Monday, June 25, 2012

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon

Sunday was the Pleasant Prairie International Distance Triathlon.
My goals were fairly simple:
1 Don’t hurt myself.
2 Don’t break my bike.
3 Swim: 18min
4 Bike: anything below 59:59 (24.8mph)
5 Run anything below a 43:29 (7min/mile pace)

I was a touch nervous for this race as it is my first “fast” race since I tore my hamstring. It isn’t that I haven’t been training, but running hard has been somewhat challenging with the hamstring. A few months ago I started into some hard running, and the resulting problems with the hamstring and left leg left me unable to run for 2 weeks. So instead of focusing on speed work, it’s been more of a push for volume and consistency.

Pre Race:
I am not exactly sure what the problem is…but there is something about waking up at 4am or earlier that really screws with my stomach. Keep in mind, my alarm is going off at 4:40 almost every morning. And if it isn’t going off, the cat is. So one way or another I am up pretty early. It goes back as far as I can remember, including fishing trips as a kid with my dad. But I wake up with a generalized heart burn that remains persistent for hours.

In any case, I took in a couple ensure shakes, 500 calories. I took in some electrolytes, water, and a gu all prior to the race. Everything was normal and fine…no major emergencies. Happy Days!!

I was a tad worried about the swim start because 2 years ago I sprained my knee fighting for position. The beach is very steep, which led to a slight hyper-extension. Fortunately this year they started us much further up, basically on the edge of the water.

I started in the middle of the pack as all the “alpha” males felt like they should have the inside line in the front row. I was chatting with one other guy who was also a collegiate swimmer and made a few loud comments about having to swim over all the guys who think they’re fast, but really aren’t. (Yeah, I was a bit obnoxious.)

In any case, the gun sounded and everyone went out hard just like I expected. In this swim you go out about 10 yards and make an immediate hard right turn and follow shore. There was a TON of congestion at the turn, at which point the pretend swimmers essentially stopped in their tracks. I had a couple choices, wait until it cleared, try to swing outside, or go over the top. The choice was obvious. I took 3-4 really hard sprint strokes and rocketed myself over the top of about 4 guys all swimming on top of each other. I am pretty sure I looked like a salmon trying to climb a waterfall. After a few seconds, a couple kicks to my gut and some slapping, I made it over the top and into clear water. I quickly located two guys swimming pretty fast and latched onto their feet. I swam behind them for the first 3rd of the course and then decided their pace was too slow. I went a little wide and made my pass, and never saw either guy again.

The rest of the swim was uneventful. I finished with a time of 20:43. While the time is slow, I was the top male out of the water by a fair margin. One girl beat me by about 20s. To this day I have only had the fastest swim split at one race, Lake Mills 2010.

I need to do something about the orthotics I wear. They have a leather-ish/slipper finish to them which makes running barefoot not ideal. I lost 20s in transition putting socks on.

The bike is flat and fast. Ultimately I held back a little bit (nPower was 280w) in order to set up a strong run. The run course was also short. They announced this very often as construction forced a course change. The course was 21.3 miles instead of 24.8. In retrospect I could have biked a little harder. But after 2 years away from racing, I am finding that I need to re-learn how to properly pace my races. Especially the debacle at Kansas where I crushed my legs on the bike and had a horrible run.

I got passed by a few people on the bike, two of which I passed back. The third went off the front never to be seen from again. There were multiple instances, especially on lap 2 where I had to coast and/or slow down due to congestion into a turn or other obstacle. Not much to do about that other than scream “on your left”.

Came into transition, which was nothing special. Looking back at the time splits for everyone, had the race been a mass start I would have come off the bike in 2nd or 3rd overall. My bike split was around 12th best for the day.

The Run:
As has been the case for years now, a lot of work needs to be done on my run. I went in with the goal of running hard and holding it. I’d never broken 7min/mile in a 10k, today was going to be the day.

