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.