Monday, June 25, 2012

RACE REPORT: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon

...a surprisingly good race.



Have you ever had a race where you thought "ok, there goes this race!" and then turned around to be surprised that you did well?  that was my experience yesterday.  Bad cramp on the swim, biking legs that wouldn't fire, and a completely vacant running course.  And despite all that, I managed to finish within 30 seconds of my goal.

PRE-RACE
I was up at 4:20 AM.  I had my bowl of oatmeal mixed with peanut butter, three eggs over-easy, a banana with peanut butter, and a bit of OJ.  I got packed and was out the door by 5:15.  I arrived on site at 5:55 for a 6:00am transition open and was the second bike into transition!  Based on your number, you were positioned on a specific rack, but your position was first come first serve.  I, of course, got the very outside!  Same position I got in 2010.


I set up my gear, walked down to check the water temp (74-75), and hung out with some tri club friends 'till race time.  Given how warm the Friday swim was, I went without the wetsuit.  As much as I do like the buoyancy for longer swims, I didn't want to overheat.  And I'm glad I did go without as I heard a couple guys talking post-race about how they wanted to take the suit off mid-swim.

SWIM
With three hundred athletes (including the triathlon, duathlon, aqua-bike, and relays), they had three waves.  Men were wave no.1, so we walked into the water.  I started chatting with a friend who borrowed a pair of goggles and mid conversation we hear some mumbling on the loud speaker.  It must have been "3... 2.. 1... Go" because before we could react, the mob swam off.

Overall, the swim wasn't great.  I swam strong to the first of two turn buoys, but half way to the second buoy I got a horrible side stitch.  I swam through it the best I could but it definitely hindered my time.  It was mostly gone by the time I hit the beach.  As per usual, I veered left of the group the entire swim.  I officially prefer counter-clockwise swims.  And I had my requisite "why in hell do I do this?" thought half way through.  Aside from that, the swim was quite uneventful.

SWIM - 24:33
Rank: 32nd

This was the exact same pace I hit at Rev3 (1:33/100yd), so if I could have avoided the cramp, I would have beat my pace.  Always good to have those hind sight notes. 

T1
This tri is unique in that it has a 0.25 mile uphill run to transition.  Most athletes bring an extra pair of shoes down to the waterfront to wear running up the hill since it's a rock/gravel road.  In 2010, I used an extra pair of shoes.  This year I was smart and brought my cycling shoes which in reality are an old pair of running shoes.  I spotted my shoes after getting off the beach, slipped my tri jersey up to my hips, slipped on my shoes, and ran up the road.  On the run, I managed to get my arms in the jersey and zip it up.  Once I got to transition, it was a quick change and off we go!

T1 - 2:53
Rank: 3rd

BIKE
On my way the mounting line, I looked down and thought "Wait, something's not right."  My aero bottle was backwards - the straw was out at the end away from me.  I wasn't about to stop and spend a minute fixing it, so I just chuckled and mounted up.  I will also point out that the Minoura rear hydration bottle cage holder makes my flying mounts more difficult in it's upside down position.  I attempted two mounts before I realized it was the bottle I kept hitting.  Live and Learn.

I knew Billy - a friend from my tri club - was just ahead of me.  We both wear the pink LBS jersey and it's quite easy to pick out.  I had been riding better than him at the sprints, so I was excited to catch him early.  Sadly, that never happened.  He had an awesome race.  The first 4 miles of the bike course are rollers where I managed to hit 49.98 mph and then it's 10 miles of flat/downhill.  As much as I tried to pick up the pace, my legs felt dead.  They just wouldn't fire.

And within that same stretch, my aero bottle fell off.  I've known the unit doesn't fit the bike well for awhile, but this was the first launch I'd had.  In the end, it was good.  There's no way reaching that far ahead to drink would have been safe.

For 12 miles, I tried my best to pick up the speed and catch up to the group I knew was up ahead.  My legs could never manage it.  I resigned to knowing I wasn't going to have the bike split I wanted today.  At the turn onto Rt. 202, the incline started.  My mantra for the hills was "steady."  The hills killed my run in 2010 and I wasn't about to let that happen again.  Again, I tried pushing the pace on every flat/downhill, but the legs wouldn't have it.

Ever have a cow crossing in a race?

With roughly 5-6 miles to go, there was a volunteer in the middle of a long road.  As I approached I thought "there's no turn here, why are they here?"  As I came up to her, she yelled "Cow crossing ahead.  Be careful."  And wouldn't you know, just around the next bend, there was a cow on the side of the road munching on some grass and taking a sh*#.  Haha.  Good old farm country!  That was a race first for sure.

I managed the bad road conditions up through the turn onto Bruning Rd.  There were a couple volunteers directing us to turn and as I came through I yelled "Yay, hills!"  They had a good laugh at that.  This two mile stretch had four to five hills on it.  I spent the hills in my two lowest gears and did my best to pick up some speed on the flats.  My main goal was to make it to the top with legs that would still fire for the run.  And given how my legs felt already, I wasn't sure how the run was going to go anyways.

I got passed by a few people, but nothing that I didn't expect.  The spectators were great along this stretch and I thanked every single one of them for cheering!  In 2010, it was so desolate that I really just wanted to get off the bike and quit.  Without incident, I made it to the top and my legs felt ok.  I also glanced at my watch - 1:11:xx (my goal was 1:11:26)  So wait, my legs felt dead the entire bike, but I still managed to be 0.5 miles from T2 and be at goal?!  I guess it wasn't such a horrible ride after all.  Oh, PS. I did the bike blind (no computer). 

But I had one more surprise coming...  

As I approached the dismount line, I heard "Behind you."  Before I registered that I needed to avoid braking too fast, I knew it was Scruffy, another friend from the tri club.  His goal was to catch me on the bike and he JUST did.  I found out later that my pink jersey made for a great target on the final hills.  haha  There's no being secretive when you look like a pink highlighter!

BIKE - 1:11:50
Rank: 49th

Apparently my "dead legs" were just being pushed harder than I thought.  Given the noted 24.8 mile course, I averaged 20.7 mph.  And again, in hindsight, if I could find a way to avoid the dead legs, I could have pushed faster. 

