Not Exactly As Planned

When I bought my indoor trainer in Florida about a month ago, I expected that my swimming days were over for at least a few months.  Since my trip home to Little Rock for Christmas over the past two weeks, it hasn’t turned out that way.  I’ve spent a lot more time in the pool than on the bike, but not as much of either as I would prefer.

Everything started out according to plan.  I was able to get one long ride in the first weekend I was home, but the combination of cold, dark, and schedule demands convinced me to shift my plans.  Instead of riding, I was able to work in some early morning swims that first week.  It felt good to get back in the water, although I realized how quickly the swimming muscle fitness fades.  While I wouldn’t say I was sore as in “ouch, that hurts”, I definitely felt some muscle groups I hadn’t felt for a few weeks.

Last week was Christmas, and the weather again wreaked havoc.  We were hit with a combination of ice and snow on Christmas Day, which killed any real chance of training outside.  I was able to get in a few treadmill runs, but the icy conditions stuck around until almost New Years.  It took three days before we could get out of our neighborhood, so riding was not an option.  That killed swimming, too, since I couldn’t get to the pool.

This week showed some improvement, though, as the roads finally cleared.  I made it to the pool on New Year’s Day, and again this morning.  Runs on Sunday and New Years rounded out the schedule so far.  Again, I’m feeling the physical affects of getting back in the pool, and it’s a good kind of sore.

Even though I’ve let my Florida Y membership lapse, I’ve found a couple of public pools in Tampa that have lap swimming hours into the early evening.  I’m going to try to rearrange my schedule once I get back to keep a couple of pool workouts a week during the winter.  I’ve built a “maintenance” training plan on Beginner Triathlete to get me through the end of February, so we’ll see how that goes.  MBA classes start up as soon as I get back.

So, as seems to be the usual case for my training recently, it hasn’t gone exactly as planned.  But it’s going, and that’s the really important part.

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The Beauty of Chance

I set out for my annual “Resolution Run” this morning after a solid night’s sleep.  The Resolution Run is a tradition I adopted from my time in Manitoba 14 years ago.  The local running group gathered about mid-morning for a run on New Year’s Day.  The principle was that if you could face an outdoor run at -30 C on New Year’s Day, you could handle just about anything for the rest of the year.  The tradition died out personally for a while, but was reborn 5 years ago today, when I chose to get off the couch and reclaim my life.  70 pounds, two half marathons, two duathlons, a marathon, a century ride, and a triathlon later, I’m thankful for the tradition.

This morning’s run was cold and wet, thanks to a Christmas Day snow storm that is slowly receding into history.  The snow is melting slowly, and the temperatures in the high 30s or low 40s mean the air can’t absorb much of the water… that gives us a cold fog.  I suited up for the 10 mile run and headed out.  My original plan was to cross the bridge into the park to knock out the first 6 miles, then finish the last four on the Little Rock side of the river.  As I started up the bridge, a boy of about 12, out on a bike ride with his dad, warned me that the bridge was pretty icy.  I knew that the entire path on the Little Rock side should be clear, so the chance encounter changed my plans.  I’m glad it did.

The first 6 miles of the run were easy and comfortable.  I crossed paths with a few others out for their first workout of the year… some cheery and friendly, others looking like they might have been dragged out of bed against their will.  Either way, they were putting in the miles, and that’s what counts.

At about 6 miles, I heard footsteps behind me.  Another runner was “reeling me in”, slowly closing the gap between us.  He said hello as he pulled alongside, and we uncharacteristically stuck up a conversation.  Uncharacteristically because I always run alone, and rarely engage other runners with more than a “how’s it goin’.”  Turns out my unplanned training partner was training for the half version of the marathon I did last spring, and is in his first year of triathlon training… a milestone I just finished.  What spurred the decision to do a tri?  He’s turning 50, of course.  We finished out the last 4 miles discussing training techniques, bike fit, nutrition, shoes… I think we covered the spectrum.

I was surprised to see that I finished the last four miles a full minute and 1/2 per mile faster than the first 6, without trying.  I don’t know if he was pushing me or I was pushing him, but it reminded me of the “iron sharpens iron” verse from proverbs.  I can’t think of a workout I’ve enjoyed more in the recent past… except perhaps the one last spring when I also linked up with an unplanned partner for 3-4 miles of a long run.  And all because a kid on a bike told me about the ice on the bridge.

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Can’t Miss…

… a morning run, that is.  This morning’s run was  a 5 miler, and I was bound and determined to get out of bed and do it before work.  I’ve got finals this week, and I’m headed out of town over the weekend for two weeks, so every free minute is crammed with stuff to do.  No sleeping late for me.

