun. “Properly” is definitely a term that needs definition. To me, “properly” means an honest effort. Averaging 30 miles/week does not rate as an honest effort in my world.

I most likely let that Top 100 goal slip this summer as I was racing my bike through the alps. I raced much better than last year so I hung on to those eight weeks of cycling bliss. Also unlike last year, I kept running a couple of times a week though. Hence, not all is lost. That said, cracking the Top 100 would have required long runs, track workouts and the odd race. Apart from two abysmal efforts on the track, I did none of it.

So what, really, is still possible? I put myself out there and promised my running buddy Seth to beat him by 10 minutes. His PR is 2:53 and he was on my heels this spring at the NYC Half. Brenn of Cloud259 put himself out there and said he will use beating me as a goal. He broke 3h in 2013, running 2:56 at the NYCM.

Both is intriguing.


I do want to go under 2:45 and think that’s still in the cards. Let’s see where I get in the next few weeks.

Friday, August 7, 2015

It's August


July has been what June was.

It's August now which means I'm home in NYC and running more regularly. This first week has been about adjusting (my run timer has changed, see picture). I like westbound jetlag because getting up early is easy so I get to run with the early morning crew here. Unfortunately that won't last long.

I had planned to do my first ever Parkrun while working at a cycling expo in London for three days but I was too exhausted from standing all day. I did, however, get a run in every day and even a long one on Sunday, starting along the Thames and then along a canal (route no. 5 here). It's a good route but I wouldn't do it again on a beautiful Sunday. The tiny canal path was too crowded.

Before our flight on Monday, I ran in a moor park just off Heathrow airport which was a great route on trails through nature. Would be unthinkable in Newark.

I haven't been on my bike for 10 days which feels weird after riding lots for two months. It made me skip my morning run yesterday and go on the bike instead. I don't like my lack of focus when I do that but I also have a hard time to regiment myself too much these days. My key goal is to keep the weight down (I lost some over the summer). It will be key to a solid marathon.

I still haven't done a single harder or faster run.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June


June is my absolute favorite month. Its warm and long days are just the best. Plus, lots of summer is still ahead.

In recent years, I didn't run much in June because most of my focus was on cycling. I love riding my bike in warm weather through mountains. 

This year was a little different in that I tried to keep my running alive. And I did. If you follow me on Facebook, you might think that I just ride all day everyday. Sure, I didn't run lots but four days per week is more than I have done in four years in June. None of the runs were specific and most of them rather slow and painful due to heavy cycling legs. But I get them done and I'm happy about that.

This blog will get more lively in August, when I'm out of the mountains and the bike gains dust.

What about Markus you may ask? Well, this NYC Marathon thing is not happening for him. Too many other races on his plate and he feels that he can't just show up half assed prepared.

I agree.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Doping


One of the most obvious characteristics about getting older is the inability to perform hard workouts for days in a row. I used to be able to ride three days hard before I was really tired. Now it's two days. For running, it's even worse: a hard day is usually followed by 3-4 easy days. During the last two days I ran once and rode twice. I'm exhausted today and had to drag myself on the street to get a run in. As a driven athlete, that tiredness is hard to accept. We have all these ideas and plans of how much we are going to train to get in this amazing shape. And that's where some people look for shortcuts.

Given that this now is a personal blog about my attempt on the NYC Marathon, I had no intentions to write about doping. I don't dope, never have and never will.

I have, however, been actively involved in antidoping since 2001 and am extremely vocal about drugs in sports on Twitter. I write articles on the topic and had the chance to be interviewed by NPR and German radio stations as well as by my running club mates on their podcast Cloud259. I implemented the most sophisticated antidoping program at any amateur event which includes out of competition testing, something that has not been done before or since.

The good news is that finally many people understand how prevalent doping is among amateurs. And while very few amateurs get caught, it's a new development that no pro athlete, no matter how big, is safe nowadays: Armstrong, A-Rod, Salazar - busted.

I hate the idea of cheating in sports. I have been beaten in races by many dopers. Doping is actually more visible in amateur sports than among the top elites because it's largely unsanctioned. I'm sickened by "athletes" in their 40s who post fantasy times and win bike races against much younger riders. These guys are doping right into your face. They often show the visual cues of drug abuse, mainly a veiny, impossibly skinny yet strong body. They race almost year round and train hard day after day after day.