T2
I made it into transition ahead of Scruffy and knew I had to get out on the run course and put some distance between us.  Thankfully, I had less to switch and was on the run first.  However, given that the lateral arch of my right foot has been bothering me the last few days, I wasn't sure how well I was going to manage this run.  I'm pretty sure it's just bruised and needs a few days to heal up, but I didn't have the time mid-race.

T2 - 0:34
Rank:4th

RUN
As soon as I crossed the timing mat, I could feel my foot; it wasn't a horrible pain but it was enough to cause me to wince at times.  And the worst part was that the first half mile was through trail and back up the very same gravel road we ran earlier to T1.  Every nook and cranny that put pressure on that part of my foot was painful.  I pushed through it hoping that I could simply ignore the pain and it wouldn't get worse.  When we hit the pavement, I was thrilled.  The pavement made it much easier to land more medial on my foot.  Thank God!

As I hit the turn onto the road, I yelled to the spectators "Did you see a pink jersey go by?"  They told me he was about 1:00 to 2:00 ahead.  Since running is now my strength, I screamed "Yeah!" and took off.  Despite never seeing him, Billy was my target the entire run. 

About 0.75 miles in, I checked in internally.  My foot was feeling better, my breathing was ok, and my legs felt great.  I didn't have anyone around me to push me, but it felt like I was running sub-7 already.  Awesome!!

Around mile 1 I passed Ken - super swimmer from our tri club (he had the 2nd best swim split) - and hit the start of the downhills.  My watch said 6:22 at mile 1 but I knew I had hit the lap late after T2.  I assumed it was an extra 30 seconds and justified a 6:50 mile 1.  Good.  I hit mile 2 at 6:30Mile 3 was around 6:45.  After that I didn't check, but those fast early miles had me feeling good.

One problem with the race today was that I felt isolated out on the run course.  There was a white jersey a few hundred yards behind me most of the run, I got passed by one guy around mile 4 and I passed maybe 5 people.  Aside from that, I spent 98% of the run trying to mentally push myself without a target to chase down.

The other "problem" was that the water stations were a bit spread out.  We had three stations and I felt supercharged after each of them having grabbed a cold water.  However, about a mile later I felt drained again.  Oh-well.  Everyone had to deal with it.

As I rounded the final turn, I had a couple guys come up on me.  One of them was a guy I swim with every Friday who is a phenomenal runner.  The other was someone else I could tell he was competing with.  We had 0.1 miles left and as they passed, I cheered them on and maintained pace.  Then I thought "I've been waiting this entire time for someone to push me.  Why am I letting this go?"  So I kicked it up the final hill and down the finisher's chute passing both of them.  They still managed a better run time, but we enjoyed the little competition.  I found out later that the "other guy" had run the fastest run split.  At least I can say I out kicked him.  haha

RUN - 43:42
Rank: 17th

Despite being 18 seconds behind my run goal, I'm psyched with this run.  And apparently I've become a much better runner compared to everything else.  Now it's time to focus on the bike!

FINISH - 2:23:30
Rank: 15th
2nd (of 9) in AG (M25-29)


POST-RACE
We had a good HEAT turnout at the race, so I got to hang out with a number of the members.  After packing the car back up, I got some food.  They had a Peachberry Pie that was beyond delicious!!  And in a second attempt to avoid the post-race GI issues, I had three pieces of pie in order to get more calories.  With that and the brownie fudge explosion something ice cream and pizza I've eaten since being home, I've done well; no GI issues to speak of.  

Lastly, I managed to come away with 2nd place in my age group.  As awards, we got a beach ball and a Yanks Nutrition Box.  It's attached by velcro so I'm not so sure about it's sturdiness, but I will certainly be giving it a try. 

Overall, I had my bad moments during each section of the race, but still managed to come within striking distance of my goal time, so I'm happy.  It feels good to have a good race, but still have plenty of points to improve upon for later.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Did you race this weekend?  If so, where, what, and how'd it go?

2.  What do you eat post-race?  Do you binge on whatever is in sight or are you picky?

3.  What's the one minor problem you hope against all odds won't happen to you on race day?
A wardrobe malfunction would be bad, but cramps still top my list.  I've learned to deal with them, but they hinder my performance as well as my mental game.


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Theme Songs

In case you were wondering what goes through my head during my long, extended races, here's a little insight.

video

Bosses Daughter by Pop Evil is my bike's current theme song.  I like to switch "She's hell on heels" to "...hell on wheels."  It keeps me entertained and motivated.

Then after T2, I switch to another favorite song...

video

Weatherman by Dead Sara.  It works a little better if there is non-ideal weather, but to be honest I have no idea what the song is about.  I just love the music and I adopted the line "Go for the kill" as my running theme.  So don't get too close to me!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Do you have a theme song?  If so, please share!

2.  What do you during a race to keep yourself motivated?
Do you have a mantra, song, game, ...what?

Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Litchfield Hills Oly Expectations

Tomorrow is my first Olympic Tri since August 22nd, 2010.  And ironically enough, the last Oly I did is the same one I have tomorrow, the Litchfield Hills Olympic.


As you might have gleaned from my sprint tri reports, I've gotten better.  I also got better at the half distance at Rev3.  So it comes as no surprise that I expect another PR tomorrow morning.  That, however, is not how I am measuring the performance.  As I always have been, I am super competitive with myself. 

Looking back at 2010...
My first Oly was August 15th, 2010; one week prior to Litchfield.  I was so excited after that race that I signed up for Litchfield that Tuesday.  The only things I knew going into Litchfield were the distances and that there's some hill towards the end that everyone talks about.  As you know from the course preview HERE, that hill is a demon straight from down under!  But this time I'm much more prepared for battle.

Here are my goals...

Swim
I swam a 22:14 in 2010 on a 0.8 mile course (they let us know post-race that it was incorrectly measured).  At 0.9 miles, I would have swum 25:01.  If I match my speed at Rev3, I'd be at 24:34.  I know I can beat that.  Ideally, I'd like to rock the swim and be 22:00, but I'd be happy with a steady progression of sub-24:00.

