Friday, October 30, 2009

New York - - - Maybe?

The good folks at USAT sent me an email about early registration for the Nautica New York City Triathlon.  I hadn't given any thought to that race - but when I read that it sold out in 22 minutes last year, I decided that I should try to get in.

Apparently, I still don't have great reading comprehension - because I thought the early sign-up was tonight.  Turns out, it was last night and the early slots are filled.  So, I will be sitting with my computer at midnight trying to be one of the 3,000 (lucky?) people that make it in under the wire.

Updates to follow!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's 11 Seconds Between Friends?

It’s interesting how people and events shape our lives.  One of the events that shaped my life took place in the front seat of my car, while sitting on the tarmac at a retired Army base in Weatherford, Texas.  I had just completed a series of laps with the Chief Driving Instructor for the Dallas Region of the Porsche Club of America.  Bryan Henderson was the guy in the passenger seat and he was one of my heroes.  Bryan drove a car that was very similar to mine – but he did it a lot faster than I could.  Specifically, he was 11 seconds a lap faster than me, on a track that was less than a mile long.  That amount of time over a mile is like the difference between Lance Armstrong and anyone that might possibly read this blog!  It’s a lifetime in racing minutes.

Bryan was in demand at these events, because he is fast and he can communicate “how to be fast” to others.  I had waited several months to get an opportunity to have him with me for a ride-along.  When we finally made it onto the track, I was flawless!  (Note: I was flawless in my mind!).  I hit all my marks and was quick, while keeping the car under control.  I did everything that I knew to do and performed as well as I could.  I was thrilled.  The reason this ride was important to me was because Bryan would have to sign-off for me to move forward earning my racing license.  I desperately wanted the license and Bryan was the only way to get it.

When we finished our laps, I pulled into the cool down area and shut the car down.  I could barely contain myself as I pulled off my helmet and waited for the congratulations to start!  Bryan got his helmet off and looked me in the eye.  I’ll never forget what he said.  He simply asked, “What were you doing out there?”  I wasn’t ready for a question – I was really expecting something much more complimentary.  Being a bit confused, I said, “I’m sorry – I don’t understand the question.”

Using the same voice that a Highway Patrolman uses when he says, “Do you know how fast you were going?” – Bryan asked again, “What were you doing out there?”  He sounded almost angry.  I was stunned.  I think my pride kicked in and I responded with something like, “Driving my ass off?”  He wasn’t amused.

Here’s the lessonBryan pointed at me and said, “When you sit down in this car – before you buckle your seatbelt, before you put on your helmet and before you start the car – you have to decide if you are going to wrestle with it or dance with it.”  He continued, “Wrestling is loud and feels like fun – but it’s hard on you, it’s hard on the car and it’s slower.  When you learn to dance – everything is easier and faster.  You need to learn how to dance!”  With that – he got out of the car and walked off.

I sat there totally crushed.  I had done my best and my hero had made it clear that I was nowhere close to being up to his standards.  I wanted to think he was wrong and I was right – but there’s no getting around 11 seconds a lap.  So over the next weeks and months – I had to accept that I was going to have to approach racing cars differently.

That could be the end of this blog – but Bryan’s words really struck a chord with me.  I took a step back and started considering other areas of my life where wrestling had become my way of doing business.  In the years since my ride with Bryan, I’ve worked to do a lot more dancing and a lot less wrestling.  I’ve shared the story with more than a few people and I think the lesson has caught on with at least a couple.

So this is a “Thanks!” to Bryan (wherever you are).  I never found the 11 seconds a lap – but the lesson he taught me that day was a lot bigger!       

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Half Marathon Thoughts

Over the last few months, I've been training to run the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon.  A couple of factors went into my decision to fly cross-country to run the race.  First, I've signed-up to run the Florida Ironman 70.3 in May and need to get ready for the run.  Next, it's cool in California!  With temperatures in the 50's in the mornings - it just seemed like the perfect way to beat the Florida heat and humidity.  And best of all, my daughters live in California, so this race would allow for a reunion that is long overdue.

