Monday, May 31, 2010

Brian Kraft Memorial 5k Race Report

I should have titled this post: "How to break all the 'rules' of running and still PR"

My spring training has come to a close, and marathon training begins.  In order to end spring training with a flourish, and begin marathon training with a fitness test of sorts, I entered the Brian Kraft Memorial 5k at Lake Nokomis.  Katie entered the race too, and was looking to see if she could break her PR.

I had 2 goals for this race: to enjoy it, and to break my post-high-school PR of 22'59".  As I was preparing for the race, I ended up breaking a number of "running rules".  I put "running rules" in quotes because these are more conventional wisdom than anything else.

  1. Nothing New on Race Day.  I broke this one twice.  First, I wanted to wear my Speed of Light shirt because I was going to run fast.  The second thing is that on my recent journey back home to Detroit, I returned with my old cross country spikes.  Without the spikes, they're basically racing flats.  They're also quite loud.
  2. Don't Wear Cotton.  The Speed of Light shirt is cotton.  In fact, it's double-layered cotton.  There would be no sweat wicking going on here.
  3. Stretch Before Running.  I've stopped stretching before races.  I think it removes some of the springiness of my muscles, so it slows me down.  I do a warm-up jog and some strides, but no full stretching routine.

The Shoes

The race was a loop of Lake Nokomis, plus a little bit.  The starting line was about ¼ mile clockwise from the starting line (we would run anti-clockwise, if that makes sense).  Knowing this was a fast field, I started a little further back than I otherwise would have.  I was maybe 15 feet behind the starting line.

Mile 1
People were chatting up a storm, so I never heard them start the race.  Everyone started moving, and I realized that I started too far back in the back.  Most of the people around me were out for a casual stroll, so I had to quickly weave through the throng of people and eventually resorted to running on the outside of the curve to pass people.  This may have been helpful, though, as it kept me from starting too fast.  About ½ mile into the race, the crowd thinned out enough where I could take control of my race.  Hitting the first mile marker, I recorded 7'19".  Pretty good.

Mile 2
I don't know if it's because I'm an engineer, or that I don't like the "herd mentality", but when I race, I always pick the shortest path.  If it's a right turn, I stay right.  If it's a left turn, I stay left.  If the course is winding, I pick the path that goes down the middle and is the shortest.  In this race, most people didn't do this.  90% of the runners stayed to the left side of the road no matter which way we were turning.  I was puzzled by this, but took full advantage of their longer paths and made sure to always run the short paths.  I picked up the pace on this mile, and recorded 7'08".  Even better.

Mile 3 and 0.1
I picked it up again with a mile to go.  One thing I noticed is that from the point where the crowd thinned out about ½ mile into the race, no one passed me (or, if they did, I passed them back).  So, I ran 2.5 miles with an increasing pace and never got passed.  That tells me that I didn't go out too fast, and was able to push myself quite a bit.  With about 0.2 miles to go, I started kicking and passed more people.  One woman heard me coming up behind her, and she started her kick.  She had a strong kick, but with about 15 meters to go, we were neck-and-neck.  At that point, she veered to the side right in front of me!  I had to let up a bit, and she ended up beating me by about half a second.

Let me say this:  I have no issues whatsoever being beat by a woman.  I am not the kind of runner who can't stand being beaten by a woman.  I've been beaten and passed by many women, and will continue to be.  What I have issues with is a person purposely cutting right in front me almost causing me to trip over them.

So, what was my time?  22'06" It beats my PHS-PR!  That's a 7'06" per mile pace.  My pace for the Falls Du 3 mile run was 7'13", so I'm getting faster.  I'd say this was a good start to my marathon plan.

After finishing, I walked back along the course to watch for Katie.  She was trying to beat her PR of 28'30".  I saw her coming, and looked at the clock, and knew she could do it.  She finished nice and strong with a time of about 28'10", so she PR-ed too!  Great job Katie!

Us after the race

So, how did it go with breaking the rules?  Well, wearing cotton wasn't too bad.  I got a little sweaty, but the weather wasn't too warm and the race was short enough that it didn't cause major problems.

