Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mooseman on the Horizon

Mooseman is in 6 days. While it's a "B" race, in my mind, it's the most important one of the season after Nationals. The only other Olympic distance race I will do is Black Fly, and that's 1) only 5 weeks before Nationals, and 2) the second race in three consecutive weeks. The way Mooseman falls on the calendar, I can do a bit of a taper. I need some rest in my training anyway, and there's lots of time to build back up.

This race is a bit different with a 27 mi bike. And last year, due to thick fog, the swim was only about .6 mi. So for a swimmer-turned-triathlete, it didn't set up very well for me. My friendly rivalry with Scott M. will be renewed. As a biker-turned-triathlete who isn't exactly Michael Phelps, last year's race set up perfectly for him, beating me by 3 1/2 minutes (that was the only time all season). He passed me around mile 8 on the bike. At Nationals, with a "where-the-hell-did-you-pull-that-out-of" bike, I left T2 about 2 minutes ahead of him. So assuming the swim is the right distance, I'd like to hold him off until at least mile 18. That means I'll need to run him down, which is possible given our respective run training, but not likely based on our history.

To taper, I took the edge off of my training this week, but still did about 90% of the time. Pretty much every Saturday for the last five weeks, I've either had a race or put in a fairly intense brick. This week I turned my track workout into a tempo run on Tuesday and laid off the brick yesterday. I made the bike much easier. The first 1/2 mi of the run was a relaxed race pace, but it was still 3:05. Then after the next 1/2 mi easy, I held a tempo pace for a mile. Funny thing is, my comfortable running is down to about a 7:10 pace. I guess that's a good sign when I can feel relaxed running at that speed.

This week I'll cut back on the total time, putting in just 6 hours in five days. My long run goes from 10 to 7, and track intervals are replaced with an easy 4. The bike also gets cut back. I won't change the swimming too much. I really need to work on my race pace in the pool. In a set of 100s on 1:25, I'm working to hold just 1:15. But then on Friday, the group's sprint day, I put in a :58 100. That gap between :58 and 1:15 is way too much.

I've been exchanging emails with my college swimming coach. He's the BEST at formulating a taper. He's coaching a 49 year old for the Mooseman 1/2 IM. If you're at the race and see a stocky guy, about 5' 6" covered in Tufts paraphenalia, say hi. He's the best. Anyway, the following notes are for his guy, but they're basically the same rules we had as swimmers.

1. You cannot cram training ... and you cannot cram rest.
2. The longer you have been training = the longer your taper period should be. Nothing fast or long 8 days out of the event.
3. Avoid placing any subjective analysis/evaluation on 'how you feel' from day to day. The less time one spends dwelling on the past the better off they are for having improved results in the future.
4. Maintain weight ... hydrate often ... review your race strategies 2-3 weeks from the event ( filled..etc. etc.) .. have chain in low (easy) gear before your ride... and then avoid 'thinking' about the event 5-6 days prior to the competition. Trust 'the wisdom of the body'... it knows best and in a subtle way is getting you ready naturally and unconsciously.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


As I mentioned yesterday (, Leah had her first show of the year today. She started out great and won a first place blue ribbon for her first class. She was fifth in her second class. The last two were a real challenge because Wizard was acting up. She was nearly thrown several times, but held on. We're so proud of her!

Warm ups.

In action.

She just learned she won a blue ribbon. Working hard to keep her game face on.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

"That Call"

As you may have heard, Steve Larsen died this week while doing a track workout in Oregon. The autopsy is inconclusive, but ruled out a heart issue or blood clot. For those of you that didn't know of him, he was a great biker who made his way into triathlon. He helped Lance Armstrong in the late 80s win a World Championship, was a 2x World Champ in mountain biking, won IMLP in his first IM, and led Kona at one point. He swam like a rock, absolutely blasted the bike, and ran something like a 3:10 (?), too slow compared to the other elites in Kona. Most importantly, Steve seemed like a great family man. He leaves a wife and 5 children, the oldest 13 and the youngest are twins at age 2. I listened to an interview with him on a Competitor Radio podcast (btw, one of the better ones out there) about 6 months ago. He was gettng back into serious training as an age grouper and beating all sorts of pros. However it was more important for him to make it to a kid's soccer tournament than put in a 5 hour ride.

I mentioned this to Christine last night. I could see in her eyes that she was nervous about me pushing so hard, so long, for so many days. Will she get "that call" sometime? Back in the summer of 1990, we were living on Cape Cod while I taught sailing and she worked at a camp. One beautiful morning on a long 20 mile ride (my, how things have changed!), while down in the aero bars, I came to an intersection. The crossroad had a stop sign, I didn't. The car stopped, never saw me, and pulled out right in front of me. I hit the left front wheel, dented the hood, and fell to the ground. The bike was wrecked, and the helmet cracked. She got "that call," that morning, and met me at the hospital. Fortunately I was basically fine, other than soreness for a few days that prevented me from starting an outboard engine.

