Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part III: The Ride

When I got up Sunday morning, I felt pretty good. My legs were a little shaky, but considering I had just run farther than I had ever in my life only the day before, I was feeling alright.

The weather report was not promising for the ride. They were calling for a high of 55 degrees with intermittent rain throughout the morning.

Katie and the kids came outside to see me off.

Considering my physical condition and the weather outlook, I decided to take a laid back approach to the ride. I had initially intended to ride 46 miles, but if it really started to rain or my legs were not feeling up to it, I would just cut it short. I also promised myself I was not going to push real hard. I wanted to keep my pace about 15 mph.

From the start, you could tell that the weather was keeping some folks away. The registration tent was nearly vacant and there were very few riders out on the course. A couple of miles into the ride, a father/daughter team from Mahomet came riding up. They were nice and we rode together to the first rest area. We talked about the route (I had probably ridden this stretch 10 times), and checked out each others gear. They were riding hybrids, so I wasn't too envious, but they did have GPS computers on their rides. I thought that was pretty cool, but when they told me how much they cost, I knew it was only a pipe dream.

When we reached the first rest stop, I got off to use the potty and get something to eat; the couple kept going. I evaluated how I was feeling and to tell you the truth I was feeling great. My legs had loosened up and I figured the food would keep my energy up.

When I got out on the road again, I took a turn towards the east, and the wind was picking up. I quickly caught up with the couple form Mahomet, who were wearing rain jackets. The wind was really slowing them down, as it caught their jackets like a parachute. When we reached the first cutoff for the 16 mile ride I knew I had more in me. The couple stuck it out for another 2 miles or so then called it a day. It had started to sprinkle a little and I think the daughter was not prepared for the ride.

So I continued to ride alone for the next 5 miles or so. I ate a kashi bar and drank a little Gatorade. I eventually caught u with an older gentleman that was taking a very leisurely ride. we chatted a bit and I continued on. Very soon i came to a Y in in the road, and the sign the riding club put up said to go right, but the painted arrow int eh road said to go left. A kid in one of the yards said the a couple riders had just gone left. I was very unsure if that was correct, but i went with it any way. Soon I passed another rider that looked like they had packed for a weekend trip. She had a saddle bag the size of a carry on tied to her bike and all kinds of "stuff" clipped on to her handle bars. she seemed overly prepared, but suddenly I began to think maybe I was under-prepared. I passed by her with a "Hello" and kept on riding.

When I came to the next town, I knew I had taken a wrong turn (darn kid was probably back in his yard laughing at me). No longer were there any signs about which direction to go, and I was coming up on a pretty busy state highway. I took out the map and got oriented; I waited for the rider that I just passed, in case she did not know her way either. We got back on the right track and eventually I left her pretty far behind.

I had been maintaining a pretty steady 15 mph, inching closer to 16 every so often. I did notice that it had been 20 miles since the last rest stop and I needed to pee. Finally, at mile 30 I reached the next stop. I used the potty again, and ate another banana and bag of trail mix. I refilled my water bottles, stretched my legs and was ready to go.

I only had 16 miles left and physically I was feeling great. So I decided to push it a little bit for the last leg. And when I say a little bit, I mean I buried the needle. I rode as hard and as fast as I could go. The rain began to pick up a little, so I was glad I was nearly done.

When I finally finished, I was very pleased. I had ridden 46 miles in a little under 3 hours. Overall there was nothing really that exciting about the ride, but it was fun.

And for the weekend, I could not have been happier. I completed my goals, in times that I was very comfortable with, and I had a lot of fun doing it. For the next few weeks I will probably stop running and focus solely on riding, since the 175 mile MS bike ride is less than a month away.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part II: The Run

I had planned to get up at 5:00am on the morning of the race, but I was so nervous about the race that I finally just got out of bed at 4:00am, before my stirring woke up Katie. I could not get the thoughts of not finishing out of my mind.

I spent the extra time watching SportsCenter and doing some extra stretching. I spent at least 30 minutes stretching and another 15 minutes rolling around on the IT roller. I then had a good healthy breakfast with yogurt, granola, a banana, and some turkey sausage. I ate around 5:00am to give my nervous belly some time to digest. Katie got up about 5:30am, and after she got ready we began stirring the children. Before the babysitter arrived, the kids wanted to do some extra stretching with Mommy and Daddy.
Then Katie and I got ready to head over to the start line. Here's the happy couple!

We walked ten minutes up the road to the starting area. I did a few warm up exercises and peed before we lined up. I am very proud of our little community; there were over 600 participants between the 5k and 10k races. We knew a few others racing that day. Our next door neighbor D was running the 5k, as was my wife. I really started to second guess my decision to run the 10k. The idea of having this thing done and over with as quick as possible sounded nice.

