I’ve been convinced for years, these guys went looking for data.
Approximately 70 seconds per 40 kilometers.
I’ve been convinced for years, these guys went looking for data.
Approximately 70 seconds per 40 kilometers.
Nine years ago, I took part in the 18th Annual High Country Triathlon in Banner Elk, North Carolina. Immediately afterward, we went on a family camping trip. We prepared more for the camping part of the trip than I did for the race. Nonetheless, something started there and shortly after completing that first race I registered for a 70.3 the following spring. The race has its charms — a lovely little lake, an out-and-back bike course that climbs and descends over the local ridge line of the Appalachians, and a one-of-a-kind reverse order to the events with the five kilometer run coming first and the finish line on the beach after the swim.
Last weekend I went back to the sprint distance for the first time since that rookie race. I rode my own bike instead of borrowing a friend’s bike. I didn’t crash. I was able to run the whole way with no walking. And, I may have had as much fun as the first time out.
Sunday I was in the little community of Montclair, Virginia with six others from the Tri 360 team and 310 other individual participants. I ended up first in my age group out of 42 finishers and 10th overall with a time of 1:08:47.42. The breakdown for the three sections is 11:27.98 for the swim (4th overall and third male), 31:47:34 for the bike (7th overall and 6th male) and 22:27.54 for the run (55th overall with a 7:15 minute mile pace.)
I’m not really sure how the results work because I was awarded the top place for my age group but the guy who won fifth place was 40 years old but listed in an “Open” division. He also turned in the fastest swim split and fastest bike split of the day.
I’ve now done 26 triathlons. I’m going to keep at it as long as they stay fun. If Montclair is an indicator, they will be fun for quite a while.
For at least two years I have coveted a power meter. I bought the Stages Cycling offering at the first of February and have been eagerly waiting for its arrival. It came this week — while I was on crutches.
This morning Noah did some backyard wrenching and installed the new cranks and a bottom bracket. All that remains to be done is to pair the meter with the new watch from Garmin.
Oh, and to get my legs back to the place where they can handle pedaling.
Today I noticed that one week after injuring my leg while playing tag with the kids, a bruise has emerged. It is a dark, ugly mark on the calf. I also went to the pool to try to stretch out my leg underwater. I could actually walk but only for about a dozen steps before everything locked up. Walking in the pool is far superior to walking around on land with crutches.
I’m trying to be patient. Soon enough. Soon enough I’ll get back outside and will be using my legs again.
Friday I received an email indicating that the power meter from Stages Cycling finally shipped. I was thrilled. I had spent three full days in Iowa and two days in Illinois — with minimal training — and it seemed like a good indication of things to come. A change to my training methods to accompany better weather and more consistent sessions.
Saturday I joined Tri360 for their group ride. I’ve done the ride many times, it is full of hills, and this time I had a horrible time getting up them. I felt flat and without any oomph. Immediately after, I went for a 4+ mile brick run. It was the best part of the workout. The first two miles were within .75 seconds of one another. I made the turn and picked up the pace a bit. The third mile on the WO&D trail was some 20 seconds faster than the second. The fourth mile was another 23 seconds faster than the third. I finished the last .34 miles a a hair under 7:00 minute mile pace.
It is always rewarding to get a workout right. It is more rewarding when that feeling comes on the heals of a crap session. After a quick shower, walk of the dog and lunch, I took the kids to a new playground.
We played Monster Tag. Guess who was the monster. During the third round of the game, I raced up a slide and as my foot planted I felt my right calf pop. I couldn’t put weight on my leg. It was terribly painful to the point of being nauseating.
A kindly neighbor drove me home after his wife helped me to the van. Dana came home a few hours later. Moments before she drove me to the ER for an exam, a stranger from Twitter and a fellow age group triathlete from Alexandria dropped off crutches for me to borrow.
What happened? The folks at the hospital affirm that the Achilles tendon is intact. They put a fiberglass splint on my leg from the toes to just below the knee. The diagnosis is torn muscle tissue. How much or how severe? Time will tell. Oh, and the orthopedic surgeon may have something to say about that. That’s right, my next stop on the way to recovery is to see an orthopedist.
