Friday, March 13, 2015

NYC Half this Sunday

Put anyone on this picture in the position to actually have a shot at winning a race and all that "doing my best to grow" crap is going out the window. We say things like that because we don't have choice - or chance. We say it to stay motivated and look for bigger reasons. Competitions are created to satiate our instincts to beat someone (if you ever won a race, you know that it feels fucking awesome).

I'm running the NYC Half this Sunday. Based on my current fitness, I'll have to be happy with breaking 1:20 which would put me exactly at my desired marathon pace for this year in November at the NYC Marathon. Frightening. 

But that's when everything goes right because even sub 1:20 seems a bit of a stretch right now. I haven't been running much and only a couple of runs were uptempo. One excuse is the cold weather. The other is work but that doesn't really count. The result is not mainly lack of fitness but rather excess of weight that crept back on once I left the tropics. This frigid BS called winter makes my body ramp up fat reserves faster than I can eat. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

I'll give it everything I got.

I'm just not sure yet if that is quite something at all.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What chances do you have, really?

Back in the Tundra, fka NYC. I strongly considered staying indoors until the city thaws but not running for 5 days seemed a bad idea. So on day 2 I ventured out in what was on the scale 60 Fahrenheit colder than my runs the last two months. The "feel" was a different of 80 Fahrenheit.

Here is the thing though: while I don't like cold and snow, it's easier to run in. I know I wouldn't get any sympathy from you (and I shouldn't) but try running in 90F and report back to me.

Either way, my NYC season opener Coogan's 5k (or whatever they call it now) is not going to happen to me. Temperature will be around 20F with a feel of likely in the teens. While these are reasonable temperatures to race in, they're not for me right now. With the wait in the cold and racing on cold legs, chances are higher for me to get sick or injured. And I don't feel like either just two weeks before the NYC Half Marathon.

But then again: what chances do you have not to get sick coming from the tropics and diving into a metropolis at the height of illnesses with a son in daycare to top it off?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I'm running!

If I miss a very early morning run here in Puerto Rico, I won't run all day. It's too hot. I'll go for a bike ride instead. This means I run about 4 times a week, max. an hour per run, which is weak. My overall fitness is definitely on the rise though thanks to riding and swimming.

A couple of days ago I couldn't get myself to run 400s on the track at 6am. By the time I got there, it was 10am and 90F. It took me two months to somewhat get used to this (beautiful!) heat so I even managed 8 reps. Legs were still shot from an 85 mile bike race with 9000 feet of climbing I did last Sunday. Funny enough my running has helped my cycling because I am more careful with body weight. I even won the race. Granted, competition was weak but a win is a win. Would be funny if my focus this year would be about running and yet I actually perform well in cycling and not running. 25 years of endurance training and no end to learning. Only constant is change.

Meanwhile my right leg is at 95% which is probably as good as it will ever be. I stretch and roll daily for 10 minutes which makes me proud.

All good things (read: summer weather) come to an end. Tuesday I'm headed to the Arctic FKA NYC. Sunday March 1 the legendary Coogans 5k is on the menu. It's likely going to be so cold that I won't be able to run in my racing flats because they have too many holes in the upper and, hence, are too cold.

If weather is your only concern...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

San Blas Half Marathon Coamo, Puerto Rico

The San Blas Half Marathon in Coamo, Puerto Rico is the race that would be held if there was a half marathon in hell.

Take the Boston Marathon.

Now cut out all flat parts until you have the hilliest half of the race left.

Now take that course and inflate the climbs and descents by 100%. The longest consecutive climb is 8k long and up to 15% steep. What goes up, must come down.

Take the hottest Boston Marathon in history and add 10F.

Make sure the humidity is above 90%.

Take all spectators at Boston and cram them into half the distance.

Now imagine the drunk college guys on the Boston course. 

Those are the 10 sober people at San Blas.

Take the loudest band or music along the course in Boston.

Double up their volume and spread it along the course.

Think about camping out the night before Boston Marathon to get a good viewing spot? In San Blas, you better be there Friday already.

That pretty much sums up the race. In short, we (my wife and I) had a blast despite being late for that start because we left late, had a vomiting son on the way to the race and the start being 30 mins. earlier than announced on the race registration website. To date I have not found a start time on the race website itself.

I ran 1:25, a whopping 11 min. above my PR but I’m happy. The elites were about 4 min. above their PR so 5-6min. is ok for me. 1:19/1:20 shape sounds about right. I’ll get that down to 1:18 by NYC Half. My injured right leg held up decently. It was definitely getting tighter towards the end but having to run so much downhill was quite the strain. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The heat is still on

That track session last week set me back again a bit. My right leg is still only 90%. Apart from a few steady 1 hour runs, I could only muster one 20 min tempo since.

It’s mostly because of the heat though. Even after 5 weeks I find running in the tropics very challenging. We have one absolutely amazing course out here just a 20 min. drive from our place. It’s on an abandoned navy base by the sea. There is still a bit of military left and also some construction going on but it’s mostly used for recreation. The whole area is about 8 by 4 miles. It’s huge. The coolest part is a road that leads over a small dam to an island where the navy used to hold bomb tests. No cars can get there because of a fence. There are a runner and a couple of fishermen that sneak past the fence regularly. And so do we.

