Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So you want to sign up for an IM?

So before you get to think too much about your reasoning behind deciding to do an IM distance event - reasoning which we will get into later in this series - you need to go ahead and sign up for one. As preposterous as that may seem, it is quite true for the most popular IM distance events in the US.  And yes, I am going to focus on US events because I am in love with America and don’t care too much about any other countries.  


For the record, that last sentence is a joke.


On the one hand this phenomenon is a bit ridiculous. But on the other hand, it encourages you - as an athlete - to be extremely proactive.


The “phenomenon” of which I am speaking is the fact that for many of Ironman’s iron-distance events you need to sign up about a year in advance. Races like Florida, Arizona, Chattanooga, Lake Placid and Wisconsin all sell out quite quickly. Don’t be fooled by going to Ironman.com and clicking through their race list and seeing some races still show as “open” because that can ALSO include registrations available via the Foundation slot method (twice the price, tax deductible entry fee of ~$1500) and Charity Partner method (raise money with race’s chosen charity for entry into race).


B2B 2009
At all races, the registration for the following year opens up in person the day after the race for volunteers at that year’s race, athletes at that year’s race, and general populace in person at that year’s race.  


This year saw an “historic” first at IM Arizona in that registration NEVER went online. That means that ALL general entry slots were filled in person AT the race site. Other races mentioned prior usually sell out within minutes online once registration opens.


That means that people are willing (and ABLE) to spend a fairly large chunk of hard-earned coinage a full year in advance, oftentimes having never done the race itself and many having never even done a triathlon to begin with (yes, that is not uncommon).  


Before you get nervous and worried that you won’t be able to get into a race that all your friends have done, rest assured that there are still some great options. Louisville, Boulder, and Lake Tahoe are all fabulous options that don’t seem to sell out for various reasons.


But really, once you’ve decided that you “need” to go ahead and sign up for an IM, the next step is deciding which is the RIGHT IM for you. Of course, I am making a leap of faith and assuming that ANY IM is “right” but I have already started down this path and have no further options.


Lame.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Number Forty Two

“Forty two” seems like such a random number at first glance. For the baseball fans out there it has pretty special significance due to the fact that it was worn by two of baseball’s more celebrated players: Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera. So for baseball fans, this beginning will seem a bit inauspicious because of the sheer significance that number has for them. Bear with me, baseball fans.


Other than that (at least to the point that I am aware of) that number in and of itself means relatively nothing. It holds no special mathematical value that I’m aware of, but then again I am no expert on mathematics…


But for runners and, by extension, triathletes that number holds a very special significance in their minds. It is a love/hate relationship with that number because of what it represents.


me thinking about IM


The origin of that number’s importance traces back quite a ways and I honestly have no desire or intention of plagiarizing wikipedia’s great entry on the “marathon” so I will assume that most readers are educated - however basically - on what the “marathon” is and go from there.


Needless to say then is that a “marathon” is supposed to be 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers and about 165 additional meters or 42.2km. The same holds true for the run at the tail end of an Ironman (or, if you’re a copyright/trademark kinda reader, the full distance) triathlon.  Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 (ish), and run 42.2km or 26.2 miles to round off a long work-day.


I am reminded of this number for several reasons.


  1. I just signed up for 2015 Ironman Louisville on my 30th birthday. I had been contemplating this for a while for many reasons, a few of which I have discussed prior to this point in my blog.
  2. 2015 Ironman Louisville is exactly 42 weeks from now.
  3. Number 1 means I’ll be running 42.2k 42 weeks from now
  4. See?


To be honest, the concept of an Ironman is a fairly ridiculous athletic endeavour.  The sheer distance of the event and the “required” training for it (I use the word “required” somewhat loosely, for reasons which I am sure you can imagine as that completely depends on the context of the person doing the training) to be completed successfully are massive. The time investment is massive. The financial investment is massive. It causes stress for yourself, for your family, and at work among other places.


What’s the point then? Is it really worth all that so you can raise your hands in tired resignation at the finish line? What compels people to spend oodles of money in order to inflict pain, fatigue, and a general sense of suffering on themselves?


That’s a good question, one I have often asked of myself. I’ve also asked it of other people. Lots of other people. So far, there have been some interesting responses. I am excited to, over the course of the next 41ish weeks, share those with you. And many more anecdotes on IM racing. My usual blog stuff; you’re probably fairly used to it by now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season for people to be selling their bikes for absolutely ridiculous prices on the used market. I would not say I have a "ton" of experience in retail and the selling of bicycles and their related equipment and accessories, but I would say I have more than "most" - especially considering "most" don't have any experience...

So I am a pretty fair judge of prices, I think. What a bike and/or equipment is "worth" to the average consumer.  To a certain extent what a bike is worth is whatever someone is willing to pay, but set prices narrow it down a little bit and consequently make life a little easier. I would guess that if someone walked into a bike shop and a price tag said "whatever you think this bike is worth" most people would "lie" and say "very little" (but we sure would sell a lot of bikes that way!).

There are a couple of different types of people that acquire really expensive and/or "nice" bikes:

1) Those that can actually afford them
2) Those that can't and receive some sort of "deal"

# 1 is not who I am concerned with on this day.

# 2 is the category that concerns me.

This group includes elite athletes, club athletes, buddies, etc that get a "deal" through some sort of "contract."

They could be a part of a "team" or they could be an individual "sponsored" by a shop or they could be "sponsored" by a company.  The list goes on and on... The point is, these types of people are either getting their bikes very discounted or they are getting them free.

This is the annoying group of people because then they turnaround and sell those bikes or that equipment. And they try to GOUGE you.

Here is a great example:

"FS: Litespeed Ci2 Ultegra Di2 sz 54"

blah blah blah ridden for a year blah

can come with blah for blah
or blah for blah
maybe some blah for other blah

etc

or in its original build (original msrp $6000) for $2800



And so it is listed for sale.  Don't get me wrong, this is a really nice bike. The issue lies within the manner in which the seller is selling it.

First of all, the seller has listed all their sponsors down at the bottom of the post in their "signature." One of those sponsors is "Quintana Roo/Litespeed" (ABG).  So at the same time they are "marketing" their sponsorship they are selling a bike the user is supposed to think "retailed at $6000."

Second of all, the msrp of the bike doesn't matter once it has been used. It doesn't matter at all. This bike may have "msrp'd" at $6000 but you can buy it BRAND NEW for basically what the seller is asking.

Third of all, if this seller did not get this bike free I know exactly what he paid for it. And his asking price is gouging whoever buys this. No arguments there, even if the seller reads this. They'll know..

When you purchase a bike at a steep discount or get it for free or whatever you may get as a "sponsored" athlete you have an obligation, in my opinion, to "pay it forward." The goal of YOU getting the sponsorship or discount is because, in some way, you DESERVE it. You have helped the company or the business by purchasing that bicycle or accessories/equipment in the past. You have marketed that company/business to the general public in a positive way.

So when you turn around and sell the product (which is perfectly reasonable) you SHOULD offer it at a reasonable price. A "fair" deal so that the bike continues to enjoy life under someone who will APPRECIATE it and grow to love the company (hopefully). You don't get a free bike or a discount so you can MAKE money when you sell and buy/receive new bikes. That is not the point. The point is to grow the brand from whom you are receiving the relationship.

Right now is when a lot of people are selling bikes (myself included) to get something new for the upcoming year. If you are selling your bike, be fair. Be reasonable. If you are buying a bike from someone you assume gets a discount or product don't be afraid to call BS on them.

