Friday, July 23, 2010


Well, technically it is RAGBRAI eve eve, since the ride starts on Sunday, but come tomorrow I will be leaving on a bus full of 12 strangers to make the trip to Sioux City to partake in my first ever RAGBRAI.

I have heard of this event every year growing up, but it's only been the last couple years training for endurance events and realizing how much I love being on my bike that it has really piqued my interest and I knew it was something that I just had to do. For those of you that don't know the ride is roughly 500 miles across the state of Iowa spread throughout 7 days. Like I said this will be my first time participating and to say I am looking forward to it is an understatement.

Physically I know I am ready for it. I have covered nearly 3000 miles ytd on my bike, including multiple century rides and these 500 miles won't be hard training miles. They will be leisurely, have fun miles, with multiple food and beer breaks in between towns. It's probably not the ideal Ironman training, but this week is not about that. It's really about doing three things I love: riding my bike, drinking beer, and eating.

Now, for those of you that know me, this is a huge step outside of my social comfort zone, which I can only imagine is a good thing for me. As I mentioned earlier I will be riding with 12 strangers, which is a daunting thing for me. I am not the most social person in the world and making friends can be tough. Stepping outside of what's easy for me can only be a good thing for me and I'm both nervous and excited at the prospect. I suspect the beer consumed on the trip will help me loosen up.

I am already looking forward to a few highlights from the trip, which are overnight stays with some familiar faces. On the second night we are staying with an old college roommate of mine in Whittmore, IA. On the third night my parents have graciously opened their home in Clear Lake. After that, it will be a grand adventure till we dip our front wheel in the Mississippi come Saturday. Stories and pictures to follow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Gauntlet (century and race reports)

Well, my crazy weekend of training and racing is officially over and I must say that it was rather successful. I awoke bright and early Saturday morning and departed on my second century ride of the season. I've come to the realization that my body doesn't really want to do anything right when I wake. I always struggle with my morning runs and this ride was no different. I covered only 17 miles in the first hour and I thought I was going to be in for a long morning of riding. I even hopped off my bike at that point to make sure my brakes weren't rubbing. Slowly but surely I began to feel a little better and by the time I was making my first pit stop at the apartment I was feeling much better. I refilled the drink bottles and headed out on the second loop. It was a peaceful morning to be out on the bike and I actually enjoyed the entire ride. As I finished up there was no doubt in my mind that I could go another 10 miles.

Miles: 102.36
Time: 5:15:38
Pace: 19.46 mph

I was happy with the effort. My goal at IMMOO is a 20mph average on the bike and in race conditions I think that's doable. Once I get a taste of the hills on the course we'll see if that goal is still realistic. I finished the ride shortly after 11:00 so that gave me plenty of time to recover, nap, and watch the Tour.

Next up, the Midnight Madness 10k at 8:30 that night (a misnomer, I know). I parked a few blocks away and then ran a little over a mile to warm up along one of my old running routes from when I used to live downtown. The legs felt less than spectacular, but slightly better than dead. I walked the rest of the way to the start line and arrived with about 2 minutes to spare.

So the strategy for the race was to go out hard and see just how long I could hold on. There was a clock at the first mile marker and it read something like 6:10 when I got to it. Whoops! Not that hard. I know I can't hold that, especially with the first hill coming up.

Heading up the hill, my friend Henry pulled up alongside me. This was another sign that I went out too hard as he's usually pulling me along during group runs. We chatted for about a minute then he took off. Eventually I hit the first turnaround and started making my way back toward downtown.

They were a lot of spectators along this part of the route, which is helpful. I heard a few people call out my name, which surprised the hell out of me. Hey, I’ve got fans! It was a couple of people I knew from my tri training group.

I hit the 5k mark at 20:53, which I was okay with. The goal was 42 minutes and I was right on track. I just needed to hold on for the last half of the race. I did the loop around downtown again and noticed the temperature at the bank had dropped from 86 to 77 in the course of the first half of the race. Sweet! Why do I feel like I'm burning up still?

The second loop was tough. My legs were starting feel it, especially up the hills. Suck it up, Sally, less than 5k to go! I kept chugging along. At one point some dude pulled up along next to me and struck up a conversation.

