Monday, April 25, 2011

Race Review - Egg Hunt Tri

This was the second triathlon of the year for me, I went in feeling strong. And my overall game plan was to do a strong swim, push myself on the bike, and hold on for as long as I could on the run (but NO WALKING!)

The Training
This month I put about 120 miles on the bike, 30 miles on my shoes, and about 4000 yards in the water. After the last race when I decided my focus this year needs to be on the bike I didn’t really switch the training plan up, but I did refocus on the bike workouts to get more out of them.

Packet Pickup
Picking up the packets was a mixed bag, the bike store where packet pickup was nice and spacious, and they had some sales going on which I didn’t capitalize on. The line was pretty slow moving, but I was there with my sister so the time went by pretty fast. Two amusing notes:

First – they are selling these race number belts that don’t seem to have fasteners where race number holes are on the bibs. This is the second time we have seen these little belts, and I know they are wrong because I have one. It would be curious to hear why the snaps are so close together. My guess is it will come down to metric and standard measurements… or something equally dumb.

Second – a guy was, understandably, trying to lure people in with tempting sales, though he did it by starting out with "Hey kids we’ve got..." I trail off there because both times he did it I thought to myself "the average age of the people in this room has got to be closer to 30 than 15."

Race Morning
The night before, as with many before-the-race nights I had trouble falling to sleep. I was making transition plans and visualizing the execution. While I have said I wasn’t going to focus on transition times, it occurred to me that if I spend 5 minutes in transition out of 80 minutes of racing, and I can reduce it to three minutes I’ve shaved 2% of my time just by focusing a little. So I probably didn’t nod off till after midnight, which then led to sleeping through my alarm for about half an hour. I popped awake at 5, got dressed, made a sandwich and ate it, and got on my way. At about 5:30 my sister texted…she was already there, a little early :)

I got there around 6:00 found my sister and found our spots in transition. We setup, took a bathroom break, talked to some people we knew and made our way to the swim. I had my flip flops that morning, which is a good addition to the program. We had some time so we jumped in the water and got a little swim in and then hung out in the water because it was chilly.

The Swim
The swim went pretty well. Everyone had noticed that the entrance and exit were peppered with coral which wasn’t terribly sharp, but was annoying to step on, thankfully it turned out to be a non-issue, at least for me.

The start waves we pretty large, I think there were about 350 or so people in the triathlon, and then put us in four waves <40 men, >40 men, all women, fat tire or something like that. I figured there were 80 people in my wave. I had the same plan, start on the outside, but try to pop out in front of the bulk of the group. Again the group held on longer than I expected, and I found myself next to a guy who would accelerate every time he saw my hands by his head and had sort of a closed fist way of swimming. So I got knocked around for the first little bit pretty well, but he faded before the first buoy as did most others so after that it was pretty calm.

The swim felt fine, I ran out of the water and into transition, and hopped on the bike.

The Bike
The bike course was two 5 mile loops; the website described it as two laps of two loops, but really the way it was laid out it pretty much just felt like two loops which was nice. A smaller road inside the park that connected to the outside roads then went around the park. There were only a few turns where I felt the need to brake.

For a mid-pack racer like me starting in the first wave got in my head. I had imagined a sort of demoralizing bike leg with people zipping by me for half an hour, but actually it turned out to be pretty decent. I even passed a few people on the first lap, and plenty of people on the second lap. I got passed my fair share too, but it wasn’t as one way as I had imagined it might be.

Since I don’t currently have a bike computer or GPS device my plan was to get up to a cadence and resistance where I knew the approximate speed and stay on that. And that actually worked out pretty well, my legs were burning and my heart rate was up, but I was able to maintain and overall I was feeling good going into the run.

The Run
The run was also a two loop course to cover 3.1 miles. I liked this run course, it’s hard to say what makes this course any better than any other course, but it wasn’t super hot, and it wasn’t crowded, and they even had little sandwich boards up on the course with Easter eggs and "motivational" sayings like “just a little faster.” I actually liked the placement of the signs, because it helped frame the end of the lap up nicely for the second lap. It’s something I always feel is missing from these races it the half-mile and quarter-mile markers near the end.

This run started out terrible – I honestly thought I was going to puke, and not in that “you’re pushing yourself hard way” but my stomach was just flopping around as I ran, I tried to push through it but eventually caved and took a 30 second walk break. I was not happy with myself.

