Monday, March 24, 2014

This Is How I Wear A Shoe Down

Below is my fourth pair of Pearl Izumi Streak II shoes.  When I purchased them (and the third pair) I decided I wanted to visually see how I wear them down over time.  I took pictures of them straight out of the box and took pictures this weekend.  Unfortunately, I didn't think about it until I took out the laces.   Oh-well.

After 420 miles including an Ironman, two half irons, a fifty mile ultra, two marathons, and a half marathon, they are in need of being replaced.  I had hoped they'd last the 650 miles that the previous two pairs did, but alas!  My third pair is currently at 510 miles and still going strong!!

The last time I wore these shoes, I had some pains in my plantar fascia, so out of protection for my training, they have been replaced. 

Let's see how they've been worn.

First, from the top...

It's almost funny to consider that I purchased a pair of white shoes.  Look at how discolored they got!  I doubt I would have guessed they were white originally if I hadn't known it already.  The emblem on the heel cup inside was worn off in a matter of weeks as well.  The blue, however, did stay quite well.

Now, from the side...


Again, the white discolored so much though it is better in the back than the front.  The toe box curls up much more now than it had new.  That was a feature I noticed in the first pair I bought and this pair was certainly more stiff out of the box (it may have sat around at the warehouse for a time longer).  You can also just begin to tell that the outsole is worn down.

Now, from the bottom...


Now the fun part!  The discoloration may simply be the lighting and dirt.  What you can tell immediately is that the heel is worn down and the outer heel more than the inner.  You can even see that I've worn down the left outer heel a bit more than the right. 

That may be due to the fact that I wore the left shoe during the JFK 50, but not the right.  I wore the right shoe of my other pair in an attempt to have some fun.  haha 
Either way, I supinate a bit to cause the outer wearing. 

The footbed is also worn quite a bit, but you can't tell as much.  It is more worn in the center than either side of the footbed as well.  Even looking at these shoes and my new pair, there is much less difference in the footbed than the heel.  Knowing how I run, I'd say that this means I land much more straight down on my forefoot, but either drag or push my heel down when I hit the heel.  And I know I do that very much on hills.  


Overall, I discolor white shoes like crazy!  It's a good thing I go for darker shoes when possible now.  haha  I also supinate to a degree and do not strike my foot straight down when I heel strike, but do so when I mid/forefoot strike.  These are all things I already knew. 

Onto the "Fiery Red" pair of Pearl Izumi Streak IIs!


I've put 2.3k miles on four pairs of these shoes!  I've got two pairs left, the reds above and another pair of black. 

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P.S.  Pearl, if you're reading this.  Please bring back the Streak II!!  Or at least bring back the same sole (maybe with a slightly lower drop).  I would pay gladly for a comparable pair of shoes and the EM line just doesn't match up. 
 
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Questions
1.  Do you see anything I don't in the comparison above?

2.  Have you ever compared your shoes new and old?

3.  How do you wear down your shoes?
Have you ever used this info to make insights into your running?  Has it ever not made sense compared to how you think you run?

4.  What do you use to know when it's time to replace a pair of shoes?
Given that these shoes are "rated" for 2-300 miles and that I got close to 700 in the first two pairs, I use how my feet feel as the main way to tell.  If they fell apart or such, then I'd use that as well, but they've held up extremely well to my beatings!

DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

RACE REPORT: Savin Rock Half Marathon


March 22nd, 2014

Exactly one month from the day of the Colchester Half Marathon, I toed the line again for another half.  This time I wasn't sick and I just about executed the race perfectly!

The Savin Rock Half Marathon is put on by a local tri club, the Shoreline Sharks.  The race is in West Haven, CT and starts/ends right along the beach.  If you're a beach lover, you will love it!  Granted, it's not quite the time of year to hang out at the beach.  Not unless you have a winter jacket on at least.  The Sharks do a great job with the race.  There are police at every major intersection, volunteers at the minor intersections, five well stocked/run aid stations, cones just about everywhere (you certainly will not get lost), and a fairly challenging course.  I could easily see myself running this race again. 

The course itself is roughly four miles of flat, five miles of hills, and the final four miles are flat again.  The elevation profile is below.  The top is the mapmyrun profile versus my Garmin data below.  They're not THAT different, but the Garmin gives me 488 ft of elevation gain versus the 506 on mapmyrun.  However, I had to map this course myself to get that elevation on mapmyrun.  The course linked on the race website only states there is 207 ft. of elevation change.  Tricky!!




Pre-Race
The day before was completely off of training and I used the time to run a number of errands.  In hindsight, I should have simply gone home and relaxed.  I spent way too much time on my feet.  Note for next month!!  

On race morning, I was up at 5:30a and had breakfast; three eggs over easy, a banana with peanut butter, and two pieces of toast.  I packed my bag and was out the door by 6am.  The race is 45 minutes south of where I live and I needed to arrive early for packet pick up.  However, in hindsight, everything is so central that I didn't need to leave myself that much time.  I arrived at the Savin Rock Conference Center at 6:45a; the place was a BREEZE to find.  I got my packet and got ready.  At 7am, I had a Picky Bar (All in Almond).  Around 7:40a, I went out and did a 10 minute warm up with a few striders thrown in and at 7:58a, I headed to the start line which is JUST outside of the conference center.


