Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What you Can Control to Win

As my mind wandered during a recent training run, as it often does, I thought about all the variables that come into play (I assume) to win a race, having never actually won one.  It's like the stars have to align perfectly to accomplish this feat of podium worthy perfection.  As I continued to run I went on to ponder about how many of these things are beyond my control.  Then I went on to breakdown those things in my head into two categories.  I thought briefly that there must be some formula to quantify all these variables, and there may be, but that's for greater minds than I.  I did find an easy to use simple online weight and performance calculator which I have linked below.

Beyond our control
Lets get the list of variables that are not within our control out of the way.  They are listed below in no particular order.
  1. Weather (temperature, humidity, wind).
  2. Course (elevation, elevation changes, turns, surface, visibility, time of day (day or night)).
  3. Competition.  Competition could be paired with race choice.  In other words, choose a race where one's fitness and ability will put you out in front.  For most of us that would not be the Peachtree Road Race 10K.  However, a smaller race with fewer top tier runners might be just enough to put one on top.
  4. Age.  This needs no explanation.  
  5. Physique.  Physique is probably the greatest inhibitor or enabler to winning, where running is concerned.  Do you have the body to run let alone to win?   
  6. Injury.  One might include injuries in this list of things beyond our control, but typically injuries occur as a result of doing something that is well within our control.  
Within our Control
The second half of the list, those variables that are within our control.  They are listed below in no particular order.

  1. Fitness.  Fitness can be achieved as a result of proper exercise including; stretching, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and recovery.  Train well, stick to a plan, and take the time to prepare your body.
  2. Weight.  Reduce your weight if at all possible including; body and equipment.  Every pound you have to haul down the street reduces your chances of winning.
  3. Equipment.  Success depends a great deal on our equipment.  It must be comfortable and light.   Train and race equipment may be different.  I train in heavy but comfortable shoes with big fluffy socks.  My race shoes are light and so are my socks.  Every ounce matters!  Before a race, if it's cold, I bundle-up as I stretch, etc. until just before the race starts when I strip down to reduce weight.  If it is raining I may wear a trash bag over my body and grocery bags over my shoes to stay warm and dry.  A cheap pair of cotton gloves are a favorite among runners to keep fingers warm before and during a race.  If the gloves get to be too hot they can easily be discarded at the next water stop.  Items jettisoned during a race will usually get collected by volunteers with other items and somehow most of them do make it back to the finish to be returned to their owners.
  4. Motivation.  Whatever the motivation, it always feels good to achieve a goal so, set goals for yourself.  The goal could be to finish a race or to win.  The higher the goal the more likely one will better prepare.
All these variables can be addressed with appropriate training and a suitable plan.  Of course one can't change the race course but one can train for the features found on most courses.  Most courses nowadays can be easily mapped and charted for elevation online.  Time should be spent on those things that are within our control.   I will continue to work on my fitness and weight, my two greatest inhibitors to winning.  I will not focus on my age because I'm old, I can't control it, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

I've got 11 more weeks until my big race - the Lake Spivey Road Race 15K.  In the past 9 weeks I've improved my 5K race (minutes per mile) pace from 7:19 at the Run the Rails 5K on June 21st to 6:43 at the Run Now for Autism Speaks 5K on August 23rd.  That's an improvement of over 8%.  I have a 15K training plan and an optimum body weight in mind.  I'm working toward being at peak fitness on November 8th.  Fingers Crossed!  If my improvement continues and I can reduce my pace by another 8% in the next 11 weeks my pace will be 6:10.  That's calculates to a 5K finish time of 19:10 and a 15K time of 57:29.  It's not likely that I would be able to maintain a 5K pace for a 15K but, it's fun to dream!  Interestingly, a finish time of 57:29 would only put me in second place if the LSRR 2013 race results are any indication of the competition I can expect.

When it comes down to it, who knows what will happen on race day.

Free Training plans can be found at Cool Running, and Active.

