Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Post, At Last

I haven't written in my blog since I completed my Ironman Coeur d'Alene race report several weeks ago.  I've started about three different posts, and I have brainstormed several others.  Nonetheless, it's only now that I'm actually getting to the point of publishing one.  So, what I have been up to?

I started my new job at Georgia Gwinnett College a couple of weeks ago.  Go, Grizzlies!

So far, so good.  I've been focused on making sure that the three classes I teach are solid.  I'm also adjusting to having a much more flexible schedule.  For now, I'm using a lot of that flexible time to train for Kona.  (Only forty-five more days!)  After October 13, I'll use that time to read, research, and do the other things that scholars are expected to do. 

Training-wise, I've been transitioning out of my post-CdA mindset and into my pre-Kona mindset.  This is easier said than done.  I spent five months focusing on CdA, and it turned out very well.  To suddenly switch focus has been hard.  The difficulty in shifting my mindset was amplified by the physical challenges that attend recovering from one Ironman while beginning to train for another.  It was several weeks before I started feeling back in shape, and I still have not quite lost the weight that I gained during the necessary laid-back weeks that followed Couer d'Alene.  I can't imagine what it must be like for people who qualified for Kona at Ironman Louisville or Ironman Canada just this past weekend.  

Jens Voigt spoke of weight gain in a column in last month's issue of Bicycling magazine.  The focus of the piece was what he saw as the challenges and the benefits of getting older.  I read it less than a week before I turned 38, so I paid close attention.

Jens, by the way, is a professional cyclist with the Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek team.  He is forty years old, and he just finished his fifteenth Tour de France.  He's a fan and commentator favorite because he can dig really deep.  He often looks like this:


At this year's Tour, he made it into several breakaways, and he helped Radio Shack win the team classification.  He has won the Criterium International several times, as well as stages of the Tour and the Giro.  He has twice worn the yellow jersey.  Nevertheless, as Jens says, he is "known more for the way I race than the races I've won." He once summed up his bullish approach with the succinct but brilliant phrase: "Shut up, legs."  At the recent USA Pro Cycling Challenge (which should be called the Tour of Colorado)--where he won a stage in an epic 97-mile breakaway and took home the King of the Mountains jersey--I noticed that the phrase was painted on the chainstay of his bike.  

Anyway, Jens said that as he's gotten older, it has been harder for him to lose any weight that he might put on during rest periods.  YOU'RE TELLING ME, JENS!  It's not like I'm a major chubster these days, but the overall leanness that I had pre-CdA seems to have blurred a bit.  I'm moving in the right direction, and I should be good by Kona if I remain careful, but this is the most stubborn weight I've ever had.

Jens also said that it takes longer to get in shape.  (Check.)  And that you need to stretch.  (Check.)  And that you need to sleep more.  (Check.)  He also said that you know your body better than young folks.  I agree to that, as well.  I feel that I have a good sense of what works for me in  training.  Based on my fifteen years of coaching high school runners, I feel that I have a pretty good sense of what works for others, too.  It was this confidence that inspired me to get involved in what ultimately became a pretty contentious discussion on Slowtwitch.com recently.  The conversation began here, and then migrated here.  In short, I argued that doing short runs (4-6 miles) were not a good use of training time when preparing for an Ironman.  Others argued that any running would improve your Ironman running performance.  Still others said that short runs were not ideal, but they were nonetheless valuable.  While I think that each individual has unique training needs based on his history and life issues, I maintain that making time for half-hour runs during your peak Ironman training weeks does more to wear you out and expose you to injury than it does to build the strength and endurance necessary to run a good marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112.   

Speaking of running, I thought of writing a blog post on "Tips for Beginning Trail Runners."  I do many of my training runs and all of my long runs on trails.  I grew up very close to the trails at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and as a result, I've been running on them for my entire running career: 
A blog post on tips for beginning trail runners seemed like a great idea since I consider myself a good trail runner.  I then realized that my advice boiled down mostly to one rule: when someone is going uphill, you yield to them if you're going downhill, regardless of your relative speeds.      

