Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I QUIT!!!

I can be stubborn. I don't give up easily. That certainly wouldn't be consistent with a triathlete, especially one who has finished two IMs. I've only quit one sport in my life. Freshman HS baseball. Let's face it- swimmers aren't coordinated, and don't excel at ball sports. Baseball is the antithesis of swimming. It's all about coordination, and often has nothing to do with conditioning. What kind of sport has it's players sprint just a few times over the course of a three hour game? A sport where George Scott, Mo Vaughan, David Ortiz, David Wells can excel...is it a real sport?

I've skied my whole life, and am pretty good at it. Two winters ago, my downhill skis delaminated. I tried to get them fixed three times, but they wouldn't hold. So a friend suggested at a party (drinking may have affected my judgement) that I give snowboarding a try. Our sons, who are good friends, both do it, and he picked it up the previous winter and loved it. The simplicity, lower cost and adventure were appealing. I also thought it would be a good bonding experience with Nick. So on December 26 2008, I took a lesson. I stayed on the bunny hill with the magic carpet. Traverse hill, sit down, flip the board over, traverse, repeat, repeat. The last run before lunch, I took the beginner's chair up for a longer run, and did fairly well. So I went into lunch full of confidence and pronounced, "We're going up!" Holy shit, was I wrong. To make a long story short, the next morning I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck.

Numerous people told me it takes three days for snowboarding to click. So I went up to Sunday River with Nick and friend and rented a board again. It went a bit better, barely, but well enough for me to come home and buy my very own board & boots. Cool. I'm a shredder. Then towards the end of the next day, this time at Sugarloaf, it clicked. I got it.

Fast forward to Saddleback in March, where I has a slow-speed crash, forcing my elbow into my ribs, cracking one or more. That was the end of my season, and caused a serious dent in my training schedule.

This past Sunday was our first day of the season. I was a little nervous starting out, hoping I didn't forget it all. I actually thought about starting on the magic carpet, but went with Ed (the same guy who suggested I get into this GD sport in the first place) and his other son up the lower chair. I started nice and easy, slowly regaining form and confidence. It was going really well, and was fun.

Around 1:30, we went up the Barker Chair to the top, and headed for an intermediate trail. The first half is a narrow trail, and the covering was thin. I was ever so slightly out of control, nothing ridiculous, had my back facing downhill, caught my downhill edge, and went down very hard. In hindsight, I think I started my turn too soon because of the width of the trail. I hit hard just above my tailbone, about belt level, then whipped down to the ground, with my head hitting really hard. If I didn't have a helmet on, I'd be somewhere between badly hurt and dead. I instantly knew I'd pay for this. After lying there for a minute or two, I tried to get up and move to the side. My right elbow wouldn't support my weight. Shit, that hurts. I moved to the side, and tried to gather myself. I didn't think I had a concussion or that anything was broken, so we slowly headed down. I figured I would see how everything progressed before I headed out again. The pain all over got worse, and I got pissed.

Yesterday, the day after the fall, I was on the road for work. I could barely turn the key in the ignition or move the gearshift. I tried to swim today, but only lasted for 50 yds. of swimming and 300 yds of kicking. Shit, shit, shit. I was on a streak of 13 weeks in a row of a minimum of 10,000 yds/wk, and was swimming really well. There goes the streak. The good news is I ran 4.5 this morning and was fine.

So back to the title of this post....I QUIT. I'm going to sell the snowboard & boots and buy some skis. I have good boots and bindings, so I shouldn't have to empty the bank. Now I'll be able to do an entire mountain, be more aggressive (within reason), and have more fun.

The next two weeks are a bit lighter for training due to family schedules, then it's into 5 weeks before the Cape Midwinter 10 mi roadrace. I'm really looking forward to mixing it up again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Motivation

The mornings are now pitch dark when I hit the road. I need the reflective vest and headlamp. It's also colder, so I have a couple of light layers and a hat. This is just the start- it's going to get really really cold soon, and I won't see any daylight for these runs until at least March. It's a small, cold, occasionally numbing, uncomfortable world, and I'm slow. It isn't a whole lot of fun, but the only reasons I don't hit the road as scheduled is if it's below 10 degrees or there's snow or ice on the road.

As for the bike, it's in our back garage on a trainer, next to a workbench, with a fan and TV. Soon enough I'll need the portable heater on full blast so that the temp goes from a toe-numbing 38 to a balmy 45 by the time the ride ends. So while I have the TV and music as a distraction, I wouldn't exactly call it paradise.

I get out there and put in the time and miles. And miles and miles. Why? Why do I do this? This past Tuesday, I went out for my scheduled run at 5:40. About a quarter mile into the run, I get to a place that's wide open fields. In the western sky, an incredible, enormous full moon was setting. Just a few wisps of clouds added depth to the picture. It was one of those moons you feel like you can reach out and touch. It was beautiful.

On that day, for that run, that was my motivation. And it got me thinking about all of the various sources of motivation that push us.

1. The event. The "A" race that although it's months and months away, you can't stop thinking about it. It's always there. Everything you do- or don't do- you think about how it will impact your race. For me, last year it was the USAT Nationals. I missed qualifying for Team USA by a measly 45 seconds the year before, so I wanted it BAD. I wanted to be a NOAD. This year, it's Worlds.

2. The competition. When you put two competitors next to each other, they will want to crush the other. You dissect race splits to see where you did well compared to them and where there's room for improvement. You become very aware of everything when you're around them, even if it isn't at a race. OK, it sounds a bit psycho and self-centered, I know. Locally, I have several folks who are in my vicinity, and I want to beat them every time. I don't want to show up for even a "C" race and let them finish in front of me. And seeing good results from races I don't go to revs me up. It makes me think they are going to be even better next year. Which means training and racing even harder than last year. Seeing Jeff F's pictures from ITU Long Distance Worlds got to me. Seeing the Thanksgiving Day 4 mi results for Jeff and Rob F got to me. Reading Bob T's new blog got to me. He has no idea he just handed me some race time- thanks, Bob. Keep it coming guys, you're stoking the fire.

3. Sights. Scenery can be invigorating. The full moon, a rising sun, and great scenery can push me. One of my favorite roads is Flying Point Rd. in Freeport. It's beautiful there.

4. Challenges. I'm a fan of Rocky. I love a challenge. Hill repeats on the bike and run, track intervals, or really long, punishing tempo rides are exhausting, but it feels great to get through them. Some of my most memorable sails were solo efforts in Penobscott Bay in our 18 foot sloop in 25 knots. I wasn't quite sure if I'd make it back, or if the boat would stay in one piece. But I made it back and couldn't wait to do it again.

5. Music. My shuffle is my friend. It's loaded with songs that keep me going- Rocky theme songs, lots of stuff from the 80s, and a smattering of other stuff that's either upbeat or has some special meaning to me.

6. Anger. This one is pretty rare, but when I get pissed at someone and can't get it out of my mind, I take out my frustrations on the road.

7. The Feeling. Rolling out of bed, sore from head to toe feels good. I know I've worked when I feel like that. And I know I'm headed in the right direction. Then I can't wait to get out and do it again.

8. The Family. I'll never forget talking with Nick on the phone after Nationals this year when he said, "We're proud of you." I want my family to think well of me. I want my kids to look up to me, which might help drive them to accomplishments later in life.

9. Clothes. Fast clothes may not make a huge difference in themselves, but if I'm going to wear a fast uniform, I better not disappoint. Pulling on the USA uniform will be the ultimate rush.

10. Data. The powermeter doesn't lie, and shows exactly where you stand compared to last week, month or year. For the run, the Garmin does the same thing. All of this data goes into WKO+. It's very easy to pick out previous peaks and attempt to better them. A classic for me is an FTP test on the bike. That's basically a stair-step, drop-dead bike set.

11. The perfect race- the love of the sport. I want to be able to look in the mirror and know I did everything I could to go fast. There are so many components to a good race that there's always something to work on. But as for physical effort, I know if I did what I was capable of. And it really bugs me when I didn't reach my potential.

Now I sit here imagining a race where I have on the USA uniform, my family is there, I push and push my limits, the powertap is silently screaming my output, well-known, tough competition is all around me, the course is in a great location, music is blaring, and there's a lot on the line. Whoa. I guess that's why we have power meters and heart rate monitors to keep us under control.

Gotta go get ready for tomorrow's run in the dark. Gonna kick some ass.

What's your motivation?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Next up...

Tomorrow morning I enter the next phase of my training. I'll keep bike, swim and strength time the same, but throw in another run of one hour. Total training time moves up to 8:45 per week. November was supposed to have just two runs per week, but I was able to squeeze in an extra run the last two weeks. Weekly mileage was 11, 13, 16, 17, and moves to just under 19/wk in December. This increase in mileage is partially in preparation for the Cape Midwiter 10 mile race in early February. There will be plenty of folks around me in the 1:10-1:13 area. I was struggling with my running speed until the last few runs, where I felt a little lighter (while not technically correct- I'm up about 8 lbs. in 3 months), stronger, and my base pace moved down to about 7:45. Overall in November, I put in 32.5 hours, compared to 26.5 last year.

Away from the data, I feel like I'm coming out the other side of my off-season low. It's been three months since Nationals, so it's about friggin' time. Physically, while not trying to push my limits, I do feel like I'm able to work harder each week. The nagging injuries don't nag quite as much. I'm looking forward to some long, exhausting snowshoe runs. I want to mix it up again. I want those butterflies again. Admittedly, it's a little hard to see my main competition turning in good results in road races. I know June-September is the time to perform, but still, put me next to one of these guys and I want to GO. Knowing I can't right now is tough.

Details about Worlds are starting to trickle in. That's added fuel to the training fire. My race is on 9/12/10, 286 days from now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Everest, All Wet

Something weird happened today...I finished an 8,000 yd. pool workout, as scheduled, and actually enjoyed it. That's just wrong.

