Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tour de Tamarack Bike Race

My friends and co-directors from the DamTri, Steve and Nina Bell, have been putting this race on for over 10 years now. It is not a USCF event but they offer a 20 mile novice race, 30 mile intermediate race and a 40 mile expert race. In my return to road racing in 2006 I did this race and finished 12th in the 20 mile event and 2nd in my age group. I have not done a road race since then and other than Spain and my occasional group ride every training ride I've done has been geared toward triathlon and not competitive cycling.

I had planned to do this race all summer and was going to do the 30 mile race, as most of the top road racers from the area, Ohio and New York come to hammer each other in the 40 mile version. Coach John, however, told me to do the 40 mile race and use it as training.

The week leading up to the race was far from what you would call a good prep week for a hard 40 mile elite race. Monday was a long run, 16 miles, with the first7.5 as a warmup at 7:45 pace and the last 8.5 hard at 6:45 pace. Oh and it was a hilly run. Tuesday was a swim with 90 minutes of hard intervals on the bike in the evening. A 7+ mile hill run Wednesday at sub 7 min pace, then another swim and hard interval set on the bike again Thursday. Friday brought another hill run, this time 8 miles including one long grinding hill in under an hour and to top it all off I was to ride a long hill ride Saturday followed by a 1 hr run. I got 66+ miles of hills in Saturday on the bike at a nice steady but not too hard effort, and decided if I was not going to embarass myself Sunday I needed to skip the run. Also, my run I did Wednesday was an unplanned run so I was still on pace for the week. I had put up on Facebook earlier Friday that my legs felt like noodles and I was probably bowing out of the Tour de Tamarack but enough people 'urged' me on with the final push being John telling me that Rideout (from the Spain trip) would do it, so I had no choice now but to go and enter the 40 mile elite race.

I tried to rest as much as possible Saturday and get some fuel in the tank after the long ride and got my bike ready for the race. Got up early Sunday and rode the 5-6 miles, mostly downhill, to the park for registration and got signed up for the elite 40 mile race. A lot of people from Meadville and Erie were there as it was a perfect day for a nice race. My legs felt just ok during the warmup and before the race, but I knew I had no snap to them so I had no idea what the day would hold.

The elite wave started first, at 9 am which was nice as I hate super early starts, with the 30 mile and 20 mile races starting in 5 minute intervals behind us. About 50 riders, most on teams with several teammates there, lined up to start the elite race.

The course is basically 4 loops around Tamarack Lake. It starts with a short but steep climb up Devore Rd, which you end up climbing 4 times. At the top of Devore you make a right and continue a slight climb up Pettis Rd and then it becomes a long gradual downhill until a hard right onto Freyermouth Rd. for a short fast downhill, then a right onto Tamarack Drive for a 5-6 mile flat to slightly uphill section another right onto Williamson Rd for a small false flat/slight Hill and then a right back onto Devore Rd where you have a steep fast downhill to the start and then it's back up Devore to begin the next lap. For the 40 mile course on the 2nd lap there's a bonus hill, Phelps Rd, that comes about halfway down the flat section of Tamarack Dr and on the 3rd lap you continue straight on Freyermouth and go up a steep, hard hill for another bonus climb.

The course profile shows this is not a flat race by any means, with 6 good hills that although they are somewhat short are rather steep with all of them being over 10% in at least some sections and the beginning of Phelps pushes 20% for a little while.

The first lap was rather boring. Almost the entire group of 50 stayed together up the 1st climb up Devore right off the bat, and then it was simply a very fast large group ride around the lake. The descent of Devore was fun and although it was a large group most of these guys were seasoned riders and there were no twitchy bike handling skills on display.

Lap 2 started with a much harder effort up Devore Rd and we dropped about a dozen or more riders. The pace was hard but the longer the climb went the better I felt and I had no problem holding the main group. We continued around the lake to the first bonus climb, Phelps, which is a hard left turn and is immediately a steep 20% grade for the first couple hundred yards. Having ridden this road many times I knew to just make sure I stayed with the lead group at the start and that the climb eases up after the initial ascent and that is exactly what I did. I think we lost a couple of more riders going up Phelps and the group split up into several smaller groups for a short while but with the rest of the lap being flat to slightly downhill everyone came back together like I knew they would.

Lap 3 was again hard up Devore, but the third time up this hill comes fairly quickly after the hard climb of Phelps so the pace was not too hard. I again just made sure to stay with the leaders and did not have much trouble doing so, and although my legs were tired and had very little power to them my energy level and endurance felt good as I'd been fueling up on Clif Shots and Infinit during the ride. At the end of the long downhill we got the 2nd bonus climb up Freyermouth for our 5th hard climb of the day. This hill is steep at the bottom, has a short easier section in the middle before getting steep again and then one more easy section before a short hard section with a long drawn out top that eases over the hill. As part of my long ride the day before I put this hill in as it seemed like a good idea at the time. The accelerations on the steep parts were hard and the lead group, now about 30 guys, quickly got strung out and I found myself at the back of the pack. I kept my tempo under control and slowly got back in touch with the group until one more hard acceleration at the last short steep section spit several of us back out. I was now about 30-40 yds behind the tail end of the lead group with 2-3 guys and I knew once the leaders got over the easier top part of the climb it was a long downhill stretch to the start of lap 4. I knew I needed to be with them when they started this section as I could rest then and if I did not join them I would never see them again so I dug down and sprinted as best I could back towards the leaders determined to catch back on. As I did this I passed two riders from Erie and I told one of them to get on my wheel and they needed to catch up or they, and I, would never stay with the lead group. They did not react so I kept going and joined back up to the group just as we began the long gradual descent back to the start of lap 4. I used this time to rest and knew I just had 1 more climb up Devore to not get dropped on and I would be finishing with the lead group. I recovered well and felt good starting lap 4.

The 4th lap is the same as the 1st lap, and the starting climb up Devore was the best I felt all day. I stayed near the front of the group and had no problem with this climb. I think after 30 miles and 5 climbs I was finally warmed up. On the way up the climb we got a split that the two leaders were 1:10 up the road, and I honestly had not seen where they got ahead of our pack. After the climb up Devore there were 1 or 2 attacks on the long downhill but with everyone going along at 25 to 30+ mph no one was going to get away. Once we made the final turn onto Tamarack Dr for the last 4-5 miles of basically flat road the pace really picked up and there were multiple attacks with none of them successful. The final turn before Devore road was a bunch sprint to the top of Devore followed by a 50mph descent and then a short climb about 1/3 of the way back up Devore to a hard right hand turn then a short 150 yd sprint to the finish.

I got a little out of position at the turn at the top of Devore and was too far back in the pack. I tried to make up a few spots on the descent but so did everyone else and when we started the mad dash back up Devore I found myself at the tail end of the group as we made the right onto the finishing stretch. I sprinted hard and passed 7 or 8 people and finished right with the main group, which was now strung out. I really should have made sure to be at the front at the start of the descent of Devore.

Final results 40 miles in 1:47:11, 22.39 mph avg, 18th overall, 6th Male 30-39.
Given the week I had leading up to this race, lack of rest and lack of training for road racing I was very happy with the results and the fact that I stayed with the group all day. Later, while checking my HR file, I noticed that I never got much over 180 going up the hills which is slightly low for me as in training if I have the legs to really push things I can always hit 190+ going up short steep hills. The spread from me (18th) to 3rd was only 9 seconds and the two leaders only finished 30 seconds or so in front of our group. Oh, the two guys from Erie that missed the train at the top of Freyermouth finished next 3+ minutes back.

For a first road race in 3 years and on a strictly triathlon only training plan I was more than happy with the outcome. Next year I might actually train for this race.

Picture: The final sprint up Devore before the hard right onto the finish road.

Presque Isle Sprint Race Report

Saturday, August 29th was the Presque Isle Sprint tri in Erie PA. This was a race I did my first year in the sport in 2006 but due to conflicting with Ironman Wisconsin I had to skip the last 2 years so despite only being 6 days after the Cannonman Half I still wanted to do this race and do well. In fact I had e-mailed coach John and told him I wanted top 3 or was going to be very disappointed. I registered the week before and was lucky as the race sold out with about 350 entries and I had been planning on just signing up race day.

The week after Cannonman I took easy, with a few recovery rides and some easy spins on the bike and just tried to concentrate on re-fueling the body and letting the legs recover, although my legs did not feel sore or tired at all. I got up Saturday morning and drove to Erie in the rain to get ready for this race. Oh, did I mention it rains EVERY year for this event for some reason??

Swim .35 miles: 10:13 (1:39/100, 9th Overall, 7th Male, 2nd Age Group)
The swim felt long, as there is no way I was almost at a 1:40/100 pace. It was also held in the bay instead of the lake this year so the water was relatively calm compared to years past. All males and females 39 and under went first, so it was a pretty big wave. Nothing really exciting happened in the swim however I did feel a little drained energy-wise which would be a sign for things to come.