T1
I'm used to a T1 of somewhere up to 2:00.  In 2010, I had a T1 of 5:42 not because I was slow, but because of the 0.25 mile uphill run from the lake to transition.  ...and because I was slow.  To the right is a picture of the run from swim exit to T1.  See all the stones?  And the guy behind me wore flip-flops!!

This year, I know what to expect, so I'm prepared.  Given some changes, I believe I can get T1 down under 2:30.



Bike
In 2010, I rode a 1:21:11 which included walking my bike from dismount to transition because I was still recovering from the demon hill.

That's a picture of me walking up to transition.  I couldn't even muster the energy to run for the camera.  How sad!

Anyways, I rode the course preview in 1:24:xx on Wednesday and I'm confident I can cut some serious time.  I acknowledge that I blew up at Rev3 Half (18mph), but point out that I've been rocking the sprint distance (23mph).  With the hills, I'm shooting for a 20 or 21 mph average.  If so, I should finish under 1:12:00.  I also want to get off knowing that I got in as much nutrition as I possibly could. 

T2
No need to lolligag here.  Switch shoes, helmet/hat, and be off.  In 2010, I was at 0:55, which means I should be able to cut that down to 0:30

Run
Here's where we'll really be able to tell how I perform.  Did I get in my nutrition?  Can I handle the mental torture?  I ran 55:48 (9:00 pace) in 2010.  Considering my recent performances, I'm shooting for a 7:00 pace, sub-44:00. 

Finish
If all goes as planned, I'll be across the finish line in under 2:23, a PR at this race of 26 minutes.  From there it's onto the course record of 1:59:21. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  What's the most unique transition you've ever experienced?
IM 70.3 Vegas was a long run and a winding bike exit, but Litchfield was the worst with the 0.25 mile rocky run.  The only thing they tell you is "There is a 0.25 mile run to transition so bring an extra pair of shoes." 

2.  Are you competitive by default or do you have to work at forcing the mentality?
If someone is ahead of me, no matter how I feel, I automatically want to pass them.  Even if I hold back and let myself recover while they surge ahead, I am planning a later surge to overtake them.  The whole "slow down and enjoy the race" mentality baffles me because competing is my enjoyment.  


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Race Preview & Most Awesome Street Name Ever Award

It is currently...  91 degrees.

Holy balls that's hot!


I got up early today to go check out the bike and run course for my Oly tri this weekend, the Litchfield Hills Triathlon.  This was my second Oly ever back in 2010, but I didn't quite recall how most of the course went, so I decided to ride it to be familiar.

The race is at a town park and starts off on small back roads.  The first four miles are rolling, but with the downhills, the ups shouldn't be a problem on race day.  You hit one screaming downhill right before the first turn.  Then we have 10 miles on a single road.  Thankfully, it's 8 miles of downhill (I would guess I averaged about 28 mph on the stretch) and then 2 miles of small uphill.  The next two miles are a gradual uphill (my least favorite type of road to ride on).  Then we have two more miles of generally flat road until we turn back onto back roads.  The next four miles are very bumpy (not TT bike friendly) and rolling before we get to the monster of the bike course.  At mile 22.5 miles into the 25 mile course, the cue sheet says "take a left and continue for two miles (mostly uphill)."  They're not joking.  I can usually manage 9-11 mph up most hills without a big problem.  Peeking down, I was at about 6 mph for half of those last two miles.  Thankfully, you get a good downhill after cresting the last hill and then a small incline coming back up to transition.

I finished the preview at 1:24:28.  Granted, I didn't time myself from where the transition timing mat will be up on the lawn, but that's roughly 3 minutes slower than my 2010 race time.  Looks like I'm primed for an easy PR here.  Might have to calculate out some goals.

Lastly...

The most awesome street name ever award goes to...

Satan's Kingdom Road

I passed the street sign during the ride today and couldn't help but laugh.  Apparently it leads directly to Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area.  I might have to get over there to check it out some time. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Is anyone else having a heat wave this week?

2.  What is your perfect racing weather (specify the race type)?
Road races I prefer mid-50's to 60.  Triathlons I prefer 65-70.  This weekend is supposed to be in the mid-80s (way too hot).  More aid station water might end on my head than in my mouth.


 Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

RACE REPORT: Lake T Sprint Tri No.2



The PR's just keep rolling in.  No complaints here!

PRE-RACE
I was eleven days out from Rev3 Quassy and felt that I hadn't quite fully recovered.  I could handle the sprint no problem, but my left hip was still a bother - mostly on the bike - and I hadn't felt the full tank of energy.

My guess was I would be a minute or two slower than the first race.  That would put me at about a 1:05.  However, if you recall, the swim was longer last time, which means I should be able to cut out a minute or two; maybe back to 1:03 realm?  But I still wasn't confident I could/should bike/run as hard - back up to 1:05 or so.  Given the 'All Over The Place' guesses, I decided to focus on smaller details.

The water was warm enough, though still chilly, to go without the wetsuit.  So in order to attempt cutting out transition time, I swam in my tri shorts.  I also went without a jersey, I biked in my running shoes (less transition time), and biked blind (aka: without a cycling computer).  It's a sprint so the extra minute in transition is a much larger percentage of the finish time.  And the computer is just a distraction at this distance.

SWIM
This week the coordinator had his swim rope (how he measures the distance from shore to drop the turn buoy), so we did the planned distance (~600m) instead of a ball-parked marker (~800m).  Surprisingly, while the first 50 yards or so was just as chilly as expected, it warmed up quite a bit after that.  I'm sure part of it was body heat and racing, but I was glad I didn't have the wetsuit on.  The turn buoy was definitely closer this week and I managed not to swing as far left as I normally do; I stuck on the left edge of the group.

As a first in any triathlon, aside from the nearly 180 degree turn at the turn buoy, I swam continuously from start to swim exit.  I usually end up swimming a stroke or two of breastroke here and there.  Yay for me!!  I popped up a bit early - I couldn't get my legs out of the water yet - but trudged ahead and ran out anyway (no use in falling back into the water to swim 5 yards). 

TRANSITION
Speed is the name of the game.  My bike was close to the swim exit, so I got to it, fell right to the ground and put my running shoes on.  I stood up, put on my sunglasses, snapped on my helmet, grabbed the bike, and was off!  I crossed the timing mat and looked down at my watch...