Weight and Performance calculator - Link

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Run Now for Autism Speaks - Wildwood 5K

Saturday, August 23rd was the 2nd annual Run Now for Autism Speaks 5K in Wildwood, New Jersey.  Brad, Scott and I got out butts up early on a Saturday morning to drive on down from Egg Harbor to Wildwood for this race.

We arrived in Wildwood with plenty of time to pick up our race bibs, we had pre-registered, and take a few pictures.  The weather was perfect for a race.  The temperature was in the mid-60's and, although there were some clouds there was no hint of rain.  The wind was steady from the east off of the ocean although the humidity wasn't bad.  Fortunately a cool front had blown in from the northwest and the Jersey shore was unseasonably accommodating for our run.

The course went south to a turn-around, north to a turn-around, back south again to the first turn-around and back to the start/finish on the boardwalk.  Water stations were located at each end of the course.  Since the course was on the boardwalk there were also joggers, walkers, bicyclist, and beach-goers all over the course as well.  Also, runners ran toward each other on the entire course due to the two turn-arounds.  The field of runners was small enough that this wasn't a real issue although the boardwalk got quite crowded by the time the last runner crossed the finish line.

Timing was provided by Run the Day.

I placed 6th overall.  Brad and Scott both had a good race.  Brad was kind enough to point out that I had broken my streak.  I seemed to recall having always finishing 5th in previous races.  Awards were given to the overall winners.  Many of the participants were the parents of children with autism and some were the autism sufferers themselves.  I hope that's the appropriate word.

Overall, it was a good race for a good cause.  Brad, Scott, and I are already planning our next race.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Margate City 10K Run

My friend and coworker Scott, a Ragnar Relay Race enthusiast, and I decided to go for a run in Margate City, New Jersey.  We were in New Jersey for work but didn't have to report until the afternoon so we took the opportunity to run in the cool morning hours.  Our thoughts were to run on the boardwalk so we headed toward Margate in our car planning to run 4-6 miles.  We passed over the toll bridge ($1.50 each way) and entered Margate City via Margate Blvd.  We parked close to the beach on S. Mansfield Avenue before walking to the beach.  News Flash!  There is no boardwalk in Margate City.  We decided to run in the bike lane instead.

We ran south to the end of the island and back again, passed our starting point and continuing on to S. Fredericksburg Avenue where we turned around and ran back.  The bike lane was wide and there was plenty of space to accommodate the numerous runners, cyclists and walkers.  Our route took us by what must be some of the finest homes in the area.  The homes were beautiful, the lawns were well landscaped, and the streets were clean.  I saw only a very small amount of trash.  We even saw a street sweeper actively going about the business of cleaning the streets as we ran.

Apparently it's a requirement to have two children in Margate City and when you do you must strap them into a jogging stroller and push them along the bike lanes.  During our short run, Scott and I saw four double jogging strollers being pushed by either a man or a woman.  No single strollers, just double strollers.  Another point worth noting is that these kids all seemed to be larger than your standard 2 year old.
I think I've found my place to run.  I've included a few pictures that Scott and I took the following day when we ran the same route.

The bike lane along Atlantic Avenue
Me before I took my new Nathan SpeedDraw Plus water bottle carrier for its first test drive.
Scott before the complaining started.
A very nice home on Atlantic Avenue in Margate City
A very nice home on the bay side of the island
A portion of our route took us along the bay side of the island where we saw folks fishing.
Scott was very excited to meet Lucy the elephant
Pachyderm Pic
Q: When is a bright yellow Corvette just not enough? 
A: When a bright yellow Ferrari parks right behind you.
Thanks for reading.