Let's put this in perspective. First, I am a sprinter in the pool at heart. I went 49 in the 100 in college, and still went 53 last winter. But a 200? Forget it. A 500? Pathetic. Back in 2002 at New Englands, I went out in 3:03 and finished in 5:19. It isn't supposed to be done that way. You should have seen that piano fall from the ceiling. I have always believed, and will continue to believe, that quality is far more important than quantity. As one wise man once said, "if you practice swimming slow...you'll get good at it." I learned to teach my body what it felt like to swim FAST. For example, we trained with fins doing all-out 25s from a dive. With stretch cords, we would work returning from the far end just as much as getting there in the first place.

Since Nationals in August, I haven't done more than one ride per week, and never more than 22 miles or so. Running has been better, but I'm still only doing 2 runs/wk for about 12 miles (I'll add a third run starting next week). Swimming, on the other hand, has been going very well. I've been in 4 days/wk, for a total of about 12,000+ yds. And the intensity has been there. I am putting in times- and repeats- that I haven't done in practice in a long time. I'm also using paddles once per week, which has made a huge difference- until I did 19x100 on 1:20 with them last week. My left shoulder has felt a bit screwed up ever since. So I came to today a bit concerned that I might do further damage.

The noon group started a campaign a while back. Every Wednesday we alternated between all 100s and something else. Week 1 was 30x100, week 2 3,000 mixed, week 3 40x100, etc. I made it to the 50x100 and 5,000 mixed, but the last 5 weeks I've bailed early because I didn't want to put in junk yards, and frankly, I found it terribly boring. I typically got out around 4,000.

So today was the finale, 8,000 yards. Work was slow, I felt pretty good, ate a little more for breakfast, worked on hydrating and salt while at the office, and opened up to the idea that I might finish the whole thing. Here's the workout:

4 x (400, 300, 200 ,100)- First time through on 1:30/100, then 1:25, 1:20 and 1:20.
16 x 125 on 1:50, descend 1-8, ascend 9-16
4 x (1x100 on 1:20, 2x75 on 1:15, 3x50 on 40, 4x25 on 25)

My lane set up a great rotation in the first set so we shared the lead and also got lots of incredible drafting. The first 2,000 took zero effort. It was like sledding downhill. Even the next 2,000 was only harder when leading. That entire set was devoid of thought. I just turned the brain off, stayed in line, and took it easy. I knew I would need to if I wanted any hope of finishing.

It was around 3,000 when a few others started dropping of the pace a bit. And at 3,800, the calf cramps started. I hate calf cramps, and get them in most harder or longer workouts. Good push offs are impossible, and I end up swimming with at least one foot completely flexed so my toes are pointing up until I reach the wall. Not fast. The cramps continued to get worse for the rest of the workout. By some miracle, I never had to stop. I also swam fairly well the entire time, and stayed mentally engaged in the effort the whole way. I never got bored.

Somewhere near the end, I began thinking about how far 8,000 yards really is. I know Mt. Everest is 8,000+ meters, but at the time, I figured I had swum almost as far as Everest is above sea level. That's pretty cool. Grant me a little leeway on this one.

Anyway, it feels great to have finished this. And it's fine if I don't do something this stupid again in a while.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Planning 2010

Planning for 2010 started on 8/22/09 when I qualified for the ITU Age Group World Championships, to be held in Budapest on 9/11/10. The rest of the training year will point towards that race.

This year's plan has the usual suspects, but I've dropped two out of state races I did last year. I also added two early running races in February and March- it will be good to get the competitive juices flowing at a point when I've been inside for a few months and still have a couple of months of crappy weather. Finally, there's still a hole in my plan. I need one more olympic distance race somewhere around late July or early August.

So here goes...

February- Last year I did the Cape 10 mi race "for the heck of it." I used the first few miles as warm up and had no pressure for a quick run. I ended up descending every mile, finishing at a 6:30 pace. Oh yeah, I hadn't run more than 6 before that. This year I'll try to put in a better effort. There are a few folks that beat me last year that will make good targets (Jeff, Ange, Mary....). I went 1:15 last year, so if the conditions are comparable (doubtful), maybe a 1:10-1:12 is possible. One week later is the Polarbear 5k.

March- I'll do my first snowshoe race ever, a 5k at Pineland. I have a good pair of under-used running snowshoes that I love. There are a whole bunch of trails near the house that I love to use on the weekends.

May- The tri season will kick off with the Polarbear sprint. It's the first chance for tri egos to see how the winter training went. Two weeks later is a fantastic bike time trial, Crank the Kanc. It's a one-way race from Conway to the top of the Kancamagus Highway. The first 17 are rolling, the last 5 UP. Red-lining for about 70 minutes. It's a great data-gathering race. I can compare the power files to 2008 and 2009.

June- In my mind, the season really kicks off with the Mooseman Olympic distance race. I was 5th in my AG last year, and 13th overall. It can be a very competitive race and you never know who will show up. This year, there's more competition for Mooseman due to the 70.3 the next day and the popular Rev3.

July- Urban Epic is a good race to do, even though it's just a sprint now.

August- I'll try to defend my title at the Bethel Tri. Winning overall last year from wire to wire was a thrill last year.

September- World Championships. 'Nuf said.

As for specific goals for the season, I'm having some trouble. I made Team USA, and I know I don't have a chance at the podium in Budapest. Top half of my AG would be good. So there's no "next step" race on the horizon. Locally, I'll always want to do well against my local rivals (Jeff, Rob, and 70.3 man Bob T.).

While it's not very specific, perhaps my big goal is to wear the uniform with pride. Having my name on my ass means there's a target on my back. Let's face it- people will want to knock me off simply because I have USA on my chest. They should. I certainly did the the same the last two years. So now it's my turn to be the target. And it's my job to move that target as far away as possible.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm Cool!

Last night after the 7th/8th grade dance, I picked up Nick and took him home to get stuff for a sleepover. Then we got back in the car to go pick up the other two boys. On the way, my iPod played Dire Straights' Money for Nothing. You know, it has that great opening drum solo, followed by a guitar solo. Upon hearing it for the first time, Nick says, "That's awesome!" I burst out laughing. "Why are you laughing?" "Because I NEVER said that about the music my father played." Which is true. However the real truth was that I was bursting with a great feeling of acceptance. My son thinks I'm cool!!! Well...maybe he thinks the music is cool. No...I like the former. We payed the opening another three times. Then we picked up the other boys and played it again. Those two are in the back yelling, "That's sick!" and playing air drums and guitar. Btw, "sick" is really good. In fact, better than "awesome." My son's friends think I'm cool! I still laugh at the scene and my reaction. I guess most parents have an innate desire to be friends with their kids. Made my day.

As for training, it's been a bit all over the place. I've been dealing with a host of injuries- hamstring, quad, knee, SI joints. So I've been on my bike just four times in the last two months. Running has been better, about 2-3 times per week. I can still build into a good run, to the point where I feel I could hold 7:15-7:30 forever. However I haven't been longer than 5 miles in the last month.

My big focus has been in the pool. I've done 65,000 yards in the last 5 weeks, with the max at 17,000 yards three weeks ago. I've been using paddles for the first time in decades, just once per week, not too hard, and no more than 1000 yards. As long as my shoulders hold up, I think the added strength will make a big difference.

In total, I'm at just 5-6 hours per week, and there are no double sessions. I'm just now beginning to add some strength work and weekly structure. I realized I needed a break from the training grind, especially considering I have 10 months to my target race. I'm going to build weekly hours gradually, without hitting my max until May or June. Last year I did 11-12 hours from November through March, then cut down to 10. It was too much. In the next few months, I'm also going to go through phases of focusing on certain sports. Lately, it's been swimming. I'll soon ramp up the running with a focus on the Cape 10 miler in early February. Then I'll back off on the run and have a two month bike focus. I think this plan will keep me fresher for the season without sacrificing results.

Congrats to those who raced Kona last week, and good luck to those @ the Great Floridian this weekend. That was my first ironman, 10 years ago this week.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Race Report: CELT Sprint- Family Relay

Thankfully, no other bummers yesterday. I had enough yesterday morning to last a few weeks. Today started with my rustling the kids out of bed at 6:30 in an (unsuccessful) attempt to get everyone out the door by 7. As it turned out, the timing worked great, especially considering I didn't have a transition area to set up. It was great to see the group again, possibly for the last time until the Polarbear in May.

Because I was only swimming, I put in a longer warmup than usual, about 12-1400 yds. I was seeded in the first heat which was made up entirely of relay swimmers. For some strange reason, I had more butterflies than any other race this season. Maybe it was the fact that it was just a swim, so there was no excuse to hold back. Maybe it was all of the people inside watching- they can't watch that easily in the open water. Maybe it was swimming next to a guy who beats me in practice....or the chance that some high school swimmer is there I don't know about...in other words...ego. Yeah, that's it.





Now let's see how interesting I can make a 425 yd swim sound- The first 100 felt great, 2nd not so much, work hard on the 3rd, and hang on for the 4th. That's about it.


I was the first out of the water, ran out to Nick, tagged him, and watch him ride off in first place.I later learned that he actually stopped twice- once due to a puddle-covered pothole that rattled him, and another because there was no one around and he was afraid he was off course. He even started taking his cell phone out of his baggie, until someone came by. What he didn't know is that his dumb parents didn't have their phones with them so we couldn't have answered anyway. Without looking at the results, I'd guess he came in with a split of about 49 minutes for 14 miles, which comes to about 17 mph, including stops. Given that it's his first ride ever over 8 miles, first race, it was raining, he's 13, stopped twice, and had the big black pedals with sneakers, he did a fantastic job.

Leah took the handoff and charged into the 3 mile trail run. Chirstine went with her to help her confidence. I heard she stopped to walk about six times, for only 20 seconds each. When she emerged from the woods, headed for the finish, she looked great. Strong the whole way. Check out her form:





All done!




