Friday, June 29, 2007

Xterra Richmond Race Report

Its been a few weeks since the race, but with vacation and other things keeping me busy, this is the first real chance to sit down and reflect on the race.

First of all, it was my goal last year after I finished the Sport race to compete in the Championship distance race, which according to the posted distances, is approximately twice as long. However, because the Sport race started at 8 am, and TT and I were headed to Belize the next day, we didn't have enough time to do the Championship race, which started at 10:30, and drive back in time to pack for Belize. Therefore, I signed up to do the Sport distance again, hoping to get revenge on the pain it brought me last year. Race day started off with advantage Xterra, given a few race day changes (Xterra likes to surprise everyone) to the course. The advertised distances of the Sport course are 500m swim, 12k mountain bike, 3 mile run. However, after the race day changes,
the Sport course was only 1/3 shorter than the Championship race. The posted distances on race day for the Sport race were an 850m swim, 12k mountain bike, and a 4.3 mile trail run. I know a lot of people were not happy about the extra swim distance, especially since the James River had a much stronger current this year and the added distance was an extra set of zig zags that goes against the current. Gotta love that!

Pre-Race
Woke up at 5 am at TT's friend's house and started with the usual breakfast: 2 servings of oatmeal. Today's I wasn't into the oatmeal, and could only take down about 1.5 servings. Brought one water bottle of Accelerade and one bottle of water to drink prior to the race. I got body marked, checked into transition and went for a quick warmup swim. It was curing the

warmup swim that I noticed how much stronger the current was this year. I swam straight out (mostly with the current) and then came straight back (mostly against the current) and it was a big struggle to stay on target with my starting point. The current would just push you off course, forcing you to swim up shore. Anyways, I took it to note, surveyed the remainder of the course, and developed my swim strategy based on the conditioned. Took in and gel about 15 minutes before the start.

Swim

Lesson learned from last year's swim start was not to start in the middle front of the swim (duh), especially when you are not a very good swimmer. Last year was rough. This year, I lined up on the far right (inside), knowing that the current would push everyone on the left away from the turn buoy, which heads to the right. As the gun went off, I calmly ran into the water and was on my way. Smooth and steady was how I would describe the start straight out to the first buoy. Then we got to the buoy. It was jam packed with swimmers fighting the current. While my race plan of starting to the right was working perfectly, other people to the left of me were swimming perpendicular to me. This was a challenge to stay smooth, as arms and legs were flailing everywhere. I actually had to breast stroke around the buoy, because I was getting kicked and punched too much. The breast stroke proved better at fending off idiots swimming perpendicular to the course who were hitting me. The next straight away was perfectly against the current. Again, things went smooth until the buoy. Once I rounded the buoy, there was a huge rock that forced you to stand up. I was on the pull of my stroke and my hand scrapes this rock. I look up and everyone is standing up. We had to wade through the next 50 meters or so by walking/jogging through the water, as the current tried to pull you away. Before I knew it, we were at the next buoy. Here is when the swim course started to get tricky. After turning the next buoy, you head on a 90 degree angle, where there were 2 sets of zig zags. You go around the 3rd bouy and back up toward the 2nd buoy, where there is a 4th buoy just a little to the left. Once you get around that one, you head back toward the 3rd buoy, where there is a 5th buoy just to the right of the 3rd. Lastly, you head back up toward the 4th buoy, where there is a 6th buoy located to the left of the 4th buoy. Sounds crazy huh? It was! And the worse part is that because of the current, people swimming toward one of the buoys would get swept by the current and float into the path of the other swimmers going the opposite way. Many head on collision close calls. I think a lot of people had issues with the zig zags, sighting, and the current. All of this chaos....screams Xterra. Finally, once you round the 6th buoy, it is a diagonal swim back to shore. Complicated? You betcha! Challenging? Yup! But my experience as I compared to last year was MUCH smoother. I am a much better swimmer, and my sighting was spot on, especially with the pre-race knowledge of the current. Once out of the water, you have to scramble up the rocky ramp, which can kill your feet. Some people leave their shoes to slip on. But honestly, with spectators, hundreds of shoes laying around, and the disoriented feeling once you get out of the water, there is no way I would be able to find my shoes. So for the 2nd year in a row, I toughed it and ran barefoot. Oh yea, and its a 1/4 mile run to transition over a gravel path, so if the large rocks on the boat ramp don't get you, the gravel will. But once you hit transition, that grass feels so nice on the feet!