Happy Holiday Shopping, athletes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Racing NOW vs Racing THEN

One of the "cool" things about having a blog for such a long time and writing in it with fairly regular and predictable frequency (in some ways, one could compare my blogging to the predictable drudgery yet equally predictable relief of a morning movement!) is that I have a reliable history when I want to look back and examine something.  If I am curious about how I felt about a race (or even during a race) I can go back and read that entry. If I am curious about how bored I was in the "off-season" I can go back and look at how many blogs I did from December - January and get an accurate representation of just how bored I was.

Bottles on the FRAME?!?! Gross.

What I am using my blog for currently, however, is comparing my mindset when racing NOW versus when I first began triathlon back in 2009 (way back when).

For example, at White Lake 2 (as a sidenote, remember when there were two weekends of every race? Talk about quantity before quality!) that year I was signed up for my third triathlon ever and my second half ironman.  Most of my friends were doing the race and when most of your friends are pretty good triathletes you think that you yourself are a pretty good triathlete, purely by association (whether true or untrue).  A 4:30 sounded like a nice goal. I don't know why, but it sounded like a good number.

Maybe akin to the way people want to "bike an hour for a 40k" or "break 3 for a marathon" or "start a blog." It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.  Because saying something is pretty easy, relatively speaking.  Doing it is not.

At White Lake Half (2) I did or used a lot of things I have since forgone as I became more "experienced" and "wiser" (and, presumably, "faster"). I used HR quite insistently (I did not have a powermeter at the time, let alone two).  I took salt tabs (mainly because everybody did). I used mph as an indicator of effort.  The "custom coach" jerseys will all over the place (including on me) as this was before the days of teams in Charlotte.

So many things were different. I had no idea what I  was doing. It was awesome. I ended up with a 4:34 or so, I believe.  In hindsight I am surprised it was that "fast." Because I really was a complete newbie. Learning from others, using their methods, taking their advice, trusting their methods were at least tried and true, etc is a great way to get started and move towards attaining your own personal goals.

In 2010 I did a lot of the same: what everyone else was doing. I signed up for Louisville. I probably trained completely inappropriately for my actual fitness/ability levels and the year was a bit of a blur. I don't remember specifically a lot of the races I did but the big ones were NOLA and Louisville.  I think at NOLA I set a PR and was 2nd AG (25-29 back in those youngling days) but did not do Clearwater because I hoped to qualify for Kona at Louisville (obviously did not happen).  I COULD go and read the blog entries for that year, but I have a point to make.

I think I do, anyway. The point is somewhat vague and unclear.  I think I am trying to make the point, albeit in a very roundabout way, that I am really excited for next year and racing in the M30-34 category. It's been a really fun 3 years of racing as a "pro" (although I only did 5-7 pro races) but I never really got to have an AG "career." Most people that are kind of "adult pros" (i.e. they weren't on some development team or national level junior team or a D1 swimmer/runner or on the ITU track, etc) follow a somewhat predictable path. They race locally and get really good locally. They then branch out and basically win everything regionally. Once that's done they start to be relevant on the national scene. On the national scene they start winning their AG no matter the race. Then they turn pro. The time period for all of that is relatively unpredictable, obviously.

But take Jenny as an example (although she was a D1 swimmer so this is somewhat out of line with my statements above). Starts triathlon after swimming. Has some hits and misses.  Then, after a couple of years goes undefeated in North Carolina for more than two years. Competes in Kona (goes sub 11). Wins AG at various 70.3 races (plus top amateur).  Then, goes pro.

I never really did any of that. The races that were "supposed" to be that for me were Augusta in 2011 (I sucked), AG Nationals in 2011 (I was mediocre at best) and Beach 2 Battleship Half (I was mediocre).  So I didn't really get to prove (mostly to myself) that I SHOULD race as a pro, despite qualifying for my elite license that fall.

Sometimes I think people assume I have a blog because I have something to prove. For the record, that is not why I have a blog. It doesn't mean I am vain, or looking for social approval or some kind of "look at me" validation of what I am doing.  Just...for the record.

It was extremely cool to be associated with the real pros in our sport. To walk to a start line with a P on your calf and have the more casual triathletes (who don't - surprisingly - know who James Haycraft is) at races associate me with Michael Raelert, Starykowicz (the real one), Richie C, etc.  They don't know me or who I am or what kind of speed I actually have but because I am racking next to those guys (and gals) I must be similar, right? It's definitely a cool feeling. Having the cleanest courses, the first swim waves, the best rack positions, special considerations, etc was definitely nice.

But now it's back to the beginning.  Starting over, in a sense. Now I am competing against all 30 - 34 year old males.  I am excited about that. New Orleans 70.3 and IM Louisville are the two "big" races I have planned for next year (though I have not signed up for either).

It's time to go back to the roots of racing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to find a coach

It's that time of the year where - if you are interested - it is time to be locking up a coaching prospect for the upcoming year of triathloning. In fact, at this point of the year, it's best if you've been talking to a couple of options.

What does a coach provide? That's a good question actually.

I remember back in 2010 (late 2010) when I was kind of on the "cusp" of a decision process. I had really wanted a coach for a while but hadn't yet found the right match between someone I wanted to coach me and someone that wanted to coach me.  I had really wanted _____ to coach me and had made repeated efforts to get him to do it but he didn't seem that eager to coach anybody (despite advertising his coaching services online) and I wasn't willing to pay $450/month (what was being advertised).  The desire to have accountability and an inherent trust in the process is what I WANTED.  I trusted ____ and his knowledge (for better or for worse), but the desire didn't go both ways.

So later that year I started "looking" on Slowtwitch (both in the coach database and browsing the forums).  I didn't really care that much in terms of location, to be honest. What I was looking for revolved more around "philosophy" and the way they expressed that philosophy. Basically, I wanted someone in whom I believed.

There were a couple of standouts initially. I would see a coach post and then check their previous posts in threads that seemed interesting and then go and peruse their written thoughts on the matter. I was looking for an alignment of goals. What I thought I wanted and what I felt was "right" lining up with what someone else thought was "right" and could help me get what I wanted.


At the end of the day you can do most of the work yourself. If you are consistent, accountable, and reasonably smart and you progressively overload you can reach your goals pretty well yourself. A coach helps you eke out that last percentage.  You don't have to think about what workout you're going to do; it's already there and waiting on you.

After a bit of searching I had narrowed down my "decision" to two or three "candidates." So I shot off some emails explaining who I was, what I had accomplished to that point and where I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted, the question was going to be which answers I liked the best! In the end I started working with Brian Stover. Nobody outside of ST had really heard of him (in the questions like: do you have a coach? Yea. Who is he? Brian Stover from Tucson. Ohhh, ok...), but in the end that doesn't really matter. Brian is probably one of the best triathlon coaches in the US (non squad-style coaching).  That's not really debatable. It's a fact.

Other coaches were maybe a little too brusque, a little too self-important, a little too "quality > quantity," a little too blah blah blah. At the end of the day there was what I believed in and there was what Brian believed in; those two things lined up quite nicely.

Each situation is unique and each person has their own sets of criteria. Time availability, responsibilities other than work, work schedule, travel schedule, etc etc. So it's important to express all of those things to the coaching possibility. What are YOUR goals? Not your friends' goals. Not your mom's goals, but YOUR goals. Do you want to sub 9 an Ironman? Do you want to finish your first IM? Do you want to learn to swim confidently and do your first sprint triathlon? There is a huge gamut of goals and personal achievements and having a coach who both understands and believes in all of those is an importance that cannot be overstated.