It was really fun to involve the whole family. After they warmed up and had a bit to eat, they were actually enthusiastic about the experience, and have asked to do it next year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Helluva A Day

I've had a lot of fun with my training lately. Nothing has been planned, I haven't done any doubles, and the quality is fine. I tend to ease into my runs, keep building, and end up somewhere around a 7-7:15 pace. I'm also getting back into the swimming groove. Wednesday was the third week of big Wednesdays, which will finish the day before Thanksgiving. The first two weeks were 30x100 at various intervals, then 1x1000, 2x500 and 8x125. Every two weeks we increase the yardage by 1000, and keep the same basic structure. So this week was 40x100. It's been several months since I've gone that far, so that feels good.

Back to today. I unintentionally woke up really early, couldn't go back to sleep, so got up a bit before 5. I started with my first trainer ride of the season, which strangely felt good and ominous at the same time. there are many, many hours to come on that trainer. That went for 1:05, then I headed out for a good long run. I headed out past the West Falmouth Hannaford, crossed the river, and found the start of the Portland Trails Trail. It was fantastic running alongside the river, through the woods, up, down, left right, constantly changing. I came out on Allen Ave. extension and headed home at a 7-7:15 pace. The whole run was about 9 miles in 1:15 (obviously slow on the trails). It was a great START to the day. Then the rest of the day happened.....

- Before the bike, I felt some tightness in my hamstring. It didn't bother me much on the bike, and I didn't notice it on the run. But it's killing me now. I obviously pulled something back there.

- So then we had someone take a look at our roof due to the leaks last winter. The whole damn thing needs to be replaced. Very, very expensive.

- Upon calling Toyota, where yesterday they replaced the brakes (expensive), they said they also need to replace the parking brake cable and it won't be ready until Monday.

- Then we went to replace our mattress (the two yr old one was under warranty), causing us to throw in another $400. I hate shopping for mattresses. How can you honestly tell how something is going to feel after a full night's sleep, much less 10 years? I also hate going to the Mall.

- Returning to the house, I was reminded that we just replaced the axle on the boat trailer, and the riding mower is at the shop getting new belts.

And it's only 12:30. I know we are more fortunate than many, and I am thankful for what we have. But I've had better mornings.

Tomorrow I head to a local sprint tri. The swim (425 yds) is in the pool where I grew up. It's always fun to go back there. Even better, I'm only doing the swim. Given the condition of my leg, that's a good thing. Nick will bike (14 mi) and Leah will run (3). It will be fun doing this as a team.

Friday, September 11, 2009

T - 365

Let the countdown begin. Three hundred and sixty five days until the ITU Age Group World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it at this point. Don't get me wrong- I know it will be a great trip and a rush to race with some of the best in the world. But to be honest, I feel a bit like a dog that just caught what it was chasing after. The chase was to qualify.....now what?

I guess this is all a good sign. A sign that my priorities are where they should be, especially at this point. I have purposely tried to detach myself from the intensities of the sport for a while. I need to direct energies to family and work. And after Nationals, I was mentally exhausted from the pursuit. I also had no desire to turn myself inside out again.

Back in the fall of 1990, I was sailing for Tufts. I wasn't nearly good enough to compete with the multiple All Americans on the team in dinghys, for various reasons, but I did find a spot on the "Sloop" team. For you sailors out there, we were in J-22s and 24s. My size helped instead of hurt, and my experience was also a plus. We qualified for the National Champioships on the equivalent of a three-point basketball heave as the clock expired. No exaggeration. And it was my call in the last race that made the difference. To qualify for the National Collegiate Championship was a big deal. As it turned out, the trip to Navy for Nationals was a huge disappointment, something that still eats away at me. Largely because of, shall we say, extracurricular activities by a few on the team, we ended up 9th out of 10.

This time around, I am the one in control. I won't let the the same thing happen. I'll go to Budapest, wear the uniform with pride and perform well. Obviously, I won't be in the running for a podium spot. I'm not quite sure how I will judge my performance, but there is plenty of time for that.

It wasn't until a couple of days ago when I started to draw some broad outlines for next year. I can feel some of the excitement for the sport and Worlds beginning to creep back into my bones. This is an opportunity of a lifetime- the race, event, and travel with the family.

At some point I'll take a retrospective look back at 2009 and figure out what lessons should be learned, thereby shaping a plan for 2010.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer, We Hardly Knew You

I went out on my first ride since Nationals this morning. A quick check of the thermometer on the way out stopped me in my tracks- 43 degrees. Sixteen days ago, I was racing in 80+ degree weather, worried about dehydration. Now I'm worried about frozen toes and hands. I opted for the full gloves and long sleeve Nor'Easter jacket, but stubbornly did not cover up my peach-fuzz legs. I had a good ride, about 30 miles, without pushing too much other than a few short hills. Upon returning home, my feet went through that painful cold weather thaw. But it's early September....my feet shouldn't be this cold....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Motivation From Money

No, I'm not that materialistic. But when I send in an entry fee (boy, that dates me...I mean when I put my credit card into Active), I'm committed. Come hell or high water, I'm going to do the race.

I just signed up for the CELT Challenge, a local sprint on Sept 27. But I didn't just sign up myself. I'll do the 425 yd pool swim, Nick will bike 14 on my old Javelin TT bike, and Leah will do the 3 mile trail run. This should be tons of fun. I hope there are some other families that sign up....anyone?....anyone?.....Bueller?....

Speaking of Nick, he hit a milestone last week. He's 13, in 8th grade, and a smidge away from 6 feet tall. We went to Olympia Sports for some soccer cleats. They didn't have any large enough. Size 12 wasn't even close. And he's not even close to done growing. I'm going online to see how we can put some webbing between those toes of his.

There's a chance we might take him to Sugarloaf for the weekend CVA snowboarding program. Which means all sorts of things, including renting a condo and tons of driving for four months. If anyone knows of someone who wants to share condo space or has one available, let me know. This could also mean I get into XC skate skiing, which could be great. I've always thought XC skiers are the best athletes in the world.

Finally, a big congrats to those who did IMCDA, IMLOU and the local races. While you put in all of that hard work on Sunday, I ate TWO big sausages at Fenway Park. Onions, peppers, the works. Then an ice cream bar. I could get used to this off season routine.....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tuscaloosa Ramblings and a Look Forward

First, a few final ramblings from Nationals....
....I discovered Fritos makes Baked Cheetos. Healthy Cheetos. Cool.
….Dinner on race night was a big ol’ mushroom, cheddar and bacon burger, preceded with fried pickles. They are sliced cross sections and fried. You dip them is some kind of special sauce. I’d never hear of them, but they’re really good. I was also pleased to see Sam Adam’s Summer Ale served.
….Tuscaloosa isn’t like anything in the northeast. It isn’t terribly attractive, and you wonder what these people do, other than go to or serve the University.
….Alabama football is everything. Saturdays must be nuts. Bear Bryant is god, and the stadium is the church.
….I introduced myself to a guy from NH in my AG who I knew I had raced against (and lost to) at Mooseman the last two years and Nationals last year. When he didn’t pass me until about mile 2 or 3 on the run, I thought I was probably doing well overall. He beat me by about 6 min on the run, last year was 1:30. Yikes. He’s a NOAD and is going to Gold Coast next month. He said, “It took getting divorced and nine tries to finally make it.” Hmmmmm....
….At the awards ceremony, they gave awards for the fastest swim, bike and run splits. The swimmers got new $600 wetsuits. The bikers got $5,000 Blue bikes. The runners? They got screwed- Fuel Belt, gel, and some other crap.
….The guy who won my (M40-44) AG was 9th overall. Go old guys!

Now it's time to move forward-

Triathlon training is hard work. But it’s also hard on the family. I’ll train hard next season, but it’s time to take a step back now. I need to spend time at the soccer field and on date nights. My family is far more important to me than the sport, and they’ve been somewhat neglected by a lack of time, attention and spirit. So I need to return back to what’s important.

I’m also mentally tired from the grind. Every workout for months and months has been planned and recorded. Every heartbeat, pedal stroke, watt, yard and mile is on the computer. I’ll keep recording workouts, but for a little while now I won’t have a structured plan. I’ll try to sleep in a bit, especially on the weekends. So far, I haven't set my alarm clock for five days straight.

For workouts this week, I have done four two-mile walks with the dog and three shorter swims. It has been liberating not to plan anything.

Finally, I’m done with racing for the season. I’ll skip Lobsterman and the Maine Marathon (I wasn’t too sure of that anyway). I have no desire to get ready for a race and then turn myself inside out on race day. I did that eight times this year. I don’t think I can “just show up and do it.” It’s called a race for a reason. You go fast. My ego would also seriously get in the way when I saw my rivals or anyone else I “should beat.”

It will be another long, cold winter soon enough. Hours on hours on the trainer in a 40 degree garage watching dumb TV, trying to work hard with no one around to push me. Finishing runs while it’s still dark. I want to get out and enjoy the good weather while we still have it. Maybe I’ll go for a hike or two. Trail running would be fun. Maybe some mountain biking.

My competitive juices can be satisfied in the pool with the noontime group. Which brings up the one exception to the above. The CELT Challenge, a local sprint, has a new category- family relay. The kids have expressed some interest. I just need to swim 425 yards (in my HS pool, always fun to go back), Nick can do the bike (maybe on my old TT bike given that he’s nearly 6 feet tall), and Leah can do the run. I could do it with her to keep her company. It would be a good challenge for both of them.

So that’s it. I’m done for the season.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Elite National Championships

After the AG race, the women went at 12 and the men at 2:15. If you ever get to see an ITU-style race, don’t miss it. You see the athletes every 8-10 minutes, and they fly.

The swim course was different, but faced the same current. The bike was a six lap course, including our first (big-ass) hill on the run. The run was four laps and all flat. I went back to the hotel to change and lie down for a few minutes, so didn’t arrive back at the course until the women were halfway through the bike. I heard one of them had a 2 minute lead in the swim. She held it for nearly the entire bike, but came in with a small group into T2. At that point, I moved over to watch the men’s race, so I have no idea what happened on the run.

Last year I watched Matt Chrabot and Matt Reed ride together then battle on the run until Reed pulled away with about 1000m to go. Both were back for this year’s race. Also there was Tim O’Donnell, who I wasn’t familiar with, but heard he was a very strong runner. Here’s a picture of the men’s start:




Early in the swim.



