Friday, August 8, 2014

Race Review: Lakefront Days

Good old lakefront days, I've been looking forward to this race all year. I mean there are other races, and they are all good for good reasons, but it's pretty stinking handy to have a race down the street.

Packet Pickup

Once again my wife picked up Bethany's and my packets. I hope that doesn't stop. I'm not too sure why USAT has rules about making sure the right person picks up their packet, but it's handy when someone else can do it. She rode her bike down to the park the day before and got our packets. She said she was a little confused about it because there weren't many people there, but she got it done.

The packet itself was pretty decent, some ointments, some deodorant, and some other stuff. That plus a bib for running, a bike sticker, and a swim cap. No helmet sticker, which is fine by me.

Race Morning

The race started at 8, since it's only two miles from my house I got up around 6, and left around 6:45 and biked over. It was a little chilly, I wore long pants and long sleeves. It was an easy ride, and we got there around 7. We found some spots in transition, got our chips, got marked up and set up.

A while later we saw my friend Jeff. This was his second time at Lakefront days, and only his fourth triathlon. By this time they had already announced the water temp was 80, and that wetsuits would not be allowed. Personally I think this is better than what they had done at the Chaska triathlon last year, where they let people get into bath-like water in a wetsuit. I'm sure some people missed the comfort of having a wetsuit, but overall I think it's probably safer.

About 15 minutes before the start they held a meeting near the lake and kinda went over some of the specifics of the race, stuff like the start format, that the bike turns were all manned with people, and that part of the bike and run course were on the same path.

Soon after they sent the relays off in a wave, and then started the rest of us in time-trial format.

Pre-race picture Clearly I don't wear enough sunscreen, or sleeveless shirts

The Swim

Like last year the swim was set up as a seed-yourself type situation. One thing they changed was putting little markers up that allowed people to know where to sort of congregate. Sort of like they have at running races. One sort of odd thing was that they did it by projected finish time for the swim. So 9:30 and under was the fastest wave. Last year I did the swim (with a wetsuit) in 6 minutes. That's a pretty big gap in ability, three minutes over 400 meters is ... about 200 meters. Next year they should put signs up based on projected 100 yard swim times (e.g., 1:20 and under) people may be more aware of how long it takes them to swim 100 yards than 400 meters in open water.

Because the signs were there people were quite a bit more bullish about lining up than last year, there was a huge cluster of people waiting to go. So whatever, I lined up near the front and just waited, I probably went off 10th.

We were going one at a time every three seconds, I caught the first guy while still running and doing dolphin dives, after that I just kept steady, I passed my fair share of people, though I did notice that there were some decently fast people in the water. It's not like when there's a huge line of just anyone in front, the people around me where self-admittedly fast, and I think they were being honest with themselves.

About half way back I thought to myself, I wonder if slower people would seed themselves high just so they didn't have to be the last people in the water. This happens at running races, people seed themselves high all the time. Overall the swim felt good, I came out feeling strong, I glanced at the beach and noticed there were still people getting in, and took off. I gave my kids high fives on the way to transition.
Fresh out of the water - no wetsuit means I'm already done getting undressed

Bethany coming in for some high fives

Jeff - looking strong

The Bike

The transition area was set up the same way it has been set up every time I come, it's one of the simplier setups. I found my bike no problem. I was a little wobbly getting my shoes on, so I just took a breath before each one. Once I had them on I took off. At this point I didn't know where I was in the group. There weren't people around, and there were at least some relay people still waiting for their swimmers. After the race my wife said I came out of the water in 5th and I had passed all of the relay swimmers.

This bike course starts with a medium length gentle up hill. It's not super taxing, but if you've just pushed the swim and didn't take time in transition, it's tough to catch your breath for the first little bit. I passed a biker on the way out of the park before the last little bit of up hill that turns into downhill.

During the downhill and following flat section I got my breathing under control. Because of the non-wetsuit swim I had elected to wear my watch on my wrist. This has the benefit of getting all your splits as you go, it has the downside of I never wear a watch on my bike and reading it is totally foreign. So the entire bike ride I went by perceived effort.

A little way into the flat part a guy comes cruising past, that's one. A little while later another guy, that's two. The first guy faded into the distance pretty fast, the second not as fast. While I wouldn't ever catch him, he didn't ever get out of sight the rest of the ride.

The flat section gives way to a set of rolling hills that are deceptive, because they are rolling but have a net increase in altitude, so you're never going down as far as you just went up. During this a guy sort of crawled past me. That's three - we would be near each other for the rest of the ride. He stayed just ahead of me for the remainder of the climbing in this section, and we rode down the large downhill immediately after and I passed him on the false flats on the bottom. I stayed ahead of him till the next turn, and then I thought he was passing me again, but it was someone else - that's four. On the plus side I could still see the second guy who passed me, and the third guy who passed me was still behind me, and it looked like we were gaining on someone in the front.

Shortly after the turn is a short uphill, the guy in blue passed me again. He got about four bike lengths on me but then I pulled ahead on the flats again - clearly I need more hill work. We did this move a few times, and ended up coming in to transition at the same time.

Bike time is also snack time

Bethany cruising into transition

The Run

I braked late and beat him into transition, and go out faster too. I also passed #2 in transition, though both of those would be short lived as the boy in blue came running by after about 400 yards. I wished him well. When we came into transition there were like zero bikes. I got passed a few times, and passed a few more, but based on the transition area I figured I was close to the front. After the race my wife said I was probably 10th off the bike - that makes sense to me.

