Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mental Toughness...

I don't have it as often as I would like, or at least not as much as I want. This morning my alarm went off at 5:45am, but I lacked the mental toughness to get out of bed until a little after 6:00. The main meat of my swim this morning was 10 x 100 yards on 2 minutes, coming in under 1:30. This isn't a tough swim by swimmers standards, but for me after 3 of them I was so tempted to shorten things to 5 x 100! I did manage to dredge up enough mental fortitude to stick it out and got all 10 in. I swam 1,500 yards this morning, that was tough but nothing compared to swimmers who swim 5,000-yard workouts! Talk about mental toughness…

I think this is the biggest inhibitor of my athletic performance, not enough mental toughness. This past weekend I did a track workout, 10 x 800 meters at sub 6:00 pace with 400-meter recovery jog between each. I made it through 8 of them and then called it a workout. It was still a great workout; it took a lot to make it through 8 but not as much as it would have to make it through 10!

It's not just in training where lacking mental toughness affects me. Its times like when I planned to eat half a Jack's frozen pizza and instead ate the whole thing! Or breaking down and buying a soda yesterday at work. It's my lack of mental toughness that keeps me from reaching my optimal racing weight.

Fortunately, mental toughness is something that can be worked on and strengthened. Improving mental toughness in training will pay multiple dividends in races. The higher intensity training will improve fitness resulting in faster times and it will also help in pushing through those tough spots in a race when you feel like slowing down. It is important to note that mental toughness becomes stupidity when one ignores injuries or warning signs and toughs out a workout/race.

Suggestions for improving mental toughness:

1. Training log (I fail here!)
2. Accountability, having someone hold you to your goals, training, etc.
3. Proper rest and recovery
4. Rewards for goals, successful workouts, etc.

Would love to have others suggestions posted as comments

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Town Triathlon Race Report

When I saw this race at the beginning of the season, I told myself I wanted to be in peak fitness and do awesome at it. At some point in the past few months I forgot about that goal, lost my desire somehow and found myself going into this race thinking I would be fortunate to even make the top ten. Sunday morning found me un-enthusiastically getting up at 3:00 AM to make the two-hour drive to the race site.

I really didn't think I would be the first in line to enter transition, which opened at 6AM, but somehow I was, though by the time transition opened a line of 50 or so athletes stretched out behind me. Having studied the flow of the transition, I quickly headed to what I had deemed the best spot and unloaded my gear. Since I was number 178, it would be a while after the 7:50 start time for me to go, so I took my time and relaxingly setup my stuff. I'm kind of a solitary guy, triathlons are an individual sport, and this race was a good reminder of how nice it is to not have someone who needs me to hold their hand while they gets ready for their race!

The swim was a time trial start; every 5 seconds a swimmer would run onto the dock and jump into the lake. I spent the first 10 minutes or so watching the first 120+ swimmers start. Finally it was my turn and I sprinted down the dock and jumped in. I quickly realized how nice a time trial swim start was compared to a wave start where I'm typically kicked and elbowed dozens of times! While it is impossible to say for sure, I didn't see anyone pass me but I found myself passing quite a few swimmers. For having only been swimming an average of 500 yards once or twice a week the past several months, I actually felt like I was having a pretty good swim. Ended up averaging 1:35 per 100 yards, not exceptional but definitely not as slow as I would have expected!

That's me in the background by the water

The swim to bike transition went well, my decision back in June to cut the leg length to mid calf has really helped speed things up! In about a minute, I was out of T1 and onto the bike.

I purposefully have my bike computer miss-calibrated. It tells me I'm doing 23 something when I'm really closer to 24 or faster. Not sure if it really helps, or if it's just a silly gimmick like setting your alarm clock ahead to try and fool yourself you need to get up quicker. Anyways, the course was flat and fast. Biggest complaint I would have is all the left hand turns. A left hand turn is inherently unsafe in a bike race or triathlon, it means you're crossing a lane of oncoming traffic, plus if you take the corner too sharp with an oncoming vehicle it's head on collision time! Despite all the turns, I was pleasantly surprised to see I had averaged 24 mph for the race, my fastest bike split in a triathlon in since 2005!

I had actually thought going into this triathlon that I would take it easy on the bike and really focus on running sub 6:00 pace for the four mile run. However, once out on the bike and having a constant stream of earlier starters to chase down, taking it easy on the bike wasn't really an option for me! Coming in to T2 though, I figured I might as well give the sub 6:00 pace goal a go. A super quick T2 wasn't in the works as a fellow competitor had racked their bike on my transition gear and I lost a couple of seconds having his bike so I could grab my race belt. As quick as possible I was out of T1 and running.

It just so happened as I was heading out for my first loop, Drew Greaves and Kim Earnest were both finishing their first loop and heading out on their second. I considered slowing down slightly and seeing if I could help either up their pace. But then I realized Kim was a full two miles ahead of me and I couldn't quite figure out how many minutes ahead she had started. Since I knew I would never hear the end of it if she beat me, I pushed on, redoubling my effort for sub 6:00 pace. According to my Garmin, my first mile was 5:56 and it felt like sub 6:00 was doable. The following mile was considerably slower, a 6:07 and then a 6:11 and I felt my goal slip away. But I had noticed the loop was slightly less than 2 miles and since I'm flexible, my goal changed ever so slightly: Not a true sub 6:00 minute pace, but sub 6:00 pace in the results!