My shoes, however, are a different story.  They felt great to run in—nice and light.  But, after the race, I remembered something I always had to do in HS with these shoes—put band-aids on the back of my heels.  Yup, I got some nasty blisters from the shoes.  I had to take them off after the race, and just went barefoot.  Here's the carnage:

The other foot is just as bad

So, I'll need to treat my feet nicely for the next week or so.  And maybe I won't wear shoes.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My First Open Water Swim

In truth, I have done open water swimming before.  I have swam in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico numerous time.  However, on those occasions, I just splashed around and rode the waves in on the raft.  There was only one time I have swam in open water with the purpose of locomotion.  Here is that story…

In the summer of 2003, I went to camp at Stony Lake Camp in New Era, MI.  Upon my arrival, they told us that if we wanted to swim in the lake, we had to do a swim test.  No problem, I thought.  So, I grabbed my trunks and meandered down to the lake.  The goal was simple: swim back and forth across the swim area once on your front, then once on your back.  I started out on my front, and while I probably didn't do the front crawl, I made it the full distance.  Then it was time to do the lap on my back.  If you've ever done backstroke, you know it's tough to keep going in a specific direction.  Well, take a look at this photo:

If you can imagine, the blue line is the desired back-and-forth route that I was supposed to swim.  The red line is what I actually swam (this is not an exaggeration!).  What would happen is that I would swim too far out and the lifeguard would whistle at me and tell me to turn.  So I did.  Then I would swim so close to the shore that I would hit bottom and have to turn again.  I then repeated this a number of times.  So, my first open water swim with the purpose of locomotion was not a success.  As it turns out, I didn't swim for the rest of my time at camp…

Alright, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

If you remember, Katie and I bought wetsuits a few weeks ago, so we we're eager to try them out.  We decided that Memorial Day weekend would be the first time out.  We looked at lakes, and decided to go to Square Lake just north of Stillwater.  This lake is well-known for being a very clear lake.  This was a plus (particularly for Katie).

We headed out to the lake and set up camp on a picnic table near the water.  Here we are in front of the lake on a beautiful Minnesota morning:

Yeah, I wasn't so good at taking photos this morning.

When we got there, there were maybe 3 or 4 boats on the lake, and a few fisherpeople on the dock, but for the most part the lake was empty.  We then began the process of getting our wetsuits on.  I ran into an issue right away—I ran out of Body Glide!  I managed to get most of my ankles and some on my neck, so I hoped that would be enough (it was).  Katie got hers on first, and struggled a bit getting everything adjusted.

See the pink flowers on the ankles?


Katie got hers on, but it wasn't quite right, so she went into the water to get everything adjusted properly.

While she was doing this, I was trying to get into my wetsuit.  Katie was not as generous as I was, and took some less than flattering pictures of me during the ordeal.  Here are a few of them:

Working the legs up.

What am I doing here?  I don't know, but probably grimacing because I'm so pale.  I apologize for my paleness—that's just how I am after the winter in Minnesota.

Fiddling with the pull tab.

I'm in.

Returning from the water after getting my suit adjusted properly.

Looking like a dork with my Creamsicle colored swim cap (the color is supposed to be unnatural so boats don't run you over, or Katie just wanted me to look silly).

Both of us, ready to go!  (Yes, another bad picture.  Blame it on the self-timer)

With our wetsuits on, we headed into the water.  Typically, at this time of year, lakes in Minnesota are rather chilly.  Because of the unseasonably warm weather we've had since, well, March, the lake was not cold at all.  Another swimmer told me the lake was already at 72°!  In May!  Not quite pool warmth, but there was not danger of being too cold.

Wearing a wetsuit in the water is rather odd initially because you notice the added buoyancy right away.  I was so light in the water.  It's also a little alarming when you get deep enough so the water reaches the zipper, and a cool water flows in rather quickly.  We swam a bit just to get used to the water and the wetsuits, and ventured outside the swim area a bit.

