Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How I got hit by a bike. On purpose.

Mini-blog!  With (terrible) pics!

I had a weird incident Monday afternoon on the Mount Vernon Trail, not too far from National Airport.  I mentioned it on The Tweeter, but really couldn't do it justice in 140 characters.  Not even 280:





So I thought I'd try and draw out what happened using my Mac. I found a great Paint-esque (free) program called Paintbrush for Mac, which (1) will make it easier to describe what happened, and (2) will demonstrate why I went into law, not art.

The section of the Mount Vernon Trail where I was running runs right NEXT to the George Washington Parkway, a 4-lane fast moving highway that is picturesque, but also quite zippy.  But the trail and the highway are really REALLY close to each other in this stretch.  

How close?

Using Garmin Data, my watch detected a slight lowering of my pace right . . . about . . . 


Here.

So.  Using Google Maps with Garmin, here's the spot of the crash, which will show you where the highway is relative to the trail:



Eek.  Despite Garmin's insistence, while we ended up ABOUT that close to the highway, we weren't actually IN the road (the green "play" symbol is where Garmin thinks I was when I came to a complete stop).  But I'm jumping ahead (although if you're reading this, you know I wasn't (1) flattened by an out-of-control bike, and (2) we weren't ground into pink/red stains on the GW Parkway by traffic, so that's nice.

Anyway.

So, here's a (very) rough outline of the trail:


From left to right:  MV Trail, grassy patch, GW Parkway.

THEN, let's add me, wearing my trusty red Washington Nationals shirt with the Curly W in the upper center (although truth be told, I was wearing blue for Memorial Day):

Those are little blue sweat beads coming off me, because it was a HOT HOT afternoon run, while the bicyclist is shitting himself because he lost a shoe/cleat (poop not pictured because this is a fucking tasteful blog, assholes).

I saw the cyclist coming towards me, but then he took a sharp (like 45 degree left turn AT me and raised some sort of alarm (like, "WHOOOAAAAAAA").  It was clear he'd lost control ("Really Tai? A cyclist was suddenly was aiming at you and yelling in distress was out of control?  You weave quite a riveting tale.  I mean, you're an idiot.")

As it turned out, he'd lost his right shoe, and what looked like the cleat as well, but was going FAST and couldn't stop. Perhaps he didn't want to, what do I know?  He made a pronounced turn in a direction that can only be described as DIRECTLY THE EFF AT ME.

I also could see the traffic, which was, of course, at 4pm on a Holiday Monday, doing Mach Bazillion.

I had a few choices:

1.  Stop and let him zip by me. 
--Not a great idea, because I could end up like the Seinfeld finale and prosecuted for bystanding or something

2.  Get directly in front of him to stop him.
--I'm not super adept at physics, but that seemed like it would hurt.

3.  Sidestep him, then try to grab at him to slow him down.
--Oh, sure, why not?

The force of my run carried me a little past him, so I stopped, he went past me slightly to my right as I turned, and I grabbed at his handlebars to slow him down.  His left foot was still locked into his cleat, and he was pulling up with it to no avail.

(No, he wasn't hitting his breaks from what I could tell, or if he was, it was gentle because he didn't want to fall.  He was panicking, and I know that position/paralysis well, because I fight it off EVERY TIME I GET ON A BIKE.)

So I sidestepped and grabbed at him, which did slow him, but we grazed each other and I went down to one knee. I felt my right pinky get rattled by the spokes of his front wheel as I flailed at him, but I'd slowed him enough that I stood up, pursued a step or two, and grabbed at his bike seat from behind.  Maybe he WAS breaking -- I definitely fell, and was still able to get up and go after him within a couple of steps, and I definitely reached his bike seat too.  It was all a blur of wham, pain, fall, finger, ouch, up, grab, fall.

We went down together -- me, him, and his bike -- in a heap, his front wheel less than a foot from the highway.  Or, as my Garmin data appeared to think, in the right northbound lane of traffic.