Bike 12.5 miles: 31:32 (23.8mph, 11th Overall, 11th Male, 2nd AG)
This was a huge disappointment. The bike was held on the exact same course the yearly time trials are held on and it's a dead flat single loop course. Both times in the time trials this year I've gone just a few ticks over 28 minutes, so I was thinking anything around 29 would be acceptable for today. The rain was light and steady and not really a factor and I got off to an ok start but did not have much snap to the legs. I had passed a couple people in transition and on the course quickly worked my way up to 3rd. Dan Pierce, of course, led the swim and based on my times vs his on the bike at Edinboro and or the time trials I was planning on getting at least a minute back. Unfortunately around mile 7 I simply ran out of gas and the half the weekend before was catching up with me. The legs felt fine, but I had almost no energy. Finished the bike disappointed with my time and would later check results and see that people I've been easily beating on the bike all summer finished ahead of me and that did not make me happy. Despite this I was in 3rd place and anxious to see if I had anything for the run as I had a really bad bike a few weeks ago at the Yellow Creek race but a good solid run.

Run 3.5 miles: 23:50:35 (7:01/mile, 19th overall, 19th male, 4th AG)
Unfortunately the legs were fine but the gas tank was on empty as I started the run. I had no turnover, no energy and was just slogging away in the wet and rainy conditions. Also the run felt a little long as I am pretty sure I was doing better than 7 minute miles, but maybe not!

I saw two guys coming into T-2 as I was leaving and held them off for about the first mile until I got passed by a young guy in the under 20 age group. He was going along at a clip I should have easily been able to match but I just had nothing. The run was a basic out and back and we saw Dan coming back running strong but 2nd place looked to be lumbering so it appeared that maybe we'd catch him. On the way back I got passed by the second guy that came into transition and he too was going at a pace I should have easily been able to top, so by now I was just mad and wanted to be done. I followed him by about 5 seconds to where the last 300 or so yards of the run splits off the road and goes through a wooded bike trail to the finish. I didn't see anyone behind me so I was just going along until just around the corner from the finish I heard footsteps and I frantically tried to kick it in. Some young kid came barrelling by me with about 100 yards to go and got a step ahead of me. I dug deep and caught back up to him and we were shoulder to shoulder going as fast as we could with about 50 yards to go. I was on his right and the trail made a slight right hand bend to the finish and at this point the people cheering were crowding the finish and he was drifting right going around this bend. I had three choices: elbow him off, wipe out someone in the crowd or just say f@#k it and let him go, which I did and finished about 1 step behind him. I don't know if I could have beat him to the line as he had youth and a winged-foot tattoo which in my book makes him fast, but I know I could have given a little more that last stretch if not for getting crowded but by that point I just didn't care and wanted to be done. My run was almost 3 minutes slower than at Yellow Creek which was also a 3.5 mile run but was on a tougher, rolling course. Oh well.

Final Result 1:07:29 (7th overall, 7th male, 1st AG)
Not the result I wanted, and in fact almost 5 minutes slower than I thought I should have been going into the race. The overall winner, Kevin Park, started in the second heat so I was 7th overall and 6th in my heat. My legs felt fine, I simply was still drained from the half just 6 days before. Got a picture for winning my age group, which is normal for this race and I don't understand why they could not at least put a tag on the picture saying what you won. Also, wish there would have been mile markers on the run, although it probably would not have made any difference other than to tell me how slow I was going.

The only good thing to come out of the day was the McDonalds Angus Bacon Cheeseburger I treated myself to on the way home. That was pretty good!

Cannonman Half Ironman Race Report

Cannonman Half Ironman race, August 23rd.

This was kind of a last minute entry. A friend e-mailed me the details a week or so before and I looked it up. It was a first year event put on by Piranha Sports and was about a 3 hour drive away from home and looked to be in a nice little state park. I had been looking for a late season half to get in because I was still mad about not going sub 5 hours at Jerseyman after all the course problems there, and knew sub 5 at the upcoming Savageman Half was going to be out of the question so I talked it over with Coach John and we decided to do a mini 1 week taper and use the race for a tuneup to Savageman, which is to be my A race for the year. Drove down the night before, scouted the course, got some pasta and pretty much relaxed most of the evening.

Swim 29:30 (1:24/100 yds, 3rd overall, 2nd male, 1st age group)
The swim was a 1 loop course in a nice little lake. Got off to a quick start and soon found myself on the feet of the lead swimmer with only 1-2 people behind me and another group about 5 seconds back. The pace was good and hard but the guy leading was swimming all over the place. It didn't help that the RD had used very few buoys and the lake was foggy. Compoudning this was the young kid in the lead kayak was going along side us until we made the first left hand turn and could not see the next buoy. I yelled for him to lead us from buoy to buoy and he did. At this time the lead swimmer followed the kayaker and was just a touch too fast for me to hang onto and opened up a small 5 second or so gap. As we got to the last buoy to turn and make the long stretch back a woman came flying buy me. I got on her feet for a while but she was on a mission to catch the leader about 10 seconds in front of us. The rest of the swim was uneventful except for the last 2-300 yards where it was really poorly marked as to where to make the turn to go into shore for the finish. I felt good the whole swim and with a few more buoys and better marking think that this should have been a sub 28 min swim easily. Note to the RD: You need more than 5 buoys for a 1.2 mile swim!

Bike: 2:30:16 (21.6 mph, 4 oa, 4 male, 2 ag)
After a long run up the beach and to transition, very reminiscent of the Damtri, I got on the bike and began the climb out of the park on the park roads. One guy that was not too far behind me on the swim caught me and he and I left transition together. I followed him out of the park, we quickly passed the female that led the swim, and we were about 20-30 seconds behind the leader/lead vehicle.
The bike started with the climb out of the park then a nice little climb before a fast descent on some pretty windy roads. The two of us traded 2nd place a couple of times until we got through the descent and onto the first of 2 loops of the main course where I sat in 3rd, just riding legally behind 2nd with 1st about 30 seconds up the road. The bike course was a two loop affair with the first 10 miles or so of the loop a constant uphill. There were only a couple of semi-steep climbs but nothing too bad but it was a never ending grind that just kept going up and up. Finally there was a short steep straight downhill where you lost all the elevation you had spent the last 30 minutes climbing in about 5 minutes and then a long flat open stretch before the second loop.
I rode behind the 2nd place guy for the entire first loop, then at the start of the second loop he motioned for me to come to the lead and followed me for about 3-4 miles at the start of the climb. Apparently my pace was just a touch too slow for him because he passed me back and I again just stayed behind pacing off him. About this time a dot appeared in my rear view that grew faster and faster until it went by me at an impressive clip. This turned out the be Josh Beck, who would go on to win the race. My 'rabbit' tried to go with him for about a minute or two but he got dropped and then just stayed several hundred yards up the road where I continued to pace off him for the rest of the ride.
The bike course was a nice fair course, but it was at least 1.5 miles short.

Run 1:44:00 (7:56/mile, 19th OA, 19th male, 2nd AG)
I came off the bike feeling good, in 4th place, ready to run and determined to go 1:3x for my run. The run also reminded me of the Damtri with a nice mix of park roads, trails and run across a small dam. Unfortunately, like the Damtri, it was a hilly run and in fact was one of the harder runs I've ever done. Like the bike it was a 2 loop course, starting with a nice climb out of transition on park roads, a quick downhill to another climb, on a trail for a brief spell, then a short steep uphill to a meadow to another short very steep rocky climb up the side of the dam, across the dam, onto more trails going up, up a short steep grassy trail to a park road that was an out and back up a hill, then it was through some more rolling park roads to a short downhill on a trail that followed the lake down to the dam, back across the dam and then split from the trail out to a gently rolling trail back to the second loop/finish.

I ran steady but not too hard the first loop because after seeing all the hills I wanted to save something for the second loop. About 3/4 the through I got passed by 2 guys a few seconds apart, neither were in my age group and I now knew I was sitting in 6th place overall. I finished the first loop in about 46 minute so I knew I was on pace for a 1:3x run if I could just hold it together. Then my mind started doing math and I was thinking a 4:3x overall time was very much within my grasp. The second loop started ok, but it was starting to get hot out and the hills were taking their toll. I ran all the way to the out and back section about 2/3 way through the loop but then I had to walk a short ways up it but I figured that was better than blowing myself up. I continued on the trail but I was really starting to get loopy by this point and was trying to take in Gatoraide and Clif shots to keep fueled as I knew I had blown my nutrition on the run. About 1/2 mile from the end of the dam on the return trip I ran up a small incline on the trail and just stopped. I was shot, wanted to lay down right there and nap by the trail but knew I only had less than 2 miles to go. I forced myself to get going again and unfortunately got passed by another guy at this point. I got across the dam, took in some water and Gatoriade at the last station and tried to run the last mile home. While passing a couple of people on their first lap they told me I looked good and so on, but I was a wreck. The legs felt fine but I had screwed up and not taken in enough calories and was really goofy by this point, and at one section where there is 2 way traffic I almost ran into some poor girl coming out as I just never saw her. I got to the part where the trails split and then went up the last few rollers until I crested the final one and could see the finish line about 200 yards away and all downhill. At this point my body was done and I simply stopped, bent over with my hands on my knees and unable to move within spitting distance of the finish. I thought about just walking in and then saw someone running strong coming at me also trying to finish, so I just focused on the line and ran as hard as I could to the line holding off the guy that was coming from behind. I finished and collapsed in the grass after they got my timing chip completely drained of all energy and unable to move for 20 minutes. After getting a coke and some Gatoraide from a volunteer I finally started to feel human again and was able to get up and get moving after laying there for what seemed like forever, got some recovery drink and went and floated in the water at the beach for 20 minutes.

