Monday, January 27, 2014

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

Yesterday I ran the 45th Annual Tradition Run 5k.  I had fun running the race.  As much fun as you can have climbing nearly half a mile of elevation gain in a 5k.  haha  But despite all the fun, I've been beating myself up over it since I got home yesterday.  Here's why...

This year, I ran the Tradition Run 5k in 25:09, an 8:08/mile pace.

In 2013, I ran the Tradition Run 5k in 22:09, a 7:09/mile pace.

Now, why does that bother me?  Because I am naturally competitive.  Because I had no preconceived reason to believe that I would be any slower than last year and therefore assumed the times would be comparable.  Because I am still fighting the instinct to simply be better, faster, stronger, at every race and workout.  I know it's not possible and it's not how we build fitness.  I tell my clients that every day.  But it's still my gut instinct. 


Why do I do this to myself?  I know that everyone has up and down days.  I know that we all can't PR at every race.  I knew early on in the race that the roads were covered more this year than last, making my strides shorter.  And I never expected to be better than last year.  But for some reason, adding 3 whole minutes to that time makes me feel like I've gone backwards.

As of today, I'm feeling better; as I knew I would.  Time makes the heart forget.  I know if there is a lack of fitness, NOW is the time to have it and it's okay.  I know that I have a long road ahead of me before I get to my A-races for the year.  I also know that as long as I don't injure myself like I did last year, I'll be well ahead of 2013 when I get to June.  But a small part of me is still saying that that doesn't matter TODAY.  Yes it does!!

Today is not my A-race.  I could be back of the pack every day up until June.  As long as I am in shape and ready by race day, it doesn't matter where I'm at before or after that.  I just have to get my gut to follow along. 

I am my own worst enemy.
And I need to shut him up!


1.  Have you ever beat yourself up over a race result you didn't expect?
I've had disappointing race results, but each one I knew of as it was unfolding.  I knew my first ironman fell apart right off the run.  I knew my 2nd Ironman fell apart on the bike.  I knew my first marathon fell apart at the half way point.  I knew this year's Hartford marathon fell apart about half way.  I've always seen it coming and had the rest of the race to reconcile it in my head.  This 5k didn't hit me until it was done and over with. 

2.  How competitive are you?  Will you match speeds on a treadmill with the person next to you?
Most people who run next to me on a treadmill won't come near my speed, but if they do, yes, I do want to beat them.  

3.  How do you approach pre-season races?
I'm all ears for advice on how to avoid or curb my gut instinct.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

RACE REPORT: 2014 Tradition Run 5k

The 45th Annual Tradition Run 5k

 January 26th, 2014

This is how they describe the race. 

An Un-Race
This is an un-race. It's not a fun-run because it's no fun, and it's not a race because times are not recorded and the results are listed alphabetically. This run does not cater to the fair weather jogger or the PR seeker.  There is no first prize. 

And they just about nailed it.  I ran this race last year and it was brutal, but very much the epitome of winter running.  Everyone comes out for a good challenge and camaraderie.  We don't care (much about the pace or placing.

I describe the race and how it began more in last year's race report, which you can check out.  This year, I'm getting right to the nitty gritty.  The freezing cold nitty gritty.

There are three major points to make about this race.

1.  It's free.  You don't pay a thing!  Doesn't get much better than that (unless you're a pro and get paid to run).

2.  The race starts at 10:30am.  Therefore, you can sleep in, take care of the kids, get some work done, or whatever you'd like to do beforehand.  There's no need to set your alarm for a crazy time in the morning just to arrive on time.

3.  It's always a challenge!  There is a 700 ft elevation gain (679 fit NET gain according to my Garmin) which never ceases to be a challenge.  You're not going to PR here, so relax, have fun, and enjoy the run as much as you can.

I woke up around 8am without an alarm and had my typical breakfast - 4 eggs and a banana with peanut butter.  Then I spent 1.5 hours caching up on some emails, browsing Facebook (which always takes 300% longer than it should), and getting ready.

The Weather Channel's hourly forecast predicted 10 degrees with a 1 degree wind chill, so I went with my thermal running tights, a long sleeved tech shirt, my wind breaker, and my Brooks Utopia mittens.  Given that last year I got to the top to find no water station as they said there'd be, I opted to run with my hdyration pack as well with about half a bottle of water in it for the end of the race.