Swim + T1 - 10:01
13th place

The first sprint was 12:33, so I was already 2:12 ahead. This week's swim was shorter, but transition should also have been shorter since I didn't deal with the wetsuit.

BIKE
I ran out to the mount line, did my flying mount, charged out onto the two loop course and just HAMMERED it!  As I had crossed the timing mat I heard the LBS owner yell "Go Billy!"  Call me competitive - I knew he was right in front of me and I automatically painted a target on his pink jersey.  I caught up to Billy within a mile or two and passed him.

Side Story:  Billy is a member of my triathlon club and has done everything from sprints up to Ironman.  I admit that I somewhat look up to him and plenty of others for advice based on their experience.  The first thing Billy comments on as I ride up to him is "I can't believe you use [toe] cages."  I told him I don't own clips or cycling shoes and he told me I'll add at least another mile per hour with those; "The shoes are almost as important of a purchase as the bike."  So as I go riding past Billy - someone I look up to - I feel even more confidence building up.

Back to the report.  Remember how I kept losing grip of the Gatorade bottles at Rev3?  Yeah, that's not because of the Gatorade bottles.  I dropped my own bottle half way through the first lap; I'm just not practiced enough with drinking from the frame bottle.  

As expected, I was breathing hard from swim exit through 3/4 mark of the first bike loop.  It's majority down hill that last 1/4 of the loop and I can catch my breath.  But then I entered the second loop thinking I had to hammer it again through the hills, so I did.  My hip felt ok until half way through the second lap.  I do feel I backed off a little, but I still pushed the pack.  Then with 1.5 miles to go, I hit a small pothole and heard an odd noise.  Aside from my GU pack flying out from my bento box, into my face, and onto the road, I noticed that my saddle bag had detached from the my Bontrager Race Lite rear cage holder.  While riding, I tried to rip the bag from the stem velcro loop, but it wouldn't budge.  I finished the last mile while looking down every few seconds to make sure the bag hadn't dropped off.  It wasn't until that last mile that any cyclists passed me.  I had 5-6 pass me on the last strip.

My saddle bag and I both made it to the dismount and I ran into transition. 

BIKE - 30:53
16th place

The week prior was 31:07.  Now I was 2:28 ahead having dropped another 14 seconds on the bike.  The course states it's a 12 mile ride, but while I did ride blind, I had the computer stowed in my bento box.  It had my average pace at 23.17mph with a max of 40.23mph.  And I love riding blind!  I might even ride my Olys blind.

T2
I racked my bike, tossed my helmet, and grabbed my hat as I took off.  Couldn't have been more than 15 second.

RUN
From the bike rack to the trail we start on (30 yards distance) I could feel I was really running.  Can you blame me?  I wanted to pass all those guys who passed me in the last mile of the bike.  I did all that right in transition - SUCKERS!!!  haha  Anyways...  I rounded out onto the road and quickly passed one guy before the immediate hill.  As per my plan, I took it easy up the first hill, but still passed another guy.  I crested the top and WOSH!!  There goes a guy in gym shorts.  "He must be a relay" I'm thinking to myself.  I risk the breathing and ask.  Nope.  He's an individual.  "Damn!  Nice job" I manage while I already see him getting smaller in the distance.  Confidence just dropped.

Not 15 seconds later, another guy runs passed me.  I take a quick look back and see there is no one else coming.  I'm not even a mile into the run and I already feel I need to surge.  I take a few steps to contemplate my moves and decide "What the hell!"  I pick my pace up and decide to stay with this second guy - I'll call him Yale since he had a Yale tri club jersey on.

I already had a center stitch developing that I couldn't seem to shake, so I had to slow down on the downhills and forced myself to push the uphills as much as I could to keep up with Yale.  It went smoothly through mile 1 and 2.  At the last turn where I know it's 1 mile to go, I look down at my watch...  54:xx  Holy Sh*#!!  If I can run a 6:00 final mile, I'll be under one hour.  You've got to be kidding me!

Throughout the entire last mile, I kept trying to surge to bridge the gap up to Yale, but a minute into every surge, he'd seem to pull away again.  I tried again and he maintained distance.  With about one minute left until the final turn into transition, I knew it was useless.  I wasn't going to pass him today.  And to my surprise, gym shorts guy hadn't gotten far ahead of either of us.  As I ran up to the timing mat, I passed the LBS owner who shouted "Go Kurt!"  I crossed the finish line and finally was able to let my diaphragm relax, letting the stitch subside.  Man do those things suck!

T2 + RUN - 19:45
7th place

Same EXACT time as Lake T No.1, which means I ran slightly slower this week having made up time in transition, but overall quite a close match for pace.  If it hadn't been for the stitch, I think I could have knocked off a few more seconds per mile easily enough.

FINISH - 1:00:39
5th place

Three for three on PRs this year!!  Lake T No.1 was by almost 9 minutes.  Lake T No.2 was by 2:46.  However, if you want to be honest, 2:12 of that was b/c of a shorter swim course, so I would have only beat my PR by 14 seconds with the bike.  Either way, still a solid PR by effort alone.  And I took fifth which means right before gym shorts guy passed me, I was in 3rd!!

LOOKING FORWARD
I surprised myself here.  The swim was faster by no surprise, but felt an equivalent effort.  The bike was slightly faster and I feel the bag issue and my hip slowed me down a few more seconds, so I have some room to budge there.  The run was tougher this time around, but I have a lot further to travel into the "pain cave" before I hit my max.   My goal is to dive off a cliff as much as possible at Lake T Sprint No.4.  If I blow up, I blow up.  But I want to know how hard I can push myself and hang on.

But then the best part of the whole race!...

The LBS owner approached me after the race and asked "If I give you one of our tri suits, would you wear it?"  Ummmm, heck yeah I would! So I stopped at the shop Friday and picked up a set of tri shorts & jersey.  They come in green and pink.  I went in planning on green (it's my favorite color), but walked out with pink.  It's going to be a lot easier to pick me out in races from now on! 



-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Have you ever had another athlete that you latched onto in a race and used as a pacer?
I've used people as a motivation in front of me to stick with as well as the sound of another person's feet behind me to keep ahead.  I'm super competitive and having athletes around me is a big motivation.

