Sunday, July 31, 2011

Catching up from LA

I'm on the road again...  which means its time for another catchup session from afar....

Once again the topic most on my mind in terms of S/B/R is the R.  I took a nice easy week to recover from racing the Amica 70.3 and focused most of my attention on swimming and biking.  Well that and recovering.  I had the pleasure of getting sick right after the Amica and spent some time on Antibiotics to get back to being healthy again.  I suspect swimming in the bacteria filled water of Lincoln Woods got to me and I came down with a sinus infection, tickle in my throat and some lovely night sweats and fevers.  Joy!  So with a week of time spent only on my road bike and a bit of swimming I figured I'd spend this week away in LA focused on mostly running.  Which makes sense as I'm away from my bike and a decent pool anyway.

So my week went someting like this....

Monday:  2 hour long run.  Felt pretty rough but not totally awful.  I was running on tired legs after a 62 mile ride the day before so I didn't stress about pace too much.  By the end I was down to ten minute miles.  Definitely slower than my usual long run efforts.  Afterwards I was quite sore.

Tuesday:  great swim interval session in the morning followed by an hour of bike intervals, and then off to the airport to fly to LA.

Wednesday:  six mile run in the early am before heading into work.  Felt ok...   but not fabulous.  Then proceeded to work a very long day on my feet in constant motion on a concrete floor all day.  UGH!

Thursday:  another six miler in the morning before work.  Felt worse than the day before, but not totally awfull.  Averaged just under 9 minute miles.  Then another long day on concrete.

Friday:  Got up and planned on doing another long run as this was the best time in my work schedule to fit it in.  I manged 1.5 miles before I stopped running altogether and went back to the hotel.  My legs were absolutely shot.  Two days on concrete really wears me down and I knew it was in my best interest to call it a day.  I was already down to ten minute miles right out of the gate which was a giant red flag that it was time to stop.

Saturday:  took it off as my legs still felt sore.

Sunday (today):  set my alarm for 4:30 to try and get my long run in.  After a long day at work the day before I just couldn't do it.  Snoozed the alarm for an hour and decided to just run for one hour.  So I got up at 5:30 and went out for a run.  It was raining out which I was kind of happy for.  I like running in the rain as long as it isn't an absolute downpour so I really enjoyed the first few miles.  Rain quiets a city down and drowns out all the other sounds.  I find it really relaxing to run in.  I did my best to focus on form as much as possible and focused on keeping my shoulders directly above my hips.  This seemed to help me a lot to relax a bit.  However I'm very sad to say that I can't run without discomfort anymore.  Its there all the time now and its still very much slowing me down.  I averaged 8:30s today after a couple of days off so my legs felt a bit fresher.

I spent a lot of the run today thinking about B2B and the marathon that lies at the end of it.  I know now with 100% certainty that it will be near impossible to meet my goal of running a four hour marathon at B2B.  My strength (running) has now become my largest weakness.  Unless a miracle happens between now and then its highly likely I will have to do a LOT of walking in the marathon.  I suspect I may be able to run for 13 miles at most.  I think my hopes to go sub 13 may be unrealistic now.  Which is very much a shame and I hate that I'm going to be completing my first full ironman on legs that aren't 100%.  I'm in constant discomfort when I run.  Actually I'm in constant discomfort period.  It doesnt affect my swimming or cycling but I am aware of the pain and issues in my leg 100% of the time now.  Even sitting here I can feel that something is wrong with my leg.  Unfortunately its elluded my doctors and physical therapists.  I've given up on all that as they tell me I'm fine despite my complaints.  Which is their way of saying they don't know whats wrong with me.  Its incredibly frustrating.  Completing an Ironman is hard enough without having to deal with this going on at the same time.

So what do about it?

Well for now I'm going to change up my running plan to the following.  Unless something improves here is my plan...   I'm going to up my run frequency to four times a week and reduce the length of my long runs.  I will do no runs in training longer than two hours.  I'll just run more often.  Most of my runs will be an hour tops.  My hope is to build as large a run base as I can while doing the least amount of damage to my leg.  With any luck this will get me across the finish line in one piece.

A week from now I have the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Providence.  I think thats going to be the day my friends finally start to figure out theres something wrong with me.  People dont seem to want to listen to it and keep telling me I'll get my speed back this season.  I'll be lucky to run the half in less than two hours I think.  I suspect I'm going to get beat by a lot of my friends that would not be able to do so when I'm at my best.  Its going to be humbling to watch them go past me and know I can't do anything about it even if I wanted to.  Its also sad to know that I'll be doing all my training runs solo for the rest of the year.  I need to be really carefull with my pace and I need to run at MY pace 100% of the time whatever that is in a given moment.  Running with other people isn't going to allow me to do that as my ego is going to get in the way.

I'm pretty bummed out about all this...    I know in the grand scheme of things I'm very fortunate but I'm saddened about it all.  For now I can only hope that taking the entire winter off from running and biking will allow my leg to completely heal up.  My plan is to do nothing but swim all winter.  Hopefuly with a coach.  I just hope I can attack next year feeling 100% as quite frankly not being able to race to my potential sucks!  Especially having such a great season last year.