Instead of getting fit and moving into more consistent training, I’m grouchy, laying about the house and my leg cannot bear any weight.
That is a change I could do without.
I did it. Today I bought a power meter.
I didn’t realize they were behind on production and it would take 4-5 weeks to ship. Damn. Also, I didn’t realize that just this week Stages Cycling signed to provide power meters to Team Sky. I guess all that worrying and homework I did about whether or not to get the meter and what kind sort of goes out the window. I mean, good enough for Wiggo and Froome-inator then good enough for me?
I went to Las Vegas, did not hit the numbers I wanted, and still came out ahead.
I swam 1.2 miles in 28:33. The course was rectangular-ish — 800 meters down, over a bit, 1200 meters back — and clockwise. It was pouring rain during the swim so my mirror goggles were of no help. The speed suit by Roka was a big help. I love that suit. I went off the line hard, swam to the front from the second row and drafted for at least 400 of the first 600 meters. By my count at the time, I was in about third place for my group. As it turns out, there were some guys so much faster I didn’t see them go. I finished 7th in my age group, 115th overall and pretty pumped up for the long, sloshy run around the lake to the bikes.
I rode 56.6 miles — yep, the course architect made the route long this year, something about safety and a turn — in 2:42:48. That is an average pace of 20.64 miles per hour which dropped me back to 90th in my age group and 433rd overall. The course description of “rolling hills” reminds me of Bird Ridge that Dana and I hiked in Alaska. It was labeled “moderate” by the locals and is way more difficult than anything we had ever seen in the East. Leaving Lake Las Vegas, the hills began within the first half mile and did not stop until T2. In fact, the last several miles were all uphill. Going into the race I was aiming for a 2:30 split. I had ridden 2:24 in Raleigh and thought the balance of a harder course, heat and improvement through training would mean that 2:30 would be a really good ride. It was clear within the first hour that I wouldn’t be on the projected pace but I didn’t panic or compensate by going harder. I couldn’t. At every juncture when I would assess how I was doing on the bike, I’d ask myself about nutrition, posture and then whether or not I could go harder. I turned myself inside out to ride hard and fast — low to the bike with a smooth cadence — and still was slow.
The rain stopped a few miles from T2. The sun came out and everything steamed — roads, grass, cyclists, the carpet in transition. Everything steamed except my run split.
The run proved to be my downfall. I knew this outcome was very possible. I worked hard on the bike and didn’t hold back. The run would be hot — the temperature climbed up to 92 — and the whole run course is a series of two mile uphill followed by two mile downhill repeats. Cognizant that I might not ever race at this level again, I decided to open up the throttle and go for it all. Probably not the move of a more experienced triathlete. In fact, it probably is a bad strategy all around unless you have reason to be much more confident in your run than I do.
I went out for more than a mile downhill at a 7:12 pace. Miles two through four and a half were slower than I’d like them to be, but they were in the right area because I held down 8:38 and 8:37 paces. Then it all went BOOM and I blew up like a sparkly firecracker from the strip. At this point, a bit more than a third of the way through the run and as the road pointed back uphill, my pace took on two defining attributes. It because highly variable and it became much slower. I turned in one and two mile splits with paces that went 9:24, 9:40, 9:28, 9:15, and 9:58. Then with .9 miles remaining, I buckled down and set aside the atrocious signals my body was sending to my brain. I finished — mostly downhill, by the way — with an all out sprint for the last 300-400 meters and an 8:08 pace. That 8:08, by the way, is what I had planned or hoped to average for the whole run. It didn’t happen even though I got back there in the end.
At the finish, I was able to outsprint two other competitors from my age group. I’ve never done that before. We were in an actual footrace for the line and I passed them both and got there first. It was exciting even if it didn’t amount to a big change in the standings. I finished 166th in my group — 35-39 year old men — and 888th overall.
A Coda or A Look Ahead?
All in all, I spent 5:17:09 getting around the course. This is more than half an hour longer than I had anticipated. No matter, I gave it all I had that day, raced against the best in the world, and came up with a big smile at the end.
