Monday, August 22, 2011

AG Nats has come and gone

S - 7000 yards
B - 57.8 miles
R - 17ish miles

Time - 7ish hours

Well, this week was a taper period leading up to AG Nats.  I felt good in the days prior to the race and was excited to get up to Burlington and race my little leggies off, hang out with some cool peeps, and hopefully do well!

Jenny, David Lee and I drove up to Chapel Hill Wednesday night to meet Mark Carey and ride with him up to Burlington.  We woke up super early on Thursday morning and began our trip up the east coast.  We made it to Burlington fairly uneventfully; the same couldn't be said for Moose, who wasn't able to meet us that night and wouldn't arrive until the next morning...

Friday we all did our various thing of the pre-race nature, although Moose's suitcase containing essential race items had not arrived (and wouldn't until 4am the next morning!), and we all seemed to be feeling relatively excited about the pain that would shortly ensue the following morning.

Race day dawned at 5am and by 5:30 we were on our way to the race site.  We all set up our transitions and then the early starters (M 40-44 and W <24 were in the first three waves to go off around 7:30ish) made their way to the start while the late starters (Jenny and I didn't start until 8:30) sat around.  Soon enough though, it was our turn and we donned the old rubber body suits and made our way to the start.

Swim - 23:04 (1:34/100m)
The Male 25-29 wave began at 8:3X am and we all jumped into the water at the staging area before making our way to the start line for the sounding of the gun (I don't actually remember if it was a gun or a horn or something of a similarly loud nature; apparently the earliest waves had the joy of having Jared - the Subway Jared - starting their race for them.  I was not jealous).  I lined up on the left side near the dock and upon the sounding of the noise I started out pretty fast towards the first buoy.  I heated up quickly in the full sleeved wetsuit (the water temperature the day before was 74, not sure what it was race morning).  I focused on breathing and swimming.  Those are the two thoughts at the forefront of my mind when I am racing the swim section.  A lot of people always talk about how when they are swimming they're focused on staying long and smooth or high elbow or strong catch or something equally amazing.  I can't think about stuff like that; the thoughts that go through my head are usually "that water tasted gross...I kind of have to pee...This wetsuit is sexy...why is that person breast stroking...etc"

Things were pretty kosher through the first turn buoy and I ended up taking a more outside line than most on the long stretch to the second turn.  I was sighting clearly though so believed my route to be the better one; this process worked well as I had clean water and made my way to the second turn in a fairly good position (although I can never tell how many similarly colored caps are ahead of me).  As we went around the turn I went a little close and got stuck under the buoy in the ropes; luckily I dislodged myself before drowning and made the turn back in the direction of shore.  Unfortunately the sun was reflecting off the water and I literally could not see anything except for some white splashes and a bright light.  Sounds kind of like what people say happens when you die but I hoped that it wasn't just yet that time and continued on ahead, blissfully unaware of where I was going but following the people in front of me.  As it turned out, we all ended up making a very wide arc instead of a straight line, adding some distance to our swim (Jenny and I had observed this happening as we waited and thought knowledge was power in avoidance maneuvering but unfortunately it did not help me).  At some point once we actually got to the buoy I was swimming alongside someone from my wave and we were catching another swimmer and I ended up getting jammed in the middle.  Unfortunately for me, my fellow M25-29er decided I was infringing on his protected territory and shoved my head under on one stroke.  I obviously did not appreciate this as it forced me to inhale a bunch of water and I slowed down to catch my breath and ended up being behind him.  I was mildly upset (not so mild understatement) and as I caught up to him I grabbed his leg and pulled him backwards.  Should I have done this? Eh, probably not but I was really f***ing pissed.  Not only was it unsafe (it felt intentional to be honest) it was a douchebag thing to do.  Two wrongs don't make a right but it made me feel better.  I picked up the pace a little bit and passed him, and we ended up looking right in each other's face at one point when we both breathed.  He was ugly, so I felt a little better.  I continued with the higher pace and passed him but felt someone grab my feet as they stroked and so kicked massively for about 10 strokes and ended up dropping him (or he learned his lesson).  The rest of the swim was uneventful and I exited the ramp and crossed the mat.  Not a fast swim, but nothing to really do about it.  Plus, I had no idea how not fast it was when I exited; no watch!