The "S" is where the impact started after I sidestepped him, the dotted yellow line is his path, and the "F" is where we ended up after all the falling and flailing.

Not quite in traffic.  Whew.

Anyway, he was still laying down (I think his left foot was STILL attached to the pedal), with his right foot underneath the bike.  I then realized he had a wife and his daughter with him.  I hadn't seen them initially because he was ahead of them and fast-moving.  They were talking familiarly with him, and it was clear they were "together."  His daughter got his shoe and thing off the right side of the trail, and his wife was seeing how he was.  She (not him) said "thank you" about 50 times, and I just smiled, trying not to say, "Um, wtf just happened?" because, let's face it, I'd probably be afraid to just lay the bike down if I were out of control too. 

So I stood up, checked if my finger was broken from the spokes (it wasn't, it just smarted a whole damn lot), and I noticed that my Garmin was still running.  The guy already appeared to be extricating himself from under his bike, and didn't raise any need for medical attention, so I just waved as he did thank me, and took off, finishing my 10 miles.  Seriously, if he hadn't said anything, I would have thought he was more hurt, but I suspect his pride took the biggest hit.

As I ran, I thought to myself, "Aragorn would have made that look WAY cooler."

Seriously.  When Aragorn was defending the Hobbits on Weathertop, fighting Ringwraiths with a TORCH, did he fall over, flail, and say something like, "WHOOOAAAAA?"  Liv Tyler would NEVER be into him if he did that!



Instead, me and this guy fell into A PILE ON THE SIDE OF A HIGHWAY.

There's a South Park episode where hundreds of men have sex with each other to prevent illegal immigration (don't ask), and I'm pretty sure the incident resulted in us looking WAY more like them than Aragorn protecting Hobbits:


I wonder if any of the cars photographed us in OUR pile???

So anyway, that was my Memorial Day long run, and how I, on purpose, made sure that I got hit by a bike.  I don't know how I get myself into these things.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My 2014 Goal Race will be:

So I am sitting here, staring at no less than FIVE draft blog posts, all waiting to be published, but I haven't done so yet for various reasons (I want to insert a couple more pics, run some numbers, or in one case just find a really good colon diagram).  The posts involve Spring race reports, including my return to racing, a rant against "The Food Babe" as an anti-science idiot, and my colonoscopy story, or at least the story behind (ha!) it.

But in the meantime, I've been training, and plotting conditioning plans for the Fall, all the while unable to tell folks what I'd finally decided on for a Fall race.  I had three choices, which I'd described here.  

A Half Ironman fell by the wayside, because my shoulder is still giving me a little bit of trouble (rotator cuff), and the Princeton Ironman 70.3 sold out.  Rats.

I'm still eyeing some Sprint tris to keep me honest, or at least one Oly, which would likely be the Nation's Triathlon, because, while hella-expensive, it's so freaking convienent to do.

What else is left?  Trail running?  Let's bear this little fact in mind:





Obviously, as I said before, I haven't updated my blog with my trail race report, but it involved a LOT me of staring hard at the ground and realizing I was surrounded by Nature. Ick. But there was a reason I ran it in late April. Earlier that month, I'd done this:




That letter was registration for my chosen 2014 Goal Race. They don't do things over the net, they're much more "rustic."

"Rustic."

Uh-oh.

Before I get to my reveal, I knew I had one other option, which was to pick a Fall Marathon and try to break 4 hours again, this time giving myself a TEENSY bit more wiggle room compared to the 3:59 I'd posted in October 2013 at the Marine Corps Marathon.  

But then Polar Vortex Pudge.


Kind of an actual photo of me at the end of Winter.



I gained a LOT of weight this Winter.  I bet I lost a good month of training, and about 30/seconds per mile by the time I started to claw my "weigh" (ha!) back to myself.  So marathons for time in August, September, and MOST of October were out.

Then I didn't get into the Marine Corps Marathon lottery.  I really NEEDED that race, because it was in late October, which would allow me time to make up for all that Polar Vortex homebound eating I did.  And I missed it:


Did you enjoy all those potato chips this past winter, fatty??