Nathan SpeedDraw Plus & Egg Harbor Run

I wanted to try a new way to hydrate while running without the use of a belt type system.  I already have three of those and I like them even though I haven't had the need for one lately.  Most of my recent runs have been less than 8-miles in length.  That will likely continue to be true for the next few weeks.  Since I'll be running in an area where I'm somewhat unfamiliar, carrying a water bottle should add a little bit of security.  I can take my keys, ID, some money, and water with me as I explore.  This really came to a head yesterday as I ran in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.  I searched Garmin Connect for possible routes and found none near me.  I then searched MapMyRun for courses and found a few routes near Veteran's Memorial Park in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.  That's just a few miles from the hotel where I am staying.  I thought the park would be a good place to park while I ran and maybe I'd find some other runners there.  I had driven by the park many times some 20 years ago and knew the area to be pretty nice.

My route from the park was counter-clockwise onto Ocean Heights Avenue, left onto English Creek Avenue, left onto School House Road, left onto Zion Road and a final left back onto Ocean Heights Avenue.  There are some sidewalks on Ocean Heights Avenue but the rest of the route has only the roadside median which is from 18" to 48" in width.  The traffic was heavy at the time I ran but the road was wide enough for motorists to give me a wide berth.  It was a pretty good route if you're not afraid of running along the median.  I feel compelled to point out that as I neared the finish of my run and I turned onto Ocean Heights Avenue I thought I was lost.  With no street signs visible I thought that maybe I should have turned right instead.  It's only now that I look back at my route that I know the names of all the roads.  I asked an elderly couple in the CVS Pharmacy parking lot if they knew the direction to Veteran's Memorial Park.  They did not so I decided to ask someone inside the pharmacy which I did and I set off on my way again.  As I exited the pharmacy parking lot the couple reappeared.  They had left the store, seen the park down the street, realized the name of the park was what I had asked them , and returned the CVS to help me find my way.  That was awesome!  The couple pointed me in the direction of the park and asked if I needed a ride.  I thanked them and told them that I did not.

After that run I decided I needed to prepare a little better.  I wore my Garmin watch, a kit that was brightly colored so drivers could easily see me, and my RoadID so that my body could be identified should the need arise.
The Nathan SpeedDraw Plus features a small zippered pocket which the tag states "Pocket fits all iPhones".  That might be true but it doesn't come close to fitting my Samsung Galaxy s5 with OtterBox case.  The 18 ounce (closer to 16.5 oz) bottle or flask is not insulated.  The design seems light weight and easy to carry.  It features several reflective bands and the bottle valve is auto sealing in that pressure must be applied to the bottle for water to flow.  The bottle cost $24.99 at Sports Authority.

I have used the bottle only once and I think it will serve my needs for the next few weeks of my training.  The flask didn't quite hold the full contents of the 16.9 ounce water bottle shown below.  The pockets was perfect to carry my Olympus camera.  I thought that the combined weight of the water and camera would be a problem but I didn't even notice it after I got started.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I'm into the 8th week of my 20-week 15K training plan and even though it's the dog days of summer I often run at the hottest time of the day.  That's what my work schedule allows.  I've been frustrated that I haven't seen any improvement in my training run pace.  I'm in a rebuilding phase of my training so I shouldn't expect too much improvement but I haven't lost any weight either.  In truth, I might have lost a pound or two.

I spoke to one of my friends, an avid runner with a 3:09 marathon PR.  I asked him if he stretched.  His answer was an emphatic - no.  I dismissed his response as youthful ignorance.  Just barely qualifying as a masters age-group runner, he's not ignorant about running, just about being old.  I've found that old people like me take a little more time and effort to do just about everything.

Later on that day I ran into another friend and fellow Ironman triathlete in the hallway at work.  I told him about my frustration with my lack of progress.  I could see the words forming in his head and then there it was!  "Well - you're not as young as you used to be."  Yes, I have received numerous offers to join the growing ranks of the AARP class but I have always done what every married man does on those occasions.  I told my wife that her AARP membership had arrived.

Shortly after that harrowing ordeal in the hall at work I had an epiphany.  I had forgotten the teachings of my kung fu master (brown belt) and military buddy Glenn.  For months while we were stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Hunstville, Alabama we attended classes during the day and worked out together in the evenings.  Military life isn't as exciting as the TV commercials would have you believe.  Glenn taught me how to stretch and kick fung fu style.  I never got very good at kicking but I excelled at stretching due to my thin build.  Glenn was built more like a football player than Bruce Lee so he didn't have it so easy.  We'd workout for about 45-minutes and then I'd go run a couple of miles around the base.

