Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Austin 70.3 Race Report

So, it's been quite a while since I posted anything here and most bloggers apologize but I'm unrepentant. During this extended bit of radio silence, my lovely wife and I decided to sell most of our possessions, quit our jobs, move across country and travel a lot. With a 3 year old. In a camper.
Not joking. Though the camper bit only lasted a month. So we've been busy but it's been fun. Just not a lot of time for racing, much less writing about it.

I had the crazy notion that I'd try to stay competitive at triathlon despite this lifestyle disruption, so I asked to stay on with the amazing Team Every Man Jack because let's face it, I can't resist the team schwag, seriously.

Now, one might imagine that a team sponsored by a men's grooming products company might be soft, but you'd be wrong. These guys are ace.
No really, like everyone on the team qualifies for the world championships at either the 70.3 or Ironman distance
Not only that, but they look good doing it, and ladies, did I mention the schwag? They all smell amazing too.
Most of the team trains together regularly because apparently that's "motivating" or something, but I say whatever to that. All you need is a 3-year-old behind you yelling "GO FASTER DADDY" (true story, every ride)
...and yelling your crummy swim split times to you from the pool deck as you complete the majority of your swim training in the freezing 17-yard pool at your apartment (made that part up, he can't do math yet, but I really do swim in a 17-yard pool I'm awesome)
So in the absence of any local teammates I completed the majority of my training for the Austin 70.3 either taking my kid to preschool and back or ping-ponging in the tiny pool.

Remote or not, there was one big benefit to the team - pretty much every weekend someone I had met and knew to be just a super nice guy won a race. Rather than think "that's ridiculous, I'll never do that" like I probably should have, I thought "what the heck, someone has to win these things, and apparently it's possible" and I'd get back to doing the work.

Besides a lack of teammates and pretending that swimming wasn't really part of the race and didn't need serious preparation, everything about the build to the race went well except actually achieving race weight or avoiding running injuries

Seriously, how do you people out there that run without injuries do it? I mean it, if you know email me or leave a comment. Because I know the names of more tendons now than when I took biology in college, thanks to running.

Luckily for me, given I'd decided this year I wouldn't care so much about race weight, they changed the bike course from one that was mostly flat to one that was all rolling hills

Combined with a pancake run course this should be easy right?
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have had such an intense relationship with food the last few months. Regardless, I put together a race plan with my always unflappable coach Jesse Moore, did the math for nutrition and hydration and power targets and numbers of chickens to sacrifice:
(sincerely, I had no idea competitive triathlon could involve so much math) ...packed up and headed out to Decker Lake for a wonderful sunrise with 2500 new friends
...and one dedicated IronSherpa
Things are reasonably predictable after that - there's the part where they start your wave and for a second you think you're swimming like this:
...until you remember that part about only training in 1000-yard sessions in a 17-yard pool, and realize you're actually swimming like this
Plus it probably wasn't such a good idea to do shots before the swim because it really affects the ability to swim straight.
So the swim leg was pretty awesome if big numbers are better, clocking in at a robust 35:19.

Two things worth mentioning - I'm not even joking when I say that I'd be even slower without the wetsuit of champions, and if you're a nerd, it's important to be fiddling with your fancy wrist-based triathlon computer in at least half of your race photos.

Having finished the part of this sport where most of my teammates just see my performance and look down while shaking their heads, it's time to get down to business. That's right. It's sexy helmet time.
So I donned the cycling battle helmet and completed the transition from swimming duffer to cycling superhero all ready to have a ferocious ride, mentally picturing pure power...
In real life it ends up looking a lot more like you're riding on beat up farm roads 20 miles outside of the city limits where people occasionally dump sofas, and strava segments are named things like "Here live angry dogs and brutal men". Yep. So not terribly glamorous but that's just what awesome looks like sometimes.
So the bike leg is rolling along quite nicely. Worth noting, my age group (men's 35-39 year olds) started second to last of all competitors - most everyone started long before me. Which makes this part of the event extra exciting because as a guy with a strong cycling background I'm passing folks with a morale-boosting amount of speed. Kind of like I was the only one taking it seriously
...but I knew that I couldn't be the only striver in the field so I pressed on.