Swim plus 1/4 mile run: 22:21

Bike
Having pre-rode most of the course on Saturday, and from my mostly photographic memory, I actually felt well prepared for the race. I recognized the tough passes and knew when to be in what gears. I was passing people left and right as I rolled through Bell Isle. The last part of the first loop on Bell Isle as a steep rocky descent. Having rode it before, I knew the best line to take. I got to the top, started my descent, found my line, and nailed it. All the spectators and race officials were cheering me on at my easy ot handling. While basking in the celebration, I started ot hear something. Pssss!!!!! Uh oh. Flat front tire. I rolled off to the side of the trail, got out my tools and started changing. Mind you, this is my first flat ever in a race. I was going as fast as I could. Lots of people stopped by to ask if I needed a tube, which I was very appreciative. Of course, the whole process, since I am yet to join the CO2 cool people canister club, took somewhere around 10 minutes. I was having issues with getting air into my tire with my small pump. It was hot. I was sweating. And I had to pump this tiny carry pump a billion times just to get the tire at a decent pressure. Finally, I was on my way...after about 50 people passed me. I was on a mission now. Pissed off and ready to ride throwing caution to the wind. I must have passed about 25 people in the next 10 minutes. We had to go through another mostly flat section, over a creaky bridge, along some smooth rocks, and then we hit the fire road along the railroad tracks. This is where I made up so many spots. People were just taking it easy, but I was hammering, because I knew what was ahead. At the end of the fire road is a set of stairs that you have to dismount and climb your bike up. Fortunately, passing so many people gave me the ability to be alone while climbing the stairs. When crowded, the stairs suck, because there is no room to pass since you are carryingyour bike on your shoulder. I got up the stairs and started the technical singletrack. Again, I was rocking the course, passing many chickens dismounting before some of the difficult passes. I rode through and climbed climbed climbed, until the next section that takes you over a large bridge and into more singletrack. Again, I passed a few on the flat as we headed into the next section. I started to recognize how close we were to the finish and was looking down at my watch. I was almost done, my clock read 48 minutes (my bike split last year was 71 minutes), and I had already changed a flat. Uh oh. Flat #2 decided my day wasn't going to go so smoothly. This time, it was in my rear. Knowing I was close to the finish, I decided to ride it in. I did this for many reasons. First, it was singletrack trails, so there was nowhere to actually go to change the tire even if I wanted to, until I got even closer to the finish. Second, I was frustrated from the earlier flat. And Third, I decided in my sweaty, mind blurred state that it would be more fun. So I rode it in. Definitely a little more challenging. My rear kept slipping out, so I had to go a bit slower and use more caution. Every minute or so, someone from behind would yell "Dude, I think you've got a flat". I was like, "Ya think? We're only a mile out, so I'm gonna ride it in". Common response was "Rock on! You're badass". The closer I got to the end of the bike, the more the spectators cheered for me. "Look, he's riding it in on the rim!" I hear as I passed by a group of people. And if you couldn't see it, you'd hear me coming through as my rim rumbled on the short asphalt section leading to transition. Finally back, and time to get off this darn thing! I did make one dumb mistake as I rolled into transition. Again, in my blurred state, I tried to mount my bike on the rack but for some reason, the handlebars wouldn't go under the rack. So I decided it would be ok to lean it. The race official told me quickly that I would have to rack it. So I tired again, no luck. Now here is where I turn stupid. Because I couldn't get it in from the side I was on, I ran my bike around the OTHER side of the transition rack to see if it was any easier. Why? I don't know! If only I thought to tilt my bike to the side. STUPID ME. Lesson learned for next year ;)

