6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

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How to Start Cycling

How to Start Cycling

One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling.  The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed.  Whew!

Buying my first Bike

I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it.  I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes.  Every bike store had a different angle they played.  One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike.  Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike.  Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?

I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty surecannondale_caad9 I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike.  I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet.  The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years.  Would I really not forget how to ride a bike?  The answer to that my friends is YES.  It is not a skill that is forgotten.  It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten.  Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.

I also read something that resonated with me.  The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting.  At first I thought, “what?  Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?”  I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you.  They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored.  “Really?”, you ask?  Yes…really.

The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension.  Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places.  He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back.  He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me.  I had no clue there was this much to it.

Pre-First Ride

As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice.  I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up.  I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down.  Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals.  Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what.  I followed that advice in detail.  I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it.  Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.

I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood.  I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike.  I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.

The First Ride

I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio.  I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride.  I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough?  After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back.  no big deal.”.

I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride.  The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming.  That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists.  They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out.  After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.

I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort.  The wind was in my face,  I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up!  It was an incredibly euphoric feeling.  Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.

My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals.  With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late.  I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side.  The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain.  The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going.  By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site.  I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.

To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store.  He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.

Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:

0103_00504.jpg

On my first bike after a couple of modifications

1. Buy an entry level road bike.  This is usually an aluminum alloy frame.  You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.

2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes.  The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for  you.

3. Purchase safety equipment.  Biking shorts, and a helmet to start.  I would also have a set of sunglasses as well.  Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too.  Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.

4. Get the bike fit for you.  Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.

5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats .  Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats.  Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.

6.  Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats.  When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going.  Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.

7.  Understand your gears.  While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.

8.  Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.

One last thing, you are going to fall.  That is just the reality of it.  You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal.  The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun.  It’s worth it I promise.

This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.

Milestone Monday & Magic Number 6

Happy Monday Everyone.  I know it isn’t much but this will be a small milestone as it’s the 20th blog I have written.  I have not achieved the frequency of my friend Kat at Sneakers and Fingerpaints who writes 30-40 entertaining and quality posts a month, but I am working up to it.  I would really like to allow you to follow me through this last week as I get ready for the Revolution 3 Florida 70.3 this weekend, so I am going to attempt to write a blog a day on my thoughts, workouts and other tasks I am doing in order be as fresh and strong as possible for this 70.3 Triathlon.  The Magic Number is 6.  Six days until the race.

This weekend was filled with slightly less intensity of training as I started the tapering process for the Rev3.  On Saturday the A-Train completed a pretty intense 6 mile run followed by a swim in the extremely choppy surf of Clearwater beach.  It was perfect weather for a run which took us along the beach and over the Sand Key Bridge. This was a good last quad burner for some explosiveness during the run portion next week.  I always like running with Nick Z.  He is an extremely fast runner so even though he is not running at his pace, he pushes me to keep my pace a little faster than usual.  Not quite a tempo run, but fast enough for this shake out run.  

I went up to the ballroom level of the  Hyatt right near Pier 60 after the run and had a chance to get to know one of our new members Jessica M.   The hotel is very plain from the outside but inside it is really beautiful.  We bought a couple of beverages at the coffee kiosk and then went outside to chat and found comfy couches and chairs with views for the water and the beach.  A perfect wind down to a tough workout.  Jessica is a recent transplant from Brooklyn, New York, with a love for working out and running.  We found out during the Miles for Hope ride how tough this woman really is.  I mentioned in that post that we averaged about 18.5 mph during that ride.  Ms. Jessica kept up with us the whole way on a recently purchased bike, with no cages or clips on her feet.  She did the whole thing with running shoes and flat pedals.  That had to be really difficult.  I probably couldn’t have been able to keep up.