Dude: I hope we're still in the running for mugs.
Me: Mugs?
Dude: Yeah, top 100 finishers get mugs.
Me: Sweet!

Notice my one words sentences? Yeah, I couldn't manage much more than that. When I hit the turnaround I was happy that there was just a little over a mile left. As I started approaching downtown I knew that 42 minutes was going to be awfully close. I managed my best sprint to close things out.

Finishing clock had me at 42:07, garmin at 42:09, official time: 42:14. What? Oh well, still finished in the same place. I got handed my mug and was a little disappointed to find out it was a coffee mug. I was thinking beer mug. Hmmm, I wonder where my mind was! I guess I can use it to make Irish Coffees.

Run Time: 42:14
Pace: 6:48 / mile
OA: 87/645
AG: 10/46

My mug!

I walked around a bit and drank a few glasses of water. Then I chatted with some friends and got a big ol plate of spaghetti to replenish the carbs. Yummm! I wished I could have stayed around for the party and beer, but I had a tri in less than 11 hours and I needed my beauty sleep.

While I definitely didn't have my best racing legs, it was still a solid effort. I didn't feel all too bad afterward, but now it was time to see how well I would recover for round 3.

The morning came quickly enough and upon waking up my legs were a little tight, but not as bad as I thought they'd be. I hopped in the car and was on my way to the Iowa Games Triathlon in Ogden, IA. The race was a short one: a 440 yd swim, 13 mile bike, and 5k run.

I drove to the race site in pouring rain. Oh goody another wet triathlon! I parked my bike in one of the middle racks right next to one of my friends from our training group. I chatted with him and a few others I recognized to pass the time.

I decided it would be in my best interests to warm up in the water a bit since I hadn't swam for over a week. I swam the whole course and the water felt great. I was good to go.

The Swim:

I positioned myself in the second row, hoping to get on the feet of some of the faster swimmers. That didn't work out so well as there was quite a bit of contact at the start and I couldn't get clear. At one point some guy started climbing up my back, which is fine because I expect that sort of thing to happen. Then I felt a palm on the small of my back and the a-hole shoved me straight down. I was pretty much vertical in the water at that point, but I managed to get going again. Try that again, d-bag, and I'm kicking as hard as I can. Sure enough a couple of seconds later the hand was pushing on my back again. My feet connected with something solid, more than once, and he let up. See you later.

The swim cleared up after that. I rounded the turnaround without incident, surprised at how many people I was passing after the first couple hundred yards. Do people really gas themselves that much in a 440 yard swim? Maybe I just had that rough of a start. Anyway, I made it to the boat ramp and headed into transition

Swim time: 6:59
Swim pace: 1:35 / 100 yds
OA rank: 34/295
AG rank: 3/17

T1 was a quick 29 seconds

The Bike:

So about a hundred yards from the mount line is a hill. I've complained about this hill before and I'll complain about it again today. It's not that it's all that big, it's just the positioning of it. You can't use the downhill on the way back because of the dismount line. What a waste!

Anywho, some goofball passed me at the crest of the hill, but then he struggled to get his feet in his shoes and I took off and never saw him again. Time to catch some swimmers!

I tried to gauge how my legs felt in the early miles. I could tell they weren't all there, but I pushed as hard as I could regardless. The roads were wet and it may have still been raining but I don't really remember. I caught a lot of people on the way to the turnaround, including most of the "elites" that started in the first wave.

As I approached the turnaround I started counting heads coming back the other way. One.....two......uhhh....really? I'm in third? A brief deluded vision of reaching the podium danced through my head. Hold on, Neal, the fast old dudes (35+) started in the wave behind you. Don't get ahead of yourself.

There was a slight headwind on the way back and I could feel my legs start to falter a little bit. I was passed not once, but twice with about a mile left to go to transition. The second guy was in my age group. Grrr! I kept him in my sights until we were back in.

