Monday, October 12, 2009

Timberbrook Triathlon

Continuing a proven streak - I seem to skip posting reports for bad races, and only list the good ones.  This is no exception.  This past weekend was the Timberbrook Triathlon, at the Manasquan Resirvoir.  The race consists of a 3 mile run, 2 mile kayak, and a 5 mile 'mountain' bike on packed, fine gravel.  The informality of the race means I have no splits, but they really wouldn't matter.

Fortunately, the weather was kind, and it was warm enough to not have to fear getting wet.  Race start, I was off with the front group.  Using the term 'group' lightly - the top 5 spread out almost immediately, with me in 5th.  No action for the first mile, then the expected fatigue of people who went out too fast.  Picked off #4, then #3 shortly after the turnaround.  First and second were well out of sight; my work was cut out for me.  Never even saw them the second half of the run, and they were in their kayaks by the time I got into transition.

Once the kayak started, however, it was obvious how skewed the race was.  Me, in my surf ski, versus some runner in a touring kayak.  Him with a teardrop paddle, me with a wing paddle.  The course was roughly an equilateral triangle; I had passed the leader within the first half of the first leg.  After that, the race was over; second place was a good 2 minutes behind me at the finish (a kayaker in a racing ski as well).  I was understandably in quite a bit of pain finishing the kayak, as my longest ride all year was about a mile, and I hadn't been on it at all in 2 months.  Fortunately, the rules allowed for the race officials/volunteers/ etc to help carry the kayak.  Kayak down, and a short jog to the bike racks.

The bike may have been the scariest ride I've ever been on.  After about 20 minutes of resting my legs, I was able to pretty much sprint the whole ride.  The trail winded a good bit, it was soft, there were unsuspecting walkers/joggers/etc on the trails, and I had my road bike.  It was surprisingly fun, despite having to warn everyone that a race was coming and dodge lots of trees.  I didn't see anyone in the race the whole time, and crossed the line just over 55 minutes.  Second place a little over two minutes behind me, and third comfortably over an hour.  Easily my most decisive victory, but expected from such a casual course.

Overall, it was probably my favorite race of the season, despite being effectively meaningless for me.  It also marked the end of an extended light period of training for me.  Starting this week, I begin an 8 month training plan leading up to Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  A slow, gentle ramping up of CTL until spring, with a focus on getting my FTP as high as possible.  If I can get my CTL up toward 150, I figure that I can afford to focus almost exclusively on threshold work until April.  A little more distance there, and come early May I'll be ready for Devilman, a 50 mile triathlon.  Another month of focused Ironman training, and CDA will be in the bag.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pequannock Sprint Triathlon

This past Sunday was my first sprint triathlon, up in Pequannock, NJ.  One of my college swimming friends (Joe) lives in the town, had signed up, and asked me if I wanted to join.  Of course, I said yes.  We then proceeded to shame two other swimming friends (Reid, Bart) into joining us.

The week leading up to the race was interesting.  There was an endless email chain of 'what do I do' questions.  Reid used to race cycling, but was confused by transitions, Joe and Bart, being sprinters, took most of the week to grasp the concept of having to race for more than an entire minute.  My training has been very sporadic since Providence.  Between recovery, the beach, and going out with all of my teacher friends that suddenly have no real responsibilities, I'm slowly inching from 'in shape' to 'round shape'.  I'll need to stop that soon.

Race goals: go fast.  I was really curious to see what kind of speed I could hold on a course like this - short, with long, flat, straight segments.  My plan was to get in a tight tuck for these and just crank hard, then just work through the turns.  The run was just going to be whatever was left - I doubt it's possible to really toast your legs in a 12 mile ride, when you've been training for a HIM.

Race morning.  Up at 4am, pack the car, and drive up.  Turns out that Google maps gave me a longer drive time than it really was, so I was there at 5:40.  Met a nice woman who didn't know how to fix a flat (and didn't have a tube), so I rescued her race, got my stuff together, and meandered over to transition.  Set up, light warmup, and just killed time - I like having time to relax pre-race.  My other friends get there around 6:45 (7:00 mandatory pre-race breifing).  I also ran into Shane, who swam with me in high school.