The race day weather was a low of 33, high of 58.  Being an 8am race, we wouldn't see any of the 50s.  haha  At race start, it was supposed to be 38 (feel like 31).  I opted to run in the same clothes I did Colchester in last month minus the hat.  It turned out to be perfect.



That's the beach we run along.  This is about mile 0.05 of the course.

The Race
Here's a quick run down of 'the plan.'  I wanted to run the first mile without looking at the data.  I had to run it comfortably and at a pace I could easily do another 12 miles at.  At mile 1, check your HR.  Where is it compared to threshold?  As long as it's within reason, how do you feel?; can you keep this up?  If so, go for it.  If not, ease up.  Then I would check in again around mile 8.  Am I holding my HR?, can I keep this pace?  If I can, try kicking it up a bit.  In the final miles, ignore threshold and just GO!  While I was going to let HR dictate the race, I secretly hoped for a sub-1:30 (6:52/mile). 

I stripped my Garmin of everything except one field with HR and a 2nd field with time of day.  Pace, averages, intensities, and all of that were off the table.  I set the auto lap every mile and that would be my pace indicator.

And we're off!!

Being pulled right along with the runners at the front, I took off.  However, I didn't push it.  I stayed comfortable for the first mile and tried to imagine how I'd feel at this pace for 13 miles.  I felt a slight push, but overall relaxed.  Good!  Mile one done!

Mile 1
6:29 / mile
166 bpm

I hit my watch to switch from time of day to HR.  I was at 170 bpm.  My threshold is 165.  Given that I haven't had a good test so far, 5 bpm was within reason.  However, I had an average 171 last month at Colchester and I had assumed it was high because I was sick.  So I was worried I was going to be dying in the final miles.  I started slowing down in an attempt to stay more relaxed.

We also turned off of the "boardwalk" and went from a constant breeze in our faces to nothing.  All of a sudden it started feeling a lot warmer.  

Mile 2
6:36 / mile
170 bpm


At mile 2, I had slowed a bit, but my HR was still around 170 bpm.  I felt much more relaxed and in a groove though.  I decided to take my first risk.  Let's stay here as long as I continue to feel relaxed.  As soon as I get uncomfortable, I'll back it off.

In order to keep focused on how I FELT, I switched my watch back to time of day and locked the keys.  I chose not to look at the HR until after mile 4 and see where I was.

At mile 2.5, we had our first water stop.  There were roughly 8-10 people at each station, mostly kids, and they went perfectly.  I grabbed a water at each station and had a swig or two.  

Mile 3
6:44 / mile
171 bpm

Still feeling comfortable, but still slowing down a bit.

Mile 4
6:42 / mile
170 bpm

This was the last flat mile and I had stopped slowing down.  Awesome!!  Mentally, I figured I had found the pace I could hold.

We hit another aid station at 4.5 miles and just before it, my 30 minute alarm went off.  I pulled out my GU Mint Chocolate gel and took maybe a third of it (What do you call it?  I can't call it a sip or a bite, it's neither liquid nor solid).  Then I hit the station and took a swig of water.  Perfect!  

Time for hills!!  haha

I rarely ever attack a hill.  If I do, my HR skyrockets and I have to spend time to bring it back down.  I will charge them on a 5k or a sprint tri, or at the end of a race, but not at mile 5 of a half mary.  What I do is shorten my stride, take a big breath at the bottom and try to maintain my HR all the way up the hill.  Yes, I pretty much always get passed on a hill, but most of those people I can pass back once we get to the top or the flat/downhill afterwards.  I much prefer keeping my breathing in check and pushing over the hill than trying to push up it.  

Mile 5
6:58 / mile
170 bpm

I knew that was coming!  But in my head, I was still under 7:00 / mile, so my dream of a 6:52 average was still within reach.  My HR was staying within reason.  It would jump to low 170s on a hill, but dip into upper 160s on downhills.  I was doing well.

Mile 6
7:17 / mile
171 bpm

I knew that was bound to happen as well.  In my head, that extra 17 seconds over 7 cancelled out the 6:42 I had earlier.  I was still well below 7:00 pace.  Yes, I was keeping mental track of where I was pace wise, but I was dictating pace in the moment by how I felt.  I only knew how fast I had been running once per mile and the mental game of calculating pace helps to keep my mind occupied as well as check on how hard I'm pushing.  Once I'm unable to keep track of paces or calculate them, I'm pushing beyond my threshold.  So far, so good!

We hit another aid station and I took another swig of water.  

Mile 7
6:52 / mile
171 bpm

That was a mile with a little less of an elevation change, but I was glad to see I still had that pace in me at this intensity.

Then I passed THE coolest house of the day.  I was racing, so I don't have pictures and I didn't drive back to find it, so next best thing...  Google Earth!