Katie and I walked over to the start line. We put ourselves in the middle of the pack, and started getting our iPods ready. Suddenly, Katie was having trouble finding the correct spot in her playlist and we panicked. As the starter was giving his last minute instructions, Katie and I were struggling to get her iPod working correctly. Finally she said, "Forget it!" and the starting cannon shot off. The start of any race from the middle of the pack is somewhat anti-climactic. The cannon has gone off and the folks in front of us slowly begin to move forward. After a couple of yards, I realized that I was in the wrong section of the pack. The pace was excruciatingly slow and I had way too much nervous energy to be sitting in this crowd. I said to Katie, "I love you, but I gotta get out of here!" And with that I hit the side of the road and quickly worked my way up the pack to a more comfortable pace.

I wasn't 200 yards into the race before I realized that my leg felt great! And for the first couple of miles I was Mr. Friendly. I thanked every single volunteer I passed for helping out, I was thanking every cop for being there, and I was waving to my throngs of adoring fans (my kids and a couple of neighbors). Here I am telling my kids I love them.

And I realized something during those first few miles: Races are kinda fun. At least way better than running at five in the morning, in the dark, by yourself. I was doing great hitting my mileage goals, just about 7:30 per mile. As I reached the turn off point for the 10k, I was wondering how many of the people in front of me were running the 10k versus the 5k. I knew there were only like 120 runners signed up for the 10k, and I could see probably 20 people in front of me. So I figured maybe a handful would be turning right and continuing on the 10k route. Wrong! Probably 15 people turned off for the 10k. I know I should only be racing against myself, but I immediately thought, "That's 15 people I am already losing to!" As I turned the corner myself and hit the 3 mile mark, a lot of the fun went right out of me. Suddenly, the crowds on the streets disappeared and I knew I was behind quite a few other runners. Fortunately, the leg continued to feel great!

I got into a pack of other runners moving at about the same pace. We would trade off leads, sort of drafting off one another, but there was one girl in particular that did not want to be in the group. I'll call her Laimbeer, because with the way she was throwing her elbows around she reminded me of Bill Laimbeer (I also questioned if it was appropriate to be writing this blog in my head while I am still running the race). It seemed like every time somebody would get close to passing Laimbeer, she would start grunting loudly and her elbow swinging became more vigorous. And as you can tell from my less-than spectacular depiction, that my Mr. Friendly attitude was turning not so friendly; it was even difficult to turn on the charm for the volunteers. Eventually, the pack that I was running with got passed Laimbeer, but our pack began to dwindle as well. By mile 4 it was just me and another girl, Pinky (she was wearing a bright pink shirt). Pinky and I had a pretty good rhythm going, but I noticed at mile 5 my pace had slowed a bit.

I was starting to really feel the lack of training runs, and my legs didn't hurt, I couldn't feel them at all. Completely numb, and I thought, "I'm glad my legs know what the hell they are doing?!" When we hit the home stretch of the race, I was pretty well spent, and the last quarter mile is completely uphill. Pinky started to pull away from me, but there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, I got to where I could see the finish line, and all I could think about was just getting to it. I saw Katie and D cheering at the last turn, and D says, "Just turn the corner and you are there!" I told him later that was about all I could think about, "You're there! (Just don't die)" I was so gassed I got passed in the last 100 yards by somebody that I hadn't seen in 2 miles. But when I hit the finish line I felt really good, 6.2 miles in 47:49.6. Works out to be 7:42 per mile. That's a little more than my original goal (7:30 per mile), but considering some of the obstacles I had faced, I certainly feel great about it.

As soon as I finished some volunteers were asking to have my timing chip. I was so beat, I had to ask them to wait a minute while I recovered. Katie and I got some water and food and waited for some of the results to post. Katie had a great 5k herself, 5k in 29:59, and D finished his 5k in 21:39. In the end, I finished 30 out 134 runners, and 3rd in my age group. Here's the trophy:

Mission accomplished. Eat some food, get some, rest, because I have 46 miles to ride tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part I: The Injury

In my last post, I talked about giving the leg some rest and feeling good with my first 5k in several days. Then Wednesday I biked 30 miles, Thursday I ran 4.5 miles, and Friday I biked 43 miles. When I got up on Saturday for my last long run before the race, my legs felt tight and I stretched for a good 30 minutes. I was scheduled to run 6 miles. It was cool outside that morning, so I threw on some extra layers to keep my legs warm. Nothing mattered. I hit the road and at first my legs just felt tired, but as I continued my left leg began to really tighten up. I stopped just after I finished my first mile to do some extra stretching. But when I continued, the leg was still really tight. Finally, at the 2 mile mark, the leg felt bad enough that I was noticeably limping, and rather than risking another injury from bad form, I just started walking.

