Monday, May 31, 2010

Starting from the beginning

Columbia's come and gone, and so it's time to reset my training from the beginning to build on what I've accomplished so far... the goals being World Duathlon Championships and Nation's Triathlon in September.

This past week has been Columbia recovery... one tough master's swim with Dirk, which went well... 3000y with some fast intervals mixed in. I'm ready to increase my swimming endurance after how tired I felt during the Columbia swim.

Saturday and Sunday were spent breaking in my new road bike (pictures and name to come!!). Got in 34 easy miles on Saturday and around 17 on Sunday. The bike feels just as I hoped. Easy on the shoulders and great at climbing hills.

Monday AM I met up with Dirk and Robbie for a 40k tempo ride. We alternated leads every 2 miles and put forth a 62-minute effort... a great time for me, even if there was some drafting. I'm getting a real feel for that kind of speed. It's fun to go fast and to push myself. I really feel as if I am "one" with my bike. I used to feel like I was powering a piece of equipment. Now I feel like I'm powering myself... the bike is a part of me when I ride. It's a cool feeling, to be one with the bike. I look forward to replicating it on race day.

Dirk and I then met up with GRC guys for a run from the line, but we both didn't hydrate or eat enough post-ride so we felt dizzy in the heat and had to unfortunately cut the run short. Dirk put in a FAST 2.4 miles in around 13 minutes, so maybe I was a little more affected by him. He's a stud, that Hendrik De Heer!

Going out west for 7 days. Will put in some good running (tempo runs and hopefully some swims) ending with running 16 miles of a marathon with a friend in San Diego on Sunday. Kind of upset I'll be away from the bike for that long, but this will get me back into the running frame of mind.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Columbia Triathlon Race Report

Columbia... the big day had arrived! Unfortunately, as has proven to be the case in recent races, weather is not on my side, and this time my health was failing me. I woke up Saturday AM, the day before the race, with a painful sore throat and it carried into Sunday. To boot, it had rained heavily early Sunday morning, making for some perilous conditions out there. Fortunately, there was almost no wind.

But no matter what, I was going into this race expecting to go all out, leave nothing to spare. I expected to win my age group and place top 40 overall. Would I? I had a tough competitor in my age group, Jason Howard, and a field stacked with pros and elite amateurs. I had my work cut out for me.

Got to the race site and uncovered my bike from the tarp I used to protect it from the rain. I think that was a good idea. My drivetrain was clean and seat and aerobars dry. I lubed myself up and put on my wetsuit and proceeded to the swim start. All the waves before me headed out into the lake and next was my turn. My wetsuit felt like it fit me well this time, I gave my shoulders a little more slack.

GO! I took it out hard to separate myself from the middle of the pack. My stroke was feeling good. I found some people to draft off of and I was swimming straight. Things were going well... until the turn around, about 1/3rd of the way in. I started feeling tired. What? Why? I started worrying, what if I can't turn this around? I swam for about 400-500 meters feeling despair. I was losing drafts and having to breathe more. Finally, I looked up and saw the shore in the distance, about 500 meters away. I felt a rush of confidence and I relaxed and started swimming. I got a second wind! I churned it into the shoreline and got out of the water and ran into transition. SWIM TIME -- 23:56... not good but a big improvement over last year.

I got into transition and looked for my bike. It wasn't there. Where is my bike!??! I looked left and right, up and down, confused and shocked. I couldn't find my bike!! I finally realized I was in the wrong side of transition and ran to the other side to find my bike. There you are, ZeroZeroTwo! Wasted 15-20 seconds. Damnit. Got my wetsuit off, bike shoes, helmet and glasses on, and ran out of transition. Michelle told me Jason Howard was 2 minutes ahead. I had my work cut out for me because he's a good biker. But I knew my bike fitness would get me closer. I hopped on and started riding.

And ride I did. One of the best rides ever. I was shooting up hills and going FAST. I felt like a rocket. I passed hundreds of people. I didn't get passed once. But I still didn't see Jason Howard.

Then... the unthinkable (to me, at least) happened... 5 miles left to go and a huge hill just up ahead... I started feeling a consistent vibration in my saddle and heard an aubible bumping noise. My bike pace slowed, despite efforts to speed up. I HAD A FLAT TIRE?!?! No way. Why now?! But it wasn't completely flat. It was getting harder and harder to ride though. Turns out it was a small puncture, but the slow release of air meant that I could continue to ride, but the rolling resistance would keep increasing, making it harder to keep pace and requiring me to pedal much harder than normal to keep pace. I felt despair. The race was over, I thought. Still, I had to get to transition and keep pushing. Who knows what would happen? Trust your fitness, Andy.

The tire went completely flat about a fifth of a mile from transition and I coasted in. A 23 mph average before the flat turned into a 22 mph average for the bike leg. I lost 3 minutes. DAMNIT. BIKE SPLIT -- 1:09:20, 22.0 mph, 68th place... good placement, but I was doing far better than that before the flat.

