Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nouveau Commencement

A new beginning indeed. Last week I reported on my fractured foot and said that I was looking into riding brevets. Well, this week I have registered for my first one. For those not in the know, a brevet (pronounced brah-vey) is not really a race as such. There are no winners only those who finish and those who do not. However, they are timed. The purpose of a brevet is to ride some predetermined course following a cue sheet, a sheet with directions. Along the route you have to get checked off at various control points.

At the control point you have to get your brevet card stamped or signed with the time and date you were there. You have to reach each control point along the route before a specific time and you have to complete the whole route by a specific cut off time. From what I gather your average speed in a brevet needs to be around 13.5 mph in order to make the cut off times. No biggie right? Well, I don’t know if that’s a big deal or not. I mean, it’s certainly within my cycling ability but the trick with brevets is to go completely self supported, I say again COMPLETELY self supported no aid stations no SAG nothing, and the event takes place no matter what the weather is like.

Now I have been to a triathlon where the bike was canceled due to wind and I’ve heard of triathlons that were canceled all together due to inclement weather (last year's USAT Nationals comes to mind) but you will not show up to a brevet and have it canceled. From what I understand even if a troupe of evil flame throwing orangutans have inhabited the course…tough; ride and quit your whining or just take your DNF and go home.

For some history on the Brevet go to RUSA, Randonneur USA. In the mean time, the brevet is originally a French sport, hence all the French, but is apparently very popular through Europe, especially among the French, English and Italians. The word “Brevet” means something like certificate and one who rides in brevets is called a “Randonneur” if male and “Randonneuse” if female. The typical distances for brevets are 200 K, 300K, 400K, 600K, 1000K and 1200K though I think at the 1200K distance they are called Randonnees but I’m not totally sure. A brevet series consists of riding a 200 K, 300K, 400K and 600K in that order in one year. If you complete a brevet series you gain the status “Super Randonneur”.

The other interesting thing about brevets, there is none of the swag associated with triathlons…no t-shirts, no goodie bags no nothing. You just show up to the start, gather up your cue sheet and brevet card and head out. When you finish you turn in your brevet card to the official who certifies it, sends it to national who certifies it and then sends it to France where it is certified by the muckity mucks at ACP (Audax Club Parisien), the nexus of the Randonneuring world.

Once your card is TOTALLY certified a certificate of completion finds its way back to you. Oh, and you can pay and extra $10 to $12 to get a finishers medal, which looks to be of similar quality to the high quality type marathon finishers medals, nice and heavy with lots of detail and color. The medals for all brevets are cast and struck once a year in France and the shipped out all at once. It will be different from the high intensity and immediate gratification of triathlon but I think it will be cool…I’ll just reacquaint myself with my old friend Sartre.

So here’s the plan:

Dallas, TX 01/01/2007 200K (124.27 miles)

Casa Grande, AZ 02/03/2007 300K (186.41 miles)

Casa Grande, AZ 03/04/2007 400K (248.55 miles)

Dallas, TX 05/26/2007 600K (372.82 miles)

Boulder, CO 06/16/2007 1000K (621.37 miles)

I’m not totally sure about the 1000K brevet yet because it isn’t part of a series but I’m considering going for the R-12 medal, one brevet of 200 or more K per month for a year. The problem is that I can not find a brevet, except for in Florida, in the month of December and I’m only willing to spend so much to earn another trinket. I mean really, I’m already doing IMAZ and IM Louisville plus, plus, plus…

Next year’s (2008) resolution…incorporate some sanity into my race season…or…maybe not.

Oh yes, one more curiosity about the world of brevets, they seem to be kind of "old school" cycling pureists. They are in love with their comfortable old steel frame bikes so, now instead of seeking out the hottest new areo-carbon-speed machine I'm in the market for a classic steel frame with a relaxed geometry...something circa 1970's...and maybe a pipe with some good tobacco...and a beret..and a good baguette.
à votre santé

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Change in Strategy

Last weekend on Sunday I was doing my long run and at about mile 4 my right foot started hurting, by mile 5 it was worse, 6 worse and by mile 7 I had to stop and walk back to my car. My foot swelled up and that was it.

Got an order for an MRI and went to see my podiatrist who also gave me an exam and x-ray. He wants to wait for the MRI results but as far as I could see from the x-ray and from how my foot felt I know it is a stress fracture.

That’s right, a stress fracture in my third metatarsal on my right foot.

