Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tri Season Update - Installment 2 of 2

Stumpy Creek International Triathlon (7.16.11), Mooresville, NC - 2:14:53, 9th Overall

Ahhh...the dreaded race.  I have been purposely avoiding discussing this race and it was a terrible display of my capabilities.  No, I'm not disappointing in finishing 9th, but I'm most frustrated in my attitude and also the way I felt out there on the course.  I've never won any kind of race in my life until this race last year, so I put unnecessary pressure on myself to do well this year.  The competition was stiff as this race was selected to be the double points race in the NCTS.  I wasn't racing for any points, but seeing how you stack up against the best in the series is a good barometer of your shape.  My attitude all year from Boston up until this race was to have fun, race to the best of my ability, and see where the cards fell time wise.  From the moment I jumped in the swim in Lake Norman I didn't want to be there.  I had a good swim, but I couldn't stop thinking about how I was ready to be done with the race and how I didn't even want to be there.  I came out of the water with Jenny, Frank, and Mark Carey so I was happy with my swim, but I definitely didn't want to ride my bike.  This was one of the first times in my life I actually wanted to just stop and pull a DNF.  I reluctantly got on my bike, hoping that I would snap out of it.  I hadn't had my bike "properly" fitted to me and it had been causing me a lot of problems, but this put it over the top.  I was so frustrated riding my bike again those thoughts of pulling out of the race were creeping in.  My quads had this deep dull pain in them and I thought of a million reasons why this could be.  Was I overtrained?  Did I jump back into training too soon after Boston and cook myself?  Alright, enough of the pity party, but the bike ended after what seemed like everyone in the open division passing me.  I set off on the run hoping to save a little bit of face, but I was solo off the bike with no one near me.  So I basically just ran to run, in frustration.  No one passed me and I passed no one over the 10k.  Even if I could have seen someone ahead of me I don't think I would have been mentally able to push it to catch them, and if someone had been breathing down my neck I sure as hell wouldn't have fought off the challenge.  I was in a bad, bad place.

The good thing about bad races is that there is a lot to take away from them.  The day after the race I took a complete day to myself, got my first massage on my shredded quads, and basically just sat on the couch all day and reflected on my training.  After the race I had convinced myself that I wasn't doing IM Louisville, that I was done with triathlons.  I was frustrated with myself for my attitude, the way my body felt, and where I was in my training for Louisville.  It took me a couple of days to get over it, but in the end I decided that it was time to have a little attitude (re)adjustment and it was time to go back to having fun and not putting any pressure on myself. I have blogged before about how terrible I do in races where I put too much pressure on myself and when I put too much emphasis on hitting a certain time goal.  That pressure and the time goals are unnecessary because in the end I do triathlons because they are fun, the training with friends is fun, and racing should be fun (although it should hurt too!).  After Stumpy Creek I decided it was time to have fun again and forget about my experiences at the race.  Everyone has bad races, it's a part of the sport, so I decided to put the race in my rear view mirror it was time to have some fun again and enjoy training and racing!

Phew...that wasn't so bad after all.  Oh, and I did get a more "professional" bike fit on Monday to hopefully help out with some of the quad pain!  I concluded also that I had only been on the new tri-bike for a couple of weeks so my body was probably getting adjusted to the new position after ride a road bike for the past 7 months.

Lake Logan International Triathlon (8.6.11 AM), Canton, NC - 2:01:11, 7th Overall

I signed up for Lake Logan shortly after the Stumpy Creek failure in hopes of accomplishing 2 things, having fun again at a race and getting in a last good workout before IM Louisville.  I went into the race with the attitude of not caring where I place and not caring what my time was, but instead I intended to have fun and have a good race doing it.  After spending the night in a cheap motel, I went and picked up Kevin at the motel he and Linden were staying at and we headed to the race site.  We showed up in plenty of time, but for some reason I was dilly dallying in the transition area and ended up have to run over to the swim start.  As the open wave was already in the water at the start line I was just finishing getting my wetsuit on when the announcer said "20 seconds".  I ran around the other waves waiting on the dock and basically jumped off the dock as the gun went off and just started swimming!  Spent the swim trying to get comfortable in the wetsuit, as I hate wetsuit swims!  I was trying to sit on some people's feet, but there was a little fog over the lake that morning so I swam solo most of the time.  I never had thoughts of not want to race like I did at Stumpy Creek so at least that was an improvement!  I probably didn't push as hard as I should have, but I was just happy that my attitude adjustment had been a success!!!!  Out of the swim and onto the bike I found my legs quickly on the little uphill out of the lake area.  I could tell my legs felt much better than they did a couple weeks before, likely because of my weekly massages.  There was a little of a false flat on the second half of the course and I didn't have the best bike ride, but it sure was better than the way I felt at Stumpy Creek.  Up and over the one mentionable climb and I was back in transition and ready to run!  I felt great on the run and was able to pick off a couple of other guys, but with there being money in this race I knew the couple of other guys ahead of me were pro's and it was highly unlikely I would catch the.  At the 5k turnaround point I saw one more guy that I had a chance of picking off, which I did, but the other guys were just way too far ahead.  Not really anyone threatening from behind me, but I continued to push the rest of the run as I was hoping to get in under 2 hours, but to no avail.  Overall, I was extremely happy about my attitude and the way I felt out there racing. I needed another race before IM Louisville to at least re-instill my confidence and begin my taper!  3 weeks till IM Louisville and I was content again in my triathlon glory.

