Monday, May 31, 2010

Bye, Bye May

So a few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I thought my number of long training rides had been lacking leading up to my HIM in 2 weeks. Well, since that post I think I have remedied the situation by spending a lot of time in the saddle, especially this weekend.

We had some gorgeous weather here so that made the decision to get on the bike that much easier. Saturday's ride was an 80 miler that I only enjoyed maybe 40 miles of. The official plan was to be out the door by 7 in the morning so I would finish up at 11, just as the winds were starting to pick up. Well, I was lazy and possibly sleeping off a little bit of a hangover so my day didn't get started until around 9 instead. This meant I was fighting a headwind the almost the entire way back and it thoroughly trashed my legs. I literally was running on empty by the time I made it home. I was supposed to run later in the afternoon, but even after a solid nap my legs wanted nothing to do with it so I bailed and ran Sunday morning instead.

Sunday afternoon was a relaxing one. We had a family golf outing and grill-out, which was a lot of fun, despite my poor golf game. I never realized how good of a core workout golfing 18 holes was. Man, I was sore this morning!

I took another ride this afternoon, this time a 70 miler. I settled on the 70 miles because that would put me at over 600 for the month of May, a feat I have only done once before. The ride itself was so much better than Saturday's. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and spent some time exploring a few new roads. New scenery sure does make the time pass quickly. And, in contrast to the Saturday ride, I had plenty of juice left in the tank to push it hard the last 20 miles home.

There's nothing quite like a solid training weekend to get the confidence soaring for the upcoming HIM. Now that I sit back and think about it, it has been a pretty solid month of training. Here's what my totals look like:

Bike:30h 41m 26s - 601.07 Mi
Run:13h 47m 03s - 107.68 Mi
Swim:10h 56m 43s - 37486.81 Yd

The taper has started for the run and in another week I will be in full-on taper mode as I get ready for Liberty. I am really looking forward to this race because right now I feel that I will go under 5 hours at that one. It's really just a matter of how far under.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bluff Creek Sprint Triathlon

Last Sunday I participated in my second triathlon of the season, a local sprint tri held in my neck of the woods. While the weather wasn't optimal for racing (ie. lots of wind), the results were good. I ended up finishing the 500m swim/15 mile bike/5k run in 1:14:53, which was good enough for 9th place overall and 3rd in my age group. Here's how things went down on race day:

Thankfully the race wasn't too far away so I was able to sleep in until 5. Ate some breakfast and was out the door by 5:30. I got to the race site and there was a bug infestation! As soon as I got out of my car I was swarmed. No amount of swatting kept them away so I got my bike ready as quick as I could and speedwalked to transition. Note to self: bug repellent in the transition bag would be a key addition.

I snagged a decent spot in transition, got set up, and then proceeded to chat the rest of the time away with some friends until it was time to board the bus to the beach. I got into the water beforehand and swam a few hundred yards. They said the water was 60 that morning, but I don't believe them. 65 probably. Everything felt pretty good so I didn't do too much more than that. I swam back in and found a few more friends from our training group to chat with before the start.

The Swim: Oh Billy, here we go! Run in, couple of dolphin dives, and I'm on my way. A little crowded, lots of contact, but for the most part I feel like I'm swimming real well. Took a pretty good straight line alongside the buoys. I didn't have to sight too much. I figured as long as the water was still frothing all around me from all of the other swimmers I couldn't be too far off. Just before the turn in to the boat ramp I got stuck behind a couple of guys moving a little slower but we were so close to the end that I just hung back and drafted on in. No sense trying to pass in the last 50 yards.

I hit the boat ramp and it was a little slick. Luckily there were a couple of volunteers there helping pull people out. Thanks for the lift, dude! Time for the loooong run to transition. Seriously, it was a good 30-40s worth of running. I passed a couple of people along the way too! I was more than pleased with that swim effort. Shaved over 2 whole freaking minutes off of last year's time!!! It's great to see all that off season work pay off.

Swim time: 8:36
Swim pace: 1:34/100yds
OA Rank: 26/225
AG Rank: 7/21

T1: 1:15. Aside from the wetsuit really getting stuck on the ankles this wasn't too bad. I did waste a lot of time getting my feet free though.