But I'd noticed something.  I was qualified to enter a November race I'd been eyeing for years.  I knew that I could condition myself to go long, even if it wasn't fast.  And as hard as I know it will be (DNF is a definite possibility), I knew that it would both scare me and invigorate me.  Plus, if someone WANTED to transfer me their MCM bib, I'd accept it!

But back to being scared.  Running a marathon in less than 4 hours is hard.  I trained for it, I lived it, and I did it.  Doing it again, faster, is a great goal, but I also know I'm less fired up over it if I can't do it with a timetable (late October race) that I need.

So back to staring at this November race.  I was reminded of this quote:



And with that, there's a hint.  More than just a hint.

My 2014 Goal Race is the JFK 50-miler.  That was the letter I sent.  I mailed it the day my "class" was eligible (I used to be a "B" class runner, but they've toughened up requirements, and now I'm just a "C" class runner, so I had to wait until 21 April).  And in early May, it was settled:  I'd qualified for it, I'd entered it, and I learned I was accepted into it (they take their time updating the entrant list).

Number of ultras completed so far:  0.
Number of 50Ks completed so far:  0.
Percent of you thinking I can do this:  0.

Yes, I have a training plan.  No, I don't know if it will work.  I do plan to run at least 1 50K race, but I think the important thing is where I'll do most of my long runs this summer:  The JFK 50 is VERY rocky to start, and has difficult terrain for the first 15 miles, but then, from about 15 to 41, it's the C&O canal.  Then, it's paved roads.  So terrain-wise, I need to be very cautious for the beginning, and then settle into a long, long LONG slag.  What that means to me is that I need to do most of my long runs on the C&O Canal.  Sure, I need to find rocky trails, etc, but I don't plan to run this thing for speed (duh).  I just want to finish.  And finishing will be hard enough.  Scary enough.  Enough to make me realize that a DNF is a reasonable possibility.  But that's why we do these things.  Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

So there it is.  I'll backdate my earlier blog entries with race reports, rants, and poop jokes, but I wanted to put this out there.  

It's JFK.  But it might as well be the moon.  And I can't simply say, "Failure is not an option," because I know as with MOST things I undertake -- it's entirely possible:


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Herndon 5K Race Report

In 2013, my daughter attended a Northern Virginia School.  For their P.E. class, they were encouraged to run, walk, or even just volunteer for a 5K race .  Of course, she had a cold the week of the race, and I insisted she rest.  But, she asked me to run it, and I did.  

Incredibly, it became my 5K PR of roughly 23:50, or 7:40 per mile.

I was happy over the PR, but barely hung out post race.  Instead, I promptly left so I could drive over to her house, check up on her, and give her some of the pastries and other baked goodies from the finish area.  I didn't stick around for the awards ceremony because (while I'd finished decently fast), there were SO many bald guys ahead of me that I figured I wasn't in the top 2, so no AG award for me.  Darn.

Later that afternoon, I logged on to see:

1.  I'd finished 2nd in my AG (so yes, I made the "podium") and
2.  The guy ahead of me had only beaten me by less than 5 seconds . . . .

MY FACE AT THAT MOMENT

My daughter went to school, and someone casually handed her my AG award, which she actually draped over my neck when I saw her later.  So that was cute.  But damn.  I was almost in FIRST place.  Me!  Fatass, slow, lumbering ME.

Fast forward by one year . . . .

May of 2014 came along, but she no longer attended that school, having moved with her mom farther out into the burbs.  Still, she asked me if I was going to run it again.  I was deliberately vague.

More like Emo.

The ego-hit from the extra winter weight still bothered me, and, after all, ONE WEEK ago, I'd just run a 5K race, and missed a PR.  The Public Service 5K was a FLAT course.  This one, in the streets of Herndon, VA, was rather . . . varied.

Trust me, at a 5K pace, you feel EVERY uphill.

