Twenty, The Hard Way

running black toenails

Ran 20 miles on Sunday as part of the build up to the Quebec City Marathon. Did it on too much beer and too little sleep the night before. It was much warmer than it seemed. High relative humidity. So the sweat was pouring off of me pretty much right away. I was dehydrated to begin.  The high relative humidity wasn’t helping.

At least it was overcast. Otherwise I would have passed out in the gutter. Because I wasn’t running with a bottle. So I needed to run relays between the playgrounds and their water fountains so I could at least try to replace some of what I was losing.  I was listening to a long playlist.  Wilco. James Brown. Sondre Lerche. Kanye West. She & Him. Jake Bug. Cat Stevens. Yo La Tengo. The Strokes. Wild Child.  It went on and on.

I felt ragged at the two hour mark. With another 8 km to go I was doing mental math to calculate the balance of time according to the pace testified by my GPS.

But my brain wasn’t up to the task.

I was running out of road. I started laying down the last few miles like intestines, my route curling and folding back in itself. The sun had come out and it added to the weigh of exhaustion I was carrying. My heart rate was starting to creep up. If I ran faster I would be done sooner. If I ran faster I would suffer more, too.  Too fast and I might end up in that gutter.

I didn’t want to imagine this point in the actual marathon. The mere thought of it crushed me.  I started to think about that large Nalgene filled with Cytomax at home, in the fridge.  Ice cold.  Waiting for me.  Thinking about it made me more thirsty.  My muscles were starting to feel effort.  But they were holding up quite well.  My hips felts solid.  No tight spots. No cramping. But tired. So tired.  The kind of tired that seems into the bones of your body.  Tired enough to lay down in that gutter.

But I pushed through.  I always seem to do so. And I finished it.  There are a few more long ones like this to go.  Hopefully not as tough as this. Hopefully they get easier at some point. Then the marathon…

Stats:

  • 32.5km (20.2 miles)
  • 2 hours 38 minutes
  • Pace 4:51 /km (7:51/mile)
  • 1721 calories (2 Cliff Shots consumed)
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Gran Prix of Beverly 2013

gran prix beverly 2013

Not much to say about this race.

I had a bad start.

Caught behind a guy who couldn’t get his foot into his pedal.  Lost a lot of positions there.

Had some trouble finding my rhythm on the technical course. Took a few laps before I could trust the bike and the tires in the corners.

Guys were blowing up. Gaps kept opening up. I kept closing them. That wouldn’t last very long. There was no room to recover, especially where the elastic kept snapping.

Hit all of the potholes on the course, including the big one on the back stretch where my bars slipped and both my bottles were ejected. But I stayed upright. Somehow.

Can’t say the same for other riders. Crashes at every other corner the first 10 laps.

The paramedics taking the guys off the fourth corner in stretchers were a bit of a distraction. Hope they were all right.

The race was neutralized at one point so it could come back together. I was in the splinter group, chasing my ass off to get to the front group. They never stopped racing. We did.

Of 100 starters, about 20 riders finished.

I was pulled by half-way.

 

Au Revoir Au Tour

le tour de france 2013 celebration

Now that le Tour is over, what am I going to do?  This year, I didn’t miss a single stage. In many cases, I followed live coverage online while at work, then watched the coverage on my DVR and even watched the extra late night coverage.  I read all the articles and interviews in l’Equipe.  I had a few rough spots.  There’s a lot of coverage out there.

And what a fantastic race this year.  I really want to believe these guys are clean.  I’m not sure I can wait another ten years to find out whether or not they were.  Congrats to all those  who finished.  I’ve never raced le Tour. Nor anything close to that.  The longest race I ever did was a 2-week stage race and I couldn’t finish it.  These riders deserve respect for making it to Paris.

Le Tour: The Third Week

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I’ve been having a good Tour de France, despite some long days. Adding that extra hour to the DVR ensured I haven’t missed some exciting finishes.

While many obsess over the GC lead and daily stage winners, I am more fascinated by the second-rank, almost-there riders.