In other news...   the girl and I have decided to aim for Ironman Florida next year!  So here's hoping I'll be 100% by then.

I'm in LA till tuesday and then its back to another big training block with the Timberman half in there as well which should be fun.  Well at least I hope its fun.  Could be another sufferfest with an awful run at the end of it but I hope not!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

15 Weeks and Counting...

15 Weeks to the Beach to Battleship Iron length triathlon.  That seems like an awfully short amount of time to me.  And thanks to the Amica 70.3 it feels even shorter.  Speaking of the Amica... here's a shot taken just after crossing the finish line...

2 days before the start of the race Lincoln Woods (the Park that contains the pond the swim was held in) was shut down due to high bacteria counts in the water.  It was reopened the day before the race supposedly after it had tested safe again.  After the race many of my friends and a large number of people on Slowtwich (an online triathlon discussion site) spoke about getting sick after swimming in the pond.  At first I took a defensive position thinking it was a small minority that got sick and could be unrelated.  (I think this was me being in denial!).  However on the wednesday after the race I started to feel a little bit under the weather but I figured it was nothing...  just me recovering from the race.  Saturday (a week after the race) was my first real hard workout on the bike since the race.  I took my road bike out for a 3 hour ride at steady decent effort.  It felt way harder than the numbers showed.  Something was off.  I was struggling to breathe and just didn't feel fabulous for the ride.  I figured maybe I recover slower than I think.  That night I had an awful sinus headache and felt pretty crappy.  Sunday morning I was supposed to go for an open water swim with the girl.  Unfortunately I'd been up sick most of the night not able to sleep so I skipped the swim as I felt like holy hell.  Monday morning I found myself in the doctor's office.  I can't walk up the 3 flights of stairs to my appartment without feeling out of breath, I'm congested, sinus's hurt, and feel like I have a giant head cold.  I've had night sweats and feel very feverish in the middle of the night and generally feel very run down.  I didn't spend long at the Doctor's office before I left with a perscription for antibiotics to kick this thing.

Today is tuesday and I'm feeling a little better.  I optimistically got up this morning and put running clothes on thinking I'd get a 30 minute run in today.  I haven't run since the Amica a week ago and I'm anxious to start again and get moving.  (I only biked and swam last week to recover fully)  However I'm not terribly smart when it comes to recovery as we know.  Fortunately I have an amazing girl in my life who's smart enough to tell me I'm crazy to try and run on day 2 of antibiotics and I need to let them do their thing and not spend energy on workouts that should go towards healing my body up as fast as possible or I risk setting myself back further.  She's right of course.  And I hate that she's right and love her for it at the same time.  Its just frustrating as B2B is 15 weeks away.  I feel like the second I crossed the finish line of the Amica a giant clock started ticking down the seconds to B2B.  There's no stopping its approach now.  Its looming HUGE on the horizon and I need to get ready for it.  I recently discovered the expression online of "training scared" meaning that you are doing your best to prepare yourself for the race out of fear and respect for the distance.  I currently feel that way.  And I need to convert that fear into preparedness.  And this setback is a frustrating block in that path.  I know it will be short lived... but still.  I want it out of the way!

So in the meantime I've planned out all my upcoming workouts around my work travel and life obligations and put all of it into trainign peaks so its all outlined in front of me.  I ended up adapting the training plan in "Training Plans for Multisport Athletes" by Gale Bernhardt.  She has a "13 weeks to a sub 13 hour Ironman" plan in the book that I took all the workouts and distances from and then shifted them around to fit my life.  She gives great instructions on how to adapt plans to your lifestyle and outlines all the workouts so really all you have to do is execute and all will be well.  I have to say though I do hate the fact that its week 1 of 15 (I stretched the plan for 2 extra weeks as I'm away those weeks for work so it will be hard to train properly those weeks).  So already I'm missing workouts and I've only just started the plan!  Oh well...   I'll be fine I know.  Here's a snapshot of some of the training laid out...
So nothing to do at this point but stretch a little, maybe foam roll, watch some tour de france and wait till I'm well enough to train again.  Tick tock, tick tock...   can you hear it?  B2B is coming...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Amica 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report

After a frustrating few months of fighting through injuries from running too many marathons I was finally able to toe the starting line for my first half ironman length race of the year.  In fact its the first race I've done since the Donna Marathon in February.  Despite a somewhat frustrating day I'm still pleased and extremely happy to have gotten one under my belt on my way towards my full length iron distance race at the end of the year.  So without further ado here's how the race went...


The week leading into the race was interesting to say the least....   I was going back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to taper or not and in the end I decided it was a good idea.  I'd done a significant build in the last six weeks or so taking advantage of all the time I've been at home and not travelling for work and I figured the taper was needed recovery time.  It was a very strange taper week though...  much different than last year where I was getting ready for my first half iron distance race.  This week felt easier and more laid back, almost too much so as mentally I just wasn't as sharp about everything as I could have been.

On wednesday I got a phone call to do an interview for a local news website about the race.  I was told it was about local athletes in Newport who were doing the race.  Being that I'm always looking for ways to get more people into our amazing sport I decided why not...   You can click here to watch the video.  As always I'm happy to promote my tri club and do my part to convince people that if I can get my fat ass of the couch and turn my life around, that anyone can.

