Thursday, December 28, 2006

Goal acheived!

Well, one goal, that is.

At the beginning of the month I decided to try to put in 25,000 yards in the pool. All while maintaining my two times a week swim schedule. I'm happy to report that, in the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, I "knocked the bastard off" this morning.

After a solid 3200 yard workout, I had chalked up 25,050 yards for the month. And what did I find out as a result of this?

Mainly, that I can swim more yards per workout than I previously had thought. Not rocket science, but important, nonetheless as I move forward in my training. Over the last few months I've increased my workout yardage from two workouts of about 2500 per session to two workouts, one of about 3500+ yards (solo workout) and another of about 2500 yards (Masters swim class) each week.

I've got a better feel for the water, and I'm getting faster too -- I'll take that!

Friday, December 08, 2006

As the mercury drops...

Winter is settling in here in Virginia.

The colder temperatures really hit home on Wednesday. Coach Debi had me scheduled for a 45 minute run, so at 6 AM I was out the door and on the road.

The key to winter running is not to overdress. As the old rule of thumb has it: "If you're warm when you start running, you're overdressed." No problem with that this morning. It's dark and it's cold, and I'm cold -- really cold.

But the stars are shining with that peculiar intensity that the dry winter air gives them. You almost feel you can reach out and touch them, while the navigation lights of the passenger jets overhead shine brightly as they track across the sky, one after another.

I start slowly, almost shuffling, gradually warming up my body as the cobwebs of sleep fall away. Keep the breathing slow and regular -- cold air can agravate my asthma if I don't warm up slowly. Gradually I start warming up, leaving the bitter cold behind and reaching a relatively comfortable equilibrium underneath my lycra, capilene, and polypro.

There's little to disturb me as I move through the suburban subdivisions. The small circle of light from my headlamp illuminates the road in front of my feet and a dull red glow from my blinking LED light guards me from traffic. There's little traffic at this hour though. The occassional early commuter and the paper delivery car are all that I see as I reach my turn around point.

As I come back a dull glow starts to light the horizon. More lights have come on in the houses, and cars billowing clouds of vapor warm up in the driveways. As I hit the last stretch I'm moving easily, comfortable in my environment and ready to keep going.

It's a great way to start the day, but my 45 minutes are up, and there's a hot pot of coffee waiting -- thank goodness for automatic timers.


Check out my training log.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Joy of Road Racing

I decided to test my wheels out last weekend at the Charlottesville Men's 4-Miler road race. The Men's 4-Miler lives in the shadow of the popular Charlottesville Women's 4-Miler, both of which benefit cancer research (breast cancer for the women and prostate cancer for the men).

The Men's race is a pretty low-key affair -- a couple of hundred guys out on a quiet country road in December. No big deal, just come out and run.

It was a beautiful morning for December. About 40 degrees, no breeze, sunny. After I checked in I took a very slow jog for about 10 minutes, then stretched for 10 more. By then it was time to line up. I hadn't run a road race in almost two years but all the memories came flooding back. I sized up the competition, put myself about 10 yards behind the start line, and took off with the gun.

As we galloped down the road, the field began to stretch out and I found myself running in space. The pace felt good, so I didn't worry as the lead pack stretched away from me. The half-mile mark came up -- 3:43. Faster than I expected I'd run, but the pace felt good and my breathing relaxed.

Soon some more runners came up on my shoulder looking to make a pass. They seemed to be working too hard for so early in the race, so I let them go, but tucked in behind to catch a draft for a while. The first mile came up -- 7:28.

As my little group moved through the second mile I held back a bit -- no use going too hard too early. As we approached the turn around, the leaders started passing on the return leg. I started counting to get my position. Soon the turn appeared. I clicked my watch as I rounded it -- 7:40, and 64th place.

I had a good idea of the field now and knew there were a lot of guys I could pick off if I kept my pace going. I started to run down some of them: 63, 62, 61. Two young guys passed me, and I jumped on their heels, while a fellow in a red shirt joined my pack. We started knocking off more runners: 60, 59, 58, 57.

Here's the third mile: 7:31. Concentrate on form -- quick turnover, arms straight, track narrow. Breathe deep, suck in all that O2. My group started to splinter. The two young guys and red shirt are pulling away slowly, but I'm catching some others. A final turn and I can see the finish line clock: 29:45. Dig deep, pass those guys in front 56, 55, 54.

I'm across! Watch stopped: 7:28 for the mile, 30:01 for the race. Big breaths of air. God that felt great -- when can I do it again?