Friday, November 6, 2015

Bike Fit Blog

A few thoughts on triathlon bike fitting

I’m going to go out on a limb with this one.  It’s going to be polarizing, I’m not gonna lie.  But keep in mind this is simply my opinion.  (of course, it happens to be the RIGHT one)

Just kidding about what’s in parentheses.

When I think about cycling in a triathlon context, I ALWAYS ask myself one – very simple – question during contemplation of products or services:

Is this going to make me faster? (or “is this going to make my life on the bike easier”)

Although to be honest I also ask myself if it looks really awesome and in that case I am willing to make an exception to the aforementioned mantra.  When I say “faster” I am really only using that word because it is easier and conveys more of what I’m trying to say. But I don’t mean that something has to make me faster, I really just want to know if it saves me something.  Does it create less drag? Does it integrate better my bike and nutrition? Is it an aerodynamically neutral option? My goal is to make me on the bike a more efficient package.  So everything I do revolves around that thought process.

 My body on my bike (so, my “fit”) make up 90% of the system’s aerodynamic drag while I am racing (or riding, obviously).  In many ways, my body is my main limiter to me going “faster.” (double entendre, wow!). So physiologically speaking, I need to train. I need to get fitter. But the other way I can get faster is by addressing the efficiency of my position, my bike, and my equipment and apparel choices.

Every position that is catered to triathlon (henceforth referred to as an “aero position”) should be juggling three separate goals:

  1. Aerodynamic/Efficient
  2. Comfortable/Sustainable
  3. Powerful

A fitting should be able to address all three of those things if your fitter has the experience, confidence, and knowledge of how to make all three of those things happen to you.  Too often I have seen positions that “adapt” a rider to their saddle.  There is no mention of body awareness or long-term goals and evolution when it comes to that rider’s fit.  Setting up the contact points in a fit and following program driven (yes, I’m talking about computerized fit systems) angle and distance measurements is barely even half the battle.  In fact, in the wrong hands, it’s a step back in the battle against good triathlon fittings. You can “hold” your body in numerous ways while having the same contact points.  So from a semantics standpoint, which part is your “fit?” Is it the contact points being set up for you? Or is it a discussion on how to hold your body and what to focus on to engage those sorts of proprioreceptive adjustments?

Well, at Inside Out Sports it is definitely both. It all starts at the saddle.  Finding the right saddle that properly supports your seat bones while eliminating soft tissue pressure and allows for the proper pelvic tilt to hold a sustainable, aerodynamic aero position can be – literally – life changing (and this time I truly mean literally as I have had people tell me that the right saddle was life altering).  This can open up an entirely new world of fit possibilities that many people just don’t know exist.  You CAN be aerodynamic. You CAN be comfortable in an aerodynamic position. You CAN be powerful AND aerodynamic. Many have always operated under the assumption that those are mutually exclusive things.

All it takes is working with a fitter who understands that dynamic and can relate it to you, your history, and your future goals as far as racing is concerned. Well, that and practice. Lots and lots and lots of PRACTICE.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ironman Louisville, or the "what if?" blog

So, where to start? That is, without a doubt, the hardest part of writing ANYthing.  For me anyway; I'm not sure if this idea holds true for other writers.  But figuring out that place to start and trying to say a lot without saying a lot, implying meaning and tone, and letting the reader figure out where this is going ... well that's tough.

You can gather a little bit in that initial paragraph.  James is having those "feelings" things right now.  He probably has been for a while after last Sunday.  It's really difficult to figure out WHY I feel the need to write a "race report" even though I did not manage to finish the race.  What is there to report on? No finish line was crossed. Placings in each segment don't matter.  How the swim went or the early stages of the bike, do they matter?  If no finish line is crossed...what's the point?

Well, a valid line of reasoning for someone after a defeat at the hands of IM perhaps, but not for James Haycraft. Yes, I wrote about myself in a blog about myself in the 3rd person. You shall like it.

I'll start like any regular old triathloning blog: a recap of how training went leading up to the race.

Training went really, really well.  I have never, EVER felt as focused on the process and the specificity that is IM training as I did this summer and early fall under David Tilbury Davis' coaching. It's difficult to describe those differences to be honest, but suffice it to say that when you are not maxing out your availability you can focus more on each individual movement and requirement as it relates to your specific goal. My goal this year was obviously singularly focused: crush Louisville.  So many a weekend was spent riding 4-5 hours with as much time as possible IN the aero bars and at or above race pace.  Riding in Davidson was a great analogue for riding in Louisville: constant rollers and long, uninterrupted stretches of mostly smooth rural pavement.  I had great and willing people to ride with who graciously let me sit on the front most of the time (thanks Jenny, Andrew, and occasionally Causebrook!).  I felt very, very prepared for the bike portion...unlike in past attempts where I rode my road bike 95% of the time in training (my OWN choice).

I wasn't running a ton of miles, relatively speaking, but I was running them really, really well.  Triple run days, some double run days, and one traditional "long run" left me feeling really prepared to run 26.2 at a fairly expeditious pace.  I remember feeling extremely "fit" in Cozumel back in 2013, but not really well prepared for the specifics of the race distance in particular.  Maybe it was mostly mental, but even with the benefits of hindsight it's tough to say for sure.

I had some ambitious, but realistic goals.  All goals are conditional however, as fitness really only gets you TO the start line.  Once the race begins you have to control the process of the race and not let it control you.  I can imagine Yogi Berra making some IM triathlon quote (you didn't know he was a triathlete...?) that is something like: "IM is 50% fitness, 50% mental, and 50% nutrition."

I feel fine describing my goals because, well, I was so far from hitting them (overall) that I could say almost anything and you'd have to at least pretend to believe me!

Swim - I was confident I'd swim under an hour, but beyond that I really had no idea.  The state of the current, where I started, wetsuit or not, etc.  That all played into it.  But if the current was strong I figured maybe 50-53, if it was not there maybe 55-58, and if the river started flowing in reverse then I'd just be praying to make it to the finishing ladder...

Bike - Goal was to average around 200-210 watts AP overall, with a stronger first section (220+).  I had played with Best Bike Split a little bit and I was expecting a ride of in between 4:55-5:05, give or take.  I figured this would set me up to be within range of the top 3-5 off the bike.

Run - Always the big question mark, eh?  Well, I felt PREPARED to run 6:35-6:45 for a while off the bike.  Not the whole thing, mind you...but a decent chunk of it.  I hoped a 3:00 +/- 5 minutes was in the cards.

So all in all, that would've added up to a pretty quick overall time, a huge PR, a likely Kona spot, and potentially an overall win or top 3.

So yes, ambitious.  But I'm not one to blow smoke up anyone's a** and I honestly felt that those goals were within my realm of possibilities if I was able to control the PROCESS of the race.

Anyway, the plan was set.  The training was done.  The drive was completed.  Race day prep was over.  Time to put the pedal to the metal.

Zach and I walked to swim start and got in line and as the morning progressed we gradually made ourselves race morning ready.  Put on the wetsuit, stuffed the backpack, got the goggles ready.  The line moved steadily until the race officially started and it was ON.

Swim - 56:32 (9th M 30-34)

I managed to squeeze out a quick pee as I was running down the dock to jump into the gloriously beautiful Ohio River.  Unfortunately it never departed my wetsuit so there was a bladder's worth of pee just sitting somewhere in my triathlon apparel.  I hoped that somewhere within the 2.4 miles of swimming it would make its way out of my leg hole.  Dare to dream..

