November 20, 2007

User Review of the Polar G3 sensor for RS800

As I promised on few forums I finally got to sit down and write few words about the new G3 GPS sensor from Polar. I have bought it about a week after it was released in the US and since then ran few times with it. The following is account of actual user of the G3 unit and not like some reviews an opinion based on web research. I just want to be absolutely clear about that. I also want to state that I have been using Polar RS800sd for about 8 months and I'm very happy with it. I also own other Polar products including the S625X with power option and the older S1 foot pod. So in a way I'm Polar power user and know what to expect from Polar (short and incomplete manuals anybody?).

Initial observations

When I received the package from my exclusive Polar supplier (HeartRateMonitorsUSA) it came in fairly small box. After unwrapping the G3 package from the box I ended up with few things on my desk - the G3 unit, stretchable armband, AA battery and manual book. First challenge was to put the armband onto the unit. I had to consult the manual that describes in few easy steps how to get the two coupled together. Then I looked at the actual unit and saw that thee is only one button and two control lights. One shows the satellite lock and the other one signals the battery status and whether the unit is on or off. I inserted the battery which is very easy. Then I took the unit out, turned it on and let it sit for about 5 minutes to acquire the signal. Everything worked fine and soon I had a green light for the satellite lock.

I need to spend some time talking about the physical appearance of the GPS sensor as it got some attention on some discussion forums. The unit is bigger than I expected and it is also lighter than what I expected. It is about the size of half of Blackberry Pearl, but it is thicker. But it is definitely smaller than hockey puck (as some called it). I had realized that when I put the unit on my arm I tend to scratch it against the wall if I walk too close. So I place it behind the arm, rather than on the side of the arm. Once you put it on you will most likely forget that you have it (especially if you already run with iPod or other MP3 player on your arm). I forget about the GPS sensor as soon as I start to run. You may too.

Pairing G3 with the RS800

Next was to pair the unit with the RS800. Again this is very easy procedure and it does take only about 30 seconds to pair the unit with the watch. I followed the manual instructions and they were right on. No extra steps or missing info as sometimes happens with Polar manuals. There is not much more to report here - the pairing worked as a breeze and I also made sure that the calibration factor is set to 1.000 for the G3 to work properly.

First test

First road test was a real road test. I took the unit with me in the car when I was driving to pickup my race packet for 5k road race. I was confused by the display as it was showing the speed fine until I crossed some threshold and then it was all wrong. I was very concerned with this and immediately after coming back home consulted the manual. I did not want to run the race with GPS unit that does not show reliable data, especially since I was pacing my wife and few friends. To my relieve I found this sentence in the manual:

"If speed values exceed 55 km/hour, they are divided by 10. For example, 56 km/hour will be displayed 5.6 km/hour."

OK that explains the variation in speed while I was driving in my car and it should be fine for all my running and biking.

You also need to understand, especially if you use the s3 sensor that he G3 sensor does provide only speed and distance information. The s3 provides much more data - like average cadence and average stride length which may be important during some training sessions. Also if you are using Garmin Forerunner 305, especially the navigation features, then you may be disappointed with Polar G3 unit. It is a sensor, not a full fledged GPS watch like Garmin.

The real test of the G3 was the next day after the drive testing. It was during a road race. I lined up in the back of the pack as I was pushing stroller with my son and we expected to run slower pace than most in the race - my friends did not run much prior to this run and I wanted to make sure the race was enjoyable for everybody. I started the watch few meters before the timing mat and off we went. It took few seconds for the G3 sensor and the watch to register the pace we picked (but I assume it is mostly delay in displaying the pace info on the watch as the file in the Polar software seems to be OK). Then I checked the pace several times during the race and everything seemed quite fine. When I looked at the graph in Polar ProTrainer 5 the curve has quite a few peaks and valleys, but that reflected the nature of the run. I ran few hundred meters before everyone else, stopped, took few pictures and then caught up with the group. I did this during the whole race so the pacing curve was expected to be all over the place. But I was more interested in the distance accuracy. When we finished the race the watch showed 3.13mi for 5k race which is very good accuracy at least in my book. I started the watch early and my run was extended by the photo stops so I think it was good accuracy - especially after having bad experience with the S3 sensor during the half marathon when it was off by more than 0.6 mile. But that was most likely bad placement on the shoe and bad calibration (treadmill vs. road). So all in all the G3 is very accurate. The race was run in the Bethlehem PA on the roads in the center city where the visibility of satellites is very good (more on that in later section).

Comparison S3 vs G3

Being a geek as I am I started to toy with the idea of comparing the accuracy of the two sensors. Since it is not possible to use both sensors with one watch at the same time I did run the same route two times. The pacing is different on each day, but the first mile should be comparable (it is warm-up) and it is run on exactly the same road. You can see that the G3 sensor has higher variability in the pace than the S3, but I would not necessarily call it significant. One thing is clear to me - the G3 has a noticeable delay in recognizing pace changes (or transmitting the info to the watch - it is hard to figure out) if you compare it to the S3 sensor. It has very good accuracy on any course I ran. I always verified the actual distance on mapping sites or in Google Earth and it was right on. So the pace for the entire run should be right on as well. It seems to me that the G3 is more useful for longer runs outside especially if you do not care very much about the actual pace from one second to another. And also if you do not need the average cadence and average stride length information.

G3 graph

S3 graph

I used the G3 in another road race - South Mountain 10 mile road race - that I wrote about in my last post and the unit worked quite well even under fairly heavy tree cover. About 5 miles of this race is run up and down the road that is in the forrest. I did not notice any major drops in the signal coverage. You can see the picture below.


Besides running I use the G3 sensor with one of my bikes (one that does not have any gadgets like bike computer mounted on it) to get speed and distance info when I ride to the book store or just ride around the town. The G3 works very nice for the bike riding. It is very accurate in the distance reading and also in the speed reading. I'm thinking that I may use the unit next year for the triathlon racing, but I do not think I'll use it for swimming only for the bike and run legs. It will make the T2 easier as I'll not need to switch on the sensor or seek for another sensor that I had to do with the S625X and RS800sd.


If you are still puzzled whether you should get the G3 here is what it boils down to for me. The S3 and G3 sensors are very different sensors in how they work and in how they are used. If you do a lot of race track running or treadmill workouts you should stick with the S3 as you will have very little use for the G3. But if you do a lot of running outside, run trails or want to get onto the GPS train the upgrade to G3 can be a good step for you. As for what I do - I use both the S3 and G3 for my running (and biking) combining the two as I see fit. I use the S3 for all my interval and most of the tempo workouts. I use the G3 outside for either road races or long runs as well as for biking. It is nice to have the extra sensor with GPS technology I can use for biking without a need to mount the speed sensor on the bike.