Shortly after the guy in blue, #2 came by, but much slower. For a while I figured I could keep up with him, though I was really huffing and puffing. After about a half a mile I was still having trouble calming my breathing down, I probably sounded like I was at threshold, though I didn't really feel like the effort level was matching the sound. I took 5 seconds to walk and try to catch my breath, but because the only two people who had run by me so far were in transition at the same time as me I figured if I kept the effort up I could maybe keep the losses to a minimum on the run. About a quarter mile later my breathing was WAY out of control. So I took some more time to get it together.

After that short break I took a look at my watch, I was averaging under 8s with two walks under my belt, so that made me feel good. That's super fast for me. With that little uplifting glance I got back to running. The occasional runner would come by, but nothing terrible ever. Only a few times did more than one person pass me at the same time. The middle of the run felt pretty good. The only thing I really noticed was that there seemed to be a fair number of non-racers on the course. Apparently we didn't have exclusive access to the trail. Overall I think that's fine, though some of the people we were sharing the trail with looked a little peeved.

The last mile or so really hurt, I actually felt like I was keeping a good pace, but I hadn't really been looking at my watch except to see distance so all I was basing my performance on was feel - and it felt decent by super hard. I took some water at the 2 mile water hand-out, just enough to wet my whistle. Thankfully it was closer to the third mile marker than the second. Through the misery that was the last mile there was the bright spot that I was pretty sure I'd only been passed five or six times on the run, so that felt good. I didn't pass anyone though - I figured I had passed everyone I was going to pass on the swim and bike, and what was left was fast people in front and behind me.


More high fives - also pretty tired

Jeff, finally found a shirt. I tried to coax him to pass the lady in green. He's too nice.

The Finish

The last half or quarter mile of the run is shared with the bike course. Jeff came cruising by on his bike which was fun. I tried to muster as much speed as I could but I was SPENT! Someone did come running by in the last few meters which was a little frustrating, but I had left all my energy on the course. I'm not even sure I managed a smile at the finish.

The Results


The Swim
No wetsuit, but I fared pretty well. That's good for second overall and first in my age group.

The Bike
New PR for the course, so that's cool.

The Run
Pretty significantly slower - overall though with my heart pounding out of my chest I'll take it.

That's good for 29th overall and 6th in my age group. 15 seconds out of 5th, 5 minutes out of first in my age group.

Closing Comments

Attendance seemed a little down for the race this year, and while it's never super busy, we all noticed it. I definitely recommend this race. The time trial start is a nice addition in the last couple of years. They had the same DJ they had last year doing the MC and he's pretty good, good energy, good music. The people are super nice and the course is moderately challenging without being annoying.

Again I had fun racing with Bethany and Jeff, they are just competitive enough to make it fun to race with them. It's not over the top crazy with frustration about performance, but it's also not "meh - whatever" and that's fun.

Once again my wife and kids were a fantastic cheering squad, I saw them out of the swim, I heard my wife off the bike (but did not see her) and saw them at the finish.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A matter of the heart

If you would have asked me three years ago, I would have said I didn't really get sick or injured. Heck, if you asked me two years ago "well there was that one time." Even last year, "yeah, not really, but when it happens it's a doozy" But now I'm starting to wonder.

Two years ago - the big bike accident
Last year - Meningitis
This year ... bum bum baaa

Back Story

Actually this started last year - but until recently I had sort of been playing it cool. A few times last year, it's hard to know how many, but enough that I'd say it was regular, but not predictable. During a workout my heart would start to race - WAY above normal workout levels. I mean, when I run my HR can get into the 170-180 range. But occasionally this would happen

Surprisingly that's not just a glitch in my HRM, that's what was actually happening. My heart rate would jump to say 230 and kinda sit there for a bit and then right back to where it was.

You can kinda tell by those pictures (which, unfortunately were really easy to find just by browsing my workouts) the whole thing lasts about thirty seconds and then is gone. During that time, besides the ridiculously fast heart rate, I feel fine. It's an odd feeling to have your heart beating that fast so I always stopped and let it subside, but for the sake of argument, had it not felt so odd, I would have just kept going. There weren't really any other side-effects.

At first (and this sounds dumb) I actually thought perhaps it was my heart rate monitor causing it. Some sort of odd short-circuit or something. That's why I don't have more records of them. Long story short, it's not the monitor.

After I ruled that out I looked up some stuff, sort of surprisingly most of the stuff I found wasn't that alarming. Have your doctor check it out, and if they say it's nothing, then don't let it bother you. So, because this started near the end of last year's triathlon / running season I just rode it out and when I stopped working out, it stopped happening.

This Year

When I started up this year I was hoping that all I had needed was some rest and maybe some good healthy living. I had taken some time off to fully recuperate, I had adopted a different eating plan, and a different sleeping plan. At first everything was great - and then it came back. Same deal, only during some workouts, and not really easy to pin down. On the plus side it was pretty infrequent

Last Month

A couple of weeks ago I was out for, no kidding, an easy run and it happened. So I stopped, and then I sat, and sat. I had been sitting long enough that my breathing had eased, I wasn't even sweating anymore. I felt fine, except my heart was racing. I had no monitor on, so I counted the beats manually manually, 230+. 5 minutes had gone by, and I was about two miles from work, so I just started walking. I figured it would stop soon enough and then I'd trot back.