The humidity trend in Florida continues, but we appear to have reverted to summer.  It’s been well into the 70s for the past two mornings, and coupled with the 90+ % humidity, the run was a soaker.  I was drenched within the first few miles.  That’s the bad side; the good side is that I seemed to have a new found burst of, and clocked miles three through four in a respectable (although not blazing) pace.  I could have pushed it for mile five, too, but wanted to do a cool down before I tried to go in and take a shower.

I’m still getting used to the thinner layer of padding in the new Brooks shoes, especially in the mid-foot.  I notice it a lot more on runs where I pick up the pace like this morning, since I tend to land more forward.  Not bad, really, just noticeable.  The upside is that I went up by a half size, and I haven’t lost a toenail in a month.  It’s the simple things in life that really make a difference.

I didn’t include any intervals in the run, but I was still feeling yesterday’s bike intervals in the quads.  The workout was essentially a tempo run, anyway, so perhaps I’ll take tomorrow morning’s ride a little easier and do the intervals on Friday.  We shall see.

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Is It Monday Again?

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “My joy comes in the morning.”  The author obviously did not own an indoor cycling trainer or a Chris Charmichael training DVD.  I crawled out of bed this morning trying to think of any good reason I could crawl right back in.  I can’t ride, the streets are still too wet from last night’s storms.  Oh, wait, indoor trainer. It’s cold in Little Rock, and I should crawl back under the covers in sympathy (empathy?) for my family.  When you’ve been out of bed for 3 minutes and already thought that hard, you might as well stay up.

The morning’s workout was a 1 hour ride to the tune of Chris Charmichael’s 1% body fat coach telling me I could push harder.  How does he know, he’s inside my DVD player.  I mean, he was right, but how does he know?

While it was a little tough to get started this morning, the workout was good.  I can’t truly say that I was “sweating from my eyeballs”, as the online coach exhorted me to do, I was sweating from every other pore of my body.  I can honestly say that I was a little wobbly when I got off the bike after the last interval.  Now that’s a workout.

So that’s two days in a row I’ve been able to get back into the early morning workout pattern.  Tomorrow is a 5 mile run before work, with intervals planned.  Not sure my right leg feels up to the intervals, but I may give the first couple a shot and see how it goes.  I’ve got a strength training session planned for the evening, but I’ve also got an MBA class and a final tomorrow night.  I’m banking we get done a bit early; if so, I’ll squeeze in the strength session.  If not, I may push it to Thursday night.  I can see that getting to bed early enough is a key component of getting up the next morning.  Go figure.

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Up and At ‘em

I was actually able to drag my carcass out of bed at the planned 5:30 a.m. for a run before work.  The die hard triathletes out there are rolling their eyes.  For most triathletes, 5:30 is sleeping in.  Lately, thought, it’s been a real struggle for me to get my workouts in before going to the office.  I’ve still done the vast majority of them, but sometimes at lunch and other times in the evening.  I’m hoping that this morning marked the beginning of a return to “normal”.

The morning run was an easy recovery workout after the weekend 30 mile ride and 11 mile run.  It was almost as humid this morning as for yesterday’s long run, but it was still dark so I can’t tell you if the fog was as thick.  The temperature was a bit cooler, though, and it felt GREAT.  I’ve got a fairly standard set of loops that I run around the complex and through a nearby neighborhood, adding loop repeats depending on the planned distance.  I change the order to mix up the scenery a bit.  It’s not as boring as running laps on a track, since each loop is a little over a mile long.  Still some variety is nice.  I’m amazed at how many people I see out and about that early, especially the kids.  While it is true that I had to walk 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, I don’t remember having to do it at 6:00 in the morning.  Maybe that’s before there was a 6:00 in the morning.

I finished off the evening with a strength workout at the apartment.  I definitely let my strength training slip when my schedule got so demanding, but I’m trying to kick start it now that I’ve set swimming aside as a major activity for a while.  With all the running and cycling I do, you wouldn’t think that squats and lunges would be that much of a challenge.  You would be wrong.  It doesn’t take long to lose whatever it is you build up when you do them regularly.  I only hope it comes back quickly.

Tomorrow will be the real test of willpower, as my schedule calls for a 1 hour indoor ride before work.  I’d be tempted to do it outside if not for the heavy rains we had tonight, and the forecast for obscuring darkness that early in the morning.  So, on the trainer it is.  I can’t wait until spring.

