Monday, March 23, 2009

"Surprise!, Surprise!" : The Riverwalk 5 Miler

If it wasn't apparent from my race report on the Miami International Triathlon, I was a little bummed at not breaking that 3 hour barrier. My swim and bike times were as expected. I realize I had no right to be down. But, I'm used to being in the top third or quarter of my age group in my road races. I was in the bottom quarter for MIT. It's all a matter of feeling like I showed up and gave an solid effort. My standings just didn't give me that feeling.

Thus, it was in this funk that I signed up for the Riverwalk 5 Miler. I usually will not sign up for an event the weekend immediately preceding a prior event. However, my wife Salome loves this race and had been looking forward to it for months as her return race coming off her long healing foot injury. Given her comeback status, she was going to run the 5K. A number of other friends were also running, so I went with the flow and signed up.

The Riverwalk 5 Mile and 5K Runs are very pretty runs through the Riverwalk area of Ft. Lauderdale and through the shaded streets of Rio Vistsa. The race is put on by the Junior League which always has a nice after race feed with pancakes and OJ. The race also gives out unique watercolor prints of the Riverwalk area as awards.

As we await the start of the 5 Mile race, a light rain starts to fall. A number of us wait for the start under the protection of a parking garage. Just before race time, the rain stops and we head to the start area. I await the start with Triathlete buddy's Tony and Jerry. Tony expects to run 8 to 8:30 miles. I state that I'll go for 7:45s. Jerry, a lean and fit 30 something guy, decides to pace with me. I forget that he doesn't know that I have a bad tendancy to go out too fast my first mile. As the race starts, I do my usual jump out. I get pulled by the faster runners at a pace I know I can't sustain, but off I go.

The course almost immediately goes over a bridge with a now rain slicked grating at the top. We all slow slightly so as to not slip as we cross the bridge. As we head into Rio Vista and come to the first split, I note I'm at 6:48, too fast to maintain. I try to calm myself down and roll back to a sustainable pace. At about the mile and a half mark, Jerry comes by. "Somebody bolted from the start," he says. "Sorry Jerry, I forgot to tell you about my rabbit tendencies," I reply. We pace together for another half mile when I drop pace a little more and let Jerry go ahead.

My mile splits after that were 7:31, 7:39, 7:43 and 7:43, for a total time of 37:28. A PR for me at the 5 mile distance. Jerry ran a 36:15, much faster than he expected. I felt my going out too fast helped him get his good time. Tony comes in around 43 minutes. I find my speedster friend Jen, who ran the 5K. She came in as the 2nd woman overall. Better yet, she broke 20 minutes for the 5K, a goal she has been chasing for a while. Salome comes in from the 5K in just over 30 minutes.

We're hanging around chatting with other runners and friends, when Tony comes up to announce that I took 3rd place in my age group. I'm shocked and amused. Coming in the awards bracket just does not happen to me. Once in a blue moon. To top it off, Salome ends up in the top three for her age group. We both walk away with nice watercolor prints.

It just goes to show you: you never know who is going to show up on race morning and how well you will run that day. I had not hit a PR in any distance since this very race 3 years prior. Nice surprise for my slightly dinged ego from the prior weekend.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Death & Dying...and Being Alive

OK, so this is bit off track (or should it be "off blog"?), but a couple of strange things happened this week. This stuff gets rambling around in my brain until it comes out, like George Carlin's book, as "brain droppings."

First up: From a bicycling newsletter I subscribe to: "An 87-year-old man died in suburban New York after he caught fire while riding his bicycle, reports the New York Post. Authorities say the elderly gent was likely smoking a cigarette that ignited his nylon jacket, engulfing him in flames. A passing motorist used a fire extinguisher but it was too late."

