Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Orleans 70.3

To make sure everyone can read and wow themselves over how, after this weekend, my triathlon hobby has come full circle let me point you in the direction of my FIRST EVER triathlon race report.  I've done so many since then (no big deal...) that it's easy to forget the past.  I never want to forget the past, partly because I was a history major but also because the past was still fast! Alliteration is awesome.

2009 New Orleans 70.3 - My first triathloning experience!!

I drove down (now we're back in the present; stay with me here!) to New Orleans on Thursday, lounged around on Friday, went to registration and pro meeting Saturday, and raced on Sunday.  Pretty standard race weekend just a bit more driving than "usual" (20 hours...yucky).

There were a couple of cool things of note:

1) This was my first WTC/IM event as a "pro"
2) I introduced myself to Andreas Raelert and talked to him for a bit outside the hotel just because I couldn't pass up the opportunity as he was walking by; yes I'm a huge dork but he was actually SUPER nice (the only German I know like that...just kidding Sebastian!)
3) Pros would not have to check in their bikes the night before, which was pretty awesome actually
4) New Orleans is a cool city; I'd highly recommend this race to anyone

Anyway, race morning came around and I got to transition to set up my bike when a USAT official came around, making me instantly nervous (kind of like how when a cop gets behind you on the highway even if you're doing nothing wrong you are still nervous).  Pros are subject to slightly different rules and requirements than AGers and I was about to be checked for compliance with one of them.  They checked every single pro for helmet compliance (i.e. having an official "CPSC" sticker on the inside of the helmet).  As they asked me for my helmet I realized I had never looked at the Bambino to see whether it had one.  As I was picking it up for them I knew that it did not and they said it did not and I did not argue.  I knew the rule I had just never considered that this helmet I purchased would NOT have one.  So, I uttered a four letter word not-so-under my breath and went in search of a replacement, since it was either that or not race.  Luckily, Adam's Bicycle World was doing the bike support.  My very first road bike (and I believe all my family's bikes except for my current ones!) was from Adam's and I've known them for as long as I've been an "adult." I walked over and asked if they had a helmet and Mark said sure and handed me a generic Giro road helmet.  Well, not quite the Bambino but it DID have a CPSC sticker (although they didn't check this one...) so that's what I was going to race with.  Definitely a sacrifice in aero and therefore time but there really wasn't another option. The only other issue I noticed was that my garmin 910 appeared to have no charge so I wouldn't be using that on the run, bother.

Put on the wetsuit, walked over to swim start and jumped in the 64.1 degree water (that's two pretty cold swims in a row...global warming much?!?) along with the rest of the pro dudes for a brief warmup before the countdown began. They told us to line up on an invisible line within the boundaries of the end of the pier so it was a pretty wide line and I was on the right side.

Swim - 26:38 (19th/23rd Div/OA)

With some time left in the countdown the entire left side of the field started and then the right side started as well, all before the RD said "go."  Oh well. Good job dudes.  I started out and was on feet for a little bit but they felt very slow so I moved around them to the left and continued on to the first buoy, which was directly into the sun (and I wasn't wearing tinted goggles...oops).  The swim course was a (on paper) slightly confusing design but it wasn't hard to follow in person.  Outbound into the wind and sun, inbound the opposite.  Once making the first turn the group ahead appeared to be taking a slightly leftish line and I sighted directly on the turn buoy and made my way towards it with expeditiousness.  After making the second turn I could tell that I was catching some people in front of me so carried on with my pace back into the sun.  The final turn came and I was moving up on the group's feet in front of me and once I exited the swim I was confident I'd had a good swim.  It's amazing how much "shorter" a 26' swim feels (there was no clock so I'm just going on subjectivity) than a 32' swim (i.e. at White Lake); it's a very noticeably shorter period of time.

T1 - 2:04

There was a rather long run to my bike, which was tiring, but once there I put on my borrowed helmet, and grabbed the bike to be on my way. This wasn't a very efficient T1 for me, but oh well.

Bike - 2:19:52 (21st/26th)

I headed out on the bike behind some other guy and held 10m to see what my watts would be like.  They were a little low but I could tell to pass they'd be too high so I resolved to settle in for a bit.  After a bit longer a group of guys came by and I stuck with the leader as he passed the two of us; again staying on my watts.  This guy rode the bike like a typical triathlete.  It was weird how all over the bike he was, how much his head was moving; it basically looked like he was riding as hard as he could (he got off the bike and ran a 1:16 haha...dammit).  If he worked on his position and quieted down his upper body he'd gain some serious time...