Final Result 4:47:06 (7th OA, 7th male, 1st AG)
While this was still a 20 minute personal best at the half iron distance race it was still a little bit of a let down as I know I can go faster. The combination of a really tough run course along with not taking in enough nutrition on the run really hurt me. I estimate I lost close to 10 minutes in the last 2-3 miles that would have put me in the 4:3x time zone.

It was a fun race however, and the run was perfect training for the upcoming Savageman run that is also tough and hilly. The park where the race was held had a really nice beach, nice showers and changing area and the run course was tough but fun. The only complaints I would have is that there were no markings on the run and post race food and extras were pretty minimal for a half.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Willow Creek Sprint Tri, Recap...VIctory Shall Be Mine!

I decided to do this race about 5 pm the day before. Nothing much was going on and it was supposed to be a nice race, although it was a 2+ hour drive, and it was this or a simple 5k 5 minutes from home.

Arrived at the race site around 7:30 or so for the 9am start. Got signed in and tried to figure out the logistics of the race as it was a point to point race. They gave me a plastic bag to put my running stuff in and stapled my race # to the bag and said it would be waiting for me at the end of the bike along with all the other racers' bags. The bags were supposedly going to be stapled to the deck of a bar and in order by race #. Sounded like it had ample opportunity for trouble but I put my faith in the race staff and put my brand new Newtons in a bag and left them with a pile of stuff from other racers.

Headed off and did a nice little 3k+ run and felt good for my warmup, then a very short swim.

Swim 300yds, 4:38:30, 5th fastest overall, 4th fastest individual, 4th fastest male.
I lined up in the second wave of racers on a small concrete wall at the beach to start the race. There was about 20+ people in the wave ahead and about 40 in our wave, which was all the racers 25-39 I believe. Young guys (and gals) went first, and geezers and teams followed us. Since it was such a short swim I opted for no wetsuit. The Team Continuim gear by Champ Systems is awesome, but I could definitely feel some drag from the tri top when warming up. But I had made the decision to skip the wetsuit and knew it would be too hard to get it on since I was wet and didn't have time before my heat, plus it was only 300 yds! Got off to a good start and on some feet belonging to one of the many members of the Erie Tri Club that were racing. Followed him for the whole race, came out of the water 2nd in our heat and sprinted as fast as I could up the long run (very reminiscent of the run at the Damtri) up to T-1 and my bike, passing the lead swimmer from my heat in transition.

Bike 15 miles, 37:51:60 (2:31/mile pace), Fastest overall bike individual and teams.
I felt good on the bike and immediately started passing people from the first wave that started 7 minutes ahead of us. The bike is a really nice course along the reservior and for the most part was on some nice gently rolling roads. Being a point to point course however it was basically uphill almost the whole way, whith a lot of false flats that made you really work to keep a good speed. I continued to go as hard as I could and contiued to pass people, although they were getting more and more scarce towards the end of the ride. Caught another couple of guys about 2 miles from the finish and they stayed about 15-20 seconds behind me coming into T-2.

T-2 was amizingly well setup, although the dismount line came up really quick and without much warning which left me sitting on my bike instead of riding on one shoe ready to run. They actually had handlers there to take your bike and take it to the racks they had setup, and ther was a bar/restaraunt with a porch that had all the bags stapled to the outsid of the deck and plastic chairs setup every few feet in front of the bags. I let a guy take my bike and tossed him my helmet, hoping he would keep it with the bike and I quickly found my bag, ripped it open and sat down in a chair and threw on my shoes and headed off. More transitions should be setup this way!

Run 3 miles, 21:45:10 (7:01/mile pace), 3rd fastest overall, fastest individual run.
So to be fair the run was actually 3.2 miles AND included your T-2 time, so I wasn't that slow! But back to the race. I took off out of T-2 and began the run, which like the bike was point to point to a finish line 3+ miles down the road, which was also ever so slightly uphill. Two guys followed me by about 10 seconds out of T-2, but I had no idea how many people were in front of me from the first wave, but I knew I was leading the second heat. The first mile seemed to take forever, but now I know it was actually a mile plus. The mile markers for both the bike and run counted down, so at about 7:20 I hit the first sign that said "2 Miles to Go" and I knew it was supposed to be a 3 mile run so I thought there was no way I was that slow as I felt pretty good. I churned out the second mile in right around 6 minutes flat and about that time passed a driveway with a family out watching the race. A guy yelled out "go get him, he's only a couple of minutes ahead of you and you're in second", which had me wondering just what a couple minutes meant, as the waves started 7 minutes apart. With just over a mile to go the course hits a long straight stretch and I saw the lead runner and car about 3 minutes or less down the road and knew I had him beat! A quick check over the shoulder showed me that the one guy that had stayed about 10 seconds back for the 1st mile had really dorpped back quite a ways, and even though I was technically 7 minutes ahead of him I still did not want anyone to pass me on the run.

I came into the finish and did a quick watch check so I could start my timer to see if any of the racers from the last heat were going to come in within 7 minutes of me.

The first couple of minutes flew by, but then the closer it got to 7 minutes the longer the clock seemed to take. A few people came in here and there, and some I could tell were from my heat or the heat ahead of mine, but a couple looked like they could have been the later heat, so I was unsure. I caught up with the guy from the heat ahead of me that finished before me and asked his time, but he had no idea and thought he was under an hour, which would have put him ahead of me. I finally saw the lead runner, another guy from Erie, from the second heat and he was well beyond 7 minutes behind me, but I was still confused about just how far the guy from the lead heat was in front of me. I thought from seeing him he was less than 2-3 minutes ahead, but if he really broke an hour I knew he got me! Finally Curt from the Erie Tri Club, who was there watching but not racing, stopped by and confirmed that the head guy was only a minute or two in front of me so I was pretty confident I had won the race overall.

Final results: 1:04:15, 1st overall (individual and teams).

After they posted the results it was confirmed, I had won! Not a big race, but a victory nonetheless. I felt good all day and really did what I wanted to accomplish, which was hammer the bike and still be able to have a decent run.

The only bad thing was I had to bum a ride back to the swim area to get my car, then drive back to the bike finish to get my bike. Chip from the Damtri was there so he gave me a ride (the race does have a bus that will do this for you but I did not want to wait) then I stuck around for some good food and the coolest trophy ever, which was presented by the family of the young man that was killed overseas and was named in his honor. Overall not bad for a last minute decision to go race!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where did July go????

So July is here and that was fast.

The end of June flew by with all the work the last 2 weeks putting on the Damtri. Overall it was a great success. A few bugs to work out but not too bad for a first time event.

After settling down from the Damtri it was time to get ready for the bike leg of the quad games. I was feeling good and ready to set a good time. I rode a 28:50 something here 2 years ago on the gently rolling 12 mile course and I am in much better shape now. Plus I've been putting up times over a minute better than my time 2 years ago at the Presque Isle Time Trials, so I was bound and determined to do a sub 28 minute ride and my goal was 27:30. Alas, it was not meant to be. The start times are supposed to go by alphabetical order and my name put me in the 140's out of 400, or a 9:35am start. Unfortunately there was a lot of weather moving and the wind really started to pick up.

I rode the first 7 miles at a 26 mph pace, conserving for the final 5 miles after the turn around. As soon as I made the turn however I knew I was in trouble as the headwind was awful and I was killing myself to hold 23-24 mph. I had good strong legs and felt great and kept my HR right at 186-187, which meant I was right at my limit where I needed to be, but the wind killed me. Ended up with a 28:50, or about the same time I had 2 years ago. And to cap it all off, I got beat by several people I had beat by 30-90 seconds just 2 weeks earlier that had start times 20-30 minutes before me and did not have to deal with the headwind (and a lot of them had last names that should have put them after me.....hmmmm). Oh well, the people that had the real late starts were really getting a rough go of it though due to the storm that by the end of my ride was almost on top of the course, so it could have been worse. At least I looked good in the new TT Suit from Coach John/Team Continum! Sunday after the Quad TT was the Milton Man Olympic tri in Lake Milton, Ohio. Up at 4 am and off to the races, again.
This was a last minute decision but turned out to be a nice race, and I recognized numerous people that had done the Damtri a few weeks earlier and talked to several of them.