I don't know too many people that exercise and are dumb enough to smoke. At 87 years old, the guy lived a full life; but, wow, what a way to go. I can just imagine the guy riding along, thinking: “A smoke would make this ride more enjoyable.” He takes out his cigarette. Lights it. Whoosh, he’s engulfed in flames. I don’t know if that’s biking karma or simply dumb luck. Maybe that’s what karma is. The consequential results of the good and bad things we do in life that come back to either reward us for our good acts, or bite us in the ass for bad acts. The ironic thing here is the guy was doing a good act in exercising, but the bad act of smoking trumped the good he was doing, in a very colorful and lethal way.

Next: Natasha Richardson dying due to hitting her head on a beginners slope while taking a ski lesson. It makes you realize how fragile life is and how easy it is to have it all be over. This tragic death is like the way the HBO series Six Feet Under made you realize how easy it is to die by showing you yet another unexpected way to go at the opening of each episode. You mean you can die from a small hit to the head while on a beginner ski slope? Yes you can.

OK, a show of hands. How many of you used ski helmets before now? I never did, and I’ve done some crazy double black diamond runs, mogul runs and glades tree runs (the Burn at Snowmass anyone?...Bueller?... Bueller?). OK, now, how many of you will always use a helmet now? That better be everyone. I mean, when an easy fall on a beginner slope in a ski lesson can result in death within 24 hours, what chance do the rest of us have? I thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had a serious incident in the 20 plus years I’ve been skiing.

It reminded me of a ski trip several years back. A bunch of us were night skiing at Key Stone. I was skiing with a buddy of mine, Tommy. Tommy was kind of a funny skier in that he didn’t like to make turns. The dude just pointed his skis downhill and accelerated until he got to the bottom of a run. I was always a little concerned about his control and made sure to give him a wide birth while skiing with him.

In any event, we are at the top of a run. The lighting is not the best at night, particularly near the edges of the run, next to the tree line. Of course, with a day full of skiing, that’s were the better, less skied snow still lay. I had checked out the snow along the edges on a prior run and told Tommy to follow me down the edge. We tore down the slope, at high speed, very close to that tree line. One mistake and we were goners. I knew that; Tommy knew that; but we didn’t care. We tore that run up from the top of Keystone Mountain all the way to the gondola. At the bottom of the mountain, we turned to each other and laughed hard. We knew we were playing with possible death being so close to the tree line in the dark. But, it was a glorious run. I know, a stupid guy thing. I’m probably lucky to be alive and, yes, I will not be doing that again. We both knew it at the time. We were f-ing with death and laughed it in the face.

A couple of years ago, Tommy came down with liver cancer. It’s not a cancer that has a good survival rate. In a little over a year, Tommy was dead. We all hope that faced with a near certain death, that we would buck up, live our last days well, and appreciate are friends and family. Tommy did not do this. He was a "death-metal' guy and didn’t take his death sentence well. He became bitter and depressed. I felt bad that he chose to deal with his situation the way that he did. I would hope that I would handle the situation differently, but you can’t judge anyone’s approach to their final days. Thus, my memory of Tommy’s last days was sadness. Sadness that he couldn’t find peace and acceptance of his end. Sadness too, that I pulled away somewhat because I couldn’t deal with watching him be bitter and depressed at the end.

Natasha Richardson’s tragic death caused me to remember that crazy time with Tommy doing a stupid run way too fast at night way too close to the tree line. It reminded me of our laughs and knowing grins at each other that we had done a stupid, death defying guy thing, and that we were brothers in the way that all guys doing stupid guy things are brothers. It reminded me of Tommy the way he was before death and dying changed him.

That memory of one of our good times together brought Tommy back to me. I moved through the memory of the sad, angry and depressed Tommy, back to the fun loving guy I had know and considered a good friend. Joseph Campbell expressed a philosophy that those family and friends of ours that have died, are not truly gone so long as we remember them. We know how they thought and felt. You can guess what they would say and advise you if they were still alive. You don’t have to believe in an afterlife or heaven forbid, communication with them. But, we do communicate with their essence. They can remain in our hearts and minds. We keep them alive, at least for us.

As my memory of Tommy in his final days blocked out the good times we had together, he was dead to me. With that night time ski run brought back to me, my thought was: Tommy’s not dead. It was like it happened yesterday. He was so real and alive in my recall of that moment, that laugh, that smile, that he was alive to me again. Call me a little nuts, but I got my friend back yesterday.

