Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred

For Dave and I, the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred (HH100) bike ride was an excuse to come visit family in the Wichita Falls, TX, area. Our main goal was just have to fun, plain and simple, so we signed up for the 100K (~62 miles) rather than the 100-mile route. There'd be no glory suffering heat exhaustion in front of Dave's parents and a 6-year-old nephew. We can do that back home in private pretty much any time.

Fortunately, the weather was cooler than the previous year and cooler than Florida, as we'd hoped. Race morning started out around 80 degrees with a light breeze. The humidity, however, which is Dave's nemesis, was relatively low.

The event began around 7:15am with a motivating Air Force jet fly over and the boom of a cannon, but we waited another 15 minutes or so before we started actually moving. Unbelievably, there were over 10,000 cyclists gathered there to ride in the various HH100 events (100-mile, 100K, 50-mile, 25-mile and 10K). Who would have ever thought so many folks would come to ride their bike in this relatively small, out-of-the-way town on a summer day?

I'm glad we opted not to be timed. We didn't know this when we signed-up but the organizers had lined up the 100K riders behind the slowest 100-mile riders in an attempt to get them on the road first because they faced the infamous Hell's Gate cut-off (mile 60.3 at 12:30pm, subject to change). Never mind the fact that a lot of 100K riders would probably be going much faster than the slowest 100-mile riders. Oh well ...

After finally crossing the start line, the crowd began to stretch out and the fun began. Dave and I started passing riders and bicycles of all sizes and shapes left and right, even one guy riding a penny-farthing. We also passed a surprising number of young children riding their own bikes. How the hell did they get in front of us? Surely these kids were not riding 100 miles or the 100K course.

The crowd continued to thin and Dave, being the more aggressive rider, chose to weave up the middle not caring whether he got yelled at occasionally (Remember, he was in the Marine Corps). I decided to scoot past people on the left by crossing the center line of the road, which riders were asked not to do because of oncoming traffic (but since there weren't many cars out, it seemed safer to me than dodging riders up the middle). We met up occasionally and then split up again to continue leapfrogging forward. So far, the ride felt more like an interval workout than an endurance ride with all the surging and resting.

Dave and I skipped the first aid station but stopped at the second one at mile 20. I thought I didn't need any more fluids until later but realized that the fluid bottle behind my seat was gone, probably lost along the rough section of road earlier where I'd seen many other bike bottles jettisoned. No biggie with aid stations every 10 miles but I would now have to be more conscious about how much I drank since I only had my 24 oz aero bottle with me.

After the rest stop, the course turned northward and mostly downwind. Dave took off like a big orange bat outta hell. But for some reason, I thought he was still somewhere in back of me and so I was searching for him in my rear view mirror. Then saw I saw a bright flash of orange flying near the top of the next hill with a couple riders drafting behind him. Doh! My ride turned into a hammerfest.

By the time I finally caught up to him I'd drank a lot so we stopped again at the next aid station at mile 30. Along the way, the 100-mile riders split off so the route became less crowded, which was nice. I noticed the distinct smell of farm animals, most likely cows, but didn't see any. That was probably because I was too busy looking down trying to find a smooth part of the road to ride on. Why are the rural roads so rough in Texas?

After our second rest stop, the course turned eastward and Dave and I talked about taking it easy knowing that the last southward stretch was into the wind. Didn't happen. No, we were feeling too good! So once we were on our merry way again, we picked back up our merry pace. It was hotter now but sweat was actually drying up and keeping us cool like it should. And all the hill/wind training we did in Kona this year was paying off. Yeehaw!!!

I rode in front of Dave during much of the second half of our ride and recall one couple telling me that I was crazy not to be drafting "The Winnebago," as Dave's old cycling buds used to call him. But I was down in aero enjoying myself. I knew I didn't have to run 13 miles after the ride and could allow a little extra burning in the quads. Dave got a kick out of seeing folks do double takes as I whizzed by them on my little Bike Friday with 20-inch wheels. What the hell was that she was riding?

We skipped the next aid station at mile 40 but were slowed when the course headed into the wind. A few miles later, I drained the last drop in my bottle. Oops. But I knew that an aid station was coming up at ~mile 52 so I decided to just wait rather than try drinking from Dave's bottle while riding, or stopping.

Once there, we snacked, restocked and also called Dave's parents to let them know we were getting close to the end. They should leave their house now to go meet us at the finish.