The swim was a 2 loop affair (they also had a sprint going on at the same time) and I took off hard at the gun. I quickly found myself in 2nd place with first place about 10 feet off to my right. I angled over to him to catch his feet but he was going at a blistering pace that I knew I could not hold for both laps, so I let him go and saw another guy about 20 feet to my left get by me too. I settled in and drafted off a 3rd guy for most of the race and came in at 22:13 for the 4th fastest swim.

The bike was a 2 loop course, pretty decent roads except for one spot and with no major hills to speak of other than towards the end of the loop there was one short steep hill. I caught 2 guys (one about 1/2 way through the second loop) and got passed by 2, which I did not like but the legs were a little sore from the previous day's TT. About mile 20 I heard a metal on asphalt sound as something from my bike rattled off and down the road. Later I would find out it was my micro-flate and CO2 cartridge. As I looked down to see what fell off my bike I also realized I had no timeing chip on! Uh-OH! I prayed it was stuck in my wetsuit and figured I'd just have a really long T-1 time!. Got off the bike in around 1:03 or so, averaged somewhere between 23 and 24mph (I later found out they had a problem with the mats so no one got splits between swim end and the race end). Ran into transition and quickly found my timing chip stuck in the bottom of my wetsuit, threw it back on and headed off on the run.

The run was a 2 loop course also, again a nice little run. Short bit through a park/trail, along a main road and then an out and back through some side roads before the last 1/4 mile or so back in the park to the second loop/finish. I felt good on the run and hit the first mile in 6 minutes flat, passing the really fast swimmer guy right out of transition. Kept a good pace for the first lap and did not get passed by anyone, although 1 guy was gaining on me pretty good. Finished the first lap in right around 20 minutes and finally got caught by the fast runner about 1/2 mile into the 2nd lap. Turns out he was one of the guys that raced elite at the Damtri a few weeks earlier. Held my position for the remainder of the run and finished with a 10k of 40 and change, which is a PB for me! I felt I could have gone a little harder but had no one around. Sub 40 is definitely close though. Ended up 5th overall, 1st Male 35-39. They did not have splits but I did have the 4th fastest combined T-1, bike, T-2 and run time.

After Milton man it was just some good solid training weeks. Headed to a beautiful winery down by Seven Springs PA for my cousin Erin's wedding, then came back and got ready for the trip to Lake Placid to volunteer and sign up for Ironman LP 2010, but that's another post.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rick Gorzynski Memorial Time Trial

Not much to write here, this is held on the exact same course as the Iroquois School District races in the spring and fall. After going 28:05 in the spring I was pretty sure I could do sub 28. Well too much beer and pizza the night before and staying up too late sure didn't help! Burping up bigfoot pizza with sausage and pepperoni for 28 minutes while your heart is averaging above 186 bpm is not fun. Plus I did not start my computer until about a minute into the ride so I did not really know where I stood, just that it hurt like hell the whole time I was riding.

Oh well, results still showed a 3 sec personal best and top 10 finish.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Indiana Co Sprint Triathlon, June 13, 2009

This was a last minute decision. Thursday I decided to go down to Indiana Co and was able to talk Steve Bell and Chip Fuller (co directors/founders/bosses etc...of The DamTri) that it would be a good idea to get up at 4:30am and drive 2 hours and 15 minutes for a 1hr sprint race. The race seemed to be a nice little event from what we could see so we headed out of Meadville in the wee hours of the morning.

We arrived to Yellow Creek State Park about 7:30 or so and registered and got set up without much hastle. There seemed to be a nice little crowd gathering so this had the promise of a fun day.

Swim: .5 Miles, 13:47 (1:34/100yds, 7th Overall, 6th Gender, 1st Age group)
The swim was a straight out and back marked by a continuous string of buoys. Seemed easy enough, although a few people reported that there were some weeds about 100yds out. What they meant by some weeds was a huge weed bed that came clear to the surface and lasted about 1/4 of the swim. Stopped to pick weeds off my goggles/watch several times, as it was like trying to swim on shrubs! Stayed in the 2nd group after 2 guys got a lead after the first couple hundred yards. Just stayed tucked in the draft and had an uneventful swim, other than hitting the same massive weed bed on the way back. Overall the swim felt longer than 1/2 mile though.

Bike: 9.5 Miles, 28:18 (20.1 mph avg, 14th OA, 14th Gender, 3rdAG)

I got on the bike and came out of T-1 with the two other swimmers that I had been with the whole swim. Time to put the head down and get by them and go after the two guys in front of us. The ride started wtih a 1 mile road through the park out to the main road. I was working hard but not gaining at all, and the one guy was pulling away. After we got out of the park and onto the main road it was an out and back that was basically all uphill for 3-4 miles, a short flat section, then back down. As we hit the hill and the road started going up I started feeling worse. I lost sight of the one guy up the road and the other one was pulling away. After a great bike a few weeks ago at Edinboro I was having a really bad day here. Then, to add insult to injury, I got passed and passed easily on the climb. I felt like I was going backwards and there was nothing I could do about it.

This went on until about mile 8, then I started to feel a little better, but by that time I only had 1.5 miles to go through the park. For the first time since I started racing in 2006 I was looking forward to getting off the bike and running because no matter how lousy I feel on the run sometimes it was still going to be better than this bike ride was. Reached T-2 about 30 seconds behind one of the guys that I had swam with.

Run 3.5 Miles, 20:35 (5:53/mile avg, 12th OA, 11 Gender, 2nd AG)

As the run started out I was just glad to be off the bike! The guy (actually it turned out to be a 14 year old wonderkid!) in front of me just kind of stayed about 10-15 seconds out. He kept looking over his shoulder and I was gaining a little at a time but not enough.

The run was a gently rolling out and back with nothing major to speak of by way of climbs. On any slight uphill I would gain a few steps on him, but on the slight downhill his youthful leg speed would pull him away whatever I gained. Overall I felt better and better as the run went on and the few miles ticked off pretty easily for a sprint race (although the course may have been a little shor as I did not feel like I was running sub 6 minute miles).

I was never able to reel the young kid in, but at least I did make him turn around a few hundred times during the race!

Final Results 1:05:07 (8th Overall, 8th Male, 1st AG)

Although I did not have the result I had wanted because of a bad bike, which has been my strongest leg all summer, I was pleased with the overall outcome and how well I ran. Plus, the new kits from coach John were awesome to race in. Some of the most comfortable gear ever! There was some good post race food, a nice little medal ceremony and we were able to talk to about a half a dozen or more people that were signed up for and doing our race on June 28th and were looking forward to the DamTri.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Edinboro Olympic Race Report 5/30/09

Saturday, May 30, was the Edinboro Olympic race in Edinboro, PA. I did this race 2 years ago and finished 16th with a 2:12 and change. Skipped it last year when the race organizers claimed there was a bacteria issue with the lake and they canceled the swim and turned it into a duathlon. My goal was to finish top 10 and possibly get an age group spot and beat my time of 2 years ago. Goal time was 2:05 or better.

After talking about the race with coach John we decided to go hard on the swim, hammer the bike, try to settle in for the first 5k and give it all I had left the last 5k of the run.

Swim .75 mile: 15:39, 1:15/100 pace, 10th overall, 8th Male, 1st Age Group.
Two years ago I think the swim was long, this year it may have been a little short. For whatever reason two years ago I got stuck in traffic and had an awful swim, I was not going to let that happen again. Lined up right in the front and the cannon went off with no warning. I sprinted hard the first 200 yards and found myself on the tail end of the lead group, which I knew included a couple really fast swimmers. The pace was too fast for me and I knew I'd blow up before the turn around so I backed off just a little and found myself in the second group of 5 people with no one even close to being behind our little group. 2 or 3 of the people in this group made repeated surges to leave/pull ahead but every time they just pulled the rest of us along. Me and another guy stayed right at the back in a nice little draft behind the first 3 people that made a nice wedge shaped draft pocket for us to ride the whole second half of the swim.

T-1 was uneventful, although at this race transition is kind of unfair as the entrance and exit are both on the same end of transition, so if your rack is near the back you have a lot further to run than someone that has a rack near the entrance. My rack was right in the middle.

Bike 23 miles: 59:14, 23.3 mph avg, 3rd fastest bike overall, 3rd male, 1st ag.
The bike went just about exactly to plan. The course consists of 3-4 miles gradual uphill, a nice 8 miles of flat with some gradual downhills and then another longer gradual uphill section of 7-8 miles followed by some downhill and flats to the finish line.