Have I mentioned the river current? It was incredible to see even these pros go practically nowhere against it. These guys typically average 15-16 minutes for a swim. On this day it was about 20 minutes.

Here's a picture of the men starting another lap on the bike. You can see the line behind the front two:




The transitions were blazing fast. Fast and simple.

Women’s T2:



Men’s T2



Back to the men’s race….Two of them came out of the water a fair bit ahead, then were joined by the next pair. This lead group of 4 included Chrabot. Then there was a group of 4 about 1-2 minutes back, with Reed at the back of the bunch. For the bike, I stationed myself near the turnaround, which turned right, went up a good hill, did a 180, back down the same hill, then back out on the course. It was incredible watching Reed singlehandedly pull his group up to the other. This guy is really strong and determined. The 8 rode together for laps 4 and 5, then left for the last lap. I moved down to the transition area. When they came in, Chrabot and one other guy had a 60 second lead on the others. That’s a pretty big escape late in the bike. It must have happened on that hill. Reed did his best to catch up and got to within 25 seconds.
This is the end of the third lap:


By the third lap, Tim O’Donnell had moved into third and was trucking along. At the finish, Reed had dropped well back into third. While I feel for him, it was nice to see another big guy labor in the heat. He looked absolutely gassed. Chrabot and O’Donnell are probably 6-8 inches shorter and 20-30 pound lighter. It’s also worth noting that Reed is focused on the longer distances, while the others stick to ITU racing.

Again, don’t miss an opportunity to watch one of these races. Chances are good Burlington will host this event in 2011 and 2012. It would be great to get a strong contingent from Maine over there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Race Report: USAT National Championships- BUDAPEST BOUND!

I'm going to Budapest for the ITU Age Group World Championships in September 2010!

So that's the bottom line. If you want more details, read on....

I got to transition really early- like 5:15. The first wave didn't start until 7, and I went at 8:09. I didn't want to have a parking problem, and I was up anyway. Since the bike was already there and we weren't allowed to take it out, there really wasn't much to do.

When the first wave went off, it soon became VERY clear that a current had miraculously appeared overnight. One bit of evidence was watching a dead and bloated catfish float by. Why was it dead? (Later, a local told me there are water moccasins. Yikes.) As I heard later, they released water from the dam above, perhaps due to the recent rain. I need to buy those guys a beer. The swim was an elongated rectangle, parallel to the shore, starting in the middle, going clockwise, and ending at the "corner" upstream. Note I said upstream. The story of the day was the current. The first four waves went off for the 50+ AGs. When they went around the second corner and proceeded to try to swim upstream, they nearly stopped. I don't mean slowed down, I mean stopped. I had to look hard to see if they were moving at all. Apparently, some 20 swimmers dropped out.

Coming from Maine, and being very familiar with currents, it was easy to come up with a strategy. The current should be stronger in the middle, and the swim would be longer (go a bit easier). I started to the right, closer to the middle of the river. We were crammed in there like sardines. I was able to clear the group fairly easily. At the first buoy, I made a wild guess that I was somewhere between 5th and 8th in my wave. I took the buoy tight and immediately angled 20 degrees to the right, allowing the current to correct my course. With the change in direction, I could feel just how strong the current was. I also noticed everyone else swept far wide of the buoy. As I approached the second corner, from a 90 degree angle, everyone else was already swimming upstream because they swam a "bow" shape. Then things got tricky. I wanted to go left to get in lighter current, but there was a huge pile up to my left. It took about two minutes of swimming over and around people to get over there. The next leg took FOREVER......This was the long leg of the rectangle, parallel to the shore where the older folks stopped. I probably didn't get far enough left, but I don't think anyone was further left. Grind, grind, grind. Finally the last corner came and it was the reverse of the second leg. I went wide around the buoy and only turned 70 degrees, again, allowing for the current to correct. Everyone else got swept onto the buoy, then started their "bow" track. At the exit, I came in straight, and the others were nearly swimming straight upstream to get out. The watch read 28 minutes. Twenty-eight! For a"one mile" swim! I was 8 minutes slower than last year. I would guess my better training helped by at least one minute, the lack of wetsuit hurt by two minutes, and the current added about seven. The day was starting out just fine. It was also interesting to note that only about 10% of swimmers wore a skin suit.

Out on the bike, we started with a short out-and-back. The entire course was on a divided (50 mph) parkway with three 180 degree turns on each lap. At the first 180, I saw an older biker flat on his back on one side, and a pedestrian on his back the other, both with neck braces on. Turns out the racer had a broken femur. In general, I worked the flats near threshold, up hills 20-30 watts over, and rested as much as possible going down. At the end of one lap I checked my averages: low watts but an average speed of 23.6 or so. Great. Just do it again, not being afraid to really be aggressive on the hills. And I did. I found myself just below threshold on the flats going 26-27. What a great feeling. The course was very crowded on the first lap, as I expected. It was completely closed to traffic, so we were three abreast at times. I'll say it was very difficult to completely avoid technical drafting, but I didn't see any serious offenders. With about 1 mile to go, I got a small cramp in my right hip area, something that never happens. I should have known that was a sign of things to come. I came in at about 1:01, very pleased, even though it was about 1/2 mile short.

Then everything came apart. Even before I got out of T2, I realized it was really hot and I was sapped. My legs didn't feel strained like they do when I push the pace out of T2, I was just tired all over. The steepest hill came near mile 1. After seeing how slow I and others were "running," I decided to go with an up-tempo walk.

Yes, walk. In a 10K. I friggin' walked! Never happened before, and I sure hope it never happens again. I knew I was beat up, I'm sure my heart rate was high, and I wanted to conserve. I probably walked 1/2 of the hill. About a mile later came hill number two. Same thing. I walked the top half. Hill number three, walk. In total, I probably walked 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Oh yeah, that includes a few paces of walking at a couple of the water stops.

There were no mile markers out there. But by the time I came down the third hill, still feeling sapped, I know I was more than half way. That helped me pick it up just a touch. To me, it felt like I went from 8:30s to 8:20s. Seriously, it felt that slow. Due to my reconnaissance, I knew about where mile 5 was. That's when I started thinking about the unseen 39 year olds. I picked it up a touch. Half way from there, another small pick up. Then I stayed as strong as I could to the finish.

As it turns out, I went 43:31, a 7:02 average. Frankly, I'm stunned. That means that outside of walking, I ran somewhere around a 6:40 pace.

Swim 28:36- 107th
T1 1:59- best in AG was 1:18
Bike 1:01:08, 123rd- USAT says I averaged 24.4, I say 23.4. Either way, good.
T2 1:06- best in AG was 0:45
Run- 43:41- 381st- 7:02/mi
Overall 2:16:29- OA 156/1070, AG 19/77

Given my state for a good 90 minutes after the finish, I know I put all I had into the race. I had zero appetite, was so hot I filled my shorts with ice three times, and had a tight throat that I get when dehydrated and can't breathe.

Finally I went over to get my results. 2:16, 19th place. OK, I have a shot. Remember for Worlds qualifying, I had to remove any 44 year olds that beat me, and add in 39 year olds. Finally I saw a list. Four 44 year olds beat me.

AND NO 39 YEAR OLDS. That puts me in 15th. 18 qualify. I DID IT.

I called Christine and cried. I could hardly talk. Think about how you feel when you watch Kona on TV, or the national anthem at the Olympics. This was my moment. I'm sure my physical state affected my mental state, even well after the race, but I was completely choked up. I went against some of the best in the country in my age group, and did well enough to wear the USA uniform next year.

Oh yeah, it'll have my name on my ass. I'm a NOAD.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ready to Go!

I got all of the stuff done I needed to do today, and in general, was fairly lazy. I was even able to watch a movie (including a 15 minute nap) before lunch. The day started with a 30 min bike ride on the course. That covered most of it because it's two laps. There are three hills, and one might require the small chain ring. But they are very manageable. The hills are really long and strung out. I even found some good spots where I'll be able to coast while going well over 30 mph.

Then they opened the swim course, so I got in for 10 minutes. The water is warm, but not ridiculous. I think the rainfall has helped. The rain has also brought in a bunch of mud, so to say the water is murky is a gross understatement. At least I hope it's mud. I literally could not see past my elbow. I felt like Michael J Fox in Back to the Future, near the end, when family started disappearing from the photo because he had disrupted the space-time continuum.

I'll go for a 10 min jog with pickups before dinner.

I am not a good bike mechanic. In fact, there's quite a bit about this stuff that makes me nervous. I'm always suspicious that something is wrong. So leaving the bike in transition always makes me apprehensive. And to do it the night before is even worse. Here it is, in its designated parking spot, waiting for me to show up early tomorrow morning:




And here you can see many others that have done the same. There's a good chance of rain or thunderstorms in the next few hours and into the night, so some folks covered up various parts.



The final weather forecast for the morning is partly cloudy, 70 degrees at 8:00 and 78 degrees at 10:00. The "RealFeel" goes from 77 to 89. So most of the race should be fine, with it getting hot late in the race. But it could be far worse.
So that's it. I've done all I can. Now it's time to put it all together.

Shaving Off Time

I’ve done it about 15-18 times in my life, and every single time, it feels great. It feels slick, clean, uninhibited…and FAST. I did it again last night….a full body shave. I read advice on a whole plethora of issues, but never shaving. Realizing that some of this is better suited for the guys, here goes:

1. Why is shaving fast? I used to think it was because of the lower resistance. Then I learned from Coach Megerle, who was one of the shaving pioneers, that it has more to do with neurological responses.

2. Don’t mask that feeling- Many have shaved, dived in a pool, and felt that incredible feeling of a slick bod. You might think it’s best to shave as late as possible or to mask the feel of a shave until right before your event. Swimmers still wear panty hoes while warming up at their championship meet. At Tufts, we shaved Wednesday, traveled Thursday, and the 3-day meet started Friday. In between, we got our bodies accustomed to the feel. And I dare say that collectively as a team, we typically had some of the best swims of the meet. In 1998, I went to the Masters Swimming Nationals in Indianapolis. (By the way, if you haven’t been to swimming’s “Mecca,” don’t pass up an opportunity. It’s incredible.) At that meet, I shaved Thursday for the meet that started the next day. I was disappointed in my Friday swims, but then got better, and without a doubt had my best times on Sunday.

