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.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Weekend of Perseverance

The theme of this weekend was perseverance...for both myself and for Rebecca. For myself, it was pushing through the rough swim and nasty hills at the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon on my way to a 10 minute PR at the Olympic distance. For Rebecca, it was facing her fear by completing her first open water swim in the Philadelphia Women's Triathlon. Despite concerns over the past month about the swim, Rebecca toughed it out and tore up the course, averaging a smoking 18.3 mph on the bike! Apparently, fear was not a factor this weekend!

More details to come!

Diamond in the Rough swim in the Chesapeake Bay

Friday, July 6, 2007

Race Weekend

I suck. This week has been chaotic. I haven't posted since Monday. And to be honest, pretty uneventful from a triathlon perspective. Takin it easy with some moderate workouts mixed in. And then there is the other side of things, that she can talk about, but I prefer to discuss manly things like beer and bbq...mmm.

Oh yea, race weekend. Tomorrow is my first Olympic distance race of the season. I've got nerves for the first time this season. Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess now it all feels real, since I'm entering the first phase of the meat of my season. The plan is to sleep in until 4:00 am and be on the road by 4:30. Then we head to Perryville, about 2 hours away for my race. Once the race is over, its on to our next destination: Philadelphia, PA. Rebecca is doing the Philadelphia Womens Triathlon...err Duathlon. Her race is on Sunday morning, so we are going for the pre-race meeting in the afternoon, and possibly spend some time with some friends for dinner. Then its another early wakeup call and another race.

This weekend is chock full of triathlon. Good luck to anyone racing/training this weekend!

Monday, July 2, 2007

My week in review - Week 20

What a nice week its been. First week back from vacation, things moved slowly, and the weather has been very UN-July. My body feels well rested from Xterra Richmond and ready for more races. I was busy getting caught up on other things easy in the week and didn't want to do anything crazy training wise, so I had a light week, with some shorter, high intensity workouts. Saturday was the most intense, with a race simulated bike-run brick. I rode 15 miles on a very hilly (1000+ ft of climbing) bike loop and ran a fast paced 4 miles. I felt strong on both and ready for my race this coming week. Here are the numbers:

Swim: 1500 meters
Bike: 1 hour
Run: 10 miles
Time: 3 hours

The week ahead will be more of the same. Just trying to keep the "feel" for Saturday and bring a well rested body, ready to race. Stats for the week include the race:

Swim: 3000 meters
Bike: 2.5 hours
Run: 10 miles
Time: 5 hours

Have a great week and enjoy your training/racing!
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