I caught a couple of riders right out of transition and headed out onto the one-loop course feeling good. Caught another rider a mile or so out of town and yet another about a mile later at the start of the uphill section. From there on it was pretty lonely and I could just see two riders out in the distance. I kept the effort up and slowly reeled them both in at about the halfway point of the course just as you start the long uphill sections. From there on we all traded the lead, staying legal of course, back and forth for the remainder of the course. In retrospect I may have backed off just a little but it was still a 3-4 minute improvement on the bike over my time 2 years ago. Came into transition feeling good and ready to run with the two other guys.

T-2 was quick and smooth, and there were not very many bikes on the racks at all which is always a good sign.

Run 6.2 miles: 43:44, 7:03 pace, 23rd overall, 21 male, 3rd age group.
The run did not go as planned, although I did negative split, which was the plan.

I started out feeling fine out of transition. The other two guys I came in with that I had caught on the bike left just in front of me. The one guy was from Ohio and I knew was in the 20-24 ag from his age marking on his leg and he tore off like a rocket. I think he ended up third overall. The other guy was a local guy in the 30-34 age group and I kept him in sight about 50-100 feet down the road as the run started.

The run course is an out and back and has a couple little hills right away and is gently rolling and gradually uphill on the way out. Legs felt just ok to start but about 3/4 of a mile in I started to get side stitch, which I never really get. I backed off, let the guy down the road in front of me go on and the pain got worse/sharper. I really backed down and came to a very slow jog/trot trying to get rid of the cramp in my side which was really frustrating as my legs felt good after the first mile and I wanted to run but could not.

There were no markers at the first or second mile but there were aid stations approximately every mile according to the race director. I got to the second aid station and was still not running near where I should have been but the cramp in my side was slowly getting better, and I could not see anyone for a ways behind me so I backed it off a little further to get rid of this cramp. About the time I got to the final little hill before the turn around I started to see, and count, runners coming back. I started to feel a little better and reached the 5k turn around in 23:50 something, which was about 3-4 minutes off my goal pace but I finally started to feel better. I counted 5 runners in front of me and I knew at least 3 of them were definitely not in my age group but the only guys I did not know were 1-2 and I was figuring they were going to be overall winners so I was still in good shape for an AG spot. On the way back I felt much better. I got passed by the eventual 2nd place guy that started in the second wave, a relay runner and then another guy caught me right about a mile from the end. He was going along at a pretty good clip but he looked older and only after he finished 30 seconds in front of me did I realize he was only 39 (Apologies to V Bauer, 39 of Pittsburgh for the 'older' comment :)). Anyway the run back felt a ton better and the side cramp was gone and I was able to come back in 19 something so I did negative split the run, although by a little too much!

Final results: 2:01:06, 9th place overall, 9 th male, 2nd age group.

Felt good after a 10+ minute personal best at this race, although I know I could have run 3-4 minutes faster easily. Definitely will work on some more hard 1-2 mile runs off of hard bike efforts just to try to figure out what caused the cramp at the start of the run that hampered my first 2 miles so much.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jerseyman Race Report

Saturday, May 9th was the Jerseyman Triathlon in Clinton, NJ. I went into this race with really good fitness after a strong winter run focus and a good bike focus in Feb-March. I was looking forward to breaking 5 hrs, which I was more than confident I would easily do, and was even envisioning the hope of an age group spot if things went well.

I planned on doing the race with fellow John Hirsch coached athlete Joe, so I took off for Joe's place Friday morning. Arrived Friday evening, got some great pasta and chicken and headed back to watch Joe try to put his bike together in the driveway to get it ready to go the next day. Nothing like waiting till the last minute.

Slept very well and felt good and rested despite the 5am wakeup for the 1 hr drive to the State Park where the race was being held.

Swim: 30:31 (22nd OA/ 25:26/mile). Not my best effort, but I was holding back a little. I was in the first wave and they had us go through the swim start chute and then said we could enter the water up to our ankles. Eveyone lined up just in front of the chute, which really compacted everyone, and I noticed a few guys going way to the right. This actually presented a straighter line to the far turn buoy, and a few of the guys looked fast so I too ventured all the way to the right. Horn went off, and I pushed the first 2-3 hundred yards pretty good. Looked left and there was a group of about 10 people about even with me on the inside line of the course, looked to my right and there was no one. I angled left towards the inside line to try to catch the group but just missed them and ended up swimming the entire course solo.

Bike: 2:45:47 (34th OA/20.5 mph) After a good Spain camp and feeling great on the bike all spring I really was counting on having a great bike split while keeping the effort light. Unfortunately, this got off to a bad start. Coming up out of the park to the main road there was a park road with a blue sign and yellow arrow pointing right. At the pre-race they said follow the yellow arrows. I was in a small group with 2 other guys climbing out of the park and there was no one in front of or behind us, and no one at this intersection. The guy ahead of me went right, I thought he was doing the correct thing so I followed and the guy a little behind me went right also. We rode about 1/2 mile and came to a table set up (with no one there) for a run aid station and I thought this does not look right. Went about another half mile and came to another right arrow at a dead end that was pointing to a gravel trail. Apparently we had just ridden part of the run course. Damn! We all turned around and headed back and by this time when we got to the road out of the park there was a steady stream of traffic going straight past the road we had just ridden down and out to the main road to begin the bike course. Probably lost 5-6 minutes easily doing the little down and back.

Once on the course I was frustrated but determined not to try to hammer and get the time back. The first 10 miles or so were gently rolling, the middle thirds was flat and fast and the last few miles were hilly but with only one hill that made you shift to the small ring. Overall though the course was very technical with a lot of turns and traffic at busy intersections. Several times as you approached a busy road the volunteer or cop would only half be paying attention and only after you almost completely stopped would they waive you on and stop opposing traffic. Lots of momentum breaking stops. The last few miles also came with the added bonus of catching traffic on the sprint race that started later that day. It looked like a charity century ride at times with a ton of slow bike traffice and at two intersections cars were backed up quite a ways forcing you to ride single file along the shoulder bhind slower sprint riders to get past the cars.

Final totals on the Garmin showed I rode just under 59 miles at an average speed of 21.3 mph.

Run: 1:48:27 (47th OA, 8:17/mile). Here's where the wheels came off, but not in the usual blow up and start walking kind of way. The plan was to run steady for the first 6-7 miles then pick it up if I could the last 6. Felt good right away and mile 1 went by in just over 7 minutes. Same with miles 2 and 3. During the second mile however as I was headed out the park and came to the arrow where I turned right earlier in the day I was confused as the guy running ahead of me kept going straight out to the main road. Now I was really confused as the arrow pointed right, I knew the 2 mile mark was down that road and I knew there was an aid station. I stopped, yelled for someone to tell me where to go and finally another guy further ahead of me said to turn right. I never saw the guy that went straight again! Turns out the road to the right was the way to go and I continued on. Stopped for a second at mile 4 to take a pebble out of my shoe and continued down the main road, which was a steady climb to a turn around, to mile marker 5. Reached this in just over 37 minutes and was feeling good.

Now I was trying to do math in my head, adding up how much time had elapsed, how much time I had left vs how far I had to run yet and so on. I figured that even with the lost time on the bike I could still run a 1:40, which I felt I could easily do, and be sub 5 (although I thought the bike screw up did take me out of any AG contentions). So I planned to be safe, run steady to mile marker 7 and then try to pick up the pace for the last 6.

I started looking for mile marker 6 at about 44 mintues into my run, but didn't see it. Thought I just missed it and no big deal, I'd stick with the plan and pick things up at mile 7. Around 51 minutes I started looking for marker 7 (meanwhile I was still running with people so I know I never went off course) but didn't see it. Finally after a little out and back in the park I see a marker ahead on the road and look at my watch. I realize I'm going to hit the 7 mile mark at around 57 minutes and I get confused as I know it did not take me 20 minutes to run the last two mile as I felt good. Maybe it was the 8 mile marker coming up, that would make more sense but I didn't pick things up that fast.

My heart/spirit literally sank when I got up there and it said 6-miles. WTF! I had just 'run' a 20 minute mile! There was no way, I must have been sent off course. I walked for a minute ready to quit, as at that point I was right by the start/finish. Then I thought, maybe that was a mistake, run to the next marker and see what it says. I run, starting the second loop, and on the road down to the marina I come to the 7 mile mark. Now I'm pissed. I stop at the aid station to tell them something is wrong, someone is sending people off course or something but they are just a bunch of young kid volunteers that don't seem to know what to do. As I'm talking to them (at this point I've given up on the day, breaking 5 etc....) another runner is coming the other way after doing the marina loop and he sees the 8 mile marker facing him. He stops and says the same thing I do, that something is way off, he's on a much faster pace and so on... He starts walking as I jog the rest of the marina loop and head out on the main road. I pretty much trot the next mile or two until I realize I didn't see a 9 mile mark and I'm at the 10 mile mark all of a sudden. I then am really confused and just run a steady pace the rest of the way in not wanting to dig too deep or bury myself for no reason after all the miscues of the day.

You can see the look of excitement on my face after driving 6 hours, each way, to run a messed up race as I finish dejected/frustrated and unsure of what just happened.

