Monday, September 28, 2009

Peregrine Charities Race Report

My last triathlon of the year was yesterday. It was sad to see the season come to an end, but at the same time it capped off what has been a rewarding and successful season. Here's how it all went down.:

Pre-race routine:

I got into woo town the night before for the expo and bike check in. I'm still not sure about the whole body marking the night before thing. The number on my arm was well faded by morning and gone by the end of the race. I spent the rest of the night yelling/cheering at the tv as Iowa knocked off Penn State. I was so jazzed after the win that I had troubling falling asleep. On the bright side trouble sleeping due to race nerves is a non issue.

A little on the chilly side race day morning, but it seemed like it was going to warm up so I tried not to think about it. Transition set up is getting routine.

Event warmup:

None to speak of. I really didn't feel like hopping in the water and back out to freeze in the cold air and breeze. I did chat a little, but I wasn't planning on used my jaw muscles too much in the race, except for a little cheering, so I don't think that counts.


Well, last tri of the year. No need to hold anything back. I stayed to the right early and that seemed to alleviate the congestion. I found a decent stroke and just went about my business. We were the first wave to start after the elites so I didn't have to worry about navigating around slower swimmers (yes, I do occasionally pass people in the water). About 2/3s of the way to the turnaround I passed one guy in my wave that had gassed. After that I was by myself until the end, with a person or two from the wave behind me getting by. Boring really.

The nice thing about this out and back course (aside from being really long) was that they had a rope between 3 big buoys and attached to the rope were a bunch of noodles. I realized early on that every time I breathed to my left I would catch a glimpse of the bright flotation devices and sight that way, instead of looking forward into the glaring sun. Sweet! So I switched it up and breathed every four strokes so I was always looking to the left. Soon enough I was out of the water and up the boat ramp.

What would I do differently?: Not much. I was hoping for 30 minutes or better, but with the lack of emphasis on swim training lately I wasn't too disappointed.

Time: 00:31:02 | 1760.72 yards | 01m 46s / 100yards
50/107 overall, 7/10 age group


So I mosey into T1, have a seat on the ground, prop up my feet, and open up a good book.

No, I really didn't do that but I feel I could have with the amount of time I spent in here. My dang wetsuit zipper stuck. I wrestled with it from the moment I got out of the water until I was standing helplessly at my bike. It came down about 3 inches and just stuck. Crap! Yank! Nothing. Frick! Yank! Nothing. Frick! I reach back there. There doesn't seem to be any neoprene stuck in there. Try it one more time. Yank! Nothing. Frack! Okay, time to reverse the tracks. Up again, and back down. Woohoo! I'm free! There was a nice little cheer from the crowd behind me. As I struggled out of my wetsuit I smiled and thanked them. Okay. Glasses, helmet, shoes, let's ride!

What would I do differently?: I usually lube up my wetsuit zipper with a little zipper lube before each race and that will make it come off quicker than a prom dress. Forgot that this time and it had been a month and a half since the last tri. So, when in doubt, use more lube.

Time: 1:46


I'm always happy to get on the bike after the swim, even more so this time around after the T1 debacle. I passed a few people heading out of the park and once we hit the roads I settled into a pace that was comfortably hard. No reason to go totally balls to the wall with the marathon next weekend. Just keep that in mind. Okay, so maybe there was one ball on the wall.

This course was flat, flat, flat and felt fast, fast, fast. I think we went over a couple of overpasses but I don't even think those could qualify as real hills. One section small section was under construction and wow, that was a rough little patch. It was like our mini little block's worth of Paris-Roubaix. Cool! Not.

I successfully navigated the corner that I crashed at last year so that was a bonus. Other than that, things were pretty uneventful. I didn't get passed and I passed a lot. Standard.

What would I do differently?: Nothing. After a less than stellar bike split at Pigman last month I had an underlying fear that I had lost some bike speed somehow. Stupid irrational fear, take that!

Time: 00:58:08 | 22 miles | 22.71 mile/hr
14/107 OA, 3/10 AG


Flying dismount. In and out. Quick stuff.

What would you do differently?: Nada

Time: 0:32


I gave a quick wave and smile to my parents on my way out and started turning the legs over. There were 2 guys up ahead not to far at the start. Okay boys, you're carrot #1. Ran them down in the first half mile. Legs are a feeling GOOD. All that run training does pay off I guess. I ran past the MXC club member with the speakers on his bike trailer and cowbell in hand. That made me smile. Soon enough I'm on the park trail that is nicely shaded. I love this run course. So much shade and quite flat.

