Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Arkansas, Easter and Lance

I have become very adept at getting in my workouts while on the road for work.  Usually there is a YMCA I can get to for swimming, spinning and lifting.  With the increasing popularity of Crossfit I can usually find a box to attend...but I'm turned off by the drop in fees.  My running shoes are always easy to pack but it's not always easy to find safe places to run.

My recent travels had me in North Little Rock, Arkansas which is across the river from downtown Little Rock.  But for simplicity I will use NLR to mean North Little Rock.

My first visit to NLR was two weeks ago.  Being my first time to NLR I didn't know what to expect.  I had forgot that Little Rock is the state capitol, so much for my American History schooling, and I think there is an ex-President who came from Arkansas....Bill something or other.....oh yeah Clinton.

I was happy to find NLR a very nice place to be.  Ample dining, shopping, entertainment and some seriously nice people.

On my first day in the area I drove around to get a feel for where things were.  I had put the address for my customer and the YMCA into Garmin and had it lead the way.  Driving out to the YMCA I saw a sign for a park.  I exited the highway and found Burns Park.  This massive city park had everything.  Including plenty of trails to safely run on.

After leaving the park I continued on to the YMCA.  Hmmmm....the place looked a little deserted.  In fact it was closed.  When I got back to my hotel room I did some more research and found that the Y had closed 12/31/11.  So I guess there would be no workouts at the Y.  Fortunately the customer I was visiting had passes to a local fitness center I could use.

Fast forward two weeks to Easter weekend when I would be returning to NLR to complete my work at the customer location.  I'm in the middle of a training block and I needed to train.  I would also have quite a bit of time on my hands since Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon would be my "free" time.

I knew I could run on Sunday but I wanted to ride on Saturday.  I did a search for "bike rental" in the area.  The first hit was for River Trail Bicycle Rentals.  They had exactly what I needed in a road bike.  Located on the Arkansas River Trail I at least had a safe option for getting in a ride. I contacted the owner Dave and he said there would be a 25 mile training ride leaving from his front door at 8AM Saturday.

The CARTI Tour de Rock is a fund raiser to help fight cancer.  ALL CANCER.  CARTI is an organization that treats all types of cancer.  So the training ride was for all levels of people.  Dave said I would find a place to fit in.

After I finished work on Friday I drove over to RTBR so I knew where the place was and to talk with Dave.  I'm so glad I did.  Dave and I talked about Saturday and some other options for riding.  He gave me a couple of maps and I was ready for Saturday.

Saturday morning I arrived early to get my rental bike, a GiantTCR3, ready with my pedals and adjusted for me.  I took the bike back to my car and introduced myself to the first person I saw.

Lance was parked next to me getting ready so I asked what his plans were.  Fortunately he was looking to get some additional miles in above the 25 that were planned.  Awesome I asked if I could join in and he said it would cost me....."a smile."  I can handle that kind of cost.

Lance introduced me to some of his friends from the Mello Velo Cycling Club and we chatted before the ride began.  When we rolled out at 8AM there were about 100 people of many levels rolling out.

I had a lot of fun riding with Lance, Charlie, Ken, the Aldridge Brothers (Jeff & John) and many other cyclists.  I was able to pull hard at times and also relax and take in the scenic countryside east of Little Rock.  The route is known as Harper's Trail and is well marked with official signs.

Lance has asthma and needed to start the ride with his bandana on.  I love the smiles on the two riders to the right.

We lost Lance and Ken when we didn't realize Ken had a flat.  So I finished with the Aldridge Brothers back to RTBR.  One of the brothers had this flag on his bike bag.

I waited to see if Lance would be showing up any time soon.  I decided to head out on my own and ride the Arkansas River Trail.  I would be safe and couldn't get lost. 

The River Trail went through Burns Park, over the Big Dam Bridge, and a nice out and back in Two Rivers Park. It was a great day and there were many people on the trail walking, running, and riding bikes.

As I returned to RTBR there was Lance and Charlie sitting on the porch with several friends.  I put my stuff away and joined them on the porch in the sun.  It was just before noon and they were enjoying their post ride beers.  I grabbed a hard cider from the cooler and joined my fellow cyclists.  These people knew how to make a person feel welcome.