So, remember your friends and loved one that have gone before you. Keep their memories alive. Keep them in your hearts. Of course, cherish your loved ones and friends that are still here. We never know how much time we have left with each other. And put on those ski helmets....and bike helmets too, for that matter. And remember: smoking kills. Some times in the strangest of ways.

Tomorrow, I run the Riverwalk 5 Mile Run. It's put on by the Junior League, which puts on an amazing after race feed. Strawberry pancakes with cream anyone? I'll be thinking of my buddy Tommy while I run. I'll also think about my brother Jim, who passed away years ago. He got me into this whole running/biking thing years ago. Every time I do an endurance event, it reminds me of how good it is to be alive. I'll think of that too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Miami International Triathon

The Miami International Triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon, was held this weekend. Injured co-blogster John and buddy Tony came down for the expo as moral support and for goodie shopping. It was a nice expo. I picked up a new tri outfit to start off the new season. After the expo, we went to Monty's on South Beach for lunch by the pool. Tony asks me what I expect to do the tri in. Not having done an Olympic distance before, I tell him I expect about 35 to 40 minutes in the swim, probably 1:25 on the bike and 50 minutes in the run. He advised I try to hit just under 3 hours. It sounded like a realistic goal, but I had no real plans or expectations for this first triathlon of the season. I'm kind of looking at it as spring training in baseball. I just want to get out there and get the kinks out.

That night, I had to cut out early from my son John's high school's fund raiser so that I could get home early to bed. Fortunately, we were able to find some friends to drive my wife Salome home, so she can enjoy a full evening of schmoozing. I returned home, did the final packing of my tri bag, and hit the sack.

I awake at 4AM Sunday morning and was out the door by 4:30 AM. After parking and setting up my transition area, I meet up with buddy Keith for a few minutes. We discuss at what point Keith, who is good at all three disciplines, will pass me in the event. I guess that if he doesn't catch me in the water (he's three waves in back of me) that he will pass me early on the bike course.

After getting on my wet suit, I go down to the water and do a warm up swim. The water is pretty calm and I feel pretty good swimming out a couple hundred yards and back. After that, I await the start of the pros. Its a small group, probably 20 between both sexes, but these are top notch athletes. Its interesting to watch how quickly these people move through the water.

Before I know it, it's time to get into the start corral. With my last birthday, I move into the 50 and older category. Hey, what am I doing with all these old guys? I don't feel like I belong in this group of grizzled veterans. These guys have been doing these events for years and I only started doing triathlons last year. And why do the race directors always give the oldest group grey swim caps? Isn't it bad enough that most of these guys have grey hair? I feel like I'm racing against my dad or grandfather.

Not to worry, most of the old dudes leave me in their wake as the swim starts. I drift to the back quarter of the group where I'm a little insulted to see a couple of guys doing the breast stroke and side stroke. OK, so the swim is still not my strong suit. I put my head down and work on getting a good rhythm going. About half way through the 9/10ths of a mile swim, the fastest of the next wave of swimmers (women 39 & under) start to catch and pass me. As I make my final approach to the shore the fastest of the second wave back (males 20 t0 29) starts to mingle in with us. Although this is a little disheartening, I come out of the water in 35 minutes. About what I expected.

I'm into transition and between getting the wet suit off and putting socks on, I burn 5 minutes in transition. Next time, I think I'll go back to being sockless. I think I could have saved a couple of minutes. I put my goo into my tri shirt pocket and head to the bike exit. I mount and I'm off. Once started, I reach for my goo to find that it has fallen out of the pocket. Oh well, that's what I get for using a new top without trying it out in training.

