Category Archives: tucson

Tucson Marathon: Race Review – A Race or “A” Race?

It’s fifteen minutes before the starting gun and I can’t decide if I want to try to break my marathon personal record (PR) or try to shatter it. Now is not the best time to be thinking of such things. How did we get here? Let’s back up a few hours to Friday morning.

It pre-dawn and my training schedule has no running on it. For some silly reason it had me biking for two hours, but I had decided I wasn’t doing that days prior. I had a big race in two days and I needed to be fresh. That’s one of the reasons I was trying to start my car in the sub-freezing weather. The other was I was going to stop after work at the thrift store and see if they had any cheap gloves I could use as throwaways in Sunday’s race. But as Murphy’s Law would have it, whatever could possibly go wrong, did. My battery had died. In my typical c’est la vie fashion, I suited up for a 3.5 mile freezing bike ride into work instead and forgot about the gloves.

Sometime later on Friday, I remembered that I was supposed to have the traditional pre-race pasta dinner with @gazelle74. I “met” her on Twitter and had previously run with her on Mount Lemmon Highway. Being car-less is not usually a big deal for me; I typically drive once or twice a month. I tweet her asking if I could carpool with her to the race expo and start. Because she’s totally awesome, she agreed. Meanwhile, I forgot how I was going to get to dinner.

Allow me to digress and say that race expos are stupid. I go, get a bib and a goodie bag, and then leave. I’m not going to buy anything that they’ve marked up an additional 30% over their regular markup.

But back to dinner, long story short, I didn’t end up going. I was sad. I ended up eating a chicken breast, oatmeal, and a fruit salad. Yea! After dinner, I pretty much went straight to bed. One has to go to bed early the day before a big race, even though you know you won’t be sleeping well.

I woke many times during the night and finally decided to get up at 3:00 (yes, AM). Race start was at 7:30, so I had 4.5 hours to kill… sort of. gazelle74 was picking me up at 4:30 so we could get to the location where we’d get on the bus to shuttle us to the start line by 5:00. The bus ride to Oracle, Arizona was uneventful. I’m pretty sure I nodded off a few times on the ride. I guess I wasn’t that nervous after all.

We reach the start line with over an hour to spare. Much to soon to start any sort of warm up, so I do what everyone else is doing: take a poo. Even after what seemed like days standing in line for a port-a-potty, there was still a lot of time to kill. So I found a nice “tree” with a heavy branch that was about 2 feet off the ground to lay on and listened to some Metallica. 45 minutes pre-race and it was time to start the warmup. I love warming up for an event you plan to take 3.5 hours. It was nice and short, just a couple 100 meter jogs and walk-backs at the start line to get the blood going.

It’s now 7 0’clock and warmups are done. Nothing left to do but wait with the rest of the other 730 runners. It was about this time that I decided to set the pace time on my Garmin GPS watch. My previous PR for the marathon was at my one-and-only previous marathon. I ran a 3:50 at the Whiskey Row Marathon earlier in the year. I had no doubt that I could beat that, but by how much? I had been training using a “race pace” of 8 minute miles which is equivalent to about a 3:30 marathon and a 20 minute improvement on my PR. I decided not to mess with things, and set the watch at a 8 minute mile. This was now officially my “A” race of the year. Time to shatter that PR.

I find @gazelle74 and she’s lined up behind the 3:40 pacer. She had said her goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which for her age group was 3:40 (I think). But she said she was hoping for a 3:30 or better. Because I love the psychological boost you get when passing people, I always start further back in the pack and allow people to pass me at the start, since most people go out way to fast. So I started about 10 rows behind @gazelle74 and if her and my plans both panned out, we should cross the finish at about the same time.

I usually don’t remember a whole lot about what goes on during a race. I have other things on my mind, like: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, etc. Or mentally doing the math to see if I’m on pace even though my watch does that for me. Or thinking about how this will be the last marathon I ever run. You know, those types of “deep thoughts”. I don’t understand the types of people that have full blown conversations during a race. Don’t you plan on using the energy later? Like the pair of guys that were talking about the movie Forrest Gump on Sunday. We were at about mile 3 and they’d been yacking for the past 20 minutes. Seriously guys, shut up and run.

That isn’t to say I’m a grouch on the course. Every law enforcement officer directing traffic got a smile and a “thank you” no matter how tired I was. The officers during the last mile or two may have missed out on the smile, but not the thank you. I was hurting bad and couldn’t smile and the thank yous probably sounded more like “rouhfb jdf”. The same goes for all the spectators who came out with cowbells. They got a smile and a “needs more cowbell“. Once on Oracle, there was a guy that was drafting/pacing off of me that started saying the same thing every time we passed a cowbell. It was fun because they’re be ringing their cowbell, I’d say more cowbell so they’d ring louder, then the guy behind me would say more cowbell and they’d ring even louder! It was great and a real boost. But if I could give one suggestion, there should be more cowbells in the last mile!

The guy that was drafting off me, probably for a good 5-6 miles, never did pass me so I don’t know what he looks like. Maybe he’ll read this blog and say “hey! that was me!” If so, introduce yourself or you’ll forever be known as “The Drafter”.

