Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Xmas City Classic 5 Miler

As I have done every year for more than a decade, on December 8 I ran the Xmas City Classic 5 Miler right here in Bethlehem, PA. Most years this is an end of the year fun run that matters little. I wouldn't even call it a "C" race ... it's more like an excuse to go out to breakfast with friends (not that we need an excuse). Last year I paced a friend to a PR. This year, after a DNF at my last race of the year, I was looking to see what I could do.

Going in I decided to run hard, but smart, and see what I had. If the hamstring issue that caused the DNF was even remotely an issue I would back off and call it a day. After five weeks of very little running I had no idea what to expect.

About five minutes after the 5k race started the gun went off for the 5 mile race. At a smaller race I normally start right at the front. Today, for some reason, me and The Mayor started back a bit. It didn't make much of a time difference, but it did make things a bit more congested for the first half mile. This is compounded at this race due to two turns in the first 1/4 mile.

Approximately 3/4 of a mile in we turn off of Church Street onto Main Street and are greeted with a nice little climb. Remembering that I want to play it smart and not blow up, I backed off a notch, hitting the mile mark in a still fast for me 6:11. The road turned down and then flat for about two miles before an incline up to the New Street Bridge. I spent these miles slowly passing people and trying to maintain a steady, maintainable hard pace. At the turnaround on Sand Island I passed a few people I knew - including Kate and The Mayor - who all looked better than I was feeling. The real work was ahead of us and I was unsure of how I would manage the hills. Fortunately, I had a rabbit in front of me.

Seems that every year I run this race I am around one of the local stud female runners. And there she was in front of me as we hit the hill up to the bridge. While she didn't comeback at me she wasn't increasing her lead either. With the field spread out, it was nice to have someone close enough to keep me focused. We ran over and back with the female stud 10 seconds in front.

After the bridge we hit "the hill" ... formerly called Center Street. Once the road turned up I definitely slowed down a bit, but I wasn't losing ground to the female stud. Somehow my legs were still ok. When we turned back onto Church Street I surged a bit and caught up to her, we spoke a bit, and then I had enough of a kick to finish just ahead of her on the day. A few minutes later The Mayor was through the finishers shoot.

After a few minutes we went back out to find The Queen who was also racing. Much to our surprise, we found her real quick as she raced in for a 47:25 finish and a 4+ minute PR to boot!!! And she looked good doing it. As for me, I finished in 32:33 for25th place overall, 3rd in AG40-44, and a happy camper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December Swim Challenge

December has traditionally been a transition month for me. It is the time when I start to get back into a semi-regular training schedule, but at low intensity and duration. Over the month training will get more regular ... less semi ... and motivation to start racing again starts to come around. There is only  one December rule - never run in a cold rain.

This year I have decided to change things up a bit. Back in February I helped Steve with a big swim month. 24/7 Fitness runs a swim challenge every year and he wanted to get in 100k. While I didn't swim it all with him, he reached his goal and then some.

The past few years I have used the off season to work on my swim. Before dedicating a part of my winter to swim fitness I was very much a middle of the pack swimmer. At masters swim I was a slow lane swimmer. When I said "I swim enough to get onto my bike" it was the truth. But putting it the time, learning some technique, moving into a faster lane, doing some sets where I saw stars, has paid off.

In 2012 I was always in the main pack or front pack of the swim. Just as important, when I came out of the swim I was fresh and ready to go. All the training really paid off in September when, at Augusta 70.3, I swam over my head and had one of the best swim splits of the day. Honestly don't know how that happened, but I know it would have been an impossibility without the early season swim focus.

For December, I have committed to getting some focus in the pool with a big month. The challenge is to swim 65,000 yards this month. The plan is to swim 4x/week for a total of 17 swim sessions during the month (4 weeks + new years eve). I will have to average 3830 yards per swim. The yardage will build over the month due to a few months of much lower swim volume. I expect to build on this in January and February.

The December Swim Challenge should help me get better in the pool, which should translate into faster triathlon swim times. I feel I can get to another level, with no expectation to ever keep up with the best "real" swimmers. Reality is what it is. Sure, I learned how to swim when I was five, but I never was a swimmer. The lessons I received at Lake Carasaljo were about knowing how to swim, not swim fast or even particularly straight.

Train hard. Stay focused.