I got back to work and it was still going on, we're 30 minutes into this by now. It's hard to paint this picture. I'm not breathing hard, I'm not dizzy or sweating, my heart rate is really high, but it's not actually beating that hard. You know when you're really working hard and it's super easy to find your heart rate, but when you're not you kinda have to focus to get a good read. That's how it was for me, if I stopped walking and closed my eyes I could feel that little bugger thumping away, way too fast.

I got changed into my work clothes, all ready to call it in and head to a doctors office and then - bam, it's gone. All the way down to 60. Because I feel absolutely fine, I elect to just call my wife. I ask her to please make an appointment, and reassure her I'm fine. On the phone she sounds, understandably, distressed. She gets an appointment for a couple of days away.

The Appointment

The appointment starts like any other. Get called back, weight, blood pressure ("I need to take that again...that's better" - I've got a little bit of white coat syndrome.) The nurse asks me more details, I tell her the deal, she says "230! - Are you sure?!" Yep, I've even seen it on a heart rate monitor. She's a little surprised, and says "good luck!" on the way out.

The doctor comes in, he's less impressed. He listens to my story, asks some questions. He then draws some pictures about how your heart works, and the various sort of heart rate problems people can experience and what happens that causes them. He's got some ideas, but wants to run some tests. He's thinking he's going to send me home with an event monitor. Given that this only happens when I'm exercising, and not every time, I'll need one for about a month. But first an EKG.


If you've never gotten one, it takes longer to get hooked and unhooked than it does to take the test. 10 seconds - tops. Very underwhelming. The results do not indicate a well known, and detectable, issue. So that's good.

What's Next

So he's for sure signing me up for the monitor. I ask him some basic questions

  • Assuming we decide we know what's going on, what sort of treatment am I looking at? He doesn't really want to commit, but it might be nothing and we don't really do anything, or it might require surgery to repair some messed up electrical pathways
  • Should I stop exercising, or at least dial it back? He almost laughs, but holds it back. No, don't stop exercising. At this point that's probably not at all helpful.
  • So, is it serious, or should I try not to worry about it and just run through it? Again, almost a laugh, no don't run through it.
So I went and got my monitor. It's meant to be worn all the time, and has a little button that, when I notice this happening, I should press and it will basically do a little EKG. I then call a number, hold the thing up to the phone and it transmits it, modem style. Super Retro.

I've been wearing it for about a week, no event so far. This happens, by far, the most often when running, and in the last week I've only run three times. Next week the runs start to pick up again, so we'll see. While it's super unpleasant to have these little episodes, it would be better to know what's going on than to just hope they aren't mini heart attacks and ignore them. I have 22 more days to get some results.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Race Review: Chisago Sprint

Originally I was going to do the half at Chisago. It was going to be me, Bethany, and Amanda's friend Shana. Also, the two older kids would do the kids race the day before. Then Bethany had trouble finding time to do the workouts and I think had a series of injuries that got in the way and eventually she made the call that she'd just do the sprint. Now I'm not good friends with Shana, and I don't actually like races that long, so I opted to do the sprint too.

All told - this weekend I did three races. For all you wannabes that think a double is hard - here's my account of three races in two days.

Races 1 & 2 (Chisago Kids Tri - Waves 1 & 2)

For my son this is his second race, for my daughter it's her third. They see dad race a bunch, so we try to find kids tris to do where dad will be doing the same race. It's hard, most kids triathlons start at 7. Next year the oldest will be able to those. We came to this race two years ago for the oldest's first race. It went well. Things that are fresh in my head from that. The run from the end of the swim is probably as long as the entire rest of the race, the "swim" can just be a run because of not wanting little kids to drown.

Packet Pickup & Race Morning

We elected to do packet pickup on race morning for the kids - Chisago is 60 miles from our house and so making that drive as few times as possible is good new for us. The kids race starts at 9, we figure get there by 8, which means leave our house by 6:30 to account for getting lost and stuff like that.

We get the kids up - they have breakfast while I fill bike tires and load the bikes.

Summer time is construction time - there is semi-major road closing traffic on basically every road. The handy maps application on my phone tells us there is road closings on 35E & 35W, so we take a less direct route there, total travel time wasn't that different. Amanda's mom and sister are going to come and watch the race, so we two car caravan the way up. We get to the race site with plenty of time. The kids are pretty excited, they hop right on their bikes and mill around the parking lot till we get the rest of the stuff ready.

Ready to Roll

The other stuff
We made our way to the transition area - found a place for our bikes and then headed over to packet pickup and body marking
"Racking" the bikes

They get bibs, t-shirts, and a bag of schwag

Body marking - probably one of the highlights

The largest marker in the world to write on a 5 year old
After that we had plenty of time to mill around - we checked out the water, we figured out how to find our bikes (there is a building in the transition area - we were behind that.) We walked the course and then it was time to gather for the start.
Swim warmup with the Aunty

The Swim 1 - (4&5 years old)

At this race, if your kids are 6 or under the parents are allowed to help them. I am default selection for this role given the 9 month-old who wants some other than mommy about as much as she'd like to have her fingers pulled off. In the end it ammounts to me running from place to place guiding and encouraging, the only real "help" I provide is sock support.

Unlike the previous time we came here, the little kids go first. This is good because the entire wave has to finish before the next one will start, and the big kids have a much longer race than the little kids. So we're in the first wave. I am allowed to go in the water with my son, but he doesn't want to, I'll meet him at the end of the sandy exit on the way up to transition.

