Friday, July 29, 2011

Race Preview - Lakefront Days Triathlon

It's come full circle. I'm going to redo the race that started it all for me. I'll admit it, this race has a special place in my memories - those that know me well know that sometimes my memory is sketchy. There are many things I don't remember, or don't remember well. I have a decent memory of this race, but the only things that really pop to mind when I think about it are
  • Cold - standing around waiting for the race to start
  • Hot - The feeling of death on the bike
  • Tired - Crossing the line, I was T.I.R.E.D
The risk of missing this race is high - the order for kid 3 has been placed, and is due to start delivery any day now. No worries, I'll take family over a race any day.

Race Info
The race is in Prior Lake, just down the road from where I live. So close that when I do my mid-week "long" run I run to, then along, then away from the same path the race's run course covers. I am also, now, very familiar with the bike course as it's got some portions that are favorites with the local biking group.

The swim is an out and back, which is sort of funny now that I've been on enough different courses. Keep the buoys to your right and you're fine. That ALMOST works, except that not everyone knows how to do it. So the real trick is keep sighting and try to notice when someone is WAY off course and swimming right at you. There will be people there with wetsuits I'm sure, I will not be one of them. 400 meters I can cover with no wetsuit.

The bike is a 13.5 loop with what I guess would be called rolling hills. Here's my brief description of this ride
Start - slight uphill, turn right level out, slightly steeper short uphill, crest the hill, short fast downhill. Flatten out, false flat, another downhill that immediately turns into an uphill, round a corner on that hill, more hill, flatten out, more hill, turn at a stop sign, more hill - large fast downhill. Flat for a good while, turn just before ominous looking hill that isn't.
Half way point.
More flat, small downhill leading into short deceptive uphill. Flat - mixed with false flats for a couple more miles, turn, small downhill, turn, 2 miles of small hill, turn, basically small downhill all the way back to the start (try not to run over runners on the trail for the last half mile or so.) You feel the hills right at the start, just before the big downhill, and right after the small deceptive hill. Other than that it's pretty much pick your cadence and go.

The run is a 3.3 mile loop in the park. It's got some little climbs and some little descents, nothing that will destroy me (hopefully :) There are some shaded areas, and some sunny areas. What there normally isn't any of, is wind, there is tons of shelter on this trail, so if it's hot, it's hot.

Primary goal - do better than last time. If I fail at that for any reason other than accident I will probably try to convince my wife to run over my arm with the van so I have a good excuse to stop trying :)
Swim 1/4 mile6:351:30 per 100 yards
Bike 13.5 miles45:0018 miles/hour
Run 3.3 miles28:008:30 mins/mile

1:23 puts me around top 35% overall and top 1/2 in my AG. I am curious about the swim, 6:35 looks to be enough to get top 5 overall in the swim, which worries me a bit because that may mean I've done some math wrong.

1:30 is roughly what I do for medium-hard swims when I'm training. Heck, I did nine of them this morning during the first set and was getting plenty of rest. Then again that's in a pool with nobody to swim around, but it's also not in a race where I will try to insert myself at the front of the pack right away to avoid water punchers.

I put the bike pace at 18, I'm pretty sure that's doable for me and still have some steam left for the run.

Since I've not done much running it's hard to gauge on if that is achievable after the other stuff. I know 8:30 is in the relm of possibility, and I know that I usually have some energy left at the end of these things, so I'm going to try to push it. Heart over mind..

I put another 3 minutes of transition in there, it actually seems pretty fast for me, but seriously I have no idea. Overall conditioning has been the focus. If I thought I could make 10 minutes up and be in the running for a medal I'd worry about it, but for now I'll just not sweat it.

Closing Comments
I'm looking forward to this race, it took the wind out of my sails last time. I'm going to have a good time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Race Review - Warrior Dash

The Training
While running has been playing third fiddle to my three sport training regime this summer, I haven't been doing ANY obstacle training, so you know, you could say that I pretty much didn't train for this at all :) I was in it for the fun.

