Tuesday, August 31, 2010

IM Louisville Report

Well, as most know at this point the race did not go particularly well.  I'm going to stick to just the facts about the race itself and leave most of my feelings about how the race went out of it.  Stuff happens.  I could go the ultra-emo route and say that everything happens for a reason but that's not usually my style.  So, first "Ironman" went a little something like this:

Race day

We all woke up at 4am and Scott, Heather, and Carrie went down to the start area to grab a spot in line while John and I went for a little jog to wake up the body a little bit.  I actually felt pretty good running around but it was fairly hot outside and very humid which was a little disturbing.  We got back to the room and started eating breakfast around 4:20-4:30 and then just sat around until making our way to transition to meet Fletch and then walked briskly towards swim start.  I was sweating pretty good as we walked and that was also a little disturbing.  Last year it was absolutely fuh-reezing at the start of the race (freezing as in 50-60 degrees) as I stood around getting ready to cheer on the dudes.  This year, not so much.  We got in our speedsuits and ended up hopping in the water around 7:10.

Swim - 1:01:30 (15th AG)
I jumped in right behind Behme off the first dock and started swimming.  I had decided I was going to try and stay to the right as long as possible because it looked like there were not nearly as many people to try and swim around and that proved to be a [mostly] correct strategy.  There was very little contact all the way to the turnaround out in the river and I felt extremely comfortable the entire way.  There was some slight bottle-necking at the turnaround but once around it the crowds were thinning out a bit as I was making my way up to some of those "faster" swimmers.  Since we didn't start far behind the first AG-ers there weren't too many "slow" swimmers in front of me at this point.  The way back in felt like it took a pretty good long while; I'd sight on the bridge pillars and they seemed to crawl towards me.  I had a weird feeling in my right foot like it was going numb and I'm not really sure what that was all about but it didn't seem to affect my kicking (or lack thereof, I really don't kick at all...) so I put it out of my mind.  Really not much to report on the swim.  I peed just before getting in and just before getting out (interestingly enough, those were the only times I peed all day...bad news) right before I climbed onto the stairs.  I took my time going up the stairs and used all the help the volunteers could give me since I didn't want to hit the metal stairs in any wrong way.  Looked at the clock and saw 1:09:xx and was a little surprised but then I realized the TT start was messing with my head and looked down at my watch to see 1:01:xx and was super pleased.  I had set my high end goal as 1:10 and I knew there was some current out there today so 1:01 was awesome considering how easily I felt that I swam.

T1 - 3:45

Jogged into the change tent, which was conveniently mostly empty at this point in the day and set about taking off all my swim stuff.  The volunteer that helped me was super, super awesome and took everything out of my bag while I hopped around taking off my swim skin, cap and goggles.  He opened up my sunglasses case and took those out, opened up my shoes and handed me my flasks and salts and wished me luck.  I ran out and grabbed my bike and made my way to the mount line.  Not much time wasted here...

Bike - 6:38:44 (108th AG)

Headed out onto the bike and kept telling myself in my head to take it easy.  I knew that considering the temperatures today I'd need to be fresh(er) for the run since it would be so hot.  I rode along River Road at a very, very reasonable pace and was even passed by a girl on a road bike with clip-ons...  I kept it reigned in and paced with a guy in the 35-39 AG who I later found out won his AG with a great race...  All the way out to the turnaround I felt great and saw Fletch just before the aid station and ended up passing him just after getting some water.  I hadn't known how far ahead he was (he jumped in the water right after me) so it was good to see him.  Shortly past the out and back I saw Behme coming up towards the turnaround so I shouted at him and hoped he would catch us so we could tag-team the bike course together (legally, for all of you pessimistic speculators out there that have no idea what you're talking about...you know who you are).  I stayed around the same 35-39 guy and coming out of the out/back caught up to the Wongstar (Jocelyn Wong), who gets way too much grief on slowtwitch for being a bad swimmer but she was really gutting it out when I was around her on the bike.

As my "buddy" and I made our way toward Lagrange I kept taking hits from my flasks (although I had lost one at the crappy bridge at the bottom of the hill on the out/back so there went 100 calories or so) and salt pills every thirty or so minutes.  My 310xt told me that through Lagrange I had been averaging about 22.5 mph but I knew that number was slightly inflated due to the flat first 10 plus miles and my goal average was going to be about 21.5-21.7 so I expected that 22.5 to come down a bit as we hit the narrow section in the farm-land.  I felt comfortable and well under control going up those hills and back to the "main" road but I had lost my riding buddy as he killed it up a couple of those hills; I wasn't willing to do that.  All the way back down 42 there was almost nobody else around me and I just kept pounding it out and sticking to my plan.  I actually tried to turn early to start my second lap (I guess I was TOO in the zone ha!) and the police/spectators quickly re-directed me.  Oh well, there went my plan to take a shortcut and have a sizzling bike split!