2.  Do you ever ride blind?
No, not literally blind.  I mean without your computer - no pace, distance, power, cadence, or any type of data.  I actually quite enjoy it though if I have aid stations on course, I'd like to know when to expect them (maybe they should have signs - "Aid station in 1 mile"). 

3.  Is there a color you would avoid for race gear?  I can see this being more of an issue for guys.
I surprised myself with how much I liked the pink suit.  But before that, I avoided red at all costs.  Then my bike turned out to be red, so I tried to match the gear.  So I guess no color is out for me. 

3.  Is it jynxing myself to admit that I'd love to PR in every race this year?
The sprints are going to be tough since I have four left, but the rest I might be able to pull off.


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Boise - Now THAT was a show!

"What I wouldn't have given 
to be in Idaho this weekend."

How many times have you heard that?  Not often, right?  What the heck is in Idaho?  Potatoes?  Sure.  But yesterday was Ironman 70.3 Boise and if you haven't seen the onslaught of tweets and news reels coming out, then please read on.

First off, the Boise Ironman 70.3 starts at 12pm noon.  For all of those athletes who wake up before dawn to spend hours at transition before the sun even comes up, you might want to look into Boise for next year!

Apparently the weather in Boise this weekend was bad.  It was 47 degrees at the swim start (again, at 12pm noon) and the wind chill on the bike had it down to low thirties (snow was on the foothills).  Given this drastic climate, the officials opted for shortening the bike course from 56 miles down to an incredible 15.  That's right, almost the distance of a sprint triathlon.  The swim and run remained unchanged.

To add to this, several pro men including Matty Reed wore their wetsuits on the bike.  I give them a lot of credit for doing so because there's no way I would think of that and realize it's a logical move.  I guess it's faster than taking the wetsuit off and then putting something else on.  If I hadn't paid so much for my own suit, I would give that a try.

Then came the finish.  As tons of triathletes know, the winner usually comes in with at least a minute or more buffer over the next racer.  We've all wanted to see a fight to the finish, but it rarely happens.  Boise finally gave us a show!


That is Matty Reed (left) and Callum Millward (right) crossing the finish line at full speed stride-for-stride.  I've read plenty of comments both by journalists, spectators, and tweets from @boomboomreed and @TOinTRI saying that Matty crossed J-U-S-T ahead of Callum.  But here's a different view to add to the decision.


Based on the first photo, I might say it's too close to call.  But here it looks like Reed is certainly ahead by... well, a head.  However, if we go by chip times (which we always do), Callum came in one second ahead of Matty - 2:13:23 versus 2:13:24.  That might make you think twice before deciding which ankle to put that timing chip on, huh?  On a side note, I know elite marathoners that will run with a chip on both feet to avoid this issue.

And finally, here's the dramatic video at the finish line...

video

No matter who you think won, I think we can all agree that that is by far the most entertaining triathlon win ever.  ...of all time! (gotta' plug a little RvB). 

In the end, Ironman made history by announcing a tie, the first ever.  Callum and Matty went home with the win at Ironman 70.3 Boise while Timothy O'Donnell who had a crash on the bike came in third.  Check out TO's bike seat post-race...


How do you ride that?  Side saddle maybe?

So yeah, despite the horrible weather I would have had to endure, THAT is why I wish I was in Idaho this weekend.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.   Anyone want to chime in on your thoughts of the tie at Boise 70.3?
Do you think the tie was a fair call?  Do they end up splitting the money and points?

2. What are the craziest conditions you've raced in?, or spectated in for that matter?
I raced a 5k in freezing rain (December) and an Oly tri in a downpour (August).  Aside from that, just high heat; nothing too crazy. 


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

RACE REPORT: Rev3 Quassy Half Rev



 Saturday

I woke up Saturday at 6am, grabbed some breakfast, my bike, a large set of clothes, and headed down to Quassy Amusement Park to volunteer for the Rev3 Quassy Olympic race.  As much as I love to race, I can't help but be grateful for every volunteer I see (and those I don't) while I'm out there.  So it's about time I returned the favor!  I volunteered as a run course marshall.  The weather forecast did not look good and it turned out to be even worse; constant haze of rain with times of more of a downpour.  I heard about a lot of crashes, but only saw a few with bad road rash.  It was great to see a number of the Newington Bike (my LBS) and H.E.A.T. (my tri club) jerseys out there despite the fact that they probably didn't know who this crazy person is yelling at them.  haha  Oh-well.

I left my post about 11:20 and headed back to the expo.  There wasn't much to look at so I opted to dry off / warm up in my car; bike check-in wasn't until 2pm.  I took the time to drive the run course and get an idea of how to attack it on Sunday.  Let's just say I wasn't "thrilled" about the courses elevation.  =P

When I got back to transition, the sun came out and there wasn't a drop of rain to be seen the rest of the day.  I'm sure the Oly athletes weren't too happy, but all the Half Rev athletes coming in sure were!  And wouldn't you know, I finally got a prime spot in transition!!


You can't get much closer to the bike exit than that!!  On another note, I love the racks that Rev3 uses.  The bar racks are so difficult, but the box racks make things quicker and more organized.  Props to Rev3 for the "revolution" in bike racking!

I got the bike racked, let out some tire pressure, put garbage bags over the handle bars and seat, and headed over to the expo for the pro panel.

After some introductions and questions from the MC, they turned the panel over to the audience questions.  One of them was "What data do you use / rely on?"  Wouldn't you know, Mirinda Carfrae uses cadence and Jesse Thomas uses power.  Other than that, they don't use anything.  Even James Cunnama, last year's winner, says he rides without a computer and runs without a watch.  WHAT?!  Most of the other athletes said they use a watch for time, but otherwise go by perceived exertion

Another question from the MC was to Jesse Thomas who owns Picky Bars about his race day nutrition - how does he approach it.  Jesse's three points where that he doesn't change his nutrition plan based on terrain, heat, or anything, that the more pb&j he eats, the better he seems to race, and lastly, the nutrition goal should be to drink as much as you can and try not to throw up.  So there you go.   