The island is hilly and the sun blasts all out on it. Even early morning temperatures are at 85F. And that’s in the shade of which there is none. So most of my runs are just 60 minutes of getting it done. I’ll bring my camera next time to take some pictures. 

Thankfully, I also ride three times a week for 2-3 hours - and swim! Sport for me has always been more exploration than training. I don’t use any electronics and try to vary the courses I run and ride as much as possible. I’m sometimes (and definitely more in the past) motivated by achieving time goals in races but if my sport becomes pure training, I lose the fun of it. Running and even more so cycling have always allowed me to play with where I go. Swimming in a pool? Boring. Back when I was a triathlete, I diligently did my 4-5 swims per week, varying the workout as much as possible each time. For a few years I lived by a lake and swam quite a lot there, mostly in a wetsuit because it was the closest I got to experience the same freedom as in running and riding.

Ever since I stopped competing in triathlon, I completely stopped swimming. I make an exception if I am somewhere at an ocean that is 80F warm. Pure bliss. I'd every day.

Here in Fajardo is a public outdoor pool that is not used by anyone apart from two sisters who come in the morning. I know this because the pool has a sign in sheet (free entry). It’s beautiful (the pool, not the sheet). It’s warm. Yes, in that I swim again.

Sunday we’re heading over to the San Blas Half Marathon. I’m happy that I can run it but it won’t be a race for me. 

A 4.30pm (yes PM) start time is about the worst for me because I feel much better running on an empty stomach but it is what it is. I sure don’t mind the hilly course or the heat because they will make the race.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's flats time

The stomach virus is in check so today was my first attempt at a track workout. No pictures so I dug out this oldie from Iten, Kenya because it has some communality with the track I ran on today.

Fajardo, Puerto Rico's track is much more modern than Iten's. It's blue and soft. It's actually too soft and melts to your shoes in the heat which provides funky blue soles. But like Iten, the track is surrounded by animals. Cows that is. And certainly lots of iguanas (very big ones).

Hot it wasn't though when I started the workout just before sunrise. You have to be up early in the tropics to merely complete a workout. Once the sun is up - boom! Forget it. But before that, we had a cooler than usual 70F and 90% humidity. It almost felt oddly cold.

Have you ever done a track workout after laying off for several months? If so, are you 40 or older? Yes, it's not pretty. Wobble, wobble. Thankfully I forgot my watch so there was no chance I could see the misery in numbers.

As far as track workouts go, I like it simple: bang out some 400s with 200 jog in between. Deek and I think alike here. The goal was to get at least five done (yeah, I know but you have to start somewhere) and more than eight seemed unrealistic.

After four reps, my injured leg (the left one because I'm right handed) started tightening up. After number six it was clear that I better step off.

So that's what we're at: a whopping 6x400 track workout.

I have to start somewhere.

It will get better.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lots of good news (sort of)

I woke up this morning feeling like a 24-ton truck has casually rolled over me - and then doubled back for good measurement. 

A few moments later my stomach told me where the issue was: I must have caught a virus. My son Max was suffering from something last week so it’s probably just that. If you have kids in daycare, you know how it is. If not: it’s true what people say. There is no escape. I’ve been sick with one thing or the other for months now. It’s quite pathetic, actually. Let's see if he's going to push me around in a stroller at dawn tomorrow. 

Well, the good news is that I’m just completely flat and don’t feel like eating. For now this means that we can refrain from emergency slaughtering. I’ll take it like a man: whining a lot. Seriously though, I can handle the pain and suffering from all non-life threatening sicknesses unlike apparently many men. I can not handle, however, not training. Like you probably. The result for people around us is ultimately the same so don’t be too proud. 

Also good news is that I now know why I felt so absolutely horrible during my run last night (see pic above of my wife. Yes, amidst feeling absolutely flat it was still so awesome). I really thought I’m just that out of shape. Now I hear you say that I should have more experience than judging my fitness by one run. Of course you’re right. But: the previous runs after my 3 weeks off were all but glorious (not surprisingly I guess). So the very first race I had planned to do, an “XTerra 10k” (fancy word for offroad),  is not going to happen for me. With the injury, chances were slim already but now there’s no way I’m racing this Sunday.

But there are more good news: three days ago I survived a 10 mile run in 85F on concrete without pain. That means I can most likely participate at the San Blas Half Marathon on February 8. I expressively say “participate” and not “race” because I would be fooling myself. This is going to be about getting round in one piece. Could take as long as 1:3Xh on a very hill and hot course (4.30pm start in likely 85F).

All this is of course far from what I imagined it to be a month ago. My start into the new season was a small disaster. Maybe this virus at least works a little on my biopren. 

Today I signed up for the race fka Coogan's 5k on March 1st because the NYRR threatened me that it is almost sold out. Probably just another $31 down the drain courtesy of some mishap. But I take my chances for races I really like. If I can run, this is going to be a well needed effort before the NYC Half.

Lastly: how do you know you are in Puerto Rico? Your kid is coming home from day care with garlic breath.