Monday, December 12, 2011

KONA

One of the [many] highlights of this past week was getting to watch NBC's annual showing of its edited coverage of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.  The airing is always in December and a little more than two months after the actual race, giving the network lots of time to compile, edit, narrate and come out the other side with what is quite honestly, a very impressive product.  Every year tens of thousands of triathletes (and possibly their families) tune in to watch the 90 minutes (although wasn't it two hours in years' past?) of edited gloriousness.  It's even more special to watch it with someone who was there, as their excitement is usually contagious and awesome.

Now, that being said, it's amazing how many triathletes (and I'm looking at you especially Slowtwitch) say that they are "disappointed" by this coverage.  "They don't show enough of the pros," or "they should showcase the top amateurs, not the 'special interest' stories," and "I'm not even sure who won," among many other complaints have been lodged over the history of the show's airing.  While I agree with some comments, I think it's important to realize that the coverage in and of itself is a blessing.  Triathlon gets very little mainstream network acknowledgement that it even exists, so to have a huge network like NBC take up the gauntlet and show us what we love is awesome.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that in Jannuary NBC will debut its "NBC Sports Network," which is a re-branding of Versus.  Versus has traditionally been one of the only "bigger" channels to showcase endurance sports (primarily the TdF).  Maybe this will begin the process of greater recognition of endurance sports? More details can be found here.

Part of the problem that many so-called "hardcore triathletes" (that is self-branding) have with the Kona coverage is that it highlights some things they preferred were "kept quiet."  People that have done Ironmans like to think that it's so special (it's obviously very special) and it's very rare that someone is capable of doing one.  Unfortunately for them, Ironman likes to show just how not true that is (good for marketing, good for the "everyman" psyche).  Take any reasonably fit (aerobically) person, give them enough time and guidance and they can do an Ironman.  No doubt in my mind about that.  16 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds is a LONG time.  That's more than two workdays for most people.  Just to give some perspective on what that really means, here's a breakdown of a 16:50 Ironman.

Swim 2.4 miles in 2 hours (swim cut off of 2:20), which is 3 minutes and 6 seconds per 100 meters.  Transition 1 of 10 minutes.  Bike 112 miles in 7 hours and 45 minutes (must be off the bike by 5 pm, so at this point it's 4:55 in the afternoon), which is 14.5 mph.  Transition 2 in 25 minutes, which is ample time to collect oneself. Run 26.2 miles in 6 hours and 30 minutes, to finish just before midnight (that's about ~15 minutes/mile; average walking pace is 2.5 - 3mph, which is just over 15 minute pace).

It is no mean feat to be continuously moving for 16+ hours, but given the right preparation just about anyone - if they take their head out of the equation when looking at the distances - can accomplish such a task.  So in one sense it's not as "special" as some would like to believe.  Sure, it's special in the sense that it's an amazing accomplishment but not in the sense that it's something only a handful of people can do, which Ironman proves over and over again in slow motion every December.

This is one of the reasons why triathlons (and endurance sports, more generally) are so awesome.  Everyone has individual goals and expectations, so it doesn't matter what other people think of what you are trying to accomplish.  Everyone can be successful in their own right; you don't have to be a multiple Ironman world champion or a course record holder to experience satisfaction with your accomplishments.  Some want to be competitive in their age group, others want to finish, some want to win; there's room for everyone in this sport.

I love watching NBC's broadcast of Kona.  I love what it represents.  I love the stories it tells (Scott Rigsby is an amazing, amazing dude).  I love how much slow motion they use because it makes you look jacked.  It's a great 90 minutes.  The next step is to turn it into TdF style where they have a live showing on NBC then edit it for time and dramatic effect later in the year.

Now, on a more personal (and less exciting) note, my off-season is over.  Starting today I will begin the process of running my face off in the quest for some serious run splits next year.  Some goals I have include (but are not limited to) running a 16:0X 5k, a sub 35:30 10k (off the bike), a sub 1:20 half ironman half marathon.  Bold, but doable with the right amount of work.  The process begins now.


I'll leave on this last note; it's finally started to get cold here in Charlotte and thankfully I'm headed south and then west for the winter (and spring, and probably summer).  This has been one of my favorite songs since my senior year of college and the timing seems appropriate now that we are fully immersed in December!

Monday, December 5, 2011

More typed word garbage!

Given that I'm still not training very much (although I have been quite consistent for the past month with my 4-5 runs of 30ish minutes, 2 bike rides of an hour-ish, and 2 swims of 1500ish yards a week plan) I think it's important to address some issues.  The main issue being my lack of finishing off my favorite music from a week or so ago.

As an aside, I think it's interesting how much of a lack of creativity I feel like I have lately.  Not saying that I'm normally creative, but the dearth of creative juices that I'm currently experiencing has me at a loss for words.

Pause.

That was an AMAZING pun.

Resume.

One of the funniest parts of working for Habitat back in the day (so, about 2-3 years ago) was my supervisor and his accent.  He was born and raised in NC (Hickory, to be specific) and his accent was extremely amusing.  It wasn't over the top but when he figured out that we loved making fun of him for some of the inflections he had with certain words then it quickly escalated into over the top-ness.  One of the words he liked using was "cull."   This word is appropriate for the current story (but you have to wait for it...) because of the way in which it was used; Charles would tell us that when we were "bahyin lumber it's importunt to cuhhhllll the wuhd."  So we made sure to choose the best pieces (straightest and truest) other wise he'd give us sh*t for it.  If you don't really make sure, you can go to Home Depot and Lowe's and buy some wood that's absolutely worthless from a building standpoint.

Anyway, I feel like as you try and write stuff (eloquent, I know) you pick and choose between anecdotes, essays, short stories and/or asides (and other such fancy sounding words to describe fairly mundane things) you must also eliminate the crap stuff.  So, in effect, you're culling your usable database as time goes on until at some point, you're left with nada!  Maybe I've reached that point, so sad.  For everyone :(

Now, more importantly:


I've never been a huge country fan, and by that what I really mean is that I never pirated country music from the internet to add to my collection (nor did I buy it).  That's not because I didn't "like" the music per se, it was more that I never went to the trouble to listen to it and develop any appreciate for it.  Now, that being said, I still don't listen to it all that much but a couple of songs have recently been brought to my attention that make me laugh.  I don't really "train" to this song because I don't really think country music is great "training music" but it's on the "workout playlist" so it comes up every now and then.  Unfortunately for our boy Walker, the rest of his music is a little hit or miss (mostly miss) but this song is great simply because of its refrain and the message it espouses.  "She can wear the pants as long as I can take 'em off her."  Boom.


While many Metallica songs could be on just about anyone's workout list, this one is my favorite simply because of it's intro.  What's NOT to like about an epic combination of bells, distorted electric guitar, drums, and shouting!!  Well, I guess I didn't sell that particularly well but nonetheless, this song rocks my face off.


To continue the heavy metal trend, this is a less well-known song from the German group (singers of such classics as "Du Hast" and "Freur Frie" or something like that) that I think is making fun of American globalization.  I don't really know because the song is in German and I've never taken the time to look it up in Wikipedia.  That's not necessarily a bad thing since ignorance is usually bliss.  I really like the first 5 seconds of this video; it reminds me a little bit of the movie "Matrix" and all the bullet-time slo-mo shots or the "300" sequences where it's slow motion speeding up to normal FPS; it adds up to a cool effect.


This song is just a classic.  The foreshadowing done in this old-school song is nothing short of Nostradamus epic-scale conspiracy scariness.  I'm exaggerating for effect, but you get to do that when you write your own blog.  The song has a slow build up but gradually it becomes a super awesome beat that will really get your blood moving.  No, I am really not kidding.

