Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Working hard or hardly working?

S - 16,400 yards
B - 300.0 miles
R - 33.9 miles

Time - 24.5 hours.

There are two things blog-worthy from this week.  Well, maybe three.  Or maybe none are blog worthy and I am just serving as a juicy temptress? Everyone loves a juicy temptress.

Anyway, thing numero uno that was "remarkable" was that I recently purchased a super awesome swim snorkel, more commonly known as a "dorkel." Now, this awesomely yellow snorkel plus my super vibrant B70 trunks definitely make me LOOK more awesome than ever before. Hopefully, I AM more awesome.

Anyway, this week has had me working on some very specific things.  Brian emailed me my schedule with the caption that suggested "Time to work on that jacked up left arm of yours" so I would say I got the message loud and clear... The snorkel helps me work on head position and (hopefully) left arm position.

I hoped to take these newfound skillz with me to the 2mi open water swim at Lake Latta on Saturday but unfortunately my 16+ mile run the night before meant that the swim was not an enjoyable execution of awesome but more like a dogged process through which I had to progress.  Jenny beat me by 5 minutes.  That is unacceptable. Although, she has been swimming a lot more volume than me lately...Damn you more is more!! Damn you!

We also took a trip to the mountains on Sunday.  Cold, chilly weather all the way up 181 led to an absolutely gorgeous day.  I was a little sad for myself since I chose not to do Beech Mtn when everyone else did but I rode strong for the entire 6 hours and maybe riding Beech would have meant I died a slow death at the end...who knows...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pet Peeves

I would describe myself as a pretty even-keeled guy.  My moods are not particularly volatile and even if I'm annoyed I generally maintain a pretty even strain.  I am not particularly confrontational.  I have buttons that can be pushed but I'm generally more of a button-pusher ;)  but pretty much only among friends.

Now there are a few pet peeves I have with regard to riding bikes.

1) Not pointing out hazards on the road.

This one should be obvious.  Road hazards are, by definition, hazards.  Potholes, dead animals, large rocks, wood, people, etc.  The list goes on and on and all it takes is a simple hand gesture.  This is especially necessary in group rides.  It's like using a turn signal while driving.  Guess what? The turn signal stalk is there for a reason.  It's super easy to use! (video NSFW)

2) Not taking a pull when you are active on the front of a group

Alright, first we must ask ourselves this one - extremely important - question: what is the POINT of a group ride? In my opinion (and keep in mind: this is just my own opinion) a group ride's point is to achieve the stated goals of the ride. Well, duh.  Here are some goals:

Tuesday night ride @ IOS - Steady, fast paced group.  Usually single paceline.  Your turn comes on the front and you put the pedal to the metal.  Separations can occur at various points along the route but generally it is just a high threshold ride around the airport.

Thursday "the Drop Ride" - 95% roadie group.  As a consequence, this ride is ridden like a "roadie" ride.  Frequent bursts at 120%+ as attacks occur and almost active recovery when nothing else is happening.  The goal is to drop people or drop yourself.

Saturday/Sunday "group" rides w/ friends - Generally each person has intervals or if not, the goal to just hang on to those doing the intervals.  Pretty simple.

Now, if I take a hard pull and move over to the left and wag my right elbow, that is the universal signal for the person behind you to take their turn.  If you're on the front/near the front or you are responding to attacks by jumping on wheels then you should be willing to pull through.  It doesn't matter if it's a pull to simply get back to the left.  The WORST is when someone pulls out to the left behind the person on the front who pulls off to the left, automatically creating a gap to the person behind them and forcing that poor soul to cover two bike lengths during their move.  Anyway, the heart of the matter is that if you're active on the front of a group you should be willing to pull through.  No matter what.

Again, just my opinion.

One is a safety concern, one is an etiquette concern.  Both are just my own; I do not know if these same things are important to others.  I don't often (or ever) get my panties in a wad but I like to ride safe, I like to get my work in, and I like to have fun.  Those are my goals on each and every ride I do.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Over the Mountain'ing

This week brought with it some sweet, sweet training.  It also, early on Saturday morning, brought with it some sweet, sweet racing.  This week was the first somewhat "hot" week of the year.  On group rides we produced sweat.  On runs sweat was also produced.  This was somewhat foreign as it has been a long time since sweat has been seen during my workouts.  It has been a while since I have been showered with sweat from someone riding in front of me on the Tuesday night ride (thankfully).