Action shot - this is the exact moment the whistle blew. My kid is the one pushing the other kids out of the way

The "swim" - for safety the water is shallow enough to run, so they do. My kid is winning right now
He exits the water with a HUGE smile on his face, he is having a ton of fun. We make our way up the huge hill and to our bike.

The Bike

It's not an exaggeration that for this age group the run from the lake to the bike is the longest portion of the race. I say "socks or no socks" he says "socks" we put them on, he grabs his helmet and bike and off he goes. At this age I can not easily keep up with him on his bike, and he's a good enough rider to do it himself. Plus the course is like a block long so I stand and wait. He basically coasts down the small incline and when he makes the turn he really starts to put the gas on.

He makes his way to the dismount line, we find out spot and head out for the run.

The Run

The run for this age group is through transition and down the finisher's chute - I navigate us successfully through transition.
This is like one foot out of the transition area pointing to the finish chute

The Finish

Full speed - he's running so fast he's almost falling forward

The Results
As far as I know there aren't official results for this race. There aren't chip times, they just tear off the bottom of your bib in the finish chute.
Finisher's Medal!

Closing Comments

Overall this race was a lot of fun. It's fun to race with your kid and see them having so much fun up close. The race is pretty short, but for a 4 year old it might be appropriate.

Jamey had a ton of fun and really likes racing. He was disappointed not to place in the top three, but that seems pretty standard, who doesn't want to win?

The Swim 2 - (6&7 years old)

Ivy was in the second wave, so after giving Jamey a high-five we headed back to the beach. There was plenty of time, but Ivy was in the second wave so she wanted to make sure to get there on time. I had thought I would not be able to help Ivy during the race, but they announced 6 and under was allowed help, and that was good because she really wasn't excited to do the race by herself.

Like her brother though - she'd like me to meet her at the end of the beach. Which was good, because I had just run the race with Jamey and wasn't really dressed appropriately for racing and needed to cool down a little.

Lining up for the start - she's the one in the rainbow one-piece
She had told me before the swim that she didn't want to swim - meaning she wanted to do the race, but not actually swim, just run through the water. I told her she could do whatever she wanted, the goal is to have fun. If swimming in the lake during the race isn't fun, then just run. And then I said - if you fall behind and want to catch up, swimming is much faster than running through water this deep. Very similar to the last time she did this race she came out of the water first - she just ran. 

The Bike

We made our way up to transition. I said "socks or no socks" she said "socks" and then she said "hurry up, this is a race"

She put on her helmet, grabbed her bike and headed out. Unlike her brother she immediately put the gas on and started passing boys from the previous partial wave. The partial waves were a way to split the age groups. So the 5 & 6 year old "wave" was really four waves. 5 year old boys, 5 year old girls, 6 year old boys and then 6 year old girls.

The bike for this group is significantly longer - they head out of sight for long enough for me to chat with a parent. When the lead boys start coming through I take my position on the other side of the street. As far as I can tell Ivy is now in third. I cheer her on, and let her know I'll see her in transition.

The Run

She parks her bike and starts running, I say "head back to the place we came in" and she just takes off. I was very surprised how fast she took off. We get to the end of the transition area and she takes off on the run. I'd guess the entire run is about a quarter of a mile.

If you look closely you can see me taking a shortcut, I just barely catch her at the bottom of the hill. She was really booking. She makes it to the turn around and I am confident she'll finish in third, the next girl back is pretty far back and Ivy's looking very strong.

The Finish

Finishing up! That boy does get past her right at the last second
Ivy ran a fantastic race - she pushed herself hard and had a great time doing it. When she got done she said "I can't do anything more until we get home, I'm too tired!"

The Results

Again, no official results
Finisher's medal, plus some much needed water

2nd - 6 year old girls!
After Ivy caught her breath we all went and got some post race snacks for the racers. PB&J, bananas, cookies and water or gator aid. Also, as we were walking out the schwag bags have candy in them!

Closing Comments

Ivy had a great time, she's often a little apprehensive about new things or things that might be hard, but she had a great time and, for now, is really looking forward to more races.

This race is a good length for kids this age, they can go fast and have a great time without getting too tired or making it too easy.

Race 3 - Chisago Sprint

The adult races are the next day - the plan was to head back home and then drive back up in the morning. Actually, originally the plan was to get a hotel, but after a while I decided that was silly and pretty expensive.

Packet Pickup

We did packet pickup right after the kids raced, it was pretty painless. You get a running number, a helmet number (no bike sticker,) a pretty decent bag of goodies, a shirt, and the most flimsy cap ever. But it was fast and painless and we were gone. Actually before we left I staked out where my assigned spot was. The racks are set up in long rows of about 100 people each. I would be in heat 9 and found my assigned spot, which even had my name on it. Nice touch.

Race Morning

The race starts at 7, same deal as before we're looking at an hour drive. Though this time I decide to risk the construction because it makes the drive simpler. I get up at 4:15, we're out the door by 4:30 and get to the race site with plenty of time to spare.

When I was unloading my bike from my car I noticed the front wheel was a little wobbly, I take a quick check and realize the quick release isn't really tight enough - I say, out loud, to Bethany, "mental note - fix the wheel." And we are on our way to check in.

