Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm Lucky

Today I was able to ride mountain bikes with my 10-year-old daughter on some local flat roads and doubletracks for about 5 miles. Then I was able to crank out 15 miles alone on my Trek. After dinner I was able to run 3.7 miles with my 14-year-old son. What more could a 49-year-old guy ask for?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mischief Managed

The Most Annoying Thing In The World did not stop. I went for a short ride yesterday and there it was ticking and creaking away loud and clear. I stayed calm, the ride was short and did not throw the bike through any windshields since I encountered no crazy cut-off drivers. SO WHAT THE HELL IS IT~!

Breathe ... Breathe....

I got home and figured maybe it was the headset or the stem, even though I greased the stem thoroughly before the build of this bike . So I proceeded to disassemble and remove the stem from the frame. I cleaned the old grease. I shot WD-40 down into the steerer and into the stem bolts and tightener. I greased the stem and replaced it. Then I flipped the bike and dripped lube into the headset. I took it for a 10 PM sprint up and down my street and it seemed FINE!

AND - I rode it to work today and it was blissfully SILENT! Huzzah!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sneaking Out to Run Barefoot & More Workplace Fitness Bigotry

It's was a half day today for the students during exam days here at the secondary institution that supplies me with my career and lifestyle. They got out at 1:30. We have to stay until 3:45 on these half days. I have almost everything done for the year. So I brought my running clothes and felt like I was doing something illegal as I sneaked out the back door and ran laps around the fields out back. I started in shoes, but the grass was in surprisingly good condition. After the first 1.5 mile lap, I had no choice but to scrap the shoes and run the rest of the time barefoot. On one of the laps there was a group of gossipy teachers checking out somebody's new car in the parking lot right next to the edge of the field I was lapping. I tried really hard not to look at them, thinking that if I didn't look at them they would perhaps not recognize me. But they did. Crap - now I have to put up with more workplace fitness bigotry. The fattest gossipy woman yelled to me, "I hope you step on a bee!" Why would anyone yell that? (By the way, I have stepped on a bee while running barefoot and it wasn't that bad.) I am hoping she was just busting my chops in a friendly way. Yet, many a truth is said in jest and all that. So, shoot, who knows....

And this makes me think a bit about my plan for my 50th year. My plan is to complete an Ironman, a 50K and a 50 mile run. I have this crazy mid-life crisis redirect of trying to inspire people to say to themselves, "Jeeze, if he can do this at 50, so can I." It is going to require more visible bike commutes and runs out the back door during the next academic year. So will my intended effect be thwarted? I wonder how many of my coworkers are going to secretly hate me for it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

President's Cup

The President's Cup Night Race, Monday night, was my first race since November 2007's New York City Marathon. Seven months, during which I have skied and biked a lot, but have not run relatively as much as my usual yearly cycle. With almost all Achilles and heel pain gone, I went into this 5K with no expectations beyond finishing with a time I can work with for planning workout paces around.

The President's Cup is a wonderful experience. It is on one of the longest days of the year every June. It starts at 8 PM and finishes to free Sam Adams, a DJ and a runner party. I know a hundred people at this race; people I have raced and ran with for the past 34 years. This year my "non-racing" fit friends that live in Millburn ran the race. That was great to see, because I felt I exposed them to this race as spectators. In years past, they could not believe that the highly placed socio-economic profile town of Millburn would host such an openly public alcohol-fueled party.

After a brief thunderstorm I ran a 20 minute warm up. I needed a long warm up because all I have in my running bank is distance running. I have done no race-paced running in way over seven months. The race is a two-lap course around the business district of Millburn. I ran the course's lap in the opposite direction that it is raced and proceeded to say hello to about 90 of the 100 runners I personally know and talk to and run against and with that attend this race. It was a mental and spiritual warm-up as well as a physical one because it just felt great to see all these people and be out at a race again.

I started farther back than I usually do to force myself to go out easy. There was a good crowd, so the tactic worked. I still ran my first mile in 6:06 and felt pretty good. This surprised me, because the last time I ran a mile that fast may have been July of 2007! The middle mile felt fine, and the final mile was a bit of work. My finishing chip time was 19:10, which averages to 6:11/mile. Not bad on about 25 miles of running per week.

More to come....

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Most Annoying Thing in The World

...or close to it...
I was riding my Trek on Saturday, and my handlebar started to creak. It creaked when I put weight on the brake hoods. I could hear it go tick tick, and I could feel it too. So I stopped and tightened the bolt that holds the bars. The creaking didn't go away. So I stopped and tightened the stem bolt and the brake levers, thinking it might be those things. I even tightened my seatpost's saddle mount bolt in case I was totally missing the source of the tick tick creaking. And it continued, even got worse as the ride continued.

When I got home I thought about greasing where the bars go through the stem. But I wasn't sure I should do that, because I had never had to do that before, and this creaking showed up out of nowhere in this Trek's second hundred miles since I built it. The Internet would surely tell me what I should do! So I Googled creaky handlebars. Results summary: lightly grease the bar/stem contact point, and another possibility was a cracking handlebar. The TTT Forgi bar on the bike is almost new, so I hoped it isn't cracking - I am far from a beefy sprinter and I have not used the bike in the mountains yet, so I have not yanked very hard on these bars. They did have a previous owner, however - but before I wrapped them, they appeared to be new.

Not wanting them to suddenly rotate in the stem, I lightly greased my handlebar at their midpoint, slid them back into the stem and tightened down hard. It seemed to make a difference while in the garage. I went for a ride on Sunday and at first all was cool - no creaking. But as the ride progressed it came back and proceeded to get worse and worse for 50 miles! What a great ride - my longest this year - but the annoying creaking tick tick tick over bums and while just relaxing on the brake hoods! AH!

At home again - disassembly at the stem again. I sprayed in a ton of WD-40 and heavily applied the grease. The creak is gone in the garage again. I have not ridden the bike yet, and probably won't until Thursday.... On Thursday night while watching the news, if you hear about a cyclist who suffers an attack of road-rage, perhaps tossing his bike through a car's windshield after the car passed him too closely only to cut him off while turning right, it might be me if that creak comes back!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yours Truly Are Stupid

Either I are stupid or chalk this one up to it being Friday The Thirteenth. Be glad I did not take the sole photos I was tempted to take, because they would have looked gruesome.

I ran barefoot today. I have not been running barefoot that much this 2008, so far. Reasons have been posted in previous posts. But, I have to admit, that pulling back on the number of miles I run barefoot - and indeed the number of miles I run in general - has fostered the healing of my heels and Achilles tendons. At the same time, I am feeling very fit, at least aerobically. The speed at which I will be able to race is still in question, however, since I totally lack anything like tempo runs or intervals.

So I are stupid because, on this hot Friday The Thirteenth, after wearing shoes all day, I came home and took them off. Then I set out for a barefoot run. Half a mile on the street to Greenbrook Park's grass. Well, after only 50 yards or so it felt like I had something embedded in the bottom of my forefoot, behind my right little toe. I noticed the pavement was hot, but it didn't seem too hot. I continued my run. The pain worsened. I looked for something in my foot, briefly, and saw nothing. I got to the park and the pain continued, even on the grass. Something must be up, I was thinking. I checked the bottom of my foot again and saw nothing of note. So I did the right thing and turned around and ran home. Arriving home, I inspected the bottom of my right foot more closely and found three blood-blisters. The most bloody was the one on my forefoot behind my little toe. The second was on my forefoot behind my big toe. The third was on my big toe itself. Then I discovered a fourth on my left forefoot. Unbelievable. I can't remember ever having blisters from a short run like this, which was about 1.5 miles.

For the rest of the evening, I was limping around, because the blisters really hurt. The three points on my left foot, for example, seem to be the major weight-bearing points when I step. I suspect that my right foot does more work when I run, because the forefoot of my right running shoes now wear out before the left. (When I ride my bike hard, I am pretty sure my right leg works harder also because I can feel the stress at my right knee. That is when I try to relax my right leg and concentrate on using my left leg more.)

The stupidity factor in getting these blisters is evident in retrospect when I failed to consider my relatively low barefoot mileage this spring, the pavement temperature, the softness of my feet after being in shoes all day, and the fact that I am running the President's Cup 5K - my first race since the NYC Marathon last November - on Monday night.

Lucky for me, I am not shooting for any kind of specific goal at President's Cup beyond finishing with a time that I can work with for planning future workouts. And there is the Sam Adams and party atmosphere that follows, of course.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This is Why You're Fat

I had a great wind-assisted ride on my Trek to work this morning. Three minutes faster than yesterday, 20 degrees cooler than the past two days. Ran into another teacher that is shaped like a pear with legs. I think he is my age but looks ten years older. Can't wear his belt parallel to the ground, a little out of breath as he walked down the hall, and probably has a BMI close to 30. Poor guy. Anyway, he says sarcastically to me, "Must be nice to have an easy job that gives you time to ride your bike to work..."

I ignored him.

But recently I have noticed that fitness bigotry goes a little deeper than that around my workplace. However, it is usually more good natured, stated by thinner, happier people. It's borne of a slight bit of respect, but coupled with some self-conscious, embarrassing envy. For example, when I told some people that on this NJ heat-wave weekend I ran only 27 miles on Saturday (I was aiming for 34) and cycled 40 on Sunday for recovery, at least three people in different places said exactly the same line: "What is wrong with you?"

Well, the point is, there isn't anything wrong with me. There is actually a lot right with me to be able to do those things. I tried to point that out to the people, who just shook their heads and looked at me funny. They all, in their own way, warned me about things like exertion in the heat, drinking enough fluids, bla bla. Like, yea - I am a grown man and have been managing my body under uncomfortable high heart-rate situation for about 34 years. So I think I know how to handle it, thank you.

So, people - and this even goes for my own wife and kids, and neighbors who have watched me roll and run out of my house for the past 15 years - can you please give me some props about what I am able to do? Can you please look at me and say, geeze, if he can do that much under these conditions, can't I do just a little bit? Show a little awe. Give me some respect. Don't just gawk, call me crazy, and be overly concerned about protecting your own ego.

Thank you - I will now stow my soapbox.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Towpath "Train"ing Run

The goal today was to run my first ultra-marathon: 34 miles from Trenton to New Brunswick on the Delaware-Raritan Canal towpath. The Towpath "Train"ing Run is an annual event that the Raritan Valley Road Runners puts on. There are designated paces - 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 & 10:30. Runners can start at many "stations" along the towpath. The idea is to have everyone finish together - a large "train" that builds as the event goes on. It is non-competitive. Awards are given to runners that finish the entire length, and records are kept year-to-year so people receive awards at 100 mile increments. Everyone's mileage for the day is tallied and an equal dollar amount is donated to the Cancer Institute of NJ.Many people would think that the reason I did not accomplish my goal today would have been the extremely hot and humid weather. The temperature varied from about 70 degrees at the 6 AM start to 85 degrees at the 11 AM finish. But I never felt dehydrated. I used electrolyte capsules for the first time since 9th grade football practice. I carried a bottle and the supported run supplied plenty of water and Gatoraid.

I also did not bonk. I loaded with pasta last night. I had a decent Cheerios & banana breakfast at 4:15 AM. I consumed a Powerbar double mocha gel every hour. I drank Gatoraid.

But I stopped at 24.9 miles. I stopped because my thighs hurt a lot. I didn't want to do too much damage to my legs with so many other races coming up in the next few weeks. I didn't want to undo the progress I made this spring with healing my Achilles tendon problems. And I knew I was lacking in long runs with only one 2 hour and one 3 hour day this year under my belt.

I got back on the train after hitching a ride with Ed with 2.3 miles to go, from DeMott Lane to the end. That part really hurt. My total for the day was 27.2 miles. So it was sort-of an ultra, since I did run one mile beyond a marathon. I kinda wish I was running an official marathon, because my time would not have been so bad. At 24.9 miles I was at 3:37 = 8:43/mile. The run felt easier than really racing a marathon. If I had to race a marathon I think I could have easily ran about 3:37 or faster. One thing this event does for me every year is show me I am in much better endurance shape than I believe I am in at this point in my yearly training cycle. Though I didn't complete 34 miles, it is fairly amazing to me that I could relatively easily run 27 on sub-30 mile weeks and a lot of cycling.

I think the thigh pain that contributed to my decision to stop was because none of my long runs were at 8:30 pace, which is what we were required to maintain. I knew my long runs were slower than 8:30, but I figured since they were at Watchung Reservation, they were hilly and the trails were rougher, and that would compensate for a slower pace. Plus I couldn't run those long runs any faster because they were so close to the event - two and one week away, respectively. An important outcome of the "Train"ing run is to inform me that if I want to run a fast Escarpment Trail Run in the end of July, I will have to do some faster long runs.

After the run there was a great picnic. Socializing, eating burgers and drinking 5 or 6 beers made my thighs feel much better ~! All the photos are here.

Group that started at 6 AM in Trenton. L to R standing: Ken M, Me, Steve W *, Pete P, Laura S, Bob J, Lauren M*, Jen D, Dennis M, Lesley W, Zsuzsana C*; stooping: Jorge R.
(*Completed 34 miles!)
Thanks to Sonya S for the photos!