I ran even before going to Redstone Arsenal.  I remember running in Army Basic Training.  We had a buddy run one day.  My Drill Sargent paired me up with another soldier.  We were the second pair in our company to finish the race.  The first duo beat us by a long shot but we had a respectable race.

After I left Redstone Arsenal I went to Fort Bliss, Texas where I continued to run, and stretch.  As I think about it now, some 30-years later, I realize that I was a pretty good runner.  I only ran in competitions a few times while in Texas.  Once was to vie for the privilege of representing the base at a marathon in Washington.  The first four finishers of the qualifying half-marathon were selected.  I came in fifth with a time of 1:29:32.  I also ran for my Physical Training (PT) test.  I think we had a PT test every year.  We had to do so many push-ups, pull-up, and run 2-miles within a certain time limit.  The time limits were graduated by age.  An older soldier had more loose requirements.  Soldiers who didn't pass their PT test were relegated to the "Fat-Boy" program.  I recall finishing the 2-mile track course in 12:06.  If I could only do that now!  I'm sure that the fact that I had so rigorously kept to a stretching regiment in Fort Bliss helped me perform well in my timed events.  That is what I need to get back to, my roots, so to speak.

All this nostalgia is brought to a head because this weekend is my 35 year high school reunion.  I didn't attend - maybe Susan and I can make the 40th.  All I can say is "What the heck happened?  They all got old."

35 year Class Reunion
Fortunately, I haven't changed a bit.  I have the same awesome hair.

2013 Ironman Florida
1979 Roseanne Roseannadanna hair High School picture 
So, this week I started stretching again.  I just do a few exercises.  I stretch my knees/quads, groin area, calves, and hips.  I usually stretch before I run because I'm too sweaty afterwards.  I try to spend about 20-minutes stretching.

Stretching the quads and saving the knees!
I've stretched twice before publishing this blog and my pace has already improved by about 20-seconds per mile.

Thanks for reading.

Lake Peachtree

Here are a few images of Lake Peachtree at Drake Field, home of the popular Peachtree City super-sprint, sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.  It is not looking as inviting as it once did.  The lake was drained in January of 2014 and remains empty as work on the dam is completed.

The exit ramp for the triathlon swim segments
The boat house in the distance made for easy sighting during practice swims
The dry cove west of the swim exit
A panoramic view created by Google+
The lake is not very inviting in its current state.  Hopefully the powers that be will have the dam fixed and the lake refilled before the 2015 race season starts.  We'll have to keep our fingers crossed and check for updates on the Peachtree City Tri Club website.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Clayton Connects

This week I learned that Clayton County, Georgia is partnering with the PATH Foundation to create a network of trails for cyclists, runners, and walkers.  The news was posted on  the Because We Care Henry County - South Atlanta Facebook page first and then the PATH Foundation website on August 4th.  Eight months earlier in January of 2014 the county approved the resolution cementing the partnership.   The PATH article states that 105 miles of trails would be created in the county.  The project will be branded Clayton Connects.

This news comes while two (2) incidents of assaults on local trails are in the news.  A woman was savagely beaten while walking on the Silver Comet Trail a week ago in Paulding County.  She is still in the hospital.  Then there was a second less tragic incident on Iron Hill Trail in Red Top Mountain State Park in Bartow County where a man fired a Taser at a female bike rider.  She got away.  In both incidents the perpetrators are still on the loose at the time of this writing.
Two (2) other incidents come to mind as well.  In the first case a woman riding her bike on the Silver Comet Trail was raped and killed in July of 2006, also in Paulding County.  The second case involved a young woman hiking with her dog on Blood Mountain in North Georgia in January of 2008.  She was also killed.  In both these cases the perpetrators were both caught and imprisoned.

