Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Giant Acorn Intl. Triathlon -- 10/1/2011

Summary: Olympic distance tri -- 2:27:42 (PR). 2nd Age Group.

Long report:

It's odd, but sometimes I come off of a bad race feeling very motivated and strong for the next one. In this case, the bad race was my melt-down at the Patriot's Half-Iron, where the only good thing about my result was that I managed to have a "5" as the first number, not a "6." And that was a near thing. Debi sagely made me take it very easy the next week, then gave me a week with some nice intervals, followed by a week of mild taper before the race. It seemed to work -- I felt sharp coming into the weekend. My running felt especially strong. Relaxed, but speedy.

Race day was breezy and cool (low 50s), with some scattered clouds. As I set up in transition, I heard many of the triathletes debating what they would wear on the bike and run. They were concerned about it being cold. I wasn't -- this was perfect racing weather. I was there early, so I puttered around my set up, adjusting things this way and that while I waited, sipped some hot tea, and socialized a bit with Debi and some other Charlottesville triathletes who'd made the trip.


I'd warmed up a bit in the sheltered waters near the docks, but when out wave swam out to the line I could tell it was choppy. The first leg of the triangle had the wind and swell in our face, followed by a sideways swell. We'd finally be able to ride the waves on the way in for the last leg. The weather was clear, so sighting was good, and since the old guys were in the 6th wave, there'd be plenty of other swimmers to sight off of. I seeded myself up front on the right side and the horn blew.

The swim was rougher than any I'd done before, but I got into a good rhythm and was sighting well. Despite a few momentary collisions I managed to stay in the clear pretty well. The water temp was in the low 70s, so it was ideal for swimming with a wet suit. I came out of the water in the middle of one of the previous waves and hustled around them best I could as many of them strolled into transition (guys -- it's a race!). My watch said 28:47 -- no way of knowing how that stacked up, but I felt strong and ready to punch the bike.


The area around my bike looked like a bomb had gone off, but my less-than-neat rack mates hadn't disturbed my gear. Thanks to a heavy spray down of PAM, my suit slid off smoothly and I grabbed my bike to jog over to the mount line, fighting slow traffic along the way. It's a price you pay for being in the older AGs -- you're always going off in the last waves and having to pass slower competitors.

After moving past the scrum at the beginning of the bike, I settled in for the ride. The course is two loops, and roughly rectangular. I've ridden it before, so I knew to lay back a little over the mainly uphill rollers during the first few miles. I felt good, and worked on accelerating over the top of each roller to maintain my speed. In the first 5 miles I caught and passed three guys in my AG. Hopefully that was a good sign.

While I was passing a lot of riders, I did have to keep an eye back. The race was the USAT Collegiate Regional championship, so some fast young riders were making their way around the second lap and zipping by fairly frequently. I felt strong as I got into the ride, but kept my RPMs high and avoided kicking it out too hard -- I wanted to hit the run fresh.

As lap two started I fired down a couple of Endurolytes and a gel. The speedsters had peeled off to transition and I kept working at the same effort level, putting in a bit of a burst over the last few miles. Life was good, and this was fun!


One of the cleats on my left shoe had come loose, so I kept my shoes on for the dismount and did the long run into T2 in my cycling shoes. As I started to put on my running shoes I realized I couldn't feel my toes and had to guide them into the shoe carefully. I guess it had been a little cooler on the bike than I'd thought. Not to worry, they'll warm up soon enough...

The run at Giant Acorn is a 2-loop out-and-back. It made for a crowded run course, but it was fun to have people to key off. My plan was to take the first two miles easy, kick into a good rhythm through 3 and 4, then take it home hard. The run was feeling smooth, and the advantages of knowing the course were helping -- I knew how long each of the hills would be, and where I could kick it in harder.

At two miles my watch showed 14:45 -- excellent, and better yet I felt in control. I notched it up a bit and settled in at a little faster pace. I saw Mark Robbins coming the other way -- looked like he had about 8-10 minutes on me. No surprise there. Debi passed going the other way shortly after. She'd had a 4 minute head start, and it looked like I had a chance to beat her time.

Miles 3-4 zipped by as we started the second lap. The faster runners were off the course now, and I was catching runners starting their first lap. Lots of incentives ahead of me. I caught and passed a 51-year old. No way of knowing if he was on the first or second lap, but I wasn't taking any chances. Now was the time to go hard, with only two miles left.