November 13, 2007

South Mountain road race

This past Sunday Dasa and I raced the South Mountain road race. Dasa did the 5k race that was on mostly rolling hills and I did the 10 miler which is legendary with the over 200m climb up to the top of the South Mountain in Bethlehem. We both did quite well - Dasa finished her race in little over 32 minutes and I was done in 1 hour and 21 minutes. That is fairly good considering that the race was on the hilly terrain. My calves hurt like hell for the past two days and feel almost as solid as after the half marathon in April. Dasa did not complain about any muscle pain. If you are in Lehigh Valley around this time next year and want to do some hard running come to run with us. I'm sure I'll do the next year as well. If you want to see the elevation profile with my mile splits check out the picture. The climb was brutal at times - 2.5 miles up the hill and then back. Very good workout.

Next race is planned for next week (after the Turkey Day) - we will be burning the bird calories during the traditional Bethlehem Turkey Trot on Saturday. I'm looking forward to that race and hope to be fully recovered for it. It is the last race this year I can use to break my 5k PR. Well I trained, although not fully due to the ankle sprain. We shall see if I can improve on the 22:21 PR from earlier this year. The weather should be good for running (certainly no humidity and heat). I'll update you here upon finishing the race.

October 23, 2007

Hurray back to training

During the past few weeks I took it real easy. I even backed out of the 5k run and made it a 5k walk with a lot of chatting with my co-workers. I tried to stay active and indeed put a lot of time into exercise during the first week and did the only thing that doctor did not forbid me doing - walking. I logged quite a lot of miles on the treadmill and outside. I did that mainly to be able to keep eating the cake and cookies. My mother in law is in town and the temptation to eat the good stuff is just too great.

I eased into the biking and running last week and it worked quite well. On the weekend I did my first long slow run and finished it at 8 miles and walked the remaining 2 miles home. I did not want to stress the leg too much on the first long run and I somehow miscalculated the distance. On the way home I listened to Tri Talk podcast so it was a good finish of the run as I like this podcast very much. David Warden discussed the periodization basics and it helped me cope with the injury little better. In fact the injury was a blessing in the sky for me as I would otherwise have troubles taking time off of training. This way I was forced to take break and got the rest I needed - both physical and mental.

Today was my first day of regular training - Tuesday is the intervals day - and it was a good workout with 6x800m at 6:44 min/mi with 90 seconds rest interval. I was pretty well spent after the workout which is a great feeling. Tomorrow is easy spin and Thursday will be tempo run. I'm glad to be back and hope I can gain some speed for the 10mi and 5k races I have in November.

October 3, 2007

Out of commission for few weeks

It is official - I'm not doing any training for next week or so until my ankle sprain gets better. I saw doctor today and got a nice air cast to put on my ankle every time I walk around. I was warned that I should do no biking or running on it. So I guess it is no workouts for a week and then we will start stressing it a bit with short bike and swim workouts. If that works fine I'll get back to running. It looks like I may not be ready to improve my 5k PR in November, but at least I should build up my base back so I can run the 10 miler on South Mountain which seems to be somewhat of a classic race in the Lehigh Valley area.

September 23, 2007

Short report Patriot's Triathlon Bath PA - 3rd in AG

Nice day, started little on the cold side, but it got warm by the time we were getting to start the race. Swim was 650m on the perimeter of the lake - nice visibility, pretty good crowd, some pushing, kicking and bumping, but nothing major. Swim was good I got through it in 12 or 13 minutes - still waiting for the official race splits; transition to bike was little slow I was slow to get out of my wet suit and suit up for the bike. Then I hammered on the bike - I left all worries about lactate at home and just kept pushing as much as I could. Only one person passed me on the bike, but I kept passing a lot of people - all women started the swim about 8 minutes ahead of my age group. The bike was over before I could get one gel in and drink a bottle of water - I got the gel in just in case because I did not get my PowerBar before the race. I almost wiped out on the bike when I did not pay attention and ended up riding the grass when I was doing 30mph - pretty scary, but I somehow managed to get back on the road without even slowing down. Transition to run was fast and the run was OK in the first half (1.5 mi) then my ankle started to bother me. I messed it up pretty badly this Tuesday when I stepped off of the treadmill while it was still running. So the second half I had to slow down a bit and 2 people passed me, luckily no one from my age group - I like the body markings. It is nice to see who is passing you and if you need to worry about it. I finished strong, but the ankle was telling me to stop and take it easy so I did - no cool down jog, just walking around.

I finished in 1h 19minutes which gave me 25th place out of some 160 people and on top of that I got third place in my age group. Not a bad for race with messed-up ankle. I'll take it as a great close of the tri season. Now I'm back to running mode with some cross training on the bike. I will need to see a doctor later next week to get the ankle checked if it does not stop hurting. It was fine yesterday, but I guess it does not like any speed work.

September 21, 2007

Swim start

Friend of mine sent me this link that shows the benefits of training smart and simulating the race conditions. I'm sure you will like it as much as I did.

September 16, 2007

Few weeks ago I learned on the Nike+ community discussion board about great stretching book – Anatomy of Stretching. It was published only recently and as opposed to other books on this subject this one actually shows graphically which muscle group is being stretched in a particular position. Other books I reviewed showed the graphics of how to perform the stretch, but were not very specific on which muscles are stretched. I prefer format of this book to the others.

It took me few days to force myself to start reading the book – much like it takes me some convincing to stretch after the run or bike ride. As runners say – runner has right to claim that the stretching is over when he/she bends over and ties the laces. Since I started reading it I identified few key stretches that I need to do after each running and bike riding session. I have not yet put much thought into the stretching after swimming. But after each run and each bike ride since my last race I have spent some time stretching the legs and I have incorporated few additional stretches into my day routine. The person who did my bike fit told me to do stretches during the day when I have time – like when making coffee in the morning or while I wait for the sandwich to heat up on the grill. By doing that I can easily do 20–30 minutes of stretching a day without even trying too much. I’m starting with that so we shall see how it goes.

September 10, 2007

Thank you for the support Dáša and Ian

I want to make sure to thank my lovely wife Dáša and my son Ian for their support during the preparation for the race and cheering during the race. Without them I would have never completed this challenging race. I can promise that for the next several weeks I'll not be away on Saturday and Sunday mornings as much as I was during the training. For a while I'm not planning any long rides or long runs. And here they are - the biggest heroes of Saturday's race.

September 9, 2007

Quakerman Half Ironman 70.3 race report

So it is all over and I had few hours to recover and sort my thoughts that I needed before sitting down and writing the race report. This whole journey started few months ago when I decided to try the tri. When I was selecting my A race I first wanted to do the mini event which is basically olympic distance with much longer bike (36 mi instead of 24.85 mi), but then I thought that I may be able to train for half Ironman so I signed up for it. Since then I was following the 13 weeks training plan to build up the endurance and everything came together for me. Let me walk you through the past 36 hours of prior to race and during the race.

