Friday, August 31, 2012

August Training Notes

This month my totals look like this

Swim19,200 yards5:45 hours
Bike276 miles14:30 hours
Run34 miles5 hours

I hit a little bit of a motivation lull this month. So I ended up taking just about a full week off, from the 12th-18th I just did two bike rides. This month I also did two races, and both of them went well.

For reference here are the last couple of months:

Swim29,250 yards8:30 hours
Bike353 miles19:15 hours
Run60 miles9:30 hours
Paddling10 miles4:20 hours


Swim26,200 yards7:35 hours
Bike363 miles20:00 hours
Run66 miles10:45 hours

So you can see the fairly drastic decline overall. But I feel like the rest really felt great, and I think had both a positive physical and mental impact.

So the swimming is way down, for racing it's been ok, but when I go to the swimming club I get wrecked. It's clear that I have been slacking.

Most of my biking is coming from the bike group, and it's a lot of fun. At the end of the summer the group gets pretty fast, and in general it's just fun to ride with them.

I did only one run longer than four miles this month, and when I did that run my knees hurt for like two days. So, lets just say, I need to be running more.

The month's resolution was to read two books, and I did that. And I wrote book reports, but I have to say it took a lot of mental strength. I just don't like carving out time to sit down and read a book, even the books I read that are mostly pictures (not an exaggeration.)

Next month is no eating out, oh boy, that's going to be a tough one.

Book Report : Doing Ironman Wisconson

The per-month goal this month was to read two books. I chose two books I got for Christmas last year, and they both revolve around Ironman, either training or racing.

The author of this book has raced about thirty triathlons, five of which were at Wisconsin. He's a speedy guy and has qualified for Kona a few times at IMOO.

Overall the book is fine. It has a sort of dairy feel to it, and it could be that he admits that early on. The result of that is that chapters start off with a sort of goal setting or motivational piece, and then the middle and end is a story telling piece. The author's writing style is pretty decent and I found that I could page through chapters pretty easily.

Two sort of nit-picky things about this book. First is that it feels like it was not edited, there are typos, and misspellings. All photos are in black and white, and while I don't really care I get the impression that was because he only had a black and white scanner :) Second, there is a chapter in the middle, which is a just an excerpt from another book. It felt pretty lame.

The first few chapters are stories of the first few times he did IMOO. The formula goes like this:
  • I just did some other Ironman last month, and I'm doing Kona next month, I either need to take it easy and not ruin Kona or push hard to qualify next year for Kona. I'll push it.
  • The swim is the same as any Ironman swim, I like to line up on the side.
  • The transition area at this Ironman is unlike any other, I'll comment on it, but tell you not to think about it
  • The bike course is grueling, I know that because I've done it, but you won't know it until you do it. Don't underestimate it.
  • The run is a run, I'll spend almost no time talking about it except that I like running through the campus a little.
Then there are a couple of chapters about when he went but did not compete. It's basically the same story, he goes to the places on the bike course he knows are hard, then watches as people cruise by. He heads to end of the race and watches people cross the finish line and is inspired by that. I'll echo that, it's neat to stand behind the finish line and watch people right after the finish.

There is a chapter that consists solely of charts and graphs. Except for the first page or two where he describes the page layout and tells you that if you want the rest of the charts to buy another book there is no writing. I flipped through this part pretty fast, every page represents one mile on the bike course, I didn't think it was clear why these miles were chosen, but I assume they are around the hills he always refers to.

Toward the end he talks about prepping for any ironman race as far as packing and supplies and stuff like that. He also touches on race nutrition, but these are generic chapters not specific to any race I think.

Should you read this? It's worth reading if you're going to do the race. It reads well, and despite the overall low production value feel of the book has a good amount of content.

He is clearly a gifted athlete and it's written from his perspective, so I sort of got into the mode of glazing over some of the stuff. For instance when he "took the ride easy" and still achieved an average speed I'd be thrilled with, you can maybe take what he says with a small amount of "but you're awesome." He does share some "human" stories though where he demonstrates that even the guys at the top can have off days or off hours during a race.

Book Report : Training for an Ironman

The per-month goal this month was to read two books. I chose two books I got for Christmas last year, and they both revolve around Ironman, either training or racing.

This book was co-authored by four guys who appear to have a good set of credentials to be able to write a book like this.

I liked this book, it is almost entirely about training for an Ironman, it's a 26 week program that they say is geared toward making you faster, but then they describe ways you can tailor it to your own needs.

The first few chapters talk about the principles of their training ideas. They talk about the key ideas they think are critical to success at ironman. This covers everything from the value of weight training, to the value of making sure you have good form.

The middle section, the majority of the book, is a week by week detailed account of the training they recommend broken down by phases. At the start of each phase they give you general guidelines to follow (like, 'up until now the schedule has been pretty flexible, but you should stop skipping workouts now if you have been') as well as a brief description of the weeks including when rest is coming. At the end of each phase they do a little Q&A portion which covers everything from what to do if you're feeling like you need more work in a specific area to how you should pick a new bike (just get one you like.)

