Monday, October 29, 2012

What? More Dopers?

Does anyone else feel relieved by news of cyclists, and now Kenyan runners, doping? It makes you feel like tons of the top athletes in many sports are doing it, which says to me one thing: I don't suck as bad as I thought. All these superfast times and huge power outputs that seem so so unattainable (I mean, even a small percentage seems unattainable to me) can be at least partly attributed to blood doping, EPO, steroids, and hgh. Hallelujah. I just got a tiny bit faster in comparison.

If I really think about all the disadvantages I'm giving myself, it's really no wonder I'm not a better athlete. Not only do I not take anything that can be perceived of as performance enhancing, but I also put a lot of stuff in me that can't be helping. All the Halloween candy, Nutella by the spoonful, ice cream, pie, brownies, "sips" of Jeremy's coke, cupcakes from the new place in town-- that's kind of the opposite of doping. On top of that I only sleep in 45-60 minute naps this week, lift 21 pounds over and over with my lower back every day, and carry that load mostly on one hip for hours a day.

I cut myself a break yesterday on the bike when I was struggling again with that mark of 4 watts/kg (what a well trained cyclist "should" do for 40 mins), because after all, who sets these power standards? It certainly wasn't set by nursing mother of a high energy 7 month old who never really sleeps! But if that's you, and you think that's an easy mark, please don't tell me.

 Happy Halloween y'all!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Running in the Dark

That title sounds like a great metaphor for something. But it's really not. I just get up well before dawn lately to get my running in. I realize that it's not noteworthy for most people, especially the endurance types, but I have always always valued my sleep over everything except maybe food. Really delicious food only. In the past I've rolled out of bed 10 minutes before 5:30 a.m. master's, maybe 15 minutes before my 4:55 a.m. meet up with Nancy on the bike, and super early before the only thing that I'm always on time to-- races.

Since a certain someone was born, I've found that if the running isn't done before the husband goes to work, it's not going to happen. I'm still working on (contemplating) fitting the cycling back in on weekdays since the sun only rises after 7. But for now I'm enjoying my very dark runs. This town has some sort of ban on street lights-- something about the solar observatory nearby? that doesn't really make sense-- so there is ONE on my half mile long street. It doesn't get brighter from there, so unless the full moon is out, my headlamp, wrapped around my arm for easy button access, is necessary.

Running up in the coyote's neighborhood has me a little paranoid, and hearing the hissing of a sprinkler might have made me jump a few times (I swear it sounds just like a rattlesnake), and I may have startled and shined my superbright light in a guy's face since HE wasn't even wearing reflective clothing and was running right at me. I tend to turn the light off when I can make out the edge of the road and there are no cars nearby. It's quiet and cool and I can watch the sky over the mountains get lighter and lighter. And there are millions of stars!

There is an unfortunate new blemish in my route: a huge yellow concrete wall surrounding a developing neighborhood of crappy little houses. It completely blocks the mountain view that I had along the path for about a quarter mile. In some spots it's easily 10 feet tall, and it's so prison-like I'm completely expecting glass shards and razor wire to be added to the top soon. At least on my way out it is so dark I don't miss the view as much. I keep dreaming of ways to make it go away, all of which are unfortunately illegal. Darn.

Since running has been such a nice way to start the day, I'm having a hard time doing any type of intensity other than relaxed. It's just so nice to switch my brain off and enjoy myself. There isn't a lot of opportunity in my day otherwise. But thankfully my steady pace has gotten a bit faster lately, since I'm trying to convince myself to race again soon. Occasionally I cheat and call my downhill pickups intervals just for fun.

I realized the other day that I've been running for 20 years now. TWENTY! More than half my life! I started cross country my sophomore year in high school, and unlike naturally talented runners, I was thrilled to do the 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I ran because my sister started running, and i joined the team because a friend convinced me to go with her. I think my first practice was run in Keds, and someone lent me a rubber band for my hair since I'd shown up without one. I slowly improved, and my coach told me I'd "run a minute faster without all that hair." (I had long long, dare I say frizzy, hair.) By senior year I made Best of the Preps, which about 15 girls across the county were honored with, and it made my year. Of course I still wasn't fast! I'm not now either, but it really is amazing just how much running has directed my life. I can't imagine much would be the same had I not started all those years ago!

So off each morning I go to see what's around the next corner for me. Again, not a metaphor. :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

PRs and validation

Let me start with the most important news here lately. My husband is the proud owner of a new half Ironman PR and the current household record holder. Yep, he beat my old PR by a minute with his 4:48 in Augusta. Damn him. I mean, congrats, sweetie! If he hadn't taken so well to swimming with his massive paddle-like hands and Michael Phelps-like physique, I might still have the title of faster half Ironmaner. I'm so jealous of his super fast swimming on 5000m/week, it's ridiculous. Oh, haha. Did I say jealous? I meant proud. After all, I am mostly responsible for making him correct that stroke.

All of my PRs are getting pretty old these days, so it's really high time I earned some new ones. I guess you really need to race to do that. But you see I'm in no PR shape these days. Apparently I just tried too hard back in the day (just kidding) and those times seem unreachable right now. I know I didn't always shy away from races when I wasn't confident in a PR, or even a decent race, so why do I now? What, am I scared of people finding out how slow I am via athlinks? I put it all out there in this blog, so I must not be too shy about it. Really, I'm just not wanting to disappoint myself or confirm what I'm afraid of: I'm slow.

Everybody needs a little external validation now and then. Some need it at any cost. I read the most fascinating article in the New Yorker (here) about this guy, Kip Litton. It seems that he has not only cheated in dozens of marathons by somehow cutting the course (and wearing different outfits in the start and finish pics-- he really pays attention to details), but he has also created his own race, race website, fake runners, and athlinks profiles for those fake runners! If that doesn't scream sociopathy I don't know what does. 

But maybe this deep need for validation from other athletes is more common than we think. Just this week while traveling I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler about Ironman and triathlons. He gave me lots of his times and stats, told me his impressive marathon PR, bike split averages, and that he'd walked onto the basketball team at a big D1 school. He even told me his kids' 5k times. A few things struck me as odd, like how short he was for a basketball player, how he claimed to be a really great runner but prided himself on not drinking or eating anything for his 30 mile training runs. My bullshit detector started going off. His triathlon times weren't all that impressive, and you'd think if you're going to make up times, you'd make them really good, right? And these days, who hasn't heard of athlinks and online race results? So like any doubter, I looked him up. His Ironman times suddenly became 90 minutes slower, and he must've meant his PR of 2:40 was for one of those "mini" marathons. I then felt really bad for a guy that he had to try to impress me with achievements. But why?

Of course, you could accuse me of making up my less than stellar 5k PR. With all the data on the internet for every race that I might've done in the last dozen years, why can my best 5k not be found? I've searched for that 2003 Gibson Guitar 5k result everywhere (does a PR still count if it's in the same decade?). I learned that over the years I'd given myself 4 seconds when I found my training log from 2003 recently. "Gibson Guitar 5k, 19:11, 2nd OAF." Wait what? I've had 19:07 in my head for years! Doesn't that just sound sooo much slower? 

Not having an "official" recording of that race is disappointing for my athlinks 5k stats, but I'm somewhat consoled by the fact that my horrendous marathon about a year and a half ago is also strangely missing. I'm not even listed in the results. It's like it was just all a bad dream. 

So my lack of a real 5k PR on athlinks means it's time for a new one, right? Or maybe I'll just make something up. 

While Jeremy was off PRing, we visited the cousins. Jackson: "It's a wrestling match! Hunter is winning!" :)