Monday, September 30, 2013

Carolina Half

S - 11,400 yards
B - 111.6 miles
R - 36.5 miles
Time - 13.3 hours

The real story of the week though, was Setup Events inaugural Carolina Half, the first half-distance triathlon to be held "in" Charlotte.  It seems like everyone was fairly excited about this prospect but this excitement was tempered by the realization that the course was going to be pretty difficult.  As the week went on it became more and more of a certainty that the race was going to be wetsuit legal, the air was going to be a bit chilly and breezy early, and the run was going to get warm and sunny.

Having ridden 90% of the course several weeks ago, I had my own thoughts about what the bike would be like.  Most people seemed to think the bike was going to be very difficult, but I was not sure I agreed.  Yes, there were lots of turns.  Yes, it was fairly hilly.  Yes, it was quite exposed so the wind would be a factor.  I still thought it would roll pretty fast, however.  I was thinking the fastest bike split would be under 2:20; I hoped that it would be my own split but I was ok with whatever came my way on the bike ;)

The run was going to be the difference maker.  This was definitely the most difficult run course of any half-distance triathlon I've done and of the current races in the area.  I was excited for the prospect of a hard run as I knew it would be to my advantage with the way I've been running lately.  Not to toot my own horn, but when you put in the work and you inspire glances like this from Matt Wisthoff himself, you know you're running well (although it didn't matter since I didn't catch him, womp womp!)

Race day approached and given that I was bib #1 I was excited to "live up to it." Derek Kidwell signed up race-week so he became the main competition as prior to that I was fairly sure that nobody on the participant list would be too much of a challenge.  If Kenneth had been healthy most of the year I have no doubt his race would've gone very differently...given that he hasn't raced at all this year a 4:33 on that course is pretty dang impressive!

Despite waking up with more than enough time, the logistics of the point to point race (two different transition locations) meant that the morning was rushed.  Jenny and I had very little time to spare but they ended up starting the race a little late to accommodate the people on the last shuttle.  I was really excited that they decided to make the race a beach start as I absolutely love beach starts.  Running into the water is an art.  there is no graceful way to do it so the timing is incredibly important... Unfortunately not many others shared my enthusiasm...and looked at me funny when I practiced it before the start of the race.

Swim 1.2mi - 27:17 (5th)

The swim started off and it quickly became obvious that the front of the swim would be Derek and Jenny.  John Shilt was also in the mix for the first 200 meters or so but he fell back pretty quickly.  Jenny on the left, Derek in the middle and me on the right.  Jenny relatively quickly got to the front and before the first turn buoy Derek moved over and got on her feet.  This, plus the marked increase in his pace, meant that a gap formed.  Unfortunately I could not close down this gap.  I was a little mad at myself this entire swim.  Whether it was a combination of wearing a wetsuit, which I don't really like, tired arms, or just a big dose of being a wuss I let the swim happen in front of me.  At nearly every race this year that he and I have done together I've had little to no trouble sitting on Derek's feet.  But (I can only assume) since he chose to hop onto Jenny's feet it meant they both broke me a little bit early on in the race.

After the first turn, sighting was a little difficult.  Having the sight buoys be the same color as the turn buoys made finding the right buoy a little frustrating.  I meandered along by myself, slowly losing ground to the pair in front of me. As I got closer to the second buoy I realized that Jenny had popped Derek and there was clear separation between the two.  This made me feel a little better and as I rounded the second and final turn I told myself that I had plenty of time to make up the gap.  The way back in towards the run-out was a little weird as I felt as though I was getting pushed.  I cannot remember which direction but I felt like I was "fighting" a bit the last several hundred meters.  I exited the swim and removed the top half of my wetsuit before crossing the timing mat.

T1 - 2:49 (5th)

I stopped before getting to the grass to remove the rest of my wetsuit as the run to T1 was very long and slightly uphill.  I was not particularly smooth about it so that plus the laborious run meant that as I got to my bike I was fairly out of breath.  Everything was smooth there, however, and I hopped on my bike for 56mi of fun.

Bike 56mi - 2:21:46 (1st)

I headed out on the bike knowing that the race was in front of me.  I had a goal watt range for this race similar to Williamsburg but from the start two things were immediately apparent:

1) My legs had little to no desire to meet those watt goals
2) My handlebars were crooked and pointed to the left while the wheel was straight. Very annoying. Didn't affect anything, but very, very annoying.