The only other individual I remember during the race was “The cougher”. I swear, this guy was coughing the entire time I was within earshot. It was somewhere on Oracle after the out-and-back to the Biosphere when I heard the first cough. I remember thinking “that must suck”. Then another. And another. It continued as I passed him and until the coughs faded away in the distance. If I was continually coughing around mile 15 I think I’d pull out. I don’t know if The Cougher ended up finishing, but if he did, he’s tougher than me.

Then there was “the gazelle”. I only saw her once during the race on the out and back to the Biosphere. At that point she was behind the 3:15 pacer, but ahead of the 3:30 pacer. I was thinking, WTF? I still hadn’t caught the 3:40 pacer even though my watch, and my brain, said I was exactly on pace for a 3:30 finish. Gazelle was on a super fast pace. She ended up finishing in 3:20 and easily qualified for Boston. I never did end up catching her. Gazelles are fast.

My race was looking real good until mile 24 when I hit the proverbial wall. Not head on, but more of a grazing shot. It was getting warm and the course had flattened out and I just couldn’t hold my 8 minute mile pace. I slowed to about a 9:13 pace, while the heart rate continued to climb. It maxed out at mile 25 at 180 beats per minute! I knew I was pushing hard, but I’ve never had that high of a heart rate while running so slow before. Then I did actually hit the wall. Speed plummeted along with heart rate with about 1.25 miles left.

I ended up crossing the line shuffling along at a 13 minute mile pace in a time of 3:31:11. So I didn’t end up making my goal time of 3:30, but I did shatter that PR by almost 20 minutes. The caveats being that this course was downhill and downwind pretty much the entire way and the other one had around 3000 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Plus I was in much better shape for this one.

As I crossed the finish line, volunteers stopped me to give me a finishers medal and take my picture. While I appreciated it, I would have appreciate it more if I didn’t have to stop because I had to use the port-a-potty again and now my velocity was zero. I finally did manage to get moving again and it took me about 10 minutes to walk from the finish line to the port-a-potties, which I’m estimating were about 50 meters away. After successfully voiding myself, it was time to make it to the food tent. But there was the problem that my velocity was again zero! Grrr. 10 more minutes to reach the food tent. Along the way I ate my last ClifBar for the needed calories so I wouldn’t collapse.

Met up with @gazelle74 after stuffing my face and hopped on the bus back to the parking lot where the car was. Along the was there was a set of stairs (down) that some finishers were taking two at time. I was thinking it was going to take me 20 minutes to get down them. Per my SOP, I let gazelle74 go first so I’d have that mental boost as I passed. But just like in the race, she pulled away and was waiting at the finish as I staggered across.

Once on the bus, I sat next to a guy that looked in fairly decent shape. I asked what his time was and if he’d beaten his goal. Turns out he didn’t have a goal time (huh?) and he finished in around 4 hours. I wasn’t really listening, because I’m mean like that. Anyway, while he’s jabbering my brain is calculating the time necessary for a 4+ hour finisher to get to the bus, and I conclude that he must have went straight from the finish line to the bus at a normal walking pace. As we got off the bus, this guy didn’t have the normal post-marathon shuffle and appeared to be fine and dandy. It was at that time that I decided on Rule 1:

If you can walk normally after a race, you didn’t run hard enough.

I don’t care if it takes you 40 minutes to finish a 5k or if you’re an elite ultra-marathoner, you should be hurting after a race, otherwise it’s just a long run.

On the way home, the gazelle tried to convince me to run Mount Lemmon Marathon on April 29. I was still a little delirious and may have agreed to do it. I’m planning on racing a full bike season this year, and this is right near the end of the season. So I’m not sure. I’d love to do it, but I was thinking I’d have until fall to train for it since the first 2 years were run later in the year, right during triathlon season, which may be why they changed the date.

All in all, this was a fun race. I plan to run it next year and set a new PR and hopefully BQ. Actually, I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon here next year. Is that too much? I don’t think so.

I’d love to read others thoughts about this race, so if your wrote a race report and want a link, post in the comments.

 

 

 

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Filed under marathon, personal records, race reports, running, tucson

Flat in the Dark

I’ve found something that I love. Finally. It’s not a person. Nor is it running. Well, okay. I do love running, but that’s not what this post is about. I’ve been converted to night riding.

My first true night ride was about a week ago. I took off after work and rode about a 60 mile training ride. Before that I had commuted while it was dark, but that was always less than 5 miles. My first night ride I turned the headlight on about 1/3 of the way into the ride. It was a little awkward at first having to get used to only seeing a small bubble right in front of you. But the views of the sky were gorgeous.  It was made even better because I could view the stars without looking up the sky was so clear and non light polluted.

That night I was riding the infamous Shootout route. From Tucson, I went south on Mission Road, used Duval Mine Road and came back north on Nogales Highway. In total it’s about 60 miles, but riding from home adds another 6 to that. Unfortunately, the end of the ride takes place inside the city of Tucson, so seeing the stars is harder not only because of the light, but because one has to pay more attention to riding and avoiding cars.

2011-oct-26_map

Route ridden on the 26th of October, 2011.