3. Only shave one or two times per year. Shaving MUST be accompanied by full rest. A fatigued, shaved body won’t perform well. Realistically, you won’t go through a full taper any more than 1-2 times. There have been experiments to see if shaving for every meet would work- and it didn’t. The exception to this rule would be if you shave for your A race, then qualify for an even bigger event.

4. Use a foam cream, not a gel. I find the gel slides right off.

5. If you do a “touch-up” shave a day or two later, be very careful to go “with the grain,” especially on the quads.

6. Clip first. This will get rid of 90% of the hair, making the shave much easier.

7. Be ready for a terrible night’s sleep. Rubbing your own slick legs together just isn’t a natural feeling for some of us- on top of the fact that we’re keyed up for a big race.

8. Don’t plan on gettin’ any for a bit. Slick legs don’t just feel weird for you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Settling In...And One Unbalanced Woman

The trip down and drive to Tuscaloosa went fine. Then begins a hilarious exchange:

Upon driving into the hotel parking lot, I found myself next to a woman who was obviously here for the race (tending to a Cervelo, wearing race gear and knee-high compression socks) and was building up her bike. The hotel wasn't ready for people to check in, so I figured I'd do the same. Thus begins the conversation.

A: So are you here to do well, or is this just another race?

Knowing she's from NJ, I had to work not to show my disbelief at the question. I felt like saying, "You must be joking. Why would you spend all of the time and money getting down here if it wasn't a big deal?"

S: Yeah

A: I'm here because a bunch of friends are also. I'd also like to qualify for worlds because I've been to every other world championship that the sport offers.

S: When did you do Kona?

A: 1999 and 2002. I've qualified every year since, but don't want to go back because I'm too light for the winds.

(Cue gagging)

S: Yeah I'd love to do Kona, but the training just takes too much time at this point.

A: Time isn't a problem for me.

I didn't dare go any further. She went inside, discovered they had a room for her, and came back out to get her stuff.

A: Are you here alone?

S: Yup.

A: If you want, come out to dinner with the group. I'll leave my card on your windshield later.

S: OK, thanks.

A while later, I went out to the car to go to the grocery store. There's the card. Under the name- you can't make this stuff up- is:

"All-American Ironman Triathlete"

Wow. This sport is an important part of what I (and many of you) do, but it doesn't define me. I get the feeling that if she permanently blew out a knee she whither up and disappear.

Anyway.....I drove the bike and run courses. The run is 90% flat with two meaningful hills. The first one will be a real kick in the gut. We're done with both after about 2 1/2 miles. The bike is a mix of flat and really long rolling hills. Nothing too steep. I'm not sure if they will call for the small chain ring or not.

Bit over 36 hours to go......

On My Way!

Sitting here crammed into a US Airways flight to Charlotte. I had a “solid,” taper- and next-day-flight-induced four hours of sleep last night. The coming race went round and round in my head as I peeked at the clock to see it was only 1…2…3…4 o’clock.

Anyway, I’ve done some scouting to see where I stand in the field. My AG has 86 competitors. (There are three other AGs with between 85 and 90.) Ignoring the 44 year olds and including the 39 year olds, it seems like there are 12 others who should comfortably beat me. Then there’s a group of five who I labeled as “Better, close.” Two of them were ranked higher in the All American rankings last year and also beat me at Nationals last year by no more than 90 seconds. While they’re probably thinking the same thing, I feel like my improvements this year should make up the gap. The other three were just behind me in the AA rankings and had some pretty good race results. So that’s 17 total so far. Then there’s a group of 9, one of whom was ahead of me in the AA rankings, who seem like they could be very close. That makes a total of 26. It’s interesting to note that of the 86 in my AG, only 9 others were at Hagg Lake last year. I’ll count that as another slight advantage.

Team USA comes from the top 18, rolling down to 25. So I’m certainly in the mix. Thank you to those who have offered encouraging words. Knowing people are “watching” helps on race day, especially during those low points. One comment in particular stuck with me- “Take some risks.” We’re only talking about a bit over 2 hours here. It’s too short to DNF due to too much early effort. Sure, going bananas on the bike could sap some running energy, but it won’t end the day. I need to be smart, but if I’m ever going to push the envelope further than ever before, this will be the day. This isn’t a “B” race in the middle of the season. This is it.

One tweak to the race plan, especially on the run, is to pick up the pace for 30 seconds or so at the points when I feel like backing off. It worked at Crank the Kanc. On the steep section, there were times when I saw my power fade. I stood up, picked it up for 30 seconds or so, then settled into my target pace again. I repeated it all the way up the hill. I’ve heard of others doing the same thing. This should work especially well in the second half of the run.

As I mentioned earlier, the weather forecast still looks about as good as possible for Alabama in August. The humidity should come down, and the high temp is supposed to be “just” 86.

I’ll check in later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Final Countdown

Six days to judgement day. The day that I've been shooting for for 12 months. All of the workouts and races have been done with this day in mind. It's the day when many of the best Olympic-distance triathletes knock heads in perhaps the most competitive race of the year. It takes dedication and some talent just to go. Even more to do well. And to be in the top group...well, we'll find out if I have that.

Last year I learned about the danger in judging a performance based solely on my place, which is dependant upon how others perform. It isn't like swimming or track where you can have a great time, not place well, and be completely satisfied. I tried all year to figure out what the criteria would be to judge my performance other than my place- and failed. I want to make the team. It's fairly bottom-line.

So let's tackle this from another angle. I'll lay out what I need to do in order to reach my goal:

1. Follow my pre-race plan. That should be easy.
2. Have a very solid swim. I have confidence in that. The key will be to stay focused on the backside of the course, which looks like it's more than a half mile straight shot. Head position, roll, be strong. Final turn, keep it together to the finish.
3. Simple, quick transitions.
4. Speed on the bike. Sounds obvious, but notice I'm not saying big effort or power. I'll push hard early and settle down in the first 5 miles. Power the flats and hills. Find spots to take short rests. Turn it into an interval workout. Stand up and power out of the six 180 degree turns. After the first lap, check my average speed and power. Finish my drink and increase cadence with a few miles to go.
5. I'll break the run into three sections, 2 miles each, and have a saying to repeat over and over again. First, it's "turnover." Ease into the run and be quick at the same time. I'll also need to gauge the heat and my fluid/salt intake. This is the time to make adjustments. Start the cooling process early. The two out-and-back hills are done at about mile 2.5, so this bit of caution will fit well. Second, it's "smile." Miles 3 and 4 are like the fourth 100 in a 500 swim. Not much fun, and the finish is still a ways away. It's also where races can be won or lost. So I need to keep my spirits high- keep my head in the game. Again, work to stay cool. Now that the hills are done, it's flat to slightly downhill the rest of the way. Don't pound, keep the stride together. Third, "empty the tank." This comes from Mel Stottlemyer's comment to Roger Clemens in the 2003 playoffs when everyone thought the seventh inning would be the last of his career. [Important note: I hate the Yankees and Clemens, but it works.] There's nothing to hold back for at this point. I can recover tomorrow (KP). I'm racing that unseen 39 year old that wants my spot on the team. Let's call him Pete. We're shoulder-to-shoulder. Stride for stride. Both hanging on for dear life, just trying to stay with the other. Mile 6, .2 remains. The finish is right there. I've done tons of 1/4 mile repeats. Just one more remains in my season. That's when I leave Pete. Strong to the tape.

I've done all I can. I executed my training plan and race as well as I could have. Now we'll just have to wait and see where we stand....

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Last _________ Before Nationals

I love taper periods. Both my high school and college swim coaches were masters at piecing together workouts to get us to peak exactly at the right time. Coach Megerle, especially, customized things nearly to every person. Tapering was not to be done overnight. We eased into it over many weeks, to the point where in the last week, we (figuratively) just had to smell the pool water to get in our workout. He also took a wholistic approach. Watch your weight, hydrate and take care of all outside responsibilities so that there is nothing to do other than focus on the event.



All season, I've done a 10 mile run every Monday with a max HR of 148 (HRmax is about 174). Two weeks ago I cut it to 9 miles, last week was the same. Today It was 7.5 miles, and included some intensity to take care of the typical Tuesday track interval workout. Today was also the last 60 min swim. Tomorrow will be the last ride over 60 min. I've stayed at just about 10 hours per week for the last six weeks as you can see on the graph below that shows total hours by week since June 1:





For you periodization believers, there are some cycles and variety inside of these weeks. However given my time limitations, I chose to be much more consistent than in years past. The fewer hours allowed for more intensity and reduced the need for full recovery weeks.

This week is 8 hours, and is focused on two things- race pace and recovery pace.

I can't help but look at the VERY extended forecast for 8/22. Right now, that day is the coolest (high of 84) with the lowest humidity. I've made this mistake before. The forecast for IMWI in 2004 was for the low 70s, and it ended up in the high 80s. I know it's foolish, but there's not nearly as much risk with a two hour race.

I feel like my body is right where it should be. My run is better than ever. My swim is better than any other tri season. My bike is as good as last year. I know how to put together a complete race better than ever. This is gonna be fun!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Race Report: Bethel Sprint...My First First

Things are starting to come together. This was my final race before Nationals. Last year I also did a sprint (Pumpkinman) three weeks before Nationals and it worked really well. It's far enough away to allow for a hard effort and recovery without affecting my taper.

