Wednesday, September 30, 2009

State To State Half Marathon Race Report

"If you can run one 6:30 mile you can run 13." Those were the words of wisdom from Gina after I told her my goal time for the half was to break 1 hour 30 minutes. She immediately challenged me to run 1 hour 26 minutes. While 4 minutes doesn't seem like much time when you break it down into a pace over 13.1 miles it's a 6:51 pace verses a 6:33 pace. It doesn't really matter. It all became irrelevant around mile 9.5, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the moment of truth. After spending 3 months working through my training program race day had finally arrived. I woke up around 6 am to get a quick shower and my pre-race grub. This time I went with an egg sandwich, a banana and a cup of coffee. I wanted to get in an early kick of caffeine. Honestly though, I think for future races I'll go back to the peanut butter, honey and banana. The egg sat fine, but I think it didn't stick with me long enough. By the end of the race I was starving and wasted.

We arrived in Oxford to an overcast and cool morning. It looked like a perfect day for racing. As long as it didn't rain or the sun decided to break through to scorch the runners out in the corn fields on the way to Indiana. I got in a quick warm up while Gina scoped out the Starbuck's across the street near the starting line and it was race time before I knew it.

Off the line I felt pretty good. Maybe I could run 13 6:30 minute miles after all! I knew this was just the adrenaline talking. If I let it go to my head it would be a quick 5 or 6 miles followed by miles and miles of pain. The plan was to stick it around a 7 minute mile and then see how it goes from there. For the first few miles things went perfectly. I would creep up around a 6:45 pace then draw it back to 7-ish. Eventually I found a few runners going at a similar pace and stuck with them. It was an "easy" cruise into Indiana.

The course was out and back. We started in Oxford, near Miami University, and headed out to the Indiana state line, across it for a mile or so and back. There were a couple little side loops on the way out and a straight shot back. That made the trip back a little shorter and should have been a mental boost knowing that you would get back sooner. For me it didn't quite feel that way. As we crossed the border into Indiana I could fee the first little bit of discomfort in my right hip. This isn't terribly unusual on long runs. I often get tight around my hips, so I didn't worry about it too much.

Some time between mile 9 and mile 10 I did start to get concerned. The discomfort had increased and now both my hips were growing tight. It was becoming difficult to maintain my pace at this point, and I had to slow down to regroup. I found myself caught out in no man's land between the ultra fast runners way up ahead of me and the slower runners behind me. As the discomfort increased and my pace decreased I lost the few people that I was pacing with earlier in the race. I slowed down concentrated on my breathing and tried to psych myself up for the rest of the race.

I could see the 10 mile mark approaching, so I talked myself up. Only 3.1 miles left. I know I'm out of the hunt for breaking 1:30, but I can still set a PR today. I did a quick calculation in my head. If I can keep the pace at 7:30 or faster I can still beat my PR of 1:35:55. Breathe deep, relax and let your legs do the work. With that it was back on.

Miles 11 and 12 went by at a snail's pace in my head. I pushed the pace as much as I could. Shortly after mile 12 I went through the strangest water stop I've ever encountered. Usually the volunteers at the water stops are very encouraging, jovial, fun people. This one was a different story. I swear everybody at that water stop was completely silent and almost solemn. It was like being handed water by the children of the corn. Did they know something I didn't? Is this some sort of death march? yikes.

I think what they knew and I didn't was that there was this ridiculous hill 100 yards before the finish line. They knew I was going to die on it. It was out and back, so we ran down this on the way out. It wasn't nearly that steep was it? Where did it come from? 99% of the rest of the course was completely flat. What sadistic race planner does this? I reminded myself that I had done my hill work. This little bump was nothing. That little bump took the last bit of energy out of me.

When I reached the top I could see the finish line. I summoned anything I had left in the tank and "sprinted" to the finish. Official time: 1:34:53. A one minute and 2 second improvement. Not the race I was hoping for, but any day you can PR is a good day. Hell any day pounding the pavement is a great day.

I'm not really sure what happened after the race. Gina has the post race coverage along with her trials and tribulations tackling a grande latte at Starbucks. All I know is I woke up some time later that day to head out to my parents with Gina to watch the Bengals pull off a miracle win over Pittsburgh and eat lots and lots of snacks.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Culinary Adventures: Chili Edition (Part 1)

Every year around Halloween the fam gathers at their usual camping spot along the mighty Ohio River for an annual chili cook off. Family members, friends and camping neighbors usually participate giving us a good sampling of 8-10 varieties of chili. The chili is consumed. The votes are cast and counted. The winner usually gets some sort of token trophy or plaque and more importantly bragging rights.