If your candidates are all local (vs national), talk to their other athletes. Do they personalize each athlete's training? Or do they cookie-cutter plans such that copy and pasting is the norm? Do they have restrictions on contact (i.e. 2 emails a week + 1 schedule change a month + 6 texts/week, etc) because that is not coaching. That is taking your money.

When you do decide on a coach, give constant feedback. A coach giving you workouts and you giving them nothing back is only half of the battle. Knowing how you are feeling, your emotions, your wants, your desires...wait what? Knowing what YOU are doing is important and informs what the coach will be doing.

It's a two way street. A relationship of symbiosis and harmony (hopefully). You should WANT to work with your coach and they should WANT to work with you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reader Input Blogging (R.I.B)

Here is the scenario.

(as a sidenote, I really enjoy saying that word in the "British" method of pronunciation. Sinnnahhhhrio. Try it, really fun I promise. No seriously, do it)

What does a triathlete blog about when that triathlete is no longer in the triathlon season? It's like if automobiles suddenly didn't exist; what would Top Gear do???

(as a sidenote, Top Gear - the UK version specifically - is, quite possibly, one of the best shows in the history of television shows. Witty, sarcastic, dry, informative commentary about one of the world's greatest things: the car)

typical off-season activities

So I'm left with some options:

1) Blog about the off-season
2) Blog about something mundane (something ELSE mundane, I should say)
3) Blog about...umm..I'm out of options

So you, the reader, can pick a topic. We're going to have user-input blogging here at jameshaycraft.blogspot.com.

I think this is a first. Of course, that requires somebody actually clicks on the link, makes their way through the entire blog (I'm not sure how often that happens to be honest), and then offers input as a facebook comment. Or a blog comment. Potentially even a twitter response.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Ironman Miami 70.3

The last race of a season is always an interesting thing. In a lot of ways it sort of reminds me of finishing a big test back in the ol' school days.  All this prep leading into it, all this stress and anxiety and then BAM, you take the test and the stress is gone.

(only to be replaced with anxiously awaiting the grade on the test, of course)

So with that being said, my feelings leading into Miami were definitely of expectant stress relief.  I wanted to get away from Charlotte for a bit. I wanted to be on or near the ocean. I wanted warm weather. I wanted some wind running through my hair. I wanted to be lazy.  And I guess yes, I wanted a last race of the year.

Well, I got all of those.

Miami is an interesting race; its first year was marred with catastrophic experiences from many athletes. Since then, it has really become a sort of melting pot of racing.  A huge percentage of the race is from Central and South America so if you want to compete against a big, international field in a big, international city Miami fits the bill quite nicely.

Jenny and I departed the Queen City on Thursday afternoon to drive to Raleigh where we stayed for the night before flying out of RDU extremely early on Friday morning (6:20am flight!).  It's been pretty busy at IOS lately with everyone else's final races of the year so it was definitely nice to get away once everyone had mostly been taken care of. #customerservice #retail (yea hashtags in a blog)

The flight was quick and easy and we arrived in Miami nice and early to pick up the rental car and head to the condo we had rented through AirBnB for our stay.  It was a great choice only 10mins from the race site and down town Miami while not being quite as nestled in the hubbub that is Miami. Having never been here before, I was a bit unprepared for the "life" as Miamians (Miamiites? Miamian peoples?) know it.

Saturday's events were...uhhh, uneventful...for the most part.  The only things we really did were pick up our bikes from TriBikeTransport, attend the pro meeting, and drop off our bikes in transition.  It really was quite simple. Well, without going into too much detail, it was simple.

The morning of the race dawned nice and early (but not too early due to the 7:25 am start time!); Jenny and I headed over to the race site and got situated.  The pros all assembled (a humongous and competitive international pro field) on the dock and jumped into the Bay about 10 minutes before the start time.


Swim - 29:01 (26th)

The line for the swim (two buoys about 25m apart marked the start "line") was full of dudes and I positioned myself roughly in the middle in the second row a little to the left of Tyler Jordan (who was also down from CLT to do his last race of the season).  The horn sounded and a maelstrom erupted on the start line.

The course was a rough triangle with 4 right hand turns.  The chaos arrived at the first buoy after about 400m and made the sharp turn at which point the pack strung out a little bit. I was still behind some feet but was losing contact a bit, sliding back through the second pack.  It's sort of an odd happening; as I'm swimming on the right side getting slowly passed on my left I kept looking for an opportunity to slide in on someone's feet but the line was relatively unending.  I don't really enjoy being an a-hole in the first 30 minutes of a race so I didn't want to push someone else off of feet they had probably fought hard for, so maybe that makes me a wuss.  Be that as it may, the race continued.

Once we passed the second turn we entered some choppier, less protected water.  I was fending for myself mostly at this point and I realized my goggles were filling with water.  I didn't really want to stop and fix them because it would mean losing time and then at a certain point I decided they needed to be emptied. So I did this and then got back to swimming. I realized, however, that they were not fixed so I quickly stopped again and realized when I had jumped in off the dock (a 4-5' drop into the water) my goggle straps had risen to basically the top of my head.  I pulled them down, giving my goggles adequate suction against my eye sockets again and carried onwards towards the finish.

In the last 200 meters or so I was passed by the lead females but I could not tell if Jenny was one of them. I exited the water and ran to transition.


T1 - 2:09

This was a pretty long run and Leanda Cave passed me.  When I got to my bike I looked back down the line and realized Jenny was right there as well. We said "what's up" and got along with our business.  I didn't have the fastest of transitions so I got on the bike a little behind the pack of 3 ladies (but ahead of Jenny).

Bike - 2:11:39 (up to 20th)

The bike started out meandering through the city to get to the more open roads west of Miami downtown. I passed Leanda, Laurel and eventually caught up to LG, Magali and Doc Stevens. It took about 15 miles to be in front of them for real but they eventually dropped off past the aid station. At that point Tyler came roaring past me in a rush of disc noise.  I couldn't tell if he was "making a statement" (i.e. making a pass that discouraged me from following) or if he had genuinely been riding that hard.

I kept my watts steady and once he made it to the front of the "train" (there was nobody in sight in front of me until Tyler passed) he slowed a bit about 100 meters ahead of me. Holding power I eventually made my way up to him as we passed another guy.

The turnaround arrived much quicker than I expected.  I was excited for it because I knew it would mean turning around and experience the sweet, sweet victory of a nice wind into which we'd been riding for 28 miles.

I went past Tyler just past the turnaround, put my head down and focused on keeping my watts where they had been.  Fortunately, this meant an extended period of time where I was going quite fast. At some point during the back stretch I had a 40k (24.8 mile) split of 52:53 or thereabouts.  That's moving.

I looked back at one point well into the second half and didn't see anybody close so I figured maintaining the watts must have been a good thing.  I felt good and comfortable and had been taking in fuel and water as usual so moved onwards.  In the last 10k or so the roads got back to the city streets and lots of traffic so it was a bit sketchier than on the way out so there was a bit of a slowdown in speed and drop in watts.

My stomach actually felt a bit funny at this point and I was feeling a tad "bloated" so I wasn't quite as excited as I had been 30-40 minutes prior (I was 1:11 on the way out and about 1:00 on the way back).  I hopped off the bike at the dismount line and made my way into transition.


