Monday, December 31, 2007

A Breakthrough of a Weekend

I haven't posted about much of my training recently because...well...I've been busy...training. Since I started marathon training 5 weeks ago, I have come pretty far. Around Thanksgiving, I ran what seemed like a challenging 5 mile Turkey Trot race. Of course, I started the race at a pace I thought I could be running, rather than the pace I should be for my fitness level at the time. I finished with an ok time, but not by my standards. I knew the race would be useful though, because it was the kick in the arse that I needed to get going with my training. Knowing that Thanksgiving (eating/napping/eating again) would ruin any training I was doing, I waited till the end of the holiday to start. Since then, its been non stop. It had been a few months of R&R from the official end of the triathlon season and I was just starting to run again and feeling good doing it. My marathon training plan is pretty straightforward. 1 easy day, 1 medium distance hard day, 1 speed day, 1 long run, and 1 cross training day. Since it is the winter, I have been using the cross training day to hit the pool. Swimming is and always will be my weakness, so it needs the most work now.

This weekend proved to me that all the training so far is working. My long run plan called for a 13 miler on Saturday, but the course I decided to map out came closer to 14. I wanted to make sure I start running parts of the National Marathon in my training so I am familiar with the course as much as possible. It also provided that extra motivation to me, since I've gone 13 miles many times, but never 14. Running that far would be a breakthrough for me. The true test of my conditioning would also be how I felt after the run. Well let me tell you...it was awesome! My course consisted of a scenic run along the Potomac, up Rock Creek Parkway, down through downtown DC, around the Mall, past Arlington Cemetery and the IwoJima Memorial and back home. I'm also a "natural" runner, and go WITHOUT headphones. If I'm outside running, I find no need for music. I just focus on my running and THATS IT. The way I see it, if you don't wear them on race day, no reason to wear them in training. At about the 10 mile point, I decided to push the pace a bit, since I was feeling good. I finished the run strong with an average pace of 8:33. Definitely a lot of room to run faster, since I took the first 10 miles easy. Bottom line is that I felt really good after the run and was able to move around pretty good for the rest of the day.

Since I was still feeling pretty good by Sunday, I decided to hit the pool. I wanted to stay off my feet and give my legs some time to recover, so I figured the pool would be great. Best part was that Rebecca came too, now that she is starting to get moving in her training as well. Its always nice to have someone with you, especially when you are used to working out alone. Even better was that we were also able to share a lane to ourselves for most of the workout. I decided to focus on easy long distance swimming, since endurance seems to be my biggest limiter right now and I didn't want to strain anything trying to push to hard doing speed work. 30 minutes later, I had covered a mile by starring at that little black line at the bottom of the pool. The last few laps were a bit tough, but I kept moving through. For the 2nd day in a row, I hit another breakthrough in my workout.

Now that its New Year's Eve, I'm taking the day off to rest and enjoy the satisfaction of some solid workouts, knowing that I'll enter 2008 in great shape with an excellent start to the season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When Duty Calls

One of the benefits of morning workouts is that you get endorphins nice and early in the morning, leaving you full of energy as you stroll into work. Nice, right. But the REAL benefit of morning workouts is the sudden jolt to your "metabolism". Sometimes that jolt comes at unexpected times. Like say...in the middle of your run. Yea, not good. This definitely wasn't the first time its happened either. I'm just saying that some situations leave easier options than others.

Option number one is when you just tough it out. If its a nice short run, you can just tough it out and all will be good. However, there are many risks. What happens if you don't quite make it. Dangerous. If you are confident or a risk taker, then that's not a bad option.

Option number two is to just find a place along the way to go. For some, this may be a challenge. Various problems exist: stage fright, fear of unknown places, lack of options, no tp, sub-standard conditions., etc. You get the idea. The clear benefit is that you take care of business is a facility and don't have to worry about anything after its all done.

Of course, there is a third option. But I don't recommend this option. You guessed it. Option three is to find a quiet spot in the woods. With it being winter and all, I think there may be a lack of items to use as "clean up duty", seeing as how all leaves are crunchy. Now that would hurt. Last. Resort. Only.

So what option did I take this morning? Fortunately, I was only about 2 miles into my run, so I hadn't gone too far from home. I knew what stores were around me, what would be open, and where may be the best place to go. I went for option #2. My choices within reasonable distance on my run course were Eckerd and Starbucks. Eckerd was closer, but Starbucks likely had better conditions. Tough decision indeed. Nature got the best of me and I was forced into Eckerd. I knew where to go, as I've crossed paths with the facilities there before. What was nice was that it is big, so I can inconspicuously walk through the isles and find my way into the restrooms. What was not nice was that there was no tp. However, someone was nice enough to leave behind a fair amount of napkins. A bit rough, but better than winter leaves. I took care of business, meandered around for a minute to look like I was shopping and was on my way to continue my run.

The rest of my run was great. 6.2 miles covered in 47:45 for a solid tempo run.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Welcoming the cold

There are certain things you begin to appreciate about each season. When I think about the spring, I appreciate that there is more daylight to actually spend outside, rather than leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark. I obviously also appreciate the return of warmer weather. But with the return of colder temperatures to the area, I began thinking about what I appreciate about the colder temperatures. I mean, I HATE the fact that it is dark all the time. This means I have to get all my workouts in early during the week, since I prefer not to do them in the dark at night.

So what is it that I actually like about the cold weather? Well...thanks for asking. While I was on my first long run of my training yesterday, I reached into my pocket for the fuel I had been storing for the half way point. A Chocolate Clif Shot. I ripped it open and began to suck it down. And you know what? It actually tasted...dare I say...good. A nice thick consistency too. Almost like a spoonful of fudge. And of all flavors, it was chocolate. I never wrote about the experience, but when I was volunteering at the Mile 14 fuel station for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, Chocolate was one of the flavors that people were throwing back at you. As I handed them out, runners would respond with things like "Chocolate?!?! nasty...I'll try the next person" or "Have YOU tried Chocolate? Its awful". (And thus ended my attempts at handing out any more chocolate flavored Clif Shots for the day.) I've tried pretty much all flavors, but usually when its warm outside. I don't dislike any flavors, but I would never admit they tasted good. However for some reason, this time...in the cold...in the middle of my long run...it tasted good. I'll have to keep you posted in future runs to see if I actually come to the same conclusion, but for now, I'm looking forward to my next long run so I can throw down some more Clif Shots. Is there something wrong with me?

Monday, November 26, 2007

In the beginning...

Today begins a new phase: marathon training. For the next several months or so, I will be training for the National Marathon on March 29. This will be my first, so I hope the marathon g-ds will be gentle on me. After all the turkey and fixings I ate this weekend, which included 4 separate dinners (yes FOUR), I am motivated to start. I got all those bad habits out of my system and am ready to start my marathon training today...by going to spinning. So yea, my plan says for Mondays to be cross training days, so spinning it is. Seems kind of strange, but I'm not complaining - its pouring outside! So let the countdown begin...the season has begun

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Second Thoughts About Swimming in the Potomac

For those who swam in the Potomac for the Nations Triathlon, which appeared to be an excellent race, you may want to consider this. Now, I am all for having the triathlon. It was a great race. I stood by the waterfront to watch people all day and heard nothing but good things about the swim. Add to the fact that there is nothing better than being able to roll out of bed and pedal on down to a race. I'm just a little concerned about The Potomac Conservancy's concern about finding more "intersex" fish and D plus rating for the Potomac.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In need of a new game show

You know it is November sweeps...networks should take note. Check this out...words can't describe the awesomeness of this clip. You'd have to be a yoga master to make it through some of these...