Crossroads Classic Road Race (8.6.11 PM), Salisbury, NC - 1:43:14 (41ish miles), 3rd Overall Cat 5B

Somehow I thought it would be a good idea to do this bike race in the afternoon after doing Lake Logan in the morning as a good kickoff to the taper.  So after getting some food up at the triathlon I got in my car to head to Salisbury.  I put on my compression gear in hopes of getting a little recovery and tried to drink as many fluids as possible to help.  After our first bike racing experience at the Piedmont Triad Omnium the same group of guys decided to hit this race too.  The race started around 3pm and I got there just in time for a little warm up ride with the crew.  I didn't feel great, which was too be expected, and it was a weird feeling getting on the road bike after riding the tri bike in the morning.  I was hopeful once the race started I would start feeling a little better and get the blood flowing in order to mix it up with the roadies.  Unfortunately the race directors had let too many people sign up in Cat 5 so they had to split the field into two groups, with the lead group being guys that were racing the overall omnium and the second group being the guys who were only doing the road race.  I was a little disappointed, but decided that I was just there for the workout and the points to hopefully move out of Cat 5.  In the end I think that we ended up riding just as fast, if not faster than the first group anyways.  We (Chris, Lat, Troy, and I) started pretty much on the front line this time instead of being in the back and having to fight to get to the front.  It was another 3 loop ordeal and the terrain was pretty rolling with a couple of good spots to try and get away on the backside of each loop.  Unfortunately there were only a couple of us willing to do any work, with everyone else sitting in, so it was almost like an accelerated training ride with a group.  Nothing really significant until the end of the second lap when Lat and Chris tried to get away, but the group ended up closing them down.  It was looking like everyone was content with just sitting in until the finish.  I tried on the third lap to at least make things interesting, but could never get a solid group together to make a break.  Mark, a guy that I have road with before from Bicycle Sport, and I tried one final attempt at getting a break on the last major hill, but the group shut us down quickly.  So as we lined up for the sprint finish I was a little nervous about the Cat (aka Crash) 5's reputation at the sprint finishing and I had bigger fish to fry at IM Louisville so I definitely didn't want to end up hitting the deck.  Lat took a real strong pull on the straightaway leading to the finish and I quickly jumped on his wheel.  As he started to give out a little I jumped around him and got onto another guys surging wheel.  About that time a guy came over into Lat, they touched wheels and I thought I was done for.  Luckily I stayed up and even though it killed my momentum trying to get away from Lat I was able to hang on for 3rd behind Mark and the guy that had touched wheels with Lat.  I don't know how Lat kept upright, but I sure was happy that he did.

A great double race day and I was happy to have two solid workouts in the book before beginning the taper for Louisville.

Next up is race reports from Louisville and Kona!!!!  I know the excitement for my one faithful reader (James) is keeping him on the edge of his seat...errr...I mean the edge of the couch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tri Season Update - Installment 1 of 2

Tri Latta Sprint Triathlon (6.11.11), Charlotte, NC - 1:13:42, 2nd Overall

The World Championships of Charlotte (aka Tri Latta) is a race I haven't done since 2006, my first season doing triathlons, so I was looking forward to mixing it up with the local triathlon champs.  I had been riding all winter on a road bike due to my crash in Clearwater ruining my Cervelo.  My new Scott Plasma had arrived a week before Latta and luckily Bob and Greg had it assembled by Friday for the race the next day.  I wasn't too happy about Latta being my first ride on the new bike, but I decided to just roll with it and see how I could fare on the new steed.  I had a good swim as I was 3rd out of the water behind Brad Perry and Jenny.  Tried to stick on Jenny's feet for the swim, but ended up losing her at the halfway point and couldn't jump back on.  The bike ride was interesting as my bike wasn't quite fitted to my needs and I ended up losing about 4 or 5 positions over the course of the ride.  I spent the whole ride frustrated as I couldn't get comfortable on the bike and it seemed like anyone that passed me was just riding away from me with ease (James, Selle, Donny).  I tried to keep them in sight at least, hoping that I could close down some time on the run.  I had a super quick T2, passing Selle in transition, and set out to track down Donny and James.  By the first turnaround I was on their heels and started pressing a little more to pass them.  I passed Donny about mile 2 and as he stuck on my shoulder I tried surging to get him off, which finally happened.  Those old guys are tough to break!!!!  Rounding the last turn I was sitting on James shoulder and put in one final surge to pass him and luckily he wasn't having his best run so I was able to pass without him countering, which most likely would have broke me!  Overall, I was happy with my swim, run, and overall race, but knew there was a lot more work to be done on the bike.

