Monday, June 28, 2010

Pleasant Prairie Results

Something of a pattern has begun to emerge and I need to put an end to it immediately.

At Lake Mills I crashed and left with a few bruises, nothing serious.
At Elkhart Lake I crashed in a bit more of a spectacular fashion and left with scrapes, bruises, and strained ribs.
At Pleasant Prairie I hyperextended my knee during the swim start (It was a rather steep drop to the water, and I got a little push from behind at the start. My foot planted in the sand, knee hyperextended with most of my weight on it.) At this point I am really hoping it is just a strain and doesn't need surgery...however I doubt it. There is enough popping, cracking, crunching, and swelling to make me think there is cartilage damage at least. I had full reconstruction on this knee back in school from a football injury.

Fortunately I don't think there is any real ligament damage as the knee doesn't hurt enough. When I tore it in school the pain was off the charts and didn't get better for days. I'm able to walk (gingerly) without pain. I have an appointment later today, so we'll see what the ortho thinks. Either way I have no doubt an MRI is in my future.

Onto the race itself.
I wasn't really taking this race seriously and did not really rest for it. A couple days of easier workouts, but no days off.
My original plan was to come in and hammer the swim/bike and see what if I could hold on for the run. Both bike and run courses are flat, so it was a good opportunity to see what I could do.

At first it didn't look like the weather would cooperate, but everything ended up working out. It rained on some of the later waves, but I was in wave 2.

So, as you've read at the very beginning of the swim I hurt my knee. I'll start from there.
Right from the start of the swim I was a bit out of it. The obvious concern over the injury left me without focus. The knee was hurting and getting hot, so I was getting more and more worried. As a result I found myself off course quite a bit. I could see fine, but just wasn't focused on sighting enough. Plus being in such an early wave was on my own.
I think the bouys got pushed around a bit with the wind.
In any case my swim time (according to my Garmin) was a 21:40ish. PISS POOR. I wanted to break 19 minutes.
I have not seen any race results. According to my Garmin I swam one full mile. I don't think I went that far off course, so I suspect the swim may have been a touch long and then I added on with deviations. Once I where I stood with the results I'll know more.
I know one guy in my age group beat me. He took off pretty early and stayed in the lead. I wasn't focused enough to stay in his draft. That was a big mental mistake on my part. There wasn't anything I could do about my knee until getting on land. I should have stuck to him.

In the water I told myself that I'd DNF at the first sign of knee trouble. I don't normally entertain thoughts of quitting, but I have a history of pushing through pain too much and causing more harm than good.

Coming out of the water I was very tentative. I climbed up the beach and honeslty felt no pain at all. I was very surprised by that. I ran up to the bike and got out of the wetsuit. But I was afraid to stand on the bad leg and instead took some time getting out of the wetsuit.
During that process a guy came out of the water and was his zipper was stuck and he begged me for help.
I thought about being a dick and just taking my bike and bolting out of there, but I needed that time to situate myself. His zipper was stuck pretty bad and it took me a good 10-15s to get him out of that.
I felt better about myself...and honestly I wasn't sure I'd finish the race anyway.

Got on the bike...absolutely no flying mount with the knee. I made that decision in the water too. And started out. Right away I knew I was having a good ride. My power was above 300 and I was moving along real good. I had no trouble with the garmin either.
I kept looking for signs of trouble from the knee but it was fine. Perhaps I got lucky.

For the first 10-15 miles I held close to 300 watts for an average. So I do think my work in the aero tuck has helped me already. Over the course of the race my average dropped down to about 290. There are a couple reasons for this...
First, the course is fast. There were several sections of the ride where I was close to 30mph and just cruising. I find it tough to keep my power up when going that fast. I think it is a slight lack of focus coupled with the euphoria of going fast. Plus I had to weave in and out of some of the sprinters and got caught behind a few during some turns.
Second, my legs were getting tired.
My goal for the race was to hit the bike hard and see what I could do...and I think I did that pretty well.
I ended at about 290 watts. My speed was 23.3 mph according to the Garmin. And unlike other years, this course was a bit long, not short. My garmin measured it at a bit over 25 miles. 40k = 24.8 miles. So my time of 1:04 and change wasn't bad all things considered. In fact, that is quite good for me with or without a knee. But again, I have not seen any results to compare it to.

The one guy from my age group that beat me in the swim was not a great cyclist. I passed him fairly early and at a good clip. I did get passed by a few people on the bike, but mostly it was guys from wave 1 passing me back. I think one person from my age group passed me, but I couldn't clearly see the markings. I wasn't sure if anyone else from my group was ahead of me or not after the swim. Honestly I was more focused on my race at that point anyway. If I could hold 300 watts and they could pass be it.

