Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tuscaloosa Olympic AG Nationals

Leading up to this race my compulsion switched from training (thank you, taper) to watching the weather. Early forecasts were calling for temps in the mid 90's and my only other race in extreme heat (Racine 70.3) had been a huge failure. Not that one can do anything about the weather, but there are measures a person can take to better prepare himself or herself for certain conditions. With the projected temps I started adding more salt to my diet in the 5 days leading up to the race and made sure I stayed hydrated

The race was on Saturday and I flew into Birmingham on Thursday night. The day before a race always flies by. I drove the course in the morning, did a little swim in the river, checked in, prepped the bike, did a little spin/run, and somehow managed to waste several hours in between. Temps were in the mid 90's so I was indoors all day.

Race morning was the typical routine. Two slices of bread with peanut butter and jelly, a banana, and a cup of coffee. I've only ever used an aero bottle for an Olympic Distance but I decided to take an additional bottle of water given the heat. This turned out to be one of my best decisions of the season!

Before the race I ran into Kim Shaheen and we sat and talked after transition closed and before I warmed up. It was great to have a teammate there to chat and calm the nerves. The pre race warmup went smoothly and I found Adam Kuncel in the bullpen before the start. I got in a short warmup swim between waves and squeezed my way into the dock for the water start. I got out nicely at the start and had a good line to the first buoy. I decided not to let my heart rate get too high during the swim due to the temps, especially with a water temp at 84 degrees (i.e. not wetsuit legal, but I was able to pick up a swim skin from Fleet Feet the day before i left). The swim was a J-shape with a long backstretch. I got into some violent episodes along the backstretch, particularly with one guy who was grabbing my ankles and apparently trying to pull himself over me. I managed a few good kicks into him and he eventually backed off. Came out of the water a little further back than expected but I felt stronger going into T1 than usual, so I was fine with that.

I got on the bike feeling good and immediately passed one guy. Note that this is extremely rare for me. The bike course was a 2 loop course with a long climb on the way out and downhill on the way back. I tend to climb well so I was relieved that the course wasn't flat. As typical, I caught a lot of people on the climbs and got passed back on the way down. Anyone with any tips on descending faster should email me ASAP. I drank my aero bottle dry by about the 15 mile mark so I was happy to have that extra bottle of water on the bike. I pushed the uphill on the 2nd lap and cruised the last part of the downhill before T2 to let my legs rest. By now the sun was beating down and it was getting hot. I knew I needed to save some energy for the run and I thought someone would pass me as I popped a few endurolytes for the run but no one did. I ended up averaging 23.5 mph for the ride, which I was happy with given the topography of the course.

I always know in the first mile whether I have my run that day, and today I had it. I got out of T2 feeling light and quick but knowing it would be a death march in the heat. The run was mostly exposed with a few climbs in the first half of the run and a steady descent over the last 2 miles. The aid stations had half-filled dixie cups and I was a little pissed that I was only getting 2 ounces per cup. I usually grabbed 2 or 3 cups, one to drink and more to splash on my face. My dad was at mile 1 and yelled that there were 10 guys in my age group within 90 seconds. I passed a lot of people who looked to be in survival mode from the heat but I was still feeling strong, which gave me more confidence. Over the next several miles I passed about 12 guys in my age group. With 1 mile to go I spotted a guy (Luke Holman) who I became friends with 3 weeks prior at Duathlon Worlds in Scotland and he was moving pretty good. I managed to get around him and passed him assertively so he couldn't respond. With 400 meters to go I saw another guy within catching distance and started really moving. At 50 yards to go I was in full sprint mode and managed to catch him with about 10 yards to go. I always wanted to get someone at the line and finally managed it. Total time: 2:05:21.

After the race I quickly downed 4 bottle of water and a gatorade. After a long cool down with Luke I came back to find out that I finished 14th in my AG and 9th in the 30-34 AG for 2011, which secured a sport for Worlds in Beijing next year (the age up rule means that I had to qualify in the 30-34 AG for 2011 since I'll be 30 at the end of 2011). I haven't decided if I'll go yet, but I'm considering it.

All told I was very happy with this race. While the time wasn't anything spectacular, I raced smart and it came down to a tactical race due to the heat. I needed something positive after Racine and I got it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maumee Bay: A bad ending to an otherwise good day

My first triathlon test was at Maumee Bay this past Sunday. It's a flat Olympic distance race with the swim in a man-made lake next to Lake Erie. Adriane and I drove over Saturday afternoon and I picked up my packet and drove the bike course the night before. We checked into the hotel and grabbed some dinner. Teammate Frank Dejulius and Stacey Kaiser stayed at the same hotel and we met up for a bit when they got in. It's always fun to see teammates and friends at a race. Triathlon is a pretty independent sport but I think the popularity of teams growing, as the camaraderie of sports is motivating and adds enjoyment in my opinion.