After that break the run went pretty well, I even caught my sister and we chatted for a bit on the second lap (her first lap.) It was a nice little surprise, and I thought it was a lot of fun to chat it up for a bit.
End of the 2nd lap

The Finish
As I came into the finish I felt like I had a good amount of steam left, to me that means I probably should have been pushing harder during the run, but I’m not sure I would have passed that opportunity up to chat with my sister for a few seconds off my time.

I grabbed some water, found my family, and watched some others come in. After that I grabbed some food, and we hung out shooting the breeze and enjoying a nice morning.

The Results

Goal Actual
Swim 6:30 9:05
Bike 34:00 34:14
Run 27:00 29:48
Total 1:12:30 1:16:30

The swim – it’s not really possible that this was 400 meters, which would put me on a 2:15 hundred pace – that is ridiculous. I say that because I actually moved up in the swim rankings from the last race, so it’s not like I had a bad swim and so did 300 other people. I’m thinking the distance was long, and the mat wasn’t until the transition area. The run from the edge of the water to transition was probably 15 seconds, so I’ll say my swim time was 8:45 – which I think puts the swim around 600 meters instead of 400. Had I known it was going to be an additional 200 meters longer I probably would have put my goal time closer to 9:30, so overall I’m happy with this time.

The bike – I am happy with the time, I want to continue building speed, but overall I’m happy I set a higher goal and almost met it.

The run – I set this 27 minute goal at the start of the season, and I’m conflicted if I should alter it to be more attainable or if I should just keep pushing for it. I think I’m going to keep pushing for it. I see two key ingredients here – one is just straight conditioning and some more bricks. The other is NO WALKING! I’ll also take this time to notice that almost everyone I knew who raced this weekend with did better on the run that me.
My sister celebrating her running prowess for the second race in a row
 Closing Comments
This was a good race for me, I felt good and had a great time. Had I even come close to my run goal I would have beat my target time, but not meeting it means I have something to keep shooting for.

This event was put on by, I liked the course overall. The only thing I’d change is to ditch the parking feeds. I mean seriously, they can just add $1.50 the cost of the race and give me a voucher to get in. But whatever, I like their races, so if that’s all I have to gripe about (and the swim distance…) I think it’s ok.

Racing with friends is a lot of fun. Catching someone you know and chatting for a bit is even more fun. And having friends and family cheering you on every time you pass the transition area is the best. I have noticed in the pictures my wife takes of me during the race I am always smiling. It’s hard not to, she’s cheering and the kids are cheering and it makes the whole deal just a little better.
The Try-a-tri group
Next up, a 5k in Minnesota.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Giant vs. GMC or Avian Turf Wars

Today was my attempt at my longest ride ever, I am trying to build the miles up on the bike so when I get to my first Olympic distance race the bike doesn't destroy me simply because I've not conditioned well enough. I had two goals - one, just put in the distance, and two get to a big "hill" - put that in quotes, because seriously in south Florida, the only hills around are bridges.

The Earth Destroyer
I love bike lanes, it gives you a place to ride, it's well marked on the street. So today I'm cruising down the road in the bike lane, and suddenly a guy who's about three feet in front of me decides to take a right turn. I slammed on the brakes -- but really I was going somewhere around 20 mph and he apparently had forgotten that he just passed me so I slammed right into the side of him. It was jarring, but I've got to say overall it was a pretty positive experience. I swear, no less than 8 people stopped to make sure I was alright. There were people yelling at the guy in the truck, who did stop and was pretty apologetic. There were people politely explaining what the point of the bike lane was to him, there was even a guy telling me about how he'd been run over the week before, although he said that one was mostly his fault. So I picked my bike up, brushed myself off, thanked the people who were still around and went on my way. So thanks to everyone who stopped by to make sure I was alright, even to the people in the cars who just yelled out in my defense.

Gangster Birds
A little later down the road a bird tried to land on my back, not just once, but twice. This is quite an odd experience - and this is the second time in this same stretch of road that I've run into this bird in a year. So here's the scenario. I'm cruising down the road, slower than cars, but not too slow of a pace either, tucked down onto the aerobars. Then there's the feeling of someone grabbing my shoulder, followed by what could best described as someone yelling "rah!" The first time I thought it was my wife trying to be funny. Of course that's ridiculous, she'd have to sneak up on me in her minivan without me noticing, reach from the driver's seat through the passenger window without running me over. That whole thought takes a third of a second, and then it happens again. At this point, both times, I can see a freaking bird shadow over mine.