I jumped into the water off the dock, making sure my goggles stayed on, and began swimming up the channel.  There is really only one word for what this portion of the swim was like: chaos.

People were, literally, EVERYwhere.  I was going all over the place to navigate through swimmers as I was swimming a decent clip faster than most that were in the water ahead of me.  I had started my swim at about 7:40, so roughly 10 minutes of swimmers were ahead of me.  Sighting was somewhat difficult as we were headed into the sun but the sun had yet to rise above the treeline so it wasn't as bad as it would have been had I started 20-30 minutes later.

In my head we were turning around the island that kind of separates the "river" from the "channel" but as it turned out we were going much further up the river than I had originally expected.  This part was quite difficult to sight as - if I remember correctly - there was some fog or haze sitting on the river.  It took me a while to find the official turn buoy but once I did I was happy to be done with about the first third of the swim.

The rest of the swim was much, much easier as now people were able to spread out and there was much less traffic in general.  To be honest, I didn't "notice" a whole lot of current as I went downriver.  The buoys seemed to be coming at me in a normal way but I was still kind of hoping for a fast time with the invisible current so I could brag about a huge swim PR.

Regardless of my desires, I was forced to continue the glorious act of swimming in the most polluted body of water in the United States (for 7 years running, what a superlative!!)

The further along I got on the swim course the less I had people around me.  Pretty late, one guy came flying past but other than that I was pretty much swimming completely solo.  I got to the swim exit to thunderous applause, but I can only assume it was general applause and not specifically meant for me.

Note that I changed the distance manually to say 2.4 miles. I wore the 220 on my wrist and it reported over 3 miles.  Unlike some other race reports, I will not blame swimming "additional mileage" on my poor sighting and open water skills. My watch was underwater for more than half of the swim, which would serve to explain the distance discrepancy...

T1 - 5:25

I didn't have a fast T1, but it wasn't too bad. I put on socks, shoes, flask, gels, helmet, sunglasses...and made my way out of the tent, which wasn't too crowded at that point.

Bike - 4:30ish....

I headed out on the bike and planned to hold my watts a wee bit higher for the first hour or so.  This would help get some separation from any crowds and set my legs up for the day.  Get them used to the pain, so to speak.  I managed to do this well and passed a good number of people all the way down River Rd.  It was quite chilly even with my apparel choice.  I had actually decided to wear my normal two piece tri kit UNDER a Pearl Izumi Tri Octane sleeved suit.  So basically in the swim I had the PI put on halfway and in transition pulled it over and installed my arms into the sleeves for the bike.  The thought was that I could simply take that off to have something a little more comfortable to run in without having to execute a full change.

But my little fingers were very cold, nonetheless.

I got to the out and back section and looked forward to seeing how far ahead the "leader" was.  I had made my way to the final climb before the pace car came the other way with several guys in tow.  I counted them as they passed and noted that I was in "6th" place (note I use quotation marks simply because of the fact that at Louisville you never know who is actually in the lead, it's why I feel like the lead bikers on the run were a bit silly) before arriving at the turnaround a minute or two later.

I came in a little more "hot" than I'd have liked but slowed smoothly and made the 180 degree turn looking just as pro as I normally do when wearing a big pointy red helmet, multicolored tightly fitting apparel, and blue shoes.  So yea, pretty amazing.

From that point I didn't pass too many more guys until I got through LaGrange and I snapped up two at once that were riding together.  I got a little lazy at this point as the course meandered through the farms and remembered the disaster that was Louisville 2010 when I went past the "spot."

By the time we got back on the main road I had to pee really, really bad. It was actually affecting more power output and my position. In my imagination, my bladder was so big that if I rolled my hips forward properly it looked like you were squeezing a balloon really, really hard.  I tried many times to meditate, focus, and let fly on whatever downhills were available but was completely unsuccessful.  I was embarrassed at my lack of pro status when it came to peeing on myself. The more pro you are, the better at peeing on yourself you are.  That's science.

As a consequence, when I arrived at the special needs station I pulled over to use a porto.  I peed, but ended up peeing a lot on myself anyway, ironically (if you've ever tried pulling a zipped up Pearl Izumi Octane suit down enough to pee, you know what I mean).  I got back on the road and was MUCH more comfortable in the aero position after that blessed relief.

I focused on getting back up the road a bit after giving some time up and was back through the farm sections in no time.  At this point, however, something started becoming a bit uncomfortable.  By the time I got back out onto the main road it was simply becoming unbearable.  It's a difficult location to describe, but it's essentially right at the point of impact from my car incident last year.  In that crash, I fractured a sacral segment on the "left" side of my tailbone (my left).  The connective tissue around there is collectively referred to as your "SI joint" and that's what had become...debilitating.  For lack of a better word. It was incredible.  I've not really experienced weakness like that before.  I could not move. I couldn't go down into my aerobars because I was afraid that I would simply fall onto the bike when transitioning between those two positions. I couldn't really pedal, because the torque application required "flexing" that area, so to speak.  I couldn't really stand up to pedal...

It was bad all around. I'm not sure why the sudden onset seemed to occur, but for the last 10-15 minutes I was riding my bike I wasn't even averaging 60 watts.  I coasted everything I could.  By the time I hit the turn off for lap 2 or, for me, going straight to the finish line in 20 miles...the whole field had passed me.  I got off the bike and asked race support if I could get a ride back.  I couldn't imagine "riding" another 20 miles.  I didn't think I could physically do it.

You can likely imagine the disappointment that comes with a decision like that.  I'm not really sure I can elaborate further with words, but suffice it to say that when you build your whole year around something and prepare exceptionally well, to have the rug pulled out from under you is very, very upsetting.  Yes, I have DNF'ed other races before.  Am I a quitter? Maybe in some senses I am but I did not feel that way about my day in Louisville.

I have definitely been upset about the race.  As I described above, I had high expectations.  I was ready to f***ing own this race.  It was mine.

But, things happen. Maybe there's a reason behind it? Maybe it's a sign that I am destined for XTERRA greatness? Well, that's what I'm certainly telling myself anyway.  I've definitely appreciated everyone's concern and messages of support, it means a lot to me.  The community is the entire reason I got into triathlon anyway, so while I didn't have a great race I had an amazing time watching others have a great race.

Then a week later I got to see more great racing at B2B, which only served to heighten both my sense of sadness over my own race but also that shared feeling of success you get when a close friend does really well.

I just wish that had been a personal feeling at the finish line on October 17th...

Until next time, IM. (which might be never, you thankless b*tch!)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why Ironman?

A long time ago (seriously, it seems like forever) I sent out a pretty large group email, the body of which is contained below (paraphrased):

...One of the things I'd really like to do is examine a bit about WHY people/athletes sign up for and - to a degree - why they almost feel compelled to sign up for it. In the sense that it is something you HAVE to do if you do triathlons.  I've encountered this mentality quite a bit at the store and talking to lots and lots and lots of varying levels of triathletes so I know it's there, but I am curious if any of you have any sort of things you'd wanna say regarding that.