That is an aerial view of the house.  You can tell there is certainly an oddly shaped addition to the house.


Just as we turned left onto Benham Hill Rd, there was a house on our left that had a lighthouse spire on the back of the house.  If anyone was watching me, they saw me run that entire hill with my head pointed straight at that house.  As I was running by I thought "That is so cool!"


Then you run by it and find there's half a boat behind the house built as a deck!  WOAH!!  What a way to keep me distracted while chugging up a hill.  haha 

Mile 8
7:22 / mile
171 bpm

This mile ended at the top of a hill and at the highest elevation of the day.  So naturally, it was my slowest mile.  Again, I mentally averaged it with my 6:29 at mile.  I figured I was still under 7:00 pace, but certainly not as much as earlier.  I figured I was close to the 6:52 I wanted.

As prescribed, I mentally checked in.  I still felt comfortable though my legs would have preferred to take a break.  haha  I had been ignoring my legs all day, so I continued to do so.  I focused on my breathing and I was good.  I didn't quite feel comfortable kicking it up right away, so I opted to stay here until mile 9 and then I'll start pushing it.

One thing I was completely unaware of was that my attempts to keep my HR level were about 99.9% successful.  If you notice, my average HR only bounced one bpm from mile 2 through 8.  Therefore, despite hills, water stops, eating gels, and the like, I maintained a damn SPOT ON level HR.  Personally, I am super proud of that.  I can find a groove and just SIT there!

We hit another aid station and I pulled out my 2nd gel.  I would only finish half of it before the end of the race, but I decided to keep the nutrition going in anyways.

Mile 9
6:53 / mile
172 bpm

At this point, I checked back in.  I felt good.  I decided that I'd push it and see how I feel mile by mile. 

We had a nice long descent where I was able to open my stride again and let gravity do the work of finding myself a new groove.  I started reeling people back in as well.  I tried not to focus on them and over expend myself, but it's always fun passing people at the back half of a race.

I figured I was down to 6:40 at best.  My goal still was to hit the 6:52 average.  

Mile 10
6:26 / mile
173 bpm

WOAH!!  That was the fastest mile so far.  Granted, I had a nice little descent, but I double checked my HR wasn't skyrocketing and it wasn't; it was sitting in the low 170s.  That's exactly where I wanted to be.

I took sight of the next person I was reeling in and did my best to maintain my intensity.  We were back on flat ground as well.

Mile 11
6:34 / mile
176 bpm

I spent that entire mile closing the gap on this lady who was the 3rd female overall.  I had run 2-3 miles with her in the beginning and then she pulled away on the hills.  It was so satisfying to pass her back and pass her solidly; she wasn't coming back to get me.  Haha  I'm evil!

At this point, I also had stopped going by HR.  I looked at it out of interest, but I had unconsciously switched to completely going by feel.  Can I maintain this intensity?  Will I be able to hold it out?  Am I going to blow up?

I decided that I could hold it for two miles, or at least I was going to do my damnedest to try.  Having the beach right there also didn't help.  The beach doesn't feel like it passes by like houses or trees do.  You feel like you're going slower and distances take so much longer to pass.

Mile 12
6:31 / mile
177 bpm

Again, I only knew that my HR was high and that was evident enough from the fact that my breathing was audible, my arms were pumping hard to help maintain pace, and I was desperately looking for that next mile marker!

The final mile here was horrible!  I had increased the intensity back at mile 9 and held it well.  My body could certainly do it for another mile, but I tried to kick it up even more with one mile to go.  In part, I wanted to nail this race, but another part of me just wanted this horrible effort to be over with.

As I made the final turn back onto the paved path along the beach, I was so happy, but also mentally screaming "Where's the finish line?!?!?!?!"

Mile 13
6:23 / mile
179 bpm

Haha.  Well THAT explains it.  Not only was I negatively splitting a well executed half mary, I was running the fastest mile of the day.  Now I don't feel so bad for how loudly I was breathing.  And no, I did not look at the watch for that last mile split.  I was too busy trying to get air into my lungs.  Mental note: DO NOT FORGET the breathe right strips next time!!!

FINISH
1:28:13
6:45 / mile
172 bpm

I did my best to smile for the camera, crossed the finish line, put my hands straight on my knees and stayed there for a half dozen breathes before I stood up, took my medal and a water bottle.  Thank GOD that wasn't a 14 mile race!!

Representing in PINK!

I finished and immediately changed my Garmin fields to show overall time and average HR.  The HR was 172, one bpm higher than the Colchester Half Mary was last month.  I was happy!  I was also only 70s off of my PR.  I guess I know what I should be getting next month.  The Chesire Half Mary is even flatter!

POST-RACE
I hung out at the race site for a good while.  I changed into regular clothes, had a couple Subway veggie sandwiches (it was what they had for post-race food), watched the awards, and chatted with a friend who had come down to race.  We both nailed our race goals, so it was a good day all around.

Then I did the best thing I could do, I went to a local running store and tried on new shoes!!  haha  More to come on that later.


