Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Enduro Bicycle Race

I compete in the 4-hour Team Enduro Bike Race on Saturday.

Team Enduro is essentially the first true bike race of my life. For years I did century and double-century rides – long, slow, epic, endurance journeys like the 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland where my friends and I started at 4am and rode into the late evening – 18 hours of cycling punctuated by frequent breaks to stuff ourselves with pastries.  And I’ve done numerous triathlon bike legs where drafting is not allowed and participants ride on long strait roads enveloped by a comforting cushion of empty space.

So it is a bit of an adjustment for me to deal with the tactical riding and frenzied, intensity of going round and round a 5k circuit desperately trying to optimize my drafting opportunities.

Keren and I had formed a two man team for the 4-hour event, and we decided to alternate one-hour each -- Keren started off on the first hour and I rode the 2nd and 4th hour.  The goal is for the team to do as many 5k loops as possible in 4-hours. Keren is a grizzled cycling veteran and when he handed off the ankle-band after an hour he had powered through 7 loops and put is in middle of the pack and no doubt near the front of our age-group (if the race officials tracked age-groups).  Of course I felt obligated to make some effort to maintain our strong position.  I wobble out of the transition pit area and onto the course and am immediately passed by a swarm of cyclists.

I have not done in any cycling training since last September.  In fact going back to my Taiwan debacle in November 2012 I have only done maybe a few hundred kilometers of cycling on my TimSmith racing bike.  I am not sure if this lack of training really mattered so much during the first hour.  Really at first I was just trying not to crash.
A strong wind creates a tremendous headwind on the front stretch and tailwind on the backstretch. I generally manage to hold my own on both of these long straightaway sections – it is the tight hilly turns on either end where I lose ground.  I manage 6 laps in a bit under an hour before passing the ankle-band back to Keren. 

I consume several gels and a banana during my one-hour break, and am feeling reasonably strong when I start my second hour, however the bursts of intense effort to accelerate and maintain draft positions start to take a toll.  I find it challenging to maintain concentration and full effort - rather I find myself sitting behind other solo riders who slow down and I just coast along too dazed to pass.  With a few minutes remaining until the 4-hour mark, my leg muscles are burning and I am feeling nauseous, but I am only manage to accelerate and  squeeze out one more recorded lap.  

We finish 133rd out of the 500 men's teams with 27 laps and an average speed of 32.44 km per hour.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tokyo Marathon 2014

I run the Tokyo Marathon last Sunday in around 2:57:30.

With over 300,000 entrants vying for 30,000 coveted spots I felt compelled to go ahead and enter the event after winning a place in the registration lottery. 

And it was a festive experience - here is group at starting line 

During most of my endurance events, particularly long trail races and triathlons, I have experienced pronounced ups and downs in energy over the course of the event. So on Sunday it was striking to encounter a simple, steady, linear decline in perceived strength almost the entire way from around 5k to the finish line.  Here is picture of me toward the finish line trying to look like I am not fading…

Sunday's marathon experience largely reinforces my general dislike of the 42k distance.  The toll on my body, the long recovery cycle and nature of training did not seem justified by the performance and the challenge/enjoyment level relative to other events.  My added mileage volume,  precise training taper,  improved nutrition, and caffeine taper did not seem to have much impact.  If any.    Granted, the caffeine taper is good for its own sake.  And I do certainly acknowledge the charm and mystique of trying to achieve the right pace to make it all the way through the marathon. 

Immediately after the race, right at the moment I was feeling the very worst, I told teammate Don that yeah, I would still do marathons again in the future - I mean I really should do Boston Marathon at some point - (I have been talking about it for decades and I did meet the 3:05 qualifying time for Boston in 2015), and it would be fun to do a big Europe marathon like London or Berlin.  But even then I and am inclined to revert back to run/walk style.   

January 5k Time Trial

17:31 again.

Had hopes of going faster. 

But tired at end.

Wasn't necessarily trying to write this post as Haiku

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shibuya Ekiden 2014

I capture much of the glory at the annual Shibuya Ekiden.  My team is tied for lead when Brett W hands off to me for the 3rd 2.9-kilometer leg of the 4-man relay. 

I immediately am passed by our arch-rival master's team competition and a high school girl's team.  

I have such a hard time trying to run at a fast pace so early in the morning – the exception being the Chiang Mai Half Marathon (described below) when I overslept and all the adrenaline racing to the starting line got me pumped up.  At Shibuya I was still feeling sluggish and sleepy as of the 8:30am start and I thought about the 5 hour wake-up rule - which suggests waking up at least 5 hours prior to the expected END of your event - so for a mile you would need to wake up at least 4 hours and 55 before the event starts, and for an ultra-marathon you can just wake up and go.  

