Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to Training!

Since today is the first day of summer, I thought it appropriate to post an update. I've had a hard time this year sticking to training. I was in really good shape coming off of ski season and into March, but then work caught up to me and I ended up travelling the world for the month of March and April. As a result I missed all of my planned spring races including the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10K that I was really looking forward to. Running and travelling simply don't mix for me. If I'm 1/2 way around the world talking to partners and customers, I'm going to go out, socialize, and make the most of it. That typically leaves very little time for running. I'm not complaining as the experiences were just fantastic and well worth the training delay.

I had an epic day where I was able to run a few miles on the Great Wall of China! It was quite the challenge running up endless set of steep stairs. I took some video of my experience. I only wished I could have gone further.

After a couple weeks of China, I traveled to Europe. Do you remember Eyjafjallaj√∂kull? Yup, I was stuck in Europe for a while, nearly a week longer than I planned due to the airspace being closed for almost a week. Rented a car from Zurich and drove to Brussels for an insane amount of money. Finally had my opportunity to drive as fast as my car could go (200 kph) on the autobahn and was stuck in Brussels for 3-days while I waited on standby to take the eurostar through the tunnel back to London. Managed only a couple short runs while I was there and finally made it back home to my family who missed me very much!

After a couple months back from travelling and focusing on my company I was only running once or twice a week. Recently, I managed to find a day with a light schedule and went out on a 10-miler at lunch. Then the next day, my colleague Dave convinced me to run a speed workout on the track. Finally, I was able to get back into a routine and manged 38-miles in the second week of June starting with that 10-miler. I squeezed in 44 miles last week and am looking to pull > 50 miles this week. While I'm not running as fast as I was in January-March, I'm starting to get the bug again and set some goals tonight.

Tomorrow is booked full from 8:00am - 9:00pm. The true test is if I actually get up for my 11-miler at 5:30am tomorrow. I'm not a morning person. Will let you know...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Notchview Duathlon XC Ski Race

Our local Berkshire Trails XC Ski Club put on a cool 10k ski race this past Sunday morning at Notchview. The format of this race is one of my favorites - a duathlon.  5K classic, then switch to skating skis and poles for another 5K. It's a great opportunity to race both techniques in the same race. My only problem is that I haven't classic skied all year. The day before I opted to skate because I knew if I skied classic I'd be sore for the race. Might as well wait for after the race to pay the price not during (haha - and I'm paying for that now).

Sunday was a warm day with temps in the upper 20's at 9am. I waxed both my classic and skate race skis with Swix HF7 the night before and prepped my classics with a green kick wax base. For the race I used Star Flouro Blue. I bought this set of wax over 15 years ago and I still think it's the best kick wax out there. It gave me pretty good kick, and very fast.

A few local racers showed up, including an old friend Kurt - the fast man of the Berkshires. I'll always remember that one time I beat Kurt in a time trial bike race about 20 years ago as a junior! At the start of the race, I noticed he had his classic boots on and was planning on changing boots at the transition. Although I questioned him - he thought it was a good tactic. I opted to use my skate boots, just kept them loose at the top. A little stiff for classic, but I did this type of race once before last year and it wasn't a problem then.

I was a little nervous for the classic race as my only training was about 2km just before the start. At the start, I settled in behind Kurt and Ed - both fast master skiers. I knew Ed was magical at classic, and Kurt would probably win this thing. I felt comfortable behind them double poling, with some kicking and striding. I could tell Kurt was struggling a bit with his technique, but that didn't slow him down. The man is strong. The first 2km had one small uphill but mostly downhill and flat. We put a sizable gap on the others. I was happy to keep up with them - that is until we hit the uphills. I dropped instantly and held my own for a little while. Soon after (probably at 3km) Robert and Dave passed me. Both are fast skiers, and I know Rob is one of the fastest classic skiers around. I kept them in sight for a while and noticed that my skis were definitely faster than Rob's as I would start to catch him on the downhills only to be distanced on the long uphill on Shaw Road.

At the transition, Dave was just leaving so I realized I must have only been 20 seconds or so behind. Not too bad for no classic training! I quickly switched to my skate skis and poles and headed out skating hard. I do have some conditioning skating (I'm a weekend warrior) and felt like I was starting a new race even though I was still exhausted from the classic leg. I worked hard to catch Rob and Dave skiing a fast V2 and caught up to them at the shack (about 1km in). In the woods I passed Rob, and I think Dave as well. At that point my effort to catch Rob and Dave caught up to me - I was tired. Bruce passed me like a bat out of hell. He had a teamate, Maggie, who skied the classic leg obviously pretty fast. Bruce had the advantage of fresh legs, and a lot more time on the snow than me. I tried to match Bruce's pace but quickly realized I couldn't. Dave also took off and I was dying on the hill. I gave Rob a couple opportunities to pass me but he just stayed behind. Shaw road was a long and steady climb and I kept thinking Rob was going to pass me. Once we got to the rolling hills, my technique gave me the advantage and I put a few seconds on him before the finish.

Final top 5 results of the people I mentioned were:

1st: Kurt 21:57 classic, 17:25 skate, 39:22 overall
2nd Ed 20:58 classic, 19:45 skate, 40:43 overall
Maggie/Bruce 23:16 classic, 18:17 skate, 41:32 overall
3rd Dave 22:28 classic, 19:10 skate, 41:38 overall
4th Bill (me) 22:49 classic, 19:22 skate, 42:11 overall
5th Robert 22:29 classic, 19:46 skate, 42:15 overall

I have to say, this was one of the most fun races I've ever entered. I forget how much I enjoy classic skiing in good conditions on a nice set of tracks. However I was right about being sore. I'm writing this over 4 days later and my legs are STILL sore from the classic leg of the race!

After the race, I got to hear stories of Kurt swearing while he struggled to change his boots in the transition, then enjoyed his Brat and Sauerkraut afterwords.

I volunteered to pick up the flags at the end of the race, met up with my wife and kids, then went on to coach the young Bill Koch skiers how to skate. Unfortunately I managed to break my skate pole while I was instructing. Remind me not to stand backwards at the edge of a trail in a mound of snow without looking behind me at the 2 foot drop.

This epic day ended with me heading to Berkshire Outfitters to replace my pole - luckily Steve had an exact match - then driving over three hours in freezing rain home after waiting for the Rt 9 to reopen. Ahh well - still a great day.

My next race is the Lake Placid Loppet next Saturday. I plan on racing the 25km event. However I have to deal with a business trip to San Antonio next week. I think I'll bring rollerskis with me. It's an executive summit - I can only imagine the funny looks I will get from the golf course!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great Sacandaga XC Ski Race

On Saturday I headed up to my local ski area, Notchview in hopes to ski a good 40km. A familiar group of local racers convinced me to ski with them and head up to the Great Sacandaga Mini Marathon, a 30km ski race on Sunday. I wasn't planning on racing yet this year since I have had so little time on snow. Just about four times skiing all year. However, being that I couldn't resist a skate race, I offered to drive a group of us and made it up to the race in Day, NY by about 9:30am on Sunday. It was at the Saratoga Biathlon Center, owned by a former Olympic Biathlete, Curt Schreiner. We had quite a contingent of Berkshire Trails Skiers from Western Mass, 8 of us in total.

I have been training for about a week and a half for my next marathon - yes, running not skiing. An hour and a half ski race didn't seem so bad, so I thought I'd see what I could do. I started out pretty fast, probably about the 6th skier for the first half of the first lap (one of four 7.5k laps). The race starts with a tricky fast descent, then a challenging uphill. On the first hill, I noticed the basket of my pole had broken after it pierced through the snow which meant I couldn't really use my left pole for much.
Mid-way into the first lap, I settled in with a group of Peru Nordic Skiers.

It was a lot of fun pretending to be a fast skier, and I skied technically pretty well! The Peru Nordic guys train together every day - they are fast. After the first lap, I realized there's no way I could keep it up for three more laps. I dropped off the back, and half way into the second lap, Martin, who I got to know from a couple races last year, passed me with the comment "Started out too fast, huh? Try to recover". I sure did. The next two laps I settled in with a small group for a while, then dropped off. Found another group of two skiers that took me into the final lap. That's when I really hit the wall. As I said in my DailyLog journal - I literally forgot that I was racing. At that point, I just wanted to finish. The technical downhills got harder, and I was so slow on the climbs, I felt like I was coming to a stop.

I was hoping for a time of around 1:30 - ended up 1:41. While I know I could do better, especially with more time on the snow, a pole that wasn't broken, and better pre-race fueling, I had a blast. Next year I'm going to smash my time (as long as the conditions are as good!). I'm feeling more prepared for the next ski race that I'm planning in 3 weeks, the Lake Placid Loppet.

Think Snow!!

(Thanks to Marque Moffett for the photos)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Back into Competition

I've had a competitive itch for a while since I stopped bike racing back in 2001 (the photo to the left happens to be from that last race). Soon after I stopped bike racing, I launched my software company and had two kids. After getting back into racing shape in 2008 and acquiring my USA Cycling race license, I ended up getting the same knee pain that took me out of racing back in 1997. A real bummer! I carried over the conditioning I had into cross country skiing and did a few races last winter. I had a blast! It was really fun, even though I wasn't really able to train to the level that I wanted.

I was always reluctant to run due to my history of knee pain, often called "runners knee", but noticed I could run mostly without pain. In March I decided at the last minute to run the Holyoke St Patrick's Day 10K and did reasonably well with a pace of about 6:30 with less than 2 weeks of training. After the Holyoke race, I set myself a goal of running a fast marathon while I was still young. I bought Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning and began training for the Hartford Marathon hoping to run it in under 3 hours. It helped that two others in my office were also training for the same marathon.

I've been in a lot of tough athletic events in the past, including 120 mile bike races, 7-day stage races, team time trials, and cross country ski races, but I can't remember being in so much pain and so sore from any of these other events as I was at the end of the marathon. Marathoning is a true feat of the human body. I succeeded in my goal with a time of 2:58 and want to run another one even faster.