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Name That Runner

Posted: June 18, 2013 in Fitness

In one week I will be signing up for the Medoc Trail Marathon in Hollister, NC, and I need to pick a trail name. Last year I chose Trout Lily, one of my favorite trails at Panther Creek State Park.

Suggestions?

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Running in place will never get you the same results as running from a lion.”

– The Most Interesting Man in the World.

So after my epic fail at 2012 Sevierville sprint triathlon what did I do different in preparing for 2013: everything. No seriously: everything. Shortly after the race I replaced my 1994 Trek 470 with a 2004 Masi Vincere triple. During the winter I dusted off my used Cycleops Mag Plus trainer and actually used it. I went so far as to take it to my local bike mechanic and asked him to find out why its resistance adjustment didn’t work. Turns out the cable wasn’t connected. Thanks Timmy. I went to West Bicycles in Knoxville and got a bike fit on the Masi. Shout out to Fares and Kelly.

More importantly I got a grip and a plan. I picked out a sprint triathlon plan from Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald. My training got a lot less random when every week had two swims, two rides and two runs. Train in three sports for a triathlon? An idea so crazy it could just work. My workouts got less random also. Now each had a structure and a purpose. I wasn’t just swimming, biking and running. Now there were drills, intervals and strides.

Most importantly I attended two triathlon clinics put on by the Tri Cities Triathlon Club. I want to thank every member of TCTC who welcomed me wholeheartedly into the club, even those of you that kicked me in the pool or swam over me or both or both repeatedly. Special shout out to the instructor of the TCTC clinics, Triathlon Coach John Hanna. He improved my swim dramatically and helped me change my running form, getting rid of my heel strike and freeing me from shin splints. I also got a lot of good information, tips and a completely new understanding of hydration from a series of lectures during the off season. Thanks Upton. Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Timothy Noakes should be required reading for all triathletes.

If like me, you tend to take the lone wolf route with your training, I urge you to seek out other triathletes. Whether you trail alone because of a lack of speed, lack of confidence or lack of a local triathlon group, reach out there is someone you can learn from and train with at least a little. All of your life you’ve been told that there is strength in numbers. This is certainly true. Here is a new concept I want you to try on for size. There is speed in numbers.

For more details about my preparation and training for this race, please see my earlier posts about the clinics, as well as, Weeks of Tweaks and Back on the Bike.

This time I started training for the race months in advance and gear preparation weeks in advance. Two weeks before the race I ordered new Continental Grand Prix 4000 S tires, bought Xtenex elastic shoelaces, picked up another pair of Aqua Sphere Kayenne swim goggles and called my local bike shop, Rocky Top Bicycles, Morristown, TN, to schedule a pre-race check up for my bike. I wanted to make sure I had time for at least one test run with each new item. Nothing new on race day.

I started gathering gear and putting everything into a backpack a week before race day. A new NC State Wolfpack t-shirt arrived just in time to complete my race kit. Thanks Frank. The night before the race, I threw a backpack of gear into my van, attached my bike rack and bike. Good to go in about 15 minutes. And since we had moved 45 minutes further away from Sevierville, I booked a room at a local hotel to cut race day driving time. And yes I printed out directions this year just in case.

Sevierville 2013: Plan Meets Reality

Training montage music goes here. May 18th, 2013, was a wet rainy Saturday, and I was more than a little worried. None of my previous half dozen triathlons had been in the rain. I had trained for months, but it had been a mixed bag. My swim was definitely stronger. I felt stronger on the bike but my bike computer wasn’t really showing the improvement. Stupid technology. As far as the run, at least now I could run without pain but was I any faster?

When the transition zone opened at 6:30 am, I was there with my bike and backpack ready get my race packet, pick a spot and set up. Once I got everything where I wanted and my shoes bagged to keep some of the rain out, I headed to the pool to warm up. Let me rephrase that I headed to the pool to adjust my body and mind just how cold the all-night rain had made that pool water. Soon we got the call to clear the pool. There was nothing left to do but stand around in the rain chatting as hypothermia set in and wait for the race to start.

The horn sounds, swimmers enter the water and the line moves forward. Soon there are only a few swimmers between me and the pool. I start to panic, afraid the cold water and race stress will have me hanging on the pool wall like last year. I remember what a wise man told me, “you can’t bull through panic, you have to collapse into it.” I slow my breathing and step forward. The man slapped me on the shoulder and shouted, “go!”

