Monday, October 27, 2014

Race Report: Beach2Battleship 2014

Beach 2 Battleship is always a super fun event!  There's nothing better than racing on your home turf and seeing all of your buddies on the course & in the crowd throughout the day!  I'm so glad that Ashley Pierce (aka Malibu) asked me earlier this year to be on a relay team w/ her - thanks AP!  On to the report...

At the beginning of the week I was planning on doing the run portion of the relay and was contemplating how to work the run into my marathon training schedule given that it would be 2 weeks away from Savannah.  After a panicked phone call to coach Tom Clifford on Tuesday, I had a plan to run 55 miles total for the week and do a specific workout during the race.  Well, this was nice but it all went out the window Wednesday night around 10 pm when I started feeling really sick.  I ended up alternating between vomiting & diarrhea every hour on the hour the entire night.  I got zero sleep and it was not fun nor pretty.  Thankfully, Lou covered for me at work on Thursday and I just laid in bed all day (I owe you Lou!!!)  My stomach was so queasy, I couldn't eat anything.  To sum it up, I was basically on a clear liquid diet on Thurs & Fri and I felt too ill too run.  I also found out on Friday that I would be swimming as well as running on Saturday!  I guess you could say the only silver lining in the situation was that by Saturday I was definitely at race weight! 

Saturday morning I met up w/ fellow MFers, Lee, Keira, Ashely, & Alli.  We all rode the bus to race start together and it was exciting to be taking part in this event again!  I was really excited for Alli since it was her first 70.3 ever!!! 

The Swim (1.2 miles) - 28:09
The relays started with men 30-34 and when I got in the water I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't that cold.  The current was so strong that we were literally having to swim against it to stay behind the starting line!  I had a tiny moment of nervousness because it's been a while since I've been in a mass swim start like that, but it quickly disappeared once the starting horn blasted and I found myself in a familiar rhythm.  I felt really good and enjoyed the temperature of the water and the scenery of the swim.  For whatever reason it felt like the last 250 yds of the swim were the most difficult.  Maybe it was because there were so many swimmers closing in on SeaPath that it was choppier and more crowded.  But I hit the deck, declined the wetsuit stripper, and hauled ass into T1 where Ashley was waiting for me ready to rock!  She shot out of T1 like a woman on a mission and I met up with Kurt and we cheered on the rest of the incoming swimmers & outgoing bikers!

After a quick shower and bite to eat, Kurt & I headed downtown for my second leg of the relay.  The transition area was loco!!!  The runners were scattered among spectators and the bikers had to run out of T2 and find their runner.  It made things kind of amusing watching the bikers run/hobble in their cycling shoes!  When I saw Ashely come in, after a smoking' 2:47:09 bike split, I was excited to get out onto the run course.

The Run (13.1 mi) - 1:31:35
My plan for the run was to start out comfortable and see how things progressed.  If I felt good, I wanted to negative split and perhaps drop a small hammer for the last 5-6 miles.  At the start I felt fantastic, cruising around 7:05 pace.  I decided to hold that for the first half before getting any crazy ideas.  I saw soooo many friends on the run course which totally made my day!!!  Around 5-6 miles, my legs started to feel tired - like my glycogen stores were empty...wait, they probably were empty considering I pretty much did the opposite of carbohydrate loading leading into this race.  At that point, I just decided to try to hold pace and not worry about going faster - my body didn't seem like it wanted to drop below 7:00 miles and that was ok.  I enjoyed being in the moment and got a huge thrill from crossing the finish line in downtown Wilmington amongst a cheering crowd!  

I found Ashley, her husband Jackie, and Kurt and we chilled out for a while and watched our fellow MFers finish!  Our total time was 4:51:21 and we ended up 4th in the mixed relay division - not too shabby!  Almost on the podium!  

Congrats to all finishers - it was a great day out there! Thanks to all volunteers & supporters for making it such an awesome event.  Special congrats to Alli for finishing her first 70.3, to Keira for a solid 3rd AG finish, Lee for 3rd place Aquabike, and especially to Mike for gutting out a hell of a day and finishing his first 140.6!!!!  You guys are awesome and I can't wait to train and race together in 2015.  Many many more fun times to come :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Setup Events' North Carolina Triathlon Series

Ever since I started racing triathlon back in 2008, the Setup Events North Carolina Triathlon Series (NCTS) has been the premier triathlon series in this state.  I can't even count how many of their races I've done and I can say that being a participant in these events has been a great experience!  In addition to awesome race venues - Wrightsville Beach, White Lake, Over the Mountain, Belews Lake, Stumpy Creek, etc - the NCTS has garnered prestige for being highly competitive.  Historically you could show up at any given event and race against the best of the best in NC.  That fact made the NCTS special.  I don't think it was a coincidence that this set up (pun intended) spurred tougher training & stiffer competition.  It gave North Carolinians their own triathlon microcosm from which many elite amateur and professional triathletes emerged.