First, a disclaimer- the Bethel tri is a bit of a throwback. As a part of that, the competition is not extensive. I knew heading in that Kurt P would not be there, but two rivals, Jeff F and Rob F would be. The three of us have swapped places several times the last two years. I excel at the swim, Jeff at the bike, and Rob at the run. My swim and Jeff's bike pretty much offset each other, and our run times are the same. Rob's a bit behind me in the water, close on the bike, and then kills the run. Typically, the winner among the three of us is determined by which leg is relatively longer. Just two weeks ago, it was Rob, me, Jeff. One week earlier, it was Jeff, me, Rob. Polarbear, it was Rob, me, Jeff. I should also note that they are both in the next older age group, and we never seem to start together. So we never know where we stand until the results come out. Bethel is a 1k swim, 25k bike and 6k run. So the swim is slightly favored here. Driving up to the race, I figured I would need to go strong early and just try to hold on.

Upon signing in, I saw that all of the men started together in the first wave. Ooooh, yeah. Now we'll know where we stand. Uh-oh. This is gonna hurt.

I saw Jeff and he mentioned he hasn't done much in the last two weeks because he's resting before he starts his big push before long distance (about 1/2 IM) Worlds. Knowing he's a strong competitor, I translated that to..."I'm rested."

The swim was a clockwise triangle with the start and finish in the same place. We started in waste-deep water, so I moved way left to shorten the first leg (Jeff & Rob were also there). People were much calmer (remember, it's a much less cometitive race), and there was minimal jostling. At "Go," I dove in and went strong. Not once did anyone touch me. No bumps, slams, not so much as a toe touch. The bouys were small 18" orange mooring balls. From my vantage point, I could hardly see them. Sighting the entire way was tough. I also had no one to follow because...well...I was leading, and we were in the first wave. I wanted to get after this swim and try to stay strong the whole way. I was pretty much successful, having to force myself to focus a few times. I came out of the water in the lead, and for the first time in many, many years, heard the excited cheers for the leader. That was cool.

In T1, one other guy came in before I left. That was the last time I saw another competitor the entire race.

As I started the bike, a pickup truck with hazards on pulled out in front of me. We all have have little goals, and one of mine was to have the escort vehicle with me. Very cool.

The course is fairly flat with some very tame rollers for the first 12 miles or so, then there are some more significant hills near the end. The bike started out pretty rough. I couldn't get my power up at all. I pushed, pushed, forced it, but it wouldn't come. My lower back and butt hurt. Effects from the last week of training? Will this go away after a taper? I found myself constantly shifting to find a power-cadence combination that worked. I looked for a few spots to glide for 10 seconds at a time, hoping my legs would reset. I stood up a couple of times on small hills to mix things up. It didn't start feeling better for a good 10-15 minutes. It felt like I was mashing the bike, moving around a lot, hardly smooth. But eventually, I returned to the simple "hard effort" feel of a race. It felt good to work through those problems. It's funny what happens when you think someone's chasing you. I didn't look back the entire ride, but pushed out of fear that "they" were gaining. Near the end, in the hills, there's one long and moderately steep one. I said to myself, "OK, this is where the race is decided...," and pushed a hard 295w. As it turns out, my normalized power and speed were:
1st 12 minutes 251w, 23.6
2nd 12 min 251w, 25.6
3rd 12 min 269w, 22.8
Total 256w, 23.6
Although the power should be 10w higher, I got better as the race progressed and that's the best average speed I've ever had. In the end, I don't care about power- the name of the game is to get around the course as fast as possible. Power is for training. Speed is for races. I'm satisfied with this effort.

The run was fairly flat, with two-thirds on a dirt road. It was actually a great course, other than the huge camber in the road for the first mile. It felt like my left foot was a good six inches lower than my right. On the dirt road, I was off in the woods all alone. I occasionally saw a race directional sign, so I knew I was going the right way. There were no spectators or volunteers out there, other than one water stop. A few people wandered out of their cabin and probably thought, "what the hell is this guy doing in that funny looking suit?" I didn't look back for fear of what I might see, and because there were no straight sections for me to see more than 100 yds or so. Finally I came to the marking for one mile to go. I was working hard, again, because unidentified people were chasing me. Then the half mile marker. I finally looked back, and saw...NO ONE. My mind said, "OK, push in the clutch a bit." My body kept going, feeling strong and smooth. I crossed the line in 1:17, then waited more than two minutes for Rob to finish second and another two minutes for Jeff to finish third. Woot!

As an aside, I'm not sure what Woot! is. It seems like an internal celebration for those from the midwest or northwest. Assuming I'm right, Woot!

The award was a huge glass inscribed mug worthy of about 3 beers, plus a two night ski & stay package at Sunday River. Woot!

As for my splits:
Swim 15:21, 1st
T1 0:54, 4 were under :50
Bike 36.47, 3rd
T2 0:33, 4 were under :30
Run 23:36 7th
Overall 1:17:08, 1st

Jeff's bike was :50 faster, compared to 2:37 faster two weeks ago over a similar distance. Rob's run was :34 faster, compared to :57 faster two weeks, same distance.

After the race, I had a really interesting conversation with a guy who happened to notice my Nationals shirt from last year. He was there too, and he qualified for Worlds as part of the CEO Challenge. So he's going to Gold Coast next month. He also did Kona last year, buying the slot through a charity auction. It cost him $45,000. Now that's some entry fee! He's coached by the same guy that coaches 2008 winner Craig Alexander. However he wasn't quite as fast. In fact, he was the LAST guy to finish, in 16:58, just before the midnight cutoff. If you have the video, they highlight him for a few seconds at the finish. Also very noteworth, he's says WTC is going to announce an Ironman for Burlington, VT. Not sure if it's for 2010 or 2011.

Next up....USAT National Championships in hot & humid Tuscaloosa, Alabama on August 22. I want to be a NOAD.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm in for it

Great track workout this morning. Like a typical Tuesday morning, I started with an easy 45 minute bike to warm up. Unlike most days, I did the entire thing in short sleeves. Then it's a 1 mile run in about 7 minutes to the track. I did 12x400 with 50 walk/50 jog in between which took about 45 seconds. I was able to split 1:36 x 2, 1:35, 1:34, 1:33, 1:32 x 4, 1:29 x2, and 1:27. My target race pace is more like 6:25, so I'm really happy with that.
Upon returning, I thought to myself, "boy it seems pretty warm." Then I discovered the truth- 65 degrees. Tuscaloosa will be 85. Yikes.
On top of that, the USAT website says the water down there is 84 degrees. EIGHTY-FOUR! I've never swum in water that warm.
I've started my scouting for the race. Using the entry list, last year's results, All American rankings and Google results, I can get a pretty good idea of the competition. Last year I was within one or two spots of my prediction. Right now I see 15 that could beat me, but I have some more work to do. There are far more 39 year olds than 44 year olds, so I will be racing against a whole slew of folks I can't see. USAT has changed the cutoff- now it's 18, rolling down to 25. Last year was 16 rolling down to 20. That change could make a big difference.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dialing it in

27 days to Nationals. Training and racing have gone well to this point. Now I have about two more weeks of work, followed by a two week taper. Yesterday I went on a great three hour, 58 mile ride in the White Mountains with Scott M. We had one big 4.5 mile climb up Bear Notch and several good tempo efforts that were a bit over race pace. I followed that up with a 4 mi. run, the first half about 20 seconds slower than race pace.

My swimming is really coming along nicely. I'm putting in some efforts in the pool that I couldn't do a month ago. At Nationals, the swim is where I'll pick up at least a minute on the field compared to last year. First, it's a no-wetsuit race. Wetsuits help non-swimmers much more than me. Second, swimming was an afterthought in training last year. I was mentally tired from the other training to work hard in the pool. This year, it's been a focus of mine- without overdoing it.

Probably the biggest variable for me will be the heat. I don't know if I've done more than two or three workouts in temps over 70 degrees this year. It could easily be 90 and humid down in Alabama. Other than the normal hydrating and sodium intake, the only adjustment may be to run out of T2 carrying a fuel belt bottle and take an extra Lavasalt.

I was psyched to see how well folks did at IMLP! I can't wait to hear the details.

Next up- Bethel sprint on Sunday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Race Report: Urban Epic, Another AG Win...and a 2 Day Marathon



Urban Epic was my fourth race in four weeks, made up of 2 sprint tris, one modified (shorter) olympic distance tri, and a 5K run. I felt good going into this race, not too tired, but like last weekend, the butterflies didn't show up and I had no specific goals or plan...other than go hard. I guess this is a good sign...am I getting this race stuff under control?


The race started from the beach, but instead of going out at a perpendicular angle to the beach, we went out at about 30 degrees. In other words, you wanted to be far to the right. I joined the crowd and actually ran for 50-100 yards along the beach before diving in. I later heard a race official said you just need to be in ankle deep water and that running in it is perfectly legal. The swim was smooth and uneventful. After exiting the water, I stripped off the wetsuit and threw on my backup racing flats to run the half mile to the indoor transition warehouse.


The 13 mi. bike was treachorous due to the overnight rain and drizzle we had early on. It took me a good 50 yards for my brakes to even begin to engage. I took corners very conservatively- no need for a wipeout just 5 weeks before Nationals. Anyway, they closed ost of the course off to traffic, which was a great feature. The bulk of the course was a flat twice-around out-and-back around Back Bay, 1.8 miles each way. This is where I tried to crush it, other than the turnarounds. The return to the start featured two hills, with just a 20 yard flat between, the second one at an intimidating 12 degrees. I was able to go well beyond threshhold for that. Overall, I'm happy with bike especially when you consider how conservative I was. I definitely worked it, and the power numbers reflect that. I had the best numbers out of any triathlon I've done.


The 3.5 mi. run was flat, straight up, flat, back down, and flat. The mile markers were way off (seems like a simple task), so my splits were meaningless. It wasn't terribly eventful, other than like most races, I ran hard enough to the point of internal debate over how much harder I really should go.




