Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All in a week's "work"

When the myriad of workouts I completed this week are added up my math skills tell me that I put together another astonishingly huge volume week of work.  I swam once, ran twice and biked thrice.  I still have yet to hop on my road bike.  I actually haven't ridden on the roads since ye ol' Shipwreck Sprinternational.  I will not get back on the roads again until next Sunday, when the world-famous Tour de El Amigo takes place.  That epic test of human performance and appetite is invite-only, so if you are hearing about it for the first time it would appear as though you have yet to make the cut.  Just kidding, sort of.  As defending champion of the sprint and KOM competition from its last iteration from 2010 I, despite lacking any semblance of fitness, must show my face and complete the race.  

That was tangential, but I was getting to the fact that I have spent all my ride time the past two weeks on the trails.  As I was saying last week, it's an interesting learning process for me.  I've added to the list of trails I've explored by heading to Sherman Branch this week.  I'd heard good things about those trails for a while; most described them as "fun and fast."  What this translates to in my mind is "fast and easy."  In some ways I've taken a complete 180 since my previous experiences mountain biking in college, where I much preferred big, roaring downhills with big jumps and lots of berm-age.  One of my favorite things to do now is make my way up or down a technical section that requires lots of power and careful selection of line.  Sherman Branch doesn't have a lot of that.  The Whitewater Center has become the go-to place for me.  It has a good mix of trail types, lots of miles and I'm now the proud owner of a parking pass! 

Don't get me wrong, Sherman Branch was awesome.  I went by myself though, which is never quite as much fun as with some bros.  The trails there also contain ample opportunities to demolish oneself and definitely more than the WWC.  SB has faster trails and some definite jumps so taking one of those wrong can lead you straight into a tree at 20mph in the air.  Not the best position in which to find oneself.  

I say all that, but I experienced my first crash this weekend on the mountain bike.  Due to the season, there are - literally - millions of leaves on the ground and consequently, on the trails.  At Sherman Branch someone has clearly blown the leaves off the trails (which is apparently bad for it, actually; leaves are like mulch and help keep the soil healthy) whereas at the WWC the trails are completely covered in some spots.  To provide further context, my longest mountain bike ride has been 1.5hrs and one thing I've noticed with mountain biking is that as you get tired you start to make a LOT more mistakes.  On the road bike (and when I'm fit) you can zone out and have nothing bad happen (sweeping generalization, but the point is made).  On the mountain bike, however, zone out and you crash.  That's it.  1.5hrs of mountain biking requires 1.5hrs of constant attention and focus.  It's quite tiring when you're not used to it.  So on Sunday we were at about 1.25hrs and I was definitely tired.  I was pushing up a hill and it had a somewhat sharp left turn and I turned late while my front wheel was on a patch of leaves.  My front wheel slid out and I fell over and slid into a tree.  Boom.  Scraped up my left knee a bit but was pretty much entirely ok.  Now, had I fallen over on the road pushing up a hill on a turn I would certainly have more scrapes! So that's one good thing about being on the trails: the injuries are frequently much less severe.

Before riding, I took this picture of Behme's bike (in front) and my bike (in back) just because it was a funny display of how much bikes have changed.  Behme's is a custom designed Ted Wojcik (Whoa-Jick) steel framed mountain bike from back when he used to race "expert" some undetermined number of years ago.  My bike is a mass-produced Felt Nine 20.  The differences are pretty obvious.  I ride a bigger sized frame than Behme to begin with but the difference in size of these bikes is incredible.  Behme's bike was legit top of the line back in the day.  It's got XTR, Rock Shox Sid fork, custom titanium spoked XTR wheels, etc.  Mine is almost top of the line aluminum-framed (XT vs XTR or XX) and outweighs Behme's bike by a LOT.  But the huge wheels on the 29er (vs. Behme's traditional 26" wheels/tires), the powerful hydraulic brakes, and very nice suspension fork mean my bike can absorb a lot more "damage" than Behme's bike.  I can be significantly less careful and power my way through some obstacles that Behme has to navigate more carefully.  It's interesting riding behind someone on a 29er vs. riding behind Behme.  The 29er just bombs through stuff whereas Behme meanders a lot more.  I definitely appreciate my bike taking up some of the slack my lack of skills leave!