Sunday we rode a semi-fast 42 miles on the Sun Coast Trail.  We started with seven riders and it was very comfortable.  of course I lost the valve to my Speedfill early in the ride, but with two backup bottles I was still able to hydrate effectively.  The ride started a little chilly for Florida.  I don’t know the exact temperature, but it felt low 60s.  I was concerned at first because I really wasn’t prepared with long sleeves or with arm warmers, but after a brief warm-up spin, Pete broke away for a bit and I followed.  At 23 mph and spinning at at a cadence of 95 rpm, I ended up getting my heart rate up and I warmed up very fast.  As we closed in on the baseball fields, marking the halfway point, Pete took it up another notch and we were both hitting 25-27 mph  for the mile prior.  Oh did I mention the first half was with a decent head wind?  I didn’t realize it till I looked down at my Garmin and noticed I was working pretty hard to keep 19-20 mph.  The group and I took quick break and then headed back which turned out to be faster and easier due to the tail wind.  Pete and I kept a pretty good pace the rest of the ride with Jaime, Stephanie and one other gentlemen on our wheels.  About 6 miles prior to being back to the cars, Pete decided to hang back a bit and Steph got rolling with a really nice pace so we played cat and mouse sticking to about a 21-23 mph pace.  It was a fun ride, but luckily not too intense to keep our legs for next weeks race.

I went home, showered, rolled, stretched and then headed for a really good brunch at Grillsmith.  If you have not had their brunch I highly recommend it.

This morning I woke up extremely lazy, but I knew if I didn’t jump into the pool, I would come up with every excuse in the book not to do it later.  Amy, my coach, had me doing a short workout but was form focused which is what I need right now.

WARM UP:
200 WARM UP
50 CATCH UP STROKE
50 ON YOUR SIDE (1,2,3 X 5 KICKS ON SIDE)
50 ARM STOP AND LOOK
50 KICK BOARD CATCH UP
50 KICK FREE STYLE
100 PULL BUOY, FEELING THE GLIDE
MAIN SET:
All repeats are with a steady Rest Interval (RI):
10 X 100 ALL OUT!
10 SEC REST BETWEEN INTERVALS
COOL DOWN:
2 X 25 UNDERWATER NO BREATH
200 FORM FOCUS SWIM
LUNGES

As you can see it wasn’t a long swim by any stretch, but it was enough for me.  I actually love these workouts, because of the intervals.  It doesn’t seem like it takes as long.  This workout took me about 45 minutes, where I am usually in the pool close to 75-90.  See since I really do not like long workouts, I probably need to do more of them, you think?
My diet today will consist of a good amount of protein  with vegetables and a good amount of water.  Breakfast was 4 eggs, sweet potato and turkey sausage with salsa,  Lunch will be a spinach and romaine salad with a lot of chicken, vegetables and a splashed with a light balsamic vinaigrette  and dinner with be a lean steak with another sweet potato and green beans with almonds.  In between, I have a protien shake for morning and an apple and almonds for this afternoon snacks.  Pretty lame for a day of eating but I’ll enjoy it nonetheless.
That should take care of Manic Monday.  Tomorrow I hope to start a regular post called Tribute Tuesday where I choose one person whom has greatly affected me positively and give you my story of the why and how, and then I interview them in order to let you into their personalities.
CARPE VIAM!!

Albeit Augusta Part 2

I made it to the front of the dock where handlers had signs up with our ages and waves on them.  I found my wave with ease and merged in the rest of the 40-44 males whom had last names that started with the letters I – Q.  Now is when the nerves started to build up in my stomach and all the insecurities started to show their pretty little selves.  “Did I train enough?”  “Why didn’t I do more swim workouts?”  “Why can’t I use a pull buoy?”  “Should I really use a wet suit?” and the most famous insecurity that comes up before a race; “What makes you think you belong here with all these athletes?”  I never can shake that one.  (Read my “About” page to find out why.)