Saw Noz before the turnaround and after a high five and a woot I did some math and figured there would be no catching him. He wasn't audibly swearing so I figured his toe was okay. That was good to see. After that I continued to pick people off. Once back on the roads I saw another guy up ahead running at a good click. The final mile and a half I tried to catch him and got dang close at the end. He heard the footsteps though and turned it up a notch. I had burned a few matches the last mile trying to catch him and couldn't close the gap.

What would I do differently?: Nothing. Smoked it. I wish they would add the extra 0.2 miles to make it a 10k. I would have crushed my PR.

Time: 00:40:07 | 06 miles | 06m 41s min/mile
23/107 OA, 6/10 AG

Total Time = 2h 11m 29s
Overall Rank = 27/107

Age Group Rank = 6/10

Post race

Warm down: Walk, gatorade, food, chat.

What limited my ability to perform faster: Residual swim and bike fitness carried me through. Trying to save a little somethin, somethin for the mary (and possible BQ attempt next weekend).

10 minute improvement over last years time! Woot! It helps when you don't suck at swimming, crash your bike, or have a foot injury. Awesome organization. Great race. An event like this should attract many more people than it does. Hopefully it keeps growing. It looks like they're adding a sprint distance next year too so maybe that will help. I'll be back. 2 weeks is enough to recover from IMMOO, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Confidence is a funny thing. When you have it, it's like you're walking on air. You feel like you can do anything. When you don't have it, the most trivial task seems insurmountable and you shrivel with anxiety.

When it comes to racing confidence can be almost as important as fitness. Going into a race knowing you can go the distance or knowing so can hold the pace can make all of the difference in the world. Fortunately this season my training has gone extremely well and I have entered into every race with the confidence not only to finish, but with the confidence to finish well. Now that's not to say that I haven't had less than stellar races *cough* Pigman *cough*. That will happen from time to time, sometimes due to things you can't control *cough* sideways rain *cough*.

In a little over a week I will be racing my second marathon. Last year was an experience to say the least. About a month out I hurt my foot during an 18 mile run and after that I did very little running leading up to the race in order to stay semi-healthy. Come race time I wasn't feeling real confident and I switched from a time goal to a "let's just finish this thing" sort of goal. Well, I did finish that thing, but it was a complete sufferfest after mile 20. I finished in 3:42:09 (8:29/mile pace), but it wasn't pretty.

This year things are going much different on the running front. I've stayed injury free and have been putting in all kinds of mileage. In fact for 5 consecutive months I've put in 100+ miles. All of my long runs have gone very well. The last was a 20 miler that I ran at an 8:00 minute/mile pace, with limited discomfort and soreness both during and after. Things have been going so well that a couple of letters have been floating through my thoughts the last few days. That B and Q keep on fluttering by, tempting me, taunting me. Part of me think its absurd, but there is also part of me that thinks qualifying for Boston is quite possible with proper training.

Have I had the proper training? I'm not sure. I think if I set aside 2-3 months to focus solely on running its a sure thing. All this biking and swimming tends to get in the way though, and I'm not ready to sacrifice that yet. I ran a 1:31:42 (7:00/mile) half marathon earlier in the year and based on several running calculators that predicts a 3:13ish marathon finish which is 3 minutes shy of the BQ time. I would hate to go out too hard and completely blow up. Maybe I should just be satisfied with a solid PR. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

I guess I have another week to figure out what to do. Actually only 4 days as my decision may dictate how hard I go at this weekend's triathlon. It's a nice little Olympic-ish distance event in Waterloo. I'm hoping to take another crack at the bike course (I crashed last time. Don't ask). Until then I'll do my best to keep those pesky letters from dominating my thoughts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Simply Amazing

That pretty much sums up my experience this past weekend, and I'm relatively certain that is an understatement. I journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin to volunteer at the 2009 Ironman event. My motive for doing so was twofold. First and foremost, volunteers get first dibs at signing up for the 2010 events (well, second dibs since the current race's athletes get a shot before they even race this year). Since doing my first triathlon a little over a year ago I knew that I wanted to race an Ironman so volunteering seemed like a sure fire way of getting in (Wisconsin is notorious for selling out online within minutes once open to the general public).

The secondary motive was to scope out the event ahead of time to see what I was getting myself into. What I found simply blew my mind. The energy was palpable even before the event started and it only seemed to escalate as the day progressed. That energy transferred to each and every athlete competing, infusing their souls with the strength to progress one swim stroke, pedal stroke, and footfall after the other.