On another note, it's coming close to time to part ways with my beloved 2011 Cervelo P3.  I rode it a lot in two years and am perfectly happy to keep it a third if it comes to that.  Interested parties inquire within!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big training!

Many hundreds of hours of training throughout the year leads to pretty epic fitness.  It also leads to tons of residual fatigue.  To account for that, most high performance athletes (and those all across the spectrum of performance) should have several weeks of being "normal" people.  By normal, I actually really just mean "lazy."  Catching up on sleep, getting out of shape, and enjoying a great deal more free time than usual is an excellent, amazing, stupendous way to spend a November.

Some may recognize where this is from...but no one in NC!
Having recently purchased my first mountain bike my main goal this past week was to familiarize myself with it as much as possible.  If triathletes being bike racers (although I'm stretching that a little at this point given I only did a single race) is a paradox, triathletes riding mountain bikes with any sort of competence is an even bigger one.  That being said, I don't like sucking at things.  I consider myself to be a pretty good bike rider in all respects (not related to fitness)... I make rational decisions.  I handle well in a group.  I pick good lines.  I have confidence in myself and my bike (this may sound silly but it's actually one of the most important aspects of being a good bike rider...as long as it's not misplaced confidence!!).  This all goes out the window a little bit when it comes to mountain biking.  I DON'T know what my bike is capable of (yet).  I DON'T pick good lines all the time (yet).  I am NOT familiar with the trails in the sense that I'm familiar with the roads.

So, all the things I'm NOT good at tend to add up on the ol' trails.  All that being said, I think I hold my own pretty well.  I'm not afraid of crashing, which means a lot on the trails.  I'm afraid in the sense that it would hurt, but I recognize the likelihood of actual injury is much smaller than on the road.  If a handlebar catches a tree at 10mph I am less worried about the consequences than if my wheels slide out at 45mph on a downhill while cruising on the roadie.

The physiological demands are also different on a mountain bike.  Lots of spikes in power.  LOTS.  It actually reminds me most of road racing.  A good bit of coasting, a lot of hard, short efforts and relatively little "cruising along." I assume that as you improve skill-wise it likely smoothes out but I have certainly not hit that point yet.

While I may not be as bold as (for example, this guy)

some out there, I figure I can only get better!  Next week brings some more of the same training-wise but also some Thanskgiving!  Yay for being out of work a day next week! That is always fun.

Also, here's a brief (and not as cool as the above) video I made this week of a very quick part of a ride on Friday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A week of sweet nothings

When fellow athletes (and non-athletes) ask me what I've been doing lately my reply usually leaves them slightly incredulous.  The exchange often goes something like this:

Noob 1: "Yo dude, what have you been doing since your last race?"
Me: "Ahhh, not a whole lot man...sleeping mostly."
Noob 1: "But you're still pounding out the hours, right? There's no such thing as an off-season, right?"
Me: "I literally have not worked out in two weeks."
Noob 1: "Wait..what?"
Me: bites apple, continues perusing interwebs

The landscaping fact that is "peaks and valleys" is (usually) not lost on most people.  For all hills, there are valleys.  The metaphor carries over into exercise physiology as well.  I was in very, very good shape at the end of October.  Now, per Brian Schmover, I will get out of shape.  That's what the two weeks post Rev3 FL were all about: getting out of shape.  The little race in the middle did nothing to abate the process.  So, since FL I have not gotten in a pool, on my bike, or laced up my shoes other than Shipwreck.

What I HAVE been doing, is cultivating a better athlete into my daily routine.  How does he do it, you may find yourself asking...yourself...? Well, if you don't know me, one of the biggest issues I've been putting on the back burner over the past two years has been my daily diet.  There are some things I do RIGHT when it comes to eating (like eat a lot of calories), but there are more things that I do WRONG.  My weekend at Florida and the result were just the final straws.  Being around Chris Caamano further served to galvanize my process.

I really felt the need to change this (pretty) major part of my personality as an athlete.  No, it doesn't have anything to do DIRECTLY with swimming, biking or running but it has a direct impact on everything else and an indirect impact on all three sports.  It just made sense to make some changes.