Before I knew it, we were starting to move toward the dock.  I pulled on my wet suit and with the help of another athlete got it zipped up and secured.  One thing about triathletes, we always help each other out and the real special ones may even give up some time on their race to help as well, but I digress.  We slowly moved to the dock where we jumped into the water.  The temp wasn’t bad at all and my wet suit was buoyant enough that my insecurities started to fold the minute I got into the water.  Maybe subconsciously I thought there was a chance I could die while I was in the water, I am not sure, but I felt a lot better.  I moved toward the starting buoys and noticed one thing.  The current was not nearly as strong as the previous year.  Last year I spent more energy trying not to cross the start line before the gun, because of the strength of the current.  This year, that was not the case.
The announcer was counting down and my heart rate started to rise.  3, 2, 1.. and the gun went off..bang!  I started my 1.2 mile survival journey that would be the swim portion of the Augusta Ironman 70.3.  I could swear I heard the announcer from the horse races in my head.  “AAANNNND There OFF!”, and we were. I kept two things in my head as the swim went on; my stroke count and how many reps of my stroke count did I do.  In other words, “1, 2, 3 bubble, breathe.   2, 2, 3, bubble, breathe”, all the way up to five when I would site the boat house right by the finish.  I was able to maintain it for about six hundred meters until my A.D.D. took over and my mind drifted.  Of course, I got a quick dose of reality when I looked up and right in front of me was a diver yelling at me “To the right!  To the right!”  It seems I may have drifted a little over to the left and was about to cross the line.  I don’t think it was a dis-qualifier or anything, but it did take me a little off course.  For a good amount of the time, I just kept my legs together and stuck my head down and as long as I used my roll to turn into my armpit I found that I was moving rather smoothly.  Slowly, but smoothly.  Right at the point I met the diver was when I realized that I was at the back of my wave, which was a lot better than last year when I ended up falling to the back the wave behind the wave behind me.  This year I was in the rear of my wave with the stragglers but at least the bulk of the wave immediately behind me was still back there.  Sure, the faster swimmers from that wave passed me and I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was to stay in front of that wave.  Score…2 points for my ego.  
When I sighted the finish line, I was ecstatic.  I surely was going to hit my goal of thirty minutes.  My only issue now was, that the finish line looked so close but it was like the opposite of a mirror on the driver side door of a car.  They should put a sign up…”Swim Finish is Farther than Appears”, because when I was about to turn for the finish, I realized that the finish buoys were actually another 30 meters ahead of me.  You mean, I have to continue swimming?  Son of a……uh…donkey?  (I didn’t really think that either.)  
Feeling pretty good after the swim
I finally was able to get to the ramp and out of the swim and started heading towards transition.  I glanced down at my watch as I pressed the button to move it from Swim Mode to transition 1 mode, I noticed that, gosh darnit (see the last set of parentheses), my time was the exact same as last year.  I couldn’t believe it.  Last year, I was all over the place.  I zig zagged, I swam breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, but this year I consistantly swam freestyle the full 1.2 miles and I still was just as slow.  Seriously?  All that work and I still came in at 37:17.  One thing was different this year though.  I was actually running toward transition and they made it farther this year to get to the wet suit strippers.  My legs felt good, my breathing came back almost instantaneously and I was running, almost sprinting.  There was the difference.  While last year the current was stronger I still used a ton of energy to finish it, which only allowed me to walk to my bike in transition.  I remember even walking my bike to the mount line.  This year, ran to the strippers, dropped to my butt, a young chick grabbed my suit and yanked it off and handed it to me as I jumped up.  I ran to  my bike, slipped on my shoes while clipping my race belt, grabbed my helmet, clipped the chin strap and ran my bike to the mount line.  Four minutes and twenty-two seconds after I stepped out of the river I was mounted and rolling onto the bike course.  It took me less than half the time it took me last year and that was without the third-of -a-mile distance they added from the river to transition.  Sure, I think I could have taken even more time off, but I was ok with it.  
Starting out on the  bike
I rolled out with the sound of the spectators becoming more and more distant as I quickly got my cadence up to 90 RPM, which is what I strive to keep no matter what the terrain.  My coach, Amy Bennett Eck, had suggested I not take any fluids or food for about 15 minutes to allow my body to calm a little and luckily I remembered because I noticed I was hungry.  In February, I purchased the Garmin 910XT and it has been an absolute dream to train with.  I mainly use it for number of swim strokes per 100m, time and distance, bike cadence, time, speed, power, distance and heart rate, and run cadence, pace, distance and time.  In this auto multi-sport mode, there is the functionality to program the events you will be either racing or training and with one touch of button it will transition from one event to the other giving you a transition time in-between.  For example, when I came out of the swim, I pushed one button as I came across the timing mats and it started to capture the amount of time I spent in T1, as soon as I mounted the bike I pushed the same button and it automatically started capturing the data for the bike portion.  Obviously, it did the same when I completed the bike event and on to the run.  There is also a simultaneous alarm function that I programmed to go off every 15 minutes.  This is how I track my nutrition.  Every fifteen minutes, when I hear, or feel, the alarm I know I need to have taken in a quarter of a bottle of hydration.  Every three times that alarm goes off it is time to eat something.  For this race I chose Honey Stinger gel packets.  To me they taste like Jello brand pudding so they can also be a treat.  Since Amy suggested I hold off I knew I just had to wait for the first alarm to go off and I could start drinking for the speed bottle that is bracketed to the vertical frame tube beneath my seat, where a straw then is strung up the through my aerobars so I can sip on the bottle whenever I want.  I love it.