I hit the water. The cold is overwhelming, and I have trouble putting my face in the water. Because of my warmup swim I’m prepared and able to cope. I slow my pace and start humming a little motivational song I use for hills on the bike and long runs. I make it to wall, go under the rope and start the 2nd length. I’m getting into a rhythm now and passing some of the other swimmers. I’m still slightly stressed and a little breathless but I keep stroking. Rinse, lather, repeat. Then I realize I’m on the final length. A couple swimmers surge past me, and I’m at the wall. I grab the wall, bend my knees and shoulder roll onto the pool deck. It’s not graceful but I’m out of the pool with only one thought careening around in my misshapen skull: “Get to the bike, get to the bike, get to the bike.”

Mr. Graceful shoulder rolls out of the pool.

Mr. Graceful rolls out of the pool.

I jog toward transition, getting a high five from Dustin on the way. I get to my bike and transition the way I practiced. I don shirt, glasses, helmet, bike shoes. This year: no socks, gloves or doo-rag. Before the race I dusted the inside of my bike shoes and running shoes with baby powder to reduce friction. Thanks Janine. I unrack my bike, grab it by the seat and run it through transition. I pass the mount line, throw a leg over, clip in and take off.

The Fat Man Crankth

Rain is falling and water is running in channels on the road. The bikes ahead of me are throwing up rooster tails of spray. The rain alternates between slackening and thickening but never really goes away. As I ride out of the park I try to anticipate the other riders and keep my distance more than usual uncertain of my ability to handle the bike in bad weather. I recall what Kevin said at the pre-race meeting: “Y’all know your brakes don’t work now, right?”

The first half of the bike course is mostly on highway. Riders have their own lane marked off by cones. Police are at every intersection. I go out pretty fast. I had planned to try to maintain a cadence of about 80 rpm, just a bit faster than my usual 75. Every time I look down at the bike computer my cadence is 90 or higher. Interestingly enough my average cadence for the race will turn out to be about 75. So either the 50 to 60 rpm on the hills brought it down or I faded late in the bike and just didn’t notice.

About a third of the way through the bike, I start thinking about easing off a bit to save something for the run. Then a woman on mountain bike starts to pass me. I pick up the pace and put her behind me. I have no problem getting chicked it happens to me quite regularly. I may not be on a triathlon bike or a state-of-the-art road bike but I am on a road bike. Surely I can drop a mountain bike on a paved road. My quads are getting fried. So I stop thinking about mashing the pedals and start thinking about wiping my feet to transfer some of the load to my hamstrings. Thanks again, Upton.

I make the turn onto Forge Hideaway Road, home of Hillzilla. As the road grows steeper I shift to the tiny little chainring of my triple, an advantage I didn’t have last year. I’ve been thinking about my rematch with Hillzilla for quite some time and debated whether I should try to ride the steepest pitch or just walk it again. As I round the corner and eyeball my nemesis, the climb looks doable. I stand in the pedals and crank toward the summit. Hillzilla is going down. My breath comes in gasps and my heart rate spikes but I make it over.

From here on out the course is pretty much two-land country road. This is where they store the hills and curves. As I crest each hill, I assess the road below making sure I don’t gain more speed than I can carry through the curves in these wet conditions. Shortly I crest a hill and look down on Collier Drive, a four-lane highway, we have to cross. The police have traffic stopped to let the racers through. I pause for a beat, make sure the cops see me then shift into the big chainring and crank. The middle turn lane is slightly raised, and I figure there is a 50/50 chance I’ll catch some air. I don’t but it is still cool to make a blast across a four-lane.

I find myself on some rollers and a road bike passes me. Instead of fading into the distance it stays about 50 feet ahead. At the top of the next roller, my left hand of it’s own volition, shifts into the big chainring and my cadence increases. Apparently some part of my nervous system has decided to contest his lead. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my frontal lobe. I storm past and hold a lead for about a half mile. Then we hit a hill and he drops me like I’m a 10-year-old delivering newspapers on a three-speed. I find myself alone for the last couple miles of the bike course. Then I’m back on Park road. I turn into the park, stop at the dismount line, get off and hustle into transition.

Wet, miserable and on the move. Photo courtesy Dustin Mabe.

I’m wet, miserable and setting a better pace than expected. Photo courtesy of Dustin Mabe.

