Monday, January 15, 2007

Playing the Ambassador

Last week I had a very pleasant triathlon-related experience that was completely unexpected. I work in a very large Fortune 500 company. The nature of my current job assignment allows me to interact with lots of different people from around the company. I’ve recently had reason to interact with two young men (both in mid-20s) on two completely separate projects. One of them had heard that I am an avid cyclist and participate in triathlons and, during a time when we were together on project work last week, mentioned to me that he had participated in his first tri last summer and was anxious to do more.

I always get very excited whenever someone wants to discuss this subject, especially someone who wants to get below the surface level of “gee, how can you possibly run after riding that much??!!” This young man was a Division I collegiate swimmer and also has a background in running. He told me that he had had to borrow a bike to participate in the race last summer and needed some advice about buying one. I was thrilled to be sought out in this way and very willing to pass on the myriad of little things that those of us who’ve been through a few seasons of triathlon can share with newbies.

I e-mailed him several links to sites that I thought would be helpful to him. About an hour after sending that e-mail, a really cool thing happened. My phone rang and it was another young man that I know from a completely separate area of my work. The first young man had forwarded him my e-mail (without knowing that I already knew him) and he had called to tell me that he also wants to start doing triathlons. How cool is that!! It’s like I’ve sort of become “the ambassador” of our sport within my company.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Being Nagged

POSTSCRIPT: This first paragraph is being written after the post below was completed, and because I just read an article on-line in the 1-12-07 New York Times titled “When It’s OK to Run Hurt”. Apparently there are those in the medical profession that are starting to realize that there are times when rest is not necessarily what an injury calls for.

Every article that I read in tri magazines and websites about dealing with injuries states that one should seek out medical advice and help - and back off on training - early on when one senses an injury starting to occur. While this seems like very practical advice, it would have been disastrous for me in terms of ever reaching my racing goals. I say this guardedly, and urge that common sense always prevail.

I started running on a daily basis when I was 21. I didn’t have any physical problems at all until my early 30s, at which point I began to have “nagging” sorts of issues. These nagging issues were things that came and went and, normally, were not severe enough to cause me to miss my daily runs. In the decade of my 40s (I just turned 49), I’ve had the same experience with a little higher frequency. I tend to have these nagging injuries much more frequently with running than with cycling (which I began in my mid-30s), and have never had any problems with swimming injuries. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t do any swimming volume to speak of until I started training for triathlons in 2003, so the cumulative wear-and-tear just hasn’t happened yet.

The other interesting aspect of this subject is the timing of these nagging injuries. They almost always seem to occur at critical times in my training cycle, and especially with marathon training. (I know that you may be thinking that I’m ramping up the volume too fast and that’s why they occur at these times, but I’ve studied my training log data and that’s not the case.) Well, wouldn’t you know that that’s exactly what I’m going through right now. I’m all signed up for the Boston Marathon. Already paid my entrance fee, have scheduled a vacation with my wife around the event, and have made my hotel and airline bookings. My “official” training for the event started at the beginning of the year. Last Saturday I did my weekly long run. About three hours after finishing, my right ankle began to hurt badly and I hobbled around for two days. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what I had done differently, or what had changed and might be causing this new problem. Nothing – there are no good reasons that I can come up with for this new issue. I’ve since done a couple of shorter runs with very minimal symptoms in that ankle. So, I’m hoping that this is just another of those weird things that will nag me for only a week or two and then disappear like the others before have done. It’s enough of a pattern that I probably shouldn’t be worried about it, but I always do – until they go away, which they always have.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Light Beams

This time of year I do a lot of running in the dark of the very early mornings. One of the nice aspects of training this early is that I don’t have to share the road with many cars. I know that I said below that I normally run on sidewalks, but I can’t do so in the dark without killing myself by tripping because they are uneven.

Speaking of headlights…… one of my real pet peeves is the fact that drivers don’t think that their high beams are blinding to runners!! Why is it that the same driver that will automatically dim his headlights for an on-coming car won’t even think about it for a runner?? And don’t tell me that it’s because he can’t see me. I wear a reflective vest that lights me up at least a half-block away.