T2 was fine. No crazy dismounts. Even if I had tried I think the volunteer would have tackled me. She was nuts...she got right in front of me with her arms waving. I wonder if some of the elites in later waves took her out?

As I did during the swim, I told myself I'd evaluate the knee as I started the run. During the first mile I was concerned because there was a little tightness in my upper calf near the knee and my hamstring was a bit tight. But nothing specific to the knee. So I kept going.

I got to the first turn around and noticed I kept having lapses of slowness. I'd refocus and get moving again. And that was the way the race went for the most part. At times I'd find myself running 7:30's and then refocus and drop to 6:45's. I saw the Lanza's at the turnaround, they were a few minutes back...but had started 9 minutes behind me. ugh! I know they are faster, but to pull back 9 minutes!?!
Anyway, I got to the second portion of the course around the lake and was still moving fine. No knee or leg problems. I did get passed by a few runners. One guy had no body markings, so I don't know if he's in my group or not. Other than him, I didn't see anyone in my age group.

There is a little section of the course that only the OLY race does and it was a 2nd turnaround. I got there and started watching for anyone who might catch me in my age group. There wasn't anyone there. At that point I knew that my race would be fine from an age group perspective. Unless there were more swimmers that beat me, or someone got passed me while I was in T1, I was near 2nd or 3rd in the age group. Possibly 4th or so if someone got passed me that I missed.
I knew I wasn't catching anyone since the guys that passed me did so with gusto. And nobody was close enough to catch me.
I think it was at this point I remembered my strategy of hammering the bike hard and holding on for the run. It is funny how I forget things while racing. I was wondering why I couldn't hold 6:55's this whole way. At Elkhart I held 7:15's, surely I could go a lot faster on a flat course, right?
As I think about it in hindsight, 290 watts on the bike for an hour is about 92% of my FTP. And that's a solid pace for an OLY race with a 10K. Add to that the fact that I'm weaker in the aero position, and that 290 watts becomes a bigger effort. So towards the end of the run I started laughing at myself because I was upset, yet accomplished exactly what I had planned to do. I hit the bike hard enough to hurt my run a bit.
I will add that my knee could have been part of the problem. Despite not feeling any pain I could have been holding back a bit. I do not think this is the case.

As I was finishing I saw Matt on a picnic table. He encouraged me to kick it up a notch for the final stretch. I did to a point and got to 6:30's for my effort.
Unfortunately one of the Lanza's passed me right at the finish. I hate runners. At least it was a Gear Grinder. My final run time according to Garmin was 43:54. So my final time for the day was 2:13:40ish.
Last year that would have been crappy for the age group but top 30 overall. This year many of the big dogs in 30-34 were gone. Plus I am pretty sure they changed the bike course and it was a bit longer than last year. Of course the results aren't up yet. Ideally I'll be in the top 20 with 3rd in the age group. If not, I'm just not too concerned about it considering my knee.

Once I stopped I knew I needed to address my knee. I went to medical and they wrapped it with an ice bag. It was popping and cracking quite a bit but was not swollen. Yet.

After a few minutes the weather started getting nasty. There was some thunder and lightening and it started to rain. While I wanted to see the results I wasn't about to stand around on my leg. Aimee and I went to transition to get my stuff and leave. I was standing next to my bike packing when I straightened/locked my knee with some weight on it...and promptly collapsed. Even with the ice bag on it. That was not good and it took me a few minutes to get up.

Throughout the day the knee got progressively more stiff and swollen. Today it is much more swollen and stiff. But there is also less pain. I can walk and move around. I have a big brace with hinges on it. That helps prevent any weight bearing mistakes on my part. I am icing it pretty consistently. And I have an appointment a bit later today.

So that is three races, three seperate incidents, each one progressively worse.
At this point I am about 95% sure I'll withdraw from Racine 70.3. But I'll wait to see what the doctor says. Either way I doubt I'll be running in the next 2 weeks. So there isn't any point in doing that race.

If the knee is just sprained with no other damage, I don't think nationals will be an issue.
If the knee needs to be scoped, there will be a question of timing. They typically wait about 4 weeks before doing surgery to get the swelling down. After the surger there is probably 3 weeks of recovery. If that schedule starts today then I'm near the end of August before I am able to really train again. (I could probably swim and ride on the trainer through some of that). That would give me 3 weeks to train for nationals. I'm not sure I'll spend the money for that.

So my suspicion is that even a scoping will be a season ender for me. Obviously if I need knee reconstruction, again, I am done. Last time it took 6 weeks to get off the crutches. And even then I couldn't do much. We'll see.

Edit: race results.