Greatest game show clip ever!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Whoa, I'm Weak

Since finishing my 2007 season back in September, I've kind of been taking it easy these past couple of months to mentally and physically recover. During the peak season, I also tend to refrain from lifting weights, since there isn't much benefit at that point. So its only been recently that I started lifting again. Yesterday was the first time I went to do a leg workout and let me tell you...I. AM. WEAK. I've lifted upper body a few times in the past month and I wasn't as surprised by the muscle loss there. I guess I need to start getting back to a consistent weight program.

So here's the plan at minimum:
  • 2 lifting days per week
  • 1 focused on upper body
  • 1 focused on legs
Deal?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Important Thoughts to Consider

In light of recent events that have taken the lives of 3 athletes during long distances running races, I think there are some lessons learned that everyone should consider. Obviously hindsight is always 20/20, but in the unfortunate case of Ryan Shay, his doctors told him that he would need a pacemaker. There are a few takeaways I have from this recent outburst of sports-related deaths.

1) Listen to your body. If you feel the slightest bit "off", don't go hard like its a race day. There is always tomorrow to push hard when you are feeling better. One day is not going to make or break your season.

2) Have regular check ups and physicals with your doctor. True many of these incidents are described as "rare" or "isolated", but with more and more people participating in endurance events, one has to expect the numbers to rise. What is important is that you have to listen to your doctors. If they warn you of something that may be of note, pay attention and do what you have to do so you don't risk further harm. Don't just ignore it and hope it gets better with time.

Due to the fact that we all tend to be Type A athletes, most people are stubborn and unlikely to alter their plans based on feel. I think these events are more of a wake up call to listen. No pain, no gain will only take you so far. A smart athlete is in line with their body and listens to those around to make sure you put yourself in the best possible situation to succeed.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Name to Watch For

Every year, athletes come out of nowhere and discover new abilities they never thought they had. Growing up playing sports, I would never knew if that new kid on the team was going to be faster or better than me. But each year, I'd find that someone would come out of nowhere to become a star.

Mike Reneau has an opportunity to be that person at the US Olympic Trials for the marathon this weekend in New York City. Some people just don't discover their natural abilities as quickly as others.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Living the Healthy Lifestyle

Pretty much every triathlete has a reason they tri. Some people were challenged by a friend and got hooked, while others did it to test their body's physical and mental limits. But most everyone who CONTINUES to tri, does it to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I know I do. And as a perfect example, I had this conversation with my doctor yesterday when I went in for a physical:

Dr: How often do you exercise?
Me: I pretty much do something 5-7 days a week, depending on my training schedule.
Dr: Oh, what are you training for?
Me: Well, I've been competing in triathlons for the past 3 years.
Dr: That's great, I'm really happy to hear that.

After checking vitals...

Dr: Well, you are probably the healthiest person I've seen in my office in a long time.
Dr: In fact, you just made my day.

A doctor sees hundreds of patients a week. So for me, those were all the encouraging words I needed to hear...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Good Luck Runners!

For anyone running the Marine Corps Marathon, I wish you luck. Hopefully, all the nasty rain we have been getting for the past few days, will provide a cool, calm day on Sunday.

If you are bored along say Mile 13...look for me...I'll be handing out Clif Shots at the Mile 13 food station and cheering for ya!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celebrity Sighting and More

Wow, what a weekend! Lots to tell, lots to tell...as Rebecca and I made it up to NYC to visit my sister and some friends. I am not one to gawk over people or be completely star struck, but this weekend's series of events just has me grinning ear to ear.

Let me start with Friday 5 pm. Expecting to worst traffic conditions (it is rush hour DC), we cut through Rock Creek Park up to 95. Smart decision there, as it was all one way traffic moving north. Traffic moved the entire trip up through New Jersey and into NYC. When it was all said and done, it took us 4.5 hours with one stop for dinner/gas. Oh yea, and we found a money parking spot less than 2 blocks from my sister's apartment. Sweet.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. We decided to go for a run in Central Park, first thing. What a nice day. All the heat and humidity was gone, leaving clear skies and TONS of runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, and weirdos to watch. We did a nice loop on the reservoir, which is about 1.5 miles, for a nice start to the day. Then it was on to the West Side to meet a friend from breakfast. After looking at several places, we settled on EJs, a place we've been to before, but always has consistently good eats. As we walked it, I got elbowed in gut by Rebecca, who was elbowed by my sister. At first, I thought there was something wrong with the place and we were just going to leave and go somewhere else. And then, I discovered why I had just be elbowed...2 BIG celebrities had just walked through the door. Who you ask? How about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner...AND their baby Violet...AND parents! Oh, and they sat us right across from them. You have got to be kidding me! We could hardly contain ourselves, as we ate our eggs and home fries.

So that MADE the trip. Less than 12 hours in NYC, and we could have gone home satisfied. Saturday night, we made the trip down to the West Village to eat at Risotteria, a restaurant that specializes in gluten free foods. Highly recommended to anyone. Rebecca and I split a risotto dish (with mushrooms, arugula, and truffle oil) and a gluten free deep dish pizza. The risotto was good, but the pizza was amazing! For anyone who has eaten gluten free pizza, this place is a miracle maker. How they got the crust to be so close to regular style pizza is beyond me. And to cap things off, we all shared at LARGE slice of gluten free carrot cake. Again, I don't think anyone would be able to tell the difference between a non-gluten free slice and this. It was amazing. Needless to say, we were stuffed and had to walk our dinner off.

The weekend was capped off by a 4 hour ride home and a win by the Redskins! What a weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New National Marathon Course

I am relieved to report on the new course for the National Marathon. Its similar from years past, only that it is reversed. The good news is that the huge up hill portion which was previously around Mile 18, is now downhill. While I'm sure there are plenty of hills, it appears that some biggest ones are now downhills. The first several miles will be up hill as runners head north from RFK Stadium, but I'd rather do that on fresh legs than have to do it on Mile 18. According to the website, the new course goes through 6 of the city's 8 wards. More details to come once I am able to drive/run sections when I start training in a few months.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Race Report: Army 10 Miler

As I'm sure most people have heard by now, the conditions for this year's race were not ideal. It was very hot and very humid. And despite what they claim was a 70 degree start temperature, it wasn't. It was about 80 and by the time most people were finishing the course, it was near 90. My watch said the average temperature was 86, with a high of 92 during the race. This does not take into account what it felt like with the near 100% humidity and the sun bearing down. My heart goes out to anyone who had to race in those conditions without water after the Mile 4 water station. I can only imagine what it must have been like.

Ok, so back to the race. Since I knew it was going to be nasty, I made sure to drink lots of fluids in the days leading up to the race and on race morning. Rebecca dropped by off at the Pentagon around 7:05 and I made my way over the race area to get through security. Once in, I made my usual stop at the Port-o-Potty. I spent the next 20 minutes or so watching the Canadian and US Army Golden Knights paratroopers jumping out of the planes at 10,000 ft and come in landing on a spot no larger than a 10 ft x 10 ft mark. It was amazing to see. Shortly after that, we were welcomed by a flyover of 4 very low flying helicopters in a diamond formation. It was very emotional as they played the national anthem, which was shortly followed by the countless "WHOOAs!" yelled throughout the crowd. We were then led closer to the starting line when the race cannon went off.

The first 2 miles were pretty normal for a race of 26,000 people: ducking and dodging through the masses to find some running room. The first notable thing I saw was after the first mile, as we approached the Memorial Bridge to head into DC. I man was running (at 6:45/mile pace) and playing "Stars and Stripes Forever" on his flute! Simply amazing! Not sure how he did it, but good for him. Mile 3 was all up hill as we headed up Constitution Ave and then up Virginia Ave and around to Rock Creek Parkway. I think I pushed too hard on the uphill, because miles 4 and 5 were starting to hurt. I grabbed a Gatorade Endurance and a water at the Mile 4 aid station and kept pushing, hoping that the cold water and calories would keep me at pace.

