Monday, September 29, 2008

Naylor's Beach Triathlon -- 9/28/08

Executive summary:

1500M swim, 26 mile bike, 10K run -- 2:34 (2:36 with penalty).
9/30, 45-49 AG

Long report:

This was my first time at Naylor's Beach. The race is situated on the north shore of the Rappahanock River, in quiet rural surroundings. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and pitched my tent at the pleasant campground right across the street from the transition area, got out my gear, and enjoyed a short swim, bike, and run. After I cooked dinner, the weather changed for the worse, as thunderstorms rolled in, so I called it a night and dove into my tent at around 8:30 -- that's life in the country for you.

Race day dawned overcast, with occassional showers, but warm temps and light winds. For whatever reason, I'd woken up at 2 AM and couldn't get back to sleep until nearly 5, so I wasn't feeling too fresh as I crawled out of my tent. I rolled my bike across the street and racked it, then came back to get my gear together and have some breakfast. For whatever reason, it just wasn't my morning. I'm normally methodical (compulsive? anal?) about getting my gear together the night before a race, but this morning I couldn't get organized. I ended up making three trips back and forth to the transition area as I kept realizing I'd forgotten items. In retrospect I didn't get as good a breakfast as I needed and I skimped on my hydration. Live and learn!

Swim: 27:32, 12/30 AG

Water temperature (70 degrees) and conditions were very good for the swim. The Rappahanock is wide and brackish at this point, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay, really. I was in the second wave, a pretty large group of all the men 40 and older, plus the clydesdales. As we took off I tried, unsucessfully, to get some open water around me, but was hemmed in by a pack and played bumper boat all the way out the first leg. There was a steady current flowing right to left that pushed us left of the buoys, and by the first turn we'd already caught up to the stragglers from the first wave, which made for a pretty big scrum at the buoy. Now we were swimming the longest leg of the course, with the current mainly at our back. I finally got a bit of space around me and got into a good rhythm. I felt good and smooth, but had gulped down some water when I got dunked at the turn, which wasn't sitting too well on my stomach. As I rounded the second turn I had to fight back up against the current as I went towards the beach. Fortunately it was easy to get a sight on the exit and I kept swimming strong, kicking hard to loosen up my legs as I approached the shore. Onto the small sandy beach and over a small seawall, then up a grassy lawn, and I was into T1.

T1: 1:37, 3/30 AG

The usual blur -- toss down the goggles and cap, step out of my suit, slip into my shoes, grab the bike and start running. Wet and breathless, it's always sort of surreal, but I usually do a good job on these. No exception this time.

Bike: 1:16:40, 20.3 mph, 10/30 AG

I'd heard people talking about how tough the bike course was. They had to be kidding -- it's flat down there. Still, I gathered there were a couple of hills to be concerned with on the first half of the course. Traffic was tight as we came out of transition, but got myself into a rhythm and started concentrating on RPMs -- keep 'em at 90ish. While most of the course was pretty flat, there were a lot of fairly sharp turns throughout. Still, plenty of room to get down on the bars and roll through the countryside. Around 8 miles I hit the first of the hills. Fairly steep, but not too long. With my granny gear engaged I spun past a long line of riders and over the top. At mile 13ish we hit the second hill. This guy was steep -- I could look up it and watch cyclists tacking back and forth like drunken sailors after a night of shore leave. With a hearty "Hi-Ho Silver," it was "Granny Gear Away!" and I spun up and over.

I was cranking along at 90 RPM when the Coach Debi express went ripping by on my left. Good incentive. I picked it up just a notch to keep her in sight, and passed her on an uphill. She returned the favor on the next downhill, and I followed, gradually dropping back as we went round a corner and then up a short hill. Then I heard the motorcycle go by, and watched as the official jotted something down in his notebook. I had a bad feeling about that, which turned out to be correct. A 2-minute penalty for not dropping back fast enough. What can I say? We were going downhill, then slowing for a turn and starting a climb. Technically correct, but...disappointing -- I take a lot of pride in racing clean.

Back to business at hand, and I took advantage of the last few flat miles to pick up the pace -- I got my final revenge by passing Debi on a small rise, and then amused myself by jumping my bike over a series of speed bumps right before the transition area. Off the bike and done.

T2: 1:00, 3/30 AG

Rack, shoes off, shoes on, grab my race belt and go. Pretty fast.

Run: 47:11, 7:35 pace, 9/30 AG

Coming out of T2 I could see Debi about 10-15 yards ahead of me. Damm, that was a fast transition for her. Well, here's some incentive for me -- try to keep up with her.

After about 3 minutes one thing was clear -- that wasn't going to happen. Time to refocus on the task at hand. I got my running into a good rhythm and concentrated on my own race. Past the first water stop I picked off two guys in my AG, then a mile or so later I got by another one. As I got near mile 3 my right quad started screaming at me. My poor hydration and pre-race nutrition was catching up to me, most likely. I held back on the pace a bit, hoping I wouldn't push it over the cliff into a full-fledged cramp, and worked through it. We turned for home and I could see an AG competitor who'd passed me on the bike ahead and within striking distance. I slowly kept reeling him in and by mile 4 was within a few steps. As we hit a slight rise I passed him.