That being said, I couldn't really do anything about it so continued on my merry way.  I caught Jenny after about 10 minutes and remarked to her on how it was going to be a pretty lonely day out on the course.  I am not sure she heard me as she did not laugh at my obviously hilarious comment nor did she expound on my supreme motivational skills so I continued onwards.  After a little while longer I looked back and saw someone closer than I expected.  Or rather, in my head I thought Jenny was catching back up to me.  I knew I didn't feel great but that very much surprised me.  I looked back again after a little more time and this person had closed down the gap completely! They looked a little tall to be Jenny so when Kenneth came rolling past me at about 20-25' into the ride saying "ICE, ICE BABY" I laughed a little at myself.  Kenneth and I went back and forth for a little while and we caught sight of Derek about 1/3 of the way into the ride.  I kept holding decent watts and taking down liquid fuel and after about an hour caught up to Derek.  It was almost at the exact moment where we made a right hand turn and saw, among others, these three hooligans cheering incredibly loudly and obnoxiously while the police officers looked on helplessly:

This was a nice little boost mentally but unfortunately did nothing to help out my tired legs.

Given the way I felt I was content to just sit on Derek's pace as Kenneth had floated backwards a little bit after about 1-1.25hrs into the bike.  I figured that nobody else behind us was going to close down the gap so I hoped to either:

a) feel better and be able to raise my watts
b) roll into T2 not being overly tired

Well the bike continued onwards and "A" never came to pass so I banked on "B" and continued semi-contentedly. Derek rolled the hills pretty hard which raised my effort level a lot but then sometimes on flats and downhills I had to brake and/or coast to stay a legal distance behind him. I think his knowledge of some of the course and its corners definitely helped a lot and given that I had ridden these roads many a time over the past couple of years it helped me also.

At one point in the last 5-7 miles I got close enough to Derek that I felt as though I needed to pass him just so I wouldn't be susceptible to a drafting penalty (even though I saw a motorcycle one time for only about 5s...) and I knew Derek would stay behind me the rest of the way and we consequently rolled into T2 one right after the other.

T2 - :52 (8th)

I did not rush my T2 and it showed, as Derek made it out onto the run course about 100 yards ahead of me.

Run 13.1 - 1:23:33 (2nd)

As I ran out of T2 I realized that I did not have my gel flask with me so I turned around and rooted around in my transition bag to find it.  I was luckily racked all the way against the fence so I could just reach over and grab it versus having to run all the way back into transition (and likely causing a timing chip malfunction for the race results!).  But I knew I needed that flask and it was worth the time penalty to get it, no question.

Derek had a 15-20s lead on me but as I started running the turnover felt relaxed and easy and breathing was mostly in control so I just set out comfortably and figured I'd wait and see what would happen.  The first mile is rolling with some climbing and descending around the park before coming back up to transition and heading out on the out and back section of the course.  It did not take all that long to catch up to Derek who must've gone through the first mile in 6:10ish and just before getting on Bailey School Rd I was up on his shoulder and could tell his breathing was fairly labored.  I felt relaxed and had no need to put on the hard pass so I just continued on and slowly went by and subsequently heard him matching my pace.  On the downhill leading into the cheering section I believe I left him behind a little bit and carried onwards feeling confident the race was now mine.

My first three miles were pretty consistent, with a 6:0X for each one through the rollers but miles 3-4 brought with it the climb up Patrick Johnston Rd (or whatever it's called) and my pace consequently slowed.  This was a tough uphill and it forced very short but powerful strides and my adductors felt a little queasy as I neared the top.  Luckily this passed quickly but the next 1.5+ miles were all a net uphill to get back to Davidson-Concord road.

I crossed over this and headed down into the parking lot where so many rides and runs began and ended in 2009 and 2010.  I cannot possibly tell you how happy I always was to see that sign into that parking lot at the end of SO many workouts back when I was first learning what it meant to break down.  Luckily we had a brief respite from all the climbing with the short but sharp downhill from the street, around the lot and onto the soccer fields leading into the trails.  The mile or so of groomed trail with crushed gravel leading into the Davidson XC trails was pretty hilly and made the legs hurt a little bit.  Once into the trails proper, however, the shade and twists and turns help keep the boredom at bay and allowed you to kind of focus on the rhythm of the race.  I was trying to remember earlier today what exactly I was thinking about during the run but I honestly can't remember much of the first 10 miles.  I'm not sure whether I "zone out" or just get so "in the zone" that my mind kind of goes blank.  You focus on the little things, like picking the best line, cutting the tangents, not making any weird movements, taking nutrition in, spitting when appropriate, worrying about your hair, etc.  It's partly what I love about long distance racing...the mental blank slate you have and hopefully embrace to disassociate from the pain and suffering you are putting yourself through...