It's at this point I'll briefly mention the famed Fourth Discipline of triathlon. Nutrition. Now, normally I'm a big fan of Infinit :SPEED. Everyone is different, but this stuff does me right for 70.3 races. Today was a different day though, it was hot.

Hot hot hot. And I'd done my math right? I knew I needed so much water and salt that I needed to change things up. I'd try something I hadn't tried since my first (and only) attempt at a full-distance Ironman. I'd go with water in all the cages and put all the nutrition in the frame bottle in the form of the big guns.
Infinit :NAPALM.
Not to be foreboding or anything, but I had major, uhh, "issues" at that one and only ironman attempt. But it'll work this time I'm sure. The math works. And I was sure those issues were because it was a salt water swim and I suck at swimming right? I drank the whole ocean that time.

I hop off the bike, jump in the phone booth and transform into everyone's other favorite spandex clad superhero, Running Man, and set off away from the rodeo arena and into the heat haze.

At this point, my cheering crew arrives but there's a serious lack of race result updates (and if you have ever tried to use the Ironman tracker to follow a friend you KNOW what I mean).

Since the live video feed following the M35-39 age group is mysteriously absent and there's no other results, the cheering crew goes back to watching Star Wars.

With zero feedback on how everyone else is doing, no one anywhere near me that seems to be doing anything but shuffle-walk or stop on the side of the road to stretch cramps out, I was forced to contemplate my existence on this planet and decide that this race really really hurt, the whole idea that I might get a qualifying slot for the 2015 world championships was stupid stupid stupid and I was getting very uncomfortable.

I put on a brave face for the first half of the run

...but if you've ever done a run where you started strong and just started to fade and fade, you know the feeling.

Something is definitely not right. Maybe ingesting a product called :Napalm wasn't a great idea? In fact, it was not. I normally follow all race direction religiously, but this time I not only completely blew past a corner on the bike course and had to double back, I also had to ignore some of the posted signs on the run course.

With sincere apologies to my teammates for not meeting their high standards of conduct and performance, I walked four times on the run course in order to "think things through".

Being a gentleman, I was careful to maintain maximum distance from the brave volunteers working at the aid stations but I have to sincerely apologize to my fellow competitors.

All I can say is that I'm sorry and I won't use :Napalm again on the bike leg, but it was wonderful that we got to know each other so well.

With 5 miles to go in the run, it's put up or shut up time and I'll admit this was a real moment. I'm seriously contemplating folding and just jogging it in when I come to focus on two things. First, my teammates have done harder races, and they've done them faster, and they're human. It must be possible. Second, if I don't go fast enough here I'm just the sort of fool that will try to qualify for the world championships at another race, and all the good options are even hotter (hello Galveston, and Lubbock...).

This line of thought worked. If they can do it, I can do it, and I AM NOT DOING THIS AGAIN (soon).

With my attitude appropriately readjusted, I got going, only walked when absolutely necessary (I am so sorry, fellow competitors) and ran right to the edge of full quad cramps all the way to the line.

Now comes the fun part of Ironman events. My age group had multiple waves so there was another group of people I'm racing against, but they started 5 minute behind me. And online results were messed up most of the day.

The race is done, I'm sitting in the stands with my family, and I have no idea how I did.

My wife, wonderful person that she is, tells me "good job" anyway, but I'm a big nerd and I have fiddled with my watch the whole race so I know I finished in something like 4:37. Frankly, that's not the sort of thing that usually gets you on the podium.

My wife continues to try to get results to come up then she leans over and says "what does 'Division Rank 1' mean?"

"I think it means you won?". Then she took a picture of me

What the actual? We're going to the world championships in Austria?? WOOO

After that, there's the regular thing where you can barely walk but you have to collect all your bags and bike and get changed and everything, but seriously, I'm in shock. I can't believe I actually did this, :Napalm notwithstanding.