As I passed the 5 mile mark it was hurting, but a good hurt. My stride felt good, I just needed to gut it out for the last bit. I passed a 56-year old, a competitor who used to beat me on occasion when he was in my AG. I heard him tuck in behind me, maxing out his effort. After about 20 seconds he said:

"I don't want to be a ****, but does that say 58 or 52 on your calf?"


"Thank God," he said, as he dropped off.

Now or never, as I got the finish in sight and went full bore across the line. Hands on hips, spent, but a satisfied feeling.

Run --


Swim -- 28:47 ----- 8/30 AG, 157/454 OA men.
T1 ------ 1:59 -------1/30 AG, 93/454 OA men
Bike --- 1:09:07 -- 4/30 AG, 126/454 OA men
T2 ------ 2:14 ------ 3/30 AG, 152/454 OA men
Run ---- 45:38 ---- 3/30 AG, 101/454 OA men

OA -- 2:27:48 -- 2/30 AG, 103/454 OA men


Friday, September 16, 2011

Patriot's 1/2-IM Race Report -- 9/10/11

It's been a long summer, and quite a while since I've posted a race report. My goals for the season centered on doing two 1/2-IM races -- preparation for the jump to the long journey at IMWI in 2012. The season got off to a pretty solid start: I had a good international with a strong run leg in April, and then snagged a PR of 5:09 at the Kinetic Half in May, though a miscalculation on my run pace probably prevented an even better time. If I put together a good summer of training, I felt that a sub-5 was in reach on the flat course at Patriots in September.

Life has a way of intruding on the best-laid plans, though. My father-in-law's terminal illness meant we spent many weekends on the road to WV, and the entire process left all of us wrung out, physically and emotionally, before he found his final relief at the end of July.

I managed to shoehorn in a couple of small sprint-distance races after things settled down, and had a couple of AG podium finishes. But the run-up to the race was a little more dramatic than I wanted, with a stingray assault on my foot while at the beach, a nasty summer cold that I just couldn't shake, and an unpleasant bonk during a 4-hour ride. Lingering hot and humid weather didn't improve my mood either. But race day wouldn't wait for me to get everything right -- it was time to do the best with what I had.

After meeting up with Debi and a fun bunch of other athletes for dinner on Friday night, things went smoothly on Saturday morning. I snagged a good spot on my rack and got my gear in order in plenty of time -- no drama, just the way I like it. The word came down that tha water in the tidal James River at Jamestown was at 79 degrees, so no wetsuits for the competitors today. Eh, no problem, just keep it steady.

The race

As usual, the old guys were one of the last waves. That's not all bad, at least you can sight on the caps ahead of you. . We'd been promised that the current would be coming in on the roughly triangular course -- a factor that played into the swim later on. I got into a nice smooth rhythm on the swim, sighting every 4 strokes to correct for my inevitable leftward drift. Rounding the first buoy we caught the current and made good time. Almost too good of time -- I got a little wide and it was a bit of a challenge to keep on course for the second buoy.

The last short stretch of the swim was back against the current, then a hard left to the beach. This dragged on for quite a while as we fought against the tidal flow. Though I felt great throughout the swim, but could tell I'd been in the water a long time. As I exited the water I could see I was right -- 47:36(!). No panic -- there were lots of my competitors around me. And the times for the race bore this out -- only 3 out of 33 in the 50-54 AG were under 45 minutes.

Swim: 9/33 AG -- 47:36.

Transition is where I always make up time. This race had the longest run to T1 that I've ever seen, about 1/4 mile over muddy fields. I'd scoped out the run on Friday afternoon, so there weren't any surprises in store. I kept up a nice jogging pace and got into transition feeling good. I wiped off my muddy feet with a towel, got into my shoes and took off. A smooth clip-in and away I rolled.

T1: 3/33 AG -- 4:22.

The goal for the bike was to set myself up for a good run. At Kinetic I hadn't left enough in the tank and faded over the last few miles of the run. Today I resolved not to get caught up in jockeying for position on the bike.

Soon I was jockeying for position on the bike. I found myself in an annoying pack of riders (especially YOU, Mr. Draft Everybody and Pass On the Right, wearing the Alaska bike jersey...). It was an annoying round of getting caught behind someone slow, pass them, have them suck on your wheel then pass and slow down. Patriots isn't a hard bike course, but a few rollers along the way finally broke up the group and I could concentrate on my own thing.