Once I reached the turnaround point at mile 7 I looked at the time so I could get some time-checks on any chasers.  It was almost 2 minutes before I saw Derek and 7 or so before I saw Kenneth so I knew that, barring catastrophe, I was going to win the race (since doubling both meant I was actually 3.5-4 minutes ahead of Derek and 13-15 ahead of Kenneth). I got back out to the parking lot and had what was, other than the cheering section of hooligans, the most memorable part of my race.

There was an aid station on the left and as I grabbed and drank a cup of water I heard a guy say, quite clearly: "Wow, check out that guy's hair!?"  I am not sure whether he said that with respect in his voice and honor in his heart or with shock in both.  I'm going to assume the former and walk away with that one.  I did not know the person and can only assume that he follows Haycraft's Hair on twitter...

At this point there were more people coming the other way and it was great motivation to know so many of them and be able to genuinely say (and mean) "good job," "nice work," "keep it up" to all of them.  Or at least, as many as I could muster the breath for.  Things were normal until I got off the greenway and got back into that neighborhood where the course served up another long, tough climb for the racers.  My adductors felt this much more strongly than before so I slowed my pace so as not to do anything too catastrophic to them.  This was a decent length climb and the downhill afterwards was very welcome, as I knew the only things that stood in my path were a climb up to Bailey School Rd and a gorilla, banana, and clown-in-a-speedo before the finish line.

I finished the last bit of climbing before getting to the flat section and rolling across the finish line as the winner of the first year race (setting a course record by default, woop woop!).  Schwing!

OA - 4:16:20 (1st)

I was very pleased with this result, as it confirmed several things:

1) My hair and a visor do not go together
2) I am in good running shape
3) Even when tired, a good performance can happen if you don't give up on yourself
4) I have basically won the series (I think), so that means a sweet pay-day
5) It was great to race with Derek and Kenneth (on that note...1st, 1st and 3rd aren't bad for 3 racers from ICE Racing, eh?)
6) Podiums need more humor, on that note:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Week

S - 20,400 yards
B - 204.3 miles
R - 51.4 miles

Time - 22.83 hours

Well, that's it.  I've paid my money.  I have not officially been accepted into Ironman Cozumel 2013 but I have done my due process and am just waiting to here back from Pro Membership at Ironman.  That'll mean my first attempt at the distance since the summer of 2010.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I doubt I'll be quite as excited about it when I am training through the middle of November and pretty much everyone else will be done for the year (although it seems like most people have pretty much checked out at this point already anyway) and I'll still be going through December 1st.

This hasn't really influenced my training loads just yet but I've notched several great long runs under my belt recently and this week was no exception.  I had a two-hour aerobic run on Friday that went quite well (although I admittedly got pretty bored towards the end) that was a delicious slice of meat to my weekly running sandwich.

Carolina Half is next weekend and I am definitely excited about it, not necessarily because I plan on going very fast but more because it'll be somewhat of a home course and there will be lots of people I know out racing and (hopefully) spectating.

Also of note is the fact that I currently am at the top of the NCTS Season Standings.  Matt has just completed his 5th race, moving him into second place and only 180 points behind.  Luckily for me, Carolina Half is weighted fairly heavily so a mediocre race will likely still replace one of my less than stellar points races (OTM, Lake Hickory).  Hopefully this means I will win the NCTS for the first (and only) time! Only in the sense that I will not have it as a seasonal goal anymore.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not failing

S - 10,500 yards
B - 218.3 miles
R - 53.6 miles

Time - 21.00 hours

There are certain things that stand out to me about this week:

  • Waking up to swim on a Monday morning is quite possibly the most difficult thing to do after a "weekend"
    • As a sidenote, I'm officially announcing that Brian Stover has killed "the weekend" for me. Weekends used to be a glorious time of not working, of resting, of going out at night, of watching movies, of whatever-you-wanna-do-awesomeness. 
      • Nowadays it means workouts from 9am to 5pm on Saturday (including travel, prep, eating, etc and that's with a late start) and 9am to 2pm on Sunday (and the rest of the day is basically a wash as all energy available is used to sit on the couch)
  • 3000 yards of IM is a lot of IM in one swim practice
    • I think this flat-lined my shoulders for the rest of the week
    • What doesn't kill you makes you...stronger?
  • 4 bike workouts and 2 run workouts a week is quite a lot (I mean ACTUAL workouts, not "sessions" as some people like to call them)
    • 18+ miles of running in one day is the most I've done since 2010
      • 25 minutes of tempo, on paper, isn't too bad
        • In real life, in the middle of a 2 hour run, it's mentally crushing
    • For the first time in what feels like...ever? I managed to complete each bike workout for the week as written.
      • This may sound inconsequential, but it is surprisingly difficult especially when Sunday's workout is: 4hr - 45aer + 5x(12 threshold + 15 tempo + 3ez) + 45aer
        • I saw that when the schedule was delivered and sent Brian an email that just said, quite simply: "I hate you"
        • His reply was: "You hate me for making your competition hate you?"
        • I had nothing for that one

As another sidenote, I kinda miss Hootie and the Blowfish.

Monday, September 9, 2013

White Lake International and Ramblin' Prose

8/26 - 9/1
S - 4500 yards
B - 116.4 miles
R - 52.5 miles
Time - 13.39 hours

9/2 - 9/8
S - 9,300 yards
B - 165.1 miles
R - 24.3 miles
Time - 14.00 hours

Things of note past couple of weeks:

1) On September 1st I flew down to New Orleans to visit with my family for the day (before one brother goes to Edinburgh, Scotland for grad school and the other goes back up to NYC for senior year at NYU) and purchase my dad's 2009 VW Jetta TDI.  The following day I drove back up from New Orleans to Charlotte (11hr drive).  Not great for training, but hopefully great from a life perspective.

2) To break up the drive, I decided to text my friend Jeremy (college bff and Atlanta attorney) to see what he was up to on Labor Day.  He and his gf Kayla were playing frisbee so I invited myself to play with them.  Knowing that my body can't handle hard frisbee playing anymore I intentionally did not try very hard but in spite of this I tweaked my left lower hamstring pretty good.  So good, in fact, that I bailed on my Tuesday AM threshold interval run 1.5 minutes into it.  I'm not normally a particularly "careful" guy when it comes to little stuff so this was big for me.  I tend to grip it and rip it, so to speak.  Luckily it healed relatively quickly and I was confident it would knowing that it was a simple anomaly injury.

On Friday afternoon after a surprisingly busy day at work Jenny, Mr Behme and myself drove to the bustling Bladen County metropolis of White Lake, NC to participate in the White Lake International Triathlon. This was another "bonus point" event in the series and I knew doing well would essentially cement my lead for the rest of the year.  Leading into the end of the week I figured I might have a fairly smooth go of it as some notable names were missing from the start list.  Much to my dismay, Mr Matt Wisthoff signed up late in the week and would be bringing his A game, surely with the goal of exacting revenge for Stumpy Creek.

1.5k - 45k - 10k

Swim - 21:34 (3rd among guys, but 4th OA; thanks Jenny as usual)

I lined up on the left next to a very young guy and with Jenny on my right.  Matt was over to the far left.  As is tradition, the start horn fired and everyone took off at an extremely ambitious pace.  The award for most ambitious goes to the kid next to me, who took off at sub 1:20/100m pace but ended up swimming a 24:24 (whereas the people he started with were 21:34 or better...).  Anyway, the three of us were somewhat sandwiched together and I was the meat.  The kid next to me kept veering over to the right (towards me) and would come into contact with my left side.  This happened, once, twice, then finally he came so far over that I basically ran over him.  I'm a pretty straight swimmer and I was a little annoyed anyway so I didn't try too hard to get out of his way and I was also trying to not impede Jenny's swim.  He backed off to the left and then lost almost a body length on me in 3 strokes.  Keep in mind that we were not even 300m into the swim at this point...

Eventually I lost contact with Jenny and I took a glance off to the right to see someone taking a very inner line and a bit ahead of me so I hoped to get on their feet at the first turn but as the first buoy came and went the mystery man (well, I assumed it was a man) still had a 15-20 yard gap on me that I couldn't close down.  The route to the second buoy was uneventful but with the sun just above the tree line on the left side sighting was fairly difficult.  At the last turn there was some serious confusion as the sight buoy line appeared to be way off to the left of the straightest route which after a decent amount of sighting every stroke I managed to find.  At one point I saw a left arm taking a stroke off the left side of my feet which surprised me as I hadn't felt a single touch on my feet the whole swim (a very courteous usage of the draft I might add!).  As I made my way to the exit dock I saw someone climbing the ladder and after some small amount of time I got to make the climb myself. We had a 40-50 yard run along the dock and on some grass before crossing the timing mat and during that time I lost the guy that had been swimming with me.