So 500 meters into my 2.9-kilometer leg of the relay I am well behind the arch-rival and the high school girl.  But at this point I start to wake up, while my competition starts to suffer from their faster start -- soon I pass the high-school girl who is making absolutely horrible noises, and by the halfway mark I pass the archrival who doesn’t look so good either.  When I hand over the sash to our anchor runner, Kuri, our team has a 30 second lead, and Kuri extends it to 52 seconds.  Our team is honored in the elaborate award ceremony and I am hailed as the hero – though my time of 10:07 is the slowest of our team - all 4 of us completing the course within 10 seconds of each other. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Phnom Penh 50k Ultramarathon

Is this the coolest race number ever?  

 I don't wish to run the entire Phnom Penh 50k Ultra-marathon.  So the organizers provide a rider who gives me his bicycle at the 30k mark and then he proceeds to run the final 20k while I ride this bike to the finish line.

It is a spectacular run at dawn - across rice fields, past magnificent Khmer temples, and through villages. 

 Children keep running out to yell 'hello' at us.  

I run at 6 minute per kilometer pace with Denise from Canada who had mastered the Khmer language enough to banter with all our supporters lining the course… 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Phnom Penh New Year's 15k

Another triumphant podium finish (admittedly with a rather small field).  I win the Phom Penh New Year's 15k.

Racing through the fields and villages of Cambodia is magical. We start in the late afternoon on a broad, quiet boulevard on outskirts of Phnom Penh. I am escorted by a fleet of Cambodians on bikes and motorcycles until the course leaves the road and heads on to a hard pack trail through wide open fields.

I am seeking to maintain 4 minute per kilometer pace (like at Chiang Mai and Watarase Half), but and am faster than planned at 10k in about 39:40.  I feel pretty good and perhaps I could maintain this pace, but the scenic trails get more uneven and as we wind through a small villages and flocks of chickens I lose a bit of intensity and focus.  I finish in just over an hour.  

- and where does one go after the New Year's Day 15k race for an authentic Cambodian culinary experience?   Of course, where else? - Mike's Burgers.  My food snob foreigner
teammates refuse to join us, but I take "the when in Rome do as the Roman
do" approach and join the local Cambodians.  When we arrive Mike is happy to
learn that I have been to California's In'N'Out Burgers and tell me about
his business story over bacon burgers and Khmer Curry.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chiang Mai Half Marathon 2013

I am relaxed about the Chiang Mai Half Marathon.

So relaxed I almost sleep through the 5am start. My $8 per night guest-house does not offer wake-up calls, or alarms, or even an illuminated clock. Given the paper thin walls of a $8 guest-house I am wearing ear plugs, and I sleep through the feeble chirp of my watch alarm and Arnaud's quiet knock on my door.  Somehow I emerge from a deep, deep sleep and decide to check the time on my iPad at precisely 4:34. It takes a few seconds to register that I am supposed to be racing in only 26 minutes. Fortunately the guest-house is very close to the starting line and I am able to throw on my shoes, pin on my number, eat my Espresso Love Power Gel, use the restroom, sprint to Thapae Gate, and push my way through the 700 other runners to the front of the starting line.  

When I do get to the starting line the adrenaline of rushing to make it has totally kicked in – normally I would be too groggy to run hardly at all only 20 minutes after waking up, let alone race. But I feel completely wired when the gun goes off, and tuck in behind Arnaud and Brooke to keep from going out too fast.

For the first 4 kilometers rather than go out too fast, we cruise along in total comfort. I glance at my Garmin which indicates we are running at 4:10 pace, not the sub-4 minute pace I hoped for.  So when I do pass Brooke at around 5k I surge dramatically and for the next 10k average about 3:40 per kilometer moving from 10th place into 3rd

I hang on for 3rd place overall (the top two guys are light years ahead of me), and I finish in a time of 1:30 for the 23+ kilometer course (I figure it was about 1:22 half marathon equivalent – which I am pleased with given my uneven pacing. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Run for the Cure 2013

However I feel completely drained at the start.  The night before had been pretty intense and the lack of sleep along with the week's heavy running had taken a toll.  At the starting line I have largely concluded I will run this as 10k tempo run - I really don't want to experience any physical discomfort.  

So then I felt a bit distressed after 500 meters when I found myself in 4th place and in contention for those coveted prizes awarded to the top 3 overall finishers. I feel distressed because I know I will be upset with myself later if I simply wimp out and slow down and not make at least some sort-of effort.  And I feel distressed because I have a vague desire to throw up. 

My teammate George who I train next to during weekly interval workouts is not too far ahead of me in 3rd place.  And I summon the effort to tuck in beside him.  This allows me to benefit from George opening up a path for us on the crowded sidewalk around the Imperial Palace.  

Basically this becomes my strategy for the race -  do the minimum necessary for the maximum payoff.  OK, this is pretty much always my strategy, all of the time, but on this particular day I am unusually keen on executing on the strategy.

