Thursday, October 20, 2016

Some thoughts on Kona and some other thoughts

Well, Kona was a spectacle. The hype around the race is ... well it's a lot of hype.  The course itself is mostly uninteresting and difficult mainly due to the fact that the bike and runs are along a coastline. As a consequence, it is windy and (frequently) very sunny.  Kailua-Kona is populated, the entire week, with a lot of triathletes that are really fast.  What that essentially means, however, is that the town is full of...frustrating people.  There's a lot of "me first" attitudes being tossed around, which I suppose is pretty normal in the triathlon world.  Athletes do it, coaches do it, manufacturers do's ubiquitous! Just imagine: if you took the fastest and most serious people at every Ironman race and lumped them all into one small town for a week ... there'd be consequences!

As cynical and jaded as I sometimes seem to be about Ironman and road triathlons (and maybe triathlon in general) I really am just hiding a little bit of jealousy that I haven't qualified for Kona and haven't raced Ironman successfully in quite some time.

Speaking of that, I was having a discussion with Christine the other day about how everyone in Charlotte seems to have signed up for next year's Ironman Wisconsin.  This has got me thinking that - although Wisconsin has never been a race I've been eager to do - the time may have come to get back on the road.  She agreed, saying that it was time I "stopped hiding in the woods!"

So, with the last race of the year on the horizon, what should I do???

Option 1)

Continue to hide in the woods

Option 2)

Return to the glory days of road triathlon

Option with the most votes will win the prize (the prize being me doing that thing, obviously).

Full Distance #1 - B2B 2009
Full Distance #2 (dnf) - Louisville 2010

Full Distance #3 (dnf) - Cozumel 2013

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hawaii Travels Diary - Day 7 - Only 24 hours now...

A little less than 24 hours from now, the professional men's field will have started their world championship journey.  Soon after them, the professional women.  Then, after a nice big gap, the age group men and age group women will have separate wave starts.  Hopefully this all adds up to a nice, clean race for everyone involved. So, more importantly, what's my race day plan??

I'm glad you asked.  Well, our first step will be to park the car inland of the Kuakini Hwy.  Because once the race gets going, there's no getting any vehicle across a lane of travel that the race itself is using.  I'm a little curious as to how many spectators will be attempting to go watch their athletes on the bike course.  There's really only 1 or 2 places to go out on the bike, so I'm curious if it will be crowded.  Fewer people here will have cars available to them vs. a "regular" Ironman so maybe it won't be too crowded.

So park the car and then go watch everyone flail through the ocean for roughly an hour.  Then, once everyone has gotten onto their two wheeled machine you actually see them 3 times at the "hot corner." Once at mile .01, again at maybe mile 1, then again at maybe mile 8 or 9.  Then after that point they're off on the Queen K for the rest of their journey. It's at this point that Christine's mom and I will head off to our bike vantage point.  It'll take us about an hour, but we'll see the bike course at roughly mile 40 and mile 79 at which point we'll cheer loudly and make a bunch of noise and then hop back in the car to hustle back into town and try and beat Christine off the bike. The chances of seeing complete meltdowns out on the bike at those two points would be classified as "high." That is it will be payback time for everyone that has been busting around Ali'i like they're gonna win the world championship in the days leading up to the race...

But some will manage to get off their bikes with a fast (ish) marathon ready to roll in their legs. We'll be watching up and down Ali'i drive, as the condo is right on the road and is close to the hub of the race, which is uber convenient.  I believe I should be able to ride out on the Queen K on my bike to peruse the racer's faces and gauge who is going to finish strong and who is going to just finish. Sadly, I will not have a megaphone. In previous races where I spent the day spectating, having a megaphone really made everything significantly better. At the end of the day, each athlete here has spent multiple thousands of dollars for the priveledge of being here, most likely using up points, using others' points, gofundme'ing their race, asking their parents for money, dipping into their savings, no one is allowed to complain tomorrow. NO ONE! Although I will be complaining, a lot. But also cheering. I will cheer as good as I know how (which is not that good). I'm pretty excited to watch this spectacle.