Anyway, I digress.  Two other dudes came and passed our group but they were riding much faster and I couldn't justify raising my watts that much.  So I resolved to ride my own race and just hope some of them came back to me towards the end.  All the way out on the first leg was a headwind so, hating my road helmet, I put my head down and just cranked out the power.

At the first turnaround I had seen all the guys ahead of me (there were a lot...haha) but could tell the last guy on the "group" ahead only had about a minute.  After the turn there was a sweet tailwind for a bit so my average speed went up a bit until we made the right turn and back into a headwind again.  I had another chance to count how many people were in front of me (and how close anyone was behind; there was only one or two guys but lots of ladies!!) before turning around and getting back on that sweet tailwind.  I appeared to be catching at least one guy so I focused on the normal stuff: drinking, cranking, head down-ing, wattsing, etc.

Once we got back onto Haynes Blvd and the final 5-7 miles or so I had caught and passed the guy I got onto the bike with and could see someone else ahead who I was just catching as we came back into T2.  It was a pretty lonely ride and it was a decent bit slower than I had expected with my watts (which were higher than White Lake) but I figured if I ran well it'd make up for it.

T2 - 1:10

Pretty quick in T2, no problems here.

Run - 1:25:53 (22nd/32nd)

Heading out onto the run I saw my dad cheering right before the road that "started" the run so that was fun but I could almost immediately tell that my run would not be like White Lake.  I'm sure I started off too fast, but with no garmin to verify that despite feeling not great my pace was good.  That confidence would've been most welcome, but it was not there so I had to rely on RPE, which was telling me in loud, annoying words that I was working too hard.  Unlike White Lake, where my legs felt cruddy but my breathing and HR felt great (and I had the KNOWLEDGE that my pace was good...so had that as a "fallback" per se) my legs felt good but my breathing and HR was very high.  The first 5ish miles of the run were all in a basically similar direction (west along the lakefront) and we had a slight tailwind and zero shade.  That made this feel very warm and there were some climbs as well (up and over a bridge to start the second mile, for example).

I honestly wanted to stop at mile 2, but knowing that my family was there and that I'd driven all this way to "race" and that nothing was really "wrong" with me (other than being slow) so I stopped being a little baby and just kept on running.  I stopped at a porto for a pee at mile 4 and a guy I had caught on the bike took this opportunity to get closer to me and eventually latch onto me by mile 5.  Another guy was with me as well at this point but there pace felt a bit high so I let the two of them go, although they never gained much distance.  A very fast runner also caught and passed me and then the other two but his pace was much too high so I stayed lonely.  To be honest, the run went by kinda quickly through about 8 or 9 miles.  I never really slowed down that much and I never really sped up at all either.  With 5k to go one of the guys that had passed me appeared to slow down suddenly so I decided that over the next 3.1 miles I'd have to take the opportunity to not be last place male pro! At mile 12 I caught and passed him and carried my way on to the finish.  When I saw the finish clock reading 4:15:xx I was definitely a bit disappointed   I had no idea what kind of time I was headed towards as the only thing I knew was my bike time but I was definitely (despite feeling pretty slow all day) hoping that the time would be faster.  Oh well, not today!

Finish - 4:15:37 - 22nd

I've always been about setting the bar high.  If you set the bar too low, you generally trip over it and/or walk into it.  That's not fun.  But I have honestly felt that (at least recently) my expectations have been pretty realistic.  There are no surprises on race day.  I know what I'm capable of.  My swim time goals are indicated by performances in the pool.  If I know the watts I get for a race I can generally make a pretty good guess on what my bike split will be.  And the same goes for run time.  Everything is based on things I have done in races and in workouts.  I see a lot of people write race reports that say stuff like: "I definitely have a X:XX IM marathon in me or an X:XX 70.3 half marathon or bike split or whatever and I laugh because NOTHING that person has ever done has indicated they are within the realm of possibilities.  I felt, realistically, that on a good day with no mistakes I had a 4:03-4:05 in me on this course.  But, 'twas not to be in 2013.