5:08:48, 31st Overall, 4th in AG.

UGHHHH....even with all the miscues I missed 3rd by only 2 minutes and second by 8 minutes. I know I lost at least 5 minutes on the bike and another 10 minutes on the run walking/talking to people at 3 different atid stations trying to figure out what was going on!

Post Race: When I got home and saw the results and how close I came to an AG spot I was pissed. I sent an e-mail to the RD asking just what happened. He stated that the mile markers were messed up and that markers 6,7 and 8 were in the wrong spots apparently. Well, actually marker 8 was in the right spot but it was at an out and back and it was facing the wrong way!

Despite all the miscues, and another disappointment at the half distance, I felt really good fitness wise and looking forward to the next race.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breakin the Law....PI Time Trial!

Since there wasn't anyone there to take pictures and they did not have an event photographer, I've had to improvise for this report on the Spring Time Trial at Presque Isle on Sunday, April 26th.

This is an anual event and I've consistently done better each year. In 2006, my first year back in the sport after a 16 year absence, I barely averaged 20mph. Last spring I was almost at 26 mph, so this year I had high hopes after the Spain training camp.

The race came at the end of a recovery week, so I felt good and rested. As I started, the first mile (on the 12.5 mile flat course) felt great, but soon realized I needed to back it down a little. The heart rate was 185 just a few moments into the race and I was trying to hold 180 or just over for the duration.

Here's what it felt like at the start, and for the first mile or so. I was on a rocket ready to go and have a great race.

Miles 1-3 went by quick. Riders started every 15 seconds and I was picking the riders that started ahead of me off with ease and regularity. It's nice to have a 'target' ahead and around each bend to ride to and then head to the next rider. Heart rate remained high, never saw anything below 185 for this stretch. Also, it's on a one-way road with 2 lanes for much of the first part of the race and the right hand lane is for bikes, the left hand lane is for cars. They are limited to 25mph so for the first few miles of the race I was passing cars, which is always fun.

Miles 4-6 felt good. Just kept trying to hammer and keep the effort as maximum as I could. I didn't feel quite like I was riding a rocket anymore, but I still felt good and imagine I looked like this as I sped on.

I had stripped my bike down, no water bottles, and although I tried to hydrate all morning I was really thirsty and dying for a drink early on. Heart rate remained high but I felt good otherwise.

After mile 6, or maybe a mile or so later it started to really feel like work. Legs felt like noodles, every little breeze felt like a hurricane and any little incline or the one small bridge the course goes over felt like mountains. I kept my head down, tried to maintain an aero tuck and never came out of the aero bars once. I knew if I could get to mile 10 that I'd be ok, and I just kept focusing on getting to the 2.5 to go mark. Heart rate remained high and by now my sunglasses were covered in sweat and getting hard to see out of. I continued to pass riders and had not yet been passed. As per usual there was a slight headwind during the return phase of the loop, and although I was still going along at a pretty good clip I felt I must have looked like this.

Got to mile 10 quicker than I thought, and the rest was a blur. By now could hardly see out of my sunglasses and I was simply holding on. Came around the final bend and saw the small group of people standing at the finish line way down the road, but I was not 100% sure it was the end of the ride. Looked at my time on my Garmin Edge and saw I was at 27 and change. I knew it was going to be close for me to break 28 minutes, but for some reason I was still not sure what I was seeing was the finish so I didn't try to sprint just yet. Once I got a little closer I realized it was in fact the end but I had nothing left in the tank for any kind of sprint to the finish. Just put my head down and tried to finish the last 20-30 seconds as hard as I could, which at the time felt like 12 mph.

Got done, hit stop, and saw 28:10, but I know it took me a few seconds to hit the stop on the Garmin. Rode around for 5-10 minutes to try to cool down then went to the car to ditch the sweaty clothes, get into my sneakers and get some recovery drink in me. Waited around for the results and found out I came in 12th out of about 175 or so, 2nd in the Male 35-39 age group. Final time was 28:05 which resulted in an average speed of 26.7 mph, and was a 57 second personal best from the same ride last spring. Final HR average for 28 minutes was 185. And for kickers the Garmin data shows I did about 1/4 of the loop in Lake Erie.
Afterwards went home, rested up for a little bit then went out and did an 8 mile run with some hills. Legs felt really good and was able to clip along at a 7:10 pace without feeling like I was putting out a ton of effort.
Up next is a big week of training and one last big weekend (HIM simulation on Saturday, long ride Sunday) before a short taper week and then Jerseyman Half on May 9th.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Week of 4-13: Intervals, Hills and 100yds of fury...

This was an interesting week. It was the last week before a rest week that precedes a big training block from 4/25 through 5/2 which will be followed by a taper week in prep for the Jerseyman Half on 5/9.

Lots of hard work was put in this week:

Monday- Was supposed to be an off day, but since the day before was Easter Sunday that ended up being my off day so I used Monday as a tempo run with hills. 7.2 miles in 47:30, or about a 6:40 pace. Legs did not feel fresh but it was still a PB for that route.

Tuesday-Swam 2,600 at lunch time. Mix of drills, some 100's on 2 min rest (coming in around 1:03-1:05) and 5x100' ind medleys.
In the evening did 1 hr hard on the trainer (Charmichael Training Race Simulation DVD). This is a 1 hr+ ride that has some sustained hard efforts, sprints, and hill climbing to simulate a 1hr race. Since I plan on doing more shorter faster stuff along with some more bike races this year I try to do this about once a week. I hate and love this DVD at the same time.

Wednesday: Swam 2,200 at lunch. Worked on pacing 100's, holding about a 1:20 for 100yd pace on my 'steady' sets.
Evening long run started out solo but immediately ran into a racing buddy out for a shorter run. We ran about 5 to 5.5 miles together in about 45 minutes. It was nice to have some company. Finished another 6.2 miles solo in the next 45 minutes for a total of 11.7 miles in 1:29 (7:36 pace). Was really happy how fresh my legs felt and easy the pace seemed.

Thursday: Swam 3,200 in 50 minutes in the pool. Pool was packed with a lot of slow 'wavemakers'. Main set was 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 hundred resting 10-50 seconds between. Even numbers were swum easy, odds were harder effort.
Evening brought another trainer ride. This time it was intervals with a short warmup followed by 2,4,6,8,6,4,2 minutes hard, resting 1/2 the time of the previous interval. This can be a kick ass hard workout, and never will 8 minutes seem so long nor will a 4 minute rest interval go by so quickly! This is my 3rd or 4th week in a row doing this workout and I am now doing it 1-2 gears heavier than the first time I did it and using 1 more level of resistance on the trainer so I know it's working.

Friday: Was told to run hills, 1hr. Went from the YMCA at lunch with a couple of guys to run Radio Tower hill. Pace was easy on the way to the hill, I pushed the hill (about 400 feet in 1 mile) and made it down the other side well before the other guys. Turned around and ran about halfway up the backside until I met up with the fellows on their way down and turned around and took it easy back home. 5.4 miles in 44 minutes, but that's with a lot of climbing! Legs were tired after this run and the week was starting to catch up. Profile of the tower hill (note, it's also a great power climb on the bike.):

Saturday: This is where things got interesting. Plan for the weekend was to mix my long ride in Saturday with the first leg of the Quad Games, the 100yd swim, then do my ride/run early Sunday. Threw my swimsuit and goggles in a small pack and headed out Saturday morning. Took it easy and did a nice 25-30 mile ride up to Edinboro University to the pool for the swim. Kept reminding myself that I had to swim yet and even though it was only 4 laps sprinting requires a lot of kick and my legs were already trashed from the week's efforts. Arrived at the pool/fieldhouse to find a huge volleyball tournament going on and no sign of anyone swimming. Double checked my registration papers to find out I was there a day early, the swim was not until Sunday! Headed home, dropped off my pack and went out to get another hour or so of riding in with some good hills. Had to be home by 1:00 so I cut my planned 4hrs short and got in 3:26 of base miles with some good climbs the last hour for almost 70 miles total.

Sunday: New plan was to drive the car up, swim, then come back and ride later in the day as I was tied up from noon until 5-6. Arrived to finally find the swim meet in progress. My session started at 10:30 and we were given a 15 minute warmup. During warmup my legs were definitely tired but I felt good otherwise. I used to be able to swim 55 or just under easily in meets. Often this was done as part of our 4x100 relay and often it was done shortly after swimming the 100 breastroke, so I was used to swimming tired. Two years ago I swam a :58 something so I was hoping for :57xx or so as I had actually worked more on sprinting in the pool the last few weeks. As soon as I hit the water for the first lap I knew I was in trouble. Had a good start but I had zero kick. I got to the first wall just behind the people in the lanes on each side of me, had a good turn but not much of a push off. 3 more laps of trying to kick with dead legs and I struggled to a 1:00.29. In the quad games format each second equals 30 seconds, so my time for leg 1 of the event should be around30 minutes, or just over. Not too worried though because I will be able to make up a lot of time on the bike and hopefully run this year. Was tired so for the rest of the day I took the kids to the park and we had a picnic and played on the swings and jungle gym and stuff for a few hours.