I got into transition. I still had a chance to rectify the flat with a good run. I slapped on my flats and hopped out of transition to start my run. I ran hard. I didn't think about pain or suffering. I just ran. Barely looked at my watch. Passed 70+ people. I just focused on running as fast as my legs would let me. It was a brutally hilly course, but I didn't care. I just ran. I still didn't see anyone in my age group. I thought that it was over... I neither won my age group nor placed. Around mile 4, I passed a stocky looking fellow who had a big X on his calf where his age should have been. Strange, I thought, he must be a Clydesdale or something. He tried to stay with me but dropped back shortly after. About a quarter of a mile to go, I'm going fast as I can. I see Michelle and Brian. They say "I think you're third in your age group" Hey, looks like I'm going to place at least... a glimmer of hope. I sprinted to the finish. RUN SPLIT -- 38:10, 20th place

I left the finish chute feeling embarassed and like a failure. All that training, was it for naught? I felt miserable. I had no idea what my times were but I didn't want to know. But I had to know. I went to the board where the results were posted and got the shock of my life.... I won my age group! And 39th overall! HUH?! What? How? I saw no one on the course in my age group. I was so confused. But so happy. I accomplished my place goal and my "B" time goal of just around 2:15:00. Turns out that guy I passed around mile 4 with the crossed out age was Jason Howard! Just goes to show me that the race isn't over until it's over. I'm glad I didn't give up in spite of the flat tire.

Reactions: Happy with my placement, not with my times. My swim was about 50 seconds slow. My bike split doesn't accurately reflect my effort and what I had been doing prior to the flat. My run was also a little slow. I could have been top 25 without that flat tire. But I'll take what I got. I'm motivated to train harder and harder. I still have a ways to go.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I haven't been able to post much as I've been busy trying to cram all my work into 3 days, so I can sort of enjoy my birthday and take most of Friday off.

Had a good weekend... a bit of a struggle at the DC Tri training duathlon, had to exit the race early. I wasn't feeling good... had achyness from the previous track workout and was just overall tired. Probably wasn't the best idea to do that race, but it showed me the benefit of recovery. I'm glad I quit the race early. I had a good swim later in the day though... 200s.

On Sunday, Michelle and I had a fantastic ride on the Columbia course. It helped me memorize the course and realize that the course is made for me... hilly. I'm even more confident. I also got to exchange pleasantries with none other than Ironman legend Natascha Badmann! She's a very nice lady and a tremendous competitor. It was motivating to know that like me, she was scouting the course and takes the race seriously. We followed up the ride with a short run to see what the first mile and a half of the run course is like... hilly start. Could be tough, but if anyone will benefit, it would be me. I love hills! Later in the day I went to an open-water swim at a quarry. I worked on my sighting, going 3 times around a 650 meter swim course. I was able to stay in a straight line toward each of the buoys! I had so much trouble with sighting last year. This was encouraging. Not only was I faster, but I'm able to stay on course.

Since Monday, I've been taking it easy. Easy rides, swims and runs. And it feels great. I have no stiffness or pain in my legs. They feel ready to race. I've been anticipating this race since the end of 2009 triathlon season. This has been the basis of my training. Indoor trainer sufferfests and following Dirk... snow runs and giving it my all to keep up with GRC runners... solo swims... all those training trials were for this race. I'm ready for it and I know I will turn in a good performance on race day. I just need to keep myself together and my focus on what's ahead.

Godzilla would agree... he doesn't let three-head monster/cyborgs that shoot electricity disrupt his focus on utter and complete victory...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's fun to run fast

It's been a while since I've had a decent track workout... it's been lots of recovery and trying to stay healthy since Du Nats, but I decided, after several long runs where I felt my legs were lacking something, I needed to put in one more race pace track workout before Columbia. MCRRC had 1000s at their track workout so I decided to join up with them.

Met with Michelle there and we decided on our workout... she would do a mile-specific workout (5x600 at mile race pace) and I would do a 5-10k workout (5x1000 at 5k pace, 4:55-5:00 mile pace). I challenged Jordan to stick with me and he did for 3 or 4 of the sets, which is pretty darn respectable for a 43 year old guy coming off of 2 straight weeks of racing!

I ran all 5 at around 4:55-:57 pace, which is great, but most importantly, that did not feel anywhere close to sprinting or going all out. It felt sustainable... like I could keep it for 5K. It was comfortable. Michelle was a beast... ran her 600s at my pace, running just behind me for 3 or 4 of my sets. And that was AFTER doing 4x200s at 4:40/mile pace. She's ready for a sub-5 mile, more specifically a sub 4:55 mile. BLAZING!

She'll be tough to beat.