And then it hit me. All that pre-race focus of being hydrated. Yea. I drank too much. Never, in any race, have I had to stop to go. As I crossed Mile 5, it was close to unbearable. I knew I couldn't hold it another 5 Miles. I knew I couldn't just go while I was running, because the entire streets were lined with thousands of people. I'm a pretty open person, but not that open. I also knew that I needed to keep taking in fluids and I couldn't given that I had to go so bad. So I decided to stop at the Mile 6 water stop and hit up one of the Port-o-Potties. It cut into my time in a big way, but I had to go. Once I got out, my legs were a bit stiff, so I had to start with a slower pace and build into a comfortable pace. I started picking it up around Mile 7 and into Mile 8, but then I reached the 14th St Bridge. Ever since the first time I ran the Army 10 Miler, I have never looked at the bridge the same way. Almost 2 miles of steady up hill hell. And in this year's race, we had the luck to have hot sun, humid air, and even hotter pavement. It felt like a slog. People were dropping off to the sides left and right. Cramps, walking, breaks...everyone was struggling. I just told myself to keep plugging away and eventually made it to the exit ramp for the turnaround into the finish.

My splits went something like this:
Mile 1: 6:50
Mile 2: 7:00
Mile 3: 7:11
Mile 4: 7:30
Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 6: 8:48 (Bathroom break included)
Mile 7: 8:25
Mile 8: 8:11
Mile 9: 8:11
Mile 10: 8:20
Final: 1:20:07 - A course PR of about a minute.
2321/17,000 finishers

After the race, I took the Metro home and made some interesting observations. Everyone who had just run the race, had a puddle under them as they stood in the cars from sweat dripping off their body and clothes. Funny, but nasty. Then, when I got on another train after a transfer, the whole car started clapping for all of us when we got on. It was kind of cool.

Overall, I'm happy with the final result. I PR'd on the course, though I have run much faster 10 Mile times. Only annoying thing remaining is that my Achilles is bothering me, so I'll be staying away from running for the next week or 2. I went on an elliptical machine this morning and stretched and it feels MUCH better, so I'll continue with icing, stretching, and light work until the pain is gone.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

So....its hot and humid. Really humid. Near 100% humidity humid. The high is supposed to be near 90 too. Ugh. There goes the hope for good race conditions for tomorrow's Army 10 Miler. Me and 26,000 of my closest friends will be dripping sweat all along DC tomorrow.

Last year's weather couldn't have been closer to the polar opposite. While some people wore long spandex under their race clothes and waited in trash bags for the race to start, I went with a thermal long sleeve and shorts and was plenty cold.

No need to worry this year...I won't be cold. Looks like I'm going to have to hit up the water stops a little more than I had planned.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Watch Out For This Guy

This weekend is the Army 10 Miler. This will be my 2nd year running it. One person I will be on the lookout for is this guy.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Race Report: The Home Run 10k

I've never actually run a timed 10k outside of Olympic triathlons before, so this race was my first shot at seeing what I have in the tank without being on tired legs. Since my official triathlon season is over, I have been training much less often, trying to catch up on the many things I neglected. I didn't expect to blow away the competition, but I had my own internal goals. The fastest timed 5k I've run this year was 20 minutes, so I figured something between 40-45 minutes is reasonable. Factoring in "my fat ass on the couch for the past 3 weeks", I chose a conservative goal of 45 minutes. Oh yea. and I was going to a friend's birthday party the night before the race, so the hopes of getting sleep the night before, not so much. And since it was his birthday, I had to knock a few back to celebrate. Bottom line is that I got to bed at 2 am the night before the race.

Ok, let's get to the race. While warming up, I noticed a contingent of Kenyans in the parking lot. I thought to myself that it makes sense, since the Army 10 Miler is the following week, so this would be a great race paced workout for them. It immediately hit me that I wasn't going to win this race ;) We all lined up, as they got ready for the start. I was 1 row back from the Kenyans in the front when the gun went off. My strategy was to go out like a 5k, holding back just a little. I found a few people that looked like good pace bunnies, so I stuck with them for the first mile or so. My first mile split was 6:22. I felt good, so I decided to stay steady for mile 2, which was flat with a little uphill. We hit mile 2 with a split of 6:51. Legs were burning a bit and I knew there was a hill on mile 3, so I tried to keep it up. The hill got the best of me and I came in at 7:58. It was almost all climbing. Fortunately, mile 4 was mostly flat/downhill, which took us through a residential neighborhood, where a bunch of my friend's lived growing up. Mile 4 came through in 6:34 and I was back on pace. I knew once I hit mile 5, I'd mentally push through the 3 big rolling hills, so I just tried to push through the hills and pain and get there. Mile 5 came through in 7:21. The last 1.2 miles were a blur as I picked up the pace. However, runners from the 5k race that was going on at the same time were hogging the best line on the course. I had to do some ducking and dodging through people to hit the final straightaway. The last 1.2 miles came through in 8:38. My final time was 43:46, an average of just over 7 minute/mile pace.

I finished ahead of my goal on a hilly course, so I was very pleased. With the Army 10 Miler up for this weekend, I know I should be able to keep a similar pace and try to hold on for the last 3-4 miles. This put me at 26/128 overall.

Remember those Kenyans? Yea...the winner finished in 29 minutes...29 MINUTES! Now that is FAST!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Recruited to Run

Tomorrow I am running a 10k as part of team. Not since high school cross country, have I competed in an event as part of a team. Though I wouldn't really call this a "team" per say. I voluntarily offered my services in a local race. The event will be raising money for the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington and the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes. My grandmother lived in the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington for the last 6 or so years of her 93 year long life. Its a race for a great cause that is near and dear to my heart.

Oh yea, back to the "team" element. Since this event is raising money for several local Jewish groups, all the local synagogues decided it would be fun to have a competition against each other. It was at this point, that my dad immediately thought to volunteer me to run. What the heck, its only a 10k. I've got the Army 10 Miler next weekend, so a race pace 10k seems like a great warm up.

So I signed up last week for the 10k and will do my best to represent my congregation!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are You Savage Enough?

Not that I would personally put myself through the pain and torture of a Half IM (Eagleman 2008), but SavageMan is an animal of a race. I haven't gone out there to view the course personally, other than having gone skiing around the region when I was younger. I know enough about the location to know that anyone doing a race there should be ready for hills...and lots of them. SavageMan markets themselves as "the worlds most savage triathlon". Talk to someone or read a race report of anyone who participated in this year's inaugural, and you'd believe it.

The flagship component of the race is the bike. 56 miles of killer hills, including the famed Westernport Wall, which tops out at 25% grade. The more I hear about this race, the more interested I am in seeing it firsthand. No, not to race...not yet at least. But I will be sure to go there as a spectator next year to witness the anarchy. From what I hear, the town is all about hosting this event...a key element to the success in its inaugural year. People were out there cheering on competitors all day.

Don't let my words convince you...see it for yourself:

Some climb the hills better than others. And to give you an idea of the whole section of this climb, watch this.

No reason to complain about a hilly course until you have become savage enough to complain...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Official Annapolis Triathlon Race Pics

Here are the 3 pictures from the official photographer. Not bad - 1 swim, bike, and run picture! Once I pull some of the pictures Rebecca took off her camera, I'll have a bunch more to post. Here is my first crack at being creative with what they gave me ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Race Report: Annapolis Triathlon

Now that the dust has settled on my final triathlon of the 2007 season, its time to recap the Annapolis Triathlon. This was the inaugural race, so I expected communication and logistical issues. Although pre-race communication with several emails were great, details and logistical information was lacking from each email. With the changing courses in the months and weeks before the race, it was difficult to train specifically for the course. However, I knew one thing about the bike and run, having practiced several times on the different proposed routes: lots of relentless rolling hills. I was prepared as ever on the bike, as my focus this season has been improving the bike. The run, I usually just deal with whatever is left in the tank. But the swim is where I was truly under prepared.