Once I got to the real turn for lap 2 I realized it was going to be a LOT more hectic as there were TONS of people riding all over the place.  The amount of blocking and drafting was ridiculous.  I'm sure most of it wasn't intentional but still, I was getting a little pissed off at points.  Not so much drafting but the blocking was really getting to me (there was so much more of it!).  So I was a little amped up as I made my way towards special needs to grab my bag and the goodies inside.  Unfortunately, my coke that was in there was insanely hot (not unexpected but still unpleasant) and pretty gross.  As I drank a little of it Fletch re-passed me and yelled excitedly, which was awesome because I hadn't seen him since passing him and it was great to see that he was riding strong.  I was feeling a little zapped at that point so it was good to have some motivation.  We passed Hillary Biscay (hot) as we went through Lagrange and made our way to the left turn onto the skinny farm roads.

Fletch was a good ways in front of me at this point (maybe 50 meters) and there were a ton of people on this road.  At the second, longer hill I was overtaking Fletch rapidly as he was passing someone on the right and as he was getting passed on his left but the guy on the left had been "passing" for a good long while.  I seized an opportunity an went around the guy and was going back over to the right when I hit a good sized piece of gravel and launched over the front of my bike and hit my right side pretty good.  Unfortunately I was right on front of Fletch at that point and he ran into me and then fell onto me.  Somehow nobody else was involved in the crash.  As we both got back up to assess the damage I felt worse than I have ever felt about anything I can recently think about; not only did I totally screw my race up I also managed to screw up my teammates race.  What are the odds?  My brakes were locked up on my rear wheel and I had no tools to loosen them and messing with the barrel adjuster proved to be futile.  Fletch's seatpost on his P3 snapped off so his bike was also un-rideable.  I was fairly cut up on my shoulder/elbow/forearm/knee and my helmet had taken some decent damage.  Needless to say, I was pretty crushed; both mentally and physically.

Fletch and I stood there for a while and someone on a motorcycle told us that support would get to us in a while.  After about a while (I don't really know how long) some local guys rode up and told us that we should walk down to the bottom of the hill and there were some guys down there to help.  We made our way down the hill and the guys worked on my bike a little bit and the brakes loosened up and I put my handlebars/shifter back in the right position (they were pointing straight down) and with Fletch's encouragement got back on the bike.  I felt ok for about 10 minutes then stopped at the next aid station to get a little medical help and they cleaned up my shoulder a little bit and I continued on my way.  I started to feel pretty horrible.  I had been standing around and not eating/drinking in the 90+ degree heat for around 1.5 hrs and was now attempting to ride my bike another 37 miles.  I was both mentally and physically out of the race.  It's honestly a completely different ball game being in the "back end" of things; people were just surviving for the most part.  Tons of athletes stopped at aid stations or stopped on the side of the road just sitting in the shade.

It's amazing how different your perspectives are when you've convinced yourself that you're at the "pointy end" of the race.  For me my race was over at this point.  I was no where near the position I wanted to be in and feeling sorry for myself while these people were just focused on getting it done.  They didn't care how long it took or how miserable they felt...they were focused on finishing.  I had never really appreciated that before.

At one point just past the out/back section both of my hamstrings locked up completely and I had to pull over while gritting my teeth at how incredibly painful that experience was to essentially fall off my bike and try to stretch them so that I could at least finish my bike ride.  At this point I was going to DNF in T2.  There was no point - in my head - in trying to continue this misery.  My body was rebelling against me for not eating or drinking hardly anything in the past 3 hours (I was trying to drink a bunch at aid stations after continuing but it's tough to catch up).

So with that mindset I made my way back down River Run Rd at about 18 mph and came into T2 totally and completely exhausted; both mentally and physically.

T2 - 11:06

I grabbed my bag and sat down in the change tent to think for a little bit.  I had walked all the way down the sidewalk, through the bag area and into the tent with no intention or desire of continuing.  I put on my shoes and hat but took out all my flasks and salts to put them in the bag and handed it to a volunteer.  Once out I walked to the "medical" tent and asked them to patch up my shoulder and elbow/forearm.  That was painful...  The lady asked someone behind me if he needed help and I turned around to see that it was Fletch.  He had apparently ridden the rest of the way on a borrowed spectators' 10 speed Trek and his shoes (in aero helmet no less) and was getting ready to go out for the run.  I had no idea how he had any desire to do that but I told him I'd run with him for a bit...