On race day I grabbed an english muffin and banana at the hotel's continental breakfast. The weather was perfect as the wind had died down from the day before. After setting up transition, Frank and I did a 10 minute jog warm-up with some stretching. We got in the water about 15 minutes for the race and did some swimming to get warmed up. As with all HFP races, heats went off every 3 minutes. The sprint waves were first. Our heat went off at 8:15. The swim was a 2-loop course with a beach start. I got out decent at the start and Frank and I were side-by-side for the first 200. Once we hit the stragglers from previous waves, it was all bets off for trying to get on the toes of a faster swimmer. At that point it was a matter of dodging other swimmers for the first loop. It was totally congested but I managed to get through pretty easily. The 2nd loop was much less crowded and I could tell I was in the top 10. I feel I've lost a little swim fitness since February, but I was feeling pretty relaxed and comfortable. I had a great rhythm going - three strokes breathe left, three strokes breathe right, two strokes spot the buoy. Swim time: 22:26.

T1 went okay. Had some trouble getting my right shoe on but that'll happen. I wanted to push the bike hard which I felt I accomplished. I'm used to getting passed by about 10 guys or more on the bike and I was determined to go with whoever passed me. I only let one guy go during the ride and he was moving pretty good. Two other guys passed me at about mile 10 and I matched their pace. We swapped places for the rest of the ride and eventually one of them fell off with about 3 miles to go. The wind picked up during the ride and I felt like I was getting blow around a lot when we'd head west or north. I tried to stay aero and keep pace. I thought my bike was faster than my time indicated, but oh well. Bike time: 1:03:54 (was hoping more for 1:02 or so).

T2 was good. I came out with the guy who entered transition with me and immediately dropped him. I asked my parents and Adriane my place and they said 7th. I wanted to be top 5 and knew I had some work to do. I quickly passed 2 more guys within the first mile and clipped 5:45's for the first 2 miles. I started to hurt as the wind was fairly strong on the way out and the sun was belting down at this point. The run was an out and back with an additional loop around the lake. I passed another guy just after the 2 mile mark. At this point the duathletes were mixed in with the triathletes so I couldn't tell how many other guys were in my race. I was in 4th but pretty far out of 3rd. At the turnaround there were a ton of guys within 5 minutes behind me. I was hurting pretty bad with a mile to go and kind of shut it down. Turns out the guy in 3rd was hurting more because I gained a lot on him the last 2 miles. I probably couldn't have caught him but I should have pushed harder. Run Time: 37:38.

My final time was 2:05:43 and I was 4th overall in the elite race. That's my fastest Oly race so I can't be disappointed. I know I can cut some time off of the swim. I need to do some more hard, sustained rides. And I'd like to be under 37:00 on the run.

After the race Frank and I cooled down and went to get our stuff in transition. I couldn't find my wetsuit and I think someone stole it. I found out later that Rob Thompson had one stolen last year at an HFP race. When we went to transition, the workers had torn down most of the fencing and no one was checking people's numbers. Anyone could have walked in and taken stuff. I brought this up to 2 officials and they blew me off saying "don't have such a negative attitude, it'll show up. triathletes are good natured people and they don't steal stuff on purpose. someone accidentally took it." One of the guys told me I had to take personal responsibility and that I should get my stuff sooner. I know it's just a "thing," but it's not a cheap thing and their comments really pissed me off. I'll only do an HFP race if it's a last result option and I need a race. I emailed two of the workers at HFP and I finally got a response 4 days later from one of them saying "sorry, we'll let you know if it turns up." This experience really reflects poorly on their company, especially since I know someone else that had a wetsuit stolen at one of their races. A bad end to an otherwise good day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blossom Time Run Race Recap

Over Memorial Day Weekend I ran the Blossom Time Run 5.25 mile road race. I did this race last year and was happy with my 29:17. I remember feeling fresh and strong. Not this year. I felt tired and sluggish the whole week leading up to the race. I did a 7 miler on Thursday with friend Ofer Barniv and it felt like a death march. Every step was labored and heavy. I lined up on Sunday feeling confident in my fitness but not fresh. Ofer Barniv and James Sjostrom were in the race along with perennial winner and local legend Fred Kieser. The first mile is uphill and I went through with Ofer and James in about 5:35. We were 5-10 seconds of the lead group but it felt pretty relaxed. I started feeling the hurt in mile 2 and knew it'd be a long race. Mile 2 is mostly uphill and we hit 5:40. Ofer, James and I were throwing surges at each other for the next mile and they decided to drop the pace down a bit. I went through mile 3 in about 5:30. Mile 4 I was along and really feeling it. Just trying to hold on at this point I still managed at sub-5:40. With about about a half mile to go I got passed and had absolutely no response. At this point I only cared about finishing. Mile 5 was another 5:35 and I finished in 28:50. I was about 30 seconds better than last year, which I'll take. I was hoping to be at least a minute faster than last year but I know it wasn't my best effort so I'm not too worried about it.