Take, for example, the first IM you signed up for (or if you haven't done one yet maybe why you have or are contemplating signing up for your first one). Why did you do it? What motivated you to go down that path? What made you sign up for your most recent IM if it is not your first...? Etc

There are a large number of people I am asking this of and the full spectrum is represented, from first time never done it before to top 5 pros on this email list. So don't feel like your answer isn't "right" or "good enough" or anything. I am just interested in perspective; your answer IS the right answer because it is YOUR answer.  And all that jazz.

It was pretty vague, let's be honest. But how do you even begin to try and examine what the answer "means" without, at least, starting the conversation...? That's what ran through my head, anyway, when I posed this query to a large group of email contacts, friends, and acquaintances. 

The answers I got varied, but they didn't vary AS MUCH as I would've expected. While we all have our own personal context for why we sign up for an Ironman, the reasons all seem to be relatively similar. (more on this later)

If you wanted ME to answer the question I posed to those willing participants...well, I can't say I blame you for asking...

I began triathlon-ing in the summer of 2008. I had been running after college and once that got old and I realized I wasn't that great at it I decided to start biking again to try and relive my glory days of B and C level collegiate cycling.  I quickly realized I STILL wasn't actually ever going to be a "GREAT" cyclist and decided to complete the trifecta and pick up swimming (laps, not anti-drowning) to make sure that if I was going to do 3 sports I might as well just be average at 3 instead of average at 1.

Dude, a frame bottle? Loose clothing? WTH!!?? So not aero.

 I signed up for a triathlon that would fall in late 2008 called Patriots Internationl but unfortunately Tropical Storm Hanna dumped a bunch of weather on coastal Virginia that weekend and the swim in the James River was canceled. Consequently, my first multi-sport event was a duathlon. 

There are few things more lame than duathlons.  Well, when you're expecting a triathlon anyway, duathlons are MUCH harder than triathlons. But that's a whole other subject area that we just aren't going to try to examine today (or any day really).

It was terrible. Miserable. Horrifying. I had such high hopes of mediocrity and when the actual experience was even worse I thought I'd seen it all.  (I'm being dramatic, the race was fine). Be that as it may, I had already signed up for New Orleans 70.3 the week prior to Patriots so my first triathlon was going to be a 70.3!  

Compression socks? What is going on!?

It went well enough, I had a great time (and crossed the line saying "I have NO IDEA how my friends do two of those in a ROW!?" to my parents) and met new people and generally got into a really fun group as the spring and summer progressed. 

I spent most of my weekend training with guys that were doing Ironman Louisville 2009 (Fletch, Behme, Woody, and Brad).  I was doing 100mi bike rides and 2+ hour long runs with them and I then met Ashley who talked about how he was doing B2B Full that year and I said: "Why not?"

Obviously much has changed about myself, my abilities, and my thoughts regarding triathlons in general since that point in time...but a few key phrases stick out to me:

"At a certain point you have to stop over analyzing and worrying and just get over yourself."

"It'll be fun and challenging. I'll see how far I can push myself..."

Glad it's over

Sometimes I wish I still saw things that way. In a way, that's what Louisville this year is for me: it is simply a challenge.  I have time "ideas" obviously, but just finishing is a challenge enough. I remember quite well walking most of the first loop in 2010, feeling sorry for myself; thinking I was such a terrible athlete because it had gone so poorly.  Yet right next to me were people whose races were going great and they were simply pushing on and happy to be out there.  

It's easy to forget why we do stuff, sometimes, especially in the face of self-imparted and peer applied pressures.  

And, out.

Monday, September 28, 2015

XTERRA USA Championships

It's not often that I travel to exotic locations to swim, bike, and/or run.  Well, with the exception of New Orleans, Cozumel, Park City, Tucson, Santa Barbara, Miami...etc.  Other than those times, I don't often go cool places to race or exercise.  I wanted to buck that trend this year, especially when I raced down in Alabama back in April and qualified for XTERRA World Championships (in Maui) and XTERRA USA Championships (Ogden).

If I hadn't committed to racing Ironman Louisville way back in December of 2014 I would undoubtedly have built my season around racing Maui.  But, for better or for worse, I signed up for Louisville and in that moment my focus for 2015 became that race.  Still, I didn't want to give up completely on racing another national level XTERRA event and so, after careful calculation and negotiation I signed up for XTERRA USA in Ogden, UT.

I have really only been riding my mountain bike consistently for the past year or so, but I had the opportunity to ride it in Park City, UT back in 2013 as part of a Scott Bikes dealer event.  So I had some idea of the terrain that I could expect for the Ogden race: hilly, loose, rocky.  Riding out there is VERY different when compared to east coast trail riding.  Over here we have lots of roots, short/steep hills (in the "foothills" anyway), grippy "dirt," etc).  Out in Utah the climbs are LONG, the surfaces are slippery, and there exists an abundance of rocks (but very, very few roots).

For the past couple of months my training has been extremely specific to my goal race of the year.  That is not a pre-excuse, but it gives you a good idea of what I've been doing and what I am "used" to.  Being good at XTERRA is - in many ways - the complete opposite of being good at IM.  Still, I am quite fit, and I was really excited to race.

Luckily for me, I proved an extremely competent negotiator/manipulator and managed to convince my friend Jeremy - who lives in Atlanta - to fly out to Utah for a long weekend.  So we met at the airport on Thursday and drove to the VRBO I had chosen, which was a "guest apartment" (essentially an above garage studio apartment, but very nice) on the east side of Ogden.  It was conveniently located with easy access to the race venue (about a 25 minute drive through a canyon to get to the resort) and downtown Ogden, the location of the expo and post-race festivities.

We didn't do too much that day other than recover from a day of flying and travel but on Friday we packed up the sweet, sweet Chevy Impala and headed out to scout the race.  I wanted to ride some of the course (preferably only the downhills, but that didn't end up being the way it worked out...) and we thought it'd be a good idea to kind of figure out a way for Jeremy to have easy access to several locations.

Parked, but ready to roll
Jeremy, LITERALLY, scouting the race course
The bike course views are absolutely stunning
Like I said...
 At the end of the day we had come to several conclusions:

1) I was not going to ride the time I "expected" to ride. This course is extremely physically demanding
2) Jeremy's day would involve a fair amount of driving
3) The course was gorgeous
4) Ripping the two descents at race pace was going to be...interesting.

Be that as it may, we finished out our Friday and woke up Saturday morning relatively early (but not too early, given the 9AM start time - did I mention how awesome XTERRA is?!?!), got ready, and headed over to set up for race day.  It was COLD (sub 40 degrees, but expected to reach mid 60s and be completely sunny) but not altogether unpleasant at the swim start.

I didn't have a chance to warm up, but felt ready to race.  They started the male pros at 9:00, female pros at 9:01, and age groupers at 9:04 (or something close to that).

Swim - 22:52 (27th OA)

I was on the front row and at the sound of the horn dove in to start the clockwise two loop triangle swim. The start was extremely chaotic.  We were headed directly into the sun for the first leg of the triangle and the buoy was only about ~250 meters away.  So that whole stretch was pretty much a mad house fight for position.

That theme carried on throughout the first loop and it was only on the second loop that I felt I was able to establish a rhythm of some sort and start passing people who started out much too hard.  I wasn't really swimming "hard" but I felt long and powerful, which any guy obviously desires...when swimming.

I exited the water with plenty of people in front of me but no real idea of where I was in the race.

T1 - 1:37

My T1 time was slowed by putting on socks. I definitely have some improvements I need to make when it comes to XTERRA transitioning.

