Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rest, Relax, and Reality

Over Presidents' Day weekend Laura and I decided to celebrate our nearly annual tradition of getting a hotel in the Twin Cities and taking a little break. We usually try to find a good deal for something nice, but this year we really went with the budget route.

I booked a five star hotel with Priceline's name-your-own-price feature to get a really nice hotel at a really cheap price. After going on a free Summit Brewery tour, we spent the weekend  using gift cards and Groupons to eat out and relax on a budget. We had a very nice time and I got some great workouts in--unfortunately I also got a reality check at one of our relaxation appointments.

We had purchased an hour massage with a Groupon and we were both looking forward to some relaxation. After spending an hour getting a nice, relaxing massage, I headed out of the room to tip the massage therapist. She was standing by the counter and asked me, "so, are you a runner or something?"

Immediately my chest puffed out a little as I considered what lead her to this conclusion. Was it my taught and muscular legs? My slim trim and utter lack of body fat? Perhaps she could sense my incredibly slow heart rate as I fell into a deep state of relaxation. "Yes, I am a runner," I replied, as I waited for her to reveal which of my many many runnerly traits lead her to this knowledge.

"I thought so when I saw your toenails," she said.

Oh, right. My black, thick, sometimes falling off toenails. "Don't worry," she said. "I run too. I get it."

Laura was a little horrified that I let this poor woman touch my feet, but the massage therapist was nice about it.

It's been a week since our relaxing weekend and I believe my pride has recovered somewhat. I'm struggling to run as many miles as I'd like to, but at least I putting in enough mileage to keep a couple of toenails black.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

TC in Motion Valentine's Day 5k: Race Report

In a last minute decision, I decided to race this thing. It started at 10 AM--pretty late for a race. The later start was nice because it gave me a head start on grading papers, eating breakfast early, and letting the weather warm up to a balmy 4 degrees with a windchill of 12 below zero.

On our drive over I asked Laura one more time if she wanted me to run with her. She said, "no, go run by yourself." Then, after weaving through the narrow side streets around Lake Harriet, we jogged over to the start.

It was cold enough to freeze my teeth--this mild winter has really made me a huge wuss. I was glad I had a face mask on--during the race I pulled it down so I could breath better, but before the race it was doing a nice job of keeping my lips from freezing shut.

Laura found some fellow runners to take our picture. I thought it would be funny if we got different back tags (the race was offering back bibs with, 'single,' 'taken,' and 'it's complicated'). Laura's said, 'it's complicated,' and mine said, 'taken.' I was envisioning us running together, me with a look of stupid, contented obliviousness while Laura carried herself with hesitant resignation while keeping her options opened.

Laura said it was complicated because she was running by herself in a Valentine's race.

After a "warm up," I arrived at the start line while someone was singing "The Star Spangled Banner." I patriotically placed my hand on my chest while I gently elbowed my way to the front of the line. I heard they were giving out prizes for the top three so I figured I wasn't going to lose time tripping over people once the race started.

When the horn went off and we started our three-point-one mile trek around Lake Harriet I found myself breathing hard and having a nervous and sick feeling in my stomach. There appeared to be several fast runners at the start and I was thinking it was highly unlikely that I would be able to finish in the top three.

I tucked in behind two taller guys. At this point I was in fifth and I was still breathing hard, but the nervousness started melting away. As the first two runners started to put some distance between me and the two guys in front of me, I decided to go for it. I caught up to the second place guy and thankfully he was also tall--perfect for blocking the wind. We went past the first mile in around 5:15.

Watching the first place runner crossed the first mile in 5:05 I was pretty sure winning was out of the question. I wasn't sure if I could hold a 5:15 pace (I was pretty sure I couldn't) and I was right. The second place guy couldn't hold it either though, so I passed him with a little less then a mile left. He seemed pretty gassed when I passed him--I felt a little bad letting him serve as a wind block and then passing him, but my competitive instincts told me if he was going to go out fast there was no reason to run into a freezing cold wind when I could draft for a couple miles.

After a slight downhill I heard him get a little closer and I tried to pick it up. Unlike the half marathon a couple of weeks ago I actually had some water left in the well and was able to finish with a decent kick. The Garmin said my last tenth of a mile was at 4:38 pace. One of the race officials asked for my name and between the wheezing and frozen tongue I had a really hard time spelling and pronouncing my last name for him.

It was pretty cool getting second place--it would've been fun running with Laura, but my face was too cold to talk very well anyway. Besides, I was able to jog back and run with her along the side of the course for a little while. She also ran a nice PR, though this race wasn't chip-timed and as far as I know has no official results.

I guess I'll be doing this race again next year unless I have something really important that weekend because part of my second place prize was a free entry for the 2013 race. I told Laura she could run next year's race, but if she wants to run 2014 she's going to have to start pulling her weight and get a top three finish. I'm hoping she's knows I'm joking because I'm really looking forward to her making clam chowder for dinner tonight.

Here's the goods I got for second place:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Triathlon Plan

Remember last post when I was all jazzed to start a triathlon plan? I read a book Laura bought that had some plans in it, but they were for real triathletes, not beginner triathletes who wanted to run twice as much as any sprint plan and swim 1/2 as much and bike 1/32 as much. I looked at some websites that had some good plans, but again, not enough running and too much of everything else.

Still undecided about how to proceed with a triathlon plan, I checked out a book from the library. It has some interesting plans in it where you just do two sports per week for 24 weeks (I think, I haven't actually read the book, just looked at the plans).

After looking at the internet, two triathlon books, and swimming pretty well for a couple months, my triathlon plan never came together. I just don't like biking indoors that much (and I only like biking outdoors a little more), and I'm not ecstatic about swimming, though it was satisfying to be able to swim a mile after a month-and-a-half of near-death, water-swallowing, chlorine-bloated practicing.

Still, whenever I was "biking" or swimming, I was thinking about how I was cutting into my running. Swimming a couple of miles a week, biking some, and running 30ish miles just wasn't as satisfying as running. Plus I was getting tired of my skin falling away in pool-chemical coated chunks and the smelling chlorine every time I checked if I remembered to put on deodorant.

Even though I'm not falling in love with triathlon training, I'm going to do the Rochesterfest triathlon in June. I just haven't made up my mind what I'm going to do for training. Tentatively I'll swim or bike once or twice a week and call it good. I'll also read the triathlon book I got from the library now that I'm done with "Team of Rivals" (SPOILER ALERT: the protagonist dies at the end). Maybe that will give me some inspiration on how I can still run 45 or more miles a week and fit in biking, swimming, working, and seeing Laura on occasion.

Speaking of Laura, on Saturday we're planning on running the TC in Motion Valentine's Day 5k. I was planning on running it with Laura and putting in some more miles before and after, but now she's got me thinking about racing it. Stay tuned.