Monday, July 30, 2012

Gently back into it, and race thoughts

I'd sort of mused about running off the bike yesterday after getting home from the 70.3, but decided that I was seriously down on hydration. It was a pretty hot day and I'd spent a lot of time in the sun, for me. Dealing with the heat is getting better for me, but there's a long way to go.

In the end I inhaled some juice and water, then settled in for supper. A bit later I did a good stretch session.

I'm sitting too much at work, even with going for a walk at lunchtime. I could feel the creakiness in me when I was getting up, and it took a few steps to get going. Such are the evils of concentrating on a spreadsheet. With any luck I'll finish that one tomorrow. 30K lines of data dealt with. I wonder what's next.

Tonight I was itching to run. It's hot and sunny here by Calgary standards. Maybe 25C or so. They keep saying watch for thunderstorms but that's away north of here. I took a water bottle with me and I'm glad I did.

Started easy. It took a long time to find a nice stride, maybe 15 minutes or so. My legs felt heavy, and my calves were a bit twingey. They settled in, and the next 10 minutes were great. Then I could start feeling the heat. I dribbled some of the water on my hat. I had been looking for 30 to 45 minutes, and called it at 35, even though my feet and legs were still ok with running. I'm still getting back into the groove, and I don't want to make my back or hips unhappy. There were no complaints about running, at least so far. Another good stretch session. I'm planning to swim tomorrow and we'll see what my back and core thinks of that.

I tagged 7 people yesterday. I'm pretty sure most of them have read it. I hope so. I'm watching their blogs.

Now this goes into some musing about my internal competitive fire, or lack thereof. You've been warned.

I happened to be listening to somebody or other at the Olympics talking about how competitive they are, and how that desire to win fueled them through training and to the Olympics. I guess that would have to be true, in much the same way that saying breathing is important for life. I don't think I could come up with that kind of drive. Missing out on the race this weekend has me thinking about my own competitive drive, or lack thereof. I never got into this with the goal of winning my age group and going to Kona. I never even thought seriously about being on the podium for my age group. At best I was hoping to make it up to mid pack or so.

Yet looking at the times for this weekend, mid pack is well under 6 hours, and to even sniff the podium I'd have to be under 5 hours. That's more than a huge step from 6:47 I did it in a few years ago. Looking at Chinook (I'll have you know I'm peeking between my fingers here, since I haven't looked at  the results yet) mid pack is 5:21, and that got him on the podium. There were a whole 6 of us. I was mid pack for the swim, second last off the bike, and way, way back on the run. Some people have told me that major improvements for my run are just around the corner, and it's one of those step things where the output are all out of proportion to the input. I admit the possibility in theory, but I am dubious about the practice, especially as applied to me.

I had hoped to use the Chinook and 70.3 results this year to see where I was and plan future training. I'd hoped to see big improvement, and I can't honestly say it's there. A bit of improvement on the bike, if you look really carefully. Not as much as I had hoped. The run shows no evidence of improvement. That's a bit discouraging.

Still, like I said, I didn't get into this to win medals, I did it to get into better shape, and for sure that has happened. Most of the time my body feels great, and that's worth gold and silver. Now I'm thinking about the level and intensity of training to aim for. Do I want to put the serious time in and see if there is a major improvement for next year? Or just train to be in better shape and control my weight, and kiss the races goodbye?

Coming in at the very back of the race sucks. At Chinook almost all the food was gone; the only thing left was this rice pilaf stuff. It was good, but I was looking for meat. At 70.3 they ran out of finisher shirts before Deb got there, which is inexcusable. How can they not know how many shirts they'll need? At one race the finish line and just about everything else was gone when I got there, and I was well within the cut off time. Even at IMC there was no pizza left, and I had been promising myself several slices. Good thing Linda brought the famous recovery cookies. Even during some of the races the aid stations run out of important things, like water and ice. That is crushing for someone struggling along wondering if they'll make the run cut off.

The race shirts vary in quality. The first 70.3 shirts were horrible, heavy cotton and a cheesy logo that looked like a USA highway sign. I wouldn't wear it to mow my lawn or wash my bike chain; someone might see me. Chinook a couple years ago were great; the best shirt I've got at a race and I wear it a lot, but this year's weren't so good, I don't like the feel of the material. The other ones get worn as a winter layer. The IMC finisher shirt are a nice material, and you've got to love what it says, but good golly, that colour!