Therefore the expectation for Saturday's racing was - at the beginning of the week - that it would be the first warm race of the year (in the NC series, anyway).  As the day drew closer, the forecast portended something a little less perfect: chance of thunderstorms. The percent chance of rain was relatively low, however.

Over the Mountain is somewhat more complicated from a logistical perspective due to its point-to-point nature.  Swim start, T1 and T2 are all in different locations.  Tim "Fergie" Ferguson and I drove up to T1 in the man-van where we picked up our packets and deposited our bikes while hob-nobbing with everyone we possibly could.  Tim also discovered, for the first time, the mountain we'd have to climb once we exited the swim.  I would imagine that this was a less than awesome discovery for him.  Given my racing experience at this race from 2010 I knew of this monstrosity already and had psyched myself up (or out?) in anticipation of it.

After finishing we headed over to T2 to set up our run stuff and get the timing chips while parking my van and hitching a ride back to swim start with Tim's wife Kait.  On the way to swim start a brief burst of strong rain wet the roads, our cars, some bodies, but NOT our spirits I tell you!! (cue dramatic music).  While putting on our wetsuits the sky remained dark and somewhat foreboding but we finished our due diligence and went to warm up a bit.

In these series races I like to make sure my mood remains light.  Too many people take this racing stuff WAY too seriously.  It's a 2hr local race.  Get over yourselves.  I obviously want to do well but you best believe I can have fun doing it.  So, to all those overly serious NCTS types: get over yourselves.  (no I'm not thinking of anyone specific here, this is more a general message).

As the "open" crowd made it's way to swim start the beginnings of my race strategy unfolded.  Here was my - obviously quite complicated - race plan:

1) Get out of the swim near the front
2) Get off the bike at or near the front
3) Run what was needed to win

Pretty heavy stuff.  Leading into the race I had scoped out the competition that was signed up and in my head I had one unknown threat with whom I was concerned: Tyler Jordan.  His bike and run combo at Jetton was very impressive so I knew on this tough bike/run course he'd be in good position at the end of the race.  I completely underestimated Derek, however.  I figured I'd catch him at some point on the bike and I knew that he wouldn't let me "go" so I'm not really sure what I was thinking.  The rest of the overall top 5 were all very close together so there was a lot of underestimation going on in my "plans."

Swim - 21:23 (2nd)

The swim start was in-water and the open crowd (of maybe 20ish?) lined up on an invisible line next to a marker/buoy type thingy.  The two fastest (known) swimmers in the field were Derek Kidwell and Mike Selle.  I figured Derek would be first out of the water and top off the bike so to confuse everyone (or just myself) I lined up on the right side behind Mike (Derek was on the left).  Right behind Mike...  At the sound of the horn we all took off at an expeditious pace.  After 100m or so I had moved left and latched onto Derek's feet, pushing someone else off them at the same time (I'm not sorry!).  This swim course has only one turn and at the turn I was still with Derek and could sort of look back to the right and see that we had a good gap (but not a big one) on the pursuers.

Derek would occasionally speed up at times and at times it felt slow but I knew that sitting behind him was a better decision for me than trying to forge ahead myself.  At worst, I'd emerge from the swim with him and less tired.  At best, I would emerge from the swim with him and more tired.  We continued on and with about 400m to go I looked back again and saw Selle about 25m behind us so I tapped Derek's feet and swam up beside him to try and "goad" him into increasing the pace.  It seemed to work as getting back behind him proved tiring and as we finished the swim together I looked back again and saw a good gap to Selle, who was alone.

T1 - 1:48 (10th)

T1 at this race is awful as it is a continuous climb.  It was raining on us as we exited so I thought to myself: "well I guess it's gonna be THAT kinda day, huh."  The only improvements I could make would be to feel less like death going up the hill and getting to the bike.  Wetsuit came off easily, helmet went on easily, I grabbed my bike...easily.