Man On The Run

I rack my bike. Drop my glasses, helmet and bike shoes. I put on my running shoes then grab my cap and race belt. I bolt for the run exit and under my breath I’m chanting: “Get off the roof, get off the roof, get off the roof.” Yes my daughter and I have watched “Mulan” many times over the years. Total elapsed time for T2: just under one minute.

As I start the run I catch up with Steve, another TCTC member. I consider him to be the toughest triathlete out here today. We exchange greetings, and I move on. It’s a two lap run course, mostly running path and sidewalk with some grassy fields thrown in. About three quarters of the way through the first lap, Dawn passes me. Turns out getting chicked by someone you know is way better than being chicked by a stranger. At the beginning of my second lap I hear a familiar voice asking me if this is the run course. It’s Melissa well on her way to completing her first triathlon. We chat for a bit then our respective paces separate us.

At this point I’m just trying to hold what I’ve got. I know my swim was faster than last year. I have a good feeling about the bike as well. There wasn’t time to check the bike computer. I don’t want to lose ground on the run. Although I’ve been a runner on and off most of my life, I hate the run leg of triathlons. You so desperately want to finish strong but you have so very little left to give. I have got to be faster than last year. Got to be faster. Finally the finish line is in sight. I pick up my pace and sprint across it. After I cool down I hang around the finish line with my wife and the TCTC gang and cheered as more triathletes finish. It was a very good day, so much better than last year.

The Bottom Line

When I got home and compared my 2012 and 2013 stats, I found that I had managed to improve in every aspect of the race. I was thrilled, relieved and validated. I cut my swim time by 45 seconds. My T1 time decreased by almost 90 seconds. I chopped almost six minutes off the bike leg. My T2 time dropped by 1:40. Finally my run time came down a full six minutes, making it my fastest 5K in over a year. Thanks again to everyone who shared this journey of inspiration, information and perspiration.

If at first you don’t succeed … try coming up with an actual plan and then loosely following it.”

– Al Dockery 2013

I’ve been wanting to write about the 2012 Sevierville sprint triathlon for a while. How did it go? Not so good. My working title for a race report would have to be something like: The Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Sprint Triathlon. Let’s countdown my major malfunctions from last year.

10. No real training plan: I followed my old dysfunctional training plan of run three or four days a week and trying to get a bike ride and swim in somewhere.

9. My bike and swim workouts had no real structure. I would just swim or ride. No drills, intervals or tempo.

8. I waited until the day before the event to get my gear together and was up until midnight.

7. I thought I had been to the race site before and didn’t print out directions, which lead to driving around lost.

6. I arrived about 10 minutes before transition closed and had to set up my gear in a hurry wherever I could find a space.

5. I didn’t warm up in the pool before the race started. So when it came my turn I jumped in the pool and started swimming, the cold water took my breath, my motivation and my memories of kindergarten. I had to hang on the wall twice in a 150 yard swim.

The Finish Line wasn't the only line I crossed at Sevierville 2012.

The Finish Line wasn’t the only line I crossed at Sevierville 2012.

4. I had no real transition strategy. I wore everything I usually wear on bike rides: CoolMax doo-rag, gloves, socks, etc. I had not bought elastic shoelaces because they just seemed gimmicky to me.

3. I did not check out the bike course in any way. Didn’t look at a bike course map with elevation profile. Yes, there was one posted online. Did not drive or ride the bike course. What did I find when I actually got out on the bike course. There was one hill – Hillzilla – so steep that I had to get off the bike and push. Talk about a spirit crusher.

2. Failure to prevent and manage injuries. The run didn’t go that well either because I could only run about 100 yards at a time due to epic shin splints. At the time I tried to therapy my way around them. Later I learned how to prevent them.

1. Perhaps my biggest blunder was having unrealistic expectations. The pattern had been there for some time. Follow crappy training plan: come in last in age group, last Clydesdale or just plain last. Yet I kept thinking that things would get better.

There were a few bright spots in this otherwise dismal outing. The weather was good. While I came in last, I did actually finish. Oh yeah, there was one bright shinning moment. As I neared the finish line, Team Al and some friends from the Rocky Top Multisport Club saw me and cheered me across the line. That almost made it worthwhile. Still anytime you drive home from a triathlon thinking about putting your bike on Craigslist and you aren’t upgrading, you’ve had a bad day.

