Monday, June 23, 2008

Just like riding a bike

On Sunday I rowed in a double with my friend Ian at a masters race in Princeton. I've done about five hours of rowing over the past three years, so I expected this to not be much fun (while still being fun, of course).

But my expectations changed dramatically when I learned we'd be in the same race as another friend from my Nereid rowing days who is now rowing for a different club in north Jersey. I had never lost to this other friend in anything rowing-related, and I wasn't about to let the fact that I don't row anymore stand in my way.

I'm happy to report that I continued to keep my unbeaten streak alive.

Witness the bruising we inflicted on my rival (while simultaneously ignoring the fact that I edited out the results for the two crews that beat us):

Mutual friends were asking if my rival knew about our rivalry, to which I replied, "Of course not."

If we had lost, I would have congratulated my opponent for a well-won race, and would have made sure to mention that my partner and I hadn't trained together and in fact, I don't even care about rowing, seeing as how I'm into triathlon now and all. I probably would also have pointed out how much I've been travelling and how that almost definitely had an effect on my performance. I'd also have mentioned that I had to borrow somebody else's oars, because, as we all know, oars are highly personalized -- my oars used to have blue grips; these had yellow.

We won though, so I gave my friend a wave, said, "Good race," and proceeded to row away, content in my smug superiority, however misplaced.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Super Mystery Race Revealed!

The big race for me for this season is the Wool Capital Olympic Distance Triathlon in San Angelo. That's not so much of a shocker, seeing has how it's one of only two triathlons in town (and the other was just announced the other day). It's not a huge race by any means, but I'm planning to go as fast as I can. I'd like to try to grab an age group top three, but based on my other races in San Angelo, that might be more a result of who does (or doesn't) show up on race day.

But wait, there's more! Super mystery race part II was such a mystery that I didn't know I was going to sign up for it. I'll be doing the Brigantine Sprint Tri in south Jersey the week before the Wool Capital. Technically, I guess that means it's super mystery race part zero or one-half. I'll be hard pressed to even walk near the podium at this race, let alone get on it -- it's that deep a field.

But wait, there's still more! Super mystery race part -1 was so much of a mystery that I forgot about it. Hannah and I ran in the Run in the Sun 8k in San Angelo this past week. It also served as the Texas 8k state championships. I figure the reason San Angelo received the honor for hosting the 8k championships is because no one else bothers -- could there be a more obscure distance than 8k? That said, I've raced more 8ks in my life than any other distance. That probably says something about my own obscurity.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Uh oh

I did a MAP test this morning. Despite the heat, it turned out pretty good.

MAP stands for Maximum Aerobic Pace. At least, that's the definition I use. There are some variations on the exact terms, but the meaning is the same. In my case, the test is three miles on the track with a heart rate cap (153 for me). The objective isn't to go fast, it's to understand your aerobic pace -- how "fast" you can go without generating lactate (as in lactic acid, not breast milk).

There are various formulas to get that HR cap, but most of them point to 152-154 for me. The important thing isn't to get the exact scientifically perfected HR formula, rather, it's to find something that works and test it repeatedly.

I'd probably be able to track the trend better if I tested every month, but with my limited training time, I prefer to get a regular run in instead of "losing" a session testing every four weeks.

Here are the results from the four tests I've done since I started up training after Lake Placid last fall.

So that's cool. I'm not exactly sure what this means for my race capability, but it's kind of exciting. Consistent training does make you fitter. Who knew?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Heat Part II: It Gets Hotter

As a well-timed (or awful-timed, depending on your point of view) follow up to my last post, I found my breaking point: whatever today was at 4:00 p.m. in East Rutherford, NJ. (Edit: 94 degrees, 101 degrees with the heat index, 44% humidity).

Worst run in a long, long time. Heat rash, headache, churning stomach...


Friday, June 06, 2008

The Heat and the China Express

Last weekend, when I was in Texas, Hannah and I went for a ride. It wound up being about the same amount of time that we usually go for lately (somewhere around three hours), but we didn't get nearly as far, because we circled back and met up with Hannah's friend from work for the last hour.

Also, it was hot. Very, very hot. And very, very revealing, at least to me.

I had always believed I handle heat pretty well, but never really understood how well (actually, I still don't understand exactly how well, but I know more than I used to). With Hannah in San Angelo, where the air temperature regularly reaches boiling point at 4:00 in the morning, I figured she would be at an advantage to me when we go out for runs or rides. I may be fitter, but I wouldn't be able to ride or run as fast, so we'd stick together more than when we were both up north.

An eye-opener was that I've suffered almost no ill effects when I bounce from NJ to TX -- with a few small exceptions I've been able to keep my training rolling. While I'm sure she has adapted significantly, she's had a much tougher go of it. Although hot, I never felt overwhelming stress during our ride. Hannah, on the other hand, was on the verge of losing her breakfast (the protein in our drinks probably didn't help at all either).

I don't have a complete picture of what this means, but it makes me more confident in my chances for my (not quite so) super secret race in August.

Here's Hannah looking all aero before her insides started to catch fire.

As for the China Express: that's what I've been calling Hannah's friend's bike (in my own internal dialogue anyway). Now, a lot of today's bikes are made in China. But this one came from Walmart -- and it's cobbled together with assorted generic parts that I'm expecting to fail sometime in the next six months. All this is fine for a bike that costs less than $200. I wouldn't buy it, but there's a lot of things I wouldn't buy (we did however find a far superior bike at Authority Sports for $150 more -- Chinese made, but competently assembled and speced -- what does that tell you about Walmart?).

Again, all this shouldn't really invite any ridicule. But there are just two things that tip it into the realm of farcical:
1) It has a kickstand.
2) Hannah's friend, seemingly believing that the reason she's faster than him is because of her clipless pedals (the kind you can click your bike shoes into), went to the local bike shop and bought what was probably a $200+ shoe/pedal combination. That's a more expensive method for attaching to your bike than the bike actually cost. And he complains about the seat incessantly -- but won't wear padded bike shorts or buy a new saddle.

So there you go, the China Express -- it might not go fast, or even look fast, but it has expensive pedals.