So there's four more songs to whet your appetites and encourage some good music listening for when one needs to be all kinds of jacked up!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Soundtrack of my life

Cheesy title aside, I'm going to take the time this week to do a little more informative blog-post.  I invite you, the intrepid reader, on a little journey that details what goes on inside my head when I'm training.  Well, to be more specific, not what goes on in my head that involves thinking because -frankly - letting anyone in there would be an interesting experience...

When I'm riding my bike, I'm generally listening to music.  Even when I'm riding with someone if it's a tough ride with some intervals I'll generally leave one earbud in just to kind of have some noise to drown out any pain (and still be able to hear the other person/people and traffic).  If I'm running about 1/4 of the time I'll run with music.  That really depends on whether I can find my shuffle or not.

I'm a lover of most kinds of music; I've been known to listen to decidedly non-pump-up stuff and ridiculously-will-explode-your-heart type pump up music.  So really, anything goes.  I tend to like "harder" stuff on my bike rides and mellower stuff when I'm running.  Well, that's the way I'm feeling this week anyway; next week might be something totally different.

So here's what's on my playlist right now and this is in no particular order


I'm sure there are people out there that are "real" Snow Patrol fans; they've enjoyed them for a long, long time and way before they got big.  Well, congratulations.  That and 1.79 will get you delicious medium coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Delicious.  I think I first heard this song in Scott's 4-banger (otherwise known as a 4-Runner, no funny ideas) several weeks ago and I knew that I needed to have it.  As soon as I got home I downloaded that sucker and it became my new Heavy Metal Drummer (Wilco).  For those that don't know (and Seth might be the only person that does) I overplayed the living daylights out of that song my senior year of college.  I loved (loved) Wilco, but especially that song.  This song just makes you feel...happy, for lack of a better emotive description.  The bass line and the refrain make it upbeat enough to be a good workout song.


Disclaimer: I'd never before seen this video, it's definitely a little weird.  The song itself is a little weird to be honest.  I've never really been able to decide why it appealed to me but I think it's the sort of electro-rock sound it has going for it.  I'm definitely a fan of electronic music and rock music and one might say this blends the two with an odd synth sounding vocal line that I don't really understand but all in all the package works for me (now).  I'm fairly confident in saying that this song won't last a whole lot longer but it's got a place on the list for now.


This song combines two of my more favorite musical likes: the crystal method and Emily Haines (of Metric).  I think I've essentially decided that I REALLY like female lead singers.  Especially when they're backed up by sweet electro-pop sounds (well, Crystal Method would probably not agree with being called electro-pop and I agree with that; I'm just making a sweeping generalization!).  I've had this song on my playlist for quite some time now but it hasn't ever been removed, in spite of the list going through many revisions and edits over time. I guess it's a keeper!


Just because that last song got me thinking of Emily Haines, here's a song that's been in my top 25 most played for quite a long time.  In fact, it might have the longest tenure there of any song currently in my music library.  Emily Haines is kind of a cult goddess (good evidence of why can be found in this video; she dances around on stage in tiny shorts, heels and a mix of instruments...pretty awesome) but I originally liked the music and later stayed because of her.  I guess that's kind of like saying you read Playboy for the articles but what are you gonna do? They're intelligent and well-written...


This is probably one of the greatest rap songs of all time.  Residing on one of the greatest albums (of any genre) ever made.  I don't say that lightly.  I rarely, if ever, listen to rap anymore but hear it every now and then on the radio and listen to some of the "top" songs that show up on iTunes (I realize that's not representative of all rap but Eminem's songs were both top of the charts and critical successes) and rap has gone rapidly downhill since this album.  Even Eminem's new stuff (and older new stuff post Eminem Show) isn't even in the same league as this album.  "Lose Yourself" gets a lot more playtime at athletic events because it's more age-appropriate but this song belongs on those playlists as well.  If I ever need to feel jacked-up, this is WITHOUT A DOUBT on the go-to for "play me right now."


Let's change directions here (and by change directions I mean a 180!) and take some time to appreciate an artist that I like, unabashedly.  Katy Perry has several songs that have been or are on this list but I'm taking "Firework" and giving it this blog-immortality (so few covet, so few receive...).  I mean, who else recently has put so many hits? I kissed a girl, Hot and coldTeenage Dream, California Gurls, ET, Waking up in Vegas...ummm I should probably just stop now while my hole is only 5' deep...


Alright so let me try and regain some credibility with this next one.  I haven't really listened to much Arcade Fire but I think I first heard this song on some sort of google web project (I don't remember what it was called but this song provided the background in some way).  I'm not sure exactly how I'd describe this song.  It's kind of like when you go into iTunes or a music review or something and read the description of the artist/album/song whoever writes those can come up with the most perfect descriptions of whatever is happening but I have NO idea from where they pulled that stuff.  I think half of it is made-up words that have since become common vernacular.  Or common at least if you're ''in the know.'' Not me.


The Chemical Brothers are one of the greatest electronic music groups of all-time.  Although, when you really think about it, electronic music hasn't been around all that long and has since evolved into all different kinds of music (house, trance, house trance, acid house, trance techno, techno, etc) but Chemical Brothers has remained one of the most popular groups in the over-arching genre.  Trent Reznor (NIN) was the first to do the entire soundtrack for a move (Social Network), followed very quickly by Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy).  Chemical Brothers joined them with "Hanna" which, although much less popular than the prior two, was very good.  This song is a long, multiple tempo romp that's great for long intervals on the bike or a couple of miles during a run!



There are tons of examples I could put for Daft Punk.  They are SUCH an awesome group.  It's just these two guys that nobody ever sees (they wear masks and costumes and never do interviews in person so nobody knows what they look like) so they are super mysterious which only adds to their cache.  They've been around for a long time, have produced numerous top hits and put on an amazing live show (at least from what I can tell in videos; they don't do live very often but I'd do ANYTHING to go see them live if it was anywhere near me).  I had the Tron: Legacy Reconfigured soundtrack on repeat for a while on my shuffle and before that had the original soundtrack on there so I've heard all versions of those songs multiple times...but luckily I listened to them long before that movie elevated their popularity to a more "general" audience because some of their best stuff is way older.

So that's part 1; I may or may not do a part 2.  Hopefully I can get around to it tomorrow because I know many out there are DYING for the next post!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Forgive me coach, for I have sinned

The title might be slightly inflammatory but it gets the message across.  The opportunity arose late this week for a chance to race in the NCCX series of races in Charlotte and I felt like this was a once in a year opportunity that I should not avoid.  In this situation, I'd advocate for a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of interpretation.  I'd never recommend someone doing this in what is supposed to be "downtime."  But, I thought long and hard and 3 minutes later decided to sign up for the race.  Beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission, right?

For those that don't know, the NC Cyclocross Series is a series of cyclocross races in North Carolina.  Uhhh, well...I guess that summed it up nicely?  For those that are unaware of what cyclocross is - and I'd guess that if you're reading this you have a pretty good idea - it's kind of like a cross (haha...good one me) between mountain bike racing and criterium racing.  The bikes are slightly modified road bikes (to accept wider tires and cantilever brakes) and the race is held on "trails."  I say "trails" but really the races are roped off in existing parks and rarely are there true "trails."  It's basically an off-road crit.  For good measure, organizers like to throw in fun obstacles like barriers, sand pits, stairs, steep hills (up and down), tight turns (sharper than 90 degrees), off camber turns, off camber descents, roots, rocks, trees, other riders...wait, I've gone too far.  Anyway, long story short, it's a mix of sections that require technique and fitness.  Obviously, my technique is crap but I'd like to think that my fitness is good (or at least better than most in the CX 4 category).