Back on the road, we did little more riding into the wind and then took a welcome detour through Sheppard Air Force Base past several different types of airplanes and an area lined with cheering airmen who were so loud that they reminded me of the Wellesley girls at the Boston Marathon. Talk about motivating!!

About 2-3 miles from the finish we pulled over one last time to make a quick call to Dave's folks. Get the camera ready as we'll be there in 5-10 minutes. And don't blink or you'll probably miss us.

Or so we thought ...

We got to the final turn just one block from the finish line and then got the biggest surprise of the ride.

They had just closed our bike course. What the hell???!!!

Well, it just so happened that the CAT 4(?) racers doing the 100-mile course were coming into the finish at about the same time. To avoid any potential serious collisions where the 100K course merged into the 100-mile course, all 100K riders were forced to wait until they had passed. That be us.

At first, I was pissed. How could they do this to us so close to the finish?! But then I remembered that we weren't even being timed, ha! Nothing we could do anyway.

In a few minutes we heard the squawk of the police motorcycle leading the way and then saw the real racers. One guy was clearly in the lead followed by a huge peloton a little ways back and then a few stragglers. That was the first time I'd ever seen the finish of a bike race in person. A nice treat!

After they had all gone by, we were then allowed to round the corner to the finish line. Yes, it was a bit anticlimactic after waiting a few minutes just down the street but Dave's parents and his little nephew were there to make our finish special.

It's not everyday that we have family members waving signs and cheering for us. And we don't always finish a long ride smiling and feeling so good. So all things considered, I think we beat the heat and had a good time.

Estimated 100K riding time ~3:30.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

30 Years of Running

My local running store, Track Shack, celebrated its 30th year anniversary last weekend at a race. I recognized all the 70's songs being played and realized that I too had been running for about 30 years.

Yes, indeed, I was a high school sophomore in 1977 and that was just about the time I had first started running, or jogging as it was called back then since I wasn't on any team or trying out for one (I was way too slow!). I did it simply because my friends and I wanted to meet some boys on a cross-country team from a nearby school. Every week or so we'd go to a nearby park to run the course they did, hoping to see them and hang out afterwards. Silly, now that I look back on it.

That was many years ago and a lot has happened since, but the one thing I'm still doing is running. I may not have always run at least 3 times a week or even once a week but I am still running and enjoying it. Here are 30 ways, reasons, excuses I've used to continue doing it in no particular order. Maybe one will help some of you if you should ever find yourself in a funk or the flame fading.

1. Run to be with friends and socialize.
2. Run to spend time with your SO, child or a pet.
3. Run to clear your mind of stress.
4. Run to feel good about yourself physically.
5. Run to think about a problem that's on your mind.
6. Run to enjoy a scenic route or view.
7. Run to do an errand or go somewhere.
8. Run to be able to fit into a new outfit you want to wear.
9. Run to be able to reward yourself with some delicious treat.
10. Run to be in good shape to do other activities that require stamina (hiking, cycling, skating, etc).
11. Run to be able to say you did it (conquered that hill, finished that race, ran marathons in all 50 states, etc).
12. Run to compete against others.
13. Run to compete with yourself.
14. Run to raise funds for a cause.
15. Run to be a good role model or help others get started.
16. Run to do other sports that involve running (dus/tris, basketball, etc).
17. Run to be able to have an excuse to travel to interesting places.
18. Run to get more enjoyment out of a new place when you travel.
19. Run to meet new people.
20. Run to celebrate a major milestone birthday and your good health.
21. Run indoors when it's too hot or otherwise nasty outdoors.
22. Run in the pool when you have an impact-related injury.
23. Run faster than usual with a running group or get a coach.
24. Run while following a structured training program.
25. Run to be able to fill out your log book and see your progress.
26. Add variety to your running (different distances, slow/fast workouts, vary routes, substitute or add XT workouts).
27. Get yourself a new running gadget, outfit, shoes or partner.
28. Read/listen to running publications, podcasts, blogs, seminars, etc.
29. Run free of any gadgets & expectations. Don't even log the run. Just run purely for fun!
30. If all else fails, take a break and let the desire to run return on its own.

PS - Many would say that I didn't become a runner until 2002 when I entered my first official race. I disagree. To me, a runner is someone who runs regularly or enjoys running, regardless of speed or motivation.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Good Training Week!

Well, perhaps doing less than I'd hoped during my recent Hawaii trip has still helped my training.