Bike time: 34:25
Bike pace: 22.66 mph
OA rank: 8/295
AG rank: 3/17

T2 was a quick 22 seconds, but I made a little mistake by accidentally grabbing my goggles

The Run:

I pass over the timing mat, throw on my visor, and as I start to put on my race number belt I realize I accidentally grabbed my goggles at the same time. Fudge! Maybe after not swimming for a week I subconsciously wanted to go for another dip

I wasn't sure what to do so in my confused state I backtracked to the timing mat (careful not cross it again and mess up my results) where there was a volunteer to ask what to do. She said to just toss them on the ground where I could find them afterward. Well that sounds logical. Bye, bye goggles. Okay, off we go a second time. How much time did that cost me? 10, 20 seconds? Oh well, let's run.

At that point in time I could still see the guy in my age group in front of me and I had visions of running him down. After the first mile when we hit the first turnaround area I could tell that wasn't going to happen. If anything, he was widening the gap.

Okay, consolation goal: don't let anyone pass you. I estimated the nearest competitor was at least 30 seconds behind me at that point. I continued to push and coming off the second turnaround point I saw that the guy behind me was gaining. Crud!

He passed me before the long hill about a half mile from the finish line. I held on for the last little bit and finally crossed, pretty spent for a sprint race.

Run time: 21:12
Run pace: 6:50 / mile
OA rank: 24/295
AG rank: 3/17

Finish Time: 1:03:29
OA Rank: 8/295
AG Rank: 2/17

The goggle mistake bugged me. I was only 5 seconds off of 7th and 25 seconds off of 6th. This may have been the difference. Quick side story that is a point of comedy for family and friends. Former Iowa Hawkeye and stud NFL kick returner Tim Dwight competes in this tri every year. I was finishing my post race food when he crossed the finish line some 8 minutes after me. I'm not sure why, but it's just fun to say I beat Tim Dwight at an athletic contest of some sort.

I waited around for the awards. I was given "1st" in my age group due to the fact that the guy who beat me was 3rd overall. Darn, I was hoping for a clean age group win before aging up next year.

A shiny gold medal!

I'm pretty sure that if I had not ridden a century and run a 10k the day before I would have moved up a few spots in the overall placing. All in all I am pleased with the finish (my best in a tri so far) and extremely happy with how my body responded. The weekend was quite a confidence booster for IMWI.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ready for a fun weekend

Well, last weekend was fun and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to spend time with family, played some mean whiffeball, and managed a fair amount of training.

This weekend will be a little different. This is another "confidence boosting" weekend. I have 2 races on tap, but instead of going in thoroughly fresh and prepared I plan on riding a century tomorrow before the fun gets started. I am likening this to coming into an IM run thoroughly worn out and tired and pushing through.

I still envision myself doing fairly well in Satuday's 10k and Sunday's sprint tri. A time over 42 minutes on Saturday and placing > than 3rd in my age group on Sunday will be disappointing. Man, I sound like a cocky sonofab@#&%, but I have a good feeling about things right now. I had a nice 80 miler last Saturday and felt great for my afternoon run. No reason things shouldn't feel the same this week. If not, I've got a good excuse, right?

Heading to bed soon. The drink bottles are mixed, the race wheels are ready for Sunday, and I really can't wait for the weekend. Should be a good time!

Friday, July 2, 2010

See ya June

Another month down, another month closer to Ironman. The month of June was a light month for me volume-wise due to the fact that I had to work in a taper and recovery period for the June 12th HIM I did. It was worth it though, as I crushed that race and met a long time goal of mine of going sub-5hrs.

I'm only now getting back up to speed and fully into the IM build so I am anticipating a much better July. Bike mileage is going to be insanely high with RAGBRAI (500 miles) the last week of the month. Conversely that ride, combined with a pool closure next week, will cause my swimming volume to be much lower. Running is getting back to where I need to be at this point. I started off with a 16 miler yesterday so I should have plenty of time to build to a long run of 20 miles before IM.

Anywho, quick post since I have an early morning date with my bike before heading to my parents place to spend some quality time with the family over the holiday weekend. Here's the month's totals:

Bike:22h 47m 02s - 454.03 Mi
Run:10h 03m 20s - 79.33 Mi
Swim:10h 42m 57s - 34858.81 Yd