My suit has arms, but I didn't feel any restriction in my shoulders, so I'm confident in my suit purchase.  I also enjoyed being able to flip to my back and float when I got tired.  The buoyancy of the suit helps out tremendously.

As I already mentioned, the lake is very clear.  This is helpful for Katie because she isn't a fan of open water swimming.  The combination of not seeing things, and the weeds, and the fish make her uneasy.  Since this lake is so clear, she can see what's under the water, and she felt much better than in her other swims.  Go Katie!

There were also a few other swimmers there.  One guy got in the water when we did, then swam around the whole lake.  I don't know how far that is, but I'll guess he went almost 2 miles in the water.  2 other guys showed up and stayed pretty much right by us.  It was their first time in wetsuits too, so we all got to experience the new things together.

Unlike a pool, the lake isn't marked for distance.  We swam back and forth just inside the ropes 2 times, and halfway once.  I also created a triangular lap between 3 buoys just outside the ropes and did that twice.

My swimming actually went quite well (no doubt assisted by the wetsuit).  The wetsuit acts a lot like a pull buoy (in fact, my suit has a feature called a "virtual pull buoy",  which means it has thicker material around my thighs).  I thought it worked better than a pull buoy because I got the buoyancy effect, but could still kick.  With the ability to kick, I could work on that a bit, without having to always try and keep my lower half high in the water.  I was able to slow my kick down a lot and just work on form.  It was great.

Overall, I had a great time swimming in the lake.  I enjoyed it 10 times better than swimming in the pool, and didn't really want to stop swimming.  There's something about being in nature on a beautiful day that just draws me in (much like the difference between running on a treadmill and running outdoors).  If I could do every swim in the lake, I would.

We did quit at some point, though, and headed out of the water.  Katie stripped her suit off right away, and had a little trouble on the beach doing a fancy dance.  I didn't get a picture of this, but here she is rinsing her suit off:

We snapped another photo:

Katie's swim cap turned from pink to green in the water.  (Not really, but wouldn't that be cool?)

I showered with my suit on first to get any grime off the outside, then I stripped and rinsed some more:

Seriously, I look awkward in so many of these pictures.  It looks like I'm talking to my suit in a very stern voice.

We packed up, then hopped in the car and headed back to St. Paul.  Great swim, and I hope we do it again soon!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Upcoming Race — Brian Kraft Memorial 5k

Well, I was out of town for a few days.  Katie and I went to a wedding in Ohio, then spent a few days with my folks up in Detroit.  While in Detroit, we had a chance to run on a beautiful (but hot!) day along Lake St. Clair.  I just love running along the lake.  Unfortunately, though, that run was the only one I was able to get in over the trip.

I'm nearing the beginning of marathon training (starts Monday*).  So, to end with a flourish, I'm going to do a 5k.  I probably should do a 10k, but there aren't any nearby that I can find.  So, I'll be doing the Brian Kraft Memorial 5k at Lake Nokomis on Monday.  Even though I've gotten faster this spring, this race is crazy.  For example, in the Run the Valley 5k I did in April, I finished in the top 20% with a time of 22:59. If I extrapolate my most recent race (the 3 mile run at the Falls Du), I should be able to put in a sub-22 5k.  Sounds good, right?  Well, if I compare with last year's times for the Kraft 5k, that would put me in the bottom half!  So, this is a crazy fast race with crazy fast runners.  The course is flat as a board, so I might pull off a faster time, but I'm not going to run sub-20 or anything.

Still, I'm looking forward to a fast field to pull me along.  I'll let you know how the race goes on Monday.

*Even though training starts Monday, I still have no idea which training plan I'm doing.  I'm down to either Higdon's Intermediate 2 or his Advanced 1 plan.  I better choose soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Men's Locker Room Public Service Announcement

If you are in the men's locker room, and you get a phone call, please take it outside.  If you can't, and must sit down on the bench to talk, be aware of your surroundings.  If someone comes back from the shower and needs to go into the locker directly across from you, it is common courtesy to not stare at their ass while they get changed.  You could get up and walk away, or face your own locker, or hang up the phone.