T1 - 1:12

I had a long run to my bike as I was right near bike exit.  There was much slipperiness and general muddiness so I trod carefully.  I was skipping and frolicking (well, I was running but when hopping and cutting to avoid mud puddles it could easily be mistaken...) and got to my bike before doing all necessary stuff and exiting.

Bike - 59:00 (25.2 mph)

Not a whole lot of interesting stuff happened on the bike so I'll try and keep it short and sweet.  I made my way out on to the course and quickly realized it was going to be a crowded bike ride.  Starting in the third to lats wave and having the 15th fastest bike split meant I was going to be passing people like a freight train through a ghost town.  Well I guess that would actually mean passing nobody, but the way I really mean it is in the sense that the ghost town has a bunch of buildings and stuff that are standing still (metaphorically speaking of course) and the freight train rolls through and kicks up a bunch of dust and scares the animals.  So that's pretty much what was happening.  I felt good on the bike; my watts weren't great but I was able to keep the average pretty high through the tough first half and then murder it a bit on the way back into town.  The course wasn't overly difficult, lots of shorter, steep climbs but no real grinders.  Not too windy or anything although prior to race day I was thinking the wind would play a major factor.  I think there was one road that had a noticeable headwind, but other than that it felt like a cross wind and some tail wind mixed in sporadically.  I think I got off the bike in top 3-5 AG (but have no basis in fact for that so you'll just have to trust that it was true...) as I hadn't passed anyone for quite some time (in my AG) and knew my time was going to be pretty good.  The course was very enjoyable; I thought it an honest test of cycling abilities as opposed to a flat course where a lot of people can be fast that aren't really fast...  Anyway, in the last couple of miles I was dealing with some hip flexor cramping that slowed me down a bit and took away the sub 59:00 split that would have been cool but no biggie, my run was going to be the major slow down...

T2 - 0:55

Nothing unusual, in/out, wham bam. Still way slower than Moose, who trounced me in 4/5 splits today...

Run - 42:22 (6:50/mi)

Out of T2 I could tell my legs were not too responsive and I climbed the massive 1/4 mile (steep) hill with some fervor but upon cresting realized I didn't have "it" today.  Maybe it was a bit defeatist of me, but I had no juice; physically or mentally.  I basically jogged it in after mile 1.  I truly thought I was going to have an 8min pace 10k but somehow, even though I felt like dog poo I still trotted along at sub 7 min pace.  I'm not going to draw it out; the run sucked but could have been fast.  It was definitely a fast course.

All in all, this was a fun race.  I think (and it's been confirmed) that I was feeling some fatigue and was just tired going into race day, even though I felt ok in the days leading up.  When I reached down into my suitcase of courage I didn't have anything in there to give.  Now I get a nice little mid-season break with some R and R and spending time with my favorite person that is named Moose.

Next up will be Best of the US down in Gulf Shores, AL on September 10th or something like that.  I'm hoping that this coach mandated rest will give me back the bite and the last third of my season will be strong.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Annddd I'm spent

S - 16,100 yards
B - 218.5 miles
R - 42.4 miles

Time - 20.54 miles

I'd love to tell an entertaining story this week that somehow, however remotely, relates to the training I did but after racking my brain for the past 7.5 minutes I can't actually think of anything amusing.  I guess funny isn't a necessary component to blogging but it certainly makes things more interesting.  I'm sure reading about weekly swim/bike/run totals gets boring (heck, actually DOING it gets really boring) so I try and come up with super epic things to discuss (or at least I will for the foreseeable future) but unfortunately for everyone I seem to be reaching into an empty suitcase of courage this fine evening.

I think what I'll do this time is examine some of my favorite Rules.  Too many triathletes disobey these rules and single themselves out; it is time to start a new trend of looking cool while trying to be cool.  Triathletes try hard (haha, smirk) to be good at 3 sports (well, one over-arching sport really) so it's important to look the part as well.  This may be a multi-part series...

Rule # 4 - It's all about the bike
It is absolutely, unequivocally, without question about the bike.  Anyone who says differently is a twatwaffle.

