Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm Probably Crazy (Advice Needed)

Well, I just may have gone off the deep end with this one.  (This post may be a bit lengthy, but I really would appreciate your advice)  Remember the fun contest in which you helped me garner 3rd place?  Here's a reminder:

(Yup, still running at the speed of light)

Well, the prizes for getting 3rd place came this week.  One prize is a pair of sunglasses that are going to Katie.  The second prize is a tri suit from Sugoi like this one:

Now, you are probably saying: "Matt, you don't do triathlons.  What's up with that?"  To this I respond: "Ditto."

Next summer (2011), I had planned on changing up my training and doing some smaller races and incorporating a triathlon.  I would also forego a marathon in 2011.  But, now I have this new tri suit.

Well, after talking with my favorite triathlete (that would be Katie), I think I may have a new plan for this summer.  Katie has cajoled a bunch of people from here chemistry class to do a sprint triathlon in August.  I'm now trying to decide if this is a thing for me.  Here's where you get to help me decide.  Consider these bits of information:

  • I'm training for a marathon, and not just any marathon, but a sub-4 hour marathon.  This will be my "A Race" and I must not forget this.  Trying to take 50 minutes off my previous marathon time will not be easy, and I must be laser-focused on my training this summer.  (btw, I think the sub-4 hour goal is doable based on my current state of running).
  • My cross-training sucked last summer.  Really—I occasionally did a half-hearted bike ride on cross-training days, and went for morning walks in the last few weeks of training, but I most definitely did not cross-train.
  • I'm going to follow Higdon's Intermediate 2 plan this year (skipping over Intermediate 1), so it will be a considerably more difficult training program than last year (3 20 milers instead of the 1 last year).  Considering I already have a solid running base now, I'm not worried about stepping up to Inter. 2, but I just need to be aware that this is no walk in the park.
  • On the weekend of the possible triathlon, I'm scheduled for a 9 mile run at marathon pace on Saturday, followed by a 19 mile long run on Sunday.  The triathlon is on Saturday (if it were on Sunday, I wouldn't do it because the 19 miler is very important in building up to 20 miles the next week).  Higdon suggests a 10k race in place of the 9 mile, only if I'm able to run it under control (meaning: not at 10k pace, but at marathon pace).  The triathlon would replace this 9 miler.
  • Swimming is good for core strengthening.  I neglected my core last year, and I'm guessing that's why everything fell apart at mile 18: I didn't have the core strength to keep proper running form, so my form degraded and killed my quad.
  • I'm not a swimmer.  More accurately, I'm really not a swimmer.  I can swim, but I know absolutely nothing about how to do swim strokes.  I'm not worried about having the endurance to do a 600m open water swim (the running will give me the cardio base), but I am worried about being so inefficient as a swimmer that cardio endurance won't help.  (Edit: Discovered that the swim is actually 400m, not 600m)
  • I have a month before marathon training starts, so I can focus a lot on swimming in that time.
  • I'm not worried about cycling.  I have an old mountain bike, and I'm not going to be fast on it.  But, the bike ride is only 13 miles, so I'll be able to ride it without too much trouble.
  • I have a new tri suit.
So, here's what I plan to do in order to get ready for this tri:

  1. Get in the pool.  I need to make sure I'm comfortable enough with swimming to convince myself that I'll survive a 600m swim.  All I need to do is complete it—I'm not going for any records.
  2. Swim 2x a week in the month of May.  My focus will be entirely on form.  As I said, I'm not worried about the endurance (although I will make sure to swim at least the race distance a few times).
  3. Do cycling 2x a week.  I'm not going to remove any runs to do the cycling—I'll treat them as recovery rides in the evenings of hard run days.
  4. Swim 1-2x a week once marathon training begins.  I'll do it on my cross-training Mondays, and replace a Thursday recovery run every other week.
  5. Do the Tri.  Like I said, I'm replacing a 9 mile run at marathon pace.  I need to be super-disciplined to do the tri so the effort does not go beyond the 9 mile run pace run.  The tri will be done as an extension of my cross-training.
  6. Still do the 19 miler the day after the race.  (Higdon puts the long runs on the day after the hard run to make sure the legs are tired and that I don't run the long run too fast.)
  7. Probably the most important part of the plan: Never forget that I'm training for a sub-4 hour marathon.  If tri training gets in the way of marathon training, I need to drop it and focus on the running.  
To those of you who are runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes: is this crazy?  And, even if it is crazy, does my plan sound like a good plan?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do You Do Du Too?