Thank you.  That is all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fitness Tracking Software

When I ran cross-country in high school, I didn't bother tracking what type of workout I did.  If Mr. Sprow said to run to the freeway and back, that's what we did.  Simple.  Nowadays, though, I need someplace to track what I'm doing.  I've been using 2 sites recently, and thought I'd give my opinion on them.

If you remember, I used to use the Nike+ system.  I don't use this anymore, mainly because I found it to be very inaccurate—even after calibration.  Still, it was fun and easy to use, and for such a low price, it works for some people.  I just can't recommend it, though.

Runner's World Training Log

A few months ago, I discovered the training log on  It's pretty easy to use, but is rather full-featured.  It can make super fantastic graphs with pretty much any variables you would like.  Here's my Pace vs. Distance graph:

  • Lot's of features including mapping and graphing.
  • Ability to enter interval workouts by segment (i.e. if you're doing 8x200 repeats, you can enter the time for each repeat, recovery, and rest, and then autosum and analyze the data.) This is probably my favorite feature.
  • Easy to use mapping system.  I wish it had a "follow roads" feature, but it works a lot better than and can provide elevation data.
  • Being Runner's World, you have access to all kinds of articles and probably the most comprehensive forum available for runners.
  • It can be a little buggy.  Sometimes, when I hit "save" for a workout or a map, it doesn't register, and I have to re-enter the data.
  • Not really that great for multi-sport athletes.  You can enter all sorts of cross-training (biking, strength training, swimming, walking), but all of those are lumped together into a general "cross training" category.  You can't analyze the data from the cross training like can with the running.  It is Runner's World, though, so you can't really fault them for this.


When Katie convinced me to do the triathlon, she told me to join Dailymile because she and all of the other people in her group doing the triathlon were members.  I decided to sign up just to see what it was like.  In essence, Dailymile is Facebook for athletes.  It is pretty much a social network where you enter workouts.

  • Easy to interact with your training friends.  You can comment on each others' workouts, and the home page is set up almost identically to Facebook's News Feed.  It helps you keep up with people's training, even if you don't train with them.  You can join groups and events, just like Facebook too.  It might be like Twitter, but I'm not a Twit, so I don't know anything about that.
  • It's better for multi-sport athletes.  It can analyze data for running, cycling, swimming, and other activities.  You can enter an "other" workout, too (like when I entered trying on wetsuits as a 1 hour workout).
  • It's a lot like Facebook.  It's not a very serious training site.  It can't analyze data like other sites can.  Workouts are rated with "smiley faces", and you can't even figure out when you did a workout (it just says "3 days ago"; can I get a date and time, please?).  It looks kinda hokey too.
  • The mapping is inaccurate.  I rode my bike to and from campus yesterday.  The ride home is longer because I take a slightly different route that is less direct.  However, Dailymile said that the longer ride covered less distance than the shorter ride.  This is not correct.
  • The forums are kinda hokey, too, and not very comprehensive.
  • It's a lot like Facebook.

I prefer Runner's World to Dailymile, but I'm going to keep using Dailymile for a while just for the integration with friends.  I'll probably give it up after the triathlon.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Tough Saturday Morning Workout in Fitting Rooms

Yesterday, I did a 45 minute fartlek with lots of hills, and Katie did a 38 minute run with lots of hills.  But those were easy.  Well, compared to what we did later that morning they were pretty easy.  With the upcoming summer sports season, Katie and I decided it was a good day to get wetsuits.  Since Katie is becoming a more serious triathlete, it was time for her to get one, and since I'm starting into this whole sport of triathlon, it's something that will help my swimming and keep me warm during some early season open water swims.

We headed over to Gear West.  It's always a bit of a drive to Gear West, but they're a top-notch shop and worth the drive.  We were helped by 2 guys (I think Curt and Devon were their names) who really know their stuff.  And it was a good thing they did because Katie and I were noobs to the whole process!  I started out with a sleeveless Blue Seventy suit.  It fit ok, but I was looking more for full suit.  I'll also say this: putting on and taking off a wetsuit is no small task!  This was exemplified by my next suit.  It was a full Blue Seventy suit on sale, but I was toward the upper end of the sizing, and they didn't have any in the next size up.  I had the darndest time trying to get this on, and reached a point where I couldn't go any further.  I had to ask the employee to give me a hand, and since the zipper wouldn't go all the way up, we concluded it was much too small.

