Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tri season ... done!

Done until next year at least. A next year that I annoyingly have to start thinking about now. In fact, I needed to start thinking about it in July. I got into the sport at about the same time as everybody else it seems, and the market is still catching up to demand. Columbia (which I was considering again): already sold out. Pretty much much every North American Ironman race (which I am not considering): sold out the day registration opens, and if you really want in to the race you have to haul your butt to the actual site of this year's race to sign up for next year. This hobby is expensive enough as it is. It looks like a group of us want to do the Timberman 70.3 next August 23, and I'm already arranging lodging. The race doesn't even open until next week. Talk about planning ahead.

But enough about the distant future. This season ground to a halt with a bang. Or maybe a whimper, cuz that's what I felt like doing during the run at Nation's. My warm weather curse that began at Mooseman came back with a vengeance in DC with temps in the mid 90s and a heat index well about that.

The swim was a comedy of errors. The course was not as advertised on the published race maps which would have been fine except for one problem: it was not well marked. What was supposed to be a leisurely squarish swim was actually an almost direct out and back. The back part happened to be directly into the rising sun. Normally not a problem for me; I can sight pretty well and swim straight-ish. But I couldn't see a damn thing (ironically, non-tinted goggles probably would have been a better choice), and there was only a single buoy between the turnaround and the exit ramp. And the buoy that marked the final short 90 degree turn to the ramp was the same color and size as the buoy that marked the starting pen about 150 meters away. Half way back I was a little separated from the pack and pegged my seriously impeded eyes on the wrong buoy. Then I lost sight of that in the glare and just focused on the tall white flags that marked the staircase thinking I was on a beeline. Screams from the crowd! Hmm, the next wave must be going off. Then a ran into somebody and stopped to see who it was. It was a large group of women in the starting pen, the same starting pen that I just swam into. "Hello, ladies!". I had to turn 90 degrees, swim for 150 meters, make a 180 and then swim back. Joy! My time ended up just north of 30 minutes, which isn't too bad considering the extra distance I had to cover. But I thought it was way longer than that and was just demoralized. I could see my shot at a PR fading away.

I got out on the bike a little angry and a lot determined. The course was great with tons of shade and gently rolling hills, probably my favorite this season. It was lots of fun blasting down the Whitehurst Freeway without a car in sight. I felt strong the whole way, but my back started to cramp up a bit in the last 5 miles or so. A good bike fit is going to be a key for next season. I got off the bike around 1:08 which was good for over 4 minutes off of my previous Oly best.

I then paid dearly for it on the run. As soon as I left transition I knew I was basically done. Both hip flexors were tightening up with every step. About a half mile in they started to loosen ever so slightly, but the heat was already getting to me. I have enough trouble with running as it is, but the heat just kills me every time. I don't know what it is; I've read that some people, especially larger guys, just don't handle it as well. By the time the aid station at Mile 1 rolled around I was ready to stop and stretch my hip and back, get some gel and water, and hope that my body would recover enough to at least run the rest of the way. All they had at the aid station was chocolate flavored GU, the only flavor that I detest. I choked one down and plodded on. Repeat at Mile 2 with water. By the time Mile 3 rolled around I knew it wasn't meant to be. My hip and back did not want to cooperate and I was really overheated; heart rate was almost 20 beats higher than what I normally see at that pace. Given my swim time I starting jogging it in, walking at the rest stops and in the final 1.5 miles about every 2-3 minutes to try and stretch a little bit or when I felt light-headed. Never a good sign. I was even pretty well hydrated. It was my worst run time since my very first olympic. Total time ended up being 2:44; with even a moderately decent run for me I could have gone under 2:40. There's my target to hit next year! But it was a fantastic race, and I'm glad I was able to sign up. Hopefully they will get the crowds next year; this could be a premier big city event if the swim can be worked out and the rains stay away.