The registration process, athlete info packet, and the leadup to the race was actually not as well handled as it could have been and ended up being quite tiring to deal with.  The Amica 70.3 is a point to point race with two seperate transition areas.  So first you have to go to the "expo" (I put that in quotes as it was quite small... hardly an expo) and go through the registration process which was quite simple.  And while there I attended the athlete briefing.  After a quick talk through of how our day would go the Q&A session focused on water quality, (the swim location was closed for two days just two days prior to race day due to elevated bacteria levels) water temperatures, and what would they do if they had to close the pond again, and were they really going to keep testing the water to make sure we were safe.  They said they would keep testing, I decided to take them for their word and stop worrying about it.

I did all of this registration process on friday so I could go home, study all the info and then drop everything off on Saturday.  Saturday was a day full of running around.  First I went to Lincoln woods to drop off my bike.  I parked, gave the bike a quick check ride and then left it in transition.  Here's Cannon looking very sad and lonely to spend his first night away from home.
Around that same time word was circling through the transition area that the water temps were so high that wetsuits would be prohibited.  I wasn't surprised at all to hear this based on water temps elsewhere in the state and so I decided to go for a quick swim while I was there to check it out.  I got in the water and it was bathtub warm.  No way you'd want to wear a wetsuit in that...  you'd overheat very quickly.  I tried not to worry about the fact that I'd never done a 1.2 mile swim in open water without a wetsuit and instead focused on now having to drive to Providence to drop off my run bag.

So back in the car and into Providence where I had to drive around looking for a place to park so I could then drop my run bag off in T2 which is located in the center of Providence.  Got that done and then headed back to Newport.  This process took half the day which was a bit of a drag frankly, but a necessity for the way the race worked. 

Last few details to take care of were how I was getting to the race start in the morning.  Fortunately for me I was able to carpool with a friend of mine who drove two of us that were racing to the start.  Others however had to deal with a sometimes tricky shuttle situation.  Shuttles left from the race finish area and from an offsite parking area to go to the start.  Shockingly you had to pay for tickets to these shuttles which I find rather odd considering the cost of the race and the fact the race is a point to point.  This should be rolled into the entry fee and not an additional fee.  I also understood that shuttles for the spectators at the start were extremely late in getting people to the finish area and quite frustrating.  Which is a shame, and Amica sponsored races seem to always suffer from shuttle logistics...  as thats been the case in the marathon in town as well.  But I digress...

So with transport figured out all that was left to do was pack up my bike stuff and extra clothes bag and then it was off to bed.  Shockingly I actually got a great six hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 3AM.

Race Day:

Up at 3am and through the routine of breakfast (2x balance bars, coffee) and then out to the door.  I will say the one nice thing about having already checked my bike in was that I didn't have to deal with it on race day.  So that was nice.  I met up with my friends and then we headed off to the race start.  In retrospect I'm not sure we allotted ourselves enough time or thought about the fact that the one road leading in Lincoln Woods would be an absolute cluster on race morning.  We got stuck in un-moving traffic about a mile from the transition area at 5:15am.  Transition closes at 5:45am.  So we decided to get out and walk.  I had flip flops on as I wasn't planning on walking that far.  Not the best shoes for a panicked shuffle to the transition area.  By the time we made it to transition it was 5:30.  Crap!  just 15 minutes to get ready.  Those that know me as often the first one into transition in the morning know this is not my normal m.o.!  (see earlier comment about being too relaxed this week!)  So I put my bike computer on the bike, almost forgot to load my nutrition on the bike, got my bike all setup and ready and clothes all organized and then realized I only had a minute left before I was going to get kicked out of transition.  I squeezed my tires.  They felt firm...   Ah Screw it!  No time to inflate them and I'd inflated them only 18 hours ago anyway.  I just had to hope they'd be ok.  And then it was off to the bathroom line (SERIOUS lack of sufficient port a johns at the start if you ask me...    especially for 1400 athletes + spectators).  I finally got out of the bathroom at 6:10am.  Only 20 minutes before the start of the race.  I got in the water for a quick warm up swim...

So here's where the chaos of being late was good.  I've never swam 1.2 mile in open water without a wetsuit on.  In fact I've never swam in open water without a wetsuit on.  Its a definite security blanket for me.  I've swam 2 miles straight in a pool before... but thats very very different.  Theres a bottom you can touch anytime.  There aren't people bumping into you, and your heartrate isn't about to explode like mine was in this moment.  I honestly just tried not to think about it leading up to the race.  I had meant to get a no wetsuit open water swim in so I would have that behind me... but it just never worked out.  I did most of my open water work in the ocean where a wetsuit is necessary for me or I'll freeze.  At this time I heard the announcer say there would be a wetsuit wave at the end.  I was shocked they allowed this, but apparently the water temp was just under the cutoff.  Their results wouldn't count however.  Anyway...  I didn't even bring my wetsuit with me as I decided it was time to man up and get it done.  So I got a brief 100 yard or so warmup swim in and just tried to relax.  I focused on trying to reduce the intensity of my kick to the bare minumum, get my heartrate down as much as possible and relax.  I universally failed at all three of those.  So now with only ten minutes to go till the race I figured what the hec...  lets just get this thing done.