Bicycle built for 6.

Me and Lance

Reluctantly I dragged myself away from the fun.  I had to have lunch, get showered and to the office by 2:30PM.  Sucks how work kills a beautiful day.

Work was long but successful.  We finished Sunday morning and I was in my hotel room by 9AM.  I got a solid 4 hour of sleep before I woke up.  Not wanting to waste the day...or be stuck in my room...I got dressed for my trail run.

I studied the map and planned my route starting at the Covered Bridge.  I texted Aimee with my plans so that someone would be able to find my car...or body...should something happen.  I ran the green trail in Burns Park first.  This was a rocky technical trail used primarily by mountain bikes.  It looped by the campground, some pavilions, and a very nice overlook that provided a view of Arkansas River and the buildings from downtown Little Rock.

I completed the loop in one hour and then headed out on the yellow loop.  This section was flatter and almost free of rocks.  I ran this loop twice to get me 1:40 of total running.

Post run I showered and headed to Loca Luna for my Easter dinner.  I had seen a billboard for the restaurant and the on-line menu looked great.  They were showing The Masters golf tournament in the bar so I sat there to watch the conclusion while I ate.  The bartender Mark was great in offering suggestions about what to eat and drink.  The Lobster-Crab Stuffed Rainbow Trout was delicious and reasonably priced.

Looking back at the weekend I smile at the pictures and memories I made in Arkansas.  The state motto of Arkansas is Regnat Populus....The People Rule. I couldn't agree more as everyone I met or talked with was friendly and hospitable.  

Dave, Al and the dogs at River Trail Bike Rental.

Lance, Rhonda, Charlie, Ken, Jeff, John and the many cyclists I rode with.

I'm glad I again stepped outside the comfort zone and believed that one of the communities I belong to, cycling in this case, would open up and accept a new member for a few hours.

Game On Arkansas.....Game On.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Mastering the Domain - Towpath 5 Mile Race Report

Time to get everyone caught up and write a race report.

So I'm trying to follow my training plan.  I am managing to keep the consistency there week to week.  In fact last week was a recovery week AND I was traveling for work.

So that combination worked out perfectly.  Especially since I wouldn't have access to a bike, spinning or otherwise, and I didn't have access to a pool, the area YMCA's closed in December.

I managed to lift one day and run the other.  Last weeks run was going to be 40 - 50 minutes.  I was so lethargic I called it quits at 36 minutes. 

I ended my 4 day recovery week with a visit to the Witch Doctor for a nice massage.  Tod helped stretch me out and release the fascia all over my body.

Aimee and I had planned on traveling to Athens, OH for a training weekend but the potential for crappy weather kept us home and saved us a lot of money. I was determined to turn the weekend into a couple of solid training days.

Saturday I had a triple threat of training on tap.

First off in the morning I swam for an hour putting in 2500 yards of drills and tempo work.

Second I met some Tough Mudder friends for a little run through the woods, over and under trees, through a drainage pipe, over/under some picnic tables and rope climbing.  That lasted for about 1 hour.

When we were done getting muddy I changed into my cycling gear and rode my bike for almost 2 hours.  The forecasted high of mid 40's was never realized as I spent most of my ride in sub or low 40 temps.  As long as I kept moving I was fine with my leg warmers, toe covers, wind vest and mittens.

But I will say that I was well spent after 4 hours of training.  The rest of Saturday was spent running errands and getting a small power nap around 5PM before eating dinner.

The final part of the evening was preparing for the Towpath 5 Miler Sunday morning.  Aimee had signed up for the half marathon earlier in the week and I decided to join her for race day.  I'm not in half marathon shape right now even for a training day.

Besides, our friend DS was doing the 5 miler and I could also take some pictures of the half marathon.

Knowing how tired I was from a good Saturday of training I mentally prepared myself for a difficult race.  I just wasn't sure how the legs were going to respond to what I was going to make a tempo run.  I was ready to bonk or blow up at any time during the race and be reduced to a shuffle. 

Sunday morning was pretty nice.  The temp was around 40 again but for running that is actually pretty good.