(I really get a kick out of the title.  Ask Katie if you don't believe me)

So, coming up this weekend is something completely different.  Katie and I will be du-ing a duathlon.  What's a duathlon?  Well, try this on for size:

triathlon - swimming + more running = duathlon

Yup, it's a triathlon where the swimming leg is replaced by a running leg.  The race we're du-ing this Saturday is the Cannon Falls Duathlon in Cannon Falls, MN.  It is a 2 mile run, then a 14 mile bike, then a 3 mile run.

Of course, you may be asking: "But Matt, do you bike competitively?"  The short answer is "no".  The longer answer is "not yet".  This isn't a problem, though, because this weekend is the world debut of team:

Wait, This Isn't Badminton?

Yes, Katie and I will be du-ing this duathlon as a team!  I get to run and she gets to cycle (on her fancy new cycle—wouldn't if be cool if Katie had a new penny-farthing?).  I'm excited.  Katie's excited.  Since there aren't a whole lot of teams, we may even have a shot at placing!  Check out my blog this weekend for the skinny on how things went.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A BIG Thank You, and a Return From a Blogging Sabbatical

It's been a week or two since I last blogged, and a lot has happened since then.  First, though, I want to thank you for your help in the "Fashion Forward Your Fabulous Fool" contest.  I was holding on to second place, and in the last few hours, was passed.  BUT, I still got 3rd place!  I owe it to all of your votes!  So THANKS!

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

Last Friday-Saturday I made a quick trip to Valpo for the memorial service of a dear friend.  I had every intent of doing a fartlek on Saturday morning in Valpo, but the combination of a long drive (8 hours + Chicago) and getting into Valpo very late caused me to sleep in (I'm not complaining about the extra sleep…) and miss the fartlek.  So, I drove back on Saturday (8 hours again, and Chicago) and got in late.  Well, on Sunday, I decided to do the fartlek.

While doing it, I just didn't feel good.  It was probably because I was exhausted from the trip, but I just felt like crap.  To top it off, my left Achilles decided to act up on my way back.  I took Monday off of running, and went out on Tuesday, but the Achilles acted up again, and I was only able to go about a mile.  Dejected, I took Wednesday off, but resolved myself to get my interval workout in on Thursday.

Thursday: Went to the track for 6x400s.  (Note: I hate 400s.  I've always hated 400s.  I hated them so much in high school track that I started running the 3200m just so I didn't have to run the 4x400 relay.  Yes, I ran 2 miles so I didn't have to run a ¼ mile.)  The workout went well and my Achilles stayed in check.  I still hate 400s, but I was happy to get a full workout in.

The highlight of this week, though, was today's run.  It was a really rainy morning, and I needed to get a tempo run in.  I like to do this where I can run without getting interrupted by traffic lights or intersections and usually do this up and down the river parkway.  But, there was a big half marathon/10k on the river parkway today, so I hopped in the car and drove over to Lake Calhoun.  It was fantastic.  Rain.  Lake. Running.  'Twas wonderful.

Katie and I have a really exciting race coming up next weekend, but I tell you more about it sometime this week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vote for Me and Help Me Win Some Gear

Friends, I humbly implore you lend a hand in my direction.  I'm entered into a contest on another blog, where the goal is to find most fashion-backward athlete.  I've got some particularly geeky photos entered of me wearing my Speed of Light shirt*.  Here is an example:

I'm "blue shifted"

If I win (or get in the top 3), I'll win some cool triathlon/running/cycling gear, which will help me as I begin to try triathlons.  So, I'd love your vote.  Here's how to do it:

  1. Go to this link:
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the post and vote for "Lightning McCuen: Freaky Geeky"
That's all there is to it.  You don't have to register with the site or give your email address—just vote.