Bike: 1:14.09

Run
Knowing that the 2 flats were fresh in my mind, I decided to just have fun and let go on the run. I started off at a fast pace. As I usually do, I try to encourage anyone I pass to stay with me or to keep going strong. As I was passing this guy who was 55 (as noted on his calf), I encouraged him to run with me. He said thanks for the encouragement. Then as I passed him, he yelled "Easy to say when you are 25!". Of course, he looked my calf which had 25 for my age group. And so I flew along through the shadeless trail along the flood wall in the already hot sun. There aren't that many landmarks along the Sport course run, except for a series of steps in the floor wall and "The Ruins". Ugh. They suck. Basically, a steep climb up a series of "steps". I can't describe it better than this quote from an Inside Triathlon article about the course
"...the infamous Mayan Ruins, a massive former railroad grade that makes the Escape from Alcatraz' sand ladder look like an escalator." BTW - the folks climbing the steps in the picture to the right are Josiah Middaugh and Mike Vine and you can see how much it looks like it hurts for them. Imagine what a mere Age Grouper must feel like climbing that! As I scaled the steps, my quads started locking up. I used the chain fence, which has some nice rust to grab onto, to propel myself up to the top. Once at the top, my choppy stride started to open up again knowing that a water stop was near. As I neared the water stop, a Lamborghini rolled by on the road beside me. All the little kids working the water station sat in amazement of the sweet ride, while I approached. As I was almost passing them, I yelled "water!". Fortunately one of the kids remembered they were there to help runners dying in the 95 degree heat, so he tracked me down and handed off some refreshing water. The rest of the course is a blur until I hit the middle of the long bridge that takes us back to the finish. At this point, I knew there was less than a mile so I started pushing. As I passed 3 or so people, I noticed they were all in my age group, which further motivated me to pick up the pace. However, as I neared the end of the bridge and the quick downhill that followed, my hamstring started to tighten, likely due to dehydration. The downhill was just brutal on my leg and I locked up. All those 25-29 year olds I had just passed...yea, they passed me as I stretched as much as I could on the side of the trail. I tried first to slowly jog. Nope, not yet. Stretched some more. Then I tried to walk. Nope, can't do that either. A good 2 minutes passed as I sat there trying to stretch my hamstring and just hope that I could start moving toward the finish line. Finally, I was able to start walking which turned into a slow jog and into to a moderate pace. Once we hit the main street, I knew I was only about 1/4 mile away, so I started to pick up the pace further and began to open it up for the last bit. As we turned the last part into the finish chute, I spotted 2 of the guys from my age group that I passed and was then re-passed. I sprinted past them right before the turn toward the finish line and at least got back some of the gains I made on the bridge just prior.

Run: 31:52


Total time: 2:08:22

I can attribute the cramping at the end of the race to dehydration because after the race, I looked at my Camelback and saw that I failed to drink about 1/4 of it that was left. All the distractions of the flat tires and trying to pass people took me out of my mental state to drink early and often. I know I need to work on that.

Above all, I had fun. I raced well considering the situation. I nearly equaled my bike split from last year after having stopped to change a flat and ride one for the last mile or so of the bike. I also nearly equaled my run from last year, which was 31:47, and that was with the awful hamstring cramps that I had near the finish. And most importantly, I did well in the swim. Although the distances weren't equal, I was 82/188 in the swim, 122/188 in the bike, 88/188 in the run, and 111/188 overall. I also finished 17/26 in my age group.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Breaking News

Hot off the press...After much suspense, I bring you some breaking news.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I'm Back!

Phew...what a vacation! How was it? Much needed. Relaxing. Celebratory. Peaceful. Hot. Sweaty. Sunny. Delicious. Diverse. Rejuvinating. And hopefully soon if she has enough time, I'll let TT explain some more details.

Belize was simply amazing. It is with that wonderful vacation, that I come back to the real world with a new focus and drive in both work and life. Many pina coladas, lots of sun, and several Belikin cervesas later, I am ready to continue my training. With a race in just two weeks, my first Olympic distance this season, I'm not planning anything too strenuous or monumental. Just some challenging workouts that keep me fresh and on my game. This race will be a great check to see where my fitness is and what I need to improve on for the remainder of the season.

So keep on the lookout on TT's blog...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Vacation!

See you all in a week. TT and I are officially on vacation.

BTW - the race went well yesterday. More details, pictures, and race report to come when I get back.

Have a great week!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Counting Down

With only a few days left in the week, its time to start looking forward to the weekend and the week ahead. Saturday, we leave for Richmond for the weekend for my Xterra race, which is being held on Sunday. And once we get back, then its time for vacation. Where are we headed you ask? Oh, how about TT and I are going to BELIZE!