Back into the fitting room.  I spent the next 5 minutes trying to get that suit off.  It got stuck on my ankles, so I wasn't in a position to ask for help, but couldn't really get it off.  I eventually got it off though, and tried on a suit made by Profile.  This fit better, but the zipper went the opposite way (up to down), and just wouldn't be practical for me.  So, back to the fitting room to try on a QR suit.  This one went on really easy—which meant it was too big.  So, one size down in the same model QR suit.  This one fit perfect, and I could even do the zip myself!  This was the one!

Katie was having her own issues, but also found one that worked (a QR suit too).  In the end, it took 3 employees, lots of tugging, and boxes and suits littered all over the sales floor for us to find the right suits.  It looked kind of like a disaster there (between the two of us, we tried on eight suits—and I did five of them).  The guys were extremely helpful, though, and provided a lot of helpful pointers on what to look for.  Here's what we ended up getting:

Katie and her new suit.  It's a QR (not sure of the model), and it has pink flowers on the leg cuff.  Katie was excited by this.

Me with my QR Hydrofull suit.  No flowers.  I'm ok with that.  It has fun red accents though.  (I'm convinced now that red is becoming my "racing color".)

We both worked up quite the sweat though, and found ourselves exhausted by the whole process.  If I had any tips for people going to get their first wetsuit, I'd say this:

  • If there's a store in your area that sells wetsuits, go there.  Buying online may be cheaper, but if you've never tried one on, it's best to have people who know what they're doing to guide you through the process.  Had I ordered my suit over the internet, I would have deemed it too small and exchanged it for the bigger size (which would be too big).  I ended up trying on 5 different suits over the course of an hour, and that's not something you can do online.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.  You'll have questions like "Is the neck supposed to be this tight?" or "How does the zipper work?".  The people working in the store know the answers, and you won't feel embarrassed for asking.
  • Try on lots of suits.  I know it's a lot of work, but if you've never had anything to compare them to, it will take a while to find that "right suit".
  • It will be tough to put them on and off (particularly if you're putting one on that's too small).  Don't worry about it, and if you need help, ask.
I'll say that Katie and I are very eager to try out our new suits in the water, so once the lakes warm up, that's where we'll be!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Results Analysis and More Pics from the Falls Duathlon

It's now been 1 week since team Wait, This Isn't Badminton? competed in the Cannon Falls Duathlon.  The results were posted quickly after the race, but there are a few issues with them.  I don't know that they will (or can) be fixed, so I'm going to go with what I can, and give some analysis.

6th Place Team Overall
Katie and I took 6th place out 13 teams.  That's the top half!  We were about 6 minutes behind the closest team, so I'm not sure we could have caught them anyway.

Run 1 — 4th out of 13
In the first run, I took 4th place out of all the teams' first runners.  My official time was 14'19" and the next closest was 13'40".  Could I have pushed a bit more and taken 3rd?  Maybe, but I'm really happy with my run.  The fastest time was 11'34", which is really fast.  I'd like to say that I don't trust that time, but looking at that runner's time for the 2nd run, it's very believable.

T1 — Tied for 2nd
Katie and I had the 2nd fastest T1 time out of all the teams.

Cycling — 9th out of 13
Here's where things get a bit funky.  Officially, Katie was the 9th fastest team cyclist.  The 5th place team doesn't have bike split listed, and I just don't know where the time went.  So, it's possible that Katie took a higher place on the bike segment.

T2 — 1st Place
We had the fastest T2, but once again, there's some funky data going here.  I think we really were the fastest, though, because we were very efficient in trading the chip, and Katie booked it on foot with her bike.