I went out pretty hard at a 6:50ish type pace, held it for a couple miles. Slowed a little bit around mile 4, but mile 4 also had multiple turn-arounds which Garmins hate. And then I did what I could to hold it together. I ended the run with a 42:37 which is about a 6:52 pace. My watch had me at a 6:56 pace, so the course was measured pretty close, not perfect. But that could have been because all the turn-around points. In total the course had 4 turns of 180 degrees.

That sets a new 10k PR for me, so that is very good. Considering it comes on the heels of an injury that has prevented most hard running for the better part of a year is also very good.

I am pretty sure this also sets my 5k PR for the year. Prior to the injury I was quite a bit faster at a 5k, approaching the 20min mark. But I have not been able to run that hard without causing problems…So this race sets that benchmark as well.

Overall, my hamstring and glute didn’t cause any real trouble. I noticed a little tightness around mile 3 of the run, but it worked itself out. A little more rehab should help get rid of all that.

All of that is very good.  The bad part is that I got off the bike in 2nd or 3rd overall, but finished 11th.  That means about 8 guys ran past me.  And I can honestly say, the ones I saw run past me...were considerably faster than me.  Like 4-5min per 10k faster than me.  Work needs to be done!!

Anyway, if you extrapolate my bike speed out to the 40 distance, my overall time would have probably been in the 2:06-2:07 range. I am pretty happy with that. The swim was almost 3 minutes slower than I anticipated, despite leading out of the water. And my bike split would have been closer to a 1:01.

Essentially all my major goals for this race were met. First and foremost I did not do anything to incapacitate or decapitate myself. Always a bonus. I raced strong, and finished with a strong run. I almost broke the top 10, and was top 5 in my age group. I also set a 10k PR. So it was a good day.

Next on my race radar is the IM Racine 70.3. I will get the chance to redeem my 70.3 skills on a flatter course. Given the nature of this course, it should be much easier for me to control myself on the bike and set myself up for a solid run.

2 years ago, in good conditions I rode a 2:28 on 240-245 watts, with a crappy position. I ran pretty well after that…so I am thinking this year I’ll ride slightly harder than that, maybe 250ish, and set myself up for a strong run again. Given the changes to my bike fit, assuming similar conditions, I should ride closer to a 2:25 with similar wattage. If conditions allow for a 2:25 on the bike, I think a low 4:30 is possible. Unfortunately M35-39 is in the dead last heat of the race.

We’ll see what the day brings.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pleasant Prairie Coming up!

Well the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon is this weekend. I added myself to the roster a couple weeks back thinking I needed to get some racing in this year as the only races I had scheduled were Kansas and Racine 70.3’s.

Overall I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve had a couple training snafus in the last couple weeks, mostly self inflicted – 6 hours in the 95 degree heat at a brewers tailgate and then sitting in left field for the game without enough water. So I’ve struggled a bit with hydration, and just post-race general fatigue. I haven’t done anything terribly challenging since the race, so Sunday will be a good opportunity to open up the engines a little bit.

The weather for race morning looks like perfection. Close to 60 at 6am warming up to maybe 70 by the time the race is complete. Little to no wind.

From a goal standpoint, I want to finish top 10 and be in the top 3 for my age group. It’s tough to say what my time will be as I have not raced fast since the hamstring tear. So it will be very interesting to see what I can do in a shorter event.

Assuming the course is measured accurately I’d like to do the following:
Swim: 18min
Bike: anything below 59:59 (24.8mph)
Run anything below a 43:29 (7min/mile pace)

We’ll see what ends up happening. In the past I’ve put out enough watts on the bike to break an hour in a 40k, but have still not broken through. I have little doubt this was due to aerodynamics, bike handling, and general I am hoping my bike fit is more aero than it was 2 years ago (I know it is) and that I grow a pair and ride pretty aggressive.

If I can do the above, I should be finishing around a 2:01.30 plus transitions…so 2:03 roughly.