I got to the race site early because races were going on all day and I figured it'd be a good chance to watch and see how others approached the main obstacles (steep hill, sand pit #2, barriers), both for the better and for the not-so-better.  The first one on the course was the steep hill.  It seemed like with enough speed one could get up the 20' or so without getting off the bike.  The problems started when it was crowded or you weren't powerful enough (or just didn't "set up" the hill properly in the lead-up).  Here is an example:
So that can happen.  There's also the danger of it being so crowded that it's just impossible to make it up to the top without un-clipping as you're relying on the person in front of you to make it up and the person in front of him, etc.

The second main obstacle was the sand pits.  More specifically, the second sand pit.  The first had a good lead-in and you could maintain speed through the sand but the second was after a sharp turn and had a sharp turn in the pit so you basically had to get off and carry your bike.

The third and final (main) obstacle were the two barriers.  These were especially tricky because they were on a slight downhill with a long, straight lead up and to further complicate matters the ground was quite bumpy beforehand; making it difficult to modulate the brakes and slow speed in a controlled manner.  There are three ways of going over barriers: bunny hop (I was not about to try that), portage (carry your bike), or crash.  I was going for option two.  This video was of the Pro 1/2 race and shows the first two options:
The guy that bunny hopped those is crazy.  Not really sure how he did that and I'm not about to try and figure it out myself.  While we were watching one guy got off his bike too late and caught his second foot on the first barrier and basically went sliding head first into the second barrier.  Luckily, he was wearing a helmet and was (mostly) unscathed.  The only time I fell was in the practice lap; as I was going over the second barrier I caught the rear tire on it and tried to hop on a bike that wasn't there.  Needless to say, the results were that I didn't get on the bike...

So needless to say, I was amped up to start the race.  Not in small part due to the fact that I just wanted it to be over!  Luckily Bob and Melissa were there to support (Bob in no small part due to the fact that I was riding his cross-bike!) so they were helping me get excited and cheered a lot during the race.  All the CX 4's started to line up at about 2:25 for a 2:30 start.

The first issue I encountered was that I arrived after everyone had already started to party.  At least 30 people had already lined up and were waiting to I was relegated to the back; I'm not about to be "that guy" in a 'cross race.  The officials did a "call-up" for the top finishers from the week before so that stuck me even further back.  I'd say that there were probably ~50 starters and I was in the last 10-15.  That was bad.  Given the importance of the start in CX events I was already handicapped.  At that point, however, there wasn't much I could do about it....

At the start of the whistle everyone clipped in and sprinted for the holeshot.  I did not get clipped in very smartly but managed to get started ok.  The course started off slightly uphill then took a right turn and went down the same hill and up the very steep climb.
I come in at about 25 seconds on the far left in an all black kit with a blue tri top over some Under Armor (yea, I was that guy wearing a tri top...I love it).  On the first lap it was way, way too crowded to try and ride up so I hopped off early and ended up running past a bunch of people and continued running well past where most people were re-mounting their bikes.  That proved to be a pretty good strategy, surprisingly.  The course then took a couple of twists and turns then hit a downhill off-camber turn (in the first lap a guy on the right slid down this hill) before a quick uphill followed by a longer uphill climb to the finish line area.  Then there was a series of twists and a little straight before an off-camber right hand turn in which the high line was the best followed by a straight then a sharp left turn then some more turns, then some more turns, then some more turns and maybe a straight or two and then the sand pits.  Some technical sections then a sharp downhill followed by a sustained climb onto a paved parking lot area that was a false flat then some twists and turns before eventually getting to the barriers, then some more twists and turns before getting back to where the start intersected with the course (followed by the downhill and steep climb).

The first lap was basically a mad-house.  Of the 4 (4.5 laps really since the start was not the same as the finish) laps we did the first was the most worthless.  I was stuck in the back and didn't know where I'd be able to move up; luckily for me the uphills provided a great opportunity.  On the first lap alone I think I passed 20+ people, mostly (if not entirely) on the 20-30 seconds worth of sustained climbing.  Of course this meant that by the end of the first lap I felt like my heart was going to explode.  It's difficult to explain to people that haven't experienced these feelings (and it's pretty rare in a triathlon to do so...) but you know when you have to pee really bad and it feels like your bladder is pressing really, really hard against you, trying to force it's way out?  Well, imagine that being your heart.  Your heart is so worked up that it wants to pop like a balloon and shut off the pain.  The only others times I have felt this have been during bike races, hard group rides, and intense make-out seshes.  Just kidding about the last one.  I've never done that.

Needless to say, I wanted to slow down but didn't want to be a wuss so I kept on the pressure and made it through lap two feeling virtually the same but gradually making my way up closer to the front.  I consistently lost a little ground on the tight turns and more technical sections but could make up all of that and much more on the sustained climbs.  Once it cleared up a little bit each of the "obstacles" became much easier to tackle.  I was able to ride up the steep hill on the last 3 attempts at going up:
The sand pit also became much easier.  I think with two and a half laps to go I had moved up into top 10 and wasn't that far behind the leaders (although I had no real idea where I was unless Melissa and Bob shouted at me, like so:
Towards the end of the race the barriers also became "easier," just because there were fewer people to deal with and be aware of; luckily I never had any problems during the race but was definitely very careful as this seemed the prime location to injure oneself.
I trod gingerly each and every time over those bad boys.  With one lap to go I had moved somewhere in the vicinity of the top 5 and towards the end I had caught someone in a team kit and was basically keying off his pace throughout the second half of the lap.  We each approached the steep hill and made it up without getting off and continued through the twisty turnies before hitting the climb to the finish.  At this point, I took the outside line and powered around him to the line.  I found out later that resulted in a 5th place finish.

Results

All in all, I was pretty pleased.  I'm a pretty good bike handler as far as roadies/triathletes go but when it comes to off-road my skills are vastly inferior.  Mountain biking was always difficult for me and in this race it was obvious I had a severe lack of finesse through the technical portions.  Luckily, despite my lack of real training recently, I'm still pretty fit and that helped me out immensely.  I think that with a better start - both in terms of location and speed (due in no small part to one's location...) - I could have contended for the win.  I passed almost the entire field throughout the race so that was certainly good.  I'm not sure how many more of these are in my future (probably not many) but it was certainly a fun experience.  I definitely went against the"plans" but I think that, since it was so short, I didn't "hurt" my downtime (too much).

Other than that, this week I swam twice, ran twice and biked thrice (including the 30 minute race).  Next week will be the same (but without a race).  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Resting

A lot of triathletes (and athletes in general) seem to buy into the idea of an off-season.  It seems to me that the idea of an "off-season" in triathlon is a by-product of American sports.  The so called "off season" in sports like basebally, football, and basketball are filled with moves made by an organization but frequently a LOT of downtime by the athletes.  Many of them typically report back at the beginning of the year fat and out of shape.  While this comparison isn't completely accurate, it serves to make my point.  Calling this time of year an "off-season" only really leads down a path to fatness.

For most triathletes that actually want to be good, there should be no such thing as an off-season.  Everything has a purpose, and this time of year has the purpose of making you better, just in a slightly different way.  Too many see downtime as a week of light workouts and eating crap (if the latter were a determiner for an off-season I'd be on that plan every day...but that's another post) which is a terrible, terrible idea.