Overall, the race is GREAT!  This course is awesome.  I love having a few miles to settle into your groove, then the hills test everyone and spread them out, and the final miles are back to flat to let you just rip it out if you can.  The Shoreline Sharks put on a great race from all aspects.  The atmosphere was fun and low key, the safety was top notch!, the aid stations were great, the support on course was great!  I would definitely come back and race here again.

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Questions
1.  What do you call eating a gel?  It's not a sip or bite; it's neither liquid nor solid.

2.  Have you ever felt that you've executed a race perfectly?

3.  Have you ever been worried during a race because of your metrics (HR, pace, speed, etc) and later discovered you were perfectly fine?
I was worried between mile 1 and 2.  Turns out I should trust my body to know how it feels.  

4.  What's the most distracting sight you've seen in a race?
The lighthouse/boat house was really cool!


DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shoe Search 2014

As you know, I.... LOVE my Pearl Izumi Streak II shoes.  It's simply unfortunate that they don't make them anymore.  They haven't made them for quite some time actually.  Maybe a year or two now?

Here is my quick history...

In September of 2011, I fell in love with my first pair of Pearl Izumi Streak IIs.  Eight months and roughly 700 miles later, I went back looking for new shoes and after trying everything on, I ended up with my second pair of Streak IIs.  Then in May 2012, just before the start of the tri season, I picked up a pair of the Pearl Izumi ISO Transition shoes.  I used these shoes for sprints, olympics, and one 70.3 and still have them on hand for my sprint races. 

Unfortunately, at some point in late 2012, Pearl Izumi announced a new line coming out and ceased production of the Streak II.  Nearly 650 miles into my 2nd pair of Streak IIs, I went and picked up two more pairs in the hopes that this would buy me time to search for a new pair of shoes.  I predicted another 6-700 miles per pair.  Unfortunately, one pair only made it 360 miles.  The other is at 460 and still going strong.  However, I have not yet found another shoe to replace them.  The new Pearl Izumi line fits well but is too far off the ground for my liking.  I've tried Adidas, New Balance, Newton, Zoot...  Nothing!  Nothing has been wide enough, minimalist enough, as comfortable, or the like.  So...  I bought the last two pair of Streak II shoes I could find.

5 pairs of my Pearl Izumi Streak IIs (6th not pictures)

Knowing that the final two pairs were not "freshly" produced, they will likely not reach the 6-700 mile range, but they should get me through this upcoming tri season which gives me approximately 6 months to find a new pair of shoes. 

I have had some new leads, however that may turn up a usable pair of shoes.


Merrell was the first I came across.  A couple members at the gym have Merrell shoes and they've always looked like very minimal style shoes which I like. 

I happened to walk by a pair of Merrell hiking shoes at Dick's a couple weekends ago and they were definitely narrow.  In looking up other shoes - obviously running vs. hiking shoes - they do not come in wide, so it's debatable whether they'll be wide enough as is. 




INOV-8 was the next company I found.  This company has a video on their website explaining what their goal was when they designed their first (and all subsequent) shoes and I LOVE IT!  They want you to CONNECT with the ground underneath your feet.  Here is their "Belief."

"We believe in natural running. Natural running involves taking running back to its most innate form, letting nothing alter the natural biomechanics of the foot and body. Natural running relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe. The foot controls the shoe, not the other way around."

Unfortunately, they also run narrow according to reviews online and do not come in wide, but I will only know if it's TOO narrow once I slip them on. 



Next up was Altra.  This company does two things.  They have a zero drop and want your feet to have PLENTY of room in the toe box!  I did get to try one shoe on at my bike fitting and they really are roomy!  Unfortunately, they have deeper soles than I'd like to see (18mm is the thinnest they go) and lose the connection with the ground that I'd like.  Being able to fit in the shoe is the primary goal though.  Feeling the ground is secondary. 



 Finally, Topo Athletic contacted me via Twitter after I vented about how I can't find shoes that work with my needs.  They told me that they may have a solution to my troubles.  Doesn't EVERYBODY?  Well, to be honest, it's likely that they do.  Their previous line of shoes (which I will of course be trying out for giggles) has a separated toe.  How weird!  But the new ST model goes more traditional.  It also has a 13mm stack height and 0mm drop.  They are supposed to run a bit wide, so I'm hoping that it means they are wide ENOUGH. 



The problem I run into now is that with some not so big name shoes, they're not available at every shoe store.  Surprisingly, my local Fleet Feet just started carrying the Topo Athletic shoes this past week.  What timing!!  Merrell is carried by EMS though they don't carry every option.  And INOV-8 and Altra are carried by a running store near my race this weekend (45 minutes south of me).  SO...  I will be making a trip to that store this Saturday after my race to try out those shoes and then hopping over to EMS and Fleet Feet as well to see if I can't find my next shoe love!

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Questions
1.  What shoes do you run in?

2.  Do you have a shoe that you swear by?  How many of a specific model shoe have you run in?
Once I open them up, I will have run in 6 pairs of Pearl Izumi Streak II shoes.  I would stick to them if Pearl would start making them again.

