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.


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.


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.