Last night I once again planned a night ride. I would take off after work and ride about 40 miles. Have a looksee at the map I rode, taken from Garmin Connect. Garmin has updated their site to include Google Maps with bicycle routes on it. I don’t know if I rode on any on this ride because the real route ridden in red covers the green bike routes.

Anyway, I took off westbound at around 4pm when the winds were west-northwest at 30 gusting to 48! As the night progressed, the winds died down, luckily for me. I went out on St Mary’s and transitioned to Gates Pass Road. Riding up Gates Pass into that wind was so hard. But I made it up and over and all in the large chainring! My heart rate got pretty high, and the legs were burning bad, but I knew I had a long decent ahead of me.

2011-oct-26_metrics

Speed, elevation, and heart rate data from the October 26, 2011 ride.

After cresting the pass, I enjoyed the long downhill on Gates Pass Road until Kinney. I made the left on Kinney and now has a quartering tailwind. Not the greatest, but at least it wasn’t a headwind. I was really looking forward to making the turn from Kinney onto Ajo and having a full tailwind while going downhill! What I didn’t plan on was flatting. At the corner of Kinney and Ajo I noticed the telltale signs of a flat tire. I dismounted, checked, and yup, a flat. My first flat at night. We’d see how well I knew how to change a flat.

Looking at the data, it seems it took me about 20 minutes to change the tube. Not bad considering I made sure to check for glass and other crap in the tire that may immediately puncture the tube. I took the descent a little slow because I didn’t want another flat going downhill with the wind going at 40 miles per hour! I will note that road is much steeper than I previously thought. I had only ridden it going the other way, and it doesn’t seem that steep. I was wrong. Holy crap!

When I got to the intersection of Ajo and Mission I had a decision to make; should I head home or should I continue on the planned route. Since the tube had held up through the descent, I decided to go on the planned route. Besides, I had 2 more CO2s and tubes in the saddle bag in case of more flats. The planned route is visible in the image above and took me south on Mission to San Xavier Road where I headed east. This took me past the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, which I couldn’t see because it was dark. I continued past Desert Diamond Casino and the Tucson International Airport and turned north on Nogales Highway. A quick jog east at Valencia to Park and it was a straight shot north to home.

All-in-all it was a fun ride, even with the flat. My next night ride might be the same except extending the southbound leg so that I do the entire Shootout route. That would increase the total distance up to 100 miles. It’d be fun to complete a century all after dark. I’m not sure when I can fit that into the training schedule, hopefully next week.

Keep the rubber side down…

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Filed under cycling, daily report, training, tucson

Breast cancer awareness races

This weekend I ran two races. On Saturday I ran the 2nd Annual Pink Ribbon 7k and on Sunday I ran the Catwalk 10k. Even though I have run for over a year now, and racing for over 6 months, I have done neither a 7 kilometer nor a 10 kilometer race. That means I would have set 2 personal records (PRs) this weekend even if I would have walked the course. My hip having mostly healed, I didn’t walk the courses.

The 2nd Annual Pink Ribbon 7k took place on Saturday 22, 2011 and started on the track at Cienega High School, ran along the road for a little ways, and ended on the track at Empire High School. The tracks were obviously flat, and the road was slightly downhill the entire way. To make things even faster, we had the wind at our back the entire way on the road. In addition to being my first 7k (about 4.3 miles), it was also my first point-to-point race. When I started my morning, I didn’t know that, as I didn’t read the course description well enough. This meant that I got to the race with enough time to warm up, but not enough time to board a bus and then warm up. Luckily for me, the race started a little late, probably because many other people didn’t realize that they’d be shuttled to the start line.

After arriving at the Cienega track, I needed to decide how my hip was doing and what the plan was for the race. After a few 100 yard jogs, I decided that my hip was feeling good and I should try to run this at “race pace”. I set my Garmin for a 7:30 minute mile on the virtual partner option. Then did some 100 yard sprints to get the heart pumping. That’s enough warm-up for a 7k. I started the race about 10 rows deep consistent with my strategy to start slow and then pass people during the race.

This isn’t the best strategy to run the fastest race possible. However, there is a definite psychological boost when you pass another runner and a letdown when you get passed. So I try to keep my passing of others to a maximum and my getting passed to a minimum. Also consistent with usual during races, everyone started way too fast! I started near a 6 minute per mile pace around the track. Whew, by the time I exited the track I was well ahead of my planned time. Nothing exciting happened along the road. I did get passed by a couple of other runners, but I ended up passing more than I got passed. I was saving a little for the last mile when I planned to up the pace to my threshold heart rate. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the length of the race. I thought it was a little over 5 miles, so I was going to push the pace at 4.5 miles.

This gives me an opportunity to complain about races that are advertised in metric units (kilometers) but have signs in imperial units (miles). Argh. Please keep to one unit system please. Also, why a 7 kilometer race? I guess that’s because it was about the distance between the two high schools.

I finished the race in 31:52 at an average pace of 7:19.5 minutes per mile. This was good enough for 19th place overall and 3rd in the 30-34 male age division.