Pre-Race
Came into town the day before to check in and drop off the bike at T1, which was required. Paid $5 to park and $5 more to park for Sunday...not cool. Once I got through the somewhat complicated registration process, which included signing a waiver to be on the video coverage (cool), picking up my race packet, activating my timing chip, marking my T1 trash bag with my id sticker and race number, picking up my water bottle, and picking up my t-shirt (cool). Some of these steps could have been avoided in my opinion to lessen the complexity, but it is what it is. After that, walked the bike a mile down to T1 at the dock to drop it off only to find out that I was supposed to have my bike inspected at registration. Myself, along with many others, were forced to ride a mile or so back up hill to the registration area to get the stupid little inspection sticker. Nowhere during the registration process before did anyone mention bike inspections, nor were there any signs as to where it was. Lastly, nowhere in any of the five emails they sent out did it say we had to have our bikes inspected. It was pointed out to me later that it said it on the website. WTF! What is the point of sending out emails about logistics and race information if you don't include details like, "Hey, before you take your bike a mile down into town, make sure you get you bike checked". Or here is another idea - Have bike inspections AT T1, so people don't have to ride all the way back. So that is my pre-race rant.

Race morning, woke up at 3:30 am, toasted some cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter and tried to take in lots of water, and out the door by 4:15 am. Made it to Annapolis by 5 am and got a good parking spot close to T2. Walked over to set up my run gear, got on the shuttle bus to head down to the dock for the race start, finalized by bike setup with 2 Accelerade bottles and 1 water bottle. Watched the first wave go off and then went back to put on the wetsuit. My wave with the 6th wave, so we had to wait a little bit, but not too bad. They spaced us out 5 minutes apart, so the waves weren't running over each other, like some other races that only space by 2 or 3 minutes.

Swim
Once they had us corralled up in our swim wave (14-29 yr old Males), we started making our way down to the makeshift water entry and into the water. I jumped to make my way out to the in water start area, when it hit me...this is salt water....ugh. Fortunately, it was watered down salt water, so nothing too bad. Last time I swam in the ocean, I could barely swim, due to the high salt content that just nauseated me. This time, it was a bit better.

I positioned myself in the middle off to the right to try and avoid the masses when the gun went off. I race was smooth as could be for the first half of the race. Barely any contact and feeling strong. I thought to myself as I made the turn around the buoy at the half way point, "this is by far your best swim ever". Why I let that thought creep into my mind, I don't know. Because it was at that point, when the jackass swimming in front of my decided he didn't want to swim anymore and instead of breast stroking, he went completely vertical. What happened next was something that I never imagined happening in a swim race. It was the first, and not the last time this would happen too. While I was continuing to swim, I went full steam into his head! Clearly not my fault, since nobody and I mean NOBODY should ever go from swimming horizontal to treading water vertically without looking to see if others are coming. What happened to floating on your back, breast stroking, side stroking or doggie paddling? Oh yea...and this happened to me 2 more times! Each time, this caused me to stop and pull out my dictionary of 4 lettered words that are typically kept for special occasions. This was one of those. At least one guy had the guts to apologize to me. The others acted as if they did nothing wrong! This also caused my body to react in shock, causing my muscles to seize up with a hamstring cramp. One hamstring cramp turned into two, which turned into no kicking and only pulling with my arms. My string of good luck (sarcasm) continued half way down the last straightaway of the swim. Some of the lead swimmers from the previous wave were catching me, and seeing as I was signing effectively, I was right in their path. You can guess what happened at that point. A few minor bumps and excuse me's, but the one that got me was a swift kick to the face that knocked my goggles off. So, I float on my back for a minute to reset my goggles and hold on for dear life that the swim is almost over. I'm guessing the 2nd half of the swim took twice as long as the first half. It was that bad. I couldn't wait to get out of the water any faster!

Time: 36:50 (nearly a 5 minute personal worst)

Bike
As I said earlier, the one thing I knew I'd have going for me was a solid bike. I pre-rode the course, trained lots of hills, and was on a mission to avenge my catastrophic swim. Although I had to deal with already cramping hamstrings, I settled into a fast pace early, passing people in sets of 5 in the first few miles out. I felt like everyone was riding in slow motion as I zipped along, which made me feel good. Strangely enough, I usually pass people on uphills and get passed by people on the downhills. This time it was the opposite! The one BIG downhill on the course got me up to 45 MPH and passing at least 20 people in that section alone. Once on the way back, I continued to push my cadence. To try to offset the existing cramps in my legs, I took in Endurolytes every 30 minutes. This really helped my legs recover some on the bike, from the swim. Unfortunately, I didn't plan on needing more than a few on the bike and a few on the run. I took them all on the bike due to earlier cramping and was left with whatever fate threw me on the run. The bike ended with some surprise short steep climbs that left your legs burning just enough to make the dismount and run into transition a struggle.

Time: 1:11:06 (personal record by a long shot - 19.9MPH)

Run
Off the bike, the legs had a bit of a struggle ahead of them. Thrown for a loop during the swim, my muscles felt like they could blow at any point. I had to shorten my stride and keep the cadence up. I felt alright for the first mile and half as we looped around the stadium twice. Being near cheering spectators helped keep my pushing and mentally strong. The next 2 miles were when my legs finally felt loose and I started to cautiously pick up the pace. However, it was also during those 2 miles that there was no shade and longer periods between water stops. At each water stop, I took 2 and sometimes 3 waters to try to drink and cool myself down. I was barely able to take in my 1st gel at mile 3 and knew my body wouldn't take another if I tried, so I had to stick with water and not the Gatorade they had on the course. It also would have been nice to have some ice to throw in my race top to keep cool. I'd dump water on my head and feel good for 30 seconds before overheating again. Ice would have lasted a bit longer. Anyways, the rest of the course had 1 big climb up to the top arch of a steep bridge, which cause my quads to lock and forced me to walk that and any remaining hills. After turning around at the top, there was 1.2 miles to go and I tried to run as much as I could, but had to walk a few more times. Once I saw the stadium close, I kept running until I dropped down into the tunnel leading to the Navy football field. Once I broke through the opening, it was a 50 yard dash through a large crowd to cheer on the finishing triathletes, at which point I heard my name announced as I looked up at myself on the Jumbotron! I saw a few spectators I knew as I passed by, along with Rebecca and my parents who came out to watch.

Time: 57:34 (Not great, but ok considering the conditions)

Overall: 2:49:50 (PR of 3 minutes)

I started the season off with a bang in being dedicated to practicing and improving my swim. But most recently in the past month or so, my swim practice had slowed to once a week, more as maintenance than anything else. It showed in the overall time. I am ecstatic to end the season on a high note with a PR. I just wish it was an all around good race and not a struggle. For me, its time for some R&R while doing a few running races for fun, followed by a nice break, before jumping into the offseason program for next year.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Annapolis Tri Update

I'm tired, so I'm going to be pretty brief. I didn't have the race I hoped I'd have, but it was a good race nonetheless. From what I know (my watch battery died at the end of the bike), I think I PR'd. Something around 2:50, based on the official race time minus my wave start. I'll wait till the official results to declare it a PR. I sucked on the swim, rocked the bike, and held on for the run.

More details to come.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Annapolis or Bust

Its go time once again. But this time its personal. Ok, not really personal, but this IS my "A" race for the year. I know people doing the race. I know people watching the race. I know people that will be watching me doing the race. Pressure is on. Last chance of the season to kick it up a notch and leave nothing behind. This is my 10th triathlon and I want to make it a good one!

One more thing. Annapolis Triathlon has 2 different transition areas. I don't really get the whole 2 transition thing. It kind of ruins the unique element of triathlon for spectators that they can remain in one area to catch the action. Don't get me wrong. Its cool the the race finish line is on the 50 yard line of the Navy stadium and all finishers will be on the Jumbotron, but the swim is a mile away from T2 and the finish. So much for finding a money spot to watch the whole race.

