Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another open water swim in SF Bay

This morning I took my brand new BlueSeventy Synergie wetsuit out on its maiden swim in the San Francisco Bay up at Aquatic Park by Fisherman's Wharf.

Even though I am battling a cold, I had to get in the water with the San Francisco International Triathlon at Treasure Island just three weeks away.

My friend Thom and I drove up to the city at 7am, and you could see the marine layer was pretty thick at that hour. No sunny swim for us. When we arrived at Aquatic Park and met up with our third swimmer, Warren, the air temperature was only about 56 degrees F which made changing into our wetsuits on the stairs quite a chilly procedure.

Swimming a loop around the buoy line at Aquatic Park covers .35 miles. The swim distance for the upcoming tri is 1.5km (.96 miles), or just shy of three laps around the buoy line. With the water in the Bay is all of 62 degrees, and my feeling out of sorts anyway, I set out from shore with designs on doing one and a half laps. I just wanted to get accustomed to swimming in my new wetsuit and being out in the chilly water and try to gain a little confidence in my open water swim abilities.

It took about 400 meters for my face to finally numb up enough that it no longer hurt having it in the water. And wouldn't you know that I was actually enjoying myself by that point, too!

Without the walls of the pool to necessitate turns, I was able to really focus on my form. Believe it or not, I found I actually could relax as I swam along, watching my arms pul through the water below me and feeling the crown of my head pierce the water line as I moved along.

Before long, I was finishing up my second lap of the buoys and decided I'd go the full 1.5km before climbing out.

I don't know if it was the new wetsuit or the refined technique or just the pure enjoyment of being in the water looking up at Russian Hill early on a Saturday, but I really had fun out there today. And when I climbed up onto the beach, I still had gas in the tank and know I could've gone for a run or a bike ride if I'd had my equipment with me.

Moreover, I've got all kinds of confidence in my swimming abilities now. Considering it's my weakest leg of the three triathlon disciplines, that's a major accomplishment for me.

I can't wait to finish the racing season out on Treasure Island in three weeks.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Split times for my half marathon

At last, the split times have been posted for the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon. Considering they are all PRs for me, I'm glad to be able to claim them again:
  • 5km: 26:16 (8:28 pace)
  • 10km: 52:23 (8:26 pace)
  • 10mi: 1:26:29 (8:39 pace)
  • finish: 1:55:49 (8:51 pace)
A little weird to see I picked up the pace in the second 5km. Not surprising to see I blew up in the last 3 miles. I could definitely feel it in the race.

Looking forward to seeing all these PRs fall in the next year!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

San Jose Rock n Roll half marathon race report

Today was a beautiful day for a half marathon: clear skies, 60 degrees at the gun and no breeze at all in San Jose, CA. By 10am, I'd completed my longest run ever, beaten my goal of two hours by a comfortable margin and had my first ever medal around my neck for finishing a race.

I woke up before my alarm, was out of bed and dressed by 6am in time to gulp down a chocolate Ensure, a banana and half a PowerBar. Since my last few races have all been triathlons, it was nice to only have to walk out the door with my shoes, shorts and shirt and not a big bag of stuff for all the transitions.

I left the house in plenty of time to make it down to park in the HP Pavilion parking lot and walk over to the very crowded starting area in downtown. It was only 53 degrees (F) when I shut off the car, and I almost wished I'd worn my long sleeve shirt. By the end of the race, though, I was plenty glad I'd gone with short sleeves, as I was warm by the time I'd gone 10 miles.

The Elite Racing folks put on a well-organized race, and it was nice to see 10,000 runners out and about early on a Sunday morning in Silicon Valley. The bands every mile or so were a nice touch, but you could only hear a snippet of 40 seconds or so of any given band, so next time around I think I'll be wearing my iPod to help with my pacing.

When I registered for the race, I guessed I'd be able to finish the race in 2:05, and for that I was assigned bib #6089 (corral #6). When I picked up my race packet, though, I knew I'd be faster so I moved up in the pack to corral #4. I'm glad I did so, as there were fewer folks to pass as the race went on. Thanks to the disposable RFID chips we'd each been issued with our bibs, our timing was tracked in real time (and not gun time) from start to the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and finish lines.