Run 2 — 8th out of 13
The data from run 2 is less than reliable.  2 teams had Run 2 times of less than 10 minutes, which is not physically possible.  Another team (placing 11th overall) had a 2nd run time of 18'56".  That's much too fast for someone who ran the 1st run in 20 minutes.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I had either the 5th or 6th fastest run, accounting for these timing errors.

I'm really happy with our splits, and really proud of Katie for hitting a 16.3mph average in that terrible wind.  There is also proof now that Katie did the race:

Look at her pass the fast-looking dude!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My Shoulders are Sore

Running is primarily a lower body activity.  Sure, it's very important to have good core strength to keep up the running form, but it's still focused on the legs.

Well, swimming is not a lower body activity.  Even though I kick in a frantic and haphazard manner, my arms still do most of the work.  So, here are my workouts from the past 3 days:

Monday Morning: My first "swim"*.

Tuesday Morning: 4 mile run at 7'54" pace.  I'll admit that this was a faster than I had intended, but I felt good, so I kept the pace going.

Tuesday Afternoon: Another swim, 50 yards longer than my first.

This Morning: 7x400 on the track.  With a new race under my belt, I was able to calculate a new interval pace, so these were faster than the last set of 400s that I did.  So, these 400s hurt.

Now, you would think that my legs should be in rough shape after 2 tough runs in a row, right?  Nope, my legs feel fine and my shoulders are quite sore.  It's a weird feeling to have my upper body this tired.  I had been doing strength training over the past few months, but that just doesn't compare to the workout I apparently got while "swimming".

* At this point, when I say "swimming", I mean that I do something that roughly approximates what other people call swimming.  Maybe someday I can lose the scare-quotes.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Born to Swim: Do You Like Iron Man?

After yesterday's disaster in the pool, I went for run this morning.  It was a great run, and I felt really good even after a tough swim.  I decided it would be a good idea to go to the pool this afternoon and see if I could run in the morning and then swim that same day.  This was all pretty much on a whim—I didn't even have my contacts with me!  Pretty much blind, I went to the pool and worked on breathing.  It was still frustrating, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.  I still have a long way to go, but it wasn't as completely demoralizing as yesterday's swim was.  I also went 50 yards farther than yesterday, and my rests were considerably shorter.  Then, of course, I was really excited to use the centrifuge.

So, I was in a better mood leaving the Rec because of my better than awful swim.  As I was walking, an undergrad carrying flyers came up to me and asked: "Do you like Ironman?"  My mind thought she was asking about this:

I thought that was a very timely question since I'm starting to swim and may someday be an Ironman*.  So, I responded with: "Well, I'd sure like to be one someday!"  She then gave me a very confused look.  I then realized that she really asked "Do you like Iron Man?":

Sheepishly, I responded: "Oh, the movie.  Never seen it."  I then chuckled to myself and walked back to my office.

*An Ironman Triathlon is the "holy grail" of triathlons.  It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.  Someday, maybe someday...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Born to Run, Not to Swim

I'm going to have more on the Falls Duathlon in the coming days when the official results get worked out.  They're posted, but some people ran the 3 mile run in 3 minutes or so.  If you believe that someone did that, then I've got some oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you.  Watch for more soon.

If you remember, I've pretty much decided that I'm going to attempt a triathlon this summer.  The biggest impediment to this, though, is my swimming—or rather, the lack thereof.  Well, I figured it was time to remedy this.  So, I got a real swimsuit and goggles, and headed to the pool this morning.  I got in the water, and felt like this:

I didn't have a tweed swimsuit.  (I actually think my new jammer is quite stylish, but I digress…)  I did feel horribly out of place though, because, well, this is the first time I've ever gone to the pool with the intent of swimming laps.  Maybe it was an omen that the lifeguard was late, so we were standing outside the door to the pool for a few minutes wondering if we'll be able to get in.

I didn't have any particular goals (other than staying alive), but figured that I would try and swim for half an hour.  Katie was there, and has provided valuable advice all along, and I was grateful that she was in the lane next to me so I could ask her the dumb questions like "how do you work the pull buoy?"

