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The parking lot at Sleepy Hollow High School is crowded on week-end mornings. After my run this morning, I overheard guys talking logistics for the upcoming Toughman tri. I know of this event, in its third year, largely through Dave B and his lovely wife JL, former clubmates at Sound Shore and teammates on both my Reach-the-Beach adventures. Since I heard one identified as “Rich,” I figured it was RD Rich Izzo. I steeled up my courage and walked up to him, telling him that I thought he’d done an excellent job with his race. It is sold-out, although the kids version is still open. It’s a 1.2-mile swim in the Hudson, a 56-mile bike, and an HM (that’s the adult version, it’s shorter for the kids).

I’m not ever doing this. Not to worry. This race, though, strikes me as something of an anti-tri, a grass-roots answer to the more traditional Westchester Tri (which is an Olypmic distance (using “distance” liberally)). The course itself looks, well, tough. Rich mentioned Dave and JL when I told him who I was.

SSRMC Relay Team, 2007 Westchester Tri, Dave, Bob, and me

Dave, one of the six bloggers I just memed, has started up a blog focusing on his triathlons. He’s one of those with a swimming background (he did the swim leg of my Westchester Tri relay), who has a huge cardio base. As a kid he just swam and swam and swam. He then took up running, but always heard the siren’s call for triathlons. Apparently he was contaminated when he started riding with the Westchester Triathlon Club and answered the call.

What I found particularly interesting about his new blog is the light-bulb effect. He was riding his bike in a race and saw someone on a motorcycle taking down his number. Uh-oh. That meant he was going to penalized for drafting (or, more precisely, an “overtaking” violation) (2 mins.). What mattered was not the penalty but the fact that he cared about the penalty. It mattered. Seconds mattered. He was a different athlete.

Such a moment effects a sea change in one’s perspective. I recall Flo suddenly realizing that she could be good when she won her first age-group award (“welcome to the NFL” I said). Robert now laughing at the 3 hour marathon. Many of us have such moments, when we get an award or hit a time or qualify for an event. Afterward, we are more nervous before our races, less able to sleep. More confident in our workouts and less tolerant of compromising. And in the tough, when-will-it-end moments of workouts, the memory of those moments helps get us through.

I didn’t mean for this to be a waltz down memory lane, but I’d like to note that another former Sound Shore teammate ran a 3:12:36 PR in Montreal. This was a fine fine effort for Mark Thompson. (His Race Report.) Mark and I had our disagreements at SSRMC because I thought he raced too much, but he loved putting on a race number more than perhaps anyone I’ve known and would do so for Sunday races even if he had a gig — he plays the accordion in a band — Saturday night hundreds of miles away. I know he worked hard for this, so I’m quite happy for him.

I should also note that Brandon Wood had another horrible Ironman, cramping up the moment he got into the water in Louisville and deciding, wisely, to stop after getting medical attention after the bike. I’ve said that one of the frightening things about major events like marathons is that they require one to go all-in. (Like Dave, he has a swimming background.) I respect anyone who does that (and who, as Brandon has, puts in lots and lots of work). Live to fight another day. One of the unfortunate aspects of the popularity of Ironmen and other tris and many marathons is that they sell-out almost immediately. So one loses the opportunity to shut-down early and head for a back-up race.

Oh, today’s run. I was determined to do better on last week’s, in which I stopped at the top of the second switchback. And I did. Running alone, and at about the same pace, I decided I would make it up that hill and keep going and, low-and-behold, after about 30 yards from the top I felt great. Slight pain in the knee. But I suddenly felt I was hitting on all cylinders and I gracefully, albeit not effortlessly, finished it in just under an hour. Not a lot, of course, in terms of time or distance — and I gave no thought to running the third monster hill — but quite enough thank you. I was reading up on Steve Jones last night, and images of his toughness helped me through. Still a long way to go, and I can’t do anything fast with the knee thing, but it’s a process.