Bike - 1:41:31 (49 OA)

I think this section needs to be started with a brief summary of how different these trails are than our east coast trails:

2) Rocks
3) Zero Roots
4) Slippery, loamy "dirt"
5) yea, climbing

I had biked most of the course the day prior but had excluded the first 4ish miles of the race, 1-2 of which was on paved road out of transition. I did not realize, however, that once off the paved road we'd essentially be climbing for the next 45+ minutes, including the trail section I had not "scouted."

I passed a couple of people and got passed by a couple of people (including XC Olympian Todd Wells, who was riding MUCH faster than me...) and generally set a relatively conservative pace up through this climb out of the canyon.

Throwing out the shaka for the camera

I reached the first descent and managed to "PR" vs. Friday's scouting ride which was pleasing to see in hindsight.  Learning a descent, especially a fast, loose one like this is generally paramount in XTERRA racing.  I made up some ground on some guys that had passed me on the ascent and we crossed Old Snowbasin Rd for the second time.  Jeremy was there but I did not see him as I was focused on not running into the guy in front of me.

And so began the long, long climb up to Sardine Peak. Going from the end of the first climb to the start of the second had taken approximately 5-7 minutes.  It was back into one of the two or three easiest gears on the cassette and the start of another 40 minute climb to the top of Sardine.  It was more strung out at this point and I got passed again early on in the climb. I didn't feel like I was going "easy" but I also had trouble making myself go any harder.  At this point of my training (from a long term standpoint) I am extremely proficient at holding 200-220 watts for 4-5 hours.  This is not really how you ride an XTERRA bike course...

I got to the top of the final climb and let someone go past me right as we started the descent. Unfortunately for this guy he almost went off the side of the mountain at a sharp right hander early on and I re-passed him as he stood precariously on the side of the trail having barely regained his balance after coming to a stop on the edge.  I really enjoyed this descent and was able to get back up to someone that had passed me about 2/3 of the way up the climb and we flowed through the rest of the downhill pretty quickly.  I did almost nail a tree at one point (seriously, NAILed a tree) but luckily managed some ninja-like contortions to save my body from that wear and tear.

As we climbed briefly back into some singletrack to get back into the resort area I lost contact with my descent buddy and rolled into transition.

T2 - 1:04

I actually had a bad T2. I could not find my spot for what felt like forever (though I was probably only "searching" for 15-20 seconds before I found it).  There were no labels anywhere and you had to just kind of remember where you put your stuff... Once I located my shoes and run belt I managed to get out of there pretty quickly.

Run - 47:31 (45 OA)

My legs felt very loose and snappy as I ran through the parking lot and I am pretty confident that if this had been a road run I'd have done quite well. Sadly, however, it was not on the roads.

I came around one of the resort's buildings at the edge of the pavement and saw an absolutely terrible sight up ahead.  We were essentially going to run up a ski run to get to the woods. Yuck. It was about a 6-7 minute climb and I actually walked a portion of it because it was simply that steep. I had caught up to a guy (and passed a few others) and I was walking alongside him at the same pace he was "running."

We crested the "top" and continued onto singletrack that was still going uphill but at a slightly less steep grade.  As I rolled into the downhill portion my right hamstring flared and then grabbed quite tightly. I was forced to pull off to the side of the trail to stretch it several times before it loosened up again.  This was a bit disappointing but I can surmise that it was due in no small part to the enforced short stride that steep uphills impart on your gait.  Your hamstring, when running that way, is under a lot of tension throughout the gait cycle and has basically no chance to "loosen."  So when it all of a sudden did...well it didn't like it very much.

I lost all the spots I had gained but was able to get back running again and carried on pretty normally for a while.  The course gradually climbed for about 35 minutes (with a short descent early which is where I had to stretch) before starting to level off and at that point I actually had to stop and stretch a cramping right hamstring again.  I had gained back most of the spots I had lost (but had gained before losing) but now lost them again. (confused yet?)

But luckily I was able to mitigate the issue and get rolling again.  When working, my stride actually felt quite good.  I finally made my way back to the guy that I had originally paced alongside up the first climb and as we descended I prepared myself for a little sprint off.  We were not in the same age group, but I will never forego the opportunity to place one spot higher overall.  Luckily, I managed to edge him out in a nice sprint across the line.

2:54:35 (5th AG, 35 OA)

I was pleased with this race.  It was an incredible opportunity to go someplace gorgeous and do a spectacular and difficult event. I am also surprised - being so used to road triathlons - at how difficult XTERRA purposefully makes courses.  It's like if they encounter two options as far as course design goes, one is easier and one is harder, they will ALWAYS choose the harder one.  That is great and a welcome change from the monotony that can become road triathlon.

I would love to do this race again after preparing specifically for IT.  I am excited to toe the line at Louisville but a race such as an IM requires such specific preparation that you tend to lose a lot of the non-IM related abilities and fitness.  While I'd obviously prefer to place higher in my AG than 5th this was a national championship level event so the best of the best (and the best of the WEST, more importantly) come out to play..

Next year...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Those creative juices

It's interesting, but predictable, that my blogging has almost completely slacked off since we last spoke.  Or rather, since I last talked and you pretended to listen...

In the past I've managed to maintain a healthy hobby practice, a healthy workplace practice, AND a healthy blog.  This year, however, things have been a bit different.

Insofar as triathlon is concerned, the most important 4 weeks in my year are now upon us (well - me really - but I'm making this include you too).  It is officially race week for XTERRA USA Championships in Ogden, Utah.

I am truly, deeply excited for this race.  Very rarely do I get the opportunity to travel to cool destinations (this is self-imposed, obviously) because the attraction of the race does not surmount the cost of travel.  This time is different, as the desire to compete on a national level in the XTERRA world is very high for me right now.

Here are some awesome things about XTERRA:

1) Race start time - this weekend the race starts at 9am! 9AM!! A race where you don't have to wake up at 3am to eat breakfast and be out the door by 4:30?? SIGN ME UP.

2) Amazing views

XTERRA Richmond (oh wait, this probably doesn't encourage participation/excitement...)
3) Shorter races

Let's be honest: the length of an IM is just silly. We are all mature people reading this, right? We can all come to a general consensus like the rational people that we are and conclude that 140.6 miles is just too far.

Those are three "pros" that jump to the top of my head.  So all of that is to say that I'm very excited to head out to Utah on Friday.  My bff from college Jeremy will be meeting me out there so hopefully we can have a great time out at elevation.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bike Racing and Travel

Last Thursday I was able to participate in my first bike race since...well, since the last one.  The aforementioned last one was - what felt like - a long time ago.  Marking my third attempt at racing around on two [skinny] tires this year, the first night of the Crossroads Classic was in Mocksville, NC.  The course was short and very, very fast.  The start/finish straight was a slight rise and fall (with the line being at the "crest"), into a fast and narrow bottlenecking right turn.  That road was all downhill to another fast, right turn with ample room into a flat road with - you guessed it - another right hand turn at the end of it. Post Turn 3 was all uphill into an uphill right hander to the start/finish area.

It would make a very fast course with positioning being important (admittedly, as it always is in a crit). I watched the Cat 4 race where Ross handled himself well, narrowly missing out on a crash in turn 1 on the penultimate lap.