In 2 days we leave DC for the Ragnar Relay! Forecast is for rain, but it should be one hell of a good time anyway. The plan is just to enjoy the 13.4 mile that I'll be running over the course of two days and enjoy the ride. Teen and I are talking about doing the Phily half marathon at the end of November, and then a group of us are planning on heading down to do the Shamrock Half in March again. I'm on the lookout for an earlier half iron, maybe one that I won't half to think about signing up for until the spring!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And the toys go winding down

The Nation's Tri is coming up this weekend (unless we get a good deal more rain, then it might be the Nation's Du). I should be a lot more excited about this race than I actually am. It's probably a combination of end-of-season burnout and the late sign up; I'm just planning on going out there and seeing how it comes together. It should be a fantastic crowd if the rains stay away. After that, tri season is officially kaput. I may try to go up to volunteer at Savageman to see what the fuss is about

Ragnar is shaping up nicely; I can't believe we are almost 2 weeks away! It will probably be a bit painful, but fun. Liz is trying to talk me into the Philly half marathon with a couple other friends. If I get my running in order it should be doable. Early plans are in the works to hit the Shamrock Half in March. It was a blast this year; next year I hope to be better prepared. Mostly I'm looking forward the off-season and thinking about planning for '09. It's hard to believe that some of the bigger races are selling out! Columbia is apparently almost full. Yikes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Take a good look, because you're not likely to see this again!

It's been a slow wind down to the season after ramping up so early for key "A" races in April and June. That doesn't mean we haven't been active with training, it's just that nothing has had the urgency of the late spring/early summer. And I kind of like it.

August 17th saw the final sprint of the year (well, maybe final) at the North East triathlon. I did this as an Olympic last year and ended up just not really liking it all that much. The bike was tougher than I thought, but that didn't bother me too much. The run just sucked: 6 miles out and back on a highway shoulder that slanted about 10 to 15 degrees for drainage. Liz and the ladies were going back to defend their relay title, and CGI added a sprint distance race so I figured I'd give it another try. If it sucked as bad at least I was only in it for 3.1.

The swim was not wetsuit legal again, but we had expected that and not even packed them for the race. At packet pick up the day before they had the temp listed at 76 degrees, and there was some discussion about heading back to DC to get wetsuits. Glad we didn't, because the race morning temp was announced at 78.8, and it felt even warmer than that. I was in the first wave again (a theme for this year it seems), and due to the small size of the sprint that included pretty much all men except for Clydesdales and first timers, so I would actually be racing against most of the field out on the course. The swim went off OK and I didn't notice anything odd during the race, but my time ended up being about 5 minutes slower than expected. In fact everybody's time was slow! We figure that both courses were 300-400 meters long based on normal swim paces.

I was 10th or 11th out of the swim and must have moved up a couple spots out of T1. The volunteers on the bike course yelled "You're in 7th place!" as I rolled by mile 2. Hmmm. That's a new one. I caught and passed 4 riders in the first 5 miles and then spent most of the remainder of the ride totally by myself until another guy caught me with 2 or 3 miles to go. Still, if the volunteers were to be believed I was sitting in 4th place coming into T2. Um, OK. I figured the masses would catch me on the run, but I set out with a pace I thought I could hold to be close to 24:xx on the 5K to equal or slightly beat my best at New Jersey. The lead woman passed me early on in the run, and heading to the turnaround I counted 3 other racers heading back to the finish. 1.5 miles left and I was sitting in 4th place for men overall! I quickly started to do the calculations in the my head. Top 3 men get overall spots then they start counting the age group awards. If nobody else passed me on the run I would guarantee a win my age group! Crap, at the turnaround there were two guys within about 30 seconds of me and then a larger gap until the next pack of runners, maybe 1:30 back. If only two of them passed me, and IF those two were in the 30-34 age group, I would still place! I tried to glance at their calves while they passed, but couldn't get a good read. Coming down the final hill with about a 3/4 mile to go I gave it all I had. I was passed by one guy with about a 1/4 mile left (what does his calf say??? 41! Phew) and swore I saw another guy just over my shoulder on the final turn. As I passed by Liz and Teen in the chute I yelled "How far back is he? How far back?!!" They of course thought I was crazy because there was nobody within a hundred yards or so. I crossed the line thinking I was 5th overall for men and probably won my age group!