He wasn't going to give up easily. I could hear his footsteps right behind me, so I surged slighty, then relaxed, surged, relaxed, for several minutes. Sneaking a look back I could see I'd opened a gap. We turned to go down a short, final out-and-back leg and both quads started to tighten up on me. I had to slow somewhat. We turned and headed for home -- maybe a half mile to go. My rival saw his opportunity and came past me, opening up about a 10-yard gap. I almost mailed it in then, but the tightness in my muscles had eased a bit, and it was worth a final shot. I picked it up and drew even. He surged. I surged. With two short turns to go I drew ahead. Rounding the last turn, 10 yards to go -- there he goes, and I don't have an answer. He beats me by less than a yard.

We congratulate each other and I go sit down -- I'm cooked.

2:34 (2:36 w/ penalty) -- 9/30 AG, 41/154 men


My last tri of the year, and a pretty good result. My age group was stacked with strong athletes, so I'm pleased with the placement. A typical result for me -- even performances in all 3 disciplines, with quick transitions.

Looking ahead, next year I'll be the new kid in the 50-54 AG, and I know I've still got plenty of room to improve. In particular it's time to spring for an honest-to-gosh tri bike. I think I've earned it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pepsi 10K Race Report

Short report:

Pepsi 10K - Charlottesville,VA - 9/13/2008
33/416 overall, 4th in 45-49

This is a great local race. If you want a nice test of your running speed and stamina, 10Ks are an excellent way to go.

Long report:

I've got a soft spot in my heart for this race. It was the very first road race I ever did, back in the early 90s. I ran a 48:50 and then went home and slept the rest of the day (I wonder whatever happened to that shirt?)

Fast-forwarding to the present, I went into the race with two goals: 1. Get a good test of my marathon preparation for Richmond in November. 2. Beat my co-worker Tommy, who's 39, and has beat me by about 15 seconds in each of the two races we've both competed in this year.

The weather on Saturday was oppressive. Humid and hot, though the sky was overcast to start the race. Got in a good warmup and kibbitzed a bit with some of the guys, then it was time for business.

The course is a double out-and-back: out one mile, turn back past the start, then out to mile 4 where you turn around and head for home. It's a pretty run, on rolling country roads. I found some space in the insanity of the start, and weaved my way around the usual quick-starting flameouts, running downhill to the first turnaround. I hit the mile in 6:50 -- that felt about right, given the downhill.

As I came back up hill I settled into a good rhythm and counted my footfalls -- 90 for the minute -- good running tempo. Tommy and I traded spots a few times and I pulled ahead a bit as we came to the first waterstop. Mile 2 came at 14:06 -- OK, considering the hill.

Now was the time to really settle into a groove, as the course flattened a bit. I'd opened a little gap around me and kept motoring along. I knew Tommy was just a bit behind me, but I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me look back, so I focused in like a laser on the road. Mile 3 -- 21 flat.

A couple of stiff little rollers hit me hard as I moved into the fourth mile. I kept concentrating on my tempo as I climbed the hills trying not to bog down and lose time. I turned around and headed for home at mile 4 -- right on time at 28 and a couple of seconds.

This was starting to hurt. I started to pass more runners as they slowed. Picking them off was a nice distraction. I kept checking my watch and counting steps, striving for a fast turnover, thinking about keeping my form together. The sun was out now, and the humidity brutal. My singlet was stuck to my skin and I could feel water dropping off my shorts as I ran. Finally, mile 5 -- 35:00.

By now I just wanted to slow down and rest -- man, 10Ks hurt... As I closed towards the finish a young woman flew by me -- whoa, I can't catch her. Next it was my turn, as I passed a young 20 something guy. He tried to make a game of it, passing me back up, but I quickly dropped him.

Finally I turned down the road into the school where the finish is. I peeked over my shoulder. Tommy was hanging on, about 5 seconds back. Now or never -- I gave it everything I had left and went home hard. One more look -- I'm safe.

Done. Crap, I can't even breathe...well, that'll pass.

Felt pretty good about the race -- 43:20 in those conditions was a very good time for me. I'm right on track for Richmond, and I beat Tommy by 15 seconds. Life is good


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Charlottesville International Tri, 7/27/08

A hard day, with a good result -- 3/18 in my AG!

In the four seasons I've been doing triathlons, the Charlottesville International is one of only two that I've done more than once. It's more a point of pride than anything else, really. The course is tough, and late July weather doesn't make it any easier. Last year I fell apart during the run -- 6 miles of hilly single-track -- and I was determined to do better this year.

I got up at 5:00 on Sunday, and after a quick breakfast, threw my gear onto the truck and headed for the course. It's only a half-hour from my house, but there are no assigned racks in the transition area, so the early bird catches the worm as far as primo racking spots. Sure enough, I pulled into the parking lot at 6 AM, and got one of the best spots in the transition area. Hey -- I'll take any advantage I can get. The usual fiddling around ensued, as I placed my gear, then a trip to the men's room, some meet-and-greet with friends at the race, and it was time to head to the beach.

Into the Bathwater:

Water temps were in the low 80s, no wetsuits today. Surprisingly I hadn't raced without a wetsuit since my very first tri, back in 2005, and I was a little nervous about it -- you kind of get used to knowing you'll have the wetsuit on, I guess. The swim was advertised as 1500 meters, a two loop course, but it looked a little too long to most of us on the beach. Finally it was our turn, and the old guys waded out into the water. The horn caught me a bit by surprise, and I was treading water further back in the pack than I had planned on, but after about 50 yards of bumper boat I got some space.