Run - DNF (made it to mile 14 and the end of lap 1 before pulling the plug), roughly 4 hours worth of run/walk

Well, I ran about a mile with Fletch to the first aid station where I walked and he ran and then only saw him when we were going opposite directions.  I got across the bridge, turned around and stopped at the porta potty for my first pee since the swim (among other business taken care of...), a fact that surprised me when I thought about it.  I walked from that porta potty to about the mile 2 mark where I saw a couple of fellow Charlotteans - one whom I knew and the other who I knew of - that were going through some rough patches (she was racing, he was spectating) and talked to them for a while.  I asked if he knew where some of my buddies were as I was going to make it out to them and then pull the plug and he said he had no idea.  So with that knowledge I started running again but soon cramped in my quad (not really the quad but the muscle that's just above your knee on the inside) and had to stop and stretch then walk.  This process repeated itself until I saw Carrie, Scott and Heather and I told them I didn't want to do this anymore but they yelled at me and guilted me into running again.  So I essentially repeated the run a bit, cramp, stop and stretch, walk, run again etc strategy until I got to the turnaround (walking through every aid station) before the run stretches became so brief before I'd start cramping in that same muscle that I just started walking.  I then walked the entire way back.  It took...FOREVER.  At about mile 11-12 I started cramping a bit when I was walking (same muscle) so I had to stop and stretch...from WALKING.  I've definitely never had that happen before.  So as opposed to drawing this out I just walked from there to the turnaround for another lap and stepped off the course.  I walked among the crowds to the finish line and handed my chip to a chip taker-offer.  Race over.

Some things I learned:

1) People's capacity to suffer is amazing.  ESPECIALLY women.  I've never seen the "back end" of an Ironman before and I was amazed at how people were chugging along.  I don't care if you finish in 9 or 16 hours...it's tough work.  I think it's actually harder the longer you're out there; a fact I never really appreciated before.
2) Don't take things for granted.  I took it for granted that I'd finish.
3) 3000 bib numbers is too many.  Especially when the bike course is 2 loops and 2-3 miles of road are single lane country roads with gravel on both sides.
4) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  I think I'm mentally tougher after this debacle, although only time will tell.
5) People love to talk.  Especially when you have a bad race.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some more thoughts about Louisville

So I talked a little bit several weeks ago about the swim at Louisville so now it's time to talk about what I think the bike and the run will be like.  I mention them as a "unit" because for me (and anyone) to have a succesful race it's important to look at those two different sports as one continuum (so to speak). 

The bike course in Louisville is difficult.  Of that there is no doubt.  While it may not have the pronounced climbs that races like IM CdA, Canada and/or LP, it has almost constant rollers can really leave a mark on the ol' leggies.  Considering the likely forecast it will be exceptionally important (critically important actually) to take the first lap of the bike course (up to mile 60ish) relatively easy.  It would actually be prudent to wait until mile 80 to put forth any effort at all (not literally of course but you get my drift) because that is the section when you can REALLY make up some time on the competition.  Although, if you give up too much time too early in the bike there is no chance to get it all back.  So the bike will be all about striking a balance between going hard enough to produce a decent bike split while going easy enough to not smoke the legs.  An astute observer may point at my B2B bike/run combo (5:00:xx bike, 4:11 run) as being a very improper balance (and they wouldn't necessarily be wrong just looking at the times) but that race was more about improper fueling and not improper pacing.  I was completely within myself during that bike ride I just forgot to continue eating once I turned right at mile 80 for the trip back in to Wilmington.  That was dumb.  This Louisville bike course is DECIDEDLY more difficult than B2B but I am in DECIDEDLY better shape. 

The run at Louisville will likely begin when it is sunny and 90ish degrees.  The run at Louisville will be about surviving.  It will be about getting in the zone and sticking to a process to get through the miles.  It will be about suffering mightily.  It will be epic.  I don't have especially high hopes for my run at Louisville because this year I've had a tendency to be mentally weak on the run.  As a counterpoint to that, at almost every race this year I've felt like I could have run much longer just not any faster.  So I take that for what it's worth (not much).  As long as I continue to improve in my running in long course racing (sub 4:11!!) then I will be at least moderately happy. 