Then there is a chapter that is a much more condensed version of the previous chapters.

The end chapter goes over getting ready for race week.

Should you read this? I have not executed this training plan, so I have no idea how effective it is. If you choose to do all the workouts it can get pretty busy, there are a couple of weeks that have more than 20 hours of training (mostly on the weekend.) But they do offer a barebones plan where you only do key workouts, and that is a much reduced plan. They say that will get you to the finish.

The tone of the book is playful, there were even a few times I thought it was witty. The read is pretty quick because basically it's a training plan and when it comes right down to it there just isn't that much text in it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Race Review : Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon

Maple Grove "Dare to Tri"- I did the Olympic distance last year, the race went well, but I said I wouldn't do the race again unless the stars aligned. And they pretty much did, plus I have had a pretty good racing year this year, so I wanted to squeeze in one more sprint before it gets cold.

The Training 
We're quickly approaching the end of the tri season in the north. I've been in full swing since January, and my brain is having trouble staying focused. So I basically just took the last two weeks off. Two weeks ago I just did two bike rides, last week I got in some swims, some rides, and one run. But things are going well, and I think my body responded to the rest well.

Packet Pickup
Last year I lamented the packet pickup process. You have to park at least a quarter mile away and then hoof it over there. This year was no different, except I didn't have my kids or wife with me, and I didn't feel the need to scout the race site since it was largely unchanged from last year. The process itself was pretty painless, the people manning the tent were very friendly. Overall, I'd say it wasn't different than last year.
The little expo, I didn't stop at any of the shops. Perhaps I should have but I needed to be getting home

No wind, I was hopeful for a non-windy race day

Not really related to the pickup process, but later that night when I finally took a close look at my packet. Much to my surprise, my running bib said "Olympic" on it... The one thing I'm sure about my training is that my lack of running lately has left my legs not really used to runs of any distance much past four miles. I was not up for just doing an Olympic distance for the fun of it. I shot an email (probably after 10:30) to the first email address I found. I fully expected to not hear anything and just try to resolve it in the morning. Much to my surprise I got a response around 15 till midnight. Apparently they just ran out of sprint bibs, and I could pick up a generic bib if I wanted in the morning, or I could race the sprint with my Olympic bib and that would be fine, she did warn me that volunteers might be confusing though when trying to direct me... foreshadowing. So I'll give props, that was pretty surprising, and helped put my mind at ease.

Race Morning
The race started at 7:30, transition closed at 7:00, we live about 45 minutes away so I was planning on getting up just after 4 so I could be there a little before 6.

Sidebar - I've gotten a new phone recently. Samsung Galaxy SIII - long story short, I do not recommend this phone.

So I use my phone to wake me up, and it did, and I hit snooze, as I often do, and then in my sleepy haze I turned it off. But I knew that, so I set a count-down timer for 10 minutes and went back to sleep. I jolted awake at about five after five (a cool 45 minutes later.) Apparently the phone's alarm will wake you with an audible tone if it's on mute (which mine always is) but not the countdown timer, no it will just buzz quietly at you forever. Needless to say I was in a slight panic. I woofed down my breakfast, jumped in the car and headed out.

I got to the race site just after six, got one of the last "close" parking spots, unloaded my stuff and headed over there. At this point I was settled down, I was only a few minutes off my original schedule.

Ahh, no wind. Going to be a great race
A truck, parked right in the middle of transition. In real life it wasn't blurry. The picture is blurry because I was overwhelmed by how silly it seemed to have a truck on display in an active transition area and was giggling.
After I got all setup it was about time for the pre-race meeting. I sat through that and a pretty good rendition of the national anthem. So now it's about 7:24, and I'm in wave FOURTEEN! Based on the advertised schedule that means I will be sitting around for another hour. So I settle in for a little wait, it was a cool morning so just sitting in the grass watching and listening made the the time go by. Eventually my friend Tony came by and we chatted a bit. That was nice, he wasn't racing, just lives nearby. I think it actually calmed my nerves a bit, so thanks Tony!

The Swim
The water temp was 78, so wetsuits allowed. I contemplated not wearing one for two reasons. First, because I didn't really want to fuss with it in transition. Second, because they requested that we wear the ankle chips on the outside of the wetsuit, and that reinforced me not wanting to mess with it in transition.

Side bar - If you're thinking about putting a race together, and the people you choose to do timing say "oh by the way our chips might not work if people wear wetsuits over them" you might want to push a little harder on some different chips.

Anyway, I elected to go for the wetsuit. I didn't really want to feel like I was at a disadvantage time and energy wise, and it was in my bag anyway :)

So I lined up in the middle in the front, we took off...and I'm pretty sure I never saw anyone in my group after that. I ran right out, did some dolphin dives and just took off. I settled down after about 50 yards into a fairly strong pace.

Around the first buoy I started catching the wave in front, by the second buoy I caught the bulk of that group and came out the water with the leaders of that group and some stragglers from the groups before them. The swim felt great, and this will sound strange but, even the water tasted good. I came out of the water feeling pretty good.

The run to transition is pretty long, maybe a couple hundred yards, but I felt pretty good during it.