I quickly got into a good rhythm. The course was a very long rectangle, so after a quick turn, it was down the backstretch. It was a dead-flat calm morning, and the lake is small, so there was no chop in the water. Normally I'll sight every 3-4 strokes, but with the calm water I went for 10 strokes or so before sighting. That kept me in a good rhythm, but I quickly discovered that I drift to the left when I swim. Couldn't blame the current today. By the time we started the second loop I began to be passed by some of the faster women swimmers in previous waves. That cured the drift -- when they passed I jumped onto their feet for as long as I could, trusting to their superior navigation.

Finally around the last turn, and we started towards shore. I powered through some lake grass and vines, then stumbled through the mud and jumped up onto the grassy run to the transition area. I crossed the mat and hit my watch -- 30 minutes and change -- that had to be too long a swim. Running up to my bike I saw a friend's bike still on the racks. He's a good swimmer, so I must not have done too bad.

Swim - 30:41 - 9/18 AG (45-49)
T1 - 1:02 - 2/18 AG

Onto the Hills:

A quick trip through T1, and I was on the road. The bike course at Charlottesville is a litle short, at 23.5 miles, but it makes up for it in difficulty. Lots of hills, mainly short steep pitches. While there are a few good areas for getting down in the bars, for the most part you need to be patient. Last year I blasted through the bike like a steroid-enhanced pit bull and left nothing in the tank for the run. I was determined to ride smarter this year.

During the long climb out of Walnut Creek Park I thanked my lucky starts that I was riding a road bike with a triple, after passing several people tacking back and forth across the road on their tri-bikes. Spin away and keep going, I said to myself. I was determined to ride within myself, keeping my gearing down and cadence up on the climbs. After leaving the park, I settled in as I zipped down the two-lane country roads of the course. It was surprisingly quiet -- maybe it was the way the waves had been set up, or maybe I had a good position, but always had plenty of room around me. After about 6-7 miles I was passed by a few riders, none of them in my age group., and I was starting to pick off riders from earlier waves.

The middle section of the course had some good spots for going fast, and I took advantage, but I played it safe on the many climbs. As we turned back the last few miles to the park I continued to keep my RPMs up, and avoided the temptation to attack the last few hills. Turning back into the park, I spun in an easy gear on the long descent back to transition and collected myself. Where was everbody in my AG? Usually there'll be some cat and mouse games on the bike, but I hadn't seen anybody I was competing directly against.

Off the bike and into T2 -- time to go minimalist -- don't need sunglasses and a hat in the woods. Rack the bike, shoes on, grab my stuff and go.

Bike -- 1:15:40, 4/18 AG
T2 -- :40, 2/18 AG

Into the Woods:

The run at C-ville is a beast. Six miles of hilly, tough, honest-to-gosh singletrack. A two-lap course that only briefly peaks out of the woods. Last year I'd suffered major cramps, and had barely got it done in less than an hour. I was hoping for much better. By now it was hot, and the woods held in the humidity like a steam bath.

Even before you get your legs under you there's a steep rocky downhill. My quads are starting to scream already. Then an uphill -- ouch -- was that a cramp? I grabbed a water at the first stop and slugged it down, walking a few steps and collecting myself. Back into the woods, the trail started winding up, but it was gradual and I started to get my feet under me. Better, I started to track down slower runners -- a nice moral boost. Suddenly I was passed by a sprightly 19 year old. She yelled out a "good run" as she skipped by, leaping through the forest like a deer (turns out she finished 3rd overall for the day). She had the right idea -- I relaxed and started flowing through the run, keeping my feet light.

I couldn't keep the feeling going though. Every downhill wound up my quads into a knot, and the following steep uphills made them feel like wooden posts. Finally I was out of the woods, past the finish line, and back for a second lap. More struggles through the ups and downs, until finally I hit the 4 mile mark. There's something about the four mile mark that always encourages me -- only two more to go! I collected myself and got my feet turning over in a good rhythm. Back out of the woods, and there's the finish -- zip up my jersey and try to look good for the photographer.

I'm done. Cooked is more like it -- my clothes are wringing wet, there's dirt and mud on my legs and my shoes are soaking wet, even though it wasn't wet on the trail.

Surprisingly, my run was good for second in my AG, even though I thought I was giving time away to the field. I checked the results when posted, and sure enough, I placed 3rd in my AG -- first time ever placing.

I got a hat...

Run -- 53:44, 2/18 AG
Overall -- 2:41:37, 3/18 AG, 36/101 overall men.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Colonial Beach Triathlon - July 13, 2008

Summary -- 2:10 and change, 5th AG for this "short Olympic" distance tri.

Lengthy report:

This was my first time doing the Colonial Beach Triathlon. A relatively small race, in a "beachy" town on the Potomac river, very flat when compared to races around Charlottesville.

I headed down on Saturday to pick up my packet and get in a short ride and run. The weather was hot on Saturday afternoon, but a nice breeze off of the Potomac kept it tolerable. I checked out part of the out-and-back bike and run courses, then drove over to Debi's house, where she and her husband were kind enough to host me for the night. Pizza and a movie, then off to bed.

4:30 in the morning came quickly, and after a cup of coffee and breakfast, we hit the road for the race site, about 25 minutes away. Our early arrival paid off -- I snagged a primo end spot on the rack in the transition area, then fiddled around endlessly with my gear while I counted down the time until the start. The water was warm, but wetsuit legal, so I took advantage with my short-sleeved suit. My race packet had the wrong color of swim cap, so I got a lot of odd looks and some concerned questions from other racers as all the green caps except me took off in the first wave. After a couple of minutes, I waded in with my group and off we went.