I got in line and then promptly started shivering.  I'm always cold... but going from 78 degree or so water to 65 degree air temps wasn't going well for me.  I was COLD!  But at least that took my mind off the swim...

The Swim:

Doesn't that beach look pretty?  Too bad Lincoln Woods has such an awful reputation.  It really is quite pretty there but due to a large population of geese, lack of water flow, and other issues by mid summer its not anywhere you want to swim.  The bacteria counts there are often bad, and I've known people that have lifeguarded there who have told me to never swim there.  We were all shocked when this venue was announced for the race.  But this race just fit my schedule, and I have faith that they tested the water and kept our safety in mind.  And theres the fact I was too busy being worried about the fact I'm a sucky swimmer to think about anything else....

2 mintues to go till my wave starts...   we all file into the water.  I take up a spot to the left (wide of the buoys) and decide to let my wave go out and then hit the water.  There's about 30 guys in my wave.  I actually kind of enjoy the physical contact of a triathlon swim but without the wetsuit I didn't want that to be an issue so I decided to stay wide and avoid the contact.  In the end I would say this was the least contact I've ever had in any distance triathlon.  I think the fact its non wetsuit changes everyone's mindset about it.  So...   gun goes off...   here goes nothing.  I let the fast guys race into the water and I hit the water just a couple seconds behind them.  I just kept repeating RELAX, BREATHE, KICK IN A BUCKET! over an over again.  (I like to picture flutter kicking with my feet in a 5 gallon bucket which keeps me from kicking too much and exhausting myself).  I just kept thinking, get to the first buoy and you'll be fine.  Which I did.  And then it hit me...   I'm fine.  I can do this.  I'm ok.  I just need to swim and forget about the fact I'm not wearing a wetsuit.  Ten minutes later I can remember thinking Hey!  I'm doing this...  I don't need no stinking wetsuit!  I was pretty happy with how relaxed I felt in the water.  I had actually managed to get into a groove and stay relaxed.  PERFECT!  and then it hit me.  I can't see where the hec I'm going!  The sun was very low on the horizon and directly in your eyes on the way out.  Despite having tinted goggles I couldn't see the buoys at all on the way out.  So mostly I followed other swimmers.  But since I'd let my group go out in front of me I was sort of in a no man's land of swimmers between waves.  And I don't like to trust that the stragler swimmers are going the right way.  A pack of people I'll trust, but not a random person.  So I was popping up to sight a lot.  I had to tread water several times just to see where the hec I was going.  Finally I get to the end of the out and back course and start looking for the two turnaround buoys.  I knew they were red, and I knew there were two of them.  The problem was now we were close to the treeline at the other end of the pond.  So the buoys are in the shade of the trees but the sun is still in my eyes so I literally can't see them.  Even treading water I can't see them.  And then blamo!  There it is!  So I head for it.  About 2 minutes later I literally swim right into the side of a kayak that slices in front of me.  I pop up and the kayaker explains I've missed the first turn buoy and I'm headed for the second one.  He points out the first one and I can barely see it in the shade.  CRAP!  So now I have to double back and round that buoy.  So I do that, and then head to the 2nd one (which I thought was the first one!).  I easily lost 2-4 minutes here.  I try not to let that frustrate me.  Fortunately after I round the 2nd turn buoy the sun is now at my back and the buoys are easy to see.

The way back was much better and I just got in a nice groove and kept swimming.  I could finally sight like normal and not worry about if I was going the right way.  There was also a nice line of swimmers to follow into the finish area.  Other than swimming through a big field of weeds long enough to get my watch tangled in the return trip was uneventfull.  I was VERY happy to see the swim exit though.  Time to shift gears and think about the transition ahead.

Swim Time: 47:58

Thoughts:  My no wetsuit swim should have been 36-40 minutes.  So add 4 minutes for not having the wetsuit, and then a few minutes for navigation issues and you get 48 minutes.  Ugh!  But I'm damn proud of myself for getting through that swim and staying as relaxed as I did and not using a ton of energy from my legs in the process

T1:  2:27

This time sounds slow... but there was actually quite a long way to go after crossing the timing mat coming out of the water.  I also found it quite annoying to have my bike shoes in a bag instead of on the ground.  So I lost some time to getting my shoes out and stuffing my swim cap and goggles into that same bag.  Which Ironman then promptly lost... so I'll never see those goggles again.  Anyway...   I got my stuff together fairly quickly and was on my way out.  I had a primo spot in transition that was right as you entered T1.  But it meant a long muddy run in my bike shoes. 


Onto the bike...    the first five miles or so of rollers I didn't feel all that strong and I was started to wonder what kind of day I was going to have.  I had already looked at my watch and I knew how bad my swim time was.  I tried to focus on just having a good bike.  I kept an eye on my power meter and cadence but it just seemed like my speed was always slower than I wanted.  I trusted in power/cadence as my true indicators though and just kept going.  After the first aid station at the 15 or so mile mark I checked my averages.  My speed average was in the 19s and my power was 170 watts.  Which is EXACTLY where I wanted it to be.  This perked me up and I just kept hammering away.  I was in a good spot in the pack.  Lots of people in front of me to pick off, and still some fast guys passing me to keep me humble.  I was having a good time in the first third and would say things to people as I passed them.  I caught up to my friend Erin somewhere around this time as well who had crushed me in the swim but I caught her on the bike.  (she started five minutes after me in the swim but beat me out of the water!)  So we had a brief hello chat and I was off and running.