On the walk home, I felt demoralized, but more than that I began to worry if I would be able to finish the 10k race the next Saturday. I had not ran further than 5.5 miles and that was back in April. I was determined that I had to get another long run in. So I decided to rest for the remainder of Saturday, on Sunday I did some goood stretching and I would try again on Monday.

When I got up on Monday, I was not feeling good. While I was stretching, I could tell my leg was really tight, and nothing I did seemed to get to it. The IT Band had gotten so tight near the top that it felt like I had fallen right on the point of my hip; it was sore to the touch. After stretching for what seemed like forever, I went outside. I knew on my first step that things were not right. My leg was so tight that I was already limping, and I had not gone 100 yards. I started to get panicked thinking about what I should do. I thought about trying to push through it, I thought about turning around and walking home, and I thought about what the hell I was going to do if I couldn't run next Saturday. I got so panicked that my breathing went haywire, and everything fell apart. So I stopped and walked. I walked for another 100 yards, then tried to run at a much slower pace. As I shuffled my way down the road, I considered if I could run a 10k at this speed. I certainly did not want to but, if that is what it would take to complete the run, so be it. Finally even shuffling my way down the road wasn't working. My leg continued to tighten up and even started cramping. I finally decided to turn around and walk home.

On the way home, I formulated my new race week plan, and in the end, I decided to do nothing. No running, no biking, and very little walking. I would stretch every single morning and night, and I would pray to God that I would be able to run more than a few feet on Saturday.

Have I mentioned that I have the best wife in the world?

I limped through the day on Monday and Tuesday. My hip still felt like I had fallen on it, and my worries persisted. When I got home my beautiful wife brought me a present. She had been so concerned about my leg that she did some research with her teacher/runner friends, and bought me an IT roller. Actually she was so concerned that she bought two, so I could do a little comparison shopping. My wife is wonderful. For those that do not know, an IT roller is a very hard foam cylinder. You put the cylinder on the ground, then you lay on your side on top of the roller, and just roll back and forth over the hip/thigh/knee area.

I had heard that the experience can be painful at first, but as a guy I figured "Really, how hard can this be?" (It's a foam roller, for gosh sakes) Holy shit, it was some of the most pain that I have been in recently (and I recently had a vasectomy). I did not cry or scream out or anything like that, but I wanted to. After a couple of days of use the pain was not as intense, but it was still painful.

So for the entire week (or more) before my big race weekend, I did almost nothing. I stretched, I did my IT roller, and tried to eat a little healthier (only a couple of Oreos). And I was nervous as hell about being able to do what I had set out to do.

To be continued...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get On Your Bike and Ride!

I am truly sorry that it has been so long since I last posted. Life has gotten extremely busy the last couple of weeks. Injuries, training, work, and kids can make it difficult to get one's blogging done. Whodda thunk it?!

I will have a complete summary of my final week of training, the 10k, and 46mi bike ride coming soon, but before that I have a very important subject to talk about.May is National Bike Month, and this week is National Bike to Work Week. I would encourage everyone, as much as is possible given distance, weather, etc., to bike to their respective jobs. If you can't bike to work, go for a ride in the evenings with a special friend or by yourself. Go for a ride in a park or through the city. Whatever you do just get out and ride; you will never believe how great it can feel.

If you are interested, check out the League of American Bicyclists website; it's full of great information. If your bike has fallen into disrepair, take it to your local bike shop. For a reasonable fee they can get most bikes up and moving again.

This is the year, now is the time, to get back on your bike and go for a ride! Have fun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again!

After my little injury last Thursday, I had decided to take a little bit of a break to give my legs some much needed rest. Finally, today I decided to get back out there and test the waters. My leg had been feeling pretty good, and I have been stretching regularly to try and keep limber. I got up a couple of minutes early this morning to give myself ample time to stretch and warm up. When I did finally get outside, I was a little nervous about how I would do. I had tried the leg out last Saturday and was only able to run about 2 miles before my leg tightened up and I started to get pains in other areas, probably because I had changed my form to favor the bad leg. When I hit the road this morning, I told myself to take it easy and listen to my body. In the first half mile, the leg was kind of tight but began to loosen up. My breathing felt good and I thought the pace was working out. When I checked my watch, it read 3:40. I thought to myself, "That's pretty good." I was actually slightly ahead of my normal pace.