Brandon Wood sings opera and runs races and does triathlons. His background is in swimming, he’s an incurable optimist (when I met him he insisted that if I tried to swim I wouldn’t sink like a stone), and he recently queried folks about whether he should increase the use of his “head” given his propensity to rely on his “heart.” I think he’s at the point, having recently, albeit slowly, completed an Ironman, of assessing where he goes from here. He mentioned me in his post, so I responded. I know my Swiftian observation may be small-minded, but, hey, I can be as small-minded as the next man.

Thanks for the kudos.

Now the last thing I want a runner to be thinking about is what she should be thinking about when she’s running. Do the running, the thinking will follow. If anyone asks what to think of, I say one thing: “RELAX.”

What Lam says is true. I generally focus on different things for different types of runs, but I, to coin a phrase, just do it. And I don’t particularly worry about my form. Form is important, crucial even. But there’s one type of work-out that is the most fun and most sociable type of speedwork that is very important but that few people seem to do in the rush to do other types of speedwork. Repeats. I won’t get into them here because they are only part of a bigger picture. I did a memo a few years back based on Daniels and you can get it here.

Now I hesitate to go further since the last time I responded to someone making a general call for training advise I was set upon by a band of Lilliputians wielding their little swords, poking me for having the temerity not to speak with the obsequiousness appropriate to the site. Alas, out of that annoying encounter I came up with my “What Kind Of Runner Would I Be” posts, which, while hardly unique, sets out a line and leaves it to each runner on which side she will stand.

You, Brandon, know that the only person who cares about how you run is you. You can stink up the place or you can blow the roof off the joint and it doesn’t matter to anyone but you.

Which brings you to Charlie Spedding’s three questions: (1) What do I want? (2) Why do I want it? (3) How much do I want it?

Head vs. Heart? To get where you want to go, you have to be smart. How do you train the various systems that get you there? Identify the systems, identify how to stress them. Pretty simple stuff. It starts, though, with deciding what you want to do, what kind of runner you want to be. (I use “runner” since I have problems understanding how triathletes can do it (see my “One Greater Than Three?” post).) And do you want to be the best that you can be, whatever it is, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00 for the marathon say.

How you implement the plan in the end turns on the heart. “How much do I want it?” But it’s not as though this stuff has to be hard. Back to Spedding: don’t think of runs as hard or easy. Think of them as part of the plan and a “perfect” workout is, Goldilocks-like, just right, not too fast, not too slow.

That’s why you need the numbers. I am into the numbers thing. Especially on the speedwork front, which I prefer to do on a track for precision. You can get that with a Garmin (+/-) too. How fast the 400? Depends on whether it’s an interval or a repeat. How much rest? Depends.

I can be rambling. But there it is.

(As an aside, it happens that in an interview I found of Ryan Hall with Bob Babbitt Hall says his coach’s advice as to a marathon: First 20 miles with the head. Last 6 with the heart.)

I’ve been directly involved with only one triathlon, the Westchester Tri in 2007, in which I ran the running leg. It was fun and I have a lot of respect for those who did it. And I know a number of folks who do triathlons and enjoy them. As I just noted on my original post, the run leg was lengthened.

I’ve also commented on Competitors.com, which has great interviews with runners, cyclists, and triathletes. I found one with members of the US team — they do Olympic-distance tris particularly interesting because of their separation from those who do Ironman, and as I noted, “One of the hosts noted that lots of triathletes get into a comfort zone of doing Ironmans and don’t like the tempoish effort required for a half-Ironman, let alone the gut-wrenching encountered in an Olympic distance, which is about a 1K swim, 40K ride, and 10K run.”

I’ve recently listened to a couple of primo interviews by Bob Babbit with Crissie Wellington (a two-time, defending Kona champ (Kona being the big Ironman, in Hawaii)) and, with Paul Huddle, Dave Scott. These are must-listens to.