Side bar - the transition area is setup by wave. I really like it, I like being able to gauge where I am in relation to other people I am competing with for awards.

So I get to my rack and confirm that I came out of the water first, I struggle with my wetsuit for what seems like forever and then get on my way. I actually probably didn't have to mess with my wetsuit for as long as I did, but I tried to not use my hands, and then the suit, not surprisingly, got stuck on the chip and I waited a bit before I reached down and just used my fingers.

On the way out I did a first, I ran with my bike holding it by the seat. That was a ton of fun! I even successfully navigated not one but TWO people coming in from the swim. I'll also note that by this time the SUV had been moved.

The Bike

The bike starts with a short but decent climb. I just sort of shot up it, passed a few people and then turned on to the road and settled in and got into a pace I felt good at. About three seconds later a girl in front of me dropped her water bottle. Here were my three thoughts, in order.

  • That sucks for her, she's going to get thirsty
  • I hope she doesn't get the littering penalty, because that would suck more
  • We're two minutes into the bike, you probably could have waited a few minutes

She apologized, and I told her to not worry about it and just keep going. I shouted "have fun" as I rolled off. Hopefully she did.

BTW - remember the shot of the lake at the top where there aren't any ripples from the wind. Well that's apparently because the lake is protected. At least in one direction it's sheltered by a large hill with trees on top. On the bike course that day, wind. Not a ton, but considering I wasn't expecting it, a little surprising.

One of the cool things about the way this race lined up this year was that the last wave of Olympic distance athletes was a group of college kids trying to qualify for some sort of national team. And I ended up near a bunch of them on the bike. They were super competitive and really didn't like people passing them. So me and about four of them (girls and boys) spent the better part of five or six miles passing each other. I'd pass one, they'd pass me back, I'd pass them again, they'd pass me and say something like "I'm here again." Every time they'd repass me the language would escalate "not this time", "I could do this all day", "see you later!" It was a ton of fun, and then we hit a hill and I dropped all of them, and then, of course, they went on to ride ten more miles than me and run twice as far, but who's counting :)

Over the course of the bike I got passed (permanently) twice and I did a bunch of passing. It was a good feeling. I got to transition, pulled my shoes off as I rode down the hill toward the dismount line and hopped off and headed straight to my rack. A quick survey and it looked like I was still in the front. I didn't spend a ton of time evaluating the 60 or spots, but it did look pretty empty.

The Run
I tried to make good pace out of transition, I passed a few people right out of the gate and then ... cramp. My calf was cramping like never before. I sort of hobbled up the first little hill and finally stopped and reached down to touch it. I just wanted to feel it, it didn't feel super tight or anything, and the break made it feel better. So I started up again, the two people I had passed repassed me as I got going again. After fifty feet or so I decided that maybe the hobbling wasn't actually helping, I tried to take a few "normal" strides and sure enough the cramp started to work itself out. All in all the whole cramp thing took less than a quarter mile.

The run is a little hillier than I remembered, but it was a cool overcast morning so I wasn't baking in the sun or feeling super thirsty which made it all the easier. I hit the first mile at 8 minutes, which considering I at one point was literally stopped I was pretty happy with.

During the second mile a lady passed me, but she kept looking back, at one point she yells to some woman "hey <insert name> get up here" then she dropped back to just behind me "the girl up there in the black sports bra, she's the last one, go get her" <indistinguishable> "I've already had one this year, go get her" Then the second lady ran by, and I never saw the first one again. I thought two things, first how on earth did she know who was left to beat in front of her. Second, man I would love to know if there was someone in front of me that I needed to pass. The second mile ticked off, roughly the same pace as the first. I had been passed several times so far, and was not really passing anyone.

The final mile has one or two hills near the end, but I was feeling good. Near the end the crowd from the park spills out onto the course, and it really starts to get fun. One sort of humorous moment (remember the bit at the top about my running bib, here's where it comes into play) is where a volunteer directing runners says "Olympic runners keep going, don't turn here" he picks up that clearly I am going to try to take the turn toward the finish "OLYMPIC RUNNERS, KEEP GOING" I start slowing for the roughly 172 degree turn "OLYMPIC Runners..." I couldn't help but laugh. I looked at my final split later, I did the last mile in just about seven minutes, so pretty awesome!

The Finish
After the, basically, 180 degree turn you head down a little hill that ends up down a finishers chute with people lining both sides. It's a lot of fun, most people are really pushing the pace, it's a great way to finish, they even did the thing they did at Trinona last year and reset the finish tape for people. That is a lot of fun, I really liked it. I even saw someone I knew on the side lines, that's always fun!

I staggered down the lane a little, some guy took my chip, I got a medal and some water and then just sort of wandered around for a while. Because I thought I had a chance at placing, and because I picked up my individual splits and saw I basically made my goal I wanted to wait to see what the overall placement was. More than an HOUR later they posted them for the first time. I had run into a guy who was also thinking he maybe had placed, he said it felt like they were keeping us hostage. I agree.

