Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Observations on a run this morning

Here are a couple of observations I made while on my run this morning:

Climate can make or break you

Notice anything interesting when comparing these two runs?

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:58
Mile 1: 7:21
Mile 2: 7:24
Mile 3: 8:01
Mile 4: 8:39
Average pace: 7:56
Average heart rate: 173bpm
Time of run: 4:48p
Temperature of run: 100+

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:20
Mile 1: 8:04
Mile 2: 7:53
Mile 3: 7:57
Mile 4: 7:24
Average pace: 7:50
Average heart rate: 154bpm
Time of run: 7:42a
Temperature of run: 74

Pretty obvious, I know. But I find it fascinating to actually see this written out: The weather can make such a dramatic difference in performance. Here I am, running identical distances, on the same streets, in almost the same time and pace, yet the run in the 100+ degree heat requires my heart to work 13% harder. That’s 20 beats per minute (bpm) more. And that is a significant difference you can feel. It’s the difference between being able to chat while running, and barely being able to suck enough oxygen down in order to sustain your pace. It’s the difference between finishing feeling miserable and fatigued, and feeling energized and ready to go.

Some people are mean

My average heart rate for my run this morning could have been lower, had it not spiked when a driver made me upset. Here’s what happened. I had a green light, a cross walk and a lit-up walking figure that gave me right-of-way (not to mention the fact that I’m a human being – aka: pedestrian) at an intersection. I glanced over my left shoulder to see if traffic was coming, and there was a car that was on its way to turn right. He began to slow down, as did I, it was safe, so I proceeded to cross. Everything was fine… until he slammed on his horn. Wait. What? Seriously? The driver was going 6mph when he was making the turn, and slams on his horn at someone who had the right-of-way? How about a little bit of patience (coming from the guy who has vented at least 1, 2, 3 times about traffic, yes) or some common sense, decency, [insert word to describe normal person here], etc.? Perhaps he didn't see me. Right. That's what I figured when I turned around and he had his fist up in the air at me --- I couldn't make out a middle finger through the Dodge Neon tinted windows.

So by power of deduction, or process of elimination, it’s safe to assume this guy was not a runner, not a cyclist, not patient, and not a good driver. I wonder: had I been a mother with her child, would he have honked? What about kids crossing, as could have well undoubtedly been the case considering he was 30 paces from a school zone. You know, everyone once in a while I come across these people, I’m just glad it doesn’t happen often. My uncle has said that he anticipates dying from getting hit by a car while running or biking. I laughed it off when he first said it, but now I think I understand.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cell phones

A short post on this topic isn’t nearly enough. One would have to devote an entire blog (with multiple posts a day) to the subject of cell phones to even come close to scratching the surface. Two observations set this post into motion.

First: Keane Concert
A female in front of me at the House of Blues for a Keane concert a few weeks ago recorded the majority of the show on her iPhone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think technology is awesome; the ability to record life on such a tiny device, and have the picture quality so stunning is pretty amazing. But she didn’t see the show! She watched something that was literally 30 feet in front of her live, through the screen of a smart phone. How ‘smart’ could that really be? You’ve got this great band, in a great venue, playing great music with great acoustics, and you experience the entire thing staring at your hand-held device. I suppose the thought is that the ability to watch and re-watch the show on her phone, computer or wherever is greater than the experience of being there live, and in the moment.

Second: Grocery Store
Last night I was waiting to check out of the self-service check-out area when I saw what could be described as a phenomenon. This dude was on his cell phone, chatting away with someone, taking an incredible amount of time to scan his items. It was laughable watching this guy fumble his frozen pizza, wave a cooked chicken over the scanner a solid eight or nine times, attempt to bag groceries with one hand, all while having a great conversation on the phone. It would have been purely funny had there not been a long line waiting to check-out, but given the guy’s oblivion to other people waiting, it was more frustrating than anything.