Swim (advertised as 1000 yards, probably around 750-800)

The swim started well. A couple of collisions, then clear water and easy sighting to the first buoy on the triangular course. Turning round the first buoy I could feel swells picking me up and down as I went down the next leg. The Potomac is very wide and salty at this point, wider even than the Choptank at Eagleman, so there was really an "open water" feel to the swim. Stayed on course pretty well, then turned for home. For whatever reason I couldn't sight worth a darn on this leg, and realized after a bit I was drifting downstream, away from the swim exit. I corrected, but I'm sure it cost me a few spots. Hit the shallow water and dophined a few times then ran up onto the pebble beach, down a concrete sidewalk and into the asphalt transition area -- pretty hard on the feet! (13:58 -- definitely not a 1000 yards! -- 8/20 AG)


This flew past -- I thanked my lucky stars for the end rack spot, got out of the wetsuit without too much bother, and ran for the mount line (1:17, 3/20 AG).

Bike (40K)

Transitioning into the bike always feels strange to me. Suddenly my wet body is pedaling away on a bike and my heart's going a mile a minute. I navigated away from the bike start, held up temporarily by an old guy driving a golf cart (they drive them around town in Colonial Beach). In a few minutes I was rolling down the highway, drinking out of my aerobottle and settling in for the ride. The course was a simple out-and-back, with minimal turns, and was well-suited for putting in a fast time. I kept my concentration on the RPMs -- keep the tempo at 90+, go fast without trashing the legs. I jockeyed around a bit with several other riders in my AG through the first few miles -- passed a few and had a few pass me. When it was all done, it evened out pretty well.

After about 6-7 miles we turned right and started climbing. What? There's a hill? Sure enough, a fairly long, gradual climb. Nothing bad, but enough to make you notice. I kept an eye on the RPMs, and downshifted when necessary, only interrupted by the whooshing sound of Debi passing me up. I kept it smooth, and didn't try to be a hero, since she's faster than me anyway. Over the top, and then a sharp left after a short downhill. Another long straight stretched in front of me, and I started to see the leaders coming back. Here's the turn, and I was feeling good. Best off all, it's a net downhill going back to the river.

I kept the tempo up on the return, playing hopscotch with a couple of riders from the Richmond Tri Club. They pass me, I pass them, they pass me, etc. Kept it interesting. As the end approached I took a flyer and started cranking up the RPMs and laying on more speed. It'd been a good ride. A couple of turns past the crowds, a quick stop and back into T2. (1:09:57, 21.3 mph, 8/20 AG)


Smoked this. Racked the bike, helmet/shoes off, shoes on, grabbed my hat and race belt and go! (:50, 1/20 AG)

Run (6 miles)

The run was an out and back 6 miler, following shore on the small peninsula that the town is on. My legs felt pretty good coming off the bike, and I concentrated on my running cadence for the first 5-6 minutes. Check the watch, count my footfalls to 90, check the watch. My rhythm was good, and started to gradually close in on some runners ahead of me. Passed one -- there's a 48 on his calf -- my AG -- yes! Hit the first mile in 7:30, and felt good. Just have to keep this up.

By now it was getting hot. Water stops were available every mile, and I doused myself down and drank each time. As we rounded peninsula, we hit some shady neighborhoods, which helped. At three miles we turned, and I hit a rough patch. My legs started getting tight and the heat started to wear me down. Back to my old trick I went and started counting my cadence. This took my mind off of my problems and I got back into a rhythm. 4 miles, 5 miles, still on pace, and catching a fair number of other runners. After 5 I caught another runner. There's a "46" on his calf -- I've got to get this guy. I pulled behind, and decided to give it a strong push. As I passed his right shoulder I put as unconcerned an expression on my face as I could and picked up the pace, counting my steps. 10, 20 , 30, 40, 50 -- hopefully he wouldn't realize how tired I was and try to come after me. As I hit the final turn I took a look back and saw I was in the clear. As I crossed the finish I was too tired to mug it up for the photographer, but happy when I checked my watch -- 44:36 for 6 miles, 7:26 pace, 5/20 AG.

I'd hoped to go under 2:15, and I did, with a 2:10:36. Good time, and a fun race.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Little Pepper Sprint Triathlon - May 18, 2008

Summary: (750 meter swim/15 mile bike/5K run) A great day for racing, and a good balanced effort.

1:28:20 -- 6/25 45-49 AG, 50/237 overall male.

Long report:

I did my first triathlon at Culpeper in August of 2005, so doing this race was a homecoming of sorts for me. It's a great venue: the swim is in a small quiet lake, with the transition area in a large grassy swale just a few yards from the waters edge. The bike takes full advantage of smooth highways and rolling country roads in the surrounding countryside, and it's topped off with a run on a closed highway that pops in and out of a couple of suburban neighborhoods. As the morning sun comes up over the lake, I can't imagine a prettier place to have a race.