The Results

Goal Actual
Swim 7:45 6:48
Bike 39:00 40:06
Run 23:00 23:09
Total 1:13 1:13:31

The swim – Much faster than I expected, based on finishing times I'm going to say that the course isn't .3 miles, it's shorter. It's hard to tell comparatively how well I did, the results say 6th overall, but the woman who got first's time is 48 seconds, so I'm guessing that once again the timing is a little messed up for this race. The other times were pretty believable though, so there was a good mix of fast swimmers out there.

The bike - A minute over, but the garmin says the course is about a half mile longer than they do and I didn't start it till I got to the top of the hill so I am very happy with this. According to the garmin that's 21.5 mph. I was talking to a guy who placed way better than me after the race and he said he got new deep rimmed wheels this year. He says it's a free mph or maybe 1.5. Yikes, last year he was doing my speed, then bought new wheels and sometimes averages 23-24 this year... I was really hoping I'd never find a reason to spend a chunk of change on a set of race wheels. He also sounded a little sad that he didn't go for a disc wheel. Apparently at 24 mph is when the disc really shines, but he thought he wouldn't be there this year, but he is.

The run – Basically right on pace, the watch says the run is a little shorter than they advertise. So they say I did 7:45 average, the garmin says closer to 7:50. Considering I stopped and stood for 5 seconds at the start, I'm happy with it.

Overall I got 27th overall, and FIRST in my age group! Obviously I'm super happy by that. I placed well at Lifetime, but not quite podium, I thought I had a shot at Lakefront days but missed, and in this race I thought I had a similar shot, but didn't focus too much on it. What can I say, I loves me a good sprint.
First place schwag! It's a bowl.
Side shot to give some perspective. It's the size of an oversized soup bowl.

When I look at this race from the numbers, because I led the swim I led the entire race. Best swim in my bracket by 2:45, but then 7th on the bike and 20th on the run. Second place was 4 seconds back, third place was 7 seconds back. I guess it's a good thing I pulled 7 minutes from my hat for that last mile, that was the difference between first and fourth.

Closing Comments
I had a great time at this race. My family couldn't make it out there to see my race, but it's been a busy year of races. This is the eighth race for me this summer, and there is one more coming up. Obviously it is fun to win, and the best part of it is that this doesn't feel like a "everything went right and things just clicked into place" it's more a sign that the effort I put in is amounting to what I wanted it to, and so I have a sort of renewed drive.

I enjoy a big race, they had 1200 entries over both distances including 700 in the sprint. That means there is room for all sorts of people of every ability level. I met and chatted with more than one person where this was their first race. It's fun to talk to them and see their perspective, to see what they think is strange or confusing about triathlon, one guy even had a sort of inspirational story. I also had a chance to talk to some people who finished quite a bit faster than me. I know I'm talking to someone who's fast when they say they're a slow runner and still average minutes per mile faster than me. I'm not the fastest pig in the race, but I'm not exactly slow either. It's fun to see meet people with so much talent.

Next up is likely the Rev3 70.3 in Florida with big sister where she says her goal is 5:30. If you've been keeping up on my record, you know that is faster than me.

It's on big sister, it's on... Tell your coach to pull out all the stops, cause I'm coming for you! :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SILA : 11

It's been a while, but I've not really been doing much reading. But recently I have. So here goes.

Mavic Wind Tunnel Test - Mavic invited a bunch of people to bring whatever wheel combination they wanted to compete against a new set of Mavic wheels. It's sort of interesting to look at the numbers, what is a little more interesting is the candid nature of the article. What is MOST interesting is that they talk about the local tri-shop to MN. Makes me feel lucky to have such a great shop nearby.

Ironman NY Video - I don't know about waiting till 135 miles into a race to ask someone to marry you, but maybe that's awesome

Guide to meal proportions - An interesting take on how to know if you've got your meal in proportion on your plate. If you skip the first paragraph and then instantly get confused let me help you out. Think of your plate like a clock and then use the minutes they provide as a wedge of time on that clock.

Tips for good sleeping - Sleeping is important, and something we're currently struggling with at our house. Though we fall into one of the categories of "it might not be in the cards for you" with a little baby who likes to be awake at night.

Race Preview - Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon

I did the Olympic distance of this race last year, I didn't especially like some aspects of the race, and went so far as to say that if there were any other races I wanted to do on the same weekend this one would lose out. Well guess what? There aren't any other races, and I like racing, so I'm doing the sprint. I tossed around the idea of doing the Olympic right up till I registered, but in the end figured that if I'm having so much fun doing the shorter races I should do one last one.

Race Info
Unlike last year the Tristar event isn't happening, so I'm guessing things will be a little more organized just because there are fewer things to track.

The swim is triangle with left turns. I can't remember if I've done the counter clockwise triangle before or not, I suppose it won't matter much, it's probably that way to avoid looking into the sun or something. I swear last year they billed the swim course as .25 miles, this year it's .3. That's another 100 yards or minute and a half at my race pace.

The bike is a 14 mile loop, it's mainly flat. I mapped it out on and it says less than 200 feet of overall gain. The elevation map seems to corroborate that as the highest point is only 60 feet higher than the lowest point.