My bike computer wasn't working, but some simple calculations at the 5-mile markers showed I was easily averaging over 20 mph. I drank Cytomax on my watch's timer, every 12 minutes, and fired down a gel about every 4th time, with a few Endurolytes thrown in for good measure. One positive for this year has been that my cycling has gotten stronger, and I felt it today. I only had a few short bad patches along the way, and stayed pretty comfortable for most of the ride, keeping a nice brisk pedaling tempo and staying in control throughout. Still, it was relief to see the 55-mile mark and know I only had 3 miles to go (yes, it was a 58 mile bike course). I did a shoes-off dismount to the ringing of cowbells and jogged into T2.

Bike: 6/33 -- 2:48:40 (20.75 mph).

T2: 3/33 -- 1:24

If you'd asked me when I started the run how the rest of the race would go, I would have predicted "great!" I had a smooth transition and my legs were clicking along nicely. One of my local rivals was about 50 yards up the road, but I entertained hopes of keeping with him (he eventually got 3rd AG). I passed by Debi with a jaunty wave and kept moving along, stopping for my planned walk breaks.

The first mile was 8:15, and the second, with a walk break, at 8:30. Then the wheels came off. First the quads, then the calves started cramping. That, combined with the sun and heat (high 80s and humid) were enough to take the wind out of my sails. I kept slogging along, adding more walk breaks as my legs failed, but the splits got slower and slower, as I got crampier and more nauseous with each mile.

It was a long and depressing finish to what had been a strong day, as I limped along at 11-12 minute pace over the last 5-6 miles. I put on a brave face in the final chute, but it was a disappointing finish.

Run: 11/33 AG -- 2:16:12

Overall: 7/33 AG, 162/407 Men -- 5:58:12


As I lay in the medical tent getting my IV (ah, relief!), I tried to put it all in perspective. I've always prided myself on good race execution, but there was no getting past the fact that I'd screwed this one up. True, conditions were very tough, and a lot of people had bad races. But in the end, you've got to be prepared for what mother nature and the race throw at you. But I learned a valuable lesson -- one that I hope I can apply to my next big race.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Dual Race Reports: Bath County Tri and Men's 4-Miler -- 6/18-19/2011

Summary: A busy Father's Day weekend.

Saturday -- Bath County Tri -- 1:17:58. 2/8 AG, 20/131 OA male.
Sunday -- Men's 4-Miler -- 26:41. 4/48 AG, 53/449 OA

Bath County Sprint Tri:

A small field, beautiful scenery, and a course with a few tough wrinkles summed up the Bath County Tri. Bath County is located in the Allegheny foothills of western Virginia, and is notable for bed-and-breakfasts, The Homestead Resort, and miles of beautiful and wild rivers favored by anglers. A scenic but long drive deposited me at Lake Moomaw, a small reservoir with clear mountain water in the George Washington National Forest.

Packet pickup and setup was uneventful. I chatted it up with a 50-year old on my rack who saw my Boston hat. "2010, huh? I've got the same hat. It was windy this year..." We chatted a bit more as we sized each other up. Nice guy, but probably my competition. A short jog, a little practice with my shoes on the pedals mount/dismount, and a little swim and it was time to race.

Second wave for the swim, a long rectangle in nice mountain water. 76 degrees, so I wore my wetsuit. Thought I sighted well, and moved up through the first wave as I went along. Stopped my watch at 15:24 for the swim, which seemed slow. Based on other times, I think the course was a bit long.

Swim -- 15:24. 3/8 AG, 32/131 OA male.

Wetsuit off in a jiffy at T1 -- plenty of BodyGlide this time around. Helmet, glasses on, grabbed the bike and ran. Smooth shoes on the pedal mount and off to the bike.

T1 -- 1:03. 1/8 AG, 20/130 OA male.

The bike was an out and back on closed roads with pretty smooth asphalt. There was a steep climb about 1/2 mile in that caught me by surprise and in the wrong gear while I was grabbing a drink. Weaved embarrassingly across the road while I got into the right gear. I hammered down the other side of the hill and then into the false flats and small climbs of the outward leg. There weren't many on the course around me, but I overhauled a few riders. 21 minutes and change for the first 6.2 miles.

At the turn-around it was hammer time and I really got rolling. This was fun! Payback came on the return of the course's first hill, but at least I was ready this time. A nifty barefoot flying dismount and it was into T2.

Bike -- 37:00. 1/8 AG, 21/131 OA male.

I noticed that my rival's bike wasn't into transition yet as I racked. Maybe I could hold him off, since I figured he'd have a strong run leg. Shoes on, grab my hat, belt and gel and go.