Thanks to an early start, I completed my 45 minute drive and was at the race site with plenty of time to spare. Checked in, got my packet and chip and snagged a primo spot right on the end of my rack. Plenty of time to set up, so I was even more fussy than usual in getting everything "just so" in my transition area. I keep it pretty simple anyway -- helmet and glasses on the bike; bike shoes, running shoes, race belt and hat on my towel. A full aerobottle on the bike and I'm ready to go. After a liberal application of BodyGlide I strolled to the lake and checked out the water with a quick swim. Cool, but not bad. No morning fog, so visibility is excellent. Kibbitz with Debi, who made some noise about not running (sure, Debi...), and talked to a few acquaintances from C-ville and the race got underway.

My wave was next to last, so I killed time trying to stay warm until it was my turn. The sunny morning had turned overcast, with a bit of a breeze picking up. Great weather for racing, but kind of cool for standing around in a damp sleeveless wetsuit. Finally, the Women 35-up took off on the swim, a big school of yellow swim caps spreading out across the water, and it was my turn to wade in. A short wait, and the horn blew.

I'd seeded myself near the front of my wave. I'm not super fast in the water, but I can hold my own. The strategy worked well, and I had a nice pocket of space to myself right away. I got into a good rhythm and concentrated on having an efficient swim. A quick flick of the head every 4th stroke or so kept me sighting and right on track. By the first buoy we started hitting traffic from the previous wave and I played bumper boats with a couple of guys from my wave. Soon enough I was back in clear water and moving nicely down the back leg of the triangular course. I rounded the second turn and pushed the tempo up on the home leg. It'd been a good swim -- in particular I'd sighted well and stayed right on course throughout. As I hit the shallow water I went hard up the ramp, shooting for a good T1.

Swim: 14:05, 10/25 AG

A straight shot into transition, and I pulled off my cap and googles and undid my wetsuit's zipper as I jogged along. No problems with the wetsuit (thanks, BodyGlide) -- shoes on, glasses and helmet on, grab bike and go. A run up a grassy slopt to the mount line and I hopped on and coasted down the road as I clipped in.

T1: 1:33, 3/25 AG

The bike is a real joy on this course. It's hilly and fairly technical, which keeps you thinking throughout. And the scenery is great. As we headed west towards the Blue Ridge Mountains, I would have stopped to take a picture if I'd had a camera. In the first few miles of the bike I played hopscotch with a few other racers from my AG, but soon the field shook out and I found myself in my own comfort zone, keeping the RPMs up, and taking advantage of the flats and downhills to put on some speed. There were a lot of short steep uphills, and I attacked them conservatively, gearing down to keep up my momentum and pedaling speed as I went over the top.

It seemed to be working -- I was picking off dozens of riders from the earlier waves, and holding off anybody behind me. At about mile 12 another racer in my AG caught me on a downhill. Good incentive. On the next uphill grade I stepped up the effort and pushed past then put the hammer down for the last few miles. I was feeing good --- it'd been a solid ride overall.

Bike: 49:38, 8/25 AG

T2 reversed the direction of T1 -- run down the hill from the dismount area, bike on the rack, helmet off, shoes on, grab hat and race belt and out the chute. Nice smooth transition.

T2: 1:02, 2/25 AG

I've been working on the run a lot this year, and I'm feeling the benefits in my racing. The first mile of so of the run course was mostly uphill, but I got settled in pretty well. I was breathing hard (a bit of a cold wasn't helping things), but my legs felt good. No cramping, and the muscles felt pretty fresh. The course was an out-and-back, with a couple of out-and-back spurs on the way out. It made it interesting, because you could see the field in front of you a couple of times. As I hit the first spur, I started to really get into a strong running rhythm. Jack Bernardes, Debi's husband whooshed by going the other way -- I wasn't going to catch him, it looked like. But there were plenty of other people in front of me. Just like on the bike, I was passing lots of other racers. Into the second spur -- there goes Jack again -- well, at least he's not any further ahead. Finishing the second spur, I turned for home. This had the potential to be fast -- it was mainly downhill, retracing the tough first part of the run course.

I zeroed in on a pack in front of me and tried to catch them. Then I saw the "45" on the leg of a guy in front of me. Yes -- I can pick up a spot. I tucked in behind, then made a hard break past, hoping he wouldn't try to latch on. The strategy worked and I cruised in over the last 1/4 mile by myself and gave it a good shot across the line.

Run: 22:03, 7/25 AG

Overall a good race for me -- interestingly enough, my overall AG finish was better than my swim/bike/run placements. I'll thank the fast transitions and a pretty balanced performance for that. I'm not exceptional in any of the disciplines, but I won't count any of them as weaknesses, either.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Some people just don't get it...

Witness the wilderness geek in the picture. For the good of all, he subjected himself to two grueling nights in the woods, testing out gear that would keep him connected to the internet during his wilderness sojourn.

Why bother? Look, I'm no Luddite -- I'll take a digital camera, a small sports radio, and a cell phone for emergencies with me when I go backpacking, but our hero misses the point. If you've got to stay connected that badly, stay at home.

The wilderness has a powerful effect on me. I find that the time I spend there refreshes me mentally and physically. There's something powerfully meditative about focusing on a goal as simple as walking from here to there, carrying all your necessities of food, fuel, and shelter on your back.

Sure, I love the convenience and connectivity of modern life, but there's something to be gained personally by leaving that behind for a while sometimes. Our internet Davy Crockett just doesn't get it.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I qualified for Jeopardy!

Short version:

Weekend before last, the Jeoparday contestant search was in Charlottesville, and I took the contestant test on a whim. I qualified!