It makes me a little sad to see that this has changed.  In 2014, NCTS stopped offering prize money for the top series finishers.  This may not seem like a big deal, especially because it wasn't a ton of money, but I believe it has had the result of diluting the series.  There were not as many people at races this year and the depth of the open fields was staggeringly shallow.  I've spoken to a few people about the change and the main reason I was offered was that it was made to increase participation.  Instead of prize money to top competitors and prize packages for top age groupers, the NCTS now offers a prize package (tri bag, sunglasses, t-shirt, etc) to anyone who completes 5 races.  Theoretically, this incentivizes triathletes of all speeds to race more NCTS races.  But isn't this just like the receipts you can collect from Food Lion in November?  Yes, if you spend enough money you earn a free turkey, but couldn't you have just bought the turkey alone for cheaper?

I guess you can probably tell that I don't think this new approach is optimal.  Here is some more food for thought about why the NCTS prize money should be reinstated:

*The most successful triathlon production brand (IM) is also the most competitive.  When Rev3 stopped offering prize money to the pros, they stopped coming to races.  I think this resulted in many top amateurs choosing other races, and in turn may have had a trickle down effect on other age groupers.

*People love going to races where they can see the pros, race against the pros, and compare their own times against the pro times.  I believe this holds true on a smaller scale for local competition.  I remember when I was just starting out in this sport, I knew all the names of the best local athletes and I thought it was cool to see them on the course, talk to them after the races, and of course compare times - even if I was 30+ minutes behind the leaders I still got a thrill if even one of my splits was relatively close.

*I don't know a single triathlete who is satisfied to remain at their current speed.  It is part of the triathlete mentality to constantly push themselves to be faster and try to work their way up the age group ladder.

*The athletes who race the most frequently have a direct and an indirect influence on other athletes who are deciding what races to add to their schedule.  Regardless if this is through personal interactions or social media, the impact is there.  In general, the more competitive athletes compete more frequently.

*Competing regularly against the best makes you better and also serves as a measuring stick for your progress.

*There was a certain appeal to racing in the NCTS series because of the high quality of the competition.  It just feels flat without it.

I guess the central theme to my overall point is that good competition is important for the vitality of a race series.  The best way to draw competitors is to "show me the money."  I would bet that if another series comes along and does this, participation will increase immediately.  I think it's great when race companies make the events more family & spectator friendly, but I'm starting to think that this alone will not result in higher participation.

I hope this blog doesn't make me sound like an arrogant a$$.  This is just something that's been bouncing around in my head recently and I had 3 hours to try to figure out how to articulate it while I was running my 22-miler this morning!  Will I race the NCTS in 2015?  Yes.  Will I enjoy it?  Of course. But, if I had another local option that fostered the same type of magical allure as the previous NCTS, I would not hesitate to sign up right now.

This may not be my most popular post, but I'd love to hear what other people think about this, especially those who have raced both pre-2014 and in 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Best Way To Cook Tofu

Organic tofu is one of the healthiest (and cheapest) proteins that you can incorporate into your diet.  When I talk to people about eating tofu, I often hear that maybe they've tried it in a restaurant and liked it but are intimidated to cook it at home because they just don't know what to do.  This blog is intended to bridge that gap by showing you the easiest way to cook tofu and how to incorporate it into a meal.

I've been shopping at Trader Joe's a lot recently because I discovered that they have the best prices on produce and I eat a ton of produce!  Here are the ingredients that you will need for this recipe:

1 package of organic firm tofu
1 bag of mixed frozen veggies
Trader Joe's Island Soyaki sauce (or any other low-fat sauce)
brown or black rice (not pictured)

1.  Cut open the package of tofu and drain the water.

2.  Cut off 1/4 of the block of tofu if you are making 1 serving (use 1/2 of block for 2 servings) and put remaining 3/4 block of tofu back in original packaging.  Fill original packaging with fresh water and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, changing the water daily.