Packet Pickup
You pick up all your junk the day of the race - For the number of people they served I think they actually did pretty well. I mean they hand out 24,000 packets to people over the course of two days. I didn't wait in line, and while it was a little confusing exactly what you needed to do once you got to the area, I just grabbed my own packet and someone came by and gave me a shirt and hat.

Race day
The morning of the race we took our time getting out of the house. The race is about 45 minutes away, and our heat didn't start till 12:30. So we got there around 11 - the deal is that the event was held at a ski hill with next to zero parking, and they needed to accomodate 500 person heats every half an hour. So we parked in someone's field nearby and took school buses to the ski lodge. The bus system actually worked really well, we didn't wait around at all, so that worked out awesome. We got to the area, muddy is the word of the weekend. From the spectator area you can see the start and the finish - or the uninitiated and the dirty, however you want to look at.

The Run
First things first - the run is three miles on a ski hill. Now in the pre-race writeup I thought I knew what was going on and that we'd start at the top of the hill, and then run down and back up. I was so confident I even talked about it with some people at work. WRONG. You start at the bottom of the hill and immediately run up some retarded big hill. I don't know how far it was, but I do know that hill pretty much destroyed everyone's desire to run. This run was pretty much filled with hills, you basically run up and down the ski hill 4 times, and every time we came to a hill, of any size, every single person around me immediately started walking. It was almost comical.

The Obstacles
As could be guessed ahead of time the obstacles made this race fun. It's just fun to climb over cars, run through wind & water storms created by snow making machines, climb cargo nets, slog through stinky mud, jump over fire, and take a swim in a muddy water pit. Much to my surprise they weren't that crowded, I really expected them to be plagued by lines and slow people, or just a little too hard for the average person. It's not like they were empty, but there also weren't any lines. But, probably, unless you ran out in front you also couldn't attack the course for speed, there were plenty of people on each obstacle.

Closing Thoughts
I would do this again, it may even inspire me to look for more races like this, or maybe I'll just make it the yearly treat. Who knows. It's fun, and while I'm sure some people sprinted through it and are happy to always push themselves to the limit, I was in it to have fun. In the end I had a great day out with the family and I'll take that any day.

The only real objection I have for this race is that the course here isn't spectator friendly. There may have been a way for people to get to the top of the hill, but the course is mainly inaccessible to anyone who isn't running or on an ATV.

Pre-race shot - it was a great day

Big water "slide" I remember making a goal to not look like a big spider - fail :)

Jumping over fire

Last mud pit

I also remember making a goal to not have an Orbitz gum moment, also fail. Duct tape would have helped
On the way to the showers - snow making machines
Post-race shot, it was a great day
Look how dainty that pinky makes me look :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Race Preview - Warrior Dash

"Warrior Dash is a mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme run from hell. This fierce running series is held on the most challenging and rugged terrain across the globe. Warriors conquer extreme obstacles, push their limits and celebrate with music, beer and warrior helmets." So its extreme, or likely XTREAM!!, has interesting and fun sounding obstacles and you're forced to crawl through mud. I can definitely say that every race I've ever been in has been clean and not really described as extreme.

Race Info
The race is at the Afton Alps ski hill, we'll start at the top near the middle. Run along the top, then down the hill, then along the bottom and back up, it's three miles. There are 12 obstacles along the way.
  • Wind and water
  • Car heap
  • Rappel down a hill
  • Barricades and barbed wire
  • Horizontal nets
  • Big blacked out tent
  • Vertical Nets
  • Big wooden wall
  • Big teeter totters
  • Hill-sized water slide
  • Fire
  • Mud pit