Since the race, I've gotten in some good training sessions including a 14 mile run on Saturday (followed by an afternoon swim); 60 miles of hilly riding on Sunday (after watching Quassy online in the morning, I was motivated to do some hills); a long swim Monday; and a long brick on Tuesday (1:30 ride followed by intervals(2 mile, 1 mile, 1 mile, 2 mile)). Feeling pretty good after this block.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Du Nats

Back on April 25th, I competed in the Duathlon National Championships in Richmond. I did this race last year and it went pretty terribly, so I had high hopes of a big improvement.

The distance was 5k-38k-5k (last year the lead off run was 10k) and I knew a fast pace would be set as the first mile was downhill and funneled into a relatively narrow concrete bike path after a mile. In preparation, I had done some decent workouts on the track to get the speed back into my legs.

The weather called for rain on race day. The rain came overnight, leaving the course wet and slippery. The 25-29 AG started with the 20-24 AG so it was a decent size field. I started in the 2nd row and got out fast. I went through mile 1 in about 20th place with a 4:58 split. Mile 2 was flat and I came through the 2 mile mark in 10:20. I started picking people off at this point as the last mile was all uphill and I wanted some space for T1. Fortunately I had a good transition spot and got through smoothly. On the bike, I got past by a few guy off the back who decided to start riding as a pack. A bunch of these guys were racing for the U.S. Army, and they were teaming up to ride together. I saw them working together all over the course and was a bit shocked that they would do that in their team kits with everyone watching. Not surprisingly, no one in my age group got a drafting penalty. Alas. The course was 3 loops of a fairly technical course with one long, steepening hill on the back side. The course was still wet so I was cautious on the turns for the first loop but was letting it rip by the 3rd. I caught a lot of guys on the hills but would get past on the flats. Though this has been a trend throughout my racing, it was better in this race than past races. I felt like I was staying withing a reasonable distance of the faster cyclists.

I got off the bike after averaging 22 mph and felt solid. I took off on the run and probably hit a 5:20 first mile. I started cramping on mile 2 but was able to stay relaxed and push through. I kept a hard pace and picked off a few guys. With a little under a mile to go, there is a hairpin turn and I saw two of the Army guys who were drafting on the bike about 50 yards ahead of me. There was no way I was going to let them beat me, so I picked up the pace and surged past them with about a half mile to go. The last quarter mile is uphill and hurt like crazy. Coming down the shoot I past a kid that was about 12 years old competing with his dad and I started yelling at him to sprint with me to the finish. I helped him push to another gear and gave him a big high five when he crossed the line.

I finished 6th in my Age Group and closed out the final 5k in 16:58. I'm pretty happy with the result given that most of my training was base work and I have a lot of potential for improvement. Some more strength riding on the bike and some more speed workouts and I'll be good to go.

Really looking forward to this season.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Compression Socks

I have to begin this post with the disclaimer that I laughed the first time I heard about compression socks. I thought, "that's a gimmicky trick to get people to pay for something that they don't need." I believe in cooling down and stretching and drinking a recovery drink after hard sessions. That should be all the recovery one needs.

But I slowly came around to the idea and bought a pair of CEP's about 2 months ago (thanks Jody Herzog at Fleet Feet Northfield). I've always had calf tightness and decided to give them a shot, but only in the comfort and secrecy of my house. I figured with the hard blocks I was planning I would need all the recovery I could get, and after the first night wearing them I was sold. Wearing them after hard sessions seemed to reduce swelling and improve recovery. But the doubter and analytical side prevailed and I decided to do an A|B test on them. After all, maybe I was just getting stronger and recovering better. The last 2 weeks I planned a training block of 15 hours and 16 hours, respectively. The first week I decided not to wear compressions socks at all for the first four days. I did 16x400 on Monday on the track followed by a 2 hour ride on Tuesday. Wednesday's run went terribly. I was struggling to hold 7:15's for 7 miles and was planning to do 9. The weekend long efforts were forced and I wasn't pleased with my paces. Hmmm...