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me calm down and talk about the race for a minute. I really really really hope the waters are cold enough for wetsuits. Given the dry conditions lately, jellyfish are likely all over the place. Aside from telling everyone at work that I was on the Jumbotron at Navy's stadium, I prefer to not have to tell them about how I got stung repeatedly by the jellyfish during the swim portion of the race. So let's pray for cool weather to keep the temps down in these last 36 hours...

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Annapolis Triathlon Swim Wave Announcement

More new information is out. I know when my (tentative) swim wave is.
WAVE START DIVISION CAP COLOR

1 6:45am Women 45+, Men 50+, Phys. Chall. DARK GREEN
2 7:05am Pro Men, Men 30-34 WHITE
3 7:10am Men 35-39 PURPLE
4 7:15am Men 40-44 RED
5 7:20am Men 45-49, Clydesdale SILVER
6 7:25am Men 14-16, 17-19, 20-24, 25-29 NEON GREEN
7 7:30am Pro Women, Women 30-34, 35-39 PINK
8 7:35am Women 14-16, 17-19, 20-24, 25-29 ROYAL BLUE
9 7:40am Women 40-44, Athena YELLOW
10 7:45am Relays ORANGE

I am in the 6th swim wave. I typically enjoy being in the water earlier in the race, since there are less distractions throughout the course. But oh well, not this time. Oh yea, and as an added bonus, the wave after mine includes the Pro Women. So that means I'll have women in pink caps pulling me down and swimming over me. Wonderful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Weekend Away

Labor Day Weekend. Last chance of the summer to get away. On tap was a trip up to the Berkshires to visit Rebecca's family. I know what you're thinking...a family vacation, not the ideal way to spend a long weekend. But, we did so many things this weekend that it seemed less of a family weekend, and more of a weekend getaway, with some family involved. Highlights of the weekend included:


- Going for a morning run in crisp, low 60 degree temps
- Going for 2 hikes on Mt Greylock, one to the summit
- 2 big dinners with lots of good home made cookin
- Scenic views at all times

It was good weekend of decompressing. Too bad we had to come back so soon. There will be future visits though, hopefully during the winter for some skiing and again during next summer for some solid bike riding.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm Addicted to Drugs

Aren't we all addicted to drugs in some way? Obviously, the drugs that some people are addicted to are different to others. In this case, that drug that I am addicted to is endorphins. While endorphins are not something one "takes" per say, it is something that is a reaction from doing something. Most of us are familiar with the feeling of a runner's high, which in essence is the effect of an increase in endorphin production. The high is the increased production that results from strenuous exercise. That's about the extent of the scientific knowledge being presented in this post.

When I go through an extended period of time without exercising, my mood drops and I tend to feel a bit depressed. This feeling is compounded when faced with situations where planned workouts are canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. While not something I can plan all the time, it is an emotional low when I come to realization that I won't get to experience my "high" for the day. This had happened to me several days in a row, making me feel more depressed and in endorphin withdrawl.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I went to the pool for a great swim. Then this morning, when I went for a nice bike ride. My mood changed completely and my outlook on the day was only positive. I think I need to remind myself during hard times (both in training and in life) that continuing to work out will give me that high I need to maintain a stable life. Endorphins are the drug that keeps my mind at ease and my body in check. I have adapted to the triathlon lifestyle over these past three years and depriving myself of those feelings is doing myself a disservice.

Let this be a lesson to myself and anyone else who deals with emotional ups and downs each day, that the benefit of doing that workout that you really don't want to do will ultimately result in a positive attitude. So get off your butt and just do it!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reaching Double Digits

The countdown to the last race of the season is just under two weeks. It is an important race for many reasons.

1) It is my last chance to improve on what has already been a successful season, which has included several new PRs. Hopefully the trend will continue, since I am more prepared for this race than any other, having ridden and run the course several times.

2) Following this race, I'll be in double digit land for triathlons. This race will be my 10th! I'm excited to turn from a "pre-teen" triathlete, to an "almost teenager" (I count anything that is pronounced with a teen, starting at thirteen, as officially a teenager). Its a transition phase that I'll have to wait till next season to officially become a triathlon teenager. But hey, its something to look forward to...other than doing a Half Ironman of course ;)

So as the days count down with what's left of my season, its time to start enjoying all the hard work and progress of the season. Yesterday morning was probably one of my most challenging bike workouts to date. My normal tough hill workout consists of 2, 7 mile loops, which includes about 1200 feet of climbing. Not bad if you ask me. A lot of bang for the buck kinda course. Technical riding the whole way. There are short steep, long steep, and long gradual climbs. And of course some big downhills too. Anywho, yesterday I did 4 loops, which is more than I've ever done. Thats about 2500 feet of climbing in about 30 miles miles. And to tack on some more struggle, I added a 3 mile run off the bike, to complete the difficult workout. My legs felt like jello after all the climbing, but I was able to hold a steady 8:00/mile pace, which was great considering the heat and humidity.

And the day was topped off with being able to follow the many tri-bloggers out there competing in IMKY. Congratulations to all! It sounded like a tough race, but everyone prevailed with great times, making it look all too easy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time to catch up

Phew...life has been busy. That's all I can say. Each day has been blending together lately. Its one thing after another. Between training, work, wedding planning and finding time to breathe, I really haven't had much time to do anything else. With the "end of the season" nearing, I am looking forward to having more time. At this point, I'm still trying to push myself to keep up with the good work ethic and hit the pool, road, trails, what have you. But once I hit Sept 10 (the day after my last race of the season), there will be a lot less pressure to keep up the volume and intensity. I'm hoping I will be able to take a step back and spend some time doing all those things I keep pushing away, like all the little house chores and other things that I need to do.
So what has my past week been like? Well, its been a great week!

I did a double loop of the bike course for Annapolis, which was my 2nd and 3rd time riding the course. I really feel like I've got my riding dialed in for the race. I know where to shift, what gears to be in when, and when to hammer home. I can't wait for the race. This is the most prepared I've been for any race, and I am looking forward to nothing but success. And of course success is defined at beating my friend, who will be racing against me.

On Sunday, Rebecca and her sister competed in the Luray Triathlon. Let me take you back to a week ago today, when Rebecca became ill. We got Theraflu, pills, and liquid medicine but nothing seemed to work. Rather than calling it quits, Rebecca figured it would be a game time decision, as to whether or not she decided to even attempt the race. Fast forward to Saturday morning, less than 24 hours before the race. She was still feeling ill, with a terrible headache. Then, a trip to the magic drug store and a few hours later, she was revived. Well, maybe 75%. The rest of the day was a mental struggle to determine if it is worth risking further sickness to do the race. Well sure enough, race day morning came around, and Little Miss Superhero decided to rock the course. Not only did she finish the race, but it was by far her best race ever. She looked strong coming out of the swim, surpassed expectations on the bike, and rocked out in her favorite part (sarcasm) the run. You can see some more details here.

But don't forget, there were TWO people competing. Rebecca's younger sister joined the triathlon party by completing her first triathlon, on what anyone who did the race can attest to, was a very challenging course. Oh yea, AND she got a bonus by sticking around for the awards ceremony only to find out that she placed 3rd in the 16-19 AG. Congrats!

So let's keep track of that: 2 people have served as my triathlon pupils and successfully rocked their first triathlons this year alone!

So that, my friends, is a great week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When the heat turns cold

I wonder in amazement each time summer rolls around, when the temperatures float into the upper 90s, workouts tend to shift toward the earlier side to avoid excessive heat, and my body reacts by getting a COLD! I mean, remember when catching a cold came from going outside with wet hair when it was cold outside (or so says your parents)? Obviously, that theory has been proved otherwise. But why or why do people get colds in the heat of the summer? It just shouldn't happen. Its a COLD! And I for one, am in favor of banning summertime colds outright. They just shouldn't happen. Of course, since she is sick, I am now sick. And that's the other thing. They need to make it so that colds are not transferred to significant others. Why wasn't I a doctor, so I could just create a cure and not have to worry about it again. Come on doctors, help me out here!