And it can't come at a better time. Work has been hectic to say the least and the stress is just bottling up inside. 2 days on the weekend is simply not enough time to relax away the stress. So while everyone is training hard next week, you can think about TT and I sipping pina coladas out of coconuts at our swim up bar. Yea, we'll also do some active things to stay in shape, like hiking, lots of swimming (Belize is home to the 2nd longest barrier reef in the world!), and walking around town.

Can't wait for the weekend so I can begin my vacation!

Monday, June 11, 2007

My week in review - Week 18

Another week of training down, so that means its time for my week in review. Spent much of my time in the saddle (FINALLY!). The rest of my time was filled with a little swimming and some running. Big workout of the week came on Saturday when I did a brick workout that included a 45-50 mi bike and a 10k run. Here are the numbers for the week:

Swim: 1550 meters (Goal: 4400)
Bike: 5.5 hours (Goal: 5)
Run: 11 miles (Goal: 10)
Weight Sessions: 0
Time: 8 hours (Goal: 9)

Ok, so I slacked on the swimming this week. It got cooler outside and the nice outdoor pool option I've spoken so highly of turned into a frigid pool with the potential for serious...umm...shrinkage. An effective triathlete is a safe triathlete and I wouldn't want to risk any injury, so I turned my attention elsewhere. I got to riding some serious time this week. 2.5 hours were spent on rolling hills on my Saturday ride. The other time was spent conquering the hilly loop. While only about 6 miles per loop, it's got about 600 ft of elevation gain, so it hurts. I guess all this hill training is good for the next race after this weekend's Xterra. The course description of my next race is described as "hilly and technical". Ok, so maybe no records will be shattered, but at least all this hill practice will be good for something. And speaking of Xterra, I can't wait for this race. I love the vibe of Xterra races (not that regular tris are less good). Its just...different. Anyways, looking forward to returning to Richmond to avenge my performance from last year. It was hot and sunny last year and my first Xterra race. This year's forecast: HOT and SUNNY. Oh well, so much for better conditions.

The week ahead will be light, in preparation for the race. Here are the goals for the week:

- Swim: 1500 yards
- Bike: 3 hours (Includes pre-ride of Xterra course on Sat)
- Run: 10 miles
- Weight Sessions: None
- Time: 4 hours

I hope to take it easy this week and keep things simple. I'd like to do some mountain biking on the local trails around here a few times just to test out the recently tuned rear derailleur and shifting to make sure things are good to go for Sunday. Aside from that, just some easy running
and swimming.

That's my week. Enjoy your training and your workouts!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pulse Check

Every now and again, we need a pulse check to validate ourselves. Sometimes, the mind plays tricks on the body. Inside the mind is that thought that says "You can't do that, it's too hard". But its the body that has the last word when the body tells the mind to "shove it". Its always easier to just listen to the mind and call it a day.

Today, on the eve of Eagleman, I wanted to complete a brick workout as a pulse check to see where I stand with regard to my training. Planned was a 50 mile ride and a 10k (or more if I'm feeling up to it) run. I didn't exactly prep for today's workout however (went to sleep after 12 and drank a few too many cervezas), so I just hoped for the best to see what I could do with minimal preparation.

The results:
Bike - approx 45-50 miles
Run - 6.28 miles
Time: 3 hours 35 min

Overall, I felt good. The bike went very well. Only problem was that my precious was not behaving and took a while to get working right. Oh yea, and part of the problem was my fault for forgetting to hit start again after waiting at the light to cross the street (I do that way too often). Nutrition was great. This was my first ride using the Profile Design Aero Drink WITH the bracket. Wow, what a difference. Much more secure, except for the stupid yellow splash guard. I tried duct tape to hold it, but if it gets wet, it becomes useless and peels off. Still working out those details. On the bike, I brought with me, 1 bottle of water, 2 bottles of Accelerade, 1 Cliff Shot, and 1 Cliff Bar. This turned out to be a perfect amount of food for me for the distance. My legs felt pretty fresh and never once had GI issues. I would have liked to know the exact distance, but from previous rides, I know that it was within my goal range.