At first I was upset with my performance.  But, to have a pretty "off day" and go 4:15 isn't the end of the world by any means.  I'm not a big fan of the two half-ironmans in two weeks program and will probably not do that again for a little while.  I attempted the same thing in 2011 and had a similar performance (great run at first race - NOLA 2011, not great run at second race - WL 2011) differential.  Anyway, every race is an opportunity for a learning experience.  So, I'm using it.

First triathlon in April 2009 at NOLA, first professional IM 70.3 at NOLA in 2013.  That's cool regardless of the time.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Near Miss

I have taken a spill on my bicycle more than a few times.  It comes with the territory.  The crashes I can remember (so the bigger ones) in order:

Fall 2004 - On WM campus I was coming back from a ride and moseying along frat row when (sans helmet, because I didn't think it was "cool" to wear one back then) I noticed some dirt on the bottom of my downtube.  I reached down to wipe it off but my hand strayed too far up and got stuck in between the [moving] tire and the frame.  Acting like an emergency brake and with most of my weight on the front of the bike due to my forward reach I catapulted over the handlebars, slamming my face into the ground.  It took the majority of the impact.  I was taken in an ambulance to the hospital, where I received stitches (lots) but luckily no head trauma occurred.  That call to mom once I departed the hospital left me feeling ashamed; having to tell her I hadn't been wearing my helmet.  Stupid. The silver lining was it gave me a perfect halloween costume (Two Face) as one side of my face was perfectly untouched and the other obliterated. Of note; I believe these pictures were within an hour or two of getting back from the hospital.  Over the next few days it got MUCH worse as the swelling increased and the "leaking" from the wounds became apparent.  Gross.  People told me I had great "make up" on Halloween...I wish!

Unknown, but sometime in 2004 or 2005 - On a training ride some friends and I were doing our standard weekend loop (think Spencer/Cramer) when, at about 2/3 of the way through the ride we got to a slight downhill section that was very fast.  I was riding my sweet Zipp 303s that I had received as a present and was on the right side of the road with one guy to my left and one guy behind.  A small-ish dog started barking and we all looked to our right to see it chasing towards us; it was taking an amazingly perceptive angle and as opposed to getting behind and chasing it was basically anticipating where we'd be and "leading" us.  Pretty amazing.  Usually when dogs go after cyclist they kind of run up and then run beside you yapping to their heart's content.  I've never been "attacked."  This dog, however, had a more nefarious plan.  It barked and barked and - at full speed - carried on straight; ending up right in front of my front wheel.  I, unable to change direction with a ditch on my right and a friend on my left, slammed into the dog and tumbled onto the ground at a relatively high rate of speed.  I rolled off the road into the ditch and watched as the dog yipped and barked over to a house on the left, where a woman held out her arms to it and went back inside. Needless to say, I was extremely angry.  I love dogs, but I absolutely abhorred that particular dog.  I got up, painfully, and was able to (out of necessity, since we were in VERY rural Virginia and I had no one to call as we didn't have cell-phones) finish the ride at a much slower pace and in a decent amount of pain.  Luckily, just some nasty road rash and bruising.  No broken bike parts or body parts.

Spring 2005 - I was racing at Johns Hopkins and was about halfway through the road race when, in the middle of the pack and on the far right (so basically on the shoulder of the road) when the rider in front of me swerved off the road but then, instead of waiting to get back on, immediately got back on the road without thinking about the fact that his detour had dramatically slowed him.  His rear wheel impacted my front wheel and I went down right away, in the middle of a 40-50 racer pack at 25mph.  At least 2 or 3 guys hit my bike and continued on, one guy hit me and kept going and another guy ran into me and fell over, at which point he got up and continued.  I, however, did NOT continue.  I had some pretty rad road rash (see the alliteration there?) and had lost the desire to be in a pack for the time being.  The guy in front of me that had caused the crash (I believe he went to Lynchburg College; I STILL remember that and what he was wearing) carried on, likely oblivious as to what he'd caused.