Now, if your off-season consists of a week of rest and recuperation then two plus weeks of very light, barely structured workouts then you are like me.  I THOUGHT - before this year - that I knew what downtime really meant.  I was wrong.  You have to look at season down time as equally important as workouts during the season.  As much as you tried to nail every single workout from March to October you have to focus as much on nailing things like:

1) Getting enough sleep.  Seriously, forego some workouts in favor of some extra sleepy deliciousness.  There is nothing better than sleeping.  Well, more of it is better I suppose...!
2) Using your legs as little as possible.  If you're not working out (very lightly duh) then sit at the desk, on your couch, or in your bed.  Slap on those compression tights and socks.
3) Eat well.  After a big race, focus on eating good proteins (not the crappy ones like I do) as if you think about it, THOSE are the nutrients that your body is going to use to rebuild your muscles.
4) Do other stuff.  Yoga.  Sleeping.

When you're training hard in February and March (like you should) you can look back and realize how awesome it was.  You have to "detrain" to "train."  To have a peak there also needs to be a valley.

Sleep more, workout less.  It feels SO good.  You will wish you had in Spring of 2012 :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Racing Review of 2011

2011 Races - for each of these I'll list some of the first things I think about when I remember that race and one split that I really like...

2.27 - Donaldson Center Road Race - 1st place Cat 4

Nervous, first road race in FOREVER.  Got in a breakaway, did most of the work, in the lead with 1/2mi to go and nobody came around me.  Surprisingly HOT for February.


3.13 - Blythewood Omnium Circuit Race - 1st place Cat 4

This race wasn't nearly as difficult; surprisingly easy to win.  Got the final points necessary for a Cat 3 upgrade.  Excited to one day get enough for a 2!

3.27 - Cool Breeze Triathlon - 6th OA

Pretty forgettable.  Horrible bike ride on borrowed Fletch-mobile with two dropped chains.  Head wasn't in it but had a decent run. 17:51 5k, not bad.


4.17 - New Orleans 69.1 - 5th AG 34th OA

Nothing bad to say about this one.  It was well-executed for both the bike and the run.  Probably the race I'm most satisfied with this year; really wish I had gotten to swim.  That was frustrating. 11minute half-ironman run PR (1:21:XX)

5.1   - May Day Biathlon - 1st OA

Set a new 5k PR (race was a 5k run, 35ish k bike) of 16:32 on an accurate, flat course.  Got a good gap and rode hard to take the victory.  Some of the old guard of NC was there (Sonni Dyer and Jay Curwen), good to compete against them.

5.7   - White Lake Half - 5th OA

Dealing with some major blister problems this week; good bike but bad run.  Struggled to hold it together.  Another canceled swim. Same (exact) watts as NOLA for a 2:16:low vs 2:16:high.


6.11 - Tri Latta - 3rd OA

Decent swim but dealt with those dang timing chip issues that plagued me during the summer! Good bike as well, rode with Donny most of the way for the top two fastest bike times that course has ever seen.  Not a great run and didn't have the legs to duke it out with Scott for 2nd place. 40:01 or so for the bike.


6.14 - Summer Track Series 5k - 3rd OA

Wanted to go sub 16:30, went 16:35 mostly solo instead.  Jay and Paul (and me) plus a couple of other guys took it out a little to slow for a fast time (for me anyway).  Time trialed the rest of the way, stayed pretty consistent.

7.16 - Stumpy Creek International - 3rd OA

Bad swim (timing chip meltdown), ok bike (if I hadn't had to get off the bike and stretch my hamstring at mile one I would probably remember this ride better), very good run.  Almost 5 minutes faster on the same run course versus last year (35:5x vs 40:xx, which admittedly was a terrible run...).


7.17 - Amica 19.7 at Stumpy Creek - 1st OA

Good swim, good bike (minus computer falling off), ran in the lead and just mailed it in; I was RIDICULOUSLY sore after Saturday's race. Umm, don't have a good split in mind haha. Swim probably.

8.20 - Age Group Nationals - 22nd AG

Pretty good swim minus some sighting issues, very good bike (15th fastest OA and left some watts on the table), miserable run.  No spark in the ol' leggies from the get-go. 59:00 40k on a fairly hard course.


9.10 - Best of the US Amateur Championship - 5th OA

Fantastic swim (3rd out of the water in a wetsuit legal swim not wearing a wetsuit, thanks Blue Seventy!), ok bike, ok run.  Really remember this as a "solid" race.  Nothing spectacular, just a good race. 58:20ish 40k.


9.25 - Augusta 70.3 - Not sure

Complete meltdown.  This picture is at some point during my 28 minute mile 2 split... Most memorable split was the 28 minutes it took to get from mile 1 to mile 2! Awesome!


10.8 - Myrtle Beach Triathlon - 1st OA

Good swim, good bike, very good run.  Other than NOLA, I'd say this was my best race.  Felt like I was floating on the run and in my head could have switched into another gear if I had been challenged.  Qualified for my pro card at this race. Went through 10k in about 35 flat.  Next year will hopefully see some 34:xx times?!


10.29 - Beach to Battleship Half7th OA

Ok swim, "ehh" bike, "ehh" run.  Incredibly tough conditions on the bike with ridiculous headwinds, tried to go for it on the run and just didn't have the gas.  Residual sickness may have played a factor; who knows? 2:29:xx bike split is the slowest half split I've ridden since NOLA 2009 (my first triathlon...)!!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

That's all she wrote!

Beach to Battleship Half

Patrick Farwell and his wife were super generous and offered me a bed in their house in Wilmington, NC for Friday night after I posted on Slowtwitch (see, it has it's uses...) to see if anyone had anything available so I arrived in town on Friday afternoon and after picking up my packet and dropping off my bike I met them and we headed to their house.  It was super convenient and they were so nice and accommodating that it definitely made a tough day that much easier.  The logistics of B2B are kind of a pain in the ass so to have people familiar with the area was fantastic.  Race morning dawned relatively early (but not bright) and after Patrick and I set up our bikes we walked to swim start.  It was cold (55ish) and windy (15-20 mph winds) and a light drizzle was forecasted until noon-ish.  Perfect race weather (not!).

Swim 1.2 miles in 23:45 (25th)

The current was ridiculous this morning and the water was a perfect 69 degrees so conditions for the swim were great (albeit a little chop at certain points made salt water intake a minor issue!).   The 25-29 wave was the 5th (I think) to go off and at 8:50 we headed into the channel.  The swim was pretty uneventful but it was very, very difficult to sight as there was a light haze or fog hanging over the water.  This was especially difficult at the beginning of the swim but as time went on it appeared to lift off a little bit.  I couldn't remember the exact direction the swim took but looking at a map would have been very helpful for me.  In my head I was thinking the swim was basically an "L" shape of down the channel, turn left and there's the finish.  Unfortunately it was more like a shape-to-which-I-cannot-prescribe-a-letter of down the channel, turn left (staying left), bear left, turn right.  Or something like that.  So I made the left turn and stayed wide right, basically adding an "arc" shape to what should have been a straight line.  Long story short, I made the swim course a bit longer.  Not a ton, but I should have swam a bit faster.  Oh well.  I got out of the water and didn't feel particularly taxed so that was a nice feeling.  Ran over the dock, past the strippers and across the mat into a very long T1.

T1 in 3:39

I stopped after the mat (and almost bit it) to remove the rest of my wetsuit (which went quickly) and threw it over my shoulders to run with it into transition.  The run was long and cold and my feet felt very weird slapping the pavement but there were a lot of people cheering so I couldn't appear to be weak!  It was nice to hear (and then see) Tara and Kurt and Bob.  Always good motivation to see people you know.  I had decided to put on a long sleeve jersey so as I got to my bike I put that on (clumsily, my hands were cold) and my socks and shoes then headed out onto the road.  Not the most efficient transition, but not horrible either.