So now I'm feeling tired, dehydrated, sick, and have no motivation to work out. Sounds like a rest week is in order until I can shake this thing. Too bad this the first day of feeling it, because its likely to get worse before it gets better.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finding my swim mojo

Despite the absence of any consistent form of swimming recently, I had told myself to stay persistent and keep hitting the pool. Things will eventually work themselves out and there will be peace throughout the world. Ok maybe not the world, but in my world that consists of the swimming pool. You see, I've been going to an outdoor pool all summer that is a 50m pool without lap lane lines, so swim training there has been challenging to say the least. You never appreciate how much those lane lines calm the water until you swim in a pool that has none. Some days its not that bad. But others, you have to convince me that I'm not swimming in the ocean, minus the salt water ;) Clearly, one can look at it from the perspective that it is great training for race situations, when I'll be in a river, lake, bay, ocean, etc. Be that as it may, it can still be frustrating to get a "good" workout at this pool, since I was used to swimming in a 25 yard indoor pool with lap lane lines.

Today, my friends, a breakthrough! Although I knew I could do it, I have not swam a complete mile without stopping in this pool. Call it boredom, laziness or whatever. I just never did it. Today, I swam my mile and was ready to do another mile. Only problem was that I had to leave, because she had to be somewhere. Its ok though, there will be plenty of training days left to swim much more, while I'm training for this (btw - less than 200 slots left for those contemplating), so I'm not worried.

It just makes me feel good to get my swim mojo back, because its been a while since I've seen him. Welcome back buddy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I Been Tagged!

Winz got me since he had nobody left...so here goes nothing:

Jobs I've Held:
Pre College
Maintenance grounds keeper (trash picker upper for the layman)
Busboy
Waiter
Camp Counselor
College
After school day care supervisor
Paperboy
Wireless cell phone salesman
Flyer handout person
Professional
Telecom Consultant
I know there's more...

Movies I can Watch Over and Over:
Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Jaws, Caddyshack, Friday, Dumb and Dumber, any James Bond movies

My Guilty Pleasures:
Reality TV shows, Five Guys (Mmmm)

Places I have Lived (in order):
Washington DC
Rockville, MD
Syracuse, NY
Boston, MA
Arlington, VA

Shows I enjoy:
The Office
Hell's Kitchen
Seinfeld
Jeopardy
Real World

Places I have been:
Canada: Montreal, Toronto
Mexico: Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City, Acapulco
Belize
Bahamas
Europe: Azores Islands (Portugal)
Israel

Websites I visit daily:
Washingtonpost.com
Drudgereport.com
trifuel.com
raceathlete.com
si.com
profootballtalk.com

Body parts injured (chronological order):
Strained Achilles tendon
Bruised patella tendon
Broken ring finger
Broken (in 2 spots) and dislocated wrist
Torn hamstring
Partially torn rotator cuff
Broken nose

Awards Won:
Various soccer, baseball, basketball awards growing up in rec and club leagues
Various regional/state indoor and outdoor track and field awards
3rd place in AG 2006 Celiac International Run/Walk 5k
2nd place in AG 2006 Cure Autism Now Triathlon/Duathlon
1st place in AG (8th overall) 2007 Celiac International Run/Walk 5k

Nicknames:
Lesser
Speedy Gonzales
The Bullet

5 Bloggers:
I'm gonna take a page from Rebecca, since pretty much everyone I know has already done one of these...i tag anyone who hasn't done this yet...consider yourself TAGGED!

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ugh its hot!

The forecast for today is 98. That's hot. Add to that the 80% humidity and you've got the recipe for one of the worst days of the year. The heat index today is expected to reach 115 by the afternoon. And I've got a headache. Probably from sweating too much. Where is the motivation (or the opportunity) to get a workout in? The heat index was above 90 by the time I woke up! If this headache goes away, maybe I'll get a swim in. Maybe a little hot weather humor will cool things off:
Nope, its still hot...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Spreading Triathlon Through Kids

This is a great little piece from the Washington Post today about exposing kids to the sport of triathlon through a triathlon camp this summer.

Click here to read

And so it begins...

With the amazing growth of triathlon in the past few years, big races seem to fill up faster and faster. Last night, I set the alarm for midnight and registered for next year's "A" race along with a couple hundred other anxious triathletes (so far). As I have stated several times, my plans for next season are to give the 1/2 IM distance a try. I watched Eagleman 70.3 in amazement this year as a spectator and will now be toeing the line come June 8, 2008.

So now that I'm registered, let the training and the smackage begin!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I've been Simpsonized

You know those caricatures you'd get at your friend's birthday, or at the fair? Well getting Simpsonized is a lot like that. No, I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know all about Spider pig, but I will hopefully soon.

For now, enjoy the Simpsonized me:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Preview of the Annapolis Triathlon

Since I had to drop Rebecca off at BWI airport by 5:15 am yesterday morning, I figured I'd stop by Annapolis for a pre-ride/run of the Annapolis Triathlon course. I pulled into the parking lot of the planned transition area by 5:45. The only people mulling around were fisherman getting ready to head out on the Chesapeake, trash collectors, and a few people like me - out for either an early run or bike. After setting things up, I was out on the course by a little after six.

The bike course starts with an uphill climb out of transition up Main St and then out and around the Maryland Governor's Mansion and the Maryland State House. The course then heads north alone the rolling hills, passing by a local golf course, until finally taking a right into a large loop. The loop consists of some of the more hilly sections, including a steep downhill following by short, but nasty uphill. I went all the way down until my lowest gear and I still had to get out of the saddle to get up the thing. Not looking forward to that on race day! The loop continues to climb a bit until finally back on the same road headed back south toward transition. The elevation profile shows the 2nd half of the bike as being mostly downhill, but there were still plenty of rollers keeping me from getting into a consistent groove. It wasn't until about 5 miles to go, that everything flattens out and starts the downhill where you can crank it. I went along at a steady pace, without pushing too hard and my legs felt ok.

After a quick transition at my car, I threw on my run gear and took off back up Main St. I knew the run course started off similar to the run course, so I started off for the first couple minutes going the same route. Since I wasn't intimately familiar with the course, I carried directions this me. Unfortunately, I followed the bike directions for a few too many turns, before realizing I was looking at the wrong sheet. Once I figured out where I was, I made my way back, where the bike and run split off. In total, I made it about 2 miles round trip off course. Once I turned around, I figured I'd run most of the real course, but cut it short, since I didn't bring enough nutrition with me to make it through the whole run course, plus my detour. The run course is pretty flat for the first 3 miles, until you hit the bridge that takes you over the Severn River. Its a steep arching bridge that gives an amazing view, but not so much fun when you are running over it. Once I reached the end of the bridge, I decided to turn around. That point was about 3/4 to the turnaround, so I felt good that I got a decent preview of the course. I decided to run a negative split for the 2nd half of the run to see how far I can push it in a non-competitive situation. Surprisingly, I averaged 7:40 min/mile for the last 3 miles! If I can put it together with those times on race day, I'll be ecstatic. I'm also hoping that it is a bit cooler than it was yesterday, because there was NO shade. By the time I was in the middle of my run, the temperature had hit 88 (at 8:30 am!).

I'll probably head out there again in 2 weeks, just to go get another ride and run in. Can't wait till race day...little more than a month to go!

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Official" Pics from EX2 Offroad Triathlon

After reviewing all the photos that have been added to the race site, below are some of the good shots taken by the race photographers.

End of the swim and I feel like crap

Out on the bike

More bike

Early into the run

Climbing the rocks

Its not me, but you get a better idea of the terrain

At the top of the climb...tired and sweaty!