We find our spots in transition and I notice, now, that my spot is right next to a tree, like 2 feet away from the bike wheel, in the direction I will be taking my bike out. Not awesome, but whatever. I'm pretty sure I don't even have the worst spot. We set up, go get marked up (which, surprisingly, actually tickled a little.) Around this time the transition area is starting to get full and I noticed that the people around me are not all 35-40 year old men, actually Bethany is in my wave and so is some random 50 year old woman. I don't know how the waves are set up, but I do, suddenly, realize that the waves of 100 people they have set up are a mix of everything.

The Swim

I was in wave 9, the first three waves are so were for the 70.3 distance, they went off pretty fast. Then we waited a few minutes and then the sprint waves started. Up until the sprint waves started we had been waiting on the hill trying to see if my wife, who had called me before transition closed, would find us. We hadn't seen her.

Yellow is 70.3, pink is sprint. It's a pretty fun environment

Cool shot of some swimmers taking off
Down on the beach we ran into our friend Paula - she's great, very energetic. We chatted with her for a bit and then filed into the starting coral. I think it's pretty accurate that I haven't done a mass start for the last two years, so I forgot that if you want to be in front you have to look tough and work your way to the front. While I was toeing the line I put my goggles on. They have a purple tint and when I looked around I noticed they made all the pink caps look white. It took me by surprise, and what's really surprising was that it was actually sort of disorienting during the swim.

The whistle went off and, much to my surprise, people sprinted into the water. In a time-trial start you don't really notice people sprinting into the water, I'm not even sure they do. But in this case people were sprinting, it was hectic. I did a quick dolphin dive and then I was near the front. There was another guy who was really cruising, and for the first time in my triathlon career he was going at a pace where settling in behind him was actually worth while. Around the second turn marker I lost him, he decided to go for the inside line and ran into a group of about 10 people from another group.

Overall the swim felt pretty good, I hopped out of the water and made my way to transition. Along the way I saw my wife and kids and her mom. As always, that's a great thing!
This is at the bottom of the grassy climb, you can see the excitement in people's eyes

The Bike

The run to transition has a small steep climb up a grassy hill, I had thought the day before that the climb would really sap my lungs, but it actually wasn't that bad. I passed some people and got to my rack, which was close to the swim out, I noticed that there was at least one other person from the 100 that beat me to the rack. So, not the fastest overall swim, but it did feel fast. So no worries. It's at this point I remember "the front wheel is wobbly" so I stop and tighten the quick release. Super smooth move.

I ran the full length of transition, which is grass so pretty easy running, and then hoped on the bike. The first quarter or half mile of this race is on a pretty narrow path, so there's lots of clumping and not much passing. After we got to a real road I put the hammer down, compared to the people around me I felt like I took off like a shot. One nice thing about being in the 2nd to last wave is that you pass all the slower people from in front of you, it's safe to say I never stopped passing people the rest of the race. Which is not to say I am awesome, just faster than some of the 800 people who were in front of me.

In the first few miles I felt like I was doing well. I was passing a decent number and while some people were passing me, there were a good number of people I was playing leap frog with. Maybe six or seven people. It took me a while to remember how fun it is to chase people and actually catch them occasionally. Prior to the race I had worried that 22 miles would be a pretty tough mental challenge, usually I start to fade after about 18 miles. But with the leap frog and others on the course 22 miles went by pretty fast.

Near the end I had finally gotten ahead of most of the people I had been spending time playing cat and mouse with. There was just one guy, very close to the end I did pass him - he had been my biggest challenge, and his number was etched in my mind (though not really, because now I have no idea what it was) so I was hoping he was a slow runner and would not come running by later. The rest of them, who would likely pass me I wouldn't recognize, so I wasn't worried about them.

I came into the transition area, heard Paula call out my name, and cruised through transition. I noticed there were a couple of bikes in my area, so I had been passed by at least a few people.

The Run

The run starts with a quick downhill, and then run through a small play area. I saw my cheering section again. At this point I felt basically like death, I was having trouble getting my heart rate under control, but I just pressed onward. After about half a mile I took five or ten seconds to gather myself and then headed out again.

Right at the bottom of the hill

That guy is clearly running faster than me

I swear, I'm not trying to cut that guy off, I'm waving to one of my kids

People were passing me, per normal, but it wasn't ridiculous, and thankfully I was also passing some people. Unfortunately for my ego, the guy from the bike I was hoping was a slow runner, he wasn't. Or at least not as slow as me. After the short walk break the miles sort of ticked by pretty quickly.

Honestly I don't really remember the last mile. I saw Bethany in the last quarter mile on her way out on the run, and I saw my family near the finish. I remember thinking - the little run down the hill at the start was now a run up a hill... that sucked.

Coming back - feeling good

Stupid hill!

The Finish

The finish at the end of this race is right at the top of a little hill, and then a nice trot down a little chute, I saw my family, they took my chip, and then I got some water. There are no finisher medals for the sprint, but that's fine. I found a place to sit and tried not to barf on my kids.

Hey look - that guy didn't pass me!
The Results


The Swim
That's good for 6th overall and first in my age group. I'm pretty happy with that time.

The Bike
The Garmin has me at 21.7 because it says I biked less than 22 miles, the official time says 22. That's good for 61st overall and 13 in my age group. I'm pretty happy about this. I felt like I put in a good effort and it shows. I didn't perform like that at all last year.

The Run
The run felt pretty average - but that time is pretty decent. The garmin has me at 8:17 average, the official split is 8:21 due to the watch saying I it was slightly longer than 5k. That's good for 180 overall and 24 in my age group. It does my ego good to know that there are not only 24 people in my age group. BUT, let's back up a sec. I did stop an walk for a bit - so I was surprised to see the average so fast (for me.) So I looked up the splits


For me, those are some pretty stinking good looking splits. Also, compared to last year this is the second fastest split. So I'm feeling good about this!