Spring 2007 - After not racing much my Junior year I did a bunch of weekends of racing again my senior year.  One of the bigger races was to be an multi-conference race up in Philly.  I was in good shape (albeit racing C's) and wanted to win the criterium.  Now, before I continue, I should mention that schools develop "reputations" for their riding skills over time.  During my four years, the WORST school, by FAR, was App State.  Their riders, on the whole, seemed abysmal and pack awareness and riding skill.  A sweeping generalization, obviously, but not far off.  So, in this race I started off further towards the back than I wanted but by halfway through (or so) had made my way back up to the middle/front.  The finishing straight was a very flat, fast stretch that went under a big gate; it was pretty cool.  Now, at some point, inexplicably, an App State rider - with no one to his left - swerved right (I was sitting on his hip), causing my front wheel to turn and me to go skidding along the ground.  He got up and continued on but my bike was messed up and I had to stop.  Luckily this accident was limited to a rather nice bump on my shin where it hit my chainring (I know because of the grease stains it left) and some road rash on my hip, wrist and elbow.

I didn't ride my bike for a little over a year and fortunately experienced no bike mishaps for quite some time.

July 2010 - Riding on the booty loop I was nearing the top of the hill on Queens and I noticed an SUV approaching the road from a side road.  Thinking (logically) she would see me (it was day time) I didn't do anything weird.  Unfortunately, she did not and started to turn right onto the road I was currently occupying (a small part of the right lane, anyway).  I put my hand out on her hood (literally) and she essentially "shoved" me over to the left.  Luckily we were both going pretty slow and my injuries were minor other than some road rash (I actually still have a quarter-sized scar on my left hip) and messed up clothing and bike parts (which she paid for).  She gave me a ride home and was very sorry (I may have gotten a little blood on her leather seats on purpose).

May 2011 - A week or so after White Lake Half I was on a training ride with Fletch and Carrie up north (we were in the middle of nowhere) and I was in the middle of doing a threshold interval on the front.  We were approaching a left turn that was pretty fast and I didn't notice until about 20' from the road we were turning onto that it had recently been "repaved." Repaving out in the boonies consists of laying down tar and then dropping gravel over it.  From afar, however, it "looks" like regular pavement.  At about 25-27mph with my bike slightly leaned to the left and the wheel turning left I hit the road and my wheels IMMEDIATELY slid out from under me.  I didn't even have time to take my hands off the bars and my left hand, still gripping the bullhorn, slammed into the ground in a fist and took almost ALL of the impact.  I slid for a little bit before coming to a stop and luckily neither of the two behind me crashed.  I was in a lot of pain and looked at my left hand/knuckles and noticed I could see white and red.  I tried straightening my fingers and they "popped" into place and I immediately knew something was quite wrong.  I raised my hand above my head because looking at it made me almost faint and waited on the ambulance... Nothing like a little tendon damage!

May 2012 - Exactly one year later TO THE WEEKEND I was finishing a ride solo on West Boulevard.  Traveling in the right lane I was on the downhill leading into the uphill before Clanton (so was going in excess of 30mph) when a tinted out Crown Vic passed me and got in front of me.  At the bottom of this hill there is a road on the right and a bus station.  The driver started slowing but had no turn signal on so I assumed (we all know what THAT does) it was turning right but was failing to signal so I moved to the left (again, I'm going almost the same speed as the car at this point and am about 20-30' behind) to pass as they were turning.  Much to my dismay, the driver slowed further and turned left (there was no road on the left and they were in the right lane of a four lane road - two lanes each direction) planning to make a U-Turn in the middle of West Blvd.  I grabbed the brakes, skidding and turning further and slammed into the rear left quarter panel of the car.  I hit and fell immediately but wasn't in a great deal of pain.  The driver got out (keep in mind I'm on West and the car is an old Crown Vic with very dark tint so I have NO idea who is about to get out of this car) and a lady emerges asking me if I'm alright and that she "didn't see me" (as an aside, why do people think that's an excuse??) and that she was sorry.  I asked her to wait while I moved to the sidewalk and "assessed" myself (and my very new S5).  I could see no damage on the bike and couldn't feel any damage to myself so just went home.  Only upon showering did I discover a pretty deep gash in my chin that I knew needed stitches so I drove myself to Urgent Care.

Now, all of these stories are told for the purpose of illustrating that I've had my fair share of close calls.  Riding the bike a good bit from 2003-2007 and 2010-2013, first as a "roadie" then as a "triathlete" I've had lots of near misses and some not so near misses.  Riding in groups, by myself, in races, crits, triathlons, time trials, climbing, descending, etc lends one a fair amount of experience.  There are times when this experience and the "instinct" it provides come shining through like a practical miracle.