Next time. Next time, I’ll do better.
In her superb love letter to swimming, Lynn Sherr observes that the best of us are only about 10-11 percent efficient in the water. Energy expended compared to work done, there is a lot of waste. Sea mammals we are not. The rough and tumble of my swim may have given me poor efficiency scores in the water — there is no way I was able to turn it all the way to 11 — but the run was smooth as I could reasonably expect.
Which for me, may mean I was only 10 percent efficient but hey, who is to look a gift horse in the mouth?
To continue to use aquatic references for the terrestrial portion of the race, I was even-keeled for the run and this — more than the best time or a dramatic sprint for the finish line — was a mark of success. The splits show a few inflection points however there were no major breakdowns. After three miles, I went from a too fast starting pace (7:32, 8:00, 8:01) to the 8:35-8:40 range where I stayed for more than an hour. Excepting the split for mile eight when I stopped to pee, my splits didn’t vary by more than a few seconds until mile 10. At this point, they jumped up to the 8:55-9:10 range until mile 19 when they abruptly slowed again. At this point, more variability entered the picture from mile to mile and I was anywhere from 9:19-9:47 until mile 25.
Mile 25 starts at the bottom of a hill and ends near the top. I broke. My steady-eddy attitude gave way to “get me done with this thing NOW!” The positive self-talk turned to a blue streak of unprintables. Even though I wasn’t tallying up my splits or figuring out my likely finish time or guessing my marathon time, I was aware that mile 25 was the first time that my splits went above 10 minutes per mile. It was disheartening.
I knew I was going to finish. I was pretty sure that I was well ahead of my 2012 time and on the way to a personal best. I had just cracked — my focus, energy and ability to hold everything together had evaporated with each step up that damn hill. Worse than cracking, I was aware that I had cracked.
And then one of the many minor miracles of the day happened. I saw my little Uma. Not really. Uma died last year around Thanksgiving. She had been with us for more than a decade and it is heartbreaking still to think about her passing. However, at Lake Placid Uma’s doppelgänger was in town to cheer. There she was on the roadside and I called out to her and her spirit lifted my heart and I ran a little lighter, a little taller and a lot faster through the 1.25 miles of the course along Mirror Drive and into the Olympic Oval.
All in all, the run split was 45:59 faster than 2012. It was my best time and it was 33 seconds off of the “best case scenario goal time” for the day. It is the best executed run that I’ve ever done. I’ve run faster splits. I’ve run more even splits. I’ve run through more intense anaerobic pain. But these efforts were all inferior to the overall mental and physical efforts that I needed to run 3:56:33 at Ironman Lake Placid in 2013.
Also, I cannot remember seeing such a lovely crew at the finish line. The Olympic Oval is a marvelous place to finish a run. There is the stadium seating, the gentle curve, the fans lined up, hillsides for additional viewing and, Mike Reilly’s voice echoing off of the nearby high school. I finished well, managed a smile and although I saw the tribe on the final turn and managed a wave of “I Love You” in sign language, didn’t stop to visit or high five anyone.
The nutrition plan worked. I stayed focused on the moment that I was in and didn’t let my mind wander to the rest of the run or the people around me. I was able to see Dana Ann and several of the kids when I needed them so much after making the climb up the big hill at mile 12. Simply put, the run worked and for that I’m so very grateful.
I was wiped out. Seriously, wiped out.
As mentioned above, I folded like an accordion on one of the two volunteers assigned to help me through the chute. I insisted that we go to a table so I could sit and not to the medical tent. I did not want the kids to see me with the medical professionals. It turns out, I don’t think I needed them at that time but I wasn’t being completely rational either.
I visited with Dana and the kids and we made a plan of where to meet after I got a short rubdown from the volunteer massage people. I found Patrick and we traded notes quickly and then headed for the rubdown. At this point, the signals started to show up, but I didn’t recognize them at all. I was a mess and very soon I was going to need help.