As before every race I took few hours on Friday to collect all my racing gear, check that my bike is all set and I setup the bike with the extra water bottle holder expecting a long distance between the aid stations (18.5 miles to be exact). The weather forecast was pretty depressing - the area was expecting another hot day with high humidity. I was praying for cold water so I can legally use the wet suit for the swim. I double checked the gear and nutrition and packed them all in the backpack and into the bento box on the bike. Made sure that I have new spare tubes, extra tire, CO2 cartridges and pump, some patches to be ready for anything. The bike with some of the stuff is shown below:

The night before the race was fine until about 4am when I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I had all these mental images of me going through the swim, running up to T1, changing to my bike gear, pedaling, getting back to T2, making sure to grab all the tuff and heading off to the run. I even visualized the finish sprint. I did this maybe 17 times before I was able to fall asleep for another hour and then it was time to get up. The morning routine was normal - hot tea, three slices of good cake (I always have this before the training or race). Then I got out of the door. When I got to the park I picked-up my race packet and got body markings. Then I setup my transition to make it even more minimalist than in the first race 2 weeks ago. And then I walked the swim to T1 and bike to T2 through the transition. It was small transition and I had great spot in second row for the bike out, but I wanted to make sure that I do not get lost during the race. Then it was time to suit up and do the swim warm-up.

SWIM (2 km / 1.2 mi)

The swim course was less depressing layout than during the Steelman as we were doing 2 laps it did not look as long, but I knew it was quite long. I reminded myself to stick to my pacing and not try to swim with the sharks. I'm not fast swimmer, but I can do the distance if I stick to my pace. That is what I failed to do during the Steelman and I paid for it after few hundred meters when my hands refused any more freestyle. After the warm-up there was a short run over the course routine with the race director, national anthem and then we were to head to the water. As I'm descending towards the water my goggles in my hand I head - swim start in 10 seconds. WHAAT? OK gotta get down there quick. As I got to the water barely touching my ankles the race started. I got my goggles on and started practically in the last row. I did not mind I'm here to finish in 6 hours. Keep to your own pace. The swim was fine. There was some kicking and touching, but not more than usual and I guess this time I touched and kicked more people that what I got back from others. I swam almost the entire distance in freestyle and tried to keep streamlined position to float through the water. It felt much better than what I did during the Steelman. When I got out of the water I checked my watch and it was some 39 minutes. Not bad for 2 km (1.6mi) swim. I ran up the hill to T1, got my pointy helmet on, socks, shoes and ran to bike out with my bike by my side.

BIKE (91.25 km / 56.7 mi)

The start of the bike was a killer - as usual in this park - there is about 0.5 mile steep climb out of the park. I took it easy and at the top of the hill I passed first person. While passing I mumbled something about bloody heat and the guy wished me well for the race. Which I returned. People in this sport are just great. I love it. The bike course is long 18.5 miles loop around the lake and it was open to traffic. So not only you need to watch for others, but also for the cars. The few critical areas were coned off and police and fire were at each major intersection. There was no issue that I know off, but I was little worried about this in the beginning of the bike leg. I did many weekend rides on this course so there was not really any surprise for me. I knew when to change gears, how to pace myself, all the corners, potholes and other traps. But I had two times when I did not pay attention to my downshifting and lost some precious seconds as my chain came off and I needed to stop to put it back on. But it was nothing major. I did change my fueling plan during the bike and not only I downed 2 gels per 50 minutes (lap) I also ate whole PowerBar during the second loop to get it into my blood stream before the run started. I also ate all the remaining gels (about 3) during the last 30 minutes on the bike. I knew I'll not be able to eat much on the run. One of the challenges of this course was the heat and second was the wind especially on the South Park Rd. where it seemed like we were riding against the wind the whole time. During my last loop I'm eating my gel and drinking water when Brian (friend of mine) zoomed by me. I yelled at him we waved at each other and off he went (he was doing the shorter course and was going for the AG win). During the whole bike course I passed few people and I had only small number of half distance athletes pass me. so I guess I did well. I do not know the splits from this race yet as I did not capture them well with my watch. I was more concerned about doing the right things and less about messing with my watch. At the end of the bike I eased the pedaling, increased the cadence to get ready for the run (well if there is something like getting ready for a run after 56.7 miles on the bike). After a fast descend to the pack I dismounted and ran with my bike to T2. T2 was quite fast as you can see from the following photos. Took off my helmet and bike shoes, slipped to my running shoes, grabbed my running hat in which I had gels, race belt and off I went. I put my running belt on during the run and it worked very well. Shaved off few seconds.

RUN (21.08 km / 13.1 mi)

Immediately into the run I checked my pacing because I have tendency to go out too fast after the bike. I guess it is the speed that I'm trying to reach after being used to zoom by at 20-40 mph. And yes I was doing 7:15 min/mi which is not what I can sustain for full 13 miles. I slowed down to around 8:45 min/mi and tried to keep it there. My plan was to do run/walk method and the weather really called for it with humid 91 F / 32.7 C. So I decided to do 5 minutes run followed by 45 seconds walk breaks. That was working great for most of the run. I also decided to walk all aid stations and drink / cool off with plenty of water - both on my chest, back and inside. I was feeling great during the first loop (we were doing 2 loops of about 6.5 miles / 10.5 km). You can see me during the first turnaround on the next batch of pictures./p>

Second loop was going great until the hill to 563 which was bout 1.5 miles from the turnaround. I got such a huge cramp on my right side that I almost fell down. Shoot not now!!! OK we will be walking. So I walked up the hill to the aid station, got more water and tried to run down the hill. This was the part on route 563 in direct sun and the asphalt was almost melting under my feet. I was able to run about 2 minutes and then the cramp was back. All right you damn body I'll walk if you want me to was my thought. So I walked down the hill and up the next hill. Tried to run and the cramp reminded me after like 40 seconds about who is the boss here. I'm thinking to myself - what the heck. I'm hydrating well, I'm fueling well what is the problem. Then I touched my face to clean the sweat and it was like touching the sand beach - oooh so that it it I lost too much salt. My whole face had little salt crystals over it and I bet that the whole my body was like that. I need to get salt tables fast - at the next aid station they did not have them so I took the salted pretzels and gobbled them down, then I took one more gel and stopped for my first bathroom break in about 5 hours. No wonder in such a heat all that water I was drinking was evaporating through the pores. I tried to resume running, but I was unable to - the damn cramp was still there. So I kept walking with more pretzels and water - hey this sport is not that bad. I can have picnic in the middle of the race I thought. I walked all the way back to the aid station before the shady area and got banana and chicken broth. Yeah you do anything to get going again. I ate the banana, drank more water and walked back down from the hill. At the bottom of the hill I tried to resume run/walk routine and it worked. Hurray!!! I'm running again. I made sure to stick to a new run/walk plan - 4 minutes run 1 minute walk. The finish is not far - only 2.5 miles to go. Once I resumed running I was passing quite a few people. Everyone seemed to be suffering from the same problem and everyone was walking. I was so glad I could run again. I did not mind that my shoes were full of water as I cooled down I sprayed it over my back and it all ended up eventually in my shoes. I did not mind the heat any more all I wanted was to finish under 6 hours and finish standing up. The run/walk carried me all the way to the finish. I sprinted the last few hundred meters and almost ran over the guy handing out the finisher medals. I noticed that the watch at the end showed 5:5x:xx - I did not pay attention to minutes or seconds all that mattered was that I did the race in under 6 hours. At the finish Dasa and Ian were already waiting. I got a kiss from each one of them and then we immediately headed over to the finishers tent. I got more salty food - mostly stuff I did not eat since I started running and triathlon - potato chips, pizza, regular coke. I asked the race director for salt tables and he was so nice to walk for them to his car and find me in the finishers crowd to give me a pack. I got all 6 tablets down and drank a lot of water, the I ate more food and was happy as one can be to finish. Dasa told me that there was a guy that finished and collapsed and that the paramedics took him away few minutes before I got to the finish. I think I saw him on the run and he looked beyond tired, but he kept pushing during the run. Only today while looking at the photos I saw that my finish time is 5:51:42 or thereabout.