The Cat 3 race started and - as usual - I didn't really know anyone in particular to "watch out" for.  I tried to get near the front off the start but unfortunately was not able to. I spent the next couple of laps somewhere in the middle of the pack, having to sprint out of each turn.  This would be a sucky way to race so I attacked from the middle on the climb after a few laps and ended up off the front for the start/finish road.  I ended up being off the front for a lap or two, which wasn't really my intention.

Turn 2, thanks Ross the Boss for the pic
Eventually I got swallowed back up again but tried to remain near the front now that I could choose my position a bit better.  Being on the front or near it allows you to ride the course MUCH smoother as you don't have to yo-yo off the back through and around and after the turns.  A steadier effort is always better, especially for a triathlete.  I was noticing that on this particular course I was able to make up quite a bit of distance on the turns if someone got ahead of me so it felt good to have that confidence. 

More of the race went by uneventfully and then we got to "3 laps to go" remaining.  We went through that lap and then with two laps to go the pace picked up a little bit.  On the uphill stretch I attacked and got off the front again for the start/finish line but this was responded to quickly but my goal was ultimately to get through those first two turns in the top 3-5 spots.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) I ended up being in the front spot through those two turns on the final lap.  I was able to navigate it safely and put my head down on the back stretch  and resolved to just stay at tempo/threshold on the front.  Unfortunately somebody decided this would be a good time to go sprinting past and brushed my shoulder when they did so.  I was very frustrated with a move like that because they had an entire road and had no need to cut it that close at ~35 mph (I was probably going  25ish).  I didn't feel like contesting a sprint that was full of guys like that (plus, I was tired) so I got to the finish line having been passed quite a bit in the last 400m.  

A good workout and a good week of biking. I don't get too many opportunities to race bikes anymore given that it frequently conflicts with the triathlon season's goals so it was fun to do a night race (by the last 10 laps it was basically dark with only street lights...a little sketchy) and get in a good second bike ride of the day (yes, that's another excuse for ya). 

I also took a quick trip home to New Orleans this weekend.  I haven't been home since Christmas and haven't seen a couple of my brothers since then so it was a nice opportunity to fly home and have everyone be there.  The chances of this happening with any frequency are certainly diminishing as we all get older...

Travis taking a drink. No this wasn't staged, at all..

Sailing back into the harbor after a boating dinner

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, this is just filler

A lot of people I know are currently in the throes of passion as it regards to their feelings surrounding their late season fall races.  They're still deeply in love with the thought that they have an IM (I'm just going to use that as my example here as it works better for my storyline) scheduled 8-12 weeks from now (say, Wisconsin to B2B) and the endless possibilities that event presents them in their mind sends little tingling goosebumps down their arms and the back of their neck.

It are those thoughts that currently buoy your spirits and push you through each day. You don't think about the - let's say - 11 weeks of training you have before race day. You don't think, maybe, about those races you have in between that are probably going to suck and you'll get to say stuff like:

"Well I'm training for IM so this is just a "B" race."
"I've lost all my short-course speed!"
"I didn't taper so I'm really tired!"
"Whoa that 100 mile bike ride yesterday really deadened my legs for the 5k today."

But no, you don't worry about that right now.  Right now, you're sitting there and maybe drinking some coffee.  Maybe you're at your work desk and you're staring down the barrel of a pretty ho-hum day (or maybe it's a crazy day) with that thought nestled in the back of your head that in a relatively short period of time you are going to show yourself and everyone around you what you're really made of.  Your colleagues at work may not really care or understand and that's ok.

But these moments in time are important. Because as race day gets closer (say, late August) it certainly won't get any "easier."  You will be more tired, you will be more irritable, you may have a new baby, etc.

But support yourself with that vision you almost certainly have of your race. See yourself crossing the finish line, fatigued but exalting in your own excellence.  Hopefully you were patient on the bike and had a good run!

Monday, July 20, 2015

XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon

I can't lie, I've been pretty excited about this race for a while now. There are several reasons for this unbridled race excitement:

1) Home course advantage (huge in XTERRA)
2) Sleeping in own bed (huge in general)

Ok I lied I could only come up with two. BUT, those are two huge reasons to be excited for a race! While training for Louisville hasn't really gotten crazy or anything yet, I have been putting in some good long rides on the tri bike and some good road running and as a consequence my mountain bike and trail shoes have gotten somewhat sparing  use over the past month or so. That being said, I was excited to break them out and go for broke.

This is a pretty unique race (unique even for XTERRA) in that it has a two part swim. We would complete ~800m in the Catawba River (800m is generous) and then run probably 1/3 of a mile uphill and into the Whitewater pond area to swim a final "200m."

From there we would hop on our bikes and basically ride the Whitewater Center in order, from Figure 8 through all of North Main then into the South section of trails doing all add-ons (Carpet, Goat, Powerline, Wedge, Weigh Station, Toilet Bowl) and then completing the Lake Loop before heading into the "connector trail" that we normally start on when simply riding out at the WWC to get us back to transition area.

For the run we would loop back around the gravel path and head over onto East Main. This loop is probably the least frequented loop at the WWC. It's tough, choppy, hilly, and generally considered pretty difficult. Most of the mtb'ers don't even really admit to liking it all that much.  We would get to run it instead, which - in my head - sounded like a better proposition than riding it.

The dynamic battle of America (Caamano and myself) vs. Germany (Sebastian) would play out over the course of 2+ hours. We all arrived at the WWC sometime around 6:30 to a nice, sunny day that was already warming up relatively rapidly. It was going to be a scorcher, but luckily for us trail triathlons frequently take place in the - wait for it - shade! The great thing about trees, ya know?

I was a bit nervous as I had changed my rear tire that week to my "race" tire and it did not seem to be holding a great seal. The one risk of tubeless is that you can never be 100% positive that a seal is good until you are 100% positive that the seal is good. But other than that I was fired up to lay down some heat on some trails!

Swim 1000m - 15:11.8 (1st)

The swim was doubly unique in both its structure (2 swims) and the 1st swim itself. It was a very, very tight triangle. We all lined up in a rough line with the edge of the flatwater dock but some people lined up across the entire width of the river (maybe 50 yards). I was not sure of their reasoning for this, as they were basically in "line" with the second leg of the swim upriver.  I was a bit nervous about their ability to not hit oncoming swimmers that had made the turn ahead of them but, be that as it may, I couldn't do much about it other than look out for them once I had made the turn.

The gun sounded and everyone started out quite expeditiously. My goal was to either be first or in the top 3 around the first buoy to avoid what was sure to be extremely heavy congestion due to the turn being so tight. With that in mind, I kept the pace high and by the time I got to the first buoy I was clear to turn with no one beside me.

I kept my head up for a bit making sure oncoming swimmers weren't going to collide with me (because obviously it wouldn't be ME colliding with them...haha. jk, sorta) then put my head down and aimed back upriver.  I couldn't see the second buoy because they were so small but I knew if I headed straight along the bank I would eventually see it.

Along this section I looked back occasionally and saw my gap had grown over a couple of people in a group and I made the final turn knowing I'd get to the dock solo.

I clambered up the stairs after sifting through the silty bottomed river and put on my shoes for the run up to the pond area. I took this pretty easy as I figured gassing it then diving back in to swim might lead to some extreme discomfort...

I saw my gap was about 20-30 seconds as I got back in the water and swam to the swim exit. I encountered some underwater features that I wasn't ready for so that kind of scared me a little bit, but I made it to the end and climbed the rocky exit unscathed and ready for the bike.