T2 - 2:04

Leaning over once I racked my bike my right adductor cramped quite fiercely.  While stretching that out my left lower quad also cramped.  I was a bit of a mess.  I had to stand there for a bit before attempting to put on my socks and shoes.  This is usually a bad sign in T2...

Run - 1:44:15 (back to 22nd MPro and 28th OA Male)

Well, the run started off slowly and just stayed that way.  There isn't much to say. I got off the bike ahead of some people but pretty much all of them passed me. I made a porto stop around mile 4 which is something I should've done before the swim.  Lesson learned on that front...again. I kept running the whole time, which I was fairly proud of. A couple of years ago I would've quit so I was pleased that finishing was something that drove me forward. I didn't want to end the year with a DNF as I've done in 2013 and 2012.  That is lame. So I finished. Not much more to say about it!

4:29:xx overall. I can't say I'm entirely pleased with this race.  I am not sure what went wrong with my nutrition choices or my lack of pre-race bathroom stop. I just know that even if I had a perfect race (had I run to what I was capable of maybe a 4:05ish) I STILL would not have hit the 8% re-qualification standard due to the German have an astoundingly fast time on the course. That is all a hypothetical situation of course, but I think realistic.

Anyway, now it is time for some time away from triathlon and a re-focus for 2015! Onwards and upward!



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Not sure what to blog about

Probably my favorite shot from CHOO, wish those cars weren't there!

There have been some notable happenings since the last time I blogged. I do love blogging - don't get me wrong - but I run out of things to talk about. While this may be a surprise to you it is very frustrating for me. I don't really write "for" anybody (except You, yes you!) but I do like keeping a regular schedule of blogging. I pride myself on trying to maintain some sense of predictability and some unique viewpoints all expressed in relatively well written and grammar'd 'murrican English.

So when I find myself at a loss for what is worth putting into the blogger.com template and firing up the "publish" button I am a bit sad.  Right now...I am sad.

The last time I posted I was about to head to Chattanooga.  There was an IM there.  It was a good day for almost everybody I knew, though most of my personal interest was invested in Lori Ackerman's race.  It was very satisfying to see somebody work hard, make smart decisions and be rewarded with a great race on race-day.

There were many others I knew who had great races and I don't feel compelled to list all of them because chances are if you are "friends" with me (on Facebook, Twitter, etc... a REAL friend I mean) you've had all the races plastered on your news feed from the past week.  Nonetheless, I was proud of everyone. That is an understatement.

Watching the race solidified my plans for next year a bit.  I'm gonna be honest with all of you.  I feel - for the most part - as though triathlon itself is no longer a "challenge" per se.  I know that on the face of it that sounds rather presumptuous but I mean that prior sentence in the context of something other than the obvious.

At this point I do not feel as though sprints, olympics or halves are a "challenge" in and of themselves.  The challenge for me is to try and win or set new standards of my own capabilities. I am always trying to go FASTER.  With IM, however, I am simply trying to finish.  For various reasons my attempts in 2010 and 2013 failed. I do not like some THING being better than me.  Seeing all those people last Sunday conquer their fears and realize their "dreams" makes me want to have that same feeling. I just do not get it at a half anymore.

That is not say I do not feel "accomplished" when I finish a half having raced my guts out, it's simply stating that just FINISHING the damn IM seems to be the challenge for me. I like challenges. I don't like things being "better" than me. I am lazily trying to beat things. That is what I do. Oh you have a fit problem? I will beat it. You sent me a long email?? I WILL SEND YOU A LONGER ONE! It's what I do.

So, that's a hint of what's to come in 2015. Gonna be a nice little variety.

1) Cat 2 Upgrade
2) Win some XTERRAs
3) Finish a stupid IM
4) Don't get hit by any more cars

Not necessarily in that order or priority.

In the short term I am going to attempt to get some more training in before Miami 70.3 because that is less than three weeks away!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Keys to a good IM

I have been fortunate enough to attempt 3 IM distance events in my "career" as a triathlete. Unfortunately ... I only finished the first one. That's alright though as each race has served as a valuable learning experience, from which I have grown as a person and as an athlete.

I know quite a few people getting ready to do an IM event this weekend. For some it will be their first and for some it will be one of many.

Here is some advice for you from me, an extremely "experienced" IM distance athlete (please realize that is sarcastic); take it for what it's worth:

1) Be patient

This applies to almost every facet of your race, but most of all it applies to your bike. I would always rather finish a race having run my guts out because I properly paced the bike than finish a race aching for the finish line with every fiber of my being, run-walking zombie shuffles between aid stations and crashing into the med tent.  Personally.

2) Be smart

I remember Brian telling me once a while ago about the line you flirt with on the bike.  Being smart doesn't just mean exercising intelligence and general smarts (although that's where it all begins) it means planning ahead and exercising good judgement.  Decisions you make on the bike can have dramatic effects on your run.  Biking just a little bit too hard (20 watts is only worth about 6 minutes over an IM distance race, FYI) can mean a 60+ minute swing in your run time.  A good run can vary but will exist along a much narrower spectrum of possibilities than a "bad" run.  (trust me, I know this one from personal experience)

3) Be friendly

In general, a friendlier outlook on your experience is going to lead to you having a better race.  If someone is drafting off you just ask them if they're enjoying the view and move along with your day.  They are not affecting you...too much.  If a volunteer doesn't do a perfect job of handing you a cup or a gel...oh well. They are volunteers! There's about 100 yards worth of other opportunities to get your much needed gel or water or whatever.

4) Be relaxed

It's a long ass day. Relaxation is the key to happiness.  "Maintaining an even strain." Controlling your valleys and your peaks and managing them effectively is imperative. Ultimately, less tension is a good thing.  It helps your bike position, it helps your run mechanics, and it helps your sweet positive outlook.

5) Be ready

Seizing opportunities when they present themselves is important.  In the swim look out for some good feet and use those things like there is no tomorrow.  Be ready to adjust if necessary.  I hate reading race reports where people say things like: "I added at least 200 yards with that course mistake (i.e. following bad feet." I hate reading them for several reasons, the most glaring of which adding is that 200 yards is a ridiculous, outlandish estimate.  Be ready to dodge someone at an aid station on the bike as those will likely be chaotic.  Or bottles. Potentially volunteers. Spectators.  All that. Be ready.  Be ready to change and adapt your race plan and strategy if necessary.  Drop some nutrition? No big deal, plenty of opportunities to refill if you think about it logically and rationally. Forget to take in calories for 2 hours on the bike? No worries, plenty of time to dig yourself out of that hole, especially since you'll probably be walking quite a bit on the first part of the marathon.  Cramping on the bike? Oh well, you went too hard for your abilities. Be ready to slow down and change your race plan.

6) Celebrate

No, not just at the finish line.  Celebrate your day because it is simply an extension of the long (LONG) journey you have taken just to get there.  For most people, the Ironman itself is just a culmination of a very long march through countless training hours, misery, excitement, camaraderie, fatigue, elation, rain, snow, heat, sweat...need I go on? Celebrate that you get to be out there, paying for this extremely expensive sport and lifestyle, enjoying the greatest things available to us: the outdoors. Be happy your are healthy (well, hopefully you arrived at the finish line healthy and not burnt out, but we all know most do not...).

No matter what have fun, enjoy the experience and celebrate your journey. Those are the keys to any good race.  And life, for that matter...