A lot of people would choose to ignore said sage advice and point their oh-so educated finger at the most famous book discussing cycling, testicles, and cancer all in between two covers: It's not about the bike.  Many people would say it's all about the run.  Many people would say "there's no such thing as a good bike and a bad run."  Many people would say a lot of things, but the rule remains.  It's completely about the bike.  Both in cycling and in triathlons.  The run is all about the bike.  The swim is setting up to be all about the bike.  The bike is obviously all about the bike.  No questions, no disagreements.  

Rule # 7 - Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp
Under no circumstances should one be rolling up their sleeves or shorts in an attempt to somehow diminish one's tan lines. SLEEVELESS JERSEYS ARE UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES TO BE EMPLOYED.*

Whew, this one is a doozy.  Firstly, let's start with people being embarrassed about tan lines; especially girls.  A tan line that is the result of say, a swim suit is hot, period.  Tan lines are suggestive; that's EXACTLY what makes them awesome.  They say that you are outdoors, that you train your ass off, and you are fit.  There is nothing wrong with any of those things.  They are all awesome.  

Sleeveless jerseys are also another thing that triathletes seem to enjoy.  Roadies rarely, if ever, get caught dead in a sleeveless jersey.  There's a good reason for that: they look ridiculous.  They're almost always cut poorly.  For men, untrimmed pits = gross dead animal looking things coming out from under your arms when you're in aero position.  Take note, it's nasty.  Either trim the pits or get rid of the jersey.  Only two options.

Rule # 10 - It never gets easier, you just go faster
Climbing is hard, it stays hard.  To put it another way, per Greg Henderson: "Training is like fighting with a gorilla.  You don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired."

This is one of the hardest things to rationalize.  It's easy to think that those going faster are somehow not working quite as hard (or the converse is true as well, those going faster think that those going slower are somehow going easier) but it is definitely not true.  Everyone is working hard, just everyone's "hard" is at a different pace!  

So I'm going to stop there (for now).  On a more personal note, Age Group Nationals is in 6 days! woot!  Not only am I excited for the race, but the following week is going to be spectacular! w0000t

Monday, August 8, 2011

Anecdotes are fun!

S - 14,400 yards
B - 258.7 miles
R - 44.6 miles

Time - 22.24 hours

I'm going to analogize this week with something that happened on my Saturday afternoon run.  On this most epic of days I was doing my usual out and back of 50 minutes up Selwyn and back home when I was running by a house of not-so-modest proportions, sweating my you-know-whats off, when all of a sudden I heard a slight thump off to my left in a yard.  I looked over and saw a squirrel lying on it's back with its legs sticking straight up in the air, absolutely still.  Not knowing what else to do, I let out a brief laugh because, let's be honest, that's funny!  The squirrel regained it's composure a stride or two later and shot off into the bushes at 100mph.  I've definitely never seen anything quite like that before; to see something so at home in the precarious footholds branches provide come tumbling down to land and be shocked into brief unconsciousness was quite a site to behold.

It's sort of like when you see someone on a bike that is either new to clipless pedals (what a terrible misnomer by the way, that really irks me) or is having a senior moment and forgets to unclip at a stop sign/light/intersection and goes tumbling off to one side.  99% of the time they're not injured but they feel absolutely ridiculous (note: this has happened to me twice; once in my first month of biking and once last year...), probably a lot like this squirrel did and hence why it sprinted off into the shadows.

I felt a lot like this squirrel once Friday rolled around; my foothold on sanity was slipping away and I was feeling tired and loopy.  I was sweaty, tired, and sore and just ready to let go of my branch for lack of something better to do.  On Saturday I fell off, during the free-fall I somehow managed to get in a bike ride and swim and run but that night I hit the ground and was briefly in shock.  My body made a light thud sound as I hit the bed on Saturday night and I quickly lapsed into unconsciousness.

When I woke up on Sunday morning I was in shock, what had happened to me?! I quickly came to the realization that I had 4.5 hrs of workouts to get through and sprinted off in the general direction of my bicycle to get it ready and head out the door.

So the moral of the story is, even when you're in shock and embarrassingly tired/out of it you can still produce some sweet workouts!  Voila, I am a geniuz!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What does it take?