Special thanks to Katie for entering me, and to Mrs. Vaught for making me the fantastically awesome Speed of Light shirt so many years ago.

*The Speed of Light shirt is a magical shirt that makes it look like the runner is running at the speed of light.  From physics, if an object is traveling away from you at the speed of light, it will appear red (hence, "red shifted").  Conversely, if the object is traveling toward you at the speed of light, it will look blue (blue shifted).  So, when I wear the Speed of Light shirt, it appears as though I'm traveling at the speed of light.  See, isn't that geeky enough to merit your vote?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Run the Valley 5k Race Report and Week 6 in Reverse

This weekend, I ran in my first race of the year—the Run the Valley 5k in Golden Valley.  Katie had planned on doing this too, but her shin and ankle area (henceforth known as her "shankle") has been acting up.  Since her first triathlon of the season is next weekend, she decided it was best not to test her shankle so close to the race.  But, Katie came to the race with me and was a great spectator.

When deciding which race to do this weekend, I noted that this race was a bit pricey at $25.  I decided to do it nonetheless.  All this would have worked fine had I pre-registered, but, since I was pre-occupied with some news on Wednesday night, I missed the online registration window.  Thus, my cost was $35 on race day.

My hope for this race was to beat my time in the Monster Dash last October (23:16).  I felt it was pretty doable.

It was a cool, overcast morning—perfect for a run.  I warmed-up, stretched, and got ready to run.  It wasn't going to be huge race, but there was a sizeable amount of people doing the 5k (there was also a 10k and 5k walk starting after my race).  I lined up about 25 people back from the starting line.  The I never heard them start the race because everybody was talking quite a bit, but off we went.

Mile 1: 7:12  Just past the start, I hadn't started scanning the spectators yet, but then all of a sudden I hear Phil and Katie cheering.  Katie managed to snap this picture of my backside heading up the hill.

I'm in the blue shirt and red shorts

I was feeling good, but this mile was mostly uphill, so I may have pushed a bit too hard.

Mile 2: 7:36  I got a bit of a side cramp at the start of this mile, so I worked it out with my breathing, and got back going.  There weren't many spectators on the course, so it was fairly quiet until…

Mile 3: 7:29  Just at the start of this mile, we were running down the bike lane of a busier street (by busy, I mean I saw 10 cars go by instead of 2).  All of a sudden, I hear "GO MATT" being shouted at me from the window of a car right next to me.  It was Phil and Jamie, with Jamie shouting.  It startled me, but it was really good to hear because there was zero crowd support out here (well, there was zero crowd).  So thanks guys!  I started heading toward the finish, and at the last intersection, Katie was there.  She managed to get a flip-book of pictures.  Here's one of them:

Mile 3.1: 0:40  This last bit involved me getting passed.  Then we rounded the corner with about 50 meters to go.  I saw that I was still under 23 minutes on the clock.  So I gave the kick everything I had left, passed the guy back, and crossed the line.

Total Time: 22:59

So, I beat my monster dash time by 17 seconds, which makes this my fastest 5k since high school.  So I'll call this a PHS (post high school) PR.  My all-time PR for a 5k is 20:03, which I plan on beating some day.

All in all, a good race.

Week in Reverse
Highlights from week 6 (I'm halfway done with this training program!)

Thursday, April 8: Rest day.  I took Thursday off in preparation for my race.  It was a day where I could have really used a run, but I rested anyway.

Wednesday, April 7: 5 x hill.  My last set of hill repeats!  I don't mind hills, but I'm excited to switch my Wednesday workouts from hills to intervals.  I'll be at the track every Wednesday starting this week.