We made our way down to the race starts pretty early.  By race starts I mean Aimee's half marathon was starting from different location than the 5 miler.  We all finished at the same place.

I hated leaving Aimee at the start with the cool temps but Dale and I needed to be at the other start line....both races started at 8AM.  Dale and I were fortunate to get an awesome parking spot right across the street from the start line.

At 7:30 I started my warmup to see how the legs were feeling.  After some striders, high knees and butt kickers I was starting to get warmed up.  I did an easy two miles when I was done with my warmup.

I started to see some friends and caught up with them while we waited for the start.

Overall the course is flat.  We had to run up Harvard Ave. to the entrance of the Ohio Canal Corridor.  It wasn't very steep but I didn't want to blow up early.  I just settled in with the other people around me.  My friend Matt was with me and I figured I could just stay with him and see how it goes.

Once we got onto the running path we started downhill towards the canal area.  Unfortunately we would need to run back up this hill to the finish.  Slowly Matt and a couple other runners started to pull away from me.  I wasn't concerned because I was gradually slipping back.  I was still maintaining contact with them and we had 4 more miles to run.  According to my watch the first mile was 7:20.

During the second mile I kept my pace consistent and my strides short and quick.  As we ran along the winding path I started to slowly pull Matt and the other guy back to me.  I wasn't surging to close the gap, just staying consistent with my pace.

As I passed them I could tell they were trying to stay with me.  The heavy breathing just over my shoulder told me I didn't have any worries.  Aerobically I was fine.  I just wanted my legs to hold out to the finish line. 

After I pulled away we came off a small loop and back to the main towpath trail.  I could see the next runner ahead of me but with two miles left he seemed to be too far ahead.

I wasn't worried about him and just tried to keep an even pace.  I was hitting my splits but ignoring my watch until after the race.

Mile 2 = 6:40
Mile 3 = 6:32
Mile 4 = 6:21

During the last mile I found myself getting closer to the guy ahead of me.  I couldn't believe I was reeling him in.  I was waiting for him to push and keep or increase the gap.  But it never happened.  We passed a spectator who told us it was 500 yards to the finish.

I decided to push to the finish.  I passed my last competitor and kept it up to the finish line.  The final hill seemed short as I swung my arms and crossed the finish line.  Somehow I managed to expend the right amount of energy for the entire race.  I could still stand but I needed about 30 seconds to get my breathing under control.  I congratulated the next three guys across the line, including my friend Matt.

My final mile was 6:28 and a total time of 33:16 (chip time).

I figured I was in the top twenty finishers.  I really wasn't paying attention to those ahead of me.  Before the awards I was told I made top ten.  Little did I know I would wind up being the Male Masters Winner.  This win bumped me out of the age group Matt and I race in putting him first in the 45-49 age group.

Below you see some of my winning friends from left to right: Matt - 45-49 AG winner, Julie - Female Masters Winner, DS - winner 65-69 AG and myself. 

The final results listed me as 6th overall in the 5 miler.  I definitely surprised myself with this race.  I attribute this performance to several things.

Crossfit:  My training at Coca Crossfit has really improved my overall strength.  This base strength carried me up the hills to the finish line.

Mental tenacity:  I knew going into the race it would be more mental than physical.  Running on tired legs meant pushing through and making my body do what it was told.  Also patience.  As several people pulled away from me I didn't panic and go with them.  I waited to see how the race would unfold.  The final push past the last guy with 500 yards to go...that was something I didn't think I could do.  But you never know until you try.  Maybe he could have out kicked me.  But I would have kicked myself for not trying.

After the awards ceremony we watched Aimee and our friends finish the half marathon.  I got some nice pictures.

My Snakebite teammate Jason was 3rd overall in the half with a 1:20...yeah he's pretty speedy.

Daniel was looking good approaching the finish line.

Had to get a picture of our team sponsor Vertical Runner ( I also got a gift certificate for VR with my award)

Aimee approaching the finish line.  She caught the girl in front of her before the finish line.

Adam, Daniel and Cassie were all smiles after the races.  Adam did his first, and possibly last, half marathon in 1:38.  I think he will be back.

With great friends like these how can you not like running, cycling, competing, and having fun.

Game On.