Long version:

I'm one of those people who watches Jeopardy and shouts out the correct answers all the time, so when the Jeoparday contestant search came to town I thought "what the heck," and went to try out. They were set up on Sturday at a local auto dealership. I walked in, sat down, and they handed me a 10-question test. Easy stuff, and I sailed right through in a couple of minutes. Handed it over to the guy running the test, he glanced at it and handed me a couple of sheets of paper.

"You did great -- come back tomorrow tomorrow to the Omni Hotel downtown at 11:30."

"What? I've got a race in Richmond in the morning."

"What kind of race?"

"A duathlon."

"Is that some kind of shooting race or something?"

"No. Run, bike, run. Kind of like a triathlon, only drier."

"Can you win money there?"

"Me? No, I'm not a pro."

"You can win money on Jeopardy -- you'll do well -- try to make it."

So, there I was on Saturday night -- not only getting my gear ready for the race, but packing a sports coat, shirt, and tie (the test invite for Sunday said come dressed as you would if you were on TV). If I got the race done in about 2:30, and drove straight back, I might make it to the hotel by 11:30.

Race over, I hustled back to my car and hit the highway, zooming up I-64 back to Charlottesville. A quick change of clothes at a rest area and a dab of deodorant, and there I was, at the hotel at 11:25. A crowd of about 125 or so of us was ushered into a ballroom and sat down at tables. After a quick intro, and a video from Alex Trebeck, we took a 50 question written test. Eight seconds for each question, then on to the next. Pretty easy stuff, mainly. The tests were taken up to be graded, and a young lady on the Jeopardy crew took questions from the audience. Amazing how many people want to know what Alex Trebeck is like in person.

Here comes the big moment. They start reading out names -- I've made the cut! The losers are ushered out, and the 20-25 survivors gather at the front of the room. A few forms to fill out, and a quick sample game and interview (our screen test, in effect) and I'm done.

Now the wait -- I'm in the contestant pool for 18 months. If they call me, I fly out to LA and give it a shot in person. No guarantees I'll actually make it onto the show, but I'm already starting to study -- I think I'll brush up on Shakespeare first.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Duathlon Nationals (10K/40K/5K)

I'll admit when Debi suggested this race I was a little taken aback. Nationals? Me? Duathlon? Granted, there's no qualification standard and anyone can race, but I was prepared for my ego to get a little bruised by the competition.

Sure enough, the atmosphere in the transition area as I set up was pretty hard-core. I don't think I've ever seen so many aero helmets in one place, not to mention lots of wiry looking guys wearing "Team USA" outfits. Not like the usual local sprint tri, that's for sure. It was pretty clear that if I wanted to make this a profitable day, I'd best concentrate on my race, and not worry about the rest of the guys out there.

Men aged 40 and over were in the last of three waves, so after we watched the young guys and then the women go, it was our turn. I seeded myself conservatively in the pack, determined not to get caught up in the moment, and settled into a comfortable pace as we took off. The course was a two-loop 5K, crossing the James River on a footbridge suspended beneath a highway bridge, and then looping around Belle's Island on gravel and dirt paths. Pretty flat for the most part, but running onto and off the foot bridge required going up a series of ramps with several 180 degree turns. When I hit ground on Belle's Island I started to catch some of the slower women runners and a few of the men. My rhythm felt good, so I stayed focused on how I felt. Oddly enough, there weren't any mile markers on the course, so I didn't have a clear idea of my pace.

By the time I'd started back across the James, the leaders were recrossing, and there was two-way traffic in many spots. It got interesting as we rounded corners, particularly on the bridge ramps. As I turned for the second loop, I glanced at my watch -- around 24 minutes and change -- not bad. Knowing the course for the second loop made it easier to judge my effort and I held pace well. By know, a light drizzle had started. As I finished the second loop and went into T1, I was at 49 minutes. Most importantly, I felt good, and was looking forward to the bike. (49:04 - 7:54 pace, 22/32 AG).

The bike course was a four-loop affair. I'll take a moment to describe it. Leaving transition there was a steep, two-switchback climb up a hill. Then we looped around some office buildings, went downhill past transition, and then climbed an entrance ramp onto a highway bridge over the James. Once over the river, we went down the ramp and onto Riverside Drive, a mainly residential street with a series of climbs, turns, and descents. The course then turned from Riverside drive, climbed into a residential neighborhood, and made several sharp turns in a park, before retracing our path back to Riverside Drive and back over the bridge. From there, back up the switchbacks and repeat.

The course was technical, but a lot of fun -- no time to zone out or you'd pay for it. And, as a matter of fact, I saw several riders down along the way, owing to the slick conditions, and a lot of riders with flat tires, probably the result of debris on the highway bridge. The lowlight of the ride was the bridge. To avoid going over the expansion joints, you had to stay on the shoulder, which had it's fair share of obstacles. After a few laps I knew what to watch out for, but a lot of riders weren't so lucky and had to pull over for flats and mechanicals. Coming back across the bridge went directly into a steady headwind. I didn't choose to fight it, and geared down to keep my RPMs up.

As I started the bike I paid strict attention to my heartrate and settled into a good riding rhythm. The first loop was a feeling-out process, as I got familiar with the circuit. By the second time around, I knew where to go, gear wise, and was feeling in control. Finishing the second loop, I checked my average speed (17.5) and started to go a little harder. So far I'd judged the race well, and had plenty left in the tank. It's difficult to keep track of the race on a multiple loop course. You're being passed by the faster riders, while catching up the slower ones. Pretty soon you're wondering who you've seen before.