On the drive home, some of the discussion for our 11 hour jaunt along the highways of rural southeastern Amurica revolved around what I ate on a daily basis.  I was embarrassed.  It's not as though I go out and eat fast food all the time (but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart/stomach for Bojangles and Popeyes) but with the lack of planning I had my diet revolved around instantaneous gratification.  That meant Dunkin Donuts coffee and bagels for breakfast.  It meant a massive sub, chips and soda for lunch.  And it meant whatever I was craving after a tough workout for dinner.  Basically three huge meals a day left me feeling calorie sufficient (really full), but with an inefficient delivery and poor timing.  It was obvious to Tara that starting to make small, smart decisions here and there could lead to an overall big change in my nutritional outlook.

Some of the things I've started doing over the past three weeks include, but are not limited to:

1) Eating a healthy and milk-less breakfast.  This is oatmeal (I have yet to graduate to legit oats, still on Quaker instant oatmeal) or healthy, whole grain cereal with vanilla soy milk.
2) Preparing and bringing a lunch to work everyday, regardless of it's simplicity.  This is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on (real) whole wheat bread (with good peanut butter and real preserves), a granola bar, an apple (or two, occasionally, if I am feeling frisky), water, and some almonds.
3) Snacking throughout the day on healthy items like almonds, apples, to hopefully not enter a calorie deficit and feel "forced" to eat big meals
4) Dinner consisting of lean proteins, whole grains, and some veggies.  Burrito is a good example.
5) "Dessert" being mostly limited to popcorn, an occasional cookie, etc.

The BIGGEST thing for me in that list, if you know me, is the incorporation of fruits and, to a certain extent, vegetables.  I've always LIKED some vegetables, I just never went out of my way to prepare them.  Fruits, on the other hand, have been non existent almost my entire life.  By almost, I simply mean I probably had some as food when I was eating baby food.  So, that's it.  Just simply eating an apple was a huge step for me.  Lo and behold, I discovered it was positively delicious! Why had I been denying myself the fruits of the earth (hehe, literally) for so long? Who knows.  So, even if nothing else had changed, simply eating a piece of fruit a day would have represented a huge shift in my diet paradigm.

I've also set some goals up for the near and long term future.  I think, honestly, that this is nothing but a positive for me.  My diet has been a cause for much, let's call it "ribbing," over the past years.  Often referred to as the "James diet," or the "tan diet," or the "brown diet" it's something of a thing I've "cultivated."  My philosophy has always been that "if the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn."  I don't necessarily feel as though my opinion on that little gem has changed, but I do feel as though if I have the opportunity to put better fuel in the fire, it can only burn hotter.  And I could use as much of that whole "hotter" thing as I can get!

So these are the new things around the house that would surprise anyone that walked in:

Felt Nine 20.  The new hotness. All I am allowed to ride for the next 2 weeks!

Wtf are those?!?!

So many granola bar options, so little time...!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shipwreck Sprinternational

First, this race has been on the "schedule" for many moons.  I put quotes around "schedule" because I never told Coach Brian about this race until last Sunday, immediately following my DNF at Florida.  My emotions ranged from "I want to crush Shipwreck's dreams" to "I don't even want to do it."  Brian kindly told me to stop being a chick and make up my mind.  I quote him.  Literally, word for word. Sometimes I'm soooo happy I have the bestest coach ever!!!

This weekend was to be one of fun times, and had little to do with fast times.  I figured Ashley, Melissa and myself (only ones who ponied up the race entry fee as most others backed out, LAME!) would be up front so there was no need to concern myself with actually going fast.

All that being said, I wanted to swim hard, bike somewhat fast, and trot the run.  I LOVE ocean swims, so swimming hard was a no brainer.  I wanted to race in the speedo, so figured I'd have to bike somewhat fast just to stay warm.  I needed to wear a costume for the run and so would not (nor did I want to) be able to run hard.

Just to give the reader a little taste of the awesome that is the Holden Beach Shipwreck Sprinternational, here's a little taste of some of the 2011 edition.  To set the stage: it was about 45 degrees, incredibly windy, and most (all) of the future ICE Racing participants had a pretty solid hangover.



What more can one say to influence someone in their choice of races?!?! Sorry the links above are to facebook videos, if I had to do over I would've gone with Youtube first.  They're worth the click, I promise.