Now I get to enjoy a rest week before the PI Time Trials this weekend followed by a very hard training week leading up to the Jerseyman taper.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Benchmarks and goals for 2009...

So racing season is right around the corner. It seems like it's been a long time coming as with the trip to Spain I've got a several week jump on last year. Also it seems like I'm way ahead of where I was at this time last year fitness wise due to the effects of a big run focus over the winter and the Spain training camp. That, along with a continued improved diet from QT2Systems has really got me looking forward to 2009.

Coach John and I talked at the end of last year about doing more shorter races with more speed and power workouts thrown in. So far it's seemed to have been working like a charm and I'm looking forward to putting things to the test soon. The plan, as you can see, still has some distance workouts but when faced with time constraints I've been doing what I can but adding more intensity and not focusing so much on the long-slow-distance Ironman workouts that I've done the last two years.

During the last couple of years I've come to do some regular routes that I use as benchmarks of fitness. You know the kind where you know where you should be when you reach a particular intersection or landmark whether it be on a bike or run course. Sometimes these can be good as you can continually see improvements, other times if you are having a bad day you can be discouraged by getting to these landmarks in a time slower than you think you are capable of, or your total time for a familiar route may be off what it should be.

Lately, though, I've been busting through barriers just a few years ago I never thought possible.

On the bike, I have really noticed the hills, if you can call them that, seem much, much smaller after riding in Spain. Hills I used to climb in my largest rear cog I now regularly do with 2 or more gears left to go. One ride I used several times last year was a nice 60 mile ride with some rolling hills from my house to the Edinboro Olympic Triathlon course then back. I always rode it at a 1/2 Ironman pace or so and last year was happy to average 20mph or just under. I think in 3 rides last year I finally broke 20 the last time.

This year I went out a few weeks ago on a cool spring day and kept the effort light, probably slightly below 1/2 Ironman pace. End result was an easy 20.5 mph pace on a day I wasn't even trying to push things. The road to and from the course is fairly flat but there are a couple of good hills in the middle and of course the always present climb home:

The first test on the bike comes up in a couple of weeks with the annual Spring Time Trial at Presque Isle. A flat 12.5 mile course that I rode at 25.8 mph last year. Goal this year is to crack 26+. After that I'm thinking of racing several local races when they fit into the schedule.

I am also surprised at how much I continue to see improvements in running. I figured this would be the case while doing 40-75 miles per week over the run focus this winter, but with the added bike and swim training the mileage has dropped to about half that. Yet I continue to see marked improvements in the run. My weekly long run on a rolling course has remained in the mid 7 minute pace without feeling too hard. I also entered at the last minute a 5k two weeks ago on a cold and windy day. The course was advertised as flat but it was actually pretty rolling and from 1.5 to about 2.5 miles it was uphill into what seemed like a 20mph headwind. Last fall I ran my best 5k in 19:52 on a perfect day on a flat as pancake course. Two weeks ago I ran a 19:07 on a crappy day in crappy conditions. Like an idiot I forgot my watch so I did not know I was that close to breaking the 19 minute barrier but I'm confident had I known I was so close I could have dug a little deeper for those last 8 seconds.

I also have a training run I do every couple of weeks from the local YMCA. We call it the Monday 7 as it used to be run every Monday by the group of guys that runs regularly from the YMCA at lunch. It's uphill for 3 solid miles including some stretches of 5-6 percent that come at you pretty early. I remember running it in 2007 and breaking 1 hour for the first time and thinking it was hard. By the middle of 2008 I could run it in 52-53 minutes consistently, although it still seemed hard. In the middle of my run focus for the Disney marathon I think I was around 51 minutes and could not think of how hard it would be to break 50 minutes. However a few weeks ago I surprised myself and ran a 48:30. Today I lowered that by another minute which worked out to 7+ miles at 6:40 pace. My new goal is to run it in 45 minutes by mid summer. Here's the run profile that proves it is not fast.

Up first for the season is the JerseyMan half on May 9th. I'm headed to the Garden State for a smackdown with buddy Joe in his home state. I was not able to put together any good 70.3 races last year and that still burns me. So if things stay on track I will be racing angry at JerseyMan and finally cracking that 5hr barrier which I know I can do.

Other that it will be a slew of local races that will probably include the Highmark Quad Games, Edinboro Triathlon, Presque Isle Triathlon, maybe Cleavland Triathlon, a few local 5k's, some more bike races and then the ultimate test, the Savageman Half in September. Oh, and still in there is putting on a race, The Dam Tri, at the end of June.

Should be a fun year...

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009 Spain Training Camp Recap

Feb 5-15th was the 2009 Strong Like Bull (SLB) camp in Southern Spain about 35 minutes from the town of Malaga.  The camp is run by John Hirsch (my coach), Sean Langford and Mandy Braverman.  After a big run focus in December then 2 weeks off after the Disney Marathon I realized I had about 2-3 trainer rides total since November of 2008 so I was worried the day to day mountain riding was going to be too much for me and I did not know what to expect from the camp.  In a panic I spent the week before leaving doing 30-50 minutes each night on the trainer with some hard interval sets in hopes that my fitness from running would carry over and I tried to get the legs used to, in short time, being back on the bike.

Feb 5th, travel day:  My plan was to meet up with another SLB guy, Joe, in Newark.  About 2 weeks earlier my 10 pm flight from Newark to Madrid got bumped up to 8:15, so my 6pm flight from Pittsburgh to Newark was cutting it too close so they moved me up to a 4:00 departure from Pittsburgh.  I was just going to have a 3 hour layover in Newark.  Well the Pittsburgh flight ended up leaving at about 6:30 and I had already made arrangements to have a 10pm flight from Newark to Madrid hold me a seat as there was no way I was going to make my connection.

Somehow we arrived in Newark at about 7:50.  I was off and running through the terminal at breakneck speed.  I arrived at my gate just in time to hear last call for boarding.  I asked if there was any chance my luggage would make the connection and I was assured it would.  I was the last to board the flight and from then on the rest of the trip was uneventful.

Feb 6th, Arrival:  Joe and I arrived in Malaga in the afternoon on the 6th.  We were picked up by John, Sean and Andy Idle who hosted the camp at Idlebreaks.  I was glad to see that my bike and luggage did in fact make the connections and somehow arrived without any problems.  After a short drive we were 'home' and started the work of unpacking and assembling the bikes and meeting the other riders.

Feb 7th:  38 miles, 3 hrs, 4,500 feet of climbing.
Started the day with a nice 10k run with Joe, Phil, John and Ken R.  Then it was a short ride to Concepcion in the van and then we set off in some cold and dreary conditions.  This was the first taste of outside riding I'd had since October and the legs felt pretty good and I didn't have any trouble keeping up with the group.  After a couple hours of riding we came back to Concepcion and about 5 of us took the option to ride home instead of calling it a day.  This added a good hard climb out of Concepcion with some pretty steep sections at the beginning.  Overall it was a good first day and for not having been on a bike at all for months I felt pretty good.

Feb 8th: Zaffaraya.  57 miles, 4:07, 5,700 feet of climbing.

It was another cold and dreary day with temps in the upper 40's and some light wind/rain.  We rode about 25 miles of rolling terrain until we reached the base of my first big 'real spanish climb' into the town of Zaffaraya.  At the base of the climb we started to shed some of our extra clothes and layers for the 12k, 2,300 foot climb ahead.  Several of the group of 13 headed off early while the rest of us took our time getting ready.  I left about the same time as John H. and we spent the first couple of kilometers chasing down the 'leaders' and caught up to them about 1/3 of the way up the hill.  One rider, Ken M. had about a 200 yard gap on the lead group and soon it was down to John, Sean, Ken Rideout and myself chasing him down.  About 2/3 of the way up the winding road Ken R flatted and Sean
 stayed with him.  John took off and bridged up to Ken leaving me about 50 or so yards behind. 
 I worked like a madman for the
 next 10 minutes and all but caught up to them only to lose my sunglasses around one of the switchbacks.  By the time I turned around 
and picked up my glasses I had lost contact with John and Ken and decided to soft pedal the rest of the way up.  I saw Rideout was gaining on me but there was also a great view so I decided to forgo the 'race' to the top and enjoy the view and snap a pic of what we had just climbed.

After a regrouping and recovering with a lunch at the top of the climb we headed off on a desolate 5 mile stretch of road straight into a brutal headwind with another 1,000 ft climb that greeted us before a nice long descent to end the day.

