Friday, May 28, 2010

Du Nats

Back on April 25th, I competed in the Duathlon National Championships in Richmond. I did this race last year and it went pretty terribly, so I had high hopes of a big improvement.

The distance was 5k-38k-5k (last year the lead off run was 10k) and I knew a fast pace would be set as the first mile was downhill and funneled into a relatively narrow concrete bike path after a mile. In preparation, I had done some decent workouts on the track to get the speed back into my legs.

The weather called for rain on race day. The rain came overnight, leaving the course wet and slippery. The 25-29 AG started with the 20-24 AG so it was a decent size field. I started in the 2nd row and got out fast. I went through mile 1 in about 20th place with a 4:58 split. Mile 2 was flat and I came through the 2 mile mark in 10:20. I started picking people off at this point as the last mile was all uphill and I wanted some space for T1. Fortunately I had a good transition spot and got through smoothly. On the bike, I got past by a few guy off the back who decided to start riding as a pack. A bunch of these guys were racing for the U.S. Army, and they were teaming up to ride together. I saw them working together all over the course and was a bit shocked that they would do that in their team kits with everyone watching. Not surprisingly, no one in my age group got a drafting penalty. Alas. The course was 3 loops of a fairly technical course with one long, steepening hill on the back side. The course was still wet so I was cautious on the turns for the first loop but was letting it rip by the 3rd. I caught a lot of guys on the hills but would get past on the flats. Though this has been a trend throughout my racing, it was better in this race than past races. I felt like I was staying withing a reasonable distance of the faster cyclists.

I got off the bike after averaging 22 mph and felt solid. I took off on the run and probably hit a 5:20 first mile. I started cramping on mile 2 but was able to stay relaxed and push through. I kept a hard pace and picked off a few guys. With a little under a mile to go, there is a hairpin turn and I saw two of the Army guys who were drafting on the bike about 50 yards ahead of me. There was no way I was going to let them beat me, so I picked up the pace and surged past them with about a half mile to go. The last quarter mile is uphill and hurt like crazy. Coming down the shoot I past a kid that was about 12 years old competing with his dad and I started yelling at him to sprint with me to the finish. I helped him push to another gear and gave him a big high five when he crossed the line.

I finished 6th in my Age Group and closed out the final 5k in 16:58. I'm pretty happy with the result given that most of my training was base work and I have a lot of potential for improvement. Some more strength riding on the bike and some more speed workouts and I'll be good to go.

Really looking forward to this season.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Compression Socks

I have to begin this post with the disclaimer that I laughed the first time I heard about compression socks. I thought, "that's a gimmicky trick to get people to pay for something that they don't need." I believe in cooling down and stretching and drinking a recovery drink after hard sessions. That should be all the recovery one needs.

But I slowly came around to the idea and bought a pair of CEP's about 2 months ago (thanks Jody Herzog at Fleet Feet Northfield). I've always had calf tightness and decided to give them a shot, but only in the comfort and secrecy of my house. I figured with the hard blocks I was planning I would need all the recovery I could get, and after the first night wearing them I was sold. Wearing them after hard sessions seemed to reduce swelling and improve recovery. But the doubter and analytical side prevailed and I decided to do an A|B test on them. After all, maybe I was just getting stronger and recovering better. The last 2 weeks I planned a training block of 15 hours and 16 hours, respectively. The first week I decided not to wear compressions socks at all for the first four days. I did 16x400 on Monday on the track followed by a 2 hour ride on Tuesday. Wednesday's run went terribly. I was struggling to hold 7:15's for 7 miles and was planning to do 9. The weekend long efforts were forced and I wasn't pleased with my paces. Hmmm...

By Sunday I was back to wearing the compression socks. Monday was 4 x 2,400 on grass with 30 seconds recovery. It was one of my best efforts so far this year and hit 8:28 - 8:31 for all of them (5:45 pace), and it felt smooth and controlled. I did 1.5 hours riding on Tuesday and came back on Wednesday with a 1 hour swim, 1 hour bike and 1 hour run after work. I averaged 6:45 on the run with some slow early miles. Thursday was another medium long ride, and Saturday I did a 14.5 mile run at 6:45 pace and Sunday was a 3 hour ride zig-zagging across the Chagrin Valley.

I know I didn't control for diet, sleep, etc., but I'm convinced the compression socks played a roll in my improvement the 2nd week. I often sleep in them at night and I wore them during my drive to Richmond for Du Nationals and felt great. In this sport, the compounding effects of training can take a sever toll on one's body. I'm constantly fighting the balance between quality and quantity. I want to get in the long weeks but is it worthwhile if I'm fighting my body and dragging my arms and legs through workouts? Are those workouts doing more harm than good if tomorrow is going to be the same thing? The compression socks appear to allow me to get in the type of quantity I want while maintaining the quality. And for that reason I think they're one of the best investments I've made.