Turns out I was right on one count: I did win 30-34 men! There were two first timers in the next wave that had better times (one must have been the guy who passed me at the end), so I ended up 6th overall male and 9th overall in the whole race! That was pretty exciting! Granted it's all a function of who shows up; the field you are racing against is your competition. To be perfectly honest, if just some of the dudes racing the Olympic were to have raced the sprint in my age group they would have blown me out of the water. But, hey, a medal is a medal! I'm going to enjoy it until the next race when I'll be shown my proper place firmly in the middle of the pack of my age group :)

Liz, Steph, and Teen took first place in their relay category and Nancy, Erin, and Dara took second in the Battle of Team DCDDs. Congrats!

Next up: The Nation's Triathlon! I was not going to do this race, just mentor the TNT team and provide race day support. The Annapolis tri hit a rather large snag with their bike permits (namely: there will be no bike), and Nation's generously offered stranded participants an entry in the sold out race so I took them up on it. I'll be gunning for that sub-2:40 time. Then it's prep for the Ragnar Relay and some time off!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Jerse

The race this weekend was fantastic. Liz and I rolled up to NJ on Saturday for packet pick up with a pretty good sized group of former TNTers and friends. For some reason still unknown to me I was assigned #3 as my race number; normally the low numbers go to pros or elite amateurs. I had to keep telling people that this was in no way a prediction of my race results. It looks like almost every guy in my age group had a really low number, so it must have been some combination of wave assignment and when you signed up or something. Like last year we stayed with CH's grandmother about 40 minutes away and enjoyed a great pre-race meal and a good night's sleep. At least until the crazy thunderstorm woke us up at 4:00 AM. There was constant lightning and thunder for about 45 minutes so I never got back to sleep. Amazingly, the storm line completely missed the race course and it was bone dry when we got there. Parking was a bit of a nightmare so we snuck into a remote lot and rode our bikes in just in time to set up transition before it closed.

My wave was #1 in the water (again), so I had zero warm up aside from the jog from transition to the swim start. The lake is small and by this time in the summer has not chance of being wetsuit legal (86 degrees this year). I think I actually prefer cooler water, not just because of the wetsuit factor but because I don't feel like I'm going to get too hot. I felt good in the swim but my time doesn't really reflect it (only knocked off 00:21 from last year when I felt I had a terrible swim). I was breathing pretty hard the whole way, but I figured that was because of no warm up. It usually takes me 500-600 meters in the pool to really get in to a groove, and we were back on dry land by then in the sprint. The run up to transition was a long one (my bike was far from the swim exit, close to bike exit); nothing notable about it, probably took a little too long getting my shoes on and fumbling with my helmet.

The bike course is only 11.5 miles (down from 13.x last year), so you just had to hammer the whole way. I've been making some good improvements on the bike since Mooseman (the Sunday rides with the Bike Rack have kept me honest) and it's starting to show. I ended up averaging 22.5 MPH compared to 20.8 last year. After adjusting my bar height a few weeks ago I've had no issues with shoulder pain and have been able to put down some power to the pedals. I rolled into transition feeling pretty good. T2 was uneventful, but slower than I should have been. Again it was a long run out from my rack.

The run last year was a 5K PR for me last year, and it happened again this year (I really need to run a standalone 5K to see what my baseline is; I haven't run one since Thanksgiving on a really hilly course). I focused on keeping a steady pace for the first half, noted where the 1/2 mile to go point was, and planned on pushing it from there to the end. As always, some super speedy runners went blowing by, but only about a dozen this time ;). Ended up with a 24:13 run, 00:40 better than last year. After the lack of run training this spring and summer I was hoping for 25:00, so it was a nice surprise.

My final time was 1:07:35. Overall that was 9/47 in my age group, 59/549 for all men, and 68th overall in the race (up from 100th overall last year). All in all it was a good day. Everybody seems to have had a great race. The DC Tri Club dominated the East Coast championships again, and the the Bike Rack multisport team had a good representation. This is shaping up to be a big East Coast event (2500 racers this year in the sprint and olympic races). We'll be back next year for sure!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Been awhile ....