The Bike: To sum up the ride in one word: Wind. From some accounts you would have thought that a tornado had rolled through, but in reality we faced a steady wind in the low 20s with gusts near 30 mph. Sucky for sure, but it was compounded by the fact it was an out and back course with a pure tailwind to start and an epic 7.5 miles back into it to end things.

Heading out of the park I passed about 3 people struggling to get into their shoes. That always makes me smile. After that I settled in and enjoyed the speedy wind-aided trip out to the turn around. Before I got there I counted about 6 people ahead of me which is right where I expected to be. The 180 turn was interesting. I took it a little fast, skidded the rear wheel a little, but managed to stay on the road.

Holy mother of God! That's a stiff wind! I thought I could stay in the big ring, but quickly reassessed that decision. Things absolutely slowed to a crawl. I'm glad I don't have a bike computer because if I had known my speed it would have been even more demoralizing.

But I fought through. I kept my eyes on the guys ahead of me and tried to catch up. One of the guys I had passed earlier repassed me. A few minutes later I retook him. We did the leapfrog thing all the way back, each of us taking a 2-3 minute legal pull at the front, before the other would take over. It was a long haul back, but I made it eventually even though I think I lost a spot or two during that stretch.

With the exception of the Pigman long course last year, this may have been the most relieved I have ever been to get off my bike so transition was a welcome sight. It was still a good ride all things considered. My split was 3 minutes slower than last year, but I think times were down all across the board for everyone.

Bike time: 42:50
Bike Pace: 21.01 mph
OA rank: 11/225
AG rank: 4/21

T2: 0:38. Nice flying dismount and then a quick in and out. I knocked my glasses off taking off my helmet, which may have cost a few seconds, but really not too bad.

The Run: The legs did not want to turn over right away. They're usually not that cranky coming off the bike but it took me over half the run to get settled and into a groove. Starting out, I just set my sights on the guys ahead of me and and ran as best I could. Unfortunately I wasn't gaining any ground. Hit the turnaround and kept moving. I had a pretty good lead on the guy behind me so I wasn't too worried. Was a split second away from dumping a cup of gatorade on my head at the aid station. That could have been ugly. Maybe I need to yell "water" a little louder. The rest of the run was uneventful back to the finish. I wish I could have pushed a little harder during this run, but I didn't really have that extra gear I needed today to close the gap on anyone.

Run time: 21:33
Run pace: 6:56/mile
OA rank: 21/225
AG rank: 5/21

This was another good race put on by our local crew. I was hoping to move up a couple of spots in the overall from last year, but all in all I'm not too disappointed. I'll take a top ten finish in ANY race. I think regardless of whatever happened later in the race I'd have to consider this a personal victory based solely on the swim improvement. I'm still smiling about that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'ts Beginning to Feel Like Tri Season!

I know I have already completed a tri this season, but after coming back to some very April-like weather it hadn't really started feeling like tri season yet. Well, the weather has turned around and I have a race in 5 days.

I've managed to get in some good quality training the last week. And not just quality, but the long stuff I need to get in to build my confidence for the upcoming HIM. Both my long run (13 miles) and long ride (65 miles) went off without a hitch and I felt great both during and afterward. All my other workouts went well too, and I even got in a little more open water practice during our last group workout of the year.

I'm not sure exactly how I am going to attack training this weekend though. I have a sprint tri on Sunday. I really don't want to do my long ride on Saturday as scheduled, but we shall see. Perhaps I do a shorter ride and run and then tack on some bonus bike mileage Sunday after the race. I'm sure I'll figure something out.

The weather is going to be warm Sunday, a high of 87, but with the 8am start and the shortness of the course I should miss the majority of it. Not sure if I should set any goals for Sunday or not, but after looking at last year's time I think I could feasibly shave off 1-2 minutes, maybe more if everything comes together. The good news is, I'm feeling strong in all 3 events right now, which greatly improves the odds of things going well.

For now, I'm just happy the sun is out and there are plenty of races around the corner!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

T-minus 1 Month!