Bike 56 miles in 2:29:58 (7th)

The first part of the bike for B2B half and full is a relatively technical series of turns to get everyone turned around and up off the staging area for swim/T1 and onto the real part of the course.  I made my way through and up and over the bridge and then buckled down for what would be (EASILY) the most frustrating 56 miles I've ever ridden.  It was immediately apparent that we would face an exceedingly stiff headwind (with an unpredictable mix of crosswind thrown in for good measure!) for the foreseeable future.  As with the swim, I couldn't remember exactly where the course went so I was blissfully (ignorance isn't really bliss in this situation...) unaware of how long this headwind would last.  Miles 1-5 were fairly uneventful and I kept passing a steady stream of people (this would continue until the half and the full routes parted ways at mile 35 or so) while dealing with feeling miserable.  Not miserable in the sense that my legs felt horrible (although they did feel not great; I didn't ride my bike a single mile last week...) or anything real like that; my problems were mainly in my head.

Before this race and while I was still out in CA I was excited at the prospect of my final race being B2B.  It's a well-run race with a lot of local flavor and you always get to see a lot of people you know and train with so the run course is always exciting.  After I got sick I still maintained some excitement as I was hoping that some forced rest might be a good thing so as race day approached I had a good attitude.  On race morning, however, it became clear that my mind was not really in the game.  I wasn't particularly motivated and the weather was definitely not helping.  This only got worse as time went along and I was mentally checked out most of the race.

This was especially evident around mile 10 or so as I was re-passing a guy that had just passed me (the only one all day) and I moved back over to the right and ran into a cone.  We were on I-140 at the time and in the left lane so were separated from traffic by some pretty large traffic cones.  Luckily I didn't go down but the guy was right behind me and I heard him say "whoa!" as I recovered.  He passed me as I collected myself and I couldn't make myself look at him I was so embarrassed! I realized that my brakes were rubbing so I pulled over to the left to adjust them and got back on track relatively quickly. DUMB.  From that point on the story does not get any more interesting.

I don't really know how to put into words what it feels like to ride into a headwind like we were experiencing on Saturday.  I think the best way to describe is to suggest going into the kitchen and grabbing a frying pan.  Stand about a foot away from a wall (preferably drywall, but I suppose brick would work as well) and as you slam your head into the wall (not too hard, not too gentle, but juuuuuust right) smack your quads with the frying pan each time (being sure to alternate legs!).

This process continued virtually unabated until about mile 35.  At that point we made a turn and had what might have been a soft tailwind.  Dear sweet baby Jesus, it was about time.  I had been taking in gels (I tried a new strategy this time: filling up a regular water bottle with 8 or so gels - much more than enough - and the rest with water, I liked it) regularly but inconspicuously absent was taking in much water.  When we split from the full course the route became virtually empty and we had the blessed beginnings of a tailwind.

From this point on the story was much the same; at mile 40 or so we turned onto whatever that road was and it became a true tail wind although 15-20 miles of tailwind wasn't enough to make up for 35-40 of headwind. As I got closer and closer to the finish I had a very good idea of what my bike split was going to be and I was annoyed.  Annoyed doesn't really begin to cut it actually.  I held similar watts (almost the exact same) to New Orleans and White Lake but there were two problems with this.  One was that the conditions were significantly harder (it was equally windy in NOLA but there was just as much tailwind as headwind so it evened out) and the other is that I should be able to ride much harder as I've gotten a good bit stronger over the course of the year!  Oh well, 'twas not to be.

Finished up the bike and ran over the mat.  End of the most difficult (mentally and physically, but mainly mentally) 56 miles I've ridden in recent memory.

T2 in 1:49

I handed my bike to a volunteer and began awkwardly running to grab my bag and head into the changing tent; I say awkwardly became it felt like I was running on stumps.  My feet were completely numb! I hate that feeling.  I headed into the changing tent and put on my running shoes and grabbed some gel.  Not a whole lot to do so not much wasted time.  It was a little slower than it should have been simply because my extremities didn't work all that well.

Run 13.1 miles in 1:29:17 (11th)

Heading out on the run I didn't feel too bad.  My effort level was high but I could tell I was running pretty fast (no watch today) and I made my way up over the first overpass and headed down the hill past the first mile. I was rolling along nicely and had just past the second mile marker when my left hamstring suddenly balled up in a cramp.  I pulled off to the side and immediately tried to stretch it out as much as possible.  It took several attempts of stretching and trying to walk again before the hamstring agreed.

I was finally able to get going again and didn't have any more real issues with cramping.  The rest of the way out to the turnaround was unremarkable and I kept a nice pace (I'd guess that excluding the cramping issue I went out in about 1:20-1:21 pace, which is what I originally hoped to run), taking in some water or heed at aid stations and a little bit of gel from my flask.  About a mile past the turnaround on the way back into town I began to fade and basically slowed down the rest of the way in until the finish.  The last hill was a bear to make up and going down was almost worse because my quads were so hammered that I could barely "run."  Blah blah blah the finish line was closing in and I walked across the line a little disappointed but happy that the race was over. Done and done!

Total time 4:29 something; I'm too lazy to open up the results page again and stare at 7th overall and a time over 20 minutes slower than I hoped.  Regardless of the outcome it was a good result all things considered.  I didn't have a lot of things going in my favor and I struggled mentally and physically most of the day so I have to be pleased with 7th place, right?  Anyway, last race of the year and now a nice break from any training for a week.  I'll post a season recap shortly once I can focus on the big picture, which should be soon enough!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sickly

This week I was sick for the first time in a very long time.  I don't mean long time as in six or eight months; I mean long time as in 3+ years.  I cannot even REMEMBER the last time I felt truly "sick."  It blows! It started on Monday night with a light sore throat after a spectacular day of workouts (2 runs and a huge swim).  Went to bed that night thinking nothing more of it then woke up on Tuesday morning and knew something was off; sore throat was still there and I had the definite signs of a mild fever.  Luckily, Moose's mom was coming to visit that day so it was perfect timing (best way to meet someone new is to not feel like yourself...not)! Fast forward through the day and that night was terrible; the fever was at it's peak and I felt like dying would be the preferable option to laying on the floor sweating profusely (then getting cold, then getting hot...etc).  The next morning it was better and I went to the doctor (or rather, was driving to the doctor since I'm obviously out of my element way out yonder! Moose's friend Peter carted me to urgent care; thanks again PB!) the doctor said I had a virus that just needed to pass on it's own.

LAME! Gimme drugs.  Just kidding, I'm definitely not one to over-medicate.  I try to use medicine as little as possible and I think that and other measures are what keep my immune system so strong.  Getting sick once every 3-5 years isn't so bad when you think about it.  It reminds me that I'm merely human.  Sometimes, I think I am more than that so it's good to be taken down a peg or two.

I started feeling better on Friday and on Saturday and Sunday did some light workouts.  Basically a less than ideal week of training but perhaps it will prove worthwhile for B2B (maybe some forced rest does the body good?).  Anyway, I feel better now although I think Moose is still scared to be around me (or maybe that's just her convenient excuse...).  I head home to Charlotte on Thursday, drive to Wilmington Friday, race Saturday.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.  Last race of the year!