/drops mic

"Having fun" in first triathlon

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend of Racing

Let's get straight to it: there was quite a bit of good racing done this weekend.

Saturday:

12:15 pm - Masters 30+ Cat 3/4 race

Masters is an odd categorization in cycling. I've never quite figured out why it exists.  There are already categories, what is the purpose of adding "masters" to the designation? But it seems most riders that are 35+ (Masters 30+ is a random, odd category), 45+, 55+ etc choose to race in their "masters" categories versus racing in their "categories," i.e. 1, 2, 3 and so forth.

Anyway, the race was mostly uneventful. I stayed upright and near the front until about halfway when a wreck on turn one managed to separate the field by about 100 yards.  Unfortunately, I was in the group that was separated off the back so had to work quite hard to catch back on, as nobody else seemed to want to close down the gap.  I ended up dragging a couple of people with me and was a bit gassed by the time I actually got to the finishing straight.  I ended up crossing the line in roughly 8th overall, but due to being lumped together in one mass start with all cats (Masters 30+ 40+ 50+) I actually crossed 3rd Masters 30+.  I'm not sure if I get points for that, but it was nice to walk away with a couple of bucks!

2:15 pm - Cat 3/4 Race

This race was MUCH sketchier.  In fact, I took a video of the entire race from the front end of my bike.  But, because I am a kind and caring video-maker I will not subject you to an incredibly boring 40+ minute video (which seem to populate the internet these days).  I pared it down to the last 2 laps as that is when most of the interesting stuff happens.

High Point Final Laps from James Haycraft on Vimeo.

The average age of this race was much lower, which - I think anyway - is what mainly contributed to the sketchiness.  A buddy was recently discussing bike racing in general and what it is to be younger (i.e. 18-24) vs "older" (30+).  Generally the older crowd has to get up and go to work on Monday (and earn a paycheck).  They don't want to wreck. They'll choose safety over 11th place in a field sprint (generally).  The younger crowd, however, don't really care.  Sprinting it out for 13th place matters more than waking up and going to work on Monday morning.  Usually because they don't have to go to work on Monday.  They go to school.

I say this from experience, knowing that's the way I used to race.  Not a bad thing, per se, just a different thing.

There was a near wreck in the last straight so I sat up and crossed the line. No interest here in contesting a sprint for 20th place...

Sunday:

Lake Davidson Sprint Tri

Swim 500 yards, Bike ~13 miles, Run 5k

Great pictures from the event!

There isn't a whole lot to say about this race (plus, it was over a week ago at this point) other than Derek kicked my a**.  He bolted on the swim, rode incredibly well on the bike and pulverized the run.  I was somewhere behind lagging around when I realized Ross was actually catching me quite handily mid-way through the run.  I decided to try and egg him on and make him work hard for the finish.  He closed the gap until in the last 100 yards he was only a second or two behind.  Across the line I stuck out my left foot (with timing strap on) to narrowly edge him out, congratulated him and promptly barfed all over a tree.  Three times.

The equivalent of throwing your bike
It was a good effort from all parties concerned and overall a fun day, albeit quite warm.

The following week contained several important things:

1) Rode for the first time with Bobby, who is a fantastic mountain biker, at the WWC with John and JZCapTri.  It was quite fun learning some new lines and watching someone much better than me demolish the trails.  I love riding fast and improving my skills and the day proved to be a fast one, with lots of PR's set (via strava)



2) Running
3) Getting back into a swim routine that isn't pathetic so I don't embarrass myself too much in Miami

All in all it's been a good couple of weeks.  Trying to get back to being consistent and string together some nice weeks in the lead-up to Miami!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Facebook Posts

It's not often I get involved with a discussion on facebook. Even less often do I start one myself. But yesterday's news got me thinking.

Here it is reported via Slowtwitch
Via Triathlon.com
Xtri.com
220triathlon.com

Essentially, what it boils down to is that Revolution 3 Triathlon merges with the Challenge Family of races. 

First off, here is what I posted to FB:

"Here is food for thought for those to whom the "merger" between Rev3 and Challenge is a great and promising thing:

You are celebrating failure. Rev3 WAS a great event production company (and will likely continue to be great as Challenge employees) with a grand idea and scheme that NOBODY supported. If given the choice, do you think Charlie would PREFER to continue forward as Rev3 and make a bit of money and continue to operate under his own authority and discretion? Or is he pleased to be absorbed into a bigger conglomerate, thereby mostly losing the brand he imagined, created and developed...?

The answer is obviously a bit of both, but only because money was probably funneling out of the system too fast. Am I guilty? Sure. But so are we as a community. I thought Rev3 events were great (of the 5 I did) and left very little to be desired (although the pro races were too damn competitive haha).

So yes, a celebration of failure.
Thoughts?" 

Now, at first glance it appears as though I am attempting to be argumentative; that I am "taking a stand." The majority of the feedback that occurred yesterday in various forums and social media outlets was overwhelmingly positive.  I don't really mind dissension, but that is not why I posted that. I was, in effect, trying to get people to look at it from a different perspective.

Is it a good thing? Obviously yes, it is a good thing because the other option was Rev3 lasting another year or two before folding (in my opinion) OR being purchased by a different company (i.e. WTC).  It is great that Charlie and his employees (at least most of them) will still be employees of Challenge and be able to exert their influence and direction on the brand and its races.  They are a fantastic team that truly cares about the athlete's experience.  I think it will help legitimize the Challenge brand in the US, which I believe has had mixed results depending on which race you did (Challenge AC or Challenge NA).  I think it's great that some sweet venues will continue to host races (at least in the short term).  I have only done Andersen, Williamsburg and Florida but I have thoroughly enjoyed each of those (although Andersen was not nearly as good as the other two, in my opinion. But that had nothing to do with the race and was due to the location of the race).  

I got some pretty choice thoughts from this post and here are some of my favorites:

"You are the first pro athlete I have heard on this side of the argument. My thoughts are that having races is better than not having races. Same with pro purses." - James Thorp

First of all, I am not on any SIDE. In re-reading my post I don't think I come across as being on one "side" or the other. I am on the side of better athlete experiences.  I think this will continue. Whether I am a pro or not is a moot point when considering the context of what I am saying.  OBVIOUSLY, having races is better than not having races.  Pro prize purses is a whole separate discussion.  My thoughts on that DO certainly take a side, however.  One could argue that me saying that we as a community are celebrating failure is a "stretch" but it is still true, just slightly over blown.  I said that as a discussion prompt.  Remember: "If it bleeds, it leads."

"Is it a failure of a business model or is it two businesses identifying synergies and economies of scale." - Ferg

Ultimately, it IS a failure of a business model.  If it wasn't, Rev3 would be continuing status quo (in my opinion).  Just read the interviews in all those links up there.  Charlie (Patten) sounds pretty resigned.  My guess is that he is celebrating the merger with Challenge because he gets to continue putting on great races.  In the end, this is an extremely synergistic partnership that will help both companies moving forward.  My point was not really to dispute that but to identify the underlying issue at stake.

I am not, ultimately, arguing that this is a BAD thing. I am not really arguing at all. I am trying to promote a discussion of what is happening, both on a national and local level.