Monday, April 5:  Treadmill and Strength Exercises.  The treadmill still sucks, but I decided to try something new: a foam roller.  This painful little foam cylinder is magic.  It hurts like the dickens when using it to knead out the tight spots in my muscles, but I felt great afterwards.  I'm planning on getting my own, but The Running Room is out of them now.  I'll give a more detailed post on this once I can get my hands on one.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

My Toenail is Purple (and Week 5 in Reverse)

Look, it's my foot!  Sorry my foot is so gross, but a picture is better than me trying to describe what my foot looks like (it's, well, foot-y…).  On Thursday, I noticed that the 2nd toe on my right foot was a little sore, so I whipped off my shoes and socks to look at it.  Oh, and I was in my office at the time, so my officemate came in and saw me holding my foot up to my face.  There was a small (about 10% of the toenail area) section that was faintly purple.  As you can see, it's a lot more purple.  My guess is that I did this while doing my hill repeats on Wednesday.

The most likely outcome of this is that I'm going to lose the toenail.  Sounds gross (and it is, a little), but apparently it is a common thing among runners.  When the toe impacts the inside of your shoe too much, you damage it and then the toenail dies.  This will progress over the next few weeks, and then the nail will fall off.  I feel like a real runner now.

As for the Week in Reverse, I'm going to tone it down a bit from now on to spare you the boring details. I'll just make mention of some highlights and other interesting things that happen.  I've started keeping an online training log at Runner's World, so you can get the nitty gritty details there.  (I'm going to post a review of their training log in the next few days, so stay tuned.)

Sunday, April 4:  8 miles, 1:07:49.  It had been a long Triduum, with many late nights, and the Vigil was especially tiring, so this run should have been slow, and painful.  I went for the run in the afternoon, so it was much warmer than I was used to.  It started fast, and I wondered if I could keep the pace going.  I did.  Then I turned around and faced the wind, and wondered if I could keep the pace going.  I did.  When I got back, I calculated my pace to by 8:30/mile.  Let me say that again: 8:30/mile for an 8 mile run!  Holy moly!  It was comfortable pace for me, so all I can say is that this speed work is really working.  I'm becoming much more confident that I can get a sub-4 hour marathon this year.

Wednesday, March 31: 5 x Hill.  An increase of 1 repeat this time.  This workout was so tough, it killed a toenail (see above).

Tuesday, March 30: 5 miles at 9:00/mile pace.  Another "easy" run at a surprisingly fast pace.  I'm becoming fast again!

So there are the highlights.  Stay tuned for more pictures of my toe!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Which 5k Should I Do?

Alright, here's one of those "audience participation" blog posts.  I'm going to do a 5k on April 10, but I don't know which one to do.  Here are the options:

Run the Valley 5k in Golden Valley
This is the one I found originally.  It's not too far away (about 20 minutes), but it's not as convenient as the other option.  I like this one because, assuming the field of runners is similar to last year's, there's a very good chance I'll place in the top 20.  This also assume I'll be as fast as my fastest 5k from last year (23:16)—in all likelihood, I'll be faster than that because (a) I would not have just finished a marathon, and (b) I've been doing a good deal of speedwork.  So, my guess is that I'll place fairly well.  The race is also supposed to go through a residential area.  I also like the fact that the race starts at 8:30am.  The downside of this race is that it costs $25.

Run for Research 5k at the U
Katie pointed this one out to me the other day.  It takes place on campus.  That's about all I know about it.  They don't have any information on field size.  There could very easily be 10 runners, or 1000.  The course will likely not be as nice as the Golden Valley one (campus isn't really that nice), and it starts really late (noon!?).  The main advantage is that it is convenient—it's easy to get to campus, and I could stash stuff in my office.  The race is also cheaper ($15 with pre-registration).

So which one should I choose?  I like the idea of a good finish in the Golden Valley race.  Should convenience and cost trump that?  I'd be glad to know what you think.
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