3.  How many different shoe models/brands have you gone through?
I started with New Balance, did Adidas for one pair, and then landed with Pearl Izumi, so three thus far.

4.  How long do you take to find new shoes?
I take FOREVER apparently.  It's been over a year!


DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A BUSY few weeks

I admit it.  I've been MIA.  It's been nearly three weeks since I posted.  Here's a snapshot into what I've been up to.  More to come on each of these this coming week!

Surprise visit from my sister

Bike fitting at TTBikeFit

Cycling Study (Free VO2 Peak test) at Springfield College

New Saddle!  LOVE IT!

First outdoor ride of the year.  I'm still alive!

Oh, and lots of training too.  This coming week is a recovery week (at least it better be!).  I have another half marathon in a week and I'm really excited to start putting my race plan into practice before Quassy in June. 

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Questions
1.  What have you been up to?!

2.  How has the Daylight Savings treated you?


DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

RACE REPORT: Colchester Half Marathon [2014]


February 22nd, 2014


This race is awesome!  ...enough said.

After last year's race, I knew this amazing local half would make it onto the 2014 calendar without much of a struggle.  There was, however, an approximate 16% increase in the registration fee which emptied my pockets of a whopping $14.  Haha.  Yeah!  $14 for a half marathon with three water/gatorade stops, pre and post-race massage, post-race food, and free showers.  Ok, you don't get a medal, but for $14, you can't complain about that!

Last year, I did this race as a last ditch effort to get SOME type of run in on my birthday since the marathon I had trained for was on the fence due to weather.  This year, the weather was gorgeous!; a nice sunny mid-30s day.  The intermittent breeze would be a bit chilly, but couldn't dampen the day.

As evidenced on Friday, my coach and I had been debating the idea of racing.  The race was by no means an A-race.  It was more like a C/D; just an early season test of where I was at in my running.  The problem was, I had a sore throat all last week and my resting HR was already up 16 bpm.  Do I take the risk of making myself sicker and race or play it safe and leave the test for next month's half?

If you haven't guessed already...
...this is a RACE REPORT.
Of course I ran!

The race starts at 10am, so even the lazy runners have plenty of time to get up, get breakfast, and make it to the start line before the gun goes off.  I went to bed early the night before (10p), so I was up around 6:30a.  After some tea and breakfast, my throat was feeling okay.  It wasn't great, but I felt it could endure a half marathon.  I checked one last time with my coach and we were Green Light Go!

I arrived at the school that served as our race site about 9:15a, got my bib, used the bathroom, and spent 20 minutes debating over my outfit.  I know what to wear below 30.  I know what to wear at 50 or above.  It's the 30-50 range that becomes questionable.  In the end (as you can see below), I was happy with what I chose.


Yes, that is a party hat on top of my running hat, on top of my headband.  Below 50, I keep my ears covered!  The running hat may have been unnecessary, but it all worked in the end.  And you can't run a birthday race without a birthday hat!

A friend of mine came to see the race and was able to snap a few photos.


Thanks Katie for the race photography!

Once I had on my ensemble (that sounds like a Disney race with a costume!), Katie and I made our way up to the road which was the starting line. 


There were a total of 530 finishers.  For a local race, this was a great turn out; thanks in no small part to the great weather I'm sure.  But it goes to show how much locals will support a reasonably priced and very well run race!


Ok, onto the race!

I started maybe ten people deep at the start.  I wasn't looking for a PR and knew my body wouldn't give it to me if I tried, so I kept back where I knew I wouldn't be pulled along.  My goal, which I repeated to myself in that first mile, was to take the first mile out easy and find my groove.  After that, I wanted to stay relaxed through the half way mark.  If I felt good, then I'd try to negatively split it by either A) picking up the pace from the half way point on, B) kick in the final 5k, or C) a mix of both.

Last year, while better trained and holding back, I ran a very even 1:44:24.  Given that I was sick, not as well trained, and that is was still early in my training, I thought a 1:40 (7:38/mile) was reasonable, but a 1:35 (7:15) would be my ideal.  I wasn't too optimistic though and set my goal for a 1:40. 

Just before the start, I had taken everything except Elapsed Time and Distance off my my GPS.  I was sick, so my HR was bound to be high.  And with a higher HR, my pace may be slower to balance out my "intensity."  I didn't want to worry about it; I was going to run on feel.  I did, however, have a notice every mile for the 1.0 mile lap time.  

Mile 1 - 6:38
Ummm...  WHAT?

From training, I had expected a rough 155-165 HR and a 7:00-7:30 pace.  Based on how I felt, I was going to guess 7:15 and 155-160.  Apparently my body had opted for a bit faster than that.  I pulled back a bit on the pace hoping to not blow myself out, but after some time decided to simply sit in this groove as long as it felt comfortable.

Mile 2 - 6:48
Ok, a little better.

Mile 3 - 7:05
There we go!

Mile 4 - 6:44
Oh!  Well, I guess that's just today's fate.  Let's go with it!