Think about all of the things that can go wrong when we're out there. Swimming is probably fairly safe. The bike has all sorts of things that can go wrong. Traffic, high speed flats, potholes, rider to rider contact, sand, ice, etc, etc. Running problems are probably confined to personal physiology, although maximum effort sets may bring those issues to the surface.

So there are risks in what we do. Are the risks greater or less than if we don't train like we do? I suppose the risks are different.

Leah (8) rides horses and is preparing for tomorrow's first show of the season. Last year, she competed in "lead line," where there's an adult holding a line to the horse. This year, she's on her own in the ring with other horses, presenting all sorts of additional variables and complications. We think riding a bike can be hard- try competing while sitting on a 1000 pound animal that has it's own damn ideas as to what it wants to do while everyone stares at you. On Thursday, she was thrown from the horse three times. I would expect maybe one per month, but this was three in one day. Obviously, that didn't help her mounting performance anxiety. Christine saw the last two falls firsthand. It's amazing that she got back on Wizard, but she did. Yesterday, she went up to the barn and just walked. Today it was some walking and trotting. Both were fine, so there's hope.

Nick (12) skateboards and snowboards. Obviously all sorts of risks there. Christine herself rides horses and has been thrown.

Holy shit. Until writing this, I had no idea the four of us took so many risks. It isn't consistent with the fact that we're a fairly conservative family.

There's a gentleman at our firm that is widely respected in the industry. He talks to us every couple of hours from the floor of the exchange. 9/11 was devistating for him. Since that day, at the end of every day, he says,

"You know the rules. Keep yourself safe. Put a little joy into your life and those around you that may merit it. And never, ever...that's never ever...pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love."

Make sure you kiss your family as you head out the door.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Race Report: Crank the Kanc...or..."In Search of the Red Line"

Crank the Kanc is a 22 mi time trial on the Kangamangus Highway from Conway NH to the top, in the Presidential Mountain range. The first 16.5 miles are rolling with a total elevation gain of about 500 ft. In other words, all big ring. The next 4.5 mi gain about 1500 ft. In other words, all small ring. Imagine a hockey stick where the shaft is at a slight incline, then you go up the blade. Riders go off every 15 seconds. 90% are on road bikes. Now that you have the facts, let's go to the color commentary....

My goal for the race had everything to do with my power output, as measured by my Powertap. It had nothing to do with my place or time. I'm a triathlete, not a biker. After Polarbear, where I was a bit disappointed not to see more improvement in my power, I really felt I needed to show myself that my bike was stronger. Given that I had last year's power file from the Kanc, this would be a good test and comparison. I wanted to get after it.

Before the race started, I saw some friends of my parents who live in the area and were volunteer traffic controllers. They bike a fair amount, and I actually saw them later going up the highway as I was returning. So before the race, she said very appropriately, "Have fun!" Externally, I did my best to thank her, but inside, I thought...this is going to SUCK. Even if it's successful, it will SUCK. Especially if it's successful, it will SUCK. It won't be successful if it doesn't SUCK. In different ways, we each look for that fine line between leaving something on the table, and going too hard and blowing up. To make matters more difficult, the friggin' red line can move year to year. It seems to me that to find the line, by definition, you need to go past it. You need to really suffer and possibly fail. That kind of failure is a success.

Last year, I averaged 261w for the first part (16.5 mi), and 271w for the final 4.5 mi climb. I thought I could probably go about 10w higher. So off we go....I felt really good to start, and had to keep backing off because I was 300-320w far too often. After 10 mi of the aero position with no breaks, I started feeling it in my legs and back. My wattage dropped a bit, so it took quite a bit of focus to keep it up. Maybe my mind was telling my body to save it up for the big climb. As I hit the inflection point between the two parts, I looked at my average power and saw 277, 16w higher than last year. Cool. The second part was a battle. It was really hard to keep my power up. It kept falling back to 250w. So I got into a pattern of standing up whenever the power dropped, raised my output for 30 seconds or so, then sat back down. I found the power stayed up at 280ish for a while, then dropped down, so I repeated the process. After analysis, I averaged 279w for the second part, 8w higher. For the ride as a whole, I was at 278w vs. 265w last year. I think I know just about where that red line is now. I feel great about these results, and more confident about triathlon racing. Total time about 1:14. After I see the results, I'll do some comparisons vs. others around me who raced both years.

A few other tid bits...