Think about it this way (especially if you're local to NC/VA/SC/GA/MD etc): we have a "major" player in event production, Setup Events.  For longer than I've been around they have been the go-to triathlon production company if you live in this area.  In fact, at one time I believe they were touted as putting on the most triathlons in the country (correct me if I am wrong).  Athletes got very "used" to the Setup "experience."  I can really only speak to the NCTS, but that's part of what made those races so desirable.  There were questionable decisions made (as there are with any company that is selling a product) and over the past 12-18 months the athlete experience has diminished (in my opinion) for a variety of reasons.

From that has emerged Jones Racing Company, founded by the two people who had been running NCTS division of Setup for quite some time.  To be honest, they were what really drove the positive experience that WAS NCTS for most people, even if those people didn't realize it at the time.  Now, JRC is putting on and/or timing a lot of races in NC. Triathlons, running races...mud runs even? Anyway, the triathlons (which is ultimately my concern) have not been particularly well-supported.  People ultimately speak with their dollars and, so far anyway, the words have been "I'm still fine with Setup."  I think that will change over the next 12-18 months quite a bit, but time will tell.

Other triathlon production companies include (but are not limited to) Start2Finish (emerging in NC but long-standing in TN), FS Series (mostly in Triangle area), Trivium Racing (run by a very experienced triathlete), etc.  So there are several companies vying for a piece of the pie.  Who puts on the best experience? Well, I have my own opinions on that to be sure but ultimately my opinion is a biased one (as are most opinions).  It boils down to the average triathlete.  That one right in the middle of the bell curve in terms of age, ability, means, location, etc.

Each of those aforementioned companies (with the exception of Setup) are basically small business owners.  Hope and Benji, Jen and Donny, Rich Swor, etc.  They are in a competitive marketplace.  They don't do event production to make a lot of money.  They do it, presumably, because they want to provide a great athlete experience to their customers.  They are selling a product.  Each of them started with (again, I'm assuming here) a vision of what they wanted to accomplish when they set off on their own terms (or when they started from scratch).  My guess is that each of those people or groups of people would NOT be excited to merge with the other due to the competitive landscape that is local/regional event production.  Sure, maybe then they can combine forces to "take down" Setup Events (are you sensing an analogy here?) but would that REALLY be good for the community as a whole?  Competition is a good thing.  Varying experiences are a good thing.

Rev3 and Challenge provide quite different athlete experiences (N=1).  Challenge NA was a good race experience, but it wasn't REALLY a Challenge race.  It was an HFP race.  My issues with the race were the exact same as when I did Giant Eagle back in 2011.  It was the exact same feel.  That's not a bad thing, but I think HFP has some things it needs to work on at its race production.  People continually cite how AMAZING Challenge Roth is when expressing pleasure at the merger (keep in mind, I think it's a great idea).  Challenge Roth is in Germany.  That's really far from here.  In the US, Challenge has heretofore licensed their production to local teams.

Rev3 races are a fantastic experience.  They are all the same, but in a good way.  A huge and helpful team, great branding and a desire to truly provide you with the experience you paid for.  They created that company with a specific vision on what they wanted to accomplish and have, for many years, stuck to that vision.  A big and competitive professional field and a challenge age group race on challenging courses in family-friendly venues.  That's WHAT Rev3 is.  Or, I should say that's what Rev3 was.

My hope is that Rev3 continues that mantra under the Challenge umbrella and thus, to an extent, homogenizes (and improves) the Challenge experience.  I think that is what will happen.  It will be great for everybody if it does.

But at the end of the day, Rev3 was not supported adequately by the general triathlete population.  That's what made this merger (takeover, purchase, whatever) a possibility.

That is the point I am getting at, ultimately.  I am not "taking sides" nor am I arguing that this is a "bad decision" or that it is a "failure" at its core.  I think it is a failure on the part of the triathlon community to do anything other than verbally support a brand.

Everyone likes to say "Oh I totally want to do that race" or "Man that sounds like a great venue" or "Rev3 really puts on a fantastic event" or "Challenge Roth looks incredible" (I've said that) but at the end of the day you have to put your money where your mouth is.  I'm not saying I'm not guilty; one of the only reasons I have any Rev3/HFP/Challenge experience is because I raced as a pro and thereby received free entry into the race. So that perspective allows me to chastise, but I am also chastising myself.  I don't know anything about economies of scale, synergistic business opportunities, or races in Germany but I DO know triathlon. I've gotten to talk to a lot of triathletes over the past 4 years.  I'm not saying that AS a triathlete, but as a retail sales associate.  You get a much better sense of what people know and are looking for than by browsing Slowtwitch or talking to your other above average triathlete friends.

So, let's support races that do a GOOD job.  Challenge Family is hopefully going to be one of those, more so now with their new crew.  Honestly, Ironman does a pretty good job too.  Locally, I haven't done a race I haven't enjoyed in some way.

In the end, people love being a part of something that is bigger than they are by themselves. They love competition. They love getting what they expect even if they don't know that it's what they want.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Changing the guard

Changing the logging guard, that is. For many years now I have logged all of my workouts via Athleticore.com, a website created and maintained (although I did not know this when I first started using it) by Nick.

For those that read this that don't know, Nick was a collegiate XC guy turned very good triathlon turned pro triathlete in Charlotte back in the 2007-2010 time frame.  At IM Florida he set the AG course record in 2007 at 8:49 (:53 + 4:48 + 3:01 give or take a minute or two on each).  The website he designed was popular for many years in the local endurance community but has, over the past couple of years, lagged due to lack of updates.  This is no fault of Nick, who no longer is interested in maintaining and/or updating the site, which has remained remarkably stable every since I started using it.

It's fun because I can look back and see the my first ever runs (and then later bikes and swims) and my "notes" about each.  It is a good way to gain some perspective.  Despite what I think of myself now or what I am capable of I felt quite differently back in January 2008.  My goals were different, my abilities were different, and I myself was quite different.  Yet I am the same person.  It's impressive what 6.5 years will do to a guy.


But nowadays, due simply to the fact that I spend a decent amount of time on OTHER workout related sites/software (Garmin Connect, Strava, WKO+, etc) it is not often I find myself logging my workouts via athleticore.  Consequently, I have made the very final and bittersweet decision to part ways.  My workouts will exist on athleticore (forever?) for all to see and mock but Garmin Connect will be what I use henceforth.

I know everybody was pretty anxious to hear where I would be taking my talents for the rest of this season and beyond, so I just wanted to make sure to fill in the crowds.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jimmie Johnson Foundation Cane Creek Triathlon

Besides having one of the longest names of any triathlons I have had the great pleasure to participate in, this race was loaded with talent, intrigue and possibilities.  Besides taking place in the bustling North Carolina metropolis of Waxhaw, it was set to start at 6pm on a Tuesday evening.

It is not often one gets to participate in a triathlon (a real one) on a Tuesday.  It's not often that triathlon is also at 6pm.  So combining those two things, a beach start and the promise of shaking babies and kissing hands with some of the biggest motorsport names in the area was just too much for little old me.

At the CMS TT last week I got the chance to talk to Derek and he said he was going to race as well. So this meant we'd get to throw down again after going 1-1 at Stumpy Creek and Challenge NA.  The Big German was signed up as well as Zack Capets so I figured there'd be some good competition even on a Tuesday night race.

The day of the race dawned bright and relatively early and after most (most?) of a workday I made my way down to Cane Creek Park, which takes approximately forever to get to no matter where you are coming from (unless, by some awful coincidence, you LIVE down there! Sorry Starkey and Fletch).