The run is through neighborhoods around the lake. Most of it is pretty flat, there is a climb to get out of transition and then a set of hills at the end. I don't remember thinking the hills were killer last year.

I'm coming off of what basically amounts to two weeks of time off. Last week I did two hours, this week will hopefully be a little more than that. The week previous was only a couple of hours. I've needed a little while to recharge the batteries before I head into the last two months of my extended season. I've decided though that if I can get some swim yards in and at least one good feeling run I'll be ready for the race.

My goals for december looked like this
Swim7:451:25 per 100 yards
Bike39:0021.5 miles/hour
Run23:007:45 mins/mile

If I execute on that, that is good enough for top 15, and top three in my AG (based on last years results.)

Closing Comments
I'm looking forward to this race, it's the last short race of the year. I'll put in a little bit of time this week to make sure my water arms and running legs won't feel odd on race day, but the plan is to head into this race full speed. I read recently, an endurance event is 50% physical and 90% mental. Now I'm no math major (but I could have picked up a math minor with maybe one more class) but that appears to add to 140%. That aside, the physical is there, I just need to believe I can do it. I can do it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Race Review : Lakefront Days Sprint Triathlon

Ahh, good old Lakefront Days. You know what? I'm not even sure why I like this race, but I do. First it's fantastic to have a race so close to home, but after that I guess it's just another race. It's a little smaller than some, I think around 300 racers. The lake isn't the cleanest, but it's not the dirtiest either, the bike course is actually pretty challenging, sort of hilly in that "the hills always seem there" way and the run is through a decent park. The start/finish/transition area is pretty well laid out, my wife likes bringing the kids. It's a great race. If you're looking for a local race, I'd recommend it. My favorite race of the year so far.

The Training 
I've mentioned a few times recently, I feel like maybe I'm off on training a little, but it's not like I'm at zero. I'm just not doing a ton. I didn't really train specifically for this race even though I selected this race to satisfy a goal in December.

Packet Pickup
Back in 2009 when I did this race the first time, my wife picked up the packet for me. Last year (2011) when I did this race, she picked up the packets again. This time I was all set to go pick up the packet and see what the deal was ... and my sister-in-law went instead. Options were, all day Thursday at the sponsor gym, most of the afternoon Friday (that's when we went) or, of course, Race morning.

Race Morning
The race started at 8, we live four miles from the race venue, so we elected to get there by 7. The whole family would go at the same time. My alarm went off at 5:15, I doddled in for a while then got up and got some stuff together. At about six my wife started to stir, I told her they didn't need to try to get there with us, since the kids were still sleeping, getting everyone mobilized and out the door by 6:45 didn't make sense. So my sister in law and I hopped on the bikes and just rode over to the race. I loved it, so easy.

We probably got there kind of early, or at least earlier than 7. There were plenty of choices in the transition area. I chose a spot that I think I had last year. I figured that would make it easier to find my bike :)

We kind of hung out for a while, checked out the lake. They announced it was the water temperature 82, it didn't feel quite as warm as Lifetime which was supposed to be 80.5, but it wasn't cold either.

Bethany was in wave two, and I was in wave four so I left six minutes after her. Unlike last year (where I only left three minutes after) I was pretty sure I would not catch her on the swim. Two reasons, first she's much faster than last year, and second 6 minutes is a HUGE portion of a 400 meter swim even if you're planning on really cranking through the swim.

The Swim

The swim felt good, I lined up at the front, and really pushed hard right away. Surprisingly I was able to get some dolphin dives in on this race. I had gotten in the water for a warmup swim and was really surprised how shallow the entry was. We'd start in knee deep water and could easily run 20 feet before it was much deeper than waist deep.

I think I pulled away from the group pretty quickly. Right about the turn around I caught the bulk of the group before me, and about half way back I caught the stragglers of the group before them.

On the way out I did another dive or two and then really pushed hard out of the water. This was easily the best swim for me of the year, I felt great, the traffic was light, the course was really easy to follow.

On this course, like last year, it's just an out and back, but what makes it super easy is they also string a line of much smaller buoys between the larger orange ones. You have to sight a lot less.

Coming out of the water. In contrast to years past,  I actually passed that girl on the run-out
The Bike
The bike starts with an uphill climb that isn't super steep but covers about 100 feet of rise over a mile. I tried hard to not spike my heart rate, but also get up to a decent speed.

I saw and passed Bethany about 3.5 miles in, I didn't say anything as I went by because I didn't really know what to say. A variety of things popped through my head, but I couldn't settle on anything and then the moment passed.

Right from the start of the race I was sort of going back and forth between three or four other people. I'd pass them on a hill, they'd pass me on the flats, another hill, some more flats. Thankfully this course has more hills than flats, and I dropped the last of them on the last "big" hill. As I went by the guy said "good job" and I didn't see him again till after the finish. I thought for sure though I'd see him on the run. But I had a good 6 miles or so on the bike to build the gap, so maybe that's what saved me.