The biggest surprise

After the race I changed to fresh clothes and chatted with my friend Brian and few other folks. Then the race director started to announce overall and age group winners. What a surprise when he called my name as second 35-39 age group finisher for the half ironman distance. Wow I did not expect that. I got nice reminder of the race and DVD with spinning lessons from Spinervals. I was very excited and happy to conclude the day on such positive note. Only now I realize that next years race I'll be racing to defend my placement from this year - oh the pressure is already building up (wink, wink).

September 8, 2007

Short report

I'm humbled by the long distance racing. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the day. The race was great and I had quite a good day considering the weather - 90+ F (32+ C), hot and humid. Finished as planned under 6 hours and on top of that won second place in my age group. Good day overall. More on humbling experience later. I need to relax for at least a day before I put together full race report.

September 5, 2007

Time T minus 3 days

I'm quite surprised how calm I am over the past few days. That is pretty unusual for me during the race week. I guess it may have something to do with being on extended holiday weekend augmented with one day vacation. My training load has gone down significantly and this week is a peaking week so I did only short efforts under 45 minutes each. Saving the energy for the race and building the glycogen stores that will be greatly needed on Saturday. The less I train the more time I have to enjoy with my family which is really great. After this race I'm going to switch to lighter weeks as I'll be training for 5k PR that I want to get to right around Thanksgiving.

So there is one more brick ahead of me - well not really a big one - 20 minutes bike and 10 minutes run to keep the body moving and then I'm off to a long race. The race day is quite different from other races - this one hands out the packets on race day at 7 am and the swim start is at 9 am. That is quite late so we will enjoy the sun for quite long time on both the bike and the run.

Time to print out the pre-race checklist, start packing and do few more T1 practices. I'm trying to cut down my time in T1, but I'm unlikely to get it down much for this race as I'll definitely not skip the socks and if possible I'll use the wet suit.

Good luck everybody racing this weekend.

August 29, 2007

1 cm can make a huge difference

No this post has nothing to do with what you may be thinking, but rather with a good bike fit. I told you few days ago that I scheduled a bike fit at the Cadence bike store in Philly. I did not want to brag about the bike fit before I had completed at least one long ride. And long ride it was - this past Saturday I had the longest bike ride of my training - 4 hours of riding (more on that later). After the ride I can say that the bike fit really helped. But let's take it step by step.

Bike fit

The bike fit was an interesting experience. The whole session took little over 2 hours. We started with short discussion and filled out a form about my riding skiils, performance, goals and problems I perceive with my fit. Then Brady (my fitter) took some basic measurement that are needed for the fit including analysis of my feet, flexibility in different positions and only after about 30-40 minutes of doing this I was allowed on the bike. Brady told me that I look crammed in the bike and that my knees are little on the outside. Then we started to tinkle with the seat position - raised the seat by 1 cm and moved it about 0.5 cm to the back. I was riding it for a while and it seemed ok. Then Brady took a look at my cleat position and re-measured where they should be. We replaced the cleats and put them to where Brady felt they should be - I was riding with cleats too much in the front of my foot - that explains the pain I had after the long rides from pushing the pedals practically on my toes. Now the cleats are much further in the back and I'm pushing the pedals with less effort and there is no pain in my toes even after very long rides.

Long ride

Saturday morning was very humid - actually the visibility was about 15 meters in a foggy mist, just great conditions for bike riding. I took off at 6:30 and started riding shortly before 7am. The fog was condensating on my classes. I had to wipe water off of the glasses every 10 - 15 minutes just to be able to see. On the other hand it was really nice day and I was very happy that there was no cross-wind. I also had my new aero helmet which is really cool. I definitely had a great ride and averaged 22.5 mph (while on the bike) and 19.5 with all the pit-stops and refueling stops. I did 4 loops around the lake which comes to little over 82 miles. On the 4th loop my friend Steve joined me and kept my pace in check so I was able to finish the ride feeling quite well. The three laps I averaged 55-58 minutes per look which gives me a hope that I could do the bike leg of the race in little under 3 hours. I definitely trust my biking skills and with the new fit and helmet I'm ready to ride 56.7 miles and feel good.

Sunday run

I started Sunday training early with 50 minutes swim and transitioned immediately into the long run of 2 hours. I ate nature bar before the swim so I was not feeling hungry during the swim or shortly after. Before I headed out of the house for the run I filled-up the fuel belt with water and took 3 GU gels with me. I also took one gel just before heading out and washed it down with water. The run was fine, but I was unable to go very fast - I actually had troubles keeping the 8:00 min/mile pace on the flat stretches and the hills were as slow as 11:00 min/mile. I felt tired especially after mile 8 and eventhough I hydrated. It got even worse after mile 9 when I ran out of water and gels. So I basically shuffled back home and finished the day with 12.5 miles eventhough I had hoped for 14 miles. Well I'll take it - the day was very humid and hot - it was 83 F (28 C) at 8 am and it got worse as my run progressed. Actually the weather on Saturday and Sunday was quite bad for training - the temperature climbed to 95 F (35 C) and humidity was very high - normal August weather in Philly, but not good for running. And I guess the 82 miles ride on Saturday did not help my run either. But it is a great practice for the race - I'll not be fresh when it gets to the run - in fact I'll be like 4 hours into the event with my glycgen stores running low and lactate build up getting up there. So yeah it will be fun and quite a challenge.

Nike+ sensor R.I.P

After little over a year of use the Nike+ sensor died on me. I logged some 1500 miles on it and took it with me to quite distant places. The sensor followed me on my races in the US, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic and Canada. It will be missed - well not for long as I just bought a new one as I can not stand not to log my long weekend runs of 12-14 miles. It is all about the bragging rights ;-).

August 19, 2007

Back to the training

It seems like I did the Steelman long ago. I could not believe it was only last Sunday. After the race I took one day off on Monday as usual and then slowly eased back into the training week. It was a long one (9.5 hours), especially the weekend ride and run. Saturday was a bike day and it was the toughest ride ever. I did 3.5 hours in fairly strong wind. On this course I usually cruise 60-70 miles at average speed of 19.5 - 20 mph, but this time I was much slower - only 18.5 mph over 67 miles. After two loops - around 40 miles I was debating whether I have enough energy to keep pushing for another lap. In the end I did push through and had opportunity to play with different positions to optimize the aero position. I tried everything, but on the down hills with strong wind I was unable to get to speed above 40 mph. Normally I descend that hill at 45 - 48 mph. So the wind was definitely a huge factor. Also my average power during the ride was about 30 watts higher than even during the Steelman race. As you can expect I was quite tired in the end.