Ummmmm, yeah. These updates have been few and far between, so here's the short attention span version of the race season so far:

St. Anthony's 2:40:16; Swim was a little rougher this year than last and I dropped 2.5 minutes off of that time despite being in better swim shape, but maybe the adrenaline was really pumping in 2007 as it was my first race! Ride was 3.5 minutes faster than last year and I felt a lot better coming off of the bike. Run started out great, but I hit the wall at mile 4. Struggled home to a 56:xx 10K (which is not that bad by my standards), but feel I could have knocked a couple minutes off of that. The slow recovery from the half marathon really put a big dent in my run ability. One of my goals this year was to break 2:40:00 in an olympic. My next and probably last chance will be at Annapolis.

Columbia Tri: 2:53:19; I was treating this as a training day for Mooseman and didn't plan on hammering it at all. The starting line announcer had to lie about the water temperature to get us all in, but since it was around 55 degrees I don't blame him. Holy crap, that was cold! It did make for a personal best sub-25:00 swim though; I really wanted to be out of that water. Columbia bike course is really challenging with all of the hills, and I lost 6.5 minutes to a flat in the first 4 miles or so. Averaged 18 MPH even with that little hiccup and on that course I'm was happy with it. The run at Columbiz is the real challenge. There are 5-6 seriously steep hills with equally punishing downhills on the other side. I kept my HR in a fairly comfortable zone, walking the hills where necessary to keep from overdoing it. Still came out with a sub-58:00 10K which actually surprised me a bit. Sign up for this race next year is next week (!!!!), but I don't know if I'll do it again. It will depend on which half I might be interested in.

Mooseman Half Ironman: 6:21:27; I was hoping to go (and think I'm capable of going) under 6:00:00 so my time will speak for itself. Swim was right around where I wanted it at 34:06, but I think 33:00 is doable. I had some wetsuit issues in the first couple hundred meters and had to flip on my back to adjust the closure 2-3 times. The water was super clear (and cold at 60 degrees), but it was a good swim.

The bike course was rolling with a couple short, steep hills and some gradual climbs. The road conditions were pretty horrendous, though. I had practiced my nutrition strategy ahead of time, but it kind of fell apart during the first loop and I had some stomach cramps. I got things sorted out by the second loop, but by then it was too late. Neck and shoulder problems made staying aero a chore in the last 10 miles. I had made a tiny (tiny, I swear!) adjustment to my bar position about a month out from the race and hadn't had too many issues, but the combination of probably a slightly stretched out position and a death grip on the bars going over some really rough pavement just made things tense up. (I've since returned the bars to a more relaxed position and haven't had any issues. Lesson learned, but a bit too late!). Rolled in at 3:06:00 (goal was sub-3:00:00), so that wasn't too bad. I think I dropped 8-9 minutes on the second lap compared to the first.

The run is where that little nutrition issue reared it's incredibly ugly head. I had more than 1/3 of my concentrated InfiniT solution left in the bottle when I racked my bike, which included the electrolytes I needed. Oh, and did I mention that despite the 60 degree water it was approaching 95 and humid that day? Yeah, and I was sweating like mad. About 1/4 mile into the run both of my quads cramped up and refused to unlock. I then locked up a hamstring trying to stretch out a quad! Eventually things got moving and shuffled to a 9:1x first mile; that was the closest I was to seeing a 9:00 mile the rest of the day. I got down some salt tabs at the first aid station, but the lack of calories from the bike just left my legs with nothing and the heat was killing me. The next 2+ hours were spent shuffling along and then walking ... often. There were two wicked hills on the two loop course. I was thinking I could realistically go 2:15:00 on the run but came in at 2:36:41. Ouch. Literally. I can't blame the heat and nutrition mistakes entirely, though. Maybe (just maybe ;) ) the fact that my long runs leading up to this race after the March half mary were 6, 6, and 7 miles. And two of those were 10Ks at the end of olympic races. Undertrained = me on the run. I also probably pushed the bike too hard knowing that I would need to make up time there. A decent run would have put me under 6 hours, but it wasn't to be, and I had a fantastic time up in New Hampshire. That's what first 1/2 Ironmans are for, right? To live and learn. Despite some disappointment it leeft me wanting for more. We'll have to pick out a race for next season and actually train better for it. Probably something later on in the summer, though.