So today this happens about a mile from where I'd just picked myself up off the ground. Plus I knew what it was right away. So there I am swerving around in the bike lane trying not to have any new holes created in my head, all the while thinking "ugh, not again, this birds going to freak me out and into the sand." Thankfully, I'm pretty sure this bird's territory is only about a half a mile long, so it was over as soon as it started.

The Lesson
So there we have it, 5 miles into what I was hoping to be a 30 mile ride I've been run over and a bird has attacked me for, what I can only assume is because I was in his hood. I seriously thought, "is this life telling me to turn around?" I rationalized if another car hits me, I'll turn around. In all seriousness, I thought, this is the way things go, and while this ride seemed to be going downhill in a hurry - there's always that big uphill in the middle :) So I just kept going.

The rest of the ride went well, the hill wasn't too much to be impressed with, but it is the largest hill that I know of in about a 30 mile radius, so it was worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Race Preview - Egg Hunt Tri

The second triathlon of the year coming up the day before Easter. Admitidly I was not super stoked by my last performance. Sure I met my overall goal but... I just want to do better. It's hard not to compare myself to the rest of the field. I think of it as motivation, keep getting out there, figure out how to get faster, keep getting better! This tri will probably be the last sprint before my first Olympic distance in June. Besides a 5k and walk for the cure in May, that month will be focused on bringing bike mileage up, maintain my run base established over the winter and getting the swim leg settled.

Race Info
The race is at CB Smith Park, I've never been there, but I've driven past it many times, so, if that means anything :)

The swim is a triangle in a lake - the nice part of this over the last race is that it means there has to be buoys :) The potential downside is crowding at the turns, and possibly running into people who are just getting started. The last few swims have felt good, so I expect that I'll be able to get out there and settle into a good pace.

The bike is another two loop course, covering 11 miles. It's a little different than the last race, there are two loops making up half the distance. So really it's four little loops. I am skeptical to say the least. I'm looking forward to it though, my last few bike workouts have been good - I'm planning on transitioning that into some leftover energy for the run.

The run in also a two loop course. It's advertised as a 3.1 miles, overall my goal is to try just a little bit harder to stay the course on this one. Hopefully nobody I know will pass me again, there's also my honor at stake since my sister whooped me on the last run, I must avenge!

My "way out there" goal is to improve drastically. My "based in reality" goal is to perform well on the bike leg, but still have enough gas left to perform on the the run. Overall I'm hoping for a comparable time, the distance is longer, but I'm going to do my best to adjust the time.

It's a longer course, but I've sped up the bike a little, and kept the same run and swim goals. I think it's doable, my last few bikes and runs have been good.

I threw five minutes in there for transition times. My time are pitiful, and five minutes is still an eternity, but I can't tell from the maps how far the swim is from the run. All of the races I did last year had a quarter mile beach run from the swim exit to the transition area. If it's shorter than that I'll beat five minutes, three minutes would be good for me, but since I'm not focusing on it, setting that goal is almost meaningless to me :p

Closing Comments
I'm feeling great heading into this race training wise. Last year at the end of the year a 15 mile bike really wiped me out, and I couldn't finish a three mile run without stopping. Now 15 miles is the easy mid-week bike, and four miles is the easy mid-week run. Add some swimming in there... and I'm hoping it spells success. Plus I want to head into the next month of training feeling like I've got a great base.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Race Review - Spring Training Tri

This was the first triathlon of the year for me. The goal was to start off better than I ended, that's what I wrote down. I met that, I didn't quite meet all of my goals, but overall it went pretty well.

The Training
It's been three weeks since I started official training for triathlons. Switching from running full time and adding some biking and swimming in. One of the goals this year is my first Olympic distance, so my running and biking is focusing some on speed, but more geared toward ramping up on the distance. Also, if you recall, I had said I was going into this race with more swimming than probably all of my races last year... that didn't work out as planned. I just cannot get excited about training for a 400 meter swim.

Packet Pickup / Race Morning
There was early packet pickup, it sort of sucked because they only had it from noon - four the day before the race. I could have waited till the morning of the race, but that doesn't fit well into my desire to not do anything on race morning.

My sister came and picked me up and we drove up there together. I woke up at 3:45 and just stayed up, grabbed a bite to eat and before I knew it were were driving. The place was easy enough to find, and had more traffic control than probably any event than I've been too in more than a year. I mean there was only 500 participants, which probably amounted to 300 cars, it struck me as funny.

We had a lot of time to kill, which was nice. I like milling around, we ran into some friends of mine from my local triathlon group and shot the breeze, that was nice.