The first five miles of the course was relatively flat which allowed me to slow down my heart rate while picking up my cadence and moving my speed to around 21 mph.  The air was clean, the sky was overcast and the temperature was perfect.  Everything just kept feeling like it was coming together.  I had no physical issues, I was keeping to my game plan and even though I was getting passed, I was also passing athletes.  Around mile ten the hills started to come into play and I started to move through the initial pack of age groupers whom I was suspecting were the good swimmers and runners but not so good cyclists.  Sometimes you can tell experience from the way people ride.  Amy always has me keeping my cadence and not coming out of the saddle unless I really feel like I need to.  I keep my cadence where I need to and I just move the gears to keep it in that range whether going up hills, coming down, or riding flat.  Sometimes a hill is steep and long therefore I do come out of the saddle, but it takes a lot of energy to do that, and while I do notice a lot of experienced riders taking that strategy, I do not care to.  I also notice while I am expending the same amount of energy on hills as I do cycling on flat roads, I pass those whom are pedaling out of the saddle.  Personally, that is always my favorite.  It is a little fun passing people and saying hello while I am comfortable in the saddle and they are standing, mashing down on the pedals and panting. But, just a little.  It still doesn’t take away from those athletes that are trained to average 23-25 mph and fly right by like a jet plane.  That is when I come back to earth and realize I am still that un-athletic guy who took two years to get this far, while others were able harness their genes and progress much faster.
Mucking for the camera
Before I knew it mile 16 flew by and I was passing the very first aid station where the volunteers where hooting and hollering, handing out water bottles and Ironman Perform sports drink.  Last year I strayed from my nutrition plan and ended up having stomach issues on the run which slowed me way down.  This year I was determined to learn from my mistakes so every aid station I just passed up.  Everything I needed was either in my bento box, in my bottles or in my tri-top.  I refused to stray this year and later, that paid off.  
The hills were coming a little more fast and furious in the middle of the bike course.  I had programmed another alert from my watch that helped a little.  I had my Garmin give me 5 mile splits, so I could tell how I was doing.  I was hoping to average 20 mph minimally, so when the split alert sounded I should see 15 minutes or less.  I was shocked when the middle of my bike I was consistently getting 14:19, 14:40, 14:52.  Of course there were two laps of 5 miles when I was way over.  After mile 30 we ended up with these rolling hills that while were nothing huge I got caught in the wrong gear and had to come out of the saddle and of course was shocked to see that I was moving all of 8 mph.  Wow!  From 21 mph to 8 within just a few seconds.  Somehow I screwed up somewhere, probably due to my ADD, and wasn’t paying attention and got caught on a hill and now I had to mash down on the pedals like the novices just to make it.  Sir Isaac Newton gave me all the luck I needed when he proclaimed “What goes up?”…wait for it…wait for it…”Must come down.”  Even though I was behind time, I could make it up by continuing to pedal on the downhills and scream at 35, and even once for a short stint, 42 mph.  That helped quite a bit.  While the last ten miles were pretty flat I still was kind of shocked when I looked at my watch at mile 55, when the split time came up at 12:49.  That was the highlight of my event.  Five flat miles in 12 minutes, 49 seconds.  It was definitely a first for me.  
I mentioned earlier that Coach Amy had me practicing transitions prior to this race, well, it paid off at T2(bike-ro-run transition).  I slipped off the bike, surprising myself by continuing to run, slipped off my helmet, took off my cletes, changed my race belt to a the one that stored salt tabs and stinger gels, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition in two minutes and forty-four seconds.  Well, below half of my T2 time last year.  What made it even more motivating and exciting was the race clock stated 4:05:32 as I ran out.  Remember, that my wave was at 8:00a, exactly 30 minutes after the start of the race, so this wasn’t my race time.  My race time was 30 minutes less; 3:35:32.  As I was running passed the aid station they had about a quarter of mile out of transition, it hit me.  I could possibly be 5:40 something.  I was hoping to come under 6 hours, but if I could run around a two-hour marathon I could really crush my time from last year.  A two-hour marathon should be easy for me.  I ran a 1:38 in a race last year, I should be able to conquer this goal.  So that’s what I set out to do.  
Unlike road races, long course triathlons usually have aid stations around every mile, which is nice.  When your body has been taking a beating for more than 3 hours, it might need a little extra hydration and nutrition.  My nutrition goal was to walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke and then every 4 miles taking a gel packet.  
Starting the run