13/34 in my age group. 60/493 overall. I had a great race, I am happy with all components of it.

Closing Comments

This was a fun race, and while it is WAY to far away, it sure is nice to have a kids tri for four years and up, there aren't many. This is the second time I've been up there for a race and would definitely recommend it.

My cheering squad - or 5/6 of them

Hanging out after the race
I really appreciate my wife and her mom making the trip up to watch the race. There was lots of great cheering and tons of fun pictures. I also had a ton of fun watching my kids race. We've got a bunch of years of little kids before they can participate in many other races, and so it's worth it to drive a little ways to find a race that is really for the whole family.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hitting the (mid west) Hills

Yesterday, I did some hill work on my bike.

Last May, I did a similar workout.

First - follow those links, and be amazed at my animation skills.

Today I was browsing some of my workouts and noticed that the workout from yesterday ranks as the #3 largest amount of climbing I've done in a single ride. #1 - the ride from May. #2 - Trinona Olympic distance. The Trinona elevation map doesn't animate as well, there is basically just one hill.

I know - for sure - that here in the upper mid west, we don't really have hills. I mean there are some, but it's not like it's hilly around here. Hillier, than Florida, but not really compared to a lot of places. My #1 highest amount of climbing in a single ride - 1,700 feet - over 40 miles. If that were a constant climb, 0.8% grade (or 1 inch up for every 10.5 feet forward.)

Still I'm proud of my hill work - the ride from yesterday was only 16 miles - for 2% average grade (or 1 inch up for every 4 feet forward.) It's no mountain climb, and I got rest every two minutes, but still, I went out and found the hard work and that helps.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hitting the hills

I hit some hills last night on my bike - actually I just hit the same hill 15 times in a row.

munch munch munch
Two minutes up, two minutes down... repeat. When your legs start complaining, tell them to shut up!

Race Review: Minneapolis Tri

I've done this race three years now. It's a pretty good race, in the past my wife has not enjoyed coming to this race, but she gave me the green light to sign up again. There are several things I think about when signing up for this race. First, it's pretty expensive, close to $200 for an individual entry. It's large, nearly 2,000 people between the two races. The roads have historically been terrible, very bumpy, last year my water bottle shook out of the cage. Finally, my wife has said several times it's not spectator friendly.

Packet Pickup

I went down Friday before the race, it had rained in the morning, so they had sent out a note to not worry about coming during the rain that they would stay open later to accommodate the weather. The forecast had the weather clearing up by about mid-day. So I went down around noon over my lunch break. It was quite windy, and apparently the little expo tents were flapping all around. Also the rain had made the expo a little swampy. Overall though it was fine. I went to get my packet - here's a system I will never understand. They have the packets arranged by number, and so to get your packet you have to look up your number using your  name. Then you remember it for 12 feet, tell it to someone and then give them an ID so they can verify you have the right packet. I have no idea why I can't just go by name ... I'm sure there's some really fantastic reason that defies logic ... which is why I can't think of it.

After that I walked to the beach to see what the water level looked like, all the lakes and rivers are way up due to spring time rain, and so I was interested. It was definitely up, but it didn't look like it was going to cause any problems.

Two interesting things about packet pickup

  1. They were handing out clear plastic bags "This is the only bag you will be allowed to enter the transition area with tomorrow" I didn't ask why, I just took my bag and left.
  2. You were allowed to drop your bike off in transition - which would be fine, except there didn't seem to be limits on who could get into transition. I, for instance, while looking for the beach walked right in. I also left the transition area not through an entrance, but a gap in the fence. I assume that had I tried to leave with a bike someone would have said something, but still. I would not have left my bike or any of my stuff there. I'm sure it worked out fine though, this isn't their first rodeo.

Race Morning

My race started at 8 (ish) and transition closed at 6:45, which was also the same time the pro race started. I elected to arrive around 5:30. That meant get up at 4:30. I had laid all my stuff out the night before and hopped out of bed and got ready.

A note about the bag - too small. I put

  • Running shoes
  • Towel for wiping my feet
  • Wet suit
  • Goggles
  • Cap
  • Flip flops for pre-race walking
  • Race number for running

It did not close - when not full of racing equipment (shorts, shirt, flip-flops) it was plenty big enough

Usually I get there early enough to just drive right up the road that will be closed in a couple of hours and get to a side-street and park. This time they had already closed off the side-streets, so I had to be more creative. I ended up parking in about the same spot though. It's not totally clear to me why the roads were closed more than an hour before transition closed, but my guess would be a mis-communication.

There was no wind, the temp was mild, it was overcast, but overall it looked to be a decent day for racing.

I made my way to transition. Riding my bike with the little clear plastic handbag was an adventure. I'm thinking there is a reason transition bags are backpacks :) On the way in they were checking for plastic bags, and giving them out to people who didn't have them, but here's the kicker - you were still allowed in transition with the non-clear bags, they were just saying "make sure you don't leave this in transition." So I think the rule really was, you wouldn't be allowed to leave any bag in transition that wasn't clear. There was also a bag check - missed the memo on that one. After the race there were many people leaving with backpacks on their backs - so now I know - that the clear plastic bag thing still sucks and communication around it was really lacking.