1 lap, 400 yards in a lake.  Gun went off, and I settled pretty quickly into a pace.  Wasn't particularly fast - probably around 1:15/100.  That put me in a comfortable 7th, with Bart in 2nd, Shane right ahead of me, Reid and Joe not far behind.  Run up the fake beach, and into transition.

T1: 0:33, 2nd OA
Since the swim was so short and warm, I wore a tri suit instead of wet suit.  This meant that I had an absolute minimum of tasks in T1.  Goggles and cap thrown on the ground, helmet on, and run out with bike.  2nd place at the end of T1.

I forgot to mention - it was raining.  Not too hard at first, but it picked up significantly.  With the road soaking wet, all my turns had to be taken slowly.  Because I'm a bit of a coward turning on wet roads, I slowed down more than necessary on each turn.  I also could barely see through my visor.  Next time I need to take that off in the rain - riding blind is scary, and made worse by other people being even worse at turns than me.  Since it was a two lap race, the second lap was all about finding a safe position in the pack through the turns.  Even so, I managed to keep up a good pace on the straights, and had an overall average speed of 22.5 mph over the 12 miles.  My average speed over the straights was in the low-mid 23 mph range, so I met my goal for the race.

T2: 0:34, 12 OA.
I was 2nd in my wave coming into T2, with Shane very close behind.  I stupidly passed my rack by one, so had to cut back and go around to rack my bike.  Helmet off, shoes on, and running.  Beat Shane out of transition, still 2nd.

The markings on course were terrible, and nobody was directing us out of transition, so I was a bit confused as to where the run started.  I knew the general direction, went that way, and apparently guessed right.  Shane caught me within 400 yards, and we ran the whole 5k together.  It was a good thing - the neon orange paint used to mark the course was barely visible with the glare of the rain - a few times we split to opposite sides of the road just to look for the course markings.  We pushed each other at a pretty brutal pace (nowadays apparently 6:20 pace is fast for me), and I was almost certain I'd get dropped near the end.  This feeling got even worse when I was certain we had run our 5K, but didn't see a finish line.  Turns out the course was 3.45 miles.  Finally, when all looked grim and walking sounded lovely, we came around a turn and I saw the race tents.  The finish was 100 yards away.  Pain melted away and I dropped the hammer.  Shane responded with a disheartened grunt, and the race was over.

Finish.  2nd in my age group, also 2nd 34 and under.  2 other people beat me from older age groups, so 4th overall.  It was raining, and we had a bunch of friends there cheering for us, so there was no way I was staying the 2 hours to wait for awards.  An awards ceremony 2.5 hours after the start of the last wave for a sprint is stupid.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Long Branch Tri #2

Took me long enough to write this, but here it is.

This past Sunday was the second of the series of Long Branch triathlons for 2009.  A fun, low-key, local tri, I'll never pass up racing here if I don't have weekend plans.  The course is ~600 yards swim, 18.5 miles bike, 5 miles running.  There was a total of almost 500 people, which is the highest ever, and a great sign for local triathlon.  Pretty soon, they'll be closing that race out.

I've finally decided that I really need a more comfortable saddle if I'm going to be riding as much as I do.  I demo'd the Adamo road saddle, and liked it, so decided to keep it on my bike for the race.


My friend Mike came down to visit from NYC.  We spent the day at the beach (biking each way, ~17 miles total, at ~16 mph).  Overall, a nice relaxing day.  A few beers at night, and bed by midnight.  I hadn't used my tri bike since my race last weekend (a full rest week), with the exception of a few miles trying out the new saddle.  This meant that my pre-race bike routine consisted of packing a spare parts bottle.


Pack my gear, inflate my tires, and in the car by 6:15 for a 7:00 start.  Stupid.  Parked at 6:30, transition set up by 6:40, and the check-in line is >10 minutes long.  By the time I have my number, it's a sprint to the hotel next door to lose some solid weight, and a sprint to the beach for the start, which I made by not more than 2 minutes.  Next time I'll be leaving earlier.  Quick hello to my lifeguarding friend Mike, and we're off.