Get rid of your fancy, expensive data computers
& eat a lot of pb&j. 
Advice from the top pros!

Before they headed off, I was able to snap a couple pics with my future racing buddies including both of the upcoming winners.

The always amazing Mirinda Carfrae

Matty Reed, me, and the 2012 soon-to-be Rev3 Quassy winner Richie Cunningham
I tried to get a picture with Julie Dibens who was on site for commentary, but as ironic as it is, she was the one that was able run away.  Guess I have more races to go to!

After that, I headed home to pack, rest, and relax.

SUNDAY

Pre-Race
The alarm went off at 3:45am.  I ate (bowl of oatmeal, three eggs, a banana with peanut butter, and OJ), got packed, and was on my way by just after 4:30am.  My plan was to get to transition at opening (5am), take an hour to set things up, rest for a bit, and then make the final adjustments.  Didn't take long to figure out that wasn't going to work.  Before I knew it, it was 6:30 and I had to get my wetsuit on.  Searching through all my bags, I couldn't find my goggles.  Thankfully, there were a couple fellow HEAT members nearby that had extras.  Thank God! 

I walked down to the beach and found a couple more HEAT members - both spectators AND racers.  It was great to have friends on course!  The male pros went off at 6:50am with the MC yelling "GO!" instead of the Ironman cannon.  The female pros headed off at 7:00.  Just before 7:10, I toed the water line.  "No use in competing if you don't think you can win."  With that in mind, I stood right in front.  I may not have been the first to cross the finish line, but I certainly can hold my own in a mass start.  The MC gave us a three minute, one minute, and fifteen second warning.  I could feel my heart pumping in my chest and I spent the last fifteen seconds breathing deep just trying to keep myself calm.

Goals
Going into the race, I had some goals.  Here they are...

Swim - 31:00
T1 - 3:30
Bike - 2:39
T2 - 1:30
Run - 1:45
Finish - 5:00

Swim
With the word "Go!" we were running out into the water.  I think I made it about ten steps and dove in.  I popped up again and dolphined once before starting to swim.  I might have 98% of the race waiting for me when I get out of the water, but my strength is in it, so I went hard to the first buoy.  I pulled it back a bit until the turn buoy where I got my breathing back and felt stronger.  It was hard to see the buoy markers now that I was headed into the sun, so I sighted the mass of flailing arms until the last turn buoy.  I picked up the pace and went hard to the first buoy back.  I felt great, so I kept the pace up.  My timer - set for 15 minutes - went off again just before I passed the last buoy.  If I was going to hit 31:00, I had to pick it up!  The swim exit was hard to sight.  All I could do was sight the mass of splashing.  I kept running transition through my head - wetsuit, shoes, glasses, helmet, bike.  As I saw volunteers with red flags (that dark red color is hard to see!), I felt the sand at my finger tips.  I popped up, fell over once, popped back up, and ran through the arches.

Swim - 0:32:45
12 / 55 (M25-29)


Transition No.1
As I crossed the arches, I was looking around for a timing mat.  Where is the end of the swim?!  I didn't see anything and kept running full tilt up the hill to transition taking the top of my suit off.  Finally, once I was on the pavement with the bikes, I hit the watch and looked down.  I had 33:11.  I ran through the bikes, down the wrong aisle, cut across, and got to my bike.  The wetsuit came off, the shoes went on, I grabbed my sunglasses, clipped the helmet on, pulled the bike out, and ran to the bike exit (which you can tell above wasn't very far).  The mount line was about 50 feet from the exit so I ran up, did a flying mount, and pedaled hard.  I hit the watch and looked down again; 1:33.  My goal was 3:30.  Obviously I've gotten better at T1.  I'll take it.

T1 - 0:01:44

Bike
Heading out of Quassy, we took a right and went 1.6 miles downhill getting plenty of time to slip on their bike shoes, adjust their suits, etc.  I switched my bike computer to display average & current speed.  I didn't want time or mileage to tick away at me.

After two HIMs where I hit the wall on the run, my biggest goal for the bike was to keep up my nutrition.  Less than a mile into the bike, I grabbed my Gatorade.  Unfortunately, as I reached down to put the bottle back, it slipped and fell to the pavement.  "F*#!"  I didn't stop, though in hindsight it might have been smarter.  I kept going and decided to rely on GUs until the mile 15 aid station.

The first 10 miles or so are net downhill and I averaged roughly 24.3 mph.  I knew I had the hills at mile 24 and beyond to deal with so I wanted to crank out some good speed early.  I hit the aid station at mile 15 and after a round of hills, I was at 19.7 mph average.  I refilled my water and grabbed a gatorade.  Thank God!  Time to make up for losing the first one.  I took a swig and C-A-R-E-F-U-L-L-Y placed it in the cage.  A mile down the road, I took another swig, went to put it away, and SLIP!  Another bottle bouncing on the pavement.  "F*#!"  As happy as I was to have Gatorade on course, I wasn't getting much use out of them.


I hit mile 23 with 20.7 mph average.  Given the lack of Gatorade, I was on my third gel at this point going into the hills.  I don't recall exactly where it started - it may have been on these hills - but my quads started cramping and didn't let up for the rest of the bike. But at the mile 30 aid station, that was the last thing I was thinking about.

One of my pet peeves is when an aid station is run wrong.  I appreciate all the help the volunteers give, but I must assume that most are non-athletes themselves and miss a few small details.  As I approached the second aid station, I grabbed a water and was coming up to a Gatorade.  The cyclist in front of me was off to my left and apparently needed a water.  One volunteer stepped away from the tables, out in front of me, and up to the cyclist as he went by.  The rest of this happened in slow motion.  As she walks in front of me, I know there's no room to the left, so I steer right.  She sees me coming and moves to go back to the table.  I steer even closer to the tables thinking "for the love of God stop moving" and she doesn't.  You can guess what happened next.  Less than a foot from the table, I run directly into the volunteer and we both go down.  For once I can say my helmet came in use! 

First I get hit by a car in RI
Now I hit a volunteer in CT
What's next?!