Feb 9th: Long ride/Ruta.  77 miles, 5:15, 7,500 feet of climbing.
Another cool, damp day to start the ride.  The theme of the day was attack, attack and attack as the pace was quick right off the bat.  A couple of good climbs and some nice fast descents started the day.  I was warned by Sean that this was one of the harder, longer days and that the real work began after about the first 30 miles.  The lead group started up the first big hill, a 700 foot climb in about 2-3 miles at about mile 32.  It was a quick pace and was just a taste of what was to come that day.  After a nice descent we reached the climb at Ruta, a beautiful 1,000 foot climb with several switchbacks in about a 3-4 mile stretch of road.  Rideout and I went off the front rather early and dropped most of the group, only to have John come barrelling by us about 2/3 of the way up to take the climb.  We never caught him, but we know he put in a good effort to gap up to us and lead out the climb.  After that it was hill after hill after hill, including a stretch of 'rollers' through some olive groves that had some wickedly steep sections.  Sean had legs for this stretch and he led me through the rollers with John and Ken R. a short ways back.  After the 'rollers' Sean, Rideout Voodoo Phil and I stayed on a good clip for the last few climbs including a really nice climb out of a quarry that we would come to go through a couple of more times this week.  After this ride I was feeling good as I stayed with the front group for the whole ride all day.

Feb 10: Recovery ride. 30 miles, 2hrs, 1,450 feet of climbing.

Not much on this ride, it was a nice easy 2hr ride with some rolling hills and one decent climb.  I felt really good and pushed things on the one decent climb about 2/3 of the way through the ride but for the most part this was a sightseeing ride and a chance to snap some good pictures, also the weather seemed to be breaking in our favor and some sunshine was out.  There were some nice roads through some more olive groves and a real nice climb out of a valley to start the day.  To finish out the day we took a trip into town where we did a nice 2,500m swim workout.

Feb 11:Porta del Sol time trial. 62 miles, 4:37, 6,600 feet of climbing.Add ImageAdd Image

This was the first real 'test' of the camp.  A 7k, 2,300 foot time trial up the winding road to Porta del Sol.  At Idlebreaks they keep all the time for this ride on a the wall and I was wondering how I'd do after riding so hard on every ride up til today.  It was a 25 mile ride to the start of the 'race' with about 1,000 feet of climbing just to get there.  This also included a nice steep 'bonus' climb at the 5 mile mark that only about half of us did.  The rest of the ride to the climb start was more of a slow steady march.  Once at the base of the climb we shed all unneeded clothes and Andy started us off as a group.

The pace was fast right off the bat, with John and Sean getting about 20 yards in front of Ken M, Ken Rideout and I.  After about the first kilometer we came around a switchback and I noticed John H had gone off and left Sean.  Rideout and I caught Sean and I was feeling good so about 1/2 way up I pulled away and could just see John about a minute up the road.  I stayed in no-man's land the rest of the climb, staying just behind John and by then Ken M had caught Rideout and the two of them battled back and forth for 3rd behind me.  Once I realized I wasn't going to catch John I just kind of stayed on my own and made sure I didn't blow up and let Ken and Ken catch me.  Total time was 26:10, with John about a minute ahead and Ken M just beating out Rideout for 3rd about 40 seconds back.  Here's Ken John and I for the 'podium' atop Porta del Sol.

After re-gropuing at the top of the climb we had a nice long descent followed by more climbing.  I was still feeling good at this point and Rideout and I kept the pace up the last big climb and kept going on the remaining climbs before a nice descent back to 'base camp'.  Another tough day and although the riding was getting harder and harder I was feeling better each day.

Feb 12: Recovery/Cafe con Leche Day.  30 miles, 2:03, 1,800 feet of climbing.
This was supposed to be our 'off day' to tour town and go to Granada, but I was feeling so good and strong that I, along with several others, did not want to quit riding.  So we opted for an easy Cafe tour of about 30 miles.  John, Sean, Joe, Ken R, Johnny English, Andy and I set out on a nice ride where we stopped at 2-3 different local coffee bars for a delicious Cafe con Leche at each one.  We got to do the quarry climb again and I was feeling really good and spun up the climb in the big ring to get a good workout in as the pace was quite slow for the whole ride, but for a 'recovery' day it was just right.

Feb 13: Friday the 13th, Pico Veleta time trial.  18.6 miles, 1:50:50, 5,975 feet of climbing.

This was the big one. The ride of the camp, a 19 mile time trial from a small town just outside Granada to the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort on top of Pico Veleta.  It was a 45 minute van ride to the base of the climb where we then spent a few minutes warming up before the start.  I was nervous as the previous week's rides had all been at a quicker pace then I expected for an early season camp and I had made sure I was never out of the front group, but we had an easy day the day before and I was feeling good.  We had been told the first 10k or so were through a quarry and were very hard, then there was a slight downhill and then it was steady climbing for the next 18k or so to the top.  The original plan was to pace off of Sean as he is a solid rider and had a top 10 time on the board.

Like the Porta del Sol, the pace was quick right off the bat.  
John went hard right away and I said to myself what the heck, lets go now.  I went too right out of town and stayed about a minute or less behind John through the quarry and we were putting a lot of time on Ken R and Sean who were in 3rd and 4th.  The quarry was brutal, with several short sections well over 20% grade.  Once through the quarry the road goes up, and up, and up some more and soon there was snow and few trees and soon we were above the tree line with 2-3 feet of snow on either side of the road.

I lost sight of anyone behind me for the last 1/2 of the climb and kept John ahead of me.  A few times I'd close the gap to less than a minute and I could see him repeatedly turning around to check on me, but I wasn't gaining enough.  I thought about putting out the extra effort to gap him but I knew if I did I would probably catch him just in time to blow up so I kept the effort steady and just tried to not let John get too far ahead.  The last 2-3k seemed to take forever and it was steeper at the top than I thought.  I finished in a respectable time of 1:50:50, good enough for 5th on the board and about 3 minutes behind John and about 7 minutes ahead of Ken Rideout who came in third.  

We hung out at the ski resort waiting for the rest of the group to finish in the snow and after a weeks hard riding and a good 2 hour effort I actuall felt really good.  The view from the parking lot was amazing and you could see forever and the road we climbed just a few minutes before seemed like it was hours away as the cold and excitement of being at the top seemed to take away any pain or fatigue in the legs.

After the van ride home a nice 35 minute run actually felt good and the legs didn't feel too bad.

Feb 14th: El Torcal.  59 miles, 4hrs, 6,400 feet of climbing.

This one hurt.  After a hard week of aggressive riding we had one more 4 hr ride to do.  About half the group decided to take a shorter route and we had one new guy, a friend of Johnny English, with us on this ride.  Right away he pushed the pace on the flats and we had a fast first hour averaging almost 22 miles an hour before a 1,000 foot out-and-back bonus climb.  I felt good on the bonus climb and pulled ahead of the new guy and Ken Rideout and felt good.  After that it was a re-grouping then a turn around and we headed into Antiquera for a few cafe con leche's before heading off to El Torcal.

Before reaching El Torcal there is a 3 mile or so steady climb up a windy stretch of road.  Ken M., who had battled a week full of mechanicals and had to pull out of the Pico Veleta race the day before went off right away and no one seemed too anxious to follow.  After letting him get about 1/4 mile in front of us Ken Rideout and I, who had tried to duke it out on almost every climb with each other, went after him.  I pulled away from Ridout and caught Ken M. at the base of El Torcal which I soon learned was a steep, hard climb up a very loose/gravelly road.  I had put out quite a bit of effort to catch him and when I did I was just able to stay side by side with him for the first half of the climb.  We were both straining and standing a lot on the steep sections but neither of us was gaining much ground.  I collected myself for one last push and about 2 miles from the top was finally able to put a little distance on him.  I had come in second on all the big climbs (Ruta, del Sol, Veleta) and really wanted this climb so I made sure and went hard all the way to the end. 
 I reached the top, which looks like the moon with all the weird rocks, and laid down at the support van to chill out while the rest of the group finished.  Overall this was the hardest climb of the week, or at least took the most out of me.  Once at the top however you are rewarded with an awesome view down to Concepcion miles below.

After lunch and a 12k descent we were back into Concepcion where we had started a week earlier.  Once again we hit the same road and climb which was the 'bonus' climb at the end of the first day's riding.  I was tired from El Torcal but figured I had just one more in me and Sean and I set a nice hard pace all the way up the climb and finished on our own several minutes in front of the rest of the group.  He said I was setting the pace and pulling him up the climb, but had he pushed any more at all I would have really had to dig to keep up with him.  After the climb we rode in soft pedaling and cooling down on the nice downhill stretch back home. 

Summary: 340 miles, 7 days, 24 hours riding and 35,500 feet of climbing.
Although I was ready to go home, I felt like I had more riding in me.  Each day I seemed to feel better and stronger and with each passing climb my bike confidence grew.  I wanted to get a lot out of this camp and although it seemed to be more like a stage race at times then a nice base-building camp that is exactly what I felt I needed and was glad to push and be pushed on every ride by a bunch of fellow athletes.