Results:


Swim (with long run transition) 15:48, 3rd


T1 0:52, fastest was 0:41


Bike 35:54, 8th


T2 :50, fastest was 0:36


Run 23:28, 15th


Overall 1:16:50, 6/300 OA, 1/26 AG




Now to the marathon...more of a figurative one. I decided a while back to hold a surprise 40th birthday party for Christine. Friday started at 5 for a 2 mi lake swim and 3 mile run...rush home, pick up some goodies for breakfast (her actual bday)....change for work....WalMart for initial party supplies.....work for 2 hours....drive to Cumberland to drop the car off, get a ride back to UHaul- at which point the guy erroneously said I wasn't supposed to pick up the truck until 3:00- not a good way to start the marathon- but we worked it out....to South Portland to rent a tent, tables, etc....Falmouth Shaws for nonperishable food and drinks....30 min drive to Topsham to pick up the dunk tank....back to Cumberland to spend 90 min making Sangria (it was great!), leave the truck and dunk tank, get in my car....then back home around 4...breathe....the four of us then went out to dinner where I told Christine the two of us were going away, passport required, but no other details-this sent her into a complete tizzy for the next 20 hours, but successfully served as a mental diversion away from the possibility of a party...awake at 3:30, up at 5, then the easy part- the race....fly home without even looking at initial results...Christine then went to the barn to get ready for the next day's horse show and we went into HIGH gear...back to Cumberland to get the sangria and "party in a truck"....at one point on the drive I hit successive potholes, sloshing a good inch deep of sangria all over the truck...unload said truck, Shaws for food and balloons while "helper" picked up the flowers, cake and ice....at one point in Shaws, as I'm flying through the isles, Nick (at 5' 10" himself) yells, "hey, wait up, I can't walk that fast!"...Back to the house, set up the tent, fill the dunk tank and deal with everything else over a frantic 2 hours...world record shower and shave....final details for 10 minutes...guest arrive, so have to deal with the food they bring....call out for more ice....get text from the barn that she left and will be home in 20 minutes....after 15, I go out to the road, flag her down, causing a terrifying look, move her to the passenger side, blindfold her so she won't see the cars, say "we're not going on a trip, but I had something delivered." "Are there other people here?" "No." Drive in, walk around to her side, immediately in front of everyone standing silently, take her out, blindfold off, "SURPRISE!!!!"...Mission acomplished....we had a great party...the dunk tank was a huge hit....the weather cleared beautifully....I finally stopped around 10.


Oh, and if you see some drunk squirrels walking around Falmouth...the sangria was left out on the front step overnight.



Surprise!


What do you need a ball for?......

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Race Reports: Catching Up- 5K and Black Fly "Int'l"

The 5K in Castine hardly involved any catching up. This race is very much a family, small town affair on 7/4. Very low tech and low budget. It's much more about seeing friends for the first time since last summer and getting some exercise. A whole bunch of people walk or run slow. A few of us work it hard.


The race started with the typical sprint, then began to sort itself out. It's flat for the first 3/4 mile or so, and (thanks to my Garmin) I knew I was holding a 6:05 pace- plenty fast enough for me, although there were about 8 people in front of me. Then the hills started. By the time we got the the highest point in the race, I had picked off two more. I gradually pulled in another, then had another in my sights and eventually within a few yards. But then we started going down hill, and my largest running weakness was revealed. I stink going downhill. He gapped me, and the race was pretty much over. I kept my heart rate up, but decided not to turn myself inside out. As it turns out, I had my highest average heart rate over 18 minutes for the season (other than tris where I don't wear a monitor).


According to Garmin, it was exactly 3.0 miles, and I finished in 19:25- fine. After finishing, I grabbed a water and started doing the race in reverse to find my eight year old. I was amazed how soon I found her, and heard she had run nearly the entire way. She ended up winning the kids division and came away with some good loot.


This week was one of my heavier training weeks- including the triathlon, a bit over 12 hours. The big highlights came from my wife's and my family visiting for her 40th birthday. On Thursday, we went out on Lucky Catch, a lobster boat run by a HS friend. Everyone had a great time even though we didn't catch any legal lobsters. He generously had five waiting for us to take home by the time we got back to the dock. In a major departure from recent weather, we had a beautiful afternoon. Big birthday dinner with lobster and steak. For a guy who likes nearly all food, including all seafood, and is from Maine, it's weird how I don't like lobster. Hence the steak. On Friday, we took the boat out to one of the outer Casco Bay islands to enjoy a great beach day. Then dinner was at a Japanese restaurant.


I mention all of these details not only because it was all great fun, but also as a backdrop to Saturday's race- that started at 7:30, 2 1/2 hours away. I was generally tired from the week, then got up at 3 AM to drive over. I wanted to leave plenty of time in case something went wrong. Big lesson learned....don't trust Google maps implicitly. They sent me over the Sandwich Notch pass. I'm going along, following the directions just right, then turn onto a rough dirt road- it's about 4:45 at this point. I figure it's some short term paving project. But after 2 miles of single lane weaving and bouncing through the forest, I start to question the road, wonder if I've made a terrible mistake, and think about what to do. So I stopped to check a map book I have with very local roads. Sure enough, it gets me to where I want to go- it's also labeled, "Summer traffic only." That's New Englandese for a lousy unmaintained road. The psychological phenomenon of loss aversion kicks in, and I continue on. This road was barely wider than my car, was full of potholes, had boulders and trees right on the sides, and went up and down like a roller coaster. After 8 miles of torture, I finally pulled out onto the beautifully paved Rt. 49 that also served as the race course.


The setting for the race was spectacular- Waterville Valley, right in the heart of the White Mountains. Upon arriving, I soon learned that the water was a reported 53 degrees (holy crap!), and as a result, they shortened the swim from two laps to one. [What is it about me and shortened swims?] In my opinion, it was actually better than Mooseman last year, and easily could have gone the full 1/2 mile. It was probably about 425 yards in total...which took up the ENTIRE body of water. It was like swimming in a bathtub. At the same time, it was a time trial start, with folks going every five seconds. In hindsight, a second lap would have been a logistical nightmare and incredibly crowded as first and second lap swimmers mixed it up. Good sighting and a sprinter's background gave me a good swim.


The bike was about 8-9 miles down, a small lollipop, then back up the same road. I did the first 10 miles in 21 minutes and continued to catch tons of people that started ahead of me. I was pleased with my power output on that first half- it would have been easy to cruise the downhill portion. The second half also went well. I went to my small chainring twice, and only came out of my aerobars a couple of times. I loved this course- the pavement was in great shape, and we had two long stretches with no turns. Just put your head down and go.


I had a bit of a brain fart coming into T2 and forgot to take my feet out of my shoes before the end. Won't make that mistake again. This race was a "B" race for me, and only the second Olympic distance other than Nationals. But I didn't have much of a plan going in. I was actually surprised/concerned by my lack of focus. As I started the run, one goal came to me- keep a high turnover to start the run, shorter strides, don't pound, work into the run, and try to descend. I have been able to nail the first mile in most races, putting in lots of effort, but wanted to finish strong. The strategy worked well, and I was able to avoid the torso discomfort I've had in prior races. The first mile was a gradual uphill, and I split 6:46- fine. Mile 2 had more pronounced hills, including one very steep one, and I split 6:31. The mile that included the turnaround was fairly flat, and I got it down to 6:26. Mile 4, 6:24. Then I saw a NOAD. That's all I needed to have a good push to the finish- 5:53. I was very happy with those splits. It comes to an average of 6:24, which is right on what I want for Nationals. I've never broken 40 in a stand alone race, but that's my goal for the tri. It's a flat course in Tuscaloosa, so that should help.


As for results:

Swim 5:51, 6th

T1 1:31, too slow, fastest was 1:10

Bike 54:38, 23.1 ave, 10th

T2 0:55, fastest was 0:37

Run 32:00, 6:24 ave, 21st

Overall 1:34:54, 7/419 OA, 1/50 AG

After changing up, I enjoyed a good meal- pasta salad, clam chowder, bagel with cream cheese, crackers and cheese, honey yogurt, banana and soda. With that, I only got a couple of snacks for the way home, just enough to stay awake. Soon after getting home, however, I thoroughly enjoyed some leftover birthday carrot cake. Dinner was an open faced steak sanwich with cheese on top. Yum.


Next up...Urban Epic sprint on Saturday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cohasset Results

Swim 5:17, 11th OA- includes two 70 yard runs
T1 1:24, best pro was 0:43- that needs work
Bike 31:13, 18th OA
T2 1:02, best pro 0:48
Run 21:07, 24th OA
Overall 1:00:00, 13/728 OA (winner 56:26), 3/116 AG (winner 58:54)

I'm pretty satisfied with these results. Details...and a rant...are below.

Next up, a local 5K on July 4 in Castine. Generally a family race. Flat start, big up hill, flat, big up hill, long flat, down, long flat, down, up, steep down to finish. In other words, a wicked hilly course. It'll be fun to take the Garmin with me. Usually a couple other good runners show up. Never won this one.

Race Report: Cohasset Sprint...and a rant

Let me get a few things out of the way before giving the race report....

progress: n. advance toward perfection or to a higher or better state; improvement. Totally lacking in the Boston area.

Legend has it that the roads in Boston and surrounding towns were a result of cow paths in revolutionary times. Winding and illogical. You would think that at some point the guys back then would say, "You know what? I think we're smarter than cows. Maybe we should put some thought into the design of our roads." But noooooooo. They're crazy. But for a second let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they just wanted to confuse the invading British forces. Fine. But after the war of 1812, when the all-clear was sounded, there were about 9 decades to get things right before the automobile came along. To make matters worse, once they realized it was too late to change the cow-paths-turned-roads due to property rights, you would think they would post helpful traffic signs. Wrong again. On what should be a fairly easy route, I got turned around going to and returning from the race.

OK, that isn't new news. However the same moronic gene pool that produced those roads thought it would be a good idea to hold a triathlon in Cohasset. Dumb, dumb, dumb. We can swim and run just about anywhere, but you need good routes to hold the bike portion. This was the third annual race there, so you'd think they'd realize their mistake and hold it somewhere else. Wrong again. Sure, you couldn't call it the Cohasset Triathlon anymore, but I'm sure another town would step in. Preferably somewhere far away from these same roads. The bike was only 12 miles. The pavement was some of the worst I've ever seen. At the beginning of the race, the organizer said the town had promised last year to pave before this year's race. Given the economy and tight municipal budgets, it's no surprise it didn't happen. But even if you paved the entire route, it was ridiculous. It made Polarbear seem like a straight freeway. It seemed like we didn't go more than 100 yards before another bend in the road or corner. All of this while it's a fairly overgrown area, so there was zero visibility through the turns. The crowning blow came as they were light on volunteers and those that were out there were not nearly as proactive as they should be. I approached many intersections not knowing where I should go. On top of all this, USAT called this a special qualifier for the National Championships. Obviously zero due diligence went into that decision.