Last month's race, I was completely by myself on the swim.  Absolutely nobody nearby.  This month, with Mike there, and a few other people comfortable in the ocean, there were at least people near me.  Even so, my years of ocean swim racing and ocean lifeguarding never fail me, and I was in a decisive first within 20 seconds of the start - a lead I held for the whole swim.

T1:  Last month, when I got out of the water, I ran to the bottom of the ramp leading up from the beach, only to discover that there was 30 yard fence to the side.  This time, I knew about the fence, and looked.  Fortunately, someone had removed the section nearest the ramp, so I didn't have to run around.  Up the ramp, around transition, and in from the far end.  Mike got to the top of the ramp just before I got to my bike, probably about 25 seconds behind me, and in 2nd place.  Wet suit off, helmet on, and I was off in what was a very fast transition.

Bike:  The police on course did a great job directing traffic around me.  I'm always worried about traffic when I'm a clear first on the bike.  I fear that the police won't realize that the race is coming when they see a lone cyclist, and not stop traffic.  They did, and I had a smooth first half of the first lap.  About 5 miles in, there is one un-policed intersection, the light was red, so I had to slow down and sit up to check for traffic.  They choose this intersection to be the uncontrolled one for a reason, and I'm off without having to dip below 15 mph.  I look behind me, and second place is already closer to me than I'd like.  He passes me around mile 7, and I try my best to hang on (4 lengths back, of course).  Ultimately, I manage to keep his lead under 50 seconds, which I cut to 30 in T2.

Lap 2 of the bike is always far more interesting, with lots of slow people on course.  Most of them were good about moving out of the way when I called, I only had one issue.  At one point, we only have one lane to travel in, and a guy was taking way to long to pass a group.  I yelled at him a few times, and eventually he gave me room while cursing me off.  I think he was surprised, however, when I blew by at ~24 mph - he must've assumed I was in his wave, right behind him, and not lapping him.  Pretty clean race to the end of the bike.  It also didn't help that my new saddle, which I had been toying around with, wasn't clamped on tight enough.  At the start of lap two, a bump caused it to drop down several clicks, making the position very hard on my shoulders.  Never again will I under-tighten that bolt.

T2:  Another very fast transition; no socks, hat and glasses on while running.  Took about 2 miles to pass the leader, and I was in first until mile 3.5.  At that point, 'John', a 26 year old in blue wearing headphones (all I know about him, I'll have to introduce myself next month if he's there) catches me.  He's breathing quite hard, and I make my race decision - I don't know if I can hold him off in a sprint, but he sounds tired, so if I gradually pick up the pace, hopefully he'll tire out first.  A little over a mile of this, and with a half mile to go, we're moving quite quickly (volunteer wasn't calling out the turnaround, and since people on the short course were ALL taking a longer route, we both agree to just stay with the field and make the race longer, by .3 miles).  Half mile to go, I drop the hammer.  The move went unanswered, and I was all alone to the finish, with a huge smile on my face, and one of my favorite race photos ever:

I suppose it's hard to not smile crossing the line, knowing that you just got your first ever multisport overall win.  I chatted with some people at the finish, then it was time to go - I had agree to work on the beach that day (lifeguarding).

As sweet as the win was, it got even better when I saw the Overall Results.  It turns out that second place overall was 40 seconds faster then me, looking just at swim/bike/run results, but I beat him by a whopping 63 seconds in transitions.  And people say that transition time is negligible.

Up next:  two weeks of training, then my first real sprint triathlon up in north Jersey with some of my college swimming friends (400 yd swim, 12 mile bike, 5k run.  Fast stuff).

Providence Ironman 70.3

Finally - the race report.  Usually I get these written pretty quickly, but this was a big race for me, and a lot to think about, so it took me a while.  There's a lot here; if you only want to read the actual race, you can ctl+f to "Race Time".