Well race day dawned and no one had too bad of a hangover and we meandered casually to the race site, less than 30 minutes away.  Setting up our area was remarkably easy, the weather looked fantastic (50-60 degrees with a light breeze and TONS of sunshine!), and we donned our wetsuits to make our way over to the start "line." Since the race was so small (~70 participants) the director just told us to mass start.  Very cool.  Not many races get a mass start, but it's neat for sure.  I knew that I wanted to take the swim out hard, so I pranced around in place to warm myself up and get JACKED UP!!! w00000t

Swim 1000m - 15:31 (1st)

As you can see in the video, at the sound of the horn I bolted out into the light surf.  I wanted to set the tone early and I even kicked a good bit!! It was so awesome.  The water was ~67 degrees and so my face felt quite cold at first but shortly it warmed up nicely.  I got to the first buoy and it appeared as though there was still a large group pretty close so I kept the pace high.  After about halfway I did a backstroke-look-behind to see if anyone was there and only one guy in a green cap was with me.  I knew Ashley had on a light blue cap so I was curious as to who this might be.  I kept the pace high, getting more uncomfortable, to the last buoy where green cap was still with me but we had a pretty sizable lead on the next racer.  As we climbed out of the surf I was happy with the swim performance.  I am positive that we swam faster than 1:3X/100m pace as our time indicates.  Running up off the beach I dropped my goggles, a foreshadowing of things to come...

T1 - 01:17

I made my way through T1 pretty quickly.  I took the time to put on socks as I was worried my feet would get a little cold.  Considering I've never worn a speedo in a race before, I was curious as to how the lack of padding would feel on the bike ride...

Bike 30k - 44:27 (1st)

Headed out onto the bike and just tried to ride steady.  I had next to nothing in my legs after an entire week off and so just wanted to limit my damage.  Luckily, I still had on my race wheels and entire race setup when I knew Ashley was on training wheels with his TT bike.  So I counted on my aero-ness to save my hide.  The winds were a little swirly in between the houses and while not a big deal, I can't imagine what it was like last year! I've done a lot of crazy windy races this year and last and was uninterested in more of that.

The course was basically a double out and back so I had ample opportunities to see my pursuers and yell at Ashley and Melissa.  Shortly after the first turn I saw the first chasers and had some good fun yelling at Ashley and soon enough Melissa.  All the way back nearly to transition then another turn.  Unfortunately, coach Brian's disc wheel had run out of them there batteries and so I no longer had my power numbers! Oh the horror.

Back out again to see everyone and pass some people (yes, there was a wide range of abilities at this race...).  It was pretty uneventful.  The most fun part of the bike course (besides yelling "ARRRgggHHH" at Ashley and Melissa) was seeing the facial expressions of the spectators at the turns.  Needless to say, I probably stood out.

Back into T2 for quick change of costume.

T2 - 01:15

Put on race flats, grab number and sunglesses... yea that's normal.  Put on skull and crossbones bandana, put on pirate hat...yea that's unusual.

Run 8k - 29:42 (2nd)

I headed out onto the run course for a two loop (sort of) run of 5ish miles.  I would bet the course is a little short as I'm fairly sure I wasn't running 6 minute/mi pace...

I ran for a while before seeing any other racers.  It was apparent that I had a pretty sizable lead, which was good because that darn hat fell off my head about 3 times.  I'd stop and pick it up and run with it in my hand for a while before regaining the confidence to put it back on my head.  Then it would fall off again.  Oh well.  I was really worried about my run so this was a HUGE DEAL! Not.

I finally got my hat back on for the run through the finish chute (please start spelling that correctly all you triathletes that write race reports!!!!!) to the applause of the legions of fans that our group has attracted at this race.  Either that or they were clapping because I'd be putting on real clothes again... who knows.

Ashley finished shortly thereafter to take second place and Melissa crossed the line as first female (but she probably had the most complete and pirate-y costume!).

Full Results Here

Needless to say, we all had a great time.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect.  It's a wonder to me that this race isn't more popular.  It's possible that people have heard that we show up in speedos and pirate costumes and that deters them, but realistically there's no reason why more people shouldn't do this race.  It's a great venue, the course is flat and fast, and the weather is usually spectacular this time of year on the NC coast!

It was also my last real race of the year and now I move into the official off-season.  I am going to do my best to enjoy it while it lasts...because soon enough I'll be waxing about how much I miss the days of very little to no training...