Monday, October 17, 2011

No training update

I'm not going to talk about training at all in this installment of my weekly updates!  Well, unless talking about not talking about training means I'm talking about training I guess.  I've been in Santa Barbara for a week now and am enjoying myself thoroughly.  It's important to note that my hostess is one of the best people - ever - so that makes things easier.  On that note, I just wanted to add how thankful I am of everyone around me (well, not everyone).  A super awesome and fast roommate; amazing training partners that make fun of me constantly - which only spurs me to get faster to let my legs do the comebacks; great supporters but most especially Bob and Melissa; super duper parents who encourage me every day to follow my dreams even if my dad makes fun of me for shaving my legs and my mom laughs at my aversion to arm pit hair; three brothers that are each very different but equally happy to encourage me blindly (since they don't really get it but hey, they're younger and dumber, right?) and an extended family that does nothing but send good vibes and messages.  Last but certainly not least (insofar as I can think of at the moment) a great coach who is honest yet encouraging.  He doesn't sugar coat it; nor would I want him to.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention how happy I am to have all these people in my life and I don't want to gush but I'm pretty lucky to be where I am and it wouldn't be possible without all the help I get from everyone out there.  My racing isn't over yet this year but I'm sure that it will go fine and I'll be happy with the result no matter what.  I'm also sure that I will have fun no matter what.  Because otherwise, what's the point?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Myrtle Beach Triathlon

S/B/R/Time is irrelevant this week.  What matters is a good bounce-back race.  On that note:

Myrtle Beach Triathlon (1k/28mi/6.55mi)

Swim 1000m in 13:49 (5th?)

The so-called "elite amateur prize money" division (self-selected) made its way to the starting dock in the first wave of the international distance racing at 8:40am.  There were a grand total of 6 of us.  I think only 4 finished... I originally signed up to be in this wave (I think I signed up for this race back in June) because it was advertised as paying out the entrance fees to the top finishers.  So, if 10 people signed up for "elite" at $100 a pop (I don't remember how much it was, but not that much) then the total prize purse would be $1000.  Not too bad! Unfortunately only 5 or 6 signed up, alas.  Didn't change the fact that we still had to go hard for 2+ hours!

The swim was an odd shape: straight out from the dock in a mini-harbor area then a dog-leg right to the turnaround buoy followed by a long straight stretch in the main part of the intercoastal waterway then a right turn into another "harbor" area to the stairs and swim exit.

The swim was wetsuit legal, which I've come to dislike (most notably because of my near panic attack at Augusta...), and we all floated there until the timer said "Go."  I was in the middle, which in hindsight was a bad idea as we all stayed together (or at least, 4 of us) to the dog-leg where I was pinched in the middle and moved back to avoid the confusion.  We made our way to the buoy quickly and after turning I lost tough with the front 3.  Considering that at least 2 of those are sub 20 minute 1500m swimmers I'm not TOO unhappy about it... The long straight stretch had a little bit of chop but I established a steady, (fairly) comfortable rhythm and just put my head down.  I sighted a lot more often than normal as this water was very, very dark.  Iodine would be the closest comparison I could come up with (or maybe someone else did, I can't remember).  Slightly brown and I couldn't see my hand in front of me at each stroke.  Long story short, I made my way to the last turn buoy and bore right, which ended up being directly into the sun.  I just headed for the corner where I knew swim exit was and hit the stairs.  I knew I was behind but didn't think it was by much.

T1 in 1:16

This was a fairly long run up the ramp and past a restaurant to the parking lot that was T1.  I got my wetsuit sleeves off more easily than normal and hit my bike feeling fairly comfortable (sometimes, not the case.  Again, most notably at Augusta).  Put on the helmet, took off the rest of the wetsuit and put on the shoes.  Not blazing fast, but efficient.

Bike 28 miles in 1:07:31 (1st), 24.9 mph

From the beginning of the day, it was obvious that the bike course was going to be quite windy.  I'm not sure exactly how to describe the bike course except for maybe as a big T.  Except for one with a very long top part and a very short bottom part.  Now that I've made that clear, moving on...

The first section to get out to the main road was a nice tailwind so I was moving along nicely and quickly caught everyone that had exited the swim in front of me.  I think it was just one guy and one girl as Greg (1st out of water) had trouble in T1 with his wetsuit and was behind me.  Once we turned right onto the main section it was a nice headwind.  And when I say nice headwind, I really mean "devastatingly depressing yet awesome, miserable headwind."  Anyone that complains about a headwind isn't a strong enough biker.  I say that with sarcasm of course (only slightly, however) as headwinds are very demoralizing.  Nonetheless, I knew this would benefit me as I am pretty fit and very, very aero.  So I just put my head down and resigned myself to sticking it out in the aero bars.  I didn't look behind me and at around mile 7 or 8 I got to the first turnaround and was excited to head in the other direction.  I saw that I had a nice gap on what appeared to be 2nd place (although it was hard to tell as we were mixed up with some of the Halfmax people at this point) and I again put the ol' head down and hammered out some weak watts.  Along this direction for almost the entire way I was in my biggest gear, which usually means speeds in excess of 30mph.  I was BLOWING by some of the slower Halfmax competitors, which felt kind of cool.  It's always nice to feel like you're moving.

It should be noted here that, like in every other international race I've done this year, my watts have been much lower than what they "should" be.  My threshold power is ~4.3 watts/kg and for this race I only managed to hold ~3.6 watts/kg.  The good thing about that is that I still managed ~25 mph on a VERY windy course at those watts.  The bad news is, I should have blown the doors off this bike course by even more! If I had only been able to average ~10% more watts I think I would have biked MUCH faster.  Anyway, it happens.

This long stretch of road was very fast and fun but I think I actually lost some time here as when I hit the other turnaround at mile ~18 it seemed as though the competitors were closer.  I had about a minute gap on 2nd cyclist and back into the headwind section.  With one brief exception the rest of the course basically felt into the wind.  I continued to press on with my head down and at the last turnaround (not sure how to describe where this one was as I was pretty lost at this point) I noticed my gap had grown past 2 minutes so I knew the headwind sections were benefiting me a good bit so I tried not to complain to myself...  Heading back towards the hotel I drank some more water (went through almost 25oz on this ride so that was good) and unstrapped my shoes as I headed into the area where Halfmax peeps turned around for their 2nd loop and volunteers yelled at me to turnaround.  I ignored them, however, and made my way down the hill to TA.  At bike dismount the announcer was getting all jacked up that I was the first person back off the bike and that was fun to hear as I hopped off my bike.

T2 in :52

Ran into my spot to put my bike up, put on shoes (although I had trouble with one and lost some time), took off helmet and put on sunglasses while grabbing my run number and headed out towards the exit.

Run 6.55 miles in 37:11 (2nd), 5:40/mi

As I made my way out and up the brief hill to the real run course a biker rolled up alongside me and I realized that I got to have a lead biker! That's always fun and doesn't happen all that often so I was glad for the company.  The run for the intermediate was basically half of a half ironman and was a double out and back.  Once this year I've felt very, very good immediately and luckily this run doubled that! I rolled along very nicely for the first mile plus and realized that my good feelings were aided by a nice little tailwind.  I saw a sign up ahead that said - among other things - "Intermediate Turn-Around" but instead of trusting my eyes I asked the biker if that was my turn.  She said "no you stay straight," so I went past the sign post.  She then asked "Wait, you're doing the half, right?" I immediately said "Nope!" and turned around to get back on course.  I didn't lost a lot of time there and I didn't let it frustrate me; I was in a good mood and didn't feel like getting all jacked up over 10-15s.  I figured that if someone caught me because of that I'd just have to out-sprint them.