It rained virtually the entire drive and while setting up it continued to rain.  Luckily, by the time the race started it had been clear and dry for about an hour which meant that the roads were, for the most part, dry.  This is a good thing as it means

1) Not unsafe
2) I don't have to clean my bike

I got to say hello to various people doing the race that I've gotten to know and got in the way of some of the shots the videographers were taking of Jimmie, who racked next to me.

He's won some stuff too
Actually, he was in transition first but I put my bike next to his just to make sure everyone saw how much better looking a Cervelo P5 is when compared to a Trek Speed Concept 9 series ;)

Obligatory Side Shot (OSS)
 I got to speak a little bit with Josh Wise, who did Ironman Cozumel last year (really well) and had just done a 4:40 at Racine 70.3 a month or so prior.  He has become quite internet famous lately through his sponsorship via Reddit and Dogecoin.  I am probably not getting the "chain of events" correctly but that is probably because I am bad at sponsorship searches and I don't quite understand cryptocurrency.

Unfortunately I don't have any candid shots of myself from pro photogs
Landon Cassil was also in attendance and doing his second ride (total) on his brand new bike, the Cervelo P5. In spite of having the most casually swiped aside haircut Landon is pretty fast and has a great position on his new bike.  In time, perhaps the student will become the master.  In the meantime, however, I will let him continue to drive his Sprint Cup car with little to no input from me on going fast in that realm.

Google image search is an amazing engine
After making my way to the front of the start line (beach mass start) the horn sounded and we took off like a shot.

Swim - 6:55 - 2nd

I knew Derek was going to go full gas and try and drop me with that extra swimmer gear he has. What I did not realize, however, was how much FASTER a guy to my right was going to take it out.  This guy had like a 10 yard gap in the first 10 yards.  It was pretty impressive.  Unfortunately for him, by the time we rounded the first buoy I was slapping him all over the place before moving around him to latch onto Derek's feet, who came past on my left.  That guy blew up, REALLY HARD.  Oh well.  Through the middle section I was able to stick on Derek's feet but by the time we rounded the last buoy he was putting some gap on me and I exited the water about 10 yards back.

T1 - :24.5

T1 was a pretty long run up a hill to a parking lot (I think the timing mat must have been past the beach due to how short T1's time was and how long the swim's time was) but both Derek and I made our way through it expeditiously.

Bike - 31:01 - 1st

Derek got out a wee bit ahead of me but I passed him as he was getting into his shoes.  Fortunately for me, Derek let me lead him a bit as we made our way around the rolling hills of southern NC.  He came past as we were going up a hill about 5 minutes (ish) into the ride.  I felt strong today, however, so unlike Stumpy Creek I did not "let" him get away from me.

For the next 20 or so minutes we made some turns, attacked some hill, and turtled some flat sections as we plowed our way through the bike course.

"Turtling"
I decided to pass Derek on a downhill, which is a bit silly but it seemed to be the place where I was most at an advantage over him.  What I did not realize, however, is that right after I passed him there was a right turn back onto Harkey Rd to signal the last 2 minutes of the bike course.  D'oh! I made my way up the climb and hopped off the bike (after bunny hopping two prodigious speed bumps) and made my way back into transition just ahead of Derek.

T2 - :19.6

I had a quick T2 and got out on the run course just ahead of the comp.

Run - 18:25 - 2nd

I headed out on the run at a good pace and it wasn't until the first turnaround (there were two turnarounds per lap and there were two laps) that I got a chance to see how much time I had on Derek.  It wasn't much, so I kept on pushing. Along the way I saw Steve Hall in 3rd, Binny chasing in 4th (on Ironman Legs), and then Chad sandwiched in between Josh and Jimmie (Nascar drivers apparently make for good athletes, in contradiction to the rumors).  I felt good throughout the first lap and continued on pace through the second. It was fun coming through transition area over 4 times throughout the run course as it made it a bit more interesting from a spectator standpoint.  Unfortunately for the Nascar drivers, however, there were multiple right-hand turns which meant that for each one they had to make 3 lefts.  It slowed them down some, I am sure.

Derek did not slow down, however, so I was forced to continue pushing throughout the second lap crossing the line with a relatively narrow margin of victory over DeKidwell.

Overall I finished in 57:05 to Derek's 57:42 and really enjoyed the race.  There was obviously more "attention" on this race due to the involvement of the JJF, JJ himself and his high profile driver/racer/crew buddies.  It was definitely pretty cool to see them get involved in the community itself.  Unfortunately for them, they don't get the chance to race particularly often (in triathlons) due to the fact that they have no off-weekends.

Hopefully this type of race can take hold but if it was something other than JFF I might be skeptical of its ability to draw a crowd.  Over 100 participants raced, which is definitely impressive considering the location and the timing.  Plus, the prizes were outstanding. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that the winners got loaded up pretty nicely and the category podiums did well also. Danielle and I also got the opportunity to spray champagne everywhere which is not something that happens often when you are a triathlete at a local race.  JJ himself even posted an instagram video on his own page on instagram AND on Facebook! Wow, the fame!!!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Powermeters have ruined riding bikes

Every good story draws you in some way, preferably within the first page or two.  I don't have a couple of pages to ramble on so I had to draw in my reader with a good title.  I've been riding a bicycle since roughly 2002.  In the scheme of things, that's not a particularly long time.  I have not been riding consistently that whole time either; there were times in college when I took a break from cycling to "focus on my academics" (hehe) and didn't ride with the team much.  There were times after college where I "focused on work" (hehe) and didn't exercise at all.

BUT, the point of it is that I've been riding a bike for ~13 years.  I have enjoyed all different types of riding:

1) Riding by myself
2) Riding with friends
3) Racing with friends
4) Racing with enemies
5) Mountains
6) Trail riding with friends
7) Trail riding with animals
8) Cyclo cross racing
9) Criteriums, time trials, circuit racing, road races, omniums, prologues
10) Naked mountain biking across the Sunken Gardens
11) Self contained long distance riding (camping+)
12) You name it


The common bond through ALL of that is that riding a bicycle is just plain FUN.  I remember one summer between freshman and sophomore year I wanted to get better at sprinting so I would ride my bike on the levee out and back almost every day (1-1.5hrs) and pick 3 or 4 signs and entertain myself by holding little sprint competitions...with myself.  Now that's fun. It's like playing with legos when you're younger but all of a sudden those crazy cool genius interlocking bricks become mad dashes across an imaginary line while on two wheels with shaved legs.  It's basically the same thing.

TDEA 2000something

Then there were those rides where you and your friends picked teams, sprinted for lines and "mountain" top finishes, attempted breakaways, attacked each other until your hands tingled and basically made it one huge "measuring" contest (I don't need to say what we were measuring, do I?).

Then a funny thing happened.  Everyone started buying powermeters.  Everyone started having coaches. The "level" of talent was still the same but the "level" of taking-it-seriously had jumped a couple of notches.  All of a sudden the normal weekend ride went from:

3.5 - 4hrs of "don't get dropped"

to

4hr - 50aer + 5x(12mins threshold + 3ez) + rest aer

On the surface those may not look too different to the average reader, but the underlying message became: this workout is more important than riding with friends.  Because your friends would have different workouts and maybe didn't want to do yours with you or maybe couldn't and maybe their intervals were different and the route you chose wasn't conducive to their intervals (say if they had vo2 instead of threshold or tempo instead) and blah and blah and blah.

blah blah blah right into holy sunburn!