The next morning I had another race, the 10th Annual Catwalk 10k at the University of Arizona. This race was mostly on the university campus on a flat course. It was actually two loops of a 5k course, but was a little short according to my Garmin. As with the previous day, I wasn’t sure how fast I should go. I was feeling pretty good at race time, but the previous night I had a quart of ice cream and pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies for dinner and M&Ms for breakfast. That’s hardly the type of nutrition that will fuel a good race.

Therefore I decided to just run the race by feel. I set my Garmin to heart rate mode instead of virtual partner mode. Like the day before I started a few rows back in the pack. The pace at the start felt fast. Looking at the data from my Garmin, it was slightly slower than the previous day, probably because the course was a little narrower. After things got stringed out, I settled into a pace that kept my heart rate near 170 beats per minute.

During this race, I didn’t get passed once even while passing many people during the race. That psychological boost keep me going strong the entire race. It feels good seeing that next runner up the road and reeling them slowly in and then passing them. I don’t recall anything notable occurring during the race. I thanked all the police officers volunteering that were working traffic control on the course.

I finished in 43:27.6 at an average pace of 7:00.6 minutes per mile. This was quite a bit faster than the race the previous day, which shows that I could have gone harder on Saturday. Actually, after the race on Sunday I felt that I could have gone faster still. Luckily for me, I have another 10k race coming up on Saturday! I’m going to try for a new 10k PR, which shouldn’t be too hard.

My goal for next Saturday is to finish in less than 40 minutes (6:27 min/mi pace).

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Filed under 10k, 7k, personal records, race reports, running, tucson

Force reps

force reps map

Doing some force reps along the multi-use path.

Today the training plan called for something I haven’t seen before: force reps. The description that came along with the plan said to find a straight-and-level surface to do them on. Then, select a gear where you can only manage 50-60 revolutions per minute (RPM) while seated and mash for up to 20 revolutions. The training plan didn’t say mash, but that’s what it would be. Repeat up to 10 times. Sounds easy, no? See my Garmin Connect activity profile.

The first step was finding a suitable flat spot in Tucson. The Rillito River park is about as flat as you can get. The path along the Santa Cruz River park may be flatter, at least it seems so to me, and it always seems to have less walkers and runners, but it’s a long way from my house and wasn’t prepared to do the commute first, then the workout. So the Rillito it was. I took Campbell over the river made a 270-degree turn westbound on the path and I was off to start my warm-up. Looking at the metrics below, you may be thinking, “where’s the warm-up?” It wasn’t a very good warm-up, but it was actually better than usual. I got the legs spinning at pre-dawn hours and the blood flowing a little. Heart rate only got up to 130 beats per minute (BPM) but I was feeling a bit warm. Not sweaty, but ready to start the reps.

After 20 minutes my watch beeps at me. I can set it to do intervals, which is basically what this training session was. It was time to do the first rep. I start changing to harder gears while simultaneously slowing my cadence. I wish I had a cadence meter so that I could show that data in the metrics. As long as I’m wishing, I wish I had a power meter too. C’est la vie. I quickly find that I’m in the 50×12 (my hardest gear) and standing. Doh! I wasn’t supposed to be standing. Even so, after a minute I started to get really tired. You see, I had set the intervals on the watch for 2 minutes. How did I come to that number? I have no idea. At the most, the intervals should have been 20 seconds. 20 revolutions divided by 60 RPM equals 1/3 of a minute or 20 seconds. I think I got confused and just put the 2 in the wrong slot in the watch. I actually didn’t realize that while riding, so these were actually about 1 minute intervals.

force reps metrics

Speed (blue), elevation (green), and heart rate (red) during the reps.

If you count the spikes in the heart rate in the metrics, you’ll see that there are eleven. I can’t even get that right. In my defense, the beep that starts the cool-down sounds very similar to the beep that starts an interval. It was only after that 11th one that I looked at the watch and it said I was supposed to be in cool-down mode. Jeez, I can’t get anything right with this workout.

So it turns out that 50×12 at 60 RPM isn’t that hard to do on a flat surface. As an aside, 50×12 for those that don’t know the lingo means that I had the chain in a 50 tooth front chainring and a 12 tooth rear cog. Why is the front called a chainring and the back a cog? I have no idea.

If my hardest gear wasn’t hard enough, what was I doing wrong? I had already quickly dismissed the idea that I was already at the top 1% of 1% of all athletes in this particular drill. A little searching on the web turned up this blog post by none other than Joe Friel of TrainingBible fame. It turns out that I was doing them wrong. Friel explains that they work best when done on a hill with a 5-8% grade. Hmm. Why not just call them hill repeats then? I think because the gear is specified to be such that RPM is maximized at 60 instead of sitting and spinning all the way to the top. And not standing too. But “sitting low-cadence hill repeats” would have been a clearer name for what I was supposed to be doing.

He also explains why he calls them reps and not intervals. See, his intervals always have a set time between each set. So an example would be 10 1-minute intervals with 1 minute rest. With reps, there is no set rest period between sets. So you get to rest until you feel you can complete the next rep. He also explains that this exercise is for more advanced cyclists who should ideally have several years of racing under their belt. Actually, he doesn’t say that in the blog post. I remember that from the TrainingBible. Why would I, a new cyclist with less than a year experience and no racing experience, be doing this workout? Because I don’t have a coach; or more accurately, I’m trying to self-coach myself, and I screwed up.

