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


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


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.