I was also grateful that the pool was fairly empty, so I had a lane all to myself.  (This was good, because I wasn't swimming in a straight line at all.  In fact, at one point, my lower half crossed over into Katie's lane.  How?  I don't know.  But it happened.)  I just started swimming, trying to remember things from the youtube videos I watched.  My biggest problem was breathing.  I couldn't quite coordinate myself to turn my head and breathe.  On certain occasions, I got confused and exhaled above water and inhaled underwater (it doesn't work, btw).  After 2 laps, I told myself I would do 4 laps and call it a day (4 laps being half the distance I'll need to do in the triathlon).

Most of the time, I used the pull buoy.  I kick a lot, and this keeps me from focusing on breathing, so I figured that I should get breathing down first.  The pull buoy helped even though I still tried to kick with it.  It did feel like I was starting to get the hang of breathing, but I still have a long way to go.

I finished 4 laps, and was ready to leave, but decided that I should do 8 laps.  I've been focusing a lot on mental toughness lately with my running, so I tried to apply some of that to swimming.  (On a related note, Katie and I had a discussion this weekend on the vomit threshold, but I'll regale you with that some other time.)

Well, I finished all 8 laps.  I had to stop and rest every 25 yards, so I've still got a long way to go before I can swim the ¼ mile for the triathlon, but its 3 months away.  Here are some random thoughts on my swimming now that I can reflect on my first swim

  • Unlike running, swimming is not a natural act for humans.  People can just run.  They may not enjoy it, but the principle of running is fairly simple.  This is not the case with swimming.  Every time I would try and focus on a particular part of my form (breathing, arms, legs, etc), everything I wasn't focusing on would just go to hell.
  • I am not exceptionally buoyant.  Even with kicking, the lower half of my body has a strong tendency to drop in the water.  My kicking probably isn't any good—I feel like I'm kicking like mad, but my body still drops.  They say that for open water swimming, a wetsuit provides a great deal of buoyancy, so that my help in this department, but I still need to get my form correct before relying on tools like that.
  • Right now, a half hour of swimming for me is akin to probably 90 to 120 minutes of running.  What I mean is that I feel as tired right now after the short swim as I would running 12 − 15 miles. I must improve on this.  I know I have the cardio endurance, but I'm wasting so much of it with my bad form.
  • I'm going to take swim lessons.  I'm glad the U doesn't classify the adults with fish categories because I don't want to be stuck as a guppy again.
  • The best part about the swim: using a centrifuge.  (aka, the "suit spinner" in the locker room)
  • Swimming is tough!

Was it pleasant?  Not really.  But, I'll be back in the pool on Thursday, then Monday, then Thursday...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Cannon Falls Duathlon Race Report

The title of this event should have been: Don't Get Blown Awaaaayyy!

This morning, Katie and I drove down to Cannon Falls, MN for the Cannon Falls Duathlon.  A duathlon is an event with a run, followed by a bike, and finishing up with another run.  In this case, it was a 2 mile run, 14 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.  Katie and I decided to do the team event, so she biked and I ran.

We knew it was going to be a windy day, and that was a bigger problem for Katie on the bike than it was for me on the run.  Winds were 20mph and gusty.  But, it was sunny, and the temperature was ideal, so it could have been worse.

The drive down was nice—it was about 45 min south of St. Paul.  We got there, ran into Steve and his crew, and got set up in transition.  We picked a nice transition spot, but realized the "team exchange" area was someplace else and moved closer.  Our transition area looked like this:

Don't you like Katie's fancy new bike?

We got there early so we had a bit of time to kill (I'm chronically early to everything—I inherited that from my mother).  There's a pre-race instruction meeting, and then we head to the starting line and get the show going.  (Note, the times below aren't official.  I'll have those sometime this week)

Leg 1 — 2 mile run, 14'15"
My goal for this leg of the race was to push it pretty hard since I would have a chance to recover between runs.  I also needed to make sure I didn't go out too hard on the first mile.  I wanted to do 6'45" for mile 1 and 7'15" for the second mile putting me in at 14 minutes.  There weren't any mile markers, so I have no idea what my splits were, but the total time was pretty close to where I wanted it.  I also noticed that my hill-work and speedwork have been doing me a lot of good because I was really able to hammer it up the few short hills and pass a lot of people in the process.