I had trouble controlling my hand so that I could sign in for the massage. As the volunteer masseuse worked on my legs, I started to cry. There was no weeping or wailing, but there was a big release and I turned to jelly on the table. By the time I left the tent, my right arm was twitching methodically. It looked like I had a nervous disorder like Parkinsons. I went to claim my bags and could not speak intelligently to the volunteers checking race numbers at the bags.
It seems that my rack had one bag on it that was mine, and a second bag that belonged in the exact same spot one rack over. I picked up the bags on my rack without checking them and tried to walk off not realizing I had someone’s bike gear. As the guy explained the problem, which included a missing bike bag of mine, I could not form sentences. I just muttered and pointed and leaned on a fence. He called someone for help to locate my bag and gently took the other person’s gear from my hands. By this point, both of my arms were twitching and I was getting cold. I was confused. Not angry or frustrated, I just couldn’t figure out what to do next.
After what was probably only five minutes, the volunteers had me all squared away and pointed me back toward the flagpole in front of the school — my meeting place with Dana. Here I made at least one good decision by deciding to leave my bike in T2 until later. I was struggling with the bags and the maze of fences and tables on the oval’s infield. However, I couldn’t figure out the fences and finally shouted to Dana to meet me up the street in front of the Olympic Center where there is a pile of snow (shavings from the Zamboni).
I walked up the hill on Main Street to meet the tribe at the snow pile and went into full shutdown. Later, I realized from reading others’ race reports, I probably had hypothermia. Finally, quivering all over and not really making much sense, I met the tribe along with Patrick and his clan at the snow pile. Dana looked quite alarmed and she helped me out of my wet shirt and into her raincoat. We all walked back to the hotel where the warmth, something to drink and a shower helped me immensely.
The Outcome & the Gear
All in all, the whole trip, the whole race, the whole experience was amazing. I hope the kids get more out of watching the Olympics this winter from their adventures atop the ski jumps and walking down the bobsled runs. I was able to finish upright and impress the woman I love — and if that is not enough reason to do these things, I don’t know what is. And, I dropped a whole bunch of time off of my 2012 performance. Who’d a thought that I’d finish 143rd overall or 27th in my age group? I didn’t.
I swam well — though it didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned it. I rode well — and had a great experience learning a little what it is like for those who race for position. I ran well — as well as I could have hoped and without any really bad incidents. The kids had fun. Dana loved the town and the adventures of the surrounding area. Even before we went to Ben & Jerry’s on race night, I was a winner.
This is the standard point in the race report of professionals and other sponsored athletes where they list all their sponsors and coaches and physical therapists and nutritionists and such. I swim in a BlueSeventy wetsuit and was ready to rock a brand new Roka speedsuit. I wear Speedo or TYR goggles. I ride a Kuota K-Factor with Mavic wheels, Shimano Ultegra and Shimano shoes. I roll with Continental tires. On the back, I sported a Wheelbuilder.com disc cover and on the front I rode with a borrowed Zipp 808. Usually I don a Giro helmet but borrowed a Spiuk Chronos. I have a racebelt from Spibelt and wear a 2XU kit. Oakley protects my eyes and I am devoted to New Balance — currently running in 890 v.2 with some after market speed laces. I eat Gu gels and Bonk Breaker bars which get washed back by water or Powerbar Perform. I also train with Nuun and race with Enduralytes.
Oh, and I have five sponsors. My wife and our tribe of four little people. They are more than I deserve. I’m so very thankful.
NB — Corporate Sponsors Welcome. Seriously, just call me.
The weekend in Raleigh was big fun all around. We spent time with friends, saw familiar and welcome sights and were able to race at a well-organized venue. While I’ve written the race report up at BT, there is a lot more to unpack and explore. It may take a while. Therefore, I’ve made a handy list of things that I want to think a little more about.
1. Dana did the whole race, didn’t really have any trouble, finished with a smile and didn’t get sore this week. Wow, simply wow. My biggest regret is clearly that I missed her finish because I was trying to get the camera in order to capture it for posterity.