Then, on the podium, my kid simply would not be denied and ran up to be with me, which was fun.

And my mom was there to see it:

I got good pics with my main support staff

I've been doing this a while, and if anyone out there is thinking about trying it, or trying to get faster, all I can say is keep putting the work in. Use your mind and use your body, give yourself time, and you get faster. And apparently sometimes lightning strikes and you win one of these things. Crazy.

And now, hello off-season.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Desire, part 4

The last change made in training was to actually start swimming. No joke

Last year my swim wasn't just slow, it was literally incompetent! I was only able to maintain freestyle approximately half the swim leg, the rest of it I had to breaststroke. Pretty discouraging.

I had been looking for a coach but hadn't found one yet and couldn't really figure out how to fit it in. Then by a stroke of luck the equivalent if a swimming angel fell in to my life in the form of Margaret Sharp, with an offer to swim with her and get help twice a week at times that worked for me

With three months to go I started the fastest swim build I could stand with some great coaching on technique

I'm not going to say I swim well now but I certainly swim better! This makes me look forward to 2013 even more though - still so much room for improvement, I've made up 5 minutes at least and I figure there are 5 more pretty easily

Desire, part 3

This post should really be titled something like "jogging slow to run fast". Last year was a parade if running injuries leading up to Austin 70.3, with the last month of prep being spent almost entirely on the elliptical machine to avoid irritating a bad case of posterior tibial tendinitis. Something about purely cycling, with feet locked into carbon soles shoes left me unprepared for the demands if running, not surprisingly

This year I trained the run the whole year but followed the slowest progression imaginable, and never running fast until right near the end once I had the full duration under control

Even then I still nearly triggered the tendinitis again casing one training break, and I was also on the limit with regard to my Achilles.

I survived the progression though and for the first time in my life I was able to run 2 hours straight without injury, still with 5 weeks or so to go.

From that point I did some speed tests to figure out what running fitness was preset, including some shorter triathlons and culminating in my first ever half-marathon, done with a 6:16 or so pace. That effort alone left me sore until almost the day of the event but for the first time ever I knew I would get off the bike with confidence.

Desire, part 2

Continuing on from the last post about my quest to go much faster at the Austin 70.3 than I did in 2012, the biggest thing I did was change up my training.

Last year I was nearly all bike all the time. This year I focused on the bike early in the year (in the process having great fun with my cycling team SquadraSF), then let the bike fade with the exception if two big weeks before the event to maintain the early season work

This was a little risky with the event so dependent on a fast bike split, but I tried to manage that with a lot of work improving my time trial position.

I bought the first brand new bike I've purchased in half a decade, and tricked it out pretty good, to find myself heading in to the event with much more speed than I've ever had in a TT before despite the cycling fitness fade. This carved time out for the other two sports to good effect...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Desire, part 1

At the start of August, I had pretty good fitness and started feeling all smug about it. This attitude usually doesn't end well for me.

I decided to go to the Patterson Pass Road Race for the Masters 35+ district championship road race to test myself against the best, and promptly was served my own gluteus maximus on a fancy plate. Great power numbers (for me). Thorough butt-whipping.

It was brutal but fair. I had good fitness but I hadn't managed all the details. One in particular was body weight - bike racing is pretty sensitive to weight but I wasn't in fighting trim and I'd been basically lying to myself about it, pretending it didn't matter much.

I read a study around the same time that indicated running performance correlated with body weight even more than cycling. So tightly that you got around 1% faster for each 1% body weight you lost, assuming all the normal caveats (as in, you visited a doctor, know your current lean mass and target a healthy loss rate and final body fat percentage between 6-10% but not lower unless you like being ill physically or mentally)

So I'm really glad I had that wakeup call - knowing I had one more big A race this year (Austin 70.3 triathlon) that I really really wanted to do well in and 3 months to go, I decided to get my act together while I still had a realistic opportunity to lose the new weight I'd been carrying around since my son arrived.

There are a lot of things you have to do to have excellent performances, and I'm sure I'm missing a few, but this is one of them and I got this one right at least. 

