Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why Do You Race?

OK, I'll start with a funny story I heard on NPR while driving to today's race (the Pecos Valley Stampede 1/2-Marathon in Roswell, NM).

A female author was telling the story about taking her 3-year-old son to the YMCA for swim lessons. After the lesson, she was getting dressed in the locker room when her son suddenly darted out the door of the locker room. She was stark naked, and the towels at the "Y" weren't big enough to cover her completely. As she dashed out the door into the lobby to catch up to her young son, she wondered, "Should I cover my top or bottom?" She decided to cover her top and she caught up to her son after running (apparently bottomless) through the front lobby of the "Y" just as her son was going through the open doors to an elevator. The next week she asked the other moms in "playgroup" what they would have covered. Some said "top", some said "bottom", but the clever response was the woman who said, "I would have covered my face!"

On to today's race. As I was driving to Roswell, I thought, "I really enjoy working out. Training is a lot of fun. Do I really need to go to races? Why not simply stay home and do my own run?" At the start of the race, it was only 41 degrees, and it didn't get above 49 degrees before the end of the race. I thought it was pretty cold, but it turned out to be just right for a long run. A fellow triathlete in my age-group from the SWCS (Jim Humphreys) was there and he's a much faster runner than I am. So I knew I was shooting for second place. I ran the first mile faster than planned (7:45) and then settled into a comfortable 8:10 pace. The course is an out and back, and going into the turn-around it looked like there were three other "old guys" (in addition to Jim) who were 1-2 minutes in front of me. I felt really good on the way back, initially running some 8:00 minute miles and finishing with three 7:40 miles. I managed to catch the three "old guys" and finished with my fastest 1/2-marathon ever (1:45:50). OK, I haven't done many 1/2-marathons, and most of the ones that I have done have been the last leg of a 1/2-IM, but I was pretty pleased. I did finish second (behind Jim) in the 50-59 age group.

Which brings me to my point. Racing is more fun than training. It was fun to see Jim and some of the other folks from the SWCS that I only see when I'm at a race. And it's great to see the effect of even a small taper along with some adrenaline on your performance. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep an 8:00 per mile pace on a 5k training run. Most of my long runs are 9-10:00 minute per mile slogs. It was pretty cool to see how (relatively) fast I could go today. I would never do this in training. It would hurt too much, and the pay back doesn't seem to be there. But I can get "up" for a race. I feel so pumped today. I'm sure this week's training will be more fun than it would have been if I had just slogged my way through another weekend's long bike/long run.

Then there is all of the time listening to NPR while driving to and from the race. Along with the author talking about towels at the "Y", they had people talking about "what makes me think of Spring". It was nice and sunny (and warmer) on the drive home. I was thinking about how my brother, who played the organ for our church when we were in high school, would always play the "Meditation from Thais" from an opera by Massenet on one of the first Sundays in Spring. Winter lasted forever in Western New York State, but that piece was a sign that Spring was finally here.

I don't miss Winter in New York. I still enjoy listening to recordings of this piece.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stealth Du

We had six Outlaws at today's (Mar 16th) Stealth Du. (Naomi and Mr. T, Karen Williams, Cody, Greg Southard, and me.) This was easily the best organized event at Holloman that I have ever done. (It was one of the best organized races ever, ranking right up there with Silverman.) They started on time, had lots of volunteers (but Mr. T still took a wrong turn on the bike), served a pasta lunch at the O-Club as soon as the race was over, and had the results and awards ceremony completed less than one hour after the last person finished the race.

It was kind of cool (maybe 60 degrees) and kind of windy (about 20 mph), but not bad at all for March in New Mexico.

Sixty-four individuals/relays started the race. Jason Atkinson was well in front of the field during the run (although you might not recognize him now that he has cut his hair.) Mr. T took off after him on the bike, but then made his wrong turn, followed by losing his breakfast (not a pretty sight) after a couple of miles. He never caught Jason, but he did finish as the second overall individual.

The rest of the Outlaws all managed to podium in their groups. Cody made his age-group debut and finished third. Greg finished his first race since last summer and finished second. Along with Mr. T, Naomi, Karen, and I all won our groups.

Personally, I don't know why, but I've been real slow in training this year. My run was pretty average today, but I was real happy with my bike. (21.4 mph average in the wind.) I caught a few people on the bike, and only one guy passed me. It must have been my new Outlaw aero helmet. Being the shy person that I am and lacking in self-confidence, I felt a little dorky wearing it. (Although I only wore it while on the bike and not during the run or the awards ceremony.) But I think there were some jealous people there, especially after they saw how I was flying on the bike!

It is such a relief to not be doing IMAZ this April. I was telling Greg last night about my boxing career at the USAF Academy. We had our boxing bouts in the late afternoon. On the days when I had a bout, I couldn't think about anything during the day except for the bout. The last two years, I could never do anything from January-April without having IMAZ in the back of my mind. I think I was in better shape the last two years, but I'm sure enjoying myself more this year. I sure enjoyed this race!