What I’m finding is that coaching yourself is more difficult that I ever imagined it would be. It was really nice having someone tell me what to do everyday and all I had to do was go do it. Sitting down, making a plan, and executing that plan is hard work. But I’m determined to stick with it until at least the end of the year. I have the Tucson Marathon coming up and before that a whole lot of other shorter races. After that, I will re-assess my goals and see if I need (and can afford) a coach.

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Zone 1 doesn’t mean it’s easy

Last night started off so well. I was in a great mood; my package had arrived. In it, I found a rear rack, two shopping panniers, and a bike repair stand that I had ordered a week ago. It had arrived from Amazon.com about a week early. Sweeeeet! After unpacking the oversized box and cataloging the contents, I got to work getting the rack and panniers on my old Giant Cypress hybrid bike. After only about 2 minutes of work, 1 of which was opening the plastic bags, I found out that I had bought a rack that doesn’t fit my tires. I was super bummed, especially after I had spent so much time researching what to buy. Anyway, I headed over to Bikeforums.net to seek help. I ended up not getting into bed until 10, and not falling asleep until after 11! This would turn out to be a problem, as I was planning on getting up at 5 like most mornings to get my workout in before it becomes too hot. I ended up getting up at 5:30.

The first workout of the day was supposed to be an easy 3 mile run. You can see the path I took here. Usually an easy run for me is a 10 minute per mile pace. This may seem fast or slow to you depending on your typical pace, but for me it seems like a turtle when I have to run that slow. Unfortunately, before I set off I didn’t switch my Garmin to the correct pace and it wanted me to run at an 8 minute / mile pace. Umm, no thanks. While I could have done it, and recently did in my 8-miler race, that wasn’t the plan. So I switch to plan B: run by perceived effort. If you followed the link, you’d have seen that I started at an 8:30 pace and ended at a 9:30 pace. That’s much faster than I wanted and I would regret it later, because today’s training plan, like a lot of them, called for a bike ride as well.

Not only was I pulling double duty today, it was a long ride. Not necessarily a hard ride, in fact, the plan said to make sure to take it easy and not go hard. Sometimes that’s hard. 😉 So immediately after my run, I put on my biking gear and head out in what’s called a brick exercise. As my now-former (thankfully) officemate would say (often), “no rest for the wicked”. As I started riding, I noticed that my legs were not responding as they usually do. Well, that’s normal for bricks I tell myself, so I keep going. I start off on the Rillito River Path, which is really flat. See the map and metrics at this Garmin Connect link and the images below.

riding route for 9/7/2011

A seemingly random path through the city.

I had planned to ride the river path out to Sabino Canyon and then ride up and down the canyon road and then tool around in the foothills a bit, but then I remembered that for some unknown reason bikes aren’t allowed to ride the Sabino road on Wednesdays. And today is a Wednesday. So when I get to the end of the path, I make a decision to test out the Aviation Bikeway. I was going to link to a webpage on the bikeway, but couldn’t find anything from Pima County or the City of Tucson. Someone should get on that. Anyway, in the map above, it’s the portion starting in the south-east corner going west-northwest along highway 210. It connects Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) to the downtown/4th Ave/University area. Along the way, I’d get to ride south on Craycroft and hit lots of red lights.

Getting on the Aviation Bikeway from Craycroft is both easy and hard. It’s easy in that it’s easy to find: just make a hard right at the intersection of Craycroft and Golf Links. The hard part is that you need to be in the right turn lane, and there’s a lot of cars turning right at this intersection because Craycroft dead-ends into DM. So as a biker you get to queue up in the turn lane with cars behind wondering what the heck you’re doing. I get the same thing everyday when I have to turn left, but it’s still weird and a little dangerous. One would think that if you want to encourage bikers to use a bikeway, you’d give them a safe way to get on.

But that’s not where the safety issues with the bike lane end. Oh no. The bikeway runs along the north side of highway 210 and is basically a glorified sidewalk that’s usually separated from the road by barricades of some kind. At several crossings of side streets, it looks and feels just like you’re riding on a sidewalk. You’re not, of course, but it offers the same limitations of riding on sidewalks: most notably, it’s dangerous! When I came to the first of these, I couldn’t believe that the City of Tucson would want to encourage this type of cycling behaviour. Luckily, I only saw one other cycling on the path. Although I heard later in the day that a cyclist was struck trying to cross one of these intersections.

During my excursions on the bikeway, I kept my heart rate in low zone 1. Basically just keeping the bike moving. Even so, I caught up to another cyclist and “drafted” off of him for a bit. I stayed back about 20 feet, so there really was no draft, but I didn’t feel like passing. At Highland Ave he got off the bikeway and presumably went north to the University. I continued on, not knowing where I’d end up. As it turns out, I ended up pretty close to downtown, so I headed in that direction. This slowed my average speed considerably. Especially since I sort of got lost in all the one-ways and no left turns. Zoom in on the map to see what I mean. Eventually, I got spit out the west side of downtown and decided to ride up A Mountain. As I got to the enterance of the park, I noticed that it didn’t open until 8. It was about 7:50. What to do? I saw another cyclist go around the gate, so I followed.