Along the way my average speed was creeping up, there was a slight wind coming from what felt like the west-north-west, and on this course that basically means you spend most of the time with the wind not at your back, so I was happy with the speed. I was slowly making my way toward my goal.

The rest of the bike went well, I eventually passed my speed goal and just kept pushing.

The Run
The first mile or so of the run was sort of a struggle. First, I took off out of transition like a shot. I slowed down pretty fast though because my heart was racing, and then you hit pretty much the only hill of the course. Again it's not super steep, but it does go on for a little more than half a mile. After that though it was pretty smooth sailing.

I was holding a good pace, it felt good and while I wasn't really staring at the watch when I would look down the average pace looked good.

A couple of people passed me, and I'd try to hang with them, but they were all running sub-7 minute miles, and that's pretty freaking fast for me so they'd just pull away. It occurred to me that, based on looks alone, two of these guys may be in my age group. This year they didn't label us by age group, so I had to guess. But honestly these guys were cooking, so while it would have been nice to be able to keep up with them, I didn't worry about it.

Coming into the finish, pushing hard
The Finish
I had said to myself that I would start pushing the pace with a half mile to go, some time just before that there was a large group of walkers (not part of the race) and when I ran around them I picked up the pace without even realizing it. I really felt like I was cruising as I came into the finish. I saw my family, and my daughter didn't come out to run with me :(

I crossed the line, thought (just for a second) I was going to puke, and then hung out with the family a bit before the rain started and we left.

The Results

Goal Actual
Swim 6:14 6:25
Bike 38:30 39:28
Run 26:20 25:09
Total 1:14 1:13:05

The swim – A little slower than my predicted pace, but it was still good for first overall.

The bike - A little longer than my predicted time, but I think the course is actually longer than they say it is, because the watch registered almost a half mile further. So actually this is faster than I planned on. According to the race results the average speed is 20.5, but they are basing that on 13.5 miles. According to the Garmin (two years in a row it reports the same distance) the average is 21.3.

The run – About a minute faster, which means about 20 seconds per mile faster than I was planning. I took it out really fast, just before I backed off the pace I was right around 6 minute miles. After that I just tried to keep the pace up, I did pick it up a few times when people passed me (mainly just to see how fast they were going) but then I'd settle back into it.

I looked at the running speed graph, according to it I accelerated through the course, getting as fast as 5:30 pace coming into the finish

Overall this was good for fourth in my age group, and 21st overall. Sound familiar? While I was shooting for first in my AG per the December goal, the reality is that I did better than I wanted to, and you can't control who shows up to the race.

Closing Comments
I had a great time. That time is only a minute faster than my goal, but if you look back over the years at this race I have made some HUGE gains.

  • 2009 - 1:51:14 - My first triathlon ever
  • 2011 - 1:19:41
  • 2012 - 1:13:05

I'm not sure what's up next, I'm contemplating one more sprint this year. I'm enjoying the last few sprints I've done, and one more may be just what the doctor is calling for :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Enter The Dolphin

It slipped my mind until this morning, but at the Chisago race I had the opportunity to break out some dolphin dives.In general my thoughts on dolphin dives up until now (and really continues to be) if you don't know how to do them, or don't do them correctly it's probably slower than just swimming.

Here's a link where Sara McLarty demonstrates dolphin dives in a pool. The narrator talks about it - he says the same thing about doing them correctly, though I think he should stress, if you're not doing it right, it will slow you down.

I will admit that I do not really do much open water swimming beyond races, you could go so far as to say I don't do any, and that would be pretty much accurate. I definitely don't carve out time for open water swims. You need a buddy system, it would be even better if you had someone on land or in a kayak to stay with you, in MN the water is usually freezing cold (not this year though.) Due to total lack of practice, I was quite surprised when I found myself doing one.

The Run-Up
Here's my general take on a swim start. I've never had a deep water start, so all of my races to date involve running into the water (usually at full speed) diving in when the water gets to just about knee height and then taking off swimming.

Go back and watch the video, she is doing dolphin dives in water that is about waist deep for what looks to be about 15 yards. In a beach setting that has a very long run-in (i.e., it's shallow for a while) you'd probably have a great need for this. In my experience this isn't a reality. Most races start in areas that get too deep too quickly to effectively pull this off. I'd say if the water is any deeper than low waist you're spending more time diving than you can make up in the thrust from pushing off the bottom. And if it's getting deep quickly you may even find that you dive down and it's suddenly a foot deeper and when you go to push off your way under water. Hopefully someone hasn't started swimming over the top of you at this point, because yowch!

Watch the video again, it looks like all the people practicing dolphin dives are in chest deep water. It also looks to me that those people (who might very well just be novice, I don't really know) are coming to almost a full stop at the start of every dive. I'll plead ignorance, but I'm not sold they are moving any faster than if they just settled into a swim. And I'd also wager they are expending a lot of doing the dives since it looks like it includes (for them) a jump when already standing to create the right arc. What I would expect is something that looks a lot more fluid, where you see someone pop out of the water already in forward motion and then diving back in without any stopping or hopping.