I would be very happy with that time. We’ll see how things go and how the hamstring holds up.

Ideally this time I won’t sprain my knee running into the water like I did 2 years ago!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ironman Kansas 70.3 Race Report – The race that almost never was.

Hello all,

I am going to do my best to run through this race in chronological order as best I can remember it. Due to everything that happened, I may get things a little muddled.

And for those of you not at all interested in the details of triathlon racing but want to know how I did…I placed 115th overall, 20th in my bracket, got a horrible time of 5:06. But because everyone else had a horrible day I managed to get a roll down slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas. Had I executed better, I could have been top 10 in my age group.

Also, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to Roy. I was waiting in the roll-down line after the race and he’s a spot or two behind me. He heard the announcer call my name, knew who I was and said hello and that he read my blog. Imagine that, someone reads my ramblings!! Roy, drop me a line, we can meet up in Vegas.

Pre Race:
The week prior to the race started like any other. The taper was moving forward and I was starting to feel pretty good. Unfortunately Tuesday came and I caught a head cold. Tuesday was fairly bad with headaches. Wednesday I skipped my swim, but was feeling better. The rest of the week I continued to feel better with a bit of a persistent cough and some really sticky, nasty phlegm. I didn't miss any of the workouts.  Overall my body felt fine, so I was hopeful it wouldn’t impact race day too much.

I drove down to Kansas with Adrienne who has an uncle in the area. And everything about the trip was uneventful and peaceful. Got to the hotel, got everything setup and ready to go. Fast forward to Saturday and we got in a nice pre-race ride-run and then checked in our bikes and everything else. Everything went well and despite the remaining cough and phlegm, everything was going well. I was hydrating and taking in salt as normal.

Race Morning.
Got to the race site, no problem. Walked into T2 to set up my run gear and everything was set to go. No issues. We walk the ½ mile down the hill into T1 and the swim area. Announcements are already going out about closing transition…this sucked because it was 15 min earlier than they had advertised in the packet. So we hurried up, started pumping tires…and quickly realized that Adrienne’s pump didn’t work and had some kind of odd leak. I took it over to my bike to give it a try and fiddle with it a bit. I push it onto the valve and next thing I know pssssssssssssssssssssst…my tubular goes dead flat, apparently pushing the pump on it punctured the tire. CRAP!!!  Not a good start to things.

Well, I’ve gotten pretty good at changing tires. I go to pull of the rear wheel and am having all kinds of trouble. It won’t come off and is really aggravating. Much swearing is happening now. Finally it comes off…next thing I know the whole free-hub falls off the wheel.  WTF is this??!! I can fix a number of different things, but this is not one of them…certainly not in T1 with 15-20 minutes before getting kicked out of transition. Shit, shit, shit, shit!!!!!!!!!

Me being me, I calmly walk over to Adrienne and say – Well I think my race just ended. At which point she looks up and sees the wheel in one hand and the hub/rear cassette in another.  Her reaction was similar to mine...WTF?

It was pretty hopeless and bleak, but I ran over to tech support. She took one look at the mess in my hands and was like “SHIT, my tools for that are up in T2 a half mile away”. She’s very busy pumping tires…and it looks more hopeless. Eventually she says, “I’ll tell you what, I have to help all these people. I’ll make some calls to get a new wheel or tools. What’s your race #? I’ll do my best, you go get ready and if there is a wheel on your bike when you get done swimming, you know I fixed it.”

I figure that’s about as good of a deal as I am going to get anywhere…so I get her my number, go get as much ready as I can…but T1 is already closing and I’m getting yelled at. I sprint to my bike, get everything on it I can remember, get my stuff out of my bag and ready for a transition and move out.