A group of the top 5 runners jockey for position over the two loops and I just try to stay right behind someone and hope I can find some kick toward the end of the race.  Fortunately there is a 500-meter downhill section toward the end of the race where I can lower my hands, lean forward and gather some strength, and then sprint into 3rd place.

I am happy to hold on and cross the finish line in 3rd place in 36:35ish.  The little competitive dynamic, the nice weather, the post-run autumn festivities in the Park make for a great event. 


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Training Summary - November 30, 2013

I do manage to pickup my run training in November. 

The increase is largely thanks to doing hill runs and long runs with my teammates every weekend.  Nothing like socializing and camaraderie to boost the amount of running one does. 

I have continued to do easy swims most days of the week, but my cycling has dropped to zero.  Since August most of the quality and quantity of my triathlon practice has been in running; as you can see in the monthly mileage chart below from Running Ahead -->

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Picnic 9.1k

You'd think I would have run enough 10-kilometer running races to have better figured out the pacing. But last weekend I blow up again during a 9k race – in a pattern nearly identical to my cross country race meltdown of 3 weeks ago (below). 

In the Picnic 9k, I tried to keep up with the two other guys and avoid running alone. I did not experience the oxygen-deprived traumatic pain of the cross country race – finding myself in last place after a frenzied sprint across slick and windy hills – but I was quite shattered after only about 3k as you can see in this picture (only one-third of the way through the run – hey, I am supposed to smile at this point)

So again - like in the cross country race - I managed to right the ship..  in the case of the picnic 9k I am blown along by a wonderful tailwind and I am figuring I clocked a roughly 36:45 wind-aided 10k time.  Not great, but not terrible. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

College Cross Country 10k

I compete in a the Western Washington University Classic Cross Country meet this weekend.

Needless to say, I am in way over my head.  

The college guys explode out off the starting line - I run under 3:30 for the first kilometer over the soft, slippery winding grass, and I find myself gasping for air, my heart racing, and I am near the very back of the field.  

But I expected this.  

I flounder through the 2nd kilometer, but manage to calm down and catch up with a small pack around 2k and am able to gut out a 38 minute effort which seems to be OK given the course.  

I feel slightly more worthy for having made the competitive effort to challenge myself against real runners (versus cherry picking un-competitive charity road races where I might win some prize...).  And it is a beautiful autumn day for running at Lake Padden.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Watarase Half Marathon

I run a half-marathon race this morning in 1:24:14.

While it was not really a heroic effort, it was certainly not bad.
 Within the first kilometer or so I tucked into the middle of a big pack of guys running 4 minutes per kilometer.  It felt like such a comfortable pace that I simply maintained this position for almost the entire 21.1 kilometers.  When the pack did split up at around 19k I did make a feeble effort to pickup speed, but after running the same pace for so long I could not seem to find the gear to speed up.  

It was encouraging to feel so comfortable 19 kilometers into a half-marathon given my level of training and how I felt prior to the event.

I even receive an Adidas running belt for my 4th place age-group place.. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Numazu Triathlon

I return to triathlon competition at the Numazu triathlon ekiden (relay) last weekend.   It is a unique triathlon relay in that all 3 team members complete the full sprint triathlon -- a 750/500 meter swim, a 20k bike ride, and a 5k run. Our club enters 4 teams and I am on the lowest seeded D team

I lead off for my team - and with only 50 meters between the rocky beach and the first turn, the swim start is even more frenzied than usual.  But I steer a course far to the outside - perhaps you can see me in the picture above - a lone pink cap veering wildly to the right, far, far behind the early leaders. 

Even though the 750-meter swim distance is significantly shorter, my time of 15:09 is no faster than my recent races of 1500 meters, 2-miles, and 3800-meter distances. No matter the distance and effort I end up swimming at a pace of 2-minutes per 100 meters.

But I am pleased by the effort when I emerge from the water and hear that teammate Stan (B Team)  is only steps in front of me (Stan being a strong swimmer and good benchmark for me from recent triathlons).  

We enter the transition and as you can see us pictured to the left. I had decided before the race to just plop down to take off my wetsuit. Meanwhile you can see Stan putting on his jersey backwards.  Despite this wardrobe mishap, Stan is faster out of T1.  And I never do manage to catch Stan on the bike.  But given my complete absence of outdoor cycling, I am pleased with my bike leg - I pass more than a dozen riders, covering the narrow, out-and-back course in 38:24.  

I am competitive on the 5k run segment which mercifully (given the hot day) is primarily on shaded trail. My recent trail running seemed to help me --after the usual adjustment issues over the first 500 meters, I begin to overtake the other participants, and at around 3k I manage to even overtake Stan.  At this point I realize I have a shot of catching the A team's lead triathlete - the legendary Chad who I see on the turnaround, his face contorted with pain.