9/7/2011 metrics

Speed (blue), elevation profile (green), and heart rate (red) data for the ride today.

In the graphs above, the A Mountain ascent is the fairly sharp peak in the green curve that starts at about mile 20. You can see my heart rate shoots up pretty good too. For that climb, my HR maxed out at about 160 bpm. Still in zone 2. After a quick descent, avoiding the gate again, I head out south on Grande Ave which later turns into Mission Rd. with the itent of riding west on Ajo and climbing Gates Pass from west heading back toward the city. A very short time later, I decide that would take too long and reverse course to ascend the pass from the east. Plus, it’s easier from the east and my legs were still a little sore, but feeling much better than when I started.

Getting to Gates Pass was uneventful. I’ve done it many times before. HR peaked at 172 bpm as I reached the top of the pass, a little into zone 3, but not for too long. I quickly flip a bitch, and make a beeline for home. Well, not a beeline exactly. I make a detour south on Greasewood where they have markings for 1k and 200m to the finish line of the Tucson Bicycle Classic. This is the peak in the HR at mile 40. I tried to sprint to the finish line from 200 meters, but by this point I just didn’t have it in me. I sat up, feeling dejected with 100 meters to go, watching imaginary opponents pass me by as I crawl to the finish.

And that’s exactly what I did on the rest of the ride. I was out of water and extremely tired. I made it home, but that wasn’t the end of things. I originally was going to take a quick shower and get right back on the bike and head to work. But then I got caught up looking at my Training Peaks data for about 15 minutes. And in that time, I decided I’d take my lunch with me to work, but that meant I had to make and pack my lunch. So I made some veggie hash, basically a baked potato cut into bite-sized chunks with eggs, tomato, and onion. It tastes pretty good, but isn’t that great to look at. I brought along 3 kiwis, a plum, and a raisin-walnut mix to balance out the rest of my food intake for the afternoon. While I was making lunch, I drank a hemp protein shake which added another 5 minutes to my delay. By the time I got to work and settled in my desk, it was 11:30 and time for lunch already! Luckily I brought my lights so I can ride home after sunset tonight. As for food for tonight? I haven’t decided yet. It’s either hash again or making a trip to the grocery store. I’m leaning towards the store.

Tomorrow starts another day…

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Filed under brick, cycling, daily report, nutrition, running, training, tucson

2011 TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler

It’s been a long time since I last raced! And up until a few weeks ago, it had been a few months since I’ve run at all. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling lately getting ready for a 2012 race season as a 30-year-old rookie. I figure by summer 2012 I’ll be racing in the Tour de France. I’ve got that sort of natural talent on the bike. I have genetics to blame I guess. I’ve also recently broken my arm… while riding my bike. I was supposed to be doing spin-ups, where you put it in an easy gear and see how fast you can pedal. I was doing 1 minute on then 1 minute off when all of a sudden a stupid thought jumped in my head. Myself, I thought, let’s through in a 1 minute sprint just for fun. So I did. I was on the Rillito River Path in the early morning and there was nobody else out there, so I wasn’t endangering anyone else. But as I go around a corner I should have been able to make, I lost traction and bit it. I got a little road rash, but when I fell I came down weird and broke my humerus up near the shoulder. It was in a place where they don’t put a cast on it, and not serious enough for surgery. So the doctor gives me some pain pills and tells me to HTFU.

But back to running news. I’m scheduled to run the Omaha half marathon on September 25. Remember that I really haven’t run since July. So I started up as soon as I felt comfortable after the broken arm. That turned out to be about a week and a half ago. The TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler is my first race since July 3 when I did the Firecracker Triathlon. Those that were keeping score at home, will remember I finished 300 out of 303 in the swim. After that, I had one more swim lesson that I had already paid for, and I haven’t been back in the pool since. With the arm, I’m not sure when I’ll get back in. But If I want to do triathlons again, I really need to work on the swim part.

there I fixed it: wrist band

Broken wrist band on the Garmin

Even with the race on today (Monday), that didn’t mean I got to take yesterday off. Nope. I rode in the foothills and then did four repeats up Sabino Canyon road. (Garmin Connect) When I got home, I tried taking off my GPS watch but failed miserably and broke it. As it turns out, the Internets tried to warn me that the wristband on this watch tends to fail after about 6 months, but I wasn’t listening to the Internets when I bought it. 😦 So with nothing better (read: duct tape), I made do with some safety pins. Yup, fixed it right up. It actually worked quite well. I’m proud of myself for thinking of that at 5 in the morning before I’d had any coffee.

