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 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.


- 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.


- 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.


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.


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.


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.


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....


Friday, June 12, 2009

A Jumbo Goes to MIT and Harvard

We Jumbos of Tufts look down upon our Cambridge neighbors. I mean, really....who would rather live in Cambridge over Medford and Somerville? No academic challenges there either. Those who can't cut it at Tufts end up down the Red Line of the T.

I spent the night in Boston, close to the Sox were beating the Yankees for the eighth straight time this season. Up at 5 to hit the the rain. I crossed the Charles, headed out Mass Ave, past "those" campuses. At 35 minutes I made it to Central Square and turned around, taking a different bridge over the river so I ran along Storrow Drive for a couple of miles. I always love to see the crew shells out there. That was a sport I could have been good at. At the end of the run, it was 9.5 miles at an average of about 7:30. Outside of warm up and recovery, I just let it fly, dodging puddles and streams, watching for the occasional delivery truck, all generally at tempo. It's liberating to head out without too much structure and just see what happens. A great morning in the rain.

Here's a picture of the finish last weekend.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Race Report: Mooseman- A New Rival Revealed

Let's go back to last Tuesday. I passed Al on my bike at 5:30 AM as I started the first half of an easy brick. About 35 minutes later, as I looped back to the house, I passed Al again, this time heading out of town. As I learned this morning before the race started, he was on a 15 mile run. This guy is a good runner- ran the Cape Midwinter 10 miler in 60 flat. For those of you who are mathmatically challenged, that's an average of 6:00/mi- in February in 25 degrees. More on Al later.

I love the time before races start. There's a certain magic about the atmosphere. Music, the constant announcements, preparing transitions, nerves, reviewing strategy, wondering how you stack up against the guy with the super-fancy bike, meeting friends, chatting with new folks, helping rookies, etc- quite the cornucopia. The bigger the race, the stronger the feeling. I'll never forget my first Ironman. The stakes were much higher, and all of this took place in the pitch dark with spotlights.

Back to Mooseman- I'm not sure the water was as high as the 63 degrees that was announced today- it was still cold, but far better than last year's head-crushing temps. After "warming up" for a few hundred yards, I got out and waited for the start of the race. I was in the third heat, and stood there shivering uncontrollably. Finally we headed out. The swim was generally uneventful, other than seeing an enormous mass of swimmers in front of me at the turnaround. I thought it would be impossible to work through them, but it worked out.

After exiting the water, I moved to the strippers. I hadn't removed my sleeves, and they just grabbed and pulled hard. I nearly yelled, "Hold on...don't you know this thing cost $450?"

I found it hard to get the power up early in the bike, but after a few hills and 5 miles or so, it got better. This is a fairly hilly course, so I approach it like an interval workout, going harder than normal up hill and coasting at every opportunity. In retrospect, I probably could have been a bit more consistent. My power was 5w higher than last year, and the time about the same. Somewhere around mile 18, the course follows a nice rolling rural road. For about 15 minutes, I saw no other racers. No one. I began wondering if I made a wrong turn somehow. Finally a young gun came by and we yo-yo'd to the end.

The run is an out and back with the first two miles flat. Mile one was uncomfortable with cramping all though my torso. I backed off of the pace a bit to get it under control. First mile- a surprising 6:25. I think I let my concentration down a bit for mile 2 and split 6:45. The hills from 2 to 4 had me split 7:05 and 6:56.

But back to Al. I didn't see him on the bike or run...until about 150 yards after the turnaround. Hmmm....150 yds x 2 = 300 yds, 3 miles to go. That means Al only has to pick up 100 yds per mile, and he's a hell of a runner. I thought I had no chance. Then I remembered I need to work on finishing races strong. I faded at nationals last year, and missed making the team by just 45 seconds. I will also have to "run against" the 39 year olds who I won't even see. For the purposes of making the national team, they move into our age group. So I can't rely on just responding to those around me. Then I saw one- a NOAD. About half a mile later, I saw another. I even turned around to look at the NOA. Nice inspiration. Mile 5, 6:36.

I did what you're not supposed to and took a quick peek behind me. Didn't see him. At the turn off of the road just before the finish, a spectator says, "he's 20 yards back." Oh shit. I flew down the short hill and onto the beach where we had about 50 yards. I moved to the tiny strip of sand right next to the water that seemed firmer. Then the finishing chute wound around a few corners, so it was easy to see him right behind me. We finally hit the straightaway chute and I put everything I had into it. Got him by 2 seconds. I split 7:11 for the last 1.2 mi, a 6:00 pace.

As it turns out, we had identical bike splits- 1:13:38. I look forward to meeting him again.

Overall, my splits and placings were incredibly similar to last year:
Swim 15th vs 16th in 2008
T1 1:33 vs. 1:34
Bike 18th vs. 16th
T2 1:00 vs. :50
Run 33rd (41:01), split 20:36, 20:26 vs. 40th (41:15), split 20:15, 21:01
5th AG / 103 vs. 4th / 65
13th OA / 486 men vs. 14th / 409

I think the swim can still be improved, as well as the bike, but both were OK. The run was 15 seconds better, the splits were great, and the finish very strong, so that's my success of the day.

Finally, I lived by my "no quality or quantity rule" for food. The organizers of this race do a great job. Right after the finish, they had, among other things, cheese and saltines...and even better....TOOTSIE POPS and ROLLS. Anybody can offer bananas and bagels. Later I had part of a free margharita. I didn't get to the cookout because I had to head out. For the drive home, I had a Subway roast beef, Doritos, said Tootsie Rolls, chocolate chip cookie, Coke, Pepsi, White Cheddar Cheese Its (one of the best and most adicting snacks out there), and Snack Wells cookies. Right now it's a glass of Shocktop (belgian white beer) and heavily battered onion rings. While happier than a pig in shit, I think I'm going to be sick.