Today I was riding with world-renowned triathlon phenom Jenny "Tri Cougar" Leiser.  We had done a modified version of Spencer Cramer and were coming back on East Blvd when I asked if she wanted to turn left and go watch a little bit of the ongoing Dilworth Crit races.  She agreed so we turned left onto a side street (Lennox maybe?).  At some point on this street I wasn't paying close enough attention and was gripping the bars somewhat loosely while looking to my left at a family that was having a gathering in their front yard. My front wheel hit a very pronounced pothole or dip or something and it jarred the front end mightily.  My hands lost their grip on the bars and I swerved to the left, my left foot coming unclipped and slamming onto the ground and skidding as I continued to swerve.  My hands desparately re-gripped the bars wherever they could and my chest came down on the armpads.  Somehow, and I honestly have no idea how, with my left foot skidding and body bent over the front of the bike, I stayed upright.  That is honestly the closest call I have ever had.  It would've been both a bad and extremely embarrassing crash.  I would've went down, most likely onto my face by the way my trajectory was unfolding.  I would've went down right in front of the family (which would've been nice for the sure to be following medical trip).  I would've went down right in front of Jenny, likely taking her down with me.  But, after a loud skidding and a very loud "Holy SH*T!" I got back in a normal position and came to a slow stop with the family looking at me (sorry).  Jenny came to a stop as well and we both exclaimed how neither of us had ANY idea how a crash didn't just happen.  I cut my thumb I re-gripped my bars so hard in an awkward way.  The adrenaline rush was absolutely insane and we stopped for a couple of minutes while I took the time to re-group.

I have zero doubt in my mind that my years of cycling were the reason I stayed upright.  Sooooooo many triathletes take for granted the "situational awareness" that comes with riding in groups and outdoors.  I can think of several accidents that friends have had that I think could have been avoided (or lessened) if they had more riding experience.  Obviously, with riding experience comes accidents, but it also begets that sort of "instinct" that nothing else can provide.  I am extremely thankful that I did not go down and can't say enough how much I hate to hear of athletes doing all of their riding indoors.  I mean, kudos to them for gutting it out and GTWD but there is just that "something" that group riding and experience gives you that helps you out in those rare situations.

Anyway, I felt strongly enough about it and felt the need to tell SOMEONE other than Jenny about the experience.  I can't believe I didn't bite it. Seriously.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

White Lake Half

I swam, biked an ran roughly 8 or so hours leading into Saturday.  I don't feel like looking through the log right now so that's all I got on that front.  Be happy I'm sparing you totals of my awesomeness this week.

I should preface talking about WL by talking about what the weather has been like in Charlotte and, more generally, North Carolina so far this year.  March has been awful.  February was pretty awful as well.  Not awful compared to the people who live up north because, let's face it, they asked for it living up there.  But, without a doubt, the worst January to February I've experienced since living in the mid-Atlantic.

So this was literally (and quite unintentionally) one of the worst years for having White Lake Half (and sprint I guess) a month earlier than its historical early May date.  I honestly thought nothing of this fact until, in the week leading up to the race, I began sensing a social network tremor about the water temperature.  In fact, a thread on Slowtwitch even re-emerged about the possibility of a very, very cold swim.

Now, to lead into my personal intimidation with cold water, let me tell you of my ONLY truly ''cold water'' experience.  The first time I ever went out to Santa Barbara (June of '11) I made the grave error of saying I'd do a 2 mile open water swim (without wetsuit, as open water swimming events are never wetsuit-legal).  Everyone SAID the water was 65 degrees.  65 degrees is pretty cold, but manageable.  There is NO way that water was 65.  Anyway, at the sound of the gun I ran into the water with everyone else but as soon as I dove in and put my face underwater I popped up immediately and had a very strong hyperventilation reflex.  I could absolutely not put my face underwater again and could not get my breathing rate under control.  The mental hurdle could not be leaped.  I turned around and breast-stroked back to shore.  It was pretty embarrassing.

After this experience, I literally could not possibly imagine why people pay to put themselves into the position of POSSIBLY doing a swim like the one at Escape from Alcatraz. That is a race I will likely never do because of the swim, which is sad, because it looks like an amazing race.