I always wear a running cap when I run for several reasons. One of which is that the only solution I’ve found to blinding headlights is to be able to pull the brim of the hat down. Even pulling the brim down doesn’t completely solve the high-beam issue because the amount of light all of the sudden makes everything sort of black out. So the fact that your eyes had adjusted to the dark and you could see obstacles or holes in the road has just been wiped out by the on-coming klieg lights!

One time I got so mad that I stood in front of the car waving my arms trying to get the person to switch to low beams. He never did, so I stood in front of him and made him stop and politely asked him to “please lower the beams next time”. Probably not a smart thing to do, but my emotions got the better of me that time.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Technical Assistance Requested

In response to a comment to my last post, I would like to post an Excel spreadsheet on this blog site. If you know how to do this, or to post a spreadsheet somewhere else (please tell me where, and how) and make it available through a link in my blog, please leave me instructions for doing so. In addition to posting the plan I've developed for my own spring and early summer races, I'd like to post a pretty good training log that I've developed and think others may be interested in using. Thanks.

Merging Training Plans

I've always liked to take various training plans that I find in books, magazines and on-line and put them into my own template (usually in Excel) and then sort of customize them to my own needs. Yesterday I started the work of merging two very different plans into a single one.
I've never run the Boston Marathon before and, frankly was never that interested in doing so. However, some of my training buddies insisted that running Boston is something everyone must do at least once (along with the NYC marathon), so I decided to sign up for it this spring. The specific date this year is April 16th. I'm also committed to doing the New Jersey Devilman Half with a friend three weeks later, on May 6th.
What I started doing yesterday was merging the Half training plan from the latest issue of Triathlete (which looks pretty good despite the disparaging comment I made about it in my last post) with my own ramp-up schedule for Boston. What I'll probably end up doing is substituting my own weekly marathon long-run schedule in place of the weekly endurance run prescribed by the Triathlete plan. As I sit looking at this, it sure seems like a lot of work to be doing this early in the year!!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Why Saturdays are Mondays

I've never been one for making New Year's resolutions. I always figured that if I really wanted to do something, there was no need to wait till Jan 1st to get started. Nevertheless, the first week in January marks the beginning of my "official" training for 2007. That has less to do with the fact that it's the first week of the year than with the fact that 15 weeks till the Boston Marathon, which is my first race of the year. Those who've followed this blog (see below) know that I don't take a significant break in training at the end of the season but, instead, still maintain a fairly structured, albeit lessened, training regimen. Since the Philly marathon in mid-November, I've cut my running back to approx three 5 mile runs per week. This week that has started to change.
You would think that since today, Jan 1st, is a Monday, that today would be my first longer run. You would be wrong. I've always started my "training weeks" on Saturday, even though every race training plan I've ever seen in a magazine or on-line always shows training weeks as running from Monday through Sunday. My rationale for starting my training weeks on Saturday is that I usually use the weekend days for at least one of my long, endurance workouts. If something happens that causes me to miss one of these workouts, I still like to have the rest of the training week to try to make adjustments in order to get the workout in. If Saturday and Sunday are the last two days in your training week, you have no opportunity to "recover" a dropped workout from those two days. At any rate, my 2007 training year actually started on Saturday, December 30th. That's the day that I did a 20 mile bike ride followed by a 90 minute run. I was surprised at how sore the run made me, especially since I had kept running during the "off season." Oh well, the muscles will come around.
Speaking of magazine training plans, last night I was reading the Feb 2007 issue of Triathlete and was scrutinizing the Half-Ironman training plan by Matt Fitzgerald (starts on p 80). I'm always surprised by the volumes prescribed by these sorts of plans on the "endurance days". For example, the first few "endurance runs" in the plan are for 45 and 50 minutes (the volume for less serious triathletes is 30 and 35 minutes). These seem like very low volumes to me but, as stated below, I don't drop my off-season volumes as low as most others apparently do. Oh well, to each his own. I know that these plans work well for a lot of folks or they wouldn't be publishing them - so that's a good thing.
Happy New Year, and good luck with your 2007 training.