Once off the bike, I moved my gear inside my apartment and with a quick transition and clothing change, I was out on the run. I brought with me my Fuel Belt with three 8 ounce bottles of water and 1 Cliff Shot. I think this was my mistake. For such a hot day, I should have brought more water and calories. I started off great, but probably way too hard. However, my heart rate was only in the low 150s, so I figured I'd just go with the flow and keep the pace as long as my heart rate was low. Below are my mile splits:
- Mile 1: 7:51
- Mile 2: 8:08
- Mile 3: 8:30
- Mile 4: 9:33
- Mile 5: 9:42
- Mile 6: 9:26

I think you can see the trend. However, I will mention that miles 4-6 are ALL uphill. It is a long climb, and it hurt. While on my run, I experienced some bad cramping right after the 5k mark. My hamstring cramped up and I had to stop for a minute and stretch. Fortunately, I was right next to a water fountain so I drank more water in hopes of getting rid of the cramps and filled up my bottles for the return back. Once I started up the hill, I could feel my quads starting to lock up, so I had to take it slower than I wanted. This was one of those rare cases where I wish the mind was in charge over the body. Mentally, I wanted to push through the hill and finish strong. However, I knew that if I picked the pace up any faster, I'd be limping home from the cramps. So I plodded along for parts of miles 4-6 until I could push a little more. Of course, anytime this happened, I'd start to feel the pain again. As frustrating as it was, I learned a lot from it about my nutrition/hydration needs for longer races and workouts.

As I spend the rest of the season battling the heat, I will continue to nail down my nutrition in the hopes that I can find a happy medium between both the mind and body.

Countdown to Eagleman 70.3

No, I'm not doing Eagleman THIS year. However, TT and I will be going out to watch tomorrow. Consider it research. Why? Well part of it is so we can get an outsider's perspective of the race. You see, I've never just gone to a triathlon race and watched. I have to be honest though. Part of me wishes I was out there. After reading countless stories about horrible winds, chop, and heat from years past, this year's conditions seem pretty favorable, especially considering the heat we've had within the past 2 days.

The other reason for going is because it's my planned "A" race next year. That is, of course if I can get registered. Still looking around for the actual date that 2008 registration will be, but rest assured, I'll clear my schedule to make sure I get in. Not too many Half IM races in the area to choose from, so getting a spot is a top priority. Anyways, I can't think of a better place to experience my first Half IM, than at a local race.

SO LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN...t-minus 365 days!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sick of your typical workout routes?

Sick of your typical workout routes? I'm well aware of the America's Running Routes website that uses Google Maps to plot out potential run routes based on distance and/or location. However, this is something new to me. A one stop shop for finding routes by location to swim, bike, run, and other activities. Of course, the list as only as good as the routes that have been added...so if you know of something that isn't there, you can always at it to their database.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thursday's 3 for 3

Today was a day of productivity. Three things on my to-do list.

#1 was to take my mountain bike to the LBS to check out my rear derailleur and see what's up with that and problems I've been having. Turns out, Winz was dead on with his diagnosis. Needed to adjust the barrel a little bit and a few minor twists on the limiter screws and the ghost shifting is gone...for now. And it better be gone for good, at least until after next weekend for Xterra Richmond.

#1 - Done

#2 was to go for a ride on my road bike. Today's ride was to continue riding the hill loop that I recently discovered. The loop is about 6 miles, but straight up hard climbing. Long, steep climbs...then downhill for a minute...then another long, steep climb. It definitely trashes the legs pretty good. I rode 2 loops in the hot near 90 degree weather and that was enough. In all, a little more than 1000 ft of climbing for only 12 miles. Not bad.

#2 - Done

#3 was to go for a swim. I did three hard 500m sets as my main set, focusing on a fast start and settling into my race pace. Each one progressed to a faster split, which is exactly what I was aiming for.

#3 - Done

There you have it. 3 for 3. A productive Thursday if I may say so myself!

Good News for Xterra Richmond

Despite the hot temperatures forecast for next week's Xterra Richmond, I received some good news. TT's friend, who lives in Richmond, has offered to house us when we go down there. Originally, the plan was to wake up at the butt crack of dawn and trek down there. There are many reasons why this plan would sucked. Take for example, waking up at 3 am. Or maybe the fact that I'd be riding the course blind (I rode it last year blind and it kicked my arse). Since they try to change the courses each year slightly, I have only a remote idea of some parts of the course.