As I got into the second half mile, I tried to stick with a good form and really concentrate on my length of stride; the leg was feeling pretty good. When I hit the first mile I was shocked, 7:20. I was ahead of my normal pace and I felt like I was taking it pretty easy.

Over the next mile there were a couple of little twinges in my leg. I thought about calling it a day, but the feelings never lasted and I started thinking about really how little time I have left before the race, 11 days. I needed to get out and run a few good distances before the race. So I stuck with it, and kept thinking about good form. I also tried to find a good line to run on. One of the causes of IT band syndrome is running on pitched surfaces, and in this town that is about all we have. The roads have a pretty severe crown and each side really falls off to the curb. There is usually a relatively flat surface about 2 feet to each side of center; sometimes it shifts. So I worked really hard to find a good flat surface to run on. When I hit the end of the second mile I was shocked, 14:30. I was 30 seconds ahead of my normal pace and feeling great.

I don't even really remember much of the rest of my run. My mind started to do the math. How fast was I going? At that rate what should my time be? What is my best 5k time? What kind of time would I have in the 10k at this pace? To be honest, I don't think I was able to calculate a single one of these answers, but I knew I was really moving. I tried to give it a little extra over the last 300 yards, but there wasn't much left in the tank. However, when I crossed the finish line I was pretty excited, 22:40. I am pretty sure that is my best 5k time ever.

And the leg still feels great. I will continue to stretch this morning, and probably get back on the bike tomorrow. The tough part is going to be rearranging my schedule to accommodate for the time off over the past couple of days. But I am sure I can figure it out. The best part about all of this is that just getting out and running this morning has really picked up my spirits today. I am sure it has something to do with endorphins, but some of this good mood can be attributed to the feeling of getting knocked down, but having the drive to get back up and get moving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What a May Day!

I have been taking it easy; sort of nursing the leg along and giving it a good break, so hopefully I will feel a little better as we come into race week. I was however complete amazed at the wonderful weekend that I had.

On May 1, 2010, I was filled with inspiration. There were so many events going on I could hardly keep myself together.

On Saturday, May 1 was the second annual Illinois Marathon. Katie, the kids, and I headed into Champaign to sit on a corner near mile 17 of the marathon and root on a few of the runners. And I have got to tell you it was such a great experience. When we got there at 9:30am many of the faster runners had already passed, but there were still hundreds more to see. We began cheering and encouraging the runners to "keep it up" or "you are doing great". I had hoped to see a Team_Cubicle shirt, but apparently the shirts did not arrive in time for the race. Dan and his team did have a great race, and I am sure that I unknowingly cheered one of them on their way. Katie and I did see a couple of people that we knew. Katie's college friend, Courtney, was running the full marathon with her sister, and I saw a high school football coach, Coach Willy, running in a relay with his family. Katie and I took the kids for little runs up and down the sidewalk. the kids would cheer for a particular runner and every so often one of them would smile or wave back. I think the kids really got a kick out of it. The whole time I was watching, I began thinking to myself that I could run a marathon. I know it seems ridiculous, since I am challenge by a relatively short 10k, but when you are there and watching the event, you really get swept up into it. Katie did bring me back down to reality and on the way home we agreed to run as part of a relay team in next year's Illinois marathon. So if anyone is looking to run a few miles with Team Fulton, please let us know.

When we finally got home, I raced to the computer to check how Fatty was doing in his first Ironman triathlon. I have to compliment Ironman for their website; if you have any information on an individual in one of their races, you can easily check on that racer's progress. Immediately, I noticed Fatty had blown away his swim goal of 2 hours, and he was really moving fast on the bike portion of the race. I checked on his progress periodically and I watched a few of the finishers cross the line on the live video feed, and I must tell you again, these athletes are soooo inspiring. It's almost enough to make me learn how to swim.

I have not checked on his progress but my hero, Jeff, and his wife were supposed to participate in a charity walk to benefit pancreatic cancer. Knowing them they probably ran the darn thing.

When I sit back and think about all of this, I can't help but feel like the paradigm is shifting. People are really starting to care about their health and well-being. People are getting out and moving. Many of them are doing it in combination with charity fundraising. Hell, ABC is putting advertising dollars at risk to put Jamie Oliver on the TV to say "Stop eating that crap!" People are caring about themselves and others. In a world filled with so much pessimism and pain, all of this work is a real antidote, and just another reason for me to be so inspired.

May Day is often associated strongly as a socialist celebration; a call for unity amongst the workers of the world. On this May Day 2010, I believe that it was a call for the people of the world to unite for a healthier, happier world.