Bike - 1:08:44 (3rd)

Having ridden this course last Sunday I knew it pretty well.  The only change from what day would be the fact that it was raining rather profusely.  Derek had moved through T1 a bit quicker than me so I caught up to him and settled in to see what it felt like. After a couple of minutes I passed him and set what I felt was an appropriate pace.  My visor continuously fogged but luckily the Bambino's visor is magnetic so I could just pop it off, wipe it down, and pop it back on rather easily.

The roads were very wet and the rain was coming down so it was important to focus continuously while riding.  We eventually made our way to the state park and about halfway through the bike Derek came back around me going up a hill.  I tend to not ride uphill as hard as some so wasn't surprised to see him make the pass.

There were times going through the state park (still raining) that I was legitimately on the edge of my comfort level.  I remember one specific moment on a long, sustained downhill left hand curve (gradual) where Derek was pedaling like crazy and I was just trying to keep up and we were probably going in excess of 40mph and I was debating whether or not to tap the brakes.  It's tough to explain what it feels like to be "on the edge" and in writing it sounds much lamer than it felt in real life but be that as it may - know that there were times that we were going really fast!

Once out of the park it was a little brighter due to fewer trees overhead but the weather was still less than ideal.  The next couple of miles were a nice preamble to Pinnacle Rd, which contained the "penultimate" climb of the bike course.  It was kind of a two-stepper and it was roughly 2ish (maybe?) minutes at VO2 power levels that wasn't too bad.  Derek continued to stay in front through the end, with the only interesting moment coming at a slightly sharp left hand turn where Derek and I took the turn faster than the lead motorcycle who - unaware of his positioning - almost took Derek off the road (most of the time the moto was a good distance ahead of either myself or Derek but through town it got close a couple of times).  I took out one of my feet a little early as I misjudged how close we were to the finish but other than that no big deal into T2.

T2 - :25 (1st)

Despite having what Story called a "slow looking T2" I actually had the fastest T2 out of anybody.  I emerged just ahead of Derek.

Run - 37:02 (4th)

I took the first part out very hard to get an initial lead on Derek that I hoped would remain.  My plan was to run as fast as I needed to in order to hang on for the win.  The course was different than when I did it in 2010 but it was much more interesting this way; briefly on the main road before heading off into the subdivisions of Kings Mountain.  Mile 1 came and went then mile 2 with a good bit of ups and downs and turns and volunteers and water cups.  Eventually the course went out onto another "main" road and was flat then downhill then uphill to the school and the turnaround.  At the turnaround I saw that I had a manageable gap on Derek and what appeared to be a good gap on everyone else although I could tell Tyler was running very fast; I guessed I had maybe :45s on him at the turnaround.

I would describe miles 3-4 and 4-5 as "lazy." I was working hard but I was overestimating the lead I had or maybe underestimating how much Tyler could take out of it each mile.  I saw a lot of friends on the way back in and I was complacent.  Anyway, at around mile 5 I looked back and saw Derek getting passed by Tyler and I realized that I was probably in trouble.  At each turn I took a peek back and Tyler was gaining at each.  It was at mile 5.75 or so that I heard him on my heels on a slight downhill.  He passed me just before the bottom and on the climb back up to the main road and on the climb put some time into me.  We turned back onto the main road and the finish line was only about 200m further and I did not have the gas to make a catch attempt.  I knew I had second place locked up and crossed the finish line.

OA - 2:09:21 (1st)

Now, I mentioned crossing the line 2nd but #19 Tyler Jordan was assessed a two minute penalty on the bike for drafting.  Whether or not he deserved it I do not know as I didn't see it personally but from what I've heard the group chasing Derek and myself had a lot of strong bikers and they were all fighting for position.  When you hear about it from two different people you tend to believe it.  Regardless, a penalty is a penalty and while it's not the way I would choose to win it moved Tyler into 4th place and myself into 1st.

To be honest, this race was a great example of a couple of things.

1) Racing in the rain can be very fun (this was probably the most "fun" I've had at a race this year)
2) Never underestimate local opponents
3) Actually getting better at swimming is worth it

To elaborate on number 3...

Many, many athletes have said things like: "I really tried to get better at swimming."