My volunteering experience started out Saturday morning. As the athletes brought their biking gear into the first transition area I helped them find their spot amongst all of the other transition bags. Some people looked nervous and I did my best to help calm them and answer their questions. Others I could tell had done this before as they methodically went about their business. I ran into a few people I knew and even met for the first time a couple of my online friends from All in all the 5 hours flew by and already I was starting to feel a little jealous that these people were going out to become ironmen the next day and I would have to wait a whole year. After my shift I found an outlet for my energy by going on a nice long run along the lakefront path of Lake Monona.

The next day I arrived at Monona Terrace an hour before the race start. It was already packed with athletes and spectators. 2400 bikes sat in transition while the athletes made their last minute adjustments and ensured that all of their nutrition was in place. Friends and family watched the preparation, some sporting custom shirts in support of their favorite athlete. I moved through the sea of people, amazed at the enthusiasm. At the top of the terrace I could hardly squeeze into a spot to see the swim start. When the cannon went off the race was on and the crowd went wild with enthusiasm. Now, I have watched Ironman starts on tv before but seeing it in person was something different all together. All athletes start at the same time and the water instantly turns into a frothy mass of churning limbs in what is affectionately referred to as "the washing machine." I was so awestruck that it sent chills down my spine.

After watching for awhile I retreated back down a few levels to the transition area where I reported for my first volunteering duty as a bike handler. As the athletes came out of T1 it was our duty to grab their bikes off the rack and get it into their hands. It was slow going at first as the pros came through, but we all cheered loudly and soon enough the age group athletes started pouring through. Like a fire brigade we called out the athlete numbers to those further down the line to get correct bike pulled from the rack. It was chaos as 2000+ athletes filed in. Some took their bike straight from your hands, some asked you to hold it as they pulled on their bike shoes, and almost all had kind words of thanks. The best part of all was the crowds cheering just as hard for the last man through as the first.

A few hours later I was manning the transition aid station as athletes came in off the bike and took off on a grueling marathon in the heat. We handed out ice and water or any combination thereof and were as helpful as we could be. Our cheering was loud and boisterous and amidst the grimaces of pain you could see the smiles on the faces of the athletes. In 26.2 miles they would be calling themselves ironmen, and you could see the determination in all of them.

Later in the day I was privileged enough to find myself at the finish line. I sort of felt like a VIP. The general crowds were not allowed back here, only volunteers and other race officials. I was working as a catcher, which entailed supporting the athlete after crossing the finish line, guiding them to their finisher medal, shirt, and hat, ensuring they got fluids if they needed it, getting them to the photographer for their official finisher's photo, and in extreme cases walking and/or carrying them to the medical tent.

Again it was slow as the pros trickled in first. I got to see them give interviews (the winner talked about how he had vomited several times and lost his vision for awhile during the marathon). Off the record last years winner, Chris MacDonald, who finished 5th this year, put it succinctly: "That %&$#ing sucked."

And then, slowly but surely, more ordinary people doing something extraordinary began crossing the finish line. It was a privilege to be there for them, to be the first person they talked to. There was so much raw emotion it was overwhelming. I heard so many uplifting stories over the course of the evening, whether it be fist timers or IM veterans.

I caught a couple pros and several top age groupers. One woman in particular qualified for Kona for the third time despite in her words having a horrible marathon. She was in good enough spirits to joke about it and playfully infer that the woman who had beat her had lied about her age. I spent ten minutes helping another man walk after he had jumped around so ecstatically at the finish that his left calf had completely seized up. "Why did i do that? That was stupid," he kept saying over and over, but with a smiling grimace on his face.

Some people were all smiles and tears of joy, others were dazed and out of it after pushing their bodies so hard for so long. One man, after walking and not saying much, finally turned to me and simply asked, "Do you think I could get an IV." "Absolutely," I told him and promptly took him to the medical tent. Another woman I took to the med tent because she could not stand on her own anymore. She said her rear derailleur had broken during the ride and she had to ride the last half in a fixed gear. Doing so completely torched her legs. Those hills were hard enough with a full range of gears. Speaking of hills, everyone I spoke to that had completed IMAZ or IMFL (notoriously flat courses) said those courses were cakewalks compared to the hills of Wisconsin. That may have just been the post-IM pain talking though ;)

I watched best friends cross the finish line at the same time. I helped a young woman who set a 2 hour and 15 minute PR. She had a smile that I'm pretty sure was still on her face even when she fell asleep that night. The stories were numerous, the athletes inspiring, and I wish I could remember it all. I spent over 6 hours catching that night, and it was easily one of the coolest and most rewarding things I've ever done. After a full day of volunteering, I took a break, got a bite to eat, and found a spot just before the finisher's chute to watch the remaining ironmen come through.