Today was run day and I was debating whether I could last for full 2 hours while keeping good pace. The plan was to try running the first 6 miles and then decide what to do - easy return back home or push for 13+ miles. First 4 miles were not easy - I was quite dizzy and could not get into the zone. At mile 5 I took GU gel, got into a good pace and kept pushing sub 8:30 per mile pace which is fairly good. On the hills my pace slipped a little but I was always doing better than 9:30 pace even on hills. At mile 10 I got second breath and passed another runner up-hill while doing 8:15. That felt good. Then I took long way back home and on the uphill back home my computer showed 14 miles. So the long run was in the end a good one and I averaged 9:01 miles. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but I'll take it. Not bad considering the 67 miles ride the day before and sleep of only 6 hours. So training saga continues. Next week is another long one before short week and then the race week. Oh yeah the race is very, very close.

August 17, 2007

Post Race Analysis

So my first race is behind me and now is time to sit down and do analysis of my performance so I can use the Steelman and a spring board for the half iron in September. Monday night I downloaded the Olympic distance results, eliminated all the DNFs and started looking at how I did compared to complete field, only mens and my age group. I focused mainly on the age group analysis as that should help me determine what I need to focus on to move up in the ranks. Here is the result of the analysis:

  • Complete field (306 finishers)

    • Swim 125
    • T1 204
    • Bike 74
    • T2 108
    • Run 172
    • Finish time 94

  • Mens (231 finishers)

    • Swim 97
    • T1 149
    • Bike 65
    • T2 82
    • Run 133
    • Finish time 79

  • Age group (31 finishers)

    • Swim 14
    • T1 23
    • Bike 12
    • T2 14
    • Run 20
    • Finish time 15

After this initial placement analysis I looked at how much slower I was in each discipline compared to the age group winner and also to the person who did best in that particular leg in my age group. So here we go, the first time is the age group winner and the second one is the person from my age group who did best in that particular leg in the race. All times are shown in min:sec format:

  • Swim 4:41, 9:06
  • T1 1:08. 1:35
  • Bike 7:54, 7:59
  • T2 0:13, 0:33
  • Run 7:41, 11:47
  • Finish time 21:37, N/A

So what can I read from all this?

  • I had pretty good bike and fairly fast T2.
  • Although I scored fairly high on the bike I could have done better. That bio break cost me good minute or two and if I improve my aero position (I suspect that my seat position is not optimal) I can shave off few more seconds maybe even minutes in the 56 miles ride that is in the next race.
  • My T1 time is horrible - almost twice the time as age group winner (only 25% of my age group peers were slower than I was in T1).
  • My swim was not great, but I did not have a bad time even though I did more than 50% of it doing back stroke and breast stroke. Wow that is a surprise.
  • My run is little on the slow side. I'm slower than average runner in any group (e.g. I'm in the slower half of the field, not by much but anyways in the slower group).

Now that I know how I did what does it mean for the short term training focus - read next 3 weeks until the Quakerman Half Ironman. I will continue with the training schedule, but I need to re-focus or insert additional practice in specific disciplines:

  • Swim - need to continue working on my swim including pacing and breathing. I will need at least one open water swim at Bethlehem Dutch Springs to have a real long swim practice. Pool practice does not prepare you for a long swim - hey tri-newbies listen to this - go find a lake before your race and have at least one long swim in the open water. The visibility in the water is different than in the pool and also it is a different feel to keep swimming for full 40 minutes without hitting a wall.
  • T1 drills are a must - I'll need to practice getting wet out of the pool in the wet suit, running around the pool and getting into my bike shoes, helmet and running with the bike. I did practice the run with the bike in my bike shoes before the race, but it was not enough to get me fast through T1.
  • For the bike leg I will be getting a better fit on the bike - I already scheduled appointment for Monday. I'm also expecting a new aero bike helmet early next week so I will have at least one long ride with it next Saturday. That should help during the race. And also more time on the bike will help me get even better speed especially for the hills. I'm not a very good climber.
  • T2 - few practice drills may help to get few seconds off of my time, but this is really not such a big deal.
  • Run - I wish I had more time to work on the speed, but that is not the case. For few weeks now I have tried to stay within the recommended pace for each run as the FIRST running program dictates it. But my tri-training plan does not have 3 weekly runs every week so I'm not 100% following the FIRST plan. I adopted the pacing recommendations for my runs and I try to stay as close to the recommended pace as possible. I can see some speed gain already - e.g. my 10k time during tri race being better than my 10k time in February. But the speed gain is not enough to help me move up in the run placement. I may also look into my race pacing plan for the run leg and be little more aggressive in my pacing than during the Steelman. I may have been a little conservative not knowing what my legs will feel like during the race. This is definitely an area that I will work on in the next months.

Thanks to doing Steelman I now know what are my weak spots. Before then I was only guessing. Now I know that next year is going to be mostly about running speed and swimming.

August 13, 2007

Steelman 07 photos

Today I spent some time after work browsing the huge collection of photos from Steelman Olympic race to find the following three nuggets. You need to click the link to see the photo. I ordered some prints, but unfortunately the company does not offer original digital images which would be my preference.

August 12, 2007

Steelman official finish 2:36:45

It's 4 a.m. and my watch alarm goes off. OK here we go - Steelman time. The morning prep was quite regular so I'll not bore you with how I made myself a coffee and breakfast. I left the house about 40 minutes later so I can get to the Steelman site and get a good spot on the rack. When I got to the park Nockamixon the place was already buzzing with activity. I had enough time to get my markings, get the bike and transition setup. During the setup the race director announced that the water temperature is 80 degrees and the wet suits are not legal. Anyways since this was my first race I decided to wear wet suit as the distance to the furthest buoy seemed quite long and I knew I'll not win or even place in my age group.

When I was setting up the transition I kept looking for my cell phone. It was like a mystery. I heard it ringing in my backpack on the way out of the house so it was there, but I was searching all the pockets and places and did not find it. Oh well I'll find it after the race and then meet up with the folks from Nike+ site that are also racing here.

At 6:50 I lined-up for the practice swim and the water was really warm. I was debating whether I should swim in the wet suit in such warm water, but then decided to keep it on and play it safe. After the practice swim we left water, walked over the mat and got ready for the start. After few minutes of waiting we heard the gun and off we went to the lake. I started the swim pretty fast and I think I took off too fast. After the first long stretch I was very tired and had another almost kilometer to swim. Oh well I said and changed my swim style to breast stroke and later to backstroke. I was going between the three styles for the rest of the swim, but mostly I did the breast stroke which is not very fast. I got through the swim and my time was not the best - 30 minutes to be exact. Even though it was not great I was still on pace to make my target time.