2. My swim was slow. Some of that may be attributed to the lack of a wetsuit. Others wrote in their race reports that it was choppy across the long side of the triangle. I didn’t notice this and find it dubious. There was more physical contact in this swim than any that I’ve ever done. Notwithstanding all of these circumstances, it was a slow swim. I felt fine — not low in the water, heavy, or tired — and accelerated where I wanted to do so. This is troubling. In advance of the race, I had a goal of improving by 10-12 minutes and a wildly ambitious goal of going 4:44:59. Had I swum well, or even just swum better, I would have made that wild number of 4:44.
3. My bike cadence was high. Much of the time I was in the high 90s or over 100 and not in the low 90s. I was able to go into the biggest gear — riding with a 25-11 — a couple of times and pedal right on through a gentle downslope. I don’t think I’ve developed a ton more power and the road tilted up as much as down so this is something to think about. In addition, for nearly the whole ride my heart rate was in the high 130s.
4. I was unable to piss the bike. On the upside, I think for the entirety of the bike course I was only passed by three people. On the downside, I pissed the run as I finished the second loop at the art museum. Like Lake Placid, I did it at the end of an aid station. Unlike at Lake Placid where I stopped moving and essentially bent over and just breathed, at Raleigh I started the piss while walking through and just kept moving. The effect was to fill my left shoe. In the hunched over position it is possible to get the piss to ramp off my knee and or ankle band and stay out of my sock and shoe. I’m not sure what would happen if I was actually running. It may shut off the spigot (like when swimming) or it may ramp off the knee and fly back like when cycling. Or, it may simply fill my shoe but I’d make faster progress then pissing while walking. These are empirical questions and should be tested — in trianing.
5. I started the race with a plan to run agressively and did so. While I didn’t negative split, I did bring my times back down for the last 3.5 miles and I’m immensely happy with that outcome. I’m not sure why, but I find the prospect of a negative split something of the holy grail in pacing.
6. On the run, I took most of a single Gu and either water or Perform or both at each aid station. At this distance, even on a hot day, I can do the run with nothing but fluids. This is good to know.
7. I was dropped in the last aid station by a guy who’d been running shoulder to shoulder with me since mile 9. I slowed for fluids and he didn’t. He put 20-30 yards on my that I could not bring back and then they eventually turned into 50-60 yards. It was a tactical mistake — he was in my age group. Live and learn.
8. My age group had five slots for the Ironamn 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. When roll-down started, two had been claimed. I got the last one in my age group. I really cannot believe it and find the whole prospect of going to the race a bit sureal.
The race is September 8th so I guess my training plan will be to continue to train and taper for Ironman Lake Placid, rest for a week and then develop a plan to get me through August that includes a second taper and a trip to Family Camp.
9. I rode with Aaron’s helmet and with the aerojacket on my back wheel. Before the race I thought of each as a luxury. Now, they both seem like necessesities. Funny how quickly perspective can change.
10. I ran almost the whole race with a heartrate in the mid- to high-140s. This is great for Ironman because the top end of zone two for me is 148-149. However, I would have liked to push hard enough to have that average in the high 150s. I think I can sustain it for more than 90 minutes. This is something to figure out because I was pushing on the run. There wasn’t a lot of “saving for later” going on.
11. I was nervous about the pre-race breakfast plan but it worked well enough. I had five eggs between 4.00 and 4.20 a.m. along with two cups of tea. I had a liquid powerbar at about 4:45 a.m. as well as a banana and a Bonk Breaker between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. along with some water. Start time for my wave was at about 7:52.
There are many updates to make here and it will take a few days to get around to them all.
Dana finished well — happy, smiling and into the arms of her children who expressed appropriate amazement and her awesomeness. Her race deserves its own post.
I raced faster than ever and shaved about 21 minutes off my best time. The swim time was slow — though I felt fine. The bike was fast and the run was the best half marathon I’ve ever done including the National Half Marathon. Race report to follow including gear updates on new racing shoes, the aero jacket for the back wheel, and riding with Aaron’s aero helmet.
By finishing tenth in a large age group, I picked up a roll-down slot for the World Championships in Nevada. I’ll be going to the big show in September.