Holy smokes! It's May 12th already and I just realized I have my one and only HIM of the year coming up in exactly one month. Do I feel prepared for it? Heck no!

Of course I have the usual propensity for self doubt as much as the next person when in reality I'm probably sitting pretty good. I am feeling very confident in the running and swimming department right now, but I know my bike miles are lacking. I can count on one hand the number of 50+ mile rides I've gotten in and when I compare that to how many I had gotten in at this point last year that makes me a little nervous. A good solid bike leg that get's me to the run with semi-fresh legs is key to having a good run.

So the next two weeks are key for me. Anything after that won't do me much good to get ready for the race. So the plan is to get in as many bikes miles as possible, with a couple of long rides of 60-70 miles thrown in there. First the weather needs to cooperate. Rain, cold, and wind have caused me to wuss out and hit the trainer the last few days. I haven't been outdoors on a bike since Alcatraz. It looks things are finally going to take a turn for the better just in time for the weekend so I shall be spending a lot of time on the road. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Escape from Alcatraz

I finally had the opportunity to partake in my first triathlon of the season this past weekend. I flew out to San Francisco to engage in the 3oth annual Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, which consists of a 1.5 mile swim, an 18 mile ride, and an 8 mile run. It was easily the coolest triathlon experience that I have ever had.

I got into town on Thursday night made it to my sister's place where I would be staying for the weekend. Friday I assembled my bike and went for a test ride with my brother-in-law to make sure that everything was shifting okay and the brakes were working. I can't tell you how relieved I was when when everything worked out great. It had been a recurring nightmare of mine that shipping the bike would cause irreparable damage.

Saturday was packet pick-up, athlete meeting, and race expo. After that I drove the bike course to get a feel for the hills. For some reason they never seem as bad in the car. After that I had a lengthy debate with myself over whether or not to hop in the water at Aquatic Park since I hadn't been in a wetsuit or open water yet this year, but in the end laziness won out. I figured I'd be fine.

Race morning started early, a quarter till 3 to be exact. I was staying down in Mountain View with so a little drive was in order. I made it to transition early and set up shop. I always forget that wet grass + open-toed sandals + chilly morning = cold toes. Luckily the ferry that was transporting the athletes out near Alcatraz island was warm enough to erase the chill.

The ride out to Alcatraz was fun. There was definitely a little energy in the air. I talked to few other other excited triathletes, hydrated and ate a little, watched Andy Potts step over me at one point. About a half hour before the swim start I realized I needed to go the bathroom and about 2 seconds later I realized the line was more than a half hour long. Great I needed a way to warm up my wetsuit once I got in the water. There was no real chance to warm up for this race. I did a few arm circles and called it good. Not much I can do when I'm in a crowded boat with 1600 people.

The Swim:

Alright, the infamous alcatraz swim. As the race start approached the athletes began crowding the guard rails. They were sending us off from 3 jump points, 2 at a time, every 3 seconds. The horn sounded and the pros took the plunge followed closely by us age groupers. I made it to the edge within thirty seconds, made sure the guy ahead of me was out of the way, and then leaped into the water.

Son of a bee-sting, that's cold! It definitely felt like the 55 degrees they said it was. I started stroking like mad to get out of the way and then settled into a nice rhythm. The nice thing about the current was that people spread out fairly quickly so I wasn't getting pounded like normal. Within a few minutes I didn't even notice the cold. Glad I opted for the 2 swim caps, because the squid lid was unnecessary.

The swim was quite uneventful. Sighting went well: towers, ft. mason, and finally the dome near the end. Waves weren't a real issue. I just did a little more of an exaggerated roll when breathing on my right so the mouthfuls of saltwater were few and far between. Between the salt water, the wetsuit, and the strong current the swim felt pretty effortless. Before long I was stumbling out of the water just left of the swim exit as planned. Success! The easiest part of my day was done!

swim time: 30:56
swim pace: 1:10 / 100yds
overall rank: 426/1524
age group rank: 33/114

T1: 6:51

The first transition was interesting because there was a mini transition area at the beach and then a half mile run to T1 where the bikes were kept. Immediately after the water were some steps up that I took a little wobbly. I saw my sister and her family in the crowd so I gave them a quick wave and fumbled in to T(0.5) were I lost the wetsuit and slapped on some running shoes.