I'd be lying if I wasn't already starting to wonder how long my body could hold out at this intensity.  I wasn't breathing heavy, I didn't feel like I was overexerting, but I did feel like my legs were a bit sluggish, maybe "not firing on all cylinders" would be the best analysis.  With my lack of running and being sick, I had a doubt in the back of my head how the later miles were going to go.  At this point, I started taking in what nutrition I could.  I had Skratch with me in my handheld and a couple gels with me.  I was going to keep going and stick to the intensity as best I could. 

Mile 5 - 6:50
Still clicking away!

Mile 6 - 6:56
Slowing down a bit

Mile 7 - 7:32
Hello Hill!!  ...and sloshy, sandy, dirt road.

As you well know by now, my favorite running shoes have drain holes in the bottom.  The wet dirt roads were fun as you can imagine!  Either way, I darted around the bigger puddles and slowly made my way up the hill.  There were a couple people - one guy, one girl - that I was playing leap frog with at this point.  I would pass them on flats or downhills and they'd pass me on the uphill.  I am not an uphill runner. 

Mile 8 - 7:30
The hill is done.  Maybe I'm slowing down.

Mile 9 - 7:14
I'm not slowing down THAT much.

Mile 10 - 6:53
Definitely not slowing.

I spent mile 8-10 trying to calculate my finish time.  If I maintained what I thought was my average, what would I have?  But I might be slowing down.  If I slow to 7:15s, what will my time be?  Then I realized that I might really have a shot at 1:35.  So I started trying to figure out what my pace would need to be.  At some point, I realized that I would simply need to hold 7:30s and I'd be golden for a 1:35.  But I kept going under.  Hmmmm...

Oh, and mile 10 was another wet, sandy, mud road.  Yay!!  Once I hit the 10 mile mark, all I had left was a 5k, so I started to push the effort a little more.


Mile 11 - 7:12
Just two to go!  Two to go!

Mile 12 - 7:26
Don't blow up and you will be under 1:35!

Mile 13 - 7:31
My body is going to be sore tomorrow!

Mile 13.1 - 1:28 (7:21 pace)

Katie, the friend who had come to see the race, had not popped up anywhere in the race.  I knew as soon as I hit mile 8 that she had gotten lost or stuck and I wouldn't see her until the finish.  Haha  It made me laugh for a couple miles.  But just as I crested the final hill and saw the turn into the school, I saw her and tried to flash a smile for the camera.


FINISH = 1:33:47
7:10 pace

I was sick.  I had been on rest for 4 days.  I had not done any of the speed work or intervals that I built my running schedule on in 2013.  And I was barely a month into my training season.  Yet, I managed to run within 7 minutes of my PR.  I have two more half marathons before my triathlon season starts and I'm starting to get an itch for an early season PR.  haha

Now, if you're like me, you're curious where my HR ended up being since I didn't have it displayed on my GPS.  My Zone 1 runs are usually around 148-152 & sub-8:00.  The Raffle Run was 7:04/mile and averaged 165 bpm.  I expected a HR between those; maybe 160?  Then I got sick and all guesses aside from "higher" went out the window.  Once I got home and uploaded the data, I was surprised to find an average of 171.  WHAT?!  That's only 1 bpm below my Tradition Run 5k.  I guess THAT is how much being sick affects you. 

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Questions
1.  Have you ever run a race while sick?
My first Ironman was done on the tail end of a cold.  Seems to be a pattern here.  

2.  When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by your race results?
This race was a big shock.  The JFK50 in November was my last big surprise. 

3.  Do you run with all your data at hand, or do you "run blind"?
I like the idea of running by feel, but I will be racing with data once I'm better in order to help pace myself and feel out my efforts for longer races.  

DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE.

Friday, February 21, 2014

To Race or Not To Race

As I sit here in my room, I am struck by the question that all athletes face at one point or another...

To Race Or Not To Race


Do I bag this race in order to preserve my training and the bigger picture or do I go for it and take the risk?

The stakes...


FOR:  The Colchester Half Marathon tomorrow, race #4 for the season, a test of where I'm at in training, and cross check of my run HR zones.
AGAINST:  I've had a sore throat (cold) sine Monday night. 

To Race...

If you've followed me for awhile, you may remember this race from last year.  I decided last minute (the night before) to run this race last year and loved it so much that I slotted it in for this year as of last February.  It's not a glamorous race, there are no great sites, there's no bling or awards, and the course even makes use of a single car width dirt road that we had to battle traffic for space.  But the race director is a hoot!, I love to support well run local races, it's only $14, and has some of the best post-race food I've ever had at races (This post-race food beats every $350-700 Ironman race I've done). 

This race, while not ever meant to be a PR search, was slotted to test where I was in my training.  I had hoped to run a sub-1:40 which would be a solid half for me.  This race would also provide a cross check for my running HR zones.

NOT To Race...

Since late Monday, I've had a dryness turn sore throat.  I haven't trained since Monday in order to try and bust up the cold.  The symptoms have stayed in my throat, but my resting HR has spiked 16 bpm and I can't say I'm feeling race ready.  Having taken 4 days off of training already, the last thing I want to do is go run a cheap race that doesn't mean anything and blow another week of training.