So I am inspired to accelerate over much of the last 2k, particularly the trail leading to beach where I manage to sprint past Chad (pictured)  in a brief, competitive burst (though I after this effort I am spent and content to follow Chad through a final confusing and exhausting chute that takes us through the agonizingly heavy sand to the handoff).

I am surprised to have done as well as I did (it is difficult to compare triathlon times across different courses, but I placed ahead of teammates who have been faster than me in previous triathlons).  I was convinced that the shorter sprint distance would put me at a disadvantage, especially given that I only seem to swim at one speed as I note above, my cycling background is on long slow cross-country treks rather than short fast time trials, and my transitions tend to be rather languid, which would weigh more heavily on a short course.  But in fact on this day I perform much better than all my weak Olympic distance efforts in 2012, let alone my humiliating debacle at last year's Taiwan Half-Ironman (which I had thought was "my distance").

It is all great fun.  And my D team manages to finish 103rd overall.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lord Hill 10k Trail Race

After struggling against that challenging Seattle area competition in the Silver Lake 2-Mile Swim and Meet of the Miles Picnic (see below), I decide to find a small, local running race to assuage my ego.  I spot a Half-Marathon and 10k trail race at the nearby Lord Hill Regional Park.  After a bit of pondering I choose the 10k, figuring a half-marathon is a bit far in my new trail shoes and on my 50-kilometers per week of training (and the half-marathon costs $10 more).  

Both distances start together and for the first 4k I find myself in a pack of four guys with a college kid out ahead of us..  The new trail shoes feel great - I run the steep rocky downhill sections much more aggressively - lifting my elbows and leaning forward.  Still I find myself laboring on the up-hills, and stressing at the thought that to be competitive I really need to get around the 4 guys when the trail widens and go after the college kid.  
Then, to my amazement, at the 4k mark every other runner around me splits off to do the half-marathon.  I am totally and completely alone in first place.  If I was in a more competitive mood I would have been disappointed (or perhaps even ignored my event registration decision and gone after the other 5 runners).  But at this moment I was just delighted.  I felt burst of energy and surged along a mostly smooth flat stretch of trail to an aid station turn-around at 6k.  On this short out-and-back I could see I had a good 2-minute lead over second place.  When I begin to tire on some brutal roller coaster terrain over the last third of the course I repeatedly twist my head to see if there is anyone closing in on me.  I don't see any one and think "Oh good, I can slow down - who cares about my time as long as I win".

I win the race by 3 minutes.  I cover the hilly trail course in 45:20.  I even win some nice Rudy Project sunglasses.

The top half-marathon guys come in around 1:45.  I try to talk to them and ask them how their races played out.  But they see me with all my prizes and glory and adoring fans and they walk away, their faces contorted with scorn, contempt, and jealousy.   It is somewhat understandable that they look down on us pedestrian runners who only completed 10 kilometers.  As for me, I find myself extrapolating my 10k pace and wondering how I would have finished if I had run the half-marathon.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Meet of the Miles Picnic

Seattle's Club Northwest summer picnic is combined with the "Meet of the Miles" a Sunday afternoon set of mile races on the West Seattle track.  I intend to go to the picnic, so  naturally I am game to jump in a mile race.  Who cares that I have not done much mile specific training?  I figure the 12 x 400 meter intervals I did a month ago might help.  And at the Club Northwest track workout on the previous  Wednesday we ran 4 x1600 on a 3-minute rest cycle.  I managed to run the last 1600 in a 5:20, providing me with a modicum of confidence going into the picnic run.  I figure a picnic event should be pretty casual anyway - three-legged races, tug-of-war, water balloon tosses...   But Club Northwest is all business.  Even the "Milk Mile" (drink 12-ounces of milk then race 400 meters x 4) is a remarkably determined affair - especially in contrast to the revelrous beer mile I participated in (see below). 

The small group of grimly determined runners in my masters (40 years old+) mile heat burst out at 70-second per lap (4:40) pace, and it is all I can do to not follow them.  I knew I had to go out easy…  Still I hit 400 meters in 76 seconds and after that I find myself slogging out the remaining 3 laps at 80 second pace with no one even close to me (the pack finishes 30 seconds ahead, and another group maybe 30 seconds behind me.  

The 5:16 effort seems like an awful lot of pain - just to shave 4 seconds off the interval I clocked 4 days earlier.  I wonder if I could run much faster at this distance - how much short-distance specific training would help.  If drafting and having more people around me would help. Or would warming up more like in the workout help?  Or perhaps it is just an age thing.   It used to be easier for me to run a 5 minute mile, and any halfway decent junior high kid runs a 5:16.  But still I tend to reject the general mindset that there should be some tight correlation between one's age and the run distance one must race at.