The way back was quite uneventful except for the fact that it was into the wind and I could see my competitors coming the other way, none of whom appeared to be close or running any faster than me.  It seemed as though some dudes from later waves had moved their way up so that was my one worry but I recognized that the only thing I could do about that was to just run faster.  I continued on to the second turnaround which had a lot of spectators - always very fun and invigorating - and once on the out section I had both a tailwind (again) and a chance to pretend I was reeling in people in front of me as the course had become a little more crowded at this point.  Nothing exciting happened except for I grabbed a cup of water and splashed it all over the woman standing next to the guy that handed me the cup and thus my impromptu wet t-shirt contest was conducted and concluded very quickly.  As the only competitor, she won.  I got to the turnaround again and turned back into the wind but at this point it was the final stretch and I felt very comfortable and knew that I wasn't going to blow up or anything crazy with less than two miles to go.  Blah blah blah, got to the last 200 meters and the last stretch was downhill into the finish line.  Hooray!  There was very little fanfare as I think most were surprised someone was done so I got some water and gatorade and sat down.  Bang, race over.

Race Results

At this point, I knew I was first from my wave but didn't really know for sure that I had won.  As it turns out, someone from a later wave ended up coming in 2nd OA but luckily I was still out in front and had the overall victory in hand.

To say that I am "happy" about this race would be analogous to saying that "Megan Fox is hot."  Sure, they're both true, but they are also massive understatements.  Not necessarily because I won (nice bonus), but because it was a great bounce-back from a very disappointing Augusta.  If I took out the 10-15 seconds, my pace would be the equivalent of an almost dead 35:00 10k.  I know it's a bold statement, but I'm fairly confident that had I been challenged I would have been able to run faster.  Sure, it's easy to say that when I'm not running but I felt VERY comfortable.  Sure, I was running hard but I was not "on the rivet," to borrow some terminology from cycling.  I've been feeling very good lately on runs so to have that validated by a fast race was very nice.  Although, it's important to note that on the results it lists "pace" as 10k pace.  Unfortunately for the results, we did not run a 10k...

Another fun fact about this race was that a top 3 placing qualified finishers to apply for their pro card! I had known about this about ~2 weeks before the race but didn't want to get too excited or put pressure on myself as I just wanted to let chips fall where they may.  It would appear as though I wasn't the only person though as the second place finisher (Sam Holmes, who had a good race at AG Nats) and third place were both aware of this.  Since the race was held in conjunction with the ITU Elite Series it fell under "Criteria F" of elite qualification.  So what this means is...well, nothing really.  It means I can apply for a USAT Elite Card but I won't do so until 2012 as with only one race left this year I'd just be wasting money.  It also means that next year I will race among the "Pros," so that's cool.  Any by cool I mean "get-my-ass-handed-to-me-repeatedly."  I don't expect to do well, but I do expect to give this more than a year.  Sure, next year won't produce any spectacular results but it WILL produce some great learning experiences.  The best way to get faster is to race people faster than yourself and thereby elevate your game!  It may not have been the most "legit" way to qualify but it's going by the rules and I still had to show up on race day! I've never understood amateurs that blew people away and won amateur title after amateur title never racing in the pro field as I've always thought that it would be preferable to "move up," as they say.  I guess winning is fun?  I'd rather get better.  The pro card is what I wanted and now I've got it (or at least, I am eligible to get it).  Moving on...

On Monday I head out to Santa Barbara where I will be until Beach to Battleship, which will be my last race of the year and fourth half-ironman (if you count Augusta...!).  I know Kenneth is racing there so it'll be good to have another attempt to race him and I'm sure there will be other fast people there as well.  w00t

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oregano

S - 14,300 yards
B - 197.1 miles
R - 34.5 miles

Time - 17.87 hours

This week started off with a bang, and by bang I mean two days off (in a row).  It was good to rest up and recover after the debacle that was Augusta.  While it's no consolation, a lot of people didn't have great days at the race so it was "good" to not be alone.  Definitely no consolation to those people either.  Augusta just reinforced that a really good race is about making a lot of very small, seemingly insignificant good decisions (both before and during the race) and a bad race is a series of small, seemingly insignificant bad decisions.  While it sounds logical and/or rational (and dare I say it, obvious), a LOT of people forget that (myself obviously included).

On Saturday I race down in Myrtle Beach at the International that is being held in conjunction with the Elite Series race (and Halfmax).  The distance sets up well for me with a 1000m swim, 28 mile bike and 6.55 mile run so I hope to do well.  I'm racing in the "Elite Amateur Prize Money Division," which will likely only include myself judging by how many people have even heard of this race.  More than likely, however, I will come in dead last.  But if dead last is fast, I couldn't care less about my placing.  My second to last race of the year and then I hop on a plane and head out west for some much looked-forward-to hangout time and workout time.  Boom.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Augusta 70.3

Race week was pretty simple; a nice taper leading up to what would hopefully be some fast sbr'ing in Augusta, GA on Sunday.  I felt surprisingly chipper on my runs and was getting a lot of sleep so I hoped that I was doing all the right things for a good race day.  I wanted to be top 5 amateur (preferably top 3 - even though I knew that wouldn't qualify for the ol' pro card) and in my head I was thinking that a time anywhere from 4:02-4:09 would get that job done on race day.  So yes, my goals were high and the bar was set, but I knew I was fit and ready to race.

Traveling down with Bob and Melissa was super awesome as we made it down on Saturday to packet pickup, bike drop - off, and dinner without any mishaps and headed to Melissa's Dad's apartment in Aiken, SC (~25 mins away) for a quiet night.

Race morning dawned uneventful, albeit humid. Setting up the bike was simple and Melissa and I met back up with Bob to head over to swim start where we all ran into Selle and Kenneth.  We chatted a bit as I put on my wetsuit and it started to drizzle as I walked to start.

Swim 1.2 miles in 22:03 (5th AG)

As everyone knows (or, everyone who knows everything about most things with regard to the race) the swim at Augusta is down the Savannah River.  Times are always fast and people gain anywhere from 4-10+ minutes.  The slower you are, the more help you get from the little muddy.  Added to that the fact that it's normally a wetsuit swim and the slow swimmers are coming out of the water around people that they have absolutely no business being around.  Suffice it to say, my time was good but I was extremely annoyed that certain people came out near me or - in one case, in front of me - as I believe I'm a better swimmer than they are.  The M18-24 and M25-29 (1 of 2 25-29 waves) started at 7:44 and made our way downriver.

Immediately I could tell that I was uncomfortable.  Very quickly I felt like I was on the verge of having a panic attack.  This doesn't happen too often for me but when it does I'm usually wearing a wetsuit.  I felt claustrophobic and the sky was overcast so it was tough to see in my tinted goggles; all of this added up to make me feel exceedingly uncomfortable.  Not uncomfortable in an "I feel like I need to poo" kind of way but more like a "I feel like I'm drowning" kind of way.  Both of those situations are uncomfortable, but one is easily solved and one is not.  For the most part I was able to settle myself and eventually the feelings subsided but it was a decidedly not awesome way to start a long day.

After a little while it started to become apparent that swimming near the right side of the river was a bad idea, as there was a TON of debris in the water.  Not trash, luckily, but what looked like weeds or branches or seaweed (yes, I realize that seaweed is not found in rivers but that's what it looks liked).  This was especially the case towards the end of the swim.  I was swimming beside Tom Clifford for a while and then he went off to the left near the end and I lost him but saw him come out of the water a little ways ahead of me.  The run up out of the water felt difficult and I was breathing pretty hard but I made it to my bike just as Tom was leaving with his.

Transition 1 - 3:10

Not a whole lot to say here, it was a long run so my time wasn't THAT slow but I definitely could have been more efficient.