So, how did this happen? Well, last year I discovered two unfortunate things about myself. 1) I have osteopenia, which is lower than normal bone density and 2) the 4th and 5th metatarsals on my feet are shorter than normal, which means that every step I take puts greater than normal stress on my 1st, 2nd and 3rd metatarsals, especially the 3rd.

So the situation is, the more I run and/or the harder I run the more likely I am to fracture things in my lower body.

This posses quite a conundrum for a long course triathlete. I am pretty sure that I can get in 80 miles of running per month once my foot heals but I think I can only run 3 times per week. At 80 miles a month I’m probably not going to be getting faster on the marathon.

So what to do? I’ll be bike focused this year and probably several seasons to come. I’m on medication to help increase bone density and my podiatrist is working on orthotics to spread the loading evenly across my feet. The orthotics should help out in the short run but the bone density issue will take a few years to reach normal levels.

There is something that I have wanted to do for two years now but I’ve been focusing on more balance between my running, biking and swimming. That something is ultracycling. I have submitted my dues to the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association and Randonneurs USA.

Now let me assure you, I am not planning on getting away from my triathlon goals for the year, just planning on modifying my strategy.

More on my ultracycling plan next week.


Monday, December 11, 2006

And so it begins

This last weekend was the first race of my 2007 season. Yes that's right, a race in 2006 represents the beginning of my 07 season and so it is each year. The race is the Polar Bear at White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, NM and it is always the first race of the South West Challenge Series, the longest continuous multisport race series in the world.

The race consists of a 5K run, 30K bike and 400 meter pool swim, in that order. There were 139 triathletes in attendance plus about 20 different teams. My brethren, the Clydesdales, had 14 entrants representing. The temperature at the beginning of the race was about 35 degrees so I decided to dawn a pair of gloves to go with my skintuit.

The run brought back the fond memories of last year and racing among friends. As I’ve mentioned before the SWCS, despite being a series of races across a large region, is like one large family. From the outset of the race I had a fellow Clyde declare he was going to try and hang with me throughout the run. About a quarter mile into the run he stepped on the back of my shoe and pealed it right off. I had to turn around and grab it to put it back on. This action was immediately met with a whole chorus of people heckling me for running too fast for my shoes to keep up. Once I was back on the run more people were urging me on to catch him, which I did by mile one.

I completed the run without further incident and a few nods and “how’s it going” in a total time of 23:23 and was then off to the bike. I started the bike thinking that it was a 20K but by the 15K sign I had been set straight. I then settled in for a 25K ride…until I hit the 25K sign then I resigned myself to a 30K ride, which I was able to complete in 51:40 with very little gas left in the tank. Once I hit the swim I was pooped and in a group of very fast folks. I got swum over maybe three or four times and spent the swim in a general mêlée to the finish. The swim took me 8:48, which is slower than my training pace but what the hay, it’s only 400 meters.

In the final analysis I took first among the Clydes, not only my group, the over 40 Clydes, but overall...beating out the young Clydes as well. I also ended up as 20th overall.

Yahoo! The omens are good!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Morning Glory

This November I stepped up my running in preparation for P.F. Chang's Rock-n-Roll Arizona Marathon. The weather has been fairly warm, which has resulted in morning runs that only required shorts and a t-shirt. However, this last week a serious cold front moved in complete with sub-freezing temps and snow. I was immediately transported back to the freezing morning runs I completed all last winter and have been approaching my workouts with, shall we say, determined trepidation.

This past Thursday I awoke to 18 degree temps and snow. I thought to myself, “Well, triathletes all over the northern latitudes are strapping on their shoes and heading out into the cold and snow so I’ve got no excuse.” The reward was immeasurable!

I drove down to the gym, pulled on the insulated tights, one long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, socks, shoes, headband, baseball cap and headed out to conduct my morning run. The run was 7.5 miles on a dirt trail along the Rio Grande at sunrise; my favorite run of the week.

On this particular morning, like I mentioned, it was snow covered and cold. There was not a single other person out nor had there been. The snow covered trail was completely fresh except for a few footprints from the rabbits and coyotes that live along the river. There were also Canadian geese, mallards, great blue herons, san hill cranes and a host of smaller birds in abundance. The giant old cotton woods were glistening in the sunrise and steam was rising off the river.

As far as my pace goes, it was pretty good but who cares…this was one of the best runs of my life! While the snow is already gone it is still cold and I am pretty much guaranteed to have the trail along the river all to myself during my early morning weekday runs.