It's difficult to describe the "feel" of this race, but it is certainly unlike any other IM event I have seen.  Admittedly, I've not been to a world championship level race before, but I don't see how anything can quite match this.  The manufacturer side of things is huge, as so many take this week to debut new products or services.  There are more family members and spectators here, because it's an Ironman and it's in Hawaii (vs. a 70.3 WC in other places).  And each athlete here (or almost each athlete here) is part of a specific and select group of athletes.  You take the people at every Ironman event who are the most "special" (I mean that in a multitude of ways) and you put them all in one race and you've got a LOT of "special" people. I think you can guess what type of vibe I'm talking about on this one... If you can't, read my previous blogs.

Less than 24hours now! (I had to take a break to go run some 4:30/mi pace along Ali'i Drive ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hawaii Travels Diary - Day 6 - It's getting closer...

The newest aero road bikes debut in Kona
I was having a discussion with Christine yesterday who, like everyone else here on the island, is about ready to get this dang thing over with.  We were walking into the expo area to try and find a new front hydration system for her and we were talking about how warm and humid it's been so far.  Being from Tucson, this humidity is definitely noticeable.  It hasn't been THAT long, however, since we've both been on the east coast so we shouldn't be that out of sorts when it comes to that sweet sweet dew point that feels like you're walking, running, and biking around in a plastic bag. Everything is just so...moist.  I hate that word, so when I use it you KNOW I mean it!

But anyway, back to the original thread of this story. Christine was saying how much she'd like it to be overcast on Saturday, and I told her that then EVERYbody would do better.  The harder the conditions, the more likely a tough, well trained athlete is likely to flourish. We had a discussion as well earlier in the week about her "cake has been baked" already (David's way of saying "the hay is in the barn" but I like baking more than farming so it's a much better version of that expression) in an effort to discuss how little some of the workouts matter this week.  They matter in the sense that the sharpening effect is well worth it if the workouts are well designed and timed but they don't matter in the sense of increasing your fitness.  Nobody's fitness is going to increase by race-day, and the athletes busting their ass up and down Ali'i drive are certainly only - if anything - diminishing their chances of having a good race Saturday...

BUT ANYWAY, I keep getting sidetracked.  I'm a very tangential blogger, as some of you who have been reading me for years may have discovered (mom).  Christine said overcast is better, I said hot is better. She said, "but what if I crumble??" I responded by saying: "a well baked cookie never crumbles."

So that's my anecdote from yesterday.  If you trust in your training, trust in your plan, execute on race day, and adapt as necessary to changing can't have a bad race! (I realize the irony of me saying this by the way, so take it for what it's worth).  The tougher conditions will only bring out the toughest athletes.

I have one or two rants to throw in this blog as well:

Safeway - what the heck is up with groceries here? 99% of the people on this island are here for days or a week, and yet the grocery store has higher priced, large sized items. There are no "travel sizes" available. Yet they KNOW most of the customers are transient, vacation based customers.  I mean, $8 for a bottle of Heinz ketchup is atrocious. Luckily, I can exist on frozen pizza, bagels, and lunch meat. But still!

DB cyclist/triathletes - Sebastian Kienle even tweeted about this. It's so annoying watching athletes here - who are under the biggest spotlight in the triathlon world, so to speak - continually disregard traffic signals; be it stop signs or stop lights or what have you.  It's extremely frustrating that in this environment they feel like it's ok to risk their safety and the reputation of everyone here.  City residents probably hate this week enough without some douchebag cyclists rolling through town and running stop signs and red lights. Get your s*** together athletes! No excuses.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hawaii Travels Diary - Day 5 - More observations

Selfie Pro

I started off today by discovering the sheer joy that is facebook live video broadcasting.  As you may be aware, I went a little overboard yesterday.  If you're not aware, head over to my facebook page and give all of that deliciousness a look-see.  I promise you, nay I swear to you, that it will be worth it.  You actually don't realize the pressure "live" video imparts on you and your script (just kidding, I didn't have a script; not sure if you could tell) as opposed to recorded video.  There's SO MUCH PRESSURE!