After checking my gear bag with 20 minutes to the starting gun, we crowded into our corrals. It was nice to have all the bodies packed around if for no other reason than the warmth of the group. With 2 minutes to go, the gun went off to release the wheel chair racers and When the air horn went off, we began walking towards the start line, and I finally crossed the start line a good 90 seconds after the horn went off and got up to a decent pace by about half a mile into the race.

While I've been getting some good training runs in, I didn't expect to fall into the pack with a sub-eight pace quite so quickly. I was aiming for sub-nine to hit my 2 hour mark, and sub-eight was aggressive, so I had to force myself to slow down a bit for fear of sputtering later on in the race.

As we passed the two-mile mark, I realized I needed to pee. Cripes. Not a gotta-go-now-alarm, but a gotta-go-soon feeling.

Since there were plenty of porta-potties along the route, it wasn't for lack of opportunity to go, but how much time it'd take to go. I figured if I could hold on until the 10K mark, the crowd would be thinned a bit and it wouldn't be too hard to work my way back up. For every minute I spent off course, I was giving up five seconds per mile pace. I decided not to risk it and just keep running.

I crossed the 10K mark in PB time (52:27) and probably should've taken that as a sign I was running too fast. By the time I got to the 10 mile mark at ~1:26, I was well within a sub-two-hour pace and unless I blew up with three miles to go, I was going to make my goal.

Miles 10, 11 and 12 were tough for me, and I wound up walking at the water/Cytomax tables, and my pace slowed to around 9:30+ over the last 3km.

However, I got my adrenaline kick in the last half mile and picked things back up. With just 100m to go, the relief and happiness washed over me. I heard my wife and kids call out to me and new that they were just as happy as I was.

After finishing the race, I rushed through the refueling station in search of a restroom and you could hear my sigh of relief from a mile away.

My first half marathon's in the bag. Next time I'll be sure to empty the bladder before stepping into the corral.

I can't believe I'm going to be doing another half marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and riding another 56 on the bike.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Live Results from San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon

My good friend Matt points out this cool tool where you can follow any race participant's progress in real time:

My bib number is 6089

My first half marathon: how I've trained

By this time tomorrow morning, just twenty four hours from now, I'll be walking around the finish area of the San Jose Rock N Roll Half Marathon as a newly minted half marathoner.

I'm excited to run, and only a little bit nervous about it, if only because I think I've done a good job training for the race by following my six-week plan to about 90% compliance.

I learned over the summer that unless I actually write down on my calendar the exact training session for the day, I'll get lazy and decide not to decide what to do (run? bike? swim? both? all?) and the day will get away from me.

Prior to signing up for the half marathon, the farthest I'd ever run in one go was 7.1 miles. Knowing that my goal for 2009 is to complete a half Ironman (or as the marketers now call it: an Ironman 70.3), I decided to end my 2008 season with a half marathon just to prove to myself I could do the distance. I signed up seven weeks in advance, so that gave me time to plot out my schedule to slowly increase my weekly long runs from 7 miles up to the 12 mile run I completed last Sunday in advance of tomorrow's 13.1 race.

My training routine has been to run four days a week:
  • Tuesday: 4- or 5- mile intervals
  • Thursday: 3-mile intervals
  • Saturday: 4-mile pace runs
  • Sundays: long run, adding one mile to distance each week
My results are that by taking it easy in the training, I stayed relatively injury free. I'm now capable of running my half marathon below the 2:00 mark I'd dreamed of when I started (and I think I might get to 1:50 if all goes well).

As I've built up my base level of fitness (a year ago, I couldn't even do a 10k without having to walk chunks of it), I've now been able to start concentrating on technique, and that's really helped me keep from getting bored out on the road.

And I've learned the power of ice baths to keep the pain down on the day after my long runs, too. Last weekend's 12-miler was a great reminder that I have to make sure to fuel up on Saturday (I ran slow because I hadn't eaten enough day before) and ice down on Sunday (I was sore Monday morning).

So, today I'm taking it easy, watching what I eat and that I eat enough, and already looking ahead to my final event of the season: the olympic-distance SF Triathlon at Treasure Island on November 8.

Come Tuesday, it'll be time to get back in the pool and replace long Sunday runs with open water swims in the Bay.