By Sunday I was back to wearing the compression socks. Monday was 4 x 2,400 on grass with 30 seconds recovery. It was one of my best efforts so far this year and hit 8:28 - 8:31 for all of them (5:45 pace), and it felt smooth and controlled. I did 1.5 hours riding on Tuesday and came back on Wednesday with a 1 hour swim, 1 hour bike and 1 hour run after work. I averaged 6:45 on the run with some slow early miles. Thursday was another medium long ride, and Saturday I did a 14.5 mile run at 6:45 pace and Sunday was a 3 hour ride zig-zagging across the Chagrin Valley.

I know I didn't control for diet, sleep, etc., but I'm convinced the compression socks played a roll in my improvement the 2nd week. I often sleep in them at night and I wore them during my drive to Richmond for Du Nationals and felt great. In this sport, the compounding effects of training can take a sever toll on one's body. I'm constantly fighting the balance between quality and quantity. I want to get in the long weeks but is it worthwhile if I'm fighting my body and dragging my arms and legs through workouts? Are those workouts doing more harm than good if tomorrow is going to be the same thing? The compression socks appear to allow me to get in the type of quantity I want while maintaining the quality. And for that reason I think they're one of the best investments I've made.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 Schedule

This blog's been neglected of late. Since my last update I've ramped up training significantly sans a 7-day bout with bronchitis. I've been up to 17,000 yards per week in the pool, been throwing in actual workouts on the trainer (a foreign concept to me until this winter), and getting in some decent long runs. And I did my first speed workout on KSU's indoor track on Monday - 3 x 1 mile with 150 jog rest at a comfortable 5:35 average effort. Mostly a progress check to make sure I'm on track for my first race April 24th.

Last weekend I signed up for my first two races of the 2010 calendar. The first isn't so much a race as it is a progress check. It's a 1650 swim at CMU on February 28th. My sister lives in Pittsburgh and she's a pretty good ex-collegiate swimmer, so she convinced me to do it. Should be interesting and fun, although I've never gone off the blocks before. I'm thinking of cannonballing in to avoid losing my goggles, but we'll see. Ha.

The second and more serious race is the National Duathlon Championships in Richmond on April 24th. I did this last year and contemplated skipping it, but it's a good way to get into an early season race to check my fitness level. The distance has changed since last year to a 5k-40k-5k (from 10k-40k-5k), but I should still be able to gauge my fitness over last year on the bike. That's the key for me this year.

Otherwise, my calendar for the year is as follows:
  • April 22: Duathlon Nationals
  • June 19: Michigan Qualifier for USAT Olympic Age Group Nationals
  • July 18: Racine, WI 70.3
  • Aug 8: Greater Cleveland Triathlon
  • August 29: Chicago Triathlon - Elite Amateur Race
  • September 25: USAT Olympic Age Group Nationals in Tuscaloosa, AL (if I qualify)
I might fill in the gaps with a few local races but these are my focus races. I'm of the opinion that an athlete can't focus on more than 6-8 races in a season without blowing up. I think I have some good ones and can't tell you how anxious I am to pull on a wetsuit.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, Still Having Fun

I wouldn't do this sport if I didn't enjoy it.
I enjoy the variety that running never provided. I enjoy pushing the limits in each sport. And I enjoy seeing myself improve. Right now, I feel very focused but I'm still having as much fun as ever.

I swam Masters for the first time last week. I made it 3 mornings and felt pretty good. I haven't committed to which days I want to swim Masters in the future, but with my long commute and early mornings I was exhausted by the end of the week. I was probably the most boring New Years partier after I skiied on New Years Ever after Masters. I keep reminding myself that the season is early, so I think I'll stick with 1- 2 days per week for Masters and swim the remaining days at KSU. The difference between waking at 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. is huge when you don't get home until 9:00 or 10:00 during the week and don't get to bed until 11:00...and work/train in the hours between. I need the sleep if I want quality workouts, so the key for me is balance. I've been able to do quality swims on my own, so I'm not worried about sacrificing quality by swimming alone instead of Masters.

Back to the topic of fun, I've been trying to mix up the trainer workouts for variety. I watched the Orange Bowl tonight while biking and I decided to make a game of it. I would spin hard for 2 minutes for each touchdown; 1 minute for each field goal; and 30 seconds for each first down. It offered some variety and randomness to the ride and I really enjoyed it. I'm going to create variations on this for fun. I do a similar workout on the treadmill (I call it "power hour") where I increase my speed 0.1 mph every 2-4 minutes. Here's to more fun base training this winter.