Final result, 10th overall, 24mph on the bike and 5:58 pace on the run! I had achieved my flexible goal, my real goal I missed having run 6:07 pace according to my Garmin… L Maybe my Garmin was wrong? Turns out Drew Greaves beat me by fifteen seconds and I was only two minutes and change ahead of Kim. I'm sure Drew will finish ahead of me a lot in the years to come and if I'm not on top of my training, Kim will too. All in all it was a great race, I was really happy with my performance, especially with my training in perspective.

Hopefully my mentioning a lack of training doesn't come across as a lame excuse. Truth of the matter is I probably train similar amounts as what others do. Only I tend to dream big and start the season out thinking I'll be running 60 miles, biking several hundred, and swimming 10k every week. Naturally I'm let down when I reach mid season and am running 30 miles, occasionally breaking a hundred on the bike, and swimming 1k weekly. So I tell myself right now, next year will be different; I will build a huge base this winter and smash the competition next season!

Have I mentioned that teardrop trailer I'm going to build after I finish my house?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Twilight 5k Race Report

Following my half hearted attempt on Wednesday to run sub 5 minutes for the mile, I decided it would be fun to run a 5k the following night, the Twilight 5k in Kirksville. I had no expectations as I had run 1,000 meters Wednesday morning hard plus the Wednesday evening track workout, including a 5:26 mile. Knowing I planned to race a 5k that evening, Thursday morning I did the 5:30 am run and just did the 6 mile B route at an easy 7:30 average.

Despite not expecting a fast time, there's always a chance when doing a race in Kirksville that a slower time could still win the race. I was figuring to run around 18:36 (6:00 pace) and when I saw the pack of about 6 or so high school cross country runners I knew it would take more than 6:00 pace to win.

The gun went off and true to expectations a pack of younger runners surged off to the lead. I was wearing my Garmin GPS watch along with the heart rate strap and decided to run as close to 6:00 pace as I could, maybe some of the guys ahead would slow down.

The first mile was tough as I knew I could run faster and move up from the 10th or so position I was in. But I also knew the course and knew a hill was coming up at around the midway point and things would get considerably tougher to keep my 6:00 pace. So I let the gap continue to increase and ran the first mile in exactly 6:00.

Around 1.25 miles or so into the race we made a right hand turn onto La Harpe and headed up a nice little hill. I had already passed 3 of the guys who had been ahead of me and was in 7th place. At this point I wasn't holding back, it was taking everything I had to keep my pace around 6:00 and the runners ahead were coming back slowly. I passed 5th and 6th on the hill and the 4th place runner I caught and passed shortly after turning onto Osteopathy. 3rd place was around 100 meters ahead of me, 2nd was also in sight but out of reach, 1st was probably a quarter mile down the road on his way to the win.

Eventually I managed to pull even with 3rd but had spent too much energy to catch him and he gradually pulled back away from me to finish 10 seconds ahead. I finished with a time of 18:01, but the course was definitely short, my watch showed 2.98 miles. Mile splits were 6:00, 6:03, and 5:59 (but since that wasn't a full final mile, my pace was actually 6:07) with an average pace of 6:03.

At some point in the last mile, my heart rate reached 193; the race average was 181. A final place of 4th overall, but more importantly I felt like I had run a smart race and probably as fast as was possible given my training. For the final mile, my average heart rate was 190, probably not going to be able to get much more out of it than that! Now I will do some targeted training to increase my efficiency, raise my VO2 max, and raise my anaerobic threshold, sub 5 is going down!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Quest for Sub 5!

I ran a mile race on Independence Day. I watched the clock ticking as I approached the finish line. Slowly it counted up to 5:00 and then clicked twice past it before I crossed. 5:02, those two seconds were probably those two chocolate chip pancakes I ate two hours before the race that felt like a brick during.

On the trip back to Columbia from Jeff City that morning, I was talking with a friend and for some reason I bet I could break 5:00 within the following two weeks. This morning was my first attempt and it was a miserable failure! I made it all of 1,000 meters at 5:00 pace before I could feel my legs bogging down, possibly I haven't quite recovered from my 5k this past Sunday, or more likely I'm just not ready for a sub 5 minute effort.

I followed up my 1,000 meter effort this morning with the usual Wednesday evening track workout. First up on the schedule that Teddy Z had for us was a 1,200 at 5k pace. I decided since I hadn't run a full mile in the morning, I would make up for it. Ended up running a 5:26 mile, leading for the full 1,200 and running the last 400 solo. Not quite a sub 5 effort, but for a hot July evening a good effort.

What boggles my mind is that there are elite runners who can run a full marathon at sub 5 pace! If they can run 26.2 miles at that pace, I sure hope I can run one!

I'm going out on a limb here and will say, before the year is up, I will run one mile at a pace faster then the current world record marathon pace.