I have been running a bit, but I've been swimming more than ever.  In fact, by the end of August, I will have swam more times in the past month than I swam in the months of April, May, June, and July.  (Yes, July was a rest month, but it makes it sound more epic if I include it.)  Is my swimming improving?  Really, I have no idea.  We'll see in 45 days.

And, of course, we've been cycling a great deal, too.  In the last five weeks, I've done six centuries.  Four of them were organized, and I've already decided that my next blog will be to review and grade the centuries that we've done.  A quick preview: the Chattooga Century (A+), the Blue Ridge Breakaway (A+), the Covington Century (B-), and the Wilson 100 (C).  This weekend, Labor Day weekend, we have two centuries on the calendar: the One Love Century on Saturday (which is my favorite century in the area; I'll go ahead and give it an A), and the Savannah Century on Sunday.  On the weekends between now and Kona, we'll also be doing the Hilly Hellacious Hundred, the Six Gap Century, and possibly the Beautiful Backroads Century.  Doing organized rides helps to break up the monotony of training a bit.  Even though it's more expensive, Kacie and I enjoy getting up early and going to the rides.  Plus, two of them (the Blue Ridge Breakaway and the Hilly Hellacious Hundred) give us an excuse to spend the night in our favorite town-that-we-don't-live-in-and-our-parents-are-lucky-we-haven't-moved-there-yet: Asheville, NC.       

The time since my last blog has seen three major sporting events of interest to me: the Tour de France, the Olympics, and Lance Armstrong's suspension.  (Yes, I classified the suspension as an "event.")  The Tour was fun to watch, but it would have been a lot more fun if Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome had been on different teams.  The Olympics were great, and I appreciated the fact that so many of the distance races--the Steeplechase, the 5000m, the 10,000m, and the marathon--were shown in their entirety AND were available on demand.  If you haven't looked at Mo Farrah Running Away from Things, what have you been doing on the internet??  Here's a preview:

And then there's Lance.  I've always been a big fan of Lance Armstrong, but not so much that I think it has clouded my vision.  Even though he never tested positive during his seven Tour de France titles, I always acknowledged that there was a possibility that he got away with using performance-enhancing drugs.  I never believed that he may have doped because he was too good; I simply can't be that cynical.  However, he came along during a time when drug use was a normal and accepted practice in European cycling.  To be a European pro was to use drugs, or so it seemed.  Thus, it would come as no surprise to me if it was proven that he had, in fact, taken EPO, HGH, or whatever else.

That being said, I don't really like how the whole thing went down.  From the first announcement last week, it felt wrong to me, and it took me a few days to put my finger on why I was so uncomfortable.  Here it is: ultimately, the USADA banned Armstrong and paved the way for him to lose his TdF titles based on the coerced testimony of witnesses.  They had no physical evidence, beyond a bunch of old samples that could easily have been compromised over the last several years.  By their own admission, they maneuvered around the eight-year statute of limitations because Armstrong wasn't willing to cooperate (i.e. he wasn't willing to say what they wanted him to say).  The only evidence they had was the testimony of several unnamed individuals who said that they either talked to Armstrong about drugs, overheard him talking about drugs, or used with him.  Given the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, the unpopularity of Armstrong in several quarters, and the fact that the USADA allegedly has spent the last three years offering deals to any riders willing to testify against Armstrong, it feels to me like Armstrong got the shaft.  Even if he is guilty, I don't think that the USADA's treatment of him was just.  I don't think it was consistent with constitutionally required due process.  (The judge that ruled against Armstrong last week agrees.)  It likely would not stand up in any criminal court in the United States.  In short, the USADA's treatment of Armstrong feels . . . un-American.

First post in six weeks.  Yep, I think that I got it all. 

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