As I started the 4th loop, the early waves and faster riders were starting to hit the transition area, and there was more room on the course to go hard. I picked up my pace to a 17.9 average on my computer over the last two laps and felt good about the effort. As I hopped off into T2 I was confident about the upcoming 5K run. A quick transition and back out onto the course. The race finished with the same 5K loop we'd run at the start -- a real advantage, mentally, knowing what to expect. (Bike - 1:24:49, 22/32 AG).

I got into a good rhythm right away, and started to pick off slower runners. Over the bridge and back onto the wooded paths of Belle Island and I found myself alone. No one in front, no one running with me. Time to concentrate, now. Think about form, turnover, keep going strong. Suddenly a mountain bike blew past, with a quick shout to stay to the right, and the runners from the elite race blew past (they'd started while I was on the course). Speedy.

Back on the bridge I zeroed in on some runners ahead of me and tracked them down -- nothing like fresh prey to give you incentive. Finally, I hit the line. 2:39:37. (5K run -- 24:06, 7:46 pace, 16/32 AG).

All in all, I was pleased with the effort. I executed well, and finished with a pretty strong effort on the 5K. The level of competition was an eye-opener, but not really a factor in what I did. When you race, you try to execute your best race at the moment, and I thought I did that pretty well. Getting faster is about executing over the long term, so it's nose to the grindstone and keep it at until next time. A fun race, and a nice challenge.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Charlottesville 10-Miler Race Report

Summary: 1:13:15, 16/126 AG (M 45-49)

Long report:

"Lean forward," I said to myself, "Pick it up -- you've got this in the bag."

I was 7-1/2 miles into the 10-Miler, and everything had gone right so far. Know I was within reach of beating my PR, set 10 years ago. It was time to see what was left in the tank.

The morning of the race had dawned colder than expected. Temperatures were hovering around 40 at my house as I had my breakfast. Just to be on the safe side I threw a short-sleeved shirt in with my bag along with my singlet. The rest of my gear -- hat and gloves were already set to go.

I drove down to the race start with plenty of time to spare. Although the race had a record field this year -- over 2100 finished -- the race starts by the University of Virginia's basketball arena, so there's plenty of space for parking. I got in my warmup run, hit the men's room, and lined up towards the front, not too close to the speedsters, but away from the crowd.

With the gun, we were off! My location was good. I went out conservatively, and had room to run without dodging other runners. At the half-mile I was at 3:50. That was perfect -- Debi's instructions were to do the first mile in 7:40 and pick up the pace from there. I was determined to follow the advice, after heading out too fast in my last race.

Like all the 10-Miler course, the first mile has some hills. I kept my effort even, but stretched it out on the downhills. At the first mile I was at 7:30 -- maybe a touch fast, but there was a long downhill stretch in there. More importantly, the effort felt good. I was breathing easy and running relaxed. I could hear some of the runners around me who'd gone out to fast breathing heavily, and it was a good reinforcement to me.

Mile 2 circled the football stadium, and the pace stayed consistent - 7:25, despite a couple of hills.

Mile 3 continued through the University grounds, passing many of the University's original buildings and Thomas Jefferson's enlightened architecture. At the close of the mile I was at 22:23 -- nice consistent pace through three of the more challenging miles on the course. Most runners leave too much effort on the ground after three miles, but I felt good -- relaxed, running well and in control. Now it was time to take it up a notch.

Mile 4 passes out of the University of Virginia grounds and into the city -- it's a fast mile, with a long downhill stretch. I took advantage and hit it in 7:05.

Now I was approaching the Downtown Mall, a pedestrian mall that's at the heart of the city. Good size crowds were out as we ran up the brick paving, and turned north into some of the older residential areas of Charlottesville. Despite the slight uphill, I came in at 7:17, hitting the 5 mile mark at 36:46.

This was a key moment. The 10-Miler is notorious for sucking runners in during the first 5 miles and then chewing them up. Negative splits are the exception, not the rule. I felt good after 5 -- plenty of gas in the tank, and prepared for the next couple of miles.

Mile 6 hits with a downhill, then a tough uphill. I gathered strength by starting to pass some of the runners who had left me early in the race. Every hill seemed to take a little more out of them, and I started passing more and more familiar faces from the first few mile. 7:24 for this tough mile.

Mile 7 is the breaking point for a lot of runners -- a long uphill past a cemetery (today featuring a bagpiper mangling some Scottish airs) and then a turn onto a short, steep uphill. The course passes back by itself, so I could see the crowd of runners still coming on behind me. A short jaunt back onto the Downtown Mall, then off onto another street. 7:29 -- the pace was a bit slower, but I was holding my own, picking off other runners consistently.

As I ran back towards the University I started doing the math. My PR was in site. 1:13:01. I'd need to average a little over 7:00/mile and I'd have it in the bag. The longest straight stretch of the race, Main Street, was in front of me. "Lean forward -- you've got it in the bag."

Mile 8 -- 7:23. Damn.

Mile 9 -- The University "Corner" -- shops, restaurants, and one of the toughest hills on the course. Keep it going -- fast legs, go hard. A left turn back onto the University grounds, and then a sweeping downhill. Here's the mile marker -- 7:19. This is going to take a heck of an effort.