T1 - 0:57

I struggled a bit to get my gloves on but otherwise had a decent enough transition.  The second group (led by Sebastian) was getting to their bikes as I was grabbing mine to head out onto the trails.

Bike 23k - 1:08:08.0 (1st)

Dropping into Figure 8 I knew my game plan needed to be "out of sight out of mind" as on the trails it is both quite easy to be "out of sight" but due to the twisty turny nature of the course I would always be somewhat visible in certain sections.  This makes it MUCH easier to close gaps when you have a tangible reminder of the person in front of you.

I tried to be steady and smooth (which means fast) as I made my way through the familiar trails. I did notice, however, that my rear tire felt kind of mushy and wallowy, for lack of better descriptions. I didn't realize how mushy until, at the top of the climb out of Figure 8 (and just after Marcus had told me I had about a 30 second gap) going around a downhill right turn my rear tire slid badly and I wiped out. I recovered quite quickly and got back going again without losing any real time but this was a potent reminder that something was off with my rear tire.

I had some CO2 so I knew if it got real bad I could hop off and fill up the tire but this would cost me time and space on the trails. So I resolved to just be a little more careful.

I made my way through all of the rest of the trails without incident and got to the Lake Loop before catching a glimpse of a yellow helmet behind me on the long "fire road" section.  I knew this wasn't Sebastian so I was made a bit nervous by this stranger. I think I put a little more time into him on the Lake Loop and arrived at T2 without a 30ish second lead on second place.

Thanks Marcus for the photos, splits and encouragement!

T2 - 0:29.2

Nothing to see here, carry on!

Run 8k - 39:59.4 (5th, 1st in results not legit)

Heading out onto the run along the gravel path that runs alongside the whitewater channels was rough as it had definitely warmed up while we gallivanting through the forest.

I was hoping to have a good run and managed to stay pretty motivated into the East Main section. Unfortunately, there were a few nice climbs prior to getting to the trail and right once you entered the trail that curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

I made my way through the trails and got to about mile 2 before Justin caught me and passed me rather expeditiously. I lost a lot of excitement at that point and walked a couple of times on hills to try and get my heart rate down a bit.  Coming back out of the trails I walked up that horrific hill but then ran the rest of the way to the finish.

I usually don't talk about the run much because I can hardly remember any of it, specifically! This time was no different...

OA - 2:04:46 (2nd)

Crossing the line in second was a welcome relief and I immediately sought water and shade.  Sebastian arrived shortly thereafter and Caamano came through soon as well. A good, hot day of work for the three of us and everyone else out there!

I was, admittedly, disappointed to not win but Justin had a great race and returned the favor from XTERRA Pelham a couple of months ago where we both won our AG (25-29 and me 30-34) but I came out ahead on time.

Now we begin to get into real IM training and if I said I was really excited about that I'd be lying to you! But, I signed up for the race so it's time to get for serious!

Monday, July 13, 2015

My P5: Now it is truly simply faster

Whenever you buy a "superbike" you always buy "complications." What makes a super bike a super bike (kind of like a super car or a hyper car) is a "no compromise" attitude towards its design context.  So for a triathlon superbike, that function is aerodynamics and integration. The P5 was introduced way back when in January of 2012.  In bike terms, that's a pretty long time ago.  It, in many ways, revolutionized the aero bike segment. Well, it borrowed certain ideas and perfected some others, let's say. It wasn't the FIRST bike with an integrated front end (but it certainly had the best one, so far). It wasn't the first bike with integrated storage solutions.  It wasn't the first bike with completely hidden cabling (except for RD loop/wire, which no one has yet hidden completely on an externally geared bike).  BUT, it did all of those with a level of aerodynamic superiority that was new to the game.

Well, aerodynamic superiority insofar as it concerned "fast" riders.  If you study all of the data out there and sift out the bad testing from the good testing and the testing with acceptable context (and actual "x" and "y" graph labeling) you can discern a few "facts:"

The P5 is still the fastest bike from about -7 to +7 degrees of yaw (give or take) among factory produced bikes. Certain other bikes (IA, SC, PR, etc) are a bit better out at higher relative yaw angles.

I could find more, I am sure.  My point is not to talk about how aero or not aero one bike is vs. another (but if you want me to I am happy to blast away for a while but be prepared to get bored).  My point is that the P5 is a super bike and - like other super bikes - comes with a few interesting things that make you want to learn more about bikes...maybe.

1) Hydraulic rim brakes (Magura RT6 or RT8)

You might have heard stories of bad stuff and wondered how all that works and know someone who has said bad stuff but at the end of the day anybody that says anything negative about the Magura brakes on a P5 just probably doesn't like going fast and maybe doesn't really know what they are doing... I've had this bike for 3 years and have never, ever had a problem with these brakes. The same couldn't be said for having a certain other popular aero brake that I had for a month... (hint hint).

To route a cabled brake line on a bike like the P5 + Aduro aero bar (read: hidden and integrated) would require very tight bends that would dramatically affect the brake power and modulation at the rim.  Magura has designed a brake that gets around all of that, is easy to work on, is light, is incredible aerodynamic, and looks great too!

2) Hidden battery

The "external" Shimano Di2 battery has been placed in the seat tube cutout to remain hidden.

3) Hidden junction box/top cap

The junction box is housed under the 4 bolt stem cover which is under the bottle cage mount which is under the arm pads. So to adjust or check battery I had to remove bottle cage mount, remove arm pad cups, remove stem cover. Adjust and check, re-install.

Now I am perfectly fine with doing all of those things because I got what I paid for: the fastest bike money can buy. I want each of those little seconds. I agonize over my front tire choice for certain races because a GP4000s II may save me 20 grams of drag at 23-25mph vs. a Conti Supersonic 700x20 may save me an extra 10-15g drag at ~30 mph but I lose a little comfort/confidence. Etc. I make choices like that. Do you? Then maybe the P5 isn't for you...

(just kidding, it's definitely for you; go buy one)

I've been wanting to do a project on mine for quite some time now and finally got around to doing it last week once I had all the parts I needed:

1) Install updated Shimano Di2 "internal" battery
2) Install Junction A in the saddle area
3) Convert to "true" 1 x 11 drive train
4) Adjust front water bottle carrier to allow for tall bottles

All of those may seem rather innocuous, but when added together they make a bike that's ABOUT 100x easier to deal with in many ways and it's just plain fun to tinker.

So, step 1:

Figure out where to put battery.

Since I don't need a front derailleur anymore, I figured the easiest and most secure place to put the new internal battery was in the left aerobar extension.

The perfect fit!
Now the left shifter is simply a placeholder.  The e-tube runs out the back of the extension and into the Aduro's rat's nest area of cables, wires, hoses, maybe a bird egg or two...etc. Who knows what you may find in there:

But this is much, MUCH cleaner than it was before. Prior to this update I had the older front "harness" stuffed in there as well. Lots of e-tube was visible.

An internal junction box (Junction B) then sends one e-tube down into the bottom bracket area of the bike to another junction B.  That then sends e-tubes to the rear derailleur and the Junction A.

To house the junction A where I did (on top of the seat post) you have to do something that voids the warranty (on your seat post): drill a hole.

Now, did I have to do it this way? No. I probably could have fit Junction A somewhere else (maybe under the BB) and been fine, but this is the way I wanted to do it.