Coming next: Sevierville Sprint Triathlon 2013 Breakthrough or Breakdown. It has thrills, chills, rain and achievement? Until then Stumble on.

I’m going to to ahead and confess to some wetsuit avoidance. I find wetsuits intimidating for two reasons cost and fit. Wetsuits have some fairly serious sticker shock. The other more important issue was my belief that wetsuit manufacturers probably did not make a wetsuit I could actually wear. Frankly athletic clothing makers never foresaw something my size trying to swim, bike or run. I’m a big guy running typically about 10 pounds beyond the specs for most of the larger size wetsuits. Also I’m proportioned a bit differently than most of the other endurance sports children: chubby, long waist, short legs and big calves that run about 18 inches in circumference with gusts to 18.5 depending on how much I run.

 As usual I was forced through yet another triathlon doorway when I signed up for an April clinic that had several open water swims scheduled. Given the early Spring water temperatures in East TN, options included: hypothermia, wetsuit or kayak. Since I don’t own a kayak, my choices boiled down to beg, borrow, rent or buy a wetsuit or stand on the shore watching. Clearly it was time to gather some some courage, information and neoprene.

Me in an Orca S4 size 11 triathlon wetsuit.

Me in an Orca S4 size 11 triathlon wetsuit.

I started my search by calling my local swim/triathlon store a mere 90 minutes away in Knoxville. It turns out that they didn’t have anything in my size right now. Understandable as noted above most triathletes are considerably less fluffy than me. Next I turned to my local triathlon clubs. I’m lucky to have two strong groups with Facebook pages within driving distance. Posts to both groups got me several leads which I ran down in my usual less than systematic manner.

My big break came when one of my tri brothers in nearby Morristown invited me over to try on his two-piece DeSoto wetsuit in size 7. Thanks Dave. (Note DeSoto and Orca sizes are different. The largest DeSoto is a 7, and the largest Orca is an 11.) He gave me a good introduction to putting on a wetsuit. I was shocked and amazed to learn that you can put a hole in a triathlon wetsuit if you are not careful with your fingernails. He showed me the plastic grocery bag method for getting your hands and feet into the suit. You put you foot in the bag and slide it through the leg of the wetsuit. Remove bag put on other foot repeat. Works with hands too. If it is a one-piece wetsuit you carefully pull the suit up to your waist until your voice changes. I don’t know what metric the women use, and I’m probably better off not knowing.

Now comes the fun part. Breathe out and pull your shoulder blades back and together. (If you can actually clap with your shoulder blades this will be easy, otherwise not so much.) And have someone zip up the back of the suit. The DeSoto pullover/bibjohn two-piece suits zip down. Most one-piece suits zip up. Really important info: zipper goes in back. Now move your arms in a swimming motion and carefully work the sleeves up toward the shoulders until you have a good range of motion going. Take your time and get it right. You don’t want to feel like your in a bind once you hit the water and start swimming.

Before he got his Desoto wetsuit Dave had rented an Orca S4 from http://www.triwetsuitrentals.com and recommended them highly. So I sent them an e-mail via their website. The owner called me back same day and listened to my long list of physical deformities and reassured me that a Orca S4 in size 11 would indeed contain my massive bulk. One Paypal transaction later and the wetsuit was winging its way to me via Fedex.

It arrived a couple days later and I was so impressed with the company that I actually read the enclosed directions and followed them. Let’s just keep that between ourselves. I have very little street cred as it is. If it gets out that I can or will on occasion follow directions; well, let’s not go there.

I did indeed get the wetsuit on with some help from plastic grocery bags, baby powder and an assistant to zip it up. Since the wetsuit was black and technically a compression garment, I was hoping that it would be shall we say “slimming.” The end result was more walrus than Navy SEAL. Still having succeeded in actually donning the wetsuit it was time for a test drive. Time to find out why everyone is so “I just hope the race will be wetsuit legal.”

What was my first swim in a wetsuit like? Imagine that your mutant superpower was buoyancy. Your legs just float. Let me say that again, your legs just float. Vigorous kick, weak kick, intermittent kick: it doesn’t matter. Your legs float. You float. Swimming was noticeably easier. Treading water was amazing. I usually struggle to keep my head above water with my nose is always perilously close to the water’s surface. In the wetsuit, my whole head and neck are out of the water almost effortlessly.

