Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tom King, Blackstone, and Lance

When the alarm went off at 4:20 am this morning I glared at the cursed clock - again. My insomnia has been a constant, unwanted companion for the past week. To make matters worse, it brought my old nemesis; the sciatic pinch. These two make up a brutal tag team that seems to find a way to bring me down at least once per year. Right now, it is late and I do not want to think about trying to sleep. I am quite frustrated because my arse is killing me. I mean KILLING ME.
This story started on the Friday before the super bowl. Almost everyone in our school walked down to the YMCA to play a little flag football on a basketball court. Students played students and the winners took on the teachers. Well, I got nailed from behind as I jumped up to catch a pass and ended up hitting the hardwood with a thud. Bones in my left forearm and hip are still bruised and sore. Worse yet, my left groin somehow got strained on the play. The bruised elbow makes it hard to lay on the aero bars and the hip causes me a little pain when I run, but that groin pull limited my motion for almost three weeks. No running and very little cycling. Only in the last week has my running returned to normal. Residual morning tightness in the groin is easily loosened by stretching. The sciatic is acting up because the groin injury forced me to sleep in an awkward position. The nerve pinch has gradually caused pain to move through my right glute and into the hamstring. Experience has taught me how to deal with this problem - sleep in a certain position, sit as little as possible, and complete decompression exercises as often as possible.
And the kid who nailed me? He is OK, but only because I am not 16 anymore :)
The problem with the groin pull is that I had already entered both the Tom King half marathon (today) and the Duathlon National Championships in Richmond, VA on 4-25. Because I lost a huge chunk of base training and only put in one run of over 5 miles since Feb. 2nd, I decided only three days ago to run in Nashville. Racing the 5:50 pace I'd hoped for was out of the question, but I was confident I could go the 13.1 at or slightly faster than my normal training pace of 6:3x.
My anal retentive brain actually spent a lot of time making up excuses to go. 1) Last week's hilly 89 minute 13.5-mile run proved the groin was up to it. 2) I need a road trip. 3) I really like the scenic out and back course that finishes inside the LP stadium. 4) There are microbreweries in Nashville that I have not visited. 5) I have already paid the entry fee.
The 2-hr and 15-min drive was uneventful and I arrived at 7 am for the 8:30 race. Like last year, the temperature was in the low 40's. This year, however, the dark, wind-driven clouds were not pouring rain down on us. After retrieving my race packet I rummaged through my bag for my blue Race Ready trail tank. It wasn't there. It was, in fact, on the floor near the dresser where I had dropped it. Oh, well. The long sleeve shirt I had with me was quite thin.
I let my legs decide the pace for the day. My short three minute warm up was all I needed to know that the legs had some pep and the groin was normal. Scratch Plan A (6:3x) and implement Plan B. This plan called for an easy opening mile and then 5-8 miles at 6:0x before easing back to 6:3x again. I hoped this would be a good workout that would leave my legs fresh enough to run a speed workout on Tuesday.
Plan B proved to be a good one. A 6:24 was followed by 7 6:0x miles that gradually increased my HR until it hit the mid-160's during mile 8 (this is the low end of T zone or about 85%). Miles 9-11 were 6:24's and 13 was a 6:21. The average HR was 163, which is under both my normal 1/2 marathon HR (172-5) and the bottom of my LT zone (166). So, the data indicates that I did not run too hard. The muscles will have the final say in the matter. . .
Mile 12 was the slowest, 6:29, because I had a little trouble putting my shirt back on. I had taken it off just before the 2 mile mark after I realized sweat was pouring over my face. I had held it for a while, then tied it around my waist. Judging from the stares from runners coming at me on the return, I'd say that I probably looked mighty goofy, but I didn't care. A little girl watching with her mother yelled out,"That man doesn't have his shirt on." Many laughs. Several women raised their eyebrows as we crossed paths. They were probably alarmed by the view, but I'll pretend they were excited :)
Near the five mile mark I took a cup of COLD water and half of it ended up running down my torso, giving me chills. A minute later I passed another aid station and they asked if I wanted a drink. "No thanks," I said while wiping my hand over my chest before adding, "I just had some and it was quite cold." They all laughed much more than I expected - I'll assume it was the summation of the at and with laughter.