I've outlined my goals by obstacle, I won't be in it for time, sorry coach, I know I need to "want it" but what I'll be looking for at the end is a drink.
  • Wind & Water - Don't blow over - don't catch a cold.
  • Car heap - Don't slip on wet metal - avoid tetanus.
  • Rappel down a hill - Pretend I know what I'm doing - avoid rope burn.
  • Barricades and barbed wire - Don't be the tall guy who can't get over medium height obstacles - protect the family gems.
  • Horizontal barbed wire - Don't look too much like a gangly spider  - avoid rope burn.
  • Big blacked out tent - Don't hesitate noticeably when entering pitch dark - avoid shoes to my pretty face.
  • Vertical nets - Don't let flash backs of nets in gym class ruin it - avoid rope burn.
  • Big wooden wall - Don't be the tall guy who can't get over medium high obstacles - avoid rope burn - protect the family gems.
  • Big teeter totters - Don't fall off - don't take a swinging teeter totter to the face.
  • Hill Sized water slide - Hide deep seated aversion to partial wetness - avoid water wedgie
  • Fire - Jump over fire - avoid fire burn.
  • Mud pit - Keep mouth shut - avoid need for Orbitz gum

Closing Comments
Overall I'm feeling pretty good coming into this event. I think the neighborhood will really appreciate that the obstacles will be coming down and they'll be able to just walk down the street without a recording of my best banshee impersonation and makeshift flame throwers randomly going off. I'm also not sure how much my wife has appreciated me using the van as the car-heap training, so she's probably looking forward to that being over. These things have really helped me not only prepare mentally and physically, but also allow me to fine tune my goals.

If you're going to be down there, I'm in the 12:30 heat on Sunday.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Race Review - Lakefront Days Sprint Triathlon (2009)

In two weeks I will re-run the triathlon that started it all. So here's the race report for that race - to the best of my memory.

The Training
I spent most of the summer using Couch To 5k so I felt confident I could finish a 5k at the end of the race. I'm not sure I can actually run 3 straight miles yet, but I'm close. I have also done a fair amount of bike training. I have a 7 mile loop I do most of the time, an 11 mile course I do when I have some extra time, and I've done the race bike course a couple of times. I'm feeling really good in this area, my average pace is consistently in the 15mph range. I haven't done any swimming, I'm pretty sure I can do 1/4 mile without any training.

Packet Pickup
My wife picked up our packets the day before - I didn't have to be there. I guess in that respect it was pretty uneventful.

Race Morning
The morning of the race we dropped off our kids with the neighbors, and rode our bikes the 3 miles to the race. We got set up in transition, and put on our chips. I had a speedo on and my wife had her one piece on. My plan was to just toss on a t-shirt and shorts after the swim and head out. It was freaking freezing, people were walking around in sweatshirts, and I was standing there in my speedo. So we sort of stood around wondering what to do and hoping to get it started soon so we could put our clothes back on.

The Swim
When it was time for my swim group to start I got in the water with the rest of them. We chatted it up, I noticed some people wearing wetsuits, which seemed like overkill to me, but whatever. Some guy said "I'll let you know how it goes in an hour" to which I responded - "you will have to wait  a bit for me, I don't plan on being done quite that fast,", I figured the bike alone would take almost an hour.

The swim was quite a bit harder than I figured it would be. It's an out and back course, so you swim out for 200 meters and then back. I just went out too fast and didn't realize it until it was too late. I ended up flipping over on my back and kicking for a bit in the second half of the return trip. I also took a minute to compose myself in transition.

The Bike
When the bike started I actually felt alright, but I was very surprised how fast people were cruising up the hills. My plan had been to take it easy on the hills and just try to maintain speed, hopefully average 15 mph over the entire 13.5 miles.

There were people passing me, but I was also passing some people so I felt alright. And then disaster - I hit this mondo hill which totally destroyed me. I cruised up it at a good pace, passed this girl on a mountain bike, and when I hit the top I swear I thought I was going to die. It is probably not an exaggeration that I coasted the next mile. Let's try to remember, I had done this course a few times before during training and this had not happened. The swim had more of an effect on me than I thought I guess.

So after the feeling of death passed I picked up the pace and finished out the bike.