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Morning Swim

Well, not really, but it felt like it. Today’s workout was an 11 mile run through the neighborhoods near my apartment. Near is a relative term, I suppose, since I wound up 6 miles from the house at one point, but you know what I mean. I prefer long runs like that, where I move from one neighborhood to another, versus the six miles out and six miles back on the same bike or jogging path. The scenery changes seem to make the run go faster, and the twists and turns onto different streets require me to keep my mind engaged at least at some level. It can be a little disappointing to finish a long run and realize my brain has been completely disengaged. Sometimes I need to “check out”, but there are days when I need the mental stimulation of calculating distances to the next turn, distance back tot the house, etc.

So where does the swim part come in? The temperature was a perfect 60 degrees, but the humidity was 94 percent. Yes, 94 percent. I don’t care who you are, that’s humid. There was a fairly thick fog, almost a mist. I wasn’t even running that hard and I had water dripping off my head by the end of the first mile. I think I was passed by a fish. Seriously. Yesterday was alligator day, today was fish.

It was a great run though, fog, humidity, and all. I left out the half mile repeats I’ve been doing on my long runs because I was doing my second long run Sunday in a row. I’m traveling back to Little Rock next weekend, so there’s no way I could do a really long run then. In fact, today should have been a 13 or 14 mile run, but I needed to squeeze the workout in before church. I tried that last week, but my slow pace spoiled that plan. I’ve been feeling a little like I’m forcing 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound sack lately, and need to get some balance back. So, for the first time in a while, I cut the workout short and made it to church.

A good run, some focus on what’s really important, and the end of the MBA semester and a trip back home in sight; not a bad way to start the week. My goal for this week is to start my speed work again after a couple of weeks off and get my half marathon training back on the rails. At a minimum, I want to enjoy this week’s training. I hope you do, too.

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Today’s ride had a little bit of something for all of the senses… it’s one of the great things about running and riding outside that you can’t really get on a trainer or treadmill.

First, there was sound.  This wasn’t positive.  I’ve still got a creaking sound on the bike when I pedal.  At first I thought it might be my knee… I am getting older, you know.  But I’ve done some troubleshooting, and I’m pretty sure it’s the bike.  I’ve tightened down everything I can get to or have a tool for, but the sound is still there.  I’ll probably drop the bike off at a local shop tomorrow to see if they can check the crank and bottom bracket with the proper tools.  The sound was a little less annoying, though, because of some other adjustments I’ve been able to make, which leads me to “feel”.

I’ve noticed some sloppy shifting on the bike for the past few weeks, and using the indoor trainer has helped me diagnose the problem.  After my workout on Thursday, I got back on the bike and did some practice shifting while pedaling slowly and watching the rear derailleur.  I found that I wasn’t even hitting all the gears on the cassette, and was getting multiple shifts for some clicks of the index shifters.  So, last night I watched a couple of You Tube videos on adjusting the shifting mechanism and went at it.  How did the world survive before Google and You Tube?  I am fairly handy with jobs that require only mass muscle movements… rough carpentry, plumbing, large component assembly, etc, but my skillsets deteriorate rapidly as the complexity and attention to detail requirements rise.  Adjusting a derailleur can be one of those jobs.  You have to notice small changes resulting from minor turns of the screw, etc.  After a few trial and error attempts (okay, a lot), I finally got the bike “firing on all cylinders”, or at least hitting all the gears.  So, today’s ride felt a lot smoother.

The sight was a real surprise… how about a 6 foot alligator sunning itself on the creek bank as I rode by?  There were some folks standing by the creek, just staring at the shoreline, which made me curious.  As I got closer, I could see the beast nestled in the tall grass, just on the edge of the water.  Not something you expect to see on a nice Saturday ride.  I’ve often wondered as I drive through neighborhoods here, almost all of which have a collection pond or lake, if you would be allowed to swim in the lake if you lived there.  Maybe not.  I bet it would help with my pace per 100 yards, though.

120711_SCI_alligator.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeCare for a swim?

The smell was the most pleasant part of the ride.  About 2/3 of the way through, I passed a very large Christmas tree lot.  The wind was just right, and I got a wonderful dose of pine.  I actually smelled it before I saw the lot, and there was something in my brain that screamed Christmas.  It’s amazing how sensory things like that can trigger memories and emotions in your brain.  There isn’t much in Florida that makes me think it’s December, and only a couple of weeks from Christmas, but that 30 second aroma of pine trees did it for a while.

Oh, yeah… taste.  Note to self, don’t mix the “assorted” sport beans pack with blue gatorade.  Yuck.

Tomorrow is a long run.  It was supposed to be 7 miles, with 14 the following week.  I’ll be traveling back to Little Rock next weekend, though, so I will probably swap the two runs.  That would mean two 14 milers in a row, but I’ve done much more than that during marathon training.  We’ll see how I feel in the morning.

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