So, the prospect of a sub 60 degree swim did nothing to alleviate any self-imposed pressures I was putting on myself.  I have yet to put together a truly good half across all three disciplines.  I've had good swims, good bikes, and good runs but never all in the same race.  My half-ironman run PR was last year at Rev3 SC at 1:24:xx and I'd run 1:21:xx at NOLA 69.1 back in 2011 but never felt as though I'd really maxed out my capabilities.  I've obviously been swimming a whole heck of a lot so I wanted to put it to good use at this race and the swim being 55 or below made this goal somewhat less...realistic.

I wanted that to change at White Lake, and the thought of not even being able to do the swim because of personal comfort issues was very intimidating.  That being said, race week was fairly busy at the store and we didn't leave for the race until Friday afternoon so I didn't get a whole lot of opportunities to really think twice about it.  That being said, it was constantly on the mind because of HOW MANY PEOPLE called the store or came into the store to ask about wetsuits, booties, and neoprene caps specifically because of this race.  It was unbelievable.  Luckily, I've had all the right equipment for a while now, just haven't had to use it.  Always be prepared.

The Behmes, generous people that they are, offered to let me sleep on the hotel room floor they had reserved.  Me, being the generous person I am, offered to drive the three of us to the race in the man-van.  Being the logical people they are, they accepted my offer (because, let's be honest, who wouldn't wanna drive to the race in such an awesome vehicle?).  John opted out of the race given his work hours and slight sickness the week leading in so just Carrie and myself were racing Saturday.  In this below picture, only two small backpacks are mine.  Also one bicycle.  How can two people, one of whom isn't racing, POSSIBLY BRING THIS MUCH STUFF FOR A 24HR TRIP???

We got to the race site Friday afternoon and went to pick up our packets.  I asked if they had taken a temperature reading that morning and was told that they had but were keeping it secret.  Let's just say that the number I was told had a zero after the first digit. And the first digit wasn't a 6.  We went out to the pier to put our hands in the water and needless to say, it was very cold.  We then went for a short run and came back to do a little glamour shoot.

We went back to the hotel, prepped our race-day stuff and hit the sack.  With the 9am start we didn't have to wake up until 6am so we were pretty lazy in the morning and ended up not getting to the race site until 8:25 or so.  Not my ideal arrival time scenario but it left little time to think about the prospect of a miserable swim.  I set up my transition, put on the wetsuit, booties, (pink) silicone cap and regular cap and headed out to swim start.

On a sidenote, this would be my first race on my brand new bike.  Let me regale you with some bike pjorn pictures, as it got a LOT of comments in transition area before and after the race.  Makes me proud!!

P5-6 frameset, Ultegra Di2 TT, Sram Red Quarq, Zipp 808cc, Zipp Super-9cc, Dash Tri.7 saddle

Very clean lines

Only one little teeny weeny ''cable'' visible to the wind

Swim - 31:52 - 9th (although to be honest I think it was actually 8th or so given one rogue swim time)

Well, just getting into the water was eye-opening.  As I stepped in I could feel the "pressure'' of the cold water.  I dipped down and let some into my suit and then stuck my face in it and felt similar feelings to what I mentioned above: a relatively uncontrollable breathing reaction.  With about one minute to the start I was still not able to keep my face under the water and was still breathing hard and erratically and was unsure whether or not I'd actually be able to do the dang thing.  At the sound of the horn, however, I just took off.  It was either gonna happen or it wasn't, period.

Luckily, the first 10-15 strokes passed by pretty harmlessly other than the very strong chop that had risen that morning as a result of the wind from the east.  On the way to the first buoy we were heading straight into it and it made this portion extremely difficult.  The waves were pretty erratic and unpredictable which made about half of my strokes enter the water well before I actually meant them to!

I lost contact with any other swimmers pretty much immediately and spent the rest of the swim by myself.  At one point before the first turn I got a little water in my ear so I took the time to stop and lift up my cap to let it drain out as it was pretty early in the swim and I didn't want that causing any problems.  After the first turn I had the waves coming from my left which, with my left-only breathing pattern, made this section difficult as well.  I went along fine though and felt more "warmed up" so my stroke was a bit smoother and longer and I didn't have to sight every single stroke like I did on the out-bound leg.  At one point, however, for two consecutive breaths I got mouthfuls of water instead of mouthfuls of air and this caused a very strong coughing reaction so I had to stop to catch my breath and happened to be right in front of a kayak.  The two girls in it started paddling towards me but I started swimming again to get away from them.  Once I went around the last turn I was with the swells, which was a slightly dis-orienting feeling (kinda like body surfing) but it was definitely the easiest.  I had no further issues and exited the swim feeling pretty fresh (and surprisingly not cold) which allowed me to run towards transition at an expeditious rate.

