As I've been racing triathlon, and the individual sports, for a few years now, I've gathered a somewhat sizable collection of medals from all of the events I've done. Note that there are almost all finisher medals, as opposed to placing; let's just keep that straight. :) I do have some placing medals from swim meets I've competed in, and I'm proud of those, but they are mostly the exception and not the rule. Anyway, I'm damn proud of each of these. So, up until yesterday, I put all of my medals on the wall in my home office, hanging off of a large drywall nail. It was serviceable but did not really make them look good or anything like that.
That all changed on Christmas.
My awesome wife got me a laser cut, stainless steel, medal holder. This one is from Allied Medal Displays and is amazing looking. It is very solidly constructed, easy to install on the wall, and simply beautiful. It provides a wonderful amount of space to display my medals and makes them look so much better than they did on the nail. So, if you're looking for a cool way to display your accomplishments, I highly recommend you check these out. They have tons of inspirational models and Cin picked the perfect one for me, Always Earned, Never Given.
Well, one week into the early season marathon training plan, the plans all change up. The folks we were originally going to go down and run the Shamrock Marathon with changed their minds, which caused a snowball effect where everyone else that was going to go also bailed. Being the only two left, and our primary motivation of supporting our friends as they did their first marathon go away, we decided to not do the Shamrock as well. While this does remove the need for lots of outdoor endurance running in the crazy cold winter we are having here, it is somewhat disappointing as I was really looking forward to an early season marathon and the motivation that both Cin and I would need to get the training done is gone.
The other rationale for not doing an early season marathon this year is that both Cin and I know we need to put in some solid training time in the saddle. Both of us are convinced that we can shave some pretty serious time off our bike splits and the only real way to do that (well, in addition to cycle classes with awesome regenerative energy bikes) is with more time in the saddle. Multi-hour sessions on the bike every weekend would be difficult if we were also doing multi-hour runs every weekend as well, so the reduction in running should let us get the offseason cycling training we need. Unfortunately, since we are dealing with crazy temperatures right now, and lots of ice everywhere, that means long hours on the trainers. Not the best environment, but at least there are good football games on for the next few weeks that should provide us some entertainment while pedaling away.
So...on to planning for the early portion of the 2011 season. For the past two years, I ran the National Half-Marathon, which is run every March in DC. Last year I went in with a very specific time goal, which I made (sweet!). During the run, however, I had a few minor issues pop up and knew as I was finishing that I could have run it faster. So, I've decided that rather than do the marathon training this winter for an early season marathon, I'm going to do more speedwork and keep the longer runs somewhat shorter in an effort to make the new time goal and smash my current 13.1mi PR at National this year. This should let me get a really good start to the 2011 season in while getting some solid offseason work on my bike splits in.
The techie in me uses WolframAlpha for quite a few things. This is a "computational knowledge engine" which has an interface much like a search engine but where some powerful computers attempt to figure out what you would really like to know about what you typed in and provide that information. For example, if you search on a specific date, you'll get back all the interesting things that happened that day, how long it has been since that date, phase of the moon, sunrise and sunset times, and so on. It's not perfect, but it is a very useful tool.
How does this apply to triathlon, you may ask? Well, one of the really cool features of this site is what happens when you tell it what you did for training. Provide it as much data as you can and it will provide you all sorts of interesting data, some of which can be very useful. For example, I did a swim workout this morning that lasted 50 minutes and I swan 2600 yards. Going to WolframAlpha, I type in "swimming 50 minutes 2600 yards male age 32 5'11" 165lbs 58bpm" indicating that I swam for 50 minutes, did 2600 yards, I'm a male, 32 years old, 5'11, 165lbs, and have a resting heart rate of around 58bpm. From this, I get the following screens full of data (included here as separate screenshots to make them more readable)...
That's a lot of data! We can see that I burned 540 calories and 0.15 pounds of fat, exercised at around 8.2 MET, burned the same calories as I would have playing the guitar for 3 hours and 36 minutes or 1 hour and 26 minutes of unicycle riding, swam at 1.773 miles per hour, was a little off of the 1 minute per 50 meters standard, and also received some performance predictions based on my paces for swim races of various distances (not account for shorter vs. longer, etc). Now, all of that includes the resting, talking, etc, that happens during a normal masters swim team practice, and the calorie burn data is all estimated as the site does not know my actual heart rate and other metabolic properties during the workout, but it is solid data based on CDC standard and is better than pretty much anything else I can think of as an alternative. For folks that like to keep track of things like this, especially calories-in and calories-out like I do, this can provide you a very valuable resource for when you're doing something that your heart rate monitor, running or cycling computer, or other similar gadget cannot collect information on.
Data is an advantage. Use it!
Cin and I did the Disney Marathon this year (2010) (you can read about the actual race here on Cin's blog and about the entire trip to Orlando, including the race, here) and were quite glad that we were not going to do it again in 2011 as the training plan for a marathon is pretty intense and since Disney is in January, this involves a lot of running in very cold weather, ice, and so forth. Last winter brought snowmageddon, which means that we picked the worst possible year in recent history to do this. So, we were both quite excited to finish up this year's triathlon season and not have to train to any great distance over the winter. Then we found out that some friends of ours decided to do the Shamrock Marathon, in March 2011, as their first marathon. This is the same event that Cin and I did our first half-marathon at a few years back. Some other friends of ours decided that they would be interested in going down to this event as well, for support and to run the marathon, so we decided that we would do so as well.
The one concern is Cin's knee. It bothered her quite a bit during the training last time and has never been "normal" since...longer distance running still is not good on it, and she was quite worried that this would negatively impact our training plan this time around. Thanks to a really good sports massage guy we know, Cin got some advice on taping up the knee to relieve some of this and preliminary runs with the new tape configuration seem to be positive. So...unless we have any significant issues in this regard in the early runs of the build-up, we are doing the Shamrock Marathon as our first event of the season in 2011. So much for skipping an early-season marathon in 2011!
In order to properly train up for it, I copied the training schedule we used for Disney and redeveloped it for a March marathon instead of a January one. Our plan consists of long runs on the weekends that we run together and two shorter runs during the week that we run independently, as our work/school/everything-else schedules do not lean themselves well to running together mid-week. This schedule is ideal as I run somewhat faster than Cin does so I can get some speedwork in on the weekday runs (as I run with a few insanely fast runners, including the best cycle instructor in the world :), this just sort of works out) and then Cin and I get some long, uninterrupted, time together on the weekend, away from pretty much everything else. This gives us a perfect opportunity to really talk, see what may be new with each other that we missed discussing during the week, fully explore things we need to make decisions on, and just, in general, enjoy each other's company with no one else and nothing else around. In short...it's perfect and I really look forward to another endurance running training season for this exact reason.
Today was the first day of the training plan. 7 miles was called for. We slept in, as we spent all day on Saturday in a recertification class for our lifeguarding instructor licenses, and then got up very sore and with pained knees (this sounds like a great way to start our long run program, no?). We drove to our starting spot and knocked out 7.5mi with no significant issues. It was lower than 32 degrees out and the wind was blowing and blowing strong, but we got it done without too much hassle. We knocked out the planning for a family brunch we are hosting next weekend, which was fun to play out. Cin's knee did well, so we think the new taping strategy is working. Next week, on to 9 miles. Shamrock, here we come!
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