The medals are a mixed bag. They hang near my computer where I can see them. That's the only regret about missing this 70.3; that was a really nice belt buckle, and it looks good as a medallion as well. A few of my race bibs are stapled to the window framing near where I set up on the trainer.

Some people complain about the cost of the events, but I don't mind the dollar amount itself. There is a cost to putting on the race, and I don't mind paying for what I get. But I do mind paying for a shirt sight unseen. The odds are not good you'll get one that fits, that you like the feel or colour of the fabric, and that you'll be willing to wear out in public. I don't know how much a medallion costs to make, but I can't image they are terribly expensive. If they are going to do one at all, at least they should make it a nice one. The medallion or lack of it is not a factor in deciding to do a race.

Most of the time I'm not a picky eater by any means. But I'm always just a bit suspicious of mass produced reheated banquet food, and waiting for our table number to come up for the buffet line has got really old for me. Just before a race I prefer to know exactly what I'm eating and be able to eat it when I want it. As I said, I haven't had much luck with post race food. I'd like to see that cost made optional as well.

So where does this leave me? For the bike and run I can mark out a course of almost any desired length and not have to worry too much about traffic. What's more it's repeatable so I can measure the improvement. Open water swims are much tougher to arrange here; to the point of being practically impossible. Even if I had a buddy that lived on one of the lakes, there would still be the problem of measuring a course reliably. But I know exactly how long the pool at Talisman is, and it doesn't change.

Tell me again why I should sign up for more races?


  1. Because you CAN. Because your body is strong enough, capable, and full of energy. I love your mental approach. I'd make you the nicest shirt EVER if I was designing it for your race. :)

  2. Speaking as someone who has left the whole race/triathlon scene, let me just say there are a lot of other fun things out there. Don't get me wrong, swimming, biking and running are fun! But I have now found other ways to do that, such as trail running and mountain biking. I was totally burnt out of the whole triathlon thing...and still am...but I do find it enjoyable to maintain an active life that doesn't involve a schedule and where I can decide what I am going to do for the evening at the last moment. Hike up Grouse Mountain? Trail run? Road or Mountain Bike? Or perhaps a relaxing time of yoga... It's just as fulfilling and keeps you in shape just as much. :)

  3. I guess everyone is different, but for me training for a race is motivation. With nothing on my calendar it is just too easy for me to slack off and decide not to do anything that day. I guess that even though I enjoy the sport I still need a plan to follow. I agree that for some races it feels like you pay quite a bit of money to sign up and if the shirt is terrible and there is no food it feels like a bit of a let down. I grumble over my beige IMC finisher's shirt too (my volunteer shirt from the year before was much nicer). Luckily they found some pizza by the time I finished. Then again there are races like GWN where you get two meals out of the race, a very nice medal (if I ever finish my race report you'll get to see it), and a fairly nice finisher shirt (this year) which will keep me coming back to that race in future years.

  4. Nicest shirt EVER!!?? I'll be sure to sign up the race you do. Oh, wait a sec, better check where you live first, before making any rash promises.

  5. I'm not burned out of triathlon, just considering other possibilities, and thinking about the level of involvement. I still want to try snowshoeing, though I say that every year and never get to it. I hear you on the schedule thing.

  6. How my pants fit is motivation for me. I'm thinking that the races are the only real way to get the swim bike and run in. Maybe I should have bought a lake-side house back in the day - what was I thinking?

  7. I'll find YOU. lol. I'll deliver it on my way through the province!

  8. Hi Keith.

    Lots in this post to chew on but the thing that caught my attention were your comments about improving your run times. I stalled for quite awhile but saw marked improvements when I focussed on improving my form (specifically, by incorporating chi running techniques) and doubled up on my weekend runs (a long slow run on Saturday followed by an 8-10k run on Sunday). My race times improved but, more importantly, running began feeling more comfortable so I was able to enjoy it more - which in turn made it much easier to stick to my training plan.
    Anyway, good luck figuring out what, if any, race to tackle next. I'm in the same boat. Completed my first 50k trail run in May and loved it so will likely do another shorter trail run this fall, but no idea what I'll be up to come the new year. Heading off on vacation this weekend though so will have time to give it a little thought.

  9. I took a Chi running course and loved it. That's one of the things that got me this far. I need to work on cardio. It feels good when I run faster, and my coach says I run with better form when I go faster; I just can't do it for long.


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