As it turns out I was 20th overall. Not too bad. 4th in my age group.
My swim was 12th best. So I was a bit slow, but not that slow. Nobody broke 20 minutes. I probably could and should have been about a minute faster.
My T1 sucked. oh well.
My bike was 20th overall. It was not a short course as only 3 people broke an hour.
My time was 1:04:45. I'm happy with that.
My official run time was 43:54. Not bad.

The next guy in my group was over a minute ahead. Had I not hurt my knee I think I would have been faster in the swim and had a little more urgency everywhere else. I would have had a chance to catch him. Either way, no excuses. He beat me.
The 2nd place in my age group ran a 36. He's the guy that passed me on the way was I catching him.

Edit #2:
Just got back from the doctor. The tentative results are far better than I expected. Based on his examination and x-rays he does not think there is any knee instability or ligament damage. The graft from my original knee surgery appears fine.

There is the possibility of cartilage damage based upon the pain I felt after the race.

My limited range of motion is primarily caused by the inflammation, probably not a ligamint issue.

There is a ligamint on the side of the knee, I can't remember the name of it. It is often strained during a hyper extension. He thinks I more than likely strained/sprained that. Often times it presents similar to how I described my pain in the sense that it hurts like crazy right away and causes swelling. However the pain goes away pretty quick and the knee remains stable for the most part.

I will have an MRI in the next few days to confirm but he thought I could resume working out as my knee dictates. I suspect I'll take the week off of running. I'll try to add in some gentle biking on the trainer possibly tomorrow/wednesday. It will be very light stuff.

So my initial thoughts about the extent of the injury are pretty accurate...with the hope for good news and a better prognosis for training. Perhaps the season isn't over yet. I know my fingers will be crossed. If there is no cartilage damage there is no surgery. So that is certainly the best case.

I wonder if Gear Grinder offers a jackass award at the season ender. I think I deserve it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Slight change in plans.

Now that I've qualified for nationals in my first attempt, I am left with questions...the big one being, what now?

The problem with this question is 3-fold:
First, I am injured. My ribs are strained and hurt. I can swim and ride, but running is out for the moment. Most likely at least until the 21st. Possibly longer.

Second, I need to regain my foces. I have always had a problem with tapers. And by problem I mean lack of motivation. I tend to take the "I'm on vacation" approach to tapering and rest more than I should. For the last two weeks I had no focus of any kind. My workouts were hit or miss at best.

Third, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of my training time in the off season was wasted/done improperly. That isn't to say my efforts haven't yielded positive results. Obviously they have. However I am extremely disappointed in my bike splits and I have a good idea why.
For almost all of my indoor bike training in the off season I rode sitting almost completely upright as opposed to in my aero tuck. This uses different muscle recruitment and is probably why I am weaker in the aero tuck.

When I raced at Lake Mills I thought my low power numbers were the result of falling on my ass.
I don't have my numbers from Elkhart, but am confident they were lower than I wanted.
And my nail in the coffin evidence - I put the TT bike on the Computrainer on Monday and began riding exclusively on the aero bars and watched my power numbers.
While my FTP tests show a range of 320 - 325 depeing on the CT vs Garmin...I struggle to hold 300 watts in the aero tuck.
While this could be problem with my position on the bike, I am doubting it. When sitting up I recruit different muscles than in the aero tuck.
So I've begun to test this theory a bit. After a couple days off from Elkhart I got on the bike in the basement and decided to do a few zone 3 intervals. The goal was to do several 5 minute intervals at 290-300 watts.
I repeatedly found myself having to "catch up" to my goal wattage as I lost focus or wasn't able to keep a steady wattage. Realistically I should be able to hold a steady 290-300 watts without a problem. But I couldn't do it consistently.

I suspect this is part of the reason for my fatigue after long rides. During those rides I was in aero a lot and my legs weren't used to that. so I have devised a new plan in light of my inability to run.

I am going to swim 3-4 days per week. And I am going to bike at least 7 times per week, often times twice per day starting now until I can run without killing my ribs.
I swam on Monday, but very lightly. On Tuesday I did an hour interval ride/spinnervals video. Yesterday is when things really started falling into place for me. At that time I had planned to do a 45 minute ride and then an easy run to test things out. So I got on the bike and really focused on staying aero in zone 2.

What I experienced was fatigue. Nothing severe, but my legs were noticeably more fatigued than normal for an easy zone 2 ride.
I followed that up with a 45 minute zone 2 ride this morning, mostly steady state with some different gearings thrown in. I experienced the same thing, fatigue. I plan to ride for at least 90 minutes tonight in zone 3 and 4 as much as possible. It will more than likely have to be shorter intervals of 5-15 minutes. then on Saturday I am going to go with a fellow GearGrinder to ride the Racine 70.3 course. I suspect he's quite a bit faster than me, so either I'm getting dropped or it is going to he an epic ride for me.
Sunday I hope to ride twice, both shorter rides. It is fathers day and I have plans, so I may only get in a morning ride...and it may be recovery.