Now the e-tube runs cleanly all the way down to the BB and I can adjust and charge my bike without touching anything other than an easily accessible junction box zip-tied to my saddle rail. Sweeeeeet!

Moving on, I also addressed a huge annoyance for me when trying to combine hydration and computer placement. This is a difficult question for EVERYBODY (and I mean everybody, this is probably the most common question I hear related to bike purchase and setup) and I am not immune from the issues. The integrated bottle mount is great but when you want a computer out where you can actually see it (i.e. by your hands) you cannot fit a taller bottle or one of those stupid deer park water bottles they give you on course.

Simple solution: X Lab aero cage optimizer.  Bolts right onto the integrated bosses of the P5 and slides the bolts right back to where you need them to be.  As an added bonus, it increases the "stack height" of thebottle cage so it nestles a little bit more cleanly in between my forearms. NICE.

Last but certainly not least, I updated the drivetrain.  I was originally running a 2 x 10 system featuring SRAM Red Quarq (10 speed) 130 bcd 53/39 chainrings + a 10 speed Ultegra 6770 RD/FD with an 11-25 setup for training and racing.

I figured: why not go with a 1x setup? One of the unique things about the P series bikes from Cervelo is that you can remove the FD mount itself, which really cleans up the profile if you're going to take off the front derailleur.

Unfortunately, until recently parts to do this RIGHT weren't easily available. But now they are, and so the time had come to swap that stuff to what I really wanted.

Up front we have a SRAM X Sync 52t 130bcd single ring (this features "narrow/wide" teeth technology which basically means the chain doesn't fall off without a front derailleur).  In the rear we have (11spd) Ultegra 6870 "GS" RD (gs = longer cage) which can accommodate up to 32t on the cassette.  So for the most part I have a 52t + 11-32t as my gearing options.  It's way, WAY cleaner looking, has a wide range, may lighten the bike, and looks sweet. Wait, I said that already.  It may be slightly more aerodynamic, although various testing has been inconclusive so far.  But, it looks awesome.  Did I say that already? I did, yea.

So fresh and so clean!!

Tools required for charge check plus RD adjustment...

Simple? Yes. 

Anyway, was all of this necessary? No. But it sure was fun. In some ways. The P5 offers limited "tinkering" abilities as it relates to fit and such so this was the next best thing I could do.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Charleston doesn't have any noseless saddles

Besides being a great place with good food, beaches, sun, and long flat roads...Charleston is a place full of something very odd when it comes to the triathletes that call it their homes. The reason for this phenomena is not clear other than to say that it's likely rooted in the fact that there is no strong triathlon retail presence in Charleston or the surrounding areas.   Well, to be honest, there may be some retail presence but the possibility that the fitting services provided by the various retail locations is sub-par.

Nobody in Charleston is riding a noseless saddle. Well, almost no one. It might as well be no one, honestly. Go to a triathlon in Charlotte and you're very likely to see what may almost be a majority of noseless saddles at this point. I haven't taken a survey and I don't have the desire to do such a thing but I would be willing to bet that I am right.

This stood out to me in no small part due to the fact that on Sunday at the sprint race I saw a great many people in what I would consider to be "sub-optimal" triathlon positions on their tri bikes.  Many were quite upright, they looked uncomfortable, many weren't in their aero bars even early on in the race (flat/safe roadway), lots of steerer tube spacers, etc.

Now, there is nothing "wrong" with this exactly. As I tell many people, there are many different ways to get from T1 to T2. I do very strongly believe, however, that if you are purchasing a bike that is expensive (of course, "expensive" is relative) then the REASON you are doing that is because you want to be more competitive.

A road bike is kind of like a swiss army knife.  It's got a bunch of really great tools and knives that will accomplish just about any task you set for it. A triathlon bike is like a samurai sword; it is good for one very specific thing.

Or maybe: a road bike is like a pickup truck. A triathlon bike is like an F1 car. Sure, you can race the pickup truck on the track but...well, it's not going to be as fast. But that F1 car can't do anything else but blister that track.

From a general purpose standpoint I VASTLY prefer riding my road bike. It's more comfortable in many ways (at least, insofar as it concerns general purpose riding), it's more dynamic, it's very nice, etc. But I purchased a tri bike to go fast between T1 and T2.

Here is the problem that I have with Chaaaahhhlestun triathlon positions:

They could be sooo much better. The first person who brings in a great position on a noseless saddle to their little circle of friends is going to be a trendsetter for the whole community.

This is John Howard; he used to be the man. In the second picture he is riding the bike in what I would deem a "triathlon appropriate" position. His body is steeper "over" the BB, his shoulders are more forward, etc. I think in the second picture he has become reach-limited to an extent but the point of his picture was a demonstration of the different posture one "should" hold on the bike.

Now, in the olden days, you were supposed to ride like this (the second picture) on a "traditional" or "nosed" saddle. Guys could get away with "picking a side" and rolling their hips forward to achieve the desired pelvic angle and overall body position.  Ladies, however, do not have the luxury of "picking a side." In their world there are NO sides. So they were left either suffering through it or sitting back on their saddle with flat hips...

You can see in this picture above that somehow I am riding the most forward 2-3" of my saddle. I am likely selecting my right seat bone as the main support mechanism but unfortunately I am also 100% sure that much of the "middle" soft tissue is also sustaining a lot of pressure.

As I have mentioned previously, the goal of a good triathlon fit centers around SUSTAINABILITY. So in the picture above I am

1) aerodynamic
2) powerful

But that is NOT sustainable. It has nothing to do with any of the "normal" issues associated with "bad" triathlon fitting is revolves completely around the fact that the saddle is putting a ton of pressure on soft tissue. On guys this leads to numbness (which is not a comfortable feeling in that and the more frontal area...), on girls this leads to not sitting like that anymore due to potentially extraordinary discomfort.

So what do most people do that are new to triathlon and new to triathlon fitting when they encounter a saddle like that with aero bars?

They sit like this guy is: backwards on the saddle (because that's the only position that's sustainable from a "comfort" standpoint), hips rolled "under" them, lots of torque/tension in their middle and upper back, etc.

Here's another example:

Once you provide someone with a proper support system and instruct them on how best to utilize it, however, you can take someone that is COMPLETELY new to triathlon bikes and the position and get them more like:

It all starts at the saddle. Everything good and bad that is fit related likely has its roots somewhere in and around the saddle area. I cannot overstate that.

Chaahhhhlestun needs some noseless saddles injected into its triathlon community, STAT.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More racing with more placing

I always like to include a clever tag-line in my blogs. Something to draw you in and maybe say "Wow, that guy - he is a clever one!" Just enough (but probably said to yourself, quietly) to get you to click and read.

Sometimes, in an even more devious fashion, I like to put something in at the end that makes you remark and potentially comment so I know people ARE actually reading the whole thing! It's very secretive of me but, in the end, it works quite well.

So as you read this blog, ask yourself: "I wonder what he's going to do this time...?"

Then BAM, it hits you, right in the face. And you comment.

Williamsburg was a bit of a letdown. The sense of "I could have done much better than this" was strong in my mind after the race. That's ok though, it can definitely make a positive influence on your overall motivation.

Like seeing someone brag about their overall win when you know you got off the bike almost 10 minutes ahead of them... (but admittedly failed to execute on the run). Oh well.