I call bullshit.

Derek and I had no drafting issues up front.  We were by ourselves on a nice clean course all day long.  The people behind us, however, all swam slower and sort of rolled up each other on the bike and were all fighting for position and the ability to be on the front.  A rolling course like that + 4 very strong riders can only lead to one thing: position/drafting fouls.

Over the past 3 years I've worked very hard at swimming and the first 4 months of this year are an especially strong example of that.  My time at White Lake was not indicative of my improvement but this race served as a much better marker of where I am.  Had Jenny (or Jeff Murray) raced I would not have been able to hold their feet for the duration of the swim but I also would've known that they were not overall competitors (Jenny only because she is a lady and Jeff because he's such an astonishingly good swimmer).  I was able to swim just as fast as I needed to in order to be on the front.  I biked just as fast as I needed to in order to hop off near the front.  And while I technically did not run fast enough to hold on for the win (although technically I did win...) I'm confident that in a couple of months a 35' 10k will not be fast enough to catch me with a 2' deficit off the bike...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poetry FTMFW

S - 20,700 yards
B - 282 miles
R - 26 miles
Time - 23.67 hours

There once was a triathlete named James
Who refused to go down in flames
He got a little sickly
Which made him a bit prickly
Then raced a race to win

The following week brought a great deal of training
So much that he was semi-constantly complaining
On his long rides he whinnied
And made fun of Jenny
All while trying to spin

The beginning of the week he was great at swimming
Even though he experienced very little winning
During each swim workout
He had little to no clout
Even though his new swimsuit was pimpin'

On a much higher note regarding things that float
The Aquatic Center meet-hosting was no joke
Dressed to the nines the water may've been dyed
UltraSwim 2013 was real bonafide
Watching Olympians competin'

Nothing says awesome like a big week of training
I never said you wouldn't hear me complaining
And while my run miles were a bit behind
The bike miles were quite the grind
And swimming is well, swimming.

The end.

No big deal, just Cullen Jones and Anthony Ervin about to battle out a 100m slugfest

Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 Buck Hurley Triathlon

I would be remiss if I didn't first mention and thank Jesse Walters for cluing me in on this race.  I had been planning on doing the May Day Biathlon (5k run 32k bike) and hoping to go for the course record (which would've been tough in hindsight given my sickness) but when I heard about this race I made the easy choice and signed up for it.  Despite the more expensive entry fee, the race was closer, it was a triathlon (always better) and it offered up pretty significant prize money.  $500 to the winner, and then $100 per course record (swim, bike, run and individual overall) made for a lucrative hour.  I made sure to tell people about this race, but only people who I figured couldn't beat me and take money away from me ;)

The only problem with this plan was getting sick last Saturday night at the training camp.  Sunday: very sick, Monday: quite sick, Wednesday: a little better, Thursday: a little better, Friday: worse and go to doctor, Saturday: better, Sunday: game face. On Friday I picked up a prescription for antibiotics (to ward off any upper respiratory infection which is what really worried me) and some prescription cough medicine (fun dreams!). I definitely felt better on Saturday but with packet pickup for a Ramblin Rose event all day at the store and just 3 of us working it made for a hectic day.  I also did not work out from Sunday onwards (with a mostly failed ride on Thursday not included).  In short, the only reason I was showing up to this race was because of its significant prize purse. I would definitely NOT have been racing were it not for that.  I did not feel good and I did not feel like racing.  But at times, we must reach down, grab our balls, and imagine taking a shower in endless amounts of cash (relatively speaking, for a pro triathlete anyway).  To give some perspective: New Orleans 70.3 (a big, but not HUGE race) offered $500...for 5TH PLACE.  That's almost four hours of work for the same amount I'd get if I won (for less than an hour of work).

Jenny and I drove up on Sunday morning, picked up our packets, set up our bikes and got in the pool to warmup when all of a sudden Ross and Tim show up, which totally made the day that much more fun.  Yay for friends!