On the final part, a pace line of about 20 Corvettes came down.....Like last year, I could hardly get off of my bike due to soreness or cramping below my butt. When I got back on, I fell over sideways. Pretty pathetic looking. Nearly the same thing happened this year.....The ride back down should be beautiful, descening along a river in the White Mountains, but as they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. After the TT torture, I just want to get back to the car. The ride seems to take forever...I have a rule that on race day, there are no rules about what or how much I eat. Today for the drive home it was Pepsi, a big Gatorade, big bag of Nacho Doritos, Nutterbutters, and a big Slim Jim. Yum....Gorgeous weather for the race, about 55 with occasional sun. The view from the top is amazing. The only difference was a slight tail wind vs. a head wind last year....In a nod to DC Rainmaker (, I want to be NOAD. That's the goal for the year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mid week update

First, a few comments on the video. I have no idea who Mr. Straight Arm is, and I'm amazed he was so fast. My first 100 was 1:08, and he had me by a fair amount. Second, the two guys on the other side were Kurt P. (2nd OA) and Mike C. (1st). Kurt clearly needs to work on his streamlining. And third, if you saw the whole 300 yards that was recorded, Jeff S., on the other side of Mike, had me by a bit at 100 yards. He's a very strong swimmer. At 150, I was ahead. Let's just say the shorts had fallen far enough.

As others have seen, the annual USAT rankings were published. I came in at #131, making me an All American. You need to be in the top 5% of your age group to qualify, which for my AG was the top 183. I try not to toot my own horn, but this is pretty cool.

Check out Macca's report from Ironman China 70.3. Sounds absolutely brutal.

Had a great morning on the track yesterday. I used to struggle to descend 400s, getting the last one under 1:30. Yesterday I did 8, with the last 6 all at 1:28- 1:29. It's got to pay off eventually.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Polarbear Video

Thanks to my trusty son and videographer Nick, here's a quick video of the race. Plenty of things for me to work on...

Polarbear Race Report: Big win, and not why you think

The first race is in the books. The day started with a lousy forecast and light rain on the drive to Brunswick, brining back bad memories from last year's numbing 45 degrees, rain and wind. However by the time we arrived to a full parking lot, the sky was breaking and it was at least 55 degrees. It turned out to be absolutely perfect weather. I brought Nick with me to do some video taping. He's really into the computer and I bought him some video editing software. As it turns out, and not because of the video work, bringing him was the big win of the day.

It was great to see everyone again in our chosen environment- Kurt, Mike, Ange, Catherine, Jeff F., Jeff S. and many others. Everyone was clearly eager to see how they stood vs. the competition. Lots of nervous energy.

I thought the swim went very well. I base this on the fact that Mike Caiazzo has been kicking my butt in practice, but on this day, I steadily pulled away from him, beating him by 16 seconds over the 525 yds. By watching the video of the first 300 yrs, I got my splits of 1:08, 1:13, 1:14, which seems fine. I felt very relaxed the whole way, more so than last year, and ended up with an identical time (6:51, timed as you exit the pool and enter T1). Without getting into too much detail, this was the first year they used timing chips. So my swim was probably about 5 seconds faster this year.

Both transitions were fantastic. I usually give up all kinds of time here. This year, the only items at the bike rack were my bike, helmet, mat, sneakers, race belt and bike shoes. No other crap there- to the point I was nervous I was forgetting something. In T1, I was only 4 seconds slower than the fastest split, and in T2, just 6 seconds slower. Granted, I was the first bike on my rack, but that's still a huge improvement.

The bike is a bit of a mystery. My power file says I was only about 2 watts better. The Powertap doesn't lie. I thought I would be 15+ watts better, based on my training results. I was 0.5 mph faster, but that might be due to the better weather. My variability index was 0.02 lower, which is good. This is a tough course to settle into a good tempo because it's only 11 miles, and there's a corner to slow down for at least every couple of miles. Overall, it felt good, but it seemed hard to maintain a high output.

The run started out feeling terrible. I took in no solid calories on the bike and only about 8-10 oz. of fluid, and I still had a heavy stomach running out of T2. That stayed with me for about half of the run. I guess I'm a bit disappointed with the run, again, considering how I've been training. I was 19 seconds better than last year (3 mi), but the weather must be worth that much. However, when I compare run splits for those around me both years, there were only two folks who picked up meaningful time on me (:35 and 1:25), and I put time into several others (between :31 and 1:18). Who knows.

I ended up 5th overall and 1st in AG (7th and 2nd last year). At 58:06, I was 1:33 better than last year. Relative to others around me both years, only Rob Fast had a better differential. So I think I'm doing well, but there's still room for improvement.

Getting back to Nick, I thought he would be bored out of his skull. As it turns out, he had a great time. He thought it was cool that Mike C actually wins money at this sport. He saw him on the run, and was blown away by how fast he is (5:45 is tempo work). Nick even started talking about doing a race himself. The crowning comment came as we drove back into the garage. He looked up to see my old TT bike hanging from the ceiling and asked if he could use it for a race. The scarey thing is at almost 13 years old, Nick might just fit the bike.

The video turned out to be very revealing regarding swim and run technique. I bury my head after breathing, and my upper body moves way too much on the run. We're going to try to piece something together to post here.

Congratulations to all those who raced yesterday, especially the rookies who made up about a third of the field. It's great to have the season underway. Next stop: Crank the Kanc, a 22 mile TT in the White Mountains.