I walk over to the line of the port-o-poddy and next thing I know I see the tech with my wheel in one hand, and the hub/cassette in the other being raced up the hill to T2 in a golf cart. I can’t do anything but hysterically laugh out loud. People around me are gawking at me, so I explain what I just saw and what it means and everyone around me is like HOLY SHIT, good luck.

I get out of the nastiness that is a race-morning port-o-poddy and try to get my mind right, look over and the tech is already back. And she’s putting a new tube onto my wheel. I start freaking out trying to get her attention to see if that means the hub is fixed, she sees me and gives me 2 thumbs up and tells me to get myself to the start line as I’m about 2-3 waves away from starting.

The Swim:
This was easily the most challenging swim I have ever done. First, no wetsuits were allowed. That’s no big deal at all, but the conditions were also very choppy. I’ve seen some people on slowtwitch talking about 3ft waves with whitecaps.  I think that’s a bit of an embellishment. But the swim was very rough, I took in a fair amount of water including one mouthful of what tasted like gas/oil slicked water which I immediately threw back up and gagged a bit. Fortunately I am a good enough swimmer to do that and continue moving forward without breathing a bit. But I did get a pretty good side-stitch shortly after that and had to dial things back a bit. I had some struggles with sighting due to the waves and all the people.  Otherwise there were a couple people in my wave around me...both pretty strong swimmers.

I ended up with a 29:5x. While this is much slower than I had anticipated.  Considering the conditions there wasn’t much I could do. I ended up with the 22nd fastest swim of the day including pros, 4th in my age group. Not fantastic, but not horrible.

The Bike:
Got into T1, there was my bike, WOOHOO!!!. It had a rear wheel, WOOHOO! The brakes looked good, it was in a good gear, WOOHOO!! IM Kansas 70.3 Bike Tech girl – YOU RULE!!!

Get myself situated and pull the bike off the rack and make my first mistake of the day. I hit the start button on the Garmin which was on the bike. My Garmin averages in 0 watts, and does NOT show nPower. I get on the bike, rip out of T1, look at my power and am at around 100watts because it took 30-45s of running my bike to get out of there. So now my power is going to read really low for the first 5 miles/15 minutes. So those first 5 miles were challenging on the pacing side. I also noticed that I did not put my saltstick onto my bike. Nothing I could do about it at that point, but I had a pretty good inclination that the run was going to hurt as a result.

I’ve taken a look at my power file, and gotten a note from my coach…here are his comments with the numbers:
“You came *storming* out of transition – you spent the first 5 minutes averaging 293 watts, and you averaged 270+ for the first 10 or so, with a NP of 288 for those 10 minutes. Those are some *serious* match burning minutes – especially that early in the ride. Your first 60 minutes was NP 270 or ~88% of threshold, with the second hour being a NP of 260 and the last 30 minutes being a NP of 246. There is also 7 separate occasions where you punched out in excess of 300 watts for 1 minute – one of them is nearly 380 watts for a minute (not to mention your 1 minute power was 397 watts). The 2 hour sim ride you did a few weeks ago, brings up 0 stretches when doing a fast find by the same criteria.”

Scott tends to be fairly gentle when I do stupid things, so let me translate this into what he really means…

“Eric, moron. You were practically at threshold for 5 minutes and then hardly brought it down. Next time shoot yourself in both legs and save us the trouble. Moron. What happened to slowing down in the heat??”

In any case, conditions on the bike were easily the hardest I’ve ever had to deal with. I am a very poor judge of wind/temp when I am actually racing. So I am taking these numbers off of slowtwitch. I suspect they are exaggerations, but conditions were still very tough. 20-30mph winds all day with stronger gusts. There were only small sections where the wind was at our backs. The temperature was in the 90’s, I heard 95.

I was passed on the bike by 4 guys in my age group. One of them was Adam Zucco who eventually won the amateur race. To say he went past me with a certain amount of zeal and gusto would be an understatement. It was like a rocket ship went screaming past (and I was 45th overall on the bike). Of the guys that passed me, I reeled 2 back in and played leap-frog with one of them for at least 15 miles.  He out-ran me.