Fortunately I do believe things happen for a reason. I think this rib injury is going to force me to focus on biking and swimming and get back on par with where I should be. My hope is that all this riding in the aero tuck will shock the weaker muscles and kick them into gear, specifically the hip flexors. I've done this with swimming in the past and it has worked. Fortunately I'll be able to measure how I do at Pleasant Praire on the 27th. It is a flat course and realistically I should be able to hold 285-295 watts (89 - 92% of FTP) and still run reasonably well. The bigger muscles are there, now it's a matter of refining the details. On a flat course with no wind the difference between 275 watts and 295 watts is over 1 minute. That is a significant amount of time.

My plan is to use PP as a practice race and if necessary blow up on the bike. It is a great opportunity to really test myself in a race scenario and hammer the bike prior to a killer run without worrying about qualifying or placing. I ran 7:15's at Elkhart on a challenging course. I'd like to think I can run sub 7min/mile even if I push the bike too hard. We'll find out. And of course the #1 goal is to not crash.

Beyond that I have Racine 70.3 coming. I am regretting that a little bit as I don't feel prepared for a 1/2 Iron. I don't plan to DNS or anything like that, but I think it will be a gametime decision on how hard I push. It may become a long training day depending on how many longer rides and runs I can get in. To this point I don't have a lot of endurance work under my belt. We'll see what the future brings. After that is Tri-ing for Childrens. I love that race and plan to do it. However it is right after Racine, and I don't necessarily want to pay for a race when I know I'll need to recover the week prior. We'll see.

I have nothing planned in August or September. I know I'll do some smaller stuff like Manitowoc. But my plan is to focus on longer rides and runs to re-gain the endurance and couple that with the added strength I now have. All rides will focus on staying in the aero tuck as much as possible. I also want to photgraph myself in position so I can see how things are looking.

And the good news is that my legs are fine. So when the rib injury no longer hurts, I can simply start running again. Realistically I'll only have taken a week away from running, so I may dial back my long run a notch, but otherwise should be fine.

I do hope I can resume running next week.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Elkhart Lake, The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Alright, the Elkhart Lake Triathlon was my 2nd race in two weeks and a very important race for me.
It was my first Olympic race of the year. As a USAT sanctioned race it was to be my first opportunity to qualify for USAT nationals. Elkhart has cash payouts and attracts a pretty strong elite contingent as a result. Plus it is a challenging course that does not suit my strong points. I was anxious to see how I'd hold up.

I am a strong swimmer, and a strong biker on a flatter course. Being a bigger, heavier guy I can really get moving on flatter courses, Elkhart is a rolling course almost the entire way. It can really slow me down and suck the energy out of my legs. My run is still my weakest discipline, but getting much better. And the run course is also fairly hilly. Nothing huge, but consistent rollers and inclines/declines throughout the run.

The week leading up to this race was good. I had planned a 2 week taper which included Lake Mills, so the week of training was designed around shorter faster efforts in all three disciplines plus an hour run on Wednesday. I also practiced my transitions repeatedly throughout the week including mounts and dismounts. I was feeling very confident.

Race morning I got up and everything was feeling good. The weather looked like it was going to be near perfect. It was overcast and about 60+degrees. There was a little wind, but not much. And it looked like the rain was going to holld off for the day.

I was staying at a friend and teammates place, Chris Bauer. He lives about 2 blocks off the course, very convenient. I went out for a light warmup ride watching my power to get in some harder work. Got to transition very early, got set up and realized I forgot my timing chip in my car at Chris's. Not to worry, I went for a warmup run to go get the chip, found it right away and jogged back to the transition area.

A good friend of mine, Brian Schroepfer, was also going to be racing with me. I was at his cabin the week before. I was never able to beat him last season. He's a small little freak of nature with awesome genetics. Don't get me wrong, he's got a great work ethic, but as I've told him several times, he doesn't know how to properly train for this sport. As a result he is always pulling or tearing muscles in the gym. When he was 20 years old he dropped a 10:10 Ironman at Lake Placid. That was 12 years ago. If he had gotten a coach and taken the sport seriously I don't doubt he'd be a pro right now.

Anyway, Brian is always late. Last year I learned to simply leave him be on race morning as he'll throw me off my game if I wait for him. he was staying at the Osthoff, his room right abov transition. With about 20 minutes before the transition close he gets on his balcony and starts yelling at me from 3 floors up. He finally makes it down and realizes he has no bike shoes...they are in his car. so he goes running around to get set up and makes it back to transition with about 2 minutes to spare.