For this reason, I’ve become a fan of drooling Laurens ten Dam and have been pleased to see him in the top-5 overall. Ten Dam had a bad day yesterday on the road to Gap. I’m not quite sure what happened that dropped him from the groupe maillot jaune but I suspect dehydration.

Good luck to ten Dam for the final week.

This Is Happening…

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For several years now I’ve been wanting to run the Boston Marathon. I think it goes back to Romeo’s due date being originally on Marathon Monday. We worried how we would get to the hospital with all the streets around Newton-Wellesley Hospital being blocked. But Romeo came early instead and we he left us early, I vowed I would run that race someday.

After the bombing, I decided to go for it. What better was to pay tribute? If not now, when would I do it? But there was one problem: I’d never been able to run the necessary training miles without getting injured.

But this year was already different. I had taken my sweet time to ease into running after ski season. I had avoided extreme intensity. All the races I had run were run at threshold. I held way back which was very difficult for me.

So when the idea started to sound possible, I consulted with my running buddies on CSU and got a plan. And I’ve been following that plan — more or less — plus the dryland ski training and the cycling, too.

Last weekend, I ran 17 miles, the furthest I’ve ever run in my life. I ran the the last 3 miles at tempo. I felt good. Strong.

I still have to qualify for Boston which will be a challenge this year because everybody wants to run after what happened.

This will hopefully happen at the Quebec City marathon in late August. I need to run under 3:15 to qualify but I’ll have to finish much faster than that to actually secure a spot.

Wobbling

wobble board balance drills

As an ex-bike racer, my balance wasn’t very good for nordic skiing. At first, I was unable to stand on one foot for any period of time, much less glide a ski for any distance. I spent a lot of time on the snow — literally — from falling over. So I made it a point to improve my balance.

Functional balance is comprised of several parts: core strength, muscle memory, proprioception, inner ear and visual systems. There are more accurate physiological defintions, but this will suffice for the purposes of this article.

By far, the most effective tool for improving my balance has been a wobble board.

I use the 16″ Fitter First wobble board. This one is solid wood and has adjustable angles. There are other, less expensive options.

It’s taken me a few years to master it but it has paid of tremendously in my comfort and efficiency on skis.

Initial Drills:

The first drills are quite simple. Stand on the wobble board, one leg at a time, and balance on it as long as possible. Your leg will get tired very quickly, in particular all the stabilizing muscles. This will help improve your muscle strength. When one leg gets tired, switch.

You will also find that the board will want to bottom out and you will have concentrate to keep it level. You will spend a lot of time overcorrecting. Gradually, this will become easier as your proprioception and muscle memory improve.

Do this for 30 minutes to an hour, every day if possible. I’d watch a sitcom or two, which makes it a little tougher because your eyes are focusing on a moving target. If that’s too hard, focus on a fixed spot. Starting out on carpet as opposed to a hard floor will make things easier, too.

Intermediate Drills:

Once you can stand on the wobble board for more than a few minutes, you can step things up. If you have an adjustable board, you can raise the angle, which will give you less of a chance to recover your balance. You can also move it to a harder surface. The biggest thing to focus on for this period is duration. Extend the amount of time you can stand on one leg as you increase the difficulty. This will continue to build muscle memory and further strengthen your supporting muscles.

Advanced Drills:

After a while, just standing on the board for 10 or 15 minutes at a time will become a little boring. Adding dynamic movement will keep things interesting.

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Wave your arms around while trying to maintain balance.
  • Raise and lower a medicine ball from your waist to over your head. The weight of the med ball will affect your center of gravity and make it tougher.
  • Close your eyes. Once a visual reference is gone, you’ll have to rely on your vestibular system and proprioception.
  • One-legged squats. You can also do the classic knee-pop or skate compressions.
  • V2 technique simulation incorporating arm swing and knee pop.
  • Playing a musical instrument — in my case, a ukulele. The dexterity and concentration required to play will make the balance even more second nature.