Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday and a 1 day weekend looms

You know who's awesome? David Gray is awesome. If I'm ever in a bad mood all it takes it for "Please Forgive me" or "Babylon" to come on and I'm back in the groove.

I guess he's a moderately sad musical artist in terms of the way his voice/music sounds but I can't help but love it; it really does get me going (on the road to happiness, I mean).

Work is stressful sometimes. Volunteers can be crazy. I wonder what makes some people super nice and congenial and others frustrating a**holes. I don't understand. I'm glad I'm one of the nice ones.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I can't get no satisfaction

Lately I've wondering a lot about what would truly make me a "satisfied" athlete? Yea, I really have been pondering said thoughts because I feel like it's very important in telling you where your goals should be and how high (or low) your expectations ought to be as well.

At what point can I be truly satisfied with where I am in terms of my fitness and/or abilities? I've always had the nearly overwhelming desire to be the best in whatever I'm doing. Note, it's important to notice that I said "the best at whatever..." as opposed to "the best I can be." I think that distinction is very important.

With almost everything, it's realistic to say that a goal such as that one is simply not possible. In no way can I be the best at all of the things I choose to apply myself to; that's asking too much out of even someone as totally bada** as me! Even so, I've always told myself that I had the potential to be as good as I wanted to be; if I really wanted to be that good I could put the time in and try and reach some of those lofty goals. This isn't just limited to sports, of course. I really, really like being good at video games. I'm a huge dork. There, I said it...but it's really true. I enjoy being good at that almost as much as I enjoy being a good athlete (well, that's an exaggeration but it was to make the point).

I don't limit myself to trying to be AMAZING at one or a few things. But I think that as good as that is (is it though?) it can also lead to a lot of frustration. Because, traditionally, I've had a lack of self-discipline when it comes to reaching certain potentials. For example, I never put in the time to get to the "A" level of bike racing. I said I wanted to, I said I'd be at that level one day...but it never happened. I couldn't make the mental leap to putting in all the hours of training. It's tough, but you have to do it if you want to reach that goal.

So, when will I really be satisfied? Who knows. I'm not sure I ever will be truly happy with how fit I am (or how effiiciently I can off someone in Halo) in all honesty. Because at what point would anyone say: "Alright, that's it. I can never be better than I am right now." That would never happen! You can always find ways to improve yourself and your performances. Always.

At least, you (I) can try...

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing

Totally new training plan starting Monday. BIG NEWS! I know, it's hard to hold back the excitement that brims and overflows upon reading that. It's exciting for me though, as this is the first time I've both set out a training plan for myself and have a decent plan for the next 3ish months involving my running.

The goal is to follow the "Maffetone Method" created by Dr Maffetone that basically establishes a set period of aerobic base training in which you create a specific heart rate cap that you absolutely do not exceed in any activity. Going by his "180 formula" which is extremely complicated and convoluted, my "cap" is supposed to be 157 (180-age basically, so complicated). Up until reading his philosophy I had planned to set my cap at 150, but 157 is a little bit more reasonable.

Basically, the way it works is pretty simple: do not go over 157. Ever. You're not supposed to lift weights because technically that is an anaerobic activity and any sort of training that isn't aerobic slows down the buildup of aerobic fitness. So basically when I start this I'll be starting at 25 miles a week going 8:30 pace or slower, increasing my weekly mileage by 5 miles every week for three weeks then tailing back for a week and then start increasing again the next week. So, the goal is to get my mileage up pretty high (60-70) by the end of 3-4 months. Also, because I will have been (hopefully) staying in this aerobic range my aerobic capacity will increase dramatically and I'll be running 7:30 pace or thereabouts in the same range I used to be running 8:30-9 minute pace.

It may not sound like much of an increase, but the ability to run for long periods of time and not have a fast rising HR (with this training your body gains the ability to work the same HR for very long periods of time, as opposed to rising gradually over the length of a run/bike/whatever).

I'm excited about it but also scared. It takes a lot of discipline to run that slowly. It's nice because it feels really easy and you're rarely sore after a run but in a certain sense it's kind of embarassing to run that slow if you're used to running fast(er). Biking won't be as much of a problem because my biking HR is usually at least 10 bpm lower if not more on average.