I spent another annoying hour at the Kona Aquatics pool, dealing with people who have the strangest taper workouts I've yet to see in triathlon. Thankfully, I have a smart coach and I know he'd never assign me 100s of breaststroke in my lead up to an Ironman event... Can't say the same about some of these athletes.
I guess this signage needs to be in every male locker room

Christine and I also joined up with Heath to go run in the energy lab, which was pretty fun.  That's the one place on the course (I think) that spectators aren't allowed to go so it was nice to see and try and get a feel for what everyone will be going through.  It's definitely hot, and while it might not have felt that bad today during our 45 minute easy trot, I can almost certainly guarantee that it will feel MUCH worse for everyone on Saturday.

Heading into the Lab

Coming out of the Lab

We saw Jan Frodeno and Terrenzo Bozzone running out of the lab, and when we were getting back to the car we saw Jesse Thomas heading out for a little scouting trip.  He was wearing aviators, which honestly seems like an absolutely awful choice as far as sporting optics go.

I also saw the TriRig Omni in person, which I'm happy to say has absolutely no visual appeal to me.  To be honest, none of the beam bikes are appealing to me, including the new P5x.  If I HAD to choose one of the current "beam" bikes my choice would be pretty easy: the Ventum.

Luckily I don't have to choose! My classic P3 works just fine...for now.

TriRig Omni

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hawaii Travels Diary - Day 4 - Swimming

Let's start off on the right foot today. I want to begin by thanking Kailua-Kona (or I suppose its residents) for hosting this race, and further thank them for having a free multi lane training pool available that is within walking distance of downtown.  That is truly awesome, and I'm sure the expense of that is settled soundly on the shoulders of the local tax payers.  It's impressive how much they are willing to sacrifice for this one week of what I can only imagine must be absolute hell for them. I'm sure athletes bring in a lot of money (just look at the restaurant prices!) to this small town can't buy happiness.

Now, let's talk more about this pool. This morning I rode my bike over to the pool as Christine did her OWS and bike ride to get in a workout in a pool environment so my pacing could be a little more specific. I am not sure what exactly I expected, but I certainly did not expect the level of crowding that I encountered.  Matt Dixon was there with his "fast" and he coached a slightly slower group later.  Every lane was full and every lane was circling. I waited for a while and caught up with Leigh-Ann, another Charlotte/Davidson resident who was doing to hop in with Matt's group shortly. 

 After a while I decided that - no matter what - I was going to be sharing with some athletes so I chose a lane and asked if I could join in as I personally always like to let the people in the lane know that I am there and will be joining them, because I'm not a dick. We ended up having a merry old time for about 20 to 30 minutes as I got in the first 2/3 of my workout and they got in ... whatever it was they were doing.  I think they were Eastern European. For some reason, they had a fair amount of breaststroke in their Kona taper workout.  I'm not sure where they were getting that workout from (they had it printed on a card at the end of the lane) but if it was from a coach, that coach should be ashamed.

OWS'ing is the shizzle

But we meshed pretty well together as I was a good bit faster than them so it was easy to time my send-offs and they had a good lane awareness so knew when I was coming up on them and consequently when to let me go by them at the wall or - occasionally - in the middle of the lane. All in all, despite those guys' strange workout I'd give them a 6/10 as lane partners.  Eventually one got out and the other finished the workout 100 yards or so later at roughly the same time I was getting to one of the last parts of my workout.  He looked over at me and said - in pretty broken eastern euro english: "gut swimmah you!" I responded "thanks, good luck Saturday" and they got out and I had a blissful 2 minutes of solo lane work.  Then a lady jumped in (also Eastern European) and she was quite slow, but with only two people in the lane it was pretty easy to sort things out with such a pace disparity.