As I got up to the last hill of the day, I stood up on the pedals to stretch and try to get up the mountain, my quad gave me a light cramp. Not good. But that’s the price of no salt on the bike and stupid pacing.

In any case, I finished the bike in about a 2:31. Considering the day it was a very good split. I had the 4th fastest bike split in my age group – so I held my position. And I was 45th overall on the bike.

In hindsight, that was too fast.

The Run/Walk/Crawl:
Got off the bike, ripped out of T2 and was holding pace. I was nestled right into a 7:30-7:40 pace trying to keep things under control and hoping to not cramp up. Got to mile 1 and immediately cramped as I started down a really light decline. First the quads in both legs, then hamstrings. I stopped right there, hobbled a bit, and tried to stretch a bit. This of course is very challenging when it’s both the quads and hamstrings.

I had packed some extra salt for the run just in case…very smart decision. As I hit the first aid station I promptly took 2 saltsticks and tons of water.  It's more salt than I’d normally take at one time, but as they say…desperate times. I hobbled a little bit to work out the cramps and started a real light jog. I was really hoping to not have to DNF after everything I’d been through. Made it to aid station 2 and was doing alright, took 2 more salt sticks. Now I was taking in way more salt than normal. My thought process was simple; if I continue to cramp I’ll have to DNF. Either the salt will stay down and help me continue, or it will make me puke and I’ll DNF. Either way I’ve lost nothing. My biggest complaint at that time was that I felt perfectly fine. Breathing was good, overall I felt just fine…except my legs.

I was fortunate and able to continue on…and in fact was able to manage a fairly decent jog. But I had lost all the snap out of my legs and the 7:40's became an 8:30 pace. But the problem I was running into at that point was no calories. Because I took in so much salt, I wanted to hold off on calories and stick with water.  So for the first 4-5 miles I didn't take in any calories.  At mile 5ish I took in a sip of coke that was not de-fizzed and threw it up right away. I figured it was the carbonation, but wasn’t willing to risk trying to get in more calories for a while. It wasn't a full on hurl, just a little gagging reflex.  So for that first half I only took in water and was dumping water and ice all over myself. It was burning hot out there and almost no shade of any kind. Eventually all the energy was sucked out of my legs and I just wasn’t able to hold pace and started to walk/run.

Somewhere around this point I noticed that my left foot/big toe was KILLING me. Around mile 7 I actually took my shoe off and hobbled without it because it hurt so badly. Looking back, I am pretty sure it is due to the elastic laces. I’ve run in them, thought I had them dialed in, but I clearly did not. The pain went away quickly with the shoes off, but returned quickly as well. It started to cause some limping and was a real annoyance for the remainder of the race.

In any case, the last 6 miles were at 10 minute miles. Stupid slow. But, I did not have to DNF.

Looking back, while this was a poor overall performance and execution on my part, I am going to take a small amount of pride in it. First off, there were around 400 people that DNF’d. Considering this was just a half, which seems like a really high number. The conditions were brutal, this was my first race back in 2 years, and my first full half iron since Racine 70.3 back in 2010. So it’s clear I have some kinks to work out.

Furthermore I managed to work through a lot of race-day adversity. Not just the bike issues, but the cramps and nutrition as well. Overall I managed to keep my wits about me and finish up in good enough position to get a roll down to Vegas.  I'd have preferred actually qualifying, and in the future I doubt I'll take a rolldown...but this year, after all the rehab and everything else, I'd like to go.

Overall I was 20th in the age group, had I raced smarter I could have been top 10. The race was run in a spectacular fashion. It really was a pleasure despite my troubles. I will go back, if for no other reason than to redeem myself.