Mile 10 -- There's no rest on the home stretch -- it's a tough section of rolling ups and downs as you retrace the opening mile back to the start. I focus on each runner ahead of me, focusing on catching one runner at a time, rather than the growing fatigue. Then I see him, up ahead. My co-worker, Tommy. I've been trying to beat him all year. I'd seen him at the start, then put him out of my mind, knowing he'd go out much faster.

Now I'm gaining. I keep digging. There's the finish. I'm not going to get him -- or the PR -- go hard anyway.

Finish -- 1:13:15.

No PR, no victory over my co-worker. But one of the best races I've run in years, and 3-1/2 minutes faster than last year. That's a good day's work!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Summary: First race of the year, 35:15 (PR). AG placement: 4/29

My big goal this year is to improve my running and qualify for Boston at the Richmond Marathon in November. So road race results seem to take on extra significance. Despite a bout with a bad cold in January and February, I felt pretty strong coming into this race. I had a pretty solid base and had done significantly more early-season track work than I've done before.

The Martha Jefferson Hospital 8K is a pretty popular local race in Charlottesville. A lot of runners use it as a tuneup and yardstick for the Charlottesville 10 Miler, which follows in three weeks. And the course covers some of the same territory, albeit in a different direction. It's a pretty tough course -- urban and hilly, with about one significant climb in each of the 5 miles it covers. It'll tear you up quick if you're not careful.

Saturday morning was just as bad as the Weather Channel had said it would be. Grey skies, pelting rain, and temperatures in the mid 40s. Five minutes into my warmup jog, the rain changed into a downpour and I took cover on the porch of a house until it passed. Eventually I hit the streets again, finished my warmup, took care of business and got ready to race.

Despite the bad weather a pretty solid crowd was ready to go. I seeded myself a bit more to the front than usual, hoping to get a little running room early and settle into a steady pace. Amazingly, the rain stopped -- no rainbows, mind you, but at least no more cold rain in the face for a while. The gun went off and I began.

After a couple of quick cuts, I found the space I wanted. Settle in and shoot for a seven minute first mile. With the hills there's not much advantage taking it out too fast. As we wound through the residential streets north of the hospital I felt pretty good -- nice tempo in the legs, breathing under control. The first hill came as we neared the end of Mile 1. I kept my tempo, but didn't try to go too hard up the climb. Here's the mile marker -- 6:45.

Finishing the first mile, Tommy, a coworker of mine passes me. I've never beaten him before, but I see an opportunity here. He tends to go out too fast in his races, so I didn't try to stay on his heels. He'll come back. More residential streets, then the second major hill. As we pass the County Courthouse, running down the same street that Jefferson and Madison used to walk, I hit the second mile -- 13:49.

After the Courthouse, we turn onto the Downtown Mall, a brick-paved pedestrian mall. Normally an active spot on a Saturday morning, but today quiet and rain-slicked. The mall's a slight downhill, but at the end we turn and start up hill number three. There's Tommy in front of me -- he's stretched his margin out to about 75 yards. At the top of the hill we turn and start downhill again. I try to stretch my stride out a bit and make up some time. Here's mile three -- 21:00.

OK -- time to dig in -- I've been losing time since that 6:45 first mile. I've got to kick it up to keep it at 7 minute pace. Problem is, I'm in no-man's land. There's a loose pack about 25 yards ahead of me, and some stragglers behind. Nobody's energy to feed off of. But here's something -- I'm closing the gap on Tommy. Yes, I'm reeling him in.

Up ahead comes the toughest hill on the course, right at the end of mile four. I've got Tommy in my sights and the distance is dropping. As he turns to go up the hill, I can sense that he knows I'm coming after him. We both motor up the hill -- he gains some of his ground back, but he can't shake me. Cresting the hill a woman passes me, running well. She's looking strong, and I see an opportunity. I jump onto her heels and let her set pace. Here's mile four -- 28:23.

OK, I'm going to have to dig deep now. Trailing my pacesetter I pull up close to Tommy. The gap is only a few feet now. As we turn to hit the final hill, my pacesetter makes her move, accelerating away. I can't cover the move and her gap over me increases. As she passes
Tommy he picks up her energy and pulls away. Dang!

Now it's just me -- keep my stride together, don't give up. I make the last climb, pushing hard, feeling another runner closing the gap. Here's the final turn -- go! As we hit the line my pursuer pulls up and lets me across first -- a nice gesture to the old guy -- he could have had me. Stop the watch and walk breathless through the chutes -- final time 35:15. Over a minute off of last year's time, and a PR.

A good way to start the year. Now it's on to the 10 Miler in three weeks.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's not the cold, it's the wind...

There is a certain macho appeal to bundling up and getting a run in on a cold January morning, but I draw the line sometimes. I mean, 31 degrees isn't too bad, but match it up with 20 mph breezes and you've got tough conditions. And since my gym is only 5 minutes away...

So this morning's 8 mile run was indoors. Since I had some HR zone training to do, it actually worked out pretty well. I did 15 minutes easy on the track, then hopped on a treadmill to do 5 repeats of 4 min Z3, 4 min Z1. Getting to Z3 was easy -- just increase the incline and watch your HR go up. I'd start each Z3 repeat at 5.5%, 9 min/mile, and decrease the incline as I started to hit Z4. For the Z1 segments, I'd slow a bit, and drop the incline to 1% until my HR came down. Gradually speed up the treadmill, then up the incline for the next repeat. Worked pretty well.

After the treadmill, back onto the track for an easy 15 minutes. Good workout, and I didn't even need to put on chapstick.