As a race I really enjoy Elkhart Lake. But I have 2 complaints. The first is how they handle the race start. They close transition at 6:45 is. The sprint starts at 7:30ish as near as I could tell the Oly race didn't hit the water until well after 8am. That is a LONG time to be standing around. The second complaint is that it takes the RD about 3 hours to get the awards figured out. Computers are amazing and he hasn't quite figured them out.

On to the race. I had a few goals for this race. Below are the times I wanted to hit. I came up with these based on my splits last year as well as looking at other splits and figuring where I fell compare to them and my training.

Swim - 19:45
T1 - 2:30
Bike - 1:14:00 (22.7mph)
T2 - 1:45
Run - 43:00
Total - 2:21
I also figured a 2:21 would put me into contention for the age group win once the elites/pros were excluded.

Brian and I had numbers pretty close and we were able to start side by side. I hit the water hard and fast knowing I had to keep him out of my draft. He isn't fast enough to keep with me in the open water, but he could potentially sit in my draft and stay with me. I could not allow that.
there were about 300 people in the water ahead of me. Every one of them was slower than me and I did a LOT of passing. I made it about 1/4 of the way out and saw someone on my right hip. Thinking it might be Brian I swerved off to the left and weaved in and out of a couple people to force him into open water. It worked because I never saw anyone near me again.

I made it out to the turn around, glanced at my garmin and saw 10:10. I felt fine and picked up the pace at that point. On my way in my hot pink swim cap came off. I hate swim caps anyway. I made it to shore without incident, there was a long shallow area I needed to run on and crossed the mat at 19:21. That was the fastest age group swim except for one girl that supposedly dropped a 16 minute swim. I also had the 4th or 5th fastest swim overall. But I had no draft to help me like the elites did. And I came out of the water thinking I could have gone a bit faster. Last year I did 22:18. So I dropped 3 minutes in the swim...about what I expected given the extra work. If I had a draft I would have been faster.

I came out of the water and there is a really long transition with a narrow path. A grouping of girls were meandering their way up to T1. I came running behind them and asked them to move...they started whining and wanted me to go around them. That was stupid since the path was barricaded and I couldn't go around. So after about 2 seconds I used my arms as a plow and went through them. As I went by I told them to move their asses as this is a race not a social club.
I Came into T1...despite my practice I had a lot of trouble getting my wetsuit off. It was just really tight around my ankles and I actaully dropped to my butt, ripped it off and put on my bike shoes and other stuff.
I had practiced mounting the bike with shoes on and off. I decided at the last minute to keep my shoes on as I just had too much trouble getting into the shoes while riding. It isn't a balance thing, it is that my feet are size 12-13 and the shoes really drag heavy on the ground. On several occassions they hit something and pop out of the clips. I didn't want to risk that so stayed in my shoes.
So I ran out of T2, ran past the mount line a couple steps to be sure I was out of everyones way, mounted, clipped in after a couple seconds and was off!!! Everything went great.

I started riding and noticed the Garmin wasn't getting a power reading. I hit a flat section of the course and tried to hit the menus to get it to work, nothing. So I said screw it and raced on RPE. A couple things really stick out about this bike course. First, I had forgotten how hilly it really is. I came in thinking the first half of the course is hilly, and the back half is mostly downhill. that was not really accurate. The entire course is rolling hills. Nothing huge, but enough to be challenging. So my plan to take the first half hard may not have been the most effective. I came off the bike fairly tired. The age-groupers I didn't pass on the swim, I mostly passed on the bike.
Overall the bike was uneventful. I finished with a 1:16:05 for 22.1mph. Not bad, but not what I wanted. Last year I did a 1:21:05, so I did drop a full 5 minutes, but wasn't where I had hoped to be.

Onto T2. As I had practiced my T1 mount, I also practiced my T2 dismount. The only problem I ever had in practice was that the velcro on my shoe would stick to my sock...and the shoe would unclip and drop behind me. In bare feet that wasn't a problem. In practce I often went a bit slow as the road near my house is a bit rough on the feet.
Anyway, I start approaching transition and get my feet out of the shoes, and get over to the left side of my bike no problem. Hit the dismount line and am off and running. I will say this, I cam in too fast, but not out of control. Anyway, next thing I know my shoe/pedal hits the edge of the curb. The shoe flies off and the back of my bike starts bouncing around. At that point I committed the cardinal sin, instead of stopping and then looking back, I looked back and then tried to stop.
Big mistake. The handlebars essentially followed my the left. That was of course right in front of my path. So with the back wheel bouncing around uncontrollably the front wheel went right into my path and down I went, ass over tea kettle. HARD. In reality my hands and right knee took the brunt of the hit as I desperatly tried to avoid landing on my bike. I immediately started cursing. I looked for Matt and Mike to thank them for their advice and underestimating my stupidity. :-)