General Smallwood Sprint: 1:34:08; This was a fun race to do just before heading down to the beach for the 4th of July. Probably my best overall finish so far: 25/140 out of all men and 4th in my age group. I'd like to say that I was close to a podium finish, but I was a full 3 minutes out of 3rd! It still was nice to see that result. If only I could run well. I dropped my chain on the bike twice (even after adjusting things); once in the middle of a steep hill. Wasn't fun to get going again after that. The bike wiped me out more than I thought it would (again, probably pushed too hard). There were some not so nice hills at the very beginning of the run course that sapped a lot of energy. Oh, and the swim was full of weeds that stole my Garmin watch strap right off of my wrist!! Of course the first time I decide to wear it in the swim instead of putting it on in transition a freaking plant steals it!

Coming up next:

New Jersey State Sprint: this weekend 7/27
North East Sprint: 8/17 (yes, after the half I'm taking advantage of sprints for a little bit ...)
Annapolis Olympic: 9/7 (different course than last year, but probably an easier run)
Savageman Olympic: 9/21 (possibly, not signed up yet; it's at Deep Creek, should be a beautiful but tough course. The Half is tempting ... for next year)
Ragnar Relay: 9/26-27. This is going to be awesome: 183 mile, 12 person relay from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. Team DCDD is going to rock it!

Then some time off, but maybe a fall half marathon? Let's not go there just yet!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

12 more days

We're just shy of two weeks away from race day on 4/27! It's been a bit of a rocky road for me since March. First, the good news (for me at least): a 1:55:26 at my first half marathon. That was about 5 minutes faster than my goal pace. I paid dearly for it with a bout of tendonitis in my right ankle that has kept me almost completely off of running since then. I'm hoping to get a couple 30 minute runs in before we head down to St. Anthony's. It should make things interesting on race day, to say the least, but hopefully not too painful.

In other injury news I somehow strained/partially dislocated my left side sternoclavicular joint in what my ortho described as a very freakish occurrence. I did it pushing off of the wall while swimming and felt it pop. Yes, that was pushing off of the wall with my feet, hands outstretched over my head. Guess it just rotated the wrong way. Doctor says I have some "instability" issues with my shoulders that could have contributed. That kept me out of the pool for a few weeks, but I'm back to swimming with no pain and haven't lost much in the way of swim fitness that I can tell. I'm hoping that taking 4 weeks off from running goes as well, but I'm not holding out hope.

The swim waves were announced and I'm pretty relieved to be the first non-pro group into the water at 7:05. Last year we were the last wave (9:10). Instead of passing a bunch of people on the bike this year I'll be the one getting passed. Those that don't catch me on the bike will probably do it on the run. Being done before 10:00 will sure beat being out on the run course in the heat close to noon, and I'll get to watch everybody else come in. My goal this year was to break 2:40 (I did 2:36:xx at Annapolis, but that bike was maybe a mile short. I'm not counting it in my book!). Even after my injuries I think it's still possible depending on how my bike goes and if I can keep a halfway decent pace on the run.

15 day forecast says it looks like a great day to race!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Training through the "holidays"

The good thing about having an early February birthday is that comes at a time just when the post-Holidays doldrums would really set in. It's also a good excuse to blow off some training for a weekend of fun. Well, "good" is all relative here. I just view it as some extra built-in recovery days ...

Tri training has been going well, and the build towards the half marathon has gone about as well as I could have imagined. I hit almost 11 miles on my long run two weeks ago and plan to nudge that towards 12 this weekend. I'm aiming to top out at a 2 hour run before starting the taper in time for St. Patrick's weekend. This won't get me to race distance, but it'll be close enough!

We've actually had some nice training weekends for a change this year. Our first brick on Saturday started out above freezing (well, minus the wind chill at least) which was nice. I don't think we'll be as lucky this weekend. My struggle with minor frostbite in my fingers continues whenever the thermometer drops below freezing. I'm convinced I'm just cursed with poor circulation in those particular extremities. I had to abort a ride a couple weeks ago to let them thaw out, but I'm done messing around and picked up a pair of these. If technical backcountry gloves rated to 5 F can't do the trick I'm going to give up or get some of those hand warmer things. Think warm thoughts for me ...