Before I knew it I was at mile 3 wondering where the miles went, especially when my watch had me doing under 9 minute miles.  Of course I expected that to change as my body became a little more tired and I started to walk through the aid stations.  The run in Augusta is two loops around the center of town around Broad street.  It was loaded with spectators and I enjoy it.  Sometimes there is even some great signs that people make.  I have seen some funny ones, like “Toe Nails are for sissies” and “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman”, but my favorite to this day is still “If triathlon was easy they would call it football.”  That one always cracks me up.  Not that it is true.  Take it from someone who has attempted both American football the other football we call soccer, they both have there different definitions of tough.  Triathlon is just the endurance tough because it doesn’t stop for numerous hours, where in the other kinds of football they usually only last 2-3 hours and they have these things called “timeouts”.  In triathlon we don’t have timeouts, the clock doesn’t stop because you have a foul or a penalty.  It just keeps going.

The first loop went around Augusta went very fast.  Before I knew it I was in back a couple of blocks to the west passing the split where a sign was posted to keep left for the first loop or turn right if it was your second loop.  I remembered last year really disliking that sign, but this year not so much.  
The last mile
 (took off my hat and
sunglasses for the picture…LOL)

The crowds seemed to have grown on my second loop and I kept my eye out for Jessica who was sporting her bright yellow tank top and green hair.  It was supposed to be yellow as well, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.  I never did see her the whole run, but nevertheless the crowd cheered everyone on.  A couple of little kids were on the side holding their hands out and cheering hoping we would run by and give them a high five.  There were families out just hoping to get a glimpse of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers or fathers.  As I was running, my photographer’s eye kept seeing Norman Rockwell, paintings.  This really was a very clean, forthright city with an old soul.  I couldn’t help but smile a lot of the time, at least until mile nine.  I couldn’t believe it, the plan was working just fine but at that point, cramp, side stretch…ouch.  I forced myself to run until the mile 10 aid station where I walked and grabbed water and a cup of coke while breathing as deep as I could.  When the pain subsided a little, I started to run only to be struck down again by the pain.  I grabbed a gel packet and a salt tab hoping they would help and they did, for a short while until I arrived at the mile eleven aid station and ate an orange.  At this point, I didn’t care. I had 2.1 miles left and I wasn’t stopping.  If I had to leave my intestines on the sidewalk and pick them up later that’s what I was going to to.  I picked up my pace, blocked out everything and headed for the finish line.  I didn’t even see the mile twelve marker, but I felt the vibration of my watch which told me now I had just a little over a mile to go.  I kept looking down at my watch, 12.1, 12.24, 12.35.  I felt like this was the longest mile of my life, but I was wrong.  I finally made it to the split.  Left for the first lap and right to the finish and I was going right.  Here is what turned out to be the longest stretch of the run.  I had no idea that a quarter mile could feel like an eternity and when I finally did see the finish, I felt like I was in the movie; “The Shining”, when the little kid is looking down the hall and it keeps getting longer and longer?  That exactly what it felt like.  I looked down at my watch and noticed what it said 19:54.  Crud!  I wasn’t going to make it.  I lifted my legs and increased my cadence just hoping I could get one little ounce of speed and I got it, but just a little too late.  