I found my assigned spot - which I love because it means there's no worrying about if you have great transition placement strategy or if someone is going to try to squeeze their bike on an already full rack. Also I happened to end up on the end of  rack, which later would turn out to be fantastic. End of the row is always my favorite place to be.

I milled around transition for a bit, talked to the people around me, ran in to a couple of people I knew, overall things were good. I had looked around for the guy I mentioned in the pre-post, I did not see him. He's a little taller than me so he's easy to spot in a crowd.

This is the first race I've been to where you have assigned spots where they announced more than once that people were racking their bikes in the wrong spot. I mean, the rows had number ranges on both ends, the racks had numbers (though usually more than one) on them, and then, of course, you have a number. It seems pretty simple.

Transition closed at 6:45 - and the pro race started at the same time. I watch the pro-women and the pro-men start, then watched them get out of the water. They are quite fast. An interesting thing to me was that the women come out basically one at a time, and the men come out in a big group. The men basically swim single file. After that it was about 7, so I found a place to sit down and kill some time.

After the Olympic racers all get in the water there is a break to give them a chance to get out of the water before the sprint wave start. I put my wet suit on, and guess who I saw? The guy from the pre-post. We talked for a while. I mentioned I was hoping not to see him on the run, he said he felt under-trained, I immediately disregarded that is modesty/politeness. We talked till it was time to line up, and then he took his spot at the end and I walked up a little. I was probably in the last half of our group, and expected to swim past most of them. He bills himself as a slower swimmer and I think doesn't like to be swum over.

Interesting note: At this race age groups rack together, so the people near you in transition are also your direct competition. I like this format, you get to talk to people who are likely to see on the course and care about who they are. It also means that during the race you can sort of keep track of your age group position. So why didn't I see this guy near me? My number was 1219, his was four hundred something. Well, he had signed up for the Minnesota series, and as part of that you get the same number for every race. What's more interesting, is that this was very confusing during the lineup for the swim. Most people expect to see numbers close to theirs when we are all lining up.

The Swim

I saw my wife at the start of the swim - she was there with our youngest - the other three were visiting her mother for the week.

Apparently they had been "looking" for me for a while
Overall the swim felt fine, I didn't feel super strong or anything, I did pass a TON of people. At one point I passed a guy, and it's a not an exaggeration, the first part of him I saw was the back of his head, I was literally on top of, but not touching, him. I paused for a second to check out his body position, he was basically swimming like this:

Mad art skills
Pro tip - when you're swimming you want your feet at the surface of the water, and your butt, and shoulders and head, your whole body, at the surface. Practice it, you'll be about a million times more efficient. If you're having trouble, do what my sister does "engage your core."

Second Tip: Don't run over people - it's not nice. Even though I didn't see this guy until I was actually on top of him, I still didn't swim over him. I hopped over to the side and swam past.

The only other time of note on the swim is when I did some breaststroke around the second turn - I got stuck behind a lady and felt it would be faster to take a slow stroke or two and then take the inside line since she was turning right at the marker. Usually the inside is available because open water swimming is a challenge and most people aren't actually at the marker - this time that didn't work out.

I'm the guy in about waist deep water, see the other guy in a blue cap - he was in my group. For the first time in a long time I was not the first person in my division out of the water.
Reference shot - a guy in front of me running in his wet suit. Me with my wet suit almost off
Side effect of taking your wet suit off on the run, cool pictures "Whazzzup!"

The Bike

The transition setup this year was that the swim-in/run-out were in the same place, and bike-in/bike-out were in the same place. It basically looked like this
For reference, the distance from bike-in to my spot and then to run out is about .2 miles
This causes everyone to have to run the full length of transition three times. And unless you're near bike-in/out about half of the time you're running with your bike.

I got to my bike no problem, struggled a little with my wet suit, but because I had an end spot I just tossed it under the rack from the side - very handy. During this I saw and heard a woman talking to some sort of transition helper or official. She had no idea where her bike was and she said "My number is x, but I racked it at y I think" ... I don't get it.

Grabbed by bike and headed out.

I was in the seventh or so group of sprint racers to start. There were a series of relay waves, and then women under 19, and then my group. Normally what that means is that there is not anyone in front of me on the bike and I spend a lot of time alone with just the occasional speed demon passing me. Much to my surprise there were plenty of people in front of me the entire way. It is, I think, significantly easier to ride fast if there are people in front of you. So this was welcome.

Overall the ride was pretty uneventful, the bumps didn't seem as bad as last year, but they were still there. There was even a segment where a police officer was standing in the course suggesting that due to lots of bumpiness that it would be wise to ride in the (very narrow) bike lane. I felt like I was doing a decent job of keeping my effort level up, and not zoning out. Much to my surprise I was sweating a ton. That was surprising mainly because of the cooler temp, but also because normally sweat is not dripping off my face at 20+ mph. Then it hit me


It was humid! According to my weather source 94% humidity. This can be terrible if it's super hot, because sweat won't evaporate and help cool you. But it wasn't that hot, so I was, thankfully, not starting to heat up super fast. What it meant for me though was two things

  1. My sunglasses were foggy the entire way. I had to wipe them off with my finger more than once (from the inside) just so I could feel safe.
  2. My arms and hands were very slick with accumulated sweat. Every time I got up on the breaks to make the several 110 degree turns my hands would slip and slide around, one time I even lost grip with one of my hands.

During the ride I figured at least five guys in my age group rode by me. They were cruising, much faster than me. I came in to transition pretty confident in my 5th or 6th place, hopped off my bike - lost a shoe temporarily - and made my way into transition.