So from one perspective - this is what desire looks like. 10 pounds in 3 months - it can be done and I'm not superhuman - maybe this will motivate who ever is reading this if you've been contemplating a change.

2 days to go till race day

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cat 1 Upgrade?

Okay you clamoring race report fans, I'm afraid you'll have to wait just a little longer.

The lovely missus and I just got home from the Callville Bay Classic and I had enough energy to unpack, then - drumroll please - officially file for my category 1 upgrade.

Hopefully I followed all the rules correctly and didn't have a math fail - I think I qualify. For those following along at home, here's a quick review of how it went down:

6 pts - 2nd of 41 2+, 2010 Madera Stage Race Road Race M35+123, 3/14/2010
1 pt - 5th of 21 2+, 2010 Menlo Park Crit M35+123, 4/11/2010
1 pt - 6th of 55 2+, 2010 35+ District Crit Championships, 5/2/2010
2 pts - 4th of 21, 2010 Colavita NorCal Gran Prix E2, 7/17/2010
3 pts - 2nd of 14, 2010 Copper Town Square Circuit Race E2, 7/31/2010
3 pts - 2nd of 16 2+, 2010 CCCX Fall #2 P123, 9/4/2010
2 pts - 5th of 56, 2010 Folsom Challenge Crit P12, 9/11/2010
1 pt - 6th of 15, 2010 Henleyville RR P12, 9/19/2010
2 pts - 2nd of 9 2+, 2010 CCCX Fall #3 P123, 10/2/2010
2 pts - 4th of 21 2+, 2011 Cal Aggie Crit M35+123, 1/29/2011
1 pt - 3rd of 8 2+, 2011 CCCX Spring #1 P123, 1/30/2011
6 pts - 10th of 56, 2011 Callville Bay Classic E2 GC, 2/27/2011
30 pts, holee crap.

I can't even tell you how many near misses I had for points - I've been one spot away from getting a point something like 4 times? It is really amazing to me how difficult it is to get them when you're focusing on it.

I'm looking forward to a different racing style that involves a lot less accounting and a lot more go for broke.

But first I'm looking forward to what I think will be a positive response to the upgrade request, a lot less time pressure, and a new family member on the way.

Some time in the next couple days I'll try to write up a "what I did during the off-season" report where I'll chat about how I upgraded my engine a bit, and how things played out the last month.

In the meantime - check me out in the NCNCA Point Series quickly (2/28/2011), I'm 20th M35-123 and 5th P12 until they update the standings with results from a bunch of races I didn't do, dropping me down :-)


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Always the Bridesmaid, but I'll Take It - CCCX Fall #3

Hard to believe the 2010 season is over, but this is it - the last race of the year for me has come and gone. Yesterday was the CCCX Fall Series Circuit Race #3.

This race is held at Fort Ord near Monterey, and I've done this particular circuit once already when I did the 2nd race in this series a month back and got a 2nd place for my efforts (ha cha cha).

The good thing about this course is that it only has one flat section - the rest is either uphill or downhill. The uphills are short enough that they favor a punchier rider though - not a pure climber, and the final sprint is uphill. I happen to be a punchy climber because I'm basically a small sprinter, and uphill sprints usually favor me. So I love this course.

Here's the profile from one lap of my data:

Since I got second place here last time, I'll admit I dared to think I might win this race, and I was definitely hoping to get some upgrade points.

Strategically, there are 4 CalGiant team members here, including the basically-stronger-than-everyone Jesse Moore who showed up to try clinch the P12 BAR competition. There are two Metromint guys, and a bunch of solo riders including myself, in a small (15 or so) field. This course and a small field reward breakaways, so I'm not going to let anything go without me, and I'm looking to have at least one CalGiant and one Metromint rider for the perfect move. I'm hoping for some reason Jesse Moore won't be in the move.