3.  Slice tofu into 6 pieces.

4.  Heat non-stick pan to medium-high (I like to use my crepe pan for this because it's completely flat and the tofu never sticks to it).  Place tofu into pan.

5.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until tofu just begins to brown.  This step helps get some of the excess water out of the tofu and prevents you from having to press the tofu prior to cooking.

6.  Pour your sauce of choice over the tofu.

7.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the pan side of the tofu browns. Using a sauce that has a little bit of sweetness to it, like Trader Joe's Island Soyaki, helps the caramelization process and gives your tofu a nice color.

8.  Flip tofu and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned.

9.  Serve over rice & veggies and pair with an apple for a healthy energizing meal.  This is GREAT for athletes!!!!

This is a very simple and quick cooking method that uses NO OIL!!!  It is also very easy to package this meal into a tupperware container and bring to work and heat up in the microwave later.  You can vary the types of sauce, veggies, and grains used in this recipe for literally endless possibilities.  Another idea that I've done recently is cook the tofu in BBQ sauce and then use it as the filling for veggie fajitas - I love the BBQ/Tex-Mex combo of flavors!  

I hope this helps inspire you to try cooking tofu at home because it really is easy peasy :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Race Report: Carolina Beach Half Marathon

I love doing new things and I got a chance to do something new on Sunday by being a pacer in the Carolina Beach Half Marathon!  You've seen pace groups before - they are the herds of runners in a race clustered around a runner carrying a big sign with a time on it.  Running with a pace group is great because a) it's fun, b) it helps prevent you from going out too hard, c) they help you keep pace when the going gets tough, and d) you get to forge a little camaraderie with cool peeps who happen to be the same speed that you are.  If you're a spectator in a race, it's nice to have pace groups because you know where the runners are in the race that are going by you and it can help you know where to look for the person that you're trying to spectate.  The role of the pacer is to finish the race in exactly the time that is printed on the sign that he or she is carrying.  People are relying on you to carry out this duty - their PR's depend on it.  The best way to do this is to run the perfect negative split.  This can be tricky because you don't want to go out too fast and risk people blowing up at the end of the race, but you don't want to go out too slow such that you don't reach the goal time.  The pressure is on and you better be able to deliver the goods.

When I originally agreed to pace for the Carolina Beach Half I signed on for the 1:40 group.  However, upon seeing that this race was a month out from my A race (Savannah marathon), Tom Clifford told me to switch into the 1:30 pace group so that I would get a good marathon-pace workout.  I was nervous about doing this because I wasn't 100% sure I'd be able to run a 1:30 half in the midst of 65-mile training weeks on fatigued legs.  But he said, "If you can't run a 1:30 half, how are you going to run a sub 3 hour marathon?!"  So I dropped into the 1:30 group.

Come to find out I would be pacing the race w/ Eric Torrey, a veteran 1:30 pacer.  This was good because I knew that if I couldn't maintain pace he'd be able to finish the race easily.  I did a mile warm up with a few pick ups and felt good.  The weather was cold (50s) and there wasn't much wind.   We gathered at the starting line with our sign (Eric carried it for about 1 mile before ditching it to volunteers) and a 4-5 people huddled around and spoke of hopes of breaking 1:30.  I remembered back to when I first broke the 1:30 barrier and how impossible it seemed at the time!  It was a good group and everyone stayed together for the first half-ish.  Local celebrity Richard Segal was amongst us and there were people cheering for him at every turn!  When runners in our group broke off and ran ahead it was kind of hard not to go with them, but it was our job to stay on the 1:30 pace so Eric and I ran together from mile 7-12.  I was surprised to find that I felt really good for pretty much the entire run.  Within the last mile we caught back up to Steven Dees and tried to give him a final push of motivation to get to the finish.  He gave a gutsy performance and ended up with a PR by over a minute!  Just awesome!  I spent the remainder of the morning chillin' by the lake and watching friends finish the race - fantastic job everyone!!!

Overall it was a great race, well-organized, and very enjoyable.  Weather was perfect and post-race Moe's hit the spot.  I'm super pleased with how well this run went.  We nailed the pace and finished right at 1:29:07.  While I can't say that it was easy, I can say that it was not difficult.  I feel like this is a good sign that my training is working.  It bodes well for Savannah and I'm starting to get really excited for that race.  I believe I can crack 3.

Congrats to Amanda & Kristina on their first 1/2 marathon!

Mr. Enoch does it again!