The bike portion starts with a climb up and back over the main bridge of the Rickenbacker causeway, a steep climb that causes me to go to the largest gear and get out the saddle to finish through the top. The ride down at 30+ mph is sweet, except for the fact that I've got to turn around almost immediately to re-climb the bridge. The portion of the course heading out in an easterly direction is into the wind. My speed drops to the 15 to 16 mph level. However, I am overtaking some of those that passed my in the water. Meanwhile, I'm getting passed by the "Cerveloton" (those experienced triathletes on Cervelo tri bikes with Zip wheels). Fortunately, my speed increases to the 22 to 25 mph range on the return portion of the causeway.

In crossing the smaller bridge of the causeway, I have a front derailleur mishap in going to the smaller crank ring. The chain jumps the bracket and I have to stop to fix the chain. I probably burn 2 to 2 and a half minutes with this fix. "At least its not a flat," I think.

I keep passing and being passed by the same 5 to 6 riders going at around my pace. I don't know where or when it happened, but I later learn I got tagged with a 2 minute penalty. I'm not sure where this happened as I try very hard not to draft or violate the 3 bike links rule. However, the bike is the most likely place to receive a penalty, so I assume it was a bike length violation.

My transition in T2 at 2 minutes is much better than T1. I make sure to locate my second goo and down it in transition. There is no way I'm going to lose both goos. I down it, take a squirt form my water bottle and head out for the run.

The run course is on a trail covered by a canopy of trees. The surface is a little tricky for footing, but the shade is welcome. Buddy John had warned me about watching the footing as there are roots and other rough spots on the run course. He mentioned that they spray paint roots with orange paint. Sure enough, there are several stray root crawlers marked. Its an out and back 2 loop course. I expect to run across buddy Kieth, but never see him. I late learn he did a 2:18 overall and was probably just finishing the run as I started it.

As I come from a running tradition, I use the run to reel in competitors and try to improve my overall standings. At the expo, we had spotted a group of girls wearing tops with cupcake logos on them. I assume they were a tri club. As I see these girls on the other portion of the out and back, I yell "Go cupcakes." On my return portion of the first lap I come across a one legged competitor doing the run on crutches. The guy is moving along at a pretty good clip. Everyone cheers the guy on.

On the return portion of my second lap, a guy just in front of me stumbles on a root or some other obstacle. He is half way to the dirt trail before he can react. I think the guy is going to get majorly banged up and slow up to not get caught up in his spill. Unable to catch himself, the guy, who was over 6 feet tall, saves himself by tumbling head over heal. He has thus avoided any real injury. I ask him if he's OK and if I can help him up. "No," he says, "I'm fine." "Wow," I think, that could have been very ugly."

I come in from the run in 55 minutes, about 5 minutes slower than what I had hoped to achieve. I cross the finish in 3:04. With the 2 minute penalty, my final time is 3:06. While I was not shooting for the time goal, I was a little let down about not breaking 3 hours. On the bright side, I figure I could shave a couple of minutes off T1 by going sockless and a couple more minutes would have been saved if I didn't have the mechanical issue on the bike. As for the penalty, I'll be more careful on the bike lengths. With a little luck and more training, I should break that 3 hours at St. Anthony's in late April.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

High Anxiety!

So, with the Miami International Triathlon, an Olympic distance tri, coming up this Sunday, I started to get anxious yesterday. I just got back in the pool a week ago, all but one of my buddies has dropped out of the event, and I haven't done a triathlon since November. So, by Monday afternoon, I'm getting a little anxious. Should I even be doing a triathlon yet? Am I ready to swim an Olympic distance swim?

"OK, calm down," I tell myself. "You just did an Olympic bike/run brick on Saturday." "Yes, but I was a slug on Sunday as a result. Perhaps my energy levels aren't where they need to be." "Yeah, but you were also fighting a little virus and are coming off 2 consecutive half marathon weekends."

I arrange to meet buddy Jacques for a Tuesday morning swim session. Jacques decides to swim for 20 minutes. I decide on a 40 minute swim. As the workout progresses, I feel better about my swim stroke. I do not fatigue in the water. "Alright," I tell myself, "I'm going to be fine in the water." I've decided that the nervousness is partially just getting that first triathlon of the season out of the way. I'll be better for doing MIT come the St. Anthony's Triathlon on April 26th. All my buddies who skipped MIT will be feeling that "first tri of the season" angst at St. Anthony's. I'll have it out of the way. And besides, a little nervous energy is good for you.