The Final Tests...

After talking to coach, I am about to hop on the bike for 30 minutes to see how I feel.  If I feel crappy, I will not race.  If I feel good, then I will wait until tomorrow morning.  If I feel like shit tomorrow morning, then I will not race.  However, if I feel good on the bike AND feel okay tomorrow, then I am allowed to race.

Wish me luck!!
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EDITS:
  1. Post-Bike.  The bike went well.  I did a 10 minute warm up and then a 1, 2, 3 minute Z1/Z2 ladder and I felt fine. 
  2. Evening.  I felt great!  Maybe it was the ride, the relaxation, or the giant plate of broccoli and asparagus.  Veggies for the win!!  We'll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there.
  3. Race Morning.  I didn't feel 100%, but I felt okay.  I figured I could make my way through a solid half without an issue during the race.
  4. The Race.  HOLY MOLY!  While my muscles might argue it didn't feel like a great race, I ran within 7 minutes of my PR.  Sick, no training for a week, complete lack of speed/interval work (much different than last year), and still very early in the season.  I was VERY happy with the outcome.

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Questions:
1.  Have you ever bagged / scraped / or withdrawn from a race?
I've scratched races off of my schedule, but I have never pulled out of one after paying for it.  

2.  What would you do?
I'm not looking for advice.  I have my tests and the final call in the morning, but I'm curious what others might do.  Do you love racing enough to risk it?, or do you train focused solely on the big race. 


DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Does IRONMAN's new Pilot Transfer Program Stack Up to the Competition?

Ironman announced recently that they are instituting a pilot program for transfers for their North American full iron distance events.  The general overview is below.  You can find the full details HERE

"IRONMAN is piloting a new program to give IRONMAN athletes an additional option to the standard refund policy. Instead of taking the standard refund, athletes registered for select North American IRONMAN events now have the option to transfer their entry to another IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 event in North America with general entry slots still available. Athletes may move to a race sooner or later in the calendar year (dependent upon availability) and may move to another IRONMAN event or to an IRONMAN 70.3 event."
The tricky part is that not many people know what the "standard refund policy" is, let alone what the details of this new pilot program means.  I admit I was one of many who initially thought "Hey, cool!  That'll be a nice option."  Unfortunately, as I'm sure we will find out very soon, this program does not change much. 


First, let me go over some basics of this new program.  Keep in mind this does not alter the standard withdrawal policy which I will go over later.

  • The pilot program is limited to 140.6 events in North America (excluding Los Cabos & Cozumel)
  • You may transfer into another North American 140.6 or a list of eligible North American 70.3s, but there is no program for transferring out of a 70.3 event at this time.
  • This program is limited to the year in which your original event is scheduled.
  • There is a $50 transfer fee.
  • You must pay any difference in entry fees, but do not get a refund for a negative difference.  
  • The race you transfer into must have open slots.
  • The race you transfer into must have had public registration open for 10 days.  
  • It must be at least 45 days prior to the event you are transferring out of AND into.  
  • You may only transfer an entry once.  

Kelly, a good friend of mine over at Some Random Thursday, posted a very good analysis HERE of how useful the program might be.

Go read her analysis first. I'll wait.


Done?  Good!

She concluded that if you know early in the year that you will not be able to race, you have an approximate 50% chance of being able to transfer, however that is most likely into a 70.3 event.  If you wait or do not know until late, your chances drop very quickly as many of the desired races, or simply those within traveling distance, sell out. 

In the past, Kelly as well as a number of other friends have all "eaten" the registration and associated fees in the past due to WTC/Ironman's previous policies.  And as we all know Ironman is NOT CHEAP.  While the announcement of the pilot program will undoubtedly be greeted well at first, I think it is safe to say that once you dig into the details, and especially once people begin to use the program, we will find that it falls quite short of expectation.



Breaking away from Kelly's analysis, I want to help shed a light on what this new program does.  Kelly gave us a look at how useful it might be.  I'd like to look at how comparative it is.  How does WTC stack up to other major 140.6/70.3 distance companies?  I am going to compare the WTC's policies to Revolution 3, Challenge, and HITS

How does the Ironman Transfer/Withdrawal Policy stack up?

In order to do this systematically, let's review each of the three companies policies.

WTC / Ironman - Transfer PolicyWithdrawal Policy
  • All withdrawals or transfers must be done up to 45 days prior to the event (subject to availability). 
  • You may withdraw from any race for a $75 (70.3) or $150 (140.6) refund; roughly a 27-37% or 21-24% refund depending on the event. 
  • If it is an eligible North American140.6 event, you may transfer to another eligible North American 140.6 of 70.3 event for a $50 fee + entry fee difference. 