I will say, not that you asked me, that one of the BIGGEST differences I've noticed in my "approach" to age-group vs elite racing is that for the most part I assume that racing AG there is always a "weakness" in my competitors.

This is obviously not always true, but for the most part athletes competing in their age-group have a weakness. There are a LOT of good bikers, but a relatively few good bikers AND runners. There are a great many "weak" swimmers.

(by the way, I realize this isn't completely fair, but bear with me as it is simply a generalization)

In the elite field, there are NO weaknesses.  Even someone that is a weak swimmer...wait, I am actually a weak swimmer. Dammit. But you get my point, right? It is very, very rare to encounter someone (in the male professional field) who has a glaring weakness and is still "good."

Luckily, I am "good" at all 3 sports. I am not especially far above average in any of the three (over any of the others) and I am not weak in any of the three, relative to my age group peers.  It is interesting to feel that way after three years of racing at the back of some pro fields. In those races I always just assumed (after the swim) that I wouldn't catch anybody. Now I assume that I will catch anybody that was ahead of me out of the swim, if anyone is ahead of me out of the swim.

Before you go thinking that I'm all elitist or something, just realize that this is a pretty realistic assessment of my thinking. I am not saying it's right or that it's wrong, just that

So now that brings us to this past weekend. Andrew Lerner, Jenny, and myself got all loaded up in a pimpin' minivan and headed down to Charleston for the weekend. There were two events on our dance card:

CCA Time Trial (this was a combined NC/SC State Championship) on Saturday and race #2 of the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series.

Jenny and I both won the overall race at the SC State TT back in 2013 (though neither of us are SC residents so we didn't get to call ourselves "state champs") so we were hoping to come in near the top again this time.  Andrew had never done a TT that wasn't multiple laps so he was hoping to find a reprieve from having to remember how many he had done...

Fast machines
Well, it was warm. Very warm. Relatively windless, flat course mostly exposed to sunlight. I suffered. I had a good ride, but not a perfect one. My time of 53:18 for the 23.4 mile course was good, but not great and netted me 3rd place Cat 3 (top 10ish OA).

I got my butt kicked but got in a good workout. Can't complain about that too much, eh?

I don't have a good picture of myself so I'll post this good picture I took instead:

The rest of the day was spent doing beach-y things: paddleboarding and going to the beach. I once again proved my prowess on the paddle and only fell off once, but it totally wasn't my fault.

We ate some delicious food courtesy of Jenny's memories of  Charleston and consumed a giant adult beverage, which - in this picture - appears to be larger than my face.

Early on Sunday morning we headed over to James Island (fitting, no?) to race the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series.  This weekend marked the second race in the extremely long-running series (25 years?) and would be a perfect cap to a solid weekend.

After picking we picked up our packets I headed over on a little detour to the ol' porto. I had seen one kind of nestled in the trees that wasn't very crowded and although it was still dark outside I hoped to be able to see while inside.  Unfortunately, when I opened the door I discovered that I could not, in fact, see. At that precise moment - realizing I was helpless and blind, obviously - I felt an object land on my arm.  It was a slimy, wet object. It grasped my arm. It felt to have four appendages and was kind of sticky.

I freaked the *** out, let out a little "yeeoooooOOOWWWw" and ran away from that porto. Obviously, it was merely a frog. But WHO KNOWS where that frog had been while inside the porto. It was obviously a "disgust" scream that I emitted and not an "I'm scared s*itless by a little froggie" scream.  Obviously.

Anyway, I made sure that nobody heard me and scooted off to set up my stuff for the race.  I had a small long-shot goal of holding onto Jenny's feet for the 600 yard swim so I needed to get amped up.  Luckily, the frog surprising me (note: not "scaring" me) had my adrenaline pumping through me like...

Well, I couldn't think of anything funny and/or witty.

Now here's where I tie in what I said above about weaknesses. My general assumption is that most age group triathletes are "weak" in the swim (relatively speaking). I had noticed the guy that won the Cat 5 TT on Saturday was racing so I figured he'd be a threat on the bike and, probably, on the run (since someone that's quite good at one aerobic sport is usually quite good at another aerobic sport).  BUT, until I'm proven otherwise, I figure I'll be the one being chased after the swim.

Swim - 7:54 (5th)

The swim was a very simple rectangle and we started out with a bang. Or as much of a bang as one can have when the water feels like it's ABOUT 90 degrees. I think this might take the cake as the warmest swim I've experienced.  Others in my memory are the Tuesday night JJF race last year at Cane Creek, Latta back in maybe 2011ish, and Stumpy Creek in 2012 I think.  Absolutely miserable.

Luckily, this swim was only 600 yards.  I lost the shot at Jenny's feet (plus one other guy was swimming "with" her) around the first buoy but found some feet to sit on most of the rest of the swim. The guy in front of me was not swimming a particularly straight line which made sitting on his feet pretty difficult and I lost them a bit towards the end of the swim. The swim was uneventful and I had a pretty big gap on anyone who I thought might be a contender (although to be honest I didn't know anybody at this race from a competitive standpoint).

Easily the best swim exit picture I've ever gotten (Brian Fancher Photography)

T1 - :54

Had a pretty quick transition to and came out in 3rd (after having gone in 4th) with just Jenny and one gentleman hot on her heels ahead of me.

Bike - 27:42 (1st)

The first part of the bike was pretty...interesting.  I'll call it sketchy because it kind of was. It's not a negative comment it is merely an observation on the array of stuff we could potentially encounter in the park itself. Sweeping turns and/or surprise turns, potentially debris in the road, and I myself encountered a car stopped in front of me in a median area which prompted me to swing to the left of the median.

Great photos from Brian Fancher (at a reasonable price even!)

I passed Jenny and the other guy during the park exit sequence and put my head down for the rest of the ride. There was a very short out and back  sort of triangle thingy at the other end of the course which allowed me to gauge my lead and Jenny was actually the first next athlete I saw so I figured I was doing alright against the male competition.

I held decent enough power (about in the middle of the range of what I was targeting last week at Williamsburg Half...) and maintained good miles per hour and got off the bike with a pretty strong lead on second place (who was still Jenny).

T2 - :25

I had a fast and efficient transition. Nothing to see here folks. Although I did not anticipate the bike dismount line and consequently only got one of my shoes off prior to bike dismount. D'oh!

Run - 19:23 (5th)

I headed out on the run feeling pretty smooth but ultimately slowed down pretty quickly for a few reasons:

1) I wasn't worried about being caught
2) It was stupid warm

That's pretty much all there is to say about the run. There was a brief out and back at the very end where I saw the second place guy was about 40-50 seconds behind me but I was not worried about him catching me and cruised into the finish comfortably in first.

Always good when nobody else is in the picture with you (Brian Fancher Photography)

OA - 56:16 (1st)

It was only when the second place guy crossed that I actually knew who he was: Nathan Buttrick. I remember his name because - well - it stands out and because he was 6th OA at IM Lake Placid last year, just in front of the guy who received the check from The Real Starky (and he won TryCharleston half this year very comfortably).

I was definitely pleased to take the W after a hard day prior and was even more pleased that everyone in the car made it onto the podium. Jenny barely won, coming in 8 minutes ahead, and Andrew narrowly missed edging out my run time to come in 2nd place in his AG.

A good trip all around!

5th, 2nd, 1st