Side note: I'd love to see what she looks like from above the water. She is a very fast swimmer, and it's possible I'm WAY off base and she looks the same as those other people, but I'm betting her dives look a lot more fluid. I think that's her going into the water with the waves, but the waves sort of muddy the view a little. And it may very well be much harder to be fluid when your battling waves like that. I'd definitely dolphin through waves.

Enter The Dolphin
Clearly I'm skeptical, I had literally never run into a reason to use one. I've never (that I know of) been passed by anyone diving past me at the start or end of a race. I have however swum by many people in an upright position at both ends. Perhaps they were diving, I don't know, I think they mostly are walking. The swim is likely the least popular leg of a triathlon :)

So how, you ask, did I find myself diving? The answer is that I found myself in exactly the same position she talks about as the perfect conditions. I dove in, and my hands came in contact with the sand, so I did exactly what you see in the video. Pushed off the bottom with my hands (more forward than up,) got my feet under me, and launched myself into another dive. I expect that. unlike what you see in the video of the people doing it in open water. what it looked like from shore was I went under, and then came up very quickly a few feet later in an arc that immediately resulted in me being under water again. It was definitely faster than swimming, it was a pretty good feeling. I did two dives, the first from running, the second immediately after that and then I was in deep water and just swam.

Final Thoughts
Probably, like most things, the dolphin dive, when execute correctly, is a great tool. But, I'd bet that many people have almost no need for them unless you find yourself swimming through waist deep water for more than a few feet.

My guess is most of the time you're entering the water is getting deep enough fast enough that one dive (the first one) results in you getting to deep enough water that going all the way to the bottom and back up again is slower than just starting to swim. And when you're coming out (and I've mentioned this before) unless your hand is grazing the bottom or you know it's shallow for a bunch of yards, you'll spend more time looking for that perfect place than if you just swam on in.

So, if you're ever doing the Chisago race, I do think that run in is long enough to pull off a dolphin dive or two, and yes if you do it right it will benefit you. Plus it's kinda fun.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Applying Perspective

So recently I said I was disappointed by my performance at Chisago. I had made two goals, a primary and a fallback and I missed them both. So I was disappointed. I had a similar feeling after Liberty, but it wasn't as pronounced because my goals were a little less solid in my head because it was a new race distance for me.

A couple of people over the last month or so have commented that these were both pretty decent showings. I wouldn't say I really ignored them, but I did sort of let it roll off my shoulders. In my head if I set expectations for myself and fail to meet them then it's on me. If the reasons for failure aren't immediately present (e.g., flat tire), or can't be easily seen as external (e.g., people passing out left and right due to heat) the result must just be that I just didn't execute well enough.

Let it not be said that I am too dense to hear what is being said. So now I will look a little closer at both of these races in terms of results and overall performance.

Liberty 6/10/2012

Goal Actual
Swim 29:55 29:40
Bike 3:00:00 2:50:18
Run 2:01:00 2:14:20
Total 5:36:00 5:39:17

My View
To sum up my feelings for this race - The swim went well, on the bike I let myself get caught up emotionally with nutrition (dropped 200 calories, "missing" bottle exchange for another 200) even though I probably actually made those up with spare nutrition. The run was miserable, I was DONE after 3 miles. Emotionally that's how I felt.

When I look at this race from a learning perspective the obstacles I chose to work on were:

Not messing up the nutrition - dropping the bar was just a mistake. I just bobbled it. So next time be more careful. The bottle exchange thing is sort of out of my control. I don't think it's possible to carry enough fluids to take you 56 miles and not be pretty dehydrated going into the run. But I could have handled my reaction a little better.

Staying more mentally tough on the run - I was not convinced that I could not have just kept running. Someone told me to walk the hills, and I tried to ignore it on the first hill but couldn't. I thought I should be able to at least jog the entire time. This feeling is carry-over from the start of last year when I was still walking during shorter races.

By the numbers
The swim
29:40 for 1.2 miles is 1:24 hundreds. At full on sprint speed in March I whipped out a 100 in 55 seconds. In training, on a good day I can hold 1:18 for a 400. So 1:24 with a wetsuit is probably pretty good. Compared to the rest of the field that puts me way toward the top. My personal thought is that this is about what I expect. I am by no means the fastest swimmer out there, but I do anticipate that I am near the top given my swimming background.

Perspective: That time was 2 minutes faster than anyone else in my age group. It was good enough for 9th out of 268 people. That pace is faster than any other swimming leg last year for me at any distance.

Overall - I have high expectations for my swims, the reality is, that compared to the crowd I am doing very well.

The bike
2:50:18 for 56 miles is 19.7 miles per hour. Now I'm pretty sure the bike course is about a mile short, but so for 55 miles that's 19.4 miles per hour. When I train I normally train slower than that and for shorter distances. Compared to the rest of the group I'm about in the middle. My personal thought is that I want to be out of the middle of the pack, so while I am performing at a level that for me is decent, I want to improve that performance, I am focusing on getting faster here.

Perspective: That speed is faster than almost any training bike average I have, including group rides. That speed is only just slightly slower than my fastest bike pace at a sprint distance last year. That speed is nearly four miles per hour faster than I could push two years ago.