T2 -- 0:36. 1/8 AG, 9/131 OA male.

Not a good start to the run -- there was a nice hill right out of the gate, and I couldn't get my legs on track right away. After about a mile in the course leveled off and I got into a good rhythm.

Then my shoe came untied. I ran with it for a while, but finally decided it had to be tied. The second I knelt down I saw a figure with a "50" on his calf zoom by me. C***!

I took chase, but he had too much speed for me on this day. Nonetheless I made up for a disappointing start for the run with a strong finish over the last mile. Not a good run though, even factoring in a hilly run course.

Run -- 23:56. 3/8 AG, 32/130 OA male

Overall, I thought my run let me down a bit. I'd done everything I'd needed to win my AG until that point. Anything near what I think I'm capable of would have sealed the deal. But hey, I won an insulated lunch bag!

Overall -- 1:17:58. 2/8 AG, 20/130 OA male.

Men's 4-Miler

This race, which benefits prostate cancer research has always been the junior partner to the Women's 4-Miler. This year, with the date changed to Father's Day, and the location changed to UVA, there was a much bigger field. I think a lot of us looked forward to the on-field finish projected onto the stadium scoreboard video screen. Pretty cool.

I started towards the front, near Mark Robbins. As we got onto the course he pulled about 5 seconds ahead. In our last race together that was the end of it, and he crushed me by over a minute at the MJH 8K. Today I didn't let the string snap and kept him in sight, but couldn't quite find the speed I needed to overhaul him.

Had a good finishing 1/2 mile or so, and came in strong. Really fun to emerge out of the stadium onto the field. Overall a good run on a warm and humid morning.

26:41 (just off my 2008 PR). 4/48 AG, 53/450 OA.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kinetic 1/2-Ironman Triathlon -- May 14, 2011

It's unusual for me to be writing a second triathlon race report this early in the season. But I decided late last year that I wanted improve my racing at longer distances in preparation for an IM debut in 2012. So the Kinetic 1/2 looked like a good early season race to keep me working through the winter.

I felt good going into the race. I've done a lot more riding than I normally do this spring, and a pretty solid bike/run combo at an international-distance race a few weeks back looked like a good sign. And despite some issues with my knee in the winter that limited my speed work, my last few long runs had felt nice and smooth.

Sub 5-hours? Probably a bit of a stretch, but I was thinking I could get close. At least, I wanted to ditch my old PR (5:13).

The weather was a bit misty and hazy, but the water was a comfortable 71 degrees and there was no wind. I ran in from about the 3rd row on the beach start and found a good spot with some open room around me but plenty of other swimmers to sight off. Felt nice and smooth throughout the swim, popping my head up about every 6 strokes or so for sighting. Got out of the water in good shape and jogged up the long path to transition with a lot of energy. Lots of pool time this winter paid off -- I'm still not really fast, but the distance was no sweat.

Swim -- 36:05. 12/33 AG, 151/410 OA men.

My last race had been a disaster in T1, when I decided to put on arm warmers. No problem this time, the weather was perfect and I could go minimalist -- tri top, shorts, shoes, no socks, no gloves. Because the run out to the mount line went through a gravel parking lot, I slipped on my shoes rather than leaving them on the pedals. On the way, no drama.

T1 -- 2:15. 3/33 AG, 62/410 OA men.

I started conservatively on the bike, getting comfortable and settling in for the ride. The first couple of miles out of the state park are uphill anyway, so there's no reason to pound it hard at the beginning. As we got out on the course I got into a nice rhythm on the mainly flat-to-rolling course. I'd set my watch timer to 15 minutes, so each time it went off I got a drink, then stood up on the pedals for a few seconds and stretched out. Once every 3-4 intervals I fired down a gel (Honey Stingers).

Coach Debi passed me, then I passed her back, and I found myself out by myself for large portions of the ride. Around mile 30 I stopped briefly at a water bottle hand-off to top off my Cytomax concentrate with water and get free of draft pack that had sucked me up a mile or so before.

Through the second time around the course's loop I kept up a nice tempo, shifting gears to the big ring on the flats, but dropping it down and being conservative on the rises. Hitting mile 50 I was psyched -- I felt great, and was rolling along well below my goal time of 2:45.

A few seconds of wobbly legs off the dismount and I ran into T2 feeling ready to hit the run strong.

Bike -- 2:40:11. 14/33 AG, 146/410 OA men.