Moreover, the course involved LOTS of switchbacks and turns, which also tend to slow you down, as opposed to an easy out n' back course:

You start and --almost-- end on a track, but otherwise it's lots of TURN HERE, NOW HERE AND HERE.  AND HERE.


So, basically, I waffled to her.  "I'll let you know," I would say, over and over again.  "I'm still thinking about it, sweetie," I'd say, smiling, while knowing that there was almost no point in going out there.  Yet, part of me wanted to run it.  Most of me didn't.

When I woke up the morning of the race, I had a distinct "lean" on whether I was going to run the race:  I hadn't registered for it yet.  Figuring it would be an easy morning, I laid in bed and caught up on the night's prior Twitter feed.  That's when I saw it, a (re)tweet from Manuela Dumfart (that's really her name, and she's a talented operatic singer):


DON'T MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY, RANDOM QUOTE ON A PICTURE!!!

Dammit.  Why not go for it.  Because yes, very often you'll find yourself more disappointed by the things you did NOT do, than by the things you did.





So I raced out to Herndon, showed up at registration, chatted with the kiddo's ex-teachers and vice-principal, and was handed my bib.  After a few strides to warm up, I ambled over to the starting line, which is on their track.

One thing.  I'm not a lot of fun pre-race.  I go into game mode:


Pretty sure I lost to everyone in this picture.
To be honest, I'm probably thinking, "This was the stupidest idea you ever had since you sold all that Apple Stock pre-iTunes."

Now then, unlike my prior 5K, I did have more of a race plan for this one:

This seems well-considered.
Anyway, I was going to have to stay ahead of 7:40 per mile (for 3 miles) if I was going to PR this thing, and certainly if I was going to have ANY chance of trying for the podium again.  With that in mind, BANG, we were off!

The first part is a quarter mile dash on the track, and I immediately noted a couple of things:

1.  EVERYBODY was passing me, and
2.  HOLY CRAP EVERYBODY IS PASSING ME.

Damn.  Also, I made it about half a mile before I realized, just like last week:

I FORGOT TO TURN OFF GARMIN AUTO LAPPING.




Sooooo, once again, I did the little dance of trying to hold a hard pace while working the touchscreen of my Garmin ("Menu, select, NO NOT THAT ONE, dodge a pothole, select OH FFS").  But, I got it straight before reaching the first mile marker:

Mile 0-1:  7:15
If everyone else was flying, I must have been caught in their jetwash, because I was being carried along with them.  There was NO way I could hold a pace like this for 3 miles.  I immediately slowed a touch after the first mile, just a bit, figuring that I might need that energy after we climbed the rolling hills I knew lay ahead.

Mile 1-2:  7:42
This was back to reality for me, but it was closer to last year's pace, so that was a nice surprise.  I worked hard, ran through water stops, even declining to grab a cup and pour it down my back in lieu of drinking it, which I will sometimes do.

Mile 2-3:  7:42
I admit being pretty happy here.  I'd already realized I was close to my previous mile's pace, and with going out gangbusters at the start, I was virtually assured a PR if I could survive mile 2-3.  I felt myself slowing just a tough, but I was still passing more people I recognized from the start, and tried to push as we headed for the final (roughly) quarter/third of a mile.

This time, unlike last week, I wasn't going to let up over egos.  There were two guys ahead of me.  One dude in a ponytail, and one bigger guy like me.  I knew I had plenty left in the tank, and made the decision to just crank.  So I started up, and quickly overtook them both, passing between them as they jockeyed with each other for an angle.

I passed them both, and then, just for a few seconds, heard footsteps.  Someone wasn't going gently. 

So I poured it on. The footsteps grew faint.  I'd done it.  I'd actually held off a challenge, and mopped the floor with them!

That line may have been written just to use this GIF.

All that was left now was a quick glance at my Gamin when HOLY CRAP

I was within striking distance of a sub-23 5K.  I would have had to REALLY go nuts, but there it was.  I had just wanted to top my PR of 23:50ish, and now I realized I got close to something I never thought I'd do.