At 9:30a, I packed up and headed out.

On the way there, you get a glimpse of where you're running to.

The finish line

See the castle tower on the hill.  Yes, the one inside the red circle.  That's what we are running up to.

I arrived at Hubbard Park in Meriden, shed all my warm clothes, and went to register which is how they figure out how many people come, where they come from, and obtain waivers from everyone.  The race had 240 registered runners.  Obviously some ran/walked without registering, but I was impressed with the number either way. 

Registration (aka, waivers)
They even had a cake for the post-race celebration!

I hung around inside the facilities building until 10:25am.  Hey, it was warm(er) in there than outside, so it made sense!  Then after a quick trip to the bathroom, I headed to the start line.

Do you see the kid in short shorts?  Yeah, he's nuts!  But he also won the race, so maybe the shorts were a good idea.  I'm still happy with my decision to wear my tights. 

With very little ceremony, we had a local state congresswoman give us the "Ready, Get Set, and GO!" with a cap gun.  Here is what we had coming...

There is a 700 ft. elevation gain, 500 of which are in the final mile.  Therefore, you will ALWAYS start this race out faster than you finish.  That is unless you really pull back in the first 2 miles!

About 5 seconds into the race, there were 3 guys out in front; short shorts, the guy in blue who's looking at his arm in the above picture, and pink shorts who is levitating on the left of the above picture.  I was in 4th.

It was about here that I realized my toes were numb.  Nearly 100% loss of feeling.  Great!

About 30 seconds later, the first two started separating from pink shorts and I began to close the gap between us.  About half a mile in, I passed pink shorts for third, but was quickly passed by another guy who was quickly making up ground!  I passed mile one in 4th place.

Mile 1
6:59 min/mile

Not long after, two other guys caught me on an incline and passed me; now I'm in 6th.  One of them I happened to know of, Mike.  A friend of mine works for him.  He was running with his dog, which I thought was cheating until the dog stopped to take a dump.  Haha.  Ok, not so much of a help then I guess. 

Along this section, we did have a nice view of the Merimere Reservoir.

As well as our destination...

Do you see the red circle on the left side?  We still have to climb all the way up there!

We had a couple more rolling hills and then a nice straight away over the Reservoir.  I'm much more of a flats runner, so I easily overtook Mike and his dog here, but they quickly took that back once we hit the big hill.

Once you're on this hill, the mantra is simply "Do not stop to walk!"  It doesn't matter how slow you keep running, but if you stop to walk you will not want to run again!  And I did just that.  I slowed my pace and stuck to a steady rhythm.  Soon after, I hit mile 2, which even had a guy standing on the side giving splits.  That was a nice new perk this year!  He yelled out "Fourteen Fifty" as I went by and I waved.

Mile 2
7:52 min/mile
14:50 overall time
 7:25 min/mile average pace

As I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I started to notice that my toes were regaining some feeling.  Yay!!  I haven't lost them forever.  The memory of the same sensation from last year came back to me as well.  It wasn't until the hill that I could feel them and it repeated itself this year. 

I starting using the walkers who had started ahead of us as targets.  I'd run to the group of three and then to the guy in orange and so on.  That worked very well!  I also noticed that my body had adjusted to the effort.  It felt like I could maintain this pace (aka, I had dipped back into an aerobic state).  I glanced down and found I had finally dipped back below a heart rate of 180.  That could very well be my anaerobic threshold.  I made a mental note of that and kept pushing on. 

Faster than I remember, I hit the top of the big hill.  There was a guy there calling out splits as well but it was short of mile 3, so I wasn't listening.  But there was a fun snow smiley to greet us!

Smile, you conquered the Big Hill!

From here, the finish wasn't far.  A left turn, a quick downhill, a steep uphill, another left turn, and a slow roller to the castle.

Mile 3
9:40 min/mile 
24:31 overall time
8:10 min/mile average pace

Man did it feel good to see the finish line!  Pictures were taken from the left.  Times were called out on the right.  And the castle was dead straight ahead!

25:09 overall time
8:08 min/mile average pace
6th place overall

Once I stopped and caught my breath, I immediately found my throat to be a little rough.  I was thankful for deciding to carry my hydration pack with some water.  It was a much needed relief.  Of course, I then took some pictures at the castle.

Just after finishing.  That's Castle Craig.