Getting out of the water was fun - the exit was slippery and thanks to the race volunteers for helping us out. Short run in wet-suit (yeah already warm from the water and now I run it this) to my bike stand. My T1 time was quite good considering I had to get out of the wet-suit and had to run the whole distance of the transition area with the bike. The 35-39 age group rack were the furthest from the bike exit - I guess we are supposed to be strong ;-). I hopped on the bike and got ready for that nasty hill that leads out of the park. It is bad even when you don't swim 1500m before trying to get up. It was quite bad, but I stayed seated the whole way up and got little break once I got on the main road. The bike ride was pretty uneventful except I had to stop before finishing the first loop (out of two) for little bio break. I lost few minutes due to that, but it was a good decision given that I still had some 15 miles to ride and then the run. I finished the bike in 1 hour 13 minutes and 49 seconds.

Then I ran to the T2 and transitioned to run shoes, grabbed my race belt and hat and off I was to the last leg. There was one surprise when I was getting my running shoes on - I finally found my cell phone. It was stuck in my shoe, so I just threw it on the transition mat and went for the run. Only after leaving the transition area I realized that I forgot the water bottle, but luckily there was enough water on the course. Also after running few hundred meters my race belt came off so I spent about 50 meters putting it back together which was fun and helped me to keep reasonable pace. I'm serious because in the previous bricks I had tendency to run too fast in the beginning and then I had cramps after 2-3 miles. The run was very good and I really enjoyed it although few people passed me, but I passed even more people including fellow olympic distance athletes. It felt good. I saved enough energy to sprint to the finish. And I beat my run PR by few seconds - so I guess my running performance is getting better even when I do all three sports and do not focus solely on running.

After I finished I took full advantage of the services for athletes and loaded up on bananas, grapes, water melon, but I skipped pizza. Did not feel like eating-up the fatty stuff. During the awards ceremony I finally met with the few folks from Nike+ site (first face to face meeting with fellow Nike plusers). And short after that I was heading home to get some shower, real food and some sleep. It was a great race and I am officially hooked. I'm really looking forward to the half ironman in September. It is not that far away - only 4 weeks to be exact. That is less that 30 days of training. I better work on my swimming.

Here is the official time from LinMark site as recorded by my chip for each leg of the race (there seems to be some rounding as I miss 2 seconds somewhere ;-):

Swim: 30:08
T1: 2:12
Bike: 1:13:49
T2: 1:08
Run: 49:30

August 7, 2007

Last few bricks before the race

This week I have few bricks scheduled - actually three - to practice the transitions. That should be fun. I did a long brick on the weekend on the race course and it was a lot of fun. I tried another fueling strategy that convinced me that I should stick with what I know - e.g. PowerBar before the race, then GU every 30 minutes on the bike and run. What I tried was no PowerBar in the beginning and towards the end of the bike I was feeling it. Once I transitioned to the run I took off too fast and then blew-up. I had to slow down and at some point I had to walk for about 2-3 minutes to get my heart rate back to normal. Then I was able to keep going. Another mistake I did was that I did not take any gels with me on the run - just water. I felt it quite a lot. So the bricks are definitely paying off already. I'm learning from mistakes that I would have otherwise did during the race.

Today I was supposed to do a swim, bike brick and I did a nice morning 45 minutes swim in the pool, then I ran around the pool simulating the exit from water and run to the transition area. Practiced taking off my watch, goggles and cap. Then I transitioned onto the bike, but my power meter would not work. So I tried to fix it. This leads me to decision to keep the Polar S625X on the bike for the race and I may take another watch RS800sd for the time keeping and distance on the run. Not ideal solution, but it will cut some time from the transition. I may even not need to take off the watch after the swim. I do not really need a HR from the swim. On the bike I'll have the power on the bike and HRM on RS800 and then on the run I'll get the distance from the RS800. Besides that I can record my R-R during the whole race with maybe exception of swim as the sensor does not work under water. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

August 2, 2007

10 days to first big day - Steelman

It is just about 10 days to my first triathlon. This race is a practice race that I treat as a training, but I'm already getting excited about it. Just today I started putting together a list of things I need to take with me to the race. It is a big change from running - for running all you need is shoes, good running clothes, race number, water belt and some energy bars or gels and you are good to go even for the big long races. For triathlon it seems to be a little more things. Here is my list so far:

Overall for the race
- Polar watch
- HRM belt
- RoadID
- gallon of water
- towel
- transition mat
- ankle belt for time chip
- electrical tape
- black marker
- race numbers (bike / run)
- Powerbar bar 2x
- PowerBar recovery drink 1x
- triathlon membership card
- drivers license
- money
- credit card
- backpack for all the stuff
- post-race clothes - shirt, shorts, underwear, socks
- orange jacket for case of rain
- race instructions
- toilet paper
- 4x tissue
- transition stall marker - baloon?

- swimming cap
- wetsuit
- swim goggles
- spare swim goggles
- ear plugs
- trash bag for wetsuit and wet clothes

- bike (with 2x bottle, bento box, pump, spare tube, tools on the bike)
- bike shoes
- helmet
- sunglasses
- energy gels (2-3 for sprint & international, 7 for HIM)
- white socks
- water bottles for bike 2x - filled up
- large bike pump

- running shoes
- running hat
- fuel belt / water bottle - filed up
- energy gels (1-2 for sprint & international, 5 for HIM)
- running belt - put energy gels to the running belt

I'm sure there are things I will not need and maybe few things are missing. I hope nothing important is missing, if it is I better figure that out before the race.

So I have one more week of training, few bricks and I should be ready to race the international distance triathlon. It will be certainly a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it. I do not shoot for any specific time. I really want to use the race to gain experience for the half iron race in September. There are few unknowns - swim for starters, I do not know how bad it will be swimming with many other people, transitions especially the first one is something that worries me a bit and I really did not do a complete set of swim, bike, run so I'm not sure how my body will take it. I think I can do this in under 2:45 and if I'm doing good I can get it done in 2:30. We shall see soon.

July 25, 2007

One year anniversary

OK so today it is exactly 1 year since my first run. I already posted a long description of how I got here so today I'll just throw in some numbers and key statistics:

  • I'm 45 pounds (20 kg) lighter now
  • I have run over 1300 miles (approx. 2100 km)
  • I have run through 3 pairs of shoes (and I'm like mid way through on another two pairs)
  • I have covered over 800 miles (1300 km) on the bike since May
  • I have swam over 10mi (16km) since May
  • Went from jeans size 38/32 to 31/32
  • Went from shirt size XL to M
  • My wardrobe got significantly smaller as I have not yet replaced all the clothes - oh anyone interested in size 38 jeans?
  • Feeling great every day - even when I travel and sit through the meetings (well I get cranky during the taper before the races as I miss pounding my body for at least an hour every day)
  • I do not mind getting up at 4:30 to get my run, bike ride or swim in before I have to strart working (most of the days I can sleep in and get up at 5:30).
  • Here are the personal best that I achieved during the past year:

    • 5km - 22:35
    • 10km - 49:44
    • 10mi - 1:24:27 (not really a race I took it very easy as long run)
    • 13.1mi - 1:49:22

I'm really looking forward to keeping this up and improving my PRs and adding the triathlon PRs to this list later this year. Season is not over yet.

