Monday, August 22, 2011

No race? No problem.

This was my first weekend since mid-July without a race or double. I welcomed it as I had started to feel pretty fatigued and possibly overtrained! I originally planned to race in the Church Creek 40k time trial, but decided against it when Todd assigned a 40mi/3mi hard brick for Saturday. I thought I'd be better served to get in a longer ride and quality brick workout, especially since I've recently become concerned about my run, which seems to have weakened a bit as I've focused more on my cycling. I took Thursday OFF save for a 30min ride, and Friday I only swam, forgoing the 45min run I had planned. I think that helped me greatly as Saturday AM I felt strong again!

First part of Saturday's brick was a 40mi ride with tempo. I chose to ride a 20mi out/back on Rt. 28. Another goal of this ride was to practice hydration/nutrition, as my inability to properly do either reared it's uuuuugly head at Luray. Ride went well, although it felt awfully hot/steamy outside. I was sweating buckets, must've been really humid or something. My aerobar armpads were caked with sweaty foam. Yuck. Avg'ed around 220w for the ride, which is just about a low-tempo wattage, and I threw in several high-tempo efforts throughout the ride. However, I don't think I drank enough. I had 2 bottles but I only drank about one and a third of them... For 40mi on a humid day I should be polishing off both 16 oz. bottles. Oops...

The run started off well enough, hitting 5:40 for the first mile that was slightly downhill. I wanted to make the first mile a fast one, but that was a little slower than I wanted. Then I turned around and the uphill 2nd mile started to hurt. I wasn't cramping for once, thanks to the EFS shot I took (thanks to my man Matias who recommended it), but I felt pretty dehydrated. I definitely didn't take in enough water for the heat (it was up to 90 at this point). Mile 2 clocked in at 6:20. Oof. Should've been closer to 6:00. Mile 3 was half up and half down... and a way too slow U-turn in between. I took this mile a little easier as I didn't want to knock myself back out like earlier in the week, so I jogged in a 6:30. I was a little more tired than expected by the 40mi tempo and didn't hydrate properly, but I'll accept a 6:14/mile effort for training. Good workout, but I still have work to do with properly hydrating myself.

Sunday "just" featured a run, an 8mi build, starting easy and finishing hard. I wanted to do part of it with my GRC teammates, but they run too fast for my easy pace, so I ran the first 4 with PMurph from Old Anglers Inn (the eventual finish destination for the main GRC group) with the intention of meeting GRCers at the 4mi mark and finishing with them. We ran smooth, building from a 7:30 mile to a 6:58 by mile 4. After waiting a couple minutes I saw Texabama Paul screaming down the towpath, announcing his 5:50 pace to me and Patrick. I decided to jump in with him and we bombed (well, that's how it felt to me) down the canal. The next 4 miles went by quick, and we hit all 4 miles between 5:50 and 6:00. It wasn't easy, as running fast on the towpath never is, but my HR was stable, maintaining a comfortable tempo. I started falling off a bit in the last half mile but I pushed myself back up as I felt slightly ashamed.... This guy Paul has been running this pace for nearly 18 miles!! Surely I can do it for a measly 4.5!! Christ! Ok, he's a potential US Olympic Trials qualifier, but still! But I finished the run strong and didn't kill myself to do so. After being unsure of my run strength a few days ago, I'm feeling much better about it now.

That was a good and hard weekend. An even tougher week (this one) lies in wait, starting tonight at Masters practice. It's only a couple weeks until Nation's!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Luray International Triathlon race report: The bike breaks through

On May 23 I wasn't really looking forward to this race. I had just come off an incredibly disappointing bike split at the Columbia Triathlon and Luray was only hillier and longer. The only reason I decided to do it was because it fell on a good calendar date and was several weeks out from Nations, a good tuneup. Then I visited the Czech Republic, biked, thought lot about my biking and once I got back to the USA, I paid a visit to Elite Bicycles in Philadelphia, and that would change, well, a lot of things. Several bike races and a solid race at Culpeper later, I was pumped for Luray. My bike legs had, overnight seemingly, realized the training they did over the winter and spring and were strong and much faster than before, and I felt pretty confident going into the race I challenged a couple years ago (the sprint, that time)... of course the legs were always strong, it was the bike fit that was holding me back. No more, thanks to Max at Elite.