Panorama of the Castle Craig view
Proof I was there.

They had announced at the start that if you wanted to get a ride down instead of walking/running back, you would have to sit in the back of a truck, but that they'll get you down.  Last year, I made it back down the hill before I saw any of the vehicles coming down.  Of course, I wasn't going to take a ride down anyways, but I was impressed that one did actually pass me on the way back to the start.  This year, they definitely improved the race!!  Kudos to the Meriden Parks & Rec Department.  Remember, this race is free, so you can't expect much.

After maybe 5 minutes, I made my way down the hill and took all the pictures that I showed you above from the race course. 

I went straight to my car and changed into a dry shirt, winter jacket, and a hat.  I also downed a Powerade and a Clif Bar.  Then I went back to the facilities building to have a piece of that cake, a couple doughnut holes and a cookie.  I know!  That was a lot of sugar.  I felt it hit my system very shortly afterwards.

I also picked up my "swag."

Instead of medals, they offer a patch and a certificate.  I still haven't figured out how to display last year's patch, so this will be added to the lot for future craft ideas to come.  If you have any ideas, let me know!

On a couple of the tables, they displayed the newspaper clippings and previous patches from past years.

This was again, the 45th running of this race and it has been held through a very wide range of weather conditions!

Overall, I had a great race and look forward to running again next year.

Many thanks to the sponsors!


1.  Do you have any free races in your area?  Do you do any of them?
I am impressed that this race has gone on for 45 years without even a simple $5 fee.  I would gladly pay it and I'd see it as a small money maker for Meriden.  But I'm impressed that they've maintained the nature of the run.  It's all in the name, the Tradition Run.  It's tradition!  Why break it?

2.  What's the toughest 5k or race that you've done to date?
This is easily the toughest 5k I've done.  I think others trump it by sheer distance/time, but as a 5k, you don't get much harder than a 700 ft. elevation gain.

3.  What's your favorite post-race refuel?
I used to love chocolate milk, but since going Vegetarian, I've cut out milk.  I would love to find an alternative, but haven't yet.  Obviously sugar doesn't do it for me.  But I can't say no to cake!!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

High School Pool Pass vs. Corporate Gym Pool

As a triathlete in New England, I am one of many that gets pushed inside to swim most of the year.  We're talking September through May; 9 months out of the year.  That's three quarters of the year.  For the last two years, I've been a begrudged member of La Fitness (not read L.A., but "la" as in the Spanish article).

Yes, La Fitness has a pool. 
Yes, it is open all day for lap swimming. 
Yes, they are one quick exit from where I live. 
And yes, I can get in a yoga class here and there if I want.  However, it doesn't make up for the downfalls. 

I frequently complained to no avail about the 80 degree temp.  The staff had even laughed about it, telling me they've never heard a complaint that it was too warm, only too cold. 

I had multiple complaints about me "splashing too much" and getting the members of the aqua fitness class wet.  I'm sorry, but if you to take up 75% of the pool, how about you don't stand right next to my lane rope. 

All too often, the three or four lanes were "full" of water walkers, people who simply get in and walk around in the pool; yes, typically of elderly age.  They only take up 1/3 of the lane, so why can't you share a lane?!  

I'm not the biggest fan of La Fitness
...if you couldn't tell.

For this years training, I was resigned to heading back to La Fitness.  That was until my triathlon club's holiday party.  I was informed by a friend in the area that many of the local high schools had open swim times and you could purchase a dirt cheap season pass.  The times are restricted (mostly just 1 hour), but it's a lot cheaper and an actual competition pool.  Not only that, but in my area, three of the high schools teamed up to offer a single pass for all three schools.  Awesome!!  Last night was my first trip.  

I went to the Rocky Hill High School for open swim from 6:30-7:30p.  It was tough to get home from work, relax, and then get packed up and head back out, but I did it.  After exploring the school for a bit, I found the pool; six lanes of a decent temperature (~75) pool with a real deep end, starting blocks,  and a swimming clock to keep intervals on.  

To top it off, only five people showed up throughout the hour.  When I ended up running overs, the next hour was Recreational Swim and there was only one dad with his son, so I was able to finish my workout without a problem.  

Score one for the Swim Gods!

I could not be happier with the choice to go with the high school pool pass this year instead of La Fitness.  For less than the price of one month at La Fitness, I get access to three high school pools with all the benefits I need as an ex-swimmer training for tris.  I win!