Well this year, things are a changin. Now that we have a place to stay Saturday night, I can pre-ride the course Saturday afternoon and at least get a feel for it. The beginning of the course is easy gravel roads but the heart of the race is on some twisty single track trails with rocky climbs. A pre-ride session should give me a great heads up for those trouble spots that beat me to a pulp last year.

If I can only get the weather to cool down a bit, then I'd have it made in the shade.

Monday, June 4, 2007

My week in review - Week 17

Its Monday, so that means its time for my week in review. Unfortunately for the 2nd week in a row, mechanical issues have kept me from hitting my numbers on the bike. Sunday's all day rainfest prevented me from my long run as well. Here are the stats from the week:

Swim: 5800 yards (Goal: 5500)
Bike: 1 hour (Goal: 4)
Run: 8 miles (Goal: 10)
Weight Sessions: 0 (Goal: 1)
Time: 5.5 hours (Goal: 8)

Not great. Except for the swimming. I am continuing to build speed in the pool. This 50 meter pool is really helping me feel more confortable in the water, by spending more time on my stroke and less time pushing off the wall to turn. It is also building my endurance. I am getting used to continuously swimming without the break to turn as often as you do in a 25 yard pool. I am really looking forward to my next race, to avenge for the royal butt-whooping I took last year, when my swim was WAY worse and I was not nearly as prepared. Does this picture look like it wasn't a struggle to finish? Off road triathlons are pretty tough, but I think I am as ready as I'll ever be.

I'm hoping to get my bike issues resolved this week and put in one last hard week of training before easing into my race on June 17th. Numbers for the week (weather and bike permitting):

Swim: 4400 yards
Bike: 5 hours
Run: 10 miles
Weight Sessions: 1
Time: 9 hours

Enjoy your week and your workouts!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Slice of Bad Luck Pie

Cycling can be so frustrating. One day, its good karma. The next day, it's bad. I think you can guess the direction of my last ride. Yup. Not so fun. Let me paint the scene for you:

It was supposed to be a hill workout for a planned brick of 1 hour cycling and 40-60 min running. BTW - this bike loop is about 8 miles, requires nearly zero stopping, and has some of the steepest grades I can find in my area. A pretty sweet find if I may say so myself. After nearly finishing the first of the two hilly loops, I was ascending a steep incline in the newly paved bike lane. From my perspective, I saw nothing in the form of a glass, rock, etc. All of the sudden in mid spin, POP! Not only the tube, but the tire! Both tires to be exact! Yup. Face full of air is what I was rewarded with. I looked around and found nothing wrong on the road. Needless to say, no roadside repair for this situation. I walked the bike home, which took me about 30 minutes. Glad it was a hilly course (sarcasm).

On the positive side, I still went out for the run. Oh yea, and that also meant a trip to the LBS for some new gear. I picked up some new tires and tubes and hopefully will be back in business this week. I hope. Fingers crossed. I could use some good bike karma. Technical difficulties have kept me from being able to hit my training goals and its starting to add up. Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

CSC Invitational Professional Cycling Race

Today I saw one of the cooler things that comes through Arlington, VA. Clearly, Rolling Thunder tops the list of coolest things, but the CSC Invitational comes in a close 2nd, and is only a week after Memorial Day. So that means 2 awesome weeks in a row! This was actually the first time I have made it out to watch the CSC (shame on me, I know) and I was really glad to see all the local support, which included approximately 20,000 people. Considered by many as one of the most difficult courses due to the many turns throughout the 100 laps of the 1km course, the CSC weaves right through the heart of my neighborhood. The course passes by approximately 2 blocks from my apartment, which is just awesome to be able to walk out into a professional cycling race at my door. So without further ado, I bring you one video (note that TT and her fancy camera took better pictures and videos, but I like mine with my 1st generation Canon Elph) pictures from today's race.



Before the Pro Race

The Real "Pros" (Check out Dad on the cell phone!)

Start of the Pro Race

Early Breakway Pack

Tight Technical Turns

Pro Support Cars
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