It'll be interesting (for me at least) to see whether I'm able to stick with it and whether I'll see a lot of gain. Crazy right?! Enthralling, I know.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I was thinking today about my inability to commit. Call me weird, call me crazy, or just call me awesome but not only does that certain talent of mine apply to the ladies (although not in the standard sense) it also applies to my sporting activities.

So I thought I'd combine those two things in one amazing set of paragraphs.

Through my life post-puberty, I've had a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted from a girl. Did I want her to be model hot? Did I want her to be movie-star hot? Did I want her to be really pretty? Well, the short answer was yes...I wanted all of those things. Intelligence doesn't matter at all to me. Just looks. (Sarcasm). The problem for me was figuring out how to 'put myself out there,' if you will. In high school, I thought playing golf would be a big draw. As I drove and putted my way to the heights of golfing skill I thought all of the cute girls watching would be mightly impressed with how well I wielded my clubs. Their reactions would pretty much range anywhere from "Wow, do you know what THAT guy's name is? Because I definitely want that and his number," to "I bet he looks good naked, we should talk to him."

The only problem with these two philosophies (the ONLY one, mind you) was that it always involved the girl coming to me! How against the laws of nature is that? In every boy-girl scenario the main central theme involves something along the lines of "what is the guy going to do to get the girl," but as opposed to my realistic vision of that story it was more like "what great pick-up line will he use or how will he ask her to dance without being awkward or what nice thing will he do that will make her realize he's more than just another guy?'' You know, things like that.

My strategy was flawed from the start.

But what does this have to do with sports? Well, it's simple really. I've never played any meaningful sport for more than four years. I'm not counting pre-high school days because those days were also before I "came of age" so to speak. You can read between the lines. In high school, the sport of the day was golf. I played A LOT of golf for four years, got to be pretty good, and then stopped. Suddenly and immediately. Abruptly and quickly. Crazily and wickedly awesomely. It was epic how suddenly I stopped playing golf, if those previous three sentences didn't convey that truth well enough. I've had a set of really nice golf clubs worth well over $1000 just sitting in various closets for the past 5 years. I just couldn't commit to taking it to the next level.

College brought with it new challenges; one of those being the easiest and fastest way to shave your legs. Cycling was a brand new thing for me, as I had never done any endurance sports before (unless you count golf) and it showed. I was pretty slow at first but over the months and years I got to be a pretty decent cyclist and leg-shaver. I believe my record time was just under 8 minutes with a new razor in the spring of my sophomore year. April 22nd I believe, at about 5:27 in the evening. Not that I keep track of that sort of thing. But again, I couldn't stay committed to cycling. I would go through phases (most notably practically the first half of my junior year) where I would get bored and not ride for long periods of time. I just couldn't take it to the next level. I wanted the fitness to just happen; I didn't want to have to work for it (sound familiar?).

It's hard to intertwine one's "love" life and one's athletic life, but I think that the comparisons I can draw in those two aspects of my own life are almost eerie. I don't really want to do any work, I just want it to happen. But where's the reward if you never work for it? How can you feel any sense of fulfillment if you don't put in the hours of training (and the hours of being nice to a girl, yuck)? You can't, suffice it to say.

Note: this is laced with heavy sarcasm. Take it how you will.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Race reflections and other shizzle

Bank of America, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it would be a cool idea to build a house in 25 hours in celebration of Habitat Charlotte's 25 year anniversary. Admittedly, the only reason I'm sarcastic about it is because I'm completely unexcited to go back to work in 3 hours (it's 11:00 pm) after working a shift from 7am-3:30 pm earlier today. Although, if I were the type of person who consistently saw the glass as half-full and not completely effing empty I'd realize that my two shifts (and the majority of the AmeriCorps and their supervisors...) span what are technically two different work days (Wednesday and Thursday). That makes it sound so much better...