Swim 300 yards - 3:39

The swim was relatively complicated.  There were only 7? lanes in total.  We'd swim down one length in the first, then flip under the lane lines and swim two lengths in each lane in all except the last lane.  The issue was the middle lane was really wide (2 lanes worth?) and they called it a passing zone but all it ended up being was a "confusion zone." I messed it up but with Ross and Tim waving me in the right direction after popping up with a confused look I got in the right lane and carried on, exiting and quickly moving towards the bike.

T1 - :28

Quick. Cold also.

Bike 10.8 miles - 26:35

I passed someone out of T1 and a person or two pretty quickly before seeing a couple of dudes and a police car up ahead.  The course was basically a triangle with the first leg being a slight climb with a headwind then a right turn that was a slight downhill and tail/crosswind then a third right turn and a nice set of rollers on nice pavement.  It was pretty windy out there so I got blown around a little bit.  At the second turn I had caught the two guys in front of me with the fastest swimmer being in the lead and a relay guy in second.  The relay guy went to pass #1 and #1 just got right on his wheel.  I was only about 20 yards behind them at this point and I yelled at him.  This is a small race, yes, but seriously? The relay guy passed him and #1 moved over to the left to get on his wheel, obviously speeding up in the process.  So, my sense of self-righteousness enraged, I moved up to pass and looked over at #1 and asked if he was just gonna ride his wheel the whole time?  He looked at me like he didn't know what I was talking about and I moved on to complete the pass on both of them before finishing the first lap.

The second lap was more of the same, just passing people on their first loop and putting time into people on their second.  Mostly uneventfully I finished the second loop with what I felt was a comfortable lead.

T2 - :39

Had trouble putting on one of my shoes but otherwise no big deal.

Run 5k - 19:54

Do I look happy? I am not :)

I started out on the run and my lungs felt even worse than on the bike.  I wasn't really sure where I was going as there was nobody to direct me but foremost in my mind my inability to breathe deeply and smoothly.  I looked behind me after a little while and saw a young guy that I assumed was the relay runner who had made up what I could only assume was a decent amount of time in the first mile.  Luckily he faded throughout the run but it put what little pep in my step there my step.  The second mile was mostly uphill (it took foreeever to get to mile 2) and the third mile was mostly downhill/flat and the finishing straight was nice and flat.  Perfect.  I crossed the line and nobody else was in sight.

Overall: 51:18, 1st, overall CR and bike CR

A good day at the office, with Jenny winning as well.  I was a little annoyed at my run time but it was fast enough to win by a lot I just don't like a less fit athlete outrunning me by a minute.  Were I healthy, I would've liked to get that one as well.  Oh well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why do we climb? So we can descend.

Other than to accumulate sweet TSS and 20/40/60' power numbers, the only reason I climb mountains is for the very great pleasure of going down the other side (or, maybe the SAME side just to mix it up!). There are few things more rewarding than a brisk descent full of adrenaline and high speeds.  In fact, I consider it one of the ultimate [frustrating] teases if a climb is not followed by a descent.  I hate that.  With a true and unbridled passion.  There are few things more spectacular than an amazing mountain road descent.  Case in point:

I imagine that the enjoyment of blasting down a mountainside as fast as possible is, more often, a young man's game.  The rush of adrenaline that comes with it seems to have a positive correlation with a lack of responsibilities or dependents back at home. It's only when you're down the mountain that you think back to the corner you took at 45mph and imagine what one little piece of gravel could have done to your 23mm wide tire at that rate of speed and cornering angle...

But I digress...descending is awesome, period.

More examples:

Ok, didn't feel like searching for more.  I guess I'll just have to make some more...

About 2:15 into this video is THE turn to which I am about to refer...

All that being said, sometimes you get a reminder of why it's dangerous to go down strange roads fast.  Riding with our group on Friday we were descending Hwy 80 off Mt Mitchell and Heath was setting the pace at the front, followed by me, followed by Brian.  On a straight lead-in (read: fast) to a blind, decreasing radius right turn (read: sketchy), Heath went off to the left having underestimated the corner; I was ok and stayed in the right lane upright; Brian's wheels (or one) slid out briefly over a bump before catching and then flipping him and his bike over to the left.  Without doing into too many details, injuries resulted.  Broken collar-bone and rib being the two main injuries.  Luckily, no head trauma.

Ride safe.