I crossed the line with the race clock stating 6:06:54, so doing the math my race time ended up being 5:36:54.  While I didn’t hit my goal of a 2 hour half-marathon I still crushed my previous year’s time by over forty-two minutes.  I was on cloud nine.  I couldn’t help smiling.  This really was one of the greatest races I ever competed in.  I take that back.  It was the greatest performance I ever had in a race, period.  Unfortunately, being the oldest in my group I was the first person to cross the finish line, except for Russ who passed me at mile 5, so there was no one to share it with. 
Best race of my life!  

After receiving my medal, taking a couple of pictures and having my timing chipped removed from my ankle I  headed over to the refreshment tent a can of coke from this pool of ice and ran in to Russ.  He told me that he finished around 4:28.  This kid is a machine and that just proved it.  We congratulated each other and I went over and got a massage, but not before disposing of the first coke and grabbing a second.  While waiting I finished that can and by the time I finished up with Caroline, the LMT who took care of me, I felt like a million dollars.  With exception of a twinge in my back, which for me is normal due to my injury, I really felt good.  No pain, no soreness and due to the adrenaline still pumping from having such an awesome performance I felt like a rockstar, and I never really felt that way before.

Epilogue
I changed and called Amy and gabbed about the race.  She was proud of me.  The last two races she had trained me for didn’t turn out so well, so with this performance I felt like I validated myself in her eyes and in my own.  After hanging up I saw a text from Kim telling me how awesome I did and there was a voice mail from my Dad telling me congratulations as well.  I almost cried.  I felt the tears well up, but there was just too many guys around so I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Beth and I

As it turned out we all had a good race.  Celeste PR’d, Chris finished under 6 hours, Bruce beat me by one second, and as it turned out Russ actually took first place in his age group and was on his way to Las Vegas, but the story of the weekend was Beth.  Beth had gone through a lot just to get to the race.  Besides this being her first 70.3, she never biked really prior to this year, she had an injury that kept her from running for over 3 months, so she was very freaked coming into this.  Wouldn’t you know it, after having a goal of just finishing under 6:30:00, her official time was 5:47:16.  We were all really proud of her.  You can read all about her experiences on her blog Discom-BOB-ulated Running.

The rest is pretty boring.  We grabbed our bikes, and said our congratulations to the other athletes we knew as we walked out of transition  We packed up the cars, rode back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Red Robin.  I don’t know if it was the race, or all the gel packets, electrolyte drinks, or just all the calories we burned, but I had a lettuce wrapped burger that I swear was the best I ever had.  Maybe I just felt like I actually earned it. 
What I can say is this; this had to be one of the best experiences of my life.  I cannot only attribute it to my performance in the race.  Every piece of the puzzle fit.  I couldn’t have done it without the training, my friends, my coaching, the group that I coach, my family and all of the positive people I choose to surround myself with.  With one piece out of sync, it would not have been the experience it was.