By the end of the night I was exhausted, even though I had not done near as much as those incredible ironmen had done over the course of the day. Despite being tired I didn't sleep all too well as I was excited to get signed up for next year's race in the morning. By the time I reached the registration site (1:15 before it officially opened) the line of volunteers was already stretched out along monona terrace. Thankfully they were letting people in early so the line was moving, but even so it took about an hour and a half to get in. The time flew quickly though as I chatted with a girl from Iowa City. Turns out we had done quite a few of the same races this year and we exchanged contact info so we could do some training and/or racing together next year. Soon enough I was through the registration line after plopping down a good chunk of change to become an Ironman. I practically skipped back to my car, as if I was holding the golden ticket or something.

This year is going to be a life changing experience and I am so ready to undertake this adventure. I love a good challenge, and what better one to take on than Ironman. Bring it on!

Monday, September 7, 2009

All the cool kids are doing it

It seems like everyone is blogging about something these days and in my never ending futile attempt to be one of the cool kids I figured I might as well give it a shot too. While my life is pretty mundane I do have a teensy weensy interest in this little sport known as triathlon. I am nearing the completion of my second season and next year I plan on taking the plunge into the full Ironman distance (No, not the one in Hawaii). I figured a semi-routine blog would be a good way to let my family and friends in on the journey.

My original intent was to start this thing up next weekend as I spend a few days volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin and take the first official step towards becoming an Ironman: slapping down the hefty registration fee. However, I figured things could be a little hectic and knowing me, I would push this off so long that it would never get done. Well, for a change I'm ahead of the curve.

Today I took an unofficial step towards becoming an Ironman, a step that I will be taking many times over in the future. This morning I awoke at 6:00 am, strangely chipper and well rested. Although, I did have to set an alarm to wake up. I mean who in their right mind gets up that early when they don't have to? After a decent breakfast and a little too much internet surfing I meticulously began filling water bottles with gatorade endurance. A couple went in the fridge for later and the rest went down with me to the bike after I threw on some biking gear (shorts, jersey, and arm warmers since it was chilly out). It took me a little while to get the bike set up (bottles in their places, food in the bento box, double check that I have the spare tube and tools, pump the tires up, etc.) and after that I kind of just sat and stared at it for awhile. I was going to be spending the next 5-6 hours on it and I was oddly a little nervous.

Cyclists call it a century. 100 miles. To an ironman that's merely a fraction of his race. I had never attempted the distance before. There was really little doubt that I could do it. I had completed several 70-80 mile rides in training for my half-ironman events this summer and another 20 or so miles didn't seem like too much to ask. Of course at the same time there was that little bit of unknown, like hitting mile 18 of the marathon last year knowing that I was now running further than I ever had before. For my psychological sake, I kept telling myself that I was doing two 50 mile rides, with a brief pit stop at the apartment in between for refueling. I hope that wasn't cheating ;)

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. My legs didn't fall off. I didn't get run off the road by upset motorists. I didn't have any annoying songs stuck in my head. It was cool and for the first part I wished I had more than just arm warmers. I remember doing rides last February and March when it was only 40 degrees out and now I couldn't handle low 60's. Despite that it was a nice calm morning with very little traffic, which is why I love early morning rides. Too bad they don't happen all that often. Before I knew it I was back at the apartment with the first 50 miles in the book. The legs felt good at that point and I felt like I could push the pace a little the second half.

It took me all of 10 minutes to stop to refuel and I reasoned that wasn't too timely of a layover. I was back on my way and still enjoying things. The wind had picked up a little and I could feel it pushing me along. I enjoyed it while I could, but tried not to think about the last 25 miles in which it would be a headwind. I continued along, mooed at some cows, outran a dog, and before I knew it I was turning around to head back home. At this point in the ride I was starting to feel my legs getting tired and my butt was starting to ache from being on the saddle for so long. I really just wanted to get home. The last few miles were a struggle on weary legs and into the wind. A few of the hills particular kicked my butt, but I managed to continue pedaling. I kept looking at my watch to see how many miles were left. Only 20 miles, down to 15, woohoo less than 10! Soon enough I was pulling back into the parking lot and hopping off the bike quicker than you could blink.

So now that that's done I should sleep easy tonight (which I really should be doing right now). The first century is in the books and I feel pretty good about it. There will be plenty more in the future as I train for the 112 mile bike leg, but for know I think I've laid another brick in the ironman foundation and building that foundation has really been what this year has been all about.