We spend so much time on our phones – waiting for a movie to start, waiting for the elevator, while in class and at the gym. I see scores of people walk out of my office at 5:30p, having been on a computer all day long, with their heads completely down, looking at nothing but their phone. I’m in the same boat. It’s like an addiction, our phones, to be constantly checking them… it’s almost refreshing when our phones die. Although I’m sure it’s rare for most, a dead phone is a relief on occasion – no texting, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook,… no nothing. Just you and your thoughts. Kind of nice for a change.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My first triathlon: lessons learned

A couple of weeks ago I completed my first triathlon. It was in Marble Falls, TX just northwest of Austin in the Hill Country. The distance was in between a ‘Sprint’ and an ‘Olympic’: 1000m open-water swim, 23 mile bike ride followed by a 4.4 mile run. A good friend of mine along with his buddy from school did it with me, which made the experience that much better. After the race my uncle, an experienced triathlete who has been my unofficial coach throughout my training, asked me the most important question he could have asked: “Did you enjoy yourself?” He didn’t ask what time I got, how my legs felt, how T1 went, he asked if I liked it. Answer: I absolutely loved it.

Endurance sports races are like college exams, no matter how much you prepare you have a tendency to always feel like you could have done more. Looking back I would have made some changes in my training and pre-race preparation, but ultimately I needed that experience to tell me what works and what doesn’t. Here are some lessons learned from my first triathlon.

1. Chlorinated lap pool does not equal open water lake.

Without a doubt the hardest part about the race was the swim. Leading up to the event I was easily able to swim in a pool 1000m straight without stopping. Key phrase: “in a pool.” Typically it takes me around 20 minutes, give or take, to finish that distance without being winded or physically tired. Unfortunately this was not the case for the swim in Marble Falls. For starters, you’re surrounded by tons of other people swimming. You’re not protected in your own swim lane, so instead, you’re getting kicked, punched and climbed on by other racers. Also, Texas lake water also isn’t the freshest. You can’t see anything, except five inches of murky greenness in front of you. This means you’ve got to do what they call ‘sighting’ – where you lift your head every X stroke to make sure you’re on the right course. Lastly, the adrenaline from the gun going off and beginning the race is hard to sustain. Your heart is pounding, so your breathing expedites, which is not what you want when an inexperienced swimmer like myself is about to swim over a half-mile.

All of these things: crowded mess of swimmers + poor visibility + adrenaline, made for one difficult start to this race. I never got in my rhythm, never settled in on my breathing. It was a constant struggle the entire time, despite my fitness and preparation. Lesson learned. Going forward, I’ll be practicing in open water… no doubt about it.

2. Don’t underestimate the course.

The Marble Falls triathlon website has a tagline that reads: “Marble Falls Tri – The one with the hills!” I knew this place was in “Hill Country” but shook off the idea that the hills were going to be that bad. Wow. Was I wrong. My buddies and I drove the bike course the day before the race, and I actually think that’s why I didn’t swim well. My heart started pumping when I saw these hills, not when I got in the water. Rolling, very steep hills provided for something I wasn’t used to, training predominantly in very-flat Dallas. I felt good during the bike, but not as good as I could have had I trained more on hills.

3. There will always be someone faster... and older.

I’ve done a couple of marathons before, so initially I thought these distances would be a piece of cake. I figured hell, if I can run over 26 miles, these distances shouldn’t be bad at all. I’ll be the first to admit that I was na├»ve. What a humbling experience it is to see 55-year-old women fly by you on the bike going up a hill. How gravitating it can be to see the leaders of the race virtually finish the bike when you’re just starting. And wow, how much this race made me appreciate (as much as I can fathom) the accomplishment of those who have completed an Ironman.

For those that don’t know, an Ironman logs 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and then, after all of that, they run a marathon, or 26.2 miles. So, take my swim, 0.63 mile, and almost quadruple it. Take my bike, 23 miles, and multiply it by about five. And then take my run, 4.4 miles and multiply it by six. There you have it.

…some day.