I've only been racing triathlons for 18 months so I have to be careful with my expectations at times.  The guys that I've been training with have been doing this longer and are a lot tougher than I am (both mentally and physically).  I certainly think I have the ability to run well at Louisville but ability doesn't necessarily translate into a good run split if you wuss out on yourself. 

That being said, I'm in the best shape of my life (for long distance racing anyway...) and I'm exceptionally fortunate to be able to do what I'm doing right now.  Have no doubt that I appreciate that fact.  Without the support of my family, friends and training buddies there is no way I could be enjoying the current life I'm living.  I am very, very lucky. 

BIKE/RUN goals for Louisville:

Anything 9 hours or less.  Bang.

Last week of taper

S: 4000 yds
B: 63 mi
R: 24 mi

Time: 7.4 hours

Well this week marks my lowest training volume of the year!! Wooo hooooo the wait is finally almost over; while it hasn't exactly been a pleasant taper I think that's par for the course.  Not much to report in terms of training this week but I've begun to feel like I have more energy and I felt pretty strong on the bike on Saturday (not great but strong) so I'm hoping that I continue to feel fresher and fresher as race day quickly approaches. 

Some interesting things to note from this week:

1) Scott absolutely DESTROYED Timberman 70.3 on Sunday, coming in 3rd in 25-29 with a 4:20:xx so he and I will really be able to push each other to go faster next year, something I'm pretty excited about.
2) I got 11 hours of sleep on Thursday night (didn't go to bed that late either) and still felt tired the next couple of days
3) I've been waiting for this week for 10 months and I am still not excited/nervous (as of Monday, but that will likely change soon!)
4) I cannot wait for fall weather

Monday, August 16, 2010

Taper (moderate)

S: 10,100 yds
B: 119 mi
R: 28 mi

Hrs: 12.9 hrs

Not much to report this week, just some light training to continue the taper.  The main workouts were Tuesday night IOS ride, Saturday morning shootout ride and a ten mile run on Sunday.  I never felt that great throughout the week and only on Sunday began to feel not extremely tired all the time.  Although now it's Monday and  I feel tired again.

The glory that is taper.  13 days...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recovery and Racing

S: 6000
B: 119
R: 15.7

Time: 9.4 hrs

Not much in the way of anything resembling structured training this week, but that's the gloriousness that is being done with Ironman training!!!  Even though I didn't get in the volume I wanted to last week due to my injuries (which still haven't healed yet...) I definitely felt like a recovery week was a good idea considering I hoped to race well at Stumpy Creek this Saturday.  I swam three times including the race, biked four times and ran three times.  That's only ten total workouts this week which met set a 2010 low.

Stumpy Creek:

Going into this race I knew the field was going to be super competitive; guys like Tom Clifford, Sam Dannenbring, Brad Perry (DNS), Frank Fawcett, Mike Selle, Scott, Behme and Fletch.  I thought that on a good day I could put myself near the front with a strong swim and bike but I knew beforehand that the run would be a handful.  I was not wrong!

Swim: 23:38 (11th)
The swim start was a bit surprising but once we got going the wave was very bunched.  It didn't string out much right away (probably due to the lack of swimmers like Lisska/Perry being present) so to about 400 meters in I was still in a big crowd.  At about halfway to the first buoy (messed up rectangle course...3 left turns) I settled in behind Fletch's feet and didn't let go until about 100 meters to go.  Fletch was a great person to swim behind because he didn't kick really hard every time I slapped his feet (which was a decent amount in the first half of the swim...sorry dude!) and he didn't surge or swerve at all.  He picked a great route, which was good because when I would sit to make sure I was in the right place I could not tell at all where we were going... At the last turn I got a side stitch so I slowed a bit to get rid of that and lost his feet but with only 100m to go I wasn't as worried about it.  Came out of the water just behind him and ran up over the mat feeling pretty good about the swim (I had no idea on the time but I knew swimming with Fletch was a victory in and of itself)

T1: 1:08
Ran up the wrong aisle and then jumped over to the correct side and took off the speedsuit, put on my shades, helmet, and shoes and ran out through the arch.  Fletch wasn't in a hurry but I told him to come ride with me so I headed out to catch Selle who was mounting his bike as I was getting to mine.