We start off, and the first time up the hill a CalGiant guy puts in an easy leg-testing attack. The whole pack essentially covers it and we're strung out but all together. Few are suffering yet. The second lap we head up the hill and it's on for real. The same CalGiant guy goes again but harder and sustained this time and pretty soon it's him, me, a second CalGiant guy, both Metromint riders, and a ClifBar rider. Unless something happens, this is the break, and we have 75 minutes to go.

We roll along steadily increasing our lead but the composition starts to shuffle out. One CalGiant guy falls off and Jesse Moore bridges up, which worries me. One Metromint guy falls off and the ClifBar rider starts to falter then falls off.

We hit the finish hill for the 3rd lap and there's a prime on. Jesse goes to lead out his teammate, the ClifBar guy is gone, the Metromint rider is gapped hard, and I'm just a small gap behind the two CalGiant riders. Jesse looks around, sees the chaos and decides to keep his foot on the gas. I see immediately from his body posture that he's not letting up so I sprint across the gap and jump on his wheel.

At this point, It's Jesse and I in the front, a second CalGiant and a Metromint together in 3rd and 4th, and shrapnel behind. We have around an hour to go. Being in a two-person time trial with Jesse Moore isn't exactly how I pictured the day going. Jesse Moore wins time trials and hill climbs, but loses sprints. I suck at time trials, do okay on hill climbs, but win sprints. I'm pretty sure how this will play out, and I'm just hoping to survive. Sure enough Jesse keeps the throttle on long enough that I'm just about to crack within 2 minutes, but I just manage to hang on.

For the next 38 minutes I do what I can to help Jesse ride, which amounted to pulling around 2 minutes total in a few short, weak efforts, while hanging on for dear life as he motored steadily up all the hills just a couple percent under my maximum. I've given myself tough grades for not being tenacious enough over the season and I'll admit to being close to blowing up several times and thinking about the pain and weakness. That doesn't help. I consciously made an effort to use all the physical tricks I could, and to mentally repeat to myself that this was the reason I train so hard. This was the reason I race. You don't get to be in the winning break very often, and I wasn't going to give it up until I was completely shelled.

With a lap and a half to go, and a 3-minute gap, Jesse figured I could make it in by myself, so he throttled up one last time on the rollers and I blew apart completely - total toddler on a tricycle action. Now I'm solo in no-man's land behind the leader but still in front of the pack. Despite being horrible at time trials I figure even I can't lose 3 minutes in a lap so I pull it together, put my head down, and power through the final lap to hold on for second place.

I have to say, this was something like thorough ass-whipping number 5 (that'd be Mount Tam, Henleyville, Everest Challenge and now CCCX), 3 weekends in a row, from Jesse Moore, but I wouldn't have taken 2nd without him being nice about this one, so chapeau, sir. Strong and nice, a rare combo, and much appreciated.

That's a pretty satisfying way to end the season, I have to say. The points earned were enough to get me second in the series (50 points, vs 51 for David Wyandt) but since the winner wasn't there and I was close they gave the series champ hoodie to me.

Take that David Wyandt, I'm going to be the CCCX Fall Series P12 poser all year, and there's nothing you can do about it. At least the one time David and I were both there, I edged him out, so I don't feel too badly about it.

And yes, I take all my loot pictures in front of miniature horses to make myself look taller.

I started the season with the goal to get a top-10 in the P12, then hopefully a top-5, to learn how to ride breakaways, and to give the Everest Challenge a good go. I ended the season with 4 2nd places, a 4th, 2 5ths, 2 6ths, and 5 other top-10s of various kinds (E2, P12 and M35-123). That's really way more than I could have hoped for. I had no goal in mind whatsoever of upgrading to Category 1 but here I sit with 21 upgrade points! I'm also going to end up somewhere in the top-40 of the NCNCA P12 BAR competition. Quite a year.

I looked up some yearlong stats for the curious:

* 10,041 miles ridden over the season (I think I only put 8,000 on my car!)
* a little over 600 hours on the bike
* 314,860 calories burned (that'd be 89.9 pounds of fat! don't picture it)
* 76,800 heart beats while riding

To anyone that's supported, encouraged, or just followed along this year - thanks. It's been a fun ride.