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm calling myself out

That's it. I'm calling myself out. I've mentioned it in my race reports. What is the biggest thing holding me back in each race? You guessed it: the swim. We tend to train in the area where we are best, because it makes us feel warm inside after the workout. Nobody wants to slug through a workout when you can opt for one where you can rock it. For this reason, I've stuck to staying on the land more often than not. I did spend a good portion of my base training this season hitting the pool. But since I entered the first peak component of my season, I more or less stopped hitting the pool. After somewhat rough swim experiences in my recent races, I didn't want to go to the pool to work on my weakness, because I wanted to get my confidence back by cranking out some long runs or solid rides. So I relied on my race experience and swimming base as my way of "getting through" each swim in the race.

So now that I've called myself out, I need to do something about it. My last tri of the season is September 9, the Annapolis Triathlon. 48 days away. Ever since I heard one of my college friends is going to be racing in it, it has become my "A" race. He laying down a ton of smackage, so I need to step it up and feel confident going into race weekend. Afterall, he was a swimmer in high school...ugh, the worst kind of person to race against, since I'll have to catch him from behind. Anywho, I need to hit the pool. Lots. So I am challenging myself from here on out to 3 swims a week building up to my race week. This should put me in a comfortable spot by the time the race comes around that I can at least do ok in the swim and lessen the gap I will have to make up on the bike and run.

So today was the start of my challenge. 1 swim down, 2 to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Race Report: Xterra EX2 Offroad Triathlon

Another week, another race report. This was the first time I've done back to back weeks of races. It was also the first time I've done a full length offroad tri. Part of the Xterra series, the EX2 took place at the amazing Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, MD. Set on a scenic mountain lake in Western MD, I couldn't imagine a more perfect location for race.

Pre-race
Since the race site was only located 2.5 hours away, and we had just gotten back from the beach the day before, we got up early and drove out there. A lot of people camp out, which sounds like a fun idea for next year, but it just didn't work out with our plans. The camp sites are less than 2 miles away and are located right along the course, so it probably makes sense to do that next year.

The morning started off the usual way: 1 serving of oatmeal, 2 slices of toast with peanut butter, and some water. Then a large bottle of Accelerade and a Cliff Bar about 2 hours before on the ride up there. Once we got there, I knew the mountain biking was going to be real mountain biking. I heard that the bike course goes around the lake, which was all mountains all around, so I was ready for lots of climbing. I also got in a quick warm up swim to test out the water, which was a warm 78 degrees.

Swim
In order to get ready for the swim start, they checked us into a roped off area by swim wave. We were in the first wave, the white caps - Men 39 and under. Once we were all checked in, we walked toward the beach for a somewhat in water start. Wading about waist deep, they started the countdown and we were off. My initial thought on the swim course was that it seemed kind of short (2 loops though, with a run mixed in between). Not only was I wrong, but that thought got me into trouble. I took it easy out to the first buoy, at which point I started to feel nauseous. I think I may have drank too many liquids before the race, so all the sloshing around was starting to get to me. As usual, the turn points at the buoys were chaotic and I kept finding myself in a constant struggle against people who can't swim straight. This one guy, who unfortunately swam the same speed as me, was zig zagging all over the course. Each time he veered off, he'd come back and hit me as he was trying to get back on course. I guess he knew he was straight when he hit me ;) I finally reached the end of the first loop and got myself out of the water, feeling like crap. A steep up hill run that starts on the beach and goes up into a grassy field brings you back to the swim start. On my way to starting lap 2, I really did not feel good. Worst part was that the first bouy was the farthest away, which was the most mentally draining part. I was getting tired (not having a wetsuit to rely on sucks) and I felt like crap. Once I finally did make it to the bouy I tried to get myself mentally back in, but I started getting passed by some of the leaders from previous waves. In usual fashion, they swam over me, not around me. That didn't help with my nausea. Once I finally spotted land again, and still felt like crap, I was at least glad to have survived. I told myself to just keep going and have fun. Maybe today wasn't my day.

Time - 32:26 Distance - 1200 meters with 2 runs

Bike
After what seemed like a quick transition, I was out on the bike. I figured I'd just have fun out there and hope for the best. Once we got out of the main park area, I knew the bike was going to be tough. The first signs of singletrack showed lots of loose rock gardens. Always a big challenge for someone on a hardtail. After riding the first section, I just wanted to pass as many people as I could once we hit the next open area. Because of my crappy swim, I was stuck around really non-technical riders who were braking and dismounting before EVERY pass. Its really frustrating when you can't just ride through, or spin up a steep climb. So I passed a pack of about 5 riders on the next paved section, before entering the next section of singletrack. This section had a lot of rolling hills with lots of loose rocks. Since I didn't pre-ride the course, I was pretty conservative on the first loop, since I didn't know exactly what was ahead. The next part we rode upon was the famed "Evitts Revenge", which is a loose rock climb that is both steep and long. This is one of those spots that I just wish I could have sat around and watched the leaders tackle. I tried to climb as much as I could and I got a little less than half way before deciding to hike it. I was the only one at that point still riding, so I figured since everyone else is hiking, I might as well too. Once you got to the top, there was some more flat/minor incline trails, which all led to a long steep decent. As much as I hate climbing, steep descents on loose rocks is not better. The whole way, I was gripping my brakes trying to stay in control. All I could think about in my head was watching the Xterra World Championships when Jamie Whitmore was riding down the big decent on the volcano rock when she hit one bad bump and her day was over. So I wanted to make sure I survived and lived to tell stories about it. By the time I got to the bottom, I was out of breath from holding the brakes and I went to take a sip from my Camelback. Only problem was that my forearm cramped up from holding the brakes, so I couldn't grab the mouth piece. Fortunately, my mouth was close out that I got it without my hands. It was at this point that I also realized that I forgot to put on my gloves for the ride! So that's why it was so hard...hmmm. The last section of the bike was a fun and fast section of grassy fields and rolling woods. Once I cruised through that, I was into transition for loop #2. I decided that it was worth the extra minute to stop and take out my gloves, because the sweat was not keeping my hands on the brakes very well. Loop #2 was much better than the first, since I had passed most of the non-technical riders. I got to go at my pace, which left me with a split a minute faster. Not bad, since my legs felt like jello after the first lap.

Time: 1st lap - 47:46, 2nd lap - 46:45 Distance: 14 miles total

Run
Oh the run. My favorite part, since it is my strongest, but the place that causes me the biggest trouble. My body likes to break down at this point and start cramping usually, so the 5 miles of off road trail running were not the thing I was looking most forward to. I settled into a pretty good pace to start, since it was like the good old days of high school cross country. Lots of roots, rocks, and tree limbs to jump over. For me, it makes the run go by faster, since you are always looking for your next step. This is pretty much how the first mile or two were. A good portion of the run course lapped back into the bike course. At times, this made it challenging, because there were still come bikers on the course, so sharing the trail was difficult at times. All was going well until a steep downhill, where I stubbed my toe on a big rock, which caused my body to tighten up and ultimately my hamstring because to cramp. Yes, my usual hamstring cramp. But I usually don't get that till the finish line is within sight. I thought to myself that it is way to early for this. I started with a simple stretch, which moved into a slow jog and I was back on the trail. Only to find myself staring Evitts Revenge in the face. Not sure how my hamstring would hold up, I just tried to jog up to the top with baby steps all the way, since it was so steep. I did pass a lot of people walking it, which made me feel good for jogging it. Once I got to the top, I was thinking that the hardest part was over. Boy was I wrong. This is when it got technical. It all started with some rock steps headed downhill and then some narrow slanted trails with rocks and roots. Once past that, we started a VERY steep climb that required holding onto the tree branches and rocks around to get up the hill. Once at the top, I started to jog again, only to see an even steeper uphill rock scramble. This was by far the hardest part of the run. Virtually straight up, using hands, legs, whatever you could to pull yourself up. Oh and how nice of the race photographers to be sitting in the middle of the climb to document it all! Can't wait for those pictures to come out. After that climb, it was only 1/4 mile to the road, which was about 1 mile to the finish. I picked up the pace once we hit the road and headed toward the finish, determined not to cramp up. I stayed consistent coming down the finish cute, when some people start cheering for a woman that was closing in on me. As usual, I picked it up just in time to cross the finish line before her. I don't feel bad though, because she was in a later heat than I was, she she beat me overall anyways. Once I crossed the line, my hamstring cramped up, per my usual. I was so ecstatic that I made it past the finish line before my hamstring cramped!