Back to the race....

The swim was supposed to be a half mile with a beach start and a three sided rectangular course- short leg out, longer parallel to the beach, and exit down at the other end. With a heck of a fog bank and good surf, they brought the buoys in closer to the beach. During the interminable 30 minute delay to the start of the race, the visibility improved dramatically, but they never moved the buoys back out. On top of that, the tide was going out, making the swim even shorter. I honestly thought it looked like a 300 yard course. It was so short they had the Elites go around twice. I warmed up on time, 25 min before the scheduled start, then froze for the next 45 minutes. Meanwhile, we were watching the so-called "Elites" swim the course. We had to wait for them to go around the first buoy for the second time before starting. There were these two stragglers that were probably 10 minutes behind the others. How in the world did they get in that wave?

We finally started- with a 70 yard dash down the beach towards the water. I had a few people around me as we dove in and quickly cleared them. I was first to the corner, then really struggled with the wave action. The suft made finding a good stroke nearly impossible. Two guys came up on either side of me, but I was able to stay with them. By the end, one was a bit in front of me and the other passed me as we left T1. As I was running my bike out of the incredibly long path to the mount line, I looked at my watch- 6:30. In other words, there was probably less than 4 minutes of swimming.

For the rest of the race, I passed two "Elites" on the bike, and one passed me back near the end of the run. I didn't see another soul the rest of the way.

Other than being physically rattled by the lousy pavement (see above rant) and nervous about all of the blind corners, I had a strong bike. Power was 7w higher than Polarbear, VI the same, and speed was 23.4 vs. 22.9.

The run started like most- with a tight and moderately cramping torso. It took about 3/4 mile to loosen up. The course had all kinds of quick little hills that broke up the rhythm, but in general it went well, especially considering how hard I pushed the bike. I split 6:16, 6:25 and 6:35. I'm plenty fast out of the gate, but I need to work on staying strong at the end. Some good descending sets should help that.

I left early to get back to a horseshow. As I was gathering my stuff, the last swim wave was starting...to me, another sign of poor race management.

I was looking forward to my "no limits" meal during the drive home. It was too early to stop before going through Boston, so I waited for Rt. 1. Not one sandwich shop on that northbound strip. But there were about eight Dunkin Donuts (not an exaggeration). Either these franchisees have a poor sense of business or there's enough demand there. And if that's the case, it's a sad commentary on the health of commuters in the area. So I drove through to the Kennebunkport rest stop and picked up a fairly good turkey and provolone on wheat, ice cream sandwich, Snackwell cookies and Doritos.

I didn't wait around for the results, and they aren't online yet. I'll report back later.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Race Eve

Sitting here in the lovely Braintree, MA Sheraton. Tomorrow is the Cohasset Sprint. I chose this race because it seemed like lots of fast folks will show up and it fits well into the schedule. It's a qualifier for USAT Nationals- top 1/3 in each AG if you haven't qualified yet. There's a large elite/pro field, including Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker. Gary Hall Jr. is doing a relay with a mother and son who also have Type 1 Diabetes.

We took the kids to Block Island earlier in the week. The beauty of the Garmin Forerunner is you can run anywhere and know what you're actually doing out there. I did my typical 10 mile easy run on Monday and an 8 mile interval run on Wednesday. Both had fantastic ocean views.

Last Saturday I went for my season-long ride, a whopping 58 miles. Sounds funny to say that. I worked each hour progressively harder, and returned in just about 3 hours- very happy with that, and feeling good. Scary thing is, the thought actually went through my head to go for 100. After about a five minute transition, I went out for a hard 3 and easy 3 recovery. I hit the first 3 in 18:20, and had very even splits. Even though it is slightly downhill, I was thrilled with that. It was about 20 seconds faster than I've had on the same route all season.

So tomorrow is the Cohasset Sprint. I've never seen waves organized like this- after the Elites go off, I'm in the second wave 5 minutes later. Funny thing is, it's for men aged 39-41. It spans just three years, and involves two age groups. That should mean I won't have to navigate through slower swimmers. My plan is to work the swim pretty hard, than absolutely blast the 12 mile bike, and finally see what happens on the run. Like every race this year, I need a strong finish right through the line. I figure it's a great time to take some risks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ironman Tips

Voompah, voompah, voompah ding!
Noah...I want you to build an Arc.
Yeah, right. -Bill Cosby

Today is Friday, so that must mean rain. It rained even harder than Friday last week. I met Mike and Jeff for a 2 mi. Crystal Lake swim at 5:30, then Jeff and I did a short run, dodging the really big puddles, instead opting for the smaller ones. Like last week, what a great morning! Tomorrow I go on the season's longest ride, a bit over 50 mi., at a good effort, followed by a race-pace 3 and easy 3 run. I'm looking forward to the test. Then next weekend starts a string of four races in four weeks. Bring it on!

The sport of triathlon is great for many reasons, including the sharing of experiences and advice. While everyone has unique experiences, there's enough in common to benefit from others' ideas. In that spirit, here are some thought and pointers for Ironman.

First, I can't state strongly enough that these are my thoughts, and they may or may not work for others. I'm sure there will be items folks will disagree with.

Preparation

- Before leaving home, create a list of all of the crap you will need and where you will need it. Write it down. It will relieve plenty of stress on race-eve. As long as everything is checked off the list, you're all set.
- Write on water bottles what goes in them and where they go- for example "Heed - Aerobottle" or "SE - Seat." You're not getting them back anyway.
- Plan each day you're there before race day, and leave lots of free time. You'll probably want to do all of the busy work ASAP and get it out of the way.
- Don't chat too much with other racers- they're just as nervous as you, which won't help.
- If you have young kids, make sure the last song you hear isn't the Barney theme song...the day is long enough.

Nutrition

- This is very person specific, and it's a big deal.
- I found it hard to carry my nutrition "practice" over to race day. It was hard to swallow all of the foods I had practiced in training.
- Try to stick to a plan, but be willing to abandon it if things don't go well. In my first IM, I couldn't swallow Powerbars or the turkey wrap I had prepared. I ended up eating a bunch of bananas, which actually slide down very easily.
- You need blood in your stomach to digest. However most of the blood will be in your legs. So go slow and gradual. Try setting a schedule where you take in "x" every "y" miles. Something like 1/2 of a Cliff Bar every 10 miles. If the water stops are at regular intervals, they can serve as good reminders.
- Try eating more "real" food earlier in the bike that takes longer to digest. Be creative- PB&J, turkey wrap, figs, who knows. Then in the last hour or two go to gels and/or carbo drinks so you can start the run in good shape.
- Put a variety of stuff in your bike special needs bag (and run for that matter).
- Personally, I've never thrown up due to exercise. However I've seen plenty of folks get sick who lived on gels/Gatorade all day. All of the manufactured calories just get to be too much.
- Remember electrolyte replacement tabs. It's a critical part. On the run, have them in a rubber change purse. And take them at regular intervals- on the bike perhaps one Lava Salt every 10 miles/water stop, and on the run one every three miles.
- If you haven't tried cola, practice with it. After miles 15 or so, that might be all that you can take down, it gives you quick energy, and I've heard it can settle upset stomachs.
- One of my favorite drinks is warm chicken broth. It tastes totally different than everything else you have taken in all day, and it's loaded with sodium.
- Bring some insulated water bottles for the bike. Load them with ice, then water, then the right amount of powder. The should be cool for a couple of hours. Remember you will put them on your bike about 45 minutes before the race starts, and may not get to them until 1-2 hours into the bike, or up to 4 hours later. Warm SE sucks.
- For IMLP, be ready for ANY weather and how that might affect your nutrition. Think about everything from 90 degrees and humid to 50 with a cold driving rain. If you're prepared, the nerves will go away.
- If you have a carbo powder drink, put two bottle's worth dry into a zip lock and tape it to the bottom of your seat or rear cage. I did this at IM Wisc, and sure enough, at about mile 2, I hit a bump and lost a water bottle with my carbo mix. [Btw, on the return, I saw about 50-100 bottles on the side of the road.] So 15 miles later, I stopped at a water stop, put the dry mix in an empty bottle, used their water, and I was off. I really don't think it weighs much, and doesn't affect your aero much. It's a nice insurance policy. You might also try a bit of duct tape to keep in one of the rear bottles. You won't need it for about 1 1/2 hours.

Swim

If you're a decent swimmer, like around 1 hour, get right up front for the start. IM Wisc had 2200 people on the line, and I had some minor bumping for a couple of hundred yards. It was far better than I feared.

Bike

Be steady, don't blow it early, remember you have a marathon to run. Really pay attention to your nutrition. Make sure you pee. Alternate types of fluids and solids. In T1, be sure you put sunscreen on your back between your shirt and shorts. It's a prime place for a burn. Also arms & shoulders. Body glide. Wear socks. Mentally, break it into 20 mile chunks to 60, then 10 mile chunks from there on. 100 to 112 is easy. It's the 70-100 that was rough for me.

Run

The last third is the critical part. So take it easy early on. Eventually, you will likely hit "survival mode." Just figure out what works for you. Something like walking every water stop and the 50 yards before and after so you can take in your nutrition. Whatever it takes. Put on fresh socks and shorts. Reapply Bodyglide generously, especially in those certain spots.

Emotions

You will experience incredible highs and lows, so be ready for it. Everything from "This sucks and I'm quitting the sport," to "I am Superman/woman!." Just keep your effort nice and even. The tight throat, quicker heart rate and lighter stride will hit somewhere around mile 24 Crossing the line will be one of the most incredible experiences of your life. You'll hear....

"YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"