Really though, it's pretty cool to see a Habitat house go up so quickly. The Building on Faith blitz (early September last year, late September this year) is pretty fast but not anywhere close to the speed of this particular build. There are so many tasks going on at once that a lot of times it feels bordering (bordering?) on chaotic. At one point - although I didn't stop to count - there seemed to be at LEAST 60+ people just on that physical construction site. That's not including all of the logistical support people that were scurrying around the tent next door making sure that everyone had a lot of water (it was redonk humid today) and plenty of snacks. Then, in addition to the volunteers there were electrical, plumbing, and HVAC sub-contractors doing their work down inside the house. Plus the insulators, drywall delivery guys, and TV crews and film crews. It all added up to be a huge spectacle. Every body from the neighborhood that drove by rubbernecked like whoa. It was pretty crazy. Everyone was really enthusiastic though, which was nice. Sometimes it's easy to get pretty bored and frustrated when you're surrounded by people who don't seem as though they really want to be there, but all of the volunteers looked really excited and happy to be there working on what is a pretty big-deal build.

The results were finally posted from the tri and in spite of myself I'm mildly to moderately disappointed in my split times. I really think that both runs were long because I'm not as slow as my times suggest.

My splits were (Age group)
(Rank:Run 1 Time:Rank:T1 Time:Rank:Bike Time:Rank:T2 Time: Rank:Run 2 Time)
(Overall ranks were 11, 11, 20, 28, 7)

The first run was at ~6:15 pace, which is very slow for the HR I was averaging. I technically should have been running about 5:50-5:55s. Even allowing for the fact that it was a race and I was more excited - thereby pushing my HR a little higher than a workout - the run was flat and I should be much faster than 6:15s. The bike time wasn't too bad, as my goal was sub 1:05. I know that I physically could have gone, conservatively, 1.5-2 minutes faster without too much more effort. When I get a tri bike that will knock off another 2 minutes at least I'm sure with no extra physical exertion, which is nice. Not too disappointed with the bike, although it's sad because I used to be faster than this. The 2nd run is what really peeved me. A 41:25 10k is 6:39 pace. That's agonizingly slow. I can run that pace in moderate workouts (as a brick even). I think this course was definitely at least .1 long but still, with a goal of 38-39 for the second run I'm none too pleased with a 41:25. The fact that it was the 7th fastest run of all the males though tells me that it is highly likely that the course was long (although one guy did go 35:30ish on it soooo, that's definitely fast).

Going forward with triathlons/duathlons I know that I'm going to do my best to pretty much do a brick on all of my bike rides. Even just a short, easy run of 30 minutes will help me a ton in the effort to get my legs used to the feeling of running after any type of bike ride. I know that the worst part of the race for me was the first 2-3 minutes on the run, and it was all because I didn't do enough bricks in my training.

Still, after a month to a month and a half of true "tri" training I have to consider this race a success. With super-inconsistent running because of my IT issues it really wasn't too bad. I think my early 2009 season "A" goals will be either the New Orleans 70.3 in early April or the Short Course Duathlon Nationals in Richmond, also in early April. I can't really decide whether I want to "concentrate" on longer or shorter distances so as my feelings/strengths become more clear over the winter I'll decide. Very exciting. Super.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Patriots International "Triathlon"

Unfortunately, I can't really call myself a triathlete just yet. Due to the bitch that is hurricanes, this weekend of racing was changed around a good bit. The half ironman was canceled by 11am on Friday so the crew that was going to go up to Williamsburg to race (4 half-ironpeople, 1 international, and 1 sprint) was splintered and broken. I still left late on Friday morning and got to Williamsburg in the late afternoon and met up with Cory, who was kind enough to let me stay in his dorm and reap the rewards of being around an all-star triathlete (I think I asked him about a billion questions this weekend).

We did a short run when I got there on Friday then really didn't do anything else the rest of the day except monitor the status of our race on Sunday. The weather started to get a little sour in the evening but there was no real clue that a hurricane was just beyond the horizon. Saturday rolled around and the weather was definitely not suitable for racing, so at least the organizers canceled the half for good reason. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to race in that weather for 5+ hours, it would have been completely miserable. Heavy, heavy winds of 30+ mph and sometimes driving rain would have made for an excruciating experience.

We went out for a short run, however, which was kind of fun. Running in the heavy wind and rain isn't nearly as bad as biking; it can actually be pretty entertaining. We got back and found out on the race website that the swim had been canceled for both the Sprint and International races. I was slightly disappointed simply because I've put A LOT of time into swimming for a complete beginner in the past specifically to prepare for this race. Cory wasn't too upset because he's crazy good at duathlons (and tris too) and this made it all the more certain that he would win the race.