The Run
I was tired, there was no doubt about that. But off I went, I took several walk breaks, and for sure I knew that I could have done better, but the combo of swim/bike then run was just more than I had expected. At one point I was actually running next to a woman who was walking. She was nice enough, but she did sort of chuckle as she jogged off after her break.

The Finish
I knew I wanted to run in - so I mustered all the energy I could and ran into the finish. It's suprising to me how good it feels to hear someone, even a stranger, encouraging you to the end. I saw the neighbors, and guess who else I saw? My wife, she had started after me, but was there waiting for me at the finish line.

Now it had occurred to me during the rolling dead-person impersonation on the bike that she might pass me, about everyone did, but I did not see her go by, plus if she had passed me I would have hoped she would have at least said hi. It was very confusing for me.  It turns out that she done the bike and called it quits. Seriously, had I known she was going to quit I would have quit after the bike too, but I kept going thinking "I do not want to hear about quitting from my recently pregnant wife who went on to finish." Oh well, I am proud to have finished, it made me feel good to do the whole thing.

The Results
Swim .25 miles 8:37
Bike 13.5 miles59:24
Run 3.3 miles35:49

So - I'm happy I finished. I know now that the swim portion that I took for granted destroyed me. I'm pretty disappointed with the results though.

Out of 269 finishers
Swim: 52 - not too shabby for no training if you ask me
Bike: 225 - if you haven't done the math, that time puts my average at 13.6 mph
Run: 232 - The run really didn't feel that bad, but apparently it was

Overall - 232. I know that I am not in the best shape of my life, but seriously. Next time I'll just have to try harder, train harder, something...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jeremy vs. CylceOps

I recently started getting on my bike trainer to make up for days when the weather isn't so great, or I was at work during all of the lit hours of the day. It has been an eye opening experience for sure. Prior to this, I had never really done any stationary biking. Don't get me wrong, I have ridden a stationary bike, just not in the context of my current training - so I pretty much expected it to be the same, except no wind.

That is not the case.

First thing I noticed - I sweat cups full of sweat. This requires plenty of water, and a tarp.


That's a puddle of sweat, there is probably 1/4
of a cup of sweat there, there are five of those puddles
after 45 minutes of riding

Second thing I noticed - riding on the trainer is like a million times harder than riding on the street. I have yet to find a reason to get out of the small chain ring. I am huffing and puffing with sweat streaming off my body just holding a normal cadence in the small chain ring. I've decided there are two main factors.
  1. There's almost no momentum - when riding off of a trainer you have all of the momentum of your weight, plus the weight of the bike. And you're likely on a machine that is designed to reduce friction - so if you stop pedaling you keep moving. If you stop pedaling on the trainer, the only momentum you have is from your wheel, or maybe your trainer's resistance mechanism. In the case of my trainer that translates to about 3 seconds of rolling.
  2. The resistance is different. When riding off of a trainer, nature provides the resistance in the form of wind and gravity. The trainer provides resistance based on how fast your wheel is moving and applies it to your wheel. Now I'm sure that different trainers offer different resistance in different ways. Mine is a CycleOps Pro Fluid, and I'm not saying it's unrealistic, but it is different. And without the normal context cues of seeing the hill or feeling the wind it feels funny.
Practical Example - these are some cadence logs from two rides

Outside - The line represents how fast I'm pedaling
The dips are times when my legs are moving slower or not at all
Inside - notice the complete lack of rest

It's all new
I'm learning as I go. The first time on the trainer I stopped after 3 miles, or 11 minutes. I couldn't believe how much I was sweating. That was "pre-tarp," I had concerns about the carpet.

The second time is also when I decided to implement the interval training. I had scoped out about 1:10 of workout which included 30 minutes of warm-up/cool-down time. I was out of water and about tossed my dinner after 45 minutes and 9.5 miles.