Revolution 3 - Transfer Policy & Defer Policy
  • You may transfer your entry to another athlete up to 30 days prior to the event for FREE.
  • You may defer your entry up to 60 days prior to the event and receive a 100% credit to the same event for the following year for FREE.
  • With a medical reason and doctors note received 30 days prior to the event, you may withdraw your entry for a full refund of your registration fee.
Challenge - Refund Policy
  • You may withdraw your entry up to 83 days (3 months, 5 days) prior to the event for a full refund minus a $75 admin fee (87% refund). 



HITS - Refund Policy
  • Each athlete is allowed a one time free transfer up to 15 days prior to an event and must be credited to another open HITS race within a 12-month period.


Now that we've got all of the policies laid out, let's go through a scenario.  As we get closer and closer to race day, what are our options depending on which company the race is with?  And how do the companies compare?

4 - 12 MONTHS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - $75/150 withdrawal refund or $50+ transfer
Rev3 - Defer to next year, transfer to another athlete, or full refund (Medical)
Challenge - Full refund minus $75 admin fee
HITS - Transfer to another race

2 - 3 MONTHS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - $75/150 withdrawal refund or $50+ transfer
Rev3 - Defer to next year, transfer to another athlete, or full refund (Medical)
Challenge - NOTHING
HITS - Transfer to another race

45 - 59 DAYS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - $75/150 withdrawal refund or $50+ transfer
Rev3 - Transfer to another athlete, or full refund (Medical)
Challenge - NOTHING
HITS - Transfer to another race

30 - 44 DAYS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - NOTHING
Rev3 - Transfer to another athlete, or full refund (Medical)
Challenge - NOTHING
HITS - Transfer to another race

15 - 29 DAYS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - NOTHING
Rev3 - NOTHING
Challenge - NOTHING
HITS - Transfer to another race

0 - 14 DAYS PRIOR TO AN EVENT
Ironman - NOTHING
Rev3 - NOTHING
Challenge - NOTHING
HITS - NOTHING

The winner of this little scenario is ultimately up to you.  Your priorities, work schedule, and such may vary greatly from me, but I can't help but rank them for myself.

My order of most athlete-friendly policies...
HITS
Revolution 3
Challenge
WTC / Ironman

With our training volume and hectic lives, something is bound to eventually come up; injury, appointments, kids, family, mechanical breakdown, etc..  As athletes, we want to compete and we hate losing that opportunity, not to mention the money we spent to do it. 

HITS allows you to transfer your entry even 15 days prior to the event, no questions asked, but it's an up-and-coming race series, so not many people are participating.  My two cents is that they put on a great race!

Rev3, a triathlete's household name, restricts you to 30 days prior to the event, but offers a full refund for a medical issue and the option to transfer.  I have personally seen many friends take advantage of the transfer.  That option, however, is dependent on whether you can find someone to transfer to.  Living within 40 minutes of the Rev3 Quassy course, my chances for THAT race are pretty high.

Challenge may have the most time restricted option, but they offer a very sizable refund. 

WTC / Ironman is the ultimate loser in my mind, even despite the new program.  Yes, Ironman gives me roughly 1.5 months of more coverage than Challenge, but offers a significantly lower refund for a withdrawal.  And as Kelly pointed out, the likelihood of being able to find an available race to transfer to that is suitable for travel is low.  Most of us plan our yearly race schedule WELL ahead of time and there isn't a huge amount of room for changes.


What is the take home message?

The new WTC / Ironman pilot program for event transfer may seem useful, but when you get down to it, it A) is not going to be useful for the vast majority of racers and B) does not compare well to the programs offered by other rival companies.

I must say that I commend WTC / Ironman for initiating the program and hope that it will be altered in the years to come in order to be more useful to athletes (namely the ability to transfer to another race WITHIN A 12 MONTH PERIOD).  However, given the stamp that Ironman has made in this sport, I don't presume that this will happen unless given adequate pressure from athletes (aka. people stop signing up and races start dwindling in attendance).  The fact is, Ironman full-distance races sell out more often than not.  One highly probably motivation behind this program is to funnel athletes from the sold out 140.6 races into the 70.3 races that do not sell out.
If you are unable to do a specific full, all the other fulls within traveling distance are sold out, and the withdrawal fee is miniscule, then you will most likely opt for a close by 70.3 event.  Plain and simple.  That is unless you purchased your Allianz insurance.  If you did, then Ironman gets your money anyways!  


So...
What races are you doing this year?

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Questions
1.  Have you ever used one of the withdrawal, transfer, or deferral programs?
I've never needed to use any of these programs.  Until this post, I was unaware of what the details of the various policies were. 

2.  Have you purchased the Allianz Insurance during registration?
I have not yet, but am more intrigued by it now that I have gone through the details and scenarios.  It seems like a very fair offer and quite a useful policy when something comes up. 

3.  What is your take on the new Ironman pilot program for North American full distance transfers?
I think in a few months, once athletes begin to make use of it and the details come to light, it will not seem as useful as it does.  I applaud the initiative, but am highly weary of the motivation behind it. 

4.  Have you chosen a race (or counted one out) based at all on the withdrawal or similar policy?


DREAM.  BELIEVE.  ACHIEVE.