I was really happy with how I handled the first part of the bike course.  Thanks to the taper the course felt easier than it had ever done to this point so that was awesome.  I did a LOT of hill work in the leadup to the race and my legs were really tired before the taper so hills were just feeling hard.  So I was glad my taper had paid off in that regard. 

Bike course in triathlons are funny...  you see the weirdest stuff.  Some strange bikes and some strange people and some strange outfits.  My favorites (or not so favorites) were as follows...

-super hairy guy in way too short shorts on road bike whose ass swallowed his saddle.  Frightening... and has scarred me for life! 
-people with 30lbs of fluid on their bike.  Speefill, aero bottle, rear cages all full of water.  I can't imagine carrying that much water weight up the hills.  Not to mention the chock full bento box and bike jersey pockets full of crap
-annoying guy on Guru bike who enjoyed destroying himself to pass me only to immediately slow down forcing me to pass him again, and again, and again.  He apparently decided we were playing a game together... I decided I hated him and was thrilled when I used a hill to drop him permanently.
-draft packs...   sadly I saw a lot of these.  Mostly groups of three people.  I doubt they knew each other but they made zero attempt to get out of the draft zones, weren't trying to pass each other, and had less than a foot between wheels.  LAME
-lots of spots of people riding 2,3,4 across and chatting.  GET OUT OF THE WAY PEOPLE!
-or my least favorite...  dude riding way too far out into the road forcing me to almost get a centerline violation to pass them.  I YELLED "on your left!" at one guy who looked all annoyed at me and mumbled something.  Seriously people... learn to ride on the right!  Too many people riding like this was a closed bike course!

So all of the above kept me entertained at least and there was lots to look at in terms of this stuff out on the course.  I also love looking at bikes so it was fun to see all the flashy stuff out on the course.  Some personal highlight and lowlights of the ride for me were this...

-discovering the joy of "living off the course".  I carried one calorie bottle with my nutrition mix in it and one water bottle that I swapped out at aid stations.  So at most 40oz of fluid on me, but that was only at the start.  It was great not having that extra weight on the bike, super easy to exchange bottles, and nice and aero at the same time.
-discovering the joy of peeing on your bike.  Yep.  I did it.  And it was fabulous.  I'm fairly certain I yelled "OH YEAH!" after getting it done.  I felt much better afterwards.  A quick squirt of a water bottle and I was feeling clean as a whistle too.
-when I reached the one big steep climb on the course I was staying in the saddle, passing people the whole way up, not exceeding my wattage numbers, keeping a high cadence, and smiling the whole way up.  I executed that climb perfect and made it look way easier than everyone else suffereing up it as I went past.  I LOVE MY 11-28 CASSETTE!!!!
-Hitting 42mph on the Chopmist Hill descent in full aero.  Not sure how aero the GIANT grin on my face was however.

-Epic nutrition fail.  I still haven't figured this out... but there was a point about halfway through the bike where my stomach just quit.  It simply refused to take in more calories.  I tested my nutrion many times in training and never had an issue.  But today my body just didn't want it.  Taking in more led to intense stomach cramps so I just stopped and switched to just water which was better, but my stomach still didn't really want it.  But I knew it was too hot not to force some fluids down.  I'd rather they come back up then not go down at all.  I got about 500 calories down on the bike.  Which isn't bad... but that should have been 750.  Not good.  I managed about 40oz of water... which should have been 60.  Not good.
-the last 15 miles of the course I didn't push myself hard enough.  I had the energy but I let my focus slip a little and my speed dropped a little bit.  I should have forced myself to go harder.
-the last five miles of the course were absolute crap road conditions.  The ride into providence was awful.  I've never seen so many flat tires on a bike course.  Lots of people on the side of the road and water bottles everywhere!
-the no pass zone on Central ave which was due to there being a ridiculous amount of potholes in the road so passing wasn't allowed as you had to swerve everywhere to avoid the worst of them.  You still got shaken about to the point you thought your teeth were going to fall out.  I took my bottles out of the cages and stuffed them down my tri suit so I wouldn't lose them.  There were bottles EVERYWHERE in that section.

Fortuanately the bike went by pretty quickly and I had finally made it through all the railroad tracks, glass, potholes, and debris of downtown Providence and could see the state house.  I got my feet out of my bike shoes and did a picture perfect dismount into T2.

Bike: 2:55:54, 19.10mph, Normalized Power 167 Watts, Cadence 88

I'm fairly pleased with the bike time but if I hadn't slowed down at the end a bit due to the course being so crappy and if I'd pushed myself just a bit more I could have been 5-10 minutes faster I think.  I was hoping for a 2:45 but that was a pretty challenging bike course so I'm ok with being in the 19s for an average.  I wanted 20 but you don't always get what you want.  My cadence was perfect (its been low lately and I've been forcing it higher again).  My wattage is good too.  My goal was 170 Watts average.  My average power was 150, but normalized its 167.  So I'd say I was close... but not quite there.  Again...   the last part of the course really sucks as it just messes with all your goals.  I could have ridden it harder but at a higher risk of flats/crashing it just wasn't worth it to me.  So all in all I'm quite pleased with the bike but still plenty of room for improvment.