The Run

I made my way through transition without incident, I had trouble getting my shoes on because it was basically like trying to put shoes on immediately after getting out of the lake due to the amazing amount of sweat I can produce. Also, I was SUPER angry with my sunglasses, so they didn't get the privilege of doing the rest of the race with me!

I ran out of transition and sort of settled into what I figured was a good pace, and then someone patted my butt

Official race photo

That's the guy - the official race photo captures the moment he passed me, for the third time. Last year at this race it took him about 3/4 of a mile to catch me, at Maple Grove, more like a mile and a half, this time, less than a 1/4 of a mile. I yelled out "DANG-IT!" he laughed and ran on. He was cooking, he was out of sight way before the half way point which include a short out and back where you can sometimes see people ahead of you.

Other than that the run went pretty well, I tried to keep myself honest on pace and speed, and felt like I was doing pretty decent. There were times I wanted to slow down, but didn't. I did stop for a second to see if someone was alright, he had cruised by and then I found him doubled over in the middle of the route. Cramping quads - he was fine.

As is normal for me, many people came trucking by, I watched a bunch more people from my group pass me, my best guess coming into the finish was 12-15th in my group.

Another first for me, I actually witnessed someone getting a penalty on the run. She didn't have a race number on, based on her outfit I assumed she was part of a relay, which makes it a little harder to understand how that happened. A sort of funny thing though - when the guy asked her what her number was she rattled it right off, and then suggested he write it on her.

The Finish

Over the course of the run I felt like I was picking up speed, I tried to muster whatever speed I could in the last little bit so I'd look good coming into the finish, and also, who wants to be passed on the chute? I was feeling pretty good, and the finish area has a long lead in that is lined with a bunch of people so it's a good way to finish.

This is probably the only picture I have of me running where it doesn't look like I have some sort of super truncated running stride, like I just shuffle along

The Results


I had zero goals going into this - just go hard. The overall goal for the season is to have fun and be fit. I like racing, I like being in shape and I like being with my family. So sometimes workouts get skipped in favor of sleep, and sometimes they get skipped in favor of family walk.

The Swim
That's good for 2nd overall and 1st in my age group. Honestly I wasn't sure what to expect, I had a couple of junky workouts leading up to this race, but I guess for the race I was good to go.

The Bike
Garmin has this at 21.7 mph, and while I'd really love to be consistently over 22 by now and getting close to getting into the 23 mph range I really don't know how to get there. Considering where I figured I'd be, I'm happy with this.

The Run
The run felt surprisingly good, there were a few times where I really wanted to throw the towel in, but overall I'm happy with this. That split is roughly 8:40 per mile. I looked at my intermediate splits, and I was accelerating through the run (8:45, 8:42, 8:28) so that's something. I think that's good, it shows some consistency, and that I didn't hit the wall. I'm not sure if it means there was room for more effort somewhere or not. I wish these were under 8, but for now I'm going to take what I can get.

18/67 in my age group. 77/712 overall. I'm a little surprised how close I guessed on my overall place while running. Part of me was disappointed by this, but then I got to thinking. This is faster than last year, not as fast as the year before, but all things considered I did pretty well.

As we were talking before the race started, the runner-in-white and I were talking about how there seem to be faster and faster people showing up at the sprint level. He suggested that perhaps some of the people who had been doing Olympics were coming down and dishing out some pain at the sprint level. Some people say "only a sprint" but honestly it's not like just because it's a shorter race it's easy, and so my guess is that perhaps people are switching because it's just more fun. Half the time, same amount of fun!

Ice cold towel - yes please!

Closing Comments

I had a good time at this race, my wife did too. She says races are easier with only one kid that wants you to hold them or is happy in a stroller. Also I think they redesigned the race-site a little and it's a little more spectator friendly.

Even though triathlon is primarily an individual event, it's fun to see people you know at races. Especially if I can turn it into a fun game that motivates me a little.

A couple of thoughts about the non-racing portion of this race

  • Race meetings that happen during a work-day, are not great for people who have a job. I sort of wanted to attend to see what course changes might be in store due to flooding in the area, but also wanted to not get fired for taking a three hour lunch.
  • Clear plastic bags in transition - they said "for safety" and that's a better reason than most, but it sort of sucks. At least make sure the bags are slightly over-sized.
  • The post race food - I wish I knew where it came from - super tasty.

I like big races, I mean many people like small races and they are good too, but big races like this really make it fun to be in triathlons. There are people around from all over the cities and states, there's the opportunity to see pro athletes race each other instead of just get first. And it's sort of inspiring to see every size/shape/age/ability person out there having fun!

At every age the kids always want whatever drink I have in my hands

This is not a lake - flooded field. The flooding didn't have much impact on the race, a minor off road section on the run was all I noticed.
Final thought - My wife sent me this text during the race
Devon Palmer just recognized me and said "hey Amanda, how are you"
She's kind of a big deal, and good looking, so it's understandable he wants to make sure she knows he's around. He's a local pro triathlete and coach, and apparently he and my wife communicate regularly and are Facebook friends. Now, I've not met Devon, or talked to him, we participated at the same race once (in Florida no less) He's the kind of guy who writes blog posts where we pretend his dog is giving training advice, if that helps frame him in your mind any better.

In any case, it's another piece of evidence that Minnesota has a great triathlete community, and that triathletes in general, from beginners to seasoned pros are a good group of people.