So with a broken watch, I headed out the door and drove 17 miles to Saguaro National Park East where the race took place. It’s funny driving 17 miles to run 8. Not haha funny, but some other kind of funny. As it turns out, I had to park about a mile from the start line. So I got my warm up in running from the car to the start. Not that I needed to, but the race didn’t start on time because the ambulance was late. It was impossible to know that at the time though. So I, and the rest of the over 1000 racers, had a few minutes to twiddle our thumbs.

post race portrait

Post race self-portrait

Then we were off. It was a cloudy day in Tucson; a very rare event. I took advantage of it by wearing my dark sunglasses. Oh well, I could see just fine. As usual at these large events, the start was a mess with slow pokes lined up near the front that you have to weave your way around throughout the race. I had my nice GPS on, which tells me exactly how I’m doing in respect to a planned pace. Actually, once we got about 1/2 mile down the road, the pace steadied into about a 8 minute / mile, exactly what I was hoping to finish in. I was drafting off of a couple ahead of me that seemed strong. They were chatting away and the guy had a GPS on too and he was constantly looking at it. I got to wondering if he was way ahead of his time or way behind. Almost on cue he says, “we’re going way too fast”. Doh. So much for pacing off them. I pass them, and then start passing everyone else that started too fast. After that point, I was only passed once, about a quarter mile from the finish. There’s a mental boost for each person you pass, and a corresponding let down when you get passed, so I try to do the passing. I don’t get why people go out so fast if they can’t maintain that pace. Whatever floats your boat I guess.

flyers

Flyers for something...

There wasn’t really anything exciting during the race. Garminsays I gained 502 feet of elevation during the short run. There was one big-ass hill. My heart rate averaged 159 bpm and I maxed at 175 bpm. I could have gone harder, but I didn’t know that since I’ve been out of running so long. At about the 7.5 mile mark I passed a woman who was severely dehydrated and needed help walking. I hope she made it back to the ambulance okay. Other people stopped to ask if she was alright. Being a jackass, I was just glad I moved up another place. The results aren’t online yet, but unofficially I think I finished in about 1:04:00. That depends on how they time it. My watch says I finished a few seconds under my 8 minute per mile pace. So, yeah.

race schwag

Race schwag

The end of the race is always the best part. Okay, so it isn’t always the best. The best part is when you get your schwag! There was no schwag at packet pickup and I was disappointed. Only a bib and a sleaveless shirt. I wore the shirt the same day when I did a 13.1 mile run that started at 5:30 at night. That was not smart. But back to the schwag! After the race, I picked up some free orange slices, a Muscle Milk, an Activate Workout, and a Julie Bar.

Since I was smart this time (who’d have thought), I properly brought these three items home for a proper review. The oranges were oranges. I didn’t think I needed to review them. Plus I needed some quick energy for the drive home.

First up, I tried the Activate Workout drink. The flavor that the woman handing them out recommended was their raspberry citrus. I don’t see that on their website, so I’m not sure how to order it if you’d want to try it. The nutrition label says there are 5 calories in the entire bottle, so it’s mostly water with artificial flavors added. They also add a few vitamins and minerals. They have 8% of the recommended daily values (DV) of vitamin A and C, 100% DV of vitamins B6, B12, niacin and pantothenic acid, and 480% of vitamin C. Their gimmick is that they “store” the vitamins in the cap and not actually in the water and you have to release and “activate” them before drinking. It’s a fun idea, but I’m sure there’s no scientific evidence that water dilutes vitamins or minerals. Or that they need to be activated. The flavor was okay. I actually prefered my plain old water in my reusable water bottle. Considering that this sells for $9.20 for a pack of 4, I would not recommend buying it.

Next up was Muscle Milk, their light (presumable low-fat variety?) chocolate version. I’ve had Muscle Milk before. The first time was about 10 minutes after I finished my first marathon. It literally made me want to puke. I don’t remember what flavor I had. The second time was about 10 minutes after my last race, a 5k. It didn’t make me want to puke, thank goodness, but I don’t remember it being exactly good either. This will be the third try, and they may get their third strike, we’ll see. Once again, it comes in an individual plastic container. Thank goodness it’s recyclable, as is the Activate bottle. Looking at the ingredient list, I see a whole bunch of crap like Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Acesulfame Potassium, and Sucralose. Sounds nummy. As with the Activate, it’s mostly water with adatives like “nutrients found in natural milk”. That’s right, this isn’t actually milk. Just milk-flavored water. It does have quite a few vitamins and minerals in it though. If that’s your thing. If you eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and a little lean meat you’ll get all the vitamins you need. But at $2 each, it’s strike three for Muscle Milk. It tastes okay, but is definately not worth the price.

Last up is the Julie Bar. This is actually a locally owned business here in Tucson, so I’m hoping it tastes good and I can support them! That said, the sample I got was of the PB&J variety. The nutrition label says it’s made out of organic dates, organic raisins, and organic peanuts. 3 ingredients, now that’s my kind of sports food. The little sample only has 57 calories; a full sized bar of the same flavor would have 170 according to their website. My first impression is that it is definately not as sweet as the Muscle Milk. It doesn’t exactly taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn’t taste bad. I thought that the peanuts would be more of a butter than they were. They were basically small chucks sitting in the raisin and date goo. I think if they had been put through a food processor it would have a better consistency. But that’s just my two cents. This is definately something I’d carry on a long bike ride or run. Or even have by the side of the pool on those long swim workouts (of which I’ve had none). The flavor is subtle, which is needed during intense physical exertion, so that’s a plus. It provides a calorie punch in a small package. Packaging is a negative again. I’m not sure how to get away from it, but each bar is individually wrapped in plastic. At $25 for 12 bars (online), it’s a little expensive, but for a small start-up company marketing locally, that’s to be expected. Add to that price at least $5.75 for shipping too. I’m not sure how much they cost in local businesses. All-in-all, I would recommend this product. I look forward to taste testing other flavors.