T2:  1:32

This went quite well...  lots of distance to cover in T2 so 1:30 is fine with me.  Hated having to take my shoes out of a bag in a half distance race through.  Although I guess the ten seconds that cost is pretty insignificant.

The Run:

Since I'd hit my cadence target on the bike I knew I'd come out of T2 running quickly.  This is helped with a nice downhill right out of the gate.  My Garmin said 6:30s down the hill.  Perfect.  In the end I ran the first mile in 7:18.  Slower than my norm, but on target for my current level of run fitness, which due to my injury is nowhere near where it was last year.  It wasn't that much longer that I hit the hills in miles 1-3.  That whole section was quite hilly including a very long climb that really sucked the leg speed out of you.  I love that fast turnover you get off the bike and it was a bummer to lose that on the hill right away.  I did ok though up the hill and my mile 2 split was 8:15 which included the worst of the climb.  Thats when everything started to go downhill though.  As I approached the first aid station at mile 1 I tried to take some gel in from my gel flask.  My stomach turned violently at even the sight of it.  So in an odd twist of the wrong part of my brain winning under race conditions I chucked it in the trash on the way by.  This made my stomach happy, but not my wallet.  There goes a 12 dollar fuel belt bottle.  But thats how violently my stomach didn't want calories.  I tried for some perform instead.  Just a sip made my stomach turn so I went with some water and focused on getting ice water sponges under my hat and in my tri suit to try and stay cool as it was 80 degrees, sunny, and no shade.  So as I'm fighting my way up the first hill with this nasty stomach ache I start re-evaluating the rest of my run.  I wanted to do well...  but I looked at my watch and my time thanks to the extra ten minutes in the swim was not going to be fabulous.  Then I realized how negative a thought that was and sucked it up and kept running.  Then my stomach flipped again and was really starting to hurt.  Did I have to go to the bathroom?  what the hell is going on?  why can't I get any calories down?

Into the next aid station and I aim for just water.  I'm sweating a TON out here and I HAVE to at least get some water down.  I manage a sip before my stomach protests and refuses to let me take any more in.  So I just swish it around in my mouth.  I make staying cool my mission and focus on dumping water over my head.  I hit the turn around of the first out and back section and as I approach the aid station again I decide to say screw it and try the port o john as my stomach is killing me, and I have the worst side stitch of my entire life.  As in hold your hand on your side and wince side stitch.

I get into the port o john and experience the world's most epic passing of gas and thats it.  I may have even heard a gigle from the port of john next to mine.  I suit back up and head out again.  Was it just gas?  is that whats causing all this pain?  where did it come from?  I ate only safe foods in the last few days.  I don't get it, but I keep running.  At least this bit is downhill.  At this point my average pace is around low 8s.  Slower than I wanted but nothing I can do about it now and I've just lost 2 minutes to a port o john.  (speaking of which I never do that... but the thought of all my friends in the finish chute greeting me with an epic GI failure in my tri suit was not something I wanted to risk! and my stomach hurt so much I was willing to do anything to stop it). 

Onward I go...  down the hill....  at least these three miles are flat.  I head into the no man's land section of the course where there are no spectators, no shade, and nothing but your own thoughts to muddle through.  The last half iron distance race I did I passed people for the entire run. No-one passed me.  I ran a 1:35.  Today I was going to be lucky to pull out a 1:45 and people were passing me.  I was still passing people but I HATED that I couldn't latch on to those that passed me.  I just couldn't hold a decent pace.  My right leg was killing me, my stomach hurt, and I was not having a good day out there.  Time to suck it up as theres still another lap to go!  Team Fuel Belt was out on the course in no man's land and it was fantastic to see some friendly faces out there to motivate me to go harder.  So I did my best to look strong and smiled as I went by.  I'm sure in reality I looked like all holy hell!  As if to make matters worse all the water I was dumping on my head to stay cool had now completely soaked my socks and I could feel hotspots and blisters developing on my toes.  Which never happens to me...   but then again I never dump that much water over my head.  Just another thing to suffer through.