I passed a lot of people running that half mile to T1. Lost the running shoes, donned the bike shoes and helmet and took off. I was glad to have a rack position near the bike exit since I hate running with my bike.

The Bike:

Oh boy, the bike. This was the leg that I was the most worried about. I didn't exactly get a lot of hill training in in Iowa and the hills I did train on paled in comparison to the hills on this course. That, and after much debate I decided to leave my bike set up with a compact crank and an 11-23. I figured my legs were in for a trashing.

The first mile or two was pretty flat so I cranked, passed a lot of people, and took in some nutrition. Soon enough I hit that first mile of climbing and wondered to myself just how the heck I was going to survive the entire 18 miles. I didn't run out of gears but I was huffing and puffing something fierce by the top.

And then the descent. Holy crap! It was steep and curving and I had a mini freakout. Started riding the brakes a little until my back tire started sliding a little bit. Great, now I need a new pair of bike shorts! I got things settled down after that, but let me tell you I was not comfortable descending at all. If there weren't turns at the bottom of the hills or the road wasn't curving I was okay. That and all the guys I was passing on the uphills were flying past me on the way down. Crazy bastards!

And that's the way the bike leg went for me. Passing on the flats and uphills and then being retaken on the downhills. A few of the hills stretched the limits of my gearing and several times I was mashing that last gear pretty good, especially on the awful climb up Clement St. As I told a fellow rider on that climb, they don't make hills like that in Iowa.

I was more than glad when I finally made it back to mason drive. Spun the legs pretty good there to loosen up for the run and then took things on in.

bike time: 59:47
bike pace: 18.07 mph
overall rank: 286/1524
age group rank: 29/114

T2: 1:23

I had a great T2. Perfect flying dismount and then in and out pretty darn quickly.

The Run:

Time to run! Amazingly my legs felt pretty good starting off and I settled into a pretty good clip. I got to see my support crew right away and the helped lift the spirits. My brother-in-law came and jogged alongside me for a bit and asked how I was doing. At that point, great!

The first two miles were uneventful. Saw Hunter Kemperer en route to a sub-2 hr victory a little after the first mile. Man, those pros are fast! Shortly after mile two the ascent started on a narrow dirt trail. The pros and other FOPers were screaming by as I wound up the hill. I thought that was pretty cool.

A little later I was surprised by stairs. Who put these here, and why wasn't I informed of them? Grudgingly, I burned up them and continued on my way. Soon enough I was winding down to Baker's beach where we got to enjoy a mile of beach running. Running on sand with the waves crashing in and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background was pretty cool. Challenging and tiring, but still pretty cool.

After the turn around was the dreaded sand ladder and it was every bit as awful as described. I plodded up the steps with a liberal used of guard wire to pull myself self up. The quads were absolutely screaming by the time I made it to the top of 400 steps. And as if things weren't bad enough, the next half mile was still uphill. Eventually I got the legs turning over but the sand ladder had decimated me.

Luckily the last couple miles were pretty flat. I did some quick math and figured I needed to run a couple of sub-7s to come in under 2:40. I tried my best during that final stretch, but I was pretty beat up by that point. There were good crowds along that stretch and that helped carry me home. Soon enough I was running down the chute toward the finish line. I made quick detour to high five my support crew along the way and crossed the finish line, thoroughly spent.

run time: 1:01:19
run pace: 7:40 per mile
overall rank: 198/1524
age group rank: 228/114

I was pleased with the result. Coming into the race I knew that I wasn't prepared for the hills, but my good endurance base allowed me to cross the finish line with a respectable time. I would love to come back in a few years properly trained and see what I can do to the course. My support crew was great and it was so uplifting to see them several times along the course. The race itself was top-notch. The event coordinators and volunteers were amazing and the course itself presented an incredibly unique experience that will be hard to top. I am proud to say that I escaped the Rock!

Overall time: 2:40:13
Overall rank: 178/1524
Age group rank: 25/114