I wish I could name names here. There is a cyclists in his mid 40s who wins big bike races in the alps against riders in their late 20s and early 30s, many of which have been implicated with doping. There is a runner in NYC in his late 40s who suddenly started to post incredible times. In triathlon, I had to endure stories of other guys doping told by middle aged dudes who were impossibly ripped.

The gut reaction to my post might be "you're just jealous". I'm definitely jealous of any great performance that I couldn't achieve. That said, in 23 years of racing I have seen enough to get a good feeling which performance is real and which is "not normal". What I have learned is that it's actually as easy as "if it's too good to be true, it's not true."

The obvious solution for a clean athlete is to focus on himself. However, I'm a very competitive guy in races. My race performances are head and shoulder above anything I can achieve on my own. I have beaten guys who are faster and better than I am through skill and experience. Racing is the essence of any organized endurance event.

So how do I deal with it? For me, it's mainly a moral issue. It's against the rules. But what if "everybody" is doing it? What beyond morality can help you to abstain drugs under such premise?

1. Training and competing is a relative process. Unless you have a shot at becoming the best in the world, your overall performance doesn't matter. Most of us can work their ass off and take all the drugs on the planet and will still not be the best in the world. Imagine you are a front of pack amateur who decides to take drugs to be faster. Once you do, you may beat guys you couldn't touch before but you're still jealous of the ones who are even better. Yet, you can't reach them. Now you're not only not the best but also a cheater. You've lost the last thing you had: your integrity.

Hence, the goal is to push and challenge yourself to become better but to focus on the process more than the outcome. Yes, racing is the icing on the cake and winning is even better but when I look back at two decades of racing, I don't mainly think of the races I won but rather of the experiences I lived. Enjoy being part of the races. You'll miss it once it is gone.

2. Don't underestimate the health implications of doping. Supplementing testosterone means shutting down ones own production for good. A lifelong dependency on medication with increased needs over the years is one result. The other can be cancer. Yes, you can lose your balls. Others have.

EPO is readily available online. Administering is easy enough, nowadays as easy as swallowing a pill. How do you feel like going to sleep when the consequence might be death? Your blood might be too thick.

In 22 years of racing bikes, triathlon and running, there were very few things as satisfying as knowing that I achieved all I achieved - as little as it may have been - completely clean, without any exception. There is no money in the world that can buy you that integrity. Yet, it's freely available. It's nothing but a choice.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Cramps


I've been lucky enough to never have had cramps when running. Actually, until this February, I never had cramps when doing any race until I got some in my quads towards the end of GFNY Puerto Rico, an 80 mile bike race. That day, I clearly went being my fitness to win the race so while it was a surprisingly new sensation, it was not surprising that I got them. Last week, at a 150k granfondo in Italy it happened again. I was very, very far from winning the race but I was even less prepared.

For what seems forever it has been suggested that cramps are the result of dehydration or a lack of electrolytes. As a firm believer in most things that Noakes explains, I long shared his view that it's simply a case of overexertion.

Read: you have been going faster than you muscles can handle.

Yes, again: cramps are not an excuse for a poor performance but a sign of too optimistic (read: wrong) pacing.

What you can do about it? Obviously train harder and/or better and pace more in line with your fitness.

Thank you Sean for this.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Settling in


Gran Fondo New York race week was crazy and meant a week without exercising. Ever since, I've crawled back into regular exercise. Nothing worth talking about, just a few runs on the trails through the woods and a first track session (8*200m) which felt slow and sluggish.

Yes, that's a bike on this pictures so yes, I'm cycling. I really should post a running picture which I could because I am running about 5 times per week. I just never schlep a camera or phone with me. There is some running connection in this picture though because the road you see there briefly touches the trail now called Scenic Trail, a 50k run through my local hills here in Ticino. The race (run?) is scheduled to be held on June 13 and I have all intentions to give it a shot. Let's not hope I cop out or opt for the pussy version (aka 25k). Hopefully I can get Markus to come down here and run it with me.

If you click on the above link, you get to look at a dude in some sort of white spandex, tube socks and cross country skiing sticks. I'm not sure what he's trying to achieve with this outfit because he's not roller skiing to get ready for winter. It's what happens when you take a cheap sport like offroad running for which you don't really need anything but shorts and some sneakers and have a few companies find a way to sell useless crap to willing customers. Yuck.


 
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