I climbed the short hill at the end of the first lap and saw the finish chute as I rounded the turn to head out for another lap.  Knowing the finish chute was lined with friends from my tri club was a powerfull motivator to get this lap done and know they'd be there at the end.  I tried to picture my friend Kevan yelling at me to get it done.  That got me moving again and I tried not think about the hills ahead.  The second time up through the hilly section was much slower for me.  My legs were very tired and sore and my hamstring/glute issue really reared its head on the hill.  Rather than do something stupid and really try and crush the hill to the best I could I let myself slow down a little and shuffle up it a little more relaxed this time.  Instead of an 8:30 pace up the hill I was running ten's.  At this point there was no shot at a PR, I need to recover fast from this race, and B2B is my focus.  So no doing anything stupid and risking injury allowed.  So I mentally decided it was time to finish the race strong and smart.  I wasn't giving up, but I was going to try and enjoy it as much as I could and just get it done.  I think on the entire run I'd be lucky if I got 100 calories worth of fluid down.  So during the entire race I got about 600 calories down. NOT GOOD.  I felt it on the run.  I tried all kinds of things at this point.  I knew a PR was gone so why not use this time to test some aid station nutrition out.  I tried coke which tasted amazing but caused my stomach to instantly complain.  Same thing with any of the solid food availalbe there.  Just the sight of gels made me want to hurl so I skipped those.  I hit mile 10 or so where the fuel belt gang was and picked up the pace to try and not look silly shuffling by.  I laughed out loud at how hard the tiny little incline of the point street bridge felt.  It was definitely comical.  I walked the distance of the last two aid stations and I also walked for about 15 feet during mile 12 when my stomach violently cramped again but other than that I did my best to keep running.  The last little hill up to the state house felt brutal and I did my best to sprint up the chute and finish as strong as I could.

Then the best part of the day...    the finish chute was lined with volunteers who were all friends of mine from Tri New England.  How fantastic to be handed cold water by your friends, and have Kevan put the finishers medal around my neck.  I could barely manage a word to any of them.  I was totally destroyed!  But I was so happy to see them all.

Run:  1:52:38 8:35/mile

Not a great run...   but it was the best I had on this day and at my current level of run fitness.  Considering I've only had one 13 mile run this year since the feburary marathon I should be pleased with that I guess.

Final Finish Time:  5:40:29
Rank 428/ roughly 1400 (complete results are not available yet)

Run Highlights:  Seeing Kate, Erin, Michelle, and Vince out on the course.  Its amazing how much a friendly face out there suffering alongside you can perk you up.
Run Lowlights:  I really, really, really miss my run fitness.  It was a big dissapointment to not be able to bang out 7:30s or less on the run.  I know why I couldn't this year, but I don't have to like it.  I love that the run is last in triathlon and that its my strength.  I just hate that its turned into a big weakness.  I really really really hope my run fitness returns to its previous level in time.  I miss it.

Overall Thoughts:

I have to say I'm pretty dissapointed in this race.  I wish I hadn't had that navigational error on the swim, but I'm pleased I got it done without issue considering it wasn't wetsuit legal.  I'm happy with the bike, but not as happy as I'd be with a 2:45 which was my goal.  The run was just a complete disaster.  I was miserable out there instead of happy and I think thats what really bums me out.  I know I'm not superman and it takes time to recover from an injury and I should (and AM) very thankfull to simply have the ability to complete a half ironman but I like to push myself and this race result is just not fabulous.  It also makes me wonder how the B2B is going to feel.  Especially the marathon.  I know I'll get it done regardless, but I just wish I could get it done feeling that much stronger.  I think I need to leave this as a lesson that I need to just carefully work towards improving my run fitness.  I'm going to have to just work on increasing my run base and forget about speedwork this year.  I'm just going to go out and run.  Run often and see what happens.

Nutrionally I'm going with the conclusion that my sodium content was too high.  Despite having tested this during a long brick I've never tested it in race conditions.  Due to the high temps I added gatorlytes to my calorie bottle and I think that hurt me instead of helped.  I think the extra sodium may have turned my stomach a little.  Or perhaps it was the pond water.  I just don't know.  But I think I need to investigate another form of sodium supplementation going forwards.

I'm thrilled to have a race behind me, and I love walking around feeling sore and like I've accomplished something big.  But its time to look forward to the big picture.  I'm going to plot out the rest of my B2B training today and decide how Timberman and the Firm will fit into it and put together pace goals accordingly for those races and plan out the next few months of training.  I may need to turn Timberman into a supported training day instead of a true "race".  Or perhaps complete it at my goal wattage/pace for the B2B and see how I feel.

Thanks again to all of Tri Newengland for volunteering, cheering, and setting up the tent at the finish line.  Definitely the very best part of my day!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Taper Tantrums... Amica 70.3 Race Week

The Amica 70.3 Half Ironman is just a few days away.  I'm happy to say that I'm excited and eager to get to the starting line.  The beginning of 2011 has been a challenging year of fighting through injuries and issues and I think I need to take a quick moment to just be thankfull I can toe the starting line at all.  I may not be 100% yet, but I'm close enough to be able to race and for that I'm very glad.  So lets take a look at the race and at my prep.


I'm happy to say that work has been rather slow lately so I've been home a lot.  The plus side of this is I put in a really nice five week build up to this race before I started the taper.  During this time I was able to build my long run up to one final 13 miler before tapering, get multiple 50-60 mile rides in, some very challenging hill workouts in and plenty of over-distance swim work including swims up to 2 miles long.  I wish I'd had a larger base to build off of before putting in this block but my work schedule and the injury really complicated maters.  So I don't feel quite as prepared as I did for the FIRM last year, but I feel pretty good.  I'd feel better if my leg felt 100% but I've had some nice glimpses of my speed returning during some of my runs so thats been good.  I've put in some 14-15 hour training weeks lately and I decided that I would give this race a nice taper on the leadin to go in as fresh as possible.