Mountaineer Half Iron Triathlon (6.26.11), Morgantown, WV - 4:59:44, 2nd Overall

Since I wasn't able to race any early season halfs due to Boston, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to do a half about 9 weeks before Ironman Louisville and also a good way to go up to Pittsburgh to visit Keith and Lynne.  The had their first baby in May, so Kevin and I headed up to Pittsburgh on Friday to meet Sydney and also spend some time with them.  We got there Friday afternoon and went for a nice 9 mile trail run with Keith through some Pittsburgh parks and then got to spend Saturday hanging out and visiting.  Kevin and I left Saturday evening for Morgantown in time to pick up our packets and drive the bike course.  Due to some mudslides and road closures they had to make a last minute bike course change.  Driving the course I soon realized the front 808 and rear disc was going to be a really bad decision; the course was amusingly hilly!  Sunday morning Kevin and I headed over to the race site and the temperatures were nice and cool with overcast skies, quite a contrast to the Charlotte weather in late June.  They had numerous other race distances that we starting before us so we stood around and waited for the half to start.  The swim was a wetsuit legal, time-trial start, 2 loop swim in the Monongohela River.  I was the second person to jump in the water and had a pretty traffic free first loop, but by the second loop we were running into lap traffic.  Had a decent swim for a wetsuit swim, but the course was either a little long or the current was stronger than it felt.  The bike was another 2 loop affair and it was ridiculously hard in my estimation.  I would have been better off on the road bike and I don't think I was in my aero-bars for a tenth of the race.  According to my Garmin, the course had 7100 feet of elevation change over 56 miles, it was ridiculous.  That's more elevation change than Lake Placid and St. George,some of the hardest Ironman bike courses, which cover 112 miles, not just the 56 of this half.  By the start of the second loop I was frustrated and not at all looking forward to another loop of hell.  It got done (slowly), and it was time to hit the run on a flat greenway along the river.  I found myself in 7th place off the bike and started the run feeling pretty good.  At the turnaround on the first loop I saw Kevin trucking along and giving me rough splits of the guys ahead of me.  By the end of the first loop I had caught 4 of them and was maintaining a solid pace just a hair about 6 minutes per mile.  I ended up catching the second place guy right at the final turnaround and kept the hammer down all the way to the finish, clocking the second fastest run split of the day, 1:20:xx.  I was again frustrated about my bike split and how I felt on the bike, but happy with the run and my overall race.  We stuck around for some food and then began the 6 hour trek back home.  Overall, it was an enjoyable low-key race atmosphere, hardest bike course ever, a good chance to do a half before Louisville, and a great trip.

Piedmont Triad Omnium Road Race (7.10.11), Lexington, NC - 2:23:19 (57ish miles), 2nd Overall Cat 4/5

Having never done a bike race before I talked a couple of teammates into coming up to Lexington and trying our hand at riding with the roadies.  I was looking for a good bike workout and since my job had been shifted to Columbia, I wasn't getting in enough quality tempo efforts on the bike.  The course was 3 loops and it was hot out there as we didn't start till around 4 in the afternoon.  Unfortunately Watkins, Chris, Lat, Everett, and I rolled up to the start line pretty late so we were stuck in the back to start.  We tried to formulate some tactics on the warm up, but since it was our first try at bike racing we didn't really know what to expect.  We all spent the first lap trying to get up to the front and by the end of the first lap I had made my way up there and was sitting on the front or around the front for a good majority.  I felt good, a stark contrast to how I felt warming up, but I didn't want to over-cook myself in the beginning because the temps were soaring around 90+ and it was still a long way to go.  The first lap was really jumpy as everyone was trying to test each other and near the end of the first lap I attacked on a short steep hill and got a break with a couple other guys that was shut down after a couple of miles.  Oh well, still a long way to go, I was just trying to make it interesting.  At the beginning of the second loop Watkins took a long flyer, with no one responding.  The group never really made an effort to bring him back as everyone started riding a lot more conservative than the first loop.  Nothing exiting on the second loop, but I stayed near or on the front just in case anyone tried to make a break.  By the third loop we had caught Watkins and everyone was really starting to press, however no one got any breaks.  On the same hill where I attacked on the first lap, I attacked again.  I turned around and there was only one guy sitting on my wheel.  He asked if I thought I had enough to stay away and I told him we might as well try.  We spent the next 7ish miles rotating through and sharing the work.  I had to stop and wait for him on the last little hill as I had rode him off my wheel, but I knew if I was going to have a chance I needed someone to share the work with.  He was hurting more than I was so I was taking a little longer pulls than he was, but unbeknownst to me I think he was just setting me up for the sprint finish.  Every time I rotated to the back I would turn to see if the peleton was coming for us, but I could never see them so with about 2 miles left I knew it was going to be he and I, mono-e-mono, for the sprint finish.  At the 1k mark to go line we were sitting next to each other talking about the overall omnium points.  If he had needed the points I would have let him take first and the points, and he said the same to me.  After our chat he snuck in behind me, a tactic I should have fought, but I didn't want the peleton to catch us so I basically provided the lead-out for him to sprint around me.  When I stood up to sprint I felt my right quad start to cramp so I just sat down and pedaled in for the second place finish.  I wasn't overly upset with coming in second, as I definitely got the good workout I was looking for, but it would have been nice to come home with the W.  I learned a little about bike racing and also what kind of shape I was in, but it stung a little bit to get duped by the guy.  Lesson learned!  Ended up with $40 or something which basically paid for the entry.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Update #1 - Running Races