Then, calamity. We were enjoying our little shared experience in this great - free - pool when, as I was finishing one lap, I looked up and saw 4 people in yellow suits standing at the end of our lane. I thought to myself: "There's no way they'll all get in this lane, is there?" Because when 4 people doing the same workout get into a lane with 2 other people not doing the same workout, they basically control the lane. Essentially it's like the 2 people already in the lane don't even exist anymore.

And yea they all, one right after another, jumped into our lane. I got pretty annoyed by this, because that's just bad manners.  At one point I was catching one of them and I basically swam over him at the turn.  Sure, that wasn't the nicest thing in the world...but WTF! Split your shit up and put 2 people in our lane (so we'd have 4 people, which is relatively reasonable) and 2 people in a different lane.

This brings up another interesting subject: swimming mediocrity. This is the world championships of Ironman. Which is kind of like being the funniest guy at Shenanigans (also, if you can name that movie I give you MAJOR props).  Just kidding, it's a big deal to be here racing. I can't qualify, so obviously I have to make fun of everyone instead! But let's be real, Ironman rewards swimming mediocrity.

In fact, watching some people run around here, it looks like Ironman also rewards run mediocrity.

But hey, we can bike fast!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hawaii Travel Diary - Day 3 - On people and bikes

What the hell time zones?  I don't like waking up at 4 and not being able to fall back asleep.  Unfortunately for me, my body thinks it is 7am and - given Tucson weather - should have been up for a couple of hours already.  I would like my body to shut the hell up, but apparently "not listening" is a quirk it has.  Luckily, the bed is super comfortable here at the Kona Reef Condos so as I lay there mad at my own inner clock I at least do it with a sense of bliss.

I felt a little out of place today as I hadn't shaved my legs in a couple of days.  If you are in Kona this week, there are some requirements by which you must abide (at least according to all the people I see out and about):

1) Have absolutely no body hair
2) The only hair you do have must be on your head and must be styled to look like a soccer player (especially if you are European)
3) Be wearing tall socks at all times (if you're a guy); preferably a pair with a logo that represents how badass you are
4) Muscles that are chiseled AF
5) Wearing an sense of self-importance that is visible to the naked eye
6) Be riding your bike 30mph through town on Ali'i because you're just that amazing
7) Maintain the "terminator" expression behind your mirrored sport sunglasses at all times

Those are just a few of the things I could come up with off the top of my head. If you have more, please feel free to contribute ;)

Interestingly, the big upcoming news this week is some new bike debuts.  Cervelo is introducing their new tri bike to the world on October 4th, the Diamondback Andean will presumably be available to see in person, BMC is introducing a new Tri/TT bike, potentially Dimond has an updated frame, many companies have specific Kona special apparel/equipment that they'll be selling (heavily discounted? nah, probs not), and probably many more new things that I don't know about. The biggest is definitely Cervelo.  They've actually managed to keep almost all information about this bike a secret until the past 5-7 days when some stuff has been leaked to the internets.  I feel bad for them, because of how good of a job they've done keeping it on the DL, but I do like seeing new stuff and speculating! Some of their athletes will be riding this bike in Kona (and have been riding it for a few weeks it sounds like) so I hope to get some pictures.

This is a picture that is bigger than life size posterized onto the wall of Lava Java. It's Michael Weiss (that's a pandora's box right there) on the Diamondback Andean.  This bike is touted as being completely UCI illegal and very, very fast.  It is ... striking, to say the least. Ironically, for a bike that is supposedly the top of the heap, that is sure a hack job of Di2 wiring seen under the stem.

Like I said: "striking."

Today I ran, swam, and biked my way around the little parts of Kailua Kona that were easily accessible.  I ran 5:00/mi pace up and down Ali'i drive, I swam at 1:00/100m pace out off Dig Me beach and back onto Dig Me beach, and I biked (on my mountain bike) at 30mph all along the Queen K.