Gear wise I've also made some good decisions and I've armed myself for the 2011 season with a no excuses setup.  I've got an amazing bike, great wheelset, new tires, power meter, aero helmet, my favorite new running shoes (Zoot Ultra Tempo 4.0) and a pair of goggles I can actually see out of.  So the only limiter on race day is myself.  So lets look at race day and some predictions.


I don't talk smack much...  except in fun on the odd training session.  On race day however my goals are all personal.  Triathlon is a sport of one done against the clock.  Its sport in its purest sense if you ask me.  And so when left all by myself, here's what I think I can do...

Swim:  Still by far my weakest discipline.  I need to remember that I couldn't swim at all last April, but I still wish I was much stronger in the water.  I put a lot of time and focus on covering distance this year.  I've worked my pool swims up to the ability to swim 3500 yards straight.  I've worked my open water distnace up to the same two mile point as well all in an effort to make sure I can cover the 2.4 mile swim at B2B at the end of the year.  This is the year of the Ironman for me...  and getting that first 140.6 out of the way is the entire focus of my training.  That said, I haven't done a ton of speed work.  I know I said last season I'd work on that for this season, but the offseason had other plans for me.  So I only have modest goals for the swim this year.  I know I can complete the distance in a wetsuit or out of one.  So here are my swim goals.

Wetsuit Swim;  36-38 Minutes
Non Wetsuit Swim:  40 Minutes

T1:  The transition setup at this race is more like a full ironman with no changing tents in that you can't have anything on the ground so you have to grab a bag of your stuff and run to your bike, unpack the shoes from your bag, put them on, grab your helmet and glasses, stuff your wetsuit back into the bag and then get out on the bike.  This could take a bit...   I plan on practicing this today to get it down.  I'd love to leave my shoes clipped to the bike but the geometry of the tri bike makes this move difficult for me.  I've had some success in training but I don't think I'm going to try it on race day.  The start isn't terribly flat and theres a climb almost right away.  So the terrain and layout and my lack of 100% confidence in that approach means I'm going to put my shoes on in T1.

T1:  1:30

Bike:  I've put some solid training in on the bike this year.  I wish I'd been more consistent with harder efforts and intervals but my right leg has been a limiter in that regard so I've had to dial back many of those sessions.  I've had some breakthrough workouts on the bike this year though and learned a great deal about it and me.  My position is getting pretty dialed, I'm slowly making friends with my saddle, and overall I should be happy with where I am right now.  Several weeks ago I did a 4 x laps of the very hilly time trial course.  The first time I did this workout it really hurt and my times faded with every lap despite me trying to keep them even.  However a week later I did it again and felt much much better.  I've also put a lot of time in on the Amica course riding the rolling hills.  Its a very challenging course and I honestly have no idea how I'm going to do on race day.  My plan is to shoot for a 170 Watt average for the course which should get me between a 19-20mph average.  I suspect I may end up with a high 18 average though.  Its all going to come down to how I feel on race day.  And for those of you comparing these guesses to your Patriot bike splits... its a VERY different course.  Much much more challenging.  I averaged 20mph riding that course on no taper.  I'll be psyched, and surprised if I can manage a 20 average on the Amica course.

Bike Split:  2:48:00 - 3:00:00

T2:  This one should be a bit more straight forward.  Ditch the bike and helmet, grab my run bag, socks, hat, shoes, garmin on and go.

T2 1:30

Run:  Now this one is going to be interesting.  My speed has been coming back lately and I've had some great runs off the bike lately.  Since keeping a closer eye on my cadence and keeping it nice and high my leg speed is coming back on the run off the bike.  I've had some nice 7-7:30 miles off the bike lately.  Not as fast as last year, but getting there.  So there is an OUTSIDE chance I'll manage a 7:30 average on the run.  However I HIGHLY doubt it.  I just don't have the run fitness and base right now to pull that off.  But you never know...   I might surprise myself so I won't rule it out.  7:30s just feel much harder this year than they did last year.  Then when you add in the heat of race day (high of 85 degrees and sunny currently!) and how heavily heat can affect me when running I think my speed will be much less.  I'm going to run as fast as I can for as long as I can and keep re-evaluating how I feel along the course.  I need to be able to RUN the entire 13 miles, not injure myself, and get it done!  If I come off the bike feeling great and going fast I'm going to do my damndest to get a PR or as close to my 5:14 PR as I can.  However I'm a realist and I suspect I'm going to settle into an 8:30 average as thats felt pretty comfy lately and so in the heat after the bike I'm fairly certain this is where I'll land.  So...  onto the predictions.

Run:  1:38:00-1:51:00

So whats that total to?

Absolute AMAZING day best case scenario (possible, but a long shot!) 5:06:00

Realistic Goal that I think is doable:  5:30:00

Long Range Goal:  Enjoy the Day, come out of it STRONG, INJURY FREE!, and happy to cross a finish line.

No matter what happens I'll run up the chute with my head up high and a giant smile on my face!  I'm very happy to know that so many fellow Tri-NE club members are volunteering in the finish chute and again I'm so very thankfull to be toeing the starting line again.  I think I'll only be dissapointed if I don't go sub 6.  Its going to be a very very hot day and who knows what can happen out on that course.  The run is really going to be the deciding factor.  I can't wait to get out there and test myself.  Its going to be a great day!