Friday afternoon, I hopped on a plane and was in San Jose by 9:00.  Saturday was a rest day that included packet pick-up and some shopping at the expo.  After a light dinner, it was off to bed and a good nights sleep.  As expected, the weather was cool and clear when Sunday morning rolled around.  I was up very early and spent some extra time making sure that I had packed all of the gels and Shot Blocks I planned to use during the run.

About 90 minutes prior to race time, I walked down to the starting area.  Let me say that the organization of the race was outstanding!  The entire layout was designed to move runners efficiently through the process of dropping off clothing and other items for secure storage, past an area where food and drink were available (all free) and finally into the numbered corrals.  I was in corral #10.  This area is for runners that expected to complete the race in 2hours and 45 minutes.

By the time I got into my corral, the crowd had really stared to build.  There were over 11,500 runners at this event and I have to admit - I was pretty jazzed to be part of the crowd.  After doing triathlons that typically number 800 - 1200 participants, the size of the crowd was something to marvel.  When the gun fired . . . . . no one in corral 10 even budged.  For that matter, I looked as far forward as I could and couldn't detect anyone moving!

After at least 5-minutes, we began to shuffle towards the start line.  When we finally made it to the official start line, everyone was cheering and waving at the cameras.  I was just moving with the crowd trying to take it all in.  After a few minutes, the crowd began to thin and I started to settle into a comfortable pace.

Long before the race, I had decided that I would use my pulse to determine my pace for the day.  I know that I can comfortably run at a heart rate of 130 - 135.  It's not a fast pace, but it's sustainable for me.  My thinking was that the cool weather would allow for a faster pace - while keeping my pulse on target.  So, after about a half mile at my slow, comfortable pace - I looked at my Garmin and noticed that my pulse was at 155.  I slowed and my pulse dropped to 152.  Okay, time to re-evaluate my race plan.  I was feeling good and my breathing was easy - so I quickly decided that my race pace would be based on a 150 - 155 heart rate.  With that decision made, I put my head down and tried to get into a comfortable rhythm.

There were a few memorable moments during the next few miles.  First, around mile three, I caught up to a guy that had to weigh 350 pounds.  Imagine Santa Clause, sweating profusely in a bright yellow tee-shirt!  I had two immediate thoughts:  First, "OMG - he's going to kill himself".  Next, "OMG, I'm barely faster than him!"  I picked up my pace for a few minutes to clear Santa.

Next, as I approached an aid station at mile 4, there was a runner sitting on the ground surrounded by paramedics.  It was difficult to see much, but he appeared to be young and very very out of it.  I spent some time thinking about what might have gone wrong to put a young, healthy looking guy on the ground this early into the race.  It occupied my mind for a while.

By mile 5, there wasn't much passing going on.  I had fallen in with a loose group of people that were running at the same pace and everyone seemed content to just hammer out the miles.  There was a little chatter at times, but mostly just the sound of shoes on the pavement.   As the miles went by, I was pleased that I didn't have to stop and walk.  I think the cool weather was the biggest factor in keeping me on pace.  Up until the race, I had never run more than 9 miles - so I wanted to be careful to keep some energy in reserve.

By the time I reached mile 10, I did the math and determined that I was well ahead of my 2 hour 45 minute goal - but was not going to be able to finish in 2 hours and 30 minutes (which had been the best I thought I might be capable of doing).  I was feeling good, so I picked up my pace and decided that I would shoot for a negative split on the last 3.1 miles.

At mile 12, I was making good time and passing people when I (we) came upon a fire truck parked at a 45 degree angle on the road.  There were at least 3 motorcycle policemen beside the truck - blocking the road.  As the group came to a stop, an ambulance made a U-turn from behind the fire truck and headed out with sirens blaring.  It didn't add much time and at the time I thought how close someone had gotten to finishing the race.

I finished the race and was very happy with my result.  Given that I've never been a "Runner" - I was thrilled to finish and was very pleased to have do it right between my two goal times. My official race time was 2 hours and 38 minutes. I'm pleased to say that I could have gone  harder and felt great the next day!  The day was capped off with a Jonny Lang concert in the park and the finishers "Free Beer".  All in all a great weekend and something I  will do again (before May)!