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Filed under 8 mile, personal records, product reviews, race reports, running, tucson

Running in Tucson

A question from Katie:

Hi Nathan! I love to run, but it’s so friggin hot right now, where are your favorite spots? Ususally I go to Sabino Canyon, but because its so hot – the only time that would be decent is at dusk and I am afraid that I will run into a rattlesnake or Mtn lion! I like to run 3 to 5 miles – any suggestions?

When to run

Tucson is hot. Even in the winter it’s hot during the day, but during the summer it’s absolutely miserable. Even at dusk, the temperature is often still near 100 degrees. In my most recent 5k (the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run/Walk 2011 on June 5, 2011), the temperature at race start (7:00) was 98! Even drinking liberal doses of water, by the time I was done I was severely dehydrated. If running at night is your only option, I have several suggestions: drink plenty of water beforehand, carry plenty of water during the run (a water belt or carrying a water bottle both work), and drink plenty of water afterward. Running after dark is always an option too if you can find someplace lighted, there’s a full moon, or you don’t mind carrying a flashlight to light your way. Recently I’ve run barefoot on the soccer fields at Udall Park about an hour after sunset. There was enough light from the adjacent softball fields that I was comfortable enough with not stepping on anything or in any holes. It was still a little warm, but without the sun beating on me it didn’t feel too bad.

But my suggestion would be to run in the morning! The coolest part of the day is just after sunrise. I know it’s hard getting out of bed that early in the morning, but for me it’s worth it. This morning it was only 72 and the sun wasn’t as intense as the afternoon or evening.

Where to run

Where you run partially depends on when you choose to run. If you run in the mornings, you can pretty much run anywhere you want! That’s the great thing about running. If you’re looking for a flat run, the Rillito River path is great. If you’re looking for hills, Sabino Canyon or Tumamoc Hill are both great. Sabino is longer (about 8 miles round trip), but Tumamoc is much steeper. City parks are usually empty at this time of day too. If you don’t mind running in circles, high school tracks are available. Be careful though. If someone from the school says that you can’t run there, you’ll have to leave, but that’s never happened to me. Running around Reid Park seems popular, although I’ve never done it.

Mount Lemmon is a great place to run in the summer! (Don’t try this now with the Forest Service restrictions in place.) Drive up to Summerhaven and run up Ski Run Road. It’s about 7 miles round trip, and the temperature is about 15 degrees cooler than in the city! If you don’t want to run 7 miles, turn around whenever you feel like it. It’s a pain to drive all the way up Lemmon just for a 5 mile run so I’d recommend taking up a picnic and making an afternoon out of it. Or if you’re into such things, run in the evening, have dinner (either your own or at Ski Valley), and then stargaze as long as you want. This is more fun with a group of people, but can be a solo activity too. A telescope may or may not be needed depending on if you want to look at specific objects or just marvel at the night sky.

I will mention that I run on roads quite a bit, mostly because it’s easy. Slip on a pair of running shoes, head out the door, and I’m already running. I have a route in my neighborhood that’s 4 miles that I run quite a bit. The nice thing about running in your neighborhood is that you get to meet some neighbors that you might not already know, especially if you run at the same time everyday. I regularly see the same walkers, runners, and cyclists when I do early morning runs.

Wildlife

I don’t know how many miles I’ve run in the Tucson area, but I do know that in all my time hiking, biking, and running I’ve only ever seen one snake. I was hiking in the Coronado Forest in the afternoon and a snake was sunning itself on the trail. As I approached, unaware at this point of its presence, I heard it scurry off the trail, and barely caught sight of it as it went down a hole.

I don’t think there’s too much need to worry about snakes at Sabino Canyon, even at night. I’ve run the road at dusk numerous times, and even though everyone says to be careful of snakes, I’ve never seen one. You should still be careful though! Mountain lions are a different story. I have seen a mountain lion in Tucson, but not while outside. I was actually here for a conference, and saw one from the hotel. The last time I heard of a mountain lion sighting at Sabino was fall 2010. Since I’ve been in Tucson (7 years) I don’t recall hearing about anyone getting attacked by a mountain lion. There was a lot of sightings in 2004, and they closed the park for awhile, but I don’t think anyone was attacked. In short, I don’t think you have anything to worry about by running at dusk at Sabino Canyon. (Note that Sabino is currently (June 17, 2011) closed at dusk due to fire danger, so don’t run there now anyway.) If you’re still worried about mountain lions, contact the Forest Service Santa Catalina Ranger District for up to date information.

If you want to see wildlife while you’re running, I’d suggest doing it in the morning. I’ve seen numerous deer while hiking and running at Sabino, but only in the mornings. I’ve also seen roadrunners, large birds of prey, smaller rodents, and the usual lizards.

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