The folks that were coming up for the sprint decided not to make the trip because the swim was canceled but Sunday rolled around the day was absolutely perfect for racing. Because our race started late, it got a little hot on the 10k but really it was never that bad. We discovered that the organizers had decided to do a 1.8 mile run instead of the swim (Cory and I had been thinking that it would be a 5k) and then on to the normal 24 mile bike and 10k run.

So we set up our transition area, did a quick warm up and went to the start line. I knew I was going to go faster than I really should during the first run but wasn't too worried about it because it was so short that I didn't think I would expend too much energy even if I went really fast. So my first lap (of the 3 loop course) was very fast but then I scaled it back a little bit to keep my heart rate down. Once we finished the 3 loops (totaling 1.8 miles) we had at least a 1/4 mile run to get to the transition area, where I initially went to the wrong rack but soon found my bike and yanked off my flats, threw on my helmet and shoes, and sprinted out of the transition area and mounted my bike.

The bike course was very flat, with only a couple of rollers in the early and late miles (it was a 24 mile out/back course). There were a ton of false flats and almost no wind so looks could be deceiving. I started off with 2 guys who would eventually get out of sight as I wanted to be pretty conservative on the first half of the bike. My HR took a long time to settle down after the run (it stayed in the high 170s, low 180s for about the first 25-30 minutes - normally for that pace it's around 160-165) so I wanted to be careful about that. Another guy passed me before the turnaround but I stayed close to him because I wanted to try and negative split the course. Three of us were pretty much together the rest of the bike course. I was staying conservative until about 2-3 miles to go and then I surged and left those guys behind. I felt pretty good the whole bike but never felt like I got into a "zone" or rhythm that would just eat the miles. I should have surged sooner, more like 5-7 miles out but I just didn't make myself push it hard enough. I'm fairly sure I could have taken 2 minutes or maybe a little more off the bike with not too much extra effort. At least another 1 or 2 if I had a TT/Tri bike too...

So after I left those guys behind I sped up to the dismount area where I did a semi-flying dismount and maintained some good free speed to run back to the transition area and get back on my feet again. Took off the bike shoes, and helmet and slipped my flats back on (Yankz have got to be one of the greatest inventions ever, by the way) and grabbed a couple of sips of gatorade from my bottles and my 2nd powergel before leaving the transition area for the last time.

The run started and I have never felt as bad as I did in the first 1/4 mile. My legs felt like absolute bricks and I was seriously skeptical as to whether I would be able to run the whole way and not walk portions of the 10k. I blew out about a pound of snot, rediscovered the ability to breathe, and managed to settle into a pretty good rhythm once I got on the Colonial Parkway. I wasn't going fast, but I knew that if I just stayed consistent I could have a solid run. I couldn't see anybody in front of me - or behind me - during the first 2 miles of the run. I grabbed water at each of the aid stations but couldn't really get a full sip out of any of the cups and most of it just splashed on my face and down my chest. I kept going steady and finally caught some glimpses of a guy in front of me around mile 2.75. He was about a 1/4 mile in front of me at the turnaround (5k) and I held my pace and managed to catch him with about 1.5-2 miles to go. He was pretty dead in the water and looked as though his goal was just surviving to the finish. My legs started to feel pretty shot around mile 4 and I knew that I needed to end soon. I maintained my pace (still, who knows how) and turned the last corner and saw the finishing straight and finish line 100 yards in front of me. The 'announcer' that was commentating on the race said "Oh who have we here looks like # 579 that's...James Haycraft from Charlotte, NC racing age 24" and that was pretty sweet to hear my name over the loudspeaker (he was doing that for everyone that was coming in, so I'm not really THAT special) and having people cheer for me - not necessarily because they knew me of course but just because they're nice.

It was definitely one of the harder things I've ever done before and if not for a stupid 2 minute penalty I would have ended in 10th place overall. I still won my age group, but the difference between 10th and 12th feels like a lot, even though it isn't. Unfortunately the penalty was something I could have easily prevented just by knowing the rules (I didn't know that if you were riding sort of besides and behind someone that was considered a passing move so you had to complete the 'pass' within 15 seconds but of course, I wasn't passing I was just trying to stay out of his draft and hold the same speed...oh well).

Overall a solid first multi-sport experience. Oh, and Cory won with a 1:47...ridiculous. 2012.