July 24, 2007

Tools of the trade

I just realized that I did not share a picture of my bike here. So to correct this omission here is the picture.

It is a Specialized Transition S-Works frame from 2006 with Mavic wheels and Ultegra components, Profile Design T2+ tri bars and yes it is fast on the road. I took it this past weekend for a long ride of 3 hours and covered over 60 miles averaging 20.3 miles per hour. Only if I can fine tune the engine even more and get to 21-22 mph range...

July 8, 2007

Week 4 complete, 9 more to go

This past week was quite good - it was the short R&R week. I had only two short 45 minutes swims, few runs, some biking and first official brick of 2 hours (more about that later). To make my training more interesting I started to follow the 3plus2 FIRST program that makes all 3 runs in the week quite challenging. One run is intervals on track or treadmill, second run is tempo run and third one is a long run. It sounds quite OK and almost the same as my previous program, until you look at the pace that the program prescribes based on 5k finish time. I had to get my intervals pace up by almost 1 minute per mile, tempo runs by about 45 second per mile and long runs by about 20 seconds per mile. Yeah it is challenging, but it is also a lot of fun. My runs started to get little repetitive so this is a welcome change.

Swimming has been going quite well and I did two swims without the wetsuit which is much, much, much harder than in the wetsuit. I also finally found good ear plugs that do not leak and I do not lose them. So I'm quite happy swimmer. Will see how much better I can get by doing drills and focusing on being fluid in the water. I'm no master swimmer, but my freestyle at least resembles a real freestyle and I can keep going the whole 60 minutes which should carry me through the Half Iron swim quite ok.

Biking is getting really good - I had to replace tires on the bike and I went with the recommendation of my store and bought 700x23c tires instead of the 700x20c. Wow what a difference - I do not feel avery single stone as I did before and the tires held well during the entire bike ride on the weekend. When I replaced the tire I blew up last week I saw a big cut through the whole tire (not only stem) and realized that whatever I ran over while doing 50 miles was very, very sharp. Every time I ride that hill I keep closer to the road to avid repeating that experience. This weekend I did a long brick with few guys from around Quakertown. I really enjoyed the ride in the group - it was much more fun to chat with people while riding than to ride by myself.

Oh and the fueling on the bike went well. This Saturday I downed one PowerBar before the ride and then had one gel every 40-45 minutes. I bought another bottle holder and hydrated the whole ride. This carried me just fine through the whole 90 minutes on the bike and over 40 minutes of running.

So there are another few weeks before the first race - Lehigh Valley Steelman Olympic. That should be fun race and a good introduction to the sport for me. The venue is really nice and there are only few hills. None that I would call nasty so it should be fairly manageable race. The Half Iron will use different route around the lake and it will have more hills - one of them is pretty steep and we will have to do it three times. I know I can do it twice and I guess next weekend I'll see if I can do it three times. I have 2.5 hours to figure that out.

If you are from around Quakertown, give me a haul and we can meet-up for the ride.

June 23, 2007

Finishing week 2 of the Half Ironman training

This is the second week of the official 13 weeks half Ironman training I started as preparation for my race in September. Last 2 weeks were fairly easy - about 8-10 hours of training and it consisted of three sessions in each sport with Monday as free day.

The runs were extremely easy so I extended them by 15-30 minutes each and also increased the intensity. My swimming is getting much better - I can keep going for an entire hour with very minimal breaks and my breathing is where it should be - three strokes at a time and breathing on alternative sides. I'm really proud of the improvement - I think the tri specific wetsuit is helping a lot. I hope I can use it during the races. I keep doing swim drills with not much focus on speed, just as suggested in most books for beginning triathletes. And bike - yeah bike is getting good as well. I started biking even before my half marathon in April and it really helped me improve my running and my bike specific strength is getting better as well. According to power meter and tracking software I'm improving and I just moved out of the untrained category to cat 5 which is not great, but it is a progress. In the past two weeks I did most workouts on the bike trainer, I guess that near miss with the car scared me enough plus the bike trainer is very convenient I can ride in the evening when everyone is in the bed. Each of my bike sessions was between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. Today I decided to go out and test ride the road around lake Nockamixon where my two races will be held. I got up very early and got to the lake before 7am. It was very beautiful morning and the ride was very enjoyable. I was not sure what to expect as I was unable to get the route elevation profile on-line. I was very pleasantly surprised - the road is very nice with mostly rolling hills and three larger climbs. The enclosed picture shows the elevation profile (note that it shows the route twice I did two laps) and also shows the speed, heart rate, power and other details. Overall I'm very happy with the ride, I can keep going 19 mph on average for both laps which is little faster than what I estimated I could do. Now I need to keep training so I can get the route done three times and see how I feel then.

There was only one issue today and that was the fueling. I had reasonably small breakfast - coffee and some pastry. It was not too light or too heavy, just right for the ride. I took two packs of GU and plenty of water with me. After the first lap I downed the GU and some water. I kept drinking water the whole ride before and after I had the GU. For some reason after the second lap I was feeling very tired and dizzy - similar to my feeling during the half marathon when I did not hydrate enough. Now I'm puzzled if I just got dehydrated or if I also had low sugar in the blood. When I finished the ride I ate three cereal bars and it felt soooooo goooood. I need to keep trying different fueling strategies and read some recommendations. If you have proven fueling strategy for 2-3 hours bike ride after which you will run half marathon let me know. I'm looking for anything that works - I have only 11 weeks to fine tune the refueling.

June 19, 2007

How I got here - 1250+ miles later

OK this may be little ahead of my one year Nike+ anniversary, but I think it is time to share my story with the rest of the world. It may inspire some new runners and show them how far they can get in a year if they stick with the program.

It has been almost one year since I embarked on a new life challenge - I started running. I learned about the Nike+ sensor and Nike+ shoes on Apple website few months before they released the equipment. I debated for a long time if it makes sense to invest money in new iPod (I did not own Nano), new shoes and new sensor. In retrospective it was the best investment of my life. I got my new shiny iPod nano, ordered Nike+ shoes on and bought the Nike+ sensor on - to spread the cash somewhat evenly between the companies. When I got all the equipment as the geek in me commanded I played with it for a while, loaded my iPod with tunes that I would run to and got ready for my first real road test.

I did my first run (well we could call that a shuffle) on July 25th as I just verified on my Nike+ log and I walked/ran for little over 1.5 mile. I was so out of shape I could only run for few hundred meters and then I had to take waking break. But I stuck with it.