First of all, I forgot to mention that while in Kona I got a private swim lesson from powerhouse Karlyn Pipes-Nielson to learn her so-called "Wide Entry Freestyle" swim style, which looks much like you're paddling an imaginary surfboard underneath you while swimming (see a clip from her instructional video). It's quite different than the Total Immersion (TI) swim style I learned a year and a half ago when I started swimming. Good body position and balance in the water are still very important but there's much less body roll involved and much more focus on stroke mechanics (in particular, a high elbow catch and a much straighter arm recovery). Instead of swimming on one's side to go faster through the water, the idea is to hydroplane on top of it.

I won't argue which swim style is faster from a hydrodynamics perspective but will say that Karlyn's swim style seems to be working for me so far. Namely, I'm now able to swim easy-paced 100 yard repetitions nearly as fast as I could sprint 100 yards before (2:05-2:10, excluding rests). I've still got a lot of work to do to be able to swim long continuously with the new swim style, but my goal of swimming 1.2 miles in 50-55 minutes (a 2:30-2:45 100m swim pace) at Miami Man in early November looks very doable even if I have to take some breaks to do the breast stroke to sight and actively rest. And a wetsuit should help!

This week I also noticed some progress in my cycling. For one thing, my cadence meter is now working because Dave fixed it and it's reading above 85 RPMs most of the time (last time it was working I had difficulty staying above 80). And during our training rides in the Orlando area, I'm rarely drafting and my speedometer has still been reading 20-22 mph pretty regularly with occasional max speeds reaching 26-27 mph on some of my short sprints. The Miami course should be similar barring any hurricanes.

It seems my cycling improvements have come in about 6 month intervals. After 6 months I finally stopped falling over. After 12 months I felt comfortable riding on the roads and could do some group riding (drafting, pulling, pointing, yelling, etc). After 18 months, I don't need to draft to go 20+ mph, am spinning as I should for better efficiency and can get up out of my saddle to go up hills and sprint. In another 6 months, who knows?

My running is pretty much the same, however. But a 2-3 hour run still feels as it did a few months ago, which is good considering the summer heat. My next marathon, the Siouxland Lewis & Clark Marathon in Sioux City, Iowa, is not until October 20th and my goal is just to finish since Miami Man is only 3 weeks later. I'll probably only add in a little faster running as the weather begins to cool off, not much more mileage.

This Thursday Dave and I are headed to Wichita Falls, Texas, to join the spandex-clad hoards that will be at the Hotter 'n Hell 100 bike ride. We opted to go only 100K (there were 100 mi, 100K, 50 mi, 25 mi and 10K options) to make sure we can finish without Dave overheating and in plenty of time to be able to fulfill other family obligations we will have during our trip (his folks live in Wichita Falls and his sister about an hour away).

Our mantra during the ride will be: Hotter 'n Hell, Cooler Than Florida. At least, we hope it will be in the morning :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

TGIB - Thank God I'm Back

Who'd have thought that playing tourist in Hawaii could be more exhausting than training for marathons and triathlons? At least my workouts are usually no longer than 2-3 hours and there are planned recovery days.

Not so in Hawaii the past couple weeks.

My mom and I did a 12-hour around-the-island bus tour, attended a 3 hour all-you-can-eat luau, spent a day walking around the Hilton Waikoloa Resort, visited numerous museums, scenic sites, and other cultural centers, ate at various restaurants, and we shopped until I nearly dropped. "This is probably the only time she'll ever visit Hawaii," my sister told me. "I can do whatever my 70-year-old mother can do," I kept telling myself.

In between, I did manage to escape for a few swim-bike-run workouts but I always seemed to feel tired. I wasn't sleeping well with the condo temperature hovering around 85 most of the time (my mom got cold easily so no AC and no wide open windows, which I like). And she always seemed to be complaining about something ...

I did, however, have a couple of notable training experiences: 1) I fixed my first flat all by myself out on the highway and 2) I swam in Kailua Bay solo (wore fins since there are no lifeguards). These are things I've done in the past with Dave by my side guiding me and keeping me calm. This time I was by my lonesome and I conquered some fears I had about whether I could do them on my own -- woohoo!

The day after I got back I slept for nearly 12-hours straight. And I've had to take 2-3 hour long naps nearly every day, still. Guess I'm recovering. Meanwhile, here's a few photos from the around-the-island bus tour. Enjoy!

Orchid nursery

Rainbow Falls

Thurston Lava Tube

Tikis at Place of Refuge

Turtles at Black Sand Beach