Pre-race -- This was pretty important. The group of people I was staying with rented a cabin on a mountain, which required a nearly half-mile walk up a steep dirt road that 2-wheel drive cars could not get up (my hardy 2-door Civic, for as many bikes as it can carry in it's innards, cannot tread anything but road). I had to walk up this mountain road twice on Friday evening. We were all sweating and tired after each walk up, so I considered this my Friday run, but it was too much.

SWIM (1500m) -- 24:03, 14th. This went fine, I was slowed a bit by the 2 waves in front of me (3 and 6min ahead). Within the first 200m i caught up to 40-49 men and by halfway I was catching and going by 30-39 men. This wasn't helpful in keeping a good draft or a straight line as I had to dodge or give up drafts in order to move out of the way. This kind of sucked, but my time didn't suffer by all that much. Managed to keep a good tempo without crushing myself, stayed calm. Came out of the water feeling pretty good. Judging by time vs. effort, the swim may have been a little long, as Matias swam only 22min.

T1 -- 1:55, 80th. I totally blew this. It was going ok until I was about to leave transition when my aero bottle popped loose from its bracket. I panicked and stopped to fix it in transition. Should have just got on the bike and tried to fix it while moving. After fumbling around with it, I still wasn't able to fix it, so I just wasted all that time. Also took too long to take off speed suit. Need to really nail that down, lost 40sec to Eric Sorensen and a couple other guys I wanted to beat.

BIKE (42.1km) -- 1:09:13, 7th. This went great. I was picking off people and really using my power on the steep hills. Was able to stay in aero the whole time thanks to the new fit, which is a major help. I put myself in a good strong tempo and just focused on that effort. First time I felt really in control on the bike during a 40k and without a doubt my best bike split rank in a competitive race. It's clear the training is finally being put to good use thanks to the bike fit. Rode the same time as Columbia, except this was over 1km longer and a slower (read: much hillier) course. Beat Sorensen's split and just behind Mike Harlow's, which are good benchmarks for me. Only problem... I didn't drink nearly enough. I was scrambling for water from my aero bottle after I drained it (which was loose the entire ride, had to hold it in place with wrists), and was empty 4mi from transition. I should've put on a second small bottle on the frame. Dumb mistake that I'd pay for on the run.

T2 -- 1:00, 51st. This doesn't look good either. Not sure what went wrong here, I think I racked my bike and then it slid off so that wasted a few more precious seconds, I forget.

RUN (10km) -- 39:03, 10th. First 2 miles were just fine, good pace and turnover. Then I hit the gravel/loose rocks for the middle half and it just progressively got worse. My flats didn't do too well on the gravel and around mile 4 I started feeling my calves cramp up. I know this was a combination of not enough water on the ride (and being unable to drink properly/enough while running), and the climbing I did Friday night. I had to slow up within the last 2 miles or so at points to shake out and prevent cramps, and this led to a pretty slow final mile... Not happy with the time, but I am glad I avoided calf cramps... need to hydrate better and avoid excess work the day before a race. This run should have been much better. It cost me at least 2 placements, compared to what I can run on a course like Luray's.

2:15:13, 7th overall. Happy with the time and overall placement, another good result in a race I wasn't rested or taperedfor. This would've ranked me higher in previous years but it was a more competitive race this particular year. Really pleased with my bike and cool with the swim. Very disappointed in my lame transitions and how I set myself up for failure on the run. Nevertheless, this instills a good deal of confidence in myself. I know I can now bike with the better cyclists. I just need to make sure I'm setting myself up well for the kind of run I am capable of. Zero and Pat finished 8th and 9th, so it was cool to line up with them in the results. Alyssa was 2nd in the ladies race and Ryan shook off a frustrating bike mechanical to finish respectably, although he'll disagree. Triathlon rookie Ben had a fine race too.