First weeks were hard - I was barely able to walk/run for 2 miles at a time. And I tried to do it 3 times a week. Good thing that helped me to stay with running was that I was feeling great after each run. And what was really helpful was the Nike+ community - I participated in many challenges, met many great people and it all inspired me to stick with the running. Soon I was able to increase my mileage following recommendations from few running books. I slowly brought my it up from 8 miles a week to some 18-20 miles a week. Oh yeah I overdid it in the beginning and came down with some beginner's injuries like sore back, muscle pain from not stretching enough and some other. I also had many flu like weeks that kept me from running, but once I got better I resumed runnig.

In September I was ready to try my first race - the Bethlehem Celtic Classic 5k (the link goes to this year's website in case you wanted to join in. I'll be there). I was very excited and took off little too fast. At mile 2 I was really tired, my iPod would not cooperate so I resorted to walking to recover. After few hundred meters I resumed running and finished the race at 26:32 which was about 3.5 minutes faster than my expected finish time. Great - so this running thing really works. And yeah I was losing some weight as well - that was the primary reason for me running.

That first race really made me push even harder. I knew I can do better next time. I pushed my mileage to 20 and later to 25 miles a week and was getting ready for my second 5k run - Bethlehem Turkey Trot. I was more clever during this run and I saved energy and did not push my engine to red until the last few hundred meters. I kept pretty good pace during the whole run and I did quite well. It was a great run and in November I was proud owner of new PR of 24:55. I knew I'm ready to try longer distances. The Thanksgiving race was the last one of the 2006 season, but I signed up for the 10k run in February 2007.

For my February race I was determined to do at least as well as I did in the 5k runs. So I took very scientific approach to my training. I read every single running books I can lay my hands on and studied training from different authorities. Then I designed initial training plan on and religiously followed the plan. I also read more about the body physiology, heart rate zones and heart rate training. In my new plan I was focusing on strict hard/easy days approach and over the time I raised my weekly mileage to 30 miles. I also started to do some speed work to push my speed from the 9-10 minutes/mile pace to something better.

On 4th of February I was ready to race the 10k and I was determined to do well (my stated goal was to finish under 55 minutes, but I secretly hoped for sub-50 minutes run). There was one problem though - that day was very cold and the cold was made even worse by strong wind. The race was moved from trail (that was completely snowed in) to road that had some snow and ice patches. Even under these conditions I ran vary good race - I finished few seconds shy of 50 minutes and accomplished my secret goal. I was really proud - this is still my standing 10k PR - I did not run any other 10k races since. But I plan to return back to this one in February and beat my time.

Next in my running quest was to do a little longer race. I did not want to punish my body with a full marathon, plus I would hardly find enough time to train for full marathon so I signed up for Lehigh Valley Half Marathon at the end of April. This was the big one I wanted to conquer. When I signed up I stated that my expected finish time is 2:15:00 which at the time seemed quite reasonable. Since Nikerunning provided such a great support for me I turned there again and got my training plan that included 6 days of running each week building the mileage from 23 miles up to over 40 miles a week. I travel a lot for my work, but I was able to follow the plan (if I missed a workout it would be maximum of 2-3 workouts in the whole time - yeah I'm quite determined to do good in this). It is funny how priorities change - once I started running seriously I look for opportunities to squeeze run into my schedule - I do not mind waking up at 5 am to get my run completed before I head out to work or if I can not do morning I hop on the treadmill in the evening and run. Even when I travel I select hotels with treadmill or nice runner friendly environment.

In late February I had some IT band issues from too much running on the roads - which have tilt that is not good for the knees. I could not stop training for more than few days and my knees really needed softer surface to run on. I bought a Bodyguard treadmill and did most of my runs on the treadmill in front of the TV (not very exciting I must admit, but I wanted to be ready for the half). It was exciting to see how my body responded to the increased mileage and adjusted. I was very excited to see that I can push beyond 10 miles, 12 miles and then even 15 miles and then still be able to go through the day which sometimes included carrying my son through the mall for few hours or lawn mowing or other mostly household activities. On April 29th I arrived to Allen High School in Allentown ready to run my first half marathon and I wanted to do real well. I aimed to complete the run in under 1:50:00 - you see this is after few weeks of training I pushed my goal finish time by some 25 minutes. I guess that is the result of improved fitness and knowledge that you can do it if you push hard enough. This new goal presented the pace of 8:20 min/mile for 13.1 miles. And so we began - because of my estimated finish time I was assigned to the last corral and started in the very back of the pack. That meant that I had to push quite hard to get ahead and catch up with the 8:20 pace group. As any beginner I made few mistakes in this important race - first two came when I did not stop to get drink at the first and second water station. I was feeling fine and I had to push ahed to catch up with the pace group so I just passed the water stations which was not a good idea. I realized that at about mile 6 when I started to feel little light headed and I knew that the next water station is at least another mile up the road. But by then I had the 8:20 pace group in my sight and I was able to catch up with them and pass them just before the water station. I grabbed two cups of water and drank them, but it was not enough. I had to fight hard to keep the pace till the end of the race which at that point was still about 4 miles ahead. But hey I prevailed and my official finish time is 1:49:30. I'm really proud of that - considering that in July of 2006 I was unable to run the whole mile at a time and few months later I was running half marathon in fairly respectable time for first timer - really proud of myself. After the big run in April I was unable to walk down the stairs for good 4 days and I was only able to resume slow running on day 4 - my legs were so stiff it was impossible to run or even walk very fast.

Earlier this month I was thinking about doing a local 5k run to break the long training streak. I found out that there is one right under my nose and it was the first year the city organized the run so it was very small and I like those local family like events. I did not train much for it, but I thought I could use it to improve my 5k PR. The run was fairly flat with two or three small hills so I pushed prety hard and tried to keep my pace between 7:10 and 7:20 min/mile. I still need to work on pacing as the initial pace was too fast (I think I may have run 6:20 at some point) and later in the race I needed to take a very short walking break. But even with the break I got my new PR of 22:35 which is very nice. Funny story - I also got second best female award (although I'm not female), but I guess my name (Jan) sounds female enough. So I have a nice shiny medal to remind me of this great run.

I think it is in order to rcognize that I would not have been able to accomplish any of this without support of my family and understanding of my wife who is real angel. She, I'm sure, is making sacrifices to let me to go out and run and I try to be a good husband and father in return. So far it seems to work well. I hope we can keep it that way.

My second biggest support group is online - all the wonderful folks on Nike+ site that prepare great challenges and discuss their ups and downs. It is very inspiring to see such a great community. I'm glad that folks at Apple and Nike got together and developed the Nike+ product line. It really changed my life - not even talking about getting in shape (total loss of 45 pounds so far and yeah I'm in the normal BMI again after over 8 years of being either overweight or later in my life obese - yeah the O word).

So what is next you may ask - well I started little cross training few weeks ago and soon I'll be doing my first triathlon. So these days I not only run, but I swim and bike too. This year I'm 35 and I want to finish another half - this time it is half ironman race (1.2mile swim, 56.7 miles bike and 13.1 miles run). Wish me luck. I'll use this site to update you about my progress. My first triathlon is in a few weeks and the half-Iron is in early September. That will leave some time later in the year to work on further improvement of my 5k PR and possibly I can do another 10k race if there is any around here.