Bike 56 miles in 2:23:22 (moved up to 3rd AG)

Starting out on the bike I did not feel so hot but I tried to settle in and get my HR down to a more reasonable level.  There wasn't anyone on the road in front of me for a ways so I just put my head down and tried to find a groove.  After a couple of miles I could tell I was catching up to the two cyclists I could see in front of me so that was encouraging; at the same time my legs started to loosen up and the watts came a little easier.  Unfortunately at some point before mile 10 (don't really remember where) I hit a large hold and my downtube bottle and gel flasks decided that it was time to depart.  Unfortunately I did not realize this until I next reached for a hit of calories and at that point I did not want to turn around and try to find them.  I had planned on taking in between 800-1000 calories on the bike and about 700 of those had just disappeared.

I didn't really "panic," per se as I knew I could make up for some of that with on-course nutrition so I rolled along and eventually caught up to the two guys in front of me.  I'm not going to name names, but suffice it to say that one of these guys deserved multiple penalties for multiple offenses.  One of them wasn't so bad but the other should have been DQ'd.  Riding on the left side of the road (with NO ONE else around), drafting repeatedly and blatantly (on myself and the other guy), not having a number, not falling back once passed...I could go on.  Anyway, the first bike aid station didn't come until later than I expected so I grabbed two bottles of perform and carried on; not even thinking to grab gels.  I make no excuse for that oversight and I obviously wasn't thinking clearly.

For the next 10-15 miles I drank both bottles of perform but before the next aid station my stomach felt like it had shut down.  By mile 35 or so I started feeling really bloated and at the next aid station I grabbed water (again, no gels...dumb!) to try and help with digestion.  I realized that I had basically had no water for ~2 hours and that frightened me a little bit.  Basically, I was starting to get worried.  My legs felt ok but my stomach was doing pretty badly.  Still, I knew that in a long enough races things could sort themselves out if you make good decisions (unfortunately I did not do that).

After mile 40 it was basically me and the guy that deserved all the penalties as the other 18-24 had fallen back.  Unfortunately at this point my watts began dropping and I couldn't put any more power to the pedals.  I still felt very bloated and was hoping that I could produce a really solid burp or fart and get rid of all the whatever that was in my stomach.  Even puking would have felt good!  Unfortunately nothing surfaced and as we rolled into the last 5-7 miles of the bike course I was about 40 watts below my goal average.  I was going the slowest when I should have been going the fastest and proverbially dropping the hammer.

I also began dealing with cramps in the last 5 miles...some slight to moderate twinges in my left hamstring and in my hip flexors.  At this point I began really worrying as they wouldn't go away and I still felt extremely bloated.  Anywwayyy, I rolled into T2 feeling pretty dejected as my race had quickly gone downhill after the 2-2.5 hour mark.

Transition 2 in 1:53

I was a bit surprised by T2 and hadn't taken my feet out of my shoes yet so I had a slower, clumsier dismount than usual but rolled my bike into the rack and bent over to take off my shoes and my hip flexors cramped a little bit again, which made putting on my socks and running shoes difficult... Not too happy at this point.

Run 13.1 miles in 2:21:07 (back...way, way back!)

Starting out on the run I immediately felt pretty shabby.  My stomach was so full and I couldn't burp and nothing seemed to be going right...  I made it to mile .5 before I resigned to walking and then starting running through the aid station before seeing Scott and Jenny hanging out just past the aid station.  I stopped and sat with them for a while, basically giving up on my race.  I said that I preferred a DNF to coming in with a slow time and that was that!  After a while my stomach felt like the sitting still created some actual digestion and I felt significantly less fat and bloated than when I initially sat down; after watching all these runners go by I figured that I may as well try and finish.  Sure, it may end up being slow and painful but at least I won't have another DNF like at Louisville last year.

I started running and for a while it wasn't too bad but it quickly became an alternating process of run and then cramp and then walk and then run again.  It was long, slow, and I almost want to say "fun." Not fun in the traditional sense like "haha, this is awesome" but more in the "I'm proud of myself for doing this" kind of way.  Anyway, I eventually made it to the finish line for the staggering time of 5:11 and change.

There are a couple of positives to take away from this race
1) Finishing is a positive, right?
2) I negative split my run (1:11:xx and 1:09:xx)! haha
3) hmm, experience?

There are also some negatives
1) It's easy to feel like you've let people down with a race like this (your self, your friends, your coach)
2) Along those lines, it's also easy to second guess your goals after a race like this
3) When you set the bar at 4:0X and come in at 5:11, it's a bit disappointing...

But the main one would be #2.  When you train as much as I do with the expectations (hope) of eventually racing in the professional field a race like this feels like a bit of a reality check.  Sure, one race isn't the end of the world but in two of my biggest races this year I've had my worst performances (AG Nats and Augusta).  I've also raced really well this year, so to focus on 2 bad races and forget about the 8+ other good races would be short-sighted of me (and of anyone in a similar situation, of whom there were many at Augusta this year).  So it's important to move on and keep the ol' chin up etc etc.  I am happy to have finished.

This week will be about recovery and making sure I'm ready to race again in 2 weeks down in Myrtle Beach. Redemption time!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Better late than never

S - 10,600 yards
B - 222.3 miles
R - 39 miles

Time - 19.53 hours

Rule # 17: Team Kit is for members of the Team
Wearing Pro Team kit is also questionable if you're not paid to wear it. If you must fly the colors of Pro teams, all garments should match perfectly, i.e. no Mapei jersey with Kelme shorts and Telekom socks.


Most people won't even recognize the names of the teams listed there as their cycling fan-dom is too new and annoying.  This rule is flagrantly violated by many people.  It's actually one of the ways in which serious athletes mark and then subsequently make fun of the less serious athletes.  Well, maybe "serious" isn't the best description.  How about ignorant?  That works.
Need I say more?
There are some exceptions to this rule in my book: old school jerseys are now cool to wear again.  Items like Mapei, T-Mobile, and others are acceptable these days.  Because when you have something like that, more likely than not your are a discerning cyclist.  You don't just buy some jersey that you see on TV in July and think you're cool; it's like buying a '63 Corvette Stingray split-window versus a BMW 3 series.  Sure, they're both fast and functional but one is steeped in history and bad-assery while the other is a good car that is way too ubiquitous to be cool.  The moral of the story is: don't wear Team Discovery Channel, Team Radio Shack, Team BMC, Garmin-Cervelo, HTC, etc and expect to be taken seriously.  It ain't gonna happen.

Rule #26: Shorts and socks should be like Goldilocks.
Not too long and not too short.  No socks is a no-no, as are those ankle length ones that should only be worn by female tennis players.
Tom Boonen is a perfect model for most things.  Except for his coke habit.
This one is staggeringly, maliciously, ignorantly, amusingly abused.  Here's one simple rule that basically says everything you need to know about socks (which is the area in which my main grief lies): ride in cycling socks, run in running socks.  No, triathlon socks do not count as either (unless you are racing; therein lies the exception to the rule).  Cycling socks should be longer than 4" (although it depends on your size, they MUST go up past the ankle, however) and running socks should be shorter than your ankles.  Period.

On a different tangent, Augusta 70.3 is this weekend! Should be fun.  Some stiff comp there, as Kenneth will make his half-ironman debut, Tom Clifford from Wilmington (recently ran a 1:14 at Steelhead), and Jeremy Sipos will also be racing.  Plus others I'm sure I don't know about.  My goal is simply to do the best that I can, no chasing times, only going as hard as possible for a touch over 4 hours...