The next day we went out to Skyline Drive... Pat and I rode for 2 hours and then followed with a solid 45min run, with the pace picking up considerably for the last 10-15min. What a weekend!!

Big shout out to MATIAS and his fiancee Katie, who went first and first overall in the olympic, and 1-2 in the sprint the next day. What better wedding gift can two triathletes ask for?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Culpeper Sprint Triathlon race report

This is a little late, but I got lazy. Culpeper Sprint in... Culpeper, VA... was to be my first triathlon since Columbia, and despite it being really just a training opportunity as I was in no way rested or tapered (not after 2 straight weekends of race doubles and the typical weekly training schedule), I was quite hungry to perform well. Especially on the bike... now that I have a perfect bike fit there are no more excuses for me! Matias was racing as well as his fiancee Katie, so a Snapple podium sweep was possible, but I would have to hold up my end of the bargain (something I didn't do in Fallston earlier this year with Dirk!).

750m swim, 16.8mi bike, 5km run.

The swim was pretty uneventful. I got out ahead of the crowd quickly and after 250m or so I settled behind two pairs of feet swimming side-by-side. I felt the pace was little easy, but that's probably a benefit of the mega-draft I found myself in. I stayed on the feet until about 100m to go when one of the guys appeared to pick up the pace. I stayed relaxed and left the water in 6th place, 11:26. Was surprised how calm I felt, my HR was low but I was pumped up!

I had a slow transition thanks to once again being unable to quickly find my bike. The rows all looked the same and I didn't have the concentration to focus on the aisle signs. Finally found 002 and ripped off my speedsuit and got on the bike. One of the guys who came out before me was leaving transition next to me and his dad or some guy said to him "Good job! Only a few guys ahead of you, you will quickly catch up to them and win!" Wrong thing to say around competition! I got on 002 and pretty quickly got ahead of him and 5th place. 2 more people to catch! I found myself moving quickly on the bike through a VERY hilly course. No flats, as opposed to what was advertised, which was a good thing! Just up and down. Within the next couple miles I passed #3 and around mile 6 passed #2. Only Matias ahead, but I knew I wouldn't see him until we pass each other on the run. Fine. I just focused on building a gap and keeping that tempo effort, which I did. Came back to transition feeling pretty good still in 2nd place (3rd overall bike split, 44:52, 22.6mph).

Hit the run and kept looking back toward transition to see where #3 was... I got about .3 miles out of transition until I saw him just pulling in. So it wasn't going to be a very close race. I settled into a good pace and went through the first mile. A race volunteer mentioned to me that "there's only one guy ahead of you, and he's wearing your jersey." I said "Cool, I know." Coming back past the mile 1 marker I finally saw #3... looked to be at least 2min behind me at this point. A little past this point Matias and I almost ran into each other (on his way to the finish of course). Knowing he was about 4:30 ahead of me, I didn't have much motivation to hammer the run. I settled into tempo pace and held it, all the while opening the gap further on #3 (3rd overall run split, 17:42) I cruised into the finish 2nd overall, 1:16:09. Matias won handily and Katie D. was the 2nd overall woman (11th overall in the race if I'm not mistaken). That made the result quite a bit cooler.

Despite what I consider largely slow splits, I am very happy with this race, especially with how tired I was coming in. The swim had to have been long, since Matias was about 90sec slower than last year's top swimmer... that's not realistic. And I was a good minute slower than what I am capable of swimming (and have swum) for 750m. The bike split I am actually very pleased with. It was hillier and slower than Columbia, yet I averaged quite a bit faster and had the 3rd best split, which is the first time I have had as good a bike rank as run rank. Compared to splits from previous years, I rank near or better than guys who I have considered superior cyclists, so that's cool. Granted, I didn't take the run very hard, but it shows the Elite fitting is finally letting me use the power I've developed since the winter months. In all I feel this race was great practice, I didn't have to dig deep or crush my legs, and the result built my confidence a good bit.

And I got a sandwich