It was good to be back on the track and good to see everyone is really rounding into summer racing form.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

40k, Snickers ice cream, and closing in on Columbia

On Sunday, the day after I broke the 63-minute barrier for a 40k ride, Dirk and I met up again for another 40k... same place, same windy conditions. This time we planned on taking it easy... aiming for 1:05:00 for REAL this time. So just like with yesterday, we switched leads every 2 miles during the ride. Winds were much more disorganized today, and it seemed like gusts were coming from everywhere. Even though we weren't pedaling quite as hard, it sure felt like we were going uphill most of the time. However, we weren't going much slower. I guess our legs were responding to the challenge. We had to slow down though... Dirk was tired from a 40k that he did before my arrival and I needed to relax as well, so we focused on controlling our effort. With about 4 miles to go, Dirk got hungry and dropped off to buy, of all things, a Snickers ice cream bar, telling me to finish my 40k. So I did and finished in just around 1:05! Goal! I was barely breathing too... a 2 minute improvement over my 40k race pace from last year on an easy ride? I'll take it! Thanks to Dirk for helping to push me on both rides, good to have a training partner like him (despite his food choices)!

Monday and Tuesday were easier days... endurance swim and run on Monday (1.2 mile swim, 8.5 mile run) and a trainer spin on Tuesday (60 minutes, small chain ring). I feel totally recovered from that tough weekend of biking. I have 6 more days of brutal workouts ahead of me... track workouts, bricks, open water and race-distance swims. Then it's taper time. Columbia awaits.

The biking over the past week shows me that I am ready on the bike, and I am exactly where I want to be... a 23 mph and up biker. Just like when I started running sub 5:30s for 10k last year, I feel I reached an important milestone... one I didn't really ever think imaginable. Just goes to show what hard work and dedication will do.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Return of the 40k... 23.5 mph-style

This week has been strange... a semi-recovery week with some tough riding (one solid brick) and swimming. Running has been pretty easy... did a 8 mile trail run with Michelle instead of a track workout and a 3.5 mile trail run Friday after a 45 minute ride with Michelle. So, pretty tame week for the most part. It's been mainly mileage in all 3 sports.

Except for today. Dirk enticed me into a 40k at his bike training grounds... MacArthur from Sanganore Rd. to the end of Oaklyn and back... half flat, half hilly. Last time we did this, in January, I was pathetic... I was barely hanging onto Dirk and could only hope to keep up by drafting. Having not done this ride since then, I was reasonably concerned that I would let Dirk down again, despite my recent improvements on the bike. But I sucked it up and met him at the start near the Safeway. We got out on MacArthur with a goal 1:05:00 in mind and switching off leads every 2 miles. I hoped that I had something to offer...

25+ mph winds and cars were present to try to end my ride and life, but I was ready to accept the challenge. Like Thor.

We got started with Dirk in the lead. I tried to stay just off his draft so I could really test my speed. Sure enough, I was keeping up... but it was just the beginning! Then came my turn. I passed and kicked it up for my 2 miles. The winds were strong, but we were partly shielded by the trees next to the road. I pedaled for about a mile and looked down at my speedometer... I was maintaining 23-23.5 mph comfortably! Hmmm... this was quite different from last time, when I was BARELY managing 23. This pace felt almost natural. And so it went... we exchanged leads, ascended the mountain at the end of MacArthur and made our way into Oaklyn Rd., a rolling but quiet suburb street. I started getting a little fatigued here, but really worked hard to keep the pace when I was leading. Roadies tried to draft off of us but were all left in the dust... we were CRUISING.

Exited Oaklyn and headed back for MacArthur... I gained a second wind here after a roadie who was drafting off of us tried to display some speed. HMM??? We live, we live to rock!!. We sped down the mountain back onto MacArthur and began the last 10k+... flat and with the wind slightly to our backs. We flew... average speed went from 23 to 23.5 and we were riding into 26 mph and up territory. Dirk let me lead the sprint for the last kilometer... DONE!

1:02:50, 23.5 mph! A 4-minute improvement over my 40k time from last year (on a completely flat course with no wind!), in tough conditions! It really looks like my biking is really coming together. Dirk noted that could translate to a sub 1:00:00 on a flat course with no wind...

I'm stoked, man.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Smiling at Columbia

On Sunday I rode the Columbia bike course with swimming extraordinaire Bryan Frank. I immediately got a taste of just how hilly it is. In fact, there really is no "flat" portion of this course. It undulates from transition to transition.... WHICH IS AWESOME. I was sitting in my saddle and cruising up the hills like they were nothing, barely breathing when I got to the top of each. I needed to stand for half of one, but that was definitely the steepest of them all. Toward the end I put forth a 2 mile sprint to see what my body had and I was pushing the 23s on a false flat. It reminds me a lot of Schaefer Road, where I've spent so much time doing hill work.

Again, just like with Du Nats, I rode the course with a feeling of pure excitement rather than dread. Last year, I'd sigh and resign myself to the fact that I HAD to do a hilly course. Now however, I saw the hills and couldn't help but smile. Hills excite me now. And now I'm even more excited about Columbia. This coming weekend I'll ride the course again and follow it with the run course.

Yesterday I went to the pool and swam 3x500s at race pace. Good and bad results... I managed to keep the same pace all throughout, BUT I felt pretty tired at the end. It WAS race pace, but still. Ran a solid 9 or so on the trails with tha BOYZ in the afternoon, faster than usual but no problem for me.