Lessons Learned:
1. Funny enough the biggest mistake that I made was hitting the start button on that Garmin too early. By doing that, I was playing catch-up on the bike in the first 15 minutes. And it was those first 15 minutes that more than likely did most of the damage. Riding in Z4 for extended periods during a half Iron does not lead to a good run.
2. Pay attention to the details. Make sure you have salt and nutrition on the bike. Literally ON THE BIKE. Sitting in my transition bag doesn’t help.
3. Don’t be a moron on the bike. Granted I have a small excuse here. First off, hitting start screwed things up so I didn’t really know where I was at with my power. But second, my Garmin does not show normalized power. On a very hilly course like Kansas, nPower is an important metric. With all of the coasting on this course (bombing downhill), average power including zeros was giving me a number that was too low, making me think I was being a puss, when in reality I was being too aggressive.
4. Must fix race running shoes. I don’t know what that pain was all about, but I don’t get it in normal laced shoes, only the elastic laces. Perhaps they are too tight in the toe box.

Ultimately the cause for my poor performance was pacing on the bike. Yes I was sick, and that may have played a role. Yes conditions were tough, and that did play a role. Yes, I heaved up some lake water. Yes my bike disintegrated in my hands. But putting all that aside, had I been smarter on the bike and ridden a 2:35 or possibly even slower, I would have easily made up those 4 minutes on the run. Everything else is just an excuse. On that day, in those conditions, I should have been trying for a time in the 4:40s-4:50’s instead of pushing for 4:30’s or even faster. If I had been smart, backed off, and played it smarter on the hills I could have easily come into the top 10 with a 4:50ish type race.

30 swim
2:35 bike
1:45 run
3 min Transitions
Total = 4:53

Those splits would have had me racing for 9th place at a major Ironman event. They are splits I am more than capable of even in those conditions.

Overall my end-goal was met. I have a slot to Vegas which will now become my next “A” race. I have plenty of work to do as Vegas should be just as hot and just as hilly as Kansas was. I am hoping much less wind. There were several times when I was bombing down some hill at what seemed like 50mph with 30mph crosswinds catching the rear disc I was running on the back. All I could do was pray.

Next on the docket is the Pleasant Prairie Olympic Distance race. That is in about a week and a half. After that I have the Racine 70.3 where I will try to get a little 70.3 redemption. If there was ever a race built for me, it was the Racine course. I am a flat-lander.

As for right now, my quads have been ripped to shreds and are very sore. Sitting in the car for 10hrs may not have helped that.  I am taking in my bike for a major overhaul and tune up, the rear wheel certainly needs some professional work.

Until next time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Taper Time!

Well its taper time and I'm 1.5 weeks into it. 

Last week, as is usual, was hell.  I felt like garbage, all my runs felt like crap.  Overall I was a whining cry-baby.

I chose to not work out this morning, opting to get everything in this afternoon.  And right now I feel like I am going to burst out of my body.  I can hardly contain myself.  I'm ready to bounce off the walls...thankfully I do have a 90 minute workout today.  That should help.

The weekend is fast approaching.  The forecast is for a high of 90 degrees with 17mph winds.  If we really have that kind of wind, I will have to be very disciplined on the bike.  Otherwise instead of running a 1:3x I'll end up running a 1:4x...or even worse.  That just won't do.

Bike splits on the day should be interesting depending on how the wind hits the course.  Fortunately the course is a series of out and backs hitting all basic directions.  So I'll be facing head winds for sure, but will also get the tail wind as well as some side winds.  Not good for splits, but it is a little less demoralizing and energy draining than taking the full brunt of a strong head wind for 25 miles and then getting the tail wind.  The unfortunate truth of biking and aerodynamics is that a 10mph head wind will slow you down a lot more than a 10mph tail wind will speed you up.  Wind resistance is the enemy on the bike.

Should be fun.  First race in 2 years and I'm starting to feel the nerves.  Hopefully the real heat of the day hits later in the afternoon.  My wave starts around 7:15, so I should be finished up before noon if all goes well.