Believe you me: I am completely aware of my own involvement in this trend.  Back when I got my first powermeter in 2010 I didn't really know what any of the numbers meant.  I didn't care.  It took several months of riding to begin to understand the implications of each number that popped up on the ol' Garmin.

And then, slowly but surely, things started to change.  I began to prefer the KNOWN quantities that were my OWN power numbers versus the unknown quantities of the group.  It is too "easy" to give in to one's own workout because you KNOW that workout.  You KNOW the intensities and the suffering and the duration and the difficulty.  You KNOW that. It is yours. A group, however, brings the unknown back on the table.  When will he attack? How strong is he right now? Can I actually hold the wheel? Hopefully she doesn't drop me...etc.

This has created a world in which - for us anyway - our group rides are:

50-60 minutes of riding "aerobic" together

1-3 hours of intervals where we will see each other every once in a while

50-60 minutes of riding "aerobic" together

That's great and all if your only goal is self-improvement. If YOU want to be the best that YOU can be then yes, you need to suffer by yourself at your exact zones with your exact workout for the exact length of time you need to be doing it. But for most people, they could maintain a greater level of enjoyment if they just pretended to not have a powermeter 50% of the time.

The other 50% of the time wear 100 layers because it is SO cold

Just act like it doesn't exist.  Ride 1 or 2 days a week without caring what it says or what it means. Turn Saturdays into a group ride day where you can either meander along and actually look at the stuff around you or drill each other into the ground until you're slobbering all over yourself.

Powermeters are fantastic training tools, but paying attention to it more than anything else is going to ruin your enjoyment of riding a bicycle for the reasons bicycles are so fantastic.  Trust me.

I'm a trustworthy guy, right?


Friday, August 8, 2014

To Pro or not to Pro

Here's your little story for the week.  I couldn't just let it lie at a video, could I?

Weekend of Trails from James Haycraft on Vimeo.

Shameless embed.

Now on to the original topic.  Triathlon is a fairly unique sport.  It accepts all comers. EVERYONE can find competition and the fulfillment of personal goals in triathlon.  The only requirement is a decently thick wallet and a willingness to work hard towards your goals.

I like that about triathlon.  I like that you get out what you put in.  People that don't reach their goals simply don't understand the right way to work and have consequently created a barrier or they just don't want to work hard enough.


Ashley zips me up B2B 2009

Want to qualify for Kona? Well, you gotta work your butt off. You may need to get a little lucky.  You need to have everything go right on one, long day.

Want to set a PB at an oly? Well, choose the right course and train hard.

Want to lose 30 pounds? Well, work your butt off and eat smart.  (or my philosophy: work your butt off and "if the furnace is hot enough ANYTHING will burn!)

Want to race as a professional against the best endurance athletes in the world?

White Lake Half 2011

Well, you can.  You've got to get really fast and then choose the right race and qualify for your elite card.

I qualified for my pro card at a race back in October 2011.  That year I had done a combination of things:

1) I trained, a LOT.
2) I picked good races
3) I got lucky

I was pretty happy, to say the least. When I first started working with Brian I listed racing as a pro as being one of my main goals. The dream of being able to "realize your potential" in the sport is a fairly tantalizing one.  Brian, in that year, had taken me from a decent age group athlete to a better than decent age group athlete who qualified for his pro card.

Being a "pro" in triathlon simply means that you can race in the professional field at a race that has one and that you are eligible to compete for prize purses.  So at your "regular" or "local" race where there is maybe an "open" division or just "age group" you are a pro but you race against everybody.  In a bigger race where there is a pro field you compete against the likes of Terrenzo, Starykowicz, McDonald, Limkemmann, etc.

Augusta 70.3 2011

You basically have three years of "eligibility" when you are a professional.  You renew your USAT Elite license every year just like a normal license but you have three years where your qualification results mean you don't have to "requalify." Now, most pros generally "requalify" without really thinking about it. The pros that make money in races, anyway.

Little old me, however, has NOT re-qualified to race as a pro (yet).  I have done relatively few races as a pro in my three years, due in no small part to the fact that it's just really expensive to travel around and race beyond our little "sphere."

2012 - Giant Eagle 5150, Rev3 Andersen SC, Rev3 Florida
2013 - New Orleans 70.3, Rev3 Williamsburg, Rev3 Florida, Ironman Cozumel
2014 - New Orleans 5150, Challenge New Albany, Miami 70.3?

Rev3 Florida 2012

As you can see, there are a few things in common here:

1) Races within driving distance (according to my standards of driving distance anyway)
2) Races in my hometown
3) Races in our region
4) Races that offer free entry to professional athletes
5) Races that are cheap to get to
6) Only 1 or 2 "IM" events in a year so side-stepping the exorbitant WTC Pro Fee (many hundreds of pros pay this but how many pros actually GET prize money, hmm?)

I DNF'd at Giant Eagle, Rev3 FL '12, IM Cozumel so obviously did not re-qualify there.  I have set personal bests at the half distance at Rev3 FL '13 and CNA '14 in non-wetsuit legal races for pros but didn't re-qualify at either of those (thanks Jesse Thomas and Eric Limkemmann!! haha). I beat all of the elite amateur racers at CNA '14 (who also got to wear wetsuits), all of whom qualified to apply for their pro card.

Shipwreck Sprinternational 2012

I have gotten to the point where I am not intimidated by racing anyone from North Carolina. I am confident in my strengths and weaknesses and how far I've come.

Yet if nothing changes after this year I will no longer hold an elite license.  I will be racing as Male 30-34 in every big race I enter. I can potentially qualify for Kona. I could qualify for 70.3 WC. I could qualify to race as a pro...again.

But...why?

Rev3 Florida 2013

At this point, with the changes announced recently by WTC, what is the POINT of me racing pro?

Let's start by listing some pros of racing pro (haha, see what I did there?)

1) First to start and first to finish - easily the best part as the course is the cleanest and I am done the quickest.
2) Best spots in transition
3) Ability to sign up for races as late as desired even when sold out (this only really holds relevance for Ironman events)
4) The prospect of free entries for elite athletes (really the only races that are truly "free" now are Challenge races and an odd race here or there depending on race director).

Cons:

1) Racing alone
2) More pressure on yourself
3) More pressure from others to live up to "pro" status
4) Having a relatively difficult time with "goal setting"

That last point is kind of nebulous, but in my mind it basically means that generally as a pro it seems difficult to establish concrete GOALS.  That's part of what I like about it but also part of what I don't like. I like just getting better, but sometimes it's hard to maintain direction, focus and motivation when there is nothing CONCRETE to your year.

I am sure I am forgetting some but those are some points that have been on my mind recently.

I am almost 100% positive I am going to sign up for and do Miami 70.3 because I would like to give myself the CHOICE of racing as a pro or not in 2015. I don't want to feel forced into one decision just because I resigned myself to my "fate."

IM Louisville 2010

At Miami (which has a prize purse greater than $5000) I will have to come within 8% of the winner's time to be eligible to "requal" for my pro card.  My guess is that will require a very, very fast time (the winner last year went 3:41 which would mean to be within 8% of that you'd have to go about 3:58 or so).  Is it realistic? I am not sure. Can I go 4 hours? I do believe that it's possible. If you think I am blowing smoke up my own ass, then you are welcome to that. I genuinely believe that if I put a good swim, bike and run split I am capable of doing at or very near 4 hours.  Then I just have to see where the chips fall!

If you COULD race pro, would you? I'll leave you with that.