The title of this here blog post is pretty vague; you might be asking yourself in what context is he asking this question?  What does it take to know what women want? While I'd love to hear the answer to that - and many other life-altering questions - my word vomit today will focus on what it takes to reach your potential in triathuhloning.

By no means do I consider myself an expert on this subject matter; I can only offer what little experience I've had in the just-under-3 years I've been training for multi-sport events.  Therefore, everything I say should be taken with a salt mine...

My first experience with wanting to better myself in sport came with my discovery of golf back when I was twelve or thirteen (ish).  A friend down the street had some golf clubs and a big front yard and one of the many ways we entertained ourselves was chipping golf balls back and forth on the front lawn (yes, it IS good to be easily amused!).  What started as a little spark quickly became a full blown obsession by my freshman year of high school.
Being a total, complete badass
 If I wasn't playing golf, I was thinking about it.  I'd come home from school and go play 18-27 holes in the afternoons and evenings on the local "executive" course, walking miles and miles by myself (foreshadowing!).  For the next 3.5 years, I played golf like a madman, eventually reaching a very-close-to scratch handicap on a difficult course.  Golf, like other sports, is incredibly time-intensive.  To become very good at it requires a lot of hard work and dedication.  You have to practice constantly and on a regular basis. Missing a week of playing time means that the next two weeks are going to feel very weird and strange until you "get your swing back."  Sound familiar?

Fast forward a couple of years and I've discovered a new sport: bike racing.  Much to the consternation of my parents, I'm sure, I've managed to pick some of the most expensive sports to devote myself...

Winning a crit in my first USCF omnium race

Freshman year of college I was in love; I trained (relatively) consistently and did well that year and upgraded and did pretty well my sophomore year and then I stopped being consistent and stopped doing well.  I wanted to be fast, but just wasn't willing to put in the time required to get there; unlike in golf where I LOVED putting in the work to be good.

Fast forward again a couple of years; at this point I've graduated from college and moved to Charlotte in August of 2007.  I haven't ridden my bike in 4+ months (and won't again for another 6 months) and decide that I want to start running so I sign up for a 5k.  I run 30 miles a week for 4 weeks and get my a** handed to me by, among others, an 11 year old girl (Alana Hadley, who has since become one of the fastest young runners in the country, but rule #76 is in effect).  I get frustrated as I expected more from my 4 weeks of training (why? I'll never know) and just work instead.

Habitat was hard work...

When the new year comes around I decide to get back in shape so I start running again, this time with groups.  I manage to be pretty consistent (although I don't know anything about running) for the next four or five months before someone convinces me to show up for the Tuesday night Inside-Out Sports no-holds-barred group ride.  This was quite an eye opener.  I got dropped like a bad habit.  I'm not going to say that re-kindled the flame, but it definitely made me realize that I had a LONG way to go to really get back in the ol' groove.  A little while later I was convinced to sign up for my first triathlon (which ended up being a duathlon) and got in the pool!  Voila, a triathlete was born.

On the run at Patriots International Duathlon

On the run in my 1st triathlon: NOLA 70.3 2009!

So this long and boring preamble was designed to set you - the reader - up to see that I've experienced both sides of the coin.  I've been consistent and done well and been inconsistent and done poorly.  What does that tell us?

The thing that a lot of people look for in triathlon (and endurance sports in general, but for the sake of this argument lets stick to triathlons) is a short-cut to better performances.  In most cases they have good reasons: full-time job, significant other, significant children, etc etc.  So for them, it's all about maximizing performance with the available time.  So they come up with a specific amount of time each week that they deem available for training purposes and try to make the best use of that time.

In many ways, this type of person is no different than the person with (virtually) unlimited available training hours; they both have to determine how best to use that time to maximize their potential.  As with my earlier diatribe about me ol' athletic history, consistency is the most important thing for endurance athletes.

Whether you have 10 hours available or 20 hours available, make sure you use them up week after week.  Stringing together weeks of consistent volume will make anyone faster.  I don't think this is a big secret or anything, it's just surprising how often people underestimate it's importance and/or take it for granted.