Usually I like to partake in the consuming of the chili and voting for the winner. I haven't thrown my chili into the mix. That's all going to change this year. I've decided to throw my hat into the ring, and I'm not going into this unprepared. Recipes will be tested to find just that perfect winning chili. Mostly it's just an excuse to make and consume lots of chili. Delicious, delicious chili.

This past weekend I started the testing. With the help of my two taste testers Gina and Aiden I'm going to crack the perfect chili recipe, or just eat lots of delicious chili.

I started with a basic chili recipe from I started with a little browning of ground beef, and onion saute.

Dump it into a pot with the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings.

Bring to a boil, followed by a simmer for 15 minutes. Then....we wait. That is the end of the recipe, and we could have eaten it right then, but we all know that chili tastes much better if it's allowed to sit for a while. Let those seasonings settle in and mature to perfection.

Flash forward a few hours and....

Voila! Throw some crackers and shredded cheese and we've got some delciousness happening.

According to the taste testers....
It was delicious. According to Gina it wasn't terribly spicy, but still had a nice underlying kick. That would be the extra bit of spice I threw in. Aiden gave it two thumbs up.

How could we improve upon this recipe?
More. Gina suggested putting in some more beans. Amp up the that spicy kick. I agree it could use a bit extra bite to it. Otherwise it was quite good. It was just as good when I took in the leftovers for lunch. Yum.

What's up next?
I'm not sure just yet. I'm checking out some other chili recipes to make this weekend. Ed's Chicago Cocoa Chili sounds very interesting. Whatever I decide to make I can't wait to chill out after the State to State Half with some delicious chili and the Bengals on the tv.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Diagnosis Wenckebach

What makes a normal sinus rhythm? What causes  a wide and bizarre QRS complex? Most importantly, what's a Wenckebach (2nd degree AV block, Type 1)? I've been learning about these and much more in an ECG class that I'm currently taking at work. I only wish it were all set to catchy pop tunes. Despite that shortcoming the class has been very interesting. All those little lines, bumps, and dips are starting to mean something. Hopefully I'll be able to put this new knowledge to work soon before it goes back to looking like lines, bumps and dips. I'll always know Wenckebach.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On Schedule

17 days and 10 hours until race time according to the website. So in just about 2 1/2 weeks I'll be lining up to run the State to State Half. I haven't written about the training much, but that's only because things are going along smoothly. I don't want to jinx myself. The less I say the better. Crap, I hope I didn't just jinx myself by saying that.

The Higdon advanced half marathon plan has been a really great program. While it has definitely pushed me as far as mileage and difficulty of workouts I feel like it has been manageable. I like that it has mixed up the speed workouts. One week I've been doing 8 x 400s the next week 4 x 800s and then 3 x 1600s following. There is an overall progression to it if you look at the plan in total, but from week to week it gives enough variety to keep it interesting. I'm a big fan of Yasso's, but doing that steady increase every week 5 x 800, 6 x 800, 7 x 800... gets to be mind numbing. It gets tougher and yet more boring as the weeks and months go on during training. I need variety.

So with 2 weeks left I am optimistic about the race. My goal is to break 1 hour and 30 minutes. It's a tough, but attainable goal and I got a little boost today. I've had some tough workouts over the last couple of weeks. I've been battling fatigue from working long overnight shifts that require a lot of time on my feet. On top of that I think I've been suffering from a bit of training fatigue. I haven't done some of the races I planned on doing along the way to prepare for the half, so I haven't seen any of the fruits of this training yet. Today though, after a week of struggling through some less than awesome workouts I felt like I had a break through of sorts. Over the course of the four 1 mile repeats I did I felt at times great, bad, tired, re-energized, and worn out during the final interval. When it was all said and done I managed to maintain a sub 7 minute pace per mile. It's what I had planned and executed all out on the roads. These weren't intervals on a flat track, but out in real life racing type conditions. It was a much needed morale boost. I look forward to lining up in 17 days, 9 hours and 40 minutes. But who's counting?