Bottom line: 1). It is very likely that there is a wetsuit out there for you. You may have to shop around, reach out to your tri family, and rent one first. 2). You want one. Performance wise, wetsuits completely rock. Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to the internet to stalk a DeSoto Speedtube.

Links:

www.triwetsuitrentals.com

http://www.desotosport.com/

http://www.orca.com/category/wetsuits

How to put on an Orca wetsuit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFOaWyONw2I

How to put on a Desoto wetsuit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZTDssI-y_Y

Please forgive the title. This is the second weekend triathlon clinic I’ve attended, and Spring 2013 TCTC triathlon clinic just didn’t sing. Once more I had an opportunity tap into Triathlon Coach, John Hanna’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things triathlon, and experience the friendship and spirited tomfoolery that is the Tri-Cities Triathlon Club.

The theme of this workshop was “A Change of Plans.” A lot of thought, effort and energy went into developing a program for the weekend’s activities including multiple open water swims and then the weather came along and dropped an arctic or even an antarctic air mass on us. Saturday was particularly cold. At first the group tried to stick it out at Warrior’s Path State Park but by mid afternoon hypothermia set in, and we sought an indoor venue. Sunday the weather relented, and we returned to the park for a bike to run brick workout. This post will cover some of the highlights of the clinic. I make no attempt to be either comprehensive or chronological.

Metabolic Efficiency

Over breakfast, Coach John gave us a brief overview of Metabolic Efficiency. He recently became certificated on this topic. If you’ve been following the triathlon blogs, podcasts and publications at all, I’m sure you know that this has been a hot subject over the last couple of years and that Bob Seebohar, the well-known sports dietitian, coach and athlete, is the pioneer behind this lifestyle. The idea as I understand it is to make food choices that improve the body’s ability to burn fat, control blood sugar and insulin, and eliminate GI distress during training and racing. Also you can avoid becoming what Coach John described as the “rolling smorgasbord.” If you’ve ever taped a dozen gels to the top tube of your bike for a sprint triathlon then you know what he is talking about.

An additional benefit of the metabolic efficiency approach is that it is not necessary to count calories or measure food. For details contact Coach John or check one of Seebohar’s books or seminars. I’ve been looking at Seebohar’s Nutrition Periodization for Athletes: Taking Traditional Sports Nutrition to the Next Level.

Running: Form is Function

The running efficiency workshop was my major reason for coming out this time. I’ve been struggling with my running for the last couple of years. My major limiting factor has been shin splints. Also while I’ve never been a fast runner, recently I’ve become epically slow. Clearly I could use a few clues here.

We started out in a parking lot lined up in rows working on dynamic running warm up drills. So we are doing high knees, butt kicks, bounding, skipping and striding for all we are worth. Think West Side Story in running clothes or Thriller with really fit zombies. The park had several programs and nature walks going that weekend. A group of birdwatchers came through while we were going through our warmups, and I think it was entirely possible that we may have gotten more attention than the red crested tree snipe or the horned gargle lark.

Once we warmed up, Coach John watched each of us run and gave tips on form. He diagnosed me as a heel striker. While this hurt my feelings, accepting reality is often the first step toward making progress. I had worked for months to improve my running form and move to a more mid-foot strike, and apparently failed miserably. To be fair and somewhat reasonable, he also showed us a way to get off your heels and experience what a mid-foot strike feels like.

He had us pair up and face each other. One person would lean forward from the ankles and the other would support them by placing their hands on their shoulders. On command the person holding would step to one side, and the person leaning would run to avoid falling. When I did this, I didn’t heel strike. Once you know what good form feels like you can repeat it. Later running the 5K route there at the park, I found that if I leaned forward until I was just a bit uncomfortable I didn’t heel strike.

There are a couple lessons here worth consideration. There are many aspects of this sport, like running form, that cannot be assessed by the athlete. While this is more obvious in swimming, it is also true for the bike and the run. This points out the benefits of group workouts, classes, workshops, coaches and trainers.

With practice you can move your bike through transition with one hand.

With practice you can move your bike through transition with one hand.

The Transition Zone

When it comes to transition I’m pretty sure that I’ve won my “Don’t be that Guy” award. Yeah I was the guy sitting on the five-gallon bucket putting on socks at a pool-swim sprint race. And yes early on I thought you needed nutrition for sprint races. On the positive side, I was never seen making a sandwich in T1 or T2 although this was likely due to a lack of available ingredients. Once I finally got the basics of transition down I never really spent much time improving and refining. Why? I’m pretty slow in all three sports so time saved in transition didn’t seem all that important. Yes I realize that I just took a side trip into bizarro logic land and stayed for a self-guided tour.