So in an attempt to update the blog, I am going to provide some short (and sweet) recaps from February, culminating with long race report from IM Louisville and the IM World Championships in Kona, HI.  I didn't do a good of a job updating everything as I get a little long winded in my blogs, so I'm going to just provide short recaps of each race.

*Charles Harris 10k, Tucker, GA - 34:22
Chose this race down in Atlanta after my buddy Keith was making the trip from Pittsburgh to Atlanta to visit his family, so I made the trek down from Charlotte to also visit my family and race with him and his brother Kurt.  It was a early morning as the race was point to point and we had to park at the finish and get bused to the start line.  It was a pretty chilly morning and with the race start at 7am we really had to get down there early to pick up our packets and get in a good warm-up.  After a couple of laps around the Tucker High School track and some good stretching we headed to the start line to begin.  Not too much to report as the details are a bit fuzzy, but after reviewing my training log I remember feeling better as the race went on and my splits ended up showing a negative split on the two 5k sections.  I passed a couple of other competitors in the last mile and was pleasantly surprised with my result.  Haven't run too many 10k's so this was definitely a PR and after vowing to race more before Boston, I was very happy with the result.

*Corporate Cup Half Marathon, Charlotte, NC - 1:16:57
I didn't head into this race with any expectations of a PR, but wanted a good hard tempo run and possibly give myself a chance to PR.  I incorporated the half marathon in the middle of a 20-miler and I ended up missing a PR by 2 seconds on a much tougher course than the flat New Orleans Half Marathon in 2009 where I ran a 1:16:55.  This gave me a lot of confidence heading into Boston, 5 weeks away.  My splits were very even as I never faded at the end, but the run up Morehead St. is always a killer at the end of this race.  I was happy about my 4th place overall finish and staying strong throughout the race as I was solo pretty much the entire way.

*Boston Marathon, Boston, MA - 2:42:11
I raced Boston in 2008 and set some lofty expectations, even though it would be my first real race since hip surgery in July 2007.  In 2008 I faded up the Newton Hills and even though I ended up with a PR of 2:47:53 I still wanted some revenge on that course.  I knew that I could tackle those hills and run an even split if I played my cards right.  Previously I ran a 1:20:03 over the first half of the course and 1:27:50 over the second half.  I knew that if I took it out a little more conservative this time I could take advantage of the second half of the course and set myself up for a good race.  I put a lot of pressure on myself in 2008 and this year I said my overall goal was to have fun and enjoy the race.  Whenever I put too much pressure on myself I end up putting on blinders and internalizing everything.  This year I never felt great throughout the whole race, but I also never felt terrible.  Sometimes your best days come when you aren't feeling your best.  I held myself back the first mile (6:37) as it felt like everyone was passing me, but the first half of the marathon is basically downhill so a lot of people end up blowing themselves up by the time they get to Newton.  The first half I really kept myself in control and by about mile 16 I was feeling in a good rhythm, which was perfect time for the Newton Hills.  Up and over the hills, as I came through Boston College and was nearing downtown I got a little over zealous and dropped a couple of sub-6 minute miles because I knew as long as I held it together for the last 10k I was staring at a big PR.  Coming down Boylston Street I went over to the crowd and started giving some high fives because it was something I didn't get to experience last time as I had bonked pretty hard.  In the end it was fun to be out there with so many other Charlotte friends who had made the trip.  Some had good races and some left with that same feeling that I had in 2008, that they wanted to come back for revenge on the course, but in the end we all agreed that the Boston Marathon is magnificent.  The support from the crowds, the energy of the competitors, and the history of the race all make it such a great experience.