Back to normal speed.  I pulled my feet out of the cages, picked the bike back up, asked if she was ok (she said she was and told me to go), and took a quick look at the bike.  I hopped on and pedaled but something was wrong.  I got off and saw that the chain had derailed.  I pedaled another couple strokes and it felt like my brakes were on.  I got back off.  "Don't tell me I have to DNF because of this!"  The brakes were fine.  I had fallen to the left, so the gears should be fine.  A couple volunteers ran up asking if they could help.  I told them to get me the Gatorade I now realized I missed.  She came back quickly and put it right into my cage.  I lifted the back wheel and turned the pedals.  The gears shifted perfectly fine, so I hopped on and took off.  For the next 10 miles or so, the gear shift was super stiff.  It eventually loosened up, but I have to take it in to get it checked out.  I was simply thankful I didn't have to stop for mechanical.  

By the top of the hills (mile 31), I had dropped to 19.5 mph.  My goal was to be at 19, so I was ahead.  Time to bring it back up.  I rocked a couple downhills, hit some rolling hills, and then hit the out & back section.  From there to the finish I thought was rolling hills; something I could easily maintain my speed on.  I was wrong.  The last 6 miles were backtracking on the roads we started out on; you know, the ones I was averaging 24+ mph on in the opposite direction.  That killed both my legs and ate away at my mental game.  I had even forgotten to get the Gatorade in my system I was so focused.  Ugh!  As I came up to transition, I looked at the computer and had averaged 19.4 mph.  At least I still maintained my bike PR from Providence.  I hopped off the bike and ran it into transition - again it was awesome to be so close to that archway!

BIKE - 2:57:27

Transition No.2
After getting my bike in the rack, I sat right down.  There's no use in wasting energy trying to do things standing!  I slipped the bike shoes off (aka, my old running shoes I wore without socks) and put the running shoes on.  My helmet came off and I grabbed my hat.  Up and on my way!  Oops, I forgot the racing belt.  I ran back three feet, grabbed that and was on my way.

I thought that we'd be running back out the same archway.  Again, I was wrong.  We ran to the opposite corner - same side we entered from after the swim - and ran around transition back out of the park.  I grabbed a water at the transition aid station, sprayed myself, and was on my way.

T2 - 1:16

Run
As I headed out of Quassy and down Rt.64, my goal was to let my running legs get under me before I pushed the pace at all.  I did just that.  I found a steady rhythm and tried to let my body adjust.  Half a mile later, my quads began cramping again.  Another half a mile down the road, my left hamstring started cramping.  "Great!  Now I'm going to have to walk this thing."  I gritted my teeth, kept the steady stride going and ran on.  I made it through the first aid station, drank an entire cup of Gatorade and another of water.  Since my bike nutrition sucked, I had to try and maintain anything I had left.  We turned onto Tuttle Rd. and up a small incline.  About half a mile later, the cramps went away.  Lesson learned.  Cramps don't matter - just keep running.  haha

I had not hit my watch at the right time in T2, so my first mile time was off, but I know the 2nd mile was just under 7:30.  Mile 3 was just over 7:30 and I was feeling better with every step.  We made our way through the rolling hills and hit the big hills at mile 4.  'Maintain' and 'Do Not Break' were the names of the games I played.  Mile 4 went by in 8:17.  Thankfully there were only a few straight aways on this course, so I could run to the corner quite often.  Mile 5 in 8:30 as I crested the top of the hill and started the first out & back.  The out & back was good sized rollers.  I tried to lengthen my stride and pick the speed up, but it didn't work too well.  I also decided to break the cardinal rule of triathlon...

Do not try anything new on race day.  

I took a salt pill at the end of the out & back.  No worries - no ill effects, but also no noticeable benefits either.  Mile 6 went by in 8:06.  Mile 7 was 7:56.  Mile 8 put us at the highest elevation of the course and clocked a slow 8:45.  As much as I did not want to break, I did here.  I walked for about 15 steps.  You might not call that bad, but to me that was the first big breakdown of the day.  From there it was downhill - mile 9 in 7:52, mile 10 in 7:48.  We hit the end of the 2nd out & back and I started wearing down.  But I had some help.

I knew the last 1.5 miles were uphill and I tried my best to maintain my speed.  I'd kept calculating in my head when I'd finish.  At mile 3, I needed 7:00 pace to hit my 5 hour mark.  At 7 miles I was shooting more for a 5:10 finish.  At mile 10, I was shooting for a lofty 5:15.  Within the last mile, my brain was not cooperating.  Every time I thought "Do Not Break," my body said "ok, let's take a break."  Thankfully there was a biker that got me running again.  The next time, it was a runner behind me.  The third, it was a spectator.  Every time I stopped to walk there was someone helping me overcome the exhaustion.

As I rounded the last hill at 13 miles (Rev3 makes this course difficult right to the last mile!), I saw the cones entering the finisher's chute and just kept going.  I didn't have a last push, but the finish line put a new boost of energy in me.  I turned into the chute, zipped up my shirt, and ran to the finish line.

Thanks to friends from Newington Bike for getting some race photos!

RUN - 1:48:31

FINISH - 5:21:44

Post-Race
After finishing, I chugged a bottle of cold water to stop my wheezing (where that came from, I have no idea).  I grabbed a muscle milk to help the recovery, and hung out with some friends from the LBS and tri club.  We watched a number of other tri club members come through the finisher's chute which was awesome.  I got some food despite having the typical post-race upset stomach setting in.  Once I headed over to transition to pick my stuff up, I was moving at less than a snail's pace.  My legs felt great - the only issue was my left hip, but my stomach simply wasn't having it.  Even a volunteer in transition came over to ask if I needed any help.  How awesome are volunteers?!  Love you guys! 

Eventually, I got everything back in the car and headed out.  On the way home, I stopped to get a pizza (high calorie meal) and ice cream (the only thing I figured my stomach could handle at the time).  And yes, I ate both of them.  They were a delicious 3300+ calorie meal.  haha

Lastly, I've set a new rule for race day.  I am no longer allowed to drive without a passenger post-race.  Ideally, I should not be allowed to drive at all because I'm just as "impaired" as most friends I know who drink and drive (ok, not really but you get the idea).  Why do you ask?  I was within a mile from home and stopped at a red light.  I closed my eyes for a second and the next thing I knew, the light was green and cars were blowing past me.  I had fallen asleep at a red light! 