So, its taper time. I'll do one more 4 to 5 mile training run, perhaps a 20 minute pool session on Thursday, and a 10 mile bike ride on Friday morning. Then, its down to Miami for the expo and bike drop off on Saturday. Sunday morning: it's go time. Bring it on!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Brick Workout & Iron Carrie

I got together this morning with triathlete and fast bicyclist Tony for an Olympic bike/run brick. I would typically do this brick as a buddy ride/run at whatever pace the slower guy wanted. Tony decided that since he is quicker on the bike and I'm the faster runner, that we should go out at our own pace and see what happens.

Tony gets his expected lead coming off the bike. However, coming off 2 consecutive weekends of half marathon events, I do not have the energy in my legs to run the 6.2 in my usual 50 minutes. I get smoked by over 5 minutes overall. Tony's half marathon training has made him a better runner. Way to go Tony. In spite of his good workout, Tony declines my invitation to join me for next weekend's Olympic tri in Miami. Me, I got talked into registering for this early season Olympic tri by a couple of buddies that have since dropped out with injuries. It's amazing what some people will do to avoid an event.

Meanwhile, our friend Carrie, being made of tougher stuff, completed her first IM today in New Zealand. The amazing thing about the feat is that she gashed and likely broke a toe coming out of the water from the swim portion. Carrie was not to be denied. She had her toe wrapped and continued on her way. She had the toe re-wrapped at some point and completed the event. She makes us all proud to know her. Her splits were as follows: Swim 1:52, Bike 7:12, Run 6:42. Total 16:42. John & I can only hope we have as much determination as Carrie to finish our IM in November. Way to go Carrie! We eagerly await hearing her tell us about her race experience.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Wet Myself...Again

No, not that way! I got back in the pool again this morning for the first time since last November's Half Ironman. Swimming, being my weakest tri event, does not get the attention it deserves. With no tri events over the winter, I totally neglected swim workouts for the last three months. However, with an Olympic tri scheduled for March 15th, it was time to swim again.

I arrange to meet my friend Jacques at a local pool at 8 AM after dropping my 9 year old son, Alex off at school. Before Jacques arrives, I dip my toe into the pool to verify that the pool is heated. Jacques arrives and we get in the pool. With neither of us having done a swim workout since November, we wonder how our endurance will hold up. We agree to swim for 20 minutes.

As I start swimming, my arthritic right shoulder feels stiff and painful. The damage to the shoulder is a result of a skiing fall in my 30s that has now degraded into a stiff joint. The swimming I was doing for triathlons last year did the shoulder a lot of good. I had less stiffness and a better range of motion the more I swam. My shoulder let's me know it's been a while since I've done repeated full arm rotations. Ouch! Can I do this? Will I be forced to roll back to doing duathlons?

As I get a few more laps in, the shoulder starts to loosen up and the ache subsides. I start to remember being in "the zone" in the pool from last fall. I find my rhythm. I start to focus on better breathing technique and my body roll. Oh, good! It's like riding a bike. It all comes back pretty quickly. As we get to the 20 minute mark, Jacques asks whether I'm ready to stop. "No," I reply, "Let's keep going and make it 30 minutes."

We finish the 30 minutes and climb out of the pool. By the time I drive back home and step into the shower, I've got a buzz from having my shoulder and chest muscles pumped up from swimming. I feel great. I can't wait for the next pool workout. I want to get wet again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Road to Recovery

Below is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent this past weekend to one of my training buddies. I post this to inform others of the correct, but often difficult steps that need to be taken in order to properly recover from a serious, chronic, or recurring injury. I can assure you that I am one of the most stubborn athletes around that regularly carries on training in a total state of denial without regard to injuries that need looking after. Well, that has changed. I most likely delayed my recovery and return to training by ignoring the severity of my injury for two weeks as a result of not getting the proper evaluation on a timely basis. Oh well --- life lesson learned. That will not happen again. The good news is that I'm back on the road to recovery with the hope of, as Willie Nelson sang, getting back "On the Road Again" ---- yes, just can't wait to get back on the road again!