Took the day off from work on Friday, so I could have time to prep.  All of my equipment prep was done in the morning - bag packed, bike setup: swapped to latex tube on rear, switched tire.  Thoroughly cleaned chain, put cover on, re-mounted.  Also re-mounted front tire/tube: I got a new set of zipp valve extenders in shorter lengths, so I swapped to one that sticks out the right amount; the one that came with the wheel was excessive.  Now that it's set, that tube/tire won't be coming off for a while.  Put rubber bands on my pedals now so I wouldn't have to remember to bring them to T1.  Added a big band to my seat tube by the bottle cage to stop the rattling when I picked up a replacement bottle during the bike (those bottles are smaller than real bike bottles.  Added a band to my aerobar for the same reason.

My bar tape on my big ugly base bar was starting to rip, so I tore it all off and replaced it with electrical tape. Eventually I'll put a little hockey grip tape on there, but I see no reason to have the soft bar tape - I very rarely use the bar, and the electrical tape probably saves me a second every hour of riding (and I feel like a get a better grip on the thinner metal anyway).

Tried a new setup for my spares (which I really liked): spare tube, with valve extender, under seat with a tight rubber band.  Lever also under there, in the front.  Co2 inflater and a spare cartridge behind the seat tube, gives my round tube a pseudo-aero shape (I believe by bike is actually less drag with the spare stuff on).  In addition, it adds support to the bike number, making it flap less (more aero advantage).  All told, probably saved me about .5 watts, but when it's stuff you can do pre-race, I do it.  Mounted my shot bloks to the top tube with tape - tight enough that ripping them off also rips the packaging.

2:00, in the car for providence.  Should be a 3.5-4 hour ride, get there in a little more than 6.  Check in, grab dinner with the family at Ruth's Chris :-), and early bed.


I'm going to start this with a disclaimer.  I love my family.  It's amazing that they came up to watch me race, especially because it involved picking up my brother from school, which added 3+ hrs to the trip.  With that said, I would much rather go to a race alone, or with other people racing.  Having the family there meant that I had to keep them occupied, and do what they wanted to do.  This included a trolley tour of the city (nice, but not great for my neck - I felt it around mile 45.  Didn't have any real effect on the race).  Said tour cut my pre-race driving of the course from 56 miles to 15.  The knowledge was nice, even with that little bit, but oh well.

Going back a few hours, I was at check-in 20 minutes early, which meant I was able to sneak through and be the first person registered that day.  Went to the race briefing (waste of time), bought myself an IM 70.3 RI bike jersey (I don't have any, and I really like it), then headed out.  Number on bike and helmet, cleaned visor, finished packing for race.  Had to drop T2 stuff off today, but wasn't really a big deal.  Opted to not take my bike to T1 on Saturday, which was a good call.  I wouldn't have been able to do that without my family there to drive me to T1.  Dinner in the little Italy area of Providence (puts NY to shame - the line down the middle of the street is even red-white-green).  Bed by 10:30 ish.


Up at 3:30 - a little on the early end, but it gave the family plenty of time to get ready.  I had all my stuff in two bags, with my morning clothes on top, so there was no thought required for me.  Solid waste disposal trip #1 right before we left, and we were off.  No traffic 90% to T1 (obviously, it's 4-5 am), but the last bit to the beach was bumper to bumper.  We instead parked in a little parking lot about 1/3 mile away (marked for Ironman use) and walked to transition.  No big deal.  At T1 at 5:25, prepared for a 5:45 closing (pushed back to 6:00 due to buoys floating).  Pros go off at 6:15, thumb twiddling until 7:30, then I'm off.

For those of you that skipped the stuff above, here's that line I told you to ctl+f to: "Race Time".


Surf was pretty choppy, but only 1-2 ft.  Straight out and back, 1.2 miles total.  Not ideal swimming conditions, but good enough for me.  I kept a nice easy pace - I had no interest in being tired out of the water, just to gain a minute.  Strangely, the swim seemed like it was never going to end.  Nothing like the mile swims I've done.  Maybe it's because I knew I had 4+ hours to go.  ~11th out of the water in my AG, past lots of people in the two groups ahead of me (it amazes me how bad most triathletes are at swimming).  Total time: 25:54.