I heard several gasps from the crowd as the bike hit hard. In any case I bounced up, left the bike there and got the shoe. Someone handed it to me, I think. It's a bit of a blur. Someone told me to relax that it was only a few seconds and I think that snapped me back into reality. At that point I grabbed the bike, ran to T2 and got into my run stuff. I took a look at myself, my hands were cut up, my right knee had some road rash and was bruising, I had a slight cut on my abs and left foot. As I ran out of T2 I seemed to feel okay, so kept going.

I saw John White coming out of T2 and said something to him about this happening 2 weeks in a row. ugh.

On the run. I came running out of T2 at a good clip. The very first section is flat and I needed to take advantage of the flats where I could as the guys behind me were all faster runners. So I headed out at a 6:45ish pace. At this point I realized my original thoughts about the course were incorrect. I did not remember the hills between the start and the first turn around, I thought it was flat. As I hit that first section of hills I remember thinking..."This sucks".

I hit the turn around and looked at my watch to guage where the next two guys were. I saw Brian about a minut back, so I had 2 minutes on him. I saw Dan Grismer after 3 minutes, so I had 6 minutes on him. He ran past me at Lake Mills. It was Brian I worried about as he is a faster runner and was making up ground.
I hit an easier section of the course, down and flat and basically went as fast as I could dropping down to about 6:50's. And then I came to the final two hills, both longer steadier climbs. My left quad was acting like it was going to cramp, but I couldn't afford to back off with Brian running me down like that. I was starting to suffer quite a bit and my legs and lungs were both ready to explode. At some point I started thinking about walking for a small section. But as quick as that thought hit me I squashed it knowing that would mean 2nd place. So I hit the last hill and just focused on leaning forward and taking smaller faster steps. To my surprise my pace stayed really good up the hill and I made the left turn to the downhill/flat section of the course...the last mile or so to the finish with no hills.

At that point it was go for broke time. Everything left was down or flat and I could hit a fast pace doing that. Certainly fast enough to keep a 20s lead over a mile or so. So I kicked it into gear and rumbled down the hill towards the golf course. As I made the right turn onto a long straight away I looked over my shoulder and could see Brian coming down the hill and gaining on me. I had maybe 20-30 seconds on him. At that point I just kept telling myself that if I couldn't keep this lead over 3/4's of a mile or so, I didn't deserve to go to nationals and just kept telling myself to get moving. I looked at my garmin and was doing about a 6:30ish pace, maybe faster. I made the left turn to towards the finish, looked back and Brian was basically only 10-15 seconds back, right there. I started cursing myself and sprinted as best I could. I managed to cross the finish line with about 7 seconds to spare. I finished with a 45:02 or 7:15's. Not where I wanted to be, but fast enough. Last year I did a 54:11, so I dropped almost 10 minutes there. Considering how hard this course is compared to one like Tri-ing for Childrens, I am happy overall.

I wasn't sure about the overall results since there could have been a stud in the water I didn't see, but as it turns out I took first in the 30-34 age group. There were a few elites that beat me, but they also won money.

I was 7th overall in the age group race. About 26th overall counting the elites and pros. With the win I qualified for USAT nationals, so that goal is accomplished. However had the elites been included I would not have qualified. I know the elites never count in terms age group qualification, but I still don't know how I feel about qualifying knowing there were several guys in my age group that were faster, knocking me out of the top 10%.

The Aftermath:
First off I am very sore. Not just muscle sore. My ankles both ache, my hands hurt, one finger is swollen. The right side of my rib cage is rather sensitive. Flexing my core to sit up brings pain. It isn't horrible and I can breath fine. But it is there. So I took off Sunday and will take off most of Monday. I did a light swim and felt ok (except for the roadrash).

I need to assess the damage to my bike. Thus far it's been scratches only with a slight bend to the handlebar which took the entire brunt of the fall. I need to assess any potential damage to the fork as it is carbon, and the wheels. Although I did not spot any scratches or issues with the wheels.

After that I need to work on a training plan.
At this point in time I am inclined to drop my swimming back slightly to 3 days per week to maintain what I currently have...and really focus on my biking and running. I've come to the realization that I am not nearly as fast on the bike as I thought I would be after all the off-season work. With an FTP of 320 I really thought I'd be holding above 23.5 for sprints and not too far off that for Olympic races. Granted Elkhart is a slower course, but 22mph is not where I want or need to be. Perhaps Pleasant Praire will yield higher speeds as it is a flat course. We'll see. Many hard interval sets are in my future.