T1 - 1:07 (9th)

I had a clean T1, running past Dave Williams as he was getting his bike off the rack.

Bike - 1:04:05 (1st)

I got on the bike with Dave in close sight and Jenny not too far up ahead.  I knew the first part would be flat and fast so put my head into the tuck.engaged position and worked on putting out some watts.  Within the first 10 minutes I had passed Jenny and Dave and moved into second position.  Unfortunately Matt was not in visible sight so I knew he was a good ways ahead as the roads run fairly straight and true in White Lake.  The first 10 miles went by quickly and the sweeping right hand turn spit us out onto a road of slightly lesser quality.  Luckily, however, the vehicular traffic was much lighter so I'll call that one a fair trade.  Time went on, the roads were mostly flat with some slight rollers and a slight left crosswind.

The bike, honestly, was pretty uneventful.  Not much to say. It was boring and fast.  Uninteresting.  Not too hot. Slight wind (tailwind back half). I rolled back into the trailer-town that is on the final 2 miles of the course and two bikers coming the other way said I had a minute to make up on the "guy in front of me." I listened but also mostly disregarded this info as it is very important to not trust anyone you don't know with anything involving your race.  I rolled into T2 quickly, excited at the prospect of a fast run.

T2 - :50 (5th)

I had a pretty quick T2 but could have been a bit cleaner with my shoe installation. Oh the horror.

Run - 34:57 (1st)

I have managed to get several great long runs under my belt over the past month so I was quite excited to see what I could do for a flat 10k.  No excuses, no problems.  Heading out of transition and on to the main road I caught my first glimpse of Matt since the start of the race.  He looked to be a decent ways ahead but just the fact that he was finally in sight was a huge boost to my energy levels.  One must be extremely careful, however, in situations like that as the mind wants, nay NEEDS, to try and close that gap down immediately.  I disobeyed my inclination to sprint and set out at a manageable pace to try and let my legs and shoulders loosen up a bit.

I could tell Matt was running well as his turnover was pretty high on the first mile of the course. At roughly mile .5 I saw local runner/triathlete D. Crockford helping a lady with her bike on the side of the road and she told me I had a 1 minute gap to Matt (thanks Danielle, by the way).  I trusted her number because it seemed realistic based on how far ahead Matt appeared to be.  I carried on through mile 1 and hit the gas station to make the right hand turn onto the bigger highway.  Matt was still maintaining the same lead so we both carried on our separate little races in our own heads.  The turnaround point approached quickly (thankfully) and he'd get his first glimpse of how far back I was.  The road up to the u-turn was a slight incline and into the wind so once he turned it looked like he was fuh-lying towards me (which is always somewhat demoralizing; on a sidenote, every single person coming the other way ALWAYS looks like they are running faster than me.  Do other people think this as well? Do I look like I am running fast? I don't even know).  I made the turn and realized why he looked like he was going so fast: because he WAS going so fast! Downhill tailwind running is awesuhm!

Mile 4 came and went and I could tell I had made up some ground.  The gap was noticeably smaller and I was energized by this.  I was making a lot of funny noises as I continued to try and push the pace.  The gap to third place was massive and I figured with the paces we were running it was only going to grow.  Past mile 5 and the gas station and I knew Matt had taken a quick glance over his shoulder to see me a bit closer than I had been and that could only have spurred him onwards towards the finish.  With roughly a half mile to go Danielle gave me another split: 20 seconds to Matt.  I knew that in that short of a distance 20s was almost impossible to make up on someone running well but I continued to try and push all the way to the finish line, crossing just 20ish seconds after Matt did.

2nd Overall in 2:02:31

One of questions I was asked after the race by someone that recognized me from seeing me on the run was "I bet you're unhappy with 2nd aren't you?" Not implying anything just assuming that because I didn't win I would be upset.  I am definitely not upset with that race.  I biked and ran very well and lost to a very, very good race by Matt.  Both of us went faster than DVW's winning time last year.  I ran sub 35 minutes for a 10k for the first time.  That is HUGE. I've run sub 36 before but sub 35 is quite a different performance marker.  It was great to have had good runs leading up to the race in training and to see that reflected by a good performance on race day.  3rd place was almost 9 minutes back.  It was a two-man race and Matt totally got revenge for Stumpy.

Why so serious?

Ahh, that's more like it