Time: 56:27 Distance: 5.2 miles

Overall, I was very happy with my finish time. Given my terrible swim start, I managed to do well on the bike (passed 38 people on the first loop, 24 on the second loop) and run (passed 12). Once they posted the results, I was able to quickly tell if the run was actually as hard as I thought it was. Will Kelsay, the lone pro Xterra racer and 1st place finisher, finished the run in 35:07, barely faster than 7 min/mile pace. It was tough!

Post race food was awesome too! They had a bbq place serving chicken, dogs, burgers, pulled pork, etc. I went with the chicken, which had some Kansas City style bbq sauce on it. Man was it tasty...and I'm not just saying that, because it was the first thing I ate after the race. It was good!

The race was very well put together, clearly marked, and had a great turnout. According to the post race article, it was the 2nd largest Xterra point race in Xterra history, with more than 375 racers! Lot of people there to cheer you on and a great course with lots of challenging, yet fun terrain. I look forward to doing it again next year and hopefully having a better swim to break 3 hours.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Race Report: Diamond In The Rough Triathlon

There were 2 things you could hear people talking about, the morning of the race: 1) The hot weather (mid 90s) and 2) "THE HILL". As a newbie to this race, I listened openly as different discussions transpired around me. Anyone who had done the race, told war stories of the hill. But it wasn't just one hill. Of the 27 miles, a good 17 of them were all hills, some larger than others. However, since I wasn't able to pre-ride the course or even pre-drive the course, I'd have to wait till the actual race to find out what they were talking about.

Pre-RaceLooking out on the pier before the swim

During the drive, I made sure to continue drinking fluids. I had a large bottle (24 ounces) of Accelerate to keep me hydrated and add some calories. I also ate a Cliff Bar and 2 slices of whole wheat toast with peanut butter. 15 minutes before the swim start, I took down a Cliff Shot with some water.

Swim

I don't pretend that I am skilled swimmer. I am average at best. I know I need to put a lot more time into developing my stroke and improving my swimming efficiency. For these reasons, I just try to "get through" the swim and try to make up ground in the other 2 disciplines. Since an Olympic distance is the longest race I've done, my open water swimming experience has topped out at 1.5k. Not that it is a huge difference, but this race's swim was 1 mile. Just a little bit longer than anything I've swam before. I knew not to line up in the middle of the pack, front and center, so I stayed over to the side, where I thought the current would pull us. By the time the race was ready to go, the water had gotten a little choppier.

The swim course was described as a baseball diamond, where you swim to 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and then come on home. Only problem was that the swim to 2nd and 1st were straight against the current. I don't like that. As a weak swimmer, its hard enough going the distance, let alone going against the current. As you got about 200 meters out from the start, you hit the choppy stuff. The swim was pretty uneventful, with minimal contact. My biggest challenge was sighting. I've never had any issues with it, but there was a combination of a few things that contributed to my troubles. First, the choppy water made it so that there was no guarantee that when I did go to sight every once and I while that I would see anything. Half the time, I got a mouthful or a face full of water. Second, the buoys were small orange balls, not the usual large yellow pylons. Add to the fact that my swim wave was orange caps, anytime I sighted all I saw were some orange balls bobbing up and down. I couldn't tell if it was the buoy or a person going in the wrong direction. So I had to struggle at times to stay on track.

In the end, I survived. There was a bit of seaweed that occasionally got tangled in my arm or leg, but I was glad to see the pier at the end of the swim. Only problem, was that we had to climb up a long series of stairs to get to transition. That shot my heart rate sky high as I headed into transition.



Time: 32:18 Distance: 1 mile

Bike

Like I mentioned, I was warned of the hills on this course. I had training quite a bit over the last month and a half riding the biggest baddest hills I could find in this area. I think the training more than paid off. The first 10 miles were pretty much rolling hills with a few long climbs. While I was riding these rollers, my legs were feeling a bit tired and I was wondering if I'd get through the day. Toward the end of the hilly stretch, we hit a long section for nearly the next 10 miles that was flat, with a few downhills and a few uphills, but mostly allowed me to fly. Over this period, I stretched out my legs by going into a solid spin, pushing 21+mph the whole way. I passed a lot of people, including one notable dude in his Cervelo P3C with Zips. Never did see him again after I passed him. I doubt his tri bike make it up what was to come at mile 20. Oh the hill. This was a bad mother. Approximately a mile long, averaging 7% grade or more with little to no break. I passed a lot of people stuck in difficult gears. Fortunately, I went way down on the granny for this one and spun my way up. After that, I knew it was rollers all the way back for the remaining 7 miles, so I just stayed calm and readied myself for the run.

Time: 1:33:32 Distance: 27 miles

Run

Feeling pretty good as I came in off the bike, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I had no idea what speed I was actually going though, because I was in a gap of people, where there weren't many people around me. I guess I was moving at a good pace though, because I came upon a series of people that I passed. Only 1 or 2 people passed me the whole run. At the first water stop, I made sure to grab 2 cups of water. Drank most of it and poured the rest on my head and back to cool off. A few times into the run, I'd feel a muscle start to tighten up, so I'd have to back off, but I think I held a steady pace pretty much the whole way. The run was mostly along a gravel path, which made it a little more difficult than normal pavement. It also cut across some grassy areas, which varied the terrain up nicely, but made traction a little difficult especially on the one hill. When I finally spotted the finish in sight, the adrenaline started to flow and I really wanted to push it and look good for the cameras. I think there is something to this. I now have a patented move. Every longer distance race and I do mean EVERY, my hamstring cramps up right as I am nearing the finish line. I kid you not. Fine the whole time. Then boom. Cramp. I can't walk, can't run. Everyone yells at me, "you're almost there". I'd move if I could, but when it happens, everything stops until my body says ok. So after about a minute of stretching, I dragged my leg and the rest of my body across the finish line.

Time: 43:43 Distance: 5 miles

Overall Time: 2:53:40 - a PR of 10 minutes from my first Olympic triathlon that I did last year!

Lessons Learned
  • I have a lot to improve on, like, my swimming. Although the time included the walk up the stairs, I know I have much to improve on. However, my time was a significant improvement from last year's swim, which was in a calm lake, with no current and barely any run to T1.
  • I felt really good on the bike, but my time doesn't really reflect it. It was a hilly course, and although I passed a ton of people, I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. I'd like to see what kind of speeds I can push when I hit a flatter course.
  • And the run, although I averaged 8:45 min/mile, I felt a lot slower. Some more brick workouts off longer bike rides should help that out. My issue still comes down to my muscular endurance. Its something that I need to work on in all 3 disciplines. I can go fast in each one, but when I string them together, I break down fairly quickly.
  • Nutrition-wise, I think I finally made progress. This was the first race that I got to use my Profile Design Aero Drink and boy did it make taking in liquids easy! I got through all 60 ounces (2 bottles of Accelerade, 1 bottle of water), and could have drank more if I needed to. That, in addition to the 2 gels I had on the bike, gave me a total of 400 calories on the bike. I might want to add another gel in there for some more calories to bank for the run, I'm moving in the right direction.
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