Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Biathlon to Me, Happy Biathlon to Me...

A few weeks ago, I hit 44 on the birthday chart. I wanted to celebrate this year's milestone with a solid exercise goal. ("It is the years and the mileage!")

Many ultra marathoners commemorate their annual passage of time by running the equivalent in miles. Despite my many marathons and a couple of ultras, I had never gone further than 31.5 miles or run for longer than 5 hours. 44 miles should take me around 7 hours. Maybe a bit less. I did not envision bashing my body to see if I could find those further 13 miles without training anywhere near that amount. I knew I would be able to achieve the goal, but the quality of the run might likely end up at best subpar. (Subpar being the second S word that popped into my head. Got to keep this blog family friendly...)  At worst, it could end in me being a ball of sobbing goo.

Now I must admit that this whole idea is silly. But marathoning on all 7 continents certainly borders on ridiculous. In fact, many of you would suggest my short 7 mile jaunts qualify me for state supported mental care. Whatever! To rip off from a song, "It's my birthday, and I'll run I want to."

What about kilometers?  44 k's equates to around 27.5 miles. That might be a nice trick to keep one's age lower, but to me it seemed like a cheat. Good ol' Imperial units for me!  Those slacking Europeans can trot their age in k's.

Instead, I decided to combine cycling and running to create my own personal birthday biathlon. I cycle to cross train, and while I pretty much keep myself to the bike path, I have been able to extend my distance to 20 miles. And my current running distance training is in the 20 miles range as I build up for my fall marathons.  Pedaling 24 miles would set a distance and time best on the bike. 20 miles after riding 2 hours were enough of a challenge to satisfy me for the rest.

So Saturday, I busted out the bike and hit the path.  2:05 later, I had completed just over 24 miles. The weather was slightly overcast which helped keep me fairly comfortable. I paused to drink and eat some gels ever 30 minutes. As I started at 6:30 AM, the beach path had yet to fill with walkers which make for a more stressful and slower experience when present.

After the ride, I needed about 10 mins to store the bike in my car and change into running shorts. Other than my boxers, I switched everything including my socks. And without further adieu, I took off from the Marina to Culver City along the Ballona Creek trail. Because my whole 44 mile event started in the Marina for better access to the Beach Cities beach path, I hit areas of the westside that were new to me.

Amazingly, I ran a blistering 8:00 min per mile first hour. I attribute this to a combination of being warmed up from the cycling and really enjoying myself. The total run took 2:51, and I felt a bit of a wall around mile 16. Happily, I do not usually hit the wall, but I can often feel me slowing and tiring. Around mile 18, my speed picked up again and I even ran parts of the 20th mile faster than 8 mph.  Still, my body was very appreciative to be done.

All told - 5 hours, 6 minutes total exercise (my longest by 5 mins) and 44 miles in aggregate (my longest by over 12 miles).

Next year? 45 miles running and 45 miles cycling. (But likely on different days!)

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Follow up question as to why I didn't swim too?  I thought about starting with a 1 mile swim. However, since that would have taken me about an hour, I just couldn't fathom basically trading 5 minutes of cycling for 60 minutes in the water. People have asked me why I have not done a tri of any length, and my only answer is that it doesn't really excite me.

Still, I know I could do one. But I would want to aim ultimately for an Iron Man.

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