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.