I think my plan will include 3 swims per week, 5 runs per week and 4 rides.
I'll have 1 interval run, 1 long run, 2 interval rides and 1 long ride.

Now that I have qualified for Nationals I don't have to worry about other local races in terms of resting. So with the exception of Racine 70.3 I won't be tapering at all and won't be taking much in the way of recovery afterward. That includes Pleasant Praire. Even Racine will be done on minimal rest.

Nationals is September 25th. That leaves me with about 3 months of summer to train hard and get to where I want to be. Ideally I'd like to see my FTP get near 345ish. I'd also like to get my 5k down around 19 minutes. In both cases this will take consistent injury free training. So I will be carefully monitoring my fatigue levels.
I am rather anxious to knock out some harder bike intervals. I haven't in a while due to the extra running. But it is time to plan properly and execute the plan. (And stay upright on my bike)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm an idiot - but if you've been reading you already know that.

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted anything. I've had some good training, worked with WKO+ a bit more, and had the first race of the season.

So, Lake Mills was on June 6th. I decided in advance that I would not "rest" for this race, but I also wouldn't hit it hard on saturday. As it turns out, I didn't have much time for training anyway.

For about 6 months I've had a trip up north planned. It was Thurs - Saturday with the race being Sunday. Lake Mills was a C race and really just a guage of fitness for me prior to some of the Oly races I have coming up.

My hope was to get to the cabin Wednesday evening and do my long run. Do a hard ride on Thursday, and play Friday by ear.
On Wednesday I managed a 40 minute run after my 3.5 hour drive. It was getting late and I needed to start the fire before everyone arrived. So I cut it short.
Thursday morning I did a great 9-10 mile run. It was with Chris and we were holding 7:45's for the first 5 miles, dialed it back for the next 2 miles or so, and then picked it up on the way back. Overall I think we held an 8 pace, but my garmin was losing signal under all the trees.

On Friday the weather was crap, we went to the casiono and goofed off all day. No training.
Saturday was chores day, and I was leaving at 11:30 to get home. So instead of running or riding I ended up building a retaining wall and moving bolders. Not the easiest work.

Certainly not the best build up to a race.

Race day:
Woke up at about 4, left at 4:45. Everything seemed normal.
Got to transition and got set up. Went for a run and did some shorter intervals to get the legs and blood going. I was a touch sore from building the retaining wall, but not bad.
Got my wetsuit on, and was talking with a few geargrinders. As I was putting my arm into the wetsuit I dropped my brand new garmin and cracked the glass. CRAP!!
I put the Garmin on my bike since I could still use it for the bike/run -- Trying to make the best out of a crappy situation.

Did a little swim warmup, not much. Probably should have done more.

Swim: started with Adam, a new Gear Grinder and scholarship swimmer. This was my first opportunity to swim in my new wetsuit. Everything felt really good. But these sprint races are not my bag.
I finished with a 6:39 which ended up being the top swim of the day. While that was cool, I heard several of the elites swam off course. In either case the conditions were much harder than last year and I am certain the course was longer. So while the 6:39 was actually slower than last years swim, I know I am faster. the water was choppy, I kept getting pushed towards shore and had to swim out to the 2nd bouy. And sighting to the shore was really hard as they only had a few orange cones between two rows of boats.

In my head I am having a tough time seperating the fact that my time was slower than last year, yet I still had the top swim. Last year my swim was 24th I just need to remind myself of that improvement. From 24th to 1st isn't bad at all.

Ok...onto the bike and the reason I am an idiot.
I come running into T1, no problem. I struggle to get my wetsuit off my left leg, with the chip. I need to trim that leg a bit I think.
Anyway I get my shoes on and start running out of T1. Here is where the problems occur.

So I run up to the mount/dismount line and essentially stop since I have never done a cyclecross mount or dismount. I will start practicing soon.
Anyway I hop on my bike and do something VERY stupid. I kick off a little bit with my left foot which starts me slowly rolling. Why I did that I have no idea. So I'm rolling lightly and trying to get my right shoe clipped in and can't. Then I finally do, and it slips out. This particualar pedal has been giving me a lot of trouble with slipping out. I need to switch to speedplay as as I have really started to hate these.
Anyway, once I slip out of the clip I make the fatal mistake...I look straight down at my feet to get clipped in...and yes I was still rolling forward.
At that point I ride straight into the middle of a red cone stopping all momentum and fall over right onto my left butt cheek.
At this point all blood leaves my legs and goes straight to my face and I start cursing my own stupidity. I get up, get back on...and clip in. Start riding...hit another cone on my way past (stay upright) and bolt out of there like a bat out of hell.