These incidents are rare, that is for certain.  But when they happen they are tragic.  Thousand of people use these trails each year.  They're more likely to get stung by a bee or a bad case of poison ivy than anything.  But the chance for serious injury or death still exists and it can't be ignored.   It should be noted that there is already a short distance of trails currently operated in Clayton County by the city of Morrow.  It is called Jester Creek Trail. It is in a part of the county where I wouldn't feel safe and I definitely would not want my wife to go there, alone or not.  A past experience at the library near there has completely turned her off to the area.

I mention all these terrible events just to highlight what can occur.  Clayton County has an urban landscape.  We have the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in our backyard.  The airport is flanked by logistics centers and three (3) major interstate highways, I-285, I-75, and I-85. The highways are choked with cars and more semi-trucks on the road each day than most residents of other cities will see in a lifetime.  All this urban-ness makes someone like me scream out for trails.  I live in what was arguably the nicest area on the south side of Atlanta.  That's definitely true if one reduces the target area to only Clayton County.  However, each day I run I put my life at risk.  There is only about 200' of paved sidewalks on my long run route and none at all on my short route.  So, I run on the street hugging the white line alongside the road toward the oncoming traffic.  That's why I want a trail system.  I know that I'm more likely to be killed by a distracted driver than a deranged killer.

There is always the potential to come upon a person with less than honest intentions on any trail.  The same could be said about the mall or grocery store parking lot.  Clayton County will have an uphill battle to provide a safe and fun trail system that will be a destination for fitness minded residents.

The trail locations have not been announced however, the coffers from the Clayton County Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) are full.  If money is the only restricting factor than Clayton County should little to worry about.  I hope they spend our money wisely.

The PATH Foundation has it's work cut out for itself.  Though they seem to have the experience required to get things done when they involve numerous and often competing interests.  I'm sure that these trails will take years to plan and construct. Their first line of business is to create a 2-mile demonstration trail.  It will be located at the Clayton County International Park only 3-miles from my house.  That is expected to be done before the end of the year.

Ultimately, I hope we have a trail system that ties into all the other trail systems around Atlanta like the Beltline.  I'm looking forward to riding my bike from my house, meeting up with the Silver Comet Trail, riding all the way to Anniston, Alabama, and all the while unmolested by cars or people.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Huffy Millbrook

Last year my wife and I were riding our bikes through our neighborhood. As we did one of our neighbors rode up beside us. He had seen us on our bikes many times before and wanted us to know that he was a cycling enthusiast as well. His name is Mohammad. He's from Africa or France, or both. I know that he said he has a farm in Africa and that he went to school in France, or something. I think he went to engineering school in France.

Mohammad rode up to meet us and told us all about how his faithful bike had taken him from the south part of Chicago to college or work somewhere in downtown Chicago. He seemed to get great enjoyment in telling us how he rode along Lake Shore Drive and we enjoyed listening. Those rides were over ten years ago but he still has his bike. It isn't an expensive bike, no aluminum or carbon fiber. It's a heavy steel Huffy Millbrook but it looked brand new except for the fact that he's had a bit of a problem keeping air in the tires.

Mohammad caught up with us again on Sunday morning as we walked the neighborhood.  He loaned me his bike so I could ride it and take a few pictures. Here they are.

Test drive - no helmet
Mohammad's Huffy Millbrook
Shimano 3-Speed Automatic
The bike has a 3-speed automatic gearing system but I wasn't able to get it out of whatever gear it was in when I started my ride. It probably needs some oil or adjustment, or both.

Gear system thingy
Gear system other thingy
The other side
Tire gauge
I'm pretty sure that Mohammad doesn't ride his bike much any more.  Most of the times that we see him he's working on his impeccably manicured lawn. Who has time to ride when you've got weeds to kill and shrubs to trim!  It's clear though that those brief moments when he is on his bike it brings back fond memories.

I wonder if he watched any of the 2014 Tour de France.  I hope he did!

Thanks for reading.