Bike: 58:03 (1st)
Started out on the bike with a mission to catch Selle.  My legs felt pretty strong but were certainly tight through the first 2-3 miles as they were getting used to the work I was trying to get them to do.  I caught Selle fairly soon and then reeled in the women's winner that was just ahead of him.  At that point I saw a group up ahead all riding in a pack (not a literal pack).  I couldn't tell yet who was in it or how many there were but I forged on ahead to try and catch them.  As I got closer I realized two of the riders were Triple Threaters and one was a Triangle Multisports guy and the other was an unknown.  I assumed the Triple Threaters were Scott and Frank and that the Triangle guy was Clifford (I assumed it was a guy but I was wondering where Amie Krasnozon - great swimmer and good biker - was b/c I hadn't seen her yet) but I wasn't sure just yet.  I made my way up to the back of the pack and passed all three rapidly so nobody would be convinced to sit on my pace.  By the time I caught them (Frank, Duncan Chapman, and some other guy) I saw that the other 3T (Scott) had gapped them by a decent amount so I moved on ahead to catch him.  It took a mile or two and I sat on his pace for a bit before making the pass and exchanging some encouraging words.  After I passed I suggested we rotate to put some time on the chase group and when he next passed me he said "I think we're in the lead dude, the motorcycle has been here the whole time!"  We passed each other a couple of times and it turns out he was right, the motorcycle in front of us was the lead motorcycle!  I pushed hard to the end and ended up coming into T2 in first place, which was pretty cool although I knew it wouldn't last since I was mostly sure I didn't have a fast 10k time in my running legs.

T2: 54 seconds
Racked the bike, removed the helmet, threw on socks and running shoes, grabbed the race belt and went out onto the run course.  Scott got out of T2 a good 3-4 seconds in front of me...

Run: 40:13 (15th)
Not much to say here.  Scott was sprinting to drop me out of T2 and as much as I'd like to think I could have sat on his shoulder for a little while I'm most likely just kidding myself.  The course was pretty darn tough and I was by myself for the first lap and the first mile of the third before I heard Frank yelling at me that Tom was coming up on me fast.  He wasn't kidding as Tom came roaring by me at about mile 4.5; there was NO way I could speed up to sit on his feet.  Frank caught me a little while later and we ran in together.  Needless to say, not a blazing run split but to be honest I didn't expect much out of myself.  While I think I could have run 6:30 pace for a pretty long time I certainly could NOT go any faster.

It was a really fun day; I had great times for the swim and the bike and really enjoyed leading the race with Scott for the very short time in which I actually led.  Hopefully next year there will be a little more of that...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ironman Training done

S: 2100 yds
B: 263 mi
R: 20 mi

T: 16.2 hrs

Really slacked on my swimming and running this week, but at least I had reason for it.  On Monday I crashed on my bike (luckily for my ego the crash was not caused by a lack of skill on my part) and the resulting injuries (not much road rash just some swelling and soreness in the following days) forced me to re-evaluate my running and swimming goals for the week.  I didn't want to run and cause my hip's healing to slow down and I also didn't want to hurt my shoulder (bore some of the impact from the crash).  Ironically enough, I swam the day of the crash (after it actually...) but then none at all the rest of the week!  I wasn't sore on Monday - that's my explanation anyway - but Tuesday through Thursday I was a bit pathetic.  My only running this week (dumb on my part) was the long run on Saturday of 20 miles in just under 2.5 hours.  I felt AMAZING until about mile 16ish and then not running all week caught up to me and my quads because extra tender and my legs were just generally tight.  Got it done though; last long run of the year (potentially!). 

Cycling was good this week; as that was the lowest impact non-swimming related activity I could do I managed to do a lot of it.  The long ride on Sunday the day after the long run was a bit of a struggle but we managed.  We only managed because Fletch did most of the work as John and I had both run the day before and weren't feeling super stellar.

So to sum up the Ironman build:

Since May 3rd (start of the long ride/long run binge!) I have

Swam 105,400 yards...averaging 8,107 per week
Biked 2,552 miles...averaging 196.3 per week
Ran 433.7 miles...averaging 33.4 per week
Totaled 213 hours...averaging 16.4 per week

including 2 race weeks and 2 recovery weeks.

All in all I'm very satisfied with my training leading up to this Ironman.  This last week was the only time where I really feel like I missed out on some key (filler) workouts during the week.  I've hit every single long ride (11 rides of 100 or more miles) and almost every single long run (3 20 milers and a handful of 15-17 milers) so I can't complain.  I'm much fitter and more mentally prepared for the arduous day that is Ironman versus November of last year which is also a plus. 

Stumpy Creek International is the next race (Saturday) and that will be a good barometer for how slowly I can do an International distance race!