Quick Note: I must remember flip flops for the morning. I didn't have any, and the transition area had a fair amount of small gravel. And I can safely say that going to the porto-potty with no shoes on... I don't want to do that again.

The Swim
The start was interesting, there wasn't a lot of "here's what time it is, you have 10 minutes." I feel like maybe they announced it once. It's not like it's a huge deal, but it's just something that has been at other events, and this event could have used.

The entry to the swim was amusing to me, we were swimming in lake with plenty of "No swimming" signs, and the entry was just some random hill with a start gate near it. We all filed over the mat, jockeyed for position, and then headed out.

My wave was men under 39, so the group headed out pretty fast, I have learned that I need to jump out to the front, which is usually just getting a good start and settling into a nice pace. Just to avoid getting stuck behind what is usually a zig-zagging mess of fists and feet. So I did that, but I was surprised how long the group kept up a fast pace. We were probably half way done before people really started dropping off.

The swim was a straight shot, and the only thing I felt like was missing were some buoys. I mean I swim in a pretty straight line, but every once and a while I'd see someone like 25 yards away to the right or left and wonder "where the heck am I." Re-sighting on the fly to a brown arch against a green background isn't all that easy :)

I actually felt pretty good coming out of the water - which honestly is a first. While I didn't end up meeting my swimming training goals, my overall conditioning must be pretty decent.

The Bike
The bike course was two 5 mile loops, I can remember thinking how it would be nice to have a half way point to gauge the distance. When I got to the first loop I remember thinking...really this is just five miles... Overall I felt good, but I wonder now if I could have taken it harder, I'm not a huge fan of changing the game plan mid race, so I stuck with what I planned on.

The bike loops are not my favorite. People clump up, and you're constantly passing and being passed, sometimes at the same time. It happened once to me, where I was passing and someone was trying to pass me. And it happened to someone else where they were passing and I was trying to pass them.

The bike course hot lots of tight turns, places where you'd go from 3 or 4 across to single file, sometimes two turns in a row.

This is me just after dismounting. My kids and wife were cheering me on!

The Run
The run was also a two loop course to cover three miles. The course was decent, there was sufficient and well manned water stations, and while it didn't really work at all, there were mileage markers up. The mileage markers didn't work because the 2 mile marker is before the one mile marker, and you see them both two times. So I'll give them credit for the effort, but not much since the execution was lacking :)

I did not fair the run as well as I was hoping. I felt good going into it, but by the time I saw the first two mile marker (who knows how far that was) I was extremely tired. My body was telling me ... just a little break ... I fought that for as long as I could. I ended up taking two 30 second walk breaks, I was disappointed, but I don't think my family would let me live down another ambulance event.

The Finish
When I was rolling into the finish I really felt like I had nothing else. A guy I knew passed me probably around half way through the run, I tried to keep up, but just couldn't find the speed. It was especially frustrating to me because I had seen him come into T1 as I was leaving, and come into T2 as I was leaving, so I knew he was just behind me. Kudos to him though, he whipped me on the run, so good for him. The finish line area was pretty small, but overall it worked. I had some nice cold water in my hands before I stopped running, I stopped and picked up some good snacks, and went to go see my family and see my sister and some friends come across the line.

The Results

Overall I came in under my goal by 10 minutes, so I'm happy about that. It really comes down to a much faster bike leg than I expected, and faster transition times. I feel fine about the swim leg, I mean seriously, with no serious training there, I am happy with it. The bike and leg run though... well I'm going to put most of my energy into the bike training for the next two months and just try to maintain my run pace - that is, the pace that I run when I haven't just done 2/3 of a triathlon. I feel like the bike really took it out of me, and I bit me it on the run.

Closing Comments
Overall, I guess for the first triathlon this year I did well. It's a new personal best, but it's probably the shortest sprint ever, but still it's nice. It is definitely a lot of fun to race with people you know. My wife and kids came out and cheered, and I my sister and I went together. We met a few people we knew there, and overall the race was a great experience. I've settled on biking as the discipline of choice this season, and know that some flip flops will improve the morning routine a little :)

This event was put on by, and I have to admit they do a pretty good job of putting on races. They give you your race splits as soon as you're done, and they have a predictable fairly well done layout. That aside, I didn't dig the course. People seem to love the Tradewinds course, they do a bunch of races there. I could take it or leave it, I'd take a single loop course over a two loop course any day.

Next up, another sprint around Easter. More on that later.