Thankfully, the only lasting pains from race day have been my left hip - most likely bruising from the bike vs. volunteer crash - and my calves have been a bit tight but much better than my previous two HIMs.  Now it's just time for recovery until my next sprint on the 14th and my first Olympic in two years on the 24th!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Do you volunteer at races?

2.  Do you have a pre-race habit?
Do you listen to certain music, go through a checklist, or do you just wing it every time?

3.  What's your favorite post-race snack / meal?


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

RACE REPORT: Lake T Sprint Tri No.1

 
What a way to start the season!!

Pre-Race
My first triathlon of the season and I must admit I showed up with some reservations.  I got out of work, headed home to grab my gear, and got on the road.  I quickly learned my lesson - get to the east side of Hartford before 4:30pm.  Oh-well. 

Starting that morning, I had been having a back/neck pain that caused pain when I lifted my head.  I had been working it out, but at this point just accepted that the swim was going to S-U-C-K!!  Lucky for me, I saw that they had massage tables set up.  What?  A free massage?!  Don't mind if I do!  One of the therapists - Tara - gave me a "magic potion" and OMG it felt amazing! 

As I stepped up to the water for the start, I couldn't even feel a twinge of pain; it was great!

I was in the second wave, so I got to see the first 100 people head off.  Three minutes later, I heard "three, two, one... Go!"  The season had started.

Swim
The swim was only a 500, so I pushed the pace.  This was just as much a test for Sunday with the wetsuit as it was a race to see where I stood.  I ended up veering a bit left, or everyone went right.  Either way I was on my own despite planning on drafting the swim.  I made it out to the turn buoy and thought "Hmmm...  this is a bit far."  On the way back, I again ended up left of everyone, but seemed to be headed straight for shore.  I picked the pace up a bit and when I was able to touch the sand with my fingertips, I popped up and ran to transition.  Looking down at my watch, I saw 11:xx.

The times for the Lake T Sprints include transition and I'm used to having an 11-12 minute first leg  Did I just swim really slow?  Turns out they had an 800 yd swim instead of 500; the director just really likes the swim. 

T1
I got the my bike, sat down, and immediately ripped off my wetsuit.  It was surprisingly easier than it had been before.  I tossed it with my stuff, slipped on the shoes, grabbed my sunglasses and clipped on the helmet.  I grabbed my bike and ran to the road.

SWIM + T1 -  12:33
12th place

Bike
With a flying mount, I headed out on the 12-mile bike course and pushed it from the start.  I only had 12 miles and I've ridden that plenty of times, so I felt I had no reason to let up.  Down the first hill, I noticed that my bike computer wasn't reading.  Greeeeeat!  I'm blind.  I also noticed that I was breathing rather heavy.  Oh-well.  My body can handle it.  I kept drinking my double concentrated Gatorade and water (in hindsight, I got a LOT of liquid in on the bike) and kept passing other riders.  I only had a couple people pass me and it was in leap frog fashion; overall I didn't get passed on the bike and that was a mental boost for sure.  

On the second loop, I felt my breathing calm down - awesome!  I kept pushing the pace.  At this point, the computer started reading and I got an idea of what my pace was - around 21 mph.  I was used to hitting 19 mph on this course and the excitement let me push harder.  I rounded last turn into transition and hopped off the bike.  I ran towards transition with the computer reading just over 22mph.


BIKE - 31:07 
(~ 23 mph)
15th place

T2
As I crossed the timing mat into transition, I noticed two things.  First, the few people I saw ahead of me were quickly getting out on the run course.  Second, there were only half a dozen bikes in transition.  After a great bike, I was pumped that I was so close to the front.  Extra motivation!!  I racked the bike, switched shoes, threw off the helmet, grabbed my hat, and took off after the guys in front of me.

Run
I headed out a bit faster than I might normally since I had three guys in my view.  After the first 0.1 mile, I tried to keep myself in check 'till I got up the first hill.  I passed one guy before the hill and stayed in place to the top.  I passed another on the downhill and decided to attempt maintaining my pace.  I felt like I might be hitting 7:00 minute miles, but felt great either way.  Up ahead, I saw a blue tri jersey; a friend of mine from grad school.  I won't lie that seeing him up ahead helped me push myself.  What can I say, I'm competitive!

I thought I might hold my place and take him on the last downhill.  I'm not a sprinter!  If I'm going to get ahead, I have to go NOW.  I clicked the pace back up and kept pushing.  I passed my friend in blue and made it to the final downhill.  One mile to go.

I hadn't been hitting my watch for splits, but with one mile to go, I had 57 minutes.  If I was hitting 7 minutes, 1:05 was well within reason.  Yet again, I gritted down and pushed it.  I passed two more runners before I hit the finish line.

T2 + RUN - 19:45
(sub-6:22 pace)
9th place

FINISH - 1:03:25
7th overall
1st in age group

I think it's safe to say, I was quite happy with myself.  My test of the Rev3 race day gear worked very well.  Transitions went smoothly.  I had a killer bike!  I surpassed my expected run time.  The overall winner had a time of 58:01, so I have roughly 5 minutes to cut down somewhere.  I have my work cut out for me this summer - only 5 races left.  Maybe a minute per race?  We shall see. 

Onto Rev3 Quassy.  Bring it!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Questions
1.  Is there a better way to start the season than with crushing a PR?
If there is, I want to know about it.

2.  Do you get competitive with others in a race or are you out there solely for yourself?
I'm super competitive! 


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rev3 Quassy Quickie Report

Here's the short of it...

Finish Time - 5:21:44

Overall, it was a rough day, but I still grabbed a PR on an extremely hilly course.  The swim went well, the back half of the bike was torture, and my run was on & off. 

The one thing I'm happiest about post-race is that my quads, hamstrings, and calves feel great!  My hips (ITB) are another story, but I was back in the pool this morning to work them out. 

Next up is a sprint on the 14th and then my first test of the Olympic distance since 2010 on the 24th.  This one will be back on the same course I raced in 2010, so I'm hoping to crush my PR there as well.

Be back this week with both the Lake T Sprint & Rev3 Half Race Reports


Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard.