A Time of Change

In the endurance sports routine, there is not often where you can immediately feel how a few days affect your athletic life for the foreseeable future.  Starting last Thursday and going through this Sunday is one of those periods!

Last week I made a decision that I will appreciate, hate, enjoy and regret between now and April.  I decided to register for Ironman Texas on April 28!


When I suffered my injury last September I was just weeks away from completing Ironman Louisville and have not felt comfortable signing up for another race until now. I always knew I would sign up for another race but I wanted to wait until I felt like I was prepared to do so, and I know that time is now!

One main reason why I know I am prepared for my Ironman journey to begin again is because for the last four months I have been training for the 40th Chicago Marathon this Sunday!  Although my training has not been my best, and I am definitely not aiming for a PR at the race, I know I am back and will be able to continue to build my strength through April.  When I cross that finish line on Sunday in Millenium Park I will complete one giant step towards my recovery.  The training has shown me how important a continuous training cycle is to race performance.

The training has shown me how important a continuous training cycle is for performance.  I have been continuously working towards this initial goal since my physical therapy started soon after my injury.  That training, even if it was just for recovery set up the base that I have continued to build on.  I know that going into my Ironman training this base will allow me to face the 140.6 miles in April with confidence.

-Runner

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Back at It!

I heard the pop.  The sound that makes everything move more slowly.  I heard that sound and knew before I hit the ground that everything was going to change.

On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, my athletic life changed quickly.  I was playing a soccer game with my law school soccer team when an innocent play for a header turned into a trip to the emergency room that night and 8 months of recovery since.  That pop was my patella dislocating and relocating due to the impact of my fall

That pop was my patella dislocating and relocating due to the impact of my fall.  It caused a Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (MPFL) tear and pieces of cartilage to break off.  I got surgery on Halloween and was in physical therapy since before the surgery occurred.  I cannot speak highly enough of the team that has helped me recover in the last 8 months, but now the hard work begins.

Despite physical therapy and all the work I have done so far, I am still not as strong as I was on September 6, 2016, but I am well on my way to be not only as strong but stronger than I was before my injury.  The assurance that I will grow to be stronger than before my injury has allowed me to once again look forward to my next athletic challenge.

THE NEXT CHALLENGE
Although this is a new challenge it is one that is familiar to me.  Before my injury, I was working to finish Ironman Louisville that was less than a month after my infamous soccer match.  My new challenge seeks to update and complete this unfinished goal.

I plan on competing in Ironman Texas next April!  Ironman has not announced the exact date yet for the 2018 race but, assuming it is on the same weekend as it was this year, I am just 48 weeks away from finally becoming an Ironman!

I am nervous to train through the winter for a race but this race will symbolize more than just triumphing over my injury.  Just a few weeks after this race I will graduate law school, signifying a new chapter in my life.  I see this event as culminating not only a long term athletic goal but also an educational goal that I have worked so hard to accomplish.

Before that race, I have a million steps that I will need to take but they will all be taken with one goal in mind…to become an Ironman!  More coming later!

-Runner

Training Thursday: Feb 22-Feb 28

Feb 22:
-Swim Session: 500 yd Easy Swim (9:09; 1:50 min/100yd)
-Strength Session: Shoulders & Core (1 hour 15 minutes)

Feb 23:
-Run Session: 5 Mile Fartlek (39:08; 7:50 min/mile)

Feb 24:
-Strength Training: Legs (40 minutes)
-Indoor Soccer (40 minutes)

Feb 25:
-Swim Session: 2,000 Long Session (600×3 yd reps-each rep faster than previous; 37:49; 1:53 min/100yd)

Feb 26:
OFF DAY!

Feb 27: 
-Cycling Session: Cycle 120 (1:49:45; 32 miles; 17.5 mph)
-Run Session: 6 mile run with Franky (6.04 mi; 1:18:11; 12:57 min/mi)
-Soccer Practice: 90 Minutes

Feb 28:
OFF DAY! (Became an Uncle)

Sorry I was a little late this weekend.  It took me a couple of days to catch up from my weekend.

Overall this week was a pretty easy week.  I had a hard Saturday but my Sunday was an off day because I had to head up to St. Louis because my brother had a little baby girl.  Ms. Norah Ren was born at 1:45 on Sunday.  It was a great reason to miss a workout.  Sadly that workout was going to be an indoor triathlon put on by my triathlon club.  The triathlon was a success but I am sad I had to miss the event.

This week (which is almost over) will focus on just relaxing and doing what I want.  This week and next will focus on the same thing before I start my triathlon training officially. I decided to push the start day back two weeks since this weekend I will be out of town and next week is Spring Break.  I did not want to start behind on my training plan, so I will officially start it after Spring Break.

-Runner

Training Tuesday: Feb 15-21

Feb 15:
-Strength Training (AM): Shoulders (50 minutes)
-BRIC Cycling Session: 20 mile spin (40:03; 30.0 mph)
-BRIC Run Session: 10K Run (48:18; 7:47 min/mi)

Feb 16:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 30 Mile Spin (1:01:59; 29.0 mph)

Feb 17:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:38; 7:49 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer: 40 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (45 minutes)

Feb 18:
-Run Session: 5K Lunch Run (3.2 Miles, 26:06, 8:100 min/mi)
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 44:19; 1:59 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 15 Mile Spin (29:18; 30.7 mph)

Feb 19:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Lunch Run (4.21 mi; 35:07; 8:21 min/mi)
-Cycling Session: 20 Mile Spin (39:38; 30.3 mph)

Feb 20: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Cycling Session: 24 Mile Outside Ride (24.21 mi; 1:34:28; 15.4 mph)

Feb 21:
-Run Session: 7 Mile Slow Run (7.27 mi;  1:02:51; 8:39 min/mi)

This week I completed the Indoor Ironman at SIU Rec Center.  This race consisted of completing the distance of a full Ironman Race inside an allotted time period.  The Rec Center allows you three weeks to complete the competition, but I wanted to challenge myself to get it done within one week.  Despite having a lot of school work to do this week I did complete the distances although I feel like I cheated a little by putting so many miles on the indoor bikes.  You will hear more about this week of training later this week.

This week marks 33 weeks until Ironman Louisville.  My training plan is a 32 week plan so I will officially begin the training plan next Monday (February 29)!  I will unveil my full plan next week in a post.  This plan will include competing in the NCAA Triathlon National Championships in April, and completing at least one half Ironman in August (with another possible one in May). Needless to say I am going to take this week easy and just workout when and how I want too, rather than sticking to a strict plan like I will have to for the foreseeable future.

-Runner

Race Review: Bradley Indoor Triathlon

Review Wednesday has a new installment this week.

I have faced the challenge of a triathlon before.  In fact I faced the task of a 70.3 Race in heat over 100 degrees just last June.  But this weekend I attempted a new type of triathlon that is hard to prepare for.  I did my first indoor triathlon at Bradley University this Saturday.  Although indoor triathlons do not include the long miles found in outdoor triathlons, it does include very intense workouts meant to have you push yourself constantly for the entire time.

I got to the rec center on campus that morning around 7:20am (my swim wave was at 8:40am) prepared for what I thought would be a fun and exciting new adventure but I was in for a surprise.  I got prepared and got into the pool and started my day full of intensity, at a level I have not practiced at in a long time.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-In the Pool

Swim Review:
Bradley’s pool is only 6 lanes of 25 yards each in a room with one wall of windows.  The sun outside made the room bright and the pool warmer than usual.  The swim wave consisted of 12 people so we were sharing lanes and I was stuck on the half lane closest to the wall.  I only hoped to not hit the top of the wall during one of my strokes (luckily this nightmare did not occur).

As the initial whistle blew I told myself to calm down and take it nice and slow.  The swim was for 10 minutes and my goal was to go 500 yards, or 10 full laps of the pool.  I got the first couple of laps completed I realized I felt good and was ahead of my pace. I continued to push the pace but as I did I realized something was wrong.  I broke my nose in high school and since then I have had issues with water getting into my nose.  With that issue I wear a nose piece when I swim but in the middle of a lap at Bradley it fell off.  The crazy part was, I kept going with basically no issue afterwards.  I finished the session with 575 yards completed, blowing away my goal of 500 yards.

Bike Review: 
After the swim we had a quick turn around to get to the bikes.  The bikes were set up along a wall on their indoor soccer/hockey court.  They were very comfortable bikes and I was most impressed with the handlebars and how comfortable they were.  The bikes had bike computers on them so we could constantly see our RPMs and distance as we pedaled.  Above us we could see the track and the runners from the earlier heat.  Also there was plenty of music playing to keep your mind off the business at hand.

I began with a high resistance and an average cadence (95 RPMs) but soon realized it would be better to have a lower resistance and a higher RPM.  I lower the resistance until I could maintain around 105 RPMs.  I kept this until the last 5 minutes when I continued to increase the resistance during the final push.  My goal for the bike was around 8 miles, but it is tough to judge this goal because each indoor bike measures a little differently.  I ended up going 8.2 miles which I am a little disappointed with after seeing the other results.  I believe the bike is where I need to work the most in order to accomplish my goals.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-On the Bike

Not the best posture, but I am putting in the miles!

Run Review: 
After the bike my legs felt pretty good and I was going into my best event.  I have been a runner for years now and I am confident in myself to push through the pain and to keep running.  My goal was to run 2 miles in the 15 minutes allotted, which was 16 laps of the track.  I started off at a conservative pace knowing I needed to get my legs back before I pushed too hard.  Soon I was up at the pace I felt comfortable with and was on my way.  As the time ticked by my legs began to ache from the previous cycling and running efforts.  I pushed through and at the 2 minutes left mark I was only one lap away from 2 miles.  I completed the lap and a little more, eventually clocking in with a 7:22 min/mi pace for the 15 minutes.

FINISH: 
I was happy with my performance and beat all of my pre-race goals.  After my work was calculated they estimated my spring triathlon finish time to be 1:05:42, enough for 30 place out of 90 competitors.  I am happy with my placing and it shows my training is paying off.  I do not consider myself one of the faster people, in fact I have always thought of myself as an endurance person before I was a speed demon but this shows that with practice I can get faster.  This provided me with some confidence that I can use for motivation for my longer distances in the summer and fall.

The biggest news of the weekend is by participating in this triathlon, I have qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Collegiate Championships in Clemson, SC in April! Excited, and cannot wait to participate.

-Runner

 

Training Tuesday: Feb 8-Feb 14

Feb 8:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Strength Training: Shoulders (45 minutes)

Feb 9:

-BRIC Cycling Session: 1 Hour Spin (28.2 mi; 28.2 mph)
-BRIC Running Session: 1.25 Mile Run (9:42 min; 7:46 min/mi)

Feb 10:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:22; 7:41 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer and Basketball: 1 hour 15 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (40 minutes)

Feb 11:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Half Marathon Tempo Run (30:38; 7:39 min/mi)
-Swim Session: 650 yd (11:47; 1:49 min/100 yd; practice with a friend for Bradley Indoor Tri)

Feb 12:
-Off Day! (Travel for Bradley Indoor Triathlon)

Feb 13: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Swim Session: 10 Minutes (575 yd; 1:44 min/100 yd)
-Cycling Session: 20 Minutes (8.70 mi; 26.1 mph)
-Run Session: 15 Minutes (2.03 mi; 7:22 min/mi)

Feb 14:
-Off Day to Celebrate Valentines Day!

This was a very rewarding week.  I really began to focus on getting in some serious workouts to mark the beginning of my building up towards my half distance triathlon in May.  The week included multiple long and hard workouts in the beginning and ended with an Indoor Triathlon at Bradley University in Peoria, IL.  By competing I qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Championships at Clemson University in April!

This week I have a fun and unique goal.  The Rec Center here on campus is having a three week long “Indoor Ironman” competition where during those three weeks you are asked to complete 2.4 miles worth of swimming, 112 miles on the bike and a 26.2 mile run.  I thought it would be fun to try to get all those distances in one week.  I began yesterday and will work through Sunday in order to get the required distances.  What a week!

-Runner

Training Week Review: Jan 4-Jan 10

Jan 4:
-Swim Session: 1K (200 yd sets; working on stroke length)
-Strength Training: Arms (45 minutes)

Jan 5:
-Run Session: 5K Consistent Pace (Total 24:10, 7:48 min/mi)

Jan 6:
-Swim Session: 1,650 yds (500 yds sets with a warm up and cool down)

Jan 7:
-Strength Training: Core (45 minutes)

Jan 8:
-BRIC Bike Session: 27.50 Miles (Hour Spin session)
-BRIC Run Session: 1 Mile (8:33 min/mi)

Jan 9: Indoor Sprint Triathlon Mirror Workout
-BRIC Bike Session: 12 Mi (23:52, 30.2 MPH)
-BRIC Run Session: 5K (23:20, 7:32 min/mi)

Jan 10:
-Strength Training: Shoulders & Core (50 minutes)

This week was the first week that I really focused on making sure I did multiple workouts geared towards triathlon.  Although I have not officially begun training for my next triathlon, (training officially begins January 18) I want to have a couple of weeks lead up to week 1.  My goals for this year will require many more heavy training weeks that will include many more laps in the pool and hours in the saddle and I know that just jumping into training would not be the most beneficial to me.

I really enjoyed my workout on Saturday.  I wanted to mirror a sprint triathlon including the swim but the winter break hours at the university rec center mean that the pool does not open until noon on Saturday so I had to settle for just the bike and the run.  I was very pleased with how I felt during and after the run.  Last year my run suffered and I think it was because I did not BRIC enough during my training so this cycle I am making a point to BRIC fairly frequently, even if it is just a mile or two after a ride.  This will hopefully pay big dividends on race day.

-Runner

 

Looking Back: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Today begins the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  The Dopey runners will be racing first to the expo today before beginning their four days of races.  With the 5K starting tomorrow followed by the 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon.  Each year I get emotional when this weekend approaches.  This race has been a very important part of my life and will always be special to me.

When I started running I was looking for a goal race and when I saw the date for the Disney Marathon I knew it would be perfect for me.  I was an undergrad and knew that the best race would be during the winter break allowing me to take an extended vacation to the race and not have to worry about quickly heading back to attend class.   That was beyond the fact that getting to run around Disney would be a great first race to complete.  It served as a great motivation during the training and will always be one of my favorite races.

Beyond Disney being my first marathon, it was also the race where I accompanied two of my best friends complete their first marathon.  In 2014 and 2015 I accompanied friends through the 26.2 miles as they completed their first race.  Being able to watch each of them through the struggle that each marathoner has made me realize how great an accomplishment completing the race is.  I have accomplished a lot of goals since I started running, but seeing each of them cross the finish line in Orlando was a unique accomplishment that I will always appreciate.

Lastly, and most importantly, this race was the backdrop for one of the most important events in my life.  After completing my first marathon in 2012 I made another commitment that would change my life, I proposed to Bride! I thought that there was no better way to signify an ending of one chapter in my life and starting a new one than completing my first marathon as the period of one chapter and proposing as the introduction to the next chapter.

During my training for Disney Marathon 2012 I grew so much and learned so much about myself.  It changed my life forever and I will always look fondly at the race, the environment, and the emotions at the finish line.

-Runner

Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K in St. Louis

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

For anyone seeking the best way to take a break from Law School finals I have found the secret.  Just take a quick trip out of town to an enjoyable race to get your mind off the stress of finals.  When I saw that the Hot Chocolate series was coming to St. Louis on the weekend between my two weeks of finals I thought that it would be a great release from the strain of constant studying and pressure that was bound to occur during those two weeks.

Post Race 1There has been an exponential growth in themed races in America.  Just in the few years that I have been running there has been an explosion of race series that have themes surrounded by parties, celebrations and excitement beyond the thrill of finishing.  There are races now that promote glowing paint, mud (lots of mud!), inflatables and color powder just to name a few.  One of the best tasting themes of any of these races is the Hot Chocolate series that has quickly expanded to multiple races throughout America.  The races start in November and run through the winter and into the early spring in cities throughout America including a very big race in Chicago each year.

This is the third year for the STL race and the previous two years the Hot Chocolate was well deserved at the end due to the weather.  This year the temperature at step off was in the fifties and they announced that combining the previous two years temperature at step off would still be 20 degrees below this year’s temperature.

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

Race Organization: 17/20
I have ran some of the best ran races in America and I love to see different approaches to putting on races.  Hot Chocolate, obviously, has plenty of experience putting on races and they have perfected what is needed to run a successful race.  They sent out multiple e-mails with training plans that list out what a typical training plan would include in the upcoming weeks to help runners prepare.  They provided plenty of guidance on the locations of the expo, the start line, the finish celebrations.  There will obviously be a difference between this race and the large marathons and it would not work well for races like this to mirror the Chicago or NYC Marathon with their promotions with the participants.  Instead Hot Chocolate has developed its own unique approach that worked great for the STL race.

Union Station Entrance

Expo: 14/20
Hot Chocolate ExpoThe expo for the Hot Chocolate race took place in the historic Union Station. Union Station is in the heart of St. Louis and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. So often people look to the Arch as the extent of the St. Louis iconic architecture without realizing that there are buildings like Union Station that should be ranked up with the Arch when people look at St. Louis.

The expo was a small expo but it served the purpose.  I was able to quickly walk in, get my registration packet and look around without having to fight the crushing crowds seen at some expos.  One of the best features was after picking up my packet I was able to try on the long sleeve jacket to confirm that it fit, while being able to switch it out if I need to, before leaving the expo with it.  Many of the sponsors were local companies that have roots in the STL area that provide a great regional feel to the expo.  This feel was a great experience since most of the runners were inevitably from the St. Louis area so advertising local companies and races would have the biggest impact.

Course/Race Experience: 16/20
Hot Chocolate CourseThe course started on Market street downtown and went towards the St. Louis University Campus before turning back towards downtown where the 5K/15K split occurred.  The course then ventures past Busch Stadium before heading south towards the Budweiser Brewery before the turnaround.  Around mile 7.5 or so there was a turn that began a long hill that culminated almost a mile later.  The race completed with a small hill, that felt much bigger on tired legs before a gradual downhill into the finish line.  The first mile was almost all uphill and the final 2 miles was a majority uphill as well completing what was a tough 15K race.

On the course there was only four water stations, at each there was water, Gatorade and a snack relating to the chocolate theme.  I did not partake in the snacks, not wanting to chance my body not appreciating them, but other runners said the treats (including chocolate chips, as well as strawberry and chocolate marshmallows) were great.  I understand that when the temperatures are cooler fewer runners will take water but with the temperatures as they were on race day I felt that an extra water station would have gone a long way to making the race more enjoyable.  Two miles between water stations is further than what is found in other races.

Hot Chocolate Finisher

Post Race: 12/20
Although the warmer temperatures created a more enjoyable pre-race environment, that same weather created a less enjoyable post-race environment.  The whole theme of the race revolved around having a warm cup of hot chocolate waiting for you at the finish line to warm you up after being out on the cold course for the race. To add to the warmth it drizzled throughout the race creating a very uncomfortable setting for the post race celebration.

The hot chocolate was great and the cup shaped serving dish that held all the post race treats including more marshmallows, a banana along with dipping chocolate and the cup of hot chocolate was a great way to quickly serve all the runners allowing there to be virtually no line to get the food. Overall the post race experience would have been must better if the weather would have cooperated to optimize the experience.

Hot Chocolate Cup

Extras: 17/20
Finisher MedalThe Hot Chocolate series tries to make itself stand out with the extras that it provides to runners.  Beyond the post race hot chocolate the series gives every runner a nice long sleeve zip up jacket as well as a distinctive medal that features a candy bar with a bite out of it with a unique picture representing the city that the race takes place in. These are some of the best extras that are provided for free from any race that I have ran in.   The jacket is something that I will wear regularly in the future.  The medal features the arch and city skyline and is one of the most unique medals I have earned.

 

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 76/100
This was a fun race that I would definitely look to do again in the future.  In fact I will look to do some of the larger Hot Chocolate races to see how they compare.  Specifically I would love to do the Chicago race that I have heard from friends is one of the most fun race in the second city.  I would recommend this race, and the series to every runner that I know!

-Runner

Goal Setting: A Process and a Science

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year I always take a lot of time and analyze the previous year, including looking at my races, my training plans and my successes (and failures).  Also I always look back on my goals that I set in January for this year and see if they were accomplished.  Beyond that I always try to analyze why I was able to accomplish some, and inevitably not accomplish others.

This year is no different and I am in the middle of that process now.  The surprising part of this process is how hard it is to analyze and report what progress I have made.  it is obvious that I have made progress in so many areas (I completed my first half Ironman and broke my half and full marathon PRs this year) but how can I bring that success forward to help with the goals that I want to set for 2016.  Each year is different so I have never been able to follow the pattern from the year before to accomplish a successful analysis for the current year.  As I delve into this project I hope that not only can I bring a clear mind that allows me to set realistic but exciting goals for the next year.

Part of the goal setting process for me is also the training scheduling process.  During this same time period I will usually plan out my training schedule for the full year.  With my goal races in mind and my benchmarks along the way.  I usually can plan out at least half of the year’s training very specifically while I will usually leave the second half of the year more broad to allow for updates after some initial benchmarks are met.

I can’t help but to be proud and thankful for the year that I have had.  I could not have done it without the support of my team, including my parents who went with me to my half Ironman in June and sat out all day in the heat, or Bride who not only went to Chicago and cheered me on to a marathon PR but also inspired me by pushing herself to complete her first half marathon in May.  Without their support, and the encouragement of many others I know that these goals would be impossible.

Here’s to planning another year of PRs and improvements!

-Runner