I knew I'd have a couple of people in front of me: for sure Patrick Farwell, Dan Young and Derek Kidwell...but there was an out-of-towner I hadn't noticed on the participant list that was a bit ahead of me as well.

T1 - 01:57 - 10th

My transition was ok but slowed slightly by having to take the booties off.  Helmet on, shoes on, out the gate a little behind the two Patricks.

Bike - 2:17:44 - 1st

The watts I was given for this race were relatively low as I have not been biking very much this year.  But Brian gave me confidence that my run was very up to snuff and with how fast my setup (position + equipment) I wasn't really worried that I'd have a slow bike split.  I knew it would be windy so that would likely slow my expected time a little bit as well.  Regardless, this didn't change having to get out on the bike and actually do the work!

For the first miles I was behind Patrick W. who was behind Patrick F. who was behind Dan Y. who was behind Derek K.  Dang swimmers... The two Patricks were off in the distance for most of 701 or 702, whatever that road was.  Despite the amazing smooth and fresh new pavement we had a headwind for this section so the speeds were relatively slow.  I tried to stay low and slowly made my way up to PF as it appeared as though PW had made the pass and went on up the road.  I passed PF a little bit before the first right turn, which came at roughly mile 12.  This road also was predominantly a headwind although it had become more 3/4 headwind so the speeds weren't too bad on this road.  PW remained in sight but catching him was going relatively slowly.  I did not actually, truly "catch" him until we made the next right turn, which is at maybe mile 40? Once we turned right I stayed behind him for a little bit trying to decide what the best strategy would be; I hadn't realized until pretty recently that there was still someone up ahead (Derek).  Once we got on the home stretch I could see Derek up in the distance, however, and I decided that now was the time to up the watts a little bit and make the move for the lead.

It took a bit longer but after passing PW I bridged up to DK relatively quickly.  I was feeling fairly comfortable although my seat bones had really started to ache from the constant jarring they were receiving from the road.  Once I passed Derek (a hair before mile 50?) I looked back and noticed PW had bridged back up and I assumed that we'd all mosey our way in to the finish together.  I was not surprised then to arrive in T2 first with DK right behind me and PW also right there.

T2 - 01:10 - 16th

I felt as though I had a relatively quick transition but DK smoked both of us and made it out with about a 100 yard gap on myself and I had a slightly smaller gap on PW.

Run - 1:17:45 - 2nd (listed as 2nd but current 1st is definitely wrong and should be Patrick)

Heading out on the run my turnover felt smooth and my breathing was easy so I hoped that I could run what I wanted (sub 1:20).  The first two miles were a little quick as I caught and passed DK but once out of the neighborhood I focused on a steady, rhythmic turnover and taking in gel and water.

As an aside, this whole race up to T2 I had no idea who Patrick Wheeler was (in the context of the race itself I mean)...I was just thinking of him as the "QT2" (for QT2 Coaching which was his race kit) guy.  Coming through T2, however, the announcer was making an...announcement...about the first racers coming into T2 and he didn't see my number and he did see PW's so he said something like: "Patrick Wheeler also coming in with that first group about to head out on the run."  THEN, I realized who I had been trying to catch and would now be trying to outrun...as I recognized the name.

Anyway, once out of the neighborhood and back onto the highway shoulder I settled in for the long haul as I knew PW was close behind.  I could only hope that if I held pace he'd fall off eventually.  I held pace well all the way to the turnaround a little past mile 7.  I was getting warm and unfortunately two aid stations in a row were not ready for the two of us.  I requested water but received none as they hadn't yet got set up for it and I heard PW behind me yelling for it as well.  Luckily at the turnaround one of the Setup guys gave me a bottle of water which I was very thankful for.  I also saw, just past the turnaround, that PW was just as close behind me as he had been the previous 7 miles.  I was getting stalked.  Hard.

I carried on and held pace through mile 9 relatively easily but around mile 9.5-10 it became difficult.  That is, it went from being "comfortably quite hard" to just "hard." I was steady in my mile splits but I was having to think a lot harder about doing it.  My breathing rate picked up noticeably and people coming the other way started to tell me "he's right behind you!!" Oh, like I wasn't aware of that!! haha.  Not much to do about it at that point as all I could do was maintain and hope it was enough.  I was in the unenviable position of being the hunted and not the hunter.  My only carrot was the finishing line, which always seems an awfully long way off with 5k to go!