In Kona 2008 Wellington — she’s no. 101 and would run a 2:57:44 marathon — survived a flat, begging other riders for I don’t know what, in which she had to wait, and wait, and wait. And she was pissed. Check out Belinda Granger’s double take (No. 109) at 7:20:

I know what you’re thinking. Is he going over to the dark side? Not to worry. I really can’t swim so that’s no happening. I’ve been a decent cyclist, but I’ve not given serious thought to duathlons either. What’s the point?

It’s too easy to make fun of them, even easier than making fun of runners.

Here’s the thing. I don’t get it. How can they train to race? I’m not talking about the pros. Sure, if your objective is just to finish — no small accomplishment to be sure — then I guess it’s pretty simple. Put in the time, swim, ride, run, repeat. Do bricks (runs following a ride, for example).

If one assumes that the objective is to be the best athlete (racer/runner, competitor/completor) one can be, that objective requires lots of work for just the one sport. Six, seven runs a week. Long and short. Fast and not-so-fast. And a significant dose of recovery. Period I, period II, period III, period IV. Taper. Race. Rest. Six months for a single race if it’s the marathon you’re looking at.

In the Wellington interview, Babbit notes that one need not be a triathlete to do a triathlon and that it’s a big tent, etc. While that is great and all — the same can be said of marathoners of course — it’s an important distinction to make.

Here’s video of Scott v. Allen, discussed in detail in the interview with Scott:


NOTE: An interesting new comment and my response in the “One Foot In Front of the Other” post. In my response, I made a reference to a review of Netwons, in the context of the efficiency of forefoot striking. Brandon directed me to another Newton review, which I found useful. It says Newtons can make sense for certain runners, a sentiment with which I agree.

[edited to add (Sept. 29, 2009): I’ve gotten a number of hits to this page in the past few days, presumably because the Westchester Tri was this past week-end. Held in the rain, it apparently involved very hazardous seas and a tough bike. I congratulate a few people I know who did it. Apropos to what I wrote about 2007, the run course has now changed. So far as I can tell, additional mileage has been added and it is closer to 10K. Given the slow times — unlike the swim and the ride it the rain should have enhanced performances — the course may have been too long.]

I sometimes check-out the Westchester Triathlon Club site. There’s a thread on slots being kept open at the Westchester Triathlon for certain people willing to pony up extra cash for either a charity or, and this is nuts to me, by paying $495 to participate in a training program.

So I posted something about it in the WTC Forum. That race is already pretty pricey, and although you get a nice shirt (which I happen to be wearing right now because it’s a bit chilly), creating this extra fee doesn’t seem right. I wonder the extent to which the Westchester Tri community will raise a fuss.

SSRMC Relay, 2007 Westchester Tri, Dave, Bob, and me

SSRMC Relay Team, 2007 Westchester Tri, Dave, Bob, and me

I did the run portion of the 2007 Westchester Tri, and it was fun. I came out with a great deal of respect for those who had done all three disciplines, although I am skeptical that civilians can devote the time necessary to perform the best at each of them. I find it tough enough to do that just for running.

But in that race, the “10K” run was about 1/4 mile short, based upon my time and what someone else’s Garmin said. I also spoke to JR, a fine local runner and the wife of the guy who measured it with his wheel, and she shared my amazement that they would ignore the real distance of the run, and I knew it was measured correctly because the mile splits through 5 were spot on. There was no mile 6 mark. (To qualify as a certain type of tri, the swin, bike, and run must be within certain ranges.)

So I raised the issue with the race director. It fashions itself the “Premier Race in the Northeast.” I was blown off: the race didn’t care, no correction to the distance would be made (although, strangely, the results went out of their way to point out that the swim was too short). Then most triathletes to whom I spoke said that they didn’t care how accurate the course-measurement was, that they’re always off. For a runner, of course, this was inconceivable.

This has long bugged me. These folks work really, really hard. How could they not care?

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