I hit the finish, slapped to "stop" the time, and realized I'd finished faster than 23:10, or about a 7:27ish pace.

HOLY FRAK I RAN SO FRAKKING FAST FRAK FRAK FRAK

I wasn't worried about missing sub-23.  Coming so close was completely out of the question for me, and here I had actually gotten within striking distance.  I was doing (internal) backflips.

They posted the results, and, sure enough, enough "ringers" had come by that I was pushed down off the AG podium, but I just didn't care.  Although the freaking WINNER of the race was IN my AG, so that was some BS, shouldn't he just be OA?  Anyway, he was a 49-year-old guy who ran just over a 6-minute-per-mile pace, so I couldn't have overtaken him on a bike.

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Top 12% (PARTY ROCK!)

Sex:  Top 21% (IN THE HOUSE TONIGHT!)

Division:  Top 31% (WTF, SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL OLD GUYS?!?!?!)

Stuff I learned:

1.  This was NOT a negative split race, but there is some science suggesting shorter distance races should have you going out faster.  Here's an article about the practice, from "Science-Based Running:" Should you start out slow in a 10K?

2.  I'm glad I pressed on towards the end, although, strangely enough, neither of the two guys I passed at the end were in my AG (one was younger, the other older).  Still, it felt good to correct a mistake I'd made a week earlier.

3.  This one is important.  Remember this sentence above? 

"So I raced out to Herndon, showed up at registration, chatted with the kiddo's ex-teachers and vice-principal, and was handed my bib." 

What does it NOT mention?

Hint:

I FORGOT TO PAY FOR THE RACE.

So I'm driving home, and I just casually checked my wallet.  I saw $35, which was the cost for same-day registration.  I'd brought that cash so I could avoid wasting time with a check or a credit card.  But nobody took my money, and I forgot to offer it.  I just chatted away, accepted the bib, filled out the registration info, and marched over to the start line.



I.
HAD.
STOLEN.
FROM.
SCHOOLCHILDREN.

"Mortified" is one way to describe how I felt.



I was a BANDIT!  A FREAKING RACE BANDIT!


NO.


NO!!!!!!
Ok, now you're not even effing trying.

I got home, immediately typed out an e-mail to the Vice Principal, who wrote me back THAT SAME WEEKEND DAY (educators are underpaid), and said I could send a check.  

I did that day.  Because I'm pretty sure the internet police can take away your once-thought-impossible PR if you run a race without paying.

Whew.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Public Service Employees 5K Race Report

I don't over-race.  I just don't.  I think it's counter-productive to training when you have one or more major races on the horizon.  And yet, I found myself signed up to run a race for the third time in four weekends.  The reason for this was that it struck me that there was going to be a 5K race just minutes from home, as part of the Public Service Recognition week for Federal Employees.  As I've stated before, I am an attorney with the Feds when I'm not floating around with this online persona, and there were a lot of positives to this race.

Plus one other:  I really wanted to run the Herndon 5K the NEXT week (WTF dude -- FOUR races in five weekends?).

Seriously, don't over-race, ok?!



First off, I still needed to gauge my fitness, or at least my aptitude for speed after the winter.  The GW Parkway only proved that I'd lost a lot of ground, and the Backyard Burn was a whole different ballgame (one played with bugs).

Next, in my defense, I wasn't sure about the next week's 5K in Herndon.  I was just back into racing, and was still heavier a fatass.  But I was a vain fatass.

A year ago, I'd PR'd my 5K distance, running about a 7:40 pace to finish faster than 23:50.  A little part of me wanted to see if I could beat that.  The course in Herndon last year was HILLY.  This course would be flat and fast.

So, the prospect of once again being able to sleep late, take a short drive to Anacostia park, and run a 5K was pretty tempting.  I signed up, and chose to do packet pick-up on race day.  