Meanwhile back in reality, the secret to transition is having a good plan and practice. Let me share something here that my PTA instructor taught me. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. You shouldn’t just do a quick walk through. You should actually practice your transitions in something close to race conditions. Also let’s not wait until the weekend before the event to start. Let’s look at a few highlights from the clinic.

You should arrive early to your event. Ideally you want to be there when transition opens for setup. If this is before sunrise bring a headlamp. Set up your bike and gear the way you practiced, taking care not to take up too much space. Send your significant other back to the car for the item you forgot. Do not pump your tires to max pressure, especially if it is going to be a hot day. Send your significant other back to the car for the other item you forgot. Vow to make a checklist next time.

Thoughts for T1: Make sure that you bike is in a gear appropriate for the terrain. If you wear socks, roll them up. If you haven’t practiced putting on socks with wet feet, do it now. I’ll wait. Sorry didn’t realize that you were at work. Helmet on before unracking bike. Congratulate yourself for putting Body Glide inside the back your bike shoes for easy entry. If there is a big crowd at the mount line realize that you can run past and mount in the clear. You just can’t mount before the mount line.

Thoughts for T2: Rack the bike before taking off your helmet. Change shoes. Elastic laces make it much easier. Congratulate yourself for putting Body Glide inside the back your running shoes for easy entry. Grab your race belt with number attached and hat. Scram. You can put those on while running. Think about how glad you are that you did those brick workouts.

Coach John demonstrates bike shoe - rubber band technique.

Coach John demonstrates bike shoe – rubber band technique.

TRX: Combining Strength and Core

The segment on functional training with the TRX suspension system for a combined strength and core workout, did not initially interest me all that much. We were introduced to TRX on one of the basketball courts at the Wellness Center, in Johnson City. After doing a few exercises like rows, squats, single-leg squats, and planks I began to understand just how much core work the system can deliver. Coach John demonstrated how to do burpees with TRX. I did not attempt this exercise. The face-plant potential was just too great. A couple of days after the clinic, I found myself on Amazon looking at TRX reviews. Suspension training may have a place in my routine after all.

Triathlon Community

As I left the weekend clinic I had the same two thoughts that occurred to me at the last clinic. First, I couldn’t believe how much information I had picked up in a sport that I’ve been involved in for years. Second, I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to hang out with other triathletes. Watching and encouraging new triathletes just starting this insanity also a blast. I need to get out more, and so do you. Stumble on.

Links:

Triathlon and Swimming Coach, John Hanna

http://www.e3tri.com/

Bob Seebohar

http://bobseebohar.blogspot.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Seebohar/e/B00287PB6Q

TRX

http://www.trxtraining.com/

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Greenville, SC, with my wife and daughter (Team Al) for the 2nd annual St. Paddy’s Day Dash & Bash 5K and 10K. There is nothing like starting off your running season with a St. Paddy’s day event. As I lined up at the 5K start on this sunny Spring day I plotted my strategy: slide past the girl wearing the viking helmet, get in front of the guys in the tutus, watch out for the masked woman wearing a cape and try to keep the man in the Gumby costume in sight. It was that kind of race. It was my kind of race.

Bash & Dash fans at Fluor Field.

Bash & Dash fans at Fluor Field.

Milling about the starting line warming up I had a zen moment. I jogged past a man walking with his daughter. She looked about nine years old to me. I heard him say, “You want to try and run the whole way?” She said, “sure.” Then a few minutes later as I was stretching at a lamppost I heard a group of 20-something couples greeting each other. One woman asked the other, “you going to try and run the whole race?” The reply was, “I don’t know.” Guess some things really don’t change.

On a more serious note, I’ve learned to approach every event with several goals. I find this approach good for my mental health. You almost always accomplish several goals. You feel better about any goals you can’t quite nail this time around. You get a better feel for the range of your accomplishments. This is especially helpful if you like me sometimes get all up in your sport and set unrealistic goals.

Mandatory Goals: Make it to the start line. Sometimes the hardest and almost always the most decisive goal. Avoided being airlifted out to a hospital. This goal is heavily endorsed by management also known as my long-suffering wife.

