Monday, October 18, 2010

Week Five: I'm a runner (again)

This week my workout schedule was still messed up and also I did quite a bit of strength training, more than I really intended to. I ended up rather sore at mid-week and ended up taking Thurs. and Friday off, both to get un-sore and to drive down to San Diego for a big triathlon-related weekend.

On Saturday I ended up doing two strength workouts, not really on purpose, but I went to the Boot Camp at the GOTRIbal Conference and Retreat first thing in the morning and then attended a "Strength Training at Home" talk at the conference that turned out to be more doing than listening.

I was a bit worried that between four strength training workouts in one week, plus the run and swim clinic, that I'd be too sore to race well on Sunday. I did have times during the bike when I asked my legs to give me more and they just couldn't. I still PRed the bike course though. In spite of both rain and wind. This was actually the most wind I've had in a race (though not in a workout) and the only time I raced in the rain.

I also attended a talk on ART (Active Release Technique) and was impressed enough that I asked the presenter if he'd work on me a bit. I explained all my issues and he worked on my calf and my hips. In my bad calf he found a knot, not where my original injury or my current pain is but across from the spot where the pain is. This explains a lot, in my opinion, including why I injured myself in the spot two weeks ago. He also noted that my right hip is not as flexible as my left. Both my hips are way more flexible than your average triathlete's but compared to the left, my right is tight.

He worked both areas and I felt so much better.

The next day in my race, when I headed out to the run course, I realized that I had left my Garmin on the bike. So I had no idea when three minutes were up and it was time to run. I decided to just run until I couldn't any more. As a result, I ran the entire 5K! I did start to get pain at about mile 2. As usual when I run, the pain is around my knees more than my calf and I got these little sharp jolts of pain in my knee whenever I ran over a certain pace. What that pace was, I had no idea, of course, but whatever it was, I backed off from it. I thought about walking the aid station, but I really hate to stop once I'm in a groove, so I didn't.

At the end, I still had a lot of kick left so I actually sprinted across the finish line! I felt so good at that point that I would have gone out and biked 40 miles but (a) it was still raining and (b) I knew that would be stupid as my legs really needed some rest.

In the end, once they posted the splits, it turned out I had run at an 8:47 pace on average. To give some perspective: that's faster than I've ever raced that distance before and only 7 seconds per mile slower than my best 5K time trial. Not only did I run the entire 5K -- more distance than I've run at one time since The Injury -- and not only did I PR the distance, but I also remembered what I love about running. The feeling I get when I push through that time at the start when your body just doesn't want to run until I get into the groove and feel like a runner is indescribable.

I'm a big believer in strength training to improve performance in endurance events. I know there is a school of thought that, if you have room in your schedule for another workout, that you'd be better off doing another bike, swim or run. But I find having a couple of strength workouts a week makes a big difference in my speed in all three sports. So it's kind of like a three-for.

And whenever I doubt the wisdom of training that way, I have an experience like I did on Sunday where I go faster than I've ever gone before very soon after re-starting or upping a strength program.

To be fair, I am sure the mini-ART session I had at the conference was why I was able to run the whole 5K and not the strength training. But I credit the strength training for my PR.

As for the rest of the race, I felt like I had a good swim, but it turned out not to be a PR. Either I'm slower in salt water or the course was long. Last year, the course felt long. This year, I've been doing so many long distance swims that when I got to the red buoy that marks the last turn to the finish, I was surprised. I also passed a fair number of people, which is not my usual experience with the swim. I didn't notice getting passed by too many in the first half of the swim (though based on the times, I must have) and about half way to the finish, I started passing people with green caps from the wave ahead and also some pink (two waves ahead) and even one yellow (three waves ahead). So I thought I was faster than I was.

My T1 felt sluggish too, like I was moving in slow motion. My time was a PR but so many in my age group were faster -- which is not normal for me -- I'm usually up with the fast racers when it comes to transitions, that I think it was just a fast transition set up (minimal distances to cover).

Once I got out on the bike, I was just killing it though. I passed a TON of people on the bike, with only one person from my wave passing me. Even with my dead legs, with the wind and the rain, I was flying. I really appreciated the aero bars with the wind, by the way. I'm so glad I made the jump to aero bars after my first bad experience with them.

As for the run, I expected to suck due to the injury, but I was passing people and was only passed by four in my wave. I didn't have my watch and forgot to check out the race clock so I asked someone the time. They said it was 9:40, which means I had completed the race in 1:20-ish. I was a bit disappointed because I knew I'd need to be faster than that to get on the podium. But when I was finally able to get into transition and fetched my watch, it turned out our wave left at 7:25, not the scheduled 7:21. I was so excited!

Until they announced the third place time in my age group and it was clear I hadn't made it. When I got online and was able to look up my times, I was even more disappointed. I hadn't finished anywhere near that fast after all. Now my time was a PR for the Sprint distance and, as mentioned, I PRed every individual section except the swim, but I was still disappointed for a while. I know I am capable of racing much faster than this. However, one of my goals this month was to completely enjoy this race and not get caught up in the "can I get on the podium" and "will I make my time goals" stress that had gotten to me a few times this season. Therefore, I have decided to concentrate on how much fun I had during the actual race and on my PRs and let the rest go.

Swim: 17:17              23th in Age Group
T1: 2:10                     13th
Bike: 40:43                22nd
T2: 1:20                     16th
Run: 27:14                 24th
Total: 1:28:42            22/45 Age group, 210/539 Overall
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