Pretty flawless - wetsuit off, in bag.  Number on.  Helmet on.  Hit button on PowerTap to turn it on.  Grab bike and run to Bike Out.  Definitely passed a few people here.


Hopped on my bike out of T1, got up to ~18 mph, then got my shoes on.  Somehow I always pass people here, even though theirs are already on, so they can pedal.  Oh well.  20 very nice miles, flat to rolling, mostly a light tailwind.  Power curve was pretty flat for this segment, average power around 204, normalized power around 209.  I don't get that much better, especially with other people on course.  The whole bike was mostly overcast, perfect weather.  Was about 2/3 through my first bottle at the first aid stop, so I skipped it.

2nd 20 miles: The route started getting hilly, much hillier than I'm used to.  I also had changed my position on my bike, giving me more power, and making me more aero.  Unfortunately, it also meant I was nose riding, so my perineum was starting to feel some discomfort.  These conditions together caused me to start to cruise more, and increase power when I was pedaling.  Normalized power jumped up a little, to 211, but average power dropped to low 190s.  Basically, very slightly more effort, for a little less power.  I need a more comfortable saddle, more on that next post.  Grabbed a gatorade at aid stop 2.

back 16: As the end gets closer, the race gets easier (if you paced it right).  Normalized power stayed the same, average creeped up into the high 190s.  A few really nice downhills in this section, all of which ended in a turn or a tight section, so wasted momentum.  Also one brutally steep hill (by my standards).  With my easiest gearing of 39x23, it was unpleasant.  I couldn't get a cadence over 72.  I was still spinning more than most, and passed most, without using too much power.  I'm definitely getting an easier cassette for CDA - probably a 12x27, maybe a 12x25.  Some funky turns through downtown Providence, and I'm at T2.

Bike: 2:42:56

T2.  Pretty smooth again.  Fortunately I had counted racks leading up to mine the day before, so I knew to run right to the 11th one, and found my stuff immediately.  People watching might have thought me crazy for counting out loud, but oh-well, we're all crazy.  Shoes on (no socks, stupid me), sunglasses on, no had (still pretty cool and overcast), and I was out.  Passed another few people here, but nothing significant.


The start of the run is nice, and lets you completely forget about tired legs.  Through a tunnel of spectators, past pros finishing, and down a gentle incline.  It was still a bit overcast, so I wasn't too hot.  Aid station right around mile 1, and WOW, that hill is big.  Easily the hardest hill I've ever run up.  I'm still not sure if I would've been better walking it - probably a close call.  Jogged up it, and more importantly, held pace for the first hundred or two yards after the top.  From there, relatively smooth (in comparison) until mile 5.5, where you go down the same hill.  Down is almost as bad as up.  Uneventful next half mile, then you turn a corner, and another gentle uphill.  Looking up the hill is a half mile straight that leads to the capitol building, and the same tunnel of cheering.  Very nice to run up that tunnel, turn around, and run back down it.  Now I'm on lap two, and I'm realizing that number two isn't going to comfortably stay in to the finish.  Quick porta-john stop at the bottom of the big hill, and I'm off for lap two of the hill.

Nearing the end of lap one, the sun started to come out, and I was feeling hot.  I was dumping lots of water on myself, which was quite nice.  Unfortunately, although I had practiced running plenty of mileage in my shoes without socks, and I had lots of baby powder in there, I never practiced it with dumping water on myself constantly.  By mile 8 or so, I had some very large blisters on my arches.  I knew that they had no real physiological effect on my performance, and tried to run through them, but I'm certain that they cost me at least a minute over those last 6 miles.  Most of my body hurt that last 6 miles, but not so bad that I was desperate to stop.  I kept up a decent pace for the whole lap, and the next thing I knew, it was a half mile to go, up that hill, with the capitol in the background, and a tunnel of screaming fans.  Suddenly the pain went away.  Smile on my face, I picked up my pace slightly and got across the line.