Performance Goals: Stay in heart rate zone two for most if not all of the race. It’s early in the season and I need to look at this race as a training run. I’m allowed to knock on the door of zone three but not to kick it in. The minor modification to this goal is finish line. I get a little squirrely (mildly insane) when the finish line comes into view. For some reason, the difference between finishing 949th or 950th actually matters at that point.

Unrealistic Goal: The goal that eluded me since I got up off the couch in 2009: finish a 5K under 30 minutes. Since it conflicts with just about every other goal for this race it is not really in contention here. But the sub-30 minute 5K is pretty and shiny and will someday be mine, insert maniacal laughter here.

Runners about to cross the finish line at home plate.

Runners about to cross the finish line at home plate.

The Dash & Bash 5K course is basically a lollipop with a curlicue at the bottom of the stick through downtown Greenville. The curlicue is necessary because the route goes around Fluor Field, then into the stadium, around the warning track to the finish line at home plate. Pretty cool. There are three significant climbs with longest being between mile two and mile three. We were lucky to have an amazing clear and cool spring day for this exercise in dressing inappropriately while exercising.

Running a 5K while trying to stay in zone 2 was an education. I had to slow to a walk several times on hills to lower my heart rate. This hurt my feelings more than a little. My new fascination with heart rate zones comes from reading Total Heart Rate Training by Joe Friel. It turns out that most self-coached endurance athletes train too hard too often. Talk about counterintuitive.

As I understand it, you want to train in zone 2 and zone 4 and avoid zone 3 as much as possible. The trick I’m told is to keep the easy workouts easy and make the hard workouts hard. Really it is about matching workout and recovery and maintaining an appropriate level of exercise stress throughout the training cycle. If it all blends together into a hairball progress will come to a standstill. I’ll have a review of Friel’s book once I finish reading it.

 

He's Gumby, darn it!

He’s Gumby, darn it!

So I’m running through downtown Greenville trying to have a good time, run the best race I can and not sabotage my training all at the same time. Not only do I have to slow or walk on hills but I have to let other people pass me. Granted people pass me all the time so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I guess it’s all about how fast you think you are or how fast you think you should be. If someone older or larger or less coordinated than you goes bopping past, you want to pick up the pace. You just know you should be able to beat them to the finish line.

I was passed by older runners, kids, parents running with kids, women pushing strollers. I lost track of Gumby and don’t know but suspect he finished ahead of me.

Late in the race coming back up Main Street, passing the night spots and restaurants with Fluor Field almost in sight I was passed by a three-toed sloth. He or she was wearing a Greenville Zoo t-shirt and making good time. I have no idea if he was out on a day pass or just visiting relatives in the area. I thought the green feather boa was a bit much but hey it’s St. Paddy’s. World’s slowest land mammal my sweet aunt Fanny.

 

It was a beautiful day and a well-organized race for good causes. The Dash & Bash gave me a chance to get out there and kickstart my racing season. It was joyous to be out pounding the pavement with several hundred other runners and a great beginning to what I hope will be a good year of endurance sports fun.

I did pretty well on most of my goals. My average heart rate for the race was 131. I did bolt for the finish line giving me a peak heart rate of 154. That’s pretty good for me I have hit 170+ bpm crossing some finish lines. Early on I just pushed too hard. I had something to prove and didn’t realize just how much I was setting myself back. From now on we train to go forward, boys and girls, not backward.

After the race I found the local Subway and got a steak, egg and cheese flatbread. My wife was still working as a race volunteer and my daughter was in the hotel room doing homework so I had some time on my own. I walked over to Falls Park on the Reedy, and checked out the Liberty Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that crosses the river. I sat in a small amphitheater, eating my sandwich and watched a young woman do impossible things with a hula hoop. A young man walked up to her and asked if he could video her. She said sure. I sat there thinking about how much life and technology has changed in the 50 or so years I’ve been stumbling around. I also wondered if anything could be better than sitting in a park on the warm spring day eating breakfast after a race.

This was my first trip to Greenville in many years. I used to go there all the time a million years ago when I wrote about the textile industry. I have to say that I was surprised at just how impressed I was with the city. Dogs and bicycles were everywhere. We had absolutely no trouble finding MSG-free restaurants. We even found a barbeque restaurant that was MSG-free. The food was fabulous. The people were friendly. The shops were full of wonderful, beautiful things that I want but don’t really need. It was a beautiful weekend after what seemed like a long cold winter indeed.