All of that time went against my bike split as I had passed the transition mat. UGH!

So I hit the ride and am doing good. I look at my power and am sitting at a pretty high wattage but figure that will take care of itself. I do remember thinking that the course had more hills than I I didn't remember any from last year. Plus it was somewhat windy this year as I don't recall any wind last year either.
At some point in the ride I look down and my average watts has really dropped...down to 288. Which for a sprint race is too quite a bit. IMO this ride is only 40 minutes. I would like to think I can ride at threshold (320) for that long and still run fine. I would have settled for 310. But for whatever reason I simply could not get my wattage up.
In hindsight I think there are a number of reasons for this.

First, this is my first race with the PWM and I need experience dialing in effort and power in this type of setting.
Second, the fall had messed with my head. I wasn't able to maintain concentration as well as I'd have liked or normally could.
Third, I had build a retaining wall they day before...lift with legs, not back.
Fourth...the week leading up was not good preperation. I had some alcohol, not enough good fluids, I didn't eat great, and I slept like crap.

This week, in the leadup to Elkhart, I will do much better with my preparation.

Towards the last 5 miles of the ride someone from team Multisport caught me and passed. But either he slowed down or I sped up because I kept with him no problem. In several instances on rollers I was into the draft zone and should have passed back but didn't want to be a dick. I stayed to the left or right to stay out of his draft zone as bes I could w/out blocking. After a few minutes of that I said screw it, passed him and took off. At that point I realized I could have and should have been going faster the entire time. Over the course of the last couple miles I pulled about 30 seconds ahead of him.
Looking at the times I had a better swim, but he beat me out of T1 by 20 seconds. I wasn't as efficient as I could have been and need to be better organized. But I spent an extra 5-10 seconds on my left leg when I couldn't yank the wetsuit off. I need to address that.

Finally came the run. I had a sloppy T2 in that I forgot my Garmin. Other than that, struggled to get the bare feet into the shoes. I need to loosen them just a touch.

I hit the run and everything went really smooth. The first mile was a touch of a struggle, but manageable. But the Garmin wasn't reading well under the trees. It was saying 7:15's or 7:30's and I knew I was going faster than that.
At about the mile marker the multisport guy passed me. I suspected he might on the ride. I could tell I had no chance to pace him.
At about the 2 mile mark a 2nd multisport guy passed me. I tried to pace him, and did for a while. But I just don't have that speed...yet.

Anyway, I finished the run in a 20:27. So I averaged 6:35's or so. That is officially my fastest 5k ever.

So I ended the day with the following.
Swim - 6:39
T1 - 1:21
Bike - 42:06 (includes the fall)
T2 - 1:06
Run - 20:27
Total - 1:11.38
21st overall, 6th in my age group.

Last year I did the following:
Swim - 6:26
T1 - 2:26
Bike - 43:13 (includes the fall)
T2 - 1:06
Run - 23:37
Total - 1:16.55 76th overall, 4th as a clydesdale.

The aftermath:
It is tough to be disappointed in the result as I showed dramatic improvement in every discipline. However my left ass cheek has a very deep painful bruise that serves as a reminder that there are MANY places to improve.
My bike was no where near as fast as I thought it should have been. had my wattage been where it should have been I wouldn't care...but I've got neither. But with all the time I lost in transition, it is hard to make a comparison. Plus the course was different this year due to construction. And it was windier.

I can gain an easy 20-30 seconds in transition with better preparation alone. That is free.
I could possibly gain 30-60 seconds simply by learning a cyclecross mount/dismount. Also free.
And I would not have lost 10 seconds by falling. Absolutely free.
I could gain 90 seconds by simply holding the power I know I'm capable of. I consider this free, but could cost me a little on the run. Experience will tell me this.

That is roughly 3 minutes of FREE speed. It is nothing more than preparation and execution. Had I done those things I would have been 10-11th overall and 3rd in my age group.

As a result I will be focusing on a few things this week leading up to Elkhart.
First is transitions and wetsuit stripping.
Second is mounting and dismounting. I won't be doing the cyclecross yet. But I am going to practice getting clipped in quickly and properly so I don't lose tons of time again.
And in training I am going to do sets where I hold my power at 90% FTP to prepare. I didn't ride for almost the entire week leading up to Lake Mills. I won't make that mistake again.

All in all the race did exactly what it was supposed to. It gave me several areas to work on and gave me a good guage of fitness. It also gives me a good benchmark in terms of my goals for Elkhart and Lake Mills.