I actually put slick tires (700x35) on my mountain bike's 29" wheels as I figured with trails basically inaccessible (or not easily accessible is perhaps better) it might be easier to draft off triathletes on the Queen K with smooth, shaved tires.  Unfortunately, my bike looks a little funny. But hey, this week is all about looking funny.  That's why everyone else is here, right?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hawaii Travels Diary - Day 2 - Saturday

Well, the big thing to do today (and I do mean BIG) was the Ho'ala training swim that took place at 7 (ish) am. The course is almost identical to the race course except it finishes at the beach on the OTHER side of the pier, as opposed to on the pier. The distance appears to be the same and the conditions are near identical (barring different daily ocean patterns obviously) as the start is at roughly the same time, so it came as no surprise to see about a billion triathletes lined up waiting for "packet pickup."

The indomitable Greg Welch was on the mic, emceeing this grand event.  As a sidenote, he is as not entertaining in that role as he is on the IM live broadcasts, in case you were curious.  Somehow, even though most other Australian accents I've heard are interesting, dynamic, and (in the case of women) downright attractive, his just kind of sounds whiny.

The swim is definitely a tough one, which was not especially surprising to me given the number of race reports I have read that describe the swim using such words as "epic," "swellacious," "hard AF," "chaos," "MMA fight," "salty AF," and "fun."  Ok maybe I made that last one up, but I actually did think it was fun.  Of all the North American Ironman races Hawaii probably has the most "legitimate" swim. There's no wetsuits, there's lots of "dirty" water to deal with (chop, swell, other people's aerated water, etc) so no one is ever really swimming that clean, and a very straightforward course.  Out 1.2 miles, back 1.2 miles.  As simple as simple gets. No loops to content with, no lapped traffic, and no nonsense.  Plus, the added difficulty at Kona is that everyone here is used to being a big fish in their world.  They may be the only multiple Kona qualifier from...Mobile, Alabama but at the end of the day the entire world's selection of triathletes and Ironman races makes it a pretty freaking huge pond.  I may have raced as a pro at one point (/semi elite amateur) but I'd be surprised if I was in contention for a podium spot at a race like Kona (in my age group).  I was actually quite pleased with my time, as it's about the same time as I did in Louisville last year.  This time, however, the water was choppier and I had no swim aids (just a speedo) to help me go faster, suggesting that I am in better swim shape than last year.  I've actually thought that as I've been more consistent and with David's workouts have been able to focus on my stroke technique and nice progression, but it's nice to see some tangible results of that.

Lots of Euros here, pretending they don't understand or read english when the sign at Lava Java says "please wait to be seated" and they just sit down at any empty table.  When the waitress comes up to ask they perfectly say "we'll take 3 coffees, 2 pancake orders, and a lava java breakfast" but when she - instead of taking their order - asks them to please put their name on the wait list and that the table is for someone else (who has been waiting in line) they say "sorry, did not know."  Well, read the gigantic sign posted right in front of the restaurant and you'll probably give yourself a better idea! Sillies.  But hey, since when has reading directions been cool?  Oh that's right, never.

Also, out of curiosity why is Lava Java THE place to be in Kailua Kona? To be honest, the breakfast was pretty bland. I suppose it's a place to see and be seen, mingling with the masses, networking, and sizing each other up and down. The coffee was good I suppose, but I've never had bacon that looked SO delicious and yet tasted like...nothing.  Very strange.

Eventually I ran my 30-35 minute easy run after we had moved into the different condo (we had to stay in an interim location as we ended up having to fly out a day earlier #firstworldproblems) and I ended up heading north along Ali'i and ran maybe 8 minute pace.  I can virtually guarantee you that I was the slowest running male out and about this evening.

I also ran up Palani, which wasn't too bad.  Not sure why everyone complains about it. Or perhaps my view is skewed because I had been running for 10 minutes and not swimming, biking, and running for a combined work day before I hit Palani on the run....