Like I already wrote, the Tom King course is great. Great if you like trees, and river views, and meadows, and flat out-and-back courses. The urban-ugly opening mile is quickly forgotten as soon as you leave the Vinnylinks golf course and enter Shelby Bottoms Park via a 10-ft wide winding asphalt pathway that quickly passes beneath a train tressle leading over the Cumberland River just off of your right shoulder. The pathway winds through alternating woods and fields while never venturing too far from the river. Eventually, you hit a turn-around and start back toward the rest of the field of about 1300. All of the approaching runners are respectful, so there is plenty of room to run unimpeded. The return has a side loop that strays from the river just before reaching that rail tressle. From there the course continues on its return to LP Field where you appear on the jumbotron and the Titan Cheerleaders are waiting to cheer for you and to hang your ribbon around your neck.
The legs felt fine after the 50-yard-line finish on LP Field, so I continued running the mile or so out of the stadium, to the car, and back to the stadium to clean up and change. I didn't wait to see if I had earned an award. I need another ceramic mug as much as I need another t-shirt.
At the Blackstone restaurant and brewery I enjoyed a perfectly prepared, thick, and succulent buffalo burger with a side of fries. Blackstone's brewer, Travis, was in Wisconsin participating in a brewing convention, so I could not congratulate him on his recipes. I started with a light colored Chaser Ale, then used the Irish Stout to compliment the meal and the St. Charles Porter for dessert. They were all well-bodied and diverse in flavor due to a good combination of grains and hops. I bought a growler of Irish Stout to go.
I watched the TN/KY game and played with my new phone while I waited for the alcohol to subside. I rarely consume alcohol, so three micro brews had made me tipsy.
I made two stops on the drive home. The first was at the Beachaven Winery in Clarksville. Though I have sipped and purchased wine there on many occasions over the years, I had not driven by during business hours for several years. Much had changed - the entry road, the wine list, and the labels on my favorites. There were several women who looked to be mid-20's behind the tasting counter. There were several more young women shopping. The one man on hand was a talker. He was teasing the girls behind the counter in a way that made me think he was a regular. Then one of the girls looked at me and said she could not dispute the boss. Hmmm.
He turned out to be Ed Cooke, the owner. Ed helped his father-in-law, William Beach plant the vineyard 30 years ago after the judge played a major role in changing Prohibition era laws, thus allowing the wine industry to be recreated in TN.
Ed Cooke is funny enough to be a stand-up comic and he is probably the life of every party he attends. When one girl asked me if I'd ever been told that I looked like Lance Armstrong and I replied that it had happened many times, especially with the bike kit on, Ed pointed at me and yelled out, "We have Lance Armstrong in the building." Jaws dropped as everyone stopped and stared. The shoppers got alarmingly excited and looked at me in a new - more interested - way. Hmmm. I laughed and denied, but Ed assured them I was Lance. Eventually, everyone knew Ed was joshing, but they all agreed that I was a Lance look-a-like. Again, I say hmmm. I wish I were a Lance ride-a-like. As I walked out with three bottles of wine under my arm, these wishful thoughts made me think about the fact that I probably wouldn't ride my new bike today.
The second stop came at a Starbucks in Hopkinsville, KY after my eyes decided that they were going to close no matter how much I fought them. I ordered a mocha and an oatmeal cookie (should have also gotten the blueberry scone!) and I had to once again talk about looking like Lance Armstrong. Hmmm. I wonder if there is any money in this? Probably not - legally. That picture above is one I took near the summit of Brasstown Bald during the 2004 Tour de Georgia. Oddly enough, even though Lance was racing that day, several people mistook me for LA as I rode around the area. I will admit to signing a couple of autographs. (I deduced the receivers of these autographs were just dumb enough to deserve being duped.)
All in all, it was a satisfying day. This despite the fact that sitting in the car caused the sciatic pinch to create excrutiating pain in my right arse and ham before the car ride ended. At least it wasn't a 12-hr drive like that painful trip to the Apple Duathlon in MN last year. My right foot skidded with almost every step during those two 5K's. I hope to be back to normal (sciatic-wise) by mid-week now that the groin is not effecting my sleep position.
I have also been working on a piece about my event/travel/training plans for the year. Besides Du Nats, I hope to race a half ironman (du) and the Leadville Silver Rush 50/50. I think I have come up with a good balance of speed and endurance training to allow me to be competitive at these varying distances. It should be fun trying!

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