The third time I had a better game plan, similar interval session. This time I covered that same 9.5 miles in 38 minutes, and actually had some steam for more riding and didn't feel like death at the end.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pinch me once - pinch me twice

Meaningful Back story
I bought my first bike in 2002 - a Schwinn hybrid. I just wanted a way to get some exercise in and really - really - disliked running. I was living Chaska, near lots of trails, and I was thinking I'd probably never ride on a road. No helmet. Fast forward two years, I had upgraded to a Giant TCR-2, moved to downtown Minneapolis. I was still doing mostly paved trail riding, but the trails were pretty busy, and I had to cross several streets in the course of a 15 mile loop. Still no helmet. Enter my soon-to-be wife - she convinced me to buy a helmet, and like two weeks later I was in an accident, and happy to have had a helmet. It's funny to life works out like that sometimes.

Relevant Current Events
So, my TCR-2 is 7 years old, it has had one tune up, and I'm on my second set of tires. It looks and runs like new, it's a great bike. Last year when we moved to Florida the bike was still on it's first set of tires and had never had a tune up. So we went took it in an got a tune-up and they said the tires were shot (they probably had 3000+ miles on them) and so we replaced them. Around this time my wife picked up a tire changing set, you know in case I get a flat. I had never had a flat, didn't know how to change a flat, but it's probably a good idea to have a tire changing kit. We moved back to Minnesota, and sure enough about two weeks later I got a flat out on a ride. I changed the flat restocked on tire changing supplies and once again life had worked out.

The Interesting Story
On Thursday I headed out with the group for our usual 25-30 mile ride, and about six miles in...pftfff... flat. I don't know much about flats, but the guys assured me this was a pinch flat. In any case, as luck would have it there I am, all the supplies I need I have, and it's not the first time I've changed a tire. So a little while later the tire is changed, the guys who waited for me are confident we're ready to roll and off we go. A short while down the road - we'll say 400 meters - POP, this one was quite a bit louder. I'm sure if my wife had been there should would have said someone shot my tire out. We take a look - uh oh, this time the tire has also failed. We discuss the dollar bill trick and decide that won't work. I'm stuck.

I made a few calls, my wife made a few calls, and some good friends came and picked me up.

So there we go, sometimes your wife steps in and saves your butt without you even knowing and you feel great about that, and sometimes its out of your control and you can still feel good about how it turned out. I'm thankful my wife could help contact friends, I'm thankful for the bike club who waited for me, and even volunteered to ride back and get a car. I'm thankful for our friends who came and got me, and the friends who called me back after I didn't leave a message. I'm thankful for the five or so passers by who stopped to see if I needed anything. All of those things are better than walking back in bike shoes, or riding on a flat rim all the way home.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Training Notes

This month my totals look like this

Swim25,500 yards9:30 hours
Bike227 miles14:30 hours
Run20.21 miles3:03 hours

I took a surprising 12 days off this month. That's a combination of a killer week of "the day job" right after Trinona, and very poor planning on my part the week before Trinona. So for the 7 days on either side of Trinona I only did 2 structured days of workouts.

Swimming is basically on auto pilot. I get up and go to the group training three times a week, my overall conditioning is getting better, and the coach just said that my last workout was the strongest he'd seen from me yet.

The bike is still the focus, I am trying to figure out good ways to build speed, but also have time for everything else. One thing I realized is that the group that I ride with does fairly even rides, meaning there aren't big bursts of speed, or any focus on hill work or anything. The result is overall conditioning and endurance, but my goal is conditioning and speed. So I'm hatching a plan to augment my work outs with some interval and hill work.

The plan has three parts
  1. Utilize the trainer - when I don't have time to ride when it's light out, hit the trainer. These turn into interval workouts.
  2. Make additional time for hill work - I'll sacrifice some running for this
  3. Stay with the group rides. I am by no means the fastest, or even in the fastest sub-group, and having stronger riders to try to stay with is helpful to get me out of a comfort zone.
Running is in total maintenance mode - I'm now down to two runs a week, I took one of them for a bike specialty training day. Hopefully this won't backfire on me.