I took a quick read of the course, which was just a regular out-n-back deal.  The course basically forms a "lasso" shape, and you'll note that miles 1 and 2 are very close to each other:

Public Service Employees Recognition Week 5K Course Map
You start at the "Play" symbol, run out (about 1.5 miles, turn around and run back, taking a right turn to complete the "lasso loop."  Flat course, straightforward course.  I did note a fairly robust headwind from roughly the start to the 1.5ish mile marker, but this course just SEEMED like it would produce fast times.

There were a LOT more people at this race than I thought would be here.  Any chance of sneaking onto the podium (like I had last year at a different 5K, placing 2nd AG) was DEFINITELY out the window.  But no matter.  Time to run:

Mile 0-1 ("Headwind?  Well that's just peachy.  Because I hate peaches.")
7:54

This was actually a not great start for me for a few reasons.  First of all, we just kind of . . . went.  There was a bit of a, "Ok, not yet, not yet GO!" kind of start and people had seeded themselves HORRIBLY.  There was a definite group of folks who walked into the "corral" (basically, the starting area) and took up a spot.  So I had to navigate early on.

It was about point 2 of a mile when I realized my Garmin was set to auto-lap.  That's a big no-no on race day.  I manually lap mile splits because I do pore over my numbers post-race, and try to figure out what went right/wrong.  So I began this awful dance of trying to run under 8 minutes a mile while taking off my Garmin 610, selecting the menu, setting, etc. etc. and switching it to manually lap.

There was a pretty good headwind here, which did a nice job of keeping me at a relatively slow pace for a 5K.  I needed to do that at the start, since I really wanted to do better at aiming for negative splits.


Mile 1-2 ("Damn, that's a heckuva push, wind.")
7:15

I really took advantage of a few things here.  First, I chose a straight line and stuck to it.  I really minimized weaving.  Next, I eschewed water at the aid station, and made a sharp cut while staying at a good cadence.  Finally, I remembered the headwind, and did my best to make up time.  My 5K PR would require a 7:40 pace, and after 2 miles I was actually (slightly) ahead of that pace.

Holy crap. 


Mile 2-3 ("Woo hoo!  I'm gonna do it!  But don't pass that guy")
7:30

This mile was still cooking, but as I made time, I became aware of a solitary guy ahead of me (I finished in the top 50 people, and we were quite spread out).  He looked like a total badass.  Short, but compact.  Very efficient stride.  He was moving along, but I was closing on him.  It wasn't rapid, but it was steady.  Damn.

Once again, I'd lost my "killer instinct," just like at the BYB race.  I just kind of let up.

Granted, I was tired.  My brain was pleading with me to walk, but I didn't.  Meanwhile, I didn't push.  I could see the finish in the distance, and knew I could kick, but it would either make me close on him quickly, as if I were trying to pass him, or I would pass him, which struck me as possibly looking like I was trying to show off.

So, once again, I eased up.  Just a touch.

As I headed for the final stretch, I saw none other than the Nationals' Racing President Teddy, there with a handler.  Immediately, I regretted not wearing my standard "race uniform" of my signature Curly W tech shirt.  Bah.  I called out to Teddy as I passed, and finished.





I'd missed a PR by about 8-9 seconds.  Still a sub-24 minute 5K.  I'd had a HORRIBLE run the day before, so this was all good news.  Except for, you know, not running my best at the end.  I ran to my car, grabbed my phone, and had this pic snapped:






Finally, I made one other decision:  I would NOT run the Herndon 5K race the next weekend.  I wasn't ready.  The course was far too hilly, and on such a flat course like this, I'd missed a PR.  So that seemed settled (stay tuned).

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Top 15% (wow!)

Sex:  Top 27% (woo-hoo!)

Division:  Top 46% (WHAT THE HELL OLD GUYS?!?!?!)


Stuff I learned:

1.  Negative splits equal a successful race.
2.  Slowly, surely, I was coming back to being in race shape.
3.  Don't let up at the end.  Nobody would for you either.
4.  My age division will seriously bust up your ego.  :(