Overall - I have come a long way, and while I still want to go further, it's important to recognize that landing in the middle isn't bad, and that over the course of two years I have made some serious progress.

The run
2:14:20 is 10:15 per mile. When I train I normally train faster than this, this year I usually train in low nines high eights for pretty much any non-interval distance. Puts me just over the halfway point in the group. My personal thought is that I lost a mental battle with myself. It was hot, it was hilly, but I should be able to tough through and at least jog.

Perspective: 2:14 half marathon is nothing to scoff at. I know runners who would be happy to run a 2:14 without 57.2 miles of workout before it. While 2:14 is almost 30 minutes slower than my 13.1 personal best, it's only 15 minutes slower than my previous PR, and only eight minutes slower than the first one I ever ran two years ago. All three of those races were on mercifully flat courses and, of course, I started them with fresh legs.

Overall - I felt like I should have done better, I feel like I can do better. But that's actually a pretty good time.

Chisago - 7/22/2012

Goal Actual
Swim 33:30 30:51
Bike 2:52 2:53:43
Run 1:58 2:09:43
Total 5:27 5:38:42

My View
To sum up my feelings for this race - The swim didn't feel good, on the bike I got bored and sort of annoyed with drafting. The run started well, and then I just got worn down, down, down. Not hitting either the time based goal or being able to "survive" the run really took a toll on me.

When I look at this race from a learning perspective the things I need to address are:

Committing to the race - I think it's safe to say my heart wasn't in this race. I forgot things in my bag, I showed up late, I sort of just checked out. I think that had a big impact on the bike, and I think that if I had started out in a better frame of mind the little things would have added up slower.

Staying Positive - This is the second race at this distance where I just let things get me in the wrong state of mind. It's hard to describe how I was feeling when I started walking. Supreme disappointment, I could find no bright spots at all, and that stuck with me until well after the race, days, maybe even a week. Actually maybe till right now.

By the numbers
The swim
30:51 - That's 1:28 per hundred. That's four seconds per hundred slower than Liberty, or about 1 minute total time. Overall I was 3nd in my AG and 23rd for overall men. Those results are skewed a little because they lump pro and elite into the mix, and I can't figure out how to determine who they are except that I know of a few of the names. My personal thoughts are that I felt like it was going poorly and my mindset was already starting to deteriorate.

Perspective: A minute could be just another 75 yards on the course, it's not like they have 1.2 mile pools we're swimming in. It could be that I was just tired, who knows. That's still quite fast, and out of the entire time a minute on the swim is less than 1%.

Overall - It's not always going to be perfect, sometimes I will feel a little junky. But this was actually a pretty comparable result to Liberty which is fine for me. My swim is already a strong point for me.

The bike
2:53:43 is 19.4 again. It's puts me just over the half way mark again. My view - I had just finished a bike focused segment of training and I was really hoping it would pay off in a big noticeable way on the bike split. I actually moved down in overall and age group standings a little here, but this was a state championship race, so it's possible that the field is just faster.

Perspective: Three minutes slower for perhaps a mile longer is actually an improvement, not huge, but it's there. Also, I think this course is probably a little hillier than Liberty. At liberty there was basically just one big hill (that you do twice) and one less steep but long incline. This course had one hill that basically went on for four miles. Not terribly steep, but it definitely got to me. And a bunch of rollers. Again this pace is quite fast compared to where I was last year. Perhaps that extra bike focus paid off.

Overall - I still want to be faster than mid-pack, it's possible that at a championship event that I should be happy with mid-pack considering where I was last year. I will continue to work on the bike.

The run
2:09:42 -9:54 miles.That's about 20 seconds per mile faster than liberty for an overall change of about 5 minutes. The reality is that's actually a pretty big drop to make in a month. I went into the run knowing that I'd need to hold nine minute miles to make my overall time goal. After about 7 miles I knew that was a lost cause, but I still had the fallback goal of to just keep running. But I was losing speed like crazy, and it seemed like the stream of people running past me was never ending. Another 4 or so miles later I broke down, there was hardly anyone around anymore, and I was feeling destroyed. In my head I had failed.

Perspective - On this run I didn't walk till about 11.5 miles into the run. That is significantly further than the under three miles it took at Liberty. For this race, a 2:09 is actually better than my bike split in terms of rank.

Overall - I still want to be able to finish this distance without walking. Don't get me wrong, I am walking through every water stop, I just don't want to be walking any other time. I'd also prefer to be able to hold a faster pace, and honestly if I had just held on the same trajectory (slowing) I would have finished three minutes sooner. Running is WAY faster than walking, every time.

If you made it this far, good for you. Hopefully you haven't been thinking I was being super hard on myself, or not noticing that I'm still doing better than half the people out there. I do push myself, I race to win, I train to get better. I thought for a while, a week or so ago, that maybe I could just scale way back on training and go to the races just to have fun and not worry about where I place. That just doesn't match my style, right now I don't see a point in my future where I will not be pushing hard to get better setting goals to get faster. Over time I may slow down, but I will still be trying to at least win my age group.