Steve also said to look for the waterfall around the first mile marker.  Well, I totally missed the waterfall because there weren't any markers.

Leg 2 — 14 mile bike, 51-ish minutes
I passed the chip off to Katie, and she was off on the bike course.  I don't know the details about her ride, but I can offer some thoughts.  First, the wind was awful.  Really, really awful.  I didn't envy her at all.  The wind was in her face the entire 2nd half of the ride.  Second, Katie was on a new bike, so this was its first race.  She's still getting used to it, and does not yet have things like clip-less pedals (which, oddly enough, have clips).  She did say that she noticed a big difference though by having drop handlebars.

During her ride, I just chilled in transition.  I made sure to keep my muscles as warm as possible and snacked on some trail mix and pretzels.  While there, I saw the lead duathlete come in:

Ponder this: Even with the wind of doom, he came in with a chance to break the course record.  (As it turns out, he ended up breaking the course record by a minute or two, which is just rather amazing considering the conditions)

I also saw Steve come through transition.  He has an exciting bike jersey that is made to look like a leisure suit:

I downed a Gu, and figured Katie would be coming soon.

Leg 3 — 3 mile run, 21'34"
Katie handed the chip off to me, and I was off.  I had already seen 5 teams go through transition, so I knew we were out of the running for top 3, but one team had come in about 30 seconds before Katie, so I made it my goal to catch him.

I caught him—within a half mile.  Ok, time for a new goal.  It was a little awkward the first mile or so because the real duathletes were moving pretty slow because of the awful bike ride, and I felt bad for going by them so quickly with my fresh legs.

The second run course was different than the first.  It was mostly and out-and-back along the Cannon River Trail.  It was relatively flat with a few ups and downs, but nothing major.  I also got to see the waterfall this time!

Mile 1: 6'49"  Whoa!  Too fast!  As it turns out, I was wind-assisted for this mile.

Mile 2: 7'22"  A little slow this mile.  But, as I hit the 1.5 mile turnaround, I hit the wind, and that's what slowed me down.

Mile 3: 7'21"  The last mile was also windier than the 2nd one.  I kept passing people though, and knew I was going to have a strong finish.  With the finish in sight, I kicked it, and finished really strong.  Here's me about 15 meters from the finish:

I finished this run with a time of 21'34".  (Probably more like 21'40" since I hit my watch a few seconds late heading into the run)  This was a fast run for me.  My 5k PR (post high school) is 22'59", so I'm pretty sure that if I needed to do that extra 0.1 miles, I could have still broken 22 minutes for a 5k.  I felt great on this run, and I'm really happy with my performance.

After I crossed the line (I'm pretty sure my finisher photo will be me hitting my watch), I turned around to see a high school age girl coming up to me and commenting on how strong my finish was.  I was flattered, but as it turns out,  she was just saying that as something to get my attention because I ran right past the people taking the chips!  So really, she didn't care about my finish, but wanted my chip.  Doh!

I found Katie afterwards, and we chatted with others and watched a lot of the finishers come in.  They had a BBQ afterwards with hot dogs.  These weren't just any hot dogs—they were Thousand Hills Cattle Company free range organic hot dogs.  Really, quite possibly the best hot dogs I've ever tasted.  They were that good.

We stuck around for the awards ceremony (we didn't get any), and they gave away some door prizes.  Katie was really hoping for the wetsuit, but she didn't get it.  (Actually, a guy got the wetsuit, which was clearly a women's wetsuit.  I hope they let him exchange it!)

We packed up, and drove home—even hitting a traffic jam in rural Minnesota!.  I had a great time.  Katie had a great time.  We told ourselves that we wanted to enjoy this race, and we sure did.  Katie most definitely had the toughest job of the two of us with the windy bike ride, and I'm really proud of her for du-ing so well.  I don't have any pictures of Katie on the bike, but maybe we'll find one when the official photos are ready.

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