The recovery/rehab is going very well. I had my first two physical therapy sessions this week and feel really good about how much this is going to help accelerate my recovery -- in a smart and safe way.

When I had my second session on Thursday, they put me on the stationary bike for an 8 minute "ride". This was truly the highlight of my day and definitely was a turning point in now knowing that I'm really on the road to a full recovery. I didn't have a heart rate monitor on but it sure felt nice to get the heart pumping again during what was my first cardio exercise in almost 4 weeks.

The therapy is kind of cool with an ultra-sound treatment (to align the muscle cells for proper healing) to start, followed by a great calf and ankle massage (to promote blood flow and circulation), to the series of 7 exercises that I also do twice a day at home on my own (for strength and flexibility re-building), to an electric stimulation treatment (to promote muscle healing activity) while simultaneously being iced down. As I mentioned, in the 2nd session they added in the stationary bike. Perhaps they'll move on to the treadmill for some easy walking at the next session.

Yesterday, with the physical therapist's approval, I jumped in the pool where I live and swam for about 20 - 30 minutes. That also felt real good.

I'm still hoping for a return to participating in events with St. Anthony's on April 26. I have a few more weeks to go before I'll know if that's feasible and smart but for now, I'm going to keep up with the physical therapy, strengthening exercises and I'll continue to get back in the pool and work on my swimming. We'll see what happens from there but I'm now beginning to see light at the end of this "injury tunnel". And I almost forgot, I'm also hoping to still participate in the MS 150 although I'm sure it will be more of an easy cruise for me or possibly even just a one-way ride. We'll see.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Running Stupid: The Tampa Half Marathon

What do you do when you unexpectedly get a good race result? Sign up for another race the following weekend and try to do it again. The problem with that idea is that karma will surely throw roadblocks in your way. Or, as my friend Tracey, a psychologist, wrote on my Facebook page when she found out I was planning to do a second half marathon in consecutive weekends: "You're NUTS!" I'm sure she says that to all of her clients.

I traveled from Ft. Lauderdale to Clearwater on Friday to visit family. A running friend from Chicago, Linda, was in town to visit her Cousin and his wife. I had told her that the races compromising the Gasparilla Distance Classic (a 15K, Half Marathon and Marathon) were nice races because they all incorporated long stretches of waterfront along Bay Shore Drive just west of downtown Tampa. Linda was looking for a winter event to get away from the cold and snow covered streets of Chicago. She had pre-registered for the half marathon. My brother Dave & I decided to late register, not knowing whether our schedules would permit us to run. However, come Saturday, Dave & I committed to the race. I decide to run in part due to my unexpectedly good performance at the A1a Half Marathon the weekend before, a 1:41 result out of nowhere. I thought that perhaps it was possible for me to go below 1:40 for the first time in several years.

I had arranged to pick Linda up from her cousin's house at 4:15AM. My brother was to meet us a 4:30 AM sharp at my sister's house in Clearwater for the 45 minute drive to downtown Tampa. I wake at 3:45 AM, get out the door by 4:05 AM, and am back at my sister's house at 4:30 AM as planned. When I arrive: no Dave. I call him. He tells me he's on his way. I figure he's almost at our meeting point. We wait some more. I try re-dialing, but Dave's not picking up his cell phone. He finally shows up at about 4:50 AM. Dave explains that he couldn't find his running shorts he intended to wear and had to look all over to find them.

The delay made a big difference in trying to park. By the time we get to downtown Tampa with various streets closed for the marathon, all traffic is funneled onto one main street. After creeping along for 15 minutes, I tell Dave and Linda to leave me and get to the start area. I would park the car and try to find them at the start. It takes me about another 15 minutes to get parked. I start to jog to the start area and come across a set of 3 port-o-potties with lines about 6 people deep and decide I'd better use these facilities while I can. By the time I am second in line to use the potty, I hear the sound of the singing of the national anthem from the speakers at the starting line. "Not good," I think. Once the song is over, the race officials will start the race.