The run ended up being a "close but no cigar" moment. My goal was to do 8 minute miles, and after a slow first mile up the 3-loop course's first hill, I was on pace. By the end of the first loop I'd gotten about 20 seconds ahead of pace and was moving smoothly -- taking a short 30 second walk on every second water stop and alternating water/orange slices and HEED.

I started to give a little back on the second loop, but was still only about 20 seconds over pace by mile 8. But the cumulative effects of the course's hills had trashed my legs by now. I hung on, but by mile 10 I couldn't will them along any faster and started shoveling bucketfuls of time back. The last downhill to the line was gutting it out to try to get under 5:10 with some seriously sore and straining quads.

Run -- 1:49:28. 12/33 AG, 166/410 OA men.

Total -- 5:09:26. 13/33 AG, 144/410 OA men.


Tickled pink with a new PR, but humbled by the competition in my AG. There's a lot of fast guys moving up. The top three were all 4:52 or better, and there were 8 guys in the 5:01-5:09 range. Solid competition!

But, I think I've got a good base to move into summer training and racing. Let's see if I can drop that PR again at the Patriot's 1/2 in September!

Now off on a 6-day backpacking trip on Wednesday -- a great way to recover and relax!


"It isn't what you do, but how you do it."

John Wooden

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rumpass in Bumpass Internation Triathlon -- 4/16/2011

I don't think I've ever started a race with more apprehension than I have with the 2011 Rumpass in Bumpass International.

It wasn't the distance or my training. I've done plenty of Olympic-distance races, including Giant Acorn last season, which is on the same course, and my training has been very solid this winter and spring. In fact, I don't think I've ever come into a tri season with such a good base so early in the year.

It was the weather. In a word, it sucked. A steady rain was falling, with increasing and gusty winds. And the temperature, in the 50s at race time, didn't do anything to keep me warm. After setting up transition and covering my gear as best as possible I sheltered for a while under the C-ville Tri tent, shivering in my wetsuit.

By the time I got into the water for the 6th wave I was thoroughly discouraged. Cold, wet, and with no confidence. But the activity of treading water started to warm me up as we waited, and being in the water took away thoughts of the rain.


The triangular swim course starts on one side of peninsula and finishes on the other, with the transition area located on the ground in-between. The first leg went smoothly, after the initial bumping and jostling. Turning to begin the second leg I had trouble sighting the second leg. After a while I realized I was well off to the left and had to adjust to get back onto course. Eventually I sighted the second turn buoy and got my bearings. By the second leg the wind was coming from our right, and the water was much choppier. For some reason this made me happy, and I found myself enjoying the pitching around I was taking as I finished this and the final leg.

Swim -- 32:54. (9/32 AG). This was ridiculously slow for me. Everybody seemed to have slow swim legs, but I usually place higher relative to the field. I can only assume that my navigation errors really held me back.


I decided before the race that I would put on arm warmers for the bike. I knew it would be slow, but I was afraid of the cool air and rain. My transition time, usually a strong point, showed the effects of this decision. T1 -- 3:32, (17/32 AG).


As I got on the bike I felt comfortable and warm, despite my earlier fears. I got down in the bars quickly and started overhauling riders from the previous waves.

Rumpass has a two-loop bike course, and it's one of my favorites. A few rollers, and several sections where you can really get going. I was surprised at how many riders I was passing as I got going.

By the end of the second loop I was feeling good and ready for the run. Coach Debi's infamous "double bricks" had me ready to go. A shoes-off running dismount and it was on to the final acts. 1:08:59 (4/32 AG, 21.5 mph avg) -- Very happy with this. A good bike leg.


Transition was a mud pit by now, but I got a pretty quick change and got out on the run with no problems. 1:35 (6/35 AG)


Despite the mud bog that was transition and the run start, I felt comfortable going into the run. Got in a good groove with a solid woman runner for the first few miles, then started to pick up my pace on the second half. Saw Mark passing the other way on both legs of the run, about a 1-1/2 miles ahead -- c'est la vie.

A strong run leg -- over 2 minutes faster than my run leg from last year's Giant Acorn, after a similar bike split. A good omen for the rest of the season. 46:12, 6/32 AG.


I had an enjoyable race, not what I anticipated when I was shivering at the start. Were it not for a lousy swim leg and T1, I had a good shot to fight for the 3rd podium spot. Nonetheless, I was very pleased for an early season race, especially with a strong run off of the bike. Next up, the Kinetic 1/2 IM, then a relaxing 6-day hike on the Appalachian Trail. 2:33:10 (6/32 AG, 109/435 males)

Happy Racing!