I think that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, almost anyone can get to be very, very good at triathlon (and endurance sports in general).  There is no "genetic" requirement that can limit you at a certain point.  Sure, there are anomalies; most of the ITU-level athletes have VO2 Max levels in the 75+ range would be my guess, but a better predictor of performance than VO2 max would be your lactate threshold.  Not necessarily your "genetic" traits but the ones induced by your training.

It just takes time.  A pretty long time.  To be successful you need three things:

1) Long/Short term plan (yes I sound like Nick Frank)
2) Consistency

Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is your V8 engine.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Miles of trials

S - 18,000 yards
B - 247.3 miles
R - 44.2 miles

Time - 23.04 miles

Monday - PM Swim
Had mixed feelings about my swim this evening; was definitely still tired from the ridiculously hot ride that Scott and I did the day before.  I probably lost 3-4% of my body weight in sweat, which is awesome.  Not a very exciting workout today, we were really just doing it to do it...

Tuesday - AM Ride PM Run
I was scheduled for a good bit of VO2 intervals on the bike this morning but when I woke up and rolled out I could tell that my mind was not ready for these today.  In hindsight, I certainly should've given it a shot but I was feeling a little mentally weak this AM and so copped out of the workout.  That attitude is not going to get me a sub 4 hour 70.3 (just want to make sure everyone is paying attention, ha!).

The afternoon run actually felt quite good, but it was the last run with my beloved Garmin 310xt.  I'm not sure where or when, but the watch decided that it had finally had just about enough of me and left me for another wrist.  I've never been handed rejection quite so blatantly before and was hoping that the 18 months we shared together meant something but apparently, it did not.  The sting has not left.

Wednesday - AM Swim PM Run
I decided to switch up my normal Wednesday and do the run in the afternoon on the treadmill, so after laying down a rather impressive swim set (If I do say so myself... admittedly the first one in what feels like months) I headed in to work for the afternoon before going to the Y and hopping on the treadmill for what turned out to be a great "long" run with some 1000m intervals thrown in for good measure.  The last one was under 5 minute pace, which - for me - is much faster than I've done before.  Being in a 70 degree, breezy environment helps though!

Thursday - PM Run, PM Swim, PM Bike
I had a lazy morning today so had to fit in all three workouts in the afternoon.  Neither the run or bike were going to be hard though so I felt confident this plan would prove effective.  I had another great swim today; I definitely feel like the more attention I pay to the water, the more she loves me in return.  I feel like this might be analogous to other aspects of life...

Friday - AM Run, PM Bike
Another treadmill run "workout" today in the morning.  I only call it a "workout" because I ran fast for a little bit (all of 5 minutes!) in a little bit of fartlicking.  Wait, I spelled that wrong. Ha. Ha.  I'm running out of humor.  The bike ride was uneventful, except for it was another VO2 interval ride that I DID try and failed miserably to hit the prescribed power zones.  Oh well. Trying not to get too frustrated at this point...

Saturday - AM Bike, AM Swim, PM Run
I rolled out of the house at 6:15am this morning to get in my ride and swim before driving to Saluda, SC to hang out with the family for my grandmother's 80th birthday bash.  It was a mini-family reunion of sorts so it was worth it to get the ride and swim out of the way before heading to eat and sit most of the afternoon.  I was scheduled for a pretty intense and long swim set today but I had to break it into two shorter (and mostly useless) swims over the course of Sat/Sun so I lost that bit of super-sweet swimming.  Scott and I didn't run until 7:30pm but it was a nice recovery paced trot that was very needed after a long day for the both of us.

Sunday - AM Bike, PM Run, PM Swim
Today I finally managed to hit my intervals on the bike, albeit this time they were threshold intervals so not quite as "difficult."  The PM run and swim were slow and nothing special, but I was just happy to hit some solid bike intervals.

All in all, I definitely felt some cumulative fatigue this week but I'm in the middle of training more than I ever have before, both short-term and long-term.  I have good days and bad days; ups and downs and sometimes it can be tough to manage the valleys but it's important to remember that no one single day makes a huge difference.  It's stringing together day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year consistent training that makes champions.  I'm still only in the month after month part of that!  I'm getting pretty excited for AG Nats, which is less than 3 weeks away at this point, something I didn't expect.  It'll be a super fun awesome weekend.  I can't think of any more superlatives.