I quickly take care of business in the port-o-potty and jog over to the start area. The start area is on a two lane side street filled with runners. While I can see the starting line banner, there are several thousand people between me and the starting line. I try to work my way through the crowd before I note that the crowd is moving slowly forward, which means the race has started. Sure enough, everyone starts that slow in place jog we all do as we approach the starting mat. As I cross the starting line, I hear the race announcer state, "We are now 2 and a half minutes into the race." I realize I am way back in the field with slower runners, fun runners and walkers.

For the first 3 miles of the race, I'm spending extra effort and energy going left and right trying to find gaps in groups of runners doing 11 minute plus miles. My propensity is to go out fast in a 7:30 pace. I'm forced to take cuts where I can find them, surge through gaps between runners were I can, then slow down and look for anther gap. I pass my first pace group leader in the first mile. His sign reads "5:30," as in a 5 hour 30 minute marathon pace group leader. I groan. I'm in real trouble. At about the mile mark, we hit a narrow bridge leading from downtown Tampa over to Davis Island. The bottleneck forces me to an almost complete stop. There are no gaps between runners over this bridge, so I'm forced to slow to a 10 minute pace.

After the bridge, the crowd spreads out again over the 2 lane roads and I start the bob and weave, surge and slow up approach to get to a place where the runners are at my pace. At about mile 4, I come across Linda who is running about the pace I should be running. "I would like to strangle my brother with his running shorts," I say to Linda. "There is no way I can run this for a good time now." I realize I've been running like a scared gazelle being chased by a lion. All the cutting, surging and slowing have taken up valuable energy that I would need for a good race time.

I decide to try to calm myself down and run an even pace going forward. My slow first mile was made up in miles 2 through 4 so that my average per mile pace has averaged down to 8:01. OK, I decide, let's see if I can hit a 1:45. Linda is running slightly slower than I, so I pick up my pace slightly and move ahead.

The even strategy seems to work well for the next several miles. Around the 7 and a half mile mark, however, the course turns west along Bay Shore Drive. Unfortunately, winds of about 15 mph are blowing directly into us. This section of the race goes to about the 10 and a half mile mark. Thus, for 3 miles, I feel like a sail filled with wind. My pace slows substantially. At the turn around point, I feel the wind at my back and start picking up my pace to try to even out the time lost on the last 3 miles. The wind is so strong the discarded water cups from the drink stations are blowing down the road past me. I try to chase the cups to keep a faster pace.

At mile 12, race volunteers are passing out Mardi Gras beads. I decide that since my time goals are long gone, I might as well have fun. I take several of the offered beads and put them around my neck for the finish. As I cross the finish line, my watch time is 1:49:09. I get my medal and wait for Linda to cross in 1:52. We mutually complain about the wind and start to shiver in our mylar blankets due to the wind and a light rain that accompanies the passing cold front.

We go inside the Tampa Convention Center to get out of the bad weather. With all the lateral motion and surging in the first 4 miles, my left calf is feeling sore. I decide to pony up the $10 for a leg message to ward off any creeping soreness in the calf. As I come out of the message room, I get a call from brother Dave who finished in 2:07. He has made his way to the convention center also and we all meet back up. I decide that I had no reason to expect a fast race the week after a previous race and probably would not have run a sub 1:40 with the wind conditions. Thus, I decide to not mention my troubles at the race start to my brother. All is forgiven. We go back to the car, change and head out for breakfast.

Dave, Linda & Bill in sweaty mylar wraps.

My lesson learned is to appreciate a good result by itself. Don't push your luck by trying to repeat the effort too soon. Having run 3 half marathons in the last 5 weeks, I consider the winter half marathon season officially over. Now, I can switch my focus to the 2 Olympic Triathlons I've committed to for the Spring. Rest assured: they are not on consecutive weekends.