1.  How many months of the year are you able to swim outside?  Where do you go when you're forced inside?
I can swim outside from some time in May through some time in September.  After that, it's now to the high school pools!

2.  If you could change anything about your training, what would it be?
I would heat the lakes in our area so that I could swim all year round outside.  I'd still go inside for the convenience, but it's just not the same.  

3.  What is your ideal pool temperature?
I very much prefer low seventies; somewhere around 72-73.  It's cold when you get in and if you stand around, but once you're moving and generating heat, it feels great!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Vibram Five Finger Love

After a loooooong debate, some friendly peer pressure, and a too-good-to-pass-up sale online, I bit the bullet recently and purchased my first pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes, the Bikila. 

I bought these shoes for work only.  I'm a fitness trainer, so I'm on my feet most of the day.  Since I am in-between seasons (run and tri), I figured this would be a good time to see what I thought about the Vibram shoes and strengthen up my foot, ankle, and calf.  I wanted to try switching into these just for work.  I do not plan on attempting a run in them for quite some time. 

Having tried them on a couple years ago when they first came out, I was pleasantly surprised that they felt better than I remember, though I also do not recall which model I tried on originally. 

On my first day, I heeded all the advice and only wore them for 2 hours.  I started to feel extra tension in my arch and switched back to my regular work shoes.  That worked great!  On my second day, I was able to wear them for 3 hours.  Score!  I was already seeing improvements.  Then I went away for the weekend to Disney.  That's another story coming up!

After letting my body rest for a couple days post Disney, I went back to the Vibrams and wore them for a full shift on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday!  I can tell that my feet and body are still getting adjusted to the different (read: lack of) support and feel, but I've had zero ill effects thus far. 

The biggest issue has been the material between my toes.  That annoyed the dickens (do people still use that word?) out of me until Thursday.  At some point on Thursday, it no longer bothered me and I began dreaming of running and hiking in these shoes.  It's going to be tough not to attempt it! 

Overall, I am quite a fan of these shoes!

I already want to get a pair of Bikila LS for potential running shoes down the road.
...but I won't!


1.  Have you ever tried on Vibram Five Finger shoes?  What did you think?
I dislike the lack of ability to curl your toes, but overall they feel great.

2.  What are your thoughts on the minimalist thing?  Running wise or other.
Minimalism is not for everyone.  Not everyone likes it and it simply won't physically work for some.  But as a generality, I like the idea of strengthening up your feet as long as you take the time to do it correctly.  


Friday, January 17, 2014

*Blink* And then a month passed!

December 18th, 2013.

An entire month ago!  

That's the last time I posted a blog entry.  Wow.  I am a sad blogger.  Ok, maybe more of just a temporarily preoccupied (read: lazy) blogger.  Either way, I have slacked!! 

Lazy Blogger!

I'm trying to think back on what I had going on.  Let's see...

  • I was writing the JFK 50 report
  • I was coaching a group for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
  • I had a nasty cold the week before Christmas
  • I was out of town for Christmas
  • New Years?  Nah, I didn't do anything noteworthy.
  • Then I had my coaching trip to the WDW Marathon in Orlando, FL.

Now, however, I am back, I'm close to being unpacked from Disney, and finally have some time before my training gets kicked into gear for the tri season. 

So please hang tight while I attempt to recap and catch up on what has gone on in the last month or so.  There are a few things...

  • The HITS Hunter Mountain 70.3 Race Report
  • The Hogsback Half Marathon Race Report
  • The JFK 50 Race Report
  • An explanation as to why I'm a gypsy
  • My new Vibram Five Finger Bikilas
  • My running shoe addiction (and why I need an intervention)
  • The obvious look back at 2013
  • The small look backs at November and December 2013
  • My look ahead at 2014 - resolutions, goals, predictions, race schedule etc.
I've got a lot of typing to do.  I better make some food.


1.  Do you feel bad if you miss a blog post?
I do!!  I did so well in 2013 and then dropped the ball at the last moment.  Good thing I don't play team sports.

2.  How were your holidays?!
I don't get to see my family often, so I was very happy to spend time with my mom, dad, and sister.

3.  What is your first race for 2014??
I've already got the Disney half and full on the record books, so it's the Tradition Run 5k that's up next.