Run: lap 1- 49, lap 2- 54.  1:43:43, total time 4:55:35.  Probably could've paced it a little better, with socks to eliminate the blisters and not having to take a bathroom stop.


Overall, I was a little disappointed with my performance.  I had thought that I had at least a 4:45 in me.  Both the bike and run have room for improvement, and improve I will next time.  It's easy to look back at my logs over the past 3+ months and see all the unnecessary days off due to laziness, and know that I could've done better.  Next year, I'll be much more consistent, and will dominate at Coeur D'Alene.  Until then, fun, short stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2008

5K Run Thru Deal

Saturday, I decided to just go for my long ride, despite the race the next day.  I cut it down to 27 miles, but it was windy.  By windy, I mean 28mph southbound, 15mph northbound.  Perhaps it was a little more work for my legs than I would have liked, as I saw the next afternoon...

Sunday was the Run Thru Deal race.  It's a relatively old race which I first did in 6th grade.  It used to be a 5 mile race, this year they changed it to a 5k to encourage more people to do it.  For my current training schedule, it worked out well, as I can't race a 5 miler well yet.  Weather was perfect, maybe a tad hot, but I'm a sucker for a beautiful day.  The only problem I had with the whole thing was the course length - 3.24 miles.  That extra .13 is noticible when you watch your time.

That's the start of the race - not too large.  In the center just to the right (viewer's left) of the center line is me, with the grey and red shirt, and next to me without a shirt is my friend Paul, who I planned on running with.  We went out well, hitting the mile mark at 6 minutes (below), which put me in 5th place, with the top 4 about half a block ahead.  It felt really easy for me, and I wanted to break away for that pack, but I knew I'd regret it.  I told myself to wait till the 1.5 mile mark, then see how I felt.  I think Paul noticed that, at the water stop at 1.5 miles, he told me to go for it, and I did.  I picked up the pace, and still felt golden.  Then all of a sudden, I felt like crap.  Paul passed me back by mile 2 (6th place), and was a full minute ahead of me by the finish.  Three other people also passed me, none of whom were near us at mile 2.  Final time: 20:50 (about 19:55 converted to real 5K distance).

This is us at the mile mark.  I was quite disappointed with how badly I died, but know that I shouldn't be.  I've only really done one hard/fast run workout, and it was less than 3 miles, part of a brick.  I have a long way to go before I'm fast again, and it's not something I'm looking to rush.  My next big race is Providence in July, and it's base building season.  I think the cause of my frustration was how well I did at the start.  For the first mile and a half, I began to believe that I was in shape and fast.  Next time I'll know to be smarter about it.  I should've worn my HR monitor, would've been interesting to watch.

Despite my disappointment and 9th place finish, I ended up winning the 18-29 age group, which was a nice surprise.  I got a red sweatshirt, with a small embroidered "Deal 5k" in blue.  I don't wear hoodless sweatshirts often, but I suppose it's nice.  I also particularly liked the hot dogs after the race, of which I had three.  The beer usually would be welcome, but I really wasn't up for it.

This morning was an easy bike ride, 18.5 miles.  When I got up, I realized how much the race had actually taken out of me.  My legs are quite sore.  I still managed to keep my ride average speed over 18mph (barely), so no complaints.

I found an old bike light in my car - a 2 C-battery halogen cateye.  I mounted it onto my bike - it was surprisingly bright, though a little too focused for my taste.  It's still an improvement, so unless its battery life turns out to be atrocious, it'll probably be a permanent fixture for my night riding setup.  

Week Ahead:  Brick tomorrow, with intervals on the bike leg, and an easy run.  Off Wednesday, probably a trip to the gym, as I didn't lift this weekend.  Thursday, long run.  Friday, easy brick.  Saturday, early long ride, then likely a trip up to Connecticut to watch my school's water polo team in the championship tournament (I played goalie for them).

Next race:  Trick or Trot, Sunday, October 26th.  4 miles.