I knew a pass, or an attempt at one, was inevitable, and it came just after an aid station around mile 11-11.5.  PW bridged up to me, was alongside me briefly, and passed.  As he was passing I picked it up a bit but this quickly felt unsustainable. He held that effort and I couldn't and all of sudden two strides became four.  Then four strides became 10 feet.  And 10 feet quickly became 50 feet.  Over the next 1.5mi I don't think he put more than 75-100 yards on me and everyone coming the other way that knew me kept saying "you've got it" or "he's right there" or "bring him back" but little do they realize that I've been ahead the whole time until just now and the bridge just wasn't in the cards at that point. I watched him turn into the finish and shortly thereafter made the turn myself, crossing the finish line 30s behind Patrick and in a hair over 4:10.

Full results can be found here

I am very pleased with this race.  The swim was quite difficult as was the bike and the run was a big mental and physical test.  I've never been pushed in a run like that (i.e. where I felt like I was really RACING) and, while it was a bit short, have never run that fast.  The run was, more realistically, a 1:19 and some change but that's still a big bump over what I've been capable of in the past.  I think, with a faster swim and faster bike (and therefore less time out on the course) I have a sub 6min pace half-ironman run in me.  Only time will tell! It was great to have a guy like PW there to push me to my limits and hopefully I was able to push him to some of his.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New bikes are awesome

I have decided that I am giving up triathlon and going back to golf.

S - 27,100 yards
B - 225.1 miles
R - 47.6 miles

Time - 25.1 hours

Just kidding, it's April 1st!

This week was a pretty good one; the only thing that stands out as a negative is missing a swim workout on Friday evening.  Unfortunately, the pool was closed and I still had to run as well so the swim took the backseat.  It's only really sad because it would have kept me over the 30k per week that I've been around practically the whole year.  #swimmerproblems

On the swimming note, Friday morning actually brought a nice surprise.  Since there was no MCAC masters workout Jenny brought me along with her to Charlotte Latin where we met Bill Davis and Jeff Murray for a bunch of hundreds.  The plan was for those speedsters to do 30x100 as (10x100 on 1:30 holding 1:10s, 10x100 on 1:10 holding AFAP, 10x100 on 1:20 maintaining).  I was skeptical of this workout given that the intervals were a bit intimidating but I made my way through the first 10 relatively smoothly (albeit slowly).  The first 100 of the second set I came in at 1:08/1:09 and had a choice to make (a choice that many swimmers have to make):

Choice A) Go on the 1:10 and struggle to make 2-3 of these 100s before getting frustrated and having to take a time out, which makes one even more frustrated.

Choice B) Adjust the interval to something challenging but potentially doable

I chose option B, adjusting my plan to do as many as I could on a 1:15 send-off.  The most I'd ever done on that interval was roughly 5, but it was in the middle of a workout usually so I was unsure of how many I could actually bang out in this fashion.  The first five were hard but then they just kind of stayed the same and 20 of them came and went.

So, taking a negative and turning it into a positive; a lot of people (myself included) get mentally frustrated by barely making an interval.  It's normal. 1:08 pace was a bit much to try and push while only getting a breath or two at the wall. 1:09-1:10 pace was push-able while getting 2-3 breaths at the wall.

Another cool thing that happened this week was getting my P5 finished on Friday night with mucho help from Steve.  This was a desired thing for me because it's a freakin' awesome bike but discovering something with my Klein galvanized the get-it-done-tonight mentality...

Now, I don't have to be an expert to assume that is a crack in the carbon seat-stay.  There are only two carbon components on this bike: the fork and the seatstays.

Now, I have no idea this has been here; I've known that there was a fairly significant scratch on the left seat-stay but this is the first I've seen of a true "crack." The ride quality of the bike has been particularly awful but I was sure it was just the comparison to the S5 that had me feeling down about the ol' steed.  Well, needless to say I will never ride this bike again in its current condition.  It is a sad, sad day.

Now, at some point in the near future, I will need a new road bike.  #firstworldproblems

But let me leave you on a more awesome note; I am looking forward to breaking in this bad boy at White Lake Half next weekend!